Audience Participation

April 30, 2006

Two somewhat related requests:

  1. Despite my relative certainty about the things I’ve discussed so far—the value and necessity of human reason, above all else—there are quite a few issues about which I don’t have ironclad opinions. In that vein, if there are any topics, specific or general, about which you would like me to post, please feel free to leave a comment here to that effect (or email me). I’ve got no scarcity of things to write about (he says, adding a twelfth post to his queue), but I’m genuinely curious about what sorts of things you’d like to see me write about, if you have any particular preference.
  2. Speaking of issues on which I haven’t come to a decisive conclusion, I’d like to get a bit of conversation going about the concept of hate crime legislation. The ‘sensible’ position, at least in the circles in which I run, is that such laws would by definition be thought legislation, in that they place an additional criminal burden on anti-[group] thoughts above and beyond already-prohibited violent actions, thus violating the principle of freedom of conscience. The suggestion of this argument is that hate crime legislation would be on principle no different from a legal prohibition against bigoted thoughts—the only difference being that bigotry would be a secondary violation, so to speak. The obvious rebuttal here is that intent and mental state are already considered in the law in quite a few places, most notably in the various distinctions between degrees of murder/manslaughter. This seems to be more a matter of the absence or presence of intent than about the content of that intent, I suppose, but hate crimes could be represented similarly–the absence or presence of anti-[group] intent in the committing of a violent crime.

    My instincts here run in two different directions. On the one hand, I am very receptive to the hesitance to regulate thought in any way, and to the theoretical dangers of encoding a sort of prohibition of certain beliefs, even if those beliefs are idiotic and hateful. I recognize that the burden rests on those doing the regulating, and that rights are assumed to exist unless otherwise specified. On the other hand, the “hate crime legislation -> thought crime” argument seems to me somewhat misleading; I’m not entirely ready to say that enforcing hate crime legislation would be the same in principle as enforcing a prohibition on bigoted thoughts. It should be noted that the desire to kill someone because of their sexual orientation/gender/race/etc. can and should be distinguished from the belief that someone is inferior because of those characteristics, though obviously they are fundamentally linked. The question there, I guess, would be whether there is something to the willingness to commit a hate crime besides the belief in the inferiority of the victim’s group and a willingness to kill in general, and I’m not really sure how to answer that. Society has a definite interest in decreasing the number of violent crimes committed, and this is one of the main functions of the legal prohibition on violent crime: to create a state where the cost of committing a certain crime (imprisonment, etc.) is greater than the perceived benefit of committing that crime (material gain, emotional satisfaction, etc.). Hate crime legislation would seem to act to create such a state of affairs by targeting one of the potential impulses towards violent crime. The other function of law is protection in a more direct sense, i.e. removing dangerously violent people from the general population so that they won’t kill people, and it seems to me that the thought crime argument is more relevant to this dimension of law. As a deterrent, though (see desire utilitarianism), it doesn’t seem to me entirely out of the question.

What say you, dear readers, on either of these counts?



Update on “Clooney” Blog Post

March 23, 2006

I don’t like lying to readers, and as our friend filthy_habit pointed out, the Huffington Post article allegedly by George Clooney was not in fact written by him. Yesterday, Arianna Huffington apologized to the public for the misleading blog post which was, in fact, composed from compiled Clooney interviews. Just thought you all should know.

Livejournal Feed

February 27, 2006

Looking at our referral logs, I noticed that somebody has been kind enough to set up a Livejournal syndicated feed for IP (and, I am told, one for comments). So for those readers who hail from Livejournal, you can get your fix there.

(N.B.: Please don’t comment on the Livejournal feed. We won’t see it if you do, and the comments will disappear if the feed updates and removes the posting. Follow the link and make comments on the IP site.)

Locke Week?

February 19, 2006

Also, for the record: I’m diving into Locke’s Second Treatise of Government, and I’m planning to do a series of entries on various aspects of it over the next week or so. I may have an unrelated post or two before that starts, but either way, I’m hoping to have the first Locke post up tomorrow night or thereabouts. So look for that, if it’s something you care to look for.


Already a Month; also, Links to Smart People

February 9, 2006

As of early this morning, we’ve been up and running for a month. I’m hoping to pick up the pace in the coming weeks and months, but for now, I’d like to link to a few people who are doing some particularly good blogging of late.

Alonzo Fyfe over at Atheist Ethicist (whom I just realized I had neglected until now to add to our blogroll) recently passed the 150 post milestone, and in the process he gave us an index to some of his best posts on reason-based morality, a subject that’s near and dear to my heart (and mind). I’ve only been reading him for a month or so, since his post on the Pledge appeared in the Carnival of the Godless, and I haven’t had a chance to go back to all of his older posts, but what I’ve read has been both rigorous and very readable. He’s been particularly good lately on the Danish cartoon debacle, too.

While I’m on that subject, Ed Brayton has been, to my mind, the best and most comprehensive source of commentary on the Danish cartoons, from the humorous and ironic to the insightful and downright frightening. (You should also check out some of the other stuff at Positive Liberty while you’re there.)

Dave Neiwert over at Orcinus has a long history of excellent commentary on eliminationist rhetoric, and while I don’t necessarily share his views on hate crime legislation, I do think it’s extremely important to understand how rhetoric turns to action, and he articulates this more effectively than anyone else in the blogosphere.

Lastly, I should nudge you all rather forcefully towards Thoughts from Kansas. Were some strange person to put a gun to my head and force me to stop reading all but one of the blogs I currently read, TfK would be it. Great on science, great on politics (both local and national), great on the interactions between the two (three?). Look; manimals! (Edit: I just have to add this, because it’s too good. TfK on McCain’s campaign finance flipflops: “Like all great indie acts, his early work was better.”)


The, er, Ninth Step

January 26, 2006

Better late than never, I suppose: I am author number four.
By way of introduction, I list my interests, a turn-off, and beliefs.

  1. My primary interest is in how things work. In the past few months, this has led me to study, among other things, sociology, religion, productivity, physics, the brain, and nutrition. Mostly, I have a short attention span.
  2. I will listen to anything but memorized responses. I hate memorized responses.
  3. I believe in three things only: human agency, discourse, and chocolate.

And that’s that.


For the record . .

January 10, 2006

Author #4 is on a bit of a vacation for the next couple weeks. We’re going to get started without him, because, well . . we don’t love him enough to wait. Give him a nice welcome when he gets here, though.