Sunday, 28 January 2007

The Pampered Generation

Are we Baby Boomers pampered? See here. All I know is that when I get old, young people had better jump when I speak.


Here is a lengthy but interesting New York Times story about food. Pay particular attention to the role played by the beef, pork, poultry, egg, and dairy industries, which have a vested interest in keeping people ignorant not only of what they eat but of how it was produced. This is not to excuse consumers, for they have an obligation to acquire information about the foods they eat. With the Internet, it has never been easier to obtain such information. Some ignorance is culpable, after all. Just because there are powerful agents out there who try to keep us ignorant doesn’t mean we’re not responsible, ultimately, for our choices. We’re agents, not patients. We act; we’re not merely acted upon.

Joel Feinberg (1926-2004) on Josiah S. Carberry

If you’ve been reading this blog since its inception (sub nom AnalPhilosopher), you’ll recall my post about Josiah S. Carberry. While typing up today’s journal entry of 20 years ago, I had occasion to examine my correspondence of 28 January 1987. I found this. The writing at the top of the sheet is Joel Feinberg‘s, so I’m sure he’s the one who gave it to me, probably because I asked him about Carberry. It shows Joel’s playfulness, generosity, and impish sense of humor. He was not just a great philosopher and a good man; he was a wonderful teacher and friend. He taught, mentored, and inspired hundreds of graduate students during his long, distinguished career. Some of them, because of his influence, have gone on to do great things. Some of us, in spite of his influence, have gone on to do mediocre things. I miss you, Joel.

Addendum: As incredible as it may sound, I have never heard (or seen) a single disparaging comment about Joel. The man was universally loved. Of how many people can that be said?

Academic Free Riders

Harvard professor Ruth Wisse nails it. Academia is a soft, comfortable, feminine place. (Most male academics I have known are effeminate.) It attracts those who are unable or unwilling to compete in law, commerce, sport, or medicine. It attracts those who believe that talking will solve every problem. It attracts the selfish, the vain, the cynical, the lazy, and the antisocial. It is not a wholesome place. I could leave academia, to be sure, but I’d rather stay and try to reform the place than abandon it to the effete.

The Enemy at Home

Dinesh D’Souza is being vilified by progressives for having the audacity to suggest that they, and not merely the jihadists, are responsible for jihadism. Here is his reply to the critics. I haven’t read his book, but now I want to.

The Times

Someone asked why I bother to read The New York Times, since I complain so much about its partisanship. I read it for a very simple reason: It’s the “best” newspaper in the world.

Twenty Years Ago

1-28-87 Wednesday. I had a great time in Ron Milo’s seminar this afternoon. The topic was J. L. Mackie’s [1917-1981] moral subjectivism or skepticism (he uses both words)—the view that there are no objective values. Now, I came into this seminar thinking that perhaps there are such values, but now I’m convinced that there are not. The world is benign; how could there be any moral pull (equivalent, say, to gravitational pull) on us to do or refrain from doing certain actions? Morality is a creation of human beings; it is not given to us by the world. But if I accept this, then it seems that I’m committed to another proposition: that moral propositions are neither true nor false. They can’t be true or false because truth and falsity are things that we say of the world. If the world doesn’t contain any objective values, then how can we truly state moral propositions about the world? This bothers me. One way out is to use “true” and “false” in another sense, to mean, for example, “true, given the following criteria.” Thus, we could say that dog D ought to win the show because D is better than dog C. D is better than C because D better satisfies the agreed-upon criteria than C. I’m still worried about this, but at least there is hope [for salvaging some sort of objectivity or intersubjectivity].

I made many comments during the seminar. Ron and I had running dialogues at several points, especially when I criticized Mackie’s argument from relativity. Mackie thinks that the fact of variation in moral beliefs provides evidence that there are no objective values. But, as I pointed out in class, there is also another important fact: People objectify their moral attitudes. Doesn’t this provide evidence that there are objective values? It seems that the arguments are analogous, and that they lead to contradictory conclusions. [In other words, if disagreement supports subjectivism, then, by parity of reasoning, agreement supports objectivism.] This generated much discussion. Other participants in the seminar are David Schmidtz, Clark Wolf, Ann Levey, and Barb Hannan. I was thinking about dropping the seminar from my agenda, but if things go this well each week, I won’t. I found today’s seminar extremely interesting. [David teaches at the University of Arizona, Clark at Iowa State University, Ann at the University of Calgary, and Barb at the University of New Mexico.]

This morning I lectured on act utilitarianism to my honors students. I distinguished the terms “permissible,” “forbidden,” and “obligatory,” showing how they are related logically to one another. This, I pointed out, is an instance of locating concepts in logical space. I’m really impressed by these students. Compared to others, they are attentive, challenging, critical, and knowledgable. I never have any trouble getting a conversation going, and sometimes I have to cut them off. They also challenge each other. When this happens, I have to act as referee. One thing is clear: When I take a job at another university, I’ll regret not having such bright students. The brighter the students, the more I learn.

What’s Their Real Problem with the Bush Library? (It’s the Bush Part)

See here.

Addendum: My title is a subversive play on this one. See? Two can play the game.

Lincoln Allison on Totalitarianism

The totalitarian outlook turns everything into politics, makes the legitimacy of government depend on orthodoxy in all fields and thus opens the possibility of the most comprehensive crushing of people’s creative and intellectual capacities.

(Lincoln Allison, Right Principles: A Conservative Philosophy of Politics [Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1984], 158)


Here is a New York Times story about Senator Barack Obama. To be honest, I don’t know enough about him to know whether I could support him in 2008. Does anyone? If and when he becomes a presidential candidate, he will get picked apart by journalists. By the summer of 2008, we will know everything about him, including his favorite color, which brand of cigarettes he smokes, and the names of his animal companions. Isn’t politics great?

From Today’s New York Times

To the Editor:

In “Why Are There So Many Single Americans?” (Week in Review, Jan. 21), you report on a variety of expert explanations as to why college-educated men and women marry in greater numbers than their non-college-educated counterparts. But the analysis leaves out one salient possibility: college or graduate school as a social space.

I am in my 20s, and of my married, college-educated friends, the majority first met their spouses in college or graduate school. The social environment outside of college is simply less conducive to finding a like-minded spouse; the effects of college life should not be discounted.

L. David Peters
New Haven, Jan. 22, 2007


The New York Times wants to raise taxes. Of course, the Times won’t come out and say that. Instead, it says, “Mr. Bush’s tax cuts should largely be allowed to expire.” Is anyone surprised, either by the position itself or by the disingenuous rhetoric?

A Year Ago


Burt Munro

Early this morning (midnight to two o’clock), I watched The World’s Fastest Indian (2005) on HDNet, in high definition. It’s about New Zealander Burt Munro (played by Anthony Hopkins), who traveled halfway around the world to race his motorcycle at the Bonneville Salt Flats. I enjoyed it. Has anyone else seen it? By the way, the flats—and many other locales in the Great Basin—are named after Benjamin Bonneville, the great explorer of the American West.

Safire on Language