Archive | November 9, 2008

The Face on the Barsoom Floor

Under Too Many Moons of Mars Check out the latest update on the upcoming John Carter of Mars movie.

Man, I’d really like to see them do this right; but I’m a bit worried that the guy who’s going to write and direct it has so far been involved only with animated films (albeit really good ones) aimed primarily (though of course not solely) at fairly young audiences. Still, he seems to be saying the right things. Keeping my fingers crossed – all twenty of them ….


Okay, I just read this related story and now I’m more worried. The Frazetta approach is “stale”? Grrr ….

A Heap of Slavery

Nozick’s Tale of the Slave is online. You should go read it (it’s short) before continuing this post.



heap of slaves Okay, welcome back. Although the story ends with a question I think it’s clear that the intended answer is “none of them,” and that the sequence of cases is meant to be a kind of argument for that conclusion.

It’s important to see, then, that Nozick’s argument is not merely a Sorites argument.

A Sorites argument has the structure “A isn’t different enough from B to belong to a different category; B isn’t different enough from C to belong to a different category … and so on … so all the instances A through Z must belong to the same category.” Thus a pile of three pebbles isn’t a heap; a pile of four pebbles isn’t different enough from a pile of three pebbles to be categorised differently – so no number of pebbles can ever be large enough to count as a heap.

Although there’s philosophical disagreement as to how to describe exactly what’s gone wrong, that kind of argument is clearly fallacious; so if that’s all that Nozick’s argument were doing it wouldn’t be very impressive. But I think there’s a more charitable way of understanding the argument – namely that in each transition from one case to the next we are meant to recognise that the essence of slavery has not been affected – that slavery isn’t at all about how kindly or cruelly one is treated, for example. In a Sorites, each stage is a bit more heaplike than the next, whether it gets all the way to heaphood or not; but – Nozick wants us to see – each stage of his story is not any more freedomlike.

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