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Governing and Human Nature

Consider the present state of political discourse. Isn't it, at least in part, a discussion about evil and what to do about it? Of course, it also involves thinking about some things as evil and other things as good. But once a political group has decided what they think is evil, the debate is all about what to do about it. Debate over the environment is about what to do to confront the bad effects of successful economies. The debate over wealth and poverty becomes a debate about how to shrink the income gap. The same is true of debates over firearms, border control, the moral status of the unborn, and a plethora of other issues.

What price utopia?
What a politician has to do is attempt to restrain evil without removing other features of overweighing value. Good governance restrains evil without diminishing other valuable features of human life. Thus, to govern well, one must have a grasp of the nature of human beings. Indeed, any political philosophy begins with answering that qu…
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On Contemporary Education

"School has to be bigger. It has to mean more than 'I teach my subject.' School has to be about teaching people to change the world for the better. If we believe that, then teaching will always be a political act. We can't be afraid of our students' power. Their power will help them make tomorrow better. But before they can do that, we have to give them chances to practice today. And that practice should start in our schools" (Sydney Chaffee, 2017 CCSSO teacher of the year, TED talk, Nov 2017).
This picture of a school as a place in which students are empowered to transform society in the name of justice is a popular one.

Let's say she's right - education is a matter of social activism. Teachers are to be facilitators, "thought partners" who let students "grapple with complex, hard issues" without "necessarily giving them the right answers." Students are not formed, informed, or reformed by teachers; instead "student…

On Law and Justice

If you were to find yourself in court accused of performing an action that you think is morally permissible--good, even--but against which there is a law, how would you react? Most likely, even if everyone in the room thought otherwise, you would think an injustice was being carried out.

Imagine being led from the courtroom to undergo lashing, imprisonment, or even death when in your mind you had done nothing wrong. I'm sure most people's stomachs would be in a knot. You'd be angry and incensed for good reason. The reason, I suggest, is that legal codes of particular governing authorities are beholden to a higher law.

Now, perhaps you are wrong. Either there is no higher law or you are wrong about what it would say. If there is no higher law, then that feeling of injustice is merely a feeling and nothing more. In which case, justice just is whatever the court decides. If, on the other hand, there is a higher law, but you are wrong about what it would say, then you have a d…

Why Christians Use the Bible in Moral Arguments

What is the point of citing Bible verses when making moral arguments? Since not everyone believes the Bible to be true or authoritative, surely we need to make arguments based on something else, something we have in common. But Christians use the Bible all the time. Why?

To get to an answer, one has to consider a range of issues in ethics. Once one has reasoned through these questions, it becomes clear why many Christians find that the Bible has an essential role to play in most moral reasoning. Thus, when engaging in moral debate, we often use the Bible.

The first relevant issue is whether moral statements are translatable into factual statements. For example, can one translate "it is wrong to murder" into a factual statement? Some suggest that this is not possible, that concepts such as 'good' and 'wrong' are not analyzable in terms of anything else. Christians, however, are likely to say that "it is wrong to murder" can be translated into the fact…

On Moral Relativism

Cultural Relativism is the view that “Normality…is culturally defined” (Ruth Benedict). More precisely, cultural relativists hold to MR:

(MR) There is no moral principle which necessarily applies to everyone, everywhere, and at every time
For the cultural relativist, the source of moral principles is the conventions given by a group of people who make up a culture. The argument for such a view is:

(1) What is normative is culturally determined
(2) What is moral is normative
(3) Therefore, what is moral is culturally defined

Why might one hold to such a view? First, one might think the following is true: "Beliefs about what is right and wrong vary from culture to culture." Since we have no way to tell which culture is correct (ours or theirs), the following is also true: "What is really right and wrong varies from culture to culture." Second, one might think that if someone says that morals are not relative, then they must be intolerant, ethnocentric or a bigot. Third, …

Hard Work Does Not Always Pay

Though it is generally true that those who work hard will earn a living, the sweat of your brow has no necessary connection with the contents of your wallet. The valueof your labor does not determine its price. What determines the price of something is the amount someone is willing to pay for it. Nor is there are moral connection - without a voluntary agreement to pay for someone's labor, work itself does not obligate anyone to pay for it.