Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Does this happen often in books on ancient philosophy?

Sometimes your copy editor requests that you include an author's first name in the bibliography. But you have already included the author's full name, and it is "Aristotle".

Monday, September 28, 2015

Peter Railton meets fan

To conclude my talk in Belgium, I asked: what kind of normative ethics do you get if you base constitutivism on my Humean account of agency instead of a Kantian one? And then I stripped off my shirt to reveal my jersey and said: "You get Peter Railton's view!" It was my first time giving a talk with Peter in the audience and I was going to make the most of it. Thanks to Maarten Steenhagen for taking this picture of us!

Monday, September 21, 2015

Bentham on bestiality

Apparently there are credible allegations that British Prime Minister David Cameron had sexual relations with a dead pig as a member of a secret society in college. This provides a nice occasion to note Bentham's sensible discussion of bestiality in 1785:
An abomination which meets with as little quarter as any of the preceding is that where a human creature makes use in this way of a beast or other sensitive creature of a different species. A legislator who should take Sanchez for his guide might here repeat the same string of distinctions about the vas proprium and improprium, the imaginations and the simultaneity and so forth. Accidents of this sort will sometimes happen; for distress will force a man upon strange expedients. But one might venture to affirm that if all the sovereigns in Europe were to join in issuing proclamations inviting their subjects to this exercise in the warmest terms, it would never get to such a height as to be productive of the smallest degree of political mischief. The more of these sorts of prosecutions are permitted the more scope there is given for malice or extortion to make use of them to effect its purpose upon the innocent, and the more public they are the more of that mischief is incurred which consists in shocking the imaginations of persons of delicacy with a very painful sentiment. 
Burning the animal
Some persons have been for burning the poor animal with great ceremony under the notion of burning the remembrance of the affair. (See Puffendorf, Bks. 2, Ch. 3, 5. 3. Bacon's Abridg. Title Sodomy. J.B.) A more simple and as it should seem a more effectual course to take would be not to meddle or make smoke [?] about the matter.

Monday, September 7, 2015

Election special in my political philosophy class

Singapore holds elections on Friday! After the election timing was announced in August, I changed the syllabus for my honors political philosophy seminar so that the students could do 5-minute presentations on election-related topics of interest to them, with 5 minutes for discussion.

So today students presented on the various parties' manifestos, lowering the voting age, Max Weber, gerrymandering, Singapore's (awful) treatment of single mothers, and many other things -- some concrete and some abstract. There was a pretty even split of support for the ruling PAP and the opposition coalition, with a few people arguing forcefully for one party or another and many people in the middle or making broader points. I'm proud that my class can be a venue for smart students in a young democracy to discuss important issues before an election.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Google logo thoughts

This was a good redesign. Google likes to present itself as brilliant and innocent like a genius kindergardener. The primary school primary colors and Google Doodles are part of that image. Now the logo is a bit more elementary school to match. I'm not sure about the tilted 'e', which looks out of place, but it does have a bit of a happy and optimistic vibe. The old 'g' never seemed right to me, and now it's fixed.