Sunday, November 23, 2008


Homeschool your kids. You can make sure they learn a lot, pick the books for them, spend more time with them, and keep them away from a significant amounts of waste of their time. This is one way to repair this country: to educate the children well. We have become ignorant and course. An explosion in the rate of homeschooling would be well. If homeschooling is an idea you haven't considered fully, just think about it for a few days. Is your child listening to an hour and a half of BS every day? Just curious.

Of course, I'm mouthing off about this over here.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Same-Sex Marriage Controversy

I ignore people who are angry about resistance to same-sex marriage and label its opponents "bigots." Their attitude indicates an unawareness that their opponents have plausible arguments, a likely tendency to bemoan the existence of the "Bible-thumping" "religious right," and a likely tendency to label the pro-life position (anti-abortion, anti-fetal stem cell research) as a religious "superstition" that should be booed out of the political forum. I think these angry people are extremely emotional and uninterested in tracking the arguments to find the truth. I see very little in the way of religious superstition in the forum, and very little amongst religious, pro-life, anti-gay marriage conservatives. I do see plausible arguments, there, however. So, you'll pardon me if I think at least some of the angry gay-marriage proponents are themselves the simply bigots.

By the same token, I have no time for religious, pro-life, anti-gay marriage conservatives who dismiss their opponents with a sneer of contempt and are unwilling to consider their arguments. I don't see much of this, however. Most of the sneering and dismissiveness I see coming from the other side. But I could be wrong about that.

I just tarry with people who are willing and able to argue the various positions with calmness and consideration. Ignore the trolls.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Human Nature and Morality V

Just to recap: It isn't helpful to think of human nature as a mysterious essence in a black box, something that might be totally surprising to discover, alien to your sensibilities, or repulsive to your inclinations and preferences. Your nature is not a role given to you that may be totally repulsive to your personality. Such a concept would be a fate or mandate that might be totally alien to your nature. Now, if you believe that God commands you aright, that's well and good, but if his command is totally incompatible with your most settled preferences, then it runs against your nature. Nature is intimate, not alien, to your desires.

On the other hand, human nature is not simply whatever you feel like doing, whatever "comes naturally" or impulsively. One can be accustomed to acting according to feelings and find that one's life is very misaligned with one's nature. The discovery involves confronting preferences which one has been thwarting by acting on feeling. In other words, desires can be incoherent (practically, though not logically.) By acting on the most salient or palpable desires of the moment, one risks thwarting the larger and more settled set of desires which make up one's nature.

Morality certainly involves good and right ways of living. If these are somehow linked to human nature, then this is because morality is linked to our preferences. To some degree we naturally prefer what is good and right. However, we also have desires which conflict with these and we do act on those desires. Nor is it the case that human nature is simply morally good. It may be natural for us to be good at times and to be bad at times. This a matter which will take some sorting out in this series of posts. But for the moment we can see that if morality is linked to human nature, then it is linked to our desires because our desires and human nature are inseparable.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Some Posts on Conservatism and the Republican Party

Over at Primordial Slack: here, here, here, and here, courtesy of the proprietor, Joan of Argghh!. Warning: it ain't pretty.

UPDATE: There's more. Just keep scrolling.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Exorcise the Devils

I like this. Thanks, 52.

It's time to exorcise the nutters. Mild and decent people of liberal or conservative stripe should loiter together and mingle amicably, shunning the BDS crowd which has infected the Democratic base and shunning any conservatives who express hatred for mild and decent liberals. It means treating cordially and politely all mild and decent members of the opposite political stripe.

For example, liberals would show this sort of consideration to all mild and decent people who subscribe in broad outline to Bush's foreign policy. That includes President Bush himself.

In addition, people on opposite sides of the gay marriage issue should treat each other amicably, shunning anyone amongst them who could not do the same.

It means turning to someone with whom you agree politically and calling him out on his nasty treatment of a mild and decent person of the opposite political stripe. If he will not be shamed, then he must be shunned by you.

Alright? Then, let us begin!
Human Nature and Morality IV

"Human nature" may be conceived in two ways:

1. As an essence, a station, a role in a larger scheme, in a certain robust sense. In this sense, human nature has normative force independently of your preference in a way of life. By analogy, consider that the airline pilot must fly the plane because he's the pilot, and the actor must play the part because the show is going on now. It doesn't matter what they prefer to do, they ought to behave according to their roles. In the case of human nature, we add to the story that the role is the one you are suited to play and there is no other.

2. As a set of functions, desires, and dispositions that are deep-set, not ephemeral, recurring not short-lived, genetic, not generational. In this sense, human nature is not independent of what anyone desires. Human nature is not a normative force independent of preference but rather, on the contrary, logically determined by preference in some way, as desire and disposition are mentioned in the very conception. (We leave for another time the discussion of just exactly what way the desires determine human nature and which "set" of functions, desires, and dispositions is nature.)

I don't buy into conception 1. It is a fantasy, in my view. However, I think it is the conception of human nature underlying most attempts to link morality to human nature (in the Catholic philosophical tradition, for the chief example.) These attempts have been unsatisfactory because there is no evidence of a role we are supposed to play independent of human preference. Even if there were such a role, there is no reason to suppose we ought to play it. The mere fact that some scheme in the fabric of things has it that we are to play role X does not entail that we morally ought to play role X. Even if we grant that there is a God who designed the scheme, it still doesn't follow that we ought to do as he has designed.

Conception 2 is much more fruitful. If you are conservative and you think human nature is connected to morality, I share your point of view. But you don't get there by preferring conception 1 but, rather, by conception 2. There is much more ground to cover in that regard and we'll get to that in future posts in this series.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Hail to the Chief!

Well, alrighty then! Godspeed to President-elect Obama as he enters into his transition phase. I wish him success in his presidency. A little bird tells me he will do the right thing most of the time (which would not be so bad, for a politician, eh?)

Oh, one thing: Mr. Obama, please do not transfer large chunks of my boss's earnings to me every April 15th. You have promised me $4000 of wealthy people's money per year. That's not right. If, as a matter of law, I am owed a dividend of their businesses every year, that's called...can't remember, what's that word?...ah, yes. Socialism. It's wrong. It's an injustice to the business owners, and it will depress the economy and result in huge job losses.

Just saying. Anyway, best of luck to President-elect Obama. I'll certainly do all I can in the forum to help his administration succeed - succeed in doing the right thing, mind you. Not going to help him succeed in losing wars, socializing health insurance or transferring wealth. Hail to the Chief!