Winning a Moral Arms Race?

The first person to comment on my post about The Hunger Games and not seeing gifts as debts had a pragmatic concern: I don’t see this as moral progress. If more people would see a sacrifice as a debt the world would be a better place. I've got a (richly deserved) reputation as a not-so-soft paternalist when it comes to social policy, so I'm sympathetic to this critique.  Isn't there a benefit to chafing under a debt insofar as it spurs us on to better acts?  How is this kind of inducement dif … [Read more...]

If only I weren’t determined to fight about free will!

The Chronicle of Higher Education is holding an essay symposium on Free Will and I have so many problems with Jerry Coyne's contribution: "You Don't Have Free Will."  To begin with, I have a general suspicion that the debate over free will is terrible at least in part because the definition of free will is incoherent.  (Yudkowsky has a good essay on recognizing and defusing definitional debates).What we are fumbling after is the reason we are morally culpable for our own actions.  Why do we t … [Read more...]

Whaddya Wanna Get Married For?

Sorry this is late, but what could be better on Valentine's Day than pouring kerosene on a fight about marriage? This post is part of a debate on gay marriage.  In the last installment, my friend Matt argued that endorsing gay marriage means endorsing the foundations of divorce culture.  So now it's my turn to be prescriptive about marriage.  To start with a recap of what kind of marriage Matt opposed, let's go to the videotape (John Barrowman in Company):We'll look not too deep, We'll g … [Read more...]

Divorce and the Doctrine of Individualism

This post is part of a debate on gay marriage.  Matt led off with a post on gay marriage and deep friendship, and I rebutted him in three parts.  Now he debuts a new argument, which I'll respond to tomorrow.  (Oh, and once again, photos are my fault, not Matt's).The second of Professor Anthony Esolen’s arguments that I’d like to concur with is the idea that homosexual marriage would "seal us in a culture of divorce." Again, this hits at a major talking point of the gay rights movement. I … [Read more...]

How do you pick a teacher?

The Dunning-Kruger effect is a term for people who are too ignorant to recognize that they are mistaken. If you work in politics or public health, it's easy to feel as though these people are everywhere, but it is possible for most of us to spot people or systems which are better at making certain judgements than we are. And if we find one, it's rational to defer to its decisions.This is essentially the kind of system G.K. Chesterton claimed Catholicism to be when he declared it to be a … [Read more...]

Trying to Will Your Beliefs (A Case Study)

There's been a fair amount of discussion on this blog lately about whether people can choose their beliefs or whether beliefs are compelled by evidence (and then some more about what this all means for free will).  Good news for me, because that was all the excuse I needed to post the following excerpt from Harry Potter  and the Methods of Rationality, a fanfiction story written by AI research Eliezer Yudkowsky.In Yudkowsky's story, Harry was raised by a science professor instead of the D … [Read more...]

Submitting to Others

This is part of a series on covenant marriage, and, hopefully, it’s becoming clearer what this all has to do with virtue.How do you know that you’re not a psychopath?The simplest check on your sense perception (moral or physical) is checking with others to see if they have the same observations as you. If you diverge, you have to weigh the odds that you are the lone sane person in a crazy world. If you’re seeing auras that are invisible to everyone else, you probably have a migraine, not … [Read more...]