Socialism and Labor Market

One of the strange features of Soviet socialism was the existence of the free labor market:

Further, it is certainly inconsistent that each person owns his own body, i.e., his human capital, and decides which talents to develop and where to work, and the government owns all extensions of the human body. The division is arbitrary and sure to interfere with the government omnipotence required for a proper attempt at central planning. However, an old Soviet patriotic song informs us that the singer “does not know another such country Where a man breathes so freely,” that “Man walks as a master Over his vast Motherland,” and that “The young have everywhere an open road; The old are everywhere honored.” It would scarcely have been possible to sing such verses, if the Soviet economy had not had a labor market, i.e., with a fully enslaved populace. (SAtK, I, 48)

Imagine a capitalist firm. In it, the CEO can tell an employee: we want to move you to another department and pay you this much more. The worker has to comply or quit. Under socialism, he would not be able to quit. Hence, the state would assign to people their jobs.

A properly constructed socialist system would probably abolish the family, outlaw sex, impregnate women according to the needs of the central planner, take children away from their mothers shortly after birth who would then be brought up without knowing their parents, and their occupations would be determined by economic expediency as decided by the planner.

The fact that the USSR aspired to be a "worker's paradise" prevented its worst features from being implemented, by that very fact making it, instead of a full-blown socialism, a mixed economy.

When Is Cheryl’s Birthday?

Here's the problem:

Albert and Bernard just became friends with Cheryl, and they want to know when her birthday is. Cheryl gives them a list of 10 possible dates.

May 15 May 16 May 19
June 17 June 18
July 14 July 16
August 14 August 15 August 17

Cheryl then tells Albert the month and Bernard the day of her birthday separately.

(1) Albert: (1a) I don't know when Cheryl's birthday is, (1b) but I know that Bernard does not know, either.
(2) Bernard: (2a) At first, I did not know when Cheryl's birthday was, (2b) but now [after hearing (1)] I know.
(3) Albert: Then [after hearing (2)] I also know when Cheryl's birthday is.

So, when is Cheryl's birthday?

Not to miss on the fun, here's my solution.

For Bernard, the days are as follows:

14: July or August
15: May or August
16: May or July
17: June or August
18: June
19: May

(1a) is entirely unnecessary. For each month, there are at least 2 possibilities, and there is no way Albert could possibly know which choice is the right one.

(1b) Albert claims to know for sure that Bernard does not know, but if the month Albert was given had been May or June, then for all Albert knows, the day Bernard was given was 18 or 19, which are unique. Then it would have been trivial for Bernard to deduce that the birthday was either June 18 or May 19. But Albert denies that such a deduction is even possible. As a result, the month Albert was given can only be July or August.

(2a) is again superfluous, and only confirms that Bernard's day was not 18 or 19.

(2b) At this point, Bernard knows the results of (1b). This immediately rules out 14; otherwise, he would not be able to choose between July 14 and August 14. The solution has thereby been narrowed down to July 16, August 15, and August 17.

(3) Albert grasps the consequences of (2b), too. If Albert had been given August, then he could not announce his certainty of when Cheryl's birthday is, as for all he knows, Bernard could have been given 15 or 17. The only way he could make the deduction apodictically is that he was given July, which yields July 16 as the answer.

That Rolling Stone Article

So, it's not a problem that people were falsely accused, a national scandal was created viciously, chaos reigned on the University of Virginia's campus, and lives were ruined.

No, it's that many unsophisticated people unfortunately pay attention to such trivial injustices that caused the "message" about the "culture of rape" to be "lost."

If the massive slander had never been exposed, then the ends would have very well justified the means for the leftists or feminists; how sad for them that the perfectly valid general ideological "point" might now be overlooked because of this particular irritating failure. I'm sure next time the feminists, etc. will lie more carefully.

Trinities Within

The wills should be at peace with each other; the intellects, at war; and bodies, generally indifferent to each other, including even in games.

(If this is true, are at least some collision / contact sports perversions of true games?)

I Love America

However, I am under no illusion that we are a just nation.

Politically, most Americans are either dupes or knaves. There are also the fanatics, devoted to monstrous causes; these are the most disgusting.

Color and Nausea

The phenomenology of color is categorical, yet the description of it is dispositional. Color, like all sensations, is first a subjective experience. But there is no "color inhering" in objects; all we have are physical properties of things like such-and-such wavelengths are absorbed and others are reflected, etc. Hence, color is best defined as the disposition to cause "this particular" subjective experience in "normal" observers under "standard" conditions. This disposition is a permanent property and persists even, say, in the dark.

Contrast this with nausea, say, upon beholding a rotting peace of meat. This, too, is a subjective experience, but I see no way to express it dispositionally. And here's why: nausea is bodily response to disgust which itself is a spiritual response to ugliness. Finally we arrive to our subjective-real goal: ugliness is part of the rotting meat. It is still subjective, as in different people will be disgusted differently, but it is an aspect of the actual thing being seen. Ugliness is a disposition to cause "this particular" feeling (disgust and nausea) in observers with some rudimentary aesthetic sense under "standard" conditions.

This is in harmony with St. Thomas' description of beauty: it is anything that when seen, pleases.

Trust Betrayed

Here's what the gangster John Bolton says about the slick preachin' murderer (or murderin' preacher?) Scott Taylor's book Trust Betrayed:

Former Navy SEAL Scott Taylor brings a critical perspective to the public policy debate. He speaks from the experience that he and his brothers in arms have gained in dangerous corners of the world where only strength and resolve keep the world's bad actors at bay. And he understands that American power -- especially when you consider the alternatives -- is good not just for Americans, but for the world. In Trust Betrayed Taylor exposes the Obama administration leaks that have endangered our special forces, and he makes the case for a foreign policy based on U.S. national interests, not grandiose ambitions or wishful thinking. This is an important book.

I'd like to demur (even if Bolton threatens to beat me up): American power is bad not only for the world but for Americans.

But then it is merely an especially obvious corollary of the fact that any nation's power is bad not only for the world but for that nation's citizens.

Emotivism: The Problem of Mind-Dependence

Consider a statement

(a) If we think that x is wrong, then x is wrong.

It well represents the essence of a mind-dependent ethical proposition. How can an emotivist back off from it? Well, according to Blackburn, Miller writes,

the higher-order attitude expressed by "It's not the case that if we think that kicking dogs is right, then kicking dogs is right" is an attitude of approval for sensibilities which, given the belief that kicking dogs causes them pain as input, yields disapproval for kicking them as output; or disapproval of sensibilities which need some belief about our attitudes as well as the belief that kicking dogs causes them pain in order to yield disapproval of kicking dogs as output.

This is nearly incomprehensible; so, let's go back to the definitions. To "think that x is wrong" on emotivism seems to mean to "imagine expressing disapproval of x." Only if one actually expresses it, that is, only if one vomits his own personal feelings onto someone at some moment in time, will murder be wrong.

And this rescues the emotivist from the problem of mind- (or rather heart-) dependence how?

Emotivism, 8

Another point against emotivism is that while both the minor premise and the conclusion are indeed moral statements, for which an attempt can be made to rewrite them to be consistent with emotivism, the major need not be a moral proposition at all. Now

(9) "If murder is wrong, then getting your little brother to murder is wrong."

may indeed seem to state a moral fact, namely that it is wrong to get (persuade, coerce?) another to do something wrong. But a simpler statement, such as

(9'') "If murder is wrong, then it is wrong for your little brother to murder."

is an instance of reasoning of the type: ∀(x)[P]; pick an arbitrary x (such as little brother); then for it, P will hold. On cognitivism, this is a straightforward logical truth. As a result, just as "2 + 2 = 4" is not a moral statement and therefore cannot reasonably be rephrased as H(2 + 2 = 4) or B(H(2 + 2 ≠ 4) or whatever, neither can (9'') be rephrased as B(B(murder) and H(it is wrong for your little brother to murder)), etc.

In other words, it seems considerably suspicious that the emotivist rephrases both (8) and (9'') in the same way, the only difference being that (8) allegedly means a first-order approval or approval of acts, and (9'') is supposed to mean a second-order approval, namely approval of moral sensibilities themselves. At the same time, a regular garden variety major premise that happens not to connect two moral propositions (whatever they mean for the emotivists), is not rewritten that way. Why?

The Soviet Union

The USSR was in its time the most ambitious attempt in the history of the world to fool all the people all of the time.

Emotivism, 7: “And”

Since the meaning of the "or" operator on emotivism bears no relation to the logical "or," and produces no happy result, perhaps the "and" operator will prove more tractable. Let's then rewrite (9) as

(9') H(H(murder) or B(getting your little brother to murder)) =
(9*) B(B(murder) and H(getting your little brother to murder)), according to the de Morgan's law (assuming it applies to the specifically moral modus ponens).
Given also
(8) B(murder),
can we conclude that
(10) B(getting your little brother to murder)?

Suppose Smith somehow rejects the conclusion and says H(getting your little brother to murder). Then he will B(H(getting your little brother to murder)) or boo or disapprove of his own judgment. The emotivist concludes that Smith has failed morally if not logically.

Recall that the emotivist has imbued B and H with actual real-world meanings; we are not just pushing symbols around.

Hence, what B(H(x)) indicates is moral conflict in the heart of the person who fails to heed the moral modus ponens. That person approves of x but condemns his own approval. But B(H(x)) does not entail B(x), because in actual practice the conflict can be resolved in two ways: by approving one's approval of x and thereby approving of x or by disapproving of x. In other words, B(H(x)) entails either B(x) or H(H(x)) = H(x).

Compare this with the logical modus ponens:

(a) p → q =
~p or q =
~(p and ~q).
(b) p.
I affirm:
(c1) ~q.
But also:
(c2) ~(~q).

If I affirm ~q, then by that very fact, I must also deny it. Which is problematic. This is because B(H(x)) is a second-level affirmation; whereas ~~q is still a first level affirmation. The denial of the logical modus ponens produces a clear contradiction at the time when the denial of the moral modus ponens does not.

Emotivism, 6: “Or”

Let B = Boo!, H = Hooray!, and for the sake of simplicity, B = ~H. As before,

(9) "If murder is wrong, then getting your little brother to murder is wrong."

Suppose we rewrite (9) as

(9') Either ~B(murder) or B(getting your little brother to murder).

What is the meaning of (9')? What is the function of the "or" operator? My best guess is that it proposes a choice.

(8') B(murder).
(9') Choose between H(murder) or B(getting your little brother to murder).
(10') B(getting your little brother to murder) follow?

Regarding (9'), I can ask, what if I like neither part of the choice? Can I reject both alternatives? To avoid this problem, we can rewrite it as "Answer: Which is the lesser of the two evils: H(murder) or B(getting your little brother to murder)?"

I'm given (8') and (9') as inputs at t1. I then deliberate on the choice I am required to make from t1 to t2. At t2 I make the choice. Two problems now arise.

First, I can change my mind, such that before making the choice, I booed murder, and now I no longer do. This picks up on the idea that propositions are timeless, while actions are in the here and now.

Or perhaps, B(getting your little brother to murder) is such a bad choice for whatever reason, that I am "forced" to change my mind and pick H(murder).

Second, it is not so much even a change on mind as change of heart, and there is nothing illogical about that. I felt like B(murder) and now, at t2 I just don't anymore.

Note finally that there are many things, such as x = eating an apple, of which I neither morally approve nor disapprove. Therefore, both ~B(x) and ~H(x) can be expressed at the same time, producing another disanalogy to logic.

Emotivism, 5

An attempt can be made to escape the conclusion that on emotivism, (9) "If murder is wrong, then getting your little brother to murder people is wrong." is meaningless.

For if "murder is wrong" = "I hereby express my feeling of disapproval of murder," then (9) means "If I express my disapproval of (a) murder, then by that very fact I express my disapproval of (b) getting your little brother to murder."

I see two problems with this.

First, even if I express disapproval of (a), I need not do likewise for (b). Maybe I just don't feel like expressing disapproval for (b) at this very moment. Or ever, for that matter. No reason is given that one expression, if made, must be followed by another 5 seconds later.

Second, not only that, but it seems that even if I am eager to vomit out my feelings on a random philosopher, why must one feeling follow another? Feelings by definition aren't "logical"! It is hardly a logical mistake not to find (9), the major, to be true.

Consider the proposition, "if p, then p" or "p entails p." If p is a proposition with a truth value, this is uncontroversial. But what if p is an act? An act of expressing disapproval? In what possible sense is it entailing itself? When and where is it entailing itself?

Thus, we have made the major somewhat meaningful at the expense of making it false.

Emotivism, 4

Miller proposes an argument against emotivism which I think does not work.

According to emotivism, when I sincerely utter the sentence "Murder is wrong," I am not expressing a belief or making an assertion, but rather expressing some non-cognitive sentiment or feeling, incapable of being true or false. ...

But what about... "If murder is wrong, then getting little brother to murder people is wrong"? ... now there is a problem in accounting for the following valid inference:

(8) Murder is wrong.
(9) If murder is wrong, then getting your little brother to murder people is wrong.
(10) Getting your little brother to murder people is wrong.

Consider the following example:

(a) If abracadabra, then hocus-pocus.
(b) Abracadabra.
(c) Hocus-pocus.

This looks like a valid modus ponens, but if abracadabra and hocus-pocus cannot have truth values, it is nothing of the sort. It's entirely meaningless.

Similarly, if (8), the minor, has no truth value, then (9), the major, has no meaning; the apparent inference collapses; and hence (10) stays undefended; moreover, (10) itself seems to be a moral statement and as such, like (8), lacks a truth value.

Which is perfectly fine as far as the emotivist is concerned.

If the concern is that (9) seems true, then in denying not only that (8) is true but that (8) has a truth value at all, the emotivist has already proven himself perverse beyond hope. He would have little compunction denying in addition that (9) is meaningful.

Emotivism, 3

Ayer's emotivism is concerned with identifying the specific "moral" feelings that are being expressed, as distinct from other judgments of value. He writes:

In adding that this action is wrong, I am not making any further statement about it. I am simply evincing my moral disapproval about it. It is as if I had said, "You stole that money," in a peculiar tone of horror, or written with the addition of some special exclamation marks. (emphases added)

But he fails to describe the relevant properties of the "moral" feelings. Here is an attempt to do just this; as Kivy writes:

The direct purpose of ethical argumentation is implied in the exhortative moment of moral value terms: what the late Charles L. Stevenson called their "quasi-imperative" part. These terms evince our approval; but they also urge our attitudes upon others. "I approve; do so as well," was Stevenson's rough analysis of "good."

This idea does pick up on something real. All virtues are intersubjective; but other-regarding virtues are objective, being principles of natural law and between different human persons; whereas self-regarding virtues are subjective, justifying one's own personal trinity within, being about how well one conforms to his own moral ideals.

So, "murder is wrong," if truth-apt, and if true, then true for all people. If I am convinced that murder is wrong, I might indeed be interested in another person's moral improvement, as well, perhaps out of charity, and so desire that he, too, realize that murder is wrong.

But for emotivists, "murder is wrong" is not truth-apt and has no truth value. How then am I to persuade you that murder is wrong? Suppose we both agree on the facts of a particular murder: the butler did kill his master with a blunt weapon for money. I then, bleah, vomit my emotions onto you. What reason do you have to imitate me from now on? I can't think of any. You may have your own emotions to vomit quite pleasurably. If you are content, what can I do to change your ways? Nothing, and this version of emotivism fails.

I mean, seriously, when a philosopher is doing any work in normative ethics, is he saying: "Alright people, I'm about to vomit my emotions on you. Prepare yourselves; hold on to your handrails and brace for impact, because this baby is coming out full blast. AAA-aaahhh!!"

Emotivism and Subjectivism

Both say: "Murder, boo!" thereby expressing their disapproval for murder. So, both disapprove of murder.

However, the subjectivist takes his own personal disapproval to be grounds for the truth of the proposition "Murder is wrong."

The emotivist demurs. For him, "Murder, boo!" and the disapproval are phenomena of one's vomiting out his feelings on another without any epistemological import. Nothing is being affirmed as true or false.

As a result, it's not that the emotivist's judgments are false; rather they are entirely meaningless and even costly for the judging individual: why should he go to the trouble of "expressing" his feelings to another? And why should his interlocutor bother to listen to such melodrama?

It follows that making emotivist "moral judgments" is irrational, and with that the entire discipline of ethics vanishes away. And that's a potent reductio of emotivism.

Ethical Naturalism, 2

Again, it is analytically part of the meaning of "good" that it ought to be.

But for any natural thing, it is an "open question" whether it ought to be. For example, ought "what is desired" always to be? Maybe sometimes for some person but certainly not essentially. Therefore, "what is desired" cannot be equivalent to "good."

First, note that "good" is relative to an individual or the human race and the judgments they make. We are not concerned with what is good for gorillas or lizard space aliens.

In my book, I describe something called "true happiness," and I think it qualifies more than anything for the property "such that it is always and for all individuals ought to be."

My rendition of natural law also allows me to say that inflicting pointless, deliberate cruelty on the cat is "evil," i.e., always and for everyone ought not to be.

God who is goodness is different, because, though goodness and hence God are good, it is not the case that God ought to be, because God is, always has been, and cannot fail to continue to be.

Perhaps the definition of "good" can be thereby expanded: what is purely good is the set {God, human true happiness, all things that are at one time or another conducive to true happiness}.

The Insanity of Power

The Iranian people think they can make a deal with Washington. They are mistaken.

The United States has the power to annihilate Iran. It can not only destroy its military in a matter of days, but wipe out its cities, bomb it into Stone Age, kill everyone and break everything, and generally make this country disappear from the face of the earth.

There can be no "deal" between an all-powerful master and a powerless cringing slave. The master is at liberty to break the deal at any time at its will and fancy.

Like Darth Vader saying to Lando Calrissian, "I am altering the deal. Pray I don't alter it any further," the US is unconstrained. I even predict that the "deal" will be broken by the US (while it will blame Iran) within the next 2 years.


Some actions are malum in se; others are merely malum prohibitum; and still others are both.

Judges deal with the former, discovering natural law and creating commands addressed to the citizen; and legislators deal with the latter, instructing the executive branch to punish positive law-breakers.

Note that if a judge determines that Smith owes money to Jones, then Smith's previous actions were malum in se; but if Smith ignores the judge's command to pay up, then this contempt of court becomes malum prohibitum and can be punished by the state.

Natural law concerns other-regarding virtues only and ignores personal vices.

Theft is both an other-regarding sin and a positive crime, such that both restitution is due to the victim, and punishment is due to the perpetrator.


"Ayer denies that moral judgments express beliefs: rather, moral judgments express emotions, or sentiments, of approval or disapproval." As a result, judgments have no truth value.

This is a confusion. Judgment is an intellectual not a volitional phenomenon; moreover, it is possible to judge correctly or incorrectly.

For metaphysical goods, those who judge right are called wise, and those who judge badly are called foolish. Here, judgment compels the emotion of love. Judgment is objective. Grasping my humanity and the natural law flowing from it imposes certain demands on me, such as love or at least lack of hatred for fellow men.

For physical goods, those who judge right are called smart and successful, and those who misjudge are called stupid losers. Here, love or desire compels judgment. Judgment is subjective. I am enjoying this orange, and then and because of this, the orange becomes good.

For physical goods, then, if an orange is loved, then it ought to be. For metaphysical goods, if there is Friday, then Crusoe ought to love him.

Things are more complicated for moral goods, where we observe the phenomenon of a soul judging itself. Here judgments and emotions cooperate in forming moral goodness. Judgment is intersubjective, as in one judges how well he conforms to his own moral ideals, loves his virtue, and hates his vices. One has a true vision of himself as he is or at least as he wants to be. Those who judge these ideals aright are called just; and those who judge poorly are called unjust; moreover, those who judge aright yet do not care to conform to their ideals are called hypocrites. There are true virtues and true vices, but each personality, understood as a harmonious union of numerous well-developed virtues, is unique. Moral propositions are in part true objectively ("courage is a virtue") and in part may be true for one person yet false for another ("it is moral to save the whales").

Thus, in order to qualify for the appellation "just," one must both judge that bovarism is wrong (judgment) and hate bovarism (emotion).