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Australian philosopher, literary critic, legal scholar, and professional writer. Based in Newcastle, NSW. Author of FREEDOM OF RELIGION AND THE SECULAR STATE (2012), HUMANITY ENHANCED (2014), and THE MYSTERY OF MORAL AUTHORITY (2016).

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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