Thursday, May 21, 2009

Notable Links for Linkable Notes

* The Philosoraptor has an interesting post on relativism.

* A good discussion by Chad Orzel on primary and secondary texts in science and the humanities.

* Heg has a beautiful post on accessibility at academic events. It's worth pointing out, if nothing else, that working on improving accessibility at such events benefits everybody: some of the things that can be done are just better practices in the first place, and others help to improve interaction among a wider group of people. And many of the things that seem a hassle now would cease to be a hassle if we did them regularly. Accessibility issues can be very tricky to handle; but it's definitely one of those things where we should try to make sure that we've at least raised the question of what those issues are. And because it can be difficult for those of us who aren't left out by these impediments to remember to ask ourselves about them, it's always good to put a reminder in memorable form, as here.

* Four women recently won seats in the Kuwait Parliament. One was a philosophy professor at Kuwait University, having received her Ph.D. from the University of Texas. Cheers! (ht)

* Michael Gilleland on Jowett's translation of Plato.

* John Wilkins has a good post discussing one of the philosophical difficulties people struggle with when it comes to evolutionary theory.

* Fred Sanders has finished a brief series on why Protestants should read Thomas Aquinas.
Part I: The Myth of the Dark Ages
Part II: Faith and Reason
Part III: Skill in Reasoning
Part IV: Big Thoughts

* A new study of British Muslims suggests that they regard citizenship in the United Kingdom as a more important part of their identity than most British do, and they are very tolerant of other religions, very traditional in their sexual ethics, and more tolerant of the death penalty than most British. And as Amal Amireh notes, the points on which they most diverge from the general British population are where they have views that, even if not common in Britain, are pretty common in the U.S. It's really more or less what one would expect, although it's interesting that strong affirmation of British identity is so very widespread; but unfortunately I think some non-Muslims have difficulty wrapping their minds around anything that might suggest that Muslims can be great citizens and patriots in a free society. Whatever the evidence, they will always think of Muslims as the Foreign Nation Among Us. Catholic Question, Jewish Question, Muslim Question: how will this one be resolved, and who will it be tomorow?

* A fascinating discussion at "A Ku Indeed!" of Nussbaum's argument against Nivison on the 'Confucian Golden Rule'. I'm inclined to think the 'luck or circumstance' clause of Nussbaum's Missing Thought is problematic. Certainly 'there but for the grace of God go I'-style reasoning is the sort of thing conducive to actual reciprocity, but it doesn't seem constitutive of it; one, knowing that it would hurt if someone slapped you on the nose, can avoid slapping a dog on the nose for that very reason, without imagining that you could have been a dog because the analogy is sufficient. That's not a moral example; but the moral examples just require a slightly more analogies considered at a more abstract level of thought. And this abstract level of thinking seems to me to cause problems for Nussbaum's 'contingent hierarchy' clause, too. The rich man may not be able to imagine himself a poor man; but if he reflects at a higher level he can extrapolate how to behave toward a poor man on the basis of how he thinks a much, much richer man should behave toward him. A father may moderate his behavior toward his children on the basis of reflecting how a good king acts toward subjects like himself. And so forth: the hierarchies don't necessarily impede application of the rule, but can in fact be used by it. The advantage of Nussbaum's Missing Thought is not that it's required for applying Golden Rules, or for seeing a common humanity, or for recognizing that others are like myself, but that it takes things that are otherwise higher-level things that require abstract thinking and makes them more straightforward and lower-level, requiring no elaborate thinking about one's place in the network of society. Indeed, I actually wonder (wandering far from fields in which I know anything) whether we can in fact see a great deal of Chinese moral philosophy as nothing other than working out how to handle this abstract level of thinking needed in order to have both genuine reciprocity and genuine hierarchy.


* I haven't had a chance to look at it yet, but the SEP has a new article on Novalis. Novalis was a wunderkind in the Romantic movement, being a major contributor on both its philosophical and literary sided, with a brilliant but very short life; he died at age 28.

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