Hope, Lies and Making Change

I was up early as usual yesterday morning to sneak in a little quiet reading time before heading off to set up for our local monthly recycling drive we’ve been operating for 28 years. It was chilly (14 degrees) and dark when I loaded up our 1999 Ford Ranger, 4-cylinder truck with our material before …

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Time to Break Silence

  Well I haven’t exactly been silent in recent years, but I think the circumstances we are in call for being unafraid to stand up to forces that are dragging us toward our collective demise, but also to offer alternatives that redirect us towards a more just and peaceful future. It will be 50 years …

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Reading is Democracy

I was reading from the pile of books stacked nearby earlier this morning, John Harris’ How to Be Good: The Possibility of Moral Enhancement (Oxford University Press, 2016) It’s a philosophical treatise that I bumped into on the new book shelf a few weeks back. As I was reading it, I kept reflecting on, “why am …

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What is a hero?

Does the hero die a hero, or does she survive?In our worship of the mortal champion for good, is it imperative that the hero dies in the at, or do we need her to live?What is this uniquely human construct of the hero? Why is it important for us to imagine the hero? Is the …

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Oedipus the Scientist

We’ve been doing “ways of knowing” in my class at Michigan State, and I’ve been resisting the temptation to drag my undergraduates through a tangent on Sophocles. Blog readers are not so lucky. You’ll recall Sophocles’ play about King Oedipus from your freshman class on world literature. The plot gets rolling because Creon, his brother-in-law and …

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Peter Singer

We’ve arrived at the fifth Sunday in January. Both of my regular readers know that I am now contractually obligated to come up with one more “food ethics icon,” and that given the parameters laid out on January 3, it has to be a full-bore, no-questions-asked philosopher. (For stray web browsers who just happened to …

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Aristotle

A couple of weeks back when I decided to dedicate this year’s series of blogs on “food ethics icons” to full-bore, no-one-would-raise-an-eyebrow-about-me-calling-them-philosophers philosophers, Aristotle was one of the guys I had in mind. He certainly meets the no-eyebrows-raised criterion. I think it was Alfred North Whitehead who said that all philosophy is a footnote to …

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John Stuart Mill

My second “food ethics icon” for 2016 is John Stuart Mill. Mill is a pretty interesting figure in his own right and certainly one of the most important individuals of the 19th century. Mill inhabited a rarified intellectual and political environment from his London birth in 1806 to his death from a severe skin infection …

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John Locke

Newcomers to the Thornapple Blog may not know that January has been “food ethics icons month” ever since 2011. We started out with some very well-known names and by 2013 we were doing rock-star farmers. Last year the theme was population growth. This year I’ve decided to focus on some bona fide philosopher types, people …

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Beyond Individualism

Two books completed recently share some common ground although using different lenses to see it. George Rupp, former Harvard Divinity School dean, President of both Rice and Columbia University and most recently president of the International Rescue Committee, has penned Beyond Individualism: The Challenge of Inclusive Communities (Columbia University Press, 2015). The chapters are largely …

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Is Reading Writing?

This is story of an un-keynote that began in discussion with @BillHD. The conceit was this: Could we create an un-keynote experience in which members of the community would be encouraged to explore the question: Is Reading Writing? This was the design: Tweets were pre-written with images of slides that presented content about my enhanced …

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A Living Place of Education

Tree in the Botanical Gardens at Michigan State University   The places we inhabit habituate us. The virtues they cultivate are grounded in the values they embody. In 1855, a natural opening in the oak forest of the Burr farm was selected as a fitting site for the creation of the Michigan Agricultural College (M.A.C.) …

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Optimization Pro and Con

A tweet by Nate Brixius (@natebrix) led me to read the article “The Natural Order and Divine Order of Optimization” published by the Wisconsin Institute for Discovery, a rebuttal/counterpoint to a New York Times Magazine article titled “A Sucker is Optimized Every Minute“. The former sings the praises of optimization (somewhat) and the latter vilifies …

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Incontinence

Well, I spent a few hours reading Aristotle this week, and you know that spells trouble for both readers of the Thornapple blog. I just couldn’t resist Googling ‘incontinence’. It turns out that Wikipedia has a disambiguation page for ‘incontinence’. Who knew? One link refers to a 1981 album by Fad Gadget. I’m sorry, but …

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Dark Roll

Here I am blogging from the KLM Crown lounge at Schiphol again. The robots in Cupertino think it’s still Saturday night, but here in Holland we are well on our way to Sunday morning. So it’s time to think about the Thornapple blog. The night before last I checked in at Chino Latino in Nottingham …

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Not So Sure

When I was a sophomore in college there was a good-looking fellow among my circle of friends who must have had some deep insecurity buried in his persona. He was constantly embellishing accounts of his various comings and goings with feats of amazing ability and encounters with celebrities that we all knew were very unlikely …

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Thomas Malthus

If Amartya Sen deserves to be called a food ethics icon for dismantling the idea that the total amount of food produced provides a good index for understanding the ethics of hunger, we should probably look the source of that idea for our next entry for “food ethics icons month”. Is there anyone out there …

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Fun Size Redux

Nov. 2, 2014 So here it is just two days after Halloween night, and I’m thinking that both readers of the blog are probably sitting there munching on little tiny candy bars as they peruse the blog this Sunday. Of course there’s the chance that you aren’t reading the blog on it’s posting date, but …

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Reductionism

One of the things that I had to learn in order to become a certified Doctor of Philosophy in the discipline of epismetology was how to use the word “reductionism” in utterly confounding and totally obscure ways. Like, “Reductionism is a program of research dating back to the 17th century where the goal was to …

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Connectedness

I met Gyorgy Scrinis in Melbourne a couple of years ago. He was complaining more than a little bit about Michael Pollan’s appropriation of the word “nutritionism” and with it some of Scrinis’s key ideas in Pollan’s book In Defense of Food. At the time I met him, all I knew of Scrinis’s work was …

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JFK Against Ideology

I just came across what has become one of my favorite “JFK” quotes, a paragraph likely written by Ten Sorenson, Kennedy’s chief speech writer. The greatest enemy of truth is very often not the lie, deliberate, contrived and dishonest, but the myth — persistent, pervasive and unrealistic. Too often we hold fast to the cliches …

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Food Enmity

As threatened a few weeks back I’m on a jag about food sovereignty. I decided that the best way to approach this topic would be to read up on the way that food showed up in the lives of history’s great sovereigns. I pulled my copy of Selected Lives by Plutarch down from the shelf …

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A Documentary on Michel Foucault

Open Culture recently dug up a 1993 documentary on Foucault, titled Michel Foucault: Beyond Good and Evil. As described by Josh Jones, the documentary “explores the philosopher and his complex and controversial life through interviews with colleagues and biographers and re-enactments of Foucault’s storied exploits in the American counterculture.” Given how often Foucault appears on syllabi in …

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Why Philosophy Matters

There is a lot of debate these days about the value of the Philosophy. Many people doubt it is relevant. A few years ago Stephen Hawking made headlines by telling the audience at a Google conference that Philosophy is dead.Most of us don’t worry about these questions most of the time. But almost all of us must …

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Anagnorisis

I have a robot on my phone that buzzes me once a day to deliver a word. I don’t mean that the robot offers an update on happenings around or some message of prospects & aspirations such as one might get from a human being in response to the question “What’s the word?” I do …

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Something Happening Here

So goes the start of a well known Buffalo Springfield song at the height of the Vietnam War. I had started another blog earlier today and let it settle before going back to edit. Looks like it will have to set a little longer as I read or viewed several powerful presentations today that I …

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What Can We Afford?

We stand at a critical moment in Earth’s history, a time when humanity must choose its future. As the world becomes increasingly interdependent and fragile, the future at once holds great peril and great promise. To move forward we must recognize that in the midst of a magnificent diversity of cultures and life forms we …

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