Blackadder’s Lair

The home of many a cunning plan

Values vs. Worldviews

Here are some excerpts from another interesting post from Scott Sumner:

A New York Times article once reported that economists in academia tend to vote about 3 to 1 Democratic, whereas other academics vote about 7 to 1 Democratic. Of course the general public tends to split about 50/50 between Democratic and Republican voters. What should we make of this pattern?

For the purposes of this post, consider the term ‘worldview’ to represent one’s views about cause and effect, or what economists call positive questions. Values relate to what is viewed as being morally right and wrong, or normative issues. I don’t claim that there is any clear boundary between these two categories, but I hope they will prove useful anyway.

Now let’s assume that “ideologies” reflect values plus worldviews. Thus the liberal worldview has many different ideologies. Let’s also follow the standard practice of assuming that the term “left” applies to more socialistic versions of liberalism and the term “right” applies to more libertarian, or classical liberal, versions of liberalism.

Suppose that an economistic worldview makes one vote more to the right . . . That could explain why economists vote Republican more often than other academics. Indeed I think this is a pretty standard explanation of their voting pattern. Thinking like an economist makes one less receptive to socialist policies.

Continue reading

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March 17, 2009 Posted by | Economics, Libertarianism, Morality | Leave a comment

The Pope vs. the Dalai Lama on Sex

The video focuses pretty exclusively on the Dalia Lama’s conservative views on sex. If he’d wanted, he could have quoted various theology of the body related statements by the Pope* on sex, which would have made him seem more progressive on the subject.

I once got into an argument with a friend over my claim that Catholicism was the most pleasure friendly of the traditional religions. My reasoning was that most traditional religions place significant restrictions on pleasure seeking activities involving food, alcohol, games, dancing, etc., whereas with Catholicism such restrictions are pretty much limited to sex (there are things like Lenten fish fries, but this is pretty minor), and when it comes to sex, pretty much all of the traditional religions are, well, traditional. He wasn’t convinced, but I think this video kind of re-enforces the point.

*The program on which the clip appeared came out in 2004, so John Paul II was still Pope at the time.

(HT: Restrained Radical)

December 15, 2008 Posted by | Catholicism, Morality | Leave a comment

No Virginia, There is No Santa Claus

Now that the turkey is digested and the Christmas season has begun in earnest, I would like to make a request of whoever reads this that I hope will not seem naive, or sentimental, or overly moralistic. The request is this:

Please don’t lie to your children about Santa Claus.

Lying is repeatedly condemned in Scripture (Cf. Psalms 5:7; Proverbs 6:17; Ephesians 4:25; Colossians 3:9). And section 2485 of the Catechism says that “[b]y its very nature, lying is to be condemned.” Yet every year millions of Christian parents choose the occasion of our Lord’s birth to lie to their children about the existence of a jolly old fat man who lives in the North Pole. Continue reading

November 28, 2008 Posted by | Catholicism, Children, Family, Morality | 1 Comment

A Cleaned Conscience

And Pilate seeing that he prevailed nothing, but that rather a tumult was made, taking water washed his hands before the people, saying: I am innocent of the blood of this just man. Look you to it. – Matthew 27:24

PUBLIC displays of untidiness, such as graffiti, may promote bad behaviour (see article), but when it comes to personal cleanliness the opposite appears to be true. A study just published in Psychological Science by Simone Schnall of the University of Plymouth and her colleagues shows that washing with soap and water makes people view unethical activities as more acceptable and reasonable than they would if they had not washed themselves. Continue reading

November 26, 2008 Posted by | Morality, Science | 1 Comment

Organ Failures

In a recent speech, Pope Benedict addressed the subject of organ donation:

If we turn our gaze to the entire world, it is easy to confirm the numerous and complex cases in which, thanks to the technique of organ transplantation, many people have overcome extremely grave illnesses, and in them the joy of life has been restored. This would never have happened if the commitment of the doctors and the competence of the researchers had not been able to count upon the generosity and altruism of those who have donated organs.

Unfortunately, the problem of the lack of available vital organs is not a theoretical one, but a considerably practical one; one can see this in the long waiting list of those whose only hope for survival is linked to the small number of non-useful donations.

Regarding the technique of organ transplants, this means that one can only donate if this act doesn’t put one’s own health and identity in serious danger, and if it is done for a valid moral and proportionate reason. Any reasons for the buying and selling of organs, or the adoption of utilitarian and discriminatory criteria, would clash in such a way with the meaning of gift that they would be invalidated, qualifying them as illicit moral acts. Abuses in transplants and organ trafficking, which frequently affect innocent persons, such as children, must find the scientific and medical community united in a joint refusal. They should be decidedly condemned as abominable.

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November 17, 2008 Posted by | Catholicism, Charity, Economics, Health Care, Morality | 2 Comments

On the Atomic Bombings of Japan II

Today is the anniversary of the atomic bombing of Nagasaki. On the anniversary of the Hiroshima bombing, I posted the first part of what was going to be a debate last year between myself and Shawn of the blog Rerum Novarum on the morality of the bombings. Prior to the debate, Shawn and I agreed that the atomic bombings would be justified only if two conditions were met:

1) the bombings did not involve the intentional targeting of noncombatants; and

2) the bombings saved lives, that is, any alternative course of action would have resulted in even greater loss of life.

In my previous post, I argued that the first condition was not met. In this post, I argue that the second condition also was not met. Prior to the debate, Shawn had argued that the second condition, proportionality, had been met by the bombings, and had cited in support some figures on the high number of casualties (both American and Japanese) that could have resulted from a land invasion of Japan. I responded as follows: Continue reading

August 9, 2008 Posted by | America, History, Just Wage, Morality, Nuclear Weapons, War and Peace | 17 Comments

On the Atomic Bombings of Japan I

A little over a year ago, Shawn of the blog Rerum Novarum issued a challenge to Catholics to debate him on the morality of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki at the close of WWII (he was pro). I accepted the challenge, and we emailed back and forth about logistics, and I prepared an initial post setting out the against side of the question. Unfortunately the proposed debate never ended up happening, for reasons that I won’t go into now.

Since today is the anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima, I thought I would post what would have been my initial contribution to the debate. As it is rather long, I have broken it up into two parts. During our email exchange, Shawn and I had agreed that, in order for the bombings to be justified from a Catholic perspective, it had to be the case both that:

1) the bombings did not involve the intentional targeting of civilians; and

2) the bombings saved lives, that is, any alternative course of action would have resulted in even greater loss of life.

This post addresses the first condition, and argues that the bombings did, in fact, involve the intentional targeting of civilians. In the second part, I will argue that the second condition, proportionality, was also not met. Continue reading

August 6, 2008 Posted by | America, History, Just War, Morality, Nuclear Weapons, War and Peace | 6 Comments

An Argument Against Expanding Entitlements

1. It’s wrong to make promises you know will not be able to keep.

1a. This is particularly wrong when you know people will rely on such promises to their detriment.

2. Medicare currently has unfunded liabilities of $65.4 trillion dollars.

3. The Federal government is not going to be able to raise enough revenues to cover this $65.4 trillion shortfall, let alone any expanded health care entitlements.

4. If people are promised expanded health care services from their government, they will be less likely to save sufficient money to provide such services for themselves should the government fail to deliver.

5. Thus, it is wrong (given current conditions) to advocate expanding government health care entitlements.

July 17, 2008 Posted by | Health Care, Morality, Politics | 1 Comment

The Principle of Reparations

During his now famous sermon at Trinity United, Father Michael Pfleger said the following:

We must be honest enough to address the one who says, “Don’t hold me responsible for what my ancestors did.” But you have enjoyed the benefits of what your ancestors did. And unless you are ready to give up the benefits, throw away your 401 fund, throw away your trust fund, throw away all the money that’s been put away in the company that you walked into cause your Daddy, and your Granddaddy, and your Great-Grandaddy… Unless you are willing to give up the benefits, then you must be responsible for what was done in your generation, cause you are the beneficiary of this insurance policy.

This comment, among others, has brought Father Pfleger in for a great deal of criticism. Yet while his statement was more than a little intemperate, at the core of his argument is a perfectly respectable philosophical principle, which for lack of a better term I shall call the principle of reparations. According to the principle, if a given act of injustice X results in A being better off than he would have been absent X, and B being worse off than he would have been absent X, then A owes reparations to B, regardless of whether A was in any way responsible for X. The advantage of the principle of reparations is that it allows us to explain how members of one group might have special obligations to members of another group based on historical injustices without having to invoke some notion of “sins of the father” or collective guilt which would be morally problematic to say the least. Continue reading

July 6, 2008 Posted by | Morality, Philosophy, Race | 2 Comments