Colleges and Evangelicals Collide on Bias Policy

Colleges and Evangelicals Collide on Bias Policy

Messy. This is another case where I just might sound really conservative. Banning groups from overt discriminatory action is just not the same as coercing them to accept external rules contrary to their historic identities due to the fear of bias. Having bias or speaking it is almost never per se a basis for coercive free action, where “bias” need not be taken in its negative connotation. How is this not persecution of religious beliefs is the name of not persecuting for religious beliefs? Meeting some of these cases halfway, they could easily require that any member of the group be able run for a group office if the group is to accept university support, but they cannot force the group to vote for a particular person. Hence, if a group is biased, then the bias is de facto rather than de jure. This article makes it sound as if colleges are not satisfied with merely de jure concerns.

Why Zimmerman is Guilty

 Yep, I’m going there. Zimmerman and Trayvon Martin.

After hearing so many people defend Zimmerman down here in Texas, I just had to present my simple argument for why I would have given Zimmerman some conviction within the orbit of a manslaughter charge.

If someone follows another person around in the dark and at night, against the police dispatcher’s insistence, and gets into an altercation with that person that leads to their death … then the burden is on the perpetrator to justify the use of lethal force. Zimmerman was the aggressor, and the fact that Martin may have thrown the first punch or may have been winning the fight is irrelevant. Zimmerman also lacked the authority to use lethal force proactively, and was told to cease and desist from his activities (that may escalate the situation and provoke the need for force). To say it simply, Zimmerman chose to start a violent confrontation.

For parity and as a thought experiment, are we now to allow anyone to pick a fight and justifiably shoot the other person when losing? If you insist that Zimmerman’s role as a member of the neighborhood watch grants justifies his actions, then you are confusing a local informant with an on-site police officer. In fact, too many of the pro-Zimmerman opinions that I’ve heard treat him as if he were a police officer (hat tip to Adam Kotsko of An ind fur Sich for the idea), in which case I would side with Zimmerman as well since Martin would have assaulted a uniformed officer and violently resisted arrest. But that is not the case, and the police dispatcher’s repeated requests, which we ignored, for him to wait for the police destroy the credibility of that line of argument.

Please hold your objections about whether Martin may have been a marijuana user in the past, or whether Zimmerman feared for his life, etc. since those are unprovable speculation. So what if Marin “escalated” the situation; I would too if a strange guy was following me from behind at night and tried to forceably halt me, since I would presume the person was trying to mug me. Besides, by parity, Zimmerman escalated the situation first by forcing a confrontation. Let’s not go into the question of race in Zimmerman’s mind, since we could not prove anything; it’s irrelevant in that respect.

All that said, I do not see how a murder charge could be supported given the publicly available evidence. What was omitted from the jury is not that significant. There just is not sufficient external evidence of intent, and the situation as we know it supports the view of an accidental altercation between two people. We cannot know what more evidence we might have had if the police had performed a proper investigation.

I would invite anyone to provide evidence or considerations that I have over-looked or misinterpretted.

Teaching Theory of Justice

I offer an insight into my Introduction to Philosophy course. Right now, I offer a Great Books format on the topics of justice and epistmeology. We begin with Plato’s Republic and end with Locke’s Second Treatise and Rousseau’s scathing critique in “Discourse on Inequality.” Then, we shift to modern empiricism culminating in Hume’s Enquiry concerning Human Understanding and end the course with an explanation of the necessity, power, and limitations of abduction as a logical response to Hume’s critique of induction. The end occurs within the context of coming to understand contemporary science and scientific logic and applied abduction. Below is an introductory discussion forum post that goes with the other instructional materials, and might be of interest….

The first unit of the course is on justice, especially political justice. However, both the book and even my podcast give only the barest definition. Here, I want to discuss what it is in more detail. We are not looking for a dictionary definition, which is both uninformative and misleading. Per uninformative, here are the first two denations in a dictionary that I grabbed, “just behavior or treatment” and “the quality of being fair and reasonable.” Uh, Mr. Dictionary Dude, what does that mean?

The mistake there is that you should never define a word using its own terms, e.g., “I define justice as justice!” Likewise, don’t use synonymous: “Justice is rightness!” or “Justice is fairness!”  Riiiiight. Real helpful, buddy … I paid what for this dictionary? If you want a good definition, especially for terms in this course, you need a philosophical dictionary, which is like a cross between a dictionary and an encyclopedia. You see, dictionaries only tell you how people use the term, but not why that is a good use of the term, where it comes from, the proper conditions under which to use it, etc.

In philosophy in general, and in this course, we establish the primary definitions of terms before we do anything else. And that is precisely what we’re doing in the first reading. However, we’re going to keep developing the definition of “justice” and later “political justice” into full theories of justice in response to various problems with any one definition. In the process, we learn a lot about justice and get a better and better definition, where “better” means “able to solve more problems and better respond to more objections.” For instance, liberal democracy and its variant of justice is a response to a specific set of problems that we will discuss, culminating in the end of the unit of justice. Where we end, many “U.S. Government” courses in Texas begin, unless you had a really awesome and ambitious professor.

Let us start the course with a working definition. “Justice” in general means the “minimum and universal obligations we have to people in the community, including ourselves and others.” By “minimum,” I mean that we must do the stated obligations, or we have merited and should expect some form of enforcement or punishment. By “universal,” I mean that everyone must do these. These obligations come from and are to other “people,” and not rocks, for instance. Finally, there’s a limit to the number and scope of people to whom we owe obligations that is spelled out in whatever “community” we’re talking about.

For instance, if we’re talking about “moral justice,” the “community” usually means all “persons,” which most commonly includes other humans. If you’re from an Abrahamic faith (Christianity, Judaism, or Islam), “persons” may include angels and God/Jaweh/Allah. If you’re an animal rights activist, it might include “all sentient animals” or “all animals.” In this class, however, we’re focused on humans and secular concerns though I will make reference to Christian religion since it is so formative for justice in western civilization, which is our focus. We will talk about moral justice in the beginning of the course, but our main focus is political justice.

Political justice restricts the “community” to the polis/body politic/state/nation/etc. Political justice is concerned with obligations that we owe each other in virtue of being members of a political body of some sort, and not because we are moral persons. Hence, there is a strict difference between the idea of “universal moral rights” (which we would owe all persons no matter what) and “civil rights” that we would owe only to members of our civil community; e.g., in the U.S. that would be state’s rights or federal rights. Moral and political justice frequently overlap, but it is possible for them to conflict, especially if one accepts political realism that we will address when we start Machiavelli’s The Prince.

Much of the first part of the course will focus on how to define and defend a theory of justice. Although, Plato will presume that moral and political justice are identical, which is anti-thetical to most western notions. The reason for this is due to the pre-eminence of Christianity in the west, since early Christianity that became the Catholic Church embraced the separation of religion and politicals (in principle but not always in fact, and I am omitting Eastern Orthodox, the Gnostic and Coptic traditions, etc.). In contrast, which has become a heated issue recently, Islam was founded on the notion of the identity of moral and political justice, which is anethema to most westerners given their Christian heritage regardless of whether that individual is Christian or not. It’s in the cultural water, and we’ve been drinking it for so many centuries that we long ago forgot the legacy of St. Paul’s Letter to the Romans.

This should be a good start for us…

A New Home and New Faculty Position

Apologies for the lack of posts lately–and I always planned to slow down the hectic pace–as I recently moved. I am taking a position as philosophy faculty member at Des Moines Area Community College and leaving Lone Star College, and thus the pace has slowed. It’ll slow again, as my fellow professors well know, when the summer is over, although our co-authors should have recovered from completing their doctoral examinations by then … <nudge>.

Neoliberalism and Production

Adam Kotsko at An und fur sich writes on the problems of neoliberalism.


Neoliberalism always presupposes production. It is not interested in how it happens or how to cultivate it — indeed, its typical strategies evince an assumption that it exists more or less automatically and the goal of the market is to find and reward it. Take teaching reform. Clearly, the thinking there is that the ability to teach is a more or less inborn trait. Reform does not concern itself primarily with teacher training, and it undermines traditional ways in which teachers have governed and assessed themselves. Instead, it takes an output (test scores), assumes that it’s generated by an input (teaching ability), and then sets up a market-like mechanism to make sure that the “good teachers” rise to the top regardless of how they came by that ability. ……

Who Will Be Our First Fake Latina President?

Gene Demby at Code Switch muses upon the ultimate summer film question … what feel-good illusion of race and gender parity will Hollywood give us next in a summer blockbuster?

On a more serious note, I’ve decided that District 9 is now my gold-standard of recent cultural criticism through film. I’ve been blathering on Facebook about the poisonous insidiousness of Suckerpunch and Spring Breakers and wondering just how bad Django and The Lone Ranger do the same. Look! We’re culturally-conscious, PC-lovin peeps who want to blow stuff up, make you think, and give you a warm and fuzzy. It’s like eating too much cotton candy and calling  it brussel sprouts. I suppose somebody is going to make films with cheap moral thrills….