an in-between move

Cool kids read The Bellman.


Don't read this blog!

I mean, thanks for dropping by my little corner of the blogospheric backwaters, but the blog you should be reading is The Bellman. The stuff I post there is much, much less likely to be imbued with dormitive powers.


[German, from zwischen, intermediate + zug, move

Literally an "in-between move". A move in a tactical sequence is called a zwischenzug* when it does not relate directly to the tactical motif in operation. |source|

image copyright TWIC

From this position, black played a zwischenzug: 19…d5
(Linares 2002, 1-0)


about your blogger

David Rowland studies philosophy at the University of Illinois - Urbana / Champaign, where he's an active member of the Graduate Employees Organization. He used to play a lot of chess, but wasn't all that good. He has a blog. And email.


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$zwichenzug$ sell-out zone





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Union Label

Direct Action
Gets the Goods!


some folks I know

Mark Dilley
a daily dose of architecture
Safety Neal
January Girl
mimi jingcha
Hop, Skip, Jump
ambivalent imbroglio
Brooke & Lian


some blogs I read

strip mining for whimsy
It's Matt's World
School of Blog
Fall of the State
Dru Blood
Echidne of the Snakes
Colossal Waste of Bandwidth
Running from the Thought Police
Bionic Octopus


some philosoblogs

Fake Barn Country
Freiheit und Wissen


some labor blogs

Confined Space
Working Life
Dispatches From the Trenches
Labor Blog
Eric Lee


some A-list blogs

This Modern World
Matthew Yglesias
Andrew Sullivan
Political Animal
The Volokh Conspiracy


some other links

Rule 33
This Week in Chess
War Nerd
National Priorities Project
Bible Gateway
Internet Archive
A Weekly Dose of Architecture
Orsinal: Morning Sunshine
Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy
Safety Sign Builder
Get Your War On


some philosoblogging

Six views about reasons
Seidman on reflection and rationality
And another thing
Tiffany's argument for strong internalism
Internalism v. Externalism
What do internalists believe anyway?
Rationalism and internalism
The experimental method in philosophy
Advertising to children
On moral skepticism
A linguistic argument
More on Williams
Williams on reasons
General and particular
Normativity and morality
Political intuitions
What it is, what it was, and what it shall be
Objectivity and morality
Thinking revolution
Abortion and coercion
Moore on torture
On the phenomenology of deliberation
Even more Deliberation Day
more Deliberation Day
Deliberation Day run-down
He made a porch for the throne where he might judge, cont.
He made a porch for the throne where he might judge
Every shepherd is an abomination
Droppin' H-bombs
ad hominem

Sunday, October 24, 2004


Smokers are cooler

Prompted by something one of my students wrote, I'm adding a fourth argument in support of the claim that smokers are cooler. This is something that it pains me, a non-smoker, to admit, but truth is truth. For your review, the three established arguments are:
  1. Smoking is cool.
  2. Being cool doesn't just happen, you have to want it (but not too much). People start smoking, usually, because they want to be cool. What this shows is that smokers have the motivational traits that are a necessary (though woefully insufficient) condition of coolness.
  3. The disciplines of smoking place the smoker in a myriad of social situations, and so require the smoker to develop social skills allowing her to navigate these situations. But coolness just is an ability to navigate every social situation with aplomb.
The new argument is also grounded in the fact that the disciplines of nicotine addiction increase the smoker's social contact with the world. The novelty lies in noticing that these social contacts aren't always isolated and transitory. Smokers regularly step out of their established social networks, and this gives them the opportunity to enter in to new networks and to bring established social networks together.

Thursday, October 21, 2004


Game seven liveblogging

Top of the first
I wish Biggio would get some hits. He's still sort of clutch, but he needs to retire. Scratch that. Biggio just hit his 43rd career leadoff home run. Astros 1-0. Don't know how he hit that out. He could barely reach it.

I don't know if anybody in Boston remembers, but the Red Sox traded Jeff Bagwell to Houston for Larry Anderson in 1990. Ever heard of Larry Anderson? Didn't think so.

A Red Sox – Houston World Series would be interesting for more than political reasons. It'd be a chance to see what a great job the KC Royals do developing outfielders.

Middle of the first
Burger King's spicy chicken ad is funny. Still don't have much interest in the sandwich.

Bottom of the first
Pujols is hitting .500 in the NLCS. Anyway he was. Clemens mows 'em down 1-2-3 in the first. His stuff looks nasty and a little wild. Somebody'll hit the dirt tonight.

Top of the second
One out, runners on first and second. I'd say blowout if Ausmus wasn't hitting .125 in the post-season. Did I mention that he doesn't have any RBIs? Well hit into the gap…this might bring in two runs…

GREAT CATCH by Jim Edmonds. Wow! We'll be seeing that for years. The Astros are lucky that neither of their baserunners got picked off. Ausmus was absolutely robbed- that should have been a double.

Middle of the second
Pizza's here.

End of the second
I think it's really cool that Fox is running these You Decide 2004 spots, though I wonder how they convinced Kerry and Bush to play nice.

Top of the third
The reason Beltran never gets caught stealing is that he's halfway to second before the pitcher lets go of the ball. And now Beltran scores from 2nd on a sac fly to shallow center. Amazing. Astros 2-0.

Middle of the third
Spoke too soon. Kerry uncorks a mild attack in his spot. At least he didn't mention George Bush's illegitimate gay crack baby son.

Bottom of the third
Womack gets the Cards' first hit. Biggio pretty much donates an extra base, proving again that he's not much of an outfielder. Ground ball to the right side gets Womack to third. He looks like his back is really hurting him. Limps home but scores on a suicide squeeze. Beautiful play. That's what makes the National League so special. In the A.L. the batter would have been swinging away, but with one out and the pitcher on deck LaRussa needed to make a move. 2-1, Astros still lead.

Top of the fourth
Jeff Kent is hit by a pitch to lead off the inning. Wasn't he HBP once before in this series? Yup. Tavarez plinked him after Beltran's homer in the seventh inning of game four. That was after Tavarez threw at Bagwell's head, but before he broke his hand beating up the water cooler. I love google.

Bottom of the fifth
Clemens looks like he's starting to tire. Oswalt can probably pitch, but I've gotta think that Lidge is done for the series. That hurts Houston in relief, but Isringhausen can't have anything left for the Cards either.

Or maybe Clemens is still ok. He struck out Sanders with a nasty slider.

Womack just got picked off of first on a failed bunt attempt. Terrible call. He was safe. Go Astros!

End of the fifth
Josh Marshall links to this brutal anti-Bush ad. He asks for feedback. I guess he's worried that it crosses the line. I dunno. I think Republicans have complained so much that they've convinced Democrats that harsh ads are improper. Meanwhile, the Republicans are absolutely shameless.

Top of the sixth
Berkman just had a 10 pitch at bat. The announcers were marvelling at the way he worked the count full. One of them said, "he's been on top of every pitch" just as Berkman watched strike three float by. Every pitch except that one I guess.

Bottom of the sixth
Cedeno gets a single. That means he's now 11 for 25 lifetime against Clemens. I guess there's no reason to take his getting a hit as evidence that Clemens is running out of gas, but I really think Clemens is pitching on fumes.

Pujols is up with two outs and a runner on third. I'm absolutely terrified. Nobody up in the Astros bullpen, but Garner is on the mound. They better not give Big Al anything to hit. Fastball down the middle for strike one. Way outside 1-1. I'm looking for a slider down and in. Nope. Fastball on the corner, fouled out of play 1-2. Still waiting for the inside slider. Nope. Fastball high and inside. Pujols turns on it for a double, Cards tie it up. Damn.

And Rolen goes yard. Cards up by two. Damnit.

Edmonds is up and Clemens finally throws a breaking ball. It's about time. Strike one. Another breaking ball, another strike. Now you can throw some heat. There it is, just outside. 1-2. Another fastball, strikeout.

The inning's over, but the damage has been done. Cards lead 4-2.

End of the sixth
This send up of Mickey Kaus is hilarious.

Top of the seventh
Kiko Calero has the best name in baseball.

Palmeiro pinch hits for Clemens. Here's something I don't know: Are you the pitcher of record until another pitcher comes into the game, or do you stop being the pitcher of record as soon as you're replaced in the lineup? What I'm getting at is, can Clemens get the victory if Palmeiro, Biggio, and Beltran hit consecutive home runs?

Palmeiro takes one in the shin. That's two hit batsmen in this game. C'mon Biggs, get on base and get Beltran to the plate. Please, please, please! Nope. Grounds out to short.

Bottom of the seventh
Palmeiro stays in, replacing Biggio in left as part of a double switch. I think that must mean that Oswalt will lead off the 8th. Great.

Tony Womack is batting again. I can't believe he's stayed in this game. He just took a swing at a split finger in the dirt and the grimace on his face made it look like the effort took a year off his life. Another swing, another grimace. Well, at least he struck out and can go have a rest.

Tavarez is warming up. The bat boys have put on their protective headgear.

End of the seventh
I think I've finally figured out this BitTorrent stuff. All I can say is, don't believe the hype.

Top of the eighth
Six outs left guys, time to make something happen. It's Beltran leading off, not Oswalt. Huh. Five outs. Four. Berkman hits a comebacker to the mound, it bounces off Tavarez's glove. Shouldn't have punched the water cooler Julian. Dribbles to second, Renteria makes a great barehanded play and Pujols digs it out of the dirt at first. Three outs left.

Middle of the eighth
I want to see The Incredibles.

Bottom of the eighth
Man on third, one out. Crap. Oswalt needs to strike out the next couple of batters.

He didn't. Larry Walker hits a broken bat single to right. 5-2 Cards. Rolen singles, bringing Pujols up with one out and men on first and second. I wish I had some whiskey to dull the pain.

Double play! Hope?

Top of the ninth
Isringhausen is pitching. He went three innings last night, so he's got to be tired. Can he withstand the murderer's row of Kent, Ensberg, and Vizcaino? Womack way out into right field to catch a pop up. How is he still playing? Ensberg pops up to center. Vizcaino cannot be stopped! Or can he? Crud.



I can't believe the Red Sox won. This is terrible.

Don't get me wrong, I hate the Yankees. It's just that I'm an Astros fan and the 'stros are going to crush the Cards in Game 7 today. Roger Clemens, my sources tell me, will pitch a perfect game. Carlos Beltran will hit 2 homeruns and steal 11 bases. Julian Tavarez will beat up a bat boy.

In short, we're looking at a World Series pitting a team from Texas against a team from Massachusetts.

As you know, we've already got a presidential election featuring a guy from Texas against a guy from Massachusetts.

Given the state of the American media, things are going to get ugly. Worse, the media is going to pit my boy against my boys.

Terrible. Just terrible.

Monday, October 18, 2004


C'mon already!

Would it kill the Yanks and Sox to play a 9 inning game? My excuse for taking a grading break is already in the 6th inning (Go Astros!) but Fox is still showing the friggin' ALCS. Hint: Yanks will make it to the series.

Update: Jeff Kent hits a walk off home run in the bottom of the 9th and the Astros take the series lead. At least the inning I got to see was the one that mattered - thanks Fox.

Sunday, October 17, 2004



Grading grading grading grading grading grading grading grading grading grading grading grading grading grading grading grading grading grading grading grading grading grading grading grading grading grading grading grading grading grading grading grading grading grading grading grading grading.

Anyway, that was my weekend. My plans for this week are: Grading grading grading grading grading grading grading grading grading grading grading grading grading grading grading grading grading grading grading grading grading grading grading grading grading grading grading grading grading grading grading grading grading grading grading grading grading.

Also, I may go see Team America.

Saturday, October 09, 2004


More on Williams

My worries about Williams' position are, primarily, worries that his account of deliberation* is inadequate. The objection given previously – the Melman objection – presents one side of this worry. The underlying concern there, a concern which wasn't articulated in the post, is that Williams seems committed to the claim that an agent's deliberations are strongly determined in advance by the contents of the agent's subjective motivational set.** Now, I think that this claim is problematic on its own, but what I was trying to do with the objection was show that this commitment leads to problems by Williams own lights. Specifically, I argued that the commitment generates a dilemma in cases (like Melman) where the outcome of an agent's deliberations differs from the outcome judged appropriate by a semi-omniscient observer. The alleged dilemma is that either the agent has a reason but is incapable of being motivated by it, or the agent has no reason but becomes rationally unintelligible to us. In either event the project of explaining the agent's actions on the basis of reasons is threatened.

As rips notes in a comment to the post, Williams would probably answer this sort of objection by denying that a semi-omniscient observer could come to a different conclusion than Melman. This is made most clear in Williams' reply to McDowell. As Williams understands him, McDowell claims that there are correct standards of deliberation, namely that one should deliberate as the ideally just man, or phronimos would deliberate. Against this, Williams writes that:
But in considering what he has reason to do, one thing that A should take into account, if he is grown up and has some sense, are the ways in which he relevantly fails to be a phronimos. Aristotle's phronimos (to stay with that model) was, for instance, supposed to display temperance, a moderate equilibrium of the passions which did not even require the emergency semi-virtue of self-control. But, if I know that I fall short of temperance and am unreliable with respect even to some kinds of self-control, I shall have good reason not to do some things that a temperate person could properly and safely do.
Then, a few lines later:
If the circumstances are defined partly in terms of the agent's ethical imperfection, then the phronimos cannot be in those circumstances…
As I read this, the point is that the sort of thing that rips called 'a method of arriving at facts' is highly relativized to agents, so much so that a semi-omniscient observer can't really predict the course of the agent's deliberation except from all the way inside. Another way of putting this is to say that the circumstances of the deliberator are part of what makes the deliberator who she is, and so are part of what give rise to the standards of deliberation appropriate to her.

There is a certain sense in which I think this is right. But I also think that insofar as Williams' model of deliberation - a model which understands deliberation as something which individual agents do in (psychological) isolation from others - is accepted then this kind of strong commitment to subjectivity makes the reasons of others unintelligible in a way that blocks reasons explanations. A full reading of this indictment will have to wait, but the nickel version is that when you present me with an account of your reasons then, lacking access to your idiosyncratic methods of arriving at facts, there seems to be no basis on which I could ever say that you made an error in your deliberations

Lastly, let me just acknowledge that this elaboration leaves me wondering about the utility of the Melman objection. The doctrine I'm left talking about is one that Williams explicitly endorses, so it wasn't as if an objection was needed to drive him to it. Moreover, the discussion has moved away from any concern about the fact that the course of an agent's deliberation appears to be determined in advance, so it looks like the objection may have missed its intended target.

* Actually, it's somewhat unclear what Williams' account of deliberation is. What I object to is that part of his account which sees deliberation as individualistic, forward-looking, and tightly constrained by the particular agent's pre-existing subjective motivational set. This is something I'll address at another time.

** I should mention that this is something that Williams seems to take himself not to be committed to, so some of the work I need to do involves making the point that Williams really is committed to this. The short form of that argument is that (1) Williams is commited to claim that an agent has a reason prior to deliberation if there is a sound deliberative route from the agent's S to the reason; (2) The agent couldn't have a reason prior to deliberation unless the outcome of deliberation were determined in advance; so, (3) Williams is committed to the claim that an agent's deliberations are determined in advance. Williams could still hold that there is no knowing what reasons there are prior to deliberation without violating the commitment I have ascribed to him.


Still got it, sort of

I was in line at the coffee shop behind two Russian guys and I was able to follow their conversation. It helped that they were talking about current events so a lot of the key terms weren't in Russian. Even so, it's been over ten years since my half-hearted attempt to learn Russian, so following a conversation is pretty good.

Thursday, October 07, 2004


Williams on reasons

In this post I offer an objection to Bernard Williams' internalist view of reasons. A useful summary of Williams' view (given in a response to certain criticisms offered by John McDowell) is the following:
The central idea is that if B can say truly of A that A has reason to F, then (leaving aside the qualifications needed because it may not be his strongest reason) there must be a sound deliberative route to F-ing which starts from A's existing motivations. It follows that what an agent has a reason to do will be a function of what I called his 'S' – that is to say, the existing set of his motivational states…
I want to focus on a very small part of Williams' position, the notion of a sound deliberative route. In what follows I'll attempt to show that this notion can't do the work demanded of it.

Williams contrasts his account with externalism, a view which he says would hold that for an agent to have a reason to F, "F-ing will have to be an action that an agent could rationally decide to do as a result of deliberation whatever his S might be." What externalism is supposed to amount to is the view that there is some kind of independent Reason with a capital R to which an agent's deliberations must conform in order for the agent to be counted as rational. One might put it another way, saying that externalism holds that there exists an agent independent rational order which exemplifies the standards of rationality against which the deliberations of particular agents may be judged.

It is sometimes thought that one strike against externalism is that it seems, as Mackie might say, metaphysically queer. What sort of thing is this agent independent rational order, and how is it that beings like us are supposed to have access to it? Such questions have force but don't settle the issue. This is because the idea of an agent independent rational order is compelling in other realms, particularly the mathematical realm, even though such a realm is no less queer. The point here is that the mere fact that externalism posits a set of abstract objects – i.e. Reasons - doesn't indicate a metaphysical indulgence beyond those we are already inclined to tolerate.

In any case, Williams' objection to the externalist picture is different. Postulating an independent rational order, Williams argues, does no work in explaining how it is that reasons motivate us. Such an explanation can only be established, he says, by tying reasons to the agent's subjective motivational set. Since an independent rational order is, by definition, independent of the agent's subjective motivational set, it follows by simple argument that it cannot play the right explanatory role.

Let us grant all of this, and also the further premise that agents do not have the kind of intuition into the independent rational order which would make it possible to expand the agent's subjective motivational set through an act of pure rational deliberation.

Consider Melman, who must decide whether he will have fried chicken for dinner. Melman is not already disposed one way or the other, and doesn't see himself as having a reason to be disposed. So he must deliberate. We'll leave him to those deliberations for a moment while we take a look at his situation from Williams' point of view.

Either Melman has a reason or he does not. If he does, then this is because there is "a sound deliberative route to F-ing which starts from [Melman's] existing motivations." Let us assume, for convenience, that our philosophical omniscience extends widely enough to give us a view of Melman's subjective motivational set. Then we should be able to say whether there is a sound deliberative route from that set to eating fried chicken, and, hence, whether Melman has reason to have fried chicken for dinner. And let us say that he does, by our lights, have such a reason.

Now let us return to Melman. He has finished his deliberations but has concluded, wrongly as we see it, that he has no reason to eat fried chicken. And let us suppose that since we are philosophers and long to be midwives to wisdom that we point this out to him. We show him the sound deliberative route from his subjective motivational set to the eating of fried chicken and offer to drive him to the nearest KFC.

What shall we do if Melman examines – with full understanding - our account of his reasons and yet demurs?

I assume that the problem here is clear. Once we have demonstrated the sound deliberative route to Melman and he has rejected it we can no longer have a grip on the question of whether he does or does not have a reason. The important thing to see here is that Melman's rejection of our explanation means that our standards for sound deliberation are external standards with regard to him. As such, if we say that he does, in fact, have a reason then we alienate his reasons from his motivations in precisely the way that Williams says would deny explanatory power to those reasons. If, on the other hand, we say that Melman doesn't have a reason then his actions will no longer be rationally intelligible to us. In admitting that Melman doesn't have a reason we are saying, in effect, that it is his prerogative to set his own standards for what counts as a sound deliberative route for him. And once this is admitted we can never be in position to offer any rational criticism of him at all.

Let me touch on two responses that don't work. First, it might be said that the assumption that an agent either does or does not have a reason is too strong. This is actually one of a family of responses, each of which looks to claim that the Melman case is peculiar. None of these responses is adequate because all that the objection needs to go through is the possibility of a Melman case along the lines of the one I have suggested. Second, it might be said that Melman couldn't have rejected our account of his reasons without making a mistake by his own lights. The thought here is that Melman's standards for sound deliberation are part of his subjective motivational set, meaning that omniscient philosophers like us would have applied his own standards for sound deliberation in determining whether he had a reason or not. The problem with this sort of reply is that it leads to the same worries about rational intelligibility that were considered above.

Tuesday, October 05, 2004


Some practical advice

When an automatic drip coffeemaker is chugging and burbling in a noticeably louder and more perturbed manner than usual, the correct course of action is to investigate immediately.

Monday, October 04, 2004


On Continental Philosophy

Kierkegaard's deeply religious father believed himself to have been cursed by God and expected all seven of his children to die by age 34 (that's one in Jesus years). Kierkegaard is reported to have been quite surprised to make it through.

Saturday, October 02, 2004


Author not dead, blog not defunct

You knew the first if you've been reading The Bellman, which you probably have been. Traffic over there has been growing steadily, to the point where we get something like 600 hits a day from 200 or so regular readers. Back when I tracked traffic on this blog I got 40 non-unique hits on a good day, so I'm pretty impressed with the audience over there.

So what's happened to this blog?

Part of the answer is that the beginning of Fall semester has seriously crimped my available blogging time. It's not just teaching and research -- the first few weeks of the new school year brought with them unprecidented levels of social activity.

Another factor, though, is that my laptop's power supply went haywire so I rarely had a blogging platform with me while reading the sorts of things that I usually blog about here. New power supply now, so things should shape up.