British Columbia Court to Rule on Legality of Polygamy

A British Columbia judge will rule Wednesday whether Canada’s anti-polygamy law is consistent with the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. It’s a case that will almost certainly be appealed to the Supreme Court of Canada. Section 293 of the Criminal Code of Canada explicitly bans polygamy and threatens offenders with a five-year prison term. Bigamy is also named as a serious crime in Section 290 although there have been no successful prosecutions on either charge in more than 60 years. You can read more here.

In the meantime, while we’re waiting for the decision we can watch philosopher Elizabeth Brake discuss marriage on Philosophy TV here.

“As same-sex marriage gains acceptance, a greater number of caring relationships enjoy legal recognition. But what about polygamous and polyamorous relationships? What about non-romantic relationships, such as friendships? In this episode, Elizabeth Brake and Simon May discuss Brake’s controversial view that individuals should be allowed to assign the rights and privileges of marriage to whomever they want, so long as the purpose is to support a caring relationship. They also discuss the case for same-sex marriage (4:30), whether legal marriage should be abolished (33:48), caring relationships as Rawlsian primary goods (45:40), and May’s objection to polygamy (54:49).”

Dead white male republican gets it (mostly) right

Snippetts from Teddy Roosevelt, collected by Patricia O’Toole for The American Scholar:

  •  [W]hen wealthy men … indulge in reckless speculation—especially if it is accompanied by dishonesty—they jeopardize not only their own future but the future of all their innocent fellow citizens, for they expose the whole business community to panic and distress.


  • The men of great wealth who are careless of the welfare of the average citizen of our country are laying up an evil harvest for their own children. … [T]he growth of misery in any one great class will ultimately make its baleful effects felt through all classes.


  •  [Property rights] can only be preserved if we remember that they are in less jeopardy from the socialist and the anarchist than from the predatory man of wealth. It has become evident that to refuse to invoke the power of the nation to restrain the wrongs committed by the man of great wealth who does evil is not only to neglect the interests of the public, but is to neglect the interests of the man of means who acts honorably by his fellows.


  • The government ought not to conduct the business of the country; but it ought to regulate it so that it shall be conducted in the interest of the public.


  •  Of all forms of tyranny the least attractive and the most vulgar is the tyranny of mere wealth, the tyranny of a plutocracy.


  • There can be no delusion more fatal to the nation than the delusion that the standard of profits, of business prosperity, is sufficient in judging any business or political question.


  •  [I]n the long run, we all of us tend to go up or go down together.

There are more on the site.

An interesting pair of articles

from the Huffington Post last week.

Article 1: One in four (insured) women take mental health medicine. One question posed: “One in four women is on antidepressants, and women are using — or at least prescribed — these medications at higher rates than men. Any idea why that’s happening? ” The answer given has to do with women being more willing to seek medical attention, and the possibliity that they are more at risk for serious psychiatric disorders.

But another article from the same week could be seen as suggesting a different explanation: This article concerns gaslighting, “emotional manipulation that feeds an epidemic in our country, an epidemic that defines women as crazy, irrational, overly sensitive, unhinged. This epidemic helps fuel the idea that women need only the slightest provocation to unleash their (crazy) emotions. It’s patently false and unfair.”

Many thanks to L for the links, and for suggesting the pairing.

Advice on organising climate meeting?

Query from a reader:

I am a graduate student in the process of organizing our first ‘climate meeting’ to discuss issues specific to under-represented groups in the department, as well as general congeniality and respect among all students and faculty. I am new to this and want the meeting to be as productive as possible. I would love concrete suggestions from anyone who has done this kind of thing in the past. For instance, how can we share information about people to avoid (if there are any) without fear of retribution? How can we encourage those who feel marginalized or excluded to say so without feeling further excluded? These are very sensitive issues and in a profession where so much depends on reputation, we need a system for anonymously and/or safely expressing concerns. If we hit upon any good strategies at the meeting, I will be happy to share them (and indicate if any seemingly good strategies turned out to be problematic). Thanks!

Building up women philosophers collection

One of the university librarians in my department was present at a discussion of the BPA/SWIP report on women in philosophy. She was impressed by the arguments made, and felt it would that building up the library’s collection of works by women philosophers would be a fine use of resources (which, unbelievably, seem to be available for it). So I thought I’d check with all of you to see if there are any really good things we’re likely to overlook. In particular, I guess, the sort of thing we might not be able to afford in the normal course of events.

Call on university heads to declare their campuses Safe Protest Zones

Matthew Noah Smith writes:

In light of the recent violence against protesters at Berkeley and Davis, here is a letter for academics to sign that calls on university leaders to ensure that they will not employ police violence against non-violent protesters. The hope is to get a large number of signatories and then to publish the letter. It would also be great if faculty would take copies of the letter to their respective campus presidents or chancellors.

Here’s a link to the letter, which reads as follows:

Open Letter to Chancellors and Presidents of American Universities and Colleges From Your Faculty
We have witnessed, over the past two months, police departments using significant amounts of force against individuals peacefully participating in the Occupy movement. But during the week of November 13 – November 19, there was an astonishing escalation of the violence used by municipal police departments against non-violent protesters.
We hoped that even as politicians and municipal police violently responded to the Occupy movement, college and university campuses would remain safe locations for non-violent political dissent. But that has not been the case. In fact, universities and colleges appear to be using the same tactics in their interactions with unarmed, non-violent members of the university community as we have seen municipal police use against the broader Occupy movement.
In particular, we are concerned with the actions by police associated with two University of California campuses. At UC Berkeley, police beat faculty and students who were peacefully attempting to establish an Occupy camp on Sproul Plaza. At UC Davis, police casually pepper sprayed protesting students who were peacefully sitting with their arms linked. The message sent by university officials is clear: if you engage in non-violent political protest on the university campus, you run the risk of being assaulted by university police.

We condemn this and any deployment of violence by university officials against members of the university community who are non-violently expressing their political views.

We condemn university officials using violence or the threat of violence in order to limit political dissent to the narrow confines of print and university-sanctioned events.

We condemn university officials using violence and the threat of violence to prevent members of the university community from peacefully assembling.

For more than three generations, American university and college campuses have been crucial locations in which inspiring and important political activity has occurred. From the founding of SNCC at Shaw University and the Free Speech Movement at Berkeley in the 1960’s, to the divestment movements across American college campuses in the 1980s, to the establishment of student labor alliances in the 1990’s, American college campuses have pulsed with hopeful and positive forms of dissent and visions of alternatives. This admirable tradition is being threatened by the use of violence by university officials against their own students and faculty who are acting within this tradition.
We therefore call on chancellors and presidents of universities and colleges throughout the United States to declare publicly that their campuses are Safe Protest Zones, where non- violent, public political dissent and protest will be protected by university police and will never be attacked by the university police.

We call on these chancellors and presidents to commit publicly to making their campuses safe locations for peaceful public assembly.

We call on these chancellors and presidents to institute immediately policies that reflect these commitments, and to instruct their police and security forces that they must abide by these policies.
We believe that this action is necessary for the protection of one of the principal virtues of our higher education system, namely that it is an environment that cultivates an active and engaged political imagination. We call on the leaders of America’s universities and colleges to stand with us.

If you want to sign, email me at matthew.noah.smith AT Indicate your university and department affiliation (for ID purposes only). Also, please use your university email for verification purposes.

Sexual Politics and Cupcakes

First, there were this summer’s Vagina Cupcakes (okay, misadvertised, properly speaking, vulva cupcakes). See here.

Now, there is a Butch Bakery, making butch cupcakes. Not ‘butch’ in the queer sense, more ‘butch’ as in manly, as in ‘no pink-frosted-sparkles-and-unicorns.’ Instead, they promise ‘manly cupcakes, for manly men.’ Order yours here, ‘where butch meets buttercream.’ It seems that manly cupcakes involve alcohol, about half the flavours are booze-added. I think the booze must wash away the girl cooties.

Thanks SD and AZ respectively.

Our work here is done, clearly

The wikipedia entry, “List of unsolved problems in philosophy,” makes no mention of any of the following terms: gender, feminism, race, disability. Indeed, the only problem in the entire field of Ethics that’s left is “Moral Luck.” Obviously all of the world’s philosophical problems have been solved. I hope none of our prospective graduate students come across this looking for dissertation topics. It’s slim pickings.

That might be an entry worth editing for those inclined to do so! (Okay, it does say, “This is a list of some of the major unsolved problems in philosophy,” but still…)

Thanks DC.