Hey you, the unfair tyrants...
You the lovers of the darkness...
You the enemies of life...
You've made fun of innocent people's wounds; and your palm covered with their blood
You kept walking while you were deforming the charm of existence and growing seeds of sadness in their land
Wait, don't let the spring, the clearness of the sky and the shine of the morning light fool you...
Because the darkness, the thunder rumble and the blowing of the wind are coming toward you from the horizon
Beware because there is a fire underneath the ash
Who grows thorns will reap wounds
You've taken off heads of people and the flowers of hope; and watered the cure of the sand with blood and tears until it was drunk
The blood's river will sweep you away and you will be burned by the fiery storm.
Corey Dyck makes an important point, but (as I will claim below) does not go far enough in his review of Paul Guyer (ed.), The Cambridge Companion to Kant's Critique of Pure Reason. Dyck writes, "Hogan and Winkler both succeed in illuminating the points of convergence and divergence between Kant and his predecessors, yet I find that there is something of a missed opportunity in the decision to limit the consideration of background to the old opposition between the rationalists and empiricists. There is some, but only some, justification for this since, as both Guyer in his introduction and Winkler point out, Kant himself makes use of (a version of) this distinction when he contrasts intellectual philosophers or noologists (Plato and Leibniz) with sensual philosophers (Aristotle, Epicurus, and Locke) or "empirists [Empiristen]" (A853/B881-A854/B882; cf. also AA 5:13). Yet, this rather simplistic classification hardly captures the complex rationalism of the eighteenth-century German tradition that constitutes the most proximate context for the Critique and which, especially as elaborated in the systems of Christian Wolff, J. H. Lambert, and J. N. Tetens, aimed precisely at a syncretism of key elements of Leibnizian and Lockean thought, thus anticipating Kant's own grand synthesis. Given that Eric Watkins' recent book (Kant's Critique of Pure Reason: Background Source Materials [Cambridge, 2009]) has now made central portions of these texts from this tradition readily available to students, it is to be regretted that this volume was not bolder in challenging the exhaustiveness of this rather stale historical distinction when it comes to understanding the background to Kant's text."
Why stop here? The center of philosophic thought in the period was Paris (and its representatives in the Academies of Berlin and St. Petersburg, and more indirectly, of course, in Edinburgh). Wolff and Lambert, for example, are responding to it. Yet research on Kant proceeds as if Euler, D'Alembert, Maupertuis (etc) and their complex responses to (the historical) Newton and Dutch Newtonianism barely existed. (The analogy would be to write about some early 21st political philosopher, and to never mention Rawls or Nozick.)
Here's the progam of a workshop in Leuven that the very talented philosopher of anthropology/social science, Helen de Cruz, is organizing (and I am co-sponsoring--proving that Leuven and Ghent are not only mortal rivals!).
I welcome private and public nominations for my weekly, most-underrated philosopher of the week entry! (I have received a few promising entries.) Here are the rules: 1. no dead people; 2. no people currently or about to be employed in a Leiter top 50 (or equivalent) department (even thought these are also filled with underrated folk); 3. no former dissertation advisors, or other teachers from graduate school; 4. no former students; 5. No untenured folk. 6. Excellence in more than one AOS. (That is I want to recognize *interesting* philosophers, not just hyperspecialized ones!)
Most previous winners were folk that I have had some significant intellectual connection with at one point or another. This week's winner, Lisa Gannett, who teaches at Saint Mary's University in Halifax in Canada, I know primarily through her writing. Her work is at the intersection of philosophy of biology/science, philosophy of race, science/values (no doubt, in part, informed by some healthy feminism). Her most famous (and widely cited) paper brilliantly blends philosophy of biology, history of biology, and moral philosophy. It should be an example to all philosophers of science who want to ask critical questions about where science might head (and it is a useful corrective to to those philosophers of science, who think there is a trade-off between technical and historical knowledge). Another of her papers shows that pragmatist philosophy of science is alive and kicking.
It should not go without saying that that the newly appointed Vice President of Egypt was directly involved in the United States' so-called "extraordinary rendition" program (Suleiman was head of Egyptian Intelligence during the entire time). For those who don't know, among other things the program prominently involved the United States government outsourcing much of its torture to client states.[Re: Mr. Biafra's initial comments. I should note that there are lots of great Argentenian punk rock bands today. During the height of the "dirty war" and widespread rule of School of Americas trained dictators in Latin America, almost certainly not so many though.]
In the spirit of my recent music-oriented blogging, I thought I should mention a fantastic internet radio station we've been listening to pretty much non-stop around here: Radio Paradise. It's commercial-free and listener-supported, and has an absolutely great selection of songs from different times and different places (though no so much Brazilian music, as far as I can tell). Do check it out!
Last night the Dutch Greens (GroenLinks) provided the crucial parliamentary support to the Dutch minority government in order to support a so-called civilian police-training mission in Afghanistan (proving once again that the educated, Cosmopolitan elites of Holland want nothing more than to be vassals of the United States even when it goes against any rational self-interest [disclosure: I am a dual Dutch-US citizen].)
Today members of Groen Links received a letter explaining the parliamentary faction's decision. A friend shared it with me. Two lines just defy credulity:
1. "The Netherlands must contribute to a democratic Afghanistan with a secure rule of law ." ["Nederland bij moet dragen aan een democratische, veilige rechtsstaat in Afghanistan. "] Democratic? Dutch observers noted that elections were a fraud in Aghanistan! Rule of law requires impartial judges. Without these policing really approaches activity in a Hobbesian state of nature.
2. "We can make a difference in Afghanistan." ["We kunnen het verschil maken in Afghanistan."] Ahh...yes, where several imparial powers have failed (Great Brittain, USSR, USA), the Dutch will succeed. This would be funny (in a Gulliver Travels kind of way), if it didn't make me cry...
3. Not to mention that this was a golden opportunity to humiliate a government that promotes xenophobic laws.
This review is an instance of the common bashing of what I like to call "vulgar Strausianism." But one line in the review caught my attention: "He [the author of the book under review--ES] does not mention that Jesus was crucified and rose from the dead, thereby proving himself Son of God and Christ." In context the reviewer might be interpreted as claiming that this is what Christians believe. But after repeated re-reading I am not so sure. Given that the Leitmotif of the review is Straussian myths, this may be a case of the kettle calling the pot...
UPDATE: In fact, the reviewer has some weird views: ""What should we do then? We have, it seems to me, only two serious options. Either we return to natural marriage and refuse to allow any union the name or privileges or duties of marriage that is not a natural marriage. Or we abandon natural marriage altogether and allow people to call marriage any sexual union that takes their fancy. Thus not only could members of the same sex claim to be married, but so could members of different maturity or species. There could, therefore, be pederastic marriages, I mean marriages between adults and children. And there could also be pet marriages, I mean marriages between humans and their pet dogs or cats. There could, in addition, be polygamous marriages (whether heterosexual, homosexual, pederastic, or pet marriages)."
The other day I was encouraging instituting monthly Friday late afternoon simulations of crises to help develop a new ethos among major market participants and the institutions (regulators, central banks, etc) that interact with them. Let's think of these as fire-drills. This proposal is not as outlandish at it sounds. After all the so-called 'stress-testing" of Banks could be an important first step toward such simulations.
In practice, the stress-tests were neither dynamic -- in that they involved individual banks and their regulators rather than real time interactions among them -- nor were they designed to change the status quo. They were a way to reassure nervous markets. It worked briefly. Of course, some now-bankrupt Irish banks passed the European stress test with flying colors, showing that outright deception is part of the present ethos of our bankers and regulators.
From a recent review: "So Soames suggests that we identify a proposition with the cognitive event-type corresponding to the relevant predication. Soames allows that his own suggestion does not completely square with our normal way of talking about propositions. We don't normally take propositions to be the sorts of things that occur in Australia or have very few instances or that usually take less than half an hour. Nevertheless Soames thinks we can live with these odd results and they do not fundamentally undermine his suggestion. Soames goes on to consider whether the event-types he identifies with propositions exist in possible worlds where no events of the relevant type occur. In so far as event-types are abstract entities, he is sympathetic to the idea that propositions exist in worlds where they have no instances..." (emphasis added.)
Let me grant at once that (despite my recent ridicule), propositions can play a useful role in various theories about (artificial) languages (see for good overview of various arguments). But I have never witnessed normal talk about propositions. By this I don't just mean that ordinary folk are not very reflective (in fact, in my experience non-philosophers adore reflecting on language), but rather what evidence is there that ordinary (English) talk recognizes the existence of propositions of the sort posited by Soames (and his very gushing, uncritical reviewer)?
I have never had much sympathy for the Wittgensteinians, but language does seem to have gone on a distant holiday here.
(Wow, this is my fourth blog post in two days! What on earth is happening?)
Here at New APPS we have a few weekly columns: most underrated philosophers on Mondays, philosophy of economics on Tuesdays, and soon to start an interview column on Wednesdays. Eric was asking me if I would be prepared to contribute a weekly column, but I didn't see myself being able to write on a given topic every week. But, realizing that the 'A' of APPS (Arts) has been a bit neglected as of lately, I figured it would be fun to post a weekly selection of Brazilian songs I like. Brazilian music is truly fantastic (and I'm not saying it because I'm Brazilian!), but it's so diverse and prolific that it's hard to find your way around it without some guidance. I'm no 'expert' or anything, but I guess I can at least show some good stuff to the gringos here (^_^) If all goes well, there will be a Brazilian song to enjoy every Thursday from now on.
At this blog we have been following the situation in Hungary closely (this post, this post, and this one). During the last week I have been in touch with various Hungarian philosophers, and I have compiled the following report. I welcome factual corrections and information that may provide more insightful context.
1. There is no doubt that the present Hungarian government (which has a huge parliamentary majority) has illiberal tendencies; for example, its recent media-law is a matter of great concern to its EU partners. My informants include academics that are broadly sympathetic to this new government and folk that are more skeptical about is goals. It is my sense that all have been shocked by how the pro-government side of the press has blown up a pre-existing funding issue (although some have noted that the level of rhetoric is not uncommon in Hungary). Moreover, nobody doubts that politics play some role in the recent government investigation, but all stress that the procedure are part of the normal legal process (more about this below where I comment on this).
2. There was a pre-existing issue. Let me offer a rough outline. The previous government (2002-2010) created an office for technological development. In 2004-2005 this office funded projects by academics (not only philosophers) who were broadly sympathetic to this government. At the time questions were raised about it in the mainstream press and the State Audit Office. The main concern was that the funding process was not transparent and that there may have been favoritism. More recently, the Hungarian Academy noted that there may be administrative/legal problems with one of these projects.
3. Last year the new government set up an office for investigating how public money was spent during the previous government (not uncommon in Hungary), and this office initiated a legal procedure against three of these projects; this set off the aggressive press campaign. All my informants express the hope that a normal, objective legal procedure is still possible in Hungary. Based on assessments like these [thank you Brian Leiter for the pointer], I am less sanguine about this if the public-media atmosphere remains so hot-headed and if judges come to think that certain outcomes will be viewed favorably by the government (which can dispense all kinds of rewards).
4. It also clear to me that in the context of meagre state funding for philosophy -- which (due to recent reforms initiated under the previous government) has plummeting enrollments and very low salaries for junior professors --, Hungarian philosophy is riddled with internal conflicts and lack of collegiality. (There are also generational issues and questions over what counts as an international research profile.) This has prevented a unified reponse to these developments.
UPDATE: There is a petition for the philosophers under investigation here.
UPDATE: the editors of the volume on epistemic modality I'm talking about here, Andy Egan and Brian Weatherson, both left comments below to say that they deeply regret the fact that the volume has a 100% male lineup. So do read the comments to get a better picture of the story!
As many of you already know, the Feminist Philosophers run the Gendered Conference Campaign, and among other things they 'pick on' events with a poor gender balance of (mostly keynote) speakers, especially when it's a 100% male affair. Another venue where this problem presents itself are edited volumes, where the effects of lack of visibility of the work of female philosophers is arguably even more damaging in terms of perpetuating the stereotype of philosophy being a (white) male thing. The issue of edited volumes also comes up regularly at the Feminist Philosophers.
In this spirit, today I came across a forthcoming volume on epistemic modality which looks great in all respects but one: a 100% male line-up of contributors. It is edited by Andy Egan and Brian Weatherson, which is all the more surprising to me, knowing that Brian does care about the issue of gender balance in the profession. (Incidentally, let me add that my colleague Maria Aloni has been working on epistemic modalities (more from a formal semantics point of view), and judging from the great work she's done over the years, I can only imagine that it is worth paying attention to. I'm sure one could think of other women doing relevant work in the area who might have been considered for the volume.)
I certainly do not wish to diminish the value of this (from the looks of it) excellent volume in any way, but I thought it would be useful to bring it up in order to illustrate how easy it is to fall pray to one's own implicit biases concerning men and women in philosophy. Also, it may well be that some women were invited to contribute, but that for whatever reasons it didn't work out. Still, something to keep in mind for those of you editing volumes at the moment!
Ok, this is going to be a bit of shameless self-promotion, but there is also a less self-serving purpose in announcing my travel schedule of the next months. I've been having really cool discussions with many readers here on the blog, and it would be great if some of these people happened to be in the areas I'll be visiting in the next months and showed up to say hi. So here it is:
- February 25-27: Tubingen, for the ProDi workshop. The title of my talk there is: "Every proof is a dialogue: on the dialogical foundations of logic".
- April 1-5: St. Andrews, for the Paradox and Logical Revision workshop, and then for an invited talk at Arche', with the title: "The myth of the pre-theoretical notion of logical consequence".
- May 20-27: Rio de Janeiro (yay!) and Porto Alegre, for a series of talks on medieval logic (not sure of the titles yet).
-June 7-10: Munich, to visit the brand-new Munich Center for Mathematical Philosophy. I'll be giving two talks, one based on the material of a forthcoming JPL paper on syllogistic and the squeezing argument, and one on some of the cognitive aspects involved in the application of formal methods.
So far, no concrete North America plans, but there are vague plans for Montreal at the beginning of July (for the SPP/ESPP meeting) and San Diego in October to visit Rafael Nunez's lab.
Protect the Philosophers!
We are concerned about the political and professional fate of our Hungarian colleagues. At the center of the conflict are Agnes Heller, Mihály Vajda, and Sándor Radnóti, who publicly criticized the President of Hungary, President Orbán, because of the adoption of questionable laws concerning the media. Heller and Vajda were already persecuted as dissidents during the Communist regime: They were stripped of their posts as professors in 1973 and had to emigrate in 1977. Now, under the nationalist government, which has used its two-thirds majority to erode the Hungarian constitution, they are again exposed to political persecution. The press loyal to the national government is agitating against an indeterminately wide “circle of liberal philosophers” around these persons—and in doing so uses an expression, “liberal,” which meanwhile has been given a highly negative connotation, a connotation of the unpatriotic and cosmopolitan attitude of Jewish intellectuals.
Because I was a dissatisfied economics major in college (it's a day of remniscing around this blog), I took a class with what turned out to be the world's leading Newton scholar, George Smith, who also happens to be an expert on aerodynamically induced vibration and resulting metal fatigue failures in jet engines and other turbomachinery (very complex systems; George probably dreams about the Navier-Stokes equation). George always emphasized that in science one can learn from failure (and one of his great insights is that Newton taught us how to do this in a systematic and evidentially interesting fashion). And so the title of this week's blog is a homage to George, who always encouraged my interest in the philosophy of social science. Next week I'll return to more conceptual questions at the heart of modern mathematical finance theory, but this week I'll muse a bit more on the market as a complex system.
Last week (on a tip by technology guru Michael Krigsman) I called attention to a lovely, short piece "How Complex Systems Fail" by Richard Cook, that is 18 (the Kabbalist in me rejoices!) very smart bullet points on the nature of failure of complex systems. In the discussion, Krigsman also called attention to this piece in the Financial Times, which makes same useful comparison between markets and nuclear power stations as complex systems (although its rhetoric makes it -- misleadingly -- sound as if the folk that were marketing collateralised debt obligations (CDOs) had no idea they were promoting junk for profit).
I’ve been quite busy lately with a lot of different things (including a most interesting workshop on the notion of form in 19th and 20th century logic and mathematics last week), so my blogging has not been very copious. I have, to be sure, written at least 3 or 4 blog posts in my head, but the extended mind thing is still not working as it should on the mind-world axis (^_^) (That’s a Japanese emoticon; I like them better, you don’t need to tilt your head to the side!)
Anyway, I wanted to comment on a post by Alva Noë, which Eric Schliesser brought to our attention last week. In the discussion prompted by the post, differences between analytic philosophy of language and continental philosophy of language have come up, and this is what I would like to talk about in connection with Alva’s post. He makes a good case for the claim that, when it comes to language, “it's variation all the way down, even at the level of the individual.” This is not an armchair claim, it is something established by empirical and historical studies of language (and really, that languages change all the time is something that we all ‘know’ on a phenomenological level).
I am an analytic philosopher, there’s no denying that, both with respect to methods and with respect to the literature that constitutes the background for my work. But way back, as an undergraduate, the first contact I had with philosophy of language was rather on the ‘continental’ side (as much of my undergraduate education, with its good old French, historical approach). In that context, the focus was precisely on language variation, on the perennial creative power of language to recreate and reinvent itself, while at the same time not in any way jeopardizing communication and understanding. I’m thinking specifically of Meleau-Ponty’s La Prose du Monde, but I guess similar points could be made about other authors (e.g. Heidegger).
On this site we're having a spirited discussion about the merits of harsh reviews of books by junior scholars. Several commentators have suggested that publishers are the (at least partial) proper object of criticism of published works of inferior quality. BUT WHAT ABOUT THE REFEREE(S)? These are left of the hook entirely. Yet, I have a very simple proposal (originally due to Alva Noe, I think) that should improve the referee process with little downside: accepted, refereed papers and books should be accompanied with the name of the referees and, ideally, their reports, if only, in the online edition. (Note rejections can still be done anonymously.) I have written about this before (in the context of plagiarism: http://www.newappsblog.com/2010/09/on-the-significance-of-a-recent-high-profile-case-of-plagiarism-and-what-we-can-do-about-it.html).
I hope this will have four positive consequences:
CALL FOR PAPERS: Bodies of Thought: Fleshy Subjects, Embodied Minds, & Human Natures.
9th-10th June 2011, Royal Society of Edinburgh
Confirmed Keynote Speakers:
The aim of this event is to foster a dialogue between researchers in feminist philosophy working on debates around the body, and researchers in philosophy of cognitive science with interests in embodied cognition and the extended mind. Many theorists of embodiment now think of mind and cognition as being continuous with life, in some theoretically significant way. Thus, contributions from those working in relevant areas of philosophy of biology will also form a natural part of this dialogue.
Posted by John Protevi on 25 January 2011 at 12:14 in Analytic - Continental divide (and its overcoming), Biology and the biological, CFPs, fellowships, and other professional opportunities, Cognitive Science, Critical Neuroscience, Feminism, John Protevi | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
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January 20, 2011
An Open Letter Regarding the Situation of Philosophy and Philosophers in Hungary *
By Professor Laszlo Tengelyi
University of Wuppertal
I would like to make you aware that in Hungary, very recently, a campaign has been initiated against philosophers such as Agnes Heller (Prof. em. at the New School for Social Research), Mihály Vajda, Sándor Randnóti and others.
As you probably know, the Hungarian parliament recently passed a law concerning the media, which is not compatible with European norms.This media law, however, is only the tip of the iceberg. One could cite a whole series of further measures from the last half-year, which add up to a dismantling of democratic institutions in Hungary. The Young Democrats (Fidesz), a party elected to parliament with a two-thirds majority, have already altered the constitution more than ten times. The constitutional court has been stripped of essential rights. The so-called “Budget Council”—a body which is independent of the ruling party, and which is composed of economic experts and tasked with overseeing the economic policy of the current administration—after the first critical positions it adopted, was dissolved and replaced with members of the Fidesz party. The post of the chief justice in Hungary was similarly filled by a well-known Fidesz party member.
The principle of the separation of powers in Hungary today is plainly at risk.
I am not against critical or even harsh reviews (see here, here, here, etc)...when the target is in position to take the punches (and even retaliate in kind). I have also argued that critical book reviews ought to play a more significant role in the discipline. But this review is inexcusably mean-spirited, especially because the target is clearly a junior scholar (and whose career may well be damaged by it). So, Dr. Lloyd Newton, Associate Professor, you are an ass!
The folk at NDPR goofed in their choice of reviewers (given that the reviewer so clearly states his lack of interest in the topics discussed).
UPDATE: I don't really intend to make this a weekly update. (I have plenty of enemies as is!)
UPDATE on 25 Jan: To be clear on why I call it "mean spirited." The review says NOTHING positive about the book. Moreover, the reviewer cannot bring himself to look at the merits of the project from within (in the spirit of the principle of charity).
This week's most underrated philosopher of the week has the sixth hightest cited paper in the history of Erkenntnis (ahead of famous papers by Carnap, Neurath, Kuhn, Davidson, Putnam, etc). He has a paper that is among the 30 most cited pieces to appear in Philosophy of Science (even though it appeared only in 2002). Surely, this is partly the product of the recent popularity of philosophy of biology and the significance of mechanism(s) in discussion of causation. But Stuart Glennan (who teaches at Butler University) also deserves credit for writing about mechanism when it wasn't hot yet.
But Glennan isn't just a narrow philosopher of biology. (The rules for 'most underrated' require 'ínteresting' breadth in addition to excellence.) He has also written on science and religion (not uncommon for philosophers of biology and not surprising given that he teaches in a combined philosophy and religion department). But he also publishes influentual work in philosophy of education. Citation metrics don't tell the whole story of philosophy. But sometimes they can point us to somebody who is clearly most underrated!