Thursday, February 23, 2017

Yes, Oxford University Press may be overly represented here

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Forthcoming books on epistemology.

Each of the following books will become available at some point between today and the end of the year, and is available for pre-order now. Yes, I've simply gotten these from amazon, and didn't feel inspired to do anything more ambitious today.

There are more -- I stopped at an even dozen out of laziness.

Douglas Edwards, Truth: A Contemporary Reader (Bloomsbury Academic)

R.G. Collingwood, An Essay on Philosophical Method (Key Texts), eds. James Connelly and Giuseppina D'Oro St Augustine Press.

Patrick J. Reider, ed., Social Epistemology and Epistemic Agency Rowman & Littlefield.

Donald Gillies, Causality, Probability, and Medicine Routledge.

Mathew Altman, The Palgrave Kant Handbook Palgrave.

Dmitri Nikulin, The Concept of History Bloomsbury Academic

Helen Beebee and Christopher Hitchcock, Making a Difference: Essays on the Philosophy of Causation Oxford University Press.

Peter Carruthers, The Centered Mind Oxford University Press.

Diego E. Machuca, Moral Skepticisms Routledge.

Robert J. Belton, Alfred Hitchcock's Vertigo and the Hermeneutic Spiral Palgrave

Kevin C. Elliott and Ted Richards, Exploring Inductive Risk Oxford University Press

Hannes Leitgeb, The Stability of Belief Oxford University Press

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Lawyers Ethics and Discrimination

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It is unlawful for a law firm, as an employer, to discriminate in its hiring, promotion, assignment of duties, etc., just when it is unlawful for any other employer to discriminate. There is no law firm exemption in the United States.

The legal profession also has a code of professional responsibility, which varies in certain respects state by state, bar by bar. There also exists a Model Code, under the authority of the ABA.

That said, are there specific anti-discrimination ethical principles, in particular in that model code? I've only recently learned that there are.

Here is a discussion. 

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Baylor University Gets a Star

Timothy O'Connor

Brian Leiter's philosophy blog noted recently that Timothy O'Connor is leaving Indiana University, and will become a professor of philosophy at Baylor.

This is a big gain for Baylor. As Leiter observes, O'Connor (portrait here from the Indiana U website) is "a leading contemporary defender of a libertarian account of free will," that is, of the view that free will, in the sense implied by moral responsibility, is incompatible with determinism, and that we are justified in embracing non-determined human acts as a fact in the world.

O'Connor is the author of Persons and Causes, in which he sets out his take on incompatibilism at length. Here's a link to more info thereon.

Since incompatibilists/voluntarists are distinctly a minority amongst contemporary philosophers, one might think the small band of warriors in this cause would take up arms against foes, not each other. But of course, they are philosophers, so of course they take up arms against each other. O'Connor spends much of the text of Persons and Causes engaged in battle with Robert Kane, whose very Jamesian view of these questions I've expounded at some length in the precursor to this blog.

Here is a full list of links to that discussion:
Part I, Part II, Part III, Part IV, Part V, Part VI, Part VII, Part VIII, Conclusion.

So what, you might ask, are the differences between the incompatibilism/indeterminism of Kane and that of O'Connor?

O'Connor believes that determinism is a particular "occurrent" sort of causality, the sort in which one event occurs because an earlier event had occurred, the paper burns because a lit match was held against it. He also believes that free will consists in causality of a "nonoccurrent" kind. That is, my actions are in some sense an outflowing of my character, and my character is not an event, not the sort of thing that "occurs."

Kane is happy to do without non-occurrent causality. As he writes in The Significance of Free Will, specifically in response to O'Connor: "Let's not beat around the bush and postulate special ontological relations to obscure what we must say anyway and can say more simply. At crunch time, the agents just do it, they settle indecision, respond to indeterminacy, and take responsibility then and there for setting their lives on one or another future branching pathway." My decisions are an event, an occurrence if you will, and their indeterminacy is what matters.

At any rate, of my own free will I say this: good luck to Professor O'Connor as he relocates to Waco Texas, home of the Baylor Bears!

Friday, February 17, 2017

Banditry in China

Unruly People

I've been reading a book about banditry in China from the late 18th into the mid 19th century (the mid-Qing or late Imperial period, in terms of traditional Chinese periodization).

These are simply among my notes from the reading. Notes that did NOT get into the actual review that I have prepared for publication months hence in The Federal Lawyer.

 "Bandit" is not a legal term in English, it is a vernacular term that derives from the word for "banishment." It is associated with activities that might get their perpetrator banished, and with activities sometimes associated with those who HAVE BEEN banished, and who accordingly can only continue their criminal ways on the margins of a settled society, where there are hiding places or a nearby sanctuary.

The word most often translated into "bandit" from Chinese is "fei," which has a similar etymology.

Also, both "bandit" and "fei" suggest violent theft, as well as membership in a gang.

Another useful Chinese word to know in context is "zei." This suggests 'one who pillages.' It is a broader term than "fei" because the pillaging committed by a zei can be part of a political revolt, as well as or instead of banditry.

The book, UNRULY PEOPLE, is about bandits, but also in parts it is about the boundary where banditry can turn into rebellion, where zei may be a better word than fei.

The area under consideration is south eastern China -- the area along the Pacific from just north of Hong Kong, south to the Vietnam border.

Something else that the Anglophone and Chinese worlds have in common is the romantic view of banditry (as well as of its sea-faring cousin, piracy). English speaking folk think of Robin Hood. Chinese literature has analogs: the bandit as sympathetic nonconformist.

My apologies if this infliction of my first notes seems chaotic. That will be all for now.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Yes, It's Old News, But

... a scientific scandal, involving a woman who received a chemistry Ph.D. at august Columbia University, and was a candidate for a Ph.D. in molecular biology at Heidelberg University in Germany, only recently came to my attention. Here's a photo of the Columbia Quad.

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The story is so fascinating that even the date of the investigative documents involved (2010) can't keep me from going over the ground here.

 Here's a link, for those who want to go further into the matter than I plan to go here:

Because federal grant money was involved, the HHS Department's Office of Research Integrity did a thorough review of the matter.

The culprit, Bengu Sezen, claimed to have developed a way of selectively activating C-H bonds. Think of the words "hydrocarbon" and "carbohydrates" and you have two good reasons for caring about the C-H bonds.

The selective activation of C-H bonds continues to be an active field of research. Alas, Sezen's claims to progress were an utter dead end.

One picturesque detail to arise out of the fraud: Sezen used correction fluid, ordinary "white out," to fake laboratory results, removing certain peaks in a spectrum read-out that didn't meet her hypothesis.

What fascinates me? Well, to begin, that white out. That's something I know. I don't really know what "to selectively activate C-H bonds" means. I'm not sure why it is considered tough to do so. I have no idea what the spectrum resulting from an experiment on the subject should look like. I'm a terrible ignoramus. BUT ... I know what correction fluid looks like and have used more than my share!

That this is a scandal about work on C-H bonds also reminds me in an odd way of the Velikovsky controversy of the '60s. Regular readers of this blog may know that the Velikovsky controversy is something of a "thing" for me.

One point I remember from reading about IV's theories: the passing of a celestial body close to Earth was supposed to explain the raining of "manna" while the Jews were in the wilderness. Why? Well ... one skeptic explained, such an event (if it had occurred) might explain the entry of hydrocarbons into the atmosphere, and Velikovsky might simply have confused hydrocarbons with carbohydrates. One C-H bond with another. So he might have thought he had a naturalistic explanation BOTH of the manna AND of "fire and brimstone" from the heavens. Killing both of those birds with the same astronomical stone.

Okay, too much free association.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Office Politics

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Who makes the coffee?

That was for decades, I think, a pressing problem in petty office politics. Somebody was supposed to make the coffee, although that was seldom in anyone's actual job description. So it was "settled" by informal higgle-haggle.

This recent comic parodies that situation.

I bring it up only because this comic made me think of K-cups. I've not been in and out of offices in recent years, I've been working from home. But I have to wonder ... have they wrought a revolution?

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Super Bowl 51 (or LI)

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The bettors' line usually fluctuates in the days prior to the Super Bowl, as money comes into the market first from one side then from the other. The line serves as a "price," and responds to the forces of supply and demand. The fluctuation didn't happen this year. The line was 3 pts, with the New England Patriots favored, from the start and it stayed that way right up to kick off.

What lesson if any can be derived from that: I don't know.

First story: ads. Scarlett Johansson in "Ghost in the Shell," an upcoming movie I had never heard of. Wild footage in the ad, though. Japanese anime thing? See images above.

Later, good Buick ad. "If that's a Buick, then my kid is Cam Newton."

Near the end of the first half there's a clever ad about how the "half time bathroom break is coming," so it is good to have FEBREZE around. Yuck yuck.

Also, T-Mobile has a couple (more?) of spoofs of the FIFTY SHADES movie franchise.

Late in the game, there's a good promo for the new BAYWATCH. Dialog, "Why does she think she's running in slo mo?" "You see it too?"

But enough about the ads already....

The score was 0-0 at the end of the first quarter. That was a surprise. These are both good offenses.

Second and Third Quarters

Early in the second quarter, Falcons manage the first turnover of the game. They turn it into a touchdown with the benefit of some great rushes. On their very next series, they establish their passing cred, and are up 14-0.

Things look even worse late in the 2d. Robert Alford reads Tom Brady all too well and picks off a pass, and makes more than an 80 yard return. With point after, 21 - 0. I'm not sure who Brady's pass was intended for.

Patriots finally get a good drive going at the very end of the half and, heartbreakingly, they have to settle for only 3 points. Still, better than a goose egg going into the locker room.

Back out of the locker room, Falcons score another touchdown. They are now ahead 28 to 3, and this looks like a historic blow-out victory for them. But there is a reason some wise ancestor said something about chickens and the act of counting.

Late in the 3d quarter, with the game apparently decided, Tom Brady runs the ball, something he almost never does. Gets his team 15 yards, tying his season high in rushing. The drive ends in a TD, BUT with a failure at the extra point, so the score becomes 28-9.

The Wild Fourth Quarter

At the opening of the last quarter, the Patriots again have to settle for a field goal when they would have dearly loved a TD, making the score 28-12.

With 8:30 left to go in the game, the Falcon offense coughs up the ball, their first turnover in the postseason. Gives the Patriots a shot. They are 16 points behind. They need two scores of 8 pts each to tie. They get the first of those 8 pt-ers on this driven with a little less than 6 minutes left to play.

Then the Patriots make the stop, with the help of a big penalty call against the Birds, and they get the ball back with a chance to tie the game with 3:30 minutes to go.

They drive down the field expertly, Brady back up to his best form, and Edelman makes a miracle catch while falling, and while his arms are intertwined with the arms of two defenders. The ruling on the field is that he made the catch, and the ruling is upheld on appeal.

Soon a TD follows, and a second consecutive two pt conversion. The game is tied as seconds count down, after a historic comeback.


We get a quick refresher in the NFL's overtime rules which (like electoral college math) is open to controversy but until changed it defines who wins.

The idea is: sudden death except. First team to score wins except that IF the first score is on the first possession AND that score is a field goal, then it isn't sudden death, the other team must have a chance to answer.

So the Patriots were determined to end this with a TD. And, as it happens, they did so, with excellent play while the Falcons seem at last to have been winded by it all. Game ends 34 to 28.

So that 3 point bettors' line that showed unusual equilibrium? It seems pretty reasonable as an accurate predictor both of a close game and of a Patriots victory.