What is worthy of a reference?

It is the tool of the academic to use their most powerful ally: the reference. The reference is the ability to cite a study, a work, or some other medium which demonstrates or explores a certain point. The importance of the reference is to avoid handwaving gestures such as:

i. There is some evolutionary mechanism that explains this…(no reference)
ii. Obviously this is explained away by such and such a theory or person (but no reference)

There is a reverse problem of referencing; it is foolish just to refer to a study and not question its validity. A paper put in a medical journal; The Lancet made the claim that there was a link between the MMR vaccine and autism, which many people now believe, and have made a decision to avoid vaccination aware of this. The thing about this study was that it was later discredited. The Sokal hoax is another instance, I’m assuming a certain amount of background of the reader (like a PhD in Transformative Hermeneutics) that you are aware of the hoax.

I put forth this question: what counts as a reference? A book can be referred; a paper in a joural can be referred; but what about a newspaper? official government studies? a gallup poll? a television programme,  radio documentary, blog, podcast, computer software in general?

One should always be questionable about their sources: a video on youtube about Godel’s incompleteness theorem is hardly going to be as insightful as a paper in Mind or J. of Midwest Philosophy; however, in this eclectic and interesting information age, we should be as eclectic as Kant was in his day. In the Antrhopology; Kant demonstrates a real knowledge of his fellow Europeans: Kant read the proto-anthropological writings of explorers and well-to-do white men.

Although by today’s standards those antrhopological are unacceptable, unreliable and probably racist sources, they were, in Kant’s day, the explorers who went where no (white) man had gone before (I intentionally used genered language for that phrase). Kant’s sources try to take account of the common folk; but also the cultured intellectual.

In his theoretical philosophy, Kant drew from natural philosophy (physics), some mathematics, and as a philosopher, he went very far out of the normal Prussian comfort zone of Germanic writers by reading the English writers such as Shaftesbury, Hume, Locke, and even Shakespeare! Perhaps this fact is not appreciated today, but a few of the philosophers of the Pantheon had really gone beyond their comfort zone and normal circle of literature; Descartes had ceased to become interested in Aristotelian philosophy; Spinoza, had moved away from his cultural Jewish intellectual leanings to learn ‘Christian’ and other works. By acknowledging and immersing in foreign literature, each of these writers had met some degree of derision.

Recently philosophers and academics in general had brought discussions to podcasting and blogs; in addition to open-access journals, this phenomena might be seen as challenging the former way of things, but it seems more like it is reaffirming it. I have a habit of cataloging much of what I read in bibliography software. But I wonder more and more what is worthy of recording. I often listen to audiobooks and consider that a straightforward reference item, but podcasts and blog posts, however, need more classification tools.

Normally the fields relevant to journals and books include: Publisher, city of publication, year, author, ISBN/DOI code and so on. What about fields such as file size, date last accessed, modification history, mode of presentation (such as wiki), whether it has open-access editing, editing history. We now have new factors to consider and old ones we might find inapplicable.

An interesting source of information is the Stanford Encyclopaedia of Philosophy, the factors to consider how this source is referenced include:

1. Sometimes the editor of an article changes hands.
2. Article sometimes become revised either in its content, or bibliography, to account for the new literature that had emerged since the publication of the article.
3. Who is the ‘publisher’? This question does not seem as valid; perhaps more relevant an issue is the question of: who, or what institution holds the rights, or the server from which the article is accessible.

While it is very interesting to observe these new changes in media; there comes a point to stand in and set the standards of pedantry.


RIP Marjorie Grene

According to Leiter and some other sources, it has been announced that Marjorie Grene had died. I knew of her work in the history of philosophy, her book on Spinoza was, after much of my reading on the subject, the only book I really needed to get an intermediate grasp on the issues, literature and exegesis. I came to look up her life a bit more on the internet and I found out some really fascinating things about her:

1. Some allege that she is one of the earliest figures to seriously think about biology as a philosopher (i.e. establishing the area that has become known as philosophy of biology).
2. She had been taught by varied figures from Heidegger to Carnap. Much of philosophical development was an exploration of who’s who in mid-20thC philosophy.
3. Grene seemed to have been quite a firebrand, very opinionated on the works of other philosophers; herself part of a rumour relating to the circumstances of Lakatos’ death!
4. Grene managed an eminent philosophical career that would be enviable by today’s standards, yet managed to take a 15-year hiatus to raise a family.

Grene came from an age of philosophy which begins to have dust on the hardcovers, an age that I quite admire, like a nice mature port (and I do like port). The age of philosophers who had real
diversity and humanity in their work. An age before the academy became an essay-mill with priorities like ‘research output’ or league tables. Grene had a unique and diverse philosophical career; spanning across the ‘continental’ and analytic divide that people later invented. That older age of philosophy is virtually extinguished.


Oh, Goody

Anyone not in the UK may not appreciate the context of this post, and probably anyone in 3-6 months’ time reading this will consider this old news. Which is a shame.

I’ve been meaning to write something about this issue for a while but I never get around to it; so I’ll try to post something before Jade Goody actually dies. Jade Goody (I feel apologetic to you readers just by typing the name) is someone who is quite symbolic of this decade that is soon to end. This was a decade of superficiality, of popularity on the cheap and a keen emphasis on entertainment that soon becomes outdated and expired.

I often believed that ‘reality tv’ (a redundant phrase if there were any) would end up like the film “The Running Man”, where our focus on entertainment ignored the greater social and political ills of the wider world, and further, our entertainment culminated in theour interest in the death of those that we see on our screens. The situation of Jade Goody makes me almost think that we should soon expect a TV show with Noel Edmonds presenting “Climb 4 Cash”.

I just heard earlier that OK! Magazine has published a tribute issue to Jade: before she has died! This is in very bad taste. The media circus seems to be self-perpetuating. People both deride themselves at the disgust of the spectacle of publicly dying yet we still look. We are rubbernecking in the most public way possible. We should be told that the public interest is shameful, and that audiences are subject to criticism. It is important to criticise an audience as well as the media. People are not comfortable with being challenged so directly, but what is worse is that people are not even used to such a notion. Liberal-humanist ideals of the media are slowly being eroded as mutton dressed as lamb


The golden age thesis

A conversation started with my brother-in-law and my sister not long ago; she mentioned how there used to be a chip shop around the corner of where we lived when we were growing up, that closed down.

I disputed that the shop closed 15 years ago, my brother disputed 8-10 years ago. The latter date is based on when the next business took over the property (thus, he’s wrong). The one thing I recall about the chip shop is that it was a family run business and was part of this english tradition of being a ‘chippy’. In London; takeaways are being in some respects homogenised by the places that ‘pretend’ to be healthy and alternative (Subway et. al); and the greasy fried chicken places (which I did used to quite like). It’s only in odd places in london, or outside the greater london area, that one finds those old fashioned shops, run by families, or places that are genuinely eclectic in their range of foods.

There are traditions to the consumption of food. Once upon a time, if one was at a chinese restaurant and one left the lid of the after-dinner tea ajar, it was a suggestion that the party wanted a refill. It is a tradition that hails from the British reign in Hong Kong. If one is at an Indian restaurant and knows specifically where the chef or staff specifically hail from in the subcontinent; you can ask for a dish that isn’t on the menu that they know how to make and they will happily do it. There are these little ‘tricks’ of the trade. It is exactly the point that these things are of a trade that make them traditional.

The notion of a trade is slowly eroding, with unstable work patterns and increase technocracy. This is one aspect of what I point out to be a golden age appeal.

The notion of a golden age thesis is that things used to be a lot better in the past. This imagery is often racialised or politically and ideologically oriented. I’m tempted to think of a golden age in my earlier years when it costed 30p to go on a bus instead of £1.30 if you don’t have an oyster card. I remember a time when there was a chip shop around the corner of our home and a portion of chips cost 30p, and I think, if my memory serves well, a cod cost £0.80.

There is a temptation to look at the past in a way that is completely positive and wholly better than the current situation. It is especially tempting when we have an economic crisis that affects all aspects of society: education, welfare, employment, social and political discourse and so on. There are a lot of respects, however, that we must see this golden age notion as a fallacy. Today is an age where the internet and creative commons opens up resources and oppurtunities for people (whether they use it properly is another point); today people are more aware about the environment and energy usage. Until recently, there was national inflation for about 10 years and the Labour government was almost doing respectable work.

I suppose the appeal to extremes is easier to appeal to; it always is easier to use a superlative than to see nuance. The golden age of 80p cods probably led to our overfishing situation with a possible extinction of the cod fish. The age of easy loans almost certainly led to our situation today. There never really was a golden age, unless you define it by one or two silly things.


rating women in pageants

I saw this article just a moment ago and I thought of a few things. The article mostly points out of a certain kind of hypocrisy about the recent CH4 show: Miss Naked Beauty

1. This is quite an enlightening perspective on the Miss Naked Beauty concept. Mainly, that it is inconsistent to try to promote a positive notion of femininity while on the other hand damning another kind of behaviour deemed unnacceptable to be feminine.

I’m not sure how one may cash this kind of claim out, we might have varied interpretations of 1.

i. ‘Real women’ is a derogatory term as we are all real women
ii. To reclassify feminine beauty in the way that the programme aspired is to merely dress a heteronormative up in a different way (I’m thinking something along the lines of an Althusser notion)

– I’ll follow the authenticity point in a moment.

2. The programme was vague in detailing propositional notions about how to challenge ideals about beauty.

– this, I think, is reasonable

3.  It is contrary to promoting feminine beauty; more specifically, beauty-pageant style patriarchy, by having a show which boots off losers by virtue of their faults.

– there is a sense in which this is correct; but one is lead to having a more difficult, and perhaps tangential thought.

What would the feminist say to the way in which Kant sets up our aesthetic judgments?

For Kant, pleasure in the agreeable is not communicable without having some experiential base:

– Thought 1: would we not also add dispositional bases to the character of how we form aesthetic judgments?
– Thought 2: would this make talk about sexual desirability impossible to communicate? (my intuition about this says no)
– Thought 3: Is pleasure in the agreeable the proper way to conceptualise?

We might go along with the third thought and maintain that pleasure in the agreeable is not a great way to appropriate a conception of ‘feminine beauty’; and we may associate it in the domain of statements pertaining to what Kant refers to in his technical sense of ‘beauty’.

Judgement’s concerning beauty involve the feature of communicability; that i can assert the beauty. I may disagree with you but we are within the same vocabulary to discuss our views as to whether Sophia Loren were more beautiful than Audrey Hepburn. We should say however, that the claims to beauty are ‘alms ob’ assertoric. That is to say, our aesthetic statements about such matters of beauty are, under the character of what Kant’s description of reflective judgments’ those kings of claims which are not genuinely assertoric in the sense of claims about the natural world; but are of a more provisional nature.

If I am to assert an aesthetic claim, I make such an assertion that implores others to agree. To genuinely believe such a claim is the case, and that you must agree. Can we have genuine talk about ‘feminine’ beauty, or are we mistaken with agreeableness ( viz sexual desirability). If we were to entertain the idea firstly that femininity were a candidate for ‘beauty’; what relevant features would we appeal to in order to make such a discussion; further, one would have to maintain that some women are simply more beautiful than others. To claim this would be a desiderata of entering the talk of beauty and to deny this desideratum is to deny that femininity is a candidate for aesthetic discussion under the remit of the beautiful (in Kant’s sense).

We could, however, be led to a sense in which we may say that all women are beautiful/no women are beautiful/all are the same; but this too requires more working out, and one must disregard one’s own’s assent to any claim of splendour in the name of agreeableness (in Kant’s sense of the latter term).

This remains to me, a disjointed and unresolved set of thoughts.


Liverpool’s Philosophy calamity

Depending on what kind of reader you are; you may or may not know of the recent plight of Liverpool University.

I feel reluctant to talk about an issue which is so immediate, especially as one cannot make too much of a difference about it individually, but what I can do is to spread the word. A great many people have mentioned how Liverpool University’s RAE results had disappointed the university authorities. This is such an emotional issue for some people that I will try my best just to relay the information that is available.

Source 1: Melanie Newman, The Times Higher Education (9/03/09)

Inter alia, Liverpool’s philosophy department is facing the possibility of closure, due to a funding shortfall.

Source 2: Philos-L mailing list (10/03/09)

Petitioning is mentioned, an almost universal derision of the proposal of closure. Some individuals are comparing the action to the actions of the Nazi’s. There is an informal formulae that says something like “the longer a topic on an internet forum or mailing list or newsgroup is, the increased likelyhood of the mentioned comparison to the nazis reaches closer to P:1”.

Source 3:
Anthea Lipsett, The Guardian (10/03/09)

Liverpool academics threaten strike if they excise the probability, philosophy and politics departments. This motion has been condemned by Peter Kilfoyle MP (Liverpool) and John Pugh MP (Southport). The proposal to cancel these departments are seemingly motivated by the poor RAE results that go against the university’s aspirations to improve its international reputation.

I am to understand that Liverpool is one of the few, if not, only places to teach Indian philosophy. They also teach Buddhist philosophy and also both analytic and continental strands of philosophy. I consider these reasons completely irrelevant; philosophy in whatever strand is a vital part of the university; no other department is involved with the public in journalism, debate, politics, science, and religion more than philosophy.


Since when did ‘handicapped’ become non-pc?

Here’s another piece on lexicon my little young me. I saw an ad placement which mentioned that they encouraged female applicants and “handicapped applicants also welcome”. I thought to myself firstly; isn’t that a bit outdated language? But then I further thought: at what point did handicapped become outdated.

I saw an advert while on the train the other day, it said on it something like “It’s not a spade: it’s a soil relocation impliment”; being on the train made me unable to determine whether it was a joke ad for something like WKD or whether it was serious. However, it is interesting to note how our lexical choices have changed lately. The Spastic’s society in the UK had been renamed to scope (I always thought that was uncouth). I’ve recently subscribed to a podcast called ‘Ouch!’ about disability.

I find the podcast very interesting for a few distinct reasons. One reason is that the presenters are very informal and casual, this is, I think a mixed positive. Perhaps the presenters, who are disabled, are trying to give a human and honest picture of what kind of people they are (I didn’t know they were disabled until they mentioned it – that’s the power of radio). The negative thing I find about it is that, as a BBC podcast, they are a bit lax, uninformed and perhaps unprofessional by the official BBC standards. I appreciate how they portray that disability is a discourse that has many different perspectives within the disabled community. Some don’t want to bring it up, others want to ask the hard questions; while others are one trick ponies in terms of what they talk about.

Apparently (I’m going to wikipedia this in a moment), the British PM has a glass eye; which made the comment by a certain Top Gear Presenter noteworthy. Political correctness, now, more than the past decade, has been the story of the naughties.