Funny how things turn up

by Kieran Healy on February 9, 2006

The BBC reports a remarkable find:

A “lost” science manuscript from the 1600s found in a cupboard in a house during a routine valuation is expected to fetch more than £1m at auction. The hand-written document – penned by Dr Robert Hooke – contains the minutes of the Royal Society from 1661 to 1682, experts said.

It was found in a house in Hampshire, where it is thought to have lain hidden in a cupboard for about 50 years. The owners had no idea of its value. It will be auctioned in London next month. …

I always wonder how this kind of thing happens. I mean, I know its possible for very old and valuable books to appear in estate sales and so on, especially when the ones of interest might be hidden amongst hundreds of others or not immediately of obvious worth. But to be unaware of the potential interest of any handwritten manuscript that’s obviously hundreds of years old … I don’t know. Maybe some old homes are just drowning in antiques. And indeed, the report suggests something like this was the case — though in a way that does seem just a bit too formulaic to believe:

It was discovered in a private house where other items were being valued by an antiques expert and it was only as he left that the family — whose identity is being kept secret — thought to show him the manuscript. “The valuer was just leaving when this document was produced from a cupboard,” she said. “All the vendor knows is that the document had been in the family as long as she can remember. She doesn’t know how it got into the family.”

I suppose that once this discovery was made and the valuer was on his way out, he tripped over the hallway rug and noticed that the slate slab underneath bore the inscription “HIC IACET ARTORIVS REX QVONDAM REXQVE FVTVRVS.”

Nussbaum on the Animals

by Jon Mandle on February 9, 2006

Martha Nussbaum has an essay in the Chronicle (sorry, subscription required [update: try this link, thanks susan]) that draws on her new book Frontiers of Justice: Disability, Nationality, Species Membership. The essay concerns “The Moral Status of Animals”. On the one hand, she argues, “The fact that all Kantian views ground moral concern in our rational and moral capacities makes it difficult to treat animals as beings to whom justice is due.” On the other hand, utilitarianism, which does recognize the direct relevance of animal suffering, has other familiar problems, many of which have to do with aggregation. As an alternative, Nussbaum’s capability approach “starts from the notion of human dignity and a life worthy of it. But it can be extended to provide a more adequate basis for animal entitlements than the other two theories under consideration. It seems wrong to think that only human life has dignity.”
[click to continue…]

Usually available in 24 hours

by Henry Farrell on February 9, 2006

My online bookseller of choice is “Powells”: rather than Amazon; unlike its larger competitor, it’s union friendly. But sometimes they don’t stock something and Amazon does. Here’s my beef: when Amazon claims that something is “usually available in 24 hours,” my experience is that three times out of four it isn’t. On average, I’d guesstimate that it takes 2-3 days for Amazon to ship something that is supposed to be available immediately. Is this just persistent bad luck on my part? Or do others have similar experiences?

What parents want their kids to be like.

by Harry on February 9, 2006

Peter Levine wants to know what parents want their kids to be like. He reports the results of a decade-long survey asking parents what single quality they valued most for their child. The winner by far is honesty. For me, there’s no question: kindness. And you?