Health Care Reform and Scheduled Return

I so don’t have time to write this post that it’s not even funny. I have 10 chapters (~375pp) of page proofs to get through in the next 9 days. But there’s something so irritating going on in the health care debate right now that, page proofs be damned, I have to take a few minutes to get it off my chest.

No, it’s not Palin’s paranoid fantasies about “death panels” telling her she needs to get an abortion. It’s not some Republicans’ (including at least one senator’s) suggestion that they should oppose reform, not because they think it would be bad for Americans, but because they think their opposition could cripple Obama politically. Apalling as these things are, I must sadly admit that I more or less expected them, given the sources.

No, what’s really galling me is a sentence that , in one form or another, I’m hearing bandied about a lot about health care reform right now: “Libearals have to be willing to compromise if they want to save health care reform.” This is usually meant to suggest that liberals may have to give up the public option. You don’t just hear this coming from people on the far right. You hear it as part of the standard mantra of the mainstream press–even the slightly left-leaning press (like NPR). Continue reading Health Care Reform and Scheduled Return

How to Solve the Tort Problem

Despite what Republicans would have you believe, the right to sue is an important one. People really do get screwed over all the time–by corrupt businesses, incompetent professionals, governmental entities with private agendas. “Tort reform” that makes life unpleasant for legitimate plaintiffs is simply unacceptable–the law is the last recourse of the little guy who’s exhausted all other pathways.

On the other hand, this isn’t to say that the sue-happy nature of the U.S. isn’t a problem. It is. There are lots of frivolous lawsuits (although somewhat less than the urban legends would have you believe). They make insurance more expensive, discourage people from entering important careers like medicine, make it impossible to find many good products that involve highly manageable risk, and so on.

But there is a way that we can keep the necessary functions that lawsuits serve while substantially cutting down on the frivolity, and that is to change the way punitive damages are handled.

Continue reading How to Solve the Tort Problem


Hi all,

It’s been a long time since I’ve updated this blog, and it’s going to be a while before I update it again, at least with anything contentful. I’ve been massively oversubscribed at work, and now I’m fighting off an illness to boot.

I wanted to put up a post just to let everyone know that this blog and the projects on it have *not* been abandoned. I’ll get back to regular posts just as soon as I can.

The Trouble with Natural Kinds: Putnam’s Version

This post is a continuation of my posts on natrual kinds; see my take on Quine’s account of kinds, and my twoparter on Kripke’s account of kinds.

Putnam’s views on issues of metaphysics and language have actually evolved extensively over time, and his main arguments for realism about natural kinds, which I’ll present here, do not accurately represent his views now, or for that matter, any time since about 1980. “Internal realism,” his current (last I checked) ontology, is extremely nuanced, and I’m not going to talk about it right here. Instead, the opponent whose arguments for natural kinds realism is, specifically, the Putnam of the 1970s. Putnam, in my opinion, deserves great respect for being one of the few philosophers to be completely forthright about changing his mind; he freely admits that his metaphysics has changed dramatically and that, in his opinion, his earlier incarnation was simply wrong.

Why investigate views whose own author has repudiated? The fact is, most of the philosophical community doesn’t agree with Putnam about his own earlier theories. I’d estimate that, currently, the hardcore scientific realist Putnam of the 1970s has more adherents than the internal realist of the 1980s and beyond.

Continue reading The Trouble with Natural Kinds: Putnam’s Version

The Trouble with Natural Kinds: Kripke’s Version, Part 2

In this post, I argued that, contra Kripke, when the baptismal origin of a natural kind term has none of the properties we associate with that term, the term no longer refers to a kind that includes its baptismal origin. I then promised that I argue that, when objects not “of the same kind” (in a realist sense) as the baptismal origin of a natural kind term have all of the properties associated with a kind term, the kind term does (or at least, Kripke didn’t show that it doesn’t) include those objects in its extension. Here’s where I’ll do that.

Kripke’s Original Argument

Kripke’s example is as follows: Consider English as it was spoken pre-Lavoisier. The term “water,” at that point, clearly did not have associated with it the property of having the chemical formula H2O. The set of properties associated with it, at most, involved those properties accessible to people at the time. Now, suppose there was another compound (which Kripke calls XYZ), such that it had all of the properties of water that were accessible to people before the start of modern chemistry.

Kripke takes it as obvious (and I’m pretty much inclined to agree) that XYZ shouldn’t count as water. But should it count as water as the term was used before the start of modern chemistry? Kripke thinks that’s pretty obvious, too. Of course, he claims, the meaning of “water” hasn’t actually changed since the 17th century. So XYZ couldn’t have counted as “water” then, either, even though it had all the properties that were associated with the term.

Continue reading The Trouble with Natural Kinds: Kripke’s Version, Part 2