Saturday, December 06, 2008

An Advent Cartoon

This has been going around for while.

Five Fifty-Six

I was tagged by Rebecca

Take ten books, and transcribe the fifth sentence from page fifty six.

In keeping with the 5, 56 thing, Make sure that at least five books are fiction, provide five hints, and pass the meme on to six other bloggers.

(1) He knew that there might be worse to come.
(2) Querida looked along the table.
(3) "But why aren't there more women Eternals?"
(4) "The whole time was devoted to an argument between Mr. Sperling and me on that point alone."
(5) "Or what purpose that would serve--a woman can't ride to war, after all."
(6) He shall so greatly have honoured the shadow, and will abandon the substance!
(7) In like manner we find the same number if we consider the subjects of virtue.
(8) Therefore, wealth is not able to make a person lack for nothing and be self-sufficient, yet this is what it seemed to promise.
(9) When I see a child, for whom it's still quite proper to make conversation this way, halting in its speech and playing like a child, I'm delighted.
(10) His inspection had shown him that his pupil was trying not to cry, and if he spoke in a kind voice he would break down and do it.


(1) Books 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 10 are fictional.
(2) So are books 8 and 9, although they are usually not treated as such because they are works of philosophy.
(3) The quotation from book 9 is part of a long speech attacking philosophy as childish.
(4) Book 4 is a mystery paperback.
(5) Book 6 is a classic polemic against the Reformation.

I hereby tag the first five people who want to do this.

Friday, December 05, 2008

Three Approaches to Social Change

I've been doing the feminist philosophy section in my intro course, and since it's a short section and feminist philosophy is extremely diverse, I'm always trying to find ways that are relatively easy ways of handling the field that nonetheless do justice to its diversity. One thing I've done is to suggest that, when people recognize something about society that is seriously amiss and in need of change, and the problem is not easy to solve, there's a regular pattern of people splitting up into three groups.

(1) One, which we might call a reformationist approach, evaluates the problem as a failure to apply consistently some set of principles underlying the society; in other words, they want to keep the basic character of the society the same and use its inbuilt resources to solve the problem, or at least alleviate it.

(2) Another, which we might call a transformationist approach, occurs when people come to the conclusion that it's society itself that is the problem: the society's own means of improvement are unable to correct the problem and, in fact, continue to propagate it. This group holds that we need to rethink society throughout.

(3) And a third group can generally be found that holds that reformation and transformation alike face the practical problem of being unable to do what they are wanting to do; in order to fix the problem such people want (unlike the reformationist but like the transformationist) an entirely new way of doing things but (like the reformationist but unlike the transformationist) think that simply restructuring society as a whole is not practicable, even if we are doing it piecemeal. So they handle it by advocating a breakaway system, within which a better society can be built, and whose benefits can then begin to filter out into society at large. These might be called separationists.

So, in other words: When there's something wrong with the system, you can improve the system using its basic principles, replace the system by replacing its basic principles, or build a break-off system with its own principles. Really, of course, there's a spectrum here; each of these admits of degrees and varieties, although the clustering into groups is noticeable. No doubt this could be refined, but it's definitely a pattern that can be found repeatedly in feminist thought itself, and it accounts for many of the arguments among feminists. To take just one of several examples that I use, arguments between "liberal" feminists, who accept the basic principles of a liberal society and build their projects on those, and "radical" feminists, who think those principles (however good relative to those of other societies we've had so far) are simply not good enough, are arguments against reformationists and transformationists within a liberal society. And the pattern is fairly robust historically; Astell in the early modern period builds a moderately separationist proposal for women's education, while Masham opposes it with a firmly reformationist one.

But, as I said, I think this is actually quite general (although details may need to be refined); these are just the sorts of approaches spread out into in response to something they all recognize as needing change. The relative strength of each approach will vary from case to case; for instance, it seems to me that, while there have been feminist separationisms (like Astell on education) and will likely continue to be, it has generally been and probably will continue to be a very small minority. But in other cases, separation may well dominate. In any case, I think this sort of spread is probably almost inevitable. When we're dealing with a problem that's simultaneously very important and very difficult to solve, it will often be a judgment call whether the system itself is salvageable; thus the split between reformationists and transformationists. Then, since it is very difficult to solve, if the system is not itself salvageable, it will be a judgment call whether you should stay in the system and replace its principles bit by bit or start anew somewhere. Thus the split between transformationists and separationists.

It works well for giving students a basic sense of both the richness and diversity of feminist philosophy. But there are bound to be some weaknesses in it. Does anyone have any suggestions as to possible problems and objections that might be raised against it?

MySpace Saints

An amusing feature of internet life is the creation of MySpace pages for saints. Here are just a few saints for whom people have created MySpace pages.

John the Evangelist
Jude, Brother of James the Less
Michael the Archangel
Barbara the Great Martyr
Francis of Assisi
Clare of Assisi
Dominic de Guzman
Maria Goretti
Thomas Becket
Ignatius of Loyola
Francis Xavier
Anthony of Padua
Queen Helena
Patrick of Ireland
Brigid of Ireland
Vincent Ferrer
Louis IX
Teresa of Avila

The list could go on for many pages. In addition to saints, you can also find kings and queens like Edward Longshanks.

Three Degrees Rule

This article on the spread of perceived happiness in social networks is quite interesting:

Happy people tend to be located in the centre of their local social networks and in large clusters of other happy people. The happiness of an individual is associated with the happiness of people up to three degrees removed in the social network. Happiness, in other words, is not merely a function of individual experience or individual choice but is also a property of groups of people. Indeed, changes in individual happiness can ripple through social networks and generate large scale structure in the network, giving rise to clusters of happy and unhappy individuals. These results are even more remarkable considering that happiness requires close physical proximity to spread and that the effect decays over time.

This spread of noticeable influence up to three degrees of separation is found in other phenomena as well: obesity and smoking habits are the two solid examples. As the author notes, this raises the question of how extensive this pattern of spread is:

We conjecture that this phenomenon is generic. We might yet find that a "three degrees of influence rule" applies to depression, anxiety, loneliness, drinking, eating, exercise, and many other health related activities and emotional states, and that this rule restricts the effective spread of health phenomena to three degrees of separation away from the ego.

If this is the case, it would need to be factored into one's moral life, because your habits, moods, and the like may have noticeable effects on people several times removed from you.

The spread is not indiscriminate; the spread of perceived happiness, for instance, seems to travel primarily through friendships, although family ties also allow for some spread:

We can use these results to estimate what would happen to the happiness of the ego if the alter were "switched" from being unhappy to being happy—that is, if the alters "become" happy. "Nearby" friends (who live within a mile (1.6 km)) and who become happy increase the probability ego is happy by 25% (1% to 57%). "Distant" friends (who live more than a mile away) have no significant effect on ego. Among friends, we can distinguish additional possibilities; as each person was asked to name a friend, and not all of these nominations were reciprocated, we have ego perceived friends (denoted "friends"), "alter perceived friends" (alter named ego as a friend, but not vice versa) and "mutual friends" (ego and alter nominated each other). Nearby mutual friends have a stronger effect than nearby ego perceived friends; when they become happy it increases the probability ego will be happy by 63% (12% to 148%). In contrast, the influence of nearby alter perceived friends is much weaker and not significant (12%, –13% to 47%)....

We also found similar effects for other kinds of alters. Coresident spouses who become happy increase the probability their spouse is happy by 8% (0.2% to 16%), while non-coresident spouses have no significant effect. Nearby siblings who live within a mile (1.6 km) and become happy increase their sibling’s chance of happiness by 14% (1% to 28%), while distant siblings have no significant effect. Next door neighbours who become happy increase ego’s happiness by 34% (7% to 70%), while neighbours who live on the same block (within 25 metres) have no significant effect. All these relations indicate the importance of physical proximity, and the strong influence of neighbours suggests that the spread of happiness might depend more on frequent social contact than deep social connections. On the other hand, we found no effect of the happiness of coworkers on an ego, suggesting that the social context might moderate the flow of happiness from one person to another.

In any case, this type of study raises all sorts of interesting questions worth asking. Does intellectual excitement also follow the "three degrees rule"? (Randall Collins has suggested something like this, although I don't recall his specifying three degrees.) How about moral and religious habits? (Newman argued extensively that the primary source of religious conversion is personal example.) Does this pattern have a discernible effect on problems faced by women and minorities? And so on and so forth.

ADDED LATER: (1) Nicholas Christakis, one of the authors, has an online list of publications he's done in this area.

(2) Also, you should read this satirical criticism of jumping to conclusions on evidence like this, just in case you're inclined to make too much of a single study.

(3) And Richard points out this critical discussion in the comments.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Links and Notes

* The December edition of The Reasoner has a number of thought-provoking articles; I recommend it. I especially liked Martin Cooke's reflection on Grim versions of the Liar, and the interview on category theory. (Ah, category theory; sometimes I feel I am beginning to understand you at least a little, and then SMACK! You throw my brain into a brick wall, and I find myself more confused than when I began. And yet somehow I never learn.)

* A recording of Tolkien talking about the mythology of Middle-earth. (ht) One thing that surprised me (but in retrospect is quite obvious) is that Tolkien thinks that much of the tragedy of Middle-Earth is the fault of the Valar -- i.e., they made a mistake in bringing the Elves over the Sea rather than leaving them be.

* YouTube find: Nina Simone, I Put a Spell on You
[UPDATE: There must be a Nina Simone spell going around; Echidne of the Snakes has three.]

* Brian Randell discusses the history of Analytical Engine designs after Babbage (PDF). Randell also has a paper discussing in more detail Ludgate's design (he includes in an Appendix Ludgate's own brief account), while David MacQuillan has a webpage discussing the feasibility of that version. Torres y Quevedo was a rather impressively versatile engineer; in addition to his computing machines and his chess automaton, he invented new kinds of dirigibles and cable cars and may well be the inventor of remote control (he designed a way to manipulate a robot using radio waves).

* From 1982 to 2007 the cost of tuition has massively outpaced rise in income. I don't think it's really surprising, but it's one more worry about our educational system.

* Google Book find: John Placid Conway, St. Thomas Aquinas of the Order of the Preachers

* Brian Leiter is commenting in in an old thread at "Feminist Philosophers"; I would ignore it except that he insists on not backing down from an apparently absurd claim about the quality of Hypatia, and does so without a shred of real evidence to back it up -- he talks vaguely about how he has 'familiarity with Hypatia' and how he has heard some of the same judgments from 'some feminist philosophers'. (And then tries repeatedly to intimidate anonymous colleagues into revealing themselves to him, on a blog that has been very explicit about the importance of anonymity for protecting women philosophers and others.) The comments thread is closed on that post (for good reason, because it was generating more heat than light). But since I originally commented on the post when it first came out, I do want to go on record saying that Leiter's argument in the thread doesn't address the problem I had had with his original post, namely, that his claim that "The best work in feminist philosophy, for example, has surely appeared in many of the other A* journals, not in Hypatia" is based on nothing but his "surely" (and now on his "familiarity" and having heard similar views from "some feminist philosophers"); and his claim that other journals on the A* list are "much broader" seems merely to be furthering a common stereotype about the sort of work published in a feminist philosophy journal like Hypatia. This is not merely a matter of Leiter, since I think Leiter, as usual, largely has his finger on the pulse of the profession; it's just that I think that this is precisely the problem, since in this case it looks like it involves propagation of stereotypes against feminist philosophy that allow people to marginalize it without good reason. (I recommend you look through Hypatia's tables of contents, or, better yet, some actual issues, in order to satisfy yourself that, whatever criticism may be made of it, that it is less broad than most of the A*-list journals is not one of them. Indeed, I think that if someone wanted to say that Hypatia is less than A*-list it is because it is far too broad: a single issue can sometimes represent half a dozen very different approaches to philosophy. Maintaining quality under such conditions can be genuinely tricky.) Even if Leiter's right that Hypatia is a "dubious inclusion" on the A*-list, he hasn't presented any good argument for this claim; and, barring some clear reasoning in support of it, something rather less vague, it still looks like it just propagates stereotypes about feminist philosophy that are false and detrimental to the whole profession.

* Kenny discusses the motive for Berkeley's anti-abstractionism.

* I'm looking for a good primer or textbook on graph theory; it's come up incidentally in something I'm doing and my grasp of graph theory, patchwork to begin with, needs to be bolstered by a good set of reminders. Does anyone know of any good sources (I'd almost say the more beginner-level the better, but I find that sometimes that just means a lot of vocabulary without any discussion of what you do when you do things with it).

* I've recently been re-reading Collins's The Sociology of Philosophies, so this is a reminder to myself to get a hold of this article by Peter Munz at some point, which sounds relevant to one of my own criticisms; and to read more closely this review by Hava Tirosh-Samuelson. And to remind myself that I decided half a year ago now to post something looking critically at Collins's "law of small numbers", so that perhaps I'll do that sometime in this next six months.

* I also recommend, more generally, this article by Collins on the acrimoniousness of intellectual disputes, as at least raising some things to ponder.

ADDED LATER: One has to admit that this is funny. I'm not one to laugh, really; I've very nearly forgotten to go to a class I was teaching at least three times in my short career, so it's almost bound actually to happen to me at some point, and it will be embarrassing having been shown up as merely human. But given that the topic was pleasure and duty, this was priceless:

Anna Lombardo, of Mount Ararat Road, Richmond, who was part of the crowd gathered for the event, said: "I was left in some doubt over Professor Grayling’s position on the matter, after he failed to show up."

Grayling's essay on becoming a philosopher, explaining how he himself got into philosophy, is well worth anyone's time.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

An Ancient Comfort in the Stars

by Grace Noll Crowell

A strange surprising gladness stirs my heart
At night--when heaven's first lights--dim and far--
Swing in the dusk--and each one suddenly--
Becomes the silver wonder of a star.

Becomes a shining splendor on the hills--
Unfailing, steadfast, calm and high and white--
Stars are so beautiful--so steeped in peace--
They rest me more than anything at night.

There is an ancient comfort in the stars:
I treasure it--"Lift up your eyes and see,"
"He calleth them by name--not one hath failed..."
O, often through his stars--God comforts me.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Pope Benedict on Sola Fide

Being just simply means being with Christ and in Christ. And this suffices. Further observances are no longer necessary. For this reason Luther's phrase: "faith alone" is true, if it is not opposed to faith in charity, in love. Faith is looking at Christ, entrusting oneself to Christ, being united to Christ, conformed to Christ, to his life. And the form, the life of Christ, is love; hence to believe is to conform to Christ and to enter into his love. So it is that in the Letter to the Galatians in which he primarily developed his teaching on justification St Paul speaks of faith that works through love (cf. Gal 5: 14).

General Audience, 19 November 2008

ADDED LATER: I'm reminded, actually, of Jonathan Edwards:

And besides, as the word condition is very often understood in the common use of language, faith is not the only thing in us that is the condition of justification. For by the word condition, as it is very often (and perhaps most commonly) used, we mean anything that may have the place of a condition in a conditional proposition, and as such is truly connected with the consequent, especially if the proposition holds both in the affirmative and negative, as the condition is either affirmed or denied. If it be that with which, or which being supposed, a thing shall be, and without which, or it being denied, a thing shall not be, we in such a case call it a condition of that thing. But in this sense faith is not the only condition of salvation and justification. For there are many things that accompany and flow from faith, with which justification shall be, and without which, it will not be, and therefore are found to be put in Scripture in conditional propositions with justification and salvation, in multitudes of places. Such are love to God, and love to our brethren, forgiving men their trespasses, and many other good qualifications and acts. And there are many other things besides faith, which are directly proposed to us, to be pursued or performed by us, in order to eternal life, which if they are done, or obtained, we shall have eternal life, and if not done, or not obtained, we shall surely perish.

Edwards goes on to say, of course, that faith is the only condition of justification in being the sole cause (in us) of justification, the thing that renders it fitting for us to have it; but things other than faith are conditions of justification in the more ordinary sense of inseparably attending justification.

On the Canadian Hubbub

If you haven't been keeping track of Canadian politics, things are going crazy over there. For some time now, Stephen Harper has been leading a Conservative minority government in Parliament, and had this government reaffirmed in an election just eight weeks ago or so. There are 308 seats in parliament; to have a clear majority government requires 155 of these; the Conservatives control 143. This is just 12 short of clear majority -- very close -- but it is still minority territory. However, Harper recently galvanized the opposition parties by pushing for the removal of federal funding for political parties (there was eventually a retraction) and by moves that were seen as attempts to manipulate the current economic woes in a purely partisan way. So the Liberals (led by Stephane Dion) and the NDP (led by Jack Layton) began to consider a coalition -- despite having both explicitly rejected the notion in the election. However, together they only have 114 MPs (the Liberals have 77 and the NDP 37), well short even of the Conservative 143. So a Liberal-NDP coalition simply couldn't work.

Unless someone else were in on it, of course. You'll notice that 143+114 is short of 308. The Bloc Quebecois (led by Gilles Duceppe) controls 49 seats in Parliament. And they have thrown their support behind the coalition, in part because they are the party that benefits most from federal funding; they won't be part of the government, but as part of the deal they've been granted a few concessions. In effect, if they get these concessions, they can still vote as they please, except where the vote would threaten the government itself. And a Liberal-NDP government protected by the Bloc in this way can take over: it controls 163 seats. In the new coalition, Stephane Dion will be Prime Minister, and (in an unprecedented move) the NDP will have six cabinet seats in the new government.

There are lots of things that are interesting here.

(1) Again, this is only seven or eight weeks after election, and, what is more, an election in which the Conservatives did very well compared to everyone else. They gained 19 seats, whereas the NDP barely budged and the Liberals had their fourth election of decline, and one of the worst showings they've had in decades. Now the Liberals are inches away from controlling the Prime Ministry, without a change in Parliament. But that's the way it goes: elections in a parliamentary system don't make the government, they make the Parliament. The government is made by Parliament, and that way there is always the possibility for surprise. (I find, incidentally, that Americans have difficulty wrapping their minds around this aspect of parliamentary systems: the closest we get to anything like it is the Electoral College, and that's highly constrained.)

(2) The coalition is a weird coalition, so much so that there are even solid Liberals and New Democrats who are a bit on edge about it. The Liberals are a center-left party, and have a long history of seeing themselves as the Party of Canada, the moderate, middle-of-the-road, natural choice for Canadians everywhere; they have been historically the dominant pro-unity party, that is, the party that has been most responsible for keeping Canada a unified nation (and, in particular, for keeping Quebec in the Dominion), and not compromising on this point. The NDP is firmly social democrat, the Canadian left. And the Bloc Quebecois is a regional separatist party -- they want Quebec to be able to secede and, barring that, they vote pro-Quebec on everything. The Liberals, by pushing this coalition, are giving the Bloc more power than it has ever had.

(3) This would be the first coalition in power in Canada since 1917, when Robert Borden, then leader of the Conservative party, formed the Union coalition, which held together until the Liberals took over in the 1921 election.

The tale is not over. Merely controlling the seats doesn't give you the government. The Conservatives are still in control in the moment. But they are on the edge of losing a vote of confidence, which will topple them. There are a number of very different paths it can take from here:

(1) The vote of confidence has currently been delayed a short bit to allow time for the government to show that it can be a government Parliament can have confidence in; this is a standard sort of allowance, but it only buys time. Eventually the vote will have to come up, because the ability of the government to do much is sharply limited when it doesn't clearly have the confidence of Parliament. When the vote comes up, the coalition can vote for nonconfidence as they have said they will. The Governor-General will reconstitute Parliament, the Conservative government will fall, the Liberal-NDP government will rise. And Canada will be governed by a weak coalition of weak parties, and, what is more, parties that historically have not been friendly. The Canadian House of Comments is not like some European parliaments, where coalitions are a matter of course; it is a very adversarial chamber, and parties are more inclined to fight it out than to compromise. It will be unstable, and everyone knows that it will be unstable. The best the Liberals can hope for here is time and luck enough to regain the confidence of Canadians that they are capable of guiding the nation, so that when the unstable coalition dissolves and an election is called they will be able to take the reins again in a stronger position. The NDP, meanwhile, gets the Conservatives, their primary opponents, out of power for at least a while. The Bloc gets concessions it has never had before -- for a while. And to do it everyone has to live in relative peace with parties they can't really stand.

(2) The Governor-General (currently Michaelle Jean) could, in principle, simply give the Liberal-NDP coalition the government. This would be unprecedented and is extraordinarily unlikely, since it would generally be seen as an abuse of viceregal power.

(3) Prime Minister Harper could prorogue Parliament. This would be a suspension of Parliament until the Throne Speech on January 27; Conservatives would stay in power until then, and thus have time to work out a solution. To do this, the Prime Minister must issue an Order-in-Council and get the assent of the Governor-General. In principle, it's possible that she could refuse it, but this is highly unlikely; as long as the Prime Minister is in power, the Governor-General is expected to use her powers solely in accordance with the advice of the Prime Minister, unless she has clear reason to believe that doing so would threaten the Canadian constition. But there still is a bare possibility, unlikely though it may be, that she would require that the government show that it can survive a test of confidence -- in which case we are back at the confidence vote.

(4) Harper could ask the Governor-General to call an election. The problem, of course, is that elections are very expensive and Canadians just went through one in October, and it is unclear whether it would move matters much. And the Governor-General could in principle also require that the election be a last resort.

You'll notice that a lot actually depends on Rideau Hall, i.e., the Governor-General; and it's not very clear what room she has to maneuver. And since there is no particular procedure -- we are entirely into the unwritten area of Canada's constitution, the one usually governed by precedent and tradition rather than formal rules -- it's anyone's guess what will happen. Chances are the coalition with succeed; chances are it won't last long; chances are the Conservatives will be back in power within the year. But it's all just chances; no certainties here. It will be interesting to see what happens.

UPDATE: Parliament is prorogued. The pause button has been hit; we'll see how things go when Parliament returns in January.

Monday, December 01, 2008

A Puzzle about Malebranche and Mathematics

A puzzle that I will need to unravel at some point.

Text not available
Journal of Sacred Literature

A very interesting idea (although one would wish for some sort of evidence to back it up). However, L'Hopital's book was not written by L'Hopital, but, it would seem, by Johann Bernoulli; it was a course, purchased from Bernoulli by L'Hopital under a very unusual contract, that was merely published under L'Hopital's name. L'Hopital and Bernoulli seem to have become acquainted by way of Malebranche, who interacted with a number of mathematicians and was a strong advocate of Leibniz's calculus, and a leader of the 'infinitesimalists' in the Academy of Sciences. The Analyse was the first significant textbook for the differential calculus; in substance it was largely Bernoulli's, with some revisions. So here's the puzzle. If that's the case, what room is there for Malebranche's editing? Presumably he could still have done the diagrams by hand; but what revisions, if at all, were due to him, and what to L'Hopital? And for each of these questions what's the actual state of the evidence? Is this really just a legend, a just-so story concocted on the basis of Malebranche's association with the great mathematicians of the time, or is there substance to it? And if there is substance to it, how much?

Sunday, November 30, 2008


Some disjointed thoughts I've had recently that are bound together by the notion of workshop-philosophy; the phrase is formed on the analogy of 'workshop-art', i.e., the art in the workshop itself, including sketches, half-formed ideas, first attempts, etc., as well as finished works.

Jorge Gracia, in A Theory of Textuality, suggests a useful terminology for talking about commentary-type 'interpretations'. We have an interpretandum, the text to be interpreted, and the interpretans, text which is added to the interpretandum by the interpreter, and the union of the two is what we often call 'the interpretation'. ('Text' here would include spoken as well as written use of signs.) So, for instance, 'Averroes's interpretation of Aristotle' is Aristotle (as Averroes would have had him) plus Averroes's text added to Aristotle's text. Seen in this light, the crafting of a good interpretans is a major part of what philosophers do: even if you are simply discussing an argument made by a contemporary, what you are doing is creating an interpretans to go with it.

An interpretans must be crafted; it is like a work of art. Part of its relation to the interpretandum is merely logical -- one aims at consistency between interpretans and interpretandum; but no one settles for this, either. What seems to be added above this is a set of aesthetic criteria -- a sort of theory of genius and good taste (to use the early modern terms), or at least rules of thumb and rought approximations tending toward such a theory. So, for instance, we like interpretantes that add new harmony, but prefer this new harmony to grow organically (as it were) out of the interpretandum, just as we find marble sculptures striking and impressive where they seem to grow naturally and easily out of the marble itself. Integrity or completeness, proportion or consonance, clarity or splendor.

If evaluation of an interpretans is partly a matter of critique or good taste, then the way to go about becoming good at it is the same as with every other kind of good taste:

(1) Develop a broad base of relevant experience, so you can make informed comparisons;
(2) Build the relevant skills of discernment, i.e., the acquired ability to identify important moves, novel twists, and the like;
(3) Work toward having good sense, understood as the self-critical fairmindedness that allows us to be objective and unbiased.

And then, perhaps, the good crafting itself, described by the theory of genius, is a matter of 'active taste', just as evaluation is 'passive genius' (to use Beattie's terms). Or else (as in Kant), it is giving rule to art, the idea of which the evaluator needs in order to evaluate the work in an appropriate way. Or else (as in Schiller), play, i.e., the free play of mind and imagination in such a way as to unify reason and sense, freedom and necessity.

Novalis suggests the idea of a poetry that is in the workshop: "Stories can be thought up that lack coherence, but have associations, like dreams; poems that are merely melodious, full of lovely words, yet without any sense and coherence, only single stanzas understandable, like fragments from diverse things. This true poetry can have at most an overall allegorical sense, an indirect effect, like music has. This is why nature is so purely poetic, like a magician's workshop, a laboratory, a nursery, a carpenter's storeroom." Similarly we can think of a kind of philosophical work that is still in this dream-stage, "fragments from diverse things," suggestive like music of something greater, full of endless potential like nature in its poetry. Here is an argument, there an idea, here a redaction, there a question, here a possible line of inquiry, all piled together in the storeroom, in the back of the mechanic's shop, until they might be needed. And this would not be any less philosophical than the fully developed work; it is, in fact, the beginnings of it. And if philosophy is done properly, this magician's workshop, this complicated laboratory, is there; we all have it, but simply ignore it except in rare cases where some of the results of the workshop become famous. Then, just as even Dickinson's less successful attempts or Coleridge's marginalia become unusually interesting when Dickinson or Coleridge are famous, so too does a notebook by Hume, or a scrap of conversation by Wittgenstein, or even the catalog of someone's library, become interesting when they do something that becomes famous. But the workshop was there regardless; if all of Dickinson's truly great poetry were lost, we might still have bits of her poetic workshop. It would be less obviously interesting, as a sketch by Leonardo would be less obviously interesting were it the only thing by him that it survived, but it would still be the work of genius, the workshop-work of genius. Master craftsmen don't create ex nihilo; they select their materials, their tools, their purposes, try things out and consult with others, and this is as much art as the final finishing. And so too with philosophy.

A Sign of the Madness of Mobs

And of a moral sickness in a culture that encourages them even for a day:

Worker dies at Long Island Wal-Mart after being trampled in Black Friday stampede