Open Letter to President Trump

Stop pussyfooting around and release your tax returns already.

Image Credit: N.Y. Times

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Visualizing the syllabus

Why are most college syllabi such drab and dreary affairs? By contrast, Chia-Hua Lin, a PhD student in philosophy at the University of South Carolina, has created a beautiful visual syllabus (see below) for her applied ethics course on “Genetic Engineering and Future Society.” Hat tip: Justin Weinberg, via dailynous.com.

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Class No. 2 (Sources of Law)

In our first business law class this semester (BUL3130), we introduced our students to the movie “The Social Network” (see preview below) and to the real-life protoganists in our semester-long case study on the origins and growth of Facebook: hacker Mark Zuckerberg and his best friend Eduardo Saverin, their business and social rivals the Winklevoss twins, entrepreneur Sean Parker, and angel investor Peter Thiel. In class #2, we will examine whether Zuckerberg broke any laws or breached any legal duties when he built a website known as Facemash.

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Featured Syllabus: Calling Bullshit in the Age of Big Data

This course is being taught by professors Carl T. Bergstrom and Jevin West. Here is a link to their syllabus, which itself has links to all the assigned readings. (Props to Jason Kottke for the pointer.)

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What are the most important unsolved problems in law?

Hola! This intriguing post by our blogging colleague and philosophical friend Tyler Cowen (asking about unsolved problems in economics) got us thinking about unsolved problems in the domain of law. But does it make any sense to talk about soluble problems in law, or are disputes about legal norms ultimately normative and thus intractable, like the perennial questions in political philosophy or in aesthetics?

Update (1/18): Economist Arnold King responds to Prof Cowen’s query–and indirectly to our question above as well–this way (emphasis added): “I do not think that problems get ‘solved’ in economics the way that they do in physics. We come up with interpretive frameworks, the way that historians do. Some of our frameworks, like supply and demand in microeconomics, seem pretty robust. Others are flimsier and faddish.”

!Feliz cumpleaños, mama’!

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Zuckerberg for President?

Happy MLK Day! Check out this well-reasoned conjecture by Nick Bilton explaining the origins and logic of Facebook inventor and CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s worldly ambitions. Here is just one excerpt from Mr Bilton’s intriguing essay: “Facebook would not be Zuckerberg’s only contribution to society. ‘He has much bigger plans’ ….”

Update (1/21): Further evidence that Zuckerberg intends to run for higher office can be found in this fascinating report by Sarah Frier: “… it’s fair to wonder whether Zuckerberg wants to run for public office. He isn’t saying, but his online mix of serious business and dad jokes can’t help but feel a little political. For a point of comparison, check out Barack Obama’s social media accounts sometime.”

Photo credit: Jeff Chiu, Associated Press

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Christmas break reading

This is what we were reading over the holidays:

1. Ernest Hemingway, A moveable feast.

We returned to Hemingway’s Paris memoir. (Overall, this was our third reading of Hemingway’s vignettes of his early years in Paris.) Two details struck us this time around: Hemingway’s risky decision to stop working as a journalist in order to devote himself to his real work, and how little writing he actually did in Paris, for he wrote and rewrote most of his first novel in Austria.

2. Roy Sorenson, Thought experiments.

A book-length response to Thomas Kuhn’s essay “A function for thought experiments.”

3. Daniel & Richard Susskind, Transforming the professions.

This father and son team explain how advanced machines like IBM Watson will soon eliminate lawyers, doctors, and accountants (and other professions too), and why this is a good thing!

4. William Pounstone, Labyrinths of reason.

We stumbled upon a copy of this book at a used bookstore in the Mission District in San Francisco (Poundstone is one of our favorite writers), and this particular book of his could be read together with Sorenson’s, as it covers many of the same thought experiments. (It turns out that many thought experiments are about paradoxes.)

5. James A. Harris, Hume: an intellectual autobiography.

We have been wanting to read this tome since Tyler Cowen recommended it to us last year, but we waited in vain for the paperback edition to be released. We just ordered a used edition and started reading it, so we will provide regular updates in future posts.

Cat not included.

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