Monthly Archives: May 2011

iPad 2

A lazy question to mark the beginning of summer:

Suppose an academic were to (a) succumb to Apple’s marketing prowess and (b) invest a great deal of time and energy researching/discovering the best ways to make use of his/her new iPad 2, what would be the most valuable information s/he would learn, particularly regarding which apps to get?

I’m primarily interested in using the iPad to read and take notes on books and journal articles, and take it that iAnnotate is (one of) the best apps for that. But I’m also interested in suggestions about the iPad’s capabilities that are not so obvious, i.e., things someone who doesn’t have much time for (b) wouldn’t even think to look for. read more...

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Political theory at CPSA, Waterloo, Ontario, May 16-18 2011

Here’s this year’s lineup of political theory panels at the Annual Meeting of the Canadian Political Science Association next week, as organized by Loren King and Colin Farrelly. Of special interest: Carole Pateman’s plenary address, and the workshop on “Global justice and global governance.”

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Conference : On usage of “libertine” – U. of Brussels

De l’usage du terme « libertin ». Invectives et controverses aux XVIe et XVIIe siècles

Colloque international et Séminaire doctoral transdisciplinaire sur la Renaissance

Université Libre de Bruxelles

Grande Salle du CIERL (17, avenue F.D. Roosevelt)

Mardi 31 mai et Mercredi 1 juin

Organisé par l’Institut interuniversitaire Renaissance et Humanisme (ULB/VUB), le Centre Interdisciplinaire d’Etude des Religions et de la Laïcité (ULB), le PHI – Centre de recherche en Philosophie (ULB, et le Service de philosophie (UMONS)

Avec le soutien du FNRS et de l’Académie Wallonie-Bruxelles.

L’objectif de ce colloque est d’explorer les sens et les éventuelles lignes de cohérence du libertinisme en partant exclusivement des usages attestés du terme “libertin(s)” dans le cadre de controverses morales, théologiques, scientifiques, politiques ou philosophiques au XVIe et XVIIe siècles.

Mardi 31 mai

10 h: Allocution d’ouverture par Manuel Couvreur (Doyen de la faculté de Philosophie et Lettres ULB)

10 h 15 – 11h30

Thomas Berns (ULB) : Introduction : le machiavélien, l’averroïste et le libertin

Jean-Pierre Cavaillé (EHESS) : Les usages polémiques des termes « libertine », « libertinism » en Angleterre, XVIe-XVIIe siècle

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Experiment Month Initiative

The Experimental Month Initiative hosts 17 different experimental philosophy studies designed by 29 philosophers, each working on illuminating a different philosophical question.

Please take a moment to help these philosophers out, either by stopping by the Experiment Month website to fill out a brief questionnaire or by spreading the word about these new studies.

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The Order of Public Reason: Conclusion (and Appendix A)

We reach the end of the book. It has been a long-haul and I am grateful to everyone who has been involved. I’m going to use this post to achieve two aims: (a) to summarize the main themes of the book in light of Jerry’s emphases in the conclusion and (b) to discuss the novelties explored in Appendix A.

Discussion and Review

The very first sentence of the Conclusion is illustrative: “The philosopher’s stone that transforms individual goal pursuit into social restraints on goal pursuit is, like other alchemical projects, enticing but misguided” (547). Let’s reflect for a moment on why Gaus begins the conclusion of this 550-page book in this way. Wasn’t this point merely one of many made along the way? Isn’t this just part of the point of the book?

I. Hayek and the Social Contract Tradition

I suggest that if we take Jerry at his word, we can shed light on the deepest themes in the book. First, note that this claim in effect rejects the entire basis of the social contract tradition, a tradition one might easily think that Jerry is defending and extending rather than rejecting. In some sense, Jerry rejects the contract metaphor. The idea that our interest in social morality can ground our reasons to follow social-moral rules (the idea that arguably lies at the heart of the contractarian tradition) must be rejected; and Jerry has tried to show why at great length. Instead, we must adopt an entirely distinct philosophical anthropology, one that is at root deeply Hayekian, for as Jerry says, “Our reason did not produce social order – we did not reason ourselves into being followers of social rules. Rather, the requirements of social order shaped our reason.” This just is Hayek, who wrote:

Man is as much a rule-following animal as a purpose-seeking one. And he is successful not because he knows why he ought to observe the rules which he does observe, or is even capable of stating all these rules in words, but because his thinking and acting are governed by rules which have by a process of selection been evolved in a society in which he lives, and which are thus the product of the experience of generations (LLL, 11).

Many of you know Hayek the classical liberal, but Jerry is following Hayek the social theorist, who attempted to integrate the rationality of rule-following into his philosophical anthropology at the deepest level. Jerry has argued throughout the book that the conception of the person employed within public reason liberalism and liberalism broadly speaking must move in this Hayekian direction. If public reason liberals follow Jerry’s lead, the fundamental structure of public reason and even the nature of the social contract theorists’ project must substantially change. In short, political justification must not begin with deriving the rationality of rule-following from a teleological conception of practical reason. Instead, it must begin with an understanding of the nature of human beings who are already rule-followers and the nature of the moral emotions and cooperative activities that accompany such rule-following. It is in this way that Jerry moves most forcefully away from Hobbesian conceptions of public reason. He goes further by arguing that even the Kantian conception of the person he endorses cannot be constructed out of practical reason alone. Instead, human nature contains Kantian elements for thoroughly Humean-Hayekian-evolution reasons. Our rule-following nature is contingent on our social development (though no less contingent than our goal-seeking nature).

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