Monday, December 05, 2005
That is all.
Sunday, November 06, 2005
Dumb joke blogging, topical edition
A job hunter, a philosophy major, went here, there and everywhere in his search for employment, but in vain. Having run out of options, he swallowed his pride and took up the offer of playing a bear in a costume at a zoo. He was locked up in a cage, where he was supposed to imitate various bear-like movements to entertain visitors.
To his horror, another bear appeared in the cage and started approaching him. He panicked and was on the brink of collapse when the bear said: "Don't be afraid. I'm also a philosophy major."
Such loyal readers as I have may have noticed that posting has been pretty sparse in these parts lately. There is a very simple explanation: hibernation.
Regular posting will resume in December. Probably. In the meantime, if you just have to have some zwichenzuginess, there's always The Bellman.
1 The joke is taken from this article appearing in, of all places, CHINAdaily. The thesis of the article is that it's a bad thing that so few of China's students study philosophy.
Here's my favorite paragraph:
Germany, which lagged far behind Britain and France, rose quickly in the late 18th and 19th centuries because philosophy flourished during that period, among other things. Philosophy was so popular at the time that Kant's "Critique of Pure Reason" could be found in young ladies' boudoirs. It is from this fertile soil that a galaxy of great names emerged, which still have a profound influence on our world today - Kant, Schopenhauer, Nietzsche, Hegel and Marx.
Even funnier than the joke, I think.
Thursday, October 27, 2005
A person affected by a hurricane, usually adversely.
Tuesday, October 25, 2005
Ethics training liveblogging
The first part of my ethics training comprises three lessons. It turns out that it's possible to rapidly click through each page of the first lesson without reading it, so I did. Tried the same with the second lesson, but on page 11 there's a question that must be answered. I'm going to say "No." Apparently, that was incorrect. The good news, however, is that having answered the question I'm able to move on and, get this, I still haven't read anything. Woo hoo! Page 15, another chance to answer a question. I picked the third answer of the three given. Apparently, that was incorrect as well. Moving on to lesson three. Page 9, answered A. It was wrong, but so what?
So that was the education portion of the state mandated online ethics training. I feel like I got a lot out of it. Now, on to the quiz.
Last year, by the way, the quiz portion wouldn't let you answer a question incorrectly. I'm hoping that this year I'll be able to flunk.
Crap! I accidently skipped a lesson. What I thought was lesson one was really just the introduction. Damn it! This is what happens when you try to complete your online ethics training without actually reading any of the information presented. The good news is that I finally got one of the questions right. The answer was "No."
Another question right! "No" again.
Ok, here comes the quiz. My answers:
A bad cad, dad. Get it? That's what an unethical person is. Sure hope I did well...
Crap. I only got 6, 7, and 10 right. I'll have to retake it. This time I'll try: B C B A D A D A B D
Crap! Those clever nellies shuffled up the questions. Looks like I'll have to do some reading after all. Here we go.
Mira is processing payroll for her department when her supervisor suggests that she assign his time (and thus salary costs) to a federal grant program that is unrelated to the work functions he performs. Mira knows that falsely reporting her supervisor's time is improper and against university time-reporting policy.
Which of the following actions would be appropriate for Mira to take?
A. Tell her coworkers that she thinks her supervisor is doing something wrong.
B. Go along with his suggestion, because he is responsible for approving her payroll report.
C. Do as her supervisor suggests, since he's the boss.
D. Report her supervisor to the appropriate authorities.
Hmmmm. This is tough. Clearly, 'D' is wrong. If Mira were to report her supervisor he wouldn't have an opportunity to break the rules and she'd have no hope of soliciting a bribe. 'A' is also a bad idea, since spreading this sort of thing around could lead to the supervisor getting caught before Mira has a chance to get paid. That leaves 'B' and 'C'. I'm pretty sure that the answer must be 'B', because it's the supervisor's responsibility for the report which makes him a proper target for bribery. Very subtle.
You have reason to suspect that a state or university employee, or someone conducting business with the state or university, is violating the law or behaving unethically at work. What is your responsibility as a state university employee?
A. Consider whether embarrassment to you or the university would result if you reported the situation and, if so, remain quiet.
B. Avoid asking questions if doing so might interfere with accomplishing your daily responsibilities.
C. Report your concerns only if you believe that what's going on could affect your personal reputation.
D. Report your concerns to your supervisor, the university Ethics Officer, or the Office of Executive Inspector General for the Agencies of the Illinois Governor.
Easy. 'D'. There's no point in bribing a peon. By reporting her, you let the higher ups know that there are consequences for refusing to pay up.
All but one of the following people are violating state rules by including false information on a university document. Who is acting properly?
A. Mike, an hourly paid employee who includes on his time sheet two hours of overtime he worked that was approved in advance by his supervisor so that he could meet a project's completion deadline.
B. Becky, who enters in the "Salary History" section of a university job application a salary that's $5,000 higher than she was actually making at her last job.
C. Derek, who in his department's section of the university annual report makes it appear that his department accomplished more work than it actually did.
D. Danielle, who puts on her time sheet that she worked 40 hours this week, even though she took a half-day off, without approval.
Clearly 'A'. Mike was smart enough to fuck around during regular work hours so that he'd get time and a half once the project deadline loomed. Way to go, Mike!
Ann, a university medical center employee, receives a call from a physician's office requesting routine medical records for a patient treated in her office. The caller requests that the records be faxed to her immediately since she is leaving on vacation tomorrow. Ann knows there is a law that requires the patient to authorize the release of such records and she has no such authorization from this patient.
Which of the following would be proper for Ann to do?
A. Fax the records to the caller, since she needs them immediately.
B. Request that the caller fax a written request.
C. Obtain the patient's authorization to release the records before sending them to the caller.
D. Offer to read the information needed by the caller over the phone, since it's not appropriate to send the patient's records without authorization.
This one is tricky. You might think that 'B' is best, because it seems to give Ann a chance to ask for a kickback from the physician. One problem here is that Ann doesn't really know how much the records are worth to the physician. This, combined with the fact that she doesn't have any dirt on the physician, means that in choosing 'B' Ann would run a real risk of getting in trouble. A better choice is option 'C'. While it's true that Ann won't benefit at all if the patient gives permission, she'll be giving herself a chance to make a serious profit if the patient refuses, since Ann would then know that he has something to hide and could use that knowledge to extort money or favors.
James is a full-time university professor. Besides teaching several graduate classes, he consults on two major research projects for a public corporation. James obtained prior written approval of his research projects as required by university policy and state law. Lately his workload has caused him to cut back on office hours normally devoted to students. For now, James also delegates teaching duties for a weekly class to a graduate assistant. Which of the following is true of James's actions?
A. The university approved his consulting contract, so missing some of his teaching commitments is okay.
B. Reducing his teaching schedule is only temporary and therefore doesn't represent an ethical problem.
C. His actions are justified, since he is contractually obligated to his outside employer.
D. His research activities have interfered with his commitment as a state employee and he needs to resolve the situation.
Clearly, the answer is 'D'. James is a big-time researcher and deserves to be compensated accordingly. He should go to the Dean and demand that his teaching duties be eliminated and his salary trebled. After all, the university's only other option is to lose the research dollars he brings in. In short, he's got the bastards over a barrel.
Martin is an assistant in one of the university's administrative offices. He has been directed by his supervisor to destroy certain official records in preparation for moving into new office space and to free up some filing space. Martin knows that maintaining these records is a requirement of state law under the State Records Act (5 ILCS 160/1).
Is it wise for Martin to destroy the records?
A. Yes, because his boss told him to do so.
B. Yes, because even though he is aware of the State Records Act, getting rid of old records will save the university the cost of additional file cabinets and more office space.
C. Yes, because Martin is pretty sure the records are no longer needed.
D. No, because he knows that destroying the records without proper approval under the law is unethical and improper.
This one is also quite simple. Martin should not destroy the records. Instead, he should remove them from the office to some private location. This will increase his options because, depending on the content of the records, he will either be able to extort funds from his supervisor or those mentioned in the records.
Candace witnesses someone in her department accepting a bribe. She knows she needs to report the incident quickly. As a state university employee, she's protected a few different ways when she files her report.
Which of the following best describes Candace's potential protections under the law?
A. She can request that her identity be kept confidential to the fullest possible extent.
B. The law offers her potential protection if someone tries to fire her in retaliation for making the report.
C. The law offers her potential protection if someone tries to reprimand, suspend, or demote her, or deny her a promotion, for making her report.
D. All of the above.
Well, 'D', though it seems to me that this question is based on a false premise.
Professor Smith is a full-time faculty member who also conducts research that is often funded by private corporations. He has recently been contacted about conducting a short-term research project for a large corporation that employs his wife.
Which one of the following actions is appropriate for Professor Smith to take?
A. Review the university's policies regarding research and conflicts of interest.
B. Disclose the potential conflict of interest related to his wife's employer to his supervisor, department head, or the university's Ethics Officer.
C. Avoid committing to the research project until it has been determined in conjunction with the university's administration that a conflict of interest does not exist.
D. All of the above.
Clearly, the answer is 'D'. It is very important to avoid even the appearance of impropriety. I mean, think about it. If somebody has dirt on you, how on earth could you successfully bribe them?
Jason receives a couple of tickets to a professional basketball game from one of the contractors he's been working with on behalf of his university. He suspects that he should not accept the tickets. However, he recalls that the contractor is doing some work at the arena where the game is being held, and he thinks this would be a good opportunity to see some of the contractor's work before deciding whether to use this contractor for the next phase of his university project.
What's the best action for Jason to take?
A. Take his wife to the game because she's a big basketball fan.
B. Take his wife to the game because it's a good opportunity to check out the contractor's work.
C. Thank the contractor for the gift, but return the tickets and explain that the state Gift Ban prohibits him from accepting them.
D. Give the tickets to his neighbor.
The answer is 'C'. In the first place, this best satisfies the no-dirt-on-me principle mentioned above. But, more importantly, this communicates to the contractor that he's going to need to sweeten the pot.
Duane, a student-employee, is contacted by an investigator from the Office of Executive Inspector General, who requests his participation in a confidential interview. During the interview, Duane is questioned about coworkers who were asked by their supervisor to spend part of the workday collecting signatures from fellow students for a political campaign petition.
After Duane hangs up with the investigator, whom can he discuss the investigation with?
A, His coworkers who were asked to collect petition signatures.
B. His supervisor's boss.
C. His roommate, since he doesn't work for the university.
D. No one, except individuals specifically authorized in advance by the OEIG investigator.
This is really an unfortunate turn of events. If Duane had known about the interview in advance, he could have contacted his supervisor and arranged to be paid for a favorable cover story. As things stand, Duane's best course of action is to keep his nose clean and hope that the next supervisor will be savvy enough to pay him a retainer before investigations ensue.
Now the results...I passed. Somehow, though, I missed the first question. Seems to me that the designers of this little quiz could use a few lessons themselves.
Friday, October 21, 2005
1. The sudden appearance of the commonplace in otherwise elevated matter or style.
2. Exceptional commonplaceness.
3. Insincere or overdone pathos.
Effusively or insincerely emotional.
Wednesday, October 19, 2005
- Lesson # 1: It takes more than two days for your butt to recover from sixteen hours of sitting in a bucket seat. About an hour into my drive back from Austin my ass hurt so badly that I was afraid it was going to fall off. Luckily, it numbed up by the time I got to Dallas.
- If I ever decide to transport drugs or other contraband across state lines and get stopped by a cop near the state line for (allegedly) failing to promptly signal a lane change and the cop has me come back and sit in his cruiser for a few minutes so that he can take my measure, I'm totally going to tell a story about how I was at my college roommate's wedding and it's about time they got married since they've been living together for so long and boy howdy did he marry up and yeah I was a member of the wedding party and yes the bride did have some cute friends but no I wasn't the guy who was going to jet into town looking to score. They eat that shit up.
- My hotel room in Austin had several stickers on the ceiling. They were round, about the size of a coaster, and each had a picture of a coat hanger with a red line through it. I thought it was very Austin that you could gaze up at pro-choice propaganda while lying flat on your back on the bed, but when I climbed up on a chair to look at the stickers more closely I discovered that they were actually there to warn guests not to hang their clothes from the sprinkler heads.
- Cool kids I hung out with in Austin: Aaron, Alex, Cole, Emily, Evan, Laren, Monk, and Rachel.
- Monk, by the way, is quite good at chess. Most kids his age move more or less at random, but Monk understands the need to follow a plan. His play is a little bit loose, but that will fix itself with experience. I was impressed that he already knew some basic strategic concepts, and hope that he took to heart my comments about the importance of controlling the center of the board.
- Lesson #2: Do not enter Oklahoma on I-44 between the hours of 10pm and 6am unless you already have all of the gas and coffee that you're going to need.
- On the Oklahoma side of the Texas-Oklahoma border there's a huge casino and a shop selling tax-free cigarettes. On the Texas side there's an adult bookstore, a liquor store, and cowboy boot factory outlet.
- You would think that if you happened to be driving through Missouri during an Astros-Cards playoff game then you would have no trouble finding the game on the radio. You'd be wrong.
- My ontology includes perfect days. A perfect day isn't necessarily a day when nothing goes wrong, but it is a day in which everything taken together goes right. Sunday was, for me, a perfect day. Here's an example of something that went wrong in the right sort of way. An old friend of mine who I care about deeply but hadn't seen in a long time (for reasons that I don't really want to get into but which involve a woman making what was clearly the right decision) suffers from a chronic medical condition and was having an episode during the reception. I know it sucked, and I felt for him, but at the same time I hadn't seen him since before the condition took hold and it meant a lot to me to share, just a little bit, that part of his life. I'm sure that sounds self absorbed, but there it is.
- Vegan pumpkin pancakes taste good.
- Round Rock is a whore.
- That last one probably hurt my feminist cred, so let me just say that the Umlauf Sculpture Garden freaked me out with its full on heteronormative mojo.
- Speaking of the Umlauf Sculpture Garden, I was struck by this sculpture, "Icarus", though not because of its artistic merit. No, what I noticed was that Icarus' wings formed the letter 'W' as he plummetted earthward. Somebody could make a pretty good anti-Bush t-shirt out of that.
- Lesson #3: Some radioactive waste smells worse than one of those farts where you would swear that something crawled up into you and died.
Tuesday, October 18, 2005
It is also clear that this criticism of me is off base. I am arguing that the Americans would be justified in attacking Iraq if Saddam was producing-or about to produce- nuclear weapons that he would give to AQ even if no nuclear attack by Saddam or AQ was imminent (much like the Israeli bombing of the Iraqi nuclear weapons plant before the Persian Gulf War), provided that we knew all that to be true and there were no means short of invasion to prevent it. That clearly isn’t preemption.
Except that Patrick initially claimed to be defending those Congressional Democrats who Leiter had accused of "supporting the war on strategic grounds." That means that he was defending those who accepted (as I believe Kerry did at one point during the campaign) Condoleeza Rice's grave and gathering threat argument. That's an argument that's clearly focused on prevention rather than preemption. By replacing it with his speculative argument, Patrick switched the goal posts.
Much of the rest of Patrick's post focuses on the vagueness of the distinction between prevention and preemption, and especially on the empirical difficulty of determining whether a particular case fits in one category rather than another. This line of criticism, it seems to me, ignores the tradition in which the distinction arose, a tradition which is strongly committed to casuistic methods. Now, notoriously, casuistical investigations and justifications can be manipulated by unprincipled thinkers, and that's a difficulty that casuists must engage. But it is no criticism at all of a casuistic principle to say that its application is unclear until we have made an in depth study of the facts of the case. What the principle is supposed to do is clarify the moral issues at stake so that we know, when we look at the many facts of the case, which are salient for the purposes of moral evaluation.
As for Patrick's parting shot, I opposed the war for many reasons, not the least of which was that none of the arguments that anyone presented for it were any damn good.
1 In fact, I think just this kind of abuse was taking place in the run up to war when various hawks exaggerated the threat posed by Iraq.
Tuesday, October 11, 2005
The method of dispositional conceptual analysis
On Smith's view, which seems to me to be fairly standard, the project of providing an analysis of a concept C is the project of articulating a concept C* such that (a) for any x falling under C, x also falls under C*, and vice versa; (b) C* is unobvious; and C* 'will tell us something new and interesting about C.'
A dispositional conceptual analysis accomplishes this task by gathering together the various platitudes associated with the term which designates the concept in question. What Smith means to appeal to with the invocation of platitudes are the various simple declarative sentences which a competent user of the term would be expected to assent to. For example, one of the platitudes which Smith asserts to be associated with the term 'right' is the sentence, "When A says 'x is right' and B says 'x is not right' then A and B disagree with each other" (33). A platitude said to be associated with the phenomenology of color experience is that, "Everything we see looks coloured."
The notion that this collection of platitudes amounts to an analysis of a concept is based on a further contention about the role these platitudes play in our inferential practice. In discussion of a set of platitudes offered as a partial dispositional analysis of color terms, Smith writes that, "we come to master colour vocabulary by coming to treat remarks like these as platitudinous" (30). Treating the terms as platitudinous, in turn, seems to amount to accepting the various inferences and judgments implicit in the remarks as being valid a priori. So a proffered dispositional analysis of a term amounts to an analysis in that it is able to "capture the inferential and judgmental dispositions vis-à-vis the [term] of those who have mastery of the term" (30).
Smith provides the following summary gloss to his initial discussion of dispositional conceptual analysis:
…the dispositional analysis is perhaps best seen as an attempt to encapsulate or to summarize, or to systematize, as well as can be done, the various remarks we come to treat as platitudinous in coming to master [a] term…In this admittedly vague sense, it can therefore lay some claim to giving us knowledge of all the platitudes. And, accordingly, it can therefore lay some claim to constitute an analysis. (31-2)
This may be enough to show that a dispositional analysis meets condition a above, but it remains unclear how such an analysis could meet the other conditions. Smith addreses this issue a few pages later:
Why are analyses unobvious and informative? Because even though someone who has mastery of some concept C must have certain inferential and judgemental dispositions, it may not be transparent to her what these inferential and judgemental dispositions are, and so, a fortiori, it need not be transparent to her what the best summary or systematization of the platitudes that describe these dispositions is. Whereas mastery of a concept requires knowledge-how, knowledge of an analysis of a mastered concept requires us to have knowledge-that about our knowledge-how. It might therefore take time and thought to see whether or not C* constitutes an analysis of C because it takes time and thought to figure out what the relevant inferential and judgemental dispositions are and what the best systematization of the platitudes describing these dispositions is. (38)
1 This characterization is drawn from the discussion on p. 36-37.
2 It is, of course, possible that the sentences which we take to be platitudes might turn out to be false, or that the set of platitudes taken together might turn out to be inconsistent. Such possibilities don't undermine the project of giving a dispositional conceptual analysis, but rather, Smith argues, merely show that analysis should sometimes encourage us to reform our inferential habits. He goes on to write that, "At the limit, to give up on the platitudes associated with…terms…is to give up on using the…terms altogether. For they themselves have a prima facie a priori status, and gain a priori status simpliciter by surviving as part of the maximal consistent set of platitudes constitutive of mastery of the term" (31).
Smith post the first
The Moral Problem seems to be the locus classicus for a particular way of understanding the nature of the philosophical problem about moral reasons. In particular, Smith conceives of the moral problem as a philosophical difficulty about the metaphysical properties of reasons in general, and moral reasons in particular. The difficulty arises because our pretheoretical commitments about moral reasons are in tension and it is hard to see what sort of things such reasons could be if they are to satisfy those commitments. Since Smith rejects the prospect of abandoning our pretheoretical commitments, he takes the view that finding a solution to the problem requires that one provide an account of the metaphysical properties of moral reasons which explains how such reasons could fulfill the various offices required of them.
This project is quite different from that pursued by authors like Scanlon, Korsgaard, and Nagel. For those philosophers, the fundamental problem in metaethics has to do with showing how it is that an (in some sense) objective morality can be motivating. Their focus, then, is not on the metaphysical status of particular entities, reasons, which figure in such an account, but rather on the operation of human moral psychology.
1 Our pretheoretical commitments include, in particular, the thoughts that morality is objective and that it is motivating. So Smith's worry is that it is difficult to see what sorts of entities reasons could be such that they are both objective and motivating.
2 Oddly, both of these approaches lay claim to Darwall (1984). My inclination is to say that his thought is more congenial to the second group, but there's no denying that the journal fodder produced by those working from Smith's paradigm relies heavily on Darwall's specification of the internalist view.
Sunday, October 09, 2005
Brad Ausmus is first up. He's been playing first base for the last several innings, though he started at catcher. I'm pretty sure he hit the game tying home run in the bottom of the ninth. Struck out this time.
Bruntlett, playing center, is up. 0-2 already. But there's a ball. I'm listening to a radio stream from KTRH in Houston. If you follow the link you'll see that they have a disclaimer saying that they are contractually forbidden from streaming Astros games, but that doesn't seem to have stopped them. Another strike out. Crap.
Biggio is up. I'd like to see a walk off, but there's every chance that game 5 will be televised if it comes to that, so there's at least some reason not to be upset if the Braves win. Pops out. Crap.
That pushes us into the eighteenth inning. Clemens stays on the mound for the Astros. He came in as a pinch hitter (I think) in the bottom of the 15th, so this is his third inning of work. Chipper Jones is leading off for the Braves. Ground out. Andruw Jones is up next. Error by Vizcaino at short, Jones to first. Crap. Franco, who should have been tossed for arguing balls and strikes his last time up, is at bat. This is Franco's fifth time up even though he didn't get into the game until the eighth inning. Franco is 47, Clemens is 43 -- that's gotta be some kind of record. Popped out. Jeff Francoeur, 20, strikes out to end the inning.
Roger Clemens leads off for the Astros in the bottom of the 18th. The play by play guy -- Milo Hamilton -- announces that he's added new lines to his scorecard. The color guy announces that he's given up on keeping score. The Rocket strikes out. Chris Burke is batting, takes two quick balls and then....homerun to left!!
Astros win the game and the series. Cards are next.
Saturday, October 08, 2005
Balk rule clarification
PENALTY: The ball is dead, and each runner shall advance one base without liability to be put out, unless the batter reaches first on a hit, an error, a base on balls, a hit batter, or otherwise, and all other runners advance at least one base, in which case the play proceeds without reference to the balk.
Source: Official Rules of Baseball, 8.05
Working hard on a Saturday morning
That's from this post, found following this meme:
1. Go into your archive.
2. Find your 23rd post.
3. Find the fifth sentence (or closest to).
4. Post the text of the sentence in your blog along with these instructions.
5. Tag five other people to do the same.
Who shall I tag? Here's a sneaky way to do it: the first five commenters on this post are tagged.
1 - For some reason the union bug stopped working a few weeks ago (there's still a link up there, but no graphic, and it takes you to a holding page). The list of union label weblogs still exists, but it's at a different url. Maybe that has something to do with it.