People ask me what evidence I need in order to believe in God. More events like this: The Boston Rat Sox had a 10-1 lead over the Baltimore Orioles in the seventh inning. Baltimore won, 11-10. Thank you, Lord.
My beloved Detroit Tigers are playing well. However, my adoptive team, the Texas Rangers, is imploding. I just sent the following e-mail message to my friend Jeff, who, like me, is distraught by the inexplicably poor play of the Rangers. I told Jeff in an earlier message that I have lowered my expectations for "our boys":
It's amazing, Jeff! I used to wake up each day thinking, "The Rangers must win tonight." More often than not, they would lose, and I would go to bed depressed, even angry. Now, by contrast, I think, "The Rangers need to win at least one game of each series they play" or "I hope one of the Ranger players gets two hits in a single game this week" or "Wouldn't it be something if, tonight, the Rangers accidentally executed a rundown play properly or hit a cutoff man?" With lowered expectations, I have joy back in my life. Try it, my friend. I think you'll find it agreeable. How long has it been since you had a good night's sleep?
I have yet to hear from Jeff. He may not appreciate my wicked sense of humor.
The book [under review] is intended to be read (and is indeed worth reading) as a contribution to the argument about the morality of the use of the two atomic bombs at Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
. . .
The story of his [the author's] prison experiences is followed by a discussion of the morality of the bombing, in which he argues that, if the bombs had not been dropped, the defeat of the Japanese by conventional means would have been accompanied by a massacre of their prisoners, including himself—if they had not already died, like many of their companions, of malnutrition and disease.
. . .
It is to be hoped . . . that professional historians will thoroughly investigate the truth of van der Post's thesis, now that he has suggested it, for it might have a crucial bearing on the moral issue about the bomb, and needs at least as much discussion as some other factors which have been in the forefront of attention.
There are those who would say that it could have no such bearing, because the dropping of the bomb was in itself a moral crime which could not be justified by any good consequences, even the saving of more lives (enemy and Allied alike) than it destroyed. People who discuss the morality of actions will perhaps always be divided into two classes: those who think that one should do the best one can in an evil world, and those who think it more important to keep oneself unspotted, by observing, "whatever the consequences," certain simple moral principles which are not allowed to be over about twelve words long. It is fortunate, and perhaps natural, that members of the second class do not often find themselves in positions in which they have to make decisions on which the fate of millions depends—fortunate, because, if they did, that fate might be much worse; and natural, because power, though it may corrupt, does also, often, bring with it a sense of that responsibility from which it is inseparable, thus shifting its wielders from the second class into the first.
It is really very difficult to see how any person with this sense of responsibility, in Truman's position, could say to himself (as it has been urged that he should have said), "If I drop the bomb innocent people will be killed by it, and that would be murder, so I must not drop it. Admittedly, if I don't drop it, a great many more innocent people will get killed by the enemy, but that is irrelevant and is not to be laid to my charge, but to that of the enemy leaders." Truman could not escape from the responsibility of his position as supreme commander. He had a choice between doing various things, and to do any of them would be to bring about certain consequences. We hold statesmen responsible for evils that occur if they could have prevented them by courses which would have produced less evil. For a full treatment of this question, more explanations and qualifications are needed, but that is the heart of it.
To condemn Truman just because he failed to cancel orders whose execution entailed the killing of innocent people is, therefore, to oversimplify the question. If he is to be condemned, it will have to be because he did not do the best he could in the circumstances and did not take sufficient trouble to inform himself about the circumstances in order to determine what was the best thing to do. If this indictment is to be sustained, its second clause is crucial. Truman was, or would have been, very much to blame if there were other possible courses of action besides the bombing (both "conventional" and atomic) that would have ended the war at less cost in lives and suffering, and if he could have discovered and adopted them, but did not.
(R. M. Hare, "Was Hiroshima Necessary?" review of The Prisoner and the Bomb, by Laurens van der Post, The New York Review of Books 16 [20 May 1971]: __-__, at __ [italics in original])
Note from KBJ: Regular readers of this blog know that there are three types of normative ethical theory. Consequentialists say that no acts are intrinsically wrong. Whether a particular act is right or wrong depends solely on its consequences, as compared to the consequences of alternative acts. If an act of torture is wrong, therefore, it is wrong not because it is an act of torture (that is irrelevant) but because there is some alternative act that has better overall consequences than it has. Nonconsequentialists (a.k.a. deontologists) say that some acts, such as torture, are intrinsically wrong, i.e., wrong in and of themselves, independently of their consequences. There are two types of deontologist. Absolutist deontologists say that intrinsically wrong acts are absolutely wrong. They are wrong "whatever the consequences." Moderate deontologists say that intrinsically wrong acts can be right, all things considered, provided they produce enough good (where the prevention, elimination, or reduction of bad counts as a good). Moderate deontologists have something in common with each of the others. This means that we can, if we wish, contrast consequentialists and moderate deontologists with absolutist deontologists. The first two reject absolutism. We can also contrast absolutist and moderate deontologists with consequentialists. The first two affirm, while the third denies, that there are intrinsically wrong acts. How we classify the theories depends on our purposes.
Hare, in the passage quoted, divides normative ethical theorists into two exclusive and exhaustive types: absolutists and nonabsolutists. His class of nonabsolutists includes both consequentialists and moderate deontologists. (I'm being charitable to Hare. Strictly speaking, he is dividing normative ethical theorists into two exclusive and nonexhaustive types: consequentialists and absolutist deontologists. A cynic would say that he is doing this for the following reason. If there are just two types, rather than three, and if absolutist deontology is unacceptable, then only consequentialism is acceptable. Hare is a consequentialist. He would be guilty of committing the fallacy of false dichotomy. Let's not make this accusation. Let's interpret Hare as lumping consequentialism in with moderate deontology. His main target, after all, is absolutism, not deontology.)
It would be nice if Hare argued for consequentialism (or against absolutism). About all he does in this review, besides make snide comments such as that about 12-word rules/principles, is express incomprehension that "any person with this sense of responsibility, in Truman's position, could say to himself . . . , 'If I drop the bomb innocent people will be killed by it, and that would be murder, so I must not drop it.'" Many people, including prominent philosophers such as G. E. M. Anscombe (1919-2001), have no trouble whatsoever comprehending this sort of reasoning, and indeed find it difficult to understand how people like Hare could sacrifice some innocent people for the sake of others. Absolutism may not be to everyone's liking, but it is a perfectly coherent and respectable normative stance. Hare makes it seem as though only a moral monster could endorse it. Ha! Anscombe would say that Hare is the moral monster.
Note 2 from KBJ:
Hare to Anscombe: "You're willing to allow 10,000 innocent people to die rather than to kill 5,000 innocent people? You monster!"
Anscombe to Hare: "You're willing to kill 5,000 innocent people rather than to allow 10,000 innocent people to die? You monster!"
Here is the solution of the puzzle I posed: People born in the years 1560, 1640, 1722, 1806, 1892, and 1980 (there are others) have the following in common. They were (or will be) x years old in the year x². My nephew Beau, for example, was born in 1980. He will be 45 years old in 2025. Forty-five times 45 equals 2025. On the assumption that nobody born in 1892 is still alive (someone born in that year would be 117 this year), the only people in the world today who satisfy the equation are those born in 1980. I always knew that Beau was special! By the way, I learned about this puzzle while reading the 10th edition of Patrick J. Hurley's book A Concise Introduction to Logic (Belmont, CA: Thomson Higher Education, 2008). Hurley has a page devoted to Augustus De Morgan (1806-1871), who, according to Hurley, "liked to point out that he was x years old in the year x² (43 in 1849)."
Here is John Hawkins's Rightosphere Temperature Check for June. You will see that my name appears in his list of contributors, but I'm not sure that my selections got through to John this time. He has a new method of soliciting feedback, and it didn't appear that it worked for me. At any rate, my choices were as follows:
The problem I've been having with YouTube videos has been solved, or so it would appear. A TypePad technician asked me (by e-mail) whether I use the Rich Text editor to post videos. I do; but I always have, and until the other day, it always worked. I tried posting a video with the HTML editor. Voila! TypePad must have changed something, but I don't mind, since, now that I know the trick, I can work around it. I simply have to remember to use the HTML editor from now on. Thanks to everyone who made suggestions.
Note from KBJ: This is a video from The Onion. It doesn't appear, does it? I infer from the fact that both YouTube videos and videos from The Onion don't appear that the problem lies with my blog rather than with the videos.
For some time now, as most of you know, I have begun every blogging day by posting (1) a Dilbert comic strip and (2) a YouTube video of a song that I like. About a week ago, the video didn't appear. There was a blank area the size of the video with a small red "x" in the northwest part of it. I tried different videos, but got the same result. Nothing changed on my end, and I don't think YouTube changed anything, since the embedding process appears to be the same. That leaves TypePad. I have been in contact with a TypePad technician, who asked me some questions. I hope it gets resolved soon. How can I disseminate good music when I can't post videos on my blog?
The idea that the National Baseball Hall of Fame should allow steroid users to enter its sacred halls is sheer blasphemy to our national pastime. Comparing the recreational use of drugs and alcohol in the past to the intentional preplanned injections of steroids to build muscle mass and help quick recovery is like comparing apples and oranges.
The use of steroids is wrong and should not be tolerated. These drugs have changed the game from one that combined grace and power to one utilizing Hulk-like strength. Compare film of games from the 1970s to recent games and you can see the differences in the way the game is played and in the players’ physiques.
A five-tool player like Willie Mays is very hard to find and does belong in Cooperstown. A one-dimensional player aided by steroids does not belong in baseball’s hallowed shrine.