Albany-Moscow Video-Conference

by Jon Mandle on March 4, 2009

Last week, the University at Albany and the Moscow State University’s philosophy departments held a joint video-conference. The conference spanned over two mornings (in Albany, evenings in Moscow), with around six 30-45 minute presentations (including discussion) from each department. The topic was “What Progress Has Philosophy Made in the Last 50 Years?” One of the goals was to allow each department to get a sense of the research interests of the other as a basis for possible future collaborations and exchanges. So, the Albany faculty gave presentations on changes in philosophy of science, language, political theory, Kant interpretation, and applied ethics. Basically, we all thought that there had, in fact, been progress in these areas and we described the more important changes. The Moscow faculty tended to discuss the nature of philosophy and what it would mean for philosophy to make progress in the first place, although there was some discussion of changes in more specific areas. There was good discussion of these issues and interesting overlaps and complementary interests and perspectives. I was in Moscow in the fall, and a colleague had been there last year, and the personal connections that we made helped ensure the tone was very good. Obviously, one appealing aspect was that it was very inexpensive. We used a conference room that had two large-screen monitors and a camera, and we connected over the internet. It really worked well and everyone felt it was a big success. This was the first event like this that I’ve been involved with, and I would definitely recommend it and expect that this type of thing will become much more frequent.

First of all, sorry that this has taken so long. What follows are some reflections on ch. 4 of G.A. Cohen’s _Rescuing Justice and Equality_. I _think_ I’ve got the basic argument right, but I’d welcome corrections and clarifications.

The key shock of this chapter is Cohen’s rejection of the difference principle itself as a basic principle of justice. In the earlier chapters, Cohen focused on the fact that the inequalities supposedly justified by the difference principle might often be the result of more talented people holding out for higher pay, despite the fact that they could perfectly well supply their labour for less. To act thus, is, according to Cohen inconsistent in people who affirm a commitment to the difference principle (as _ex hypothesesi_ all citizens of the well-ordered society do). Contra Rawls and most Rawlsians then, Cohen there argued that the difference principle ought to mandate a more equal society than is commonly supposed, because most applications of the standard incentives argument ought to fail. It isn’t that we must pay the talented more because otherwise they won’t be able to supply the labour that benefits the least advantaged; it is that they choose not to supply it unless they are bribed. But a person sincerely committed to maximizing the expectations of the least advantaged wouldn’t need to be bribed.

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Apple News

by John Holbo on March 4, 2009

I held out for the new iMac and now it’s here! (Unfortunately, Belle’s cute little white Macbook just up and died. Poor thing was only 16 months old. Motherboard dead. Battery toast, too. Repair cost: roughly the same as replacement cost. Sigh.)

Wingnuts of the World Unite!

by Henry Farrell on March 4, 2009

Some people “are laughing”: at wingnuts who are ‘going Galt’ by signing up for Medicare early. Me, I think it’s wonderful that the right is discovering the joys of solidaristic (well, sort of) strike action. So much so that I’m “asking readers to encourage the leaders of this movement”: (Facebook group1 – I hope but don’t know whether this link will work for everyone) to take the obvious next step.

The ‘Go Galt, Go!’ Manifesto

We proudly salute “Dr. Helen,” Glenn Reynolds, and Michelle Malkin, for identifying the only possible response to Barack Obama’s victory – ‘going Galt.’ By withdrawing their creative and intellectual achievements from the economy and stopping tipping waitstaff, the schmibertarian right can surely bring the parasites and Democrats to their knees. We look forward to these three thought leaders striking the obvious first blow, by refusing to blog for the ungrateful masses and withdrawing to a secret compound until the world capitulates to their demands! Only a universal wingnut blogging strike can bring the moochers to their senses. John Galt lives!

1 We also have a “Crooked Timber group”: by the way.

Let justice be done?

by Daniel on March 4, 2009

From the New York Times editorial page, and on the day when we’re expecting the International Criminal Court to hand out its decision on whether to indict Omar al-Bashir for genocide (or for a lesser charge of crimes against humanity) in Darfur, the two opposing points of view on the role of the ICC set out pretty clearly.

Update: the warrant’s out. Five counts of crimes against humanity and two of war crimes (specifically, ordering attacks against civilians, and pillaging). But, no genocide charge (the warrant might be amended later to include genocide but this one doesn’t have it). Moreno-Ocampo was very insistent on this six months ago, but it was widely thought at the time that it looked like overreach and apparently the court has decided to stick with what it can definitely prove. More discussion perhaps later.
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Democrats Announce “Love Train”

by Michael Bérubé on March 4, 2009

Washington, DC — Responding to Republican charges that President Obama’s proposed budget includes $8 billion for a high-speed, magnetic-levitation train that “<a href=””>will deliver customers straight from Disney . . . to the doorstep of the moonlight bunny ranch brothel in Nevada</a>,” Democratic leaders today unveiled plans for a “<a href=””>Love Train</a>” that will join “people all over the world.”

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All good things ….

by Chris Bertram on March 4, 2009

The Online Photographer reports that the firm of Franke and Heidecke is going out of business – perhaps permanently. That’s very sad news, for they are the firm that launched the famous Rolleiflex brand in 1929. As it happens, I bought a 1932 Rolleiflex Standard that I bought in a junk shop in Wales last year. I’d actually seen it a year before. The owner had spotted me with a camera and asked me whether I was interested in the Rollei. At the time I declined, but regretted it as I thought back to the beauty of the image in its ground-glass screen. So I was amazed, when I went back, to find it still unsold and snapped it up. I keep meaning to write a post about what you could, pretentiously, call the “phenomenology of technology”. The Rollei feels so different to a modern digital camera: since it is a twin-lens reflex, you hold it at waist level and look downwards; like other film cameras you don’t get the instant satisfaction of digital – you have to wait and see what came out; and since you have a mere 12 shots on 120 medium format film, you can’t just snap away and select for the best. There’s also the fact that is is a superbly made object. How many other machines made in 1932 still work, and work pretty well. Vorsprung durch Technik, I suppose. Here’s a photograph I made with it:

Alex sitting at the piano