Logic and ethics


in Oxford, Politics, Writing

Without warning, my failed states paper has grown to include Venn diagrams and predicate logic. This is what happens when you realize that one sentence could be expressed more comprehensibly through the use of a few symbols, then allow yourself to run with it. The paper (previously mentioned here and here) now includes branched formulations such as:

(h) Any state within the international system has the:

  1. obligation
  2. option

to intervene in a failed state, so as to:

  1. help it return to a non-failed status
  2. protect the human rights of those within it
  3. cause the cessation of large scale violations of human rights, ie. genocide

Of course, the whole point is to prove that you cannot reduce normative considerations in international relations to such crude formulas. Logic is not a substitute for judgment, in the consideration of how to act in response to weak or criminal states. Also, any consideration of how to act morally in the international arena will involve the examination of multiple justifications and counter-justifications, weighing the importance of certain moral claims against alternatives. Logic doesn’t really help us with that.

It does, however, help with the writing of a paper that is at least likely to stand out from the rest of those submitted on the topic. I knew that symbolic logic course I took at UBC would be useful for more than just the Law School Admission Test.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Anonymous January 9, 2007 at 12:04 am
Mike Kushnir January 9, 2007 at 12:49 am

here’s a venn diagram for you.


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