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, October 10, 2016

The soul of a tyrant


Harvard political theorist Danielle Allen draws upon the Epic of Gilgamesh and Plato's Republic to diagnose Donald Trump as "a walking, talking example of the tyrannical soul."

Indeed.

Trump confirmed (yet again) his malignant nature in tonight's debate when he threatened to imprison Hillary Clinton should he be elected president. That is an attack on the very heart of liberal democracy.

November 8th cannot come soon enough.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Philosopher Charles Taylor wins another award

Canadian philosopher Charles Taylor has won the first Berggruen Prize (which includes a cash award of 1 million USD). What is the Berggruen Prize? Here is the description from its website:
Berggruen Prize: For Ideas that Shape the World

The Berggruen Prize is awarded annually to a thinker whose ideas are of broad significance for shaping human self-understanding and the advancement of humanity. It seeks to recognize and encourage philosophy in the ancient sense of the love of wisdom and in the 18th Century sense of intellectual inquiry into all the basic questions of human knowledge. It rewards thinkers whose ideas are intellectually profound but also able to inform practical and public life across the range of world civilizations.
[...]
Great transformations are reshaping almost every aspect of human existence today. The very idea of the human is challenged by new technologies that not only take on tasks once thought intrinsically human but also are increasingly able to change human bodies. Economic, social, and cultural changes are also profound. Established political systems confront pressure at both national and international levels.

In this context, people seek wisdom in both new ideas and renewal of old traditions. But which new ideas should be welcome and what old traditions remain important?

To answer these questions, philosophy is vital not just as an academic discipline but as a source of intellectual and moral orientation in the world. Philosophy adequate to this task depends on advancing knowledge of the world as it is and as it changes, on ideas that both grasp and shape it, and on critical reason and debate that continually interrogate those ideas. Such philosophy is strengthened by a capacity to learn from the different forms of scholarship and intellectual perspective embedded in different civilizations. It also draws widely on humanities and social science and engages natural science and technology.

The Berggruen Prize is awarded for philosophy in this broad sense – deep intellectual work and cultural creativity that can help individual human beings and humanity as a whole find direction and wisdom in a rapidly changing and constantly challenging world. 
Last year (as I mentioned here) Taylor won (with J├╝rgen Habermas) the John W. Kluge Prize.

The essay by Taylor that has had the greatest impact on my own work is “What’s Wrong with Negative Liberty?” Not only did it influence the way in which I understand liberty and its value, but I regularly teach it in my seminars on ‘political conceptions of freedom.’