Monday, 9 June 2008


Barack Obama hopes Americans won’t notice that he’s running against John McCain rather than George W. Bush.


Here is a scene from today’s stage of the Dauphiné Libéré. Here is tomorrow’s stage.

A Year Ago



The New York Yankees lost today, 3-2. They’re 32-32 on the season. If you’re a Yankee fan, tell me: Will the Bronx Bombs make the playoffs? They’re on pace for a record of 81-81. To win even 90 games, they must go 58-40 the rest of the way, which is a winning percentage of 59.1. Is there any reason to believe they’ll play that well, having played so poorly thus far? If so, what is it?

R. G. Frey on Applied Philosophy

I support wholeheartedly the application of philosophy to practical issues; but it is as well to be aware at the outset of the form which the philosopher’s contribution to these issues takes. It is, as R. M. Hare has impressed upon me, simply this: philosophy is concerned with testing arguments for soundness, and the occupation of the philosopher is to carry out this testing. To this end, he deploys the tools and canons of logic on behalf of accuracy in argument, explores questions of meaning, implication, presupposition, derivation, relation, compatibility, etc., pries into and generates examples and counter-examples, both realistic and hypothetical, and so on. One but only one of the tools he deploys in this task is the analysis of those concepts in which the arguments he is testing are set out; analysis is not, however, an alternative view of what the philosopher is about, in some way competing with his assessment of arguments. By contrast, though he can and doubtless should concern himself with and even soak himself in the factual material pertaining to the specific arguments under his gaze, further increases in this factual material and knowledge are not part of the philosopher’s task as such.

(R. G. Frey, Interests and Rights: The Case Against Animals [Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1980], 2)

Note from KBJ: Frey is right that the philosopher, as such, has no factual expertise. He should have added that the same is true of evaluative expertise. That X is a philosopher does not give X’s values any greater weight. Why should it? Where in my formal study to be a philosopher did I learn correct values? Philosophy is a formal enterprise. It can tell people that they cannot believe both p and q. It cannot tell people which of the propositions, if either, to believe. It can tell people that if they believe r, they must also believe s. It cannot tell people to believe r. The only leverage a philosopher has is the principle of noncontradiction. That may not seem like a lot, but it is.

Note 2 from KBJ: Frey says that “philosophy is concerned with testing arguments for soundness.” A sound argument is a valid argument with true premises. A valid argument is an argument in which the truth of the premises is incompatible with the falsity of the conclusion. I hope you can see that Frey meant “validity” rather than “soundness.” The philosopher is concerned not with the truth of an argument’s premises, but with whether they entail the conclusion. There is one class of truths concerning which the philosopher, as such, has expertise, namely, necessary truths. The philosopher, as such, has no expertise concerning contingent truths.

Note 3 from KBJ: The following propositions are consistent:

1. Keith is a philosopher.
2. Keith makes value judgments.
3. Philosophers, as such, do not make value judgments.

If you understood what I said in my previous notes, you will see why these propositions are consistent.

Bush-Hatin’ Paul

Paul Krugman¹ thinks Barack Obama’s nomination signals the end of racial division in this country. Actually, what it signals is the prevalence of white guilt among Democrats.


¹“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).

From Today’s New York Times

To the Editor:

Re “The Great Immigration Panic” (editorial, June 3):

The anti-immigrant partisans in our country are willing to throw overboard all our rights in their single-minded effort to rid the nation of those who are living among us without residence permits. They are the descendants of the right-wingers of the McCarthy period and the Red Scare and the Palmer Raids after World War I.

Not least is their total disregard for the rights of American citizens. They want to require citizens to prove their citizenship—a total reversal of the “innocent unless proved guilty” requirement in criminal proceedings. They say it is different because this is a civil, not criminal, procedure, as if that makes the practice any less noxious.

Not only that, but American citizen children are threatened with loss of family and their right to grow up in their own country with their parents. This, too, may pass, but how many lives are being wrecked in the meanwhile?

Paul H. Silverstone
New York, June 3, 2008

Note from KBJ: I don’t know of anyone who’s anti-immigrant. I know of many who are anti-illegal-immigrant. It’s a pretty obvious difference, but the letter writer seems unable to grasp it.


Barack Obama’s choice for vice president will be United States Senator James Webb of Virginia. If you’re foolish enough to challenge this prediction, feel free to do so.