God, Poetry, Universities: A Selective Recounting of a Faculty Meeting

My institution, Felician University, is a Franciscan-Catholic institution–in fact, it’s The Franciscan University of New Jersey (pre-eminent among all of the others here). In deference to that fact, our faculty meetings usually begin with a prayer, euphemistically called a “reflection,” but almost always oriented toward worship of the Judeo-Christian God. Having heard eight years of God talk, I decided to do something different for yesterday’s meeting of the faculty of Arts and Sciences. I decided to subject my colleagues to some good old-fashioned paganism, opening the meeting with the straightforwardly idolatrous seventh stanza of Shelley’s “Hymn to Intellectual Beauty.” (The Dean was away.)  Continue reading

Felician University Event: “Police Stops: What Are Your Rights? What Should You Do?”

I’m pleased to announce the second event in Felician University’s ongoing series on Race and Criminal Justice in America, “Police Stops: What Are Your Rights? What Should You Do?”

The event features two speakers, Maria Lopez-Delgado and John E. Link. Maria is a 2013 graduate of Felician University (a philosophy major, by the way) and 2016 graduate of UNC School of Law; she currently works for the New Jersey Office of the Public Defender. John is an Adjunct Professor of Criminal Justice at Felician, where he teaches Criminology and Criminal Law; he was until recently Chief of Police in Clifton, New Jersey. I’ll be serving as moderator.  Continue reading

The Fourth Amendment, Policing, and Pedagogy

I’m in the middle of working through Akhil Reed Amar’s The Constitution and Criminal Procedure in my Phil/Crim 380 class (“Philosophical Issues in Criminal Justice”), and am also in the middle of planning the second event in Felician University’s “Race and Criminal Justice in America” series. The event is tentatively called “Search, Seizure, Stop, and Frisk: Two Perspectives,” and the idea is to invite a defense attorney and a police officer to share the stage while answering questions on Fourth Amendment rights and contemporary police work. More on that as I firm up the details.

In any case, I’ve got the Fourth Amendment and policing on my mind. To that end, I thought I’d post and invite comments on a paper that I presented back in 2012 at a conference for the Association for Core Texts and Courses, “The Fourth Amendment as a Core Text: A Pedagogy for the Citizen-Philosopher.” The more I think about it, the more I agree with what I wrote in the paper–always the right time to ask whether I’ve gotten anything wrong. Which is where you come in, reader. Feel free to search, seize, stop, and/or frisk the text. Hope you find it arresting.  Continue reading

Some Questions for Professor Denbeaux

As readers of this blog have probably figured out by now, I’m organizing an event this Tuesday at Felician University regarding racial profiling by the Police Department and Municipal Court in Bloomfield, New Jersey.* The claim alleging racial profiling has been made by Professor Mark Denbeaux of Seton Hall University Law School, who’s the featured speaker at the event. (I invited the mayor of Bloomfield, Michael Venezia, to send a representative from municipal government, but he declined the invitation himself and declined to send a representative. I also asked the Police Director through the Community Policing Unit, but never heard back; asked one member of the Town Council, who eventually declined; and asked one member of the Bloomfield Civic and Human Rights Commission, who also declined.)

As I’ve said several times before, I’ve taken no public stand on the findings of the report. Neither has Felician University and neither have any of the sponsors of the event.** In fact, I don’t have a stand to take, publicly or privately. Mostly I have a bunch of questions. As the discussant/moderator of the event, I have the prerogative of setting the agenda for the discussion period following the talk, but there’s no reason to think that the discussion will revolve around my questions in particular. So I thought I’d throw them out there on the blog, as food for thought, and as some rough indication of what we might discuss at the event itself. I may add a few questions if I think of any later. Feel free to come up with some of your own in the combox.  Continue reading

What’s So Great about Joint Intentionality? Haidt, Tomasello, and Henrich

In The Righteous Mind, Haidt invokes Michael Tomasello’s notion of “joint intentionality,” calling it our evolutionary Rubicon; i.e., the critical trait the evolution of which made us irrevocably human and led inevitably to the development of a large number of our most distinctive human characteristics, especially our groupishness. Haidt writes:

When everyone in a group began to share a common understanding of how things were supposed to be done, and then felt a flash of negativity when any individual violated these expectations, the first moral matrix was born… That, I believe, was our Rubicon crossing. (239)

I think Haidt gets a little too carried away over joint intentionality. The purpose of this post is to explain why and to suggest a more sensible alternative proposed by anthropologist Joseph Henrich.

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“Racial Profiling in Bloomfield? A Discussion” (Note Change of Time)

Just a reminder of the kick-off event for the “Race and Criminal Justice in America” series taking place at Felician University. Please note that the event is now scheduled for 6:30 pm rather than 6 pm.

Felician University’s Committee on Leadership and Social Justice Presents



Professor Mark Denbeaux, Professor of Law, Seton Hall University Law School, and Primary Author, “Racial Profiling Report: Bloomfield Police Department and Bloomfield Municipal Court” (April 2016).

Dr. Irfan Khawaja, Associate Professor of Philosophy and Co-Chair, Committee on Leadership and Social Justice, Felician University

Tuesday, September 27, 2016, 6:30 pm (note time change)
103 Education Commons Building
Felician University’s Rutherford Campus
223 Montross Ave., Rutherford, New Jersey 07070

The event is free and open to the public. Continue reading

Is Knowledge metaphysically (or conceptually) prior to belief?

Coming out soon, J. Adam Carter, Emma C. Gordon and Benjamin Jarvis have an anthology on the “knowledge first” approach to epistemology and mind (based on the work of Timothy Williamson in his Knowledge and Its Limits).  (Maybe the volume is already is out, but I could not find it on the interwebs.)  Their introductory essay contains some clear and insightful explanatory summary of various knowledge-first theses (including what they take to be the central one) and discusses a central motivation for the knowledge-first approach (and what they take to be its central thesis).  Here is that essay:


And here are some excerpts/summary from this text and some commentary from me (in bold).  

(If there is a theme to my recent philosophical commentary here at PoT, it is the importance, in many cases, of understanding how things function (or what their function is) in order to understand better what they are.)

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9/11 + 15: Ten Lessons (Updated)

I post this every year around 9/11, so here it is again. Highly recommended reading: Steven Brill’s “Is America Any Safer?” The Atlantic (Sept 2016). Though it isn’t up yet, Chris Sciabarra’s annual 9/11 series is always worth reading and should be up soon. Point (3) below connects with Michael Young’s recent post on coercion

We’re just a few days away from the fifteenth anniversary of 9/11. Here are a few of the lessons I’ve learned from the last decade and a half of perpetual warfare. I offer them somewhat dogmatically, as a mere laundry list (mostly) minus examples to illustrate what I’m saying. But I have a feeling that the lessons will ring true enough for many people, and that most readers can supply appropriate examples of their own. Continue reading

Some thoughts on coercion and the moral requirement not to coerce others

[The following is loosely inspired by a compare-and-contrast re-reading of Scanlon’s material on coercion in his Moral Dimensions (p. 74, 78, 108-111) and Michael Huemer’s initial discussion of coercion – in his stipulative sense that simply means exercising or threatening to exercise physical violence or control over another person – in his The Problem of Political Authority (pp. 9-10).]

 1.  One might coerce someone by doing things that impact or interfere with their exercise of their agency in a ways that are never permissible.  One might also coerce someone by doing things that impact or interfere with their exercise of their agency in ways that are permissible if the patient consents – but they have not consented (and in the right circumstances like having full information and with the conditions of consent or non-consent not themselves being coercive).  Both sorts of coercion presuppose antecedent moral requirements, moral requirements not to do specific things that negatively impact the ability of others to exercise their agency.  So the requirement not to coerce would seem to be a generalization over particular ways of interfering with the agency of others that are of these two types (absolutely forbidden, forbidden unless the patient consents).

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