Wednesday, 24 October 2012

All Quiet on the Teaching Front

Just a sign that I'm alive. Doing my main spot of this term's teaching these few weeks: Hume's moral philosophy of the Treatise for the B.A. candidates and some extra lectures at the primary level ethics course to fill in for a colleague struck by some acute health problems. In parallel, I'm writing on a research report and a part of an article that needs to be delivered about yesterday and doing the odd reading of, for instance, a new Ph.D. thesis on the personal identity objection to advance directives in health care, for which I'm on the examination committee. I have half a post on the hate crime theme written, that discusses how hate crime policy issues relate to bordering areas such as terrorist and honour crime policy from the point of view of ethics and basic values. Hopefully I'll be able to finish that in a months time or so.

Saturday, 6 October 2012

J.J.C. "Jack" Smart - R.I.P.

I just learned via various sources on Facebook and Twitter that the Australian philosopher J.J.C. a.k.a. Jack Smart passed away today at the age of 92. The very fact that this sad news is immediately echoing around the world tells you something about his stature, and a further glimpse of this can be caught by visiting his webpage at Monash University, which besides his distinguished carreer reveals that he was busy publishing high quality papers as late as at the age of 86.

His most well-known philosophical achievements were his championship of physicalism in the philosophy of mind (sometimes known as the identity theory) and of utilitarianism in ethics. The significance of the former work, Smart has described best himself here. My own contact with his work mainly connected to the latter. As so many others in my own and several subsequent generations of philosophy students, I was introduced both to advanced normative ethical theory, to sophisticated utilitarianism and to the art of debating the most heated and basic ethical issues without any loss of civility or philosophical depth through Smart's and Bernard William's little pro & con gem, Utilitarianism: For and Against.

I met Jack Smart only once, when he was visiting Stockholm University some time in the late 1980's or early 1990's and I remember how impressed I was by his kind gentleness that in no way cut down any of the stark clarity I had met in his writing. No less impressive, of course, since he was already then far from young. More information about his life and philosophy can be found here.

Friday, 5 October 2012

Comment in Nature on Proposal to Slack Ethical Requirements on Gene Therapy Research

So, if anyone's interested, I just posted a comment in Nature's online edition on a proposal from gene therapy research specialist Fulvio Mavilio to slack the research ethical requirements for clinically introducing gene therapy. A few typos managed to find their way in, but I don't think the message is muddled by that.

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

Euro-English (right!)

I'm just forwarding this little gem that a colleague posted on Facebook today and which seems to originate from here. Enjoy!

The European Union Commissioners have announced that agreement has been reached to adopt English as the preferred language for European communications, rather than German, which was the other possibility.

As part of the negotiations, the British government conceded that English spelling had some room for improvement and has accepted a five-year phased plan for what will be known as EuroEnglish (Euro for short). In the first year, "s" will be used instead of the soft "c". Sertainly, sivil servants will reseive this news with joy. Also, the hard "c" will be replaced with "k". Not only will this klear up konfusion, but typewriters kan have one less letter.

There will be growing publik enthusiasm in the sekond year, when the troublesome "ph" will be replaced by "f". This will make words like "fotograf" 20 per sent shorter.
In the third year, publik akseptanse of the new spelling kan be Expekted to reach the stage where more komplikated changes are possible. Governments will enkorage the removal of double letters, which have always ben a deterent to akurate speling. Also, al wil agre that the horible mes of silent "e"s in the languag is disgrasful, and they would go.

By the fourth year, peopl wil be reseptiv to steps such as replasing "th" by "z" and "w" by " v".
During ze fifz year, ze unesesary "o" kan be dropd from vords kontaining "ou", and similar changes vud of kors be aplid to ozer kombinations of leters. After zis fifz yer, ve vil hav a reli sensibl riten styl. Zer vil be no mor trubls or difikultis and evrivun vil find it ezi tu understand ech ozer. Ze drem vil finali kum tru.