The Lead Up to the Race
This report of my running of the California International Marathon actually has to begin earlier in the Fall when I learned that my mother was diagnosed with cancer. Things look good for her now, but because of the diagnosis, I felt a certain responsibility to be with her and family over Thanksgiving. And because it was a week before my first marathon, I thought it would be better to fly to Philadelphia where my parents live. While there, I had a pretty serious flare up of allergies which led to some pretty serious ear pain on the descent into Indianapolis, where I live. My ears did pop when I came home, but it was a little painful. I went on some allergy drugs that I hoped would drain my sinuses without affecting my ability to run. Tuesday after Thanksgiving–the week before the race–I ran a couple miles at MGP and felt pretty good. Then Thursday I did 3 miles easy and some strides and my legs felt good and my lungs felt clear. Then I got on a plane and the descent on the first leg messed my ears up and they still haven’t popped five days later.
On Wednesday before I left for Sacramento, I got a message from my Airbnb host, which I expected to be information about how to check in, and instead was a cancellation of my place. I reach out to my teammate from Rogue She Squad who was also running the race and she very kindly agreed to share her hotel room with me but recommended that I find my own room the first night I would be there. I went on Expedia and I reserved a room at the Hyatt. Then my teammate texts that I should probably get a room for the second night, too, because she is getting in late. I get back on Expedia and see that I can’t add a night to the original reservation, but I can just make a new reservation. First, I try to do that with a customer service person, but the price they quoted me was different from what I saw online, which seemed weird, but comes to make sense later. I go and make my own reservation on Expedia.
I get to Sacramento, unpopped ears and all, and Lyft to the Hyatt Regency, one of the race hotels. I go to check in and the person working the counter tells me that my reservation is in fact at another Hyatt seven blocks away. I ask her about the second night, and she says, you are back in this hotel. I made two different reservations at two different hotels. I kept reminding myself to be grateful. I read Deena Kastor’s Let Your Mind Run this last year, and I try to practice gratitude when I can. I was glad to have a hotel room. I was glad the second night was back in the race hotel because that’s where I would be staying with my teammate. It turned out to be much easier to navigate to the race events from the hotel than it would have been to the Airbnb. I walk the seven blocks to the other hotel, which was right down L Street.Read more
I just finished running the longest run I have ever run – 22 miles. I have a month to go before my first ever marathon, the California International Marathon on December 5 in Sacramento, where my goal is to qualify for the Boston Marathon with a time of 3:40. This goal feels to me like what Shalane Flanagan recently called her goal of running the six world majors in six weeks: a big hairy scary goal. I think I can do it. My training has been going well. I feel good. I feel strong. I feel capable. (Those three sentences together have become one of my mantras.) But I also don’t know if I can do it. I don’t know if I can run as fast as I need to for as long as I need to.
This week I’ve been teaching Plato’s Protagoras, one of my favorite dialogues of Plato. Scholars have so much disagreement over this dialogue but on my reading, Socrates is making the case to those listening to the exchange between him and Protagoras that what Protagoras teaches is unable to make them virtuous. His case for this is that Protagoras doesn’t really see virtue to be knowledge and in order for it to be teachable it must be knowledge. The problem is that Protagoras teaches his students how to make claims about what is virtuous, but these claims don’t affect how they live leading his students to occupy the position of seeming to act against what they know to be good. Socrates argues that some knowledge other than propositional claims is required to be virtuous and this knowledge would be a way of measuring what is best — whether construed as most pleasure or good — in an action against what is not good in it — pains. As the discussion comes to a close, Protagoras is continuing to insist that at least one virtue is grounded in something other than knowledge and that virtue is courage.Read more
This morning Facebook’s Oversight Board upheld Facebook’s ban on Donald Trump. Yesterday, NPR’s Rachel Martin wondered about how much control social media should have over free speech. With no political efforts to censure Trump, the consequences for his near treasonous speech of January 6 are left to be doled out by private corporations. This situation, I argue, is where the long-developing eclipse of politics in favor of private solutions has led us. If neoliberalism is the marketization of everything, the effort to remove decisions of public concern from public domains into private ones, then the situation in which social media companies have more power over managing the dangerous speech of politicians than the public domain is its logical conclusion.
Even if you are happy with this decision, we should sound the alarms. Not the alarm that Facebook has too much control, though it does. Twitter and Facebook are totally within their rights to ban people from their platforms. They are private companies. That is the problem. Social media is a public utility, and we treat it as such, and then complain that it is run like a private company. But social media companies are private companies. If we want them to be run in such a way that serves the public good, we should nationalize them. Government, not private companies, is constrained by the First Amendment to “make no law…abridging the freedom of speech.” If the main site of speech has become private companies, and it seems that companies have more say of speech than the government, then we should really rethink whether those sites of free speech should be private.
Neoliberalism has sapped us of the desire to insist on political solutions and has led us to think that private corporations need to be made to do the right thing by their $130 million-supported oversight boards, rather than by governmental power driven by political pressure. This is wrong-headed. We should not ask private companies to regulate themselves. We should not find satisfaction in private companies punishing those who public officials lack the political will to punish. We should insist on political reckonings.
Already conservatives are bemoaning that Facebook is interfering in the 2024 election. And indeed, Facebook, along with Twitter, seems like the only organization holding Trump accountable. My point is that our satisfaction with this holding accountable is evidence of how much we have ceded the responsibilities of political life to private corporations. We should not find this satisfactory. Not because it wasn’t the right decision, but because the accountability should be a matter of political reckoning. Let’s not cede that space.
Why is Augustine so cruel? His argument for free will rests on absolving God of responsibility for evil in the world, ultimately for the suffering of evil that is occurring around him, and to make the case, Augustine again and again notes that God punishes but God punishes justly and so God cannot be responsible for the suffering caused.
I have taught Augustine’s On the Free Choice of the Will so many many times. I used to teach it in every introductory course because it was such a fitting transition between ancient thinking and modern thinking. It stages Descartes’ Meditations nicely since many of his arguments can be found in inchoate form in Augustine, and it shows precisely that to which Nietzsche is responding in On the Genealogy of Morals. I’m teaching it now in a course on medieval philosophy. It’s been some time since I taught it. In the meantime, I’ve encountered alternative possible readings of the sacred texts upon which Christianity is based in the work of people like Ted Jennings who makes the case that Christianity offers a political philosophy of exposing the injustice of empire by exposing the cruelty at the heart of its efforts at law and order (Transforming Atonement, 221). Adam Kotsko similarly makes a case in The Prince of Darkness for the genealogy of the devil who went from being associated with empire by those who were oppressed to being associated with the rabble-rousers once Christianity becomes the empire. When this happens, as Jennings shows, God is supposed to be on the side of systems of domination and division, “the one who condemns and afflicts with suffering and death” (21).Read more
The important thing here, I believe, is that truth isn’t outside power, or lacking in power: contrary to a myth whose history and functions would repay further study, truth isn’t the reward of free spirits, the child of protracted solitude, nor the privilege of those who have succeeded in liberating themselves. Truth is a thing of this world: it is produced only by virtue of multiple forms of constraint. And it induces regular effects of power. Each society has its régime of truth, its ‘general polities’ of truth: that is, the types of discourse which it accepts and makes function as true; the mechanisms and instances which enable one to distinguish true and false statements, the means by which each is sanctioned; the techniques and procedures accorded value in the acquisition of truth; the status of those who are charged with saying what counts as true. –Foucault, “Truth and Power,” in Power / Knowledge, 131
Any conversation about the circulation of ideas online has to understand the material power at work in how ideas circulate, whose ideas circulate without obstacles and whose ideas encounter obstacles. Moreover, this conversation has to recognize that the circulation of ideas involves material questions about who holds what positions where and who is able to set the agenda for what areas of philosophy should be covered in departments and who should be considered worthy for filling those lines, who should be read, who should be cited, who should be appointed editor of prestigious journals, which journals should be considered prestigious, and so on.
A little more than five years ago there was a robust conversation online about how the philosoblogosphere had influenced the material circumstances of what is considered good philosophy in the United States. Ben Alpers the historian of ideas gathers some of the reflections on the sociology of philosophy, concentrating on the way that online voices and rankings amplified particular views of what philosophy is in a way that influenced what kind of philosophy was considered more or less rigorous. In particular, I’m thinking about how continental philosophy programs were excluded from early rankings and how those rankings centered analytic philosophy and analytic approaches to the history of philosophy, but also the way that feminist philosophies and post-colonial philosophies and critical philosophies of race were sidelined.Read more
I’m teaching a senior seminar on Plato’s Republic this semester. One skill I have been focusing on all semester is close reading. I have students do several short assignments in which they have to offer close readings of the text. But in our class discussions, conversations tends to become more general and less tethered to specifics of the text. I want students to make their claims rooted in the text and to see that arguments over how to interpret are a key part of the philosophical work in the history of philosophy.Read more
This morning, the family of Breonna Taylor held a news conference in which they expressed their anger and frustration with Kentucky AG Daniel Cameron’s grand jury investigation that ended with charges for only of the officers involved in the shooting of Breonna Taylor. Taylor was shot as the result of a botched drug raid through a no-knock warrant when officers entered the wrong apartment. Taylor’s boyfriend shot thinking that the apartment was being burglarized. One officer involved, Brett Hankison, was charged with three counts of wanton endangerment for bullets that went into another apartment. The facts of the case are not disputed. No drugs were found in Taylor’s apartment.
At the press conference, Bianca Austin, Taylor’s sister, said, “What [Daniel Cameron] helped me realize is that it will always be us against them. That we are never safe.”Read more
Last semester, when I had only heard of coronavirus in a conversation with a senior biology major reporting on some developments of novel viruses around the world, I began the semester using Kahoots in all three of the courses I was teaching: an early modern survey, a philosophy of race course, and a seminar on the work of Hannah Arendt. Kahoot is a quiz / game application faculty can use to track student understanding and engage students in the in-person or virtual classroom. When I was using it in person, Kahoot! was a fun way to review material and to jog students’ memories about the current day’s reading. I would purposefully include in the multiple-choice wrong answers that represented typical misunderstandings of a position under discussion so that we could put it on the table to consider without anyone feeling called out for saying the wrong thing (the answers are anonymous, so you don’t see who answered which answer). In this way, it helped me organize the class meeting and remember to address possible confusions.
When we went online, it was a great way to keep students whose faces I often could not see engaged and focused throughout the class meeting. In both scenarios, my students got into it and I’m using it again this semester to good effect when I’m back and forth between in-person and virtual class meetings.Read more