The value or worth of a man is, as of all other things, his price; that is to say, so much as would be given for the use of his power, and therefore is not absolute, but a thing dependent on the need and judgement of another.
–Hobbes, Leviathan, I.10.16
Sher’s account of desert and merit raises many questions, so let me double back to consider some of these, some addressed in his chapter, some not. I’d originally thought I’d leave the criticisms of Sher’s chapter at a single post, but it turns out that my criticisms have eaten up more space than I’ve thought they would. So this series on “Desert and Merit” is going to be longer than the promised or predicted two installments. Frankly, at this point, I couldn’t tell you how long it will be. As Michelangelo said (or is reported to me by Roderick Long to have said) about the Sistine Chapel, “It will be done when it is done.” I follow Michelangelo in such matters. Continue reading →
Chapter 5 of George Sher’s Desert offers an account of retributivism according to which wrongdoing generates an unfair balance of benefits and burdens that requires redress. Because this imbalance exists at a given time, but is redressed across time, Sher thinks of retributivism so conceived as exemplifying a conception of diachronic fairness, that is, of fairness exemplified in an act of balancing across time. Chapter 6, “Desert and Diachronic Fairness,” seeks to articulate the principle involved, conceived generally enough to cover both punishments and rewards.
Continue reading →
Christopher Freiman challenges academics who object to Koch grants on ethical grounds but are willing to accept government grants:
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Many academics object to Koch grants but not government grants. As far as I can tell, the objections to the former apply with equal or greater force to the latter. Consider two:
1) The Kochs have committed injustices and accepting Koch money makes you complicit in those injustices, even if the funded project is wholly unrelated to them.
But of course the government has committed injustices; indeed, injustices far graver than anything the Kochs have been accused of (e.g. murdering people daily). Furthermore, most of what people find objectionable about the Kochs is their lobbying efforts. Yet the government should also bear some responsibility for seeking and accepting the influence of Koch money in that case. If you accept money as part of your murder for hire business, you are at least as morally blameworthy as the buyer.
All those thought-experiments you might have encountered while studying consequentialism versus deontology in grad school or some intro ethics course are about to become terrible realities in New York City and northern New Jersey within the next few hours. I’m writing this on Sunday night, April 5th. By tomorrow morning, there’ll be no escape in this area from the misery I’m about to describe. The surge is imminent. The minimizers, deniers, and skeptics were wrong. What you’re about to see is the twenty-first century equivalent of a painting by Hieronymous Bosch. Figure out now whether you want to look or avert your eyes. 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 →
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 →
[This is a draft of the paper I’ll be presenting this Saturday at the Author Meets Critics session I’m organizing on Vicente Medina’s Terrorism Unjustified: The Use and Misuse of Political Violence, featuring presentations by Theresa Fanelli (Felician), Graham Parsons (West Point), and myself, with a response by Vicente Medina (Seton Hall). Comments welcome. For a link to an earlier discussion of Medina’s book at PoT, go here.]
Terrorism Justified: Comment on Vicente Medina’s Terrorism Unjustified
Author Meets Critics Session
Felician University, Rutherford, New Jersey
April 21, 2018
Vicente Medina’s Terrorism Unjustified offers a comprehensive, clear, and thorough critique of terrorism. There’s a sense in which I agree with and greatly admire Medina’s argument, and a sense in which I fundamentally disagree with and reject it. In this paper, I’ll focus on the disagreement, in the hopes that in doing so, the implicit agreement will come out as well.
I begin in Section 2 by making some critical observations on Medina’s definition of “terrorism.” The definition, I suggest, pushes the reader in two different directions—a categorical rejection of terrorism, and a subtly conditional one. On the latter interpretation, terrorism can be justified, but only in situations that Medina regards as extremely implausible and unlikely. In Section 3, I offer an extended thought-experiment, verging on a fable, intended to give plausibility one such situation. In other words, the case I describe is one in which it seems (to me) justifiable to target people that Medina would regard as “innocent noncombatants,” or else to inflict foreseeable harm on them without having to meet a “reasonable doubt” criterion as to their moral status. In Sections 4 and 5, I make explicit what the fable leaves implicit. Continue reading →
God will have all, or none; serve Him, or fall
Down before Baal, Bel, or Belial:
Either be hot, or cold: God doth despise,
Abhorre, and spew out all Neutralities.
–Robert Herrick (1846)
Robert Nozick, on Locke’s theory of acquisition, in 1974:
Why does mixing one’s labor with something make one the owner of it? Perhaps because one owns own’s labor, and so one comes to own a previously unowned thing that becomes permeated with what one owns. Ownership seeps into the rest. But why isn’t mixing what I own with what I don’t own a way of losing what I own rather than a way of gaining what I don’t?…Perhaps the idea, instead, is that laboring on something improves it and makes it more valuable; and anyone is untitled to own a thing whose value he has created….Ignore the fact that laboring on something may make it less valuable (spraying pink enamel paint on a piece of driftwood you have found). Why should one’s entitlement extend to the whole object rather than just to the added value one’s labor has produced? (Anarchy, State, and Utopia, pp. 174-75).
From an article in The New York Times on the judgment in the 5Pointz graffiti case a few days ago:
Ruling that graffiti — a typically transient form of art — was of sufficient stature to be protected by the law, a federal judge in Brooklyn awarded a judgment of $6.7 million on Monday to 21 graffiti artists whose works were destroyed in 2013 at the 5Pointz complex in Long Island City, Queens.
In November, a landmark trial came to a close in Federal District Court in Brooklyn when a civil jury decided that Jerry Wolkoff, a real estate developer who owned 5Pointz, broke the law when he whitewashed dozens of swirling murals at the complex, obliterating what a lawyer for the artists had called “the world’s largest open-air aerosol museum.”
Though Mr. Wolkoff’s lawyers had argued that the buildings were his to treat as he pleased, the jury found he violated the Visual Artists Rights Act, or V.A.R.A., which has been used to protect public art of “recognized stature” created on someone’s else property.
So whatever the added value of pink enamel paint, the added value of multicolored enamel paint turns out to have a pretty specific dollar amount. Continue reading →
Reason Papers 36.1, which came out a few weeks ago, included a nice review essay by Danny Frederick of Mark Friedman’s recent book, Nozick’s Libertarian Project. Friedman has now responded to the review on his website, with a short rejoinder by Frederick in the comments.
For other recent work on Nozick in Reason Papers, check out Dale Murray’s October 2012 review essay of Ralf Bader’s Robert Nozick and Bader and Meadowcraft’s Cambridge Companion to Nozick’s Anarchy, State, and Utopia. Also relevant is Lamont Rodgers’s “Self-Ownership and Justice in Acquisition,” from the October 2012 issue. Digging back in RP‘s archives, I was astounded (and a bit dismayed) to discover that the journal ran no review of Nozick’s Anarchy, State, and Utopia when the book came out in 1974, though it did, in 1980, run a Nozick-oriented paper by Richard B. McKenzie, “Entitlements and the Theft of Taxation.”
If you happen to be in the vicinity of Lodi, New Jersey this Wednesday the 24th around 1 pm, and you’re interested in Plato and/or virtue–a small, self-selected population, I realize–you might want to stop by Kirby 206 at Felician College and hear Greg Sadler’s presentation, “Just What Is a Platonic Virtue?” The talk–officially a Current Research Workshop–is sponsored by Felician’s Institute for Ethics and Public Affairs. Here’s a summary:
Plato’s dialogues talk quite a bit about the virtues — including the cardinal ones: wisdom, justice, temperance, and courage — but it’s not always clear just what these virtues are in his work. Do they exist in persons? Or are they Forms? In this workshop… I’ll be presenting my current research on the subject — aimed at clarifying the metaphysical status of virtue and virtues in Plato’s thought, and thinking how we would apply such a perspective in our own contemporary lives.
If you’re not in the vicinity of Lodi, New Jersey this Wednesday–never fear, I’ll blog it here (at some point). Incidentally, if you’re interested in doing a Felician Current Research Workshop, contact me at my Felician address (click the “Current Research Workshop” link for that), and I’ll try to set something up.