He’s Immune to Parody, Too

Jason’s Brennan’s self-parodic idea of a parody, titled “I Am Immune to Criticism” (my italics):

I’ve decided to copy-cat a style of argumentation which is prominent among democrats and socialists in the philosophy literature. This move will now render me and my work immune from criticism.

By epistocracy, I henceforth mean not only a system that gives greater weight to the wise during voting, but which actually makes substantively wise decisions! Thus, any time a seemingly epistocratic decision-system makes a bad choice–such as a choice that runs afoul of the demographic objection–it wasn’t *true* or *real* epistocracy! Epistocracy by definition always makes the wisest choices. Therefore, to oppose epistocracy is to oppose good choices and favor bad ones.

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Afghanistan: So Worth It

Frederick Kagan in The New York Times, on the fall of Afghanistan to the Taliban:

Reasonable people can disagree about the wisdom of keeping American military forces in Afghanistan indefinitely, even at very low numbers. I and others have argued that the investment, including the risk to American personnel, is worth it to prevent militant groups from once again overrunning the country.

Maybe, after Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan, Iraq, and Libya, it’s time to ask what it means when people say “it’s worth it” to fight wars. What’s worth what, to whom, how and why? Anyone who wants to go and fight for Kabul or Kandahar is free to go and give it another 20 years of their life, on the model of the Lincoln Brigades in the Spanish Civil War. But that doesn’t mean it’s worth another 20 years of ours.

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Character-Based Voting FTW

Lorenz Kraus is (or was) a candidate for US Senate, based in Troy, New York. My knowledge of his candidacy is based on about ten minutes’ Internet search after he sent me a crank email cc’d to Counter-Currents Publishing, a white nationalist website, among other recipients. Ten minutes is all it took to figure out that Kraus was a crank, and all it would have taken to figure out not to vote for him.

How? Because Kraus’s entire campaign is based on anti-Semitism of a wild, overt, over-the-top sort. No need to hash through the details; once was enough for me. If you don’t want to take my word for it, spend maybe ten minutes scrolling through his Twitter feed below (underneath the separator), or whatever else comes up in a Google search. If it takes you more than ten minutes, you’re doing it wrong.

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McCormick-Taber Seminar in Philosophy Redux

About twenty years ago, PoT blogger Michael Young and I started a philosophy discussion group that we somewhat pretentiously called The McCormick-Taber Seminar in Philosophy (MTSP), idiosyncratically named for the locations where the first seminars took place in the early 2000s: McCormick Park in Princeton, New Jersey, where I lived at the time, and Taber Avenue in Providence, Rhode Island, where Michael lived.* We self-consciously conceived the group as a successor to David Kelley’s so-called Institute for Objectivist Studies, in which the two of us were involved, or perhaps over-involved, during the 1990s.  

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Ragnarok Lobster

What do Good Morning America, the Australian Outback, Mary Poppins, David Friedman, Lawrence of Arabia, and a balloon voyage to a lost colony of Vikings at the North Pole have in common? Get the answers in this video, as I take you on a journey BEYOND YOUR IMAGINATION!!!

do the wrong thing?

My last post concerned the Scanlonian contractualist idea that the wrongness of wrong action is constituted by the action not being justifiable to others. I criticized this idea on the grounds that justifying to others presupposes the existence of the justifiability-independent and entailed-by-wrongness (or more specifically partially-wrongness-constituting) normative feature of the action warranting resentment (and hence objection) by the patient — patient-objectionability. I also suggested, in the post and in replies to comments, something of a positive view of wrongness. Specifically, that the wrongness of a wrong action is constituted by the following distinct normative features (and their being tied together in some necessary way): (i) patient-objectionability, (ii) observer-objectionability, (iii) (collective) disallowability and (iv) agent-avoidability (specifically such that the agent ought not and must not perform patient-objectionable actions). That is rough, but adequate for working with. In this post, I want to make some modest proposals regarding agent-avoidability and how this might be tied to patient-objectionability.

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Justify Yourself

According to a family of “contractualist” views of morally wrong action pioneered by Thomas Scanlon (in the narrow sense of ‘wrong’ that entails wronging someone and the victim having claims against one not to perform the action — “what we owe to each other”), what makes an action wrong is that it cannot be justified to others. The appeal of this sort of view is at least twofold. First, it specifies a very intuitive way in which actions are made wrong by the reasons (interests, well-being) of others. Second, it occupies a theoretically appealing “third way” between the utilitarian take on morally wrong action as not-welfare-optimific (or indirectly some function of this) and various Kantian (and related) positions according to which morally wrong actions are a type of action that reason itself forbids us (or that otherwise are irrational or violate rational requirements). The specific formulation of contractualism that Scanlon defends is a bit different (and of necessity more complicated) from the core idea just expressed, but the core idea of justifiability-to-others captures the essence.

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200ProofMath

The latest thinking on economic justice, care of 200ProofLiberals, by Christopher Freiman. Worth comparing and contrasting with our own recent discussions of labor-management relations here at PoT.

Marx writes, “In communist society, where nobody has one exclusive sphere of activity but each can become accomplished in any branch he wishes, society regulates the general production and thus makes it possible for me to do one thing today and another tomorrow, to hunt in the morning, fish in the afternoon, rear cattle in the evening, criticise after dinner, just as I have a mind, without ever becoming hunter, fisherman, herdsman or critic.”

However, by making you significantly richer, a capitalist society does a much better job of enabling you to hunt in the morning and criticize after dinner than a non-capitalist society. Ironically, though, you have to cut way back on your consumption to make this happen. But if you’re willing to save 50-70 percent of your income, there’s a good chance you can retire in your 30s or 40s and spend your time doing whatever you want. So capitalism allows you to achieve the flexibility that Marx dreams of—you just need to buy a lot less (which, if you reject consumer culture, should be pretty easy) and save a lot more.

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