Commenting elsewhere

Richard has this cool sidebar on his blog that tracks comments he makes elsewhere. I don’t know how he made that — perhaps he just manually enters it in? But anyway, there are a few interesting discussions elsewhere that I’ve tried to contribute to, so…

If Leonard Susskind publishes something about cosmology, I’m going to put a lot of probability in it whether or not I understand the argument, because it’s fucking Leonard Susskind, man.

Paul Horwitz asks, on Prawfs, whether professors are obligated for epistemic or ethical reasons to avoid publishing multiple articles on opposite sides of a question. In the comments, I point out that doing so nukes large parts of the epistemic utility of a publication to readers. I’ll ask here in addition whether this is a pathology of legal training, the same legal training that encourages one to think that “arguing in the alternative” is sensible or sane? Paul H. is by far my favorite prawfs blogger, and the post is worth reading.

So how come we don’t see counter-showoff bias?

There’s an interesting discussion on Overcoming Bias about intellectuals taking counterintuitive positions to display their intelligence. I can’t agree, however, because counterintuitiveness is contextual: some academics ought to take positions that are counterintuitive even to their fellow academics in order to display intelligence relative to them. So there’s no reason to think that the incentives for showing off are much different from the incentives for finding truth.

So what’s the answer in non-ideal theory, bucko?

Mike and I are in a discussion about the relationship between welfare states and corruption.

Consider: “she could have avoided being raped by never leaving the house” for a salient example of how 2) does not license 1).

Julian Sanchez has some thoughts about the assignment of blame, proposition 8, and the way in which we ought to deal with the wrongness of our victorious opponents. After my comments, he clarifies some. On reflection, I think he’s ultimately right: blame, too, is contextual: in a community where everyone agrees about the side that should win, blame can be assigned for failure to follow a winning strategy, even though in the larger community blame should only be assigned to those who take the morally wrong position.

In the Comments I Oughta Be Making department…

The brilliant Andy Sabl has generously offered more incredibly useful comments on my PPPS paper, and I’ve been incredibly negligent about replying to his, as well as to the also brilliant Ben Saunders’s comments. Perhaps I’ll find the time to do so tomorrow.

(And now I must drive down to LA. Don’t expect much, blog-wise, from me until New Years.)

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5 Responses to “Commenting elsewhere”

  1. Richard Says:

    Oh, my sidebar thing is just a del.icio.us linkroll (for bookmarks I tag with ‘mycomments’).

  2. Paul Gowder Says:

    Ooooh. Cool. Thanks! Stolen.

  3. Steve M. Says:

    In re: blame for failure to prosecute the war with adequate skill. I may be repeating what’s already been said, but I think there is also room for arguing that one who assumes a position of public trust takes on certain obligations to use the power that comes with the position competently. Admittedly, the duty to succeed is bounded by the the limits of what the public can reasonably expect — there’s something especially wrong with gruesome, Roman executions of generals who abandon battles that cannot be won (or of those who simply fail to win!), or the bizarre expectation that the captain ought (ought!), suicidally, to go down with his ship.

    Not everyone can be a general, a president, or a member of the leadership in a campaign against a ballot initiative. And lots of people want to occupy those positions. By taking it, you’re taking on a duty to do at least as well as the next guy would have done. It’s not just that blame is context-dependent, which it certainly is, it’s that in some circumstances one can acquire a duty to (do whatever one reasonably can do to) succeed by undertaking to lead a common effort or to occupy a position of public trust that no one else can occupy.

    A few related thoughts:

    (1) I’ve thought for some time that the fact that George W. Bush is so clearly unfit for the presidency is one of the more infuriating aspects of his presidency. Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t a backwards indulgence in presidential hagiography (indeed, I level this same complaint at most of the presidents, who have, as a group, been pretty mediocre). And Bush isn’t stupid. But — to put it very delicately — he’s unsophisticated, and he clearly has no interest in policy, law, the details of governance, or, with some noteworthy exceptions (immigration?) even the use of public authority to pursue the public good. This is obvious to almost everyone. Get a few beers in a rock-ribbed, hacktastic Republican, and even he will probably admit it. It’s got to be obvious to Bush. But he asked to be president. Doesn’t that mean he bears some extra blame for his many failures, over and above whatever blame he bears for failing, because his many character flaws were well-known to him — and so his failures were quite foreseeable.

    (2) I’ve also thought that the Democratic Party’s bleating about being outdone by those savvy Republicans, which was quite constant until this year, is morally troublesome, especially regarding, e.g., the struggle over scheduling the Iraq war resolution vote. The very people whining about the Republicans are the very people who asked to run the Democratic party. They brought a knife to a gunfunght and then whined about getting shot. Does that mean the Republicans aren’t to blame? No. But the people running the Democratic congressional caucuses pushed other people out of the way in order to take power. They took on some obligation to win, or to do as much to win as anyone else could have done.

    Thoughts?

  4. Steve M. Says:

    [Looks down, kicks sand.]

    I have failed to use HTML scripts correctly.

    [Looks into the future, dreaming of one day acquiring useful skills.]

  5. Paul Gowder Says:

    I think that is basically right.. It seems intuitively true that taking on a morally critical task requires one do so well. Particularly, this approach permits us to avoid the sort of victim-blaming that appears in claims like “you shouldn’t have been in that neighborhood if you didn’t want to get mugged” – the general at war is different because the general takes on a moral, rather than a prudential, obligation, and one that implicates the interests of innocent others.

    (How much of the democrats’ whining, which also infuriates me, is about the allegedly unethical tactics of the republicans? One isn’t blameworthy for bringing a knife to a gun fight, I think, if using guns is independently blameworthy…?)

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