Category Archives: news

NYC Area Philosophy Calendar Update

I’ve updated my NYC Area Philosophy Calendar, a listing of the philosophy lectures, conferences and events in the NYC metro area. As per usual, if one were to attend the huge amount of lectures and events, they would have a very good academic philosophy education for the price of a Metrocard and some late fees at the public library. Please leave me any comments and suggestions, especially if you know of events and venues that I don’t have listed.

With this update comes technical improvements: Events are color coordinated by location (school color usually) and are tagged by topic (ancient, Kant, epistemology, etc.). The calendar software has different ways to view the data (day/ weekly/ monthly calendar, agenda, poster-board). It also can do subscriptions based on filter, so if you only want to see epistemology events at Fordham, you can use the categories and tags to specify this, and then you can export only those events.

Fordham and CUNY have long lists of fantastic speakers lined up. Some notable events are Noam Chomsky speaking at Columbia’s Dewey lectures, and the 31st Annual Meeting of the Society for Ancient Greek Philosophy (SAGP) with the Society for the Study of Islamic Philosophy and Science (SSIPS) at Fordham, which has a massive program.

Also, as per usual, Columbia is slow on posting events. Rutgers, too, has nothing listed yet. The New School for Social Research has some things posted, but it seems to be mostly cross-listings of other departments, so I expect that the more philosophy-oriented content is still coming. Sarah Lawrence College sometimes has public lectures of interest, but they too have very little posted. I’ll check back in few days and update accordingly.

 

Posted in news, NYC, philosophy. Tagged with , , .

Free Speech and Spying

I used to think that there was little chance the government would be spying on me.

But then I realized that I correspond with people all over the world by email. Moreover, people all over the world come to this site. Take a look at my website hits from the last day or so: location map of recent visitors
This is pretty typical. A recent breakdown is just over half of the visitors are USA citizens, leaving over 40% to be distributed over the rest of the world.

I’ve noticed lots of different activity on my website. There have been bots (programs) that state their purpose as ‘total website downloaders’, which tend to be from places that don’t have good laws on freedom of speech (I think they are trying to get as much of the internet as they can while they have access). I’ve had hits from Pyongyang, North Korea. I have lots of visitors from China. A posts on game theory was visited by the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (probably a bored technician). When I linked to a post critical of the Philosophical Gourmet Report, I had a hit from a UChicagoLaw web server.

With all the recent discoveries about the scope of the US government’s spying—it’s open season on communications to any non-citizen outside the country (which many philosophers are) and 3 degrees of separation from a target (remember, it is thought that everyone in the world is only 6 degrees from everyone else)—it is almost a given that they are monitoring my internet communications in some way. And since they are monitoring me, they are probably monitoring you, too.

I don’t like it, not one bit. But now there is something that can be done about it! Bitmessage is a secure messaging service. It can’t be monitored, at least not in the way they have backdoor access to email. It is encrypted such that only the intended recipient can access the message, and everyone else can’t even know who it is from or to whom it is going. So grab the program and send your first message that the government can’t see! Experience actual freedom of speech, without fear of being monitored, and send me a bitmessage here:

BM-Gu22xaEsuH2NdDabHzTvB4JtV3NSsBNG

Posted in news, products, technology.

Site Update

After running this blog for over 6 years, I’m thinking it is time for a site update. I’d like to give a thanks to the WordPress.org community for making great blogging software freely available, and NearlyFreeSpeech.net for providing site hosting at a reasonable price.

That said, there is a good chance I am going to mess something up. The site has been running on the same underlying (MySql) process, perhaps from the start, without any maintenance on my end. So I am going to shut it down and do a clean install.

!!EDIT!! Apparently my website hosts (NearlyFreeSpeech.net) are way more competent at running websites than I am. When I went to restart the database, I saw that they had already cleaned the thing up from its old, monstrous self to a new, smaller, updated process. So I’ll just be doing more cosmetic updates than anything (I’ve not once changed my WordPress theme in these 6 years. Thanks Ocadia theme!). This may still bork the site, but there is less room for error now.

Hopefully I’ll see you on the other side.

Posted in internet, news.

On Philosophy Publishing

There has been some discussion in the philosophy blogosphere on citation rates in academic philosophy journals. Since I recently decided that I was going to try to get my work published, I have spent a bit of time thinking about this. When John Protevi at NewAPPS asked about citation patters,  I left a comment, but the topic really warrants a longer treatment. Here are some thoughts:

Let me postulate, for this discussion, that doing philosophy and publishing are very different enterprises. That is, the content of the philosophy is separate from the distribution of it, and while you hope that your philosophy has some merit, we are currently concerned with getting it published regardless.

Consider the top philosophy journals, not as philosophy journals, but just as publications. Do these journals compete with each other? Yes, but they also cooperate more. If anything, the top journals are in coopetition. While the journals do compete for the best new content, consider how they make their money. They make their money by being purchased, in this case by academic libraries with limited resources. They will only get purchased if the libraries (and philosophy departments) feel that there is active research going on that they need to access. So it is much more important for journals to have an active discussion amongst themselves to give the appearance of active research being done (again regardless of merit).

It is not so much that they compete with each other, than they are in competition with everyone outside their area.

Now, how do these journals show that they have an active discussion? They reference each other, back and forth. This mutual referencing fosters the importance of the discussion, and hence the journals too. Once the discussion has begun, all other journals that wish to publish on the topic will have to reference back to the original journals, again fostering the original journal’s importance.  Hence a journal, or group thereof, that fosters a discussion—a niche if you will—will effectively block out other journals. All other or new journals will always be playing catch-up since they will inherently have fewer references and hence be less important.

This suggests that citations and referencing is a highly strategic business practice. Journals need to get themselves into the discussion somehow to make themselves relevant. If possible, they want to be the nexus of the discussion.

One interesting consequence is that it is less the individual researchers or papers that are cited, but that the journal is cited at all. The journal wants to be in on the discussion, and it doesn’t matter how it gets there. This suggests a bias towards references that include the journal or involve the journal in discussions, whether those references are relevant or not.

This leads to the treatment of ‘stars’ within the profession. If the journals publish the writing of a ‘star’ they will immediately get themselves into a position where people need to have that person’s work. So it is a good strategy for a journal to play into ‘star’ writers and to burnish their reputation (e.g. dedicated journal issues, invited papers) since this will make their research seem important and require people who do research to reference the work of the star in that journal.

Consider, then, why we cite. Is it to give credit to those who did great work? Sure, but there is too much at stake in terms of reputation (reputation yields job offers and money) for that to be the sole reason.

Is it to show we know what we are talking about? Unlikely but possible: journal publishing is not done to show that you have the done the reading, and if you are talking about something important then it doesn’t matter who is referenced.

Is it to make our lives easier, so we don’t have to argue every point? Likely at times, this is again too simplistic in terms of other issues.

Is it because it plays into the business model of the journals? Probably more than we want to admit.

Conclusions?

As mentioned above, journals will be biased towards self referencing their publication. Hence, if your work can be framed in a way that allows for journal self references, all the better. Same goes for citing stars. This also means that the bias could allow for references to go unchallenged: e.g. reference Hume for everything (or David Lewis), and always have some references to big journals. Conversely, less prominent work can be slipped in unnoticed if it is sandwiched between stars and big journals.

Perhaps there is an optimal ratio of prominent authors and different top journal references to less prominent references to give the appearance of new-ness and importance to the discussion.

At any rate, journal publishing exists at the intersection of business and philosophy, and it does no good to treat the double blind review as the only factor in getting published.

Posted in game theory, news, philosophy.

Reflections on Frankenstorm

drugs

I don’t normally see cops smoke on duty, but lots of cops were smoking last week.

Beer was being sold for up to $30 a six pack.  Not good beer either.

I overheard a barista at Verb Cafe in Williamsburg say that Tuesday had been their best day ever.  They did twice their sales of a busy Saturday and closed early because they ran out of everything.  He also said he saw a lot more Nouveau Yorkers than normal.

I smelled no more weed on the street than I normally do.  Stoners are consistent.

zombie apocalypse

The Brooklyn half of the Williamsburg bridge had power, but crossing into downtown Manhattan was like regressing into a time before electricity, or more accurately, a time after electricity.  When it got dark at night, it actually got dark.  Anyone who has been to lower Manhattan knows there is a limit to how dark it actually gets: the sheer amount of ambient light prevents real darkness, even in places without street lights.  This no longer held for the few days after Sandy.  Walking the city was passing through endless empty black canyons, devoid of life and filled with remnants of once useful technology.

Every so often I’d come upon a person sitting on a stoop, looking haggard and sucking hard on a cigarette.  When this happened I wouldn’t notice the person till I was already upon them and walking by.  I couldn’t even muster a head nod, not that New Yorkers would be looking for the social interaction, and it was inevitably too late to bother anyway.

My mom called while I was walking back to the bridge a few blocks south of Delancey.  Surprisingly the cell phone coverage held for the duration of the call.  I could hear her voice drop as I described the situation:   The windows are empty and lifeless for blocks, and I can barely make out the sidewalk.  There are no people, or none that I can see.  Sometimes they would show up, but as I said, they were the strays, and would disappear just as quickly.  The cops, wherever they were, were just as cut off as everyone else.  She ended the call quickly.

They eventually got the power down to 14th street and east of Broadway back on.  This returned some of the ambient light to lower Manhattan, but not like normal.  Instead of the sad darkness, a weak, insubstantial haze took over.  It was like being in an old video game where they just colored everything dark, but there were no actual light sources.  You could see things, but it wasn’t like things were lit or had shadows; it was all shadows.  Unlike the previous nights, which hurt in its collapse of basic New York reality, this haze provided an unreality to the situation. It was a transient state, a purgatory, one where you could feel civilization trying to leech its way back.

My friends who live and work uptown were barely inconvenienced by the storm.

banks and power

A bank was robbed clean by Upright Citizens entering the building’s basement and then breaking up through the floor.

I told everyone that if I had a truck I would have ripped up and ripped off those ubiquitous street ATMs that charge $4 a transaction.  I’m actually surprised I didn’t see any of this.

Goldman Sachs had barricades of sandbags around their entrance ways.  Not sure if they were trying to stem the barrage of water only.

They moved the power lines in the city under ground after the 1888 blizzard, which was the last time the stock exchange had been closed for 2 days due to weather.  This was to prevent wind and snow from affecting the power supply.  So maybe the banks will ‘encourage’ our utilities to make the power supply more water resistant.  Cuomo (NY State Governor)  is threatening to revoke the electricity monopolies of ConEd and LIPA due to the power failures.  Floodproofing New York City would be an unimaginably huge project.  I wouldn’t be surprised to see a proposal to actually raise the entire island of Manhattan.  If the banks don’t have battery backup security cameras in a few weeks, though, I will be shocked.

the birds

Fauna in New York is sophisticated.  The animals that live here are either well adapted to living with humans or well adapted to getting out of our way.  However, when I saw a pigeon standing very still near the curb in the street, I felt something was wrong.  A van pulled up and the front wheel missed the pigeon by not even a finger’s width, but the pigeon didn’t move at all.  Then the rear wheel ran directly over the stationary pigeon with muffled bone crunches.

I walked into Washington Square Park and a very obese man followed me in.  I sat on one side of the pathway and he sat across from me.  Often, though not generally, people hanging around in public parks who don’t take care of themselves have mental problems.  Then a large flock of pigeons, which is strange in itself, all descended upon this man.  Standing on him, walking up and down his arms, crowding as close as possible to his body. I saw his face, he looked confused, which I took to confirm my suspicion about him.  He noticed me looking and he spoke, completely lucidly:  “I don’t even have food. What’s going on?  I guess the birds are just as stir crazy as the rest of us…”  He wasn’t crazy at all: the birds went Hitchcock on him, and he was trapped.  I left Washington Square Park.

candles

I only type up my philosophy writing when it is being prepared for general consumption, that is, no longer my own notes.  Otherwise I write with a fountain pen, which I find to be the least intrusive and most versatile writing implement.

So I am at my brother’s place in Williamsburg as Sandy shakes the windows, hoping the power doesn’t go out — the internet and cable TV had failed, but not before we saw the footage of the 14th street power station explosion and cars floating on C.  I lit a candle just in case.

As I am getting ready to go to sleep on his shockingly ludicrous couch (not his fault) I turn off the standing lamp, leaving the candle the only source of light.  I think, “Hey, this is how people wrote in the past.  Every philosopher up till just recent has sat hunkered over a notebook with a bottle of ink, a pen and a candle.  Let’s see if there is anything to it…”

OH MY GAWD.

It is fantastic.  Modern lighting is excellent, but it sprays light everywhere.  Normally this is a good thing: one or two lamps can light an entire room easily.  But for focused concentration, the single flickering point light of a candle melts everything else away.  Romance is good for philosophy.

Posted in news, NYC, random idiocy, technology.

The Carnival is Dead. Long Live The Carnival.

I have almost no philosophical associations at this point. I have been out of school for years and my philosophical interests have little impact on how I feel about philosophies and philosophers on which I don’t work. One of the things I have tried to live by is that I don’t know where the next interesting thought will come from.

Of course, if I have experience with individuals or philosophies then I can make determinations about their worth.

I run this philosophy blog which has a very limited readership. It is always fun to host a philosophy carnival, which I have done three times, and get a boost in traffic. By a vast amount, the link Brian Leiter placed on his blog provided the most visitors.  And it is no secret that his blog is the most, or at least one of the most, trafficked philosophy blogs.

So when he did not link to my last carnival, I thought it was a mistake, but then it dawned on me that he could be angry that I had posted links to something that was critical of The Philosophical Gourmet Report, which he runs.  As I said above, there is no conspiracy here, I just thought the posts were interesting. Then he did not link to further carnivals, which removed major support from the carnival. The explanation given on the new philosophy carnival is that Dr. Leiter was unhappy with the quality of the philosophy carnivals.

This is nonsense.  The philosophy carnivals have been about the same for years.  Also, I put a good deal of effort into my carnival and made sure to have lots of high quality links. Dr. Leiter himself put up a link to the same philosophy posters that I had used in my carnival. Moreover, if Dr. Leiter is happy to regularly link to Philosopher’s Anonymous, which is often enough a philosophical bitchfest (not that I am saying there is anything wrong with P.A.), he isn’t in the least worried about “philosophical quality.”

I really can’t speculate on his exact motives, but, whatever they are, it is odd that the issues are so big that he is willing to be so petty. The carnival provides an opportunity for anyone to write something philosophically interesting and then have an audience, if only the carnival host. It is noble in its modest goal. There is no reason not to support it, even if some random person on the internet links to something critical of something you work on, or you don’t like some of what gets posted.

Regardless of these issues, I am happy to see the return of the Philosophy Carnival. Hopefully the new direction will inspire greater participation and, importantly, support.

EDIT: Maybe I’m just pissed because it looks like I killed it seeing as I was the last regular post before it went on hiatus and then spluttered.

Posted in news, philosophy, random idiocy.

rip MCA

MCA of the Beastie Boys has died of cancer at 47.

Posted in art, news, NYC.

new york

Posted in news, NYC. Tagged with .

Philosophy Carnival 8 August

I’m hosting the next philosophy carnival, on August 8th.  If  anyone is thinking about submitting to the next philosophy carnival, I have a preference for philosophy of science, though feel free to submit on any topic.  Also, I like to be entertained by my academic philosophy, so the more off the wall the better.

Posted in news, philosophy. Tagged with , .

Spell Sorites. No really.

Since none of the other philosophy blogs I follow have mentioned it, one of the final round contestants of the National Spelling Bee was eliminated last night by misspelling “sorites.”   I believe the contestant put a ‘p’ in front of the word.  It makes me wonder if these kids know how to do anything other than spell words.

Posted in argumentation, news, random idiocy. Tagged with , .