Saturday, 14 July 2007

When Philosophers Compete

Peg Kaplan brought this video to my attention. Thanks, Peg! For what it’s worth, the British philosophers—Hobbes, Locke, Berkeley, Hume, Smith, Mill, Sidgwick, Russell, Moore, Ryle, Ross, Ayer, Hare, et al.—would kick the asses of the Greeks and Germans.

Yankee Watch

Both the Boston Red Sox and the New York Yankees won today. Boston’s magic number to eliminate New York is down to 64.


Here is a New York Times story about one of the organizations—Numbers USA—that derailed the immigration bill. The following paragraph jumped out at me:

“Numbers USA initiated and turbocharged the populist revolt against the immigration reform package,” said Frank Sharry, executive director of the National Immigration Forum, a pro-immigrant advocacy group. “Roy Beck takes people who are upset about illegal immigration for different reasons, including hostility to Latino immigrants, and disciplines them so their message is based on policy rather than race-based arguments or xenophobia.”

Where to begin? First, Frank Sharry is on the other side of the issue from Roy Beck, so he’s hardly a disinterested observer. I’m sure Beck would say similar things about Sharry’s organization. Second, instead of focusing on the policy arguments of Numbers USA, which he admits exist, Sharry questions the motives of its members. This is called poisoning the well. It’s a fallacy. Arguments and motives are not the same. We philosophers teach our students that arguments are to be evaluated on their merits, not on the basis of who makes them or what motivates them. Good people can make bad arguments and bad people good arguments. Third, two can play this game. If opponents of the immigration bill are badly motivated, then so are proponents of the bill. Why would only one side of a debate such as this be badly motivated? Perhaps proponents of the bill are sexually attracted to Latinos and want more of them in this country. Perhaps they’re harboring illegal immigrants and don’t want to get in trouble for it. Perhaps they have a financial interest in open borders. Silly, you say? Exactly. Why speculate about motives when you can engage arguments?


Here is a scene from today’s stage of the Tour de France, won by Linus Gerdemann. The German rider averaged 25.11 miles per hour on the 122.7-mile course. Here is the story. Here is the New York Times report. Here is tomorrow’s stage.

Addendum: To put Gerdemann’s victory in perspective, I rode 60.5 miles today at an average speed of 18.40 miles per hour. Then again, I’m twice his age.

Addendum 2: My pick to win the stage, Christophe Moreau, finished 9th, 3:38 behind Gerdemann.

Addendum 3: Tomorrow’s winner will be Spaniard Alejandro Valverde. He will outsprint six other riders, including American Levi Leipheimer, at the top of the final climb. I predicted before the Tour started that Valverde will be the overall winner.

A Year Ago


From Today’s New York Times

To the Editor:

Re “For Clinton, Faith Intertwines With Political Life” (front page, July 7):

I have no interest in Hillary Rodham Clinton’s religious faith. I care not a whit whether she is an atheist, agnostic or believer; and if the latter, what particular belief she observes.

I only want to know what her plans are for America.

Paul Bloustein
Cincinnati, July 7, 2007

Note from KBJ: Thanks for sharing that with us, Dr Bloustein. I hope you’re not implying that anyone who doesn’t share your view on this matter is unreasonable. Most Americans care very much about the religious faith of their elected representatives (including their president), and they have every right to do so.