This And That

Reader J. Kapok, knowing that I have been out of touch the past few days, and concerned that I not overdo it so soon after my recent misadventures, has kindly sent some blog fodder my way: items that he knows would have attracted my attention had I not been distracted by larger and more clamant issues of human frailty (mine). Both are from the New York Times.

The first is an item by columnist David Brooks, in which he contrasts the magnificent global leadership of post-WWII America with the hopeless logjam that is world politics today. The difference, he reminds us, is that in the years following the war the Western alliance stood head and shoulders above the rest of the world in terms of power and wealth — with the USA paramount at the summit — whereas in today’s far more pluralistic world, the narrow and conflicting interests of an unruly mob of nations are often sufficient to stymie forward progress. The UN has proven to be entirely ineffective at managing global crises or thwarting the ambitions of ruthless despots — and to the extent that we have tried to work within its toothless and corrupted system, we have lost our own puissance as well. As a result, an idea that is growing in popularity is the formation of a new alliance: one that represents the interests not of every tinpot tyrant or medieval theocrat with enough AK-47s to take an ignorant and penurious populace hostage, but which speaks instead, with a united voice, for the common interests of the liberal democracies of the West. Read Brooks’s essay here.

Next is a disheartening story from this weekend’s Times Magazine about the ways in which the conventions of human morality can dissolve in our new, distributed, and anonymous world, an environment that is utterly unlike the one in which our moral instincts were forged. Here.

Finally, we seem to be making some progress, I think, in our discussion of meaning and the underpinnings of our moral intuitions. The conversation has been fascinating, provocative, and instructive; many thanks to all who have been reading and joining in. We’ll get back to that shortly, picking up with Peter Lupu’s recent summary.

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