Saturday, December 15, 2012

(Gun policies): Is gun control unacceptable because knives kill people also?

In the last blog entry, I asserted what many others are arguing, that we should have a discussion about gun policies. I also indicated that this conversation should take time, and be careful and deliberate. I’d like to get the ball rolling. I do this in part because I’m bothered by the business-as-usual tone of Facebook. The victims of yesterday’s slaughter are still dead. For their families, today will be harder than yesterday because only now do they come face to face with permanence. Their children (and spouses, friends, and parents) are never coming back. In fact, this is true of the victims of Virginia Tech, the Aurora shooting, Columbine, the campers in Norway, and of anyone else whose life was ended through violence. I promise you, those families still feel the pain and nothingness, even if the rest of us have “moved on.” I certainly don’t expect the world to change their Facebook behavior permanently, but it just happened way too fast for me.

Here are the ground rules. All participants will be respectful and respected, and whatever passion is present in people’s comments, remarks cannot be insulting or abusive. I will delete personal attacks or comments from trolls. Second and equally important, philosophy has taught us that it is best to deal with one argument at a time. So, today’s entry will be about the most common claim I’ve seen on Facebook: gun control is unacceptable because knives kill people too. In future entries, I hope to address the arguments that we should be discussing mental health instead of gun policies, the role of collecting in guns, self-defense, hunting, and, of course, the relevance of the second amendment. If you have a question you’d like posed for the community, send it to I will, of course, continue to have non-gun related entries as well.

Friday, December 14, 2012

How and when should we talk about gun policies?

I wrote this blog because, well, I had to do something. Information was coming furiously while I was working on it and I might have written something differently if I decided to tackle this tomorrow or the next day. If I said something the wrong way, I apologize and ask that you give me the benefit of the doubt. I think the spirit in which I wrote this should be clear.

Like many people out there, I’m having a hard time thinking about anything right now but the horrible massacre in the elementary school in Sandy Hook, Connecticut. No, massacre isn’t the right word. Slaughter, might be. I don’t know. What kind of language is needed to describe the endless pain and horror that has happened and that will result? What words will describe the feelings of the parents who are breaking into a million pieces right now? I would ask a poet for help, but poetry is inherently beautiful, and nothing in this scenario is. I probably shouldn’t even be writing a blog now since I’ll only risk getting myself in trouble, but what else can I do? I’m a philosopher. I think out loud.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Guest Post: Can we be happy before we reach our goals?

Following up on yesterday’s question “What are college sports for?”, PQED is pleased to publish a post by Michelle Bonapace-Potvin. Michelle is a goalie on the University of North Dakota women’s hockey team; she wrote this essay for Jack Weinstein’s course PHIL 480: Public Philosophy.  

A few days ago, my hockey coach gave an impromptu speech about how accepting our role on the team would lead to a more victorious season. He explained that each of us played a vital role in the success of the team—from the first-string forward to the third-string goalie—and that we should accept our position with a smile. He also emphasized that we have a responsibility to give 100% every day in practice, because we should strive to be the best player on the team. Nothing else, he said, is acceptable. These two roles seem contradictory to me—is it even possible for us to accept our positions with a smile, while at the same time striving to be the best player on the team?

Monday, December 10, 2012

What are college sports for?

I've been asked by a couple of people to reprint the text of the monologue from yesterday's episode of WHY? Radio on the NCAA and the philosophy of college sports. I encourage everyone to listen to it; Taylor Branch did a great job. 

"I suppose I should begin by admitting that I’m baffled by sports; I can’t understand the hype and the fanaticism. The way that I usually summarize my feelings is by casting doubt on what I call “the sports we.” A team wins a big championship and their fans start screaming, “We won! We won!” No. we didn’t win. They won. They woke up, trained, practiced, ate right, and devoted their lives to mastering a skill. We sat on the couch eating pizza and wings, and got fat on beer. How are we all in this together? Because we bought poorly made sweatshirts and overpriced hotdogs at the game? I think we've been suckered.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

TOMORROW: Sunday. December 9, Next Episode of WHY? Radio "The N.C.A.A. and its Universities" with guest Taylor Branch

…the origins of the term ‘student-athlete” lie not in a disinterested ideal but to help the NCAA in its ‘fight against workmen’s compensation insurance claims for injured football players....

WHY? Radio Presents:

"The NCAA and its Universities "
An interview with guest Taylor Branch
Tomorrow, December 9, 5 p.m. central time.


To listen live from anywhere in the world, go to
To listen via broadcast radio in North Dakota, tune to 89.3 in Grand Forks, 91.9 in Fargo, 90.5 in Bismarck,
and on other Prairie Public radio stations across the state.
In East Grand Forks, Thief River Falls and other parts of Northwestern Minnesota, tune in via Pioneer 90.1 FM.