Modernity and Despair: What Should We Hope For?

Modernity of our sort produces a certain kind of despair and helplessness because the primary sources of hope are technological development and the institutional efforts of technocrats. The best hope of progress is always elsewhere: the Supreme Court, Silicon Valley, the Justice Department. Looking back we see lots of progress but no role for ourselves in achieving more.

The “Humanitarianism” of Living in Prison Until Death

The profile of Judith Clark from last month has me worried: We are more willing to impose death when the killer is painted in monochrome—if we can define him or her by the horror of the crime. Many think this is just; that is what blame and punishment are about. But in rare public comments… Continue reading The “Humanitarianism” of Living in Prison Until Death

When we finally start talking about gun control, what should we say?

I love policy discussions, but the demands for policy discussion on gun control after the shootings in Newtown today are terribly wrong-headed. The problem is that demanding a policy discussion is not the same thing as having a policy discussion. At this point, we’re just talking about talking about gun control. It’s all “mention” and… Continue reading When we finally start talking about gun control, what should we say?

Reflections on my Crime and Punishment Seminar

Old Ohio Penitentiary by J. Harris Day

  This semester I taught a course on crime and punishment, and in part out of competition with my colleague Seth Vannatta, I set out to give a final presentation on the dimensions of the course. This is the presentation I wrote. Introduction Our task was to explore the role of ethics in the law,… Continue reading Reflections on my Crime and Punishment Seminar

Bayes’ Theorem: An Introduction for Philosophers

We don’t normally think of induction and statistics as a part of critical thinking courses, but I think we should. Logic doesn’t end with deduction, after all, and there are few other instances in a college curriculum where students are asked to think carefully about how they ought to evaluate evidence, rather than being asked to apply… Continue reading Bayes’ Theorem: An Introduction for Philosophers