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Fallacies Will Happen:

A commenter on the Lileks/Vonnegut thread writes, "Let's see. On the one hand you have Vonnegut, author of Slaughterhouse Five, Player Piano, etc. On the other hand, Lileks, author of, what, oh yeah ... cookbooks... Whose opinion should we value more Dr. Volokh?"

Uh, how about that opinion which is most persuasive? (Yes, I realize that appeals to authority are sometimes called for, for instance when one is figuring out whom to rely on for specialized factual knowledge, but this hardly applies here.)

On the other hand, if the commenter is right, then whose opinion should we value more -- an anonymous poster who doesn't even know what titles I have (not a doctorate), or the esteemed author of Lawsuit, Shmawsuit and Hum a Few Bar Exam?

anonymous coward:
Hey, you're a juris doctor, right?
11.21.2005 7:27pm
cirby (mail):
Hunter S. Thompson wrote a lot of great stuff, but I'll be damned if I'd ever have trusted his opinions on anything serious...
11.21.2005 7:39pm
sbw (mail) (www):
Let's see... Do sheer numbers drive the argument. I think not. Whose content is more worthwhile? Either way the commenter takes gas. Next!
11.21.2005 7:40pm
ras (mail):
By the commenter's own logic, Galileo was wrong, and the Earth did/does not revolve around the Sun after all; the collective credentials of the people opposing that theory were far more impressive than those of the lone man propagating it.
11.21.2005 7:46pm
Jeff H (mail):
I've a doctorate. Just not a Ph.D. or and M.D.
But I agree with a.c. that a J.D. is a doctorate.

Having said that, the guy is otherwise an idiot.
11.21.2005 7:47pm
Crank (mail) (www):
Who is read by more people daily, Lileks or Vonnegut? I'd guess Lileks, even with the popularity of Vonnegut's novels.

More than one way to measure these things.
11.21.2005 8:05pm
John Jenkins (mail):
J.D. is juris doctor ("teacher of the law") just like Ph.D. is philosophiae doctor ("teacher of philosophy"). Both are doctoral level programs, though doctor is seldom, if ever, used to refer to a J.D. (More typically he is referred to, as one client said when called, "shit, it's my lawyer.")
11.21.2005 8:27pm
Dave Hardy (mail) (www):
If we are treat this as an argument from authority, given that the question is the morality of suicide bombings, I suppose we should first compare how many times Vonnegut and Lileks have successfully committed suicide by bomb, and weigh their opinions accordingly.
11.21.2005 8:29pm
Chris Murphy (mail):
I think Vonnegut probably knows a lot more about the killing of innocents than either Prof. Volokh or Mr. Lileks. Vonnegut lived through the fire-bombing of Dresden, which provided the basis for his partially autobiographical "Slaughterhouse Five". That fire-bombing indisputably killed a very large number of innocents, many of whom were prisoners of war held by the Germans.
11.21.2005 8:36pm
Ofc. Krupke (mail) (www):
So Vonnegut has, in essence, just given a more respectful and sympathetic analysis of suicide bombers than anything he ever saw fit to grant his fellow American veterans.

Charming.
11.21.2005 8:48pm
DJB:
I think Vonnegut probably knows a lot more about the killing of innocents than either Prof. Volokh or Mr. Lileks

Which means that his praise of the joys of mass murder can't be excused by appealing to his ignorance or naiveity. He can't say "gosh, I didn't realize how bad it was to blow up innocent people". He knows; he just doesn't give a rat's ass.

Or maybe Israelis schoolkids just don't have the same humanity as adult Nazis, in Vonnegut's view.
11.21.2005 9:07pm
Bruce Wilder (www):
The trick, I think, with maintaining the right-wing "angry" man pose, is the absolute refusal to understand an opponent's point of view.

Vonnegut is willing to try to understand someone else's point of view.

Lilek is unwilling to understand Vonnegut's point of view, and is angry that Vonnegut would try to understand the point of view of an enemy. Nothing he says about Vonnegut is particularly accurate, or expresses much of anything, except unenlightened anger. Lileks does not know anything about Vonnegut's literary achievements. And, Lileks is ill-mannered.
11.21.2005 9:15pm
Jim Rhoads (mail):
BW:

What in your judgment would be a more mannerly way to criticize the ridiculous statment Vonnegut made?

There are some things that do not need understanding. Just prevention will do, thanks.

And I think my views are shared by the islamic bride and groom whose friends and families were victimized by the lunatic trio in Jordan.
11.21.2005 9:28pm
EricH (mail):
Vonnegut is willing to try to understand someone else's point of view.

But is Vonnegut trying to understand another point of view in order to better defeat them or to better enable us to change or alter that perspective and thus mitigate deaths?

Or is he simply an addled, spoiled leftist nihilist who hates his country and wills nothingness rather than nothing?
11.21.2005 9:37pm
EricH (mail):
Or is he simply an addled, spoiled leftist nihilist who hates his country and wills nothingness rather than nothing?

Let me retract that above last ugly comment. That's ad hominem and shouldn't have been written.

I hit post before I should have.
11.21.2005 9:39pm
Jack (mail) (www):
According to Miss Manners, only MDs are properly referred to using the honorific "Dr." PhDs (and, presumably JDs) use the standard "Mr./Ms." I think there may be an exception if you are actually in a class taught by someone with a non-medical doctorate, but I'm not sure about even that.

And, yes, dammit, this is an appeal to authority. Etiquette is the only subject in which appeals to reason are inappropriate.
11.21.2005 9:42pm
tdsj:
I think Ms. Manners sucks. I demand to be called "doctor" henceforth. I didn't spend three years at evil law school for nothing.
11.21.2005 9:57pm
John Jenkins (mail):
Jack, I don't know about Ms. Manners, but having spent more than my fair share of time in the academy, and perhaps more than is good for me, I can provide at least anecdotal evidence those with Ph.D. degrees are almost always referred to as "doctor" unles they indicate otherwise. I've never heard a J.D. referred to that way. (Those with a Ph.D. have a better claim on the title doctor than an M.D. or J.D. in any event, if they are instructors.)

The trick, I think, with maintaining the right-wing "angry" man pose, is the absolute refusal to understand an opponent's point of view.

Well, if that were something resembling an argument, I'd take it apart (what's the secret to left-wing angry man? See e.g. Dr. Howard Dean). Maybe some people are just pissed. But, having spent more than my fair share of time trying to understand opposing points of view, the one that continues to escape me is "kill people who disagree with me." You'll forgive me, I hope, a little anger toward those who do hold that belief since the very idea of debate and disputation is negated by those who would use force to convince others.

Vonnegut is willing to try to understand someone else's point of view.

Yes, and that's useless without the ability or willingness to evaluate it. The point of view "kill people who disagree with me," is repugnant and wrong, and in no way admirable. How's that for a value judgment?
11.21.2005 10:01pm
Eric (mail):
Miss Manners is quite unfamiliar with history, then. The Ph.D. outranks all doctorates, with the sole exception of the Th.D. The M.D. is essentially a Professional degree on the same level as an Ed.D. It is NOT a research degree.

Furtermore, "Dr." is not an "honorific"; it is a title.
11.21.2005 10:15pm
Kazinski:
I refuse to try to understand the view of someone that would blow up children. I refuse to try to understand the view of someone that would condone blowing up children. Some things are that simple.
11.21.2005 10:16pm
Anonymous coward:
By the way, Lileks may be right about Vonnegut, but he commits a cardinal sin regarding William Goldman/Rob Reiner:

<>

True fans know that this was not spoken by the Giant (played brilliantly by Andre the Giant, oleveh sholom), but rather by Inigo Montoya (played brilliantly by noted piano-man/crooner Mandy Patinkin) (and whose best line was "Hello, my name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.")
11.21.2005 10:33pm
Anonymous coward:
Sorry, this was supposed to appear between the brackets in the foregoing post:


As a wise giant said in "The Princess Bride" -- "You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means."

11.21.2005 10:35pm
Duncan Frissell (mail):
On the subject of the J.D...

Once there was the LLB. (Bachelor of Law). Law school was just a teriary level of study (like the BA/BS).

Then in a craven attempt to maximise profits, graduate law schools were born adding 3 years but no observable added benefits to the LLB.

In order to justify the added time and money, they had to change the degree name but it ain't no Doctorate.
11.21.2005 10:41pm
Dave Hardy (mail) (www):
The trick, I think, with maintaining the right-wing "angry" man pose, is the absolute refusal to understand an opponent's point of view.

On the contrary. A good understanding of the opponent's view is always useful when it comes to figuring out the best way to kill them.
11.21.2005 10:46pm
Dave Hardy (mail) (www):
I think Ms. Manners sucks. I demand to be called "doctor" henceforth. I didn't spend three years at evil law school for nothing.

Since "Esq" is the customary suffix, I think we should demand to be called "Squire." "Squire Volokh is teaching at UCLA, I understand," has a certain antique charm.
11.21.2005 10:49pm
Jack Bauer (mail):
A JD is a master's degree.
11.21.2005 10:50pm
Jack Bauer (mail):
And funnily enough, the LLM (Masters in Law) is as close to a phd as American Law gets.
11.21.2005 10:51pm
jkj (mail):
I went to UVA and we have an unofficial rule that professors are referred to as Mr./Ms. unless they hold an MD. This is supposedly because Thomas Jefferson, the founder of the University, did not hold a Ph.D, but I find that it has an appropriately humbling effect on those professors who have unusually high opinions of themselves.
As for Kurt Vonnegut, it doesn't take an understanding of the motives of suicide bombers to produce this sort of drivel. One could throw in a couple of key hippie-dippy phrases and produce the same thing without any actual knowledge of the subject. I would say that he knows his audience before I said he knew his topic. Also, Vonnegut is a novelist and as a whole that group of intellectuals isn't exactly known for their measured analysis of contemporary international relations.
11.21.2005 10:59pm
A Country Lawyer (mail):
Duncan has it almost right. The LLB used to be the basic law degree. It was was called a bachelor of law degree because it was a first degree in law. For those interested in graduate studies in law, there is a masters (LLM) and the doctor of science of jurisprudence (SJD), which is a true research degree equivalent to a PhD. Anyway, back in the 60s, I think it was, the lawyers said it wasn't fair that medical doctors got to be called doctor and all lawyers got was a crummy "Esq." so they changed the name of the degree to a "juris doctor (JD)." Same degree, just a different name. Think of it as a combination of penis-envy and marketing.
11.21.2005 11:17pm
Visitor Again:
Some lawyers and law schools wanted graduation from law school to carry more prestige than graduation from a college. Their argument was that most lawyers earned their LLB after they already had gone to college for four years and that the additional three years of law school merited a higher degree. So, beginning in the 1960s, some law schools began awarding the JD degree. The three-year course of study for law school was standard, however, long before the JD degree came into being.

The LLB (Bachelor of Laws) degree was the only one offered at Harvard Law School, and many other older law schools, until some time in the 1970s. HLS finally yielded and changed the degree to J.D. because government pay scales were higher for those holding the JD degree than for those having the bachelor of laws degree, although they represented precisely the same achievement. Tradition gave way to monetary considerations.

All we older graduates received a letter giving us the chance to convert our LLB degrees to the JD. Many of us did not bother. I thought then, and still think now, that calling it a JD degree is fraudulent foppery. And so I am still LLB, Harvard Law School, 1968. I could still get it changed, but I see no reason why I should barring the unlikely event of a switch to government employment at age 62.

Check out the asterisked footnotes at the beginning of law review articles and you will find some of the older authors still list themselves as LLBs.
11.21.2005 11:27pm
brino (mail):
Uh, how about the opinion that is based on a reading of the full text of Mr. Vonnegut's remarks, rather than a newspaper article of selective quotes (I'm assuming the article has not also been filtered through a couple blog posts)?

In this instance, the specialized factual knowledge is, uhm, the facts.
11.21.2005 11:30pm
Visitor Again:
When I said, in the message above, that the bachelor of laws degree was "the only one" offered at Harvard Law and other older law schools until the early 1970s, when the J.D. degree was adopted, I meant for the intitial three-year course of law study. These schools, of course, offered master's and "real" doctor's degrees in law long before the 1970s.
11.21.2005 11:35pm
Richard Gould-Saltman (mail):
Geez, I may have started some of this (and unknowingly heaped Volokh's silent scorn upon myself) by referring to him in posts as "Doc Volokh". I did it mostly 'cause it sounded cool. My other excuses:

(a) My father's an academic chemist, I nearly was named "Linus", after Pauling, and I got raised around a lot of academic scientists as a kid. You don't go to faculty picnics with Melvin Calvin (post-Nobel) and Henry Taube (RIP) (pre-Nobel)and expect, when you're 10, to get away with "Hey Mel!" or "Want a burger, Hank?" Ms. Manners notwithstanding, these were "Dr." PhD's, all around.
(b) As my wife points out, she, I, and Volokh all hold JD's. Per the University regents, this means we're as entitled to be called "Dr." as anyone with a PhD., or an Ed. D. She points out that since "Esquire" refers to British landed gentlemen, she, and other women lawyers hardly qualify (she's already a Fellow, though).

So, for me, it'll stay "Doc Volokh". I don't care what those other people may say about him....
11.21.2005 11:37pm
Huh:
Lucky for readers of Mr. Vonnegut, he's had more than one idea in his life, and he deserves to be evaluated in resolution quite a bit higher than than a few choice quotes can provide.

That's not to say you shouldn't voice disagreement with what he said. But I would hope the politics of outrage don't trap folks into thinking Mr. Vonnegut doesn't have anything to say worth hearing. Old men (even smart old men) say nutty things once in a while, and I can disagree with Mr. Vonnegut on this point without throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

That said, there's something in what Mr. Vonnegut said that reminds me of a perfectly valid point Bill Maher made - one that got him canned from ABC. Basically he said, and I paraphrase, that to call suicide bombers cowardly was indicative of a fundamental misunderstanding. They may be "evil," but they don't lack for bravery and they aren't irrational or insane. Theirs is a war based on principle, principles in direct opposition to our own.

Are we "morally superior"? Maybe. Probably. I think we are. But they believe they are morally superior. Just knowing we're right doesn't actually help us win. We must prove that superiority to history. I think that aim is best served by avoiding the deaths of innocents. If we kill as many as they do, it's tough to judge us by our fruits.

To me this is the problem involved when we frame our own killing of innocents as morally superior to those who intend to kill innocents. It's true, there are times when killing an innocent may be necessary for the greater good. But once this is admitted, the justification may become increasingly attenuated as the distance grows between the decision maker (i.e., the person doing the killing) and those persons bearing the risk of death. This is why the highest honor is reserved for those who sacrifice themselves.

When others decide that people must die in order to further a greater good, we who survive can safely measure the intent and moral justification. We may perceive some distance between terrorists and ourselves. But I don't think we can demand agreement from those who pay the terrible cost.
11.21.2005 11:59pm
Visitor Again:
I was born and spent my first 10 years in England and rec4eived letters addressed to "Master [My Name], Esq." That has not prevented me, however, from using "Esq." in the salutation and envelope addresses of mail to female lawyers. I read, in one of the California Bar publications back in the 1970s, when such questions were of great concern to a male-dominated Bar adjusting itself to an influx of women lawyers, that it is quite appropriate to use Esq. after their names.

As a college newspaper editor back in the 1960s, I was once threatened with a libel suit by Dr. Linus Pauling, which surely ranks up there with going to a picnic with a Nobel Prize Winner or two. Or maybe not. I considered myself a supporter of Dr. Pauling's political views but managed to offend him anyway.
11.22.2005 12:08am
James of England:
From Wikipedia. Neat. Apparently in Italy, you may address me as "Dr."

Academic doctorates and usage of "Doctor" as a title of address
Although medical doctors and some other health professionals with the above medical degrees are addressed as Doctor (e.g., "Doctor Smith" or "Dr Smith"), medical degrees are not usually doctorates, except in the USA and Canada, where they are considered first-professional (as opposed to research-oriented) doctorates.

The most advanced academic degrees in any discipline, including the medical disciplines, are referred to as "doctorates" and represent the highest earned degree in a given area of the sciences or humanities. The most common of these is the Ph.D., but there are many other research-oriented doctorates with different designations.

In much of the world, holders of doctoral degrees are generally addressed as Doctor. In the USA, however, while the Juris Doctor or J.D. is indeed a professional doctorate, by custom and legal convention lawyers do not use the title of doctor. Lawyers who hold another doctorate such as the J.S.D. (Doctor of Juristic Science), L.Sc.D. (Doctor of the Science of Law), Th.D. (Doctor of Theology), or the LL.D. (Doctor of Laws) may use the title of doctor. In an academic setting, where the educational background of the individual is of course salient, doctor is the term of address and title used by holders of a doctoral degree; however, the rank of professor often takes precedence and may be used as a title. Academics below the rank of professor who do not hold a doctoral degree are referred to as Mr, Mrs, Miss or Ms.

It is also true, however, that the usage of doctor as a title also varies by country and culture. While the title Doctor (abbreviated Dr) is used in the United States, the UK and Germany for most people holding a doctorate, in some other countries, such as France, it is generally not used except for physicians and thus has become a synonym for "physician". In certain countries, for members of certain professions, the title of doctor may be used even when the academic qualification of doctorate is not held: for instance, in Italy, for holders of a Laurea.
11.22.2005 12:16am
JB:
I agree with Huh. America isn't better than the suicide bombers because we say we are, or even because we elect our leaders. We're better than them because we're horrified at what they do, and they think it's a good idea.

The moment we use their actions to act down to their level, we lose our moral superiority and become big bullies undeserving of the benefit of the doubt.

As I said in response to the other Vonnegut post: It's not evil to blow yourself up to kill your enemies. It's evil to consider innocent civilians your enemies.

Similarly, it isn't cowardly to die for your beliefs. It's cowardly to hold extreme, vehement, and unchallenged beliefs, and to refuse to allow your beliefs to compete openly, without resorting to violence to defend them.
11.22.2005 1:06am
Sarah Brabazon-Biggar (mail):
The commenter got it wrong about Lileks; he doesn't write cookbooks. I guess the Gallery of Regrettable Food could be described as an anti-cookbook, viz. "Egads, don't cook this!"
11.22.2005 1:18am
Bruce Wilder (www):
Me: "The trick, I think, with maintaining the right-wing 'angry' man pose, is the absolute refusal to understand an opponent's point of view."

Dave Hardy: "On the contrary. A good understanding of the opponent's view is always useful when it comes to figuring out the best way to kill them."

Contrary? I don't think so. Dave, your statement is more like a corollary to mine. And, not unrelated to why Osama still walks the earth.
11.22.2005 2:45am
Zoe E Brain (mail) (www):
Vonnegut? Ezra Pound Revisited. But at least he'd been interned first.
11.22.2005 3:51am
Frank Drackmann (mail):
The Dean at my medical school was a Ph.D biochemist. It was a running joke that he was a frustrated M.D. as he really seemed to like the trappings of medicine, the white coat,stethescope etc. My favorite PhD.s were the surgical attendings who had been forced to get a PhD in order to stay in academic medicine. They always loved to talk about what bullshit their theses had been.
11.22.2005 6:49am
Willard:
Huh, I think you are wrong about calling suicide bombers "cowards". In the West, courage has always been considered to involve fighting face-to-face, man-to-man, in a "fair fight." That is why sneak attacks, and many similar tactics, admired in many cultures, are generally disfavored in western tradition. By this measure, suicide bombers, who are not engaging in a fair fight, face-to-face, are cowards.
11.22.2005 8:29am
AppSocRes (mail):
I wondered, after reading all this, whether Vonnegut's reference to Horace's "dulce et decorum est pro patria mori" might not be a subtle way of mocking everything he is saying to his interviewers and even mocking the anti-Israel and anti-American bloddthirstiness of thoise interviewers and their readers. After all, ever since its inclusion in an anti-war WW I poem, describing the results of a gas attack and ending with words something like "...that old lie/dulce et decorum est pro patria mori." pacifists have used Vonnegut's expression purely in an ironic way.
11.22.2005 8:37am
Ex parte McCardle:
As holder of both a J.D. and a Ph.D., I'd like to point out that the real meaning of Ph.D. is not "teacher of philosophy," as stated earlier, but "teacher of the love of wisdom." Is there any higher calling?
11.22.2005 8:52am
Huh:
Willard,

Well, by that measure, isn't dropping bombs from a mile in the air a bit cowardly?

I think the larger point to be made is that little is gained by name-calling. You have to win with substance. Killing as many innocent people as they kill probably obscures any moral advantage we may claim. And of course, hundreds of photographs documenting the humiliating torture of our enemies don't leave us much high ground. Even if we're right.
11.22.2005 10:27am
Cabbage:
Huh, an even larger point to be made is that little is gained by promoting the moral equivalence of suicide bombers intent on imposing a theocratic fascism and (what I hope even you would agree) the necessary American response, even if imperfectly implemented.

Can you wrap your mind around that? Can you see how pernicious it is to engage in this backbiting? It's almost as if the people on this board defending this pissant author (he wrote books! He must be worth listening to!) just can't bring themselves to just come out and say: "I hope our side wins" without adding a big "BUT we're just as bad as they are in our own way..."
11.22.2005 11:37am
MDJD2B (mail):
In the UK, surgeons and OB/GYN's are called "Mr.," while internists, pediatricians, general practitioners, and other physicians who do not get their hands dirty are called "Dr." What makes this even more bizarre is that GP's have an M.B.B.Ch degree (Bachelor of Medicine and Surgery), while to get certified in a specialty you have to pick up an M.D., which is a reseach degree over there.

The questions of what degrees are conferred, and how one addresses those who have them, is based on somehwhat arbitraty custom, with which is is pointless to argue. My high school prinicpal made daily announcements over the public address system, beginning with "Good morning, boys and girls, this is Mr. Taffel speaking." The day his Ed.D. was conferred, the said, "This is DOCTOR Taffel speaking." Strong emphasis on "DOCTOR." (Bronx HS of Science, '62)
11.22.2005 11:40am
molly:
esquire works as a designation. i like to be on notice as to whether or not the correspondence i receive is in fact from an attorney. in a practical sense...the use of "doctor" by attorneys in my area of practice could lead to confusion. my firm requires it to be used on all outgoing correspondence...though my card actually just reads "attorney".
11.22.2005 11:48am
Henry Woodbury (mail):
Accidents will happen. We only hit and run. You used to be a victim; now you're not the only one.

Should you sue as an individual or join the class action?
11.22.2005 12:01pm
max pinchick:
AppSocRes gets it right. Vonnegut was making a literary reference. He is saying that war is not fun, and implying that the suicide bombers are deluded. Lileks took it literally, and was pleased to write many angry words about it.

So, stand down, patriots, no need to issue a fatwa on this one.
11.22.2005 12:01pm
max pinchick:
Henry Woodbury: Will they be subject to punitive damages for the damage that [they] do and never know?
11.22.2005 12:03pm
Ofc. Krupke (mail) (www):
Bruce Wilder:

And, not unrelated to why Osama still walks the earth.


Are you arguing that the kind of cheap, rhetorical "understanding" Vonnegut offers is the key to getting Bin Laden? How, exactly?
11.22.2005 12:09pm
dgm (mail) (www):
i still want to know whether eugene thinks we should value the opinions of someone who authored a cookbook. (someone like, oh, his mother?) ;-)
11.22.2005 12:49pm
tefta (mail):
John Jenkins, The only faculty members on any campus I've heard of who want to be called Dr. are those in the department of teacher training who hold a Ed.D. It goes without saying that they are the butt of campus wide jokes.

I think Eugene is correct about credentials having a narrow importance that doesn't necessarily transfer to broader issues. As for selling books, I think Danielle Steele has sold several gazillion books, would that make her more of an authority on literature than James Lileks, brilliant raconteur of modern life. Here's a clue, he doesn't write book books.

Getting back to old Vonnegut. He's on a book selling tour and knows what to say to get the media interested, so they can help him drum up interest in his fifty year old oeuvre.
11.22.2005 12:55pm
Bob Bobstein (mail):
THE "SWEET AND HONORABLE" PHRASE WAS A LITERARY REFERENCE.

He was referring to a famous poem about WWI, which treated Horace's "sweet and honorable" phrase ironically. By using this phrase, he was suggesting that war is bad and that the suicide bombers are deluded. He was not trying to say outrageous things to "drum up interest in his fifty year old oeuvre." He was not engaging in moral equivalence.

The idea that we must trust Vonnegut over Lileks because Vonnegut is a famous author is of course a fallacy. On the other hand, we must seriously entertain the argument that Lileks is highly likely to (1) misunderstand something that a respected author says and (2) flip out about it.
11.22.2005 1:19pm
chris (mail):
Any Ph.D. that insists on being called Dr. is insecure. Getting a degree is only an entry into the profession. What matters is what you accomplish after that.

Nevertheless, I have to admit I like the way the Germans do it. That is, you just keep adding titles. So a professor is Herr Doctor Professor Smith (don't know about the spelling) or Mr. Doctor Professor Smith, and I think his wife is Mrs. Doctor Professor Smith. This level of formality is so over the top it's kind of cool.
11.22.2005 1:32pm
Henry Woodbury (mail):
So what's the literary allusion associated with "They are dying for their own self-respect"?

Given all the other Vonnegut quotes in the article I wonder if Vonnegut actually was using sweet and fitting ironically. Maybe he wasn't quoting Wilfred Owen. Maybe he was quoting Horace.

Or maybe the phrase "sweet and fitting" was bouncing around inside his head like one of those lottery ping pong balls and just slipped out of his mouth at random.

That certainly seems more likely to me than the idea that Vonnegut threw out the phrase "sweet and fitting" at the beginning of the interview as an ironic fallback for anything he might say afterword. If a man says, "From now on nothing I say should be taken seriously," when do you start taking him seriously?
11.22.2005 2:30pm
tefta (mail):
Wow, Bob. Where did the moral equivalency accusation come from? Are you answering an earlier comment?

And for the life of me, I can't follow your argument that while we mustn't think that Vonnegut is saying a bunch of nonsense to sell his wares, but, "… we must seriously entertain the argument that Lileks is highly likely to (1) misunderstand something that a respected author says and (2) flip out about it."

What evidence is there that Lileks is likely to misunderstand a respected author or flip out about it? He's one of the sharpest observers on the scene today and you must be new to The Screed because as they go, this one's very mild.

It's more in sadness for old unfanged lion still out there pretending to be meaningful. In this we disagree. Lileks thinks he's senile, I think he's cynical. Great minds don't always agree.
11.22.2005 2:32pm
Tim Hamilton (mail) (www):
As a Ph.D. astrophysicist, and both an active researcher and a professor, I'll explain the practice in our field. Among physicists in the US, we use Dr. as the title when addressing somebody with a Ph.D. A college professor with a Ph.D. may be addressed as either Dr. or Professor, but a professor without the Ph.D. is addressed as Professor. A teacher at a rank below professor (Instructor, for example) would be addressed as Mr., Mrs., or Miss.

When you've got a physicist who is not a professor, then we use Dr. for anyone with a Ph.D., and Mr./Mrs./Miss for anyone without it. In my years in academia and research institutions, I have never heard anyone (except maybe a freshman student who was unsure of a professor's title) call a Ph.D. by "Mr." And among scientists at research institutions, such a mistake I've never heard at all. It would sound so out of place that the error would stand out and be corrected by somebody else. Of course, once we get to know each other in this field, we address our fellow physicists familiarly, without titles.

In "private life," amongst neighbors and friends and such (that is, outside of professional life), this is usually not insisted on, although it's nice to use it even then.

It's not "insecure" simply to use the title of Dr., when you have a doctorate--not sure how strongly "insist" is meant, above. Now, if you become a jerk about it and lord it over people, that's a different matter, and it would show arrogance. But you've earned the degree and have the right to be addressed properly. And I would make sure that my students use one of the correct titles, since they should be addressing all of their professors respectfully.

I'll leave it to you lawyers to decide how y'all are to be addressed. I have a skepticism of the Ed.D. degree, but that's more an issue of the concept of education degrees in general.
11.22.2005 2:38pm
Ex parte McCardle:
In my graduate-school days at the Univ. of Chicago, I don't think I ever heard a faculty member referred to as "Doctor," and "Professor" wasn't that common either, at least in my division (Humanities). It was always "Mr." or "Ms."

I think it's more a matter of local custom than a real rule of etiquette.
11.22.2005 2:49pm
Houston Lawyer:
My friend from Austria, with both a JD and a Ph.D says that back in Austria, in a waiting room, they won't even call his name, just call "Herr Doktor". I feel that Esq. works quite well for attorneys here.

At the Doctor's Club here in Houston, which I attended as a guest, they admit dentists and other doctor types. To avoid confusion, a member asked whether I was a physician. Admitting your are an attorney in a room full of physicians is seldom very pleasant.

Many great artists, including novelists, painters and various performers, are self-absorbed fools; genius and insanity being closely related. I usually try to enjoy their work notwithstanding their offstage buffoonery.
11.22.2005 3:26pm
Dr. Weevil (mail) (www):
Ex parte McCardle:

U. Chicago is unusual but not quite unique in this respect. By an odd coincidence, I got all three of my degrees at schools that make a point of calling everyone Mr. or Miss/Ms./Mrs.: St. John's College (BA), U. Chicago (MA), and U. Virginia (PhD). Off hand I can't think of another.

Even some high schools use 'doctor' for PhDs. I teach at a tiny 'classical Christian' high school in the south -- more classical than Christian, it even offers four years of ancient Greek -- and the teachers with doctorates (about half of us) are always called 'doctor'. That was the headmaster's idea, though he's a 'mister' himself. I think it's partly to let the students and parents know that we know what we're talking about, and to help attract more students.
11.22.2005 3:29pm
Mad Anthony (mail) (www):
I'm surprised nobody has pointed out that Lilek's books are not actually cookbooks. The Gallery of Regretable Food is a humor book that makes fun of old cookbooks. He's written two similar books making fun of old interior decorator mags and parenting books, as well as two novels and two collections of columns.
11.22.2005 3:54pm
Rod (mail):
My what a tangled thread we weave when first we practice to discuss Vonnegut and Lileks. I've read them both since college (Lileks was a couple years ahead of me at the U of MN) and frankly both their opinions are worth exactly the same thing to a third party. Nothing at all. These are opinions, not court decisions, lighten up. I suspect that they'd both agree with me, but that's just my opinion.

On the subject of being addressed as Doctor, both of my in-laws who taught at Northwestern University and Northeastern Illinois, insisted on the honorific, despite not being M.D.s
11.22.2005 4:13pm
Frank Drackmann (mail):
In freshman gross anatomy all of the cadavers were given nicknames,usually based on their appearance. It simplified things while studying, as you might hear that "General Burkhalter" had a single coronary artery(probably the cause of his cadaver status) while "Vito" had an extra nipple. My cadaver was christened "Dr.Funk" based on the poor embalming job he had recieved. Not sure if he was a Ph.d or M.D.
11.22.2005 10:57pm
Cutler (mail) (www):
"I agree with Huh. America isn't better than the suicide bombers because we say we are, or even because we elect our leaders. We're better than them because we're horrified at what they do, and they think it's a good idea.

The moment we use their actions to act down to their level, we lose our moral superiority and become big bullies undeserving of the benefit of the doubt."


No, we're better than them because after the war is over and we've won, we'll be living in the wealthiest and most technologically advanced civilization the world has ever known, celebrating religious tolerance, individualism, reason, and political equality. While if the war is over and they've win, we'll be living in huts, stoning gays, and committing honor killings.
11.23.2005 1:03am
tefta (mail):
We've gotten away from the topic which is: Do impressive credentials in one area of expertise, like for instances constitutional law, give more weight to opinions on matters outside that area of expertise, like whether Lileks is sufficiently well read to comment on Vonnegut. Logic would say no, but I fear most people would assign more gravitas to the learned person than, for instance, an anonymous blogger.

If Tevye is to believed, rich men are also believed to have superior knowledge of the world.

BTW - To the physicist above who addresses all his fellows with Ph.D.'s as doctor, this quite the opposite of my experience with a son who is a theoretical physicist and who has never to my knowledge been referred to or referred to himself or his colleagues as Dr. unless in jest when ragging on each other as the, "learned doctor."
11.23.2005 1:29pm