Benjamin Studebaker

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

Tag: Plato

Can We Continue to Care About Winning?

I want to return to the internecine left debate about borders (originally kicked off by Angela Nagle’s piece) one more time this week to map out a couple para-debates that are occurring in the background of the border debate. You see, we think we are fighting with each other about borders, but we are really having a another fight, and the border issue is just in the foreground.

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Why I Like Thomas Hobbes and You Should Too

People are sometimes surprised to discover how much I love Thomas Hobbes. Hobbes is the political theorist who wrote Leviathan. He presents a pretty grim account of human nature–for him, people have conflicting desires in a world of scarcity, they don’t know each other’s intentions, but they do know that they can hurt other people and that if they do so other people will be intimidated and might not hurt them. We can’t share thoughts and feelings because each of us is stuck in a different body and words are vague and unreliable, so we’re always alienated from each other and always prone to conflict. Hobbes wants to live, and he wants everyone else to live too, so he proposes that we solve this problem by submitting to the state. The state protects us from each other, and once we’re protected a space for trusting other people opens up.

Most left-wing people hate this. They hate that Hobbes even presents an account of human nature in the first place, much less one so grim as this. They especially hate how powerful Hobbes makes his state–he only allows people to defy the state when it threatens their own lives, and while he’s willing to tolerate a sovereign parliament Hobbes certainly prefers monarchy, because in his view it’s less likely to lead to conflicts about where the sovereignty is, which could end in civil war and death.

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The Uselessness of Beating Up Eminem

The rapper Eminem released a new album (The Marshall Mathers LP 2). As is his tendency, Eminem dropped some rhymes with morally dubious meanings. And, as has also become the norm, my fellow writers decided to take positions on the matter. Kicking off the discussion was Scott Meslow at The Week, who first drew attention to homophobic lyrics in Eminem’s song, “Rap God”.  Meslow has now followed that piece up with a second one, detailing the reaction to his first piece and what he has gleaned from it. Today I’d like not so much to wade into this discussion as to call its utility into question–what purpose does it serve to write pieces criticizing artists for moral or political messages, either explicit or implicit?

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Good Guys Shouldn’t Finish Last

Today I’d like to raise an objection to a broad spectrum of moral theories of whom we ought to deem morally significant. I call this objection “good guys shouldn’t finish last”. There is a tendency in our moral theory to argue that doing the right thing often entails indiscriminate niceness. Moral theories frequently demand that we be universally benevolent to all beings with certain biological characteristics such as being human, feeling pain, having complex thought, or some such thing. The trouble with all moral theories of this kind is that they result in the moral practitioner, the being trying to do good, being harmed. I argue not only that this harm occurs, but that it is a knockdown objection to any moral theory if the beings it deems morally good have worse lives than the beings it deems morally bad–i.e., if the good guys finish last. I will illustrate each point in sequence.

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David Cameron v. Pornography

British Prime Minister David Cameron has decided to oppose pornography. Among his new anti-porn measures are a default “off” setting whereby internet service providers block access to erotic material barring user override and an outright ban on what Cameron calls “extreme pornography”, erotic material that depicts fictional violent sex. Are these policies (and others like them) good ideas?

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