So the good news is that he's been President [sic] for 24 hours, and hasn't killed us all, so that's hopeful. Anyway, following up on yesterday, here are a couple of other reactions from philosophers to that comically bad and delusional inauguration speech. ("Carnage"? What is this crazy man talking about?)
Ken Taylor (Stanford) posted the following very funny comment on Facebook, and kindly gave permission to repost here:
What Trump really meant to say when he said that for the first time the American People have taken power is something more like, "With the aid of the electoral college, Russian tampering, and FBI malfeasance, the minority of American people who up until now have deluded themselves that I'm not really the crazy narcissistic fuck that I appear to most Americans to be have for the first time taken power." Now that's unfortunately true.
An untenured philosopher wrote: "‘Thus spake Herr Trump’ indeed. But I thought Donnie Darko’s speech needed a little more oompah loompah, so I’ve set its sentiments to the tune of ‘Der morgige Tag ist mein’, inspired by this Spitting Image episode (very striking similarities to our present predicament) (the episode is itself a parody of this scene from Cabaret (1972)):
Many philosophers contributing, including Gerald Gaus, Sharon Lloyd, Nicole Hassoun, Matthew Lister, Torbjör Tännsjö , and Simon Keller, among many others. I've only looked at a couple of the many essays; Gaus's was, I thought, interesting in particular.
...which it's not impossible Trump will adopt, which would be hugely salutary and maybe the only salutary thing he might accomplish. (My main disagreement with Mearsheimer is that "liberal hegemony" is mostly ideological cover for the traditional ambitions of imperial powers.)
What may be in store. Of the two conservative thinktanks in Washington, American Enterprise Institute and the Heritage Foundation, only AEI has ever been concerned with adult policy analysis; Heritage is just a front for reactionary hacks. And the budget plan allegedly comes from Heritage.
Yup. Norm Ornstein at AEI has been good on this subject for a long time too. It began with Reagan, but jumped the tracks totally in the early 1990s with Newt Gingrich, Rush Limbaugh, then Drudge etc. It's an interesting question why the capitalist ruling class in America has proved so irrational and imprudent, so much so that "conservative" parties in other democracies would largely be moderate Democrats in the U.S.
Shocking! (Context.) A shame he didn't understand the paper, though (alternatively, if he did understand it, a shame he couldn't make any relevant counter-arguments). Do read the first few comments on the post, they're very funny.
(Kudos, by the way, to Justin Tosi and Brandon Warmke, who instead of demanding a juvenile pity-fest for their vulnerability, communicated to their critic that given that the paper was in the public domain, it was fair game for mocking criticism.)
(Thanks to several readers who brought this to my attention.)
Trump critics note with alarm that an American president does not need the approval of Congress, his cabinet or any other entity to order the use of nuclear weapons—although in theory, his defense secretary could refuse to transmit a launch order down the military chain of command.
Gen. Mattis will be the Secretary of Defense. It is widely reported that near the end of Richard Nixon's Presidency, when he was drinking heavily and depressed, the Defense Secretary James Schlesinger instructed the military not to act on any orders by the President to launch nuclear weapons without first clearing it with him.
The NEH press release is here. Will President Trump attend? One doubts it!
ADDENDUM: A list of past Jefferson Lecturers--I see only three previous philosophers (Sidney Hook, Leszek Kolakowski, and Stephen Toulmin). Republican Administrations have typically favored humanists with "conservative" reputations--this may be a challenge for Trump, since so many conservative scholars opposed him! (I'd bet money on signatories to this statement being good candidates for Jefferson Lecturer and a National Humanities Medal, at least until Trump's impeachment.)
This is a welcome development. Trump's lawyers will argue that this is a matter of "public interest," so the standard for a defamation action to proceed is that Trump spoke with "actual malice," i.e., without any regard for the truth of what he said. Of course, this is tricky, because if he would know whether the allegations she made were true, and if they are true and he still called her a liar, then it certainly looks like actual malice! (A court might also simply treat the plaintiff as an ordinary citizen, so it will simply suffice if the statement that she is a "liar" is false--but in this context, for the reason noted, this may no matter.)
UPDATE: Some more details, including the complaint, here. An ironic sidenote: Trump apologist and spokesperson Kellyanne Conway is married to the lawyer (George Conway) who briefed the Supreme Court case that held that a sitting President (in that case Bill Clinton) could be a defendant in a civil suit. Mr. Conway is mentioned as a possible candidate for Trump's Solicitor General!
I thought it might be of interest to you, as it seems to be the product of a challenge to see how many professional norms can be violated in a single email. The highlights: they want a response within 5 hours, or cannot guarantee an interview; for spots beginning at 8am tomorrow. Nowhere in the body of the message does the author identify his university (it's Cal State Sacramento). They were, however, kind enough to attach a list of questions to be asked--fittingly, this single act of kindness is also odd as far as I'm aware. Incidentally, this is the school that required applicants to create a special web page just for them last year, simply to apply. (I've heard there were more such hoops later on in the process. Perhaps this year there will be a fight to the death during flyouts.)
The invitation e-mail, sent five hours before a response was required, follows below the fold:
A well-known philosopher of science, he was emeritus at Wake Forest University, when he passed away at the very end of last year. During his career, Professor Shapere also held tenured positions at the University of Chicago and the University of Maryland, College Park. There is an obituary here.
The Lincoln Center campus denies approval for students who wanted to start a chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine. The Center for Constitutional Rights' letter to the Fordham admin sets out what happened and why it is unlawful. This is all-too-typical of the brazen hypocrisy about free speech on American campuses when it comes to Israel. Shame on Fordham. I hope their President will reverse this decision promptly.
There's one 3rd-from-the-top spot available in February still, and there are 3rd-from-the-top spots available in March. The next 2nd-from-the-top spot still open is in April, and the next open top spot is May. E-mail me for more information, thanks.
Edouard Machery (Pittsburgh), a leading scholar working at the intersection of philosophy and psychology, gives a useful assessment:
The history of attitude measurement in psychology is one of exuberant, irrational enthusiasm followed by disappointment when the shortcomings of the new indirect measures come to light.
The recent history of the implicit association test is just the most recent episode in this sad history of irrational exuberance followed by disappointment. We were told that the IAT measures a novel type of attitude—mental states that are both unconscious and beyond intentional control, which we’ve come to know as “implicit attitudes”—and that people’s explicit and implicit attitudes can diverge dramatically: As we’ve been told dozens of times, the racial egalitarian can be implicitly racist, and the sexist egalitarian can implicitly be a sexist pig! And law enforcement agencies, deans and provosts at universities, pundits, and philosophers concerned with the sad gender and racial distribution of philosophy have swallowed this story.
But then we’ve learned that people aren’t really unaware of whatever it is that the IAT measures. So, whatever it is that the IAT measures isn’t really unconscious. And we’ve learned that the IAT predicts very little proportion of variance. In particular, only a tiny proportion of biased behavior correlates with IAT scores. We have also learned that your IAT score today will be quite different from your IAT score tomorrow. And it is now clear that there is precious little, perhaps no, evidence that whatever it is that the IAT measures causes biased behavior. So, we have a measure of attitude that is not reliable, does not predict behavior well, may not measure anything causally relevant, and does not give us access to the unconscious causes of human behavior. It would be irresponsible to put much stock in it and to build theoretical castles on such quicksand.
Lesson: Those who ignore the history of psychology are bound to repeat its mistakes.
There are other commentaries at the same site, though Machery's stood out for cutting to the chase.
...but since "conservative" doesn't mean conservative anymore, but something more like "bonkers reactionary religious fanatic with little grip on reality" these days, this is a horrifying statistic. Gallup's analysis of its own poll results is naïve: it fails to take account of the fact that the extension of the terms "conservative" and "liberal" have changed over the last quarter-century, as the overall political discourse has moved to the right on every topic except a handful of social issues (notably, LGBT rights).
Today is MLK day in the U.S. This is from King's famous "I've been to the mountain top" speech delivered the day before his murder. Would that we had a public figure of his rhetorical power and moral clarity to confront the barbarian about to be inaugurated as President this Friday.
The problem is that the hype over IAT research, and the eagerness to apply the test to real-world problems, has so outpaced the evidence that it has launched a lot of studies built on underwhelming foundations. “Implicit bias research has been driven by both the desire to understand truths about the human mind and the desire to solve social problems,” said Forscher. “These goals have not always been in conflict. Unfortunately, one of the ways they have is that the desire to do something, anything, to solve problems related to race has led some people to jump to conclusions about the causal role of implicit bias that they might have been more cautious about had their only focus been on establishing truth.”
To Forscher, implicit bias’s role in propagating racial inequality should be given a “fair trial in the court of scientific evidence,” not simply assumed. But what’s going on now isn’t a fair trial; instead, the overhyping of IAT stacks the deck so much that sometimes it feels like implicit bias can explain everything. But plenty of researchers think that other factors play a bigger role in determining some of the most important societal outcomes. “I think unconscious racial prejudice is real and consequential,” said Robb Willer, a sociologist at Stanford University, “but my sense is that racial inequality in America is probably driven more by structural factors like concentrated poverty, the racial wealth gap, differential exposure to violence, the availability of early childhood education, and so on. Though it is also worth noting that past and present racial prejudice helped create these structural inequalities.” This is a fairly common sentiment among social scientists who study race and discrimination.
So it’s an open question, at least: The scientific truth is that we don’t know exactly how big a role implicit bias plays in reinforcing the racial hierarchy, relative to countless other factors. We do know that after almost 20 years and millions of dollars’ worth of IAT research, the test has a markedly unimpressive track record relative to the attention and acclaim it has garnered. Leading IAT researchers haven’t produced interventions that can reduce racism or blunt its impact. They haven’t told a clear, credible story of how implicit bias, as measured by the IAT, affects the real world. They have flip-flopped on important, baseline questions about what their test is or isn’t measuring. And because the IAT and the study of implicit bias have become so tightly coupled, the test’s weaknesses have caused collateral damage to public and academic understanding of the broader concept itself. As Mitchell and Tetlock argue in their book chapter, it is “difficult to find a psychological construct that is so popular yet so misunderstood and lacking in theoretical and practical payoff” as implicit bias. They make a strong case that this is in large part due to problems with the IAT.
My "academic ethics" column this week at CHE will be on a similar topic, but this author does a good, concrete job on arguments to avoid and arguments to make. The idiotic comment by the Northern Iowa professor disparaging postal workers also lept out at me when I read it.
When I first got the e-mail from Rob Tempio with that subject line (above), I thought, "Oh no he's been hacked by someone who is now sending out pornography links!" In fact, while it does turn out that Scrutopia is slightly obscene, it's not obscene that way.
In five days, a new President of the U.S. will be inaugurated. Although it would be unprecedented for someone other than the winner of the electoral college to be inaugurated on Friday, this has been a year of unprecedented happenings, so perhaps, given the wide reach of this blog, you, dear readers, can influence the nation's direction. Rank order these 30 individuals from most to least qualified to serve as President of the U.S. Let's see how the President-elect fares in a real competition!
This hard rock/blues rock trio came out of Florida, their debut album, from which this tune comes, produced by Rick Derringer. The guitarist Floyd Radford was, alas, hired away by Edgar Winter not long after the first album (he subsequently played with Johnny Winter as well). But this is one of several strong numbers from the one and only album by the original lineup featuring Radford.
Apparently these legislators are too stupid to realize that tenure is non-monetary compensation, and that ending tenure will require enhanced compensation--unless of course the plan is just to destroy the public universities in the state. Which may be the plan. (The Iowa legislator apparently doesn't even know about breach of contract--it would certainly be a constructive expenditure of state resources to have to defend against a lawsuit by every tenured professor in the state were this legislation to become law!)
MOVING TO FRONT FROM JANUARY 9--SOME USEFUL COMMENTS, ESP. REGARDING PRACTICES AT BERKELEY (see esp. comment #19)
A student applying to PhD programs in philosophy writes:
I'm currently applying to PhD programs, and several of them are in the University of California school system. Many of these schools (Berkeley, UCSD, and UCLA, at least) of these schools either require or strongly recommend submitting a "personal history statement." Unlike the well-known (and relevant) "personal statement," the history statement says,
"Please describe how your personal background and experiences inform your decision to pursue a graduate degree. In this section, you may also include any relevant information on how you have overcome barriers to access higher education, evidence of how you have come to understand the barriers faced by others, evidence of your academic service to advance equitable access to higher education for women, racial minorities, and individuals from other groups that have been historically underrepresented in higher education, evidence of your research focusing on underserved populations or related issues of inequality, or evidence of your leadership among such groups."
I don't mind the first part of the question regarding how your personal experiences inform your decision to pursue a graduate degree. I can see its relevance (it speaks to the applicant's motivation and perhaps can be a useful predictor of how likely the applicant will be to finish the degree), and I can even see some students feeling pleased that they can personalize their application a bit more, expressing the unique things they can add to the program.
That said, besides the first sentence, the rest of the things on this personal history statement bother me quite a bit, especially when the essay is *required,* and therefore is likely being used to evaluate an applicant.First, the latter part is completely irrelevant to academic fit of the prospective student, like requiring an applicant to describe their medical history. Second, it seems overtly politicized, displaying a left-leaning preference in the institution. Since academia is *already* taking flak for being a politicized enterprise, this only brings that problem into sharp relief. Third, and most deeply frustrating in my opinion, is that this seems a clear selection mechanism for applicants who belong to a certain moral club -- that of making their dominant moral aims helping underprivileged students -- instead of being a selection mechanism for applicants with a strong moral character (having a strong moral character I could see being relevant, since most academics will draw on public funds for their work).
Continental Philosophy Farhang Erfani, a philosopher at American University, provides a useful set of links to news, events, interviews, reviews, videos, etc. related to "Continental philosophy" (broadly construed)