Monday, July 31, 2006

Looking to submit an article to a law review...?

Over at the Leiter Law Reports, Brian has posted some excellent items on publishing in law reviews both here and here. For those less familiar, law reviews work very differently than other academic journals.

When submitting a paper to an academic journal, personal information is deleted from the paper. One's qualifications, professional job title, etc. will be of no importance at all. Refereeing is almost always anonymous and double-blind. Referees will be experts in the field from all over the world. Decisions may take at least two months.

Law reviews are entirely different. Many require you provide personal information: one's qualifications, professional job title, etc. may help/hurt chances of publication. Refereeing is not always anonymous and double-blind. The referees are often graduate students studying law at said university law review. (Thus, The University of Chicago Law Review's referees will be graduate students studying law at Chicago's law school.) Because the referees are largely limited to one small pool of students, the norm for authors is to submit to a large number of law reviews at once. This is acceptable because there is no chance that the same pair of eyes will referee the paper for different journals. Decisions can often be quite quick, although perhaps non-existent elsewhere: I have submitted papers to journals that never acknowledged receipt (nor denied it) nor ever made a decision.

The websites above have useful information for anyone looking for more specific advice on submitting papers to specific law reviews.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Next academic year

I am already looking forward to the next academic year and for good reason: I've just learned that I'll have the year off on research leave (thanks in part to winning a research leave grant from the Arts & Humanities Research Council). This will allow me to complete a pressing book on Hegel---Hegel's Political Philosophy: A Systematic Reading of the Philosophy of Right (Edinburgh University Press)---and projects on the philosophy of punishment and the right to trial by jury.

Whilst I won't be teaching/supervising nor continuing as co-director of our Ph.D. programme, I will continue to look after our excellent weekly seminars in political philosophy: the Newcastle Political Philosophy Workshops (often held with the support of Newcastle Law School). Past speakers have included Richard Bellamy (UCL), Chris Berry (Glasgow), David Boucher (Cardiff), Rowan Cruft (Stirling), John Horton (Keele), Duncan Kelly (Sheffield), Brian Leiter (Texas), Wayne Martin (Essex), Matt Matravers (York), David Miller (Oxford), Monica Mookherjee (Keele), Brian O'Connor (University College Dublin), Shane O'Neill (Queen's Univ Belfast), Soran Reader (Durham), Alison Stone (Lancaster), Leif Wenar (Sheffield), Jonathan Wolff (UCL), postgraduates in politics at Newcastle, as well as my Newcastle colleagues Peter Jones, Ian O'Flynn, Derek Bell, Graham Long, me(!) and Richard Mullender (Law)---together one of the biggest groups of political philosophers in a British department. Speakers for this coming year include Jerry Cohen (Oxford), Wayne Davis (Georgetown), Andrew Dobson (Keele), Matthew Festenstein (York), John Gardner (Oxford/Yale), Dudley Knowles (Glasgow), Serena Olsaretti (Cambridge), Joseph Raz (Columbia/Oxford), Robert Stern (Sheffield), and Adam Swift (Oxford), kicking off with a visit by Henry Richardson (Georgetown) in September.

I will also be organizing conferences on Hegel's early writings in Oxford and Thomas Pogge's work in Newcastle.

Making Money in Philosophy

This site has had a lot of traffic since Brian Leiter plugged my memo on ALCS. I've decided to re-post this memo here---and, again, my thanks to Jo Wolff for telling me about the ALCS in the first place.


I recently received the following email from the ALCS:
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Dear Dr Thom Brooks,

ALCS would be grateful for your help in communicating the benefits of membership of ALCS to your colleagues. Many of them may have been contacted already but we feel that recommendations from existing members is the most positive way of reaching writers for whom we are holding funds.It would be helpful if you could mention us, for example, at your departmental meeting or on your departmental bulletin board, directing them towards our website (http://www.alcs.co.uk/) or passing on our telephone number/email address. Please mention that anyone with an ISBN to their credit, either as author, editor or contributor, is eligible to register with ALCS. We are aware that we are holding fees for many of these writers and even if they don’t currently have educational photocopying royalties, there are various miscellaneous payments which are made every March. Also, those who have contributed articles to journals with ISSNs from 2003 onwards can register their credits and receive their share of photocopying royalties available. We would be grateful if you could forward the email below to your colleagues encouraging them, like you, to become a member of ALCS.

Many thanks for your attention and any help you can give. If you have any concerns about forwarding this email, we would be happy to hear your views.

Yours sincerely

Colette Scourse

Membership Services Manager

Please forward this section----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Dear Writer,

ALCS is the UK Collecting Society for royalties earned through the educational photocopying of books. There are licensing schemes, administered by the Copyright Licensing Agency, in place in UK Schools, Colleges and Universities and also licences for Business, the NHS and Government. Additionally, there is a new scheme for the photocopying of Journal (Serial) articles.

This email has been passed to you by a current member of ALCS.Anyone with an ISBN to their credit, either as author, editor or contributor, is eligible to register with ALCS. Even if there is currently no educational photocopying royalties for your specific titles, there are various miscellaneous payments which are made every March – but only to registered authors. The journals scheme is for anyone who has contributed articles to journals or magazines with ISSNs from 2003 onwards. The registered credits generate a share of photocopying royalties available. If you would like more information, please do not hesitate to contact us, by email at membership@alcs.co.uk or by phone on 020 7395 0600 (ask for ‘membership services’). Alternatively, you can visit our website at www.alcs.co.uk.

Yours sincerely


Colette Scourse
Membership Services Manager
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I strongly encourage all UK readers to join immediately. Joining ALCS allows you to collect monies already due to you from copyright royalties. You can't collect, if you don't join. One philosopher I know has earned £3,000 this past year in copyright royalties paid to him by the ALCS. Needless to say, I joined immediately..........

It's so hard to say sorry....British juvenile justice reforms

The Lord Chancellor, Lord Falconer, now has the solution for tackling juvenile crime: make them say sorry to their victims (story here). He is quoted as saying: "A face-to-face apology is often quite difficult for a young person to do ... Getting a young person to apologise face to face and make amends is an important part of their learning."

It is certainly true that recognizing one's harm to others can have a rehabilitative moment, namely, instilling guilt in wrongdoers who lack it. This is something I've written about in a paper on Martha Nussbaum's work. Her claim is that shame can instill guilt in those who lack guilt. This is certainly true (and, as she notes, guilt can shame as well). However, she argues that we should not use shame punishments because of the damage to dignity (amongst other reasons) it causes. I counter this by arguing that shame punishments that did not damage dignity can be a rather good thing on her own count: they would instill a sense of guilt in the remorseless (which she commends) and they honour an important aspect of our humanity---after all, Nussbaum thinks we ought not be Hiding from Humanity.

This paper makes this case by defending U.S. v. Gementera. (I have discussed this case previously.) In this case, Shawn Gementera had committing more serious crimes more frequently. He didn't feel remorse because he believed his crime---stealing mail---was victimless. The judge "sentenced" him to stand in front of a post office in San Francisco with a sign reading "I stole mail. This is my punishment" (picture here). There were a number of safeguards that had to be satisfied:
  • The post office was not in his neighbourhood.
  • He was to hold his sign outside during the day, not at night.
  • He was to have a parole officer ensuring that the dignity of Gementera, the general public, and postal employees were not damaged. The exercise was to end if anyone was damaged. Thus, if a member of the public became distressed, Gementera's punishment was to end even if he was benefitting from it.
  • He was to have a security guard present to protect him, the public, and postal employees.

I was relatively impressed with this long list of safeguards. It was the case at the original trial that Gementera did agree to this in exchange for avoiding a prison sentence.

What was the result? Well, Gementera is now in prison. The reason? He went back to stealing post. It seems that this attempt at shaming him failed: he did not feel guilty about his actions. Nor did he seem damaged: he simply went back to what he had been doing. I doubt this tells us shame punishments don't work: it is only one case. Perhaps the safeguards were too strict. My advice will be to continue following these guidelines in future cases. Sometimes they may not work, but they could do much good if they did.

How to find work in the UK

Some readers have asked me about advice on gaining employment in the UK, particularly from the US. Of course, British academic jobs are posted with the Chronicle of Higher Education's and the American Philosophical Association's (member's only) websites. That's the part everyone knows.

However, you can also search for jobs on the Guardian's website (it is a major British newspaper) and---the best place to search---http://www.jobs.ac.uk/ An additional resource is the UK-based listserv philos-l which posts new jobs, conferences, journal/book calls for papers, and so on for philosophers.

Those who know the American scene know the following: jobs are generally advertised in the autumn. First interviews are often conducted at APA division meetings, the Eastern Division (27-30th December each year) in particular. Second interviews are held afterwards. You will almost never be interviewed alongside fellow candidates. The process takes quite a while, too.

The UK is entirely different. Jobs are advertised throughout the year, although primarily in the spring. In general, there are not first and second interviews: there is one interview. All interviews will happen in the department and not at a conference or hotel.

In Newcastle, we invite all candidates up to our beautiful city for a meal with academic staff the night before the big day. The candidates will all be together. This is effectively a social interview: etiquette is very much like sitting at high table at Oxbridge. For example, most of the conversation during my meal concerned jazz clubs in the area and musical tastes. We did not chat about philosophy much at all. The next morning candidates enter one by one to give 20 odd minute presentations of their work followed by 10-15 minutes of questions from staff. A buffet lunch follows where candidates can mix with academic staff. The afternoon consists of formal interviews with individual candidates. Decisions are usually made in 24 hours or less.

If hired, the usual relocation package follows, etc etc. One interesting UK vs USA difference is how tenure works. In the USA, facts differ from institution to institution. Normally, there is an expectation that successful candidates will publish x articles and/or perhaps a book (normally one book is required for political theorists in political science departments) over a number of years, varying from about four to as many as eight---all very roughly speaking.

In the UK, publications do not aid/hinder tenure. My probation period was set at three years. During this time, I had to complete a boring Postgraduate Certificate in Academic Practice: essentially, three graduate courses in education. I didn't get anything out of it, but it was paid for by my department, I was compensated for much of my lost time in our workloading model, and that was it---that's all I had to do.

Unlike in the US where one might publish to gain tenure and then no longer publish unless seeking promotion, the Research Assessment Exercise (RAE) in the UK ensures that all British academics are producing roughly one article (on average) per year. I will post on this in future. Suffice to say, publish or perish remains the name of the game. We all know persons who have gained employment in some part due to their great promise, but without publications. Hiring people without publications is no longer heard of in the UK: these people will bomb in the RAE. Thus, the very best advice for getting work in the UK is publishing---you need articles, you need not have taught before.

One final point is worth making. Gaining a work permit in the UK is fairly difficult for most people. This is not true with university positions. I had hardly any trouble at all gaining my work permit---I am an American citizen. Nor do most UK academics look down on Americans applying: in fact, our qualifications are held in very high esteem.

I hope this post addresses some of the queries I've received. Please feel free to comment below if there's anything I've left out.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Postgraduate Advice on Publishing

I encourage readers to check out my guide to getting published. Most graduate students are intimidated by both the pressures to publish and the barriers to publishing. This article explains step by step how they can begin successful academic careers. I hope this advise will prove useful. I am currently writing a newer draft.

Comments are most welcome.

Same Sex Marriage Ban Off the Cards

For some time, American Republicans have attempted to ban same sex marriages---often claiming that permitting these marriages may (a) undermine traditional marriages and/or (b) their peculiar and hotly contested understanding of religious texts leads them to the far from certain view that God jus' don' like it. President Bush had made a constitutional ban against same sex marriage an odd key plank of the midterm election campaign----after all, what else did he have to run on? Declaring we're in World War III?

Some good news at last: not only had the Senate voted against this bill, but now the House of Representatives has voted against it as well. By 47 votes, too. Not only does failing to permit such relationships seem to clearly violate the human rights of many people (clearly discriminating against them), the courts have finally begun to pick up on this. A constitutional amendment would have to have been created.....urm....because the constitution's principles support it (and even with an amendment the discrimination continues to be unlawful). A great victory for liberty.

See the story here.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Jason Stanley on philosophy & the humanities in the US

Over at the Leiter Reports, Jason Stanley has an interesting post:

***"In my last few posts, I have been raising a contentious issue. Consider the CVs of philosophers in the United States working in the 1970s and 1980s publishing on core metaphysical and epistemological issues of the sort discussed by Plato, Aristotle, Aquinas, Descartes, Berkeley, Hume, and Kant, or issues in philosophical logic and philosophy of language of the sort discussed by Aristotle, Abelard, Ockham, Frege, Husserl, Brentano, and Russell. You will see that they had good success rates in national competitions for humanities fellowships. And why not? After all, philosophy is a distinctive human intellectual pursuit, and a core humanities subject. But if you look at, say, the past ten years, you will find that philosophers working on such issues have been particularly unsuccessful in similar competitions. The philosophers who do achieve some success have been those working primarily in ethics related topics, historians of philosophy, or philosophers who have related their work to art or literature. The latter are subjects which, since Plato’s time, have been traditionally opposing kinds of humanities disciplines to philosophy. Yet the only way for a philosopher working on skepticism or the nature of universals to obtain funding from an American humanities institute is to link her work with literary criticism, painting, or French cultural anthropology.

This is just an indication of a broader problem in the humanities in the United States. The problem is that we have a generation of humanities academics in this country who have no sense at all of what the discipline of philosophy is. They have no sense of what kinds of considerations have been advanced for and against skepticism, no sense of the traditional problem of universals, and no sense of the development of logic beyond the syllogism. Not only do they have no conception of what is happening now with such discussions, they have no understanding of the detailed intellectual work done by the great philosophers of the past; they simply don’t know how to read philosophy. Spending two months trying to figure out the argument in, say, Hume’s “Of Skepticism with Regard to the Senses”, or Kant’s Second Analogy, is a completely foreign pursuit. Far from being ashamed of this lack of knowledge, they seem to revel in it. One might wonder how a successful academic who has worked on T.S. Eliot could boast of their complete ignorance of (say) Bradley’s regress problem, when Eliot wrote his dissertation on Bradley (under the tutelage of Bertrand Russell, among others), but I have met in fact met such a person.

Ignorance breeds contempt. When I meet a philosopher who boasts of her ignorance of (say) Roman history, Wallace Stevens, or Emily Dickinson, I’m embarrassed for her. I’m similarly embarrassed for the professor of comparative literature who boasts of her ignorance of G.E. Moore or is proud that she has no idea what contributions Gottlob Frege has made to philosophy. Of course, it’s perfectly fine for a philosopher to confess that she doesn’t enjoy poetry, and it’s equally in order for a literary critic to confess that she doesn’t enjoy the topics discussed in Aristotle’s metaphysics, or Frege’s Foundations of Arithmetic. What would not be acceptable is for a philosopher who doesn’t enjoy poetry to mount a campaign against poetry. But that is exactly what is happening in the United States today; academics with no detailed knowledge or interest in the humanities discipline of philosophy are using whatever resources are at their disposal to delegitimize it. Just as it is embarrassing to be confronted by an American academic who scoffs at the study of Shakespeare or Chinese history, it’s equally embarrassing to be confronted by an American academic who scoffs at the study of vagueness, skepticism, or the problem of intentionality. Ignorance or disinterest in a subject is not something one should seek to legitimize by eliminating the study of the subject matter."

These posts have all been largely complaints that large humanities funding bodies are giving money to historians, historians of philosophy, ethicists/political philosophers, but not "analytical philosophers." I had something to say to this:

"I have found these posts both interesting and informative, but can't help but point out a worry with them all: is "analytic philosophy" no more than metaphysics & epistemology, mind & language?

We are told in all posts that there is a division between the "analytic philosophers" and those who do the following:

1. Philosophy of art & literature
2. History of philosophy
3. Ethics/political philosophy

By this score, Ralph [Wedgwood]'s fears are realized: analytic philosophy is not about hsitory of philosophy (apparently). In addition, if any of us do political philosophy, we're strangely *not* analytic philosophers.

I think rather than adhere to this fairly crazy understanding of what analytic philosophy is, we would be better off talking about "analytic philosophers working in mind and language" instead. It is crazy to say you can't be an analytic philosopher and work in the history of our field or in ethics, etc.

In any event, the problems of "analytic philosophers working in mind and language" earning grants may be a simple one (although it would be interesting to see some data on this). From the previous posts, it seems fairly clear that all successful applicants had projects that were interdisciplinary in some sense. It is certainly true that more interdisciplinary grant applications in the UK seem to be assessed more positively than not. Perhaps analytic metaphysicians don't do this? I don't know. Again, we'd need to see the data...

One final thought: it is most certainly the case that we probably all could "sell" (for want of a better word) our discipline better. Philosophy in general had a different feel and character in journals, such as Mind and the Int'l Journal of Ethics, before the first World War than our journals now. I miss this primarily because I am interested in British Idealism, however, I don't see how the field has been damaged by the clear changes in direction that come with every new generation."

Whilst I applaud Stanley's insistence we all should know our canon, I do share the suspicion that perhaps a fair number in analytical mind & language have a relatively less complete knowledge of the history of philosophy than others. Of course, I have met many people whose knowledge far exceeded my own, but this has been relatively rare. For one thing, as a Hegel scholar, it is never persons working in law, philosophy of law, politics, ethics/political philosophy, nor history/history of philosophy (nor philosophy of history) that are ignorant of Hegel. If ignorance breeds contempt, is this why I get funny looks from metaphysicians when I claim to enjoy the German and British Idealists....

NOTE: I am off Thursday to see two dear friends earn their Ph.D.'s from the University of Sheffield---friends who work in analytical mind & language. I certainly have nothing against this field of philosophy. I simply question Stanley's views that these scholars are at least as well read --- and perhaps the only ones able to claim "analytic philosophy" for themselves.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Ouch! The Lives and Loves of Castrado Singers

The BBC reports in this story that "the world's most famous castrado...is to be exhumed"---the singer is Farinelli. What makes him so famous? Well, the fact that he's the only castrado that we have any recordings of. Actually, we only have one recording of a short song. (Want to here it? Listen here.)

Castrados were famous between the 16th century until 1870 (when the practice was banned) because male vocal chords are thicker than their female variant. On average being physically larger, men also tended to have larger lungs. When a young boy is castrated (ouch!), he grows into a man who can sing like a soprano with (allegedly) greaterlung capacity and a richer sound (because of thicker vocal chords).

These men were also well known lovers. Who'd want to sleep around with a castrated man? Well, lots of people once upon a time. Recall that in the 16th and 17th centuries there was no contraceptive pill, condoms, etc. Sex between a traditional couple would generally carry the risk of pregnancy (and getting found out). Yet, castrados were the closest thing to "no strings attached" as one might find a few centuries ago. If you listen to castrados, it's definitely not the voice that is wooing the fans...

Was it all worth it? I very much doubt it. The evidence is rubbish---we have only one recording of what (to me) sounds like a terrible song. Was that worth castration and years of practice? No. Thousands of boys would have this operation in the hope of becoming a famous castrado. Thank goodness this madness has come to an end.....

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

What is an appropriate amount of teaching for graduate students?

There are contradictory stories on teaching by graduate students in the current issue of the Times Higher Education Supplement (effectively, the Chronicle of Higher Education for those of us in the UK). Both relate to a recent conference at the University of Aberdeen in Scotland.

The first story is "PhDs Told to Avoid Too Much Teaching" (subscription only). An excerpt:

"Postgraduates must resist pressure from managers to take on a teaching load so heavy that it affects their research, a conference has heard. John McKenzie, a PhD researcher and teaching assistant in Aberdeen University's sociology department, told a national postgraduate conference held at the university this week that postgraduate teaching experience could have positive and negative effects. Mr McKenzie, who is in the third year of a part-time PhD on contemporary spirituality in Scotland, does up to 12 hours of tutoring and 20 hours as a care officer a week in addition to his research."

Yet, then there is a story "Postgraduates Told: Those Who Can, Teach" as well (subscription only). An excerpt:

"Engaging with students is a matter of integrity, and it can improve promotion prospects, reports Olga Wojtas from a conference of postgraduates. Research is not the be all and end all in higher education so if you don't want to teach then don't bother becoming an academic, a postgraduate conference was told last week. [Professor Trevor Salmon] also warned that teaching was one of the criteria for promotion. "A lot of people think it's research, research, research. Maybe it is if you're a Nobel prizewinner, but if you're an ordinary mortal and you're poor at teaching, that hurts your promotion prospects."

Which gives the best advice? Should a graduate student teach only to gain a bit of experience or is it a shining path leading to a pot of gold?

When I was a graduate student only a few years ago, my supervisors recommended taking on minimal teaching only---if I wanted a job, the goal was to keep publishing. Better still was advice given to a friend of mine (and stated at graduate conferences elsewhere): if given the choice of publishing one article or teaching one course, take the article each and every time.

A bit of experience is very important; indeed, teaching is very important. This is true wherever one goes. However, entry level academic positions need not require extensive teaching. Those with a publication or two and only a dose of teaching experience will almost always see off applicants with plenty of teaching experience and no publications. There is a balance between the two, often tilted towards publications. It is therefore important to get this balance correct.

It is somewhat disingenuous to suggest that graduate students should be teaching plenty now so that they might earn promotion later. I know of no instance where past teaching as a graduate student helped earn promotion for a tenure-track staff member later in his/her career. We all know of stories where past publications have benefitted (and rightly so) people for some time post-publication and (in some cases) throughout his/her career. Yes, successful promotion applications normally demonstrate at least competence and often better teaching abilities. Yes, these skills are not learned overnight. However, a graduate student should be receiving advice that will help him/her gain a job. Promotion advice is only helpful for those no longer students. Plus, the best promotion advice is to publish in premier journals and engage in high visibility endeavours.

I am reminded of the late Professor Warren E. Miller (Political Science, Arizona State University), formerly President of the American Political Science Association. His students recanted that lectures consisted of reading chapters from his book: when time elapsed, he asked students to read the rest of the chapter. And on it went. Yet, he was the kind of fellow who could get away with it, a leading figure (indeed, towering figure) in the field and full of terrific advice I've continued to benefit from.

Always best to be a better researcher than teacher, although better still to be a good teacher. This is advice for one's career. The best advice for graduate students remains: teach no more than a course and publish, publish, publish.

The Geography of the Brooks Blog

The country stats for the Brooks Blog are as follows (covering 352 readers):

United States - 49%
United Kingdom - 28%
Canada - 7%
Germany - 3%
Australia - 3%
New Zealand - 2%
France - 1%
Iceland - 1%
Italy - 1%
Mexico - 1%
Netherlands - 1%
Singapore - 1%
Sweden - 1%
Taiwan - 1%

Many thanks to all of you for visiting this site.

Thank you, Leiter Reports!

A warm thank you to---everyone's favourite blog---the Leiter Reports ---for this brief report on this blog. Yesterday, we reached a record 170 visitors in one day: virtually all directed to us from Brian's site. I am incredibly grateful.

Monday, July 10, 2006

British Academy Honours

The British Academy has recently announced new fellows. Chief amongst these is Robert Adams (Oxford) in Philosophy. Phillippe Van Parijs (Leuven/Harvard) was awarded a well deserved "corresponding fellowship." Sincere congrats to both!

Friday, July 07, 2006

Is Legalizing Drugs a Good Idea?

Over at the Leiter Reports, Jo Wolff (UCL philosopher and JMP board member) has an interesting post on the legalization of drugs (full text: here). An exerpt:

"I’ve been reading The Legalization of Drugs: For and Against, by Douglas Husak and Peter de Marneffe. Fascinating stuff... Simplifying dramatically, Husak’s argument is that even if it can be shown that taking drugs is very bad for you, it is still hard to see the argument for locking people away, sometimes for many years, as punishment for harming, or risking harm, to themselves. In response, de Marneffe’s first restricts the discussion primarily to heroin, and argues, plausibly enough, that it is a very bad idea for adolescents to take heroin as this will adversely affect at least their emotional development, and perhaps much else too. It is also very bad for children if their parents are addicts, as this is likely to lead to abuse and neglect. These risks are so severe, he argues, that they amount to an argument that heroin should not be legalized.

So how does de Marneffe respond to Husak’s argument? It seems he accepts it! (p. 129) He agrees that no one should go to prison for taking heroin. On de Marneffe’s view production and sale should be illegal, including dealing, but no one should be punished simply for using. And if this applies to heroin – de Marneffe’s worse case – it must apply more generally."

Jo then concludes with the following question:

"Now, if the ‘for’ and ‘against’ positions converge on the judgement that no one should be jailed for using drugs, does this merely mean that de Marneffe was simply the wrong person to argue the ‘against’ case, or is it rather that there are no good arguments to defend the current law in all civilized countries?"

And then a good intuitive puzzle:

"On the issue of harm, here are some fascinating figures from a UK report, which quotes a Cato Institute Paper. The following are ‘Deaths from Drug Use Per 100,000 Drug Users’. Tobacco: 650. Alcohol: 150. Heroin: 80. Cocaine: 4. Marijuana: 0. (p. 38 of overview report).
Of course I know it isn’t as simple as this, but these are thought-provoking numbers."

What can be said in response? Well, let's start with the numbers and move backwards. I am not sure they tell us much at all. It is true that (a) where something causes many deaths we should look at it seriously and (b) there are plenty of relevant, important harms other than death. (And I'd be curious to know if the cocaine death figures are for powder cocaine or if it includes deaths from crack cocaine.) Many people die each year from bee stings, but we can't outlaw bees and allergies----this truism points to the fact that we simply can't regulate as well as might like some considerable harms to people.

That said, we can say more in response. My liberal heart is for legalization insofar as regulation of the illegal drugs trade seems a terrific goal. Many of us enjoy legalized drugs of different sorts---alcohol, tobacco, etc.---and it would seem extending this would be a great idea. People can overdose and die from drugs like alcohol or drugs like heroin. With regulation might come greater public awareness of risks: this seems a good thing.

On the other hand, in practice, I know that I would much rather be walking down a street with people a bit tipsy from drink than a street littered with bloody needles and heroin addicts. Just because we allow one vice does not necessarily mean that we should allow all vices. We have enough trouble with alcohol and tobacco---extending legalization may well expand the problem.

In the end, I'm a liberal sceptic. I would vote for legalization, but only if heavily regulated and monitored. I would do so reluctantly as well. The issue seemed so clear cut when I was a teenager...

Monday, July 03, 2006

New Law School Blogs: Chicago and Georgetown

My thanks to Brian Leiter for pointing out new blogs at the University of Chicago Law School and Georgetown University's Law School. Both are discussing the recent Hamdan v Rumsfeld case.

Leiter's Reports are currently running pieces on the 30th anniversary of the Supreme Court decision Gregg v Georgia (1976) which reintroduced the legalization of capital punishment so long as there was a two tier trial of (1) determining guilt or innocence and then (2) determining the punishment (if guilty). The problems had been (a) apparent arbitrary sentencing where ethnic minorities were being sentenced to death at far higher rates and for the same crimes as whites and (b) some juries found defendants innocent because finding them guilty meant an automatic death sentence and some juries would rather a guilty person walk free than feel responsible for their death.

Some readers may be interested in my "Retributivist Arguments against Capital Punishment" published recently in the Journal of Social Philosophy here.