Silence of the Lambs

A statement from New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s office:

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today signed legislation (S.4166A/A.1801B) establishing September 11th Remembrance Day. The new law allows for a brief moment of silence in public schools across the state at the beginning of the school day every September 11th to encourage dialogue and education in the classroom, and to ensure future generations have an understanding of the September 11th, 2001 terrorist attacks and their place in history. The law is effective immediately.

Because nothing is more conducive to dialogue and education than silence enforced by legal decree.

Incidentally, though the Governor’s Office disingenuously claims that the law “allows for a brief moment of silence,” the law itself is a mandate, the moment of silence is its only enumerated provision, and Assembly Member Amato refers to it on the Governor’s own statement as a “mandate.” What the Governor means (but doesn’t say) is that the law provides for a mandated moment of silence. Here is the text.

“Twin Towers, Twin Memories”

For the last eighteen years, Chris Sciabarra has been writing up a kind of blog-based micro-history of 9/11 as seen from the Gravesend section of Brooklyn, where he lives. Here’s a link to the whole archive, from September 2001 to September 2019, which I highly recommend.

I happened to be at Casa Sciabarra as Chris was putting the final touches on the most recent installment in the series, “Zack Fletcher: Twin Towers, Twin Memories“– about fraternal twins, Zackary and Andre Fletcher, both members of the FDNY, the New York City Fire Department. Sadly, Andre perished on duty as a result of the attack. The post consists of an interview with Zack, reflecting on the meaning of the day and the loss of his brother. If you read one thing about 9/11 today, I’d suggest reading this.

what non-teleological practical reasons might be like and why “consequentializing” them would be a mistake

Plausibly, in certain sorts of cases X having reason to A (where A is either the performance of an action or the having of an attitude), the specific or contributory valence of A-ing for X is not a function of X’s A-ing realizing or promoting some outcome O.  Rather it is a function of X’s A-ing being an appropriate or fitting response to some condition, feature or circumstance C.  I’ll call these reasons appropriate-response type reasons (with the larger, catch-all category being “non-teleological” reasons). We can, for such reasons, rig up an outcome that plausibly might explain the normative valence. For example, we could say that [X-A-ing-when-C-is-present] or [X-A-ing-when-X-registers-that-C-is-present] is agent-neutrally valuable or beneficial to X, thus making it such that X has reason to A in virtue of realizing or promoting one of these valuable or beneficial outcomes.  However, there is this element that is not captured by the “consequentializing” strategy: the valence (for X) is supposed to attach to X’s A-ing — but not due to X’s A-ing being related (including identical to) some condition (the outcome) that itself has some normative or evaluative valence. So it seems plausible that this sort of case of X having reason to A is non-teleological and, in this, not fully or truly “consequentializable” (unless we weaken the conditions for “consequentializability” such that the “original” normative character of these sorts of reasons need not be captured in the move).

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“Terrorism” Revisited

My friend Vicente Medina (Philosophy, Seton Hall University) has a short piece out on the semantics of “terrorism” in Government Europa Quarterly, an online journal.  We had a few discussions of Medina’s views on terrorism here at PoT in advance of the symposium on his book, Terrorism Unjustified, that took place at Felician about a year and a half ago (see here and here). A published version of the Felician symposium is about to come out soon at Reason Papers, consisting of three critical responses (by Graham Parsons, Theresa Fanelli, and myself), and a response by Medina. Continue reading

thinking of (a version of) moral rationalism as a formal or conceptual truth

One might think that the following is true (this is a version of “moral rationalism” — not Portmore’s version, but a better version that I have invented and framed in my own way):

(1) If, after all of the moral reasons (including those associated with specific moral requirements) are considered, what morality requires of one is that one PHI (perhaps keep one’s word), then one has decisively most reason — not just decisively most moral reason — to A.

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Character-Based Voting and the Ambiguities of “Policy” (Part 4 of 5)

Apologies for the delay in posting the fourth part of my five-part series on character-based voting. Here are parts one, two, and three, which are probably necessary as background to part four.  Earlier in the series, I make reference to what I call a “Murad-type meeting,” referring to Donald Trump’s behavior at a recent meeting with Nobel Peace Prize winner Nadia Murad.

The first part introduced the topic of character’s ambiguous relation to “policy.” The second part focuses on character’s instrumental relation to policy. The third part considers the possibility that expressions of character might be constitutive of “governance.” This part considers the possibility that expressions of character might have normative significance out of relation to policy or governance, at least on conventional construals of those terms. Continue reading


Nemo autem securus est in iis bonis quae potest invitus amittere. Veritatem autem atque sapientiam nemo amittit invitus: non enim locis separari ab ea quisquam potest; sed ea quae dicitur a veritate atque sapientia separatio, perversa voluntas est, qua inferiora diliguntur. Nemo autem vult aliquid nolens. Habemus igitur qua fruamur omnes aequaliter atque communiter: nullae sunt angustiae, nullus in ea defectus. Omnes amatores suos nullo modo sibi invidos recipit, et omnibus communis est, et singulis casta est. Nemo alicui dicit: Recede, ut etiam ego accedam; remove manus, ut etiam ego amplectar. Omnes inhaerent, idipsum omnes tangunt. Cibus eius nulla ex parte discerpitur; nihil de ipsa bibis quod ego non possim. Non enim ab eius communione in privatum tuum mutas aliquid; sed quod tu de illa capis, et mihi manet integrum. Quod te inspirat non exspecto ut reddatur abs te, et sic ego inspirer ex eo: non enim aliquid eius aliquando fit cuiusquam unius aut quorumdam proprium, sed simul omnibus tota est communis…

At illa veritatis et sapientiae pulchritudo, tantum adsit perseverans voluntas fruendi, nec multitudine audientium constipata secludit venientes, nec peragitur tempore, nec migrat locis, nec nocte intercipitur, nec umbra intercluditur, nec sensibus corporis subiacet. De toto mundo ad se conversis qui diligunt eam, omnibus proxima est, omnibus sempiterna; nullo loco est, nusquam deest; foris admonet, intus docet; cernentes se commutat omnes in melius, a nullo in deterius commutatur; nullus de illa iudicat, nullus sine illa iudicat bene. Ac per hoc eam manifestum est mentibus nostris, quae ab ipsa una fiunt singulae sapientes, et non de ipsa, sed per ipsam de caeteris iudices, sine dubitatione esse potiorem.

Now no one is secure in enjoying goods that can be lost against his will. But no one can lose truth and wisdom against his will, for no one can be separated from the place where they are. What we called separation from truth and wisdom is really just a perverse will that loves inferior things, and no one wills something unwillingly. We can all enjoy it equally and in common; there is ample room, and it lacks for nothing. It welcomes all of its lovers without envy; it belongs to them all but is faithful to each. No one says to another ‘Step back so that I too can get close; let go of it so that I too can embrace it.’ They all cleave to it; they all touch it. No one tears off a piece as his own good; you drink nothing from it that I cannot also drink. For what you gain from that communion does not become your own private property; it remains intact for me. When you breathe it in, I need not wait for you to give it back so that I can breathe it too. No part of it ever becomes the private property of any one person; it is always wholly present to everyone…

But to the will that steadfastly desires to enjoy it, the beauty of truth and wisdom is not obscured by the crowds of eager listeners. It is not used up in the course of time, it does not move from place to place. Night does not cover it, and no shadow hides it. The bodily senses do not perceive it. It is near to those in all the world who turn themselves toward it and love it. It is eternally present with them all. It is not in any place, but it is present everywhere. It warns outwardly and teaches inwardly. It changes for the better all who see it, and no one changes it for the worse. No one judges it, but apart from it no one judges rightly. And so it is clear beyond any doubt that this one truth, by which people become wise, and which makes them judges, not of it, but of other things, is better than our minds.

— Augustine, De Libero Arbitrio II.14 (trans. Thomas Williams)