Adjectives on the Typewriter

she moves her words like a prizefighter

28 February 2006

Go Gonzaga—G-O-N-Z-A-G-A!

Have discovered there is no better way to relieve stress than going to a basketball game. It provides not only an ample opportunity but also justification for jumping up and down, screaming, and waving one's arms like a lunatic.

27 February 2006

On Utilitarianism

In explaining his theory of Utilitarianism, Mill addresses many of the criticisms leveled against that ethical system. He argues that utility—the achievement of happiness by maximizing pleasure and minimizing pain—is the fundamental principle of all morality. And in doing so, Mill finds it necessary to refute the accusations both of those who misunderstand the Utility Principle and those who understand and yet reject it.

As a primary concern, Mill sets out to (better) define his terms so as to eliminate some of the misunderstanding surrounding Utilitarianism. All moral systems, he says, are based on general principles, regardless of whether those general principles are inherent or “learned” through experience. He further argues that happiness always governs our actions, and thus is the fundamental (if unacknowledged) ethical standard. This refutes Kant’s idea that ethics is governed by the potential consequences from the universal adoption of an individual’s action. According to Mill, Kant’s principle fails because it only deals with the theoretical situation in which consequences are universally applied—something that almost never happens in reality. In contrast, Utility is by definition “the ultimate ethical principle for human conduct” since all humans inherently value pleasure and “the good.”

After discussing the impracticality of Kant’s transcendentalism, Mill moves on to address the accusation that Utilitarianism neglects pleasure by promoting usefulness or practicality. To refute this misconception, Mill reiterates that the central tenet of Utilitarianism is the promotion of pleasure and the absence of pain. And while the Utility principle is not preoccupied with instant physical gratification, it does revolve around pleasure both inherently and as a means to the promotion of future pleasure. Conversely, the Utility principle does not reduce humans to pleasure-seeking animals, but rather elevates humans by acknowledging the superiority of their faculties to those of animals. Mill also emphasizes that Utility balances the quality of pleasure with quantity; thus some pleasures are inherently more valuable than others. As humans, we can appreciate this difference in quality by virtue of our “moral experience,” something lacking in animals. Whereas sensory/animalistic pleasures do at times direct the human psyche, pursuing higher pleasures most often leads us to sacrifice those fleeting passions. Finally, Mill makes the distinction between happiness and contentment, saying that even if our higher sensibilities cause us to be dissatisfied, we still have a greater capacity for happiness than a satisfied but “ignorant” being.

The most compelling argument against Mill’s Utilitarianism, however, is that it places the individual’s interests over those of the human community as a whole. Mill even goes so far as to admit that Utility “requires us to be as strictly impartial as a disinterested and benevolent spectator.” He further claims that in order to achieve this, we must educate people to associate individual good with the good of the whole. But in reality, most individuals are not impartial spectators, and neither can they simply be taught to act as such. Each individual by nature places his own interests over those of others, thereby creating the need for ethics. Mill’s only response is that so long as we make the distinction between motives and actions (a distinction he presupposes to be crystal-clear), morality needs only to restrain acts and not seek to constrain the propelling interests behind those acts. And while Mill attempts to show that morality can never really address motives, his argument becomes incredibly circular as he seeks to redefine morality. Mill’s morality, then, is incomplete because it deals only with consequences of human action—in a way similar to law. Thus while Utilitarianism offers a “tangible and intelligible mode” for regulating human behavior, it neglects the deeper problem of motives and their direct correlation to human nature and behavior.


Grey skys make me Pensive

I do not wish to spend my life regretting all the things I didn't do.

15 February 2006

Return of the Quotes

"Humans are amphibians—half spirit and half animal. As spirits they belong to the eternal world, but as animals they inhabit time. This means that while their spirit can be directed to an eternal object, their bodies, passions, and imaginations are in continual change, for to be in time means to change." ~C.S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters

"All virtues are less formidable once the man is aware that he has them, but this is especially true of humility. Catch him at the moment when he is really poor in spirit and smuggle into his mind the gratifying reflection, 'By jove! I'm being humble,' and almost immediately pride—pride at his own humility—will appear." ~Ibid.

"Man is not usually called upon to have an opinion of his own talents at all, since he can very well go on improving them to the best of his ability without deciding on his own precise niche in the temple of Fame." ~Ibid.

"...the Future is, of all things, the thing least like eternity. It is the most completely temporal part of time—for the Past is frozen and no longer flows, and the Present is all lit up with eternal rays... Hence nearly all vices are rooted in the future. Gratitude looks to the past and love to the present; fear, avarice, lust, and ambition look ahead." ~Ibid.

"Once [man] knew that some changes were for the better, and others for the worse, and others indifferent. We have largely removed this knowledge. For the descriptive adjective 'unchanged' we have substituted the emotional adjective 'stagnant.' We have trained them to think of the Future as a promised land which favoured heroes attain—not as something which everyone reaches at the rate of sixty minutes an hour, whatever he does, whoever he is." ~Ibid.

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13 February 2006

Ah, Portland

Back from the weekend's redezvous in Portland for regionals. Tragically, though not unexpectedly, my team didn't make it to nationals. I must admit, I had secretly hoped we'd make it- even if we are all inexperienced freshmen- because the freshman team went last year over the sophomore/junior team. This year, though, neither made it, so I don't feel quite so bad.

Anyway, the tournament wasn't a total loss—it’s also worth mentioning that Gonzaga received a total of 4 attorney awards as well as 3 for witnesses. So 7 out of the 28 individual awards given at regionals. Not bad. And 4 for freshman team 616!

Alas, it's all over now. Oh Case Binder, you are so forlorn! But we still have practices, just not nearly as serious as they were before. In all honesty, it will be a refreshing change- social interaction minus the INSANE STRESS.

Haha, and I am now Facebook friends with a random brilliant Stanford attorney.

07 February 2006


Pues, el Viaje Último para Mock Trial viene en dos días. Esa vez, es como HACER O MORIR—si perdemos no hay más. Es un pensamiento grave.

03 February 2006

Back to English (interinamente)

Gah, don't have much time, so forgive the fragmented nature of this post. First, a few ["random"] thoughts:

Yay for iPods: they are indeed proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy (to paraphrase Benjamin Franklin's thoughts regarding beer).

Never have I seen the Catholic faith more vilified than at the Jesuit university I attend.

Learning a second language is greatly impeded by one's complete ignorance of basic English grammar. Quote from today's Spanish class: "But I don't know what an adverb is, so how can I know when to use the subjunctive in an adverbial subordinate clause?"

This isn't really a thought, but here's a link to a most insightful and thought-provoking post. Enjoy.