Connie Rosati on “The Lincoln Virtues”

I spent the weekend at the American Philosophical Association’s (APA) Central Division meeting in Denver, my first APA, believe it or not, since 2011. It was a good time, certainly a welcome relief from my day job in health care revenue cycle management.

The APA is always punctuated, if that’s the right word, by a “Presidential Address,” a lecture given by the distinguished philosopher who is president of that particular division. This meeting’s presidential address was given by Connie Rosati of the University of Texas at Austin, an ethicist whose work I only know in a superficial way. Rosati gave an interesting talk on what she called “The Lincoln Virtues,” meaning a set of virtues associated with, or nicely exemplified by, Abraham Lincoln. The virtues in question involve a certain kind of magnanimity, generosity, and humility–not quite Christian and not quite pagan, but maybe a synthesis of the two or a mean between them. Think of Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address, and you’ll get the basic idea: “with malice toward none, with charity for all,” asserted by a president approaching imminent victory in a bitter civil war. (The address was given about a month before the Union’s victory in the US Civil War.) Continue reading

Revisiting Hursthouse on the Repentant Racist (2 of 2)

In my last (recent) post on this topic, I argued that it seems absurd to blame people, or pass moral judgments of any kind on them, for what they experience in dreams. It follows that it’s absurd to blame, judge, or morally assess someone for having racist dreams, or generally, vicious dreams. But, I suggested, certain sorts of passing, stream-of-consciousness thoughts seem to bear a closer similarity to dream states than they do to conscious convictions. If so, thoughts of this variety are not a proper subject of moral assessment either, or at least less so, in proportion to their similarity to the relevant features of dreams.

One implication of this claim is that a person who encounters a lot of racist noise in his head, even racist noise voiced in the first person, is not necessarily a racist himself, and not to be judged a racist simply on that evidence–a claim that contradicts not just Hursthouse’s view, but one held by other moral philosophers. A second implication is that insofar as implicit bias/association tests function to detect a propensity to give voice to involuntary, osmotic mental noise, we have (yet another) plausible  explanation for their invalidity and unreliability, and should consider dramatically ratcheting back the use we make of them. 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.

Continue reading