Friday, 21 September 2007

Yankee Watch

The Boston Red Sox (91-63) won today, while the New York Yankees (88-65) lost, so Boston’s magic number to eliminate New York is down to seven. (Wasn’t it just in the 60s?) If Boston goes 4-4 the rest of the way, New York will have to go 7-2 to tie.


Tonight, on The O’Reilly Factor, Bill O’Reilly mentioned this story about George Soros, so I thought I’d track it down and link to it.

Twenty Years Ago

9-21-87 Monday. The players of the National Football League have gone on strike. The season is only two weeks old. As usual, the dispute has to do with money. The players claim that all they want is freedom—freedom to play for any team they choose. But this is a public-relations ploy, for freedom translates into dollars. If more than one team wants a player’s services, the value of the player increases. Frankly, I don’t give a damn about the strike. In my view, football shouldn’t even start until baseball is over for the year. It pales in comparison to baseball. But I’m interested in the public debate about the strike. Sportscasters blame both sides. Why? Because it takes two to reach an agreement, and their livelihood hinges on there being football games and other sporting events. Some sportscasters take the side of the fans, saying that the fans are “the only ones who get hurt by strikes.” This is hogwash. If fans were willing to pay more to watch games, there would be plenty of money to go around and the owners and players would settle. What we have is a pie of a certain size and a disagreement over how to divide it. The fans decide (collectively) how big the pie is.

. . .

The subject of my [Introduction to Philosophy] class this evening was creationism, and specifically the debate between evolutionary theorists and so-called creation scientists. Needless to say, I’m not competent to join issue with scientists, so, as I explained to the students, our task will be philosophical: to reconstruct their arguments and try to make sense of the debate. In other words, we were to talk about the debate, not join it. I started with basic terms, such as “science.” After we discussed science, I moved on to theories. Then we combined the two and talked about scientific theories. Finally, I asked whether there are any criteria for distinguishing among scientific theories. Time ran out at about this point, so next time I plan to classify creation science. Some people deny that it’s a theory, while others admit that it’s a theory but deny that it’s a scientific theory. Still others admit that it’s a scientific theory but deny that it’s a good scientific theory. What we have here is a clash of classification schemes. My view is the latter: Creation science is a scientific theory, but a bad one. Better yet, it’s not as good as the theory of evolution.


Here is William Saletan’s review of Steven Pinker’s new book The Stuff of Thought.

Baseball Notes

1. How would you like to be this young man’s agent? He’s this year’s Most Valuable Player in the National League.

2. Someone (Jerry Katz) took me to task for predicting that the New York Yankees will win the American League East Division title. First of all, this is a prediction, not something I want to happen. I have never wavered in my desire for the Yankees to lose. Second, any prediction I made weeks or months ago was based on information then available. Predictions are always based on what is currently the case. Sticking to a prediction out of a misplaced concern for consistency is irrational, and I’m not irrational. By the way, Jerry, the Yankees suck.

3. My adopted Texas Rangers (70-83, .457) are awful. I can barely stand to watch them. They began the month by winning eight of nine games. I was looking into buying World Series tickets. Since then, they have lost nine of 10. Some of the players, such as Brad Wilkerson (.233, lifetime .250) and Nelson Cruz (.221, lifetime .222), should be playing in the minor leagues (if at all), for they cannot hit Major League pitching. The pitching staff stinks, as it has since I moved to the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex in August 1989. If Vicente Padilla (6-10, lifetime 72-71), Wilkerson, or Cruz is on next year’s team, I’m boycotting.

4. One of my colleagues (who almost certainly doesn’t read this blog) is a die-hard fan of the Boston Red Sox. I saw him in the hallway yesterday after I finished teaching Logic. “Your Red Sox are in trouble,” I said. As he reached his office door, he turned and replied, “And what about your Tigers?” “Don’t change the subject,” I said, smiling. He replied, “Fuck you.” I hope he was kidding. I fear he was not.

5. Andruw Jones of the Atlanta Braves went 0-4 tonight against the Milwaukee Brewers, striking out three times and leaving four runners on base. He’s hitting .220. His career batting average is .263. It’s easy to diagnose what’s wrong. He’s swinging for the fences. Watch him. His rear knee goes to the ground on every swing, which means he’s trying to blast the ball into the stratosphere. Hitting 51 home runs two years ago went to his head, and he’s not smart enough to make an adjustment. I consider Jones the most overrated player in Major League Baseball. I’ll be surprised if there’s any demand for Jones during the off-season, when he becomes a free agent.

6. The San Francisco Giants will not sign Barry Bonds to a 2008 contract, according to Bonds. The team is suffering from Bonds fatigue. Aren’t we all?


Here is Peggy Noonan’s latest column. Here is Peg Kaplan’s latest post.

Best of the Web Today



Steven Sanders is a retired professor of philosophy—which, I hasten to add, is not the same as being a retired philosopher! Steven recently started a blog, to which I linked the other day. Here is his post about my teacher Joel Feinberg (1926-2004). I believe that if you visit Steven’s blog (Philosophy Confidential) on a regular basis, you will be both edified and entertained. There is a link to Philosophy Confidential in my blogroll, in case you lose your way. Here is Steven’s latest book, which should be of interest to anyone who enjoys science fiction. I must confess that I’m not much of a fan of science fiction. I’ve always preferred history (particularly American history) to fiction of any kind. I do, however, like The Twilight Zone, Planet of the Apes, and Aliens.

From Today’s New York Times

To the Editor:

Re “Anti-Roe and Pro-Rudy” (Op-Ed, Sept. 14):

Despite Eric Johnston’s reasoned argument against Roe v. Wade and its constitutional weaknesses, he falters when he states that “the end of Roe means letting the people decide, state by state, about abortion.”

What the anti-abortionists fail to realize is that the people do decide about abortion. The Roe decision simply allows each woman to make the choice for herself and to be protected from any subsequent prosecution; certainly it does not mandate abortions.

As someone as fervently pro-choice as Mr. Johnson [sic] is pro-life, I would never impose my ideology on another, something that the other side would do in a thrice.

Pamela Matson
New York, Sept. 14, 2007

Note from KBJ: By the letter writer’s logic, we should allow individuals to decide for themselves whether to murder. After all, we wouldn’t want to impose our anti-murder ideology on anyone.


I like Paul Krugman’s* blog (so far). Today, he writes about something within his realm of expertise, which is economics. I wish he would stay there, instead of opining on war, law, politics, journalism, and everything else under the sun. Surely Krugman understands the doctrine of comparative advantage. If I want legal analysis, I’ll go to a legal expert. If I want military analysis, I’ll go to a military expert. If I want political analysis, I’ll go to a political expert. As for value judgments, the fact that Krugman is a trained economist doesn’t make him a moral expert. His values mean no more to me than those of any randomly selected person. For example, who cares that Krugman is an egalitarian? Unless he can show why I, Keith, am committed to egalitarianism by something I already believe or value, he’s just blowing hot air. This goes both ways, of course. Krugman should not care one whit about my values. That I’m trained in philosophy (or law) doesn’t give them any greater weight. What he might care about is any conceptual analysis I conduct, for in that I (qua trained philosopher) have a comparative advantage over him. I also see flashes of wit and humor in Krugman’s blog that rarely come through in his op-ed columns, which are quite boorish (and sometimes thuggish).

* “Op-Ed columnist Paul Krugman has the disturbing habit of shaping, slicing and selectively citing numbers in a fashion that pleases his acolytes but leaves him open to substantive assaults” (Daniel Okrent, “13 Things I Meant to Write About but Never Did,” The New York Times, 22 May 2005).

John Stuart Mill’s Autobiography, Paragraph 4

A man who, in his own practice, so vigorously acted up to the principle of losing no time, was likely to adhere to the same rule in the instruction of his pupil. I have no remembrance of the time when I began to learn Greek. I have been told that it was when I was three years old. My earliest recollection on the subject, is that of committing to memory what my father termed Vocables, being lists of common Greek words, with their signification in English, which he wrote out for me on cards. Of grammar, until some years later, I learnt no more than the inflexions of the nouns and verbs, but, after a course of vocables, proceeded at once to translation; and I faintly remember going through Æsop’s Fables, the first Greek book which I read. The Anabasis, which I remember better, was the second. I learnt no Latin until my eighth year. At that time I had read, under my father’s tuition, a number of Greek prose authors, among whom I remember the whole of Herodotus, and of Xenophon’s Cyropædia and Memorials of Socrates; some of the lives of the philosophers by Diogenes Laertius; part of Lucian, and Isocrates’ ad Demonicum and ad Nicoclem. I also read, in 1813, the first six dialogues (in the common arrangement) of Plato, from the Euthyphron to the Theætetus inclusive: which last dialogue, I venture to think, would have been better omitted, as it was totally impossible I should understand it. But my father, in all his teaching, demanded of me not only the utmost that I could do, but much that I could by no possibility have done. What he was himself willing to undergo for the sake of my instruction, may be judged from the fact, that I went through the whole process of preparing my Greek lessons in the same room and at the same table at which he was writing: and as in those days Greek and English lexicons were not, and I could make no more use of a Greek and Latin lexicon than could be made without having yet begun to learn Latin, I was forced to have recourse to him for the meaning of every word which I did not know. This incessant interruption, he, one of the most impatient of men, submitted to, and wrote under that interruption several volumes of his History and all else that he had to write during those years.

Note from KBJ: Memory is important in any sort of learning, but it’s crucial in the learning of a language, whether natural (as in the case of Mill learning Greek) or artificial (as in the case of students learning formal logic). On the first day of every Logic course I teach, I advise my students to prepare flash cards for the many terms they will be learning (such as “argument,” “deduction,” “induction,” “premise,” “conclusion,” “valid,” and “sound”). I doubt that many students take my advice, which is why they don’t do as well as they might. Some students, I suspect, view it as childish to prepare flash cards. Ha! It’s how law-school graduates, who have everything on the line, prepare for the bar exam. During the summer of 1983, when I studied for the Michigan Bar Examination, I had hundreds of flash cards, which I meticulously prepared and which I cycled through as I went about my business. While driving, for example, I would place the stack of cards on the console. I would glance down at the top card and try to state the definition. When I thought I had it, I would turn the card over and see. If I got it wrong, I would put the card back down and try again. Once I got it right, I would put the card on the bottom of the stack and go to the next one. I went through this stack dozens of times, and it was a large stack! To this day, I can recite from memory many of the definitions. “Burglary,” for example, means (at common law) the breaking and entering of a dwelling place in the nighttime with the specific intent to commit a felony or petty larceny therein. “Larceny” is the taking and carrying away of the personal property of another with the intent to permanently deprive the owner thereof. I had no idea, when I began studying for the bar exam, that my memory was as good as it is.

False Philosophy

Jenny Teichman criticizes Peter Singer.

A Year Ago