Saturday, December 24, 2011

Gettysburg Tweet

This is pretty clever, not least because the Gettysburg Address itself was so remarkably concise.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

(LE) Lincoln's Moral Priorities

Maybe we need a theory of levels in Lincon's moral thought, since there is persistent tension between his allegiance to Union and constitutional principle on the one hand, and his unambiguous moral aversion to slavery on the other.

Both are clearly of immense importance to him, but there does seem to be a lexical ordering in favor of procedural legality even over the moral imperative of ending the horrors of slavery. Important as the moral concept of empathy is to him, it cuts both ways -- he empathizes with slaveowners as well as slaves.

Perhaps, then, Enlightenment constitutional legality is the operating system, and all other specific moral content -- the results of empathy, reflection, drawing particular moral judgments, etc., is the software that runs on it. His position may be that if you want people to live better lives and make better moral choices, instead of threatening or scolding them you need to give them better laws, legal concepts, and processes (the moral architecture within which their characters form, and within which they make their day-to-day choices). Necessarily, then, he plays a long game that makes almost everyone impatient.

This helps explain, both how he can seem to be so cavalier about the horrors of slavery (content to let it die out in a century), and why he expends such energy and legal imagination to make the concept of equality from the Declaration function as a Constitutional principle -- repairs to the operating system are his priority over software patches, as the latter can never really solve the problem.