Having done with Logic, we launched into analytic psychology, and having chosen Hartley for our text-book, we raised Priestley’s edition to an extravagant price by searching through London to furnish each of us with a copy. When we had finished Hartley, we suspended our meetings; but my father’s Analysis of the Mind being published soon after, we reassembled for the purpose of reading it. With this our exercises ended. I have always dated from these conversations my own real inauguration as an original and independent thinker. It was also through them that I acquired, or very much strengthened, a mental habit to which I attribute all that I have ever done, or ever shall do, in speculation; that of never accepting half-solutions of difficulties as complete; never abandoning a puzzle, but again and again returning to it until it was cleared up; never allowing obscure corners of a subject to remain unexplored, because they did not appear important; never thinking that I perfectly understood any part of a subject until I understood the whole.
Note from KBJ: Young scholars (especially philosophers) would do well to adopt Mill's "mental habit." When I undertake a scholarly project, whether it's on rape or violence or the moral status of animals or legal theory or persuasive definition or Anselm's ontological argument or John Stuart Mill's feminism, I make an exhaustive survey of the literature before writing, or at least before doing any serious writing. Only when I feel that I understand the whole (in Mill's terminology) do I feel that I understand any part of it. Right now, for example, I am tracking down every philosophical book and article ever written on ethical egoism. After I read each item, I annotate it on a bibliography. It will make the writing of my book much easier.
Note 2 from KBJ: I found a mistake in Google Books. James Mill's Analysis of the Phenomena of the Human Mind was published in 1829, in two volumes. Google lists "1822" as the date of publication of volume one. Compare this with this. Someone at Google evidently read "1829" (on the title page of volume one) as "1822." The numeral "9" does appear to be smudged. Should I bring it to Google's attention?
Here is a New York Times story about the exclusionary rule, a judge-made rule that requires the exclusion of relevant but unconstitutionally obtained evidence. The cost of the exclusionary rule is obvious: It can result in guilty people going free. The alleged benefit is that it deters wrongful conduct by police officers. (Officers, it is argued, have no reason to violate the Constitution if they know that any evidence they collect thereby will be excluded from the trial. I remember one of my fellow law students telling the professor that, as a former police officer, he never gave the slightest consideration to the exclusionary rule as we went about his work. Whether that is true of officers generally, I don't know.) The rule has been riddled with exceptions over the years. The Roberts Court may eliminate it altogether. I hope it does. Progressives will rant and rave about this, just as conservatives ranted and raved about the rule when it was created.
Stories like this sicken me. Former United States senator Tom Daschle refused to pay taxes that he knew he owed. Only when it threatened to derail his nomination to be a cabinet official did he pay; and now everyone in the Obama administration acts as though it's a trifle. The larger issue is that people get rich by going to Washington to serve in the government.
I was elated to read about President Obama’s abandonment of the post-9/11 Bush doctrine. Targeting terrorist organizations instead of everyone who disagrees with us is a giant step forward toward living in a diverse world.
I think that “war on terror” was a terrible misnomer. It perpetuated the idea that we could keep ourselves safe by dominating the world with our military might. There is no doubt that we have the greatest military force in the world, but the insidious terrorist attacks of 9/11 were perpetrated by 19 guys with box cutters, backed by a terrorist organization.
President George W. Bush tried to convince Americans that he was the only person tough enough to keep us safe. But President Obama will not be baited into name-calling and continues to listen to what the other guy has to say—as long as he doesn’t say it with violence. That is real toughness!
Don R. Catherall LaGrange, Ill., Jan. 29, 2009
Note from KBJ: President Bush targeted "everyone who disagrees with us"?
Dan Gable finished his collegiate wrestling career with a record of 118-1. (Counting high school, he was 182-1.) His only defeat came in his final collegiate match, at the hands of Larry Owings. Here it is. (Gable is in the red singlet.)
Michael Steele, a graduate of the Georgetown University Law Center, is the new chair of the Republican National Committee. I hope he takes the party back to first principles, the main one being limited government. With regard to the size and responsibilities of government, Republicans have become indistinguishable from Democrats. George W. Bush must take much of the blame for this.
I have a slogan for Steele: "Exterminate the RINOs!"
Paul Krugman¹ is obsessed with health care. He wants every American to be guaranteed health care, no matter what the cost. He never distinguishes between health problems that are brought on by bad decisions (to smoke, to drink alcohol, to eat meat, to refrain from exercising, to engage in dangerous activities, &c) and those that are the result of bad luck. This is a morally significant distinction. Why does he ignore it? Another thing he never addresses is the incentive effect of guaranteed health care. If others are paying for my health care, what incentive do I have to keep costs down? Won't people use far more health services than they would be willing to pay for, and won't that drive the cost of health care through the roof? Krugman never addresses these questions. He just takes it for granted that everyone has a right to health care for any and every ailment. Call it No-Fault Medicine.
¹"Op-Ed columnist Paul Krugman has the disturbing habit of shaping, slicing and selectively citing numbers in a fashion that pleases his acolytes but leaves him open to substantive assaults" (Daniel Okrent, "13 Things I Meant to Write About but Never Did," The New York Times, 22 May 2005).
There was not one single Republican vote for the stimulus package as conceived by President Obama. The Republicans voted on an ideological basis, with no thought for those who need help the most. This is not new for them.
One might have thought that they learned something from the election, but they haven’t. They might also want Mr. Obama to fail, which means America fails, with them included in the sinking ship.
They were presented with a stimulus package that did the most for those who needed it the most, but it is not the poor and middle class they want to help. At least they are consistent in their misunderstanding of the present situation and of the American people.
Stanley R. Bermann Santa Fe, N.M., Jan. 29, 2009
Note from KBJ: I don't get it. The vote was almost perfectly partisan, with 244 of 255 Democrats (95.6%) voting in favor of the bill and all 177 Republicans voting against it. So why are only Republicans "ideological"? This letter typifies the progressive mindset. Progressives believe that benevolence is all that matters. Since Democrats are trying to do good (leave aside whether they are doing good), they're in the right. No other questions need be asked. Republicans are trying to do good, too, but they care about means as well as ends. (They reject the proposition that the end justifies the means. They believe that certain means are impermissible, no matter how good the end.) Republicans appear to understand, in a way that Democrats do not, that benevolence is only one virtue among many. Another important virtue (maybe the most important virtue) is justice, which consists in giving each person his or her due. By this measure, the bill is fundamentally unjust.
Note 2 from KBJ: Did you notice the letter writer's suggestion that Republicans "want Mr. Obama to fail"? How awful! Thank goodness no Democrat ever wanted President Bush to fail.
When certain self-righteous persons took an inflexible line with Oliver Cromwell, his very Cromwellian reply was, "Bethink ye, gentlemen, by the bowels of Christ, that ye may be mistaken." It was good advice. I hope nobody will take from me the privilege of finding myself mistaken. I should be sorry to think that the self of thirty years ago was as far along the path as the self of today, merely because he was a smug young jackanapes, or even that the paragon of today has as little room for improvement as would be allowed by his myopic complacency.
(Brand Blanshard, "The New Subjectivism in Ethics," Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 9 [March 1949]: 504-11, at 510)
Note from KBJ: A conservative is a progressive who hasn't yet been mugged.
I just wanted to keep you updated on my progress with law school; currently all my applications are in and I am waiting patiently for a decision. I also wanted to say how much I enjoyed your classes and studying for your stringent tests. Since you expect more from your students than most of the professors I had (in my opinion) it challenged me to rise to a higher level in my education and for that I wanted to say thank you.
Thanks again and I will keep in touch,
Note from KBJ: I get letters like this all the time. As some of you know, Brian Leiter, who hates me because I stand up to him, posted a letter from someone who claimed to be my student. It was pure spite. Leiter didn't identify the student, so I can't reply by telling everyone how the student did in my class(es). (I wouldn't disclose the name, obviously.) I have reason to believe that the student who wrote the spiteful letter is the one who threatened to sue me, my department chair, my dean, the head of the Office for Student Disabilities, the president of my university, and the university itself. He's deaf and dumb and thought he wasn't properly accommodated under the Americans with Disabilities Act. In short, he had a grudge against me and many others. Leiter, who never loses a chance to abuse people he dislikes, was more than happy to publish the student's letter—anonymously. Remember this: Every professor has disgruntled students. Leiter wants people to think that the student's feelings are typical. They are not. The letter posted above is typical.