By Daniel A. Kaufman
Sometimes it is useful to try and identify a number of things that everyone should be able to agree on. To the extent to which our moral and political positions may depend upon complex tangles of presuppositions and reasoning, we may not notice that a position we take involves presuppositions that are obviously false or that one we reject in fact follows directly from presuppositions that are obviously true.
Below are a number of things I think everyone should be able to agree on, because the evidence/reasons for them are overwhelming and easily identified. They are loosely sorted into groupings, but this is entirely for purposes of readability. There are many more, of course, but these are the ones that came immediately to mind and seem to be implicated in a number of important and very much current moral and political disputes.
1) In a pluralistic society, if public discourse is to serve the cause of collective self-governance, it has to be in terms that every person involved could, in principle, accept.
2) A society cannot be liberal and democratic, if it incarcerates more of its citizens, per capita, than a totalitarian dictatorship.
3) That something is immoral, even profoundly so, does not mean that making it illegal is a good idea.
4) It is not possible to speak of desert in any form, if one cannot ascribe agency to people.
5) There are no values, unless there are people to whom things matter.
6) People matter more than animals (that are not people).
7) In our most common, superficial, public interactions with one another, manners are more important than morals.
8) In a liberal society, if harm is to be used as a condition for the suppression of or punishment for individuals’ behavior, then it has to be of a sort that is publicly observable and at least somewhat quantifiable.
9) If one does not make a relatively firm distinction between speech and violence, one cannot make sense of the idea of a civil society.
10) No one who attends Harvard or Yale (0r a comparable institution) or who is a professional athlete in the U.S. today is oppressed, in any ordinary (or credible) sense of the term.
11) To the extent that one can speak reasonably of “privilege,” it can only be at the level of the individual.
12) ‘Not oppressed’ is not synonymous or coextensive with ‘privileged.’
13) That someone is privileged (or not) has no bearing on whether what he or she has said is true or false on any subject.
14) The intensity and aggressiveness of activism must be commensurate with the actual condition of its object, and that condition can only be evaluated in relation to its prior states.
15) If we expunge the works of morally compromised artists from the cultural landscape there will be little that remains of the canon of great works.
16) There is no good reason to expect that in the absence of discrimination, people will sort into professions in a way that is proportional to their representation in the population, under various ethnic, sexual, religious or other social, cultural, or biological descriptions.
17) There are no peoples on the earth who have not been wronged or wronged others.
18) Any judgment as to the goodness or badness of a country is only plausibly made in relation to that of other countries.
19) One can be a citizen of a country or some other political entity, but not of a geological object, like an island or a planet.
20) The existence of a “community” depends upon a degree of commonality or kinship that is somewhat specific and cannot be grounded in vast, indiscriminate groupings like species membership or sex.
21) Both a healthy individual life and a healthy civil society require a balance of contractual and non-contractual relationships.
22) There are no stupid or wicked things done by children that have not been done – and done worse – by adults.
23) In the course of a typical, ordinary person’s life, parenting is the most important thing he or she will do.
24) Health and safety are instrumental goods.
65 responses to “Some Things We All Should Agree On”
Don’t agree with 3
Not sure if agree with 7, 12, 19, 22
Enjoyed the eclectic approach to this list though!
If you are inclined, please elucidate. I meant them to be conversation starters!
I more or less agree with all of these but think no. 7 might be the most important (and possibly contentious) of items. The relationship among morals, manners and mores is an under examined one. Societies could decline when they try to replace institutional authority, and with it the codification of behavior associated with etiquette, with immediate expression of raw feeling or honesty and transparency 24/7. Humans were not meant for such immediate expression to take place in public areas far from the most intimate realm, if only because our sensibilities are not usually as harmonious as we might expect. I fear and feel something like this has happened in today’s climate. If I am right then the internet or social media itself is not a tool but sets up a new normative regime implicated in an unworkable social arrangement.
OK, I’ll start with the main point of contention, Number 3.
Whenever an immoral action is carried out, it has a potentially negative effect on the family unit/community/society at large, etc. Therefore, a way of retaliating against such actions should be available to people so they don’t have to take matters into their own hands. Also, it isn’t clear to me on what basis other than morality we can decide what actions should be illegal. This, of course, presupposes moral realism, i.e. based on religion.
The rest is kinda nitpicky where I would have to construct very specific examples, I think that would be missing the point.
Also, I can’t see a reply button anywhere, so I don’t know how to link this to the already existing thread.
I disagree with 14. The condition of an oppressed group should be evaluated not in terms of its prior states, but in terms of what can reasonably be considered to be a condition of normal flourishing for any groups within a given society.
As for the intensity and aggressiveness of any given form of activism (ruling out violence of course), that is a strategic or tactical question, and any oppressed group has the right to use all forms of struggle (ruling out violence which can only be justified in certain circumstances which are not germane here) to achieve a condition of normal flourishing within a given society. I say “for a given society” because what could be considered “flourishing” in the United States today is different than what could be considered “flourishing” in Uruguay.
Cheating on one’s spouse is terrible and has terrible effects, but it would be a really bad idea to make it illegal.
If it is the case that abortion is a grave moral wrong — I’m not saying it is, but suppose that it is — I still think it would be a very bad idea to make it illegal. (As is very likely to become the case, once Trump makes his appointments to the Supreme Court.)
It seems to me simply not credible for feminist activism to be more intense and aggressive today than it was in the 1960’s, given that the condition of women today is a quantum leap better than it was then. That’s the sort of thing I was getting at.
Personally, I don’t find #3 to be at all contentious.
It seems to me that the considerations for questions of legality can be very different from those questions of morality. We saw an example of that in the era of prohibition.
I guess Dan has decided that he prefers the discussion space to be flat, rather that a hierarchy of threads. My usual practice is to quote just a little as a hint about which comment I am replying to.
Neil: I have the capacity to reply in WordPress. I didn’t realize that didn’t extend to commenters. Is there something I need to activate?
I can reply to this one, because I have a wordpress notification with a reply button. I’m not sure, but maybe people who receive email about new comments can also reply that way. But otherwise, I can only reply to the topic as a whole and not to individual comments.
There’s a setting:
Settings –> Discussion –> Other Comment Settings
On my blog, I have checked “Enable threaded (nested) comments 5 levels deep”. The depth allowed appears to be range of 5-10. Some people like nested comments. And some don’t.
I understand what you are getting at. However, I believe that the intensity and aggressiveness of feminist activism is a tactical or strategic question. Now it very well may be that at this moment a more aggressive feminist activism turns off potential male allies and even female supporters, but I see no ethical reason why feminists need tone down their activism today, in spite of the gains that they’ve made since the 1960’s. Feminist activists have all the right to scream as loud as they can until women have the same possibilities of flourishing as men do even if they have already advanced substantially toward that goal. It does seem to be the case that some forms of current feminist activism are counter-productive insofar as they alienate everyone except an in-group of supporters, but that is a strategic question, not an ethical one.
S wallerstein: i an speaking entirely of what I take to be credible or rationally defensible. I am not talking strategy or tactics.
I’m not sure what you mean by “credible” or “rationally defensible”. Some of forms of struggle, for example, violence, are not ethically justifiable in the U.S. today or in any developed democratic society. Now the feminist movement or some sectors of the feminist movement may carry out actions, which while ethically justifiable, turn me off or strike me as unnecessarily aggressive or as I said before, as counter-productive.
S. Wallerstein: I’m at a loss to explain further. I am talking about rational warrant, as per epistemology. That sense of credibility.
I mean the point is simple. It is not credible to behave as if you are worse off than your counterparts 50 years ago. It may constitute a successful strategy, but it is still fundamentally lying and misrepresenting yourself and the state of affairs.
I only studied one semester of philosophy in college and I’m not sure what rational warrant is. However, let’s separate feminist philosophy and feminist activism. I’m talking about the later. Activism is not a philosophy seminar. It’s a way of putting pressure on the rest of society and of winning over enough members of the rest of society to achieve certain ends. If you put too much pressure over the rest of society, you don’t win them over or you don’t win over enough of them to achieve your ends. If you let up the pressure too much, you don’t achieve your ends either.
Activism generally involves a bit of exaggeration: it’s more like advertising than it is like philosophy. I think that is what turns you off: the exaggeration, the simplification of complex realities, but that’s how you sell detergent and that’s how you sell political ideas to the masses. In my limited experience much of feminist philosophy confuses itself with feminist activism and that is lamentable too, as philosophy, I believe, benefits from a certain rigorousness.
Your new comment appeared and I’m answering your previous one. However, as I said above, politics is not a philosophy seminar. It involves exaggeration and simplification, aka, lying.
I’ve never seen a political campaign or movement, be it on the right or on the left, which did not exaggerate or simplify reality.
I don’t think we have a disagreement then. I am not speaking to the rhetorical effectiveness of activism, only of its credibility.
That said, I do think that it’s lack of credibility is part of the reason why it’s become so much *less* effective lately. Indeed, I think it’s helping its opponents more than itself.
I am not sure how #7 would fly in Australia where “Shut up you cantankerous old bastard” might mean “you may well have a point there my oldest and most valued friend”.
Not sure about 20. Among our neighbours we look out for each other, see how each other is going, care when someone gets ill or injured. I can’t say we have anything in common other than that we are all humans and live close to each other.
“1) In a pluralistic society, if public discourse is to serve the cause of collective self-governance, it has to be in terms that every person involved could, in principle, accept.”
But *can* public discourse serve the cause of collective self-government (in any meaningful sense) in a pluralistic society (such as ours)? *If* it is stripped down to what every person involved could accept in principle, I suspect that – in divided societies like ours, at any rate – it would be so thin and generalized as to be pretty useless.
“4) It is not possible to speak of desert in any form, if one cannot ascribe agency to people.”
Unfortunately “deserve” and its cognates have almost been drained of any significant meaning. I’m thinking of advertising language which picks up on and feeds back into common ways of thinking and speaking. (“Reward yourself. You deserve it.”) It’s as though we are left with a vocabulary which was once associated with a system of morality. We still have the vocabulary but have ditched the morality.
We should pay special attention to Gleb Koulakovski’s second comment. Gleb does not present himself as a religious fundamentalist, and there’s no reason, given the comment, to suspect this, And yet, this is the argument of the Religious Right – and that is true in Islamic states as well as in America. It is a spurious argument, because at its ground it cannot allow a communitarian or contractarian understanding of social reality. From this perspective, society is a given (for the Religious, by God), and it is only a matter of bringing society into proper alignment with it’s given purposes (for the Religious, according to God’s will.)
It reads as if there has been a discussion here between Gleb Koulakovski and Dan Kaufmann, but nothing could be further from the truth. Gleb has presented the position that he will probably refuse to compromise or reconsider.
Perhaps Gleb himself can reconsider his position. But there are others who will never reconsider such a position. Some are on the left; many are on the right – probably about 30% of the American people right now.
Well, that changes everything. All the points here are largely correct – there may be some quibbles over individual points, but they will only be minor quibbles, shaded by one’s political perspective.
But the entrenched position, not open to discussion or debate – that changes the playing field. It is no longer ‘flat,’ but a series of rolling hills. The kind of geography that Custer rode on his journey to the Little Big Horn. Obviously we need shrewder leaders than he was. Sitting Bull led the Sioux into that battle. Perhaps that’s who we need. Or perhaps another Roosevelt, or JFK…. Oh, well, one can dream….
Again, all these reasonable points ought to be agreeable. But world is growing less and less reasonable, less and less agreeable. As I watch the news unfold, I hear words I thought would never be expressed by public officials, putting forth ideas I was raised to believe marginalized beyond all worry. That the once unimaginable is now the everyday is enough to give me cause for concern.
In general I agree with the spirit of these, there might be some things that fall between the cracks.
Unlike some people here I find 3 pretty sensible and kind of obvious. I am somewhat surprised by people’s take on 14. Especially remarks such as ‘Now it very well may be that at this moment a more aggressive feminist activism turns off potential male allies and even female supporters…’. Where is the evidence that these tactics actually work? Where in history do we see a movement get its way by alienating its supporters?
Anyway, there is a point that seems to be somewhat missed here. Activism doesn’t have to refer only to people ‘on our side’. States and corporations also indulge in activism. Are we happy about their lies and deceit? The left for some reason doesn’t dismiss Trump’s lies as just strategy.
Okay, I’ve enabled nested comments as you indicated.
The fact that you know each other personally already makes it the case that you are not a community merely by virtue of your humanity.
I will channel the spirit of contrariness I currently associate with the Australian politician David L—–helm
1. “…could, in principle, accept” – it has been suggested religious tolerance arose from exhaustion following religious wars rather than any general acceptance of principle;
2. “incarcerates more of its citizens, per capita, than a totalitarian dictatorship” – why not, you have mentioned how crime rates have fallen so far in the US, is this not causative and so a good thing? Surely many countries can’t afford these effective levels of imprisonment, the wealth of the US requires a free economy and imprisonment of disgruntled economic losers…
3. “making it illegal is a good idea” – see 1.
4. “desert…[ascription of] agency” – this is logic-chopping cf entitlement “even a dog deserves better than that argument”
5. “values [require] people” – value does not require people, only life.
6. “People matter more than animals” – is this “somewhat quantifiable” too?
7. “manners are more important than morals” – surely manners are a low level of moral behaviour?
Re: your first point, it is one made by Rawls, and I don’t see the problem, given that everyone has the capacity — at least in principle — to accept arguments grounded in reason.
In any event, what is the alternative. It almost sounds like you are saying that self-governance is only possible in homogeneous communities.
Re: Your second point, I think you underestimate how common the language of desert is. It explains why you won first place in the race and the other guy won second. It explains why you got your paycheck and not the other guy’s. Etc. It’s not dispensable frankly.
1. Is meant to address precisely that point and comes from Rawls. It is an injunction against the use of sectarian language in public discourse.
Your point on 5. is simply wrong, as value presupposes the capacity for a certain kind of representation, limited to persons. Notice the limiting parenthetical (animals that are not persons).
Re: 7., the point is that when I’m with you in the subway during rush hour, I care much more about whether you comport yourself in a considerate manner than I do whether you devote your life to feeding the poor.
I don’t know what to say about 2. Seems to me almost tautological.
“That someone is privileged (or not) has no bearing on whether what he or she has said is true or false on any subject.”
Sure, depending on what “having a bearing on” amounts to.
Obviously, what the speaker says is not /made/ true or false by the speaker’s status. It’s made true or false by whatever the speaker is speaking about.
But often the truth is out of reach, unknown, or opaque, so we look for reliable guides to it. Might there be circumstances in which the speaker’s status has a bearing on whether /we have reason to believe that/ what the speaker says is true or false?
In brief: status certainly isn’t relevant to the truth of what one says, but it might be relevant to our finding out the truth of what one says.
(Which, of course, is not to say anything about /how/ relevant we should think status is, or /how much weight/ we give to considerations of status. It’s just to point out that there might be times when it should count among the many things we consider (and either use or discard) in our quest to find the truth.)
About lying in politics in general, here’s a famous quote from I.F. Stone:
“All governments lie, but disaster lies in wait for those governments whose officials smoke the same hashish they give out”.
I’d add that all political movements and parties lie too, whether on the left and on the right. Serious problems occur, as Stone so eloquently points out, when those in power in government or in a party or movement, believe their own lies. A little bit of healthy cynicism and hypocrisy helps at times in politics.
My concern with your post (which I fretted about quite a bit, requiring some thought to put properly), is that merging morality into law, or deriving law from morality, risks 1) closing off debate, since, or redirects it into the (apolitical?) arena of religion; and 2) subverting the contractarian basis of a republican society with democratic aspirations. The contract is based on shared interests, not shared morality, even admitting that morals are an interest we may share. But certainly the social contract will need to allow tolerance for the interests of those with differing morals.
Well I suppose the trivial exception to 13 is the statement “I am not privileged”, or claims to that effect.
If someone claims to be an ‘outsider’ and you check and find that he is a rich retired advertising executive with 3 lucrative mainstream media gigs and a number of prominent board positions then his claims to be an outsider have to be analysed in that context.
Dan (and Mark):
I agree that desert is indispensable but not because “It explains why you won first place in the race and the other guy won second” or anything like that. Being a winner in any sort of contest is neither a necessary nor a sufficient condition of being “deserving”. Losers may have deserved to win; winners may have deserved to lose. Being deserving is more about having contributed well to the enterprise, in whatever way.
Mark says: “It’s as though we are left with a vocabulary [of desert] which was once associated with a system of morality. We still have the vocabulary but have ditched the morality.” I think Dan’s reply is right. Social life requires the morality of desert which in turn requires the vocabulary.
Dan, there is a lot to talk about, much too much to deal with satisfactorily here. I hope that there will be opportunities to develop/discuss some of these ideas in the future.
“[E]veryone has the capacity — at least in principle — to accept arguments grounded in reason.”
I didn’t deny this. I said that, at least in our very divided societies, any possible general consensus will be so thin as to be virtually useless.
“In any event, what is the alternative. It almost sounds like you are saying that self-governance is only possible in homogeneous communities.”
Communities are never completely homogeneous, and “self-governance” is also something that comes in degrees and applies at various levels – e.g. to individuals, or to associations or institutions (which have different degrees of independence within the broader society). I doubt that “collective self-governance” can be meaningfully said to apply to individuals in societies like ours (large, complex and culturally divided).
On desert, I was making a slightly rhetorical point about the way traditional moral systems have been undermined.
On Rawls, I never liked his general approach and was never really convinced by his basic argument (though it has some persuasive force). I would prefer to try to address the issues directly rather than talking about him however.
I also have a meta-quibble with what you say in your introduction (and it probably also relates to my problems with Rawls). I’m not sure that I see “our moral and political positions [… as] depend[ing] upon complex tangles of presuppositions and reasoning.”
I am *not* arguing for anti-intellectualism. My point (I have tried to make it before) is that I don’t believe that our fundamental thought processes – especially those that are values-related – are language-like (“tangles of propositions” etc.).
??? If you came in first in the race, you deserve the award for first place.
No, you are entitled to it. Different matter. If you won by successful cheating, you did not deserve to win.
Or maybe you deserve to win because you came up with a very clever way of cheating.
??? If you cheated you’re not entitled to it either.
Sorry, but I think you are using ‘desert’ in a very eccentric way.
I doubt that “collective self-governance” can be meaningfully said to apply to individuals in societies like ours (large, complex and culturally divided).
= = =
So when we elect lawmakers and they pass legislation and it is enacted and implemented, you don’t think we are self governing? I do.
= = =
On Rawls, I never liked his general approach and was never really convinced by his basic argument (though it has some persuasive force). I would prefer to try to address the issues directly rather than talking about him however.
= = =
I did nothing to suggest entering into a debate on Rawls. I invoked him with respect to one specific issue and that is the accessibility to public discourse in a liberal pluralistic society, which precludes sectarian reasoning, and it seems to me he’s clearly right about that.
= = =
Finally, to suggest that we don’t bring all sorts of presuppositions to bear in our political activity — presuppositions that can be correct or incorrect or neither (because they concern matters of value) — seems at odds not only with actual practice, but with much of the social science surrounding things like motivated reasoning.
= = =
I want to say — to you and to everyone — that I’m really pleased with the conversation on this post and think that the format — i.e. the list of propositions — seems to be playing a positive role.
Clever cheating is not to be rewarded. It defeats the point of the sport. If you successfully cheat — that is, undetected — and win then the prize should be yours. Think Lance Armstrong. He won all those Tours de France. He and no-one else was entitled to the prize at the time. But since he cheated he was never a deserving winner. We just didn’t know that he was cheating.
You are making distinctions more fine grained than I would, my friend, but fair enough!
I agree that this has been a good discussion.
“So when we elect lawmakers and they pass legislation and it is enacted and implemented, you don’t think we are self governing? I do.”
Who is the “we”? The phrase “collective self-governance” seems a rather formal concept which (I suspect) could and would be defined quite differently according to the political and social context.
I made the point that one can see things in terms of individuals (as we do when it comes to voting in elections), and also in terms of (more or less autonomous) institutions. I think perhaps I am more inclined to emphasize the latter and take an organic view of society. On this view the (relative) autonomy of individuals is guaranteed more by the variety and strength of institutions than by the electoral system.
“I did nothing to suggest entering into a debate on Rawls. I invoked him with respect to one specific issue and that is the accessibility to public discourse in a liberal pluralistic society, which precludes sectarian reasoning, and it seems to me he’s clearly right about that.”
Yes, sectarian reasoning carries no weight beyond the sect; you could see attempts to apply it more broadly as bad manners (or worse).
“Finally, to suggest that we don’t bring all sorts of presuppositions to bear in our political activity — presuppositions that can be correct or incorrect or neither (because they concern matters of value) — seems at odds not only with actual practice, but with much of the social science surrounding things like motivated reasoning.”
I am not denying that we have presuppositions. I am questioning the extent to which they can be reduced to propositions (i.e. to something language-like). The idea of the narrative gets closer to the underlying reality precisely because narratives can be expressed in non-linguistic ways (a series of value-laden images, for example). A developed scientific understanding must find expression in natural language, usually enhanced with other language-like symbol systems (like mathematics). Our social *philosophies* also need to be expressed in language. But our social thinking – or at least the drivers of our social thinking – is/are (I am claiming) fundamentally non-linguistic.
I agree with S. above, but I would add more to his statement that
“The condition of an oppressed group should be evaluated not in terms of its prior states, but in terms of what can reasonably be considered to be a condition of normal flourishing for any groups within a given society.”
I would say that the condition of an oppressed group should be evaluated along two axes: by comparison to its prior states, as well as by comparison to the contemporary flourishing of other groups in a given society (what S calls the “condition of normal flourishing”)—that is, a simultaneous diachronic and synchronic comparative framework is best.
The diachronic historical comparison is important for understanding what has happened to the group over time (it is of course indispensable to have a robust historical perspective). But the synchronic comparison is, I think, more immediately relevant for considering how intense activism should be, since it is the synchronic comparison with other groups that allows for understanding how that group is faring according to the *current* “predominant expectations of well-being” (i.e. the current “conditions of normal flourishing in a given society”). The latter (the synchronic understanding) is after all what primarily determines whether/to what degree there is oppression and how it is experienced by the oppressed. This is how I understood (and/or how I would gloss) S’s statement above.
So I disagree with Dan when he says “It seems to me simply not credible for feminist activism to be more intense and aggressive today than it was in the 1960’s, given that the condition of women today is a quantum leap better than it was then.” One can *reasonably* be just as (or more) intensely activist on behalf of a group in the present, even when that group’s condition has improved over time in relation to its own past states, given that the predominant expectations of well-being have also changed over time (such expectations do and have changed very significantly over time since the 1960s) and given that the group is at present prevented from attaining the *current* predominant expectations of well-being. (It matters far less for the experience of this group that it has by now attained some *past* predominant expectation of well-being, if it remains relatively far from or indeed if it has moved even farther from the *current* expectations)
“(23) In the course of a typical, ordinary person’s life, parenting is the most important thing he or she will do.”
I agree with this. I’d add it’s the hardest thing to do.
My daughter is 16 right now and I can definitely confirm, without a doubt, that you are absolutely right. 😉
Things improve after age 25.
I realize that my view on this may be unusual in modern liberal society. Nevertheless, I am currently quite convinced that it would be for the best to stand on firm religious ground when it comes to law (among other areas). I think the idea of open debate and a democratic society is largely an illusion anyway when in actuality it mostly comes down to oligarch-funded activism and other less obvious interests that push for changes in the legal system and the public is persuaded to go along with it through propaganda, social pressure and other means. I believe that religion and state should be in symphony with each other in order to have the best shot at creating a healthy society.
Have a nice day.
So you agree or disagree with Rawls? I am aware of a concept of “ideal” and “nonideal” politics, where 1. is the former, as opposed to the idea that we respect (to some extent) strongly held sectarian beliefs because it is dangerous to discount them. When health authorities disagree with parents about medical treatment of minors, I don’t think there is necessarily an expectation that the parents assent to the secular arguments.
“value presupposes the capacity for a certain kind of representation”:
I would tend to Varela and many others in arguing value does not require a representation – eg Weber and Varela 
“organisms are subjects having purposes according to values encountered in the making of their living. This means clearly to reintroduce value and subjectivity as indispensable organic phenomena, a theory of the organism as the dynamics of establishing an identity and, hence, as a process of creating a materially embodied, individual perspective.”
“considerate manner” – consideration is moral language.
of all the things there, this to me is the scariest.
Which religion should we stand on?
I’m not sure I follow you.
I guess it is kind of cliche to say “Try living in a third-word country.” But I think it is apt to say to those “privileged” people claiming to be “oppressed”. I lived in America for a couple of years (high school). Well, South Carolina to be exact. I was a part of the minority in a school with a mostly African American population. In fact, it was this high school featured in BBC for being a “school of hard knocks”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b8ySzRwYyoc .
Of course, I was at the end of some racist things and all. I don’t really think that I was oppressed. Some of it did not feel good at that time but I actually grew a good pair because of it. Is it some rosy restrospection? Maybe. But I was and am far from being oppressed than those who earn below minimum wage (while in a third word country) with no prospect for good education, career advancement, worked since they were kids, etc. They couldn’t even bury their dead decently. Public cemeteries are so packed that remains get moved around and lost. Looking around me, I surmise that I am lucky. I am far from being oppressed.
My father grew up really poor. They had to do number 2 in the fields. But he, unlike some of his siblings, studied well and pursued graduate studies. The odds were not on his side but his work ethic is never questionable. We live in relative comfort. Are we privileged? I know rich people and we are from from rich. But we are also far from being oppressed.
The people here who are more inclined to think they are oppressed (and convince others that they are too) and use terms like “white privilege” are mostly university educated people in the arts and humanities. Guess where we got it from. We love imported stuff. 🙂
parenthood is scary. that’s what I meant.
I apologize that my other comment sounded more critical or pessimistic that it ought to have. However, I did feel that your strong Moral Realist stance was going eventually to lead to the position you now espouse.
“I think the idea of open debate and a democratic society is largely an illusion anyway” – I strongly disagree. I’m a terrible pessimist, I suspect that no democratic or republican society (either or any combo are dependent on contrarian theory) will ever quite ‘work out’ to anyone’s entire satisfaction. But the aspirations they derive from and manifest are far nobler than those of any theocratic or other ‘divine will’ form of government. I have nothing against god (beyond not believing such exists); but in any case he seems not be very interested in human social affairs on a day-by-day basis – and this basis is the real stuff and grit of the human social experience.
There’s nothing in any sacred text that suggests we should have ‘stop-signs.’ Yet, though annoyed by them on occasion, I recognize that my safety is dependent on our shared respect for them, and the obedience this demands. So I agree with my fellow drivers, and obey. Or rather, through my obedience, I agree with my fellow drivers.
If they don’t, and there’s a cop handy, well, there we go. If I don’t and there’s a cop present, well, there we go. That’s the price we pay for enjoying the benefits of this society, compliance with its civic demands.
Even a theocratic society functions in a secular way when it comes to stop signs. Try quoting the Koran when an Iranian traffic cop gives you a ticket for driving through a stop sign, and see what it gets you. No, don’t do that. Then you might get arrested for subverting the State. That State might claim that’s its laws are identical with the will of god. But the charge will be subversion of the State, because it is the State that asserts its prerogative to enforce its laws. And they do rather more harshly in Iran than here. Because our Constitution doesn’t claim foundation in the will of god – but in the will of the people.
Korsgaard. The Claims of Animals and the Needs of Strangers: Two Cases of Imperfect Right
“Kant’s conception of natural right shows us that a right can exist provisionally against a group that as yet exists only in idea, so long as the group is one to whose existence those who claim the rights are committed. Suppose all human beings must claim rights, perhaps including rights to enough of the world’s resources to survive in reasonable conditions. And suppose that, as Kant thinks, this commits each of us to the existence of a collective body dedicated
to upholding the rights of everyone. Then that collective body, by virtue of the commitments of its own members, exists provisionally itself.”
I didn’t say “refer to the Bible on every single issue and do nothing if that particular topic isn’t covered.” Of course we can still have stop signs and cops and supermarkets and computers (but no usury, for example). I specifically said “religion and state should be in symphony”, meaning there is certainly a purely pragmatic day-to-day aspect to managing a society, but the foundation should be religious. Otherwise you can’t even really make sense of such metaphysical concepts like “the will of the people”, I’m afraid.
I don’t understand #2. Is the U.S is not liberal and democratic since it incarcerates a lot of people? Regardless of whether the crime is up or going down according to government statistics violent offenses are very high in relation to other Western countries. What are we to do with people who commit aggravated assault, robbery armed or otherwise, arson, attempted murder or murder, carjacking, rape and other sex offenses? What are we to do we when on a 3 day weekend in the city of Chicago 60 people are shot and 10 die from these crimes? There is an impression that the state prisons are filled with people committing non violent crimes like drug possession and that may be the case in the federal system where they go after large suppliers and the like, but not in the much larger state facilities. Most are there for committing heinous crimes.
And just too bad for everyone else right?
The causes of mass incarceration are complex. And at this point the situation may not be fixable. I was simply making a point as to what can be credibly said about a country under certain conditions.
I don’t see how this contradicts 6 or 17-21.
“the will of the people” is not a metaphysical concept; it is a trope for the judgment of the electorate manifest in a vote. No religion necessary, only an election.
For 2 years I have lived in Pima County, Southeastern Arizona. It has a population of around 1,000,000 most in the larger Tucson area. I was shocked yesterday when the sheriff being interviewed said there are 1,900 inmates in his jail. As like many other parts of the state this area is high in retirees/seniors who presumably aren’t out committing crimes. On the outskirts of Tucson are 3 prisons; juvenile, federal and a state that has 5,000 male inmates. The U.S for whatever reasons appears to be an outlier when it comes to mass incarceration compared to other first world countries.
This is slightly off topic, but not entirely.
The other day I ran into and bought a book of Simone de Beauvoir, which I had never seen before: Should we burn Sade? Written, by the way, after The Second Sex.
Anyone who has read de Sade knows that he celebrates sexual violence against women (and against men) and any biography will tell you that de Sade was a serial sexual abuser and rapist. So does de Beauvoir, the mother of modern feminism, call for trigger warnings about de Sade or for banning him entirely? No, quite the contrary. She analyzes his writings and his life, and in fact, finds certain aspects to celebrate in his works and thought. I wonder how feminism has gone from the intellectual openness, spirit of wonder and affirmation of all that is human which characterizes Simone de Beauvoir to the puritan closemindedness which characterizes so much of it today.