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Sunday, November 30, 2014

What's Wrong With the Golden Rule?

This is an oldish post by Sam Killerman, over at It's Pronounced Metrosexual. One could quibble about whether the problem he's discussing really is one with the Golden Rule as such, but the underlying point is spot-on.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Atheism vs Anti-Theism

Really terrific piece by Reza Aslan about why the "New Atheists" are neither new nor atheists.
In seeking to replace religion with secularism and faith with science, the New Atheists have, perhaps inadvertently, launched a movement with far too many similarities to the ones they so radically oppose. Indeed, while we typically associate fundamentalism with religiously zealotry, in so far as the term connotes an attempt to "impose a single truth on the plural world"—use the definition of noted philosopher Jonathan Sacks—then there is little doubt that a similar fundamentalist mind-set has overcome many adherents of this latest iteration of anti-theism.
Precisely. (Seen first on AlterNet.)

All reminiscent in some ways of a famous remark by Einstein, reflecting on the reaction to an article he wrote on religion in 1940:
I was barked at by numerous dogs who are earning their food guarding ignorance and superstition for the benefit of those who profit from it. Then there are the fanatical atheists whose intolerance is of the same kind as the intolerance of the religious fanatics and comes from the same source. They are like slaves who are still feeling the weight of their chains which they have thrown off after hard struggle. They are creatures who—in their grudge against the traditional "opium of the people"—cannot bear the music of the spheres. The Wonder of nature does not become smaller because one cannot measure it by the standards of human moral and human aims.
Of course, Einstein's views about religion were very, very complicated and seem to have shifted over time, from what I can tell.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Collection of Articles on Bill Cosby and The Like

Deeply disturbing.
But what's most disturbing, or so my wife tells me, is that there were extensive reports on these accusations, by reputable news organizations, years ago. Or, as Barbara Bowman asked: "Bill Cosby raped me. Why did it take 30 years for people to believe my story?" Is the answer the one she gives? "Only after a man, Hannibal Buress, called Bill Cosby a rapist in a comedy act last month did the public outcry begin in earnest." God help us if so.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

"Frege Arithmetic and 'Everyday Mathematics'" Published

My paper "Frege Arithmetic and 'Everyday Mathematics'" has been published in Philosophia Mathematica 22 (2014), pp. 279-307. Abstract:
This paper shows that predicative Frege arithmetic naturally interprets some weak but non-trivial arithmetical theories. The weak theories in question are all relational versions of Tarski, Mostowski, and Robinson's R and Q, i.e., they are formulated using predicates Pxy, Axyz, and Mxyz in place of the usual function symbols Sx, x+y, and x×y. We lose the existence and uniqueness of successor, sum, and product, as generalizations, but retain these in each particular case (much as we lose the recursion clauses for addition in R, but retain them in each particular case). In saying that the interpretation is "natural", I mean that it relies only upon "definitions" of arithmetical notions that are themselves "natural", that is, that have some claim to be "definitions" in something other than a purely formal sense.
The published version can be found here; the pre-publication version, here. If you need a copy of the published version but don't have access without paying, then send me an email.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

More Great PGR Posts From Mitchell Aboulafia

Mitchell's the human to watch on this.
That last one should definitely make us really totally confident that the new co-editor has total, utter, complete independence from any influence that Herr Über Professor Leiter might, well, not attempt to exert, we wouldn't want to imply that...more like impose with an iron fist.

No offense, but sometimes one wonders what the fire truck people are thinking.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Do You Know About Jian?

Somehow, I totally failed to link to this amazing article by the extent to which people surrounding Jian Ghomeshi knew that he was "weird" about women. I meant to include it with these links (and now have).

I have since found another article in a similar vein, by Carl Wilson on Slate XX. And another, by Emma Healey, on The Hairpin.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Alcohol and Consent

I post a lot of links to what Thomas MacAulay Millar writes about consent, because so much of it is so sensible. And his recent piece "Draining the Swamp: Alcohol and Agency" is no exception.

Yet More About Consent

Kind of basic stuff here, but worth reading. The nice point is that one doesn't have to go so far as to satisfy the legal definition of rape to violate consent in a way that does harm.
  • "Coerced Consent: When 'Yes' Really Means 'No'" (Harris O'Malley, Good Men Project)
This one is thought-provoking. I won't even try to say what it's about. Probably, as she suggests, men shouldn't read it.
  • "Consent Is Way More Complicated For Women Than Just 'Yes Means Yes'" (Samantha Eyler, Role Reboot)
Back to our regularly scheduled programming.
  • "6 Myths About 'Yes Means Yes'" (Soraya Chemaly, Role Reboot)
  • "Neutral Evil: The Problem With Refusing To Decide" (Thomas MacAulay Millar, Yes Means Yes)
Which means we should remind ourselves again why people have a problem with this.

        Street Harrassment

        There's alot I'd change about this piece on Good Men Project trying to explain to men what's wrong with street harassment. But it makes one very important point.
        Are there ways to tell a strange woman that you think that she’s attractive without harassing her? Of course there is. But this is one of the many times where you need to examine your motivations in the first place. For many people it’s not just about paying the compliment—it's about her reaction to the compliment as well. They say they want to make a stranger feel good but if she ignores then or—worse—gets annoyed by it? Many of those "gentlemen" will get their backs up—"It’s just a compliment! I’m trying to tell you that you're pretty. You should say 'thank you'!" ...

        That reproach for not acknowledging [the] compliment underscores the real motivation: he wants her attention and acknowledgement. Her presence out in public means that her time and attention is now a public resource, available for any and all to demand at will.
         There's other good stuff there, as well.

        Sunday, November 2, 2014

        An Open Letter to Prospective Evaluators for the 2014-2015 Philosophical Gourmet Report

        Not by me, but by Mitchell Aboulafia. Posted at NewAPPS.

        Here, I shall do no more than register my disgust, yet again, by quoting the words of Zachary Ernst:
        It is my contention that the Report is not merely unsound as a ranking system and detrimental to the profession; it is obviously unsound as a ranking system and obviously detrimental to the profession. Indeed, its flaws are so obvious that it would seem to be unnecessary to discuss them. However, the Report is also an institution unto itself. It is so deeply entrenched into the profession of academic philosophy that otherwise highly intelligent and critical professionals seem to have developed a blind spot to it.
        Indeed, it is seriously worrying how utterly oblivious people in this profession are to the flaws of PGR and to the egregious damage it does. Not intentionally, but that is ir-effing-relevant.

        Should You Buy Sex Toys From Amazon?

        Some thoughts inspried by a nice article today by Dangerous Lily (possibly NSFW, depending upon where you W), which reminded me of a slightly older piece on Daily Dot.

        More on Consent, Assault, and the Like

        Just to be clear: I couldn't care less about Jian Ghomeshi. I'd never heard of the guy until a week or so ago. But when these sorts of things happen, and you see and hear the kinds of reactions we have seen and heard, it's a teachable moment. And it's an especially good moment for men to shut the fuck up for one freaking moment and listen to what the women around us are saying about their lives and their experience.

        Saturday, November 1, 2014

        Good Reads: Consent, Ghomeshi, BDSM

        This is an oldie but a goodie. The basic point is that people rarely refuse an invitation of any kind by saying "No". To the contrary, refusals are usually hedged in various ways, to soften the blow. The lesson is that people who violate consent don't "not understand". They don't want to understand.
        Another oldie about how communities "work around" the knowledge that one of their own is "sketchy on consent".
        And this is a wonderful piece on a much older case explaining the fundamental difference between BDSM and abuse:
        All of which brings us back to Jian Ghomeshi:
        • "Ghomeshi: The Developing Story, And Predator Theory Observations" (Yes Means Yes)
        • "Jian Ghomeshi Isn’t the First Alleged Abuser to Cite the Right to BDSM Sexuality" (The Cut)
        • "Do You Know About Jian?" (Nothing in Winnipeg)
        • "I Knew About Jian Ghomeshi" (Slate XX)
        One of the really important reminders here is that "innocent until proven guilty" is a legal standard that applies to criminal prosecutions and not even e.g. to arrest.

        While we're at it: Here's a nice cartoon that explains what the real objection is to affirmative consent.

        (Via Everyday Feminism).