Thursday, April 25, 2013

CONF: Philosophy in Cross-Cultural Context

Durham University, IAS Seminar Room, Palace Green, University of Durham, 11th July 2013

09.00  Tea and coffee and welcome
09.15  ‘Buddhist Conceptions of Compassion’ Simon P. James (Durham)
10.15  ‘Reincarnation and Theodicy’ Anastasia Scrutton (Leeds)
11.15  Tea and coffee 
11.30  ‘Daoism, Nature, and Environmental Ethics’ David E. Cooper (Durham)
12.30  ‘Watsuji’s Phenomenology of Social Space’ Joel Krueger (Durham)
13.30  Lunch
15.00  ‘Buddhism, Science, and Soteriology’ Ian James Kidd (Durham)
16.00  ‘Is Demythologizing Buddhism a Wittgensteinian Project?’ Mikel Burley (Leeds)
17.00  Tea and coffee
17.30  ‘Political Justice: Lessons From Indian Philosophy’ Thom Brooks (Durham)
18.30  Close

Thursday, April 18, 2013

FOR RELEASE: Changes to British citizenship: a useless gimmick about raising fees and not standards


BBC News reports today that:

"From October 2013, all those wishing to settle in the UK will have to pass an English language course as well as the existing test on life in the UK.

And that has now been extended to cover applicants for citizenship.

English-speakers applying for citizenship have currently only to take the life-in-the-UK test, which is in English."

The Home Office argues that they are raising standards and providing a new restriction on achieving citizenship by requiring applicants pass a new English language test in addition to passing the "Life in the UK" citizenship test.

These claims are inaccurate -- and demonstrate little knowledge about the "Life in the UK" test.

The test is now in its third edition launched last month. All three editions are designed so that persons that pass the test must have English at a standard of ESOL Entry Level 3. This has always been the case.

The British government will require applicants for permanent residency and citizenship to pass both the "Life in the UK" test and a new English language test from October 2013. Applicants must prove they have English language ability at ESOL Entry Level 3 to pass the new English language test. The new English language test does not, in fact, raise the standard for English proficiency required for permanent residency or citizenship. The existing test already secures this standard. The new English language test will only raise the costs of applications and not improve standards.

The British government also claims that the new test is now a new requirement for citizenship applications from October 2013. This is also inaccurate. The "Life in the UK" citizenship test is really a permanent residency test: it must be passed to secure permanent residency. Passing the citizenship test does not convey immediate citizenship. Applicants must gain permanent residency before applying for citizenship. Permanent residents may apply after one year. The result is that the test is not a new requirement for citizenship applications because (a) all prospective citizenship applicants must have already achieved permanent residency and (b) permanent residency requires passing the "Life in the UK" test which will expand to include a new English language test. So permanent residents will have already had to pass both the "Life in the UK" test and the English language test -- as it already states on page 9 of the current handbook. I note this was published in January 2013 so hardly news in mid-April.

Finally, no journalist has picked up on the problem that a person passing the "Life in the UK" test today will be held to have satisfactory English proficiency. But a person passing the same test from October 2013 will not. Either the government is wrong in its claim the current test guarantees applicants have English proficiency at Level 3 (and so misleading the public) or the future test is a useless gimmick and not raising standards at all (and so misleading the public).

Contact details for any journalists interested in this story can be found HERE.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

In Defence of Political Theory!!

My latest piece has been published today: "In Defence of Political Theory: Impact and Opportunities" with Political Studies Review -

This article will present the impact that political theory has made and the opportunities for future contributions. It will consider the contributions made by leading political theorists to policy debates, the lessons learned from their successes, and how political theorists might further pursue existing and new opportunities to develop impact. The discussion will close with consideration of several potential threats that theorists should become more aware of in order to best avoid them. The growing importance of impact in British higher education policy represents important challenges that may help promote the field of political theory. Political theorists should welcome these developments.

Clement Attlee

A former Prime Minister whose great legacy remains that shaped the future of Britain for the better. And the Queen didn't attend his funeral nor was it a state occasion. #JustSaying

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

The Resource Curse and Separation of Powers

. . . is my new piece for the Ethics & International Affairs blog here.

Lecturer/Senior Lecturer in Property and Trusts

. . . is now being advertised at Durham Law School and can be found here (ref # 2612). It is a permanent position with a salary in the range of £30,424 to £53,233 (or US$46,555 to $81,457). Deadline for applications is 17 May 2013.

Job Description
Durham Law School seeks to appoint a Lecturer/Senior Lecturer in Property and Trusts. The person appointed to this post will be an exceptional scholar with research and teaching interests that align with the person specification for the post. She or he will join one of the UK’s leading law schools and the broader community of scholars in Durham making up a Global Top 100 University.  At Durham Law School we value all methodological approaches to legal research and are a vibrant community of imaginative scholars working at the frontiers of legal knowledge. Our work is supported by numerous research centres and clusters, including the Institute of Commercial and Corporate Law ( Research undertaken in Durham Law School is published at the highest international levels and deeply influential in law, policy, advocacy and theoretical developments. Our intellectual community comprises a highly international body of academic staff working together with a large and diverse group of postgraduate research students. Our courses are highly regarded, entry is very competitive and we select an excellent student intake from across the world.

The appointee to this post will both benefit from and contribute to the continued development of our intensive and collegial School. The successful applicant will be in post on or before 1 September 2013.

Applications are particularly welcome from women and black and minority ethnic candidates, who are under-represented in academic posts in the University.


The successful applicant will pursue research leading to publications that are internationally excellent/world-leading in terms of originality, significance and rigour; demonstrate the capacity to pursue suitable funding opportunities to support their research; contribute appropriately to the delivery of research postgraduate supervision; contribute to curriculum development and teaching on the Undergraduate or LLM programmes in the Law School; and undertake administrative responsibilities as allocated by the Head of School. Appointees will become active members of the dynamic and innovative community of scholarship in Durham Law School, which includes a number of research groups that act as a focus for scholarly activity.

Person Specification

For appointment at all levels

• Good first degree in law or a cognate discipline (E)
• Completed or close to completion of a research postgraduate degree or equivalent in law or a cognate discipline (E)
For appointment at Grade 7
• Demonstrated potential to produce and publish research outputs of international excellence or world-leading in terms of quality, originality, significance and rigour (E)
• Demonstrable potential for producing research that generates impact (broadly understood) beyond the academic community (E)
• Demonstrable ability to provide excellent, research-led teaching including in the fields of property and trusts (E)
• An ability to submit (including in collaboration with others) viable bids for external funding (E)
• Capacity to undertake and lead in administrative positions within the School (E)
• Demonstrable commitment to collegiality and (peer) mentorship (E)

For appointment at Grade 8

• Record of producing and publishing research outputs of international excellence or world-leading in terms of quality, originality, significance and rigour (E)
• A record of producing research that generates impact (broadly understood) beyond the academic community (E)
• Experience of providing excellent, research-led teaching including in the fields of property and trusts (E)
• The ability to attract and successfully supervise doctoral students (E)
• A record of submitting (including in collaboration with others) viable bids for external funding (E)
• Experience of successfully undertaking administrative roles (E)
• Demonstrable commitment to collegiality and (peer) mentorship (E)

For appointment at Grade 9 (Senior Lecturer)

• An established profile of important and innovative research and publications which are internationally excellent and influential in their originality, significance and rigour (E)
• A track record generating externally sourced research funding with a demonstrated potential to continue to generate such funding (E)
• A record of producing research that generates impact (broadly understood) beyond the academic community (E)
• An established record of providing excellent, research-led teaching including in the fields of property and trusts (E)
• Clear evidence of the ability to attract and successfully supervise doctoral students (E)
• Evidence of academic leadership and experience of successfully undertaking administrative roles (E)

Sunday, April 14, 2013

What is your university like?

My Durham colleague Mathias Siems has a fantastic piece on what Google searches look like for different universities here.

Tuesday, April 09, 2013

Editor's Cut: The Future of Philosophical Research According to Journal Editors

This is a special issue of the journal Metaphilosophy with papers drawn from an engaging and illuminating conference held at the University of London. The issue contains papers by journal editors that outline their perspectives on the next major developments in academic philosophy. The issue can be found here. The contents include (amongst others):

"Introduction" - Luciano Floridi

"What is A Philosophical Question?" - Luciano Floridi

"Whither Philosophy?" - Robert Stern

"Philosophy of Science A Personal Peek into the Future" - Steven French & Michela Massimi

"The Future of Philosophy" - Tim Mulgan

"Philosophy Unbound: The Idea of Global Philosophy" - Thom Brooks

"Scientific Philosophy, Mathematical Philosophy, and All That" - Hannes Leitgeb

"Trends and Progress in Philosophy" - Matti Eklund

Special thanks to the UCD School of Philosophy

Many special thanks to the  University College Dublin School of Philosophy for hosting my talk on 'The Unified Theory of Punishment', an early overview of a current book project. UCD has a particularly special importance for me as the place where - philosophically - things really started to come together. My ideas on Hegel and punishment were first launched at this time - and I spent about a year as managing editor of the International Journal of Philosophical Studies which helped prepare me for launching the Journal of Moral Philosophy a few years later.

As usual, the questions and discussion was brilliant and engaging. Always a real joy to return - and many, many thanks to the School for the kind invitation and generous hospitality. My home away from home.

Congratulations to Lord Justice Hughes

Lord Justice Hughes is a Durham alumnus and also a former lecturer at Durham Law School. He is sworn in today as a member of the UK Supreme Court.

There is a Durham University piece on this story here.

Monday, April 08, 2013

Many thanks to Brian Leiter

. . . for noting my recent work on the flawed "Life in the UK" citizenship test here. Much more to come -- and I have a special announcement to be made shortly . . .

Thursday, April 04, 2013

Continuing problems with launch of "Life in the United Kingdom" citizenship test

Readers will know about recent posts (with links below) to my interviews and commentary on problems with the launch of the new Life in the United Kingdom citizenship test. The problems continue.

The launch of the new third edition of the test was on 25th of March. The official handbook was available for purchase -- the test questions are designed to test knowledge gained from the handbook -- but the other books were NOT available for the launch.

Today, I have received the following message from TSO:


Title: Passing the life in the UK test: a guide for new residents official practice questions and answers 2013 ed
ISBN: 0113413432 / 9780113413430
Price: £7.99
Quantity: 1

 Title: Life in the United Kingdom: a guide for new residents official citizenship test study guide 2013 ed
ISBN: 0113413424 / 9780113413423
Price: £7.99
Quantity: 1 [....]"

What does this mean? It means that the official sample questions and answers book has only just been published and released -- about TWO WEEKS after the launch of the test(!).

It also means that an altogether new third book - the "guide" for how to sit the test, a book never published before and altogether unknown - has not been available to anyone who has taken the test over the last fortnight.

This is outrageous and possible evidence that the new test has been rushed...and botched. I will announce soon the launch date of my critical and comprehensive report into the many problems with the new test to be held in May.

Tuesday, April 02, 2013

Pub quiz facts citizenship test - or "Life in the UK" (3rd edition)

The National Union of Teachers' conference has criticised the Education Secretary, Conservative MP Michael Gove, for his support of a "pub quiz facts curriculum" that favours rote learning over active learning.

No one to my knowledge has noticed that this view of education may have deeply influenced the new Life in the UK citizenship test, too. The test handbook is now mostly composed of historical facts -- mostly about the activities of men, but even more problematic it contains rich amounts of relatively trivial information.

For example, new citizens are now expected to memorise the years of birth and death of every person mentioned in the 160+ page handbook. This comes to literally dozens and dozens of names. (I'm sure Private Eye will tell us how many in due course...) Plus, new citizens most know the place of birth (hint: not the UK) for Florence Nightingale (who surely deserves mention in a list of the most important British persons in history) -- and where she first studied nursing (hint: also not the UK). Hint: much of the information you must memorise is about world, not British, history.

If such details don't yet strike you as pure trivia, then try this: on which street did Britain's first curry house first appear? What was its name? Who started it? Which foreign army did he serve in? And how did he marry "an Irish girl"? Answers: George Street, London; the Hindoostane Coffee House; Sake Dean Mahomet; Bengal; he eloped. Now I know all this because I'm good at tests, but how relevant is every fact? Note: the problem is the kinds of details -- who slept with who? On which street did they work? What year born and died?

You might say that the "pub quiz facts" analogy is particularly striking for the citizenship test. The test has gone from being testing trivial knowledge (about bureaucratic arrangements and programmes) to the purely trivial.

Another opportunity missed.

Taxpayers' Alliance - director does not pay British tax

The Taxpayers' Alliance has become a growing presence in political debates calling on less government spending and smaller government more generally, as a self-appointed advocate for taxpayers.

So now enter the bombshell that one of its director does not, in fact, pay British tax as reported in The Guardian here. To paraphrase Labour MP Jon Cruddas, we might expect directors of a group representing the interest of British taxpayers to be British taxpayers, too. The fact that this is untrue may be a cause for concern.