Sunday, March 30, 2008

Pessimism or Reality Check?

I figured it was time to make my prediction for the Tigers this year. I admit to being of two minds.

On the one hand, I agree with the experts at ESPN who have picked the Tigers to win the whole kit and kaboodle.

On the other hand, I can't ignore the adage that good pitching beats good hitting every time. And consideration of said adage leads me to think that the Tigers will finish in third place in the AL Central and completely miss the playoffs.

Why so pessimistic you ask? Think about all the things that need to go right with the pitching. Whom do we know besides Verlander who can pitch reliably? No one. Sure, it's possible that Rogers and Robertson could have a year like they had in 2006, Willis could turn his numbers around from his last few seasons, Bonderman could recover from whatever was wrong with him at the end of last season, Zumaya could be back on the team by the All-Star break (haven't we heard that before, though?), and Jones ekes out forty saves by getting hitters to ground- and pop-out.

But it's equally likely that Rogers is over the hill, Robertson has another ho-hum season, Willis continues his slide, Bonderman doesn't recover from what ails him, Zumaya doesn't return until mid-August, and Jones blows just as many saves as he makes good on.

My point is that that's a lot of ifs on the pitching side of things.

The worst case is that my pessimism turns out to be well-founded and that results in the removal of Leyland and Dombrowski because they did so poorly with a team that "should have won it all."

Saturday, March 29, 2008

A Book

I'm reading Aristotle East and West: Metaphysics and the Division of Christendom by David Bradshaw. I'm only a few pages in, but these sentences made me chuckle:

It is only by seeing both the eastern and western traditions as developments out of a shared heritage in classical metaphysics that they can be properly understood. Doing so also has the benefit of shifting the focus of comparison from questions of dogma and ecclesiology to questions of fundamental metaphysics. (p. xii)

I chuckled at his statement that our understanding of what divides the traditions will be benefited by a shift to "questions of fundamental metaphysics." It's not that I think what he says is false, just that I don't see how fundamental metaphysical questions are any more tractable than those of dogma and ecclesiology.

Menu: Timaeus 27a-b

For the first course:
a mix of
on the cosmos,
and everything
else, prepared
by our best

The second course
(eaten first),
is an ideal
blend of justice
and the good
on a Bed of

The third course,
which can't be
finished, makes
men of us all.

Don't forget
to say grace.

Friday, March 28, 2008

In Which on Reading a Passage from the Republic I Get Teary-eyed

The passage in question is 608d. Here is Bloom's translation:

"Haven't you perceived," I said, "that our soul is immortal and is never destroyed?"

And he looked me in the face with wonder and said, "No, by Zeus, I haven't. Can you say that?"

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Atlantis: Timaeus 20c–26e

Truth is strange, not just stranger than fiction,
But a good story is a goodly store
Of truth when heard from a friend of a friend.
A good story—beginning, middle, end—
Makes philosophers kings, but no rhetor
Here looks so good and speaks with a diction
Sufficient to get around the truth of
The matter: Only in the olden days
Were men so good with laws to make stories
Out of them. One of Numenor’s glories,
So the myth goes, taught that he who obeys
Pleases the gods and those whom the gods love.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

How Not to Start a Party: Timaeus 17a–20c

When one of us misses the feast, the others must pick up the slack in proportion and fill in what’s now left out. When one of us happens to miss, I’m sure the guest host says to himself, “Well, now, this is awkward.” And the reputable etiquette guides all counsel never to count on proportions turning out the way we know they should. But how one could know all this at the beginning, is not easy for two or three to say.

“Did you all remember your assignments?” is not what I want to hear at a party. And then, afterward, my friend asks, “What kind of party was it, anyway?” But there I was, the life of it. If I were someone else, I’d want to shoot myself for that.

When the conversation turns to politics: We all know what the etiquette guides say about that (even the disreputable ones agree): “Subtly turn the conversation to something more suitable.” Are there any good movies you’d like to see? A war movie? My, I didn’t think you were into those sorts of things.

(Take my advice: A languishing party, like a sleeping tiger at the zoo—not the sort of thing to engender much enthusiasm. Best at that point to start drinking or leave. Whatever happens next, won’t be worth remembering.)

An Occasional Series

I'm going to start an occasional series of poems inspired by Plato's Timaeus. The first entry follows. (Caveat lector: No one said it will be good poetry.)

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Jones Watch 2008

This doesn't exactly inspire confidence.

The Tigers closer pitched a perfect inning against a major league club for the first time this spring Thursday, lowering his ERA from 24.55 to 19.29.
. . . .
In his one inning against the Braves, he got two pop outs and a ground out.

Let's see: two pop outs and a ground out. That's exactly what I want in a closer. Strike outs? Overrated.

Monday, March 10, 2008


In his (in)famous article, "The Social Responsibility of Business Is to Increase Its Profits," Milton Friedman argues that businesses are not the sort of thing that can have responsibilities. Only people, says Friedman, have responsibilities.

But why not say that he's got it backwards? One should reason that since people have responsibilities and since businesses are (at least partially) composed of people that businesses have responsibilities, too.

Or at the very least, Friedman should give us an argument that the reasoning should run in the direction he says it does and not the other way around. But he doesn't.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

A Post! A Very Palpable Post!

Now that spring training is under way, there's something to live for again.

Anyway, the Tigers held a charity auction in which the winner gets to sit in the dugout with Tigers manager Jim Leyland during a spring training game and make managerial decisions. The winner, one Steve Nagengast, said he didn't think he knew enough about baseball to make it as a big-league manager. Leyland replied that Nagengast shouldn't be too hard on himself since the media think anyone can do the job. The kicker:

Leyland, a longtime smoker, then added he'd probably have Nagengast chain-smoking by the third inning. "If you want to be the real Jim Leyland," Leyland said, "you better bring a carton of Marlboros."

Cover the children's ears lest they start puffing away trying to be the real Jim Leyland! I'm sure Leyland got a call from the commissioner's office for that comment.

But we can have some fun with this formula: "If you want to be the real _________, you better bring _________."

I'll go first with an obvious one: If you want to be the real Roger Clemens, you better bring a good supply of needles.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008


Kelly tagged me.

(1) One book that changed your life. Plato's Timaeus
(2) One book that you have read more than once. Plato's Timaeus
(3) One book you would want on a desert island (besides the Bible). Plato's Timaeus
(4) Two books that made you laugh. Plato's Timaeus and Ion
(5) One book that made you cry. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
(6) One book you wish you'd written. Plato's Timaeus
(7) One book you wish had never been written. Aristotle's Physics
(8) Two books you are currently reading. Plato's Republic, Richard Swinburne's The Coherence of Theism
(9) One book you've been meaning to read. Plato's Laws

***For the 1-2-3 meme, the directions are:
(1) Pick up the nearest book (of at least 123 pages).
(2) Open the book to page 123.
(3) Find the fifth sentence.
(4) Post the next three sentences.
(5) Tag five people.

The nearest book is Wittgenstein's Philosophical Investigations. It's a bilingual edition, so I'll give you the English version of the requested sentences on page 123 (trans. G.E.M. Anscombe):
There is a related case (though perhaps it will not seem so) when, for example, we (Germans) are surprised that in French the predicative adjective agrees with the substantive in gender, and when we explain it to ourselves by saying: they mean: "the man is a good one."

I won't tag anyone, but I'll ask whether anyone sees the Timaeus joke in the rules for the 1-2-3 meme.

Marital Harmony

These tend to make me tired a couple questions in, but I haven't done one in a long time, and have been commanded to complete the task.

1) One book that changed your life.
The Philokalia, Volume II, especially the writings by Maximos the Confessor, and especially the 400 texts on Love. "Just as the thought of fire does not warm the body, so faith without love does not actualize the light of spiritual knowledge in the soul."
2) One book that you have read more than once.
The highest number of re-reads goes to Tolkien's Lord of the Rings which I've read at least a half dozen times, perhaps more.
3) One book you would want on a desert island.
They asked me this in my undergrad entrance interview, and I will use the same strategy: I will assume I will eventually get off the desert island, so what book would keep me really really interested for a really really long time that I currently want to reread? St. Augustine's City of God. After a couple years of that I will stop waiting and build a raft.
4) Two books that made you laugh.
A) Patrick O'Brien's Aubrey-Maturin series. I'm on the eleventh, and have laughed out loud at least once during every book.
B) Little Bear Goes to the Moon by Maurice Sendak.
5) One book that made you cry.
I have never cried over a book. I am a barbarian.
6) One book you wish you'd written.
My dissertation. Or I would actually exchange that labour for the rights to The Elements of Style. William Strunk Jr. and E. B. White, (which is straight poetry and wit).
7) One book you wish had never been written.
A Manual for Writers of Term Papers, Theses, and Dissertations. by Kate L. Turabian. Bureaucracy in the Academy: it strangles me.
8) Two books you are currently reading.
The Magic World. E. Nesbit (Because the World is Magic)
The Historian's Craft. Marc Bloch (Because History is writing about how Magic happened)
9) One book you've been meaning to read.
After Virtue. Alasdair MacIntyre. (Because I want to talk about virtue again).
10) The 1-2-3 meme game: 1) Pick up the nearest book (of at least 123 pages).2) Open the book to page 123.3) Find the fifth sentence.4) Post the next three sentences.
"After a few centuries of having been cobbled together with such rules, the structure of Roman law had taken on the look of a house to which every generation of occupants added rooms without ever looking at the place from the outside; hallways that didn't connect with one another, stairways going nowhere. The confusion engendreed by two emperors legislating only in the part of the empire in which they reigned simply accelerated the process. Even without an overarching dream of reunion with the west, the empire urgently needed a new code."
William Rosen. Justinian's Flea. (New York, 2003). p. 123.

Oh my. Now, I'm going to go take a stairway to nowhere, where I will deposit Mr. Rosen alongside of Ms. Turabian.