Two for Tuesday

Two (rambling) thoughts, which I may expand on later.
First, thinking about the purpose of teaching philosophy to undergraduates. I was readings a dialogue by another philosophy adjunct, and I was reminded of the Karate Kid. Not a great movie, and I haven't seen it since it first came out, but one scene has stayed with me: Mr. Miyagi telling the boy to wax his car. The boy is dismayed, but there is a purpose unrelated to the waxing of cars. Similarly, I neither expect nor really want my students to ponder epistemological questions, but there's something important about flexing those muscles. What does it mean to understand someone else's position? Can we be simultaneously critical and charitable when hearing ideas different from our own? (I will probably elaborate on this at length in a future post.)

Second, prodded both by my friend Terry (who doesn't seem to have posted lately) and by Fareed Zakaria, a bit of Ayn Rand bashing. Ayn Rand was a refugee from Communist Russia, and one of her goals was to develop a political philosophy that was the opposite of Communism as she understood it. Fair enough; but in doing so she came up with a dogmatic (as opposed to properly philosophical* position unconnected to reality - which would be fine if members of Congress weren't quoting her in public. (I should have a link for that, but it eludes me at the moment).

*Something I rarely include in my "go read Nozick instead" is that he eventually renounced libertarianism. That's what I mean by "truly philosophical" = willing to follow your premised to their conclusion, and being willing to revise those conclusions.


Saturday Afternoon

Yet another post that mostly features pictures rather than text, although there is a bit of text in the story. And a cheery story it is!


More cartoons

..because you probably don't just want to hear me bash Ayn Rand. (Although if you do, please leave a comment and I will oblige.)



So, today is the day that I post some cartoons.
I may have mentioned that I'm not drawing as many these days, mostly because I'm not barraged by the constant stream of nonsense as when I started this blog.
Also, I've been reading Paul Krugman, whom I find edifying but not particularly amusing.


Informal fallacies

In a recent post on a blog I don’t usually read, a libertarian accused people who invoke Somalia against libertarians of making a false dichotomy. Well, no.

If I were to say, "if you don’t support President Obama, you hate poor people" – that’s a false dichotomy; perhaps you voted for Kucinich and don't think the President has gone nearly far enough. If someone were to say, "if you don’t support this bill that gives the government far-reaching power to encroach on our freedoms, then you hate freedom" – that’s also a false dichotomy. The Patriot Act has never seemed particularly patriotic to me.

On the other hand, if I say, "if you want to see where libertarian philosophy will get you, just look at Somalia," I’m doing something else entirely. It’s called a Slippery Slope. And the funny thing about slippery slopes is that they’re not always fallacies.

If you look at Ronald Reagan’s attack on Medicare, you can see a slippery slope as a fallacy. But big changes rarely happen overnight: there’s usually an incremental process involved. To identify a small change which opens the way for future (implied, bad) change is to point to a slippery slope, but sometimes it’s true. Martin Luther wasn’t really interested in having everyone reading the Bible for themselves, and I think his concerns about what that would lead to have been borne out: a massively fragmented Christendom.

I will continue to refer to Somalia, with two caveats. First, I don’t tend to listen too much to, say, Ron Paul or other contemporary American politicians who identify as libertarian; but I have read some of what they read, including but not limited to Ayn Rand, Robert Nozick, and Tara Smith. As an political theory, it’s not so much about the size or proper role of government so much as it is about dismantling the social contract. (If you disagree with this, you should say that I'm committing a Straw Man fallacy, and I will counter that you need to go back and reread Anarchy State and Utopia)

The second caveat is that the Somalis aren't really living out the consequences of libertarian political philosophy: things have fallen apart there for many reasons, and none of them can be blamed on Ayn Rand.

On the other hand, the quality of life in the US depends on a number of factors, some of which do have a direct link to libertarians. Freedom is important, but in what kind of society do you want to live?
The Mercatus Institute’s freedom score was significantly linked to (by state)- lower educational attainment (measured by percent of Bachelor degrees or higher), lower population density, lower per capita GDP, increased infant mortality, increased accident mortality, increased incidence of suicide, increased firearm mortality, decreased industrial R&D, and increased income inequality.
I'm sure there are a host of factors, and these statistics can't be reduced to a larger vision of society and the role of government. And yet.... it’s a slippery slope, do you really want to go down it?


So, these aren't exactly cartoons, either...

but I have some, somewhere. I promise. And I'll post them at some point.
These do feature Mr. Miro; they're studies for part of a much larger series that I've been thinking about since I spent four months in Vancouver several years ago.

I've been thinking about Sarah Palin, and an episode of the Simpsons (3F04) where the giant advertisements came alive and terrorized the town
"Are you suffering from the heartbreak of...Monster-itis? Then take a tip from Mr. Paul Anka!
To stop those monsters, one-two-three, Here's a fresh new way that's trouble-free.
It's got Paul Anka's guarantee; guarantee void in Tennessee
Just don't look, just don't look..."

I know, it's like a car wreck (involving Paul Revere and gotcha questions by the lame-stream media!), but as the man from the advertising agency said, "if you stop paying attention to the monsters, they'll lose their powers."

I've also been thinking about unemployment, mine in particular but the national figures in general - as I have been since I first drove out to Vancouver, as a matter of fact - and continue to be horrified by the lack of any coherent response from any politicians that I've seen. Where was the Socialist-in-Chief that we were threatened with promised?

Along those lines, during my recent trips to various bookstores I've noticed an uptick in books on Marx and Marxism... perhaps I'm not the only one that's been thinking about this lately. Or maybe it's just an example of confirmation bias - I see what I want to see. Of course, I also see books by Ayn Rand; my recent thoughts (linking Annie Dillard, Martin Buber, and Immanuel Kant - also Hegel and Marx, Simone de Beauvoir and Elizabeth Spelman) are fairly explicitly anti-Rand (as well as, perhaps predictably, anti-Nozick). I'm still chewing on a straightforward way to present a long and complex line of thinking on the subject, but to summarize: we are human only through our connection to others. (I.e., John Galt can suck it.)



So, I promise a more substantive analysis of... something or other... at some point in the relatively near future. And I also promise more cartoons. But today I wanted to follow up on a recent post regarding figure drawing, and show you what I've been up to (when I'm not drawing cartoons and reading various non-required matter): actual people (and a couple animals) rather than a still life!
Not finished drawings, of course, but a way of gathering ideas.



I promised squares a while back, fiddled with these and then forgot about them.
Various other things bouncing through my head lately - connecting Annie Dillard to Martin Buber, connecting Martin Buber to Immanuel Kant... there will be more on this at some point, perhaps with illustrations. For today, you just get squares.