Eric has been needling "formal philosophers" recently, getting them implicated in the Cold War here, and in the "surveillance state" here. Very naughty.
First, let me say a couple of things in defence of the Rand Corporation, the US Department of the Navy, and formal philosophy. Then, I want to scratch my head a little about some of the reaction that Eric has been getting.
About all of those cold war institutions, here's a point worth pondering. The Rand corporation and the Navy both did a lot of research on how to fight war. Rand in particular did a lot of research into how the war should be kept cold. The theory of Mutually Assured Destruction was one outcome. Was this a bad thing? Perhaps, but at least we are all still here. In this case, perhaps, the bad was an enemy of the worst.
Maybe you disagree, dear reader. But at least you have to concede this: Rand and the Navy sponsored a whole lot of pure research. Perhaps they did this, because they thought it might be relevant to war. Does this make the research bad? Chomsky got a grant from the Navy. I don't see him disowning Syntactic Structures. (I am always ready to be refuted: tell me Chomsky has disowned his book. Oh and by the way, what do you make of the title? SS?)
The scientific revolution of the 17th century, which has given rise to
such extraordinary progress in the understanding of nature, depended on a
crucial limiting step at the start: It depended on subtracting from the
physical world as an object of study everything mental – consciousness,
meaning, intention or purpose. The physical sciences as they have
developed since then describe, with the aid of mathematics, the elements
of which the material universe is composed, and the laws governing
their behavior in space and time.--Thomas Nagel in the NYT.
I have blogged about a variant of this mythological (I think Heideggerian) history before. (This is not to be confused with other blogging at NewAPPS on Nagel's recent views, here, here, here, here, here, and here.) If all you know is Descartes then this myth might seem plausible. But the Cartesian 'crucial limiting step' was successfully rejected throughout the seventeenth century. Many philosophers are familiar, of course, with Leibniz's monads, but may dismiss Leibniz as not really contributing to the scientific revolution (as opposed to mathematics and mathematics). So, let's focus on Newton. When he thought through the metaphysics of body (in critical response to Descartes), he embraced the idea that an
extended body had to be the kind of thing that was capable of exciting various perceptions in the senses and imagination of minds (this is from a piece known as "De Gravitatione;" I am linking to a very nice treatment by Zvi Biener and Chris Smeenk.) While this doctrine is not stated in the Principia; there are glimpses of it in the General Scholium (added to second edition) and in his Opticks. Newton is not ideosyncratic; as I learned from my PhD Student, Marij Van Strien, through the second half of the nineteenth century leading physicists (including Maxwell) were tempted by anti-reductionist conceptions such that mind was not excluded from their inquiry.
in form nor extent does it carry out the idea of a system. Its subject indeed
is central enough to justify the exhaustive treatment of every problem. But what I have done is
incomplete, and what has been left undone has often been omitted
arbitrarily.--F.H. Bradley, Appearance
and Reality, Preface (xi).
There is no established reputation which now does much harm to philosophy. And one is not led to feel in writing
that one is face to face with the same dense body of
stupid tradition and ancestral prejudice.--Bradley, Preface (xiii).
Michael Della Rocca has been encouraging me to get interested in Bradley [and this post was prompted by one of his papers--ES]. (See this book for a polemical introduction to Bradley. [I blogged about it here; Mohan responded; then I; Mohan here.]) The lines in the first epigraph above are the second, third, and fourth sentences of Bradley's book, explaining why Bradley calls it an "essay in metaphysics." While -- if we allow that being exhaustively treated and the idea of system are close in spirit -- the subject is suitable to systematic treatment, Bradley goes out of his way to deny his book is not. At first sight he seems to suggest that it is not systematic because the book is "incomplete."
Fair enough. The edition I am looking at is over 600 pages long. But Bradley is also insistent that the in-completion is due to his arbitrary omissions. So, the first paragraph of the book introduces an opposition between the idea of system and arbitrary gaps. That is, the idea of system entails deliberateness about internal structure. I emphasize "idea" because Bradley does not deny that his book is an attempt "to deal systematically
with first principles" (xiii); evidently such an attempt does not fall under the idea of system.
How can an agent choose to deploy arbitrary gaps? (To be anachronistic: there is nothing arbitrary about letting a random-number generator create the numbers of a sequence, even if any given number is arbitrary.)
I'm a long-time fan of a form of music one might call "free improv": improvised sound unconstrained by any traditional melodic or harmonic structure (a movement which grew out of free jazz on the one hand and minimalism and punk on the other—note this usage is more restrictive than wikipedia's definition). One thing about this music which has puzzled me is the large gap between the excitement of experiencing it live and the stillborn dullness of most of it as recorded—especially true of the more minimal varieties, e.g. Sachiko M, Toshimaru Nakamura, Keith Rowe, or Axel Dörner.
Here I draw attention to one relevant factor: the shared experience within a single sonic environment possible only during live performance. When performer and audience are listening to the same sounds, the performer's improvised response can illustrate how she heard those sounds, thereby retroactively affecting the audience member's own experience in the moment. But this dynamic interaction also defeats the possibility of capturing that moment with any mechanical recording device.
Consider for example this instance by the Boston-based duo Nmperign:
When publishing an article in
Oxford Journals, for the majority of the titles on our list you are not
required to assign copyright to Oxford University Press and/or the learned
Broadly, most Oxford journals have
12 or 24 month embargos on self-archiving . . . As such, authors with funder
mandates stipulating deposit in a repository after 12 months (e.g. NIH) can
comply simply by publishing in a 12 month embargo journal. Any author whose
funder mandates deposition in under 12 months will need to publish their paper
under an open access licence to meet their funder or funders' requirements.
When I posted yesterday on the Springer contract, I did not mean to be suggesting an altruistic action, mine or anybody else's. Thus, I felt a bit abashed when "Anon. grad student" wrote: "I really admire your willingness to pass up a publication opportunity to make some progress in remedying the terrible copyright situation." That wasn't my intention at all.
Let me be clearer. I am at a stage of my career when my motivation to publish is simply to get my ideas out in the most effective possible way. As such, I face a very different set of incentives than a graduate student or untenured assistant professor. When I decided that I wasn't going to sign Springer's contract, my motives were completely selfish, and I did not mean to recommend my course of action to anybody else. At this stage of my career, self-archiving is important to me. That was my first thought. Secondly, my piece was a comment on somebody else's (Frances Egan's) work. (And I feel bad that I am inconveniencing her.) Had it been an original piece—as was my 2010 Philosophical Studies piece—I would probably have swallowed my bile and pressed on (though I would have resolved not to submit to Springer ever again). The point is that with regard to the 2010 piece, I didn't even read the contract, and didn't realize that I was imposing these limits on myself.
Despite many discussions on this blog and elsewhere, I was surprised finally to read the Springer contract. I had submitted a comment on a paper by Frances Egan given at the Oberlin Colloquium last year, and I received the copyedited version with instructions to sign the contract. The part I objected to read as follows:
Your article is protected by copyright and all rights are held exclusively by Springer Science +Business Media Dordrecht. The e-offprint is for personal use only and shall not be selfarchived in electronic repositories. If you wish to self-archive your article, please use the accepted manuscript version for posting on your own website. You may further deposit the accepted manuscript version in any repository, provided it is only made publicly available 12 months after official publication or later and provided acknowledgement is given to the original source of publication and a link is inserted to the published article on Springer's website. The link must be accompanied by the following text: "The final publication is available at link.springer.com”.
So: I have surrender ownership of my own work, . . .
Fred Dretske was one of the most elegant
men I knew. I became friends with him at a conference that he was attending
together with his friend Berent Enç. Both could always make you laugh, but
first they’d make you feel wanted and at home. Fred had a quick and intimate
smile, the kind of smile that made you think he liked you. And he probably did.
It was his way to see, and perhaps more remarkably, to look at and attend to,
the best in everything and everybody. I remember his gestures and way of
talking: simple, economical; he’d smile a lot but laugh much less often. He had
the look of being comfortable in his body in the way that athletes are, but as
far as I know, he wasn’t an athlete.
His critical remarks were always
understated: you’d say something, and he’d say “You mean . . . ?” and it would
be clear he’d understood, but didn’t agree. Many people talk about discussing
some point with Fred for hours on end. With me, it wasn’t like that. It’d be a
word here and a word there, and he’d get it across how he was thinking about
something. I was usually able to take it from there. In my 2005 book, I was
quite critical of occasions when he didn’t seem to distinguish between
information-contained and information-extracted. When we talked about it, he
simply smiled. I asked why he hadn’t mentioned the point in his review of my
book. He smiled some more. I guess he thought I had him and it wrong. I thought
a lot about how. Later, some of the experts in the field taught me some of the
advanced moves, and maybe I would have written Chapter 3 of my book somewhat
differently if I had known them. Fred, however, didn’t think that it was his
role to teach me. He would have thought it overly forward.
Fred’s book Knowledge and the Flow of Information is one of the two or three
most important works on perceptual knowledge in the last fifty years or so.
Some philosophical works are argumentative—forcefully arguing for a
philosophical thesis. Such works are immediately controversial. They expand and
enrich the field, but are forever debated. In epistemology, externalism and
contextualism are programs of this sort.
KFI falls into another category: books that create new structures.
Going through my pile of New York Review of Books, while travelling, I came across Ray Monk's review of Michael Nedo's Ludwig Wittgenstein: Ein biographisches Album (Munich: C. H. Beck) in the June 6th, 2103 issue. (I couldn't find it online: maybe they have a moving wall.) The book is a collection of photographs and other illustrations attached to quotations from Wittgenstein, the pictures intended to illuminate the words, and vice versa.
Monk is his usual engaging self, but can barely conceal his irritation:
The book is a direct descendant of the 1983 volume Ludwig Wittgenstein—Sein Leben in Bildern und Texten, edited by Michael Nedo and Michele Ranchetti, an Italian poet, historian, and all-around intellectual who dies in 2008. Indeed so large is the overlap between the two books (I would say roughly 90 percent . . . ) that it might be more natural to regard this book as merely a second edition . . . except that that is not how it bills itself. The earlier book is not mentioned anywhere on the cover, the title page, or among the bibliographical details of this new volume. . . I never knew, or ever met, Michele Ranchetti, so cannot hazard a guess about what he might have thought of being airbrushed out of his own joint creation in this way . . .
Nedo claims that "Text and images reveal the complex connections between Wittgenstein's life and work and provide an excellent introduction to his thought," a boast that Monk finds "exaggerated, if not completely false."
[Update 2 July 2013, 6 am CDT: A petition that these requirements be withdrawn.]
The main grant-giving institution in Germany, theDeutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft(DFG), is contemplating a revision of their guidelines for good scientific practice that will make 'academic whistle blowing' a lot more difficult: according to a proposal at the annual meeting of DFG members, henceforth German universities will regard it as a violation of good scientific practice to publish suspicions of malfeasance, if an investigation is under way at the university that employs the researcher under suspicion. Since these guidelines serve at the same time as the German de facto standard for investigating academic misconduct in general, the effect of these new regulations will not be limited to those who must be afraid of sanctions from the DFG, e. g. those that receive grants, review grant applications etc. The proposed change in regulations will affect all academics working at a German university, because the DFG guidelines serve as the countrywide de-facto standard.
If this is not disturbing enough; it is remarkable that the DFG decision-making process was apparently intended to take place behind closed doors. However, the semi-official association of German universities, the Hochschulrektorenkonferenz (HRK) published its own revised guidelines, before the DFG could finalize its version and refers explicitly to the DFG proposal (I quote from the English translation of the relevant passage from the HRK website):
Mathurin Roze de Chantoiseau was pivotal to the emergence of the restaurant for it was he who first proffered bouillon broths as a restorative - restaurer in French and hence restaurant. In this way, Roze was able to circumvent the challenges of the guild to the selling of broths and sauces.
Barbara Santich tells a complementary tale in the Oxford Companion to Food:
At this time [i.e. around 1760] the word 'restaurant' meant a restorative beverage, such as a thin soup. Places supplying such foods were known as 'bouillons'. In 1765 the owner of one of these, a man by the name of Boulanger, added to his menu a dish of sheep's feet—pieds de mouton à la sauce poulette (a kind of white sauce enriched with egg yolks). He was immediately attacked by the corporation of traiteurs, who accused him of selling a ragout, a dish they considered theirs by right.
As I recalled yesterday, Boulanger was vindicated because the sheep's feet had not been cooked in the sauce—it was a sauced dish, not a ragout.
Is the experience of eating confined to putting something in
your mouth and savouring it? Of course not. There is the occasion, its
ambience, the accompanying conversation, the wine, the familiarity or the
novelty of the place where you eat. All of these can make food a much larger
But what about food itself? What influences the design and
preparation of cuisine? Is it simply flavour and nutrition?
Think of the restaurant. You shouldn’t take this amazing
institution for granted; it was invented in Paris as late as the late
eighteenth century. The essential feature of the modern restaurant was, as
Brillat-Savarin said, that it allows people to eat what they want, when they
want, how much they want, knowing in advance how much this would cost. Think
about this: this degree of choice was nowhere available. Before the modern
restaurant you would go into a tavern and eat what was on offer that day; you
would go typically because you were travelling. Today, you drop in because you have a desire to exercise a choice between things that people may eat everyday in Pnomh Penh, but are impossible to whip up at whim.
The usual stories about the history of twentieth-century philosophy fail to fit much of the liveliest, exactest, and most creative achievements of the final third of that century: the revival of metaphysical theorizing, realist in spirit, often speculative, often commonsensical, associated with Saul Kripke, David Lewis, Kit Fine, Peter van Inwagen, David Armstrong, and many others: work that has, to cite just one example, made it anachronistic to dismiss essentialism as anachronistic. On the traditional grand narrative schemes in the history of philosophy, this activity must be a throwback to pre-Kantian metaphysics. It ought not to be happening; but it is. Many of those who practice it happily acknowledge its continuity with traditional metaphysics; appeals to the authority of Kant, or history, ring hollow, for they are unbacked by any argument that withstood the test of recent time.--Timothy Williamson (2004).
Philosophy is not easy.
Judging where 'we' are 'in' philosophy's development is also not easy. The twenty-year data-set (1993-2013) deployed by Healy (here and here) cover much of my time in philosophy. My progress through the discipline (Tufts BA, Chicago PhD, Wesleyan, WashU) meant that until I arrived at Syracuse in 2005, I was oblivious about the dominance of David Lewis. Obviously, I had read some Kripke and Lewis along the way; if my memory doesn't deceive me, Van Inwagen had visited Tufts to give a lecture, and, while I found him impressive, I had thought Dennett had gotten the better of the exchange. Ever since 2005 I have been playing catch-up on recent metaphysics (which I adore). I have been taking comfort from the fact that around the same time even Brian Leiter missed how significant Lewis's legacy was radically reshaping philosophy. For Lewis and the "wave of "old-fashioned" metaphysical theorizing," (Leiter: 6) he inspired is, in fact, a very minor presence in Leiter's entertaining volume (2004) The Future For Philosophy, from which I quoted Williamson above (recall my post, and Mohan's).
Spotting self-serving narrative is easier. Here's a formula: when folk that pride themselves on "logical rigour and semantic sophistication," (Williamson: 128) trot out metaphors ("the test of recent time"), you have a good chance of being served disciplinary-boundary-engendering myth. Above Williamson implies that somehow (Kantian) arguments against metaphysics were shown wanting (by argument). Williamson does not even provide a pro forma reference to an authoritative place where metaphysics was made safe from Kantian criticism. Given that it would be surprising if the Wykeham Professor of Logic were merely bluffing, I welcome suggestions from readers that can direct me to the appropriate place where I can find a decisive refutation of transcendental idealism (say, as reformulated by Langton or Allison).
What have philosophers been talking about for the last twenty years? That's the question Kieran Healey attempts to answer in his fascinating analysis of co-citation networks, which Eric reflects on here. I am not quite ready to reflect on Healey's results myself. I have been playing around with a prior question that might interest readers. And I don't feel I have gotten to the bottom of this question yet.
What is a co-citation network? A co-citation edge is a pair of articles that are cited together. Suppose that I write an article that cites both A and B. An A-B edge is thereby formed. Now suppose that B is never cited except together with A—perhaps B is a discussion of A—but A is sometimes cited together with B and sometimes together with C. (A could be a discussion of C; alternatively, A and C could be discussions of the same topic.) The consequence will be two edge sets emanating from A, but only one from B. Thus, B will be less of a hub, or more peripheral, than A.
The idea is illustrated by the most isolated network of all: a two node network connecting Mark Crimmins' 1998 paper, "Hesperus and Phosphorus: Sense, Pretense, and Reference," and Kendall Walton's Mimesis as Make-Believe. Why these two?
With apologies for the Delphic headline . . . TypePad doesn't allow italics. The question is this: shouldn't the history of philosophy be the study of philosophical content in historical texts? Should it be the study of something else? And really, I don't care whether you are an analytic philosopher or something else. The question remains: shouldn't the history of philosophy for you be concerned with what you find interesting in old texts?
Eric is alarmed by Julia Annas's notoriously provocative article on the state of ancient philosophy. Annas recounts how in the nineteen fifties and sixties, pre-Socratic philosophers such as Parmenides and Democritus, Plato and Aristotle (and in the seventies, the Hellenistic philosophers) began to be treated as "equal partners in philosophical debate," with the result that "For some time it has been taken for granted, in the major philosophical departments, that ancient philosophy is part of philosophy."But, she records, later scholars turned away from the ahistorical stance.
I don't understand the economic wrapping paper around this story—perhaps Eric can explain?—but if you skip the first three paragraphs, it is a lovely reflection, the platonic form of droll or wry or sardonic. (Those are all the same, right?)
Like Zabala and Davis, White quotes Stephen Hawking "Philosophy is dead. [It] has not has not kept up with modern developments in science, particularly physics." The best response to this canard is that good philosophers have indeed kept up with "modern developments in science" to exactly the degree that is required by the content of their philosophical reflections. Thus, Derek Parfit not at all, but Bas van Fraassen quite a bit.
Zabala and Davis accept the critique, but push it off on to "analytic philosophy;" Curtis White dissociates himself from "scientism." Kingwell, regrettably, endorses this: "The best parts of the book . . . show just how easily good science can shade into the self-aggrandizing ideology of scientism". That ideology apparently includes the atheism of Dawkins and Hitchens.
Kingwell's bottom line: "The tough neo-Darwinians of our moment are like the economists in an old New Yorker cartoon: Their theoretical models would work much better if the people were left out." "For [deeper substance] you can read Thomas Nagel's compelling, and bestselling, recent atack on neo-Darwinism." (Speaking of philosophers who haven't kept up . . . Sigh!)
This is interesting, but only because it's at Al Jazeera. Referring to Stephen Hawking's complaint that philosophers haven't kept up with physics, Santiago Zabala (Barcelona) and Creston Davis (Skopje) write:
Following Rorty and Badiou, we tend to agree with Hawking's criticisms as they pertain to analytic philosophers, who are stuck on the act of policing a rule of linguistic meaning - as if the "symbolic order", as Lacan would put it, represents all possibilities of constructing meaning. These are the ones who still today turn philosophy into a slave to the hard sciences, especially physics. But analytic philosophers are enslaved to their own methods, which ignore humans' existential and spontaneous creative powers of thought - the very cornerstone of philosophy since its inception.
Of course, analytic philosophy in that sense ("policing a rule of linguistic meaning") was all the rage in 1960, but pretty much in steady decline since then. (Quiz: Who died in 1960?) And those analytic philosophers didn't want to enslave themselves to physics.
Still, I suppose . . . it's good to note the emergence of cable TV with some semblance of intellectual content.
FURTHER UPDATE: In response to FIFA, the QSF has reversed its ban on turbans, saying that it was merely seeking clarification. OK, we'll overlook Brigitte Frot's prevarication on this point. We await the wisdom of the Right Honourable xenophobe, the Premier of Québec, Pauline Marois.
UPDATE: As antirealist points out in comments below, FIFA has now explicitly ruled that turbans are fine in Canadian soccer. So Brigitte Frot will have to let Sikhs out of their backyards to play.
In the meanwhile, Brigitte Frot, President of the Québec Soccer Federation, has said, by the way, that Sikhs who want to play soccer can do so in their own backyards. Frot said her group was simply taking its cues from FIFA, soccer’s international governing body. FIFA rules do not explicitly state a position on such headwear — which is neither banned, nor allowed. Frot said that if people want to change the policy they should take it up with FIFA.
FIFA doesn't explicitly allow turbans, but it does not exclude them either. Similarly, it passes over gloves in silence, which are often used in cold weather. I wondered who in the world banned Sikh soccer. (Not Canada, of course, and not India either.) I immediately found this:
Decades ago, in abysmal and shameful ignorance of the important contributions made by the Indian Army made in North Africa, the Canadian Legion prohibited the wearing of turbans in Legion Halls. And at about the same time the Royal Canadian Mounted Police banned turbans. Thank heavens we have gotten over that kind of stupid parochialism in Canada . . .
. . . Except in Québec, where completely out of the blue, the provincial soccer association has banned the wearing of turbans while playing soccer. This has kept over a hundred Sikh children off the pitch. The reason cited was safety, though upon questioning, officials of the Québec Soccer Federation were unable to point to a single instance of a turban-related injury, in Québec or anywhere else (India, for instance).
The Canadian Soccer Association has now piped up and suspended the QSF. This means that Québec teams cannot compete in the rest of Canada. And there are reports that in the national Capital region, teams from Hull (which is in Québec) can no longer cross the Ottawa River to play in Ottawa, which is in Ontario.
The separatist Premier of Québec, the bone-headed Pauline Marois (who non-coincidentally happens to be having a dreadful time governing her province) has predictably stepped in to the fray. "The Québec Soccer Foundation is autonomous," she says, "not subject to the Canadian federation." She lives in her own world, and in it Québec is sovereign.
Julian Young has now forthrightly corrected passages from his biography Friedrich Nietzsche: A Philosophical Biography (Cambridge University Press, 2010), discussed here a while ago. In two pages of Errata inserted in unsold copies of the book, he writes:
The author wishes to correct an oversight on his part in omitting to provide appropriate acknowledgement of
material reproduced from, and references made to, the late Curtis Cate’s biography, Friedrich Nietzsche (London:
He writes (in correspondence):
I went through my biography with a fine tooth comb and identified every occasion there was a phrase that overlapped with the earlier biography, changed the phrase, and inserted a footnote to the earlier biography. The foreign translators were informed of this.
"I believe that [W.E.] Johnson, like McTaggart and Aristotle, deserves commentators." A.N. Prior (1949) MIND.
"Mesmerized by Homo economicus, who acts solely on egoism, economists
shy away from altruism almost comically. Caught in a shameful act of
heroism, they aver: "Shucks, it was only enlightened self interest."
Sometimes it is. At other times it may be only rationalization (spurious
for card-carrying atheists): "If I rescue somebody's son, someone will
I will not waste ink on face-saving tautologies. When the governess of
infants caught in a burning building reenters it unobserved in a
hopeless mission of rescue, casuists may argue; "She did it only to get
the good feeling of doing it. Because other-wise she wouldn't have done
it." Such argumentation (in Wolfgang Pauli's scathing phrase) is not
even wrong. It is just boring, irrelevant, and in the technical sense of
old-fashioned logical positivism "meaning-less." You do not understand
the logic and history of consumer demand theory — Pareto, W. E. Johnson,
Slutsky, Allen-Hicks, Hotelling, Samuelson, Houthakker,... — if you
think that is its content."--P. Samuelson (1993), The American Economic Review.
There is a school of thought that locates the origins of analytical philosophy in the Cambridge of the philosopher-economist, Sidgwick and his students. After all, in Sidgwick's writings we find all the analytical virtues, and it is, thus, no surprise that Rawls and Parfit treat him as our vital interlocuter. Those (that is, the circle around Sidwick) recognized in Boole's work -- to quote W.E. Johnson -- "the first great revolution in the study of formal logic...comparable in importance with that of the algebraical symbolists in the sixteenth century." (2.6, p. 136) While it is not the story I tend to tell (say, here and here), I like this approach because it reminds us of the non-trivial overlap between logicians and economists so distinctive of Cambridge between 1870-1940, and thus, puts Keynes (father and son) and Ramsey back into the origin of analytical philosophy.
Now, the logician-economist, W.E. Johnson (1858 – 1931), is a test-case for this school of thought. (Recall the significance of Johnson to of our very own Mohan [and here].) For, while Johnson does not belong to the British Idealists, he does not figure in the stories we tell about our origins at all (selective evidence: Landini's Russell nor Candlish's The Russel/Bradley Dispute do not even mention Johnson). Even Wikipidia claims that his "Logic was dated at the time of its publication, and Johnson can be seen as a member of the British logic "old guard" pushed aside" by Russell and Whitehead. Wikipedia fits our narrative of progress; yet what to make of Prior's judgment?
Spark is a cool CBC Radio show about technology and how it affects our lives.
Recently they called me with the following conundrum. Why do movie special effects get so dated so quickly? The original King Kong gripped viewers with its realism:
Why does it strike us today as quaint and dated (if artistically interesting)? What has happened in the meanwhile? It can't just be that we've seen better special effects in later movies. "After all," as Nora Young, the host of Spark, asked me, "We see the same thing, don't we?"
We have had a lot of peculiar denials in Canada recently.
1. Rob Ford, the mayor of Toronto, who has allegedly been filmed smoking crack cocaine, says that the video does not exist. This leaves the possibility open that it once did, and that Ford is privy to its destruction.
2. Stephen Harper, Prime Minister of Canada, doesn't deny that a private fund in the Prime Minister's Office was used to pay Senator Mike Duffy to reimburse him for reimbursing the Senate for false or improper expense claims. He just acknowledges that Duffy received money from the PMO Chief of Staff.
OK, maybe the above is just of local interest. Perhaps you care more about the following, dear reader:
3. Colin McGinn writes: " To impose disciplinary action on the writer of these two emails would be a clear infringement of academic freedom and freedom of speech." Notice the 'would be'. It's perfectly compatible with "Disciplinary action was not imposed on anybody just for writing these two emails." Englishmen know how to use the subjunctive, don't they?
Anyway, it is not clear that disciplinary action was imposed in this case. According to the Chronicle of Higher Education, McGinn resigned rather than face a public inquiry.
Writing on the McGinn case at Miami, Brian Leiter reports that "A senior philosopher elsewhere wrote to me suggesting that what happened to McGinn seemed to be a serious violation of due process." Since people do make this kind of remark quite frequently, it's worth stating some of the facts, and a principle or two.
McGinn's resignation is a negotiated settlement. According to the Chronicle of Higher Education,
After the university's Office of Equality Administration and the vice provost for faculty affairs conducted an investigation, Mr. McGinn was given the option of agreeing to resign or having an investigation into the allegations against him continue in a public setting, several of [McGinn's] colleagues said.
In Miami, Professor Edward Erwin's gloss on this is:
Colin chose to resign after he learned, or had very good reason to believe, that his tenure was going to be revoked regardless of what he did. It's been an unfortunate situation.
A while ago, we discussed how the Dean of FAS at Harvard together with the Dean of Harvard College had searched the subject lines of emails sent by resident deans in an attempt to discover which of them had leaked information about student involvement in a cheating case, and, if so, what information had been leaked. The search occurred without first informing the resident deans.
The upshot of our rather constructive discussion was that the high-ups at Harvard had over-reacted.
Yesterday, it was announced that the Dean of Harvard College, Evelynn Hammonds, is "stepping down."
In Toronto, we have a mayor whom every right-thinking person abhors, and every Right-thinking person adores. But putting his policies to one side—and why would most readers of this blog really care about them?—Rob Ford has raised some questions of personal conduct recently, including alleged: grope of an opposing (female) mayoral candidate, public drunkenness, unseemly altercations with city employees and other citizens, and driving while texting.
Now, the Toronto Star (following Gawker) has published a story about an iPhone video in which His Worship (in the middle below) is seen consuming (what is supposed to be) crack cocaine. Apparently, he is incoherent during this 90-second video, and makes various racial and homophobic slurs as well. The Star would not purchase the video, which is being shopped around by an alleged drug dealer. (Gawker has now started a public appeal to raise $200,000 to purchase it.) It is still an "alleged" video.
What a pleasure to have him back! Just got my copy of Surfaces and Essences (which he wrote with Emmanuel Sander), which promises to be a fascinating read. (Sorry for the irritating image.)
The title of this post is a zeugma—remember Ryle's "She came home in a flood of tears and a sedan chair"—and the book begins by considering them. "Although the zeugmas we've exhibited above are mostly quite amusing," the authors write, "it's not for entertainment but for enlightenment that we've brought up the topic."
Now, how many philosophers need to make that clear?