Recently, Arizona governor Jan Brewer (R) vetoed a controversial piece of legislation that would have allowed businesses in Arizona to refuse service to homosexuals on the grounds that to do otherwise would infringe upon their religious freedom. The bill was widely condemned, and I had no wish to pile on, but I’ve read a piece that offers an interesting defense of the bill. While I don’t think the argument ultimately holds up, it’s an argument that needs to be taken seriously and picked apart.
Today I’d like to put on my democratic theory hat and offer a critique of Jürgen Habermas‘ theory of deliberative democracy. Habermas gives his answer to the question of what kind of government we ought to have by appealing not to any specific goal or end that he thinks government ought to have, but by instead offering standards by which we can judge a procedure through which one would determine one’s society’s ends. I argue that Habermas relies too much on moral intuitionism to substantiate these standards and consequently provides insufficient reason why we should choose to determine our form of government by appeal to procedure rather than by appeal to result.
Today I’d like to walk through a moral conundrum with the intent of questioning and shedding light on the way we think about endangered species and human/animal relations more broadly. As the title suggests, shepherds and wolves will play a key role.
Today I’d like to mount a critique of Isaiah Berlin. In particular, I’d like to go after his objectivist argument for value pluralism, the notion that there are multiple moral systems that, despite their conflicts, cannot be described as more true or better than one another because their differences are so foundational as to be incomparable on any given metric. I will argue, contra Berlin, that he is simply empirically wrong–in the real world, moral theories separated by time and culture have much more in common with one another than Berlin perceived.
Utilitarians believe that we should maximize happiness and minimize unhappiness. Sometimes “happiness” is replaced with some other word or phrase, like “pleasure”, “utility”, “living standards”, and so on, but the claim is generally the same. Critics of utilitarianism often accuse utilitarians of being imprecise in their conception of happiness. If happiness is what matters, what makes people happy in the first place? Some utilitarians seem to smuggle in very peculiar conceptions of happiness without justifying or substantiating them. As someone with utilitarian leanings, I think the critics are owed a more comprehensive response than they’ve received, so that’s what I set out to do today.