AAPT Member pbradley's blog

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QI on Philosophy

Stephen Fry,  über-nerd and British comedian, writes a blog for the telegraph based on his TV show 'Quite Interesting.' Today's entry is on interesting facts about philosophers -Confusious, Socrates, Epicurus, Hobbes, Descartes, Kant, Bentham and Wittgenstein. None of this will be particularly surprising to us, but nonetheless it is good to see public coverage of our discipline:

QI: Quite interesting facts about philosophers

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Wittgenstein's Pink Book discovered?

BBC is reporting that Arthur Gibson (Cambridge) may have discovered Wittgenstien's unpublished 'Pink Book'.  Here's the story:

Wittgenstein's archive rediscovered in Cambridge

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Richard Sherlock (Utah) on the reason for college

Richard Sherlock, Professor of Philosophy at the University of Utah, writes in the 'Faculty Voices' column of the The Utah Statesman that:

College is a time when all students should get out of the circle that makes them comfortable and experience people and ideas that are not "just like them." This will make you a stronger, more thoughtful person. Growing intellectually, spiritually and experientially is always better than standing still. New thoughts and people are liberating. Take courses that challenge where you are. Invest time and energy in activities that go beyond your circle of friends and influences.

 I couldn't agree more.  Here's the full article:

Column: Stretch yourself to grow.

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@alvanoe NPR blog response to Hawking and Mlodinow

Alva has a nice piece on the NPR blog responding to Stephen Hawking and Leonard Mlodinow's recent contention that Philosophy is dead:

A Little Philosophy Is A Dangerous Thing

According to Alva:

...Hawking and Mlodinow don't seem to have any sense of the history, the pre-history, or indeed the lively present of the ideas they are tossing around. Model-dependent realism is not an up-to-date physics solution to a problem once relegated to philosophy; it's a rehash of philosophical ideas whose real interest seems to elude the authors.

Hard problems sometimes have simple solutions. But no service is rendered when smart people pretend that hard problems are simple.

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'Philosoper' is one of the top seven jobs "you probably can't get" according to 'The Consumerist'

The Consumerist, a blog published by no less a reputable organization than Consumer Reports, published a blog post earlier today listing the seven great jobs that "you probably can't get."  'Philosopher' is the main subject of discussion:

   read more »

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Estonian Philosopher of Mind is national 'Best Young Scholar'

Congratulations to Bruno Mölder for the award. And Estonia, for recognizing Philosophy of Mind as a research area!


2010's Best Young Scholar is Philosopher of Mind - Estonia Public Broadcasting


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According to Discover Magazine (not just me): "Philosophers are the smartest humanists..."

 This one is making the rounds on twitter (thx to @profron and @christianmunthe), but it is worth sharing here.  Discover magazine plotted GRE scores by intended major, looking for correlations between the three tested areas.

Quantitative v. Verbal:

Notice Philosophy WAY out on the Verbal line, the only humanity over average in quantitative.

Here's verbal v. writing (brief commentary: why is the ETS testing both of these skills if they are so highly correlated?):

 Yup, that's Philosophy, kicking English's ass.

And finally, writing versus quantitative - pretty much the same as the first, but further highlighting Philosophy as the outlier in the academy:

Now I'm not willing to claim that the GRE is a valid operationalization of the concept of 'smart', and hence say that Philosophers are the smartest of the humanists. But Discovery Magazine did. So it must be true. So there.

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Malmsesbury, the world's first 'Philosophy Town', with @drangiehobbs as 'town philosopher'

There's been a good deal of coverage in the British Press of late over efforts to make Malmesbury in Wiltshire, England a 'Philosophy town.'  Malmesbury is near the birthplace of Thomas Hobbes, and has hosted a 'Hobbes festival' for a couple of years, and so has some basis to stake a claim for Philosophic significance. 

The idea appears to be to develop the town as a center for public philosophy - including staging festivals and appointing a 'town philosopher.'

Incidentally, the first town philosopher is Angie Hobbs, who, longtime readers of this blog will remember, is the University of Warwick's Professor of the Public Understanding of Philosophy. She can be followed on twitter here: http://twitter.com/#!/drangiehobbs

Here are a couple of the stories:

Malmesbury bids to become UK's first 'philosophy town' - The Guardian

Malmesbury appoints UK's first town philosopher - BBC

Malmesbury welcomes thoughtful visitors - Telegraph  read more »

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AAPT Member @dwittkower publishes 'Facebook and Philosophy'

AAPT member and Dylan Wittkower is getting some press for his recently edited 'Facebook and Philosophy', published by Open Court earlier this year.  Here's a couple of the reviews:

CCU professor has new book out on Facebook philosophy - SCNow.com

Professor releases book on Facebook philosophy - WMBFNews.com

Mentioned in:

Facebook's influence hasn't dimmed - Atlanta Journal-Constitution


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Philosophy as public, urban discipline

My google alert caught this article from the guardian about the upcoming Philosophy in the City festival sponsored by the department at the University of Liverpool:

The festival, which is funded and organised by Liverpool University's philosophy department, seeks to bring philosophical research out of the academic context and into the city. For two weeks beginning on 10 October, events will happen in venues throughout Liverpool – in places where people are more used to finding art exhibitions, live music, film screenings, theatre performances and religious rituals.


Philosophy: an urban pursuit?

I have to say, I'm intrigued. They're not only organizing talks and writing  blogs, they're organizing the art museum to host a discussion on aesthetics, they're promoting Philosophy in the schools, and (particularly dear to my heart), they're even working with Philosophy in the Pubs!

I wish we had the resources to run these kinds of programs.  Time to break out the grant writing skills...

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'The If Machine' by Peter Worley

Peter Worley--at least one time member of the AAPT and founder of 'The Philosophy Shop'--has a new book out called 'The If Machine.'  There's a press release at journalism.co.uk:

Teaching of philosophy made easier with new philosophy resource

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All elementary schools should have a Philosopher in Residence!

St. Albert Alberta's 'Saint City' has a little article covering Rob Wilson and John Simpson's (UAlberta) work teaching Philosophy in the local elementary schools. Here's the link: School adds philosophy to the classroom.

“They love when the guys come. In my two classes, there was a big cheer on the day Rob was coming into our room again,” he said.
Jones said that a number of teachers from the school attended a workshop held by Wilson this summer, and the idea was born to bring it to Nickerson.
“They had such a terrific experience and could see so many applications to our classrooms that we talked it over with Rob and John about the possibility of structuring a residency, similar to an artist in residence,” he said.

The interesting bit is that this school--Nickerson elementary--made John and Rob 'Philosophers in Residence.'  This is an excellent idea.  Every elementary school should have a Philosopher or Residence.

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Obits for Philippa Foot

So far, I've only found these two. I know there are more out there, so I'll add them as they come in:

Philippa Foot, Renowned Philosopher, Dies at 90 - NY Times

Do you kill one person to save five? - USA Today

Professor Philippa Foot - Telegraph

Philippa Foot obituary - Guardian

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Anyone teaching Nozick this semester?

In case you are living in a cave and haven't heard about this case yet:


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Columbia drops Sr. Thesis requirement for honors!

The Columbia Spectatorreports that the Philosophy department will no longer require a Senior thesis to be considered for honors in their program. The reason offered, through a quote from Philip Kitcher is:

“The department has had some terrific undergraduates. But we’ve also had undergraduates, whom I’ve felt, felt they must write a thesis, but there was no particular thesis they wanted to write and wrote something they didn’t believe much in,” Kitcher said.
“It [writing a thesis] wasn’t a good experience for them, and it ended up being, shall we say, mediocre,” he added.

I'm struggling with the load imposed by Senior theses, which isn't helped by the inadequate compensation we receive for supervising such projects (80$ /credit-hour). But that's not the grounds that should decide this question. Surely, the grounds should be the educational value of such a project.  The Columbia Spectator quotes Daniel Garber at Princeton for an opposing view:  read more »

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Stefan, who has solved problems in Determinism, Knowledge, Ethics, Politics AND Atheism/Agnosticism... is coming for you!

OK, maybe that is a bit snarky. But still. The failure to recognize 'self-detonating' statements is the cause of all confusion in Philosophy.

Wait, I've heard something like that before. Was it... Bacon? No, wait, Hobbes. No, wait, Descartes. No, wait, Hume. No, wait, Reichenbach. No, wait, Carnap... you get the idea.


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Tim Maudlin at The Big Think.com on the value of Philosophy

This small video showed up in my google alert this morning. It's short and straightforward. The value of Philosophy for everyday life is, essentially, critical thinking. Enjoy!

The Value of Philosophy in Our Daily Lives

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Improving teaching philosophy in high school

Michael Green (UVa) was recently funded by the NEH to build a summer institute to promote the teaching of Philosophy in highschool. Three cheers for Michael Green! Champagne all aroung! Here's the story:

U.Va. professor aims to strengthen teaching of high school philosophy

I do worry a little about claims like these:

Further, those properly exposed to philosophy develop a skill that is surprisingly uncommon – namely the ability to tell good arguments from bad, regardless of the subject matter,” he continued. "As future voters, consumers, parents and policymakers, secondary-level students exposed to philosophy are better equipped to spot fallacious reasoning in public discourse, advertising and elsewhere

 I grant this is a staple argument, pulled from Dewey and repeated in countless curriculum and academic planning committee meetings around the country. But isn't it fundamentally an empirical claim?  Do we have any actual evidence that critical thinking skills developed by philosophy instruction transfer to the domain of civil discourse? Anyone know?

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Appiah on Honor - Review roundup

I caught this first review of Appiah's new book at The Daily Beast:

Why We Still Need Honor

I'll add more here as they appear.

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Manil Suri's 'Taming Infinity'

Manil Suri is a mathematician, author and professor at UMBC, wich is just down the road from us.  He gave a great talk here tonight about his writing--but at the end, showed off some of his pedagogical tools for teaching Math. Here's a youtube version of his lecture on the (Cantor / Hilbert) grant, infinite hotel:


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