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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The scope and force of epistemic risk

By coincidence, my seminar on science and values covered Rudner’s Argument from Inductive Risk on the same day that Matt Brown posted an exchange about the Argument with Joyce Havstad. It’s taken me a couple of days to collect my thoughts.

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UAlbany philosophy hiring

The UAlbany Philosophy department is hiring this year. If you know someone who’s a fit for the position, please encourage them to apply. The department is pretty congenial, and Albany is a nice place to be.

In terms of research specialty, we are looking in applied ethics broadly construed. We mention some things that could mean in the ad, but we are pretty open-minded about it. The backstop requirement is that a candidate must be OK with teaching an upper-division undergraduate course in Philosophy of Law pretty much every year.

The ad is on the UAlbany HR page and will be posted more broadly soon.

Area of specialization: Applied Ethics and/or Political Philosophy

The successful candidate will have a promising research program in the area of specialization. The Philosophy Department at the University at Albany is interested in building on its existing strength in the area of global justice, but will consider candidates working in other areas such as bioethics, environmental ethics, the intersection of political philosophy and philosophy of science, business ethics, etc.

The job involves teaching both at the graduate and undergraduate level. In addition to teaching in their area of research, the candidate should be willing to teach Philosophy of Law at the undergraduate level on a regular basis.

Why I hate my publisher

“Hate” may be too strong a word, but I lack an evocative word for this kind of sad, weary resignation. Neither “angst” nor “ennui” are transative.

I published my book, Scientific Enquiry and Natural Kinds: From Planets to Mallards, with Palgrave MacMillan. I’d had a positive experience with Palgrave co-editing New Waves in Philosophy of Science, and they were launching a new series of philosophy of science monographs.

My book was initially available at a fairly high hardcover price of $70-some, but this was to be expected. It was available from on-line sources like Amazon at a bit less, and the eventual paperback would be more affordable. That’s what happened with the New Waves volume, anyway.

But then, in early 2015, Palgrave became part of Springer. This wasn’t because Springer wanted to own Palgrave, but just because Springer wanted the Nature Publishing Group (which belonged to MacMillan) and Palgrave was swept up in the merger deal. To be clear, Springer is among a handful of predatory publishing conglomerates which I would never have published with if I’d had a choice. Monographs published directly with Springer are super-expensive, priced to extract money from academic libraries but not to actually be read by much of anybody.

Since my book was published, the price for the hardcover print has steadily increased. It is now, ridiculously, $100. This is not a matter of increasing the price on reprints or minimally revised editions, but just of jacking up the price for copies from the first print run.

Meanwhile, the eBook is priced at $69.99. Although not explicit anywhere, it’s pretty clear that the motive for jacking up the price on the printed copy is to make a gap between the price of the printed and electronic copies without actually discounting for the eBook.

In the last year, the publisher has started offering electronic copies of individual chapters as separate purchases for $29.95 each. This is terrible, because the chapters are not separate articles. Although some of the parts would make sense read alone, the chapters refer to one another. Among the chapters which are available for thirty bucks a pop are the introduction and conclusion, which are all references and summary and in which no original philosophy is done. The whole reason I wrote a book was because the project grew larger than something that would fit comfortably in an article.

I have written to my publisher numerous times about the sale of separate chapters. It seems like a terrible model both for me and for them. It means that fewer people will respond to my work, except in glib ways that address only part of the larger project. It also means that any customer foolhardy enough to buy a chapter is likely to be pissed off and hate both the work and the publisher. Some people may bumble into paying, but I don’t see how it’s a good business model over the long term.

I have received no response to my queries about the sale of separate chapters. In the same missives, I also asked about whether there would be a paperback edition and was told consistently that sales did not justify it. Despite that, a paperback edition was released this Summer. The price is $95, just $5 less than the still available hardback!

To sum up: Steady and sizeable increases in the price of the hardcover edition. Overpriced electronic edition. Electronic editions of separate chapters. A paperback edition which is priced within a margin-of-error of the hardback edition.

Publish or perish the thought

In a recent article, Daniele Fanelli and Vincent Larivière test the common claim that contemporary academics are publishing more papers than scientists used to publish. They conclude, contra the myth, that “contemporary science is not suffering from a salami-slicing of papers.”

This is compatible with the observation that journals receive more submissions than they used to, because the overall number of scientists has increased. Moreover, as they note, scientists in non-anglophone countries may be feeling more pressure to publish in anglophone journals.

It is also compatible with the observation that scientists’ CVs list more papers than CVs of earlier times, because coauthoring is more common and the number of coauthors per paper has increased. Part of Fanelli and Larivière’s analysis is to abstract from this effect.

Because of their methodology, their results don’t directly address philosophy. It is still plausible that philosophers are now pushed to publish more than philosophers back in the day, especially since there has been a shift from expecting a book for tenure to expecting some congerie of papers. I also wonder whether the growth of co-authorship in philosophy isn’t partly an adaptation to that demand.