Sunday, February 23, 2014

Second Call: Steve Jobs and Philosophy

I am still looking for a few more papers to include in Steve Jobs and Philosophy. This volume is part of Open Court's popular Pop Culture and Philosophy series. 
  • Papers must focus on topics or ideas that are significantly connected to the life, work, and/or cultural impact of Steve Jobs. 
  • Submit abstracts of 300 words to: sklein@rockford.edu 
  • Direct any questions about possible topics to: sklein@rockford.edu 
  • Completed paper due: May 9, 2014 (or thereabout)
  • 3,000-word philosophy papers written in a conversational style for an intelligent lay audience 
I have most topics already covered, but there are few topics that are important for including in the volume.
  • Ethical and/or Epistemological issues of creativity (related to how Jobs sought to inspire and cultivate creativity and innovation at Apple, NeXT, and Pixar)
  • Epistemological issues in intuitionism and its role in Jobs’ thinking. (How does Jobs' focus on intuition relate to -- or does not relate to -- philosophical approaches to intuition?)
  • Philosophical lessons learned by failure and success (Jobs is successes were preceded by flops: Lisa before the Mac; Newton before the Ipad; Jobs getting pushed out and then returning to lead Apple to even greater success) 
  • Some thing on the Apple Fanboy/girl phenomenon. 
  • The juxtaposition of Jobs’ counter-culture attitude and his capitalistic success. In particular, how does this mix highlight how conventional left-right/liberal-conservative dichotomies actual fail to capture most people?

Please contact me if you are interested in any of these or any other topic that is well-suited for this volume. If you know of someone who might be, please forward this page to them.



Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Review: Silent Night: A Spenser Holiday Novel


Silent Night: A Spenser Holiday Novel
Silent Night: A Spenser Holiday Novel by Robert B. Parker

My rating: 3 of 5 stars



As a longtime fan of Spenser, I always enjoy returning the world and characters Parker created for his readers. Parker was working on Silent Night when he died and it was completed by his longtime literary agent, Helen Brann. It is not clear how much was completely by Parker and how much was done by Brann. If one did not know this, one probably wouldn't guess it. One would think it was just another mediocre, though enjoyable, installment of Spenser. It is a classic Parker plot with the standard cast of characters (even Paul makes an appearance--sort of). Nevertheless, there is something off, mostly in the dialogue. This was often Parker's strongest suit, and it isn't quite right here. A sharpness, a wittiness, that is missing, especially with Hawk. Nevertheless, I liked it as I always do. While I like what Ace Atkins is doing with his Spenser novels, it is sad that this is the last Spenser directly (even if only partially) from Parker.



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Monday, December 16, 2013

AAPSS Session at Eastern APA: Libertarianism on the Brink

Professors Narveson and Sterba have been debating libertarianism for decades (see their book: Are Liberty and Equality Compatible ) and take up the discussion again at this year's meeting of the American Association for the Philosophic Study of Society at the 2013 Eastern American Philosophical Association

SATURDAY MORNING, DECEMBER 28th GIII-1, 11:15 a.m. -- 1:15 p.m. 

Chair: Jennifer Baker (College of Charleston)

Speakers: 

  • Jan Narveson (University of Waterloo): "On blood and turnips: fun, but still impossible" 
  • James Sterba (University of Notre Dame): "Libertarianism on the Brink"

About AAPSS
The American Association for the Philosophic Study of Society (AAPSS) is a professional society affiliated with the American Philosophical Association.
AAPSS was founded by Douglas Den Uyl and Douglas Rasmussen.
Current Co-Presidents are Jennifer Baker, Associate Professor of Philosophy at College of Charleston, and Shawn E. Klein, Assistant Professor of Philosophy at Rockford College.

Saturday, December 07, 2013

Review: Montessori: The Science Behind the Genius


Montessori: The Science Behind the Genius
Montessori: The Science Behind the Genius by Angeline Stoll Lillard

My rating: 4 of 5 stars



Lillard sets out to present the empirical evidence for the Montessori Method. Using research of Montessori directly and psychological research more generally, she explains both the Montessori theory and how the evidence supports much of what goes on in a Montessori classroom. The breadth of evidence that supports many of the key claims of Montessori is impressive and worth a serious look by anyone interested in Montessori or educational philosophy in general.

Another important aspect of the book is where Lillard points out the need for more research to support various aspects of Montessori. She is also careful to note the qualifications or limiting conditions on many of the studies. These are important both because it points out paths for future researchers, but also demonstrating Lillard’s intellectual honesty. She is clearly a Montessori supporter, but she is not dogmatic about it.

A downside here is that Lillard is often critical of traditional, mainstream education, but too often in an overly general way. She paints it with too broad of a brush and so might be seen as unfairly dismissing traditional schools and teachers. This is a point reinforced by some of my students’ responses to the book. I assigned this for my graduate class in Philosophy of Education. For the most part, they liked it and found much of it valuable and eye-opening; but a few noted her easy dismissal of traditional education and felt it unfairly characterized their own experiences. If the book was: “Why Montessori is better than traditional schools” then this would be a significant failing. But Lillard is not writing this book to criticize mainstream education but to show how research supports Montessori. So the fact that she falls short in fairly dealing with traditional education is not damning for the overall quality and importance of this book.



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Tuesday, December 03, 2013

CFA: Steve Jobs and Philosophy (Popular Culture and Philosophy Series)

CFA: Steve Jobs and Philosophy (Popular Culture and Philosophy Series)
Edited by Shawn E. Klein

  • Papers must focus on topics or ideas that are significantly connected to the life, work, and/or cultural impact of Steve Jobs. 
  • Submit abstracts of no more than 300 words to: sklein@rockford.edu 
  • Direct any questions about possible topics to: sklein@rockford.edu 
  • Abstracts due: On-Going
  • Notification of accepted abstracts: On-Going
  • Completed paper due: May 9, 2014
  • 3,000-word philosophy papers written in a conversational style for a lay audience 

 Any relevant topic considered, but here are some possibilities:

  • Jobs’ leadership style and ethical considerations raised by it: the virtues of leadership and how these were (or were not) exemplified by Jobs.
  • Epistemological issues of creativity (related to how Jobs sought to inspire and cultivate creativity and innovation at Apple, NeXT, and Pixar)
  • Epistemological and ethical issues in being a “visionary”; the effects of the so-called “Reality Distortion Field” 
  • The ethical, social, or corporate importance of creativity 
  • Epistemological issues in intuitionism and its role in Jobs’ thinking. 
  • Perfectionism: virtue or vice? 
  • Technology and aesthetics (Form and function) 
  • The originator vs. the integrator/popularizer. (e.g. Apple didn't invent the GUI or point and click, but integrated them with other systems and made them popular) 
  • Philosophical lessons learned by failure and success (from the Newton to the Iphone; Jobs getting pushed out and then returning to lead Apple) 
  • Buddhism and its role in Jobs’ life and career. 
  • The juxtaposition of Jobs’ counter-culture attitude and his capitalistic success. 
  • The virtue (or vice) of pride: moral ambitiousness or hubris? 
  • Steve Jobs vs Bill Gates/Apple vs Microsoft
  • Jobs on philanthropy 
  • Jobs’ political philosophy/outlook
  • Company creating and building as a moral enterprise.

 Steve Jobs and Philosophy will be a book in Open Court Publishing Company’s Popular Culture and Philosophy Series: http://www.opencourtbooks.com/categories/pcp.htm. Submit ideas for possible future PCP books to the series editor, George A. Reisch, at pcpideas@caruspub.com.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Sports Ethicist in Sports Illustrated

My Sports Ethicist blog was mentioned in Phil Taylor's "Point After" column in the October 14, 2014 edition. Taylor's column focused on the apparent growing tolerance for cheating. He quoted from my post "The Biogenesis Scandal and PEDs". When and if Sports Illustrated puts the column online, I will link to it.

Tuesday, October 08, 2013

Review: Hyperion


Hyperion
Hyperion by Dan Simmons

My rating: 4 of 5 stars



Hyperion is an epic sci-fi novel; it has everything one is looking for: space battles, time travel, a background future-history, a boogeyman (and boogey-race), androids, super-powerful AI, political intrigues, a rag-tag group of thrown together characters with slowly revealed backstories, and so on. Many of the technologies and sci-fi elements are familiar: it is a kind of mash-up of bits from Bladerunner, The Matrix, Terminator, (New) Battlestar Galactica, Tron, Firefly, and Stargate (though predating many of these). It is original in the way all these elements come together and the story being told. There is a fascinating interweaving of questions about religion, faith, and ethics. It draws in poetry (suggested by the title itself) and other cultural elements from “Old Earth”.

The one sour note is that the ending falls a little flat for me. (Possible spoiler alert!!) Partly this is the “to be continued” element. Partly it is too anti-climactic with the book building to a confrontation that doesn’t happen. Partly it is a little cheesy. Nevertheless, I will definitely pick up the next in the series and recommend it highly to anyone who likes sci-fi.




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Saturday, September 28, 2013

Review: Ted Williams: A Baseball Life


Ted Williams: A Baseball Life
Ted Williams: A Baseball Life by Michael Seidel

My rating: 3 of 5 stars



Ted Williams is a fascinating sports figure. The greatest hitter to ever play the game of baseball, and yet one of the most criticized of players. He had a hate-hate relationship with the media that dogged him his whole baseball life. Seidel's book provides a good account of Williams' rise to baseball greatness and his struggles with the media and the fans. He does a good job balancing between the media's take and Williams' take on the causes of the strife. He doesn't get too much into his personal life except as affected his baseball life. A nice feature of the narrative is that Seidel references contemporaneous events to provide historical context to the events of baseball.

Personally, I don't get a lot out of detailed accounts of baseball games from a half a century ago. Some of it is interesting, but Seidel does a season by season exposition and throws a lot of stats out there. It tended to blur together, and I often lost the thread. The most interesting parts where the accounts and testimony from Williams and his contemporaries. Overall, I am glad I read it, but I'd only recommend it to hard core baseball readers or Williams' fans.



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Monday, September 16, 2013

Review: Contemporary Athletics and Ancient Greek Ideals


Contemporary Athletics and Ancient Greek Ideals
Contemporary Athletics and Ancient Greek Ideals by Daniel A. Dombrowski

My rating: 3 of 5 stars



Dombrowski’s book is very interesting and covers a lot of good material in the philosophy of sport. He is clearly well-versed in Ancient Greek philosophy and the philosophy of sport. So there is a lot to be gained by reading this book.

Truth be told, however, I was a bit disappointed. I think, based on the title and the book descriptions, I expected to find much more in the way of Ancient Greek philosophy. There is a lot, so this might be an unfair criticism, but the focus is really on contemporary philosophers of sport and their theories. The Ancient Greeks are called forth to cast insight, background, and further elaboration, but they are not the focus. Nevertheless, I did learn a lot about the relevancy of the Ancient Greek ideas, particularly of Plato, to some of the issues that arise in the philosophy of sport.

Dombrowski’s discussion of Weiss, Huizinga, and Feezell is helpful and thorough. These are not mere recapitulations. He provides clear insight in to the theories of these thinkers and their impact on the philosophy of sport. He criticizes where he disagrees, though I would have preferred even more critical analysis (that said, this would have lengthened the book beyond the easily digestible size it is). The last chapter on process philosophy was less interesting to me and seemed somewhat misplaced in the context of the other chapters.

Overall, I definitely recommend this. It is not long, is clearly written, and it provides a good discussion of some of the major issues in the philosophy of sport.




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Monday, September 09, 2013

Review: A Death In Vienna


A Death In Vienna
A Death In Vienna by Daniel Silva

My rating: 5 of 5 stars



The previous two Allon novels and this one sort of form a trilogy with a focus on the Holocaust. The complicity of the Swiss and the Church are the focus of the first two. This one focuses on the broader complicity of many other countries evident in the post-war world. What makes this particular novel stand out is the detailed point of view of Holocaust survivors. This is integral to the plot; it provides the motivations for many of the characters and it causes the reader to feel the need for justice to be done.

It is paced well and gripping. The accounts from the death camps are harrowing. There is not much in the way of character development here; that is, not much is added to Allon’s character. We do get more of his back story and some of what may have lead him to be the man he is.




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Saturday, August 10, 2013

Review: Stone of Tears


Stone of Tears
Stone of Tears by Terry Goodkind

My rating: 4 of 5 stars



I like the world Goodkind has created. It is rich with characters and an intriguing mythology. I liked the first book, but I like the second book better--maybe because I am familiar with the world, so I can get deeper into the story itself. The story focuses on several interesting themes: self-acceptance and self-awareness, responsibility and consequences for choices, and value-hierarchy. The development of the characters and the way their choices drive the plot keeps me thoroughly engaged in the world. Lastly, I love Gratch.



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Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Review: Frozen Heat


Frozen Heat
Frozen Heat by Richard Castle

My rating: 3 of 5 stars



These Castle books are fun, but also somewhat confusing: it is hard not to see the characters from the TV show as the characters in the book. There are many parallels between the books and the show but there are dissimilarities as well. It is sometimes hard to keep straight.

The books on their own are good, but not great. This one gets stronger near the end. The beginning sort of meanders a bit and feels like a mundane Castle episode. Things take off as more of the plot is revealed.





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Sunday, July 14, 2013

Review: Riders of the Purple Sage


Riders of the Purple Sage
Riders of the Purple Sage by Zane Grey

My rating: 3 of 5 stars



This wasn’t what I expected. I didn’t come in with a clear idea of what to expect, maybe I was expecting something more like a movie western or even more like Parker’s Cole and Hitch westerns (my only previous literary westerns). In some ways it was more of romance than western. Stylistic, I didn’t like how much the narrator tells the reader about what the characters are thinking or what their motivations are.

Nevertheless, I liked it. It is beautiful book; it is worth the read just for the description of the landscape of Utah alone. The Mormon and Non-Mormon conflict is interesting and raises several issues that are worth more examination and thought.




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