We recently had the latest Heidegger scandal, and now we have Louis Menand on the increasingly bizarre case of Paul DeMan, whom Menand plausibly describes as a "sociopath" rather than simply a Nazi collaborator and anti-semite, given his many years of fraud, misrepresentations, and lies. Of course, Menand has another aim, namely, to defend DeMan's work in literary theory, to defend (remarkably) its "rigor." At moments like this, one realizes that even words like "rigor" require indexicals attached, since "rigor a la Menand" has nothing to do with what you might have thought the word meant, as anyone who has read DeMan's "rigorous" misreadings of Nietzsche will know. In any case, a somewhat less forgiving account than Menand's of DeMan's bizarre life is here.
Philosopher Justin Tiehen (Puget Sound) writes to share this curious story:
You might be aware that the Ultimate Warrior, an extremely famous professional wrestler, died yesterday. (It's been in the news, and the guy was famous enough that people who don't follow wrestling at all are still sometimes vaguely aware of him.) Anyway, after retiring from wrestling he became a motivational speaker and life coach. For reasons that are somewhat opaque, this involved him creating a website where he posted a glossary of "the world's philosophies," with entries on behaviorism, consequentialism, deontology, existentailism, general semantics, and on and on. Just to give you a sense, here is the entry on Kantianism.
"This is the exact opposite of Objectivism. It's epistemology is faith-eaten and mystic- appeasing. It's metaphysics is subjective, it's ethics are altruistic and it's politics are collectivistic. Kant created the exact opposite of what constitutes a philosophy based on reason. His "argument" consists of equivocations, elaborate straw-men (the entire Critique of Pure Reason for example), etc. He was quite an evil person."
As you can gather, the Ultimate Warrior was apparently a Randian. Many of his other entries also come from a Randian perspective.
This is very funny, from Cockburn's Washington Babylon
Leon Wieseltier: ‘You let me flap this bug with gilded wings/This painted child of dirt that stinks and stings . . .’ The Tartuffe of Babylon, stabled at The New Republic where he has led the life of a second-tier literary dilettante . . . paltering with the interns, whose duties included walking his dog. Fainéant, full of pathetic self-conceit, Wieseltier evokes London’s Grub Street of the 1890s, whose Bohemian poseurs were so well recorded by Max Beerbohm (though Wieseltier would not have the courage to make a pact with the Devil, as did Enoch Soames). Cover story for a life of marked, though no doubt merciful, lack of productivity, is that he is at work on a ‘book about sighing’.
Che-Ing Su, a Taiwanese PhD student in philosophy at the University of Melbourne, writes:
The democracy of my country, Taiwan is in a serious crisis. Since your website 'Leiter Report' is constantly visited by many many philosophers, may I beg you a big favor?
The ruling party of my country is pushing for a trade pact with China. In my opinion, this trade pact will seriously damage our democracy. It is because the trade pact allows China to substantially control the banking system, communication industry and publishing industry of Taiwan.
To protest against the ruling party, hundreds of university students has been occupying our parliament for around two weeks. And, there was a 500-thousand people protest on last Sunday to support the students.
I think, it might be useful to the situation, if we can get more international attention. (Though, what I can do is little.) Therefore, may I beg you a big favor: do you mind posting the following CNN news on your Facebook or Twitter or website 'Leiter Report'?
Vince Vitale teaches at the Center for Christian Apologetics at Oxford and is featured in this slightly ridiculous video. Is this what Christian Apologetics has become? Yikes!
(Thanks to Michael Lopresto for the pointer.)
UPDATE: A philosopher really at Oxford writes:
Your most recent blog post is a reminder quite how subtle “Oxford” is as a term. Vince Vitale, although described as “a philosopher teaching at Oxford University”, is not a member of the Oxford Philosophy Faculty and so far as I can ascertain is not employed by the University of Oxford. He is an employee of Wycliffe Hall, one of the “Permanent Private Halls” (PPHs) in Oxford, a collection of small, religious institutions in Oxford with a somewhat complicated relationship with the main University. The PPHs are licensed by the University to admit undergraduates and graduate students who can enter for Oxford degrees, but their staff are (by and large, and in the particular case of Dr. Vitale) not employed by the University and the University has no say in their appointment. (Dr. Vitale is affiliated to the Faculty of Theology, which is standard for academics in a given field appointed by a PPH or college, but (I believe) the Theology Faculty will have played no part in his appointment.) There is more information available about the PPHs in a recent Oxford University internal review at http://www.ox.ac.uk/gazette/2007-8/supps/1_vol138.pdf; see in particular pp.43-44 for discussion of Wycliffe Hall.
Similarly, the “Oxford Centre for Christian Apologetics” is not part of Oxford University in any way, though it does have an affiliation with Wycliffe Hall (and though its website is a little coy on the matter).
None of this is intended to imply anything one way or another about Dr. Vitale – who I do not know - or his research (though I share your reservations about the video) but just to provide a bit of context.
This makes it vivid. Part of the problem, unnoted in the linked article, is the ease with which so many U.S. states, including California, grant "exemptions" to supposedly mandatory vaccination schemes based on "religious" or "philosophical" objections. (Having a "philosophical" objection requires checking a box, not giving an argument, in the California system.)
Interesting. Many readers will be too young to remember Abe "I'm writing as bad as I can" Rosenthal, a classic product of New York Times in-breeding, who rose to be editor and then brainless and barely literate columnist. He combined the insight of David Brooks with the literary talent of Thomas Friedman!
There must be more to the "science" than what is described here:
They begin with a puppet show. In this show, a gray cat is seen trying to open a big plastic box. The cat tries repeatedly, but he just can't open the lid all the way. A bunny in a green T-shirt comes along and helps open the box. Then the scenario is repeated, but this time a bunny in an orange T-shirt comes along and slams the box shut before running away. The green bunny is nice and helpful. The orange bunny is mean and unhelpful.
The baby is then presented with the two bunnies from the show. A staff member who doesn't know which bunny was mean and which bunny was nice will offer both bunnies at the same time to the baby. The baby's mother, who is usually present during the study, closes her eyes so as not to influence the baby in any way.
Which bunny do the babies choose? More than 80% of the babies in the study showed their preference for the good bunny, either by reaching for the good bunny or staring at it. And with 3-month-olds, that number goes higher, to 87%.
As described, the result is obviously equally compatible with the hypothesis that babies are born with an innate sense of self-interest. So what's the real story here? Additional links welcome. (Thanks to Mark Couch for the pointer.)
Jonathan Dancy (Texas/Reading) sends along this quite interesting review by William Mann, the senior classical music critic of the Times of London, that appeared on December 27, 1963:
The outstanding English composers of 1963 must seem to have been John Lennon and Paul McCartney, the talented young musicians from Liverpool whose songs have been sweeping the country since last Christmas, whether performed by their own group, the Beatles, or by the numerous other teams of English troubadours that they also supply with songs.
I am not concerned here with the social phenomenon of Beatlemania, which finds expression in handbags, balloons and other articles bearing the likenesses of the loved ones, or in the hysterical screaming of young girls whenever the Beatle Quartet performs in public, but with the musical phenomenon. For several decades, in fact since the decline of the music-hall, England has taken her popular songs from the United States, either directly or by mimicry. But the songs of Lennon and McCartney are distinctly indigenous in character, the most imaginative and inventive examples of a style that has been developing on Merseyside during the past few years. And there is a nice, rather flattering irony in the news that the Beatles have now become prime favourites in America, too.
The strength of character in pop songs seems, and quite understandably, to be determined usually by the number of composers involved; when three or four people are required to make the original tunesmith's work publicly presentable it is unlikely to retain much individuality or to wear very well. The virtue of the Beatles' repertory is that, apparently, they do it themselves; three of the four are composers, they are versatile instrumentalists, and when they do borrow a song from another repertory, their treatment is idiosyncratic - as when Paul McCartney sings Till There Was You from The Music Man, a cool, easy, tasteful version of this ballad, quite without artificial sentimentality.
Their noisy items are the ones that arouse teenagers' excitement. Glutinous crooning is generally out of fashion these days, and even a songs about 'Misery' sounds fundamentally quite cheerful; the slow, sad song about 'This Boy', which features prominently in Beatle programmes, is expressively unusual for its lugubrious music, but harmonically it is one of their most intriguing, with its chains of pandiationic clusters, and the sentiment is acceptable because voiced cleanly and crisply. But harmonic interest is typical of their quicker songs, too, and one gets the impression that they think simultaneously of harmony and melody, so firmly are the major tonic sevenths and ninths built into their tunes, and the flat submediant key switches, so natural is the Aeolian cadence at the end of Not A Second Time (the chord progression which ends Mahler's Song of the Earth).
Those submediant switches from C major into A flat major, and to a lesser extent mediant ones (eg the octave ascent in the famous I Want To Hold Your Hand) are a trademark of Lennon-McCartney songs - they do not figure much in other pop repertories, or in the Beatles' arrangements of borrowed material - and show signs of becoming a mannerism. The other trademark of their compositions is a firm and purposeful bass line with a musical life of its own; how Lennon and McCartney divide their creative responsibilites I have yet to discover, but it is perhaps significant that Paul is the bass guitarist of the group. It may also be significant that George Harrison's song Don't Bother Me is harmonically a good deal more primitive, though it is nicely enough presented.
I suppose it is the sheer loudness of the music that appeals to Beatle admirers (there is something to be heard even through the squeals) and many parents must have cursed the electric guitar's amplification this Christmas - how fresh and euphonious the ordinary guitars sound in the Beatles' version of Till There Was You - but parents who are still managing to survive the decibels and, after copious repetition over several months, still deriving some musical pleasure from the overhearing, do so because there is a good deal of variety - oh, so welcome in pop music - about what they sing.
The autocratic but not by any means ungrammatical attitude to tonality (closer to, say, Peter Maxwell Davies's carols in O Magnum Mysteriumthan to Gershwin or Loewe or even Lionel Bart); the exhilarating and often quasi-instrumental vocal duetting, sometimes in scat or in falsetto, behind the melodic line; the melismas with altered vowels ('I saw her yesterday-ee-ay') which have not quite become mannered, and the discreet, sometimes subtle, varieties of instrumentation - a suspicion of piano or organ, a few bars of mouth-organ obbligato, an excursion on the claves or maraccas; the translation of African Blues or American western idioms (in Baby It's You, the Magyar 8/8 metre, too) into tough, sensitive Merseyside.
These are some of the qualities that make one wonder with interest what the Beatles, and particularly Lennon and McCartney, will do next, and if America will spoil them or hold on to them, and if their next record will wear as well as the others. They have brought a distinctive and exhilarating flavour into a genre of music that was in danger of ceasing to be music at all.
Two state legislatures, New York and Maryland, and now perhaps Congress are looking to punish those who hold verboten views about Israel. There is a kind of petition here, which also includes links and other information.
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)