Thinking Well and Being Good

I just returned from giving the annual Dunbar lecture at Millsaps College in Jackson Mississippi. My title was “The Good Life as Thinking Well”, and my lecture was all about the importance of cognitive virtue. I also spoke to two classes of students, one on Kant’s moral philosophy and the other on my mysterian view of the mind-body problem. I am glad to say that it all went well and that the people I interacted with were intelligent and sympathetic, both faculty and students. Meanwhile other issues have arisen in the philosophy profession, about which sensible people will reserve judgement until the facts become clear (if they ever do). What I would urge is that different cases be treated differently and people should not all be tarred with the same brush.

One thing I would suggest to people who feel they have been wrongly accused and unjustly treated by those in power is to resign in protest, assuming this is feasible (which I realize for many people is not). This is often the only way to register one’s disapproval and it sends a clear message.

3 replies
  1. Charles
    Charles says:

    In the previous thread I quoted William Faulkner, the American writer and Nobel Prize laureate. It seems more than a coincidence that Faulkner grew up in Oxford, Mississippi (a short drive from where you gave your talk on Monday) and that you graduated from and also taught at another “Oxford”—Oxford University.

    Here again is the Faulkner quote:

    “Never be afraid to raise your voice for honesty and truth and compassion against injustice and lying and greed.”

    Here’s some context for the setting of the quote:

    This quote was said by William Faulkner while ‘Addressing the Graduating Class’ at University High School, Oxford, Mississippi on May 28, 1951, as reported in “Essays, speeches & public letters” (1965) by William Faulkner, edited by James B. Meriwether; Page 123.

    Here’s some context for the quote itself:

    “So, never be afraid. Never be afraid to raise your voice for honesty and truth and compassion, against injustice and lying and greed. If you, not just you in this room tonight, but in all the thousands of other rooms like this one about the world today and tomorrow and next week, will do this, not as a class or classes, but as individuals, men and women, you will change the earth; in one generation all the Napoleons and Hitlers and Caesars and Mussolinis and Stalins and all the other tyrants who want power and aggrandizement, and the simple politicians and time-servers who themselves are merely baffled or ignorant or afraid, who have used, or are using, or hope to use, man’s fear and greed for man’s enslavement, will have vanished from the face of it.”

    Colin, I was born on March 10, 1952, the year after Faulkner’s talk and exactly two years after you were born. I think we would agree that Faulkner’s words are as compelling today as when we were babies, or for that matter, at any time in the history of the human race. Indeed, change begins with a single act of protest. This is the legacy of Rosa Parks, Nelson Mandela and countless others who stood up—as you certainly did—”against injustice and lying and greed.”

  2. Colin McGinn
    Colin McGinn says:

    Charles, that is all very striking, and of course entirely true. Have you noticed how many reasons people find for not speaking out against falsity and injustice? It’s the same mentality that allows bullies to proceed unhindered.


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