Category Archives: Good people disagree

Brett Kavanaugh, moral luck and the veil of ignorance

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In this blog I have visited several times the intersection of mathematical probability with what we often call “divine justice” (also known as theodicy). For instance, the odds being diagnosed with any of several types of cancer resemble statistically the winning of a cruel lottery, with statistical annual diagnosis rates per 100,000 people eerily unchanged from year to year. Or take… Read more »

Ethics, legality and Iowa’s governor

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Note: This is a cross-post from the excellent Bleeding Heartland blog. A recent AP news story parsed through the repeated practice of Kim Reynolds, current governor of Iowa, of taking trips using planes owned by businessmen who do substantial business with the state. The most recent incident, involving a vendor handling state workers’ compensation claims, was approved by the executive director of… Read more »

The “values voter” – Whose values?

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In a post a while back I wrote about the concept of “Big Picture” ethics, or meta-ethics, where making moral decisions determined by either by “the rules” or “the goals” become secondary behind a larger, generalized conception of principles or virtues that attempt to reconcile conflicting ideas and filter out the worst choices. One of the primary vectors of meta-ethics… Read more »

“Free will” versus “free won’t”

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“I can resist anything but temptation.” – Oscar Wilde One of the best-known series of studies on human volition, or “free will,” was the “marshmallow test,” conducted by Walter Mischel in the 1960s. In one variant of this study, children would be placed alone in a room with one marshmallow and told that if they waited and chose not to eat… Read more »

Why be ethical?

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I once viewed the assertion that we should all aspire to be ethical was a no-brainer, a universally-held social norm. I don’t believe so anymore. The election of a demonstrably-unethical businessman as president of the United States in 2016, supported despite his very public immorality by the most visible conservative, self-described religious voices, put the final nail in that coffin…. Read more »

“Signaling” our way out of an ethical dilemma

I have asserted in earlier posts about “Why good people disagree” that the human inter-brain “moral conversation” is likely one of biochemical probability evaluation. It is the end result of hundreds of thousands of “moral evaluator” brain neurons, representing the “rules” parts of the brain, the “good ends” parts of the brain, the “empathy” parts of the brain and the… Read more »

Your moral probability

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When encountering an in-your-face moral dilemma, say the imprisoning of refugee children apart from their parents at the southern U.S. border, you can likely predict which classic ethical justification certain people are going to throw out first. Some people will first speak of the damage done to the children, letting their “empathy flag” fly high. Others will shout, “But the… Read more »

A moral conversation about immigration

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The debate about immigration and asylum, especially on the southern border of the United States, has reached a fever pitch, and is even on the cusp of civil disturbance. In the language of a previous post, the moral conversation is NOT happening here, either between people or even, I would argue, inside the heads of most people. In that post… Read more »

The moral conversation

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I have been writing a continuing series about morality and ethics, which I summarize as being about “Why good people disagree,” since March, beginning with this post about the “first ethical dilemma,” as encountered very early in homo sapiens’ existence as a species. My basic position is that our theological and philosophical languages have evolved, over the centuries, as words for… Read more »

Faith, hope, charity and Roy Rogers

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One of my earliest memories as a small child in the 1950s is listening to a favorite 78 RPM record. On this little piece of yellow vinyl, husband-and-wife cowboy stars Roy Rogers and Dale Evans sang: Have faith, hope and charity, That’s the way to live successfully. How do I know? The Bible tells me so! Faith, hope and charity… Read more »