Welcome to my web site!
I recently retired from teaching philosophy at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. My work is almost entirely in the areas of moral, political, and legal philosophy. Usually, research that is nominally in other areas barely constitutes an exception. My current book project is in an area generally referred to as "philosophy in literature," but my book focuses on ethical and political ideas in various literary works. I have done a fair amount of research on the emotions, but it is mostly on politically and ethically "hot" emotions like revenge and envy.
Within my chosen realm, my approach is individualist, libertarian, and agonistic (conflict is good, or should be). I do realize that this often goes against the grain. I sincerely wish it didn't, but this is my fate. What is yours?
I love to communicate with friends, allies, and opponents around the world, but computers are not among my many hobbies, so this site is definitely on a sub-professional level of quality. I originally created it using the html capabilities of WordPerfect, but eventually graduated to FrontPage and then to Dreamweaver. Finally, the university evicted my web site from their server (apparenly an economy move) and we are now using Google Drive.
Visit my blog, E pur si muove! (I recently reactivated this. It was inactive for about five years.)
I am also on Facebook.
My monograph on the classic 1948 film, Letter from an Unknown Woman (© 2018), can now be purchased as an ebook!
To preview the opening pages go here.
If you haven't seen the film, you can watch it by going here.
"Only the dead are safe."
These are articles that I did not cannibalize in writing my books (the books are listed further down this page). A number of papers were absorbed into my books and most of those are not linked here. You can find a recent copy of my Vita here.
Generosity, in American Philosophical Quarterly, Vol. 12 no. 3, July 1975, pp. 235-244. My first published article, written before I started work on my dissertation. It's quite different from the version that later became a chapter in Character and Culture (see under Books, below), so I thought I would link to it here. This version is more Nietzschean while the later one is much more Aristotelian.
A Note on Action and Causal Explanation, in Reason Papers No. 4, Winter 1978, pp. 89-94. In this early paper I give a reason for thinking that, when we explain a person's actions by appealing to thoughts and desires that gave rise to them ("John ran out of the building because he thought it was on fire and wanted to be safe") we are not giving a causal explanation of the action.
Some Advantages of Social Control: An Individualist Defense, in Public Choice, vol. 36, 1981, pp. 3-16.
The Scarlet Letter: Hawthorne's Theory of Moral Sentiments, in Philosophy and Literature, vol. 8 no. 1, April 1984, pp. 75-88.
On Improving Mankind by Political Means, in Reason Papers vol.. 10, Spring 1985, pp. 61-76.
Ethics. I wrote this some years ago for World Book Encyclopedia, a reference work mainly for high school and middle school students. It's an attempt to explain ethics to people who don't yet know anything at all about it. This, I found, is not easy to do.
The Eternal Recurrence and Nietzsche's Ethic of Virtue, in International Studies in Philosophy, vol. 25 no. 2, pp. 3-11. This constitutes a sort of appendix to Nietzsche and the Origin of Virtue. I didn't discuss the idea of "the eternal recurrence of the same" in that book, and this is an attempt to fill in this gap, showing how this all-important Nietzschean them fits into my interpretation. I tried to get Routledge to publish it as an appendix to my book when it went into papberback, but they would not go for it. So here it is.
An Argument Against a Legal Duty to Rescue, in the Journal of Social Philosophy, vol. 25 no. 1, Spring 1995, pp. 15-37.
Why Democracy is an Enemy of Virtue in International Studies in Philosophy, vol. 30 no. 3,1998, pp. 13-21. (This article is actually friendlier to democracy than the title sounds. It's an interpretation and a critique of a passage in Nietzsche.)
Flourishing Egoism in Social Philosophy and Policy, vol. 16 no. 1, Winter 1999, pp. 72-95. A defense of a particular sort of ethical egoism.
The Liberal Basis of the Right to Bear Arms (written with Todd C. Hughes) in Public Affairs Quarterly, vol. 14 no. 1, January 2000, pp. 1-25. Keeping and using a gun is a civil liberty, like keeping and using a modem or fax machine.
Gun Control: Is There an Issue Here? in Criminal Justice Ethics, vol. 20 no. 1, Winter-Spring 2001, pp. 40-45. This essay, a contribution to a symposium I organized on gun control, is mainly a critique of Hugh LaFollette's claim that guns are inherently dangerous in a way that cigarettes and autos are not. I argue that what his position really boils down to is that guns are morally repugnant because violence, regardless of context, is morally repugnant.
Is Bad Conduct Always Wrong? The Ethics of Environmental Effects In The Commons: Its Tragedies and Other Follies, ed. by Tibor R. Machan, Hoover Institution Press, 2001.Do you have a moral obligation to never make the world in any respect a worse place? Maybe not. At least if you assume that morality is something that human beings must be able to apply and follow in the long run.
Billy Budd: Melville’s Dilemma, Published in a somewhat different form in Philosophy and Literature, vol. 26 no. 2, October 2002, pp. 273-295.
Drug Prohibition: What Good are Drugs Anyway? in Criminal Justice Ethics, vol. 22 no. 1, Winter-Spring 2003, pp. 40-45. This essay is a contribution to a symposium on drug prohibition I organized, a sort of sequel to the one on guns (see above). Thesis: It is important to realize that illegal psychotropic drugs (marijuana, LSD, heroin, cocaine, etc.) are good (as well as bad). Calling their value "recreational" only conceals this fact without giving a defensible reason for it.
Poetic Injustice The emotion of empathy is a source of moral temptations and illusions, as well as insight. The essay, a criticism of Martha Nussbaum's moral defense of literature, is a very short version (written for presentation at The American Society for Aesthetics) of a paper later published as "Sentiment and Sympathy," in the Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism, Volume 62 Number 4 (Fall 2004).
Martha Nussbaum on the Emotions In Ethics, vol. 116 No. 3 (April 2006), pp. 552-577. A review-essay on two of Martha's books: Upheavals of Thought and Hiding from Humanity.
Motion Pictures as a Philosophical Resource, in Philosophy of Film, ed. by Noël Carroll and Jinhee Choi. (Malden, Massachusetts: Blackwell Publishing, 2006), pp. 397-405.
Thus Spoke Howard Roark: The Transformation of Nietzschean Ideas in The Fountainhead. Published as "Thus Spake Howard Roark: Nietzschean Ideas in the Fountainhead," in Philosophy and Literature, vol. 30 no. 1 (April 2006), pp. 79-101. The change in the title, from "spoke" to "spake," was made by the editor of the journal without my knowledge or permission. To me, the change introduced (on purpose?) a goofy-sounding and distracting reference to the obsolete Thomas Common translation of Nietzsche's Zarathustra.
Why the State Needs a Justification Published as the first chapter in Anarchism/Minarchism: Is Government Part of a Free Country?, ed. by Roderick Long and Tibor Machan (Routledge, 2008). I'm the only author in the book who does not make up his/her mind on the issue, though I have since declared as an anarchist.
Literature as Fable, Fable as Argument. In Philosophy and Literature, October 2009, vol. 33 no. 2, pp. 369-386.
José Ortega y Gasset, Prof. Dario Fernandez-Morera and I wrote this little article for the Encyclopedia of Libertarianism, ed. by Ronald Hamowy (Washington, D. C.: Cato Institute, 2009). This file is a Google Drive link.
Reason and Precedent in the Law. In Reality, Reason, and Rights: Essays in Honor of Tibor R. Machan, edl. by Douglas Rasmussen, Aeon Skoble, and Douglas Den Uyl, Lanham Maryland: Lexington Books, 2011.How do you reconcile reason (which requires thinking for yourself) with the practice in the law of following precedent (which involves following the thoughts of others)?
Beyond Master and Slave: Developing a Third Paradigm. In The Journal of Value Inquiry, September 2015, Volume 49, Issue 3, pp 353–367. This may be the last piece of Nietzsche scholarship I ever do, so I am very glad to be able to say I think it is one of my best. It should be interesting to those with only a passing interest in Nietzsche. It argues that his famous discussion of Master Morality and Slave Morality would have had very different implications if he had only considered a third type of morality, one the contrasts point by point in fascinating ways with both of the ones he does discuss. This third paradigm is what I call Trader Morality.
Libertarianism. An article I wrote for the International Encyclopedia of Ethics (Blackwell, 2013). This is a new version, revised considerably and updated, for the new edition of the Encyclopedia.
"Time to Reconsider Classical Film Theory," forthcoming in the Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism (probably in 2020). Here is an abstract of the article:
Film audiences are no longer in a position to know for certain which images, or features of images they see on the screen were created by photography and which were created in a computer. Yet they are reacting to the advent of computer graphics as if it is merely a technical improvement, not a change in the nature of film itself. This would mean that one of the most influential early theories of film – Realism – is wrong. It held that film is by nature photographic and that its unique value is to afford the audience the physical connection with reality that photography, uniquely among pictorial media, brings. I argue that the audience is right about this. Even as applied to purely photographic films, Realism was simply a mistake.
Nietzsche and the Origin of Virtue. New York and London: Routledge, 1991, 200 pp. (incl. index) + xxiii.
Character and Culture. Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield, 1997, 297 pp. + viii + index.
Anarchy, State, and Utopia: An Advanced Guide. Boston, Massachusetts: Wiley, 2015. pp. 232 + vi.
Debating Gun Control: How Much Regulation Do We Need? Co-authored with David DeGrazia. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2016. pp. 269 + xvi.
Letter from an Unknown Woman: Nostalgia, Irony, and the Nature of Love. 2018. A monograph on the classic 1948 film directed by Max Ophuls and written by Howard Koch. Available only as an ebook from Payhip (price: $2.0 0).
The Philosophy of Henry Thoreau: Ethics, Politics, and Nature London: Bloomsbury Academic, 2019. pp, 164 (incl. index) + xiii.
Grade Inflation: Academic Standards in Higher Education, Albany New York: State University of New York Press, 2008. pp. 223 + xxiv. I also wrote three sections of this book: Preface, Ch. 8 "Grading Teachers: Academic Standards and Student Evaluations" (see above, under "Some Articles"), and "Afterword: Focusing on the Big Picture."
Philosophy in the Twilight Zone. (Boston: Wiley-Blackwell, 2009) Edited with Noël Carroll. pp. 208. I also contributed a biographical introduction about Rod Serling, justifying a philosophical reading of The Twilight Zone (see below, under Other Work).
Some writings of mine that were part of the U W speech code controversy of the 1990s. This discussion ended with the UW's unprecedented repeal (yes, repeal!) of the faculty speech code at the end of the decade. I think this is all, unfortunately, very relevant today My own telling of these exciting events begins on p. 35 of this issue of Liberty magazine. (I don't seem to have my copy of this essay any longer.)
Writings on Ayn Rand I think the most important of these, as orginal philosophy or scholarship, are "Thus Spoke Howard Roark" and "Ayn Rand's Evolving View of Friedrich Nietzsche."
The more artificial taboos and restrictions there are in the world, the more the people are impoverished…. The more that laws and regulations are given prominence, the more thieves and robbers there will be.
The Song of the Rider: And Other Poems of Mystery, Adventure, and Horror (This is a Google Drive file) This is a poetry anthology (with explanatory notes) that I put together back in 2004 in an effort to convince our son, Nat, that poetry can be exciting and, you know, totally cool. I never did try to publish it (am I the last living American who reads poetry for fun?) but looking at it yesterday I realized that many of my favorite poets are in it and figured it might be of interest to others. So here it is.
McCloskey's The Bourgeois Virtues My contribution to an “Author Meets Critics” panel at the American Philosophical Association Central Division Meetings, April 21, 2007.
Notebook on Risk, Danger, and Uncertainty This is a collection of notes I made as I have been thinking about risk, a subject I have published on a number of times (most recently in the book about guns). I can't think how I would be able to publish these remarks, so I figured what the hell I'll put it here!
The "Grade Inflation and Academic Standards" Conference This is the web page for a conference that was the basis for the book, Grade Inflation: Academic Standards in Higher Education. See under Edited Books, above.
Grading Teachers A criticism of the current regime of anonymous student evaluations of teaching as a fundamentally irrational institution. This, as you may know, is nearly the only way that quality of teaching is evaluated in American universities and colleges. This essay is a chapter in the book on grade inflation (listed under Edited Books).
The Macomber Project (This is a Google Drive file.) Is It My Turn? Confessions of a Platonic Lover.This is a monograph-length work based on the sayings of William B. Macomber, who years ago was professor at U C Santa Barbara, where I was a student at the time. Taken down from conversations, lectures, and class handouts, it is another manuscript of mine that probably is not publishable in the normal, print, way, so I am putting it here. Here is a class handout he distributed to his upper-level class on Nietzsche, some time around 1972, a freewheeling commentary on the chapter, "On War and Warriors" in Zarathustra. It is still worth a read today. Sadly, Bill journeyed forth to the spirit world in June, 2009. I still miss him.
And Now, Rod Serling, Creator of The Twilight Zone: The Author as Auteur Biographical introduction to the book on The Twilight Zone (see under Edited Books, above).
7326 Davis Way, Portola California 96122
(Actually I live in the "census designated area" of Lake Davis, at the northern end of the Sierra Nevada mountains, but the above is my mailing address.)
Home: (530) 832-6324.
You can also try my cell phone, (608) 332-3166, but here at Lake Davis we are between three mountain peaks and don't get cell service unless we go several miles down the road.
lester_hunt at hotmail dot com or lhhunt at wisc dot edu
Sites I Use a Lot:
Arts and Letters Daily, SciTechDaily, Independent Review, In These Times, Nation, National Review,Reason, New York Times, Associated Press, NASA Astronomy Picture of the Day, Food Network, Bon Appétit
Official US Gov't Time, Dictionary and Thesaurus Portola Public Library, Mapquest, Google Maps,World Atlas, NYT Xwords, Amazon, Wikepedia, Encyclopedia Britannica (paywall), Portola Area Weather
Caricature at top of page courtesy of Kali Fontecchio.
Site maintained since June 1998: updated beginning January 2018 and continuously to date.