The Future of PoT

Summer is unmistakably here, with temperatures in north Jersey, at least, hovering around 90 degrees Fahrenheit (40% humidity, no discernible breeze, no AC), and the spring semester (finals, grade appeals, plagiarism reports, graduation, etc.) a mercifully distant and fading memory. As PoT nears its second birthday (b. July 22, 2014), I thought I’d make a couple of proposals and announcements about the blog’s direction for the immediate future. I realize that that makes it sound as though PoT is about to get married, but it isn’t. It’s merely entering its terrible two’s.  

When I first started PoT back in 2014, it was no more than my own online rant-space, which I’d created because I’d been kicked off of every other blog I’d been on, and wanted a place of my own. Over time, however, PoT has become a bona fide group blog devoted mostly to philosophy, partly to politics, and occasionally to my rhetorical antics. On reflection, it seems to me that PoT’s trend toward becoming a real philosophy blog rather than my personal online play pen is a welcome development that deserves further encouragement. Since I obviously need an online play pen, but would like to professionalize PoT a bit (a bit),  I’ve decided to create a new WordPress blog,  currently under construction, called “Available Light,” “The View from Somewhere,” to house the travel/photo blogging I want do, along with the political ranting and poetic musings that go with the territory. Meanwhile, I’ll save PoT for philosophical writing and for political commentary of a more philosophical sort.

I think most of us would agree that David Potts’s series on “Morals and the Free Society” was (and is) a great idea, and has stimulated some excellent discussion over the past few weeks. As we reach the end of it, it’s occurred to me that it’d be a good idea to continue the trend that DP has started here not just by doing another series (more on that in a minute), but by encouraging a focus on extended discussion-series quite generally. Some of these series may well be continuous with prior discussions here (DP’s series could by itself probably give rise to a dozen subsequent series), but that need not be the case: some series may well strike out in entirely novel directions. Some series may work through already-published papers or books; some, on work-in-progress. Most, I suppose, will focus on topics in philosophy, but series on philosophically-interesting work in the humanities or the natural/social sciences are all fair game.

As regards the immediate future, I’ve gotten a request from Derek Bowman to do a series on his unpublished paper, “Revisiting the Circumstances of Justice,” which I’d like to start on after we’ve finished discussing DP’s paper. As I’ve mentioned before, Derek is a Visiting Assistant Professor of Philosophy at Providence College (Providence, Rhode Island), and gave a paper on adjunct justice at the Felician Institute conference this past April. He’s agreed to take an active part in the conversation on his paper here, and may well end up staying to blog for PoT after we’re done discussing his paper (consider it, Derek). I imagine we’ll start the discussion on Derek’s paper within the next few weeks–call it early or mid June. Details forthcoming, but in any case, Derek and I will make the paper available here in a format similar to the one David Potts has adopted in his series.

Here’s an abstract of Derek’s paper:

The “circumstances of justice” are the basic conditions of human life that make social cooperation both necessary and possible. It is precisely under these conditions that principles of justice are needed to assign the distribution of the benefits and burdens of social cooperation. Like much of contemporary political philosophy, the term originates with John Rawls, who credits this substance of this account to David Hume’s account of the conditions that make justice useful.  As I argue, however, Rawls’s Kantian moral psychology and his more capacious concept of ‘justice’ lead him to adopt a list of circumstances that, despite substantial overlap, cannot be justified, or even explained, in Humean terms. In order to resolve this difficulty, I propose a revised formulation of the circumstances of justice. This formulation explains what is right about Rawls’s account while overcoming the limitations associated with its Humean origins. Thus, resolving this interpretive puzzle points the way to a deeper understanding of the nature of justice and its grounding in the general conditions of human life.

As it happens, there’s some interesting conceptual overlap between Derek’s paper and the one David Riesbeck has “shamelessly” promoted here, “Aristotle and the Scope of Justice.” I’m hoping that there might at some point be interest in working through the latter paper, along with DJR’s forthcoming book, Aristotle on Political Community (Cambridge, 2016). Aristotle certainly comes up a fair bit at PoT, whether in frivolous contexts or serious ones, so I’m banking on the hunch that there will be some interest in discussing Aristotelian normative theory once DJR’s book comes out and we have the time to discuss it.

That said, Michael Young has agreed to hold off on doing posts on Arpaly-Schroeder’s In Praise of Desire until after we’re done with Derek’s paper, so that we don’t have too many discussion-series running simultaneously. PoT’s bloggers are of course welcome to post free-standing blog posts while any of these series are running; my point is that one or two simultaneous series are probably all that we (and our “readership”) can handle. To be clear: PoT bloggers are free to post at will on anything they want, whether discussion-series or free-standing post. I’d just like to encourage the idea of doing discussion series, and would suggest that if you want to do one, it’s probably advisable from now on to coordinate your plans with me so that the various series don’t work at cross purposes with one another.

As Derek’s example makes clear, the offer of doing a series is open both to PoT bloggers and to people who aren’t yet regular bloggers at PoT. Incidentally, I can’t help noticing that there’s a decided lack of gender diversity among our bloggers, and wouldn’t mind remedying that.

My tentative proposal, then, is that we finish DP’s “Morals and the Free Society,” then move to Derek’s “Circumstances of Justice,” then proceed to Michael’s posts on In Praise of Desire later in the summer–making any further plans as we work through Michael’s posts.

Anyway, I’m off to Israel/Palestine in a few days, and to Pine Ridge Indian Reservation after that.* Once I’m settled in, I’ll be photo-blogging at The View from Somewhere about daily life in both places (or all three places, depending on how you count). I haven’t had the chance even to begin to get TVfS off the ground and probably won’t get around to “building” it until a few weeks into my trip. Frankly, I’m not entirely sure that I like the WordPress theme I’m using, or whether WordPress is the right medium for what I want to do. I might have used Instagram if only I had a smart phone, but I don’t. I might have used Facebook if I could overcome my aversion to the concept of a Facebook friend, but I can’t. I’m too old for Snapchat and Flickr is for real photographers. So I’ve gone with a WordPress photography blog, despite not being totally sure it works. We’ll see. Comments welcome.

*For those of you who remember last year’s Israel/Palestine banking fiasco, I had my fourth annual conversation with Chase Bank the other day about the security of my financial transactions abroad. Strangely, this time, Chase didn’t say a word about Israel’s being on the “OFAC list,” or about how I needed a Chase Premium Sapphire card to keep my financial transactions safe. Gee–could that be because I already have a Chase Premium Sapphire card, and the whole OFAC routine was bullshit from the get-go?

Once again, however, my Chase banker did insist on equating Israel with the West Bank and Gaza. With five minutes to go before the bank closed, I decided to let that transgression slide. I mean, I still have dear, cherished friends who equate Palestine with Pakistan, so I no longer see the point in quibbling about the fine points of political geography with my bank. Frankly, it’ll be enough of an accomplishment to get past border control at Ben Gurion Airport and into Palestine (or whatever you want to call it). Since Israel’s border control authorities seem to equate the West Bank and Gaza with Israel as vehemently as my bank, I might as well get used to the idea. Wish me luck.

11 thoughts on “The Future of PoT

  1. There is a decided lack of gender diversity in the comments, too, if to a lesser degree. I’ve occasionally wondered whether this has anything to do with the idea that PoT is a libertarian or classical liberal blog, as there seem to be remarkably few women, at least in philosophy and political science, who fall within that spectrum (as evidenced by the frequency with which libertarians discuss why there aren’t more libertarian women and by BHL’s main authorship — only 3 women out of 17 listed authors — among other things). Of course, it isn’t a libertarian or classical liberal blog, but those of us who aren’t libertarians or classical liberals either post infrequently or don’t have much to say about political theory. I of course wouldn’t want to invite women to post just because they’re women, but there is no shortage of philosophically astute women out there, and it’d be nice to get some gender diversity to match our political and cultural diversity. It’d be cool to enhance the latter, too.

    I don’t know what (if anything) to do to change all that, but one thing I hope doesn’t change is the inclusion of your “political ranting” and “rhetorical antics.” That’s the really good stuff.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Actually, what’s interesting about lack of gender diversity is not so much the sheer numerical fact that so few women are around, as the possibility that there is a specific reason why they shy away. The point isn’t so much that diversity is a value per se as that lack of diversity is a proxy variable for insularity.

      I suspect that there’s no one reason for the dearth of women here. One is the reason you mention. Another is just the dearth of people here! We’re not a household name in the blogosphere–hence not a household name among women in philosophy. Another is path dependency: if you start with more men than women in your initial set of bloggers, you’ll tend to continue to have/attract more men than women. I suspect this but don’t know for sure whether it’s true: it could be that women are just less interested in blogging (or this kind of blogging) than men.


      • Women do not seem in general to be less interested in Aristotle or ethics of a broadly Aristotelian variety; as you’ve pointed out before, I think, these are two of the rare fields in philosophy where women are very well represented among the leading figures. But maybe it’s just an accident that there are so few women around here. Maybe we’re just boring, and that’s why there’s so few of any kind of people around here, and it just so happens that the dozen or so people who don’t find us boring are mostly dudes. I should try to be more interesting.


        • Maybe we’re just boring, and that’s why there’s so few of any kind of people around here, and it just so happens that the dozen or so people who don’t find us boring are mostly dudes.

          I think that explains more than just my blogging life.

          Liked by 1 person

  2. ON THE CONTRARY!! Personally, I don’t find the “dudes” on here boring. I think this blog site it very interesting. I may be one of the few females who try to keep up with all of this brilliant writing/blogging, and trust me I can’t but I sure do try, but for the most part I think its captivating.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Well, Irfan is captivating, and I try my best to keep him talking (err, writing). Please feel free to offer more of your thoughts, even if they aren’t so flattering to our host and his fellow blogger dudes.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Will do. But I must say Professor Khawaja is and will be my future professor this fall, so I feel obligated to be nice…..Just kidding of course I will definitely speak my mind (if i can) even though I was quiet in class. As for the rest of the bloggers, you are all equally talented. I enjoy reading all the blogs and their comments.


        • Ahh, I’m jealous; I’d like to attend some of his classes, though I suspect the other students would end up hating me. If Irfan is anything like the kind of teacher I am, though, you’ll endear yourself to him more if you have reflectively critical things to say than if you don’t. But it doesn’t have to happen in class. Some people, myself included, are just not so quick as others at formulating their thoughts on the spot; I often find that I figure out what I really wanted to say about ten or twenty minutes after I no longer have the opportunity to say it. And of course we all know those people who can’t stop talking even when they don’t have anything very worthwhile to say. All this goes to show that being quiet in class is not necessarily a bad thing, nor is talking necessarily a good thing. Given that you’re reading all of this stuff, I’d guess that you’re quiet because you’re thinking, and that’s rarely anything but good.

          Being quiet on blogs, however…

          I wonder if I can give you extra credit in his class for comment contributions to PoT? Somehow I think he might not go for that.


          • Extra credit would be great, but I am satisfied with my grade. I guess that’s why they say “watch out for the quiet ones.” Its true our wheels are always turning (maybe in a different direction) LOL but its true we are always thinking.


  3. Pingback: The Circumstances of Justice: 1. The Idea of “Circumstances of Justice” | Policy of Truth

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