Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Do Bats Eat Cats?

Oddly, now that I no longer need to feel guilty about not reading enough philosophy, I find myself reading some philosophy -- albeit in that cheesy-ass, just glance over something on the internet, way.

This week or so Judge Richard Posner is filling in for Brian Leiter in his blog, the Leiter Reports. My memory being the Nerf-like trap it is, I'm pretty sure I read some articles by Posner back when, but can't remember what. At any rate, Posner has already made some interesting and controversial points, and provided some of his thoughts on both how the law works, and how he believes it should work. It's fascinating stuff whether or not one agrees with it, so I recommend it to anyone with even a passing interest.

In Point 4 of this post, Posner suggests that academic philosiphizing neither is, nor should be, consequential -- by which I assume he means influential on public policies. I think this is an interesting issue. I'd definitely agree that it has no immediate effect; in fact, any effect might take years to percolate out into the public consciousness. However, it definitely does seem like I hear echoes of Theory of Justice in much of modern liberal thought, and echoes of Anarchy, State, and Utopia in much of conservative thought (and definitely Libertarian thought). Moreover, it feels like John Locke and J.S. Mill had a pretty heavy impact on 18th and 19th century politics.

What makes me unsure of my own belief that political philosophizing slowly works its way into public thought is that I don't really know the causal order of these things. Were the liberal policies promoted by Mill already floating around and he just invented a theoretical justification for them? Likewise for the others. One thing that always made me nervous about moral and political philosophy was the suspicion that I already knew the outcomes of my theories and I was just massaging the theory to fit the answers. Of course, science has to do that too -- gotta fix your theory if it says that Pluto doesn't exist -- so that's not necessarily a crippling problem.

I've also added a link to the Left2Right blog in my links section. That makes the whole thing pretty lefty but eventually I'll add a link to one of my oldest friend's arch-conservative blogs to balance it out a bit.

I'm a bit put off by stated goal of the forum. The picture that the right is some kind of monolithic entity that one needs a special language to speak to seems awfully similar to the picture that the left is some kind of monolithic entity that one needs a special language to speak to. People vote for different candidates for all kinds of different reasons. Greens find allies in card-carrying NRA members. Those on the left opposed to the death penalty find themselves allied with (some) people in the pro-life movement.

The forum seems to have veered away from that goal, however, probably because people have gotten over the fact that about half the time your preferred candidate loses, even when you really dislike the other guy. Regardless, the sheer number of impressive thinkers posting there makes it worth checking out.

1 comment:

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