Kim sympathizes with his frustrated colleagues, but suggests a
different reason for the rancor. “It really is painful to read other
people’s work,” he says. “That’s all it is… All of us are just too lazy
to read them.” Kim is also quick to defend his friend. He says Mochizuki’s reticence
is due to being a “slightly shy character” as well as his assiduous
work ethic. “He’s a very hard working guy and he just doesn’t want to
spend time on airplanes and hotels and so on.” O’Neil, however, holds Mochizuki accountable, saying that his refusal to cooperate places an unfair burden on his colleagues. “You don’t get to say you’ve proved something if you haven’t
explained it,” she says. “A proof is a social construct. If the
community doesn’t understand it, you haven’t done your job.”--Has the ABC Conjecture been solved? [HT: Clerk Shaw on Facebook]
This piece is a nice inside perspective on the 'political economy' and social epistemology of mathematical proof.
Various sorts of attacks on academia have been a theme at Newapps since the beginning: Increasing corporatization of the university, growth of administration, take-over of administration by non-academics, funding cuts, increasing student debt, uses of MOOCS that are contrary to goals of education, increasing use and abuse of adjuncts, hyper-emphasis on "evaluation", anti-intellectualism, federal attacks on academic freedom and research independence, legal attacks on faculty and graduate student organizing, and here's a new one - "outsourcing" grading to Bangalore (coming in a pilot project from a director of business law and ethics studies, as probably was just inevitable.)
Anyway, I've been saying for some time that I'd start a thread in which we might think collectively about what can be done. Should we work within existing organizations like AAUP and APA, or give them up as hopeless? Should we take an activist/organizing approach or focus on legislation and lobbying? Should unionization be a focus - whether legally or not? Creative new ideas would be most welcome.
An annoyingly inaccurate, but touching obituary in the Washington Post. Not only did he solve one of the grand conjectures - and one of the easiest to explain to non-mathematicians - but he launched a subliterature in epistemology, by providing the classic case of indirect evidence of the existence of a proof.
The eloquent and well argued letter is here. I do not think they are being alarmist in their diagnosis of the ultimate function of this and other attacks on the traditional university. (Let's keep discussion here to the open letter and the function of MOOCs specifically. I'm going to start another thread today for discussion of things that we might organize publicly to resist these trends.)
Here is a truly appalling story concerning the rise of corporatism in America. The general issue I want to raise is this: most of those who defend capitalism in the sense that includes allowing for private ownership of the means of production, wage labor, and massive wealth disparities as a result, typically claim that genuine capitalism must be distinguished from "crony-capitalism" and that we cannot allow the government to become an organ for the support of the most economically powerful. But I've simply never understood how this was supposed to work. The whole theory of the beast presupposes that people are self-interested maximizers. Does that not apply to those in government? And if it does, then how exactly do we prevent their corruption? Is there some magical way to take the possibility of graft in all its myriad forms from bending government to the will of those with the most money? In short, if the watchdogs of the level playingfield are just people like us, growing up in a system that encourages self-interest and greed, why would one think there was any hope of stopping the slide from capitalism to corporatism.
Anyway, even if you don't share my concerns about the general issue, I trust that this story is revolting enough to be worth a post on its own.
There seems to be a strong societal push for "metrics" which means, as best as I can tell, limiting our reasons to ones that can be uncontroversially translated into something numerical, ignoring other facotrs, and then drawing conclusions. OK. That is probably a caricature, but I suspect not much.
In any event, here, by GS, is another metric-driven ranking of philosophy journals. It has some rankings that strike me, at least, as rather different from how an expert in the field would rank on the basis of quality, prestige, significance, etc. So, for example, Synthese and Phil Studies are 1 and 2 (certainly both good journals, but I suspect few philosophers would rank them 1 and 2.) Or consider that Journal of Consciousness Studies is 7 and Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences is 10. By contrast, we have Ethics 14, Phil Review 17, and Journal of Philosophical Logic 20.
One brother is dead and the other is in custody in a hospital. Obviously I loathe what they did. Obviously my thoughts are with the victims and their families. Obviously I would have stopped them if I could have, by any means whatsoever. But I also feel enormously sad that a 19 year old boy could come to this. And being a naturalist - that is not believing that things happen magically because of some supernatural force for evil - I believe that there is some explanation for why this happened. Maybe his brain chemicals are at different levels from ours. Maybe he underwent some trauma - either acute or chronic. Maybe he was taken in by an irrational ideology or systematically trained as are government torturers. Maybe all of these. I have no idea, and neither do you. Probably we would never fully understand even if we tried. But something happened, something contingent and potentially avoidable. And I hope that there is a way to redeem some modicum of life for this boy also. I hope that there is a way for all to find restorative, rather than vindictive, justice in this. I hope we can do better than toss one more body on the pile.
I haven't yet been through this in anything like the detail it deserves, but this new website by my colleague Madison Powers, looks like a wonderful site for teachers, activists, cross-disciplinary researchers and just those who care about the future.
Here is a song by David Rovics that tells the story of some noble and actual Irish history that is worth keeping in mind on this day based around green beer and, shall we say, a questionable historical figure.
We certainly devote enough time at this blog to criticizing universities and aspects of university culture. So just for a change of pace, here's a local feel-good story.
Georgetown, like most universities, has some budgetary worries. We've been through an economic crash, are in the midst of governmental cutbacks, etc. In response to moderate short-term deficits, the administration developed a 5 year plan that called for various savings. Among these were limits on salary: specifically no cuts to the faculty raise pool, but an elimination of all raises for staff this year. This was presented to us as a done deal. When announced in the college Exco - a committee of reps from each program and department that advise the dean - I suggested that this sucked, more specifically that placing the burden of lower salary on those already lowest paid in our community did not represent the values we purported to live by as an institution. Not one person in the group of about 30 disagreed. After some crafting of word choice, a motion was passed unanimously expressing the sense of the exco that this was not the way GU should deal with budget cuts. Shortly after this, someone introduced the same motion at the faculty senate. I'm not sure if it was unanimous, but it passed with an overwhelming majority there as well.
And the administration listened. Staff increases are reinstated. In the new proposal announced today, there will be no raises for senior administration, and faculty will have raises delayed for 6 months. This will generate the same savings, but with a very different distribution according to need.
I relay this not (just) to brag on the GU community, but to remind people that even in these uber-corporatist times, and even in the context of the increasingly corporate university, people sometimes manage to think in collective, communitarian, social, or just moral terms. We manage to make collective decisions on the basis of fairness and concern for each other, rather than our own narrow economic interest. In a time in which one dimension of the uber-corporatism is a constant drum-beat of propaganda suggesting that economic self-interest is inevitable, it is important to keep reminding oneself of examples to the contrary.
Imagine what might be possible if we organized our work differently.
more important, we would really like to encourage people - including
WHITE MEN - to apply for the site visit training. It is important that
we have allies involved because having mixed teams will be more
effective than just a group of women....who are feminists, besides!
Mark Lance rightly complains about the fact that corporate interests and sponsors are getting a free pass in the Lance Armstrong doping scandal. But they are not the only ones. For example, as one of my favorite blogs, Retraction Watch, reports in 2005 Edward C. Coyle published a paper about Lance Armstrong in which he "hypothesized that the improved muscular efficiency probably reflects changes in muscle myosin type stimulated from years of training intensely for 3–6 h on most days." As the NYT reported half a decade ago) that paper was regularly used "by Armstrong and his lawyers to fend off allegations that his cycling success came in part through doping." Turn out, Coyle was a paid consultant to Armstrong in a series of lawsuits (even Armstrong's team insurer suspected doping). The NYT quoted also Coyle in 2008 as follows, “People are drawing their opinions essentially on whether or not they believe Lance cheated or not,” he said. “I don’t know what the truth is about that, but I don’t really care.”
As we get on in life, we begin to collect first deaths: first grandparent to die, first parent, first friend. For many of us who have devoted much of our lives to intellectual pursuits, there is another category that is as important as these: teacher. I don't mean just someone who stands in the official role of teacher, someone with whom we took a class, but someone who guided our intellectual development, nurtured our intellectual autonomy, someone whose voice pops into our head at crucial and unexpected moments as we think through issues. For me, Joe Camp was such a person, and he is my first such teacher-death. (Adding to the pain of this moment is that it brings fresh to my mind also the untimely death of Joe's former partner Tamara Horowitz, with whom I took a class, but who I think of more as a dear friend and one of the finest humans I have known.)
I posted a while back on my frustration that those with economic power in cycling - and other sports as well - are never implicated or even much considered in the eternally recurrent drama of denunciation and punishment for performance enhancing drug use. Happily the economic engines of this spectacle are getting a bit of attention at a much higher profile outlet than NewAPPS. Below the break is a comment from a former professional cyclist Jorg Jaksche that gets to the heart of the matter, followed by a clause from a contract that cyclists signed with the team Rabobank, along with the corporate "explanation" - by which I mean "statement so insanely and obviously dishonest that in a just world one would burst into flames instantly upon completing it."
I was chatting with Rebecca Kukla a couple weeks ago about things we would like to do with a second edition of Yo&Lo and the following general thought occurred to me. When it comes to books that people are interested in, we have roughly two distinct media forms for philosophical interaction. We have the printed book itself, and sometimes later printed articles and reviews. And we have lots of discussions - in conferences, symposia, classes, etc. The former are permanent, but fixed - non-dialogical. The latter are interactive and dialogical, but ephemeral. Once they are over, they exist only in the memory of participants. (And if we make a web-cast of the event, then it flips to the first category.
(A second in a series, drawn from joint work with K. Joseph Mourad.) How do we measure the complexity of decision procedures in poker? This is a question that is both complex and subtle, and seems to me interesting in thinking about the interplay between formal modeling of epistemological situations and more concrete strategic epistemic thinking.
(This will be the first in a series of posts designed to suggest that the mathematics of impredicativity - especially methods of definition that make use of revision-theoretic procedures - are relevant to empirical contexts. Everything I say in these grows out of joint work with my math colleague Joe Mourad.)
Two basic points about the notion of impredicativity: first, it is much broader than what non-expert philosophers tend to think of under the rubric of paradoxes, vicious circularity, and the like. Second, it is a property of definitions - or, more generally, procedures - not of concepts or sets, in the first instance. Given an appreciation of these points, it is not hard to see that the general phenomenon can pose important epistemological issues in contexts in which there are no infinite totalities in play, indeed, in the context of various empirical discussions.
For the first century or so of the modern union movement, unions were esssentially extra-legal. They were conceived as alternative centers of power that challenged the state and capitalist control of production that was itself instituted by state-enforced property regimes. As such, unionization was not fundamentally about making better deals with capital, or improving conditions of wage-labor, but of changing the dynamics of economic control. The primary goal was worker control of the means of production. As such, there was no question of unions being legally sanctioned entities that would enter into state mediated bargaining with capital.
Recently, I wrote some young scholars who ended up hosting a resource-rich conference with a line-up of ten (mostly early career) males. (I wouldn't be surprised this particular conference also ends up being a special issue of a journal.) This surprised me because I had noticed the cfp and it explicitly mentioned blind review of abstracts, and had made no mention of invited speakers. Their response is illuminating because it shows how even selection designs that aim at quality can lead to unfair, gender-imbalanced outcomes without any malice or gender bias (I'll qualify this in a bit) at all:
From a call
for papers, we have selected 7 papers (out of a total of 10 to be presented at
this workshop). Possibly 7, but at least 5 (out of 24 submitted), abstracts
have been submitted by women (judging on the basis of first names). All
abstracts have been anonymously evaluated double blind by a pool of 30
reviewers (of which roughly half were authors that had submitted abstracts).
The resulting rank order was arrived at by straight averaging, gender was not a
factor in the decision. The group of authors selected remained the same
irrespective of assigning weights (between 60/40 and 80/20) to reviewers’
scores or authors’ scores. We checked for gender only after the blog post [by the GCC] had
become known to us. The best “female abstract” is probably on rank 11.
3 out of 10
talks are given by invited speakers. These had been planned before the call for
papers. 2 of these are given by scholars from [our home universities]. These authors had been asked before
the call for papers, as we seek to give precedence to work originating [at our
home universities]. Prof. X is the one invited speaker external to the
Despite recently haven been declared dead in the press, Occupy has recently launched two major new projects. In Brooklyn, Occupy Sandy has put on a massive aid effort, coordinated at a completely grassroots level, with very few capital resources, and by some reports outperforming the Red Cross. (When you factor in that the RC has, probably, 1000 times the resources to devote, ...) See also this, this, this, and perhaps most amazingly this
It is - as a gay hating, anti-environmental, corporatist, war criminal of a former president once said - morning in America.
Obama was elected over Romney; the Democrats held or increased their lead in the Senate, gay marriage is legal in Maryland and Maine, and small victories were won against the insane drug war. Liberals were partying in front of the White House once again. I'm happy for all of that, and for them. Really, I am. Given the alternatives, these results buy us a bit of time for dealing with crucial issues, and will make significant differences in the lives of many Americans. So ok. Cool. I hope everyone had a nice celebratory evening. Now can we face up to the cold reality of the situation in which we find ourselves?