Archive for category Philosophy

“Justified True Belief”

Knowledge is sometimes defined in philosophy circles as “justified true belief.” Sometimes philosophers can drain the passion out of any phrase.

Still, the idea counts for something. Can you really say you “know” something if you are wrong? Being raised Mormon I was always bothered when people gave their testimony with the phrase “I know this is true” because it was clear to me that they did not “know” anything of the sort. They believed. They may even be right. But unless it was proven true, they couldn’t actually know. They simply had faith that they mistakenly called knowledge…..

Over at MotherJones.com, Chris Mooney has an interesting article about some of the research on how political ideology and views can affect our reasoning ability. There has been a fair amount of research in the area of late, and I find an awful lot of it fascinating, I also find a lot of what is written about it to be misled for what seems like some pretty basic reasons.

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The War Power, The Sergeant, the Senator: Treason or Heroism

The Sergeant who some years ago left his post in that unnecessary and unwinnable war in
Afghanistan is either a hero, a traitor, or just a terribly young man in the wrong war at the wrong time. He spent terrible years of torture and probably said things he didn’t really mean.

Some years ago in Vietnam, Senator McCain was shot down over Vietnam, another unconstitutional war, and equally unwinnable war, confessed repeatedly to things he later recanted, once safely in the United States, and is, quite rightly regarded, despite his confessions to American war crimes, a hero. The two cases are not quite completely on all fours, as we say in the law. But the similarity is sufficient to compare with each other and with the undergirding of law.

Presidents, from George Washington to Barack Obama, who are visited by war, either their own or, like Obama, inherited from another (in Obama’s case two other) fools who preceded them, have always had this power. While not yet president, and without this act may well not have become president, Ronald Reagan communicated with Iran, telling them, in effect, just to refuse to deal with Carter on releasing our citizens from the U. S. Embassy in Iran, and await his presidency. Their deal (which killed Jimmie Carter’s hope for a second term and by the way was treason, meriting a firing squad.)

The 30, 60, 90 day notification of Congress is also unconstitutional, but not for the reasons the Republicans and Democrats alike, trumpet. Saint Paul, as I recall, said “this trumpet has an uncertain sound.” And I know he said that some leaders have “zeal without knowledge.” This is Republican and Democratic leaders on steroids, just like my former wife.

The reason the War Powers Act is unconstitutional is not what is now said by either Republicans or Democrats, as I told Joe Biden when he was both Minority Senior member of the Foreign Relations Committee of the Senate and when he was chair. I testified before his committee a few times, and he called me at the law school sometimes to chat about this. The reason is simple. Due to both a few but very senior Democrats and almost all Republicans, Congress forced the Demo’s to give the president 30, 60, or 90 days to play with Congress’ army while he picked his nose. War has not been officially declared since FDR did it in WW2. George Bush (the first) and Colin Powell, in my opinion, got it right, constitutionally, by voting 50-50 in the Senate, and then the Dark Lord, Vice President Cheney, broke the tie and we went to war in Iraq the right way by law; and they had the smarts to stop when their limited mission was accomplished. And until this time, the President, as Commander in Chief, has no constitutional power to use the United States armed forces, save self-defense.

In the Framers’ mind that means only when the United States of America, not our allies, are attacked. For Utahns, the reason J. Reuben Clark, my hero and a great patriot, a rock-ribbed Republican who served under many Republican presidents, served variously as chief legal adviser to the Department of State (then, as an deputy Attorney General on loan from Justice to State,,,,,,now called Legal Adviser to the State Department; and Vice Secretary of State, and Ambassador to Mexico; and advised many presidents between world wars one and two, on all arms control treaties between those to dreadful wars) opposed NATO was because it delegated the war power to a generation not yet born and for the defense of people, and nations, not yet born. Neither the United Nations (Korean War) nor NATO (Ukraine?) can declare war for the United States of America. This is the statement of law, the War Clause, that makes this beyond debate. Remember, that it is also the sole right of Congress: not the President of the United States, nor NATO, nor the United Nations, that decides what constitutes International law, as well. So, both Constitutional Law and International Law, save an attack on the United States, inform us that Congress, not the president or these international bodies, who determines for war or peace.

So screw the people and the Congress and president now living. When the president, any president, has this army to use, that army will never return to Congress’ care. This is unconstitutional because it is an illegal attempt to delegate to the President a plenary power, given exclusively, textually, to the Congress. Like the power over interstate commerce (the road by which most civil rights legislation is constitutional), along with the equal protection and due process of law clauses of the 5th and 14th amendments. It’s as if Congress were to say to Obama, “Say, friend, we’re so damned tired of life in Washington, despite the cherry blossoms, we will do what the Supreme Court does, and reconvene when good weather returns. We’re going to go to Balboa Island, California, where it’s nice and sunny, in ocean or on the beach, and pick our nose and scratch our butts. And better yet, we have one in eight chances not to pick both with the same finger. Even though we’ve proven, time out of mind, that we in Congress cannot chew gum and pick our nose, simultaneously (a great blessing). So, pres., you now have the taxing and the spending power, and we’ll sweeten the loaf by throwing into the pot, since you do have to stick around in this shitty weather, and give you the power also to fund and provide for the Army, Air Force, Coast Guard, and Navy. And don’t sweat it about financing things by the provision in the Constitution that spending bills begin in the House. Since you already have the taxing and spending power, do all this in the White House. P.S. please instruct the Treasury Department to deliver our checks, our salaries, and all the REALLY big bucks from the armaments industry and all those other lobbyists. We really have earned this right by selling our souls to the devil. Have a good life.

I say that both Senator and Soldier are bona fide heroes. Ed Firmage xoxox

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Best Political Cartoon of the Last Forty or Fifty Years

Modern “conservatives” pull over “the thinker”.

thinker

Says it all, don’t ya think?

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Moyers & DeChristopher

I’ve been waiting to see the master interviewer sit down with Tim for a long time!

The wait is over:

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Philosophy and Gun Control

I ran across a comment by the philosopher Jeff McMahan on gun control recently, and I have been thinking about it for the past few weeks. I should probably do some research and see where he was going with it, but I haven’t had time. Instead, this is a bit of thought that has been going on in the background since I heard him. He said (roughly, I heard it, and as I said I haven’t had a chance to look it up) that generally philosophers don’t bother to discuss gun control as philosophy, because we assume that the weight of the facts alone will show that no rational person would support gun ownership. That gave me pause for two reasons: first, he is right, I assume that the facts are enough to show that owning guns is generally a bad idea, and second, that it may be a huge moral mistake for the simple reason that while gun ownership seems like a private matter, it clearly isn’t. As I mentioned, I don’t know where he was headed with the topic, but he is certainly implying that it is a mistake to pass up the opportunity to think philosophically about gun control.

So how exactly do we think about gun control in a philosophical manner? My first reaction is to simply break it down to its basic components and then look for assumptions and relationships. Read the rest of this entry »

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Running Towards the Smoke and Fire

I am about out of energy for this week. But I do have the smoking remains of an irony meter sitting in the corner crying to be heard. And a tiny little mangled… something. Something Confucius might have called Ren. Something I almost forgot about. Read the rest of this entry »

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I Guess “The Moody Blues” Need A Category Of Thier Own

Perhaps in a Hall of Fame somewhere in a child’s imagination or somewhere else:

Somehow a catolog of great music spanning decades doesn’t measure up to the Rock n’ Roll hall of fame.

If I were they, I would tell them to keep it!

I’m sure The Moodies don’t really want my input here. I once heard a horrible story about people in wheelchairs showing up at their concerts wanting to be healed.

All they were trying to do is enlighten us.

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Compassionate Conservatives

I ran into a good talk the other day. The speaker, Paul Zak, summed up his research on morality and brain chemestry.

“Oxytocin is the moral molecule. It makes us more trusting, more trustworthy, and increases our empathy.” -Paul Zak, neuroeconomist

Some moral philosopher a while back had a similar idea, but without the chemistry.

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Metaphor, Meaning, and Tech

Forgive me, this gets a little geeky in a few places. But that isn’t the purpose, and hopefully the geek factor doesn’t scare too many people off.

After Glen wrote a piece about Microsoft possibly failing as it announces its latest foray into operating systems and hardware marriage, I sparred a bit with Nathan over Apple and the hardware mod community. I don’t actually think that the things I was discussing with Nathan in that thread are particularly meaningful, but I didn’t want to discuss what is to me a more important topic until I let the idea stew a little. I wasn’t, and am still not, entirely sure how I feel about the larger matter. Still, I thought it was about time to tackle the topic.

One of the reasons I was, and remain, a fan of Apple (even when they were not producing products I wanted I was still a fan, and watched what they did as a company) is that they seem to implicitly understand that the best tools work well because they work with human nature rather than against it. From the time that our first humanoid ansestor used a stick to bring something just out of reach to within grasp, we have used tools that work with our understanding and thought processes. The better they mesh with the way we work, the better the tool. We had telephones rather than telegraphs installed in our homes, in part, because it is more natural to the human brain to translate thoughts to words (if that even requires translation) than to translate words into taps and pulses. We invent tools like blenders, again in part, because the machines mimic methods we already use when doing the same tasks by hand.

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The party of the KKK, or why I wish we had real conservatives

Data, facts, prejudice. All in one tweet and one sentence, via DailyKOS.

How does race shape the vote? In NJ poll, whites uneasy w/racial change back Romney 9-1; those ok w/it back O by 3-2. http://t.co/…
— @RonBrownstein via web
In other words, not all Republicans are racists, but almost all racists are Republicans.

The last line is of course a variation on the words of John Stewart Mill, who said (roughly, I am too lazy to pull it up right now) “it is not true, as some have claimed, that all conservatives are stupid. It is however demonstrably true that the vast majority of stupid people are conservative.”

This is becoming more and more of a problem for the American conservative. It is indeed true that I am pretty liberal in my leanings. However it is also true that pragmatically speaking I expect my government to lean only very slightly liberal. The reasoning is that a slight lean means progress. With almost no exception, the good life, the proper politics, the reasons we stay in society… The qualities of what Aristotle would call a eudimonaic or flourishing life, have come down to us through liberal policies. We are better for having given suffrage rights to everyone. We live better lives for having ended slavery. We improve quality of life for having weekends and less hours worked per week. We raise the standard of living for all by giving maternity leave, and so on, and so forth.
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War on Reality

One of those things that everyone knows is true, but turns out not to be true after all, is that the GOP is the party of fiscal responsibility. It doesn’t take a genius to see that this “truth” is questionable at best, but finally people seem to be waking up to the fact. Thinkprogress points out that:

A survey of forty economists from across the ideological and partisan spectrum has concluded that on some of its most cherished issues, the Republican Party has simply taken leave of economic reality. For instance, economists Betsey Stevenson and Justin Wolfers noted that one of the results from the survey — run by the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business, which is hardly known for a left-wing slant — is an overwhelming agreement that the 2009 Recovery Act (i.e. the stimulus) brought down unemployment. But GOP leaders have spent years roundly denouncing the stimulus as a failure.

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A gay hero, and a rightwing living in alternate earth

I have a special interest in heroes. A professional interest.

There is a neo-Aristotelean view that heroes are a very important way to teach morality. The view accepts that we are a social animal, and that the primary means of being social is verbal communication. I would add to those assumptions the claim that we think primarily in metaphor and analogy. Taking these three claims at face value, and extending them into Aristotelean ethics leads us to the not at all implausible notion that the best way to teach ethical behavior is not to teach complicated rules or lists of does and don’ts, but rather to make a list of character traits we believe people should have. We then treat these traits metaphorically. That is, rather than telling people to be brave, we tell them a story of someone who exemplifies this trait. We don’t tell people “co-operate!” we watch Pixar’s “Incredibles” with them. We don’t tell people to learn to be compassionate, we tell the the “Pursuit of Happiness” story.

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