I'm supposed to be on Gurvey's Law today from 2-3 pm Pacific time, 790 KABC talk radio. Not sure whether it is live-streamed. I had an enjoyable conversation with Mr. Gurvey, who studied philosophy as an undergraduate Brown (wrote a senior thesis with Dan Brock I learned on omissions and consequentialism) before becoming a lawyer.
They just informed me that it won't air today, but instead on June 18!
See page 45 of the just-released agenda items. A report prepared by a university committee for the Provost had not recommended closure, but had recommended other measures to reduce costs (see the report to the Provost here: Download APER Committee Report). My frequent guest-blogger Professor Christopher Pynes, who is a Professor of Philosophy at Western Illinois, tells me via e-mail that he is on the road at the moment, but I hope he will be able to post about these developments before long and advise about ways in which readers might help avert this catastrophe.
UPDATE: Roger Clawson is the Chair of the Board of Trustees--his e-mail contact information is here. Remember that they face a difficult budgetary situation; what they need to hear about is the value of philosophy. It would be particularly nice for professionals outside academia, who studied philosophy as an undergraduate, were to contact Mr. Clawson about the value of their undergraduate course of study. I will be writing to Mr. Clawson as well, since was fortunate to be a Mary Olive Woods Lecturer there a few years ago, and was very impressed by the faculty and the students I met. (There are some more details about enrollments here from the Philosophy Department Chair.)
Tim Crane (philosophy of mind), currently Knightbridge Professor of Philosophy at Cambridge University, has accepted appointment as Professor of Philosophy at the Central European University in Budapest beginning in 2017-18. CEU has long had a strong department, but this will be a big boost for their international visibility.
The moral philosopher Alan Thomas, currently at the University of Tilburg, has accepted appointment as Professor of Philosophy at the University of York in the U.K., where he will also be Head of Department, effective September 1. That's a great hire for York!
...as told, quite honestly and accurately, by a former Admissions Dean at the University of Chicago. Having now been through two rounds of college applications, one for a child applying mostly to top private research universities, and one applying mostly to top private liberal arts colleges, I've gained a lot of insight into this process. I'll write more about it at a later date.
...with these appropriately condescending attacks. She's got three big advantages: she's smarter, she's more articulate, and she's not a pathological liar. As this perceptive game-theoretic analysis of Dopey Donald Chump's modus operandi makes clear, Senator Warren's relentless, belittling attacks will drive him to distraction and self-destruction.
On Facebook, I've got, broadly speaking, three "kinds" of friends: academic lawyers, academic philosophers, and regular people (the latter category including some lawyers, relatives, neighbors etc.). The FB habits of these three groups are strikingly different.
Regular people use FB the way I thought it was supposed to be used (and the reason I joined): to post photos of kids and pets, recent vacations, occasionally a bit of personal or professional news. Academic philosophers do a little of that, and so do academic lawyers, but for most of them, that's only a small portion of their posting.
Academic philosophers increasingly treat FB like a blog, a forum for pontification about everything from real politics to academic politics. Until I realized I could "unfollow" people without "unfriending" them, I dumped a fair number of academic philosophers because their pontifications were so tiresome. My advice: get a blog! Anyone who wants to read me pontificating, can come here, but I don't impose it on my FB friends.
Academic lawyers do a fair bit of pontificating too, though not nearly as much as the academic philosophers, and theirs is almost always confined to real politics. The really revolting aspect of some academic philosopher behavior on FB is its "high school with tenure" quality: back-stabbing, preening and posturing, endless displays of righteousness and "pearl clutching", faux solidarity with all the oppressed and "wretched of the academy" (less often the actual wretched of the earth), and so on. An awful lot of academic philosophers on FB come across as teenagers desperately seeking approval and affirmation. I've managed to "unfriend" most of the offenders, but it was really a kind of depressing and sickening spectacle while it lasted.
The book is framed around the contrast between Lockean empiricism and Cartesian nativism. Locke held that the contents of the mind are more-or-less veridically impressed upon it from without. McGinn devotes considerable time to arguing that this is untenable, on a variety of grounds. The mind is not, and cannot be, a blank slate. It has structure, resulting from the unfolding of a genetic program. But of course no contemporary empiricist denies this. Almost everyone now allows that our sensory systems embody implicit knowledge of the structure of the world. Indeed Fodor (1981, 2008), whose nativism is in many respects even more extreme than McGinn's, grants to the empiricist what McGinn claims as his own crowning contribution to nativism: that structure-determining sensory systems and primitive sensory concepts are innate. The contemporary disputes are mostly about the nature of the processes that take one from sensory content to the rest of the mind's contents.
(Interestingly, Fodor is not mentioned once in McGinn's book. McGinn asserts, furthermore, "None of the central figures of twentieth-century philosophy had anything much to say about the question [of innateness]." [p.90.] One can deduce that McGinn doesn't take Fodor to be a major figure. I disagree.)
In fact much of the debate between contemporary nativists and empiricists concerns the nature of learning. All agree that the basic structure of the mind is innate (including mechanisms of learning), and most agree that most of the contents of the mind are learned. (Fodor is an exception.) The disagreements are about whether learning is all a matter of general-purpose statistical or probabilistic inference of some sort, or whether it involves structured domain-specific learning mechanisms (somewhat like the language-faculty, on a Chomskian view of the latter). Other debates concern whether there is "core knowledge" of particular domains outside of our sensory faculties, structured out of innate concepts. (For articles that engage with both sets of debates from a broadly nativist perspective, see the papers collected in Carruthers et al., 2005, 2006, 2007.) There are extensive literatures on these topics that McGinn would need to take account of in order to contribute usefully to 21st century nativism, but he does not.
None of this would matter if McGinn were intending only to offer an assessment of the disagreements about nativism that took place early in the modern era. But he isn't. His aim is to convince us that nativism is true, and then to convince us that it is deeply mysterious how it can be true. But to do either of these things he would first have to frame the nativist hypothesis to be consistent with what we already know about the structure of the mind and the course of its development, and he would then need to engage with the controversies that remain. But he does neither of these things.
As for McGinn's mysterianism about the innate mind, this is more asserted than argued for. Indeed, it is quite demanding to demonstrate that something cannot in principle be explained, but McGinn doesn't even make the attempt....
The latest sexual harassment scandal in academic philosophy has, predictably, brought the usual know-nothing pontificators out in force, busy signaling their rectitude while actually harming the interests of the complainant against Pogge. Let me explain.
is rightly considered a pillar of civilised society. But people have a tendency to over-apply it in irrelevant cases. The presumption of your innocence means that the state can't punish you for a crime unless it proves that you committed it. That's it. It has nothing to do with how one individual should treat or think about another, or whether an organisation should develop or continue a relationship with an accused individual. The presumption of innocence doesn't protect you from being unfriended on facebook, or shunned at conferences, or widely thought by other people to be a criminal. It just protects from being criminally convicted.
Why is the "presumption of innocence" considered "a pillar of civilized society"? Presumably because there is moral value in avoiding sanctioning the innocent, and we can avoid sanctioning the innocent if we shift the burden of proof to the accuser. That moral value exists outside the legal context, though it is particularly important in the legal context because the sanctions are very serious. But even when the sanctions are less serious, the moral value of the presumption remains. Think of it this way: the First Amendment protection of free speech prevents the state from sanctioning you for the content of your speech (except under very special circumstances), but that doesn't mean "freedom of speech" has no value, and deserves no moral weight, in contexts other than the exercise of state power. I do not suggest that there should be a legal remedy for "unfriending" on Facebook or for swarmy pontificators and shunners like Ichikawa et al., but I do think it obvious that a "presumption of innocence" plays a useful role in regulating our informal dealings with others, even if it is a defeasible assumption (and is defeated in this case, about which more in a moment).
Princeton philosopher Delia Graff Fara writes about her own " unpleasant experience" with Professor Pogge (which she kindly gave me permission to share):
I had a mildly unpleasant experience with Pogge when I was a senior undergraduate at Harvard and he was a visiting professor who stayed in my "house", Harvard's equivalent to residential colleges at Princeton and Yale. (I lived in Cabot House.)
In brief, I was having a meeting with Pogge during and after dinner in our dining hall to talk about Rawls and Rousseau, the subjects of my senior thesis. He kept me talking for longer than I felt comfortable with. It was night and the dining hall had long since emptied out. I finally ended the meeting when he started rubbing my thigh, by just saying that it was late and that I needed to leave.
Over that decade, nearly one hundred women have been awarded PhDs in philosophy from just three schools, two mediocre and one a joke: the University of Memphis, the University of Oregon, and the California Institute of Integral Studies. Indeed, of the ten programs that graduated the highest percentage of women during this decade, just three are leading and serious PhD programs: MIT, North Carolina, and Minnesota. Those concerned about the representation of women in the profession should be greatly alarmed by these facts. As we've noted before, women are hardly well-served by getting PhDs from weak (or worse) programs.
Like last summer, I'll be doing less blogging June through August, a couple of days per week tops. Prices are cut accordingly: $300 for top spots, $250 for second, $200 for third. Click on the "public stats" icon at the bottom of the left sidebar to get a sense for traffic. (Stats last August were inflated by a post that attracted a lot of media attention.) There's still one spot at each level available each summer month, except maybe June, though even June may still have one top spot (will know this week). Spots are already being booked for the fall at the usual rates, so happy to reserve those too.
One of the items in Pogge's defense struck me as odd; namely, the use of a "polygraph" as defense. While I am not sure what the current status of polygraphs in the American legal context is, but in science&technology studies the technology counts largely as debunked and - outside of people who write spy stories for television - isn't taken seriously (I just accepted a paper on polygraphs in fiction, for a special issue on how science fiction and science mutually influence each other). It's not permissible in Germany in legal contexts to the best of my knowledge. So, is Pogge's use of the device a "publicity stunt" or does it have bearings on any legal or Yale's regulatory procedures?
Polygraph test results are generally not admissible as evidence in American courts (the state of New Mexico is an exception). The exclusion dates to a court decision from the 1920s, but almost all American courts, state and federal, continue to follow that approach. The reason is that we know that some serial liars are very good at passing these tests, and some totally truthful witnesses regularly fail them. Polygraph tests try to pick up typical biomarkers of being untruthful, but the correlation is imperfect. If, in fact, Professor Pogge passed a polygraph test, as he asserts, nothing would preclude Yale from considering that, but it would not be admissible were the matter adjudicated in federal court or state court in Connecticut. Given the unreliability of such tests, there is no reason a complainant should subject herself to one.
UPDATE: Professor Pogge's response has moved from a Yale site to his personal site; the link, above, has been fixed.
The first is an interview with AEI political scientist Norm Ornstein, who was one of the first prominent voices to diagnose the pathological dysfunctionality of the Republican Party and who also was one of the first in 2015 to see that Trump could win. He views Trump's rise as resulting from the pathology of the Republican Party, but still gives him a 20% chance of winning in November. The whole interview is worth a careful read.
The second piece by neocon war-mongerer Robert Kagan is actually a good piece of writing about Herr Trump:
[W]hat Trump offers his followers are not economic remedies — his proposals change daily. What he offers is an attitude, an aura of crude strength and machismo, a boasting disrespect for the niceties of the democratic culture that he claims, and his followers believe, has produced national weakness and incompetence. His incoherent and contradictory utterances have one thing in common: They provoke and play on feelings of resentment and disdain, intermingled with bits of fear, hatred and anger. His public discourse consists of attacking or ridiculing a wide range of “others” — Muslims, Hispanics, women, Chinese, Mexicans, Europeans, Arabs, immigrants, refugees — whom he depicts either as threats or as objects of derision. His program, such as it is, consists chiefly of promises to get tough with foreigners and people of nonwhite complexion. He will deport them, bar them, get them to knuckle under, make them pay up or make them shut up....
Today, less than 5 percent of eligible voters have voted for Trump. But if he wins the election, his legions will likely comprise a majority of the nation. Imagine the power he would wield then. In addition to all that comes from being the leader of a mass following, he would also have the immense powers of the American presidency at his command: the Justice Department, the FBI, the intelligence services, the military. Who would dare to oppose him then? Certainly not a Republican Party that lay down before him even when he was comparatively weak. And is a man like Trump, with infinitely greater power in his hands, likely to become more humble, more judicious, more generous, less vengeful than he is today, than he has been his whole life? Does vast power un-corrupt?
This is how fascism comes to America, not with jackboots and salutes (although there have been salutes, and a whiff of violence) but with a television huckster, a phony billionaire, a textbook egomaniac “tapping into” popular resentments and insecurities, and with an entire national political party — out of ambition or blind party loyalty, or simply out of fear — falling into line behind him.
This is amusing, but contains no surprises for anyone from New York who has watched Dopey Donald Chump for years. His is a mafia mentality from top to bottom, one familiar to any New Yorker, and one visible not just in narcissistic huckters like Trump, but in many political figures in New York, as well as the actual criminals. You take care of your friends; you kill, or at least fuck over, your enemies. You're loyal to your gang, you keep your distance from the other gangs, though you do business as necessary. You get things done for your friends, no matter what it takes. No rules apply when it comes to your enemies. Dopey Donald Chump is Don Corleone, but without the fictional Don's dignity. There's simply no way he wasn't up to his neck in dealings with the mob while expanding his father's real estate empire in the 1970s and 1980s. And I'm sure it came completely naturally to him.
(Thanks to various readers who sent this along. I was teaching my last class of the quarter this afternoon, so have not read it yet, but wanted to share it. I may have additional comments once I digest its content.)
ADDENDUM: From the story:
“It breaks my heart to have to say it,” said Christia Mercer, a former colleague from the Columbia philosophy department, “but it’s clear that Thomas uses his reputation as a supporter of justice to prey unjustly on those who trust and admire him, who then — once victimized — are too intimidated by his reputation and power to tell their stories.”
MAY 22 UPDATE: Professor Pogge responds to the allegations. Given his denials, he ought to bring a libel action, at least against the author of the fundraising site which accused him of rape and attempted rape. Since I agree with Professor Pogge that cyberspace is a poor forum for adjudicating these matters, this would also provide a formal setting for adjudicating these very serious, and, if false, defamatory, allegations. It may be that the statute of limitations has expired on the defamatory per se allegations, but if so, then one wonders why no legal remedy was sought in a timely way. (I can imagine reasons, but libel per se, where there is no need to prove damages, is the strongest kind of defamation claim.)
In his statement, Pogge claimed Lopez Aguilar’s assertions had already been disproven: “One version of her allegations was thoroughly investigated in quasi-judicial proceedings by a Yale committee of five faculty members and one Federal judge, who found her charges of sexual harassment to be not credible.”
The panel’s actual finding was that there was “insufficient evidence” with which “to corroborate either Ms. Lopez’s or Mr. Pogge’s differing accounts.”
Pogge also pointed to “enthusiastic emails,” which were included in the BuzzFeed News investigation, that Lopez Aguilar wrote him after the Chile trip.
Pogge derided the claim that he had “attacked” Lopez Aguilar during her senior year. That appears to be a reference to language from a public fundraising plea written by a friend of Lopez Aguilar’s. Lopez Aguilar herself did not allege inappropriate physical contact until after graduation.
Now admittedly the reliability of these things isn't great, and in the Clinton v. Trump poll less than 90% of those polled expressed any preference, plus, of course, Trump is getting a bump from having locked up the Republican nomination, and Sanders hasn't been subjected to the kind of withering criticism that both Clinton and Trump have been. But still, Clinton really should step aside and let Sanders be the nominee: too much is at stake!
It doesn't get much more obscure than the one-and-only album by Universe, recorded on the spur of the moment in Norway after their van broke down. The whole album, with echoes of Cream, Traffic, and Ten Years after, is classic British rock-blues, with a countrified edge. Here's one standout tune:
Story at IHE, with some particularly interesting remarks by philosopher Talbot Brewer (Virginia); an excerpt:
For Talbot Brewer, professor and chair of philosophy at the University of Virginia, the liberal arts need saving in part from the “black mirrors” so many of us are glued to each day. Cellular phones, computers and, especially for children, television, facilitate a kind of “reverse-Weberian,” late capitalistic assault on our collective attention, he said. The effect is that we no longer know how to interact with the meaningful, valuable media that take time and effort to understand— that is, the bulk of what makes up the liberal arts.
Calling attention a “vital resource,” Brewer described it as “the medium of passion, of friendship, of love. The sign of our presence to one another, both in intimate spaces and in public. The antidote to listlessness and heedlessness.”
It’s also the prerequisite “for any concerted activity, including the activities of reading, viewing, critical thinking, writing and intensive conversational exchange that are central” to the liberal arts, he said.
So amid the clamor of “manipulative messages when there suddenly appears something quite different, something called literature, or art or philosophy, it is not easy to open ourselves to this newcomer,” Brewer continued. “The attentional environment has not encouraged the traits required for properly appreciate engagement — the habit of devoted attention, and of patience and generosity in interpretation, the openness to finding camaraderie and illumination from others in the more treacherous passages of human life [and] the expressive conscience that insists upon finding exactly the right words for incipient thoughts.”
In short, almost half the students are majoring in economic, biology or math. But some of my colleagues think this is typical of national trends, with students gravitating towards majors that purportedly lead to jobs (or, I guess, business school or medical school--or law school, if you add in poli sci). But barely 4% History majors, even though Chicago has one of the best history departments in the country? If you look at the core humanities fields, they account for just 12% of undergraduate majors. Do readers know of other data on undergraduate majors from other schools?
Digging through my draft but unused posts, I found this funny one:
Last August, after I posted a link to the Illinois boycott statement organized by John Protevi, he sent me the following interesting e-mail:
From: John Protevi [firstname.lastname@example.org]
Sent: Wednesday, August 20, 2014 9:30 AM
To: Leiter, Brian
Subject: Thanks for the link
Brian, many thanks for the link to the boycott pledge. Despite our differences and my own often admittedly sophomoric reactions to them, I have never hesitated in thanking you for your solidarity on many important issues, and so I’ll do so here and on Facebook and Twitter.
John does seem to have a lot of time on his hands for stuff, both important and trivial, but it's nice to know that even he is aware of his "own admittedly sophomoric" propensities.
John hasn't gotten less sophomoric in the interim, but he's at least a trooper on behalf of academic freedom!
The concept of "diversity" as a positive good is now a commonplace in academia and beyond. But where did this "idea" come from? My assumption has always been that it derives from the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in Bakke, a case challenging affirmative action for African-Americans at the medical school at the University of Calfornia, Davis. In the key opinion, written by Justice Lewis Powell (a successful lawyer from the heart of the old South, Richmond, before Nixon appointed him to the Court), the Court rejected the many sensible rationales for affirmative action policies (and "quotas" in particular): e.g., compensatory justice, counteracting continuing discrimination (absent a record that had to meet a rather high evidentiary bar). Instead, Justice Powell opined that "diversity" is a factor universities could rightly consider in admitting students, since that (purportedly) had some independent academic value (though not one to be realized by a "quota").
My question for readers, especially those older than I, is whether "diversity" as a concept with a positive valence has a history that pre-dates Bakke, or whether Bakke is really the key to understanding how "diversity" became such a pervasive concept and mantra in America?
Herman Cappelen (PI), Øystein Linnebo, Camilla Serck-Hanssen has received a $3.6 million grant for a 5-year project on Conceptual Engineering. The funding is given by The Norwegian Research Council’s Toppforsk program. The project is hosted by ConceptLab (http://www.hf.uio.no/ifikk/english/research/projects/cl/ ) at the University of Oslo.
Brief description of the project:
In any inquiry, whether scientific or practical, we use concepts to frame questions about reality. An obvious way in which the inquiry can be successful is by yielding answers to the resulting questions. A far less obvious form of success has to do with asking the “right” questions, formulated using the “right” concepts. It is clear that many great leaps in human insight and understanding have been associated with the forging of “better” concepts, which has enabled us to ask “better” questions: in physics, the differentiation of weight and mass; in mathematics, the Cantorian notion of “size” or number; in economics, the articulation of the present concept of money; in social science the concept of gender, as opposed to sex. These are illustrations of how conceptual progress has been made in the past.
Our project has three parts: one part aims to develop a general theory of conceptual engineering, another focuses on the engineering of formal concepts, and a third is concerned with social/political concepts such as ‘combatant’ and ‘privacy’.
Illinois Governor Bruce Ruaner recently appointed John C. Bambenek to the Illinois Board of Higher Education as the sole faculty representative. Many have criticized the move by claiming that Bambenek’s views aren’t representative of most faculty members. I claim this is irrelevant. What is relevant is that Bambenek should not be eligible to serve as the lone faculty representative to the IBHE since he isn’t even eligible to represent the University of Illinois faculty on their Senate.
The Illinois State Senate still has to approve Rauner’s appointment. State Senator Antonio Muñoz is the Chair of the Executive Appointment Committee. Professor Gay is sending letters to both Senator Muñoz and Governor Rauner objecting to Bambenek’s appointment. There is still time for philosophers, faculty, and citizens of Illinois to ask for an actual faculty member who understands the needs and concerns of faculty in Illinois to represent them on the IBHE.
Continental Philosophy Farhang Erfani, a philosopher at American University, provides a useful set of links to news, events, interviews, reviews, videos, etc. related to "Continental philosophy" (broadly construed)