From the monthly archives:

November 2003

More on Toddlers (Daycare and Feminism)

by Harry on November 30, 2003

Since Chris and Kieran have been posting on this I thought I’d weigh in, and perhaps be a little more politically incorrect. (See also the interesting article by Katherine Quarmby in last month’s Prospect, temporarily available to non-subscribers) The left tends to emphasize two things about child-rearing:
1) The desirability of having men and women more-or-less equally involved in the hands-on aspects of rearing from very early on;
2) The desirability of women facing roughly equal prospects in the labor market as men.

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Jobs in Philosophy

by Brian on November 30, 2003

This will be of very little interest to non-philosophers, but we probably get enough philosophers through here to make it worth posting. I did a break-down of the 438 jobs advertised in Jobs for Philosophers this fall in order to get some picture of what demand was like for job candidates with different specialisations. The results aren’t too surprising, but there might be some interesting stuff here, especially for PhD students going on the job market in upcoming years.

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Like Dylan in the Philosophy Room

by Brian on November 29, 2003

Last time we visited Weber State University it was to note the existence of a forthcoming volume on The Undead and Philosophy. Now comes a more worthy venture: Bob Dylan and Philosophy. Suggested paper topics include: What It’s Like to be a Rolling Stone; Dylan’s solution to the Toxin Puzzle – Don’t Think Twice It’s Alright; and The Philosophical Significance of Wiggle Wiggle.

Can I claim first dibs on Harry Potter and Philosophy, or has that already been taken?

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More bad writing

by Brian on November 29, 2003

Let me second Chris’s recommendation of John Holbo’s posts (one two) on bad writing. Despite their brilliance, I don’t want to take up the thankless task John offers me. In part that’s because at this time of year I have quite enough thankless tasks on my plate. And in part it’s for an amusing theoretical reason.

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John Holbo on bad writing

by Chris Bertram on November 29, 2003

John Holbo has a “quite brilliant extended post”: about the whole Bad Writing debate (and I’m not just saying that because of the nice things he writes about CT). In a “follow-up post”: John has more to say about how the targets of his ire get analytical philosophy wrong: they say that it is “bobbing along in the wake of logical positivism”. This is important, because people who do “theory” in the humanities often operate with a completely false idea of what philosophers think and do – a false idea that functions for them as a lazy self-defence mechanism and comfort blanket.

Drug prices and the logic of collective action

by Maria on November 28, 2003

As it’s Medicare week, the NYT seems to be focusing on how US trade policies can hinder healthcare abroad. Earlier this week, Nicholas Kristof marked the FTAA discussions by reporting from Guatemala, where the government hopes to win US favour by buying brand name Aids drugs instead of generics, even though it costs three times as much and means the Guatemalans can only, presumably, treat a third as many people.

Yesterday’s front page story was about the US pharma industry’s drive, through the USTR, to stop other governments from imposing price controls on drugs bought to treat citizens. The Medicare bill was quite a victory for the drugs companies, as it prevents the US government from imposing price controls, and also mandates progress reports to Congress on efforts to open Australia’s drug pricing system.

On a first read of the story, I was transported back to my happy days in Public Policy and Public Choice I. I could almost hear the pharmas arguing; ‘In the US, we’ve just managed to ‘tie the king’s hands’, and stop the government from naming the price it pays for drugs (otherwise the government would pay such low prices that developing new drugs wouldn’t be worthwhile and soon we wouldn’t have any.). But abroad, we’re forced by governments to sell our drugs at lower prices. Which means the durn furners are free-riding on all that American R&D.’

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There’s only one Karol Wojtyla…

by Chris Bertram on November 28, 2003

Whatever the drawbacks of the Pope’s views about contraception or human sexuality, I was heartened to learn that his judgement remains sound concerning “the things that really matter”: . Now if he could just lay on the odd miracle or two …

Observe the Sons of Ulster

by Henry Farrell on November 28, 2003

The results from Northern Ireland’s Assembly elections are filtering through, albeit slowly; it looks as if Sinn Fein has won a big increase in its share of the vote, and the SDLP, the moderate nationalist party, is going to suffer very serious losses. The Ulster Unionist Party, which represents the more accommodationist face of Unionism, has suffered a substantial loss of votes, and is likely to win less seats in the Assembly than the Democratic Unionist Party. The Alliance Party, which is neither nationalist or unionist, has done very badly. As usual, “Slugger O’Toole”: is the best source of up-to-date information on what’s happening.

What does this mean for the peace process? Hard to say. The moderates on both the Nationalist and Unionist side have lost out to those on the extremes. This means that Northern Ireland is likely in for a bumpy ride for the next several months, and very possibly a crash landing. On the other hand, if the Democratic Unionist Party is able to hold its nose and negotiate with Sinn Fein, it may be able to pull off a Nixon in China deal, that will seem legitimate to the Unionist population. This “doesn’t look likely”: any time in the near future; we may have to wait for the Reverend Ian Kyle Paisley (doctor in theology, _honoris causa_, Bob Jones University) to be kicked upstairs before real progress is possible. Here’s to hoping that he gets “called home”: soon …

Risus sardonicus

by Henry Farrell on November 28, 2003

By sheer coincidence, I read Kieran’s “post”: a couple of hours after I picked _Quicksilver_ up again (I’ve been too busy this semester to read big fat books, however tempting), and came across this passage (p.200-201, US edition).

bq. There, mounted up high on a weatherbeaten stick, was a sort of irregular knot of stuff, barely visible as a gray speck in the moonlight: the head of Oliver Cromwell. When the King had come back, ten years ago, he’d ordered the corpse to be dug up from where Drake and the others had buried it, and the head cut off and mounted on a pike and never taken down. Ever since then Cromwell had been looking down helplessly on a (sic) scene of unbridled lewdness that was Whitehall palace.

Pepys figures prominently in the narrative a couple of pages before; I suspect that his diaries are Stephenson’s source. So far, I’m enjoying _Quicksilver_ a lot more than I expected, given some of the rude reviews (Kevin Drum describes it as a “core dump”: But then, my tolerance for long, semi-relevant digressions on this or that subject is probably a lot higher than that of the average reader. Will blog more on this when I’ve finished the damn book …

Oliver Cromwell’s Head

by Kieran Healy on November 28, 2003

As I’ve said before, the Latham & Matthews transcription of the Diary of Samuel Pepys is a marvel of scholarship. I would be enjoying myself a good deal less if I didn’t have the footnotes to read. Take October 13 1664, for example, which I read last night. Pepys has just read a book containing the story “that Cromwell did in his life time transpose many of the bodies of the kings of England from one grave to another, and that by that means it is not known certainly whether the head that is now set up upon a post be that of Cromwell or one of the kings.” Then we get the editorial footnote:

The book is Samuel-Joseph Sorbiere’s Relation d’un Voyage en Agletterre … (Paris, 1664; not in the P[epys] L[ibrary]). The story (which struck Sorbiere as ‘un bruit ridicule’) is at pp.165-6 in the Cologne edition of 1667 … There seems no doubt that this was in fact Cromwell’s head: see K. Pearson and G.M. Morant, Portraiture of O. Cromwell, esp. pp.107+. For a contrary view, see F.J. Varley, Cromwell’s latter end. The head remained for display at Westminster Hall for about 25 years, when it was blown down in a storm. In 1710 it was said to be in London in a collection of curios: Von Uffenbach, London in 1710 (trans. and ed. Quarrell and Mare), p.82. In 1812 a head (allegedly the same one) found its way (via a pawnbroker’s shop) into the possession of a Suffolk family — the Wilkinsons of Woodbridge — whence it passed in 1960 to Cromwell’s college, Sidney Sussex, Cambridge, where it was given a decent burial in the ante-chapel. Journal R. Arch. Inst. 68/237+; N & Q., corr in vols for 1864 and 1926; The Times, 31st December 1874; ib., 15 April 1957; Sid Suss. Annual 1960, p.26.

Marvellous stuff.


by Chris Bertram on November 27, 2003

It looks like a quiet day today on Crooked Timber. But I’ve noticed a couple interesting links elsewhere. “Tyler Cowen over at the Volokhs”: points to “a new article in Nature”: about the origins of Indo-European languages (Anatolia is where they come from according to this study). And Brian Leiter “finds something to like about Stanley Fish”: who has “a piece in the Chronicle of Higher Education”: about right-wing threats to academia (some of which sound not dissimilar to New Labour threats over here in the UK).

Sunny Jim

by Kieran Healy on November 26, 2003

While we’re on the subject of literature, Jacob Levy points to a subscriber-only piece in Even the New Republic about the perenially sad state of modern literature. I can’t read it because I’m not a subscriber, but Jacob quotes a chunk. Who’s to blame for the terrible condition of the novel? James Joyce, that’s who.

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Imaginary Alternative Big Reads

by Kieran Healy on November 26, 2003

So Austen and Tolkien top Norm’s poll. Assuming fungible goods and transitive preferences, it follows that a hybrid version of these two authors would also prove very popular. Thus, I want to see Pride and Prejudice rewritten a la Tolkien. A new title might be needed. Pride and Preciousness perhaps, or Sauron and Sarumanity. Also vice versa. “It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in grubby clothes smoking pipeweed in the corner must be leader of the Dunedain, lost King of the West and worth four or five thousand a year. What a fine thing for our Hobbits!”

Alternative big read

by Chris Bertram on November 26, 2003

The results of Norman Geras’s “Alternative Big Read poll”: are out, with _Pride and Prejudice_ in first place. The selection is pretty good except for the appearance of _Lord of the Rings_ in second place (ranked their top book by eight witless people).

Genre fiction redux

by Chris Bertram on November 26, 2003

I’ve been following the discussions about genre and literary fiction in the threads started by “Henry”: and “Maria”: with some interest. As I mention in a comment to Henry’s thread, I’ve always rated Ken Worpole’s writing on this topic both in his “Dockers and Detectives”: and in another little book he produced called “Reading by Numbers: Contemporary Publishing and Popular Fiction”: (Comedia, 1984). I picked it up of the shelf this evening to check on a passage I dimly remembered about book design:

bq. Paperback cover design in the 1940s and 1950s was often very strong and innovative, employing traditions borrowed from Expressionist and Surrealist styles of the early part of the century. Typography was often highly innovative too.

bq. Unfortunately, what displaced this bugeoning populist publishing tradition was the introduction of the “trade paperback” in the 1970s, a development of questionable value. The “trade paperback” is a larger format, more expensively produced paperback designed exclusively for bookshop sales, and carries an aura of a higher “seriousness” than the cheap, easy-to-fit-in-your-pocket book. Many publishers moved their more “serious” writers over into their new “trade” paperback lists or re-printed books with new “classical” covers … This not only raised the price of the books but literally took them out of the supermarkets and the chain-stores. The “trade” paperback was designed specifically to be sold by the book trade. Much writing was thus taken out of the arena of popular literature, as can be gauged by thumbing through the paperback sections in second-hand bookshops, where it is not unusual to find Sartre, Trocchi, Lawrence, Faulkner, Steinbeck, Richard Wright, Nell Dunn, Mary McCarthy, Cesare Pavese, Ignazio Silone, Norman Mailer and many others being promoted as sensational fiction with garish covers – and being sold in their tens of thousands rather than thousands. It is the development of the trade paperback which further separated out “serious” literature from “popular” literature and created a vacuum in the cheap paperback field which formula writing rushed to fill. (pp. 7–8)

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