by Daniel on March 22, 2007

I have a post up at “Aaronovitch Watch” (incorporating “World of Decency”) imagining the response of the South African government to some of the media commentators who are loudly shaming them for their failure to act (in what way?) on Zimbabwe. A few more thoughts for the slightly less polemic Crooked Timber venue …
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Edwards out?

by Henry Farrell on March 22, 2007

From what I’m hearing, it sounds probable that John Edwards “is going to pull out of the race for Democratic candidate today”:http://www.nytimes.com/2007/03/22/us/politics/22edwards.html?hp, because of his wife’s health. I’m very sorry if this is so; Edwards is the candidate whom I would have voted for, if I had a vote. He’s as close to being a Social Democrat as can reasonably be expected of anyone in the mainstream of US politics, and seems as a person and candidate to be deeply smart, serious, and committed to making hard choices in order to right some of the economic inequalities that have become pervasive in this country. I’m even sorrier because of the circumstances. From all accounts, Elizabeth Edwards is an extraordinary force in her own right, combining a tough intelligence with a fundamental sense of decency. I wish them well.

Update: Elizabeth Edwards has had a recurrence of her cancer, but it appears to be treatable, albeit not curable; Edwards says he isn’t dropping out.

Update 2: See “Jane Hamsher”:http://www.firedoglake.com/2007/03/22/best-wishes-for-elizabeth-edwards/ (and Elizabeth Edwards in comments).

Cover story

by Michael Bérubé on March 22, 2007

Greetings, O Timberites! Welcome to “spring,” unless it’s now “autumn” for you. (I hate these fashionable nods to “global relativism,” but I’m informed that some CT readers and contributors are adherents of some kind of Southern Hemisphere Standpoint Epistemology.) I fear that my nasty reputation has preceded me to this prestigious blog, but just for those of you who might be wondering who I am and why I’m here, my name is Michael Bérubé. I teach literature and cultural studies at Penn State University, where I also co-direct (with my wife, Janet Lyon) Penn State’s Disability Studies Program. In future posts, I will be more than happy to remedy this blog’s inexplicable inattention to (a) disability studies and (b) professional hockey in North America, but first, I should probably mention by way of introduction that I published two books last fall, one of which features my <a href=”http://www.michaelberube.com/images/uploads/berube_rhetorical.jpg”> ginormous looming ghostly head</a> and the other of which has been widely lauded for its innovative jacket design:


Hey, hold the phone!

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Blackwell has just published the latest of the Blackwell Philosophy Anthologies: Philosophy of Education: An Anthology (UK) edited by (almost full disclosure) my friend and collaborator Randall Curren. I was approached about editing an anthology myself a few years ago, and thought about it but, mainly out of laziness, never got around to it. Curren’s anthology is so good that it makes me cringe at the thought of how any volume I might have edited would have compared with it. I suppose that from outside the field it just looks like a good anthology, but from inside it reveals a wonderfully broad conception of the field, and it’s clear that an enormous amount of work must have gone into constructing it.

Philosophy of education suffers from being somewhat marginal within Education, and not well respected within Philosophy (for example, I’ve never seen an advertisement in Jobs for Philosophers with Philosophy of Education as an AOS, nor do I know of a Philosophy PhD program in the US which regularly, if ever, offers Philosophy of Education graduate seminars. I don’t offer them, and nor do the other philosophers of education I know within philosophy departments).I doubt many philosophers know much of the field beyond Plato’s, Aristotle’s and Rousseau’s contributions, and knowledge that Locke said something relevant but no idea what it was. (Anyone who does know that much knows more than I did when I started working in the field).

If you wanted to know more, Curren’s Anthology would be the perfect place to start.

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Rudy as World-Spirit

by John Holbo on March 22, 2007

Matthew Yglesias pens a partial defense of Giuliani’s statement that “freedom is about the willingness of every single human being to cede to lawful authority a great deal of discretion about what you do.” Matt: “The cause of political liberty is not, in fact, served by living in an underpoliced city. Generally speaking, while freedom does require that authority not overstep its proper bounds, it also very much requires that properly constituted authorities be reasonably strong and effective.” But this isn’t what Giuliani said. A point Isaiah Berlin makes very well in “Two Concepts of Liberty”: it is one thing to give up liberty for some greater good – possibly even an increase in freedom along some other axis. (Giving up the freedom to murder in order to secure freedom from murder seems like a good deal.) It is quite another thing to call the sacrifice of liberty ‘liberty’.

This paradox has been often exposed. It is one thing to say that I know what is good for X, while he himself does not; and even to ignore his wishes for its – and his – sake; and a very different one to say that he has eo ipso chosen it, not indeed consciously, not as he seems in everyday life, but in his role as a rational self which his empirical self may not know – the ‘real’ self which discerns the good, and cannot help choosing it once it is revealed. This monstrous impersonation, which consists in equating what X would choose if he were something he is not, or at least not yet, with what X actually seeks and chooses, is at the heart of all political theories of self-realization. It is one thing to say that I may be coerced for my own good, which I am too blind to see: this may, on occasion, be for my benefit; indeed it may enlarge the scope of my liberty. It is another to say that if it is my good, then I am not being coerced, for I have willed it, whether I know this or not, and am free (or ‘truly’ free) even while my poor earthly body and foolish mind bitterly reject it, and struggle with the greatest desperation against those who seek, however benevolently, to impose it.

As Matt says: “He’s still, I think, a pretty creepy authoritarian but the idea he’s expressing has a reasonably distinguished lineage and isn’t just some madness he dreamed up on his couch one afternoon.” Yes, it’s some madness that Hegel dreamed up on his couch one afternoon.

In other news, I’m in the market for a new scanner. It has to work well with mac and have the best OCR capability I can buy for under $200. Googling around, it seems that the most of the stand-alone software packages (OmniPage) are not getting rave reviews from consumers, and are rather expensive. If I have to choose between paying $400 for semi-functionality and just using whatever semi-functionality is bundled with a cheap scanner, I guess I’d go with the latter. I have Adobe Acrobat, which has some ok – not great, I think – OCR capability. What do you think?