Free Speech on the Shoals of Ideology

This Op-Ed offers a cautionary tale for two apparently opposed sets of ideologues: right-wingers convinced that the Left has a monopoly on campus censorship, and left-wingers skeptical of the connection between government support for education and government suppression of educators. In Florida and New Jersey, the Right is censoring the supposed racism of the Left through pro-Israeli legislation; meanwhile, the Left, usually so eager to make accusations of racism, is caught off guard by the Right’s “anti-racist” resort to coercion and hysteria. Continue reading

moral address vs. access-to-reasons approaches to a “justify to” necessary condition on state legitimacy

My recent presentation at the NASSP annual conference, “Justifying-To As Moral Address,” I distinguished between “access to reasons” and “moral address” views of a general sort of necessary condition for state legitimacy (or permission to coerce).  In the presentation, I interpreted Bernard Williams’ view of state legitimacy as a version of the second view. And also argued that there are reasons to think that the moral-address-focused approach, while distinctive, needs to appeal to a reasons-access condition in order to get its permission-generating work done.

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The Unwarranted Demonization of Scot Peterson (4)

Readers of Policy of Truth know that I’ve been doing a series of posts on what I call “The Unwarranted Demonization of Scot Peterson.” Scot Peterson was the School Resource Office, or armed law enforcement officer, assigned to guard Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, scene of what’s now known as the Parkland shooting of February 2018. Peterson is often described in press accounts as having “hid” or “done nothing” for the duration of the shooting, and has widely been ridiculed as a “coward” as a result. He was arrested in early June of this year, briefly held in jail, and charged with several counts of child neglect, culpable negligence, and perjury. Here’s a link to the arrest warrant detailing the charges against him (41 page PDF). Continue reading

Confessions of a Grammar Nazi

Well, usage nazi, really, more than a grammar nazi narrowly speaking.

And now that literal, open Nazis are a thing again, I’d really prefer another term for the “nazi” part. (I’ve seen some suggest “grammar cop,” but for an anarchist that’s only marginally better. I welcome suggestions.)

Anyway, folks like me are often regarded as having a nitpicky enthusiasm for arbitrary and pointless rules, and failing to recognise, as any good libertarian should, that language evolves spontaneously over time, and thus that rules of usage can only be descriptive, not prescriptive.

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DUI, Refusal, and Procedural Rights

Here’s a question (or two, or a bunch) for the lawyers out there, particularly anyone specializing in traffic law, especially DUI in New Jersey, assuming that any of them read Policy of Truth:

I don’t drink, much less drink and drive, so I’m sitting here in a calm moment with no legal issue at stake trying to understand New Jersey law (NJSA 39:4-50.4a) on DUI testing and prosecution for refusal. It just amazes me how poorly drafted even the simplest and most ubiquitous law turns out to be. Continue reading

Poetic Justice with Donald Trump

Didn’t Donald Trump do members of “the Squad” a favor of sorts by telling them to go back to their countries of origin?

After all, one of the members of the Squad, Rashida Tlaib, is Palestinian. If Trump thinks she should go back to her country of origin, it stands to reason that she must have one. So does Donald Trump think that Palestine is a country? That’s news to me, and would probably be news to Jared Kushner, David Friedman, Jason Greenblatt, and the entire cohort of Zionist frauds that populate the Trump administration.

Beyond that, if Tlaib has a country to go back to, one that is in some sense hers, it seems to follow that she has a right of return to it. So, does that mean that the United States Government now takes the Palestinians to have a right of return to Palestine? I guess it does, but has anyone informed the Israelis? Continue reading

Modesty, Courage, and Other Vices

Believe it or not, I’ve heard people describe modesty as a “virtue.” It obviously isn’t: it’s a direct, frontal assault on truth-telling. There should be less of it in the world, and more grandstanding.

With that ill-argued and implausible preface, I make a plug for a modest essay of mine, “David Solomon on Egoism and Virtue,” just published in a festschrift for the same Solomon, Emeritus Professor of Philosophy at Notre Dame, until recently Director of ND’s De Nicola Center for Ethics and Culture, and in perhaps his most daunting academic role, my dissertation advisor. My essay appears in the volume, ridiculously, among essays by the likes of Alasdair MacIntyre, John Haldane, and Candace Vogler, not to mention a response (which I haven’t yet read) by Solomon himself.  Continue reading

Reason, Naturalism, and Free Will

People familiar with Objectivism will remember an old article by Nathaniel Branden titled, “The Contradiction of Determinism,” (Objectivist Newsletter, May 1963). In it, he argues, not that the doctrine of free will is true, nor that determinism is false. Rather, he argues that if determinism is true, we cannot know it. And the reason we can’t know it is that, if determinism is true, no knowledge is possible at all.

The argument is that knowledge must be validated by a process of reason. Our suppositions about the world are not self-certifying. The mere presence of an idea in your mind does not establish that it is true. Therefore, we have to evaluate our suppositions about the world by means of sensory evidence and other tests, such as coherence. This must be done by a process of reason. But the process of reason cannot be realized by merely mechanical causation of the sort that is expressed by causal laws. Causal laws determine that a certain sort of event results in consequence of a certain sort of prior event, and this sort of determination is entirely different from that of seeing reasons or recognizing logical connections.

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Tanks Alot

Many people seem upset at Trump’s planning to use tanks in the Independence Day festivities in Washington, D.C. I’m not.

“When I was a child, we saw pictures of military parades in the Soviet Union,” tweeted Democratic presidential candidate Marianne Williamson. “We were told we don’t do that, that we’re proud of the fact that we don’t do that because we don’t wish to be a militarized society. Celebrating July 4 with army tanks on the National Mall is repugnant.”

“Trump says there will be military tanks at Fourth of July celebration, tweeted NBC News’ Andrea Mitchell. “This is so beyond the spirit of the holiday.”

I hate to break the news, but Independence Day celebrates a declaration of war.  So there’s no better symbol of the “spirit of the holiday” than a weapon of war. In this respect, Trump has it right. He’s more in touch with the essential militarism of the holiday than many of his critics. Continue reading

The Dual Legacy of the Declaration of Independence

No one should raise the stars and stripes on the 4th. The proper flag to raise on the 4th of July is the black flag of anarchy.

 

The Fourth of July commemorates the anniversary of the American Declaration of Independence, a document which the anarchist must view with mixed emotions.

The document’s stirring proclamation that “all men are created equal,” with inalienable rights to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” that no government is entitled to infringe; its further insistence that all authority must depend on the “consent of the governed,” and that when such authority becomes abusive it is the “right of the people to alter or to abolish it” – all of these are welcome statements of a philosophical outlook which, if logically pursued, leads inexorably to a much wider liberation (an implication clearly grasped at the time by many of the Revolution’s critics).

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