The Virtue of Gaslighting

There are times when I read a passage of Ayn Rand’s and find myself rubbing my eyes to make sure that what I’m reading is real. I take a perverse pride in knowing my way around the Randian corpus, but I just read a passage of hers that I somehow seem to have missed before today, and am having trouble processing what I’ve read. It’s excerpted in a piece on the ARI website on the “moral foundations of the Berlin Wall.” The two prefatory sentences are by Tom Bowden, the author:  Continue reading

Lost in the Impeachment Shuffle

So one side in the impeachment dispute thinks it’s obvious that we should have been sending Ukraine $391 million in military aid to prosecute a proxy war against Russia, and the other side thinks it’s obvious we should have been doing the same to launch a Ukraine-based investigation of the Bidens. Whatever you think about impeachment, the one question sure to be lost in the impeachment shuffle is whether we should have been sending Ukraine $391 million in military aid in the first place.

One side thinks we should have because Bill Taylor said so. The other side thinks we should have because Donald Trump and Rudolph Giuliani thought so. If this is a test of comparative credibility, I guess the partisans of Taylor win, but it’s typical of our politics that at a substantive level, no matter who wins or loses, the outcome is the same. Even at its most ostensibly partisan, our politics ends up bipartisan.

In short, even if we remove Trump, we get Pence. High stakes.

Reparations Revisited

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a post arguing that Nozickian libertarianism entails reparations.* The reparations in question follow from Nozick’s “principle of compensation,” which offers compensation for what Nozick calls “preventive restraints,” that is, coercive restrictions on individuals imposed in order to lessen the risk that they will violate others’ rights. So-called Terry stops are a paradigmatic example of a preventive restraint in Nozick’s sense (I argued), so that those on the receiving end of them would on Nozick’s view be owed compensation. If we assume (ex hypothesi, but still plausibly) that young black men (or black people generally) are disproportionately on the receiving end of preventive restraints, then young black men (or blacks generally) would disproportionately receive Nozickian compensation. That compensation, I suggested, is a form of what’s commonly called “reparations.” Continue reading

Baby, No More Times

I’m inclined to rant today. As readers have probably figured out, that doesn’t really differentiate today from any other day, but still.

Today’s rant is about Catholic education. Let me preface it by saying that I like Catholic education. I got my Ph.D. at Notre Dame. I’ve spent the last twelve years teaching at a Catholic-Franciscan university, “The Franciscan University of New Jersey,” no less. I just got a paper accepted at a conference at Sacred Heart University on the “Catholic intellectual tradition” wherein I defend the pedagogical legacy of Cardinal Newman. I teach the Catechism of the Catholic Church in my ethics classes. Some of my best friends are members of the Knights of Columbus.  Continue reading

I Pity the Fool

One thing which is suggested by the letters themselves is that Locke’s courtship was not rewarded as he hoped. “P.E.” welcomed love, but of a different sort from that which Locke offered her. She wanted a rarefied spiritual love. Locke was more ardent. He protested first with sadness and later with bitterness that her love was too cold. …

In another letter he assured “P.E.” that she was right in thinking he wished to come back to Oxford for the sake of people there; but he said she was wrong in putting her name after that of another person. However, he asked her to increase as much as she could that other person’s friendship for him. This other person was named in the letter as “Mr. T” and Locke was a little jealous of him. He told “P.E.” he could not believe that the new friendship between her and “Mr. T” would ruin their friendship, but it looks as if he was afraid that it might.

–Maurice Cranston, John Locke: A Biography, p. 48.

Continue reading

Atlas Shruggoth

… [T]here were double meanings in
the
Necronomicon of the mad Arab
Abdul Alhazred which the initiated
might read as they chose ….

Sometimes two terms can be the same in reference but different in sense, like “the morning star” and “the evening star,” or “Mark Twain” and “Samuel Clemens,” or … “John Galt” and “Cthulhu.” Continue reading

Obey Your Master: A Visit with Narcotics Anonymous

About a year ago, I attended a meeting of Narcotics Anonymous (NA) as part of an assignment for a class on addictions counseling I’d been taking in the Master’s in Counseling Program at Felician University.[1] Struck by the philosophical richness of what I’d encountered at the meeting, I thought I’d reproduce a version of my report on it here in case readers found it of any interest. In the interests of preserving the confidentiality of the group’s members, I’ve omitted any identifying features of the meeting with respect to time, place, and the identity of those present, describing the event only in the most general way. My aim here is to reflect on matters of general principle, not to dwell on the particulars of anyone’s life. Continue reading

Frivolous, Malcontent Scholar Reads an Obituary Over Coffee

Soon after Abu Bakr Baghdadi was killed by American forces back in October, a lot of “woke” people, including some of my FB friends, took to Facebook and just about everywhere else to voice their outrage over the fact that The Washington Post had described Baghdadi, in their obituary of him, as an “austere scholar.” Boy, had the Post lost its way. Just sick. Continue reading

The More You Suppress Him, the Larger He Get

I have in the past criticized the U.S. government’s decision to bar Tariq Ramadan’s entry into this country on ideological grounds (26 page PDF). This isn’t because I have any admiration for Ramadan, to put it mildly, but because I don’t think that decisions to allow entry into a country should be made on ideological grounds. Genuine security concerns are one thing; ideological objections are another. The distinction isn’t that hard to draw, and shouldn’t be that hard to respect. In Ramadan’s case, we neither drew nor respected it. We managed in the process to make a martyr of him and take a crap on our own principles. Continue reading