Teaching covers 
We talked about covers today in my philosophy of art class.

To my surprise, a few students preferred the Otis Redding version of "Respect" to Aretha Franklin's. The students self-identified as fans of Otis Redding and were already familiar with the track.

I ran out of class time, so we didn't get to listen to the Cardigan's cover of "Iron Man". We did have time for Tiny Tim and the Brave Combo's cover of "Stairway to Heaven" and Dokaka's multi-track a capella version of "Smells Like Teen Spirit", though. Both were polarizing. Some people liked them, others were horrified. Responses included: "This is soo cool", "Creative! But it was horrible", and "Tiny Tim scares me".

[ 2 comments ] ( 8835 views )   |  [ 0 trackbacks ]   |  permalink
Amalgamating ratings 
Although I haven't been following it closely, last year President Obama proposed rating universities using factors like affordability and graduation rates. TIME recently hacked together an example of how such a system might turn out for 2500 colleges and universities in the US.

The ranking is generated from just three components: graduation rate, percentage of students receiving Pell grants, and affordability (the inverse of cost).

The University at Albany comes in at a respectable 129th.

That showing depends on how the various factors are weighted, however, because UAlbany does not do as well given any of the components separately: 299th in graduation rates, 535th in Pell grants, and 277th in affordability.

The greater oddity is that none of these components indicate the quality of instruction offered by the institution. However, they might be as good a thing to base a decision on as alumni giving rates, which is a major component of the usual rankings.

[ add comment ] ( 1222 views )   |  [ 0 trackbacks ]   |  permalink
It was about Samuel L Jackson 
I made a comment in class yesterday that was a passing reference to Pulp Fiction. Curious as to whether the reference would make any sense to students, I asked how many had seen the movie. About a third raised their hands.

The movie was 20 years ago, though, before some of them were even born. There's one for the mindset list.

[ add comment ] ( 859 views )   |  [ 0 trackbacks ]   |  permalink
What PhilArt can teach PhilSci 
In recent work, I have argued that, when thinking about natural kinds, we should distinguish the taxonomy question (which categories are natural kinds and which are not?) from the ontology question (what kind of being have natural kinds got?).

Familiar ways of posing the problem of natural kinds invite either ignoring one of the two questions or conflating the two. For example, finding natural kinds is described as carving the world at its joints. That answers both questions: A natural kind is a cut at the joints of nature, and its ontology is given by those joints.

Most approaches to the problem are guilty of this. Even some people who mark the distinction nevertheless argue that there is a single ontology to be given for all natural kinds.

I'm teaching a course on philosophy of art this semester, and we're just switching from talking about definitions of art to art ontology. And it occurred to me that the distinction which is rarely made about natural kinds is entirely standard in philosophy of art. The issue of definition is a question of what separates art from non-art. The issue of art ontology is a question of what kinds of objects art works are. Many authors pursue one but not the other. It is widely accepted that different art works might belong to different ontological categories even if there is a single, unified definition. Mutatis mutandis, this is just the taxonomy/ontology distinction.

It surprised me that, in this respect, philosophers of art have a clear and valuable distinction that parallels one philosophers of science need. I have written some papers in which I take lessons from philosophy of science and apply them to thinking about art, but I am happy to note that some traffic could go the other way.

I only came to distinguish the two questions in the course of struggling with Homeostatic Property Cluster accounts of natural kinds. As a result, I did not have the distinction clearly in mind when writing SENK. I came to realize its importance when writing the introduction and the conclusion to the book. As I'd put the point now: The first five chapters of the book are directed at the taxonomy question, but the final chapter is directed at the ontology question.

[ add comment ] ( 1532 views )   |  [ 0 trackbacks ]   |  permalink
Kuhn on progress 
We've finished Structure in my Scientific Revolutions course, and today we're discussing Heather Douglas' forthcoming article "Pure science and the problem of progress". She argues that Kuhn is both committed to there being scientific progress and also forced to deny the possibility of progress. She maintains, furthermore, that this tension results from Kuhn considering science just as basic research. And she offers an alternative way of thinking about progress.

Kuhn even says that something counts as science only insofar as it is capable of progress. Douglas describes this point as "echoing historian George Sarton", which is an interesting connection. (We read Sarton earlier in the semester, too.)

For Kuhn, scientific change occurs at two time scales. Over the short term, normal science exhibits progress by posing and solving puzzles. Yet normal science only occurs within a paradigm. Over the long term, paradigms fall into crisis and are replaced by others. Douglas writes, "Precisely because of the radical nature of change across paradigms, because scientists have to give up on some aspects of the old paradigm in order to embrace the new, any clear rubric for measuring change across paradigms is elusive for Kuhn."

Sarton also views scientific change at two time scales, but his are the reverse of Kuhn's: Over the short term, the development of science is subject to the historical vagaries of particular scientists. They might fail to make progress and might even, for a while, write falsehoods into the annals of science. Over the long term, science is the accumulation of truth. Any once-held falsehoods are ultimately rectified.

So the Kuhn is a like a mirror-universe Sarton.

(More about Douglas' positive account tomorrow.)

[ add comment ] ( 3259 views )   |  [ 0 trackbacks ]   |  permalink

<<First <Back | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11 | 12 | 13 | 14 | 15 | 16 | 17 | Next> Last>>