Friday, October 31, 2008

Obama: Luck Egalitarian

Here's an interesting piece from The New Yorker by George Packer. Packer cites a little bit from Obama's exchange with Joe the Plumber:

Obama: I do believe that for folks like me who have worked hard but also frankly been lucky—

Joe: Yeah.

Obama: —I don’t mind paying just a little bit more than the waitress who I just met over there who—things are slow and she can barely make the rent.

And apparently Warren Buffett is also a luck egalitarian:

They have this idea that it’s “their money” and they deserve to keep every penny of it. What they don’t factor in is all the public investment that lets us live the way we do. Take me as an example. I happen to have a talent for allocating capital. But my ability to use that talent is completely dependent on the society I was born into. If I’d been born into a tribe of hunters, this talent of mine would be pretty worthless. I can’t run very fast. I’m not particularly strong. I’d probably end up as some wild animal’s dinner. But I was lucky enough to be born into a time and place where society values my talent, and gave me a good education to develop that talent, and set up the laws and the financial system to let me do what I love doing—and make a lot of money doing it. The least I can do is help pay for all that.

Jeezsch.... Haven't any of these people read Liz Anderson????

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Plato Was Right!!

A new UT poll shows that 23% of Texans believe that Barack Obama is a Muslim.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Obama in Chicago

I just bought a flight to Chicago for November 4. Obama has scheduled an Election Night event (they hope celebration) in Grant Park. Am I being too optimistic?

More importantly: Any other jerk philosophers going?

Friday, October 24, 2008

Sunstein for SCOTUS

A story in the comic-book newspaper, USA Today, lists Cass Sunstein among Obama's possible Supreme Court nominees. How awesome would that be?

Do you think being a Justice on the Court would slow down his publication rate?

Monday, October 20, 2008

Early Voting Rules

All you jerks out there who enjoy the time flexibility that comes along with being an academic should engage in early voting. Give the person who'll be voting after a long day at work on Election Day a break.

BTW, listening to Husker Du's Zen Arcade right now. Take that.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Public Philosophy: Another Failed Attempt

I was just at one of those chain coffee and pastry shops, meeting a student. I ordered a coffee and a pastry. After ringing up the total and apparently finding it too low, the person behind the counter said, "What was your order again? It sounded like you ordered more than that...."

So I repeated my order. Seeing that she had correctly entered it into the register, she said, "I was making it out to be more than it appeared to be." Smiling, I corrected her: "Well, not exactly-- It appeared to you to be more than it is." This must have offended her. In a tone indicating that I had a few things to learn, she replied, "That's... what... I... said."

Spiros 0; Confused Employee, 1.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Intriguing Rawls Quotation

I've always had the highest respect for John Rawls, but reading his Lectures on the History of Political Philosophy has shot his approval ratings sky-high for me. Forget about the minutiae of the Difference Principle, the maximin argument, and all that. Rawls's treatment of the Greats is sufficient to establish him as a world-class philosophical mind.

Here's an intriguing throwaway comment that Rawls makes while discussing Mill:

[Mill] also supposes that we have a permanent interest in knowing the truth. He doesn't entertain the dark thought that one finds in Russian novelists such as Dostoyevsky: witness Ivan's tale of the Grand Inquisitor . . ., that knowing the truth would be horrible, making us disconsolate and ready to support a dictatorial regime to preserve our comforting and necessary illusions. St. Augustine and Dostoyevsky are the two dark minds in Western thought, and the former has shaped it profoundly.

I've checked the index, and this is the only mention of Augustine in the entire book. I know very little about Augustine. Does anyone care to take a guess at what in Augustine Rawls is alluding to here? What's the connection between the Dostoyevsky point and Augustine?

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Worst JFP ad ever?

Where to begin... It's a fucking adjunct position! It cites as a career benefit that the lucky candidates will be trained to use their proprietary online teaching program! It reads like a 4a.m. infomercial! "The Advantages Add Up"!!!


PHILOSOPHY ADJUNCT FACULTY Creative. Caring. Committed. Learn Why A Part-Time UMUC Adjunct Faculty Position Is Ideal For You! Keep Your Day Job. Share Your Expertise. Teach Online Or In-Person. At University of Maryland University College (UMUC), we are now hiring talented, part-time adjunct faculty to teach Philosophy Faculty courses on-site and online. You may qualify with a terminal degree (i.e., PhD, DBA, JD, etc.) from a regionally accredited institution. In certain disciplines, candidates with a Master's degree and professional or industry experience and extensive teaching experience may be considered. The Advantages Add Up. * Flexible Schedule—teaching that fits into your work and personal life * Choices—on site or online teaching formats * Training—superior preparation for online teaching with Webtycho, our state-of-the-art proprietary platform * Support—collegial sharing and mentoring * Satisfaction—interaction with highly motivated, non-traditional students We invite you to LEARN MORE or APPLY ONLINE at: The University of Maryland University College has locations in Maryland, Northern Virginia and the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area, as well as on military bases in Europe and Asia. EOE/F/MC/V. Women and minority applicants are strongly encouraged to apply. (179W), posted 10/13/08

Monday, October 13, 2008

Review of Brandom

Gotta love ignorant reviews. Here's a review of Brandom's latest.... Hey, at least he "browsed through" the book!

0 of 13 people found the following review helpful:
1.0 out of 5 stars Carrying Coals to Newcastle Via A Rube Goldberg Contraption, September 20, 2008
As far as I can tell and I browsed through this book, this book is extremely obscure, is that Brandom is arguing that one should make reasoned arguments in light of normative committments. Basically Brandom apparently told a large audience of philosphers at Oxford that reasoned arguments are the way to go. Brandom deploys automata theory to back up this viewpoint.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Jobs (?) for Philosophers

I just had a quick read through the JFP. Wow. I'm glad I have a cushy job...

I loved the one department that is hiring for "philosophical psychology," but explicitly does not want a cognitive scientist!

Feel free to bitch.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Jobs for Philosophers

Jobs for Philosophers drops in just 24 hours. I can already sense the tension among the graduate students in my department. And I look forward to reading the horror stories from this crew. My bet is that there won't be many good jobs in your AOS this year anyway. Also: given the financial straits we've placed ourselves in, I think one should expect next year's JFP to be very thin. So do try to get a job this year, ok?

I'll be busy updating letters of recommendation and such and taking full delight in being a comfortably employed philosopher.... because that's the kind of jerk I am.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Game Over for McCain

I just watched last night's debate again.

If it's not game over for McCain by week's end, we will know that political debates are meaningless even as media-fueled exercises in empty rhetoric! Obama trounced on every level, from substance to style to brute oratory. Good night, John.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Meno's Paradox!

I take it you all noticed the cameo appearance of Meno's Paradox in the final question of tonight's Presidential debate. What don't you know and how will you learn it?

Tom Brokaw referred to the question as "zen-like." What an illiterate moron.

Only one book

I was just called by a minor minor news organization to comment on tonight's debate. I don't know why they called me. Apparently some jerk gave my name and number as someone who has expertise in public debate. Go figure.

Anyway, after roughly 15 minutes on the phone discussing different views about what public debate is for, etc., the journalist asked me, off the record (so she said), the following question:

I haven't read any Philosophy since my first year of college, and I don't remember anything about what I read. I'm interested in maybe giving Philosophy another try. I have time to read only one Philosophy book. If I like it, I'll read another. If not, not. What do you recommend?

My answer: Mill's On Liberty.


Thursday, October 2, 2008

New Model Army (punk rock interlude)

A non-philosopher reader recently asked me why I'd stopped blogging about punk rock. That I had stopped somehow escaped my attention. So here goes...

I've acquired several recent releases by New Model Army. NMA was probably my favorite punk band throughout my college years. They struck me as a good example of where punk rock should have gone following the demise of the Clash. Anyway, they've persisted in recording albums and endlessly touring, despite a few serious lineup changes and the death of their founding-member drummer.

I've given the most recent releases a close listen, and I've even checked out the lead singer Justin Sullivan's solo acoustic album. The verdict: Would someone please tell them to fucking stop? None of the new material holds a candle to Ghost of Cain or Thunder and Consolation. They're ruining everything. Mr.Sullivan should disband the unit entirely and record another acoustic album.

And while I'm at it: what the fuck has Billy Bragg done for us lately?