Reason Papers 37.2 is now out

The latest issue of Reason Papers, vol. 37, number 2 is now out; officially, it’s the Fall 2015 issue, but we only just managed to put it up on the website last night. This link will take you to a monster-size PDF to the whole issue (almost 250 pages). This link will take you to the journal’s Archive page, where you can access individual articles for this or any past issue (you have to scroll down a bit). Finally, this link will take you to three (time sensitive) Calls for Papers issued by the journal’s editors: one on “the philosophy of play” (March 1, 2016); one a fifteen-year retrospective on 9/11 (July 1, 2016); and one an Authors-Meet-Critics symposium on Douglas Den Uyl and Douglas Rasmussen’s forthcoming book The Perfectionist Turn: From Meta-Norms to Meta-Ethics (February 1, 2017).

There’s a lot of good stuff in the issue, but that doesn’t stop me from having my own favorites, or from making my own personal recommendations. Actually, in some cases, I only read/edited early but not final drafts of manuscripts, so the published versions are as new to me as they would be to anyone else.

I know it’s tooting my own horn (because I’m in it), but I think PoT readers interested in moral epistemology will get something out of the symposium on David Kaspar’s Intuitionism, which began as an informal Author-Meets-Critics session at the Jacques Marchais Museum of Tibetan Art back in June of 2014 (attended, incidentally, by PoT blogger Michael Young).

In a strange way, despite the differences between us, I think each of Kaspar’s three critics ends up making a different version of the same criticism: intuitionism is a realist theory that entails that there are mind-independent moral truths, but intuitionists haven’t given us good reason to believe that intuitions track the truth. I think Kaspar’s response to us is best interpreted as saying that all knowledge ends in basic knowledge, not justifiable on the basis of further knowledge, and that intuitionism successfully identifies this knowledge in the moral domain. Anyway, readers can adjudicate the disagreement for themselves, but I got a lot out of reading Kaspar’s book and engaging with him (and the others).

Michael Huemer’s The Problem of Political Authority has been hailed in some quarters as a sort of knock-down argument against the state, and in some moods, as the last word in contemporary political philosophy. I haven’t read Huemer cover to cover, and don’t quite agree with the line taken by Danny Frederick in his critical review of Huemer, but I think Frederick’s review throws some cold water on some of the more over-heated claims for Huemer’s book.

Depending on your interests, you may well get a lot out of any of the book reviews in the issue, but I myself found Brendan Shea’s review of Dennett’s Intuition Pumps, and Richard Burnor’s review of Mark Murphy’s God and the Moral Law of specifically philosophical interest. Patrick Webb’s review of Michelle Alexander’s The New Jim Crow gives readers a broad overview of the book’s contents, but doesn’t in my view quite convey the revolutionary character of its message. This link gives a better sense of the book’s overarching significance.

Finally, PoT’s Matt Faherty draws on his Bangladesh experiences (chronicled here) to beat up on Andrew Morgan’s anti-globalization film, “The True Cost” (2015). As you might expect of Matt, he gives the film a mercilessly libertarian rhetorical drubbing. Not having seen “The True Cost,” I can’t evaluate the accuracy of what he says, but I still regard the review as a smashing success (so to speak): having read it, I’m now strongly inclined to watch the film in order to figure out whether it’s the propaganda show Faherty says it is, or whether his review is a cold, capitalist hatchet job of the work of well-meaning activists trying to tame an industry out of control.

This issue is the journal’s first under a new editorial line-up. I stepped down as Co-Editor in early 2015; Carrie-Ann Biondi remains Co-Editor, and Shawn Klein is now Co-Editor alongside her. I was Book and Film Review Editor for 2015, but found the work overwhelming, and decided to cut and run. I didn’t manage to run very far, however: I’m now going to function as a sort of Editor at Large for the journal–which is another way of saying that I’ll shift my workload onto Shawn and Carrie-Ann, and make ad hoc contributions to the journal as the mood strikes. But I’m still officially on the editorial staff, so feel free to run ideas by me as I roam the world “at large.”

10 thoughts on “Reason Papers 37.2 is now out

  1. Pingback: New issues of Econ Journal Watch, Reason Papers out | Notes On Liberty

  2. I’m glad to hear that the new Rasmussen & Den Uyl book is finally on its way, but I wonder how I’m supposed to submit a proposal for critiquing it when I can’t yet read it. I find their work irresistibly attractive but always disappointing, but in any case I’m sure I’m not among the best qualified to critique it. Still, I’m looking forward to its appearance.

    I too recently met with a hard-core libertarian philosopher who shall not be named who seemed to think that Huemer’s book is the greatest piece of political philosophy to be published since Nozick, except that it’s even better than Nozick and decisively refutes all opposing views once and for all. I sure hope there’s something remotely like a defense of the notion that anything anyone does to me against my will is ipso facto unjust in there, or, even better, that none of the arguments depend on that principle, though my recent interlocutor gave no signs of thinking that such a notion needed any defense. I look forward to reading the discussions in RP and finding out whether I, inveterate anti-libertarian as I am, should read the book. (Am I the only regular reader of RP who finds libertarianism thoroughly unconvincing?).

    I’m more interested in the papers on Kasper’s Intuitionism, since I think of myself as opposed to intuitionism and yet seem to always end up defending something like the method of reflective equilibrium against Khawajian objections (defending privately in my head, that is, not against Khawaja himself). These days I really have no idea what sort of moral epistemology I ought (!) to believe in, so these discussions should be educative.

    I love Mark Murphy’s work, but not theistic ethics, so I’m afraid Burnor’s review will force me to make an unpleasant choice. Perhaps I should accuse him of injustice against me, then? We’ll see.

    Finally, I am saddened by the departure of the Khawajenator from an official editorial role in RP. But I couldn’t tolerate an editorial role in anything despite the fact that I have far fewer pressing demands on my time, so I’m inclined to be more impressed that it lasted this long than depressed that it’s over.


    • I don’t see why you wouldn’t be among the best qualified to comment on Rasmussen and Den Uyl. I just emailed with Rasmussen and he says the book is slated for publication this June. I wonder if that argues for changing the due date for the symposium (not that I have any decision-making power anymore, boo hoo).

      I edited RP and I find libertarianism unconvincing. (And I read RP, too.) Actually, there’s a paper in this issue by Phil Devine, of Providence College, on MacIntyre’s politics. To paraphrase Lloyd Bentsen, I know Phil, and Phil is no libertarian.

      I think Huemer’s book indirectly brings up an interesting methodological issue that needs more discussion. Since I don’t have the book here in front of me, don’t take this as a direct comment on the book. Just take it as a comment loosely inspired by the book.

      Suppose that you’re arguing against a certain view p. To do so, you have to argue against “the arguments for p.” But what exactly does the definite article amount to? At one extreme, the quoted phrase could be construed as meaning

      (1) all of the logically possible arguments for p,

      so that to refute p, you’d have to refute all of (1). That seems outlandish, so perhaps we should ratchet things back a bit. Descending a bit, “the arguments” could mean

      (2) all of the token-arguments for p that have ever been given in human history.

      Still outlandish. Descending further:

      (3) all of the best argument types for p that have ever been given in human history.

      A bit further:

      (4) all the best argument types for p that have recently been given.

      Yet further:

      (5) all the best argument types for p that have been given in the best analytic philosophy of the last few decades, taking publication in journals XYZ and books published by ABC as proxies for ‘besthood’.

      And that’s very far from an exhaustive list. Suppose that you decide on (5) and refute every argument for p construed that way. What you have really shown? Have you refuted p in the sense of refuting it, i.e., logically driving a stake through its heart and cutting off its head? Or have you just shown that no one has recently come up with very good arguments for p?

      Now suppose that p is an endoxon, and that your argument against p itself relies entirely on endoxa. That prompts a question: Can an argument based on endoxa kill a widespread endoxon p via interpretation (5) of “arguing against the arguments for p“? My answer is “no.” It is, after all, logically possible that the truth of the thesis that p survives every type-(5) refutation. Not that a type-(5) refutation is entirely without value. One inference we can draw from someone’s thorough demolition of p via type-(5) argumentation is that people nowadays believe p for no good reason. Maybe they never really understood what p was all about in the first place. The problem is, that is not a refutation of p. It’s compatible with the truth of p plus an inference about the ubiquity of bad reasons for believing p nowadays.

      So I said I wasn’t commenting on Huemer’s book, and I wasn’t. I’d just say that a reader would be advised to bear the preceding point in mind while reading the book.

      On an editorial note, the proper spelling is “Khawajaenator,” not “Khawajenator.” Thank goodness we caught that in the page proofs.


      • Well, I always make at least one typo, don’t I? Now that my book is in the copyediting phase, I’ve come to recognize that I make a lot of other mistakes, too. Well, at least if you accept certain rigid rules enunciated in the Gospel according to Fowler.

        I think I am not among the best qualified to comment on R&DU because I am relatively ill-informed about libertarian stuff. I mean, I’m much better informed than most non-libertarians (that’s what friendship can do!), but not well enough to be one among a select group of folks commenting on the book. I know my Aristotle, sure, but I don’t think R&DU care about their fidelity to Aristotle. I was hoping that this new book would have less to do with their non-perfectionist politics and more to do with perfectionism in general, especially in ethics. Even if that were the case I’m sure there’d be better candidates for commentary.

        In any case, as it happens, I just today took on two additional commitments for reviewing, so I’d better not try to find more work for myself.

        So far I’ve only been able to read the book reviews in the new RP, but I’m gratified. I’d be curious to hear more about your thoughts on the Dennett. I’ve long thought of him as extraordinarily clever but not very insightful; I’m not sure the review gives me any reason to think otherwise. You?


        • And just think–once you get through copyediting your book, you can mount your editing high horse and become as pedantic about editing as every other editor on the planet. I’m embarrassed to report that I’ve read neither Fowler’s nor the Chicago Manual of Style cover to cover, and own neither book. That’s Carrie-Ann’s department. I’m a big picture editor. I don’t sweat the small stuff, like grammar.

          Actually, if you ever really want to find errors galore in almost any manuscript, look at the quotations from other sources. My rule of thumb was: every direct quotation more than one sentence in length is bound to contain at least one error. Quote checking was my favorite RP job, because it gave me the excuse of digging up 35 sources, comparing the original with the quotation in the manuscript, finding maybe 50 errors, and correcting them. I don’t drink alcohol, so I had to get drunk on something, namely, editorial power. Glory Days….

          I haven’t read a great deal of Dennett–Elbowroom, Consciousness Explained, a few papers here and there. I haven’t read the Intuition Pumps book, but in general, I agree with your take on him. I did like the stuff that Brendan Shea brought up toward the end of the review (pp. 218-19). I don’t like Dennett’s scientistic brand of naturalism, but as general methodological advice about thought-experiments, I found the stuff attributed to Dennett there on-target.

          Incidentally, “Khawajaenator” is a very counter-intuitive spelling that almost everyone gets wrong (kinda like “Riesbeck”; shouldn’t it be “Reisbeck”?). Gmail gave me that name. I was trying to set up my account but didn’t realize how many “Khawaja”s at gmail there were. After a dozen tries, gmail finally just “recommended” that I go with “Khawajaenator,” to which I agreed without paying attention to the spelling. When I realized what I’d done, it was too late, so I got saddled with it. And the rest is history.


          • Yeah, I know that’s the story you tell about “Khawajaenator,” but I’m not buying it. I can tell that one of your deepest desires is to have your name become accepted as a verb, and so you formed the agent noun as if there were a verb “to Khawajaenate” in the hopes that it would fall into general circulation. But at least your name is well suited to being transformed into a verb. The only question is: of all the things that you characteristically do qua Khawaja (that’s fun to say over and over again), which of them are central to the meaning of “to Khawajaenate”?

            And no, dammit, it shouldn’t be Reisbeck. It’s a good German name, it’s pronounced like it looks (in German): Wir aussprechen “Riesbeck” so wie wir aussprechen “schliessen” und “hier” und “Tier” und so weiter. But I suppose if we insist on rejecting linguistic prescription, then it must be equally correct to pronounce it like “Rice-beck,” since that’s what so many ignoranti linguae Germaniae do. Happily, however, I think we still get to be prescriptivists about our own names. Hence I prescribe the correct German -ie.

            Incidentally, the most famous Riesbeck (living, at least) seems to be Christopher Riesbeck, an influential AI theorist. I suppose I must be somehow distantly related to him, but I have no idea how. Alas, no matter how well regarded my book on Aristotle’s Politics becomes, I will never top him on Internet search engines. Another life’s dream shattered!

            I will eventually return to writing something other than silly nonsense in the combox. I make no predictions about when that will be, however.


            • Wait–so it’s not pronounced “Rice-beck”?

              Forget prescriptivism–I’m a constructivist about my first name. When I order food for delivery, “Irfan” become “Vic.” If I order by “Irfan,” they usually don’t get it, no matter how many times I repeat or spell it. In the odd case when they do, there’s the danger that the food will never arrive. Of course, “Vic” sometimes becomes “Mick,” “Nick,” “Rick,” or…”Dick,” but c’est la vei vie.


              • Nope, it’s “Reece-beck,” and rightly so. But I can forgive it; Americans are wildly inconsistent with how they pronoun their own -ei- or -ie- last names, and with so many -steins pronounced “stien” and -stiens pronounced “stein,” it’s no wonder I get called “Rice-beck” half the time.

                I have a good friend with an Indian name that makes yours seem trivially easy to spell; he just orders by his initials. My first name is easy enough, since there are probably at least eight Daves within any given square mile in any major metropolitan area of the U.S. Whenever I have to give my last name, though, I have to spell it, and then it still gets messed up — “Riesveck,” “Riesbock,” “Riesek,” “Riesdek,” “Riefbekk.” Occasionally it seems clear that they haven’t even tried, but just scribble something unintelligible after “Rie…” But I’d bet I’ve got nothin’ on “Khawaja.”


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