When Deepika first kissed Saif, he trembled with excitement and his face turned away slightly. But Deepika was quick and adjusted her swoop: her lips softly met his square and centre.
A collar-ripper, and no doubt you want to know what happened next. But no, dear reader: this is New APPS, and I am afraid the ‘S’ stands for Science. My interest is in something no less interesting but (sadly) much less heart-racing. Visually guided movement. For had Deepika (like Saif) ecstatically shut her eyes while closing in for the smooch (instead of peeking, as you can clearly see), she would have managed only a sisterly kiss on Saif’s cheek.
(Warning: [very] slightly salacious material below the fold.)
At a few occasions here at New APPS, Jon Cogburn and I have respectfully disagreed on the usefulness of literature for becoming a better philosopher, and in fact a better person more generally. He views literature as contributing significantly towards one’s philosophical development, while I have my doubts (to put it mildly). More generally, I believe that even great literature can have a rather negative effect on one’s personal development, in particular with respect to emotions and love, for many of the reasons discussed by Alain de Botton in this surprisingly good essay. According to de Botton, the wide majority of books on the topic focus on unrequited love, thus not preparing readers for what to do when you happen to hit upon a real-life relationship.
Suddenly, literature ceased to be any useful guide to what to expect. All that my books had prepared me for was an image of continuous perfection, a "happy love" that was essentially without any movement or action.
But from time to time, I come across a novel which truly reveals something about real-life experiences, and as it turns out this often happens when I read Philip Roth’s books. Rather than starting with a story and then filling it in with bits and pieces of reality, my impression when reading his books is that he actually starts with reality and then finds a story to go with it. As is well known, Roth relies extensively in his own life experiences, in such a way that many of his books are seen as essentially semi-autobiographical. Now, while on holiday a few weeks ago I read his latest novel, Nemesis, which is in the fourth and last installment in a series of short novels, known as Nemeses.
Commenting on Jeff's post from Saturday, I mentioned Deleuze's characterization of Bjorn Borg's tennis style as "proletarian," and John McEnroe's as involving "Egyptian postures." Here are some images below the fold. But above it, this one for fans of early 80s athletic hair.
It's been dumping snow here in NYC all day, high winds and 3 inches of slush on the ground. With the NYPD and FDNY confiscating six generators on Friday and this unprecedented October snow, those occupying Liberty Plaza in downtown NYC are in need of emergency supplies crucial for cold weather survival (and occupation).
We've made a lot of headway on getting winter gear here in the last 48 hrs but definitely need more. Please help by purchasing or donating supplies directly. Winter gear and other necessities can be dropped off in person, delivered, or shipped.
In 1926 Otto Neurath, writing of the Bauhaus movement and its aspiration to transform social and individual life, argues that the key to the success of the Bauhaus movement, the promise it holds out of entering “the promised land,” will be assured if only we “will seize upon the formation of the new form of life as a technical achievement.” (cited in Origins of Logical Empiricism, p. 33). A promising future, therefore, is to be ushered in by way of technological advancements and improvements, much as Dick Fosbury, for example, gave to high jumpers a more promising future as a consequence of the technological improvement he made with respect to the belly roll. The Fosbury flop was a technological improvement of such a magnitude that it wasn’t long after he debuted his new style at the 1968 Mexico City Olympics that it was adopted by all other high jumpers (and is still the dominant style today, despite some minor technical improvements in the syntax of the Fosbury style [more on this below]).
This story is incomplete, however, for it fails to address the equally important role played by qualitative transformations, a point stressed both by Moritz Schlick and Gilles Deleuze.
---- What is the relationship between life and thought? Are all living organisms capable of thinking? Or is thought restricted to animals with nervous systems and brains? Or is it restricted only to human beings, or to us and a few of the other ‘higher’ animals? In any case, what is the relation between thought (which takes place, we like to say, in the mind) and the actual physical processes that take place in the brains of animals and human beings when they are thinking? For that matter, what does it mean to say that thinking, like other forms of organic activity, is subject to, and determined by, physical laws? Is it meaningful to ascribe ‘free will’ to human beings and other organisms? Or are thought processes strictly deterministic, so that ‘free will’ is just an illusion?
These are all speculative, metaphysical questions, which philosophers have been actively discussing for at least several thousand years. They cannot be answered by science alone. But at the very least, biological research of the past several decades has given us vastly more information about cognition and thought, in human beings and in other organisms, than we ever possessed before. In what follows, I would like to look briefly at some of this research, and ponder its implications.
Eric Schliesser has recently mentioned a conference on self-plagiarism, inspired, apparently, by Bruno Frey’s republication of the same article in more than one venue. That act of self-plagiarism reminded me of the notion of “plagiat par anticipation”, which in its simplest form is the act of appropriating, without acknowledgment, the work of one’s successors. The notion was introduced by Francois Le Lionnais, one of the founders of Oulipo, in a flagrant plagiat par anticipation of Pierre Bayard’s book on the subject forty years later.
Gérard Genette somewhere (in Palimpsestes?) introduces the more elaborate notion of “auto-plagiat par anticipation”, which is to say the act of anticipating or drawing upon one’s own future works. So perhaps Bruno Frey was just making good his earlier acts of self-appropriation.
In a passage that I think Eric will appreciate, Aurélien Rouquet [pdf], who unfortunately has not managed a plagiat par anticipation of Bayard, and is therefore forced servilely to write about him, says:
La première thèse est celle d’une « histoire littéraire autonome ». Précisément, Bayard appelle « à séparer une fois pour toute l’histoire événementielle et l’histoire littéraire, et à admettre que les écrivains et les artistes relèvent en réalité d’une double chronologie » (p108). Prenant acte des similitudes que l’on ne manquera jamais de trouver entre écrivains éloignés dans le temps (du fait de l’existence du plagiat par anticipation), Bayard propose ainsi de narrer l’histoire littéraire sur la base de ces similitudes, plutôt que sur le fait que certains écrivains ont pu vivre à une même époque. Selon lui, il n’y aurait pas scandale à présenter Sophocle, qui a narré le mythe d’Œdipe en utilisant une technique tardivement utilisée au sein de la littérature policière (le meurtrier est l’enquêteur), au côté de Freud et d’écrivains du 20e siècle.
Translation: The first thesis is that of an “autonomous literary history”. Bayard calls for a “separation once and for all of event-history from literary history”, and for an “admission that literature and art are referred to a double chronology”. Taking note of the similarities one will never fail to find between authors far apart in time (on the basis of plagiarism by anticipation), Bayard proposes to narrate the history of literature on the basis of those similarities, rather than on the basis of the fact that certain writers happened to live in the same period. There would be no scandal in presenting Sophocles, who told the myth of Œdipus using a technique later employed in murder mysteries (the murderer is also the investigator), alongside Freud and other twentieth-century authors.
As Bayard knows, he has been plagiarized in advance by Borges, who wrote of a literary history in which Kafka, rather than being influenced by his precursors, creates them (“Kafka and his precursors”, in Other inquisitions).
Behind these jokes there can be discerned a serious issue for the historian. In the sixties it was discussed under the heading of “genesis and structure” (Piaget, Derrida), but I will use the more familiar terminology (for anglophone philosophers) of types and events. The historian, even in bare narrative, cannot merely order events by time; some principle of selection is needed on the basis of which some subset of “all” the events within some period (the object of an ideal, impossible, “total” history) is selected. Those events will be of a type which is itself perhaps limited in time and space (e.g. “Baroque”), but whose conditions of existence in time will differ from those of the events falling under it. Considered as instances of the type, the events stand in a timeless relation of similarity, and could be re-ordered without ceasing to stand in that relation. That is, of course, what Borges suggests: the “precursor” relation, insofar as it based upon similarity, is reversible.
Funny how things come and go, but then come back again. Totally by chance, I’ve been listening to a good old 1980s classic over the last couple of days, ‘Shout to the Top’ by Style Council. The lyrics are about the grim situation in the UK in the early 80s, with Thatcher dismantling many of the pillars which kept the working class just about above water (closing the mines in particular). And then it suddenly dawned on me that, mutatis mutandis, the song could just as well be an anthem for the Occupy movements around the world:
When you're knocked on your back - an' your life's a flop and when you're down on the bottom there's nothing else but to shout to the top - shout!
This is going to be another somewhat succinct instantiation of BMoF, as I'm having a particularly busy week, but here we go. For this week, I chose to post a 2008 song by Marcelo Camelo, one of the current 'darlings' of Brazilian indie music; this song, 'Janta', was listed by the Brazilian edition of Rolling Stone as the best song of 2008. It is actually a duo of Marcelo with Mallu Magalhaes, another recent phenomenon in Brazilian music; she was only 15 when she recorded her first songs in 2007, which then became an instant internet phenomenon. Marcelo and Mallu started a relationship around this time (the song 'Janta' is about the early stages of a love story -- their love story), which also had its controversial side given that she was so young, and so much younger than him (a 14-year difference). But they are still together, and both making great music.
Marcelo Camelo first appeared as the front-man of the rock band Los Hermanos in 1999, also the year of their biggest hit, 'Anna Julia'. This song has the peculiarity of having been recorded in an English version by Jim Capaldi, with an all-star lineup: Capaldi, Paul Weller, Ian Paice and George Harrison - in fact, this was one of Harrison's very last recordings. (The song is kind of cute, but not much more than that, if you ask me. You can judge for yourself...) Since 2007, Los Hermanos have been on a break, and Marcelo has been focusing on his solo career.
If self-plagiarism is sin, I should be living in hell. (I do try to cross reference it and ask for permission, however.) Either way, the economists are concerned. See here: There is scent of satire in all of this.
Bruno Frey is a very creative and interesting economists; too bad he is caught up in this.
Back in August 2007 I was thrown into a small circle of people who were combating each other using something they referred to as 'Facebook zombies'. People worldwide were apparently biting each other online to increase their zombie armies. But the competition was a local one, too. Newcomers like me who had never heard of Facebook, let alone Facebook zombies, presented excellent opportunities for the local competitors to increase their online militia. To humor them I accepted the invitation to join Facebook and the zombie war.
That was my Facebook baptism. Soon enough I became a highly competitive zombie warrior and habitual Facebook user. As I sank my virtual teeth into people to amplify my armed forces, the number of my Facebook friends increased. At first Facebook was just fun and games: I would build snowmen, fight zombies, buy people fish for their aquariums, purchase furniture for my online apartment. Few people I knew had joined Facebook back then. Some signed up only because of my zombie invitations. I am sure most of the people I invited only enlisted to humor me. But I didn't really care. It was an enjoyable way of wasting a couple of hours late at night.
Video of my talk at a one-day memorial conference on the work of Francisco Varela. The conference was held in London, organized by Valeria Bonnardel of Winchester University, on the ten-year anniversary of Francisco's untimely death in 2001. My talk is based on this paper.
My roomie at UCSB, Ben Wolfson, received the following confirmation from Interfolio:
(I bet Interfolio will blame the Microsoft spell-check.)
"The correct use of plural and possessive forms may seem like a minor issue. Among educated persons, however, incorrect forms, especially misuses of apostrophes, stand out like red flags. One area executive has said he will not hire an applicant whose letter or resume includes such an error." Quoted from here.
Thank you for doing today’s interview with us, Neil. Can you tell us a little about your research areas?
I work in two main areas: free and moral responsibility and neuroethics. Neuroethics is itself a broad field, ranging from applied ethics to philosophy of mind and experimental work. These different fields involve different work practices. In Australia, I work at a neuroscience institute. My colleagues are scientists, mostly with little interest or patience for philosophy.
Yeah, it seems to be a point of pride with many of them – though not all.
Unfortunately, they associate philosophy with ‘ethics’ and ‘ethics’ with form-filling for ethics committees (as we calls IRBs). Since I’m in Australia most of the time, when I’m doing philosophy – especially free will, which is such an American debate - my colleagues are people I meet very occasionally. I keep up with them through their writing and through a blog, Flickers of Freedom. This means I am in some ways at a disadvantage: I don’t tend to hear their papers at conferences in colloquia. But the internet enables me to keep up in a way that once would have been impossible for an Australian.
There’s no more Antipodes!
There’s a well-known book about Australian history called The Tyranny of Distance. The internet has helped to overthrow that tyrant. But nothing makes up for a loss of face-to-face contact. When I do neuroethics, my colleagues at the Florey Neuroscience Institutes are obviously more relevant. They are involved in the empirical work I do.
E2A5: "We neither feel nor perceive any singular things [NS: or anything of Natura naturata], except bodies and modes of thinking.
See the postulates after P13" (Ethics in E. Curley's translation)
So, do such feelings/perceptions cross the attribute barrier (E2p7)? That is, somehow an individual's feelings/perceptions can be responsive to modes in both attributes?
Or should we think of this axiom as saying that the intellect perceives (pure) modes of thought (in the manner of E1D4&e5p40) and that the imagination feels modes of extension (and the ways in which ideas are inadequate).
"I pass now to explaining those things must necessarily follow from the essence of God, or the infinite and eternal being--not, indeed, all of them, for we have demonstrated (1p16) that infinitely many things must follow from it in infinitely many modes, but only those that can lead us, by the hand, as it were, to the knowledge of the human mind and its highest blessedness" (Spinoza Ethics, preface to II; translated by E. Curley)
A few remarks and questions about this little passage:
Are the topics that are deliberately avoided potentially harmful? That is, do they lead us away from highest blessedness? (Assuming that all such things are harms.) If so, then Spinoza's silences are motivated about a substantive views about the Good.
Is Spinoza also claiming that he has exhausted what can be said/written about God (understood as an infinite and eternal being)? For, nowhere does Spinoza indicate that he is leaving stuff out as he does say here about what could be said about modes ("not...all of them") or later about the "definitions of jealousy and the other vacillations of mind" (EIIIp58DefXLVIIIEXP [the wider passage is also relevant]).
This passage clearly looks ahead not just to Part II of the Ethics ("to the
knowledge of the human mind"), but also to the last five propositions of Part V, that is, the end of the book. I think this is significant for claims about geometric method in the Ethics--Parts II-V are connected in an ascent to our salvation.
To say that something is "eternal" in Spinoza just means to say that it exists. But this kind of existence has funny properties. [Note: I am committed to the idea that in Spinoza existence is not used univocally.] In particular, it is not existence in time (or space). Rather it is more akin to an eternal (sic) truth. But as letter 10 teaches us, these "do not have any place outside the mind." Given that God is a self-cause and thinks, to say that he is "eternal" just means he has an idea of himself.
One recurring feature of this weekly blog, is the displacement of genuine Knightian uncertainty in post WWII economics and the formal revolution that accompanied it. As recounted one route was into contingent commodities (in Arrow-Debreu-Mackenzie; the main workhorse of economic theory); another route was treating uncertainty as randomness. The two approaches were eventually combined when the contingent commodity was treated in context of perfect markets that were understood to be random walks (i.e., the great 60s-70s Cambridge-Chicago synthesis associated with Samuelson, Fama, Black-Scholes, and all that [I hope to blog about this before long because the real issue is how two concepts with different modal features were combined]). In reflecting on a lovely draft paper by Nicola Giocoli, I realized there was a third -- in some sense more basic -- route by which uncertainty got displaced within economics.
The fundamental notion of rationality within economics is consistency as understood in terms of Von Neumann and Morgenstern. (They did so by drawing on important work by one of my favorite philosophers, Ramsey.) Abraham Wald, who during WWII worked together in a statistical group with Milton Friedman and Jacob Wolfowitz [the father of Paul Wolfowitz], built on this to show that Minimax was a Bayes rule with a least favorable prior. (Minimax = maximizing the minimum gain.) In 1954 Savage then gave a canonical formulation of subjective expected utility. Now because Savage articulated all of this in terms of subjective terms, he may be thought to be addressing conditions of Knightian uncertainty. And Savage is about as core to economics as it gets. Matters now turn on a non-trivial issue.
Minimax relies on the application of Bayes. And it is only pessimistic if the priors that one sets are really terrible. To put my point simply: Von Neumann and Savage created a decision algorithm that lets people pretend that they have done worst case modeling. (Yes, I know Bayesians will respond by claiming that I am unfairly maligning a perfectly respectable technique. After all guns don't kill people, people kill people. [For thorough critique of Bayesianism, see John Norton's work here.]) To echo something taught to by David Levy: you get precision in the dimensions you can see at the expense of dimensions you can't see. And the precise value will lead a life of its own until the philosophical-economist technicians that sold it to us are long out of sight.
A few weeks ago I reported on the nomination of Marije Martijn for the JHP book prize 2011, but at that point the other nominees were unknown to me. So I was startled last week to receive an email from Mariska Leunissen (Chapel Hill) with the news that she was one of the other two nominees! (I still do not know who the third one is.) What is startling about it is that Mariska was also a fellow graduate student of mine in Leiden, and in fact Mariska, Marije and I shared an office for about 18 months. I am now confident that most of my skills as a historian of philosophy were picked up by osmosis by breathing the same air as these two.
Mariska works in ancient philosophy, and on Aristotle’s philosophy of science in particular. The nominated book is Explanation and Teleology in Aristotle's Science of Nature, which appeared last year with Cambridge University Press. As with Marije, it is based on the work she has done for her PhD (defended in 2007, if I’m not mistaken). Mariska has a profound understanding of Aristotle’s metaphysics and conception of science, as I could verify for myself in a brief excursion on the topic a few years ago, when I was lucky enough to get a lot of great pointers from her.
After obtaining her doctorate degree, Mariska ‘emigrated’ to the US, where she first held a TT position at Washington University in St. Louis, and has now recently taken up a TT position at UNC Chapel Hill. As Marije, Mariska is most definitely a rising star in the field of ancient philosophy, so competition for the prize will be fierce! As for me, it is extremely rewarding to see my two best friends from grad school making such important scholarly contributions.
As far as I know, the recipient of the prize will be announced in December, and will, of course, be duly noted on this blog. So stay tuned!
Here is Freud recounting his memory of an incident in his infancy:
I see a rectangular, rather steeply sloping piece of meadow-land, green and thickly grown; in the green there are a great number of yellow flowers – evidently common dandelions. At the top end of the meadow there is a cottage, and in front of the cottage door two women are chatting busily, a peasant woman with a handkerchief on her head and a children's nurse. Three children are playing in the grass. One of them is myself (between the age of two and three); the two others are my boy cousin, who is a year older than me, and his sister, who is almost exactly the same age as I am. (Emphasis added.)
Freud believed this to be an accurate memory. Yet, how could it be? It is obviously impossible for someone to observe himself across a piece of meadow.
And another thing: How did he identify himself? How did he know which of the two little boys in his image was himself?
As many of you have probably already seen, Rebecca Kukla has an excellent post up at Leiter’s blog on the effects of implicit biases, specifically as affecting hiring practices. However, as she is done with her job of guest-blogger over there, the post is not open for comments, and with Rebecca’s agreement, I figured it might be useful to have a discussion here.
Rebecca is making very good points about the effects of implicit biases in hiring practices, and in particular how hard (in fact, nearly impossible) it is to shield yourself from them if you are on the decision-making side of things. Now, as it turns out, one of the books I read over my vacation last week was Cordelia Fine’s A Mind of its Own(as mentioned before, co-blogger John Protevi and I are big fans of her work). One of the chapters of the book is ‘The Bigoted Brain’, and she discusses precisely some of the findings from experimental psychology (on the ways implicit biases operate) that Rebecca refers to. As she mentions, one of the surprising features of implicit biases is that, if you actively try to suppress them, they in fact re-emerge later on with additional strength. (In fact, it is not so surprising given that suppressing specific thoughts is likely to have a priming effect.) Here’s an excerpt from the book:
This is a simple, powerful talk by Judith Butler at OWS, calling upon the classic "very well then, we demand the impossible" trope, and ending with the wonderful line, "we're standing here together, making democracy, enacting the phrase, 'We the People'."
And here's the text of a longer talk by Butler in Venice about constituting political space while acknowledging the material precarity of bodies, developed alongside a critical analysis of Arendt's notion of a political "space of appearance." The overall aim is set forth here, I believe:
a different social ontology would have to start from the presumption that there is a shared condition of precarity that situates our political lives.
A brief excerpt from the beginning of the talk sets out some of the main lines of thought:
assembly and speech reconfigure the materiality of public space, and produce, or reproduce, the public character of that material environment. And when crowds move outside the square, to the side street or the back alley, to the neighborhoods where streets are not yet paved, then something more happens. At such a moment, politics is no longer defined as the exclusive business of public sphere distinct from a private one, but it crosses that line again and again, bringing attention to the way that politics is already in the home, or on the street, or in the neighborhood, or indeed in those virtual spaces that are unbound by the architecture of the public square....
But in the case of public assemblies, we see quite clearly not only that there is a struggle over what will be public space, but a struggle as well over those basic ways in which we are, as bodies, supported in the world – a struggle against disenfranchisement, effacement, and abandonment.
I'd like to add something here about the way the human microphone works, quite literally, to amplify the constitution of political space by assembled bodies. The human microphone offers an entry into examining political affect in the enacting of the phrase "We the People" at OWS. It shows us how direct democracy is enacted by producing an intermodal resonance among the semantic, pragmatic, and affective dimensions of collective action.