You are currently browsing Neddy Merrill’s articles.

Latest internet outrage is a video of some girl throwing puppies into a river. Daily Mail. Gawker.

Hilarity: 4chan users on the case, other commenters complaining about how the site is overrun by “justicefags.” (Just the interest of the stronger, no homo.) Bonus hilarity: she’s from Bosnia. There’s something that really bothers me about the outrage being so out of proportion to the wrongness, but no one’s in the mood for a round of the Peter Singer game; just cut-n-paste from the Michael Vick discussions.

To learn why John Cole thinks that Paypal is the worst company in the world, read his post.

I have been amused by Balloon Juice often enough to owe John Cole more than a simple googlebomb favor, but for now it will have to do.

Starting with Beck but then turning to people with “mosk” in their public facebook status.

Who says we are not a party people? Terror suspect auditioned for Canadian Idol, sang “Complicated.”

All idols are haram, my brother.

Advice for life at college, from Mr Destructo. The people who need it won’t pay any attention.
Part I
Part II

Ken Mehlman finally comes out. Michael Rogers pins on the Roy Cohn Award.

More on Mecca-on-the-Hudson from your humble MC Sir Make-Salat. Placed under the Carnival so as not to interfere with real scholarship.
Read the rest of this entry »

Read the rest of this entry »

OMA, has it been a year already? Only on the Hijra calendar! Ramadan mubarak to all brothers and sisters. Fasting time is between about 5 am and 8 pm hereabouts, and it’s hot out there, so be careful. Meanwhile enjoy a nice recitation of Surah al-Fatiha.

Oh, don’t even bother.
Read the rest of this entry »

Via Leiter, I see that some people are wrong on the internet:

Perhaps you already observed it on Friday, since that was the anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima. But today, the anniversary of the Nagasaki bombing, is an equally fitting date. Certainly the image above – the aftermath of Fat Man’s explosion over Nagasaki – is a fitting symbol for consequentialism. Perhaps consequentialist ethicists should consider putting it on the covers of their books, or wear little mushroom cloud pins when they meet up at philosophical conferences. For one thing, since the consequentialist case for the bombings – that they would save more lives than an invasion of Japan would – carried the day with the Truman administration (and with defenders of the bombings ever since), it may be the most consequential piece of consequentialist reasoning ever formulated. For another, the bombings give a pretty good idea of what a world consistently run on consequentialist principles might look like.

But don’t put the party hats on yet, because there’s one little hitch: Consequentialism is, as David Oderberg has put it, “downright false and dangerous, an evil doctrine that should be avoided by all right-thinking people.” And the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were, accordingly, as evil as consequentialism is. So, maybe Consequentialism Day is not a good idea after all, except perhaps as a reminder of the scale of evil that can be and has been done in the name of “good intentions” and “rationality.”

Jimmy Akin offers us a helpful reminder of why the bombings must be considered gravely immoral from the point of view of natural law theory and Catholic moral theology. It is only fair to acknowledge that many consequentialists would no doubt also condemn the bombings, arguing that better consequences would result overall and in the long run from respect for a rule that forbade such actions. Whatever. What matters is that any consequentialist must allow that it is at least in principle legitimate intentionally to kill the innocent for the sake of a “greater good.” And from the point of view of us reactionary, bigoted, unprogressive natural law theorists and Catholics, that is enough to make consequentialism a depraved doctrine. For it is never, never permissible to do what is intrinsically evil that good may come – not even if you’d feel much happier if you did it, not even if you’ve got some deeply ingrained tendency to want to do it, not even if it will shorten a war and save thousands of lives. Never.

(I actually have a little “fat man” bomb-shaped pin that I got at the Atomic Testing Museum in Las Vegas. Almost as fun as the Liberace museum! But that’s not important right now.)

Clayton Littlejohn has a go at a response in comments. To his sensible points, I’d add the following fairly obvious ones:

(i) first, it’s not at all clear that Truman et al. actually gave any thought to consequentialism in thinking about the bomb. Nor is this relevant, in itself. What we’re interested in is the question of consequentialism’s truth, not the reasoning of the Man from Independence.

(ii) There’s another reason it’s misleading to say that “the consequentialist case for the bombings…carried the day with the Truman administration.” Paradigmatic versions of consequentialism weight outcomes for all affected parties equally. That is, the evaluation of the goodness of consequences considers all affected, not a subgroup. Though I’m no historian, I’m willing to bet that decisionmakers weighed American lives (American levels of well-being, pleasure, whatever…) over Japanese lives. Complication: I would classify moral theories that examine effects on only a group or single individual (“group chauvinism” or egoism) as consequentialist, kinda sorta, but they’re a limiting case and the classical versions build in the “all for one, none for more than one” commitment.

(iii) Consider this:

What matters is that any consequentialist must allow that it is at least in principle legitimate intentionally to kill the innocent for the sake of a “greater good.” And from the point of view of us reactionary, bigoted, unprogressive natural law theorists and Catholics, that is enough to make consequentialism a depraved doctrine

Here, let me shorten it. “Natural law and consequentialism are very different moral theories and they disagree about many actions.” If you think NL is right, you’re not a Cist, and vice versa; of course adherents of one theory think the adherents of another are wrong about morality.

(iv) And this:

For it is never, never permissible to do what is intrinsically evil that good may come – not even if you’d feel much happier if you did it, not even if you’ve got some deeply ingrained tendency to want to do it, not even if it will shorten a war and save thousands of lives.

The consequentialist disagrees, of course, though “if you’d feel much happier” and “if you’ve got some deeply ingrained tendency…” are not going to be relevant in most cases. “If you could save thousands…” is more likely– but if you really could save thousands by murdering one innocent, it’s not so obvious that the murder is wrong, etc. Cue phil 101 discussion.

Via Berube, a nice Got Medieval post on “Cordoba.” More specifically, on Newt Gingrich’s claim that

some of the Mosque’s backers insist this term is being used to “symbolize interfaith cooperation” when, in fact, every Islamist in the world recognizes Cordoba as a symbol of Islamic conquest. It is a sign of their contempt for Americans and their confidence in our historic ignorance that they would deliberately insult us this way.

To the surprise of no one, this turns out to be stupid. GM:

So it’s easy to see why a group of Muslims creating a community center in the heart of a majority Christian country in a city known for its large Jewish population might name it “The Cordoba House” They’re not, as Gingrich hopes we would believe, discreetly laughing at us because “Cordoba” is some double-secret Islamist code for “conquest”; rather, they’re hoping to associate themselves with a particular time in medieval history when the largest library in Western Europe was to be found in Cordoba, a city in which scholars of all three major Abrahamic religions were free to study side-by-side.

Read the whole thing, and you’ll know much more about this than Gingrich does.

Your hating-muslims update for Friday 18 Shaban 1431.
Read the rest of this entry »

Interesting article on “Imam Muda,” reality TV from Malaysia in which young men compete for a job as an imam and a free trip to Saudi Arabia. Watch on youtube, learn to recite al-Fatihah. Fun for the whole family.

A public lament about how I wish you were marrying me! Leading to a jab from a colleague and then a bitchy email. Little did you know: your wedding day is all about your weird ex.

It’s only Monday morning, but I hope this is the stupidest thing I read all week. Jeffrey Lord: Sherrod’s story about a lynched relative is false– the man was merely beaten to death after being arrested. No, seriously, that’s what it says.

Not sure what Fred Phelps was doing picketing Comic-Con, but it ended well enough from the standpoint of aggregate utility. Favorite sign: “F&*%#@# magnets, how do they work?” (If you feel like wasting some time, the wiki page on Phelps remains fascinating. Or try Phelps’ own God Hates Sweden [sic].)

Via Leiter, an interesting Academe Online article about BB&T’s gifts-with-strings-attached:

At the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, for example, three years passed before faculty members learned that a million-dollar gift agreement establishing a new course contained language requiring both that Rand’s lengthy paean to laissez-faire capitalism, Atlas Shrugged, be assigned reading and that professors who teach that course “have a positive interest in and be well versed in Objectivism.”

I went to an Ayn Rand Society meeting at an APA once, mostly out of morbid curiosity, and I remember wondering if some of the big-name contributors (people whose philosophical work is pretty well-known) were paid to be on the panel. (The paper that prompted this had the rough form “Here’s my view of concepts. Of course, Rand also had a view of concepts, but I’m not completely sure I understand it, so let’s move on to my stuff.”) Very weird, not as weird as the society for field-being, but definitely out there.

Also, a post from Leiter on the recently-discussed Mark Taylor. He’s agin’em!

Overposting binge hidden below. Updated with a really creepy video.
Read the rest of this entry »

Update: see below for an important emendation.

Our Bellesiles discussion got into the tedious issue of verifying students’ tragic stories. In the last few years my policy has been to accept all stories at face value, and to tell students that this is my policy.

Rationale one: ever have someone tearfully unfold a beloved relative’s death notice in front of you? Boy did I feel like an asshole.

Rationale two: this enables me to tell students that the cost of a lie-based extension is…being the kind of person who pimps grandma’s corpse for a week’s delay in handing in a paper. Whether this is a genuine harm to their well-being is an interesting philosophical question.

Rationale three: they always use the rope to hang themselves anyway. The late work is never any good, and I like giving out Ds more than I like failing people. (Fs are usually for colossal screw-ups or just disappearing; a D is like, I tried, but I was still terrible.)

Rationale four: be honest, you’ve lied to editors. It’s not that I’ve been playing starcraft II for 36 straight hours, it’s that I’m thoughtfully correcting all the typos. So really it’s a more accurate simulation of professional life.

Update I: [deleted on account of me being a prick. Apologies to all concerned.]
Update II: more seriously, and on reflection, the excuses offered to editors et al. very well might be (literally) true, though I suspect they often violate implicatures.
Update III: on a more practical note, a general policy of flexibility with deadlines lowers the incentive to lie.
Update IV: come to think of it, there’s a slightly interesting question about when implicature violation counts as a lie.

This is officially an award-winning blog

HNN, Best group blog: "Witty and insightful, the Edge of the American West puts the group in group blog, with frequent contributions from an irreverent band.... Always entertaining, often enlightening, the blog features snazzy visuals—graphs, photos, videos—and zippy writing...."

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,180 other followers