From The Nation Via A & L Daily-‘Back Talk: Martha Nussbaum’

Full piece here.

I don’t always agree, but Nussbaum has thought deeply.   Of J.S. Mill:

“The key notion in making something legally regulable is the notion of a potential harm. If there’s no harm in the offing except a self-chosen one, for Mill that’s just no business of the law.”

She’s quite after decoupling religious moral teaching from the laws of the state, and using Mill to do it.  She has also argued that disgust ought not to be the basis of our laws, and can get in the way of a free and egalitarian society:

“But disgust always has this edgy irrationality about it. It’s a way of fleeing from yourself. Whether it’s useful in evolutionary terms, that I leave to evolutionary scientists. Probably it is. That doesn’t mean that in the law we should rely on it. The imagination of humanity, of course, can be unreliable too. But all we’re really asking is that people see the other people as people.”

You mean see people as ends in themselves, and not means to an end?   It’s a good idea, but I wonder if moral and religious principles aren’t lurking somewhere here in the background, vis a vis Kant, or Darwin, or simply through Mill’s utilatarianism?  I think it’s also reasonable to worry about a potential secular morality developing out of this (evolutionary psychology, neuroscience etc.) that could become secular moralism.   “Humanity” could become a blunt instrument;  a way to keep a free and open society by asking this much of its individual members, but also problematic when it comes to individual liberty and the state.

There are always reasons to be a Stoic.

Yet Nussbaum doesn’t go as far as to argue that morality is based in our feeling:

“I don’t think any emotion should be trusted on its own without being constantly in dialogue with moral principles. At every point, whether it’s anger or fear or any emotion–even compassion, which can, of course, lead you to favor your family against other people–you should always be asking, Is this consistent with the idea of a society of people who are free and equal?”

Jesse Prinz has made those arguments, via David Hume:

An interesting thinker.

Also On This Site: Martha Nussbaum In Dissent–Violence On The Left: Nandigram And The Communists Of West BengalMartha Nussbaum On Eliot Spitzer At The Atlanta Journal-ConstitutionAnother Note On Jesse Prinz’s “Constructive Sentimentalism”

From Bloggingheads: Tamar Szabo Gendler On Philosophy and Cognitive Science

Repost: Martha Nussbaum Channels Roger Williams In The New Republic: The First Founder

And:   A Few Thoughts On Isaiah Berlin’s “Two Concepts Of Liberty”A Few Responses To Kant’s Transcendental Idealism

Mill’s Harm Principle Mentioned:

From If-Then Knots: Health Care Is Not A Right…But Then Neither Is Property?

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From Youtube Via Althouse-‘Paul Ryan: Hiding Spending Doesn’t Reduce Spending’

From The Health Care Summit.  Ultimately, how will the government control costs?

Arnold Kling grades the summit.

Also On This Site: The most knowledgable articles I’ve read that make the case for some government involvement are here:

Atul Gawande At The New Yorker: ‘The Cost Conundrum Persists’

Addition:  And with protectionism as a barrier for free trade across borders, farmers buying crop insurance on governement fixed prices etc. clearly there are problems with the nationalized farm subsidy programs as well.   

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From Michael Yon: ‘Whispers’

Full article here.

A sensible mission; one of whose primary goals is to protect the civilian population as much as possible.  It still remains to be seen whether or not the various tribes, the lack of infrastructure and education (the deepest rifts) can be overcome (without the Taliban moving right back in).  I have my doubts:

‘The Marjah offensive—billed as the biggest US/NATO/Afghan assault on the Taliban ever—had begun.  With it, the attention of nearly all the reporters covering Afghanistan is focused on Marjah.  Yet fighting continues across the country, in provinces with names unfamiliar to most people.’

Also: From Commonweal: Andrew Bacevich “The War We Can’t Win: Afghanistan And The Limits Of American Power”

And:  Philip Bobbitt Discusses His Book ‘Terror And Consent’ On Bloggingheads

From CSIS: ‘How the US Must Expand and Redefine International Cooperation in Fighting Terrorism’

Repost-From Foreign Policy: Fabrice Pothier’s ‘Time For An Afghan Surge’

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Atul Gawande At The New Yorker: ‘The Cost Conundrum Persists’

Full post here.  (an update)

Gawande is knowledgable, and his articles accessible, even if you may disagree:

“Even if health reform disappears, these fundamental problems will not. The cost conundrum persists.”

Also On This Site:  Atul Gawande At The New Yorker: ‘Testing, Testing’From The New Yorker: Atul Gawande On Health Care-”The Cost Conundrum”

Addition: A friend points out that one barrier to free trade (and a talking point even on the left) is protectionism in our farm markets…so if you nationalize, be prepared to deal with unforeseen consequences down the road?

Health Care is a right?: From If-Then Knots: Health Care Is Not A Right…But Then Neither Is Property?

Clive Crook At The Financial Times: ‘Congress Misses The Point Of Reform’

A Few Thoughts On The Health-Care Debate: Ram It Through?

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From Wikipedia’s Page On Leo Strauss: A Few Quotes

Getting around Hegel’s historicism via Nietzsche via Heidegger?  Another [European] emigre to America who didn’t quite understand its liberal traditions?

“Strauss wrote that Friedrich Nietzsche was the first philosopher to properly understand relativism, an idea grounded in a general acceptance of Hegelian historicism.”


“Strauss taught that liberalism in its modern form contained within it an intrinsic tendency towards extreme relativism, which in turn led to two types of nihilism. The first was a “brutal” nihilism, expressed in Nazi and Marxist regimes. In On Tyranny, he wrote that these ideologies, both descendants of Enlightenmentthought, tried to destroy all traditions, history, ethics, and moral standards and replace them by force under which nature and mankind are subjugated and conquered. The second type – the “gentle” nihilism expressed in Western liberal democracies – was a kind of value-free aimlessness and a hedonistic”permissive egalitarianism”, which he saw as permeating the fabric of contemporary American society.”

So…if you take Plato on board, is The Republic an accurate representation of the course of the city and the man?  Is that necessarily applicable to a current American excess of egalitarianism and individualism?  An antidote to historicism?

Did our individualism get corrupted by Hegelian historicism which Nietzsche and Heidegger (and maybe Strauss?) all follow to its many logical conclusions?

“Indeed, Strauss wrote that Heidegger’s thinking must be understood and confronted before any complete formulation of modern political theory is possible. For Strauss, Plato could match Heidegger.”

Any thoughts and comments are welcome as I just had an interesting conversation with a Straussian.

Also On This Site:  How might Nietzsche figure in the discussion (was he most after freeing art from a few thousand years of Christianity, monarchy and aristocracy…something deeper?), at least with regard to Camille Paglia.  See the comments:  Repost-Camille Paglia At Arion: Why Break, Blow, Burn Was Successful

A Few Thoughts On The Stanford Encyclopedia Of Philosophy Entry: Nietzsche’s Moral And Political Philosophy…A Few Thoughts On Allan Bloom–The Nietzsche Connection

A Few Thoughts On Isaiah Berlin’s “Two Concepts Of Liberty”

From YouTube: Leo Strauss On The Meno-More On The Fact/Value Distinction?

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From The NY Times: ‘Secret Joint Raid Captures Taliban’s Top Commander’

Full article here.

“He ranks second in influence only to Mullah Muhammad Omar, the Taliban’s founder and a close associate of Osama bin Laden before the Sept. 11 attacks.”

Addition: Maybe he hasn’t been captured at all

Another Addition: He has been caught, and Newsweek has an article about who might replace him.

Also: From Commonweal: Andrew Bacevich “The War We Can’t Win: Afghanistan And The Limits Of American Power”

And:  Philip Bobbitt Discusses His Book ‘Terror And Consent’ On Bloggingheads

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From The Volokh Conspiracy: ‘Free Speech on Campus: Michael Oren at UC Irvine’

Full post here.

The Muslim Student Union at UC California at Irvine (perhaps in a planned fashion) consistently interrupts the Israeli ambassador’s speech, despite escalating consequences.  Interesting comments.

Also On This Site:  Repost: A Few Thoughts On The Current Israeli Military Operation Into Gaza: A Shift In U.S. Attitudes?

A Few Thoughts On (Absolute) Idealism, Both Religious And Political/Philosophical

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William Galston At The Democratic Strategist Responds to Harvey Mansfield At The Weekly Standard

Mansfield’s Weekly Standard piece here.

“One might call this sort of governing rational administration or rational control. It is government directed by reason that does not appeal to reason but rather to subrational motives that will lead people to do what is rational without their quite understanding what they are doing.”

So, Obama’s not defending liberty enough (through an appeal to individual reason) in the name of progress, and (perhaps inadvertently) treading a dangerous line…eventually building a structure that will quash individual liberty in the name of that progress?

Full response here.

“But to say, as Mansfield does, that the president’s belief in the ability of government to improve our health care system reflects a preference for progress over liberty only obscures what is really at stake. The president’s stance threatens neither political liberty nor individual liberty. His argument does not remove—and was not intended to remove—the issue of health policy beyond the bounds of political argument. It seeks, rather, to ground his proposals in considerations that most citizens would regard as weighty if not dispositive.”

So Obama’s just being pragmatic?   …but what about the Left beneath him?   I’d agree that there is hubris in Mansfield’s thinking, but there are also some things to worry about in the thinking of progressives and liberals supporting Obama. I’d still like to see more of a Millian defense of individual liberty.  They seem aimless, but maybe that’s just me.

Also On This Site:  From The Weekly Standard: Harvey Mansfield Reviews Paul Rahe’s “Soft Despotism, Democracy’s Drift” Are You Man Enough? Nussbaum v. Mansfield

A Few Thoughts On Isaiah Berlin’s “Two Concepts Of Liberty”

Kant is a major influence on libertarians, from Ayn Rand to Robert Nozick:  A Few Thoughts On Robert Nozick’s “Anarchy, State and Utopia”…Link To An Ayn Rand Paper: The Objectivist Attack On Kant

Jesse Larner In Dissent Magazine: Who’s Afraid Of Friedrich Hayek? The Obvious Truths And Mystical Fallacies Of A Hero Of The Right

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From The WaPo Via A & L Daily: Book review: ‘The Artist, the Philosopher, and the Warrior’ by Paul Strathern

Full review here (As long as it lasts)

History done with creative license:

“Strathern, a novelist and author of other popular histories, does for Machiavelli and da Vinci what he does for Borgia: creates a flesh-and-blood portrait for each that defies historical stereotype.”

Related On This Site:   Garrett Mattingly On Machiavelli-The Prince: Political Science Or Political Satire? From Nigel Warburton’s Virtual Philosopher: Machiavelli Is Always RelevantFriday Quotations: Machiavelli And The Founders

See Also:  Another inteersting Italian and a poem about Giordano Bruno by American poet Heather McHugh: What He Thought by Heather McHugh

Giordano Bruno In The New Yorker: The Forbidden World By Joan Acocella

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