Amongst many, though certainly not all, political theorists and economists there is a tendency to believe that in the absence of government, mutually beneficial voluntary economic interactions- and hence property rights- cannot exist, or, if they can, do so only infrequently (see, for instance, Murphy and Nagel (2002); Buchanan (1975); Glaeser et al. (2001); Rand (1967) pp. 329 – 337; Friedman (2002); Epstein (1985) chapter 1; Macpherson (1962)). This view has as its philosophical progenitor Thomas Hobbes, who famously concludes in his masterpiece, Leviathan, that in order to allow for mutually beneficial economic interactions- and thus property rights- a civil authority with the power to create and enforce laws is first necessary. What Hobbes (and by implication most modern political theorists and economists) fails to address adequately is that agents can establish property holdings and facilitate economic transactions in the absence of a government via self-enforcing contracts, particularly given his starting assumptions.
Archive for the ‘Philosophy of Law’ Category
Hello Fellow Philosophers!
The inspiration for this post comes from a very weird source: a Russian serial. Unlike here in the US, most Russian movies that are made (and popularly watched) have multiple parts to them, usually running between 40 – 50 minutes per part, and consisting of anywhere from 4 to 24 parts. These are referred to as “serials” (or, at least, that is the translation from Russian), and are shown on TV.
In one of the ones that I finished just recently, there was an interesting moral dilemma that came up that I thought would be nice to post up here.
Hello Fellow Student Philosophers!
The following is something I wrote down a few weeks ago, forgot about, and then, just recently, found on one of my father’s computers in his office. Re-reading this has re-spurred by interest in the topic, so I figured I’d post it here to see what you guys think.
George (“The Meager Weakling”)
Have you ever Stepped on a nail and not felt it–then: Pain Strikes you. You’ve been standing on the nail for a minute, but because you had your mind focused on the hottie walking by, you didn’t notice it. This is revealing. It reveals that pain (the phenomenological pain) is a process of higher order functions. The “I” becomes aware of the of the pain and then it becomes “I-pain”. In psychology, there is a distinction between aversive reactions and physiological response to a stimuli and the phenomenological pain response to a stimuli. Aversive reactions can take place without pain, but are many times accompanied by pain—emotional or physical, which are processed in the same area of the brain (see last months Scientific American). Now, humans and higher order animals can feel pain, but lower order animals may not feel phenomenological pain because they don’t have the “I” concept or the ability the higher order brain functions to process suffering as anything more than a stimuli and response. When we talk about ethics with animals, we should consider degrees of suffering.
The host, Melvyn Bragg, discusses the history of logic with guests A.C. Grayling, Peter Millican, and Rosanna Keefe.
Two sites that offer a decent exposition of informal logical fallacies (Fallacy Files also covers formal fallacies).
Two free online journals which cover a wide range of philosophical subjects. Sorites, however, only publishes work in analytic philosophy, while Philosophers’ Imprint publishes, albeit sparingly, on continental topics.
Produced by the University of Canberra, Australia, the School contains a plethora of lectures on computer science, logic, automated reasoning, and many other topics. Of particular interest to me, note the lecture in non-classical logic.
Finally, Flagler College is producing Sophocles’ Antigone. The play may be of some interest to those who are taking Philosophy of Law with Dr. Buchwalter. Amongst other themes, Sophocles addresses the (still vibrant) debate over the nature of law: is there a higher law, a law the supersedes the positive edicts of rulers? Antigone apparently thinks so!
There’s an interesting couple of posts over at Psych Central about using fMRI techonology to image the brains of psychopaths. Such techonology, if available, brings up interesting questions all around. One ethical question is one that has already been explored in science fiction–if we are able to tell who is (potentially) a psychopath and capable of horrendous behavior, what should we do? Curtail deviant behavior? Let it happen? What about the rights of the patient/participant in a study?
Here’s an AALS podcast on the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. This podcast has three speakers, Tim Coulter, Angelique Eaglewoman and G.W. Rice. While listening to the podcast, it’s helpful to look at the UN Declaration, as speakers refer to various articles in their discussions.
Tim Coulter discusses how the Declaration got started, why it was started, and the innovative ideas it brought to international law. Coulter talks about how the first draft of the Declaration developed in the 1970’s: He had been practicing Indian law and realized that, among other things, any victory he might get for a client could be struck down without due process by the federal government. He realized that his native clients didn’t have the legal protections and rights that most American people have. So, he and others sought to change the law; not merely federal law—international law. For the first time, Coulter says, victims of human rights violations got to develop international human rights law.
Via Eric Schwitzgebel I learn of what is quite possibly the best study ever, simply because it uses fart spray so awesomely. However, this sort of study is interesting for reasons beyond the creative use of fart spray.
As I’ve previously noted, explicit use of disgust-based arguments are often found in popular moral and legal debates, and people sometimes argue that a disgust-response itself shows something is immoral or should be illegal. Martha Nussbaum (U-Chicago), in Hiding from Humanity, has argued that the disgust-response doesn’t reliably track whether something is immoral (or unsafe/hazardous) and disgust should never play a role in making something illegal.
Here’s a snippet from Schwitzgebel (read his entire entry here):
Simone Schnall and co-authors (including the always interesting Jonathan Haidt) set up a table on the Stanford campus, asking passing Stanford students to complete a questionnaire on the immorality or not of marrying one’s first cousin, having consensual sex with a first cousin, driving rather than walking 1 1/2 miles to work, and releasing a documentary over the objections of immigrants who didn’t realize they were being interviewed on film. All respondents completed the questionnaire while standing near a trashbucket. For one group, the bucket was clean and empty; for another it was lightly doused with fart spray so that a mild odor emanated from it; for a third group, the bucket was liberally sprayed and emitted a strong stench. Participants in the odiferous conditions rated all four actions morally worse than in the fart-absent condition.
UPDATE: Speaking of Nussbaum’s Hiding from Humanity, there’s a special issue of the Journal of Applied Philosophy dealing with this book. Find out more at The Brooks Blog.
Richard’s most recent post at Philosophy, et cetera ponders “What constitutes ‘progress’ for philosophy as an academic discipline?
Also, don’t miss Brian Leiter’s new blog on Legal Philosophy.