Wednesday, 25 February 2009


Sadly I’ve not been able to return to Michael Thompson’s book and its slot has been taken by other things that now need to be read more urgently for specific purposes. So the witty and insightful criticism I aspire to will just have to wait. (A sign of my pessimism on that score is that I’ve shipped the book back to my university office.)

Updating the last Housekeeping post, I’ve been invited to write a few things recently.

A chapter for a book to be published in French as a follow up to the Amiens conference that marked the French publication of Mind and World. (I see now that I didn’t report an interesting thing. I’d spotted that essays in McDowell’s first two collections had had one quite common change. ‘That’ had become ‘, which’ in a number of places. McDowell commented that in addition to a change of copy editor, he had only just become sensitive himself to the differences between them. Use ‘that’ to say which and ‘which’ to say that.)

A chapter on moral phenomenology, should a book be developed on the basis of the Durham conference last year.

A short chapter on philosophy of science issues raised by the WPA’s Programme for Psychiatry of the Person to be co-authored with Ken Shaffner. We’re working on what we might usefully say. In the light of my worries expressed here, I must resist repeating material on idiographic understanding which would, otherwise, have been the obvious choice.

Most recently I’ve been invited – in the most charming of emails – to contribute a paper for a special issue of the Journal of Evaluation in Clinical Practice on applied philosophy. Pitching a proposal to one of the guest editors, Michael Loughlin, based on the consequences of the Dreyfus McDowell debate for thinking of a tacit dimension as a contribution to medical knowledge rather than something merely animal, he replied: “If we can get medics and people working in public health to take an interest in philosophers such as McDowell then we'll be doing well”. But it might still work!

(I guess the point of mentioning this is just in response to the thought that I would clear the decks and write nothing that I had not already planned. The temptation is, of course, to find time when, in another life, I’d have been changing nappies and write them all. That, in truth, is what I’ve said I will do. (The cost of raising a child having been recently estimated as £170,000, Lois and I keep looking in our bank account in the hope that we will suddenly find a balance of that amount. Never there.))

But perhaps the most significant update is to my post Jack Bauer Against the Principlists. In a bar in Preston, Gloria had suggested that we take a 24 style scene to think about principlism. On last week’s gripping episode of 24, the man himself was challenged by a principlist: “But it’s the rules that make us better.” As a good particularist, Bauer had no intellectual cramp in replying: “Not today”.