Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Friday, December 07, 2007

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Hegel's Political Philosophy: A Systematic Reading of the Philosophy of Right

I am delighted to say that the wait is over: my new monograph, Hegel's Political Philosophy: A Systematic Reading of the Philosophy of Right, is hot off the press. It is published by Edinburgh University Press and distributed in the United States by Columbia University Press. (It can be found at Amazon.co.uk. Orders in North America can be made here or at Amazon.com---although Columbia has posted the wrong author! I will note when this is changed.)

For a taster:

"Hegel’s Elements of the Philosophy of Right is widely acknowledged to be one of the most important works in the history of political philosophy. It is broadly agreed that Hegel intended this work to be interpreted as a significant part of his greater system of speculative philosophy. Where disagreement occurs is on the question of the relevance of Hegel’s larger philosophical system to understanding his Philosophy of Right.

This is the first book on the subject to take Hegel’s system of speculative philosophy seriously as an important component of any robust understanding of his Philosophy of Right. It sets out the difference between ‘systematic’ and ‘non-systematic’ readings of the text before discussing important, relevant features of Hegel’s system, in particular, the unique structure of his philosophical arguments.

The greater part of the book demonstrates the results of this systematic reading by exploring several areas of Hegel’s political philosophy: his theories of property, punishment, morality, law, monarchy, and war. It is shown that by looking beyond the text to Hegel’s larger philosophical system, we can achieve an improved understanding of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right."

The table of contents are Introduction; Chapter I: System; Chapter II: Property; Chapter III: Punishment; Chapter IV: Morality; Chapter V: Family; Chapter VI: Law; Chapter VII: Monarchy; Chapter VIII: War; Conclusion; Bibliography; Index.

‘A genuinely novel and interesting commentary on Hegel’s Philosophy of Right.’
Professor Mark Bevir, Department of Political Science, University of California, Berkeley

‘A very welcome addition to the literature on Hegel’s political philosophy.’
Professor Stephen Houlgate, Department of Philosophy, University of Warwick


It is my hope this book will make a positive addition to the literature on Hegel's political and legal philosophy, both in terms of clarifying his positions on contentious issues (punishment, law, morality, monarchy, etc.) and ending the so-called 'metaphysical' versus 'non-metaphysical' debate...in favour of a 'systematic' view of Hegel's work (rather than a 'non-systematic' view). This change will allow us to not only make best sense of Hegel's writings, but best capture the fundamental difference between competing interpretive camps on Hegel's work.

(Taking inspiration from Joseph Raz, I took the cover photo for the book and plan to continue this practice with my other books whenever possible.)

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Off to the House of Lords


















I will be offline for the next two days, as I will be travelling shortly to London.

I will be attending a lunch in the House of Lords hosted by Lord (Bhikhu) Parekh and the Academy of Social Sciences, along with several fellow members of the Political Studies Association's Executive Board. After lunch, Baroness Onora O'Neill will give a speech entitled 'Normative Inquire and Social Science'.

Needless to say, I am thrilled at this opportunity, but I will be unable to post new items for the next couple days.

Meanwhile, I urge readers to check updates over at Ethics Etc and Public Reason, as well as contribute to an outstanding post on APA hiring practices at Brian Leiter's "Leiter Reports" blog.

Newcastle's Philosophy Department in Exile
















Philosophy has had a curious history at the University of Newcastle.

The University was once known as "King's College" and a part of the University of Durham. A variety of philosophers of reputation taught at what was then called King's College, Durham, including the famous Hegel scholar John Niemeyer (J. N.) Findlay (although this site fails to note this).

King's College, Durham became the University of Newcastle in 1963. Over the next two decades, Newcastle's philosophy department was home to Michael Bavidge, William Charlton, Jane Heal, and Mary Midgley (pictured above), amongst many others including Louis Arnaud Reid.

In time, the university chose to close the philosophy department about 25 years ago. Ever since, several members of the former department meet regularly for meetings at Midgley's home as "APIS": Applied Philosophy---Ideas Section.

(By way of brief background, philosophy has re-emerged at Newcastle, both through the efforts of Classics ---led by Philip van der Eijk--- and a new Philosophical Studies programme begun by Milan Jaros, in Physics. The latter has been interested in technology and philosophy (given its location as part of Physics in the Faculty of Chemical Engineering(!)), although it has since branched out into aesthetics, epistemology, and ethics all with a very solidly postmodern slant. Perhaps the largest group of philosophers at Newcastle today are found in the new Newcastle Ethics, Legal, and Political Philosophy Group that Peter Jones and I started in 2004. We now have fifty members, composed primarily of academic staff ---from Politics, Law, Classics, and elsewhere--- and graduate students. Philosophy continues to be alive and well at Newcastle despite the closure of its Philosophy Department, and what remains is perhaps one of the largest organized groups of political and legal philosophers at one campus.)

"APIS" is perhaps best characterized as a philosophy department in exile. And what a group they are. Last evening, I presented my paper to them (arguing against expressivist and communicative theories of punishment, championed by Joel Feinberg and Antony Duff). There were about a dozen in the audience, with 88 year old Midgley ensuring tea and chocolate biscuits were readily accessible to all.

The comments and questions period after presenting my paper was simply second to none. In fact, there was something very special about being a part of a community of philosophers interested primarily in seeing only where arguments might lead us and challenging widespread views and no more. If only more departments were more like this...

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

The changing Zeitgeist in British politics


Watch this clip of David Cameron reacting to Prime Minister Gordon Brown's legislative proposals for the coming year. It is certainly not everyday that you see the Prime Minister shake when responding to questions (which he did afterwards). The legacy of New Labour may be coming to an end. (Further details here.)

One reason why I am looking forward to visiting the United States this holiday season


...is the fact that the pound is now worth $2.10. (Details here.)

Friday, October 26, 2007

Should there be a crime of "outraging public decency"?

Outraging public decency

Should there be a crime of "outraging public decency"? Let me begin with a recent case. Today, the BBC has reported that Anthony Anderson (left) has been found guilty of this crime. The details are chilling. Anderson, 27, came across Christine Lakinski, 50, who was dying in a Hartlepool street. Lakinski had suffered from several medical conditions and was trying to carry laminate flooring to her home. She was very clearly in need of immediate medical attention. Anderson saw Lakinski after he had been smoking cannabis and drinking with friends. First, he threw a bucket of water on Lakinski. He then urinated on her --- as a small crowd gathered around laughing, cheering, and recording the incident on a mobile phone --- before covering her in foam. Anderson was pronounced dead at the scene from pancreatic failure. Judge Peter Fox told Anderson: "You violated this woman in an incredible way, and the shocking nature of your acts over a prolonged period of time must mean that a prison sentence of greater length is appropriate in this case." Anderson has been sentenced to three years in prison.

I do not doubt that for many --- perhaps all --- readers this will look like a clear case of what constitutes "outraging public decency." Instead, I want to argue something else: (a) what is wrong about Anderson's actions is not that he offended public decency, but that he both harmed a dying woman and purposefully failed to assist and (b) there is a real epistemological worry about our ability to know "public" "decency" as well.

What should be the object of criminalization?

It seems intuitive to think that what Anderson was not merely wrong, but wrong in a way that should involve the administration of justice. It is clear that what took place was of a criminal nature. But why?

Before moving to worries about how we can know when public decency is offended, let us presume we can know when public decency is offended (or "outraged"). Let us further presuppose that the Anderson case is a clear instance of outraged public decency. Is this why the action should be criminalized?

I am unable to see why Anderson's wrong was criminal because it was a violation of public decency. I completely agree that what Anderson did was criminal, but on different grounds. At little effort or cost to himself, Anderson could have helped Lakinski off the street. He failed to do this. In addition, Anderson could easily have alerted emergency services to aid Lakinski. I take it that we have at least a moral duty of care to our fellow citizens to at least alert emergency services. Am I saying that Anderson shares responsibility for Lakinski's death? I would not have the relevant information to make such a judgement. Instead, what I am saying is that Anderson is at least failing in a general duty of care. This may not be criminal --- in terms of imprisonment --- but may be an object of concern for the justice system.

This wrongful act was coupled with others, including urinating on Lakinski and then covering her with foam. These other wrongful acts are wrongful --- and criminal --- because they were performed with a view to harming Lakinski's dignity. At a minimum, the performance of acts whose purpose is to unjustifiably harm others form a proper object for criminalization.

We can then offer grounds for criminalizing Anderson's behaviour without making any appeal to standards of conventional morality.

Where to find "public" "decency"?

The question then becomes why we would want to offer any such appeal. One reason is that law and morality are not the same. For example, not all immoral acts --- telling a white lie or adultery --- are criminal acts. A second reason is that the moral norm of "public decency" seems too difficult to be of much use. A community is not monolithic: it is a place of difference, even in non-multicultural societies. We should not demand of any society that it have a given "morality" that governs all as no such monolithic view of morality can be found. It is desirable to avoid criminalizing immoral behaviour because we lack a safe yardstick by which to adjudicate the "moral" from the "immoral." Moreover, it seems clear that those acts that might offend public decency can be dealt with in better ways on alternative grounds. I've given just one example here.

For these reasons, I share in the view that Anderson's actions were criminal. However, I do not believe they are criminal (and punishable) because some picture of morality was offended as such, but rather because Anderson clearly acted to harm his victim. The prevention of harm is a better guide to criminalization than honouring conventional morality. (Whatever that is.)

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Greater funding for higher education in the UK

For all UK citizens and residents, a brief reminder of the online e-petition here. The petition reads:

"We the undersigned petition the Prime Minister to increase the provision for teaching and research in all British universities to best secure their international competitiveness.

It is important that the Government not only reaffirm its commitment to higher education, but substantively support this commitment through greater investment. Increased investment beyond current plans should be adopted to support excellence in teaching and research, as well as best secure the international competitiveness of the sector."

Again, the link to this e-petition is here. I strongly encourage readers to support this important petition.

UPDATE: I also strongly recommend UK-based readers to endorse the following petition here which states "We the undersigned petition the Prime Minister to reinstate support funding given to the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) for universities offering courses to students taking equal or lower qualifications than they currently hold. We believe to remove all such funding will remove a vital source of retraining where the skills base has changed over the years and mean only the personally better funded students will have a chance to retrain. We also believe that this sudden funding change will be harmful to universities which are based around the ethos of retraining or continuing skill updates and should be reviewed under the premise of Life Long Learning."

The Journal of Moral Philosophy Group on Facebook

The power of Facebook. Not even one year ago I thought that anyone who was on MySpace was well ahead of the curve. That was until I heard about Facebook and its amazing popularity. Of course, I had to join asap. After joining, I noticed that several journals have Facebook sites. Well, the Journal of Moral Philosophy site on Facebook can be found here. I will be posting information on recent and forthcoming issues on the site, as well as announcements.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Degree classifications

There has been much debate over standards at UK universities. The worry is that now 60% achieve the two highest degree classifications: a first and a "2:1" degree. This has led to accusations that universities must be "dumbing down" because more students achiveve higher marks. In response, university leaders investigated the situation and claimed that we should stick with what we have because there is no clear superior degree classification system.

I am surprised the report does not endorse switching to a system like that found in the United States. In the US, students earn marks such as A, B, C, D, F with additional distinctions made within each mark (such as B+, B, and B-) and where each specific mark is worth x grade points (e.g., A = 4.0, B = 3.0). The scale for marks is commonly:

A = 94-100%
A- = 90-93%
B+ = 87-89%
B = 84-86%
B- = 80-81%
C+ = 77-79%
C = 74-76%
C- = 70-71%
D = 65-69%
F = 1-64%

Contrast this with the UK. Marks are as follows:

1st class honours (1st) = 70-100%
2nd class honours, upper division (2:1) = 60-69%
2nd class honours, lower division (2:2) = 50-59%
3rd class honours (3rd) = 40-49%
Fail = 0-39%

Note the wide differences between marks, for example that 1st class honours contains a range of 30 percentage points while others are ten points. Next note that a 2:1 is not as discriminating amongst the full range of marks as a B- or B+. (For this reason, many British employers ask for final averages and particular exam results.)

Finally, note that different subjects use different ranges. This is the major problem. In the sciences, it is not uncommon for students to earn 88% or higher. In all other subjects, marks above 75% are a rarity and virtually no marks are given above 80%. This means that there is non-standardization across subjects with regards to the full range of marks (e.g., as a medical student has the full range of 70-100% available for a first class degree and the philosophy student only about 70-75 or 70-80%).

One solution to this problem is to mark all students on a 0-100% scale as in the United States. The argument against is that non-science subjects are "inexact" subjects where such precision is impossible. I do not accept this. First, a 100 point scale is used in the US, Canada, and elsewhere for such subjects without problems. Second, is inexactness a worry when discriminating whether to award a mark of 72 or 73% that does not exist between a 93 and 94%? The inexactness worry suggests a difference which does not exist. Finally, if "exact" subjects (i.e., the sciences) we can achieve greater precision, then why not change the full scale for these subjects? A science exam can be 28% incorrect and be awarded a first class for its exactly correct 72%. However, a philosophy or music examination that was more than a quarter wrong would earn no more than (80 - 20 = 60) 60%, bordering on a 2:2. Why should there be such disparity?

The solution to degree classification worries is to introduce a system that is standardized across all subjects and that properly discriminates between similarly situated results. The A, A-, B+, etc. grade point system used in the US and Canada does this job far better than the UK degree classification system. If we want a better system, then we should seriously consider adopting this system.

This is not to say that I am against the current UK degree classification system. Rather, I am simply trying to present a case for moving to an alternative that might be an improvement over what is in place at present and contra the report noted above.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Newcastle Ethics, Legal, and Political Philosophy Group --- Autumn Seminar Series

Since 2004, Peter Jones and I have organized the Newcastle Political Philosophy Group's seminar series. Speakers include an equal mix of external guests and Newcastle staff and students. In addition, the NPPG has held several major conferences.

The Group has always been very popular, now attracting staff and graduate students from all three faculties at Newcastle, including the subjects of Classics, Geography, German, History, Law, Medicine, Philosophical Studies, Politics, Sociology, and several others --- including Town Planning(!). To better reflect the wide variety of philosophical interests of the Group, there has been a re-branding. From Autumn 2007, it is now the Newcastle Ethics, Legal, and Political Philosophy Group. I co-organize the group with my colleague Ian o'Flynn.

We have two workshops lined up. The first will take place in February on the theme 'political participation'. Speakers will include William Maloney, John Parkinson, and Jurg Steiner. The second workshop will be on 'deliberative democracy' and take place in April, with Ian O'Flynn, Robert B. Talisse, and myself.

Our fortnightly speaker series also continues. The autumn schedule is as follows:

3rd October -Dr Adam Swift (Oxford), Legitimate Parental Partiality
24th October - Professor Peter Jones (Newcastle), Group Rights, Public Goods, and Participatory Goods
21st November - Professor Anne Phillips (LSE), Autonomy, Coercion, and Constraint
5th December - Dr Derek Bell (Newcastle), Who should pay the cost of climate change?

All meetings will take place in Politics Building room G6 at the University of Newcastle from 4.00-6.00pm. Meetings are free and open to the public. For more information, then simply contact me at t.brooks at newcastle.ac.uk

I will make an announcement on our spring seminar series and workshops in due course.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Brown's big gamble

As expected, Prime Minister Gordon Brown has made a new announcement on whether to call a general election in the UK. His decision was surprising: there will not be an election for at least one year. Brown claims he was simply waiting for the political party conference season ended before making any accouncement. (Sure...)

This decision was surprising for several reasons. First, persons close to the Prime Minister were hinting that an election may be called. Secondly, the Prime Minister said nothing to quell rumours an election would be called. Thirdly, Brown seemed up for it: he travelled to Iraq to make an announcement on a further reduction of British troops during the Conservative Party conference. (This was a particular no-no as Brown promised to make no such announcements without consulting Parliament, which he never, in fact, did. Of course, Parliament meets again today...rather shocking that he could not wait an extra few days to make the announcement, acting akin to Blair in the attempt to steal headlines, use the military as a political football, and spin positive headlines in his direction.) Fourth, the Labour Party were clearly consulting polls over the weekend, allegedly also using illegal robocalls to assess the likely outcome of an election next month.

There are reasons not to go to the polls quite yet. First, Brown has been Prime Minister only a shortwhile --- it might be helpful for him to take more time defining his term in office (and distancing himself from Tony Blair). Secondly, daylight hours are fewer in winter: this tends to keep turn-out results low (which always help the rightwing, who are more willing to brave rain, dark, etc.). Thirdly, there is no immediate need for an election as such: he can sit tight for quite a while with a decent majority.

However, in my view, his waiting is a big gamble (and probably a mistake). First, when the country voted in the last general election, it was not for Brown to become Prime Minister. His mandate to rule is in at least some sense incomplete. A successful election would solve this worry. Secondly, the country is clearly entering into worse economic times. Bad economic times = poor election results for the incumbent. Thirdly, given the way that constituencies are drawn up, it is not enough for the Conservatives to win an equal total percentage of votes: in fact, they must do at least six percent better (or more). The Conservatives are doing much, much better, but it is very doubtful that they would win an election even if they won a majority of the national vote.

The gamble is that in a year or so we will not think of Brown as a wimp afraid to test his political metal and we will see a decent, not dithering, economy with no more bad news from Iraq and a Conservative Party unable to further capitalize on any gains. All of this seems wildly unlikely. The Conservatives smell blood and can claim a victory in effectively scaring Brown off from calling an election. There is increasing tension between the US and many states in the world with Iran (all very highly worrying), along with an alleged import of nuclear weapon-related materials found by the Israelis in Syria. The repercussions of the Iraq War continue to be felt and things may get worse still than better --- none of this helping Brown.

Brown seems to think this gamble makes sense. World affairs may not reach crises proportions. The housing market may not crash. The domestic economy remains strong, even if weaker than expected. His worry must be (a) inevitable comparisons with Blair and negatively so if Brown was unable to gain as large a majority as Blair had been able to [currently, very likely] and (b) the greater difficulties of making political changes (and define his term in office) with a very small minority or hung Parliament.

I am not a betting man. I would have gone to the polls and won a fairly certain victory now rather than leave things to chance: a week can seem like a year in Politics and one year in the real world is, well, a major gamble. I doubt the gamble will pay off. It will be interesting to watch what happens.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Is lethal injection "cruel and unusual punishment"?

I certainly believe this is true ---as I think it is clear that the death penalty is at least a cruel punishment no matter its form--- but now the U.S. Supreme Court will make a ruling on this question. My hopes are not high that they will ban such executions, although I am hopeful the current Court will offer some signals on what conditions must be satisfied to finally ban all forms of capital punishment in the United States all together. (Details here.)

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

The Legacy of John Rawls - now in paperback!



I am delighted to announce that Fabian Freyenhagen and my collection of essays, The Legacy of John Rawls, is now out in a new paperback edition. It was originally published in 2005. The book is available from Continuum here or at Amazon.co.uk. A blurb:

"John Rawls was unquestionably the most important moral and political philosopher of the last one hundred years. His A Theory of Justice published in 1971 is already a classic text, and his political philosophy is more widely studied than that of any other theorist.

John Rawls was unquestionably the most important moral and political philosopher of the last one hundred years. His A Theory of Justice published in 1971 is already a classic text, and his political philosophy is more widely studied than that of any other theorist. Interest in Rawls's work has increased still further since his recent death and the publication of his complete works, but until now, there has been no single volume that explores the legacy of his work. This book fills the void, making a substantial contribution not only to work on Rawls's thought but to contemporary debates in ethics and justice as well. The book will be of great interest to academics and students in philosophy, politics, and law departments alike."

"This volume belongs in the library of anyone with a serious interest in contemporary political philosophy."

Lawrence B. Solum

Sunday, July 29, 2007

What I do in my spare time



...is, sadly, enjoying places like the Palace of Westminster. I am currently trying to put together a session in the House of Lords and here I am on a wet Wednesday afternoon before heading inside.

Many thanks to Stefan Andreasson for sending this to me...even if I'm never happy with my appearance in photos!

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Six Degrees of Cass Sunstein

Paul Edelman and Tracey George (Vanderbilt Law School) have co-authored a terrific article entitled "Six Degrees of Cass Sunstein: Collaboration Networks in Legal Scholarship" just posted on SSRN (my thanks to Larry Solum for the link). An abstract:

"Degrees of separation is a concept that is intuitive and appealing in popular culture as well as academic discourse: It tells us something about the connectedness of a particular field. It also reveals paths of influence and access. Paul Erdős was the Kevin Bacon of his field - math - coauthoring with a large number of scholars from many institutions and across subfields. Moreover, his work was highly cited and important. Mathematicians talk about their Erdős number (i.e., numbers of degrees of separation) as a sign of their connection to the hub of mathematics: An Erdős number of 2 means a scholar did not co-author with Erdős but did collaborate with someone who did (i.e., an Erdős 1). In this study, we examine collaboration networks in law, searching for the Legal Erdős. We crown Sunstein as the Legal Erdős and name a complete (as possible) list of Sunstein 1s and 2s."

The article is a terrific read, only deepening anyone's admiration for Sunstein. According to Edelmen and George, Sunstein has now produced about 500 works and he continues to make major contributions to virtually every field he has written on.

What is your Sunstein number?

Thursday, June 28, 2007

What do you do after ten years as Prime Minister?

Well, you're questioned by the police about a possible cash-for-peerages scandal, naturally. Details here.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Men don't think attending university is "cool"

An interesting story here about the continuing drop of men enrolling at universities in the UK after finishing school. According to a study noted in the report, women are 25% more likely to attend university.

Friday, June 22, 2007

The best philosophy journals

...as ranked by the European Science Foundation can be found here [see update]. The ESF divides journals into A, B, and C. Some examples:

A
American Philosophical Quarterly
Australasian Journal of Philosophy
British Journal for the History of Philosophy
Economics and Philosophy
Ethics
Journal of Philosophy
Kantian Review
Kant-Studien
Law and Philosophy
Nous
Oxford Studies in Ancient Philosophy
Philosophical Quarterly
Philosophical Review
Philosophy and Phenomenological Research
Philosophy and Public Affairs
Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society
Social Philosophy and Policy
Synthese

B
Archiv für Rechts- und Sozialphilosophie
Asian Philosophy
Canadian Journal of Philosophy
Ethical Theory and Moral Practice
European Journal of Philosophy
Inquiry
International Journal of Philosophical Studies
Journal of Applied Philosophy
Journal of Ethics
Journal of Moral Philosophy
Journal of Political Philosophy
Legal Theory
Political Theory
Ratio
Res Publica
Utilitas

C
Deutsche Zeitschrift für Philosophie
Ethical Perspectives
Filozoficky casopis
Philosophy
Yearbook of the Irish Philosophical Society

The list is much better than previous incarnations, including certain journals of reputation and high standing excluded before. However, there are a number of oddities that remain. For example, it includes Hegel-Jahrbuch and Hegel-Studien, but not the superior Bulletin of the Hegel Society of Great Britain. Nor does the list include Journal of Social Philosophy or a variety of law reviews and politics journals that publish high quality work in philosophy, such as The Universityof Chicago Law Review and American Political Science Review.

There are also a few howlers: Legal Theory a B (and below Law and Philosophy)? Ratio isn't A? Philosophy a C?!?!?!?! Insane.

UPDATE: The link in the first line has been replaced by this new link here.

UPDATE: Link to the new list can be found here

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Call for new members: The Global Justice & Human Rights Group

I am pleased to announce the creation of a new Political Studies Association specialist group Global Justice and Human Rights. The group is led by Simon Caney (Oxford) and myself as co-convenors, Tim Hayward (Edinburgh) as treasurer, and Clare Heyward (Oxford) as secretary. The topic of global justice and human rights is of considerable contemporary interest. Issues, such as terrorism, just war theory, severe poverty and famine, climate change and environmental degradation, as well as the protection and safeguarding of human rights both in the United Kingdom and abroad, will clearly continue to be major areas of global concern for the foreseeable future. The Global Justice and Human Rights specialist group will aim primarily to create a new network amongst political scientists and others to foster and promote the study of these live issues of international affairs. The group will most likely be composed primarily of members working in political theory, although other subfields will be represented as well, such as comparative studies, development studies, and international relations to name a few.

I will post more information on our new website, as well as information on our first meeting provisionally set for next academic year at the University of Oxford. Meanwhile, I am constructing an email list of all persons interested in joining the group. If you or others you know would like to be on this list (and receive updates on group activities), then please contact me by email here. Membership is free---and you need not be a member of the Political Studies Association to join.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

The Global Justice Reader

....is just about finished and can be ordered from Blackwell's here. The blurb for the book is the following:

  • "The Global Justice Reader is a first-of-its kind collection that brings together key foundational and contemporary writings on this important topic in moral and political philosophy.

* Brings together key foundational and contemporary writings on this important topic in moral and political philosophy.

  • * Offers a brief introduction followed by important readings on subjects ranging from sovereignty, human rights, and nationalism to global poverty, terrorism, and international environmental justice.

* Presents the writings of key figures in the field, including Thomas Hobbes, Immanuel Kant, John Rawls, Thomas Pogge, Peter Singer, and many others.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

The Queen's Birthday Honours List

A number of notable people earned Honours from the Queen today, including the philosopher Myles Burnyeat (Cambridge) earning a CBE and the classicist Martin Smith (Durham) earning an OBE. No academic in political science earned honours this round.

In other news, I was delighted to see Christiane Amanpour from CNN and Liberty's Shami Chakrabarti both earn CBE's, and the great footballer Ryan Giggs earn an OBE.

A full list of the Queen's Honours can be found here.

Friday, June 01, 2007

The punishment of paedophiles

Today, the BBC has run the following story:

""Some child sex offenders should be encouraged to seek treatment rather than be sent to prison, the police's child protection chief says. Jim Gamble, of the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (CEOP), said some offenders who viewed child porn could be given a police caution. He believes treatment in the community is a practical way of dealing with the huge scale of the problem. The CEOP was launched in April 2006 to tackle child sex abuse in the UK. Since then the centre has received almost 2,000 reports from the police, members of the public, children and other agencies about child exploitation. Some children's charities criticised Mr Gamble but he pointed out that cautions were already used to manage people who had viewed internet porn. That included 700 people who were convicted earlier this year as part of an internet child pornography inquiry, Operation Ore. "Not everyone does go to prison at the minute. Let's make sure the right people go to prison and let's manage the rest in a way that protects our children best," he told BBC News. Earlier Mr Gamble said the information flow on paedophilia was increasing massively. He suggested that to deal with the scale of the problem, some offenders should receive a police caution and then be managed within the community. "We shouldn't be sending everyone that ever commits an offence - particularly of the viewing kind - to prison. "There are people who have been dealt with by police caution who can be dealt with successfully in a way that allows them to maintain their lives and their families." Mr Gamble said he was not referring to paedophiles who committed violent offences like the rape of a child, but he insisted that some offenders "at the beginning of the spread of abuse may benefit from a police caution and can be managed". He said: "We've got to create an active and real deterrent that diverts them (predators) from committing this offence before they do, and that's something that we're really focused on. "If you're an offender, our message to you today has developed to a stage whereby we're saying 'for goodness' sake, go and get help before you get caught'." Ray Wyre, director of RWA, an independent child protection group that aims to help to rehabilitate sex offenders, said that not everyone who downloaded child pornography was a paedophile. "They see a sentence under pictures that says 'three virgins', or something like that, and they get curious as to what that is, and they download it. It's that easy to have illegal images on your computer." He said people who downloaded child porn were already being given cautions, which led to social services only allowing the offender to have supervised contact with their own children. But Michele Elliot, director of Kidscape, said people who view child pornography should not escape jail. "They are just as guilty as the person taking the photos. If they did not view the child would not be abused, therefore I think these people deserve prison," she said. The Sun's managing editor Graham Dudman told BBC Radio 4's Today's programme that people's reaction to Mr Gamble's comments would be "bafflement, outrage and anger". "Viewing is the same as arranging or taking these photos. If we cannot protect our children by sending predatory paedophiles to prison then we have truly lost the plot." Research by the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC) found that 16% of women and 7% of men claimed to have been sexually abused involving physical contact before the age of 12. That suggests that one in nine pre-teenage children has suffered abuse. The research helped to launch the charity's "full-stop" campaign to counter child abuse.""

My comments? Well, I am quite sympathetic to Gamble's arguments. The horrendous state of our criminal justice system is a result of thinking that putting people in prison for X number of years is a solution to all of society's ills. Nothing could be further from the truth. Sending someone to prison rarely makes them a better person upon release. Violent criminals must be restrained and I am not against the use of prisons where imprisonment is appropriate. I do think it is wise to reconsider our ability to rehabilitate offenders. It is bad enough that a crime took place. Lives are changed forever. It makes no sense to increase the misery. Victims need much, much more support from the government and criminals need much, much more support, too.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Martha Nussbaum on Indian politics

Martha Nussbaum has an article on Indian politics in The Chronicle of Higher Education that can be read here. An excerpt:

"..............The real "clash of civilizations" is not between "Islam" and "the West," but instead within virtually all modern nations — between people who are prepared to live on terms of equal respect with others who are different, and those who seek the protection of homogeneity and the domination of a single "pure" religious and ethnic tradition. At a deeper level, as Gandhi claimed, it is a clash within the individual self, between the urge to dominate and defile the other and a willingness to live respectfully on terms of compassion and equality, with all the vulnerability that such a life entails.

This argument about India suggests a way to see America, which is also torn between two different pictures of itself. One shows the country as good and pure, its enemies as an external "axis of evil." The other picture, the fruit of internal self-criticism, shows America as complex and flawed, torn between forces bent on control and hierarchy and forces that promote democratic equality. At what I've called the Gandhian level, the argument about India shows Americans to themselves as individuals, each of whom is capable of both respect and aggression, both democratic mutuality and anxious domination. Americans have a great deal to gain by learning more about India and pondering the ideas of some of her most significant political thinkers, such as Sir Rabindranath Tagore and Mohandas Gandhi, whose ruminations about nationalism and the roots of violence are intensely pertinent to today's conflicts................"

If you like what you see, then I very strongly recommend you buy her The Clash Within out this week with Belknap/Harvard University Press. As I've recently posted, I absolutely loved the book and conclude my review by saying: "The Clash Within is another remarkable achievement from teh most exciting political philosopher of our age. I cannot recommend it strongly enough."

Thursday, May 24, 2007

The problem with linking truth with power

I am completing a review of Martha Nussbaum's The Clash Within: Democracy, Religious Violence, and India's Future (which I recommend strongly) for the Times Higher Education Supplement. I will post an excerpt and link to my review shortly. However, it is worth noting a passage from the book found on page 262:

"As the philosopher Bernard Williams memorably observed to a gay scholar-activist, who was discussing Foucault's ideas, "If truth is nothing but power, you will always lose.""

Nussbaum notes (on page 375 note 94) that the conference was held at the University of California, Berkeley in memory of Gregory Vlastos and that she believes "Williams oversimplified both Foucault's ideas and those of the speaker."

Nevertheless, I think this is a revealing passage. If truth is power, those without power will not win any battles in presenting truth: no power = no truth. It is another gambit one might throw at the postmodernist, with his/her ready at hand oversimplified, crystal-clear picture of precisely how one should view the world with his/her toolbox at hand of deconstruction and discourse analysis. If Foucault's views are correct, then the postmodernist represents neither truth nor power.

Analytic philosophy, 1 ; postmodernism, 0

Saturday, May 05, 2007

The best places to live in the United States

...and to think none of them mention Connecticut and New England hardly makes an appearance!

Monday, April 30, 2007

Tynemouth Castle in March

Tynemouth Castle in March
Photograph by Thom Brooks

This photo is part of the cover for my Hegel's Political Philosophy: A Systematic Reading of the Philosophy of Right. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2007.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

The Legacy of John Rawls


....will soon be available in a new paperback second edition this Autumn from Continuum! I will include new links when it is hot off the press. It is currently available from Amazon here (for US) and here (for UK).

Thursday, April 05, 2007

What's your "h number"...?

My sincere thanks to Jo Wolff for his post on the Leiter Reports about a new way of doing metrics: the "h number" (or Hirsch number). Jo explains: "A scientist has index h if h of his Np papers have at least h citations each, and the other (Np - h) papers have at most h citations each."

You can download the programme here. It is certainly interesting stuff, although I remain highly sceptical about the use of metrics for research assessment of work in philosophy.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

So who does read the Brooks Blog, anyway?


The graph on the side shows the representation of different countries which visit my site (based on the last 100 visitors). All in all, this site attracts about 100-120 hits per day and more than 24,000 hits since I started the blog nearly one year ago.
My sincere thanks to all of you who visit the site.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

One reason to become a vice-chancellor

...is you get a decent raise each year. The BBC reports:

"UK university chiefs had average pay rises of 7.9% last year, taking the average to £165,105. The Times Higher Education Supplement found the average vice-chancellor's salary rose by £12,000 in 2005-06. The University and College Union pointed out that 43 of them were earning more than the prime minister, with 34 on salaries of £200,000-plus...."

Besides, being Prime Minister is like so overrated....

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Monday, January 15, 2007

New site with journal information

A new website (hosted by wiki) has been created where information about philosophy journals is posted. The site can be found here.

To be honest, I am surprised to find so many interested in such a site. This is not because I think everyone knows all there is to know about journals, but because there is a publication that has far more information about philosophy journals and is far more informative: the directories published by the Philosophy Documentation Center. They publish a two volume everything anyone needs to know about departments, people, societies, publishers, and journals you'd ever want to know. These consist of an American directory (that includes Canada!) and international directory (for all countries other than the US and Canada). I cannot recommend these volumes warmly enough. Don't know where to submit an article? These volumes tell you where to send it, who accepts unsolicited manuscripts, how long to wait, acceptance rates (and acceptance with revisions), how many papers are published per year, etc etc etc. I owe the start of my career, in part, from being introduced to these volumes as a MA student by Dermot Moran.

Of course, these volumes have much information supplied by editors and publishers. As such, one may find they are a bit too generous and self-congratulatory with their self-reporting. In fariness, I've rarely recognized any problems on my own. My fear is that the wiki site will poorly reproduce the helpful information published by the PDC (and updated annually), consisting of various remarks by unsuccessful authors. If the wiki site is managed properly, it may limit the problems I suspect will plague the site. Meanwhile, I strongly recommend readers go out and purchase the two volume set from the PDC. It was one of the very first purchases I had Newcastle make when I came here. No research library can be without it. How's that for a sell......?

Wednesday, January 10, 2007