22 December 2011

What Does It Mean to "Know" Something?

We have now had our last meeting of this semester's "Introduction to Philosophy" class. One of the units focused on epistemology. The main questions that animate epistemology are "What can I truly know (as opposed to merely believe)?" and "What are the limits of human knowledge?"

Descartes: "Cogito ergo sum."
To illustrate just how many ways there might be to understand "knowledge," and to have a bit of fun in the process, I gave my students the following list of things one might mean when one says, "I know x":

1. I have justified, true belief about x.

2. I (usually, sometimes, occasionally) act as if x is true.

3. I would be willing to bet on x.

4. People I trust believe x.

5. People I do not like believe not-x.

6. I am pretty sure (sufficiently convinced) that x is true.

7. I actually have no idea; the phrase "I know" is simply something people say to facilitate social interactions.

8. I have heard lots of people say x (say things that assume, are consistent with, x).

9. My friends (apparently) believe x.

10. I would look like a fool if I disputed x (cool, important, moral, or "in" people believe x).

11. Proclaiming that I believe x raises my status/allows me to flaunt (cheerlead for) my moral superiority/signals that I am in the "in crowd."

12. It would not occur to me to doubt x.

13. I have believed x for a long time.

14. I am willing to agree to x for the sake of argument.

15. I am tired of discussing this topic (with you) so I say "I know" in an effort to bring our discussion to an end.

16. I pretend it is true because doing so is important to me for other reasons (makes me feel good about myself, leads to (political, moral, social) consequences I desire).

17. It just occurred to me.

18. You just said you know it, and you are very persuasive.

What would you add to the list?

27 October 2011

Tips for College Essay Writers

When I read and grade college papers--and I have now graded over 10,000 of them in my career--I find myself making some of the same points over and over again. This suggests there might be some use in making some of these tips public.

1. Address fewer points. Do not think you must write every thought that occurred to you. It makes your writing cluttered and your discussion superficial. Examine the few points you do make thoroughly.

2. Do not try to impress your reader with your writing. Strive for clear, concise, and plain writing. Impress your reader instead with the quality of your thought. (This is similar to advice I give to students writing essays for college applications: Do not tell me how smart you are; show me how smart you are. Raise an interesting but difficult issue, and puzzle your way through it. That is impressive; telling me how many important issues you are aware of and how brilliant you are at discussing them is not.)

3. If you are writing a paper, then write a paper. Do not write as if this were an e-mail, a text message, a personal correspondence, a blog post, or a personal conversation. That means no slang, no abbreviations, no asides, no contractions, no unexplained allusions, no inside jokes, no sarcasm. There are increasingly few opportunities in life to write formally. This, however, is one of them; treat it as such.

4. Explain yourself. Strive to make yourself understood. Do not affect an airy pretense to profundity, and, unless you are writing poetry, avoid the use of poetry, metaphors, and rhetorical constructions. If you use a metaphor, explain its literal meaning. If you raise a rhetorical question, answer it. If you introduce a term, define it. Do not assume your reader 'knows what you mean' or 'sees what you are getting at': explain exactly what you mean so that there is no ambiguity and your reader does not have to guess. 

5. Omit needless words. Avoid repetition, avoid wordiness, and do not use five words when three will do.

6. Dress appropriately. Use a language, a construction, and a voice that are appropriate to the subject and setting. This means knowing your audience, but it also means respecting the enterprise: respect your reader's intellect, respect the subject and the medium, and respect yourself. Neither condescend nor flatter; neither mock nor pretend nor pose.

7. Get serious. Do not waste your reader's time with long introductions, with stories and needless anecdotes, with silliness, or with filler. Our time is valuable, our subject serious. Write, therefore, with a purpose and maturity that demonstrate you understand that.

8. Revise. Do not ever turn in a first draft. Revise, revise, and then revise again.

22 August 2011

He Said It: Pope Benedict XVI

Pope Benedict gave a short speech to young university professors at the Basilica of the Monastery of San Lorenzo de El Escorial in Madrid last Friday, 19 August 2011. The Holy Father is known for his ability to craft a penetrating and profound speech, and this one does not disappoint. If you are interested in education, in what kinds of things should be taught at colleges and universities, or in what should move and motivate teachers, you should read the Pope's speech in full

Let me excerpt a few of his claims that struck me particularly. 

"We know that when mere utility and pure pragmatism become the principal criteria [for determining college curricula], much is lost and the results can be tragic: from the abuses associated with a science which acknowledges no limits beyond itself, to the political totalitarianism which easily arises when one eliminates any higher reference than the mere calculus of power."

My comment: Human beings are possessors of an inherent dignity that requires a moral respect. A science that reduces humanity to its constituent material parts, or a politics that sees human beings as interchangeable pawns in its ideal blueprint for society, not only misunderstands human nature but also runs a substantial risk of becoming destructive of human dignity. The conceiving of human beings as precious individuals deserving of respect was a great leap forward in human development. It should be celebrated, even as we understand the fragility of the civilization it has helped to enable.

"The Gospel message perceives a rationality inherent in the creation and considers man as a creature participating in, and capable of attaining to, an understanding of this rationality. The University thus embodies an ideal which must not be attenuated or compromised, whether by ideologies closed to reasoned dialogue or by truckling to a purely utilitarian and economic conception which would view man solely as a consumer."

My comment: The Roman Catholic tradition is one of the few large-scale religious denominations that affirms the fundamental rationality of the universe, and thus the coincidence of reason and faith. The Holy Father here reaffirms this belief, and draws out the implication that any forces that work to stymie or obstruct the progress of reason not only work against human reason but also against human dignity. The university is the place, if nowhere else on earth, where open-ended investigation must not only be allowed but encouraged. It is thus also the place where enforced orthodoxies are most pernicious.

Young people need authentic teachers: persons open to the fullness of truth in the various branches of knowledge, persons who listen to and experience in their own hearts that interdisciplinary dialogue; persons who, above all, are convinced of our human capacity to advance along the path of truth. [...] Always remember that teaching is not just about communicating content, but about forming young people.

My comment: The duties and moral obligations of the teacher are many and manifold. In order to execute them faithfully, the teacher must first be a master of his material, yet ever mindful of his obligation to seek truth, not conformity. But he must also be a person of integrity and virtue himself; for how can he pretend to 'form young people' if he himself is most in need of reform? This is perhaps the most daunting and humbling aspect of being a teacher. Each of us is fallen and flawed, yet among the easiest falsehoods to believe in are the infallibility of one's own intellect and the purity of one's own soul.

Teachers complain a lot about the apathy, the ineptitude, the ungratefulness of their students. We believe students have obligations as students that they all too often fail to meet. But it is no less true that teachers have obligations as well, obligations that indeed come prior to and give content and meaning to those of the students. We are obliged to the truth, and to the sacred tradition of higher learning that has been created in the service of the truth; and those obligations require us to examine and reexamine our professional selves long before we enter the classroom. Even if the teacher does not believe, as I do, that the genuine, serious, open, and humble search for truth is rendered holy by its connection to God, still the search for truth must be the highest end, for without it little he does has meaning or purpose beyond "the mere calculus of power."

I believe that understanding of the teacher's obligations is part of what the Holy Father means by the "authentic teachers" that young people need. And it is in full knowledge of my own shortcomings and of my own inevitable failings that I nevertheless proceed in cheerful good faith to strive to fulfill my profound--even sacred--obligations as a teacher.

27 July 2011

He Said It: Burke

"It is better to cherish virtue and humanity, by leaving much to free will, even with some loss to the object, than to attempt to make men mere machines and instruments of a political benevolence. The world on the whole will gain by a liberty, without which virtue cannot exist." --Edmund Burke, Reflections on the Revolution in France (1790)

29 June 2011

This Year's Templeton Prize

A hearty and resounding congratulations to Ryan Patrick Hanley, whose book Adam Smith and the Character of Virtue was just announced as the winner of the 2010 Templeton Enterprise Award. This award is given to the best book in "humane economics" whose author was under the age of forty at the time of publication. First place, which Professor Hanley's book won, carries with it a $50,000 cash prize--more than what comes with a Pulitzer Prize or National Book Award!

I have read Ryan's book, and I can attest that it is one of the best books on Smith that has been written in the last decade. It is thus a well-deserved honor.

Congratulations, Ryan!

27 June 2011

Otteson on EconTalk

Russ Roberts, a professor of economics at George Mason University, has for some time been conducting fascinating weekly interviews with authors, researchers, and notable intellectuals on their books, research, and ideas. His EconTalk has now grown into one of the most listened-to and highest profile "economics podcasts for daily life," as he puts it. A look at the roster of his recent guests will explain why his program has become so successful.

It was thus a great honor and privilege to have been the subject of his most recent interview and podcast. You can read the brief introduction to, and then listen to or download, the podcast of my conversation with Professor Roberts, here.

17 June 2011

Religion, Liberty, America's Founders, and Adam Smith

Yesterday I gave a lecture on what we can learn from Adam Smith today at the Acton University, a terrific event hosted by the terrific Acton Institute. There are over 600 students here from dozens of countries, as well as some 40 faculty from around the country. The Acton Institute is located in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and is dedicated to "the study of religion and liberty." The Acton University program is meant to offer a wide-ranging and ecumenical study, from introductory to more advanced levels, of political, economic, moral, and scholarly issues connected with liberty and virtue, and their relation to religion. Here is its description:
Acton University is a unique, four-day exploration of the intellectual foundations of a free society. Guided by a distinguished, international faculty, Acton University is an opportunity to deepen your knowledge and integrate rigorous philosophy, Christian theology and sound economics
What an event. You can follow its live blog feed here.

My own short time at AU takes place during the month-long course I am teaching on "The Ethics and Values of Philanthropy," sponsored by The Fund for American Studies and accredited by the Government Department at Georgetown University. The course itself takes place on Georgetown's campus. TFAS is the premiere organization in Washington, DC for students seeking both a prestigious internship and outstanding coursework with college accreditation. TFAS's motto: "Live. Learn. Intern."

In July, I will be the teaching faculty member at a conference sponsored by the Foundation for Teaching Economics, an organization dedicated to teaching sound principles of economics to high school students and high school teachers. FTE puts on many such conferences every summer around the country. Rising junior and senior high school students should look into them. The conference where I will be, at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles, July 15-18, will focus on the economic principles of America's founders, and the economic history of America since then.

Finally, as part of its Learn Liberty project, the Institute for Humane Studies is publishing short, introductory videos featuring professors discussing various aspects of liberty. I gave them several interviews. The first two of mine, "Liberty and Community" and "Liberty and Equality," have just been released. Please have a look and let me know what you think. Have a look also the other Learn Liberty videos, which are excellent.

Whoops--one more. Russ Roberts, of EconTalk fame, interviewed me for one of his weekly podcasts. Everything you wanted to know about Adam Smith in one place! It should be available in a couple weeks.

11 May 2011

Otteson on "Why? Philosophy in Public Life"

On Sunday, May 8, I appeared as the guest on Jack Weinstein's public and syndicated radio program, "Why? Philosophy in Public Life." Jack is a philosophy professor at the University of North Dakota, and an Adam Smith scholar, among many other things. (What an interesting guy he is!)

The program is outstanding, and I was delighted to be a part of it. Jack entitled the show with me, "On Liberty and Libertarianism" (the link contains an audio file, if you would like to listen to the whole one-hour program). The program was a model of civilized discussion. Jack asked difficult and probing questions, but there was none of the rancor, condescension, or incivility that so often marks discussions about politics or political philosophy. Jack let me make my case, so that listeners could evaluate the position on its merits. 

I therefore issue a public "thank you" to Jack, and I recommend that you tune in to his Sunday evening shows whenever you get a chance. 

10 May 2011

Roberts in the House

Professor Russell Roberts--of "Fight of the Century" fame--is speaking at Yeshiva University this afternoon. The title of his talk is "The Jewish Side of Adam Smith." That certainly promises to be provocative!

He will be speaking at 4pm in Glueck 308 on the campus of Yeshiva College, located at 185th and Amsterdam Avenue in New York.

28 April 2011

Hayek v. Keynes, Round Two

He Said It: John Ireland

"Homo potest peccare ergo deus est. Et homo potest mereri ergo deus est." ("Man is able to sin; therefore God exists. Yet man is capable also of improvement; therefore God exists.") --John Ireland (c. 1440-1495), Meroure of Wyssdome (1490), vol. 2, p. 121

16 March 2011

Adam Smith Week

The College of Charleston's School of Business is hosting an "Adam Smith Week" next week, March 21-25, 2011. It will be the third annual such event. This year's ASW is planned and organized by Professor Peter Calcagno, a professor of economics and the director of the Initiative for Public Choice and Market Processes

I am pleased to be one of the presenters.

You can find out more about the program, as well as see its entire schedule, here.

16 February 2011

Otteson on Adam Smith

I have just received my copy of my brand new book, Adam Smith. It is published by Continuum Press, and it is volume sixteen of a twenty-volume series entitled "Major Conservative and Libertarian Thinkers" edited by John Meadowcroft of King's College London. (Other volumes in the series can be viewed here.)

To whet your appetite, I paste below the book's brief Preface:

This book is a part of a series entitled “Major Conservative and Libertarian Thinkers.” The series aims to introduce these thinkers to a wider audience, providing an overview of their lives and works, as well as expert commentary on their enduring significance. Thus Adam Smith begins with a short biography of Smith; it then gives an overview and discussion of his extant works, focusing on his two major publications, the 1759 Theory of Moral Sentiments and the 1776 Wealth of Nations; and it concludes by discussing what Smith got right, what he got wrong, and why he is still worth reading—which he most definitely is. Also included is a bibliography of primary and secondary sources.
A slim volume like this can address only a fraction of the richness of Smith’s work, so it can be only a primer. One principle that has helped guide my selection of topics has been the aim of the book’s series.[1] Thus I have given added weight, where appropriate, to aspects of Smith’s thought that justify, or at least explain, his inclusion in a series about major conservative and libertarian thinkers. Depending on how one defines those terms, there are aspects of Smith’s thought that are conservative and aspects that are libertarian; and there are aspects that are neither.
I also try to make sense of Smith’s writing not only in the small but in the large as well—that is, not only in the details of this or that argument in this or that work, but in the larger aims of Smith’s scholarly corpus. I believe there is a coherence to Smith’s work, and, though I realize a book like this places limits on an attempt to demonstrate a claim like that, I do my best to make it plausible if not ultimately convincing.
In writing the book I have been conscious that for some readers it might serve as their first introduction to Smith, and for others it might serve as their only introduction to him. For a thinker as important as Smith, that makes the stakes for a book like this one high indeed. I have striven to present Smith in a way I believe he himself would have approved: charitably but objectively. No author, however brilliant, got everything right, so the reader will also find in these pages periodic discussion of problems or objections, as well as indications of ongoing scholarly criticism or debate. But I believe that some important aspects of Smith’s contributions endure, and I hope that by the end of this book you are convinced of that as well.
The best way to understand Smith remains, and will always remain, reading his works for oneself. If this book gives you reason to think that you should read Smith, it will have served its primary purpose.

[1]This is especially important given that some scholars—for example Brubaker (2006)—argue that Smith is “neither a conservative nor a libertarian,” while others—McLean (2006), for example—claim that Smith is a “radical egalitarian.”

07 February 2011

Invisible Hand Seminar

George Mason University economist and Adam Smith expert Dan Klein is running a seminar related to Adam Smith's writings, called the "Invisible Hand Seminar." Click on the link to see the upcoming events, all held on GMU's campus.

02 February 2011

Looking for Summer Fun?

If you are a college or graduate student who is looking for something to do this summer that involves thinking, reading, and discussing politics, economics, political economy, economic history, or political philosophy, here are some programs I recommend considering:

1. The Institute for Humane Studies offers numerous summer programs. Their motto: "Sleep less. Think more." I have worked with IHS in many of their programs, and I recommend them highly. 

2. The Foundation for Economic Education also offers numerous summer programs, for both high school and college students. I have also worked with FEE, and I have written a bit for FEE's journal, The Freeman. Also highly recommended.

3. The Fund for American Studies offers a combined summer school program accredited by Georgetown University and a simultaneous internship in Washington, DC. The program's motto: "Live. Learn. Intern." Get more information about its programs here. I am the Charles G. Koch Senior Fellow at TFAS, and I will be teaching one of their courses at Georgetown this summer. It is an intense summer, but I promise it is one you will never forget. 

4. The Tikvah Fund is sponsoring several summer institutes for exceptional undergraduate students. I am one of the principal faculty members for its program "Economics and the Human Good," which will be held at Columbia University in August. 

If there are others I should list or mention, let me know. And if you apply for, or inquire into, any of these programs, feel free to mention that you heard about the program from me. 

Good luck!

01 February 2011

Otteson on Cullity

My review of Garrett Cullity's The Moral Demands of Affluencehas appeared in the online version of the Journal of Value Inquiry, and is available here.

He Said It: Burke

"Always acting as if in the presence of canonized forefathers, the spirit of freedom, leading in itself to misrule and excess, is tempered with an awful gravity. This idea of a liberal descent inspires us with a sense of habitual native dignity, which prevents that upstart insolence almost inevitably adhering to and disgracing those who are the first acquirers of any distinction. By this means our liberty becomes a noble freedom. It carries an imposing and majestic aspect. It has a pedigree and illustrating ancestors. It has its bearings and its ensigns armorial. It has its gallery of portraits; its monumental inscriptions; its records, evidences, and titles."

26 January 2011

Today's Sentences of the Day

"Quia quamdiu Centum ex nobis viui remanserint, nuncquam Anglorum dominio aliquatenus volumus subiugari. Non enim propter gloriam, diuicias aut honores pugnamus set propter libertatem solummodo quam Nemo bonus nisi simul cum vita amittit." --from the 1320 Declaration of Arbroath

[My translation (must be read aloud, with emphasis on nearly every word):  "For as long as but one hundred of us remain alive, we shall not submit to English rule. It is not for glory, or honors, or riches that we fight, but for liberty. And a man of honor does not give up his liberty except with his life."]

24 January 2011

Phillipson on Smith

As an update to the earlier notice of my brief podcast, the Cato Institute has now posted the entire book forum on Nicholas Phillipson's book that Cato hosted on January 12, 2011. It is available here, and below. Professor Phillipson speaks for about 30 minutes, I then speak and comment for about 15 minutes, and then we have questions and answers.

[H/T: Anti-Dismal.]

21 January 2011

Podcast: Otteson on Smith

Here is a brief (about ten minute) podcast, hosted by the Cato Institute, of me speaking on Adam Smith as a moral philosopher.

I was interviewed for it right after a book forum, also hosted by Cato, on Nicholas Phillipson's new book, Adam Smith: An Enlightened Life.I provided comments on Professor Phillipson's book.

20 January 2011

He Said It: Wilhelm Röpke

"[A]dvocates [of the market economy], in so far as they are at all intellectually fastidious, have always recognized that the sphere of the market, of competition, of the system where supply and demand move prices and thereby govern production, may be regarded and defended only as part of a wider general order encompassing ethics, law, the natural conditions of life and happiness, the state, politics, and power. Society as a whole cannot be ruled by the laws of supply and demand, and the state is more than a sort of business company, as has been the conviction of the best conservative opinion since the time of Burke. Individuals who compete on the market and there pursue their own advantage stand all the more in need of the social and moral bonds of community, without which competition degenerates most grievously. As we have said before, the market economy is not everything. It must find its place in a higher order of things which is not ruled by supply and demand, free prices, and competition. It must be firmly contained within an all-embracing order of society in which the imperfections and harshness of economic freedom are corrected by law and in which man is not denied conditions of life appropriate to his nature. Man can wholly fulfill his nature only by freely becoming part of a community and having a sense of solidarity with it. Otherwise he leads a miserable existence and he knows it."

--Wilhelm Röpke, "The Conditions and Limits of the Market," chap. 3 of his 1960 A Humane Economy: The Social Framework of the Free Market

19 January 2011

He Said It: Friedrich Hayek

"The great advantage of the competitive system, however, lies exactly in the fact that it offers a premium on foresight and adaptability, and on the fact that one has to pay for it if one wishes to stay in an occupation which has become less needed. Any attempt to indemnify people against the consequences of changes which they have not foreseen makes the forces of the market inoperative and makes it necessary to put central direction in their place."

--F. A. Hayek, "Freedom and the Economic System" (1939), contained in Socialism and War: Essays, Documents, and Reviews

My Teaching: Political Economy

Last semester I taught a course entitled "Different Wealth of Nations." It took its name from Adam Smith's great work, but the word "different" suggested the course's twist on Smith's investigation. The course focused on two questions: One, why are there such tremendous disparities of wealth in different parts of the world today; and two, why did standards of living begin to increase so rapidly just when (around 1800) and where (Britain) they did?

Two of the courses I am teaching this semester, "Liberalism" and "Ethics and Politial Economy,"  have caused some students to ask me how they differ both from each other and from what was in DWN. Moreover, how do they relate to or differ from two other courses I have taught recently, namely "Capitalism and Morality" and "History and Philosophy of Economic Thought"?

There is a handful of themes that run through all these courses, including: By what criteria should we evaluate systems of politics and economics, and which are the best? What can the discipline of economics contribute toward our understanding of the good life? What have the great thinkers in political philosophy and economics believed, and what arguments have they adduced to support their beliefs? What institutions are required for peace, prosperity, freedom, justice?

All of these questions fall within the provenance of a field of inquiry called "political economy." That term is perhaps less familiar today than it was in the eighteenth or nineteenth centuries, in part because as the discipline of economics developed, especially during the twentieth century, it increasingly saw itself as a "positive"--that is to say, value-neutral or even value-free--discipline. That left the discussion of values--whether religious, moral, or cultural--to other disciplines, including in particular moral philosophy and political theory or political philosophy. So what was once a single discipline of political economy became two disciplines: moral or political philosophy, and economics.

In my view, the bifurcation of moral philosophy from economics was, and is, a mistake. Human beings are purposive creatures, so the study of their behavior must also take into account their purposes, which includes their religious, moral, and cultural ends. That is not to say that moral philosophy and economics do not have their separate methods and their distinctive approaches to understanding human behavior. But the division between them can be taken too far, which is partly why there is considerable mutual suspicion between practitioners of each discipline.

What I am interested in, and what I believe every economist and every moral philosopher should ultimately be interested in, is in discovering those institutions that are necessary for or that encourage human flourishing. What are the political and economic, the moral and religious, the social and cultural institutions that can enable human beings to live together in peace, to associate and create and prosper, and to construct lives of dignity, virtue, and happiness? To make some headway in this regard requires drawing on a number of disciplines: economics and moral philosophy to be sure, but also political theory, psychology, history, anthropology, cognitive science, even rhetoric, languages, and literature--in short, all the species of study that would, in Adam Smith's time, fallen under the single genus moral philosophy.

Back to my teaching. The courses I teach approach in their own way the discipline of moral philosophy, classically understood. I intend for them to complement one another, and indeed for them to form something of a coherent introduction into the field of political economy.

My hope, then, is that a student who has taken all of these courses will have completed a competent survey of the field of political ecnonomy. He will have some idea of what the great figures of the field have believed; he will have acquired some basic knowledge of human economic history, including some of the political, economic, and moral experiments that human beings have attempted; he will have a sense of the current lay of the scholarly land, as it were; he will have an understanding of the complexity of human life and human behavior, and the difficulties involved in trying to comprehend, predict, or affect it; and he will have developed some tentative judgments about what kinds of institutions encourage, and what kinds discourage, human prosperity.

I believe these questions are not only vexing but also among the most interesting we can explore today. But I also think there are few that are more urgently important or timely. That is why I have developed this circuit of courses in political economy, why I teach them, and why I welcome students to take as many of them as their busy schedules permit.

17 January 2011

Call for Papers: Conversations on Philanthropy

The journal Conversations on Philanthropy is inviting submissions for an upcoming volume on "Law and Philanthropy." For more information, click here.

13 January 2011

Conversations on Philanthropy

My short article "'The Gospel of Wealth' and True Philanthropy," published in Identity, Interests, and Philanthropic Commerce (vol. VI (2009) of Conversations on Philanthropy), is now available online. My article is an invited response to the featured article, Steven Grosby's provocative "Philanthropy and Human Action."

He Said It: St. Benedict

"Speaking and instructing are the teacher's duties; the student's duty is to be silent and listen. If any questions must asked of the teacher, they should therefore be asked with sincere humility and proper respect."

--St. Benedict of Nursia (AD 480-547), "De taciturnitate," Regula monachorum 6.6-7 (ca. AD 529; my translation)

11 January 2011

Pride by Proxy

As of today, I can boast that I have had students* who have gotten into the following top-ten law schools (listed in order of this ranking):


An outlier had been Chicago, where, despite the fact that it is where I got my PhD, I had never had a student accepted. (I had had one or two wait-listed, but never outright accepted.) That changed today, when a student of mine, who had already been accepted to Harvard and NYU, received his Chicago acceptance. 

I have had students accepted to many other fine law schools, though, to my knowledge, to none of the other schools in the top ten. (Students: If I am misinformed or misremembering, please let me know!)

Congratulations to the students!

*I count only those students of mine for whom I have actually written letters of recommendation.

06 January 2011

Review of Cohen on Socialism

My review of the late G. A. Cohen's final book, Why Not Socialism? (Princeton, 2009), has just appeared in The Independent Review. The review is available here.

As you will see from the review, I was not particularly impressed by the argument in the book. Indeed, I was quite disappointed, especially given that Cohen was a distinguished philosopher who had produced excellent and important work earlier in his career. His Self-Ownership, Freedom, and Equality (Cambridge, 1995), for example, provided a searching and challenging critique of Nozickean libertarianism. The argument of Why Not Socialism? is, by contrast, thin and facile.

Cohen's book may end up having had one important redeeming feature for me personally, however: It may have inspired my next book. (More on that soon . . . .)

01 January 2011

Happy New Year!

Here is wishing everyone a happy and prosperous 2011, and hoping it is your best year yet.

To commemorate the New Year, I have changed the template for my website.  The template is called "Simple." Is it too simple? Let me know what you think.