This is the second post in my series on the metaphysics of race. To start at the beginning, go to the Introduction post.
Biological race realism was the dominant view from the time of the slave trade until the mid-20th century. What a lot of people don't realize is that it was not really even a view until the modern period, starting around the time of 18th century German philosopher Immanuel Kant, who contributed to its development as a view. The ancient Mediterranean region that gave birth to what we call the Western tradition did not have a concept of race, as we understand that term today. They certainly distinguished between different cultural ethnicities and political nations. They didn't unify all people with a certain skin color and other external features as belonging to one group called a race, however. It wasn't really until the European slave trade that there was a European concept of race the way we use that term today. That doesn't by itself mean that there isn't something that our race terms refer to. It doesn't mean that there isn't something biological that our race terms refer to. After all, we didn't have a concept of electrons until modern chemistry, and that term still refers to a scientific reality. We didn't have a concept of DNA until 70 years ago, but that still refers to a biological reality. So the mere fact that the modern concept of race developed fairly recently in the grand scheme of things is not a good argument that there is no such thing as race. So let's take a look at the modern concept of race that developed.
As I said, the modern biological view of race developed during the time Europeans were trying to justify their practice of enslaving Africans. There is no question that the intention of justifying slavery was part of why they wanted to classify people in racial groups. Immanuel Kant puts it to that use explicitly, although his later work gives some indications that he may well have changed his mind completely on the permissibility of enslaving Africans. We will have to come back to that issue later. The fact that racial categories formed with immoral and unfactual claims as part of it plays a large role in some anti-realist arguments, so keep it in mind.
On the classic biological realist view, races can simply be read off the facts of our biology. There are a few different ways people have tried this, but the early view was before anyone knew anything about DNA. One common notion was the idea of a racial essence, whereby something in your makeup includes this essence that you have because of your membership in a certain racial group, and all members of that group will therefore have certain features by being in that group. Some of these proposed features within racial essences would be easily recognized today as being racist. They included intelligence, moral capabilities, and even moral worth as part of what the racial essence determines. So slavery could be justified if black Africans have lower intelligence and can't decide on their own what makes a good life for themselves, are unable to partake in a moral community as equals, and are not of the same value that other people are. The views that you will find if you look at the primary sources on this from that period would place the different racial groups into hierarchies in terms of who has more intelligence, moral capability, and moral worth and then who has less, and there will be different levels on that hierarchy for different races.
I think it's also important to point out that these early writings on race did not usually state exactly the same groups we call races today. Some of them were more fine-tuned, corresponding more to groups we would call ethnicities today. Some of them were broader and focused more on color and broader geographical regions. It isn't really until the 20th century that you got a solidification into the categories we now see as the races today. In fact, there is good evidence that there was a fight about whether Irish and Italian people in the United States would count as white. I think a lot of people overstate this, including the most influential book on the issue, but there were people who wanted to refuse Italian and Irish immigrants the ability to consider themselves white. Some of our best sources on this thought that idea was utterly ludicrous, however, which makes me think the mainstream view at the time did consider them white. In any case, these categories changed over the course of the development of the modern concept of race. There was a court case in the middle of the 19th century that concluded that "black" meant non-white, and so Chinese people were black. The same court also declared that Chinese people were American Indians because of the expectation from the land bridge theory that the two groups had common ancestry. This court case set a murderer free, because the race of witnesses was at issue, since only white witnesses counted by California law at that time. There were inconsistent rulings in the early 20th century on whether Arabs, Armenians, and Syrians counted as white. In 1922 the Supreme Court declared that a Japanese immigrant was not white, because "white means Caucasian," but then in a subsequent case when an Indian immigrant argued that Indians from the Punjabi region were Caucasian based on the original use of that term, the Supreme Court said no. That sense of "Caucasian" has to do with linguistic roots, and the racial one has to do with skin color. People's citizenship was at stake in these decisions. 65 people who had become naturalized citizens actually lost it because of that case. (I should note that this case is sometimes misrepresented, however. It's not that only white people could become citizens, and everyone else was forced outside citizenship. It's that only white and black people could become citizens, and those who were in between those two groups on the hierarchy of the time were not allowed to become naturalized citizens.)
So there's a complicated development of where our racial categories came from, and that will play a role in the idea of a social construction when we come to that. So hold on to this information as relevant data. But the main idea that had developed by the early 20th century is relatively clear and consistent. People were conceiving of race as a biological category. There was a whole "science" of race that formed trying to justify the different notions of a racial essence and how it led to both the variations we actually see (skin color, hair type, bone structure, facial shape) and the variations people just made up (intelligence differences, character differences, moral capabilities, moral worth). They developed a branch of pseudoscience called phrenology that measured skulls and drew conclusions about intelligence. In the 19th century they thought percentages of racial something or other would be found in blood, and they took talk of how much blood you had of a certain racial group to be getting at something literally correct in science. It was a startling revelation to discover in 1900 that blood types do not track with racial categories. They had to reconceive of what racial essences were supposed to be, but that notion continued on as what was seen as a scientific idea until the discovery of DNA five decades later.
But here is the core idea of biological racial realism. Races can be read off biology. That's it. That's the main thesis. You can do your biology and look at different people, and biology will simply tell you which races there are. They threw all sorts of other things into it, many of them racist, some of them perhaps not so much. But the core idea was that the racial lines are written into nature. In the concepts of philosophy, races are a natural kind. The idea of a natural kind goes back at least to Plato, who spoke of certain ways of thinking as carving nature at its joints, whereas other ways of thinking do not line up with the way things are actually organized in nature. Electrons are a genuine category in nature, because nature is already divided along lines of fundamental particles, such as protons, electrons, quarks, and leptons. We don't bring that to nature. It's already there. Plumbers, on the other hand, are not a natural kind. We divide people into plumbers and non-plumbers. That's a social category, not a biological one. You couldn't know if someone is a plumber by looking at their DNA or other biological features.
For a more controversial case but one that is very familiar to many of us, biological sex is natural in this sense, because that has to do with several elements really present in nature -- X chromosomes, Y chromosomes, sexual organs of different types, and so on. The fact that we have some cases that don't as clearly fit into the male-female binary is irrelevant to this issue. If I get into sex/gender issues in a later series of blog posts, maybe I can deal with that. But the important point here is that biological sex categories look at stuff that is actually in nature to form the divisions into categories, whereas classifying people according to how they dress, what activities they engage in, what pronouns they prefer you to use for them, and so on does not categorize people in biological ways. It categorizes people in terms of social behavior, internal desires, or expectations we bring to the table. But looking at X-chromosomes, the presence of ovaries or testicles, and so on is looking at genuinely biological phenomena.
So what biological thing is it that races are supposed to be, on the biological racial realist view? Until we discovered DNA, people thought it was fairly obvious. There is some racial essence that explains the obvious physical appearance differences between the races. And they also thought it would explain the other differences, the ones we today would say are racist. But once DNA was discovered, it no longer made sense to think there is a racial essence. I will present that argument in more detail when we get to social kinds, but the basic argument is this. One of the main reasons scientists stopped believing in biological races in the middle of the 20th century is that sub-species groups in other species have a much higher degree of variation between groups than human sub-populations do, What counted as a race or a sub-species group was a group much more distinct genetically than human racial groups are. Human racial groups are far more diverse within themselves than the amount of diversity between groups. The amount of variation between racial groups is tiny compared to the amount of diversity within each race. To put it another way, if you looked at the overall amount of diversity in humanity, and then you looked at how much of that diversity appears in each racial group, it would be almost all of it. The few traits that are distinctive of each racial group are surface-level and relatively insignificant biologically. There is an arbitrariness to them, biologically speaking. They don't seem to carve nature at the joints. So biologists simply concluded that there are no races, biologically speaking. And this is like the 1950s, when DNA was discovered. The civil rights era is only at its beginning at this point, with Brown v Board in place but much still to come.
But when philosophers finally decided to come back to this question in the 1990s, the first thrust of work in this area came to the same conclusion. It followed the science and recognized that the classic racial realist view grounded in biology did not work. If race is biological, and there are no biological races, then there are no races at all. So we will look at the anti-realist view in the next post.
This is my first post in a series on the metaphysics of race. There is a list of all the posts in the series, with links.
I've wanted for a long time to do a blog series on the metaphysics of race, which is my primary area of research. This is what I wrote my Ph.D. dissertation on, which has now been published as a book and has entered the current discussion among philosophers on race. I've been teaching this issue since 2004, and I've finally gotten to a point where I have a set of readings that I really like for introductory classes, and the main content I teach has coalesced into a stable form that I am using every semester now instead of trying something, getting frustrated by it, and not trying it again for a few semesters. I'm finally getting around to turning it into a blog series, because the covid-19 distance learning required me to type up my class lectures into a presentable form, so I now have a set of written materials that I can convert into a bloggable format. So here we go.
There are a number of philosophical issues related to race, but the topic here is the metaphysics of race, which just means looking at the nature of what (if anything) race is. In philosophy, metaphysics is just the nature of reality. It looks at questions about what kinds of things there are and what we can say about them. Metaphysics includes whether God exists, what kind of being God is if God does exist, whether we have immaterial souls that could survive death, whether we have free will and if so what free will even is, whether free will is compatible with being predetermined or with an omniscience being knowing what we will do, whether time travel is possible, the nature of space and time, whether a computer or AI can understand or be conscious, what it means for one thing to cause another thing, and lots of other important questions worth thinking about philosophically. Is a hole, a ditch, or a dent a real thing? Or is it just the absence of certain things or some other thing being formed in a certain way? Is there something about the nature of reality that explains why moral truths are true? These are all metaphysical questions.
But metaphysics also includes a number of questions that we sometimes classify under social philosophy, such as what it means to fall under the category of being a man or being a woman. Questions of sex, gender, gender identity, and gender expression are metaphysical questions (ones with serious ethical implications, but whether a transwoman is a woman is a metaphysical question, and which pronouns we should use for a transgender person or how we should treat such a person are ethical questions; some questions of social philosophy are metaphysics, and some are ethics, and what you say about some of those questions might affect what you say about others). What it means to have a disability and whether that means something is missing or distorted that ought to be present but is not involves metaphysical questions. Are all differences mere differences, or is there some aspect of reality that makes certain differences worse in some sense? Are there certain ways of being that are worse or better than other ways of being? These are all metaphysical questions about the social realm, involving questions about the nature of the categories we use, such as sex, gender, or disability.
So what about race? We can ask what sort of thing races are, assuming they even exist. Are there even such things as races? If so how would we figure out what kind of things they are? Those are the fundamental questions in the metaphysics of race.
There have been three main approaches to this question since philosophers started applying their concepts to the subject, which wasn’t all that long ago. The first attempt in recent times that I’m aware of by a philosopher was the early 1990s by Kwame Anthony Appiah, although others had used philosophical categories to answer this question long before that, and philosophers of earlier times did explicitly raise this question. In the most famous cases, they did so through lenses that most of us would now consider pretty distorted. Before Appiah, English-speaking philosophy as a whole would probably not even have seen this as a philosophical question and certainly would not have wanted to treat it as metaphysics. Even now, it's probably not going to be found in most lists of metaphysical questions, although most philosophers now recognize it to be a genuinely philosophical question. But most would see it not as a fundamental question of metaphysics but as a question of applied metaphysics, the same way theories about what morality is all about would be ethical theory and then questions about abortion might be applied ethics. But if you go back a couple hundred years, the 20th century exclusion of questions of race from philosophy would seem strange. Immanuel Kant was perhaps the most influential philosopher in continental Europe in his time, and he spent many pages writing about race. Indeed, many historians of the race concept place him as one of the most important thinkers to have developed the modern concept of race.
The three main approaches metaphysicians of race today present are the biological realist view, the social realist view, and the anti-realist view. Biological realism and social realism about races both accept the existence of races as real entities, but they disagree on what sort of thing they think races are. Biological realists take races to be naturally occurring, biological categories. Social realists think there are no such biological races, but they think races are real nonetheless. They are instead social entities, created by social forces and determined by such things as how we as a society end up classifying people. By contrast, anti-realists just think racial language doesn’t refer to anything at all. It’s a mistake to think there are races to begin with.
So I will proceed to look at each of these views. I will start with what I call the classic biological approach, which was the main view until about early-mid 20th century. The discovery of DNA and subsequent thought about species and sub-species basically eliminated the class biological approach among those who understood and were influenced by science. Anti-realism dominated for most of the second half of the 20th century and was perhaps the most prominent approach among the first philosophers to go back to including this issue in their discussions, but late 20th century arguments for a social realist view, which takes to be real but not biological, eventually led to that view dominating both in the social sciences and in philosophy once philosophers went back to looking at the question. A few biological approaches developed in the 1990s but didn't catch on, but a new one developed in the last 20 years that has become a viable view at this point, and we will see how that new biological approach relates to social realism (and why the two might even be compatible). But next up is the classic biological racial realist position.
One of the philosophy Facebook groups I'm in was talking about Ayn Rand, and several people expressed consternation that some philosophers treat her seriously as a philosopher. I think that's a big mistake. I think seeing her as a non-philosopher undermines the effort to convince students that we are all philosophers, and some of us just choose it as a profession by publishing and teaching philosophy, but philosophy is for everyone, and it's good for us all to engage in it. I always point out when I teach her that she was not a professional philosopher in the sense that most of the recent philosophers we are reading are, but that's also true of most of the earlier philosophers we read. Socrates, Augustine, Thomas Aquinas, John Locke, Gottfried Leibniz and many others who are part of the canon of Western philosophy had their main sources of income doing things other than philosophy.
A few things that I see as a reason for including Rand in the canon:
(1) She is a woman, and I think it's good for students to see women doing philosophy. If philosophy is for everyone, then only giving them readings by men undermines that.
(2) She is an outsider to the discipline who has offered a theory that contributes to the philosophical discussion in a way that is unique.
(3) Her particular contribution is worth having on the table among the views students are presented with. She is an egoist but not an entirely consequentialist egoist, and that's interesting. It's a deontological/virtue egoism, and we don't quite see that in Epicurus (who has a consequentialist/virtue egoism) or the Sophists (who seem purely consequentialist egoists), whereas she thinks we have deontological obligations to ourselves to seek our own good and to other people to allow them to do so. That's a unique view in the history of philosophy and shows creative theoretical philosophical reasoning.
(4) It's a way of exploring what a moderated Glaucon-style egoism can look like in modern times. I cover Book II of Plato's Republic and have them read Antiphon the Sophist, and her view allows some fleshing out of what that can look like in the 20th century.
(5) Her examples of bad character, the beggar and the sucker, while way overblown in her actual application to real-life categories, still represent actual vices, and everyone knows examples of people who are like those, so it illustrates both Aristotle's doctrine of the mean and how that can be misapplied if you misrepresent what's going on in terms of the facts of a case.
(6) Her critiques of altruism, while they don't actually show altruism to be bad, offer some good criticisms of ways that it is sometimes done, without any concern for the desires of the people intended to be helped or what's actually in their best interests rather than the projected interests of those doing the helping.
Now I do think teaching her can be done in a responsible way or an irresponsible way, and teaching her without exposing them to some opportunity to hear critiques of her ways of thinking would be irresponsible. But that's true of every philosopher I teach. I haven't found one that I think got everything right. I either get to critiques when I cover later philosophers' arguments against them, or I look at objections while covering them, because we won't get to those with later philosophers. Some of her arguments rely on several overstatements or misrepresentations of those she disagrees with, and it's irresponsible to teach her sympathetically (as I try to do, at least at the outset), without also confronting some objections to those arguments.
I think it's good for them to be exposed to her approach, her creative and unique way of putting together various approaches that we have already covered in the class, and the glaring problems her overall pictures faces when you look at it more carefully. That's precisely what a philosophy class should be doing, and presenting her as not a philosopher gets it so very wrong that I resist that kind of attitude pretty strongly. She was certainly doing philosophy, and some aspects of her approach to doing philosophy are actually a good model for doing it creatively and thoughtfully. Some were not, and they serve as a good model for how not to do it. In that light, why wouldn't I teach her?
Implicit bias is a well-documented phenomenon. Careful studies have shown lots of lots of implicit biases that we have. Most of them are only tiny. The effects are demonstrable but not huge. If we are evaluating a resume, we are slightly more likely to see someone with a name that we expect to be black to be less competent than we would if we saw the same resume with a name attached to it that we would not have any racial associations with (and thus we might assume the person to be white). Police officers are slightly more likely to see a cell phone or wallet as a gun if the person holding it has darker skin. These biases are just as present, or nearly as present, in populations affected by these stereotypes. For example, black police officers have a similar bias to that of white police officers in the case I just described.
If the effects are tiny, why do we care? Because the effect is demonstrable when you look at lots and lots of cases. Implicit biases can explain disproportionate effects without relying on accusing the people involved of being racists. They just have the biases that we all have. Certain groups have a stigma attached to them, and it lowers our expectations that someone in that group will be as competent. This stereotype affects members of that group as much as it affects everyone else. In fact, all it takes is knowing that the stereotype exists, and you are likely to display this implicit bias. Nor does it occur in a lower frequency among those with a more progressive agenda. Believing the stereotypes to be false does not help remove the bias, although being more intimately connected relationally with people who are in the stigmatized group can sometimes help reduce some of these biases.
None of this is new. Psychologists have been aware of this for several decades and have been publishing careful work refining our understanding of what's going on throughout that time. But every once in a while I see something about an implicit bias that goes along surprising lines or stems from more complex causes. I have found one that deals with a stereotype within a stereotype. I was directed to one a while back that is very interesting but not quite in the way it's described in the article. The headline suggests that it shows that women and minorities are punished for caring about diversity. If that means anyone is deliberately punishing them, then it's completely the wrong idea. If it just means there is an implicit bias against women and minorities who care about diversity, that's much closer to what they have found. But I think the explanation they offer for this is very unlikely to be correct, and what seems to me to be a more likely explanation involves a very interesting hierarchy of embedded biases.
Thanks to a lot of work from my wife, I have a blog again. My long-standing parableman.net domain name is forwarding to this blog, but it's really hosted at parableman.com. The ektopos,com domain names no longer work, for either blog that I had at that domain. Since the Ektopos server got shut down, my previous two Parableman blogs have had no home. I will be gradually adding that material in posts with the original dates as I get a chance, to try to preserve the posts that I think are worth preserving. All older posts will appear earlier than this post, since they will be given their actual dates. I'm not sure I will try to transfer all the comments. Some posts are outdated and time-sensitive or keyed to events that are no longer current, and I will at least not prioritize that stuff.
I’m part of a Facebook group that discusses the teaching of philosophy, and every once in a while someone says something that I really want to comment on, but it would move enough away from the conversation and be very long and just feel out of place. I found myself writing a very long comment this morning about something that I think should be preserved, but I ended up not posting it to that conversation, because it’s really off point and probably wouldn’t be appropriate to pick out one side comment and turn it into a lengthy issue. But I think what I have to say about it is worth posting, so here it is.
The conversation was about a student who engaged in inappropriate behavior in class to support (but not actually defend) his view that morality is connected with religion. He actually stood up and looked around at the class to assert his view, as if he could win people over by the sheer force of saying it. One of the commenters pointed out that movies like God Is Not Dead probably fuel perceptions of a liberal and secular bias in philosophy classes, and to someone who has seen that movie and has no familiarity with philosophy they might think philosophy classes are actually like that and see this kind of behavior as an appropriate response. (Hint: philosophy classes are usually nothing like what that movie portrays, and this kind of behavior is totally inappropriate in a philosophy class.)
Someone else came along and mentioned a case where her insistence on using proper terminology led to a student’s parents accusing her of inappropriate bias in her teaching. That’s unfortunate when that happens, and I actually think in the case these parents were pushing back against they were wrong. But the case started from something preventable that I think would predictably lead to that perception in a lot of people.
I just read a thoughtful post on the Pop Culture and Philosophy blog about the concept of balance in the Force in Star Wars. I’ve been struggling to understand that concept myself as I’ve been reading through a lot of the Star Wars comics, both Legends canon and new canon, and thinking them through in light of the movies, Clone Wars show, and Rebels show. I don’t think the post I linked to has it right, but I’m linking to it as a thoughtful piece trying to come to grips with this issue. A quick Google search revealed quite a number of other views on this, again none of it seeming to me to get things quite right. So I wanted to put some of my own thoughts on this into writing, however, so here are some rough musings attempting to put many months of thought on this into something somewhat digestible.
Here are several things that didn’t make a lot of sense to me, when put together:
We were at the bookstore yesterday looking through the science fiction and fantasy section, and I decided to get the one-volume Chronicles of Narnia edition, given that several of ours are falling apart or not even around anymore, mostly because of the efforts of one particular child. Most annoyingly, it has the wrong order of the books, so I had to write the correct order in the table of contents so the kids know what order to read them in.
Now I have good friends who like to support the publisher’s chronological order for reading these books, and I don’t really hold it against them, but they’re simply wrong. The books should be read in the order of publication. Sometimes people point to a letter Lewis wrote suggesting that it can be read in chronological order, and there really are times when you can appeal to authorial intent to establish something in the canon of the fiction. For example, Dumbedore is gay and always was. How do we know that? The author said so. Period. She made the fiction, and she can tell us what’s true in it. It’s her intellectual property, and she has the right to say what’s true in her fiction.
But this is a separate question. Lewis was trying to dissolve a dispute between a mother and child about what order to read the books in, and the reason he gave was silly. Here is the letter he sent to the child who wrote to ask about this:
Several politically right commentators have criticized Hillary Clinton's recent remarks about implicit bias, charging her with expressing her own bigotry in the process. See, for example, the Federalist and the Weekly Standard. A quick Google search turns up several others. When I first saw this, I thought it was a big of a lapse, given how quickly the right turned to the defense of Juan Williams when he was fired by NPR for basically saying the same sort of thing about people dressed in Muslim garb in airports. (See similar Google search for him.)
Williams admitted to an unconscious bias at airports when he sees people who he expects to be the more common demographic to be terrorists. He expressed some regret about this, clearly indicating that he thought something was unfortunate about being that way, but he said it's sort of understandable how people end up being fearful in that way. He was fired from NPR for being a bigot.
Clinton comes along and describes the implicit bias many white people have against young black men in hoodies. She says it's honest, open-minded, well-meaning people who have this fear, which is certainly true. That's what makes it implicit bias. It happens even among those who don't want it to, who oppose racism with every moral fiber they have. In context, it's clear that she's saying this is something that needs to change. She's not saying this is a good thing. But these critics latch on to it to insist that she must feel this fear herself, as if that somehow would make her hypocritical and a complete bigot worthy of condemnation (in a way that Williams apparently was not, at least the way many of the right acted at the time).
The point of both Williams and Clinton is that this is something unfortunate that our psychological makeup leads us to do, and it's something that ideally we should seek to change, but it's nonetheless part of how we experience race in this country. There's bad there, and there's something normal about it. Both are true. There might be slightly different nuances between the two cases, but I find it hard to believe that there's enough difference between the two cases to justify such radically different treatment. (And I'd be shocked not to find the mirror image of the right's treatment as the left begins to defend her, despite many of them having criticized Williams for saying the same thing.)
It's not hypocritical for an anti-racist to point out that they probably have implicit bias and wish that were otherwise, expressing a desire to try to find ways to deal with that. I don't have a lot of confidence that either Juan Williams or Hillary Clinton would have a lot of good things to say about what a positive response to it would be, and that's not because of their political views or anything like that. I don't expect politicians or political commentators to have much to say of value on the subject. Psychologists and psychologically-informed philosophers might have some things to say that are worth listening to, but no one has a lot of interesting and helpful suggestions about this particular problem. The best work on it shows that it forms at a very young age and doesn't really go away. Most of the ways people come up with to deal with it are very temporary or very gradual, and the best help for it is to have a more integrated society (especially at the most intimate levels of friendships and relationships). That's a good reason not to make a speech about it, as if there are a bunch of policies politicians can implement that will change this. But it's not hypocritical to do so. What is hypocritical to treat these two differently unless you can point to something that explains why he's heroic and she's evil for saying the same thing (or vice versa, for any who might defend her after having seen Williams as a bigot).
The Supreme court released a bunch of opinions yesterday. One of them isn't all that interesting to me, but a little exchange on a side point caught my attention. From the SCOTUSBlog writeup:
In a five-page concurrence, Justice Kennedy went out of his way to raise concern over the proliferation of solitary confinement in U.S. prisons, bemoaning the extent to which "the conditions in which prisoners are kept simply has not been a matter of sufficient public inquiry or interest," even though "consideration of these issues is needed." Thus, he concluded, "[i]n a case that presented the issue, the judiciary may be required . . . to determine whether workable alternative systems for long-term confinement exist, and, if so, whether a correctional system should be required to adopt them." Justice Thomas responded in a rather curt, one-paragraph opinion, noting that "the accommodations in which Ayala is housed are a far sight more spacious than those in which his victims . . . now rest," and that "Ayala will soon have had as much or more time to enjoy those accommodations as his victims had time to enjoy this Earth."
I'm not interested in adjudicating that particular dispute, but I'm interested in (1) its very existence and (2) the particular reasoning used in each case. There's a correct moral principle behind each justice's point (just retribution for a heinous act and ensuring we don't ourselves do evil in how we treat those who do evil). It seems as if this might be a case where we can't satisfy either concern without going against the other concern, so we have to decide which principle we'll give more importance to. These two justices end up on opposite sides on that question.
Jeremy Pierce is a philosophy professor, Uber/Lyft driver, and father of five.