Posts from December 2004

Oh I love that dirty water…

Today L. and I are flying to the birthplace of the Boston Women’s Health Collective and the home of Benjamin Tucker; as I mentioned here before, the aim is to present an essay I co-authored with Roderick on the prospects for libertarian feminism–and why it should be more feminist than most avowed libertarian feminists seem to think. We will be presenting the essay as participants in the inaugural symposium of the Molinari Society at the American Philosophical Association Eastern Division meeting. Roderick has the nitty-gritty on the meeting.

See you in the New Year!

Tidings of comfort and joy

I am not a Christian in anything but an aesthetic sense; but I have to confess that I’m a real sap for Christmas. Not the sentimentalized, garishly lit Santa Claus Christmas; I’m a real Grinch when it comes to Rankin-Bass animation or Frank Capra movies. And not the johnny-come-lately sanctimonious and politicized Happy Birthday, Jesus! fundamentalist Christmas, either; the holiday is not an opportunity for public display of your piety. I mean the simple, quiet, peaceful, earnestly and humbly Christian Christmas. As Linus would say:

4 And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:)

5 To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child.

6 And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered.

7 And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.

8 And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.

9 And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.

10 And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.

11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.

12 And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.

13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,

14 Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.

— Luke, Chapter 2

That’s what it’s all about. May we all have peace, joy, and light in the coming year. Merry Christmas, everyone.

Three Notes

  1. Malcolm X is a really, really fine film. I always remember that it is fantastic, but I never remember just how good it is until I watch it again.

  2. I am flying to Dallas to do some almost-Christmas visiting with my family; while I will have Internet access a fair amount of the time, all the non-family-visiting time I take will be turned over to finishing the essay that I’m co-authoring with Roderick, which we will be presenting a mere week from today at the American Philosophical Association Eastern Division conference in Boston. I should be back around Christmas or so, but I don’t know if there will be any substantial blogging prior to the New Year. We’ll see.

    The essay we’ll be presenting, in case you’re interested, is on libertarianism and feminism; I’ve mentioned the topic, in considerably less detail, here before: see Why Libertarians Need Feminism and Government and the pink-collar ghetto, and touched on related themes in Pro-Choice on Everything, Part I, Because of assholes like this guy…, April March, and EC OTC in OZ, among other places. The overarching project is an effort to show that radical feminism and libertarianism can and should be reconciled–they can because the points where there seems most obviously to be contradiction are actually mostly the result of misunderstandings, either of each other or of one’s own position (misunderstandings that can be dispelled, in part, by the illuminating example of the nineteenth century individualist anarchists, as Roderick has argued before); and they should because they have a lot to offer one another both in terms of theoretical insight and strategy. Unfortunately, some past attempts by libertarians to incorporate feminism into their analysis (take Wendy McElroy’s iFeminismplease!) have fallen straight into a couple of notorious traps: (1) dancing to the divide-and-conquer tune of definition-by-opposition–that is, isolating some ill-defined bogey-woman of Evil Radical Feminism, attacking it mercilessly, and then forgetting to say anything in particular about male supremacy; and (2) attempting a hyphenated feminism synthesis in which the feminism is entirely swallowed by the libertarianism. Our hope is to help suggest a more productive way forward.

  3. Happy Festivus! (Thanks, Max.)

Cheers, everyone.

One Moore for the free world: Chapter I of Principia Ethica is now online

G.E. Moore is one of the most important, and the most overlooked, figures in Analytic philosophy. All too many historical surveys of early Analytic philosophy treat him as attached to Bertrand Russell‘s hip, and as soon as they have got done discussing their joint break with Absolute Idealism and offered a rather Russellian understanding of Moore’s work on Analytic method, they pretty quickly move on to talk about what’s taken to be the heavy-duty stuff: Principia Mathematica, Wittgenstein, and the Vienna Circle. All of this is too damn bad; for as valuable as the parts of Analytic method that Moore and Russell developed more or less in tandem are, there are in the end deep differences between Moore and Russell, in the motivations that led each to adopt Analytic method and the understanding of the aim and right method of philosophy that resulted for each. And I think that it is quite often (although perhaps not always) the distinctively Moorean picture that has something of lasting value to offer us today, even as very few Analytic philosophers can be found anywhere who actually adhere to most or even many of the strictures of the classical Moore-Russell program of conceptual analysis. (The reason why is, briefly, that Russell worked on analytic method from essentially Cartesian motives–his longing for certainty and his efforts to fight what he saw as an uphill battle against thoroughgoing skepticism, whether in his efforts to provide sure foundations for natural science, for everyday perceptual reports, or for mathematics. But Moore’s motives are, strange though it may sound, essentially Kantian; his work begins from the sure truth of the propositions of common sense, and does its best to carefully work out how that truth is possible. Even if the conclusions he ends up at are wrong–and they often are–the picture of philosophy he offers, unlike Russell’s, has much to say to us today–even to those who have set most of programmatic conceptual analysis to one side. It is also, I might add, perhaps the single most important uncredited influence on the development of Wittgenstein’s philosophy.)

In any case: Moore is left out too often when people are telling the story of early Analytic philosophy, and one of the unfortunate side effects is that there is very little of Moore’s philosophy available on the web, even though many of his most influential works have now entered the public domain. But I’m happy to announce a milestone in my own effort to undo a bit of that neglect: the first Chapter of Moore’s Principia Ethica is now completely transcribed and available online (it’s one of the inaugural projects at the Fair Use Repository; more about that, soon). The chapter–entitled The Subject-Matter of Ethics–is probably the best-known of all of Moore’s work on ethics; it contains his (in)famous Open Question Argument and discussion of the Naturalistic Fallacy; it also more-or-less single-handedly inaugurated Analytic meta-ethics. It is now freely available, in beautiful semantic XHTML, for you to read, search, cite, and reprint as you see fit.

In celebration of the occasion, I have also put up a copylefted draft of one of my own essays on Moore, Closing the Question About the Open Question Argument. It’s an attempt, first, to get clear on just how the Open Question Argument works, and, second, to assess its import for meta-ethics in light of important criticisms by Peter Geach. Although I think that Geach’s criticism is vitally important, I argue that important gaps remain in his account, which are best plugged by considerations from Christine Korsgaard’s work on normativity–and, at the end of the plugging, we will have found ourselves coming back closer to Moore’s account than we might have thought. Comments are welcome..


The Hand of DiLorenzo?

Pictured: a detail from a History Book Club advertisement, with three portraits in the left margin: a photograph of Abraham Lincoln, a photograph of Adolf Hitler, and an illustration of Napoleon Bonaparte Here’s a detail from a piece of marketing flotsam that I found recently attached to the advertising section of some magazine or another: an insert hawking the History Book Club‘s three books / three bucks promotion. And look whose portraits are juxtaposed in the left margin…

Is a devotee of The Real Lincoln slaving away somewhere for the History Book Club, taking some compensation for his meagre salary by producing subversive ad copy for a national audience? Or do history buffs really just put out things like this with a complete lack of self-consciousness?

Whatever the case may be, I think it should serve as an excellent reminder: the subjects of so-called Great Man history are almost never great; they are usually just large. And when you try retelling history through the deeds of Great Men, you usually just end up telling the stories of huge assholes.