Thoughts and Prayers

It’s late, and I need to go to bed, so I’ll keep this one short. I see a lot of people out there bloviating about the catastrophic moral horror of the Supreme Court’s decision in its recent “50 yard line prayer case”: Kennedy vs. Bremerton School District. Setting aside the absurdity of the very idea of American football, I don’t see the problem here. Can someone explain to me what the big deal is about this case, whether constitutionally or morally?

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In the Wake of Dobbs

For whatever reason, PoT has not, in the eight years of its existence, focused much on abortion or related issues. But we’ve run a few relevant posts, all written by yours truly. Most, I suppose, nibble at the edges of relatively peripheral issues; few are directly relevant to the recent overturning of Roe vs. Wade through Dobbs vs. Jackson. Still, for whatever it’s worth, I thought I’d dig a few out of the vaults. 

In 2015, in the wake of the mass shooting at an abortion clinic in Colorado Springs, I wrote a pair of posts on whether opponents of abortion were logically or morally obliged to engage in vigilante violence in order to oppose abortion. Jason Brennan had argued that they were; I argued that they weren’t. Continue reading

New Blogger: John Davenport

I’m pleased to announce the addition of a new blogger to Policy of Truth, John Davenport, Professor of Philosophy and Director of Peace and Justice Studies at Fordham University. John and I first met at Notre Dame in the 1990s, where we were both graduate students in philosophy; he was also an occasional visitor at the Felician Ethics conferences I used to organize when I was at Felician University, and he’s a fellow New Jerseyan to boot. He has wide-ranging interests in the history of philosophy, in ethics, in political philosophy, and the philosophy of religion (click the preceding link for details). His first post, forthcoming in a few days, is a defense of intervention in the Russo-Ukrainian war. I’m a bit bogged down in the MacIntyre conference right now, but I have John’s post in hand, and will be posting it at first opportunity. (I decided not to subject him without guidance to WordPress’s “block editor.”)

Welcome, John, and we’re looking forward to your participation and contributions!

ISME 2022: “Cross-Cultural Encounters”

David Potts’s recent post on Alasdair MacIntyre induces me to advertise the forthcoming fifteenth annual Summer Conference of the International Society for MacIntyrean Enquiry, which takes place next week (June 15-17th) in Mugla, Turkey, in association with the Department of Philosophy at Mugla Sitki Kocman University. For those unable to travel to Turkey on such short notice, there’s an online component as well. I’ll be giving a version of a paper I’ve previously posted here, “Teaching Machiavelli in Palestine” (online, alas; Thursday night afternoon Eastern Time). The conference is free and accessible to all, but requires registration. This year’s theme is “Cross-Cultural Encounters,” an important one in MacIntyre’s work.

I’ve attended maybe three or four of ISME’s conferences in the past, and have always found them worthwhile: indeed, I’m taking three days of PTO from work next week to attend the whole of this year’s conference. Though I don’t see anything on David’s topic, the program otherwise looks spectacular; I hope to see some PoT people there.

PS. From the conference organizer, Peter Wicks:

The in-person sessions held at Muğla Sıtkı Koçman University will also be available to watch online. Some will be livestreamed while others will be made available after the session has taken place. I will add the appropriate links to watch the in-person sessions to the online schedule when they become available.

MacIntyre, Individualism, and Modern Moral Philosophy

In 1981, Alasdair MacIntyre published the book that would make him famous (in the small world of professional philosophy): After Virtue. I read it soon after it was published, and it was way over my head. The book promoted the importance of history of philosophy, Greek philosophy in particular, and virtue ethics. Indeed, I believe it was a major stimulus to the revival of virtue ethics in analytic philosophy that took place soon thereafter. I recall it having the status of an “it book.” Still, the book’s main argument was abstract and somewhat obscure, so that although I was eager to be persuaded, I was left feeling that I mainly just didn’t understand it very well. I also figured it was my fault, because I didn’t know enough to comprehend the historical argument.

I still have my original copy of After Virtue, full of my marginal comments and handwritten notes shoved between the pages. But I haven’t reviewed any of it now. Instead, this post is stimulated by my happening upon a brief passage at the end of MacIntyre’s discussion of Joseph Butler in his 1966 book, A Short History of Ethics. This passage presents what seems to me a précis of the argument of After Virtue. It may be that this is not fair. To the extent that it isn’t, then obviously the comments and criticisms I make here will be inapplicable to the argument of After Virtue. That’s all right: the argument given in A Short History of Ethics is interesting in itself and worth commenting on. That will be my task in what follows.

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Multitasking as Epistemic Injustice

Multitasking is considered a premium job skill, a sign of productivity in both job candidates and job holders. But the psychological evidence is clear: In extreme cases, multitasking is impossible, essentially leading the mind to a kind of paralysis. In less extreme cases, multitasking is a drag on productivity that imposes significant psychological costs. In general, multitasking is a thoroughly bad idea.

I don’t dispute that there are some jobs where multitasking is sometimes necessary. If so, one can’t coherently object to it. But both common sense and psychological evidence suggest that the need for multitasking is exaggerated, as is multitaskers’ capacity to do it well. Multitasking is neither as necessary as is often contended, nor as effectively done as is often claimed. There’s more bluffing than truth involved on both counts. Continue reading

Thus to Tyrants

Here’s one small step toward justice, democracy, and the rule of law for Pakistan, and a fitting follow-up to this post from a few years back. Pakistan has something to be proud of for a change, and possibly something to teach the democrats, aspiring democrats, and erstwhile democrats of the world: it is possible to fight tyranny through a tenacious commitment to activism and the rule of law. Here’s to a new beginning, not just for Pakistan, but for every country afflicted with a leader like Imran Khan.

Rand and I contra Kant

I have completed a ten-part essay titled “Rand and I contra Kant”. It addresses almost all of Ayn Rand’s representations and criticisms of Kant’s philosophy, all of my criticisms of Rand in those writings, and some of my criticisms of Kant. This serial essay is posted here: https://forum.objectivismonline.com/index.php?/topic/36888-rand-and-i-contra-kant/

I’ll post here the tenth part (~J~) as the first Reply under this post.

A Slap in the Face

The United States has just spent the last two decades fighting a series of ruinous wars, has created a million-person refugee crisis in Afghanistan, and is now fixated on the prospect of supporting a proxy war in Eastern Europe that might well go nuclear. So what, in the midst of all this, has genuinely engaged the country’s moral attention? The sight of Will Smith slapping Chris Rock during the Academy Awards. The idea of endless warfare, even the elevated risk of nuclear warfare, is righteously taken for granted. Meanwhile, Will Smith has become the poster boy for deranged, untethered violence. That moral inversion, it seems to me, is a more consequential slap in the face than the one Smith planted on Chris Rock’s cheek. But try to get anyone to notice.