Friday, March 30, 2012

A perfect "Storm"

British comic Tim Minchin: brilliant! He reportedly stole the show at the Reason Rally.

"A small crack appears in my diplomacy dike," indeed. Thanks for the link, David.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

“What Can NOTHING Do For Politics?"

Professor Bill Martin
Applied Philosophy Lyceum:
On Friday April 6, 2012, JUB 304, 4 pm

Professor Bill Martin will present a lecture entitled, “What Can Nothing Do For Politics? Mao, Mu, Badiou, Buddhism."

Bill Martin is Professor of Philosophy at DePaul University and is best known for his work on Derrida, Sartre, Marxist theory, and aesthetics. Martin’s current projects include a book on the post-Maoist current of Allain Badiou’s philosophy, and a book taking account of Harry Frankfurt’s concept of “bullshit” in a social-political context.

He is the author  of  nine books, including Matrix and Line: Derrida and the Possibilities of Postmodern Social TheoryPolitics in the Impasse: Explorations in Postsecular Social TheoryMarxism and the Call of the Future: Conversations on Ethics, History, and Politics co-written with Bob Avakian.

Having played bass guitar for more than thirty-five years, he has also made substantial contributions to music criticism, authoring: Avant Rock: Experimental Music from the Beatles to BjorkMusic of Yes: Structure and Vision in Progressive Rockand  Listening to the Future: The Time of Progressive Rock, 1968-1978.

The Department of Philosophy at Middle Tennessee State University is happy to have Bill Martin make his second appearance as part of its annual Applied Philosophy Lyceum.  The purpose of the Lyceum is to provoke philosophical reflection by bringing distinguished scholars to the MTSU campus to address crucial contemporary issues.

The lecture will be held April 6, 2012 at 4:00 in James Union Building, Room 304 on the Middle Tennessee State University Campus. The lecture is free and open to the public.  A discussion period and an informal reception will follow.

For more information, contact the MTSU Philosophy Department at 898-2907.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Baseball Conference 2012

Agenda for 17th Annual Conference on Baseball in
Literature and Culture
Friday, March 30, 2012
MTSU, Murfreesboro TN

7.45-8.15              Registration and Breakfast

8.20-8.30              Welcome:            
                                Warren Tormey, Conference Coordinator

                                Dr. Mark Byrnes, Dean, College of Liberal Arts

8.30-9.15              Keynote Address: 

Dr. Dan Anderson, Dominican University:

Renaissance Men: Sportswriting, Popular Culture, and Negro League Baseball in Harlem"               

9.20-10.20            Concurrent Sessions A
Session A1:  Baseball in Fiction
Location: Hazlewood                                                                          Chair:  
Don Johnson, East Tennessee State University: “The Real Modern Prometheus at the Plate.”

Shawn O’Hare, Carson-Newman College: “Baseball as Narrative Metaphor in Chad Harbach’s The Art of Fielding”

Steve Andrews, Grinnell College: “Some Thoughts on The Art of Fielding.”  

Session A2:  Baseball in Popular and American Culture

Location: Dining Room C                                                                    Chair: 

Crosby Hunt, Middle Tennessee State University: TITLE TBA

Bryan Steverson, Maryville, TN: “Negro League Baseball and American Culture”

Bob Barrier, Kennesaw State University: "’How 'Bout That!’ Favorite Baseball Announcers--and Why.”

10.30-11.30           Concurrent Sessions B

Session B1:  Baseball in Foreign Lands

Location:  Hazlewood                                                                         Chair:  

Matt Nichol, Monash University, Melbourne, Australia: “Is the Posting Agreement Already Twelve Years Old? The Need for a New Posting Agreement to Facilitate Player Transfers from Japan to Major League Baseball”

Mac Williams, Coker College: “Only Anansi So Far:  Baseball in Costa Rican Literature and Culture”

Michael Pagel, Northeast State Community College: “Lament for Lost Baseball Talent in Brock’s Havana Heat

Session B2:  Baseball in Media

Location:  Dining Room C                                                                   Chair:  

Matthew Bruen, New York University: “Traditional Fandoms in the Digital Age”

Andy Hazucha, Ottawa University: “The Cubs and Conservatism”; or, Why I Hate George Will”

Nick Bush, Motlow State College: “Judging Others and Laughing at Idols:  The Rhetoric of Humor in HBO’s ‘East Bound & Down’”

11.40-12.05           Concurrent Sessions C

Session C1:  Baseball Back in the Day

Location:  Hazlewood                                                                         Chair: 
Skip Nipper, Nashville, Tennessee: "The Colorful, Quirky Confines of Nashville's Sulphur Dell"
Location:  Dining Room C: 

Session C2:  Baseball and Memoir

Bill Gruber, Emory University: “Pitching Lessons”

12.15-2:00            Luncheon and Tommy John Talk

Tennessee Room

12.15-12.45 Lunch

12.45-1.30  Tommy John (20 min + ~10 min. Q & A;  Autograph Signing to follow)

2:00-3:00  Concurrent Sessions D

Session D1: Creative Baseball

Location:  Hazlewood                                                                         Chair: 

Steven Walker, Middle Tennessee State University: “Civil War.”

Mark Sickman, "Hip Hop, the Blogosphere, and the Emergence of Baseball Poetry."

Session D2: Baseball in Philosophy and Religion

Location:Dining Room C                                                                   Chair: 

Phil Oliver, Middle Tennessee State University: "Baseball and the Meaning of Life."

Warren Tormey, Middle Tennessee State University: “John Milton, Ballplayer: How England’s Pre-Industrial Epic Shaped America’s Pastoral Game” 

Julian Jaynes

One of our A&P essays today raises the question of consciousness and its pre-history. Did our ancestors hear internal "voices" emanating from the brain's right cortex and interpret them as divine? An overview of bicameralism from a Jaynesian:

Monday, March 26, 2012

A Catholic Classmate Rethinks His Religion -

Frank Bruni's old classmate lost his religion and became a more thoughtful parent.
He has not raised his young children in any church, or told them that God exists, because he no longer believes that. But he wants them to have the community-minded values and altruism that he indeed credits many religions with fostering. He wants them to be soulful, philosophical.
So he rounded up favorite quotations from Emerson, Thoreau, Confucius, Siddhartha, Gandhi, Marcus Aurelius, Martin Luther King and more. From the New Testament, too. He put each on a strip of paper, then filled a salad bowl with the strips. At dinner he asks his kids to fish one out so they can discuss it.
He takes his kids outside to gaze at stars, which speak to the wonder of creation and the humility he wants them to feel about their place in it.
He’s big on humility, asking, who are we to go to the barricades for human embryos and then treat animals and their habitats with such contempt? Or to make such unforgiving judgments about people who err, including women who get pregnant without meaning to, unequipped for the awesome responsibility of a child?
A Catholic Classmate Rethinks His Religion - 'via Blog this'

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Ehrman on the New Testament

We're in the middle of Jonathan's A&P report on the reliability of the New Testament. Don't know if he plans to rebut Bart Ehrman, whose latest book is Forged: Writing in The Name of God, Why the Bible's Authors Are Not Who We Think They Are.
Ehrman contends that the New Testament is riddled with contradictions about the life of Jesus and his significance. He has provided compelling evidence that early Christianity was a collection of competing schools of thought and that the central doctrines we know today were the inventions of theologians living several centuries after Christ.  Commonwealth Club


A useful checklist for detecting "baloney" (or maybe you prefer Harry Frankfurt's euphemism) from Skeptic publisher Michael Shermer, inspired by Carl Sagan's Demon-haunted World. "When we're growing up we tend to be pretty credulous..."

  1. How reliable is the source of the claim?
  2. Does the source make similar claims?
  3. Have the claims been verified by somebody else?
  4. Does this fit with the way the world works?
  5. Has anyone tried to disprove the claim?
  6. Where does the preponderance of evidence point?
  7. Is the claimant playing by the rules of science?
  8. Is the claimant providing positive evidence?
  9. Does the new theory account for as many phenomena as the old theory?
  10. Are personal beliefs driving the claim?

Wednesday, March 21, 2012


Cullen Murphy, author of God's Jury, explains that there have been many inquisitions (not just the Spanish one), and that we should expect the possibility of more. Beware "wars on terror" that terrorize.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Who are humanists?

They come in peace for all humankind.

      Some contemporary celebrity humanists... Asimov, Twain, Jefferson... a list... another list... more lists of humanists... Einstein...Tyson... About humanism... Quotations... FAQ... "Brights"

Humanism believes that man is a part of nature and that he has emerged as a result of a continuous process.
Holding an organic view of life, humanists find that the traditional dualism of mind and body must be rejected.
Humanism recognizes that man's religious culture and civilization, as clearly depicted by anthropology and history, are the product of a gradual development due to his interaction with his natural environment and with his social heritage. The individual born into a particular culture is largely molded by that culture.
Humanism asserts that the nature of the universe depicted by modern science makes unacceptable any supernatural or cosmic guarantees of human values. Obviously humanism does not deny the possibility of realities as yet undiscovered, but it does insist that the way to determine the existence and value of any and all realities is by means of intelligent inquiry and by the assessment of their relations to human needs. (Humanist Manifesto, continues)

Friday, March 16, 2012

The Jefferson Bible for Atheists

Alain de Botton on NPR's "All Things Considered," saying religion's too good to be left to the Believers.

(But why are they playing The Monkees?)

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Kaku & Krauss

To my friends in section 9: following our brief discussion out on the porch this afternoon I checked: Michio Kaku did not write The Physics of Star Trek, that was Lawrence Krauss. Kaku wrote The Physics of the Future.  Either way, as they used to say in The Magic Treehouse, "I want to go there." Beam me up, atoms or bits or both.

Monday, March 12, 2012

First Principles

Interesting exchange in The Stone, with Alan Sokal suggesting that people of faith suffer not a dearth (as skepics contend) but an excess of epistemic principles.
The trouble is not that fundamentalist Christians reject our core epistemic principles; on the contrary, they accept them. The trouble is that they supplement the ordinary epistemic principles that we all adopt in everyday life — the ones that we would use, for instance, when serving on jury duty —  with additional principles like “This particular book always tells the infallible truth. 'via Blog this'
Sokal and Lynch on First Principles -

Sunday, March 4, 2012

"thinking of nothing and doing nothing"

In "On a Certain Blindness in Human Beings" William James quotes an old chieftain who pitied those of us who 
"never know the happiness of both thinking of nothing and doing nothing. This, next to sleep, is the most enchanting of all things. Thus we were before our birth, and thus we shall be after death. Thy people. . . . when they have finished reaping one field, they begin to plough another; and, if the day were not enough, I have seen them plough by moonlight. What is their life to ours,—the life that is as naught to them? Blind that they are, they lose it all! But we live in the present."
When we yoke ourselves perpetually to the plough, we relinquish "the intense interest that life can assume when brought down to the non-thinking level, the level of pure sensorial perception."

Hence the need and rationale for Spring Break. Talk to you later!

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Truth Matters

Jesus' and Mo's author says Alain de Botton inspired this one.

"Truth matters because we are the only species we know of that has the ability to find it out. In a way that makes it almost a duty to do so." Ophelia Benson, Jeremy Stangroom Accelerating Intelligence News