No Easy Road: Easements and Occupation in the West Bank

Anyone who’s spent time in libertarian circles has probably encountered the notorious debate over easements. Here’s an interesting iteration of the debate from about a decade ago, involving Walter Block, Stephan Kinsella, and Roderick Long. Roderick’s position nicely summarizes the basic issue involved:

I’ve long argued that one property owner cannot legitimately buy up all the land around another’s property and thereby either keep the latter prisoner (if she was on the property at the time) or bar the latter from her own home (if she was away) – since one cannot legitimately use one’s own property to interfere with the liberty and property of others.

I read the debate with intense interest when it came out, but never quite settled on a position, in part because I found the thought-experiments involved too distant from anything I could think about with any degree of confidence. Also because I wasn’t sure I agreed with the underlying assumptions that got the debate off the ground. Continue reading

Dewey and Boydstun on Pure Mathematics

In my paper on Dewey’s 1915 book on German philosophy and WWI, I had quoted a general epistemological viewpoint maintained by Dewey: There are in truth “no such things as pure ideas or pure reason. Every living thought represents a gesture made toward the world, an attitude taken to some practical situation in which we are implicated.”

Irfan questioned whether I thought that correct when it comes to mathematics.

“Maybe it’s true of some parts of mathematics, but is it true of all of mathematics? Do professors of mathematics, or even college math majors, go into mathematics because it represents ‘an attitude taken to some practical situation in which we are implicated’”? Irfan inclined to think Dewey’s general position either implausible or as involving a very odd conception of “practical situation in which we are implicated.” He rather thought that math-folk got on with it due to an enjoyment of math-thought and perhaps, contra Dewey, a desire to escape from practical concerns. In any event, “it’s hard to make out what Dewey is trying to say.”

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Estlund (and Brennan) on inherently fair procedure

Procedures can be fair, but not due to tending to produce results that are fair.  If two reasonable people are not agreed on who should get the last turkey sandwich, it would be fair to flip a coin to decide who gets the sandwich.  But this would not be because there is some “fair owner” of the sandwich that coin-flipping tends to get right. Similarly, it seems that democratic procedure is an inherently fair way to decide issues of state governance.

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Hey, PoPo–Leave Those Kids Alone

Is the behavior described in this story immoral? Yes. Stupid? Yes. Punishment-worthy? Maybe. But the appropriate subject of a police investigation? No.

We’re all justifiably outraged when someone calls the cops on black people engaged in some innocuous activity–be it barbecuing, babysitting, or whatever. But calling the cops to “assist” in a school investigation into fascist speech is no better than that, and fundamentally, no different. It’s a misuse of the powers of the police, and yet another illegitimate broadening of the scope of their activities. Continue reading

My Mom Chose Life

I was having lunch yesterday in the university cafeteria with a priest who teaches a course on ethics. Predictably, the priest was doing what we all do, namely, complaining about his students–complaining, in particular, about their susceptibility to pro-choice propaganda. “You know,” he said in dismay, “I asked them when human life begins, and they all think it begins when the child exits the womb!” Not everybody at the table knew quite how to respond to this, but I told the priest I sympathized with his dismay. Obviously, I said, human life doesn’t begin when the child exits the womb. It begins when the child exits the house.

I somehow feel like I learned this lesson from Judith Jarvis Thomson, but I’m probably misremembering her argument.

John Dewey, Philosophy, and the German Aggression

(This is a paper I wrote in 2013. It has accumulated about 1650 reads at Objectivism Online, where I posted it. I imagine readers come across it there by the link to it and other articles of mine in “About Me” in my Profile there. // Irfan saw the link to it I posted on FB today, a century after WWI Armistice, and thought it might find interested readers here. So here I’ll try to post it now.)


Dewey and Peikoff on Kant’s Responsibility

Part 1 – Transcendental Idealism v. Experimental Pragmatism

John Dewey delivered three lectures in February 1915 that were published later that year under the title German Philosophy and Politics (GPP). Dewey attempted in this work to trace the contribution of some abstract philosophical ideas to the currents of German thinking that had contributed to bringing the world to its present situation. The Great War had been on for seven months. Hundreds of thousands had died already. Eight and a half million would die, and twenty-one million would be wounded, by the end of the war. Continue reading

Character-Based Voting and Leadership Effects (1 of 3)

Here’s yet another post from my project on character-based voting (CBV). It’s the first of three posts on CBV and leadership effects, and one of many on CBV.

As I’ve said in previous posts, “character-based voting” is voting for or against a political candidate on the basis of what the voter takes to be his traits of character. That contrasts with “policy-based voting,” which is voting for a candidate based on the expected consequences of the policies the voter expects the candidate to pass.

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The downsides of Brennan’s verbally consequentialist standard

In the first chapter of AGAINST DEMOCRACY, “Hobbits and Hooligans,” Jason Brennan (JB) endorses the idea, from John Stuart Mill, that we should institute whatever form of government produces the “best results” [p. 1-2].  He lists the following among the important good results that a government might produce: (a) respecting liberal rights, (b) promoting economic growth and (c) promoting intellectual and moral virtue among the citizenry.

Because he includes [a], JB is clearly thinking of consequences or outcomes or results in a very broad way that includes adherence to deontic constraints or requirements.  Though at one very general level this is all fine and well, part of the evaluative picture here is supposed to be that some form of government other than democracy might turn out to be best.  This picture makes sense if we are examining results or consequences narrowly construed (such that adherence to deontic constraints does not count as an outcome). It also makes sense if we suppose that democracy is merely a way of discovering, formulating and enforcing liberal rights (say, on some Lockean conception). Continue reading

Felician Events: Policing, Deportation, and Immigrant Rights

Three event announcements for people in the New York/New Jersey metro area (this announcement amends and supersedes an earlier one I put up):

Policing from a Cop’s Point of View
Thursday, November 8, 2018, 1-2:15 pm
“Ray’s Place,” Main Auditorium, Education Commons Building
Felician University’s Rutherford campus
227 Montross Ave.
Rutherford, New Jersey 07070

We live in a climate of opinion that is highly critical of the police: charges of racism, brutality, procedural irregularity and the like abound. But what is the experience of working police officers? How do they experience what they deal with on the job, and what do they think about the criticisms commonly made of them?

We’ll hear answers to these and other questions from four local police officers: Louis Mignone, a former detective for the West Orange Police Department (now an adjunct in Felician’s Department of Criminal Justice); Julie Ann Zeigler, a sergeant for the Rutherford Police Department; John Russo, Chief of Police for the Rutherford Police Department; and John Link, former Chief of Police of the Clifton Police Department (and an adjunct in Felician’s Department of Criminal Justice). The event is free and open to the public.

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