MWM, age unknown (mature, not elderly), famously ugly but a good talker. I like questions, not answers; reason, not passion; wisdom, not wealth; Euripides, not Aristophanes. Seeks ignorant and irrational woman or handsome youth to do what is wrong.
Two of my favorite academic bloggers, Chun the Unavoidable and John Holbo, are having an interesting discussion of the Modern Language Association, which is often the target of ridicule in the media. Chun is a literary theorist and scholar, Holbo a philosopher. It's a good discussion.
John Stuart Mill, letter to the Conservative MP, Sir John Pakington (March, 1866):
"I never meant to say that the Conservatives are generally stupid. I meant to say that stupid people are generally Conservative. I believe that is so obviously and universally admitted a principle that I hardly think any gentleman will deny it."
A couple of folks have asked why I haven't participated in the Ethical Philosophy Quiz, which has been making the rounds of the blogosphere. Simple answer: its accounts of the views of the philosophers in question are largely incompetent, the one on Nietzsche scandalously so. (Only the one on Rand is really passable, which is hardly surprising: simplistic accounts of simplistic thinkers are a lot easier to do!) So what could be the point? This quiz doesn't tell you anything about how your own ethical views map on to the views of well-known philosophers. But if you know something about the philosophers in question, check out their capsule profiles, and see for yourself.
Max Sawicky (economist at the Economic Policy Institute in DC) is a smart left economist: see, e.g., his item on "liberal" versus "left" approaches to economic policy here. (His new blog site is here.) I'm glad to have discovered this one. The squishy, polite "liberal" blogs were getting tiresome, and the popular Atrios and CalPundit simply have no relevant knowledge base, intellectual framework, or technical expertise--as a consequence they never rise much beyond good intentions and light amusements.
Adam Morton (epistemology, philosophy of mind), who is currently a half-time Professor of Philosophy at the University of Oklahoma at Norman, has accepted a Canada Research Chair at the University of Alberta, to start next academic year.
Averaged more than 1,000 visits per weekday all last week. Considering that I have no blogroll, am not a right-wing kook, and hardly link to other bloggers, these folks must actually be coming to read. Very kind.
Also surprising: some 9,000 visits to the law school ranking site last week (5,000 per week is typical)--the highest total since last Spring, when the new survey came out and there were 15,000+ visits per week for several weeks. I guess students are starting to make their decisions. Good luck to all!
"Throughout history, even the harshest and most shameful measures are regularly accompanied by professions of noble intent - and rhetoric about bestowing freedom and independence.
"An honest look would only generalize Thomas Jefferson's observation on the world situation of his day: 'We believe no more in Bonaparte's fighting merely for the liberties of the seas than in Great Britain's fighting for the liberties of mankind. The object is the same, to draw to themselves the power, the wealth and the resources of other nations.'"
Chomsky does for the Americans what Thucydides did for the Greeks. Fortunately for Thucydides, the Greeks weren't quite as terrified of the "terrible truth" as we are.
Speaking of "what is living and what is dead in Marx," according to Business Week (summarized here), "we are becoming a society in which the poor tend to stay poor, no matter how hard they work; in which sons are much more likely to inherit the socioeconomic status of their father than they were a generation ago." But don't tell your kids!
A young philosopher at a top research university writes:
"The thing that always astonishes me is that they [other bloggers] put on this air of pained affront if an academic gets short with them - 'I don't expect this tone from an educator' and all that jazz. Jesus, they should have been in a room with Jerry 'I just have one question; was your paper a joke?' Fodor, or Kim 'but there's no fucking evidence for that!' Sterelny. Or most of the economists I know. Where do so many people get this idea that academic discourse is conducted by people wondering if they could regretfully venture to take issue with distinguished colleagues who are respectfully suggesting an emendation?"
Has anyone else noticed that the mainstream media--and I mean the genuinely middle-of-the-road media, not the crytpo-fascist media like Fox--is consistently reporting the recent decision in the Padilla case--and the less important 9th Circuit decision about the Guatanomo prisoners--under the rubric, "Administration Suffers Setbacks in War on Terror," instead of under rubrics like, "Administration Suffers Setbacks in Its Attack on the Rule of Law and Democratic Rights," or simply "Victory for the Rule of Law and Democracy." Any of these headlines would be appropriate; isn't it striking which one the media consistently choose?
(On a different note, couldn't we have an agreement, at least among grown-ups, to stop using the phrase "war on terrorism," unless we have an explicit understanding that it is not a real war, but rather is like the "war on drugs," i.e., a metaphorical war that will fail, and so one that doesn't excuse any hair-brained schemes cooked up by beady-eyed, morally stunted politicians. One can't wage war on a political technique. Full stop. One could wage war on a group, perhaps, or on a country (as the US has been doing), but you can't wage war on techniques that can be employed by anybody for any purpose. The US waged war on Afghanistan, and is waging war on Iraq, and is engaged in an international manhunt for members of a terrorist group, but there is no such thing as a "war on terrorism." It doesn't exist. Look in the mirror and repeat that.)
...is described here: "the Washington Post this morning reports the White House is actively scrubbing government websites clean of any of its own previous statements that have now proven to be untrue." This must be a full-time job.
Larry Solum has a useful summary of the 2nd Circuit's decision in the case of Padilla, the U.S. citizen spirited away to a military brig on the say-so of the President, denied access to a lawyer, and held incommunicado. This brazen and lawless assertion of power has been rebuffed by the 2nd Circuit. Amazingly, one judge dissented. Let's see whether the administration continues to resist the rule of law.
UPDATE: Eugene Volokh (UCLA law professor) has what appears to be a sound analysis of the case; note esp. his paragraph 5. His analysis also explains why there is a dissent (and it's not because some member of the federal judiciary really believes that the leader of a democratic nation can spirit people away to military brigs on a whim).
ANOTHER UPDATE: And more insight, and useful historical perspective, on these decisions from Eric Muller (UNC-Chapel Hill law professor).
David Leebron, Dean of Columbia Law School since 1996, will become the next President of Rice University in July 2004. The Rice press release is here.
Leebron, by all accounts, got along very well with people with a lot of money, which is always an attractive attribute in a university or law school leader. He was not, unlike his downtown rival at NYU, former law Dean John "have I got a great used car for you" Sexton, a "people" person. Columbia did make a lot of appointments during his tenure, which the school plainly needed, including some first-rate ones (Thomas Merrill, my former colleagues Cindy Estlund and Sam Issacharoff, Jeremy Waldron, Avery Katz, Joseph Raz, among many others), but it is hyperbole bordering on the fraudulent to say, as the Rice press release does, that he recruited "what many observers say is the best junior faculty in law anywhere." Perhaps if the observers are blind, or don't work in law. (This is not a knock on the junior faculty at Columbia, who *are* very good...it's a knock on the absurd claim that the junior faculty at Columbia are plausibly stronger than the junior faculty at, e.g., NYU or Harvard or UVA, etc..) It's less clear that Leebron did much to change Columbia's idiosyncratic appointments process, which like Harvard's, is based on "one from column A, one from column B, one from column C," with each column representing a particular ideological/methodological constituency on the faculty, and with little regard for quality in some of the columns. As my friend, the late Milton Handler, who was a professor at Columbia Law School for 45 years, used to say to me (this was circa 1997-1998): "Columbia Law School lacks an intellectual identity." That's still true.
Rice, as a research university, ought to be able to get in to the same league as Northwestern or Duke, i.e., a solidly top 20 research university. It has an apparently deserved excellent reputation for undergraduate education, but--unlike Northwestern and Duke--it has, at present, few graduate programs in the top 20. With an exceptionally attractive campus and tremendous financial resources, in the 4th largest city in the country that, despite recent troubles, is still thriving economically, Rice could make the move to the next level. We shall see whether President Leebron can make it happen.
Brian Weatherson (philosophy of language, philosophical logic, decision theory, epistemology...well, everything but ethics and history it appears!), currently at Brown University, has been voted an offer by Cornell University.
Go to the "Philosophy Updates" category for the other recent postings about faculty moves to watch for, or scroll down.
UPDATE: Brian, who is of course best-known as a blogger (I know this is why Cornell really made the offer!), quibbles with my characterization of his areas here. I note, with mild amusement, that as evidence that he works in the "history of philosophy" he references a paper on Keynes and Wittgenstein. Someone less well-disposed to "analytic" philosophy than I am might, at this point, make a joke. In any case, there's no question that Brian is an admirably wide-ranging philosophical talent!
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit has held significant portions of a 1996 anti-terrorism act unconstitutional. More information here. Let us hope other Circuits follow suit before long...otherwise the West Coast will be the only free part of the country left!
My friend and former colleague Tom Smith has a wickedly funny commentary on the annual holiday letter from the Yale Law School here. If you know anything about YLS, you'll be rolling on the floor...and even if you don't, you may still get a good laugh at this send-up of their pretense.
Luc Bovens (epistemology, decision theory, philospohy of science, ethics/political) at the University of Colorado at Boulder has accepted a senior post at the London School of Economics, where he is currently visiting. He does still have a counter-offer outstanding from Colorado until next fall, and so there is some prospect he might return to Boulder.
UPDATE: More here.``Secularism is one of the great successes of the Republic,'' Chirac said in an address to the nation. ``It is a crucial element of social peace and national cohesion. We cannot let it weaken.''
"Compare a law professor's presentation and a philosopher's, and you'll usually notice a striking difference. The law professor speaks without notes, or from a sketchy outline; the philosopher reads a paper. I think the difference results from something distinctive about the philosopher's professional orientation. Precision--getting a point exactly right--matters more to philosophers than law professors, who tend to think, I believe, that getting in the ballpark of an interesting idea is more important than getting the idea exactly right. And, while you might get it exactly right in a written paper, a less formal presentation is likely to lack the desired degree of precision. So, you read your paper, guaranteeing that the precision of your oral presentation matches that of the written one."
--from an article by Mark Tushnet (Georgetown Law, President of the Association of American Law Schools) on "Law and Allied Disciplines" in the AALS Newsletter of November 2003.
Some questions for my interdisciplinary readers with knowledge of psychology and sociology (this will not be of any interest to those of you who have not spent time "surfing" blogs--which I don't recommend [I have tried to link to worthwhile items and blogs]):
Is there any pertinent literature yet on the psychology and the sociology of the blogosphere? (Perhaps there is pertinent literature on Internet chat rooms, that would apply here as well.) I'd be curious to know: the subject seems a rich one for investigation.
Psychologically, for example, it would be interesting to know whether there is any pattern to the "types" of folks who blog, in particular, the folks we might call "Blogopaths," those for whom blogging appears to be a substitute for real life.
Blogopaths pen lengthy tomes about every topic; they appear to blog 24/7; they pounce almost instantly at any slight or mention from another blogger; they are frequent "commenters" on other sites, always with links to their own blog; their blogs include "endorsements" by other bloggers, and so on. Blogopaths are the folks well-described in an e-mail by one trusted reader: "These [types] are unfulfilled people not unlike, figuratively, the homeless who rummage through garbage bins. Cyberspace is their alley, their raison d'etre. It gives them a reason to get up in the morning." (The same reader offered the most memorable description of the blogopathic part of Cyberspace, calling it a "sub-universe of dementia" populated by "marginalized sociopaths" who crave "publicity, [which] allows them to fantasize that they are real and engaged and relevant.")
So is the Blogopath a type? If so, is there a DSM-IV category that covers this type? Is it symptomatic of, e.g., obsessive-compulsive personality disorder, narcissistic personality disorder, or something else?
Sociologically, what if anything do we know about the demographics of Blogopaths? It appears to be an overwhelmingly male phenomenon, to start. There also appear to be a disproportionate number of gross "underachievers" (folks with mediocre academic credentials, folks who are undistinguished in their professions, and so on, i.e., people without real-world achievements or, in some cases, attachments). The demographic profile may shed light on the psychological questions.
UPDATE (12/16): I'm moving this to the front, in hope of eliciting more comments (thanks to those who have posted so far). More than 1,000 visits to the site yesterday, and while many are law students and faculty, I'm sure there were more philosophers than the 15 who posted. Don't be bashful!
I thought it might be interesting to invite philosophy faculty and graduate students (and those in cognate fields with significant philosophical interests) to list (and, if you like, comment on) what you take to be the most significant books over roughly the last quarter-century in your field. "Significant" books need not be books you agree with, just ones that are of high quality and have been an important stimulus to additional work. I realize, of course, that articles are often as significant as books in philosophy, and so collections of papers are welcome too. Individuate the sub-fields of philosophy however it makes sense to you to do so. Please don't post anonymously and say who you are: e.g., "Brian Leiter, Faculty, UT Austin." Also, try not to list more than three books in each field.
Hopefully, the resulting list will provide some useful guidance (to me and other readers) as to what books deserve attention for those not working in that immediate area.
Here's my list:
PHILOSOPHY OF LAW:
Joseph Raz, The Authority of Law (Oxford, 1979)
John Finnis, Natural Law and Natural Rights (Oxford, 1980)
Leslie Green, The Authority of the State (Oxford, 1988)
Allan Gibbard, Wise Choices, Apt Feelings (Harvard, 1990)
Michael Smith, The Moral Problem (Blackwell, 1994)
Peter Railton, Facts, Values and Norms (Cambridge, 2003)
Myth: Nietzsche was anti-science, a Rortyesque debunker of the epistemic pretensions of science for the 19th-century.
Reality: In the mid-1870s, Nietzsche went through a phase of unabashed "science worship," viewing natural science as the paradigm of all genuine knowledge; the culmination of this period came with Human, All-too-Human. This gave way, however, in the early 1880s to a NeoKantian skepticism (inspired by Schopenhauer and Friedrich Lange) about whether science could plumb the depths of reality, of the world-as-it-is-in-itself. Once Nietzsche repudiated, however, the metaphysical distinction between a noumenal and phenomenal world on which this skepticism rests, the skepticism about science vanishes and in his later works he repeatedly endorses a scientific perspective as the correct or true one (in contrast to, e.g., religious and moral interpretations of phenomena).
(1) The Department of Philosophy at Yale has voted offers to John Hawthorne (metaphysics, philosophy of language, Leibniz) and Ted Sider (metaphysics, philosophy of language) at Rutgers University at New Brunswick, and to Jason Stanley (philosophy of language) at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor.
(2) Rutgers has also voted an offer to Jason Stanley as well.
"[A]t our foundation, 'at the very bottom,' there is clearly something that will not learn, a brick wall of spiritual fatum, of predetermined decisions and answers to selected, predetermined questions. In any cardinal problem, an immutable 'that is me' speaks up."
AND FURTHER UPDATE: True to form, various right-wingers are busy policing the "correct" reactions one should have to the Saddam capture--for example, Andrew Sullivan and Glenn Reynolds (scroll up from here), who has dubbed all critics of the Bush Administration the "Coalition of the Pissy." Among their targets: Juan Cole. How low can these pathetic creatures go?
AND YET ANOTHER UPDATE: Fine response to the crypto-fascists here.
This splendid poem was written in the fall of 2001 (and revised shortly thereafter). It has proved to be, sadly, prophetic. (Some of the indentations did not come through; you may also view the poem here: Download file)
In Memory of Randolph Bourne
When I read, “War is the health of the State,”
I did not realize he had summarized our history.
This morning his bent body hovers still
His crisp mind the wing of his wound.
Beyond the sunlight that his candor casts
The insatiable the over-confident rise ranting.
Now nothing left but war--peace’s chance past—
“War no more” buried by the traumatic moment.
The chilly State chokes the reveries of infants,
A shocked system bans their nascent dreams.
Unaware my grandson pronounces his sweet
Intention to be a scientist and study dinosaurs.
Samuel, new dinosaurs await you.
They rumble in the bushes as you rest,
They clog the alleys with political deceit,
Bloated by the helium of arrogance.
These Goths in suits abound graceless
Prowling the Disneyland of tampered truth.
How shall we bear those born-again to terror
And revenge, borne as we are by Bourne’s
Dark curse upon our brooding landscape?
I am unsafe.
My dozing shelter vibrates like the Earth’s dense plates:
I watch the illitocracy of Power commence fresh graves.
SWM, age 49, philosopher (unemployed as such, but earn a living other ways), stout Scotsman, sympathetic nature. Ruling passions include literary fame, English history, complex ideas, human nature, and hatred of the a priori. Well-disposed towards dispositions. Seeking woman, forceful and vivacious, who has reason to be the slave of my passions.
(With thanks to Mark Engleson for the idea for this one.)
(Other personal ads of the philosophers are here.)
...from the Boston Globe. The article quotes "a nurse for the Department of the Army in Landstuhl, Germany, where casualties from the war in Iraq are treated" who apparently didn't feel Bush's stunt was a "class act."
"My `Bush Thanksgiving' was a little different . . . I spent it at the hospital taking care of a young West Point lieutenant wounded in Iraq. He had stabilization of his injuries in Iraq and then two long surgeries here for multiple injuries; he's just now stable enough to send back to the USA. After a few bites of dinner I let him sleep, and then cried with him as he woke up from a nightmare. When he pressed his fists into his eyes and rocked his head back and forth he looked like a little boy. They all do, all 19 on the ward that day, some missing limbs, eyes, or worse.
"There are two more long wards just like this one. The ICU has been receiving soldiers for many months now, often unconscious young men on ventilators with wives and parents (our age) bending over the beds, stroking whatever part isn't bandaged, pinned, or burned. It requires a deep breath and strong heart anymore to walk through those swinging doors; I know the photo IDs outside the rooms will bear little resemblance to the men in the rooms.
"It's too bad Mr. Bush didn't add us to his holiday agenda. The men said the same, but you'll never read that in the paper. Mr. President would rather lift fake turkeys for photo ops, it seems. Maybe because my patients wouldn't make very pleasant photos . . . most don't look all that great, and the ones with facial wounds and external fixation devices look downright scary. And a heck of a lot of them can't talk, anyway, and some never will talk again. . . Well, this is probably more than you want to know, but there's no spin on this one. It's pure carnage . . . Like all wars, the "shock and awe" eventually trickles down to blood and death. But you won't see that. I do, every single day."
Christopher Edley, an administrative law and civil rights scholar currently at Harvard, will be the new Dean of the Boalt Hall School of Law at the University of California at Berkeley. Press release here
The folks at Washington & Lee have a new study measuring the impact of articles published in law reviews based on the number of citations per article published. (For their earlier results, go here.) Here's how the journals rank (with citations per article in parentheses):
1. Columbia Law Review (13.18)
2. Yale Law Journal (12.91)
3. Stanford Law Review (12.09)
4. Harvard Law Review (11.79)
5. Cornell Law Review (11.73)
6. California Law Review (Berkeley) (10.99)
7. N.Y.U. Law Review (10.91)
8. Virginia Law Review (10.74)
9. Georgetown Law Journal (10.73)
10. University of Pennsylvania Law Review (10.51)
11. Northwestern University Law Review (10.35)
12. UCLA Law Review (10.30)
13. Minnesota Law Review (9.75)
14. Duke Law Journal (9.41)
15. University of Chicago Law Review (9.30)
16. Vanderbilt Law Review (8.62)
17. Texas Law Review (8.46)
18. Southern California Law Review (7.83)
19. Iowa Law Review (7.34)
20. University of Illinois Law Review (7.24)
21. William & Mary Law Review (7.24)
22. Michigan Law Review (6.98)
23. North Carolina Law Review (6.93)
24. Arizona Law Review (6.83)
25. Indiana Law Journal (6.81)
Many odd results here (e.g., Michigan 22nd?), but I haven't studied the methodology carefully enough to know what explains them.
UPDATE: A couple of readers point out that Michigan Law Review runs a book review issue each year, with dozens of reviews in it. Since book reviews are cited to less often than articles, this would depress their score. That seems a plausible explanation in the case of Michigan. What about the other anomalies (on the low and high ends): e.g., Cornell? Chicago? Texas? (My hypothesis on Texas is that Texas Law Review is one of the few elite law reviews that will still publish traditional doctrinal pieces, which won't, of course, be cited as much because of the interdisciplinary turn in legal education. But this wouldn't explain Chicago.)
Prospective graduate students will be applying very shortly to graduate schools; here are a few major offers/possible moves you'll want to keep an eye on:
University of Arizona's offer to Keith DeRose (epistemology, philosophy of language, philosophy of religion) at Yale University.
University of Notre Dame's offer to Julia Annas (ancient philosophy, ethics) and David Owen (early modern), both at the University of Arizona. (Also keep in mind Notre Dame's outstanding offer to Stewart Shapiro (philosophy of math and logic) at Ohio State University. Notre Dame could make a huge move forward this year!)
University of Texas at Austin's offer to Scott Soames (philosophy of language, history of analytic philosophy) at Princeton University.
Harvard University's Government Department offer to Michael Rosen (Continental philosophy, political philosophy) at Oxford University.
From Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg's address of Feb. 11, 2003, just published in the S.Ct. Historical Q. as "From Benjamin to Breyer: Is There a Jewish Seat?":
"Jews in the United States, I mean to convey, face few closed doors and do not fear letting the world know who they are. ... What is the difference between a New York City garment district bookkeeper and a Supreme Court justice? One generation, my life bears witness, is the difference between opportunities open to my mother, a bookkeeper, and those open to me."
Anecdotal evidence, in the form of inquiries from students here and elsewhere, suggests that there is a real desire for a good introductory text on metaethics, on the whole range of issues about the semantics, metaphysics, and epistemology of value (esp. moral value). There are, of course, some excellent anthologies, like Sayre-McCord's 1988 Essays on Moral Realism and Darwall, Gibbard & Railton's 1997 Moral Discourse and Practice, but what I have not seen is a text offering a comprehensive philosophical introduction to the issues.
Happily, a reliable introductory text is now available, thanks to Alex Miller , who has given us An Introduction to Contemporary Metaethics (Polity Press, 2003) (order it here). Miller, who has published widely in philosophy of language and mind, metaphysics, and metaethics, sent me the manuscript for the book some time ago, but I'm glad to see it is now out. It will clearly be the text for advanced undergraduates and postgraduates for the foreseeable future, and it has a lot to offer philosophers engaged in metaethical debate as well. Among the very attractive features are the scope of Miller's coverage (from Blackburn's quasi-realism, to the moral explanations literature, to sensibility theories, to the varieties of expressivism--no significant topic, in my view, is neglected), and its currency (literature and arguments from the early 2000s are discussed, and situated within the existing dialectics). If you're interested in metaethics, or trying to sort your way through the thicket of philosophical issues, you'll find this book very helpful.
"About four or five weeks ago, Andrew Sullivan posted on
his Web site a missive from a Jewish American who apparently studied Law
in Cambridge. The writer of the missive (whose name was not revealed)
claimed that he had experienced anti-Semitism in a number of contexts
while in Cambridge. Having never encountered any anti-Semitism here
myself, I asked several of my Jewish students whether they regarded
Cambridge as an anti-Semitic place. (Because I'm not obviously Jewish
from my appearance, and because I don't participate in religious
ceremonies at all, I don't regard myself as a reliable barometer of
anti-Semitism.) Although, in line with what I already knew, the students
reported that there is a lot of anti-Israel sentiment expressed in certain
quarters -- much of it ignorant and strident -- they further reported that
they had felt no animosity directed toward them as Jews. Two of these
students regularly wear yarmulkes, and are therefore immediately
identifiable as Jewish. Neither of those students has experienced any
untoward incidents. Thus, contrary to the impression conveyed by the
letter posted on Sullivan's Web site, I have to conclude that my initial
sense of things was correct. Cambridge for its size is a highly
cosmopolitan city, and is therefore a place in which Jews can feel
comfortable and welcome."
...slams U.S. human rights hypocrisy. Story here: "Iran's Shirin Ebadi became the first Muslim woman to receive the Nobel Peace Prize Wednesday and sent a bold anti-war message to the West, accusing it of hiding behind the Sept. 11 attacks to violate human rights."
...is here. Don't expect this coverage of Afghanistan to turn up in the New York Times. (RAWA is the Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan; they are the authors of what remains the best statement on the 9/11 atrocities, which is in my links column to the left.)
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)