Thursday, December 28, 2017

Iterated Games

An important part of game theory is that the payoffs of a one-off game may differ if it were repeated (especially if infinitely or indefinitely). A nice illustration of that can be found here.

In a one-off game, getting $1 beats getting 50c. But taking $1 ends the game, whereas if the boys keeps taking 50c then he gets another chance to play (indefinitely), allowing him to win much more over time.

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Unusual Marriages 3: Yourself

It's often said that a marriage is between a man and a woman. This excludes not only homosexual (same-sex) marriage, but also polygamous marriage. And it also excludes sologamy, yet it seems that some people are marrying themselves. This BBC story partially repeats an earlier feature on Laura Mesi.

It takes two to tango, but not necessarily to marry...

Saturday, December 09, 2017

Unusual Marriages 2: A Chandelier

When I posted this piece, about a woman who married a bridge, a while ago, I think I had a couple of other examples that I meant to post in a little series. Unfortunately, it looks like I never did. I just saw this piece, about a woman who proposed to a chandelier.

The piece clarifies that this marriage won't be recognised by Church or law, though as far as I can tell no marriage has actually taken place yet anyway. The woman in question apparently wants a commitment ceremony, although it seems she's in an open/polyamorous relationship that involves sleeping with other light fittings too.

Tuesday, November 07, 2017

SCDTP funding

The ESRC's South Coast Doctoral Training Partnership (Southampton, Brighton, and Portsmouth) will fund at least 38 PhD students this year, on either a +3 (PhD) or 1+3 (MSc and PhD) basis. Some of these studentships will be for particular projects, advertised separately, but there's also an open call for student proposals here. Deadline end of January 2018.

I'm not directly involved in the ESRC funding decisions, but I am Doctoral Programmes Director for Politics And International Relations.

Monday, September 25, 2017

What is a political symbol?

In 2016, FIFA fined the home nations for displaying poppies at international football matches. Players cannot wear political or religious images, either on their shirts or on armbands. More recently, they have suggested that poppies may be allowed. They've now tightened up their definition of a 'political symbol' - though it is still broad enough to include any national government and also any specific political act or event (which seems circular).

What seems strange, then, is that they never seem to have had a problem with national flags or emblems such as the 'three lions' on England shirts (which are the royal arms of the Plantagenet kings). Several other nations, such as Italy and Norway, wear shirts featuring their national flag. Indeed, in some cases even the colour of the shirt can signify political and/or religious allegiances, hence the strong feelings over green and blue around certain parts of Glasgow. Surely, if all political and religious symbols are forbidden, these are also problematic...

I can sympathise with those who wish to keep politics out of sport, but apparently it's impossible to keep sport out of politics, as shown by President Trump's recent comments over NFL players and the national anthem. Plenty of people seem to be boycotting the NFL because they don't want politics in their sport, but in that case why is there a national anthem in the first place? And is anyone boycotting Trump for putting sport in politics?

Monday, September 18, 2017

Obesity Warnings / Advice in Clothes

Here is an interesting - and probably controversial - example of a 'nudge'. I've not read the BMJ piece referred to, but I think it's this one.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Quotable Philosophy

Whilst reading through a number of articles of late, both for teaching prep and research purposes, I came across a couple of wonderful quotations, so I thought I'd share them:

"I could here have bored the reader with a long theoretical explanation of why such a critical or deconstructive reading is warranted, and mentioned names like Habermas, Foucault and Derrida. But I am not convinced that that would really add to the strength of my argument, apart from the implicit appeal to authority and the number of extra footnotes it would have allowed me."
Holm (2004), p. 30.

"I recognize the importance of these points, and have discussed them in a longer draft; unfortunately, space limitations prevent me from adequately addressing them here."
Temkin (2008), p. 194.

Friday, August 11, 2017


My latest publication is another on procreative beneficence.

I just happened to stumble upon this relevant SMBC strip on eugenics too. I was obviously distracted in summer 2013 and missed the working out of ethics. Can anyone fill me in?

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

XKCD comics for teaching

A couple of useful comics to link to.

One on voting methods, for my democratic theory class.

And one on identifying reliable sources, which should be useful for first years. On a related note, this looks a helpful source for many occasions.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Grenfell and Politics

Over the last few days, many in the UK have been shocked by a large tower block fire in London. Though the latest confirmed death toll is 'only' 30, this number is bound to rise - though we may never know exactly how many were involved.

Just the other day, I was reading a book chapter that pointed out how the number and distribution of deaths resulting from disease, famine, etc is always in part the result of political decisions. While we may think of some things as 'natural disasters', political decisions determine who is affected and how badly. As the author put it, “politics plays a major role in determining the kinds and distribution of diseases in societies” (Adrian Leftwich, in his (edited) book What is Politics?, p. 82).

I'm pleased to see that, despite some criticism of 'politicising a tragedy', this point has been picked up by some commentators. It's been noted that the fire is political and that those who died were victims not only of fire but also bad government.

Though politics is sometimes seen as a peaceful alternative to war, it's a sad fact that it is still sometimes a matter of life and death.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Goal of the Season and the Independence of Irrelevant Alternatives

The principle of the Independence of Irrelevant Alternatives (IIA) says that the choice between A and B should not depend on whether or not other options, such as C, are on the menu. If you prefer A to B, then your preference should be unaffected by the presence or absence of C.

This seems pretty commonsensical. Imagine you're in a restaurant and you're offered the choice of apple crumble or ice cream for dessert and you choose apple crumble. Now suppose the server tells you that they have a chocolate cake too. You might happen to prefer the chocolate cake, in which case you'd change your order, and that would make sense. But if you were to say 'In that case, I'll have the ice cream' we'd think there something pretty odd about your choice.

Yet it seems that Alex Mccarthy, writing at Give Me Sport, is not a fan of IIA. He criticises the Goal of the Season shortlist for omitting Giroud's scorpion kick against Crystal Palace, on the grounds that it didn't win Goal of the Month (being pipped by Andy Carroll).

Well, if Carroll's goal was better than Giroud's - which was what was decided in January - then there's no chance of Giroud's winning Goal of the Season. The Goal of the Season shortlist is not necessarily the ten best goals of the season, as Giroud's could be better than many of the others that did win Goal of the Month. But there's no point shortlisting a goal that has, in effect, already been eliminated as a contender.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Dementia Tax

Apparently the Tories have been buying Google adverts so that searches for (so-called) dementia tax are directed to their home page for 'the truth'.

I think it's important that links go here for another perspective on the dementia tax.