Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Value Fictionalism Paper Updated

I've incorporated some of the things I learned from my PGF and my presentation at Princeton-Rutgers into a new draft of my value fictionalism paper, "Imaginary Values and the Cult of the Untrue". For anyone interested, it's online here. Comments are very welcome.

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Clues that maybe you ought to re-assess

Ray Mummert, a pastor and parent in Dover, PA, discussed the debate over teaching creationism in public schools with AFP. Mr. Mummert opposes efforts to keep religion out of public high school science classes, saying, "if we continue to indoctrinate our young people with non-religious principles, we're headed for an internal destruction of this society." But I find this quotation particularly thought-provoking. Mr. Mummert described his political opponents in this matter as follows:
We've been attacked by the intelligent, educated segment of the culture.
Yeah, seriously. What do they know?

Monday, March 28, 2005

Workplace morality

My friend Shari was asking the other night whether morally-motivated vegetarians should have a moral problem with working somewhere where a requirement of the job was to serve meat. My answer: probably. For someone like me, anyway, the reason I'm a vegetarian is that I think it's morally wrong to support the factory farm industry. Eating meat is only one of many ways to support that industry. So I guess that means I'd advise anyone to think hard before accepting a job that requires you to promote a practice that he or she finds immoral.

Thursday, March 24, 2005


Ok, not the XXX part*. The reason I haven't been posting much of late is that I've been travelling back and forth to Houston, where I'm performing in the Rice Light Opera Society production of Patience. And you can watch it on the world wide web! Tonight, tomorrow, and Saturday at 8:00 p.m. Central Time. Details at *Although I could tell stories about a show I was once in at Rice that went awry...

Sunday, March 20, 2005

Value and Inquiry Conference

My paper on imaginary values has been accepted to the University of Toronto Value and Inquiry graduate philosophy conference. May 13-15. That's three papers at five conferences this semester, which is, I think, plenty.

Sunday, March 13, 2005

AIM and Privacy

I find this deeply troubling, and need to spend some time deciding what to do about it. Frankly, removing AIM use from my life would be a non-trivial lifestyle change; I have many, many friends with whom my primary mode of keeping in touch with them is Instant Messenger. The newest version of the Instant Messenger Terms of Service includes this passage:
Although you or the owner of the Content retain ownership of all right, title and interest in Content that you post to any AIM Product, AOL owns all right, title and interest in any compilation, collective work or other derivative work created by AOL using or incorporating this Content. In addition, by posting Content on an AIM Product, you grant AOL, its parent, affiliates, subsidiaries, assigns, agents and licensees the irrevocable, perpetual, worldwide right to reproduce, display, perform, distribute, adapt and promote this Content in any medium. You waive any right to privacy. You waive any right to inspect or approve uses of the Content or to be compensated for any such uses.
The one thing I'm sure of is that everyone who uses AIM needs to be aware that AOL has given itself the right to record, inspect, and publish your Instant Messenger conversations. What I'm not sure of yet is whether I can learn to live with that.

Friday, March 11, 2005

Why can't they all be like this?

I am 100% behind this evangelical Christian movement.
The National Association of Evangelicals, with 30 million members in 45,000 churches, opened a debate on Thursday on a document intended to expand the political platform of evangelicals beyond the fight against abortion and same-sex marriage. ... The document urges evangelicals to address issues like racial injustice, religious freedom, poverty in the United States and abroad, human rights, environmentalism and advancing peace through nonviolent conflict resolution.

Redefining 'family'

Here's my question of the day: how come so many elements on the Christian Right are so worried about redefining various terms? We're told that the "homosexual agenda" is committed to "redefining 'family'". We need a Constitutional amendment to protect the definition of "marriage". Not the institution, the word. I don't get it. I mean, I think it's usually bad when people just make up new definitions of words. I just graded a pile of papers in which some students tried to defend a substantive view by redefining the terms until the string of words in question represented a tautology. This is bad philosophy, but it's hardly immoral, or a threat to civilization (except insofar as it's a threat to effective communication). In general, people are free to use words as they see fit. It helps if we're all speaking the same language, so it's usually not a good idea to grossly redefine our terms, but it's hardly a political issue to do so. If someone is using a term in the wrong way, then we should perhaps ask for clarification. If it's especially confusing, maybe we should hope he looks for a new word -- or maybe, if the revolutionary linguistic sentiment is strong, we should just be careful to make our own distinction between the old meaning and the new one. But instead, the Right rallies itself around a threat to a definition. Weird. I used to think that when they say they're concerned about protecting definitions, they were just not choosing their words clearly; that they don't really mean they were willing to stand up and fight for their preferred definition of a term in English. They say they're concerned about the definition of "marriage", but really they're just concerned about whether gay couples should be permitted to be thought of as committed, more or less the same way that married heterosexual couples are. This latter *is* a political issue, and a thing that I don't find confusing. I find worrying about the definition of a word to be confusing; I find worrying about whether society will think that it's ok to be in a gay relationship to be morally reprehensible, but not confusing. Insofar as I interpret views to minimize my own confusion, this made me lean toward the latter interpretation. But I've recently come across some evidence that this can't be right -- evidence that no, what they actually care about is a term of English. Check out this, from Focus on the Family's "Citizen-Link" email today:
The guide itself treats the classroom as a family, defining a family loosely as any group that is bound by love and caring for each other. Sometimes, pets and imaginary creatures are seen as family. That, while not specifically pro-gay, is cause for concern among pro-family analysts. "For parents who look closely at the teachers guide and DVD, it is apparent that this is yet another example of the kinds of materials intended to redefine the family," said Marc Fey, director of worldview outreach at Focus on the Family. "This curriculum has one objective — to redefine the traditional view of a family."
Apparently, they've reached the point where even metaphorical uses of the word 'family' are dangerous and/or offensive. I think that's just weird.

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

UT-Austin Possible Worlds Conference

My paper on truth in fiction was accepted at the University of Texas "Possible Worlds" Conference! April 22-23, Austin, TX. This is turning out to be a very busy semester for me, conference-wise!

Sunday, March 06, 2005

Mahna Mahna

Video from the classic Muppet Show. It's the most entertaining couple of mindless minutes I've seen in a long time. Hat tip: Jeremy.

Something to be proud of

I, my friends, am the Number One google hit for the search [there some]. Yes, I'm willing to sign autographs.

Saturday, March 05, 2005


I've finally gotten around to uploading some of my pictures from my camera phone, and wanted to share a couple with the world at large. First up, we have an ATM that I saw in... some airport recently. Baltimore? I think it was Baltimore. Anyway, I was just impressed with the name of the bank, so I took a picture of it.
Also of note is a recent installment in my series of "what funny things can I think about doing with my hair for Bunthorne, now that it's longer?" experiments:
And finally, I wanted to follow up briefly on Thursday's post about imaginary friends. I suggested that imaginary friends may very well be of some value. But this has its limits. I think that any man who's had to make do with the imaginary version will find the cover story on the latest Glamour magazine unsurprising.

Thursday, March 03, 2005

Imaginary Friends

Continuing my recent pattern of pointing to things I find interesting but being too lazy (ok, really too busy) to do any worthwhile analysis, here is a Guardian story about a study designed to assess whether there are developmental advantages to having imaginary friends. It seems likely to me that there are, but that's probably because I'm obsessed with imagination. Hat tip: Brian.

Church and State in the Supreme Court

If you've been paying attention, you know that there're some big developments lately on church-state seperation, or not, in the United States Supreme Court. They're hearing two cases about Ten Commandments displays. I don't have time to discuss it in any depth, but I thought I'd point readers to an online transcript of deliberations, as well as this gem from Justice Scalia:
"And when somebody goes by that monument, I don't think they're studying one of the commandments. It's a symbol of the fact that government comes -- derives its authority from God. And that is, it seems to me, an appropriate symbol to be on State grounds."

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Family Values

The top two stories in Tony Perkin's "Washington Update", put out by the Family Research Council today are a condemnation of the U.S. Supreme Court for citing foreign decisions in preventing juvenile executions, and a feature about the Ten Commandments in government buildings. Ten points to anyone who can explain what any of this has to do with families.

Happy Birthday Dr. Seuss

Today is the one hundred first anniversary of Theodore Geisel's birth. A wonderful man.