Tuesday, May 18, 2010
We're in the midst of a big conference at Princeton (on natural law, natural rights, and the American republic) so I haven't had a chance to look at the opinions in today's Supreme Court decisions. I can't offer an opinion about whether the justices in the majority or those in dissent in the respective cases have the superior arguments. The writer Michael P. quotes on the subject, Michael Winters, seems not to have read the opinions either, but he is confident that the majority in both cases is right. His confidence is not disturbed, by the way, by his professed incompetence to judge the legal arguments. I guess they don't matter to him. Evidently, he seems to think that the Supreme Court has plenary authority to invalidate laws the justices regard as unjust and uphold laws they deem to be just. It's a common mistake about the role of courts and the scope and limits of their authority under the Constitution, but a mistake nonetheless.
Speaking of confidence, in a different post Michael refers to some MOJ posters who are metaphysically and morally more confident than he is. I'm trying to figure out who they are. Perhaps they would be kind enough to identify themselves. I certainly know MOJers whose views on metaphysical questions differ from Michael's. And I know MOJers whose views on moral issues are more conservative than Michael's (sometimes as a result of differences on metaphysical questions). But I can't figure out who among us is more confident in his or her views. Of course Michael's a pretty confident guy, so the standard is fairly high. I myself am pretty confident about some things, so perhaps I'm nipping at his heals. Of course, it's common for people to suppose that those who disagree with them are excessively confident in their views. (Sometimes the term "confident" is used to suggest that one's interlocutors are less open-minded or willing to consider counterarguments than oneself.) So perhaps, since Michael and I often disagree, I'm perceiving him as being more confident than he actually is. By the same token, perhaps Michael is overestimating the degree of confidence of those unnamed MOJers whom he regards as more confident than he is on metaphysical and moral questions.