Thursday, February 27, 2003

Thomas the Tank Engine

Some episodes are narrated by George Carlin. When someone of my generation plays the video for his child, he gets a deeply uncanny feeling. George Carlin narrating moralistic stories about loyalty and working hard to please businessmen? Didn't he have long hair and a rather wild decade thirty years ago? Wierd. But he narrates well on many of his episodes, though falling a little flat on a few. By the way his 1998 book, Brain Droppings, is good. For an absurd little chuckle before bed, read that.

Wednesday, February 26, 2003

This and That

Bigwig has suppression of dissent. I have a friend who spent his boyhood years under Nazi rule and his teen years under communist dictatorship. He laughs at the things that bother me. "You have it good, kid."

Alec Baldwin narrates some of the Thomas the Tank Engine episodes. It's a show about some locomotives with faces and personalities. He narrates brilliantly, seamlessly shifting amongst various English accents. But I wonder what he thinks about his narrating a show that teaches three-year-olds to be helpful to rich businessmen. Isn't he supposed to be for the people's liberation of something or other?

Tuesday, February 25, 2003

The Conservative Philosophy of John Kekes (#9)
The book Facing Evil, post C. Previous post here.

We're in the middle of the book. Let me share with you my reflections on it.

There are units of soul or mind which are kind, not self-centered, rational, and not subservient to their desires. If you’re a religious leftist, the unit is the soul. If you are a materialist leftist, the unit is the reason in a person. It’s a mind which decides what is good in a way that is not a function of our desires but, on the contrary, the determinant of what we desire if we are rational. It is a higher authority that bears you aloft, brings you to certain determinations through abstractions that take place at a transcendent level of ultimacy or rationality of some sort. The movements of its logic have never been fathomed, but they must be trusted and revered. This means clinging to simple truths against all temptation to deviate from them on the grounds of self-interest. War is irrational for the units to partake in. Resist the logic that leads to war, for it must be folly. Resist the interest the rich have in keeping their wealth. Resist any insult to one’s own merit and goodness. It is all the howling of the beast, the mere housing of the true soul/mind. In the future, a more rational system will prevent people from asserting a right to live as they like. It may be that we must refrain from resisting evil, but this will bring society to the next level where we can achieve the rational system. And what we’d be refraining from resisting would not be evil, really, but just the brutish assertions of desires that overcome our ignorance or weakness of will. This transcendentalism, be it religious or rationalistic, is a faith as even Kant, the paradigmatic rationalist, admitted. We will tap into the calculus, the vantage point, a view from nowhere. On that day, we’ll see.

But Kant said that someone who does the right thing because he simply likes to do so is a person who lives without a moral life. This is a tradition that tells us that we shouldn’t live the way we prefer because a judge, some metric, some eye, passes transcendent judgment on us. And if there is no such transcendent level, then we are told that all is lost and we are doomed to a bestial life devoid of goodness. So, we are to keep the faith.

You can see that this rationalism (progressivism, leftist, what have you) is fetishistic irrationalism at bottom. That’s why I find my home in British sentimentalism. Have you read Joseph Butler? His Sermons (1726) are quite good. And there are Hume, Adam Smith, Hucheson, and Reid. Don't forget their cousin Locke. The common sense in this tradition and its metaethical basis in desire make it clear that it is okay to live as we like. The other tradition implies that reason chooses something to be right which may not be what we like.

Although Enlightenment rationalism is only 200 years old or so, it continues the Medieval Christian tradition of construing evil as a lack, a failure to activate rationality. Progressivists therefore see it as too ephemeral to be taken seriously, to be “faced.” On this view, there is no evil, really. To take evil seriously and oppose it with sufficient force is short-sighted and shallow. The long-term, enlightened approach would give people who cause evil resources, freedom and a chance to let their inner goodness and rationality shine through. I think you can compare the Spanish Inquisition and Stalinism. Both held that the seeming evil visited upon their victims was what the true self would agree to if it were free from being a the “slave to desire” that conservatives such as Hume perversely say is its proper role.

[N.B.: I’m presenting Kekes’s philosophy in my own way. But we disagree on two technical points: Kekes does not accept British sentimentalism, the view that morality is a function of desires. He finds it too reductive. He also denies that people who do evil as a matter of characteristic or habit but without any deliberation to speak of do it by choice (see previous post).]

Monday, February 24, 2003


There are many ways to use the word "choice," but I assume that the most common meaning does not entail that, in addition to picking an action, a choice chooses the desires, preferences, and dispositions that motivate it. Given that desires and the like obviously are in large measure, or perhaps entirely, unchosen, it would follow that we never or almost never choose our actions if the common meaning of "choice" were so inclusive. So, it includes only the action chosen as its object. Determinism does entail that it is written in stone already which people will be good and which wicked, even long before they are born. But this does not commit us to accepting, absurdly, that since no one is responsible for his character, no one is to be praised or blamed for his actions. "You can't blame him; he's wicked" is a non-starter, a joke, and the reason is that when we speak of choice, no one cares about the trivial causes that account for the wicked fellow. All that matters is that he is a wicked fellow. "Why praise him? He simply happens to be hard-working by disposition" is a funny one, too.

Sunday, February 23, 2003


Hey, here's Cacciaguida. For opera, snowstorms, and who-knows-what.

Saturday, February 22, 2003

Friday, February 21, 2003

Conservatism and Metaethics

There is something irksome about the question, In what are property rights grounded? Property rights are basic. Ownership is so pervasively important in our morals that it may be considered as bedrock. There is no grounding needed. We prefer to live this way. What makes one nervous is that the question above is being examined this year at an American university in a philosophy course. I'm wincing because I think the odds of this course being fair are too far from 100% for comfort. University courses of this sort don't usually have professors who are keenly interested in protecting property rights. They tend to lie more to the left. This does not entail bias, of course, but leftism, with its foundation in Kant, Marx and Rawls, does have a tendency to go the insufficiently argued route. Kant admits that what he's talking about - a noumenal self grasping moral truths of reason - is ultimately a matter of faith. Marx says arguing for morals is a sham. And Rawls chops logic so you can't see that there's no argument.* So, you wince and wait for the basic convictions to be proclaimed, the ones that any reasonable person is supposed to recognize as truths of reason, items such as the view that all people are of equal worth just as people.

Of course, I've said that I uphold a basic conviction, too. The difference is metaethical. I say the overwhelming majority uphold this basic conviction in property rights, in the sense of prefering to live according to it, not in the sense of grasping it as a truth of reason independent of preference. This is the tradition of British sentimentalism (Joseph Butler, Hume, and the like). The other is the tradition of the Continental Enlightenment, especially Kant. The former says that people may live the way they prefer. The latter says that morals are the object of thought quite abstract from preference. The former takes its basis in desire. The latter takes its basis in an idol called "Reason," which has so far silently kept his ethical wisdom to himself. And yet we're told that if we can't hear his utterances, it is because our minds are beclouded by desire (Kant, Marx and Rawls roll into one here). Any objection to leftist philosophy must be that of a corrupt mind.

*One more thing about Rawls's book. He tells everyone to bracket his personal biases and desires and think in abstraction in order to figure out what justice is. But Rawls is the author, so he reserves the right to import his personal preference: a self-interested desire to minimize the badness of his worst possible outcome. I guess people who don't want to burden others are irrational, because their preference is not allowed behind the "veil of ignorance". But Rawls's preference is allowed behind the veil. No reason - it just is. This makes A Theory of Justice count as bad philosophy.

Wednesday, February 19, 2003


Here's Condi Rice stuff (link via Instapundit ). I was an aspiring Sovietologist c.1983, and I consequently have an irrational fanaticism for her. She did it. She became a Sovietologist. But will she be president? No, she prefers to fulfill her life-long dream of becoming commissioner of the NFL. This self-directedness also increases my fanaticism. Plus, she's a concert pianist. I'm sold.
The Conservative Philosophy of John Kekes (#8)
The book Facing Evil, post B. Previous post here.

Kekes thinks it is very important to notice that philosophers and others often fail to take evil seriously enough. I have argued that the only justification for inflicting injury and death on enemy innocents during a war against an aggressor is that there is a moral failing in the aggressor society partly explained by the vices of its members. Whether he would agree with that argument, I don’t know, but Kekes thinks that this sort of increase in our scope of moral condemnation is justified by the fact that there is evil, severe and undeserved harm, caused by vicious people who are escaping the scope now. Morality must oppose that evil. But modern moral and political philosophy shows a tendency to exclude fundamental vices from blame: psychological or cognitive deficits, selfish expediency, and malevolence. These lead people to do evil - by insensitivity, laziness, and the like in the first case, by injuring others callously for one’s selfish ends in the second case, and by injuring others out of spite in the third case. These conditions of character are not chosen. The evil actions are therefore unchosen, as well. Modern philosophers often raise the threshold of blame, in order to avoid an uncomfortable concession that much for which people are rightly to be considered blameworthy, or even wicked, is unchosen evil.

Kekes is surely right that, whether by gene or upbringing, we end up with unchosen vices. The vices cause great evil, which morality ought to condemn and which philosophy therefore oughtn’t overlook. But I think Kekes feels overly perturbed by a supposed free-will problem. He thinks that the actions caused by unchosen vices are themselves often unchosen. But it isn’t so. A thug is free to do otherwise when he commits his insensitive, selfish, and hateful thugery. Because if he preferred to do so, he could refrain from committing thugery, yet he chooses not to do so. Isn’t there a gangster in West Side Story who tells the cop, “Your honor, you can’t blame me, ‘cause I’m destoibed”? Grotesquely selfish and malevolent types seem disturbed. But if that means crazy, they’re not disturbed. They’re just evil; they have deficits of caring about others. They may think little, but they make decisions. If you asked them whether they decide to do as they do, I think they would say that they do decide. So, Kekes is right, but he takes an unnecessarily concessive route to his point. In any event, what emerges is quite plausible: that there is a blindness to evil. This explains some unexpected awakenings in late September, 2001. There are large swathes of evil in the world, and certain cultural stances are crucial for reducing its concentration.

More on this question of choice and free will in the next Kekes post.

Tuesday, February 18, 2003


Haloscan is well again. Comments are back.


Eddie and Aaron have Hegel on tap. I wouldn't go with Aaron's line that all of Hegel is gibberish; Philosophy of Right says something. But I've read The Phenomenlogy of Spirit twice, and it's mad. Yet, Eddie's batting for Hegel. He's right about one thing: Schopenhauer was just bitter. I heard that the poor bastard had to lecture to only one or two students while Hegel's lectures were standing room only.


Bigwig argued this a couple months ago, but it bears repeating. It is permissible for the U.S. to take out Saddam even in the absence of any al Qaeda link, and even if there were no sign that he is aggressive towards neighboring states. He is a dictator and a thug, and it is permissible to liberate people from dictatorial thugs, unless they indicate that they prefer to be oppressed. Of course, this leaves aside the question of whether it is fair to our own soldiers to send them into harm's way for this purpose. So, the only case that needs to be made for war is whether it's fair to our soldiers. The possibility of horrendous attacks on the U.S. will be lowered significantly with Saddam removed. So, it is fair to our soldiers, since they enlisted to defend the country. Anyway, the point is that there is no need to justify our defending ourselves. The fact that Saddam is so bad to his own people justifies war. Now add that he kills his neighbors. Now add that he hates us and might help al Qaeda kill us. The case is airtight.

Stumbling Tongue has future history.

It's quaint and banal, but the desire to discover the truth is also of vital importance. As I said just below (in Emoting), the disposition to ignore evidence can bring evil. And this disposition is best combated by a healthy desire for the truth, though this requires courage, perseverance, and other virtues. Mark Steyn is on this point when he says, "In Saturday's demonstrations, the heirs to Churchill's Harrow schoolmasters were well represented -- lots of teachers and professors. Yet the difference between now and then is their reluctance to expose their assertions to debate -- these days few institutions are as aggressively protective of their fragile little pieties as the academy." Brute dogma passes in social sciences and humanities in universities today. In other words, the chance that it will be met with scathing indictment is not close to 100%. It passes. But devotion to truth is of fundamental importance to our society. Betraying it can result in stupidity and death, as well as other evils.

Al Qaeda/Iraq

Mansoor Ijaz has a conspiracy theory.

Aaron Haspel serves up poetry. It's a great essay.

I'd say that there is a faith that going forth in benevolence and love will cure all. And there is a line where it crosses over from naive and kind-hearted to wickedness. We know this because we know it's wrong to let all prisoners out of jail with the intention of curing them with love. The only question in any case is to what extent does the pacifist cross over into having sufficient justification to believe that an undeserved evil will befall someone if the innocent pursue the pacifist's recommendation of benevolence. Pacifism becomes a fetish, some kind of quasi-religious infinite psychological loop, in which evidence favoring the use of violence is treated as null because it points the way to war and not peace, demented, but somehow insidious and requiring that we steel ourselves to its temptations and cling ever faithfully to peace. When we steel ourselves to evidence, we're in the area of dogma and compulsion. This is cognitive disorder. There is probably also a gene for a tendency, however strong, to pacifism, because tribes that had such a gene did better, given that their disorder was shored up by leaps of faith back from the brink of total social collapse. The trouble comes when all cases are treated as such and a society is hamstrung by pacifism, unable to do the necessary task of crushing bugs that threaten big evil. Here the pacifist would sacrifice victims at the altar of a fetishistic kind of love. The instrument of sacrifice is the deprivation of the right to use the police and military to stop evil.

Monday, February 17, 2003


Haloscan comments have been on the fritz. I have no idea.

Sunday, February 16, 2003


Bigwig's on war, and One Good Turn is, too.

Just now on CBC radio, a strong round of applause for a poet saying, How would you like it if you were an innocent Iraqi? and, We should start thinking in terms of world citizenship, not different citizenships. But I would have no objection to being bombed if I were an innocent person living in the bad guys' country. That's the breaks. And talk of world citizenship is either emotive fluff and therefore not a genuine objection, or it is serious, and thus marks once again the leftist penchant for a world dictatorship and willingness to take an evil path to get it. Because to bring about world citizenship you'd have to have a dictatorship run by evil people. The good in the world wouldn't go along with equality with the evil. So, you'd have to have someone evil enforce this world citizenship. Leftism is therefore inextricable from evil dictatorship, given the facts of life as anyone not too naive knows them. (Of course, John Jay Ray has more arguments along these lines.)

All of this leftist nonsense derives from the idea that allowing the rich to harm the poor is evil, since the poor can't be evil, owing to their lack of resources with which to attain autonomy. The rich should give resources to the poor, raising them to the level of autonomy and rationality where the poor's harmful behavior will stop. If the rich attack the poor, then the rich are genuinely evil because they have autonomy and yet turn away from the light, like Satan himself. So, never should a war on the poor by the rich by countenanced. Human nature is basically good, and if we allow real leaders to redistribute the wealth and provide practical value education to all, then evil will be mostly eradicated.

That's the theory. It's insane. It's cowardly, naive, and kind-hearted, and tends to lead to high cruelty and evil. It accounts for a large portion of discourse in the political forum. The political forum does not receive a clean bill of mental health.

Saturday, February 15, 2003


If you're in the U.S./allied military and you're shipping out, thank you and my boy and I will be there to cheer you when you return safely.

Friday, February 14, 2003


I think people like The King of the Hill and The Simpsons because they express very well the fact that you don't have to do anything fancy in order have a good life.

Some bloggers were talking about Hegel today. All his nonsense about living for some vast historical scheme - bah! We're living in nothing more than a sea of rock, space and fire, to which nothing matters. We may have a historical scheme if we want, or we may do otherwise, instead. There is not more rationality in a history than in a person. History is not a mind or person. We alone matter. While there is an exhilaration in living a very good life that is something akin to living for something beyond oneself, it's nothing more than the feeling of being very glad to exist. And maybe also partaking of a great historical culture is very good. But there is no scheme.
Conceptual Problem in the Concept of Addiction

I wonder whether the concept of addiction is based upon a confusion between two kinds of liberty. One kind is full autonomy, the disposition to act on well-considered judgments (judgments made in understanding of the moral significance and other important features of the various alternative courses of action). The other kind of liberty is the disposition to act according to one’s decisions. I think that the concept of addiction entails that the first kind of liberty is the standard in force. Addicts fail this standard. But the trouble is that they don’t fail the standard that entails only the second kind of liberty. The second kind of liberty is an adequate concept of liberty. What is called “addiction” embodies the psychological wherewithal necessary for liberty. But addiction is, by definition, the concept of people who do not have liberty. So, it is an incoherent concept. The only way to prove that the richer concept of freedom is the real nature of freedom is to show that it is somehow more objective. I don’t see how, though. Autonomy may be a good time but you don’t need it, in order to be free.


Why follow rules, anyway? I think we should do what we want. If we all agree that we don’t want to follow any rules, then there’s no reason why we should follow any. It’s not rational to treat anything except one’s preference as a practical norm. “Because that’s the rule” is not a good enough basic reason for action. If morality runs against our shared preferences, then it is not rational for us. But morality is rational for us. And our preferences do not track rules. This shows that rule-based moral theory is untenable.

Thursday, February 13, 2003

More Rules

John Ray posts that libertarians aren't much different from conservatives, except that conservatives are uptight about sex or have some other axe to grind. Actually, the difference is more than that. Libertarians have a master value, or rule, that trumps all others: liberty. Conservatives have many values and do not take any of them as a trump value.

As the link in John's post says, "Libertarianism is simplicity itself. It proceeds from a single, quite beautiful, concept of the primacy of individual liberty...." Which is why it's untenable. It is obvious that no value trumps all others, for the reasons I stated below ("More on Rules").

UPDATE: John posts a reply (see his Feb 14 post).
On the Sly
What the - ? Actually, I, too, think gravity is a push and not a pull. I don't know, it just feels that way to me. So, I'm going with that theory.

A few posts ago, I raised a puzzle of contemporary epistemology: How can experience provide justification for beliefs, given that it is an event and not a proposition and therefore cannot have any logical connection to any conclusion? Here is an answer to the puzzle that I think is right. In order to be justified in believing that you are seeing an ordinary object, such as a table, it must be that you seem to see a table. This is because in order to be justified in believing that you see a table, you must be justified in believing that you seem to see one. But you can’t be justified in believing that you seem to see one unless you do seem to see one. This is because if there aren’t components of your visual experience that are jointly constitutive of seeming to see a table, then you have nothing to cite as a fact about your experience that justifies you in believing that you seem to see a table. “Because there seem to be four straight things going down from a flat expanse in my visual field” is an example of the sort of reason you need in order to be justified in claiming that you seem to see a table. In other words, in order to be justified in believing that you see a table, you must have a visual experience of a certain sort. Therefore, experiential states can provide justification for belief by fulfilling this necessary role.

Wednesday, February 12, 2003

More on Rules

One general theme of the view of moral reasoning I've been suggesting is the following. There are many moral values in the set of values to which we are commited. We can describe these values; the descriptions are principles. But no one has ever shown that any principle trumps all others. On the contrary, it is obvious that every principle is overridden in some cases. "Never kill an innocent" is overriden in some cases, and if it is, then every principle is overridden in some cases. The large set of principles in our set of values are weighted parameters, but none is a rule (a principle that overrides in all cases). Therefore, to satisfy as many of these parameters as much as possible in each case one encounters ("to satisfice" the parameters) is the goal of moral reasoning. In fact, to satisfice desires is the goal of any practical reasoning. The reasoning one uses in traveling from one's house to downtown is an example. Rule-based AI will fail to produce a robot that can do this as well as a human can, and the reason is that the possible conditions encountered during the trip are indeterminately many, and their ramifications for the various parameters to be satisficed indeterminately many, as well. If you can't get downtown by following rules, you can't reliably pick out the right thing to do by following rules. Moral life is vastly more complex than the trip downtown.
The Conservative Philosophy of John Kekes (#7)
The book Facing Evil, post A. Previous post here.

[This is a series of posts on the contemporary philosopher John Kekes. I will very concisely present the ideas in five of his books: Against Liberalism, A Case for Conservatism, Facing Evil, The Art of Life, and Moral Wisdom and Good Lives. I hope you will read them. They are quite readable.]

There is evil, more of it that we care to admit. We don’t recognize the extent of it because we deny it in our acquaintances, making excuses for their bad behavior on the grounds of challenges they face. But there is quite a lot of evil: serious, undeserved harm. What can we hope for, in the way of handling it and maximizing good?

Whether we should go with morality or choose personal satisfaction is a quandary, comfortingly resolved by the Socratic ideal that there is no conflict between the two, that cultivating virtue and doing one’s best will lead to both and that such autonomous self-control maximizes one’s chance at a good life. But good lives require internal and external goods - goods of character and social structures that nurture good lives - and these are partly beyond the individual’s control: one’s genetic endowment and the values upheld by one’s society. There are internal and external goods - satisfactions of one’s individual achievements and of social goods, such as honor, comfort and a beautiful environment. While Socrates is right that it is possible to have a good life without certain external goods as rewards, he is wrong to suppose that there aren’t many external goods that are necessary for good lives. The Socratic ideal doesn’t overlook that moral life can be satisfying, but it wrongly thinks that the satisfaction is merely internal.

A tragic view would rather recognize that evil is woven into the fabric of our being and situation. Evil is neither accidental, superficial, abnormal, nor generally unintentional. We are prone to vice, as well at to virtue. Vice causes evil and much suffering in ourselves and others. We will always fail when we resolve never to do evil again, as the Socratic ideal seduces us into attempting to do. We live in a world of contingency that does not care about us or provide cosmic justice, and we are prone to bouts of destructiveness. It is not odd for people of good intentions to do and suffer evil. These facts should help us to decide how to live - in forlorn resignation? In romantic transcendentalism? Will Kekes say that a tragic view copes adequately with evil? I don’t think so. We’ll see.

C.Bloggerfeller is on about Marx, in response to God of the Machine. It really is a queer business when you deny that justice is anything more than a ruse fostered by the economic system that happens to reign at the moment, and then you realize that you've been advocating that one system is the really just one, and then you catch yourself in the contradiction and ultimately just bury yourself in your maniacal economic studies as a way of coping with the intellectual dissonance. It's rough when you realize you advocate a telos, having devoted your career to it and to proving that it doesn't matter. It's awful being Marx. So, of course you'll lash out, ad hominem.

Tuesday, February 11, 2003

Rules, Cases, Analogies

God of the Machine has rules. He talks about the innocent casuistry I propose - case-based analogical reasoning - as though it were covertly rule based, and he calls this "little-rulism". He says,

Little-rulism is an accurate description of how most people actually do reason morally, most of the time.... (I speak from long and painful experience.)

Well, I speak from long and happy experience in saying the same thing. He says that "big-rulers don't have this problem" of engaging in messy analogical reasoning, but I suggest that if you want to do a job right, you have to get your hands dirty. Applying one master rule to all moral deliberations is clean, but no one has ever produced a rule that could perform the task truth-conducively. Any rule you can name generates the wrong judgment in some cases if it is taken strictly.

This is why critical common-sense-ists - people who conduct messy moral deliberations by reasoning by analogy - are not even little-rulists. They don't use rules. Rules hold in every case. The little rules don't, so they must be treated merely as rough generalizations; call them "principles".

So, we have the case of killing innocent Iraqis. Aaron says, "[F]or any little rule you formulate, a case will fit it either exactly or not at all." Yes, but it fits more than one "little rule" (principle): don't kill innocents; it is permissible to defend yourself. So, when Aaron says,"First, why not, as a little-ruler, stop at the first rule? We have found a perfect fit," the answer is that the case will fit one rule better than any other conflicting rule, since one and the same action cannot be both right and wrong. And when Aaron says, "Second, if we continue to pursue the question, when do we stop? How many little rules must we examine?" the answer is that we stop when, upon careful reflection, we cannot find a rule which fits better than the leading candidate rule. Abortion, or euthanasia of the brain-dead: "Well, it's killing a human, and that's wrong.... But, wait, this human is not a person; it has no brain activity. So, it is not wrong....I can't see that any other rule overrides."

And, "Finally, since all applicable rules will fit the case perfectly, how do we adjudicate among them, lacking 'more' or 'less' analogous as a standard?" Aaron claims without argument that critical common-sense-ism is really rule-based and not based on analogical reasoning. I maintain that it is not rule based but based on analogical reasoning. Still, the question is a good one. How do you know which of two conflicting rules to apply? Well, they aren't "rules" but principles; each is a gesture at a set of analogous cases about which we would make the same judgment. Whenever the case at issue has been shown to have a property listed by a rule - rule 1 - as relevant, rule 1 is applicable: a candidate for the place of "overriding rule". But you will often find a rule 2 which is also applicable and overriding in all other cases in which rule 1 is applicable; it therefore replaces rule 1 as the leading candidate for the case at issue. You look for a rule 3 to displace rule 2 similarly, and proceed until exhaustive search shows that a rule to displace the leading candidate rule cannot be found. (You could be wrong. Twenty or 500 years later, such a rule could be discovered; the case of refuting the morality of slavery in the U.S. South is an example, as is the women's suffrage movement.) In addition, you might instead have found that rule 2 overrides in some cases in which rule 1 applies but is defeated by rule 1 in other cases. Obviously, a third rule is at work, as well. So, you look for a rule 3 which overrides rules 1 and 2 in other cases, and you conclude that it overrides in the case at issue, as well. This is what it means to say that moral reasoning is the endeavor to determine whether the case at issue is "most analogous to" the cases in which rule 1 overrides, or to the cases in which rule 2 overrides, or the cases in which rule 3...., etc. Finding the overriding rule, the final winner, is finding the set of cases to which the case at issue is "most analogous". (Again, I've used the word "rule" when I shouldn't have; these "rules" don't override in every case in which they apply; they're only principles.)

Critical common-sense-ism is like Aaron's orderly hierarchy of rules, except that, contrary to what Aaron thinks, there are too many rules for a reliable finite decision making proceedure to be written. Practical reasoning isn't rule-based because the cases we encounter are indefinitely many in kind, shading from the rule 1 shade of gray to the rule 2 shade in so many ways that the hierarchy cannot be given as a formula, let alone formulated on the basis of one rule, as Aaron, Kant, Hobbes, and the utilitarians try to do. Even the practical reasoning involved in finding your way from your house to a location downtown is so complex that rules won't work to describe it. (This is why AI is not going to be rule based, but neural-net based. Nets are weighting connections, not rules.) Scientific reasoning bears the same complexity. Math, deductive logic, and perhaps jurisprudence are the only kinds of genuinely rule-based decision making procedures, as far as I can tell.

Monday, February 10, 2003


Instapundit said something about France facing Germany after NATO has ceased to exist. Hmm. So, say NATO ends, France and Germany having flipped us the bird, and we pull our military out of central Europe. And say ten years from now it's 1939 or 1914 again for poor France. I know how the phone call between France and the U.S. will go:

France: "Hi. Ummm.... [pause]."

U.S.A.: "Ummm.... [pause]."
Liberals are Stupid, and Conservatives are Evil

The first: Because (left-)liberals won't face facts about human evil, but will assert that it exists only in people who are in power and who claim that it exists in people who aren't in power. Because liberals will believe that turning the other cheek and extending the olive branch will ultimately work, as long as you keep trying and don't resort to violence. Because liberals believe that all people will be good if they have enough of the basic material necessities for leading a decent life. Because liberals believe that it isn't cowardly but courageous to believe that if you just go forth with love and goodness in your heart, everything will be okay - poor or brown wrongdoers will be brought to tears in response (not the rich white ones - they're incorrigible), there will be a group hug, and we'll have world peace and prosperity.

The second: Because conservatives don't share those beliefs.

Actually, neither is really true. Conservatives, as such, aren't evil. They're realistic. Liberals aren't exactly stupid. Many liberals have loads of degrees and high IQs. But they do tend to the naive, quixotic, dogmatic and cowardly. These traits can appear to be stupidity to the observer. Ironically, in full flower, liberals are genuinely evil (e.g., when they steal from the rich or support the evil side in cases of armed conflict). Also, there is a certain simplicity, almost a dull streak in conservatism. If you're content with good ways of life, your mind doesn't race around like a monkey. So, there is something to "Liberals are evil, and conservatives are stupid," too.

Arthur Silber has some thoughts about the draft. The "libertarian argument" (poorly named by me) is quite strong. I only wonder whether the worries of cowardice and laziness are considerable enough to warrant mounting an objection to it. I have no idea.

If a historian could cite a case of a country that was well worth fighting for but that was conquered due to laziness or cowardice impeding its efforts to muster an army, that would be interesting. Also, even if the courageous number enough to defend the country, the slacker-cowards perhaps should give pause. D'you really want to be fighting and dying for some of these jokers as they watch you do it on CNN?
Those Are the Rules

God of the Machine presents a scathing indictment of a certain member of the Court. Aaron quotes and fisks:

"General propositions do not decide concrete cases." OK. Then what does exactly? "The decision will depend on a judgment or intuition more subtle than any articulate major premise." Intuition. This is what remains after we abandon concrete and abstract propositions alike.

Aaron has taken me to task for rejecting rule-based reasoning in ethics. (It may be that rules should have a greater role in law than in ethics, but leave that aside.) Yet, I share with him a disdain for intuitionism. The point is that intuitionism is not the only option to rule-based moral reasoning. Here's another option.

Intuitionism, as a theory or stance in ethics, is nothing more than a refusal to give reasons. Even when the opponent points out incoherence, the intuitionist simply says, "Well, my intuition shows me that the incoherence is resolved. I can't explain how, and I don't have to; it's intuition." The other option shares with rule-based moral reasoning the assumption that reasons are required. It is more akin to science or empirical reasoning in general than to rule-based reasoning or intuition.

Sunday, February 09, 2003


We're done with Against Liberalism. There's more in the book, but let's move on to the next book this week: Facing Evil. It's supposed to be his best.
What he was talking about...

...was happening to him as he spoke. Sorry, my tongue fumbles.
Revelation from the Toronto Star

This column explains that there is no reason to invade Iraq or respond to the Twin Towers attacks at all. The so-called "reasons" are just manufactured by Bush and other powers that be by using buzzwords, like "terrorist" and "collateral damage." Thanks, Toronto Star (and lefty academics cited in the column)! I really needed that Marxist deconstruction of the right to self-defense! I've seen through The Man's newspeak now!
Knowledge from Experience

There is an old puzzle in epistemology: How is it that we get knowledge from experience? In other words, how is it that our visual and other sensory states give us justification for believing something about things in the world? This is not the problem of skepticism. This problem admits that, for example, a visual experiential state can give you reason for believing something about an object; the problem is: How can it do this?

You might say, What's the problem? I have a certain visual experience of seeming to see a table, and so I have reason to believe there is a table there. But there is a problem. Experience is an event, not a proposition. Only propositions have logical force on other propositions. Experiences, being events, have no logical force and, so, no justificatory power. The proposition, There is a table there, wants a reason, something that entails it, gives logical support for it, something before which can be put a "because". But an event, such as the event of having a certain visual experience, doesn't meet these requirements. "Because [experience]" is not a proposition and can't entail the desired conclusion. "Because I seem to see a table" is a proposition, but what is the basis on which it stands? The visual experience. And so the problem just gets pushed back.

In other words, reasoning deals in reasons. Reasons are claims, propositions. Experiences are not reasons, claims or propositions, but mere events. Reasoning would seem to be isolated from experience, unable to make use of it. But it does make use of it. How?

Until recently, no one had ever figured out how it is that we get justification for our beliefs from experience. I think there is a solution now, and I'll tell it to you later.

Friday, February 07, 2003

North Korea

Bigwig has some analysis.
Cultural Change

Vodkapundit is right that it's not a good idea to be reactionary and too strongly averse to cultural innovation. Some of the new pop now will be a classic to people living in future centuries. Innovation makes wealth and makes life better. But conservatives are right that continuity, what Lao-tzu called the well-worn path in a field, has sublime value. If nothing stays, nothing's deep. To deny either is either too reactionary or too shallow.

Thursday, February 06, 2003

The Conservative Philosophy of John Kekes (#6)
The book, Against Liberalism (Post F). Previous post here.

Some of these posts stick closes to Kekes’s text, while some go off on tangents. This post pertains to Kekes’s refutation of Rawlsianism, the quintessential statement of liberal political philosophy. This is part of the book is sizeable list of Rawls’s errors. The list is terse, clear and devastating, so I’ll let you read it yourself someday. (I’ve blogged on Rawls before here, here and here.) Here, I’ll offer not so much a tangent as a general meditation on the nature of liberal philosophy and its errors, as Kekes has exposed them.

Kant and Rawls have inserted a virus into Western moral and political philosophy. It is the idea that we each have selves, wills, which are rational, logical, and free from any particular desires. They are like Vulcans of Star Trek: aloof, not inherently subject to the bio-bestial realm of contingent desires cultural persuasions. Only the determination of such a self counts as impartial, moral, autonomous, or rational. And all of the determinations of such a self will be moral, good, and right. Whereas Hobbes, Butler, and Hume had said that only efficient desire fulfillment is rational and moral, the liberals hold that only ignoring desires is rational and moral. How there can be such a noumenal self is a mystery; that it exists is an article of liberal faith. Without it, we must despair in the debased and selfish existence of beasts.

This self of liberal philosophy always determines that every person is entitled to support sufficient for autonomous living - plenty of food, shelter, leisure, education, security, and medical care. For no one could reasonably choose not to have these things. Further, the self chooses egalitarian equality, since no one could reasonably consent to being left behind. How the self chooses these things when it is by definition without any desires remains a mystery. That it can have preferences as a purely logical Vulcan, free of feeling and passion, is another article of faith. That its preferences are morally right is, too. Liberalism turns impartiality into a cult of self-abnegation.

Finally, liberal political philosophy assumes that its system, in which everyone’s autonomy is sustained by redistribution of resources, is one in which there is no wrong-doing to speak of. Autonomous people, by definition, are rational, and therefore are impartial and moral. That our inner selves are free of evil, as well as desire, that no one does evil in full autonomy, is another article of faith.

Yet, there is the paradoxical fact that, as John Ray and Charles Krauthammer have pointed out, liberals believe conservatives are uniquely evil. The reason is that conservatives have everything they need for autonomous living, and yet they have, in full autonomy, turned their backs upon the light. Only that is real evil. The poor mugger is not evil but merely held back from reaching autonomy. In fact, the mugger is to be assumed to be better than the conservative, since the mugger is likely good deep down, lacking only the conditions of autonomy of which the conservative has deprived him, while the conservative knowingly, autonomously chooses evil.

All of these points form the foundation of liberalism. They are all wildly implausible, a kind of faith, hardly the stuff of philosophy. It’s more akin to an irrationalist cult, or a dementia-inducing virus, at best a dream. Martin Peretz says (TNR, 2/3/03), “In the grand conflicts of the last century, there as always a left-wing structure of Manichaeanism. On the one side: imperialism and capitalism. On the other: a compelling and revolutionary dream. The dreams turned out to be nightmares. But they were dreams, nonetheless. Lenin, Stalin, Mao, Castro, Che, the Viet Cong, the Sandinistas, always a man and a movement saying they aimed to build a better world, which they actually tried to describe. In the end, of course, the better world did not arrive: In its place were death camps, mass deportations, forced famines, massacres, reeducation programs, prisons of the body and greater prisons of the soul.”

The liberal heart bleeds for human evil and miserable poverty. It develops a fantasy in which evil is erased, poverty no more. It teeters on the brink of nihilism for at bottom it is a failure to accept the tragedy of what is. It’s unlikely marriage to pomo/Marxist nihilism isn’t so strange. Both reflect an inability to accept what is and make the best of it. Kekes says,

“Justice is about maintaining the balance between good and evil caused and received - about people getting what they deserve. One great fault of liberalism is that its illusions obscure this realistic view. Liberalism systematically de-emphasizes contingency, wickedness and moral inequality. The liberal faith is comforting because it is pleasant to believe that autonomy c an minimize contingency, that all human beings are basically disposed toward the good, that wickedness is due to institutions whose defects are remediable, and that because of this basic capacity for autonomy all human beings are morally equal and ought to be treated accordingly. However, pleasant, these beliefs are false, and holding them is inconsistent with justice and good lives.”

Just Go now. It's Aaron Haspel on poetry.

Wednesday, February 05, 2003

The Conservative Philosophy of John Kekes (#5)
The book, Against Liberalism (Post E). Previous post here.

[This is a series of posts on the contemporary philosopher John Kekes. I will very concisely present the ideas in five of his books: Against Liberalism, A Case for Conservatism, Facing Evil, The Art of Life, and Moral Wisdom and Good Lives. I hope you will read them. They are quite readable.]

Liberals tend to be egalitarians, believing that justice requires that everyone have an equal share of goods. Liberalism rejects desert as a basis for determining justice, instead believing that people's sameness is the basis. They think that all people have a certain characteristic in common which entitles them to equal treatment. This characteristic is people’s capacity for autonomy. The problem is that liberals think that asserting this bedrock moral principle is enough to ground justice. They hope then to go on to assign distributions of goods on the basis of it. But in fact it is hardly even relevant, let alone sufficient. Liberals fail to explain why people’s common capacity for autonomy is morally relevant or why the basis for justice must be some common characteristic. To assume that any such common characteristic must be the basis is to beg the question of whether the egalitarian conception of justice is correct.

Kekes doesn’t diagnose the liberal’s confusion fully. What would make liberals say such things as the following? “Some theories, like Nazism, deny that each person matters equally. But such theories do not merit serious consideration” (Will Kymlicka); and “In attributing human worth to everyone, we [are]...expressing an attitude of respect toward humanity in each man’s person. That attitude is not grounded in anything more ultimate than itself, and it is not demonstrably justifiable.... If none of this convinces the skeptic, we should turn our back on him and examine more important problems” (Joel Feinberg).

The answer is that liberals confuse the trivial claim that “Everyone is to be treated equally unless there is a morally relevant difference between him and others” and the contentious leftist claim that “Everyone is to be treated equally.” Of course, anyone who rejects the first claim is not to be taken seriously in matters of moral deliberation. But the first claim is not the second and, given certain obvious truths about the world, is inconsistent with it. In fact, while the egalitarian liberal philosophy professor gnashes his teeth at right-wing anti-egalitarianism, in fact it is he who is not to be taken seriously in matters of moral deliberation.

Kekes also describes what I think is the Paul Wellstone-type of liberal who holds that in a just society no one has misery he doesn’t deserve but instead has it removed by the institutions of justice. This sort of liberalism is at least able to see that justice is based on desert, and it is not even committed to egalitarianism. The problem with it is that it overlooks that the need to generate the wealth required in order to maximize justice requires that some people’s undeserved misery go unremedied. Moreover, many other values can override desert in certain cases (family ties, private property, mercy, etc.).

It is really very bad that we lost Paul Wellstone; the Democratic Party needed him. (Did you see the Democratic response to the State of the Union address?) Wellstone made judgments as conservatives do: on the basis of desert, undeserved suffering and not on the basis of leftist ideology about equality. Contrast this with the nonsense of Rawls, who, as Kekes mentions holds that desert is no basis for justice, since no one can help it if he happens to be inclined to vice. A Democratic party with Wellstone liberals in it would be keen to discern and represent particular, plausible government programs that might do a lot of good and therefore be worthy of consideration, to make the case for pacifism when it needs to be made, and to remind us of our duty to the undeservedly destitute. Such a Democrat would join Republicans in the center and argue as a valued and loyal opposition about where the sweet spot lies. He’d be wrong more often than not, but we need two parties, in order to hit the sweet spot reliably. Instead, we have enshrined the nonsense of John Rawls, settled for Gary Locke, and lost Paul Wellstone.

The comments are down. Haloscan, the provider, has been excellent, but recently there have been troubles. It's free, so I'm not complaining. How do they make money without charging a fee?

Tuesday, February 04, 2003


Mind Floss is back. He's talking about Chomsky, and it ain't a linguistics post. Mind Floss understands leftist notions of autonomy and redistribution of wealth perfectly. The liberal idea is that everyone has a right to freedom (technically "autonomy"), freedom requires dough, and if you won't give me some dough you're depriving me of my freedom. Leftism (my term, Kekes says, "liberalism") is hopelessly confused. It's a non-starter. It's naive pacifism is, too. This is all coming to a head now. Leftism is imploding. The political landscape twenty years from now will be much better.
The Conservative Philosophy of John Kekes (#4)
The book, Against Liberalism (Post D). Previous post here.

[This is a series of posts on the contemporary philosopher John Kekes. I will very concisely present the ideas in five of his books: Against Liberalism, A Case for Conservatism, Facing Evil, The Art of Life, and Moral Wisdom and Good Lives. I hope you will read them. They are quite readable.]

In one chapter of the book, Kekes presents some problems for the liberal scheme of wealth redistribution. He has developed the criticisms even more thoroughly in a book, The Illusions of Egalitarianism, which will be published later this year. In Against Liberalism, the problems number four.

First, redistribution schemes misunderstand the problem of poverty. They are couched in the egalitarian tenet that gaps in wealth are bad. As I’ve argued before (and Kekes attributes the argument to Harry Frankfurt), a gap in wealth is not essentially unjust, as can be seen in the fact that there is no injustice in the gaps in wealth between certain well-to-do people. The problem is the undeserved misery of poverty, and not any gap. Moreover, liberals don’t understand that it isn’t the case that the riches are simply spread around unevenly in a way that can be remedied, as jelly spread poorly on a slice of bread. For there isn’t enough wealth to close the gap without depleting the wealth required for production of more wealth. Concentrations of wealth keep us all afloat.

Second, absurd consequences follow from liberal egalitarianism. For example, if egalitarianism were true, men ought to receive compensation for the fact that their life expectancy is markedly shorter than women’s. Benefiting the worst off does not serve justice. Only benefiting victims of injustice does (including sufferers of undeserved harm). And some in the liberal’s target group - the poor, minorities and women - are not victims of injustice. If all poor people deserve aid, whether or not they are responsible for their poverty, and all minorities and women deserve aid, whether or not they are well-to-do, then men deserve aid for their shorter life expectancy, whether or not they are responsible for its shortness or well-to-do. The basic premise of egalitarianism, that inequality is unjust, is inconsistent with the fact that some inequality, such as some cases of short life expectancy, is a matter of simple misfortune. There has as yet been no sufficient argument that all inequality due to misfortune ought to be eradicated by taking property from the well-to-do (more on this in the next post).

Third, there is no basis to exclude from equality people of other states and count only our state’s citizens. To reserve equality for Americans is to put it on a basis - a cultural one perhaps - other than the mere fact that everyone has a capacity for autonomy (on which term, see previous posts). This would be to take a first step from liberalism to conservatism. To bite the bullet and demand equality for all human beings would require (a.) advocating a one-world government to enforce equality against the reasonable preferences of many, who won’t yield without a fight, and (b) expecting this government to be wealthy enough to supply enough resources for all to achieve and maintain autonomy (i.e., comfortable shelter, good food and medical care, education, security, etc.). This is a utopian fantasy (in other words, a dystopia).

Fourth, egalitarians say that all people matter equally. But surely the wicked matter less and ought to be treated worse than the good. Liberals will reply that what they mean is that we ought to assume that a person is not wicked and treat him equally to the way in which we treat the best of people, until evidence is found that he is in fact wicked. But this reply is as implausible as saying that we should assume that for any given star, we should assume that it is nearby and plan a mission to it until it has been shown that it is not nearby. One’s worthiness of good treatment depends upon one’s moral merit, and not merely on one’s personhood, or capacity for autonomy.

Monday, February 03, 2003


God of the Machine has poetry, and the comments are interesting, too.
The Conservative Philosophy of John Kekes (#3)
The book, Against Liberalism (Post C). Previous post here.

[This is a series of posts on the contemporary philosopher John Kekes. I will very concisely present the ideas in five of his books: Against Liberalism, A Case for Conservatism, Facing Evil, The Art of Life, and Moral Wisdom and Good Lives. I hope you will read them. They are quite readable.]

Whole groups can be held responsible for evil (or for good) done by only some of their members, whenever the action flows from the values shared by the group. Upholding a group's values is a way in which a member of a group counts as a supporter of evil (or good) done by another member in service to those values. The bloodthirsty denizens of Jenin and Gaza are somewhat responsible for killings they do not do. (I've blogged on a related issue before.)

Kekes argues that the trouble with (left-)liberalism is that it is inconsistent with these facts about collective responsibility, and also it likes to hold a group collectively responsible when these facts - necessary conditions - do not obtain. Liberalism attributes responsibility only to autonomous actions (actions done after full evaluation of the alternatives and in full understanding of their moral status and implications). But many cases of collective responsibility are cases in which many of the blameworthy (or praiseworthy) members of the group are not autonomous, but merely hateful (or merely kind). And liberals like to hold rich people or white men collectively responsible for injustice caused by rich people or white men, even though those they hold collectively responsible have never shared the values of the wrong doers and have on the contrary fought to abolish those values. Collective responsibility is important to moral life. Not only does the concept of it elude liberalism, but also liberalism misapplies it.

Throughout the book, Kekes makes it clear that left-liberals have a tendency to ignore morally relevant properties of actions and characters and procede to judgment merely on the basis of gaps in wealth. This tendency is why I maintain that envy (or guilt in the face of envy) is a plausible explanation for someone's maintaining left-liberal values.

Sunday, February 02, 2003


The anti-war red herrings grow tiresome today. ("But Saddam will be more inclined to use a WMD if we do invade!" Yes. And the likelihood of his using a WMD now is therefore tolerable? And we won't be able to disarm him quickly enough to reduce the likelihood to zero? These are pseudo-inquirers, most of them (not all). Under almost no circumstances would they accept that the U.S. should invade Iraq. Therefore, they aren't engaged in genuine search for the right answer.) Here's the case, free of red herrings:

Put the chance of Saddam having a nuclear or bio/chem weapon smuggled into some large American or Israeli cities and exploded at, say, 2%. That's a lowball. It's intolerably high.

Assume that the American casualties in an invasion will be far lower than the casualties we would suffer in case he managed to smuggle in and explode those weapons. Assume that the number of dead enemy innocents will be lower, as well.

Note that we will be liberating oppressed people by invading.

It seems like a good case for invading, to me.

In other words, there is a treacherous Arab tyrant who poses a threat, who hates us and Israel, who screws his people, and who can be taken out without catastrophe. That's enough.

Saturday, February 01, 2003

First Man on Mars

The man who will first walk on Mars is now two. He's asleep upstairs, having been read a story and tucked in. "I drive payship, moon."
Attractions of Leftism

I've blogged on this topic a fair bit. John Ray has, too, and now he has more (sorry, permalink not working).
The Conservative Philosophy of John Kekes (#2)
The book, Against Liberalism (Post B). Previous post here.

[This is a series of posts on the contemporary philosopher John Kekes. I will very concisely present the ideas in five of his books: Against Liberalism, A Case for Conservatism, Facing Evil, The Art of Life, and Moral Wisdom and Good Lives. I hope you will read them. They are quite readable.]

Kekes’s target is left-liberals. One theme in his argument is the kinds of ascription of moral responsibility that liberalism makes or is precluded from making. Liberals are intent upon designing a society in which autonomy is maximized. They thus lose sight of the goal that any moral system must have, that of reducing evil. It is well known that liberals tend to forget about victims and excuse evil doers. Why? Is there a philosophical flaw underlying this remarkable tendency?

The flaw is the liberal ideology that only autonomous people are subject to moral judgment. “Autonomy” is a technical term in liberalism; it doesn’t just mean free. It means being fully reflective on the significance of various alternative paths of action, understanding the morals involved, and fully weighing their consequences before acting. Such action will almost always be good, according to the liberal faith given us my Kant, but the point here is that many evil actions are not autonomous, and it is inappropriate for us to consider their agents evil. You know the story. We aren’t to blame these people or label them as wicked, since they can’t help what they do. (And, after all, it is the oppression by the wealthy and powerful which deprives them of the necessary conditions for autonomy - wealth, free time, education; to label them wicked would be doubly perverse.)

The flaw in this liberal doctrine derives from a misunderstanding of the principle that people are responsible for, ought to do, only that which they can do - the principle that “ought” implies “can.” Having raised the standard for what counts as genuine human freedom and called it “autonomy,” the liberal infers that what the hoards of non-autonomous people do is all they can do. “Can” is defined very strongly, very narrowly, as entailing autonomy, which most evil doers don’t have. Since they can’t do otherwise, they are excused from moral censure. A man, a thug, who is hateful and greedy, who likes to beat up and rob people, and who never gives much thought to alternative ways of life, is not autonomous and therefore not evil, on the liberal view. (Kekes thinks that the liberal can’t simply renounce this silly view and remain a liberal; see previous post.)

Of course, the principle that “ought” implies “can” is valid in its uncorrupted form. Any intentional action, not forced upon the agent by external forces, and not deriving from insanity, is optional, free; the agent can do otherwise. Autonomy is not necessary. Only plain (Lockean) freedom is. Therefore, if he ought to have done otherwise, and if his action was evil, we can say that he is somewhat evil. The degree of evil which it is appropriate to attribute to him is partly determined by how much autonomy he has. A fully autonomous evil doer (a rare bird, according to the liberal faith in the goodness of human nature) should be judged more harshly than the thug I described. But the thug should be judged very harshly indeed. In other words, lack of autonomy is perhaps a mitigating factor, but not much of one. The disposition intentionally to do evil is all it takes to count as an evil person.

The point is that liberalism eliminates moral judgment of character from a vast area of human life, thus making it impossible to combat much of the evil in the world. Liberals would instead give wealth, rehabilitation, and education to the evil, in effort to make them more autonomous. But there is no evidence that this will reduce evil, rather than, at best, make the evil autonomously evil. Liberalism accepts evil because the ideal of its ideology - autonomy for all - requires this. The defense that there will be no more evil in a society of universal autonomy, that no one would autonomously choose evil, is a mere hope. (I think you can see the Marxism lurking beneath liberal ideology.)