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Eric Schliesser
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But what these two responses to CIIT really drove home to me is just how powerless we are in this regard. The content of our paper, the specifics of the arguments we gave, seem to me just not the kind of thing that will make a difference as to whether... Continue reading
Posted yesterday at Digressions&Impressions
Clinton’s campaign made a devastating error by failing to recognize the appeal of illiberalism. The strategy of their ad campaign, which featured lengthy snippets of the president-elect at his most illiberal, presupposed a general commitment to liberal democratic values. It is in any case a familiar point from George Lakoff’s... Continue reading
Posted 2 days ago at Digressions&Impressions
But it is not radical in the sense of being unfamiliar. With the notable exception of black and feminist thinkers who have defended anger as a vital tool of the oppressed, almost all of Western political thought since the Stoics has largely shared Nussbaum’s dim view of anger. Seneca condemned... Continue reading
Posted 5 days ago at Digressions&Impressions
Most academic work in all subjects is dry and dull to the outsider and contributes only a minute increment to the sum of knowledge. I expect there are people out there whose appetites for the details of snail morphology or monastic life in seventeenth century France is immeasurably greater than... Continue reading
Posted 7 days ago at Digressions&Impressions
Not coincidentally, it was also the year of “fake news,” in which pure fiction masquerading as truth...But framing the issue solely in terms of lying actually underplays and mischaracterizes the grand deception being perpetuated inside the internet’s fun house of mirrors. To better see this, we must distinguish lying from... Continue reading
Posted Nov 29, 2016 at Digressions&Impressions
When I read people from the early 20th century...discussing their reluctance to issue normative pronouncements I frequently get something like the following impression....Our forbearers were very keen to avoid any suggestion that others should defer to their pronouncements on moral matters, they really did not think they should be deferred... Continue reading
Posted Nov 28, 2016 at Digressions&Impressions
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The most common forms of debt are loans, including mortgages and auto loans, and credit card debt. Under the terms of a loan, the borrower is required to repay the balance of the loan by a certain date, typically several years in the future. The terms of the loan also... Continue reading
Posted Nov 25, 2016 at Digressions&Impressions
I really value the ability to produce such an emotionally coherent philosophy in humanistic thinkers. One -- not the only, nor even the most important, but one -- valuable thing I think we can offer as humanists is placing facts, arguments, perspectives, into such a light as they provide a... Continue reading
Posted Nov 24, 2016 at Digressions&Impressions
To some extent, we are bound to read past philosophers in the light of our own philosophical culture, which in turn makes some features of their works apparent to us and others invisible. What we find is shaped by who we are. However, there are many ways in which our... Continue reading
Posted Nov 23, 2016 at Digressions&Impressions
The citizens of the United States of America have a right to applaud themselves for having given to mankind examples of an enlarged and liberal policy—a policy worthy of imitation. All possess alike liberty of conscience and immunities of citizenship. It is now no more that toleration is spoken of... Continue reading
Posted Nov 22, 2016 at Digressions&Impressions
That logic’s essence, expressed variously by Herbert Croly and Woodrow Wilson, FDR’s brains trust, intellectuals of both the old and the new Left, choked back and blurted out by progressive politicians, is this: America’s constitutional republic had given the American people too much latitude to be who they are, that... Continue reading
Posted Nov 21, 2016 at Digressions&Impressions
On the Final Days of Erdoğan I write this as the Turkish Prime Minister, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, appears to have ordered the police assault to empty Gezi park from the brave citizens that taught the whole world lessons in civil society and decency. In doing so, Erdoğan has precipitated his... Continue reading
Posted Nov 20, 2016 at Digressions&Impressions
Imagine a heap of sand. You carefully remove one grain. Is there still a heap? The obvious answer is: yes. Removing one grain doesn’t turn a heap into no heap.--Timothy Williamson "On vagueness, or, when is a heap of sand not a heap of sand?" @Aeon 15 November, 2016 [HT... Continue reading
Posted Nov 18, 2016 at Digressions&Impressions
Trump is that quintessentially American figure, hated by intellectuals on both sides of the aisle and on the other side of the Atlantic, who doesn’t start with a “plan,” but rather gets himself in the thick of things and then moves outward to a workable idea—not a “principled” one—that can... Continue reading
Posted Nov 17, 2016 at Digressions&Impressions
Thank you for your thoughtful response, David. I find the analogy with the criminal justice system useful here. For, (i) it's purpose is aimed at discovery of truth and to establish/judge guilt/innocence (etc.). It has procedures to do so. A byproduct of these procedures is that we became aware of all kinds of morally relevant details. Yet, absent those details -- and the sense that the procedures and fine-grained verdicts are functioning properly (which they don't always do) -- we would be very cautious about inferring moral claims about even convicted criminals (or conversely, we would never infer from 'he is innocent to he is moral'). By contrast (ii) voting does not aim at truth (with Madison and others I affirm that political life is the realm of opinion); the choice may easily combine different aims, including political, economic, power, culture, loyalty, and moral aims (or not). So, our ends are potentially diffuse when we vote, but the mechanism a vote on a candidate (relative to other candidates) or a list, etc. is extremely coarse-grained. So, for these reasons I think the analogy is very very strained (unless a voter communicates (directly or indirectly) her reasons for voting and these turn out to be immoral). In addition, I think I have failed to make clear one of the things that follows from the assumption that representative democracy is an institutional response to human (moral) imperfection; one reason why it is so is that if we turn the question of who gets to get political rule on questions of morality we are likely to generate worse mutual conflicts. (Moral conflict can generate extremely bitter factions.) I agree with you that I prefer to insulate the electoral system from criticism against allowing the imperfect to vote, but that's not what I am defending. (So, I think in the seminar room we should be debating the merits of different kinds of electoral systems.)
In 1339 under Genoa's first doge...a new principal [sic?] was established of paying variable interest on the consolidated debt, depending on the level of customs revenue, which in turn depended on the level of trade. As a result of this change, holding Genoese debt began to resemble holding an equity... Continue reading
Posted Nov 16, 2016 at Digressions&Impressions
John, I think I may have mislead you about my argument. The core argument relies on the thought that rather than requiring moral voters, liberal democracy is an institutional response to human imperfection (including immorality). We vote because we are immoral. So, to point at some (or very many) immoral voters qua voters misses the point of liberal democracy. (The other arguments were designed to show that this insight is, in fact, part of the structure of voting which is designed to obscure the moral intentions of voters.) On your 3. I think the more likely effect of taking ethics of voting serious is (as I said in my follow up post) a push toward disenfranchisement of immoral voters.
[T]here’s little to be gained from boycotting Trump if you think there’s a chance you can shape policy in a positive direction. He says the same logic should apply to working at a corporation with a poor environmental track record, like Monsanto or ExxonMobil: It’s ethical to work there if... Continue reading
Posted Nov 15, 2016 at Digressions&Impressions
They sentenced me to twenty years of boredom For trying to change the system from within--Leonard Cohen First We Take Manhattan We shall never prevent the abuse of power if we are not prepared to limit power in a way which occasionally may prevent its use for desirable purposes.--Hayek. I... Continue reading
Posted Nov 14, 2016 at Digressions&Impressions
Sam, you are not alone in your response (I received a lot of similar comments on Facebook). Yet, I reiterate that on my view, which I take to be the liberal/republican view, you engage in a category error when you assume that voting for somebody who is hostile to republican values is immoral as such. We wouldn't have the institution of representative democracy in the way we do if we thought voters were moral or that we wished to facilitate their morality.(I allow that if somebody explains his/her vote in immoral ways then, sure, you can say something about the morality of the vote.) Moreover, in practice, it is inevitable that even if we want to be moral, we vote for immoral/illiberal/un-republican folk not infrequently (in the post I used an example that truly shocked me at the time). Finally, like you, I take complicity with evil seriously, but I think the locus of responsibility is elsewhere (also for prudential reasons you hint at).
Some 59 million people chose to enact horror and obscenity, and they’re agents in the world. They acted wrongly and are blameworthy. Whatever mistakes other people made in persuading them don’t lift the moral responsibility from their own shoulders. I’ve got arguments aplenty with other people who rejected Trump, and... Continue reading
Posted Nov 12, 2016 at Digressions&Impressions
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Perhaps recent events should make us rethink how philosophers write about democracy. There’s a disconnection between how democracy actually works and what philosophers say, between what researchers say in empirical political science and the implicit empirical models philosophers work with in democratic theory. I don’t think this just shows us... Continue reading
Posted Nov 11, 2016 at Digressions&Impressions
Expert Hubris/overconfidence....and wishful thinking. So, let me first grant that Nate Silver at least tried to warn folk that an outcome pattern like the one we are seeing might be a real possibility. But even his models did not come close to what's happened in lots of states. As he... Continue reading
Posted Nov 8, 2016 at Digressions&Impressions
There is no excuse for the government failing to run deficits as large and for as long as required to cater to the accumulative desires of capitalists and thus sustain production at the highest possible level. There is no reason the government shouldn’t run a permanent deficit, if the long-term... Continue reading
Posted Nov 8, 2016 at Digressions&Impressions
Today’s dominant conservative voices try to appeal to people by the millions. You win attention in the mass media through perpetual hysteria and simple-minded polemics and by exploiting social resentment. In search of that mass right-wing audience that, say, Coulter enjoys, conservatism has done its best to make itself offensive... Continue reading
Posted Nov 7, 2016 at Digressions&Impressions