Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Not horsing around

Someone close to me, and very persistent, has taken up the cause of equine rights. She hopes you will too.

What is soring?
Soring involves the intentional infliction of pain to a horse's legs or hooves in order to force the horse to perform an artificial, exaggerated gait. Caustic chemicals—blistering agents like mustard oil, diesel fuel, and kerosene—are applied to the horse's limbs, causing extreme pain and suffering.
Continues at

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

A tree falls

a philosopher's there to record it, it makes a sound.

Who cares what Berkeley would say?!

Monday, February 25, 2013

Reading Cavell, day after tomorrow

I confess I've always been a little put-off by something elusive in the style of Stanley Cavell, though I find many of his recurrent themes and attitudes (Emerson & Thoreau, film and philosophy, the philosopher's presumptive and natural right to speak provocatively about anything and everything) extremely appealing.

But I hadn't yet seen this lecture, which I also find extremely appealing.

Nor had I yet read the Naoko Saito essay I'll soon be discussing in New Jersey, "The dawning of American philosophy: From Putnam and Rorty towards Cavell."

I'm going to give Senses of Walden another, longer look.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Reading Putnam

Did a little research yesterday afternoon out on Vandy library's sunny cafe porch, preparing to discuss Hilary Putnam in New Jersey in just (yikes!) two weeks. 

I like the way Putnam's latest gathering of papers begins, with an epigraph from Peirce: "Let us not pretend to doubt in philosophy what we do not doubt in our hearts." Then another, from Wittgenstein: "Even the hugest telescope has to have an eye-piece no larger than the human eye."

And I really like what Putnam says in his preface about his own decades-long philosophical quest for clarity: views on some issues continue to change or, as I prefer to think, improve.
This fact will, of course, confirm a certain image of me, the image of the philosopher who "changes his mind." I am not ashamed of that image; I have never wanted to be the sort of philosopher who pretends to have the final answer to all the big questions.
In other words: he has always wanted to be a good pragmatist. Me too. "Good pragmatist" is no oxymoron in my book, either.

Monday, February 18, 2013

The future our intelligence can create

We ought to stand up and look the world frankly in the face. We ought to make the best we can of the world, and if it is not so good as we wish, after all it will still be better than what these others have made of it in all these ages. A good world needs knowledge, kindliness, and courage; it does not need a regretful hankering after the past or a fettering of the free intelligence by the words uttered long ago by ignorant men. It needs a fearless outlook and free intelligence. It needs hope for the future, not looking back all the time toward a past that is dead, which we trust will be far surpassed by the future that our intelligence can create.
Bertrand Russell’s “Why I am Not A Christian”

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Between Darwin and Lincoln

It's a neglected curiosity of history that two of our most monumental figures shared a birthday as well  as a driving dream of human progress. We're between their respective holidays today-- Darwin Day just behind us, Presidents' Day just ahead-- so it's a good time to remind ourselves of their convergent aspirations for us all.

Charles Darwin & Abe Lincoln were born on the very same day in 1809. Darwin was more than a little interested in the slavery  issue. Adrian Desmond & James Moore contend that this was a prime motive in his evolutionary researches. Darwin's Sacred Cause: How a Hatred of Slavery Shaped Darwin's Views on Human Evolution. Darwin and Lincoln shared common roots and an "abhorrence of racial servitude and brutality..."

Monday, February 11, 2013

New dawnings

it's official, I'll be a "discussant" at next month's annual meeting of the Society for the Advancement of American Philosophy (SAAP), in New Jersey this time. Talking "Old and New Dawnings in American Philosophy": Lincoln the pragmatist, Rorty the neo-pragmatist, Cavell and Putnam...

Can't wait!

The full program is here.

Friday, February 8, 2013

RFK's big walk

more material for Philosophy Walks.
Fifty years ago this Saturday, U.S. Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy went for a walk — a 50-mile walk, to be exact — trudging through snow and slush from just outside Washington, D.C., all the way to Harper's Ferry, W.Va. He had no preparation, and no training. And in spite of temperatures well below freezing, he wore Oxford loafers on his feet. In honor of the 50th anniversary, the Kennedy March is being reprised by a group of walking enthusiasts this weekend. Ray Smith, one of the walk's organizers, says, "I think it's our little way of trying to respect that legacy that the Kennedys left us...
They don't make politicians with "vigor" like they used to.

Walking Enthusiasts To Retrace Steps Of 1963 Kennedy March : NPR

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Sophisticated theology

Jesus and Mo know, "clever book learning won't save your soul." Might save your spirit though, in my spun lexicon anyway. We're doing some Aquinas today in CoPhi, we'll see.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Super ads

it's hard for an old St. Louisan to suppress a bit of parochial hometown pride over the Clydesdales.

Some of the other ads were amusing. Almost all, apparently, were indicative of market-tested, focus-group vetted images of what America likes. This is a strange moment in the history of what we call civilization.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Philosophy and Black America

In recognition of Black History Month, here's Vandy Professor Lucius Outlaw speaking at his old school.

Dr. Outlaw is one of the stars of Carlin Romano's America the Philosophical, which ought to be taught to all the freshmen who tell me at the dawn of every semester that they don't know the names of any American philosophers.

Also to those who think there's no need for Black History Month.

So I think I will. Accelerating Intelligence News