Thursday, August 30, 2007

Open Thread

I know of at least one reader who's having trouble getting Blogger to publish their comments. I think it's just an isolated incident, but if anyone else is having the same problem, feel free to email me your comment and I can post it on your behalf (subject to the possible delays noted below).

P.S. This time tomorrow I'll be flying over the Pacific. I don't know how long it'll take me to settle in and start posting again, but in case of delays, here's an open thread for commenters to contribute their own content. So: what's been puzzling you lately?


  1. Here's something non-philosophical that I've been thinking about...

    I heard Tyler Cowen on the radio today, and he made the point that refraining from putting "PhD" after one's name is a counter-signal. If the author of a book is listed "John Smith, PhD," you should assume that he is insecure about his credentials; if the author is just listed "John Smith," then you should assume that he has a good enough reputation to go by his name alone.

    A few points about this struck me:

    1. It's my impression that making a big deal about your credentials carries less stigma in the sciences than it does in the humanities (and maybe the social sciences, too). Is that true? If so, why?

    2. I think I've noticed that philosophers in Britain more often have the "PhD" after their names than American philosophers do (e.g. on department homepages). Is this true? If so, why?

    3. I would guess that a small percentage of the book-buying public will interpret the "PhD" as a bad sign, but for a larger group, the "PhD" simply conveys authority. The effect, then, is that if you want to appeal to one group, you omit the "PhD," and if you want to appeal to the other group, you include the "PhD." This might make it harder to market books to both groups (though I admit that the effect would be slight). But if there are enough signals like this -- signals that mean one thing to one group, and mean the opposite thing to another group -- then this could create an incentive for publishers to publish books that appeal heavily to one group rather than books that appeal equally to both groups.

  2. I'm always somewhat annoyed when people reference their degrees or profession in contexts where they are irrelevant. At the barber's one time, the man in front of me insisted that his name be taken as Dr. Andrews. What the heck? What does being a doctor have to do with getting a haircut? I even know someone who customized his credit card to read "[Name], Ph.D".

  3. Perhaps this is worth philosophising about:

    Why is the male chest never censored while the female chest is; yet both the penis and the clitoris are usually censored? A male's nipples are kind of vestigial breasts, and a clitoris is, in the same way, a vestigial penis.

    Why the double standard? What's with the inconsistency? Either male nipples should be censored - or the clitoris shouldn't be.

    Only the rigorous inquiry of a Princeton Ph.D student will suffice for an enigma such as this.

  4. Aaron-
    Male nipples aren't considered erotic.

    I always got the impression that publishers who put "PhD" on the cover of a book want to convince you of something. Philosophy books don't tend to tout the PhD label, because you really need to be a doctorate to write a book on Hegel, whereas to write on why US foreign policy is X or Y, anyone can offer an opinion. Part of this is because political books sell well, so it is less of an investment for the publisher; whereas philosophy sells less, and it is really hard to write (unless you have little cartoons in the book, like the "Introducing..." series; but no professor is going to teach that).

  5. DK -
    "If the author just puts 'John Smith', then you should assume he has a good enough reputation to go by his name alone."

    But in that case we are also entitled to assume that he has no credentials at all. For John Smith to gain self-esteem- or modesty- credits for omitting the title, the audience must know in advance whether John Smith has the title at all. Does this change things for you?

    aaronweingott - if that comment is not a dig, then it's funny. If it is a dig, it's still funny, but it's not very admirable.

  6. Why isn't Philosophy instead called Erosophy?

  7. Okay. I was lying in bed, trying to go to sleep, and this just started irking me.

    How/why do we intuitively know the difference between ‘possessives’? Is there a difference? What is the difference?

    For example: Jim’s shoes belong to Jim, whereas Jim’s enemies or contemporaries do not belong to Jim.

    Jim can do whatever he wants with his shoes because they are *his*. He can paint them, burn them…eat them. All of these actions would be acceptable because the shoes belong to him. They are his. Jim cannot, however, paint, burn or eat his enemies or his contemporaries. They are still his, though. *His* enemies and contemporaries.

    Why is this? Jim’s enemies and contemporaries can’t belong to him because they are rational, autonomous agents (we don’t need to go in to the philosophy of why this is so). Why, in this case, do we refer to them as ‘Jim’s’?

    Or do Jim’s enemies and contemporaries actually belong to Jim?

  8. @aaronweingott: Ha-ha. that makes total sense. Perhaps, people assume that male nipples aren't considered a sex organ, in contrary to female's.

    I wonder if it will still be censored if a woman is wearing nipple covers. Ha-ha, whatcha think? :P


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