Preserving the presence of the past

Before I started this blog, I posted for more than a decade at Footnotes on Epicycles. The blog software I was using was somebody’s indie programming project, and they had stopped maintaining it years before I migrated over here. Sometime in the last month— possibly due to a server update— the code finally stopped working. So I spent some time over the last couple of days hacking together a solution which makes all the old posts available at most of the same URLs.1

If you want to poke around over there, I’ve also added an archive page.2

A fair showing

At Daily Nous, there’s discussion of how much philosophy sites figure in Google’s C4 data set— and so in the training set of Large Language Models. The Washington Post has a widget to search for the rank of specific domains.

This very site— this blog plus my other foofaraw— ranks 612,096th with about 38 thousand tokens.

My old blog ranks close behind at 625,716th with about 37k tokens.

Although the tool isn’t designed to give this kind of result, the two together would rank somewhere around 300,000th.

What pragmatism is today

Every time I teach pragmatism, I reread some of the canonical sources and rethink what “pragmatism” means. Several years ago, I suggested that the term might just be a mistake— that there is too much difference between the so-called pragmatists, making the word more confusing than helpful. Some years later, I softened this view. Now I find myself thinking that there are a few core commitments which can be definitive of pragmatism.1

Continue reading “What pragmatism is today”

Pragmatism and current events

On Wednesday in my pragmatism class, we discussed Jane Addams’ Democracy and Social Ethics. In one chapter, Addams’ central example is the Pullman strike of 1894. Writing circa 1900, she relies on readers remembering how that went down. She writes, “Let us recall the facts, not as they have been investigated and printed, but as they remain in our memories.”

So I asked the class whether there were any current events that might have a similar structure. I suggested Elon Musk’s takeover of Twitter, from a certain point of view. Insofar as Musk was motivated by thoughts about how this locus of public discourse could be better, he was motivated by his own personal conception of what’s good. He was not concerned with what Twitter users might actually want or with their actual lived situations.

It is not a perfect parallel, I conceded. Addams’ example works especially because Pullman owned the whole town. Twitter, even for its most avid users, is just one corner of their lives.

Yesterday, I woke to headlines like Elon Musk Is Planning a ‘Utopian’ Company Town. It’s the 1890s all over again, man.

In which I am almost Wittgenstein

I am teaching pragmatism this semester, and we are just getting to Quine. So I had cause to open my old file cabinet and take out the hanging file full of Quine related notes and articles.1 In it was a scrap of paper, ripped from the corner of the program for a non-philosophical event I attended. I had scribbled in the corner,

Consider the difference b/n ‘p does not mean q’ if p and q are or are not homophones— correcting usage vs. discussing a language

Readers familiar with Quine can probably reconstruct what I had in mind, but whatever. Imagine this zettel joined with a hundred others like it, passed around as grainy scans and acquiring a moniker like The Taupe Book.2