My class on Kant is more than a bit nostalgic for me. The first work we're covering is Kant's Groundwork for a Metaphysics of Morals which is the first work that really got me hooked on philosophy almost ten years ago. In particular, I'm entranced by his argument against Ayn Rand written over 100 years prior to Rand being born. His argument, which I won't go into right now, concludes that one cannot coherently will that everyone adopt the principle that one should only act in one's own self interest as a universal rule. (The argument takes up just a couple paragraphs. It's on page 424 of the Academy edition of his work in the second section of the Groundwork.) One of the interesting things about Kant's critique is an observation that opens the door for an argument that the only consistent argument for such a view presupposes utilitarianism.
My class on Hume opened up with a lecture asking `why study Hume at all, much less his Treatise of Human Nature?' which put out many arguments against studying Hume in general and the Treatise in particular. It was quite fascinating. The resolution to the aporia, inasmuch as there is a resolution, was that one learns philosophy not by reading philosophy but by philosophizing and that critically reading a work such as Hume's Treatise can be a good method of learning what philosophy is all about.
My class on Neoplatonic conceptions of evil is unusual in that a minority of the students are philosophy students. Classics majors and theology majors are each present in numbers equal to the philosophy majors. But the class will also be interesting. It will open with Plotinus' arguments against the Gnostics who are heretics in his view because they corrupt Plato. The only things they're right about, he argues, are those few things they got from Plato that they did not distort into untruths.
I started the work week last week at 169 on the scale. By Wednesday, this was back down to 165. By Saturday, it was back up to 167. Come Monday, 169 again.
Last Monday, I wimped out again and ran the warm up mile on the treadmill. By Tuesday, I was back out in the wild and went for four miles. At the end I got stopped by someone interested in the Vibram Five Fingers. His biggest concern was the lack of arch support. Running was mostly unexceptional save for me putting in a full 4 miles on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. On Saturday, I found my wristwatch, the four miles took me 34 minutes which is a reasonable but not a stellar time. This Monday, the morning mile took me 8:30 which is pants.
All last week, I still couldn't finish two complete circuits on the super circuit. Each time I tried, the first went fine and I'd give up a third to half of the way through the second circuit. This Monday, I managed to pull it all off save for shoulder lifts. Man do those shoulder lifts give me problems.
The funny thing about convalescing is that running and lifting weights were both harder after i started feeling well enough to do them compared to before I got sick. But crunches and sit-ups were easier afterwards. (I do a combination of different types of crunches and sit-ups after I run on Tuesday and Thursday.) I don't know what's up with that. Maybe coughing my lungs up while I was sick was sufficient exercise to keep my abs in good condition.
An argument that liberals dominate academia because social norms present academia as being a bastion of liberalism. The practical consequences, if true: "To Mr. Gross, accusations by conservatives of bias and student brainwashing are self-defeating. 1The irony is that the more conservatives complain about academia’s liberalism,' he said, 1the more likely it’s going to remain a bastion of liberalism.'" It's an interesting argument. The general ideas is that certain careers are typecast. For example, few men go into nursing because nursing is viewed as "women's work." The argument is that being a university professor is seen by most people as "liberal's work" and, therefore, is an unattractive career option for those who self-identify as conservatives.
The Washington Monthly points out something I've known for years, that US school lunches are the worst of all possible worlds. For this reason, my daughters have always packed a lunch.
I'm a bit disappointed that the new Google phone underwhelms. I even had very low expectations. All I wanted to see was Google release a retail phone not tied to any one mobile carrier. Of course, one could argue that such a move would have been suicide.
An interesting article on the horrors of war. I'm not convinced, though. Throughout history there have been plenty of bloodthirsty nations with populations well acquainted with the results of war.
The NY Times has a nice little piece on the best foods you're not eating. Three of the eleven have regular appearances in my regular diet. I don't see myself eating pumpkin seeds on a regular basis anytime soon. I should add more beets, though. And I'm contemplating taking up making sauerkraut. Pity that my kids don't like it.
The mortgage meltdown leads to an interesting question for Randroids. What happens when walking away from your mortgage is unambiguously in your self interest? One can't even really use the "it's breaking a contract" line to paint it as a moral flaw. Mortgage contracts spell out the obligations and penalties if the borrower does not pay. If the borrower is willing to face that, on what basis would a libertarian object to such behavior if it is in one's best interest?
The Crist/Rubio fistfight in Florida looks to me like a train wreck in slow motion. Rubio comes off fairly well in this examination of Crist, the Republican Party, Rubio and the Tea Baggists. So does Crist. The Tea Baggists, not so much.
I quite like the title of this journal article: Shape shifting lizard people, Israelite slaves, and other theories of pyramid building. (Unfortunately, I don't think the full text is available to be read for free.) The article is also interesting and a good reminder that it isn't only religious groups that have an ideological interest in science reaching certain conclusions.
The situation with feral dogs in Moscow is pretty interesting, especially the division into various sorts (beggars, foragers, and predators) including one type capable of riding buses and trains to expand the foraging area of the pack.
One of my favorite newspapers is said to be going the for-fee-only access route. On the one hand I can't really blame them for trying to stay in business during some pretty tough times for newspapers. On the other hand, it's a gamble that may not pay off any better than their last attempt to go the for-fee route. The article brings up an interesting question but I don't they push it far enough, ``What makes the decision so agonizing for Sulzberger is that it involves not just business considerations, but ultimately a self-assessment of just what Times journalism is worth to the world. '' I think a more interesting question would be just what is the value of journalism itself to the world and is the for-profit model the best way of providing that value?
From the last town I lived in back in Ohio: 500 kids and 12 police agencies face off. If you like that sort of thing, I have a house for sale in that neighborhood.
I finally got around to watching the Nathan Fillion vehicle Castle on Monday night. I was a bit underwhelmed. I found it hard to give a willing suspension of disbelief for a novelist permanently assigned to shadow a detective. One of my favorite TV Shows (Psych) uses a similar device but rather than a drama, Psych is a comedy. It knows that it's supposed to be absurd and it doesn't take itself very seriously. Consequently, I have no problem sitting back and just enjoying the ride.
The episode I saw of Castle also didn't seem to me to be written very well. It had an awkward mix of procedural drama with episodic drama, a problem discovered and solved within a single episode that mysteriously tied into a plot that will take the entire run of the show to bring to light. I can't say that they pulled it off very well.
On the other hand, Nathan Fillion is a good actor. I can see why some people might watch it just for him. I won't. There isn't enough draw for me and the show's on at a bad time.
Last week I opened up a couple of bottles from different batches of wine I made in late Fall / early Winter of 2008. Aging a year has certainly improved them. One was palatable. The other was almost so. I wouldn't say that either was great but the one I'd describe as palatable certainly wasn't bad. I think I need more practice and to start from higher quality ingredients. The wine I made this past fall (a blueberry merlot and a chocolate port) from kits turned out decent (the merlot) and great (the port). Most of the port we gave away to close friends and family as Christmas presents. The merlot, I drank. Having run out of bottles and corks, I racked it into gallon jugs and used it for table wine. I suspect with age it may have improved.
I don't have anything on the table right now for a project. I think I'll wait until the homebrew store gets in its seasonal varietal juice for spring and see if anything captures my interest. And given that most of my array of bottles was used for give away wine as presents, I need to stock up on more bottles anyway. I should also stock up on beer bottles. At this point, I'm only a 6 or 7 gallon steel pot away from having all the equipment I need to try my hand at making beer.
I'm in great need of a hair cut. My locks are quite like Iggy's on the cover of Iggy and the Stooges. I suppose I could do worse that to bear a certain superficial likeness to one of the icons that helped create the punk rock genre. Nevertheless, I hate the feeling of having hair on the back of my neck.
There's a barber shop just across the street from where I work that does a decent job at a low (by Bethesda, MD standards) cost. The folks that run the barbershop are quite nice and keep to a few traditions that I think are indispensable to a proper hair cut such as shaving the back of your neck with a straight razor. That said, English isn't the first language of the barbers there and the first (and only) time I went I had trouble making clear exactly what sort of cut I wanted. They came pretty close, close enough that I thought I got my money's worth. Yet, still so far enough away that I'm having doubts at going in for a second round. Maybe I should draw a diagram and try again.
Less than a mile away from my apartment is a mall with a national stylist chain. I've only been there once and quite liked the job that the stylist who took me as a walk-in did. But it was a bit pricey. So on the convenience and costs axes, it ends up behind the place right by my work. On the other hand, it was ahead on the satisfaction axis.
Or maybe I should go the Kojack route since spring is just around the corner.
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