“Islamophobia” and Other Illegitimate Neologisms

In common usage, “phobia” connotes fear. Nevertheless, the term “Islamophobe” can legitimately be applied to people with a prejudicial hatred of Muslims, too. On the other hand, when the term is used to characterize someone with informed critical objections to the substance of Islamic doctrine, it is a smear. The proper term to describe the informed critic is “anti-Islamist.”

Phobias as Psychiatric Disorders

A perceived danger will provoke a “flight or fight” response in any animal, human beings included. When a person’s perception routinely misrepresents the actual severity of a type of threat, this might indicate the presence of a “phobia.” A fear of spiders, for example, is arachnophobia; a fear of heights is acrophobia.  In the most common psychiatric sense of the term, a phobia is an… Continue reading

American Egalitarianism – How Much Equality Do We Want?

John Rawls’ A Theory of Justice introduced a memorable thought experiment related to the nature of a just society. Rawls asked what principles would we chose to regulate the basic structure of society if we had to chose those them from behind a “veil of ignorance” as to our own position in that society. One of those was the “difference principle,” that is, that economic (and social) inequalities, to the extent that they exist, must be relatively advantageous to the most unfortunate members of society vs. a strict egalitarian distribution of wealth and income.

In a recent article (“How Americans view wealth and inequality“), behavioral economist Dan Ariely reviews data from a survey in which Americans were asked how much inequality there should be in… Continue reading