Reason Papers Vol. 40.1 Out

As might be surmised from my last post, the Summer 2018 issue of Reason Papers (volume 40, number 1) has just come out. The whole issue is available as an 111 page PDF via this link. Individual items are more easily accessible via this link (you’ll have to scroll down a bit).

The editors have posted this announcement on the website:

After serving for twelve years—first as Co-Managing-Editor and then as Co-Editor-in-Chief of Reason PapersCarrie-Ann Biondi has stepped down from her Co-Editor-in-Chief position. Demoting herself to Book Review Editor will allow her time to turn to other projects calling from the wings. Shawn Klein now serves as the Editor-in-Chief of Reason Papers. 

Shawn Klein remains Editor-in-Chief. I remain in place as the journal’s “Editor-at-Large,” a position that involves more livin’ large than editing.

Here is the Table of Contents (yet another way of accessing the issue).

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How “We” Achieve Ignorance

Here’s a Facebook thread, featuring arch-Objectivist Robert Mayhew (Philosophy, Seton Hall University, and Board of Directors, Anthem Foundation), discussing a newly-published review in Reason Papers, by Ray Raad, of Harry Binswanger’s book, How We Know: Epistemology on an Objectivist Foundation. In the last of his comments, Mayhew refers to Robert Campbell’s review (sarcastically dubbed a “review”) of Binswanger’s book in the Journal of Ayn Rand Studies.

There it is on display–the vintage ARI-inspired intellectual slovenliness, the reflexive resort to sarcasm, the unargued dogmatism, and the all-consuming desire to poison the well for The Tribe. Epistemology on an Objectivist Foundation: res ipsa loquitur.

What an asshole.

Ain’t No Skin and Bones

Are my academic experiences just totally idiosyncratic or does shit like this happen to anyone else?

I’m walking back from class into the building that houses my office. Through the glass of the front door, I see some students–three young women–walking toward me. So like the gentleman that I am, I open the door for them, and the first two file through, thanking me in turn. The third, whom I don’t know and have never met, thanks me as well, then conspicuously looks me up and down and says: “Wow, you have lost some serious weight! You look good! Keep it up!” Then insouciantly walks away.

What do you do with fulsome flattery when it’s transparently false? (I haven’t lost a pound in months.) Do you accept it and hope that others are deceived by it as well? Or do you suspect that you’re subtly being made fun of? Or do you just walk away in bemused consternation and wait for the next thing?

9/11 + 17: Lessons

I post this every year around 9/11, so here it is again. Though it isn’t up yet, Chris Sciabarra’s annual 9/11 series is always worth reading and should be up soon. And feel free to take a look at my recent apologetic essay here in defense of terrorism, eventually slated for publication in Reason Papers as part of a symposium on Vicente Medina’s Terrorism Unjustified. 

We’re just a few days away from the seventeenth 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, 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

School’s Out Forever

Classic moments in academic life: I go to the local YMCA last night to do a workout. The young woman at the check-in desk looks vaguely familiar. I’m pretty sure she’s a former Felician student of mine, but can’t quite remember her name. I check in without mentioning this fact, and she checks me in without mentioning it, either–but we both do double-takes indicating (vague) mutual recognition.

I do my workout, and finally decide that I can’t leave the Y without somehow alluding to the Felician connection we have in common. So I leave by way of the entrance where she was sitting, and it turns out that she’s still there. “You were a student of mine at Felician,” I say by way of re-introduction, “but I’m sorry I don’t remember your name.” She smiles, gives her name, and without irony or self-consciousness says, “Yeah, I was a student at Felician, and I had something with you.” Continue reading

BDS, Rawls, and “the Reasonable”

I’m curious what readers think of this New York Times piece on opposition to the BDS movement by the philosopher Joseph Levine (U Mass, Amherst). I myself don’t have a single univocal view on BDS; I agree with some aspects of it, and disagree with others. But I agree with Levine’s criticisms of the anti-BDS movement, which strikes me as sinister, dishonest, and dangerous (in part for the reasons he gives). Given that basic agreement, however, what struck my eye was Levine’s use of and reliance on Rawls’s conceptions of pluralism, comprehensive doctrines, and “the reasonable” to make his case. Is it uncharitably anti-Rawlsian to say that Levine’s appeal to Rawls is a pointless fifth wheel that does no useful work in his argument?

I’ve read my fair share of Rawls, but have never seen the point of (or argument for) the Rawlsian claim that appeal to comprehensive doctrines in political argument–in the context of “public reason”–is “unreasonable” simply qua comprehensive or unshared-by- others. The examples of unreasonability that Levine adduces are indeed examples of unreasonability, not because they appeal to “comprehensive doctrines,” but because they involve fallacious appeals to authority, poison the well, and are underdetermined by argument. As far as I can see, neither comprehensiveness nor not-being-widely-shared-by-others explains their unreasonability. So Rawls aside, it’s not clear to me why comprehensiveness is invoked. Continue reading

More on Aesthetics: Nietzsche, Postmodernism, Dewey, and Ayn Rand

A few brief conversations on aesthetics with Anoop Verma: Nietzsche on the idea of “giving style to one’s character“; postmodern art and postmodern philosophy; and Dewey’s philosophy of aesthetics.

Though my promises obviously mean nothing, I’m hoping to post a series of critical reflections here on Ayn Rand’s aesthetics. Of course, having put that hope in print, it’s now likely that I’ll end up reneging or backsliding on my quasi-commitment, and say nothing at all on the subject. But having re-read Rand’s Romantic Manifesto for the first time in several years, I’m struck by how frankly awful a book I find it–much worse than I did on my last reading in 2014, when my marginal notes, though highly critical of Rand’s claims, were not as dismissive of them as I now feel. Right now, I’m having a hard time understanding how anyone could take the book seriously.

So if you think it should be taken seriously, feel free to convince me when the time comes. I’d like to think that there’s more there than meets the eye, but right now, I’m not seeing it. At the moment, The Romantic Manifesto strikes me as one of the worst books of its kind (of any kind) that I’ve ever read.

Originals, Fakes, and Copies: Reductionism and Anti-Reductionism About Painting

I’m re-reading Ayn Rand’s Romantic Manifesto for an upcoming seminar on the topic, so my mind is on art and aesthetics. In that spirit, Robert Campbell, Stephen Boydstun, and I just revived a four-year-old conversation on Rand’s aesthetics, and I’ve been going back and forth with Anoop Verma on Facebook on the supposed aesthetic superiority of  original paintings to their “exact” copies. For whatever it’s worth, I thought I’d reproduce some of that discussion here, in case it was of general interest.

As it happens, I read Verma’s posts on Facebook and responded to them without reading the fuller versions posted on his blog. After I read the fuller blog version, it occurred to me that the response I’d given Verma was very similar to the account of Nelson Goodman’s that Verma himself had quoted in the original post. Great minds thinking alike? Or fools of a feather flocking together? You decide.  Continue reading

Welcome, Robert Campbell

I’ve neglected PoT for the better part of the summer, and intend to continue the policy of neglect for the next few weeks. Explanation: Alison and I got married in January, and purchased a home (a townhouse) in June, closing in mid-July. Though I’m an old hand at the marriage thing, this was our first home purchase, and involved a pretty steep learning curve, having to do with a complicated bunch of adult transactions. So that absorbed a fair bit of time and energy.

And though the move in my case was “just” a matter of 40 miles–we moved two counties west of where I’d previously lived–it involved a bit of culture shock from which I haven’t yet recovered: from blue-voting Essex County to the 25th Trumpiest Town in New Jersey, just a few miles down the highway from the Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster. (Not sure we have room in our family budget for a membership there, but definitely looking into it.) The cultural change is not quite but almost on par with what one encounters on driving the two miles between the West Bank and Jerusalem, or Sderot and Gaza. But more on that some other time.  Continue reading