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Category: ethics

Ruminations on Justice in Plato and Aristotle

If you think that there is not merely an order to the universe to be discerned by man, but a correct order, that must be understood to be obeyed (in the sense of conformity to what is best, not in the sense of submission to a rule), then justice becomes a highly relevant topic. Indeed, it is elevated to the level of a cornerstone concept in the organization of any good society. Plato and Aristotle were systematic thinkers. This means, they tried to build a complete philosophy in which every part coherently fits into every other part. Thus, justice must make metaphysical sense, as much as it does moral and political sense. For both Plato and Aristotle, that means reconciling both their metaphysical, and their moral and political notions, with the challenge of Parmenides.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Facts, Values, Rights, and The Human Animal

The human animal is thought by some to have a “divine spark” in him. What is this? I don’t mean, in a metaphysical or definitional sense. I mean, what do humans do, what capacity do they have, what power are they endowed with, that sets them apart from the other animals so much so that they are thought to have this spark? Why on earth would anyone say humans are “touched by the divine”?

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John Locke’s Property Rights

Does Locke offer a convincing account of an individual’s right to property? In his Second Treatise on Government, John Locke constructs a theory of property rights from two explicit arguments for the divine source of the moral claim of ownership, and one implicit argument for the divine source of value in labor. This essay will summarize each of these arguments, offer offer an assessment of the three arguments in combination, and conclude that Locke’s case is unconvincing in isolation. However, there are remedies which could make the case more convincing.

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