First things first. A friend of mine, Ben, who was until I perhaps unwisely ventured into the world of work a coursemate, has started his own blog. Doubtless presuming to a status as arbiter of my lonely gaggle of occasional readers' taste which is laughably out of my reach, I recommend it, on the basis that he is clever, interesting and an all-round nice bloke. He has been added to the blogroll.
Now, some more philosophical stuff. Lindsay Beyerstein of Majikthise has been doing posts on request, in order to raise money to go and report on whatever part of the coming judgement Tom DeLay, erstwhile leader of the Republicans in the House of Representatives, is receiving early. She's done ones on the end justifying the means thing and the foundationalism - coherentism distinction in epistemology. Both are fine introductions for the philosophically uninitiated.
Also, Political Arguments has a nice discussion going about the metaethical implications of Rawls, which I think may well be substanially wrongheaded - it forgets that Rawls is a political theorist, not a moral philosopher, and so nothing he says about the epistemological status of his normative claims necessarily implies anything about the epistemological status of normative claims more generally - but is nevertheless thoughtful and thought-provoking.
In more philosophy-related shenigans, Stumbling and Mumbling finds someone who thinks, more or less, that something being meritocratic justifies it - well, he thinks that laissez-faire capitalism's alleged meritocracy insulates it from leftish critiques, which is much the same thing, just with an added, somewhat implausible, empirical premise. This is, quite frankly, bollocks. If we, at age ten, killed everyone who couldn't run one hundred metres in under fifteen seconds, say, that would be meritocratic in the sense that on the basis of reasonably fair assessment of some ability, goods and bads would be distributed. However, this would clearly be really, really, really evil. Ergo, meritocracy doesn't necessarily justify social arrangements. The running example suggests that some attention to the goods and bads distributed by the social arrangements, and the pattern of that distribution, is needed. I suspect that laissez-faire capitalism does less well on this score.
In the last quasi-philosophy-related item, Matt Yglesias seems to claim that the horror of the Allied bombing of Germany in the Second World War is mitigated by the fact that the Germans could have given up, or overthrown Hitler, or something. I find this incredibly difficult to accept. Bombing genuine military targets without taking special care not to harm civilians is seriously wrong, whilst indiscriminate bombing of civilians is not only, I understand, a recognised war crime but totally f*cking disgusting. The former is a long way from being justified by the Germans at worst support for the Nazi regime and at best failure, but not without trying, to solve a significant collective action problem, but the latter is basically totally incapable of justification. It would have been totally unjustifiable to slowly cook Hitler, had he been captured by the Allies at the end of the war, and so surely the idea that there is anything that can mitigate doing the same to tens of thousands of civilians is simply repulsive.
Finally, Stumbling and Mumbling has some problems with London. He is lying, about all of them, the snotty-nosed little provincial oik, as I can only say I expect of someone who watches enough of Emmerdale, Coronation Street and Eastenders to be able to comment with confidence on the the relative attractiveness of their female cast members. It may be that he lives north of the River, and is judging on the basis of that alone, but that just shows that, as every South Londoner knows and has known forever, North Londoners are self-obsessed arrogant b*stards.