Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Requirements for a Stable Democracy

In the introduction to his Political Liberalism, John Rawls summarizes what he considers to be five fundamental features that are required in order for a democracy to be stable, just, and viable. In many ways Rawls is a fairly traditional left-liberal political thinker, but his work is uncommonly concerned with the role that the basis and structure of society has on the social outcomes that we deem just or unjust. Rawls is part of the Kantian tradition in moral and political philosophy, and thus occupied with trying to balance the twin goals of building a just and equal society society (which might be construed as an expression of Kant's dictum that one should do only what one might consent to as a universal principle of action) and the maintenance of the freedom and dignity of all persons in that society (Kant's dictum that persons should never be treated merely as means to an end). 

These twin goals are reflected in Rawls in the pursuit of social justice without compromising the principle that the consent and concerns of those affected by policies that lead to social justice are relevant to the discussion. One way to give a quick and dirty summary of Rawls' project is to say he wants to improve the lot of the worst off without undervaluing the freedoms of the well off. Rawls manages to simultaneously annoy Marxists and Libertarians, which, to me, is an indicator that he's on to something.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Happy Birthday, John Rawls

One who lacks a sense of justice lacks certain fundamental attitudes and capacities included under the notion of humanity. Now the moral feelings are admittedly unpleasant, in some extended sense of unpleasant; but there is no way for us to avoid a liability to them without disfiguring ourselves. This liability is the price of love and trust, of friendship and affection, and of devotion to institutions and traditions from which we have benefited and which serve the general interests of mankind.
--John Rawls, A Theory of Justice (1971)

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Happy Birthday, Jeremy Bentham

In proportion to the want of happiness resulting from the want of rights, a reason exists for wishing that there were such things as rights. But reasons for wishing there were such things as rights, are not rights; a reason for wishing that a certain right were established, is not that right--want is not supply--hunger is not bread.... That which has no existence cannot be destroyed-- that which cannot be destroyed cannot require anything to preserve it from destruction. Natural rights is simple nonsense: natural and imprescriptible rights, rhetorical nonsense--nonsense upon stilts.
--Jeremy Bentham, Anarchical Fallacies (1791)

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Happy Birthday, Charles Darwin

It has often and confidently been asserted, that man's origin can never be known: but ignorance more frequently begets confidence than does knowledge: it is those who know little, and not those who know much, who so positively assert that this or that problem will never be solved by science.
--Charles Darwin, The Descent of Man (1871)

Friday, February 3, 2012

Beer and Chocolate

Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout

Bottle, poured into a pint glass.

Appearance--viscous black, opaque. Slight head dissipates quickly

Smell--a strong sweet chocolate aroma, roasted malt as well

Taste-- subtler and smoother than I expected, slight bite in the aftertaste, but nothing unpleasant. Very drinkable for a high ABV (10%)

Mouthfeel-- heavyish and thick. Almost chewy.

O-- really very good, A