Pardes Podcasts

I haven’t had a change to listen to any of these yet, but there are a lot of good teachers at Pardes, so I think it’s worth mentioning anyway:
They even have handouts available to go with the lectures.


In Israel too...


Religious Arbitration in Ontario?

I hadn’t seen this reported much, so I thought I’d post some links here.

Apparently, the Ontario Premier has decided that, rather than recognize Islamic courts under the existing Arbitration Act which recognizes Jewish and Catholic courts, he will ban all religious arbitration in Ontario even for groups that have previously enjoyed it.

Not knowing much about the system of religious arbitration in Ontario, I can’t say what the impact of this on the Jewish community will be. I take it, however, that what is at issue are two matters: (1) substitutability of religious courts for secular courts in the arbitration in various areas of civil and family law, i.e. disputant can elect to take a matter to religious courts that would otherwise be taken to secular courts, and (2) enforceability of religious court decisions by secular courts. I appears that, like in the US, both of these matters only arise when all parties to the dispute in question agree on use of the religious court as an arbiter. The concern that immediately comes to mind is that religious Jews will no longer be able to settle disputes as halacha demands through a religious court with the confidence that the court’s ruling will be enforceable by secular authorities. Some of the articles indicate that there are also concerns regarding family law, but I’m not familiar enough with the system in Ontario to know what these are, or how they differ from the difficulties that arise in the US system. Perhaps the prenuptial agreements, which are being supported as a partial solution to the problem of agunot, will not be enforceable by secular authorities because they rely on the finding of a religious court acting as arbiter?

I won’t bother linking to any of the “liberal” commentary I’ve seen on this decision, much of which seems more oriented to bashing religion than dealing with the serious questions these sorts of issues raise about multiculturalism.

If anyone has greater insight into the matter, I’d be interested to know.



CUNY Philosophy Hiring News

From the Leiter Reports:
Martin Davies (philosophy of mind), formerly Wilde Reader in Mental Philosophy at Oxford before he moved to the Australian National University in 2000, has now accepted the Wilde Professorship of Mental Philosophy at Oxford, to start not later than October 2006.  Professor Davies has also declined the offer of the Kornblith Chair from the City University of New York Graduate Center.
(He was a repeat visiting professor at the Graduate Center as well.)

This is not terribly surprising news and, I must say, I'm not disappointed by it personally. Prof. Davies work was not of much interest to me, and I would not derive much benefit from another faculty member working in philosophy of mind and cognitive science. My feeling is that CUNY's needs at the moment are in two areas: someone working in, or at least very familiar with, contemporary metaphysics; someone to help replace the loss of Paul Horwich in philosophy of language. Regardless of field, what I believe CUNY needs most of all is younger hires who are energetic, eager to engage with students and be a presence in the department, and who are seized of current and emerging topics/problems in their fields. CUNY is unusual in that full-time faculty at the Graduate Center are predominantly older—this is not a criticism!—while younger faculty are shared with the various CUNY colleges are so are not a major presence at the Graduate Center. I think students would benefit, and the dynamic at the Graduate Center bettered, if this could be redressed somewhat. I'm not sure who would fit the bill, but I will note that Karen Bennett (presently an Assistant Professor at Princeton) made a very good impression on many of us when she gave a talk last year. At the least, she seems to have some of qualities of the sort I think we should be seeking.


"fiscal conservatives" and post-Katrina rebuilding

A few days ago the NYT had an article reporting on rising concern among Republican "fiscal conservatives" in Congress about the costs of rebuilding after Katrina. The reason for the shudder quotes is that, judging by Congress's spending of late, I'm seriously doubt there are many genuine fiscal conservatives left. I find it patently offensive that objections are being raised to paying for the recovery costs from Katrina after so much pork has been approved in this Congress, and I have to wonder why concerns are being voiced now about justifiable spending on a recovery when they were not raised (or not so vocally) about the unjustifiable — for a fiscal conservative! — pork. Maybe my pessimism shows through here, but I can't help wonder if it's because the beneficiaries of this money will be, many of them, poor, black and Democrats, in contrast to the members of Congress who benefit most from the pork. If there was an honest concern about spending levels in the wake of Katrina, true fiscal conservatives should be using the spending that the recovery demands as leverage to roll-back pork-barrel spending that's already been passed, not to let the pork slide while withholding money from the recovery efforts.


Ramsey’s “General Propositions and Causality”

Apologies for the long delay in blogging. I've been both busy and uninspired. Hopefully, I'll get back to it.

Part of what was keeping me busy was working on an long overdue paper on Ramsey's "General Propositions and Causality". I had originally planned to build on the interpretation of this paper offered by Richard Holton and Huw Price in their "Ramsey on Saying and Whistling: A Discordant Note", using Ramsey's treatment of general propositions as a solution to the Frege–Geach problem for expressivists in ethics. Those ideas still need to get turned into a paper, and didn't because every time I set to work on getting Ramsey's position straight I found my thinking kept getting twisted in knots. After many false starts, I realized the problem lay in Holton–Price's interpretation of Ramsey's paper: simply put, they misread the text. The paper I eventually wrote was a critical response to their paper, demonstrating that their interpretation is erroneous and developing a more promising interpretation. It still need to be cleaned up, but it stands up well on its own and gives my a basis on which to write my paper about the Frege–Geach problem. Here's the gist:


In his 1929 essay "General Propositions and Causality", Ramsey argues that general propositions of the kind used in natural laws, which he terms "variable hypotheticals", should not be interpreted as propositions; he then considers the metaphysics of natural laws. Richard Holton and Huw Price, in "Ramsey on Saying and Whistling: A Discordant Note", interpret Ramsey as basing his denial that variable hypotheticals are propositions on concerns about the graspability of concepts with infinite extensions; they then argue that these concerns resemble Wittgensteins's rule-following considerations, and that these concerns generalize beyond variable hypotheticals, leaving Ramsey's position unstable. I show that Holton–Price misread Ramsey's paper and place unjustified emphasis on concerns regarding infinity in the process. I argue that they err because they fail to pay sufficient attention to Ramsey's discussion of metaphysics in the latter half of his paper. I offer an interpretation of "General Propositions and Causality" on which Ramsey's denial that variable hypotheticals are propositions is motivated by his metaphysical position that laws of nature are not facts. As Ramsey holds propositions to express facts, he distinguishes our use of variable hypotheticals from our use of propositions, telling against analyzing them as propositions, and develops a positive account of their meaning in terms of habits which better explains their use without entailing they express facts, thus avoiding conflict with his metaphysics.