Category Archives: Good people disagree

The Covid attack on empathy, sympathy and compassion

Empathy-Sympathy-Compassion

It is now official. The coronavirus mitigation policy of President Trump and state governors like Iowa’s Kim Reynolds is now essentially, “Sorry, old folks and immigrant workers, a lot of you are gonna die.” As a member of that honored class, pardon me if I am angry today. The coronavirus has taken a huge hit on three bedrocks of human… Read more »

How bad are we really? Humankind by Rutger Bregman

Garden of Eden

An ages-old morality play has started a new season of “reality shows,” run on television every night since May 25, 2020. Was George Floyd a bad man or a good man? How about the four policemen who killed him on the street? Were the street protestors outside the White House on June 1 patriots expressing their constitutional First Amendment rights… Read more »

The ethical theory of “Sucks to be you!”

Coronavirus history US

Utilitarianism is a classic “vector” of ethical theory, a structured way to decide “the right way” to resolve life-and-death dilemmas like the one facing us today. This is a versatile model, one that that has continued to re-emerge in modified forms ever since its roots in the writings of Jeremy Bentham (1748–1832) and John Stuart Mill (1806–1873). The coronavirus news… Read more »

Lifeboat ethics #2 – Ventilators and PPE

Pittsburgh Triage

It seems like a lifetime ago, but it was only near the beginning of March that I wrote a post about the literal application of lifeboat ethics that was being forced onto passengers on two cruise ships denied docking privileges to offload passengers still uninfected by the Coronavirus. At that point, only nineteen people had died of COVID-19 in the… Read more »

COVID-19 and real-life lifeboat ethics

Before there was the “Trolley Problem,” ethics classes would commonly haul out “Lifeboat Ethics” scenarios to stimulate class discussion. In my years of teaching ethics, I never used either because I dislike them both. They both ask the wrong questions, and they lead the Stephen Millers of the world to invoke horrendous “Lord of the Flies” government policies like caging… Read more »

Free Will in 1000 words

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Junction

This is the second in a series trying out pithy explanations of words I use a lot in this blog. The first was on the word probability, linked here. I prefer the word volition, but the overlapping terms of free will and choice are more in the common vocabulary. So, here’s my take on free will. The usual “Big Question”… Read more »

Impeachment and the death of professional ethics

Legality Morality & Professional Ethics

One part of the Senate impeachment trial of Donald Trump disturbed me more for professional reasons than did some of the other absurdities. I watched White House counsel Pat Cipollone publicly violate at least three professional ethical standards required of attorneys with no consequences while standing in front of “potted plant” Chief Justice John Roberts in defense of the President…. Read more »

Gaslighting and the ethic of veracity

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Gaslight

I don’t know who are worse. Is it the cultists like Fox News’ Stuart Varney who says with a straight face that “Donald Trump has never lied to the American people”?  Or the Machiavellian congressmen and religious leaders who downplay the lies for their own endgames? Or the cynic’s shrugged-shouldered “All politicians lie”? My longstanding ethical credo has been that… Read more »

William Barr and the binary God

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Binary God

Besides wandering the globe apparently looking for the “real killer” in the O.J. Simpson case, Attorney General William Barr made two recent high-profile speeches that are disturbing on several levels. His November 15 speech was to the right-wing, highly political Federalist Society (from which have come all recent Republican Supreme Court nominees), where he complained about aggressive oversight from Congressional… Read more »

Revisiting the “political restaurants”

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Markov Defections

A recent state legislature election in Virginia piqued my interest because it featured a candidate rematch of a contest that I featured in the first post of this blog almost two years ago because of its interesting mathematical implications. That 2017 House of Delegates vote ended in a tie, and it was resolved months later literally by drawing lots. The… Read more »