Thursday, December 31, 2009

Association of Philosophy Journal Editors relaunch

The Association of Philosophy Journal Editors (APJE) was relaunced at the American Philosophical Association--Eastern Division meeting in New York on 28th December. The editors of Ethics, Journal of Moral Philosophy, Journal of Social Philosophy, Philosophical Review, and Public Affairs Quarterly sat on our roundtable. Editors and representatives from any number of journals were also in attendance, including Journal of Ethics and Social Philosophy, Hypatia, Journal of the History of Philosophy, and a number of other journals.

The discussion was outstanding, as expected. One item that arose from discussion was that many journals have rather different methods of conducting reviews. I was particularly impressed by the book review editorial team at Philosophical Review.

Future sessions of APJE will be planned for the future. The plan will probably be to meet once per year at the Eastern with our 2010 proposed topic 'electronic publishing'. More details will be posted when I have them.

In the meantime, my thanks to the editors and authors who took the time to attend this very helpful session. The APJE is back!

APA Committee on the Status of Women

I greatly enjoyed the fantastic session organized by the American Philosophical Association's Committee on the Status of Women on journals held at the Eastern Division meeting. The proceedings of the session will be published and I will note the link when they are. As expected, Sally Haslanger's survey produced some highly interesting results: the results will be released soon (I understand on the SWIP website) and, again, I'll note the link when it is up.

One further item that arose in this session (and the relaunch of the Association of Philosophy Journal Editors session) was that reviewers of journal submissions too often receive little, if any, good advice on reviewing papers. I have been genuinely gobsmacked by how well received my paper on publishing advice (found in the right hand column, upper right, on this blog) has been received. I am now committed to drawing up a new paper on advice on reviewing papers that I will post on this blog probably in the next month or two.

My thanks again to the committee for kindly inviting me to take part in this session. I learned much and I look forward to future discussions.

The Queen's New Years Honours

. . . can be found here. While several academics are honoured, nothing (once more) for those in philosophy or politics. Nevertheless, special congrats also to my Newcastle colleague, John Burn (Professor of Clinical Genetics), who has received a knighthood.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Friday, November 27, 2009

Christian Miller is the Reviews Editor at the Journal of Moral Philosophy

I have an important announcement to make regarding the Journal of Moral Philosophy. Since the JMP signed its first contract in 2003 (launching in 2004), the JMP's Reviews Editor has been my dear friend Fabian Freyenhagen, now at the University of Essex. Fabian has worked tirelessly on behalf of the journal running one of the finest review sections --- running both review articles and book reviews --- as well as having organized a terrific conference on Metaethics at the University of Cambridge a few years ago that we published in 2007. Indeed, Fabian can genuinely claim to have been there from the very beginning: we discussed often and drafted together our initial journal proposal in late 2002. I am sad to announce that Fabian has decided to step down as Reviews Editor, although he will remain on the Advisory Committee of the JMP. He will remain an active member of the board and this is all good news.

Of course, this means that the JMP has a new Reviews Editor. I am particularly delighted to announce that my good friend Christian Miller has accepted my invitation to join the JMP as its new Reviews Editor. He is an Associate Professor of Philosophy at Wake Forest University and warmly approved by JMP the board members. I greatly look forward to working closely with him in further establishing the Journal of Moral Philosophy as a top international journal in the field. Welcome aboard!

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Continuum Ethics book series

Continuum Ethics
A series of books exploring key topics in contemporary ethics and moral philosophy.

Continuum Ethics presents a series of books that will bridge the gap between new research work and undergraduate textbooks. They will provide close examination of key concepts in contemporary moral philosophy. Aimed largely at upper-level undergraduates and research students, they will also appeal to researchers in the field. Authors will be expected to combine philosophical sophistication with an accessible style that can engage the educated reader.
Each volume will introduce its subject within the context of recent developments in moral philosophy. Each book will cover the major thinkers and their key ideas, outline questions raised within the area of concern, and explore possible answers to those questions. Authors will be encouraged to argue for a particular view or views and each volume will present an original contribution to the field. Each book will explore - either throughout the text or in the final chapter(s) - the future of the topic in contemporary ethics and other research areas.

The authors of individual volumes will be experienced teachers of the subject, based in respected departments and will possess a good, accessible written style. Each volume will also feature a brief preface from the series editor.

The series will benefit from a coherent series look, a striking design and effective marketing.
Possible Topics:

Error Theory
Freedom and Morality
Global Justice
Just War
Moral Knowledge
Moral Motivation
Moral Narrative and Personality
Moral Psychology and Character
Moral Realism
Reasons and Rationality

Anyone interested in contributing to this series should contact the series editors:

Thom Brooks (Newcastle) (

Simon Kirchin (Kent) (

Global Justice and Human Rights book series

Announcing two new book series with Edinburgh University Press:

Series Editor: Thom Brooks

"Global justice and human rights" is perhaps the hottest topic today. Studies in Global Justice and Human Rights is a new book series published by Edinburgh University Press. The series aims to publish groundbreaking work in this increasingly popular field. This series will publish leading monographs and edited collections on key topics in the area of global justice and human rights that will be of broad interest to theorists working in politics, international relations, philosophy, and related disciplines.

Topics of particular importance are democracy, global gender justice, global justice, global poverty, human rights, international environmental justice, and just war theory amongst others. This series aspires to publish the leading work in this area with broad interdisciplinary appeal.

Series Editor: Thom Brooks

"Global justice and human rights" is perhaps the hottest topic today. Textbooks in Global Justice and Human Rights is a new book series published by Edinburgh University Press. The series aims to publish groundbreaking work in this increasingly popular field. This series will publish leading introductory textbooks on key topics in the area of global justice and human rights that will be of broad interest to both undergraduate and graduate students in politics, international relations, philosophy, and related disciplines.

We are particularly interested in publishing work in the fields of
• global justice
• human rights
• women and global justice
• global justice and global poverty
• international environmental philosophy
This series aspires to publish the leading textbooks in this area with broad interdisciplinary appeal.

Expressions of interest for BOTH series are most welcome and should be directed to the series editor, Thom Brooks (email:

Edinburgh University Press website:
Global Justice and Human Rights Group:

Friday, November 06, 2009

RAE2008 Panel in Philosophy on "impact"

Published in the Times Higher Education here:

We, the undersigned members of the RAE2008 Philosophy Sub-Panel, wish to register our deep concerns about certain aspects of the research excellence framework Consultation Document which we will be bringing to the attention of the Higher Education Funding Council for England.

One concern relates to the use of impact as a measure of research quality in an area such as philosophy, which is largely (though not wholly) theoretical. We are not opposing the idea of measuring or rewarding impact grounded in excellent research; but we do not accept that the most useful role, intellectually or economically, for impact factors to play is in assessing research quality. If research-driven impact is tightly correlated with research quality then there is no need to add it to the REF methodology; it is superfluous. But in fact we see no reason at all to suppose that impact, on a 10 to 15-year scale, is positively correlated across the range of philosophical sub-areas with research quality. Hence adding impact assessment to REF profiles as a measure of research quality is likely to do positive harm and could lead to seriously distorted assessments of such quality.

Ours is largely a discipline where research aims are pursued for their intrinsic worth. We know that the Government accepts the need for public funding of pure, curiosity-driven research. Those taxpayers who are not happy maintaining the tradition of such research, which goes back all the way to the founding of universities in Europe, can easily be shown the social and economic benefits which have arisen from theoretical research, often in ways which were utterly unpredictable.

Few disciplines, indeed, can claim to have had as much impact, intellectual, cultural and economic, as philosophy has had in its 2,500 year history. It simply does not make sense to judge our discipline in timescales of 10 to 15 years. The emergence of the general programmable computer occurred over sixty years after the investigations of the philosopher Frege into logic and artificial languages, a path-breaking intellectual breakthrough kick-starting a project which laid the intellectual foundations for computer software. And it was almost as long a gap before the pure research into black body radiation by Einstein, Planck and others led to the micro-electronic technology which underwrites the hardware end of modern IT.

It is a fundamental mistake to think that politicians, business leaders or civil servants can devise tests that will spot which curiosity-driven research is likely to bear practical fruit, as big a mistake today as it would have been in Frege or Einstein’s day. In our view, once the government has decided how much pure research should be funded directly from the public purse, it should leave it to academics to decide, on the basis of research quality alone, the relative merits of units of submission. Accordingly, we believe that Hefce should give panels, certainly in the more theoretical subjects, the flexibility to decide how much role impact plays in signalling where the best research is taking place.

We also have concerns about the proposal to merge the philosophy panel with theology. Certainly much good work takes place in philosophy of religion. There is also a lot of top-quality philosophical research in philosophy of physics, economics, politics, mathematics, linguistics, psychology, computer science, medicine and other subjects, and in many of these areas there were considerably more outputs in 2008 than were distinctively relevant to theology. Philosophy is thus an intellectually broad discipline, and it could be damaged if it were to be tied too closely to any other particular discipline; for in each such case only a minority of practitioners would be engaged with it. We appreciate Hefce’s desire to reduce the number of panels, but think that the extreme breadth and inter-disciplinarity of philosophy provides a strong reason not to bind it to any one of its many associated disciplines. Philosophy surely has at least as strong a case for its own panel as area studies, smaller in terms of staff fte last time round and one which can hardly claim to have the intellectual lineage of philosophy.

It is perhaps not widely enough appreciated how very highly UK philosophy is valued throughout the world. We think the current proposals are likely to damage philosophy, and its worldwide reputation, and urge Hefce to reconsider.

Alexander Bird (University of Bristol)
Ruth Chadwick (Cardiff University);
Roger Crisp (University of Oxford);
Jonathan Dancy (University of Reading);
Antony Duff (University of Stirling)
Katherine Hawley (University of St Andrews)
Joanna Hodge (Manchester Metropolitan University)
Christopher Hookway (University of Sheffield);
Stephen Houlgate (University of Warwick)
Peter Lamarque (University of York);
Robin LePoidevin (University of Leeds);
E. J. Lowe (University of Durham)
Michael Martin (University College London);
Suzanne Stern-Gillet (University of Bolton)
Alan Weir (University of Glasgow)

Thursday, October 22, 2009

On measuring the "impact" of research

There have been various debates, such as here, and petitions, such as here, concerning the role of "impact" in the forthcoming Research Excellence Framework (REF) in the UK. British departments (or "units of assessment") are assessed every few years to measure their research quality. The better a department's score, the greater funding it would earn via funding councils. Thus, research excellence pays and highly respected work means ££ in UK higher education circles.

In the past, these evaluations have been somewhat different. For example, the last evaluation was a "Research Assessment Exercise" (RAE) that measured research quality from January 1, 2001 through December 31, 2007. Results were announced in 2008. Departments were measured by the quality of their publications, research environment, and "esteeem" --- and given g.p.a. out of a possible perfect 4.0. Before RAE 2008, departments were ranked in categories of "5" or less.

The current REF plans look likely to assess departments between January 1, 2008 - December 31, 2012 with the results announced in 2013. Publications and environment will remain as categories, but "esteem" will now be replaced by "impact" --- and impact will have a greater weight than esteem. The current proposal is publications 60%, impact 25%, environment 15%.

These plans may look far from unreasonable. After all, why shouldn't impact have some importance? There are several important concerns worth raising:

1. We don't know what "impact" is. What counts as "impact"? Is a popular blog impact? This has not yet been defined.

2. We don't know how "impact" will be measured. It is proposed that per every five-ish department members every unit will offer a "narrative" of "an impact case study": how do we know one narrative is better than another? This is left very unclear.

3. "Impact" in the short-term is bad for UK research in the long-term. The impact period is 2008-12. One problem with this is that departments will do what they can to demonstrate impact for this period because impact in this period will benefit scores. This may be counterproductive to producing long-term impact.

4. There are doubts this is genuinely about justifying higher education funding to the public. For one thing, we may doubt how a department's "impact case study" narrative submitted in REF 2013 will sway the public. One reason to have this doubt is information is readily provided concerning RAE2008 submissions, but most in the public I speak with don't know of the relevant sites, etc.

For another thing, the Times Higher reports today this story:

"[. . .] Academics have reacted angrily to an internal research council document that says that the Government - not the academic community or the public - is the "primary audience" for its campaign to improve the economic and social impact of the research it funds.

The document, leaked to Times Higher Education, outlines the contents of a presentation made to senior staff at the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council. It says: "We need to show (the Government) the importance and relevance of the research we fund to current and future global challenges in order to secure future funding."

Academics are named a "secondary audience" with the public given third priority.

The document says that the campaign "is deliberately blatant in its attempt to address the immediate demand" from the Government to demonstrate impact.

Researchers said the leaked document showed that the research councils were playing politics instead of protecting the interests of scholarship. [. . .]"

5. The REF is already under way! Despite these major concerns, there is a pilot study know on impact . . . that may not be concluded until next year. Thus, it may not be until the REF2013 is halfway finished that we will have any knowledge about how we'll assessed up to 25% of our final scores . . . including the last few years! Thus, today what we do or do not do may or may not count as "impact": we'll be assessed all the same according to a criteria to be announced later that will be applied retrospectively to work that has already happened.

What is the solution? Well, one way forward would be to postpone the measurement of "impact" until post-REF2013. It does not make much sense using an indicator that is still not defined nor tested . . . and won't be so until literally a year or two before the end of the current assessment period. It's important to get these decisions correct. This will not happen by rushing through this proposal.

NOTE: There are echoes here of where the government previously pushed for bibliometric measures to assess all departments, only to withdraw these measures. I would not be surprised if "impact" had the same fate.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

New Poll: 48% Of Republicans Say Obama Does Not Love America -- 27% Say He Does

Details are here. The Party of No is fast becoming the Party of Don't Take Us Seriously.

Petition against "impact" in Research Excellence Framework

. . . can be found here. Please do sign it, if you have not done so already. In less than week, it has attracted over 1,500 signatures. Let us hope it will have an "impact" . . . .

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Friday, October 16, 2009

Publishing Advice for Graduate Students - revised

Readers may know of my "Publishing Advice for Graduate Students" (now downloaded over 4,300 times) which is a revised version of an earlier piece here (downloaded 2,855 times). Needless to say, I have been genuinely overwhelmed at the popularity of these papers. Over the past year or two, I have received much helpful feedback that I have used to revise the more recent paper.

You can find the newly revised "Publishing Advice for Graduate Students (Revised" here. The abstract remains:

"Graduate students often lack concrete advice on publishing. This essay is an attempt to fill this important gap. Advice is given on how to publish everything from book reviews to articles, replies to book chapters, and how to secure both edited book contracts and authored monograph contracts, along with plenty of helpful tips and advice on the publishing world (and how it works) along the way in what is meant to be a comprehensive, concrete guide to publishing that should be of tremendous value to graduate students working in any area of the humanities and social sciences."

Please feel free to distribute the new link widely --- this piece is available for free --- and please let me know how it might be further improved in future.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Academy of Social Sciences announces new Academicians

. . . in today's Times Higher Education here. The full list:

John Allen, professor of economic geography, The Open University
Michael Anyadike-Danes, head of research, Economic Research Institute of Northern Ireland
Vernon Bogdanor, professor of government, University of Oxford
Martyn Bond, visiting professor of European politics and policy, Royal Holloway, University of London
Sophie Bowlby, senior lecturer in geography, University of Reading
Thom Brooks, reader in political and legal philosophy, Newcastle University
Jacquelin Burgess, professor of environmental risk, University of East Anglia
Tim Butler, professor of geography, King's College London
Timothy Clark, professor of organisational behaviour, Durham University
Alistair Cole, professor of European politics, Cardiff University
Diana Coole, professor of political and social theory, Birkbeck, University of London
Douglas Davies, professor in the study of religion, Durham University
Lorraine Dearden, professor of economics and social statistics, Institute of Education
John Dunn, emeritus professor of political theory, University of Cambridge
Lewis Elton, emeritus professor of higher education, University of Surrey
Anthony Forster, pro vice-chancellor for learning and teaching, Durham University
Keith Glaister, dean of the Management School, University of Sheffield
Keith Grint, professor of public leadership and management, University of Warwick
Alexander Haslam, professor of psychology, University of Exeter
Colin Hay, professor of political analysis, University of Sheffield
Robert Hetherington, chief economist, Devon County Council
Celia Hoyles, professor of mathematics education, Institute of Education
Janet Hunter, professor of economic history, London School of Economics
Chris Huxham, professor of management, University of Strathclyde
Ron Iphofen, retired director of postgraduate studies, Bangor University
Michael Keating, professor of politics, University of Aberdeen
Emil Kirchner, professor of European studies, University of Essex
Saville Kushner, professor of public evaluation, University of the West of England
John Leach, professor of science education and dean of education, University of Leeds
Kevin Lee, professor of economics and graduate dean, University of Leicester
Robert Leonardi, director-general of the Sicilian Regional Government's Brussels office
Peter Malpass, professor of housing and urban studies, University of the West of England
John Mingers, professor of operational research and information systems, University of Kent
Michael Moran, professor of government, University of Manchester
Elizabeth Murphy, professor of sociology and pro vice-chancellor, University of Leicester
Emma Murphy, professor of political economy, Durham University
David Nelken, distinguished research professor of law, Cardiff University
Frank Peck, professor of regional economic development, University of Cumbria
John Peterson, professor of international politics, University of Edinburgh
Judith Phillips, professor of gerontology, Swansea University
Bob Picciotto, visiting professor in the department of war studies, King's College London
Laurence Ray, professor of sociology, University of Kent
John Richardson, professor of student learning and assessment, The Open University
Anne Rogers, professor of the sociology of healthcare, University of Manchester
James Rollo, professor of European economic integration, University of Sussex
Thomas Scharf, professor of social gerontology, Keele University
Andrew Scott, professor of European Union studies, University of Edinburgh
Michael Shackleton, extraordinary professor of European institutions, Maastricht University
David Shanks, professor of psychology, University College London
Michael Sheppard, professor of social work, University of Plymouth
David Simon, professor in development geography, Royal Holloway, University of London
Iram Siraj-Blatchford, professor of early-childhood education, Institute of Education
Maria Slowey, vice-president for learning innovation, Dublin City University
Guy Standing, professor of social and economic security, University of Bath
John Stewart, professor of health history, Glasgow Caledonian University
Gerry Stoker, professor of politics and governance, University of Southampton
Michael Swan, freelance writer
Howard Thomas, dean and professor of strategic management, Warwick Business School
Claire Wallace, professor of sociology, University of Aberdeen
Paul Whiteley, professor of government, University of Essex
Allan Williams, emeritus professor in occupational psychology, City University London
David Wilson, deputy dean and professor of strategy at Warwick Business School
Fiona Wishlade, reader in the European Policies Research Centre, University of Strathclyde
Cecilia Wong, professor of spatial planning, University of Manchester.

Monday, October 12, 2009

200,000 hits . . . and counting!

Today, the Brooks Blog reaches a special milestone: the blog now has over 200,000 hits since June 15, 2006. I have really been amazed at how the blog has taken off and become so popular. It's largely been a collection of any number of things from job and conference announcements to noting important papers and a place to note my own work, as well as various bits of humour and music. I remain eternally grateful to Brian Leiter for his warm encouragement over many years to start blogging and, most especially, to my readers. Thank you all!

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

The Academy of Social Sciences and Me

Today, I have just received confirmation that I have been accepted into the Academy of Social Sciences. The announcement is here. The Academy's website notes here the following:

The Academy is delighted to announce the award of Academician status to 64 senior social scientists. The award is for making a significant contribution to the social sciences and is by nomination and peer group review. Speaking about the conferment, the Chair of Council, Professor Cary Cooper CBE AcSS, said:

“I am delighted that we are able to confer the award on such a significant number of distinguished new Academicians. The social sciences have a vital contribution to make towards some of the big issues facing society today, such as sustainability, crime, communities and individual fulfilment and well-being. Conferment of the award will give confidence that the contributions made by Academicians to knowledge production and transfer are well founded, because that are based on rigorous peer group review of the available evidence."

I was nominated by Political Studies Association. Those sharing the honour with me include Vernon Bogdanor CBE (Oxford), Diana Coole (Birkbeck), John Dunn (Cambridge), Colin Hay (Sheffield), Michael Moran (Manchester), Gerry Stoker (Southampton), and Paul Whiteley (Essex) amongst many others.

Saturday, October 03, 2009

Further evidence that Republicans -- the party of "no" -- care more for ideology than country

. . . with the recent evidence widespread delight at Chicago failing to host the 2016 Olympics, as reported here.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Introducting the new UK Supreme Court!

Details here. The 11 judges were sworn in today. The story:

"[. . .] The Supreme Court, housed at Middlesex Guildhall, replaces the Law Lords as the last court of appeal in all matters other than criminal cases in Scotland.

The court is independent of Parliament and will hear the most important cases.

Lord Phillips, President of the Supreme Court, said the change in form was important for judicial openness.

The judicial function of the House of Lords, whose powers had evolved over centuries, ended with the swearing in of Lord Phillips.

The justices wore black robes threaded with gold, replacing the full-bottomed wigs, robes and breeches of the lords.

The £59m Supreme Court has opened six years after it was first announced. Its first members were - until last month - the Law Lords who would have otherwise heard the same cases in the House of Lords.

But the constitutional change that led to the Supreme Court's creation means that Parliament's lawmakers and the judges charged with overseeing legislation have been separated.

Scotland's supreme criminal court remains the High Court of Justiciary.

The swearing-in saw Lord Phillips of Worth Matravers become the first President of the Court.

He was joined by 10 other colleagues in taking an oath of allegiance to uphold the law. A final 12th member of the court will be appointed at a later date.

Lord Phillips said: "This is the last step in the separation of powers in this country. We have come to it fairly gently and gradually, but we have come to the point where the judges are completely separated from the legislature and executive.

"The change is one of transparency. It's going to be very much easier for the public to come to our hearings.

"I would hope that the court is still sitting in 100 years' time and that when people look back at this step that they see it as a very significant step in the constitution of this country."

While only the Law Lords' judgements were televised from Parliament, all of the Supreme Court's hearings will be open to the public.

Its building, in Westminster, includes a public cafe and education facilities. For the first time, television cameras have been fitted into the courtrooms meaning that many hearings will be available to broadcasters.

The Supreme Court sits for the first time later on Thursday to deal with a relatively minor issue relating to legal costs.

Its first major appeal hearing follows next week in a case concerning terrorist suspects whose assets have been frozen.

Although the actual business and workings of the justices will be essentially the same as those of the Law Lords, it will be watched closely to see if the move across Parliament Square will affect the way its decides cases.

One group of influential solicitors and barristers is launching a blog to monitor the Supreme Court's decision-making.

But others have criticised the change, arguing that it is largely a cosmetic exercise."

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Republicans: The Party of "No"

An interesting op-ed by Thomas Friedman can be found here, at the New York Times. An excerpt:

"[. . .] Watching both the health care and climate/energy debates in Congress, it is hard not to draw the following conclusion: There is only one thing worse than one-party autocracy, and that is one-party democracy, which is what we have in America today. [. . .]

[. . .] The fact is, on both the energy/climate legislation and health care legislation, only the Democrats are really playing. With a few notable exceptions, the Republican Party is standing, arms folded and saying “no.” Many of them just want President Obama to fail. Such a waste. Mr. Obama is not a socialist; he’s a centrist. But if he’s forced to depend entirely on his own party to pass legislation, he will be whipsawed by its different factions. [. . .]

[. . .] Can the Republicans even say yes to their own ideas, if they are absorbed by Obama? [. . .]

[. . .] “Just because Obama is on a path to give America the Romney health plan with McCain-style financing, does not mean the Republicans will embrace it — if it seems politically more attractive to scream ‘socialist,’ ” said Miller.

The G.O.P. used to be the party of business. Well, to compete and win in a globalized world, no one needs the burden of health insurance shifted from business to government more than American business. No one needs immigration reform — so the world’s best brainpower can come here without restrictions — more than American business. No one needs a push for clean-tech — the world’s next great global manufacturing industry — more than American business. Yet the G.O.P. today resists national health care, immigration reform and wants to just drill, baby, drill.

“Globalization has neutered the Republican Party, leaving it to represent not the have-nots of the recession but the have-nots of globalized America, the people who have been left behind either in reality or in their fears,” said Edward Goldberg, a global trade consultant who teaches at Baruch College. “The need to compete in a globalized world has forced the meritocracy, the multinational corporate manager, the eastern financier and the technology entrepreneur to reconsider what the Republican Party has to offer. In principle, they have left the party, leaving behind not a pragmatic coalition but a group of ideological naysayers.” [. . .]"

UPDATE: In the Party's efforts to oppose everything Obama states, they do not appear to let facts to the contrary get in their way. Details here.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

How bad is the market for political scientists?

Some sobering analysis can be found here, at InsideHigherEd.

Monday, September 07, 2009

Studies in Global Justice and Human Rights

Studies in Global Justice and Human Rights

Series Editor: Thom Brooks

‘Global justice and human rights’ is perhaps the hottest topic today. Studies in Global Justice and Human Rights is a new book series published by Edinburgh University Press. The series aims to publish groundbreaking work in this increasingly popular field. This series will publish leading monographs and edited collections on key topics in the area of global justice and human rights that will be of broad interest to theorists working in politics, international relations, philosophy, and related disciplines.

Topics of particular importance are democracy, global gender justice, global justice, global poverty, human rights, international environmental justice, and just war theory amongst others. This series aspires to publish the leading work in this area with broad interdisciplinary appeal. EUP books are distributed in North America by various presses, including Columbia University Press, the University of Chicago Press, Palgrave Macmillan, and others.

Expressions of interest are most welcome and should be directed to the series editor, Thom Brooks.

The series is related to the Global Justice and Human Rights Group.

Textbooks in Global Justice and Human Rights

Textbooks in Global Justice and Human Rights

Series Editor: Thom Brooks

‘Global justice and human rights’ is perhaps the hottest topic today. Textbooks in Global Justice and Human Rights is a new book series published by Edinburgh University Press. The series aims to publish groundbreaking work in this increasingly popular field. This series will publish leading introductory textbooks on key topics in the area of global justice and human rights that will be of broad interest to both undergraduate and graduate students in politics, international relations, philosophy, and related disciplines.

We are particularly interested in publishing work in the fields of
· global justice
· human rights
· women and global justice
· global justice and global poverty
· international environmental philosophy
This series aspires to publish the leading textbooks in this area with broad interdisciplinary appeal.

Expressions of interest are most welcome and should be directed to the series editor, Thom Brooks. EUP books are distributed in North America by various presses, including Columbia University Press, the University of Chicago Press, Palgrave Macmillan, and others.

The series springs from the Global Justice and Human Rights Group.

Martha Nussbaum on college advice in the NY Times

. . . can be found here. Short, but on the spot.

The Philosophers' Carnival XCVI

Welcome to the Philosophers' Carnival!

Go on. Pick a tent. There is lots in store!

Tent #1

In the first tent, we have an interesting post on the problem of evil from MandM in part one and part two. Another day, another problem . . .

Tent #2

Over at the second tent, we see It's Only a Theory discussing the question of whether scientific methods and data should be made public here. Of course, you can always go here if you really want to make your mind spin . . . Now if only I knew the method behind my madness . . .

Tent #3

Getting confused amongst so many tempts? Now only if there was an instrumental way to guide oneself through . . . Wait. I've got it. We're in the right tent after all: here we find "King" Richard Chappell at Philosophy Etc discussing 'The Mark of the Instrumental' (and the distinction between instrinsic and instrumental value) here. Intrinsically interesting for instrumental reasons?

Tent #4 how do we know what is in this tent? Well, it looks like we've stumpled upon the right place. Here we find a terrific post on 'the relevant alternative theory of knowledge' from our friends at the Florida Student Philosophy Blog here. But don't just take my word for it: get your counterfactuals (or rather discussion on counterfactuals) here! Now if only I knew who I was . . .

Food Court

Getting hungry? Over at the carnival's world famous food court, we find this post -- from Pet Chatter -- on the question of whether we should all become vegetarians here. Yum, yum!

Tent #5

Now if only there was a good way to describe this tent . . . Hmm. I've got it! Over at The Evolving Mind there is an interesting post here on the problem of loose-fitting words. Sticks and stones may break my bones, but . . .

Tent #6

Over at the Brooks Blog, we find one post here on moral sentiments and the justification of punishment and we learn that the Archbishop of Canterbury attended the Hegel Society of Great Britain conference in Oxford here. Who ever said the Owl of Minerva takes flight only at the onset of dusk . . . ?

Tent #7

Inspired to create your own utopian carnival now that you have enjoyed a day out at this philosophers' carnival? The possibility of utopia is discussed here by Perplexicon. Perhaps utopia is in the eyes of the believer . . . ?

Come again!

I hope that you have enjoyed this edition of the Philosophers' Carnival. Please visit the Carnival website here for information on the next Carnival and how to submit posts. It has been a pleasure hosting you here at the Brooks Blog. Please do come again!

Saturday, September 05, 2009

Archbishop of Canterbury attends Hegel Society of Great Britain's annual conference

(Left to right: Thom Brooks, Stephen Houlgate, Ken Westphal, Rowan Williams) (Photo by Kate Roessler, St Edmund Hall, Oxford)

Readers may know that each year I organize the annual Hegel Society of Great Britain (HSGB) conference: I've done this since 2004. Proceedings normally appear in the Bulletin of the Hegel Society of Great Britain. Each conference is on specific themes with the papers and following discussion excellent.

2009 has proved a special year for our annual conference (on the theme of 'Hegel and Kierkegaard'). Our group of 40+ delegates included His Grace, Dr Rowan Williams. Williams is the Archbishop of Canterbury and head of the world-wide Anglican Church, as well as a remarkable figure more generally. He is the first from Wales to hold this post.

Members of the HSGB Council were able to have lunch with him prior to the conference and he engaged -- with some genuinely excellent questions -- in several discussions. Hopefully, he'll be back at next year's conference (on the theme 'Hegel and Kant' and co-organized with the UK Kant Society) . . .

Fairness and coin flipping

A fascinating post on coin flipping and fairness can be found here. You may never look at coin flipping in the same way again . . .

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Why go to university?

Some reasons include becoming more lucky in love and having more close friends. The curious details are here.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Friday, August 14, 2009

Medicare and the US "debate" over health care

We have heard much in recent days from opponents of health care reform in the US that the government should not run free health care programs. One concern is that government-provided health care is "socialism" and, therefore, "bad" by definition. A second concern is that any government-provided health care program would involve "death panels" where strangers will choose whether or not to pull the plug on grandparents.

How should we respond? First, free government-provided health care provision is already available in the United States. It's called "Medicare" (see here). Medicare is also one of the most popular programs in the US. If government-provided health care provision is "bad" (because it will be less efficient than private providers or because it is socialist), then why are opponents of health care reform in favour of Medicare? I have yet to find anyone amongst the "tea baggers" (or "birthers") who argues that Medicare is "socialist" or "bad" or "un-American" (although this was what some rightwing critics claimed at the time it became law). If Medicare is "good," then not all free government-provided health care provision is "bad" --- and the case against health care reform begins to unravel.

Secondly, would government-provided health care provision involve "death panels"? No. One reason is that there already is government-provided health care provision -- specifically, for those over 65 years of age -- and there are no "death panels" to be found. A second reason is, well, there are no plans for "death panels" at all. In fact, the claims that "death panels" will be part of the plans arise only from out-of-context hack jobs from the past publications of persons associated with advising Congress on how best to pursue reform. No proposal makes provision for "death panels." I think the best challenge here to those who say it does is this: "so on which page do proposals endorse death panels, panels that will act as you claim they will do?" There are no page numbers to cite because it doesn't appear.

I wonder what opponents might say in reply. I suspect that --- given how strongly they argue against the government running any health care provision --- they simply must oppose Medicare. Furthermore, they may be right to keep a close eye on the details, but it is disengenuous to oppose plans because of a provision (e.g., "death panels") that nowhere appear in the plans.

UPDATE 1: Those who think that criticism of the proponents of health care reform is some crazed "leftwing elitist" plot would do well to reflect on David Cameron's statement today that the NHS is his "number one priority" (here). When the party of Thatcher continues to support the NHS so strongly, rightwing opponents of health care reform should consider just how far to the right they genuinely are.

UPDATE 2: An interesting story here on US health care.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Justified violence and the expression of moral arguments

In her highly interesting How Terrorism is Wrong (which I've commented on previously here), Virginia Held states:

"If, however, an existing political system refuses to allow the expression of moral arguments designed to transform it and if an act of political violence can constitute such an expression, it may be morally justifiable" (Oxford University Press, 2008, p. 138).

Held is clearly not stating that all acts of political violence are morally justifiable (a) if they could constitute an expression of a certain kind that is (b) denied by a political system. However, there seem to be at least two important (and missing) qualifications.

The first is that the persons desiring hitherto denied expression of certain moral arguments should be members (whether as citizens or residents) of the political system in question. This is not to say that non-members from other political systems are unable to pass justified comment on rival systems, but I don't think system x has any right to violence against system y on the sole grounds that the latter system doesn't want to hear what the other system wants to say. It seems to me that other conditions must hold, such as the fact that system y is harming its people, for example.

The second missing qualification is all things considered, as in the expression of moral arguments all things considered. It is far from inconceivable to imagine a group whose only desire is to see the world burn. What would constitute "sufficient expression" without which they might attack the rest of us? Would this be a blog, a newsletter or the opportunity to create a viable alternative political party? Or say a group wanted to "express" moral arguments, but the expression was pure hate language or defamatory: again, what would constitute "sufficient expression" without why they might attack the rest of us?

More importantly, are there some forms of expression that should be prohibited? If so, then it strikes me that the view above is problematic. Am I alone?

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Journal of Moral Philosophy data

There has been much discussion about the conduct of journals on various blogs, including Brian Leiter's blog and my own. We have published online and elsewhere some data on the Journal of Moral Philosophy, data I'm proud of. I have since promised to ensure more is available.

The 2008 data is as follows:

The JMP received 137 submissions, our highest total yet. Past figures are 68 submissions (April-December 2003 - the year before the journal appeared), 124 submissions (2004), 112 submissions (2005), 129 submissions (2006), and 116 submissions (2007).

We accepted 21 submissions -- of these, 14 required revisions. We rejected 116. Thus, our acceptance rate in 2008 was 15% (with 67% requiring reivison). Our acceptance has fluctuated from 12% in 2004, 10% in 2005, 15% in 2006, and 13% in 2007. I do view the slight acceptance rate as within our usual range -- and we do attract strong work.

Submissions were received from the following countries:



Our review times have been excellent:

Review times 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008
2 months or less 74% 64% 77% 80% 82%
3 months or less 88% 82% 89% 82% 93%
4 months or less 93% 98% 98% 96% 98%

I believe these numbers are strong -- and my thanks goes to the members of our advisory board, editorial board, and referees for their swift return of reports. If anyone has any further questions about the JMP, then please contact me directly here.

Some fun from Auto-Tune

Monday, August 10, 2009

Philosophy journal survey

. . . is here. I nervously await the results with a few concerns:

(1) First, I wonder how precise the numbers will be. For example, I've submitted many papers to many journals. I've had better experiences with some journals than others. However, I'd be hard pressed to remember precisely how many weeks/months any paper was with any journal. Either way, the information will be incomplete: only editors will know precisely the average review times, etc. The JMP publishes its results in its issues.

(2) A second related concern is the sample: I'm simply guessing that those with negative experiences will be more likely to take part than those with positive experiences. For this reason, I hope colleagues do take the survey to provide a more representative sample.

(3) A third concern is editing itself. This is yet another reason why I encourage colleagues to attend the APA-Eastern this year in New York where there will be a panel hosted by the relaunched Association of Philosophy Journal Editors. There will be a wide ranging debate taking place on 28th December.

Friday, August 07, 2009

Sonia Sotomayor joins the US Supreme Court

. . . and very well deserved. Details can be found here.

US-style primaries in the UK?

David Milliband seems to think it's a good idea (see here). I suspect he'd right.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

UFO sighting in Newcastle

. . . which you can watch here. The unidentified object speeds past over Newcastle's Quayside: at least it knew where in town had the best views!

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Obituary: G. A. Cohen (1941-2009)

(Photo by Chris Bertram)

I am very sorry to announce the death of G. A. Cohen, who died about 5am this morning. Of course, Jerry Cohen was the Chichele Professor of Social and Political Theory at All Souls College, Oxford and one of the leading political philosophers today. I will post obituaries as soon as they appear.

I first met Jerry while a graduate student in philosophy at University College Dublin. He had come to UCD to give a lecture and for a seminar on his work the following day. I was immediately struck by what a wonderful person he was: while we had never met before, we spoke at length about Hegel's political philosophy -- the topic of my proposed doctoral research -- and we remained in contact ever since. I would send offprints on anything about Hegel I published and always received a warm response. While his criticisms could be very sharp(!), I was highly impressed at how generous he was with his time and advice for so many. He will be sorely missed.

UPDATE: Wonderful tributes are begin to appear, such as those by Chris Bertram and Colin Farrelly.

UPDATE 2: Cohen's funeral will take place at All Souls College, Oxford at 4pm on 11th August in the chapel. I understand that the event is open to all. A memorial service will be held later in the year.

UPDATE 3: See this from Jo Wolff.

UPDATE 4: See this from The Guardian.

UPDATE 5: See this outstanding comment by Michael Rosen.

UPDATE 6: See this from The Times.

UPDATE 7: See also this (at about 8 mins in) by the BBC.

Monday, August 03, 2009

Friday, July 31, 2009

"Impact" may count for 30% in REF

Readers may know that the "RAE" (e.g., Research Assessment Exercise) is being replaced by a "REF" (e.g., Research Excellence Framwork) in the UK. All "units of assessment" (in essence, all departments) are assessed on the quality of their research. This is based upon the quality of publications, graduate student numbers, and other factors.

Previously, the RAE gave marks for the "esteem" each department held. This appears to be replaced now by "impact" -- so what's in a name?

The latest from the Times Higher Education is that "impact" will account for 20-30% of a subject's final result. This will be assessed during a five year period: 2008-12. The details are here. Departments would submit a narrative with a few "case studies" --- these would then be judged by "panels of academics and users."

There are several concerns . First, the academics who will judge impact may well be members of the relevant REF panel. If so, then this seems unproblematic. What does seem problematic is the selection of "users": who are they are (or, more specifically, who are they not)? If the "user" is, say, society in general, then who speaks to "impact" then? MPs? Much could hinge on which non-academics are chosen. Of course, the UK has a body that is thought to "represent" in some broad sense considered public opinion by experienced, distinguished persons. This body is the House of Lords and several hundred sit on its benches. This is surely too large a group for a research assessment. However, a group of five, ten, even fifteen may be better to "manage," but many critical voices will be left out --- and this may be a real concern for some departments.

My second concern is more serious. Almost one-third of a department's success in the REF will be judged upon the "impact" of its research over a five year period. Surely, departments wanting to score high will aim to produce immediate impact research with less regard for longer lasting impact. My reasons:

1. One reason why there may be less regard for longer lasting impact is that government policy changes so often. How can a department make plans for the future when -- in one assessment (RAE2008) - "impact" is not directly measured and a few years later -- in a different assessment (REF2013) -- it is. It is difficult to make long term plans when frequent changes are on hand.

2. A second reason is that, if the REF were to continue beyond 2013, the impact of research prior to each five year period may be relevant. We may think then that - eureka! - there is an incentive here to aim for long lasting impact. I doubt it. The system prioritizes making a big impact now in a current time period. An impact that is large overall, but measured over time may be less attractive for departments aiming to score high. Moreover, the impact of past research is research by department members: they may well leave. Departments prioritizing longer lasting impact may make more likely the poaching of staff who produce this research. While there will be incentives for departments to poach "stars" likely to score impact in the short term, this may be more difficult to coordinate given the more brief time period. Thus, again, there is an incentive for short term impact for maximum results.

Together, these concerns should be troubling. The government reminds us that universities should demonstrate "impact" on account of receiving public funds. If this is so, then why do universities seem singled out? Do we see MP's working harder to demonstrate their positive "impact" on account of their being 100% funded by tax payers? Hardly. (Instead, we had the expenses fiasco.)

I cannot help but think the current drive for universities to demonstrate "impact" is more about universities doing more for less. The pressure here is deliver even more bang for the government's buck. Of course, there can hardly be any problem with strongly encouraging -- even demanding -- that universities deliver the very best service possible. But this is not about that.

If the government wants British universities to perform even better, then the trick is not writing "case studies" and narratives about "impact" that will appear on yet another website the public may not read. Instead, it should invest far more in higher education than it does --- and with fewer strings attached. Politicans may be like the REF2013 and given to short term thinking, but a highly educated public is a great public good with long term benefits. If the "impact" of such benefits is not readily discernible to ministers, then I highly doubt case study narratives will do the trick . . . although I hope to be surprised.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Breaking news: the law is to be "clarified" on assisted suicide

. . . in the UK. Let us hope the law is clarified in the right way (e.g., permitting assisted suicide under certain conditions). The details are here. I will be following this closely.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Thom Brooks (ed), The Right to a Fair Trial

I am pleased to announce the publication of Thom Brooks (ed.), The Right to a Fair Trial (Ashgate, 2009). The blurb is:

The right to a fair trial is often held as a central constitutional protection. It nevertheless remains unclear what precisely should count as a 'fair' trial and who should decide verdicts. This already difficult issue has become even more important given a number of proposed reforms of the trial, especially for defendants charged with terrorism offences. This collection, The Right to a Fair Trial, is the first to publish in one place the most influential work in the field on the following topics: including the right to jury trial; lay participation in trials; jury nullification; trial reform; the civil jury trial; and the more recent issue of terrorism trials. The collection should help inform both scholars and students of both the importance and complexity of the right to a fair trial, as well as shed light on how the trial might be further improved.

The book's contents are:


Part I The Right to Trial by Jury

The sacred cow of trial by jury, R.J. O'Hanlon

The courage of our convictions, Sherman J. Clark

The right to trial by jury, Thom Brooks

Part II Lay Participation

Lay participation in decision making: a Croatian perspective on mixed tribunals, Sanja Kutnjak Ivkovic

Democratic accountability and lay participation in criminal trials, Tatjana Hörnle

Part III Jury Nullification

The myth of the nullifying jury, Nancy S. Marder

A defence of jury nullification, Thom Brooks

Part IV Trial Reform

The lamp that shows that freedom lives – is it worth the candle?, Penny Darbyshire

The case for jury waiver, Sean Doran and John Jackson

Modes of trial: shifting the balance towards the professional judge, John Jackson

Part V The Civil Trial

Why judges, not juries, should set punitive damages, Paul Mogin

Decisionmaking about general damages: a comparison of jurors, judges, and lawyers, Roselle L. Wissler, Allen J. Hart and Michael J. Saks

Part VI Trials and Terrorism

Terrorism on trial: the President's constitutional authority to order the prosecution of suspected terrorists by military commission, Christopher M. Evans

Judicial review of counter-terrorism measures: the Israeli model for the role of the judiciary during the terror era, Yigal Mersel

Name index

The book is available on the Ashgate website,, and

Thom Brooks on "A Two-Tiered Reparations Theory: A Reply to Wenar"

Thom Brooks, "A Two-Tiered Reparations Theory: A Reply to Wenar," Journal of Social Philosophy 39(4) (2008): 666-69. (subscription-only)


This paper argues that Leif Wenar's theory of reparations is not purely forward-looking and that backward-looking considerations play an important role: if there had never been a past injustice, then reparations for the future cannot be acceptable. Past injustice compose the first part of a two-tiered theory of reparations. We must first discover a past injustice has taken place: reparations are for the repair of previous damage. However, for Wenar, not all past injustices warrant reparations. Once we have first passed the initial test of demonstrating a past injustice has taken place, we then determine whether or not to finally accept reparations based upon forward-looking considerations. What is important to note is that this decision to award reparations is based upon forward-looking considerations, but only after first satisfying the test of a past injustice. Thus, backward-looking considerations make up an important first part of Wenar's two-tiered theory of reparations. It is not my argument that this theory is unsafe and I find Wenar's arguments both novel and highly compelling. However, the view that this theory is forward-looking -- and not backward-looking -- is not entirely accurate. My brief reply corrects this part of an important new theory of reparations in the hope of strengthening its persuasive power.

Thom Brooks on "Shame on You, Shame on Me? Nussbaum on Shame Punishment"

Thom Brooks, "Shame on You, Shame on Me? Nussbaum on Shame Punishment," Journal of Applied Philosophy 25(4) (2008): 322-34. (subscription-only)


Shame punishments have become an increasingly popular alternative to traditional punishments, often taking the form of convicted criminals holding signs or sweeping streets with a toothbrush. In her Hiding from Humanity, Martha Nussbaum argues against the use of shame punishments because they contribute to an offender's loss of dignity. However, these concerns are shared already by the courts which also have concerns about the possibility that shaming might damage an offender's dignity. This situation has not led the courts to reject all uses of shaming, but only to accept shaming within certain safeguards. Thus, despite Nussbaum's important reservations against shame punishments, it may still be possible for her to accept shaming within specific parameters such as those set out by the courts that protect the dignity of an offender. As a result, she need not be opposed to the use of legitimate shame punishment.

Thom Brooks on "Punishing States That Cause Global Poverty"

Thom Brooks, "Punishing States That Cause Global Poverty," William Mitchell Law Review 33(2) (2007): 519-32.


Since the end of the Cold War, “ordinary deaths from starvation and preventable diseases” amount to approximately 250 million people, most of them children. Global poverty refuses to
decline, as global inequality continues to increase, more than doubling since 1960. Thomas Pogge argues that wealthy states have a responsibility to help those in severe poverty. This
responsibility arises from the foreseeable and avoidable harm the current global institutional order perpetrates on poor states. Pogge demands that wealthy states eradicate global poverty, not merely because they have the resources, but because they share responsibility for its continuation. Thus, for Pogge, global poverty is more than a wrong imposed on the poor: it is a violation of human rights and a crime.

In this paper, I aim to demonstrate that Pogge’s conclusions do not follow from his argument. More specifically, if affluent states have a negative duty to assist those in severe poverty, their
duty is not absolute because they are not fully responsible for this poverty. Moreover, if global poverty is one of the greatest crimes against humanity, then it seems inappropriate at best to support proposals, pace Pogge, which leave the guilty parties walking free. We should punish states that cause global poverty.

Thom Brooks on "No Rubber Stamp: Hegel's Constitutional Monarch"

Thom Brooks, "No Rubber Stamp: Hegel's Constitutional Monarch," History of Political Thought 28(1) (2007): 91-119. (subscription-only)


Perhaps one of the most controversial aspects of Hegel's Philosophy of Right for contemporary interpreters is its discussion of the constitutional monarch. This is true despite the general agreement amongst virtually all interpreters that Hegel's monarch is no more powerful than modern constitutional monarchs and is an institution worthy of little attention or concern. In this article, I will examine whether or not it matters who is the monarch and what domestic and foreign powers he has. I argue against the virtual consensus of recent interpreters that Hegel's monarch is far more powerful than has been understood previously. In part, Hegel's monarch is perhaps even more powerful than Hegel himself may have realized and I will demonstrate certain inconsistencies with some of his claims. My reading represents a distinctive break from the virtual consensus, without endorsing the view that Hegel was a totalitarian.

Thom Brooks on "Does Bevir's The Logic of the History of Ideas Improve Our Understanding of Hegel's Philosophy of Right?"

Thom Brooks, "Does Bevir's The Logic of the History of Ideas Improve Our Understanding of Hegel's Philosophy of Right?" The European Legacy 11(7) (2006): 765-74. (subscription-only)


Mark Bevir's The Logic of the History of Ideas has received considerable attention recently. This article highlights a new problem with his weak intentionalism. Bevir's weak intentionalism holds that on occasion the meanings readers ascribe to texts may trump the meanings the authors express in texts. The article uses the example of Hegel's theory of punishment. The received wisdom is that Hegel is a pure retributivist. Yet, this strays far from his text and stated views. We might think we should keep to this text to uncover Hegel's views. However, Bevir's weak intentionalism has us side with how he has been read over what Hegel has said. This view is problematic as our meanings may well stray far from the texts, words or spirit. Thus, Bevir's weak intentionalism can fall victim to straying from the text when trying to interpret it.

Thom Brooks on "Knowledge and Power in Plato's Political Thought"

Thom Brooks, "Knowledge and Power in Plato's Political Thought," International Journal of Philosophical Studies 14(1) (2006): 51-77. (subscription-only)


Plato justifies the concentration and exercise of power for persons endowed with expertise in political governance. This article argues that this justification takes two distinctly different sets of arguments. The first is what I shall call his `ideal political philosophy' described primarily in the Republic as rule by philosopher-kings wielding absolute authority over their subjects. Their authority stems solely from their comprehension of justice, from which they make political judgements on behalf of their city-state. I call the second set of arguments Plato's `practical political philosophy' underlying his later thought, where absolute rule by philosopher-kings is undermined by the impure character of all political knowledge. Whereas the complete comprehension of justice sanctions the absolute political power of those with this expertise, partial knowledge of justice disallows for such a large investment of power. Plato's practical political philosophy argues for a mixed theory of governance fusing the institutions of monarchy with democracy in the best practical city-state. Thus, Plato comes to realize the insurmountable difficulties of his ideal political thought, preferring a more practical political philosophy instead.

Thom Brooks on "Let a Thousand Nomoi Bloom? Four Problems with Robert Cover's Nomos and Narrative"

Thom Brooks, "Let a Thousand Nomoi Bloom? Four Problems with Robert Cover's Nomos and Narrative," Issues in Legal Scholarship (2006): Article 5.


Robert Cover's well known article Nomos and Narrative is a passionately argued defense of a new way of applying narrative to the philosophy and understanding of law. In my article, I argue that there are four major problems which lie at the heart of Cover's analysis. Each problem addresses a major area of his overall view of law. I try to demonstrate that in each case, if the problem is real, Cover's view of law should be rejected. The primary difficulty is analytical and argumentative sloppiness in Cover's arguments. My conclusion is simple: Cover's view of law is both underdeveloped and theoretically unsafe. It falls victim to each of the four problems I identify. As a result, his philosophy of law should be rejected tout court.

Thom Brooks on "Kantian Punishment and Retributivism"

Thom Brooks, "Kantian Punishment and Retributivism: A Reply to Clark," Ratio 18(2) (2005): 237-45. (subscription-only)


In this journal, Michael Clark defends a "A Non-Retributive Kantian Approach to Punishment". I argue that both Kant's and Rawls's theories of punishment are retributivist to some extent. It may then be slightly misleading to say that by following the views of Kant and Rawls, in particular, as Clark does, we can develop a nonretributivist theory of punishment. This matter is further complicated by the fact Clark nowhere addresses Rawls's views on punishment: Rawls endorses a mixed theory combining retributive and utilitarian features. Of those discussed by Clark, only Scanlon defends the use of nonretributivist punishments. Yet, here too Clark nowhere addresses Scanlon's views on punishment. Thus, Clark's views on retributive punishment are highly problematic.

Thom Brooks on "Hegel's Ambiguous Contribution to Legal Theory"

Thom Brooks, "Hegel's Ambiguous Contribution to Legal Theory," Res Publica 11(1) (2005): 85-94. (subscription-only)


Hegel's legacy is particularly controversial, not least in legal theory. He has been classified as a proponent of either natural law, legal positivism, the historical school, pre-Marxism, postmodern critical theory, and even transcendental legal theory. To what degree has Hegel actually influenced contemporary legal theorists? This review article looks at Michael Salter's collection Hegel and Law. I look at articles on civil disobedience, contract law, feminism, and punishment. I conclude noting similarities between Hegel's legal theory and that of Ronald Dworkin. I also criticize the volume's emphasis on Hegel's postmodern credentials, all of which I doubt.

Thom Brooks on "A Defence of Jury Nullification"

Thom Brooks, "A Defence of Jury Nullification," Res Publica 10(4) (2004): 401-23. (subscription-only)


In both Great Britain and the United States there has been a growing debate about the modern acceptability of jury nullification. Properly understood, juries do not have any constitutional right to ignore the law, but they do have the power to do so nevertheless. Juries that nullify may be motivated by a variety of concerns: too harsh sentences, improper government action, racism, etc. In this article, I shall attempt to defend jury nullification on a number of grounds. First, I discuss the use of general verdicts and reject their replacement in criminal trials by special verdicts. Second, I examine verdicts based upon mistakes and racial prejudice, turning my attention to perverse verdicts and the question of whether or not juries are guilty of legislating when nullifying the law. Finally, I look at the problem of the awarding of excessive damages by juries. My goal will be to provide a sound theoretical defence of the practice of jury nullification.

Thom Brooks on "The Right to Trial by Jury"

Thom Brooks, "The Right to Trial by Jury," Journal of Applied Philosophy 21(2) (2004): 197-212. (subscription-only)


This article offers a justification for the continued use of jury trials. I shall critically examine the ability of juries to render just verdicts, judicial impartiality, and judicial transparency. My contention is that the judicial system that best satisfies these values is most preferable. Of course, these three values are not the only factors relevant for consideration. Empirical evidence demonstrates that juries foster both democratic participation and public legitimation of legal decisions regarding the most serious cases. Nevertheless, juries are costly and, therefore, economically less efficient than competing modes of trial. I do not argue that all human beings possess an inalienable legal right to be tried by a jury. However, it is my hope that this analysis will make clear what we might gain or lose when we propose jury reforms.

Thom Brooks on "Retributivist Arguments against Capital Punishment"

Thom Brooks, "Retributivist Arguments against Capital Punishment," Journal of Social Philosophy 35(2) (2004): 188-97. (subscription-only)


This article argues that even if we grant that murderers may deserve death in principle, retributivists should still oppose capital punishment. The reason? Our inability to know with certainty whether or not individuals possess the necessary level of desert. In large part due to advances in science, we can only be sure that no matter how well the trial is administered or how many appeals are allowed or how many years we let elapse, we will continue to execute innocent persons for as long as we legalize capital punishment. Thus, on grounds of desert, this article argues that retributivists should oppose capital punishment.

Thom Brooks on "Hegel's Theory of International Politics: A Reply to Jaeger"

Thom Brooks, "Hegel's Theory of International Politics: A Reply to Jaeger," Review of International Studies 30(1) (2004): 149-52. (subscription-only)


Hans-Martin Jaeger argues in this Journal that Hegel endorses a ‘reluctant realism’, whereby Hegel's theory of international politics institutionalises a transnationalising civil society of states. In Jaeger's view, Hegel's conception of individuals in civil society is analogous to states in international politics. On the contrary, I argue Hegel's conception of abstract right is far more commensurable with his theory of international politics. The mutual recognition existing in civil society – which helps to produce legal relationships – does not exist beyond the state where there are no legal relationships. Thus, Hegel is a realist of a more familiar sort, without any ‘reluctance’.

Thom Brooks on "T. H. Green's Theory of Punishment"

Thom Brooks, "T. H. Green's Theory of Punishment," History of Political Thought 24(4) (2003): 685-701. (subscription-only)


Green agrees with Kant on the abstract character of moral law as categorical imperatives and that intentional dispositions are central to a moral justification of punishment. The central problem with Kant's account is that we are unable to know these dispositions beyond a reasonable estimate. Green offers a practical alternative, positing moral law as an ideal to be achieved, but not immediately enforceable through positive law. Moral and positive law are bridged by Green's theory of the common good through the dialectic of morality. Thus, Green appears to offer an alternative that remains committed to Kantian morality whilst taking proper stock of our cognitive limitations. Unfortunately, Green fails to unravel fully Kant's dichotomy of moral and positive law that mirrors Green's solution, although Green offers a number of improvements, such as the importance of the community in establishing rights and linking the severity of punishment to the extent that a criminal act threatens the continued maintenance of a system of rights.

Thom Brooks on "Kant's Theory of Punishment"

Thom Brooks, "Kant's Theory of Punishment," Utilitas 15 (2003): 206-24. (subscription-only)


The most widespread interpretation amongst contemporary theorists of Kant's theory of punishment is that it is retributivist. On the contrary, I will argue there are very different senses in which Kant discusses punishment. He endorses retribution for moral law transgressions and consequentialist considerations for positive law violations. When these standpoints are taken into consideration, Kant's theory of punishment is more coherent and unified than previously thought. This reading uncovers a new problem in Kant's theory of punishment. By assuming a potential offender's intentional disposition as Kant does without knowing it for certain, we further exacerbate the opportunity for misdiagnosis – although the assumption of individual criminal culpability may be all we can reasonably be expected to use. While this difficulty is not lost on Kant, it continues to remain with us today, making Kant's theory of punishment far more relevant than previously thought.

Thom Brooks on "Saving the Greatest Number"

Thom Brooks, "Saving the Greatest Number," Logique et Analyse 45(177/178) (2002): 55-59. (subscription-only)


Imagine there are three boats equidistant from one another. You are alone in the first boat. The other two boats are sinking fast: one boat has one person (A), the other has two persons (B&C). There is only enough time to allow saving either A or B&C before their boats sink, drowning whoever is onboard. Will we always combine claims of those wishing to be saved and rescue B&C? Otsuka says that the 'Kamm-Scanlon' contractualist framework that does not aggregating various claims for rescue combines claims in this example. Otsuka has been criticized by Hirose and Kumar. Here I offer a defense.

Thom Brooks on "Cosmopolitanism and Distributing Responsibilities"

Thom Brooks on "Cosmopolitanism and Distributing Responsibilities," Critical Review of International Social and Political Philosophy 5(3) (2002): 92-97. (subscription-only)

This is part of a symposium on 'cosmopolitanism' with David Miller and Thomas Pogge.


David Miller raises a number of interesting concerns with both weak and strong variants of cosmopolitanism. As an alternative, he defends a connection theory to address remedial responsibilities amongst states. This connection theory is problematic as it endorses a position where states that are causally and morally responsible for deprivation and suffering in other states may not be held remedially responsible for their actions. In addition, there is no international mechanism to ensure either that remedially responsible states offer assistance to particular states nor some level of accountability for causally and/or morally responsible states. I suggest that an intermediary theory of cosmopolitanism offers one way of overcoming these difficulties.

Thom Brooks on "A Defence of Sceptical Authoritarianism"

Thom Brooks, "A Defence of Sceptical Authoritarianism," Politics 22(3) (2002): 152-62. (subscription-only)


Vittorio Bufacchi argued in this journal that democracy was under threat from two extreme philosophical positions: totalitarianism and nihilism. Sandwiched between these polarities is liberal democracy. Bufacchi believes that one of liberal democracy's distinctive properties is an endorsement of scepticism, which he then attempts to illuminate. In contrast, this article will argue that an authoritarian government bound by a constitution permitting civil liberties might also adopt political scepticism. This removes the aforementioned distinctiveness of liberal democracy in this regard and, in addition, leads us toward a rethinking of the possibility of a more plausible consideration of democracy.

Thom Brooks on "In Search of Shiva: Mahadeviyakka's Virasaivism"

Thom Brooks, "In Search of Shiva: Mahadeviyakka's Virasaivism," Asian Philosophy 12(1) (2002): 21-34. (subscription-only)


Mahadeviyakka was a radical 12th century Karnataka saint of whom surprisingly little has been written. Considered the most poetic of the Virásaivas, her vacanas are characterized by their desperate searching for Shiva. I attempt to convey Mahadevi's epistemology and its struggle to 'know' Shiva, necessitating a lifetime of searching for him; offer an interpretation of the innate presence of Shiva in the world and its consequences for epistemology; and explore the sense of tragic love inherent in devotional searching for Shiva. My primary goal is to offer a powerful and positive, yet critical, interpretation of Mahadevi's beautiful prose on her relationship with Shiva.

Thom Brooks on "Corlett on Kant, Hegel, and Retribution"

Thom Brooks, "Corlett on Kant, Hegel, and Retribution," Philosophy 76(4) (2001): 561-80. (subscription-only)


The purpose of this essay is to critically appraise J. Angelo Corlett's recent interpretation of Kant's theory of punishment as well as his rejection of Hegel's penology. In taking Kant to be a retributivist at a primary level and a proponent of deterrence at a secondary level, I believe Corlett has inappropriately wed together Kant's distinction between moral and positive law. Moreover, his support of Kant on these grounds is misguided as it is instead Hegel who holds such a distinction. Finally, I attempt to refute the almost timeless retributivist rejection of deterrence-based theories of punishment on the grounds that the latter somehow would condone in some cases the punishment of innocent persons. These individuals almost always demand that no innocent person be punished as a rule of the highest order.

Friday, July 24, 2009

What is the point of academic conferences?

An interesting discussion is brewing over at The Philosophy Smoker here.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Think you have had a bad day?

How about this: "A man in the United States popped out to his local petrol station to buy a pack of cigarettes - only to find his card charged $23,148,855,308,184,500" (details here).

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

What's your personality type?

Find out here.

Me? I came out ENFJ: extraverted - 89%, intuitive - 62%, feeling - 38%, judging - 1%.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Defending the trial by jury

Some readers may not have seen an earlier piece I wrote in the Times Higher (UK) defending the jury trial. This piece can be found here. My edited collection, The Right to a Fair Trial, will be published by Ashgate in September.

Many thanks to Balliol

I must thank the incredibly helpful staff at Balliol College, Oxford's library, especially Penelope Bullock and Alan Tadiello. Over the past year, I have been consulting their collection of papers by Thomas Hill Green in preparation of a few articles and a book project. It has been a real pleasure to work at Balliol and I am most grateful for their continued encouragement and help.

Saturday, July 04, 2009

Look who is in the news?

The Times Higher reports here -- an excerpt:

"[. . .] Thom Brooks, reader in political and legal philosophy at Newcastle University, said: "While I am always delighted to hear ministers praise the importance of the arts and humanities, I am sceptical about how this will all come out in the wash."

He questioned why the Government had protected science and technology in the last research assessment exercise at the expense of research in the arts and humanities. "It is one thing to praise, but quite another to fund," he said. [. . .]"

I couldn't have said it better myself . . . .

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Bhikhu Parekh on the UN and the Responsibility to Protect

. . . from his speech in the House of Lords (link here):

"My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Jay of Ewelme, for securing and introducing the debate. I extend a particularly warm welcome to my noble friend Lady Kinnock of Holyhead. She brings to this House great experience, wisdom and courage as well as a fine record of commitment to the cause of justice.

I endorse the United Nations report on the responsibility to protect. It identifies four major evils and tries to tell us how to anticipate and deal with them. These evils are genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity. I have nothing against the doctrine of responsibility to protect. In fact, I endorse it wholeheartedly. However, as the document is formulated, there are important gaps. I will briefly highlight five of them, and hope that the Minister will feed them into the appropriate channels.

First, those four evils overlap. It is not easy, for example, to distinguish between genocide and crimes against humanity or between genocide and war crimes. Equally importantly, these evils arise differently. Some arise because the state is evil. Others arise because the state has collapsed. In one case, the state is responsible, in the other, the absence of the state is responsible. These two situations need to be distinguished because they call for two kinds of responses. The United Nations document tends to homogenise them and fails to appreciate the need for different strategies.

Secondly, we need to evolve a global consensus on what obligations and responsibilities the outside world has. We tend to assume that the West, or the world at large, has the responsibility to intervene in situations of this kind. There are major powers that take a different view because they have suffered at the hands of the West's doctrine of intervention. China, for example, places great responsibility on the doctrine of sovereignty and does not think that it is its business to interfere when evils of this kind occur. The Chinese have made that very clear in their official policy documents. To some extent, India has tended to take this view as well, because it does not want outside powers to interfere in Kashmir or with lots of other internal problems.

The United Nations document makes the mistaken assumption that there is already a universal consensus on intervening in situations of this kind. That is arrogant and presumptuous. We must develop a global consensus by encouraging a dialogue between the western and Chinese points of view. Both make important points. Unless we do so, we will be working at cross purposes.

The third point that needs some attention is the document's total absence of mention of the need to restructure the United Nations. The United Nations as it is constituted, its structure and procedures, reflect the world of the late 1940s. It is dominated by the Security Council, where five members have the right of veto. The United Nations is seen as just another stage for its members to pursue their national interests. It should become a genuinely global forum where members deliberate in a calm and disinterested manner and reflect the viewpoint of humanity at large. If the United Nations is to carry moral and political authority it will need to be far more representative than it is. Muslim voices and the voices of other developing countries need to be given greater prominence. I should also have thought that the United Nations would benefit greatly if it had a standing commission keeping a global watch on the world at large and alerting the world community to potentially dangerous situations.

Fourthly, in situations of the four evils that we talked about, military intervention sometimes becomes necessary. No one can deny that. But military intervention cannot be the first course of action. When it is undertaken, it needs to be guided by an appropriate ethics, which is absent.

There should be clear guiding principles as to when it should be undertaken to ensure consistency in international action. It should be authorised by the United Nations and well judged, because military intervention works in certain situations and not in others. It would not work in Myanmar or Burma today and it would not have worked against Zaire under Mobutu. When the legality of military intervention is in doubt, as it was in the case of Iraq, we should make it a point of law to refer to the International Court of Justice, which would have helped us greatly in the case of Iraq. The purpose of military intervention should be not to run the country or discipline the natives and sort them out but rather to restore normalcy and hope that over time the country, now handed over to its citizens, will be able to manage its own affairs.

My fifth and final point is to do with the need to explore non-military forms of intervention. We have got into a binary opposition: either we abstain and do nothing, or we move in with armed forces. Is there no other way; no middle space that we should be exploring? I should have thought that there are half a dozen ways that we could move in such situations. Countries involved in these four evils could be expelled from international bodies, or recognition given to them in international law can be withdrawn temporarily. We could involve other agencies in civil society—for example, the churches, which wield enormous power. I am struck by the fact that the Buddhist monks endorsed the murder of Pol Pot or that the Vatican itself stayed quiet in relation to Rwanda. [. . .]

My Lords, I want to end by saying that we need to explore non-military forms of intervention."