Praesidium

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

At Last

Schools to allocate places by lottery.

See also this previous BBC story, and Harry Brighouse's proposal.

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Monday, February 26, 2007

Dworkin

I just came from a public lecture given by Ronald Dworkin, based on his new book. I thought it was an interesting argument that we need to engage in argument with each other, seeing those with different opinions as people to defeat rather than rivals to be overcome. I'm not sure how new what he was saying differs from deliberative democrats or political liberals (though he claimed to differ from Rawls' public reason because he thinks people can argue from within comprehensive conceptions, this was limited by a belief we share underlying principles that each person is of equal intrinsic worth and has their own life to lead)

UPDATE: A longer account is given by Colin Farrelly.

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Saturday, February 24, 2007

Liverpool 4-0 Sheffield Utd

I think it's a mark of progress under Rafa that we can make seven changes and still win 4-0, even if it is 'only' Sheffield Utd. Granted two penalties helped - but while Gerrard was certainly looking for the first I think he deserved it, and if he didn't then the subsequent kick to Peter Crouch's face must have involved a dangerously high foot, and the second can hardly be disputed. Robbie is still, for me, our best finisher and penalty-taker, so it was no surprise to see him put them away. That's three Fowler penalties after Gerrard fouls against Sheffield Utd this season (after this) - no doubt Neil Warnock told them to stop doing that in the second half. Nonetheless, things were fairly comfortable as Hyypia and Gerrard wrapped up the points, and Jerzy helped break a record run of home clean sheets in the Premiership I believe.

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Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Barcelona 1-2 Liverpool

Having seen my friend Sarah give a very professional paper (with surely a record attendance for a non-Jerry seminar) I had to skip the usual Political Theory KA visit to watch the game in the University Club - which turned out to be far from ideal, as they were also showing Chelsea. It was certainly a night to remember though! For a minute, well about 30 to be honest, it looked like the reigning European champions might over-run us, but intelligent counter-attacking and some great defending by Carragher saw us come away with a remarkable victory in Camp Nou, that's probably earned us favourites tag for the second leg.

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Sunday, February 18, 2007

Animal Farm

Four legs good, two legs bad.

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Warwick Conference

The Warwick conference was a pretty nice day out - ten of us shared the train ride together - but as usual pretty Oxford-dominated (us being about half the paper givers).

There wasn't a very big audience for my paper, which may have been partly because both Julia and I had given our papers in Oxford this term anyway. Also whereas last year I got most of the faculty, this year it was only Andrew Reeve who was chairing us (though he did end up asking almost half the questions, which was nice). People obviously did remember me from last year, and I had a good chat with Fabienne Peter over lunch about my ideas.

Most of the questions I got were pretty much ones I'd already heard, but it was nice to meet a few new people, in particular Nat Coleman, who's working on lotteries in some capacity, see some old ones and have a day out together. The big regret is I didn't get chance to talk to Peter Jones in the end, though I see he's also doing BNW this year...

In the evening, Rob, Gabriel and I went to Milan's house party, which was fun - though owing perhaps in part to tiredness I have to admit to not mixing with any of his various friends that I didn't know.

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Friday, February 16, 2007

Warwick Paper (Handout)

Tomorrow I'm going to the Warwick graduate conference (which I also attended last year). Here's the handout, which (I hope) gives a good overview of my paper:

3 Using Lotteries to Adjudicate between Groups

(3.4) Starting with Lotteries
Premise: where we must adjudicate between two competing claims to an indivisible good, it is fair to toss a coin. The good is attached to some arbitrary criterion that each party has an equal opportunity of satisfying. Note actual agreement on this procedure is not necessary – what matters is that reasonable people would accept it as fair. I want to ask what to do when there are unequal numbers on either side.

(3.5) Taurek’s Argument for Equal Chances
John Taurek says if we face a choice between one and five people dying, and look at it only from individual points of view, then all we can say is that one outcome is worse for the one and the other worse for the five. Since the one is not required to give up his own life to save the five, Taurek assumes a third party is justified in identifying with this one person, and choosing to save him rather than the five. Further, he claims that if the rescuer wants to be fair, he should toss a coin. The situation in the five-against-one conflict is in no important way different from the one-against-one conflict: tossing a coin gives each a 50% chance of survival.

(3.6) Scanlon’s Objection to Equal Chances
Scanlon accepts the individualist restriction and ban on aggregation, but wants to argue one can justify saving the greater number not on the utilitarian grounds that it is better but on the basis of being fair to each individual. Where there is an extra person on one side he argues she can complain her claim is not duly considered because it has made no difference to how the matter is decided – to still toss a coin is effectively to ignore her presence. Otsuka has criticised this argument as implicitly aggregative, so we need to know in more detail what difference the extra person should make.

(3.7) Scanlon’s Argument for Saving the Greater Number
A vs. B & C
A vs. B, C & D
A & E vs. B, C & D
It seems the only way Scanlon can say that D and E count is hypothetically; for instance, had C not been with B, then D’s presence would have been enough to break the tie with A. So it is not that each person must actually make a difference, because they might already be out-weighed by others, but that had the numbers been otherwise they could have made or broken a tie. Yet if this is all he means, it is not obvious he can reject equal chances. Scanlon cannot find a sense of ‘making a difference’ on which saving the greater number does allow each to make a difference but equal chances do not.

(3.8) The Weighted Lottery: Pooling Chances
A weighted lottery, that proportions chances to each group in accordance with numbers, obviously counts each person equally. As we move through the earlier cases the chances alter from 50/50, to 33/67, to 25/75, to 40/60. The basic idea is that each person has some individual baseline chance (1/n), coupled with the intuition that it is permissible for them to pool these chances. While each officially gets an equal chance on the wheel, the de facto chances of rescue will differ – one in a larger group has more chance of benefiting from others’ good fortune. But if those whose claims don’t conflict share the same slice of the wheel, then we can end up back at tossing a coin.

(3.10) Counting Individuals, Again
When it comes to resolving conflicts of interest democratically we may assume that there are two things people have interests in – one is that their view prevails, but they also have an interest in its prevailing because it is their view, i.e. in their interest being counted and effective. Equal chances may give people fair chances at getting what they want, but it does not respect each person’s preferences because the numbers make no difference.

(3.11) Scanlon’s Argument Against Weighted Lotteries
Scanlon rejects weighted lotteries as: “There is no reason, at this point, to reshuffle the moral deck, by holding a weighted lottery, or an unweighted one” (p.234). But a lottery is only re-shuffling if the deck has already been shuffled to begin with.

(3.12) Prior Randomisation versus Fixed Majorities
Five people are on a ship when it breaks up in a storm. Four manage to get to a lifeboat, while the remaining one is left floating on a piece of wreckage. It is a matter of chance who ends up in each position, so ‘the greater number’ is not a rigid designator. Now a weighted lottery would not only be to “reshuffle the moral deck”, but would diminish everyone’s chances.
Now suppose A goes out to sea alone in a small fishing boat, while B, C, D and E are in the same waters in their larger ship. A knows, when he goes to sea, that he would be the one not saved; would it be unreasonable of him to object to the policy of saving the greater number?
This difference mirrors that between a permanent, fixed majority and a fluid society in which each individual has an equal chance of being in the eventual majority. In the former case, majority rule is fair and optimal. But where groups seem to be defined in advance, the only way to give everyone a chance is to hold a lottery.

(3.13) Proportional Chances versus Proportional Outcomes
Another possibility is compromise on specific policies (results proportional to numbers). We may be able to divide a budget between two projects, but not all decisions are susceptible to compromise or it cannot be arrived at by procedural institutions.

(3.14) Conclusion: Towards Political ApplicationKamm identifies ‘saving the greater number’ with ‘majority-rule’ and speaks not only of saving people but also of satisfaction and preferences. I have argued numbers should make some difference, but need not determine the outcome. The attraction of saving the greater number or majority rule is less obvious when we are dealing with larger numbers with little difference between them, such as 1,001-against-1,000. Weighted lotteries, by proportioning chances, respect numbers: 60% of the people have a 60% chance of victory. As Timmermann says, speaking of the rescue cases, “It is rational for the members of a society not to choose to maximize the probability of being saved. A somewhat lower overall probability is the price they would be willing to pay for their claim’s never being discounted right at the beginning” (p.112).

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Monday, February 12, 2007

Two Democracy Lectures tomorrow

Firstly, for the rest of this term my supervisor David Miller is giving the undergraduate Theory of Politics lectures. I'm fairly confident he hasn't given any undergrad lectures in the time I've been here, and I don't foresee it being a regular event. Between this and the fact he's planning on talking about demcoracy (he mentioned Riker and Gerry Mackie to me) I'm definitely planning on going. Exam Schools at 12.

Secondly, a one off special lecture on the Medieval Origins of Democracy, advertised here and listed about half way down the first page here, also sounds quite interesting, and ties in to something I was reading the other day about Vikings, popular sovereignty and feudalism.

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Saturday, February 10, 2007

Newcastle 2-1 Liverpool

The manager of the month curse strikes again! Somehow, we were all over Newcastle for most of the first half - with Bellamy in particular getting a lot of joy out of his ex-team mates. Than, a Reina clearance that richocheted off Agger and a debateable penalty allowed Newcastle to escape with all three points.

It's disappointing - and shouldn't have happened if we were capable of finishing more of the many chances we created - but I think the BBC were unjustly harsh on Reina. After an admittedly shaky start to the season, he'd formed the basis of a very solid defence over the last few months (just look what happened when Dudek stood in) and his 'sweeper keeper' role, while occasionally conceding needless goals, does on balance work well.

If these Americans want to spend big, then I suggest we need a real goal-poaching predator, some quality wide men (front and back), a centre-half capable of at least pushing Carra and Agger for a place and possibly a creative 'hole' type player, since without Kewell or Garcia we often seem a bit short of ideas in the final third. So, only half a team from glory...

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Thursday, February 08, 2007

Snow Business

Today's snowfall made the cycle into town - and getting about generally - slightly hazardous. Still, it was nice to walk into college and be confronted by snowmen in both first and second quad. And a few have been built in the field outside our flat.

Sadly I don't have a digital camera, but Milan captures pristene snow here and the BBC also have a picture of snowmen on the Martyrs' Memorial. Those with Facebook can also see these albums: one, two.

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Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Lincoln

Tonight I went on the Lincoln leg of our latest exchange dinner. I'd always heard very good things about their food and, based on tonight, they were thoroughly justified. Unfortunately since it was their half-way hall, we didn't get to eat in the hall, and the bar was packed, but nonetheless it was a truly splendid meal. I already feel embarrassed at the thought of bringing them to Jesus in a fortnight's time...

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Monday, February 05, 2007

Skorupski

Today I saw John Skorupski (photo) at the Moral Philosophy Seminar. He's not only a prominent philosopher - who I saw at the same series four years ago (while still an undergraduate) and who's book on Mill I heartily recommend (albeit only on the basis of ch.9) - but also the father of one of my friends.

I went out to dinner with him, and four others from the seminar, at Al Shami's - a Lebanese restaurant in the Jericho area. It was a very interesting and stimulating discussion, that took in his opinions on everything from the Leiter report, to Michael Rosen, saving the greater number and buck-passing. Apparently, for the record, he thinks one of the major motivations behind my thesis is a load of nonsense, because he thinks it's frankly absurd to suppose that fairness might require tossing a coin. I suppose I should beware the possibility that, say, job panels may find some of my ideas strange too...

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Saturday, February 03, 2007

Liverpool 0-0 Everton

Disappointingly, we couldn't avenge our defeat at Goodison. Despite playing three strikers - with Kuyt rather wasted on the left wing (I'd have swapped him and Bellamy most likely) - we couldn't break down their massed defence. Everton came for the draw and fair play to them, they were able to shut us out. Pennant and Riise's crosses were poor and we seemed devoid of ideas. It was the type of match where we needed someone who could provide a spark of creativity - Kewell or Garcia, both injured, being our best hopes of such - and sadly on the day we couldn't deliver. Still, we kept another clean sheet and managed to avoid losing ground to Arsenal (who also drew), so not the worst result.

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Thursday, February 01, 2007

Excellence

It seems Gordon's Brown's new target is not only education but 'excellence, excellence, excellence' (BBC report). Of further related interest is the idea he may make benefits such as EMA conditional on continuing education, tying in with the government's recent proposals to raise the school leaving age.

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