Monday, December 20, 2004

What Scalia and Thomas Really Say

Prof. Balkin (Law, Yale) tries to "get the criticisms right" on the fairly common (I believe) tendency by those who are troubled by the two justices's jurisprudence (in this case the Center for American Progress) "to confuse whether Scalia or Thomas think a policy is constitutional with whether they support the policy itself. And this is a very bad mistake to make, because it lends credence to the notion that liberals too often confuse what is just with what the Constitution requires." Agreed, or else we were not much different from those simple-minded folks on the right who can perceive ideas only in terms of either black or white. Fxs

Justice Scalia on Church and State

Orcinus has a post on the subject with some interesting comments from the readers. Towards the end it offers the following words by FDR, "spoken in 1938":

If American democracy ceases to move forward as a living force, seeking day and night by peaceful means to better the lot of our citizens, fascism will grow in strength in our land.

And now 66 years later, this "American democracy" is composed of nothing more than a crude majority, whom in their ignorance are blissfully trying to dig a hole not only for themselves but for the rest of the nation and their children and grandchildren to come. *sigh* Fxs

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

A Review of "Our Knowledge of the Past: A Philosophy of Historiography"

Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews has an article by Prof. John H. Zammito (History and German, Rice) on a book with an interesting topic: Aviezer Tucker's Our Knowledge of the Past: A Philosophy of Historiography.

The opening paragraph (emphases are in the original):

According to Aviezer Tucker, modern historiography is “scientific,” and Bayesian probability theory explains why. He offers a complex, powerful and welcome addition to the philosophical consideration of historical practice. Three points stand out: first, his careful elucidation of what it means to invoke the consensus of a disciplinary community as a warrant for knowledge (ch. 1); second, his historical account of the emergence and consolidation of a paradigm for historical practice, identified with Ranke, which links this decisively not only with its predecessor disciplines but also with its most significant successor, evolutionary biology (ch. 2); and, finally, the Bayesian explication of the “normal science” component in historical practice, what Tucker calls “scientific historiography” (ch. 3). Less compelling, in my view, are his account of historical disagreement (ch. 4) and his discussion of the limits of historical knowledge (chs. 5-6).

Given that works on historical subjects have multiplied and become increasingly popular in recent time, it would be prudent to understand the different methods of approach towards writing such works. Fxs

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

Farewell to the Champ

Ken Jennings, the embodiment of scholastic excellence with superior reflex (and a God-fearing man too!) whom I have come to worship for the past several months, ended his winning streak on Jeopardy! yesterday, after raking in $2,520,700 as a 74-day champ. I have grown accustomed to his stellar performance; Jeopardy! will be different in these coming days without him. Fxs