I wonder how differently Rawls's philosophy would've worked out if he had gone a different way on a key issue he's exploring in laying out his conception of justice - Rawls sees variation in individual ability to be not morally different than variation in circumstance between people in a society - his notion of justice aims to compensate for/correct those inequities. I do like how he sets trail markers towards other philosophical positions (even though his dismissals of them feel a bit too strong to be based on intuition or aesthetics) - he calls societies that do not "Natural Aristocracies" - would he have ended up constructing/justifying something like Plato's Republic if he had taken that path? Taking this point out of the context of Rawls' philosophy, which is a better ideal for society, that it attempt to find a place for everyone where they're the most productive by their natural talents/ability, or that it should strive to make available positions, so much as is possible, to everyone? (this may relate to how education is managed in partial (particularly transitional) compliance theories...)
I am unsure if Rawls' instinct to understand partial compliance only after full compliance makes sense - I want to believe it does (in that in the end I would hope that a better society would enjoy enough support from the populance and have people "buy in" to the system enough to participate in it fully), but I am unsure how realistic that is. I don't consider that "buy in" bit to be overly demanding of unity of mind (although I know some people would - I've heard the criticism) - it seems no more onerous than to be reminded that those who do not buy into current systems of production will do very badly and perhaps starve/freeze on the street or be reduced to crimes of necessity. Some of Rawls' basic principles might lose a bit of their natural appeal though when they might not carry over so well to situations where people are placed the system without a solid support for it - beyond "what is just?" we're forced to look at "will it work?" with his arguments, and things like the difference principle might not hold up well to those who don't put in effort. I'm still thinking about this though...
Quick thoughts on Dawkins versus Gould, philosophy/science/religion:I've never been convinced by Gould's argument that Science and Religion fit into Non-overlapping magesteria - separate realms where one is not subject to the other. I like Gould's notion of magesteria on some level - it fits well with my understanding of what different fields of (large-sense) philosophy work with - the sciences as a subfield of philosophy all fall under a magesterium with a broad tradition of how things work, centred on (but not exclusively on) the scientific method. Individual sciences have their own magesteria that inherit that tradition and tune it to the precise discipline (research in one field doesn't always mean exactly the same in another, and some tools or external broad ideas like statistics play different roles or have different common thresholds), and in some cases different trends within a science might be further descended from science as a whole. Some fields that are close to science, like history, have notions of intellectual integrity and traditions that have varying degrees of similarity to those of science. I recognise that small-sense philosophy may be very distant from science within large-sense philosophy - questions of value and ultimate meaning don't use the same tools nor do they necessarily fit in a realm that has the same convergence as the other disciplines. We could call moral philosophy a different magesterium, and if that's what Gould means, that's fine. I don't know if this argument is exactly Dawkins' take on Gould (the two were known to disagree over Gould's magesteria idea), but it's similar in at least conclusion - the magesteria argument, at least used to say that science and religion definitionally have no conflict because of their operating in different spheres, cuts many religions in half - the part that gives the shoulds, standing on its own, generally looks like a crippled philosophy (because it's other half is gone and it doesn't have an idea how to compete, after that loss, with other philosophies), while the part that makes historical facts and factual claims falls on the other side and is left to be eaten by fields dominated by traditions like the historical method and the scientific method.
A tale of two people I ran into today:Pakistani guy at the 61c - very long conversation on world politics, I also had a number of questions about Pakistan and its relationships to nearby countries. He's a pretty good guy to talk to on these matters - I don't know if there are other topics we could connect well on, but history/current conflict/world affairs are an interesting enough topic to me that given a knowledgable person, we could talk on that for a long time. Next time I see him, I'll need to see if he has any value system/political theory/theory of judgement/insight into the character of humanity tying together his analyses of the raw facts, because if he does, wow that'd be awesome to have someone to talk about that stuff with. When someone has both a good grasp of historical/political facts and a willingness to chew on them to understand something with them, my ears perk way up.
I also saw someone today who I once had a lot of conversations with and was kind of close to, but haven't seen for awhile. After catching up on specifics, they told me that I am thinking about moving for really stupid reasons, and that while it's not a bad idea in itself, I would probably not fix what's broken by doing so. It has the ring of truth, but ... *slump*