Anyone Study Under This Guy?

Paul Ricoeur died last week.

Not familiar with the name? He�s a French philosopher who immigrated to the United States after being subjected to criticism and abuse in his native country. He taught at the University of Chicago for more than 20 years, and it appears that the change of venue was a positive decision.

�But Paul Ric�ur did not only find in the United States a refuge to work in peace and enjoy the respect he deserved. His American semesters also proved fertile. In this philosophical new world where not only the interlocutors but also the style of thought itself were different, and where openness to discussion and the development of sound arguments were more important than the tone of oratory or ideological denunciation, Ric�ur discovered a climate that matched his own particular way of thinking.�

Did anyone ever get the chance to meet him?

Quote of the Day

My wife commented to me that one of the unfortunate things about philosophers is that they aren’t mathematicians. When philosophers discover a paradox, they write paper after paper after paper about the paradox, trying to resolve it. When mathematicians discover a paradox, they re-evaluate the model that caused it. Philosophers seem to have a lot of trouble actually evaluating underlying models, though. Instead, they assume some model is correct (in this case, their harm-based moral model) and they criticize the details of conclusions people draw from other models.

I don’t think it ever even occurs to them that their model of “harm” might not be the best one.

-Commenter LotharBot in a comment on my “Test of Moral Intuitions” post. (LotharBot’s subsequent comment is also well worth reading.)

UPDATE: Mrs. LotharBot elaborates in the comments.

The War On Christmas

Secular extremists are on the warpath again and the location of this year’s pogrom is Maplewood, New Jersey. The battleground, as usual, is the school. The object of their contempt: Christmas. Just for starters, its no longer to be referred to as Christmas. Cant have that. Its now to be referred to as a holiday season. How inclusive.

Schools planning holiday season programs have been instructed to not include any icons or images in their pamphlets or concert programs that might be construed as religious symbols; for example, Christmas trees or dreidels. That might be offensive to someone and might also be construed as promoting a particular religion. Children are so impressionable, you know. And sensitive to the mere mentioning of religions to which they may not belong.

I cant resist stopping for one brief second to point out that the word holiday is merely a contraction of the words holy day. Clearly the secular extremists arent paying close enough attention to details. If youre going to wage a proper pogrom, at least be creative enough to invent some Orwellian euphemism with which to replace the nasty, unprogressive words Christmas season. Referring to holy days clearly won’t do.

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American Superman

(Note: While googling to research this essay, I learned that Christopher Reeve had just died so perhaps it was somehow fated to be written this day.)

I went to see Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow this weekend. It’s a great romp if you’re the kind of person who like retro golden-era style science fiction pulp adventures that features amphibious P-40 Warhawks. Before the movie, the theater showed “The Mechanical Monsters” one of the great Dave and Max Fleischer Superman cartoons from 1941.

The cartoon got me to thinking about what it says about America that Superman is our archetypical hero.

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