Monday, November 28, 2016

Racism and a presumption of credibility

What I want to try to argue for here is a presumption of credibility for claims of racism.

For the purpose of this post, let’s define a presumption Px as a deliberative advantage in favor of a finding that x is true based on supporting justification for Px, such that, in a dispute involving x, the person trying to show that x is false (x-opponent) bears the burden of proof and, if x-opponent offers no evidence, the person trying to show that x is true (x-proponent) succeeds. A presumption is a deliberative advantage, but not a required conclusion; an initial deliberative advantage may be overcome by sufficient evidence to the contrary.

Presumptions usually are based on some supporting justification. A very common example is the presumption of innocence. This presumption operates in favor of a finding that the x-proponent, a criminal defendant, is innocent and the x-opponent, the prosecutor, bears the burden of proof. The supporting justification is the value in American jurisprudence that it is better for nine guilty men to go free than for one innocent man to be wrongly convicted.

Here my supporting justification for a presumption of credibility for claims of racism is that, because whether one recognizes racism depends crucially on one’s first-personal perspective, the person claiming racism should be deemed credible, absent sufficient evidence to the contrary.

Claims of racism generally present unique challenges for proof. Consider the new movie, directed by Jeff Nichols, based on Loving v. Virginia (1967).[1] The trailer for the movie (here) includes a scene where Virginia state police officers barge into the Lovings bedroom and, when Mildred Loving explains that she’s Richard Loving’s wife, one officer responds, “that’s no good here.” The scene portrays well the racist attitudes that may have been prevalent at that time in certain places.

One thing to clarify here is that Virginia’s law and enforcement of its law in the Loving case is a separate wrong from the officer’s attitude toward the Lovings in the scene mentioned above. The case involved Virginia’s miscegenation law, but my focus here is the officer’s attitude in the movie scene.

If we were examining a charge of racism against the officer, it would be difficult to prove. You often can’t find racism from a professor’s armchair or a judge’s bench. In real life, the scene is not reconstructed for us exactly as it was. Instead, you have the words or actions, the features of the surrounding circumstances, and the accused racist before you in his best Sunday clothes (see Bannon).

Even if the scene was reconstructed for you exactly as it was, from a detached third-personal perspective, unless you yourself have experienced similar attitudes, you may not see racism. We may see the identical scene, but our perspectives are shaped by our prior observations and experiences. It is as if we see the world through our own theoretical lens, shaped by our past, which picks up certain features and ignores others.

But, for the person experiencing racism, the attitude expressed and the wrong left in its wake is as real as real can be. It's not about the exact words spoken or any particular feature of the circumstance. If we examined the words or actions, they could be interpreted as innocent. If we examined the features of the circumstance, they may seem morally insignificant. If we saw the person again in a different setting, he may appear to be the farthest thing from what we would expect from a racist. From the first-person perspective of the target of racism, the attitude conveys to its target: you don't belong here or there is something deeply wrong with you. From those with other perspectives: you’re just making the whole thing up.

If this is accurate and racist attitudes are seen differently from first-personal and third-personal perspectives, then this seems to be a good reason to presume the credibility of a first-personal claim of racism.

Again, a presumption of credibility is not proof of credibility or proof of racism. A presumption is usually defeasible. It simply places the burden of proof on the other party to prove otherwise.

Three objections come to mind. I’ll take them in the order from easiest to the most difficult, leaving the third for further discussion in the comments.

First, what about false claims? A presumption is not proof and can be overridden with evidence to the contrary, including evidence that the claim was false.

Next, what about innocent “racists”? People are accused of racism all the time and they’re merely good people who were brought up to view the world a certain way; they don’t intend any harm. As stated by Shelby and others, I don’t think racism requires specific intent. Racial bias and prejudice may be “subtle, implicit, or even unconscious.”[2] Individual attitudes or behaviors usually are the product of institutional racism and, first and foremost, it is our institutions that require critical examination and reform.

Finally, the nature of racism and the fact that racist attitudes are seen differently from first-personal and third personal perspectives, for some, may not seem like sufficient justification for a presumption. My response for now is this: against the backdrop of our nation’s history of slavery, segregation, internment, and dispossession, the fact that the targets of racism are in a unique position to see the wrongness of racism, which may not be visible to others, again seems a good reason to give them the benefit of the doubt.

Chong Choe-Smith
Department of Philosophy
Sacramento State

[1] Loving v. Virginia (1967) 388 U.S. 1.
[2] Tommie Shelby, “Race and Social Justice” (2004) 72 Fordham L. Rev. 1697, 1706.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Knowledge, meaning and credit


A very old view about knowledge says that knowing something requires believing the right kind of thing for the right kind of reasons. Most agree that the right kind of thing is a true proposition—a fact. There is less agreement on what constitutes the right kind of reason, but we want to at least rule out lucky guesses. Even if I correctly guess that the number of people on Earth currently thinking about waffles is exactly 863,471, I won’t thereby know that fact. To count as knowledge, then, a belief must satisfy both an objective constraint (it must be true) and a subjective constraint (the subject must have good reasons for the belief), leaving us with something like the following analysis:
(K) S’s belief that P is knowledge just in case 
(i) P is true; and 
(ii) S believes P for good reasons.
There are cases, though, that appear to be counterexamples to (K). The oldest case that I know of comes from Dharmottara:

In the distance, there is a piece of meat that has just begun to cook over a fire, but is not yet smoking. However, a cloud of flies has gathered over the meat. From your vantage point, the cloud of flies looks just like a cloud of smoke, and so you believe that there is a fire.

You believe for good reasons in this case (you see what appears to be smoke, and you know that where there’s smoke, there’s usually fire), and your belief is true (because there is a fire). Nevertheless, many think you do not know that there is a fire (not everyone agrees). It’s hard to say exactly why you don’t know, but one possibility is that your reasons for believing that there is a fire are not related in the right way to fact that there is a fire. Your reasons come from the flies, rather than coming from the fire. Your belief satisfies both constraints, then, but your reasons are not “hooked up” to the truth in the way that they would be if what you saw was smoke coming from the fire.

Interestingly, other concepts with both subjective and objective constraints seem to face the same kind of problem.


On some accounts of meaning—in the sense used in the question ‘what is the meaning of life?’—meaning has a similar structure to knowledge, with both subjective and objective constraints. Let’s call all of the things that you’re working on in your life (your education, career, hobbies, relationships, etc.) ‘projects’. Susan Wolf’s view is roughly that for a project to be meaningful, you must be passionate about it, and it must also have objective value. Passionately putting together jigsaw puzzles, for example, is not a meaningful project, and neither is toiling in desperate boredom to end poverty. This gives us the following analysis of meaningful projects:
(M) S’s project J is meaningful just in case 
(i) S is passionate about J, and
(ii) J has objective value
But we seem to be able to give counterexamples to (M) of the same sort that we saw for (K):
Sherlock is the world’s greatest detective, solving hundreds of cases that restore lost property, reunite families, and ensure that justice is served. However, though Sherlock is passionate about his work, he is indifferent to the people whose lives he improves. He is passionate only because of the intellectual challenge of solving cases.
Sherlock is passionate about his cases, and solving them has objective value, but are they meaningful projects in the relevant sense? It seems to me that they are not, for just the same reason that you do not know there is a fire. Sherlock is not passionate about these projects because they have objective value, but instead because they are intellectually challenging—he would be just as passionate if they had no objective value. So, the way in which his projects satisfy the subjective constraint (i), is not “hooked up” to their satisfaction of the objective constraint, (ii).


Another concept that seems to have both subjective and objective constraints is that of deserving credit. Suppose that my wife is happy. What would it take for me to deserve credit for her happiness? For one thing, her happiness would have to be a result of something that I did—cleaning the kitchen, for instance. For another, her happiness would also have to be an intended outcome of my actions. If I cleaned the kitchen only so that I would have a clean place to cook, I wouldn’t deserve credit for any unintended happiness that she experienced as a result. So, we might think:
(C) S deserves credit for good outcome O just in case
 (i) O is a result of S’s actions; 
(ii) S intended to bring about O
But once again, this analysis seems to miss something important. Suppose that I cleaned the kitchen because I thought that the kitchen being clean would make my wife happy. In fact, though, she is indifferent to whether the kitchen is clean. However, she was very happy to be left alone for the hour that I spent in the kitchen so that she could get some work done. So, my actions resulted in the outcome that I intended (her happiness), satisfying (i) and (ii), but I do not seem to deserve credit for that outcome. It is, in some sense, only an accident that the action I intended to bring her happiness ended up doing so. So, even though my action resulted in the good outcome I intended, my intention is not “hooked up” with the result in the way required for me to deserve credit.

Does this tell us anything interesting? Maybe. It’s possible that the problem for (K), which epistemologists have spent an awful lot of time thinking about, is just an instance of a more general problem. If so, looking at instances in other areas of philosophy might help us solve it.

Brandon Carey
Department of Philosophy
Sacramento State

Sunday, November 6, 2016

How are you voting?

This week we asked Philosophy faculty members how they are voting in the election on November 8th. Here's how they responded.

(Editor's note: These responses are limited to 250 words. They were published in the order received. Read through to the end if you are interested in how orthodox or heterodox we are for an academic philosophy department.)

Kyle Swan

I am purely a one-issue voter this election cycle. I will vote ‘yes’ on Proposition 64, which proposes to legalize the recreational use of marijuana for people 21 years or older.

The passage of Prop 64 would mean that people will no longer have their lives ruined by the state because the state is worried that using marijuana ruins people’s lives. Because of the way our criminal justice system functions, a disproportionate number of these people are minorities. Passage would mean that people will no longer be subject to stops and searches because a police officer smells (or pretends to smell) marijuana. They will no longer be subject to potentially crippling fines, or losing their jobs, because of a marijuana conviction.

Also, the proposed changes include provisions for people with convictions to be released from state and county prisons and clear their records of felony convictions. So the California provisions are more sane and humane than the four states (plus D.C.) that have already legalized recreational marijuana use.

Were it not for this issue, I would not have bothered to register and vote (it's my first time). I’m glad that Trump will not win the presidency and that Clinton will have no perceived mandate. Perhaps this fact will temper her troubling hawkishness. I will vote for Gary Johnson hoping that he will achieve the 5% threshold necessary for his party to receive presidential election campaign funding next time around.

Randy Mayes

I would vote to abolish the initiative process. It exists so that citizens can bypass a gridlocked legislature to bring about needed social change. It has done that on occasion, but it also promotes rent-seeking behavior on the part of special interests and contributes to gridlock by relieving our legislators of their responsibility to work together.

So I typically vote No on ballot initiatives whether I agree with their aims or not. This year I surprised myself by voting Yes on two of them: Proposition 62 to repeal the death penalty and Proposition 64 to legalize marijuana. My objections to the process are just not strong enough to pass on either of these opportunities to right grievous wrongs.

The Trump candidacy is the most nauseating political spectacle I have ever witnessed. I am not a party member and want to see conservative, progressive and libertarian views represented by able candidates. Clinton is a flawed candidate, but she is a sensible and experienced politician who can be trusted with our nuclear arsenal. Trump appears to be mentally unstable and has neither an intelligible set of views nor any relevant experience or interest in democratic processes. More importantly, he embodies the rejection of everything philosophers value. He is an instinctive liar who is utterly unaccountable for his actions and views. If Trump wins it will not only be a national disgrace but a national emergency, and he does have a real chance of doing so. I voted for Clinton.

Mathias Warnes

I was a supporter of Bernie Sander’s campaign, and so was disappointed at his loss, but I was impressed by the graciousness of his endorsement of Clinton, and proud of his campaign’s achievements in helping to create a more progressive DNC platform.

While supporting Sanders, my car was vandalized due to a bumper sticker, and my mailbox was damaged. On another occasion I was trailed menacingly. The driver slowed then sped up, honking and shouting, as if threatening to drive me off the road, before dangerously overtaking. His vehicle had Trump and NRA bumper stickers. So, in this election cycle, I experienced scare tactics designed to suppress my political self-expression no less than 3 times. While, I have little to add to the sea of reasoned and appalled voices as to why a Trump presidency would be catastrophic, these experiences speak volumes on the direction that Trump’s America is heading.

I will be voting for Clinton, and she has grown on me a lot. Our first woman president would be an incredible accomplishment, on any analysis, and her legacy may be worth admiring if she follows her DNC approved platform, and democrats retake the house.

Regarding Prop 64, I will be voting No. There are compelling social justice reasons to vote in support of legalization, but Prop. 64 will create an exponentially more precarious economic reality for small growers. It is a highly contentious bill in Placer and Nevada County, where I live.

Saray Ayala-López

If legally you were an alien, living in this country for years, working and paying taxes, but couldn’t vote because well, you are an alien, how would you not-vote?
This is how I’m not voting: with concerns both about Donald Trump’s winning and not winning.

I’m observing with horror how the public discourse in this country has been swelling with awfulness. Conversations, like sports games, have scoreboards that track what is said, presupposed, and implicated. But unlike sports games, conversations accommodate almost anything (so David Lewis argued). Whatever you say, presuppose or implicate, becomes part of the conversational score - unless someone blocks it. Importantly, the score sets the norms of what is acceptable, in words and in behavior: in a conversation that has accommodated racist, xenophobic and sexist content, racism, sexism, and xenophobia are permissible (so Mary Kate McGowan argued). When someone introduces bigoted speech in a conversation, the conversation is corrupted in a way difficult to restore. As McGowan puts it, restoring a conversational score thus corrupted is as difficult as unringing a bell.

The things Trump has introduced in the public discourse are setting norms of what is acceptable in this country, and it’s going to be hard to unring this bell.

Just today Jennifer Saul warns that the scary things happening in the UK since Brexit could follow in the US (e.g. academics asked to present passports to give a talk). She urges US voters to act and repudiate racism and xenophobia.

I’m more pessimistic: the harm has already been done

Phillip Baron

In this election, I am most excited about the opportunity to vote for Proposition 62 to abolish the death penalty in California. Capital punishment is cruel in its conception, cruel in its application, and relies for support on a barbaric and unreasonable idea of governmental authority.

Like every other aspect of our deeply flawed criminal justice system, the death penalty has been marred by significant racial bias throughout its history. The US death penalty is also rife with gender discrimination.

It is not effective as a deterrent. Homicide rates in California have been on a steady decline since their peak in 1993. Similarly, while California has the largest death row in the nation (currently more than 740 people), it has one of the lowest rates of execution. Since 1993, California has executed only 12 people.

Finally, the logic of retaliation appeals to our baser instincts and not to what is best in us. While any friend or family member of a victim of murder may be emotionally driven to want retribution for the loss of their loved one, for a government to carry out that retribution is to participate in its own premeditated murder.

For these reasons, I am hopeful that the electorate of the state of California will take this opportunity to abolish the death penalty. To paraphrase Albert Camus, in a better world we would be neither victims nor executioners. 

Patrick Smith

Measure Q in San Francisco would make tent encampments on sidewalks illegal. The primary supporters of Measure Q are members of the thriving tech community. The measure has been cast in a benevolent light (“we’re doing this for the safety of the tent dwellers”), but this looks like a red herring. The real motivation seems to be the unsightliness of tent encampments in neighborhoods quickly being transformed by gentrification . This represents, I think, a combination of privilege and entitlement, NIMBYism, and a myopic knee-jerk reaction.

Homelessness is a complex issue, and my own reaction to homelessness varies. Most days I react with a sense of empathy: “here are human beings living in tents on the street, struggling hourly to have their basic needs met. They deserve better.” On other days, the internal dialogue is a bit more harsh: “why don't these people have the motivation to get themselves out of this plight? I would.” After I think this, though, I realize that my reasoning is mistaken: I am imagining what it would be like for me to be homeless. I am a person in a fairly privileged socioeconomic demographic, with a multitude of financial, psychological, and familial resources that, for the most part, rule out the
possibility of my ending up on the street. So, it is literally unimaginable for me to know what it's like to be homeless. Here's where the empathy kicks in, and why I will be voting against Measure Q.

David Corner

I supported Bernie Sanders in the primary, though Bernie is a Social Democrat and not, as he says, a Democratic Socialist. When Bernie lost, and Hillary did not take a progressive running mate, I considered voting for a third-party candidate. But I cast my vote for Hillary.

Hillary negatives: Her hawkishness, which has caused me to vote against her in the past. On the other hand, her so-called “scandals” are mostly smoke and little fire.

Hillary positives: A wealth of experience as First Lady, Senator, and Secretary of State. She’s very smart. And it’s time for a woman president. I just wish it could be Elizabeth Warren.

My opposition to Trump is almost post-partisan. My worries about him are too numerous to mention, but foremost is his disregard for the truth. He makes up his own facts and sticks with them even when proven wrong. He knows little about how our government works, and little about foreign affairs. This would be OK if he were prepared to educate himself, but he isn't. And even *this* might be OK if he listened to his advisors, but he doesn’t; he prefers to ‘listen to his own brain.’ But he overestimates his own genius. He runs on his record as a businessman, but his business record is not good. He’s openly vindictive. He disrespects women. These are catastrophic flaws in a president.

Propositions: Legalize marijuana, abolish the death penalty, but reject a well-intentioned yet flawed gun control initiative.

Tim Houk

I’m voting YES on Prop 62, which will repeal the death penalty in California. I agree with the Phillip Barron’s excellent points above. Retribution does not represent the best in us. And although I would not go as far as to say the government commits murder when carrying out the death penalty, execution is too great a power for the government to possess. 

If you are even uncertain about whether the death penalty is justifiable, then I suggest you err on the side of caution and vote to abolish it. Better to have some who deserve death end up spending life in prison than to have some who do not deserve death end up being executed.

Furthermore, even if one thinks that the death penalty is justifiable in principle, there are numerous problems with the way it is currently implemented (e.g. disproportionately applied to minorities, extremely costly, etc.). And although another proposition (Prop 66) claims it will “speed up the death penalty appeals system while ensuring that no innocent person is ever executed” (CA Voter Info Guide), I cannot see how it could ever make good on that promise. Speeding up the process might make it cheaper, but it will only exacerbate the other problems.

Finally, I’m voting Yes on Prop 64, which will legalize recreational marijuana. As Kyle Swan outlined above, the current system ruins lives and wastes resources that the criminal justice system could put to better use.

Tom Pyne

Mancur Olson described the process by which a stable democracy is over time captured by organized interest groups which extract great benefits for themselves by raising the costs of ordinary transactions (including government!) in a way not immediately noticeable by the unorganized citizenry. The cumulative effects of this over time produce economic decline and a decrease in the power of ordinary citizens to pursue their legitimate interests. The only cure Olson could see was the destruction of those stable coalitions of interest groups by defeat and occupation in war – glum thought. Any travel abroad will reveal that predatory government and rent-seeking officials are the norm in most of the world.

I didn’t think that was true of the United States until recently, but I have come to the realization that we are in a middle stage of what Jonathan Rauch calls ‘demosclerosis’. I am, however, still hopeful: We’re not Nigeria quite yet.

But Clinton and Trump see a dirigiste state as an achievement, not a problem.

I’m a lifelong Democrat. But a party that threatens to put nuns in jail is Jacobin. And the moral collapse of the Republican Party despite some admirable individuals in office leaves me with no home. I don’t know who will win next Tuesday. My goal in voting is to do my part to see that neither Clinton nor Trump can claim a mandate for anything they may wish to do.

Russell DiSilvestro

"I'll believe in anyone or anything," said Nikabrik, "that'll batter these cursed Telmarine barbarians to pieces or drive them out of Narnia. Anyone or anything, Aslan or the White Witch, do you understand?" (Prince Caspian, chapter 6)

Nikabrik was mistaken. The other dwarf, named “Trumpkin” (!), knew that bringing back the Witch would be even worse than the foul Miraz the Usurper they were fighting against.

Readers of this blog know I have written publicly against Trump not once but twice.

Indeed, I wrote against him to every paper on this list just before the Wisconsin primaries (and likely violated both the etiquette and ethics of letters to the editor).

But I plan to vote for him November 8.

This may make me one of the “naïve suckers” who Brian Leiter says think “supporting Trump is instrumentally rational given what they want.”

While many conservatives I regularly follow won’t vote Trump—French, Goldberg, Krauthammer, Will, Medved—the ones who will are just more persuasive to me—e.g. Hanson, Hewitt, Prager.

Prager (for example, here) often makes a point like one I made to Randy Mayes in comments of this blog in May: if helping bad A may defeat worse B, then help bad A.

I sense some of Clinton’s vote uses this point, too. We disagree on who is A and B.

I know my vote in California is mere spittle in the wind.

But I will really kick myself if she becomes president by a narrow win in Wisconsin…

Chong Choe-Smith

In a typical election, I vote according to my conservative leanings (minimal state interference with people as they live out their different conceptions of the good life, minimal state control over the economy and private affairs, and primarily local control over public affairs).

But this is not a typical election. What is most troublesome about Trump is that his words and actions tend to objectify women, people of color, and others who are the most vulnerable among us. Kant usefully distinguished between things (objects) that have a price and can be used and replaced and persons (subjects) who are above all price and have an inner worth. Trump makes a kind of category mistake when he places women and minorities into the category of things. He does this when he speaks of Mexicans or the Chinese as obstacles that stand in his way, rather than as people who have their own interests and concerns. He does this when he generalizes about immigrants calling them “rapists and murderers,” mocks a reporter with a physical disability, ignores the legitimate complaint of Blacks about racial bias in law enforcement, threatens to exclude an entire people group based on their religion, and describes women as fat, ugly, or beautiful pieces of ass.

A person might say Trump objectifies and thereby dehumanizes everyone for his own advantage, not just women and minorities, but this would not undermine my point; it only requires broadening its scope.

And I’d that person may be on to something.


Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Some consolations of philosophy

The 2016 election has been unusually dispiriting. The absence of enthusiasm for both major party presidential candidates is confirmed by the always-reliable lawn sign indicator. There aren’t any.

A bit of metaphysics should help us understand that our political condition is more hopeful than it seems.

If you are a realist about social entities like governments (as I am), then you believe that there exists a ‘preference function’ capable of being realized in and enacted by governments. Since our form of government is democratic, that preference function is derived from the preference functions of the individual citizens. That social preference function has a real, separately identifiable value; it’s not merely a summary of the individual orderings.

A central question of democratic theory concerns how that public preference function is to be derived. Two theories prevail. On the first model, ‘Legislative Deliberation’, democracy poses the question, “How does justice require us to distribute the goods which government controls?” The answer: by dialogue among fellow citizens (or their representatives) who are all pursuing the same goal, namely to satisfy the requirements of justice.

On the second model, ‘Pluralist Bargaining’, democracy poses the question, “How do we resolve the competition among us for those goods? The answer: by negotiation in which each party tries to gain as much as possible short of undermining the arrangements. If we all take care of ourselves, justice will take care of itself.

Both theories have problems. The first makes us sound like angels (or Kantian Transcendental Egos). But human beings have particularistic, messy ties that can conflict quite badly with impersonal justice – and so much the worse for impersonal justice. Democracy cannot require us to lay down our humanity. It also suggests that there is One True Answer to the distribution question. But then is there some Platonic ‘Cognitive Elite’ who, by their understanding of that answer, may supplant democratic processes to implement it? (So Progressives reason.)

The second accepts the need for disguising preferences, withholding information, even undermining others. Strategies acceptable for bargaining even among enemies should not be acceptable among fellow citizens.

Some more metaphysics will help here. An externalist regarding the contents of mental states maintains that those contents may not be represented internally. Thus I can be intending to buy milk at the store even though my intention incorporates nothing representing ‘milk’: I have a list in my shirt pocket that has the word ‘milk’ on it. Why store it “in the head”?

Likewise, while it is true that each democratic citizen has a preference ordering, they may not have introspective access to it (because it’s not “in the head”). Indeed, each of us may have false beliefs about what our actual preferences are.

How then to derive the social preference function from the individual functions in a democracy? It seems impossible.

No, it’s not.

When we must come to an agreement about the social preference, but are confronted with others with different preferences, an inevitable process of refining our own preferences takes place. Maybe you don’t want a Medicare drug benefit as much as you thought you did, if it means foregoing military modernization that makes the nation safer. Or vice versa.

This process of discernment ordinarily takes place in legislatures: in our federal system in the House of Representatives. That’s why budget bills originate there.

Therefore, it becomes very, very important who constitutes that body if the process of discernment is to be effective.

And that is on you. The election of members of Congress, to say nothing of state assemblies and school boards, is a genuine and significant social act.

But, you respond, the issues are very complicated; you can’t form an opinion worth having on all those issues and live your life too.

Fair enough. That’s why decision heuristics are important. Don’t work out the details of policy. Work out your heuristic rules for deciding generally what policies you should favor.

Decision heuristics have a bad reputation, since they involve cognitive bias. But they are also indispensable. (Suppose you come to a stoplight on a two-lane street. In one lane is an elderly lady in a Lincoln Towncar; in the other lane is a Dude in a muscle car with flame decals. Who do you get behind? Granny may lay rubber through the intersection when the light turns green. But is that the way to bet? What if some issue of importance rests on your choice?)

One of my own decision heuristics for deciding what view to hold on proposed government programs is this: A program that places some good necessary for ordinary life solely or even predominantly in the hands of government undermines the proper relation between the citizen and the state. We would cease to be citizens and become clients or subjects instead.

Each of us will have different decision heuristics. But if we are going to be clear even on our own preference functions, we need to be confronted with other, different ones.

So take time to figure out the races down the ticket. That’s where the real action is. Metaphysics says so.

Thomas Pyne
Department of Philosophy
Sacramento State