Blogging

Looking out of the window

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 12/04/2019 - 4:17pm in

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Blogging

I don’t believe our Brexit stress is over.

I don’t believe a deal is in sight.

I don’t think Parliament has a clue what to do yet.

I am not sure that this Parliament ever will have that clue.

I doubt that the current front bench talks will lead to anything.

I suspect the can has to suffer more kicking yet.

I do hope the European elections will send a very clear message - at least to the Tories that they have got things terribly wrong.

But one things I do know is that I am very tired. I’d like a break. I won’t be getting much over Easter - June is my next best chance - but I may only do some light blogging for the next day or three.

I managed to get an hour or so just sitting and thinking yesterday, albeit about a new book. And I’d like to do a bit more of that. So I hope you’ll forgive there being not much more said this morning. 

April Fool

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 01/04/2019 - 5:03pm in

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I offer no April Fool joke this year. Unless, that is, you wish to consider the state of our politics in that category.

My humour has failed me. I can only apologise and ask for extenuating circumstances to be taken into account.

Surely we have a better story to tell

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 29/03/2019 - 5:52pm in

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Blogging, Ethics

There is a moment in every day when I have had enough of politics, tax, economics and all that goes with it. I take the dog for a walk. Talk to the family or a friend. Or pursue a hobby. None of that are done just to get away from work. But they all help me do so. I find it helps. Balance has to be an objective in life, and however great my passion for the topics I write about here they cannot be everything in my existence.

But Brexit keeps intruding now. The seemingly never ending machinations of incompetence that have lead to paralysis followed by an inability to decide how to progress invades too much of my time. And even with my capacity for politics I have had almost enough of it.

So I sat back and asked myself why.

The first is that I do want balance. And there is nothing at all balanced about Brexit. It was always dogmatic and hopelessly thought through. Then it was pursued as if the case for it was emphatic, when it never was. Alienation was built in from the start.

Second, it has highlighted the failing of every neoliberal politician who, when they see a problem run away from it, presuming the market always has a better solution than they can offer. Only in this case the solution has to be political and there is no politician left in many parties in the Commons with any comprehension as to how to deal with such an issue. Most have for so long given up political thought in favour of market acquiescence that their DNA as politicians has had the ability to decide removed from its structure.

Third, there is the possibility in all this that by our own collective action we acquiesced in this failure. In fact, somehow by not stopping it we facilitated it. And that is uncomfortable.

Fourth, there is just that feeling that it’s time for for pain to stop. Surely the ibuprofen should work soon? And yet it doesn’t.

In that case is this, like a hangover, our own self-inflicted wound that we must live with? I hope it is not. But what does that mean then?

Have we to join a political party to effect change? Has that worked for Labour? 

Or to stand for office (ample opportunity for that in the upcoming local elections)? I personally am not inclined to do so, but hope others will. 

Or is it time to simply start telling a better story as the basis for change? I get to this last point for a reason. It turned out to be the theme of a discussion I took part in with the journalist Oliver Bullough, author of Moneyland, at City, University of London, last evening. The talk was arranged by the English department and largely attended by students on the MA in non-fiction creative writing. 

Oliver and I discussed why we were storytellers. Because of course we are. Our characters are real. Our narratives are those we observe. We do not make them up. But the way we relate what we see is, of course, creative storytelling. I am unashamed about this. Story telling is powerful, appropriate and even necessary. If in doubt watch the video by New Zealand prime minister Jacinda Ardern this morning. That is story telling to most powerful effect.

So what is the story that we need to tell?

That we are all one humanity, more bound by commonality than divided by any accident of birth?

That those accidents of birth are, however, part of our story and so must be respected?

That this respect enriches and does not diminish us?

That we stand or fall together now, on this our single planet that we call home?

And that we must work together to make it work for all is us? 

Isn’t that the story we must now tell, 8nto which we can weave all our preferences as to sub-plot, emphasis and character that we wish, so long as we remember our aim? I came away thinking so. 

And where does Brexit fit into that, as a narrative of alienation, promoted difference, indifference and contempt on so many levels (and yes I include Remain in some of the criticism; me too, if you like)? It does not fit with our humanity. It is not the story we need. And maybe the inability to decide upon it is because this really is not the story we want to tell, hear or partake in at some very deep level.

We know the EU is not perfect. 

We know it has had political failings.

As we have had, too.

But this was not the story to tell to find a solution to those problems. 

There is a better story to tell.

Mine is the Green New Deal in its broadest understanding, as a tale of survival, commonality, joint endeavour, enterprise, change, respect and hope.

Isn’t that a better narrative than the one we’ve got? 

Daily Nous Turns Five

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 08/03/2019 - 12:31pm in

Daily Nous began with a brief welcome message five years ago, today, around this time. Some of you may be thinking: “five years already? No way!” Others may be thinking, “only five years? I thought it has been around forever.” Still others might be thinking, “you are not going to guess what I’m thinking.”

In 2014, March 7th fell on a Friday. That evening, I shared news of the site in a personal Facebook update that began with: “Philosofriends, are you for some reason or another in need of a new place on the internet to share news that might be of interest to other philosophers?”

I will admit that I knew the answer to that question. As I put it in a post at Daily Nous the next day:

“My sense from observing the current scene and conversing with my friends in philosophy is that people want to be informed about what is going on in the profession, but are a bit weary of some of the current providers of that information. Daily Nous aims to provide information about the profession and to do so in a less-weariness-inducing way. We’ll see if it works.”

Five years later, we can ask: “Is anyone feeling less weary?”

Anyone?


[crickets]

In retrospect, perhaps our weariness isn’t the best metric for measuring how well Daily Nous is doing. We may not be less weary overall, but that may be only partly owed to my failures. I’ll take responsibility for some problems—clearly Donald Trump’s electoral victory was owed to backlash against my pro-diversity postings here—but there have been some positives, too.

I’m going to talk about those positives a little right now, and then turn to what it is like to run this site, then mention some plans for the near future, and then express some thanks.

1. The Welcoming of the Many and the Waning of the Jerks

I’m proud of the role Daily Nous played in breaking up a toxic concentration of power in our profession the year it began. I’m happy about how since then it has provided a platform for the sharing of news, information, and ideas for a profession increasingly welcoming of philosophers with a broader range of philosophical concerns and methodologies, from different academic, cultural, and personal backgrounds, who hold varied ideas of what philosophy is and what we should do with it. I’m glad to have helped, along with many others, shepherd in what I once called “the new consensus”—a set of attitudes “that rejects acquiescence to abuses of power in philosophy, one that seeks to overturn rather than turn away from the profession’s problems, one that seeks to support rather than silence the vulnerable.” I feel lucky to have been in a position to use my role at DN to provide assistance to various members of the profession facing various personal and professional problems.

The differences between today and 5 years ago are significant. The then-dominant pose of philosophical jerkiness, broadcast to susceptible graduate students from a dominant profession-wide blog, is now on the wane, owing to competition from kinder and more cooperative approaches to philosophical engagement, and an increased willingness to call people out when they are being needlessly obnoxious or insulting. Sure, the profession still has its jerks, but the good news is that they matter a lot less. This goes for philosophy’s loudest jerks. (Graduate students and untenured professors may understandably not want to become the bizarre fixation of a senior member of the profession who insults them, tries to get them fired, attempts to dox their supporters on social media, mocks their advisors, and gets so obsessed in a quest to destroy them that he doesn’t realize the negative information they’re passing on is part of a hoax, and never apologizes for spreading falsehoods about them. Fortunately, the chances of any of this actually affecting your career or employment prospects nowadays are next to nothing; amazingly, this used to not be the case!)

Sometimes the jerks show up at Daily Nous, despite my comments policy, my moderation of comments, and my periodic advice to commenters. That’s my responsibility, and I’m far from perfect at taking care of it. Sometimes I make a bad call. But the truth is, I can’t make the comments sections good by myself. I need good commenters. As I’ve said before, I hope that “those who have been reluctant to contribute to discussions here because of their dissatisfaction with the tenor of the comments decide to join in. To them I say, ‘be the commenter you want to read on the blog.’”

Though we’ve made progress, we still have a way to go before philosophy is sufficiently welcoming to all it should be. It will help if philosophers can adopt towards each other—especially towards those philosophers very different from them—a charitable mindset we can call “presumptive trust.” That is, you begin your engagement with someone by trusting that they are competent, know what they’re talking about, and that they are at least as smart and skilled at their thing as you are at yours, and you convey this trust in your interaction with them and as you process their ideas. Try it. It’s not just a way of being better to other people. You’ll find you learn a lot, too. (By the way, this is a pretty good way to approach everyone, not just fellow philosophers.)

2. What Running Daily Nous Is Like

I’m sometimes asked what it is like to run Daily Nous. After five years, I can honestly tell you: it is in some ways pretty great and in some ways pretty bad.


blog blogger blogs

To start with the positives, it is clearly a privilege to be able to serve the philosophical community in this way. I am grateful that so many people find the site worthwhile. And it is amazing that I can write up ideas on a matter of professional interest that will be read by thousands of people around the world the same day, and sometimes lead to engagement with even more people when picked up by the higher education press and mainstream media. I’ve had the opportunity communicate with, meet, and learn from people I otherwise would not have, and as a result I’ve grown as a person and as a philosopher. I feel like through Daily Nous I can make a positive difference in our profession and in the world, and I consider myself very lucky to be able to do this.

The main downsides concern time: the amount of time running the site takes, and the urgency of journalism.

The site takes hours of each day, and a lot of it is for “invisible” work: reading through possible material for the site (only a tiny fraction of which gets posted about), answering emails, and dealing with the business and tech parts of the site. I’m not the fastest writer, so even when a post is largely a summary of someone else’s writing elsewhere, it takes me a while to get the words on the page. I try to have an image accompany each post, and sometimes it takes a while to find the right one (though I do enjoy having this excuse to explore and discover art). But time on the blog means less time for other work.

I mentioned the urgency of journalism. I wasn’t prepared for this. Philosophy is not in a rush. Ideas percolate in an individual over years, and in a tradition over centuries. But in journalism, timeliness is important. This means that my days are often subject to constant interruption: potentially newsworthy items might be brought to my attention at any time, and I will sometimes feel the need to post about some things immediately. This feeling was much stronger earlier on, when DN was establishing its credibility. But even now I may feel the pressure to be the first to post about something. On top of that are the comments. Comments from first-time commenters, or comments with certain trigger words in them, or comments from certain people, need approval before showing up. At times I feel like Harrison Bergeron, with my phone and its notifications for comments to be approved turned into a device to keep me from thought.

The bottom line is that running DN has meant writing less substantive philosophy, which I am not happy about. I’m not an especially prolific philosopher, but I have a book project on disagreement I would really like to get done, and I struggle with how to keep DN’s drain on my time under control. It would be nice to have more time to relax, too.

I’ll mention one last thing about running DN: it has been weird to be the object of attention of strangers who seem very concerned with what I’m doing, and who believe they know a lot about me on the basis of what I write here. There are some people out there who really hate me. The intensity of their feelings, as much as their content, surprise me.  I have very thick skin and the well-developed ego of a privileged and economically secure white man, so I don’t feel particularly threatened by this. But it has taken some getting used to.


serenity now

3. Plans

I have two very cool projects in the works for you folks. The first is about bringing philosophy to the rest of the world, and the second is about making online space for more substantively philosophical discussions. If I can get it together, you’ll be hearing about the first of those next week.

4. Thank you

Philosophers, I love you. Thank you for visiting Daily Nous, reading and sharing the posts, and taking part in the discussions.

Thank you to my wonderful comic artists: Rachel Katler, Tanya Kostochka, Ryan Lake, and Pete Mandik. Thank you to Michael Glawson, who puts together the online philosophy resources weekly update. Thank you to John Hunt, my technical consultant.

Thank you, also, to the institutions that have supported Daily Nous through advertising on it: Oxford University Press, the Eidyn Research Center at Edinburgh University, Princeton University Press, MIT Press, The John Templeton Foundation, The Marc Sanders Foundation, Simon Fraser University, Fordham University, George Washington University, Rutgers University, the American Philosophical Association, Rowman Littlefield, University of Connecticut, University of Luxembourg, The Southern Journal of Philosophy, the University of Arkansas, the University of Glasgow, the University of Nevada, Leibniz University Hanover, the University of Dublin, Tulane University, the University of Missouri, Western University, Springer, Birkbeck University of London, The Unemployed Philosophers Guild, Res Philosophica, Florida State University, the University of Colorado, Bowling Green State University, George Mason University, Wayne State University, Tender Buttons Press, Farrar Straus & Giroux, Routledge, the Center for Ethics and Education, The Professor Is In, Broadview Press, the University of St. Thomas, and the Prindle Post. A number of individuals have purchased advertising or made donations to the site, and their support is greatly appreciated.

5. Suggestions

Daily Nous will continue, and with any luck will continue to improve. If you have suggestions for the site, feel free to share them.

6. Cheers!

Ok. Time for a celebratory drink and some tunes (possible DN theme song). Have a goodnight, everyone!

The post Daily Nous Turns Five appeared first on Daily Nous.

The Untapped Innovative Potential of Philosophy Blogs

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 08/03/2019 - 1:34am in

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Blogging

[This is an invited guest post by Justin Weinberg at DailyNous, part of a symposium to celebrate the blog's fifth anniversary. Go read all of it!--ES]

I want to thank Justin for inviting me to participate in this discussion. I hope he forgives me for ignoring Daily NousLeiter ReportsFeminist Philosophers (and the rest), which, for present purposes, I’ll treat as ephemera.

When it comes to form and argument, the philosophical blogosphere exhibits little experimentation. This is surprising for four reasons: first, there are a few barriers to entry—it’s not very expensive to set up and maintain a webpage or dedicated site. Second, a few blogs, which clearly aim to attract advertisers, excepted, blogs can be a labor of love and can ignore the commercial need for attracting eyeballs. Third, and most important, hyperlinks and the ability to combine different media liberate philosophy from previous constraints, which, say, impose linearity or ensconce philosophy in written and spoken words.

Most philosophy in the blogosphere—both the outward looking stuff aimed at that magical entity, the public, as well the more recondite material aimed at the professional aficionado—is continuous with lots of pre-internet age philosophy. What’s changed is the potential, instantaneous reach of one’s conversation/dialogue or lecture (e.g., podcasts), which, together with written essays and arguments, can find truly global audiences. Even the well-funded efforts at using the internet to deliver access to courses, both for profit and not-for-profit, have, while making Michael Sandel even more famous (by academic standards) than he was, not transformed the very idea of a philosophy course or a curriculum.

I do not wish to minimize the significance of valuable online resources (e.g., the Stanford Encyclopedia of philosophyphilpapersbooks.google, etc.) and the many online communities, which make the study and research of philosophy easier and less isolated. I can access materials at some of the best libraries without leaving my study. I can participate in online discussion of Margaret Cavendish’s philosophy any time of the day with likeminded enthusiasts. Once the algorithms of Google.translate are perfected (in the manner of Star Trek’s universal translator) we can look forward to an even more globalized, philosophy blogosphere. With liberal arts colleges sprouting up all over the world, we are seeing culturally hybrid curricula shaping new kinds of minds. The cosmopolitan in me rejoices and if mankind can survive the century—not a foregone conclusion—the philosophical future seems bright.

Even so, I am baffled we’re not seeing more innovation that deploys the resources of cheap computing power creatively. Little is done to develop philosophy through, say, spatial or multi-dimensional reasoning. The clever use of hyperlinks could show what happens to arguments or premises in subtly different contexts. While there are fantastically inventive visual presentations of information or of people presenting philosophy (and many terrific memes), I am unaware of attempts to change the visual or tactile experience of philosophy on screen or in virtual reality.

Fourth, underlying the puzzle is the assumption that technology and accessibility of new sources of inspiration influence the development of philosophy. Anybody who reads Plato is reminded that Socrates thought it significant that Anaxagoras’ works circulated in scrolls that could be bought (presumably also after his exile)—see Phaedo 97b, and Apology 26de. Plato records for us Socrates’s ambivalence (or worse) about philosophical writings in the Phaedrus 275. To jump to a period I know better, much philosophical innovation by the Novatores who now have familiar names (Hobbes, Descartes, Spinoza, etc.) took place outside universities and monasteries; the riches of early modern philosophy were made possible by the cheapness of print and the relative reliability of logistics. Of course, early analytic philosophy was jumpstarted by breakthroughs in conceptual and inferential tools. And Islamic philosophy by translations from the Greeks, etc.

Surely the time is ripe for a philosophical, avant-garde techno-punk that reboots philosophy outside the academy. During the last decade, there has been a decisive shift in analytic philosophy (our culture’s hegemonic species of philosophy). It used to be that in it knowledge of the cutting edge, or research frontier, of professional philosophy could be mastered by one or two graduate seminars building on a fairly minimal undergraduate curriculum. Now, competent professional philosophers who mind their own business outside the major research universities may find it difficult to understand the arguments in, say, formal epistemology or modal metaphysics. Concept inflation and concept refinement are the characteristics of our age.

My point is not to be critical—I am no enemy of esotericism or the division of labor; but rather to admit that the philosophical historicist in me expects that when philosophy develops subtle refinement and technology can ferment innovation and revolt, the ground will move under our feet.*

*Thanks to Mark Norris Lance John Protevi, and helen de Cruz for encouraging nudges in writing this post.

 

Time is pressing

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 07/02/2019 - 7:58pm in

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I gave a talk at Cambridge Econometrics yesterday, where I am a director. They tweeted it and let out the secret that the profile picture on this blog really does need updating:

I finally came to the conclusion that time spent shaving reduces blogging time.

And the new glasses are my sons' surest indication yet that I am suffering what they are calling on oncoming old age crisis.

Elsewhere

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 10/01/2019 - 6:27pm in

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I have a fairly busy day ahead of me. There is not more time for blogging for a bit.

However, might I commend two articles on Progressive Pulse, which I am also the publisher of? The first is a typically frank appraisal of Brexit by Sean Danaher, whose opinions I have long appreciated on this and other issues.

The second is a consideration of MMT and the job guarantee by Ivan Horrocks, which I also appreciated.

Both are well worth reading.

And might I commend regular commentators here to consider writing for Progressive Pulse? You know who you are.

The wind down begins

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 20/12/2018 - 7:48pm in

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The working year is nearly over. That is already showing in daily blog traffic. Many of you read this at work, it seems. And I am, like others, beginning to wrap up loose ends whilst laying foundations for the New Year.

I confess that as a consequence my enthusiasm for commenting on the daily events of tax, economic and accounting life has almost expired. In between thinking about the mundane necessities that fall to a parent in the run-up to Christmas, I am feeling more reflective. If I get time I hope to muse a little more widely over the holiday period.

I will keep the negativity - and there is ample of that to be found - until the New Year is in sight. This moment is about something else.

Firstly it’s about taking a rest. I confess I am exhausted as Christmas approaches. A great deal has been done and after a period when I was frustrated by an absence of apparent progress in my work a lot of good things seem underway.

The work I have been doing with Andrew Baker on tax spillovers is published in the new year.

As is a new report on the EU tax gap, including suggested new approaches.

Six book chapters are underway; three of them are already peer-reviewed.

Another four journal papers are likely next year.

And new projects are developing.

This blog will exceed 2016 traffic levels, but not 2017. That's a first, in not exceeding the previous year.  But that's OK: we did not have a general election in 2018 and that was what generated the additional 2017 traffic.

Let's leave Brexit aside. You're bored with it. And it can wait for a 2019 reflection.

Modern monetary theory and Scotland were the most popular themes of 2018 here. Tax and accounting, less so.

There's been a lot of hard work. And by sometime tomorrow I might try some rest. It's not my greatest skill, but I think I need to try a bit.

In the meantime, there will be blogs, but as I say, not (I hope) on the standard themes. This is a time for considering meaning.

And if you want a really good reflection on that, might I recommend this from Robin McAlpine this morning? It's well worth your time.

The freedom to report

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 05/12/2018 - 5:48pm in

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Blogging, Ethics

This comes from a Guardian email this morning. I am unapologetic for sharing it in full:

Journalism faces greater danger than at any point in the last decade, according to a report that finds 78 journalists were killed in 2017 while doing their job. Data from the Committee to Protect Journalists shows 2018 is likely to be no better – the number of journalists murdered as opposed to killed in war, on dangerous assignments or other incidents is on the rise. Jamal Khashoggi, killed by Saudi security forces in Istanbul in October, has been one of 31 journalists murdered so far this year. The rise of authoritarian governments and the threat of internet censorship has redoubled pressures on reporters globally, according to the human rights organisation Article 19, which found 326 journalists were imprisoned for their work during 2017, a substantial increase on the previous year. More than half of those behind bars were held in Turkey, China, and Egypt, often on charges of opposing the state.

Worry.

Service will be interrupted

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 30/11/2018 - 3:48am in

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I am on a flight out of Beirut at 5.30 UK time in the morning. And computers cannot go on board. So I will not be blogging much early tomorrow. And when I get back it’s going to be mighty busy. So if tomorrow is quiet, now you know why.

 

 

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