Io accuso

by Henry on August 1, 2003

Just a quick note; I’ve dumped on the _Economist_ a couple of times in the last few weeks, so I should say that it has an excellent “open letter”: to Silvio Berlusconi on its website today, with a detailed dossier on the various legal controversies that Mr. Berlusconi has become embroiled in. I especially recommend the discussion of Berlusconi’s “attempts to smear Romano Prodi”: to Glenn Reynolds, who may wish to revisit this snarky and unpleasant little “post”: from a couple of months back.

This is something I hope to blog about at greater length sometime in the next few days, as the story develops. Megan McArdle “speculates”: that the _Economist’s_ dossier will cause “a lot of consternation in Italy.” Sadly, I suspect that it won’t have much political effect. Berlusconi’s disinformation machine which has already described the _Economist_ as a Communist publication (sic) after it published a previous article on his shady dealings, and gotten away with it, seems to be gearing itself up again. His company’s lawyers are “describing”: the _Economist_ article as “more of an affront to the true facts and journalistic decency than to the honorable Mr. Berlusconi.” Since Berlusconi has a lock on both public and private tv, his people will be able to spin the dossier as an attack on Italy’s national pride rather than the damning litany of facts that it is. More on this as it develops.

Philosophical Romances

by Henry on August 1, 2003

There aren’t that many philosophical romances published in English any more; the genre seems to have fallen into a quiet desuetude. Me, I blame Umberto Eco. His splendid _The Name of the Rose_ gave us high expectations, which were to be disappointed by the arid academic score-settling of _Foucault’s Pendulum_, and then forcibly dashed into the gutter by the otiose _Island of the Day Before_. At a stretch I suppose, you can count popularizations like _Sophie’s World_, which are of arguable philosophical merit and inarguable novelistic triteness, but I don’t really see why you’d want to. However, if, like me, you enjoy books of this sort, I’ve got three recommendations which I suspect many CT readers will never have come across.

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The end of the single

by Chris Bertram on August 1, 2003

I’m going to get a reputation as CT’s resident wistful nostalgic if I’m not careful (what with my posts on “real” sausages and what have you). Still I couldn’t help getting a Proustian rush on reading Paul Morley’s funeral oration for the single in today’s Guardian:

bq. The first single I ever bought was Ride a White Swan by T Rex. It was the first thing I had ever got for myself that wasn’t a toy or a comic. I was 13 years old and it was like buying a piece of magic. It was as if I could begin to understand what I was living for. I would slide the mysterious black disc out of its paper sleeve. I would put it with unlikely care on to a soft rubbery turntable. I would nervously drop the needle on to the edge of the disc and hear the tantalising crackle and pop that seemed to last an eternity before Marc Bolan, as if from space, as if for me only, began singing his electric folk song that seemed to be all about swans, sex and the strangeness and tender brilliance of being a teenager.

Facts in political philosophy

by Chris Bertram on August 1, 2003

Just musing on the whole facts and principles issue, I was reminded of a text which Jeremy Waldron brought up on the very first occasion I heard the Cohen thesis discussed. It isn’t really relevant to the whole fact-insensitive principle stuff at all, but it is a reminder of the kind of “facts” our great precursors helped themselves to! Normally when people are arguing for design in nature, they go for things like the structure of the eye, but Kant had other “evidence” in mind in this wonderful passage from _Perpetual Peace_ :

bq. It is in itself wonderful that moss can still grow in the cold wastes around the Arctic Ocean; the _reindeer_ can scrape it out from beneath the snow, and can thus serve itself as nourishment or as a draft animal for the Ostiaks or Samoyeds. Similarly, the sandy salt deserts contain the _camel_, which seems as if it had been created for travelling over them in order that they might not be left unutilised. But evidence of design in nature emerges even more clearly when we realise that the shores of the Arctic Ocean are inhabited not only by fur-bearing animals, but also by seals, walrusses and whales, whose flesh provides food and whose fat provides warmth for the native inhabitants. Nature’s care also arouses admiration, however, by carrying driftwood to these treeless regions without anyone knowing exactly where it comes from. For if they did not have this material, the natives would not be able to construct either boats or weapons, on dwellings in which to live. ( _Kant: Political Writings_ ed. Reiss p. 110)

Wandering the Halls

by Kieran Healy on August 1, 2003

The Australian National University’s Research School of Social Sciences, where I am presently ensconced, is a great place. It has amiable institutions such as Morning and Afternoon Tea, for instance, which make it possible to pass the entire day moving from one sort of break to another. It also has lots of interesting people in it. Unfortunately, it can be difficult to find any of them because they are all located in the Coombs Building. On the other hand, you may bump into them while you are looking for your office again.

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Cohen and Rawlsian Constructivism

by Jon Mandle on August 1, 2003

Like Chris, I spent the morning puzzling over Cohen’s recent article in Philosophy and Public Affairs. Although I don’t necessarily disagree with his conclusion, I don’t think the argument is strong. But I don’t want to discuss the substance of his argument – for helpful discussions, see Chris here and here, Brian here, Larry Solum here, and Matt Yglesias here. Instead, I want to argue that his stalking horse throughout the essay, John Rawls, simply does not hold the view that he criticizes. Cohen is wrong when he says that (among the several examples he mentions) “Rawls alone clearly affirms what I deny.”

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Last Thoughts on Naturalism

by Brian on August 1, 2003

The discussion threads on naturalism have been lots of fun, but I’m going to have to leave them behind to head off to my favourite little philosophical conference. Unless the thread lasts another week (an eternity in blogtime!) it will be done before I return. So I thought I’d close with a point of agreement.

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