Monday, December 28, 2009

In A Different Voice...

Much has been made of differences between men and women, for instance the suggestion that women favour an 'ethic of care' as opposed to rational rules (a la Kant). Well now sources in China suggest that women have a "different sense of distance."

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Hilary Term Lecture Lists

Call me sad for noticing, but lecture lists for next term are available here. My name is down on two of them...

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Waldron to take Chichele Chair

I've just heard the confirmation, after months of rumours, via Leiter. More, presumably, to follow.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Civic Service

The Demos think-tank has just come out in support of a program of 'national civic service.' It's an idea that has enjoyed previous support.

I haven't, yet, had time to look at the details of their proposal, since it's admissions interview time (i.e. the busiest time of year for an Oxford tutor). I'm generally opposed to compulsion, but do think it sounds like it has many benefits for all involved, so much would depend on how it's implemented.

I dislike the idea of compulsory service or making students pay, but would cautiously welcome it if it was a way for the unemployed to gain skills/experience and do something useful in exchange for their benefits (i.e. if it was incentivized rather than strictly compulsory).

I note with interest that one of the authors is my former classmate Sonia Sodha, who has appeared on this blog before. She seems to be doing well in the policy world...

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Tax Free Toll Bridge

I forget why, but this bridge came up in conversation last night. It recently changed hands for over £1m, but apparently the owner collects almost £200,000pa tax-free from the toll, thanks to an 18th century grant. Sounds like quite an investment.

The example seems relevant to a claim made by my friend Karl in his 2009 PPE paper: "Current titleholders do not hold full property rights, and they did not pay for full property rights when
they bought their rights from earlier holders. Those titleholders would have charged more for those titles if they constituted stronger rights of ownership, or perhaps they would have retained those incidents of ownership for themselves. That is, most current titleholders lose nothing to government taxation and regulation, because they never bought the right to be free of it" (p.58).

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Ethics of Eating Meat

I've always said that I think you could base a plausible (if not necessarily correct) argument for vegetarianism simply on our duties to fellow human beings, thus avoiding tricky questions about animal rights or suffering. In a world marked by over-crowding, food shortages, and global warming, it may be that the world's population could be better-supported if we were all (at least nearly) vegetarian.

It seems that Sir Paul McCartney is on board with the idea, suggesting that people give up meat on Mondays. (Though the cynic in me wonders whether he'd profit from increased sales of his ex-wife's vegetarian alternatives, I applaud the sentiment.)

Of course, though, another alternative would be if we could artificially grow our own substitutes, which might remove many of the ethical objections (though, as my girlfriend points out, artificial meat grown by cloning animal cells still wouldn't be vegan).

Monday, November 30, 2009

Theory/Philosophy Debate reaches Amazon

I've seen many a discussion get bogged down in the difference between 'political theory' and 'political philosophy' (most memorably here, though a moderator since seems to have deleted it all as unproductive). As far as I'm concerned, there's not really a difference, since what I do could be called either, though I accept that there are some - like the girlfriend - who would claim to do the first and not the second.

I raise this because it seems that the distinction has even reached Amazon shoppers, as seen from this forum thread. Since it concerns one of my supervisor's books, I felt compelled to weigh in (even though the issue seemed to have been resolved). I don't know why someone felt the need to try to distinguish political theory from political science, or why he chose to do so in such an inept way (not sure I should quote it here, since it wasn't put out in public, but it strikes me as quite funny).

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Virtual Graduation

I finally graduated my D.Phil just over a month ago - after a wait of over a year (and my M.Phil at the same time, after somewhat longer). The University of Edinburgh, however, has come up with an interesting alternative: virtual graduations. I wonder what the photographs will be like...

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Library Fines

An anonymous American (former) high school student returned two books that were 50 years overdue. The £600 doesn't really seem enough to cover realistic fines to me (whatever 4c/day was back then it isn't much now - and what about compound interest?), though I suppose in fairness the fine should probably have been capped at the replacement cost of the book.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Colleagues in the News

I've known about Toby's plans for a long time, but it's good to see it getting publicity - hopefully it will encourage others to do the same.
Eloise asks how long he's counting on living. He does hang out with the human enhancement crowd, so maybe to 150... (There's an interesting discussion with several philosophers on the issue in the latest Oxford Today.)

Friday, November 13, 2009

Problems of Impact

There's a nice piece here (via Leiter and Philos-L) on the REF which, among other things, nicely points to the important difference between 'impact' and 'benefit'.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

A Monkey Could Do It

My old school economics teacher insisted that the average monkey ought to get 10/40 in the multiple choice part of our exam and a lucky monkey would probably get 17-18/40, in order to castigate anyone who scored less than this.

I was reminded of this on hearing that a South Korean woman passed her multiple choice driving theory test at the 950th attempt. I wonder what the odds are of a monkey passing in that many attempts? (Unfortunately, even if I knew how, I can't work this out as the article doesn't tell us how many options there are for each question.)

I wonder if the same monkey would go away and write some Shakespeare afterwards...

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Are Train Fares Fair?

Apparently you can now pay over £1,000 for one train journey in the UK (albeit from Cornwall to Scotland).

What bothers me is not so much (or only) the extravagant cost, but the complexity of ticket selling. It's often seemed to me that what I've paid has depended on the seller in question. A couple of weeks ago my girlfriend and I got returns from Oxford to Coventry, which I was expecting to pay almost £50 for (with her railcard), for less than half that because the conductor sold us separate tickets from Oxford to Banbury and Banbury to Coventry. Where's the sense?

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Will We Be Haunted?

Apparently the new Radcliffe Observatory Quarter (ROQ) - the new Humanities site, which will house Philosophy along with other disciplines - sits on a Bronze Age burial site... Details here.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

St George's Tower

Percy's taken a few photos of places around my house lately: now I know what this tower's called.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Cash For Jabs

Another example of incentives/bribery here - patients being paid to take their medicine...

Monday, October 05, 2009

Stipendiary Lecturership

Finishing a PhD and looking for a job in Philosophy 1st January 2010-30th June 2010? Then check this out. Over £16,000 for the six month position! AOC: Ethics.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Language and Etymology

I was somewhat amused to see this post on the Liverpool FC messageboard, in a discussion that began on the meaning of homosexuality and in which someone had appealed to the Greek root:

The issue is usage, not etymology.

If we go round saying all words mean whatever there [sic] etymological root means, everything will actually mean something else, and language will be destabilised.

Is that what you want? Who the **** are you? Derrida?

Maybe there is a market for Soccer & Philosophy after all...

Monday, September 21, 2009

The Accident of Birth

Those of us who've studied political theory will be used to some, like Rawls, making a great deal of the fact that one's birth is a matter of chance, and thus morally arbitrary. Today, I saw that a BBC editorial blog - weighing in on the question of who should pay for university, students or tax-payers - appeal to the same idea:
"there is also an issue here of inter-generational social justice... More by luck than desert, the generation of Lambert, Balls, Laidlaw and even Peston have had it pretty good... thanks to the accident of when we happened to have been born"

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Plato's Cave Animated

Here. (via John Holbo).

(It strikes me that this is pretty good, but I haven't watched the many other videos).

UPDATE: I think I actually prefer this animation, but by making it much shorter they skip out the fact that there are two (main) stages of enlightenment. The shadows the prisoners see are - importantly - copies of copies (i.e. shadows of statues).

Friday, September 18, 2009

CV Organisation

What should go on a CV and how should it be organised?

This is something that's stressing many on the market, even to the point of debating membership of professional bodies.

One friend of mine told me that he'd had more interviews since lumping all his publications into a single list (peer review journal articles marked by an asterisk). Nonetheless, it seems that that's not the consensus view on how best to structure a CV. My eye was caught by the discussion here.

Spiros suggests that some things, including conference proceedings, popular culture books, online reviews (except NDPR) and any edited volume not by a big name editor/press shouldn't be included on the CV at all. That seems a bit extreme to me, although I think it probably is best to clearly distinguish these items from peer-reviewed research.

My CV has a section for 'research and publications'. (This allowed me to list, in a separate sub-section, working papers and those under review, without being accused of trying to pass them off as publications). Until recently, that was simply divided into 'research articles' and 'book reviews'. The problem with this is that there are one or two items in the latter category that are quite substantial (e.g. I wrote a 2,500 word book review for Res Publica that underwent - an admittedly fairly light - peer-review). On the other hand, not all of my research-related publications are really that impressive. I recently had a summary of my PhD published in an online journal (see here); which is clearly research but it feels a bit wrong trying to pass that off alongside my articles in ETMP, Philosophy and Utilitas.

My latest CV, prepared for another assault on the job market, divides publications into 'scholarly research articles' and 'other pieces' (which includes notes, replies, reviews, introductions, etc). This allows me to put the pieces I want to draw attention to up front, while still including things like the EJPE piece or popular philosophy contributions in the latter, along with my book reviews (I'd consider them to have about equal weight - which I know is virtually none). I also put my 'working papers' sub-section between the two, so people associate it with further scholarly research on-going.

I'm quite happy with the current layout, but others should feel free to discuss their preferred layouts or advice.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Bleg: Name An Article?

Ok, unusual call for help. I have a revise and resubmit on an article on democracy and non-voting. In it, I point out that behind a lot of recent arguments for compulsory voting is the (often implicit) assumption that it is democratically better if more people vote. I argue that this is not obviously the case and that non-voting may actually be helpful - e.g. because it tends to be those most affected by a decision who are more likely to vote on it and there are democratic reasons to think that they ought to have more say.

At the moment, the article is simply called 'Democracy and Non-Voting.' I quite like this title actually - it's not especially clever or catchy, but short and too the point. One of the referees did ask, however, whether I might be able to come up with something a bit more engaging. Any suggestions gratefully welcomed.

Sunday, September 13, 2009


The latest (summer 2009) issue of the Erasmus Journal for Philosophy and Economics is available here (I assume that link will be here in future). I mention it only because they include a selection of recent PhD thesis summaries, including mine.

Longest Piece of Music

It's another old philosophical question: if a tree falls in the forest, and there's no one there to hear it, does it make a sound? (It's one relatively easily answered, unlike this variant.)

Here's a new one though: if a composer creates a 1,000 year long piece of music, then no-one will ever hear the whole thing, so what's the point?

Friday, September 11, 2009

Should We Save Animals First?

Interesting discussion on the BBC about whether it's right to spend large sums on an animal hospital rather than putting the money towards saving human lives.

Can Maggots Create Art?

We've all heard the one about chimpanzees typing out Shakespeare. I'm not so sure that maggots, of their own accord, could create a piece of art. Nonetheless, if a human decides to use them to create a piece of art, then I guess that makes him still the artist...

Monday, September 07, 2009

Is Nudity a Crime?

Apparently - according to this BBC article - nakedness as such isn't a crime in the UK, only if it 'offends decency'. I'm not sure this is really much more liberal, given that surely anyone naked could be accused of this and arrested, so there will certainly be a 'chilling' effect. Nonetheless, a useful case to remember next time I'm teaching Mill's On Liberty.

Sunday, September 06, 2009

Are Coin Flips Fair?

Interesting discussion here (via Thom).

Personally I'm inclined to think this isn't much of a problem, at least provided that parties don't have/try to use this knowledge. The fairness of a coin flip rests on epistemic randomness - because it may be the case that I have flipped the coin already, so the answer is determined but unknown to you when you call (since the coin is covered by my hand).

People with the knowledge here may be able to eke out a slight advantage, but then the knowledge can also be used to counteract such gamesmanship (e.g. by 'randomizing' whether you flip the coin in your hand after catching it). A little knowledge is a dangerous thing, at least if it's the preserve of the few, but if all have it the problems can be overcome.

Laws of Attraction

Good news: it seems that intelligent men are attractive to the opposite sex.

Bad news: being round attractive women makes men stupid(er).

Does this mean that intelligent men are likely to date lots of ugly women?

Saturday, September 05, 2009

Jobs by Lottery

It's finally happened: jobs are being allocated by lottery! There's no sign of any further selection procedures, bar age (over 18) and Italian residency (and, presumably, the capacity to spend 28 euros doing one's shopping), although being in supermarkets it's probably fair to assume all ticket holders are qualified for the job. Moreover, it probably beats cronyism and nepotism which, I'm told, play a large part in the allocation of many jobs in Italy.

Friday, September 04, 2009

Why Not Socialism Update

I mentioned in my Cohen obituary that I wasn't sure about the status of his new book. I have an answer here, thanks to Harry. Even better, you can read the gist of it reported in the New Statesman.

p.s. See also further tributes and anecdotes on Leiter.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

The Simpsons on Art

I only caught the last ten minutes or so of The Simpsons last night (which I rarely watch at all these days, due to not watching a lot of TV at all and it being a bit early for mealtime, even on C4+1). It was this episode, in which Homer becomes an 'outsider artist.' I may have to see whether I can work a reference to this into my Aesthetics lectures; particularly this quote:
[Homer floods the town as an art project]
Bart Simpson: Are you sure this is art, not vandalism?
Homer: That's for the courts to decide, son.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Intellectual Play

I found this reflective post by Colin Farrelly interesting.

Only one year into my career as 'faculty member,' I'm less clear on my long-term goals although, in the short-term, I aspire to find another job (my current contract has another year to run) and publish more articles (hopefully in top journals). I'll see where that leads me, although I also have other, non-academic goals (i.e. settling down somewhere - buying a house and, probably one day, starting a family).

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Local Happenings

I noticed a scaffolding bridge over the river near my house the other day and men doing some kind of work on the wall near the castle: now I know what's going on thanks to the picture and commentary here.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Paying for Degrees

Chris' post amused me.

I haven't actually taken my Oxford MA yet. I'm due to graduate my D.Phil in October (I hope), so was tempted to do this at the same time - although I'm not sure it's worth paying for given that I haven't bothered to take my M.Phil degree, which would be free.*

One problem with this, of course, is it may be that I would technically be expected to wear my D.Phil gown to various official occasions (most don't do this because the MA is technically the higher degree!).

*The graduation itself would be free, but one cost is that I would have to deposit a hard-bound copy of the thesis in the Bodelian - costing more than £10 certainly.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Norrington Table 2009

The preliminary undergraduate league table is available here. Corpus a very pleasing 4th. (Three 1sts and four out of our seven PPE finalists.)

Friday, August 07, 2009

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Death: G. A. Cohen

This has just been confirmed by emails to Philos-L and the Oxford Philosophy Faculty: G. A. Cohen died in the early hours of this morning, following a suspected stroke. I didn't know him as well as many, so I won't try to pre-empt the tributes that will no doubt soon come his way. I'll just say that I always found him a kind, entertaining and inspiring teacher. His valedictory lecture and the subsequent conference in his honour serve as reminders of just how widely he was liked and admired. No doubt all who knew him will miss him greatly.

See also Chris Brooke, Thom Brooks, Chris Bertram (and links here), Michael Rosen's account of the funeral (on Leiter), Nick Vrousalis and Stuart White. Also Times obituary and the Guardian.

It seems that his Why Not Socialism? is to be published posthumously - I assume this was already in the works, but I don't know whether the book is an expansion on or simply a reprinting of the essay already published in this collection.

Friday, July 31, 2009

Notts County 2-2 Liverpool XI

I’ve given up my regular blogging about Liverpool games as I just don’t have the time any more and prefer to concentrate on other matters here. Nonetheless, I suppose it’s worth making an exception for matches that I see in person…

I went to see a Liverpool Reserve XI play a pre-season friendly against Notts County this evening (taking advantage of my girlfriend living in Nottingham and celebrating our half-year anniversary in style!). It was a stronger line up than expected in some ways, featuring the likes of Darby, Pacheco and Nemeth – although I was disappointed not to see Hammill or Dalle Valle.

The match ended 2-2, which probably isn’t so encouraging. If this had been Arsenal’s young reserves then they would probably have wiped the floor with a League 2 outfit.

The hotly-tipped Pacheco scored the opener and definitely showed some nice touches, but he really was small and I’m worried he won’t make it in England. At least, he’s destined to be no more than the next Benayoun rather than the next Messi.

Of the others, I wasn’t hugely impressed. The defending was shaky at times, especially from set pieces, despite one of their centre forwards looking about 5’4” himself (kind of like a mini-me duplicate of the other actually). I didn’t think Nemeth looked too impressive – he did some good work in the build up to the first goal, but then went down rather easily in the box (just as well the ball came Pacheco’s way). I was fairly impressed with a couple of substitutes though – Simon and Saric I think they were – who livened things up a bit when they came on.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Closed for Business

I briefly popped into college today to check my post, just after lunch, but didn't try to go to the Faculty or notice anything untoward. Apparently though Merton St was closed for most of the day, after a refuse lorry collided with scaffolding.

Paying for Gametes

Apparently the UK's fertility watchdog has called for a fresh debate on paying egg and sperm donors (currently banned) in order to increase numbers. I wonder if this would also lead to paying other organ donors?

Sunday, July 26, 2009


I've just about finished putting together the first draft of a teaching portfolio, but here's an interesting account of what it's like to be an adjunct with little control over syllabi. Obviously it's American focused. I'm not really sure how applicable it is to Oxford. I get almost total freedom over my own reading list and what I do for 8 weeks but, at the end, the students are tested by a common exam and I get almost no say in the overall paper.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Unlearning Review

My latest book review has just been published at Metapsychology. Pretty quick, given that I only sent the review a couple of weeks ago and the review deadline wasn't even until 1st August. Definitely compares favourably to print journals, where two reviews I wrote last summer probably won't appear for a while...

Friday, July 17, 2009

NASL Shoot-Outs

Just doing some research on penalties - here's the alternative used in the North American Soccer League (where the striker has 5 seconds to run from the 35 yard line and beat the 'keeper).

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

No Vote = No Voice

Campaigns to encourage turnout often tell people that if they don't have a vote they don't have a voice. This is false, since there are other ways to influence the democratic process, e.g. writing to newspapers or lobbying your MP. Moreover, not having anyone you deem worth voting for is a pretty good reason to complain.

Now, however, it looks like that might be coming true - a group of cub scouts were prevented from holding a protest meeting at the House of Commons because they don't have a vote yet. It seems unfair to penalize those who don't have the right to vote, as opposed to those who fail to exercise it.

Assisted Suicide

At the ALSP conference last weekend I saw someone argue that the current UK suicide law - which allows suicide but not assisted suicide - effectively discriminates against the disabled who aren't able to kill themselves. This is an interesting argument, particularly because suicide is - as far as I'm aware - the only thing that it's legal to do but not legal to help someone do.

Anyway, one thing this throws up is the issue of what it is to 'assist' someone. Helping someone get a plane to Switzerland, so that they can then receive help, is a bit of a grey area. Until there's a test case, it would be hard to say what the law is here. The Lords have just rejected an amendment that would make this definitely legal, however.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Job: Witch

Given how competitive the academic job market at the moment is, this opportunity to almost double my salary by posing as a witch is quite appealing...

Foul Weather

Today's sudden and brief but heavy rain showers helped me make Hobbes come alive for one of my American students.

Hobbes points out that a state of war need not be one of constant fighting, but the lasting disposition to such - just as "the nature of Foule weather, lyeth not in a showre or two of rain; but in an inclination thereto of many dayes together" [Leviathan, ch.13]. I really think Americans need to have experienced English summer to appreciate this claim...

Apparently, however, even heavier rain in London led to three tube stops flooding and severe rail disruption - no doubt almost bringing about a return to the state of nature there...

Monday, July 06, 2009

JAP Editor

From Philos-L:
The Journal of Applied Philosophy, now established as 
the premier journal in its field, is seeking to appoint
a co-editor to work alongside the current editor, Suzanne
Uniacke. We are looking for someone with relevant
philosophical interests and experience, a commitment to
work as part of a team, and an understanding of the
Journal's status and remit.

The position will receive an appropriate honorarium and
the appointment will initially be for three years.

Expressions of interest in the position should be made,
by 1st September 2009, to the Chair of the Management
Committee of the Journal, Professor David Archard
(d.archard[at], from whom further
information about the position can also be obtained.
This may explain why I'm still waiting for a verdict on a paper I submitted in October, despite being assured in May that the referees' reports were in and it was just awaiting editorial decision...

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Salad Dodging

The traditional playground taunt directed at fat people is 'salad dodger', but it seems that avoiding salads could be a good idea - apparently many pre-packaged salads have more fat/calories than a BigMac and fries!

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Music as Cure

One aspect of art and society that Plato wanted to regulate was the musical modes, suggesting that the ideal city should only allow those that breed good characters. It's now been shown, not particularly surprisingly, that music can affect blood flow and breathing. This suggests that it may have medical uses. I wonder why such studies are always done with classical/operatic music though?

Religious Attitudes to Organ Donation

One thing I've recently been thinking about is organ procurement, and in particular possible objections to an opt-out (or 'presumed consent') system. It's often suggested that this may violate the conscience of certain religious groups, e.g. because they think their bodies must be buried whole if they are to have an afterlife. It's pleasing to see that a variety of UK religious leaders consider organ donation a moral duty.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Light Switches and Religion

One of the things I'm teaching today is multiculturalism, which raises the issue of exemptions from laws for certain groups. A classic example is the fact that Sikhs don't need to wear motorcycle helmets. It's not obvious that this exemption is justified. If the law is purely paternalistic then we might say 'on their head be it', but then it's not clear that the law's justified at all. If there are good other-directed reasons for the law, then we could simply conclude that a religious code requiring one to wear a turban effectively forbids one to ride a motorbike.

I was struck by this recently reported example, however. Apparently an orthodox Jewish couple object to light sensors outside their home because their religion forbids them switching lights on on religious holidays.

Firstly, it seems to me that a religious code that "bans lights and other electrical equipment being switched on" can't be that old, and thus I wonder at its provenance. I don't recall anything about electrical goods in the Old Testament (though lights or lamps could of course be there). Secondly, it's not really clear to me what the objection is. It seems that they don't object to lights being on - apparently what they want is the lights to be on the whole time - only to them being switched on.

Presumably, what matters is whether they switch the lights on. I assume their religious code isn't forbidding anyone to switch lights on or they'd have to go around interfering with others. In this case, it's not clear why motion sensors count as them doing it. After all, they could easily cause others to switch lights on - e.g. if I was to see them enter a dark room and turn the light on for them, I don't see why this should be against their religion. Motion sensors should therefore be interpreted as the action of someone else.

It's quite common for people to circumvent religious requirements in this way. I understand that in Israel Jewish doctors feel it's wrong to turn off life support. Apparently what happens is that machines are built that will turn off unless reset - then the doctor simply fails to reset and life support is withdrawn by omission rather than act. Whether this is morally significant is highly doubtful, but since when was religion about morality anyway?

Monday, June 08, 2009

Silly Job Interview

This morning I took part in a mock job interview conducted by John Hawthorne and a panel of 6 doctoral students, in the Philosophy Faculty's Doctoral Thesis Seminar. I guess that more practice is always a good thing. Thankfully it didn't go like this Monty Python sketch.

Saturday, June 06, 2009

Oxford University PLC?

Continued assessment exercises, such as QAA, RAE and REF have led many academics to worry that universities are increasingly being treated like businesses. Now the government has abolished the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills, merging its functions into the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills these fears are only likely to grow...

Friday, June 05, 2009

Exams May Cause Family Deaths

The higher rate of grandmother deaths in the run-up to exams can only mean that family members literally worry themselves to death over the performance of their beloved students.

That or the problem with most surveys is 'garbage in, garbage out'...

Refusing Organs

Apparently most people would be less likely to want organs from bad people. Scrap plans to harvest murderers for spare parts then...


Boris Johnson puts his foot (and more) in it...

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Journal Moratorium

Nous and PPR have declared moratoriums on new papers, until 1st October 2009 (Weatherson, via Leiter).

Speedy publication is important for those early in their career. I'm happy to report that I received off-prints of my ETMP piece yesterday - and was suitable impressed with the quick turnaround (first submitted Nov 2008; R&R Dec 2008; revisions submitted Jan 09 and accepted in just over two weeks; online publication Feb 2009; in print this month).

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Ageing Academics

The spin on this story suggests that UK academics are ageing, which is probably a good thing for younger aspiring academics like myself. Then again, it says one in five (20%) are 55 or over, while only 25.2% are 35 or under. That still suggests more in the latter category than the former, though hopefully there's some attrition over the intervening 20 years...

Sunday, May 24, 2009

The Watermarks

A useful advert on facebook directed me to this Texan band, The Watermarks. You can download free songs here. Eelctro-pop-rock I'm quite liking it...

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Job Advert

It seems that many people are getting increasingly desperate on the job market, but today I found that some universities are almost equally desperate - the following job advert came via Philos-L:

Philosophers needed University of Ghana, Legon

All levels of experience are welcome. PhD required.
Predominantly undergraduate teaching. African philosophy,
logic, mind, epistemology, metaphysics, theoretical/
applied ethics, philosophy of science, social and political,
hermeneutics. Address all further queries to: Head of
Department Prof. Lauer.
Initially your application should include a CV. Then if
the department establishment is interested consensually
I will send you application forms. At that stage we will
ask for two letters of reference, which can be emailed.
On request an overview of the department will be attached
by email. Without access to email please send your
inquiry and CV by airmail express if not courier to
Prof. Helen Lauer, Head of Department Philosophy, PO Box
LG 211, University of Ghana, Legon GHANA (West Africa).
Starting dates August 1, 2009 or more likely now January 1, 2010.


Yesterday I learned, from Chris, that Rousseau wrote remarkable descriptions of orangutan 'society' (for want of a better word) given that he'd never actually seen one. Unfortunately, I don't know what exactly he had to say, although apparently Wokler wrote on this. Anyway, I doubt that even he would have predicted that orangutans cannibalize their young!

Chichele Negotiations Ongoing

It seems, according to Leiter, that negotiations between Oxford University and Jeremy Waldron are still ongoing. I haven't heard any official (or even unofficial) word around here...

Monday, May 18, 2009

Ideal and More Ideal Theory

Michael Rosen puts his finger on the key difference between political philosophers these days:
[P]olitical philosophers (political theorists within philosophy departments?) at present seem to be divided between Kantians who think that it is illuminating to explore the normative issues of politics in terms of something they call "ideal theory" and those (Platonists?) who think that even the Kantians are too empirical.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Web Searches

One good point about my academic website is the ability to see the keywords people use to stumble across it via search engines. Often they're relatively uninteresting, e.g. 'Ben Saunders Oxford' and sometimes they're clearly searching for someone else (e.g. one of my contacts). Last week though there were, interestingly, several hits for 'Ben Saunders Law Ethics' (presumably related to a job application) and this morning I was found by someone searching 'i need help to write my philosophy paper on derek parfit innumerate ethics'!

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Copycat Killing

The murder of a Norfolk teenager was based on the movie Severance. One for my lecture on art and society...

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Kidney Swap

A mother from Oxfordshire donated her kidney to a stranger so that her son could receive one from another compatible donor. Once we allow bartering, I'm not sure we're so far from open buying and selling.

Cooling Sun

Apparently, scientists are baffled by decreasing solar activity. If this continues, it may partially offset any man-made warming - although the fact that the Earth appears to have been warming since 1985, despite reducing solar activity over the same time frame, is worrying.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Philosophers in Schools

The BBC reports that Wellington College in Crowthorne, Berkshire has apparently employed philosopher-in-residence Julian Baggini ('blog', wikipedia) to teach children how to think. Their own website puts it amusingly: "Wellington College to teach its students how to think in a major new departure"!

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Col Ewe

The BBC football blog actually discusses Colchester United!

Deja Vu

I've been reading through a lot of Dilbert cartoon strips lately. They're good, but I can't help noticing that sometimes certain ideas get repeated (and I'm not the first to do so).

Here's one I just spotted: 30/03/08 Dilbert congratulates PHB on being the first human to fail the Turing test. 16/03/09 (just under a year later) he's obviously so frustrated that he's now shouting what should be everyone's new slogan...

Friday, April 17, 2009

Public Speaking

Not sure about the programme, but this BBC mini-site features lots of tips on public speaking. May be worth looking at before I start my lectures this coming term...

Sunday, April 12, 2009


In her book, Whose Body Is It Anyway?, Cecile Fabre suggests compulsory 'citizen service' - like the military service still practiced in numerous countries, only with youngsters being forced to perform socially useful work, such as caring. Well, it seems that it's a step closer to reality, with Gordon Brown having recently suggested compulsory community work for under 19s.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Elect the Dead

Arrow suggests that, if voters provide a rank ordering of candidates on the ballot paper, then the death of one candidate should be handled by simply ignoring them and counting up the rest of the votes as if they'd never existed. For the presence of a dead candidate to affect the choice between two live ones would violate what he calls the Independence of Irrelevant Alternatives.

Since many electoral systems only ask people to declare their first preference, so this isn't always feasible. More importantly, I don't think Arrow ever tells us what to do when the dead guy wins...

(Similar stories here)

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Commandments of Lecturing

As I've mentioned, I'm currently trying to write my first set of lectures - which is harder work than I realised (even though I only have four to write!). This list of 'Ten Commandments' is therefore timely (via).

I. Thou shalt connect new lectures to previous ones.
II. Thou shalt move beyond chalk and talk.
III. Thou shalt not lecture like a caffeinated hummingbird or a tree sloth.
IV. Thou shalt not assume too much.
V. Thou shalt link known to unknown.
VI. Thou shalt be enthusiastic.
VII. Thou shalt not be a pompous ass.
VIII. Thou shalt not tolerate disruptive or disrespectful students.
IX. Thou shalt not lecture outdoors.
X. Thou shalt seize learning moments.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Culture and Reality

I've just finished writing a lecture on Plato's views on poetry. One thing that really needs to be understood is that, for the Greeks, poetry was their mass entertainment, something like East Enders today, as well as being regarded as providing education in moral values (not for nothing do poets feature prominently in the first two books of the Republic).

It's gratifying to once more see similar concerns raised in contemporary society - this time teachers complaining about the effects of reality TV on children.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

The Obligation to Review Papers

Interesting thread on Leiter, here. I weigh in myself, here. One of my questions has also been picked up elsewhere.

Specifying Ranges

This reminds me of my old geography teacher, Mr Wright, who made sure people gave ranges like 10k-40k, rather than 10-40k by marking our mock exams harshly. As he put it, 'how would you have written a range that really was between 10 and 40,000?'

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Calculating Publication Metrics

This useful article shows the difficulty with trying to measure the worthiness of a publication by the journal's 'impact factor'. (And, especially, further difficulties, like dividing that impact by co-authors).

At the end of the day, what matters is quality, not quantity. In today's management-driven universities, there's a real danger a number of great figures from the past would have 'perished' because they simply didn't publish enough...

Map of Plato's Republic

I'm currently trying to write a lecture on Plato's Republic. Since the (later) division of the work into ten books isn't particularly helpful, I came up with this map - thought I'd post it here for reference, in case anyone else finds it useful.



Argument with Cephalus, Polemarchus & Thrasymachus



Challenge to Socrates



Initial founding of good city; division of labour



Early education of Guardians; censorship of poetry



Upbringing of the Guardians, inc. physical regimen



Account of virtues, inc. justice



Division of individual soul (psyche)



Prescriptions for the Guardians, inc. family life and war



Rule of philosophers; true philosophers distinguished from lovers of sights and sophists



The Form of the Good: the Sun and Divided Line



The Cave



Education of the Guardians



Deviant constitutions (timarchy, oligarchy, democracy, tyranny) and corresponding men



Comparing the happiness of just and unjust men



Exile of imitative poetry



Immortality of the soul and afterlife rewards

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Forthcoming ETMP Article

I have a paper on weighted lotteries, entitled 'A Defence of Weighted Lotteries in Life Saving Cases' (DOI 10.1007/s10677-009-9157-7), forthcoming in Ethical Theory and Moral Practice, which is now online here (subscribers only).

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Journals for Moral/Political Philosophy

As an early career researcher, I'm still scoping the market for potential research outlets. I've posted before on the issue of journal rankings. Now, thanks to polls conducted by Brian Leiter and Thom Brooks, I have some more information to go on.

Leiter results:
1. Ethics (Condorcet winner: wins contests with all other choices)
2. Philosophy & Public Affairs loses to Ethics by 150–52
3. Philosophical Review loses to Ethics by 174–25, loses to Philosophy & Public Affairs by 141–54
4. Journal of Philosophy loses to Ethics by 196–16, loses to Philosophical Review by 78–67
5. Journal of Political Philosophy loses to Ethics by 184–12, loses to Journal of Philosophy by 92–69
6. Nous loses to Ethics by 186–18, loses to Journal of Political Philosophy by 84–69
7. Philosophy & Phenomenological Research loses to Ethics by 191–10, loses to Nous by 86–55
8. Utilitas loses to Ethics by 198–15, loses to Philosophy & Phenomenological Research by 76–68
9. Mind loses to Ethics by 189–19, loses to Utilitas by 80–68
10. Philosophical Studies loses to Ethics by 190–16, loses to Mind by 85–58
14. Journal of Moral Philosophy
16. Ethical Theory and Moral Practice
17. Political Theory

Brooks results:
1. Philosophy and Public Affairs (Condorcet winner: wins contests with all other choices)
2. Ethics loses to Philosophy and Public Affairs by 12–11
3. Journal of Political Philosophy loses to Philosophy and Public Affairs by 27–1, loses to Ethics by 26–1
4. Journal of Philosophy loses to Philosophy and Public Affairs by 29–1, loses to Journal of Political Philosophy by 14–8
5. Politics, Philosophy, and Economics loses to Philosophy and Public Affairs by 27–0, loses to Journal of Philosophy by 14–8
6. Journal of Moral Philosophy loses to Philosophy and Public Affairs by 27–3, loses to Politics, Philosophy, and Economics by 15–10
7. Utilitas loses to Philosophy and Public Affairs by 27–2, loses to Journal of Moral Philosophy by 14–10
8. Law and Philosophy loses to Philosophy and Public Affairs by 26–1, loses to Utilitas by 10–5
9. Political Theory loses to Philosophy and Public Affairs by 26–1, loses to Law and Philosophy by 9–8
10. Philosophical Review loses to Philosophy and Public Affairs by 25–2, loses to Political Theory by 8–7
17. Political Studies
=27. Philosophy
29. Ethical Theory and Moral Practice
34. Res Publica
35. Contemporary Political Theory

No surprises to many that the top two in both polls are Ethics and P&PA, albeit that their order is reversed. There are some interesting differences between the two, however. What's particularly interesting is to see the high placement of general philosophy journals, such as J. Phil or Phil. Rev., which I'd be less inclined to look at than the likes of JPP or PPE. Brooks' blog also includes some general politics journals, such as Political Studies (though not, it seems, APSR). The choice which field to appeal to is also something that I've commented on before.

Lotteries to Decide Football Matches

It was on this day in 1965 that Liverpool beat FC Cologne on the (second) toss of a coin, after a 2-2 draw over two legs and extra time.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009


I handed over the keys to my office today. I'm now temporarily without anywhere of my own to work (other than my bedroom, of course - I'm not literally homeless). In the past, I've compared PhD Comics to 'Dilbert for grad students', but in fact Dilbert once again better captures the wonder of having and losing an office - with even an implicit comment on levelling down.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Pricing Incentives

In markets, prices typically act as incentives, encouraging production of what's in demand (and encouraging people to switch their consumption to other goods). Prices can also be artificially altered to influence consumer behaviour. For example, GPs have recently rejected proposals to tax chocolate, while MPs are currently calling for minimum prices on alcohol.

Both these proposals involve sticks rather than carrots. If they want to encourage healthy eating, then I'd like to see the money raised used to subsidize fruit and vegetables, lowering the price on things we presumably want people to consumer more of. It could be argued that such moves are paternalistic but, like the taxes on unhealthy products (and, for that matter, compulsory motor helmets) they could be justified as reducing the burden we place on the NHS (and thus others).

UPDATE: Anyone interested in this issue, and looking for a PhD scholarship, may want to look at this.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Man Utd 1-4 Liverpool

Now that has to be our best performance and result since at least, oooh, our last match. We've felt hard down by in several recent matches against Utd over the last few seasons, and not had a good record under Benitez, but this completes a memorable league double (after our win at Anfield).

United took the lead mid-way through the first-half, with a Ronaldo penalty after Reina needlessly up-ended Park (no complaints there - perhaps Reina felt pressured into it given Hyypia's lack of pace, but Park wasn't going anywhere dangerous at the time). Parity was restored eight minutes later, when Skrtel hit a long ball for Torres to chase - Vidic let it bounce and Torres was past him to beat Van Der Saar.

Some Utd fans had made a lot of the fact that Torres didn't do too much to trouble their defence last season, but he certainly gave Vidic a torrid time today. I think he did have one penalty shout of his own, when Vidic blocked him off with two out-stretched arms in the penalty area - maybe it would have been given had we not been at Old Trafford. We did get one of our own, however, when Gerrard surged into the area only to have his feet clipped from under him by Evra (who, surprisingly, wasn't carded). Gerrard stood up to despatch the penalty and complete a fantastic half of football. 2-1 at the break, but a long way to go.

The second half was surprisingly open and, when Ferguson introduced Giggs, Scholes and Berbatov (a more threatening trio than Babel, El Zhar and Ngog I have to admit) I feared the worst. I did comment to my friend, Tom, though that it was risky if they were to pick up any injuries. What I didn't expect was for Vidic to earn a straight red card - this time, unable to cope with another Gerrard run and hauling him to the ground, rugby-style. To make matters even better, Aurelio curled a fantastic free-kick round the wall and into the corner of the net, to give us a two goal cushion as well as the man advantage.

Despite this, the game never looked entirely safe, as we unsurprisingly were forced to spend a lot of time defending. I'd been surprised when Riera had been replaced by Dossena (rather than Babel, whose pace I thought would pose danger on the break), but did say again to Tom that it would be funny if he followed up his first goal against Real with another here - and he did, running on to a long clearance from Reina and lifting it expertly over Van Der Saar with his first touch. Maybe we've been too harsh on him this season - perhaps the problem is that he's not a left-back but an attacker!

I still think the league is beyond us and, to be honest, I'd be even more worried about facing Utd in Europe after this (which will no doubt fire them up) - so perhaps that's a draw to put money on, if you're a betting man. Nonetheless, it's great to savour the moment.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Random Awards

Distributing awards at random is not something that I'd be in favour of. The point of a lottery is that it is blind to 'merit'.

Interestingly, Brian Barry - who passed away earlier this week - suggested that elections provide one way of deciding who should rule when we assume all are equal. Lotteries would be an alternative: we could select our representatives by lot.

Crossing the Road

This BBC feature compares pedestrian crossings in different countries. Note this comment from Oxford:

It all depends on where you are. In Oxford, no one drives through the centre of town if they can help it. The historic streets are very narrow, and lots of them don't really go anywhere much, and added to that a few key streets in the centre of town have been pedestrianised. This means that pedestrians tend to treat all the central streets as their own, and drivers know to drive slowly because people WILL just walk out.

Oddly, I can think of one street in particular where this used to happen all the time. A few years ago the council installed a pedestrian crossing. Suddenly the previously patient drivers started to behave as though the street was theirs and to get angry if pedestrians didn't wait at the crossing.
Jess, Oxford, UK

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Planning Chimp

Today, I was teaching tutorials on abortion. One of my favourite articles on the topic is Tooley's 'Abortion and Infanticide'. In it he argues that one only has a right to life if one is able to conceive of oneself as a continuing being over time. The result is that neither a foetus nor a young infant has a right to life. The argument also has interest to other areas of practical ethics, such as animal rights. It could be used to argue, for example, that most animals have a greater interest in avoiding pain than in continuing to live - something I find plausible.

This recent news story, of a zoo chimp that collected stones to throw at people later, came up in the tutorials though. It suggests that some animals are able to imagine and even plan for the future. Maybe this chimp has more right to life than a human baby!

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Liverpool 4-0 Real Madrid

This was a great result - our joint-biggest win of the season I believe (with the 5-1 win over Newcastle) and particularly satisfying given that some connected to Real had predicted that they would win home and away. Gerrard and Torres were on top form and even the much-maligned Dossena scored!

Monday, March 09, 2009

Polluting the Polls

In this article, forthcoming in the Australasian Journal of Philosophy, Jason Brennan argues that we have not a duty to vote well (which is too demanding), but a duty not to vote badly. While some have previously argued against a general duty to vote, this goes further, in arguing that some people may have a duty not to vote.

Once again, Dilbert is ahead of the political philosophy here.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Wadham Job

It's been a tough year on the job market, so I was surprised that this 6 hour stipendiary lectureship in politics wasn't better advertised. (I don't recall seeing it on and it isn't on the departmental website.) Not a great catch for anyone with a completed PhD admittedly, but better than nothing - and it may also suit those writing up.

I note that at least they allow their lecturer to 'weight' hours (I don't get this privilege).


This BBC article examines the US tipping culture. It raises some good points - like why should one add 10% or 20% to a bill, rather than a flat rate, when it is no harder to pour a $10 bottle of wine than a $100 one? Presumably this is a form of progressive redistribution - those who can afford the $100 wine can also afford to pay more to the lowly-paid bar staff.

It also suggests that tipping provides an incentive for good service. I'm unsure of this claim. It seems that the practice could in theory have that result, but if 10% (or whatever) becomes a standard - expected even for mediocre service - then it's no longer any incentive for extra effort beyond the call of duty, but merely what is expected. To have force as an incentive, it seems to me that the gratuity must be genuinely discretionary.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Random Decision Making

In his Democratic Authority, David Estlund claims that "Democratic legitimacy requires that the procedure can be held, in terms acceptable to all qualified points of view, to be epistemically the best (or close to it) among those that are better than random" (p. 98). I've always been somewhat unsure what the 'better than random' bit is doing; if the best procedure is random, why isn't that enough? This Dilbert strip seems to make the point.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Nice Work If You Can Get It...

City law firms are apparently paying graduates (modest sums of £5k-£10k) to defer their start dates (and full salaries) by a year...

How Many Friends?

As if freshers' week wasn't enough, the anxieties of many students are no doubt added to by the who-has-the-most-'friends' competition that is Facebook. This BBC article discusses how many friends one should have - or, perhaps more accurately, one is normally likely to have (further discussion on CT).

I guess from my experience it's reasonably true, although I would note that the internet is changing the nature of friendship. In sixth form I was part of a very close group of about eight and we saw each other almost every day. Since coming to university, I've found it seems more normal to have different friends from different circles (college, department, extra-curricular interests, etc). One advantage of social networking sites is that they enable you to stay in touch with people, even separated by distance. I'm no longer so close to old friends from school, but still talk to several that way and it's good to always have the avenue of communication open and be able to follow news in their lives.

Personally, I'm happy to use facebook fairly indiscriminately - for example, adding people I've only met once at a conference, or perhaps not at all in real life (provided I know them 'virtually'). Obviously this means that many aren't really 'friends' in any but the most extended sense, but networking is important in life (and academia particularly), and I can certainly vouch for the benefits of keeping in touch with people I've met at conferences.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Liverpool 2-0 Sunderland

I only tuned in at half time (having been dining in college) and my first reaction - other than being possibly more relieved than disappointed to find the score of 0-0 - was surprise at seeing Mascherano deployed at right back. Obviously, playing Skrtel there against Boro didn't work. I was hoping to see Stephen Darby given his chance - but, apparently, after being told that he would play he picked up an injury in training. With all three of our right backs injured and Real Madrid in our next match, that could be a real selection dilemma for Benitez: personally, I'd be happiest seeing Jamie Carragher shunted over again (though there are some stories circulating that he's refused to play there, I think that's unlucky - more plausible is the story that he's feeling the effects of tiredness or illness).

Anyway, in so far as the matter in hand goes, this was a fairly routine win. Again, it seems that we struggled to convert chances - having about two dozen shots (half on target) - but it was particularly pleasing to see Ngog notch another. We'll need more from him, Kuyt and Babel if Torres continues to be dogged by injury troubles. It looks too late to catch United - they're still four points ahead with two games in hand - but we must aim to stay ahead of Arsenal and Villa and compete with Chelsea for second spot.

Is Shame Learned?

This discussion on the BBC website suggests that shame of nudity is not natural but socially conditioned, perhaps to serve social interests in fidelity. It could have implications for our moral codes more generally.

Monday, March 02, 2009

Corpus Disqualified On University Challenge

As readers will know, there's been a lot of attention given to Corpus Christi's win on University Challenge this year. Sadly, the team has now been disqualified, since one of the contestants was (due to failure to get PhD funding) was no longer a student by the time of the final.

This is obviously very sad news for all involved, particularly the other three members of the team (though, of course, they're no less clever for this). I find it strange that the BBC had not at any point checked this eligibility beforehand, but if they weren't told maybe that's fair enough. If there was a rule breach then stripping Corpus of the title is presumably justified, but what I do find strange is awarding it to Manchester. Just because Manchester reached the final, there's no way of knowing whether or not they would have beaten whoever would have taken Corpus' place - I think it's a serious injustice there.

Sunday, March 01, 2009

School Lottery Review

A second lottery story in the same day (after this)!

Ed Balls on the School Admissions Code, here: "The code allows a role for random allocation, but I would be very concerned if it was happening other than as a last resort when other ways of allocating places have been exhausted."

UPDATE: Discussed on CT here.

Another Penalty Lottery

I kept half an eye on this afternoon's Carling Cup final and decided to switch the Five Live commentary on when it went to penalties. I was just in time to hear Mark Lawrenson say something along the lines of 'yes, it's a lottery now'. After the event he changed his tune - he said that the Man Utd players took better penalties and deserved to win. So, is it a lottery or a test of skill?

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Middlesbrough 2-0 Liverpool

People were saying last week that the title race was over and this just about seals it. Obviously, it's not official until it's mathematically beyond us, but I really don't see United slipping up at this stage - while we've slipped to 3rd, behind Chelsea again (if only on goal difference for present).

The annoying thing is that - despite giving a first Premiership start to El Zhar and playing Skrtel in an unaccustomed right-back role - we looked the better team for most of the game. Obviously, this doesn't give you any divine right to win: we've won a few we haven't really deserved to this season (including Boro's visit to Anfield). Football games aren't necessarily won by the better team, they're won by the team that scores the most. With that in mind, another injury to Torres has left us decidedly light up front - with Kuyt, Babel and Ngog to choose from - and raises questions once more about the wisdom of parting with Keane's services (or, at least, not buying a replacement)...

Intelligent Women

My friend (well, acquaintance really, to be honest) Gail has become quite a celebrity since winning that quiz thing. The trouble is, she's just a particularly prominent example of an intelligent, well-educated woman and, apparently, we don't know what to do with them. If only we had more air-brained WAGs and bimbos eh?

Point of information: The Times report mentions that Gail "is studying for a doctorate in philosophy from Oxford". In fact, it's a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD or, here, D.Phil) in Classics.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Singer Review

I've mentioned Amazon Vine a couple of times (like here). I was pleasantly surprised to be offered the chance to review Peter Singer's new book, The Life You Can Save (currently at a 45% discount on Amazon!), this month - and you can read my effort here.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Real Madrid 0-1 Liverpool

For a long time we looked second-best in this match, but since Ramos' appointment Real Madrid have become a force to be reckoned with much more and a trip to the Bernabeu with them in form is no easy matter.

In some respects, this was a classic European away performance: weather the storm and then hit them with a sucker punch. Though Madrid had plenty of possession in their own half, we were content to let them pass it around and snuff out the danger when it came - actually restricting them to few real chances of note.

Admittedly, we didn't offer much attacking threat of our own - with Gerrard only fit enough for a token run out in the last few minutes and Torres being subbed just after the hour, obviously feeling the effects of an early knock. Nonetheless, we did have a few moments of note: Alonso came close to scoring from our own half just before half-time, but it was Benayoun's 82nd minute header that gave us a possible priceless goal. (Although, as few pundits seem to have noticed, the fact that it's an away goal is irrelevant: that will only come into play if Madrid score at least one at Anfield).

A very satisfactory result, although I hope the injury to Torres doesn't prove serious...

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Sex and Art

A while ago I commented on findings that men are less able to recognize cute babies than women, saying "I am... curious as to how this finding was reached, as opposed - for example - to the idea that the babies aren't actually cute or that the standards/criteria of cuteness employed by men and women differ".

Maybe I was on to something, because now it seems that men and women judge whether art is beautiful in different ways as well!

In unrelated news about sex and art, teenagers who listen to sexually explicit/degrading music seem more likely to be having sex. I guess this could be another excuse to wheel out the Plato and censorship debate, although we'd really need to establish causation rather than mere correlation.

Monday, February 23, 2009

University Challenge Final

Corpus Christi face Manchester in the final of University Challenge tonight. This Guardian article focuses on my friend and Corpus captain, Gail Trimble.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Bribing the Electorate

Thom Brooks suggested, almost a year ago, that promising tax cuts was tantamount to bribery. I'm unaware of any academic literature that makes claims like this (suggestions welcome), but it's certainly the sort of claim that features in popular rhetoric, as this recent example, concerning economic policy rather than taxation, shows.

Liverpool 1-1 Manchester City

Another home draw that, I guess, has to go down as disappointing - not so much because of the opposition (City may be under-achieving and struggling away from home but, especially after their January spree, they are a good team) but the performance. Without both Gerrard and Alonso, our midfield looked somewhat bereft of creativity, and it was a surprise to see Mascherano, rather than Lucas, substituted.

We had enough to dominate chances for most of the game, only to fall victim to a strike from ex-Red Craig Bellamy (which took a wicked deflection off Arbeloa). Thankfully we've shown a lot of 'bounce-back-ability' this season, and an equaliser came when Kuyt pounced on a Torres mis-kick (at least Kuyt's willing to get into the box, hence him scoring so many of these important goals), but sadly there wasn't to be a late winner, like in Manchester.

The commentators seemed to think that this wrapped up the title for Manchester United. While I agree that they're obviously overwhelming favourites, and they have been for a while, it's a bit too early to chuck in the towel altogether. In any case, I think we can take some comfort from the thought that we've put in the most sustained challenge - that's something I'd have settled for at the start of the season (and it would have been beyond my wildest expectations, if I'd have known about the problems faced by Torres and Keane).

Friday, February 20, 2009

Music as Torture

It seems that music, from AC/DC and Nine Inch Nails to Britney Spears and the BeeGees is being used as a means of torture. Says one interrogator: "These people haven't heard heavy metal. They can't take it. If you play it for 24 hours, your brain and body functions start to slide, your train of thought slows down and your will is broken." (via Eloise)

Also, performances of Wagner are still unofficially banned in Israel, raising questions about the place of moral judgements in art.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Irish Jokes

The other day I came across this old one again:
Irelands worst air disaster occurred early this morning when a small two-seater Cessna plane crashed into a cemetery. Irish search and rescue workers have recovered 1826 bodies so far and expect that number to climb as digging goes on into the night.

Today I hear real life reports of something almost as amusing.

You don't even need the Englishman and Scotsman...

Sex and Sin

Apparently, men and women differ in which of the seven sins they are most susceptible to. No surprise seeing men more prone to lust; although I am surprised that anger features higher in the list for women (3rd) than men (4th) - though that doesn't, of course, suggest women are more prone to anger if they are less sinful overall.

In related news, the OUP popular philosophy books on the seven sins are in their current sale.

UPDATE: Rob accuses me of peddling Catholic propaganda, on which point I notice a Vatican football tournament will use a blue card to 'sin bin' players.