Whatever Schubert intended with this request, I cannot imagine a greater compliment from one composer to another.
Let's leave aside, those professional philosophers for whom philosophy is primarily a job or an interesting diversion from which one can 'retire.' Let's imagine, rather, those ('the infected philosophers') for whom philosophy is a necessity. Such an infected philosopher would keep at philosophy to the very end. Yet, on her deathbed, would she turn to a work by somebody else (e.g., as Hume did with Lucian), would she keep teaching (Socrates), would she, in fact, try to complete her last work(s), would she seek consolation, or would she ask to re-read or hear one of her own results/works?
Ein Mann wohnt im Haus der spielt mit den Schlangen der schreibt--Celan.
Yesterday, I posted a very lengthy (by our blogging standards) piece about the role(s) the purported contrast between understanding and explaining the Holocaust can play in the arts, ethics, and social science. It was framed as a response to a two-part review by Mark Lilla. I was careful not to motivate my disagreement with Lilla in political terms. In fact, I avoid mention of "politics," "Israel," "evil," "Hitler," (etc). Interestingly enough, three out of four published comments on the piece thus far (two by fellow NewAPPSies),* focus on political abuses of the Holocaust in Israel or Stateside (or elsewhere); these comments seem to target primarily what they take to be the political and legal implications of Lilla's position.
Every advance in research that adds a new complication to our understanding of what happened on the Nazi side, or on the victims’, can potentially threaten our moral clarity about why it happened, obscuring the reality and fundamental inexplicability of anti-Semitic eliminationism.--Mark Lilla, NYRB, 21 November.
In a two-part article, which is a review of two films and some books, Mark Lilla presents us two competing approaches to the Holocaust: one -- represented by the author Hannah Arendt -- attempts "to find a schema that would render the horror comprehensible and make judgment possible;" the other -- represented by the film-maker Claude Lanzmann prior to the film (The Last of the Unjust) under review -- embraces a "refusal to understand." Without wishing to obscure the differences between Arendt and Lanzmann as presented by Lilla, the point of aiming and obtaining understanding, or not, is in some sense moral on their views. (I return to this below.)
As the passage above reveals, Lilla's position also embraces the "fundamental inexplicability," of "anti-Semitic eliminationism" by which he appears to mean the Holocaust of the Jews.* But in Lilla's approach the inexplicable has no stated moral purpose. In fact, in the passage above, Lilla offers us an asymmetry in the possible consequences of obtaining new facts, insights, even "understanding" of a historical event: (i) in the moral sphere they can undermine (or fortify) "moral" judgment; (ii) in the epistemic sphere, they leave untouched what is fundamentally inexplicable. To be sure, in the moral realm certain forms of historical explanation are presupposed; in particular, one needs a functional or teleological account why something happened before one can obtain "moral clarity" or not. But Lilla's position also involves the further claim that even with some such "understanding," an event can remain fundamentally inexplicable. We are not told much about what remains elusive such that a functionally or schematically understood event is still not just a mystery, but at bottom a mystery.
One day is equal to every day [Unus dies par omni est.]--Heraclitus, the obscure.
Almost nothing so boring as old people speaking to young people about old age and general decay. Yet, this is the 'hook' of Seneca's twelfth Letter, in which he goes out of his way to present himself as an angry old man who sees decay and death everywhere--nothing like the image of Stoic, apathetic wisdom one might expect. More important, he shows the persona 'Seneca' failing at enjoying the available life's variety of pleasures (marked by different Latin words, e.g, delectavit, voluptatis, iucundissima, etc). It might be the case that the old cannot really avoid looking death in the face, but it is not obvious that we all must fundamentally do so, especially because Seneca himself seems to make a hash of it. While the letter is nominally addressed to the young Lucilus, it is really an admonition to himself to embrace and love [complectamur...et amemus] old age. In recounting his foibles (and other aged men), he wishes to become a true friend of himself such that he is capable of moderated love (sans madness) (recall Letter 9).
It is, after all, not shameful [inprobe] to hope for another day, every day, in old and young alike. (In recounting his foibles, Seneca does not name his more shameful desires.) One might think such lack of shame, which is constituted by the recognition of a binding norm one fails to live up to,* is an instance of living without necessity. But that can't be quite right because in context Seneca treats the denial of necessity as equal to the possibility of ending one's life rather than the hope for another day.
[this post originally appeared in Aesthetics for Birds as a guest post] Hayao Miyazaki's animation movie Ponyo features a tsunami. The tsunami is shown in its full threatening and destructive power, yet is rendered with a great aesthetic sensibility. On several occasions, Miyazaki expressed his aesthetic delight in natural disasters, and defended it as follows:
There are many typhoons and earthquakes in Japan. There is no point in portraying these natural disasters as evil events. They are one of the givens in the world in which we live. I am always moved when I visit Venice to see that in this city which is sinking into the sea, people carry on living regardless. It is one of the givens of their life. In the same way people in Japan have a different perception of natural disasters.
Miyazaki is not the only artist to find inspiration in natural disasters. William Turner depicted with gusto a hapless steamboat, struggling in a snowstorm. That we find aesthetic delight in natural disasters is puzzling. Why do we sometimes delight in natural disasters? And is it morally appropriate to do so? These questions have not often been addressed because both aesthetics and psychology have tended to focus on positive and pleasurable aesthetic properties of nature, such as the delicacy of a flower, the slow twirling of autumn leaves, the majesty of a waterfall. But we are not only be moved by nature (as Noël Carroll describes our intuitive and visceral response to nature) in its delicate, pretty form, but also in its destructive form.
A naturall foole that could never learn by heart the
order of numerall words, as One, Two, and Three, may observe every stroak
of the Clock, and nod to it, or say one, one, one; but can never know what
houre it strikes...Nor is
it possible without Letters for any man to become either excellently wise,
or (unless his memory be hurt by disease, or ill constitution of organs)
excellently foolish. For words are wise mens counters, they do but reckon
by them: but they are the mony of fooles...one man calleth Wisdome, what another calleth Feare; and one Cruelty,
what another Justice; one Prodigality, what another Magnanimity...such names can
never be true grounds of any ratiocination. No more can Metaphors, and
Tropes of speech: but these are less dangerous, because they profess their
inconstancy; which the other do not.--Leviathan, 1.4
Night nursed not him in whose dark mind
The clambering wings of birds of black revolved,
Making harsh torment of the solitude.
The walker in the moonlight walked alone,
And in his heart his disbelief lay cold.--Wallace Stevens.
Despite the helpful reminder of 3AM Magazine, we at NewAPPS failed to celebrate the ninetieth birthday of Wallace Stevens' Harmonium. Seneca's mysterious, terse (under 325 words) tenth Letter, brought me back to Stevens' early poetry. Stevens talks of the (nightly) "torment of solitude," faced by the poetic mind (who happens to be a religious skeptic). Yet, Seneca seems to suggest that some of the very best people should seek solitude; in particular they should living
with their conscience [conscientia] (recall eight letter). But presumably Stevens's poetic disbeliever is expressing his conscience faitfully.
One annoying feature of re-reading other people's scholarship, is the possibility of discovering that one's treasured ideas may well be anticipated by others. Memory and self-deception can be funny like that. So, it's probably not uncommon that folk really fail to attribute to others what is due to them without realizing they are in the wrong. Even when the mistakes are honest, they still involve injustices, and these may be quite large given that they may, say, reinforce gender related unfairness, too. Such injustices are not easy to excuse or forgive when one feels that one's work or presence has been silenced or unfairly ignored. Even so, we try to cope with this kind of injustice. Yet, faking data or copying (and pasting) texts without attribution is legitimately an unpardonable sin in the Academy, especially if it is part of a pattern of such (plagiarism/faking) cases. One might be willing to give a student a second chance, but recoil from letting a confirmed fraudulent senior scholar back into the fold. Paradoxically many of us treat such cases as worse sin than many crimes on the 'outside.' (Coetzee's Disgrace reflects on this.)
It is, thus, understandable that the good folk at Retractionwatch react with dismay that prominent scholars, including philosophy's very own Philip Pettit, are willing to endorse Marc Hauser's forthcoming book, Evilicious. What really rankles Retractionwatch is that Hauser has not owned up to his record of misconduct and "only acknowledged “mistakes.”" (As they write: "But we do prefer when those given a second chance acknowledge that they
did something wrong. That might start with noting a retraction, instead
of continuing to list the retracted paperamong your publications.")
But then this "as if" proposition raises the question, psychoanalytically speaking, of latent content...He ends up rather where some began, resting the notion of analyticity on the notion of possible worlds. His contentment with this disposition of the analyticity problem makes one wonder, after all, how it could have been much of a motive for his study of convention.--Quine, "Foreword" to David Lewis Convention.
A few weeks ago I posted about boy-wonders. (Recall I tried to give it a fairly precise characterization.) While various institutional features of the phenomenon were discussed in my post and subequent discussion, the psycho-dynamic dimension was largely ignored. (Part of me suspects that's because these days it is thought very bad form to explain behavior with even a mere allusion to Freud among Anglophone philosophers.) But as it happens I was mulling Quine's curious foreword (partially quoted above) on the same day as I read the following unrelated book-review:
The relation between a literary father and a literary heir is always one of mutual idealization. Similar cross-idealizations of éminence terrible and enfant gris
occur in other fields and in both sexes. The most common variety seems
to be prompted by a young person’s wish to find a mentor, a word that
points directly to the fantasy behind the wish. In the Odyssey,
the Ithacan elder Mentor is not a mentor at all; the protective guide
who takes Telemakhos in hand is Athena disguised as Mentor, a divinity
filling a role that no ordinary mortal could manage.
Not all celebrated writers attract idealizing literary children.
Those who do seem to have an unusually sharp divide between their public
image and their private self...
What the literary father seems to find in an
ideal son is an image of his younger self as it might have been without
its weakness and doubt....What the literary son seems to
find in an ideal father is an image of what he might become if he could
overturn the barriers left inside him by his real father. Each hopes to
find in the other a relief from anxiety that no idealizing fantasy can
give.---Edward Mendelson, The New York Review of Books (reviewing Greg Bellow's Saul Bellow's Heart: A Son's Memoir. [Sadly no mention of Fenelon (neither does English Wikipedia entry on mentor, although the Dutch version does--ES.)]
The Rolling Stone Twitter feed informs me that ‘Creep’, the
first single by one of the greatest bands of all times, Radiohead, was released
exactly 21 years ago. At first unsuccessful as a single, it then attracted more
attention when Radiohead’s first album came out (Pablo Honey) in 1993. It has since become one of the greatest
classics of the 1990s, in particular receiving countless cover versions, as it
allows for an astonishing number of interpretations, ranging from ethereal to
hard-core, from pop to experimental. (Everyone can recognize themselves in the
lyrics, as everyone has had days of feeling like a creep/weirdo who doesn’t
belong here.) In retrospect, it may well have been the first indie song to have
become mainstream, even more than any of the Nirvana tracks of roughly the same
Radiohead has since notoriously taken up a more experimental
approach (especially since the turning point that was Ok, Computer in 1997), and some of their
early music seems quite far removed from what they have done since. (Heads-up for my two favorite songs from their latest album, The King of Limbs (2011): 'Codex' and 'Separator'.) Still, I’m
a big fan of each of their albums, including The Bends (1995), which some current fans look down upon, but which has
great tracks such as ‘High and dry’. Looking back to 21 years ago, we can only
conclude that the promise of what was to come is already contained in ‘Creep’,
which remains one of the best songs of all times IMHO. (In turn, some of the
chord progression seems to have been 'borrowed' from ‘The air that I breath’ by
The Hollies, but there’s really no comparison here between the ‘original’ and
what Radiohead did with ‘Creep’…)
Doubtless a vigorous error vigorously pursued has kept the embryos of
truth a-breathing: the quest of gold being at the same time a
questioning of substances, the body of chemistry is prepared for its
soul, and Lavoisier is born. But Mr. Casaubon's theory of the elements
which made the seed of all tradition was not likely to bruise itself
unawares against discoveries: it floated among flexible conjectures no
more solid than those etymologies which seemed strong because of
likeness in sound until it was shown that likeness in sound made them
impossible: it was a method of interpretation which was not tested by
the necessity of forming anything which had sharper collisions than an
elaborate notion of Gog and Magog: it was as free from interruption as a
plan for threading the stars together.
New blog, Aesthetics for Birds, has a nice interview with Keith Lehrer, although I would have liked to see a bit more critical engagement on the very notion of 'experience' that Lehrer relies on throughout the discussion (e.g, "The experience fills in the meaning of my words, I hope, adding something beyond linguistic meaning.").
So what we are going to do is this. You can purchase the
uncompressed .wav files by taking the following steps. First, make a donation
to the charity of your choice in the amount that you think is appropriate. There is no minimum donation, but we of
course recommend that you be generous!
send an email to the following email address:
In this email, simply
tell us that you have made a charitable donation; you don’t need to tell us
where if you don’t want to. We’d
appreciate if you’d tell us the amount donated since we would like to know how
much money has been raised in this fashion. However, we won’t require that you
do this. There is no minimum amount you
must donate (and obviously no maximum amount either). We are simply going to take your word that
you have made a donation.
After you have sent the email, you will receive an email in
response that will contain a link directing you where to download a .zip file that
contains all the songs. Also included in this package will be liner
notes, a .pdf with a printable cd-booklet, and bonus remixes of four of the
No money needs to go into our pockets even temporarily and
there are no overhead costs. Every cent
of every dollar you donate will go straight to the charity of your choice, and
in return you get the full album immediately in a higher-resolution
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endeavor -- we are trying to do a little good for others.
"Strauss' interpretation of Plato is wrong from beginning to end." M.F. Burnyeat.
Although we philosophers are thought of as a cerebral bunch, our loathings can be pretty intense. I need not mention the hundred-year, fraternal civil war, which around here we label a 'divide,' between analytic and continental philosophy; we are not known for our fondness for what passes as 'theory' among literature and cultural studies departments (and I have experienced plenty of uncivil behavior from folk in, say, science studies in return). But when professional philosophers are not just puzzled by the Straussians they encounter, we reserve a special kind of bile and invective against them, especially as Strauss's students found their ways into advising Goldwater and Reagan (and beyond); once I was halted in my invective against Wolfowitz by (The University of Chicago's) Ralph Lerner's, 'Paul once sat in that chair, and was no less passionate than you.' Undoubtedly a few of us were at least mildly irritated by reading Steven Smith's very respectful review of books on the legacy of Strauss in a recent New York Times Book Review--"doesn't he know that 'Strauss is not a Philosopher!'"?
In his famous essay, Burnyeat (a former teacher) overreached. Invoking "ordinary scholarship," Burnyeat treats Plato (surprisingly Popperian) as a "radical utopian," primarily relevant for opening up "a reasoned debate on the nature and practicality of a just society" (emphasis in Burnyeat). Given that Burnyeat was in no sense an ordinary scholar, who also searchingly pioneered the historiographical construction of the classics, these lines are painful read; Burnyeat reduces the significance of Plato's political philosophy to being a forerunner of Rawls. Those of us living in the shadow of the surveillance state may find Strauss' "anti-Utopian teaching" ("invented" or not) about Plato a useful touch-stone, sometimes. For in Republic and Laws surveillance are ever-present and its limits thematized. The cause of Burnyeat's overreach is that Plato's Laws has always been a blind-spot to him (and until recently ordinary analytic scholarship).
At some level, Burnyeat must have known he overreached, because he allowed the original and reprinted version of the piece to have a clear reference to a famous short story by Oscar Wilde, -- which may be read as an allegory on philosophical madness [Murchison is introduced as a truth-teller] ! -- that ends with that enigmatic "I wonder."
One of the saddest and scariest things about human beings is how we can work so damned hard for year after year and then derive so little satisfaction when things actually come to fruition. I don't know how ubiquitous this is, but it is somewhat pronounced both in academia and the music world, two fields that typically require a nauseating amount of effort for years on end just to make a bare living.
Consider music. There's an overwhelmingly affecting point in the recent Ramones documentary where the original bassist and songwriter (who later died of a heroin overdose) is reflecting on his bulimia and massive intake of anti-anxiety medication; he says something to the effect of "All my dreams came true. Why can't I be happy?" This isn't just rock music either. There is a small literature suggesting that successful orchestra musicians (with a job market very similar to academia) have pretty low job satisfaction when compared to other fields.
In academia I've noticed in particular two kinds of virulently unhappy successful people. The first is the person who just got tenure and all of the sudden faces an overwhelming existential crises, analogous to when deep sea divers come up too fast and their bodies can't handle the depressurization. That is, at every point prior to tenure, from gradeschool through being an Assistant Professor, there is ususally a ton of outside pressure to do specific tasks to get to the next point. And some people who thrive when being told what to do find it horrifying to be any other way.
This is a weird thing, because the pressure of going through tenure review is itself so harsh. I know plenty of people who actually went on prescription happy pills for the first time in their life during tenure review, only to get off them after the tenure was resolved and move on unscathed. But two people I cherish did just fine during the tenure review only to completely fall apart afterwards. One was institutionalized and is no longer an academic and the other is dead.
I'm a long-time fan of a form of music one might call "free improv": improvised sound unconstrained by any traditional melodic or harmonic structure (a movement which grew out of free jazz on the one hand and minimalism and punk on the other—note this usage is more restrictive than wikipedia's definition). One thing about this music which has puzzled me is the large gap between the excitement of experiencing it live and the stillborn dullness of most of it as recorded—especially true of the more minimal varieties, e.g. Sachiko M, Toshimaru Nakamura, Keith Rowe, or Axel Dörner.
Here I draw attention to one relevant factor: the shared experience within a single sonic environment possible only during live performance. When performer and audience are listening to the same sounds, the performer's improvised response can illustrate how she heard those sounds, thereby retroactively affecting the audience member's own experience in the moment. But this dynamic interaction also defeats the possibility of capturing that moment with any mechanical recording device.
Consider for example this instance by the Boston-based duo Nmperign:
I don’t begin a novel with a shopping list—the novel becomes my shopping list as I write it. It’s like that joke about the violin maker who was asked how he made a violin and answered that he started with a piece of wood and removed everything that wasn’t a violin. That’s what I do when I’m writing a novel, except somehow I’m simultaneously generating the wood as I’m carving it.
[One might] consider the mature mRNA transcript formed after editing and splicing to be the “true” gene. But if we take this option (as molecular biologists often do), a different problem arises, for such genes exist in the newly formed zygote only as possibilities, designated only after the fact. A musical analogy might be helpful here: the problem is not only that the music inscribed in the score does not exist until it is played, but that the players rewrite the score (the mRNA transcript) in their very execution of it. (63)
Among the many divides one can find among competing theories of art, none is wider and more ideologically entrenched than the gulf between experiential theories and various forms of institutionalism. Experiential theories say that something counts as art in virtue of the kind of experience it affords, such as a distinctive emotional state. Institutional theories emphasize the context of presentation--to a first approximation, something becomes art on this view when it is places in a gallery, or the equivalent. Here I want to suggest, heretically, that the experiential theories are right, but also that they can be reconciled with the institutional approach.
"A person's Erdős–Bacon number is the sum of one's Erdős number—which measures the "collaborative distance" in authoring mathematical papers between that person and Hungarian mathematician Paul Erdős—and one's Bacon number—which represents the number of links, through roles in films, by which the individual is separated from American actor Kevin Bacon. The lower the number, the closer a person is to Erdős and Bacon, and this reflects a small world phenomenon in academia and entertainment."--Wikipedia. [HT: Wayne Myrvold] So, for example Bertrand Russell's Bacon number is the result of an appearance in a Bollywood film.
Thus, though avowedly not a historian's history, this is still a history
of sorts: an unabashed example of great-man historiography, and I
emphasise the gendered term here. The 16 selected philosophers are all
men, and the four-page index of names includes about a dozen women. It
might be that all the significant thinkers in European aesthetics in the
last 200 years were men. More likely, it might be that conceptualising a
history of anything in
terms of 'significant figures' leads us too easily into consideration of
canonical males. This may seem a dreary complaint, but it is only
dreary because it keeps being made, and it keeps being made because it
is important. I am not at all accusing Wicks of sexism or misogyny;
rather, the invitation is to consider the possibly deleterious effects
of apparently innocent approaches, and the alternative effects a
different approach might have yielded...Wicks is quite right to choose the philosophers who fit his thematic
focus [i.e., "the socio-political uses to which art and aesthetic theory may be put"--ES], and the book is all the better for having such a focus. The
problem comes where Wicks selects thinkers who do not obviously have a
great deal to say on the theme, and tries to force them to say something
about it....It is almost as if Wicks felt compelled to include
chapters on these significant philosophers, and then further compelled
to fit them to the theme. Again, he writes well about their ideas, but
those ideas seem out of place. Conversely, some of the philosophers Wicks includes bear obvious
relevance to his theme, but less obvious relevance to the subject of
The art of letter-writing is dead – except in prison.While people on the outside exchange staccato
texts and tweets, people on the inside still compose long letters by hand or on
typewriters.They write with their whole
hand, not just with their thumbs.
We shouldn’t get too misty-eyed about this persistence of a
lost art behind bars; after all, it’s a sign of deprivation.If prisoners had access to cell phones and
the internet, they would be tweeting, too – and perhaps their voices would be
more difficult to silence.
And yet, everyday practices such as letter-writing or
texting cannot help but shape our Being-in-the-world.A letter is a material thing: you can hold it
in your hands, and you can lose it.The
temporality of letter-writing is much slower than texting; you can’t expect an
immediate response, and so there’s more time to reflect on the impact your
words might have on the receiver.If you
know that the mail is delivered at a certain time every day, then there’s no
point in obsessively checking your inbox.This might not help to decrease your anxiety, especially if you feel
like your life depends upon the response; but it also doesn’t feed an addictive
relation to delivery mechanism.
Somewhere in between the letter and the text message is the
is, of course, the life-blood of professional philosophy. I wouldn't
want to do away with argument, or professional philosophy; I am no
traitor to my trade! But when I am told -- as is often the case -- that argument
is intrinsic to philosophy, I get rebellious. Take, for example, this poem:
"To sing jubilas at exact, accustomed times, To be crested and wear the mane of a multitude And so, as part, to exult with its great throat,
To speak of joy and to sing of it, borne on The shoulders of joyous men, to feel the heart That is the common, the bravest fundament,
This is a facile exercise. Jerome Begat the tubas and the fire-wind strings, The golden fingers picking dark-blue air:
For companies of voices moving there, To find of sound the bleakest ancestor, To find of light a music issuing
Whereon it falls in more than sensual mode. But the difficultest rigor is forthwith, On the image of what we see, to catch from that
Irrational moment its unreasoning, As when the sun comes rising, when the sea Clears deeply, when the moon hangs on the wall
Of heaven-haven. These are not things transformed. Yet we are shaken by them as if they were. We reason about them with a later reason." Wallace Stevens
Here's an interesting (though somewhat long) article on tattoos as art: 'Will a tattoo ever hang in the Louve?' The article focuses on the recent history of tattoos, mostly in Europe. I was however reminded of the fantastic art history/aesthetics courses I followed with Leon Kossovich back in São Paulo as an undergraduate. We discussed in particular the tattoos on the bodies found in the Pazyryk burials, dating back to the 6th to 3rd centuries BCE. These people were horse-riding Scythian nomads of the Eurasian steppes, and as such, their artistic production consisted predominantly of surfaces and media they could easily carry around: jewelry, tapestry, and of course, body art -- tattoos. (See below the fold for a sample.)
The latest The Stone installment is a piece by Gregory
Currie (Nottingham) where he examines critically the claim made by several
prominent people – he mentions in particular Martha Nussbaum in Love’s Knowledge – that reading “great
literature make[s] us better”. He points out that in the philosophical debates
so far, proponents of this view have presented arguments on how literature and
fiction might have this effect, but
no compelling evidence to the effect that it does have the purported effect. He adds the parenthetical remark:
a schools inspector reported on the efficacy of our education system by listing
ways that teachers might be helping students to learn; the inspector would be
out of a job pretty soon.
When reading the piece, I was intrigued by
the claim that there is no, or hardly any, empirical evidence on the effects of reading
literature for moral traits such as empathy, kindness etc. Currie seems correct
in noting that authors such as Nussbaum and others coming from the
philosophical perspective do not refer to empirical data potentially
corroborating the position; but is it true that there are virtually no
empirical results on the issue?
Source: Jan Comenius, Orbis pictus (Syracuse, NY: C. W. Bardeen, 1887).
The illustration above is from Jan Comenius’ celebrated, oft-reprinted school-book. The Orbis sensualium pictus presents, in words and in pictures, “all the fundamental things in the world and all the acts of life”. In pictures because, after all, “in Intellectu autem nihil est, nisi priùs fuerit in Sensu” (a famous Aristotelian slogan). Knowing requires us to exercise our senses, perceiving by their means the differences of things, so as to lay the foundations of wisdom and right action. (Pictures, I should note, were still an expensive novelty, especially in books meant for children. Comenius had to have the Orbisprinted in Nuremberg, not in Patak where he was teaching.)
Yesterday I visited the Roy Lichtenstein retrospective at Tate Modern. It is a wonderful exhibition, which clearly reveals that Lichtenstein as an artist went much beyond the (apparently) 'easily digestible' pop-art paintings that he is famous for (especially the ones inspired by comic books). One of the most rewarding parts of the exhibition were the landscapes he painted at the very end of his career, such as this 'Landscape with philosopher', painted the year before he died (1996). It is one of the most poignant, dignifying representations of a philosopher that I've ever seen, and one which I can only hope contains something true about us philosophers.
My friends, the serious historians of philosophy, often look down at (Analytical or even Continental) work that engages critically with authors from the canonical past; 'as if such classic texts could coherently be criticized from present perspective--we all know that involves vicious anachronism!' Even those employed in Analytical departments tend to prefer contextual understanding and sympathetic exegetical imagination over attempted refutations. (In fairness to the serious historians: they also look down at work that mines the past for useful insights.) These historians say they want to understand the past on its own terms and sometimes they also insist that in doing so we can understand the present. But (with a nod to Nietzsche) my friends are, in fact, quiet undertakers (the brilliant ones) or museum guards (the mediocre ones); they never imagine being a Maharal to the past and make it live.
Let's stipulate an expansive notion of 'technology' such that (a) linguistic, mathematical, and logical
developments also count as 'technology' and, thus, (b) a lot of philosophical
breakthroughs are preceded by technological ruptures. (Sometimes they redefine philosophy so much that we do not recognize the successor disciplines as "philosophy.") If so, is the web transforming or about to transform philosophical praxis? I use "praxis" to distinguish this question from the one about to what degree professional philosophy is being transformed by the web.
Let me first say what I do not mean with this question. The web *is* transforming philosophical scholarship by facilitating amazing storage & information retrieval (etc.) capacities. I used to spend huge amount of time in libraries (to look at old books and and to scan journals)--now I am genuinely surprised when I enter a library. There are regular on-line/skype seminars on papers, books, topics, etc. The web brings together distributed audiences previously unknown to each other. Blogs have created dedicated intellectual communities, and spawned philosophical movements and catapulted some echo-chambers to professional prominence. (We are probably living in a new golden age of philosophical correspondence--I bet Leibniz would have adored email.) Citation practices are
being influenced by blog communities, phil papers, and google.scholar., etc. All of this is swell, but it does not challenge what we mean by "philosophy." (So here I am also ignoring all the exciting ways the web changes how we teach philosophy, and maybe I shouldn't.)