Friday, December 26, 2014

Sexual Assault, Memory, and Trauma

This article for Think Progress, by Sacha Feinman, describes how he was sexually assaulted at the age of twelve, but didn't remember a thing about it until he was fifteen. He uses it as a window onto the chaos emanating from the Rolling Stone story about rape at the University of Virginia. Whatever the facts of that case, however—and I, anyway, think it very unlikely that "Jackie" completely invented her story—it would definitely be worth people's understanding how such traumatic events are processed and why interrogating the "accuracy" of people's memories of them is not just cruel and re-traumatizing but counter-productive, if your interest is really in the truth.
When we call Jackie or any other potential survivor a "liar", we accuse them of intentional obfuscation. And yet, the reality of our biological and neurological makeup is such that, in spite of our best efforts, victims of sexual abuse may sometimes be incapable of telling their stories accurately, if at all. In fact, contradictory details or head-scratching gaps in the narrative might be demonstrative that the violation was all too real.
Even under the best of circumstances, memory simply isn't the sort of photographic storehouse people seem to think it is. We know this not just from all the scientific research that has been done on memory but also from studies that have been done on eyewitness testimony. And when you add trauma into the mix, memories get repressed and reshaped in all kinds of ways. The question isn't then whether the memory is "accurate". Of course it's not "accurate". The question is what traumatic event actually caused it: what event it is we are seeing through a glass darkly. Dismissing the memory because it isn't "accurate" is simply refusing even to try to hear the message it is sending us.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

White Colleague's Recent Confrontation With Police Is Stark Reminder of White Privilege

A guy starts yelling at a cop who is harassing him, and he walks away completely unharmed, not to mention not arrested. Guess what race he was?

From AlterNet.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Open Letters to Camille and Evin Cosby

Wherein the authors let Bill Cosby's wife and daughter know (i) that they believe then when they say that Bill Cosby has been a wonderful husband and father but also (ii) that they believe the women who have accused him of raping them.

Lynn Beismer's letter, on Role Reboot, is a wonderful, sensitive statement, full of sadness for these two women. Rebecca Vipond Brink's, on XO Jane, is a bit more angry, but expresses similar ideas in the end.

Both attitudes are, of course, reasonable. Far be it from me to tell victims how they ought to feel or react when such things happen to others.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Rape By Fraud?

There's a myth out there that no law, program, or action designed to counter rape can be too extreme for feminists. Well, here's proof to the contrary, an article by Amanda Marcotte decrying a bill introduced in New Jersey by Assemblyman Troy Singleton that would criminalize "sexual assault by fraud". Which means, as Marcotte puts it, "[lying] your way into someone's pants".

As Marcotte notes, this a terrible idea:
...[T]his law is so vague and wide-reaching that it's easy to see how pretty much everyone could be considered a rapist, because, as any quick perusing of OkCupid can tell you, representing yourself as someone you are not is a universal behavior. All of us are claiming we woke up like this, and we are all lying.
But at least the dude's heart is in the right place.


Good Reads: Bisexuality

There are many things that puzzle me. But in the realm of sexual politics, the discrimination suffered by bisexuals, even in the queer community, is near the top. Here are a handful of articles on the topic.
I meant to do this for bisexual awareness week, but got distracted.

If you've got anything similar, post it in the comments.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Jaclyn Friedman on How She Stopped Worrying and Learned To Love Pleasure

Jaclyn Friedman has posted her piece from Yes Means Yes, "In Defense of Going Wild", on her blog. It's a sort of "confession" about Friedman's love of sex. Of course, in describing it that way, I'm almost buying into the idea it is fighting: the loving sex is somehow shameful if you happen to be a woman. Which, obviously, is an idea to which I do not subscribe.

Read it.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

The PGR Numbers, from Mitchell Aboulafia

The results of the latest iteration of the peculiar exercise known as the PGR survey have been slow to appear, but, as the "area" rankings have trickled out, Mitchell Aboulafia has been tracking the participation rate over at Up@Night. And, so far, it does not look good. The most recent area he has mentioned is Philosophy of Language.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

What's Wrong With the Golden Rule?

This is an oldish post by Sam Killerman, over at It's Pronounced Metrosexual. One could quibble about whether the problem he's discussing really is one with the Golden Rule as such, but the underlying point is spot-on.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Atheism vs Anti-Theism

Really terrific piece by Reza Aslan about why the "New Atheists" are neither new nor atheists.
In seeking to replace religion with secularism and faith with science, the New Atheists have, perhaps inadvertently, launched a movement with far too many similarities to the ones they so radically oppose. Indeed, while we typically associate fundamentalism with religiously zealotry, in so far as the term connotes an attempt to "impose a single truth on the plural world"—use the definition of noted philosopher Jonathan Sacks—then there is little doubt that a similar fundamentalist mind-set has overcome many adherents of this latest iteration of anti-theism.
Precisely. (Seen first on AlterNet.)

All reminiscent in some ways of a famous remark by Einstein, reflecting on the reaction to an article he wrote on religion in 1940:
I was barked at by numerous dogs who are earning their food guarding ignorance and superstition for the benefit of those who profit from it. Then there are the fanatical atheists whose intolerance is of the same kind as the intolerance of the religious fanatics and comes from the same source. They are like slaves who are still feeling the weight of their chains which they have thrown off after hard struggle. They are creatures who—in their grudge against the traditional "opium of the people"—cannot bear the music of the spheres. The Wonder of nature does not become smaller because one cannot measure it by the standards of human moral and human aims.
Of course, Einstein's views about religion were very, very complicated and seem to have shifted over time, from what I can tell.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Collection of Articles on Bill Cosby and The Like

Deeply disturbing.
But what's most disturbing, or so my wife tells me, is that there were extensive reports on these accusations, by reputable news organizations, years ago. Or, as Barbara Bowman asked: "Bill Cosby raped me. Why did it take 30 years for people to believe my story?" Is the answer the one she gives? "Only after a man, Hannibal Buress, called Bill Cosby a rapist in a comedy act last month did the public outcry begin in earnest." God help us if so.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

"Frege Arithmetic and 'Everyday Mathematics'" Published

My paper "Frege Arithmetic and 'Everyday Mathematics'" has been published in Philosophia Mathematica 22 (2014), pp. 279-307. Abstract:
This paper shows that predicative Frege arithmetic naturally interprets some weak but non-trivial arithmetical theories. The weak theories in question are all relational versions of Tarski, Mostowski, and Robinson's R and Q, i.e., they are formulated using predicates Pxy, Axyz, and Mxyz in place of the usual function symbols Sx, x+y, and x×y. We lose the existence and uniqueness of successor, sum, and product, as generalizations, but retain these in each particular case (much as we lose the recursion clauses for addition in R, but retain them in each particular case). In saying that the interpretation is "natural", I mean that it relies only upon "definitions" of arithmetical notions that are themselves "natural", that is, that have some claim to be "definitions" in something other than a purely formal sense.
The published version can be found here; the pre-publication version, here. If you need a copy of the published version but don't have access without paying, then send me an email.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

More Great PGR Posts From Mitchell Aboulafia

Mitchell's the human to watch on this.
That last one should definitely make us really totally confident that the new co-editor has total, utter, complete independence from any influence that Herr Über Professor Leiter might, well, not attempt to exert, we wouldn't want to imply that...more like impose with an iron fist.

No offense, but sometimes one wonders what the fire truck people are thinking.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Do You Know About Jian?

Somehow, I totally failed to link to this amazing article by the extent to which people surrounding Jian Ghomeshi knew that he was "weird" about women. I meant to include it with these links (and now have).

I have since found another article in a similar vein, by Carl Wilson on Slate XX. And another, by Emma Healey, on The Hairpin.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Alcohol and Consent

I post a lot of links to what Thomas MacAulay Millar writes about consent, because so much of it is so sensible. And his recent piece "Draining the Swamp: Alcohol and Agency" is no exception.

Yet More About Consent

Kind of basic stuff here, but worth reading. The nice point is that one doesn't have to go so far as to satisfy the legal definition of rape to violate consent in a way that does harm.
  • "Coerced Consent: When 'Yes' Really Means 'No'" (Harris O'Malley, Good Men Project)
This one is thought-provoking. I won't even try to say what it's about. Probably, as she suggests, men shouldn't read it.
  • "Consent Is Way More Complicated For Women Than Just 'Yes Means Yes'" (Samantha Eyler, Role Reboot)
Back to our regularly scheduled programming.
  • "6 Myths About 'Yes Means Yes'" (Soraya Chemaly, Role Reboot)
  • "Neutral Evil: The Problem With Refusing To Decide" (Thomas MacAulay Millar, Yes Means Yes)
Which means we should remind ourselves again why people have a problem with this.



        Street Harrassment

        There's alot I'd change about this piece on Good Men Project trying to explain to men what's wrong with street harassment. But it makes one very important point.
        Are there ways to tell a strange woman that you think that she’s attractive without harassing her? Of course there is. But this is one of the many times where you need to examine your motivations in the first place. For many people it’s not just about paying the compliment—it's about her reaction to the compliment as well. They say they want to make a stranger feel good but if she ignores then or—worse—gets annoyed by it? Many of those "gentlemen" will get their backs up—"It’s just a compliment! I’m trying to tell you that you're pretty. You should say 'thank you'!" ...

        That reproach for not acknowledging [the] compliment underscores the real motivation: he wants her attention and acknowledgement. Her presence out in public means that her time and attention is now a public resource, available for any and all to demand at will.
         There's other good stuff there, as well.

        Sunday, November 2, 2014

        An Open Letter to Prospective Evaluators for the 2014-2015 Philosophical Gourmet Report

        Not by me, but by Mitchell Aboulafia. Posted at NewAPPS.

        Here, I shall do no more than register my disgust, yet again, by quoting the words of Zachary Ernst:
        It is my contention that the Report is not merely unsound as a ranking system and detrimental to the profession; it is obviously unsound as a ranking system and obviously detrimental to the profession. Indeed, its flaws are so obvious that it would seem to be unnecessary to discuss them. However, the Report is also an institution unto itself. It is so deeply entrenched into the profession of academic philosophy that otherwise highly intelligent and critical professionals seem to have developed a blind spot to it.
        Indeed, it is seriously worrying how utterly oblivious people in this profession are to the flaws of PGR and to the egregious damage it does. Not intentionally, but that is ir-effing-relevant.

        Should You Buy Sex Toys From Amazon?

        Some thoughts inspried by a nice article today by Dangerous Lily (possibly NSFW, depending upon where you W), which reminded me of a slightly older piece on Daily Dot.

        More on Consent, Assault, and the Like

        Just to be clear: I couldn't care less about Jian Ghomeshi. I'd never heard of the guy until a week or so ago. But when these sorts of things happen, and you see and hear the kinds of reactions we have seen and heard, it's a teachable moment. And it's an especially good moment for men to shut the fuck up for one freaking moment and listen to what the women around us are saying about their lives and their experience.

        Did I Misrepresent Leiter's Threats Against Noelle McAfee?

        Leiter's latest, very strange post about Noelle McAfee (no, I won't link to it) reminded me that there was an old post I'd never finished. I'd more or less abandoned it in the spirit of not piling on, since this whole sorry episode seemed to have come to some kind of conclusion. But, apparently, no.1

        Saturday, November 1, 2014

        Insults and Power

        Those who followed the controversy that followed the publication of certain emails sent by one Brian Leiter to Carrie Jenkins and Noelle McAfee, and then the publication of the September Statement, may remember a website titled "Recent Events Involving Brian Leiter". The site aggregated information about the events surrounding those emails, and other similar episodes. Several weeks ago, however, the site vanished.

        Good Reads: Consent, Ghomeshi, BDSM

        This is an oldie but a goodie. The basic point is that people rarely refuse an invitation of any kind by saying "No". To the contrary, refusals are usually hedged in various ways, to soften the blow. The lesson is that people who violate consent don't "not understand". They don't want to understand.
        Another oldie about how communities "work around" the knowledge that one of their own is "sketchy on consent".
        And this is a wonderful piece on a much older case explaining the fundamental difference between BDSM and abuse:
        All of which brings us back to Jian Ghomeshi:
        • "Ghomeshi: The Developing Story, And Predator Theory Observations" (Yes Means Yes)
        • "Jian Ghomeshi Isn’t the First Alleged Abuser to Cite the Right to BDSM Sexuality" (The Cut)
        • "Do You Know About Jian?" (Nothing in Winnipeg)
        • "I Knew About Jian Ghomeshi" (Slate XX)
        One of the really important reminders here is that "innocent until proven guilty" is a legal standard that applies to criminal prosecutions and not even e.g. to arrest.

        While we're at it: Here's a nice cartoon that explains what the real objection is to affirmative consent.


        (Via Everyday Feminism).

            Friday, October 31, 2014

            Good Reads: Feminism, Sexuality, Relationships

            You may already have seen the post on HuffPo on which this is based, since it went viral. This is her husband's side of the story. It's about honesty and feelings and love and woundedness, and it is very much worth reading.
            • "My Wife Told Me She Wants To Cheat: Here's How I Feel" (Nige Atkinson, Good Men Project)
            I had no idea that it's completely legal to fire people for what they do privately in their sex lives. But apparently it is:
            • "Can You Really Be Fired For Being Kinky? Absolutely." (Jillian Keenan, Slate Outward)
            Probably seen this one:
            • "The Problem With That Catcalling Video" (Hanna Rosin, Slate XX
            (No, I won't link to the video itself.) But maybe not this one:
            • "What My Wife Taught Me About Street Harrassment" (Damon Young, Good Men Project)
            There's other good discussion about that out there, but I forgot to keep the links!
             

            Thursday, October 30, 2014

            Ta-Nehisi Coates on White Supremacy and a Life of Struggle

            We shouldn't just focus on folks like Frederick Douglass who actually did live to see the end of [slavery]. Many, many more people did not live to see the end of slavery. And yet they resisted and they fought, and they struggled. And so my responsibility, regardless of what my conclusions are, or regardless of what I think is going to happen tomorrow, my responsibility is to resist and is to struggle and is to keep on going. And it doesn’t require, as far as I’m concerned, [me] to believe in ultimate victory. It just requires some amount of loyalty and fealty, frankly, to my ancestors. To people who came before me and struggled.

            It would be absolutely just, like, the highest sort of wrong, a moral betrayal, to retreat to a corner and curl up in a fetal position. Even if I believed there was no hope at all. Resistance, in and of itself—struggle, in and of itself—is rewarding. So that really is it. It just—it opened me up to other possibilities, and I think it just made me fuller as a human being.
            At The Root.

            Wednesday, October 29, 2014

            Women on the Internet, Part 2

            Bunch more articles on this sad story.

            Tuesday, October 28, 2014

            Two Reflections on PGR from Mitchell Aboulafia

            Over at Up@Night:
            • "Leiter Posts Response to Criticism of Rankings—A Response to the Response" (here)
            • "The Dog Ate My (Philosophical Gourmet) Report" (here)
            • "Ten Excuses For Not Filling Out the PGR Survey" (here, and just humor)
            I personally hope lots of people will simply decline to fill out the report, whether they signed the September Statement or not. That is the best way to delegitimize what has become an embarrassment to the profession.

            Also, Leigh M. Johnson has produced a nice timeline of recent events here.

            Monday, October 27, 2014

            A Wonderful, Sad Story About the Shame of Masturbation

            From Julia Boriss, at XOJane:
            When I was eight years old, I stacked two layers of pillows across my bed to keep myself from masturbating. I figured that sleeping atop a pillow fortress would force me to sleep on my back, which would keep my fingers from wandering to my nether regions, which would prevent the soul-crushing shame that befell me every time I gave myself an orgasm.
            I suspect (as she more or less goes on to say) that this affects women more than men. But, having been raised Catholic and in a very sex-negative household, I remember those feelings, too.

            Friday, October 24, 2014

            Saturday, October 18, 2014

            The Threats Against Anita Sarkeesian Expose The Darkest Aspects Of Online Misogyny

            That's the title of an interesting reflection on the latest threats against Anita Sarkeesian, by Maureen Ryan over at HuffPo. (Via Feminist Philosophes.)

            Also:
            • "Gamergate Trolls Aren't Ethics Crusaders: They're a Hate Group" (Jennifer Allaway, Jezebel
            • "This Is Mysoginist Terrorism" (Melissa McEwan, Shakesville)
            • "The 'Good Name' of Gamergate" (Carolyn Vanseltine, Sibyl Moon Games)
            • "We Must Dissent" (Katherine Cross, Feministing
            • "We Will Force Gaming To Be Free" (Katherine Cross, First Person Scholar)
            • "Gamergate's vicious right-wing swell means there can be no neutral stance" (Jon Stone, The Guardian)
            • "The threats that shut down Anita Sarkeesian’s talk come from someone who seems to be deeply steeped in the misogynstic Men’s Rights subculture" (David Futrelle, We Hunted the Mammoth)
            • "The Top Four Men's Rightsiest things said about the recent threats against Anita Sarkeesian" (David Futrelle, We Hunted the Mammoth)
            "Because", as McEwan put it, "threats of violence against uppity women [are] just to be expected". And that last one because it's good to remind ourselves just how ridiculous these people are.

            But what's most terrifying about this is that it looks like a glimpse of the future:
            • "The Future Of The Culture Wars Is Here, And It's Gamergate" (Kyle Wagner, Deadspin
            If you read nothing else, read that.

            "In Defense of Formal Relationism" Published

            I am pleased to report that my paper "In Defense of Formal Relationism" has been published in the latest issue of Thought. Here's the abstract:
            In his paper “Flaws of Formal Relationism”, Mahrad Almotahari argues against the sort of response to Frege's Puzzle I have defended elsewhere, which he dubs ‘Formal Relationism’. Almotahari argues that, because of its specifically formal character, this view is vulnerable to objections that cannot be raised against the otherwise similar Semantic Relationism due to Kit Fine. I argue in response that Formal Relationism has neither of the flaws Almotahari claims to identify.
            Links: PhilPapers, Thought, Pre-publication PDF.

            Wednesday, October 15, 2014

            Some Truth About Abortion

            A new book by Katha Pollitt, Pro: Reclaiming Abortion Rights, is getting a lot of attention in the left-wing press. What Pollitt most wants, it seems, is for us "to talk about ending a pregnancy as a common, even normal, event in the reproductive lives of women". These articles are a start:
            • "Abortion: Not Easy, Not Sorry" (Laurie Abraham, Elle, from Feministe)
            • "Abortion is Great" (Hanna Rosin, Slate Double X
            • "Abortion Without Apology: A Prescription for Getting the Pro-Choice Groove Back" (Lindsay Beyerstein, American Prospect)
            You might also check out:
            • Not Alone, a website where women tell their own stories about their experience with abortion
            • Emily's Abortion Video (yes, it's old, but if you haven't seen it, it's new to you)

            Support Brittany Maynard


            Brittany did an interview with People, and there's a beautiful video of her and her family discussing her illness and her decision.

            There's a nice story about her on the Daily Beast as well.

            Women on the Internet

            The harassment of women online reached truly a staggering level yesterday when a lecture that Anita Sarkeesian was to give at Utah State University had to be cancelled due to a threat to commit "the deadliest school shooting in American history" if it was not. As Amy Roth said at Skepchik, this is "organized, dedicated, on-going, online harassment is terrorism directed at women in an attempt to silence them".

            If you haven't followed this, there are a lot of articles out there. I'll just mention one:
            • "No skin thick enough: The daily harassment of women in the game industry" (Brianna Wu, Polygon)
            • UPDATE: "IT HAPPENED TO ME: I've Been Forced Out Of My Home And Am Living In Constant Fear Because Of Relentless Death Threats From Gamergate" (Brianna Wu, XOJane)
            Wu is a developer herself, and she was forced to leave her house (as Sarkeesian had been earlier) due to threats made against her.

            What's happening with gaming is particularly awful, but it's no treat being an outspoken woman on the internet anyway, as these articles show:
            • "Why Women Aren’t Welcome on the Internet" (Amanda Hess, Pacific Standard)
            • "For Women on the Internet, It Doesn't Get Better" (Samantha Allen, Daily Dot)
            • "But WHAT CAN BE DONE: Dos and Don'ts To Combat Online Sexism" (Leigh Alexander
            • "'Unspeakable Things': The Predictable Sexist Troll Backlash" (Laurie Penny)
            • "Why I Don't Just Go To the Cops" (Rebecca Watson, Skepchick)
            All of this speaks in interesting ways to some of the issues with which we've been dealing around here lately. Pay special attention to the way these women are told to "get over it", that it's "not so bad", that it happens to everyone, etc, etc, etc.

                Tuesday, October 14, 2014

                Good Reads: Sexuality, Gender, and Feminism

                Jessica Valenti celebrates Jennifer Lawrence's public response to the theft of her photos, and a couple more articles on the same topic:
                • "Jennifer Lawrence's Outraged Response to Nude Photo Leak Marks an End to the Era of the 'Shamed Starlet'" (The Guardian, via AlterNet)
                • "Jennifer Lawrence Says Don’t Look At The Pictures" (Thomas MacAulay Millar, Yes Means Yes)
                • "Jennifer Lawrence Does Not Owe Us" (Thomas MacAulay Millar, Yes Means Yes)
                An interesting article on how people respond when their other-sex spouses come out as gay:
                • "How Straight Spouses Cope When Their Partners Come Out" (Christine Grimaldi, Slate Outward)
                More articles on affirmative consent:
                • "Yes Means Yes Culture of Consent Catches On" (Tanya Serisier, Good Men Project)
                • "No, California’s new affirmative consent law will not redefine most sex as rape" (Maya, Feministing
                For people who don't understand what male privilege is:
                • "Why I Refuse To Be One Of `The Good Guys'" (Charlie Glickman, Role Reboot)

                  Thursday, October 9, 2014

                  Good Reads: Sex, Gender, and Feminism

                  Interesting piece on gender identity:
                  • "Appearance, Gender and Why I’m Not 'Cis'" (Ms Naughty)
                  A piece about how differently men and women's sexual functioning is treated by doctors, and then a more personal account of Beismer's journey of recovery:
                  • "On Women Having Sex After Surgery" (Lynn Beismer, Role Reboot)
                  • "How I Learned To Love My Frankengina: Recovering sexual functioning after surgery" (Lynn Beismer)
                  Interesting article on the first amendment issues surrounding "revenge porn":
                  • "Should Revenge Porn Be a Crime?" (Michelle Goldberg, The Nation, via AlterNet)
                  Amusing video:
                  Finally, we have a wonderful article connecting the marriage equality movement to the overthrow of older ideas about marriage as ownership:
                  • "When 'Redefining Marriage' Meant That Women Had To Be Treated Like Human Beings" (Ian Millhiser, Think Progress)
                  The article begins with the following quotation from Sir William Blackstone, in 1765:
                  The very being or legal existence of the woman is suspended during the marriage, or at least is incorporated and consolidated into that of the husband; under whose wing, protection and cover, she performs everything.
                  Indeed, until passage of the Equal Credit Opportunity Act in 1974, a married woman could not get a credit card in her own name in some states without her husband's permission. Etc, etc, etc.

                  Wednesday, October 8, 2014

                  Bharath Vallabha on "The Function of the Philosophical Gourmet Report"

                  In a discussion over at Feminist Philosophers, Bharath Vallabha made an interesting set of comments about the role that the Philosophical Gourmet Report plays in philosophy. It turns out that there is a longer version, "The Function of the Philosophical Gourmet Report", which Bharath has given me permission to share. Obviously, you should click the link to download it.

                  Tuesday, October 7, 2014

                  Good Reads: Politics, Sports, General News

                  Some good recent articles on politics, sports, and general news.
                  • "Stewart, Colbert Save the Day: Bill O’Reilly and Fox News’ ISIS Insanity Makes Them More Essential than Ever" (Sophia McClennan, Salon via AlterNet)
                  • "People In England Are Harnessing The ‘Power Locked In Poo’ To Fuel Their Homes" (Emily Atkin, Think Progress)
                  • "The NFL’s Concussion Problem Just Got A Lot Worse" (Michael Kasdan, Good Men Project
                  • "76 of 79 Deceased NFL Players Found to Have Brain Disease" (PBS Frontline
                  I'll post collections of such articles periodically, when I've got a few saved up.

                    Friday, October 3, 2014

                    Good Reads: Sex, Gender, and Feminism

                    Some good recent articles on sex, gender, and feminism:
                    • "Frat Brothers Rape 300% More" (Jessica Valenti, AlterNet)
                    • "Why It Matters That Lena Dunham Wrote About Being Raped In College" (Tara Culp-Ressler, Think Progress)
                    • "The Smartest Constitutional Argument for Marriage Equality That No One Is Making" (Susannah W. Pollvogt and Catherine E. Smith, Slate Outward)
                    • "Ladies Come First: Why Every Secondary School Needs a Lesson on the Clitoris" (Alice Holloway, Vagenda)
                    • "What Do We Really Mean When We Say Women Are Sexually 'Fluid'?" (Vanessa Vitiello Urquhart, Slate Double X)
                    • "St Louis Study Confirms That  IUDs Are the Key to Lowering Teen Pregnancy Rates" (Amanda Marcotte, Slate XX)
                    • "Please Stop Saying That Trans Women Were 'Born Boys'" (Mari Brighe, Autostraddle)
                    I'll be posting these sorts of lists periodically, once I've collected enough articles.

                    Can You Sign the September Statement If You Object to PGR in Principle?


                    I have had several people write me now to explain that they can't sign the "September Statement" because doing so would be implicitly to endorse PGR. This is the weirdest flipside ever of Leiter's insistence that the true agenda of the authors of the September Statement is to destroy PGR.

                    Wednesday, October 1, 2014

                    Leiter Boycott Update

                    Today, I sent the letter below to the friends and colleagues to whom I had also written last week. It occurred to me that others might wish to see it and, perhaps, to direct their friends and colleagues to it.

                    Two Great Pieces on California's New Affirmative Consent Law

                    A couple days ago, Gov. Jerry Brown signed a new law in California establishing "yes means yes" as the standard by which sexual consent must be judged by colleges in California, rather than "no means no". Feminists, and other decent people, too, have been pushing for this sort of change for years, and it is important. Symbolically, it recognizes in the law that women are sexual agents and subjects of desire, not just passive objects of male sexual desire whose only choice point is to say "NO!!"

                    Tuesday, September 30, 2014

                    500 Signatures!!

                    The number of signatories of the September Statement, all of whom are declining to offer their services to the Philosophical Gourmet Report until and unless Brian Leiter ends his control of it, has grown to over five hundred (counting the original 21 signatories). [UPDATE (later that night): And now not even counting those.]

                    Discussions of Philosophy Rankings

                    In the wake of recent events, a long-overdue discussion is now beginning in earnest about whether philosophy needs "rankings" and, if so, what sorts of rankings we should have. I've set up a page where I will try to aggregate links to such discussions. If you know of more such, then please let me know, by email.

                    In case anyone is still confused about this, it does not follow that the PGR boycott is or was directed towards changing (let alone obliterating) the Gourmet Report. What follows is just that, since a whole lot of people are and long have been concerned about the PGR rankings anyway, and since Leiter has for a long time been an obstacle to genuine reform and now seems on the way out, it is a good time to have a discussion of both whether and how philosophy departments should be ranked.

                    Monday, September 29, 2014

                    Best Site For News on the Current Leiter Controversy

                    Leigh Johnson has been aggregating stories and blog posts from around the net on her blog. Not everything is there, but there's probably something you haven't seen.

                    And, apparently, we are all at code red again.


                    Zachary Ernst on "Our Naked Emperor"

                    As I've mentioned previously, I got out of the PGR criticism business a while ago. Hence, I missed this outstanding paper by Zachary Ernst. Anyone interested in the question what a post-PGR (or post-Leiter as editor of PGR) world might look like should read it. (The Afterthought is the best bit.)

                    I'll make just one point. Ernst writes:
                    It is my contention that the Report is not merely unsound as a ranking system and detrimental to the profession; it is obviously unsound as a ranking system and obviously detrimental to the profession.  (p. 1)
                    That's what's bothered me for so long as well. As any reasonably self-aware and self-critical person, it makes me wonder if I'm not just missing something. But then I read a paper like this one (which makes several of the objections I made, years ago, but in much more developed form), and it turns that, no, I'm not.

                    And I, for one, strongly suspect that the problems Ernst identifies with the Gourmet Report are not disconnected from the problems he identified in a different post with academic culture generally.

                    Great Post on the "September Statement" From Simon Cabulea May

                    Simon makes six main points (here):
                    1. The September Statement is not an attack on Prof. Leiter’s moral character or on the PGR.
                    2. The current issue cannot be divorced from that regarding the climate for women in philosophy.
                    3. It does not matter that the PGR is not itself the vehicle of hostility.
                    4. It does not matter who created the PGR.
                    5. It does not matter whether the PGR is accurate.
                    6. It does not matter whether signing the September Statement would be an "empty gesture".
                    What matters it that "...the particular behaviour detailed in the September Statement and the Recent Events list [is nothing] other than abysmal and utterly unacceptable".

                    Sunday, September 28, 2014

                    Day One...Part Two

                    From the wonderful Carrie Jenkins, here.

                    But this part seems wrong:
                    Some people have mistakenly attributed bravery to me.... I have been mostly just very scared.
                    since those are not incompatible. We are the bravest when we act in spite of the fact that we are scared, because we know what we are doing is right, not when we are too clueless to be scared.

                    I'll agree with this much, though, without meaning to boast: What the 21 of us who signed the original statement did was also brave, too, even if we were scared, and I know for sure I was.

                    No, Noelle McAfee Did Not "Spread Misinformation"

                    Over in the comment thread on the "fair and balanced"1 story that CHE did on Brian Leiter, someone claiming to be a former student of his asked Noelle McAfee: "...[W]hat is your response to his claim that you spread misinformation about the PGR?"2 This had nothing whatsoever to do with what Noelle had just said, but it will be entertaining to respond to it.

                    Friday, September 26, 2014

                    Leiter's Mistreatment of Noelle McAfee

                    There's a really great comment by Laura Grams over at Feminist Philosophers about just why Leiter's telling Noelle McAfee that she is "a philosopher in a shit department" was such a horrible thing to do, in particular, what force the expletive has. Go read it, then come back.

                    A Clarification Re the Leiter Business

                    Unsurprisingly, the editor of the Philosophical Gourmet Report (PGR) is trying very hard to paint the recent criticisms of his [...] behavior as an "attack" on PGR itself. (No, I won't link to any of that. And no, don't find it yourself.) But this is wrong, and not just because so many of the people who have signed the pledge to boycott PGR until its current editor resigns have no general objections to PGR, including some who are (were?) actually on his "advisory board".

                    Publishing "Private" Emails

                    The question has been raised in several different venues with what right David Velleman and Sally Haslanger made public certain "private" emails from Brian Leiter to Carrie Jenkins and Noelle McAfee. The question was raised, in particular, in the comment thread on today's story about Leiter in the Chronicle of Higher Education. Velleman responded in that thread and has given me permission to excerpt his response here:
                    The emails we published contained serious and credible threats aimed at silencing the recipients. Such threats are not protected either by academic freedom or by confidentiality. The target of these threats may have no means of self-protection other than to expose them, and therefore cannot be obligated to suffer them in silence. If she responds that "insulting and threatening emails" may "get around", she is merely threatening to exercise her right of self-defense against prior, far more serious threats. To deny her the right to make this counter-threat would be to further empower a bully. His response that "other things will get around" has no similar justification.
                    Well said.

                    I Call Bullshit

                    So I haven't paid attention to the Gourmet Report for ages. But I have a few questions.

                    Thursday, September 25, 2014

                    The More Things Change....

                    Thanks to whoever grabbed Leiter's latest words about me off the Google cache. And thanks to whoever got him to take them down. But I'm going to respond anyway.

                    Some Basic Facts About Carrie Jenkins's Now Famous Blog Post

                    Some elementary facts about Carrie Jenkins's now famous post and Brian Leiter's now infamous response to it, adapted from a comment I posted at Feminist Philosophers.
                    1. Carrie’s post involved a general characterization of certain sorts of behaviors that are widespread in our profession but that she regards as unacceptable, and a pledge publicly to name such behaviors and to work to reduce or eliminate them. There is no way that making such a declaration can possibly be regarded as anything other than praiseworthy, given the sorry state of our field in this respect.

                    2. Though hardly the only one, Leiter was at the time, and would have been at any time, a salient individual whose behavior is well known not to conform to Carrie’s standards.

                    3. It follows that, at least in some weak sense,1 Carrie is implicating that she intends no longer to tolerate Leiter’s behavior—or that of others who violate the standards she had articulated.

                    4. If you think this is a “threat”, then in response I quote Karate Bearfighter, who said over at Lawyers, Guns, and Money: “If Carrie Jenkins’ blog post was an unacceptable ‘attack’ on Leiter because it criticized behaviors Leiter has exhibited, then Leiter effectively immunizes behaviors from any criticism or discussion just by exhibiting them. Which, in terms of public displays of narcissism and thin skin, is just one small step up from that kid on the Twilight Zone who wishes people into the cornfield.”

                    5. Power dynamics matter. Carrie was threatened with repeated public humiliation by someone who is arguably the most powerful single person in our profession and who has made it clear, by doing so repeatedly in the past, that he is absolutely prepared to carry out that threat. (Yeah, I would kind of know. And no, I won't link to that.) Why else would Leiter have needed to ‘reassure’ Carrie by writing: “P.S. Don’t worry I’m not going to embarrass you in public about this…”?

                      If this still isn’t clear, then please read the comment from Aimai over at Lawyers, Guns, and Money. (There are some minor factual inaccuracies, but the basic point is sound.)

                    6. Proportionality matters. Even if Leiter, for some reason, rational or irrational, thought Carrie was “attacking” him, his response to her is so unbelievably over the top that it cannot possibly be regarded as appropriate, by any measure.

                    7. Patterns of behavior matter. This is not, by a long shot, an isolated incident. It is one of at least half a dozen this year alone, all of which have targeted either women, junior faculty, or graduate students.* There have been boatloads of such incidents over the last fifteen years or so. It would not surprise me if the number of Leiter’s victims had reached triple digits at this point.

                    8. It is high time we put an end to this. And we should thank Carrie for getting us to do it.
                    It looks now as if something like that is going to happen. So thanks, Carrie. Sorry you had to go through hell to get us here.



                    1 As it happens, I have written on this weak sense of implicature, in "Reason and Language". See especially §1.

                    UPDATE: Just to be clear, a speaker's implicating something in this sense doesn't require that the speaker have any intention to do so. That's why it's a very weak sense of implicature. So I am not at all saying that Carrie intended to be conveying anything at all about Leiter and his behavior.

                    * UPDATE: To clarify, this remark does not concern Leiter's habit of making derogatory comments about people. Part of what made the incidents recounted on the "Recent Events" website so troubling to many of us was how extreme they seemed: far beyond the sorry standard Leiter has previously set. So, while Lieter has, to be sure, made derogatory comments about a lot more than half a dozen people in recent months (as he pointed out on his blog), I am not talking about those sorts of incidents. I am specifically talking about cases in which Leiter threatened or insulted people or said extremely derogatory things about people over whom he has some sort of power. (Tom Stern, a junior philosopher who works on Nietzsche, would fall into this category.) See also this post for further discussion of this issue and Simon Cabuela May's second point here.

                    Wonderful Post by Paul Waldman on the Culture Wars

                    Over at the Prospect:
                    However the actual 1960s played out, in our memories, the hippies were definitely the good guys, and the winners in the end. (This is in no small part because liberals created all the novels, TV shows, and movies that chronicled the period.) They may have been a little silly, but there's one thing that's undeniably true: They had all the fun. While the squares were getting buzz cuts, convincing themselves that the Vietnam War was a great idea, and nodding along with Richard Nixon's encomiums to the Silent Majority, the hippies were getting high, dancing to cool music, and above all, getting laid.
                    Read the rest here: http://prospect.org/article/why-culture-war-will-never-die.

                    The Internet and the Mob Mentality

                    Really excellent discussion, largely motivated by the vicious and misogynistic response to Anita Sarkeesian, about the mob mentality on the Internet.

                    Wednesday, August 27, 2014

                    How To Create an LVM Drive

                    I posted some time ago about how to add a new physical volume to an existing logical volume, but I need a new logical volume now. So let's write down the steps for doing that.
                    1. Add the physical drive to the machine, and then format whatever space you want to use on it. Nowadays, I use gparted to do this, as fdisk doesn't seem to support really big drives. So we need to choose "lvm2 pv" (LVM version 2, physical volume) as the type.
                      Let's suppose that partition is /dev/sdf1.
                    2. Create the physical volume.

                      > pvcreate -t /dev/sdf1
                        TEST MODE: Metadata will NOT be updated and volumes will not be (de)activated.
                        Physical volume "/dev/sdf1" successfully created
                      > pvcreate /dev/sdf1
                        Physical volume "/dev/sdf1" successfully created


                      I always use the "-t" option first, to make sure the command will do what I wish.
                    3. Check your work, if you wish:
                      > pvdisplay /dev/sdf1For those new to LVM, the "physical volume" is the closest layer to the hardware. It represents actual physical diskspace.
                    4. You can repeat those commands to create more physical volumes if you wish. These can then be grouped together in a "volume group", which basically acts as if it is one huge disk, even though it may physically be spread across a number of devices
                    5. Create a volume group in which our new physical volume(s) can reside:
                      > vgcreate newvg /dev/sdf1 [/dev/sdg1 ...]
                        Volume group "newvg" successfully created
                    6. Check your work, if you wish:
                      > vgdisplay newvg
                    7. Create the logical volume:
                      > lvcreate -n newlv -l 100%FREE newvg
                      The -n option gives the volume a name, and the -l option says how much space in the newvg volume group to allocate. There are a lot of ways to give this option. See the lvcreate manpage for info.
                    8. Check your work:
                      > lvcreate newlv
                      This will also show you the path to the device. Here on Fedora 20, it is: /dev/newvg/newlv. I.e.: /dev/VolumeGroup/LogicalVolume. I don't know if that can vary from distro to distro.
                    9. Finally, we need to create the actual filesystem:
                      > mke2fs -L NewVolume /dev/newvg/newlv
                      Of course, there are other ways to do this, depending upon exactly what you want to do.
                    The LVM HowTo has lots more information.

                    Saturday, July 12, 2014

                    Great Series of Articles on Men and Sex Work

                    Just reading a fantastic series of articles by Catherine 'Chas' Scott on sex work. Find them here:
                    • http://allthatchas.blogspot.co.uk/2012/11/where-do-i-stand-feminist-pinball.html
                    • http://allthatchas.blogspot.co.uk/2014/02/melissa-gira-grants-playing-whore.html
                    • http://www.allthatchas.blogspot.co.uk/2014/04/katha-pollitt-melissa-gira-grant-and.html 
                    But perhaps the most interesting of these posts is this one:
                    • http://allthatchas.blogspot.com/2014/05/men-fantasies-and-nancy-friday-thoughts.html
                    which reflects on Nancy Friday's classic study of men's sexual fantasies, Men In Love. As Scott notes, what's striking about that book, published in 1980, is how little men's fantasies seem to have changed, even with all else that has.

                    Friday, January 24, 2014

                    Setting Up a Private Git Repo

                    For some time now, I've been running my own git repository on a server to which I have ssh access (since it's mine). Mostly, this hosts copies of various websites I run, such as my own personal site and various course-related sites. It makes it easy for me to be able to update the sites from different machines without things getting out of sync.

                    Details for how to do this are here:
                      http://git-scm.com/book/en/Git-on-the-Server-Setting-Up-the-Server
                    But since I'm the only user, I didn't need to set up a special git user, as described there. The point of doing that is to allow multiple people to access the repo (though you could also manage that just with file permissions, if they all have shell access anyway). The only thing I actually had to do, then, was to set up the repositories on the server and commit stuff to them.

                    Since I occasionally need to create new repos, here are the steps.

                    On the server:
                    # cd /git
                    # mkdir /newrepo
                    # cd newrepo
                    # git --bare init 
                    It actually doesn't matter where you put the repos. But putting them in some central location makes a lot of sense, right?

                    Then, on the client where I've got the stuff I want to put in that repo:
                    # cd /path/to/local/
                    # git init
                    # git add <files>
                    # git commit -a -m "Initial commit."
                    # git remote add origin myserver.com:/git/newrepo
                    # git push --set-upstream origin master
                    On various other clients, I can then clone the new repo as usual:
                    # git clone ssh://myserver.com/git/newrepo
                     Of course, this doesn't allow anyone else access, even read-only access. But since it's just for me....

                    Tuesday, January 21, 2014

                    Extract Pages From a PDF

                    Another note to self, this one concerning how to extract particular pages from a PDF:
                    pdftk infile.pdf cat pages output outfile.pdf
                     Note that "pages" can be as complex as you like, e.g.: 1 2 5-10.

                    Add a Password to a PDF

                    Silly reminder for self. To add a password to a PDF:
                    pdftk infile.pdf output outfile.pdf userpw password
                    Obviously, you need to install pdftk to do this.


                    Many places you see online say it has to be "user_pw", which is also what the pdftk manpage says, but the underscore appears to be optional.

                    Saturday, January 18, 2014

                    Recent Paper: Intuition and the Substitution Argument

                    I'm not sure why it never occurred to me to post announcements of new papers here, but, well, better late than never.

                    This paper, "Intuition and the Substitution Argument" (PDF here), was delivered at the Analytic Philosophy symposium at the University of Texas in early December, and before that at Duke University, in October. It will appear in a special issue of Analytic Philosophy also containing the other papers from the symposium, by Mike Martin, Tamar Shapiro, and Ralph Wedgwood.

                    Abstract:
                    The 'substitution argument' purports to demonstrate the falsity of Russellian accounts of belief-ascription by observing that, e.g., these two sentences:

                    (LC) Lois believes that Clark can fly.
                    (LS) Lois believes that Superman can fly.

                    could have different truth-values. But what is the basis for that claim? It seems widely to be supposed, especially by Russellians, that it is simply an 'intuition', one that could then be 'explained away'. And this supposition plays an especially important role in Jennifer Saul's defense of Russellianism, based upon the existence of an allegedly similar contrast between these two sentences:

                    (PC) Superman is more popular than Clark.
                    (PS) Superman is more popular than Superman.

                    The latter contrast looks pragmatic. But then, Saul asks, why shouldn't we then say the same about the former?

                    The answer to this question is that the two cases simply are not similar. In the case of (PC) and (PS), we have only the facts that these strike us differently, and that people will sometimes say things like (PC), whereas they will never say things like (PS). By contrast, there is an argument to be given that (LS) can be true even if (LC) is false, and this argument does not appeal to anyone's 'intuitions'.

                    The main goal of the paper is to present such a version of the substitution argument, building upon the treatment of the Fregean argument against Russellian accounts of belief itself in "Solving Frege's Puzzle". A subsidiary goal is to contribute to the growing literature arguing that 'intuitions' simply do not play the sort of role in philosophical inquiry that so-called 'experimental philosophers' have supposed they do.
                    Thanks a ton to David Sosa for inviting me to the symposium, and to everyone there for showing me way too good a time.

                    New Paper: Is Frege's Definition of the Ancestral Correct?

                    I've posted a new paper to my website, titled "Is Frege's Definition of the Ancestral Correct?" (PDF here) The paper is scheduled to appear in a special issue of Philosophia Mathematica edited by Roy Cook and Erick Rech.
                    Abstract:
                    Why should one think that Frege's definition of the ancestral is correct? It can be proven to be extensionally correct, but the argument uses arithmetical induction, and that fact might seem to undermine Frege's claim to have justified induction in purely logical terms—a worry that goes back to Bruno Kerry and Henri Poincaré. In this paper, I discuss such circularity objections and then offer a new definition of the ancestral, one that is intended to be intensionally correct; its extensional correctness then follows without proof. It can then be proven to be equivalent to Frege's definition, without any use of arithmetical induction. This constitutes a proof that Frege's definition is extensionally correct that does not make any use of arithmetical induction, thus answering the circularity objections.
                    In the general case, the new definition is fairly complicated. But in the special case of the concept of natural number, it reduces to:
                    n is a natural number iff there exists a Dedekind finite concept (or set) F such that F0, Fn, and ∀x∀y[Fx & Pxy & xnFy]
                    The last condition says that F is closed under successors, except that it need not be true of the successor of n. The point, which has also been noted (independently) by Aldo Antonelli and Albert Visser, is that Dedekind finitude can be used here, so the definition is non-circular. The intuitive idea is just that, if n is not finite, then the other three conditions force every natural number to be F, in which case of course F is Dedekind infinite. If n is finite, by contrast, then F is just [x: 0 ≤ x ≤ n].
                    One can then go onto prove induction from this definition, using many of the results Frege proves for his own definition of the ancestral.