Benjamin Studebaker

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

Tag: Reciprocity

9 Rules For Living in Sad Times

In reading Nathan Robinson’s piece on Jordan Peterson, I was struck by something Robinson said:

But here the left and academia actually bear a decent share of blame. Why is Jordan Peterson’s combination of drivel and cliché attracting millions of followers?…Who else has a serious alternative? Where are the other professors with accessible and compelling YouTube channels, with books of helpful advice and long Q&A sessions with the public? No wonder Peterson is so popular: he comes along and offers rules and guidance in a world of, well, chaos. Just leave it to Dad, everything will be alright.

I’m a left wing academic! This is in part my fault. I’ve been writing all these pieces about politics, but I haven’t tried to help people figure out how to live. Why haven’t I? Robinson himself threw together a bulleted list of “principles of living“, but it’s mostly for laughs. Robinson self-identifies as a libertarian socialist–he doesn’t want to tell people what to do. Most lefties feel queasy about paternalism. We’re reluctant to lead people because we want people to lead themselves. Well, no more. Today I’m going to take a stab at life-coaching. After all, I live one of those carefree academic lives at a fancy university–I must have done something right.

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4 Arguments Against Accepting Syrian Refugees and Why They All Fail

Over the past few days, the public debate has turned toward the question of Syrian refugees. I’ve been wandering around the internet, reading the different arguments people have for refusing to accept refugees, and I have found all of them wanting.  So today I’d like to run through the most common and pervasive anti-refugee arguments and the reasons they fail.

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The Fascist Underpinnings of Anti-Immigration Politics

Throughout the developed world, we’ve seen a resurgence in recent years of anti-immigrant, nationalist politics. Donald “build a wall and make Mexico pay for it” Trump is still leading in national republican polls in the United States. In Europe, parties like UKIP, Front Nationale, and Golden Dawn have increased support and in some cases pushed mainstream conservatives parties into adopting stricter immigration controls. In Japan, the government continues to oppose immigration despite a population that is rapidly aging. In Australia, refugees are effectively detained in concentration camps. This is happening despite an increasingly strong research consensus that shows that working age immigrants contribute to economic growth, strengthen national pension systems, reduce government deficits, and commit crimes at a lower rate than the rest of the population. Those of us who acknowledge that research often feel that there is something xenophobic, even deeply sinister about anti-immigration politics. But when we point this out, we are often unable to satisfactorily defend the point–there seems to be an immense gap between the relatively modest claim that we ought to improve border security and outright fascism. But despite this difficulty, the connection does exist–anti-immigration politics and fascism are deeply interrelated, and I intend to prove it to you as best I can.

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How to be a Good Person Without God

In many western societies, religion seems to be losing influence, particularly among young people. Many religious people argue that this threatens society’s moral frameworks. Without God, on what basis do we distinguish the good from the bad? Secularists often scoff at this question, resenting the implication that only the religious can be moral. And yet, many secularists are also moral subjectivists, who claim not to believe in any absolute sense of right and wrong, arguing that morality is culturally relative or a matter of individual taste. This does seem to imply that as religion weakens, the intellectual foundation of many of our substantive moral beliefs is being eroded, and that to the extent that secularists remain good people, it is often due to socialization and intellectual inertia rather than some truly substantive alternative. But it doesn’t have to be this way–there are excellent secular moral theories that do offer compelling objective alternatives to religious morality.

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Who Matters?

Lately I’ve been thinking again about a question of moral philosophy that has long interested me. This is the question of who matters. Most of the time, when we talk about moral philosophy, we talk about what matters. Answers to that question vary–some propose that happiness is what matters, or suffering, or virtue, or equality, or liberty, or some other value or set of values. But whose happiness matters? Whose suffering? Whose virtue, equality, or liberty? This is something we don’t talk about as often, but different views about these matters have profound consequences for our politics and have serious consequences for ordinary people.

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