Monday, January 31, 2011

APA Newsletter on Women and Philosophy Journals

I highly recommend that readers visit this site to read the current issue of the American Philosophical Association's Feminism and Philosophy Newsletter. The topic is women and philosophy journals and there are several informative essays included by the editors of Ethics, Hypatia, and, yes, the Journal of Moral Philosophy as well as some interesting results from Sally Haslanger's new study. Again, this can be downloaded here.

Five ways to get into Oxford

Details here from the BBC.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

The strange saga of Gerry Adams and his resignation as MP for West Belfast

Very curious details here.

Worst experiences with on campus interviews

Our dear friend over at Philosophers Anonymous has some truly harrowing tales here.

Good news for social science in Newcastle and Durham

. . . as the two universities establish a joint doctoral training centre with funded studentships. Details here.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Does a narrow elite rule the UK?

The BBC story is here.

Helsinki life

I have spent much of the week in lovely Helsinki and return to my Newcastle office tomorrow. I will post again then, but warmly recommend readers to visit Helsinki if they haven't been here already. A gorgeous city (not least covered in snow this time of year) with wonderful parks, museums, and restaurants.

More from me soon!

Monday, January 24, 2011

Paul Krugman on "The Competition Myth"

Yet another brilliant op-ed found here.

The "bonfire of the quangos" that almost was

Details here concerning the rushed, botched attempt by the UK coalition government to cull quangos. Not their only rushed, botched effort by far...

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Thought of the day

Now for the thought of the day . . .

We have heard much about how public sector employees should "share" the pain in the current economy. The argument is that because private sector employees are hurting financially then so should public sector employees.

One response is to say this: if public sector employees should "share" the pain with private sector employees when times are bad, then we should agree the principle that public sector employees should "share" the gain with private sector employees when times are good. The argument here is simple. If it isn't fair that only one group feels the pain during times of economic hardship, then it must not be fair that only one group receives the benefits during times of economic growth. Right?

An even better response is to say this: why should public sector employees be treated like private sector employees? For one thing, those who chose to work in the private sector accept a risk. The risk is that one can earn greater wealth in the private sector on average all things considered (with the downside of greater job insecurity). Those who chose to work in the public sector chose a more risk averse career, but with the downside that greater job security does not come with higher occupational income. So each side makes a choice. Those who espouse market principles on why public sector employees should earn less fail to recognize that these same principles entail that the market will produce winners and losers in the private sector. If job and income security is so precious to them, then they should recognize that perhaps they made the wrong choice in entering the private and not the public sector.

Gary Becker on the case for tuition fee raises

. . . can be found here.

The Brooks Blog in top 50 blogs

. . . and listed first here.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Tony Blair and the Iraq War: what we've learned

Details here.

Thom Brooks on "Does Philosophy Deserve a Place at the Supreme Court?"

. . . can be found here and was published in the Rutgers Law Record. An abstract:

"This Comment demonstrates that policy judgements are not masked by philosophical references, nor do philosophers play any crucial role in contentious judicial decisions. Neomi Rao's study is flawed for many reasons: incomplete content analysis, poor assessment of data, and an inadequate definition of philosophy. She should be criticised for hypocritically praising Court philosopher references in some instances and not others, especially with regard to the Court's early development. This Comment searched unsuccessfully for an instance where philosophers were cited just once in controversial cases regarding racial integration, capital punishment's abolition and re-legality, and the 2000 Presidential election. Philosophers are peculiarly absent from major controversial cases.

Rao claims the Court's majority decisions avoided the "Philosophers' Brief" because the philosophers' argument was grounded in theory, not substantive legal argument surrounding issues of judicial precedent. This Comment challenges Rao's use of "philosophy" as something entirely abstract and steeped in metaphysics. Philosophy is presented as a large umbrella covering diverse sub-fields, two of which are philosophy of law and political philosophy. These sub-fields are of great use to law. Thus, the Court has not illegitimately used philosophers to support personal policy preferences. Nor is the use of philosophy incommensurable with judicial decision-making."
The article may be of interest to those keen to learn more about the debates over whether US Supreme Court judges have relied too often and/or too readily to the authority of canonical figures in the history of philosophy. Some say "yes" - I believe the answer is a clear "no".

Paul Krugman and "The War on Logic"

Yet another brilliant o-ed by Paul Krugman can be found here. An excerpt:

"[. . .] We are, I believe, witnessing something new in American politics. Last year, looking at claims that we can cut taxes, avoid cuts to any popular program and still balance the budget, I observed that Republicans seemed to have lost interest in the war on terror and shifted focus to the war on arithmetic. But now the G.O.P. has moved on to an even bigger project: the war on logic.

So, about that nonsense: this week the House is expected to pass H.R. 2, the Repealing the Job-Killing Health Care Law Act — its actual name. But Republicans have a small problem: they claim to care about budget deficits, yet the Congressional Budget Office says that repealing last year’s health reform would increase the deficit. So what, other than dismissing the nonpartisan budget office’s verdict as “their opinion” — as Mr. Boehner has — can the G.O.P. do?  The answer is contained in an analysis — or maybe that should be “analysis” — released by the speaker’s office, which purports to show that health care reform actually increases the deficit. Why? That’s where the war on logic comes in.

[. . .] So, is the Republican leadership unable to see through childish logical fallacies? No.  The key to understanding the G.O.P. analysis of health reform is that the party’s leaders are not, in fact, opposed to reform because they believe it will increase the deficit. Nor are they opposed because they seriously believe that it will be “job-killing” (which it won’t be). They’re against reform because it would cover the uninsured — and that’s something they just don’t want to do.

And it’s not about the money. As I tried to explain in my last column, the modern G.O.P. has been taken over by an ideology in which the suffering of the unfortunate isn’t a proper concern of government, and alleviating that suffering at taxpayer expense is immoral, never mind how little it costs.  Given that their minds were made up from the beginning, top Republicans weren’t interested in and didn’t need any real policy analysis — in fact, they’re basically contemptuous of such analysis, something that shines through in their health care report. All they ever needed or wanted were some numbers and charts to wave at the press, fooling some people into believing that we’re having some kind of rational discussion. We aren’t. [. . .]"

Good and bad news in British education

First, the good news. The government is considering making a foreign (modern) language a compulsory GCSE subject. While I don't think it should matter if students would prefer to study Latin rather than French, this is welcome news where there has been a real decline in students taking foreign languages when choosing GCSEs. Further details are here.

Now the not so good news. While universities accept more and more students onto their undergraduate programmes, fewer and fewer of these students are British. Details on this can be found here. At present, there are quotas on how many undergraduate students from the EU (including the UK) a department may accept. This means that students from Germany, Italy, etc. compete for the same places as British students for places in British universities. This does not strike me as a problem, but the problem is instead that there is no such quota for students from outside the EU, such as from the US, Canada, etc.

Therefore, suppose you had x number of students who were of sufficient calibre for entry from the EU/UK and y number of students of sufficient calibre for entry who were non-EU/UK where x and y both equal 650. Suppose further that a university could accommodate 1000 students, but only had quota for 350 EU/UK students.  The result could be that less than half of all EU/UK students would be admitted and all non-EU/UK students would be admitted...despite both x and y students being of equal ability and calibre. I don't think there should be a preference for either group, but it strikes me as a bit more problematic that the balance swings this way than the other (even if, again, my view only merit and not nationality should count ideally).

Thursday, January 20, 2011

The top 50 philosophy journals

Readers will know about the poll behing held here. There have been more than 55,000 votes cast and the results thus far are as follows (the scores relate to the % chance that a voter will choose that journal when paired against a randomly chosen second journal):

1. Nous 87

2. Philosophy & Phenomenological Research 85
3. Philosophical Review 84
4. Journal of Philosophy 83
5. Mind 82

6. Philosophical Studies 76
7. Philosophical Quarterly 70
8. Ethics 69
8. Australasian Journal of Philosophy 69
10. Analysis 67
10. Synthese 67

12. Philosophers' Imprint 63
12. Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 63
14. Pacific Philosophical Quarterly 60
15. Philosophy & Public Affairs 59
16. British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 58
16. Philosophy of Science 58
18. Canadian Journal of Philosophy 57
19. American Philosophical Quarterly 55
20. Journal of the History of Philosophy 54
21. Monist 53
21. Erkenntnis 53
23. European Journal of Philosophy 50

24. Midwest Studies in Philosophy 49
25. Mind and Language 48
25. British Journal for the History of Philosophy 48
25. Journal of Philosophical Logic 48
28. Oxford Studies in Ancient Philosophy 46
29. Philosophical Topics 41
29. Ratio 41
31. Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews 40
32. Philosophy Compass 39
33. History of Philosophy Quarterly 38
33. Phronesis 38
35. Linguistics and Philosophy 35
35. Kant-Studien 35
37. Journal of Political Philosophy 34
37. Philosophical Papers 34
39. Philosophy 32
40. Southern Journal of Philosophy 31
41. Journal of Ethics & Social Philosophy 30
41. Journal of Ethics 30
41. Journal of Moral Philosophy 30
44. Review of Metaphysics 29
45. Utilitas 29
46. Philosophical Investigations 25
47. Metaphilosophy 24
47. Journal of Philosophical Research 24
49. Hume Studies 23
50. Philosophia 22

Some reflections. First, note that these journals all scored in the top 50 in an original poll of more than 140+ journals. While some journals may have scored better than others in this poll, it is important to keep in mind that all did better than the nearly 100 other journals they had been polled against last week.

Secondly, I don't we can read too much into slight differences in scores, although there again seems an elite amongst the elite -- headed by Nous -- in these rankings.

Thirdly, it has interested me how some journals, such as NDPR and journals in the areas of ethics and political philosophy have scored. It would be interesting to know what areas voters worked in as some journals may have benefited from the fact more voters worked in area x or y.

These results will be revisited again. What do readers think?

Sarah Palin poll number plunge post-Tucson

It appears her strategy post-Tucson was that the best defence is strong offence has really backfired. Sarah Palin now boasts even larger unfavourable poll numbers than before with results here. Interestingly, a majority of the public amongst Democrats, independents, and Republicans have a more unfavourable than favourable view.

The key to finding a job in the UK

. . . is apparently to have work experience. Further details from the BBC here.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Philosophy journal poll: in your judgment, which journal below is generally best to find higher quality philosophy essays?

Readers will be aware of my recent poll on which philosophy journal is best. The poll examined over 140 philosophy journals and it received nearly 40,000 votes. I have now refined the question and limited the number of journals to 50 in a new poll found HERE.

The 50 journals included in the poll are those journals that scored in the top 50 of the poll of 140+ journals. These journals include the following:

American Philosophical Quarterly
Australasian Journal of Philosophy
British Journal for the History of Philosophy
British Journal for the Philosophy of Science
Canadian Journal of Philosophy
European Journal of Philosophy
History of Philosophy Quarterly
Hume Studies
Journal of Ethics
Journal of Ethics & Social Philosophy
Journal of the History of Philosophy

Journal of Moral Philosophy
Journal of Philosophical Logic
Journal of Philosophical Research 
Journal of Political Philosophy
Journal of Philosophy
Linguistics and Philosophy
Midwest Studies in Philosophy

Mind and Language
Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews
Oxford Studies in Ancient Philosophy
Pacific Philosophical Quarterly
Philosophers' Imprint

Philosophical Investigations
Philosophical Papers
Philosophical Quarterly
Philosophical Review
Philosophical Studies
Philosophical Topics
Philosophy Compass
Philosophy & Phenomenological Research
Philosophy & Public Affairs
Philosophy of Science
Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society

Review of Metaphysics
Southern Journal of Philosophy

(Please note that additional journals will not be added.) Results will be posted as the votes come in.

The poll asks a refined question: "In your judgment, which journal below is generally best to find higher quality philosophy essays?" Or, in other words, if you were looking for the best philosophy essays, then which journal would you choose?

The poll will pair two journals from the above list although chosen at random. You will be asked to choose between the two (or note that they are equally good, etc). Please record several votes so that full preferences can be recorded for the poll. Enjoy!

UPDATE: A brief reminder that the NEW poll announced above is meant to be a more narrow exercise including ONLY the top 50 journals in the previous poll. I will NOT be adding more journals -- so please no further recommendations at this time. (You know who you are . . . . )

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

The top philosophy journals: initial results

Readers will be aware of the philosophy journal poll I have been hosting here. The poll was comprehensive in that it covered over 140 philosophy journals, most of them suggestions by readers. These journals cover the full spectrum of the discipline. There have been more than 36,000 votes cast already and I believe we can draw some initial findings. Journals are each assigned a score: this is the percent (%) chance that voters will select this journal as their favourite if asked to choose between this journal and a second journal chosen at random.

The first finding is that there appears to be a top tier of philosophy journals -- this is not controversial -- that is relatively small -- this latter part may be more controversial.

From the poll, the top tier of philosophy journals appears to consist of the following publications:

1. Journal of Philosophy 87

2. Philosophical Review 84
3. Philosophy & Phenomenological Research 83
3. Nous 83 
5. Mind 82 
6. Ethics 80

I say that these appear to be the top tier as each were no. 1 or 2 at some point during the voting (unlike other journals). Each would be selected at least 80% of the time if paired with a second journal chosen at random.

A further finding is that the second tier of journals -- which we might classify as chosen at least 60-79% of the time when paired with a second journal chosen at random -- is perhaps surprsingly large. This second tier might consist of the following journals:

7. Philosophical Studies 79
8. Synthese 77
8. Philosophy & Public Affairs 77
10. Analysis 76
10. Philosophical Quarterly 76
10. American Philosophical Quarterly 76
10. Philosophers' Imprint 76
10. Monist 76
10. Canadian Journal of Philosophy 76
16. Journal of the History of Philosophy 75
16. Pacific Philosophical Quarterly 75
16. Midwest Studies in Philosophy 75
16. Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 75
20. Australasian Journal of Philosophy 74
21. British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 73
21. European Journal of Philosophy 73
23. Erkenntnis 72
24. Philosophy of Science 71
25. Philosophy 70
25. History of Philosophy Quarterly 70
25. Ratio 70
28. Journal of Moral Philosophy 69
29. Oxford Studies in Ancient Philosophy 68
30. Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews 67
31. Philosophical Papers 67
32. Journal of Philosophical Logic 67
33. Journal of Philosophical Research 66
33. British Journal for the History of Philosophy 66
33. Utilitas 66
33. Mind and Language 66
33. Journal of Ethics 66
38. Southern Journal of Philosophy 65
39. Review of Metaphysics 64
39. Philosophical Investigations 64
39. Kant-Studien 64
42. Metaphilosophy 62
42. Philosophy Compass 62
42. Journal of Political Philosophy 62
42. Philosophical Topics 62
42. Philosophia 62
47. Hume Studies 61
47. Linguistics and Philosophy 61
49. Journal of Ethics & Social Philosophy 60

The next third tier of journals are those chosen about 50% of the time (from 40-60%)  where paired with a second journal chosen at random:

50. Phronesis 59 
51. Journal of the History of Ideas 58

51. Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 58
53. Ethical Theory & Moral Practice 57
53. Philosophical Forum 57
53. Inquiry 57
56. Oxford Journal of Legal Studies 56
57. Political Theory 55
57. Social Theory & Practice 55
57. Philosophical Explorations 55
57. Journal of Social Philosophy 55
57. Economics & Philosophy 55
62. Law & Philosophy 54
62. dialectica 54
62. Public Affairs Quarterly 54
62. Acta Analytica 54
66. Social Philosophy & Policy 53
66. Theoria 53
66. Journal of Applied Philosophy 53
69. Faith and Philosophy 52
70. Political Studies 51
71. Journal of Value Inquiry 51
72. Harvard Law Review 50
73. Studies in History and Philosophy of Science 49
73. Philosophy & Public Policy Quarterly 49
73. Philosophical Psychology 49
76. Bioethics 48
76. International Journal of Philosophical Studies 48
78. Politics, Philosophy, Economics 47
78. Kantian Studies 47
79. History of Political Thought 44
80. Legal Theory 43
81. Hypatia 42
82. Philosophical Writings 41
82. southwest philosophy review 41
84. Apeiron 40
84. European Journal of Political Theory 40
84. American Journal of Bioethics 40

The remaining results for other journals are as follows:

87. Environmental Ethics 39
87. Logique et Analyse 39
87. Philosophy Today 39
90. Ratio Juris 38
90. Studies in History and Philosophy of Modern Physics 38
90. Business Ethics Quarterly 38
93. Journal of the British Society for Phenomenology 37
93. Ethical Perspectives 37
93. Public Reason 37
96. Hegel-Studien 36
97. Philosophy & Social Criticism 35
97. Res Publica 35
97. Philosophy in Review 35
97. Philo 35

101. Neuroethics 34
101. Ethics and Justice 34
103. Philosophy and Theology 33
104. International Journal of Applied Philosophy 32
105. Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences 32
106. Review of Politics 31
106. Jurisprudence 31
106. Research in Phenomenology 31
109. Journal of Philosophy of Education 30
109. Review Journal of Political Philosophy 30
109. Philosophy East and West 30
112. South African Journal of Philosophy 29
112. Kennedy Institute of Ethics Journal 29
114. Teaching Philosophy 28
114. Review Journal of Philosophy & Social Science 28
114. Critical Review of International Social and Political Philosophy 28
117. Journal of Global Ethics 27
117. APA Newsletters 27
119. Transactions of the C. S. Peirce Society 26
120. Bulletin of the Hegel Society of Great Britain 25
121. Adam Smith Review 23
121. Archiv fur Rechts- und Sozialphilosophie 23
121. Imprints: Egalitarian Theory and Practice 23
124, Theory and Research in Education 22
125. Polish Journal of Philosophy 21
125. Epoche 21
125. Fichte Studien 21
125. Symposium: Canadian Journal of Continental Philosophy 21
125. Asian Philosophy 21
130. Think 20
131. Archives de Philosophie du Droit 18
131. Collingwood & British Idealism Studies 18
131. Owl of Minerva 18
131. New Criminal Law Review 18
135. Journal of Indian Philosophy 17
136. Continental Philosophy Review 17
136. The European Legacy 17
138. Education, Citizenship, and Social Justice 15
139. Reason Papers 14
139. Associations 14
139. Journal of Indian Philosophy and Religion 14
142. Studia Philosophica Estonica 13
143. Derrida Today 5

Some further reflections. While there are several exceptions, it would be interesting to analyze any correlation between the age of a journal and its position in the rankings. There are several surprises on the list, this list does not correspond to my own opinions (I would have ranked many journals differently), and I do not believe that there is much difference between journals ranked closely together.

I also purposively put some selections in to see how they might play out. For example, I added Harvard Law Review out of curiosity and I was surprised to see of all journals exclusively publishing law and legal philosophy journals it appears to come second to the Oxford Journal of Legal Studies and above other choices. (I was surprised legal philosophy journals did not score much better.) I added several journals edited by political scientists, such as Political Studies, and was surprised to see they did not score as highly as I had thought. Roughly speaking, journals with a wider remit performed much better than journals with a more specific audience. I also added at least one journal, Ethics and Justice, that I believe is no longer in print. (Can readers correct me on this? I hope I am in error.) It scored 34% and came in at 101st.

What I will do shortly is create a new poll that will only have the top 50 philosophy journals from this poll roughly speaking. Expect to see this new link widely advertised shortly.

In the meantime, what do readers think we can take away from the results thus far? Have I missed anything?

The Prime Minister visits Newcastle University

Details here.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Will only the wealthy be able to afford the MA in future?

This is the topic of an interesting article in the Times Higher Education found here. The concern centres on the possible trebling of university fees for English undergraduates. If their debts substantially rise as many fear, then how many will continue to pursue graduate study -- which might increase their debts? The fear is simply that far fewer students will pursue graduate study in the near future. Only those from more wealthy backgrounds might then take up study after graduation.

My own view is that everything is uncertain and we need to know more details from the government and from universities, notably what precisely the universities will charge (and be able to keep rather than pay to the government in the form of a levy). Several proposals have been aired with some looking likely and others seemingly ruled out, but it would be very helpful to know more about the specifics of what will be rolled out before making further comment.

That said, I suspect that graduate study in the UK will remain strong and especially if international student recruitment remains steady. In the United States, we find higher fees all often paid up front at both undergraduate and graduate level with graduate study remaining strong. The culture is very different in the UK and it will be interesting to see what happens, in fact.

While I do not at all support the higher education proposals and believe all university fees should be abolished, I also believe that graduate study will continue to be in good health post-2012. Whether my prediction is correct, only time can tell . . . . . 

Saturday, January 15, 2011

The Republican Party elects new leader

Whatever one's view of the Republican Party, the following news must be worrying. There were four candidates to lead the party, including former leader Michael Steele. Steele then bowed out of the contest leaving just three remaining. It then took not one, not two, not three, and definitely not four nor five certainly not six, but yes seven rounds of voting before Reince Priebus won election. Details here. The several rounds of voting suggests strongly that party leaders were clearly split evenly and there was certainly no clear front runner -- if there was one, then he or she might have won in the second or third round...not seventh round. Clearly, President Obama will benefit from such divided leadership. Who's excited about the next presidential election?
The Brooks Blog is calling the 2012 US Presidential election early.....for Obama. You saw it here first!

Friday, January 14, 2011

Which philosophy journal is best?

Readers may know that I set up a link found here allowing you to vote for your favourite philosophy journals. There are nearly 130 journals to choose from in a fairly comprehensive survey. More than 10,000 votes have already been cast. I will note preliminary results once we reach 50,000 votes. So get voting here -- and spread the word far and wide!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Philosophy journal rankings: which is best?

I have designed a new quiz at this site where you can vote for which philosophy journal is best. Enjoy!

...and remember to vote early and often!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Two reasons why Sarah Palin will not be elected US President

Reason 1:

Reason 2:

(Both found here.)

Imagine the debates. "My opponent, Sarah Palin, is the kind of bipartisan politician that actually publishes lists of her opponents in cross hairs, all American citizens. Is this someone you believe can lead America in these times...?" [loud applause].

Follow the Brooks Blog!

It's easy -- sign-up here!

Richard Posner on the future of book shops

A highly recommended brief post here.

Thought of the day: Palin on "blood libel"

Yet another example of poor political judgement as we have seen before.
A further thought: if Palin had been advised to use this term, then she should seek new political consultants. This cannot assist her in improving her favourability amongst even Republicans, not least the wider electorate.

A final thought: Ronald Reagan may have been the "teflon" president, but Sarah Palin is the velcro wannabe president. Everything sticks.

Sarah Palin's political future post-Tucson

They "sorry" is the most difficult word to say . . . unless you're a politician (where acknowledgement of mistakes is more rare than signs of extraterrestial life on Mars). For example, suppose that your campaign "targets" specific Congressional seats using an image akin to a sniper sight's cross hairs. Suppose further that one of the candidate's whose seat you have targetted makes public her concern that potentially tragic "consequences" might follow such dangerous tactics. Now suppose yet further this candidate is then the target of an assassination attempt at her first major public event after being sworn in to a seat won in a narrow re-election.

What would you do? Many of us might be horrified. We would remove the image and issue a clear apology vowing to take a lead in raising the tone and civility of the wider political debate: violent images/rhetoric will be condemened whether or not it specifically played any role in the particular incident.

This would make sense. The political costs would be more manageable. Those who are already unfavourable would be unlikely to increase and some may be won over post-humble apology. Few think worse of those who swiftly apologize for the right reasons. (We often do think worse of those who take too long to say sorry or who do so for the wrong reasons or motives.)

What would not make sense is to fight back and deny that you would do anything different, and certainly not apologize. This is the unwise political strategy of Sarah Palin. Ugh. Her problems include situations like hardened unfavourable ratings -- and strong unfavourability amongst even many Republicans. Her decision may well please her small, loyal base, but it will do nothing to increase the base....and may be likely to turn some off who would otherwise have a favourable view.

Palin's standing by her image -- which, of course, she removed immediately and has not put on her websites -- is as bad a decision as the decision by Michael Dukakis's campaign to publish photos of him in a tank. If Palin has truly done nothing wrong, then why attempt to hide the image targetting seats? If she made an error of judgement, she could still claim no responsibility while making the small (but important) concession that her image was the wrong one and she'd take a lead to improve civility. This would not lose her support amongst those already loyal and would be very likely to help improve her image.

The fact she time and time again fails to make good political judgements like this is yet more reason why Sarah Palin's political future post-Tucson looks very poor. Do not expect her to run for US President in 2012.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Thought of the day

Readers will know that, yes, I am a major fan of so-called "heavy metal" and I have enjoyed this music since discovering it as a teenager. I therefore recall perhaps more vividly than most the public concern that this music might have on young people. One particular concern was whether music by heavy metal bands might cause listeners to self-harm or harm others. Republican Party politicians and activists -- along with some notable Democrats -- came together to address what they thought was potentially dangerous music. Perhaps no one had acted, but the worry was it might be a matter of time before this happened.

Now fastforward to the Arizona shooting and the so-called "blame game" of whether the rhetoric we have heard from rightwing commentators and politicians -- for a reminder see here -- played any role. These persons have often been quick to say such thoughts are nuts and perhaps this is true. However, if there was no role, then perhaps they should also acknowledge they were wrong to worry about incitement to violence from movies and music?

The thought of the day: if violence in movies and music is a concern because of how it might influence citizens, then perhaps violent images and language in political commentaries and advertisement is a concern for the same reason and on the same grounds.

What we have learned about Jared Loughner from a list of his favourite books

In the wake of the shooting of Rep. Gabrielle ("Gabby") Giffords, many commentators have rushed to learn all they can about Jared Loughner who has now been charged. It has been widely reported that his favourite books include the following (such as found here):

* Animal Farm
* Brave New World
* The Wizard Of OZ
* Aesop Fables
* The Odyssey
* Alice Adventures Into Wonderland
* Fahrenheit 451
* Peter Pan
* To Kill A Mockingbird
* We The Living
* Phantom Toll Booth
* One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest
* Pulp
* Through The Looking Glass
* The Communist Manifesto
* Siddhartha
* The Old Man And The Sea
* Gulliver's Travels
* Mein Kampf
* The Republic
* Meno

Much has been made of the fact that this list contains two particular books, namely, The Communist Manifesto and Mein Kampf. This has been taken to be evidence that Loughner was unlikely to be a member of any mainstream political organization and evidence of extreme leftwing views.

I believe that this "evidence" is clearly wrong and for several reasons:

1. Any claims that these books influenced Loughner suggest that he read them carefully weighing their arguments and finding them compelling. I have yet to see any clear evidence of this. Anyone can list favourite books on a website. Perhaps he has read them, but perhaps he has not.

2. The idea that these books influenced Loughner suggest that taken together they provide a unified political position. There is no clear evidence of this either. Plato's Meno is in a class of its own and seemingly entirely unrelated to everything else on the list. Yes, there is Marx and Engels's famous Manifesto, but there is also Ayn Rand's first novel as well. Evidence of Communist Objectivism? I think not.

3. These books do seem to have one thing in common that commentators appear to have overlooked: the idealization of the rugged individualist. More often than not these texts speak of the individual against the crowds, the old man and the sea, the citizen against big brother, etc.

Now ask yourself which American political movement is more friendly to the view that "we" the private citizen must stand up to the dangerous juggernaut that is "the state"? It isn't the Democrats. No, rather it is a movement where citizens think it is appropriate -- even desirable -- to bring guns to political events where Democrat politicians are speaking; to run campaign ads against Democrats where they brandish guns and encourage prospective voters to "take aim" at opponents; and the like.

This is something worth thinking about. Let's hope it makes FOX News . . . .

JSTOR to include books, as well as research articles

. . . which I suspect is welcome news for academics. Details here.

There are consequences when throwing a fire extinguisher off the roof of a building

Edward Woollard has been sentenced for more than two years for doing just this during the recent student protests in London. The fire extinguisher nearly hit police officers below and, if any had been struck, would have been likely to cause serious injuries and/or death. The BBC report is here.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Graduate study at Newcastle University

Readers interested in pursuing graduate degrees such as a MA, MPhil or PhD might be interested in considering study at Newcastle University. There are several political philosophers in the department, including Derek Bell (environmental politics, metaethics, political philosophy), Thom Brooks (political and legal philosophy), Peter Jones (political philosophy, esp rights), Graham Long (global justice), and Ian O'Flynn (democratic theory) amongst many others. Further information on political philosophy at Newcastle University can be found here.

Current research interests of academic staff include:
* British Idealism (esp Bradley, Bosanquet, Green, Seth)
* The capabilities approach
* Crime and punishment
* Democratic theory

* Environmental ethics and politics
* Feminism
* Global justice (esp cosmopolitanism, nationalism/statism, just war theory)
* Hegel and German Idealism
* Kant
* Liberalism
* Multiculturalism
* Philosophy of law
* Rawls
* Rights (esp human rights and group rights)
* Terrorism
* Toleration

There is also a political philosophy workshop meeting regularly with external and internal speakers. Guest speakers have included Elizabeth Ashford, David Boucher, Rowan Cruft, John Gardner, Carol Gould, Les Green, Chandran Kukathas, Brian Leiter, Susan Mendus, David Miller, Martha Nussbaum, Philip Pettit, Anne Phillips, Thomas Pogge, Joseph Raz, Henry Richardson, Michael Rosen, Robert Stern, Alison Stone, Robert Talisse, Leif Wenar, Jonathan Wolff, and many others. Graduate students are welcome at all workshops. Further information about graduate study at Newcastle can be found here. Information on how to apply online can be found here.

Anyone interested in further information should contact directly here.

Sunday, January 09, 2011

Election prediction: Palin's political future

My election prediction is that Sarah Palin's political campaign may come to increasingly regret an image posted on her Facebook website, an image that may haunt her presidential ambitions. While we have yet to learn the particular motives of the gunman, Palin had published a map of America depicting target seats putting them in crosshairs. This map can be found here.  There is more here. This map had Rep Gabrielle Gifford's seat in the crosshairs. Yesterday, a gunman shot her and, thankfully, she has survived.

Rep. Gifford had commented on being targetted by Palin in this way, noting that such images may have "consequences" and clearly expresses concern. (The video can be found here.) Her concerns seem substantiated. Palin has already issues a statement here about the shooting and House Republicans -- who had planned to begin a repeal of health care reform this week -- have postponed these plans for at least this week in response.

Palin may have originally welcomed the pro-hunting, gun friendly image of the moose lovin' Alaskan rugged individualist on the frontier, but posting images of opponents in crosshiars -- opponents who are within a year shot at public events (and this is not the first time persons have been found with a gun at Rep Gifford's events) with at least six pronounced dead --- is not evidence of good political judgement.

I am unsure how much her popularity may fade amongst supporters. Often politics is like sports: we identify with a team and stick with them through thick and thin. I suspect many supporters may not be as worried as they should be about the political fortunes of their heroine. However, I suspect instead that political opinion on Palin will further polarize with her "positive" numbers remaining constant or dropping slightly, but "negative" numbers increasing and hardening.

They say the image of Michael Dukakis in a tank damaged his future political fortunes. I suspect Palin's crosshairs is the image that has seriously damaged her future political fortunes. Will Palin run for president? No. You heard it here first . . . . . .

UPDATE: Now we learn that an arrest has been made following a number of alleged threats against a second Democrat politician, this time a Senator in Colorado. Details here.

Philosophy department rankings

A new interesting ranking can be found here.

Friday, January 07, 2011

Thom Brooks on "Natural Law Internalism"

. . . can be found here. The paper's abstract:

"G.W.F. Hegel developed a new understanding of natural law that departs from both traditional and more contemporary accounts. Natural lawyers defend standards that are external to the law in order to survey the merits of law. Call these accounts theories of natural law externalism. Hegel offers a very different account where we survey the merits of law through a standard that is internal to law. This essay will explain Hegel’s natural law internalism and whether it marks an advance on existing natural law accounts. I will argue that Hegel offers us a novel understanding of natural law that is compelling, but ultimately unstable and problematic."

Thursday, January 06, 2011

US House Republicans read aloud the Constitution

. . . or, as it turns out, an amended version which omits parts they wished to avoid. Details can be found here. A political stunt if ever there was one . . . and as if this move at the start of each Congress will make any substantive difference.

The Brooks Blog: 300,000 Visitor Milestone

This is a very special post for me. In spring 2006, I was encouraged to set up a blog. The primary reason was merely to have an online forum where I could make available drafts of essays I was working on in the hope of soliciting some great feedback. Soon I began posting on issues in public policy, especially on higher education, and issues that grabbed my attention.

Today, the blog meter reports that the Brooks Blog has had more than 300,000 visitors since spring 2006. This is wonderful news and far, far beyond anything I had imagined when I began blogging only a few years ago. Many thanks are necessary. First, my thanks to Brian Leiter who has been very encouraging since the beginning. Thanks must also go to fellow bloggers Matthew Liao, Larry Solum, and Philosopher Anonymous. Finally, my biggest thanks must go to you, the reader, for taking the time to read this blog. The Brooks Blog has grown and adapted over time, but I hope it will continue to attract increasing interest. I have much more in store for the blog in future and hope readers will continue to contribute.

An election prediction

There is an election taking place in Oldham (UK). As tempting as it is to support the Pirate Party's election campaign, I predict that Labour will win this seat . . . . and by a large margin. The BBC has more on the Liberal Democrats here.

Do you get the feeling you are receiving less spam email?

This may be because there is less spam email. Details here. Don't expect it to last for long . . . .

ESP exists (possibly)!

. . . or "strong evidence" in favour of the existence of extrasensory perception. The New York Times supplies the details here. Expect this to dominate dinner conversations over the next days and weeks . . . . . Readers may be interested in the journal article here at the centre of this story.

Now I knew a story like this might happen . . . .

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

The Brooks Blog readership

Looks like this:

The cost of power: Liberal Democrat support at all-time low

Nick Clegg's big gamble is not paying off. The latest poll finds public support for his Liberal Democrats at an all-time low of a mere 11%. If a general election were held today, Labour would have the most seats . . . and Lib Dem MPs would number 15 (instead of the 57 in the House today).

The Conservative Party can probably not believe its luck. Since joining in a coalition with the Lib Dems, only the Lib Dems seem to be facing real problems with potential voters in opinion polls despite both parties supporting big cuts in public spending.

Many wondered why the Lib Dems ever agreed to a coalition in the first place. My reply was that the party thought it a golden opportunity to transform their image from being a party of opposition to a party in power. Of course, the party leadership would have predicted a drop in support up front as the party has long opposed Conservative Party policies on the economy and other issues (at least until the last general election). However, alarm bells should begin ringing as this drop in support now looks sustained . . . and deepening.

The problem with gambling is that sometimes you lose. Liberal Democrats may learn this lesson the hard way at the next general election.

The reason why I am bald

. . . is explained here. I had blamed having dreadlocks as a teenager . . .

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Why publish journal articles?

There has been much attention on journals and journal practices recently on the Leiter Reports, as well as elsewhere. The Association of Philosophy Journal Editors (APJE) has been relaunched by Carol Gould and me. Additionally, the APA has a subcommittee looking into journal practices at present as well.

Journal articles are highly important for academic careers. There are many reasons given for perhaps the more obvious benefits:

1. Journal articles as a seal of approval.
Journal articles are a seal of approval (of sorts). When a journal accepts an article for publication, it is giving its support to the essay's "publishability" (is this a word? Well, it is now!). This stamp of approval says to the wider community that an essay has a particular importance as judged by the journal and its associates.

Not all seals of approval are the same. One example is that not all journals run the same review process. Thus, journal x may be double-blind while journal y is triple-blind. Or journal x may use one referee while journal y will use two or three referees. There are also differences in persons used. Some journals may have a more prestigious list of editorial board members and referees to use in assessing essays than another. Therefore, even if two journals had the same formal procedures for assessing essay submissions, papers would be assessed by academics with very different backgrounds.

A further comment is worth noting. Many critical of journal practices have focussed their attention almost entirely to the mechanics of review: what procedure is followed, how long reviews take, etc. These are highly important issues, but far from the only central concerns. Others include how referees are selected and who these referees are. A further concern is the standard that referees employ in assessing submissions. Thus, the same referee might recommend different decisions for different journals. This is not always problematic. It may be that paper x submitted to journals y and z falls outside the remit of journal y but not journal z: there is then nothing specifically problematic about a referee recommending rejection for one journal and acceptance at another for the same paper on such grounds. Things are different where the remit of the journal is not at issue, but judgements about the necessary standards of publishable quality are an issue. The blog Ethics Etc had an interesting poll where many colleagues said that they would employ different standards.

In the end, getting published in a journal is a seal of approval by a certain team -- journals should be seem as a collective project involving editors, editorial boards, referees, and authors -- although there may sometimes be questions about the relative value of one seal approval versus another.

2. Journal articles as an academic job qualification.
In large part due to the fact that journal articles are understood as a seal of approval, journal articles also are often tickets to academic jobs as they are seen as academic job qualifications. Let me elaborate. Candidate x may be qualified for an academic job without articles. However, earning tenure regularly involves satisfying some standard of research productivity which, in turn, regularly involves demonstration of publications.

Furthermore, journal articles may be helpful to those candidates who come from more modest academic training grounds. Perhaps their department was not in a top ten list, but nevertheless the quality of research is quite high by candidate x as in the evidence of an article in journal y. The journal article as seal of approval can also play an additional role as providing further job qualifications both to acquire a new position and to earn promotions.

While many focus on the related (1) and (2) points above, I believe that there is a third element often overlooked:

3. Journal articles as academic brand awareness.
(I can already see readers cringe at my use of business-speak....I share your pain!) The article as seal of approval is a leading reason behind the importance of publishing in academic journals. However, I believe that there is something more to be said about this importance often overlooked, namely, articles are an excellent medium to communicate ideas. Suppose there are journals x, y and z. Some libraries may get all three; some libraries will have some combination of them; some libraries will only subscribe to one of them. Publishing in more than one journal is not simply a sign that you have earned several seals of approval by different journal communities, but an opportunity to reach a wider audience. This should give many reason to publish in more than one journal: it offers a better opportunity to communicate your ideas to more people. This is not to say that academics should publish the same thing again and again. However, often one's work explores new issues in a field where one has engaged in previous research on different issues. A person's work is often composed of papers that together make up a larger project on a set of issues, questions or concerns. Publishing in multiple venues may offer better brand awareness about your research project than if you stuck with a single venue.

The above are some reflections on academic publishing. What have I missed?

UPDATE: Many thanks to Brian Leiter for kindly noting this post on the Leiter Reports!

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New year, new philosophical trends?

As the new begins a question for readers: what do you suspect will be the major philosophical trends of the future?

One suspicion is that work in so-called "experimental ethics" will only become more popular.

I also suspect that work in global justice will see two changes: one change is greater attention given to environmental ethics (this will get more mainstream) and there will be a shift to speak more to non-Western traditions than is often the case. While I believe differences between East and West are often exaggerated, I also believe that there are differences remain and that philosophical resources from one tradition can help inform how we address problems in the other tradition. This is not a project of comparative philosophy, but rather a project of expanding the canon.

What do others think......?

Sunday, January 02, 2011

Equality: the ticket to greater citations?

'Tis the season for navel-gazing over the winter holidays . . .  Readers may be aware of the programme Publish or Perish which permits you to run citation searches for authors, journals, etc. I thought I would take a brief look to see which articles were the most cited from Ethics. What I found was the following:

1. GA Cohen, "On the currency of egalitarian justice" (published 1989) - 944 citations
2. A Baier, "Trust and antitrust" (1986) - 927
3. IM Young, "Polity and group difference" (1989) - 876
4. W Kymlicka & W Norman, "Return of the citizen" (1994) - 628
5. ES Anderson, "What is the point of equality?" (1999) - 622
6. J Waldron, "Superseding historic justice" (1992) - 426
7. DF Aberle, et al, "The functional prerequisites of a society" (1950) - 249
8. AE Buchanan, "Assessing the communitarian critique" (1989) - 248
9. W Kymlicka, "Liberal individualism and liberal neutrality" (1989) - 245
10. SL Darwall, "Two kinds of respect" (1977) - 222
11. WA Galston, "Two concepts of liberalism" (1995) - 212
12. H Frankfurt, "Equality as a moral ideal" (1987) - 211
13. RE Barnett, "Restitution" (1977) - 195
13. RE Goodin, "What is so special about our fellow countrymen?" (1988) - 195

Looking at this (and also for other journals, such as Philosophy and Public Affairs), many of the top cited articles appear to directly or indirectly address the topic of equality. Readers interested in increasing their citations may consider changing their planned future projects accordingly . . . . .