Tuesday, 10 July 2007

Best of the Web Today



Here is a scene from today’s stage of the Tour de France, won by Fabian Cancellara. The Swiss rider averaged 22.25 miles per hour on the 146.9-mile course. Here is the story. Here is the New York Times report. Here is tomorrow’s stage.

J. J. C. Smart on Political Philosophy

Another branch of study which has traditionally been regarded as part of philosophy is political philosophy. Once more this may be for the historical reason that many great metaphysicians and epistemologists have also written about politics. Of course they have often written about mathematics and physics too, but the fact that these require special mathematical and experimental techniques and expertise may partly explain why they are not taught within philosophy departments. Another reason, no doubt, is the high proportion of conceptual questions which arise in the writings of traditional philosophers who have discussed political theory. However, my own opinion (for what it is worth) is that on the whole there is not much new conceptual work to be done in this area, and what there is can be done with quite an elementary knowledge of general philosophy. Political philosophy is concerned with the best ways of organizing human society and requires empirical more than conceptual ability, and I tend to think that it is probably best done within politics departments of universities. However, this preference is a practical and undogmatic one: there certainly are political philosophers who are fun to have around, and I do not wish to lose their company if they happen to be in my own department! Another reason why I do not want to be too dogmatic about whether political philosophy should be regarded as philosophy proper is that the extension of the term “philosopher” is one of the things which philosophers do not agree about. I have no more academic right to object to a philosophical colleague lecturing about politics than he has to object to me if I encroach on physics. My proposal is pragmatic only and in accordance with a general view that tight departmental boundaries are unjustifiable.

(J. J. C. Smart, “My Semantic Ascents and Descents,” chap. 2 in The Owl of Minerva: Philosophers on Philosophy, ed. Charles J. Bontempo and S. Jack Odell [New York: McGraw-Hill Book Company, 1975], 57-72, at 70)

From Today’s New York Times

To the Editor:

I find it hard to believe that any rational American president, not excluding a future Democrat, would abandon Iraq to Al Qaeda and Iran, the inevitable result of the surrender and pullout that you advocate.

Can you imagine the virulence of Al Qaeda with a failed Iraq as a base? Can you imagine the hegemonic zeal of Iran with Iraq’s oil and control of the Persian Gulf?

America is not leaving Iraq, not now and not for a long time, not unless Congress flies in the face of our national interest, follows the advice of The Times, and forces a surrender by cutting off funds. If that day comes, it will live in infamy as surely as Sept. 11 does.

L. E. Joiner
Framingham, Mass., July 8, 2007

Note from KBJ: I hope nobody thinks I’ve joined the moonbats by calling for a withdrawal of United States forces from Iraq. There are several differences. First, I endorsed the invasion. The aim should have been to remove Saddam Hussein and his sons from power. I have never supported nation building. Second, I have never questioned President Bush’s motives. He means well. He wants not only to make the United States safe, but to stabilize the Middle East. From the outset, the moonbats have ascribed bad motives to the president. Third, I am not opposed to the United States using its military. In other words, I am neither a pacifist nor an isolationist. I just don’t think using it in Iraq is worth the cost. I frankly don’t give a damn about Iraqis.

A Year Ago



A friend from graduate school sent this (click to enlarge):



From the Mailbag

Baseball may have the only real All Star game, but letting the fans vote is ridiculous as is making that determine who has home field advantage for the Series. The team with the better record should have home field advantage. That’s the reward for being the best regular season team. Leave it to baseball to screw that up.