Sunday, July 24, 2016

A 21st century fideist philosopher?

Image result for john d. caputo

I'm not sure whether the theological/Christological views of John D. Caputo count as fideism in the sense in which that term attaches to, say, Tertullian, Pascal, Kierkegaard, or Karl Barth.

Whether he joins that august company or not, as the significance of his works comes to be sorted by time, I'm glad he recently came within my ken.

Caputo's works include:



And at essay length, "Temporal Transcendence," in TRANSCENDENCE AND BEYOND (2007).

The title of the anthology to which I've just referred reminds me a bit of Buzz Lightyear's expression, "To Infinity and Beyond."  But that is probably unfair to them both.

One quote. Caputo is often quoted saying this, though I don't know the sourcing specifics for it.

"I am seeking to know what religion would look like, what form it would take, if it were wrested free from people who consider themselves authorities in matters in which we are all unlearned novices and perpetual beginners."

Another possible candidate for the title "fideist" is Graham Ward, author of Barth, Derrida, and the Language of Theology. But I'll leave him to another time.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

A Fair Use case from 31 years ago

Image result for Gerald Ford

I'm thinking about this decision today, though I'm not sure why.

That link takes you to Harper & Row v. Nation Enterprises, a 1985 Supreme Court decision about copyright and the limits of the "fair use" dissent.

So you won't have to follow that link to know what is on my mind, here's the syllabus, pasted.

In 1977, former President Ford contracted with petitioners to publish his as yet unwritten memoirs. The agreement gave petitioners the exclusive first serial right to license prepublication excerpts. Two years later, as the memoirs were nearing completion, petitioners, as the copyright holders, negotiated a prepublication licensing agreement with Time Magazine under which Time agreed to pay $25,000 ($12,500 in advance and the balance at publication) in exchange for the right to excerpt 7,500 words from Mr. Ford's account of his pardon of former President Nixon. Shortly before the Time article's scheduled release, an unauthorized source provided The Nation Magazine with the unpublished Ford manuscript. Working directly from this manuscript, an editor of The Nation produced a 2,250-word article, at least 300 to 400 words of which consisted of verbatim quotes of copyrighted expression taken from the manuscript. It was timed to "scoop" the Time article. As a result of the publication of The Nation's article, Time canceled its article and refused to pay the remaining $12,500 to petitioners. Petitioners then brought suit in Federal District Court against respondent publishers of The Nation, alleging, inter alia, violations of the Copyright Act (Act). The District Court held that the Ford memoirs were protected by copyright at the time of The Nation publication, and that respondents' use of the copyrighted material constituted an infringement under the Act, and the court awarded actual damages of $12,500. The Court of Appeals reversed, holding that The Nation's publication of the 300 to 400 words it identified as copyrightable expression was sanctioned as a "fair use" of the copyrighted material under § 107 of the Act. Section 107 provides that, notwithstanding the provisions of § 106 giving a copyright owner the exclusive right to reproduce the copyrighted work and to prepare derivative works based on the copyrighted work, the fair use of a copyrighted work for purposes such as comment and news reporting is not an infringement of copyright. Section 107 further provides that, in determining whether the use was fair, the factors to be considered shall include: (1) the purpose and character of the use; (2) the nature of the copyrighted work; (3) the substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole; and (4) the effect on the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work.

Before SCOTUS, then, President Ford won, The Nation lost.

Friday, July 22, 2016


It does seem that the Mugabe regime is running on empty.

If it is in fact in the midst of collapse, what will happen to Zimbabwe thereafter?

I don't know.

The usual discussion of such a question turns it into another question: "Who will govern after Robert Mugabe and his sycophants have vacated their seats?"

But of course that way of putting it implies that somebody has to govern, that those seats can't remain empty, and that is the premise that I for one would hope that the people of Zimbabwe would and will question, perhaps the assumption that thought leaders such as  Evan Mawarire are now questioning.

Mawarire turned himself in to the police upon hearing he was set to be arrested.  That is what is happening in the photo above. Another key agitator, younger and perhaps less committed to non-violence that Mawarire, is Acie Lumumba. Names worth knowing as events unfold.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Jonah Lehrer's new book

Jonah Lehrer has written a book about love.

In case the name of the author rings a bell, but you aren't quite sure why ... that is THIS fellow. Lehrer was a high-flying pop-science pundit over a five year period, from 2007 until 2012. He wrote a series of books with such titles as Proust Was A Neuroscientist with a lot of specific messages but with the over-arching meta-messages that Neuroscience is Wonderful and Explains Everything about Us.

The link I provided you above takes you to a blog entry I posted here in August 2012, amidst Lehrer's fall from grace. The specific cause was a lot of crap he wrote about Dylan. But, as is often the case in these scandals, once some blood is in the water other sharks arrive, and other chunks of flesh are torn away from the reputational body. In this case, the "sharks" weren't doing anything more predatory than fact checking, and source checking. Which turned out to be quite predatory indeed for Lehrer.

For example: Wired hired a journalism professor to look over the contributions Lehrer had made to their publication. The professor, Charles Seife, did so: but Wired then declined to publish his findings. Slate then stepped up and published the Seife report, which focused on instances of plagiarism rather than of fraud.
Read here.

Anyway, all this is simply to say that Lehrer is back. He issued a number of apologies while the sharks were taking these chunks out of his once formidable reputation, and he withdrew from the literary/journalistic waters.

I'm a sucker for comebacks, so I find this news cheering. I may get around to the new book at some point, although frankly it isn't very high on my To Do list.

What I do know is this. It's about love. It has a cute self-referential title, "A Book About Love." It tells us various things about romantic love that the author relates to contemporary neuroscience. And it would seem to have Lehrer back in the business of his Capital Letters Meta-Story, identified above.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Immanuel Kant Wasn't a Deontologist After All?


The standard definition of "deontology," in moral philosophy, is the view that the morality of an action is to be judged by duty or rule independent of the consequences of the action.

Or, in the popular cliche, the view that "the end never justifies the means."

The standard example of a deontologist is Immanuel Kant.

The standard Philosophy 101 type example involves the serial killer looking for his next victim, and the honest man who knows where the potential victim is hiding, and wonders whether it is permissible to lie to save that life.

But in the 1990s Barbara Herman wrote a book apparently intended to overturn the way moral philosophy has been taught in survey courses for generations.

I've just learned of this book, because ... well ... news from academia reaches me slowly.

At any rate, the book is THE PRACTICE OF MORAL JUDGMENT (1993).  

That's a photo of her above.

Here's a link to the book, much of which can be read on line. 

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Democratic Party Platform

Image result for puerto rico flag

Has the headline of this post put you to sleep already? If so, enjoy the zees.

If not, you may be interested in this link: from Huffington Post.

That represents where discussion stood as of July 1, anyway.

As it happens, July 1 was the day Puerto Rico defaulted on its general obligation bonds.  The last-minute Congressional action in contemplation of a restructuring of those debts was too last minute to prevent this.

Given this coincidence of timing: what does the platform say about Puerto Rico?

It gets a paragraph at the bottom of p. 16, after (and longer than) a separate graf on the "people of the territories" generally.

The paragraph on Puerto Rico takes while to get around to the debt issue, but it ends with that: "Finally, we believe that Washington must respect Puerto Rico’s local self-government as Congress and the Executive Branch work to provide the necessary tools and aid that Puerto Rico needs to restructure its debt so that it can get on a path towards stability and prosperity, while maintaining its autonomy."

Not sure what that means, beyond a generic expression of concern.  But if you've read my recent discussion in this blog of the SCOTUS decisions, PR, and sovereignty, you'll at least catch the quick allusions.

I'm happy to have been of service.

Friday, July 15, 2016

The Notorious RBG

So Ginsburg has spoken out against Donald Trump.

"I can't imagine what this place would be -- I can't imagine what the country would be -- with Donald Trump as our President."

Yes, this is very unusual. By way of comparison, Justices Douglas and/or Black, not to mention Chief Justice Warren, spoke in no such way about Richard Nixon in 1968. Surely they despised him, and saw his then-still-hypothetical presidency as a threat to their judicial legacy. But they retained what is considered proper judicial decorum in such matters.

For a sober, professorial, discussion of why Ginsburg was in the wrong and why the defenses of her comments are also "mostly wrong," go to PrawfsBlawg.

But of course this is the Justice widely known as the "Notorious RBG." If she's not going to be the court's badass, who will be?