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Australian philosopher, literary critic, legal scholar, and professional writer. Based in Newcastle, NSW. My latest books are THE TYRANNY OF OPINION: CONFORMITY AND THE FUTURE OF LIBERALISM (2019) and AT THE DAWN OF A GREAT TRANSITION: THE QUESTION OF RADICAL ENHANCEMENT (2021).

Monday, March 27, 2006

Is Korea really boot-shaped?

You can decide for yourself whether a reunited Koreas would really be boot-shaped, like Italy. Whether the claim is convincing or not, it's a nice reminder of problems with arguments about universalisation in ethics. As my colleague Simon Burgess reminded us at a seminar this evening, even an absurd political maxim such as "Advance the interests of boot-shaped countries!" is universalisable.

Simon quoted from one of my favourite books, Mackie's Ethics: Inventing Right and Wrong. Mackie points out that patriots in the past have been known to praise their countries for equally bizarre characteristics. Why shouldn't a patriotic Italian advance a claim for his/her country on this basis, as long as he or she is prepared to universalise it to other countries with the same characteristic, such as a unified Korea?

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