Weekend getaway

Guro Dan Inosanto in Syracuse 23oct2016
Guro Dan Inosanto; a poor snapshot, because I didn’t take very many pictures

Cristyn and I got back last night from a weekend road trip to Syracuse, where we attended a martial arts seminar with Dan Inosanto. It was the first vacation we’ve taken in a while.

My vacation schema for as long as I can remember is to take along a laptop and some books and to fill in-between time with philosophy. I’m not sure I can remember a vacation as an adult that didn’t have at least some of that. But not this time.

Instead, my head was filled with punches, kicks, sumbrada, trapping, and hubad lubud. There was definitely more going on than I could follow, but I had things to do and learn. Cristyn has done a lot of JKD, and so grokked more of the barehand material than I did. Also, in addition to Guro Inosanto, there were a lot of high level practitioners in the room who were happy to help out.

There was also fascinating history and storytelling, literal sitting at the feet of the master stuff. This included the quotable aphorism: “If I teach you, you will forget. If you discover it, you will not forget.”

The event was organized by Kevin Seaman and Tai Kai Jui Jitsu. Thanks to them and the other attendees for making it a great weekend.

I don’t have a bucket list, but if I did Doing hubad with Dan Inosanto would be on it. And it would be checked off.

Synchronicity in blue

Tracy McMullen, a musician and scholar who plays saxophone and thinks about American vernacular music, was in Albany last weekend to collaborate with Cristyn on a musical project.

Making conversation at dinner on the last night of her stay, I asked if she’d heard of and had opinions about Mostly Other People Do The Killing’s Blue (an album that’s a note-for-note remake of the 1959 classic Kind of Blue). It turns out that she has a paper about it forthcoming in The Journal of Jazz Studies. Since I’ve also written about it, there was lots to say. A long discussion about covers, authenticity, and versioning practices ensued.

Since the number of people who have written scholarly articles about Blue is small, possibly just the two of us, it’s an odd coincidence. In some ways, though, it was like old times. I originally started thinking about the philosophy of music because of social connections through Cristyn, at grad school parties where I ended up in conversations with musicians. Although I met Tracy once or twice back then, I hadn’t really gotten a chance to know her until this weekend.

Tracy’s visit also made me nostalgic for my year at Bowdoin, since she’s now a prof there. I’m not struck by it often, but it doesn’t take much for me to be struck by that nostalgia.

Why values and science?

There are a number of different connections between values to science. These sometimes get lumped together in the values and science literature. Even when they are distinguished, it isn’t always noted that each connection (1) applies to somewhat different values and (2) applies to somewhat different aspects or parts of science.

I distinguish five different ways in which values and science are connected in a preliminary attempt to sort some of this out.

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Consciousness nihilism

Jenny Saul at Feminist Philosophers links to a pretty funny list by Jonathan Jenkins Ichikawa of ideas which philosophers refuse to take seriously. It’s a sarcastic broadside at recent discussions about how contemporary philosophy won’t take X, Y, or Z seriously, where the dummy letters are racist and chauvinist crap.

I think #5 is my favourite:

5. Norse mythology (Marvel Comics version (Ultimate continuity))

you’ll find plenty of philosophers of religion offering arguments for Christianity or even atheism. but leading journals NEVER publish arguments defending the truth of the version of Norse mythology where Thor’s powers are more tech-based and he has an axe/hammer hybrid

I’m posting, though, because of #6:

6. consciousness nihilism

esteemed philosophers have argued for dualism, emergentism, panpsychism, and even zombies, but can you imagine what would happen to someone who argued there is no such thing as conciousness at all? no? thank you for proving our point

You totally can take that seriously!

Years ago, I wrote a paper advocating an interpretation of Quantum Mechanics which is nihilist about consciousness. It was published in a journal and everything.

What’s missing from my CV is serious discussion of tech-based axe/hammer hybrids.

The historian and the pope

For popular books, it is traditional to get a big shot to write an introduction in hopes that star power will increase sales. I remember countless science fiction books from when I was a kid with introductions by Isaac Asimov or Harlan Ellison. Stephen King later stepped into the role of ubiquitous introductions.

So there is a strange thrill from the fact that Naomi Oreskes wrote the introduction for Pope Francis’ Encyclical on Climate Change and Inequality. Naomi, a geologist turned historian of science, was faculty at UCSD when I was a grad student. I took a course and an independent study with her, and she was a member of my dissertation committee. She’s since moved to Harvard and become a heavyweight in reflections on climate change. Her book Merchants of Doubt (with Erik Conway) is a fascinating study of the forces behind science denial.

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