Winter 2015: Moral Philosophy

M/W/F, A 1046 10-10:50

Office Hours: M/W/F 11:00-11:55 AA 3012



Recent statistics in Canada reveal that the average level of education is Grade 8, 80% of offenders have addiction or substance abuse problems, 80% of federally sentenced women have been sexually abused, and almost half of all offenders required mental health care in the past year–all while overall spending on prisons have increased by 23%, far more than any other area of provincial and federal budgets. As we’ll see as the semester progresses, the situation in the U.S. is notoriously worse and the war on drugs there has been, without a pretense to balance as I’ll present it in this class, a war on those of color and the poor. This is, of course, a class in “moral philosophy” and the student would be right to wonder why “crime and punishment” will be our focus. Most moral philosophy courses take you through the drills of readings on virtue ethics (e.g., Aristotle), deontological ethics (e.g., Kant), as well as utilitarianism (e.g., John Stuart Mill and Beccaria), the main areas of Western ethical thought. You will see these theories well represented below. But at the heart of each of these readings is a question about what is the blameworthy life and each of these thinkers has a specific consideration of what merits being called a crime and thus what is a worthy punishment. And indeed, each of these areas of ethical thought has its analogical area of theories of punishment, e.g., retributivism and the deterrence theories of punishment.

Philosophy begins with Socrates facing the ultimate penalty for crimes, Plato tells us, he did not commit. Plato’s whole corpus, in a way, can be read as a defense of Socrates against those charges and thus a critique of the punishment he faced. On the other hand, Socrates willingly faced that punishment in the name of arguing that it would undo something of a social compact each of us makes in our societies: to receive punishments, even if innocent, less the laws have no force. Philosophy has thus always, it seems, accepted the logic of crime and punishment, at least until relatively recently. Often enough, we think there is something natural about this link between crime and punishment: that if there is a crime there must be a punishment. This logic is there in just about every area of our lives: if we screw up at work, we might expect to be fired; if we think a loved one has wronged us, we might make ourselves “punish” them by not speaking to them or withdrawing demonstrations of affection; we bow before God often as a means of fire insurance, to keep from the punishment of hell for our original sin; even in health people often treat disease as something of a punishment for laziness with exercise or bad habits earlier in life. Yet, as soon as one considers this seemingly inexorable and undefeatable logic (for every crime, there must be a punishment), as Plato did at several keys points, including in his Republic, it seems far less obvious why bringing harm to someone somehow makes up for a supposed crime. Thus the race in all of these theories to connect these two: we do it for the sake of community (virtue ethics) or the greatest happiness (utilitarianism) or for no effect at all, except that it is simply just (the “eye for an eye” of the Judaic Masoretic text and the retributivism of deontological ethics).

Nietzsche’s view is that, as we’ll see, crime and its link to punishment is but a convoluted leftover from the earliest trading: we take something so we must give something in return, and that punishment is not the result of an erudite theory, but because it provides the pleasure of our will to power over others. Whatever we will think of this view, we must not treat, as writers on crime and punishment often do, especially in philosophy, this issues as an abstract armchair discussion: the penitentiaries of our prison landscapes are not just the result of various theories of punishment, but also, perhaps, as authors we will read set out to demonstrate, are the result of labeling some (visible minorities and the poor) as always already guilty of a given crime, and thus always available for punishment. And, in turn, there are those who are always already deemed innocent, or at least non-punishable: we can think here of the various Wall Street CEOs and so on who were involved in the credit default swap frauds that nearly brought down the world economy, though not one has faced any jail time (think of that the next time you read of someone getting jail time for minor drug use that affects no one) or the police officers in the U.S. who can kill with impunity, even when caught on tape.

When most women in prison are victims of sexual assault, with results on the psyche that are well known, and half of all inmates have received mental health care in the last year–who is it that we are punishing? Are certain types of lives already blame worthy and thus brought within our prisons systems in Canada in the U.S.? We will see that these considerations will make up much of the latter part of the course. Thus the task of this semester is to learn the difficult ethical theories on offer from key historical figures as well as to apply those theories to a given area of concern, namely the kinds of punishment on offer in the modern age, namely the death penalty (at least in the U.S.; Canada’s last executions, as you all know, was in 1962) and the prison, itself a dominant form of punishment only since the beginnings of the 19th century. But we need to think of this more broadly in the age of the war on terror, since each of these missions, including those involving Canada, are “police actions” that use drones and military forces to kill and maim those guilty of ties to terrorism–no matter how nebulous that turns out to be. Below are the readings (I will revise as we move along) that will help us take up this theme.

Books ordered:

Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics, ISBN: 0872204642 (Hackett)
Nietzsche, Genealogy of Morals, ISBN: 0679724621 (Vintage)

(Most readings will be available online below.)

Reading Schedule and Resources

Monday January 5

Introduction to the course

Wednesday January 7

Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics: Book I, 1-5.


1. BBC In Our Time: Virtue (podcast)

2. Nigel Warburton, Philosophy Classics, Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics (podcast) 

3. Table of Virtues (MS Word File)

4. Aristotle Prof’s opening lecture and overview.

Friday January 9

Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics: Book I, 7-13.

Monday, January 12

Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics: Book II, 1-9. (Heather E.)

Wednesday, January 14

Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics: Book III, 1-5. (Allison A.)

Friday, January 16

Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics: Book III, 6-12; Book IV, 1-9. (Quiz 1) (Victoria K.)

Quiz 1 (Due in class Wednesday: 2 pages, single-spaced, with a proper introductory paragraph): How is happiness acquired for Aristotle. Be absolutely clear by defining key terms (happiness, virtue, education, habits, freedom, voluntariness, etc.). Cite at least two different virtues as examples and relate them to your discussion of happiness. No late quizzes accepted.

Monday, January 19

Martin Luther King, Jr., “Letter from a Birmingham Jail.”

Wednesday, January 21

Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics: Book VI, 1-9, 13 (Kim T.)

Friday, January 23

Beccaria, On Crimes and Punishment, I-VI (Ethan L.)

Monday, January 26

Beccaria, On Crimes and Punishment, VII-VIII, XI-XV (Rachel T.)

Wednesday, January 28

Beccaria, On Crimes and Punishment, XIX-XXV (Jordan M.)

Friday, January 30

Beccaria, On Crimes and Punishment, XXVIII (Rebecca W.)

Monday, February 2

Beccaria, On Crimes and Punishment, XLV-End (Hart M.)

Quiz 2 (3 pages, single-spaced, 10 points): How does Beccaria’s arguments against the death penalty derive from this utilitarian ethics? First, explain, with quotations, how Beccaria defines the proper punishment. Explain his arguments against the death penalty, and why he prefers other punishments. What arguments does he make? How are they similar or different from Aristotle? Lastly, explain how his basic ethical principles lead him to link crime and punishment, but not the punishment of the death penalty.

Wednesday, February 4

Kant, Metaphysics of Morals (pp. 376-382: 6:221-228) (Andrea D.)

Paul Guyer, “Kant’s Ethics” (.pdf)


1. Professor’s Overview (MS Word File)

2. Nigel Warburton, “Kant’s Groundwork for the Metaphysics of Morals (podcast)

4. L. Alexander and M. Moore, “Deontological Ethics” (Stanford Encyclopedia of Phil.)

Friday, February 6

 Kant, Metaphysics of Morals (pp. 387-390: 6:231-233) (Andrew)

Monday, February 9

Kant, Metaphysics of Morals (pp. 455-461: 6:311-318) (Maggie M.)

Wednesday, February 11

Kant, Metaphysics of Morals (pp. 472-477: 6:331-337; pp. 497-498: 6:362-362) (Alex O.)

Friday, February 13

Rawls, chapter 1 from A Theory of Justice (Cameron M.)

Quiz 3 (5 points): in class and short answer/multiple choice.


1. Rawls and Social Justice podcastPartially Examined Life

2. Leif Wenar, John RawlsStanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy

Monday, February 16

Winter Break

Wednesday, February 18

Winter Break

Friday, February 20

Rawls, chapter 2 from A Theory of Justice.

Monday, February 23

Rawls, chapter 3 from A Theory of Justice (Ryan P.)

B. Honig, “Rawls on Politics and Punishment,” Political Research Quarterly March 1993 46: 99-125 (Shinyoung P.)

Wednesday, February 25

Rawls, chapter 6 from A Theory of Justice (Ryan P.)

Friday, February 27

Quiz 4 (10 points, 3-4 pages, single-spaced): John Rawls has often been called neo-Kantian. In this paper, you will first describe Rawls’ overall political project as outlined in A Theory of Justice. Next, describe the kind of politics Kant’s deontological ethics provides in the The Metaphysics of Morals. What does Kant mean by freedom? Is there similar to Rawls’ notion of freedom. Finally, compare and contrast their political systems, arguing whether this depiction of Rawls as “neo-Kantian” is a valid interpretation of his work.

Monday, March 2

Nietzsche, Genealogy of Morals (preface and first half, first essay) (Sarah M.)

Wednesday, March 4

Nietzsche, Genealogy of Morals (second half, first essay) (Bornwell)

Friday, March 6

Nietzsche, Genealogy of Morals (second essay, sections 1-12)

Monday, March 9

Nietzsche, Genealogy of Morals(second essay, sections 13-25)

Nietzsche, selections from Human, All too Human (Bethany P.)

Wednesday, March 11

Arendt, Eichmann in Jerusalem, ‘The Accused‘ (Richard B.)

Thom Brooks, selections from On Punishment (Ian)

Friday, March 13

Monday, March 16

Wednesday, March 18

Arendt, Eichmann in Jerusalem, ‘Duties of a Law Abiding Citizen‘ (Alex R.)

Arendt, Eichmann in Jerusalem, ‘Epilogue‘ (read first half) (Patrick)

Friday, March 20

Quiz 5 (10 points, 5 pages, double-spaced): The topic of this paper is Nietzsche’s genealogy of morals. In the first couple of pages, you will summarize Nietzsche’s genealogy of morals and where they derive from. What are the sources of morality? What are they useful for? Next you will review Nietzsche’s critique of specific schools of ethics (he mentions virtue ethics, Kant, and utilitarianism, as well as Christian ethics), which are not as objective or ahistorical as they claim. Why is this the case? Do you agree with Nietzsche’s critique? Finally, what is the point of Nietzsche’s genealogy? Is it simply to do away with all moral values? Why or why not? (For the love of all that is holy: cite all sources using APA or Chicago Manual of Style, do not use cover sheets or separate pages for the bibliography, or have strange, unnecessary triple spacing between paragraphs just to fill out space.)

Arendt, Eichmann in Jerusalem, ‘Epilogue‘ (read second half) (Ryan)

Michelle Alexander, The New Jim Crow (Chapter 5; sent via email) (Laura P.)

Monday, March 23

Loïc Wacquant, “Social Insecurity and the Punitive Upsurge,” in Punishing the Poor (2009).(Brianna)

Loïc Wacquant, “Theoretical Coda,” in Punishing the Poor (2009). (Aislinn D.)

Wednesday, March 25

 Lisa Guenther, ch. 1, “An Experiment in Living Death,” from Solitary Confinement: Social Death and Its Afterlives (2013; sent via email) (Rodrigo)

Friday, March 27

Angela Davis, selection from Prison Abolitionism (Ofure M.)

Monday, March 30

Angela Davis, selection from Prison Abolitionism (Melanie C.)

Wednesday April 1

Angela Davis,selection from Prison Abolitionism (Jonathan B.)

April 10, 9-11am, A1046

Final Exam (Study Guide here.)

23 thoughts on “Winter 2015: Moral Philosophy

  1. Moral Philosophy 2230
    Beccaria, On Crimes and Punishment, Books I – IV
    Ethan Lewis
    Book I:
    Beccaria immediately begins Book I by stating what he believes laws are: “[laws] are the conditions by which independent and isolated men, tired of living in a constant state of war and enjoying a freedom made useless by the uncertainty of keeping it, unite in society.”(p.7). This clearly demonstrates Beccaria’s view as to why laws are established: laws are created to unite “isolated men” as to ensure their collective benefit and survival. Their “freedom”, otherwise, is made useless, as without a unity among said individuals there exists the risk of being overtaken. Beccaria’s second statement, that these individuals sacrifice a portion of their liberty to ensure the remainder (of their freedom) is preserved with tranquility, serves in support of his initial claim: laws are created, in essence, to ensure the collective survival and benefit of the individuals they moderate.
    Beccaria’s second statement, then, says that the collection of these laws constitute the sovereignty (i.e. overall rule) of a society, and that whoever controls these laws is the ultimate ruler (the sovereign) of said society. Furthermore, Beccaria believes that the mere formation of such a collection (or deposit, as he calls it) is not enough — such a constitution must be defended by the attempts of various individuals to seize and overthrow the liberty of others. This is so, for Beccaria believes that “everyone always seeks to withdraw not only his own share of liberty from the common store, but to expropriate the portions of other men besides.”(p.7) — i.e., everyone seeks to absolve himself of societal obligations and increase his/her liberties, while robbing another individual of theirs.
    In spite of this tyrannical or despotic nature of man, “tangible motives” are required to ensure the collective individual obeyance of said laws, and these tangible motives are what Beccaria defines as punishments. These punishments are tangible, Beccaria says, as they must relate directly to the senses. “Neither eloquence nor declamations nor even the most sublime truths have sufficed for long to check the emotions aroused by the vivid impressions of immediately presented objects”(p.7), as ideas alone cannot persuade man to obey. When presented with that which may grant immediate gratification, one’s anticipation of the potential enjoyment to be derived overshadows the ideal notion of “the general good”.
    Book II:
    Book II begins with Beccaria’s statement that “every punishment which does not derive from absolute necessity […] is tyrannical.”. Thus, a foundation for the sovereign’s right to punish has been established. As such punishments are administered to enforce the obeyance of various laws, and such laws have been established to protect the individuals in the society they govern, punishments are administered to protect the individuals of society. Beccaria states further that “the more just punishments are, the more sacred and inviolable is personal security, and the greater is the liberty that the sovereign preserves for his subjects.”(p.8). Simplified, this states that the more just punishments are, the more rightly and actively an individual’s freedom is preserved, as unjust punishments would be seen to violate an individual’s rights, thus depriving them of freedom.
    Beccaria then states that laws must be in accord with “man’s heart”(p.8), as should they conflict with his natural inclinations then there can be by no means a constant state of peace. He then says that any laws that do conflict with said “natural sentiments” are sure to be eventually overthrown.
    The idea that man sacrifices partial freedom “for the sake of public good”(p.8) is a romanticized illusion, according to Beccaria. Rather, Beccaria states that it was an increase in human population that demanded such partial liberties be sacrificed. With an increase in population, competition for resources also increased. Thus, in light of this, “the first savages [united]”(p.8), and the creation of this union prompted others to do the same. From this union, however, competition of individuals degraded into competition of varying unions, and thus war was conceived of and consequently waged.
    Beccaria states that, although the individual could conceptualize the benefits of solidarity, an individual would only sacrifice however much liberty was needed as to entice surrounding others to do the same. The sum of these sacrificed liberties, then, included the right to punish, as should one believe himself to be exempt from such a sacrifice, then surely he cannot be entitled to reap the rewards such unions preserve. Anything past this right to punish is an abuse of power, according to Beccaria, though he makes it clear that he in no way views the term ‘right’ to be a contradiction of the term ‘force’. Beccaria states that ‘right’ is simply “a modification of the latter”(p.8) — i.e., that force is not by nature right or wrong, but rather what is right is determined by the appropriate amount of force to use in a given context. It is worth noting that this highly resembles Aristotle’s Golden Mean, as the appropriate force (i.e. the mean) varies with context. Just is he who, after analyzing all aspect of the situation, may administer an appropriate punishment with the correct amount of force, and in doing so preserves the order of the deposit initially conceived of. Beccaria defines justice as “the bond necessary to hold private interests together.”(p.8); without justice, all order would degrade to the initial state of chaotic solitude. He furthers this definition by stating that “[it] is simply a human manner of conceiving things, a manner that has an infinite influence on the happiness of everybody.”(p.8).
    Book III:
    Book III begins with Beccaria addressing the first consequence of the preservation of justice: in light of this aim, only the legislator, who is appointed by the individuals he is to rule, may justly administer punishments. Anyone else may administer a punishment that exceeds what is just, and this is tantamount to administering several: the appropriate punishment, and the additional, excessive punishment.
    The second consequence is that this relationship between society and its individuals is necessarily reciprocal. In so far as an individual is obliged to obey the wants of society, as is society obliged to realize the wants of its individuals. This relationship is necessarily reciprocal, as should the individuals revolt, anarchy is achieved and societal order crumbles. However, should such a society achieve tyrannical status, as stated in Book II, a revolt is unavoidable.
    Beccaria then displays the extent to which the sovereign is bound, as well. The sovereign may create laws, as necessary, however he/she cannot pass judgment with regards to whether or not an individual has violated said laws. This is the case, as should he pass judgment himself, then society would be divided: there would be those who agree with the sovereign’s decision, and those in opposition to it. This establishes the necessity of a third party judge. Said judge must be a third party, as his/her conclusions will be based solely off of “the simple assertion or denial of particular facts”(p.10) — i.e., his/her ruling will be objectively grounded.
    The third and final consequence given in Book III is that excessive punishments are to be regarded as unjust. Though such punishments may be administered with no intentions of going against the public’s benefit, and though they may have been administered with the intent of reducing further crime, such cruelty would surely go against the very axioms of society. It should be a society’s primary concern to preserve the justice of its constituents. Thus, such cruelty cannot be viewed as justice, for it strips the individual afflicted of the freedom promised to him through compliance.
    Book IV:
    Book IV begins with the fourth consequence, which is that “the authority to interpret penal law can scarcely rest with criminal judges for the good reason that they are not lawmakers.”(p.10). This is the case, as a judge is not one who initially conceived of or “received laws from our forefathers as a family tradition.”(p.10). Rather, judges are given laws by the sovereign and must judge within the confines of these restrictions accordingly via facts presented in a given case. The laws given to any judge, assuming they are just, have been conceived of by the will of the individuals currently comprising his/her society. Should such laws be made accordingly, then there shall be nothing to doubt in their nature, and thus such a judge is in no position to project his opinions unto them.
    Beccaria states further that it is the judge’s role solely to accept the law as his major premise, the action in question as a second premise (which may be deemed either valid or false through the facts that are presented), and finally the judge must draw a corresponding conclusion as to whether or not the law was broken. To give an idea, the form would look as such;
    Premise 1: It is against the law to steal.
    Premise 2: The subject in question stole.
    Conclusion: The subject in question broke the law.
    Beccaria then states that the most dangerous of all assumptions is to believe that “one must consult the spirit of the law”(p.11) — i.e., the most dangerous assumption is that one may interpret laws. This is dangerous, as “what the law intended”(p.11) is subject to debate — it is a subjective claim. Should anyone try and adhere to “the spirit of the law”, then one may validate one’s rationale in one instance, and reject it in another. Thus, in any trial, one must only abide by the law as it is stated, as there is no room for debate concerning laws which are objectively defined. This, too, is why Beccaria states that we must form/word our laws in such a fashion as to remove any ambiguity concerning their demands. It is through the fixation of these laws that individuals acquire personal security, since through the proper statement of laws one is better able to judge an individual’s misconduct in a justified manner. This, as stated, should be the aim of all societies.

    1. Philosophy 2230 Melissa Wong 201226073 Wednesday, March 25
      Lisa Guenther, ch. 1, “An Experiment in Living Death,” from Solitary Confinement: Social Death and Its Afterlives (2013; sent via email)
      Social confinement began in the nineteenth century as an alternative to cruel retribution. Reform became to focus instead of displaying state power. Imprisonment became the punishment instead of holding people for trial. The Death Penalty was for murder alone. Ideally, criminals should sit in their cells and think about their crimes and rely on their moral strength to develop into a law abiding citizen becoming moral society. The law did not accomplish this, but initiated it. The prisoners tasted social death by having criminals labour displayed, while being exclude from the public. The criminals were forced to contribute with society by providing cheap labour. However, many a passersby contributed to humiliation with violence. Many feared this encouraged crime and others hated to see white men working like black slaves.
      Benjamin Rush advocated private punishment through repentance, reform, and sympathy form the public. Rush said public punishment excited the prisoner with power with power and infamy. Witnesses often felt sympathy and admiration for the criminal during public punishment. This also destroyed the shame of the criminal.
      Rush said that shame wounded the criminal and transformed them into morally upright citizens. Physical pain can be resisted because the torture can be viewed as an object of aversion that can be resisted. Rush also feared that the public would lose its sympathy by being over exposed to pain. Furthermore, the criminals could just become insensible to pain that is intensified by infamy of public punishment and escalating their crimes. He wanted the American republic to be built on sympathy and sensibility, while being run like a machine so everyone can be happy as sympathy is needed to be a proper state.
      Negative emotions acted on the body like a disease in the body and the mind. Rush thought the cure for all diseases was “abstraction of stimulie” (Guenther, 3). He wanted an asylum for criminals so they could be reset. He also invented a chair called the tranquilizer that is used in modern prisons. The chair was designed for a person to be strapped to it with their head placed in a wooden box so that they can only look forward. Under the chair is a chamber pot for disruptive trips to the toilet. Rush was so convinced he was right that he put his used his practices on his children. He also applied it to his society, which he saw as sick. Criminality, like insanity, was a disease that could be cured with solitude and silence. “In a letter to John Adams, reflecting on their shared experience of the American Revolution, Rush proposed, ‘Were we to live our lives over again and engage in the same benevolent enterprise, our means should not be reasoning but bleeding, purging, low diet, and the tranquillizing chair’” (Guenther, 4). Rush was not alone, other reformers agreed with him and so did the church.
      There was tension between reform and punishment. Enoch Edwards supported solitary punishment because it created anxiety of prolonged solitude that he though was worse than death. Rush has also said that this system would intensify suffering. The penitentiary was to be a large, remote, house with iron doors without happiness. Various punishments are used with no notice so that they will not expect punishment and the duration time will be hidden.
      The first penitentiary was at Walnut Street in 1790 followed by the Eastern State in 1829. They were subjected to solitary confinement in cheerless blank misery. The Architect, John Haviland, created a bare stone cell and an exercise yard. In the cell was a small round sky light, a peep hole in the door and a food hatch. In the cell were a bed, work station, toilet, and a Bible. The prison was required to be quiet at all times. Wool socks were worn over the guard’s shoes; prisoners wore hoods or masks when they left cells. The criminal are taught here that they are alone in the world.
      In the Eastern state, prisoners had their hair shaved, clothes burnt, and two weeks in isolation. They were given no work, sleep during the day, or contact with anyone. These two weeks were based in sensory deprivation. After those few weeks, they were given a Bible and work in their cells. Many prisoners claimed that work was a lifeline, a distraction to fill their days. The prisoners had to work, eat, and sleep in their cells, while knowing that others were in the cells around them. Once a year, they would receive a visitor or a letter. When the criminal left prison, they emerged a new people who had no past. The prison’s gift was that they were able to have a new life.
      An alternative to the penitentiary system began in New York’s Auburn Prison in 1819. The prisoners only went to their cells at night. In the day they worked in a common room during the day in enforced silence. In that prison, total solitary confinement had resulted in five deaths and over has the survivors suffering from serious problems so a common workplace was created for everyone to gather. The criminals are taught here that loneliness is shared.
      The name penitentiary came from the word penitence because prisons should be places of resurrection. However, it was really a place of civil and social death. The critics of penitently claimed that this place was not a place of spiritual reflection, but a place of social death without redemption were the prisoner emerges empty, deranged, with an inability for thought or conversation. People do not reform because their passions are long repressed and they are ghost of who they were.
      Charles Dickens admired the Auburn prison system, and denounced Pennsylvania system. Secrecy was used as a weapon in the prison. Rush saw disorientation as therapeutic and redemptive, while Dickens saw it as violent, damaging, and a demolition of body and soul. Dickens noticed that the inmates trembled. They had nervous ticks, had not eye contact, and were unable to have long conversations. Dickens found that solitary confinement destroyed personhood. The separation from others caused collapses of integrity and capacity for meaningful relationships with other people. People are depended on the world. A person is sustained from experiences in shared spaces with the presence of others.
      Anxiety that occurs when a person is locked away cannot be sustained. Hypersensitive reactions only lead to an insensible dullness before the world collapse into blankness. Once a spirit is broke then one self is annihilated. “In the end, the mode of punishment that attempted to humanize the U.S. penal system, to redeem the souls of criminals, and to convert them into ‘republican machines,’ threatens to destroy the very matrix of personhood” (Guenther, 14). That is the danger of the prison on the soul of the prisoner.

  2. Moral Philosophy Reading Summary
    Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics: Book III, 6-12; Book IV, 1-9.

    III: 6. Bravery; Its Scope- To understand bravery, first recall that it is a mean between fear, a deficit, and confidence, an excess. In some situations, as Aristotle explains, it is appropriate to feel fear while it is wrong to show confidence, while in others it is cowardly to show fear and appropriate to show confidence. This brought Aristotle to the question: in which fearful situation should a brave person actually be concerned? The answer: death, but only during war when it is in the finest of condition.
    7. Bravery; Its Characteristic Outlook- What is considered frightening is different for everyone. To Aristotle, if something is too frightening for one to resist then it is considered frightening for everyone, but if something can be resisted then its frightfulness varies between situations. A brave person is seen as one who can stand firm against either of these two, while both a coward, who fears too many things, and a confident person, who simply imitates a brave person, cannot stand firm in these situations.
    8. Conditions That Resemble Bravery- There are five situations in which people are mistakenly considered brave: 1. Those that stand firm against legal penalties. Though they stand firm, they are doing so out of fear so they are not actually brave. 2. Those with special knowledge in a specified area. However, these people run when their knowledge runs out. 3. Those with spirit who are eager to face danger, however, these people are also impulsive. 4. Those who are hopeful, but, their confidence can lead to stubbornness. 5. Those with ignorance, who also have confidence, but they run when deceived.
    9. Feelings Proper to Bravery- Aristotle states that it is harder to stand firm against something painful than it is to keep from pleasures. The brave must do this; they must choose to stand against what is painful because they know that that is what is fine even when they know that they are being deprived of what is good.
    10. Temperance; Its Scope- Temperance is the mean that surrounds the pleasures that we share with other animals. These are not the pleasures of the soul but rather those of the body. And more specific to that, temperance is concerned slightly with taste, but mostly with the gratification we get from the sense of touch.
    11. Temperance; Its Outlook- Pleasure is broken down by Aristotle into two categories: natural ones, such as nourishment, which everyone seeks out, and distinctive ones which differ from person to person. A person who seeks all of these pleasurable things shows intemperance, the excess of temperance. One who is deficient, on the other hand, is one who seeks no pleasure; this person is said to be hard to find. The person who shows temperance is one who seeks pleasure only when the situation calls for it.
    12. Intemperance- Here, Aristotle compares intemperance to cowardliness. Seeking pleasure is seen as a choice; therefore we have complete control over our choice to show intemperance. Cowardliness, however, is driven by the fear of pain which is an involuntary response; we have no control over that.
    IV: 1. Generosity- People who are generous are concerned with wealth. One who is generous is described with being able to give the right amount, in the right way, at the right time. To have an excess in generosity is to show wastefulness, giving too much for the wrong reasons, and to be deficient is t show “ungenerosity,” not giving anything at all.
    2. Magnificence- Like generosity, magnificence is also concerned with wealth, but it is in terms of big expenses, such as temples for gods. People with magnificence not only have the means to make big purchases, but also only do so on worthy purchases. The excess of magnificence is vulgarity, spending in order to show off, while the deficit is stinginess, spending the smallest amount possible.
    3. Magnanimity- Magnanimity is concerned with great honors. One who shows this not only thinks that they are worthy of great things, but are actually are worthy of them. This type of person is not one to gossip, be concerned with common honors, and they usually possess fine things, among others. To have excess of this is to be vain, think that they are more than what they are, while the deficit is to be pusillanimous, to think that they are less than they are.
    4. The Virtue Concerned with Small Honors- Neither this virtue nor its deficit or excess have exact names but like magnificence is linked to generosity, magnanimity is linked to this. One who possesses this virtue loves small honors in the right amount, in the right way. One who has excess of this loves honors even when they are not theirs, while one who is deficient doesn’t accept ones they have achieved.
    5. Mildness- Again, this virtue and its deficit and excess have no exact names but they are concerned with anger. One who is considered mild is one who shows anger in the right ways, at the right times, in the right amount. One who shows excess can’t control their anger and is obsessed with revenge, while one who is deficient can’t stand up for themselves and is insensible.
    6. Friendliness- Though there is no exact name, this one is close to what we would expect in friendship. One with this virtue treats people in the right way at the right time. One with excess does everything to please someone while one who is deficient opposes people in every way. The difference between this and friendship is that with this virtue we do not have to feel fondness towards the one we are talking with.
    7. Truthfulness- This virtue is concerned with truth in both words and actions. One with this virtue shows truth in what they say and how they live; they are straightforward and do not exaggerate. One with excess in this is a boaster; they claim that they have better qualities than what they do, while one with a deficit is a self deprecator, one who does not give their qualities enough praise.
    8. Wit- One who shows wit tells jokes in appropriate ways, during appropriate times. Buffoons, or those with excess, will do anything to get a laugh, even at the expense of their own selves. Those who are boorish, or those with a deficit, despise all forms of jokes.
    9. Shame- Shame is not considered a virtue by Aristotle because it is considered a feeling not a state of character. While it is acceptable for the young to feel shame because they are prone to be guided by their feelings, it is not acceptable for the older to feel shame because Aristotle felt as though it is not a virtue to feel disgrace for doing a disgraceful act.

  3. Letter From A Birmingham Jail
    By Martin Luther King Jr.


    Martin Luther King Jr. was a leader in the African-American Civil Rights Movement in the United States. As a Christian pastor and humanitarian he endeavoured to promote change through civil disobedience using non-violent methods. His “Letter From A Birmingham Jail,” a manifesto of the African American revolution, was written on April 16th, 1963. The subsequent year he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize at just 35 years of age. During his lifetime, he was arrested over twenty times and assaulted at least four times. On the evening of April 4th, 1968, he was assassinated on the balcony of his motel room in Memphis, Tennessee.


    The letter is addressed “Dear Fellow Clergymen.” This is referring to some unknown individuals who criticized King Jr.’s work by calling his activities “unwise and untimely.” Though he did not make a habit of responding to criticism he received, he chose to attend to this one in particular as he stated that he believed those critiquing to be men of genuine good will whose criticisms had sincere intention. It is indicated later in the letter that the men to whom King Jr. is responding deplored the demonstrations that had been taking place in Birmingham.

    Birmingham Background

    At the time, Birmingham was arguably the most segregated city in all of the United States. African Americans were known to have fallen victim many times to unjust treatment by the courts, bombings of their homes and churches, and other brutalities. The city officials were unwilling to partake in any negotiations with leaders representing the wronged community members. When the opportunity arose to talk with leaders of Birmingham’s economic community, negotiations occurred and some promises for change were made by the merchants, for example to remove racial signs from stores. These promises were soon proven to be empty as little change was carried out. Direct action was deemed the only suitable course to take next if they wanted to see any modifications in the city. The goal of taking direct action was to provoke enough tension that the community would be forced to confront the issue and negotiate.

    Similarities to Aristotle’s Views

    Martin Luther King Jr. states “In any nonviolent campaign there are four basic steps: [1] collection of the facts to determine whether injustices exist; [2] negotiation; [3] self purification; and [4] direct action.” This sequence parallels the process of arriving at the Aristotelian mean. According to Aristotle, we must [1] use reason to [2] deliberate over the situation in order to [3] decide what is virtuous, and consequently rule out the vice-driven options, before [4] acting. This speaks to King Jr.’s virtuosity, as his regular habits of developing nonviolent campaigns to strive for civil rights advancements involve the same key components that Aristotle outlines as being necessary to achieve his esteemed mean.

    Justice in Law

    King Jr. asserts that there are two kinds of laws: just and unjust. In his viewpoint, individuals are morally and legally bound to obey just laws. Unjust laws, on the other hand, he believes we are morally bound to disobey, as “an unjust law is no law at all.” He considers a law to be just when it is aligned with the moral law created by God. If it fails to do so, then the law is unjust. By this logic, any law that degrades fellow humans is unjust, while laws that uplift fellow humans are just. “Segregation distorts the soul and damages the personality,” thus by that definition, statutes calling for segregation are unjust.

    Though King Jr. submits that defying the law could lead to anarchy, he makes the distinction that if one breaks the law for the sake of progress then they “must do so openly, lovingly, and with a willingness to accept the penalty.” He considers individuals who do this to be showing the highest respect for the law because they are accepting the penalty for breaking a rule that they felt morally wrong, making it invalid law, in order to arouse the conscience of the community to acknowledge its injustice.

    One of the difficulties that King Jr. was attempting to overcome at this time was the desire of the community to remain complacent with the laws for the sake of maintaining order rather than partaking in any revolutionizing acts towards the end goal of justice. Some argued that de-segregation could not be rushed, and that time would take its due course to write the wrongs, but King Jr. states that time itself is neutral and must be used effectively to bring about change expediently. He deemed it better to take direct action at the time of this letter to prevent further conflict in the future. African American nationalist groups were being formed all over America whose bitterness towards the mistreatment of their people would almost inevitably lead to violent intervention.

    Disappointment from the Church

    King Jr. expresses disappointment in how the church had fallen short in aiding the civil rights movement. He felt that they were opposing the will of God for justice and equality. He longed for the day when white religious church leaders would halt their silence and oppression, and instead join hands with African Americans as brothers.

    Thought-Provoking Quotes

    “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”
    “Individuals may see the moral light and voluntarily give up their unjust posture; but, … groups tend to be more immoral than individuals.“

    Errors in the measurement of punishment: Based upon the previous investigation, Beccaria determined that crime is weighed by the amount of harm that an action inflicts onto a nation. It then stands that those who believed the intention of the crime to be more powerful than action of the crime itself are incorrect. Intentions rely on the spontaneity of the individual and would have too large a range for a single rule or law to be applied to the whole of a society. If intention were to measure crime it would not only demand the necessity of a law tailored to each citizen but also every crime, which could allow for a moderate amount of ambiguity concerning right and wrong. Some individuals consider the dignity of the person who has been harmed, disregarding the importance of the crime in consideration of the public good. If this were the case, crimes against religious figures or beliefs would face more sever punishments than someone who committed a crime against another person, despite their social standings in the polis. Loosely connected to this are those who believe that the gravity of the sin should dictate the punishment. This is an imperfect way to restore order, as a human cannot take the place of God or predict how God would act in such situations where justice may or may not be due. To have the ability to be fair we must all be seen as equals.
    Divisions of crime: Harm that is done onto society correctly depicts the true measure of crime, however there are three different species of crimes that must also be considered. They are the crimes that are immediately destructive, either to society or a representative of society; the crimes which do harm against the citizens on a personal level, and the crimes that oppose the public good. Acts that are immediately destructive are viewed to be the greatest of crimes, as they allow for the most harm to be inflicted. These types of crimes can be said to be “high treason” or “lese majesty.” The meaning is often obscured by ignorance or tyranny, allowing for the ultimate punishment to be delivered onto a variety of crimes. Following high treason come the crimes that do injustice against the individual on a personal level; these crimes cause harm to the individual, their belongings, or their honour. Lastly are the acts against the public good, which rob the citizens of their right to a peaceful living, creating a discrepancy throughout society.
    Public tranquility: Among crimes of the third type are those that significantly disturb public tranquillity; this includes protests or other forms of expression that interrupt daily life in a loud fashion. There are a number of effective means to protect the city state against the dangerous concentration of popular passion, and these means are regularly implemented by magistrates. This can be both good and bad—so long as the law enforcers do not stray from the conformities of law, order is retained in the society. It is when those who are in charge decide to enforce laws on their own that poisons the tranquility, allowing for a sort of tyranny to rein the city streets. It must then be asked what punishment will suit what crime, if tyranny is removed and those aside from the criminals themselves act justly. Things that must be considered are as follow: death and torture, and whether or not they are just and suitable tools in the nature of punishment; and prevention and variability of crimes must also be considered—as killing a human being and stealing from one are worlds apart. Beccaria believes these questions deserve answers that are mathematically sound, leaving no room for doubt or vagueness.
    Purpose of punishments: The purpose of punishment is not to mindlessly abuse the unlawful individual, nor is it intended to undo what has been done. The goal of punishment is to sway the wrong-doers from committing more crimes, while keeping those who have not strayed from the law on the straight and narrow path. If this is true, then it must also be true that a punishment must be something that is uncomfortably memorable, but not as far as to be a physical reminder, as according to Beccaria.
    Witnesses: A witness can be any rational being. Credibility depends on how willing the individual is to tell or not tell the truth, which leaves the position open for everyone and anyone: men, woman, criminals, etc. So long as they do not have a motive or desire to lie, they are the ideal witness. More than one witness is usually necessary as the accused could say one thing and the witness the other, leaving the case in a deadlock. Every person is to be presumed innocent until otherwise proven in all cases except that which concerns the making of words a crime. The variability of interpretation is too great to be argued, and in any case nearly impossible to replicate. Violence leaves destruction, and be proved through witness as well as through evidence, however words leave no trace. Whether it be from witness or the perpetrator, words and memories cannot be replayed without bias.
    Evidence and forms of judgement: According to a theorem, it can be established how strong a case is against the accused based on gathered evidence. Evidence that depends on another proof of evidence is less valuable to the case because if the necessary testimony that the other portion of evidence depends on is proven to be false, all the gathered evidence is then false. Self-sufficient evidence that supports the other proofs without dependency makes for solid evidence. Even if one body of evidence is wrong, the rest are able to stand firm and aid in the construction of a stable argument. This introduces us to the differences Beccaria observed in types of evidence, those being the “imperfect” and “perfect.” The perfect evidence left no room for doubt, completely abolishing the perpetrators potential innocence. Imperfect evidence, however, was a bit trickier as the alleged had the ability to prove themselves innocent, seeing as there was reasonable doubt of their guilt. Beccaria believed it was more just to judge the imperfect proof with moral standings than it was to judge it with a handpicked group of learned individuals because in many cases common sense is all that is necessary to find the truth. It was also determined that all counts of witness or evidence are to be balanced, as it is the only way anything can be judged with certainty.
    Secret accusations: Secret accusations are accusations that label every person as an enemy. To ensure the public peace, the citizens are robbed of their tranquility. This is a tyrannical method to demonstrate control and power over the population. The fear that everyone and anyone is an enemy of the tyrant causes him to act out with these secret accusations, punishing without explanation. Every law may be followed by every citizen, but fear of the unknown forces the hand of the one in charge to use punishment as a form of maintenance to ensure their own stability in power.

  5. Moral Philosophy 2230
    Kant, Metaphysics of Morals (pp. 387-390: 6:231-233)
    Andrew Zaichkowsky

    The Universal Principle of Right:

    An Action is considered to be right if it can coexist with everyone’s freedom with regards to a universal law. In general ones freedom of choice can coexist with others. Whoever hinders an action that is said to coexist with everyone’s freedom and the universal law is doing “wrong” since it cannot coincide with freedom. This way of thinking is a law with obligation but does not demand you to lower your freedoms for the sake of abiding by the maxim. Reason says that freedom is limited by the conditions of the universal law and may also be actively limited by others. If ones goal is not to teach virtue , but only do set forth what they deem is “right”, one should not represent the law of right as an incentive to the action.

    Right is Connected With an Authorization to Use Coercion:

    Resistance that counteracts the hindering of an effect is said to promote it and be consistent with it. Whatever is said to be “wrong” is a hindrance to freedom with respect to the universal laws. However, Coercion is a hindrance or resistance to freedom. Coercion can be connected with “right” by principle of contradiction. The act of hindering a hindrance to freedom is consistent with freedom in accordance with universal laws.

    A Strict Right Can Also Be Represented As The Possibility Of A Fully Reciprocal Use Of Coercion That Is Consistent With Everyone’s Freedom In Accordance With Universal Law:

    This proposition states that right need not be conceived as made up of two elements, namely an obligation in respect with a law and an authorization of him who by his choice puts another obligation to coerce him to fulfill it. Instead, it is said that one can find the concept of “right” in the possibility of connecting universal reciprocal coercion with the freedom of everyone. Only an external right can be deemed “strict”. This is based on everyone’s consciousness of obligation with respect to a law but, to remain pure the consciousness cannot be appealed to as an incentive to determine his choice in accordance with this law. Strict rights rely on the principle of being possible to use external constraint, which coexists with everyone’s freedom with respect to universal laws. There is an example provided in the reading. “Thus when it is said that a creditor has a right to require his debtor to pay his debt, this does not mean that he can remind the debtor that his reason itself puts him under obligation to perform this; it means, instead that coercion which constrains everyone to pay his debts can coexist with the freedom of everyone, including that of the debtors, in accordance with a universal external law. Right and authorization to use coercion therefore mean one and the same thing.”

    Appendix To The Introduction To The Doctrine Of Right:

    It was shown that the authorization to use coercion is connected with any right in the narrow sense. However, people also think of right in a wider sense. That is to say that there is no law by which an authorization to use coercion can be determined. There are two alleged rights and they are equity and the right of necessity. The first right admits a right without coercion and the second with a right to coercion. It can be seen that this ambiguity is derived from the fact that there are special cases in which a right is in question but for which no judge can be appointed to render a decision.


    If considered objectively, Equity is in no way a basis for calling upon another to fulfill an ethical duty. A person who demands something on this basis stands upon his right except, does not have the conditions a judge needs to determine by how much or in what way his claim can by satisfied. An example given in the reading is “ Suppose that the terms on which a trading company was formed were that the partners should share equally in the profits, but that one partner nevertheless did more than the others and so lost more when the company met with reverses. By equity he can demand more from the company than merely an equal share with the others.” However, in accordance with proper right, his demand would be refused if one thinks along the lines of a judge

  6. Public Right (Presented on February 9th)
    The Metaphysics of Morals, Immanuel Kant
    Maggie McGuire

    The Right of State

    43. Kant begins this section by defining several terms:

    Public Right: the sum of laws that are put into place to generate rightful conditions for a
    multitude of united people who affect one another (1st type of rightful condition)
    Civil Condition: the rightful conditions that exist between the individuals or a united people.
    State: the whole of united individuals in a rightful condition in relation to individual members.
    Commonwealth: a unity of individuals with a common interest in rightful conditions.
    Power: a state’s title in relation to other peoples.
    Nation: an inter-changeable term for state, as the union of people are said to have founded their state of union.
    Right of Nations: Inter-changeable term for right of state. The rights of a union of people recognized as a nation (2nd type of rightful condition)
    Cosmopolitan Right/Right of a state of nations: Rights that are universal. Cosmopolitanism is the extension of the rights of a man beyond the nation. The rights between people of the world. (3rd type of rightful condition)

    • If one of these types of rightful conditions is undermined, all forms of rightful conditions will collapse.

    44. In this section, Kant discusses the necessity of laws between nations and states. He argues that without external laws (international rights), each state or nation can make their own rules and does not need to change these rules based on the opinions of other states. He uses the example of violence. He states that, because men are naturally violent, there would be nothing to stop the violence between states if it were not for external law. Law determines the possessions of a nation and states that all nations must enter into a civil rightful condition with one another. This external law allows for nations to co-exist peacefully.
    He also states that in order for a civil condition between states to be a rightful condition in the name of justice, force cannot be used by a state. Additionally, in order for a civil condition to be possible, an acquisition of a state from another must be designated as rightful.

    45. In this section, Kant designates the three types of political authorities or powers that exist in every state:
    1. Sovereign Authority: this person contains the law of the will (major premise).
    2. Executive Authority: person who designates how to behave in accordance to the law.
    3. Judicial Authority: person who contains the verdict for those conflicting with the law.

    46. Kant begins this section by stating that the law-making authority can only derive from unity of people in a rightful condition. In other words, the law can only be made from the will of this union. He says that when one decides the fate of another, it is always possible for them to do the other person wrong. However, if this person asks themselves if they would like to be treated the same way, this person will never do the wrong action to another (note the reference to universalizing one’s actions). He says that when a united group of individuals decides the same fate for all individuals with respect to the law, this group is rightfully legislative. Kant calls these individuals of the unity citizens of the state. He denotes that citizens of the state contain three qualities:
    1. Lawful freedom: obeying only law that one has given consent
    2. Civil equality: recognizing that no being be treated different with respect to the law
    3. Civil independence: being a self-governed individual
    * Kant also calls these civic dignities.

    I.e. A tenant farmer working under a lease-holder farmer would not have civil independence, therefore cannot be considered a citizen of the state and cannot be a legislator.

    47. In this short section, Kant’s overall message is that when an individual agrees to enter into a commonwealth rightful condition with others, he agrees to sacrifice his external freedom in order to take up the new law of the state. He notes that this does not mean man sacrifices an innate component of his freedom, but rather that one resigns their wild, lawless or primal freedom in order to obtain a modern, civil one.

    48. Kant designates a few rules that must exist between the three political authorities (mentioned in section 45). He first notes that all three authorities must coordinate with one another effectively to ensure the well-being of the state. Secondly, he notes that, although they must work with one another, some authorities are subordinate to others (sovereign > executive > judicial). Lastly, each authoritative member has their own rights in accordance with the others.

    49. In this final section, Kant reaffirms the position of the executive authority (directorate); those which appoint magistrates and who decide how we can act in accordance to the law (how we rightfully possess property, etc.). He states that a government that uses proper, rightful legislation can be called a government that treats its people as members of a family. Each person is recognized as governing themselves, not being governed by another.
    Kant then acknowledges the position of the sovereign authority. He says that the sovereign authority cannot be the ruler of the people (this is the executive authority’s job) but can rule over the executive authority (i.e. take away his authority). He can perform no punishment as, again, this is the executive authority’s position.
    Finally, Kant comments on the importance of the position of a judge. The judge, or judicial authority, is appointed freely by the united people themselves. He notes that this is important because, in situation where a sentence is required, it is necessary for the people themselves to decide the fate of another (not the legislative or executive authorities).

  7. Rawls on Politics and Punishment

    The original position, reflective equilibrium and the practice of justification imply that they are all part of an attempt to establish a common basis for the efficient administration of justice. The administrative politics is supported by Rawls’ assumption that a set of institutions can be so well ordered without resistance. Once the right to fit is found, the space of dissonance effaced, and the burdens of political contest are lifted and citizens are left relatively free to live their lives in the vigorously and diversely engaging private realm of justice as fairness. Honig points out that even in Rawls’ own regime, the formation of subjectivity engenders resistances in the self while also enabling it. The ethical and political problem is not how to avoid it but how to engage its inevitability, how to resist Rawls’ drive to depoliticize it, and how to recast the relationship between self and other in a way that allows citizens to be responsive to the remainders of politics rather than bewildered, angered and betrayed by them.


    Reconciliation makes it more difficult for Rawls to sustain his founding ideals of democratic empowerment, pluralism, and mutual respect. In the name of a moral democratic politics, Rawls recenters the state that other democratic activists are actively involved in decentering. Satisfied that justice as fairness approximates a voluntary scheme, Rawls wagers that citizens will not experience the state as a coercive institution. As a result, Rawlsian citizens are allowed to become relatively passive consumers of the state’s goods and services, to the possibility that their survival as a democracy might require them to engage and resist-not simply reconcile themselves to-the state’s statues as the privileged and legitimate bearer of political power and coercion.
    Rawls seeks reconciliation without remainders. No set of arrangements should encourage propensities that it is bound to repress and disappoint. However, the propensity of institutions to generate expectations that they then disappoint is a feature of political life. The promulgation of an ideal that closes political spaces has a depoliticizing effect that resonates throughout Rawls’ regime and makes it harder, for Rawlsian citizens to be true to the spirit of the democratic scheme that Rawls envisions. Rawls makes no provision for the politicizations necessary to maintain plurality.


    Rawls reliance on the original position testifies to his preference for reconciliation over politicization. Rawls’ two principle of justice are chosen and agreed to in the original position. The process is purely procedure and the fairness of the procedure is secured by the veil of ignorance. However, the veil of ignorance subverts Rawls’ description of the original position as a site of negotiation. Agreements postulate a plurality and difference, but that are absent in the original position. Since the parties meet in the original position simply as beings possessed of the capacity to reason, the original position is guaranteed to produce not a mere agreement, but unanimity and correct agreement. The choice of the principles in the original position is final. Finality is meant to prevent the parties from choosing provisional principles of justice for now with the intention of revising them as some later date. Even though reentry to the original position is possible, but it is part of a continuing process of depoliticization. No matter who enters the original position, no matter when, “The same principles are always chosen.” (TJ:139) Rawls’ reliance on the original position establishes a hierarchical divide between an original, pure, pre-political, noncontingent and all other subject positions and position that constitute and condition human lives and possibilities. The original position encourages citizens to dissolve the dissonant remainders of politics rather than politicize them.


    In A Theory of Justice, Rawls envisions a society that does not need to punish. The society is possible because its institutionalization of justice makes magnanimity unnecessary. Criminality does not surface in a well-ordered regime. Rawls wagers that citizens governed by relatively just institutions will acquire a “corresponding sense of justice”. But Rawls’ wager is premised on the assumption that the institutions of justice as fairness fit and express the self without remainders. It also accounts for his preference for reconciliation over politicization.
    But Rawls’ ground is insecure. His identification of a human moral nature with a free and equal rationality soon gives away to the admission that some beings are free and equally rational but others are oddly irrational, even immoral. Others have bad character. Yet, this concern with character seems to be very much at odds with Rawls’ rejection of antecedent moral worth as a basis of distributive justice and, related, with his treatment of the self as the bearer of attributes and talents that belong to it only contingently. Contingent talents and attributes tell us nothing about whether a person is of good or bad character. Only the sense of justice reveals that.
    Original position is supposed to solve this problem of identification but Rawls admits that some people will just fail to identify with the regime. Those people have no sense of loyalty, no identification, not even rational self-interest. This limitation on reason and reasoning is what forces Rawls to confront the problem of punishment. It is just for those who do affirm their sense of justice to require others who do not to comply with just institutions. This is because principles posed behind the veil of ignorance and it relies on rationality. For Rawls, Citizens’ inability to command a high income in the marketplace, his nature is our misfortune but inability to affirm the sense of justice, his nature is not our misfortune. The system of justice as fairness is simply not responsible for the production of criminality. Criminality is extra-systemic.
    Criminality disrupt a system as justice as fairness. A system insists that the outside agitators need only be removed-punished, banished, or suppressed-and order will be restored. Even if the propensities to injustice are never diminished and even aggravated, the rationality of the scheme is not question. Rawls seeks the closure for punishment but it is elusive. His return to antecedent moral worth to justify punishment and define criminality is ill that some citizens are simply unlucky to be ill-fitted to the regime’s needs.


    The problem with Rawlsian punishment is its aspiration to univocality. There are spaces of politics, power, and resistance and they should be preserved for the sake of the remainders of politics. Rawls’s ideal, however, is to leave no space for these sorts of questions, alternations, and remainders to come up. The frequency of punishment, in itself, signals nothing more than the fortuitous presence in the regime of a large number of bad characters. It does not testify to any failure of the regime.
    Parties in the original position are not told that they may turn out to be one of those whose nature is his misfortune, a bad character who is committed to a concept of the good that is incongruent with the principles of right and is unable to affirm his sense of justice. They do not consider the principles of justice from perspective of the outlaw. The parties assume that they will be well and easily fitted to the Rawlsian order and that expectation will often be disappointed. When that happens, Rawlsian citizens are once again disempowered, unable to politicize their disappointment. In justice as fairness, the potentiality political space, the space between expectations and experience, is closed.
    The counterwager suggests by relaxing the demand that subjects “fit” identifies it hopes to diminish the propensity to self-loathing and violence fostered by regimes. In its insistence that ill-fittedness is not antecedent to any scheme, and neither is well-fittedness. This politicizing alternative is far more consistent than is Rawls in rejecting antecedent moral worth. The counterwager is just a wager, too, but if it fails, the result will be more politics than one might anticipate, not more punishment.

  8. Beccaria On Crimes and Punishments
    XXVIII: The Death Penalty
    As man does not have the right to take his own life he cannot transfer that right to another individual or society as a whole, therefore the death penalty is not a right. Instead Beccaria argues that capital punishment is a war of the nation against a citizen waged on the notion that the nation has deemed the ending of the citizen’s life necessary or useful. However Beccaria makes the argument that the death penalty is neither necessary nor useful.
    Beccaria states that there are only two reasons that the death of a citizen can be said to be necessary. The first being if the citizen still has power and sufficient connections to threaten the security of the nation even while being deprived of liberty and imprisoned. If simply by existing this individual could produce a revolution dangerous to the government that could cause the nation to lose its liberty, in times of anarchy for example, then the killing of this individual is justified. Under a calm rule of law that is protected from both internal and external enemies by force and support of the public the killing of a citizen should never be required. The only other reason Beccaria believes capital punishment to be just and necessary is if killing a citizen is the one and only way to deter other citizens from committing the crime. In saying this Beccaria also points out that throughout the ages the death penalty has not been an effective way of deterring people who were set on committing a crime, he draws on the examples of citizens of Rome and the reign of Empress Elizabeth. Today it is quite obvious that the death penalty does nothing to prevent people from committing crimes, in a study done by the New York Times in 2000 it was found that during the last twenty years the homicide rates in states with the death penalty has been 48 to 101 percent higher than states without the death penalty. So if the purpose of punishment is to dissuade the criminal from doing harm as Beccaria says that it is, the death penalty is not a very effective punishment.
    Beccaria argues that it is simply human nature that makes the death penalty ineffective. He states that, “It is not the severity of punishment that has the greatest impact on the human mind, but rather its duration” this is because we are more impacted by small, repeated impressions than by ones that are strong but temporary. The rule of habit applies to every sentient being. The habits we form shape us and this applies to moral ideas as well, we require blows that are lasting and repeated. Basically the fear of being stripped of all liberties and becoming a slave to society to pay for our sins for a long period of time has more of an impact on us than the idea of death. This is because most of us view death as the ultimate end and yet it is not something we are always in constant fear of. Your chances of dying while driving a car are incredibly high but most of us don’t think about it because we have to get where we’re going, we distance ourselves from the idea of death. So when it comes to deciding whether or not to commit a crime, even if we know the punishment could be the death penalty we still believe there is a chance we can get away with it because we have this separation between ourselves and our own death. Yet the threat of life in prison seems much more threatening because we think about all the ways our lives would change and the freedom that would be taken from us forever. Also, if we view death as the end then we know nothing can come after it, while we may suffer greatly for the moments up to our death we would suffer a great deal more and for a lot longer serving life in prison.
    In terms of deterring the rest of society from committing similar crimes the most powerful restraint, according to Beccaria is not the “terrible but fleeting spectacle of a villain’s death, but the fair and prolonged example of a man who, deprived of his liberty, has become a beast of burden, repaying the society he has offended with his labors.” When we see a man in such a state we always promise ourselves that we would never end up that way, whereas when we see someone being executed we may either feel pity for him or excited and rejoiced that he has paid for his crimes. But neither of those responses is effective in averting us from committing the crime, we are either saddened or excited and this distracts us from the matter at hand, the crime that was committed to result in this. However if we see people doing community service daily we think about why they are there, and then we are constantly reminded of the crime committed. “With capital punishment, one crime is required for each example offered to the nation; with the penalty of a lifetime at hard labor, a single crime affords a host of lasting examples.” It is also important for us to see the power of the law often; this would either mean executing people all of the time to make a point, or a more civilized solution could be to just make a frequent example of how criminals in prison have lost all their liberty. “The constant example of those whom he actually sees as victims of their own inadvertence makes a much stronger impression on him than the spectacle of a punishment that hardens more than it corrects him.”
    Capital punishment is also not useful because of the example of cruelty it presents us with. If the law is trying to tell people that killing someone is wrong and murder is illegal isn’t it a bit contradictory to then execute a killer? After all, the point of punishment is not to undo a crime, for once a crime has been done it cannot be undone, so the “eye for an eye” argument is pointless because by executing one person you are not bringing the other person back to life. Beccaria states that the most effective laws, “…are those pacts and conventions that everyone would observe and propose while the voice of private interest, which one always hears, is silent or in agreement with the voice of the public interest.” If the majority of the public sympathises with someone receiving the death penalty this could also impact how they view their public officials. How can you believe magistrates to be wise and noble when you see them dragging criminals to their death? Citizens may start to think “these laws are only pretexts for violence and for the premeditated and cruel formalities of justice… We see assassination employed without repugnance or excitement even though it is preached to us as a horrible crime…” In this case the death penalty actually undermines rulers to their people, which is not an effective way for a society to run.

  9. “Good and Evil,” “Good and Bad”
    Nietzsche, Genealogy of Morals
    Second half, first essay
    Moral Philosophy
    Bornwell Chakaodza

    Section 7: In this section Nietzsche describes the dangers that the priestly mode of valuation has towards society. He explains how easy it to branch off from a humble mentality to an ideology that threatens the republic. This is particularly likely to happen when the ‘priestly caste’ and ‘warrior caste’ are in opposition with one another. Nietzsche feels that the presupposition of the priestly caste results in disadvantageous outcomes, particularly for war. He defines to us that the impotence of priests is what causes them to be the “most evil enemies”. This is due to the buildup of hatred manifested within them that they are never allowed to release due to their oath to God.
    Section 8: Nietzsche breaks down the hypocrisy of the Jews who preached a life of nobility and personal virtue, however ultimately murdered Jesus of Nazareth, ‘the incarnate gospel of love’ who was nailed to the cross to symbolize how detractors will be dealt with.
    Section 9: Nietzsche says that the church today “alienates rather than seduces” people toward spirituality within the church. He makes sure to heap blame more so on the church and not the doctrine. “It is the church, and not its poison, that repels us.” He challenges us to ask ourselves how free we would be if we were absent of dogma.
    Section 10:This time Nietzsche describes how slave revolts build morality as ‘ressentiment’ breeds creativity and “gives birth to values.” It is the only form of morality that develops from an ‘outside’ force independent of itself. Identity will require claiming rather than self-actualization. This is in contrast with the noble caste that already feels superior and seeks its opposite for gratification purposes. Nietzsche details how the privileged “felt themselves to be happy” within Greek society due to their higher social standing. Whilst the common man was more or less a work slave.
    Section 11: The noble man conceives the concept of good out of him and forms ideas for what is bad to the rest of the world. Nietzsche alludes to this possibility due to the rich having more influence to dictate society. He says that the “noble races have left behind the concept of barbarian wherever they have gone.”
    Section 12: In this section Nietzsche refers to our general fear of mankind that has caused much discomfort throughout history. Although he says man always gets ‘better’, “we have also lost our love of him.”
    Section 13: Nietzsche returns to the origins of the weak being unable to overcome the hurdle created by the ‘strong man’. He describes the strong man as independent and able to make decisions regarding the weak. The indoctrination of classism is so vast according to Nietzsche that given the chance, the weak would place the task of revenge toward God. As they feel too weak to make a difference.
    Section 14:The weak man is described as ‘patient’ although he deeply yearns to be more brash in nature. The holy man is seen as humble; however his impotence causes him to be miserable. In this section the contradictions of most men are summarized.
    Section 15: At this point Nietzsche conveys the mentality of the weak as constantly hoping for a day of liberation. They hope that “someday their kingdom too shall come.” He says they refer to it as “the kingdom of God”. This teaches that through pain and sacrifice people will inherit a sense of happiness out of the divine. This is a direct cause for why the weak never take strong action against the republic, because in their minds they are in transit for better days. Nietzsche’s reference to Dante’s inferno reiterates the fear that the weak have. As their current suffering to them, seems as though it is a pale comparison to the pain that awaits sinners in the stages of hell.
    Section 16: The summary for the essay ends by illustrating how “good, bad and evil” have been at constant war with one another with the Roman value system at one point accusing the Jews of having “hatred for the whole human race”. Nietzsche feels the epic clash between Rome and Judea remains constant. However the clear winner of this war is Judaism because “consider whom one bows down in Rome.” Three Jews as is known and one Jewess ,Jesus of Nazareth, the fisherman Peter, the rug weaver Paul and the mother of Jesus ,Mary.
    Section 17: Nietzsche makes a brief summary in regards to the conflicts of life’s revolving battle between ‘Good’ and ‘Evil’.

  10. Monday, March 9 Nietzsche, Genealogy of Morals (second essay, sections 13-25)
    Kim Todd

    In this section Nietzche talks about:
    • how punishment is irrational and does not lead to bad conscience,
    • how guilt is nurtured by self-loathing and disconnection with natural human-animal ways,
    • how guilt is inherited from debts to ancestors,
    • explores whether atheism could eliminate guilt, and
    • envisions how to attain freedom in the future for mankind.

    In section 13 Nietzche distinguishes two aspects of punishment, the enduring and the fluid. He notes the enduring as ‘the drama’, that calls for the action of punishment. The fluid looks as the reasons for punishment, and they change.

    Nietzche’s idea is that the act of punishment is retro-fitted. It existed came about without a particular role to fulfil. This contradicts earlier notions that punishment was a response to an action, which he explains with the example that the hand, though it does grasp, was not invented for grasping. Hands evolved to grasp. Punishment evolved to fit its purpose.
    His argument follows with the fluidity of punishment. For instance, punishment has been employed to ‘render harmless, to recompense the injured, to guard against further disturbance, to inspire fear, punishment as a spectacle, and other reasons throughout history. Punishment happens for any number of reasons, and the reasons can not be reached with any certainty. They are manipulated depending on the situation and the time.

    14 – Nietzche points out the guile in the act of punishing. Punishment is supposed to awaken the feeling of guilt in the guilty, but states that punishment makes men cold and hard. He notes that the guilty see the irony that the judicial system practices the behaviours the guilty are supposed to feel guilty about, and as a result become craftier and smarter at not following the status quo.

    15 – Nietzche notes that taming is not the same as making better. He acknowledges that punishment can attain an increase of fear, but it does not create the bad conscience.
    16 – Nieztche says that instincts that do not discharge themselves outwardly discharge inwardly. Here he reveals the impetus for bad conscience: it arose when man found himself in the uncomfortable and unfamiliar and unnatural condition of society and peace. The instincts of hostility, cruelty, and joy in persecuting had no place in civil society, so the human organism turned on itself in the form of ‘bad conscience’. This would later be called the soul. This man versus himself conflict required an audience greater than himself, which led to the imagining of deities.

    17 – Nietzche says that shift from the wild nature to the orderly nature came about through a fast, distracting without struggle violence. The population was shocked into order by an organized force (some pack of blond beasts of prey). Nietzche’s idea is that the notion of a social contract is absurd.

    18 – In this section Nietzche deconstructs the ideological notion of the good in selflessness. Using opposites for context, he says that there can be no beauty without ugliness. The man at odds with himself finds delight in cruelty to himself: self-denial, self-sacrifice, and selflessness created value for the unegoistic.

    In section 19, Nietzche describes how the debtor-creditor relationship is rooted in the debt owed by current generations to its ancestors, most especially the founding tribe. The debt needs to be paid, and can be paid in sacrifice: food, festivals, and/or blood. As the power of the tribe increases so does the debt and so does the fear that the ancestors are not being sufficiently honoured. Ultimately the ancestors of the most powerful tribes create such fear that they are transfigured into gods. The logic then leads to gods being imagined out of fear.

    20 – Thus humanity is indebted to deities. Debts are inherited, and mankind endeavored to be free of the debts right up to the Christian God, which came with the maximum feeling of guilty indebtedness on on earth.
    Nietzche notes that in the decline of faith in the Christian God there is also a considerable decline in mankind’s feelings of guilt. He goes on to speculate whether the complete and definitive victory of atheism might free mankind of the whole feeling of guilty indebtedness toward its origin.

    In section 21, Nietzche dismisses his speculation that atheism would absolve guilt. Rather, he says that the irredeemable debt turns on the debtor and yields irredeemable punishment, and then against the creditor too. Except for the stroke of genius of Christianity: “God sacrifices himself for the guilt of mankind, God himself makes payment to himself… the creditor sacrifices himself for his debtor, out of love.”

    22. Nietzche raves about the hideous plight of man. He describes how the self-loathing natural man turns to God to drive his self-torture to its most gruesome pitch of severity and rigor. He says that man is so divorced from his natural state of beast, that his recourse is to live in a guilt-inducing beastly state of thought.

    23 – In section 23 Nietzche examines nobler precursors to god, and finds that gods of the Greeks did not lead to bad conscience because they acknowledged and lived out their animal instincts. The Greek gods let men be foolish without being sinful. Gods for the Greeks were credited with leading people astray when they went astray, and took the blame.

    24 – In this section Nietzche says, essentially, that to make omelettes you have break eggs. He can envision a future where mankind could be free of guilt and bad conscience if the self-loathing could be turned on the intents to the beyond and accept the animal, instinctive nature of man. He doesn’t see it in his time, but some day the man of the future will come.
    In section 25, Nietzche defers to his work, Thus Spoke Zarathustra.

  11. Rawls: A Theory of Justice
    Chapter 3. The Original Position
    The Nature of the Argument for the Conceptions of Justice
    In this section Rawls states that the “Original Position” is one that is sufficient for an equalitarian justice that benefits those individuals who are interested in advancing their position. Considering that most people have an interest in advancing their position, and thus, bettering their living standard and incomes, this ideal would be applicable to the vast majority of the population. The “Original Position” is a socio-political device of Rawls own design that was made to ensure the complete equality between those in society, and to ensure a true ideology of justice that is nearly incorruptible.
    Presentation of Alternatives
    Here Rawls presents possible alternatives to his “Original Position”, along with the base foundations of such positions, and their pros and cons. He says that such positions have merit, but are not equal to the possible justice brought by the “Original Position”, but are not necessarily inferior. It is in fact his opinion that the possible alternatives each have many merits to their style of justice that his might not address, but he still believes that his position is the best on possible.
    The Circumstances of Justice
    Rawls position and ideological stance on justice is heavily influenced by Hume, and therefore is strikingly similar in outlook. Rawls is a believer that human beings only work as a society through their self-interest working in tandem with the greater interest, by way of principles creating justice. He states that there are two conditions that are required to be met before the possibility of justice can be created. The first of these conditions being objective circumstances, which he states “make human cooperation both possible and necessary”, and the second condition being that of moderate scarcity, this means that the abundance of resources present is few enough for the necessity of wide scale cooperation, but big enough to prevent the active breakdown of a working society in an anarchic system of survival of the fittest. Therefore it is through these two conditions that the circumstances for Justice can be met, and society can thrive.
    The Formal Constraints of the Concept of Right
    People’s views and understanding of justice and society, and their ability to influence both, is limited by their knowledge of their circumstances and the possible alternatives open to them. Both of these are necessary to the development of the individual rights of a person and the greater rights of society. If one is unaware of their circumstances, and how they can be affected, then they can be led to believe false ideals of what is right. In contrast to this, the individual cannot affect the whole without having a power base from which to work, thus the possible alternatives open to them are limited in such situations as living in a totalitarian dictatorship that infringes upon their individual rights.
    The Veil of Ignorance
    The concept of the Original Position is that of creating an equal circumstance between all involved to bring about a justice that will not be coerced or threatened into favoring one over the other. By removing those things that create conflicts of interest between people as they attempt to better their own standing and further their own interests. This brings about the removal of the “Veil of Ignorance”, meaning that one must know everything they can about themselves, their circumstances, their possible alternatives and the effects their decisions have upon others. It is Rawls opinion that those in society act the way they do only because they were kept unaware by these things through the Veil, and that the removal of such will lead towards the Original Position.
    The Rationality of the Parties
    Rawls based the ideals previously mentioned on the assumption that the individuals involved in the Original Position were rational beings, and that they were simply unaware of the “conception of good”, as he terms it, through the Veil of Ignorance. Thus he is of the opinion that the majority of them will want to deepen their understanding of such, and explore all possibilities open to them. The parties will make more rational choices the more aware they become, and though they will serve their ends as is expected when dealing with people, they will still be mostly beneficial to society and those in it.
    The Reasoning Leading to the Two Principles of Justice
    The two principles of justice are; firstly, that everyone is entitled to basic freedoms, and the second is the difference principle. This means that people are entitled to liberties such as freedom of speech, (basic principle) and it also means that there can be any quality within society as long as it makes the worst person better off (difference principle). The reasoning that led to this was that considering that no one wants any less than others, and that no one in the original position wants any form of inequality between those in society, than they come to the conclusion that everyone must have the same basic rights and benefits allowed to them as anyone else. The thought that leads to the difference principle was that, if the person who is worst off can still contribute to society, and thus to others, than it is the duty of said society to aid him in doing so. The worst person, with the proper aid brought on by the difference principle, still has the opportunity to become the best person, therefore it is imperative that all people are given this chance.
    The Reasoning Leading to the Principle of Average Utility
    The principle of average utility was made to equalise the output of those inside institutions of was made to process the estimated capacity of the individuals inside these institutions and centralise the output as an average expectation of all those involved. “The principle of average utility directs society to maximize not the total but the average utility (per capital).” These are Rawls’ own words on what the principle of average utility is meant for, and this means that the society is in a more stable environment, but will more than likely never have an exceptional output beyond what was initially presented. The reasoning being that this will remain in a stable state as long as the population remains unchanged, if the population doubles, the average doubles with it because of the rise in available aid. And although the same can be said for the reverse, and that this would technically be a cut in production, the percentage of output in the society will not have changed because it will have remained at the average of society, thus offering stability.

  12. Eichmann in Jerusalem
    Duties of a Law Abiding Citizen
    Handout: March 13, 2015
    Alex Randell

    Otto Adolf Eichmann was an SS officer of Nazi Germany during World War Two. After the war, he was convicted of war crimes and hanged. His is a famous example of using the idea of law and state to justify committing moral atrocities. During his trials, Eichmann would use the defense that he was “just following orders” as an explanation for helping the Nazis in the holocaust. All his actions were those he considered to be his duty as a law-abiding citizen. He made an important distinction that he was not only obeying orders from his betters, but also that he was obeying the law of the land. Eichmann would never have challenged his orders, because he did not want to betray his duties to his country. Over the course of his trials, he came to discuss the “virtues and vices of blind obedience”, even coining a term for the notion- Kedavergehorsam, or “the obedience of corpses”.
    What surprised the courts, however, was when Eichmann said that “he had lived his entire life according to Kant’s moral precepts”. When prodded about this, Eichmann demonstrated that he had knowledge of the idea of Kant’s categorical imperative, and how to apply it. Eichmann admitted that when he joined the SS he was abandoning his devotion to Kantian philosophy, and from then on believed that he was powerless to change the horrible way things had become. Because of this, he twisted his Kantian beliefs into another idea he could live by. That is, “Hans Frank’s formulation of ‘the categorical imperative in the Third Reich’”, which was to “act in such a way that the Fuhrer, if he knew your action, would approve it.” Arendt writes that despite this obvious perversion of Kant’s beliefs, Eichmann did follow one ideology of Kant’s well; to take the law as the law with no exceptions. Of course, Eichmann did make two noted exceptions during the course of his crimes. He aided a half-jewish person (a relative of Eichmann’s), as well as a Jewish couple. When questioned about these actions, Eichmann demonstrated remorse for his aid. As Arendt wrote, he had “’confessed his sins’ to his superiors.”
    Eichmann became so used to his duties as an SS that when the war was ending it was difficult for him to give them up. In an alleged interview with Himmler, Eichmann was told to tend to Jews as “a nursemaid” to somehow compensate for his years of liquidating them.
    In the mid-1940’s, Eichmann was involved in the infamous “blood-for-wares” negotiations, where one million jews were exchanged for ten thousand trucks for the German Army. Around this time, a “moderate wing” of the SS emerged. This moderate wing was comprised of people who felt it was an acceptable excuse for a nazi to say he had not killed as many jews as he could have, as well as those who, according to Arendt, were “clever enough to forsee a return to ‘normal conditions’”. Eichmann did not join this wing of the SS.
    When Hungary was liberated, Eichmann was transferred back to Berlin where he was put to work at a desk for “Jewish Affairs”, while Himmler appointed Becher the charge of all concentration camps. During this work, Eichmann was described by Arendt to have steadily declined, and become a good example of Hitler’s final belief that the SS had become “no longer reliable”.
    While Eichmann was in Jerusalem, he spoke about “crimes legalized by the state”. According to Arendt, Eichmann had always wanted to “make the Final Solution final”. That much was not in question. What was in question was whether Eichmann’s effort was evidence of his fanatasicm for his cause, or if he had committed purjery by claiming he was “just following orders”. In Jerusalem, Eichmann was confronted with evidence of his crimes. He explained that every order that came from Hitler himself was considered to be a word of law, and didn’t have to be in writing. Because of this, it was unlawful to say or do anything that contradicted Hitler’s word. Eichmann was convinced Himmler was giving “criminal orders” because they opposed the word of Hitler. Near the end of the war, Himmler began abandoning his committment to the SS, even stopping the extermination at Auschwitz. Hitler, on the other hand, was unwavering and wished to continue the extermination of the Jews until the very end. At every turn, Eichmann would subvert Himmler’s orders, in order to do his duty.
    After Hitler’s death, Eichmann travelled under an assumed name, but he was no longer bound by an oath as an SS officer. The oath had bound them to Hitler himself, not to Germany. When Hitler died, so did their “law of the land”. Arendt wrote that Eichmann realized “it was not an order but a law that had turned them all into criminals”.
    Three months after Eichmann’s trial began, the psychologist called Stanley Milgram famously conducted the controversial “Milgram Experiment”, which aimed to demonstrate the effects of the Nazi military hierarchy on the soldiers who committed the war crimes. The experiment showed that, under the influence of an authority figure, a person would be willing to subject another person to a great deal of pain, even when that pain is knowingly harmful or possibly lethal to the victim. Milgram showed, just as Eichmann claimed, that the phrase “just following orders” can be dangerous beyond comprehension. Arendt writes that this was the way of Nazi Germany. Just as common sense and conscience would tell a person “thou shalt not kill”, Hitler had convinced the SS of the universal law “thou shalt kill”, and because of this the officers obeyed him, despite inclinations they must have had to do the opposite.

  13. Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics
    Book III, Chapters 1-5
    Handout, January 14, 2015

    Voluntary Action:
    According to Aristotle, virtue has to do with feelings and actions. The way we evaluate people and their actions depends on whether their actions are voluntary, involuntary, or nonvoluntary. An involuntary action comes about by force or due to ignorance, and causes pain to the person performing the action. Aristotle says that “something is forced without qualification whenever its cause is external and the agent contributes nothing” (p. 31). For an action to be forced, it must originate outside of the person who is performing the action, and this person must not contribute towards the action. Aristotle gives the example of a victim who is carried off by people who have control over him. Actions done in fear of “greater evils” or because of “something fine” are mixed, but are more like voluntary actions rather than involuntary, because the actions done are choiceworthy. When a person is under threat and is compelled to act shamefully, this would be considered voluntary, because the person acts willingly and has control over his or her actions. Aristotle writes “everything caused by ignorance is nonvoluntary, but what is involuntary also involves pain and regret” (p. 31). An action done in ignorance is considered involuntary if this ignorance is later recognized by the person who performed the action. However, the action is nonvoluntary if the person does not suffer or recognize his or her ignorance. Finally, while involuntary actions are either forced or caused by ignorance, a voluntary action seems to be “what has its principle in the agent himself, knowing the particulars that constitute the action” (p. 34).

    Aristotle seems to think that choices, unlike actions, are always voluntary. But not everything that is voluntary is necessarily decided. Decision is unique to humans, and is not shared with nonrational animals or children. While animals and young children can perform voluntary actions, they are unable to engage in decisions about actions. Decision involves reasoning and thought, and is divided into the good and the bad. Thus, decision is separate from belief because beliefs are either true or false. He writes that “we wish for the end more than for the things that promote it, but we decide on things that promote the end” (p. 34). We make decisions about the means we use to achieve desired ends. Aristotle mentions that the name itself indicates that what is decided (prohaireton) is chosen (haireton) before (pro) other things (p. 34). Decisions are things that have been deliberated using reason.

    Deliberation precedes choice. We deliberate about things that are up to us, and about the actions that we can perform ourselves. Deliberation is used where the outcome is not clear, and the right way to act is undefined. It is a kind of inquiry, but not all inquiries are deliberations, like math, where one inquires in order to find one true answer. When we do not trust ourselves to find the right answers, we enlist the help of others to aid in the deliberation process. We deliberate about what promotes ends – we examine ways and means to achieve the desired ends. Aristotle writes, “A human being would seem to be a principle of action. We do not deliberate about things that are out of our control. Deliberation is about the actions he can do, and actions are for the sake of other things; hence we deliberate about things that promote an end, not about the end” (p. 36). For example, a doctor does not deliberate over whether or not he will heal a patient. He will however, deliberate over the means and actions to take towards the end, which is healing the patient. Another way to look at deliberation is by saying that “what we deliberate about is the same as what we decide to do, except that by the time we decide to do it, it is definite; for what we decide to do is what we have judged to be right as a result of deliberation” (p. 36). What we decide to do is the action that we deliberate about, and thus desire to do.
    Not everything is open to deliberation. Some things are eternal or plainly demonstrated. For example, the existence of the universe and geometry. The only things that can be deliberated are the things that can possibly be one way or another, and those things that a person has control over.

    Wish is for the end. Some think that the object of a wish is for the good, while others think that it is for the apparent good. Not everyone knows what is good and may wish for something that is not good. People of good character will always wish for the good. Those who are not of good character may misunderstand things and may wish for the apparent good, that is, what appears good when it is not. What is apparently good to each person depends on the state of his or her character. A virtuous man judges things rightly, and so for a virtuous man wish is for the good. However, for a bad man it may not be for the good, though they may think it good. Many people are deceived in their judgement of what is good due to pleasure. What they consider pleasant is equivalent to the good, and pain is equivalent to the bad or evil.
    “For each state of character has its own distinctive view of what is fine and pleasant. Presumably then, the excellent person is far superior because he sees what is true in each case, being himself a sort of standard and measure. In the many, however, pleasure would seem to cause deception, since it appears good when it is not. Certainly, they choose what is pleasant because they assume it is good, and avoid pain because they assume it is evil” (p. 37).

    Virtue and Vice Are in Our Power:
    We wish for an end, and deliberate and decide about matters that promote it. The actions concerned with matters that promote an end are voluntary and are in accord with decision. The activities of virtues are concerned with the things that promote an end. Thus, virtue is up to us, and so is vice. This means that a person is at least partly responsible for his or her character. For example, a drunken man who performs an inappropriate action while he is drunk. Aristotle says that this man is responsible for both the actions he commits as well as for becoming drunk.
    Each type of activity produces the corresponding type of person. If someone performs actions that he knows will make him unjust, then he is willingly unjust. According to Aristotle, a person who is unjust or intemperate was once free to live a just life. However, once he performs the unjust actions and has become unjust, he is no longer free to not have acquired this characteristic.
    “The virtues are voluntary. We are responsible for our states of character. The sort of character we have determines the sort of end we lay down. Hence, the vices will also be voluntary, since the same is true of them” (p. 39).
    “Certain actions produce them, and they cause us to do these same actions in accord with the virtues themselves, in the way that correct reason prescribes…they are up to us and voluntary” (p. 39).

  14. Moral Philosophy
    New Jim Crow:
    Chapter 5
    Laura Porter
    This Chapter starts off walking about Barack Obama’s speech he made on Father’s Day, about black men needing to be better fathers, as too many were absent from their homes. This speech has come from many people over time, and although it was picked up by the media because of black people supporting what Obama had to say, it was the critique of his speech that brought on a lot of attention. It was all based around the question “where are all the black men?” A critique in Time magazine came out saying that the stereotypes of black men being poor fathers is false, and that research has shown that black men not living at home were more likely to stay in communication with their families. The article stated that it seemed as though Obama did not make his speech for black folk, but for the white folk who were undecided about sending him into the white house.
    At this time, the majority of black women were unmarried, including 70% of professional black women. The quote “where have all the black men gone” was said to be a common saying from women frustrated with not finding a life partner. It was discovered through surveys and research however that there was far more black women than black men in America. No one was answering the question as to why that was the case, and instead of looking at the criminal justice system for answers, there was often silence about black men and prison.
    In this chapter, the question is answered, and attention is brought to the racism that still exists today. Black men are unable to be good fathers because they are locked in prison, forced away from their families, due to what is known as the “war on drugs”. There are more African American’s under correctional control today, than there was enslaved in 1850. They are being locked away largely from drugs crimes that are often overlooked when committed by white folks.
    People often do not realize the lack of racial progress in America because they are focusing on people like Obama and Oprah Winfrey who defied the odds and rose to power and fame. Those who aren’t as lucky, including those in prisons, are less enthusiastic to celebrate what some believe is an advancement and are more realistic on what is really occurring with racism today. This chapter notes that young black men today are just as likely to experience discrimination as those who witnessed the Jim Crow era. The idea of mass incarceration has been normalized, and racial stereotypes and assumptions are embraced. The answer to the question is clear, we know where all the black men are, it is just overlooked and taken for granted that in some cities, the majority of young black men are incarcerated.
    Many people choose to deny the occurrence of oppressive acts – they see only what they want to see, and are blind to anything else. When in prison, it is easy to ignore people, because they are out of sight, and out of mind. Once they are released from prison, they are often confined to ghettos, again making it easy to ignore the problem. People subconsciously believe that they are getting what they deserve, and that there is no need to worry about them. People are more willing to believe that African Americans freely choose a life of crime, rather than accept the possibility that their lives were structured to guarantee them to enter a system that they are unable to get away from. Again, as a way of denying what is really going on.

    In this part of the chapter, Alexander uses the reference of a bird case to explain the war on drugs – freedom is being taken away. The war on Drugs involves 3 stages. Stage one is the roundup, where police collect as many people as possible from poor communities of colour based on drug operations. They are rewards with cash for rounding up as many people as possible, and the police can rely on race as a factor in who they stop and search. Stage two is formal control, where defendants are denied access to legal representation and are encouraged to plead guilty, whether they are or not. Extra charges are allowed to be added onto people, and cannot be challenged for racial bias. The third and final stage is invisible punishment, where criminal sanctions are placed on people once they leave the prison gates, there are laws that operate to make sure that the majority of convicted offenders won’t be able to integrate into mainstream, white society, and that they be discriminated against legally for the rest of their lives.
    Mapping the Parallels – Jim Crow and mass incarceration for the War on Drugs.
    Historical parallels: both were born due to a desire among white elites to exploit the resentment and racial biases of the poor and working-class whites for political and economic gain. Segregation laws were placed in effect to deflect anger and hostility against the white elite away from them, and onto the African Americans.
    Legalized discrimination: many of the types of discrimination that lead African Americans to a position of inferiority during Jim Crow continues to apply to huge amounts of the black population today. If they are branded felons by the time they’re 21, they are subject to legalized discrimination for the rest of their lives. Discrimination becomes a part of every aspect of their lives.
    Political Disenfranchisement: those with felonies are not allowed to vote, which affected many African Americans. The war on drugs has been more effective on disallowing blacks to vote than the many laws Jim Crow set to ban them from voting.
    Exclusion from Juries: black jurors were struck down, meaning all white juries which often lead to racism in the court room.
    Closing the Courthouse doors: Courthouse doors were closed to the claims of any racial bias.
    The nation could have stood together and rebuilt itself, finally treating both whites and African Americans equally, however it didn’t. Instead the war on drugs was created, and in the new system blacks became unnecessary, not needed for labour, and became villains in the face of the media.
    Evolution in the United States: from a racial caste system based on exploitation, to one based on subordination, to one defined by marginalization. Although it sounds less harsh, marginalization may be more dangerous than exploitation.
    Although it often seems as though racism has decreased in today’s society, that isn’t necessarily the case. As seen in this chapter, racism is still present, however it is often ignored or denied by simply placing African Americans in prisons for things that aren’t justifiable.

  15. Human, All Too Human Friedrich Nietzsche

    Volume I, Section 45: Twofold prehistory of good and evil

    Humans fall into one of two categories, which are good and evil. What separates these two groups is the power of requital, which is to return an action with an appropriate response. One who possesses the capability to requite- whether it is good with good, or evil with evil, for Nietzsche, is said to be good. This goodness is inherited and cannot be broken by bad actions as Nietzsche says “it is impossible that a bad man could grow out of good soil.” (p. 123) The ‘good’ people are bound together in a community each with the capacity of requital. The ‘bad’ are scattered around, more like grains of sand, with no organization between them.

    I, 92: Origin of justice

    Justice originates from the characteristic to exchange. That is, to have an equal exchange of superiority in battle so an equilibrium is achieved and not one party over the other is gaining. The result is mutual injury and no submitting to one or the other’s demands. Justice is fairness with the characteristic of exchange and thus is requital. This requital satisfies both parties in that each gains what they desire, and loses something less valued (in their own opinion). Revenge and gratitude belong in the realm of justice as it is an exchange. The enlightened one recognizes the origin of just and fair actions as not a learned response to actions, as children of today are being taught, but as an enlightened self-preservation response.

    I, 96: Custom and what is in accordance with it

    For a moral person, customs are meant to be followed and obeyed as to complete the expectations originating from the old. Whether this moral person complies to these customs with a grateful and glad mindset or does it as a chore does not matter, both result in the same end which is obeying of the custom. A ‘good’ person will follow these customs with a grateful and glad mindset, that is, to preform them naturally and second-nature like. This person is regarded as good for they are ‘good for something,’ their actions result is a positive fruitful experience for the culture in which the customs are made. One is regarded as evil when they refuse to comply with customs and refuse traditions resulting in doing wrong to ones neighbor. Completing these customs is separate from egoism or non egoism, but more so an attempt to keep the community healthy, it is said that the gods punish the community as a whole instead of individuals for wrongs done.

    I, 99: The innocent element in so-called evil acts

    ‘Evil’ acts are not evil when they are driven by the subject’s desire to maintain pleasure and avoid pain. Nietzsche says obtaining pain does not exist, nor does obtaining pleasure except in the brains of philosophers. We are naturally driven to be against anything that is trying to take something good away from us. The evils acts which are said to anger us rest on the knowledge that the perpetrator has free will and could have chosen to not cause harm. However, to do harm not from the drive of preserving equilibrium but for requital is a “consequence of mistaken judgement.” The beginning of morality arises only when a society is brought together as a community, it then defines the actions as to achieve pleasure,

    which eventually makes it a custom, and for the moral person, an instinct. Finally after this action has been a natural habit it then becomes a virtue.

    I, 136: Of Christian asceticism and holiness

    Many individual thinkers deemed asceticism as an ironically sacrilegious action, and the want to commit this action as powerful. Religion is used to give one’s self answers to things science has yet to discover. Science is frowned upon for giving some answers to life’s questions, but not all, and bringing rise to topics that are simply a reflection of reality. Instead of pondering over whether or not Christianity is valid, we should be taking the morals.

    Volume II, Assorted Opinions and Maxims, section 89: Custom and it’s sacrifices

    Nietzsche says “the origin of a custom lies in two ideas: ‘the community is worth more than the individual’ and ‘an enduring advantage is to be preferred to a transient one.'”(p. 127) This is that pleasing the community as a whole rather than an individual, especially in present circumstances is valued greatly, even if it means harming the individual. However, this attitude is held only by those not in the circumstances of being second best to the community, for in one’s own eyes their very survival is more important than pleasing the whole. The opinion of the subject is not voiced until too late, and by now customs of the situation and those involved triumphs his pleasure. In that, custom by nature is chosen above individual pleasure.

    Volume II, The Wanderer and His Shadow, section 22: Principle of equilibrium

    The enemy and the protector of a community from the enemy are often very similar beings at heart, however, the latter receives recognition from the community. The protector promises to maintain an equilibrium with this enemy, which the weaker regards as a possibility to live by subjecting themselves to the one possessing the power. In reality, this is an undesirable outcome but in comparison to destruction, it is endured. The community is the origin of creating this equilibrium, if the opposing power was weak enough to be completely destroyed with no threat to the powerful, this would be attempted. However, if the weaker one has the advantage of an army, the equilibrium is desired. Nietzsche says that this equilibrium is the basis of justice. As the saying goes ‘an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth,’ which says that one equilibrium has been attainted, we must preserve it so the community can continue to be the focal point.

    II, 33: Elements of revenge

    Revenge, like many words, mean more than one definition. First, revenge can be called the intense blow in which somebody attempts to derail the subject inflicting harm upon us as a means of self-preservation. This is not because one want’s to harm the individual but more so as an attempt to save themselves. The second matter of revenge is the opposite, it is to hurt another person, without thought on what they will do in return, instead only focused on what hey have already done. This form of revenge is restitution- to replace ones loss with another loss.

  16. Philosophy 2230 Melissa Wong 201226073 Wednesday, March 25
    Lisa Guenther, ch. 1, “An Experiment in Living Death,” from Solitary Confinement: Social Death and Its Afterlives (2013; sent via email)
    Social confinement began in the nineteenth century as an alternative to cruel retribution. Reform became to focus instead of displaying state power. Imprisonment became the punishment instead of holding people for trial. The Death Penalty was for murder alone. Ideally, criminals should sit in their cells and think about their crimes and rely on their moral strength to develop into a law abiding citizen becoming moral society. The law did not accomplish this, but initiated it. The prisoners tasted social death by having criminals labour displayed, while being exclude from the public. The criminals were forced to contribute with society by providing cheap labour. However, many a passersby contributed to humiliation with violence. Many feared this encouraged crime and others hated to see white men working like black slaves.
    Benjamin Rush advocated private punishment through repentance, reform, and sympathy form the public. Rush said public punishment excited the prisoner with power with power and infamy. Witnesses often felt sympathy and admiration for the criminal during public punishment. This also destroyed the shame of the criminal.
    Rush said that shame wounded the criminal and transformed them into morally upright citizens. Physical pain can be resisted because the torture can be viewed as an object of aversion that can be resisted. Rush also feared that the public would lose its sympathy by being over exposed to pain. Furthermore, the criminals could just become insensible to pain that is intensified by infamy of public punishment and escalating their crimes. He wanted the American republic to be built on sympathy and sensibility, while being run like a machine so everyone can be happy as sympathy is needed to be a proper state.
    Negative emotions acted on the body like a disease in the body and the mind. Rush thought the cure for all diseases was “abstraction of stimulie” (Guenther, 3). He wanted an asylum for criminals so they could be reset. He also invented a chair called the tranquilizer that is used in modern prisons. The chair was designed for a person to be strapped to it with their head placed in a wooden box so that they can only look forward. Under the chair is a chamber pot for disruptive trips to the toilet. Rush was so convinced he was right that he put his used his practices on his children. He also applied it to his society, which he saw as sick. Criminality, like insanity, was a disease that could be cured with solitude and silence. “In a letter to John Adams, reflecting on their shared experience of the American Revolution, Rush proposed, ‘Were we to live our lives over again and engage in the same benevolent enterprise, our means should not be reasoning but bleeding, purging, low diet, and the tranquillizing chair’” (Guenther, 4). Rush was not alone, other reformers agreed with him and so did the church.
    There was tension between reform and punishment. Enoch Edwards supported solitary punishment because it created anxiety of prolonged solitude that he though was worse than death. Rush has also said that this system would intensify suffering. The penitentiary was to be a large, remote, house with iron doors without happiness. Various punishments are used with no notice so that they will not expect punishment and the duration time will be hidden.
    The first penitentiary was at Walnut Street in 1790 followed by the Eastern State in 1829. They were subjected to solitary confinement in cheerless blank misery. The Architect, John Haviland, created a bare stone cell and an exercise yard. In the cell was a small round sky light, a peep hole in the door and a food hatch. In the cell were a bed, work station, toilet, and a Bible. The prison was required to be quiet at all times. Wool socks were worn over the guard’s shoes; prisoners wore hoods or masks when they left cells. The criminal are taught here that they are alone in the world.
    In the Eastern state, prisoners had their hair shaved, clothes burnt, and two weeks in isolation. They were given no work, sleep during the day, or contact with anyone. These two weeks were based in sensory deprivation. After those few weeks, they were given a Bible and work in their cells. Many prisoners claimed that work was a lifeline, a distraction to fill their days. The prisoners had to work, eat, and sleep in their cells, while knowing that others were in the cells around them. Once a year, they would receive a visitor or a letter. When the criminal left prison, they emerged a new people who had no past. The prison’s gift was that they were able to have a new life.
    An alternative to the penitentiary system began in New York’s Auburn Prison in 1819. The prisoners only went to their cells at night. In the day they worked in a common room during the day in enforced silence. In that prison, total solitary confinement had resulted in five deaths and over has the survivors suffering from serious problems so a common workplace was created for everyone to gather. The criminals are taught here that loneliness is shared.
    The name penitentiary came from the word penitence because prisons should be places of resurrection. However, it was really a place of civil and social death. The critics of penitently claimed that this place was not a place of spiritual reflection, but a place of social death without redemption were the prisoner emerges empty, deranged, with an inability for thought or conversation. People do not reform because their passions are long repressed and they are ghost of who they were.
    Charles Dickens admired the Auburn prison system, and denounced Pennsylvania system. Secrecy was used as a weapon in the prison. Rush saw disorientation as therapeutic and redemptive, while Dickens saw it as violent, damaging, and a demolition of body and soul. Dickens noticed that the inmates trembled. They had nervous ticks, had not eye contact, and were unable to have long conversations. Dickens found that solitary confinement destroyed personhood. The separation from others caused collapses of integrity and capacity for meaningful relationships with other people. People are depended on the world. A person is sustained from experiences in shared spaces with the presence of others.
    Anxiety that occurs when a person is locked away cannot be sustained. Hypersensitive reactions only lead to an insensible dullness before the world collapse into blankness. Once a spirit is broke then one self is annihilated. “In the end, the mode of punishment that attempted to humanize the U.S. penal system, to redeem the souls of criminals, and to convert them into ‘republican machines,’ threatens to destroy the very matrix of personhood” (Guenther, 14). That is the danger of the prison on the soul of the prisoner.

  17. Rawls, Chapter 1 from a Theory of Justice
    Philosophy 2230
    Cameron Murphy

    The Original Position and Justification:
    Rawls begins this section by discussing the original position on justice. He says that the original position is the initial status quo which makes sure that the agreements made within it are fair, which means that one idea of justice is more reasonable or justifiable than the other if the people in the situation would choose its principles over the role of justice. Conceptions of justice are ranked by their acceptability to the people involved, meaning that justification is settled by working through a problem of deliberation, and the idea that we have to decide which principles would be the best to adopt based on the situation that we are dealing with. This in its self connects the two ideas of the theory of justice and the theory of rational choice. For justification to succeed, we must discuss the nature of the choice problem Rawls continues, the problem of rational decision only has answers when we know the beliefs and interests of those involved, their relations to each other, what they have to choose from and how they will make up their minds on the situation. Each circumstance will be presented differently which means that different principles are going to be accepted because each will appeal to a different circumstance. To Rawls the concept of the original position “is that of the most philosophically favored interpretation of this initial choice situation for the purposes of a theory of justice.” According to Rawls the problem is; how are we supposed to decide which interpretation is the best? He says that there is an agreement that principles of justice should be chosen under certain circumstances, and that these should agree with one another to describe the initial situation. When a person is arguing for their presumptions they will go from weak but accepted ideas to specific conclusions which need to be both natural and plausible. The whole idea of the contract approach according to Rawls, is that the presumptions taken together will impose certain bounds on accepted principles of justice leading to the common goal of a unique set of principles. However Rawls says that he would be satisfied if they would just rank the main traditional conceptions of social justice.
    A person should not be misled by the unusual conditions surrounding the original position, the idea is just to make clear the restrictions that are reasonable to impose on the principles of justice. Because of this no-one should be advantaged or disadvantaged by their natural fortune or social circumstances based on the principles, and it shouldn’t be possible to change the principles to fit your own situation. The aim of the situation is to rule out the principles that it would be rational to propose for acceptance, only if the person knows about the things irrelevant from the standpoint of justice. Rawls gives an example here; saying that if a man knows he is wealthy than he would find it rational to say that the various taxes for welfare are unjust, but he if knew he was poor than he would most likely say the opposite, this is used to set up the restrictions. This would take away man’s knowledge of these contingencies which would only leave them with their prejudices to guide them so they can arrive at the “veil of ignorance” by their own means. This concept shouldn’t pose any problems as long as we remember the constraints on the arguments that it means to express. At any time however we can go back to the original position, by simply following a procedure of arguing for principles of justice in accordance with these restrictions.
    In the original position it is reasonable to assume that the people involved are equal, meaning that they all have the same rights in their ability to choose principles, they can make proposals, and submit reasons for their acceptance among other things. The purpose of this is to represent equality between people as moral persons, as creatures with a conception of their own good and the ability to have a sense of justice, and in this case equality is the similarity in these two respects. Systems of ends are not ranked and presumably each man has the ability to understand and act upon the principles they adopt. In accordance with the veil of ignorance these conditions make up the principles of justice that rational persons, who want to advance their interests, would agree upon when no-one is advantaged or disadvantaged by the social and natural contingencies. However Rawls says, there is another side to describing the original position, which is to see if the principles chosen match our ideas of justice or extend them in an acceptable way. We would look to see if these principles when applied would lead us to make the same judgments about the basic structure of society, which with our current principles we make intuitively and in which we are confident, or if where our present judgments are in doubt, the new principles would offer us an acceptable new resolution. Rawls then gives us an example to show this, he says that “we are confident that religious intolerance and racial discrimination are unjust” and that we have examined this enough and have come to a judgment that is not distorted by our own interests. These are fixed points from which we presume justice must fit, but we have less assurance when it comes to distributing wealth and authority. We can check an interpretation of the initial situation and then based on our convictions get guidance in order to remove our doubts.
    When we look for the best situation, we work from both ends Rawls says, we look for the shared conditions and if they can yield a set of principles and if they match our convictions of justice than that is good and if not we search farther for ones that do. But there will be three discrepancies, we can either change the account of the initial situation or we can revise our existing judgments. Eventually we will reach a point at which our description of the initial situation has reasonable conditions and principles that match our judgments. This is what Rawls calls reflective equilibrium, it is an equilibrium because our principles and judgments line up and it is reflective because we know what principles our judgments conform to. This equilibrium is not stable however, it can be changed by further examination which can lead us to change our judgments, but for this point in time we have justified our convictions of social justice and at this point we have reached a conception of the original position.
    Finally Rawls says, that one way to look at the idea of original position is to see it as an expository device which sums up conditions and helps us extract consequences. On the other hand it is an intuitive notion that suggests that its own elaboration, so that by following it we can come to a point where we can best interpret moral relationships. And we need a conception from which we can envision our objective from afar and the original position allows us to do this.

    Classical Utilitarianism:
    Rawls begins by saying that there is a way of thinking of society which makes it easy to suppose that the most rational conception of justice is utilitarian, because each man will impose a sacrifice upon himself to gain a greater advantage later in life, as long as it does not harm anyone else in the process. So why can’t this be applied to society as a whole, because just as man does, society tries to advance its well-being as far as possible so long as it in the best interest of the people as a whole, and just like a single person a society measures the costs when looking for a benefit as well. So based on this a person will reach the principle of utility in a natural way, the principle of choice for an association of men is the same as that of one man. Social justice is the principal of rational prudence applied to the welfare of the group.
    The striking factor of the utilitarian view of justice is that it doesn’t matter how the sum of satisfactions is distributed among a group of people, except indirectly, than it does how a single man distributes his satisfaction over time. In either case the correct distribution is that of which brings the maximum fulfillment. When it comes to society it must distribute its means of satisfaction, i.e., rights and duties, opportunities and privileges, etc. to achieve its maximum fulfillment also, and in regards to distribution no certain type is better than another, just that the more equal distribution is the more ideal it becomes. In utilitarian views, common sense precepts of justice like the protection of liberties, should be respected and departed from only under exceptional circumstances if we are to achieve maximum fulfillment. The precepts of justice are a derivative from one end of attaining the best balance of satisfaction, and so there is no reason why the greater gains of someone shouldn’t make up for the losses of another; or why a violation of a few peoples liberties may not be made right if the greater good affects more people. However in societies that are advanced this doesn’t work, even though the strictness of common sense precepts of justice have a use, in utilitarian’s views to affirm the strictness as a first principle of morals is wrong.
    Rawls then says that the most natural way to arrive at utilitarianism is to adopt for society the principle of rational choice for one man, and once we realize this the place of the impartial spectator and the emphasis on sympathy in utilitarian history is understood. The impartial spectator is of such importance because it is who organizes all the desires of people into a coherent system of desire, and endowed with ideal powers of sympathy and imagination the spectator is the perfect rational person to identify with the desires of others, and it gives them the appropriate weight in the system of desire for society. This idea creates the conception of society in which individuals are assigned duties and the allocation of scarce means of satisfaction are spread across as many wants as possible. Therefore the decision made by the ideal legislator is no different than an entrepreneur making a decision to maximize his profit or a consumer buying a certain good that will satisfy him the most. In each of these cases there is a single person who determines what the best allocation of limited means is and so the correct decision is a question of efficient administration. The idea of social cooperation is the consequence of providing society with the principle of the choice for one man, and then to make it work combining all people into one through the imaginative acts of the impartial spectator. Finally Rawls says that utilitarianism does not take seriously the distinction between persons.

  18. Arendt: Eichmann in Jerusalem
    Epilogue (second half)
    In the beginning of this second half of the epilogue Arendt brings up the idea that was repeatedly mentioned throughout the Eichmann case, namely that of the Israeli agents killing Eichmann instead of kidnapping him. Those who brought up the idea during the trial were doing so once it had become abundantly clear that Eichmann’s guilt was certain, and their opinion of the continuation of such a trial was that it was pointless. It was not however said without forethought or precedence, for as Arendt pointed out, there had been two such high-profile cases being brought before a court where the assassin’s trial was used as an excuse to expose the actions of those who were killed, and to condemn them posthumously Arendt only condoned such an act of seeming vigilantism because the perpetrators were willing to put themselves under the power of the law to justify their actions, and present the possibility of justice being served. The outcome of the precedence setting actions was that they were found to be acting in a manner to benefit the Jewish peoples, as stated by George Suarez in regards to the Shalom Schwartzbard trial when quoted by Arendt.
    She continues from here to discuss the idea of the lack of recognition and understanding towards the horrific experiences of those sent to the death camps, namely Auschwitz, and the effect this had on the Eichmann trial in general. It was through this general lack of coming to an understanding of Auschwitz that led to a misunderstanding of the situation, in the sense of the criminal difference between the segregation and forced emigration of the Jews in Germany, and the deportation of the Jews to the death camps. In the first case, it was within the rights of the nation to treat minorities inside their borders as they please, as long as it was within the rights given to minorities internationally, and while the forced emigration was a crime against other nations for the difficulties it presented to them, there had been precedence set for such a mass movement of people to the outside of a country. The crime against humanity, however, was when the Nazi government started moving towards genocide that it became categorised as a crime against humanity, in the sense of a “crime against the human status” as Arendt put it.
    Following this, she went into the whys and wherefores of the trial proceedings, and the ideal need for this trial to have been brought before an international court, rather than being kept within a single country. She continued from here to explain why such a thing was necessary, not only for the reason that Israel had already limited its capacity to deal with such a subject by removing the capacity to deal with a case involving genocide, due to a precedent case’s proceedings, but also because such a case does not fall under the jurisdiction of the laws of a single country, but rather under the international rights of any human being. Furthermore, Arendt makes the distinction between the need to punish the perpetrators for their actions against the people themselves, in this case the actions being genocide, and the need to punish them for their actions against human rights as a whole. She continues on to enforce this idea by comparing the need to put on trial those who commit such an act only for their actions against such rights, to the need to judge a murderer for the act of breaking the law, in a strictly legal sense. Such distinction is required for to take any other reason other than for their actions against human rights is not justice, but rather vengeance and would be no better than having allowed the Israeli agents to have killed Eichmann rather than bring him in.
    The idea of such an act having been performed was not the only problem presented by the Nazi “final solution”, according to Arendt there is now the possibility of such genocidal action being repeated. She states that though it was a devastating and shocking crime against humanity, it is now much more likely to be repeated due to their having been a precedence set through the Nazi regime’s actions against the Jews during WWII. It is for this reason that international laws are created once the action that sets the precedence has been created (for nothing can be prepared to deal with something that has never once happened before). Once the laws have been created and the precedence set, it is the job of those entrusted with the power of the law, i.e. judges, to deal with the case in accordance to the international standards set, and to improve upon the precedence if any failures were to be found within the previous trials, such as the Failures involved in the Nuremburg trials.
    It was in this way that the Eichmann trial in Jerusalem was a failure for Arendt, for it did not learn from the failures of the Nuremburg trial, it was not judged by a neutral party (it had been judged in part by the Jewish community of Israel), and it failed to address the main criminal issue presented, that being the “inhuman acts” of Eichmann (and the understanding of the term “crime against humanity” presented in Nuremburg, and Jerusalem) against those sent to the death camps. These, however were not the only problems present at the court, according to Arendt the greatest problem was the presupposition that one needs to have malicious intentions to commit a crime, and it was the fact that Eichmann was such a person with no thought of wrongdoing that led to his being found guilty and put to death. Eichmann final defense against such was to state the potentiality involved that any German could have done what he did, and that such an action was done off the orders of another and not through the volition of killing Jews, and that if he should be guilty, than all Germans should be found guilty for the possibility of them doing the same in his situation. This, of course, was ignored due to it being a defense of “potentiality”, and not of actual events, and though he was only in such a position through “unfortunate circumstance” he was still a willing participant in the actions taken by the Nazi regime, and therefore responsible for his actions.

  19. Solitary Confinement: Social Death and Its Afterlives by Lisa Guenther
    Ch. 1; “An Experiment in Living Death”
    (Second Half, beginning at “The Machinery of Living Death”)
    By Lucas Ings-Simms (March 25th)

    Having gone through the early history of solitary confinement primarily through the eyes of physician and Founding Father Benjamin Rush, and showing how it transitioned society from public punishments to private ones, Guenther now attempts to show the mechanisms of early American penitentiaries and the opinions on it at the time.

    The Machinery of Living Death

    Guenther writes on several of the early American prisons that followed Rush’s writings; in particular she focuses first on Eastern State Penitentiary which began operating in 1829 and was the early example of the Pennsylvania system and the use of solitary confinement.. At Eastern State prisoners lived in absolute isolation: they were allowed one hour of (isolated) time outside, guards wore wool socks over their shoes to decrease any form of noise, and – until 1904 – prisoners had to wear masks whenever they left their cell. The design of the prison followed a system of “cheerless blank”: cells were twelve feet by eight feet by ten feet of bare stone with a small hole for natural light, a one way peephole (for use by guards), a bed, bible, toilet, and workstation.

    When prisoners arrived at Eastern State they were immediately subject to two weeks of extreme isolation. During this time they had no reading materials, no work, and even less contact with guards. Guenther addresses that many former prisoners of Eastern State note that the work they did there was their only means of distraction, and as such, survival. Guenther refers to Thomas Dumm on this point, as he asserts that this process is dangerously similar to what we call “sensory deprivation” today. Studies show that subjects under conditions of sensory deprivation commonly suffer from depression, major anxiety, and hallucinations.

    The idea behind the total isolation was that by eliminating their social interactions and cutting them off from the going-ons of the outside world, the prisoners could emerge as a “blank slate”. New and improved people now, supposedly, able to positively contribute to society.

    Guenther also shines light on another prison during this time period, Auburn Prison, opened in 1819. This institution began with the same measures as Eastern State, but were soon forced to change them. After a mere six months the prison seen 5 of the 80 initial inmates (6%) die, and over half of the others suffered from extreme physical and emotional difficulties. In response, Auburn introduced a communal work environment. However, this more “moderate” system was also under a strict policy of silence that was surveilled by guards and enforced by corporal punishment. Guenther refers again to Thomas Dumm as he notes the key difference between the aforementioned prisons: the Pennsylvania system was created to show prisoners “one fundamental lesson, that they were alone in the world,” while the Auburn system was designed to show “that loneliness was to be a shared condition.”

    Even at the time the system had its critics, such as Charles Dickens, Hans Christian Andersen and Alexis de Tocqueville. Guenther writes that these thinkers recognized that “Prisoners emerged from this machine with eyes like blanks, a deranged nervous system, and a diminished capacity for coherent thought or conversation.” While supporters called it a place of “death and resurrection”, detractors, including former Eastern State inmate Harry Hawser, note it as “a living tomb.” It was a machine for removing someone undesirable from the world, effectively killing them. Prisoners were left with only their “cellular souls” without any other interaction than their own. By referring to the ideas of Rush, Guenther notes that there were two ways of trying to “reform” the criminals: religiously and medically. We can see this in the Pennsylvania system’s goal to “redeem the soul of the offender”; while the Auburn system had more realistic goals in trying to reform the actual behavior and to reduce repeat offenses. While Pennsylvania attempted to save the souls of its prisoners, the Auburn system made hard working animals out of people, who had no choice but to work out of habit. Guenther decides that “it is not clear which form of punishment is less cruel.”

    A Proto-Phenomenology of Living Death: Charles Dickens on the Pennsylvania System

    Here, Guenther refers to Dickens work American Notes where he writes about his visits to several American prisons of both of the above systems. Dickens finds the Auburn system honourable, but degrades the Pennsylvania System. He believes it to be punishment “which no man has a right to inflict upon his fellow creature.” His concern lies in what Guenther calls “the prisoners’ near total deprivation of the bodily presence of other people.” Guenther writes more about Dickens opinions and at length here about the social death caused by total isolation. Guenther comes to the conclusion at the end of this chapter that humans are social creatures that depend on one another, not machines as Rush theorized. It is because of the lack of a social component, and in particular lack of even bodily presence of others, that destroys the inmate – physically, mentally, and socially.





    In the U.S, like Davis points out, prisons have become an integral part of everyday life. In poor communities and black communities, there is an alarming number of people doing time in the U.S. Davis uses the case of the California prisons to show how the California landscape has become prisonized over the last twenty years.

    When Davis first became an anti-prison activist in the late 1960, she was amazed to learn that there was then close to two hundred thousand people in prison. However, three decades later, there were ten times more people in prison resulting to a round number of 2.2 million people. It is also revealed that, an increasing number of African Americans, Latinos and Native Americans are most likely to go to prison, rather than getting a formal education.

    In this chapter, Davis, introduces the concept of prison industrial complex. The prison industrial complex is a result of prison expansion which gave rise to cooperate involvement in construction, provision of food and services and the use of labor in prison organizations and systems. The prison has become a black hole where detritus of contemporary capitalism is deposited. Davis also states that mass imprisonment generates profits as it devours social wealth, and thus, it reproduces the same conditions that lead people into prison. The demand for more prisons is usually justified with the fact that there is more crime. Yet, scholars have demonstrated that statistically there has been a drop in crime rates even at the time prison construction boom began .

    However, Davis states that in order to comprehend the proliferation of prison and the rise of prison industrial complex, it is important to first reflect on the reasons why we so easily take prisons for granted and why is there an obvious level of comfort with the prospect of many new prisons?. A partial reason for this attitude, according to Davis, has to do with the way we consume media projection of prison. The images of prison presented by the media has contributed to us naturalizing the real idea of prison as the realities of imprisonment are hidden from these images. We then tend to take the existence of prison for granted and hence don’t question whether it should exist, and in most cases we extremely find it difficult to imagine a life without prison.

    Finally , in this chapter, Davis stresses the importance of reforms that would effectively explore alternatives, both in transforming techniques for addressing crime and of social and economic conditions that drive people( mostly black people and people from poor communities) into prisons. Davis also calls for the need to explore new terrains of justice that would eliminate the need for prison.

  21. Theoretical Coda: A Sketch of the Neoliberal State
    In Punishing the Poor by Loïc Wacquant

    Loïc proposes that there are three changes in thinking that must be made if we wish to invent a new government that unites restrictive workfare and expansive imprisonment, and to account for the punitive policies predominant in the United States.

    1. Breaking away from the typical crime and punishment formula: He says that punishment has been growing and glorified in the U.S. since the early 1970s, and in Europe since the 1990s, and that this is inexplicable for so long as we claim the punishments are derived from the types of crimes being committed. Instead, he says that the punishments are due to social insecurity, rather than criminal insecurity, stemming from the members of lower classes due to the fragmentation of wage labor and the unstable interactions amongst races. The focus on crime has acted as a shield to hide the new issues of politics and policies on poverty.
    2. Rethinking social welfare and penal policies: Welfare has been revamped as workfare, and prisons have lost interest in rehabilitation. This acts to make problem populations invisible by taking away from them public aid or holding them under lock and key, thus pushing them to the periphery of the labor market. At the beginning of capitalism, social welfare and penal policies were established to normalize, supervise, and/or neutralize the poor and disruptive members of the working class.
    3. Overcoming the opposition between materialist and symbolic approaches: This is necessary to hold together the instrumental and expressive functions of the penal apparatus. Concerns for control and communication have allowed us to trace how the evolution of prisons and its branches (like probation, parole, criminal databases, discourses about crime, and the public degradation of offenders) have reshaped the state. In looking at the material and symbolic effects of punishment, we can see that the penal state has become a “potent cultural engine,” spawning categories, classifications, and images used in government action and civic life.

    He goes on to use a theoretical coda to draw a sociological sketch of the punitive turn in public policy toward the poor taken in advanced societies since the beginning of the 20th century by examining works on the state, welfare, punishment, and neoliberalism.

    When Workfare Joins Prisonfare: Theoretical (Re)Percussions

    The Weight of the World and related essays by Pierre Bourdieu – On the State

    Bourdieu proposes that we think of the state not as a coordinated ensemble but as fragmented forces vying over the definition and distribution of public goods, called the “bureaucratic field,” which allows the state to control the official definition of identities and the administration of justice. There are two primary struggles with this field. The first is the opposition of the “higher state nobility” of policy makers leading market-oriented reforms and the “lower state nobility” of those putting the missions of government into effect. The second is the opposition of the feminine “left hand” of government responsible for social functions (public education, health, housing, welfare, and labor law) protecting the social classes lacking in economic and cultural capital, and the masculine “right hand” that enforces economic discipline with budget cuts, fiscal incentives, and economic deregulation.
    Seeing these sectors of the state in one framework helps us map the shift from social to penal treatment of marginalized groups. The police, courts, and prisons belong to the right hand of the state with the ministries of the economy and the budget. The U.S. has shifted away from the Fordist-Keynesian social welfare model to the penal Neoliberal model, remasculinizing the state in response to changes provoked by the women’s movement and the institutionalization of rights, which oppose commodification. Now, the priority is given to duty over rights, sanction over support, the obligation of citizens, and the state’s ability to imprison the subordinate troublemaking poor.

    Regulating the Poor by Frances Fox Piven and Richard Cloward – On Welfare

    They propose a model that says the state expands or contracts its relief programs in response to the ups and downs of the economy, which cause the labor market to slacken and tighten, and social disruption to amplify with increased unemployment and destitution in the lower classes. Welfare expansion serves to tone down civil disorder that threatens established hierarchies, while restrictions aim to enforce work norms by pushing workers back into the labor market. This applied in the Fordist-Keynesian age as evidenced during the Great Depression and the affluent but turbulent 1960s, but it has been rendered obsolete by Neoliberalism’s overtaking. The central role of relief agencies in regulating labor and maintaining social order has been replaced with the vigorous deployment of police, courts, and prisons. The alternation between increased and decreased public aid has become the continual retraction of welfare and the relentless expansion of prisonfare.
    Workfare and prisonfare are similar in that they are institutions processing people, specifically problem populations. Despite their historically inverse principles, the two have converged. The purpose of welfare has shifted from processing people to changing people, while the purpose of prison has done the opposite shifting from reforming inmates through rehabilitation to merely warehousing them. Poverty has not decreased, but the visibility of the chaos causing poor has, thus giving the illusion of a successful penal system. The social profiles of beneficiaries of these two systems are almost identical. Welfare recipients and jail inmates both live near or below 50 percent of the federal poverty line, they are disproportionately black and Hispanic, the majority did not finish high school or have physical or mental disabilities that interfere with their incorporation into the workforce, they have kin, marital, and social ties, and reside overwhelming in the same impoverished areas and belong to the same social class.
    Punitive containment tames social anxiety over inequality and diminishing wage work by channeling it into widespread animosity towards welfare recipients and criminals who accursedly hurt the social order with their flawed morality and bad behaviors. This does not offer relief to the poor, but from the poor by making the most disruptive of them disappear. This exemplifies the shift from one-handed maternalism to two-handed paternalism.

    Discipline and Punishment by Michel Foucault – On Punishment

    Punishment is originally about using legal coercion to enforce social moral norms; however, it should not be viewed as repression, but by recourse to the idea of production, as it has spawned new social types, categories, administrative bodies, and more. To here, both Loïc and Michel agree, but according to Loïc, Foucault’s continuing discussion of the emergence and functioning of punishment erred in four ways.
    First, Foucault claims that prisons have retreated from the historical stage. According to Wacquant, penal confinement has made a comeback as Foucault predicted its demise. The turn of the 21st century has been marked as the third “age of confinement.”
    Second, disciplines have diversified, and disciplinary technologies that Foucault predicted would be employed in prisons have not been. He thought that criminals would be tamed to produce “docile and productive bodies,” but contemporary prisons are now warehouses of retribution and brute neutralization.
    Third, devices for normalization used in prisons have not spread throughout society. They have been remarkable discriminating, affecting mostly the members of lower social classes rather than encompassing all people. The penal system operates to divide populations and differentiate categories according to conceptions of their moral worth.
    Finally, Foucault predicted that making a spectacle of punishment would cease, but the opposite has occurred. Novel cultural and social forms of published punishment have sprung forth, such as representations of offenders and law enforcement in the media. Theatrics of punishment have moved from the state to commercial media and politics, including a spectrum of courtroom confrontations with celebrities to police operations in low-income districts, and courtroom TV to reality shows. Prison did not replace the social game of punishment displays; it canopies them.

    The Culture of Control by David Garland – On Punishment

    Authorities have given a reactionary interpretation to the new understanding of crime and insecurity as brought on by the distinct social, cultural, and economic arrangements of our evolving society, and have responded in two ways: by combining practical adaptation with denial. This has shown how our leaders are unable to regiment individuals and normalize society. High crime rates paired with the limitations of our criminal justice system both mark and mask political failing. Wacquant disagrees, asserting that penalizing urban poverty has reinforced the power of the state in the domain of law enforcement, but the state remains incapable of controlling flows of capitals, bodies, and signs across its borders. There are three differences in their theories of punitive drift.
    First, the increase in penalization is due to social insecurity, not criminal insecurity, due to the fluxes in wage labor and the economy. Second, Garland argues that the state’s response to high crime rates with low justice efficiency is disjointed, but Wacquant suggests that it is coherent, but only when the analysis is taken beyond the mould of crime and punishment, and considers the relationship between workfare and prisonfare as aforementioned. Third, Garland believes that right-wing politicians developed the focus on the punishment, but Wacquant believes it to be a genuine institutional innovation that was not exclusively created by neo-conservative politicians. If right-wing politicians developed the formula it was the centrist and progressive politicians who refined it.
    Garland labels many things as being apart of late-modernity, but this was gradually developed, whereas the shift to penalization was abrupt and cannot be explained my late-modernity alone. The trends he identifies are not unique to the last decades of the 20th century or show up most predominantly in Northern European countries where such a wave of penalization has not occurred.
    Wacquant’s Punishing the Poor instead contends that it was social insecurity generated by the fragmentation of wage labor, the increasing division amongst classes, and the changes to the ethnoracial hierarchy that fostered retaliation against lower classes displaying deviant behaviors.

    A Sociological Specification of Neoliberalism

    Two major claims about neoliberalism can be made based on the state’s drive towards preference of punitive measures:
    1. The penal apparatus is a crucial component to the state: it expresses the state’s power, it helps impose categories, it upholds material and symbolic divisions, and it moulds relations and behaviors of society members.
    2. Neoliberalism entails the growth and praise of the penal system: this allows the state to keep hold on how social insecurity amidst the lower classes is reverberating throughout society, and redirect discontentment with how the state is handling its economic and social duties.

    Neoliberalism allows for control over all areas of social life, except for the economy. It explains the existing biases between classes and racial groups. Internationally, there is a close correlation between neoliberalism and increase in punitive policies in both the welfare and criminal domains.

    “Neoliberalism is a transnational political project aiming to remake the nexus of market, state, and citizenship from above.” It has four institutional logics:
    1. Economic deregulation: regulation aimed at promoting “the market” to guide corporate strategies and economic transactions, and to organize human activities.
    2. Welfare state devolution, retraction, and recomposition: to facilitate the expansion and intensification of commodification, and to discipline reticent individuals with desocialized wage labors.
    3. The cultural trope of individual responsibility: to allow for the construction of the self and the spread of markets despite competition.
    4. An expansive, intrusive, and proactive penal apparatus: to contain disorder and diffuse social insecurity and increasing inequality.

    In practice, neoliberalism is laissez-faire on top, but very much the opposite on bottom. Those who hold cultural and economic capital have little restraint while the victims of social turbulence are fiercely regulated, endeavoring to dictate behavior of the lower classes.

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