Kim sympathizes with his frustrated colleagues, but suggests a
different reason for the rancor. “It really is painful to read other
people’s work,” he says. “That’s all it is… All of us are just too lazy
to read them.” Kim is also quick to defend his friend. He says Mochizuki’s reticence
is due to being a “slightly shy character” as well as his assiduous
work ethic. “He’s a very hard working guy and he just doesn’t want to
spend time on airplanes and hotels and so on.” O’Neil, however, holds Mochizuki accountable, saying that his refusal to cooperate places an unfair burden on his colleagues. “You don’t get to say you’ve proved something if you haven’t
explained it,” she says. “A proof is a social construct. If the
community doesn’t understand it, you haven’t done your job.”--Has the ABC Conjecture been solved? [HT: Clerk Shaw on Facebook]
This piece is a nice inside perspective on the 'political economy' and social epistemology of mathematical proof.
The idea that there is something like an efficient market in scientific ideas (EMISI), supporting a ruling 'paradigm,' is very dangerous in the policy sciences. Even if we assume that scientists are individually pure truth-seekers,
imperfections in scientific markets can produce non-epistemic
(and epistemic) externalities (recall here, including criticism of a famous paper by Aumann). EMISI provides cover for 'The Everybody Did It' (TEDI) Syndrome (recall here). With Merel Lefevere, I have been exploring in what circumstances the presence of TEDI Syndrome is indicative of collective negligence (or a negative externalities). One possible consequence of our approach is that those scientists/institutions that interface with policy should seek out critics and critical alternatives to the existing paradigm. Jon Faust, an economist, sometimes acts as such an in-house critic at the United States Federal Reserve (the Fed) and the Riksbank. Two of his relatively non-technical papers (here and here) prompted this post.
Central Banks rely, in part, on models developed by academic economists to set monetary policy. Yet, Faust notes two problems in the way the intellectual supply-chain works: (i) there is almost no venue for "high-level conversation" about "academic work and its relation to actual practice." (53) (ii) State of the art models are often applied without full knowledge of all their possible consequences in the real world because these models models "have substantial areas of omission and coarse approximation" (55) In light of (i) and (ii), Faust's aim (iii) is to help central bankers and the modellers develop "a formal literature on best methods and practices for using materially flawed models in practical policymaking," (55) or "how to make the most responsible use in policymaking of what we now know." (60) My first reaction was, 'it is about time;' my second, more generous response was warmth in my philosophical heart that Faust is engaging in philosophy of scientific methodology and non-ideal regime/institution construction. His main idea is to adapt a kind of policy protocol from a literature that "goes under names like “human relevance of animal studies” and “interspecies extrapolation” (57) in the practice(s) of Toxicology.
Brian Leiter says it is, and he links to this blog post, by Robert T. Gonzalez, who says wine-tasting is "bullshit."
OK, so first let's separate taste and flavour. Taste comes from the receptors on the tongue, and is restricted to the familiar five—sweet, sour, . . . , umami (plus maybe fat, maybe "metallic"). But we all know that cherry is a different flavour from, say, blackberry and apple from lemon. These differences are not captured by the tongue. They are captured in part by "retronasal" olfaction: the qualities delivered to consciousness from the smell receptors in the nose reacting to vapours rising from the mouth. (These pass over the smell receptors in the direction opposite to vapours taken in from the nose—hence retro as opposed to orthonasal.)
Flavour is a more complex quality than taste, and it is delivered by the tongue working together with the nose (which operates here in a characteristically gustatory manner) and also the trigeminal nerve (which is the main sensorimotor organ in the face).
So point 0. No: wine is not a matter of taste; it is a matter of flavour. (OK, I know Brian meant 'taste' in a different sense, but let's get it straight, since the "bullshit" guy makes a mistake about this right from the start.)
Barry Smith (Institute of Philosophy, University of London) provides eight more critiques of Gonzalez:
By the time this goes online, I’ll be enjoying a long
weekend in London with my family. And while this will likely come across as
rather predictable, I just can’t help help myself: I’m posting ‘London,
London’, by Caetano Veloso. It is a song from his 1971 album recorded in
England, where he lived in exile for about three years after having spent
several months in prison as an ‘enemy’ of the military dictatorship in power at
the time. Until moving to England in 1969, Caetano’s knowledge of English was
virtually non-existent, and yet in this period he regularly composed and
recorded songs in English, including ‘London, London’.
The whole album, which is one of my favorites by him,
revolves around what it feels like to be in exile: the thankfulness for being
received in a foreign country, but also the deep, deep nostalgia (saudade!),
the longing for his home. My favorite song of the album is actually 'If you hold a stone' (which soothed many moments of deep nostalgia in yours truly as
well), and ‘London, London’ became a bit overplayed when it was recorded by a
very successful (but truly horrible) pop band in the 1980s. And yet, it is a
beautiful, delicate song. This particular video I'm posting (with tacky pictures of London in the backgroud) also features the lyrics in English, so you can see for yourself that Caetano was already a rather accomplished lyrics writer in English after only 2 years or so of familiarity with the language.
A few weeks ago, a
graduate student said in my class that he “had to restrain [him]self from
tearing [a prominent female academic] a new one.” After class ended, I told the
student, in private, that he should probably refrain from using
colloquial phrases that reference anal rape in professional contexts. He was
shocked to hear my interpretation of his comment. Later, I asked my Facebook
friends if I had handled the situation appropriately. Of the many who
responded, about half said that I had; the others said that I should have
corrected the offending student in front of the other students, either to
educate the other students (if they saw nothing wrong with the comment), or to
reassure them that their response was appropriate (if they did object to the
comment). In light of the latter argument, I invited all of those present in
the class, including the student who made the comment, to write this post with
me. Except for two students who were too busy, they graciously agreed.--Jennifer Rubenstein
How should college
instructors respond when a student says something in class that the instructor
believes to be offensive but that the student might not realize is offensive?
This is the broader question raised by the incident in our class. Cases of this
kind raise different issues from cases in which students knowingly cause
offense or are culpably ignorant (e.g. they use the “n-word”). In the latter
types of cases, the egregiousness of the violation means that it is almost always
appropriate for the instructor to confront the student immediately, even if
this causes shame or embarrassment; the instructor is also usually reasonably
confident of her immediate assessment of the situation.
One more cautionary observation before we begin. The volume is published by Bloomsbury, which has taken over Continuum, the house which apparently had contracted the anthology. A number of the pieces unfortunately contain stylistic and grammatical inadequacies in expression. For some essays this is just distracting, but for others it is extremely frustrating. Clearly the publisher's copy-editing was highly inadequate. We can only hope that this will not become a trend with Bloomsbury. More significantly though, we cannot help but wonder whether it really is such a good thing for English to become the de facto lingua franca of European philosophy. This is perhaps unavoidable today -- not long ago, something called the 'European Science Foundation' produced a ranking of philosophy journals, and publication in languages other than English was initially used to relegate journals to the 'B' or 'C' category. Now, if Anglophone philosophy puts a premium on 'clarity,' as defined by composition models taught in Anglophone universities and less elsewhere, then the obligation to write in English seems to unavoidably place international colleagues in a bad light. In this reviewer's experience, the profession suffers from a pressing need to address this issue.--Hakhamanesh Zangeneh
There are (at least) three issues here:
(i) Especially given the high prices charged for their product, academic presses and journals have a professional obligation to maintain the highest standards of copy-editing. Cost-cutting measures do not inspire confidence. I have no ideological objections against outsourcing, but the recent (apparent) trend toward concentrating copy-editing philosophical texts in Bangladesh and India is not improving the situation. (I am probably not alone in having to correct the copy-editors; as my fellow NewAPPSers can testify, I tend to be the one needing correction!)
One of the two most persistent misunderstandings of university life is that because we are not teaching over the summer, we "get the summer off."Almost every academic I know actually works harder over the summer than the rest of the time, but none of their extended families or non-academic friends seem to understand this.
In an effort to fight this, for the past few years on my own (now defunct) blog, I've hosted a beginning of summer post where people share what they hope to get done in the ensuing summer. Please contribute to this public awareness campaign by sharing (plus, I'm not the only one interested in what you are working on). My summer plans below the fold:
Various sorts of attacks on academia have been a theme at Newapps since the beginning: Increasing corporatization of the university, growth of administration, take-over of administration by non-academics, funding cuts, increasing student debt, uses of MOOCS that are contrary to goals of education, increasing use and abuse of adjuncts, hyper-emphasis on "evaluation", anti-intellectualism, federal attacks on academic freedom and research independence, legal attacks on faculty and graduate student organizing, and here's a new one - "outsourcing" grading to Bangalore (coming in a pilot project from a director of business law and ethics studies, as probably was just inevitable.)
Anyway, I've been saying for some time that I'd start a thread in which we might think collectively about what can be done. Should we work within existing organizations like AAUP and APA, or give them up as hopeless? Should we take an activist/organizing approach or focus on legislation and lobbying? Should unionization be a focus - whether legally or not? Creative new ideas would be most welcome.
In Fall I'm teaching my senior/graduate class on Philosophy of Language. Two-thirds of the semester will be spent going over Alexander Miller's generally* excellent Philosophy of Language book.
For the final third, I'd like to do something on two-dimensional semantics, if that's possible for students who have a general textbook like Miller's under their belt. Assuming it is, can anyone recommend a readable introduction suitable for smart upper-level undergraduates?
And now, for our regularly scheduled break from left-wing inerwebs policing, the one and only Junior Brown!
Possibly the best thing ever to come out of Austin, TX. Certainly the best since the halcyon days when the Bad Livers and Daniel Johnston warmed up crowds for their good friends the Butthole Surfers. If you don't believe me just google "Hillbilly Hula Gal," "You're Wanted by the Police, and My Wife Thinks Your Dead," and of course the epochal "My Baby Don't Dance to Nothing But Ernest Tubbs."
Today is the 59th anniversary of Roger Bannister breaking the 4-minute mile barrier. Great running form, and wonderful commentary by Bannister himself. I especially like these two bits, with which I think almost every runner can identify: "my mind leaped ahead of me and drew me compellingly forward"! And "those last seconds seemed never-ending. The faint line of the finishing tape stood ahead like a haven of peace after the struggle."
geometry, economic theory does not consist of theorems which must be a
set upon some part of a man's, or a woman's, life. The ethics of commerce
on ethics as a whole, and for this, we, however “we" are constituted, must
ourselves through an inward look, of picturing something that we cannot see,
a composite and being satisfied with a rough outline that allows us
on. The question, and now I keep repeating myself as in a stutter, is how are
do this? How is one to foster an optimal blend of competition and cooperation in
that society, to control self-interest and to acknowledge the possibility
of self-deception, to prevent one particular picture
overshadowing the composite,
putting the analyst and the
analyzed, the theorist and theorized, on the same plane of
existence so that an ethics of theorizing, rather than a narrative of self-serving
domination, can emerge? (Khan 2003: 19)
M.A. Khan, a mathematical economist (whose career I helped celebrate this week-end), concludes an important essay on Alfred Marshall, Frank Hahn, Joan Robinson, and Keynes (all Cambridge economists who engaged in serious reflection on their craft and its role(s) in society) with the lines quoted above. Now as Khan puts it, “Economists
do not have a comparative advantage when it comes to ethics,” (Khan 2005: 40) so he turns to philosophy, but not philosophical theory (recall his criticism of Singer). Rather, inspired by Wittgenstein and Cavell and aided by philosopher-economists from the past, Kahn turns primarily to an extended self-examination. Now, the aim of his ethic is “to
cope and carry on” without domination. So, the aspirations are in some sense quite minimal. But, of course, a moment's reflection makes one realize that a society without domination and with an "optimal blend of competition and cooperation" is, of course, far beyond present existence anywhere. Even a dominance-free theorizing about such a society may still be beyond our reach. (Yes, I expect protests from our political philosophers and ethicists.) Khan's focus on "society" (and not, say, a system of individuals [recall here]) makes him altogether a strange bird among contemporary economists, yet an heir to Adam Smith.
As some of you may know, Niall Ferguson engaged in a bit of gay-bashing yesterday (links below), holding that Keynes wouldn’t have cared about future generations because he was gay (the point is apparently taken from Gertrude Himmelfarb: see the Delong item referred to below). Now he has apologized. In my view no one is obliged to accept an apology: should we accept Ferguson’s and move on, as they say?
Henry Blodgett at Business Insider was one of the first with the story.
Tom Kostigen at Financial Advisor also reported on Ferguson’s remarks.
In the Philosophical Lexicon, we find the entry for outsmarting, in tribute to one of the favorite rhetorical / conceptual moves of JJC Smart in defending his act utilitarianism: to accept, affirm, and even exaggerate the attempts at a reductio sent one's way. "Of course I would torture an innocent child in order to save the universe. Wouldn't you? What kind of moral monster wouldn't do that?"
We see an example of the outsmarting maneuver in Christopher Boehm's Moral Origins, this time directed at Nietzsche: "Of course the herd of weaklings ganged up and killed the solitary strong ones! You say that like it's a bad thing, when in fact, it's the secret of human evolution!"
Feminist philosophers drew attention to this THE article on gender equality in academia. The article highlights striking differences between countries on gender participation in academia, with a 47% female participation rate in Turkey, and an abysmal 12.7% in Japan as two extremes (see the map through the link). For most of my academic career, I have studied and worked in Belgium, where gender participation is very poor (it's one of the red countries on the map). Only 13% of full professors in Belgium are women. In the EU, only Cyprus and Luxembourg do worse. In this post, I want to examine causes for the disparity (the high % in Turkey; the low % in Belgium), drawing amongst others on personal experience, and on this highly relevant article on Turkish academia.
After some thought, I realize that it was wrong. Use of the word in a public forum like this encourages essentialist thinking about gay people. I apologize.
Unlike the r-word (see video to right), I do think there are occasions where "gaydar" is appropriate. In less enlightened parts of the world if you yourself are gay it's extraordinarily important to be able to pick up on whether other people are gay prior to explicit conversation. This how I learned the word a couple of decades ago, and it's a fine word in those contexts. But it seems to me that a good rule of thumb is that if you are straight you don't get to use it.
During my five or six years in graduate school two pretty strong correlations held up: (1) married students (at least the majority whose spouses were not academics) who did not have children were much less likely to complete the PhD than unmarried students, (2) married students with children were much more likely to complete the PhD than unmarried students.
I think the first one held because the demands of cultivating the relationship with the non-academic spouse (and his or her work friends) often ended up eating into cultivating relationships with fellow graduate students and fully participating in the life of the department.
The second one was utterly surprising to me. But now that I have children I think it probably holds for four reasons: (1) having a kid makes you much, much better at time management, (2) a lot of the stuff you give up when your kids are young are things that actually work against academic success, (3) raising a kid is much harder than academic work, so the time you get to actually do your academic work starts to seem no longer like work at all but rather a break, (4) the kind of anxiety that leads to graduate school writer's block doesn't really apply any more; worrying about your kids liberates you from all sorts of narcissism, including lots of useless anxieties.
Does this jibe with other people's experiences? Anything I'm missing?
One of the greatest samba composers of all times, Paulo
Vanzolini, passed away a few days ago, aged 89. He is the composer of classics
such as ‘Ronda’ (1951), ‘Volta por cima’ (1959), and ‘Boca da noite’ (1969),
songs which any self-respecting Brazilian can sing without missing a beat, and which have been recorded by all the great singers. What is equally remarkable about Vanzolini is that he combined his
music career with a highly successful academic career as a zoologist. Among other feats, he was
the director of the Zoology Museum of the University of São Paulo from 1963 to
1993, and even after his retirement continued to do research at the museum
virtually until his death. (I’m sure this combination of excellence in music and
science will make a number of readers somewhat jealous.)
The disastrous fire in Savar, Bangladesh has prompted some of the wrong kinds of response from western media. The discussion revolves around the correct idea that western consumers are crazy to buy cheap clothes, and that retailers like Walmart, Gap, Benetton, and, here in Canada, Joe Fresh provide these by manufacturing the clothes with almost-slave labour working in unsafe Bangladeshi facilities. The proposed solution that I have heard again and again is that in the absence of more information, western consumers should simply buy western made goods.
Is this the right solution? Surely, we want the Bangladeshi economy to prosper, provided workers are safe, well-protected against labour abuses, and well-paid, relative to the local standard of living. We do not want to support people who become rich in Bangladesh by using slave labout.
Recently, Gildan Activewear (a large Canadian manufacturer of casual clothing) publicized its ethical investment in a Bangladeshi factory. The Globe and Mail reports that Gildan bought Shahriyar Fabrics in Savar for $15 million:
An annoyingly inaccurate, but touching obituary in the Washington Post. Not only did he solve one of the grand conjectures - and one of the easiest to explain to non-mathematicians - but he launched a subliterature in epistemology, by providing the classic case of indirect evidence of the existence of a proof.
The eloquent and well argued letter is here. I do not think they are being alarmist in their diagnosis of the ultimate function of this and other attacks on the traditional university. (Let's keep discussion here to the open letter and the function of MOOCs specifically. I'm going to start another thread today for discussion of things that we might organize publicly to resist these trends.)
Over at Spiros' place there's a nice discussion (HERE) about weird expectations people have about academic philosophers. I'm interested if any friends of the blog have similar experiences.
The most depressing reaction I get is sometimes naked hostility from Tea Party types. It's a weird inversion in the American South, because when I was a kid in Alabama if anything university professors were put up on too high a pedestal. I mean, a professor would certainly be allowed to sit on the nice couch in the parlor, the one still had the plastic wrap on it.
The weirdest reaction I've ever gotten though is from a carpenter who both confused philosophy and psychology and who had that weird 1950s belief (cf. psychiatrists in shows like "I Dream of Jeannie") that learning psychology gave one the ability to automatically discern people's deepest beliefs and desires by little behavioral tells that we all give off at various times.
Now here's the weird thing. My gaydar was pinging extraordinarily loudly in the direction of this carpenter, despite (because of?) his projecting a very stereotypical southern guy toughness. And he kept saying "What am I thinking right now?" I didn't go there though, and instead just kept saying that my colleagues were much better at this kind of thing than I was. He was a nice man (and extraordinary carpenter), and I felt pretty bad that I couldn't tell that he was thinking about his phone bill or whatever.
This semester, I’ve experimented with anonymous grading for
the first time. Now that I think about it, it is a mystery why it took me so
long to realize the obviousness of it, but better late than not at all, I
suppose. As many other countries, the Netherlands does not have a tradition of
anonymous grading at all, but I recently found out that in the UK it is fairly common practice, showing that it can be done. This was one of the topics of
Jennifer Saul’s recent Aspasia Lecture in Groningen, and I am happy to report
that she made such a good case for it that my colleagues in the evaluation
board of the Faculty are already looking into adopting anonymous grading
Why should it be done? Well, for those of you familiar with
the literature on implicit biases, the answer will not be hard to find: we
inevitably rely on stereotypes and preconceptions to perceive and judge people,
which serve as convenient heuristic shortcuts. This can have a negative effect
on how we judge members of stigmatized groups (based on gender, ethnicity,
class, geographical origin etc.), and it can also unfairly boost our
judgment of privileged groups. With grading in particular, it has been noticed
that anonymity significantly increases the average grades of members of these
stigmatized groups, simply because their work is looked upon more objectively
without the association to a particular person. (See this informative report by
the British National Union of Students.)
Here is a truly appalling story concerning the rise of corporatism in America. The general issue I want to raise is this: most of those who defend capitalism in the sense that includes allowing for private ownership of the means of production, wage labor, and massive wealth disparities as a result, typically claim that genuine capitalism must be distinguished from "crony-capitalism" and that we cannot allow the government to become an organ for the support of the most economically powerful. But I've simply never understood how this was supposed to work. The whole theory of the beast presupposes that people are self-interested maximizers. Does that not apply to those in government? And if it does, then how exactly do we prevent their corruption? Is there some magical way to take the possibility of graft in all its myriad forms from bending government to the will of those with the most money? In short, if the watchdogs of the level playingfield are just people like us, growing up in a system that encourages self-interest and greed, why would one think there was any hope of stopping the slide from capitalism to corporatism.
Anyway, even if you don't share my concerns about the general issue, I trust that this story is revolting enough to be worth a post on its own.
About 18 months ago, I did a meta-post on Diederik Stapel, of Tilburg, and before that of Groningen. In that post, I linked to Retraction Watch, which recounted Stapel's misdeeds, a social psychologist who didn't falsify, but outright manufactured, data-sets in numerous scientific papers, 54 of which have now been retracted. Stapel, now known as the Lying Dutchman (see this post by Catarina) was an international star and rose to be Dean of Social and Behavioural Sciences at Tilburg before he was fired for academic fraud.
The New York Times Magazine has now published (28th April) a fascinating story by Yudhijit Bhattacharjee on the man and his career. Here is some of what we learn: