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Christopher Graves
Fort Worth, Texas
Interests: Philosophy, Economics, Politics, Psychology, the Arts, sports especially Major League Baseball and college football
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While I oppose open immigration and too much diversity within national borders, I do not oppose diversity over the planet. I love the racial, ethnic, linguistic, cultural niches that the various peoples of the earth have coalesced into. But for these valuable differences to be maintained, then we cannot have open immigration for masses of immigrants to dissolve the bonds of native peoples and their distinctive ways of life. True diversity recognizes that people live within the cultural bounds of their native lands as we work to preserve them for everyone.
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In reply to Judge Posner's comments about native Americans' concern about large numbers of Latinos flooding into the United States, people the world over and throughout history have demonstrated a consistent revealed preference for forming social unions with those of their own ethnicity, language group, and religion. When people are allowed to freely associate, most segregate along these lines. Appealing to economic analysis here is disingenuous since neo-classical economic analysis takes people's tastes and preferences as given. And there is good reason that people hold these preferences for ethnic, linguistic, and religious homogeneity within a political entity. Humans are innately social beings. We form groups to function within. We are not isolated individuals. It is hardly irrational to seek to maintain the demographic composition of a community, a state, a region, and a nation that fosters spontaneous social cooperation. People naturally are drawn to those who look and act like themselves. Most people viscerally recoil at the sight of those who look different. If anyone doubts this human tendency, I would suggest taking an Implicit Test on racial preferences. https://implicit.harvard.edu/implicit/demo/ People quite obviously also prefer those who speak the same language with the same dialect. It is much easier to communicate. Religion and its accompanying political, social, legal, and economic assumptions also fosters common ground for coordinating decisions with others as well as shaping foundational institutions in a society. If we see ourselves in another, then we are more likely to empathize and sacrifice as well as form lasting bonds with others. Multi-culturalism and diversity are poison to any society.
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Mass immigration undermines the established culture of a region or a country. Conserving the nation's dominant folkways, religion, language, and implicit philosophy should be the preeminent concern of immigration policy.
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I agree with Judge Posner on the social as well as economic benefits of an aristocracy to offset the callous and often anti-social tendencies of business. Aristocrats have a vested interest in maintaining the social mores of a civilization as well as its folkways that provide and sustain their own influence. Businessmen have a much less obvious and direct connection to the cultural foundations of a society. Of course, they too are dependent on these structures, but it might not be as obvious to businessmen in the moment. When aristocracies wielded more power and influence, many successful businessmen desired to join their class as best they could, so they followed the lead of the aristocrats in taste, morals, and a sense of noblesse oblige to gain entry into the upper class. This made for a more civilized version of free markets such as we saw in England and the American South.
Toggle Commented Apr 21, 2013 on Business Ethics—Posner at The Becker-Posner Blog
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I don't think the relevant question is whether or not college graduates earn more than those who only make it through high school or less. Rather, the question should be whether attending a college actually develops a person intellectually, culturally, and in their ability to make judgements. As it stands now, a college diploma, especially from one of the elite institutions, is a proxy for these desirable qualities, but it is an open question in my mind whether most colleges provide this sort of training and cultivation. It might just be that these schools merely draw bright people and provide them access to other bright people to interact with along with study materials in the library, which could be had at the local public library or book store at home for a lot less time and money. I am sure a few colleges do these things, and most do a bit, but I see most colleges as relegating their central mission, viz. teaching, to a side-line element of fluff, if they consider it at all. Instead, obscure, irrelevant research is given top billing. Tuition and state and federal subsidy are predominately directed to supporting research. In a relatively small number of cases, the research might be socially valuable and clearly presented, but should students' education be compromised to encourage research? I do not think so. If one is a researcher rather than a professor (consider what the word literally means), then everyone concerned would be better served if the researcher moved on to a think tank or a primarily research oriented institution such as Bell Laboratories or the Rand Corporation. Most colleges are defrauding students and their parents by not focusing on the preservation and dissemination of the received body of knowledge built up over the course of the history of Western Civilization along with the cultivation of reasoning skills, insight, taste, and judgement.
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It is blatantly contradictory to argue for re-distributing wealth to increase "overall economic welfare" (viz., utilitarianism) and then to decry Rawls' Difference Principle on the grounds that it does not take individuals seriously. I agree that Rawls is guilty as charged on this score. I have made that argument myself elsewhere, but to turn around and trade-off one person's well-being against another to attain a higher level of "overall economic welfare" by taking one person's property and giving it to another is to do just what Judge Posner rejects in Rawls' version of social justice. Remember, Rawls correctly pointed out that the main problem with utilitarianism is that it "does not take seriously the distinction between persons." Theory of Justice, p. 24.
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Once again, I believe that merit is next to impossible to clearly define and is impossible to consistently reward in a practical way. As I have argued previously, the standard for social justice should be entitlement rather than merit where people are free to gain wealth and status in accordance with a fair process. Professor Becker's examples of government distributing the means of acquiring wealth in an unfair way illustrates the importance of a fair process rather than evaluating a particular distribution of wealth according to the slippery standard of merit.
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Frankly, I do not see from my personal experience any basis for so-called elite colleges having the reputation for excellence that they do. I have attended two of these schools as well as large state universities, a private Catholic liberal arts school, and a fundamentalist school. The worst was the fundamentalist school, but it did have some good teaching and by far and away the best cultural offerings such as opera, symphonies, Shakespearean plays, weekly Vesper programs replete with poetry and short dramas as well as a first rate art collection. But next in order of poor quality teaching are the two elite private universities. While there were a few good classes as there were in the fundamentalist school, most of the teaching was non-existent or poor. In one graduate seminar, the professor said that he should not say anything or even answer a question. All he did was preside over the students' discussions. When professors did teach the classes, they tended to take up topics as they seemed to randomly pop into their heads as they spoke in hurried, elliptical phrases. In courses where I was already familiar with the subject matter, I thought to myself at the time that if I did not already know what they were referring to, I would be lost. In classes where I was not familiar with the subject matter, I was lost. I had to either stop attending ( I was sitting in a couple of classes attempting to gain an introduction to the subjects) or I had to go find books and articles that explained the subject matter in a clear manner. I had fairly extensive contact with undergraduates at one of these schools since I lived in a block off-campus that was primarily student rentals. They asked me for help because they did not understand what was being presented in their introductory classes. The best schools were the Catholic liberal arts college where I took additional classes and two large state schools where I was enrolled in graduate programs. The departments that I studied in at the state schools were highly ranked. The professors actually taught the classes in a reasonably-paced, clear manner. I understood and mastered the material much better at these schools. I also enjoyed studying at these schools more since the stress was much less. I do not like stress and do not do well under stress. I heard several other students and faculty at the other elite university that I attended who had contact with one of the state universities that I attended to notice the same points of contrast between the two schools--viz., clarity and reduced stress. I also found that I could play with ideas more freely in class discussions and in papers at the state schools than at the elite schools. As for the interaction with other students, there is no question that the elite schools provided better classmates and other students to socialize with and to discuss issues raised in class. The students at the elite schools taken as a whole were more personable, more enthusiastic, more intelligent, more articulate, and more enjoyable to be with.
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I completely agree with Professor Becker's view that the key problem that we are facing in regard to the budget is overspending and the high levels of taxation that facilitate the overspending. Judge Posner's analysis is entirely too Keynesian and, therefore, wrong. But I believe that it would be best if we would all hold hands and go over the Fiscal Cliff together. Doing so would not be without its drawbacks, but it would serve a number of purposes. First, it would force American foreign policy-makers to reassess the mission of the military. A less interventionist foreign policy would allow us to realize enormous savings at the same time that we scale back the role of the U.S. in the world so that other peoples can sort out their disputes, their own institutions, their own policies in their own way. It would also lessen the "blow-back" of those who feel threatened or aggrieved by our interventions. Deep cuts in the military budget would also lessen the role of the central government here in the United States that particularly has a hold on the right. The American liberal left has used the military budget as a crucial bargaining chip in budget deals that have increased not only military spending but social welfare spending over the years. Second, given the results of the last election, this might be the only way to cut the increase in spending in any meaningful way. Third, as taxes go up for us all, political pressure is more likely to arise that leads to real tax reform that lowers tax rates across the board or forces people to recognize the true cost of Federal spending on popular social welfare programs as higher taxes shift at least some of their costs to the current generations.
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I agree with the following characterizations described by Judge Posner: "The result, in combination with requiring postgraduate education and qualifying exams for entry into the profession and subjecting members of it to professional discipline, is to attract a type of person quite different from the entrepreneurial type—the latter a type exemplified by such extraordinarily successful college drop-outs as Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, and Mark Zuckerberg. The professional model attracts a more studious, intellectual, risk-averse type of person." The first point of agreement is on Judge Posner's acknowledgement of different innate temperaments, which is frequently overlooked in these sorts of discussions. The second is the social need for the people Judge Posner observes to be drawn to the professional model in order to curb the excesses of those drawn to the business class. And this bring us to the third point of possible agreement, and that is there are natural classes of people with the attendant need for a society to be properly ordered in terms of classes. I am afraid that many conservatives and libertarians are all too willing to overplay the hand of the business class at the expense of those who are more reflective and discerning. Those on the left are even more prone to mistakes in the social ordering process by overlooking the contribution those in the business class make to producing the economic surpluses that make civilization possible. The left's penchant for equality of result makes for a general lack of appreciation of natural classes of people. But I strongly disagree that those without official medical training cannot actively participate in their medical care or the care of a loved one. All too often, doctors and nurses, and even nurse's aides, believe that they have some sort of official dispensation to neglect the insights or even questions of the patient or the patient's family in setting out treatment. This tendency leads to incredible arrogance not only in medical treatment that can and does turn out to be wrong, but extends to doctors and nurses making "official" pronouncements on issues outside their area of expertise, e.g, forcibly presenting their own views on end of life issues as if the humanitarian or hedonistic views were the only games in town philosophically or theologically. Most of these professionals have little or no training in philosophy and merely repeat the line drummed into them from mainstream bio-ethics without serious thought behind their dogmatic assertions. During the past year, I have witnessed my mother suffer horrendous mistakes at the hands of doctors leaving her in a debilitated condition. After the first of these mistakes, I have questioned doctors on the wisdom of their course of treatment. Every time that I have done so after the first major mistake, I have turned out to have been right. I can reason as well, or better, than they can using inductive reasoning and the scientific method. Before my mother' fall last year, doctors whom we had an on-going relationship with listened to my questions and observations especially after they saw my concerns or suggestions play out as I had predicted. But doctors and nurses whom we float among in the callously impersonal care of hospitals and nursing facilities do not have the contact with us much less the on-going relationship with us to heed my concerns until another set of mistakes occurs. Some then take what I say more seriously, but then we are on to another facility before long. Others have become very hostile and have created unbelievable problems for us leading me to have to hire a lawyer to protect my relationship with my mother. They believe that they know better and have more concern for my mother's welfare than I do. This level of arrogance is remarkable (hidden pun here). It is imperative that medical personnel recognize the autonomy of the individual and the person's ability to make decisions about their care ( or a family member assisting in these decisions) as they offer information on issues that do require specialized knowledge.
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Well, Terry, I did not intend my comments above to apply strictly to the United States. I see the trend to break apart states that attempt to fuse different nations within them as salutary. I am encouraged by Catalonia's efforts to gain independence as I am independence movements in Scotland and Wales. It is possible that much of the upheaval we are witnessing in the Middle East might sort itself out as new nations are formed that better reflect the natural lay of the land and the peoples there. Notice that I did not say that people have to dislike or disrespect one another to want to establish and maintain distinctive ways of life and all that goes with those differences. I love the differences and respect those of various cultures. I do dislike very intensely monoculture and its "cooler" cousin, cosmopolitanism. Historian David Hackett Fischer makes an important distinction between 'liberty' and 'freedom.' Fischer notes that "the words themselves had differing origins: the Latinate 'liberty' implied separation and independence. The root meaning of 'freedom' (akin to 'friend') connoted attachment: the rights of belonging in a community of freepeople." People should have the freedom to form their own communities without regulation from a distant central power. If communities and regions can form loose confederations that leave most decision making at the local or regional level, that is fine with me. The Swiss have such an arrangement as did the U.S. before the Civil War. But there are limits to the size and scope of centralized power that is still consistent with the freedom of communities and regions to maintain their autonomy. Frankly, I do see the Federal government in the United States during the past century as threatening to this freedom. Colin Woodard has an interesting account of the various nations that make up the United States in his *American Nations: A History of the Eleven Rival Regional Cultures of North America.* These ways of life and the governing philosophy embedded within each are inconsistent with one other even as they suit each nation. If the centralizing and homogenizing trends not only of the Federal government but also of corporations keeps increasing, I see secession as an option. But I am certainly open to returning to a more Jeffersonian approach to government that we saw earlier in our history that emphasizes the freedom to reflect our differences at the community and state level.
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I love Professor Becker's analysis of the trend to break-up states containing more than one naturally formed nation. There are also other advantages to smaller, more homogeneous states. One is the amplifying of the principle of subsidiarity, so that decisions are made with more immediate feedback loops and by people who are more highly motivated to act since they are more directly involved in the social, political, and economic web of relations in a community or region. These actors can also take advantage of the implicit information transmitted by custom and habit indigenous to a particular region that structure their decisions. Greater homogeneity and smaller populations foster greater cooperation within a political entity reducing transaction costs of all types of interactions, especially collective decision-making. Democracy works best with small homogeneous populations as a number of political theorists have observed. De-centralization also fosters greater diversity that allows a better fit among people, culture, climate, history, geography and other factors so that folkways and their attendant political, legal, economic structures can evolve more spontaneously and effectively.
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I am going to have to add a comment here, if anyone is still paying attention to this discussion. I just watched Ken Burn's PBS documentary on the Dust Bowl. As is typical with anything by Ken Burns, it was excellent. What I thought was relevant to our discussion on immigration in the show was the tension created in California when waves of immigrants from Oklahoma hit California in the 1930's. Californians reacted strongly against the mass migration into their state of people, decent as they were, who were culturally so different. California even posted guards at the state border under other legal pretexts to turn away immigrants from another region of the United States. The race and ethnicity of Oklahomans were not so different from most native Californians. Neither was their language. But the accent, mannerisms, and culture were different. Their moral worth as persons was not an issue nor was their need. Universally, People have reacted this way to a large influx of people who are different along various lines, and I think their visceral reaction reveals an implicit wisdom that any social system cannot readily absorb large numbers of people who do not share a certain range of distinguishing characteristics enabling them to share in a common way of life.
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Thanks for your reply, Neilehat. I certainly agree that these are live issues today. I think it would help to repeal anti-discrimination laws on the grounds of freedom of association as well as a means of strengthening prevailing social structures. As I said above, at least speaking for myself coming from a Burkean conservative perspective, the concerns about mass immigration are not founded on an individual not being "worthy" in some sense but rather a matter of social stability as I discussed above.
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Thanks for your reply, Terry. First, I am not a Darwinist, so I am dubious about Haidt's speculation if he was suggesting that is how the races developed in the first place. But I do think he is on to something about how certain characteristics became accentuated over time within the ethnic groupings he was discussing. The basic process holds for many differences in ethnic/linguistic groupings. I think there is a fit between the climate, the geography, the economic system, the political and legal system, the language, and the physical and psychological traits of a people even allowing for a range of individual variation on one hand and a common human nature on the other. These tendencies that have developed do not necessarily make any grouping of people "unfit." But they can make a large contingent of individuals migrating from one region or continent to another ill-suited for another social and physical climate. Once immigrants reach a certain critical mass and attempt to re-establish their own folkways within another culture, they can unintentionally undermine the social fabric of the host nation. They can do so even as they practice capitalism or argue in the public sphere or participate in democratic processes. As they do, they will come to these activities in a somewhat different way or, perhaps, very different way. Remember Burke's point that each culture has its own unique way of embodying universals. The conservative take on social practices and institutions is that they are fragile and complex. Infusions of huge numbers of new members into a nation's population can subtly and not so subtly disrupt the flow of social interactions that all aspects of life depend upon. The disruptions of informal, even unconscious social cues, customs, habits, & traditions can destroy a civilization. These disruptions are as deadly for a social system as disruptions of the price system are for the economy. For instance, English historian Peter Heather argues that mass immigration into the Roman Empire led to its demise. See his *The Fall of the Roman Empire: A New History of Rome and the Barbarians,* (New York, New York: Oxford University Press, 2006). In our discussion above of Israel both when it was first formed in ancient times and in modern times, the Jews displaced an established population and they face being displaced themselves now by demographic changes. Living in Israel was a very different experience than living in a Philistine city or nowadays living in a Muslim Arab nation. Finally, in response to Neilehat, I think if we returned to the 1924 Immigration Act, it would address the concerns you brought up even though, I take it, your last post was an attempted reductio ad absurdum on nativism. One man's denying the consequent is another's affirming the antecedent. By the way, I like your hat.
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One more thing, in response to Terry's reference to Zionism, I am very pro-Israel. I believe that God gave the Jews this land. The existence of Israel tends to encourage a conservative ethos in Jews who have a history of subversion and radicalism. While there are many intractable problems between the Israelis and the Palestinians, one thing is certain. Israel cannot continue to exist if they suffer from a huge influx of Palestinian Arabs. They are also on a similar collective demographic death march to oblivion as are most European nations, Japan, South Korea, and the native population of the United States.
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I appreciate your comments, Terry, but I do believe that PC has so skewed the conversation away from race and ethnicity, we have come to believe these differences are only a matter of complexion. That is wrong. Consider the following analysis that I heard recently by social psychologist Jonathan Haidt. He argues that race and ethnicity play a crucial role in the political, economic, and legal system that people live in. For example, he cites the Chinese who developed rice farming as a means of subsistence centuries ago. Rice farming is dependent on an extensive infrastructure that is incompatible with individual creativity and assertiveness. Over time, those who showed more docile, cooperative tendencies fared better in the Chinese economy and were more likely to attract mates and reproduce. Those who were more defiant and independent were marginalized and were less able to reproduce. Over time, the traits that we see as characteristic of the Orient predominated in this culture. We can even see these tendencies in the religions and philosophies that have been more influential in these parts of Asia. Haidt contrasts the biology/culture/politics/economy of the Far East with those of parts of the Middle East where herding flocks became the dominant way people subsisted. The traits that furthered protecting the herds involved a more impulsive, less cooperative, even suspicious mindset in conjunction with the physical abilities to protect the herds. So those with a very different set of traits were more likely to prosper, attract mates, and reproduce. Over time, we see the interaction of the economic organization of a region, its culture, and the physical and psychological traits that predominate form a people. And not all people are as readily suited for each climate, geography, and the way of life that exist over the world. In short, contrary to oversimplified economic theory, people are not fungible. And then there is language. Climate, geography, and the way of life that develop from these and other influences affect people's language. Even if they start off speaking the same language, once people are separated, over time, their language evolves so that it becomes somewhat or very different. Even slight differences in dialect can make a big difference in how people express themselves and their willingness and ability to cooperate. Consider the work of socio-linguist Deborah Tannen on the social and psychological effects of even very subtle differences in accent and pacing in speech. Again, languages are tied to a people. Even moral and political universals such as liberty or equality take on a different tinge and application according to the traditions, history, and needs of each particular people. As Edmund Burke observed, there is an English liberty that is different from a French liberty. It is the height of folly to think these differences do not matter or that they can be fudged and we can all get along as we live side-by-side as equals with people who do not share a similar range of temperaments, abilities, sensibilities, and attitudes.
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Gunmar, immigration in the late 19th and early 20th Century was hardly desirable. Much of the social capital in areas where huge numbers of immigrants settled diminished. The social climate of these areas, e.g. New York, Boston, New Jersey, Chicago, New Orleans, became more dissonant and depersonalized. Much of the political divide that we are witnessing today can be traced back to the mass immigration of the last two centuries. Consider Lance Morrow's insightful article on this point in his "Cowboys and Immigrants," *Smithsonian* magazine, May 2009 (available online). These older divisions seem passe now with more recent waves of mass immigration bringing in people who have developed in significantly different ways from Europeans. We can see the threat not only to the traditional American way of life from these recent immigrants as they do not share our individualistic ethos but to our political/economic/legal system that have a foundation in European traditions, understanding, habits, abilities, and sensibilities. These differences account for the enormous racial split in the presidential vote that we just witnessed--as I am sure everyone knows, Obama overwhelmingly lost the white vote among both men and women, young, middle-aged, and elderly, and in most states including New York and California as he won non-white votes even more overwhelmingly. Things improved so much between 1924 and 1965 when immigration was restricted and the immigration that was allowed legally maintained the ethnic/linguistic/cultural stock of each nation within the United States even as each of these regions evolved somewhat differently. The social capital of regions of the U.S. that were largely spared from the social ravages of mass immigration remained intact and were and are much more pleasant places to live. Diversity, especially coupled with demands for equality of condition and status, leads to social fragmentation and isolation as Robert Putnam has found in his sociological research.
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Enforcing immigration laws is not that difficult in practice if we would just put our mind to it. The e-verify law, if enforced, would cut off the vast majority of employment opportunities to illegal immigrants, and they would leave the country out of necessity. This process would be accelerated if we would end governmental benefits to illegal aliens. The border has been secured in previous generations by both FDR and Eisenhower. There is no reason to believe that it cannot be secured now. I am more interested in enforcing the law against non-European illegal immigrants because of the need for maintaining the cultural foundation of the United States. People of non-European descent have developed biologically, linguistically, & culturally in different ways than have Europeans. This is not to say that non-Europeans are morally inferior or any such notion, but they are different and are primed by their heritage for a way of life that is different from ours and from each others'. Furthermore, when people appear different, we are prone not to cooperate with them. Cooperation and concern for others are rooted in similarity along racial, linguistic, and cultural lines. Attitudes toward individualism, liberty, self-control, romantic love, sympathy, industriousness, cooperation with others who are not relatives, moral indignation, and other characteristics vary by ethnicity and race. America is a product of the Protestant religion with its emphasis on individual salvation and an Anglo-Saxon heritage--both biologically and culturally (let's keep in mind that our legal system, our political philosophy, our language, our economy, our sensibilities about our liberties all have an English heritage). We cannot maintain the civil society that our political, legal, and economic system is based in if we are a polyglot collection of social atoms or if we dissolve into groups with ways of life that are at variance with one another and fail to provide the social infra-structure to maintain America as we have known it from its inception in the 17th Century. This means that we must not only enforce laws against non-European illegal immigrants, but must change our immigration laws that allow for legal immigration to once again favor Northern Europeans especially those from the British Isles as was the practice from 1924 until 1965. As conservative leaders in Europe are now realizing and openly admitting, multi-culturalism does not work.
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Playing off of TANSTAAL's insight about the nihilistic quality of Judge Posner's philosophical paradigm, the Darwinism, randomness, and materialism inherent in Judge Posner's foundations lead no where else but to nihilism. On this point, consider the thesis of the latest book by philosopher Thomas Nagel, *Mind and Cosmos: Why the Materialist Neo-Darwinian Conception of Nature Is Almost Certainly Wrong,* Oxford University Press, 2012. Once we abandon teleology and reduce rational reflection, intuitions, insights, and all of consciousness to purely naturalistic, materialistic epiphenomena, and view the world as being without intrinsic order then moral realism vanishes as does rationality in general. Darwin himself realized this radical ramification of his speculations as have a number of contemporary philosophers such as Allan Gibbard and Sharon Street (who continue to accept Darwin). Nagel has come to understand that the Darwinistic account, when fully considered, reduces to absurdity.
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I would agree that people do not deserve their possessions or, at least, it is really hard to determine such issues objectively. There are philosophical problems as well as practical problems with a merit-based theory of social justice. The practical problem is who is to judge who deserves more and along what lines are people to be judged? Is it work effort, intelligence, virtue, diligence, or some combination of these qualities and perhaps others? And then if we could specify some formula of desirable qualities that we collectively want to reward, what would happen to liberty of association, contract, bequest, and charity? Would they be outlawed? We can see how these considerations can become at odds with merit by recounting Jesus' parable of hiring workers for the vineyard in Matthew 20: “For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire workers for his vineyard. 2 He agreed to pay them a denarius[a] for the day and sent them into his vineyard. 3 “About nine in the morning he went out and saw others standing in the marketplace doing nothing. 4 He told them, ‘You also go and work in my vineyard, and I will pay you whatever is right.’ 5 So they went. “He went out again about noon and about three in the afternoon and did the same thing. 6 About five in the afternoon he went out and found still others standing around. He asked them, ‘Why have you been standing here all day long doing nothing?’ 7 “‘Because no one has hired us,’ they answered. “He said to them, ‘You also go and work in my vineyard.’ 8 “When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, ‘Call the workers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last ones hired and going on to the first.’ 9 “The workers who were hired about five in the afternoon came and each received a denarius. 10 So when those came who were hired first, they expected to receive more. But each one of them also received a denarius. 11 When they received it, they began to grumble against the landowner. 12 ‘These who were hired last worked only one hour,’ they said, ‘and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the work and the heat of the day.’ 13 “But he answered one of them, ‘I am not being unfair to you, friend. Didn’t you agree to work for a denarius? 14 Take your pay and go. I want to give the one who was hired last the same as I gave you. 15 Don’t I have the right to do what I want with my own money? Or are you envious because I am generous?’ 16 “So the last will be first, and the first will be last.” As Robert Nozick argued, an entitlement theory of social justice is superior to either a meritocratic principle or an egalitarian principle. Entitlement avoids the problems I have pointed to withe merit as it protects individual liberty. We also avoid the problems posed by Judge Posner and Professor Becker about luck and free will. Further, we side-step issues relating to exactly how much people need to induce them to continue socially productive activities, viz. incentives. The entitlement theory also avoids the intrinsic problems present in egalitarian notions of social justice that center on continually attempting to measure the degree of inequality of result and tinkering with institutions and individuals' lives to force people into the specified social pattern. We have a long track record of the intrusive, and in many cases, tyrannical tendency of regimes founded upon egalitarian notions of social justice. On Nozick's view, which he derived from John Locke, people are entitled to whatever they gain as a result of a fair process. People are endowed with certain abilities, which they rightfully own based on the principle of self-ownership. People mix their labor with nature or they trade with others who have acquired their property either by appropriating it from nature or by fair trade or bequest. This process allows for the free play of individuals and, over time, organic social institutions and practices to develop to regularize these acquisitions in a flexible but stable manner. Government's role on the entitlement view is limited to protecting private property and enforcing contracts. This is the conception of social justice that the United States is founded upon, and we can see the results in terms of personal liberty and prosperity over two centuries.
Toggle Commented Oct 20, 2012 on Luck and Taxation-Becker at The Becker-Posner Blog
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There is fundamental problem that I see with Judge Posner's discussion of incentives and that is his assertion that there is no free will. His contention is based on the claim that all events are caused. In a way this is true. But not every aspect of every action is caused in a materialistic sense. There is a causal nexus that produces actions and events, but human action is largely brought about by 'reasons' and not 'causes,' even though there is a causal chain involved in human action. So, when I decide to, say, to type this post, my body moves in a certain manner stimulated by a chemical, physical chain of causes that produces the motion of my fingers that type the respective keys of my keyboard that set off another chain of physical causes in my computer that links with the Internet, etc. But there is no causal explanation of why I decided to write this post or the logic that I present in the content of this post. A more appropriate way to consider the content of this post is with regard to my reasons for disagreeing with Judge Posner on this issue. While there is a physical substrate to a person's thinking and feeling, we would be missing the substance of Judge Posner's essay and my response if we simply discussed the pattern of neurons firing in our respective brains and the functioning of our nervous systems as we wrote our comments. Our thoughts are distinct from the way our thoughts are instantiated in our brains, and the truth claims that we make must be evaluated in terms of the reasons for our views. There is always a de facto dualism to the human mind and its interaction with our brain and the rest of our bodies. The Identity Theory of the mind always runs into this problem and that is how do we distinguish thoughts, by looking to the state of a person's brain or to the substance of their conscious experience? If anyone is tempted to answer the former, then consider this realistic thought experiment: Two people think the same thought, say they are both asked to think of a waterfall as they are placed in a brain scan machine of the most sophisticated sort. In one person a specified nodule of the brain is identified and in the other person, another portion of the brain is stimulated. How do we know they are having the same thought? The only answer is by asking them to report on their conscious experience. The brain scan cannot make this distinction. This problem applies to both versions of the Identity Theory--the Type and the Token Identity Theory. In fact, the Token Identity theory is widely recognized as a version of dualism due to the very problem that I just touched on, which takes us away from the language of causality and into the discourse of reasons. Now, if one reason is more compelling than another, does not this logically entail that the person who feels the weight of that reason must act on it, thereby denying his free will? This is a strange way, in my view, to characterize what is going on when we make a judgement. Isn't the very nature of free will to make rational judgements? So, when we see one course of action is more likely to succeed in achieving our goals, then we decide to follow it. In what way has our judgement been determined other than by recognizing the truth? Again, this is not a causal chain of physical dominoes falling in place so that our brains are simply one of the dominoes. Rather, we see what is true and we act on our judgement. The physical substrate is not determining the content of our judgement, so there is no deterministic chain that necessitates any particular course of action for an individual.
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Oct 15, 2012