September 30, 2004

More Ghosts

While tracking down the author and title of "One of the Dead" for this post I ran across the Amazon page for the anthology it contains, with a helpful review by one E.A. Lovitt, though I wasn't a fan of the Oates story. (Her Lovecraft quote is going into the ghost story animadversions post, if I ever write it.) Anyway, her whole reviews page looks very useful, with a story-by-story description of many anthologies (lots of stories I haven't read); and from the top of the page, you can see that she's on the right side of the other great issues of today as well.

Posted by Matt Weiner at 11:01 AM | Comments (0)

House Leadership Attempts to Legalize Torture

Write your Representative about this, if it's the only thing you do today! It's important.

Katherine (via hilzoy) of Obsidian Wings writes that the House of Representatives is planning to pass a bill to put a legal imprimatur on the process of "extraordinary rendition," which means sending a person to another country to be tortured. Katherine has posted extensively about the case of Maher Arar, a Canadian with dual Syrian citizenship who was snatched while changing planes in the U.S. and sent to Syria to be tortured; Arar, it seems, was completely innocent of anything and grabbed on the flimsiest grounds. The current bill would make the process legal, routine, and unreviewable--the Secretary of Homeland Defense would have the power to send anyone to be tortured. If you think this power would be used only on the worst people, consider Arar--and anyway, the United States should not be doing this to the Devil himself.

The text of my letter to my representative is below the fold. Read also Ted Barlow (who includes his letter), Belle Waring, and Sebastian Holsclaw. And, to be shrill, Mark A.R. Kleiman and Michael Froomkin are right; decent Republicans like Sebastian take this issue seriously, but it is clear that the party leadership does not. [UPDATE: According to Ted, the provision survived in committee on a PARTY-LINE VOTE. I have nothing to add that I wouldn't regret later.]

Dear Representative Kleczka:

I am writing to you concerning the practice of "extraordinary
rendition," which is a euphemism for sending people to other
countries to be tortured. Sadly, the United States is poised
to explicitly legalize this practice of extraordinary rendition.
I ask that you oppose it in the strongest possible terms by
opposing H.R. 10, the "9/11 Recommendations Implementation
Act of 2004," as it stands, and by supporting Representative
Edward Markey's Bill to outlaw extraordinary rendition.

Section 3032 and 3033 of H.R. 10, introduced
by House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-IL),
would exclude any suspected terrorist from
the protection of the U.N. Convention against
torture, and would require a person who wished
to avoid rendition to provide "clear and convincing
evidence that he or she would be tortured." It
would be impossible for any person in custody
to meet such a proof. Thus, these provisions
would effectively make it possible for the
Secretary of Homeland Defense to order torture
at will; and it would prevent the courts from
reviewing his decisions.

I need hardly say how immoral and un-American
torture is. I will add that it is an ineffective
way of fighting terror; there are many more
effective countermeasures that we could take
and are not taking (funding port security,
for instance). Not only is it wrong and
ineffective to torture even guilty persons,
there is no guarantee that the innocent will
not be tortured; the provisions authorize
torture of terrorist *suspects*.

Again, I ask in the strongest possible terms
that you oppose the relevant provisions of HR 10
and support Representative Markey's bill,
which can be found at

Yours truly,
Matthew Weiner

Posted by Matt Weiner at 10:32 AM | Comments (0)

September 26, 2004

University of Phoenix?

Comments to this Crooked Timber post remind me of something that's been bothering me--what major universities are there in Phoenix, Arizona? It's the sixth largest city in the U.S., yet I don't know of a single major school that's based there. University of Arizona is in Tucson, Arizona State is in Tempe, and University of Phoenix doesn't count (sorry, Bill Tozier).

I don't know anything about Arizona geography, so maybe Tempe is effectively Phoenix. Still, this seems odd.

Posted by Matt Weiner at 02:00 PM | Comments (4)

September 23, 2004

A Ghost Story Anthology

I'd like to get something happy on the top of the page--though you should also click here--so I'll make a list, after a bit of preliminary chat. And you should add your own items to the list, should you feel inclined.

Lots of Crooked Timberites are particular fans of particular genres of fiction--Belle of mysteries, Maria of chick lit, Henry of fantasy/SF (mysteries too), frequent commenter Laura of romance novels (and I must figure out some way to work The Romance Writer's Phrase Book into this blog sometime); my pet genre is ghost stories. Not that I prefer ghost stories to any other genre; in fact I probably spend much more time on mysteries, not to mention straight fiction; but I may spend more time hunting down good ghost stories than I do anything else. One reason is that a great ghost story is really hard to pull off--the general theme of "Someone died, and then their ghost appeared, and it sure was scary"* loses its impact with repetition.

So--herewith eight stories that would be in any anthology I put together. Each is unique, except perhaps for the M.R. James, and since he made the rules he gets to follow them. There are lots of great stories that aren't on here because I'd find it hard to include them and not another--if L.P. Hartley's "A Visitor from Down Under" is in, can W.W. Jacobs' "The Monkey's Paw" be out? And "Heat," whose author I forget at the moment? (Which reminds me--I tend to find these in obscurish anthologies, which both makes it hard to track them down and means I've probably forgotten some I'll regret.)

Alphabetical by author:

Marjorie Bowen, "The Accident"
Isak Dinesen, "The Supper at Elsinore"
John Collier, "Thus I Refute Beelzy"
M.R. James, "Mr. Humphreys and His Inheritance" (or any of a dozen others)
H.P. Lovecraft, "The Rats in the Walls"
Joanna Russ, "The Little Dirty Girl"
Muriel Spark, "The Portobello Road"
Bram Stoker, "The Judge's House"
William Wood, "One of the Dead"

My definition of "ghost story" wasn't quite "any story that contains or may be thought to contain a ghost"--otherwise Alice Munro's "Carried Away" would be here--but it's close. I may post more on the characteristic pleasures of ghost stories later. (Also, English only, so I don't have to worry about Kafka.)

Any favorites yourselves?

*That's more or less a verbatim** quote from Walter Scott's
"The Tapestried Chamber," allegedly one of the classics of the genre; give me "Wandering Willie's Tale any day.

**OK, it's not really a more or less verbatim quote. But--" Upon a face which wore the fixed features of a corpse were imprinted the traces of the vilest and most hideous passions which had animated her while she lived. The body of some atrocious criminal seemed to have been given up from the grave, and the soul restored from the penal fire, in order to form for a space a union with the ancient accomplice of its guilt"? "It is enough to say, that in yon fatal apartment incest and unnatural murder were committed"? Show, don't tell, dude.***

***I know, I know. This time it's right.

Posted by Matt Weiner at 02:29 PM | Comments (6)

September 21, 2004

Remember Abu Ghraib

via Michael Froomkin and Talk Left, a female Abu Ghraib prisoner gives her story to the Guardian.

Alazawi says that American guards then made her stand with her face against the wall for 12 hours, from noon until midnight. Afterwards they returned her to her cell [not in Abu Ghraib]. "The cell had no ceiling. It was raining. At midnight they threw something at my sister's feet. It was my brother Ayad. He was bleeding from his legs, knees and forehead. I told my sister: 'Find out if he's still breathing.' She said: 'No. Nothing.' I started crying. The next day they took away his body."

The US military later issued a death certificate, seen by the Guardian, citing the cause of death as "cardiac arrest of unknown etiology". The American doctor who signed the certificate did not print his name, and his signature is illegible. The body was returned to the family four months later, on April 3, after the Abu Ghraib torture scandal broke. The family took photographs of the body, also seen by the Guardian, which revealed extensive bruising to the chest and arms, and a severe head wound above the left eye.

The prisoner claims that she was arrested after refusing to pay extortion to an Iraqi informant.

A US military spokesman said, "The fact that abuses occurred isn't really news any more. We know they did and those who are accused are being prosecuted for it."

Chew on that--these are not news. Wrist-slaps for seven enlisted soldiers are supposed to close the book on rape, torture, and murder. That is what the military would like you to think, but it is not what the world thinks, and it is not the truth.

Posted by Matt Weiner at 10:25 AM | Comments (0)

September 20, 2004

Knowledge, Knives, and Gettier

Let's try and get a bit of philosophical substance up, shall we?

Brian, who believes that knowledge is merely justified true belief, gave the following explanation for why people have Gettier intuitions:

The people who have Gettier intuitions are (on the whole) basically sceptics who have (perhaps) talked themselves out of their most sceptical intuitions but not this one. More carefully, people who have Gettier intuitions are disposed to intuitively apply KNOW in very few cases where possibilities of error are salient. Some of them may have convinced themselves that we KNOW we are not brains in vats, or that a mule is not a very cleverly disguised football official, but the underlying sceptical intuitions are still doing too much work.

(KNOW refers to heavy stress on 'know'--discussed here.)

(Also, to brush aside worries about whose intuitions these are--in this entry when I talk about intuitions I mean the intuitions of the people who found Gettier's examples convincing. Since I'm also talking about intuitions about jusitification, and justification used in this way is something of a philosopher's term, I think it's only philosophers' intuitions that are really relevant here. But anyway, the question pertains just to the community of people who have these intuitions. Although, as we'll see, it may just pertain to me.)

I want to argue that Brian's account doesn't really help explain why people should have Gettier intuitions if the JTB account is true. If the JTB account is true, why should the salience of possibilities of error make a difference? Salient possibilities aren't explicitly mentioned anywhere in the JTB theory.

One answer is: Making a possibility of error salient puts pressure on the justification component. If I fall victim to your skeptical hypotheses, I begin to think along the lines of "I shouldn't be so sure that I'm sitting in my office..."; skepticism here makes the beliefs seem not only not known but not justified.

But that can't be what's going on in the Gettier case, because part of the Gettier intution is to conclude that the subject lacks knowledge even though her belief is justified. We don't think, "Alice shouldn't believe that one of her students owns a Chevy Caprice, since she hasn't excluded the possibility that Mr. Nogot has been deceiving her." The point of the Gettier cases is to conclude that the belief is justified and true, and nevertheless not knowledge.

Here's an analogy--suppose we define a table setting as a knife and fork. We can generate skepticism about table settings by the Crocodile Dundee move: "That's not a knife." If we become convinced that KNIVES have to be very large and sharp, we will decide that many things we had thought of as table settings really aren't. But why would we think that we didn't have a table setting while being convinced that we really do have a knife and fork?

Just so you can keep track of the analogy: "table setting" = knowledge; "knife" = justification; "fork" = truth; "Crocodile Dundee" = skeptic. It's a shame that this was supposed to be a serious post.

Now here I think I have something of an answer. When we talk about a table setting we're creating a thing where previously there was just a separate knife and fork. So you might say--in order for this to be a real TABLE SETTING, the knife and fork have to match.

--That is to say, we think knowledge should be an organic unity, so we think the justification and belief components have to match up in a way that they don't in Gettier examples. This is not unconnected with Edward Craig's views on 'objectivisation' in Knowledge and the State of Nature. (I just noticed that the heavy emphasis on "knife" a couple of paragraphs ago doesn't work with the analogy, because we don't tend to stress 'justified'. Oh well.)

Another point to make is that sometimes it matters whether a belief is Gettierized; Timothy Williamson gives the example of a burglar who keeps ransacking a house because he knows a jewel is hidden inside; if he had a Gettierized belief based on false information that the jewel was under the bed, he'd give up when he looked under the bed. My favored account of knowledge can account for this while preserving the table-setting explanation of Gettier examples.

That account is this: There are many things we care about when evaluating a belief. We always care about truth, usually about justification, sometimes about other things as in the Williamson example. Attributing knowledge is a quick handy way of making several of these attributions at once, allowing us to retrieve the relevant one.

To switch the analogy: Knowledge is like a Swiss Army knife. It's got the knife blade and screwdriver, which you use all the time, and a few other things, like the corkscrew, tweezers, and fingernail board, which won't come up that often. It would be very irritating to carry those five things around with you, just as it would be cumbersome to enunciate separately that a belief was true, justified, etc., or to inquire into that question. But a Swiss Army knife gives you a handy way of carrying them all around, so that you'll have whichever one you need.

Now consider this--if you have a knife and a screwdriver, separately, you may have everything you'll need the Swiss Army knife for, but you don't have a Swiss Army knife. To have a Swiss Army knife, the blades must be connected. The Swiss Army knife consists of all the different blades in an organic whole.

Hence, when we use knowledge attributions as an economic way of saying five other things, we are doing more than just conjoining the other things--we're making them into an organic whole. And, even if we'll only be ultimately concerned with truth and justification of beliefs (most of the time), when we ask "Does she know?" we're asking about that organic whole too. If the truth and justification aren't connected we don't have knowledge--just as, if the knife and screwdriver aren't connected you don't have a Swiss Army knife, even if you have everything you need for your construction project.

Posted by Matt Weiner at 04:38 PM | Comments (2)

An MP3 Blog

Serendipitiously--right after two posts that had to do with old-timey music one way or another--I ran across the MP3 blog Honey, Where You Been So Long which focuses on pre-war blues. Its current top link is to a song by Jim Jackson, whose "Old Dog Blue" is my favorite song on the entire Anthology of American Folk Music. I don't listen to MP3s but this looks like a great site--lotta good songs up, and the pictures and text are nice even without them.

via Ted Barlow, in a thread that also features one of the best right-wing trolls on a non-political thread I've ever seen.

(some even more irrelevant stuff below the fold)

Peter at HWYBSL says that "Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow is really awesome and features some great visuals." I agree about the great visuals--and that includes Gwyneth Paltrow (not acting very well) and Jude Law--but not so much about the really awesome. The visuals are so much the purpose of the movie that it seems beside the point to carp about any other aspect, but I wish that it had just straight up focussed on the visuals--or put them in the service of some kind of vision of the world, the way Metropolis did. (Metropolis is open to the criticism that its vision of the world is stupid, but even so I think it gives some weight to the design.)--I think what I'm saying is: Just go all the way and make the whole thing a cartoon. It is definitely fun and impressive--but I think what will stay with me longest is the Onion caption, "For added realism, Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow was filmed in the world of tomorrow with actual Sky Captains.

So, recommended if you're in the mood for that sort of thing, but not as good as Jim Jackson. Then again, what is?

Oh, and if you're wondering where the other post about old-time music is, "High Water Everywhere" is the name of a Charley Patton song.

Posted by Matt Weiner at 03:22 PM | Comments (0)

High Water Everywhere

Yoi. (Thanks mom.)

Posted by Matt Weiner at 01:51 PM | Comments (0)

I Am Indignant

When you do a google search for the lyrics of "Penny's Farm" all the top hits say "Natalie Merchant" on them. I'm going to spend the next week trying not to imagine what that sounds like--anyone who is thinking of playing that version of the song at me can pre-emptively consider themselves a former friend.

[UPDATE: Worse yet, none of the sites has the lyrics the way the Bently Boys sing it, including the verse that ends "He'll work you all the summer and rob you in the fall"--which is the one I can't figure out. Anyone?]

(I suppose I should be grateful for her good taste, though since nobody knows who the Bently Boys were there's no chance they got royalties.)

Anyhoo, here's the last two stanzas:

George Penny's renters, they come into town, With their hands in their pockets, and their heads hanging down, Go in the store and the merchant will say: "Your mortgage is due And I'm looking for my pay."

Goes down in his pocket with a trembling hand --
"Can't pay you all but I'll pay you what I can."
Then to the telephone the merchant makes a call,
"They'll put you on the chain gang
If you don't pay it all."

[PS--Is there any rhyme or reason governing when Movable Type respects carriage returns inside block quotes?]

Posted by Matt Weiner at 01:50 PM | Comments (1)

September 15, 2004

Experiment/Dumb Joke

Brian Weatherson has a little experiment he'd like you to try, and I have a dumb joke I'd like to make about it. My dumb joke may spoil his experiment if you read it first, so do his experiment first--it only takes a bit of mouse-clicking, and is congenial to non-philosophers (in fact they're particularly encouraged to take it)--and then, if you like dumb jokes, come back and click my extended entry button.

And if you don't like dumb jokes, how is it that you're still reading my weblog? This is a dumb joke about football.

So Brian's experiment involves testing your intuitions about this question: If you're supposed to meet someone a little after midday, when are you late? According to new New York Giants coach Tom Coughlin, the answer is 11:56:

Three players have filed complaints with the NFL Players Association for being fined by coach Tom Coughlin for not being "early enough" to team meetings. LBs Carlos Emmons and Barrett Green and CB Terry Cousin were fined $500 apiece for arriving only a couple of minutes early for a recent meeting.

Coughlin wants players at meetings five minutes before their scheduled start.

"Players ought to be there on time, period," Coughlin said. "If you are on time, you are on time. Meetings start five minutes early."

I particularly love Coughlin's use of "if you are on time, you are on time," given that these players seem to have been on time, yet not on time. If you're going to be a dialetheist have the courage of your convictions!

Posted by Matt Weiner at 10:09 AM | Comments (0)

September 14, 2004

Sex is immoral if it's directed at procreation

Just trying to up my hit count, there. Harry Brighouse has a thought-provoking post, inspired by the Brian Weatherson-Sarah McGrath paper on human cloning, about whether parents have an "interest in rearing children who are their biological descendents [as opposed to other children]." Harry says

I am having a hard time figuring out why parents have an interest in rearing children who are biologically related to them sufficiently strong that it would support, for example, a policy that would enable people to do that even at the cost that some significant number of children (potential adoptees) will be reared in orphanages rather than in family homes.

Now let's abstract from the question of what people want to do. As Brian points out in Harry's comments, a lot of people want to have and rear biologically related children. But we might still think that these desires are regrettable, given the situation Harry describes--that it is morally less than ideal to have such a desire, even if it is best (given that desire) to have and rear a biologically related child.

My worry--as you'll have guessed from the title--is that Harry's argument seems like it's non-specific to cloning. If rescuing a child from an orphanage is better than having a cloned child, then why isn't rescuing a child from an orphanage better than having a child conceived of by sex? (Let us assume that the alternative is having as much and as good sex, but using contraception.)

Now, there's an obvious answer here--cloning is a lot more work than having sex (even if conceiving via sex can be somewhat difficult). Harry speaks of a policy that enables people to have biological children rather than adopt--you don't need a policy to enable many people to have children through sex.

On the other hand, Harry's argument seems to cut just as hard against in vitro fertilization as they do against cloning (aside from the question of the destruction of embryos because of IVF). IVF really does require an elaborate process--perhaps not as elaborate as cloning right now, but that's a merely technological issue. So you can ask--why should we enable people to have biological children through IVF when there are many children waiting to be adopted? I really can't see a reason why cloning would be wrong here but IVF not--but that won't be considered a reductio by everyone. (I trust everyone will think that the view expressed in the title of this post is a reductio.)

(Fametracker has a dissenting view on the issue.)

Posted by Matt Weiner at 02:56 PM | Comments (4)

Personal to Meg Wallace

I don't mind having all my views called wussy, but if you're going to use "weiner" as an insult spell it right, damn it!

(Only kidding, I laughed.)

Posted by Matt Weiner at 01:13 PM | Comments (1)

Seinfeld, Time Travel, and Philosophy

This entry from Fametracker (on vacation till next week) seems like it raises some interesting philosophical issues:

We're not saying that the Seinfeld actors should never work again. All we're saying is that their collected, post-Seinfeld work has been so unfunny that it's actually traveled back in time and made Seinfeld less funny. Not seem less funny, mind you. Actually less funny. It's like they killed Larry David's grandpa or something.

Not that I'm going to address those issues, or even try to say what they might be. It just seems like it raises some interesting philosophical issues.

Posted by Matt Weiner at 10:06 AM | Comments (4)

September 13, 2004

Monday Morning Quarterback

1. Jerome Bettis must have set a record yesterday for most fantasy football points scored while gaining 1 yard--five carries, one yard gained, three touchdowns. [UPDATE: It's probably a tie--Hank Bauer had three touchdowns on four carries for one yard for San Diego in 1979. OTOH, they didn't have fantasy football in 1979.] One of his other carries was originally ruled a touchdown but overturned on instant replay. (He was used in goal line situations and lost a couple of yards on the last drive while rushing to set up a field goal.)

2. Luke's, which the Black and Gold Brigade lists as a place to watch the Steelers, seems to be a Browns bar. Does anyone know any more Steeler-centric places around Milwaukee?

3. I just want to say this before I can be accused of special pleading--sudden-death overtime in football is dumb. You shouldn't have sudden-death in sports in which one team is on offense at a time. It makes about as much sense as sudden death in baseball would, and leads to possibly the most anticlimactic deciding play in all sports except for the soccer shootout--the field goal on second down after five minutes of overtime. Do we really want to discourage teams from trying to score touchdowns? They should play an extra (possibly shorter) quarter.

Posted by Matt Weiner at 12:32 PM | Comments (0)

Latmus Test

Two more Wharton-related entries, but I can only come up with a pun for one, so it gets pride of place.

(1) In two consecutive Edith Wharton stories in Tales of Men and Ghosts, the adjective "Latmian" occurs--in the "Daunt Diana" someone speaks of the titular statue giving a collector "the Latmian kiss," and in "His Father's Son" a businessman's more refined and handsomer son is described as "as if the boy had been a changeling, child of a Latmian night." Latmus apparently is a mountain in Greece with some mythological significance, but can anyone explain more exactly what that means?

(2) From "Afterward" (same volume):

"You mean that he tried to kill himself, and failed? And tried again?" "Oh, he didn't have to try again."

If we were looking for clean, precise, and widely agreed upon beliefs in philosophy, I'd think that maybe the belief that someone who does something intentionally has tried to do it would count (Jennifer Hornsby argues this in Actions; I think Brian O'Shaughnessy influenced her; and perhaps people working on action theory will jump down my throat on this, or other people will argue that it's not widely enough considered to be widely agreed upon.) Here we have a denial that someone who succeeds at something has tried to do it. But I think the extra stress on "try" may indicate that this utterance is meant to be read as "He didn't merely try, he succeeded." So we may have a case where Gricean factors make acceptable a statement that's flat false--as DeRose points out somewhere, these should be less common than cases in which Gricean factors make unacceptable a statement that's plain true, but they can happen.

Posted by Matt Weiner at 12:26 PM | Comments (2)

KNOWLEDGE in the Wild

After writing the previous entry on heavy stress on the word 'knowledge', I ran across this bit of dialogue in Edith Wharton's story "The Debt" (emphasis in original):

"The matter?" Archie reiterated. "are you so lost to all sense of decency and honor that you can put that question in good faith? Don't you really know what's the matter?"

Dredge smiled slowly. "There are so few things that one really knows."

"Oh, damn your scientific hairsplitting! Don't you know you're insulting my father's memory?"

The first thing to notice, I think, is that Dredge really is hairsplitting. The sense of Archie's question is that Dredge should have a true belief about what the matter is--Dredge's bringing up skeptical doubts is irrelevant. (And it seems likely in the story that Dredge does know why Archie is upset--each is trying to get the other to be the first to say it.) Archie's stress on 'know' doesn't really make the skeptical doubts more salient--if they're salient at all, it's because the whole story is about the nature of scientific inquiry and the overturning of old theories.

On the other hand, it would be extremely inapt for Dredge to respond to "Don't you know you're insulting my father's memory"--I imagine the stress is on 'insulting'--by raising skeptical doubts. That may provide a bit of evidence that stress on 'know' makes skeptical doubts more salient--if not salient enough to raise without hairsplitting--but it may also reflect that the doubts have been raised and rejected, and that the ploy of raising and rejecting them has accomplished its purpose.

Posted by Matt Weiner at 12:10 PM | Comments (0)

September 12, 2004


In defending the thesis that knowledge is just justified true belief (a thesis I'm more sympathetic to than most), Brian argues that

The people who have Gettier intuitions are (on the whole) basically sceptics who have (perhaps) talked themselves out of their most sceptical intuitions but not this one.

His third (out of two!) argument for this is that Gettier intuitions are made much more prominent by utterances that stress the word "know." I need to preface my remarks about this by saying two things:

a. There's been a lot of work done on stress and focus.
b. I don't know any of it, so the following speculations aren't as well-informed as they might be.

(Also: Close readers may think that my examples contain an undertone of mockery of a certain political figure. I probably believe every political statement that is suggested in these examples, but I don't want to open the floor for political discussion here, and I couldn't think of better examples on the fly. The conversations are all imaginary, and you can treat the underlying experiments as imaginary as well; it shouldn't affect the philosophical point.)

Brian's idea, presumably, is that when we say things like "Henry KNOWS that he's looking at a barn" or "Does Ringo KNOW that the tour starts in New Zealand," the stress on 'know' makes certain doubts more salient--including Gettier doubts. Hence it makes us reluctant to assent to the stressed knowledge-ascription in cases of Gettierized JTBs. But we would assent to ordinary, unstressed knowledge-ascriptions in these cases, when the Gettier doubts aren't salient.

In support of this, Brian adduces examples in which the stress falls on something other than 'know' and we are willing to ascribe knowledge in Gettier cases. I don't think this provides evidence that stress is keeping us from putting aside Gettier worries, because we're sometimes willing to ascribe knowledge in similar cases even when we do stress 'know'.

The idea in part is that negative knowledge-that ascriptions usually focus on whether the ascribee has a certain (acknowledged true) belief. After the jump, there's some theses that are meant to support it, although they're not exactly argued for. (The numbering is odd because I moved that section after writing the post). But here's the key example.

Let's suppose that Morgan and Jordan are discussing a political figure called Blotus, and that Morgan thinks Blotus' policy toward Belize has failed. She might say:

(8) Blotus is going to stick to the old Belize policy. He doesn't know that his Belize policy has failed.

The most natural reading is that Blotus doesn't even think that his Belize policy has failed. If Jordan discovers that Blotus has an unjustified true belief that his Belize policy has failed, he will be unimpressed with what Morgan says.--Of course (8) is deceptive if Blotus has any sort of belief that his policy has failed, because then his lack of knowledge won't explain why he would stick to the old Belize policy.
But now let's suppose that, discourse-initially, Morgan leans hard on 'know':
(9) Blotus doesn't KNOW that his Belize policy has failed.

The most natural reading of (9), I think, is that Blotus' policy has failed but Blotus does not believe this. The heavy stress on 'know' sets up a contrast with "Blotus' policy has failed." Only if the discourse has set up another contrast--"Blotus thinks this, but he doesn't KNOW it"--will (9) suggest something other than lack of belief.

Similarly with a question--let's suppose Jordan asks

(10) Does Blotus KNOW that his Belize policy has failed?

This suggests that it's not in question at all whether Blotus' policy has failed; the question is whether Blotus thinks so. (I don't know how Howard Baker accented his famous question, but even if he said "What did the president KNOW and when did he KNOW it?" it wouldn't have exculpated Nixon if it had been shown that he had a bunch of true unjustified beliefs.)

Now, let's suppose that Blotus has a Gettierized belief that his Belize policy has failed. Here's the story. Blotus' Belize policy was formed by a group of advisors called the Nominalists--but lately Blotus has been getting most of his information from the Nominalists' enemies, the Realists. The Realists would tell him that any Nominalist policy was failing, no matter whether it was or not.
If this is the story, does (9) sound true? Not to me; and the answer to (10) should be "yes." No matter how heavily 'know' is stressed, the effect is merely to emphasize that the question at issue is not whether Blotus' policy has failed, but whether Blotus thinks his policy has failed. Stressing 'know' doesn't make Gettier-style issues any more salient here.
In fact, I think old-school skeptical worries come to the fore first. If Jordan and Morgan both presuppose that Blotus has true belief that his policy has failed, and Morgan keeps emphasizing (9), then I think Jordan will conclude that Morgan is saying that Blotus' evidence is somehow not good enough for KNOWLEDGE--that in the hurly-burly of intelligence-gathering and the vicissitudes of the future, the evidence Blotus has just isn't good enough to shut the door on the Belize policy and call it a definite failure. That's an unnatural reading, but I don't think it's nearly as unnatural as a reading on which Blotus' true belief fails to count as knowledge for Gettier-style reasons. Those wouldn't be made salient by stress on 'know' unless Jordan is a professional epistemologist.

So, in sum, I don't think Gettier intuitions can be explained away just by saying that they're skeptical doubts that are brought to the fore by stress on the word 'know'. Stressing 'know' doesn't seem to bring those doubts to the fore. I do have something of a theory of why we have Gettier intuitions--and it's not a theory that makes the Gettier problem particularly important to solve--but that'll be for another post.

The Theses
These are things I think but don't know, because I don't know how I'd check them easily. (Even if I were on the Internet where I'm typing, Google wouldn't be much help, because what I call knowledge-that ascriptions often don't contain the word "that"; I think it was John Carroll who pointed this out, in comments on Jonathan Schaffer's paper at the 2004 INPC.)

A. It's more common to say "I don't know-wh" than "I don't know-that." "I don't know what the combination is" makes perfect sense; "I don't know that the combination is 24-7-35" sounds awfully indiscreet.

B. "I don't know-that," though unusual, can be comfortably if snottily used to disclaim belief:

(1a) Jordan: Do you know that the Eskimos have over 365 words for snow?
Morgan: No, I don't know that, because Geoff Pullum has shown that that claim is nonsense.

(1b) Jordan: Do you know that the Eskimos have over 365 words for snow?

Morgan: No, I don't know that; I don't even believe it [this is perhaps philosophically infected].

It can also--so I claim--be used to signal that you're sticking your neck out when you make an assertion. In this use the suggestion is that your grounds for assertion aren't conclusive enough to allow you to claim knowledge:

(2) J: The Pirates are going to win.
M: How do you know?
J: I don't know that they're going to win, but that's my prediction.

Stress on "I" is weird, except where you're conveying that you're the only one around who doesn't believe it.

(3) J: Everyone here knows that the Eskimos have 365 words for snow.
M: I don't know it, because I know that that claim's an urban legend.

(4) J: Everyone here knows that the next meeting is Tuesday.

M: *I don't know it, but Terry does.

[If you hold the knowledge account of assertion, it's pretty obvious why (4) is wrong--since Morgan asserts that Terry knows it, Morgan should know that Terry knows it, and thus should know it herself. To explain why I, who reject the knowledge account of assertion, think (4) can't be right would take us too far afield.]

C. Third-person or past-tense negative knowledge ascriptions and knowledge questions most commonly presuppose factivity and deny belief. That is, if I say "Does she know that p?" or "I didn't know that p," that p will usually be a presupposition (possibly added to the scoreboard by this very utterance), and the salient question will be whether she believes (truly) that p, and the salient claim that I didn't believe that p.


(5) Does Terry know that the next meeting is Tuesday?

will usually sound odd if the next meeting isn't Tuesday, and

(6) ??I didn't know that Milwaukee is on Lake Ontario

sounds very odd, given that Milwaukee isn't on Lake Ontario (it's on Lake Michigan).

There's an obvious Gricean explanation for (6)--"Milwaukee isn't on Lake Ontario" entails (6) and so is more informative. Let's take a case where p's truth is unsettled. Jordan and Morgan are e-mailing about where Morgan will be next year, and whether Terry (who rents apartments in Milwaukee) has tried to sell Morgan on an apartment. Morgan writes:

(7) Terry doesn't know that I will be in Milwaukee next year.

From this Jordan would be justified in inferring that Morgan will be in Milwaukee next year. If Morgan hasn't heard yet about the pending job in Milwaukee, Jordan will be rightfully resentful. But Morgan couldn't be more informative by saying "I won't be in Milwaukee next year," because she doesn't believe that. (Perhaps "I don't know whether I'll be in Milwaukee" is the appropriate more informative locution.)

In this case, stress can make a difference; if Morgan says

(7a) Terry doesn't know that I will be in Milwaukee next year

the implication is very strong that she will be in Milwaukee next year--the implied contrast is that someone does or might know this. Similarly if "will" is stressed. Now
(7b) Terry doesn't know that I will be in Milwaukee next year

sounds to me like the most natural way of saying (7) aloud, and has the same presuppositions as (7). But if Morgan really leans on 'know':
(7c) Terry doesn't KNOW that I will be in Milwaukee next year

then the implied contrast may be that Terry thinks Morgan will be in Milwaukee next year. I can't quite tell whether the most natural reading of (7c) in isolation is one that presupposes that Morgan will be in Milwaukee next year; but in any case, my guess is that (7c) will be much rarer than (7a) and (7b). This case, however, doesn't tell against Brian's analysis, since the increased stress in (7c) really can change the reading of the sentence.

Posted by Matt Weiner at 08:52 AM | Comments (0)

September 09, 2004

How I Presented the Prisoner's Dilemma

I didn't have time to get human subjects permission before I started teaching (and I'd like a word with you about this Mark), so I decided to try to introduce the Prisoner's Dilemma without making the students think they had anything at stake in it. I've found/heard that one big problem is getting across the idea of a dominant strategy. So here's what I said (hyperlinks not in original):

Let's say you're playing a game like rock-paper-scissors, but with two choices: Thumbs up and thumbs down. You're playing against a blob; each of you simultaneously puts your thumb up or down without seeing what the other one does.. [Later I had to explain that the blob has thumbs.]

But you're not trying to beat the blob. All you're trying to do is to get the maximum payoff for yourself. And you don't care whether the blob does well or poorly--it's just a blob, you don't care about it at all.

I'm going to show you what you get for each of the possible choices:

It chooses Thumbs up Thumbs Down
You choose
Thumbs Up +2 -1
Thumbs Down -2 +1

Do you know what you should choose? Who thinks you should definitely choose up? Who down? Who doesn't know?

One person said "up"; I said that these were all going to be trick questions, but it's OK to be fooled by a trick question in philosophy because you'll get to change your answer.

If you said you didn't know, why not?

"Because you don't know what the blob will do."

OK, now let me fill in the blob's payoffs [underlined]:

It chooses Thumbs up Thumbs Down
You choose
Thumbs Up +2 -4 -1+3
Thumbs Down -2 -2 +1+5

What will you choose?

"Thumbs down."


"Because you know it'll choose thumbs up."

Good. Now let's try this again with a new payoff matrix for you:

It chooses Thumbs up Thumbs Down
You choose
Thumbs Up +2 0
Thumbs Down +3 +1

Do you know what you'll choose?

"Thumbs down."


"If you choose thumbs up you could get nothing."

OK, but what if it chooses thumbs up and you choose thumbs down?

"You still do better by choosing thumbs down."

About here someone said, "So is this basically the Prisoner's Dilemma?" We'll pretend that didn't happen.

So do you have to know what it does before you decide to choose thumbs down?

"No. No matter what it does you're better off choosing thumbs down."*

Now I'll fill in its payoffs.

It chooses Thumbs up Thumbs Down
You choose
Thumbs Up +2 +2 0+3
Thumbs Down +3 0 +1+1

Now what will it choose.

"Thumbs down. It can think the same way."

So it seems only logical for you to choose thumbs down, and for it to choose thumbs down. And you each get one point. But if you'd both done what seems illogical, and chosen thumbs up, you'd both have done better.

Then I try to give some more real-life examples, and later connect it up to Hobbes' analysis of the state of nature.

*For some reason I can't find a good link for "Good ol' rock. Nothing beats rock." [UPDATE: That's because it's "Good ol' rock. Nuthin' beats that"; I added this link to the main text, and here's the condensed script; thanks to commenter Blar.]

Posted by Matt Weiner at 01:49 PM | Comments (3)

September 08, 2004

Opening Lines (LP/CD division)

Eszter posts a thread on great opening lines. She gets it right, with "The Metamorphosis"; unlike most striking first lines, everything follows smoothly from this one. Several commenters also get it right, with One Hundred Years of Solitude (when I reread it I noticed for the first time that it begins with a bunch of magical happenings that could happen in our world, before circling back to pick up the supernatural events). And everyone gets it right by not citing "Call me Ishmael" (my objections can be found in the comments there).

So I thought of a variation; what are the greatest first lines of record albums? And to my shame, the first two that sprang to mind were 2 Live Crew's As Nasty as They Wanna Be and David Byrne's Rei Momo, neither of which I choose to print here. The first verse of The Stooges is also pretty fantastic:

It's 1969 OK

War across the USA

Another year for me and you

Another year with nothing to do

Another year for me and you, another year with nothing to do

Uh huh


(Ray Davis also gets it right when he emphasizes great endings; only rarely is an opening complete in itself, but when you finish the ending you're done.)

Posted by Matt Weiner at 01:15 PM | Comments (44)

September 07, 2004

Click This Link, OK?

This made me cry. (via Mitch Mills, commenting at Unfogged).

Posted by Matt Weiner at 03:59 PM | Comments (0)

More seeing and hearing

In this post I discussed what counts as seeing or hearing something--do reproductions and broadcasts count? I proposed, as an attempt at approximating vernacular usage, that one factor is how much the reproduction diminishes the experience; and claim that seeing the Mona Lisa requires going to the Louvre, because you can't fully appreciate art if you only see a reproduction.

Nicole Wyatt, in comments, raises questions about my example. Nicole points out that almost everyone has seen a reproduction of the Mona Lisa (especially in Calgary). So

Pragmatically speaking then, saying "I've seen the Mona Lisa." while not quite on a par with saying "I'm awake", is stating the obvious. Unless the context is such as to make it up for grabs whether you have seen a picture/reproduction of the Mona Lisa, the natural thing for a hearer to do is to try and interpret the utterance as conveying something non-obvious--namely that they have seen the original in person.

This led me to think about when seeing something from a distance counts as seeing it. For instance: I can see Lake Michigan from some parts of my living room. That is to say, if I crane my neck or stand behind the couch, I can see a couple of slivers of Lake Michigan; and I think this counts as "seeing Lake Michigan." On cloudy days it's not immediately obvious that what I'm seeing is Lake Michigan or even water, but the fact that light rays are bouncing off Lake Michigan and heading into my eyeballs is (more or less) enough to make it true that I'm seeing the lake.

Now, suppose that there is a book open to reproduction of the Mona Lisa on my kitchen table. The reproduction is at a bad angle, so that I can't make out Mona Lisa's smile, or even tell that it's a picture of a painting. But light rays are bouncing off the page and hitting my eyeballs--I can see a darkish blur on the book.

Have I seen the Mona Lisa? I would say not.

On the other hand, this may not tell in favor of my original thesis. Say I'm walking down a hall in the Louvre. I glance to the side, and I can see a humongous crowd around a painting. I can see the painting's frame, but I can't make out anything on the canvas. But in fact light rays are bouncing off the canvas and hitting my eyeballs. We can stipulate that the light rays are bouncing off in the exact same pattern as in the previous case, if we can do so without straining my neck.

In this case, have I seen the Mona Lisa? I think it would be at best misleading to say so. I can say "I've seen the Mona Lisa from the side," but is that the same thing?

So that may not help the thesis that seeing a painting is not seeing a reproduction. But it may help the thesis that whether you've seen an object is sensitive to the reasons it's important to see it. Because viewing the Mona Lisa from the side doesn't give you a much better experience than viewing a reproduction.

This is reminiscent of Ram Neta's recent argument that seeing is context-dependent (from his 2004 INPC paper, which I don't see online). Ram gave this example (as I remember it): Suppose that a ladder is leaning against a wall, and you walk along the other side of the wall. You haven't seen the fusion of the ladder and the wall, but only the wall itself. But suppose an artist designs a sculpture, which consists of a ladder leaning against a wall. You walk along the other side of the wall. Now you have seen the sculpture.

(Ironically, here turning the wall-ladder into art makes it easier to see--the opposite effect from the Mona Lisa. My speculation is that when a sculpture consists of a wall and a ladder, you're supposed to be able to appreciate it without looking at all sides. Also, sculptures in general may be viewed from more than one angle--I don't have any problem with saying that you've seen Michaelangelo's David if you've seen it only from the back.)

Ram uses the context-dependence of seeing to apply to direct realism (if I remember)--what you directly perceive (thus bypassing skepticism) depends on your context. Of course there is debate about this; Liz Harman had some good points about it at the INPC (which I can't reconstruct). But it's safe to say that seeing is very complicated.

One question I have, for any linguist types who are still reading--what is the significance of modifiers such as "Seeing the Mona Lisa in person" here? Does "in person" specify a value for a parameter of "seeing," or does it modify it in some other way?

Posted by Matt Weiner at 03:20 PM | Comments (1)

Shut Up, Jimmy

I'm about as yellow-dog a Democrat as anyone, but when Jimmy Carter refers to "a loyal Democrat, Lester Maddox" I gag.

The point is to upbraid Zell Miller for betraying the party. But the party of Lester Maddox would be a party worth betraying. The small point is that Miller is being hypocritical when he claims that he's still a Democrat; the large point (as Carter emphasizes in his last paragraph) is that he's wrong on the substance, because (for one thing) the Democratic party isn't the party of Lester Maddox anymore.

(I know that Miller thinks that the Democratic Party has left him, not vice versa, but I've never been sure why he thinks that--what it is that could have led him to be a Democrat in 1992 and abandon the party by now, without changing his own views.)

Posted by Matt Weiner at 02:57 PM | Comments (0)

My Kind of Holiday

Via Eszter Hargittai (and please ignore the attached discussion--what is wrong with some people?), I learn that today is the 350th anniversary of the arrival of the first Jews in the New World. (In New Amsterdam, anyway.) Jonathan Edelstein, the Head Heeb, is sponsoring a blogburst for Arrival Day.

I'd never heard of this day before, but I think it's a fantastic idea. I've always thought of myself as not just a Jew but an American Jew. I mean, not just a Jew and an American, but a Jew from a place where I can be fully Jewish and fully a member of this nation, without aspiring to make the nation Jewish.* A melting pot, if you will. Here we can be a people without being a nation, and that's something important to be celebrated.

And that I hope will be celebrated in the future--where's the damn party?

For more profound reflections, I agree with pretty much everything Rachel Barenblat (the Velveteen Rabbi) says here.

*I don't mean to suggest that that couldn't be achieved anywhere else--I've never lived in any other country, so I don't know.

Posted by Matt Weiner at 02:05 PM | Comments (3)

September 03, 2004

What Is It to Hear a Speech?

In comments over at Matthew Yglesias' site, Matt Austern raises a point which I am going to take as a pretext for some entirely unoriginal philosophy-geeking. (For obvious reasons, everyone in this post is going to get referred to by his last name.)

The context: Yglesias defends his assertion "I don't believe I've ever heard a more disgusting speech [than Zell Miller's] delivered in the English language" against two speeches that Michael cites by pointing out that he hasn't heard or read them, and says that the most disgusting speech (in any language) he's ever heard was by Bruno Megret, a splinter from Le Pen's party. Austern writes:

Hm, this suggests Matt hasn't heard the speech that Hitler delivered (not in English) at the 1934 Nuremburg Rally, which would mean that he's never seen Triumph of the Will. He should.

But even if Matt Y. has seen Triumph of the Will, has he heard Hitler speak?

You might say that he's only heard a recording of Hitler's speech. By the same token, you might say that the vast majority of people who say they heard Miller's speech didn't; they only heard a broadcast of the speech. (Not Yglesias; he was in the hall for Miller's speech. Not me either; I was watching the Pirates beat the Brewers.)

There's lots of actual literature on this. Kendall Walton, in "Transparent Pictures," argues that when you see a photograph of the thing you actually see the thing; including things that no longer exist. That claim, he points out, is further down the slope than the claim that we see events when we see broadcasts of them. (The claim that you see events when you see old films of them is a combination of the two, I suppose.)

On the other hand, if I remember correctly some of Gareth Evans' remarks in The Varieties of Reference require some sort of direct information-link for perception of an object (in particular, an information-link that purports to locate the object in egocentric space). So there's a controversy here, about which I have nothing to say.

I think it's clear that both Walton's and Evans' proposals are revisionary of ordinary usage. We won't usually say we've seen The Mona Lisa unless you've been to the Louvre; but we have no problem with saying you've seen a speech you see on television. Perhaps part of what is at issue here is how much the reproduction diminishes the experience. Seeing a reproduction of an artwork diminishes the experience (mostly); seeing a speech on TV, or hearing it on the radio, gives you just about exactly what was intended. And this might account for my reluctance to say that I've seen Hitler speak, or that I've seen the Immaculate Reception*, even though I've seen it replayed hundreds of times--seeing these things as they happened was important to appreciating their significance. On the other hand, I'm happy to say that I've seen Humphrey Bogart play Sam Spade, because I've seen that the way it was supposed to be seen.

Of course, one shouldn't infer naively from those data to the semantics of our ordinary use of "see" and "hear"; there are all sorts of implicatures involved. For instance, if I were to watch Miller's speech after the election I might refrain from saying "I saw Miller's speech," because that might suggest that I saw it at the time, even if it was literally true.

[Scorecarding what Yglesias conveyed: I certainly hope he didn't mean "saw in person," because then his original assertion would have been terribly misleading; indeed, his original assertion suggests that it is more disgusting than speeches he is pretty familiar with; but people reading the site should probably know that Yglesias was 11 in 1992, so he may not be familiar with Pat Buchanan's convention speech; and, as Yglesias and Kevin Drum point out, lots of speeches are more obscure than the keynote speech at a national party convention. Which raises the issue of whether disgustingness is intrinsic or extrinsic; if Yglesias is disgusted not only at the speech's content but at the prominence it was given, does that latter disgust make the speech itself more disgusting? Note that I have no firsthand knowledge of whether the speech was disgusting, but a lot of people on my side of the political spectrum didn't seem to like it.]

*$2000 to Kerry; some people's hearts are in the right place....

Posted by Matt Weiner at 11:47 AM | Comments (5)

September 02, 2004

Oh No

Lynn Swann? How could you?

Posted by Matt Weiner at 06:23 PM | Comments (1)

Chicago Jazz Fest/Steve Lacy

I'll be heading to the Chicago Jazz Festival Sunday; heading down in time to hit the Jazz Record Mart and then over to the Petrillo Band Shell for the evening's music. If anyone from Chicago is reading this and wants to say hi, drop me a line.

The bittersweet highlight for me will probably be the tribute to the late soprano saxophonist Steve Lacy, with several of his old playing partners (and more recent stars Dave Douglas and Don Byron). Lacy died of cancer in June, but I didn't learn of his passing until I looked at the Jazz Festival program. Language Hat marked his passing, and the New England Conservatory has a roundup of memorial notices.

Language Hat "can't communicate to you his keening, inimitable tone or explain how perfectly attuned he was to the oddly-angled music of Thelonious Monk," and neither can I. People often think of free jazz as sloppy but Lacy was always neat and precise--like Mondrian rather than Pollock--yet his playing was as beautiful as any jazz musician you like. LH recommends Reflections, an album of Monk compositions; my favorite Lacy will probably always be the first one I heard, Momentum (long out of print I'm afraid). If I could only have one Lacy track it would be "Art": starting with a gently tolling two-note piano theme, it sets a poem by Herman Melville (sung by Lacy's wife Irene Aebi), spinning out into beautiful solos by the band with extraordinary bass work by Jean-Jacques Avenel--like Richard Davis on Astral Weeks. The moment when the tempo dissolves under Lacy's solo, just before the piano and main theme return, is heart-stoppingly beautiful.

Language Hat points to this page of Lacy recommendations, which hits many of the ones I'd been thinking of: Revenue and Morning Joy for Lacy's originals*, The Condor (loose and improvisational) and Vespers (more formal and composed) for songs featuring Aebi, and Sempre Amore, a duo with pianist Mal Waldron playing Ellington and Strayhorn tunes, for sheer beauty. One of my favorite musicians, who I had the good luck to see in concert (once at the same stage in Chicago) before he passed.

*Fact check: saxophonist Steve Potts plays on Morning Joy, pianist Bobby Few does not.

Posted by Matt Weiner at 06:22 PM | Comments (0)

Photographers: Watch What You Do

Somewhat late, but read Mykeru's letter to Tom Ridge after he*

was warned to "be careful" while taking some photographs of bumblebees alighting on the flowers in front of a federal building. As this occurred in the District of Columbia my proximity to a federal building is not all that surprising as the only place to take photographs not in proximity to a federal building in the District would be, for example, standing on the pitcher's mound on one of the baseball diamonds adjoining the tidal basin. And even then, some smart-assed paranoid could claim I was casing potential shipping traffic, should there ever be any, on the Potomac.

Mykeru reminds me of Ian Spiers' powerful Artist's Statement, which I linked before. For a while bandwidth issues forced Spiers to remove the pictures from his site, but now they're back up.

*I'm guessing that "Mykeru" is "Michael" pronounced with a Japanese accent, hence the assumption of gender.

Posted by Matt Weiner at 05:17 PM | Comments (1)