Wabi Sabi

 Wabi Sabi  is the title of a book, the name of a fictional cat and, most importantly, the name of a concept widely said to be fundamental in Japanese culture.  It is related to Zen, and is often explained in terms of the idea of appreciating the beauty in imperfect things.  Wabi Sabi, in the last sense, may be found in the preservation of chipped plates, for example. 

I first found the term in a review of the book, and then became more interested in it, since perfectionist demands, which many of us carry within ourselves, are such a burden.

Today I started to wonder if it might also be a way to view some of what Obama has accomplished.  There are grave problems with the health care proposal and with the Copenhagen meeting’s supposed accord.  But, though they are imperfect, Obama has gotten the US more engaged and further engaged  in both endeavors than anyone else  has so far (at least as I understand it).

Let us know what you think.   And do enjoy the pictures, all of which are from the book.


A friend in the news

You may remember a post in ’08 about Eric Schwitzgebel’s data on women faculty in the  philosophy profession.  If so, you may be interested in today’s NY Times article that conveys his views on an approach to studying consciousness.  The methodology has gotten quite  a bit of attention, and Eric’s comments seem to me to be just right.

(If you don’t, the post is worth another read for the picture of the profession we get.)

Go forth and shoplift from big chains

so sayeth Father Jones:

Speaking to his congregation on Sunday, Father Jones said: “My advice, as a Christian priest, is to shoplift.
“I do not offer such advice because I think that stealing is a good thing, or because I think it is harmless, for it is neither.
“I would ask that they do not steal from small, family businesses, but from national businesses, knowing that the costs are ultimately passed on to the rest of us in the form of higher prices.
“When people are released from prison, or find themselves suddenly without work or family support, then to leave them for weeks and weeks with inadequate or clumsy social support is monumental, catastrophic folly.
“We create a situation which leaves some people little option but crime.”

(Thanks, Jender-Parents!)

Court-martial for pregnancy

The BBC writes:

A US Army general in northern Iraq has defended his decision to add pregnancy to the list of reasons a soldier under his command could face court martial…
The male sexual partners of female soldiers who get pregnant would also “face the consequences”, he said.

(Thanks, Jender-Parents!)

Philosophy in an Inclusive Key: A Summer Institute for Undergraduates

Philosophy in an Inclusive Key

A Summer Institute for Undergraduates

July 25-August 1, 2010

Philosophy: Experience, Reflection, Transformation

Ladelle McWhorter, Director
Professor of Philosophy, Richmond College

Guest Faculty: Darrell Moore, Associate Professor, DePaul University
Eva Feder Kittay, Distinguished Professor, State University of New York/SUNY

Along with works in feminist, critical race, disability, and queer theory, students will read historical and contemporary philosophical texts that explore recurring human concerns and investigate the ways in which experience informs philosophical reflection. In addition, writing assignments, visiting lecturers, and mentoring will help students learn that their own perspectives matter to philosophy.

Participants will be named Iris Marion Young Diversity Scholars and will receive support from the

Iris Marion Young Diversity Scholars Fund

Undergraduate women or men from underrepresented groups including racial, ethnic and sexual minorities, and people with disabilities are urged to apply. All students will receive a stipend, free transportation, and lodging.

APPLICATIONS DUE: April 15, 2010

For more details see:


Is Aquinas to blame for Robert George’s priorities?

Robert George, according to this  article, is “The Conservative-Christian Big Thinker.”  A Roman Catholic, he has a doctorate in philosophy of law from Oxford and teaches at Princeton.  Apparently he is a major intellectual figure in recent conservative thinking, and the article is a very good source for getting a fairly quick take on the kinds of reasons leading many current Catholic theorists to oppose same-sex marriage,  embryonic stem-cell research and abortion. 

It is also profoundly irritating and dismaying, because it illustrates the gaps in good sense that a priori moral theorizing can too easily lead to, along with how the gaps are filled, and how  rhetoric is exploited.  One of the very worst new ideas this man advocates is the idea that the Church should concentrate on issues about sex and embryo research, and give up advocating specific policies advancing social justice, such as upping the minimum wage or expanding health case.

Last spring, George was invited to address an audience that included many bishops at a conference in Washington. He told them with typical bluntness that they should stop talking so much about the many policy issues they have taken up in the name of social justice. They should concentrate their authority on “the moral social” issues like abortion, embryonic stem-cell research and same-sex marriage, where, he argued, the natural law and Gospel principles were clear. To be sure, he said, he had no objections to bishops’ “making utter nuisances of themselves” about poverty and injustice, like the Old Testament prophets, as long as they did not advocate specific remedies. They should stop lobbying for detailed economic policies like progressive tax rates, higher minimum wage and, presumably, the expansion of health care

Advocating for the poor and making an utter nuisance of one’s self?

Filling-in of the gaps?   How about this, from Cardinal Rigali, who is said to be transmitting George’s thought:

“They are principles that can be known and honored by men and women of good will even apart from divine revelation,” Rigali said. “They are principles of right reason and natural law.”Even marriage between a man and a woman, Rigali continued, was grounded not just in religion and tradition but in logic. “The true great goods of marriage — the unitive and the procreative goods — are inextricably bound together such that the complementarity of husband and wife is of the very essence of marital communion,” …

Religion, tradition and logic give us that husband and wife are complementary in a way that two gay people can’t be?  And a celibate cardinal can know that?

Well, Aquinas did clearly essentialize gender, but he also thought that  “logic” made our moral obligations for distributing wealth very clear.  It isn’t a matter of being a nuisance.

And the rhetoric? 

But the argument for banning abortion and embryo-destructive research is “straightforward,” George told me several times … George tells the story of Noah Benton Markham, rescued from Hurricane Katrina by a team of policemen in boats. Noah was an embryo frozen in liquid nitrogen on a hospital shelf. Later implanted in the womb of his biological mother, he will turn 3 next month. Science shows that you remain the same human with the same DNA as a teenager, a toddler and an embryo, George argues. The only moral debate, he says, is whether you deserve legal protection at each stage of your life.

A team after the embryo with people dying?  

George’s straightforward argument doesn’t address difficult questions about whether it is DNA that confers moral worth or whether all those fertilized eggs that do not implant should have names too.

George has a book out called “Embryo,” just in case you want to  know.


Andrew Altman asked us to post this:


Christopher H. Wellman and Andrew Altman will be co-directing an NEH
seminar this coming summer on the topic, “Philosophical Perspectives on Liberal Democracy and the Global Order,” with guest speakers Arthur Applbaum, David Estlund, Thomas Pogge, and Debra Satz. The seminar will be held at Washington University-St. Louis, June 1-25. Two slots are reserved for graduate students. Additional information and application instructions are available at http://artsci.wustl.edu/~neh10/.