Invited talk at the University of Kentucky Law School’s faculty lounge, on “Culture, Law, & Justice: On Expression vs. Cultivation in Speech.” It will focus on freedom of speech and government speech, along with their limits.

Date: September 26, 2016
Time: 12:00-01:00 p.m.
Event: Invited talk on "Culture, Law, & Justice: On Expression vs. Cultivation in Speech"
Topic: Culture, Law, & Justice: On Expression vs. Cultivation in Speech
Sponsor: The University of Kentucky School of Law
Venue: The Faculty Lounge
859.257.1678
Location: 620 S. Limestone
Lexington, KY 40506-0048
USA
Public: Public

March 2016 Interview on MS Flag

The Commercial Appeal, March 12, 2016

I now recall giving an interview that I had completely forgotten about. As I had written on the MS state flag, a reporter called me from The Commercial Appeal, Memphis, TN’s major newspaper. To those not from the region, Memphis is the closest big city for many folks living in northern Mississippi. In fact, lots of people live in DeSoto, MS, and commute across the state border to work in Memphis. So, lots of Memphis readers are Mississippians.

MSdeclaration

Photo of the piece from the Commercial Appeal.In the effort to change the MS state flag, one approach that arose came in the form of a lawsuit. Here’s the piece that draws on the interview I gave.

Still no change to the MS state flag. It bears an emblem of the Confederate Battle Flag in its canton, even though the state of Mississippi joined the Confederacy explicitly for the purpose of defending the institution of slavery. Go on, read it. Please.

Here’s the article in The Commercial Appeal about the lawsuit.

Photo of Weber with a class at the American College of Medical Genetics and Genomics, January 2016.

When asked to help out with Dr. Neil Manson’s exciting Wintersession course on Bioethics at the University of Mississippi, I was hesitant at first. I have tried hard to protect my writing time, which is very easy to give up. When I learned of the need for help, though, and the fact that the class would not make without a colleague’s help, I accepted. I joined the Study USA folks at the University of Mississippi, including Dr. Laura Antonow, and Seth Waite, a helpful graduate student in Philosophy at the University of Mississippi. We spent a week in D.C. visiting all kinds of great groups and organizations to talk about bioethics. Dr. Antonow took this photo and kindly gave me permission to post it here. It was a fun trip and a good group of students.

Beyond the fun visits for the class, the highlights of the trip were the five or six outings I got to take with former students and with colleagues living and working in D.C. I must have met up with over 20 former students and three or four current ones, interning in D.C. Thanks for the photo, Laura!

Interview on Science & Religion in The Tehran Times

This piece was originally published on August 1, 2016, pages 1 and 9.

It’s an honor and a pleasure to be interviewed for The Tehran Times. I am especially grateful that the put the very philosophical interview I gave on the front page of the newspaper. The Tehran Times is Iran’s major English language newspaper. I have had the opportunity to talk quite a few times about philosophy and democracy. Here’s photo of the interview, which links to the full Adobe PDF file for the day’s newspaper (August 1st, 2016). My piece is on pages 1 and 9:

This is a photo of a cut out of the front page interview I gave for The Tehran Times on science and religion.

I got a lot of positive feedback about this piece, as well as some interesting comments and questions on Facebook. In case you want to see those, here’s the post – sorry for the repeat image. I’ve not embedded a Facebook post on this site before, so here’s a test:

I’m honored to see my piece on the front page of the Tehran Times again. How cool is that? (See pgs 1 & 9): http://media.mehrnews.com/d/2016/07/31/0/2156798.pdf
Posted by Eric Thomas Weber, author on Sunday, July 31, 2016

 

If you’ve not yet connected with me on Facebook, “like” my author page, and if you’re a tweeter, following me @EricTWeber.

Self-Respect and a Sense of Positive Power [Essay]

Journal of Speculative Philosophy 30, Issue 1 (2016): 45-63.

My regular, public writing is starting up again, as we’re getting settled in. Over the course of a few busy months, some of my pieces have come out in academic outlets, like the essay I posted last week. Here’s a further piece published this year (2016) in The Journal of Speculative Philosophy. It’s titled “Self-Respect and a Sense of Positive Power: On Protection, Self-Affirmation, and Harm in the Charge of ‘Acting White’.” Here’s a pic of it:

Photo of my essay, 'Self-Respect and a Sense of Positive Power.'

I seek permission to post my full articles on my Academia.edu page, and I either am given it or have at least given a good faith effort to get that permission. In this case, though, this copy of the paper is the only one I have with my final edits and it’s plastered with JSTOR info (online journal database) and policies stuff. Given that, I’m posting a link to the JSTOR page for my paper instead of to a scan on my Academia.edu profile. If you have academic library access to such stuff, you can probably open the paper or manage to get access to it here (the “static” page for the on JSTOR).

This essay is one of the steps in my overarching project on culture and justice. For now, I can share my abstract for the paper:

In the liberal tradition, self-respect is most often associated with Kantian moral philosophy, which suggests a focus on individual responsibility. While the individual plays a part in the development of his or her self-respect, so, too, do his or her environmental and cultural conditions. In this essay, I distinguish between conceptions of self-respect, especially those that focus on it as a duty to oneself, and having a “sense of one’s own positive power,” a Deweyan educational ideal. A sense of positive power is partly directed by the individual but is also clearly conditioned by the ways in which one’s culture treats and reacts to one’s efforts. Thus, a sense of positive power, as a concept, reveals the powerful role of one’s wider culture in frustrating or enabling a vital element of personal growth necessary for justice. I test the distinction with respect to the difficult and harmful charge of “acting white,” which concerns self-respect and the role of oppressive forces conditioning people’s senses of their power in an unjust society.

If I can figure out a way to share the full paper without violating relevant policies, I will. In general, scholars as editors want you to share your work. A journal is better known the more it’s read. I do understand that there’s a system to this, however, and I try to always seek permission to share my work as much as I can.

John Dewey, standing.

Despite this hurdle, I’m especially happy to have work come out in The Journal of Speculative Philosophy. It’s a classic outlet in American philosophy. John Dewey published in it as early as 1882. Also, Charles Pierce published one of his classic pieces in the journal as early as 1868 (free to access, unlike my paper). A few of Dewey’s early papers there are available for free as well, such as this one on Kant that was very helpful for my dissertation.

If you can’t access this paper and want to know more about it, let me know that. At the very least, that’ll tell me that I should probably consider a newspaper piece on the subject. For now, I’m working on an op-ed on education and another on the Presidential election.

Reach out if you’re interested and follow or “like” my pages on Twitter @EricTWeber and on Facebook.com/EricThomasWeberAuthor.

Nietzsche photo with a quote, which reads: "Forgetting our objectives is the most frequent of all acts of stupidity." It also shows the Web address for my Web site, EricThomasWeber.org

I’m planning an op-ed on education, that has to do with how we often focus intensely on some details while forgetting our goal. That reminded me of an often quoted line from Nietzsche. The usual way we see it, it reads: “Forgetting one’s purpose is the commonest forms of stupidity.”

I like that version too, but the scholar in me goes a bit nuts when I can’t actually track down the source of a quote. So, I looked for and found the original version of this in Nietzsche’s Human, All Too Human, volume 2, number 206. The translation in the English version from Oxford is what I included in the photo. To put it in text too, it reads:

“Forgetting our objectives is the most frequent of all acts of stupidity.”

You can check it out for yourself in Google Books.

My Latest Essay – on the Intentional Costs of Comfort

Published in the 'Southwestern Philosophy Review,' 31, Issue 1, 2016, 19-24.

Hi folks. Dr. John Lachs.It’s been quite a while since I’ve posted. There’s a reason that they say moving is one of the most stressful times in life. It certainly is. Among the many things I’ve been meaning to post is my latest essay, which is a commentary piece I wrote and originally delivered at the 2015 meeting of the Southwestern Philosophical Society conference. The society met in Nashville, TN, at Vanderbilt University. That doesn’t sound very Southwestern, admittedly, but it’s a great group. The essay was a response to the keynote address by Dr. John Lachs of Vanderbilt. It was an honor to comment on his talk, “The Costs of Comfort.” John has been a mentor of mine for close to 20 years. As you’ll see in my commentary essay, however, that doesn’t mean that I went easy on his argument.

This is a photo of the top of the first page of my essay.

In philosophy, we say that “criticism is the fondest form of flattery.” The idea is that engaging in argument with someone’s ideas isn’t a bad thing. It’s joining in with the author in the pursuit of the truth. The honor is in taking someone’s ideas seriously, thinking hard with him or her, or them, and about something of importance attended to in the piece. In this essay, I respond to Lachs’s arguments about “The Costs of Comfort.” It’s a work in progress, though the version I reply to was also published, with my response to it. The costs of comfort are significant, Lachs argues, and some of what “reformers” want to change about present problems can amount to an unwillingness to accept the costs of living the comfortable lives so many of us enjoy today. We may bemoan environmental degradation, but summers in Mississippi are brutal enough even with air conditioning.

About many examples, Lachs is quite right and reasonable, but there are, I argue, avoidable costs of comfort. There are also costs of comfort that are not only accidental, but actually intentionally targeted towards people who are thereby disadvantaged. Racism and other forms of cultural violence lead all kinds of costs of our comfort to be put upon groups made to suffer their weight. In my essay, I defend the need for “reformers,” not for the basic costs of comfort, but for the many troubling cases. Many people reasonably feel for animals and I certainly agree that factory farming needs reform, but when the bugs start to get into my house or my bed, I feel no remorse for hiring the exterminator to keep certain levels of comfort at the expense of bed bugs.

Photo of a bed bug.

How much sympathy would you feel about hundreds of these critters living in your sheets?

That said, injustice is not some simple thing to sacrifice to beat the heat or to keep the bugs out. If we can significantly reduce air conditioning costs with white roofs instead of black ones, furthermore, shouldn’t policy encourage such reforms? If we can raise chickens in far more humane ways than in the cages that are so troubling, why not endure the small discomfort it takes to make that change? Reform can overreach and be unrealistic, but it can also be absolutely vital for good people to sleep at night.

It’s easy for the most comfortable among us to focus on the simpler examples than injustice. Yes we like our comforts, but in time, so many innovations can at least reduce the costs we cause, and still other costs are simply unjustifiable.

If you want to check out my essay, which is a lot more specific than this quick post, visit my Academia.edu page with the piece.

If you’re interested in a speaker for your event, visit my speaking and contact pages. You can also “like” my Facebook author page and follow me on Twitter @EricTWeber.

Virtual Moving Is Stressful Too

While Annie and I make the move to the University of Kentucky, our virtual stuff has to move as well as our physical stuff. So, I’ve begun transferring spaces and tools like this Web site to a new host. I’ve been very fortunate to have the support of the University of Mississippi’s IT department, and especially of the university’s great Webmaster, Robby Seitz. He’s helped me host a bunch of sites, including this one. Presently I’m transferring this WordPress site from the university’s servers to one I’ve contracted with to host the site from here on out (BlueHost).

Pickup truck with WAY too much stuff attached to the bed of a truck.

Anyway, I know that this is a terribly dull post. The point, though, is that a number of things may not yet work properly on this newly transferred page. Bear with me, please, as I work on this slowly but surely all while we’re also moving our home and work… If links aren’t working properly, do please let me know. I may not yet have noticed all of the elements of the site need work. Alternatively, come back later and see whether whatever you’re looking for has been updated.

Thanks for your patience and come back soon.

The Eulogy Virtues Valued in Life

This is a photo of the cover of David Brooks's latest book, The Road to Character, 2015. David Brooks has been challenging young people lately to think about more than what he calls the “résumé virtues.” His latest book is called The Road to Character, and he has been touring the country to talk about what’s more important than the many small steps we take in advancing our careers. Which matters more: what people think or say about your résumé, or what people will say at your funeral?

Brooks argues that so many of us today focus on the wrong things — on getting the next notch in our belts — when what we should be developing are the eulogy virtues. In the end, people usually don’t care about this or that promotion you earned. The bigger house you bought rarely comes up at a funeral. What matters most to people are the qualities of your character, not the quantities in your bank account.

Brooks’s message especially to young professionals and those aspiring to be them resonates with me. First of all, Aristotle noted that happiness is something that can only really be measured in terms of a person’s whole life. When we say we are happy, in everyday language, we are primarily talking about how we feel right now. What makes for a happy life, however, is not a certain number of happy-feeling-moments. We can endure great challenges for the right reasons and be happy about what we have contributed. The feeling is less the issue, however. What matters, as Brooks notes, is our character.

With a focus on professionalism today, one can certainly make a great deal more money going into any number of careers than one earns as a teacher. So some other force pushes people into that line of work. As I said in my last post, I’ve been very fortunate to feel appreciated at the University of Mississippi. Recently, a number of students added to that very kindly.

The funny thing about moving, as Annie and I soon will, is that you get a glimpse of people’s appreciation of the eulogy virtues, but without the dying part.

The logo of the University of Mississippi's Student Alumni Council.The Student Alumni Council at the University of Mississippi is a clever organization, in which current students are involved in the work of the alumni association — hook’em early, they say. It’s a great idea, actually, for networking purposes as well as for opportunities for student leadership. Yes, those are related to résumé virtues. The group is more meaningful than that, however. They organize an event each spring (though I don’t know how long this has been going on) where they recognize mentors, hosting a “Random Acts of Kindness” event. When I received my invitation, I joked to myself that I generally intend my acts of kindness to be thoughtful and purposeful, rather than random.

The event was lovely. One student at a time got up to say a few words about a mentor he or she wanted to recognize on campus with a Random Act of Kindness award. Next, two students got up to say that they had both nominated a certain professor. It was heartwarming. We do this work because we believe in it. It’s icing on the cake when people actually show you appreciation for it. When the time came, I was taken aback by three students who each got up to say some deeply thoughtful and kind things about our work together. I got a taste of the value of the eulogy virtues, without having to die, when Mary Kate Berger, Natalie King, and Rod Bridges each spoke eloquently and kindly in their explanations for their nominations for me.

I feel profoundly fortunate to have worked with great people in Mississippi. I also am more confident that Brooks and Aristotle are right. Character is the most important thing we can cultivate. The funny thing that so many people miss, however, is that attending to one’s own happiness really comes down to attending to the same for others. I can’t think of a more rewarding opportunity than to help others to shape their character.

Thank you again, Rod, Mary Kate, and Natalie (left to right in the photo)!

This is a photo of Rod Bridges, Mary Kate Berger, Eric Thomas Weber, and Natalie King at the UM 2016 Student Alumni Council 'Random Acts of Kindness' event.

 

A Big Moment for the Weber Family

This April, my wife, Dr. Annie Davis Weber, and I made a difficult, big decision. We will be moving in the summer to start work at the University of Kentucky, in Lexington. I will continue to write and teach there as an associate professor, and Annie will transition into the role of Assistant Provost for Strategic Planning.

The University of Kentucky, photo of campus.

I have been very fortunate to work at a great university, which has made me feel appreciated and valued. People often say that academia can be petty, with terrible in-fighting and little collegiality. I’m happy to say that my experience in Oxford was the reverse. I have worked since 2007 in the interdisciplinary department of Public Policy Leadership that has had a remarkable unity of focus and intent. Our department has been as collegial and mutually supportive as one could hope to experience. The program attracted scores of driven students who inspire hope in me even when elder Mississippians in public office disappoint. I look forward to these young people’s emergence as the next generation of leaders. It has been deeply meaningful to have played a small role in their growth and success.

The Lyceum building in Oxford, MS.

In Oxford, Annie got her start in the Development Office, while she finished her doctoral studies in Vanderbilt University’s executive program in Higher Education. She earned her degree while working part time at the University of Mississippi and travelling several weekends each month to Nashville for a number of years. Along the way, she and I learned the ropes of how best to care for our daughter Helen and her special medical conditions. Annie got her doctorate in much more difficult circumstances than I did. She also has risen a number of exciting steps through the ranks at the university, and recently was awarded one of two national Fellowships from the Society for College and University Planners. She is remarkable.

A hot toddy, Hotty Toddy, yall.We have made many wonderful friends in Oxford and have had the immensely rewarding opportunity to work with countless strong, courageous, and talented students. Our decision was not an easy one to make. I know that I will always feel a fondness for the time and opportunities we have had in Oxford.