John Wycliffe And Academic Freedom

I’m an academic; quite understandably, one of my concerns is often academic freedom. Mine, and that of my colleagues. My employer, the City University of New York, has had a mixed relationship with academic freedom over the years (this ambivalent attitude was perhaps best on display during the Tony Kushner flap last year). But myContinue reading “John Wycliffe And Academic Freedom”

Megan McArdle’s Defense Of Property Rights

In the Atlantic, Megan McArdle offers a long, tilting-at-strawmen defense of (intellectual) property rights. (In what follows, I’m not going to attempt line-by-line rebuttals; McArdle rambled too much for that. I’ve simply directed my ire against the two aspects of the post that stood out the most: the attack on a strawman argument and theContinue reading “Megan McArdle’s Defense Of Property Rights”

Personal Identity And Wanting To Be Jim Lovell

Personal identity is a philosophical topic made for thought experiments. The problem of persistence of identity is quite simply posed; as the Stanford Encylopedia for Philosophy entry for personal identity puts it: What determines which past or future being is you? Suppose you point to a child in an old class photograph and say, “That’sContinue reading “Personal Identity And Wanting To Be Jim Lovell”

Things You Could Find On A Professor’s Office Door: Cavafy’s City

Professors put the darndest things on their office doors: I’ll-be-back-in-five-minutes notices, announcements of conferences, descriptions of new classes, suitably anonymized student grades, political posters, stickers. And then it gets wierd: vacation photos, children’s drawings, cartoons (a perennial faculty favorite in New York appears to be New Yorker cartoons), and of course, jokes culled from theContinue reading “Things You Could Find On A Professor’s Office Door: Cavafy’s City”

Ross Douthat, Sophistry, and Getting Philip Larkin Wrong

Folks familiar with Ross Douthat’s writing over at the New York Times should be well clued-on to his style, which produces bits of meandering sophistry that include a sentence or two toward the end giving away the game. In those sentences, Douthat reveals the tension of maintaining the appearance of a sophisticated intellectual conservative isContinue reading “Ross Douthat, Sophistry, and Getting Philip Larkin Wrong”

Teaching Philosophy By Reading Out Loud

This semester, while teaching my two classes (Freud and Psychoanalysis; Modern Philosophy), I’ve relied at times on reading out loud my assigned texts in class. In particular, I’ve read out, often at great length, Leibniz’s Discourses on Metaphysics and The Mondadology, portions from The Critique of Pure Reason, and in the Freud class, portions ofContinue reading “Teaching Philosophy By Reading Out Loud”

An “Intellectual Property” Lesson From A Busker

On Saturday morning, as I sat at 7th Avenue subway station in Brooklyn, waiting for a Q train to take me back home, I noticed a banjo player playing across the tracks from me on the Manhattan-bound platform. The station was noisy as usual, but still, somehow, his urgent strumming and foot stomping (on aContinue reading “An “Intellectual Property” Lesson From A Busker”

Saul Bellow on Artists and Philosophers

In his two-part essay in the New York Review of Books on being a Jewish writer in America, Saul Bellow is typically uneven. There are some rambling portions (Bellow seems to have a talent for such rambling, nowhere more evident than in this bizarre 1994 New York Times Op-Ed where he attempts to defend himselfContinue reading “Saul Bellow on Artists and Philosophers”

Nietzsche and Philosophy Discussion

Next week, on Tuesday, November 22nd, I will be conducting a discussion with the Brooklyn College Philosophy Department’s Philosophy Society titled “Without Cruelty There Is No Festival: Nietzsche and Philosophy”. This is the description I sent to our society co-ordinator Justin Steinberg (an amazing Spinoza scholar): Rarely can there have been a philosopher as readable,Continue reading “Nietzsche and Philosophy Discussion”