Making Certain Words Illegal

Hate speech.  Libel.  Slander.  Threat.  Intimidation.  Blasphemy.

‘Making words illegal violates our freedom of speech!’  Of course it does.  But that freedom, like many others, isn’t absolute.  Our freedoms are limited freedoms.  They are limited by several things (Joel Feinberg identifies six liberty-limiting principles), one of which is the harm principle.  That is, when our action harms another person or society in general, it is limited.  It is illegal.

‘But speech isn’t an action.  I didn’t do anything.  I just said – ’  Saying is doing.  Words are speech acts.  They are acts of speech.  And anyway, if the result is the same, does the method really matter?

‘Yeah but the result isn’t the same.  Words can’t hurt you.’  Well, not physically, no.  But they can cause psychological injury.[1]  And there’s the heart of the matter: should we make causing psychological injury illegal?

Actually, that’s not the heart of the matter.  Yes, we should, and we do.  The crime of torture includes acts which inflict severe mental pain or suffering (CCC 269.1[1]).

The heart of the matter is Read the rest of this entry »

More reasons not to celebrate being Canadian…

We’re barely in the top quarter when it comes to the gender gap in wages (we’re fourth worst).

We’re barely in the top quarter when it comes to the gender gap in health (it’s safer to be pregnant in Estonia than in Canada).

Speaking of which, Read the rest of this entry »

Canada Day – Are you sure you want to celebrate?

Before you get all patriotic and fly your little Canadian flags in celebration of Canada Day and, presumably, of being Canadian, think about it. Are you really proud to be: Read the rest of this entry »

Jass Richards on PTSD (from The Blasphemy Tour)

(excerpted from Jass Richards’ The Blasphemy Tour)

“We hope you’re enjoying Texas?” the show’s host said, after he introduced Dylan and Rev as his first guests of the day.

“Well, we’re a little puzzled by all the American flags. Outside on people’s houses and their lawns—we’ve even been seeing them sticking up in the middle of the forest, at people’s cabins presumably. What an eyesore.”

She didn’t notice the intake of breath.

“Well,” the host replied, “many people fly the flag because they have a son or daughter serving overseas.”

Rev hadn’t thought about that. She did now. Then said, “And why would they want to advertise such stupidity?” Read the rest of this entry »

Air Bands and Power Point

I still remember the feeling I had when I saw my first air band performance. It was a sick kind of feeling.

I hadn’t known what an air band was. The announcement came over the p.a. at my school-for-the-day, and I dutifully shepherded the class to the gym. Then I watched, incredulous, as group after group of high school students came on stage and pretended to play their favourite songs. I mumbled a query to the teacher standing next to me. Apparently this air band stuff was quite big. Students spent weeks practising. They really wanted to get it right. ‘It’ being the appearance, the pretence. Read the rest of this entry »

The Futility of Teaching Business Ethics or Why Our World Will End

There are four reasons why teaching ethics to business students is an exercise in futility.

1. The profit motive trumps everything. As long as this is the case, there’s no point in teaching students the intricacies of determining right and wrong. Whether something is morally acceptable or not is simply irrelevant to them. It might come into play when two options yield the same profit, but how often does that happen? And even so, other concerns are likely to be tie-breakers. Read the rest of this entry »

Political Science – A Costly Misnomer

Science is the pursuit of knowledge according to the scientific method: hypotheses must be testable, and results must be verifiable by replication.  Obviously, the more quantifiable something is, the more accurate and precise its measurement can be, and the more accurate and precise something is, the more testable and verifiable it is – it’s hard to test and then verify an uncertain or vague something-or-other.  So the definition of science really comes down to quantification.  Well, that and matter – only material things can be quantified.

Political science is the study of government organization and political systems.  These things are not quantifiable.  It would seem, then, that political science should have been named political art. 

So?  Well, one, Read the rest of this entry »

Take Her Seriously

I used to think that the problem with rape was that women weren’t being explicit – they weren’t actually saying no, partly because men weren’t actually asking.  Perhaps because there’s (still?) something shameful about sex that makes people reluctant to come right out and talk about it.  Or maybe that would destroy the romance.  Whatever.

I still think Read the rest of this entry »

Ethics without Philosophers

Could someone without a business degree become a marketing consultant?  Then how is it that people without philosophy degrees are becoming ethics consultants? [1]  Is it that people don’t know that Ethics is a branch of Philosophy just as Marketing is a branch of Business?  Doubtful.  Is it just the typical male overstatement of one’s expertise? [2]  Perhaps.  Is it that people think they already know right from wrong, they learned it as children, there’s really no need for any formal training in ethics?  Possible.  I have certainly met that attitude in business ethics classes and ethics committees. [3]  Or is it that ethics consultants (advisors, officers, practitioners, and so on) don’t really act as consultants about ethics?  They act as consultants about managing ethical behavior.  No, not even that.  Ethical consultants, practitioners, officers, focus on how to increase the likelihood that employees will follow some specific professional code of ethics or, more likely, the ethical rules the company’s elite want them to follow. [4] [5]

As far as I can see, business ethics taught by business faculty, ethics programs run by managers, and so on    any applied ethics taught by non-philosophers    is superficial at best.  [6] First, following a code if just an appeal to custom, an appeal to tradition, which philosophers consider a weak basis, even an actual error in reasoning: just because it’s common to do it that way, doesn’t mean it’s right; just because you’ve always done it that way doesn’t mean it’s right. 

Second, legal moralism is prevalent: if it’s legal, it’s right, and if it’s not illegal, it’s not wrong.  Few philosophers (and I daresay few intelligent people) accept this equivalence of moral rightness and legality.  After all, slavery was once legal, and even at that time many considered it wrong and had excellent arguments to support their position (which is, to some extent, why the law changed    ethics should determine law, not the other way around).

Third, the so-called ‘media test’ and ‘gut test’ are essentially nothing but appeals to intuition, which is nothing more than childhood conditioning that makes us say X ‘feels’ wrong.  I think it far better to approach ethical issues with thought, to consider the many rational approaches to making decisions about right and wrong, such as an appraisal of values, principles, consequences, and so on. Read the rest of this entry »

Dr. Frankenstein, meet Dr. Spock

Thanks to genetic research, we may soon see people with the money to do so making sure their kids are born-to-succeed – parents paying to guarantee their kids have the right stuff.  I’m not talking about a straightened spine or a functional optic nerve.  I’m talking about designer kids: those made with healthy bodies, intelligent minds, and perhaps a certain specific ability to boot. Read the rest of this entry »