Saturday, June 30, 2007

Goodbye Fopp

This hardly ranks as the loss of another Oxford institution, but it seems the relatively new Fopp on Gloucester Green is to close, with the rest of the chain. I was quite excited when it opened, having heard good things from my brother in Reading. As it happens, I rarely made the trip - Gloucester Green seems far away for such a small store, when Virgin and HMV are so close - and don't think I ever bought anything there. It seems there strength was more regular low prices, rather than fantastic sale bargains (my preferred purchase). Still, it's a shame to see it go so soon.

I don't know when the final closure happens, and I can't be bothered to make the special trip into town, but any bargain hunters in the area may want to check for closing down sales...

Thursday, June 28, 2007


Well, Henman's defeat marks the end of British involvement in Wimbledon singles. It was all my fault as, having seen the first set at lunchtime, I was drawn into going back upstairs and watching the fifth set after finding that Henman had levelled.

I'm playing too, but - as usual - I lost in three sets to Pavel tonight. Between us, we did manage to (mis)hit a few good shots, but it was the final game that summed things up. Serving for the match, Pavel confidently predicted at 15-0 'just three more points'. Well, I not only took him to deuce, but even two break points. His victory finally game after we'd both closed to the net, I smashed a volley right at him, and his winning shot was literally no more than a block...

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Kamm Reading Group

Dr. S. Matthew Liao from the Program on the Ethics of the New Biosciences would like to invite you to participate in a summer reading group on Frances Kamm's new book Intricate Ethics, which will take place online at

Each week, a commentator will provide a summary of a chapter and some points for consideration. The post will then be open for discussion, and we welcome your thoughts on any aspect of the chapter. Please register yourself on the blog.

The Kamm Reading Group is in part sponsored by the Program on the Ethics of the New Biosciences, and aims a) to help launch Ethics, Etc as one of Britain's first group ethics blogs; and b) to provide a service to the philosophical community on Kamm's important book. Professor Kamm will give the Uehiro Lecture in 2008. So do join us for the discussions and let your colleagues know about this event.

The schedule is as follows:

Chapter 1 July 6 S. Matthew Liao (Oxford) Nonconsequentialism

Chapter 2 July 13 Toby Ord (Oxford) Aggregation and two moral methods

Chapter 3 July 20 Daniel Star (ANU) Intention, harm, and the possibility of a unified theory

Chapter 4 July 27 David Wasserman (Yeshiva) The doctrines of double and triple effect and why a rational agent need not intend the means to his end

Chapter 5 Aug 3 Dan Moller (JHU/Maryland) Toward the essence of nonconsequentialist constraints on harming : modality, productive purity, and the greater good working itself out

Chapter 6 Aug 10 Nir Eyal (Harvard) Harming people in Peter Unger's Living high and letting die

Chapter 7 Aug 17 Guy Kahane (Oxford) Moral status

Chapter 8 Aug 24 Nick Shackel (Oxford) Rights beyond interests

Chapter 9 Aug 31 Rebecca Roache (Oxford) Conflicts of rights: a typology

Chapter 10 Sept 7 Neil Levy (Melbourne & Oxford) Responsibility and collaboration

Chapter 11 Sept 14 Tom Douglas (Oxford) Does distance matter morally to the duty to rescue?

Chapter 12 Sept 21 Thom Brooks (Newcastle) The new problem of distance in morality

Chapter 13 Sept 28 Julian Savulescu (Oxford) Peter Singer's ethical theory

Chapter 14 Oct 5 Michael Otsuka (UCL) Moral intuitions, cognitive psychology, and the harming/not-aiding distinction

Chapter 15 Oct 12 Mark Sheehan (Oxford) Harms, losses, and evils in Gert's moral theory

Chapter 16 Oct 19 Gerald Lang (Leeds) Owing, justifying, and rejecting

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Human Rights 1

Well, it looks like I'm teaching three tutorials on human rights for the St Hugh's Summer School. I'll be posting syllabus/reading list info here for ease of access. Feel free to make use of what I suggest and/or recommend additions.

Topic 1: What are 'human rights'?

For the first essay, I think we should focus on what rights there are and, to some extent, why. Think of the various things we are often alleged to have rights to - anything from security of the person, to free speech, to paid holiday, and ask whether these are really human rights. Things to think about include the distinction between legal and moral rights, what is 'natural' or 'human' about them, and what it is that gives us these rights. Write an essay (at least 1,000 words, to be brought with you) addressing some or all of these questions.

I assume you won't have access to many books now (you will be able to use the library when you get here). Therefore I'll concentrate on some online resources, and your own thoughts. Feel free, of course, to draw on other sources you're aware of, e.g. contemporary newspaper discussion or from human rights groups like Amnesty International, however beware that a lot of material on the internet is not necessarily credible - the online encyclopaedia articles given below (unlike, say, Wikipedia) are written and reviewed by academics.

First, familiarise yourself with the UN's 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which can be found online, e.g.:

Then read these general overviews:

J. Nickel (2006) 'Human Rights' Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy

L. Wenar (2005) 'Rights' Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy

A. Fagan (2005) 'Human Rights' The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy

Other useful internet resources:
Human Rights Library <>
Human Rights Internet <>

If you do have access to a decent source of books, you might want to look now at:
J. Rawls (1999) The Law of Peoples (Cambridge, MA: Harvard UP)
M. Freeden (1991) Rights (Open University Press)
A. Gewirth (1982) Human Rights (Chicago: University Press)
J. Nickel (2006) Making Sense of Human Rights 2nd edition (Oxford: Blackwell)
T. Pogge (2002) World Poverty and Human Rights (Cambridge: Polity)
B. Orend (2002) Human Rights: Concept & Context (Peterborough, Ont: Broadview)
J. Waldron (1984) Theories of Rights (OUP)
These aren't essential just yet - but I'm sure we'll look at some of them
later in the course...


Remember the long-running quest to publish a review of Cecile Fabre's Whose Body is it Anyway?? You can read the original notice here, my earlier follow up post - from November last year - here, and my battle with the corrected proofs here.

Today I received an email with the final proofs in PDF format, for any last minute essential corrections. Hopefully these will be few or any, but I also have to complete and sign various forms dealing with copyright, offprints, etc and then fax it all back in the next few days. Looks like the thesis will have to wait another day...

It was nice to be addressed 'Dear Dr/Prof Saunders' though!

Monday, June 25, 2007


Some of you may know I've been writing reviews (recent e.g.s here, here and here) for a London-based online music fanzine,, for a few years now. The once weekly editorial column has been erratic this year, in fact the previous guest editorial had been up since 29th April! Anyway, to cut a long story short, I've rectified that by writing this week's. If you already read my blog, there's probably nothing you didn't know, but check the site out - we're always grateful for more readers/traffic.


Well, I had the St John's interview this morning. I don't think I answered anything disastrously, but I think I was too nervous rather than slick and confident, and failed to mention several key selling points I wanted to. Still, at least I got some more interview practice, which it seems I badly in need of. I've written a fuller post-mortem, for my own reflection.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Kerrang!: History of Rock

Today I picked up a copy of Kerrang!, noticing it had another covermount CD in their history of rock series (Higher Voltage). For those not in the know, these feature current artists covering classic rock tracks. The previous installment was generally very good, with highlights including Biffy Clyro's almost unrecognizable take on Weezer's 'Buddy Holly', The Answer's 'Sweet Emotion' and Atreyu's 'You Give Love A Bad Name' among my personal highlights.

Sadly, although this promised much - including Lost Prophets taking on 'Davidian', Soulfly covering 'Beautiful People' and YourCodeNameIs:Milo offering their version of 'Feel Good Hit Of The Summer' - my first impression was that this was very disappointing, with most of the bands opting for very faithful covers. Usually, this merely highlights the fact they're not as good as the originals - something particularly evident in The Automatic's attempt at Faith No More's 'Epic'. Kudos to Lost Prophets for a reasonable, if faithful, stab at a Machine Head classic and Bring Me The Horizon for at least making Slipknot's 'Eyeless' even heavier...

Oh, and for some reason the magazine's love affair with Bullet For My Valentine, Funeral For A Friend and Fightstar continues, all of whom present and correct once again.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

EoT Dinner

Tonight was the End of Term Dinner, which also of course marked the end of the year. The Middle Eastern theme worked quite well, although I wasn't particularly impressed with the vegetarian option (the first signs weren't good that the menu only said 'a vegetarian option is also available', and the veggie starter was just the regular one without the fish). Afterwards there was dancing in the hall, which I missed most of, and then - as is traditional - in Baby Love.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

George's Visit

My old school friend George was in town today, for a conference in the Engineering Faculty. Sadly we only got a half-hour lunch break to catch up. I really must do more to stay in touch with old friends from home...

Monday, June 18, 2007

Karl's Visit

My old friend Karl has been back in town over the weekend - cue Saturday afternoon spent in the Turf and Sunday night in the KA. It's been good to see him again and I hope his job interviews go well - there's even one that means he might be in Oxford again next year, rather than the States.

Saturday, June 16, 2007


I recently uploaded an up to date CV onto this website. So far, I've not been having the best of luck with the job hunt, but I do have an interview for Monday week (25th). This article on the BBC website was quite interesting though. I particularly like creative comments 10-12.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Friday of 8th

Once upon a time, the end of term - particularly the end of the year - was an excuse for a big piss up. Tonight I went to John William's house, next to the department, to drink fruit smoothies and play Boggle! Obviously we're now somewhat more mature, because it was a very pleasant evening, mixing with a number of members of the department I didn't really know, being impressed by JW's bookshelf and boosting my vitamin intake. I did join Jonas and Brian for a quick drink in the KA afterwards, however - it just wouldn't have been the end of term otherwise...

Thursday, June 14, 2007


After a day spent listening to Quentin Skinner, Alan Ryan et al talking about the differences between Cambridge history and Oxford theory, the department's end of term party was a welcome break. I was able to ask several of the recently-finished MPhils how their exams went - all seemed reasonably happy, but none of those hoping to stay next year were willing to count their chickens.

I'd signed in for high table in Jesus, which was the last chance for me, Leigh, Steve and Rhiannon. Even though there were seven of us altogether, we ate in the SCR rather than the hall, which is often nicer (it's easier to talk to people round a small table than lined up along one side of a big one), but slightly disappointing that twice this week I failed to get my last meal on the actual high table.

After dinner, I headed up to Milan's post-exam BBQ. I was disappointed to find I'd missed a game of football, and being stuffed from crisps at the earlier party before high table I didn't eat anything. Nonetheless it was and enjoyable time, and we hung around talking in his very nice garden until around midnight, at which point someone suggested going on to Baby Love and I decided to make an exit.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Dasturzada Dr Jal Pavry Memorial Lecture

This afternoon Jonas invited me to the Brasenose summer garden party - sandwiches, strawberries and Pimms.

Unfortunately, we couldn't stop too long as we went to see Jay Wallace give the snappily-titled Dasturzada Dr Jal Pavry Memorial Lecture on The Deontic Structure of Morality (paper here). Too be honest, I wasn't too impressed, but then I'm not sure I followed too well - I wasn't clear what this deontic structure was, or the importance of the fact that some of his examples of discretion seemed to be self-regarding cases. It became clear during the questions that whatever his aim was it was rather minimal in any case.

I'd been thinking I hadn't been out to dinner much this term, not with the moral philosophy seminar or political theory research seminar, nor with Peter Singer or the Nuffield seminar. There was a dinner with Jay Wallace, but Jonas, Brian and I went back to Brasenose and caught the end of the party then went to Zizzi's for dinner.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Deja Deja Vu

So the French Open (tennis) titles are won by Justine Henin and Rafael Nadal, each for the third year running. Must be getting repetitive, non?

Interesting Paper on Sen

While browsing around with Google Scholar, I just came across this interesting looking paper by Ian Carter, called 'The Concept of Freedom in the Work of Amartya Sen: An AlternativeAnalysis Consistent with Freedom's Independent Value'. It's from an Italian journal, Notizie di Politeia, no. 43/44 (1996), which is apparently a special issue on Sen's theory of functionings and capabilities. It may be worth checking out more - including Sen's reply - if it's available and in English. There are also some interesting references in the bibliography, including G A Cohen's review of Inequality Reexamined.

Saturday, June 02, 2007


Thankfully June has been more like April than May so far - i.e. generally warm and sunny, rather than cold and wet. Today I went to my first barbecue, celebrating Rachele's birthday, and it was not only so sunny some people arrived burned, but warm enough to hang around the garden until 11 (and in only a t-shirt).

I didn't know many people there, but it was quite a nice time. Possible highlight was being introduced to someone by Rachele saying something along the lines of 'Ben, this guy knows what that says on your t-shirt [Cyclefly] and likes them. Sometimes he wears t-shirts like you too, but today he's dressed normally'!

Luckily my Tesco veggie burgers also barbecued fine, even from slightly frozen - unlike Dunlaith's Indian quarter pounders, which only fell apart even more than under the grill, and consequently ended up uneaten.

Friday, June 01, 2007

Steven Gerrard

How often do we end up reading something like this after England games?

Gerrard was England's best player in a holding midfield role, while Lampard was poor once more on the international stage as the attacking force. The balance, at least, looked better, but this was more a tribute to Gerrard's brilliance and adaptability than signs of a genuine, workable partnership between the pair. Once Owen Hargreaves is fit... [McLaren] should drop Lampard, give Gerrard the attacking role, and use Hargreaves as the holder... not for the first time, Gerrard emerged as England's best player once the effect of the glitz and the flashlights had worn off.

I couldn't say it better myself, and it really is about time McLaren realised it too.

My team for Estonia (based on who's fit):
Carragher, King, Terry, Bridge
Beckham, Gerrard, Carrick, J Cole

With one of Dyer, Bentley or Defoe added in some kind of attacking midfield/striker role...