Here. An impressive group of contributors and commentators...and opportunities for readers to contribute as well. Do check it out.
Here. An impressive group of contributors and commentators...and opportunities for readers to contribute as well. Do check it out.
UPDATE: my mother, the former intrepid journalist, emailed me on Colbert:
Can you believe how great this guy was---and can you believe how many stories have been written by the msm on how "out of line" and "unfunny" he was?? Oh my, he really let those flacks have it, didn't he?
Just when you think there's no hope at all, someone actually gets in front of the Washington powers and press (I've attended that function several times, by the way) and quite simply pulverizes them with the most deliciously devastating irony I think I've ever seen or read.
Nicely said, Mer! Would that there were more like you were.
UPDATE 2: Of course, the NYT (your favorite "liberal" newspaper) didn't even mention Colbert---by any reasonable standards, the story of the evening---in its coverage of the dinner. Benj notes that that's because "Kneepads" Bumiller wrote the article.
Applause for Poverty
Applause for poverty
to the ship of state
Tolerate the victim
Copyright 1995 by Maurice Leiter
Applause for poverty
Posted with permission
I was raised in an academic family, with some of the standard features thereof (for example, my babysitters were all graduate students of my father). But my father's attitude towards his career was very different than mine. At various times throughout his career, he was asked to apply for jobs at other institutions, some of them institutions that were higher in the academic status hierarchy than his department at Syracuse. He never pursued these offers, and indeed they bewildered him; he had no idea why anyone would move from the department at which they started. An integral part of the life of the mind was a commitment to a single institution, and spending one's life with the same community of scholars. He tended to value conferences, reading groups, and the development of links between the university and the community at least as much as his own written work. My father had a regular philosophy reading group attended by scholars across the university, and our living room was regularly filled with people who were utterly absorbed with ideas. His own production clearly suffered from his other activities. For example, he spent years working with a poor town near Syracuse on a project concerning the responsibility of companies to the communities they abandon. A lot emerged from this project; a documentary, several town-meetings, and a civics class for high school students in that town. But very few publications emerged from it. He also viewed his obligations to his community as extending to his family. For example, he sent his children to Syracuse city public schools. As a professor at the local good university, he felt an extra obligation to be a member of the community, rather than a lesser obligation.
I don't think my father was unusual at Syracuse University at the time. The local city schools had a number of other children of like-minded professors. Many of these other professors reminded me of my father. Their houses were filled to the rafters with books, and as far as I could tell, like my father, they were interested in almost every branch of human knowledge. Most notably, a hierarchical model of academic advancement seemed utterly foreign to them. They were clearly not in academia to be successes in life. They were academics because they were imbued with an extraordinary sense of importance of their projects to the world.
I have the sense that my generation of academics is quite different. Since many of us either change institutions or dream of eventually changing institutions, we feel less loyalty to the communities in which we reside. I also meet many academics whose social status, salaries and even the furniture in their houses are as important to them as such symbols are to those in the business world. I think my father would have argued that this is due market forces impinging on academia, blurring the distinction between an academic and a businessperson (always his greatest fear about the future of the university). But I think this would be an overly simplistic view.
First, because of far greater sexism, in my father's generation, an academic's spouse (almost invariably female) was expected to go where ever the academic's career led. But this has completely changed. In my generation, the need to move from institution to institution is usually the result of juggling two careers (as it has been in my own case). But when moving from location to location becomes a necessity for preserving one's family, academics begin to develop a more mercenary attitude towards their current institutions; one begins to think of oneself as a free agent, rather than as a member of an institution and a community. Secondly, because of the ease of travel and communication, our academic communities are no longer anchored to our places of employment. I have a strong academic community, whose members I regularly see at conferences and talks, and chat with on e-mail and on the phone. But they are not anchored to my department.
On the one hand, I think both of these changes are positive effects of a more advanced, more equitable society (and furthermore I certainly wouldn't want to trade my salary for that of my father!). On the other hand, I wonder how much of these changes make academics forget those aspects of academia that make it not just another way to be a success.
John Martin Fischer, a leading figure in action theory and cognate fields at the University of California at Riverside, has declined the senior offer from the Department of Philosophy at the University of California at Davis.
United for Peace and Justice is organizing what looks to be a great opportunity to demonstrate this Saturday, April 29. The march will start at noon just north of Union Square, proceed south along Broadway to Foley Square, and end with a Peace and Justice Festival; logistical details are here.
Last week, Bill Camarada posted a call for us all to commit ourselves to participating in massive anti-war demonstrations for the foreseeable future that will---we must hope against hope---make some difference to the increasingly insane course of events:
I never thought I’d say this, but the era of the political demonstration is back.
The immigrants’ rallies are a harbinger. But we now need to prepare for something far bigger.
As this manufactured crisis approaches, we need to get out into the streets for the largest peaceful anti-war demonstrations in American history. We will need to get far out in front of the politicians. Given the horror of what’s in store, we have no choice.
And we can do it. The largest anti-Vietnam war rallies brought together roughly half a million people. We can run rallies all over the country, and bring together 20,000,000 people to stop this insanity. [...]
This fall’s marches need to be impeccable. Learn the lessons the immigrants have taught us: bring your American flags. We are Americans. We speak for true patriotism. And we don’t want America, our country, in our generation, to be remembered as the mass murderers who unleashed a horrifying new age of nuclear warfare.
UPDATE: OTHER DEMONSTRATIONS. There will be a demonstration this Saturday at Rice University in Houston calling for the U.S. to put more resources into stopping the kidnapping and brutalization of Ugandan children at the hands of the Lord Resistance Army. And demonstrations are being held this Sunday in Washington D.C. and elsewhere across the nation protesting the ongoing genocide in the Darfur region of Sudan.
MOVING TO THE FRONT (originally posted March 12)
It's that time of year again...I am opening comments on this thread for people to post news about junior, tenure-track hires in philosophy departments, i.e., hires made during this year of new assistant professors who will be starting in fall 2006. This year, you may also post information about post-doc appointments, since there are an increasing number of those in philosophy, many quite attractive. No anonymous posts will be allowed. The candidates themselves, dissertation advisors, placement directors, department chairs, or faculty members involved with the hiring or the placement of the candidate may all post information. No hearsay, however: you must have first-hand knowledge of the placement. (Please e-mail me about any errors.)
The format of the postings should be as follows: candidate's name (name of PhD-granting school) hired by [name of school]. AOS: ________; any prior positions (e.g., a postdoc, a lectureship, a visiting asst prof position). In the case of a post-doc, it should say not 'hired by' but 'post-doc at' [name of school].
Here's an example of which I have first-hand knowledge:
Jessica Berry (Texas) hired by Georgia State University. AOS: 19th-Century Philosophy; previously Assistant Professor of Philosophy (tenure-track), University of North Carolina at Wilmington and Visiting Assistant Professor of Philosophy, College of William & Mary. (GSU gets credit for quick updating of its web site!)
Remember: tenure-track jobs and postdocs only. I'll move this thread to the front at various intervals until it looks like the hiring season has wound down. Please post only once; postings should appear within 24 hours.
There is a review by Raymond Tallis (Gerontology, Manchester) of Mary Midgley's autobiography, The Owl of Minerva (Routledge 2006) in the current (Apr.26) Times Literary Supplement. The review offers an interesting perspective upon the the era we might call Wittgenaustinian England:
There is a striking story from her time at Oxford, where she was an undergraduate between 1938 and 1942, and [for a time] after the war. She was part of an extraordinarily talented cohort of students that included Mary Warnock, Iris Murdoch, Philippa Foot and Elizabeth Anscombe, all of whom remained lifelong friends. Midgley recounts a discussion in Lyon’s Café between herself, Murdoch and Anscombe, about “rudeness”.
Notions such as rudeness are powerful reminders that description and evaluation, facts and values, are not separable and independent – an important point in a world dominated by philosophers who regarded moral judgements as lacking in empirical content and hence as meaningless or having “only emotive” meaning. Murdoch mentioned, by way of preliminary, that some people might describe Anscombe (who was famously brutal in social intercourse) as sometimes being rude. Anscombe froze, was silent, withdrew herself “to an arctic distance” and then, after a short speech, walked out in dignified silence.
Midgley reflects: “People who go about treading on other people’s toes are peculiarly unaware of what it is like to be trodden on, so that they are naturally much surprised when it happens to themselves”. Then, characteristically, she adds: “But of course what one got from Elizabeth was something unique and hugely worthwhile”. She also blamed the influence of Wittgenstein: “Tolerance was not in his repertoire and he liked to remove it from other people’s”.
It is tempting to speculate how much of the horror that analytic philosophy tends to inspire stems from the waves of rudeness that certain influential philosophers set in motion decades ago. Those waves are no longer evident in England, I am pleased to report. I can't help wondering, though: Did Midgley mean to tread on Anscombe's toes?
The Blogads 2006 survey of political blog readers is available here (other survey results from this and previous years are available here). Chris Bowers notes some caveats and summarizes the results here; interesting trends involve an increase in the median age (46.4 from 40.4 in 2005) and some narrowing of the gender gap (33.9% female from 31% in 2005).
Political blog readers continue to put more faith in blogs (89%) as a useful or extremely useful source of news and opinion than in traditional news sources, including television (14%), print newspapers (32%), online newspapers (52%), print magazines (36%), and online magazines (39%).
I want to urge readers to sign this worthy and well-crafted petition/open letter to University of Miami President Donna Shalala regarding the two-month-old labor dispute involving union-busting tactics by the contractor that handles cleaning services at the University.
There is also a blog site covering the dispute here.
Thanks to Professor Simon Evnine from the Department of Philosophy at Miami for bringing this to my attention.
Deep ecology meets unflinching consequentialism in the thinking of Pentti Linkola, the Finnish fisherman/philosopher. Linkola has been little noticed in North America, despite a provocative front-page 1994 profile in the Wall Street Journal. Gradually, his writings are appearing on the web in English translation. Maybe Linkola's "lifeboat" example is the trolley of tomorrow. Let's hope--but not assume--that there's still time not to be cruel.
Fascinating story here.
Here; an excerpt:
In January 2001, with the inauguration of George W. Bush as president, America set on a path to...become a revolutionary nation, a radical republic. If our country continues on this path, it will cease to be great - as happened to all great powers before it, without exception.
From the Kyoto accords to the International Criminal Court, from torture and cruel and unusual treatment of prisoners to rendition of innocent civilians, from illegal domestic surveillance to lies about leaking, from energy ineptitude to denial of global warming, from cherry-picking intelligence to appointing a martinet and a tyrant to run the Defense Department, the Bush administration, in the name of fighting terrorism, has put America on the radical path to ruin.
Unprecedented interpretations of the Constitution that holds the president as commander in chief to be all-powerful and without checks and balances marks the hubris and unparalleled radicalism of this administration.
Moreover, fiscal profligacy of an order never seen before has brought America trade deficits that boggle the mind and a federal deficit that, when stripped of the gimmickry used to make it appear more tolerable, will leave every child and grandchild in this nation a debt that will weigh upon their generations like a ball and chain around every neck. Imagine owing $150,000 from the cradle. That is radical irresponsibility.
This administration has expanded government - creation of the Homeland Security Department alone puts it in the record books - and government intrusiveness. It has brought a new level of sleaze and corruption to Washington (difficult to do, to be sure). And it has done the impossible in war-waging: put in motion a conflict in Iraq that in terms of colossal incompetence, civilian and military, and unbridled arrogance portends to top the Vietnam era, a truly radical feat.
This colonel, it bears adding, was former Chief of Staff to former Secretary of State Colin Powell. It is some indication of how depraved and corrupt this Administration is that even Republican military officers are disgusted. More of them need to speak out, and before the War Criminal in Chief commits new atrocities in Iran.
I have good reason to believe that even for American students choosing a philosophy department to apply to used to be much harder before the Philosophical Gourmet Report was established. It is scarcely necessary to say how much more difficult that would have been for foreign students coming from contries, such as my native Brazil, with no tradition at all in analytic philosophy.Late last year, I was fortunate enough to finish a PhD in philosophy of language at a top 30 philosophy department, where I had the pleasure of working with an extremely friendly and supportive faculty.None of this would have been possible if the PGR was not in existence. I wouldn´t even know where to start looking....
Here. The fabricated quote Fund attributes to Cole is probably libelous, but the tricky issue with defamation in the U.S. (except in the case of per se libel, which this is not) is always proof of damage. (Lots of material that is defamatory in intent--there are reams of it on the Internet about Cole, Noam Chomsky, and even obscure me--is written by people of such transparent mental instability, stupidity or obscurity, that no damage is done, and so it's hardly worth bothering about.) What makes this case potentially interesting is that Mr. Fund's purpose in fabricating quotations is quite clearly to damage Mr. Cole professionally by bringing pressure on Yale University not to hire him, and he is doing so in a public forum where it could really have that effect. Of course, even if Yale does not go forward with an offer, it may be hard to identify the cause of that decision. I hope Professor Cole is not forced to bring a legal action, but it is really well past time for some of these right-wing slime artists to be brought to justice for their malicious lies and smears.
But when I read stuff like this, I worry that I might have been right after all (here too) back in the fall of 2004. (I still hope to be profoundly wrong!) An excerpt from a particularly pernicious opinion piece in the "liberal" New York Times:
THE American public needs to be prepared for what is shaping up to be a clash of colossal proportions between the West and Iran.
Certainly the American population "needs to be prepared for what is" being invented as "a clash of colossal proportions" between the U.S. and Iran. Somehow we managed for years with Pakistan as a hostile Islamic nuclear power, until we bought them off as an "ally," but Iran is different...because? Don't ask.
President Franklin D. Roosevelt masterfully prepared Americans before the United States entered World War II by initiating a peacetime draft under the Selective Training and Service Act of 1940.
Now, President Bush and Congress should reinstitute selective service under a lottery without any deferments.
This single action will send a strong message to three constituencies in the crisis over Iran's nuclear intentions — Iran, outside powers like China and Russia and Americans at home — and perhaps lead to a peaceful resolution.
Let me see if I have this straight: in 1940, after the openly fascistic and imperialistic leader of one of the world's most powerful nations had already defied numerous international aggreements and had also already invaded neighboring sovereign nations, President Roosevelt reinstated a military draft. Now in 2006, after the religious fanatics who lead Iran, an irrelevant military power (except for its proximity to the most recent target of U.S. aggression), have complied extensively with international agreements and have invaded no sovereign nations, we need a military draft because...?
Iran's leaders and public will see that the United States is serious about ensuring that they never possess a nuclear weapon. The Chinese and Russian governments will see that their diplomatic influence should be exercised sooner rather than later and stop hanging back. But most important, America's elites and ordinary citizens alike will know that they may be called upon for wartime service and sacrifice.
America's elites have been called on for no sacrifice in fifty years; only an infant (or a journalist) could think anything will be different this time around.
President Bush has the perfect credentials overseas to execute this move, and little political capital at home to lose at this stage. Polls confirm that a wide majority of people in many countries view him and the United States as the major threat to global peace. Why let them down on this count? Go with the flow.
President Ronald Reagan was the past master of using this strategy during the cold war. Reagan capitalized on his image as the madman at the helm to keep the Russians off balance, using the signs of war to dissuade our foes and avert actual war. President Bush should take a page from Reagan's playbook.
That the author of this sophomoric piece of strategizing does not see the irony in these last two paragraphs speaks volumes about the topsy-turvy world of American public discourse. Consider: most people in the world (having apparently learned the Golden Rule as children) consider the U.S., quite correctly, to be "the major threat to global peace" based on its currently unparalleled record of actual aggression and murder in the last couple of years. Reagan may have cultivated an image of "the madman at the helm," but Bush actually is that madman. Reagan's major wars of aggression, after all, were against Grenada and Nicaragua, countries whose misery and suffering were the traditional province of U.S. imperialism, and whose continued vicitmization did not threaten global conflict. Bush, by contrast, is not interested in utilizing "the signs of war": he has shown quite clearly that he is intent on waging actual war. How clever to suggest giving him hundreds of thousands fresh young men for the cause.
Speaking of moral depravity and craven villainy, the other morning on National Public Radio (a "liberal" media outlet, as the ideologically deluded in America say) a reporter explained calmly that President Bush was "keeping all options on the table" with respect to Iran, including "a tactical nuclear strike." This latter "option" was mentioned without further comment, without pause, without any hint that the President of the United States had just been accused of contemplating a war crime of such extraordinary proportions that, if the world were not annihilated in the ensuing international conflagration, Bush would go down in history not simply as the worst President in American history, but as one of the great moral monsters in the history of humanity. One imagines being in Germany circa 1938, listening to some stately radio newscaster reporting that "Hitler is keeping all options on the table" with respect to the Lebensraum problem, "including invading all neighboring nations" and "genocide of the Jews."
"And now we turn to the sports news..."
Erich Fromm's idea of the "pathology of normalcy" seems the only apt characterization for this state of affairs.
The following philosophers have been elected as Fellows of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences: Kit Fine (New York University); Anil Gupta (University of Pittsburgh); Richard Kraut (Northwestern University); and Nicholas Wolterstorff (Emeritus, Yale University). (This material will be on the AAAS website on Monday, though an e-mail announcing the elections was sent to me.)
Gradually, the AAAS is correcting for some of the embarrassing omissions in its roster, none more so than Kit Fine, who was elected a Corresponding Fellow of the British Academy before being recognized by the AAAS! (I note that the AAAS, in Political Science, also recognized John Roemer this year, who was, like Professor Fine, elected a Corresponding Fellow of the British Academy last year!)
It is fair enough that seniority is a factor in the elections to the Academy, but it is also fair to say that, like the failure to give the Nobel Prize in Literature to James Joyce, the failure to elect a few especially distinguished senior figures in our field will soon bring the whole affair into disrepute. I am thinking especially of Arthur Fine, now at the University of Washington; Larry Laudan, now at the National Autonomous University of Mexico; Stephen Stich at Rutgers University, New Brunswick; and Crispin Wright at the University of St. Andrews. I suppose it is true that Professors Laudan and Wright would now have to count as "foreign" members (though each does some teaching still in the US), of whom there are fewer, but they, like Professor Stich, are "household" names to all students of philosophy, so much so that it is really rather extraordinary that their accomplishments across several decades have not yet been recognized by the Academy. To be fair, of the sixteen philosophers I mentioned a couple of years ago as odd omissions, five have since been elected, and some of those not elected are, to be sure, not as senior as those recognized.
Bearing in mind my earlier cautionary notes on this subject (about why AAAS membership is a weak indicator of program quality), here are the eleven Philosophy Departments with the most non-emeritus, full-time AAAS members for fall 2006 (those over 70 are marked with an *; in some cases philosophy faculty were elected in fields outside philosophy; in some cases faculty are only part-time).
Harvard University (C. Korsgaard, D. Parfit [part-time], T. Scanlon, *A. Sen [elected in Economics; part-time], G. Striker)
New York University (N. Block, K. Fine, *R. Dworkin [elected in Law; part-time], H. Field, T. Nagel, D. Parfit [part-time], J. Waldron [elected in Law]).
Princeton University (A. Appiah [elected in Social Relations], *P. Benacerraf [on phased retirement], J. Cooper, G. Harman, A. Nehamas, B. van Fraassen [on phased retirement])
Rutgers University, New Brunswick (*J. Fodor, A. Goldman, D. Parfit [part-time], E. Sosa).
Stanford University (J. Cohen [elected in Political Science] *S. Feferman [elected in Mathematics], *D. Follesdal [part-time], M. Friedman, J. Perry, A. Wood)
University of California, Berkeley (*H. Dreyfus, S. Scheffler, *J. Searle, *B. Stroud)
University of California, Irvine (P. Maddy, D. Malament, B. Skyrms)
University of California, Los Angeles (T. Burge, B. Copenhaver, B. Herman, *D. Kaplan, D.A. Martin)
University of Michigan, Ann Arbor (*E. Curley, S. Darwall, A. Gibbard, P. Railton, D. Regan [elected in Law], L. Sklar, K. Walton).
University of Notre Dame (*A. MacIntyre, *A. Plantinga, P. van Inwagen)
University of Pittsburgh (R. Brandom, J. Earman, A. Gupta, *A. Grunbaum, J. McDowell)
UPDATE: A couple of correspondents have already asked about my failure to mention any historians of philosophy as notable omissions. The fact is, however, that the AAAS has done fairly well in recognizing those who have enriched our understanding of the history of the field. There are certainly distinguished senior scholars whom I would expect to be recognized in the years ahead for their contributions--Frederick Beiser (Syracuse), Alan Code (Berkeley), Michael Della Rocca (Yale), Michael Forster (Chicago), Daniel Garber (Princeton), Don Garrett (NYU), Gary Hatfield (Penn), Nicholas Jolley (UC Irvine), Beatrice Longuenesse (NYU), A.P.D. Mourelatos (Texas), Alan Nelson (North Carolina), Calvin Normore (UCLA), and Paul Woodruff (Texas), among others--but none strike me as ridiculous omissions, yet, on a par with those noted above.
AND ANOTHER: There is a list and discussion of the new Law fellows here.
Jonathan Kvanvig (epistemology, metaphysics, philosophy of religion) at the University of Missouri, Columbia has accepted appointment as Distinguished Professor of Philosophy at Baylor University, which is committed to building up its Philosophy Department. Kvanvig had notable success on that score at Missouri over the last few years. It will be worth watching to see whether he can duplicate that success at Baylor.
Faithful in the service of money
I pursue my dull ambition
Through a forest thick with figures
Its trees solemn as letters of credit
Each leaf the gleaming currency of hope
Only nature is not yet
Subverted purchased though it be
It recovers with the seasons
And must be seduced again
But I have been a convert
Since my beginning
Storing nickels and pennies
In the change purse of the streets
Trading coins I’d hoarded
At the corner candy store
For glistening cola glasses
Donuts white as talcum
Bulging bars of chocolate
Rippling in their wrappers
Rewarded by tasty plunder
That assuaged a hunger
But not the one I had
No sweetness can do that
6/22/99,10/29-10/30/99, 1/20-1/21/00, 1/24-1/26/00, 2/1-2/21/00, 4/24/00
Copyright 1999, 2000 by Maurice Leiter
Posted with permission.
For each of a couple dozen religions, these guys have mapped the county-by-county statistics on their prevalence, as well as some interesting aggregated statistics. For example:
Now, I have relatives in Cook County who would be surprised to learn that there are no Unitarians there: a rather large building attests otherwise. But maybe "none" just means "not many in a county of 3M".
(MOVED TO THE FRONT by Leiter from April 17, since it's generated a good discussion.)
A common topic among my friends is the tension between writing for philosophers and writing for a broader audience. A small minority of the philosophers widely acknowledged by philosophers as the greatest philosophers of recent decades (e.g. Rawls, Fodor) have had substantial impact on certain fields outside philosophy. But most have not, and none of them have had a broad impact within the humanities at large of the sort that less respected philosophers such as Derrida have had. Furthermore, the philosophers who are widely acknowledged by philosophers as the greatest philosophers of recent decades have not been public intellectuals. Their audience has consisted of other specialists in philosophy.
There are two issues here. The first concerns discussions within the academy. Judith Butler is not by any stretch of the imagination a public intellectual. But her work has greatly influenced the direction of the humanities. The second concerns non-academic audiences. An academic such as Stephen Pinker writes for a highly literate non-academic audience. Does the fact that philosophers tend to write for other philosophers, rather than for other humanists or for the literate public at large, show that their values are in tension with the core mission of the university?
I tend to be attracted to the following position. The greatest philosophers are those who are able to construct new arguments or new philosophical positions (including new ways of understanding philosophers of the past). These are the contributions that matter most to the development of philosophy; the philosophical importance of a time period and a place will later be judged by their quality and their quality alone. The philosophers we still read from the past were not the public intellectuals of their time. Rather, they are the philosophers who affected subsequent generations of specialist philosophers. But it is just such contributions that will be least accessible to the educated layperson or even the educated academic not in philosophy. They will always seem considerably more baroque and complex than clear re-statements of age-old philosophical arguments and positions.
There should always be a space for philosophers who simplify and translate philosophical positions and arguments for a broader audience. But a university’s primary mission should be to advance the disciplines it represents. In short, a university should seek to promote work that will give that university prestige in the future and not in the present. So, a university’s mission with regard to its philosophy department should be to support those who are attempting to formulate new positions and arguments, rather than those who seek contemporary relevance.
I suspect this point holds across a number of disciplines. Administrators who prefer public intellectuals to specialists are confused about the core mission of a research university. The intended audience of most scholars in a university should be the future scholars of that discipline, not contemporary non-scholars.
UPDATE: Harry Brighouse of crookedtimber has further discussion here.
On his national radio program today, William Bennett, the former Reagan and George H.W. Bush administration official and now a CNN commentator, said that three reporters who won Pulitzer Prizes yesterday were not "worthy of an award" but rather "worthy of jail."
He identified them as Dana Priest of The Washington Post, who wrote about the CIA's "secret prisons" in Europe, and James Risen and Eric Lichtblau of The New York Times, who exposed the National Security Agency's domestic (a.k.a. terrorist) spy program....
According to an E&P transcript of the audio of his radio program, Bill Bennett said that the reporters "took classified information, secret information, published it in their newspapers, against the wishes of the president, against the request of the president and others, that they not release it. They not only released it, they publicized it -- they put it on the front page, and it damaged us, it hurt us....
"As a result are they punished, are they in shame, are they embarrassed, are they arrested? No, they win Pulitzer prizes - they win Pulitzer prizes. I don't think what they did was worthy of an award - I think what they did is worthy of jail, and I think this investigation needs to go forward...."
Who could quarrel? You can't have newspapers publishing information about the police state tactics of the government against the wishes of Il Duce. My God, what's next: publishing information the government wants to keep secret because it damages the reputation of the President? Openly criticizing the President? Disagreeing with the President? Encouraging people to vote for someone other than Il Duce?
Only jail for journalists stands between us and this parade of horribles.
...was awarded to UT Austin historian David Oshinsky, who was recruited from Rutgers University at New Brunswick a couple of years ago. Readers interested in American politics may know of him for his splendid book A Conspiracy So Immense: The World of Joe McCarthy, which gives great insight into the last period when America veered towards fascism.
MOVING TO THE FRONT FROM MARCH 22: SEE UPDATE
Ohio State University has made tenured offers to Lisa Downing (early modern philosophy) and Abraham Roth (philosophy of mind and action), both tenured associate professors of philosophy at the University of Illinois at Chicago.
Other hiring news from OSU is expected soon.
UPDATE: Professors Downing and Roth have accepted the offers from Ohio State. This caps an aggressive season of lateral (five) and junior (two) appointments for Ohio State. Other tenured hires, besides Professors Downing and Roth, were Ben Caplan and Timothy Schroeder from the University of Manitoba, and Richard Samuels from King's College, London. This will go some distance to recouping from the losses of the prior year and ought to, at least, keep Ohio State in the overall US top 30.
I'm sort of bemused by the debate between Jason and Brian about whether there is a "crisis" in philosophy. I don't have a clear idea of what a "crisis" means, unless it refers to a failure to achieve some important purpose. But what is the purpose of philosophy?
As some evidence for his belief that there is no crisis, Jason points to a "heady sense of excitement" among people he knows, plus the ability to recruit good new graduate students. As a sociology of knowledge type thing, I am pretty sympathetic to the argument that the short run goal of a discipline is to convince some group of influential or important or intelligent people that the discipline is important and useful. At least in the short run consensus within the intellectual community is all most disciplines have to go on, since effects take a long time to appear and their relationship to academic inputs is often very questionable. One can certainly also argue that some disciplines should be serving a certain kind of aesthetic and not utilitarian function anyway.
But the question of what groups judgements about excitement should count is always a political one. Presumably the people who do not already find the semantics/pragmatics distinction very heady or exciting are not part of Jason's academic reference group. Plus it does seem strange to divorce your judgement of a discipline's value from benefits outside the core group of knowledge producers. After all, if philosophy is useless then its ability to attract brilliant graduate students makes its crisis more severe, since it is distracting our best and brightest from doing something more socially beneficial with their lives.
Anyway, as a non-philosopher it would be useful for me to see Jason and Brian outline their debate in terms of what purposes they think philosophy should be serving within the broader intellectual community, or if that is a bad kind of question then to say why it is.
Richard Samuels (philosophy of psychology and cognitive science), currently Senior Lecturer in Philosophy at King's College, London, has accepted the tenured offer from Ohio State University.
MOVING TO THE FRONT FROM APRIL 10 TO ENCOURAGE MORE DISCUSSION
[T]his volume [the 100th anniversary issue of Mind on Russell's "On Denoting"] is good evidence of the falsity of the claim that there is a serious division between historians of philosophy and (for lack of a convenient label) those who advance philosophical conclusions with no historical premises. It is obvious that a Nietzsche scholar is a historian of philosophy. Since Frege and Russell's major contributions occurred around the same time period and slightly after, it should be obvious that Frege and Russell scholars are also historians.
I wouldn't want to quarrel about whether history of analytic philosophy is history of philosophy: in some perfectly familiar senses of history (such as, "studying the ideas of folks who are dead") it surely is. But history of analytic philosophy is also very different from much historical work in philosophy, since its subject-matter is on a recognizable continuum with today's philosophical issues, and much closer on that continuum than, say, Kant's transcendental idealism, Nietzsche's genealogy of morality, or Plato's theory of knowledge. Recall that central to the Garber/Schneewind rationale for history of philosophy was that "[w]hat properly and fully contextualized study of the past can do is to show us the many different things philosophers were doing in working on the problems we take as central." Studying Frege and Russell, while a worthy topic for historical scholarship, doesn't show us ways of doing philosophy that are very different from those that are now dominant in English-speaking universities. And thus the fact that there is such historical scholarship really doesn't establish that there aren't "serious divisions" between philosophical problem-solvers and historians of philosophy.
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Since Mr. Bush regularly denounces leakers, the White House has made much of the notion that he did not leak classified information, he declassified it. This explanation strains credulity. Even a president cannot wave a wand and announce that an intelligence report is declassified.
To declassify an intelligence document, officials have to decide whether disclosing the information would jeopardize the sources that provided it or the methods used to gather it.
This squares with the analysis earlier in this space, against the opinion of much of the left blogosphere, which bought into the Bush Gang frame.
To rebut charges that Defense Secretary Rumsfeld has tried to micromanage the Iraq campaign, the Pentagon has issued a memorandum stating that the Secretary regularly meets four times a week with the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
The votes of 40,000 Canadian citizens who qualify as "Italians abroad," some of whom have never set foot in Italy and many of whom don't speak Italian, played a pivotal role in the defeat of billionaire Silvio Berlusconi in Italy's election yesterday, according to poll results released late last night.
For the first time in history, a country's political fate appears to have been determined by citizens of other countries, after Mr. Berlusconi introduced a scheme in 2002 that defines eligible Italian voters by blood lines rather than residency.
Now when some wingnut asks you if you'd prefer to have Saddam back, you can answer 'yes'.
"Before the US-led invasion in 2003, women were free to go to schools, universities and work, and to perform other duties," Senar added. "Now, due to security reasons and repression by the government, they're being forced to stay in their homes."
The new constitution, approved in October 2005, makes Shari'a [Islamic Law] the primary source of national law. According to Senar, however, Shari'a has been misinterpreted by elements within the government and by certain religious leaders, which has resulted in the frequent denial of women's rights. This is particularly the case in matters pertaining to divorce, she said.
Iman Saeed, spokesperson for another women's NGO that helped conduct the survey but which prefers anonymity for security reasons, said that some religious leaders have also begun insisting that women wear the veil. "Many husbands now force their wives to wear the veil, just because a sheikh [religious teacher] said so," Iman said.
Karen Neander (philosphy of mind and cognitive science, philosophy of biology) at the University of California at Davis has accepted a senior offer from the Department of Philosophy at Duke University.
I'm really starting to wonder: does Bush want to start Armageddon?
UPDATE: I like this variation on the theme from John Laesch, a "fighting Dem" challenging Dennis Hastert's Illinois seat, and former Intelligence Analyst in the Middle East:
If you think that we've got problems with the world's Muslim community now, just try dropping A-bombs on Iran and see what happens--it will make the war in Iraq look like a high school wrestling match without a coach.
And for what? As Richard Clarke and Steven Simon note:
So how would bombing Iran serve American interests? In over a decade of looking at the question, no one has ever been able to provide a persuasive answer.
Clarke and Simon go on to call for Congress to "ask the hard questions" it did not ask about Iraq: "It must not permit the administration to launch another war whose outcome cannot be known, or worse, known all too well". Billmon throws some cold water on the suggestion:
The problem, which I'm sure Clarke and Simon fully understand, is that there isn't going to be a congressional resolution this time – in fact I'd be very surprised if the administration gives the leadership of either party more than 24 hours notice before the bombing begins. No marketing campaigns, no debates, no arms twisted in the Oval Office. Just a fait accompli. (That's French for: "Choke on it, suckers."
It's already obvious: This one's going to be a unitary executive special – right down the line. The administration's vanished political capital leaves it no other way. When you've got nothing, you've got nothing to lose.
So what, exactly, is there for Congress to ask the "hard questions" about? And what answers would it get, other than: "That's classified," or "That's a privileged executive branch communication"? And how is a rubber stamp Congress supposed to stop a war that officially isn't on the drawing boards? Particularly when the Republican majority hopes – or at least understands – it could be the magic bullet, so to speak, that saves their sorry asses this November?
To ask these questions is to answer them.
In the U.S., the new law is: Everything just gets worse.
Here's a recent instance of the law, as applied to what used to be genuinely alternative news sources in the U.S.:
The Village Voice has now been politically eviscerated, along with the other city-based alternative weeklies bought up by Michael Lacey (nice picture! maybe he doesn't want to be recognized?) and the New Times corporation (check out those ads! Lots of alternatives there), which now operate “without the burden of a political agenda”. To get a taste of we've lost here, check out these excerpts from this April 13 Democracy Now segment:
AMY GOODMAN: We’re talking to former Village Voice reporter Jim Ridgeway in our Washington studio. And here in New York we’re joined by Sydney Schanberg, the former press critic at the Village Voice, Pulitzer Prize winner. He resigned in February, following the sale of the paper. He won a Pulitzer Prize for reporting in Cambodia during the 1970s. His story inspired the film The Killing Fields. We’re also joined by Mark Jacobson. He’s a reporter with New York Magazine. In November, he wrote a major piece on the Voice-New Times merger, entitled "The Voice from Beyond the Grave." He’s a former writer at the Village Voice.
And I also want to say, we did try to reach Michael Lacey, who is the new Executive Editor of the Village Voice and co-founder of New Times Media, as well as Christine Brennan, the Executive Managing Editor of the Village Voice, but they did not return our calls. And New Times Media is now called Village Voice Media.
Sydney Schanberg, you attended a meeting in early February with Michael Lacey and the whole Village Voice staff. What happened?
SYDNEY SCHANBERG: What happened was very sad. Mr. Lacey came in and very quickly told the staff that he was disappointed and appalled by the fact that the front of the book was all commentary and that he wanted hard news. He said if he wanted to read a daily or regular critiques of the Bush administration, he would read the New York Times, and that's not what he wanted in the Village Voice. He was insulting to the staff. He figuratively or in effect called them stenographers. He said they had to stop being stenographers. When I objected to that, because that was so insulting, and I said that you can criticize any news staff in some ways, but the one thing that you couldn't call the Village Voice staff was a staff of stenographers, taking notes from public figures and just passing them on.
charge is such a bunch of contradictory bullshit---stenographers to
what public figures !!?-- that I can't read this
without becoming enraged, but maybe that's just because I can still
remember the fast-disappearing good old days:
AMY GOODMAN: We are also joined on the telephone by Tim Redmond. He is the executive editor at the San Francisco Bay Guardian. Tim, why is this a story that you feel is a national story? We’re talking to you from New York.
TIM REDMOND: I’ll tell you why it’s a national story. It's a national story, because the alternative press has always been kind of feisty, independent, challenging the status quo, and the alternative press has always been about independent media, has been about independent voices. And, you know, it sounds kind of hokey, but I got into this business 25 years ago, because, you know, I thought I could help change the world. And I’m not saying the alternative press has changed the world, but I think the Village Voice has made a huge difference in New York, and the Bay Guardian, where I work, has made a huge difference in San Francisco, and that's something.
And what the folks from New Times, now known as Village Voice Media, want to do, they want to buy up alternative papers all around the country and make them all the same. You know, I don't think anyone should own 17 alternative papers. And I particularly don't think a company run by people who despise activism, who are not activists and don't think of themselves journalistically as activists, who don't endorse candidates, who don't take stands on issues, who haven't even come out against the war, should be taking over the Village Voice. It's really sad. I mean, the Voice was always part of the activist tradition of the alternative press. And, you know, in the same way that a few big chains like Gannett have bought up and control most of the daily newspapers in the United States and a few big corporations like Clear Channel control an awful lot of the radio, a few big corporations control most of the TV, if we go that way in the alternative press, it's going to be very sad, particularly, as I say, when it is an operation that doesn't believe in activist politics. That's not what the alternative press has been about.
JUAN GONZALEZ: Well, Tim, a question. New Times has a reputation, supposedly, for hard-hitting local investigative stories in many of their other chains. How do you reconcile that "reputation" with their current moves, in terms of the Village Voice?
TIM REDMOND: New Times has some good journalists, and they have done some good stories. I’ve never doubted that. But they don't believe in providing progressive community leadership on issues. They'll do some investigative reporting, and there's nothing wrong with that. But when it comes to the role the alternative press has always taken, which is to provide activist leadership, they don't believe in it.
Besides, you know, I don't care if Mike Lacey wants to run a kind of neo-libertarian paper down in Phoenix and say whatever he wants to say and do whatever he wants to do. But once he tries to take papers all over the country and make them all the same, you know, it's kind of like the Borg. They sweep into town, they take over a paper, and they remold it in their own image so it's exactly like all of the other New Times papers. If you go from city to city to city, you know, Denver, Phoenix, you go around, Houston and Miami, they all look the same. They all have the same voice. They all have the same tone. And that's not good for the alternative press, and I would say that's not good for the United States. It's not good for progressive politics. This is not what the alternative press is about.
It's bad enough that we are losing what we once had.
Even worse is that lots of kids coming up these days---those not lucky enough to have progressive parents or get plugged into progressive blogs, in particular---are not even going to know what things used to be like 20 years ago.
They're going to think it's just the way things are that every single thing you hear from the media is aimed at selling you something (or keeping things cool for the sellers) rather than telling you what is actually going on. That the corporate message---and indeed, the entire cultural landscape--- is always the same, no matter whether you're in New York, or LA, or Denver, or wherever.
They're not going to know that there once was a genuine alternative. Correction: genuine alternatives.
Say goodbye to one more thing that used to make the U.S. a place worth living in; say hello to the new law of ever decreasing returns.
Elegy for Two Friends Who Died One Night Rowing off Brighton Beach
I am on the beach Copyright 1994, 2006 by Maurice Leiter Posted with permission.
Beyond my eye’s reach
They are drowning
In the grave Atlantic
One lurch and salmon-like
They climb toward death
Or twist perhaps like
Toothpicks in the drain
Or from their heaving boat
Drop doll-like into darkness
Or not dead sucked into a bottle
Embracing blindly on a wave
To hurtle full throttle
Upon the astonished shore
And rise surprised at all
The dreamy faces
Leaning close to read
The message in the glass
Sixteen is neither soon nor late
To take the measure of one’s fate
It is a time like any other
For virgin to have death as lover
The ocean coughed them up like phlegm
And spread the seaweed that was them
Upon another resting place
Where stood no kind familiar face
Brave boys who walked the ocean floor
Year over year I mourn you more
And wait upon the Brighton sand
To see your rowboat greet the land
Words will not serve to heal the heart
Nor will Death cringe because of art
Here lies no lesson to retail
Our disquisitions doomed to fail
ca.4/94, 12/8/94, 3/15/98, 12/20, 12/25-26/99,1/4, 1/20/00, 1/24-1/26/00, 2/21-2/24/00, 4/24/00, 3/31/06
I am on the beach
Copyright 1994, 2006 by Maurice Leiter
Posted with permission.
When are they going to mind their own business!
Neil [Young] made it pretty clear with GREENDALE, a truly incredible but underrated album, that he isn't happy with the direction George Bush has taken the country. He told David Fricke of ROLLING STONE "This is a time, I believe, of great inner turmoil for the majority of the American people. There is a new morality coming out of this administration -- fundamentalist religious views; a holier-than-thou attitude towards the rest of the world -- that is not classically American. I don't think Americans felt holier-than-thou in the twentieth century. We were happy and successful, with a great lifestyle. But something else is going on now. That's what Greendale is about. That's what Grandpa's problem is. He can't understand what's going on. He sees all of these things that the Patriot Act has taken away from what he feels is America."
One of Neil's collaborators, filmmaker, Jonathan Demme, describes [the new album, "Life in War"] as "a brilliant electric assault on Bush and the war in Iraq.” The linchpin track, "Impeach the President," features an edited-together Bush rap set to a 100-voice chorus chanting "flip/flop." The album, with Young on Old Black, Rick Rosas on bass and Chad Cromwell on drums, took three days to finish. Yep; that's Neil. No release date is set yet but... hopefully it'll be before November.
(Three whole days -- That's pretty uptight!)
Reader Kevin Beasley calls my attention to this article:
Controversial anti-terror measures planned in the aftermath of the July 7 bombings and brought into force yesterday have been given a hostile reception by MPs and civil liberty lawyers who branded them absurd and a curtailment of free speech.
The new laws, included in the Terrorism Act 2006, make it a criminal offence to say or do anything that glorifies terrorism. They also give more powers to the Government to ban groups which publish material that seeks to support any form of terrorism.
But MPs and civil liberty lawyers said the laws were unnecessary, as there was already legislation in place to combat terrorism.
The Labour MP Jeremy Corbyn described the glorification ban as "absurd". He said: "The legislation is misguided and the whole concept of glorification is frankly absurd, and will end up entrapping the innocent and preventing legitimate debate." He argued that one person's terrorist was another's freedom fighter: "Nelson Mandela was branded a terrorist by Margaret Thatcher," he added.
He said arguing for campaigns such as that to free West Papua from Indonesian rule could leave people exposed to prosecution.
Reader Robin Payne points out this informative essay; an excerpt:
In “The Principles of Newspeak,” an appendix to his novel, 1984, George Orwell wrote:
The purpose of Newspeak was not only to provide a medium of expression for the [Party's] world-view and mental habits ... , but to make all other modes of thought impossible. It was intended that when Newspeak had been adopted once and for all and Oldspeak forgotten, a heretical thought - that is, a thought diverging from the principles of [the Party] - should be literally unthinkable, at least so far as thought is dependent on words. Its vocabulary was so constructed as to give exact and often very subtle expression to every meaning that a Party member could properly wish to express, while excluding all other meanings and also the possibility of arriving at them by indirect methods. This was done partly by the invention of new words, but chiefly by eliminating undesirable words, and by stripping such words as remained of unorthodox meanings... Newspeak was designed not to extend but to diminish the range of thought...
Orwell wrote this as a warning. The Right has apparently adopted it as its strategy....
“Liberalism,” then and now.
Consider, for example, what the word-meisters of The Right have done to the word “liberal.”
Webster’s Dictionary gives us this traditional definition of “liberal:”
“From the latin, liberalis – of or pertaining to a freeman. Favoring reform or progress, as in religion, education, etc.; specifically, favoring political reforms tending toward democracy and personal freedom for the individual. Progressive.”
Throughout our history, up to the late twentieth century, "liberal" has been an honored word, applied approvingly by our founders. George Washington, for example, wrote: "As mankind becomes more liberal, they will be more apt to allow that all those who conduct themselves as worthy members of the community are equally entitled to the protections of civil government. I hope ever to see American among the foremost nations of justice and liberality."
Today, however, the propaganda mills of the right, and especially the regressive screech merchants of AM radio and cable TV, have turned the word “liberal” into an epithet, like a piece of rotten fruit to be hurled at the candidate or political commentator willing to be called a “liberal.” Remember the 2004 GOP ads? “Brie-eating, chardonnay-drinking, latte-sipping, French-speaking, Volvo-driving, New York Times reading, elite liberals.” The word connotes “tax and spend,” “welfare cheats,” bureaucratic interference in “free enterprise,” and a weak military. To Ann Coulter, it means nothing less than “treason.”
Thus it is no surprise that when pollsters ask the ordinary citizens to describe their political orientation, “conservative” comes out ahead, followed by “moderate,” with “liberal” a poor third.
And yet, when the same citizens are asked their opinions on Social Security, Medicare, environmental protection, public education, economic justice, racial tolerance, and the separation of church and state, by substantial majorities they endorse the traditional liberal agenda. In short, the American public remains liberal, even though it has been persuaded to despise and reject the word “liberal....”
In Orwell’s words, right-wing propaganda has succeeded in “eliminating” this “undesirable word,” “liberal,” thus making its original meaning simply “unthinkable.” And there is no word available yet to take its place. So what is the (old-definition) liberal to do? The remedy is simple: drop the word “liberal” and give the program a new name: “progressive.” Unfortunately, it will take some time for this new word for old ideas to take hold in the general population....
Who is a “Conservative.”
Imagine that you meet a visitor from abroad who is fluent in English and well acquainted with American history. However, he knows nothing about contemporary American politics and its rhetoric, and he is eager to learn about it.
You explain that there are two contending political ideologies:
One ideology is out to uproot the founding documents of our republic, the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, and take our society and economy back to the condition it was in over a hundred years ago. The other steadfastly endorses and defends those founding documents, and defends the gains in economic and social justice painfully obtained throughout the history of the American republic.
You then tell the visitor that one of these ideologies calls itself “conservative.” Which one would he reasonably conclude that you were referring to? If he selects the second, he is in agreement with Webster's, which thus defines “conservative:” “The practice of preserving what is established; disposition to oppose change in established institutions and methods.”
How then should one describe this first ideology, which advocates and strives to achieve a return to an earlier condition of the economy and society. Clearly “conservative” won’t do. How about “regressive.” That’s what I’ve chosen, and I urge that you do likewise. If the Democrats were to adopt “regressive” to describe the policies of the Republicans, and if they were to use the word “regressive” persistently in their publications, speeches, and media appearances, it might have a devastating effect on the GOP.
It would help, of course, if the Democrats weren't largely "regressive" themselves!
Five retired generals have called for Donald Rumsfeld's resignation as Secretary of Defense. It is interesting to compare their criticisms with remarks George W. Bush made in a February 2004 interview on MSNBC. Asked about Vietnam, Bush opined:
The thing about the Vietnam War that troubles me as I look back was it was a political war. We had politicians making military decisions, and it is lessons [sic] that any president must learn, and that is to the set the goal and the objective and allow the military to come up with the plans to achieve that objective. And those are essential lessons to be learned from the Vietnam War.
Compare that to this, in the New York Times (Apr. 13; registration required):
A common thread in [the generals'] complaints has been an assertion that Mr. Rumsfeld and his aides too often inserted themselves unnecessarily into military decisionmaking, often disregarding advice from military commanders.
Rumsfeld isn't a politician--but then neither was Robert McNamara.
According to Norman Malcolm's memoir,
Wittgenstein once said that a serious and philosophical work could be written that would consist entirely of jokes (without being facetious).
Ray Monk wants to know if Wittgenstein ever wrote this down himself; and Tim Madigan, in Philosophy Now, wonders what he meant by it. I'm curious whether anyone has ever tried such a thing--I mean the "of jokes" part, not the "without being facetious."