Friday, September 19, 2008

The first Montreal Political Theory Workshop of the year, and the formal launch of the new Groupe de recherche interuniversitaire en philosophie politique de Montréal (GRIPP), will be 19 September 2008, 13.00-15.00, in the Heritage Room of the Faculty Club at McGill University, 3450 McTavish Street.

The speaker will be Charles Taylor, McGill '52, Professor Emeritus at McGill University, former holder of the Chichele Chair in Social and Political Theory at All Souls College, Oxford; the author of works including Hegel and Modern Society, Sources of the Self, and A Secular Age; and winner of the Templeton Prize and the Kyoto Prize. He will speak on "Secularism in International Perspective/ Laicité: une
perspective comparative." The reading for the session is chapter 7 of the Bouchard-Taylor commission report; attendees are asked to read that before the session.

A reception will follow, at which the winners of this year's GRIPP graduate Fellowship will be announced and welcomed.
Posts at Shalem College

[Very interesting initiative! JTL]

The Shalem Center, a Jerusalem research and educational institute, is applying to open Israel’s first liberal arts college. Shalem College will be a small, competitive institution of higher learning aimed at preparing highly qualified Israeli and foreign students for a life of service. It will offer a 4-year B.A. based on a broad core curriculum including studies in philosophy, political theory, history, economics, Bible and Jewish tradition, Middle East studies, literature and science. Students will choose among several majors.

The Center invites applications for the position of:

• Chairman, Economics Department

• Chairman, Department of Philosophy, Political Theory
and Religion (PPR)

• Chairman, Department of Middle East Studies

The Department Chairman will be responsible for all educational and administrative aspects of operating the department.
A qualified candidate should have a record of academic achievement, a commitment to undergraduate education, experience in academic administration, and an ability to supervise and mentor a diverse faculty and exceptionally capable students.
Additional information is available at

Interested candidates should send a letter of application and curriculum vitae to Marion Jacobs, V.P. for Human Resources, at Mailing address: 13 Yehoshua Bin-Nun St., Jerusalem 93102, Israel.

Review of applications will begin immediately and continue until the positions are filled.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

I never did get around...

to writing my long-planned essay on the question "how can a libertarian live in Canada?" which I was asked an astonishing number of times in 2006-07. And now it seems it's too late. Will Wilkinson reports that in the latest Cato Institute/ Fraser Institute study of economic liberalism in the world, Canada has "has leap-frogged the U.S. to take 7th place, completely humiliating the tied-for-8th place land of the ever-less-free, home of the brave."

And, one assumes, the study was completed before the U.S> started nationalizinfg the commanding heights of the financial sector.

As Will notes, if the US isn't even obviously more free-market than Canada, then once civil liberties and social freedoms are taken into account Canada is surely the freer society.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

VON KANT BIS HEGEL: Naturalism and Naturphilosophie

The fourth conference in the Von Kant Bis Hegel series (held in English, the name notwithstanding) will be held October 11-12. The conference, sponsored by Concordia and taking place a block off McGill's campus, features an extraordinary lineup; highly recommended.

Naturalism and Naturphilosophie

11 October 2008, Saturday
Centre Mont-Royal: Salon Cartier I

10:00: Mots de bienvenue
Speaker: Allen Wood (Stanford, Indiana): “Kant and the Intelligibility of Evil”
Moderator: Pablo Gilabert (Concordia)

Speaker: Rolf-Peter Horstmann (Humboldt): “Kant and the Problem of Purposiveness”
Moderator: George di Giovanni (McGill)

Speaker: Frederick Neuhouser (Barnard-Columbia): “Rousseau and the Normative Significance of Nature”
Moderator: Dario Perinetti (UQAM)

12 October 2008, Sunday

Centre Mont-Royal: Salon Cartier I
Speaker: Ludwig Siep (Münster): “Hegel and Modern Bioethics”
Moderator: Matthias Fritsch (Concordia)

Speaker: Paul Redding (Sydney): “Platonism and Organicism in the Thought of Kant and Hegel”
Moderator: Klaus Corcilius (Humboldt)

Speaker: Sally Sedgwick (U-Illinois Chicago): “On the Conditions of Critique: Kant versus Hegel”
Moderator: David Morris (Concordia)

Speaker: Paul Guyer (Pennsylvania): “The Promise of Natural Beauty: From Kant to Adorno”
Moderator: Andrew Chignell (Cornell)

All talks will take place at Centre Mont-Royal: 2200, rue Mansfield/at Sherbrooke.

Metro: Peel or McGill No registration necessary
The slow-motion end-from-above of capitalism...

is making me want to back and reread Schumpeter. I'm pretty sure this isn't how it was supposed to happen-- I remember corporate-bureaucratic managerial sclerosis that crowded out entrepreneurial energy, and I don't think the exotic financial instruments market has been anything like that. But still...

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Of possible interest...

to the students who, in last term's evaluations, criticized me for drinking my in-class coffee from environment-unfriendly disposable cups instead of reusable mugs.

What is the "greenest" way to drink coffee around the office?
If you use a disposable cup, it's going to linger a long while on this Earth—polystyrene isn't biodegradable at all, and for all practical purposes, you shouldn't expect a paper cup to degrade very fast in a landfill, either.[...]

Pound-for-pound, petroleum-based polystyrene is a pretty bad material—it takes twice as much energy to produce a gram of polystyrene as it does to produce the same quantity of ceramic. But you'll need at least 70 times as much energy to produce a ceramic mug as you will to manufacture a polystyrene cup, and probably even more to produce a stainless steel mug.

How could that be? Simply speaking, it's all about mass: A polystyrene cup is much lighter than a permanent mug. That means it requires far less material, so the fact that it's made from petroleum is more than made up for by the greater mass of the mugs. [...]

Washing your mug will add to its energy burden. Research from the early 1990s suggests that each time you clean a mug in the dishwasher, it takes about as much energy—and would probably produce as many emissions—as it takes simply to produce a new polystyrene cup[...] As the Lantern has pointed out before, washing the mug by hand may not absolve you, either— although you can help your case by using cold water.

And, NB: in an office without a useful dishwashing sink, the likely prospect is of washing the mug multiple times-- say, rinsing it once in hot water in the rest room, and then taking it home regularly to run through the dishwasher. In other words, it's highly tricky to figure out the math here.

Update: Chris Lawrence's and Nick Troester's reactions make me worry that the tone of this post came out wrong-- I was only amused by the commentary in evaluations, and it built on some running jokes in class. One anonymous benefactor gave me a stainless steel McGill coffee mug to try to reform my sinner's ways. It was all in good fun.
Time to completion statistics...

modeled and explained.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Hakkarainen on Hume


Jani Hakkarainen
University of Tampere (Finland) and Yale University
"Hume's Skepticism and Realism"

Tuesday, 23 September, 6-8 PM

The meeting will take place in the Thomson House of McGill University
3650 McTavish Street, just north of Doctor Penfield Ave.


Jani Hakkarainen
Université de Tampere (Finlande) et Yale University
"Hume's Skepticism and Realism"

mardi, le 23 septembre, 16:00-18:00

La séance se tiendra dans la Thomson House de l'université McGill
3650 rue McTavish, au nord de l'avenue Docteur-Penfield

For information contact/ Pour tout renseignement, veuillez contacter
Justin Smith (, Sara Magrin (

Sunday, September 14, 2008

The fate of Open University, continued

Jeremy Young offers a diagnosis of what happened.

I think he omits at least three (interrelated) factors:

1) We had nothing in common besides professorial appointments. Volokh Conspiracy: Mainly libertarianism mainly lawprofs. Crooked Timber: Mainly social democratish mainly social scientists and political philosophers. Liberty and Power: Hard-core libertarians, with a healthy dose of history profs. Cliopatra: history profs. Prawfsblog: law profs. Open University: umm... We didn't have anything in common by discipline, by generation, by ideological or methodological outlook, by attitude about public intellectualism or the relationship between public commentary and scholarship, etc., etc. Someone who goes to Marginal Revolution to read Tyler will still likely enjoy reading Alex if Tyler happens to be offline that day. I'm not sure that there were any two regular OU bloggers who served as complements in that way.

2) Moreover, we were stylistically very different; I venture to guess that the readers of Richard Stern's diarist-style entries didn't overlap with, say, the readers of Alan Wolfe's commentaries on contemporary politics. And there wasn't much indication that the practitioners of one style were much enthused by the practitioners of another.

3) There was very close to no conversation among the bloggers, and what there was, was as likely to be contentious as anything else.

And, of course, the obvious:

4) It was someone else's blogspace (TNR's) but the "someone else" wasn't a person who would do a lot of blogging him- or herself to set the tone. Some of us refrained from the blog with our various different kinds of posts, because it seemed rude to monopolize the space-- but then no one ever got into the habit of constantly blogging there.
Hither and yon

"Liberals and Libertarians: Common Ground or Separate Agendas?", Thursday, October 23, 2008, 4:30 p.m., Dodds Auditorium, Woodrow Wilson School, Princeton University.

Panel discussion with:

Eric Alterman, Professor of English, Brooklyn College of CUNY, columnist, The Nation

Jacob T. Levy *99, Tomlinson Professor of Political Theory, McGill University

Brink Lindsey '84, Vice President for Research, Cato Institute

Stephen Macedo, Laurance S. Rockefeller Professor of Politics and the University Center for Human Values. Director, University Center for Human Values

Douglas S. Massey, Henry G. Bryant Professor of Sociology and Public Affairs

Paul E. Starr, Stuart Professor of Communications and Public Affairs in the Woodrow Wilson School. Professor of Sociology and Public Affairs

Will Wilkinson, Research Fellow and Managing Editor, Cato Unbound.
Libertarians for Obama, continued

Megan McArdle edition.
Here's the thing: I dislike McCain on an intense, visceral level. I don't trust him with power. I find his personality brutish and unkind, his jokes about various women grotesque, and his political philosophy hopelessly addled. The ad he let his campaign run about Obama's sex-ed program was, as one journalistic acquaintance puts it, "beyond tawdry". I find National Greatness conservatism deeply troubling, and the idea that society would be better if it were more like the military alarming. I honor the military virtues--in the military. I do not think that America would be a better or nobler place if we were a leetle more like Sparta.

And while I am deeply grateful, and impressed, by McCain's suffering as a POW, I do not think that this makes me obligated to like him, or to vote for him. There's no admissions process to be a POW, and it stands to reason that some of them must have been people who weren't particularly admirable. The more I learn about McCain, the more I think that he's one of them. Or rather, I think of him like that kind of jerkily sexist 22-year-old of whom one thinks, "he's going to be a really good guy when he grows up". And I wish he would. But when he turned 70, I sort of lost hope.

Beyond that, I think the Republican Party is moribund. Its long tenure has made it corrupt, and depleted its stock of ideas. It has gotten too cosy with the bureaucracy and the lobbyists, and lost touch with its first principles. I do not think that this is some feature of conservatism--indeed, it reminds me quite a bit of the House under Tip O'Neil. But I think the party needs a time out to think about things.
CFP: "Environmental Philosophy and Political Philosohy" and "Anarchism and Philosophy".

via Will Roberts:

SSPP Calls for Papers

1. . For the Society's meeting in conjunction with the Eastern APA (American Philosophical Association) in 2009 the SSPP invites papers for two conference panels. We are seeking papers that address issues pertaining to: Environmental Philosophy as Political Philosophy

Given our current global situation, the rising importance of environmental philosophy is increasingly beyond question, but insofar as philosophy has turned its attention to matters of the environment it has typically done so from the perspective of ethics. This panel invites papers that address the broad range of environmental concerns from a somewhat different perspective, namely, from the perspective of political philosophy. How, for instance, might matters of environmental sustainability transform our understanding of political solidarity and/or state sovereignty? How do increasing concerns about the ecological resources alter our conception of property rights as well as the relationship between capital and labor? What would it mean to extend rights to nonhuman animals, or to ecosystems? How does the imperative to be “sustainable” influence the way we conceptualize employment, citizenship and community? And how does an expanded view of ecology challenge traditional, humanistic notions of identity and the politics that have traditionally followed from them?

2. For the Society's meeting in conjunction with SPEP (Society for Phenomenology and Existential Philosophy) in 2009, the SSPP invites papers for two conference panels. We are seeking papers that address issues pertaining to: Anarchism and Philosophy

Anarchism remains underrepresented in academic debates and discussions, a trend that continues despite its increasing importance in the anti-globalization movements. As a political philosophy, anarchism maintains a tense relation with the academy. Unlike Marxism, anarchism was not founded by a philosopher, and its major thinkers—Goldman, Kropotkin, and Bakunin—were by and large self-educated. Likewise, its areas of focus have been anti-authoritarianism, cooperation, and self-organization, rather than foundational texts or figures, thus making it a difficult fit with the dominant academic practices of interpretation and exegesis. Despite this, however, philosophers such as Todd May, Peter Lamborn Wilson, and Lewis Call have suggested that there is a fundamental link between the ideals of anarchism and philosophers such as Nietzsche, Baudrillard, Foucault and Rancière. Moreover, within anarchist circles there has been a longstanding interest in the work of situationists such as Debord and Autonomists such as Negri, which is not to suggest that these thinkers be identified as anarchist, but that their analyses of power and desire, and an ideal of equality, reflect certain anarchist commitments. We are looking for papers that address possible relations between anarchism and philosophy, from examinations of “canonical” anarchist thinkers to explorations of what philosophers offer to anarchism. Most importantly we are looking for papers that recognize the challenge that anarchism poses to the conventional notions of authority and hierarchy that dominate the university; that the conjunction "anarchism and philosophy" must interrogate and question the latter, as much as it supplements and defines the former.

Complete papers of 3000-5000 words (that can be summarized and presented in 20-30 minutes) should be submitted for consideration for the 2009 meeting (deadline: March 1, 2009). The APA Conference is scheduled for December 27-30, 2009, New York City, NY. The SPEP Conference is scheduled for October 28-30, 2009 Arlington, VA.

Authors should include their name(s) and contact information on the cover page ONLY. Papers should be emailed as attachments in Word or RTF format to