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January 02, 2010


David Broockm--

I've been trying to find a way to say this clearly succinctly for a while, but you've really hit the nail on the head in my book.


First of all, I've had my mind changed by abstract ethical arguments--not a single argument, mind you, but a series of arguments with various people, over the course of which I began to see that I was being stubborn for the sake of consistency rather than because my arguments continued to resonate with me. These were connected to concrete examples for the sake of illumination, sure, but unabashedly abstract in their fundamentals (otherwise you risk changing someone's mind on a single policy without forcing him to come to terms with the fact that he should really change his mind on a bunch of related policies as well). I wasn't brought over to my interlocutor's side, but I was motivated to do some more thinking on my own and come up with a stance that I felt more confident in. I don't think that this is something everyone would have if only they found the right person to argue with, but it's silly to dismiss it as a possibility entirely.

More importantly, though, there is no unitary "political discourse"--thank heavens! I don't want to put words in Ned's mouth, but I, at least, don't want to see MSNBC segments on "Difference Principle, or INDifference Principle?" Nor do I want more philosophical namedropping in stump speeches. But I wouldn't mind it horribly if a little bit of the energy that bloggers, political junkies, Young Democrats et al. devote to legislative vote-counting speculation, say, or poll analysis--topics that, while tangentially related to politics qua making lives better, don't themselves actually make lives better to nearly the extent that the effort poured into them would suggest--were devoted to keeping philosophies sharp and reminding each of us not only why we believe the policies we support will help bring about a just world, but what exactly that just world looks like.

(Dylan, sorry if this is a double-post; feel free to delete if so.)

Narwhal Pants

Rawls does want to make things better for people but through proper institutions.

Also the left is already a circular firing squad. I doubt more philosophical rhetoric will make the internal divisions any worse then they already are.

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