Monday, May 30, 2011

Philosophy of Harry Potter Abstract

This is my abstract for the paper I will be presenting at "The Power to Imagine Better: The Philosophy of Harry Potter" at Marymount Manhattan College in New York City.

Harry Potter and Humanity: Choices, Love, and Death

In this paper, I analyze how the Harry Potter novels bring to our awareness two fundamental parts of the human condition: the importance of one’s choices and the inevitable of one’s mortality.

Lord Voldemort, in his ruthless search for immortality, never accepts his own humanity; he openly rejects it. I argue it is this choice that makes his irredeemable evil, and his ultimate defeat, possible.

On the other hand, it is Harry’s acceptance of his mortality that allows him to embrace his humanity. It is this recognition that gives Harry the power defeat Voldemort. More than that, it makes it possible for Harry to develop into a realized, virtuous adult. In his acceptance of his mortality, the boy that lived is able more fully and wholly to live.

IAPS Abstract

The following is an abstract of the paper I will be presenting at the International Association for the Philosophy of Sport (IAPS) in September at The College at Brockport, SUNY (More here). I will also be giving a version of this paper at the APA Eastern Division on a panel for the American Association for the Philosophic Study of Sport (AAPSS).

Commercial Sport and Corruption: A Critique

There is a common view, not just in sport, that when one's goals centrally involve the pursuit of greater wealth that one's attitude towards other important values will be diminished or corrupted. William Morgan has expressed this most clearly in his claim that when the external goods of the market become ends of sport they deprive "their practitioners of any reason, let alone a compelling one, to value or engage the particular competitive challenges they present, the select athletic skills they call upon, and human qualities and virtues they excite" (147). This paper is part of a broader project to defend the value of commercial sport, but here I focus only on the argument that commercial sport, sport where money is an end at which participants and practitioners aim, undermines the participants' relationship to the other ends of sport. I first outline the argument that commercialism in sport is corrupting. Then I analyze and challenge three presumptions that underpin this argument.

First, one major presumption of this argument is that goods and values can be divided, in a non-question-begging and non-arbitrary way, into internal and external goods and values. This distinction is foundational to most arguments against commercial sport, so if it cannot be maintained, these arguments would be seriously weakened.

Second, the corruption argument rests on the claim that external goods drive out internal ones. That is, as participants pursue external goods, like money, they necessarily diminish their relationship to the internal goods. Part of the claim here is that the internal and external goods necessarily conflict or pull the agent in different directions. Even if the external/internal distinction can be maintained, it is far from clear that these ends cannot co-exist in a mutually supporting way or that there is not sufficient moral space for both kinds of goods in a practice. Moreover, the corruption argument is weakened if external goods, pace Morgan, can provide compelling reasons to pursue and support the internal goods.

Lastly, the argument that commercial sport is corrupting presumes that internal values and goods are more morally important than external ones. This may sometimes be the case, but it hardly seems to be necessarily the case. The argument, without an additional reason to privilege internal goods, loses considerable force if external goods can also have moral importance and significance.

Morgan, W. (1994). Leftist theories of sport: A critique and reconstruction, Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press.

Monday, May 02, 2011

Justice. Served.

Twitter and Facebook have really changed everything. I’d wager more people under 40 than not found this news of OBL’s death first through one of these. (After an ambiguous text from my brother, I checked Twitter). But even more than that, it was amazing to witness all the myriad of responses from people all over. The responses are so raw. People typing away what they think at the moment, without much reflection or filtering. The comments not censored or cleansed by intervening media. It is not pooled together in to some meaningless aggregate or in to some statistic in polling numbers.

Some people are gleefully. Others are more guarded, reluctant to celebrate death, but glad to see justice served. Some folks seeing this a perfect time to score stupid and snarky political points(from all sides). Thankfully, many more seeing it as a time to remember those who have been murdered as a result of this terrorist. Others seeing this as relatively unimportant because it doesn’t seem to really change anything. Just as many seeing OBL’s death as a major game changer. We are a complicated, paradoxical people!

And I am as paradoxical, experiencing all of the above over the last 12 hours.

My first thought was: burn mother fucker, burn. But then as the news set in, I became more guarded. Certainly glad to hear the news of his death, but didn’t feel celebratory. I felt much more somber and reflective.

I admit as well there was a part of me that was somewhat disappointed that this will likely help Obama. I am not proud of that thought; it was inappropriate in my mind to be focusing on political matters and more than that, the man, incompetent and wrong-minded as I regard him, still is our president and did what he promised to do. He deserves credit for that (though most of the credit for this ought to go to CIA and the Seals). And ultimately, I don’t think this “bump” will matter for the ‘12 elections one way or the other.

This news brought me back to those fearful and sad moments of that ironically bright and sunny Tuesday morning. Maybe that is what made me more somber and reflective than celebratory and gleeful. The news of OBL’s death cannot be separated from the thoughts and emotions of that day.

Contradictions don’t exist, but I do share the sense that this doesn’t really change anything and that this is a game changer. On one hand, no troops are coming home as a result of this. There are still very real and very serious threats from al-qaeda and allied groups (and nation-states like Iran). There are many more heads on that hydra that need removal.

On the other hand, this demonstrates both the literal and symbolic failure of OBL’s major strategic goals. Quoting Jim Harper at Cato: “He did not topple any Middle East dictator toward the end of establishing a Muslim caliphate. Indeed, the people of the Middle East have begun toppling their own dictators toward the end (we earnestly hope) of establishing more liberal societies.” (

An evil man with evil ideas has been dispatched. That is a good thing, even if nothing greater comes from this.