Sure in this country you’d be known as Micheál Luas

by Kieran Healy on February 4, 2011

Via Tyler Cowen comes a Michael Lewis thumbsucker about Ireland. Lewis is a great writer, but I do wonder whether he should have listened to his driver a bit less:

When I went looking for some Irish person to drive me around, the result was a fellow I will call Ian McRory (he asked me not to use his real name in this article), who is Irish, and a driver, but pretty clearly a lot of other things, too. Ian has what appears to be a military-grade navigational system, for instance, and surprising knowledge about abstruse and secretive matters. “I do some personal security, and things of that nature,” he says … and leaves it at that. Later, when I mention the name of a formerly rich Irish property developer, he says, casually, as if it were all in a day’s work, that he had let himself into the fellow’s vacation house and snapped photographs of the interior, “for a man I know who is thinking of buying it.” Ian turns out to have a good feel for what I, or anyone else, might find interesting in rural Ireland. He will say, for example, “Over there, that’s a pretty typical fairy ring,” and then explain, interestingly, that these circles of stones or mushrooms that occur in Irish fields are believed by local farmers to house mythical creatures. “Irish people actually believe in fairies?,” I ask, straining but failing to catch a glimpse of the typical fairy ring to which Ian has just pointed. “I mean, if you walked right up and asked him to his face, ‘Do you believe in fairies?’ most guys will deny it,” he replies. “But if you ask him to dig out the fairy ring on his property, he won’t do it. To my way of thinking, that’s believing.” And it is. It’s a tactical belief, a belief that exists because the upside to disbelief is too small, like the former Irish belief that Irish land prices would rise forever.

On the other hand, maybe it’s just as well that Ian McRory — real name, Paddy O’Whackery, or perhaps Liam Mac an Bréagadóir — was on hand to provide the legally required Leprechaun quota for the article, or Lewis would have been unable to get it published. Ian’s dark hints of connections to the Provos, or possibly Dublin gangland, is a nice touch, as are his “The thing about Irish people” musings later in the article.

Gender divides in Philosophy and other disciplines

by Kieran Healy on February 4, 2011

Following up on a conversation with a friend in Philosophy, I took a quick look at the Survey of Earned Doctorates to see the breakdown by gender for Ph.Ds awarded in the United States in 2009. Some nice pictures: Percent female by Division (with Philosophy picked out); Percent female for selected disciplines; and a giant percent female for (almost) all disciplines, with Philosophy picked out for emphasis. The links go to PDFs.

US PhDs awarded 2009, by discipline and gender

Publishing an open access book?

by Ingrid Robeyns on February 4, 2011

For years I have been wanting to write an overview book on the capability approach and it looks like I may find some time to do that in the next 18 months (possibly quicker if I can buy myself out of some teaching). There are a few publishers interested, and one (a major commercial press of academic books) is actually quite persistent in reminding me that they are interested in this project.

But why publish with a publisher? Why not simply put the book open access on the web? I wonder whether an open access book would be (a) feasible, and (b) all things considered a good thing to do.
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Trans-Atlantic plane wars

by John Q on February 4, 2011

My post on the end of US decline, suggesting that the US now has about the influence that would be expected, given its population, relative to other developed countries, attracted a fair bit of criticism from International Relations specialists. In particular, my suggestion that the EU and US typically bargain on relatively equal terms (as would be expected since they are about equal in size and income) was criticised by Kindred Winecoff with a reprise (see also Phil Arena). We could go on for a long while picking examples to suit one case or the other, but as it happens, I can take my best illustration directly from the news headlines appearing at the same time as my post. The World Trade Organization has completed its report on US subsidies to Boeing, following an earlier report on EU subsidies to Airbus. Although the report is not yet publicly available, both sides have received it, and are leaking/spinning like made, each claiming victory. Reading the competing claims, it seems that the WTO has found that that the US subsidies to Boeing have broken the rules (yay, Europe!), but not by nearly as much as EU subsidies to Airbus (yay, USA!).

In terms of the legal dispute, this looks like a win on points for the US side. But in geopolitical terms, it’s the other way around. Not only has Europe bent the rules more, it’s done so without suffering any real consequences, and to much greater effect than the US.

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Per recent posts, I’m teaching “Philo and Film” this semester, with a focus on sf film. Here’s more of that, if you like that sort of thing. [click to continue…]