Sunday, April 30, 2006

Chicken and Iran

The best thing I've got for you this weekend is my piece on calling people chickenhawks. There's also a link-rich post on Iran, and this Iran piece I wrote when I was tired.

Update: Here I enter a strongly anti-me comment thread.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Two Americas at the Voting Booth

It's my new post at the Edwards blog, discussing long lines at urban polling places.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

The common good

I have a big thing on Mike Tomasky's big thing about the common good at the Ezra blog.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Strategic voting and more

We've got a conference going on, so I put my piece on strategic voting up early. All you Brown kids, vote for Laffey!

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Disintermediation? right here.

Back when Ezra did his big Gore article, I wrote a response about how disintermediation (candidates taking their message straight to the people in a way that gets around the media filter, often by using the internet) wasn't anything particularly astonishing or unique to Gore.

JRE-TV is John Edwards' attempt at disintermediation, and it's pretty nicely done. The first episode is about John Edwards going to San Francisco to rally the hotel workers' union. There's some nice surprises, including Danny Glover and some old-time Bush-bashing. I'm looking forward to more of this.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Externalism and Intentionalism are compatible

In his argument against intentionalism, Matt Yglesias makes the conflation between semantic internalism and moderate intentionalism that wrongly turned me off from semantic externalism throughout my second year of grad school. Here are the views being regarded as incompatible:

semantic externalism: the belief that the meaning of a term is determined, in whole or in part, by factors external to the speaker.

moderate intentionalism: the belief that the meaning of a term is determined by the speaker's intention.

The key point is that externalism can apply to the contents of intentions too. When we're trying to determine the content of an intention, we might go to factors outside the speaker. Suppose I have an intention to kiss the cute girl whose name I didn't get at the bar the other night. Let's say her name turns out to be Jenny. Jenny has an identical twin, Katie, who wasn't there, but who would have created the exact same internal representations in me if she had been there in Jenny's place. So which girl do I intend to kiss? Obviously, Jenny. Now, there's nothing internal to me that differentiates between the two of them. But because of a fact external to me (that my mental representations were caused by Jenny and not Katie) I can still intend to kiss the one girl instead of the other. When I meet both of them, I may not know which one I am intending to kiss. But there still is a right answer.

If externalism can be true of the contents of intentions in this way, there's no problem reconciling semantic externalism and intentionalism. Just drop the externalist stuff into the content of the linguistic intention.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Empathy and imaginative resistance

People who do aesthetics are often familiar with what's called "imaginative resistance" -- the fact that it's hard to imagine counterfactual states of affairs where acts immoral in our world are moral, simply because different moral rules hold there. Yesterday Justin and I were discussing counterpossible states of affairs where the epistemic norms were different -- in particular, where falling prey to the Monte Carlo fallacy or engaging in wishful thinking were the ways to form justified beliefs.

I've found that the best way to overcome imaginative resistance and get into these examples was to imagine people who would come to hold bizarre views of norms, and try to enter their state of mind in a sort of empathic way. For the wishful thinking case, I'd imagine a sort of crackpot Romantic from the 1800s who was against rationality and thought that the best part of human beings was in their emotions and desires. I can see this guy accepting a view of epistemic norms where wishful thinking was the right way to believe, and sort of get into his perspective through some kind of act of empathy.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

This weekend's election commentary

This weekend, I proudly reprise my role as a shill for the Democratic leadership. The beneficiary of my slavish party-worship is Chuck Schumer of New York.

I also posted a new version of my immigration piece from the Edwards blog.

And there's congratulations to Harry Reid for further Bill First pwnage.

The next piece of work will be on 2006's strategic voting opportunities, I think. (Um, maybe not. We'll see.)

By the way, here's the latest thing I wrote for John Edwards a couple days ago, on the minimum wage.

Friday, April 07, 2006

Open relationships

Richard has a bunch of things to say, and I particularly liked this:

it’s a deeply pernicious cultural framework that leads one to only value a romantic partner insofar as they might eventually become one’s future spouse.

Another issue that causes people to be dismissive towards open relationships is the idea that if your partner is having sex with someone else, it should be some kind of affront to you. Personally, I don't see why this is the case, especially if you're temporarily geographically separated from each other. Certainly, if you made some kind of promise to have an exclusive relationship, there's the fact that the other person is taking their promises to you lightly. But in the absence of such promises, nothing bad is happening. (A corollary of this is that it can be unwise to make promises of fidelity to give your partner security against such an affront.)

On a more personal note, I'm quite comfortable with the idea of my girlfriend having sex with lots of other guys, especially if I'm unavailable for some reason. (If the guys were jerks, there might be a problem, but assuming that's not the case, we're fine.) Girls are cool, and sex is cool. So girls who have a lot of sex are awesome, and I could happily be in a stable relationship with one of them.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006


Over at the John Edwards blog, I've posted a set of interesting and important immigration factoids.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

states, red and blue

This weekend, there's a controversial post about how there are states to be won in the South, and a post drawing attention to how red-state Democratic governors are popular while blue-state Dems are less popular.