22 December 2008

Just Arrived

The latest edition of The Adam Smith Review (vol. 4, 2008) is now out. It is a special issue edited by Douglas J. Den Uyl on the topic of "Adam Smith and His Sources." My paper, "Shaftesbury's Evolutionary Morality and Its Influence on Smith," is included in the volume, and I am happy to have some of my work included in a group of such excellent work. This volume also contains my review of Craig Smith's recent book, Adam Smith's Political Philosophy, along with Smith's response to my review.

The latest edition of The Independent Review (vol. 13, no. 13, Winter 2009) is also just out. My paper "Kantian Individualism and Political Libertarianism" is included (the webpage includes a summary of my paper). TIR is a journal that I find myself reading from cover to cover whenever it comes out--a high compliment, I can assure you. So I am happy to have some of my work appear in it.

09 December 2008

Submissions Welcome

Since starting this site a couple months ago, I have received several suggestions from readers of books I should read. Thank you! I thought I should extend a general invitation: I would be happy to hear your suggestions of books. Either post them as comments or e-mail them to me at jimotteson [at] gmail [dot] com.

UPDATE 12/22/08: I have received numerous good suggestions. Thank you! I will post them in a future entry. Please keep them coming!

08 December 2008

And in Sports . . .

[Commentary]

Barack Obama is right: College football needs a playoff. It is the only major sport, at either the professional or collegiate level, that has no playoff tournament, and every year that fact gives rise to needless arguing about who should be included in the single, subjectively-determined national championship game and, thus, who is truly the best team.

Now that this year's BCS bowl games, including the national championship game between Florida and Oklahoma, have been set, the predictable and perfectly reasonable arguing have begun. Why not Texas? Why not USC? On any given day, any of those teams, along with the other BCS teams--Alabama, Utah, Penn State, Cincinnati, Virginia Tech, and Ohio State--might be the best team in the country. And let's not forget undefeated Utah and Boise State, along with one-loss Ball State. Why not give them a chance to prove on the field just how good they are?

Here is an easy solution (the one that Obama suggested as well): take the top eight teams and have a single-elimination, three-weekend tournament. Piece of cake. The locations of the seven games could be selected from standard bowl locations, with the championship game rotating through the current BCS locations. The final game could be on January 1, the traditional day of the most important bowl games. Other teams with six or more wins could go to other standard bowls.

Why eight teams? There is nothing special about the number eight. It seems reasonable, however, to think that the best team in the country will be among the top eight at the end of the season; two or four seem too few, and more than eight seems needless. Moreover, an eight-team playoff is easy to administrate.

The fans and coaches have long been in support of this, and now the President-elect is as well. This is a change that we can all believe in.

07 December 2008

This Just In

Well, not just in, but . . .

Ayaan Hirsan Ali's latest book Infidel is now available. She is the inspiring Somali-Dutch writer, activist, scholar, and politician who has criticized Islam especially for its treatment of women and has shown astonishing courage in the face of threats of reprisals. Her defenses of the dignity of womanhood have been compelling and inspirational. Infidel has been published at the same time (this past April) as her book The Caged Virgin: An Emancipation Proclamation for Women and Islam, another work well worth reading.

What an amazing person.

Coming Soon

I have had the pleasure as serving as guest-editor of volume 7, number 1 of the Journal of Scottish Philosophy, which is dedicated to the topic of "Scottish Philosophy and the Social Sciences." It contains excellent original papers by Samuel Gregg, Maria Pia Paganelli, Henry Clark, Ryan Patrick Hanley, and Craig Smith, as well as a review of Eugene Heath and Vincenzo Merolle's edited collection Adam Ferguson: History, Progress and Human Nature by Gordon Graham and a review of Neil McArthur's David Hume's Political Theory by Eric Schliesser. See here for more details.

It should appear soon--keep an eye out for it!

This Just In

A book that has just been brought to my attention is America's Forgotten Founders: Beyond Washington and Jefferson, edited by Gary L. Gregg II and Mark David Hall (Louisville, KY: McConnell Center, 2008). Gary Gregg, whom I had the pleasure of meeting recently, holds the Mitch McConnell Chair in Leadership at the University of Louisville and is the McConnell Center's director. This book focuses, as its title suggests, on the thoughts and actions of some of America's lesser-known founders.

03 December 2008

Wise Words

"For it is more characteristic of virtue to do good than to have good done to one, and more characteristic to do what is noble than not to do what is base." --Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics 1120a11-13

Wise Words

"The human understanding when it has once adopted an opinion (either as being the received opinion or as being agreeable to itself) draws all things else to support and agree with it. And though there be a greater number and weight of instances to be found on the other side, yet these it either neglects and despises, or else by some distinction sets aside and rejects, in order that by this great and pernicious predetermination the authority of its former conclusions may remain inviolate. [ . . . ] And such is the way of all superstition, whether in astrology, dreams, omens, divine judgments, or the like; wherein men, having a delight in such vanities, mark the events where they are fulfilled, but where they fail, though this happen much oftener, neglect and pass them by. But with far more subtlety does this mischief insinuate itself into philosophy and the sciences; in which the first conclusion colors and brings into conformity with itself all that come after, though far sounder and better." --Francis Bacon, Novum Organum (1620), Aphorism XLVI

02 December 2008

Wise Words

"There is no particular . . . in which we are more frequently unjust, than in applying to the individual the supposed character of his country; or more frequently misled, than in taking our notion of a people from the example of one, or a few of their numbers." --Adam Ferguson, An Essay on the History of Civil Society (pt. IV, sect. V)

What I'm Reading

Mark Bauerlein's The Dumbest Generation: How the Digital Age Stupefies Young Americans and Jeopardizes Our Future (Or, Don't Trust Anyone Under 30). The main thesis of the book is that the promised efflorescence of learning and education with the onset of the digital age has not happened. Bauerlein argues that the evidence does not support the widespread consensus that computers, digital media, wifi, wikis, etc. in the classrooms aid education. Indeed, he argues that, if anything, these tools have limited our intellectual horizons by enabling--and even encouraging--students to spend more and more time on social networking, which tends to contract rather than expand our attentions. Who has time to read and digest all the wonderful information available on the web if we're updating our Facebook page 27 times per day?

I recently finished reading, on a recommendation from a friend, John R. Lott Jr.'s Freedomnomics: Why the Free Market Works and Other Half-Baked Theories Don't. Lott is the author of the infamous More Guns, Less Crime. The cacophonously named Freedomnomics is intended as a response to the wildly popular--and quite entertaining--Freakonomics, by Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner, which Lott argues does not fully understand why and how markets work.

I am also re-reading parts of Mark Blaug's Economic Theory in Retrospect, 5th ed. Having just completed teaching a course on the history of economic thought, I found the insights in this book even more impressive than I did the first time I read it.