I finally got around to reading Peter Singer’s The Expanding Circle (Princeton, 2011). I love the book and agree with its central thesis that biology gets ethics started but that human reason pushes it forward. I also find various problems with the book. Following are my summary notes with commentary. Numbers in parentheses refer to page numbers in the printed text.
Biological Origins of Ethics
Singer begins by briefly considering and then quickly rejecting the now obviously false view that humans started out in isolation and then rationally “came together to hammer out a basis for setting up the first human society,” the so-called social-contract theory of ethics (4). Our prehuman and early human ancestors were social by their evolved biology. Singer takes E. O. Wilson’s 1975 Sociobiology as the “most impressive attempt” to that point (Singer’s book first appeared in 1981) to explain the biological origins of ethics (4).
Continue reading “Notes on Peter Singer’s Expanding Circle”
“Media trust hits new low,” Axios notes, based on the Edelman “trust barometer” (and I trust this source!). Fifty-eight percent of Americans thought “most news organizations are more concerned with supporting an ideology or political position than with informing the public.”
I think the public vastly underrates the quality of the news media. Almost all (actual) news organizations are predominantly concerned with informing the public, even if they also sometimes promote a political agenda.
Continue reading “Countering Bias about Media Bias”
Years ago, when first I tried to watch the 2004 Robert Zemeckis film Polar Express, I found the visual effects so bizarre that couldn’t sit through the film. But last year my young son watched the film on an Imax screen and loved it, so this year the family watched the film together at home.
I enjoyed the film more than I thought I would. To me, what’s interesting about it is how it sketches, through a strange dream sequence, the psychology of loss and anxiety.
Continue reading “Polar Express and the Limits of Belief”
Caitlin Flanagan doesn’t like the 1964 television film Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. Actually it’s not entirely clear to me that she’s serious; her article is so strange I wonder if it’s tongue-in-cheek or satire. But it seems like Flanagan probably is serious so I will respond as though she is.
In my view, Rudolph is one of the greatest films of all time.
Continue reading “In Defense of Rudolph”
“Please, I can’t breathe!” George Floyd begged as a Minneapolis police officer crushed a knee into his neck as he lay prone and handcuffed. The officer who killed Floyd deserves to be tried for murder, and the officers who participated or stood by and watched deserve to be tried as accomplices.
It doesn’t matter here what Floyd is alleged to have done. The person who called 911 said that Floyd was trying to pay a store with fake bills and that he was intoxicated. I have no idea whether the allegations are true. The officers involved claimed that Floyd resisted arrest. Video shows that Floyd struggled as police yanked him from a vehicle, after which Floyd cooperated. [Update: Subsequently released video seems to show Floyd struggling with police in a police vehicle.] Regardless, the officer’s extreme use of force obviously was entirely unnecessary to subdue Floyd. No reasonable person doubts that crushing a person’s throat for minutes on end can kill the victim. It is a police officer’s job to bring the accused to the courts for justice, not to play street executioner.
What, practically, can we as regular people do toward stopping such senseless violence by a minority of the people we pay to protect us? Here I review six main ways.
Continue reading “Six Steps Toward Ending Police Abuses”
I started this document on May 23, 2020, to keep track of select updates about COVID-19. Items are listed in reverse order relative to when I examine them (latest updates on top). This follows my first “COVID-19 Updates” file (April 28 to May 22) and the “COVID-19 Resources” page started March 24. My last post here is June 4. For subsequent updates about this, see my Liberty ‘Gator pandemics tag.
Major data sources: Our World in Data, Johns Hopkins, Worldometer, CO Dep’t of Public Health, USA Data (which has U.S. state-level data), CDC COVID-19 data, EndCoronavirus.org (which has great country and U.S. state case comparisons), Rt.live (which has estimates of reproduction rate, the accuracy of which I know not), Gu Infections Tracker (also includes R estimates), IMF Policy Tracker (country summaries), COVID-19 Projections Colorado page, AEI U.S. state and county tracker. See also Johns Hopkins’s Research Compendium. A handy stat: The U.S. population (estimated May 7) is 330,721,000.
Continue reading “COVID-19 Updates 2”
I updated this document from April 28 to May 22, 2020, to keep track of select material about COVID-19. Items are listed in reverse order relative to when I examine them (latest updates on top). See also my newer “COVID-19 Updates 2” page and my older “COVID-19 Resources” page started March 24. Unless otherwise specified, many of my figures come from Our World in Data and the CO Dep’t of Public Health.
Continue reading “COVID-19 Updates”
Here I gather and summarize, and sometimes comment on, various news articles, opinion pieces, and other documents pertaining to COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus 2 or SARS-CoV-2 virus, and its socioeconomic impacts. Although I am not an expert in infectious diseases, I am seeking to understand the disease and its implications as well as I can. I created this document as a way for me to track useful articles on the subject, and perhaps the document will be useful to others seeking to get a handle on the crisis. Obviously this is not anything like a comprehensive collection of relevant links. This document was created on March 24, 2020, and subsequently edited. On April 28, I stopped adding new material to this document (which had grown unwieldy) and started a “COVID-19 Updates” page for subsequent material.
Continue reading “COVID-19 Resources”
Last year I released my book, What’s Wrong with Ayn Rand’s Objectivist Ethics, in which I criticize Rand’s formal metaethical theory (and defend various aspects of Rand’s broader moral theory), and I have written several essays on the topic since.
In his July 21, 2019, review (“Atlas Neutered: Ari Armstrong’s Straw Man Attack on Objectivism“), Don Watkins ignores almost all of the substance of my book, grossly distorts what he does address, and descends into juvenile name-calling, assuring his readers that I wrote my book in “bad faith” and that I am guilty of intellectual “theft” (my exhaustive citations notwithstanding).
Continue reading “Rand’s Metaethics: A Reply to Don Watkins’s Nonobjective Review”
I deeply appreciate Eyal Mozes’s thoughtful challenges to my critique of Ayn Rand’s metaethical theory, which I present in my book, What’s Wrong with Ayn Rand’s Objectivist Ethics, and in subsequent essays.
Here I reply to Mozes’s March 25, 2019, essay. My essay here is part of an exchange beginning with Mozes’s January 6 essay and continuing with my previous reply. Although I seek to put the present discussion in its broader context, I certainly do not try to recapitulate my entire case here, a fact to which I hope readers are sensitive. My goal here is to try to wrap up the exchange so that readers know where and how Mozes and I disagree.
Continue reading “Rand on Biology and Egoism: A Reply to Mozes”