Chow fun philosophy 
After dinner at Emperor's Chinese, this treatise in philosophy of science:

Nom nom nom.

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Debacle decision 
When there were first calls to boycott Synthese, I was in a bit of a bind. I had agreed, long before, to participate in a special issue. I felt as if the general editors had been irreponsible, but I felt a stronger obligation to support the guest editors and other contributors to that special issue.

As I've documented in earlier posts, the debacle escalated in various ways. The editors of the special issue have been good about keeping me updated, and I have always made clear that I favoured pulling the special issue entirely. It seems I was the only contributing author with that preference, however.

This is disappointing, because outrage about the general editors' misconduct is appropriate. Yet this dissolves the dilemma for me. Since one paper more or less will not make or sink the special issue, I won't harm either the guest editors or the other contributors by withdrawing. So that's what I've done.

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A song is like mallards 
Last month I was at a conference on metaphysics and the philosophy of science. The plenary session on the final day was about general issues of methodology, and someone made the qualifying remark that really this was just about the metaphysics of science and that it's not like we had anything to say about the ontology of (for example) art.

My own work is not so well partitioned. For example, I've written on the ontology of musical performance. I've also coauthored a paper using lessons from philosophy of science to say something about the nature of art. And my task since the conference has been to finish and revise a new paper on the ontology of musical works.

In the new paper, I suggest treating musical works (as historical or conventional art) as homeostatic property clusters. I also get to do some work in proper philosophy of science, arguing for a rapprochement between the species-as-individuals thesis and the HPC view of species.

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The debacle in plain text [or] The editors' reply, redux 
Last month, I discussed the unprofessional and craven reply by the editors of Synthese to the petition protesting their unprofessional and craven behaviour. Their reply, if you'll recall, was in a grainy jpeg at Wesley Elsberry had transcribed the response, and I pointed to his blog.

Elsberry's blog is now down. The text below is cut and pasted from the Google cache, and I offer it because Google cached pages are ephemeral. This really ought to exist as plain text (a fit format for verbal content) rather than as a bitmap (the preferred format for porn).

The response

In response to the petition sent to Synthese:

We have considered the demands contained in this petition very seriously. We have implemented a moratorium on new special issues and we have begun planning appropriate changes to the editorial procedures of Synthese.

The petition asks for full disclosure of all legal threats. There have not been any communications received from Christian philosophers that constituted legal threats. There was a single email from a member of the public expressing the view that the entire special issue was ‘scurrilous and libelous’. We did not consider this email to be a legal threat. It is important to note that this email was received after our initial contacts with Professor Beckwith.

As far as meaningful legal action is concerned, we have received messages that we take seriously as legal threats but these have not come from Christian philosophers. Our ability to provide detailed responses in the blogs is constrained by these challenges.

Professor Beckwith requested an opportunity to respond to Professor Forrest's paper. We agreed that this was a fair course of action. As regards the inclusion of our editorial statement and the email correspondence with Professor Forrest, it is true that there was considerable discussion between the editors of all aspects of the special issue. We took these matters very seriously and as is often the case with serious deliberation there were some oscillations prior to our reaching a conclusion. Eventually the editors arrived at a shared position, in consultation with the publisher, based on what we judged to be the offending language in two papers.

With respect to the claim that the guest editors were given assurances that no editorial statement would appear, it is true that the guest editors were privy to internal discussions between the editors-in-chief at earlier stages. We were unable to properly communicate later stages of our decision-making process to the guest editors.

We are ultimately responsible for what appears in the journal and we decided to publish the special issue without amendment to any of its papers. We wish to emphasize that our editorial statement should in no way be interpreted as an endorsement of 'intelligent design'.

At this point, we have a duty to help create procedures to prevent situations of the sort we saw here from recurring. Thus, in consultation with the publisher, we have begun planning a transition to improved editorial procedures and improved oversight which will be in place in 2012. We will work closely with our board or area editors and our advisory board to make this happen.

Johan van Benthem

Vincent Hendricks

John Symons

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E-mail beyond the event horizon 
I recently suffered a computer failure. Although I restored to a recent backup, there is a small window of e-mails which were lost to the void. If you contacted me in the last two weeks or so and never heard back, please send your message again.

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