Lord of the Rings and Killing Non-humans

Watching the last of the Tolkien triology yesterday, I was struck by the how easy it was to watch some fairly
graphic battle scenes.It's probably occurred to everyone except me, but Hollywood has found a solution to the problem of satisfying the
audience's need to see graphic violence with their desire not to show other cultures or even human beings killed or maimed.

So, what we have now is humans killing cyborgs, killing orcs, killing specters, and so forth. This has long been part of the film
culture, but it seems to have accelerated.

What does it do to show so much violence and to remove the guilt or anxiety that comes from seeing or knowing that the violence was done to
another human being? Perhaps this development in movies is the complement to the remote-controlled, carefully framed television wars that
are now being done in our name in the mideast.

Lots of fist-pumping but without that nagging sense of responsibility.


My first book, Beyond Realism and Antirealism: John Dewey and the Neopragmatists

has been out from Vanderbilt University Press
for about eight months now, and I'm still not sure what's supposed to follow. I'm not getting a lot
of feedback from the press about book sales, nor have I seen many reviews. Perhaps it's just assumed
that academic books just help row that individual's little career boat forward and that's that. I don't
believe I'm arrogant in wanting a bit more than that.

It's pretty widely available as far as I can tell, though online is likely the best way to get it: href="http://www.vanderbilt.edu/vupress/sales.html">Vanderbilt U. Press, href="http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/0826514278/002-2363138-1144820">Amazon,
and Noble
, and href="http://www.powells.com/cgi-bin/biblio?inkey=62-0826514278-3">Powell's have

Still, why should the academic world be any different from the overall information
environment--cluttered beyond all conception with competing theories, stories, revisions, corrections,
detractions, spin, propaganda, and outright bloviation. I suppose there's no more time to separate the
wheat from the chaff within philosophy than in any other area, and so philosophers wait for the word
of mouth, or the blitz advertising campaign to help them decide how to spend their limited time.

what does this say to generations of scholars sweating to produce these books? The essence of
scholarship, it would seem, is that what one is writing is not an empty gesture--there will be a
readership to reward earnest toil. But when one's book is quickly relegated first to the small print
back pages of the Press Catalog and then to the remainders table, what else can one conclude?

One idea
worth considering is that scholars should do their best to forget the idea of selling books and get their
books onto the web--distributed freely and in cross platform forms--as soon as legally and practically
possible. After all, it's the idea that makes you beloved, not book sales. And the latter is sure as sugar
not going to happen, so aim for the former.


Krugman makes the Washington press look like Idiots

James Carville's observation to The Washington Monthly's Nick Confessore: "It is considered the appropriate thing to say at a dinner party that, while Krugman is very bright, he's just too relentless on Bush. Because to accept Krugman's facts as right makes the Washington press look like idiots."

From Alterman at the Nation's website


Mission Accomplished Sparks No End of Major Combat Operations

More "I didn't do it" from the Responsible Adult Administration. From href="http://http://www.cnn.com/2003/ALLPOLITICS/10/28/mission.

Attention turned Tuesday to a giant "Mission Accomplished" sign that
stood behind Bush aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln when he gave the speech
May 1.

The president told reporters the sign was put up by the
Navy, not the White House.

"I know it was attributed somehow to
some ingenious advance man from my staff -- they weren't that ingenious,
by the way,"
the president said Tuesday. Now his statements are
being parsed even further. Navy and administration sources said
that though the banner was the Navy's idea, the White House actually
made it.

Oh the tangled web we weave when....


Rush Limbaugh insists "I must be put in prison!"

From an AP story, 10/12/03, Rush was quoted as saying...

"Drug use, some might say, is destroying this country. And we have laws against selling drugs, pushing drugs, using drugs, importing drugs. ... And so if people are violating the law by doing drugs, they ought to be accused and they ought to be convicted and they ought to be sent up," Limbaugh said on his short-lived television show on Oct. 5, 1995.

During the same show, he commented that the statistics that show blacks go to prison more often than whites for the same drug offenses only illustrate that "too many whites are getting away with drug use."

I'm sure he'll be first in line to help repair morality. Don't forget your soap, darling.


Classic diatribes by Rush Limbaugh against drug addiction

All I can say is that if he's ever prosecuted for any part of this business, I hope he winds up standing before the kind of zero-tolerance judge he's been advocating for the rest of us all these years.

On Sept. 23, 1993: "If there's a line of cocaine here, I have to make
the choice to go down and sniff it ... If there were a gun here, it
wouldn't fire itself. I've got to reach for it and pull the trigger ...
we are rationalizing all this irresponsibility and all the choices
people are making and we're blaming not them, but society for it.
these Hollywood celebrities say the reason they're weird and bizarre is
because they were abused by their parents. So we're going to pay for
that kind of rehab, too, and we shouldn't. It's not our responsibility.

Jan. 15, 1996: "... there were a couple of drug convictions out in -- I
think it was a Colorado court. And these guys had -- had done some
really bad stuff, and there were mandated federal sentences for the
crimes they had committed. And the judge apologized to the criminals
while sentencing them because he thought it was too severe. He
apologized and the community was outraged. So we've gone from a judge
sentencing a mother who makes her child beg six months in jail, to
judges apologizing for getting dope dealers and crack dealers and drug
salesmen off the streets with too severe a sentence.

Dec. 16, 1994: "So we're not going to get on -- we don't fault these
animals for a lack of discipline, but we get on human beings who are fat
for lack of discipline and you know it and I know it. But here's the
thing that struck me about this. We have alcoholics and drug addicts in
our society, don't we? And what do we say about them? Well, they can't
help it. Why, it's genetic. Why, they have a disease. Why, put one
thimbleful of scotch in front of them and they can die.' We totally
exempt them from any control over their lives, do we not? Some athlete
will spend two years snorting lines of coke. 'He can't help it.' You
know, it's -- it's just -- it's not -- it's -- it's genetic. These
people -- they're predisposed to having this addictive syndrome. They --
they can't help -- yeah, like that line of cocaine just happened to
march into the hotel, go up to the athlete's room and put itself right
there in front of him on his blotter.


Cost of War in Action

"Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired, signifies in the final
sense a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed."

President Dwight D. Eisenhower, April 16, 1953

Cost of the War in Iraq?
Let's see some NUMBERS already!


Metaphysical Loss

Nothing is replaceable.

Everything is replaced.

This is tragedy.

Venice, Italy; July 1, 2003



David Brooks has reached the pinnacle of American opinion media, the NYT.
His first column "http://www.nytimes.com/2003/09/09/opinion/09BROO.html">is

Now, you probably know that Brooks is a Republican, a PBS
regular, and an NPR regular. He wrote Bobos in Paradise, which argued that
we should see yuppie obsession with Pottery Barn phones as some kind of
cultural sign of good things to come.

Well, whatever. But keep your
eye on him because though most dems don't think about it, there's a strong
ideological split running through the Republican party, between more old
fashioned Republicans (fiscal conservatives, moderately conservative on
social issues, quasi-isolationist in foreign policy, but amenable to
compromise and partisan ball-playing--think Bob Dole) and the Neocons
(insanely interventionist in practically every way, deregulation mavens, and
win-at-all-costs opponents who would rather let their daughter go to Bryn
Mawr than compromise with a Democrat).

Brooks has pushed, I think, for
a return to an older and more temperate Republicanism. I still disagree with
him 90% of the time and think he's become a Bush-bootlick (what
upwardly-mobile Republican media bloviator isn't?) but now he has the
journalistic equivalent of the Supreme Court and he can pretty much start
saying what he wants. He may change the terms of the debate, perhaps
bringing things away from what we can call the "Kristol-Coulter

Then again, he might just be an ass.


To the Editor:

In "Whatever It Takes" (Sept. 9 Op-Ed)
David Brooks argues that while the Bush Administration never acknowledges
mistakes or valid criticisms, their lack of candor is absolved by their
hidden reassessments of bad policy choices.

For many of us, however,
evasiveness and dishonesty can't be forgiven so easily. Team Bush lied about
the reasons for going to war and now that things are going badly, they are
scrambling for ways to fix the situation.

Brooks has pointed to, but
hasn't admitted, that this Administration allows political expediency to
trump morality while taking a very painful human toll.


In case you didn't know, we had a major storm last week...

We got our power back after 6 days. It was hot as blazes, though we did have gas and water, sleeping was hard.

Here's a nice letter from Memphis's Commercial Appeal newspaper:

July 28, 2003

Last Tuesday morning I watched the storm lay waste to my city. From my balcony on the sheltered east side of my building, I saw trees struggle valiantly, then get ripped from their roots. I saw the blue explosion of power lines torn from their poles. I heard the gunfire crack of limbs snapping and the crunch and tinkle of houses being smashed. I heard the scream of metal girders bent like pipe cleaners. Then all was quiet save for the hiss of rain and the plaintive wail of dozens of car alarms.

But what I saw and heard in the next few hours and days was even more impressive. I saw strangers banding together to clear debris from their streets. I saw restaurateurs give away food rather than see it spoil. I saw smiling policemen directing traffic around fallen poles. I saw MLGW crews working briskly while grateful homeowners brought them pitchers of precious iced tea.

I saw Memphis drivers politely obeying the rules of the road at signal-less intersections. I heard dozens of callers to radio stations informing their neighbors about closed roads and open stores. I heard a symphony of chain saws. And I heard laughter.

My next door neighbor, whom I rarely speak to, gave me a gallon jug of ice from his freezer and saved the groceries I had bought the night before.

I have never been prouder to call myself a Memphian.

Michael B. Conway, Memphis

Let's see some PICTURES already!


The ever fashionable, pretty much use-free Tina Brown

In Salon, Tina Brown has given us another "inside" look into the world of Tina Brown, this time about all the rich media types who are so stressed out by stuff that all they can talk about is their prescriptions.

What puzzles me
most about these high-flying exposes is why Brown, who apparently wants us to see how
"grounded" she is, takes the trouble to hang out with the people she skewers. Is she just one of them?

Political action is better than medication and it yields a real sense of control and self-satisfaction. I
hope that Brown has the gumption to press these medicated power players to stop popping pills and
start applying whatever pressure they can for actual political change. So many people are more
powerless than they are; heaven help us if all they can think of to do is screw with their blood

David Hildebrand, Memphis, TN


Tax cuts and the false promise of Jobs

To the Editor:

Tennesseans are being bait-and-switched with the new federal tax cut, and should let their
know it.

In 2001 a huge tax cut was passed, and jobs were the promised result. Since then we have lost 1.7
million jobs. This time, the same dubious promise is being made, but the cuts are even larger. While
our country is running a record deficit and we're paying nearly the whole cost of the reconstruction
of Iraq, Tennessee's senators are helping push tax cuts that would give the typical family a tax
break of only $217 next year while families with incomes above $1 million would get an average of
$93,500 each.

We voters know a scam when we see one. As we debate desperately how to pay for schools and basic
services, the federal government is AWOL, proceeding with tax cuts that will cost most of us

To be published in Commercial Appeal, Memphis, TN


Three Questions and Three Answers

Questions from Vanderbilt University Press editor Betsy Phillips. Answers
by me.

Q. Let's talk a little about the roles of philosophers in contemporary
culture. One striking characteristic of your book is that you're wrestling
with important ideas in innovative ways while furthering ongoing discussions
by Richard Rorty and Hilary Putnam about John Dewey. Yet, when most people think of philosophy, they don't think of intense, lively debates. In a perfect world, how much of a role would the philosopher play? Are you better able to critique culture from the margins or would you like to see some kind of philosophical equivalent of Dead Poet's Society or Good Will Hunting in terms of popular appeal?

A. In a perfect world, I'm not sure what role philosophers would play;
but it's precisely the imperfection of our world that motivates the
best writers and readers of philosophy. You're right to say that
philosophers are marginalized, especially if you mean they're excluded from our society's mainstream forums of discussion. When it comes to economic justice, government spending, war, animal treatment, affirmative action, or any other "hot" issue, it is common to consult lawyers, politicians, political scientists, and even celebrities for their views, but it is uncommon to include philosophers. This is a situation badly in need of correction from both sides. Philosophers must not remain on the margins--they should devote more time and effort pushing for greater inclusion in public conversations. And the arbiters of those conversations--editors in radio, television, and the popular press--should strive to find ways to include philosophers in existing forums and devise new forums for them. The New York Times Magazine's column "The Ethicist" has become hugely popular, while on radio WBEZ's show "Odyssey" and WBUR's "The Connection" have done a great job in getting philosophers on the air. These are good starts, but philosophers should keep in mind they're the exception, not the rule.

Q. In your book, you engage and critique both Rorty's and Putnam's
understanding of John Dewey. Do you find it invigorating to write about
people who will be able to read your book and respond to your ideas or are
you a little nervous about what they might say?

A. The possibility of a response is always invigorating, and, as Oscar
Wilde quipped, "The only thing worse than being talked about is not being
talked about." Rorty and Putnam are now so famous that any extended response
from them would be an almost unqualified plus--to be rebutted is to be taken
seriously, and to be taken seriously by them would be an affirmation of my own scholarship. That said, I cannot say I'm nervous this will happen. Both men have acquired a long list of prestigious interlocutors over the years, and they're very selective in who they will respond to. I'd be thrilled if they criticized my views, but I don't expect it to happen anytime soon.

Q. On page 149 you say, "The insight 'we can only start from where we
are' may strike some as unconscionably obvious. Yet it is the absence of
this insight that has led many to construct elaborate systems that, in the
end, bear no significant relevance to human life." Can you give us an example of such an elaborate system and how it fails us?

A. It's always dicey to pick on a famous philosopher, since someone
somewhere has made it their life's work to champion that system. Still, I'd
have to say that Kant's ethical system has always been more hindrance than
help, especially if the test is teaching ethics to students. In Kant, we
see the construction of a beautiful system that categorically separates emotion from reason, feeling from analysis, and animal kind from human (or rational) kind. We see exacting distinctions made between maxims, principles, and imperatives, and the exaltation of universalizability as the supreme logical criterion of human conduct. And yet, when it comes time to employ this system in the messy situations that comprise our lives, very few are able to use Kant's system with the precision he intended. Few of us can decide what counts as a maxim with the "proper" content, and the main logical principle of the whole system, universalizability, is hardly clear, let alone user-friendly. What's more, few contemporary people want to exclude consequences or character from moral evaluation, or accept the idea that emotion has *no* role to play in moral inquiry. Pragmatism and neopragmatism are both philosophies that reject these kinds of systemic dualisms, and so contain the basis for a more cogent and applicable ethical theory. My work describes how these dualisms are rejected, and what kinds of possibilities are opened by pragmatist criticism.


Four Haikus For a Dictator

Him, not elected

Cronies pack his government

For profiteering

Civil liberties

Decimated for "safety"

Smile! -- you're on tape.

Fear manipulates

Media cooperate

Selling soap with flags.

Violence, his tool

Preemption his battle plan

Witnessed by orphans.


We are entering a dangerous time

and it feels as if we're now doing everything possible to make things precarious for as far into the future as possible. Other countries have had to deal with terrorism and fear, and no one has destabilized the world as BushCo. is now doing. Rational argument means nothing, the media does little but reinforce the worst instincts, churches are either quiet or ineffectual in changing government policy, and none of this can possibly lead us beyond the terrible dynamics that put us here. Until the last couple months I had never seriously considered expatriating; I love the things the people in our country have achieved, the spirit of the new and the daring of imagination. But what once helped us invent and imagine--our lack of encumbrance by history--has now become so severe, not to mention concentrated in our political leadership, that it will likely lead us to do tremendous wrongs to innocents. This makes me question whether I can continue to be part of "the American experiment." We are now experimenting in a reckless and lethal way, in the process becoming what we claim to be fighting against. Change things from the inside? I'm wondering if the forces of American destruction are past the fail-safe point, and we have no other role to play except to pay our taxes and support the military industrial corporate media complex.


Lethal Security

Letter to the NY Times. As yet not published.

To the Editor:

In 1992 Beth Osborne Daponte, a Commerce Department demographer, calculated that in the first gulf war American and allied forces directly killed 13,000 civilians. 70,000 civilians died subsequently from war-related damage to Iraq's infrastructure, including 39,612 women and 32,195 children.

Just-War criteria and international law confine lethal force to circumstances where aggression has (or is about to) occur against whole populations. Since Iraq has not invaded the U.S., it must be shown that aggression by Iraq against the U.S. is imminent. This has not been demonstrated.

What the world sees is a government willing to inflict numerous civilian casualties based only upon the gamble that this might prevent a possible attack on the U.S. by Iraq, even without any evidence that Iraq is even planning such an attack. Is it any wonder that most of the world's people think this gamble with innocent life is egregiously immoral?


"Gassed his own people."

It's a pretty awful idea, and just about everyone who supports war in Iraq will utter that exact phrase at some point. Then, they'll nod slightly and look for your capitulation in the argument. If they don't get it, a look of conviction (about you) will cross their face and you can bet your lunch money they're thinking "one of them."

It never seems to come up that "gassing anyone" is a pretty bad thing to do, and "gassing someone else's people" is execrable as well. In other words, the hidden logic to "gassing his own people" is that using poison gas on human beings can be ranked in some sort of least to worst order. But when we find ourselves making *those* sorts of distinctions, is there really any more "up" or "down"? Isn't that what makes it true that we're in an "abyss" in the first place?

A friend adds,
"For me, the most disappointing aspect of the war/anti-war debate (if you can
call it that) thus far has been the willingness of the American public to
accept the absurd proposition that Iraq can possibly prove they do NOT have
weapons of mass destruction. I'm no PhD, but I'm fairly certain that
proving a negative has never been successfully done before. The fact that
so many Americans have gullibly accepted that this "opportunity to prove a
negative" is somehow giving Iraq an opportunity to avoid war is so
frustrating to me. It's as if this country is trapped in a Monty Python
sketch. If the chances for death and destruction were not so great, I would
be laughing out loud over this absurdity."


Won't You Be My Neighbor?

It's a beautiful day in this neighborhood,

A beautiful day for a neighbor.

Would you be mine?

Could you be mine?...

It's a neighborly day in this beauty wood,

A neighborly day for a beauty.

Would you be mine?

Could you be mine?

I've always wanted to have

A neighbor just like you.

I've always wanted to live

In a neighborhood with you.

So, let's make the most of this beautiful day.

Since we're together we might as well say:

Would you be mine?

Could you be mine?

Won't you be my neighbor?

Won't you please,

Won't you please?

Please won't you be my neighbor?

c. 1967, Fred M. Rogers


Are we ultimately "individuals" or "collectives"? Are we "collectives-of-individuals"?

No doubt these basic assumptions form the most important starting points of what later become libertarian or socialist approaches to questions about the just distribution social resources and opportunities. While it seems absurd to pitch one's tent with the libertarians--who, after all, has ever been perfectly isolated from interdependencies and socially-corroborated descriptions and explanations?--we recognize that there's something in this view of the self that is right.

But what is it? Surely, in most society-models, the outcome recommended by libertarians is unacceptable; compassion, equality, and the very conditions for the exercise of basic rights is largely precluded by the narrow version of "liberty" granted by the lib's. But the ongoing formation of our identity as individuals is driven--at the very least, "steered"--by something not collective. Figuring out what that is is one problem (if it is an "it" to begin with). Figuring out whether or not the answer to what "I" am is related to justice-- is another. (Philosophers have always assumed that what the self is and what is required for "justice" are closely related. Could this connection have been overestimated?)

I am my own engine, my painter-and-canvas, my self-revising-narrative-and-critic--some metaphors to run with. Where do others fit in? They're not simply "ingredients" nor "accidents" or "incidents" in my progress. A loss of an intimate rips a hole in one. This is not a metaphor for the feeling of loss; I'm convinced it is a description of one's very constitution. But what does that truth imply? That one's constitution is not one's own to begin with? We're back to the "collective" starting point.

If we're chased by these considerations away from all three starting points, seeing the self neither as a unit nor a collective nor even a combination, we may find ourselves taking the position that the self is an alteration, a shifting center that hangs together because of any number of items: its projects, its emotional habits, its possessions, its social nexus. Something about this is happier, logically, than the above alternatives. But then we have the uncomfortable job of pinning a noun on a process, and that makes one squeamish for other reasons. Is this where nausea comes from?


Should We Go To War?

Memphians are bitterly divided about whether war is the moral way to deal with Iraq. For a moment, let's set that debate aside and do something easy - like consider our self-interest. Take as fundamental one simple premise: No American wants to suffer physically or economically. War in Iraq frustrates both of those desires.

Unless there is broad-based international agreement about disarming Iraq it is reasonable to expect the following to happen:

* The United States will attack and occupy Iraq. Some estimates call for a 5- to 10-year occupation at a cost of around $1 trillion.

* Our economy will shift toward paying for these expenses. Al-Qaida will still be at large and will find it easy to rally new followers for more attacks. As a result the United States will face decades of terrorist attacks like 9/11. Given the amount of shipping flowing through Memphis, we are a big and easy target.

* During a war Iraq will likely attack Israel and Israel's prime minister, the hawkish Ariel Sharon, will respond with tremendous force. Will other Arab countries take the opportunity to become involved? Bet on it. The Mideast will become a violent conflagration.

Even those whose only concern about the Mideast is its energy will not find this outcome to their pocketbook's liking.

Supporting this scenario isn't patriotic, it's apocalyptic. No president deserves support for taking a great country like America in a direction such as this. Americans who are loyal to our principles and to the troops who fight to defend them should say no to anyone who would betray them. And that includes the President.

David Hildebrand


Published in GoMemphis (Commercial Appeal)


Why no funerals for miscarriages?

The idea that personhood could rest on social recognition or sentiment is denied by John Noonan because neither criterion could possibly be fixed enough to determine what counts, metaphysically, as a person.

For some, however, these criteria are enough to make abortion morally illegitimate. Many non-philosophers don't need further proof, and the potential mobility of feeling or social conviction doesn't bother them. (Either "the worse for them" or "the worse for philosophy.")

Why are there no well established traditions for the loss of a fetus from miscarriage? Just about everyone agrees that this is a grievous loss, but for those who believe that personhood begins at conception, is it not a loss that deserves the same treatment that an adult death would receive: namely, a funeral? Is the lack of common and well-established rituals to mark the passing of a fetus due to miscarriage (among those who believe personhood begins at conception) evidence for anything metaphysical (e.g., that it is not actually believed that a fetus is a person, even though it may still be of the highest immorality to end its life)? Or is it more innocuous than this, for example the fact that since a fetus has no social connections there is no purpose to the closure that a funeral would bring?


Enough with the France bashing!

In NYT letters, February 18, 2003 former United Nations diplomat Phillip Corwin asks a great question about our reinvigorated Francophobia:

"Are we to expect that because the United States reluctantly intervened in a European war six decades ago, and in the process helped liberate France, that France must now blindly obey for the next four zillion years whatever a warmongering American elite decides is just?"

If we cannot refrain from bashing France, is there really any hope for countries in the Middle East?

Corwin asks for some perspective: "It was France that helped America achieve independence from a tyrannical Britain more than 200 years ago. Should the United States therefore be obligated to pledge its blind allegiance to French foreign policy forever after?"



In Mind and World John McDowell is worried:

How can we stand up for the constraints placed on our knowledge by "the way things are" without either falling for a Davidson-style coherentism (where beliefs can be justified only by other beliefs, not by some kind of epistemic relation to something extra-mental) or a Given (shown specious by Sellars)? Davidson's willingness to accomodate (through coherence) the Kantian spontaneity of concept-making that we all share raises for McDowell "the spectre of a frictionless spinning in a void." (MW 18) Instead, McDowell writes, "We seem to need rational constraints on thinking and judging, from a reality external to them, if we are to make sense of them as bearing on a reality outside thought at all." (MW 25) Where, I wonder does this need come from? It's not a practical need, surely; it's more of an architectonic need, a need that systems require. But since the explicit ambition of the system McDowell is pressing for is to connect with "the world" it seems odd to use the word "need" in connection with the solution to his concern.


Defeasible Syllabi

Would it be possible to start a class off with a syllabus that specified a certain list of readings,
tests, papers, rules, etc. with the idea that as the course progressed those readings and rules and evaluations
could be changed, modified, scrapped democratically? What a mess that would be. But within certain
limits, would it not be a way to improve a course (along with the course evaluations) without having to
wait until the course was over?

I've been entertaining the idea of having a small comment form on my online syllabus that would allow
students in the class to submit suggestions anonymously during the semester. "There are not enough readings."
"I wish we could read the Third Critique, too!" and so forth.

Reading, writing, philosophy.

How to keep writing when there's so much to read. A problem. The persistent worry that one hasn't
read enough to justify writing more. So many journals, books, online blather. Is it supposed to be new? Profound? All those poor souls
who want to keep their jobs teaching and writing philosophy so they write and write until they're given the tenure they need to keep their jobs. And then,
they discover, that they haven't really *thought* about anything for a long, long time, and so they have nothing real to write. Only blather.
Babel--the necessary condition of the possibility of non-blather. A riddle in an enigma wrapped by bacon.