Friday, October 29, 2010

Miller Conference

By the time this post is scheduled to go 'live' I should already be on my way to St Andrews for this colloquium on David Miller's National Responsibility and Global Justice (I'm giving a paper Saturday morning). It'll be nice to go for many reasons, one of course being a reunion with my former supervisor, but also because it will be my first visit to St Andrews - despite the fact that they operate a joint graduate programme (SASP) with Stirling, with I've been teaching on this semester. I hope my cold goes away though...

Thursday, October 28, 2010

The Drugs Don't Pay

It seems that paying people to stay off drugs works. Not too surprising I'd have thought. A basic lesson of economics is that people respond to incentives (this is essentially the central theme of Freakonomics and the reasoning behind Nudge).

Of course, one aspect of such a scheme that may be controversial is it means paying people to do what's already in their interests. It seems that the government has recently decided that people ought to pay for what benefits them - at least when it comes to university education, though their policy may not be entirely consistent, as my friend Thom discusses here.

PHI9R4 Political Philosophy

We're still only halfway through the current semester, with most of my teaching (and all of my marking) still to come, but here's a teaser for the course that I'll be teaching next semester (the webpage having just been updated). Guess I'll need to get on with actually compiling a syllabus and reading list before long, not to mention writing the lectures...

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Pammy @ Oxford

I hardly used my Oxford Union membership while in Oxford. Funnily enough though, since leaving I still get bombarded with facebook invites to events. I missed this one though - Pamela Anderson. Actually, it seems that she was talking about vegetarianism, alongside someone from PETA, which may have been interesting. But I probably wouldn't have gone...

Monday, October 25, 2010

Banning Miniskirts

I was lecturing last week on Mill's harm principle and various applications, such as what he might say about mephedrone or cannibalism. Now it seems that there's another example: an Italian town that wants to ban miniskirts and low-slung jeans! Now, back in Mill's day, it would probably have been considered indecent to show off a bit of ankle, but arguably that's just the kind of society-regulating-morality that he was trying to resist (though there is a problematic passage about public decency). Maybe I need a new irregular series about Mill spinning in his grave...

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Reviewing Papers

I have a manuscript sat on my desk that I have to review for a journal. It's something I've done a good few times now, but it's surprising how little feedback one gets on the process. I only really get an idea of what's expected from the reports that I get on my own work, which vary a lot. Well, thankfully Thom Brooks is out to put that right. He's working on a piece of advice for refereeing papers (following his previous advice for publishing) and currently inviting suggestions here.

Friday, October 22, 2010

A Couple of Political Theory Bargains on Amazon

It's been suggested that we read some of Sen's The Idea of Justice in our political philosophy group here in Stirling. I have to say, I've not heard good reports about it, but I noticed that (at time of writing) it was available for only £7.65 on Amazon so thought I'd better buy it.

While looking, I also saw that they had Sandel's Justice for £2.29 (77% off RRP), which I somewhat more excited about (though I guess it will be a while until I can read it). I thought others might be interested in some bargains. (Disclaimer: Affiliate links contained above. If you purchase through these, it won't cost you anything extra, but I may earn a small commission.)

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

More Football Lotteries

I've long been aware of European Cup matches featuring Liverpool and Celtic that were decided by the toss of a coin. In fact, I mention these cases in a piece I wrote about the difference between penalty shoot outs and lotteries in Soccer and Philosophy. It seems that this tie-breaking method was more widespread than I'd realised though. I was just reading a preview of Liverpool's Europa League clash with Napoli and find (about half-way down) that Napoli "have met English opposition twice in Europe, being eliminated on both occasions. In 1966-67 they were beaten by Burnley 3-0 on aggregate in the Fairs Cup and in the same competition two seasons later Leeds knocked them out on the toss of a coin. Strangely Liverpool suffered the same fate in the same campaign, losing to Athletic Bilbao."
One (or two) to look up I think...
(In other news, Liverpool are being flown out by Bruce Dickinson of Iron Maiden!)

Monday, October 18, 2010

Blood Bowl

Eloise and I have been working through things to do in the evenings since moving to Scotland. So far, that's included several films and the first series of Yes Minister on DVD. We also have a pile of old board games to get through though, including Blood Bowl - a Games Workshop game that's basically a more violent version of American football set in the Warhammer world. It must be well over ten years since I played and the first time for Eloise, but it was good fun.

For the record, I was orcs and she was humans. I was receiving the ball (and thus attacking) in the first half, but got so stuck into pummelling her team that I forgot to do anything with the ball until too late. The strategy paid dividends though as by half-time I'd ko-d three of her lineman. We'd both had a man sent off for fouls, but I was able to start the second period with a numerical advantage of 11 to 8, which gave me a greater chance to stop her scoring.

As it is, Eloise came pretty close to the opening touchdown, managing to run a catcher into my end zone and get a thrower with the ball dangerously close - only for him to fall over attempting to dodge by blitzer and open up a good scoring opportunity. At this point, one of my orcs was able to scoop up the ball, while I inflicted further damage by pushing two more of her players into the crowd (where they were also ko-d). By the end of the match, she only had four men left on the pitch - who were regularly getting knocked down - though it still required my lineman to 'go for it' (and use my final team re-roll in doing so) in order to score the game's only touchdown in the final turn. A fine example, I think, of the orc strategy (i.e. concentrate on roughing up the opponents first and then use numerical superiority to score a running touchdown).

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Want to be my boss?

From January, my department ceases to exist. In fact, all of Stirling's departments will, as they merge into schools. If you fancy being my new boss, we're currently advertising for head of school...

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Philosophy of Football Hits the BBC!

This BBC feature on the ethics of supporting footballers who are also convicted criminals (with focus on Marlon King) is quite interesting. There's been discussion of King's case before of course, such as this piece, but the BBC piece is notable because it actually quotes Prof Mike McNamee, editor of the British Philosophy of Sport Association journal, Sport, Ethics and Philosophy.

It's good to see philosophy getting more mainstream coverage - I hope it counts as impact! Don't forget, if you want to read more philosophy about football, Soccer and Philosophy (including a chapter by yours truly) is available now.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Olympic Ticket Lottery

Want to pay £50-£725 to watch a ten-second race? You may also have to win a lottery to do so! The BBC reports here: "From March, people can register interest in an event and, if it is over-subscribed, they will be entered into a ballot."

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Upcoming Talks

I'm going away for a couple of days, during which I'll be visiting Manchester to give this paper in the Mancept visiting speaker series.

It's the start of a busy period for me, as I take advantage of my light probationary teaching load. The next week I have a talk in Stirling's visiting speaker seminar (obviously not as a visitor, but a tradition for new staff apparently) and at the end of the month I'm giving a paper in a colloquium on David Miller's National Responsibility and Global Justice at the University of St Andrews.

Sunday, October 03, 2010

Teaching Applied Ethics

I have a piece in the latest Journal of Medical Ethics (36:10) on teaching applied ethics. Abstract here, full text (subscription required) here.

This is my first publication under my University of Stirling affiliation, although they did get my email address wrong (that was partly my fault - I'd told them what I expected it to be, though I did then notify them that it wasn't as expected for some reason). I'm not sure whether I can legitimately count it as a 'research publication' or not though, since while it draws on discipline-specific expertise it's really a piece about teaching. Also it's published in their 'controversy' section, since it's a continuation of a debate between Rob Lawlor and David Benatar.

For those interested, the debate between Lawlor and Benatar focused on whether or not it was helpful to teach moral theories as part of applied ethics courses (particularly to medical students). The debate between them, as is often the case, seemed to reach an impasse, since both wanted to make weak claims while accusing the other of stronger ones (that is, Lawlor didn't say we should never teach moral theories).

My contribution is to suggest that, rather than focusing on whether - or how much - we teach moral theories (which may in any case be out of the instructor's control), we should focus on how we go about doing it. Specifically, I suggest that rather than starting with a theory-driven approach, we begin by examining particular issues and work from there towards theory-building.