What is this blog about?

What is this blog about?

I am a political philosopher. My 'political philosophy' is a form of 'liberal egalitarianism.' So in this blog I reflect on various issues in political philosophy and politics (especially Canadian and American politics) from a liberal egalitarian perspective.

If you are curious about what I mean by 'liberal egalitarianism,' my views are strongly influenced by the conception of justice advanced by John Rawls. (So I sometimes refer to myself as a 'Rawlsian,' even though I disagree with Rawls on some matters.)

Astonishingly, I am paid to write and teach moral and political philosophy. I somehow manage to do this despite my akratic nature. Here is my faculty profile.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Wisconsin's assault on academic freedom

Over at Slate, Rebecca Schuman does a solid job of summarizing the current assault on academic freedom within the University of Wisconsin system in her piece, "The End of Research in Wisconsin."

Some especially important bits:
“This past June, American academia went into an uproar over Gov. Scott Walker’s new budget in Wisconsin, which not only cut $250 million from higher education, but also severely weakened shared faculty governance and effectively destroyed professor tenure at state universities.”
“[T]he situation in Wisconsin is worse than your garden-variety corporatization. […] Academics, whether they have it or not, want some form of tenure to exist to protect the integrity of the knowledge that is produced, preserved, and disseminated.”
“Wisconsin professors simply do not want research limited by the whims of 18 people appointed by a governor with an openly stated anti-education agenda. And you shouldn’t, either. Think university research doesn’t affect you? You’re wrong. Hundreds of technological and social advances that you depend upon have been made thanks to the research of some brainiac at some university somewhere: what kind of cities to plan; how (and where) to alleviate poverty and hunger; what kind of diseases to treat; what kind of drugs to invent (or make obsolete); what kind of bridges and roads to build (and where). If professors are not protected from disagreeing with the agenda of their ‘bosses’—whether that be Dow Chemical, Gov. Walker, or President Trump—the consequences will go far beyond one person’s paycheck.”
“What’s happening in Wisconsin is a worst-case scenario come to life, and $9 million will do nothing to stop the demise of the integrity of research produced there—and everywhere else, too, if we don’t start electing lawmakers who actually value research.”
Unsurprisingly, morale at the place where I work, the University of Wisconsin - Milwaukee, has been horrifically low this academic year.  

Friday, March 18, 2016

Trump and the rise of racism and violence in contemporary American political discourse

The Republican party ‘establishment’ is in a state of panic over the likely nomination of Donald Trump as their party’s 2016 presidential candidate. Of course, they have no one to blame but themselves, having cravenly catered to the prejudices and fears of the ‘Tea Party’ movement (a movement funded heavily by the plutocratic Koch brothers) over the past several years. Trump is the Frankenstein monster that the Republican elite created but no longer can control.

It’s highly unlikely that Trump will prevail next November, given that his campaign thus far has alienated women, Muslims, Mexicans, African-Americans, and pretty much everyone else who is not a white, male, heterosexual, angry ‘true American’. (“Stories of Trump piƱatas flying off the shelves in Latino communities aren’t myths.”) Trump would need to win 70 percent of the white male vote this November in order to become president. That’s just not going to happen.

Nonetheless, Trump’s candidacy will have – and indeed already has had – a corrosive effect on American political discourse. Trump’s campaign is rendering acceptable racist and violent language and messages (including threats aimed at political rivals) that less than a year ago would’ve been considered completely beyond the pale.

This is the central point of philosopher Jennifer Saul’s short piece, “Habituation and Hate.” I recommend reading it in order to understand better the dark turn that American political discourse has taken over the past 10 months. (A similar point recently was discussed on the Nightly Show, as mentioned in this piece at Vox.com.) Sadly, things look to be getting only worse…