This is a discussion that Michael Young and I started at my Facebook page on this article by Michael Tomasky in The New York Times (ht: Suleman Khawaja). Here’s Tomasky’s thesis in a sentence:
Freedom means the freedom not to get infected by the idiot who refuses to mask up.
I started the conversation, which we agreed to continue here instead of on Facebook. Continue reading
Imagine a person A who confronts a complete stranger, B, and shoots B out of pure malice. A now encounters C and gets ready to shoot her from the same motivation, but is prevented by D, a police officer, who shoots A before A can shoot C.
Who has initiated force in this scenario, and who has engaged in retaliatory force? It’s an interesting question. Walking through a neighborhood park, I overheard a discussion on the subject, carried on by two interlocutors, Simpleton and Overthinker. Continue reading
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
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. 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
Talk of reparations has come back into common currency in American political discourse–meaning reparations to African Americans for the wrongs done to them since the beginnings of slavery. I don’t have a fully considered view on reparations (many of the arguments both for and against strike me as one-eyed), but I’ve both been surprised (and in another sense, not surprised) to hear libertarians insist so adamantly that libertarianism rules out reparations. Anyone who thinks this owes it to himself to read or re-read Robert Nozick’s Anarchy, State, and Utopia, if not cover to cover, then through the end of Part I, as I did on a recent plane ride. Continue reading
I am grateful to my friend and professional colleague Irfan Khawaja for his incisive critique of my short piece, Terrorism as a Toxic Term: Why Definition Matters, and for generously allowing me to post my reply on his website. As Irfan underscores, our main difference regarding the definition of the term “terrorism” is a difference in “focus,” but perhaps there is also a difference in kind. That is, the kind of definition that one might find morally adequate for describing terrorist violence. I argue that the disposition of the perpetrators and the objective innocence of the victims should be the focus of an adequate and fair definition of terrorism.
Irfan, however, argues that one “should focus on the reasons that terrorists cite to justify their actions.” He contests “the idea that a definition of terrorism should describe it merely as a use of violence rather than an “initiatory” [my italics] use of violence and a response to one.” Irfan’s suggestion is well taken. I agree with him that there is a relevant distinction “between purely initiatory aggression on the one hand, and disproportionality or indiscriminateness in an otherwise justified response to aggression on the other.” Continue reading
Consider this post a rant-by-proxy: I owe the basic idea for it to my therapist wife, Alison, but the issue occurred to me independently (though not with such clarity) a few years ago, after I took a professional ethics course for my counseling degree.
Psychotherapy is an odd vocation that’s hard to categorize in a straightforward way. A therapist is in some respects like a teacher, in some respects like a friend, in some like a parent, in some like a religious minister, and in some like a physician. But at the end of the day, therapy is a sui generis activity with its own internal standards and internal goods. Therapy may resemble pedagogy, friendship, parenting, spiritual counseling, and medicine in some respects, but isn’t any of those things. Nonetheless, the powers-that-be have decided nowadays that psychotherapy is a form of medicine, or if that strains credulity, that it ought to be medicalized as much as possible. Continue reading
About a year and a half ago, having spent a summer in Palestine and a week on Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, I ventured the observation on Facebook that three political disputes I’d “recently encountered” (in a loose sense of “encountered”) struck me as fundamentally similar in nature, and yet attracted fundamentally different constituencies. For brevity’s sake, let’s call them “Malheur,” “Standing Rock,” and “Palestine,” taking those as shorthand designations for more complex things. Continue reading
Some food for thought, in “commemoration” of the Balfour Declaration, drafted 31 October 1917, adopted by the British Government 2 November 1917.
(1) Lord Arthur Balfour, speech to Parliament on the need for the British to retain control of Egypt (1910)
First of all, look at the facts of the case. Western nations as soon as they emerge into history show the beginnings of those capacities for self-government…having merits of their own…You may look through the whole history of the Orientals in what is called, broadly speaking, the East, and you never find traces of self-government. All their great centuries–and they have been great–have been passed under absolute government. All their great contributions to civilisation–and they have been great–have been made under that form of government. Conquerer has succeeded conqueror; one domination has followed another; but never in all of the revolutions of fate and fortune have you seen one of those nations of its own motion establish what we, from a Western point of view, call self-government. (Quoted in Edward Said, Orientalism, p. 33)
(2) Balfour Declaration, Zionist Draft (July 1917)
His Majesty’s Government accepts the principle that Palestine should be reconstituted as the national home of the Jewish people.
His Majesty’s Government will use its best endeavours to secure the achievement of this object and will discuss the necessary methods and means with the Zionist Organisation.
(3) Balfour Declaration, Final Draft, (finalized 31 October 1917, adopted 2 November 1917)
His Majesty’s Government view with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people and will use their best endeavours to facilitate the achievement of this object, it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country. (Both drafts quoted in Charles D. Smith, Palestine and the Arab-Israeli Conflict: A History with Documents, 8th ed., p. 94)
This is the first in a series of posts on the Tenth Annual Felician Institute Conference on Ethics and Public Affairs. For the introduction to the series, read this.
The first of the sessions I attended (and chaired) was one on (private) property rights, featuring two papers–one an essentially Hegelian justification of private property rights by Blake Wilson (SUNY Binghamton), the other a Lacanian account of a dilemma about private property by Chris Ketcham (University of Houston, Downtown). I’m going to discuss Blake’s paper rather than Chris’s, in part because Chris’s paper was aporetic rather than thesis-driven, and also because the aporia in Chris’s paper arises from the idiosyncrasies of Lacan’s conception of our obligations to others, a topic I’m not qualified to discuss, having read very little Lacan.