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Showing posts from February, 2017

Moral Skepticisms

Walter Sinnott-Armstrong, the fellow portrayed here, is the author of MORAL SKEPTICISMS.

This is not to be confused with an anthology called MORAL SKEPTICISM (singular), edited by Diego Machuca, which I included recently on my list of a dozen forthcoming books on epistemology.

Actually, I confused the two myself, and am now re-writing this entry to straighten that out.

I'm happy to report that Sinnott-Armstrong, at least, is not a moral skeptic.  Happy because, as I trust my readers know, I am a cognitivist in meta-ethics and moral epistemology. I very much believe there is a fact of the matter that one either hits or one misses when one says, for example, "it would be right to switch the track on that trolley." Further, I see cognitivism as central to my Jamesianism, and thus to the mission of this humble blog. So I'm happy to see that Sinnott-Armstrong is an ally on this matter, and that his book is about moral skepticism, not for it.

Sinnott-Armstrong is also kn…

Insanity and the Criminal Trial as Spectacle

The website Concurring Opinions hosted a symposium on a book by Susanna Blumenthal, Law and the Modern Mind.

I reviewed Blumenthal's book for The Federal Lawyer, but surprisingly was not asked to contribute to the symposium. At any rate, I find some of the material gathered for this purpose intriguing.

In her reply to one of her critics, Blumenthal includes this thought:

I have long been fascinated with the theatricality of insanity trials and the extent to which they doubled as entertainment forms in nineteenth-century America, bearing a certain resemblance the commercial amusements of P.T. Barnum, who created controversies about his own exhibits, advertising that experts disagreed about their authenticity and democratically inviting “the sagacious public” to decide for themselves. 

This passage reminds me that James Holmes, the fellow who in 2012 dressed up as The Joker and shot up a movie theatre in Colorado, killing 12 people.

Holmes' trial in 2014 was the sort of spect…

Lawyers Ethics and Discrimination

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. 

Baylor University Gets a Star

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 ot…

Banditry in China

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 membershi…

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.

Office Politics

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?

Super Bowl 51 (or LI)

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 h