Thursday, June 26, 2008

Very Rare Book

Some years ago, I agreed to write a short student-friendly monograph about a particular area of philosophy in which I work for a publisher that was planning a large series of such books. Well, I never really got around to writing the book and the series never really materialized anyway. Amusingly, the book was for years available for "pre-order" on Amazon.com. Roughly a year ago, it disappeared, and I forgot about it.

A few months ago, I was flipping through a few journals I don't read regularly, and found a citation to the non-existent book. The author included it in a "for further discussion, see...." footnote. Hilarious. This reminded me why I don't read that journal.

Now it has been brought to my attention that the book is once again listed on Amazon. However, it is now listed as available from a used dealer. The book, which was listed at roughly $20 when there was some reason to believe it was forthcoming, is for sale "used, like new" at $110!

So tempting.

The Box that Issues Commands

I received yesterday a few complimentary books from an academic press. The books came in a medium-sized cardboard box. On the side of the box there was printed (verbatim):

YOU WILL LIKE THE CONTENTS OF THIS CARTON!!

The double exclamation marks suggest to me that this is a command rather than a prediction. I removed the books. Now the box sits on my desk. It's empty. I'm wondering what I should put in it....

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Charles Taylor Wins Kyoto Prize

The philosopher Charles Taylor has won the 2008 Kyoto Prize for Lifetime Achievement in Arts and Philosophy. The prize is awarded by the Inamori Foundation of Japan. Congrats, Chuck.

It is worth mentioning that this same prize was offered in 1999 to John Rawls, the master of us all. Rawls fought in the Pacific in WWII, and declined the prize upon learning that acceptance required him to have dinner with the Emperor of Japan. Fucking-a right on, Jack!


Apparently Taylor has no in-principle objection to dining with emperors and the like.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

News Flash: The APA Website Still Fucking Sucks!

Two weeks ago today, I posted about how the two APA websites (here and here) are tied for the distinction of being the Suckiest Suck Website That Ever Sucked. At that time, the two sites were identical, despite the APA's claim that the new site was some kind of improvement over the old. At the time, I just figured that Leibniz's Law is not as widely accepted as I'd thought. (If you even understand that last sentence, you're a certified Geek.)

Now I see that the new site is markedly different from the old: it is slower, more disorganized, with smaller type, harder to find information, and annoying graphics that come right out of an HTML for Dummies book. And still no sign of online paper submission for the Pacific! Disgraceful.

Over at the Knowledge and Experience blog there's a discussion brewing about how the data regarding the profession is scant, out of date, and nearly useless. Pile on!

Monday, June 23, 2008

Sentences do not exist.

Apparently George Lakoff, the guru of choice for self-styled "progressives" who suspect that the fact that they don't win arguments is the fault of argumentation itself, has yet again published his1997 book, Moral Politics, under a new title. This time the book is titled The Political Mind: Why You Can't Understand 21st Century American Politics with an 18th Century Brain. The title leads one to wonder what vintage brain one requires in order to understand Lakoff's book. Presumably those already in possession of a 21st Century brain do not need to read the book. And where does that leave the rest of us? No bother. We wouldn't understand.

William Saletan's review from the NY Times Sunday Book Review is worth reading. Saletan gives the following-- quite accurate, I'm afraid-- nutshell of Lakoff's position:

Neuroscience shows that pure facts are a myth and that self-interest is a conservative idea.

One simply needs to ask whether this sentence itself asserts a statement of fact. And it asserts several: (1) "Pure facts are a myth"; (2) "Self-interest is a conservative idea"; (3) "Neuroscience shows that (1) and (2) are the case." One could go on, since (1), (2), and (3) imply or presuppose other facts. But wait! Facts are myths! So Lakoff's thesis is self-referentially incoherent.

For centuries-- since Socrates, in fact-- philosophers have had to debunk this kind of nonsense. The most recent dismantling of this bullshit, and I think most compelling, is Ronald Dworkin's ass-kicking "Objectivity and Truth: You'd Better Believe It."

The incoherence of Lakoff's position is not the only thing wrong here, nor is it the most troubling defect. The really disconcerting aspect of his view is that it robs progressives of the idea that there is good reason to uphold and defend progressive ideals. On Lakoff's view, our political commitments are simply the results of neuro-linguistic training; one is a progressive simply because one has been trained to use certain concepts. Conservatives simply have been trained to use other concepts. The question, "which concepts are right?" is, on Lakoff's view, nonsensical. So he is offering a strategy by which progressive ideals can come to dominate American politics, but the strategy requires relinquishing the belief that those very ideals are worth striving for. What a fraud.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Chicks Think Evil is Hot

A new study shows that men who manifest a "dark triad" of (1) narcissism, (2) impulsive thrill-seeking, and (3) willingness to deceive and exploit have more sex with a greater number of partners than counterparts who do not manifest these traits.

Draw your own conclusions.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Microsoft's Hidden (Deontological) Agenda

I just noticed that my MS WORD program recognizes Kantians as a word, but not Utilitarians, and not Millian or Benthamite. To add insult to injury (and disrespect, I should add), spell check suggests replacing utilitarians with futilitarians.

A deontological plot, no doubt.

Monday, June 16, 2008

For Those Who Need Instructions...

The Boston Globe has provided a helpful guide on how to nap. But, alas, even in something as simple as this, there's a part that manifests fuckedupness. The guide to napping offers the following by way of summary:

So heed the wake-up call: If you want to be your best all day long, at least plan on napping.

I don't get it. How can merely planning to nap help? Assholes.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Tim Russert has a posse

Tim Russert (Meet the Press) has a posse. Wow.


Here.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

DOOM

We're one week into the official presidential race, and, as we all expected, things are getting excessively nasty. A major political magazine has called for Obama to produce proof that he was born in the US! And now a notorious right-wing radio blowhard idiot claims that there's audio of Ms. Obama using the word "whitey." Of course, all of this is symbolic, perhaps better described as subliminal: the message is that Obama isn't "one of us." Racist bullshit.

The Obama folks have launched a website to combat this nonsense: Fight the Smears. It's the right thing to do. But it's sad to see that it has come to this. And so early in the race. The next several months-- until November at least-- will be nauseating.

We're doomed.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

"Philosopher" in the media

Wired Science has a frightfully brief, thus nearly completely useless description of the round table on "What does it mean to be human?" that occurred at the World Science Festival last week. The panel included Daniel Dennett and Patricia Churchland, both of whom are philosophers by training and profession. Yet Wired lists Dennett as a "cognitive scientist" and Churchland as a "neuroethicist." Why are they not identified as philosophers?

This seems to be standard in American media (Is the UK is different?): on the relatively rare occasion on which a philosopher's expertise is appealed to, he or she is not identified as a philosopher. This is but one element in a broader public relations problem the profession has...

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

The APA Website Sucks

Why does the website for the American Philosophical Association suck like a black hole? Why can't they find someone who can properly maintain a webpage? Why is the information so clumsily organized and hard to find? Note how the online submissions for the Central have been closed for more than a week, but there's still no link for online submission to the Pacific (despite a Sept 1 deadline)!

Compare the pages for any comparable professional academic organization, such as APSA.

They are apparently about to unveil a new APA website. Guess what? It sucks too.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Bathroom Wall

I was drunk at a dive bar this weekend, and noticed a curious bit of wisdom on the bathroom wall:

Tolerate love, Practice fuck.

Sounds like it may be good advice....

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Hate to Admit it...

I've never been a fan of Bruce Springsteen (with the exception, of course, of Nebraska), and part of me hates to admit it, but his latest album, Magic, rocks. I've been listening to it alone for days.

Why is it that these days all the best rock and roll is being made by old men?

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Priceless

I've just come from one of my local used book stores with something outstanding: and old and beat-up copy of Hume's Enquiry. It contains lots of underlining (it's always fun to see what others think is important), but no marginal notes, except for a single word after Hume's famous concluding paragraph about how after reading his book, we should set about burning libraries to the ground:

When we run over libraries, persuaded of these principles, what havoc must we make? If we take in out hand any volume; of divinity or school metaphysics, for instance; let us ask, Does it contain any abstract reasoning concerning quantity or number? No. Does it contain any experimental reasoning concerning matter of fact and existence? No. Commit it then to the flames: For it can contain nothing but sophistry and illusion.

Whoever owned this copy of the book wrote in large letters after this paragraph: WRONG.

I paid $1.25 for the book, but its value is far greater than that.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Hours of Pleasure

If you're looking for amusement, visit the web page of Xlibris, a self-described "book publishing company." This outfit is not even a vanity press, since no pretense is made of editorial integrity. The simple deal is this: you have a manuscript-- in the loosest sense of the word-- they produce a book (for a fee, of course), in the loosest sense of the word. The catalogue of books is a joy. Behold the nonsense people will commit to paper!

But this book makes up for it all.... the cover art is worth the price of the book. And don't miss the author pic!

I tried to get a copy via interlibrary loan, but no library owns a copy. So I purchased it. It will make a fine addition to my collection of kook books.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

DOOM, International Edition

Do not miss this story about a schoolteacher named Fan in China who, when the earthquake struck, ran full speed out of his classroom without telling his students to evacuate or even bothering to see if his students were following. When asked why he didn't see the children out, Fan replied:

I have never been a brave man and I'm only really concerned about myself.

When asked whether he feels guilty about abandoning a classroom filled with children, Fan's response is:

I didn't cause the earthquake, so I have no reason to feel guilty
.

When asked to comment on the case of another teacher, named Mr. Tan, who died while shielding 4 of his pupils, all of whom survived, Fan replied:

If every teacher was like Mr Tan, then we'd have no more heroes.

So much doom... I don't even know where to begin. Because he didn't cause the quake, he has no reason to feel ashamed for leaving a room filled with kids to fend for themselves? What the fuck is that? Urgh... sickness.

We're doomed.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Bo Diddley has a posse

Bo Diddley has a posse.

Story here.

Back at the Kook Coffeeshop

Now that the students have all gone to their summer homes, I can safely return to my favorite local coffee shop. It's just me and the kooks.

This morning, I witnessed a young woman introducing her boyfriend to her mother. The mother was obviously caught in that "I'm no old lady" mode: she was wearing clothes intended for teenagers, including the low-riding jeans with exposed thong underwear. Anyway, they chatted about this and that; it all seemed normal. But when the boyfriend excused himself to use the Men's Room, the mother instantly inquired, "He's cute! Are you fucking him yet?"

I suppose I'm getting old....