[The quotations attributed below to Justice Thomas are genuine (though not the picture caption, obviously). Thanks to Alex Guerrero for the quip which inspired this post and became its title.]
This week’s ruling in McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission confirms what many have suspected since 2010’s Citizens United: Justice Clarence Thomas is engaged in an elaborate reductio of the idea that money is speech.
In Citizens United Justice Thomas argued that if political expenditures by corporations and unions are speech (as claimed by the Court), then existing disclosure requirements are unconstitutional. Such requirements, Thomas wrote, would violate the right to anonymous speech.
But Thomas’s position on the matter was too extreme even for Justices Roberts, Scalia, and Alito, leading some to suggest that Thomas had unknowingly produced a reductio ad absurdum of the idea that corporate political expenditures are speech. Others responded that Thomas was well aware of the reductio he had crafted, and the proper interpretation of his intentions remained controversial.
[The following is a "guest post" by Roger Scruton. Actual passages from Mr. Scruton's columns in The Wall Street Journal appear in quotes, followed by links to the original articles.]
Each day 19,000 children die from preventable, poverty-related causes. For the vast majority of these children, their early death means that they will never have the chance to take up smoking. And if the World Health Organization has its way, the number of such tragedies will only increase.
The WHO is aggressively pursuing anti-smoking policies in the developing world. Measures range from excise taxes to warning labels to complete bans on advertising. “This despite the fact that tobacco-smoking has not been identified as the sole cause of any of the diseases associated with it.”  “Of course tobacco, used to excess, can damage one’s health.” But “what do we mean by health? The average smoker gains mental relaxation, social confidence and an easy form of hospitality from his habit: are these not parts of health? And are we necessarily right to trade them for a few extra years of life, when most of us live too long in any case?” 
So I haven’t posted a story in a while. Apologies for that. Now that I’m back in school my attention is elsewhere. But I figure I can at least share the more amusing bits of life in grad school. So here goes.
I always dress up for one class in particular. It’s called “Formal Philosophy.” My jokes are too subtle to be perceived by the human mind.
Speaking of formal philosophy, partial meat contraction is not what it sounds like. (Think swimming on a cold day.) Largely that’s because it sounds like “partial meat contraction” but it’s actually “partial meet contraction.”
I named my new cat ‘the king of France’. Originally I was leaning towards ‘Louis XIV’, but Bertrand Russell convinced me that ordinary names are just disguised definite descriptions. I figured I might as well get it out there in the open. Bonus: ‘The king of France is bald’ is unequivocally false. Take that, Strawson.
President Obama authorized the Department of Education on Monday to release 100,000 counterexamples from the Strategic Philosophy Reserve (SPR). The move follows worries that the nation’s friends, family members, and acquaintances are increasingly getting away with overgeneralizations, invalid inferences, and general bullshittery. This is the first release since 2010, when Obama tapped into the SPR in a failed attempt to head off $2,000-per-year subscription rates for Springer journals.
The broader context for the SPR release is provided by the nation’s ongoing philosophy work stoppage. The strike, which has spread to philosophy departments in all 50 states, is now in its fourth month with no end in sight.
A report released by the Moral Philosophy Research Group this week confirms what many have long suspected: Sean Hannity’s commentary is entirely devoid of cognitive content. “Yes, except we mean it literally,” says Anthony Vega, the report’s lead author. “When Hannity utters a sentence, he’s not asserting a proposition that might be true or false – he’s simply expressing an attitude.”
The researchers first became interested in Hannity after noticing a startling contrast between his apparently successful use of language and what seemed to be a never-ending string of blatant falsehoods. “Most of what he says seems to be demonstrably false,” Vega notes, “and yet he engages in these back-and-forth exchanges in which his guests somehow just don’t seem to care. I found myself wondering: What if Sean Hannity isn’t even in the business of describing reality?”
[The following is a guest post by Clinton McGruff, written in response to recent events.]
What do you call a man who exposes himself to women for pleasure? A philosophy professor, of course. Why does this joke work? Because sexual harassment is so common in academic philosophy. But also because of the tension between the image of the lewd “flasher” (a certain type of harasser) and that of the staid professor. When you think about it, most times that you are naked it’s not even about sex: when you bathe, dress, or are examined by the doctor, for example. The ancient Greeks used to wrestle naked and artists still use naked models. Indeed, without the body human culture would not exist. So really the body is very respectable and vital to human flourishing. We are a corporeal species.
I have in fact written a whole book about the body, Pretension, in which its ubiquity is noted and celebrated. I even have a cult centering on the body, described in this blog. I have given a semester-long seminar discussing the body and displays related to it. I now tend to use nudity in the wide-ranging manner just outlined, sometimes with humorous intent.
Lawmakers on Capitol Hill turned their attention to philosophy this week after Monday saw what appears to be the nation’s third trolley-related homicide since April. Members of both houses of Congress raised the prospect of legislation to regulate the violent content found in much contemporary moral philosophy, and Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) introduced a bill to study the effects of violent philosophy on children and adolescents.
The proposal comes in the wake of the death of Amtrak employee Charles Shubin, who was killed Monday when a runaway trolley was diverted onto the side-spur to which Shubin had been tied by unknown individuals. Two trolleys involved in similar incidents in April turned out to have had their brake lines cut.