Two Liberalisms: Locke vs Mill

The division in the Enlightenment between Rousseau and Hobbes is so famous it's practically a cliché at this point. Is human nature fundamentally good, or fundamentally bad? Is society a super-organism with a sovereign head, or a collection of self-interested agents, who need to be threatened to stay in line? Those debates will continue ad nauseam, I am sure. That's not what I mean by the title of this post. Rather, I want to explore the distinction between Locke and Mill.

Ayn Rand, Aristotle, and Modern Moral Philosophy

Ayn Rand's visceral hatred for religion is something she shares with modern "humanist" philosophers, and because of this, the only objection the Humanists can offer up against Ayn Rand, is the shameless appeal to collectivist utilitarian concerns, or our natural revulsion to "selfishness". Even Ayn Rand recognized this herself, which is why she titled her essay, "The Virtue of Selfishness". She was trolling the Humanists.

Rawls, Justice, And Metaphysics

In Political Liberalism, Rawls argues against his critics, insisting that the original position was merely a thought experiment meant to aid in the intuitive realization of the principles of justice according to a uniform standard of fairness. This essay will briefly summarize the original position (and the veil of ignorance that completes it), explain the metaphysical view of the self the critics imply, and conclude by disagreeing with the critics, but wondering what Rawls is up to, if its not metaphysical.

Plato Versus Aristotle – Two Routes To The Same Good

Plato and Aristotle were very different thinkers. They came at the same fundamental philosophical problems from radically different directions. Rafael nicely characterized this in his famous "School of Athens" painting - Plato, ever the tutor, sternly pointing to the sky; Aristotle, the indignant pupil, gesturing reflexively toward the earth. But this image is somewhat deceiving. … Continue reading Plato Versus Aristotle – Two Routes To The Same Good

Libertarians, Your Metaphysics Matters!

The new Libertarians are still trying to push the Enlightenment principle of self-governance (individual sovereignty) as far over as it will go, without collapsing into anarchism. But they've divorced themselves from the ground that made self-governance possible in the first place: a commitment to virtue. That commitment can come from religion, or a shared set of philosophically derived metaphysical commitments. But the end result is an individual that has a commitment to the good life, as a life lived in the pursuit of excellence (and, arguably, measured against the transcendent values of truth, goodness, and beauty). Single mothers, whoring themselves out in order to pay for their 15 year old daughters' birth control pills is about as far from that ideal, as you can get. And that is what the Libertarian needs to grapple with.

The Declaration of Independence. Part 3: A Long Train Of Abuses

Prudence, indeed, will dictate that governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and, accordingly, all experience has shown, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But, when a long train of abuses and … Continue reading The Declaration of Independence. Part 3: A Long Train Of Abuses

The Declaration of Independence. Part 2: Self-Evident Truths

This is, of course, the passage that everyone is (more or less) familiar with -- at least the first sentence. In the United States, the first sentence has been crystalized into a kind of religious creed, similar in tone and meter to opening lines of the Apostle's Creed: "We believe in one God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth…", and so forth. But Jefferson had philosophical notions in mind when he wrote this, however pious he may (or may not) have been.