Wednesday, November 30, 2011

(LE) On Not Caring About Slavery

In the penultimate paragraph of the Cooper Union address, Lincoln gives an analysis of Douglas's professed stance on slavery: "Let us be diverted by none of those sophistical contrivances wherewith we are so industriously plied and belabored -- contrivances such as groping for some middle ground between the right and the wrong, vain as the search for a man who should be neither a living man or a dead man -- such as a policy of "don't care" on a question about which all true men do care..."

As had been clear in his speeches for at least six years, Lincoln here insists that there is no middle ground on the morality of slavery, and that it is manipulatively dishonest and dangerous ("sophistical") to pretend to hold such middle ground. He is considerably gentler on those who honestly claim slavery is not wrong, or even a positive good, than he is on demagogues like Douglas.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Arming Campus Police

I have tried to listen carefully to the arguments on this subject. Setting aside my personal views of the matter, these are the principal arguments I hear on both sides:


1. 19 of 26 COPLAC colleges have armed officers

2. Many Massachusetts colleges and universities have armed officers

3. Since most uniformed officers carry firearms, campus police are potentially at risk without them

4. Firearms are just another tool of protection and law enforcement

5. Parents and potential students are concerned about security on campus, so not arming campus police might hurt recruitment.


1. Arming officers sends an intimidating and unwelcoming message, particularly to urban and minority students

2. The odds of an on campus incident requiring deadly force are very small

3. The liklihood of guns being useful in such an incident are even smaller

4. The possibility of accident or error on officers’ part, or of the guns being taken from them, is small but real (and statistically greater than 2 or 3).

5. Parents and potential students are concerned about security on campus, so arming campus police might hurt recruitment.

When commenting, please speak to ONE of these reasons at a time -- perhaps begin by addressing the one you take to be the strongest.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

(LCR) Painful Truths

Here's a short piece by the Nobel Laureate economist Paul Krugman, discussing (among other things) the difference between an ad hominem attack and calling a spade a spade.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

(LCR) Do Republican Policies Favor the Rich?

Responding to the charge that Republican policies favor the rich, House speaker John Boehner said in an interview aired last Sunday on ABC's This Week: "That’s very unfair. Listen, I come from a family of 12. My dad owned a bar. I’ve got brothers and sisters on every rung of the economic ladder."

Anything wrong with this reasoning?

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Why Union?

We've given slavery some of its due, but can anyone tell me why, from the point of view of moral principle, Lincoln thinks the Union of the states is such a big deal?

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Philosophy Gathering

Next Wednesday at noon, philosophy majors, minors,* and other interested students will meet at 100 Porter Street for food and friendliness. All are welcome.

*(Note to logic students sharking about for ambiguities: by 'philosophy minors' I don't mean those under the age of 18!)