Category Archives: Good people disagree

When the Pope is a better lawyer than Amy Coney Barrett

God

I had thought that we were basically done with the legality issues surrounding same-sex marriage in the United States, but the elevation of Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court and a recent Supreme Court dissent by Justices Alito and Thomas demonstrate that we still have “a failure to communicate” here. The right of LGBTQ people to cohabit legally… Read more »

Moral luck, Donald Trump and the coronavirus

Trump Covid

The concept of moral luck is one of the more curious sidelines in the study of ethics, at the intersection of moral philosophy and mathematics. However, Donald Trump’s bizarre reactions up to, during, and after contracting Covid-19 make for a great opportunity to look at the concept. In short, President Trump first ascribed his escape from Covid for the first… Read more »

History and the math of “probably not”

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On a day when we can’t get an agreed-upon historical reckoning of the sequence of governmental Coronavirus response in the United States in early 2020 (despite extensive video evidence), I’d like to share my thoughts on “the probability of history” using some classic (and potentially dangerous) examples. In the mid-1990s, the late religious historian Marcus Borg authored a series of… Read more »

Lifting the veil of ignorance in Minneapolis and Kenosha

One more week, one more caught-on-video incident of a policeman shooting an unarmed Black man who was not posing an imminent threat, this one in Kenosha, Wisconsin. Honestly, my first thought on seeing this particular episode after all of this ugly summer’s “repeats” was “How stupid a policeman are you?” The “veil of ignorance” may have been lifted for you… Read more »

Rescuing moral probity

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Republican coalition vectors

In a recent post I used a graphic illustrating what I call six traditional Republican “vectors” of general directional agreement over time. Three of these have been virtually obliterated (the red X’s) from public party conversation in the four years of Trump. The bottom vector shown is my contention that pre-Trump Republicans had long put a high value on the… Read more »

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 »