* Wired has an interesting (but in many ways odd) article on the 'New Atheists' and their assault on agnosticism -- I don't think the agnostics really have much to worry about from them. Dawkins's claim that we can't prove that the Flying Spaghetti Monster doesn't exist is, of course, blatantly false; as I've noted before, claims that you can't prove a negative, or that you can't prove that something doesn't exist, only survive by an illicit ratcheting-up of the standards of proof in the negative case. That is, you can't prove a negative only when you raise the standards of proof high enough that you can't prove it; and that's about it. Flying Spaghetti Monsters and the like are good cases in point. And contrary to the suggestion of the article, Dawkins's arguments are never a 'conscientious deduction of conclusions from premises'. Dawkins is not a logical thinker; a close look at the logic of his arguments always shows them to be very sloppy. His strength is being able to reduce things to a concise, clear point that (as it were) shows you directly his own point of view. The often does make up for the logical sloppiness; such a talent would make up for more serious flaws most of the time. But Dawkins is just not a sufficiently rigorous thinker to engage in the 'conscientious deduction of conclusions from premises'.
* William Morris's essay on Useful Work versus Useless Toil is always worth reading. Morris, in fact, is always worth reading; here's a selection from his essay on The Revival of Handicraft:
Yes, we do sorely need a system of production which will give us beautiful surroundings and pleasant occupation, and which will tend to make us good human animals, able to do something for ourselves, so that we may be generally intelligent instead of dividing ourselves into dull drudges or duller pleasure-seekers according to our class, on the one hand, or hapless pessimistic intellectual personages, and pretenders to that dignity, on the other. We do most certainly need happiness in our daily work, content in our daily rest; and all this cannot be if we hand over the whole responsibility of the details of our daily life to machines and their drivers. We are right to long for intelligent handicraft to come back to the world which it once made tolerable amidst war and turmoil and uncertainty of life, and which it should, one would think, make happy now we have grown so peaceful, so considerate of each other's temporal welfare.
You can find more of Morris at The William Morris Internet Archive.
* Somehow I only just found out that the Online Library of Liberty has Shaftesbury's Characteristics online. This work's influence on British philosophy in the eighteenth century can scarcely be exaggerated. It's also a very curious work, being a collection of rather diverse writings on various subjects -- it's a philosophical miscellany. Expect a post or two on Shaftesbury when I have the time.