Philosopher Kings and Queens

by Miroslav Imbrišević

___

At the age of sixteen, I found the idea of being a philosopher very attractive. Much later in life, I asked myself why that was and decided that my chaotic family was to blame. Philosophy allowed me to shut out the world, but at the same time I could figure out what to do about it.

Religious education was compulsory in school up to year ten. After that we had options and could choose between religious education and philosophy. I chose the latter (choosing nothing was not an option). Until the age of thirteen, I had been a believer. Once, after class, I approached the parish priest who taught religious education and asked about a line in the Our Father: “Why would God, who is good, lead us into temptation? That doesn’t make sense.” His answer didn’t convince me [I don’t actually remember what he said], and from then on, my faith dissipated.

Now I know that my problem with the Our Father depended on how you translate the sixth petition from ancient Greek into your particular language. I was pleased to see that Pope Francis recently raised just this problem. In Argentina, before he became Pope, he used to pray: “No nos dejes caer en la tentación.” (“Do not let us fall in/into temptation.”) Pope Francis explained: “I am the one who falls. But it’s not Him [God] who pushes me into temptation to then see how I have fallen.”

My parish priest took my objection seriously. He recognised an early aptitude for philosophy/theology in me and suggested that in a couple of years I should join a seminary and become a priest. If I had known about Pope Francis’ interpretation, I might have gone that route. After all, in the seminary I would have studied both theology and philosophy. Instead, I became a philosopher. But philosophy of religion is still an area that interests me. (My first – and in my view best – published paper was on St. Anselm’s ontological proof.)

Three years later, in a different school, we had our first proper philosophy classes. Our teacher was also a Catholic priest, and we started with the pre-Socratics. Some of it went over my head, but I still enjoyed it (this feeling of intellectual inadequacy has never gone away). When it was time to decide on a subject to study at university my teacher advised against philosophy, saying: “You won’t get a job, studying philosophy.”

Oddly, I didn’t take his advice (the Force must have been strong in me) and at the age of eighteen, I enrolled as a philosophy student at the Johannes-Gutenberg-Universität in Mainz.

At that time, I thought very highly of philosophers. Just like Plato describes it in the Republic I thought that philosophers were intellectually and morally fit to be rulers. They had the required knowledge, and they did not desire power, but had to be compelled to rule. But my idealism about philosophers received a considerable dent when I read about a philosophy professor at (if I remember rightly) Columbia University who had traded grades for sex. My eighteen-year-old self was shocked by this.

Of course, we had more sex scandals in philosophy throughout the 2000’s. I don’t know what happened in the intervening years. Maybe it was all swept under the carpet.

So, Plato was wrong, philosophers are not always best placed to be in positions of power. They may have the required knowledge, but their conduct may be just as bad as that of non-philosophers. Power can corrupt anyone. Perhaps this is why philosophers don’t want to rule. They know they might “fall into temptation.”

As my studies in Mainz progressed, I noticed other moral shortcomings among philosophers. One of the big guns in the department often lectured on Kant. Although professors would solicit questions during lectures, it was a mere formality. On one occasion, a visiting student from Bonn ably challenged the professor’s interpretation of Kant. An exchange ensued, during which the professor became heated, and he finally said: “If you can’t understand this point, then you should not come to my lectures.” The student got up and left.

Much later, when I lived in London, I heard similar things about Karl Popper. When he lectured at the London School of Economics, his students would joke that it was actually Popper who was the greatest enemy of the open society, because he would not tolerate any dissent from his students. Popper was born in Vienna, and for a while I thought that this inability to deal with criticism might be something you mostly encounter at German-speaking universities.

But a few years ago, I met a British academic who also belongs in this category. It was at a workshop in Edinburgh (on normative ethics, of all things). A doctoral student presented some interesting and original ideas, but in the question and answer period, she was shot down by a senior scholar. I liked her innovative approach and supported her position by offering some “ammunition” to her defense. Later that day, the senior scholar gave the keynote. I didn’t like the overall argument and was first to raise an objection. The speaker was civil in his reply, but I still wasn’t convinced. At the dinner, I found myself sitting next to our keynote speaker. I said “Hello” and tried to engage him in conversation, but he turned away and refused to talk to me, despite engaging in animated conversation with others. At the time, I just thought he was a strange character. But a couple of days later, after I had told others about his rudeness, I was able to connect the dots: the man simply would tolerate no criticism, and I had both supported the doctoral student who had questioned him and challenged him during his keynote speech. Hegel’s dictum about some of his professorial colleagues comes to mind: “They live off philosophy, not for philosophy.”

So far, most of the unpleasant characters I’ve mentioned have been male, but there are also philosopher queens who are not exactly living up to the ideal. A couple of years ago, a philosopher from Sheffield, working in epistemology, highlighted an upcoming workshop in Brazil about Platonism (on her influential feminist blog), which allegedly featured male philosophers only: a “manel,” rather than a panel. I clicked on the workshop link and noticed one first name ending in ‘a’. Female names in Romance languages often end with an ‘a’ ( Maria, Teresa, Romina, etc.), and as it turned out this was a female professor from Brazil. True, there was an imbalance among the speakers, but it was hardly a “manel.” I pointed this out on the blog, explaining that there was a female presenter after all. I received no reply. Three days later I wrote to the blog owner again, after which the post was taken down, still without any acknowledgement or even a “thank you.” She had failed in just those two respects that Plato had highlighted: she hadn’t checked the facts (a failure of knowledge), and she couldn’t bring herself to admit that she had been wrong (a failure of justice). And by then the damage was done, with the poor conference organizer expressing bewilderment at all the negative comments he suddenly was receiving.

Recently, there was a significant example of both epistemic and moral failure among my colleagues. Hundreds of philosophers signed an open letter, condemning a fellow philosopher, without checking the facts [https://sites.google.com/view/trans-phil-letter/]. The letter misrepresented said philosopher’s position, and the letter’s organizer (who hadn’t checked the facts either) had to add an erratum. The actual views held by the vilified philosopher in question are perfectly reasonable and within the scope of what philosophers are supposed to do, which includes challenging received opinion. Apparently, the letter’s organizers and signatories no longer remember Socrates.

It appears, then, that philosophers are just like everybody else in not checking their facts and being prone to moral failure. Nonetheless, I don’t regret my career decision and still enjoy being a philosopher. I just pray that I won’t fall into temptation.

Notes

[1] Popper is known for his critique of Plato in The Open Society and its Enemies. (1945)

[2] The alliteration gets lost in translation: “Sie leben von der Philosophie, nicht für die Philosophie.”

85 comments

  1. I can relate to this essay. I too once upon a time wanted to enter professional philosophy. The strange turns of life never allowed me to, but that is another story. I was always attracted to what I thought was philosophy’s main strength, the willingness to enter into Cartesian doubt. That in order to do philosophy correctly you had to be willing to question EVERYTHING. I have since sadly followed from afar the tendency of philosophers, more and more, to declare many questions simply off limits to not only that type of analysis, but any analysis.

    It is interesting the Professor Imbrisevik brings up the scandals in philosophers behavior. I have always had a perverse(no pun intended) fascination with sex scandals among the intellectual elite. There is a famous example with a philosopher out here on the West Coast. I remember reading a story mentioning that he viewed pornography on his computer. I thought that was so incongruous. Almost like anyone capable of winning a Nobel prize would never be the same person doing a Google search for MILF or Asian. We humans are frail creatures though who can compartmentalize almost anything apparently.

  2. This is a lovely and perceptive essay.

    The symptoms you describe are the academic variation of the incumbency problem. See https://www.npri.org/commentary/the-incumbency-problem/

    From the article:

    Studies show that the longer a lawmaker holds office, the more his voting behavior diverges from the desires of his constituents. First-term senators, for example, are more than twice as responsive to voter preferences as are senators in their later terms. But the research of public-choice economists shows that it goes significantly beyond that.

    It is also true that the longer a lawmaker holds office, the more his power grows. This is natural enough: Senior legislators have better contacts, an established pattern of dealing with other lawmakers, more familiarity with legislative procedure and more familiarity with other legislators’ preferences—the better for deal-making and log-rolling. Interestingly, however, it is the length of tenure, not formal position, that turns out to be the main source of legislative clout.

    With a little bit of translation this is readily applied to academic incumbents. Incumbents have positions to defend(epistemic, organisational, privilege, esteem or status) and they have challengers who desire to usurp their positions. Defending a position leads to stasis which opens them up to novel challenges. Incumbents need to discredit the challengers so that novel challenges can not take root and grow, by for example, dismissal, ridicule or isolation. Challengers on the other hand need novel approaches that they can use to discredit the incumbents, so that they may be displaced and replaced.

    This can be seen in its most naked and raw form in the world of corporate management. It was for this reason that my boss, a director of VW AG, would urge frequent job rotation, quoting the mantra “you may change your job after three years in the position, you should change your job after four years in the position and you must change your job after five years in the position”. You could call it the corporate version of term limits.

    1. Sounds as if you are saying the search for greater knowledge, understanding and “truth” by philosophers, over time, will be supplanted by the mundane dynamics of vested interest and corporate hierarchical practicality.

      As far as elected legislatures; there has always been that ambiguity or perhaps an ill-defined balance between faithful representation and independent leadership.

  3. It is interesting the Professor Imbrisevik brings up the scandals in philosophers behavior.

    This has been studied by Eric Schwitzgebel. See the paper “Do Ethicists Steal More Books?”, – http://www.faculty.ucr.edu/~eschwitz/SchwitzPapers/EthicsBooks081124.htm

    Abstract

    If explicit cognition about morality promotes moral behavior then one might expect ethics professors to behave particularly well. However, professional ethicists’ behavior has never been empirically studied. The present research examined the rates at which ethics books are missing from leading academic libraries, compared to other philosophy books similar in age and popularity. Study 1 found that relatively obscure, contemporary ethics books of the sort likely to be borrowed mainly by professors and advanced students of philosophy were actually about 50% more likely to be missing than non-ethics books. Study 2 found that classic (pre-1900) ethics books were about twice as likely to be missing.

    This does not compare philosophers with non-philosophers. I am prepared to bet that a similar study would show that philosophers compare very poorly with, for example, physicists. (I can already hear the howls of outrage).

      1. That was my first thought too, if there was an actual justification process along the lines of say “today’s textbooks are hideously overpriced, and revised and updated far more than is necessary” or “older classics can be easily and cheaply replaced or found online in the public domain”.

      2. Miroslav,
        Some philosophers might think that they may break the rules for various reasons
        Consequentialism has become the dominant, default style of ethical thinking. The great ‘merit‘ of consequentialism is that you can define the scope of the consequences to suit your desired outcome. This is normally done by examining only a restricted domain of consequences. It results in short term, local environment thinking that gives strong weighting to immediate pleasures.

      3. To be fare to Joad his legacy is marred by that incident which he brought on himself by boasting that he evaded paying on British Rail. Thereafter he was a marked man. A suitable hymn for his funeral service would have been a Marian one even though he was an Anglican:

        O Mother I could weep for mirth
        Joy fills my heart so fast
        My soul today is heav’n on earth
        Oh! Could the transport last.

        Seriously though his Guide to Philosophy is an excellent book for ‘the intelligent general reader’, succinct and not in the least dumbed down. He wrote well and achieved, what is rare in philosophical writing, clarity. archive.org has it along with scores of his other books.

        By the way, on the Judeo-Christian thing. Don’t they share the 10 Commandments? That suggests that there is more than a political contrivance to the hyphenation. I agree that there is an uneasy rapprochement between fulfillment and supercession.

        1. I too have and like Joad’s book. And I am sorry that it all ended so badly for him. I have always wondered whether he thought that the mundane rules (paying for your fare) did not apply to him – being an eminent philosopher.

        2. ombhurbhuva,
          To be fare to Joad …..

          I chortled with amusement when I recognised your pun.

    1. > I am prepared to bet that a similar study would show that philosophers compare very poorly with, for example, physicists.

      It’s relative.

  4. Thank you Peter. This confirms that the limits on holding the highest office (US President; also in Russia – until Putin changed it) make sense. Being in power for a long time rarely promotes the common good.

    1. Yet ironically that is what most politically engaged people in a democracy want, that their side rules without sufficient opposition to seriously hinder them. People who benefit most from working in a democracy, are working to, at least in practice, end the democracy. Lately I have been wondering why so much of our reality seems mired in paradoxes like this.

  5. I have never understood the opinion (with which Analytics especially hold, but which certainly goes back to Plato) that philosophers are somehow above human norms with all that entails. I have always greeted human ‘weaknesses’ in philosophers with amusement.

    Descartes and Hume were always trying to raise money from patrons. Kant was phobic about bedbugs. Hegel drank heavily. Schopenhauer’s misogyny, given his celibacy (and his dependence on female patrons) is actually somewhat charming (although his anti-Semitism isn’t, it never is). But the anti-Semitism of Western philosophers – Fichte, Frege, probably Heidegger – is a true embarrassment. Nietzsche’s attitude in the manner is somewhat questionable, but his early friends and his sister were virulent anti-Semites, and of course Nietzsche went mad and died from syphilis. Arendt’s affair with Heidegger actually makes me respect her all the more.

    Wittgenstein kept a diary record of his masturbations..

    British philosophers have suffered quite a number of sex-scandals. (Russell was banned for a time in America for advocating – and practicing – an ‘open marriage,’ and Ayre was punched out by Mike Tyson for hitting on Tyson’s girlfriend – talk about stupid philosophers!)). American philosophers have been more circumspect (or perhaps cover it up better?). Still, Peirce lived with a young French women years before marrying her, and Dewey, approaching 90, married a woman some 60 years younger. (His reply to his son, who wanted to know why, was essentially: well, why not?).

    We all know now that many gay pedophiles drifted into Catholic priesthood; but such errant behavior was long established in the Church. Popes continued fathering bastards well into the 18th century. One wonders if the
    ‘vow of chastity” wasn’t always really a kind of – ‘I’ll try, let’s see….” I mention that because Catholic theology *was* Western philosophy for nearly a thousand years. And the best of the theologians, Aquinas, loved to eat – a lot. Gluttony was a sin that he studied closely his whole life.

    If one views philosophy as a conversation and a literary genre, rather than a grand search for Truth or Rightness, one will be neither surprised nor disappointed in this. So your wisdom spewing uncle is a drunken lech when he’s not at the dinner table? So what, get over it. Philosophy is primarily about our aspirations, not about our achievements. If one wants science, read science. If one wants to know what we humans really are, read a good novel. For English language readers, I suggest Moby Dick or Tristram Shandy. Don Quixote or Rabelais would do just as well….

    1. I heard a different version of events between Alfred Ayer, Mike Tyson and Naomi Campbell – https://www.theweek.in/webworld/features/society/a-j-ayer-the-philosopher-who-supplanted-god-bested-mike-tyson-by-words.html :

      ‘Philosophers are not usually distinguished for themselves seeking to curtail the scope of their sphere of activity, being lucid or admitting they were mistaken. Nor are they known for stopping crimes being committed by force of argument. But philosophy’s wide realm always had exceptions, like this British thinker whose achievements include stopping Mike Tyson from forcing himself on Naomi Campbell.

      This was Sir Alfred Jules Ayer (1910-89), better known as A.J. Ayer. A visiting professor at a New York college in 1987, he was at a party held by fashion designer Fernando Sanchez, and chatting with a group of designers when a woman shouted that her friend was being assaulted in the bedroom. He went in and found Tyson harassing Campbell, who had just begun her career, and asked him to stop.

      As Tyson said: “Do you know who the f*** I am? I’m the heavyweight champion of the world,” Ayer retorted: “And I am the former Wykeham Professor of Logic. We are both pre-eminent in our field; I suggest that we talk about this like rational men.” As they argued, Campbell slipped out to safety.’

  6. It might be remarked, by believing Catholics, that my remarking Aquinas’ gluttony is a ‘dig’ intended to embarrass his legacy. In fact his gluttony is precisely why I love him. They want him to have delivered Truth and Rightness in carefully crafted syllogism, which he could do, if his fundamental premise – that “God exists” – weren’t fundamentally void (as Kant remarked). I want to hug him, to kiss his cheek, to hold hands and dance about the dinner table and listen to his sweet words about angels flying over his head. I want to walk with him, even as he trudges over the mountains to his eventually doom. Because we are all doomed, death awaits us all, the only benefit in this journey is the people we meet.

    I have met Thomas Aquinas. I am his lover. I don’t believe a word he says. But isn’t it wonderful to listen to him say it? What have you better to do before you die?

  7. I will second a point ejwinner makes, or make one in the vicinity. One will be surprised by the philosopher’s seemingly incongruous behavior only if one has a certain (mistaken) view of what it is to do philosophy or of what philosophical knowledge comes to. And the professionalization of philosophy and other humanities can only invite that mistake.

  8. Some borderline unpleasant negativity has surfaced in the comments, which is a pity because there is a real and very interesting issue to be addressed.

    The issue is this: why and how do trained ethicists(philosophers) tend to behave so badly? Both EJ and Miroslev listed some examples. Does this typify the profession or are they merely attention getting outliers?

    Eric Schwitzgebel’s implicit assumption is that somehow trained ethicists should know better and therefore should do better. But is this true, or are ethicists as human as the rest of us, bumbling through life and making some bad ethical mistakes along the way, just as we do?

    When I attended Mass this morning it struck me that the very first part of Mass is to confess our wrongs and to ask for forgiveness and cleansing. Then we can approach that sacred moment of Holy Communion with a cleansed soul. This was followed by a homily that preached love, forgiveness and tolerance.

    As I worshipped in awe at the beauty, majesty and love of God I slipped into a reverie, asking myself what was really going on here. We all know what is the right thing to do and we all know we should do it. But we fail in this with distressing frequency. Now, as it turns out, philosophers are trained in this subject, and know even better than we do. But even so, they fail just as frequently as we do, perhaps more frequently, as Eric Schwitzgebel seems to think.

    The root of the problem is this – knowledge of what we should do is not sufficient to motivate us to do what we should do. That is because circumstances, needs and desires can weigh more heavily in the balance. Society, over many millennia, evolved a mechanism to correct, however imperfectly, this imbalance. That mechanism is called religion. Discard the problem of whether or not God really exists and consider this only as an evolved and very durable, long lived societal mechanism for regulating ethical behaviour. It has by slow accretion, acquired many other characteristics, but it remains at heart society’s evolutionary, though imperfect, response to the problem of ethical conduct.

    But why was this necessary? James Rest, with his four component model of ethical behaviour put his finger on the heart of the matter.

    Moral behaviour is the outcome of four stages

    1) Moral sensitivity
    Moral sensitivity focuses on the ability to identify and discern problematic situations with ethical dimensions.
    2) Moral judgement

    Moral judgment requires the person move beyond recognizing that ethical dimensions are present in a given situation to explore which line of action is morally justified.

    3) Moral motivation and commitment
    Moral motivation and commitment involves prioritization of values – moral values are prioritized over other personal values.

    4) Moral character and competence
    Moral character and competence acknowledges that sensitivity, judgment and prioritization of moral values must lead to moral character and competence, or moral behavior will fail.

    Moral character and competence is “having the strength of your convictions, having courage, persisting, overcoming distractions and obstacles, having implementing skills, and having ego strength”

    Moral knowledge is the necessary foundation of these four components and ethicists, by training, have that necessary knowledge. But moral knowledge, as ethicists have so readily demonstrated, is not sufficient. On top of moral knowledge we must create moral sensitivity, we must inculcate moral judgement, we must creat moral motivation and commitment, finally building moral character and competence.

    Training in ethical philosophy does not even attempt to achieve these four things and so it is a singularly barren field.

    But it does not end there, there is a fifth component as Dan Ariely has shown in his reasearch, and that is moral priming. Repeated moral priming is necessary to sustain the lifeblood of moral sensitivity, judgement, motivation, commitment, character and competence. Without regular moral priming it atrophies in the face of our compelling needs and desires.

    And that, I realized, was what was happening to me at Mass this morning, I was being subjected to moral priming. I am grateful for it.

  9. I never expected philosophers to be better people in the sense of being more compassionate, more caring or more socially responsible.

    However, what surprised me as I got to know more philosophers from frequenting philosophy blogs in the last 15 years (I only had one introductory philosophy course in the university) is that they are often not especially open to new ideas, to dialogue with others about them, to reconsider their previous ideological commitments, to see both or all sides of an issue or question, etc. The dogmaticism and even ideological fanaticism of many philosophers really was a shock to me.

  10. they are often not especially open to new ideas, to dialogue with others about them, to reconsider their previous ideological commitments, to see both or all sides of an issue or question, etc. The dogmaticism and even ideological fanaticism of many philosophers really was a shock to me.

    I wonder why that is? Have we all become that way or is the discipline, for some structural reasons, particularly vulnerable?

    1. I suspect it is due to selection bias. I.e. the sorts of people more likely to go into philosophy. It seems that among this group there is a somewhat high rate of mental illness, personality disorder, and self-importance/self-righteousness.

  11. I suspect it is due to selection bias
    Yes, that makes sense. One sees it everywhere. For example, many studies conclude that runners, as a group, are more healthy. But there is a strong selection bias for healthy people as entrants to the running community, making the conclusion inevitable.

    1. Here’s a theory.

      Philosophy attracts people who have more than an average need to win arguments, to be right.

      Some of those people are so good at arguing that they can be ladies and gentlemen when they argue because they’re going to win almost all arguments. For example, someone like Bernard Williams. He was so good at the game that he’d always be graceful at it.

      Some people who have the same need to win arguments aren’t really all that exceptional at the art of argument so they gang up with others against those who have other points of view, they shout down others like red guards during the Chinese cultural revolution, they accuse others of whatever sins are fashionably considered sins these days, they
      disqualifiy others because they’re “privileged” or male or cis or reactionary or communists or whatever. Since they really never win an argument, they are insecure (deep in their hearts they realize that they didn’t really win) and thus, ever more ferocious in the defense of their ideologies because they need to win arguments.

      Lots of people fall in between the two extremes of course. And there are lots of people who just don’t need to win arguments all that much to feel good about themselves.

  12. I wonder if a contributing factor is not also a combination of anomie and ennui.

  13. Miroslav,
    Peter, I think Habermas would agree with you. See section 4:

    That was a fascinating reference. He says

    For the normative self-understanding of modernity, Christianity has functioned as more than just a precursor or catalyst. Universalistic egalitarianism, from which sprang the ideals of freedom and a collective life in solidarity, the autonomous conduct of life and emancipation, the individual morality of conscience, human rights and democracy, is the direct legacy of the Judaic ethic of justice and the Christian ethic of love.

    This legacy, substantially unchanged, has been the object of a continual critical reappropriation and reinterpretation. Up to this very day there is no alternative to it. And in light of the current challenges of a post-national constellation, we must draw sustenance now, as in the past, from this substance. Everything else is idle postmodern talk

    From the Wikpedia article

    Though, in the first period of his career, he began as a skeptic of any social usefulness of religion, he now believes there is a social role and utilitarian moral strength in religion, and notably, that there is a necessity of Judeochristian ethics in culture.[56]

    In addition, Habermas has popularized the concept of “post-secular” society, to refer to current times in which the idea of modernity is perceived as unsuccessful and at times, morally failed, so that, rather than a stratification or separation, a new peaceful dialogue and coexistence between faith and reason must be sought in order to learn mutually.

    Except I don’t agree that a “post-secular” society has yet arrived. We are still stuck in the moral failures of modernity.

    Also I don’t agree that
    a new peaceful dialogue and coexistence between faith and reason must be sought in order to learn mutually
    since faith, properly understood, is eminently reasonable.

    I am impressed that he concedes
    there is a necessity of Judeochristian ethics in culture.
    After all, what other source is there that will resonate in Western cultures?

    1. There is no such thing as Judeo-Christian ethics. The two religions have deep and substantial disagreements on fundamental matters of ethics.

      And the idea that it is in some way necessary for morality is just fallacious and has been known to be for quite some time.

      Probably the best demonstration of this is in the very polite but devastating drubbing Shelly Kagan gave to William Lane Craig on the subject.

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rm2wShHJ2iA

      1. Considering the considerable eminence of Juergen Habermas as a thinker I will take his word for it. If you wish to persuade me otherwise you will have to offer a rather more persuasive argument than ‘is just fallacious ‘.

        1. I’m not trying to persuade you. Just adding my two cents. And the arguments Kagan makes are more than sufficient to demonstrate the point

      2. > There is no such thing as Judeo-Christian ethics. The two religions have deep and substantial disagreements on fundamental matters of ethics.

        Toda. And not just ethics. Everytime I see the phrase ‘Judeo-Christian x’, I want to krechts.

        1. I would question whether there is such a thing as Christian ethics. There is a pretty big chasm between Catholics and Liberals who emphasize the Social Gospel, and Evangelicals who work from a very idiosyncratic definition of ethics.One of the reasons I think believer/non/believer debates on ethics usually go nowhere is there are operating from those two different sets of ethics. For evangelicals the definition of an ethical person is being a Christian. I am not saying that derisively. For them ethics means adhering to the will of God, and what God wants more than anything is for us to be reconciled to him so we may join him in heaven, and the only way this can happen is through a relationship with his son Jesus. Being a born-again Christian is thus both a necessary and sufficient condition for being an ethical person.

    2. Peter: It was Wikipedia that used the term “Judeochristian”. Your quote from Habermas implies two very different ethics, one Jewish (justice) and one Christian (love).

      Alan

      1. Alan,
        your quote from Habermas implies two very different ethics, one Jewish (justice) and one Christian (love).

        I would say instead that the Christian ethic extends and enlarges upon the core Jewish ethic, bringing in new elements. But they share the same foundation. In any case Christianity is a Jewish religion, see my reply to Dan, below.

        1. I’m Jewish myself, although do not practice the religion and I believe that there are basic differences between the two ethical systems.

          First of all, no society will function if murder and dishonesty are permitted, so there are certain principles that I would imagine are found in every ethical system, be it European or non-European.

          In the gospels Jesus says that someone who commits adultery in his or her heart has committed adultery. That is a very revolutionary step and has nothing to do with Jewish ethics. Jewish ethics, as I understand it (Dan knows more about this than I do), has no concept of sinful thought or desires while Christianity does.

          It is no accident that Freud is a Jew because for Freud there are no sinful thoughts or desires, all our thoughts and desires, be they conscious or unconscious, from committing adultery to murdering our parents are natural.

          Now there is a huge difference between acknowledging and accepting our murderous and lustful desires and thoughts and acting on them.

          1. This is just one of many fundamental differences. The two are as different as they are similar. Indeed, Judaism and Islam are more alike than either are to Christianity, which among the Abrahamic religions is the outlier … and also the most successful.

  14. I quit graduate school in Philosophy after I realized that the Professor who specialized in a certain ethical theory I was interested in was a vain unethical person. At the time I just thought I was having a mid-life crisis, and its only looking back that I realize why I lost inspiration. Philosophers happen to have expertise on the philosophy of morality, but they are no better than anyone else at acting morally and making good moral judgements. Morality is so basic, and so primary that any competent adult knows the moral rules and knows how to make moral judgements. The question of what morality is, is another matter, and it continues to be the subject of much controversy. And as if to make it even worse there is a whole codification of this controversy called – “Meta-ethics”.

    1. I think this is essentially correct. Ethics would not be the search for certain first principles of proper behavior, but how and when to apply those principles that are pretty much are already in place from the mere existence of a society. I would imagine a lot of morality predated anyone’s attempt to think seriously about it. It might be easy for a lot of philosophers to look at most personal morality questions not as “is it wrong to lie”, but “what do you say when the Nazi’s come looking for Anne Frank?’ Kant may give us one answer, and Mill the opposite answer, but both would still agree lying as a first principle isn’t a moral good, and yet my interpretation of it in this case is the morally correct action.

  15. Dan,
    There is no such thing as Judeo-Christian ethics.

    I would like to say this politely but it is not sufficient in this case. This is just plainly wrong.

    Jesus Christ is a Jew. The Apostles were all Jews. Christianity is a Jewish religion. Christianity is the Jewish nation’s most important single product and export. It is based on the same holy book, the Old Testament, supplemented by a later Jewish addition, the New Testament. The New Testament was written by Jews, for Jews, in the first instance. Christianity is thoroughly and completely a Jewish product that has utterly transformed Western culture. It is for this reason that well read Christians are intimately familiar with Jewish geography and Jewish ancient history. It is for this reason that the Old Testament has become one of the two most studied books in world history.

    Every day I pray the Liturgy of the Hours. This is a direct descendant of Jewish practices.

    Early Christians were in fact continuing the Jewish practice of reciting prayers at certain hours of the day or night. In the Psalms are found expressions like “in the morning I offer you my prayer”;[12] “At midnight I will rise and thank you”;[13] “Evening, morning and at noon I will cry and lament”; “Seven times a day I praise you”. The Apostles observed the Jewish custom of praying at the third, sixth, and ninth hours, and at midnight (Acts 10:3, 9; 16:25; etc.).

    The Christian prayer of that time consisted of almost the same elements as the Jewish: recital or chanting of psalms and reading of the Old Testament, to which were soon added readings of the Gospels, Acts, and epistles, and canticles.[14] Other elements were added later in the course of the centuries.

    The central component of the Liturgy of the Hours are the Psalms. You may have heard of them[!], some of the most beautiful songs of the Old Testament. I read them every day. Every day I read other portions of the Old Testament. It is possible that I am nearly as familiar with the Old Testament as you are, though you are a scholar and I am not.

    The plain, inescapable fact of the matter is that Christianity is a Jewish religion and therefore the term Judeo-Christian ethics is an accurate statement of fact.

    It is for this reason that the term Judeo-Christian is in such widespread use. Your denial is incomprehensible.

    1. That’s what I’ve thought for years too. If it wasn’t for the Romans destroying Jerusalem there might still be a Jewish Christian sect that traces their lineage back to Jesus and his brother James. Although you have to admit the Eucharist is definitely not a Jewish rite, more like something from the mystery religions.

      1. The doctrines of the Fall and Divine Grace are what make the two truly incompatible. Completely transforms the basic conception of morality and virtue.

  16. Of course the two Jewish religions have since diverged, following different trajectories and we recognise this fact of their common origin and common elements by using the term Judeo-Christian instead of just Judaic.

  17. I think it is worth noting that when I point out the essential Jewishness of Christianity I do it with pride and great admiration for the Jewish people. This tiny little nation has transformed the world in a wholly unprecedented way. Their achievements are quite remarkable and the nation of Israel deserves our whole hearted and enthusiastic support in these difficult times. We simply cannot allow that such an extraordinary nation be destroyed by the barbaric forces they face.

    1. Interesting statement about “This tiny little nation has transformed the world…”. I hope you don’t approve of everything that Israel has done and see they have also done/do some things that are not exactly laudatory as well. Just like the USA. Some observers figure the force that will do the in is themselves. Again, much like the possibility for liberal democracy surviving in the USA. Now don’t get the idea I approve of Hamas now because I don’t. I am just saying.

      1. Henry,
        Interesting statement about “This tiny little nation has transformed the world…”. I hope you don’t approve of everything that Israel has done and see they have also done/do some things that are not exactly laudatory as well.

        Agreed. But the remarkable contributions of Jewry to the world are a plain and indisputable fact that deserve recognition. Their great suffering also deserves remorseful recognition. The existential threat they face deserves deep concern. The implacable hatred of their neighbours must be taken into account. And misconduct should be condemned, where ever it manifests. And it should be recognised that the misconduct of one side is a small fraction of the misconduct on the other side. So what I am calling for is a nuanced and contextual understanding that is not thinly veiled anti-Semitism.

        1. This is a sensitive conversation that is very much off-topic so we should not continue it here. We should be satisfied with the classic debate pattern of 1) assertion; 2) rebuttal; 3) reply to the rebuttal. We have done this.

          1. No worries. I am complete. Just wanted to know you recognize the situation is complex, rife with bad options and fraught with no solution likely to happen on the horizon. I am no expert in this area to be sure.

  18. Dan,
    The idea that it is in some way necessary for morality is just fallacious. Probably the best demonstration of this is in the very polite but devastating drubbing Shelly Kagan gave to William Lane Craig on the subject.” (Is God Necessary for Morality? was the title)

    I really don’t agree at all with your characterization. It is quite apparent that WLC has the better arguments. But in any case your remark is a complete non-sequitur. You see, we are not talking about the existence of God or his necessity for ethical behaviour. Here is what I actually said:

    Society, over many millennia, evolved a mechanism to correct, however imperfectly, this imbalance. That mechanism is called religion. Discard the problem of whether or not God really exists and consider this only as an evolved and very durable, long lived societal mechanism for regulating ethical behaviour. It has by slow accretion, acquired many other characteristics, but it remains at heart society’s evolutionary, though imperfect, response to the problem of ethical conduct.

    Do you see the difference? You are imputing a statement to me that I never made. Read instead the statement I acually made. Miroslav noted that Habermas was saying something quite similar to my statement. He understood what I was really saying.

    Here it is worth noting that good commentary should “quote the actual remarks” being referred to and then confine the response strictly to what was said. That keeps the discussion accurate, relevant and on target.

    One commentator tends to ignore this rule and embarks on the occasionally massive Gish Gallop. I just ignore it and the poor abused pony stumbles to a stop.

  19. Miroslav said
    his students would joke that it was actually Popper who was the greatest enemy of the open society, because he would not tolerate any dissent from his students.

    An important thrust in Miroslav’s essay was the strong tendency for senior academics to shutdown, suppress, silence, put-down, or discourage dissenting opinions.

    So it was with considerable amusement that I recognised the irony of Dan’s put-down when he said
    the idea that it is in some way necessary for morality is just fallacious and has been known to be for quite some time.

  20. SW said
    In the gospels Jesus says that someone who commits adultery in his or her heart has committed adultery. That is a very revolutionary step and has nothing to do with Jewish ethics

    And yet, on the other hand that most Jewish collection, the Psalms, says this, in Psalm 139

    23 Search me, O God, and know my heart!
    Try me and know my thoughts!
    24 And see if there be any grievous way in me,
    and lead me in the way everlasting!

    But that is not all. The opening four verses say:

    O Lord, you have searched me and known me!
    2 You know when I sit down and when I rise up;
    you discern my thoughts from afar.
    3 You search out my path and my lying down
    and are acquainted with all my ways.
    4 Even before a word is on my tongue,
    behold, O Lord, you know it altogether.

    It seems that the concept of God knowing my thoughts is not so foreign to Judaism after all.

    1. Judaism is the rabbinical tradition as well as the scripture. Indeed, you cannot correctly read the Tanakh in the absence of the rabbinical literature. Or in translation. That’s only one of numerous problems with Christian readings of the text.

      1. Dan,
        The words are exceedingly clear and explicit:

        23 Search me, O God, and know my heart!
        Try me and know my thoughts!
        24 And see if there be any grievous way in me,

        You don’t like them because they are a contradiction of your claims.

        1. The only way you can dodge the really clear import of those words is if you consider this line

          23 Search me, O God, and know my heart!

          as an invitation to God to enter your mind, failing which God does not enter your mind. But that fails because verse 1 says this

          1 O Lord, you have searched me and known me!

          1. Peter Smith,

            As Dan says above, Judaism, as I learned it in Hebrew school, does not consideer thoughts to be sinful. Now you can claim that the rabbis misread or selectively read the Old Testament, but I take Judaism to be what the rabbis say it is now, not what you think it should be according to your reading of the Old Testament.

          2. General rule of thumb. Those who actually created a thing and used it first probably have a better idea of it than those who appropriate it later. The Tannaim and Amoraim are the direct descendants of the Pharisees, whom the NT, of course, is devoted to villainizing. To the extent that Christianity is partly a development out of Judaism — though in my view, it owes much more to its Greek inheritance — it is one that stems from a hostile, counter-sub-culture within mainline Judaism that very quickly broke off and became an independent and in many ways, contrary thing of its own.

        2. Just drive home my point, here are many similar quotations from the Old Testament with a similar import:

          Job 31:6
          let God weigh me with honest scales, that He may know my integrity.

          Psalm 7:9
          Put an end to the evil of the wicked, but establish the righteous, O righteous God who searches hearts and minds.

          Psalm 19:12
          Who can discern his own errors? Cleanse me from my hidden faults.

          Psalm 26:2
          Test me, O LORD, and try me; examine my heart and mind.

          Proverbs 17:3
          A crucible for silver and a furnace for gold, but the LORD is the tester of hearts.

          Jeremiah 11:20
          O LORD of Hosts, who judges righteously, who examines the heart and mind, let me see Your vengeance upon them, for to You I have committed my cause.

          Jeremiah 17:10
          I, the LORD, search the heart; I examine the mind to reward a man according to his way, by what his deeds deserve.

          Jeremiah 20:12
          O LORD of Hosts, who examines the righteous, who sees the heart and mind, let me see Your vengeance upon them, for to You I have committed my cause.

          I really don’t see how you can evade the import of so many confirming instances of what is said in Psalm 139.

        1. This is good and enjoyable comedy that plays well to Jewish prejudice but it really does not address my argument in any substantive way. And you have also failed to make a substantive reply to my argument other than claiming, quite bluntly, we know better. If, as is the central theme of Miroslav’s post, you are trying another put-down, then this is an amusing one and humour goes a long way to sweeten a bitter pill.

          But still, I would like a proper, informed argument, and not a put-down.

      2. > Judaism is the rabbinical tradition as well as the scripture.

        You completely understate the case. What Christians don’t understand is that for the last ~1500 years, the Old Testament (the Tanakh) has been understood by Jews *ONLY* through the prism of the Rabbis. Orthodox Jewish belief holds that not only was the written law, ie The old Testament, given to Moses at Mt. Sinai, but so was the ‘oral law’, ie what would become the Talmud. Indeed, for Orthodox Jews, this is exactly what distinguishes Jews from Christians. And it is the rabbinic tradition (starting with the Talmud) that often elucidates the Old Testament’s real meaning.

        For example: for more than the last 5 centuries whenever a Jewish child would study chumash (the five books of Moses) he would do so in the following manner: one verse of the Hebrew text, immediately followed by one verse of the Medieval French commentator Rash’s (11th century) commentary on that text. It is Rashi’s (and sometime other Rabbinical commentators as well) understanding of the text that mattered. No religiously observant Jew would study the Old Testament without rabbinical commentary.

        If you you go into any yeshiva (Jewish religious academy), you will see the adolescents studying almost exclusively one thing — the Talmud (mostly the Babylonian Talmud, but sometimes the Jerusalem Talmud as well); it is easily considered the ‘crown jewel’ of the Jewish religious canon.

        Judaism, as its been practiced and understood for the last 1500 years (with the exception of two small communities; I also don’t include Reform Judaism, since it’s a relatively new phenomenon) is not a Biblical religion, it is a rabbinical one: this point can not be emphasized enough.

        This is why when Christians talk about the Old Testament, I feel some quite kind of ‘culture shock’: their religion’s understanding of the text may have absolutely nothing to do with my religion’s understanding of the very same text.

        1. Christians for the most part entirely fail to understand the religion that they claim as their heritage, as well as its canonical texts.

          1. Dan,

            Why don’t you write an essay explaining Judaism for non-Jews?

            It well might become a classic.

            Christians seem to assume that since Judaism is considered a “religion” along with Christianity, it’s basically the same but with different doctrines. But it’s not the same thing at all. It’s really a unique phenomenon.

            Actually, maybe each major religion is a unique phenomenon. Buddhism isn’t at all the same thing as Christianity, but with different doctrines. There’s a Christiancentric view of what a religion is.

          2. Even if it would not deter the most persistent self-proclaimed experts on the Jewish question, it could enlighten lots of other readers who have never had the chance to read a short, concise essay on the topic.

            I can see that you know a lot about the subject, much more than I do.

      1. I don’t know why you get so worked up about the jewish origins of christianity. It started as a jewish sect and later diverged on many points, but it still started as a jewish sect. Later, other sects were formed within christianity and split off or tried to do so: the cathars, the orthodox church, the protestants (who split themselves in an uncountable number of different “christian” denominations) etc. etc.

        It’s what abrahamic religions do, I suppose.

        I understand that for the jews, christianity went astray – perhaps straight from the beginning – and isn’t jewish or not jewish anymore, but I suppose the same is true in the other direction. I suppose christians consider themselves the true heirs of what they call the old testament(*) and think the jews went astray.

        I’m not a biblical scholar, but I suspect that the supposed unity that defines the jewish religion as something relatively unified, is at least in part a christian invention, forced upon the jews through the many persecutions that took place (“each time you’ve forgotten you’re a jew, there’s always a gentile that reminds you”). It’s what persecutions tend to do, and I wouldn’t surprised if the early christians got their sense of identity partly from the persecutions they suffered.

        But is that jewish unity real? I doubt it. I wouldn’t be surprised if rabbinistical school A is convinced that rabbinistical school B gets it wrong, that reform jews are not “really” jews, only ethnically jewish, etc.

        In that sense, I share your misgivings about the expression “judeo-christian”. The underlying historical realities (for jews and christians) are too diverse to be collected in one denominator. What christianity are we talking about? The one that persecuted jews? Or the one that was dominant in the late middle ages, but was kept at an arm’s length by the authorities when regulating life in the cities of the duchy of Brabant? It’s a useless expression, perhaps even worse than “western civilization”.

        (*) Christians obviously disagree about the *meaning* of the old testament. Some christians think it’s the literal truth, others don’t. I really should have written that every christian denomination, sect etc. thinks it is the true heir of the old testament.

        By the way – and this is totally off-topic – there’s something you wrote in an earlier discussion on Electric Agora that surprised me. You wrote that the christians misinterpreted the story about Adam and Eve and the Serpent, and that they should have listened to the opinion of the jews that wrote it. That’s not how religions deal with stories. It’s well-known that the flood in genesis has many similarities with parts of the (older) epic of Gilgamesh. Did the authors of genesis ask the mesopotamians how the flood should be interpreted? I don’t think so. They took the parts they needed for their narrative and made it their own. It’s what religions do.

        1. You guys don’t get Judaism. Why don’t you listen to what Dan says?

          No, the Orthodox Jews do not consider Reform Jews not Jews because being a Jew has nothing to do with doctrine.

          In 1973 due to the oil shock I was jobless and penniless. After wearing out my welcome crashing on the floor in the house of friends, someone suggested I talk to the Chabad orthodox Jews because they would let me crash in their center.

          I talked to the rabbi. I explained that I had been raised as a Reform Jew and was currently an atheist. He couldn’t have cared less. I crashed in the basement of their center with my sleeping bag along with an Israeli tourist who was equally as non-believing as me. They woke us up early every morning for the rites, which being performed totally in Hebrew I didn’t understand much, but they didn’t care at all about that. For them I was a Jew because my mother is Jewish.

          From time to time I chatted with the rabbi and his only interest was finding me a job. He had zero interest in converting me or convincing me of the truth of his version of Judaism.

  21. Apologies to Miroslav for all this thread-hijacking. We should all return to discussing the essay, the relevance of this conversation to which is zero.

    For those who are interested in where my views on these matters come from, beyond my degree in Ancient Near Eastern history — in which I specialized in the Second Temple period and wrote an honors thesis on the sectarian period of Judaism from which Christianity comes — I have been very influenced by Leo Baeck’s magnificent “Judaism and Christianity.” https://www.amazon.com/Judaism-Christianity-Essays-Leo-Baeck/dp/B0007DFGW2

  22. Miroslav,
    I enrolled as a philosophy student at the Johannes-Gutenberg-Universität in Mainz.

    This is interesting. You must have been exposed to a very German take on philosophy. No wonder you are familiar with Habermas. My question: is there any significant difference of emphasis or content between the German practice of philosophy and the English/American practice of philosophy?

  23. Peter, I suspect there has always been some European homogeneity going back to the middle ages. For example, in the US the title ‘Professor’ is used very loosely, whereas in central Europe you had to spend at least 10 years writing a ‘professorial thesis’ (a step up from a PhD), before you became a ‘Privatdozent’ (private lecturer) and then you had to wait for a ‘call’ to a ‘chair’ at a university. Only then would you be a ‘Professor’. Some waited and never got the ‘call’. You would consider some of it to be quaint: in 1977 I could have submitted a PhD thesis in German or in Latin – I suspect that they have done away with the Latin submissions now. A striking difference is that we wouldn’t look at recent philosophical trends. I think the idea was that you would give new trends in philosophy time to develop and see whether they survived or disappeared. For us in Mainz philosophy stopped at Nietzsche. There was nothing more recent than that. There were very few contemporary philosophers on offer (one exception was a seminar on J.L. Austin). That’s why we used to take the train to Frankfurt and attended lectures by the critical theorists. By now there has been a lot of adaptation to the Anglo-American system in the whole of the European Union. For example the degree system: a BA is now the undergraduate degree. My first degree was a ‘Staatsexamen’ (state exam). Another difference: I could enrol at 18 to do a PhD (which I did – full of confidence in my abilities), rather than a lower degree. So my first and only degree would have been a PhD. That is not possible anymore. There is now a much greater influence of Anglo-American philosophy in Germany and more willingness to consider more recent branches in philosophy. The big difference was: let’s stick with the tried and tested and leave any new stuff time to develop.

    1. Miroslav,
      thanks that was fascinating.

      I suspect there has always been some European homogeneity going back to the middle ages

      Not as much as you might think. For one large project I was tasked with introducing a CAD system at my local company. I concluded that the IBM/Dessault system, Catia, was the best fit for our needs. Now it turned out that Audi-Ingolstadt were leaders in its use. I duly went there to get advice and help. The manager in charge, strangely, was an Italian, one Dr B. But when I found his office the door nameplate said Do. B. German industry is completely nuts about PhD titles so I was surprised by the Italian rendition and asked Dr B for the reason. Oh, he said, Germans sneer at Italian degrees and so insisted he use the Italian title rather than the German title, since it must be inferior. I have worked with Germans for a long time so I was not entirely surprised. But Dr B really knew his stuff and he was of invaluable assistance to me in getting our project up and running, successfully and on time. And in any case, for the Germans to appoint an Italian to a key position he must have been absolutely first class.

  24. Miroslav,
    you had to spend at least 10 years writing a ‘professorial thesis’ (a step up from a PhD), before you became a ‘Privatdozent’ (private lecturer) and then you had to wait for a ‘call’ to a ‘chair’ at a university.

    Yes, I had heard that the selection criteria and process are extremely rigorous and demanding. But for all that, is their academic output in any way superior to the more easy going Anglos?

    1. I don’t think there is much difference in philosophical ability. On academic titles: Austrians insist on being addressed as ‘Herrr/Frau Magister’ if they have an MA. I think the Italians are very relaxed about ‘Dottore’ – anyone with a university degree can be called that.

  25. Lapses in moral judgement, even by philosophers, probably represent more the difficulty of keeping certain principles in our consciousness on a minute to minute basis rather than actually embracing what we consider bad, especially when there is significant gain to be made from it. We can know that we should stick to our whole food diet, but unless we manage to keep the importance and preparation for the diet foremost in our minds at all times, that package of Suzy Q’s that are just a walk down the hall to the vending machine away are going to be too enticing if we let our guards down for a second. All the examples in Professor Imbrisevic’s article follow those lines. The philosophers there had the pretty coed in front of him; the prominence of being the expert in the room you should just shut up and listen to; and the chance to virtue signal their moral superiority. The immediate gain was too intoxicating, and the moral principle too far back in their minds to do the right thing.

    1. Rage,

      Lapses in moral judgement, even by philosophers, probably represent more the difficulty of keeping certain principles in our consciousness on a minute to minute basis

      This is really interesting insight. It is similar to Miller’s Law

      The observation, also by George A. Miller, published in 1956 in Psychological Review, that the number of objects an average person can hold in working memory is about seven,[4] also known as The Magical Number Seven, Plus or Minus Two.[5][6][7]

      “The Magical Number Seven, Plus or Minus Two: Some Limits on Our Capacity for Processing Information” is one of the most highly cited papers in psychology. It was written by the cognitive psychologist George A. Miller of Harvard University’s Department of Psychology and published in 1956

      See also http://psychclassics.yorku.ca/Miller/

      This is further complicated by the fact that needs and desires alter the placement of the seven items on the stage that makes up the foreground of our consciousness. Need and desires bring them to the front of the stage, occupying our attention, while displacing ‘oughts‘ to the back of the stage, if they are even present on the stage. This increases the likelihood that need and desires will be satisfied first and the ‘oughts‘ will be ignored.

      And then we have the bizarre idea, which surfaces again and again in these pages, that it is permissible to entertain unethical thoughts. Some have gone so far as openly arguing for the permissibility of repugnant thoughts. This has two effects. 1) it normalizes them in our own minds, bleaching their ethical content and 2) crowds ‘oughts‘, if there are any left, to the back of Miller’s stage of 7 where they fall off the stage into the dusty storage area of discarded props.

      This is where James Rest’s four component model of ethical behaviour makes so much sense. It is not knowledge that makes for ethical behaviour but the more complicated process described by James Rest. As I said earlier, on top of moral knowledge we must create moral sensitivity, we must inculcate moral judgement, we must create moral motivation and commitment, finally building moral character and competence. And then this must be kept alive by repeated moral priming.

      This is not a process that takes place by reading ethics textbooks, which explains a lot. It is instead a societal process and it is this process that needs our attention.

      1. Peter Smith:
        What you are saying is perfectly true and is common to all the wisdom traditions. The rule of action is ‘from the subtle to the gross’. Which is why people like making lists. The list has it own power to motivate. A woman moved into an apartment. In one of the rooms there was a dead rat on the floor. She made a list. #1: remove rat.

        H.G. Wells testing the power of thought spent his morning thinking of rapine and plunder. His cat, he was a cat man, normally affectionate in the self-serving ways of cats, ran from him. This is an anecdote of course and it also has been noticed that cats will jump on the laps of those who can’t stand cats. To test their resolve.

        Meditate on the one, the true and the good and think happy thoughts.

  26. We are all sinners (the Christian view), and most of us don’t claim to have expert knowledge about ethics. But when somebody doesn’t practice what they preach day in day out (Jim Bakker), then we see them as hypocrites. A good deal of philosophers teach ethics or related areas (political philosophy, legal philosophy). They think and teach about right and wrong all the time. Your average philosopher knows that if there is a power imbalance between two people, then any transaction which follows between them needs thorough scrutiny. Of course, they could fool themselves into believing that ‘sex for grades’ is not wrong in itself, but, because of the power imbalance, such a ‘transaction’ is likely to be coercive and/or non-consensual.

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