Whistler in trouble

This year, February is very warm and dry. Whistler is missing at least 1 meter of snow fall compare to February of last year. The snow condition of last few weeks is so bad that even a hardcore skier like me don’t want to go skiing. Finally, the weather is getting better and we got a 80cm of new snow this week, so we have to go skiing this weekend. The Sea-to-Sky highway is busier than usual this morning. The pit-stop, McDonald’s wash room, in Squamish has long line up. I bet many skiers are hungry for ski over the past few weeks just like me. When we arrived at the Creek side, I never seen the parking lot this full. I have to park at P3 instead my usual spot at P1 right next to the elevator.

The line to take the gondola up the mountain is quite long, we waited almost 20 minutes. I thought the mountain must be very busy today and estimated I could make only 6 runs, 3 in the morning and 3 in the afternoon. To my surprise, when we are up in the mountain, the runs are empty and there is no line up on chair lift. The parking lot and the Creek side gondola is the only bottle neck. We end up ski 11 runs in a day. Fresh snow, sunny day, empty runs, what a perfect day for ski.

Judging form the lack of crowds on the mountain, Whistler’s business is pretty bad this year. It must suffer a lot from the financial melt down and lost most of the lucrative US skiers. Creek side is a smaller base compare to the Whistler Village. It’s free underground parking is a little secret of local folks who go to Whistler for day trip. The line up at the Creek side gondola are people like us, budget skiers who won’t spend anything other lift ticket and lunch on the mountain. For those who has the stocks of Intrawest, Whistler’s holding company, should look at this sign and sell the stock as soon as possible. I think Intrawest will have a huge loss this year.

Oh! Did I also mention they just open a brand new peak 2 peak gondola connection Whistler and Blackcomb? The gondola is a technical marvel, the longest suspension cable car in the world, but it’s a huge marketing flop. It suppose to cost $10 a ride for stand alone sight seeing ticket. I ride the gondola 3 times since it opened and I never have to line up. I don’t think they can ever recoup the investment of the gondola. It’s just another white elephant for the 2010 Winter Olympic.

Own goal

I really want to kick myself. Today is the final match of the company’s foosball tournament. After a week of round robin playoffs, we beat the other teams to place ourselves in the final match. The match is the best three out of five games. We did not have good start. We lost the first two games in a row. But we didn’t give up. We stayed clam, fought back and won the next two games. On the fifth game, the battle is tense, we were leading 4-3. We only have to score one more point to become the champion. At this very critical moment, I made a fatal mistake. I kicked the ball into my goalie and score an own goal. The game ends a brief moment later when the other team score a clean shot.

We were so close to wining the tournament and yet we missed it. I feel really stupid myself. Although it’s only a game with nothing on stake, except the bragging right at the foosball table, I still feel quite down for losing the game like this. In sports anime or comics, the protagonist always come back after falling behind in the beginning. They always put up a good fight and triumph at the end. How come I never seen any story ends with an anti-climax like mine? In 94 World Cup, Andres Escobar of the Columbia scored a own goal and sent the team home. He was murdered by anger soccer fans shorted after he went back to Columbia. At least my partner didn’t try to kill me, but I am sure he will make fun of me for a long time.

嬰兒領洗

星期天剛參加了朋友小孩的領洗儀式﹐才發現原來我是第一次參觀嬰兒領洗。領洗的儀式很簡單﹐前半段神父照例讀經講道﹐我則照例打嗑睡。後半段父母抱著嬰兒上到祭台前﹐一個個像團麵粉的嬰孩﹐排著隊給神父洗禮。神父先把聖水倒在嬰兒頭上﹐再用油在額上劃十字聖號。有些嬰兒濕水覺得不舒服﹐便受驚大哭起來﹐不過父母親友倒在開心地笑。完成禮儀後自然是合照時間﹐親友前來拍照留念和逗玩嬰兒。

說起嬰兒領洗﹐我記起大學時代有些基督教朋友很反對嬰兒領洗。他們認為應該要信主才可以領洗﹐剛出生幾個月的嬰兒﹐連叫媽媽也不會﹐怎可能懂得信主呢。他們堅稱自己反對嬰兒領洗有聖經根據﹐倒不如說他們的神學理論對領洗的理解與天主教有很大的分別。領洗對於他們來說﹐只不過是信主的見證﹐一個洗淨未信前犯罪的儀式。由於他們認為先要信主認罪悔改才可以領洗﹐所以他們認為要成人才有資格領洗。不過也不是所有基督教都反對嬰兒領洗﹐聖公會﹐路德會﹐循道會則保留嬰兒領的傳統﹐反對嬰兒領的基督教主要是浸信會和福音派。

天主教對領洗有完全不同的神學理論。領洗並不只是一個儀式﹐而是一個聖事。聖事就是神在世上的工作﹐對領受聖事的人產生本質上客觀的改變。神透過領洗把聖靈給與嬰兒﹐嬰兒不需要相信甚至不需要懂得相信﹐已經可以領受聖靈。信主並不是領洗的必然條件﹐領洗是讓聖靈降臨在身上﹐讓聖靈開始祂的工作。也許基督教會的朋友抗議﹐認為聖靈臨在不信主的人身上不公平﹐他們要信了主才可以獨佔聖靈啊﹗這點就是天主教與基督教最大的分別。天主教不否認聖靈在任何人身上工作的可能﹐當然任何人包括信和不信的人。其實聖靈只能降臨在相信的人身上﹐在神學上也說不通﹐因為人不可能抗拒神恩典。總不成因為人作出是否相信的決定﹐就影響神如何安排聖靈在世上的工作吧。

在天主教中接受嬰兒領洗的人﹐懂事後還要參加道理班接受堅振禮﹐去再一次肯定自己的信仰。基督教則反過來倒行逆施﹐慕道者要先決志肯定自己的信仰﹐再參加道理班最後才領洗。基督教領洗妨忽是信仰的終結﹐領了洗可以便可大安旨意等入天堂。天主教領洗卻只是信仰的開始﹐踏出漫長成聖之路的第一步。

神探伽里略 嫌疑犯X的獻身

Galile 不論是網絡的影評還是朋友的推介﹐都說《神探伽里略》劇場版是十分精彩推理電影﹐小說原著更奪得日本推理小說大賞。我沒有看過《神探伽里略》的電視劇﹐但也看過故事介簡﹐知道福山雅治飾演推理天材﹐正職是物理教授﹐課餘幫靚女警官柴咲幸查案。劇場版同樣圍繞一宗殺人案﹐不過與一般推理故事不同﹐觀眾開場時已知道誰是兇手﹐亦知道行兇的整個經過。謎團並不是找出真兇﹐而是看疑犯如何暪天過海﹐讓警察找不到任何罪犯的證據。也許希望越大便會失望越大﹐電影希望以物理天材對數學天材﹐營造兩大推理高手過招鬥智的氣勢﹐可惜謎底關鍵只是掩眼法的小把戲。在福山雅治把案情娓娓道來時﹐完全沒有恍然大悟的快感﹐只有被小玩兒欺騙後的滿嘴不是味兒。未看電影的朋友請注意以下內容包含劇情﹐推理故事謎底說穿便不好看了。

數學天材暗戀隔壁的失婚婦人﹐在她錯殺死了前來騷擾的前夫後﹐為求令她可脫罪幸福地生活﹐不惜製造假證據讓自己頂包入獄。謎題便是他如何製造失婚婦人和女兒的完美不在場證據﹐謎底的答案是他用另一具屍體去誤導警方﹐令警方錯誤判斷兇案發生的時間。其實答案在電影中有暗示過﹐兩個主角在河邊漫步閒談時﹐導演刻意拍攝流浪漢雜物堆旁空置長椅的鏡頭。看時我心想推埋天材的完美犯罪計劃﹐出手應該不會這樣低莊﹐結果很不幸流浪漢真的成為破案關鍵。數學天材大費周章殺個流浪漢﹐用新的屍體去冒充前夫的屍體﹐還要留假線索佈疑局引警察上釣﹐可是故事完全沒有交待前夫的屍體的去向。

殺人不難處理屍體不被人發現才是最大難題。若果數學天才可以處理掉前夫的屍體﹐就根本不用故佈疑局就可以幫母女脫罪。那只是一宗很普通的失蹤人口案﹐反正前夫欠債纍纍又有黑道仇家﹐警方又怎會懷疑一等良民的前妻呢。若流浪漢可以在酒店自出自入﹐也沒有人察覺房客不同﹐那數學天材大可以繼續租房﹐又或者替前夫辨理退房手續。酒店房東是因為不見鎖匙才去報警﹐若果還了鎖匙根本就不會有人察覺殺者人間蒸發。現在數學天材高調地丟具死屍在公園﹐不必要地吸引警方的注意﹐把警察直接引到真兇門前﹐豈不是更加危險。最重要是他忘記了牙齒和血型記錄﹐若果警方到醫院翻查死者病歷﹐這個完美的頂包計劃便功虧一簣。難道他找流浪漢當替死鬼時﹐要先驗血型和牙齒﹐確前刎合前夫的類型才行兇嗎。

若不把這套電影當作推理故事﹐改用愛情故事的角度去欣賞﹐可惜故事仍然是不合格。正印男女主角基本上零交流﹐根據網上看來的資料﹐原著小說連女警那個角色也沒有﹐柴咲幸是個可有可無的大花瓶。數學天才與失婚婦的關係嚴格來說不是愛情﹐雖然有人看到眼濕濕很感動﹐但我看來數學天才被感情沖昏了頭腦﹐否則不會設計漏洞百出的頂包計劃。竟然已經知道警方可能監聽電話﹐從公共電話亭打出根本沒有用﹐通話第一句便自我報上名來﹐難道怕監聽的人不知道你是誰。反正身份已在電話中涉露﹐在自己家中打電話又有什麼關係。如果要保密至少應該敲牆用摩斯密碼來通訊嘛。還是其實他是個自虐狂﹐渴享受為苦戀情人牲犧的痛苦﹐才心口帶著個勇字慷慨赴刑﹐雖然根本完全無犧牲的必要。

其實看了開場第一幕﹐我對這套電影已穩穩覺得不妥﹐只是還是希望其他人是對我是錯﹐才著耐著性子看完到解謎。電磁炮連軍方也是在研究階段﹐弄台可以瞄準射擊海上遊艇的電磁炮﹐大慨比走私軍火偷運火箭炮難幾百倍。實驗場的電磁炮以高速發射炮彈頭﹐單憑物理撞擊力根本不可能發生大爆炸﹐莫非推理天材實驗場後面有間油站﹐還是他無視安全指引用火藥實彈作實驗。枉這套系列標榜自己以科學推理破案﹐第一幕為追求視覺效果就已經違反科學常識。至於戲內P=NP﹐四色地圖等的所謂數學難題﹐唔識就嚇死識就笑死。看見劇中對物理和數學的兒嬉態度﹐大慨對案件推理也不應有什麼期望。

A Good Book, In Theory – Alan Sears

A Good Book, In Theory 有些人對理論總是抱有敵視態度﹐認定理論脫離現實沒有任何用處﹐只是象牙塔內蛋頭學者的無聊玩意。可是我從小讀理科長大﹐更接受工程系的洗禮﹐透過理論去理解事物﹐就彷如呼吸般與生俱來的本能﹐我完全不能理解為什麼有人會排拆理論。這本書的作者是社會學教授﹐給大學一年級生上理論課時﹐看到學生如墮百里雲霧內﹐完全迷失在理論的大海中。於是他決定寫一本淺白易明的書﹐為學生解釋學習理論的重要性。這本書並不是解釋那些深奧複習的理論﹐而是供提一個關於理論架構的地圖﹐讓學生不再恐俱和壓惡理論。

理論讓我們觀測﹐認識和理解世界﹐若果沒有理論去解析說明﹐研究資料和統計數字﹐並沒有任何用處。很多人常常把理論﹐意見和事實三者混淆。理論是一個解釋力的系統﹐必需在內部需有統一性和完整性﹐而外部需乎合事實的觀察。意見則很個人主觀﹐可以完全沒有任何根據。意見並沒有說服力﹐因為反對者不能如對理論般﹐辯論檢定內部或外部條件﹐只能攻擊提出意見的人。很多時候我們會有意無意中﹐毫不過問便接受社會某套被視為常識的思想﹐而常識與常識間存在的矛盾。理論讓我們跳出常識的思想框框﹐去身邊看似熟悉的思想提出疑質﹐尋找每一個基本問題的答案。當我們遇到別人的新想法時﹐透過理論才能真正認清別人的思想。盡管有些人對理論並無意識﹐但每一個思想背後的理論也有跡可尋。順著理論的默絡去思考﹐便可以找出該理論核心的前設﹐很多時不同人的想法各異﹐正是源於埋於理論深處的前設各有不同。

作者是社會學家﹐這本書也是為社會學學生而寫。他引用社會學理論的例子﹐去說明理論如何影收一個人對世界的認知。他用社會學的兩大理論﹐社會結構論和社會衝突論﹐貫穿全書所有例子。他先從觀察課堂學習開始說起﹐示範如何運用兩大社會理論﹐對事物得出完全不同的看法和結論。書中的例子涉獵甚廣﹐從社會架構﹐到自然與文化﹐到時間與歷史﹐作者在每個課題也提出兩套截然不同的理論﹐去挑戰讀者的固有觀念。每個課題的雙方各持一詞看似各有道理﹐其實背後可以追溯到社會學兩大理論的分歧。可惜這本始終是入門書藉﹐只是簡單地陳述那些理論的內容﹐沒有深入討論和批判理論的限制。雖然書中的理論蜻蜓點水﹐但範例中對現像學(phemomenology)和理念(ideology)有很好的解釋。本書最後也有提及關於社會理論的理論﹐一如既往社會理論本身同樣有兩個不同理論去解釋。一個理論認為社會理論是中立的觀察﹐就像是物理化學理論對自然世界的關係一樣。另一個理論則認為社會理論應要改變社會為目標﹐理論是用來運員群眾的行動綱領。

這本書的封底有幅張思想地圖的插畫﹐在終點一端寫著一個“你”字﹐起點和緣途各站則寫著一個個哲學家的名字。我是被這幅插畫吸引才翻閱此書﹐原本以為本書是社會學的思想簡史﹐讓我按圖索驥尋找我的想法的來龍去脈。豈料收獲原完出乎意料之外﹐這書沒有給準備現成的思想地圖﹐而是給我繪製地圖的工具﹐讓我自行繪畫出一幅屬於我的思想地圖。閒時在網上與別人討論事時﹐我總是覺得思想左派的人不可理喻﹐他們亦覺得我話不投機。原來他們的思想是基於社會衝突論﹐正好站在我思想的社會結構論的對立面。雙方也不察覺理論的分歧﹐變成各自表態各自陳述。不論是批評別人的反對聲音﹐還是要捍衛自己的想法﹐也要在理論層面立足﹐對人對自己才有說服力。這本書只是簡介兩大社會理論﹐沒有細述理論的優劣與盲點﹐我想應該要看些社會學書藉進修﹐才能知己知彼百戰不貽。

醫管局報告與重罰

醫管局發表早前明愛醫院見死不救事件的報告﹐裁定兩名高層需要為事件責任﹐接受未來十四個月凍薪凍職的處分。網上對這個判決有不少異議﹐認為事件做成人命損失﹐只是凍薪凍職刑罰太輕。他們認為至少也應該要減薪降級﹐有些人甚至認為應該要革職殺一警百。也許人命關天難免群情洶湧﹐也許事發高層的詭辯的確令人髮指。只是因為我們看不過眼﹐便對犯錯的高層處以極刑﹐又是否合乎公義原則呢﹖

殺一警百是嗜血的中國人獨有的觀念﹐這有違西方公義原則中的公平慨念。根據公義原則﹐任何賞罰必需要有規則可尋。這個規則必需要事前公開﹐不能事後因應民情去追加。若果對賞罰規則作出改動﹐加重某些行為的刑罰﹐也只適用於改動後的犯錯﹐不能追逆至已經犯了的錯誤。最重要是對每一個人也相同處理﹐不能因為是第一宗案件便罰重些﹐又或者只高調針對某些犯事者﹐必需要給所有犯事的人相同懲罰。今次事件很不幸有病人失救﹐但是根據醫管局的內部指引規條﹐又可以用什麼條例去重罰高層呢﹖

嚴格來說高層並沒有見死不救﹐犯下見死不救大錯是那個不知變通的前線員工。誠如醫管局報告所言﹐高層犯的錯誤是處理緊急事件的表現及管理手法有問題。說白了便是他們久缺傳媒公關常識﹐堅稱醫院按指引辨事沒有錯誤﹐出事後胡亂說話才會引起公憤。其實高層當日只要把矛頭指向指引﹐承諾會檢討和改善指引彊化的問題﹐便可以避過這一場公關災難。把犯錯的責任全推在指引身上﹐把所有曾經參與指引的人拖下水﹐於是所有人也有份犯錯。不過人人犯錯等於沒有一個人犯錯﹐於是沒有一個人要負上責任﹐把問題歸咎制度是最好的辨法。改革指引的善後工作﹐其實與醫管局報告的要求差不多。倒不如一開始便自己提出來做了﹐不用現在給醫管局責罰才做。

其實群眾要求重罰﹐恐怕最後會弄巧反拙。若果動不動犯錯便要革職﹐醫院員工為求自保﹐只會少做少錯不做不錯﹐更加抱著指引當護身符。

Richmond Olympic Oval

Richmond Oylmpic Oval

Can you imagine yourself being an Olympic athlete? I almost feel like one when I am skating on the Olympic speed skating arena. It is less than 1 year from the 2010 Winter Olympic in Vancouver The brand new $200 million Richmond Olympic Oval is open to the public starting earlier this month. A day pass costs $12.5 but Pat got some free coupons from her friend.

The Oval is the largest ice rink I have ever seen, about twice the size of a standard hockey rink. The rink has a 200m long oval shape skate race track. The center area in the rink is converted to basketball court and badminton court. The spectator area in the balcony is converted to a open gym with exercise equipments overlooking the ice. There was a big crowd tonight. I bet most people use free coupons just like I do. Although there are lots people, it is not that crowd when they are spreading out on the ice.

Skating in a speed race oval is a very different experience than in a hockey rink. In a hockey rink people skate in all direction. In the oval everyone has to go counter clockwise. In a hockey rink, I can’t go very fast or I will end up hitting the wall soon. In the oval, I can pick up lots of speed in the long race track. I can accelerate in the straight road, but I don’t have to slow down for the turns. The turns at two ends are so gentle that I can keep my speed. I never skate that fast before. I hit my speed limit of my current skill level. I feel I couldn’t go any faster without losing my balance. I don’t even know skating can be a cardio exercise. Skating in the oval make me feel like I am running in laps.

The free pass expire next week. For those who are interested, you can download it form here. Skating in a speed oval is definitely one of the must do things in your adventure check list.

哲學功課﹕ Modified Principle of Justice

七十年代John Rawls提出自由主義對左翼政治思想有很大影響﹐當中以他用無知之幕作為起點的推論﹐更常被引用作支持重新分配資源的社會公義。他師承康德道德哲學﹐認為先驗理性能推論出社會公義。他認為公義就是公平﹐是每個人理性地自願參社會契約﹐並履行社會契約的義務他同時認為與每個人生俱來的地位或天賦帶有隨機性﹐所以在道德上並不屬於持有者所擁有。因此使用地位和天賦得來好處和財富﹐應該要與社會上的其他人分享。

Michael Sandel則提出相反意見﹐運用康德的道德哲學﹐推翻Rawls的正義論中的內在矛盾。他指出就算地位和天賦的好處並不屬於持有者擁有﹐也不能把那些好處自動申延為社會共同所擁有。若果把地位和天賦的好處從個人強行剝奪﹐重新分配給社會上其他人﹐ 則犯下與功用主義相同﹐不遵重個人自主權的道德問題。他認為重新分配資源應要建立在社群身份認同的基礎上。每個人對社會其他人的責任﹐僅限於推己及人的原則之下。你沒有責任去資助你不認同的生活方式。舉個例子說明。在Rawls原本的理論中﹐天生聰明兼工作努力收入高的人﹐應該要把他們的工作成果﹐與其他收入低的人分享。不論那些收入低的人是因為天生能力所限﹐還是他們選擇懶散地過活。Sandel的理論便指出﹐勤力的人資助懶散的人有違公平﹐因為他們間並沒有共同的價值觀﹐久缺一個共通的身份。

這篇文章分析討論Sandel對Rawls的批判﹐源用康德的道德哲學作推論﹐嘗試提出一套新的修正公義論﹐來回應的原本理論的質疑。

Modified Principles of Justice

In this essay, I am going to evaluate Michael Sandel’s constitutive ties antithesis on John Rawls’ Theory of Justice. First, I will lay out the argument of the antithesis, then I will consider its objection and at last I will provide a synthesis to resolve the inconsistence in the two theories.

In [1], Sandel argues that Rawl’s two principles of justice suffer from the same problem as the utilitarianism, which “fails to take seriously distinctness of persons” [1:243]. Sandel agrees with Rawls on the presumption of the liberal vision. Both of them are disciples of Kant. They take the deontological view on rights, maintain that moral laws require a categorical foundation, oppose to a contingent one as in utilitarianism. A just society should not promote a particular version of good. It should allow its citizens to pursuit their own concept of good, given that each citizen has similar liberty. Both of them agree rights precede goods, such that individual rights cannot be sacrificed for a general good and these rights cannot be premised on any particular vision of a good life.

In Rawl’s original position, every person is assume to be a rational agent and is assume to stay behind a veil of ignorance. Everyone does not know any social attribute or natural talent about himself nor his own concept of good. Sandel criticizes Rawl’s original position rules out the possibility of constitutive ends of self. According to Kant’s metaphysics, there is always a distinction between the value I have and the person I am. An unencumbered self must first has a prior existence to provide the standing ground for the social attribute, natural talent or concepts of good that tie to the person. “What matters to the unencumbered self is not the ends that we choose, but our capacity to choose them” [1:242]. In order to establish the rights are prior to the good using Kantian ethics, the self has to be prior to it ends. A free and independent agent is capable of free choice only if the self’s identity is never tie to any aims or interest of the encumbered self. The free choice of the unencumbered self on the concept of good should be honored as long as they are not unjust. Our concept of good carries weight simply because in the virtue of our choice.

Sandel then goes on to criticize Rawls’s difference principle runs into serious problem. The difference principle states that “inequality are permissible only when they are to the benefit of everyone affected by the inequality, in particular to the least well off; must be attached to offices and positions open to all” [2:637]. According to Rawls, man does not deserve to profit from his innate social status or natural talent because those good fortune are arbitrary. Those benefits should be shared by everyone since it is only fair and hence just. Sandel points out there are logical gaps between the assets I have are only accidentally mine to the conclusion that these assets are common assets that everyone has a claim of their benefits. From moral point of view, if my claims on my innate assets are arbitrary, then other people’s claims on my innate assets are equally arbitrary. Unless there is a constitute tie between my unencumbered self and the unencumbered self of those who lay claims on my assets, the different principle is simply a formula for using some as means to others’ ends. It makes the second principle falls prey to the same objection of Rawls used against utilitarianism.

Sandel points out an inconsistency in Rawls’ two principle of justice. On one hand, Rawls insist everyone has the liberty to choose his concept of good life; on other hand, Rawls fails to acknowledge the free choice of an unencumbered rational agent. Sandel thinks that it is an unfair burden for me to share the benefits of my innate assets with other people whom I have no constituted tie with. There are two ways to create the constitute tie bonding different people together. The first way is via the common identify of the unencumbered self, such as a community or family. The common identify is more than the values or attributes I have, it defines who I am. The second way is via moral attachment to a common aim, interest or way of life that I choose to bound my identity. Without a constitute tie, we are not morally indebt to share my assets with other people. Therefore without a constitute tie, we cannot deduce a logical conclusion of the difference principle from the original position.

Rawls may response that the difference principle does not require an underline assumption of constitute tie. The two principle of justice is justified by the duty of fair play. In the original position, every rational agent seeks to maximize his interest. However since he is behind the veil of ignorance, he has no knowledge about his position in reality. It is to his advantage to agree on a set of principles that he is willing to accept in the reality regardless of his position. Once a free agent accepted a principle they acknowledge to be fair, they can enjoy the benefits arise from the rules, but at the same time they are also bound by the duty of fair play to follow the rules even it is to their disadvantage. In Kantian ethics, it is a prima facie duty to comply the commitment agreed by the ration agents in advance. The principles of justice are categorical imperatives that arise from reason alone in the original position.

The duty of fair play can explain why other people have a claim on my innate assets, only if the difference principle is consider fair by the unencumbered self. The logical gap in Rawl’s argument still exists, it just moves from its place at the redistribution of benefit from innate assets to somewhere between the original position and the difference principle. It is still unclear why free rational agents would agree upon the rules of the difference principle in the lack of constitute tie. “A principle will strike the parties as fair if none feel that, by participating in it, they or any of the others are taken advantage of, or forced to give in to claims which they do not regard as legitimate” [3:190]. According to the first principle of justify, everyone has the liberty to choose their concept of good life. People have the liberty to choose between working hard or become relaxing workless hobble. But according to the second principle, the hobble has a claim on the fruit of the labor of the worker, so the least well off will benefit from the inequality. It is quite obvious the unencumbered self would see it is unfair and it will not participate in principle that considers the burden of people with incompatible life style. If Rawl’s two principles of justice are unfair, then we are no longer obligated to comply with its rules.

Rawl’s two principles of justice do not compatible with constitute ties, but we can reformulate the principles to fix the problem. We can keep the original position as the starting point of the theory of justice. We can also keep the duty of fair play as the justification of the modified principles of justice. When deciding the principle of justice, the rational agents are still masked by the veil of ignorance. However the rational agents are not only mutually self interested, they also seek to prompt their concept of good that fosters a common identify with others. If the difference principle gives any person a claim on the benefit of natural endowments of any other person, then any person should also has a claim on the liberty of choosing a different concept of good life of any other person. Under these conditions, a modified version of the two principles will be chosen:

  1. Each person has an equal right to the most extensive liberty compatible with a like liberty for all, as long as the liberty does not put the least well off in worse situation.
  2. Inequalities are permissible only when they are to the benefit every affected by the inequality, in particular to those with constitute ties; must be attached to offices and positions open to all.

Although the ration agents do not know their concept of good in the reality, but if one of their goals is to maximize their social benefits in term of income and wealth, it would make sense to encourage the concept of good that procedure more social benefits. It would also make sense to limit the liberty that will destroy social benefits, such as choosing a life style of drug addicts or workless hobbles. The new second principle acknowledges the arbitrariness in natural asset, but it stops making an individual’s natural asset from being a common asset. It limits the claim of the natural asset to those who share the same community identity. In another word, the benefit of my natural asset is put in use to promote my concept of good live.

The modified principles still nullify the arbitrary in social status or natural talent, which is outside the control of the unencumbered self. Those who are in disadvantage can freely choose to adopt a concept of good of those who are in advantage. Doing so would create a constitute ties between the two parties and yields a legitimate claim on the shared benefit. The unencumbered self have the liberty to choose his purpose and end. Choose a particular concept of good in exchange for some certain benefit does not undermine the autonomy of the unencumbered self, because the self does not lose his capacity to choose his own concept of good.

The proposed modified principles of justice are as fair as Rawl’s original version, thus it is equally just. On top of that, it also addressed Sandel’s objections from the argument of constitute ties. Therefore the modified principles of justice provide a better set of rules for the rational agent in Rawls’ theory of justice.

References:

[1] M. J. Sandel, “The Procedural Republic and the Unencumbered Self,” in Contemporary Political Philosophy, R.E. Goodin and P. Pettit, Ed., MA: Blackwell, 2006, pp. 239-247

[2] J. Rawls, “A Theory of Justice,” in Ethical Theory: An Anthology, R. Sahfer-Landau, Ed., MA: Blackwell, 2007, pp. 631-643

[3] J. Rawls, “Justice as Fairness,” in Contemporary Political Philosophy, R.E. Goodin and P. Pettit, Ed., MA: Blackwell, 2006, pp. 185-200

Valentine dinner

Every year on Valentine’s day, fine dinning restaurant are much more busy than usual. I suspect they are even busier than X’mas day or New Year. It seems going out to have a nice dinner with your love one is a fixed program to celebrate the Valentine’s Day. There are more dining options for other festival days. But for Valentine’s day, it gotta be a romantic candle light dinner. Due to the high demand and limited supply of dining space, restaurants know how to rip off their customers on this special day. They will schedule the seating into as many slots as possible. Limit the menu to a few fix dishes to streamline the cooking process. They will also mark up the price in menu to squeeze extra money from the poor guys who have to pay for the meal. That’s why this year I have the Valentine dinner with Pat the day after Valentine to avoid the crowd. Just by shifting the dinner one day, I got better service and the same money can buy a greater value of food. Unfortunately, this tactic only works on your wife or long time girlfriend. For the new couple just started or wanting to start a relationship, delaying the Valentine’s day dinner would make you look really cheap. Or even worse, the girl may raise suspicion that she is only the backup lover, so that you can have dinner with another girl on the Valentine day.