April 23, 2004


News today is he can again be put to death for intending to do serious harm, sometime in the future, and for acting the way a person with that sort of intention would act, doing things that mostly in themselves anybody might do. Somebody needs to take people through a quick course in how hard it is to make any unrealized intention stick to a person. One can pretty much predict reasonable doubt here, without waiting for the evidence -- on conceptual grounds alone. (What if his bumbling betrays a disinclination to carry through to the end?)

While we're at it, what can separation of powers possibly mean? The executive has the power to nominate judges for the very best jobs in the world: jobs with good salary, life tenure, intellectual challenge, respect. And the judges who make the calls the administration cares about are in the pool for such jobs.

Posted by shea0017 at 9:28 AM

April 20, 2004

Margaret Wise Brown

"What did I mean? 'To touch their imaginings and to suggest further imaginings in the realm of a child's reality.' I think I meant that a child's story is only a stepping stone into the world that a real story can open up for him. In some stories you give facts, tools for the child's imagination to go further on. In some stories you give a very young child a form to put his own observations into -- as in The Noisy Books or The Important Book published by Harpers. In some stories you have the luck to charm him into a good story that for a few moments seems real to him. But it is in the child that the story continues and, fusing with memory, can even become part of him. Margaret Wise Brown, "Creative Writing for Very Young Children," The Book of Knowledge Annual, New York, The Grolier Society, 1951, p. 80.

For some preliminary thoughts on Margaret Wise Brown, click on this link: Download file

Posted by shea0017 at 1:31 PM

April 19, 2004

A Bit of Hopkins

AS kingfishers catch fire, dragonflies dráw fláme;
As tumbled over rim in roundy wells
Stones ring; like each tucked string tells, each hung bell’s
Bow swung finds tongue to fling out broad its name;
Each mortal thing does one thing and the same: 5
Deals out that being indoors each one dwells;
Selves—goes itself; myself it speaks and spells,
Crying Whát I do is me: for that I came.

Í say móre: the just man justices;
Kéeps gráce: thát keeps all his goings graces; 10
Acts in God’s eye what in God’s eye he is—
Chríst—for Christ plays in ten thousand places,
Lovely in limbs, and lovely in eyes not his
To the Father through the features of men’s faces.

-- One might fall into just action by accident, or undertake such action for gain. So how does the just person do justice. Some philosophers say such a person desires to behave justly and, recognizing this as an instance of justice, acts. Some say such a person recognizes what this action is and in that recognition finds a reason to do this action. What Hopkins says here is not quite either of these. There's no recognition and deliberation process.

Posted by shea0017 at 9:49 PM

April 16, 2004

Matisse Icarus


Icarus, more than the robin, is a sign of spring.

Posted by shea0017 at 10:20 PM

April 15, 2004

Some Thoughts about Starting Points in Informal Logic Teaching: Public Argument, Private Reflection, and the Bridge Between the Two

Download file

I wrote this some months ago, as a response to 25 years of teaching informal logic.

Posted by shea0017 at 9:43 PM

Lois Lowry

Lois Lowry, author of The Giver and Number the Stars, was in Minneapolis in early April to receive the Kerlan Award for achievement in children's literature. She gave a fine speech, deftly connecting her life, the messages in her work, and her intentions for the welfare of children. This talk will be cablecast at the midnight between Saturday and Sunday, April 18, on regional channel 6 in the Twin City Metro area.

This cablecast is part of a regular philosophy show called The Bat of Minerva. For further information about the show, click on this link: http://www.batofminerva.org.

Posted by shea0017 at 10:36 AM

Art as Expression

In a show at And Gallery in Saint Paul, work of deaf artists is full of hands, emerging from surfaces, on heads like antlers, floating out of heads like moths, preceding a woman floating down a stream in Susan Dupor's painting "Stream of Consciousness." This is work from a sensibility, a set of priorities, that most viewers won't share initially. It gives outsiders a window into a different world. This is a very generous show.

In structure, it is a model. Wednesday, Marian Pawlenty came to give awards to the k-12 artists who had won a contest. Susan Dupor, a major figure in deaf art, was there to help pass out prizes and to talk about her early work and development. The show has mature work on the walls and the student prizewinners in the center. It is up until May in the gallery at 526 Selby, just east of Dale. You go through a hair salon to reach the gallery.

I have seldom seen anything done so well.

To see "Stream of Consciousness" by Susan Dupor, click on this link: http://www.geocities.com/duporart/html/gallery/recentworks/stream.html

Posted by shea0017 at 10:09 AM

April 13, 2004

The Power of the Right Picture


It doesn't seem reasonable that the right picture could matter as much as it does. This is a picture from 60 years ago, which seems to me to have all the strength and optimism of the prewar generation in it.

Posted by shea0017 at 7:26 PM

Political Meditation

What should I deplore and what should I applaud? If my country does something bad, it warns people thereby, "Don't trust us." If my country does something good, it encourages trust and respect. But suppose it has as yet no settled character. Suppose it is likely to re-produce disasters, democratically, over and over. Then any bad action is at least a good warning, and any good action may beckon the freedom and life-loving people of the world: "Stick out your necks, farther -- just a little farther." I should applaud anything that gives my country a settled good character and makes evil unlikely. Failing that, I should applaud anything that makes my country less dangerous, at its worst, less seductive, at its best.

Posted by shea0017 at 12:09 AM

April 8, 2004

Duerer's Pigs


The difference between Duerer and Schongauer is a difference of basic intuition about the world or of basic relationship to the world -- including -- to pigs.

Posted by shea0017 at 11:24 AM

Schongauer Pigs


Posted by shea0017 at 10:14 AM

Retelling the history of the world

One might rewrite the history of the world every day, slap dash, for practice thinking big. If I were to try today, I'd try from the standpoint of hope, defined as that wet paint sort of smell. (Philosophers are very precise about defining.) I'd want something on Tesla and rural electrification, on Vatican II, on penicillin, on pre-writing and the revolution in writing teaching in my lifetime, on Google, on the mail service, on Margaret Wise Brown and the re-imagining of childhood, on Wittgenstein and John Wisdom and Austin as liberators of philosophy from constricting programs and constricting prose, on Jane Goodall and the serious thought that humans are not alone, even if the Martians never land.

My teacher David White used to say of karma yoga: "Even a little of this practice is beneficial, and the effects are permanent." There are a few things in the world like that.

Posted by shea0017 at 9:50 AM

April 7, 2004

First Time

This will be a blog devoted to celebrating the imagination, wit, and intuition of philosophers, as those qualities bear on what happens to happen, from day to day.

The selection of philosophers will be whimsical and non-negotiable.

For firsts, from Simone Weil: "The most beautiful life possible has always seemed to me to be one where everything is determined..." (From the Spiritual Autobiography)

If one believes this, one also believes that the wealthy are shut out of the most beautiful life possible, to the extent that their wealth gives them choices.

This is a thought that seems crazy to many people, who see both wealth and freedom -- and the freedom that wealth brings -- as preconditions for the most beautiful life, perhaps for any satisfactory life.

Posted by shea0017 at 9:05 PM