* Andrew O'Hehir has a good review of Tolkien's The Children of Húrin, which Christopher Tolkien is bringing out. Being well into the territory of "'Silmarillion'-level geekery", I'm sure I'll enjoy it. The appeal of the story of Túrin Turambar, Master of Doom by doom mastered, is the appeal of tragedy: Túrin lives cursed in a world that lies under the shadow of the purpose of Morgoth, a world bending and distorting to Morgoth's will, and his very greatness destroys everyone around him.
* There has been considerable fuss over the U.S. Supreme Court's recent abortion decision. I confess that I can't see the basis for most of it. This is not a significant change in the Court's stance with regard to abortion. It has always affirmed the state's right to pass laws like this, with the restriction that it only do so where it had made adequate provision to protect the privacy and health of the mothers. It affirmed this in the "essential holding" of Roe v. Wade, it reaffirmed it when it reaffirmed Roe in Planned Parenthood v. Casey, and it has largely just reaffirmed it again. Indeed, the decision itself explicitly says this. The only difference is that in previous cases it has only had the opportunity to elaborate on the restriction; in this case it could elaborate on the state's interest. I suppose pro-lifers can be glad that the case shows that the Court really did mean its previous claims on the state's authority to pass laws on the subject (still subject to the restriction, it should be noted), but other than that I don't see the significance.
* The Maverick Philosopher has an interesting post on inference involving singular propositions. The problem arises with arguments like this:
1. Mars is red
2. Mars is a planet
3. Some planet is red
This is why Sommers's and Englebretsen's term logic admits of a 'wild-card' quantification for singular propositions. Thus, in SETL you'd handle that inference as follows:
±M in the first premise can cancel ±M in the second, leaving the conclusion, +P+R, some planet is red. Also, you can also get +R+P from the same premises: Something red is a planet. And that's right, which is one of the attractions of the SETL approach on this, despite occasional weaknesses elsewhere.
* The Roger Bacon entry is up at the SEP. I haven't had a chance to read it closely, but it looks reasonably thorough.
* I haven't finished reading the IEP article on James Beattie, either, but it has a lovely summary of Beattie's splendid attack on Hume's racism, which I just had to quote:
Beattie does not merely fulminate against Hume's racism with a self-serving show of conspicuous indignation; instead he rolls up his sleeves and adroitly dissects Hume's pro-racist arguments. (1) Beattie disputes Hume's basic assertions about the achievements (or alleged lack thereof) of non-European societies: “[W]e know that these assertions are not true ... The Africans and Americans are known to have many ingenious manufactures and arts among them, which even Europeans would find it no easy matter to imitate.” (III. ii). (2) Moreover, Beattie says, Hume´s reasoning is invalid. For even if Hume's claims were correct, his conclusion would not follow. “[O]ne may as well say of an infant, that he can never become a man, as of a nation now barbarous, that it never can be civilized.” (III. Ii). Should anyone doubt this, he need only recall that “[t]hat the inhabitants of Great Britain and France were as savage two thousand years ago, as those of Africa and America are at this day.” (III. ii). (3) Beattie is unimpressed by Hume's argument that “there are Negroe slaves dispersed all over Europe, of whom none ever discovered any symptoms of ingenuity.” Beattie insists that this claim is unwarranted as well as false. But even if it were true, it would not justify belief in Hume´s natural inferiority thesis, for “the condition of a slave is not favourable to genius of any kind.” (III. ii). (4) While Beattie does not downgrade European achievements in the arts and sciences, he denies that they can be used to prove that European nations or “races” are superior. He stresses the extent that the achievements on which European nations pride themselves were either discovered by accident or the inventions of a gifted few, to whom alone all credit must go.
* John Woods argues that Begging the question is not a fallacy (PDF; ht: OPP)
* I've linked to it more than once, but it really does need to be read by more philosophers, because it is exactly right: Water is Not H2O (PDF) by Michael Weisberg. [UPDATE: In the comments Chris points out Barbara Malt's Water Is Not H2O (PDF), which handles the same topic from a cognitive science angle.]
* On April 29th, Siris will be hosting the early modern edition of Carnivalesque. If, since the last early modern edition (February 24th) you have had a post on the period from 1450-1850, submit it. You can submit in three ways:
(1) E-mail me at branemrys[at]yahoo[dot]com
(2) Use the carnival address, carnivalesque[at]earlymodernweb[dot]org[dot]uk
(3) Use the Blog Carnival submission form
I should say that when I say 'April 29th' I mean that it will probably be on the evening of April 29th; since my time zone is currently UTC-5, this may be very early morning on the 30th for some of my readers.
* (20 April, late evening): I am utterly mystified by the character of British class prejudices. Tomatoes are too common?
* According to US Magazine, porn star Jenna Jameson is a "devout Catholic". Needless to say, there are a lot of Catholic bloggers who are not amused. I see nothing wrong with it, however. I have nothing but US Magazine's word for it, but I would not at all be surprised if she is. And I would humbly suggest to most of the Catholic bloggers fuming about it that they might consider whether they are not regularly in much the same boat as Jameson, with just different (and perhaps more serious, because more spiritual) sins in tow.