Extra Credit Assignment(s) for Terrorism Event (April 21)

I’ve devised two extra credit assignments for the terrorism event announced in the post just below. One requires attending the event, the other doesn’t. Both are optional. Each is worth 10 points; I’m looking for a response of 500-750 words. Do one assignment or the other, not both (if you decide to do any).

Option 1: Attend the event. Then write a two-page response that does the following: (a) summarize the claims of all of the speakers (of the symposium as a whole), and (b) select one argument from the whole that struck you as the most plausible.

Option 2: Read my presentation in lieu of attending the event, and respond to it (no need to summarize). How convincing is my argument? What are its strongest and/or weakest features?


Extra Credit Event: “Terrorism Unjustified,” April 21, 1-4:30 pm

I’ll post the extra credit assignment pertaining to this event soon. There will also be a reading-based extra credit assignment for those unable to attend the event. Meanwhile, here is an announcement for the event itself.

The Felician Institute for Ethics and Public Affairs will be holding an Author-Meets-Critics session on Vicente Medina’s Terrorism Unjustified: The Use and Misuse of Political Violence (Rowman and Littlefield, 2015). The event takes place on Saturday, April 21, 2018, 1-4:30 pm, in the Main Auditorium (“Ray’s Place”) of the Education Commons Building on Felician University’s Rutherford campus (231 Montross Ave., Rutherford, New Jersey 07070). Light refreshments will be served.

Presenters include Theresa Fanelli (Criminal Justice, Felician; previously, FBI Counterterrorism Division), Graham Parsons (Philosophy, West Point), and Irfan Khawaja (Philosophy, Felician), with a response by Vicente Medina (Philosophy, Seton Hall University).

The event is co-sponsored by the Royal Academy of Science International Trust, the Felician University Pre-Law Program, and the Felician University UN Fellows Program. For further information, contact me at khawajai at felician dot edu.


Locke’s Theory of Property

Despite devoting almost two sessions to it, we really only managed to scratch the surface of Locke’s theory of property. Just use this post for any general comments or questions that occur to you regarding property–whether Locke’s theory specifically, or later interpretations of it.

We spent today’s class trying to nail Locke’s statement of the problem regarding property, why he regards it as a problem, and why the problem is raised in chapter 5. We also discussed the basics of Locke’s theory of initial appropriation of resources from nature:

  • the appropriation must involve an improvement;
  • it must leave enough and as good for others; and
  • it cannot involve “waste.”

Continue reading


Locke vs. Hobbes on the State of Nature

I know this is Jennifer’s official paper topic, but I’m just posing it as a blog-level question here:

Compare and contrast Hobbes’s and Locke’s conceptions of the state of nature. What are the basic similarities, and what are the basic differences? Whose conception strikes you as more plausible, and why?


Lockdowns and Liabilities: A Hobbesian Reflection on School Shootings

Comment critically on either or both parts of this post I did for my personal blog. The first part, on duties of care, makes reference to World War I, which I’m teaching in my PSCI 303 class; the second part, on lockdowns, makes reference to Hobbes, which we’ve been studying in PSCI 306. Obviously, the second half of the post is more pertinent to your class than the first, but as Kristina has had my PSCI 303 class, feel free to comment on either or both parts of the post.

I’ll put some posts up on Locke soon.


Paul Krugman on Trump, Hobbes, and Guns

Read this column by Paul Krugman in The New York Times, “Nasty, Brutish, and Trump,” with special attention to Krugman’s allusions to Hobbes’s Leviathan. Two questions (answer both):

  1. Is Krugman’s use of Hobbes accurate? Does it genuinely capture what the text is saying, or does it misrepresent the text?
  2. Is Krugman’s use of Hobbes useful? In other words, does it serve a useful intellectual purpose intended to produce understanding that couldn’t otherwise be gotten? Or does it merely serve a decorative or rhetorical purpose, intended to show that Krugman has read Hobbes? If it does serve a useful purpose, describe what that purpose is. If not, why do you think Krugman used it?

On a different subject, here is an article from NJ.com on the traffic ban in Leonia that came up in class (there’s a similar ban in Weehawken). Unsurprisingly, the ban has given rise to a lawsuit by a commuter who happens to be a lawyer.


Hobbes on the State of War (Updated)

(I’ve updated this post in light of our class on February 14.)

We spent yesterday’s class focusing in a detailed way on Leviathan, chapter 13, the book’s pivotal and most famous chapter–or at least the one with the most famous Hobbesian phrase in it (life in the State of War as “solitary, brutish, poor, nasty, and short”). We went through about three-fourths of the chapter, paragraph by paragraph, asking about the logic of Hobbes’s argument across the breadth of what we read.

So here is my question: finish the rest of the chapter, and then, evaluate Hobbes’s argument. Do you find it convincing? Unconvincing? Plausible? Implausible? Try to make a clear distinction between the premises (or basis) of the argument and its conclusion. Also identify any problematic or unsupported assumptions he makes over the course of the argument. But give him credit for anything that seems particularly profound, or that he gets undeniably right. While you’re at it, raise any questions about the Hobbesian conception of a “state of war” or “state of nature” that occurs to you. Doing so will be helpful when we come to Locke, who has a conception of the state of nature that is both similar to and different from Hobbes’s. Continue reading


Hobbes on Felicity and Tranquility

We spent a fair bit of today’s class discussing two passages in Hobbes’s Leviathan, each bearing on his conception of human beings as restless pursuers of “power,” incapable of sustained tranquility of mind. In chapter 6, he says:

For there is no such thing as perpetual tranquility of mind while we live here [on earth], because life itself is but motion and can never be without desire, nor without fear no more than without sense.

And in chapter 11, he says:

…I put for a general inclination of all mankind a perpetual and restless desire of power after power that ceaseth only in death.

Comment on Hobbes’s view. For one thing, what exactly is he saying? Second, how plausible does it seem to you?


Hobbes’s Leviathan: Passages and Summary

Our official reading today was Hobbes’s Leviathan, chapter 6 and chapters 10-13. We mostly focused on chapters 6 and 10 with a look at chapter 11. Here’s a list of the passages we focused on, if you want to go back and find them:

  • Chapter 6, paragraph 7 on the nature of good, evil, and contemptible.
  • Second to last paragraph of chapter 6 on felicity, along with paragraph 2 of chapter 11 on mankind’s “restless desire for power.”
  • Discussions of power, worth, dignity, honor, dishonor, and worthiness in chapter 10.

Some of the themes or topics we discussed:

  • Hobbes’s unsocial conception of sociability: we’re pushed together by necessity but pulled apart by competition.
  • His completely subjective conception of good and evil, unless settled by law.
  • His conception of human beings as in one sense similar to animals, and in other to robots.
  • His revisionary understanding of common terms like “worth,” and “honor.”
  • We spent most of the class trying to make sense of his ideas on felicity, tranquility, and restlessness.

Machiavelli as “Teacher of Evil”

The twentieth century political philosopher Leo Strauss wrote a famous book on Machiavelli called Thoughts on Machiavelli, in which he described Machiavelli forthrightly as a “teacher of evil.” This is the first paragraph of the book:

We shall not shock anyone, we shall merely expose ourselves to good-natured or at any rate harmless ridicule, if we profess ourselves inclined to the old-fashioned and simple opinion according to which Machiavelli was a teacher of evil.

You can read the rest of the paragraph, and in fact as much of Strauss’s book as you like, by clicking the highlighted link above: the whole book is online.

What do you think of Strauss’s interpretation? Fair and balanced, or ridiculous and over-the-top? Or somewhere in-between?