Monday, April 23, 2012

Philip Pettit on Republicanism

Periodically I hear people try to explain the difference between the Republican and Democratic party in America by linking the Republican party with a tradition of republicanism that starts with the Roman Republic and goes through the founding fathers. Democrats are then linked to some dreadful rabble-rouser like Andrew Jackson. But Pettit's take on the republican tradition seems to say this this is all backwards. First of all republicanism is contrasted with classical liberalism, which the libertarian wing of the republican party claims as their ancestry. Second, Pettit's republican tradition has a strong tradition of government protection against private domination, which is really the thing that links all the elements of the current Democratic coalition together. It is the one thing that labor, women, ethnic, religious and sexual-orientation minorities all require.

In other news, if I listen to philosophy, rather than music on my run, I tend to walk more.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Pleasure and the present moment

Intense athletic training often causes the athlete to focus intensely on the present moment in a way that distorts the overall perception of time. (This is sometimes called the flow state.) Many meditation practices also get you to focus on the present moment, as does smoking dope. In cognitive science terms, you can characterize this focus as a constriction of the window of short term memory. (This at least describes the experience of smoking dope, which can create such a narrow window of short term memory that it cannot hold a longish sentence The beginning of the sentence drops out of your mind by the time you get to the end, and you forget what you are saying.)

All of these states are considered pleasant. But is it intrinsically pleasant to have your window of short term memory constricted? If there were drug that only constricted your window of short term memory, and did not have other euphoria-inducing agents, would the drug still be fun?