Interesting story in Time (of all places) about how the Obama campaign tech team rescued the broken healthcare website.
Carnival has already started in Brazil. The internationally most famous carnival celebration is the parade of samba schools in Rio, but two equally strong carnival traditions thrive in Salvador (Bahia) and Recife/Olinda (Pernambuco) – democratic, street carnival in both cases. What the samba school is for carnival in Rio (and a few other places, like São Paulo), the ‘bloco’ is for street carnival. Blocos are (more or less) organized groups with their own music band and participants who dance along. In Bahia, the most famous bloco is probably Ilê Aiyê, created in 1974 as an affirmation of black pride and a celebration of the Afro cultural heritage in Bahia and in Brazil more generally. When it first came into existence, it was viewed as ‘racist’ given its emphasis on the value of African-Brazilian culture, and to this day only blacks are allowed to parade with the group. Ilê Aiyê remains one of the symbols of the strength of the Afro-Brazilian culture – here is a song by Caetano Veloso celebrating their existence.
In their first carnival, in 1975, Ilê Aiyê paraded with a song that remains emblematic for the black pride movement in Brazil: ‘Que bloco é esse - Ilê Aiyê’. And so to join the carnival spirit this week I’ll be posting numerous versions of this song. It’s really a great song, and here is a bit of the lyrics translated (as usual, very hard to come up with a decent translation):
A Northwestern University student who sued the University earlier this month, accusing them of failing to adequately follow up on her allegations of sexual harassment against a professor, is now suing that professor in state court....
And last night, the University’s Student Government organization added its voice, endorsing a series of reforms including the immediate suspension of any staff or faculty member found to be in violation of the school’s sexual harassment policy.
Read more on the Northwestern campus community reaction here.
I have been thinking about Québec separatism for a long time now—the PQ won its first election a few months after I arrived here. I abhor the very idea of separation except in conditions where the separating entity is actively being oppressed. On the other hand if a jurisdiction votes to separate, it should be allowed to do so without undue fuss. (The Québec situation is the paradigm case of undue fuss, though, prolonged as it has been for forty or more years, with the attendant destabilization of the Canadian polity and economy. Vote yes and then goodbye, or vote no and hold your peace forever.)
This said, I am puzzled by the stand of all three national UK parties regarding the pound. Their position, and that of the Governor of the Bank of England, is that an independent Scotland cannot have the pound. I don't understand.
Many of you are now waking up with the distressing news of another ‘harassment scandal’ in philosophy, this time at Oxford, involving Jeffrey Ketland (a lecturer at Pembroke College) and a student who committed suicide in June of last year. The reports available so far come from news outlets such as the Daily Mail, the Telegraph and The Times (especially the first two, not known for a high level of journalistic impartiality).
Full disclosure: Jeff is a friend of mine, we co-blog at M-Phi and have been friends for a few years. There is much information concerning these tragic events that I got from him, and which I am not at liberty to share at this point (obviously). What does seem to me to be worth pointing out now is that the articles on the story seem to suggest that the harassment accusations have been confirmed, which is not the case at this point. Jeff merely received a harassment warning, and for those of us not familiar with the British legal system, it may not be clear what this amounts to. Brian Leiter links to a useful Guardian article that clarifies the concept, and here are some relevant passages:
Harassment warnings can be issued by police officers with little or no prior investigation of the original allegation and there is a real concern that this is later incorrectly presented as, or perceived by some to be, little short of a conviction.
A harassment warning can be given by police following an allegation which, if true and if repeated, would amount to an offence under the PHA. Until or unless further similar allegations are made, there is not enough evidence to charge the person with harassment, hence the warning.
A harassment warning is not a criminal conviction – simply a notice that a complaint has been received. The behaviour complained of, by itself, does not amount to a crime.
To be clear, the harassment accusations have so far not been confirmed (or disconfirmed, for that matter) by any official investigation, so at this point in time there is no official conclusion as to what exactly happened. Thus, at the very least, at this point we should be careful when using factive terminology like ‘the student was harassed by the lecturer’, ‘the harasser’, ‘the victim’ and such like, as none of this has been corroborated by investigation. That the student took her own life is an extremely distressing turn of events, obviously, but to draw causal connections between this outcome and her complex interactions with Jeff Ketland (they had known each other since 2008), as these reports seem to suggest, is (at this point in time at least) entirely unwarranted. (Some of the articles do mention other distressing recent events in the student's life.)
(Some readers may also be wondering why this is coming up now, if the suicide took place in June last year. What happened is that the inquest, the juridical procedure to establish cause of death, took place yesterday, February 26th, and this is how the story 'leaked' to the press.)
In Louise Antony’s thought-provoking interview, Gary Gutting asked her about the rationality of her atheism if she were confronted with a theist who is an epistemic peer, someone who is equally intelligent, who knows the arguments for and against theism, etc., this was her response:
"In the real world, there are no epistemic peers — no matter how similar our experiences and our psychological capacities, no two of us are exactly alike, and any difference in either of these respects can be rationally relevant to what we believe.” — She further clarifies “How could two epistemic peers — two equally rational, equally well-informed thinkers — fail to converge on the same opinions? But it is not a problem in the real world. In the real world, there are no epistemic peers — no matter how similar our experiences and our psychological capacities, no two of us are exactly alike, and any difference in either of these respects can be rationally relevant to what we believe…The whole notion of epistemic peers belongs only to the abstract study of knowledge, and has no role to play in real life”.
I disagree with Antony’s analysis, and think that the criteria for epistemic peerage can be very much loosened. I do agree with her that the notion, as it is outlined in epistemology, in terms of equal access to evidence, cognitive equality etc is quite stringent, and indeed is very rare in real life. For instance, perhaps two graduate students, trained at the same department with the same advisor and the same specialization, and who are equally smart, would count as epistemic peers with respect to that specialization. However, our philosophical concept of what an epistemic peer is should not be drawn up a priori, but should be informed by how the concept is used in everyday practices, like forensic research, two doctors or midwives discussing a patient’s circumstances, or two scholars who disagree about a key issue in their discipline. Indeed, the idea of epistemic peer is thoroughly entrenched in scientific research, for instance in peer review and open peer commentary. If the notion of “epistemic peer” does not reflect this practice, it is not a sound philosophical notion, and would need to be replaced.
On the Nature website, Richard Van Noorden reports that a French computer scientist, Cyril Labbé, has discovered over 120 computer-generated papers that have been published in conference proceedings between 2008 and 2013. Over 100 of these papers were published by the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE) and 16 others appeared in Springer publications.
The papers have been composed using SCIgen, which only requires the user to input author names, and automatically generates random papers that look like Computer Science, but which are actually meaningless. Cyril Labbé has written a program that is able to recognize papers that have been generated by SCIgen. (The program compares the vocabulary of a text to that of a reference corpus; in particular, it measures the inter-textual distance as the proportion of word-tokens shared by two texts. For details of the method, see Labbé's 2012 paper published in Scientometrics.)
The proceedings issues that appeared in Springer publications were (supposed to be) peer-reviewed; for the IEEE proceedings, it is less clear whether they underwent peer review. In any case, the former examples show that the peer review system is not always watertight, not just in the case of open-access journals (which was also discussed here at NewApps).
Most of the conferences took place in China and most of the authors have Chinese affiliations. Of course, it remains to be checked whether the author names correspond to real scholars and if so, whether they were aware of the submission in their name. Nature was able to contact one actual researcher: he does not know why his name appeared in the author list of such a computer-generated paper.
Below the fold, I offer a speculation on the motivation behind the submission of these fake papers.
[Cross-posted at Psychology Today]
Whether animals can experience romantic love is unknown. But there is some evidence that they are capable of experiencing the same range of emotions as we can. The brains of many mammals are surprisingly similar to the human brain. Take as an example the brain of a cat. A cat’s brain is small compared to ours, occupying only about one percent of their body mass compared to about two percent in an average human. But size doesn't always matter. Neanderthals, the hominids that went extinct more than twenty thousand years ago, had bigger brains than Homo sapiens, but they probably weren’t smarter than the Homo sapiens that beat them in the survival game. Surface folding and brain structure matter more than brain size. The brains of cats have an amazing surface folding and a structure that is about ninety percent similar to ours. This suggests that they could indeed be capable of experiencing romantic love. But we will probably never know for sure.
In his critique of Posner’s economic analysis of law, the late Ed Baker offers some remarks that might help us to understand current developments in educational policy. Posner defends what we will now recognize as a number of the core commitments of neoliberal policy, in particular the fundamental efficiency of markets and the price mechanism for the optimal allocation of social goods. The more people want something, the more they are willing to pay, and so goods get bought and sold (as they move from those who value them less – sellers – to those who value them more – buyers) until everyone is as happy as they can be, given constraints on resources.
However, one additional factor needs to be put into the equation: undergraduate student-workers, who do lots and lots of service and clerical work: checking books out of the library, answering phones in department offices, and on and on. Marc Bousquet estimates in How the University Works that UG student-workers are the largest labor component, by number, at some big public schools.
Should they be part of the bargaining unit, or should the bargaining unit negotiate their work conditions and limits to the number of them employed relative to full-time clerical workers, is a good question, but one or the other is needed I think.
As conversations in the discipline concerning the climate for women in philosophy and the role of feminist philosopy in fostering good climate continue, it is worthwhile to pause and honor the good work in feminist philosophy that is being done in various areas in philosophy, such as philosophy of science.
Nominations are now open for the 2014 Philosophy of Science Association Women's Caucus Prize. The Prize is awarded biennially for the best book, article, or chapter published in English in the area of feminist philosophy of science within the five years prior to each PSA meeting. The winner will receive an award of $500, which will be presented to the winner at the November 2014 PSA meeting in Chicago, Illinois.
The deadline for nominations is May 1, 2014. To be considered, works must have been published between May 1, 2009 and May 1, 2014. Articles posted electronically on journal websites in final (accepted) form prior to May 1, 2014 are eligible for consideration. Self-nominations are allowed but are limited to one per person. One may nominate more than one paper by someone else.
To make a nomination, please provide information about the article, book or chapter you are nominating by clicking on the link below:
The first Prize was awarded in November 2010 at the PSA meeting in Montreal. The co-winners were Elisabeth Lloyd, for her book The Case of the Female Orgasm: Bias in the Science of Evolution, and Sarah Richardson for her essay "Sexes, species, and genomes: Why males and females are not like humans and chimpanzees".
The 2012 Prize was awarded to Inmaculada de Melo-Martín and Kristen Intemann for their article, "Feminist Resources for Biomedical Research: Lessons from the HPV Vaccines."
The student’s attorney, Kevin O’Connor, told The Daily on Friday afternoon the University had provided him additional information regarding the committee, which the original lawsuit says was established to determine disciplinary actions against Ludlow. O’Connor said he recently learned the committee was created to evaluate sanctions the University had already proposed. O’Connor said he plans to amend the lawsuit to indicate the committee’s formal decision did not recommend Ludlow be fired. The change is a technical one, O’Connor said, and he believes the substance of the complaint will remain intact. “At the end of the day, it’s not going to affect the integrity of the lawsuit,” he said.Read more at Leiter Reports.
We've had lots of discussions on this blog about how the climate for women in Philosophy compares to other disciplines. Here is, if not some data, at least some anecdote.
What do readers think? Does this provide a foothold for pursuing that discussion? If so, what can we (provisionally) conclude?
Wow, this is cool. Try it out, especially if you've moved away from your childhood home.
As a child my father was stationed in Montgomery the most, but the accent is pretty well suppressed at this point. Neat to know that sweet home Alabama is still lurking somewhere in my various language modules and whatnot.
Recently I read the following story on What’s it like to be a woman in philosophy.
The poster says her partner thought the mother/daughter relationship is not a topic of meaningful or worthy philosophical investigation. She writes “It feels like I have to defend why the female experience is worthy of philosophical analysis. It feels like I am not taken seriously the moment I talk about what I want to talk about. It feels like I need to transform my thoughts into useless philosophical jargon. It feels like my relationship has tension now, because his words hurt my self-perception. It makes me second-guess my recent applications to graduate programs. It feels like I am not a philosopher–like my thoughts, feminine, worthless–will be forever excluded from the realm of the “lofty, the existential, the philosophical”.”
I am sure that this perspective is not unique, that somehow topics about mother-daughter relationships, motherhood, and other female topics are not deemed worthy of philosophical investigation. Yet what recent philosophical essay has received so much mainstream attention than Laurie Paul’s paper on deciding to have a child? And there are many other examples. One of my personal favorate examples is Rebecca Kukla's paper on ethics and advocacy in breastfeeding campaigns. Given the solid scientific evidence for the benefits of breastfeeding, and the tremendous pressure women experience to breastfeed (even while still pregnant), this is surely an important topic, philosophically speaking and otherwise.
With Robert Brandom (and for recognizably Hegelian reasons) I think that Whig histories are necessary. I also agree with conservative critics that American English departments damaged their own enrollments when the 1980s attacks on the canon led to too sweeping curricular changes. In every field, it's very important for students to master a Whig history that allows them to critically engage with contemporary work and that gives them an analogical jumping off point to apply their knowledge elsewhere. And students know this.
I also agree about 90% with Brandom on how this Whig history should be put together for philosophy. A philosopher must understand Kant, how Kant led to Hegel, how (and hopefully why with respect to the 19th century) Hegel was finally suppressed in the "back to Kant" movement, how phenomenology and logical positivism pushed the neo-Kantian moment to its breaking point, and how contemporary philosophy is a reaction to the agonies and ecstasies of positivism and phenomenology.
But as helpful commentators (Peter Gratton, Robin James, Ed Kazarian, Carl Sachs, James K. Stanescu (AKA Scu), and various anonymous people) pointed out in this thread's discussion, the Brandomian Whig history is populated exclusively by white males, which is extraordinarily problematic for reasons adumbrated there. What to do about this?
According to Brian Leiter, Israel Scheffler died on February 16th at the age of ninety. A very sad event. Scheffler was not a philosopher who cared much about trends. When all around him were scratching their heads about Thomas Kuhn, he wrote a pretty trenchant rejection, Science and Subjectivity (which also took on people like Feyerabend and Hanson). And his fine (but perhaps slightly too didactic) book, The Anatomy of Inquiry ,was perhaps the last good book written on the epistemology of science from an analytic perspective. His passing reminds me that there are issues about which the philosophizing of the mid-twentieth century was simple and right, and far superior to what superseded it.
This semester we've started a pluralist reading group at LSU. We've got students and faculty from both analytic and continental philosophy who may not have that much antecedent overlap in background and methodology. So (as much as possible) it's very important to get books that will help analytic philosophers learn continental philosophy while simultaneously help continental philosophers learn analytic philosophy.*
This semester and summer we're working through Hegel's Phenomenology of Spirit, focusing on secondary material that will be accessible to both analytic and continental philosophers (Forster's Twenty-Five Years, Beiser's two books covering Kant to Hegel, Robert Stern's work, and Westphal's Blackwell Guide to the book). In summer we're going to move to contemporary philosophers who use Hegel, including Stern and Markus Gabriel's metaphysical works, anti-metaphysical Pittsburgh Hegeliana, and Zizek's recent doorstop. Given Stern's contentions about the connection between Hegel properly understood and Deleuze, we might move on to the recent interpretations of Deleuze that are interesting and pretty accessible to all (including Bell, Delanda, and Protevi).
Posted by Jon Cogburn on 18 February 2014 at 06:37 in Analytic - Continental divide (and its overcoming), Jon Cogburn | Permalink | Comments (47)
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Massimo Pigliucci has written an excellent piece criticizing Plantinga’s theistic arguments, recounted recently in an interview with Gary Gutting on the New York Times “Stone” blog. (See also Helen de Cruz's discussion.) Plantinga’s belief rests, according to himself, not on argument but on “experience.” We have an inborn inclination to believe in God, and like perceptual experience, this is self-validating. Theism doesn’t rest, for example, on inference to the best explanation. Denying God because science explains so much of what was once attributed to God is like denying the Moon because it is no longer needed to explain lunacy.
Fair enough. I won’t venture to oppose an argument that is credible only if you believe the conclusion. But what of Plantinga’s arguments against atheism? Here is one that will be familiar to most readers. Suppose that materialism and evolution are true. It follows (for present purposes, never mind how) our belief-producing processes will be imperfectly reliable. Given that we have hundreds of independent beliefs, it’s virtually certain that some will be false. This means that our “overall reliability,” i.e. the probability that we have no false beliefs, is “exceedingly low.” “If you accept both materialism and evolution, you have good reason to believe that your belief-producing faculties are not reliable.”
Wait a minute!
(This post is the result of a facebook debate started by Eric Schliesser)
Given that what we are doing in philosophy might be footnotes to Plato all the way down, citation practices might not seem worth further discussion (that would be footnotes on footnotes in footnotes on Plato). But Kieran Healy’s data recently revealed the degree to which citation numbers cluster around certain big names. Citation practices seem to depend significantly on informal norms and expectations within the academic community. It is worth bringing these up for debate: more awareness of who is quoted, and why, could not only improve scholarship, but also help to make the hierarchies between the (perceived) centre and the (perceived) periphery of the academic community flatter.
Jonathan Martin - the player for the Miami Dolphins who left football, at least temporarily, as a result of relentless locker room bullying - has prompted some voluminous soul-searching. (Whether it leads to meaningful action remains to be seen.) I want to suggest that there have been two profoundly wrong assumptions made in most coverage of this case, and end with a conclusion about how we, and he, should think of Jonathan's Martin's own behavior.
Trigger alert: discussions of misogyny, abuse, bullying, etc. below.
A recent interview in the Stone by Gary Gutting of Alvin Plantinga gave rise to expected criticisms, for instance by Massimo Pigliucci. The wide media exposure of Plantinga puts him forward as somehow representative of what Christian philosophers believe, and if his reasoning is not sound then, as Pigliucci puts it “theology is in big trouble”.
For Plantinga, as is well known and again iterated in this interview, the properly functioning sensus divinitatis is sufficient for belief in God, and one need not have any explicit arguments at all for God’s existence. Nevertheless, Plantinga does say that the “whole bunch taken together” of such arguments are “as strong as philosophical arguments ordinarily get”. In a brief digression to the problem of evil, Plantinga does not even fully acknowledge it as a problem (calling it the “so-called problem of evil”), although he acknowledges there is some strength to it. The problem is then quickly solved with a Fall theodicy, where God mends the abuse of freedom of his creatures through the horrible and humiliating death of his Son, which Plantinga thinks is a “magnificent possible world”.
Overall, I found the tone of this interview somewhat placid. Eleonore Stump has termed this sort of approach toward evil "the Hobbit attitude to evil" (note and update: to clarify, she does not refer to Plantinga's work in the essay, the interpretation is mine). She writes: “Some people glance into the mirror of evil and quickly look away. They take note, shake their heads sadly, and go about their business. ... Tolkien's hobbits are people like this. There is health and strength in their ability to forget the evil they have seen. Their good cheer makes them robust.” — In fairness, Plantinga did write defenses to account for the problem of evil, but in my view, he does not take it seriously enough. Eleonore Stump does not share Plantinga’s reasons for being a religious believer, nor do other philosophers of religion who have spoken out in Morris' and Kelly Clark’s collections of spiritual autobiographies of philosophers who believe. So why do Christian philosophers of religion believe that something like Christian theism is true?
Article in Jacobin here:
On February 18, the tenure track and non-tenure track faculty who make up the University of Illinois-Chicago faculty union UICUF Local 6456 will walk out of the classroom and onto the picket line for a two-day strike. Barring a dramatic change-of-heart by university administrators at the bargaining table the weekend, it will be the first faculty strike at a major research university in a very long time....
Every entering UIC student takes at least one writing course; most take two. Not surprisingly, our writing courses are overwhelmingly taught by lecturers (i.e. non-tenure track faculty), on year-to-year contracts and paid a standard salary of $30,000. Furthermore, although the administration carries on endlessly about the importance of merit, they’re unwilling to mandate a promotion track for non-tenure track faculty, the whole point of which would be to reward merit....
The term “shared governance” is invoked to disguise this evisceration of power but what it mainly means is that faculty senates can “advise” the administration and the administration can then do whatever it wants. To call shared governance real governance is like saying your dog has an equal say in how your household is run because sometimes when he whines he gets fed.
One of our issues in this strike is to take back decision-making power over the issues that matter to us — curriculum, teaching conditions, the distribution of monies, and the like. The administration is fighting ferociously to retain that power — since giving it up would in effect be returning it from management to workers.
In a series of earlier posts (here, here, and here), I suggested that big data is going to pose problems for privacy, insofar as privacy depends on a distinction between information and data. Here, I want to look at how that problem plays out in a specific 4th Amendment case on thermal imaging devices.
In 2001, Justice Scalia, writing for a 5-4 majority in Kyllo v. U.S.,struck down the use of thermal imaging devices without a warrant. Danny Kyllo grew marijuana inside his home, an endeavor that involved the use of high intensity lamps. A police officer had used a thermal imaging device from his squad car on the street to detect the heat from the lamps. On that basis, the police obtained a warrant to search the home. The question before the Court was thus whether the original use of the thermal imaging device constituted a “search.” Scalia reasoned that the Court had consistently held that “visual surveillance” did not constitute a search. However, “the present case involves officers on a public street engaged in more than naked-eye surveillance of a home. We have previously reserved judgment as to how much technological enhancement of ordinary perception from such a vantage point, if any, is too much.” Scalia reasoned that this case crossed the line:
Article here in The Daily Northwestern.Update, 2pm CST, 14 Feb:< complete statement from Ludlow's attorney at Leiter Reports.
Ok, so today is my birthday (yes, somehow every year it coincides with Valentine's day), and most of it will be spent packing and then in the car, driving to the mountains. So not exactly the best birthday ever, but with a nice reward to come after: a week of vacation. (So no BMoF next week.)
Anyway, to congratulate myself I'm posting the Brazilian version of 'Happy birthday', 'Parabéns pra você', quite possibly the most often sung song in the whole history of Brazilian music (damn, not an original Brazilian song!). So here it is, sung by soulman Ed Motta, who already made an appearance here at BMoF a while back.
And yes, I'm happy to accept congratulations in comments.
In Canada, we've had a lot of concern recently about the Federal Government muzzing its scientists, those who work, for instance, in the Department of Oceans and Fisheries or in Environment Canada. These scientists cannot even publish their work or give talks or answer journalist questions without the clearance of some non-boffin.
As bad as this is, it pales next to a story in the New Yorker (February 10th) about UC Berkeley biologist Tyrone Hayes, who fell afoul of the giant Swiss agribusiness, Syngenta. (The New Yorker story is behind a paywall.) Hayes found that the Syngenta herbicide, atrazine, causes birth defects and hermaphroditism in frogs (PNAS 2002, 2010). To make sure that his message was obstructed, Syngenta had him shadowed by hecklers and hired private sector scientists to contest his findings. A company emails says that they wanted to obtain Hayes' calendar so that they could "reach out to potential audiences with the Error vs. Truth Sheet." Ultimately, they interfered with his being hired at Duke. They also harassed other scientists, issuing a subpoena in one case demanding every email written over a decade about atrazine.
One thing's for sure. These advanced business tactics are going to get a lot of imitators. Maybe the Government of Canada.