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Justice Thomas reveals elaborate reductio of “money = speech”

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[The quotations attributed below to Justice Thomas are genuine (though not the picture caption, obviously). Thanks to Alex Guerrero for the quip which inspired this post and became its title.]

"You thought I was serious, didn't you?"

“You thought I was serious, didn’t you?”

This week’s ruling in McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission confirms what many have suspected since 2010’s Citizens United: Justice Clarence Thomas is engaged in an elaborate reductio of the idea that money is speech.

In Citizens United Justice Thomas argued that if political expenditures by corporations and unions are speech (as claimed by the Court), then existing disclosure requirements are unconstitutional. Such requirements, Thomas wrote, would violate the right to anonymous speech.

But Thomas’s position on the matter was too extreme even for Justices Roberts, Scalia, and Alito, leading some to suggest that Thomas had unknowingly produced a reductio ad absurdum of the idea that corporate political expenditures are speech. Others responded that Thomas was well aware of the reductio he had crafted, and the proper interpretation of his intentions remained controversial.

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May 22, 2014 at 9:36 pm

The Pipe You Can Save

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Roger Scruton wants to know why you hate freedom.

Roger Scruton wants to know why you hate freedom.

[The following is a "guest post" by Roger Scruton. Actual passages from Mr. Scruton's columns in The Wall Street Journal appear in quotes, followed by links to the original articles.]

Each day 19,000 children die from preventable, poverty-related causes. For the vast majority of these children, their early death means that they will never have the chance to take up smoking. And if the World Health Organization has its way, the number of such tragedies will only increase.

The WHO is aggressively pursuing anti-smoking policies in the developing world. Measures range from excise taxes to warning labels to complete bans on advertising. “This despite the fact that tobacco-smoking has not been identified as the sole cause of any of the diseases associated with it.” [1] “Of course tobacco, used to excess, can damage one’s health.” But “what do we mean by health? The average smoker gains mental relaxation, social confidence and an easy form of hospitality from his habit: are these not parts of health? And are we necessarily right to trade them for a few extra years of life, when most of us live too long in any case?” [2]

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December 22, 2013 at 6:49 pm

Grad school

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The king of France is ready for class.

The king of France is ready for class.

So I haven’t posted a story in a while. Apologies for that. Now that I’m back in school my attention is elsewhere. But I figure I can at least share the more amusing bits of life in grad school. So here goes.

I always dress up for one class in particular. It’s called “Formal Philosophy.” My jokes are too subtle to be perceived by the human mind.

Speaking of formal philosophy, partial meat contraction is not what it sounds like. (Think swimming on a cold day.) Largely that’s because it sounds like “partial meat contraction” but it’s actually “partial meet contraction.”

I named my new cat ‘the king of France’. Originally I was leaning towards ‘Louis XIV’, but Bertrand Russell convinced me that ordinary names are just disguised definite descriptions. I figured I might as well get it out there in the open. Bonus: ‘The king of France is bald’ is unequivocally false. Take that, Strawson.

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October 3, 2013 at 10:34 am

Obama releases philosophy from strategic reserve

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"We've got all this unrefined crude and no one to process it," President Obama said to reporters this week, referring to the backlog of crude concepts awaiting refinement at the nation's colleges and universities.

“We’ve got all this unrefined crude and no one to process it,” President Obama told reporters this week, referring to the backlog of crude concepts awaiting refinement at the nation’s colleges and universities.

President Obama authorized the Department of Education on Monday to release 100,000 counterexamples from the Strategic Philosophy Reserve (SPR). The move follows worries that the nation’s friends, family members, and acquaintances are increasingly getting away with overgeneralizations, invalid inferences, and general bullshittery. This is the first release since 2010, when Obama tapped into the SPR in a failed attempt to head off $2,000-per-year subscription rates for Springer journals.

The broader context for the SPR release is provided by the nation’s ongoing philosophy work stoppage. The strike, which has spread to philosophy departments in all 50 states, is now in its fourth month with no end in sight.

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August 15, 2013 at 1:23 pm

Sean Hannity: Not even wrong, new report says

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Sean Hannity doing what he does best: emitting noises from his gaping mouth-hole.

Sean Hannity doing what he does best: emitting noises from his gaping mouth-hole.

A report released by the Moral Philosophy Research Group this week confirms what many have long suspected: Sean Hannity’s commentary is entirely devoid of cognitive content. “Yes, except we mean it literally,” says Anthony Vega, the report’s lead author. “When Hannity utters a sentence, he’s not asserting a proposition that might be true or false – he’s simply expressing an attitude.”

The researchers first became interested in Hannity after noticing a startling contrast between his apparently successful use of language and what seemed to be a never-ending string of blatant falsehoods. “Most of what he says seems to be demonstrably false,” Vega notes, “and yet he engages in these back-and-forth exchanges in which his guests somehow just don’t seem to care. I found myself wondering: What if Sean Hannity isn’t even in the business of describing reality?”

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June 28, 2013 at 8:00 am

Sexuality, reported actions, and the body: A refutation

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[The following is a guest post by Clinton McGruff, written in response to recent events.]

What do you call a man who exposes himself to women for pleasure? A philosophy professor, of course. Why does this joke work? Because sexual harassment is so common in academic philosophy. But also because of the tension between the image of the lewd “flasher” (a certain type of harasser) and that of the staid professor. When you think about it, most times that you are naked it’s not even about sex: when you bathe, dress, or are examined by the doctor, for example. The ancient Greeks used to wrestle naked and artists still use naked models. Indeed, without the body human culture would not exist. So really the body is very respectable and vital to human flourishing. We are a corporeal species.

I have in fact written a whole book about the body, Pretension, in which its ubiquity is noted and celebrated. I even have a cult centering on the body, described in this blog. I have given a semester-long seminar discussing the body and displays related to it. I now tend to use nudity in the wide-ranging manner just outlined, sometimes with humorous intent.

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June 6, 2013 at 10:34 pm

Lawmakers blame philosophy for recent spate of trolley deaths

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“This country doesn’t have a ‘trolley problem’. It has a philosophy problem.” Sen. Lamar Alexander

Lawmakers on Capitol Hill turned their attention to philosophy this week after Monday saw what appears to be the nation’s third trolley-related homicide since April. Members of both houses of Congress raised the prospect of legislation to regulate the violent content found in much contemporary moral philosophy, and Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) introduced a bill to study the effects of violent philosophy on children and adolescents.

The proposal comes in the wake of the death of Amtrak employee Charles Shubin, who was killed Monday when a runaway trolley was diverted onto the side-spur to which Shubin had been tied by unknown individuals. Two trolleys involved in similar incidents in April turned out to have had their brake lines cut.

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June 1, 2013 at 5:44 pm

John Searle’s homunculus announces phased retirement

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John Searle in the Chinese Room. Not picture: Zhu Tao in the Searle Room.

After 54 years of teaching at Berkeley, the man inside John Searle’s head has announced he will be entering a three-year phased retirement after the end of the current semester. The diminutive Zhu Tao made the announcement at a press conference Monday in a rare out-of-costume appearance.

At the conference Zhu said he is retiring from his current position in order to spend more time with Searle’s family. “I have become quite attached to these people,” Zhu said through a translator. “Although, admittedly, not being able to understand a word they say has limited the intimacy of our relationships.”

Though it never afforded genuine understanding, for the most part Zhu’s English-to-English instruction manual served him well during his time as Searle. One notable exception was the famous Searle-Derrida debate, in which Searle leveled charges of “deliberate obscurantism” against Derrida and other deconstructionists. “Some people do not use words according to their prescribed manner,” said Zhu, reflecting on the exchange. “This results in great confusion.”

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April 24, 2013 at 9:23 am

Referee lockout enters week six

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“Flrrrgh hrrhrzgh shfflr,” said Springer CEO Derk Haank when asked for comment.

The APA referee lockout entered its sixth week today with no end in sight. Elsevier, Springer, and Wiley-Blackwell refuse to return to the bargaining table, claiming in a joint statement issued Saturday that the demands of the APA Referees Association are “simply not feasible.” The Referees Association responded by reiterating their demand for an improvement on their current contract, under which referees collectively work thousands of hours per year, enabling publishers’ profit margins of 30 percent or greater, in exchange for no pay or benefits. The association is asking for a 5% raise over three years.

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March 16, 2013 at 12:31 am

Oregon sheriff appointed to US Supreme Court

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Linn County Sheriff Tim Mueller displays the January 14 letter that certifies him as a one-judge panel of the US Supreme Court. 

Sheriff Tim Mueller                                  

1115 SE Jackson St

Albany, OR 97322

Dear Sheriff Mueller,

I am writing to thank you for your recent letter to Vice President Biden, in which you pledge to prevent federal agents from enforcing any new gun regulation or executive order that you deem unconstitutional. Mastering the nuances of constitutional law and personally scrutinizing every federal, state, and local law that comes before you no doubt requires much time and effort. In fact, for lesser beings it is a full-time job. (Those people are called “justices.”) For this reason alone you have my thanks and admiration.

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February 20, 2013 at 3:37 pm

Philosophers discover new moral principle

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Members of the Moral Philosophy Research Group hard at work

A previously unrecognized moral principle was discovered last week after ethicists at the University of Mesa realized that they would rather kill an old lady’s cat than a young girl’s puppy. The principle of moral naivete, as it is being called, justifies this preference by holding that the wrongness of inflicting a given harm can depend in part on the degree to which the victim has previously been exposed to such a harm.

The breakthrough came late Thursday as several members of the Moral Philosophy Research Group analyzed the results of a thought experiment they had run earlier in the night. “We were messing around, getting pretty sloshed,” explains Anthony Vega, the group’s principal investigator. “Basically it was just another night at The Lab,” a local bar and the group’s favorite venue for conducting research. Vega and several graduate students were playing Would You Rather, a party game and the standard research tool in normative ethics. Before long the group hit upon the question that has since sparked a firestorm of scholarly interest: Would you rather kill an old lady’s cat or a young girl’s puppy?

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February 6, 2013 at 1:13 pm

Kermit T. Frog on visual illusion

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“Are rainbows really illusory? In ‘The Rainbow Connection‘ Kermit says, ‘Rainbows are visions, but only illusions, and rainbows have nothing to hide.’ On the other hand, Kermit continues: ‘So we’ve been told and some choose to believe it. I know they’re wrong, wait and see.’ Although we understand the reservations expressed by the later Kermit, we side with the early Kermit on the grounds that a naïve subject will localize a rainbow to a location where there is no suitable stimulus to be found [. . .] Note that Kermit prefigures our deflationary account of illusion by suggesting that ‘rainbows have nothing to hide,’ i.e. that rainbows qua illusion have no hidden nature.”

- From “A Deflationary Account of Illusion,” now available in draft form. You can read the abstract and download the paper here. The paper was coauthored by Todd Ganson and myself.

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January 29, 2013 at 8:19 pm

Let’s face it: New arrivals are draining the economy

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The following is an editorial by guest author Gerald Mueller, the Strom Thurmond Chair of Conservative Thought at the University of Cascadia.

With the fiscal cliff fresh on our minds, it seems appropriate to ask ourselves what policy resolutions we might adopt for the new year. While the prospects for true reform are bleak, it’s obvious that one of the most pressing problems facing America today is demographic in nature. There is an identifiable group of people who are demonstrably a drain on our economy and our finances. They’re unskilled, uneducated, and survive largely on handouts. Here’s a hint: They don’t speak English. You guessed it – babies. While the Left loves to coddle them, it’s time we took a good, hard look at these little fiscal sinkholes.

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January 4, 2013 at 11:44 pm

Local election heats up as Marx’s 0.47% comment goes public

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“These comments simply confirm that my opponent is an elitist, out-of-touch, liberal intellectual,” says Schmidt Geldbesitzer (pictured), the current neighborhood association president.

Des Moines, Iowa – Karl Marx’s campaign for the presidency of the Beaverdale Neighborhood Association was engulfed by controversy this week after a video surfaced of Marx addressing supporters earlier this year at Hessen Haus, a local bar. In the video, Marx suggests that 0.47% of the population are takers who leech off the rest of society.

“There are 0.47% of the people who will vote for the [current neighborhood association] president no matter what,” Marx says in the video, referring to the 0.47% of Beaverdale residents who own a business with employees other than themselves. “All right, there are 0.47% who are with him, who are dependent upon government for the enforcement of their property rights, who believe that they are entitled to the surplus value produced by the proletariat. These people already own the means of production, so our message of workers’ control doesn’t connect.”

The video was leaked to local news stations by an anonymous businessman who surreptitiously recorded Marx talking to a small group of supporters. After airing on Tuesday, the video immediately caused an uproar on aSmallWorld, Diamond Lounge, and other social networking sites for the wealthy.

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November 25, 2012 at 11:23 pm

Heraclitus 2012

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“Barack Obama. Now there’s a river you wouldn’t want to step in twice.” In perhaps the most groan-worthy moment of the evening, Heraclitus riffs on his well-known river aphorism to caution against re-electing the current president. He’s speaking to perhaps a dozen supporters at a Dairy Queen outside Nashville, Tennessee, on the third stop of his tour of the American Southeast.

Though you wouldn’t be able to tell from his speech tonight, Heraclitus’s official platform has three planks: (1) Things are constantly changing (universal flux), (2) Opposites coincide (the unity of opposites), and (3) Fire is the basic material of the world. The platform is summarized by the slogan, “Change. Unity. Fire.”

“People like the ‘Change’ and ‘Unity’ parts,” explains campaign adviser Jill Harnish. “They don’t actually realize what he means, but it sounds good. When he gets to ‘Fire,’ however, people usually get a little creeped out.” As a result, Harnish has steered Heraclitus away from detailed discussion of his positions and towards the cliches and sloganeering familiar from more mainstream candidates.

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October 17, 2012 at 9:51 pm

Four steps to strengthen our democracy (UPDATED)

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The following is an editorial by guest author Gerald Mueller, the Strom Thurmond Chair of Conservative Thought at the University of Cascadia.

Responsible voters come in all shapes and sizes. Some are tall. Some are short. Some even have freckles!

The election season provides a prime opportunity to reflect on the state of our democracy. And, upon reflection, it is hard to deny that we face significant and growing threats to the integrity of our electoral system. Here are four of the most important (and least discussed) steps we should take to strengthen our democracy.

1. Keep out-of-state interests out of local politics

People like David and Charles Koch are often criticized for using their wealth to influence state politics around the country, but there is another threat to the integrity of local politics that has gone ignored. We need to protect small towns from the out-of-state interests who live in those small towns: college students. As New Hampshire Speaker of the House William O’Brien explained last year, college students are “taking away [small] towns’ ability to govern themselves” by outnumbering and outvoting long-term residents, and “that’s not fair.” Fairness demands that we expand restrictions on voting by out-of-state students. If you will not be around for the long haul, why should you have a say in the laws you will live under for the next four years? (Which is why we should also prevent voting by those who plan to move within the next four years, but that is another issue.)

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October 3, 2012 at 5:43 pm

Princeton philosophy: Stimulating (UPDATED)

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After conducting a Google search for ‘princeton philosophy’ today, this reporter was surprised to see the image above. Under the heading ‘Princeton University Department of Philosophy’ were four links: ‘Philosophy’, ‘Search Results’, ‘Viagra no prescription’, and ‘Viagra online’. A subsequent search for ‘princeton university viagra’ revealed two departmental pages with both ‘viagra’ (sic) and ‘Princeton University’ in their titles.

Without confirmation from the department it’s too early to say for sure, but FauxPhilNews is going to go ahead and call this one: the Princeton philosophy department is partnering with pharmaceutical giant Pfizer to provide direct-to-consumer marketing and sale of Viagra. No longer will men have to turn to shady online retailers; now they can purchase their sex drugs straight from one of the most respected names in higher education.

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September 16, 2012 at 4:26 pm

3 Quarks Daily 2012 Philosophy Prize (UPDATED)

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The FauxPhilNews entry for the 3 Quarks Daily 2012 Philosophy Prize won the voting round but was not selected by the judges to be a finalist. The finalists can be seen here, and the FauxPhilNews entry here. Thanks to all who voted!

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September 16, 2012 at 3:40 pm

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Psycho Analytics marks one-year anniversary

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Graduate student Samuel Pope says the stress of facing a tight job market is starting to get to him. “Maybe I’m losing it, but I’ve started to wonder: Can a non-existent object think about me? I’m sympathetic to Meinongianism, so this is a possibility I have to take seriously.”

In news that will surely comfort unemployed philosophers everywhere, the mounting stresses of the job market have led to a breakout first year at Psycho Analytics, LLC, a Los Angeles clinic catering to distressed philosophers. Since its founding in August 2011, the clinic has doubled in size to four practitioners and developed a reputation for a nuanced understanding of the world of professional philosophy.

“The clinic may be new,” explains co-founder Samantha Greer, “but I do what I’ve always done: help people deal with insecurity and peer rejection. Except now it’s more about job insecurity and peer-reviewer rejection.”

Not surprisingly, the stressful conditions of academic philosophy can lead to a range of mental and physical problems. Intriguingly, the problems are often unique to the modern academic. “Take premature e-publication,” Greer suggests. “I’d never even heard of it before a few years ago.” She’s talking about the posting of half-baked papers online, where they can damage the author’s reputation or job prospects. Premature e-publication is one of the most embarrassing problems an academic can face. The young, the inexperienced, and the easily excitable are especially prone to this type of premature release. “There’s nothing wrong with self-publishing,” Greer says. “Everyone does it. But we try to help philosophers control the urge to do it at inappropriate times.”

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August 18, 2012 at 3:30 pm

What is it like to be a zombie in philosophy?

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This is what a philosopher looks like.

What is it like to be a zombie in philosophy? That’s the question posed by a new blog chronicling the experiences of zombies in what is still a field dominated by the not-yet undead. The blog follows in the footsteps of a similar project about life as a woman in philosophy.

Also, this.

“I think the expansion from women to other marginalized groups is the natural next step,” says Noam Chompsky, the site’s unfortunately named creator. “Zombies typically rank somewhere between pedophiles and atheists in terms of the general level of distrust among the public, and I think some of that distrust finds its way into the discipline.”

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July 4, 2012 at 7:47 pm

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