September 2008

Letters to The Ethical Spectacle

Spectacle Letters Column Guidelines. If you write to me about something you read in the Spectacle, I will assume the letter is for publication. If it is not, please tell me, and I will respect that. If you want the letter published, but without your name attached, I will do so. I will not include your email address unless you ask me to. This is in response to many of you who have expressed concern that spammers are finding your email address here. Flames are an exception. They will be published in full, with name and email address. I have actually had people follow up on a published flame by complaining that they thought they were insulting my ancestry privately. Nope, sorry.

Dear Mr. Wallace:

Regarding How Psychology Majors have Corrupted America's Youth:

While I understand and have indeed heard some of the misfortune that such majors have resulted in this is not true for all psychology majors. You should take note that in writing this sort of article, you should also acknowledge those who do think carefully and work hard to fulfill a career plan in the field of psychology. In general most do look down on the field but many people don't realize who and how it helps. That there are those who benefit greatly from sessions with their therapist, or the businessman who wouldn't know what to do without his industrial/organizational psychologist on the employment sector, or the parent who is grateful for the school psychologist who helped assess his/her child's learning disability, or the person who can breathe a little bit easier knowing that he/she doesn't have to take any pills for his or her trials in OCD. These things are not just "in-class pulp fiction", these are realities for many people. So while I know there are many who go off to pursue such degrees in irresponsible manners, there are those who want to take part in concerning themselves and entering the mindset of professionals in this field by not just internships, but also building friendships with professors, interviewing professionals in the psychology career of their choice while in college, doing extra-curricular activities or volunteering related to what they want to do in the field and keeping their eyes on their goal. Its people that say things such as you did who make real psychology majors want to work in the field even more and give their all much more. Motivating them to prove the stereotype wrong. Perhaps your true feelings are against the field of psychology as a whole- in that like most Americans you think its a bunch of BS. Okay that's fine and that's your opinion, but remember there are people who work hard to attain their goals and take each step very seriously and for them its not just about a degree or salary or a rep. but its about helping people with skills they believe in. -Thank You and continue to voice your opinion, but fairly and justifiably.

Filumena Thompson

Mr. Wallace,

Greetings! I was reading an article on "natural rights" because I have become interested in the basis for "unalienable rights" and whether such a concept has any bearing in reality. I read your short article on natural rights and it got me thinking. I'd like to believe that "unalienable rights" exist but I feel that I have to be prepared to let go of the idea if it proves without basis. Your short article seems to me to critique "natural rights" from a utilitarian point of view. Is this impression an accurate one or am I misunderstanding your perspective in some way?

The reason I find the idea of "unalienable rights" so attractive is because it seems to me to lend itself to a libertarian ethics that I have been really thinking through. I am thinking that if human beings really do have unalienable rights, then the rights to life, liberty, and pursuing happiness (I don't agree with everything Jefferson wrote but I do like the rights that he listed). I can imagine a proponent of natural or unalienable rights arguing that if all human beings do not equally possess unalienable rights then what is stopping a totalitarian regime from simply killing a human being. A proponent of "natural rights" might argue that a totalitarian regime is alienating a person of that person's right to life by killing that person ("alienating" in the Jeffersonian sense, as used in the "Declaration of Independence") or alienating that person's right to liberty if that totalitarian regime imprisons that person for something like mere political dissidence.

The idea of natural or unalienable rights seems to give a more solid grounding for a libertarian approach to human society but I am not sure what might go in the place of "unalienable rights" if the concept is flawed and that there are no natural/unalienable rights. What might exist to rightfully condemn totalitarian regimes for murdering people or stopping some human beings from exploiting others? Don't get me wrong- I am not looking to argue because I am not sure what might legitimate the existence of "unalienable rights" or justify believing that such a concept exists outside of the human mind. I just want to know what can replace "unalienable rights" and allow for all human beings to live peacefully, enjoy the full extent of their lives, the liberty, and pursuing happiness in peaceful harmony with others, if they're not entitled to unalienable rights for life, liberty, and pursuing happiness.

Thanks for taking the time to read this!

Matthew Green