Saturday, June 27, 2009

Bhikhu Parekh on "Private and Public Spheres in India"

. . . recently published in CRISSP (e.g., Critical Review of International Social and Political Philosophy), subscription-only link is here. The abstract:

"In the traditional Indian way of life, the social realm consisting of the joint family, the kinship network and the caste plays a dominant role, and colonises both the private and public spheres. This is challenged by the increasingly influential ideas of personal autonomy, equal citizenship and a democratically constituted public realm. The tension between the two provides a clue to much of contemporary Indian political life. India cannot successfully cope with it without redefining the boundaries between private and public spheres and developing appropriate norms for them. "

Highly recommended!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

If you want something done

. . . then always ensure you speak in the right ear of others. Curious details here.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Fabian Freyenhagen and the Forum for European Philosophy

Forum for European Philosophy Event


Thursday, 18 June, 7.00-8.30pm
Institut Fran├žais, 17 Queensberry Place, South Kensington, SW7

Adorno on How to Live the Wrong Life
Fabian Freyenhagen, Department of Philosophy, University of Essex

All events are free and open to all without registration. For further information contact Juliana Cardinale: 020 7955 7539

Forum for European Philosophy
Room J5, European Institute
London School of Economics, WC2A 2AE

I strongly encourage any readers in the London area to attend.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

The Queen's Honours List

. . . was bad news as usual, despite the fact that many academics were named in this round. Nevertheless, there were no honours for anyone in Philosophy or Politics as usual.

The good news is the following:

* Andrew Ashworth (Law, Oxford) has been awarded a CBE

* Christopher Rowe (Classics, Durham) has been awarded an OBE

The full list is here.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Saturday, June 06, 2009

S. Matthew Liao from Oxford to NYU

I am delighted to confirm that my dear friend S. Matthew Liao (bioethics, ethics, moral and political philosophy) has accepted an offer of Associate Professor in Bioethics and Philosophy from New York University. He is current Deputy Director in the Program on the Ethics of the New Biosciences in the Faculty of Philosophy at the University of Oxford.

Liao is one of the most exciting philosophers I know and this is wonderful news about a wonderful philosopher. Congrats, Matthew!

The UK's Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills is no more

One item that did not make big headlines is the ministerial shake up of British higher education. Two years ago, the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills was created and headed by John Denham. On the one hand, many were pleased that higher and further education had received a higher miniterial profile. On the other hand, many remained concerned at the link with "innovation" and "skills" which -- for some -- may have suggested that universities existed primarily to serve the needs of business rather than intellectual development that may or may not serve business needs.

Well, the sceptics have further reason to remain concerned. The Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills (Dius) has now been scrapped. In its place, we will have the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills. Note that the difference in name is that "Universities" is removed and "Business" is added . . . and added first. The minister in charge? None other than Lord Mandelson. According to the BBC here:

"[. . .] "to build Britain's capabilities to compete in the global economy".

Number 10 said it would invest in a higher education system committed to widening participation.

The role would include "maintaining world class universities, expanding access to higher education, investing in the UK's science base and shaping skills policy and innovation".

"It also puts the UK's further education system and universities closer to the heart of government thinking about building now for the upturn," the statement said. [. . .]"

Those who feared that the government viewed universities as primarily geared towards serving business may have those fears further confirmed. One consequence is the concern that those working in the arts, humanities, and social sciences will all be treated as second-class citizens: note the language of "investing in the UK's science base" suggesting any added investment will be directed to the physical sciences alone. A further consequence is additional emphasis on applied research rather than blue skies research.

There are other conserns as well. The former Dius focussed solely on England because of devolution in the UK. Yet, Lord Mandelson's business portfolio appears to remain UK-wide. Thus, the new Dbis appears to be an awkward hybrid where some of its powers are UK-wide and some relate to England alone. It is unclear how this split in remit will be managed, at least according to the BBC here.

My view? This is further disappointing news.

Friday, June 05, 2009

You're hired!

Perhaps today should have been a day of bold new appointments in PM Gordon Brown's reshuffle of his cabinet. Yet another minister has stepped down amidst calls within the Labour Party for Brown to step down. One positive change was adding Alan Johnson as Home Secretary. Most others have kept their positions in what appears as a very minor --- too little, too late? --- reshuffle.

The one item that has caught some attention is the appointment of Sir Alan Sugar --- the star of the reality television show The Apprentice with his catch phrase "you're fired!" --- as the new enterprise tsar. It is widely expected that Brown will nominate him to join the House of Lords. Details here.

Thus, the Prime Minister turns to reality tv to help save his political skin. My only surprise is he did not sound out Simon Cowell as entertainment tsar --- after all, why stop at Sir Alan (or should we prepare to call him "Lord Sugar")?

I cannot help but think this is not going to improve Brown's position. An opportunity lost. Now let's all await the headline we know is on the horizon --- thanks to Simon Kirchin for noting this to me --- "Brown: you're fired!"

UPDATE: How bad a night was it for Labour? Try this: they no longer control a single county council in England. Details here.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

British Academy recommends compulsory GCSE in foreign language for university admissions

. . . which is a fantastic idea. Details here.

I would hope that things would go even further. If this were to be a reality, then students would be taught formal grammar for a foreign language, but lack substantive formal grammar training in English. The one genuine surprise I have had since moving from the US to the UK is how little grammar students tend to be taught.