one more time with the decisive mathematical proof (creators syndicate/la times, 2004):
Electoral Chaos Theory
By Crispin Sartwell
"A vote for Nader is a vote for Bush."
Children, as you trudge through this vale of pain known as human life, the major parties will proffer arguments to the effect that you should vote for the moral munchkins they've nominated. Unlikely as it seems, one of these might someday be convincing. This one isn't.
Calculations concerning how voting for X affects the candidacies of Y and Z lead directly to completely insane complications. But to the extent we can work out the problem at all, voting for X is never equivalent to voting for Y or Z.
First of all, let's take the clearest scenario. All your life you've voted, and you've only voted Democratic. This time you are torn perfectly in two between Kerry and Nader: you would under no circumstances consider Bush or some other candidate or not voting. Let's suppose that Nader has absolutely no chance, and your preference for Nader has no effect whatever on anything else. Under these circumstances you nevertheless vote for Nader.
Your vote for Nader took a vote away from Kerry, but it did not one add for Bush. Whatever you want to say about this scenario, it is obviously not the same as ditching Kerry and voting for Bush. As we would say in baseball, Kerry's lost half a game.
Now the notion that you've tossed half a vote to Bush depends in turn on a variety of other factors, while the idea of partial votes opens up heretofore unimagined vistas in logic, such as that in some cases not voting is voting, while in others voting is not voting, and in yet others voting once is voting many times.
The distribution of the fragments of your vote to the candidates depends upon the various alternatives you would entertain, their weights, and their own effects. So for example, if there were no chance you were going to vote for Kerry in the first place, you haven't reduced his vote total at all by voting for Nader. If there were a 25% chance you were going to vote for Kerry, and you vote for Nader, then you're only throwing that 25% of your half vote to Bush. That's .125 of a vote.
In the case we're imagining you're 50/50 between Kerry and Nader. So you're only taking 50% of your half vote from Kerry. To make this intuitive: if someone intended to vote for Kerry and accidentally pulled Nader, that is obviously the loss of a half vote to Bush, because the probability of voting for Kerry was nearly 100%. So now we're down to .25 of a vote even in the cleanest case.
For the Democrats, a vote for Nader is a "wasted" vote: it is tantamount to not voting. So we are going to have to ask, in cases where you vote, whether you're failing to vote, and in cases where you don't, who you're voting for.
If you are a potential Kerry voter, not voting is, on the basic Democratic account, voting for Bush in exactly the same way as is voting for Nader. This equivalence supposes that under no circumstances is a vote for Nader a vote for the winner. But though the chances of Nader winning are small, they exist. Perhaps they are equal to Nader's polling numbers nationally, say 2%.
A vote for Kerry reduces Ralph's slim chance of winning and to exactly that extent is a vote for Bush. To be precise it takes away that fraction of a vote that is proportional to Nader's chance to win halved: a hundredth of a vote. So it's .01 of a vote for Bush. Even in the case of pure dilemma, that reduces your vote for Bush to .24.
Obviously, the idea that the Democrats are entertaining is that votes and vote fragments are wasted if they go to a loser. Bush's chance of winning, let us say, is 49%. So you have a 51% chance of wasting your partial vote for Bush when you vote for Nader. Hence, a vote for Nader is .1176 of a vote for Bush.
The antecedent chance that you will vote for Kerry - which fixes the fraction of the vote you're giving to Bush - is reduced by the chance that you will not vote at all. Since about half of eligible people vote in US presidential elections, the average factor is about .5.
Then you're giving Bush .0588 of a vote. That's unlikely to change the outcome, even in Florida.
And if you considered voting for Bush at all, all bets are off. Indeed, pretty quickly you'll find that people who once had a little inkling for Bush and ended up voting for Nader did not vote at all, because they repaid to Kerry what they subtracted from Bush.
It might be fun to spend a few years working on this problem, and a Nobel in psychomathematics might lurk in the research, or maybe just psychosurgery for the researcher .
But let us not be hasty. We should also entertain the idea that a vote for *Kerry* is a vote for Bush.
After all, it is a vote for the war in Iraq, for the Patriot Act, for No Child Left Behind, against gay marriage, for deficit spending on a massive scale, and so on.
Perhaps "Kerry" and "Bush" are simply two names for the same thing. Then, though voting for Nader might be voting .0588 for Bush, voting for Kerry is voting for Bush entirely.
But let's be generous and postulate that Kerry only coincides with Bush 75%. Of course it still follows with mathematical precision that no matter who you vote for - and even if you don't vote at all - you're voting for Bush. Defeating Bush in this case is conceptually impossible, and Democrats by their own calculations would do well to give up. In fact, they have.
At any rate, if the Democrats are right that a vote for Nader is a vote for Bush, and if the average Nader vote is .0588 of a vote for Bush, voting for Kerry is voting for Bush about 13 times.
At least we've got that straight.
i'm spliced today, fomenting rebellion against the meritocracy.
data (from my twitter feed):
the average hip hop artist is far more verbally adept than the average perfect scorer on the sat.
the average trailer-park resident can kick the average technocrat's ass.
the average recovering addict knows more about human beings than the average psychology professor.
i missed the chance to nail the end. i should have come back to 'varieties of sheep.'
on splice today: why they suck (2): stephen hawking. really the topic is contemporary physics, which i've been attacking on and off for years, with mixed success. hit the 'science' tab, below right, and scroll down for some of the discussion.
the point of 'why they suck' is to attack people who have been placed above criticism, people who cannot be attacked (or their ideas, or songs, etc). i want to do critiques on things and people that provoke the 'you can't say that!' response. i think really we often engage in apparently-unanimous idolatry of members of our species that isn't good for the people treated that way and definitely isn't good for ourselves or our art or our ideas. sheer peer pressure is not a good way to form tastes or figure out what to believe. and when the whole world gets unanimous, it really is extremely likely that everyone will pretend not to notice or really will not notice the sucky part.
so, because it's hawking, or just any apparently super-genius physics professor, people happily swallow things they cannot and should not possibly believe: the universe has every possible history, all of which we produce by observation. you can't even begin to make that anything like coherent. and yet you're flummoxed by the blackboard of scribbled equations.
ok, just to nail a couple of things. 'the universe has every possible history' is a pretty crisp formulation, but it nevertheless runs maximally afoul of occam's razor: it postulates as many entities as any theory of anything can possibly postulate: every thing that could possibly exist has existed. i am not sure myself whether or to what extent the razor is a good principle of theory choice; it would be, in my opinion, only if more ontologically economical theories were more likely to be true. i don't see quite why that should be the case. but i know that hawking makes it his first principle of theory choice and then commits the strongest possible violation of it a few sentences later. that's a mistake by anyone's standards.
well, he doesn't say these are criteria of theory choice; they are standards for generating a 'real model'; if the 'model' is 'real' then it will have these features. just to quibble: by real he means 'true': the model is real, i suppose; there it is, expressed in the text or the equations. only it's incoherent and false. i would prefer to formulate this by asking what is a good explanation, which would also mean a true explanation. these are very vexed and complex issues, but they are handled by people like hawking in, let's say, a stunningly cavalier fashion. even the standards of theory choice he gives are sort of an eclectic checklist from the history of answers to these questions, giving you a little occam, a little logical positivism, and a little popper, along with that utterly vague and arbitrary thing about arbitrariness and adjustments (2).
i am aware that the book i'm reading is 'popularized': good heavens i'm choking on the sub-atomic particles as soccer balls etc.: a lot of this sort of writing has a very condescending quality. maybe there is much much more sophisticated thinking about explanation, theory choice, modeling, etc. underneath? but if there were, it wouldn't look this bad on the surface i think. hawking has argued - and many people, even philosophers, take this stance implicitly or explicitly - that science has replaced philosophy. i don't think so, because hawking and such so desperately need much more precision about basic terms, categories, and the ground-clearing assumptions. like: 'how do we recognize a good theory?' being a killer mathematician or a good collider of particles doesn't necessarily help you with these tasks.
but really it's the crazy, casual apparent subjectivism that i would most viscerally reject, and which is also incompatible with everything else (such as stating that the universe begins with a bang). it's just german idealism again, i tell you; dead as a doornail in philosophy, for extremely good reason.
unaccountably, everyone (well, almost everyone) seems to have forgotten to buy my self-published thingummies, all of which have appeared since my fall from disgrace. in reverse order:
the ya novel i wrote my daughter emma: spyder's rebellion, or how to overthrow your school. "Like The Hunger Games without the hunger or the games. Like The Fault in our Stars with plenty of faults but zero stars." --Jex Wopley
the astonishing anthology of anti-authoritarianism: american defiance
a collection of essays by the most radical human being of the early 19th century: herald of freedom: essays of nathaniel rogers, american transcendentalist and radical abolitionist
waterway: a new translation of the tao te ching, and introducing the wu wei ching. "Dank as a motherfucker, motherfucker." --Xi Jinping
coming next will be a collection of black power scriptures, including the holy piby (robert athlyi rogers), the royal parchment scroll of black supremacy (fitz ballantine pettersborough), the promised key (leonard howell), the holy koran of moorish science temple (noble drew ali), and spiritual writings of marcus garvey.
i'm up on splice today, drilling bob dylan a new asshole. it's the first in a series: "why they suck." the forthcoming victims are unlikely to surprise regular readers of this blog.
i'm up on splice today with my little rap on fear, anger, and hope in presidential politics. i'm going to try to ship them a piece every week or so for a bit. actually i think it's an interesting publication, one of the few zones of the media not completely dedicated to simplistic or obviously false partisanship, with independent voices. it's edited by russ smith; i was a music critic for his baltimore city paper in the '80s, and his new york press in the 2000s.
as crispy press rolls on, i have republished - in much better form - the middle-readers/ya/peoplelikeyou book spyder's rebellion, or how to overthrow a middle school (also kindle). it was originally roughed out and kindled in like 2007-8. i started this time around with a document in my hard drive on which my teen daughter emma had labored, on dialogue and characterization particularly.
Spyder (Sarah Paulette Eider) is a 14-year-old anarchist and writing prodigy who more or less overthrows her Pennsylvania middle school, in concert with a wild group of non-conformists and interesting non-non-conformists. One of the few books to take teenagers seriously as political activists and intellectuals, this novel traces the characters' awakening to the problems of the world around them - from animal cruelty to ridiculous authoritarianism. It rollicks through their disagreements, as well as budding romances, party weekends, strange preferences in music, problem parents: in short all the accoutrements of modern adolescence.
If you were thinking of overthrowing a public school (peacefully, more or less), you could get some tips, for the story is based on real events in the lives of the authors. Crispy overthrew Alice Deal Junior High School in 1972.
"Like 'Hunger Games' without the hunger or the games; like 'The Fault in our Stars' with plenty of faults but zero stars."
--Bogul S. Purvy
here's a vid i made first time.
one thing i've found out: you're never too old to get expelled from school.
i've just published a new book to kindle:
i'm telling you this is a discovery: someone's going to have to convince me that a more important straight-to-e book has been published.
A great and almost unknown American writer from New Hampshire, Nathaniel Peabody Rogers (1794-1846) was the most radical American political voice of the antebellum period. He is also an undiscovered American Transcendentalist, at his best comparable to Emerson and Thoreau. Both men acknowledged Rogers' influence on them, and Thoreau published one of his first essays - collected here - on Rogers' work, recognizing his excellence as both a political and a nature writer. Anti-slavery drove all his thought, and as an abolitionist writer, only Frederick Douglass and Wendell Phillips are his rivals. Rogers was an anarchist, a pacifist, a feminist, an environmentalist, a religious heretic, an individualist, an anti-capitalist and an advocate of animal rights.
His writings are collected here for the first time since 1849, along with Thoreau's essay "Herald of Freedom" and other materials about Rogers and American radicalism of the early 19th century.
nathaniel rogers was an amazing radical and an amazing writer, and if you want to see someone in 1840 who speaks up for animal rights, against capital punishment, against slavery, against the state, for environmentalism as that came much later to be understood, for indian rights, and so on, and did so with extreme clarity, creativity and vigor, you've got to check this out. he was a decade emerson's senior, and he is a fundamental american transcendentalist.
boy kindle does still mangle a word document. here is a clean, free pdf
Introduction by John Pierpont, 7
I. Manifestos of Liberty and Infidelity, 20
Church and State, 26
The Great Question of the Age, 29
Rhode Island Meeting, 31
Reply to a Correspondent, 41
II. Anti-Slavery, 46
Constitutionality of Slavery, 47
The Amistad Case, 52
III. Against Hierarchy, 56
The Rights of Animals, 62
Thoughts on the Death Penalty, 63
Letter from the Old Man of the Mountain, 67
Address to the Female Anti-Slavery Society, 69
IV. Capitalism, 72
Against Property, 76
Anti-Slavery and Capital, 79
V. Nature Writing and Personal Essays, 81
It Rains, 82
The Ground Bird, 85
Cobbett's American Gardener, 87
Tilling the Ground, 89
"Herald of Freedom," by Henry David Thoreau, 99
Appendix A: William Lloyd Garrison, "Declaration of Sentiments of the Peace Society, 108
Appendix B: American Radical Anti-Authoritarians of the of the Early Nineteenth Century, 113
media coverage of coverage of my situation:
linda zagzebski news:
veterans today: mike farrell, academic freedom and dystopia
inside higher ed: professor on leave after posting plagiarism accusations
(i will say once more that i did not accuse alexander nehamas of plagiarism)
pennlive (harrisburg news site): dickinson professor placed on leave after series of blog posts
people seem to think i buried the lead, even though this is not what i think is most important. so here is bunch from late in the post below, also now expanded yet again.
you know, i sat in an american society for aesthetics session and literally listened to someone, jim carney, read back a paper i wrote and sent him a couple of months before. i just talked to him outside; he purported to have a neurological disorder. you know when something like that happens, it strikes you that if you just happened to hear that there might be others. never tried to check. here's what i told myself: i've got plenty to go around, and i am opposed to intellectual property (although definitely not opposed to crediting your sources, particularly if one of those sources is the author of your paper). i think i actually emailed semi-politely with carney after that. after a couple he asked me what i was working on, would i send it along? he promised, not this time! neurological disorder! ever since then, the asa has been consistently rejecting my papers or any panel i was associated with. odd, when at least in my opinion i have done as much and as good aesthetics as anyone.
alexander nehamas was also a friend of danto's. our books on beauty have the same epigraph, i'm assuming (well, sort of hoping) that he gave it to us both. nehamas writes to revive a more erotic, desire-based conception of beauty, just precisely what i had done for routledge 5 years before, without the elitist obfuscation and excruciating taste. also infinitely less pretentiously and more beautifully. i found this out the hard way when i ordered the thing sight unseen (i think on danto's recommendation) for my beauty course. oh yeah we both published books titled the art of living. let me see if i get this right? mine was 1993 from suny after going through several publishers. his was 2000 from harvard (oops i checked it: california, as low as alexander nehamas ever sank on the publishing pecking order), ecstatically received. let me see, what is his academic position? he does read greek, though. i had concluded long before his book appeared that 'the art of living' was a lame title, so go for it, man. go try to find a single review of mine, though. wrong publisher? definitely, but thank the good lord for suny press. in mine, i actually gave a new theory of art. now it needed some refinements, but it got the spirit of what art is.
another thing i'll add to the nehamas case: the position was definitely not danto's, had hardly been part of the literature since burke. suddenly there it was twice. i am an expert on that. now i'm thinking i should take each sentence of that stanford article and put it into jstor and see what comes back. but however, i don't really care that much! i think i actually literally threw the thing away, but i don't think i was in the index, which is just insane. i do wonder whether only a promise of happiness won any awards? you could xerox them and send them on. i will whiteout his name and put my own, and comfort myself with them.
oh yes, just for the hell of it, i invented the swamping problem - which, i'm told, is one of the major problems of contemporary epistemology and also a decisive refutation of reliabilism - in cargile's epistemology seminar in 1987. the first thing i did with it was refute reliabilism. i think that one's in a box under my house. B+ dude. are you beginning to get the picture? i couldn't get the book in which i did that, which would have been my first book, published, put it on amazon decades later. at publisher after publisher they sent it to the people who had already laughingly, with such bad arguments, slapped me down. right. william lycan. that's when i quit epistemology. i tried to catch up a bit. i think the swamping problem revolutionized epistemology when linda zagzebski invented it in the late nineties. i am in the footnotes. very same paper. but not in the swamping bit.
zagzebski's discussion is remarkably close recapitulation of mine, including the very same quotes trimmed the very same way. and she does footnote my paper, almost randomly: 'one person who denies this is.' but then it is completely palpable that her own presentation is a raw recapitulation of mine. and she has gotten credit for the swamping problem for all this time. looking at it squarely, it's pretty bold, obvious academic misconduct.
i will also say this: in some sense the swamping problem was my central contribution to epistemology, one of the best ideas i ever had. it turned out to be a major contribution to epistemology. but it has been credited entirely to zagzebski. the movement to the style of theory of beauty in 6 names of beauty is certainly, in my mind, my central contribution to aesthetics. nehamas has been extremely widely celebrated for it; myself far less so. that will tick a professor off! and then to se it happen with different figures, different disciplines: it really makes you wonder what else is out there. and it really drives you to despair, actually.
by that time, i guess, i was so dead in academic philosophy that people just felt free. well, nature needs carrion feeders, too. i comfort myself with the fact that i am a much better writer than nehamas or zagzebski, which admittedly is like saying you're taller than marco rubio. not carney, though. we are equals. what happens when in an exploratory way you email alexander nehamas or linda zagzebski, both saying and not saying you are biting me. we should connect! our work is so similar! we work on the same issues! well, i'm not sure exactly what happens; i only know you will never get a reply.
the purpose of this entry was not to level accusations. but now it is. so i will begin the documentation project. to begin with i am talking about these two papers:
mine (journal of philosophy, april 1992)
and hers (metaphilosophy, january 1993)
here is one extremely telling moment. in quite the same discussion, at quite the same point, we quote bonjour. her:
The basic role of justification is that of a means to truth, a more directly attainable mediating link between our subjective starting point and our objective goal. . . .If epistemic justification were not conducive to truth in this way, if finding epistemically justified beliefs did not substantially increase the likelihood of finding true ones, then epistemic justification would be irrelevant to our main cognitive goal and of dubious worth. It is only if we have some reason for thinking that epistemic justification constitutes a path to truth that we as cognitive beings have any motive for preferring epistemically justified beliefs to epistemically unjustified ones. Epistemic justification is therefore in the final analysis only an instrumental value, not an intrinsic one. (BonJour 1985, 7–8)14
If epistemic justification were not conducive to truth in this way, if finding epistemically justified beliefs did not substantially increase the likelihood of finding true ones, then epistemic justification would be irrelevant to our main cognitive goal and of dubious worth. It is only if we have some reason for thinking that epistemic justification constitutes a path to truth that we as cognitive beings have any motive for preferring epistemically justified beliefs to epistemically unjustified ones. Epistemic justification is therefore in the final analysis only an instrumental value, not an intrinsic one. (ibid. p. 8)
she's quoting bonjour, not me. but this just makes it obvious, alright? i quoted the same passage in my very first published presentation in american philosophical quarterly, april 1991, making the very same argument. any philosopher will see that part. i use it almost casually to attack reliabilsm on page 162. it is a decisive refutation of reliabilism; only i have ever recognized that until zabgzebski put her name on it. i had much more, even liable to be in the unpublished book. many other resemblances will appear if you look at the papers. keep in mind publications, dates, etc.
let me address to you a question: how does a profession publish an article in arguably its top journal, then a raw plagiarism of it in metaphilosophy and no one sees it? tip of an infinite iceberg? y'all don't seem particularly attentive. how can i be discovering this a quarter century later?
these same big names who regarded my work as ridiculous regarded hers as revolutionary. take a searching and fearless moral inventory is my advice to your. scholarly too. where was robert audi? where was paul moser? where the fuck was laurence bonjour, alvin goldman? i was sure under the impression they were reading everything in this area at the time. they were trying to project that about themselves when they all gathered in a single room at the apa and put me down forever, after which this idiotic knowledge is merely true belief thing was over. they didn't even notice that i won the argument. there should be reparations, like when you wrongly condemn a man to life imprisonment. over and over and over (see entry below).
i hate to say it, i think a lot of her work rests on this argument. it is absolutely my argument. perhaps i'll let other people evaluate later papers? or even this one, more thoroughly if they need to. in a way i can hardly bear to read it. this is enough, it seems to me.
i'm taking back what i said earlier about not a clear case of plagiarism.
i took these one by one at the time, just kind of decided not to let shit like this obsess me and turn me from the next project. but looking at it all together (there might be some more questionable cases in my mind), it is rather disturbing. obviously what i'm saying about nehamas and zagzebski is right there on the surface; it hardly needs any documentation. (well, i would have to show that my paper does indeed formulate the swamping problem. best procedure: read it.) the nehamas does not constitute straightforward plagiarism. it is possible (to my mind, barely possible) that it constitutes a striking set of coincidences. the carney would be a bit harder. maybe i have old discs with the emails, or maybe there's a recording of the session. i certainly talked a lot to people about that there. i think danto? one context or another for sure. no help. i think arnold berleant? (we both eventually got purged from the asa as insufficiently kantian.) plus jim carney was never worth a big hassle in any respect.
and look i never went and tried to find out what was out there, though some things hit you between the eyes. for one reason or another, such things might make you never go to a conference again, like you don't know who you might see and how it might go from there. sadly i am no necro. there definitely are plenty of other reasons not to go to conferences, though, like that all the people hate you and despise your work.
on the other hand, i should be proud to add my talent to the collective. i have been a resource for some of the most eminent philosophers in the world; seems like they might sort of be impossible without me. it's like being kant in the 19th century. footnotes would help, though.
note to the apa. the thing that actually got me to just decide to quit academia was the anti-bullying thing. and that was what made me decide to write the entry below, which began to expand into this. i think you may see what bullying really is pretty quick.
a nice short review of *how to escape*, from the current times literary supplement, by paula niclomhair. she accuses me of making sweeping statements and crude generalizations. imagine!
right, here's my piece on cultural appropriation for the la times.
a couple of additions: dreadlocks originate as a religious expression among jamaican rastafarians. now, if a black american gets it done at the hairdresser, is that cultural appropriation? how much might such a person know about the meaning in the original context, or how much must she know to make it ok? it is not implausible to hold that jamaican rasta and black american cultures are not the same culture. but on the other hand they are of course connected and are both african diasporic cultures.
and just edging toward paying off on what i said about new orleans: try to figure out the cultural positioning of the mardi gras indian.
what do you think about men appropriating women's culture? if you're opposed to cultural appropriation by dominant groups, surely you oppose, say, drag queens and transvestites of all sorts. now, one might think that one thing drag does is criticize the gender categories and preopossessions of the dominant culture. and that is what, say, many wiggers are doing as well: to attack one's own suburban whitebread world, one tries to do a little emigration; crossing and passing are ways of critiquing dominant cultures from within, on a good day, making their values evidently optional or even displaying them as oppressive.
here's a sheet of short record reviews from melody maker, the london music weekly, "83-'84.
and this is a piece from record magazine (a music-only thing published by rolling stone). it got cut down severely and mangled in editing, as i recall, and then it evidently got mangled more when i cut it out and taped it to a sheet of paper. but, on the other hand, i interviewed run of run-dmc, russell simmons, and a very young rick rubin (i got him on the phone at his dorm at nyu, if i'm remembering rightly). this must have been before run-dmc's "walk this way".
thought i might put up a few old op-eds, and then maybe i'll try to do some of the rock criticism too. this is from the philly inquirer, i'm going to say '96: let us together with confidence place our future on the broad shoulders of headless human clones
i'm headed to cali this weekend to do some events for the dickinson advancement office. i'll be talking about the film 'happy', which is about positive psychology (about which i am certainly skeptical). it's the item that's sort of supposed to draw the college together; the director is coming to campus etc. i will say that in my view the thing is profoundly wretched: superficial, boring, depressing, with completely incompetent or just non-existent intellectual underpinnings. amazingly, it is a series both of cliches and contradictions. one good indication of the intellectual level of this material: dan gilbert, the harvard prof who instructs you on your happiness in the film, now uses the same canned little raps to shill for prudential insurance. also, i really think that the existence of dan gilbert raises the question of what harvard university is for.
seriously, you'd think these psychheads just discovered happiness yesterday, and though they are good at data entry, they are terrible at defining terms, leaving their research without any actual subject-matter. (on the other hand, philosophy - with which no one in the film shows any acquaintance - has been grappling with the question for 2500 years.) the research is based on reports of 'subjective satisfaction', while every single characterization of happy people (in the film, e.g.) makes happiness a matter of external relations: families, communities, objects, and so on. of course the film just goes neuro in the most useless hackneyed way, shifting to cartoon neurons: happiness is dopamine bursts, which is completely incompatible with anything anyone says about what actually makes people happy, and which also makes these guys' account of happiness identical to their account of the effects of cocaine. well, that's partly because they have absolutely no notion of what they're looking for, which makes it ridiculous when they claim to have found it. as per usual in social and in other sciences, it's the initial set of terms and concepts that does all the work. but scientists are unbelievably bad at figuring out how to elucidate these words and concepts. if you fuck that up, everything you build on top of it will collapse if someone raises an eyebrow.
i'll be doing my anti-left-right-spectrum thing this friday at the european and american philosophy conference at the fordham law school up near lincoln center. noon in room 3-01. it may well irritate people, but you never know.
i am often frustrated that my books rarely get reviewed; i know a lot of authors who feel that way. but i did find a nice review of political aesthetics from the journal of aesthetics and art criticism, by paul voice from bennington.
i love the praise, of course, and he praises the book for strengths i do think it has. and i also think that his criticisms poke some of the weak spots. it is true that i have a hard time with the concept of 'the aesthetic'. i certainly have been worrying about it for decades, but even when a student asked me today in my beauty class what i meant by 'aesthetic' (properties, aspects, experiences) i fumbled around. and it does have a tendency to get bigger and bigger until it's not surprising that it engulfs everything. i am not satisfied with the general characterizations of the aesthetic i gave in the book, and i have no pop-up definition. but of course i could and do say something and then something else and so on about it; i don't think it's completely nebulous.
speaking of free will, here is the freedom chunk of entanglements, half or so of the ethics chapter of my magnum opusy thing. it does show the range of tones, or good portion of it, in the book, from a phenomenological and first-person account to riffing about louis armstrong to a fairly precise analytic-style argument that free will is not necessary for moral responsibility (an analogue in ethics to my view, also re-argued in entanglements, that justification is not necessary for knowledge). i wouldn't say i try to squarely solve the problem of whether we have free will; i'm trying to re-enrich it. i think an beautifully replete question has been nibbled away to nothing by analytic philosophers.
suddenly i have very much warmed to experimental philosophy. once, i was skeptical or even dismissive, for one of the things that very much attracted me to philosophy was that, unlike in many less rigorous disciplines, you could do your research lying in bed, maybe with a bunch of books lying around, maybe not. but however, experimental philosophers are vindicating my theory of knowledge, which, if i'm recalling correctly, is profoundly radical yet mind-humpingly simple. i conclude from this that their research methods are unassailable. k=tb, baby.
one thing i'll say for 'knowledge is merely true belief' that perhaps i didn't say back in the day: it's pretty darn economical, oh, elegant really. i think knowledge is a richer notion than is captured in analytic epistemology. but let's restrict ourselves to an account of 'S (a person) knows that p (a proposition [or something that can be true or false])'. i actually am not quite sure how to value simplicity as a quality of theories; i am not sure that a simpler theory is likelier to be true than a complex one. but S knows that p iff S believes p and p is true (or 'S knows that p iff p and S believes that p') is an extraordinarily simple theory (iff is 'if and only if'), and i assert that it does a surprisingly good job of covering 'the phenomena', which i make out to be the ways the term is centrally or paradigmatically used in ordinary language. that it can do that is what i was arguing in my early papers, and the survey materials lend at least some support to that notion. the simplicity might be compelling at this point because of the baroque refinements to jtb-style approaches post-gettier.
[or, to review: the usual account of knowledge is jtb: justified true belief. obviously, tb is more economical. also, that little j thing or whatever we may call a similar condition, or multiplying conditions, begins to become truly rococo: dude it leads into endless labyrinths, worlds full of barn replicas.]
i generated k=tb in jim cargile's graduate seminar in epistemology at uva in the late 80s. it was explicitly an attempt to display the philosophical power of sheer perversity, a not entirely atypical bit of playful grandstanding: alright, what position is no one taking? i literally built a grid of theories and saw a big hole, and one thing about finding a fissure in the taxonomy like that is that if you jump in, you see a bunch of assumptions other people are making, which you then can try to undermine. but there could have been other perverse approaches and here's why i went for this one: it leans on truth like a mofo. as david sackris and james beebe put it, "bringing about the truth of p is (except in exceptional circumstances) not a task that falls to S. Rather, that 'task' falls to reality" (9). everyone at the time was willing to delete the truth condition; i had a lot of more or less rortyan gard contemporaries. my approach was designed to fit into a reality program. (cargile thought it was ridiculous, but in a great way or just the way i'd hoped: blasphemy! he cried, with a big old smile. also he always called me 'jean-paul'. he gave the final version for the class/first version for the world a 'B+', if i recall.)
another motivation at that moment, however, was that (almost secretly) i was reading kierkegaard, and really, as people sensed when the stuff angered them, i was going to try to derationalize knowledge; i was going to let your faith count as knowledge if its propositional content was true, i was going to encourage you to intuit, i was going to claim that even reason rested on faith, and so on. i was going to argue that there were many sources of knowledge, reason/science being only some, anarchizing epistemology. the main purpose of the papers was to take the sting out of the actual results, to show that it wasn't irrationalist at all. well, maybe it wasn't, necessarily, without some ancillary arguments. i was going to sneak all that up on you after i pulled the rational part out of the conceptual analysis of knowledge.
i did get more convinced of it as time went by; also it was my hobby to go here and there to defend it against various onslaughts, so it provided amusement if nothing else; i did delight in its perversity, or even in the fact that everyone thought it was ridiculous. some people - including some eminent epistemologists - became genuinely angry, which is also not the worst thing in the world necessarily. it was a bit of a performance piece, but people did sincerely think it was absurd. i started touring it to little conferences and stuff as a grad student and had worked it through a million counter-examples before the first version came out in american philosophical quarterly. i certainly had a notion that it would be my little reputation-maker, that i'd be associated with that idea primarily. i'm glad it didn't quite turn out that way, i suppose.
there was a little sensation at the time when the second paper came out in the journal of philosophy, i guess, and i do remember defending the whole thing in front of an angry auditorium at an apa; i remember robert audi getting pretty hostile, e.g. but really, the thing blew over. i think one problem is this: if k=tb, too many problems on which people have spent too much time do not arise. if it were true, it really would mean a lot of the epistemology of the last x decades (again, gettier and after) was barking up the wrong tree. it just had no place in the line of the discourse at that time, is another way to put it. it was one of a number of times i mistakenly thought that people would find it delightful to be provoked.
no one would publish my book on the topic, which must have been profoundly frustrating at the time. they sent it out specifically to be refereed by people who had already attacked the argument in one venue or another. for awhile, they were assigning my papers to grad students at arizona - a big center of analytic epistemology - as an exercise, like a take-home final: what has gone so terribly wrong with this argument? an object-lesson in sophism. i used to get some emails every year or two with refutations from grad students (always on the same predictable lines). i actually didn't hate that; i've always thought the whole thing was a fun little thing to play with, and it came from a grad seminar in the first place, for god's sake.
there has been a trickle of references to it, but really it just dissolved. in a way, that was ok; it let me go on to other things, like the political stuff; otherwise i might have spent a career on it. after some years i got profoundly tired of the same objections and replies, and really wanted to go write about art or something. sriously, for a very long time if i was walking the halls somewhere with a name tag, philosophers would snap their fingers, like 'aren't you that guy?' it got to where i'd be: have you read my stuff on race? i started pretending not to remember my own argument, and then i really started not remembering my own argument.
but i definitely also still feel that this sucker has legs. people are going to keep circling back to it, i think. there are problems, but there are strategies for dealing with them. i think beebe and sackris show some of these better than i did. if i myself were going to return to a defense, i'd need to bone up on my own arguments! also rethink some. also it would need to be put into relation to developments in epistemology since the early '90s, like the 'truth-makers' stuff and timothy williamson's work in epistemology, to which it is interestingly related.
i feel very distant from the person who generated this idea, so maybe if i could be permitted to comment on its strengths? it is still out there as a fundamental challenge. no one has dispensed with it. (people were relieved to regard lycan's attack as decisive. not even close, i say, as beebe and sackris point out. but lycan reviewed the manuscript for one publisher or another.) the fact that many important epistemological problems do not arise if k=tb is right is not necessarily, all things considered, a strike against it. i still endorse it as a theory within limits (man it's going to be a little hard to deal with 'propositions' in my later ontology), but there should at least be a longer line of debate about it.
american philosophical quarterly, knowledge is merely true belief
journal of philosophy, why knowledge is merely true belief
(sorry about paywalls etc; maybe you can get them through jstor if you have a library connection).
frank hofmann, in defense of some sartwellian insights
ken morris, concerning sartwell's minimalist thesis
you know, my academic career has been a struggle. there are many factors in that, which i won't enumerate. but on the other hand i have tenure now and i've always had a job, even though i went into several mays not knowing if i'd be teaching in septembers. i cycled through disciplines; i've been a professor of communications, 'humanities and sciences', political science, 'art and art history' as well as philosophy. i've worked at vanderbilt, alabama, penn, millersville, penn state harrisburg, mica, and dickinson. honestly, all of this was just about trying to hold on. anyway, my kids had health insurance and shit. and what i'm proud of - and which has also partly been made possible by what i think of as my marginal career - is that i really did do whatever i wanted. i wrote exactly what i wanted, and i wrote it in exactly the ways i wanted to write it, and i honestly represented my own experience. i swore to do that after grad school, and i have. i have never not been paid a living wage to do what i wanted to do, including teach. so that is a lot lot to be grateful for. (on the other hand, i still owe 30k in student loans, and i'm 55).
if i could lament one thing about philosophy now, it is that most of it is written in a kind of generic academic voice, and takes up pretty well-defined disciplinary questions of the moment. the good part of that is that it ends up constituting a kind of collective project, even within the constant disagreements that have to be central to the conception of philosophy (it is a discipline of agument, after all). but when i think back on what and who is worth reading in the history of philosophy, it is great big and extraordinarily distinctive voices. surely if you named ten historical philosophers off the top of your head, they would have that quality. even someone like aquinas is remaking as much as instantiating the philosophical/theological discourse he's in, and on the other hand is stunted by all the texts he's trying to venerate and emulate and the institutions that embed him. i think we've lost a lot of that boldness and distinctiveness, and indeed we literally lost it when we lost people like davidson, quine, rorty, danto, baudrillard. this is what i admire about zizek, for example, or latour: they still give that flavor. right now they seem like outliers, though i'm not saying there aren't a lot of intersting eccentrics here and there. you'll often find them in the provinces, or isolated from the big research-1 discourse.
anyway, i don't mean to assert that i am playing on that level; i sincerely try to turn that over; the reception is not in my power, nor can it be, nor should it be. i have tried to write according to the demands of the project and the subject-matter, not in order to be acclaimed. sometimes i read my own stuff as being there, sometimes i don't, and nothing is harder to do than to squarely or honestly or 'objectively' assess your own work. but i did always intend to end up there, at least in the sense of saying exactly what i do believe in as me-ey a way as i can (well, also to prove my positions in your face). i am not going to stop trying.
i thought perhaps i'd hit you with some of my own greatest hits, in my own opinion:
nypress (later a version in harper's): al gore and nothingness
philly inquirer: headless human clones
philly inquirer: mathematical proof that the stones are better than the beatles (got me on howard stern, cnn, etc: my 15)
if you happen to be in chicago next week, i'll be speaking as part of a fine lineup of people (including lewis hyde) at the 'lived practice symposium' at the school of art institute. i go off at 10 am saturday, november 8 at the fullerton auditorium. here's the paper. yes, i will show taylor swift videos, but you will also get a dose of merle haggard. thinking about it, i might be working toward a book on the aesthetic dimensions of identity categories such as race and gender, or an aesthetic account of race and gender and sexuality and so on that would also be a broadening of aesthetics and all its central concepts ('beauty', 'form', 'expression' 'aesthetic experience', e.g.). i guess it would kind of pick up where my (er) best book, political aesthetics, left off.
it's a familiar idea that these things are 'social constructions' but that's just the sketchiest of starting points. how are they constructed? where are they constructed? by whom? (even if they are not entirely or exhaustively social constructions, they surely have very many siocially-constructed aspects or inflections at a given place and time.) if we wanted to know how they are being made right now, where would we look? well we should look in my opinion at the arts very broadly construed: styles of movement and slangs, musics and scents, body adornments and modifications, designs of devices and device interfaces, arrangements of environments: what ranciere calls 'the distribution of the sensible'.
yes, i will be assessing sailor twift's 1989 after a day or two to absorb it (i'll give you something on the new lucinda too). i think when i first hopped on (with my daughter, circa speak now), people were all like "i hate that poppy auto-tuned bullshit!" to which i responded: i can hardly imagine a critic listening attentitively to this album and not coming away impressed. that has been borne out: she is a critical darling, and even brats who hate everything but indie dirge-pop can't frigging help themselves.
i do have some concerns about the decline of rock criticism, however, perhaps encapsulated by the lead of marlow stern's review in the daily beast. of the best pop songs, stern writes, "Ever present, they absorb the viscous lava of contempo culture through their pores, let it course through their veins ‘til a diffuse plexus of melodies and rhythms form, and then release the bubbly potion onto an unsuspecting audience." dave marsh and greil marcus might have been kind of boring and predictable in their opinions - they might still be - but they didn't write sentences like that, and if they (or we) did, their editors didn't wave them through. maybe it's supposed to be lesterbangsy? lord.
i guess the people i read most in the msm these days are the folks on the guardian: alex petridis (who loved the taylor album) and kitty empire, for example. i do think sasha frere-jones in the new yorker is good, so i'll give the old monocled one that.
alright, so, i started writing rock criticism at the washington star in 1980. i was a copy boy; our critic was on vacation when i started but i got to do records and shows by people like the ramones, clash, bb king. then the star croaked and i went to grad school in baltimore. i wrote for the city paper through the early 80s: hundreds of shows and records. it's funny to think the free-circ urban weekly should be shrouded in nostalgia now; really we did generate a lot of content. i was watching the wire recently, and noticing that rafael alvarez was all over the writing credits; he was all over the cp then. jd considine, who i started reading when he dominated the old baltimore news-american, was in the sun and then the rolling stone publications, so that was a a kind of model, though i'd have to say the actual critical approach was a counter-model.
so in the usual fashion i sent out clips, and soon i was reviewing for a number of mags. record magazine was probably the main outlet; it was a sub-rolling stone put out by the rolling stone dedicated entirely to music. but i guess i sort of knew the rs-type critics and editors of that era (anthony decurtis, for example), mostly at a distance. i reviewed many amazing shows and many turkeys, from donna summer and pat benatar to flipper and the dead boys, run dmc and the fat boys to tammy wynette and chaka khan. i kept almost but not quite reviewing records for rolling stone, but i did have the lead review in record sometimes. prince's purple rain, e.g.. they killed my review of born in the usa for the reasons i came to hate the whole operation: they were always trying to manufacture a consensus or pretend there was one, and soon the critics just didn't have very individual tastes or voices, which is how they wanted it.
my wife at the time, rachael, had a certain wanderlust, and we were always driving across the country or settling temporarily for the summer here and there. i would always pitch the local paper, so for example i wrote up roger miller and barbara mandrell for the albuquerque journal, or did stuff for the weekly out in seattle.
then she managed to drag me to london, which was the height of my little career. there has never been more rock criticism anywhere at any time than london in the '80s, and they had three tabloids the size of the new york daily news of that time every week, entirely devoted to music: sounds, new music express, and melody maker. i took my clips around; just walked into the newsrooms and pitched the editors. i caught on at melody maker, and soon was reviewing a couple of gigs a week, a variety of lps, etc, and doing features and interviews too. i met the nicest person in the world, cyndi lauper,
and the nastiest people, the members of x, for example. i got to see like everyone who played london in '83 and '84, which looking back on it had a lot to recommend it, even though i was pretty ambivalent about the 'synth-pop' then dominant. (god i hated depeche mode, live or on record, but culture club was excellent, for example.) chrissie hynde slammed a door in my face. i got knocked unconscious in the mosh pit at a killing joke concert by heavily booted mohawk punk thug, or thunk, as i think of them.
(everyone else was very nurturing, and i found myself under solicitous care propped up against a wall at the...hammersmith palais?)
[that represents the dominant pop sound of that moment in the uk; i must have seen twenty or thirty groups in this mode, swaying around and playing synthesizers. all the vocalists somehow sounded the same.]
i lost a night in paris where they flew people over to see inxs; me the nme guy ended up in a coke-and-groupie limo discohopping paris adventure with hutchence &co that i basically don't remember. the band rolled us into our hotel at 5 and we both missed our plane back to london.
so then i started turning pretty seriously toward the academic career and writing in that mode, but i did work through the late '80s. i interviewed lemmy for creem, etc. then around 2000, marion winik, disconcerted by my monthly country cd budget, suggested i pitch someone a country column so people would send me free cds. the guys from the balt city paper - russ smith and john strausbaugh - were doing the super-odd rollicking nypress, and i wrote the farm report in the persona of a 300-pound ultra-rightist farmer named crispin sartwell. then blogging...
come to think on it, i might could scan in some clips.
i have an essay on atheism up at the atlantic. i might put the point a bit more strongly: no one lives without faith, and no one's belief system can establish itself with no assumptions or no passionate commitments or no irrational kierkegarardian leaps.
probably the best statement of the sort of position i develop in the piece is santayana's scepticism and animal faith.