September 2014

  I will be teaching “Rival Defenses of American Capitalism” at Brown.   Students, if you want in or to stay in the class, you must attend the first meeting.   My review of Marco Sgarbi, The Aristotelian Tradition and the Rise of British Empiricism, will be published in HOPOS.

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Evil Deeds Can Have Good Results. It doesn’t exonerate the evil-doer. It doesn’t make the evil deed moral. But we have to accept that some people can benefit from the sins of others. The sinner can’t benefit. And victims obviously don’t. But innocent third parties can.

Stop Pirating Copyrighted Course Readings. University students, two wrongs don’t make a right, but if the university busts you for pirating music, point out the frequent piracy by your professors of copyrighted course materials.

Key to Induction: Distinguish General and Universal. To solve the problem of induction, we should distinguish general statements from universal ones and recognize the fundamental importance of the first.

Make Your World a Better Place: Ignore Climate Change. Make the most of the lowest cost, most reliable source of energy you can find. Use it to make the world as prosperous and healthy as you can for yourself and those you care about. Don’t worry if your grandchildren won’t be able to live where you live.

More . . .

Scholarship

The main theme of my research is that the philosophical problem of induction is an artifact of a bad turn taken in the early 19th century, by which induction came to be conceived as a logic of propositional inference that depends on a suppressed uniformity principle. In antiquity and from Bacon to Whewell, induction was instead conceived as a logic of classification.

Teaching

For several years at Stanford University, I taught a seminar on the history of scientific methods and a seminar on moral foundations of capitalism. In 2011, I taught a course on history of science at Stevens Institute of Technology. In fall 2012, I taught the capitalism seminar for the Political Theory Project at Brown University and then the following year a seminar on Ayn Rand.

Service

Board of Advisors, College of Arts and Letters, Stevens Institute of Technology • Occasional referee for HOPOS • Consulting, then Contributing, Editor, The Objective Standard, 2007–11 • Founder and Chairman, Anthem Foundation for Objectivist Scholarship, 2001–10 • Board Member, Ayn Rand Institute, 2004–10 • Advisor, John P. McCaskey Foundation

Students’ Comments

“A great class. One of the best I’ve ever taken and by a wide margin the most thought provoking.” • “By far the most challenging and most rewarding course I’ve taken thus far at Stanford.” • “One of the best classes I’ve taken at Brown!” • “I’ve never had as much fun doing readings, writing papers and learning as I did in these two courses.” • “I’ve always liked precision of logic but wasn’t aware how it could be applied to morality.” • “It’s one of those classes that changes the way you look at things.”

Photograph of JohnAfter spending twenty years in the computer business, I went back to school and got a PhD in history from Stanford. I mostly now research the history of philosophy of science, but I also teach some history of 20th century political philosophy.

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