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Entries Tagged as 'General Philosophy'

Planets, People, and Why It Doesn’t Matter “When Life Begins”

May 28th, 2014 · 24 Comments

A few years back, as you may recall, there was some debate in scientific circles about whether Pluto should be classified as a planet—one that prompted some public consternation (and ironic T-shirts) among members of the general public dismayed to be told that, contra what they’d learned in middle school, there were only eight planets […]

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Tags: General Philosophy

Third Parties and the Moral Logic of Voting

October 31st, 2012 · 20 Comments

Yglesias takes aim at a familiar genre of argument for voting for a third party: I’ve noticed that various anti-Obama pro-third-party arguments on the Internet proceed with an annoying two step. Usually the headline and the lede of the piece will be very focused on Obama, the evils of Obama, and the braindeadness of the […]

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Tags: General Philosophy · Horse Race Politics

On Partly Verbal Disputes

September 4th, 2012 · 6 Comments

In the previous post, I suggested that thoughtful and educated adults rarely engage for very long in purely verbal disputes (which, alas, is not the same as saying such disputes are rare). When people don’t disagree substantively, but are only using words differently, a few minutes of argument should usually make this fact apparent to […]

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Tags: General Philosophy · Language and Literature

Intellectual Strategies: Precisification & Elimination

August 28th, 2012 · 10 Comments

For many people, philosophy is the ultimate exemplar of a useless discipline—or at the very least, high in the top ten. I recall that on the first day of my high school drivers’ ed class, our instructor began by asserting that this was probably the most practical subject most of us would study, in contrast […]

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Tags: Intellectual Strategies

Are Economic Value Subjectivism and Consequentialism Inconsistent?

February 27th, 2012 · 2 Comments

Political philosopher Kevin Vallier has an interesting but, I think, ultimately confused post over at Bleeding Heart Libertarians suggesting that consequentialism and value subjectivism—two views frequently held by economists—are in tension. To summarize briefly, he argues: Value subjectivism posits that states of affairs have value if and only if people subjectively value those states of […]

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Tags: General Philosophy · Moral Philosophy

An Action Movie That Will Never Get Made

August 10th, 2011 · 10 Comments

Reading Jeremy Waldron’s new paper on torture and “moral absolutes”, the following setup for an action movie that will probably never get made sprang more or less full-formed into my head. The film follows two protagonists: One is a recent recruit to an elite antiterrorism unit (think 24), the other has just stumbled upon (and […]

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Tags: Art & Culture · General Philosophy

How Far Does Philosophy Get You?

July 11th, 2011 · 7 Comments

A theme of my recent BloggingHeads with Yglesias (and some related IRL conversations) is his claim that people overemphasize the importance of differing political philosophies in driving pratical political conclusions, relative to straightforward empirical disagreements. I’m not sure how sharp a line can be drawn between these categories, since people often talk loosely about their […]

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Tags: General Philosophy · Libertarian Theory

What Good Is a State of Nature?

July 5th, 2011 · 3 Comments

I’m happy to see something good came of that silly Stephen Metcalf hit on Robert Nozick: The smart folks over at Bleeding Heart Libertarians have decided to form a sort of online book club to reread Anarchy, State, and Utopia. In the first section, Nozick attempts to show how a (minimal) government could arise from […]

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Tags: General Philosophy · Libertarian Theory

What’s Really Wrong with the Wilt Chamberlain Argument?

June 28th, 2011 · 15 Comments

Since writing about the Wilt Chamberlain example last week, I’ve been revisiting Anarchy, State, and Utopia and thinking about what legitimate criticisms can be leveled against this particular step in Nozick’s argument.  I still think Stephen Metcalf’s complaints are basically frivolous, and his recent response to his critics does little to change my view.  On […]

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Tags: General Philosophy · Libertarian Theory

A Postscript on Nozick

June 22nd, 2011 · 15 Comments

Responding to yesteday’s post, Matt Yglesias argues that Stephen Metcalf is still kinda on point because, even if Nozick remained a libertarian on some grounds—maybe pragmatic or consequentialist ones—he nevertheless abandoned the deeper philosophical opposition to redistributive taxation that characterizes Anarchy, State, and Utopia. Matt does, however, back off when I point him to pages […]

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Tags: General Philosophy · Libertarian Theory