Useful chart. Note that in addition to the 48 Democratic Senators, 10 Republican Senators have come out squarely against it (a half-dozen Republican Senators support it, most are just quiet). It remains to be seen how things shape up in the House.
A useful take on Bannon & Trump's executive order regarding refugrees and visas. I vote for more incompetence, since we're guaranteed the malevolent intentions.
Note that the author of this anlaysis is a pretty reliable apologist usually for so-called "counterterrorism" efforts. Note this from his assessment of this executive order:
[I]n the rational pursuit of security objectives, you don’t marginalize your expert security agencies and fail to vet your ideas through a normal interagency process. You don’t target the wrong people in nutty ways when you’re rationally pursuing real security objectives.
When do you do these things? You do these things when you’re elevating the symbolic politics of bashing Islam over any actual security interest. You do them when you’ve made a deliberate decision to burden human lives to make a public point. In other words, this is not a document that will cause hardship and misery because of regrettable incidental impacts on people injured in the pursuit of a public good. It will cause hardship and misery for tens or hundreds of thousands of people because that is precisely what it is intended to do.
Here Eliot Cohen, formerly of the George W. Bush Administration, and a longstanding Trump skeptic:
Precisely because the problem is one of temperament and character, it will not get better. It will get worse, as power intoxicates Trump and those around him. It will probably end in calamity—substantial domestic protest and violence, a breakdown of international economic relationships, the collapse of major alliances, or perhaps one or more new wars (even with China) on top of the ones we already have. It will not be surprising in the slightest if his term ends not in four or in eight years, but sooner, with impeachment or removal under the 25th Amendment. The sooner Americans get used to these likelihoods, the better.
There are enough flippable Republican Senators to join Demomcratcs in convicting Trump of impeachable offenses, but first the House has to impeach, and that will require something Paul Ryan doesn't obviously have: a spine. But it's early days, and even Ryan & co. may see the merits of ousting the delusional narcissist.
UPDATE: A propos Ryan, this is funny. (Thanks to Roger Albin for the pointer.)
...and suggests removal may constitute a violation of the Establishment Clause of the Constitution. According to the colleague from whom I got this, this is the first mention of the Establishment Clause being implicated in the Muslim ban.
IHE collects them here. Some are a bit tepid, others foreceful. Note the critical comments by the President of Purdue, Mitch Daniels, the former Republican Governor of Indiana. If President [sic] Bannon and his lapdog Trump can continue to alienate Republicans like Mitch Daniels, impeachment may come sooner rather than later.
I would not endorse all of this, but follow some of the links as well. The one thing which is plainly the case is that Trump and his "inner circle" call the real shots, and he wants to keep it that way: that's the Mafia way, after all.
From a protest in Philly: "Evil plans, tiny hands." "Hands too small, can't build a wall."
Given Trump's personality disorder, one should not underestimate the value of throwing this stuff in his face: if it makes it to the national news, he'll go bananas, and undermine himself. (See again Prof. Wolff's post related to this.)
A striking account of the standoff at the airport. This may be defiance of a court order and it also may be brute incompetence. Either way, the federal judge will not be happy, so this will pay watching. And the fact that a U.S. Senator intervened is remarkable.
Comments are open for more information and links about what's going on.
(Thanks to Ashwini Vasanthakumar for the pointer.)
I hope other universities will follow suit. The biggest obstacle to the fascist proclivities of Trump & Co. will be local and state refusals to comply; the country is too vast, with too many centers of political power, for the gangsters in Washington to succeed without voluntary cooperation from localities and states.
I would urge all U.S. faculty to sign this statement, which was drafted when President [sic] Trump was only proposing a 30-day suspension of visas from certain Muslim countries, as opposed to the actual 90-day suspension he enacted. Mousa Mohammadian, a PhD student in HPS at the University of Notre Dame, who called this to my attention, also shared some examples of the immediate harm and disruption this is causing:
What is happening is truly terrible. A friend of mine, a sociology PhD student at the University of Chicago, is doing her dissertation’s field work in Iran now. She had plan to come back in March and teach her own course but now she cannot. Another friend of mine, a PhD student at CUNY had a flight from UAE to the US some hours after Trump issuing the order. Officials in Abu Dhabi International Airport didn’t let her to take the flight. She is going to miss her second semester, if not the whole opportunity of studying here.
The New York Timesarticle on this calls attention to a philosophy student affected by this malicious stupidity:
Shadi Heidarifar, a philosophy student recently admitted to New York University, said in a message on Twitter that she had spent three years applying to universities in the United States.
“I had to work to save money, gather documents. The application fees were so expensive that a whole family could live for a month” on them, Ms. Heidarifar wrote. When she was accepted recently, she was elated. “But now my entire future is destroyed in one second.”
Per the instructions:
to sign, email your name, [major distinctions], title, affiliation to: email@example.com
By "major distinctions," they clearly mean only things like, "Member, American Academy of Arts & Sciences," or "Nobel Laureate [Physics]." See many of the first names on the statement. (You'll notice that many of the leading representatives of the right-wing Chicago School of Economics have signed this statement, which I was pleased to see.)
Just to add one more immediate consequence of the executive order, students and scholars with the wrong nationality who are studying or working in universities outside the US can no longer attend US conferences. For instance, an Iranian student of mine cannot go to the Central or the Pacific APA meetings as they are within the 90 day period. Needless to say this is not just a loss for the philosophers with the targeted nationalities (though, of course, they are the ones who suffer the most), but to all APA members who’ll no longer be able to interact with these scholars in our conferences.
The even bigger question is what happens after 90 days. My bet is that they settle on vetting procedures that are so onerous and unpleasant as to effectively discourage people from those countries, at least those who have a choice, from even trying to enter.
...offered by the distinguished HPS program at the University of Pittsburgh. Professor Machery tells me that applications will also be considered from students who are first-generation college students and from economically disadvantaged backgrounds, although those are not explicitly mentioned at the website.
Reader Samuel Murray calls these interesting pieces to my attention, Part 1 and Part 2 (more coming), by regular SA writer John Horgan. Some striking remarks from Part 1:
So what makes good philosophy good? What makes it valuable? We wrestled with these questions last year in my philosophy salon when we considered a fascinating paper by David Chalmers, “Why Isn’t There More Progress in Philosophy?”
Chalmers is almost comically passive-aggressive in the paper, veering between defiance and doubt. He opens by insisting that “obviously” philosophy achieves some progress, but the rest of his paper undercuts that modest assertion.
He concedes that whereas scientists do converge on certain answers, “there has not been large collective convergence to the truth on the big questions of philosophy.” A survey of philosophers carried out by Chalmers and a colleague revealed divisions on big questions: What is the relationship between mind and body? How do we know about the external world? Does God exist? Do we have free will?
Philosophers’ attempts to answer such questions, Chalmers remarks, “typically lead not to agreement but to sophisticated disagreement.” That is, progress consists less in defending truth claims than in casting doubt on them. Chalmers calls this “negative progress.”
Chalmers suggests that philosophers’ methods keep improving, and that these refinements constitute progress of a kind. But if improved methods of argumentation still aren’t yielding truth, do they really count as progress? That’s like equating scientific progress with advances in telescopes and microscopes, regardless of whether these instruments discover viruses or pulsars. If philosophers can’t reach agreement on anything, why keep arguing?
And some notable observations from Part 2:
I’m often struck, watching philosophers interact, by their aggression. Scientists can be rough, but less so, on average, than philosophers. Why is that? Because philosophical clashes, unlike scientific ones, cannot be resolved by appeals to data; they are battles of wits.
In “Why Isn’t There More Progress in Philosophy?,” David Chalmers notes that science employs “the observational/experimental method,” which has “the power to compel agreement on the answers to big questions.” In contrast, philosophy relies on “the method of argument,” which does not compel agreement.
Chalmers acknowledges that millennia of philosophical debate have not yielded convergence on big questions. So why do philosophers keep bickering if they can’t arrive at a resolution?
Perhaps philosophy has devolved into mere competition, in which victors are rewarded with fame and glory--more specifically, grants, tenure, book contracts, invitations to Davos and appearances on Charlie Rose.
He concludes Part 2 by suggesting maybe the point of philosophy is like the point of a martial art.
I favor a more plausible hypothesis, due to Nietzsche perhaps unsurprisingly, namely, that philosophers are "advocates who resent that name," who defend their non-rational "hunches" and "inspirations" "with reasons they have sought after the fact" (sec. 5, Beyond Good and Evil). Maybe not all philosophers all the time are like that--some are like Nietzsche's "scholars" (Gelehrten), whose real interests in life lie elsewhere (in family or money or politics), and for whom it is a matter of indifference whether they become a good professional philosopher "or a fungus expert or a chemist" (sec. 6). But "every great philosophy" is "a type of involuntary and unself-conscious memoir" in which "the moral (or immoral) intentions...constitute the true living seed from which the whole plant has always grown" (sec 6). Kant at least had the decency to admit that (to limit reason, to make room for faith!).
Nietzsche to one side, I'm curious to hear what readers think of Mr. Horgan's observations. What is the point of philosophy, insofar as philosophy doesn't seem to make much or any progress?
At least he didn't refer to the media as the Lügenpresse (that must have required some self-restraint). Bannon seems to have forgotten that Trump won because of 100,000 unexpected votes in three states, and that 55% of the electorate didn't vote for his man. (For those who missed it, here's some insight into this weird, stupid man, Stephen Bannon.)
MOVING TO FRONT FROM YESTERDAY: GAO is sending out the following in response to e-mails:
Thank you for your message. If it concerns the request that the Government Accountability Office received from Senator Warren and Congressman Cummings regarding the presidential transition, GAO has already accepted this request in accordance with our established procedures for working with the Congress. We will conduct the work in the same non-partisan, fact-based approach we take with all Congressional requests.
(Thanks to David Ozonoff for passing this on.)
This is circulating on Facebook, and I thought I'd share it here to reach others:
If you want to support Senator Warren's request to audit President Trump's finances for conflicts of interest, the Government Accountability Office says that the most effective way to be sure your support counts is to email two administrators, Katherine Siggerud and Timothy Minnelli, as well as a third email address through which they're tracking people who are urging support for the audit. You can send ONE email addressed to:
Subject line: Re: Audit for President Trump's financial concerns
Dear Ms. Siggerud and Mr. Minnelli,
I’m writing in support of Senator Elizabeth Warren's request for an audit of President Trump's finances, to ensure that no conflicts of interest exist that would prevent him from carrying out the responsibilities of the office without corrupt influence.
IMPORTANT UPDATE: Reader Michael Swanson calls my attention to this, which suggests that e-mailing the GAO may not be that purposeful. It won't be counter-productive, obviously.
Philosopher Jack Zupko (Alberta), editor of Journal of the History of Philosophy, asked me to share this announcement, which I'm happy to do:
The Board of Directors of the Journal of the History of Philosophy has awarded the prize for the best article to appear in volume 54 of theJHP to Jean-Luc Solère for "The Coherence of Bayle's Theory of Toleration," JHP 54.1 (January 2016): 21-46. Professor Solère is Associate Professor of Philosophy at Boston College.
While advisors and committees are important, it can be incredibly helpful to discuss one’s work with peers in a lower-stakes environment, and it can be particularly enlightening to do so with those who take a different approach or have a different focus. Not only that, but there is evidence from psychological research that thinking about problems in relation to persons who are geographically distant can increase creativity. With students in programs from 8 countries and 20 different U.S. states, Virtual Dissertation Groups are a great (free!) way to capture some of these benefits.
The setup is that each member is grouped with two others working on dissertations in the same general area of philosophy. About once a month, one member sends the others a 3-6k word piece of their dissertation to the other two for feedback and comments.
Here's an economist's theory: basically, a kind of loyalty-testing (will you fall on your knife for me?). This fits, of course, what I said long ago about his Mafia mindset. Anyway, this is a plausible hypothesis, and it does seem to cry out for some kind of explanation, since it is so bizarre!
Charles Brittain (ancient philosophy), currently Professor of Classics and Philosophy at Cornell University, will take up a similar post at the University of Toronto beginning with the 2017-18 academic year.
Today I am launching the first episode in the 10-episode series of Hi-Phi Nation, a show that integrates narrative storytelling, journalism, documentary audio, and philosophy. The hope is that it will bring a lot of the public to philosophy that would not otherwise seek it out, and that it can serve as an alternative medium for doing public philosophy. The show is inspired by the best documentary audio, utilizing professional production techniques and soundtracking. Topics for the first season include posthumous harm, the morality of war, music aesthetics, philosophy of language, demarcating science and pseudoscience in the replicability debate, and more. Anyone can listen and subscribe for free here or here.
I've noticed The New York Times, The Washington Post, and CNN all refer to false statements by President [sic] Trump as simply "false": no hedging, none of the "Trump says, but others say," they just declare, correctly and flat out, that what Trump (or sometimes Spicer, his increasingly pathetic spokesperson) have sometimes said is "false." I imagine other outlets are doing this, given the influence of the Times in particular. This is a significant change in practice--even during the campaign, media outlets often hedged. But no more: when the man lies, as he does constantly, the media are reporting that his statements are false.
At the Women's March on Washington on Saturday, filmmaker Michael Moore made a good, concrete suggestion about regularly calling your Senators and Representative regarding Trump mischief. As a start, he proposes targeting Senators to oppose the awful Betsy DeVos as Education Secretary (see his post for the phone number and other info). There's some good reasons for opposing DeVos here, and it also includes direct phone numbers of Senators on the relevant committee; I've copied and pasted those below, for your convenience. If you live in Alaska, South Carolina, Tennessee, Utah, Georgia, Maine, Louisiana, Indiana, Kentucky, North Carolina, Kansas, or Wyoming, it's particulary important to call, so that your Republican Senator knows that you are unhappy with Ms. DeVos. (Democratic Senators should hear from constituents too, so they know not to roll over.) I suggest you keep the message short and simple: "President Trump's nominee has a long record of hostility to public education. Public education has served me and my family well, I want an Education Secretary who supports it wholeheartedly. I expect my Senator to oppose this unqualified nominee."
Below is the list of all Senators on the Senate HELP Committee, who heard testimony from Secretary of Education nominee Betsy DeVos. The first 12 are the Republicans, the rest (from Sen. Murray onward) are Democrats.
If the suit goes forward--at this point, I have no informed opinion to offer--it may present the first direct conflict between Trump and the courts, especially if the court orders that he produce his tax returns. I'll be watching this one!
Story here. Faculty positions will not necessarily be lost, even if the major is, though that remains to be seen. Some of this is due to the wicked Illinois Governor Bruce "country club" Rauner, whose refusal to compromise has prevented a regular budget from being enacted, creating huge pressures on the public universities. Readers will recall that the philosophy major at Western Illinois University was also axed last year.
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)