Sunday, May 29, 2011

Shutting down Kindle book lending library

Well, never mind. I just found out that when the FAQ says that a lending-enabled Kindle book can be lent once, that means once in the entire lifetime of the book. I had interpreted the statement to mean that it could be lent only to one person at a time, so that one would be purchasing the digital equivalent of a normal book, which can be passed around from one person to another. Fortunately, I have purchased only three Kindle books; never again, until the lending feature changes to something worthwhile. Caveat emptor.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Hume on antecedent probabilities and claims not worth investigating

Does a man of sense run after every silly tale of witches or hobgoblins or fairies, and canvass particularly the evidence? I never knew any one, that examined and deliberated about nonsense who did not believe it before the end of his inquiries.
David Hume, in a letter to Rev. Hugh Blair, 1761. [In Greig JYT (ed.). 1969. The Letters  of David Hume. Vol. 1. Oxford: Clarendon Press. p. 350.]

Kindle book lending library

I am dedicating a page at to lending-enabled Kindle books that I own. My collection is very small right now, but I will be adding to it periodically, as I find funds. If you have a Kindle, and would like to borrow one of the books for fourteen days, please just send me an e-mail.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Reading list for June

As part of my attempt to downsize my library, and give myself greater focus, I am committing myself to returning all of my borrowed books on their first due dates. Here are the ones I have due toward the end of June:
  1. Mellor's Real Time II.
  2. Greig's The Letters of David Hume, vol. 1. [Finished]
  3. Greig's The Letters of David Hume, vol. 2. [Finished]
  4. Melnyk's A Physicalist Manifesto.
  5. Gendler and Hawthorne's Conceivability and Possibility.
  6. Kirschner and Gerhart's The Plausibility of Life.
  7. Psillos's Scientific Realism.
  8. Leplin's Scientific Realism. [Finished]
  9. Klibansky and Mossner's New Letters of David Hume. [Finished]
  10. Wegner's The Illusion of Conscious Will.
  11. Dawkins's The Extended Phenotype. [Finished]
  12. Fleishacker's A Short History of Distributive Justice. [Finished]
  13. Mackie's Problems from Locke. [Finished]
  14. Moss's A Concise Guide to Macroeconomics.
  15. Coyne and Orr's Speciation.
  16. Clack's Gaining Ground.
  17. Noth's Exodus.
  18. Cross's Canaanite Mythology and the Hebrew Epic. [Finished]
  19. Feyerabend's Problems of Empiricism.
  20. Leplin's A Novel Defense of Scientific Realism. [Finished]
The probability of my making it through this whole list, even with the head-start I have into six of them? Zero. What painful choices I have up ahead.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Real Time

I just finished D. H. Mellor's first book-length defense of the B-theory of time, Real Time. The book is surprisingly dense, even by philosophy of time standards, and left me with many more questions than answers. I am starting in on Real Time II, now, with uncertain expectations, but much hope. Best for me to reserve any commentary until I am done with the sequel, since it contains substantial corrections to the first installment.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Lonely university

The school year is over, and ASU has emptied out. The Tempe campus will fill up again when the summer semester starts, but for now, it is like a ghost town. I find that a very nice change: one can walk around and absorb the academic feel in quiet contemplation. If only Tempe were twenty or thirty degrees cooler, there would be nothing left to want.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Hitchens' voice

Yesterday I tweeted a Vanity Fair article in which Christopher Hitchens talks about the devastating effect cancer is having on his ability to speak. I will say this much: whatever happens to his vocal cords, Hitchens' voice will not fall silent until the extinction of the universe. Perhaps in a hundred years, his voice will cease to be distinguishable from that of Lucretius, Voltaire, and others, having merged into that millennium-long rolling thunder that makes the ignorant and vicious clap their hands over their ears in terror—but fade into silence? Never.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Why like this?

Some people think it is mysterious that there is something rather than nothing. I am one of them. However, I think it would be equally mysterious if there were nothing rather than something. The same goes for basic lawlikeness in the way things work, versus lack of any basic lawlikeness in the way things work: neither appears impossible, neither seems to merit default status. In each case, the reality of either alternative rather than the other, is mysterious; in each case, I would (contemplating each from the safety of my imagination) wonder, why like this?

Wednesday, May 4, 2011


I'm twittering. I insist on calling it "twittering" rather than "tweeting," because this is one of the many ways I mark myself out as a fossil, rather than one of those hip, techno-savvy kids. I'm still at least twenty years away from referring (without irony) to Skype as "the Skype" or, like that unfortunate nice gentleman on Frontline, calling earbuds "earpods" (The Persuaders Chapter 2, 6:17—to be fair, he clearly was having an "oh s**t" moment), but yes, my bones slowly are being replaced with calcite. Soon, my beautiful form shall be frozen in time for all eternity. Nevertheless, I shall continue twittering until the bitter end, or until I lose interest or can't pay the bills or something.

Update: I just heard that one of the founders of Twitter says "twittering" is technically the correct verb, though he doesn't really care. Does this mean that he's a fossil, too? Has his invention turned against him? Or am I so far out of the loop that I can't even be out of the loop properly?

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Kindle book lending

So, yes, I confess: I bought a Kindle 3 nearly two months ago, and it has proved to be as game-changing a device as the iPod. Between the two, the amount of information I can easily carry with me from place to place is staggering.

A wonderful feature that I just discovered is that some publishers enable Kindle users easily to loan their books to one another for fourteen days. This addresses one of the sore spots of ebook users, who have not liked the idea that they cannot pass around their ebooks the way people do with regular books. There is a site that facilitates lending among a very large community of users:—if you have a Kindle, check it out.

Update 23 May: The lending feature is not nearly as good as I had first thought: apparently, you get to loan the book only once, ever.