A Ku Indeed!

Philosophy Kicks Ass

Posted in Academia, philosophy by Chris on January 6, 2009

It is unavoidable that philosophy professors look out into a class and catch those students who sit there with their best impression of the gum-chomping “WTF is all of this s&*(t for, anyway?” pose. Well, sometimes they actually say it verbally too, or text it under the table to the student on the other side of the room. I always think of those students when studies come out that suggest that philosophy, as a job, actually rocks. Here’s the latest, from the Wall Street Journal, which ranks philosophy as the #12th best job in existence.

Word to your mother.

Bell IV: The Dead Have Rights Too

Posted in Bell Reading Group, philosophy by Chris on December 28, 2008

26004979At the end of the first part of the Bell’s book East Meets West, there’s a quick discussion of the “rights of the dead.” Perhaps it is the case, as Lo suggests to Demo, that dead people have rights as much as living people do. Most of the people here know that I have a thing for zombie movies – so I already have a pretty healthy respect for the dead (or the undead, as it were). Still, even for me it seems to be an odd idea to suggest that the dead have rights. It caused me to stop and think for a second: what the heck is a human right, after all?


Reading Group: East Meets West

Posted in China, Chinese Philosophy, Ethics, Life, Mencius, philosophy, Politics by Chris on November 25, 2008

j6830Readers, lurkers and comment makers, lend me your ears: Peony, Bill Haines and I will be organizing a virtual “reading group” (which will take place both here and at Peony’s place, Tang Dynasty Times) focusing on Daniel Bell’s 2000 work East Meets West. The book deals with a very timely topic and is written in dialogue form, making the work accessible to both academics and non-academics alike. See below the fold for more information on the book and the reading group schedule. Hopefully many of the lurkers here will take up the opportunity to buy the book and read along, hopefully joining in on the online conversation. The more the merrier!


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?

Yglesias on Wieseltier on Kant

Posted in philosophy, Politics by Chris on September 25, 2008

Yglesias and It may be that , as he puts it, “took Kant” but after reading his account of Kant, I’m leaning towrads thinking of his undergraduate professor as a serial grade inflator. Or maybe he studied Kant at the University of Phoenix?

Yglesias: A

Weiselier: F

What’s Philosophy For, Anyway?

Posted in Pedagogy, philosophy by Chris on September 3, 2008

One of my students in my Being and Knowledge seminar (basic Metaphysics and Epistemology course) posted a thread on the course forum (I use electronic forums for many classes to supplement in class discussion). I thought the questions he raised in the thread were valid ones, and also very typical ones that both philosophy and non-philosophy students ask frequently about our courses. Although many issues come up, the overriding question is straightforward: “what’s philosophy for, anyway?” or “when is philosophy useful?” I am reprinting the student’s post below the fold (with his permission). I’d be very interested (he would too) to hear replies from any of the students and teachers who read this blog.


Need Help To Max Out on Min

Posted in Analects, Chinese Philosophy, Ethics, philosophy by Chris on July 21, 2008

Hey Folks: I’m in the middle of putting together a rough schematic blueprint for a paper I’d like to begin developing for this Confucius-Virtue Ethics seminar I’m participating in. A part of the paper would deal with the concept of min (“people,” “populace,” “masses”) in early Confucianism (perhaps in part contrasting it with the notion of xiao ren (“petty” or “little” people). What I need to get hold of are more articles/book chapters that deal with the concept of min. Does anyone out there know of any? I already know of Hall and Ames brief discussion of it in Thinking Through Confucius. Are there any other references that those of you who are familiar with the secondary literature can think of? Thanks in advance!

Conference on Ethics and the Family

Posted in Academia, philosophy by Chris on July 15, 2008

My friend Adam is co-directing a conference (the 10th International Conference on Ethics Across the Curriculum) this fall (November 14th to 16th at Towson University in Maryland) on the theme “The Ethics of the Family” (natural topic for a Confucius paper!). The call for papers is still going on, and Adam posted a link to the call in a thread, but I figured I’d move it up to a full post so it wasn’t hidden. I presented at the conference two years ago (on integrating Confucius into core ethics courses) at Dartmouth, and found the environment and conversation to be very productive and stimulating (and fun, which is always a plus at a conference!). I’d present this year myself, but I think this present NEH seminar has used up my “away from wife and family” vouchers for 2008. Well, probably for 2009 too.

For more information on this year’s call for papers, click here. Adam can be reached at potthast@umr.edu if you have any questions.

Eudaimonia and Dao

Posted in Analects, Chinese Philosophy, Ethics, philosophy, virtue ethics by Chris on July 6, 2008

At the very start of Jiyuan Yu’s new(ish) book, Confucius and Aristotle (2007), Yu sets out to talk about the relationships between various Aristotelean and Confucian concepts (such as de, arete, eudaimonia, dao, ren). At the very start of the chapter, Yu discusses what he takes to be the ground floor of both systems, eudaimonia and dao. The questions I have about this are similar to questions I’ve already raised in other threads concerning Aristotle but here are related to Confucius, so some of what I say here will sound familiar.

One Self, Many Selves

Posted in Analects, Chinese Philosophy, Ethics, philosophy, virtue ethics by Chris on July 1, 2008

There’s a small discussion of the nature of relational selfhood in a piece (“Tradition and Community” in Confucian Ethics, 2004) written by my graduate school ethics professor (and Alexus McLeod’s current dissertation advisor, I believe), Joel Kupperman, that every so often I like to think a bit about. The notion of the relational self is an issue that intrigues me a great deal, even if I am not sure in the end what it all amounts to (the literature on the subject seems to me to be all over the place, with no real unified consensus about what the phrase means — that said, David Wong’s 1988 piece is useful I think). In this 2004 piece, Joel talks briefly about what he calls “constituent” identity, and though he doesn’t develop the notion fully (his target is different), I find the way that he talks about it intriguing.


The Primacy of Virtue or Duty?

Posted in Chinese Philosophy, Ethics, philosophy, virtue ethics by Chris on May 29, 2008

I still have a few more posts on Phillipa Foot I’d like to make, but I have a short one I’d like to eek out on J. B, Schneewind, or more precisely on Slote and Crisp on Schneewind’s 1990 piece “The Misfortunes of Virtue” (it’s in a collection Slote and Crisp put together). The question is meta-theoretic and has to do with what constitutes a ‘virtue ethical’ theory in the first place.


Living Dangerously

Posted in Existentialism, Life, philosophy by Chris on March 25, 2008

tungurahua-volcano.jpgWhen Nietzsche urged his readers in The Gay Science,

For believe me! — the secret of realizing the greatest fruitfulness and the greatest enjoyment of existence is: to live dangerously! Build your cities on the slopes of Vesuvius! Send your ships out into uncharted seas!

I always took him to be speaking metaphorically. But obviously, some people take this sort of thing literally. Well, not the Vesuvius part, but close enough.