Posts

There Will Be No Message Discipline

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This is one of those posts I write because I so often find myself making the point that I should like to be able to just have it all written out and available to point to. It concerns a genre of article, tweet, opinion, argument… I often encounter in many different spheres. As ever, I won’t give negative examples, so if this doesn’t resonate with you presumably we have just had different experiences and you may go on your way in the peace of the Lord.  The genre I am concerned with is: people imploring leftists to speak and act in a fashion that is less off putting to the uninitiated. It’s sort of a genre of respectability politics, but lacks the full connotations of that. It’s more just that, say, abolition of the nuclear family is a very unpopular position, so if you lead with a bunch of harsh condemnations of nuclear families as a mode of child rearing you are certainly going to code yourself as non serious or even scary to many listeners. Likewise the left is much more likely to be

Why I Am Not A Liberal

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  Those of us in the contemporary academy who are not liberals ought given an account of why not. This asymmetric burden falls on us because the presumption is so strongly that one does fit within the broad confines of liberalism that if one does not explicitly identify out, and explain why one has done so, then two things are may occur. First, people may reasonably presume on statistical grounds that your politics are as such and engage with you with this in mind. This will make intellectual back and forth, the lifeblood of our profession, frustratingly congealed — always having to go back and check unstated presuppositions half way through a conversation, never getting to the meat of things. Second, one allows whatever thinking one does to accrue to the greater glory of an ideology you reject. Since the natural presupposition is that whatever insights you achieve have been achieved through the lens of liberal ideology, it will seem that whatever is good in your work is evidence that

Our Time Comprehended in Thought

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Hegel famously said that philosophy is its own time comprehended in thought. Now in the context of his particular system this actually has quite a specific meaning, concerning the relationship between conceptual and social development. But let's riff off it a bit, and consider it more just as a sort of slogan to undergird what was once called "philosophy of culture". Today's blog post is my ode to philosophy of culture, musings on the plausibility of its central presupposition and what it might look like today. I'm not really going to do any philosophy of culture in this blog post, just point to examples, summarise what I take to be an emerging overall picture therefrom, and suggest a line of future inquiry. We live in a society. What I mean by philosophy of culture is the attempt to draw out, clearly express, and expose to critique, the ideas underlying a given culture or mode of life. The core presupposition is that such a set of ideas exists. It is not after al

The Frailty of Merit

 Guest post by Rose Novick Since a wariness of meritocracy is an ongoing concern here at The Sooty Empiric I was excited to hear that my friend Rose had written a short essay on the problem of merit in the Aeneid . I hadn't yet had a classics take on the matter, I was intrigued! And indeed it did not disappoint - the pagan rationalisation of cruel chance, the arbitrary anarchy of events that decides the course of our lives, is a wonderful expression of just that which makes achieving meritocracy so difficult. Since Rose graciously allowed me to post her essay here, without further ado here's her piece The Frailty of Merit . --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- It is in Vergil’s world of incessant divine interference that the problem of induction becomes most acute. Here, even the most securely established regularity may

Thoughts on Nael's Tiger

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  The Tiger The tiger He destroyed his cage Yes YES The tiger is out When he was six years old a little poet called Nael wrote the above poem. It's fair to say that it became something of a smash hit on the internet, and is now regularly reproduced on twitter and tumblr as one of people's favourite recent poems. I love it too! And in this little December blog post I am gonna reflect on what I think draws me to this poem, why to me it is so good. My thoughts were inspired by seeing this  lovely reflection on the poem during my travels across the internet. The author there identifies the following features: the use of caps lock YES creating a nice cadence and gives a sense of euphoria as the tiger bursts free. The theme of freedom and liberation, which lends itself to both a literal reading and also metaphorical readings about oppressed groups rising up. And the sheer simplicity of it - a 12 word poem where one feels not a word is wasted. I like how htey put it: It’s not hard to

Citational Justice

Some musings prompted by  this rather negative take on citational justice literature. In fact (partly for reasons I explain below, and in line with the linked piece) I myself am pretty hostile to the whole notion of citational justice. In any case it feels so self-indulgent as to be immoral for lefty academics to be debating "citational justice" while there are still homeless people. Let's... you know, let's get a grip here? But none the less I am by profession a social epistemologist, and I do think that we learn something interesting about how knowledge is and ought be generated by thinking about what the role and consequences of citational practices are. The linked piece is responding to an argument from Sarah Bond  for more egalitarian citational practices. They take her to be saying that academics should, in order to render our community more just, make conscious efforts to redirect our citations towards people from under-represented groups -- here that's