ethics

Why Do You Have a Right to Self Defense?

I doubt there’s anyone in the anglo-sphere this week, who isn’t aware of the case of Kyle Rittenhouse in Kenosha, Wisconsin. Probably, a good chunk of Europe was paying attention to that trial, as well. Why? Because of the fundamental question that the trial symbolized, at its core. The principle at the center of that case was the right of self-defense. As a matter of law, that meant demonstrating in the trial that the material facts of the event conformed to Wisconsin’s own statutory definition of an action that constitutes self-defense.

Rand, Aristotle, and Modern Moral Philosophy

A common line of attack on Ayn Rand, from “professional” academic philosophers, is to go after her for her defense of egoism. This has always seemed disingenuous to me. Or, at best, uncharitable. The argument goes something like this: Ayn Rand defended selfishness as a virtue Thrasymachus in Plato’s Republic did the same thing Socrates humiliated Thrasymachus in that dialogue Therefore, Ayn Rand’s defense of selfishness is obviously wrong But, anyone trained as a philosopher should be able to recognize the problems with this argument without much effort.

Facts, Values, Rights, and Human Beings

The human animal is thought by some to have a “divine spark” in him. What is this? I don’t mean in a metaphysical or definitional sense. I mean, what do humans do, what capacity do they have, what power are they endowed with, that sets them apart from the other animals so much so that they are thought to have this spark? Why on earth would anyone say humans are “touched by the divine”?

John Locke's Property Rights

Does Locke offer a convincing account of an individual’s right to property? In his Second Treatise on Government, John Locke constructs a theory of property rights from two explicit arguments for the divine source of the moral claim of ownership, and one implicit argument for the divine source of value in labor. This essay will summarize each of these arguments, offer offer an assessment of the three arguments in combination, and conclude that Locke’s case is unconvincing in isolation.

The Struggle Between Public and Private

The world around me is getting ever more crazy, with each passing day. Politics is rapidly consuming all aspects of life within itself. We’ve reached a point in some areas of society where nothing can be considered except in terms of political relations and power dynamics. From toilet functions, to one’s choice of entertainment genres, to whom one takes as friends, to larger social and electoral questions, all things are seen through the lens of ideology now.

Philippa Foot and I Exchange Words

The following pseudo-dialogue is based on my reading of part three of Philippa Foot’s famous essay, “Virtues and Vices”, which can be found here. All of her “dialogue” constitutes direct quotes from the essay. In this essay, she seems to me to be anxious about identifying vice for what it is and has crafted a sophisticated means of diluting the boundaries between virtue and vice, in order to relieve that anxiety.

Plato Versus Mill on the Pleasure Principle

…after more than two thousand years the same discussions continue, philosophers are still ranged under the same contending banners, and neither thinkers nor mankind at large seem nearer to being unanimous on the subject, than when the youth Socrates listened to the old Protagoras, and asserted… the theory of utilitarianism against the popular morality of the so-called sophist… ~John Stuart Mill, Utilitarianism I wonder, sometimes, if Mill had ever actually read the Protagoras.

Autism and Trollies - Against Utilitarianism

In recent years, it has been speculated that Jeremy Bentham was an autist. This speculation arises out of Bentham’s extreme attempts at systematizing human interactions in his formulation of Utilitarianism. Though I realize modern Utilitarianism is much more sophisticated now (in various forms of sociology and econometrics), I think they all still suffer from the fundamental assumptions laid down by Bentham. In this essay, I will show how one of those basic tenets leads to absurd conclusions, and hides imported value assumptions from other forms of ethics.

Book Review: the Righteous Mind

Is it better to be truly just, or merely to seem so? This is the question put to Socrates by Glaucon in The Republic. Jonathan Haidt, in his book, “The Righteous Mind”, counts Glaucon among the cynics for putting this challenge to Socrates. But Haidt is missing a subtle and very powerful nuance in Plato’s story. Socrates had just finished embarrassing Thrasymachus for his weak defense of cynical egoism. Glaucon and Adeimantus were certainly entertained, but they were not satisfied with Socrates.

Morality in a Determined World

This essay will attempt an answer to the following question: If determinism is true, is morality an illusion? In other words, if we take the basic fact of causal necessity – the brute physical explanation that every effect has a cause – as a given, can we justify a belief in moral value and normative judgment in the narrow sense of “good” and “bad”? I will argue that there are good reasons to believe in the reality of both moral judgment and moral value in spite of causal necessity.

Is It Possible to Act Selflessly?

The following is my attempt to answer a question posed to me recently. When I look at the question, it seems to focus on the individual. So, I think the easiest way to begin this, is to start with the self. Since I’m no Derek Parfit or Bernard Williams, and the question seems to be focusing on moral sentiment and moral choice, I’m going to reduce the ‘self’ to just that part we always end up talking about, when we talk about choice: The Will.