A Ku Indeed!

The Civil War Never Ended?

Posted in Politics by Chris on October 30, 2008

An interesting post from Andrew Sullivan (he’s actually talking about someone else who poses the suggestion) on whether the Civil War only ended militarily in 1865, but continues to be fought on other fronts to this day. In a nutshell: the “culture war” is the continuation of the Civil War. Sullivan wonders whether Obama, if he wins, will bring the “longest war in US history” finally to a close. Interesting thoughts.

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Hume on Data Mining

Posted in Course Material, Life by Chris on October 12, 2008

I’ve been reading through some financial journals and websites reading about the current financial and market situation. One thing stuck me: after each financial pundit said what they’d do — which was always rooted in some analysis of past crashes — at the bottom there would always be this proviso, “the future is not guaranteed to resemble the past.” For those who have read Hume’s Treatise, and especially so for students who tend to think that Hume’s points here have no “practical application” — this little bit of Humean wisdom may be amusing in a not-so-amusing time.

The Tao of Running to the Hills

Posted in Life by Chris on October 12, 2008

Other than an old (and good) Iron Maiden song, this seems to be the mantra of most people with any financial exposure to the equity markets lately. Which makes me wonder about the wisdom behind the running. When markets crash like this, should you run? Hold still? Buy?

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Sunday Comic

Posted in Sunday Comics by Chris on October 12, 2008

No matter what you feel about it, my guess is that discussion about privatizing Social Security will be “off the table” for quite a long time now.

Dang Northern Scum

Posted in Life, Politics by Chris on October 11, 2008

In the attempt to get out of the house to think about things other than Paige’s medical issue, we went “downtown” to Apple Butter Makin’ Days. This is the local yearly festival run by my little town of Mt. Vernon (Missouri). Along the way, we stopped in the local Ben Franklin store to get some things. While my wife was off in the aisles, Parker and I sat by the window and ate popcorn. While there, I read this little window pamplet that described the history of Mt. Vernon, specifically focusing on its role in the Civil War. Hmm. Interesting…

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William Ayers, on Rate My Professor

Posted in Politics by Chris on October 5, 2008

Most of you no doubt have at least read about the connections (or lack of connections, depending on your point of view) between Barack Obama and William Ayers. The Republicans have been pushing these alleged connections hard in recent negative ads, given that Ayers was a former member of the Weather Underground, a domestic terrorism group from the 1960s. In any case, the point of this post isn’t political, but rather to point out that Ayers has a ratemyprofessor page. Seems a bit surreal in many ways, but there it is.

Free Will and Knowledge

Posted in Course Material, philosophy by Chris on October 5, 2008

I’m teaching my Free Will seminar this semester, and an issue came up in class that is an interesting one. The question is this: is it necessary to having free will that you be aware of the presence of your free will at the time you have it? I don’t mean theoretically. A person could be convinced that in general they are free, but not know whether they are free right now. I’m curious whether it is important to resolving the “free will problem” that a person be able to go beyond theoretical knowledge — to have a phenomenological awareness of their own freedom. For those in the class (or who know the issue), this problem emerges in Kane’s work. Kane thinks that our freedom relies on the existence of certain events that can occur in our lives, events that are sub-atomic in nature. As it turns out, though, there’s really no way of you even knowing whether any of those events have ever happened — or are happening — in your life right now. Does this make the solution to the problem unsatisfactory?

Posting Teaching Evaluations Online

Posted in Pedagogy by Chris on October 2, 2008

Apparently the Missouri State legislature passed a law (I can’t remember the number) that, among other things, requires all public colleges and universities in the state to post, online, their teachers’ teaching evalutations. I haven’t had a chance to think this new law through, though at the gut level I’m not sure I like the idea. Anyone have any intuitions on this, one way or the other?

Facebook, Yet Again

Posted in Fun, Life by Chris on October 2, 2008

I was discussing Facebook interaction today with my wife (a psychologist) in the car. I pointed out that, as far as I can see, many of my own students seem to think of Facebook as a neutral “tool” that their independent and autonomous selves manipulate. In other words, as a neutral tool it has no effects on the very constitutive nature of the selves using those tools, and so has no effects on the way those individuals form their own self-concepts, self-concepts that in turn affect how they behave with others, interact with the world, and so on.

Although this is a typical view to have about technology, I disagreed. Instead, technology is not neutral: we may create a technology X, but then participation in that technology turns around and itself produces particular kinds of selves, which in turn then see and interact with the world in new ways. Hardly neutral, and hardly independent. We may shape technology, but it just as ruthlessly shapes us in turn.

What do you think? Does Facebook (and similar technologies) shape the very nature of human relationships by altering the ways in which we think of ourselves, others, and the ways that we are related? Of course, this “interaction” need not always be negative or pernicious. It can also be beneficial and helpful.

Quick Retraction!

Posted in Fun, Life by Chris on October 2, 2008

In the interests of fairness, I need to issue a small retraction: in my previous post on Facebook narcissicm, I was too harsh on the study that was reported on by Yahoo. I read the story too quickly: it didn’t argue that narcissism existed on Facebook (which would have been obvious), but rather argued for particular ways to highlight who is narcissistic based on ways of using the features of the platform. As I don’t think the latter study has obvious results, I stand corrected! That said, I still stand by all of my other criticisms of the platform (even while recognizing it’s various benefits).