Liberty to be replaced
“Wrong message”, officials say
Washington, DC.—The Statue of Liberty will be replaced by the Ten Commandments, according to one administration proposal. Planning for the new “Freedom: God’s Plan” monument is well under way according to a White House spokesperson.
“It’s our view that what’s there now conveys a message we don’t want to convey. We think God’s own words will communicate what this country is about better than a woman with a torch.”
Other officials, pointing out that the statue is French, said it was time to replace it with a truly American symbol. “People associate it with huddled masses and all that. But America isn’t about huddled masses. It’s about free people obeying a higher law.” If all goes according to plan, the same officials said, the new monument will be in place before the 2008 elections.
Is that all there is?
People of a certain age will recognize in the title of this entry the refrain of a Peggy Lee tune that made the charts in ’69. It’s occasioned by a remark (in Swedish) about an earlier entry here on how philosophy gets done. I described “normal” philosophy as consisting in more-or-less standard Problems, Arguments, Examples, and so forth. My Swedish is shaky (even though my mormor and morfar spoke it). But the gist of the entry from Filosofikarummet is the Peggy Lee question. Is that all there is to philosophy?
Conservative is the new black: Appendix (Colorado)
This isn’t finished and probably won’t be for a while. But it includes quite a bit of the legislative part of the story. See Part I, Part II.
Here’s what happened in Colorado, first in the version at Horowitz’s website:
Last June, David Horowitz visited Colorado and suggested to lawmakers that an Academic Bill of Rights was needed to protect students from faculty abuses. In the months that followed, Students for Academic Freedom Clubs were formed across the state and began gathering evidence of these abuses.
Colorado Senate President John Andrews then sent a letter to every college president in the state asking them to provide statements describing their protections for students and detailing any problems on their campuses.
At the same time, he convened an ad hoc legislative committee to hear from students and faculty members about whether academic freedom is adequately being protected on state-supported colleges and universities. The hearings were held on December 18.
Despite the fact that the hearings took place when most universities were in the midst of final exams, more than 30 students showed up to testify. Congregating on the third floor committee room in the Colorado State Capitol, they were joined by media representatives, college administrators, legislators, and members of the public at large.
In June of 2003, Horowitz met with Republican leaders in Colorado, including the Governor, Bill Owens, Sen. Andrews,and Tim Foster, who was then Executive Director of the Colorado Commision on Higher Education (a body that oversees the entire Colorado system) (↓). In September (↓) and October, Horowitz spoke at several campuses in Colorado. The website of the Republican majority in the Colorado Senate echoed Andrews’ call (↓). Meanwhile, with the help of the Independence Institute, a local outfit backed by the Coors family, students at various campuses, especially Metro State in Denver, gathered complaints and filed grievances (↓). The testimony of the students at the hearing was distributed, in a version that included the names of some of the people accused of violating the rights of conservative students, by the Institute.
Sunday Cat Pix
Tonk TankMy colleague Gillian Russell, on leave this year with a research fellowship in Edmonton, has started a weblog: logicandlanguage.net. The title accurately though incompletely describes the contents: there’s a nice entry, for example, occasioned by the Pacific APA, on working in what my wife calls “joe jobs”. Unlike this weblog, Gillian’s has a plot.
Sunday cat pix Happy Birthday Josie Edition!
Josie is one year old today. We adopted her last June along with Musa. If you’re considering cats, go to your local Humane Society and choose one there (some pet stores also provide space for cat adoption agencies). Consider especially adopting an older cat (we chose kittens because we had two cats already).
This weekend (9–10 April) Wash U is hosting a conference on theories of the passions in the (long) seventeenth century. The speakers are:
Kate Abramson, “The place of passions in the Humean virtues”
Abel Franco, “The Physiology of Cartesian Passions and the Tree of Philosophy”
Martin Lin, “The Moral Status of the Passions in Spinoza”
Yitzhak Melamed, “Spinoza on divine intellectual Love”
Christia Mercer, “Suffering and Knowing”
Don Rutherford, “La Morale in the Passions of the Soul”
Eric Schliesser, “Miracles and Science: Hume and Adam Smith on Wonder, Admiration, and Surprise”
Lisa Shapiro, “What's the Difference between Sensations and Passions?”
Alison Simmons and I will be chairing the sessions. There’s a poster for the conference.
This is the first time I’ve organized a conference. I’m acquiring a new and greater appreciation for organizers.
Sunday Cat Pix
17th Century Passions
I’m not really an organizer. My vision of intellectual exchange is rather that of the coffeehouse, of hanging out with an ever-changing collection of people devoted to the pleasures of conversation. The Passions conference was the first I have been in charge of. I’m still a little amazed that everything went according to plan. No one got lost, the food was plentiful and delicious, we stayed more or less on schedule. The eight papers were substantial and stimulating, the discussions friendly and fruitful. I came away feeling as if I were part of a common project. Thanks to all those who made this possible, including our department staff.
Descartes without the boring parts
John J. Emerson offers a “A Naïve Reading of Descartes’ Discourse on Method”. The gist of the reading is that Descartes’ metaphysics and his professions of faith are not seriously meant. Their purpose is to keep the enforcers of orthodoxy at bay so that he can get on with his scientific work. Descartes, thus read, becomes “almost completely different” from “the Descartes we read about in history of philosophy, but it’s all there in the text”.
Naïve it may be, but Emerson’s reading is not unusual, not even among academic historians of philosophy (↓1). It is true that an older history, whose origins can be found in the late eighteenth century, casts Descartes as the founder and exemplar of “rationalism” (↓2). In the mythology of philosophy, rationalism and empiricism are structural opposites, ideological distinctions posing as historical categories. The Rationalists construct the world from their armchairs. The Empiricists, a more adventurous bunch, rest all their assertions on experience. Oddly enough, all the empiricists are British and all the rationalists are not.
If—antecedently to any study of the past—you think that theories of knowledge are (like sex organs in natural history, according to Linnæus) the most basic character by which to classify philosophies; if you think also that theories of knowledge fall neatly into those that hold that the originals of all our ideas come from the senses, and those that don’t, then (by a fortunate coincidence) you can combine the history of modern philosophy up to Kant quite neatly with a systematic exposition of the two chief theories of knowledge. Not only that, but by way of the First Meditation you can set it all up with the Problem of Knowledge, which is (so I hear) to “answer the skeptic”.
Not surprisingly, the Descartes of mythology is an incomplete Descartes, a Descartes from whose portrait just those features are missing that the Naïve Reading highlights. Descartes the Arch-Rationalist is a metaphysician through and through. His natural philosophy we can neglect. His inept vortices and illusory animal spirits can easily be detached from the cogito, the proofs of the existence of God, the theory of ideas and the rest of what is living in his philosophy. Descartes the Arch-Rationalist is the reverse of Descartes Naïvely Read. The roots of the tree of knowledge for the one are for the other mere excrescences; the project of pure inquiry for the one is for the other only squid-ink and delusion; the first two parts of the Discourse, almost irrelevant for the one, are for the other the heart of it (here I think Emerson has a point).
The pragmatic, canny working scientist of the Naïve Reading is indeed “all there in the text” (↓3). But not all the texts are taken account of in that Reading (as Emerson himself notes: he has “deliberately left a lot out”). I’ve said before that I have no grief against drawing on old texts for inspiration (see “Your Own Private Plato”). I think Bloom was right in his insistence on misreading, though as a misreader of Bloom I feel free to ignore all that stuff about ephebes and clinamen (↓4). Thinkers use other thinkers; creation begins with appropriation. Descartes, in his dressing-down of Beeckman, says that if you have truly learnt something, then it no longer matters from whom you first heard of it. It is “entirely yours” (↓5). It was self-serving for Descartes to offer this bit of wisdom to his erstwhile collaborator. But wisdom it remains: the pragmatico-atheist does nothing wrong in extracting an agreeable sentence here & there from old texts, so long as she makes it hers.
Nothing, that is, until the pragmatico-atheist makes what on the face of it are factual statements about what Descartes said and intended. Then the Historian cocks an ear and frowns. The Naïve Reader writes: