Stumbled upon a great youtube channel by a guy who calls himself zefrank1.
The videos I watched so far were animal videos lightly peppered with zefrank1′s voice over humour.
The video I included in my post is more serious. Someone created a video depicting an average persons life (days) in the form of a jelly bean for each day. I won’t say much more, except that I enjoyed it.
I compelled myself to spill my inner thoughts on those books that I have recently been able to digest. This post, and those that will follow will be reviews of sorts, in them I will discuss the gist of a particular book, what I enjoyed and took away from reading it and what if anything the book lacked.
Before I disclose the title of this post’s book let me run some questions by you to which you the reader will no doubt will formulate answers to as we go. Should we as individuals be able to sell our organs such as a kidney to the highest bidder? We currently can donate a kidney, but should we be allowed to donate both our kidneys or even our heart to save someone else’s life? How about this, Is it acceptable to torture a terrorist suspect to reveal the hidden bomb in hopes of savings thousands of innocent lives? What about the terrorist’s innocent daughter, if that is what will make him talk? Should we have conscription into the military service? What about if the person chosen for conscription was given the freedom to sell his place to another person much like it was allowed in the US civil war? Is affirmative action fair? Is admitting an aboriginal or a Torres Strait island student into a university course who has a lower mark than a ‘white’ students who scored slightly higher the correct thing to do?
In the book titled Justice: What’s the Right Thing to Do? Harvard professor Michael Sandel makes use of such questions to introduce and explore the essential branches of moral theories of justice. Sandel throughout his book presents to us a brief history of each of the philosophical formulations and the men behind the ideas. This provides us context and allows us to gain insight into what shaped the minds of thinkers such as Jeremy Bentham, Immanuel Kant, John Rawls & Aristotle.
The format of the book that the author chose to adopt follows an easy to read structure. We are introduced to a particular theory of justice, from which we are lead into several real world examples and scenarios as if to test & apply them directly. This method transforms the book from a mere collection of pie-in-the-sky armchair philosophical musings into real issues that are an integral part of our modern society. Sandel then plays the role of the devil’s advocate and begins to propose common objections that have arisen over the years to each theory as well as some rebuttals that have followed. In the ending chapters the author reveals to us his own leanings to a particular theory or at least a neo-version of it. However you would be hard pressed to tell which post the author was sitting on before you arrive to the end of the book. In my opinion Sandel does a great job in providing a very objective overview of all the material, and he manages to do it in a thought provoking and captivating manner.
Each of the rhetorical questions I began my post with serve to examine justice through one or more of the following lenses: maximizing welfare, respecting freedom or promoting virtue.
Take the last example I brought up about university admissions and let us examine a real world case,
Affirmative Action at Universities
Cheryl Hopwood did not come from an affluent family. Raised by a single mother, she worked her way through high school, community college, and California State University at Sacramento. She then moved to Texas and applied to the University of Texas Law School, the best law school in the state and one of the leading law schools in the country. Although Hopwood had compiled a grade point average of 3.8 and did reasonably well on the law school admissions test (scoring in the 83rd percentile), she was not admitted.
Hopwood, who is white, thought her rejection was unfair. Some of the applicants admitted instead of her were African American and Mexican American students who had lower college grades and test scores than she did. The school had an affirmative action policy that gave preference to minority applicants. In fact, all of the minority students with grades and test scores comparable to Hopwood’s had been admitted.
Hopwood took her case to federal court, arguing that she was a victim of discrimination.
Is it unjust to consider race and ethnicity as factors in hiring or university admissions?
An argument can be made that administering minority students over whites students corrects biases in the tests, or better still compensates them for past wrongdoings. The argument follows that minority students should be given preference to make up for a history of discrimination that has placed them at an unfair disadvantage.
Sandel is quick to provide a response to the argument:
“But the compensatory argument runs into a tough challenge: critics point out that those who benefit are not necessarily those who have suffered, and those who pay the compensation are seldom those responsible for the wrongs being rectified. Many beneficiaries of affirmative action are middle-class minority students who did not suffer the hardships that afflict young African Americans and Hispanics from the inner city. Why should an African American student from an affluent Houston suburb get an edge over Cheryl Hopwood, who may actually have faced a tougher economic struggle?”
Whether the compensatory case for affirmative action can answer this objection depends on the difficult concept of collective responsibility: Can we ever have a moral responsibility to redress wrongs committed by a previous generation?
But there is one more argument to be heard and that is promoting diversity.
The chapter reads
The diversity rationale is an argument in the name of the common good—the common good of the school itself and also of the wider society. First, it holds that a racially mixed student body is desirable because it enables students to learn more from one another than they would if all of them came from similar backgrounds. Just as a student body drawn from one part of the country would limit the range of intellectual and cultural perspectives, so would one that reflected homogeneity of race, ethnicity, and class. Second, the diversity argument maintains that equipping disadvantaged minorities to assume positions of leadership in key public and professional roles advances the university’s civic purpose and contributes to the common good.
Such topics go at the heart of various theories of justice.
The diversity rationale is an argument about the common good. What is best for the society as a whole? A utilitarian like Jeremy Bentham could argue that a racially mixed campus draws from many backgrounds to facilitate diversity in thought and learning, it outweighs any disappointment to the likes of Cheryl Hopwood. Critics may object that affirmative action does not actually bring a more pluralistic society, but sows bitterness and resentment between races.
What about individual rights? Does not using race or ethnicity as a factor in admissions violate Cheryl Hopwood rights? After all she through no fault of their own, is put at a competitive disadvantage. The school of thought such as Libertarianism argues that even desirable ends must not override individual rights, and that it is unjust to deny Cheryl on that ground. Such arguments have echoed in other current affairs. Are higher income earners not entitled to their money, why should they be taxed more?
Sandel offers another angle to the debate. Begin by asking a two pronged question that was originally developed by Aristotle and refined over the years; what is the purpose of a university? Some would say universities are there for promoting scholarly excellence, so academic merit should be the sole criteria for admission. While others may say that universities exist to serve a certain civil purposes e.g diversity of thought, which opens the door for other criteria of admission.
The other related question to be asked is what virtues or excellences do universities honour? If you believe that a university is there to reward scholarly excellence alone you would reject affirmative action on that ground. However those who believe universities exist to promote certain civil ideas may well embrace it. Purpose & virtues may seem a strange concept to identify what is just, but Sandel shows us that people frequently formulate their reasons just on those grounds. Think about the topic of same-sex marriage. It helps to ask what is the purpose of marriage e.g. a public recognition of certain individual’s commitment to one another? To procreate? Reflection of Gods design? How about the virtues that marriage bestows? Promoting companionship? fidelity? family? honouring God? Your answers to the above will most likely dictate whether you are for or against allowing the allowing the practise.
Sandels does a fantastic job in tying back all the material that he has expounded so far and to breakdown the issues into the different views and arguments. It gives a real perspective on how people reason and demonstrates to me some of the impasses that exist.
I found Sandel’s style of writing very approachable without having to slog through lots of academic jargon. If nothing else it helps you understand how people reason through their justifications when they take on certain beliefs.
There weren’t a lot of objections I found with the book. I wish the author touched more on retributive justice as well as at least mention the divine command theory.
I would definitely recommend reading it.
I thought I would post some photos and a video of Levi from this week. We had been busy for the last two weeks seeing friends and attending to various functions, so Levi has been very drained. On the plus side this means that his sleep is deeper, but we are also feeling the fatigue.
First the video, I managed to catch Levi doing a bit of self smacking. He developed a habit of hitting himself on the head. We are trying to discourage the behaviour, in the moment however sometimes we can’t help but laugh, which I would say doesn’t help.
Charmaine feels it is attention seeking behaviour. His other emo habit is to bang the back of his head on the chair only to see what reaction is elicits from us. One again we try to be serious, but sometimes I cannot help but crack up.
There is also some random photos:
Levi is on the cusp of walking. He has enough strength in his legs to raise himself up from a sitting position to then move around with the support of furniture. The balance is lacking but the will is strong.
We gave him that parental boost of confidence, so now he is in possession of his very own baby walker, with lights sounds and the whole shebang.
Watch this this little stallion take his steps of independence.
The below little video I stumbled upon offered me a new sense of admiration for our human ancestors and the ingenuity they possessed.
In what we would consider recent past (20th and 21st centuries) we are all familiar with geniuses (Einstein, Tesla, Hawking) and visionary people (Bill Gates, Steve Job, Henry Ford) who contributed to the overall body of knowledge through a breakthrough or a vision of a product or theory. I sometimes inadvertently succumb to a narrow naive view that the further you go back in history the mentally blunter our human race becomes. I have to remind myself that these type of people must have existed all throughout history, and that its most probable that there have been many exemplars of intellect who are forever obscured in the shadow of history-past merely due to the misfortune of their birth. What I mean by that remark is that its probable that there have been many Einstein-like people born in say some remove backwater steppe centuries ago who could not exert their full potential due to the luck of their birth and who were destined to live out their lives by the sweat of their brow.
But coming back to the original purpose of my post I wanted to share a small clip of a mechanical robot or automaton as they are called that was build by a skilled watch maker around 2 and a half centuries ago, yep that is an astonishing 250 odd years! It just shows that humans had amazing skills way before computers as we know them today existed. To create something so complex so long ago boggles my mind.
And what’s more amazing is that this complex robotic doll, can be “programmed” to write anything else as some of the parts are interchangeable. This is your Ipad of of the 18th century,
Then there is this mechanical monk that is still functional and which was created in 1560!!!! The video is terrible quality, but the fact that this monk “walks in a square, striking his chest with his right arm, raising and lowering a small wooden cross and rosary in his left hand, turning and nodding his head, rolling his eyes, and mouthing silent obsequies. From time to time, he brings the cross to his lips and kisses it” shows how complex the machinery inside of him has to be all while being 450 years old.
See the small article, a podcast about the monk and video in the below link
It was rather sad to say goodbye to two of the four puppies as their new families came to pick them up this weekend. After 8 weeks with the pups their personalities have come through and they developed playing habits with each other in unique ways. So breaking that bond that was very tough.
However all the families appear very nice and I believe would provide a great new place for the pups to grow and develop into healthy adult maltese dogs. Keeping contact with each family will also help to know and witness the pups change over the course of weeks and months.
I put some of my favourite shots I took of the pups having fun in the yard.
Charmaine and I have been house hunting for a few weeks now. Let me tell you this is a different kettle of fish from what we experiences 4 years ago when we were looking for our first house.
On the surface there appears NOT to be many changes in fulfilling our criteria for the home we want. We still are after a freestanding home. We are not up-sizing so not necessarily requesting extra bedrooms rooms or fancier living rooms. Our main request is to be as close to Blacktown as possible (we are currently a few stations further west). The main reason why we are embarking on this little migratory journey is for pure convenience in that baby-sitting Levi next year will be a whole lot easier when you only have to drop him off with a quick drive to the in-laws as oppose to 20+ minute drive.
In fact we are more happy to look for a slightly run down or out-dated place that we can get out hands dirty as it has more potential.
So seems simple enough. Until you experience the current Western Sydney housing market. The standard mode of operation when we were looking for a place to live four years ago is as follows: You inspect the house, see if you like it, call the agent and through a low-ball figure at him. Usually 10-15k less than the asking price. He goes to the vendor and hands it to them. Then the vendor comes back with a higher figure than what you offered but less than the original asking price. You then meet somewhere in the middle. As an example we got 13k off the final house we went with.
Not any more, since the interest rates dropped to historic lows, the market is now like a dog in heat. Each house inspection will attract a dozen families; we have seen a couple of houses that would have had over 30+ parties passing through the door, and making offers well above the estimated value of the property.
One example left my jaw on the ground. An offer was made for a small 3 bedroom place that was estimated to be worth in the 400k range but went for a whopping 60K more.
We joke, but the joke is very true to reality that at every inspection its mandatory that there is at least one rich Asian family cashed-up to their nostrils, who rolls-up in their BWM/Audi, pop open a suitcase packed with crispy dollar bills giving off a warm glow then proceed to lick-up the property without blinking or second thought.
It’s tough out there. But we have a vision, and that is what is important. Our mid-term goal is to get a place, do it up, and potentially get a granny flat on it for extra income. Then when we are ready, and probably have more mouths to feed as well, we rent-out both and move on to bigger and better things.