Tuesday, October 29, 2002

Billsberg, Brooklyn

I have been staying in Williamsburg lately. One does not really appreciate all that is Brooklyn until you have really wandered around it alot. Bedford avenue has a cool part. This is a real shock to those who grow up in Midwood or Madison (like I did).

Grammercy Cafe

There is this diner that I eat in all the time. The food is pretty good, and it convenient to where I usually am. It is the Grammercy Cafe and it is always open. Worth eating there.

Monday, October 21, 2002

Proof that P (Ethics of Care)

Ethics of Care - Proof that p. (This might be funny for philosophers, I guess, who enjoyed some of the other proofs that P. It somewhat resembles Goodman's proof, I know.)

If a woman is in a mutually caring relationship with another woman they would both intuitively realize that p.

The fact that many men have thought up counterexamples to p is inconsequential, as counterexamples are just typical examples of the antoganistic nature of male oriented thinking. Women would never attempt to think up counterexamples. Rather we would attempt to reconcile our position with the opressed voice of not p, while shrugging off and transcending the hostile nature of masculine thinking.

Sunday, October 20, 2002

Review of James Rachels' The Elements of Moral Philosophy

I finally finished James Rachels' The Elements of Moral Philosophy (fourth edition). It wasn't bad. Basically it goes through all the major moral theories and tells you what they are, and some of the associated problems. The book does a decent job of giving the opening moves in each of the theories.

The book is obviously designed for an undergraduate introduction to ethics course, and it is particularly well suited for that. It is very clear and lays out each theory of morality well.

There are a few flaws. First the book does not tell you what the point of giving you all these moral theories are. I mean, why is the book giving me theory after theory? Is there a right one? Actually, he tries to tell us in the last chapter what it would take for a moral theory to be right, and how you can take a little from here and a little from there, and you will get a satisfactory theory. However I think that he went way too fast on that chapter, and did not bother to deal with the obvious problems.

There were a few other weird things in the book, like, I think he never read the Bible too carefully, although he does take the time to talk about it. He seems to give equal time to cultural relativism, utilitarianism, Kantian ethics, utilitarianism, social contract theory, psychological and ethical egoism, feminist ethics, virtue ethics, and subjectivism/emotivism. This is a bad idea. Despite the fact that there is no real reason given to prefer one over the other, there are some that deserve more time than others. Cultural Relativism and Divine Command Theory definitely deserve less time than all the others, and this ought to be reflected in the text. It isn't.

But despite my criticisms it is one of the better books in the field out there on such an introductory level. I would recommend it.

Bad Lunch at Sidewalk

I had lunch yesterday in Sidewalk cafe on ave A and East 7th Street. The service really sucked. I used to like the place, but my waitress must have had an off day, though she initially seemed really nice. I didn't get everything I ordered, and it all was weird and the food wasn't so good. It was annoying.

Friday, October 18, 2002

The Wide Woman Problem

Along the same lines as my last post I want to talk about the problem of "the wide woman". Now before all you wide women jump down my throat, the wide woman is not necessarily a woman, nor is she necessarily very wide. It is just a convenient way of referring to her.

Here is the problem. There are many subway stops that have escalators. Some of those escalators are really not very wide, ie, two people cannot really go together side by side. There is also little chance of passing someone. Now, usually when people leave the train and go on to an escalator they start to walk up the escalator. They of course are not obligated to, but to get to wherever they are going quicker, and as a courtesy to those who are in a hurry (which is everyone, in New York) many people start walking.

However, I seem to have this rotten luck, that whenever I am on the escalator, there is a woman, usually too wide to pass who just stands there. She will just not budge. And you hear a collective sigh emenate from everyone behind her. It is occassionally somone who is obviously too old or pregnant, something like that, and you understand, but most of the time, it is just some lazy woman with an obnoxious expression on her face making everyone wait because she will not start walking. This woman will then get off the escalator at the top and then stop and try to figure out where to go.

I have since tried to stay in the part of the train that opens up right near the escalator, so I can run out and be the first one on, so that I do not have to be behind the wide woman, but it does not always work. sometimes there is one on by the time I get there and sometimes someone runs out on to the escalator just so she can be the wide woman. (Those are evil.)

I hate the wide woman.

On line in the Gap

I was in the Gap (on 6th and 34th) the other day waiting in line to pay for some stuff, when this chick in front of me starting to chat. She said stuff like "Nice shirt" and "My boyfriend likes that color" and other uninteresting bits of chit chat. After a bit, she was the second person in the line (I was third) and the person who was paying was trying to use a check. Now, the scene was right out of that commercial where the lady had to pull out identification and the check would just not go through, and it was really taking a lot of time.

So we are waiting there, and the girl I am talking to says something like "Of course she has to pay by check".

She said this loud enough so that the person paying heard her. So the paying woman said something like "Do you always talk about people or just those paying by check?" and the girl I am talking to said "Hey, free speech, lady" to which she responded "I choose to pay by check".

At that point the cashier told her that her check was just not going through and she would have to pay some other way. It was all quite annoying.

Lev Taffler (not his real name) makes a point in his rather silly book Fair New World that there ought to be seperate lines for men and women (well, he doesn't quite make this point, but you can take that away from reading the book). This is really a good idea. Call me sexist, but shopping (and paying) is similar to going to the bathroom - men just happen to take less time than women to do it. That is just the way things are. Possibly we can have it so that you can only pay for stuff in the men's department in the men's department, and the same for women's stuff. That would go a long way to making shopping a more plesant experience for male costomers. It would not eliminate the problem, but it would help a lot.

Thursday, October 17, 2002

Party on the Intrepid

I went to the Intrepid a few hours ago. I haven't been there since I was a kid. I pass by the ship all the time. . . but who ever thinks to go in.

So "Y" got invited to this party sponsered by Guiness (the beer company), and he asked me if I wanted to join. Now I can't turn down free beer, so naturally I went. "Y"'s wife was unable to go, so I was in luck.

It was a pretty cool shinding actually. There were about 100 people there, and there was all the free Guiness I could drink. It was a lot of fun. Everyone was friendly and we had to listen to this speech by this drunk representative about the new Draught in a bottle that Guiness was introducing, while he told us how Guiness encourages us to drink responsibly, and he explained how Guiness was nitrogenated. Nitrogen bubbles are smaller than carbon dioxide bubbles, apparently, and this is supposed to be good for beer.

We all walked away with a free glass and T-shirt to remember our Guiness experience.

Sunday, October 13, 2002

Reporter fallacy

Anyone who ever took a decent ethics course in college has probably heard of something called the Naturalistic Fallacy. The Naturalistic Fallacy is the fallacy that one makes when they attempt to derive an "ought" from an "is". In other words, when someone makes a claim about the way the world "is", and then derives a law about the way the world "ought" to be, they are making a mistake. One cannot derive an ought from an is.

A simple example might be, that if one claims that men are stronger than women (which is usually true), they cannot conclude from that fact that men ought to dominate women. There is no way to know what should be the case, if we just know what is the case. That is the Naturalistic Fallacy.

A fallacy is generally given a name because it is a mistake that many people make. Many people make this mistake because it there is this general feeling that nature can give us clues as to how we ought to behave. We may think that we can draw some conclusion about ethics by analogy with nature.

There is an odd form of this that takes place in the world of newspapers and other media. When one looks at reporters like Ze'ev Schiff or Thomas Friedman (for example), both top notch reporters, one gets the impression that they really know a lot about what is going on in the world. We then allow them to write about what they see or find out about the world. They have both have great careers reporting on the Middle East, especially Israel and Lebanon.

Somehow after doing enough reporting they seem to believe that they can graduate to editorializing. (Most reporters don't really bother to wait, but that is another story.) One gets to write their opinions after they simply demonstrate enough competence in knowing what is going on. It is like assuming that scientists have any special insight in to right and wrong because they have a special understanding of nature. (The New York Times' ethicist is the same way, only worse.)

This is so pitiful. Certainly many reporters develop a feel for the people they report about. They develop instincts about what will happen under varying circumstances. But that does not make them experts on what ought to be done. It simply makes them good at being able to predict what would happen under different circumstances. This is a useful skill, but not deceitful. We are eventually supposed to believe that they have special insight in to what ought to be done simply on the basis that they always sound like they know what is going on. This is the fallacy. They know what goes on, but that is about it.

Disturbed - New Album

I was listening to the new Disturbed album. It is pretty good. (I really liked the first one too.) It is also pretty puzzling that MTV is not playing the video to "Prayer". They have this bizzarre lame excuse about it being too disturbing. (No irony intended.)

I recently saw MTV doing a show on their most controversial videos. They were some of the lameist stuff I have ever seen, so I am not surprised that they find this too unplesant to play. They have standards that are somewhere between G and PG. They want to see these clean cut people dancing demurely while singing their song that has no offensive lyrics.

Get over it. This is not your parents' rock 'n roll.

Being sick

I have been sick for the past two days. Nothing serious, but I have had a sore throat. I stayed home.

Friday, October 11, 2002

My Big Fat Greek Wedding

On Sunday I saw "My Big Fat Greek Wedding". It wasn't a bad movie, but nothing special. It could have reminded anyone of their culture, and it was an interesting look at a clash of cultures. But unfortunately it had a very typical ending. They were all happy and life worked out well. Life is never like this. It was too "feel good", but not good enought to be the "feel-good movie of the year".

Political involvement and government efficiency

I wonder if there is a relationship between the level of political participation of the citizenry of some country and the level of satisfaction in their government's efficiency. In the US there is little political participation. Most of us just vote for the candidate with the best commercials. That is why the candidate with the most money wins. On the flipside, we are all pretty satisfied that the government will take care of most of our problems.

The only people here who think the government is completely incompetent are people like academics, who are also very politically aware.

Israelis display a very high level of political involvement, but they also have one of the lowest levels of faith in government efficiency.

It seems like a simple enough thesis to assert that satisfied citizens, or citizens who think the government is working, have little reason to worry enough to participate. The same will hold for countries where there is no hope of doing anything.

So countries where the citizens think that they can initiate change, and feel like there is a need to initiate change, will be politically involved.

The frightening thing is the following: What if a country which is doing fine for a long time loses its ability and tradition of political activism. Then it suddenly becomes necessary to continue it. What happens? Can a citizenry recover that sort of thing?

There is an old worry among political theorists that we are becoming a nation of sheep. We follow the dictates of the political infrastructure, and it motivates us more than we motivate it. It is a worry of mine too. I do trust my government. It is doing pretty well. But I worry that few people have a say in foreign or domenstic policy. I feel like the citizens ought to.

Baruch Diner

I ate dinner at Baruch (28th and Lex.) with my dad yesterday. It is a pretty decent deli in Manhattan, if you want kosher. It is open late too. I am not sure if it is named after someone named "Baruch", or it is named after the college a few blocks away (Bernard Baruch College), or it is named after the Hebrew word for blessing (which is also where the name came from). Next time I go I might ask them.

UPDATE: (1/1/05) Where did Baruch go?

Thursday, October 10, 2002

National Park to the North

It dawned on me yesterday while running alongside a bunch of parks that that large landmass north of the US must be a national park. I always thought it was a state. But it's flag is almost the same as the national park service (it just has a leaf).

Saturday, October 05, 2002

Dosa Hut

I had lunch today with "R" at Dosa Hut on 17th and Lex. Good Indian cuisine. Recomended.