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Well, skimming over the already posted critiques of Matt's critique of Mills's critique, I get it. It's hard to perfectly address all the problematic aspects of someone's thought in one little essay.

Still, this kind of post is why I re-upped my subscription. In a relatively limited space I get to see quite a bit of thinking by smart people over many years in a way that widens my perspective and reorients my thinking. I'll have a much sharper eye, heretofore, when I'm examining arguments and proposals in the future and will be, with any luck, smarter and wiser.

That Matt slipped out of his Twitter feed long enough to read yet another complicated book and assemble reflections taking into account a lot of related work to write a semi-long piece at a distance from the usual scrum strikes me as selfless and admirable, and needed.

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I usually agree with posts on this blog, and as smart a guy as Mills probably is, I think his argument in this instance embodies lots of the fallacies we see in public discourse these days.

1. "The person who came up with idea X is bad. Therefore, X must be a bad idea." (About Kant)

2. "Idea X is insufficiently anti-racist and is therefore bad." (About Rawls.)

3. "System X is inherently associated with group A and was constructed specifically for the exclusion of group B." (Is liberalism inherently white? I would think of Japan, for instance, as a liberal democracy.)

4. "System X has led to bad outcomes for group A, so we should dismantle it. Later, we can come up with a different system that'll definitely be better." (Regarding the lack of an alternative theory.)

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I really don't think this is right.

I would say the structure of the argument is the opposite. It starts with the observation that, historically, polities that defined themselves as liberal were engaged in things like imperialism, slavery, and racism. Today we often see those practices as in tension with liberal ideas. But historically speaking, many of the leading figures in the liberal intellectual tradition specifically did espouse racism. So to Kant, imperialism is not a betrayal of Kantian ideals but a fulfillment of them.

That doesn't mean everything in Kant's books is wrong and bad — Francis Galton was a good statistician even if he was also a racist — but it does mean that we should be skeptical of the idea that this is all just a double coincidence, where Kant happened to be racist and then liberal states happened to do racist stuff. We should take the ideas of racist liberalism seriously on their own terms and say that we reject those ideas and have different, albeit related ones.

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The observation that "liberal" polities were engaged in imperialism, slavery, and racism doesn't seem like a very insightful one to me, though. The question of whether this is all just a coincidence seems to be whether "liberal" polities are engaged in *more* of those things than non-liberal ones.

Empirically, is it actually the case that liberal democracies perform worse on these measures than other types of governments? I don't actually know, but my guess would be that it's not (Communist dictatorships have a long history of ethnic pogroms, for example). If it's not the case, then I'd question the idea that liberalism leads to these outcomes. In fact, if liberal democracies perform better on these types of outcomes, I might be inclined to say that maybe liberalism hasn't been taken far enough.

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Dec 28, 2021·edited Dec 28, 2021

I don't see anything in this post (I haven't read either Kant or Mills myself) that really addresses the obvious response of, "Okay, whatever Kant's personal failings, we can cure the philosophy by simply explicitly extending this circle of respect and shared humanity to non-white people."

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I think this is part of the problem of writing publicly about complicated philosophical debates to people who aren't intellectually engaged in them firsthand. Posing and addressing that question is a huge part of why Mills is seen as a major figure in contemporary political philosophy. His last book (the one Matt is reviewing) is in large part his final response to it.

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I mean, I get that -- I'm not saying that Matt's few thousand words are here or could be the entirety of the topic. But, difficult as it may be, I think at least gesturing in the direction of this rationale is an important part of the topic.

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(Late to the post b/c of vacation, but...)

How does one know that "non-white people" is the correct line to draw?

Matt mentions the animal welfare movement in the post, which claims that we should extend the circle of respect beyond humanity. One central pillar of the Abortion Wars here in the US is whether we should extend the circle to fetuses. And obviously, if we ever discover intelligent aliens, we'll need to include them too.

Kant et. seq. give us little guidance on who/what goes in and out of your circle, and it's super easy to "game" the ethical system by extending respect to your fellow thieves but denying it to your marks. Given that man is a rationalizing animal, I'd be super suspicious that we can ever confidently draw such lines correctly.

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I also struggle with this aspect of the argument – isn't the more obvious line of argument to say Kant failed to apply Kantian ideals properly? If you say, to take an obvious example, 'all men are created equal', but then extend the vote to only white men, it's not the principle that's wrong, but your application or comprehension of the principle.

The 'all men' example is particularly illustrative because I really do think it shows the difference between the two types of attacks. If you're including only white men, the mistake you are making is 'other races are subhuman,' which is an ethical abomination regardless of your underlying philosophy and doesn't really say anything about the principle itself. Meanwhile, the feminist critique really would attack the principle – you say 'all men', not 'all people', after all, and I think it's fair to say the principle as written excludes women.

The point is I think these fairly racist societies would have found a way to exclude much of humanity from their definition of 'humanity' regardless of the theories they developed as to how humans should treat each other, but that fact doesn't really say anything about the theories themselves. The questions of 'who is human?' and 'how should human beings be treated?' really are different ones – although I will admit that philosophers clearly getting the first question wrong is not something we can just gloss over.

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Dec 28, 2021·edited Dec 28, 2021

"It starts with the observation that, historically, polities that defined themselves as liberal were engaged in things like imperialism, slavery, and racism. Today we often see those practices as in tension with liberal ideas. But historically speaking, many of the leading figures in the liberal intellectual tradition specifically did espouse racism. "

That's simply because historically most people were racist. And, in most of the world today, most people are still racist AF. And probably in 100 years people in the future will look at us and our philosophical traditions, or those of Mills, Kant and whoever, as being similarly flawed based on their contemporary values.

If that's your standard for evaluating a philosophical tradition, then none of them can stand.

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Certainly people have always been xenophobic and inhumane, but the modern conception of human "races" and "racism", dates to the late 18th century, suspiciously around the time of Kant and liberalism.

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Jan 9, 2022·edited Apr 19, 2023

People say this all the time, but I really feel like it glosses over the micro-ness of bigotry prior to turning it into something based on skin color. Romans thought Germanics were inferior, and inferior in a different way than the tribes in what we call the UK. I don’t think there was anything magical about turning it into skin tone. It strikes me as a post facto justification for where it was easiest to purchase slaves, so entirely like Roman justifications for invading and enslaving other peoples. And they used the words “races” back then too.

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I don't mind saying my ideas are "different, albeit related" to those of Kant (as well as Mill, Bentham, etc). But I think it's worth arguing that imperialism, slavery and racism are indeed in tension with ideas that can properly be called liberal – they violate the inherent equal dignity of every individual human.

I also don't think we need to assert a "double coincidence" to use Kantian principles while deploring racism. I don't know what Kant's beliefs were about child discipline (he never married, and I haven't read his works extensively), but it wouldn't surprise me if he had no objection to forms of child discipline common in his time that many people today would rightly regard as abuse. And polities that defined themselves as liberal indeed endorsed and sometimes sanctioned in law those practices. And the same can be said of the death penalty, marital rape, domestic violence, and any number of atrocities. As with racism, it would seem to me that other features in human nature cause even intelligent humans to be prone to enact, or excuse, these forms of cruelty, and so it needn't surprise us that some of its enacters and excusers are found among people with liberal philosophical commitments.

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I think it's worth noting that all of those things predate Kant -- it's not like blacks and whites were living in perfect harmony and then Kant came along and was like, "Actually, we should subjugate the blacks." (And similarly with a host of other ills).

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Dec 28, 2021·edited Jan 12, 2022

Yes, this is the big issue I have with the current attempt at trying to discredit the Enlightenment by associating it with "scientific racism," and I'm somewhat disappointed at the extent to which Matt appears to buy into that framing in this post. *Bigotry* clearly dates back thousands of years before anything we'd call "liberalism" -- you can find Bronze Age writings from various Mesopotamian city-states disparaging the character, mental fitness, etc. of people from other city-states or nomadic tribes -- and you most certainly have the idea of Europeans as a *group* (whether or not explicitly described as a "race") being superior to Native Americans crop up almost immediately after contact with the New World, leading to discussions through the early 1500s about the literal humanity of Native Americans, and culminating in the Valladolid debate of 1550 (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Valladolid_debate). "Racism" in the traditional sense of considering members of one race to be inherently inferior to members of another race is pretty clearly (in my view) a direct extension of these kinds of thought patterns and it's bizarre to act as though Kant, Linnaeus, and some other folks in the late 1700s suddenly came up with the idea in a vacuum.

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Worth noting that most indigenous groups' terms for themselves literally mean "people". Objecting to what we now call racism is about as novel as the toaster.

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Would the same objection not hold for consequentialism, to the extent that, e.g, Bentham and the Mills were pro-empire?

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One can explain the "coincidence", by pointing out that basically *every* society had these same beliefs about the inferiority of other races/religions/people. It's vaguely equivalent to pointing out that a particular thinker/school had theist beliefs and saying "what a coincidence, they were wrong about thing X that I care about and also wrong about theism!"

Also worth noting that many great thinkers were catastrophically wrong about things. Newton was famously into alchemy and biblical prophecy- 2 fields of nonsense with strong constituencies throughout western thought... yet how perverse to then question Calculus, Optics or F=MA.

A third reason to doubt Mills here is that the great thinkers in the Kantian tradition were well aware of the contradictions inherent in Slavery. Oglethorpe (founder of Georgia) outlawed slavery. Indeed the rise of Kantianism largely tracks the rise of the British abolitionist movement.

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I've always thought that great ideas could and should be separated from the humans proposing them. E.g., as Matt notes with Frances Galton. Newtonian mechanics are correct even though Newton believed some crazy things. Does Kant's categorial imperative then also require Kant's racism? If indeed, imperialism is a fulfillment of Kantian ideals (and does he say that explicitly?) does that also apply to a time when imperialism is not a factor in Western international politics?

The Declaration of Independence, with its ringing endorsement of freedom, was written by a slaveholder. Does that mean the principles of freedom it espoused are wrong now and we should abandon the claim that all people are created equal?

Bottom line is that if Kant's ideas applied only to his time, we sure have been wasting a lot of time keeping him in the canon.

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I think Kant and imperialism in particular is a more complicated case. My understanding of the state of the art is that Kant was, at least by the end of his life, a ferocious anti-colonialist regardless of his thoughts on race. See Pauline Kleingeld, "Kant's Second Thoughts on Race" and "Kant's Second Thoughts on Colonialism." There was a recent volume on the question that looks interesting, though I haven't read it--Kant and Colonialism: Historical and Critical Perspectives.

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Anti-semitism is the real vulnerable point for Kant. He honestly didn't know very much about non-white people and just repeated what he'd read in books. Prussia had no (non-European) colonies, and Kant's remarks about non-white people weren't meant as a justification for imperialism or slavery - he strongly denounced both. (He was also enlightened in his attitude towards Slavs, which didn't at all go without saying for a Prussian.)

Kant did know a lot, both first hand and from the Bible, about Jews and Judaism. Jews were a persecuted minority in his city. He wasn't a garden variety anti-semite like his sometime-friend Hamann (Kant was even a friend of Moses Mendelssohn), but his call for "the euthanasia of Judaism" is still very creepy. He thought the idea of a universal morality had no place for a "chosen people" so he managed to use the idea of universal human dignity to justify the exclusion of a persecuted minority. This was a case of moral blindness on Kant's part quite comparable to Rawls on race or Mill on India.

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Kant wasn't calling for religious prosecution, and ultimately Mordachi Kaplan would carry out what Kant wanted.

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He wasn't calling for religious persecution but he was morally blind to the reality of the Jewish experience in a way some of his Enlightenment contemporaries weren't (e.g. Montesquieu, Lessing).

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The thing is that (for example) Locke and Mill were liberal writers who used liberal arguments to justify imperialism and (non-"scientific") racism, but *Kant* was not.

Locke used the rights - labor - contract complex of argument to justify the dispossession of native Americans. Mill used paternalistic utilitarian arguments to explain why the Indians weren't yet capable of self-government. Kant argued that conquest is always wrong and that human dignity was an attribute of human individuals as such, *not* just something one had to respect in fellow citizens as a consequence of the social contract. (Dignity would thus apply to "inferior races" of human beings, if such a thing existed.)

Kant's racism is more of an abstract matter because came from a land with no non-European colonies and no prospect of acquiring any. I think that Mills is just wrong in his assessment of Kant's importance as a founder of racist anthropology - Kant taught a widely held Enlightenment position on the subject. In other fields Kant was an epoch-making innovator, but in anthropology he wasn't. The point of this argument isn't to let Kant the person off the hook for racism, but I do think that racism is much more deeply baked into the cake of Locke's and Mill's political theories than it is in Kant's.

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Kant argued against imperialism. Also, why assume he's a spokesperson for his 'polity'-- which wasn't a liberal one, anyway?

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How are we supposed to untangle what the "real" liberalism was/is? (Not a rhetorical question, I'm not a philosophy major and am really not sure.). E.g. is the liberalism of today that we read into past philosophical works a different liberalism than the authors of those works espoused? Are we misunderstanding their works by reading into them a liberalism that wasn't the historical norm of the time? Do we see unfulfilled potential in the work that the authors could not?

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I agree with this critique of Matt's piece, which didn't convince me I wanted to read Mills's book or that it had any important critique of Kant or Rawls. So Kant and many 19th century liberals were racists and thus didn't extend their principles to races they considered inferior. That's not an argument rebutting their principles, but an argument against racism. Matt's rejoinder below doesn't really get to the issue.

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Have you actually read the book or his other writings?

Because his argument is not really like the strawman you are putting forward.

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Dec 28, 2021·edited Dec 28, 2021

No, I haven't read his book. All I've read is this post, admittedly, and this is the impression I got. Happy to hear what he actually has to say.

(However, I would say that it seems reasonable to allow people to initially disagree with the post if the post leaves out important details or counterarguments that are in the book.)

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deletedDec 28, 2021·edited Dec 28, 2021
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Dec 28, 2021·edited Jan 4, 2022

That analogy fails because "imperialism, slavery, etc." aren't necessary preconditions, either explicitly or (by either logic or historical example) implicitly, to achieve liberalism, whereas the destruction of individual rights is the explicitly avowed goal of Marxism, which also (by both logic and historical example) implies the use of massive state-directed violence to achieve.

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some liberal thinkers seem to have thought that imperialism was necessary to achieve liberalism--right up to the current day. See, e.g, the Iraq War.

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Dec 28, 2021·edited Dec 28, 2021

I'm not aware of any liberal thinker outside of possibly the Revolutionary era in France (where you do find a fair bit of rhetoric about the importance of "liberating" at least all of Europe to secure liberalism in France) who ever sincerely thought imperialism was necessary to "achieve liberalism." You can't claim with a straight face that anyone arguing in favor of the Iraq War believed the *US* would cease to be a liberal polity if it *didn't* invade Iraq. (In fact, one of the great strengths of liberalism, IMO, is that it's entirely possible to practice liberalism in one country regardless of what any other country is doing.)

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The US and other imperial powers have often framed the projection of power abroad--and domestically (see, Indian removal)-- as a way of bringing freedom to people who would otherwise be unable to develop it for themselves. Those people have often been liberals. The Iraq War was in this respect part of a long tradition. It had many liberal defenders (among whom, in the broadly philosophical sense raised by Matt, neocons would certainly count). Fwiw, I'm a liberal myself, but I think you gotta reckon with the full history of the values you endorse. I like that about Matt's post.

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Dec 28, 2021·edited Dec 28, 2021

Whether liberals have defended the idea of "bringing freedom" to third parties is very different from whether imperialism is a *precondition* for the development or continued existence of liberalism in a given society. Your examples of cynical justifications based on appeals to liberalism aren't rebutting this point.

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founding

Neocons are usually considered to be liberals.

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Yeah, I definitely agree with this. I think consequentialism has a lot to tell us about which political philosophies are actually useful. I wouldn't criticize Mills' argument that a consequentialist might look for alternatives to liberalism, since liberalism *might be suboptimal*.

Without an alternative proposal, however, I think the argument that liberalism is *definitely bad* is much less powerful.

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This is an important insight. Looking at the ways that systems fail can tell you important things about their hidden assumptions and priorities.

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Sure, 19th century implementation/manifestation of liberalism is liberalism too, and there's plenty to criticize. And even if it were a perfect version of it there are of course still very important higher order effects/consequences/questions to manage/control/address/answer with regards to focusing on universal rights of individuals, etc.

But it doesn't seem to make much sense to mix up these two things. Claiming that liberalism is bad/insufficient, because 19th century UK engaged in imperialism while "operating under liberal ideas" is as interesting as claiming that democracy is bad, because North Korea engages in human rights abuses while operating under democratic ideas. (They have elections after all! Every 5 years, turnout is near 100%! 3 parties! There are even independent candidates who won 1.9% of seats!)

We are amazing at narrating our life and history, our intellectual journey, but it's just that, a nice story. We are terrible at implementing our grand ideas. Not because they suck, but because it's hard to change our ways, customs, circumstances, and certain fundamental beliefs.

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>>it’s not the case that Hispanics or Asians or other ethnic or cultural minority groups would benefit from Darity’s reparations program. Even if you are simply seeking non-white allies, you need an agenda with broader appeal.<<

Pursuing reparations, no matter the ethical and moral basis for it, seems an excellent way to create a broad-based Republican coalition, uniting working class/non-college whites, Latinos and many Asians. You know, the Democrats' dream coalition, except for the other party.

For example, Santa Monica, the city I worked in, is offering affordable housing to Black families which were displaced with paltry or no compensation during the building of I-10 almost 60 years ago. And in one sense that's great, because the decision had no moral basis -- it merely punished the weakest part of the community. (https://www.latimes.com/homeless-housing/story/2021-12-26/santa-monica-to-people-long-evicted-by-freeway-come-back-home)

Great! Except . . . this form of "reparations" is to give them priority access to affordable housing that Santa Monica is building. That is, they're moved to the front of the line and pushing others (probably mostly Latino) down below them on a waitlist that currently lists 6000 families.

In other words, absent actions to increase housing density more in Santa Monica, or put up bounteous affordable units north of Montana Avenue, this benevolent action will impact the city's rich white residents not at all and only punish invisible others who won't even know that they are being punished. Or if they do find out, they'll probably take another look at the Republican party.

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Both precinct and polling data indicate that these kinds of policies are already increasing the Republican vote among non white and working class voters

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Dec 28, 2021·edited Dec 28, 2021

I'm tempted to suggest that *any* moral / political philosophy is subject to exactly the same flaws as those Mills claimed had "broken" the work of Kant and Rawls.

E.g. it's easy to be a consequentialist that abuses animals, simply by assigning animals less negative utils upon experiencing pain - for many people and many animals (e.g. fish), this is in fact what they believe. In other words, issues of measurement, definition, and assumptions make it easy and tempting to determine that what is good for me (or makes me right) is good for everyone, no matter your philosophy, not just Rawls.

So. I think this is a bad argument against any moral philosophy.

It's also silly (IMO) to suggest that any one of these systems ought to be used by themselves, without including elements of others. A pure utilitarian community could plausibly involve a lot of state-sponsored murder (e.g. bad or wasteful people). People recoil against this for practical and self-interest reasons more than "ideal" reasons - the murder system isn't one you'd risk handing to any but the most pure and honest people, but how to tell who is pure and honest? And also, what's pure? Hmmmm... maybe let's have strong rules against state-sponsored murder, except in the most severe cases where we all agree on the moral wrongness ... (enter argument on capital punishment).

To me, it's always seemed that racial-focused philosophers / commentators are starting from some deep belief (what's happened to me/us is *wrong*) and then back rationalize their policy positions or philosophical systems to justify whatever it is they're trying to actually accomplish (e.g. reparations). These arguments are not convincing to me, *because* they are so transparently self (or group) interested. To have any chance of bending my ear, the argument needs to *start* by explaining how this new system or policy would truly benefit *everyone* (or, at least, most people on balance). Reparations and affirmative action don't cut it, but broad-based redistribution based on wealth or income DOES cut it. Let's try that first, before we create an even more racially segmented society than we already have.

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Dec 28, 2021·edited Dec 28, 2021

Your second paragraph does a great job of summarizing something I wanted to write earlier about the seemingly "results-oriented" nature of Mills' writing, at least as summarized here by Matt. Saying, "Moral system 'X' is bad because it leaves out 'Z,'" just raises the question of why "Z" should be be considered so important that its omission supersedes or undermines moral system "X" (as compared to simply requiring a modification of "X") and it's not clear from this summary Mills builds the case for "Z."

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Mills advocated a more radical liberalism, not an abandonment of it. He was a Marxist at one point but seemingly converted to liberalism some time before the end of his life.

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I fully agree with this - all moral philosophies can be (and usually are) undermined by selective application, i.e. exclusion/dehumanization of the outgroup.

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One needn’t even have to assign other animals differing moral worths! Consequentialism is perfectly practical, and in my opinion far more reasonable, starting from a position of only considering one’s self as having any intrinsic moral worth. (This does not lead us into anarchy and anti-social behavior - as a matter of fact, it leads us into pro social behavior, because it is pro-social individuals who are successful.)

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And we organizing to ban anti-social behavior is not us too acting in our self interest? Everything already derives from self interest - I am simply suggesting we recognize it.

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Having a slave army instead of participating in modern consumerism isn’t actually that effective; all you get is what slave labor can create. (This is why economics is “the dismal science”; slave owners called it that because they were mad economists told them slavery was bad.)

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The fact that a ruler needs to be legitimate was always a big deal going back into antiquity - was that not meant to keep anti-social behaviors in check? Also law and order was critical for any civilization to thrive, even if under a monarchy. Having said that, anti-social behavior continues to be rewarded today, exhibit A being Donald Trump! Point being law and order has always existed in any thriving civilization to keep anti-social behavior at bay, but law order can be overwhelmed at times by antisocial forces from time-to-time (e.g. Jan 6 Capitol riots).

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Dec 28, 2021·edited Dec 28, 2021

I agree with this although I'm on the fence regarding reparations not out of a philosophical objection, but for practical reasons.

I'm willing to consider the idea of reparations, but the details and what they are supposed to achieve matter a great deal. For example, it's easy to see a case where reparations have no long term positive impact while still suffering from the negative societal consequences of financially atoning for one historic crime and not others or the obvious differences of opinion about the size and scope of any reparations.

And this is where politics and groups come into play. Consider, for example, why reparations for slavery have more political currency compared to reparations for Native Americans.

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The problem that I have with texts like this is that they concentrate on the black/white dichotomy, ignoring the millions of people who don’t fit cleanly into this framework. Mills criticizes Rawls for writing about justice in 1970 and ignoring the civil rights movement. Couldn’t the same criticism be directed at Mills? How can you write about justice in the twenty-first century and ignore the devastation that the US inflicted on the middle east?

My family is Assyrian, a small minority indigenous to Iraq, Iran, and Syria. Since 1990 alone, the Assyrians have been bombed, starved, bombed again, attacked, occupied, and then subjected to a genocide at the hands of ISIS. Since 2003 the Assyrian population in Iraq has plummeted from over a million to around 200,000. If a case can be made for reparations to the descendants of slaves, then I don’t see why Iraqis in general, and Assyrians in particular, aren’t entitled to reparations as well. But of course this is even less likely to happen than Black reparations.

The point here is that there are countless marginal groups in the US, groups that are too small to ever get the kind of special treatment that they might deserve. Even worse, they risk being harmed by efforts to help other groups. If 11 trillion dollars in reparations were doled out to Black Americans, it wouldn’t only be white people who would have to pay. It would also be Roma, Hmong, Assyrians, etc. Similarly, affirmative action by definition lowers the chances for everyone not included in the protected class.

Any policy that singles out one group for special treatment harms all the others. It takes justice and turns it into a zero sum game. If you really care about justice, you should prefer redistributive programs that focus on class over race. This is the only option that doesn't grind small minorities under the wheels of the metaphorical trolley.

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I am sorry to hear the harm your fellow Assyrians have endured. Having said that, I can make one argument in favor of reparations to descendants if African-American slaves. African-Americans as a group are severely disadvantaged compared with almost any other group in the US in terms of per capita GDP, average savings per family, education levels etc. And the reason for this is stratification of the community because of racist policies that were followed till at least before the Civil rights bill was passed. I personally think of this as a debt the US owes to these folks, and this debt must not be paid out in cash, but rather offered as a collection of benefits that will allow the community to prosper as a group in terms of long-term wealth accumulation that comes from savings and education. So, I am thinking, free medical care, free education (including in community and other colleges), interest free loans to purchase a home, or agriculture land to become a farmer etc. Something like a Marshall plan. The value for the US at large is that we will suddenly replace an underclass with an educated middle class, which is a great asset in the information age we live in.

Should Assyrians who were bombed by the US also deserve reparations? That I am not so sure. I feel it is not that clear cut a case as this was a war, and and in a war people get bombed. Maybe US must pay governments in the middle east for the4 damage it cause there, but that is not a separate discussion. I don't think this is comparable with the reparations to descendants of African-American slaves.

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The idea that philosophy undertaken in largely homogenous societies in the fairly distant past is somehow fatally undermined by modern racial dynamics just seems depressingly nihilistic. So many great works fail this test.

Maybe the book is just completely compelling that nothing about the human condition can be analyzed without a grounding in America’s particular racial context. I’m skeptical but maybe I’ll pick it up on your recommendation.

But you just wrote an essay on the long history of the human condition and didn’t see fit to mention Emmitt Till either. I don’t feel like this was a serious omission. There are so many frames of reference that do not need to center the United States of America from 1619-2021.

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"But you just wrote an essay on the long history of the human condition and didn’t see fit to mention Emmitt Till either. I don’t feel like this was a serious omission. There are so many frames of reference that do not need to center the United States of America from 1619-2021."

I agree with that. But I don't think it works as a defense of Rawls, who was writing a book in 1972 that pretty clearly had the contemporary political situation in the United States as the background frame of reference.

Not every treatment of everything should center American racial politics. But a discussion of the midcentury United States of America really should, since it was in fact absolutely central to that subject.

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I think I have to stick up for Rawls here. "A Theory of Justice" includes an extensive treatment of civil disobedience and conscientious objection, which was clearly a response to both the civil rights movement and the antiwar movement. What's more, he explicitly prioritizes fair equality of opportunity over the difference principle. I think it would have been very clear in 1972 (maybe clearer than it is now) that the book was substantially inspired by concerns about racial justice in the US.

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My recollection of Rawls's argument is likely imperfect: it's some decades since I read A Theory of Justice from beginning to end; shortly after it came out in paperback actually. That said, implicit in the "veil of ignorance" seems to be the idea that not knowing one's position in the real world would lead one to reject, e.g., racist and sexist discrimination. (At least at one time, I believe, Rawls was critiqued for incorporating, or smuggling, such commitments into his "original position".) And the "difference principle," if taken seriously (at least as I recall it), should be a powerful impetus for social democratic policies of redress and improvement within at least a penumbra of Yglesian thought.

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Agreed. People mostly remember the difference principle because of its novelty, but it's not the only element in Rawls's theory. For a progressive who only cares about class inequality, the difference principle alone would have sufficed... but Rawls said equal opportunity was even more important. (To borrow his terminology: he said it had lexical priority, meaning that even if you can raise the incomes of the lowest social class by allowing some race or gender discrimination, you mustn't do it.)

The problem with Kant's approach is not that it can't be made antiracist (or antisexist, et cetera). That's actually very easy and I would say Rawls did it well enough. Rights-based liberalism is wrong for deeper reasons.

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IIRC, Rawlsian "equal opportunity" has to do with a system of basic liberties. Whether in some societies and circumstances and some times discrimination in the form of affirmative action of some kind might be consistent with such a system of equal opportunity doesn't strike me as a question with an obviously negative answer. At least off the top of my head, however, the rationale would seem to sound more in terms of redress than diversity.

Note, of course, my systematic use of "some". Then again, if I'm right in recalling that Rawls wrote of a "system" of "basic liberties," he left open substantial room for arguing over whether affirmative action, of some kind, in some circumstances, etc., could be justified in his own terms.

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I need to read the Mills book. But I'm not clear why Rawls' "worst-off class" doesn't obviously include Black people, even if he doesn't say that explicitly.

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The veil of ignorance thought experiment is in ideal theory, so the question of racism does not arise, as Matt explains. When applying Rawlsianism to non-ideal situations like our own, it would almost certainly work like you say, but Rawls himself wrote almost nothing on non-ideal theory outside of the international context.

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This is wrong. Race was central to American life from Brown v Board of Education, through about 1969-69 and has become so again. It was obviously central leading up to the Civil War and throughout the post Civil-War era. If you're Black, it may well have been central forever. To the rest of America, it was not in 1972, when Viet Nam and Nixon's crimes were. It was not central to Rawls' subject because it wasn't central to most of the country. Matt wasn't born, he has no idea what he's talking about as the central concerns of 1972, and picking on Rawls for not spending more time on the issues of 2021 projected on 1972 as though they should have been the issues then and what Rawls should have written about are the subjects his critics 40 years hence would have written about if they'd been born 40 years earlier, because they were so much wiser, is absurd.

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Just got diagnosed with covid this morning so I have some time on my hands! Here are my Ramblings from a Covid Bed

This is very much my specific field, so I'll try to avoid doing the thing where I get indignant that a short blog post didn't nail all the details. Here are four thoughts:

1) Someone else in the comments pointed out that what Kant and Rawls are engaged in to a large degree is meta-ethical. You might think the two of them reached the wrong conclusions - I often do - but that's different from critiquing the basic setup of the project, which is what Mills attempts, I think rather unconvincingly. The project is basically the assertion that justice, in morals and in politics, is the answer to the question "What rules would generic (nonembodied, unencumbered, identityless) agents choose to govern them?" Michael Sandel has much more compelling takes than Mills on why this doesn't work, I think.

2) I'm sympathetic to Parfit's project of demonstrating the convergence of utilitarianism and deontology. If only it were easier to draw out their extensions!!

3) If you're gonna read Mills, you really ought to read Tommie Shelby's replies to him. Shelby basically argues that ideal theory is indispensable for non ideal theory: you need a theory of the political ideal to orient your actions. Once you know that justice requires you to work to the benefit of the least advantaged, you fill in the details of your particular society and apply it. I go back and forth on whether I think this reply works but I do think it must be grappled with. My latest position is that you need both a theory of the political ideal as well as a theory of the moral in order to know what to do in your non ideal world. You need to know where (political) utopia lies, and a map of all the rest of the places that aren't utopia and how they rank on the political ideal scale. Then you need a theory of morality to know what moves you're allowed to make. If you think that history is path-dependent, it might be impossible to reach utopia based on how morality constrains your actions. (You might not be allowed to wage a violent revolution killing all the opposition in order to set up a communist paradise.) But I'm inclined to think the theory of morality alone is insufficient, since morality probably licenses multiple courses of action and you need to know which is the best, in the sense of getting closest to utopia. (My intuitions about morality being under determined might be off, though I'd probably call, say, a comprehensive utilitarianism a political as well as moral theory.) (These thoughts are influenced by reading the first chapter or so of Jerry Gaus's Tyranny of the Ideal, but I haven't finished it so perhaps he already says all of this!)

4) I've spent the past semester thinking hard about reparations, reading a LOT of philosophy on it from a lot of different camps. At this point I'm totally unconvinced by it all, and sympathetic to Shelby's position (contra Mills) that present distributive justice (a la Rawls) renders reparations unnecessary. Is very hard to come up with a convincing theory of why Obama is deserving of special compensation while poor white kids aren't. And to the extent that all Black people continue to suffer injustice as a result of white supremacist institutions, the suffering within the group varies wildly, and I haven't seen a principled reason to address the suffering on a group basis instead of at the individual level. (Pragmatism, but if I were to spell out this position more I really mean why racial grouping vs economic groupings. Dropping a term paper on this soon if anyone's really interested in the weeds, lol.)

Also, my favorite piece of reparations cognitive dissonance is people who support Black reparations in the states/Indigneous land-back movements but also vehemently oppose the existence of a Jewish state in the land of Israel. (Hypothetically you might imagine a time cutoff but I haven't seen any convincing principled way to have reparations phase out.)

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"Also, my favorite piece of reparations cognitive dissonance is people who support Black reparations in the states/Indigneous land-back movements but also vehemently oppose the existence of a Jewish state in the land of Israel. (Hypothetically you might imagine a time cutoff but I haven't seen any convincing principled way to have reparations phase out.)"

They think they should have gone back to (primarily Eastern) Europe / stayed in the Arab countries and fought to integrate themselves into those societies. Also they probably view what happened in World War II as some sort of Nazi fugue that was an aberration and it would all have just been fine after the war.

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I’m probably not going to check Mills out, but I am grateful for this summary. I remain doubtful that reparations advocacy could ever have much political value for someone who simply wants massive investment in public education, Canadian-style health care, and a rapid transition from oil and gas.

Vulnerable as I am to any rousing sermon in a liberal voice, I, too, once said some pretty silly things after I read Coates’ essay on reparations. I came to my senses by thinking through what I might personally owe as a Mayflower descendant. I mean, even if you could convince me that my retirement should be delayed to cover the reparations bill, or that the legacy intended to help my kid swing a mortgage should be diminished (I may propose in fact propose this to her, because she’s one of the very wokest, and I’d love to see what her reaction would be), what do you say to convince all the modern Americans whose ancestors came post Civil War and thereafter, that they should pay up?

And, by the way, do I get a discount for those of my ancestors who fought in the Union Army?

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I do a lot of door knocking for elections and no one has ever explained to me how I can persuade working class Latinos, Asians, and whites that they should vote for reparations and unless they vote Democrats into massive majorities there is no chance of reparations passing. This seems like a significant barrier.

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It's very weird how left-out-of-the-discussion non-Black, non-White people are. As if those are the only 2 forces that matter.

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Dec 28, 2021·edited Jan 12, 2022

When people frame modern American racial issues in black/white terms, I like to quote Baron von Strucker from the after credits scene in "Captain America: The Winter Soldier": "Hydra, S.H.I.E.L.D. -- two sides of a coin that's no longer currency."

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No, it’s worse.

At this point, wherever it might have begun, it’s the left-leaning equivalent of the “Reinstate Trump” grifting.

An electorally-harmful fantasy peddled by a narrow slice of the political class to maintain their relevance (and cash flow) even as their ideas are systematically blown off by most of the electorate.

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You’ve again articulated why, if not for the shambles of our healthcare system and the threat of climate change bearing down, my attitude would otherwise be “a pox on both your houses.”

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I rhetorically asked that last point once on Twitter in a thread that NHJ happened to be participating in (I didn't even notice she was commenting there) and she actually replied to me to say that Union soldiers weren't fighting to end slavery, so that didn't count.

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Wouldn't a politics of reparations for descendants of enslaved people would not need to be matched by reparations for descendants of dispossessed and slaughtered Native Americans? A strong moral case could be made for both, even if neither is a political starter. But it's hard for me to imagine how only one of the two could be legitimate.

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It's no different in the moral case, but massively different in terms of policy. There are far fewer Native Americans. Most people with Native American ancestry are mixed-descent and not politically united. The various reservations dotting the country are the exceptions, and they are too small to be politically important on a national stage.

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Dec 28, 2021·edited Dec 28, 2021

Except I'm pretty sure that genetic testing shows the majority of people who would these days be described as "ADoS" are of mixed descent?

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Yeah - I was even thinking that. But I believe the majority of that genetic mixing happened pre-1865 under coercive conditions. Inter-racial marriage is growing rapidly and might account for the majority of non-African genetics in the youngest generation of people who are ADoS but not in the oldest.

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That's a blood quantum argument, and already classed as a mode of settler defense rhetoric in the literature ;-). Try harder!

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founding

The idea that it might be better if some of the money set aside to give an upper middle class kid an easier time getting their mortgage should instead be taxed and spent on making society more equal seems like a fundamental bedrock idea of contemporary politics. Some rightists say that shouldn’t happen, but everyone else just debates about how much it should happen.

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Good piece. I'm not sure how the theory and philosophy of identity formation fits into the consequentialist/deontologist divide but I think it needs to be considered here. The world is divided into sovereign nations, which Benedict Anderson described as "imagined communities" - the members imagine a shared identity with each other and that identity tie is part of what motivates and makes possible, among other things, shared trust and laws for the common good of members of the community. Anderson was arguing against blood and soil, ethnic/racial essentialist theories of nationhood and national identity. Showing that our identity was not handed down from Mt Sinai but is something we made up - and that means we can imagine it to be as inclusive as we want it to be. I'm not an expert on them, but I don't know that Kant, Rawls, and some of the other philosophers mentioned here really had a good understanding or proper focus on the contingency of identity formation, and the role it plays it the formation and maintenance of a healthy national community. I think today racial justice advocates - Kendi, for example - often fall into the same kind of essentialized thinking about identity that not only is theoretically bogus but also has been a source of great harm in the world.

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Anderson was an amazing teacher and writer.

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It’s a little strange to describe all of moral philosophy for past 300 years without mentioning of Rorty, Foucault, Nietschze, Derrida and others as a third major “Continental” branch that basically denied the usefulness of consequentialism and deontologism both. Rorty in particular thought these philosophical constructs were a complete waste of time, which is perhaps why he accurately predicted the rise of authoritarianism in America if “the Left” continued to focus on winning over the English departments rather than state legislatures. And here we are.

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For better or for worse twentieth-century Continental thought is extremely marginal in academic philosophy departments, and people like Mills and Rawls don't engage with it. Nineteenth-century has a better rep, and both Mills and Rawls engage extensively with Marx.

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Dec 28, 2021·edited Dec 28, 2021

Right, and that’s perhaps because Continental philosophy largely denies that analytic philosophy is doing anything useful for anyone. The fact that those philosophy departments are still stuck on Rawls, Mills, Kant and Marx suggests the Continentalists were on to something.

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I mean Continental thought is currently much more great-dead-man-focused than Analytic thought. I think major figures just don't come around too often. (And Mills is barely in the ground, so it's a bit odd to say "philosophy departments are still stuck on Mills.")

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Ha, fair, I was thinking of consequentialist JS Mill! My larger point though is that the debate framed in Matt’s essay is pretty much an American one, and I would tentatively offer that it’s neither very interesting nor useful. And so we end up with a “Left” that isn’t focused on politics so much as it is performative gestures. Matt kind of intuits this even though I’m not sure he’s read any of the philosophers I listed in my first comment. Would be interesting for him to chime in here!

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Dec 28, 2021·edited Dec 28, 2021

For me, this post encapsulates the many problems with philosophy in the academy and how philosophy is used by the educated elite generally.

Many comments highlighted some good criticisms, so here are my 2 cents from a slightly different angle.

First, academic philosophy lacks an appreciation for the limits of human cognition and perception. Thus there will always be debates about philosophy, and there will never be a "grand unified theory" of philosophy. Like politics, it is endless.

Secondly, people are not blank slates who are exposed to philosophical constructs and then work down from there to figure out how the world works or ought to work. Instead, people have ideas about how the world works, with their own biases and perceptions about:

What is just and what is not, what is legitimate and what is not, what is ideal and what is not, and what society should prioritize. It's at that point where philosophy enters the picture, and most people go find the philosophy that supports what they already want to do and what they already believe. And the same goes for philosophical criticism, which is on display in this post - it's working backwards.

Additionally, much of philosophy also ignores or downplays universal human features like the natural ability and tendency of humans to self-organize into communities and develop in-groups and out-groups. Attempts to assert some ideal framework that does not recognize such realities is, IMO, a waste of time.

Therefore, the critique of Mills or whoever as not providing some pathway or theory that incorporates modern notions of racial justice and equality, falls into that trap. History has not ended and what we think now is not the universal truth by which the merits of philosophical traditions can be objectively judged.

It's also important to point out that philosophical principles can be evaluated on their own merits, independently of the people who created them. Criticism of Mills, or whoever, for not sufficiently addressing contemporary opinions about racial justice or anything else, suffers from the ad hominem fallacy.

Finally, too much of academic philosophy relies on gimmicks. The "trolley problem" is the best example of this. This gimmick only works because of the weirdly constrained framework that results in an artificial binary choice which ignores every other consideration. It's useful only as an thought exercise because it is intentionally constructed to be divorced from real situations involving real people. It also demands we ignore obvious questions, such as the circumstances that would result in tying people to trolley tracks in the first place, and the morality of that. Point being, if one's philosophical construct depends on such gimmicks and cannot stand on its own in the real world, with real people and real situations, then it is probably junk.

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Bernard Williams had a wonderfully dry comment about this (from his "Morality: An Introduction to Ethics"):

"If there were such an activity as deducing substantial moral conclusions from *a priori* premises, trained philosophers might reasonably be expected to be rather specially good at it; but there is not, and the fact that if there were, then professional philosophers would stand a specially good chance of being informed about morality, is itself one of the good reasons for thinking that there could not be such an activity."

I think of this quote every time Matt trolls "medical ethicists"

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The trolley problem is a teaching tool for undergrads, not a central problem in ethics (though it illustrates a central problem). Tbh you don't know what you're talking about and virtually all of these critiques come from within the discipline of philosophy, they're not criticisms of the whole field.

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To be clear, I'm not criticizing the whole field, just the ivory tower.

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I’m going to be somewhat pedantic here, because your history of liberalism in the 19th century and of 19th century politics is problematic.

First, liberalism went hand in hand with democracy and nationalism. The idea was that there is a demos (a people) which governs in a democracy, and a demos was equated with a particular nation (i.e., a type of people) who would have a democratic nation state. Liberalism proceeded to go hand in hand with this, because the opponents of liberalism, nationalism, and democracy were old aristocracy with its illiberal reactionary hierarchical attitudes denying the inherent rights of the masses AND who either happened to either rule over multinational empires which lacked a sufficient binding identity to be kept together in a democratic polity or were part of a transnational class often linked by family ties. 19th century liberalism as a political force was primarily a balancing act between nationalism and democracy’s tendency to draw us-vs-them lines somewhere and liberalism’s more open and progressive attitudes.

As for the US Liberal Republicans … (a) Grant’s socially liberal was also more nationalistic [think of the various know nothings who joined the GOP, many of whom were pro-black but anti-immigrant because of an us-vs-them attitude where they preferred English speaking black Protestants to Catholic foreigners] and (b) the Liberal Republicans were an amorphous thing whose 1872 nominee was the most woke/progressive guy imaginable, was much more immigrant-sympathetic than Grant’s GOP, and was bolstered especially by Republican turncoats who were concerned about rampant corruption in the Grant Administration. [Grant was not himself corrupt, but often hopelessly naive and far too trusting]. The emergence of upper Midwest democratic machines was as much a force of Republicans passing anti Catholic and anti foreign language laws as anything else.

Matt is grossly conflating pre-war GOP coalition politics with post-Civil war.

As for Dred-Scott, that case shouldn’t be read more much legally. It was an activist opinion written at the behest of President Buchanan. Meanwhile, the American south from the 1830s on actively became more openly *illiberal* and many leaders openly repudiated the language of the Declaration of Independence as being a lie. By contrast, the north was (while still racist) inching in a more racially liberal direction because of a desire for philosophical consistency.

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I think your confusion mostly stems from that Matt is talking about the history of liberal philosophical thought, not the history of liberal politicians. So like John Stuart Mill, not Ulysses S. Grant.

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Is this too obvious a thought to express?Or maybe just an incorrect one? But I always thought of our political system as doing a decent, practical job of mashing together Kant and Bentham by having a Bill of Rights (and similar rights in other amendments and in some statutes) that enumerated certain ideals that were to be treated with something approaching absolutism (although subject to moderation through the courts to help them work in real-life contexts) while at the same time subjecting all other policy matters to the will of the majority in the legislature. Have the pols done a better job inventing a CONCEPTUALLY acceptable system of ethics than the philosophers? Or am I just muddled here?

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The way I see it is a little different.

Thinking about the US constitution just helps illustrate that our actual choices are not the ones that Rawls asks us to think about. We can sit around all day and talk about are there inviolable rights and if so what are there? But the real issue is "what kinds of institutions do you want to create to protect rights?" So in the United States we have a bicameral legislature and a separately elected president and then we have federal judges with lifetime appointments, they are selected by the president and they are confirmed by the senate (but not the House). The system would be very different if judges required bicameral confirmation or confirmation by the House only or were nominated by state governors or if they served 17-year terms instead of life terms. There are just endless questions of fine detail and institutional design that matter more.

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I think there are two real issues: "what kinds of institutions do you want to create to protect rights?" and "what should those rights be?" Although I do believe that procedure and substance influence each other and evolve together in an iterative fashion, institutions and procedures can't generate rights entirely on their own. So, we must retreat to the Kant-Bentham debate, or find variations thereto (as I actually think our US system has sought to do), or find a third way (which, I understand from your brief history of ethics and philosophy, may not be likely anytime soon).

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This seems like lefty-centric navel gazing to me. The Constitution was a product of 18th century American elites trying to stitch together 13 states in a national system that could see off much more powerful European states, which was the pressing issue of their day. No doubt it's not the constitution a convention of the Congressional Progressive Caucus would write today, since those are no longer pressing issues. The real issue is not 'what kind of institutions do you want to create to protect rights', and the 'endless questions of fine detail and institutional design that matter more' only matter in the heads of policy wonks who are never going to rewrite the Constitution. In other words, they don't matter at all in any practical sense, while the principles of Kant and Rawls do matter in how you live your life and treat other people.

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"But the real issue is: what kinds of institutions do you want to create to protect rights?"

Which rights? Your question takes Rawls' prior, philosophical question for granted. That's why we need 'ideal theory'!

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Dec 28, 2021·edited Dec 28, 2021

Another thought: the way people talk about Kant's undeniable racism lacks rigor. It is true that Kant contributed a bit to the formation of scientific racism, but his anthropological writings really aren't a very important or influential part of his corpus. They are interesting *to us* because (like the racist remarks in Hume's essays) they reveal that Kant was racist in a pretty unreflective way. This casts his universalism in an unfavorable light. Still, the utilitarian tradition has similar skeletons in its closet. Mill's writings on India justify colonialism in a way that should make us squirm just as much as anything in Kant.

Oddly, Enlightenment figures who clearly *weren't* racist like Montesquieu and Herder contributed more to the development of scientific racism. That is because Montesquieu and Herder were innovative theorists of cultural diversity, and their work was twisted by later theorists who believed that some cultures or "peoples" were superior to others and who began to use biological arguments to justify their position.

Also Kant is peripheral to the social contract tradition (in spite of the Metaphysics of Morals), and belongs to a German liberal tradition that just wasn't nearly as involved in justifying imperialism as French and English liberals like Locke and Voltaire were. Many of Rawls's blind spots are inherited from Locke IMO, not from Kant.

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This is well said.

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Three quick comments:

1. Rawls' choice to do "ideal theory" was not "weird" when you look at it in the context of the times. As I have shown in two books, during the McCarthy Era, philosophy was the hardest-hit academic field, and came out of it deeply traumatized. That helps explain why, by 1972, political philosophy had died out in America (to such an extent that the Rockefeller Foundation appointed a researcher to try and explain its death), and why Rawls' resurrection of it had to be so carefully irrelevant.

2. Using Kantian principles to combat Kantian racism is not so easy. The universalism of the Categorical Imperative, Kant's single basic moral principle, requires us to eschew all our desires and our concrete identities when making moral decisions, acting only from principles which apply to everyone. As Adorno and Horkheimer note in their "Dialectics of Enlightenment," the Imperative--and therefore Kant's entire ethics, and perhaps the Enlightenment itself— "reeks of cruelty." Racist domination in Kant is preceded by the "principled" domination of the desires by reason.

3. The mention of Adorno and Horkheimer brings up the issue of continental philosophy, raised in another comment. It is true that Mills does not openly discuss continental thinkers, but he and I were grad students together at Toronto in the 70's, and he certainly was aware of them; they were not empty names to him.

Charles' work might or might not have been stronger if it had taken them publicly into account, but I certainly agree that doing so would have made him less influential—and he is one of the very few philosophers who had a duty to be influential. For those of us working in other philosophical fields, I can agree that continental thinker are marginal, to the extent that taking them seriously renders you philosophically suspect. But I have always seen that as a choice between doing philosophy influential in American philosophy departments, on the one hand, and doing good, non-wheel-reinventing, philosophy on the other.

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Matt, if you were a philosophy undergrad at Harvard today, you would have read Mills. At least when I was at Chicago, the main profs teaching Rawls (Chiara Cordelli, Ben Laurence, Martha Nussbaum, and Jim Wilson) all assigned Mills alongside Okin as the major critics of Rawlsianism from within the left-liberal tradition. Notably Laurence, Nussbaum, and Wilson are all very interested in nonideal theory, which like you say is a big thing atm and was largely prompted by Mills's work. Mills's untimely death unfortunately robbed us of his fully-fleshed-out positive vision, which began appearing in working papers, etc. towards the end of his life.

If you haven't yet, you should read Elizabeth Anderson's The Imperative of Integration and Private Government, which are very up your alley and combine social science with philosophy.

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Dec 29, 2021·edited Dec 29, 2021

When I studied philosophy in college (early 1970's), it was all Wittgenstein, Ayer and Russell, interrupted by one class taught by a Jesuit priest about Christian ethics, who had a lot of faith and no persuasion. No one took utilitarianism (Mills, Bentham, etc) seriously, and French philosophers from Rousseau on were considered a joke. We also learned the logical fallacies of the proof of God's existence from Pascal to Norman Malcolm, which saved me from a lifetime of Sunday boredom in church. Rawls upended this paradigm, by bringing human behavior and ethics back into philosophy, which had devolved into a branch of mathematics, well described by Stephen Budiansky's recent biography of Kurt Gödel. The revival of the French (Foucault, Derrida, etc,) on American campuses is gobsmacking. My personal view is ethics are best learned from your parents when you're five, and, if not learned then, whatever philosophy course you take at Harvard isn't going to make up for your loss. So, whenever I read a post about costs and benefits and the importance of policy, institutions and first principles getting incentives right, I tune out because no one else's costs and benefits or incentives are going to be the same as mine. This isn't philosophy; it's politics and preferences dressed up as timeless and impartial truths.

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