William K. Sjostrom, Jr. (corporate law, securities regulation) at Chase College of Law of Northern Kentucky University has accepted a senior offer from the University of Arizona Rogers College of Law.
Lawrence Lessig (Cyberlaw, intellectual property, constitutional law) at Stanford Law School has accepted a senior offer from Harvard Law School, where he had taugt prior to his move to Stanford several years ago.
This essay offers a new interpretation of Nietzsche's argument for moral skepticism (i.e., the metaphysical thesis that there do not exist any objective moral properties or facts), an argument that should be of independent philosophical interest as well. On this account, Nietzsche offers a version of the argument from moral disagreement, but, unlike familiar varieties, it does not purport to exploit anthropological reports about the moral views of exotic cultures, or even garden-variety conflicting moral intuitions about concrete cases. Nietzsche, instead, calls attention to the single most important and embarrassing fact about the history of moral theorizing by philosophers over two millennia: namely, that no rational consensus has been secured on any substantive, foundational proposition about morality. Persistent and apparently intractable disagreement on foundational questions, of course, distinguishes moral theory from inquiry in the sciences and mathematics (perhaps in kind, certainly in degree). According to Nietzsche, the best explanation for this disagreement is that, even though moral skepticism is true, philosophers can still construct valid dialectical justifications for moral propositions because the premises of different justifications will answer to the psychological needs of at least some philosophers and thus be deemed true by some of them. The essay concludes by considering various attempts to defuse this abductive argument for skepticism based on moral disagreement and by addressing the question whether the argument "proves too much," that is, whether it might entail an implausible skepticism about a wide range of topics about which there is philosophical disagreement.
Comments would be welcome: please e-mail me or post comments here.
Since my esteemed colleague Eric Posner began posting at the "Volokh Conspiracy" blog, I've started looking at that site again, and so noticed that Orin Kerr (George Washington)--an expert in criminal law and procedure and one of the most worthwhile contributors there--has posted an updated version of their "comments policy," I assume in response to increasingly worthless comments threads. (I've got my own policy, of course, but since blog comments sections are generally worthless, I open them less often.) My own (admittedly dated) recollection of the comments section at the Volokh blog was of a cesspool of juvenile stupidity as well as every right-wing delusion about how the world works imaginable: sort of like right-wing talk radio, but typed. Anyway, I was amused that Professor Kerr's attempt to reassert some dignity to the comments threads immediately provoked--what else?--an explosion of juvenile stupidity and crackpot ranting, including this gem:
I was banned after attacking Eugene personally. The policy below ensued soon thereafter. It is mostly about his feelings. Here, I have seen curse words, personalized death threats, unacceptable language. I have seen links to sites with animal sex, illegal pharmacies. No problem. Question the professor on substance, and that is unpardonable. He does not know the legal word, reasonable, really means, in accordance with the New Testament. He failed to grasp that the supernatural central doctrines of the law, mind reading, future forecasting, truth detection by gut feelings, standards of conduct set by fictional characters to make them objective, all violate the Establishment Clause. He is an expert on crosses in city flags, but refuses to see the glaring lawlessness of the central doctrines of the law that he indoctrinates into his students daily. Although we share some beliefs, I believe he is mired in Medieval superstition, unforgivable given his scientific knowledge and his intelligence. I coined the legal term of art, in his honor, "dumbass." That is someone with an IQ of 300 who has been made a mental cripple by a legal education.
Banning this fellow does, indeed, seem like a contribution to communal well-being. Professor Volokh, himself, reports later in the same thread that he has banned more commenters (140) than any of his co-bloggers, and by a wide margin. Needless to say, this (conjoined with his reasonable intolerance of folks attacking him, like the whack job quoted above) struck me as more than a little ironic given his past misconduct. But perhaps these developments--including the adoption of an adult comments policy at the University of Chicago Faculty blog--signals maturation of the blogosphere? What most anonymous individuals have to say most of the time has no value when said in public, and, more often than not, it positively detracts from everyone else's opportunities for potentially valuable speech. The Internet is currently the world's "bathroom wall"--as Dean Levmore has memorably observed--but why professors should contribute to and dignify that is hard to fathom.
John Witt (American legal history) at Columbia Law School has accepted a senior offer from Yale Law School, where he will start in July 2009. (Columbia had several years ago warded off an attempt by Harvard to lure him away.) Last year, Columbia also lost Thomas Merrill (administrative and environmental law, property) to Yale. (On the other side of the ledger, of course, Columbia earlier this year recruited Michael Graetz [tax] from Yale!)