Bans on guns are typically considered a "liberal" policy, if only because those who support them generally consider themselves to be politically liberal in some sense or other.(1) We will argue, however, that broad bans on firearms are in fact not liberal policies at all. The policy of a state that disarms its citizenry conflicts with more than one of the fundamental principles of liberalism.
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â 1.Â My thesis.Â The point I wish to make here is actually fairly simple.Â As my title suggests, I wish to argue for the idea that the state is an institution that requires a justification.Â Some readers will no doubt feel that the fact that the state needs a justification is so obvious that arguing for it is a waste of time: it is best to move on forthwith to (...) the real issue, which is what that justification (if there is one) might be.Â To others, the very idea that there is an issue here might seem baffling: why should government be any more in need of a justification than anything else?Â I would like to put forth a reason, a rather simple one actually, for thinking that it does need a justification; that it stands more in such need, perhaps, than any human institution of comparable longevity and persistence. (shrink)
I sometimes entertain my non-academic friends by telling them that, at the end of each course I teach, before I compute my students’ grades, I pause nervously while I wait to be graded by my students. This process can be described less paradoxically, but surely no more truthfully, as follows. In my department, and as far as I know all the departments at my university, each course ends with students anonymously filling out forms in which they evaluate the teacher and (...) the course. The form includes several questions in which the student is asked to rate the teacher in various respects (such as clarity and organization, availability outside the classroom, and so forth) along a numbered scale (in our case, from one to five); they are also asked one very general question in which they are told to rate the instructor’s overall effectiveness. They are also invited to write comments on these matters. Mean scores (in effect, grades) are calculated for each question and published by the university. In addition, these student evaluations of teaching (often called SETs for short) are used each year by the committee that decides merit pay increases for faculty. When the faculty member is being considered for advancement to tenure or promotion to the rank of Full Professor, these evaluation forms are supplemented by faculty evaluation of teaching, in which faculty members visit the candidate’s classes and report on her or his effectiveness as a teacher. Except for these two once-in-a-lifetime events, the student evaluation forms are the only way in which we judge the quality of teaching. In other words, teaching is for the most part evaluated by students and not by faculty. (shrink)
|The Wisconsin Center for the Study of Liberal | |Democracy is located on the University of | |Wisconsin-Madison campus. The missions of the Center| |are to promote critical understanding and | |appreciation of the cardinal principles and | |institutions of liberal democracy, and to advance | |intellectual diversity on campus by the presentation | |of all relevant viewpoints pertaining to liberal |.
Aristos Michelle Kamhi and Louis Torres are working hard to bring attention to Ayn Rand's much neglected theory of art and literature. This is their web site. It was dormant while they wer finishing their book, but now they are adding new material again.
You can view some of my published rantings by clicking below. All of which, except for the first one, were published in student newspapers here at UW. There was also an op-ed piece in the Wisconsin State Journal , but I don't seem to have an electronic copy of it. (Note: Some of these were published under different titles than those used here.).
In Poetic Justice Martha Nussbaum undertakes to explain how “story-telling and literary imagining” can supply “essential ingredients in a rational argument” and thereby improve public discourse regarding important ethical, political, and legal issues.
Nietzsche and the Origin of Virtue : This book is a discussion of Nietzsche's ethical and political ideas. It is an attempt to be both scholarly and, in a sense, activist. The ultimate point is to see how believers in liberal democracy (like me and most of my readers) should respond to the challenge that Nietzsche represents. As with any profound challenge, one is never the same again after it is overcome. In particular, I suggest that liberals can learn something (...) very important from the ideas that grow out of Nietzsche's early discussion of Homer's notion of agon or Wettkampf (roughly, conflict or competition). (shrink)
If we examine Rand's relation to Nietzsche in terms of the number of issues on which the late Rand agreed with him, the connection between them looks extremely weak. On the other hand, if we look at the relation in terms of Rand's philosophical development, the connection is much more profound. Nietzsche is where Rand began as a thinker, and though she traveled far from this source, her thinking always bore important traces of her beginnings.
Lester Hunt argues that, despite its being too narrow in the topics it treats, Louis Torres and Michelle Marder Kamhi's What Art Is offers a fascinating account of Ayn Rand's views on art and, in addition, constitutes a major contribution to Objectivist aesthetics.
Lester Hunt reviews Tara Smith's Viable Values: A Study of the Root and Reward of Morality. He finds it an excellent contribution to the ongoing discussion of Objectivist ethics. Especially noteworthy, he says, are Smith's treatment of the concept of intrinsic value, her use of the concept of flourishing, and her treatment of the relations between the interests of different people. Though the book provides no sustained discussion of casuistical applications, epistemological assumptions, or potentially interesting side-issues, it raises many provocative (...) questions that will fuel further debate. (shrink)
Early in Peter Abelard's Dialogue Between a Philosopher, a Jew, and a Christian, the philosopher (that is, the ancient Greek) and the Christian easily come to agreement about what the point of ethics is: "the culmination of true ethics ... is gathered together in this: that it reveal where the ultimate good is and by what road we are to arrive there." Further, they also agree that, since the enjoyment of this ultimate good "comprises true blessedness," ethics "far surpasses other (...) teachings in both usefulness and worthiness. (1) As Abelard understood them, both fundamental elements of his twelfth century ethical culture, both Greek philosophy and Christian religion, held a common view of the nature of ethical inquiry, one that was so obvious to them that his characters do not even state it in a fully explicit way. They take for granted, as we take the ground we stand on, the premise that the most important function of ethical theory is to tell you what sort of life is most desirable, or most worth living. That is, the point of ethics is that it is good for you, that it serves your self-interest. (shrink)
Indeed, to a layperson reading the relevant case law, it almost seems that the courts sometimes try to make this principle seem as shocking as possible. In one decision that is often cited, a unanimous state supreme court held that, not only did an eight year old boy have no right to be rescued by the defendant from having his hand caught in a machine in the defendant's factory, but he (the boy, as a trespasser) would even have been liable (...) for damages to the defendant in this case had his hand, in being ground up by the defendant's machine, damaged the machine. (shrink)
What I would like to try to show here, to the extent that I can do so briefly, is that Nietzsche's doctrine of the eternal recurrence of the same things is - whatever else it might be in addition to this - an ethical idea. Considering it as such, I will argue, promises to shed light both on the content of Nietzsche's ethics and on the idea of recurrence.