Why Are These Philosophers Voting For Trump?


A list of scholars and writers, including several philosophers, have placed their names on a website beneath the statement, “Given our choices in the presidential election, we believe that Donald Trump is the candidate most likely to restore the promise of America, and we urge you to support him as we do.”

What has led these scholars to endorse this horror show of a human being? What about his compulsive lying? What about his ignorance? What about his routinely contradicting himself? What about how easily he is provoked? What about his inability to communicate? What about his humility? Professors, what about Trump University? What about his failure to pay smaller businesses for services they rendered? What about the rape charge?

Philosophers on the list include Scott Soames (USC), Daniel Bonevac (Texas), Robert Koons (Texas) and others. They are hereby invited to write in and make their case here.

 

Donald Trump

Donald Trump

Please do check the the comments policy before you decide to comment.

(Thanks to Eric Schliesser for bringing this website to my attention.)

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Sally Satel
Sally Satel
4 years ago

the comments by Prof Soames and others are not posted (or not visible to me, at least)

Help.Report

PeterJ
PeterJ
4 years ago

I’m wondering what ‘restore the promise of America’ means. I presume it means something like, ‘reproduce the America I see in my dreams’. The phrase ‘restore the promise’ appears to make no sense at all. Report

Carl Brownson
Carl Brownson
4 years ago

It’s like a commercial for a really bad toothpaste. “Three in ten thousand philosophers choose Trump.”Report

babygirl
babygirl
4 years ago

“How could someone POSSIBLY disagree with the reigning political outlook of academia?! For SHAME!!” *clutches pearls* “What do you have to say for yourself, brigands?!”

fwiw, I’m not voting for either, but it’s not like Hilary is a shining example of a human being either. Report

ND
ND
Reply to  Justin Weinberg
4 years ago

I’m confused. You ask, “What has led these scholars to endorse this horror show of a human being?” As I read it, the rhetorical tone of the post and this question permits a translation of this question as, “How could anyone in their right mind, much less a scholar, much much less a philosopher endorse someone like Trump?” Doesn’t having a competent answer to this question require consideration of *both* the character of the person *and* the policies s/he endorses?
Suppose we accept that Trump is a horrible person, and that he is worse than Clinton (both of which seem fairly plausible). It’s obviously a further question whether the policies they endorse are better or worse.
Perhaps you think that Trump is so abominable that you think considerations about his character outweigh any policy considerations. But isn’t that a substantive claim that requires defense?
Is it really so incredible to think that someone could be an intelligent scholar (yes, even a philosopher!) but endorse Trump because (a) even though he’s a terrible person and a worse person than Clinton, (b) his policies are overall better than Clinton’s, and (c) the quality of the policies outweighs concerns about the person?
For what it’s worth, I’m inclined to agree with (a), but still trying to figure out the plausibility of (b) and (c). (c) strikes me as fairly plausible. (b) is obviously really complex.
I just don’t understand the scornful attitudes that so many people express (and are already expressing in the comments) on these matters–especially intelligent scholars, and *especially* philosophers. After all, aren’t we supposed to be the most reasonable of all people? Perhaps someone can explain what justifies the scoffing?
Justin, I don’t understand the purpose of this post if the purpose is supposed to be somehow independent of policy questions. Can you clarify?Report

JT
JT
Reply to  ND
4 years ago

But character and policy aren’t independent factors. In general, policy considerations have weight to the extent that one thinks the proposals are sincere and will be followed through on by the candidate once in office. A great policy platform means little when adopted by a noted liar or cynic. Similarly, if the candidate is too capricious, seemingly changing his mind from moment to moment on a whim, it’d be foolish to have much confidence in the candidate’s ability to make good the platform. And should the candidate seemingly display almost every single vice in the book, one has to wonder about their ability to effectively implement the platform once elected, assuming that it was adopted in good faith and not abandoned on a whim in the first place. These are all my reasons for thinking that Trump would be terrible, regardless of his actual policy stance, which, by the way, is pretty incoherent and light on details.Report

David Mathers
David Mathers
Reply to  babygirl
4 years ago

Is there no one you would consider it shameful to vote for and publically support. If there is, and I bet there is (Stalin? Kim Jong-Un?) then you don’t actually consider the idea that there are people it’s shameful to vote for horribly dogmatic or somehow Victorian and prudish, you just disagree with Justin about how bad Trump is, and it’s really a substantive dispute about that. Report

babygirl
babygirl
Reply to  David Mathers
4 years ago

On the contrary, I think it’s shameful to support either candidate. But I’m not shocked that people justify it to themselves. Report

David Mathers
David Mathers
Reply to  babygirl
4 years ago

Do you think it’s shameful to support both because they are equally bad?
Or do you believe voting for any candidate above a certain threshold of badness is shameful not matter how much worse the alternative is? Report

David Mathers
David Mathers
Reply to  David Mathers
4 years ago

Ugh, that was meant to go under a comment of babygirl’s further up the thread. Report

BecauseBeans
BecauseBeans
Reply to  David Mathers
4 years ago

I had the same problem! “reply” doesn’t always work :/Report

Matt Weiner
Matt Weiner
Reply to  David Mathers
4 years ago

I think the issue with the replies is that replies only nest past a certain depth, so you can’t always reply to a reply to a reply to a reply to an original comment. I just go up to the last comment that does have a “reply” button and hope it works out. (For instance, this is being posted as a reply to David Mathers’s 7:10 pm comment, but I hope it will go under BecauseBeans’s 7:37 pm comment, which is the one I really want to reply to.) Report

BecauseBeans
BecauseBeans
Reply to  David Mathers
4 years ago

This is to Matt Weiner – thanks for figuring that out! I was getting befuddled by the system. Hopefully this reply goes to you 😀Report

Hector_St_Clare
Hector_St_Clare
Reply to  David Mathers
4 years ago

I’m sure there are plenty of philosophically trained people in Russia today who would be happy to vote for Stalin.Report

Kenneth presting
Kenneth presting
Reply to  babygirl
4 years ago

If you’re not voting for Hilary, you are choosing passivity in awareness of the alternative of Trump.

I’d advise a review of meta-ethics.Report

Doc F Emeritus
Doc F Emeritus
Reply to  babygirl
4 years ago

I keep hearing, “how could Trump get the nomination?” Well, look at the history of the USA. We made heroes of Bonnie and Clyde, John Dillinger, Billie the Kid, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, and many others (run Bambi run). Well, we love our outlaws, non-conformists, and anti-establishmentarians. What’s the difference with Trump??? We never put any of those beloved outlaws, etc., in a position to be elected president. Imagine President Clyde Barrow or President Dillinger.

BTW: One might also add that this applies to Hillary Clinton, too, should she really be guilty of whatever the republicans say she is guilty of.

So we face the election with a bad boy, possibly guilty of any number of things pending in court, who denigrates minorities and women, whose record in rental housing is discriminatory (see NY Times 7/24 as to how his companies were discriminating against African-Americans in rentals) and who urges Russia to go after his opponent (Russia and Putin, seriously???), or a woman who could possibly be guilty of security breaches and other issues. Welcome to America as it has always been: we love those outside the law and establishment culture, don’t we?

But nothing anyone says will change those committed, ideologically, to either side, will it? And that’s what troubles me. Kind of a dangerous rigid-mindedness. Report

Greg Gauthier
4 years ago

What in the world does “restore the promise” mean? I don’t recall any promise being made to me, and I don’t know what it would mean to “restore” one, even if one had been made to me.

In any case, if you look down the list of names, it’s pretty obvious why: Bill Bennett, F.H. Buckley, George Gilder, Newt Gingrich, David Horowitz, Lawrence Kudlow… these are all Reagan-Era relics, and their inheritors. They’re following the Reagan maxim: never speak ill of your side. Better a populist who is sympathetic to the conservative cause, than an elitist who is diametrically opposed to it. Especially when he’s a member of the party that gives a nominal home to your intellectual in-group.

More generally, what difference does it make (to borrow Hillary’s question)? Both of these candidates are inevitably going to embroil the United States in economic upheaval, even more ever-escalating military conflicts worldwide, and are highly likely to inspire radicalism on the left and right that will make the sixties look like a pale sister.

So, this year, the question is: which is preferable to you? Shall we have both of our legs broken, or both of our arms?Report

Tim Smith
Tim Smith
Reply to  Greg Gauthier
4 years ago

It seems you’ve equivocated on the word “promise”, which isn’t very promising for the force of your argument.

The damage Clinton might do isn’t even in the same category as what Trump offers. She’ll be no worse than Obama.Report

SCM
SCM
4 years ago

Asking philosophers to present the case for supporting Trump is a little like asking someone for his reasons for getting drunk at the company Christmas party, re-enacting his childhood Tarzan fantasy, and ending up in a fetal position on the boardroom table, sobbing about being misunderstood by all the girls. There really isn’t much to be said in support here. It’s just an embarrassment, a sad and pathetic tantrum that a mature person would have easily avoided.Report

babygirl
babygirl
4 years ago

Here’s a go at a defense:
“How could a reasonable person allow themselves to vote for that horror show of a human being (Hillary)? What about her role in the mass incarceration of black Americans? What about her cozy relationships with the finance industry?Let’s not forget Hillary is outraising Trump 20-1 among billionaires … who do you think the winners will be under her economic policies? Her hawkish war policies which lead straightforwardly to the deaths of innocent civilians — children — in Iraq, Yemen, and other parts of the middle east. What about her private email server debacle, which shows bad judgment, dishonesty, and a willingness to break the law when it serves her personal aims and ambitions? Similarly, what about the serious allegations that she performed favors for foreign donors to the Clinton foundation in her role as secretary of state? DEFEND YOURSELVES!”

I think this is a powerful (not by any means decisive) “argument” against voting for Hillary, which, for some, amounts to an argument for voting for Trump, if you accept the original dilemma. An inability to see the power of this argument, and its obviousness, shows a lack of imagination. This election is a shit-show. No one looks good, so it’s a bit of hypocritical preening to pick out these particular people as worthy of scorn. Report

David Mathers
David Mathers
Reply to  babygirl
4 years ago

It can be obvious that one candidate is bad and obvious that another is much worse. Merely pointing out that one candidate is bad in various ways doesn’t mean that the other one isn’t *obviously* worse. Report

Matt Weiner
Matt Weiner
Reply to  babygirl
4 years ago

“Similarly, what about the serious allegations that she performed favors for foreign donors to the Clinton foundation in her role as secretary of state?”

It seems to be widely thought that there are such serious allegations, but I haven’t actually seen any specific allegations that are serious. I have seen numerous unserious allegations presented as if they were serious ones. For instance, that Clinton introduced the chairman of the Kennedy Center at the Kennedy Center honors, and his wife sat at her table (the Secretary of State always introduces the chairman of the Center at the Kennedy Center honors); that, when Bill Clinton was sent on a diplomatic mission to North Korea, members of the Clinton foundation staff sought diplomatic visas to assist him and did not get them; that people who donated to the foundation before Clinton was Secretary of State were involved with a uranium company that was later sold to a Russian company, in a deal that was approved by nine separate government agencies and independent nuclear regulators, in a decision that it’s not clear Clinton participated in at all; that Clinton intervened to try to prevent the Bangladeshi government from persecuting a longtime ally (and donor) who also happened to be a universally acclaimed Nobel Peace Prize laureate and exactly the sort of person you’d expect a Secretary of State to intervene for; and well, I think there may be some evidence that at some point Foundation donors may have gotten slightly better seating at State events? But none of these are serious allegations. So what are the serious allegations, specifically? The Clinton Foundation has been investigated so thoroughly that if anything serious had happened surely we would know about some serious allegations that are more than just Clinton performing her normal duties.

Meanwhile, the Clinton Foundation saved millions of lives, which seems like something worth noting, and a notable contrast with Trump’s own foundation.

Every other point you raised is one that can’t possibly be made into an argument for Trump, except insofar as he’s never been in government and hasn’t had the chance to put his ideas into effect. You can’t listen to his talk about crime and black people, or his tax proposals, or his advocacy of wars of plunder (“take the oil”), or even his information security issues, and think that he’s better than Clinton on any of those issues by the standards you’ve set up. So even if you take those as reasons not to vote for Clinton, a reasonable person couldn’t take them as reasons to vote for Trump.Report

Johnny_Thunder
Johnny_Thunder
Reply to  Matt Weiner
4 years ago

“Every other point you raised is one that can’t possibly be made into an argument for Trump”

Regarding financial scandals and corruption, I just stumbled on this nice overview:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h1Lfd1aB9YIReport

Richard Craig Friedman
Richard Craig Friedman
4 years ago

From the moral point of view both candidates get a big red F. One may be closer to a D, but I can’t choose a candidate on that kind of difference. So we get down to domestic and foreign policy. As a progressive, I strongly prefer Hillary. But the chances of her, or, for that matter, Trump, getting anything done with a deadlocked Congress are close to nil. So, on that score the candidates are a draw. What about foreign policy? I think Hillary is much more likely than Trump to get involved in foolish, endless, and costly foreign entanglements. And there you have it, the case for Trump. Report

Matt Weiner
Matt Weiner
Reply to  Richard Craig Friedman
4 years ago

Trump’s advocacy that we should deal with ISIS by “taking the oil” is absolutely a sign that he will stay out of costly foreign wars, as is his even temperament. Report

JT
JT
Reply to  Matt Weiner
4 years ago

Yeah, not to mention his advocacy for nuclear *proliferation*. Or his inability to understand why everyone is shocked that he is open to the possibility of launching a first strike against ISIS or targets in Europe(!). Or his Homer Simpson level of ignorance about nuclear weapons policy in general. Like, I don’t disagree that Clinton (and Obama) have a terrible moral foreign policy record, but Trump will be a petty narcissistic loose cannon–loaded with nukes to boot. It’s fucking irresponsible to even pretend they’re in the same moral ballpark on the matter.Report

Andrew
Andrew
Reply to  Richard Craig Friedman
4 years ago

And his promise to blow Iranian boats out of the water should they make gestures at US warships. Or, his promise to “bomb the hell” out of Isis and Libya. He’s obviously very inclined to avoid foreign entanglements.Report

Hector_St_Clare
Hector_St_Clare
Reply to  Andrew
4 years ago

At least in theory, he’s less fanatically opposed to Russia than Hillary Clinton is, and I think relations with Russia are even more important than relations with Iran.

There’s a decent case to be made that Trump *might* be the less hawkish candidate.Report

Hey Nonny Mouse
Hey Nonny Mouse
Reply to  Richard Craig Friedman
4 years ago

Trump is bellicose and loves tough-talk. His supporters are going to expect him to be “tough” in international affairs. He’s not known for being diplomatic. Imagine an international conflict between the US and another nation as described to America by Donald Trump.Report

Ugh no stop
Ugh no stop
Reply to  Richard Craig Friedman
4 years ago

“But the chances of her, or, for that matter, Trump, getting anything done with a deadlocked Congress are close to nil.”

A deadlocked Congress is far more likely under Clinton (since Ds are very unlikely to gain the House even under that condition) than under Trump (since Ds are exceedingly unlikely to gain control of either House or Senate under that condition).Report

Stephen
Stephen
Reply to  Richard Craig Friedman
4 years ago

You also overlook that if Trump wins, Rs will control the House and will either hold the Senate or (likely) re-take it in 2018. Trump may not get Congress on board with his ideas, but that will leave Congressional Rs with at least two years to push their agenda through, which Trump will probably rubber stamp in order to claim some accomplishments.Report

Andrew Sepielli
Andrew Sepielli
Reply to  Richard Craig Friedman
4 years ago

Yes, I don’t imagine that Trump’s foreign entanglements will be “endless”; I picture quite definite endings, with mushroom clouds and maybe some cockroaches crawling around in the rubble.Report

Awilson3
Awilson3
Reply to  Richard Craig Friedman
4 years ago

The case against Trump: the Supreme Court of the United States.
Do you think that Trump would nominate justices further to the left than Clinton? Report

Jason Brennan
Jason Brennan
4 years ago

I’m sure the philosophers in question are salivating at the thought of posting their thoughts here only to be attacked mercilessly by anonymous commentators.

I for one hope Trump wins so my most recent book sells more copies. 😉Report

David Mathers
David Mathers
Reply to  Jason Brennan
4 years ago

I think in this case, unlike many recent political controversies within the profession, the anti-Trump opinion is so popular relative to the pro that people will probably sign their real names to the attacks.

And yeah, I suspect that Against Democracy will do well out a Trump win (or even near shave.) Report

Nate
Nate
Reply to  Jason Brennan
4 years ago

“I for one hope Trump wins so my most recent book sells more copies. [WINK]”

Who do you imagine the audience for this piece of “humor” to be?Report

Joe
Joe
Reply to  Nate
4 years ago

I thought it was funny. Report

Urstoff
Urstoff
Reply to  Jason Brennan
4 years ago

I’m surprised any signed their name at all given the stupidly catty and morally indignant nature of academic philosophers (and academics in general)Report

Hey Nonny Mouse
Hey Nonny Mouse
4 years ago

It would be great if we could get those Trump-supporting philosophers to explain why they support him. However, I don’t expect that to happen. These days, liberals talk to other liberals and conservatives talk to other conservatives. Philosophers are no exception. A big part of the problem, and this site is no exception, is that people can expect a hostile reception from a crowd that supports the other side. I happen to support Clinton, but if I was a Trump supporter, I would not be eager to express that view here, even anonymously. I do think that it is immoral to support Trump, but in our eagerness to denounce, we lose the chance to discuss.Report

Matt Weiner
Matt Weiner
Reply to  Hey Nonny Mouse
4 years ago

I would agree that Trump supporters can’t expect a non-hostile reception here. If we want to see the rationales that some of the signatories have given their reasons here, but I don’t think that any of the philosophers are among them. That’s where I’d expect to find them to make any statements they wanted to make.
Report

Chris Buskirk
4 years ago

I am the publisher of American Greatness – the website you mentioned in your post. You asked why have these scholars decided to support Donald Trump. Of course, each has their own reasons but we also simultaneously published a symposium in which we invited some of the signatories to explain their support in more detail. You can find that here: Scholars for Trump: A Symposium. I think you will find many of your questions are answered there. Report

SCM
SCM
Reply to  Chris Buskirk
4 years ago

Mr Buskirik, one day, in private or in prayer, you will find yourself ashamed of what you do now.

One day, when you look back on your life and ask yourself how well you lived in accordance with whatever values you espouse, you will see this thing you do now as an aberration and a failing. It’s easy to get caught up in the day-to-day partisan conflict between liberal Democrats and conservative Republicans and to let that conflict obscure deeper values. But for God’s sake, where are your limits? At what point do you say “enough is enough”?

Every four years, partisans pretend that there is nothing whatsoever to be said for the opposing party’s candidate. But this year, there’s not a person opposing that lunatic you’ve nominated who would not happily substitute any other Republican candidate for president over the last hundred years. Consider, in your quietest moments, that this horror is warranted and that something fundamentally different is now occurring. Consider that you have been swept up by stupid propaganda and dishonest equivocation. Are you proud of the white nationalism and anti-Semitism? The bigotry? The manifest incompetence and arrogance? Would you stand by David Duke’s glee in answering to your great grandchildren?

Say what you will in response to those who disagree with you — try to win whatever arguments you like — but for God’s sake, try to be right before you argue. Because there’s nothing as painful as the shame of conscience. You *will* feel this.Report

Eddy Nahmias
Eddy Nahmias
4 years ago

Suppose you are in a very unfortunate predicament. A runaway train is heading down a track, and you happen to be at a switch that determines which of two tracks it will go down. Track C leads over a bridge with one person on it. Track T leads over a bridge with five people on it. If you move the switch to C, one person will be run over. If you move it to T, five people will be run over. If you do nothing, you can’t tell which track it will go down (but it will be one of them). What will you do?

Suppose you believe you are in a very unfortunate election. You think candidate C is terrible. You think candidate T is really terrible. If you vote for neither, you can’t tell who will win (but it will be one of them). What will you do?

Personally, I think candidate C is great, so I am not in this predicament. But it looks like some people think they are. Unless they are willing to take no action at all, and hence potentially contribute to allowing a Trump train cause at least five times more damage than what they think is the lesser of two evils (or unless they can look us all in the face and say they really cannot tell which is more risky), then they should pull the switch for Clinton on Nov. 8.Report

Jonathan Light
Jonathan Light
Reply to  Eddy Nahmias
4 years ago

Yeah, but I think the point is that a lot of people think Track C is actually worse than Track T. Report

Kenny Easwaran
Kenny Easwaran
Reply to  Jonathan Light
4 years ago

Some people also think it’s morally important not to cause the ending of a life, even if something worse might happen as a result of one’s inaction.Report

Candidateless
Candidateless
4 years ago

The fact that everyone is really just voting against the “opposing” candidate speaks volumes…

All you “realists” saying “if you don’t vote for X, you’re responsible if Y wins!” need to revisit George Carlin’s bit on voting. Vote your someone who you can actually feel good about voting for (like Jill Stein or Gary Johnson) or don’t vote at all.Report

Candidateless
Candidateless
Reply to  Candidateless
4 years ago

…and if you find yourself insisting on regurgitating the same brute reasoning that serves only to perpetuate this two-party clusterfuck, please, take a moment to look at our current political system — where 3rd party candidates can’t even enter onto the debate stage — and ask yourself if you’re *really* committed to this.Report

Matt Weiner
Matt Weiner
Reply to  Candidateless
4 years ago

“Vote [for] someone who you can actually feel good about voting for (like Jill Stein or Gary Johnson)”

Though, if you’re going to do this, you should look closely at Jill Stein or Gary Johnson to make sure that they’re someone you can actually feel good about voting for.

In any case, although I am unreservedly for Clinton, even if I weren’t I would not find George Carlin’s bit on voting to be persuasive. If I’m not mistaken here’s what you refer to (taken from some random unreliable quotation site):

“Secondly, I believe if you vote, you have no right to complain. People like to twist that around – they say, ‘If you don’t vote, you have no right to complain’, but where’s the logic in that? If you vote and you elect dishonest, incompetent people into office who screw everything up, you are responsible for what they have done. You caused the problem; you voted them in; you have no right to complain. I, on the other hand, who did not vote, who in fact did not even leave the house on election day, am in no way responsible for what these people have done and have every right to complain about the mess you created that I had nothing to do with.”

It seems to me that this embodies many dubious theses about causation and moral responsibility that are within our competence as philosophers. For instance, Carlin seems to rely on the principle that someone who is not causally responsible for bad thing X by an act of commission is not morally response for X (does have “every right to complain”), while someone who is causally responsible for causing lesser bad thing Y rather than greater bad thing X is morally responsible for Y and not morally responsible/praiseworthy for preventing X (has “no right to complain”). This would suggest that, e.g., a doctor who refuses to amputate a gangrenous limb in order to save a patient’s life is not morally responsible for the patient’s death (since the doctor only contributed to the death by an omission, and is not the cause of the death in Carlin’s sense), while another doctor who does amputate the limb is morally responsible for the loss of the limb without getting credit for saving the patient’s life (since the doctor is causally responsible for the loss of the limb). I disagree with this conclusion.

Perhaps this counts as “insisting on regurgitating the same brute reasoning that serves only to perpetuate this two-party clusterfuck,” but when you cite a bad argument what am I supposed to do but give the best reasoning I have against it?

On a more practical level, if you don’t like the candidates who have a realistic possibility of winning an election, the most effective way of causing outcomes that you prefer is to organize politically so that candidates you prefer have a realistic possibility of winning the election. Voting for a candidate who won’t win (and also wouldn’t be a good president, see above) isn’t effective.

Admittedly this doesn’t consider the argument that any given single vote is overwhelmingly likely to be causally ineffective, but that doesn’t seem to be what’s at issue here.Report

Candidateless
Candidateless
Reply to  Matt Weiner
4 years ago

I hate to be the guy who explains a joke to someone who didn’t get it, but Carlin’s point is that the people who vote two-party are responsible *because they perpetuate the two-party system that continues to give us a choice between two awful candidates*.

The doctor chose to become a doctor and chooses to not want to amputate the gangrenous limb. People who don’t vote were born into life under a bullshit two-party system and want no part in legitimizing it. Apples/Oranges.

Organize for third party candidates? That’s an innovative idea you’ve got there. The trouble is, all of the mainstream media reinforce the two-party system. Think about this: independent voters make up 39-42% of the voting electorate (or so a quick google search tells me). Where are all the independent political analysts on CNN, Fox, MSNBC, etc.? They’re not. Instead, we listen to RED and BLUE political analysts tell us — with utter hubris — “what the independents are saying”. Bullshit. Organizing doesn’t work when the mainstream media silences not just the candidates, but the independent voter population as well.Report

Matt Weiner
Matt Weiner
Reply to  Candidateless
4 years ago

Carlin’s point is that the people who vote two-party are responsible *because they perpetuate the two-party system that continues to give us a choice between two awful candidates*.

Well, if so, that’s a bad argument for not voting. How does not voting fail to perpetuate the two-party system? The U.S. has a frightfully low voter participation rate and the two-party system isn’t going anywhere.

The doctor chose to become a doctor and chooses to not want to amputate the gangrenous limb. People who don’t vote were born into life under a bullshit two-party system and want no part in legitimizing it.

You’re commenting on a philosophy blog, so I’m sure you can change the doctor to a bystander who didn’t choose to face the choice of causing a pro tanto harm in order to prevent a greater one, and see that it doesn’t come out well for someone who says “Man, I refuse to legitimize this bullshit situation, I’mma just let the bad thing happen and my hands will be clean.”

independent voters make up 39-42% of the voting electorate (or so a quick google search tells me

According to political science research, most of these “independent” voters are fairly strict partisans who simply aren’t formally registered with any party.Report

A gopher
A gopher
4 years ago

I don’t expect Justin will actually post this, but there’s one overwhelming reason why no one should vote for Trump. It’s called history.

Some passages from Hitler and Stalin: Parallel Lives (1991):

“The question of why people voted for the Nazis is…difficult to answer…Confronted with the conflicting interests, for example of farmers…and the urban population…[the Nazis] did not attempt to explain how they would reconcile them; instead, they rode off on rousing talk of ‘national renewal’…and national unity in place of class war…It is the psychological dimension rather than the sociological to which we have to pay attention.

[Hitler] grasped, as no other German politician did, that the effect of…economic factors [of the Depression] on people’s lives was one of psychological shock and that it was the emotions this created–fear, resentment, despair, the longing for reassurance and a renewal of hope–to which a political leader should address himself…

In the early 1930s, millions of German men and women felt like the survivors of an earthquake starting to put their homes together again, only to see the fragile framework of their lives cracking and crumbling around them a second time. In such circumstances human beings lose their bearings and entertain extravagant fears and fantastic hopes. This situation did not create Hitler, but…Hitler offered to millions of Germans a combination of the two things they most wanted to hear: total rejection of everything that had happened in Germany since the war, plus an equally unconditional promise to restore to a divided nation the lost sense of its own greatness and power. He swept together in a comprehensive condemnation…the Marxists who preached class war, internationalism, and pacifism; the permissive pluralist society epitomized by godless Berlin…which mocked traditional values…and the Jews whom he portrayed as battening on corruption and profiting from Germany’s weakness.

In place of this democratic…[swinishness], Hitler proclaimed his faith in a renewal of Germany’s moral and political strength; in restoration of the Prussian virtues–order, authority, sacrifice, service, discipline, hierarchy–on which she had risen to greatness; in the rebirth of a sense of community…[and] creation of a strong authoritarian government, speaking with a single voice at home and enforcing respect abroad for a Germany rearmed and restored to her natural position as a Great Power…

At the same time Hitler was able to attract neoconservative intellectuals who rejected…flabby liberalism…He made an equally strong appeal to members of the former governing elites, bitter at their loss of position and influence…and to many of a younger generation, frustrated by lack of opportunities and the longing for a passionate commitment to the future. This…takes us to the heart of the Nazi phenomenon.

…[T]he Nazis differed from all the other parties in making the style of their campaigning more important than the content. To borrow a later phrase, in their case it was literally true that “the medium was the message.” Not only Hitler’s speeches but everything about a movement that dramatized politics as a mixture of theater and religion was aimed to appeal not to the rational but to the emotional faculties, those “affective interests” against which…students of human nature and philosophers had long recognized that logical arguments were impotent…

Hitler was well aware from the beginning…of the truth of this. His most original achievement was to create a movement that was deliberately designed to highlight by every manipulative device…the supremacy of the dynamic, irrational factors in politics: struggle, will, force, the sinking of individual identity in the collective emotions of the group, sacrifice, discipline.

It was entirely consistent with the character of such a movement for Hitler to refuse to be pinned down to specific policies and a program, leaving these to be decided when he had achieved power…This had the advantage not only of increasing his freedom to maneuver as opportunity offered, but also of making it possible for groups with very different and sometimes conflicting interests and views to project these on to the…movement, convincing themselves that in each case Hitler sought the same things they did.

Many of those among the conservative older generation who voted for the Nazis did so because they believed Hitler would restore the traditional values of the past. Others, especially the younger generation, voted for the Nazis because they saw them as free of the class-ridden image…which stuck to other ring-wing parties, and because they believed Hitler would sweep away these relics of the past…and carry through a radical right-wing revolution.

Both could be described as “the moral and spiritual renewal of the nation”, and far from trying to resolve the contradiction, Hitler did his best to keep alive the expectations of both conservative and radical supporters. This was essential if he was to persuade enough Germans that here was a man and a movement capable of uniting the nation, relieving its fears, and pointing a way out of the mess in which it was stagnating…

Hitler’s skill lay in deliberately leaving an aura of uncertainty around his assurances of “legality”, so as to keep alive, on the one hand, the belief of the conservative elements…that he exercised a restraining influence on the party; and on the other, the belief of the radicals that his talk of “legality” was so much clever camouflage…

The economic crisis became a political crisis as well…

All the ills from which Germany was suffering were blamed on “the system”, showing how shallow were the roots of parliamentary democracy in Germany, and how deeply alienated from the republic were those groups whose privileges and position in society should have made them the strongest supporters of the state…

[L]ike all other opposition leaders…[Groener was convinced that] once in office, Hitler would prove amenable to “management,” would be “tamed” and held back from radical courses by his coalition partners…

[However], [t]he mistake by groups who controlled access to power was in underestimating not Hitler’s hostility to the democratic Weimar Republic…but the danger that he represented to the conservative…tradition they sought to restore. In the face of all the evidence supplied by the Nazi campaigns and organized violence, they failed to grasp the dynamic character of the movement Hitler had created, the lengths to which the man they looked on as an upstart demagogue was prepared to go to secure his objectives…

Here was the man Germany needed, with the courage to act, the Nazi press blared, the savior…Hitler declared himself to be the instrument of God, chosen to liberate Germany.

There was never any doubt that he would be beaten…[but] Hitler’s determination turned defeat into a triumph…

The winter of 1931-32 was marked by an upsurge of violence…

Although Hitler constantly repeated his intention to observe “legality”, he had never made it a secret what he meant by it. In his testimony at the Leipzig trial of 1930, [Hitler] explained: “The constitution only marks out the arena of battle…However, once we possess the constitutional power, we will mold the state into the shape we hold to be suitable.” Even clearer was the reply Hitler gave to Bruning…Hitler at once replied: “Herr Chancellor, the fundamental thesis of democracy runs, ‘All power issues from the people’…but in the last resort it is the people itself that determines its constitution.”

This was clear enough, and it was for this reason that those who sought to bring Hitler into government always thought in terms of “taming him”…

It took Hitler less than two months to show who had been right…”Report

Matt Weiner
Matt Weiner
Reply to  A gopher
4 years ago

Though see this argument; even if Hitler was perceived at the time as a clownish demagogue rather than the genocidal monster he turned out to be, most clownish demagogues don’t turn out to be Hitler.Report

A Gopher
A Gopher
Reply to  Matt Weiner
4 years ago

I think that article is profoundly unconvincing. Berlusconi was not a danger to the world because he was not the leader of a superpower with the most powerful military on the planet, or a nation that has shown a consistent thirst for war, torture, and preventive detention. Trump is dangerous because the U.S. is all of these things.Report

Richard Yetter Chappell
Reply to  Matt Weiner
4 years ago

I agree with Vox’s descriptive prediction that Trump most likely won’t turn out to be a genocidal monster. I disagree with the implicit normative conclusion that we therefore shouldn’t worry about this. Low-probability high-impact possibilities are worth worrying about. “Probably not Hitler” does not cut the mustard. See: http://slatestarcodex.com/2016/09/28/ssc-endorses-clinton-johnson-or-stein/Report

A Gopher
A Gopher
Reply to  Richard Yetter Chappell
4 years ago

As I mentioned below, there are distinct reasons why he probably will. Berlusconi and others of his ilk didn’t call for rounding up millions of people, killing innocent relatives of suspected terrorists, advocate violence against protestors, and implicitly threaten the life of their political opponent (as Trump did on two occasions). The tragedy here is that before Hitler was Hitler, he said *everything* that he would do. Nobody actually believed what he said. Now we have a man saying exactly what he will do, and once again people downplay it, thinking he too can be tamed. We should not make the same mistake again. If a man running for president openly advocates war crimes, we should believe that if we give him that power, he will take it.Report

Matt Weiner
Matt Weiner
Reply to  A Gopher
4 years ago

This is fair. I suppose that what I should say is that I think that, if elected, Trump will probably commit crimes against humanity, in attempting some sort of mass deportation of Latinos, and he will probably inspire more political violence. But I don’t think he will carry out mass killings of the sort that Hitler did, and I don’t think that the political violence would be on the same mass scale, in part (as Jeet Heer has pointed out) because Trump does not have the mass youth following that Hitler did, with his base being more older people who, while heavily armed, have not shown as much of a propensity for spontaneous mass violence (in contrast to attacking protesters at Trump’s own rallies) as Hitler’s followers did before he took power.

Also please note that this is not a defense of Trump. Even if it’s “Overwhelmingly likely to not be as bad as Hitler,” that still does not cut the mustard. Without even addressing the whole “easily-provoked unstable narcissist who has made some seriously bizarre foreign policy pronouncements in charge of nuclear weapons” issue.

(On the mass deportation, one could point out that our current government’s policies still involve inhumane treatment of immigrants on a large scale, and that Clinton is likely to continue that–but the difference between that and Trump’s likely policies is so vast as to constitute a difference in kind rather than degree.)Report

Mohan Matthen
Mohan Matthen
4 years ago

I am as rabidly against Trump as any foreigner can be. And I agree with everything that Justin said about him. I also find it hard to figure out what Hillary has done to merit the extremely harsh judgements some of the above commenters make about her.
All that said, I still found it tasteless to call colleagues out by name in the manner of the original post.Report

Mohan Matthen
Mohan Matthen
Reply to  Justin Weinberg
4 years ago

I confess that I anticipated this question and felt that I didn’t have a good answer, or at least one that would convince you or many others, for that matter. But your post still feels transgressive to me. It would have felt less so (though not quite ok) if you had merely said: here is a site where A, B, and C proclaim their support of Trump . . . ugh!. (That would be sharing information with an accompanying grimace.) But your post is quite combative, and I don’t feel that it is appropriate for a site like yours to be taking on named individuals in our profession in quite that way and for quite those reasons.
I am not an American though, and I don’t live in the US, and maybe the temperature is (understandably) higher there right now (in more ways than one). Report

Brian
Reply to  Mohan Matthen
4 years ago

Mohan, I too was surprised Justin did this. But, lo and behold, it appears it’s OK to do it to the right enemies! Who would have ever guessed that was the standard?Report

Paul
Paul
Reply to  Brian
4 years ago

You’re behaving like an ugly troll, Brian. Report

bloom
bloom
Reply to  Mohan Matthen
4 years ago

” I also find it hard to figure out what Hillary has done to merit the extremely harsh judgements some of the above commenters make about her.”

Try her actions, influence, patterns of voting, and views about: Syria. Then, Libya. Then, Egypt. Then, Iraq. Then, Kosovo. Then imagine how it’d be like for Syria, Iraq, Iran, and the rest of Hillary’s backyard if she becomes the president. That’s one reason. (And still, I think that we should vote her to stop Trump :/ )Report

Patrick Lin
Reply to  Mohan Matthen
4 years ago

I don’t know about tasteless, but there may be a tricky ethical line here in calling out these philosophers so publicly. How is it different than, say, outing LGBTQ folks who might not have wanted that attention? They may be declared somewhere online — on some obscure website that we wouldn’t have found — that they were gay or whatever, but does that really make it fair game?

This is related to ongoing debates about privacy and surveillance by drones and other technologies. US law says that you may be surveilled from any public vantage point. So, if you could be seen sunbathing in your own backyard from a tree in a public park, you have no expectation to privacy. If you were going into a Planned Parenthood building, you have no expectation to privacy and may be photographed entering it. But these old rules may need updating. New technologies make it possible to watch a person 24/7 with an unblinking eye and a low cost, compared to a traditional stakeout. This is a difference in degree that seems to make a difference in kind. The courts are still sorting this out.

Back to the obscure website in which the philosophers were named, online searches make it possible to quickly follow a person’s digital footprint, like a drone with a persistent stare. Sure, in some sense, if it’s not private, then it’s public; those philosophers should have understood the risk of being outed. But that’s not the same as consent to being outed…Report

Patrick Lin
Reply to  Mohan Matthen
4 years ago

Reposting from Daily Nous’ Facebook page, to further elaborate:

Would you say that if a gay man walked into a bar in the Castro in San Francisco, he is thereby outing himself? I mean, he’s out in public, and anyone can legally watch where he goes and deduce information about him. (The answer is no.)

This could be what’s happening with outing these philosophers. I don’t know if they’ve already outed themselves more publicly elsewhere, and in the absence of that knowledge, we should err on the side of caution in regards to privacy.

A possible defense available to DN is that it’s a matter of compelling public interest who the academic supporters of Trump are, in contrast to a lack of compelling public interest in identifying LBGTQ folks. But this is a very hard argument to make:

Sure, Trump had been compared to Hitler before — and I might have said so myself at some point; #ImWithHer, and this is not an invitation to debate the merits of Hillary — but this is all rhetoric and hyperbole. Trump (so far) is not Hitler, and his supporters are not Brownshirts. The few friends I have who are his supporters are actually well-meaning people, deeply misguided and maybe ignorant but nonetheless decent folks otherwise. So, I don’t see any compelling public interest in singling them out publicly, until Trump does some actual harm and they continue to support him.

As long as we care about privacy and can vote with secret ballots, whom you vote for is your business alone, even though there’s only one sensible and qualified choice in the race. Whatever animosity you have against Trump seems to be clouding this issue for you and, ironically, it’s indeed very Trump-like to roll back liberties to fight back against something you don’t like.Report

A Gopher
A Gopher
Reply to  Patrick Lin
4 years ago

No, it is not hyperbole. Everyone was surprised when Hitler actually did what he said he would do. Everyone thought he could be tamed. What has Trump said he would do? Round millions of people up, commit war crimes (kill families of terrorists). He has also spoken highly of Putin, Kim Jong Un, and the Chinese crackdown on Tiananamen Square. Are we really going to make the same mistake the Germans made, not believing what this man says he will do. God help us all.Report

A Gopher
A Gopher
Reply to  Patrick Lin
4 years ago

Also, actual harm? He has openly called for violence against protestors, nationwide stop and frisk policies (which are unconstitutional), and implicitly advocated the assassination of HRC on two different occasions.Report

Matt Weiner
Matt Weiner
Reply to  Patrick Lin
4 years ago

I don’t think the “outing” analogy is at all felicitous. These philosophers signed a public statement declaring their support for Trump. The entire point of that act is that it’s public and that they want their support for Trump to be known, so as to lend their credibility to Trump’s campaign. (And the philosophers lend some much-needed scholarly distinction to an extraordinarily underwhelming list of “scholars and writers” which includes people like the Gingriches, various political commentators, Larry Kudlow, John Lott… it’s very padded.) It’s not as though we’re leaking some comments that they made to a small group of people, nor is it as though they want to keep their preferences secret. Again, the whole point of issuing a public endorsement directed at a general audience is that it’s public.

This isn’t like discussing the sexual orientation of someone who walks into a gay bar in the Castro, or gave an interview to some obscure paper where they mentioned their sexual orientation. It’s more like discussing Ellen DeGeneres’s sexual orientation after her “Yep, I’m Gay” Time magazine cover story.

I do feel that Mohan has a point to some extent that it’s in bad taste to issue such a combative invitation to discuss their views here when there’s really no reasonable expectation that they will take it up, but that’s different from saying that they have some expectation of privacy in signing the statement–talking about an expectation of privacy here seems like a category error.Report

Patrick Lin
Reply to  Matt Weiner
4 years ago

But was it really a “public statement”? Yes, it was made on a website accessible by the public; it wasn’t password-protected, for instance. But that doesn’t make it a public statement, just as going out in public doesn’t mean you’re inviting anyone to scrutinize you anytime and all of the time.

(See my above comments about drone surveillance: do you think it’s ok for flying robots to follow you anytime you step out into the public? Also, think about “upskirting”, where there’s a legal loophole in many states that allows pervs to photo/film up women’s skirts, on the assumption that if it’s viewable from a public vantage point, then it’s fair game.)

The website in question seems to be a fringe site (not even close to being Time magazine), and I don’t see anywhere that it’s billed as “come out and show your support publicly.” It could just be to bolster confidence of whatever kind of people go to the obscure site — maybe it’s a closely knit community; I dunno. My point was that, absent this information and a clearer sign of wanting to make a public declaration, it might be better to err on the side of privacy.

So, there still seems to be some analogy to being outed from having stepped into a gay bar. We shouldn’t presume that being at a gay bar is a public declaration, even though it’s a public space (not a member’s only or private club), though some people may see it that way and think it’s fair game to out everyone there. Patrons of the bar may be implicitly or explicitly declaring their orientation to those also inside the bar, but it’s a leap to assume they’re ok if everyone in the world knows about it (unless the bar had such a high-profile like Time magazine).Report

Matt Weiner
Matt Weiner
Reply to  Patrick Lin
4 years ago

Well, the explanations for their vote by some of the signatories are accompanied by an article that says in part (emphasis added):

“We believe the stakes are high and that all Americans must stand up and be counted.

“When scholars and academics offer public support to Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton they risk nothing. It is expected and applauded. Not so, for supporters of Donald Trump. Today we host a symposium of leading conservative writers and scholars who have declared their support for Donald J. Trump for president.”

All these suggest that the declarations of support are public and are intended to be so.

I can see how in some cases one might take a declaration on the web to be something that was only intended for a limited audience and that it would be bad form to signal-boost past the intended audience. But there’s really no evidence at all that that’s the case here. Making a statement declaring your support for a political candidate seems like a paradigm case of an act that’s intended to be public and makes no sense if it’s not in public, unless there’s some evidence that it was only intended for a limited audience.

And again, the gay bar is not analogous, because one’s primary purpose in visiting a gay bar is generally not to inform other people of one’s sexuality (or if it is, it’s only meant to inform the people you meet in the bar). While the primary purpose of declaring your support for a candidate is to let people know you support the candidate, and to persuade them to support the candidate by letting them know that you support the candidate.

This doesn’t seem to me like a hard case at all.Report

Eric Rasmusen
Eric Rasmusen
Reply to  Matt Weiner
4 years ago

I signed the statement, and we certainly expected to get flack about it.
Indeed, it was said that there were three tenured professors (I don’t know what fields) who would have liked to sign but didn’t want the opprobrium.
So I expect the philosophy professors who signed are happy rather than unhappy to have their standpoint publicized.Report

Patrick Lin
Reply to  Matt Weiner
4 years ago

It’s possible that the declarations of support were meant to be for broader public consumption. As I said before, I don’t discount that possibility, but also I don’t have much reason to think that’s the intention of all the authors; and if there’s uncertainty, then we should err on the side of caution.

The webpage and passages you cited above support don’t challenge this skepticism: (1) that’s not the webpage in the initial Daily Nous post, and (2) none of the outed philosophers appears on that page. For some reason, it seems hard for you to imagine the scenario where the signatories wanted to declare their support only in limited circles and not to the broader public. Or if you can, you’re insisting that this needs an explicit disclaimer of privacy and is not the default position (like some websites assume they can share your info unless you opt out of it).

I don’t know why this business of making a declaration as a “primary purpose” is relevant here. Suppose the gay bar holds an event in which patrons are invited to come out to others in the bar. The primary purpose is to declare that you’re gay. How does this have any bearing on whether you should broadcast that information to the broader public? Must patrons really say, “But don’t tell anyone else I’m gay” for you to withhold that info? Seems that we should assume confidentiality as the default position, especially if it’s already recognized that there’s risk in being identified as gay or as a supporter of X.

But at the end of the day, now looking more closely at the webpage, I might agree with you, but not for your reasons. The webpage starts with: “Given our choices in the presidential election, we believe that Donald Trump is the candidate most likely to restore the promise of America, and we urge you to support him as we do.”

So, there is some explicit attempt at outreach and influence, though it’s still not clear whom “you” refers to: just the usual visitors on the site (cf. just to the patrons of the gay bar), or to the broader public? I suppose it’s up to the named philosophers to say. Again, if there’s uncertainty, then we should be careful here. It’s not unreasonable to conclude it was a public declaration, but it didn’t seem like there was any deliberation on this point, as if it were obvious all along…Report

Johnny_Thunder
Johnny_Thunder
Reply to  Matt Weiner
4 years ago

To Matt Weinder’s point about “padding”: it’s a list of “scholars and writers”. Since every conservative pundit is presumably a writer, it’s an easy list to pad. Conrad Black is another signatory whose name should carry no weight whatsoever. Putting ‘scholars’ first in the title has the effect of misleading people into thinking this is a list of intellectual heavyweights. Really, we should read this as a list of people who are either Republicans or Republicans and scholars.Report

Johnny_Thunder
Johnny_Thunder
Reply to  Patrick Lin
4 years ago

A few disanalogies with the coming out in a gay bar example:

1. Adding one’s prominent name to a list of supporters for a candidate is a widespread practice in the USA. As far as I know, it’s always done with the intention of lending credibility to the candidate, and so is intended to be public. There is no similar practice in which the list is posted online but intended to be kept secret.
2. The signatories knowingly signed on with famous people like Newt Gingrich. Since they’re intelligent, they must have inferred that the list would become known to the general public.
3. The signatures are on a website that can be accessed by anyone, whereas going to a bar is a dated event that people can’t directly observe after the fact.

Let’s add to the gay bar example so that it becomes more analogous. Imagine that gay bars have only ever been used as venues for people to come out to the entire world, that some particular gay man attends the gay bar at which several minor celebrities will come out, and that the coming out ceremony at the bar is filmed. Under such circumstances we would not assume that any of the people coming out wanted it to be a secret.

You can argue, as you have been doing, that it remains *possible* that these philosophers didn’t want the list to become widely known. That’s true only in the sense in which it’s possible that by the symbol ‘public’, you mean private.Report

Johnny_Thunder
Johnny_Thunder
Reply to  Johnny_Thunder
4 years ago

Patrick,
I would also suggest doing a news search on ‘scholars and writers for America’. Some pieces assume without argument that the list was meant to be completely public. For example:

http://www.americanthinker.com/blog/2016/09/scholars_and_writers_for_america_declare_support_for_trump.html

Others don’t address the question at all.

You suggest above that it’s hard for Matt to entertain the possibility that the list was intended to be kept private. You’re probably right, and the same seems to apply to everyone who’s reported on this. But the explanation for this is straightforward: our society’s conventions overwhelmingly dictate that signing this kind of list is a public act.
Report

Patrick Lin
Reply to  Johnny_Thunder
4 years ago

To reply:

1. You seem to be saying that your online activities on publicly accessible sites are fair game for reporting, like 24/7 surveillance by a drone flying in public airspace (that doesn’t trespass). Is that right? This election cycle is unique because it’s so shameful, so I don’t know if any of the old assumptions apply. Can you imagine a group of secret Klan supporters who wanted to bolster each other’s resolve to their cause by coming out as supporters? Or in some hateful future, supporting a liberal candidate risks being threatened professionally or personally, but you sign a letter of support because it’s important for like-minded people to know that they’re not alone. This might not necessarily be for recruitment purposes but intended for only a limited audience. If something like this is possible, then we can’t assume that the list in question is for public viewing, without some evidence. (I pointed to some evidence above that wasn’t previously raised.)

2. Do you know when Newt Gingrich signed onto the list? Was he first, and everyone followed his lead, knowing that this stunt would receive attention? Or could some signatories have signed on before the bigger names had? If so, you can’t assume their permission or intention to out themselves.

3. Not sure where you’re going with this either. Imagine that the gay bar has security footage of the place. Now it’s possible that you can go back to visit this dated event; yet that still doesn’t mean you should out everyone. Or imagine that the supporter website in question was deleted and it wasn’t archived anywhere: are you really not allowed to refer to it anymore, just because “people can’t directly observe after the fact”?

4. As for your elaboration of the gay-bar analogy, see (1) above. Sure, in a world where everyone in a gay bar knows and intends to be publicly outed, and in a world where everyone online knows and intends their online activities to be publicly aired, then what said might be ok. But we don’t live in either one of those worlds.

5. As for what AmericanThinker.com or others are doing, they’re not philosophy and ethics sites. We should hold ourselves to higher standards than they do. And you probably already know that social conventions don’t reliably track ethics.

Look, I said already that #ImWithHer. It pains me to have to do anything that could help Trump’s cause. But the rules of the game are still being worked out for digital and other new technologies. We can’t just assume the old rules apply. Privacy and other civil liberties are at stake. Ultimately, as I had said, it may very well be that this list of supporters is ok to republish online; but that shouldn’t be assumed without explanation, esp. when the signatories’ intentions may be unclear. Report

Johnny_Thunder
Johnny_Thunder
Reply to  Patrick Lin
4 years ago

“If something like this is possible, then we can’t assume that the list in question is for public viewing, without some evidence.”

I disagree. It’s possible that by ‘private’ you mean public. But I can assume without further evidence that this isn’t what you mean; I can assume that you’re following normal linguistic conventions. Same for Soames et al.

“Not sure where you’re going with this either. Imagine that the gay bar has security footage of the place. Now it’s possible that you can go back to visit this dated event; yet that still doesn’t mean you should out everyone. Or imagine that the supporter website in question was deleted and it wasn’t archived anywhere: are you really not allowed to refer to it anymore, just because “people can’t directly observe after the fact”?”

No, I’m not sure where you’re getting that last question from; nothing in what I wrote was suggestive of a necessary condition on being allowed to take things public. The dated event vs. recorded speech act distinction was one of three disanalogies between adding your name to a list of supporters of a political cause and going to a gay bar. The idea is that if an event is generally assumed to not be recorded in any way, or if it is assumed the recording won’t be arbitrarily released (as would be the case with security footage at a gay bar), people are more likely to do things at the event which they would prefer would not go public.

“Sure, in a world where everyone in a gay bar knows and intends to be publicly outed, and in a world where everyone online knows and intends their online activities to be publicly aired, then what said might be ok. But we don’t live in either one of those worlds.”

I’m not following your argument here. I think you’re presupposing that counter-factual thought experiments can’t be used in analogical arguments. Otherwise, I don’t know why it would matter that we don’t live in such a world. I reject the presupposition, but anyway, the analogy is of course inessential to my argument.

“As for what AmericanThinker.com or others are doing, they’re not philosophy and ethics sites. We should hold ourselves to higher standards than they do. And you probably already know that social conventions don’t reliably track ethics.”

I brought them up not because they provide an ethical standard, but as evidence of the linguistic convention: when you sign onto a list of prominent people supporting a particular campaign, it’s in order to register your support publicly. When everyone interprets a speech act in the same way, this is evidence that it’s the standard interpretation. For example, when everyone interprets a certain dance in the end zone as a celebration, that’s evidence that it’s a celebration.

“But the rules of the game are still being worked out for digital and other new technologies. We can’t just assume the old rules apply. Privacy and other civil liberties are at stake.”

That may be true for some online activities. But not for this one. It has a substantial history and it’s an established norm that these lists are for public purposes unless the norm is explicitly canceled.Report

Patrick Lin
Reply to  Johnny_Thunder
4 years ago

Only have time for a quick response, which is this:

A lot of folks here assume that the list of names is some sort of “open letter” to the world, as opposed to just limited circles (such as a declaration at an AA meeting or coming out as gay to your circle of friends). This assumption isn’t absurd and maybe not wrong, but the case for it seems circumstantial and had deserved some consideration. (It’s too late now, esp. since NY Times just covered this story. So, I probably won’t spend more time discussing this, since the genie is now out of the bottle.)

Usually, an open letter will advertise itself as such, in order to get more attention, if the purpose really is to boost the signal as widely as possible. Or at least the open letters I’ve seen usually make it clear that they’re open letters. They actually say “Open Letter” on it (see examples below), and the Trump supporter page does not. This is one reason for me to think it was not an open letter.

Ex1: http://futureoflife.org/ai-open-letter/
Ex2: https://shift.newco.co/an-open-letter-from-technology-sector-leaders-on-donald-trumps-candidacy-for-president-5bf734c159e4#.j4hmat98o
Ex3: http://responsiblescientists.org/

It’s possible an open letter exists that doesn’t say “Open Letter” or have some other clear statement that it’s meant to be broadcasted to world. The letter in question does refer to an unspecified “you” which could mean everyone in the world, or it could be addressing a limited audience. Even if we can find an example of a true open letter that’s not clear that it’s an open letter (retroactively clear about its nature?), that may help your case, but still the lack of clarity means we should be careful, not just presume it’s an open letter.

Again, I admitted that there is a case that the list of names was meant for public distribution, but that’s a circumstantial case (as is the opposite claim). If there’s reasonable doubt, or when the stakes are high enough (e.g., professional harm may come to those who are outed), then we should be careful to not out someone against their wishes. Would have avoided these concerns if the letter had clearly said that it was an “open letter”, but it didn’t.Report

Johnny_Thunder
Johnny_Thunder
Reply to  Johnny_Thunder
4 years ago

Lots of these things don’t say ‘open letter’.

http://web.archive.org/web/20070928011551/http://www.epinet.org/stmt/2003/statement_signed.pdf

http://www.petitionproject.org/index.php

(This one says ‘petition’ which indicates the signatories understand that the government will read it. But, by Patrick Lin’s logic, we’re not justified in assuming they’re ok with anyone else seeing it unless we have more than “circumstantial” evidence. That is, it’s “possible” that they wanted the petition to be viewed by a circle of like minded people, the government, and no one else.)

http://apps.washingtonpost.com/g/documents/national/former-ambassadors-sign-a-letter-refusing-to-vote-for-donald-trump/2155/

It’s ludicrous to think that without explicitly saying, “it’s ok to share this” or putting “open letter” at the top, our default assumption should be that it’s a private document.Report

Matt Weiner
Matt Weiner
Reply to  Patrick Lin
4 years ago

“As for what AmericanThinker.com or others are doing, they’re not philosophy and ethics sites.”

I agree, but the post was made on American Thinker by a signatory of the endorsement, meaning to draw attention to it. this signatory did the same think on his website. Another signatory, Roger L. Simon, did the same thing on his site Pajamas Media, which I believe has fairly wide circulation.* There’s a fair amount of evidence that the signatories intended this as a public endorsement, even aside from the form of the site and stuff.

*Incidentally, on the “padding” point and admittedly a cheap shot, when one of the signatories is Don Surber the headline “Brainiacs support Trump” is pretty misleading. Report

Matt Weiner
Matt Weiner
Reply to  Matt Weiner
4 years ago

I do think that there are a lot of interesting questions about cyberethics and privacy in the area here. For instance, it seems pretty clear that retweeting someone can be a form of harassment even when the tweet was originally public; the sort of case where the retweet sends a signal to one’s followers to go and clog up the retweetee’s timeline with obnoxious stuff, or even inspires a lot of threats. And you could argue that Justin’s post is somewhat analogous to that case. I just don’t think we can get anywhere by arguing that maybe the original statement was meant only for a limited audience.Report

Patrick Lin
Reply to  Mohan Matthen
4 years ago

I do have to admit that this is a weird position for me to be in. Feels like the ACLU defending the right of Nazis to march in a parade. Trump certainly seems dangerous (though he talks a lot and doesn’t follow through on much of his past bloviating, which would require a compliant US Congress on his election promises). Any way you slice it, he’s still way too much of a sociopath to be president. But even if he’s a common enemy, we should be careful about whether we’re still upholding our core values (e.g., privacy here, or 1st Am. rights in the parade march).

I don’t intend to defend tooth and nail that signing on to an obscure website doesn’t count as a self-outing to the public. Would be happy to see arguments for this. But it just doesn’t seem obvious that it is self-outing, just as walking into a gay bar isn’t self-outing.Report

Patrick Lin
Reply to  Mohan Matthen
4 years ago

Let me revise my gay-bar analogy, in case it makes the point more clear:

Imagine that it’s professionally or personally risky to come out as a gay person in our society (which it is, at least in some geographies). And there’s a website that invites people to declare their sexual orientation. The site may or may not be intended for broad public distribution; the intentions are unclear but, sure, it’s possible that they wanted to come out to everyone, despite the risk.

Should we really assume, without question, that the signatories /did/ intend to come out publicly, and that we can republish their names on another site or geography that is generally hostile to LGBTQ folks? Wouldn’t that be a dog-whistle of sorts? “Hey y’all, looky what we got here…some people y’all know are gay…”Report

Johnny_Thunder
Johnny_Thunder
Reply to  Patrick Lin
4 years ago

Disanalogy: Unlike with lists of political supporters, there’s no established norm concerning the use of such lists.Report

Adam Omelianchuk
Adam Omelianchuk
4 years ago

I am not certain, but I suspect their support for Trump is based on a probability calculus that concludes that Trump is more likely to advance a conservative agenda (and thereby improve the country) than Clinton; ergo they vote for Trump despite his obvious flaws (which I think everyone at this point is aware of). Report

Ideal Observer
Ideal Observer
Reply to  Adam Omelianchuk
4 years ago

Thanks Adam, I think this is basically right. At least speaking for myself, I am (considering) voting for Trump primarily because:

A. Unfortunately, the fact is that the courts are the single most influential determinant of public social policy. This is because they invalidate perfectly constitutionally-legitimate laws, and allow the president to issue executive orders outside of the bounds of his proper powers.

However, since the law teaches, the courts now basically control which direction the culture will take. And I do not think the courts should have so much influence over the direction of society, either in favor of or against socially conservative view. In other words, I believe in judicial restraint (in both directions!); however, liberal judges do not, and so I see no other solution but to elect someone who will appoint conservative judges.

B. Of course, I do want socially conservative policies to be passed by Congress and the states. But I am very certain this would be substantially prevented by any Clinton appointments. Clinton will continue (what conservatives consider to be) the legal activism of previous administrations by virtue of continued executive overreach (viz., by executive orders), and by her legal appointments. This will weaken conservatism severely, possibly to the point of collapse (so that the Republican Party, seeking electability, will become like the Conservative Party in the UK: fiscally conservative/moderate, but socially liberal).

So, in short, I am certain that if Clinton becomes president and succeeds in her legal appointments, there will basically be no way at all for conservatives to meaningfully advance their political policies. All such policies will be shut down by courts, and the Republican Party will continue to cave.

It’s sad, because if I didn’t think the stakes were so high and that left-wing judicial power were so over-reaching, then I probably wouldn’t have voted this election, even knowing that a Hillary presidency would result from Trump’s losing. But based on induction, I have very reason to think this will continue with full force under Clinton.

C. I have very good reason to think that Trump will appoint conservative judges, since it is in his best interest to do so, and since he has explicitly given a list to solicit the support of people like me, who would otherwise never vote for him.

D. For similar reasons, I think the concerns that Trump would be erratic and dangerous are overblown. That would not be in his interest. (I think we can hardly say that he has not been acting in his interest up to now, considering how far he has gotten.) Certainly, his actually playing the role of president would not be *good* per se. But I think he is more a political idiot and a jackass than actually malicious or erratic. I expect Trump would do very little frankly, and would have very little influence, at least qua president.

I think he is an awful candidate of course, and that his candidacy was one of the biggest (if not the biggest) blunders in Republican history. Almost any of the other candidates would have been better. Also, he seems to suffer from enormous character flaws (at the very least). However, although she is not as odious as Trump in public, I am not naive enough to think that Clinton is substantially better qua human being than Trump. And besides, I should not vote based on whether the person is good or not, but based on what he or she will do.Report

Non-ideal Observer
Non-ideal Observer
Reply to  Ideal Observer
4 years ago

I suspect many conservatives opting for Trump agree with D. But D is wishful thinking. For one thing, the man isn’t obviously sufficiently rational. For another, self-interest won’t sufficiently minimize the risk of him using political power in erratic and dangerous ways, given that the costs of such use would largely be borne by others. Self-interest must be supplemented by a sense of moral responsibility. And the man is seriously deficient on that score.Report

Alan White
Alan White
4 years ago

Obama is right: a 3rd-party vote or even a non-vote is effectively a vote for Trump and the forces increasingly rallying behind his figurehead. So we have to ask ourselves if we wish to elect or at least tolerate not just his demonstrably unstable mindset but the policies as Republican sock-puppet he would likely advance. Want more guns rather than less or even the elimination of background checks that we have? Want him to appoint probably two or perhaps three SCOTUS justices (you saw his list), with durable effect long beyond his single term? Want him being “the decider” on foreign policy especially in fast-moving and tense situations (think North Korea)? Want his obviously dismissive and probably hateful attitudes about non-whites and women to drive domestic policies? And these are just for starters. If you want some or all of these, vote Trump.

And remember if the choice is not to vote at all, that too will likely favor not just turning this near-madman into high office, but handing him Congress to get anything done that he/the sockpuppeteers want.

This may be the last election where mostly white/male ego can tilt it decisively toward mirroring itself. Don’t let the next Oval Office holder reflect that.Report

Urstoff
Urstoff
Reply to  Alan White
4 years ago

“Obama is right: a 3rd-party vote or even a non-vote is effectively a vote for Trump and the forces increasingly rallying behind his figurehead.”

Sorry, no. At most, it’s half a vote (a vote for Trump is a vote for Trump). And given how little value a single vote has, half a vote is completely inconsequential. Third-party shaming is a ridiculous habit that partisans engage in every four years. It’s always the same every election: “this one is too important to vote for a third party”. Report

Alan White
Alan White
Reply to  Urstoff
4 years ago

I’m familiar with this line of reasoning, but it’s at best an oversimplification of the matter of voting collectively involving a distributive form of a composition fallacy.
In any case the electoral college makes this issue even more complex. If you live in Kansas or Tennessee, then vote your third-party heart out–they’re most certainly going Trump unless the killer asteroid strikes. But if you live here in Wisconsin or especially a state like Colorado, Florida, or Ohio where things are closer to an electoral tipping point, I think even the “half-vote” gained or lost has potentially a real practical impact.

I’ll give Soames et al some credit for using their real names in voicing support. Refreshing in that way at least.Report

Urstoff
Urstoff
Reply to  Alan White
4 years ago

Not sure how it’s a simplification; one vote has a near zero probability of changing the outcome of the race. Are you disputing that?Report

Alan White
Alan White
Reply to  Urstoff
4 years ago

What I’m disputing is the relevance of the point. If it’s some decision-theoretical point about the rationality of individual voting, then it seems to imply that no individual should vote. Try that on your typical Trumpster as dissuasion to cast a ballot. Larger context here is everything, and focusing on how an individual should conduct herself in some ceteris paribus decision situation on the basis of vapid macroscopic stats seriously misconstrues the trees for the forest. Voting blocs are made of individuals who speak as blocs, but they are surely made up of individuals whatever their motivations. Self-delusion that one’s vote does not matter because of the seeming infinitesimal influence of one vote or non-vote simply passes power to another source of motivation to vote that does not recognize that line of reasoning, and believe me, it appears that not that many others are going are going to join in the my-vote-is-so-insignificant-that-I-won’t-vote meme (more likely for non-voters it’s the I-don’t-give-a-fuck meme). Considering all that gives rise to what I was suggesting earlier–the belief that since my vote doesn’t matter, no other votes should matter. That’s a classic composition fallacy. Though individual votes don’t matter much, they collectively as types of votes do. Even third-party votes in states where they can tip the electoral college. I can’t see how it can be otherwise.Report

Urstoff
Urstoff
Reply to  Alan White
4 years ago

“Considering all that gives rise to what I was suggesting earlier–the belief that since my vote doesn’t matter, no other votes should matter. That’s a classic composition fallacy.”

Except it’s not. Individual votes don’t matter (what odds would you give that this election will be decided by one vote?). The aggregate of votes matter, but that’s beside the point. No one is claiming that the fact that an individual’s vote doesn’t matter that the aggregate of votes don’t matter. That would be a fallacy of composition, but no one is asserting it. And since third-party shaming is rooted in a consequentialist argument over what an individual should do, the fact that the individual’s vote doesn’t matter is a sufficient rebuttal. Report

Alan White
Alan White
Reply to  Alan White
4 years ago

Urstoff–

And what if, by great chance, one individual vote could decide an election? It would be like winning the lottery. Now say that you have, despite all odds, purchased a winning lottery ticket. But before the drawing you reason that the odds that your ticket is the winner is so vanishingly small that it is deemed rational to tear it up–by a near certainty you will not win. So you tear up the ticket. Bad idea to prejudge potential causal influence in a process by mere stats alone, no matter how far-fetched.

But voting is like a lottery with some possible knowledge of aggregate pools one might participate in that could lead to wins and losses. Excluding the knowledge of how those pools might work from one’s decision how to buy into the lottery would also be at least less than rational. If the aggregate of votes matter as you admit, and yet as you also seem to say that *should not* enter into considering whether or how one votes, then one is not at all weighing the various scenarios of how the aggregates might play out in determining electors, and thus one has an inadequate grasp of how one’s vote works in that bigger picture. No matter how statistically insignificant a single vote is, if following your “rebuttal” every vote should be determined by that same reasoning process that neglects how aggregate votes might play out in determining electors, then that reasoning process is not fully rational in each and every case.Report

Matt Weiner
Matt Weiner
Reply to  Urstoff
4 years ago

If that’s the case, how is a vote for a third party any less inconsequential? Whatever good effects are supposed to come from the Johnson/Stein/McMullin vote don’t seem like they’d be effectuated any more by pushing the candidate’s national vote total from 2,822,924 to 2,822,925 or whatever. (Also Stein and Johnson are embarrassing.)

Also, about this:

Third-party shaming is a ridiculous habit that partisans engage in every four years. It’s always the same every election: “this one is too important to vote for a third party”.

Well, the last sentence is true. In every election, the difference between the parties is consequential enough that (insofar as voting makes any difference at all) voting for whichever major party candidate you prefer will have greater effects than increasing the vote total of a third-party candidate. If you’re dissatisfied with the major-party options, the way to make things better is to organize in between elections.Report

Matt Weiner
Matt Weiner
Reply to  Matt Weiner
4 years ago

Sorry, that was a reply to Urstoff, not Alan. I agree with Alan; we shouldn’t get caught up in skepticism about the results of collective action here.Report

Urstoff
Urstoff
Reply to  Matt Weiner
4 years ago

It’s not any less inconsequential. Voting is inconsequential, so voting for consequentialist reasons is silly. So if people want to vote for third parties because they cannot stomach what the candidates of the other parties stand for, by all means let them. Shaming them into voting for the “lesser of two evils” is dumb and fairly presumptuous. Report

Richard Yetter Chappell
Reply to  Urstoff
4 years ago

Urstoff — I hope you’re not a nuclear safety inspector! It’s simply fallacious to conflate “low probability” with “inconsequential”. See: http://www.philosophyetc.net/2016/07/the-instrumental-value-of-one-vote.htmlReport

BecauseBeans
BecauseBeans
4 years ago

This makes my brain hurt. But I guess it’s not astonishing that in the overwhelmingly boys’ club that philosophy still is that reactionaries are not embarrassed to vote for a misogynist reality star whose entire campaign platform is to put the brown people back in their place. Report

Gray
Gray
4 years ago

What I have to say here will be somewhat tangential. But let’s face it–for obvious reasons, it’s not as if a lot of on-topic contributions (viz., thoughts from Trump-supporting philosophers) are being made, or going to be made.

I side with those who find the original post a bit tasteless. Rather than rhetorically stacking the deck against them so blatantly, why not have invited one of the named philosophers to give a guest post explaining his views, and then to let there ensue a discussion in the comments? If what you’re really interested in is hearing what these philosophers’ justifications are, that would have been a more informative, and less punitive and combative, way of going about it.

But what strikes me most is that you, Justin, along with many others, will probably go on to deny, with a straight face, that the profession treats with hostility those who hold a certain set of unpopular, mostly right-wing views: in this case, the view that Trump should be President. If your past behavior is any indication, you’ll sneer at any suggestion that academic philosophy is a deeply unfriendly environment for those whose political views lead them to favor Trump, dismissing it as “PC scaremongering,” as some crackpot conspiracy theory that no one in her right mind could possibly believe–even after you’ve just made a very public post whose message is, in effect, “How could Scott Soames, Daniel Bonevac, Robert Koons and a handful of other philosophers be so disgraceful and stupid as to support this unconscionably awful candidate? Let’s see if they’ll make their case.”

I’m no Trump supporter, but if I were, the message I’d take from your post would be clear: I’m not to let anyone in the profession know about whom I’m really voting for (not that I wouldn’t have already known that, but still).

For all I’ve said, the great hostility to Trump supporters in the profession might be justified. But can you at least acknowledge that it *exists*? Report

the Onion Man
the Onion Man
Reply to  Justin Weinberg
4 years ago

What a non sequitur. Why not actually address the (entirely reasonable and on-point) argument in the third paragraph?Report

SCM
SCM
Reply to  the Onion Man
4 years ago

So what if the academic philosophy community is hostile to certain views? Surely, it is unobjectionable that philosophers generally assume that philosophers should not be in favour of, for example, ethnic cleansing or the torture of political dissidents? Those views are beyond the pale. And if, as Justin says, that Trump is not espousing any sort of vaguely reasonable or respectable form of conservatism, but is rather a racist misogynistic bigot, why should we not react accordingly? Yes, philosophy is a somewhat hostile environment for those who support racist misogynistic bigotry. Hallefuckinglujah. I wish it were more so.Report

Hey Nonny Mouse
Hey Nonny Mouse
Reply to  SCM
4 years ago

This argument strikes me as similar to the argument I hear from some conservatives that hostility to liberals is OK because we should be hostile to those who support crashing the economy. It would be one thing to be hostile to someone who was declaring that racism and misogyny are good. However, any philosopher who supports Trump presumably either doesn’t think they are supporting racist misogynistic bigotry, or thinks that the alternative to Trump is even worse. The most immediately pressing political question facing Americans in how to vote in the upcoming election, yet it is an issue that philosophers are barely able to discuss because we demonize and strive to silence dissenters.Report

the Onion Man
the Onion Man
Reply to  Hey Nonny Mouse
4 years ago

Thank you for stating the problem so clearly and succinctly, Nonny. Justin’s sneering refusal to admit this problem never fails to amaze me.Report

SCM
SCM
Reply to  Hey Nonny Mouse
4 years ago

So we should be hostile to enablers of racist misogynistic bigotry only when they admit they’re enabling racist misogynistic bigotry? Because it’s more important that we be able to have a pleasant conversation with them?

I wouldn’t want to silence or demonize any philosopher. Let them say what they like. What I will say is that supporting Donald Trump is disgraceful and worthy of contempt and pity. If they feel the same way about me, na und?Report

Hey Nonny Mouse
Hey Nonny Mouse
Reply to  Hey Nonny Mouse
4 years ago

If a philosopher supports Trump, then presumably they either don’t think that they are enabling racist misogynistic bigotry or they think that the consequences of supporting Clinton would be even worse. It isn’t a question of “admitting” anything unless they are lying about what they take their own motivations to be. Many conservative commentators regularly accuse all liberals of being driven by a secret evil agenda that they simply aren’t admitting to. Plenty of liberals commentators do just the same when talking about conservatives. It’s the same behavior on both sides and it only serves to entrench hostilities and stop us from talking about our real differences of opinion.

The pleasantness of the conversation is not the point. We should strive to be polite to people we have political disagreements with because discussion can be a channel for greater understanding on both sides. Denouncement, on the other hand, only rallies the base.Report

SCM
SCM
Reply to  Hey Nonny Mouse
4 years ago

Sorry, but that makes no sense. The difference of opinion seems to be that I think they are enabling racist misogynistic bigotry and they do not. So I shouldn’t say they are enabling racist misogynistic bigotry because that might impede understanding on both sides?Report

Hey Nonny Mouse
Hey Nonny Mouse
Reply to  Hey Nonny Mouse
4 years ago

Of course you can say that you think that. I think that too and am happy to say it–supporting Trump enables racist, misogynistic bigotry. But there is a difference between saying that you think someone is mistaken about what they are enabling and hostilely denouncing them.Report

Jonathan Light
Jonathan Light
Reply to  Justin Weinberg
4 years ago

Well if he’s more conservative than Clinton, isn’t that good enough?Report

BecauseBeans
BecauseBeans
Reply to  Gray
4 years ago

To the pearl-clutchers about “tastelessness” – insofar as there may be antipathy to Trump supporters here, one could argue that supporting a man who openly hates women and nonwhite people is itself “tasteless”.

Sometimes disgust is proportionate.Report

Hey Nonny Mouse
Hey Nonny Mouse
Reply to  BecauseBeans
4 years ago

Trump does not openly hate women and nonwhite people. I think you mean “secretly” not “openly”. Openly hating woman and nonwhite people is when you admit that you hate them. You say stuff like “I hate women” and “I hate nonwhite people”. Trump would never say “I hate women” or “I hate nonwhite people”. If asked, he would deny any such hatred. We can debate whether we think he hates them, or whether we can know what he really thinks, but there’s no question that he does not hate them openly.Report

Ideal Observer
Ideal Observer
Reply to  Gray
4 years ago

Gray, I think this is a fair criticism against the post (though, in fairness, I sincerely appreciate Justin’s allowing people like me to comment, and allowing the discussion here).

If a post with this sort of tone were done on a very highly-visible blog (like Daily Nous) calling out specific people belonging to a specific group that has constantly expressed concerns about its status in philosophy as a minority group, the philosophy world would be in uproar. (How must non-established junior philosophers feel when they see what happens to someone as intelligent and distinguished as Scott Soames?)

Of course, I expect comparisons with Nazis, etc. will be made, and even sincerely; however, this doesn’t make the comparisons any less mistaken or absurd. There’s certainly no need to make the comparison in this case, because we know that people like Scott Soames are not stupid Nazis.

I don’t necessarily blame Justin for this specifically. This post wouldn’t really be a problem in a different context! But given how conservative philosophers must feel already, a more measured querying seems more appropriate, friendly, and conducive to discussion (which I sincerely assume is the object of this post — a genuine discussion derived from genuine curiosity).Report

BecauseBeans
BecauseBeans
Reply to  Ideal Observer
4 years ago

How nice for you that your privilege is so secure that you can afford to overlook so much, Ideal Observer.Report

Ideal Observer
Ideal Observer
Reply to  BecauseBeans
4 years ago

Indeed. In fact, as an ideal observer, I am in *such* a privileged position that my evaluative dispositions are constitutive of normative facts, and so I can tell, infallibly, that you are absolutely wrong.

Sorry you don’t have the privileged position I do! 🙂Report

BecauseBeans
BecauseBeans
Reply to  Ideal Observer
4 years ago

Yes, I am sorry too – it must be such a trip.Report

Leroux
Leroux
4 years ago

Jean-Paul Sartre was supporting Stalin. Report

babygirl
babygirl
4 years ago

Thank you Matt. Let me reiterate that I don’t think this argument is decisive. But I don’t think it is beyond the pale to vote for Trump, or something that deserves to be treated with such scorn and outrage. I cannot bring myself to vote for either (but, I would not want to endorse a kind of facile parallelism which says that they are “the same”). Perhaps I haven’t done a good job representing the reasons someone of a different mindset would have for thinking Hillary is horrible. I was trying to give reasons that might appeal to a typical reader of this blog but one can imagine other reasons (if one thinks that abortion is the definitive moral travesties of our time, for instance).

I disagree with those voting for Trump. I would like to know their reasons, and to reason with them. Justin’s “invitation”, and the moral disapprobation and outrage evident both in the original post and in many of these comments, shuts down discussion by painting those who disagree with us as “beyond the pale”. I understand the argument for voting for Hillary better than the argument for voting for Trump but that is at least partially because those voting for Trump cannot give their reasons in public without being shamed and maligned by people, including those in this community. There are reasons on both sides. We could have a dialogue about it, instead of a long rant which serves to increase political polarization and to stigmatize those who disagree with us. Those on the right feel silenced and misunderstood. They are angry. This is, in part, what got us into this mess in the first place. Further silencing and shaming them is, emphatically, not the answer. Report

babygirl
babygirl
Reply to  babygirl
4 years ago

Apologies, that previous post was meant in response to Matt Weiner above. Report

Ideal Observer
Ideal Observer
Reply to  babygirl
4 years ago

The “beyond the pale” strategy isn’t a very good one anyway. The reason: It is very unlikely that conservative views are just going to stop existing in the face of social exclusion.

Assimilating all conservatives to pre-civil-rights-era racism is way too simplistic, and just applying the solution that worked then to conservatives now will *not* work. This is because, like it or not, there are intelligent, devoutly religious conservatives, who have strong, sincere beliefs, and a little bit (or even a lot) of social pressure isn’t going to change those beliefs. If too much pressure is applied, it will simply make these people leave academia and continue to live their lives and propagate their beliefs elsewhere.

For example: Unlike the case of racial segregationist views, traditional views about morality and religion are not just held in a peculiar geographic location under peculiar circumstances. They are held by many of your colleagues, probably several in your own departments. They are held even more broadly by your neighbors, by the poor and the rich, the educated and uneducated, by whites and blacks, in the north and south, east and west. Also unlike racial segregationist views, traditional views about morality and religion are *actually entailed* by certain sacred texts, and are an essential part of the world’s traditional religions. This is why these views are not restricted to a specific race, class, geographical location, or socio-economic status, and why even a significant academic minority tenaciously continues to exist.

So these beliefs aren’t going to disappear; at most, they will just move elsewhere. Of course, maybe liberals want conservative beliefs out of academia. That *might* be feasible. The problem is that, given how strongly held these beliefs are, it is not worth it for these people to concede and just conform; so, instead, they will just segregate themselves, where they can continue to flourish, possibly even better than before. (See, e.g., Thomas Schelling’s discussion of self-segregation in ‘Micromotives and Macrobehavior’.)

Keep in mind that “outside of academia” does not mean “no intellectual support.” There is a mistaken perception of conservative voters as mostly poor, ignorant people who simply need more education; on the contrary, more and more resources are popping up for middle-class conservatives to find intellectual backing for their beliefs, and a *lot* of people who self-identify as conservatives take advantage of them. (Maybe liberals don’t even realize this! But there’s conservative talk radio, conservative podcasts, conservative Youtube channels, conservative news sites, etc. that a *lot* of people listen to.) Of course, I’m not assessing the quality of these sources, but only pointing out the sociological fact that conservatives who are pushed out of academia will just make their own “academia.” I’m not even saying this would be a good thing; just that we are in the territory of “non-ideal theory,” and this is what is likely to happen in the actual world.

I don’t think this would be ideal for conservatism, since conservatism *would* become an echo chamber. And even leaving aside issues about why academia shouldn’t become an echo chamber for liberal views, I don’t even think this is the best strategy if you’re a liberal, since at least with dialogue liberals can influence conservatism for the better, whereas pushing all of them out would just create a more ideological, defensive enemy, with less cooperation going in both directions. So the better strategy would be to have open, constructive dialogue, given the *actual* circumstances of what is likely to ever happen to conservative views in the actual world.

Sorry, *end rant*!Report

Matt Weiner
Matt Weiner
Reply to  Ideal Observer
4 years ago

Unlike the case of racial segregationist views, traditional views about morality and religion are not just held in a peculiar geographic location under peculiar circumstances.

This seems like a historically dubious account of segregationist views.

unlike racial segregationist views, traditional views about morality and religion are *actually entailed* by certain sacred texts, and are an essential part of the world’s traditional religions

Even this is somewhat ahistorical. At the time many segregationists cited their religion as a basis for segregation, and religion was definitely cited as a justification for slavery, with as I understand it a fair bit of textual justification.

Now here you might argue that these readings were wrong, while you are correct to argue that what you describe as “traditional views about morality and religion” really are entailed by the texts. This may be true. But it’s also somewhat beside the point in this discussion, because what’s being questioned is not what reasons someone might have for supporting “traditional” views about morality and religion, but what reasons one might have for supporting a virulent racist who has encouraged violence against his political opponents and put forth the idea that his opponent should be assassinated and.. well, I could go on… and who also shows remarkably little concern for traditional views about morality and religion, particularly for a Republican nominee. In fact Justin was at pains not to cite Trump’s policy views, or anything that impinges on traditional morality or religion, and I don’t think Justin would’ve written the same post about philosophers endorsing Ted Cruz.

Now, one possible answer (as babygirl has suggested) is that you find Trump’s proposed Supreme Court appointments to be decisive. That seems like the reason about half the signatories who posted explanations gave. I think this understates just how awful Trump is, but then I don’t agree with them about the Supreme Court either, so I admit it’s hard for me to project myself into their shoes.Report

Ideal Observer
Ideal Observer
Reply to  Matt Weiner
4 years ago

Thanks Matt for the reply. Don’t have much time to respond in depth, but I think you pre-empted the general direction my replies would take to your questions well. So I think you understand where I’m coming from.

The point about him not being actually concerned about conservatism (religious, moral, or otherwise) is an important one, and I agree entirely. I think he is an awful candidate, and that this was probably one of the greatest mistakes Republicans have ever made. (FWIW, most academic conservatives that I know feel the same way.) Like you said, I think we are primarily concerned about the courts. I *believe* this is the primary concern Bonevac and Koons have, though I should not speak for them officially. Cannot speak for Soames.Report

the Onion Man
the Onion Man
4 years ago

You know, for a discipline that has struggled so mightily to stop being the handmaiden of theology (and, more recently, mathematics and physics), it is truly amazing to witness academic Philosophy bending over backwards to make itself the servant of the “Progressive” political agenda.Report

BecauseBeans
BecauseBeans
Reply to  the Onion Man
4 years ago

What are you even talking about?Report

Hey Nonny Mouse
Hey Nonny Mouse
Reply to  BecauseBeans
4 years ago

I think he’s talking about the way that considering arguments on their own merits can become secondary to affirming what is believed to be the correct political conclusions, or to promoting what is thought to be the right political action. The desire to advocate (a perfectly noble and appropriate desire in itself) can overwhelm the search for truth. If you visit any political forum, no matter which way it swings, you will see plenty of this. Philosophers have proved themselves not immune to this human tendency.Report

BecauseBeans
BecauseBeans
Reply to  Hey Nonny Mouse
4 years ago

Ah thank you, I was blinded by the false equivalences.

I think what troubles me the most about this discussion is the idea that there is “politics” and there is “philosophy”, as though philosophy is some rarefied discourse in the clouds and as though it were possible to gain an objectivity above the sordidness of it all. I don’t understand the popularity of the analytic turn – it really benefits the worst elements of the status quo when people pretend that we can lay down Chinese walls between the political, the personal, and the philosophical. Report

Hey Nonny Mouse
Hey Nonny Mouse
Reply to  BecauseBeans
4 years ago

I don’t know what this has to do with analytic philosophy. I am an analytic philosopher who advocates political change through my philosophical writings. Recognizing the impossibility of complete objectivity seems compatible with striving to understand as best we can. Avoiding hostility towards people with different views is not an abandonment of political commitments. If anything, it is a commitment to being politically constructive over not being politically constructive. If you want to change minds or to understand people better, you need to engage with them.Report

BecauseBeans
BecauseBeans
Reply to  Hey Nonny Mouse
4 years ago

That is fair enough, and I hope that there are many like you around. I also do not think that emotional discourse is completely incompatible with respect and engagement, especially where there is a lot at stake politically, and arguably unevenly so – people are implicated in a way that they may not be when debating between Rawls and Cohen, for example. I find it puzzling that ostensible impatience has become the target of analysis here rather than the rationality of voting for Trump – I find the sensitivity particularly ironic, but I respect that it’s happening.Report

Kathryn Pogin
Kathryn Pogin
4 years ago

I think it’s really strange people are equivocating support for Trump with conservatism. Most of the conservatives I know abhor Trump. Most of the Trump supporters I know do not identify as conservatives. Am I living in some particularly strange political landscape?Report

prime
prime
Reply to  Kathryn Pogin
4 years ago

Perhaps the confusion is due to charitably misunderstanding “conservatives” due to their long-running PR mission statements and sometimes convincing self-induced self-deception (see also “evangelicals”). For the last 50 years Republican “conservatives” have made it a central part of their party’s strategy to skillfully utilize racism.

(Please, any “conservatives” here, spare us the ridiculous gaslighting. The description above is based on your sources. See, e.g., Kevin Phillips, http://press.princeton.edu/titles/10352.html; and Lee Atwater, https://www.thenation.com/article/exclusive-lee-atwaters-infamous-1981-interview-southern-strategy/ .)

Indeed, the winning Clintons/DLC strategy of the ’90s involved slowing the outflow of “white working people” to the Republican Party by moving the Democrats “to the right” through imitation — namely, in adopting somewhat more restrained racist dogwhistles and “law and order” policies.

So the gravitation of “conservatives,” “evangelicals,” and “white working people” to Trump makes perfect sense, that is, when (at least the unabashed performance of) racism and xenophobia are motivating priorities. This does not mean that racism and xenophobia are motivating priorities for most Trump voters, though these voters obviously don’t much mind the association.Report

Alan White
Alan White
4 years ago

I can’t seem to reply to Matt W above directly for some reason–but I got that the gist of your reply was to Urstoff. Thanks!

And thanks to Justin for the USA Today link. Wow.Report

Pendaran Roberts
Pendaran Roberts
4 years ago

I worry this blog post is inappropriate Justin. It is overly harsh to fellow philosophers, who should have their political views respected, even if you disagree with them. Report

Pendaran Roberts
Pendaran Roberts
Reply to  Justin Weinberg
4 years ago

You realise that being respectful and polite to fellow philosophers is compatible with you worrying about the future of your country right? Report

Non-ideal Observer
Non-ideal Observer
Reply to  Pendaran Roberts
4 years ago

What exactly is disrespectful in the post? It says that some philosophers are voting for Trump, observes that he’s a terrible person, and asks why they’re voting for him. Maybe Justin thinks that no decent person would vote for Trump (I happen to think that myself), but Justin neither said nor implied that. And his question suggests that he’s open to rejecting that conclusion.Report

Patrick Lin
Reply to  Non-ideal Observer
4 years ago

Well, one thing that is /potentially/ disrespectful is outing someone as a supporter of X, when it’s not clear that was their intention, esp. given that it was on an obscure website. See convo above, started by Mohan Matthen.Report

KS
KS
Reply to  Pendaran Roberts
4 years ago

It’s always hard to work out what people mean by respecting someone’s view in this context. It’s pretty clear that everyone agrees that there are some political views that are beyond the pale and are apt targets for ridicule. The disagreement is always about where to draw the line. Merely being a ‘fellow philosopher’ doesn’t mean you get extra protection for scorn. Perhaps it even puts extra pressure on fellow philosophers to condemn the political idiocy (which is by the by).

Pendaran – in your reply you then go on to conflate respecting a view with respecting a person. You can respect a person whilst holding up their views for contempt. In fact, sometimes refusing to condemn a person’s view can be a way to disrespect them as a person: it’s a form of being patronizing.

I suspect what is really going on here is just that you, like Soames et al, have more respect for Trump than the rest of the learned world. Report

BecauseBeans
BecauseBeans
Reply to  KS
4 years ago

A lot of these pleas for “respect” seem to be asking for special deference and “safe space” for philosophers qua philosophers. The irony and entitlement of asking for respect in promoting a man who exhibits and promises respect to nobody but white males – and who is running to be the most powerful man in the United States and the world – is staggering. Report

babygirl
babygirl
Reply to  BecauseBeans
4 years ago

No one’s asking for a safe space where their views go unchallenged. What people are asking for is reasonable discourse, rather than shaming and outrage. What (alleged?) proponents of safe spaces and those who heap scorn (rather than reasoned arguments) on ideological opponents have in common is their repudiation of respectful, reasonable discussion of ideas.

Donald Trump obviously a part of the problem. Is it ironic to ask for reasonable discussion of an unreasonable person? I do not think so. It would be a sad state of affairs if our conversation had to sink to the level of those we were conversing about. Report

BecauseBeans
BecauseBeans
Reply to  babygirl
4 years ago

And yet a Trump win would degrade the quality of discourse of this whole nation to that “sad state of affairs”. This is not about ideas. This is about politics. There’s a lot of conflating of the two in this thread.

Happy to discuss with conservatives about differing policies, but support of Trump for POTUS qua Trump and not as a strategy for keeping Democrats out of power is pretty indefensible. Even conservatives recognize this and either repudiate Trump before getting with the party line or outright endorse Hillary. I don’t see why philosophers are such special snowflakes that when they support Trump qua Trump, it ontologically transforms support of Trump into something that is somehow operating at a different level.Report

babygirl
babygirl
Reply to  BecauseBeans
4 years ago

If Trump wins, it is just not the case that the entire nation’s discourse would sink to his level. To say otherwise is hyperbole. If Trump wins, we will have to listen to his rantings for another four years. But we are in no way constrained to engage in such rantings ourselves.

“This is not about ideas. This is about politics” … I am not sure what you mean. If you are implying that politics have practical effects and ideas do not, I take issue with that — non-political ideas can also have practical effects. Nothing in a call for respectful rational dialogue depends upon this issue just being about “ideas” rather than politics, or on the idea that there is not a lot at stake. Rather, *because* there is a lot at stake, it’s important that we can engage in reasonable discussion with each other. I also do not think philosophers are special in this regard. We should treat everyone with respect, right?

(As to the charge that even qualified support of Trump is “indefensible” — If you are hostile to hearing a defense, I’m going to take your claim that a defense is impossible to be ipso facto. In other words, if you were open to dialogue about Trump perhaps you might hear a reasonable defense.) Report

David Wallace
David Wallace
4 years ago

Is this really so surprising? Even though Trump isn’t a conservative, his election (which probably means unified GOP control of government) is likely to advance conservative domestic goals on social and economic policy very considerably relative to Clinton’s election: Trump will probably sign anything that Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell pass in Congress, and while he’s in no way guaranteed to appoint a conservative replacement to Scalia, he’s certainly a safer bet than Clinton in that regard. So if you share conservative domestic-policy goals, and you think they’re really important, you might well decide that they outweigh Trump’s non-policy/non-politics defects (and Justin’s list of Trump failings is confined to those). Conversely, in a hypothetical election between a Republican I personally admired and a Democrat I thought was an awful human being, I might well vote for the Democrat anyway.

For all that, I think conservative supporters of Trump are *still* making a serious mistake, because we have excellent reasons to think that Trump’s policies and approach to crisis management will seriously threaten the stability of the post-war international order, the norms of American democracy, and possibly world peace, and sensible conservatives ought to regard those as higher priority than their domestic agenda. (Note that virtually the entire Republican foreign-policy establishment openly opposes Trump.) But now we’re back to policy and politics, not just personal failings.Report

David Mathers
David Mathers
Reply to  David Wallace
4 years ago

I think that the truth is that many of the anti-Trump people here (but maybe not Justin from the original post) simply do not regard much of the prior domestic and foreign policy agenda of American conservatives as the sort of things people can reasonably and blameless support, and so don’t regard commitment to that agenda as the sort of thing which might justify voting for Trump despite all the ways in which he is manifestly awful. If that’s right, people should admit it, and admit to some risk that their judgment is distorted by the tribalism that affects all of us when we reason about politics. (And I do think it’s right about many Republican positions. Economic policies is extremely complex, but it’s pretty clear that, separate from that. American conservatism is strongly associated with no-nothing religious fundamentalism, anti-gay bigotry, climate denial and I don’t think there’s much reasonable doubt that any of those are bad. Perhaps there are other good conservative ideas that justify voting for a scary racist demagogue, given the alternative, but insofar as people are motivated to the kind of view I described by those features of Republicanism and the American Conservative movement, it seems not unreasonable.)
Report

David Mathers
David Mathers
Reply to  David Mathers
4 years ago

Ugh, ‘know-nothing’, not ‘no-nothing’ obviously! Report

David Wallace
David Wallace
Reply to  David Mathers
4 years ago

That sounds fairly plausible – but then, the right question is: “why are some philosophers as strongly in favour of conservative domestic policy priorities, as many philosophers are in favour of progressive domestic policy priorities?” Given that there are some philosophers with strongly pro-conservative domestic politics, it’s not so astonishing that they support Trump – how many liberals would hold their noses and vote for a personally ghastly Democratic nominee if the alternative was, say, Roe vs Wade and gay marriage being overturned, and Medicaid abolished?Report

David Mathers
David Mathers
Reply to  David Wallace
4 years ago

Quite a lot in fairness. But I don’t think it’s completely symmetric, because, dues to climate issues, any Republican victory over a Democrat always raises at least one type of really dreadful risk a lot, even if the Republican, like Romney, does not seem temperamentally unsuited to the job. So an election with a crazy unstable Democrat and Romney would, at the moment be a choice between which really super dreadful apocalyptic outcomes to raise the risk of, in a way that the current contest is not (unless perhaps you think Clinton is more likely to get into a shooting war in the Baltics, which maybe isn’t *totally* unreasonable.)

But I guess the relevant case is maybe ‘in 20 years, when we surprisingly discovered magic technology that solves all our climate issues would you vote for a crazy Democrat to save Roe v. Wade, and medicaid and gay marriage. And then, I guess, yes, many of those attacking Trump voters would. Report

PeterJ
PeterJ
4 years ago

David

…”For all that, I think conservative supporters of Trump are *still* making a serious mistake, because we have excellent reasons to think that Trump’s policies and approach to crisis management will seriously threaten the stability of the post-war international order, the norms of American democracy, and possibly world peace,…”

As compared with some ideal presumably, for I doubt he can do any worse in these areas than some of his predecessors. Report

David Wallace
David Wallace
Reply to  PeterJ
4 years ago

That he *can* do worse is obvious: he could get into a shooting war with a nuclear power; he could withdraw from NATO or repudiate NATO security guarantees. That these are real rather than theoretical possibilities also seems pretty obvious given his statements at various points on the campaign trail, but a Daily Nous comment thread probably isn’t the place to make that argument.Report

Hey Nonny Mouse
Hey Nonny Mouse
4 years ago

By the way, I’d like to take a moment to thank Justin for all the work he has done to facilitate discussion between philosophers who disagree, including those who disagree on politics. As we (rightly) discuss the difficulties of political discussions between philosophers with different views, Justin has done a lot to facilitate such discussion through this site.Report

David
David
4 years ago

As a “3rd Party” advocate, I personally don’t care.
But I get the feeling that if there had been a similar letter of “academics who support Hillary” it wouldn’t have even occurred to Daily Nous editors (or many readers perhaps) to question why philosophers support her. So it’s interesting to me that this is even an issue, though I guess all editors gotta have content.Report

Eric Rasmusen
Eric Rasmusen
4 years ago

It’s pretty clear that Hillary Clinton gave special favors to a Russian company in exchange for million-dollar donations to the Clinton Foundation. For a summary, see:

http://www.breitbart.com/hillary-clinton/2016/05/01/one-year-silence-hillary-clinton-uranium-deal/

For a story so long that I suspect the NYT editors tried to make it so long the readers would give up or miss the forest for the trees, see:

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/04/24/us/cash-flowed-to-clinton-foundation-as-russians-pressed-for-control-of-uranium-company.html
Report

Mohan Matthen
Reply to  Eric Rasmusen
4 years ago

You’re citing Peter Schweizer on Breitbart as evidence for your claim? That’s amusing. You also cite the NY Times, but the two stories don’t say the same thing. Here are two claims in particular that are not made by the NYT as far as I can see: “–Nine shareholders in Uranium One just happened to provide more than $145 million in donations to the Clinton Foundation in the run-up to State Department approval;” and your own claim (not even made by Schweizer on Breitbart): “Hillary Clinton gave special favors to a Russian company in exchange for million-dollar donations to the Clinton Foundation.”Report

Matt Weiner
Matt Weiner
Reply to  Eric Rasmusen
4 years ago

I mentioned that story above, Eric. That deal had to be approved by at least eight departments other than State, and several other agencies as well, and even Schweitzer admits that he has no evidence that Clinton intervened with the State Department’s representative on the committee that had to approve the deal (who said that Clinton never intervened with him on anything to do with the committee). See http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/statements/2016/jun/30/donald-trump/donald-trump-inaccurately-suggests-clinton-got-pai/ The “forest” that’s concealed in the excessive detail of the NYTimes story is that there isn’t actually any evidence of wrongdoing on Clinton’s part.

In any case, if you care about charity-related malfeasance, you certainly shouldn’t vote for Trump, whose “charity” appears to be a scheme into which he funnels some of his income without paying proper taxes on it. He then uses it to pay fines and settle lawsuits for his private businesses, as well as to make an illegal political contribution to a state attorney general who went on to drop an investigation into one of his other fraudulent businesses. Oh, and it’s not even registered as a charity that’s allowed to take donations. Read what David Fahrenthold’s been reporting.Report

Eric Rasmusen
Eric Rasmusen
4 years ago

I signed on to the Scholars and Writers statement, but I’ve never published in philosophy (though I’ve presented at a conference and seminar and have some papers on philosophy of religion and on Han Fei Tzu in progress). If you’re interested in an economist like me giving some justification, let me know and I’ll write a guest blog post for you to criticize. Report

Nonesuch
Nonesuch
4 years ago

This is interesting with respect to soames and politics – he is mentioned at the end.

https://pjmedia.com/rogerlsimon/2015/3/23/krauthammer-for-president/Report

BecauseBeans
BecauseBeans
4 years ago

I can’t reply to babygirl for some reason, but I am distinguishing between politics – which is about interests as well as ideas – and ideas unqualifiedly, which can have impacts but are seldom so immediate or as motivated as politics. In politics, it is justifiable and relevant to question interests; in ideas-focused discourse motivated reasoning may either be less relevant or considered so.
Supporting Trump unequivocally is indefensible in the sense that while his misogyny and racism and their direct impact on his approach to policies should raise questions for many, his approach to foreign policy should cause even people who are not affected by the above to consider self-interest and longterm stability. I’m open to hearing what “qualified” support might be.Report

mhl
mhl
4 years ago

We are $20 trillion in debt. Huge number of baby boomers are leaving the workforce and drawing social security/medicare. Those still in the workforce are having harder time finding work because certain jobs are becoming obsolete and other jobs face stiffer competition from workers abroad. You can have opinions about policies or candidates, but the statements above cannot be denied.

It can therefore be reasonable for a person who is sufficiently concerned about our long term fiscal solvency to vote for a person like Trump. Other traditional politicians – even Clinton – just kick the can down the road, and Trump is our best chance to fix the problem before it becomes unfixable.

Now he’s also our best chance for nuclear war, climate destruction, etc., but everyone can have their own subjective odds of those things occurring. My point is, it is a fallacy to think that if we simply get all the smart people in the room that we must all eventually converge to the same reasonable position.Report

Matt Weiner
Matt Weiner
Reply to  mhl
4 years ago

“It can therefore be reasonable for a person who is sufficiently concerned about our long term fiscal solvency to vote for a person like Trump. Other traditional politicians – even Clinton – just kick the can down the road, and Trump is our best chance to fix the problem before it becomes unfixable.”

But Trump proposes a $9.5 trillion dollar tax cut without having come up with nearly the amount of spending cuts that would be required to offset it. How does he provide any chance to deal with our long term fiscal solvency?

It is in any case quite disputable whether the long-term fiscal picture is a crisis requiring drastic action, and outright false that people still in the workforce are having a harder time finding work than in recent times.Report

mhl
mhl
Reply to  Matt Weiner
4 years ago

I have had trouble replying to this – not sure what the glitch is.

Anyway, the labor force participation rate is a better measure than the unemployment rate (unemployment rate doesn’t include people who are so fed up not being able to find a job that they quit looking. And the labor force participation has an ugly downward slope for the last decade.

I agree with you about Trump’s proposal being no better at solving our solvency issues. But those voting for Trump will be willing to look the other way because they are betting that the outsider will figure it out once in office.Report

Tom
Tom
Reply to  mhl
4 years ago

Neither is straightforward. Everyone who retires counts against the labor force participation rate. As does everyone in college. And even juniors and seniors in high school. So one way we could end up with an ugly downward slope in the labor force participation rate is by lots of people retiring, staying in school, and going to school for longer, while the people who *aren’t* doing those things remain employed at the same (or even slightly higher) rates.

But it’s not at all likely that retirements or school attendance have increased in the last decade, is it?Report

mhl
mhl
Reply to  Tom
4 years ago

Tom I sense your question is a rhetorical one – sorry if I misinterpret, which happens online. But your rhetorical question makes my point.

Yes, lots of people retiring. Many boomers retiring and fewer young folks replacing them is not a good thing for the economy.

Yes, young people staying in school. But why? There’s actually a fair amount of literature on this. It isn’t because physics PhD’s and law degrees have suddenly become hip.
Report

Matt Weiner
Matt Weiner
Reply to  mhl
4 years ago

mhl, you specifically said “Those still in the workforce are having harder time finding work.” Labor force participation isn’t relevant to that question, because it by definition measures how many people have dropped out of the workforce. The various measures of unemployment measure how many of the people still in the workforce (for whatever reason) have jobs.

But it’s true that that’s a nitpick; labor force participation is an indication that we might not be at full employment. (The prime-age employment-to-population ratio is recovering but still not all the way back from the hit it took in the Great Recession.) The link to “fiscal solvency” is dubious at best, though, and it definitely seems like a low-percentage move to try to fix it by electing the guy who was complaining about how the Fed chair was “being political” by keeping interest rates low enough to keep unemployment down, as if that weren’t her job.

Fundamentally, though, this whole discussion misses the point. Even if someone thinks Trump’s fiscal and economic policies are better than Hillary’s, do they think that outweighs his racism, compulsive lying, easily provoked volcanic temper, ignorance, and so on and so on? That seems like a skewed moral calculus.Report

mhl
mhl
Reply to  Matt Weiner
4 years ago

Agreed.Report

PeterJ
PeterJ
4 years ago

Perhaps the debate on Trump is as a useful reminder that no political system is perfect. It will always depend on having good people in the right places. Political reform is useless unless it is accompanied by a change in the values and attitudes of the people, For all his faults Trump does not seem to be suggesting any kind of reform, just an acceleration of the trend.

As a Brit I find Trump almost implausible. As a Presidential candidate he is stranger than fiction. Yet I can’t help thinking that he may be doing a lot of good by accident, much in the same way that Dawkins inadvertently does a lot of good for religion. Report

Carissa
Carissa
4 years ago

I debated whether to even post this in the first place since I think the Daily Nous and Justin have been a powerful force for the betterment of our discipline, and I also generally find the criticisms leveled at Justin in terms of partisanship overblown. But I feel so strongly that civil discourse is critical, not just for this election, but for our political system generally that I feel compelled to take a stand here.

As a liberal myself who comes from a conservative evangelical family, this post exemplifies what many conservatives find worrisome about academia and liberal professors: they think they simply shut down or mock views that don’t align with their own values. I agree with Justin that Trump is no ordinary candidate (and the conservative evangelicals I know agree and are just as horrified by Trump as I am). But if you are as worried as I am about the prospects of a Trump presidency, calling out certain philosophers and demanding they account for themselves does not reduce that likelihood; given the initial post and many of the comments, if I were one of those called out, I certainly wouldn’t feel that this was any legitimate call to engagement. But real engagement with those we disagree with, even very fundamentally, is desperately missing in our system now–this is part of what has allowed the major parties to effectively ignore the concerns of many for so many years, and enabled the rise of someone like Donald Trump in the first place.

Of course, I am not so naïve to think that engagement is THE solution, but it seems important that REAL engagement (that is, truly being willing to try to understand and dialogue) is a prerequisite for convincing anyone. As the initial post reads, this seems like just the expression of anger and not like anything useful in actually convincing people not to vote for Trump. I don’t think of Trump supporters as my students, of course, but I think it’s worth thinking about how I would engage with a student voting for Trump. I certainly wouldn’t angrily demand that he/she justify herself to me; instead, I would more carefully raise concerns and try to enter into a dialogue with him/her. This is not just because I have concerns about the autonomy of my students or because I don’t think there are some views that are beyond the pale; it is because I think attempting to charitably engage even those we fundamentally disagree with or don’t understand is the only way to make progress. If I make it clear I have no real interest in trying to understand your concerns or reasoning, it’s not surprising if you have no interest in engaging with me.

This is something I have given a lot of thought to in the classroom, since I have taught some pretty controversial issues (particularly around race/ethnicity and gender) and I have had students express things to me that I take to be explicitly racist and sexist. My first instinct is to express outrage. But lecturing them on how racist it is doesn’t get us anywhere; they may never express the racist thought to me again, but the underlying racist justification is likely untouched. Far better (or so I think, at least) to engage them in dialogue about why they think that and raise objections to the underlying assumptions. This may not work, of course, but chances of success are better than by simply calling them out.

[Sidenote: I am white, so I recognize that I have privilege that allows me to ability to respond in this way, although, as a woman, I also try to respond to sexist comments this way. I don’t mean to claim that all teachers have a duty to respond in this way, of course, and teachers certainly have some duties to students that the general public does not have to one another. But if we choose to engage in a public forum, I think it is counterproductive, at best, to simply call out people in a way that implies they simply are beyond the pale.]Report

Matt Weiner
Matt Weiner
4 years ago

Jamelle Bouie has some thoughts that are worth reading on the idea that we shouldn’t condemn Trump voters:
https://twitter.com/jbouie/status/784949288958779392
https://twitter.com/jbouie/status/785075454579539968

Carissa, this isn’t meant as a response to you. I agree that it’s entirely likely that condemnation isn’t the most effective way to persuade people (and I will say that as someone from a liberal Jewish family living with an academic job in an liberal city in an ultraliberal state, I don’t talk to as many Trump supporters as you probably do). But, as philosophers, we deal with ideal theory a lot, and I think it’s important that we not delude ourselves about whether supporting Trump is wrong. Report

Dale Miller
Reply to  Dale Miller
4 years ago

I’m left wondering how much Bonevac actually knows about Trump. For example, he writes that “The Obama-Clinton policy requires us to push traditional allies away and seek relationships with avowed enemies. ” But it’s Trump who wants to push away traditional NATO allies and seek relationships with an unfriendly governments in Russia.Report

Derek Bowman
Reply to  Dale Miller
4 years ago

Bonevac’s piece includes a number of claims about failed policies under Obama which might be plausible enough except for his implication that somehow these issues (e.g. instability in the Middle East; economic recession) were any better served by the previous administration. But when it comes time to offer a positive account of what is worth supporting in a Trump presidency, he claims:

“Trump has been giving serious speeches detailing his vision on the economy, foreign policy, crime, immigration and other central issues facing the country.”

What exactly are these serious proposals, and when has Trump talked about them? Why doesn’t Bonevac take the opportunity in his oped to lay out some of those proposals and Trump’s serious plans to make them a reality? Report

Mike
Mike
3 years ago

Regarding Soames: He is going to pay higher Federal Income Tax if Trump’s tax proposal is enacted. I estimate that between State Income Tax (7.5%) and Property Tax, Soames will lose $25k or more in deductions (netting at least a $3k increase in taxes).

I encourage Soames to update us on his position regarding the tax increase for most property owning white color professionals in California.

Dummett’s coverage of Frege’s private writings in the Intoduction of “Frege’s Philosophy of Language” came to mind when I heard about Soames. Perhaps if Frege had lived longer to see how ugly the side he endorsed became, and come to understand the importance of his legacy, his views may have changed. Soames still has time. While Soames’ questionable judgment is likely not as egregious as Frege’s, it is in his economic interest, and in the interest of his legacy, to clarify or revise his position.Report