A few days ago, I posted about Justice Thomas and his conflicts of interest. Now it seems that Justice Scalia has his own ethical problems.
Looking around, it appears that ethics are not a huge consideration for a lot of judges and politicians these days. Massachusetts has two political leaders currently serving time and a third one is likely on the way. Plus, a former Senate President, William Bulger, has got to be concerned about his reputation as his brother, James, faces trial on 19 counts of murder here as well as others in Florida and Oklahoma. There have always been hints that William tried to shield James while James was on the run. William’s son has been implicated in conflict of interest in hiring at the Massachusetts Department of Probation.
There is a new translation of Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics reviewed in this week’s New York Times Book Review. While I’m not sure I agree with the reviewer, Harry V. Jaffa, that Leo Strauss was the “greatest political philosopher of the 20th century”, a couple of sentences caught my attention.
The existence of politics before political philosophy is what makes political philosophy possible. Politics is inherently controversial because human beings are passionately attached to their opinions by interests that have nothing to do with the truth. But because philosophers — properly so called — have no interest other than the truth, they alone can bring to bear the canon of reason that will transform the conflict of opinion that otherwise dominates the political world.
Unfortunately, what has been called philosophy for more than a century has virtually destroyed any belief in the possibility of objective truth, and with it the possibility of philosophy. Our chaotic politics reflects this chaos of the mind. No enterprise to replace this chaos with the cosmos of reason could be more welcome
Maybe Aristotle should be required summer reading for the Supreme Court, the Massachusetts General Court (Legislature) as well as for the rest of us. My husband pulled our copy of Aristotle down from the shelf last night. Neither of us have read it since our freshman year at St. John’s College: Maybe it is time to read it again. Maybe Justice Scalia and Justice Thomas need to think about whether the opinions they are writing as influenced by interests “that have nothing to do with the truth.”