The Sensible Knave

"I do not see that we are further along today than where Hume left us. The Humean predicament is the human predicament." - W.V.O. Quine

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Bad Motive vs. No Motives

As I've maintained before, motives are not relevant to the justification of an action. Rather, they are relevant to judgments about the character of the person performing it. Well, people seem to think that the judgment about motives entails something about justification, or the lack thereof. I suppose that "Bush invaded Iraq for the oil" could be construed as "There was no other reason (moral or otherwise) for invading Iraq." If the latter judgment is sound, however, then the invasion is unjustified, regardless of the motives of the invader. Positing bad motives impugns the character of the person, but not his actions.

Note how easy it is slip into a circular chain of argumention here (not that the arguments I've outlined are inherently circular). If you suggest that the bad motives make the action unjustified (like water drawn from the poisoned well, as it were), you must be careful not to draw any conclusions about motives based on the absence of any other justification for the action. It would seem that many evaluations of actions based on motives implicitly prejudge the action as a basis for assessing motives.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Unsolved Mysteries

If you think this is bad, just think how bad it would be if they didn't have Monk.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Transit Strike

As you may know, the NYC Transit Workers Union is striking. Support the union. Sure, millions of other workers face economic hardship on account of this, but this is a union we're talking about. Unions can't hurt workers, of course. Only management can do that. Support the union.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Human Rights for Enemy Combatants

Do those who want expanded respect for the human rights for terrorists captured in combat actually want to see them killed in combat instead? Well, that's what they should expect. Captured terrorists are potentially valuable for the information they possess. Even if we shouldn't torture it out of them, we would impose privation or duress that tends to facilitate cooperation. If those options are taken off the table, then the value of captive terrorists declines precipitously.

In combat situations, the tactics soldiers must use to increase the number of captives they take increase the risks to themselves, and they increase the probability of escape. Those might be considered acceptable risks, given the potential benefits. If targetted terrorists are no longer considered potentially valuable assets, however, then the main consideration weighing against tactics designed to maximize the safety of our own troops, and to minimize the likelihood of enemy escape, loses its sway.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Good for the baby,...

...bad for the gene pool.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

How to Bait a Literary Predator

As a freelance writer sniffing out new leads, I've become addicted to craigslist. I offer my opinion on this gem of an ad, as a free service to literary scam artists (you can read up on some major offenders here):

does anyone can write a book?
Reply to:

Date: 2005-12-06, 11:13PM EST

what do I have to do? most people I know said, I'll have no chance, because I'm not famous,with no special skills .

do you think anyone could be published? thanks

no -- it's NOT ok to contact this poster with services or other commercial interests
Compensation: thanks

Yes, a vanity press will tell you, anyone (with extra cash) can be published. I think the author of this ad wants to see how far some folks will go in soliticiting him to submit a novel. They will be effusive in assessing his literary potential. Of course, he'll have to pay hefty "reviewing" and "printing" fees. He'll have to promise to buy many copies of the book himself, and it will be on him to persuade Barnes & Noble to stock his book. Maybe it's a sting, or just the craigslist equivalent of a crank call.