Benjamin Studebaker

Yet Another Attempt to Make the World a Better Place by Writing Things

Tag: John Rawls

A Platonist Critique of Rawls

One of the things that has always bothered me about Rawlsian liberalism is its emphasis on consensus. The Rawlsians want a state which ‘all reasonable people can accept’ or which ‘no reasonable person can reject’. To accomplish this consensus, Rawlsians have to hollow out the good until it contains only uncontroversial values. Controversial principles are not, by definition, accepted by all reasonable people. The Rawlsians therefore have a tendency to depoliticise the controversial. This results in a political theory which is committed to conflict avoidance. Families that avoid conflict tend to have conflict blow up in their faces, and the same is true for states.

But beyond this, Rawlsian liberalism produces a state which is based on lowest common denominators. This is where Plato comes in.

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Plato and the Frankfurt School

These days I get to supervise all of the history of political thought courses at Cambridge. It keeps me busy during term time, but it helps me think about things. The other day I was doing a supervision on the Greeks, when something clicked for me. I think Plato and the Frankfurt School have something important in common.

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IU, Purdue, and Gay Marriage

There’s an interesting hot-button case going on in my home state of Indiana. The state government’s legislative and executive branches are both controlled by the Republican Party, and this has enabled them to attempt to pass an amendment to the state constitution banning gay marriage. Indiana already doesn’t allow gay marriage, but by putting it in the constitution, the republicans aim to make it more difficult for a court to reverse that position. The amendment also prevents the state government from recognizing civil unions, partnerships, or other “substantially similar” institutions. Indiana has two big, well-known universities, Indiana University (IU) and Purdue University. IU has chosen to formally announce its opposition to the amendment while Purdue has chosen to remain silent. What are the implications of public institutions taking stands on political issues? Which university acted rightly? These are the questions I’m pursuing today.

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Expensive Tastes and Utility Monsters

Recently I’ve been going back over some Rawls, and in the course of doing so I came upon Rawls’ views on people with expensive tastes–those whose happiness requires unusually expensive goods. Rawls thinks that people are ultimately responsible for their tastes, having at some point in their lives freely chosen to cultivate them. I don’t think this is true. Here’s why.

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Leftism and Determinism Part I

A thought occurred to me today–it is impossible to be a leftist without also being a determinist. Here’s why.

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