Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Houston's "Morality Clause"

Item! The Houston Chronicle reports:
Spurred on by Janet Jackson's "wardrobe malfunction" at the 2004 Super Bowl, county officials have fine-tuned policies in the hope that similar incidents can be prevented in the future. Commissioners Court was informed today that promoters will sign contracts that highlight phrases such as one requiring that performers not use facilities for any "immoral purpose."
1. Fun new game! Be on the lookout for use of Reliant Park for immoral purposes! I've got my eye on animal treatment at the Houston Rodeo, but we'll be sure to watch for political events, corporate sponsorship, and the general spending of money and time on things other than that which would maximize utility, too. 2. Bad metaethics! The Chronicle continues:
First, immorality, indecency and vulgarity are subjective concepts...
False! Or at least: too controversial to be stated in a newspaper as accepted fact! 3. Bad Constitutional Law!
...certain behaviors are protected under First Amendment freedom of speech provisions...
Freedom of speech is about what the government can't tell you to do or not to do -- there's no legal problem with signing a private contract agreeing not to do certain things. I love this state. Hat tip: Shari.


  1. I think running out teams like the Astros have been running recently is pretty close to immoral. It can hardly be called utility maximising. (I know they play at Minute Maid not Reliant, but I assume this is meant to cover all arenas.)

    And if putting that offensive line in front of David Carr doesn't count as an immoral form of reckless endangerment, well I'm not sure what does.

  2. can you explain the metaethics thing further?

  3. People often say things like "morality is only subjective" or "what's right and wrong depends" on the individual or the culture or what people happen to like. People get nervous about claims of objective morality, independent from any particular set of moral beliefs. This is quite controversial among philosophers. I think it's a mainstream view in analytic philosophy that morality is *not* subjective in that way -- that there really is a fact of the matter whether something is right or wrong, and it's not a fact about the attitudes of a particular speaker or person or group.

    I don't have time to go into it further, but here's something about it: