Sunday, November 16, 2008

Husserl or Aquinas?

I get to register for classes tomorrow for the upcoming semester and here’s what I plan on taking:

Symbolic Logic w/ Dr. Baehr
Free Will, Deliberation, and Personal Identity w/ Dr. Speak (Directed Study)
And either Husserl or Aquinas- I can’t decide!

Reasons for and against Husserl and Aquinas.

St. Thomas Aquinas:


(1) The Scholastic Genius will sharpen my Theology.
(2) Philosophical Theology, if not my intended area of specialty, is my first love.
(3) The prof. went to Notre Dame, which might help me out in the recommendation department. (I want to go to Notre Dame)
(4) Learning Aquinas from an actual Thomist would be awesome.


(1) The Scholastics are way too Aristotelian- this isn’t a problem because I don’t like Aristotle (although there’s hardly a consensus on the fundamentals of Aristotle’s thought) it’s just that it’s very difficult not to read the Scholastics anachronistically.
(2) The prof. is an ethics specialist- and that’s not my interest or forte.

Edmund Husserl


(1) I’m a huge fan of intentionality and studying a major pioneer of the concept will be edifying.
(2) Phenomenology seems like a promising way of avoiding the pitfalls of the Way of Ideas and consequently defeating skepticism.


(1) I’m completely unfamiliar with Husserl’s actual work and also the immediate context of his thought, which makes for a lot of hard work and possibly being one of those students who asks a lot dumb questions.
(2) The prof. seems to be more continental-oriented which means we might be butting heads on issues of methodology as well as what we take to be “the problems worth solving” or even worse “what problems there are”.

So can anyone assume my point of view and help me make a decision?


Saturday, November 15, 2008

Against coerced charity.

The Master Argument:

Charity cannot be coerced.

Now onto the substantive argument. Consider Len, a man who is a hard worker and has been visited by the following misfortune: he loses his job and will starve to death if he doesn’t get any food.

Consider Bob, a man who works hard but doesn’t lose his job.

Len asks Bob for some food and Bob refuses and then when Bob isn’t paying attention Len takes some of Bob’s food and eats it. Here’s two questions I have, as well as what I think to be their respective (correct) answers:

(1) Was it immoral for Bob not to give Len some food? Yes.

(2) Was it immoral for Len to take Bob’s food against Bob’s will? Yes.

I answered “yes” to (1) because I think Bob has an obligation to Len to help him out and I answered “yes” to (2) because I think Len has an obligation to Bob not to steal Bob’s food. So both Len and Bob are immoral. The juicy question is: is the fact that Len is starving have any bearing on (2)? I think most people might think so and I suppose they think so on the following ground:

(3) It’s morally permissible to steal so long as it’s to save someone’s life.

But (3) is clearly false. Consider Shelly, a woman who works for a nonprofit organization that provides food for starving children in Canada. She comes a knockin’ at Bob’s door and asks him to donate some money to feed the starving in Canada. Bob, being his usual self, says no. But because Shelly is committed to the truth of (3) she hacks into Bob’s bank account and transfers half of Bob’s life savings into her organization’s fund. Should Shelly be thrown in prison? Yes. And therefore (3) is false. Now just as it was with Len I think Bob had an obligation to help the starving in Canada- so I agree that Bob was immoral for not donating money. But the point I would like to make is that because (3) is false, the mere fact that A has an obligation to help B and A is immoral for being unwilling to help B, the fact of A’s being immoral for not helping B doesn’t justify nor lessen the moral offense if B were to steal from A. Stealing is just as immoral as not helping someone. Period.


(4) All Government welfare programs, if not unanimously willed by the people, are unjust.

You may not find this argument convincing, but that’s irrelevant. Unless you can defeat this argument you must accept (4)!

Thursday, November 06, 2008

A Culturalist's Manifesto

1. Culturalism is the doctrine that some cultures are superior to others and therefore there is such a thing as a superior culture.

2. Culturalism must be distinguished from Racism, for a Culturalist says that it is one’s culture that is the proper object of criticism, not one’s skin pigment.

3. The Culturalist maintains the criterion for determining whether or not one culture is superior to another is Love. If culture A is, on the whole, a more loving culture than B, then surely culture A is superior than culture B.

4. The Culturalist recognizes that just because Culture A is, on the whole, superior than culture B, it doesn’t follow that culture A is the most superior culture, for even though culture A might be a more loving culture than B, A could be more loving in regards to issue X than it actually is.

5. A Culturalist recognizes that her own culture is probably not the most superior culture possible, and therefore her own culture ought to be subject to criticism as well.

6. A Culturalist recognizes that he there might be a better criterion for evaluating the superiority of a culture than Love. Though she seriously doubts this, she welcomes any cogent argument to the contrary, because in being open to finding a better criterion for evaluating the superiority of cultures she would then have the opportunity to improve her own culture.

7. The antithesis to Culturalism is Multiculturalism- the thesis that all cultures are equally good and therefore there is no such thing as a superior culture. Culturalists reject Multiculturalism on the grounds that such nonsense amounts to Nihilism. A reductio against Multiculturalism, says the Culturalist, goes like this:
(1) All cultures are equally good.
(2) Nazi Germany is a culture.
(3) Nazi Germany* (a culture identical to Nazi Germany but was manifestly against any form of genocide) is a culture.
(4) By (1), (2) and (3) are morally equivalent.
(5) If Nazi Germany’s culture is morally equivalent to Nazi Germany*’s culture than the words “good” and “moral” do not mean anything.
(6) If moral terms do not mean anything, then moral Nihilism is true.
(7) But (5) is false, and therefore we must reject (1)
And since (1) is equivalent to the thesis of Multiculturalism, we must reject Multiculturalism.

8. The Culturalist maintains that any attempt to correlate one’s race with one’s culture inevitably entails racism- for if to be a member of a certain race has essentially something to do with being a member of certain culture it must be the case that some races are superior than others. Thankfully it’s empirically false that race and culture are so related, because two Caucasian people can be representative of two divergent, incongruous, and discontinuous cultures.

9. The Culturalist’s thesis that there such thing as a superior culture is equivalent to the thesis that Mankind is one.


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