Book/Article Reviews

Dr. Seuss vs Daniel Layman

At Business Ethics Journal Review, Peter Jaworski and I respond to Daniel Layman’s attempt to critique our paper “Markets without Symbolic Limits”. Layman argues that to sell certain things “embodies” a morally wrong “normative stance”, but, frankly, we can’t tell what he’s talking about or why that’s any different from the other semiotic objections we’ve already debunked.  Excerpt:


 In “How to Tell a Klotz from a Glotz,” Dr. Seuss writes:


Well, the Glotz, you will notice, has lots of black spots.
The Klotz is quite different with lots of black dots.
But the big problem is that the spots on a Glotz
are about the same size as the dots on a Klotz.
So you first have to spot who the one with the dots is.
Then it’s easy to tell who the Klotz or the Glotz is.[i]


Seuss helpfully includes an illustration of two apparently identical spotted goat-like creatures. Seuss assures us the animals are distinct species, but, as Jason’s four-year-old son Keaton remarks, “Dad, these are the same!” If Keaton had a Ph.D. in Philosophy, he might phrase his objection as follows: This is a distinction without a difference. Without further information, there’s no way to tell the Klotz from the Glotz, and we cannot be sure they are even distinct. Of course, that’s the joke.

As far as we can tell, Keaton’s objection applies to Daniel Layman’s “Expressive Objections to Markets: Normative, Not Symbolic.”[ii] In his paper, Layman intends to critique our critique of semiotic objections to commodification. He claims to have a new interpretation of what semiotic objections are, but the distinction he makes is, so far, unclear to us, and although we’ve tried, we cannot tell how his new account is all that different from the versions of the semiotic argument we have already criticized.

[i] Dr. Seuss, Oh Say Can You Say? (New York: Random House, 1979).

[ii] Daniel Layman, “Expressive Objections to Markets: Normative, Not Symbolic,” Business Ethics Review Journal 4 (2016), URL =

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Author: Jason Brennan


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