UCSB Philosophy Blog

Members of the UCSB Department of Philosophy and anyone else are welcome to talk philosophy with us. Bring your own brain.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

GRS + reading group + more aesthetics = kung fu sex

Hello party people. I just got back from another episode of the Guerrilla Radio Show, and it was pretty good. It's a good thing we're spending 2 weeks on puzzles and paradoxes, because we only just started to get rolling with it tonight. Next week we'll have some guest input (I hope), which is always a thrill. And by "thrill" I mean "relief". Tomorrow night meets the Wittgenstein reading group, and we'll be working on the first half or so of part 4 of the Tractatus. Some weird stuff happens therein: some of the clearest continuities between Wittgenstein's early and late thought, and some of the clearest differences. 'S'fun!
I'm working on updating the notes I have on my online version of the Tractatus, as we go through it, and I've found a few more basic points worth noting even in what I had covered already. I don't know if anyone is interested to read what I have to say about it, but I put it up more for the purpose of giving very minimal guidance through a difficult work, rather than trying to impose interpretations. So most of what I do there is point out connections between propositions and issues in various places in the book, to help myself and others get a more cohesive picture of what's going on in it. I welcome the comments of anyone who gives a damn about my notes or even on any typos you might find in that copy of the Tractatus text (I've been told, non-specifically, that there are some).
Some more photos were posted on the department site, some of which were long overdue to be put up. Check out our December party and Philosophy of Language Conference. Between those two sets, that's well over 100 photos of members of our department, friends and visitors. Before long (I mean it this time) we'll have another set up with pictures from the recent Philosophy/Statistics bowling "tournament". We're probably the most photographed philosophy department I know (well, the one with the most photos online, anyway). Is that weird? Does anybody else do this? Not that there's anything wrong with it.

On another note, after I posted that bit last time about aesthetics, I had a few long discussions with some of my fellow philgrads (including the Josh-meister) about the issue, so this thing ain't dead yet. Here's one issue of interest: It seems like some arguments for the subjectivity of aesthetic value rely on views about what is and isn't appropriate to tell someone about art. For example, some people have the intuition that it's inappropriate (in a sense to be specified) to tell someone that they shouldn't like X. However, I think we can separate views about the propriety of communicating our aesthetic evaluations in certain ways (e.g., trying to convince someone else of them) from the question of whether that evaluation is irremediably subjective. For example, although I would feel wrong telling someone that their taste in music is bad, i.e., that they shouldn't be into what they are into, I have no problem telling someone that they should like something that they don't already like (as long as I can give some reasons for this that have any hope of bringing about the change in taste). So the issue of whether it's appropriate (warranted, or felicitous, perhaps?) to tell someone that their aesthetic evaluation of something is wrong is perhaps separable from whether people can be wrong about these things, or can convince others of their views, or whatever other kind of subjective/objective issues are keeping you up at night. What do you think?

Monday, April 17, 2006

3rd week from the sun

Hello, people of Earth. I'm back with another minor update. Tomorrow night, the Guerrilla Radio Show, our "seriously awesome" and "awesomely serious" philgrad-run philosophy radio show, will be in full effect discussing the Philosophy of Mind with UCSB's very own Dr. Aaron Zimmerman. Wednesday night at 8pm (contact Luke for more info) the Wittgenstein reading group will meet to discuss section 3 of the Tractatus, which is around 10 pages. I haven't been following the Aristotle group, so you'll have to check one of its standard contacts about that (see the department's activities page). By the way, if you're wondering about the department's other usual reading group, the Santa Barbarians... well, the group's fearless leader (Tony Anderson) is off teaching in the China, so it's on hiatus at the moment.
I've been getting busier each quarter, and it's tough to find time to think of something to say here. But there's a lot of stuff I've been thinking about, so next time I write up some notes about one of them crazy issues, I'll try to remember to post it up here.
But here's a quick question about aesthetics. For those of you who know the movie Roadhouse, it's quite an amazing movie, as pretty much every scene is packed with hilarity, preposterity, and actionacity. It's got more fun and interesting stuff in it than a good deal of movies that win Academy Awards. Here's the question: what's a perspicuous and non-crazy way of describing the sense in which Roadhouse is a good movie? A lot of people want to say that "it's a good bad movie", but this is retarded. It's not both good and bad, at least not in the same sense. And do we even care in this context about any sense in which it's bad? Why shouldn't we be able to give a purely positive characterization of what's good about it? If "bad movie" is an idiomatic non-evaluative expression for a certain kind of movie (i.e., it doesn't necessarily imply that a movie is bad), then what makes something that kind of movie, and what makes a movie of that kind a good movie of that kind? This seems like it should be an easy question, and it seems like we, as philosophers, should be able to figure it out, but I've been frustrated by how reticent a lot of philosophers are to even take the question seriously. So take this as a challenge: explain (in a general way, at least) the sense/way in which Roadhouse (or another such movie) is a good movie. Is it the same sense in which, e.g., Casablanca is good? If so, what else accounts for the difference between the cases? If it's a different sense, then what are the two senses, and what's the relation between the two kinds of good movies? I'm not looking for an ultimate answer here, I'd just like to hear someone's serious response.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Pirates and Pirating

Indeed we are not dead. I posted a little something on my personal blog about Internet pirating:


It's somewhat philosophy-related as it involves ethics. I didn't discuss the ethics of it there too much, but maybe we can here!

So, here's a condensed version of what I wrote, which focuses on the parts regarding the ethics of it all.


The music industry, software industry, film industry, etc. are all quite concerned about so-called Internet pirating (acquiring products digitally via the Internet without paying for them). Allow me to give you a rundown of how this goes. You want the latest Fitty-cent album, right? Why go and pay for it, like a sucker, when you can just download it for free? (Note: you could also download it and pay for it, but again, sucker.) As the story goes, the really crooked used to just go into the store and steal it, but now that it's so much easier and discrete online, many more people are getting into it. Software companies are especially worried now because their products sell for hundreds of dollars new and their market is probably a bit smaller compared to the average $15 to $20 for the latest Fitty-cent album, which, sadly, has apparently the market of the entire world (possibly to infinity and beyond).

I know pirating is characterized as flat-out stealing and, thus, is said to be just wrong. However, I just think that there are situations in which consumers may justifiably do it. I know it's a form of stealing and that it's illegal. But, we all seem to think that some forms of stealing are ethical (e.g., Robin Hood style stealing... you know, if it's for a greater good, etc.). And, frankly, I don't much abide by the law if I disagree with it... that is, unless I think there's a good chance I might get caught. Besides, who doesn't do a California stop every once in awhile?

See, us consumers don't have very many ways to tell companies that they are charging more than we're willing to pay. We can refuse to buy the product. But some of us are too weak-willed to not pay for the over-priced product, because we want it so badly. Why can we not communicate our disapproval by pirating the product? That way, not only do we not buy the product, but we cause a scene by pirating it. Clearly, pirating has gathered their attention. Some people think that pirating is just childish stealing. But I say it is consumers taking advantage of what little resources they have to fight back companies who are trying to screw them. So, these industries can continue to ignore their bread and butter (the consumer) or they can listen to us and pull their act together.

Basically, large companies have way too much control over consumers in the U.S. for this to be a true capitalistic market. So, we are being over-charged for products that we really want, because we can't make them lower prices or increase the quality of the product. Why can't we exercise the very little power that we have to try and balance the market? I think most pirates don't want everything for free, they just aren't willing to pay that much for that kind of product. But I can only speak for myself. These are my motives and thoughts. I'm sure there are those out there who will pirate no matter what, just for the fun of it. However, I think the majority of people will support companies they respect. And if you don't, I suggest you do.

So I don't think pirating is inherently good or justified. I just think that in certain circumstances one may be justified in doing it. I'm just tired of corporations having so much control and leeway in this country. And when consumers get a little bit of an advantage to try and even the playing field, we are struck down as immoral. Well, that may be true, but many of us are merely responding to similar treatment. In short, they rip us off, so why can't we do the same?


I'm interested in people's responses. I don't want to necessarily get into whether this is a Kantian or Utilitarian type of view, etc. I'm more interested in seeing how this fits with the hodgepodge of ethical views that we all actually practice. I know it has quite the eye-for-an-eye ring to it, which seems to have problems as a complete world-view. And perhaps this isn't so much about ethics in general, but about justice/fairness. I dunno. I don't claim to specialize in ethics!

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Super-quick update

Hi. I'll abbrev to save time. New quarter here... still no time! New episodes of Guerrilla Radio Show start tonight. Wittgenstein reading group (Tractatus) starts tomorrow night (email luke_manning@umail.ucsb.edu for info). Aristotle reading group also in progress (email hanser@philosophy.ucsb.edu for info). We're not dead, we're just pining.