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John Holbo

What Kind of Belt Is That Guy Wearing?

by John Holbo on May 28, 2016

The Library of Congress Flickr photostream is a steady source of curious gems. Today, for example: what kind of belt/waistcoat is that boater hat guy on the left sporting?

Marines in France (LOC)
I downloaded the original file. Here’s a closer look. [click to continue…]

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On Beyond Zarathustra

by John Holbo on May 24, 2016

On Beyond Zarathustra

Ever since Plato wrote Socrates Will You Please Go Now! and If I Ran The Polis! great philosophers have mostly started out as authors of (what we would now call) Dr. Seuss-style children’s books. A lot of this old stuff has been lost. Scholars have neglected it. But I’m undertaking a project of restoration and study, starting with Nietzsche.

I’ll be posted updates regularly to the Flickr page – few pages a week as my work proceeds. We’re just getting to the good bits: The Rope Dancer and the Last Man!

Please do feel to share with any friends who may have a scholarly interest in the historiography of philosophy. (I’ll have some more notes about that soon.) Oh, and if it wouldn’t be too much trouble: buy my Plato book! Or at least read it for free. It’s drooped below the million mark in Amazon sales. Again. Depresses me. Wounds my vanity, you might say.

Consistency is the most common currency of political debate. But what is it worth, would you say? And why? Apart from obvious monomaniacs, few people are highly philosophically consistent in their thinking about politics on all levels – from high principle down to partisan practice and all points in between and/or to one side or the other, as politics slops into other areas of thought and life. I don’t just mean: everyone slips. I mean: every attractive view has major tensions. (That’s what we call them when they’re ours. When other people have them: utter contradictions! Repulsive stuff!)

So what is the value of consistency arguments in politics – bold exposures of the other side’s contradictions, bouts of tidying up of one’s own? Would you say?

It’s tempting to say that consistency is an asymptotic or regulative ideal: we approach but know we aren’t really going to get there. But that doesn’t really seem right. It doesn’t seem right that we really value consistency very highly. (See above: most consistent people seem like fanatics.) No one switches partisan sides because the other side seems to have assembled a more internally coherent match of policies and principles. It doesn’t seem as though, as people become more sophisticated, politically, they become more consistent, philosophically. Possibly this has something to do with pluralism about value. (Feel free to make reference to pluralism – or hobgoblins – in your answer.) But if pluralism means it’s ok to be inconsistent, what is the value of consistency?

I also don’t mean to imply that even the most philosophically sophisticated students of politics are as utterly, intellectually self-betraying as your average partisan idiot. Getting shot with 500 bullets is way more bullets than getting shot with 5 bullets. Still, dead is dead. I think John Rawls, for example, is a more consistent political thinker than Donald Trump. But I also think that Rawls’ political philosophy suffers from at least five fatal defects: unresolvable, fairly central contradictions (inconsistencies, tensions, call them what you will.) Does it make sense to favor a view that suffers from five fatal contradictions over a view that suffers from 500 on grounds of consistency, per se?

All the same, I really can’t feature not valuing consistency quite highly. What do you think?

The Communist Manifesto In Pictures

by John Holbo on May 13, 2016

I just added an item to my collection of graphical curiosities: a 1948 pamphlet, published by The International Book Store in San Francisco, “The Communist Manifesto In Pictures”.
manifestoinpictures

You can get the PDF version for free. I’m interested in it mostly as a data point in the history of American graphic design. The International Book Store seems to have had some graphical flair:

fullfaceherberthoover

I don’t own that one. I don’t imagine the contents – apparently republished from Soviet Russia Today – are as fun as the cover.

The Party Divides?

by John Holbo on May 7, 2016

In the tail end of comments to this post I linked to a New York Magazine excerpt/adaptation from a forthcoming book with the intriguing title Ratf***ed: The True Story Behind the Secret Plan to Steal America’s Democracy, by David Daley. The book is about the triumph of gerrymandering that is the Repubican headlock on the House for the foreseeable future – even in the event of a total Trump implosion. (But be aware that Republican advantages in this regard may be somewhat overdetermined.)

All very interesting and terrible. But I’m thinking about this bit from the tail end of the article: [click to continue…]

I’m reading Russell Muirhead, The Promise of Party In A Polarized Age: [click to continue…]

Writing is a sweet, wonderful reward.

by John Holbo on April 17, 2016

We acquired this fridge magnet at some point.

kafkawriting

Nice use of Papyrus. Nice combination of Papyrus with whatever that faux-handwriting script font is.

Fits with Henry’s link to an incongruous appropriation of Beckett.

Suppose we wanted to make a collection of cheerful thoughts from depressed writers. You can’t spell ‘unhappiness’ without the happiness! What else might be included?

Envelope please! And the winner isTroilus and Cressida, by William Shakespeare (probably written in 1603 or 1609 or maybe as early as 1599). Let’s review the victory conditions. [click to continue…]

For where desire, celestial, pure desire,
Hath taken root, and grows, and doth not tire,
There God a commerce states, and sheds
His secret on their heads.

Henry Vaughan, “The Star”

“And how does your commerce go, you strange guardian of the past?”

G.K. Chesterton, The Napoleon of Notting Hill

My partisanship post has blossomed into an extensive discussion of original intent, interpretation and the commerce clause. Maybe we could use a little more scholarship to go with that. (Who knows?)

Randy Barnett and Jack Balkin are big in this area, and their major papers are freely available on the web. (Here’s Balkin’s major statement, outside of his book. Here’s an old one by Barnett that makes his general framework clear. And here’s a recent response by him to Balkin on commerce.) But let me start with “Rethinking the Commerce Clause”, by Nelson and Pushaw. It’s not free online, but I want just to quote the opening: [click to continue…]

Pure Partisanship, The New Nonpartisanship

by John Holbo on April 8, 2016

Process hypocrisy isn’t exactly newsworthy, I know, but a few notes. [click to continue…]

Caricatures – Russell and Wittgenstein

by John Holbo on March 28, 2016

I’ve been trying to do caricatures in a new style. I did a few for the book but I’ve decided to continue the set. What do you think? Who should I do next?

russellandwittgenstein

Substantial Burden Test?

by John Holbo on March 24, 2016

“Doug Laycock retracts in Little Sisters”. That would have surprised me. Turns out: Ed Whelan thinks that Laycock ought to retract, because Whelan disagrees with Laycock. Less noteworthy. (Made me look!)

But I have a simple legal question. [click to continue…]

This Matt Labash profile of Mike “Murphestopheles” Murphy, lately of Right To Rise fame – is fascinating. (People said ‘Right To Rise’ sounded like a late-nite viagra infomercial. I thought it sounded like a zombie flick, and I think this post-mortem of Murphy confirms me in that intuition. Although I see the other point of view.) [click to continue…]

I forgot St. Patrick’s day. But I remembered all-Trump, all-the-time is dull. And some people like my pen-and-ink posts. So let’s celebrate a pair of illustrators named ‘Neill’, or nearly. [click to continue…]

Trolling Alone?

by John Holbo on March 18, 2016

A couple months ago I was listening to bloggingheads (or something) and I heard conservative columnist and author Matt Lewis trying to explain Trump in terms of Maslow’s Pyramid (hierarchy of needs). He wasn’t being seriously serious about it, but I got what he was getting at … until I realized I had Lewis’ intended point precisely upside down and backwards. [click to continue…]