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V. Alan White
I'm a Full Professor of Philosophy at University of Wisconsin--Manitowoc
Recent Activity
Via Massimo Pigliucci's (CCNY/CUNY) Plato's Footnote: Free Will and Neuroscience: From Explaining Freedom Away to New Ways of Operationalizing and Measuring It by Andrea Lavazza (Centro Universitario Internazionale, Arezzo, Italy) I found this to be a great overview of much recent research as well as a fascinating proposal for an... Continue reading
Posted Oct 1, 2016 at Flickers of Freedom
From Leiter's blog. Manuel hosted a couple of workshop conferences at USF--the one I attended in 2013 was the best conference I've ever attended, largely due to his efforts to make people feel welcome and keeping on schedule (and terrific dinners!)--and I was very impressed by the campus. I along... Continue reading
Posted Jun 24, 2016 at Flickers of Freedom
Flickerers are on a roll: our own Kevin Timpe is interviewed at The Prosblogion. Apparently he's moving from my own undergrad institution--Northwest Nazarene University--to take a chair at Calvin College (replacing Plantinga!). While I'm sad that he's leaving NNU (which has produced a number of tenured profs disproportionate to its... Continue reading
Posted Jun 11, 2016 at Flickers of Freedom
The latest APA Newsletter on Hispanic/Latino Issues in Philosophy contains a terrific interview with fellow Flickerer Manuel Vargas. Along with some nice revelations about his philosophical biography, it also contains some pretty intriguing reflections about his APA-award winning book Building Better Beings: "I now think that the book, if it... Continue reading
Posted Jun 7, 2016 at Flickers of Freedom
Over at Brian Leiter's site there's a link to a poll to rank philosophers of action since 1945 or over the age of 60. You will recognize some Flickerers among the choices--so have at it! Continue reading
Posted Feb 24, 2016 at Flickers of Freedom
Thank you for posting this Brian. You've been enormously supportive of colleagues in UW, and it's much appreciated. The Education Committee apparently did not significantly alter the three documents. While there may be some language changes when these go to the full Board, I think the best we can hope for is additional policy allowing individual institutions to adopt policies that may add in some additional shared governance language or procedures. Having served on the Task Force as the only philosopher and with the longest tenure in UW, as the meetings went on, it was obvious that this really was a top-down, not bottom-up process. The drafts were all written with Regent input by System lawyers and assistants. Our input influenced the drafts, but we had no effective role in writing them. We in fact were barred from voting on issues or language--it was ruled that a Task Force did not proceed by ordinary rules of order. I warned the committee on record several times that we had best not render documents that provide either a two-tiered tenure system in UW or "tenure-lite" (which was picked up by media). But I fear that in fact we will have both when all is said and done. Here are my final comments as posted on the Regents' site: "First, as a member of the Tenure Task Force I laud the Regents' use of this site as a place for combination comment and public-access. Second, the general proposed Regents' policy document on tenure rightly incorporates the language of former state statute 36.13, now deleted, presumably as a statement of solidarity with the past. The UW System, and Madison in particular, was built on strong traditions of academic freedom as laid out in the deservedly famous statement by the Board of 1894 that emphasized "the continual and fearless sifting and winnowing by which alone the truth may be found". This Board now has an historic responsibility: in the face of statutory requirements to subject tenured employment to budgetary and educational considerations, what role shall the Board play in upholding that tradition or ceding it to matters of "markets" and "societal needs"? Would such a concession recognize that, in fact, there is always a wisdom of a financial and popular-culture nature that surpasses all others? Or could there actually be a form of minority wisdom that requires protecting its source in academic freedom? Such questions led to the 1894 statement. They are here again. It is up to the Regents to decide which wisdom finally shall prevail. Third, the Regents can only uphold the 1894 statement as perennial wisdom by inserting stronger language in the two other tenure documents protecting mechanisms of shared governance and/or allowing individual UW institutions to develop tenure policies that, while recognizing the inevitability of 36.21-22, also as strongly as possible allow that such policies reflect AAUP-type standards of tenure that are the backbone of UW's reputation in the world as a first-class institution of higher learning. It's that simple--and that difficult. I don't envy the Regents' place in the "hot-seat". But they are put there, and it is up to them. Last. Look at us now--assessing what we might and should do measured against the actions of Regents over a 120 years ago. I urge the Regents to think: 120 years from now, what will be thought of their statements on tenure in 2016?"
In a very forceful sense of what's contingent, I should not be writing this sentence. I'm writing this one as well only because my mother finished the interior of a casket in a way that displeased someone, the wife of the factory's owner. Had this one person said, "Well, I... Continue reading
Posted Feb 1, 2016 at Discrimination and Disadvantage
So the curtain is drawn on the James Holmes theater massacre trial, and the final call on punishment is life without parole. With the death penalty off the table, appeals won't be in the offing, so there can be no higher court ruling on the death penalty as applied to... Continue reading
Posted Aug 7, 2015 at Flickers of Freedom
We should note with pride that the runner up for the 2015 Sanders Book Prize for “the best book in philosophy of mind, metaphysics, or epistemology that engages the analytic tradition published in English in the previous five year period” was our own Dana Nelkin for Making Sense of Freedom... Continue reading
Posted Jul 17, 2015 at Flickers of Freedom
The James Holmes mass murder trial is starting, and of course I will follow it with great interest. It offers intriguing--if grim--comparisons and contrasts with John Hinckley's trial. Hinckley was found to be NGRI with trial procedures that are very similar to the Holmes case: the prosecution in the Holmes... Continue reading
Posted Apr 28, 2015 at Flickers of Freedom
Our own Neil Levy has a couple of very interesting posts on implicit attitudes and responsibility as guest author at The Brains Blog. Please do check it out! Continue reading
Posted Apr 16, 2015 at Flickers of Freedom
As this cold month as guest author comes to a close, I wish to thank Thomas once again for the privilege of posting my thoughts about free will and responsibility on Flickers. I know I didn't exactly set the comment threads on fire, but I felt that examining basic questions... Continue reading
Posted Feb 28, 2015 at Flickers of Freedom
Walker's team gets the demographics right: energize the conservative base socially and use the politics of resentment to pull in as many independents as possible economically. The demonization of unions and state workers--especially the university--as "haves" who make too much, work too little, and get benefits that middle class workers have lost (largely due to the late-90s tech bubble and later recession abetted by anti-regulatory legislation and socially apathetic political inaction dating back to Ronnie) has resonated much more than any messages about income inequality and the like. But even the most apologetic plutocrats now are lip-servicing "opportunities" for the poor (note--not providing actual means like redistribution of wealth, mind you), and so their mouths are trying to become adept at giving-you-the-right-to-work (no union dues!) loudly on one side while whispering we-have-your-back to the 1% employers (so you can hold workers' wages down). The added value of crushing public K-12 and higher ed is that these self-serving economically unjust policies of the 1% might thus have some legs for generating future generations of blind and loyal servants.
Here're the first couple pages of a paper I presented at Manuel Vargas' excellent USF-hosted conference a year and a half ago; the rest may be found here. But this is enough with a little exposition to make my case. *** "Libertarians were understandably jubilant when the invention of the... Continue reading
Posted Feb 19, 2015 at Flickers of Freedom
Whatever the metaphysical status of free will, it has indisputably been the case that questions about free will have been taken seriously by western canons of law. The English case of M'Naghten (variously spelled) in the mid-19th century solidified the traditional emphasis on mens rea (the guilty mind as sole... Continue reading
Posted Feb 7, 2015 at Flickers of Freedom
Does freedom exist at all? (Note: I will not address questions of responsibility.) I think it would be near impossible to answer anything other than yes. Circumstances of people possessing what seem to be prima facie huge differences of political freedom, economic freedom, social freedom, and physical freedom (among others)... Continue reading
Posted Feb 2, 2015 at Flickers of Freedom
My deep gratitude to Thomas for his gracious invitation to blog for a month on Flickers. I'm something of an oddity here--a senior but reputationally obscure philosopher whose free will publications are minor and few: one in Analysis back in 1990 and two in the presently dormant (though in its... Continue reading
Posted Feb 1, 2015 at Flickers of Freedom