A Conversation about Causation and Counterfactuals

by Kieran Healy on October 21, 2010

Philosophy TV hosts a conversation between Ned Hall and L.A. Paul on the counterfactual analysis of causation. It is, of course, must-see TV on any plausible account of necessity.

In the interests of full disclosure, something, something, something. I’ll think of it in a minute.

I Didn’t See It Coming

by John Holbo on October 21, 2010

While busying myself with this and that, I began listening to the new Belle and Sebastian album, Write About Love. The first track, “I Didn’t See It Coming”. But! I didn’t realize iTunes was on shuffle, so the next track up was, naturally, Iron Maiden, “Prodigal Son”, off their second album, Killers. I wasn’t focusing, didn’t instantly recognize the track. But it gradually impinged on my sphere of phenomenological awareness that I could not possibly be listening to the new Belle and Sebastian album, however cheeky these twee English (Scottish?) monkeys might be trying to be. So I ask you: at what point in “Prodigal Son” does it become metaphysically impossible that this is a Belle and Sebastian song? (Now, of course, given it actually is an Iron Maiden song, in a sense it’s a trick question. But never mind that.)

A) 0.01. From the very first second it just couldn’t be Belle and Sebastian.
B) 0.10. These arpeggios.
C) 0.16. Those drums.
D) 0.27. When it rocks.
E) 1.16 The vocals.

Or is there in actual, possible fact some Borgesian/Lewisian counterpart to our world in which Iron Maiden never recorded this song, in which Belle and Sebastian write and perform an identical song on their new album, Write About Love, with the help of some guy’s guest vocals. And how’s that working out for them?

UPDATE: I guess this is somehow related to the general issue of British austerity measures, but I couldn’t say how.

The future of British higher education?

by Chris Bertram on October 21, 2010

Karl Marx in the Preface to vol. 1 of _Capital_ : “The country that is more developed industrially only shows, to the less developed, the image of its own future. ”

Here’s “part of an interview from IHE”:http://www.insidehighered.com/news/2010/10/20/schrecker with Ellen Schrecker, author of _The Lost Soul of Higher Education: Corporatization, the Assault on Academic Freedom, and the End of the American University_ :

bq. Reduced support from state legislatures and the federal government’s decision to aid higher education through grants and loans to students rather than through the direct funding of individual institutions forced those institutions to look for other sources of income, while seeking to cut costs. In the process, academic administrators adapted themselves to the neoliberal ethos of the time. They reoriented their institutions toward the market at the expense of those elements of their educational missions that served no immediate economic function.

bq. As they came to rely ever more heavily on tuition payments, they diverted resources to whatever would attract and retain students — elaborate recreational facilities, gourmet dining halls, state-of-the-art computer centers, and winning football teams. At the same time, they slashed library budgets, deferred building maintenance, and – most deleteriously – replaced full-time tenure-track faculty members with part-time and temporary instructors who have no academic freedom and may be too stressed out by their inadequate salaries and poor working conditions to provide their students with the education they deserve. Meanwhile, rising tuitions are making a college degree increasingly unaffordable to the millions of potential students who most need that credential to make it into the middle class.

bq. Unfortunately, the competitive atmosphere produced by the academic community’s long-term obsession with status and its more recent devotion to the market makes it hard for its members to collaborate in solving its problems. Institutions compete for tuition-paying undergraduates and celebrity professors who can boost their institutions’ U.S. News & World Report ratings. Faculty members compete for tenure and research grants. And students compete for grades after having competed for admission to the highly ranked schools that will provide them with the credentials for a position within the American elite.