9/29/05

Philosophy Later


Fake letter written in response to a friend's experience of several years of silence and non acknowledgment from the popular journal Philosophy Now. Not sent, and no real ill will wished on this fine publication. Just for fun!




Dear Editor,



This is the widow of Glenn Chafedaughter. After waiting several long months for your acknowledgement, Glenn began his descent into a deep funk. He has always admired Philosophy Now, to the point of having large blown up covers on his wall and making (and wearing proudly!) his homemade Philosophy Now--Forever! T-shirts. For Glenn, your silence was deafening.



As the weeks turned into months, and then years, and then back to months, and then days, but not minutes, Glenn passed through his now full-blown depressive phase and matured...into what has come to be called "his dangerously angry phase." Several postal workers quit their jobs (all just short of retirement) and Glenn's dog became so afraid that she built her own doghouse and moved in, just to get away from Glenn. While I was never personally threatened by him, I installed an "invisible fence" inside the house to keep me safe while I slept.



But as everyone knows, anger, too, is just a phase. It gave way to a kind of dissolute ranting, coupled with an egregious disregard for personal grooming. Both the Centers for Disease Control and FEMA put Glenn on their "top threats" list, and local vagrants began to gossip about Glenn's "fragrance." In fact, he was so pungent that by merely walking by our gas stove Glenn caused a three foot flame to leap across our kitchen, roasting several apples and our parakeet in the incident.



But I digress. Eventually, Glenn became less of a person than a walking black hole. First his words then later the very sounds emanating from his mouth were drawn urgently back into his personal event horizon. More vortex than man, Glenn's final words--true on so many levels--were: "Man, I suck!" And with that utterance he shrivelled into a tiny spot of light and odor and popped out of existence. He was gone.



So thank you for your kind note. While it's too late to save Glenn, it's not too late to inflict his thought on your unsuspecting readers. Wherever Glenn is now, if he is, he'll be smiling his sickly half-brained smile at the notion that the "Greatest Magazine Ever!" (his words) has published the fruit of his "mind-loins" (his words).



Very Sincerely Yours,

Mrs. Glenn Chafedaughter

What went wrong with the Roberts nomination?


Like many people, I wanted more answers from John Roberts and more
dramatic portraits of what he has done for big business over people.


Thomas Frank argues persuasively that the Right wins battles by
diverting attention away from economic issues and toward social issues
like abortion. The Roberts nomination fight played right into their
hands, just as Frank could have predicted. And the next one will, too.

9/18/05

Faith based legal interpretation


Have just been reading Euthyphro in my class, trying to help students see the distinction between gods making something pious and gods recognizing piety, pre-existent. It's the fundamental difference between groundless and rationally grounded authority.



I was just reading a piece in a recent Harpers by Cass Sunstein about the shift rightward in America's Supreme Court, when I realized that the exact program of the "strict constructionists" or the "originalists" is the same as what is happening in the Euthyphro.



When someone argues for these types of literalism, they are essentially saying, like a priest, "we know what original intent was" or "we have access to the real meaning--and you don't." It is as groundless as the view Socrates is inveighing against, groundless in the sense that ultimately it does not rest on reasons accessible to all through dialectic, but only through some special form of access granted to those with power.

9/2/05

Hurricane Katrina has ripped apart buildings and lives. It has also

ripped away a veil which has hidden from middle class view the daily
indignities that plague the poor in American cities. Many of us have
been shocked at preparations and responses that can, at best, be called,
"inadequate." We have been shocked at how quickly a "civilized" American
city has degenerated into "third world" desperation and
thuggery.

But maybe we should be just as shocked at our own
reactions.

American poverty is hidden from most people's views.
It goes largely unmentioned in political campaigns and major news
outlets spend precious little time on it, either. (After all, there's
always something more important to cover: a celebrity trial or a young
white female who's gone missing.) We spend thousands of dollars on cell
phones, iPods, and cars while millions are just a misstep away from
hunger, disease, and homelessness. We do this not because we are
heartless, but because we have allowed the poor to slip off our radar.
(Indeed, it's worth noting that the common abstraction, "the poor,"
already constitutes a retreat from moral responsibility.)

We've
been too content in the bubble. Katrina is offering us the chance not
only to reach out with immediate aid and shelter, but to reconsider what
"justice" is. Surely, it must include taking care of these least among
us with policies that provide for them in the present and in the face of
future contingencies. Can we redefine "justice" and still have "low
prices" and "low taxes" and "small government"? Maybe not, but we'll
just have find comfort in the knowledge that we have traded those things
for "healthy children" and "safe communities" and "disaster
preparedness."

I could live with that.