Sunday, September 13, 2009


I finished a slow reading of “A Theory of Value,” by J. David Velleman (Ethics 118, April 2008), which was very rewarding. I feel that Velleman will be a central resource for me; I look forward to reading more of his work (which I’ve had for some time; and received his new book, How We Get Along [Cambridge UP, 2009], a set of lectures, last week).

Monday, September 7, 2009

writing in good conscience

One doesn’t theorize ethical life in order to learn how to live (unless you’re Woody Allen). No, one theorizes ethical life, normally, in order to get an academic promotion (joke). Also, it’s good for orienting one’s teaching of related topics (in which your work can be part of the syllabus), good for conference attendence (which is good for your CV), and something to share with friends.

Seriously, though, one theorizes in order to contribute to advancement of some area of inquiry (or, if you’re lucky, start a new area). But the advance can be very slow in the humanities (quite contrary to the sciences). You write a paper one year (year Y), circulate it, publish it in a journal with a lead time of a year or more (Y+2), get comment some years later, and get odd emails ever after (like Y+5) from recent readers long after you’ve forgotten about it and moved on. Important articles can sit for years before getting important response. And important response to important response, another few years. The conversation, the discourse might belong to Time, more than to a given conference discussion or contiguous issues of a journal.