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October 7, 2016

Becoming a Political Kantian

This morning I've decided to take a break from contemplating the fact that my country is seriously considering giving the nuclear codes to a narcissistic, incompetent, hateful, con artist orangutang to contemplate politics in a more theoretical fashion, without reference to the present election. I've always had strongly deontological moral intuitions—that is, I find it most natural to think of ethics as primarily involving rules we have to follow rather than outcomes we have to promote. Further, before I started studying philosophy, I had broadly libertarian political views. It's not surprising, then, that when I first encountered Nozick's Kantian defense...
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March 9, 2010

Deontic Utilitarianism, Liberty Utilitarianism, and Deontologism

I just came across the following passage by J.J.C. Smart in Smart and Williams' Utilitarianism: For and Against: What Bentham, Mill and Moore are all agreed on is that the rightness of an action is to be judged solely by consequences, states of affairs brought about by the action. Of course we shall have to be careful here not to construe 'state of affairs' so widely that any ethical doctrine becomes utilitarian. For if we did so we would not be saying anything at all in advocating utilitarianism. If, for example, we allowed 'the state of having kept a promise'...
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February 18, 2010

What is a Right?

Among my moral convictions is the conviction that there is a sharp distinction to be drawn between public or political morality and private or individual morality. This roughly corresponds to Kant's distinction between the Doctrine of Right and the Doctrine of Virtue. That there be such a distinction is important to me because I believe that political morality is very permissive, whereas private morality is very restrictive. I have tried to cash this out before. I want to try it again today, by examining what I take to be the central concept of political morality, the concept of having a...
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December 31, 2009

Preventing Terrorism "At All Costs"

Insofar as there is any debate about airline security measures at all (and there is not as much as there should be), the debate typically assumes that we ought to prevent terrorism "at all costs". But this is simply false. Last night I saw a segment on the local news here in Johnstown, PA, where a "terrorism expert" (it wasn't clear exactly what his qualifications were) said that we could catch terrorists much more effectively by engaging in religious profiling. Apparently a federal legislator recently said the same thing. What these people are pointing out is something that should be...
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March 6, 2009

Moral Wrongs and Civil Rights

The California Supreme Court heard oral arguments on challenges to Proposition 8 yesterday, and The New York Times seems to expect that, surprisingly, the court may rule more or less the way I want them to: that is, they are expected to rule that the state must extend all the same substantive rights to gay couples as to straight couples, but if the voters don't want to call them both by the same name they don't have to. The NYT article happened to note that there were some protesters outside the courtroom, and one of them was holding a sign that read...
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