My paid work at BU involves supporting many educational technologies, but especially ePortfolios: websites that showcase personal learning and make it visible. As a demonstration for others to see, I’ve created an extensive portfolio about myself, displaying my scholarly and professional history. If you’re interested in my background, feel free to have a look. You’ll probably be able to learn more about me than you ever wanted to know.
The term digital humanities has quickly become trendy over the past couple years. The term has often excited me, since digital technology in the humanities is both a part of what I do for a living, and what makes my humanistic scholarship on this blog possible. So I’ve followed discussions of digital humanities, such as the HUMANIST mailing list, with interest.
I remain deeply interested in the field, but I’ve also begun to acquire some skepticism toward it. Continue reading
I’d been doing a bit of tinkering with Love of All Wisdom on the back end, which made the blog tags and categories stop working for about a week. (The tags and categories are the way the blog is organized – labels like “Xunzi” and “Jainism” that attach to every post that addresses a given topic, listed down in the right sidebar. I’ve written in greater detail about that organization before.) I think the problem is fixed and you should be able to find posts by tag and category again. I encourage you to give it a try as a way of exploring the site. If you find anything that doesn’t work, please let me know.
It was about five and a half years ago now that my dissertation on Śāntideva was approved and I could receive my PhD. Most doctoral graduates try very hard to turn their dissertations into a published or at least publishable book. I can say with some confidence that that will not happen.
There are two key reasons for this, and I’ll address the second next week. The first, which I will discuss here, is practical and political. I have removed myself from the meatgrinder that is the faculty job market, and that fact creates new possibilities for me. My dissertation has been available free online here to you the readers ever since Love of All Wisdom began. I sent a link to the blog to a friend and colleague of mine; as soon as he received it, he sent me a Google instant message full of shock: “You posted your entire dissertation! Aren’t you interested in publishing it as a book?” His surprise was understandable. What publisher would want to sell a book whose contents are available for free? By making my diss free and easily available, it would seem, I had just made it that much harder to get on the traditional path: get your diss published, get tenure. Continue reading
Last week the Economist ran a cover story on a philosophical topic: the ethics of robots. Not just the usual ethical question one might ask about the ethics of developing robots in given situation, but the ethics of the robots themselves. The Economist is nothing if not pragmatic, and would not ask such a question if it weren’t one of immediate importance. As it turns out, we are increasingly programming machines to make decisions for us, such as military robots and Google’s driverless cars. And those will need to make decisions of the sort we have usually viewed as moral or ethical:
Should a drone fire on a house where a target is known to be hiding, which may also be sheltering civilians? Should a driverless car swerve to avoid pedestrians if that means hitting other vehicles or endangering its occupants? Should a robot involved in disaster recovery tell people the truth about what is happening if that risks causing a panic? (Economist, 2 June 2012)
As part of my job I’ve been learning to use MediaKron, an interesting tool developed by Boston College (not the same as Boston University, where I work) which creates maps and timelines for educational use. I’ll be helping a pilot group of Boston University faculty use MediaKron; to help myself learn it, I designed a website mapping out different major philosophers in time and space, including most of the thinkers I post about most often here. I’m hoping the site is helpful to visualize some of the long and complex history of philosophy – feel free to use it yourself or even show it to your students.
(Feel free to editorialize about how you can’t believe philosopher X was not included, if you like. I think I covered the very biggest figures, and I included the ones I write about most, but I know there are plenty of major ones who aren’t on there.)
[EDIT 8 Aug 2017: My site has moved to a new URL. I’ve changed the text above to reflect that.]
As of this Thursday, Love of All Wisdom will be three years old. I’m happy with the way the blog has been working out – the ideas I’ve been able to get out to the world, and the discussion they’ve provoked both in the comment forums here and in other places (in person, on social networking sites, and even earning me an invitation to publish in a journal). I thought this would be a good occasion to do something I’ve been meaning to do for a while: explain the scheme of tags and categories I use to classify blog posts. There’s so much written here now that I doubt many people are going to read it all; I only intend it to expand in the future. And the tags and categories – listed to the right of this post in the pages’s sidebar – are a good way to explore the topics that are of most interest to you. Continue reading
I’m really enjoying my new job at the intersection of academia and technology, and it’s made me want to improve my technology skills. So I’m now preparing for a Master’s degree in computer science, learning to program in modern computer languages. I’ve been trying to think about how to be a good programmer, and looking up some advice on the web. Of course people’s assessments of good programmers are widely different, but there’s one surprising claim that comes up quite a lot: a good programmer is a lazy programmer.
This is the point where programming becomes philosophically interesting. Continue reading
A decade or so ago, in David Hall‘s graduate class on method and theory in the study of religion, Hall asked the class why the study of religion in recent years had focused so much on particular historical details in individual places rather than larger issues that characterized or crossed traditions. I responded that the competitive job market and publish-or-perish tenure system require that people take an ever narrower focus, in order to carve out a niche for themselves. Hall replied, “Er, well, yes, that’s the cynical explanation.”
And I thought: cynical? Hall made his name studying the material conditions that gave rise to American “religion,” the economics of printing and text production. Much of his career was about the (often wise) materialist advice to explain the popularity of certain ideas by following the money. And yet suddenly, when that same mirror was turned on his own intellectual environment, of the 21st-century North American university – somehow it became “cynical”? Somehow, unlike all those thinkers we study, we have magically managed to escape the pressures of money-making and live in a world of pure ideas? Continue reading
Quick administrative point: I finally got around to fixing the annoying question marks that had replaced diacritical marks in the blog’s older posts (where “Śāntideva” became “??ntideva” and so on). It should all work properly now, but it’s possible that I missed a couple. If you are ever looking back at an old blog post and you find a reference to “vipassan?” or “?a?kara” or the like, could you please drop me a comment or an email and let me know?