Category Archives: ethics

Questions for a New Agrarianism

Around July 2014, I somehow stumbled across the work of Wendell Berry. He’s hard to describe accurately so I’ll just grab the first line of his Wikipedia entry: “American novelist, poet, environmental activist, cultural critic, and farmer.” The first book of his I read was actually a collection of essays, The Art of the Commonplace, […]

The Best Reason to Breastfeed, and Why No One’s Talking About It

Human milk is a presumptively safe food for human babies, but the infant formulas of today have enough evidence on their side to be considered acceptable substitutes. Formula feeding thus falls well within the scope of morally acceptable parenting practices, especially when it frees parents (read: mothers) to invest in other aspects of parenting instead and […]

Just Another C-Section Birth Story

Before I gave birth to my daughter earlier this year, I thought “birth stories” were kind of silly. Women all over the internet seemed to be routinely spilling their guts, explaining in laborious (ha ha) detail what had happened during the births of their children, the vast majority of which ended in a healthy separation […]

Amateur Hour: FAQ

In case you missed it: tl;dr I quit a libertarian media organization last week because they made a not-especially-well-qualified porn star their most prominent spokesperson. I had qualms about being publicly, professionally associated with such a group, and I didn’t want to appear tacitly condoning of either the pornography itself or the “anything goes” sexual culture […]

atheism, privilege, and the value of truth

An internet buddy, Chris Arnade, recently asked what I thought of this piece: “The people who challenged my atheism most were drug addicts and prostitutes.” My resulting thoughts turned out to be more than comment-sized, so here we are. By way of background, Chris has a PhD in physics and worked on Wall Street for […]

Seligman on happiness: authentic or by definition?

I’m almost done with Martin Seligman’s well-known book of positive psychology, Authentic Happiness (2003). It’s been a very good read – although I was familiar with many of the relevant research findings, from my various internet travels (and Barking Up The Wrong Tree in particular), Seligman puts it all together and lays it out in […]

social welfare, the handicapped, and special education

Common sense may suggest that increases in social welfare are more easily obtained by focusing resources on the mentally and/or physically handicapped, rather than using those resources instead to marginally improve non-handicapped individuals’ lives. The capabilities approach, as developed by Amartya Sen and Martha Nussbaum, would also imply that resources are well-spent when devoted to […]

life, liberty, and bodily integrity: thoughts on routine infant circumcision

A while back, I shared this blog post on Twitter: the only necessary argument against routine infant circumcision Although I’ve lost track of the @replies, I recall that there was significant pushback from a couple of my followers, and so I wanted to say more about the issue. Basically the argument offered at L’Hôte is this: […]

poverty, willpower, and virtue ethics

Recently, philosopher Michael Cholbi tweeted this story: “Why Can’ More Poor People Escape Poverty?“, along with the suggestion that the findings described therein could have implications for virtue theory. To make a long story short: “In the 1990s, social psychologists developed a theory of “depletable” self-control. The idea was that an individual’s capacity for exerting willpower […]

I don’t care about the original intent of value-added models

I’m taking a break from end-of-semester madness to offer this mini-rant, inspired by a passage in this WP article, “Leading mathematician debunks value-added“: When value-added models were first conceived, even their most ardent supporters cautioned about their use [Sanders 1995, abstract]. They were a new tool that allowed us to make sense of mountains of […]