January 19, 2013, 3:30 am
The GOP, coming off a substantial defeat in the 2012 election and facing difficult demographic trends, is looking to eke out every last electoral vote they can. The latest strategy is to take advantage of blue states where the GOP nonetheless controls the state government. In Virginia, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, and Wisconsin, GOP governors and legislatures are putting forward or discussing laws that would split each state’s electoral vote proportional to the votes won by each candidate. In Pennsylvania, for example, Obama got 52% and Romney 47%. In the current system, that meant that Obama got all 20 of Pennsylvania’s electoral votes. In a revised system where the split was strictly by percentage, each candidate would end up with 10 EVs and if the GOP awarded them by Congressional district, as Maine and Nebraska do, Romney might have ended up with *more* EVs in PA than Obama did….
April 13, 2009, 9:52 am
Next in our spring speakers’ series, a talk on how we know we’re right when we argue with smart people who disagree with us in interesting ways. Does it affect our ability to justify our beliefs? How do we reckon with the irreconcilable?
Like all CHSC talks, it’s free and open to the public; please come. It’s a categorical imperative.
November 11, 2008, 3:32 pm
Below the historians debate which American Presidents count as intellectual. Here I sing of math and the man, Gottfried Leibniz, German polymath, the smartest man that ever lived. I could sing out long and loud, but today I sing only one verse to make the case:*
In 1672, the Elector of Mainz sent the young diplomat Leibniz to Paris. The young diplomat Leibniz did little in the service of diplomacy, but instead met all of the intellectuals that he could find, including the Dutch mathematician Christian Huygens, and to his chagrin, the young Leibniz learned that his mathematical knowledge was quite deficient. So he decided to rectify the situation.
Three years later, on this day in 1675, he invented the calculus.
Of course, the claim that he invented the calculus was not (is not?) uncontroversial. Newton claimed to have developed his method of fluxions in 1666 or so, and…
November 10, 2008, 3:08 pm
On this night in 1619, after a night in which he swears he was not carousing, René Descartes went to bed in an overheated, stuffy room in Ulm, and had three vivid dreams to which he later attributed the eventual course of his life.
In the first dream, a strong wind battered Descartes, and he sought shelter in the church of a college, only to be pushed back by the winds. After the winds abated he found himself surrounded by upright people, while he himself tottered along, leaning to the left. In the second dream, he perceived a loud thunderclap and saw the room filled with sparks of light. This apparently was a recurring dream for Descartes, so he meditated on logic until he fell asleep. (It’s like counting sheep, but for intellectuals.)
In the third dream, Descartes felt no terror, but instead came upon a book of verse, the first line of which read “Quod vitae sectabor iter?” and …
August 22, 2008, 12:01 am
Leni Riefenstahl was born on August 22nd, 1902.
Her artistic career began in dance, but, after a knee injury, she turned to film, starring in a number of silent pictures before her directorial debut, Das Blaue Licht. Her real artistic breakthrough, of course, was Triumph of the Will, a documentary about the 1934 Nazi rally in Nuremburg. (Though “documentary” is perhaps inapt–the rally itself was planned with the film in mind, so the two seemed to have a symbiotic relationship.)
But, hey, you can read the wiki page yourself.
What interests me about “Triumph of the Will”– a film I’ve never seen– is that, at least on the surface, it looks like a case of a work of art that has aesthetic value while being morally bad. So it comes up a lot in conversations about the relationship between those sorts of values.
You might endorse that evaluation: you might say it’s aesthetically…
August 21, 2008, 10:52 am
Even McCain is unsure. The “McCain Portrait” was right to remain agnostic on the precise number of McCain’s houses, and Yglesias is right to say this is partly a question of mereology. (I know a guy who knows more than pretty much everyone in the world about what Abelard thought about mereology. Hot. The jokes about Abelard and parts and wholes, they fly fast and furious.)
Two thoughts. First, in the “I can’t believe we might lose to this guy” category, seriously, think about what it would be like to wake up in the morning unsure of how many houses you own. I own one, for example. I know some people who live in one house and have some rental properties. Two, maybe three houses. Ok, that’s cool. It can be a good financial move. But they know.
Remember when people thought it mattered that a candidate didn’t know the price of a gallon of milk?
Second, it would be great if …
August 14, 2008, 11:18 am
I’ve put some video of my recent conference session on youtube. I make no apologies for my passion. Philosophy is a full-contact form of life, and if you can’t take the heat get out of the APA. (Not entirely work-safe for reasons of profanity. Lower your volume.)
(Via RYS, a site that would be better if meaner. More detail here. Anyone been part of a happening like that? I’ve heard stories, but haven’t been present at the trainwreck.)
In other video news, check out this discussion of moral realism between Peter Railton (Michigan) and his former student Don Loeb (Vermont). (I post this partly to make myself watch it. This is a good demonstration of why bloggingheads is so annoying: I would have read the transcript by now.) Anyway, both of these guys are hot. Back when I wanted to be a moral realist, I wanted to be a Railton-style stark raving moral realist. Now that I’m not …
July 20, 2008, 9:38 am
That’s an empirical question.