Liberal Arts

Economics – Law – Philosophy – etc.

“Don’t Be Evil”

May 1, 2004 | 42 comments
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Unless you have been spelunking for several days, you have heard a lot more about Google recently than you ever wanted to know. (Of course, if you want to know even more, I invite you to check out my other blog where I have been writing about Google ever since the filing.) This event has attracted so much commentary because Google has provided so much fodder. Most importantly, the founders wrote a letter — “‘An Owner’s Manual’ for Google’s Shareholders” — that has struck a chord with many who fancy themselves as part of a “corporate social responsibility”... Read more »

A Contract Theodicy

April 30, 2004 | 40 comments
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A theodicy is a justification of the ways of God to man. Most frequently, the term is used in discussions of the problem of evil. Succinctly stated this problem goes like this: 1. God is all powerful 2. God is Good 3. Evil things happen 4. God can and should prevent these evil things (from 1 & 2) I don’t want to get into all of the intricacies of this debate. Generally speaking, Mormons “solve” the problem by in effect denying (1), claiming that there are metaphysical as opposed to merely logical limitations on God’s power. It strikes me,... Read more »

The Value of Liberal Education

April 30, 2004 | 14 comments
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Between Julie’s post and this week’s challenge of composing the syllabus for the Introduction to Philosophy course I am teaching this fall, I am haunted by the question: Is knowledge good in itself? I have set myself up to be an educator, but many of the criticisms of public education we delivered in response to Julie’s post seem disturbingly relevant to most college education as well; do you agree? And even if knowledge is good in itself, how far should knowledge for its own sake be the goal of a philosophy course required of every student at a given... Read more »

Quick Newdow Note

April 21, 2004 | no comments
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The Case Against (Temporal) Perfection

April 17, 2004 | 18 comments
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In this month’s Atlantic magazine, Michael J. Sandel makes the case against perfection. Last month we had a vigorous discussion about “Enhancing Nature,” which focused on the use of medical technology (or herbal remedies) to enhance physical appearance. Sandel talks about similar issues (muscle enhancement, memory enhancement, growth-hormone treatment, and reproductive technologies that enable parents to choose the sex and some genetic traits of their children), but focuses on gene therapy. Interestingly, he connects these debates to the topic of human agency. Read more »

Belief and Practice

April 15, 2004 | 40 comments
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I said, “I don’t think that belief is central to LDS religion: it is important only as part of the practice of religion, not in itself,” and Susan asked, “Are you saying that LDS religion helps you to practice religion better and live better than you would otherwise?” Good question. Read more »

A new old voice in the Bloggernacle

April 14, 2004 | 2 comments
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Ever wonder what Brother Joseph was up to on this very day, 170 years ago? Here’s hoping that Dave can carry us all the way through to 2014. Read more »

The Real Issue

April 14, 2004 | 145 comments
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What follows is a post on homosexuality. I am deeply sorry about this, because by and large I think that this is a very stale topic. Accordingly, I hope that any discussion that follows this post will focus on the particular questions that I pose, rather than spinning off into another SSM free for all. Read more »

The Quandry of the Sugar Beets

April 7, 2004 | 90 comments
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I think that I have finally isolated the great symbol of a recent set of intellectual and spiritual quandaries that I have found myself working through of late. I am not talking about polygamy, Adam-God, or blood atonement. I have in mind an even more challenging remnant of our past: sugar beets. Read more »

Brigham’s Attack on Communal Economics

March 24, 2004 | 16 comments
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One of my most prized worldly possessions is a complete set of the Journal of Discourses. I love these books. I love the way that they look. It probably has something to do with my fascination with law books, which they closely resemble. I also love the sermons. They are a wonderful mass of exhortation, speculation, advice, brow beating, and occasionally sublime testimony. They also have a wonderful ability to surprise you. A couple of Sundays ago, I pulled down a volume at random and started reading a sermon. (I do this from time to time.) While I was... Read more »

Arresting Ministers

March 16, 2004 | 4 comments
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The State of New York is charging two Unitarian Universalist ministers with a misdemeanor for solemnizing a marriage without a liscense. (Story here) The Unitarians have long granted gay couples religious unions, but they have not exercised the power delegated to them by the state to create legal marriages. Given the ubiquitious comparisons between the gay marriage legal kerfuffle and the anti-polygamy crusades, is there a parallell here? Read more »

Woman charged with murder for refusing C-section

March 12, 2004 | 22 comments
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Hey, all you legal eagles! Somebody please explain what in the world the Utah D.A. who’s charging Melissa Rowland with murder for refusing a cesaearean section could be thinking. Read more »

The Mormon Jesus

March 11, 2004 | 17 comments
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I tried to ask this question earlier, in the context of The Passion, but it pretty quickly got lost in another round of beating the moribund R-rated movies horse. So I’ll ask again, without the attempt at pop-culture referentiality. How has Mormon Christology changed in the last half-century or so? And why? Read more »

The Political Limits of Agency

March 9, 2004 | 42 comments
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Mormons frequently invoke the idea of “agency” (whatever that means) in political discussions. We generally invoke it in liberal ways, as a justification for not regulating some for of behavior. What I want to question is this easy link between “agency” and liberalism. In the formulation given by John Stuart Mill, liberalism invokes freedom as a reason to abstain from regulating self-regarding activity. I think that when Mormons invoke the idea of “agency” to make liberal arguments they generally do so in some sort of a vaguely Millian way. However, given the theological uses to which the concept of... Read more »

The Progression and Perfection of God

March 9, 2004 | 48 comments
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I’ve been thinking recently about how to reconcile the two ideas of the perfection of God and the principle of eternal progression. We read that God is perfect; and therefore we may think that he has reached some end point or finish line in his progression. At the same time, we read that as God is now, man may become, and we are told that our exaltation will involve eternal progression; these two ideas, read together, suggest that God continues to progress. (Query: Does this refer to the Father? The Son? Both? Since we believe that the God we... Read more »

Charity and the Ex Post/Ex Ante Dilemma

March 5, 2004 | 35 comments
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We are supposed to help those who are in need. The scriptures seem to be quite clear about this. And that, of course, is the problem. I have phrased the issue in what legal theorists call the ex post perspective. We take need as given and the morally relevant question is what our response to the need should be. Our decision is seen as being an after-the-fact (in this case the fact is need) event. The problem, of course, is that we can also look at our decision from what legal theorists call an ex ante perspective. Rather than... Read more »

Righteous or Wicked?

March 5, 2004 | 28 comments
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I once asked a sage I know, “Do Mormons believe the nature of man is good or evil?” He answered, “Yes.” How wonderful, how zenny, how true. Read more »

The Passion vs. The Last Temptation

March 2, 2004 | 78 comments
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(I blush to confess that) I’m old enough to remember the release of The Last Temptation of Christ. While there was some discussion of the film in the student ward I attended, I don’t remember it being nearly as big a kerfuffle (or “brou-hahr-hahr” as they say around here) as The Passion has been. I’m sure that not nearly as many Mormons saw The Last Temptation as will see The Passion. I can think of several possible reasons for this: Read more »

Problematic Pedagogy

February 26, 2004 | 52 comments
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Modern writers, readers, and movie viewers know that flawless (human) characters are boring, not inspiring. So why do we portray our church leaders this way? Read more »

Civic Religion – Again

February 25, 2004 | 13 comments
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For those not aware of the fact, the Supreme Court handed down its decision in Locke v. Davey a few hours ago, holding that it did not violate the Free Exercise Clause for the State of Washington to exempt divinity degree applicants from an otherwise available scholarship fund. I am not going to comment here on the opinion itself, but there was a line from Justice Scalia’s dissent that brought to mind an earlier discussion here at T&S on civic religion. Read more »

Deserving One’s Wages

February 23, 2004 | 14 comments
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Russell’s qualified repudiation of the idea that all those with a six-figure salary are on their way to hell has got me thinking about wages and what one can deserve. Read more »

Mormons and Lord Devlin

February 13, 2004 | 5 comments
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When Mormons get up set about things like abortion, pornography, SSM, constitutional prohibitions on anti-sodomy laws, and the like they frequently talk about how these kinds of developments threaten to undermine society’s “moral fabric.” However, I don’t think that we have been sufficiently reflective about this rhetoric. I think that Lord Devlin can help us understand why. Read more »

Et in unam catholicam et apostolicam ecclesiam?

February 13, 2004 | 8 comments
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Hey. I keep noticing all kinds of references to Catholic thought around here. Is this a new trend in Mormon studies? The influence of _First Things_? A preoccupation of Mormon lawyers? A fluke coincidence of personal interests? What? Read more »

What is “Church Doctrine” Good For?

February 9, 2004 | 14 comments
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The discussion of “church doctrine” on this blog has thus far focused on what might be called its soteriological significance. However, it seems to me that this is hardly the only reason that one might want to be able to understand “church doctrine.” Read more »