Quote from Rawls

A nice follow up from my previous post.

In a democratic society, as ours is - although it distressingly falls short of what it should be - I see political philosophy as addressing the citizenry - not government, that's not who you are addressing - [but] other people like you who comprise the electorate. It's important to carry on political discussion at the deepest level, and to do it as clearly as possible so that it is accessible to people generally. In that indirect way, if they find your ideas convincing, you might change society for the better, or more realistically perhaps, you might prevent it from getting worse. In a democratic society, political philosophy doesn't, of course, have any authority; but it can try to win the authority of human reason. There is no institutional judge of whether you succeed in that, any more than there is in science, or in any other rational inquiry. Yet that it is the only authority political philosophy can recognize.

Link to interview.

There is no Neil deGrasse Tyson of Political Philosophy

Neil deGrasse Tyson, one of the world's leading astrophysicists, has taken it upon himself to raise the scientific literacy of the general public. His entertaining persona and excellent oratory skills makes him the perfect person for the job. In fact, he is so good at being a communicator that he has become somewhat of a celebrity. On top of hosting his own TV program NOVA scienceNOW, Tyson has been a frequent guest on multiple talk shows. Indeed, I would go as far as to say that most people who know who he is are not scientists. I am, of course, a perfect example.

My serendipitous discovery of Tyson was quickly followed by the sad realization that there is no equivalent of him in my field. There is no Neil deGrasse Tyson of political philosophy. This tragic fact has been disturbing me for some time now. However important we think it is to raise the scientific literacy of the general public, I would say it is equally, if not more important, to raise the public's political literacy. We need to improve the quality of our discussions about the fundamentals of politics. From the debate about gay marriage to the fight for economic equality, questions of justice permeate through our society. That there is no Neil deGrasse Tyson of political philosophy to help direct our political discussions is a grave tragedy, the consequences of which will be felt on a societal level.

John Rawls was the most influential political philosopher of the latter half of the twentieth century. His magnum opus, A Theory of Justice, is considered one of the most important texts in the field. Shorty before his great work was published, some actually deemed the field of political philosophy to be dead. John Rawls brought it back to life. And yet, even though Rawls was such a prominent figure, no one outside of academia knew who he was. He should have been a common household name. He should have been on billboards.

Society at large desperately needs a political philosopher to take the next step and go beyond the boundaries of academia. We need a political philosopher celebrity.

So, who wants to be our Neil deGrasse Tyson?

Presenting My Theory

Yesterday I went to a conference in London about education and human development. Four people presented and about 45 people attended. The presentations were all very good and there was a good balance between theory and practice so it was quite interdisciplinary. Most of the audience members were students from the university that was hosting the event and most of them were getting their Master's degrees in education or some branch of it - I think I was the only political philosopher there.

After each presentation there was about a 10 minute tea break during which people chatted with each other. I had the pleasure of starting a conversation with the first speaker who was a professor at Lewis University in Illinois. I first told her that I really enjoyed her presentation and then started to tell her about my theory of natural diversity. She seemed very interested in hearing more but before we knew it, the break was over. We continued the conversation during lunch and it was then that I seemed to convince her of my theory. Towards the end of the conference she told me that I should present my idea even though it's still early in development. I thought about it for a bit and decided that I would do it. What's interesting is that when I first heard about the conference I was thinking about presenting, but I eventually decided against it because I didn't want to be over ambitious.

Anyways, after the last presenter gave her talk the professor made a comment on how I should give a quick introduction to my theory. I then promptly added that it would be an honor for me to share my ideas. To my surprise everyone was quite willing to hear my theory, so I got up and told them about natural diversity. I was extremely nervous and excited at the same time. I couldn't believe that I was actually going to share my ideas at a conference. On the whole, the talk went well. I spoke for about 10 minutes and then answered a few questions.

After the conference ended a few people came up to me and told me how inspiring I was because I spoke with so much passion. They then told me that they agreed with what I said and that they couldn't wait to read my dissertation. I was overwhelmed with joy. To have my work appreciated is truly an honor and it only fuels my determination to publish. Yesterday's event reaffirms my conviction that something must be done to fight against the restriction of the development of the natural diversity of life pursuits.

Skyping with Grandma

I skyped with my grandma for the first time today.

Great Things and Great Suffering

In the last 30 minutes, I watched two videos. One video was about the invention of these small, autonomous, agile, flying robots. These robots are not only quick enough to fly through a hula hoop being tossed into the air, but also smart enough to build things with other flying robots. Our technology has advanced so far that these machines can figure out where they are and how to maneuver entirely on their own. And since they're so small, they can be used as first responders after natural disasters. For example, when it's unsafe to enter a building after an earthquake, these robots can go in instead. And perhaps the next time there is an emergency at a nuclear reactor, these little guys can fly in and scan the area for radiation. The applications for such a technology are endless.

The second video I watched was about this 700 pound 23 year old man pleading for help. He said that he had tried to lose weight before but was never successful and so he was now asking for anyone and everyone to help him. When I watched this video, I could tell right away that this man was suffering a great deal and that he truly wanted to change his life. He said he wanted to be able to see his niece and nephew grow up and perhaps even have his own family one day. I couldn't help but cry after watching his desperate plea, and at the same time I couldn't help but feel entirely useless because I knew I couldn't and can't do anything to help him. But this is not to say that he can't be helped. On the contrary, his suffering can be relieved, he just needs to meet the right people.

And so now we come to the point that I'm trying to make. Too often I find myself not the right person to relieve anyone's suffering. Unlike the engineers in the first video, I won't be able to save people from a collapsed building or scan an area for radiation. I won't be able to invent any cures for cancer or any other type of disease...

I can't even help this 23 year old man lose weight.

In about one hour, I will walk to the library and take a practice GRE exam in preparation for the real thing in two weeks. If I score high on the test and do well throughout this year, I might be able to get into a PhD program. If that happens, I will spend the next 6 years of my life developing my theory on what a just society looks like. If I am successful in attaining my PhD, I will spend the rest of life being an academic and hopefully inspiring young people to fight for justice. If I am able to do all that, I will die happy knowing that I tried to make this world a better place. However, I know that in the end there will be a part of me that wished that I could have done more.