"Je sais qu'il y a eu des hommes qui ont fait jaillir le lait de leurs mamelles" [that is, "I know that there have been men who have brought forth milk from their breasts."]--Diderot (1754) Thoughts on the Interpretation of Nature PENSÉES SUR L'INTERPRÉTATION DE LA NATURE, 56. [I thank Charles T. Wolfe for locating the passage; and his general insistence that Diderot (recall) ought not be neglected.--ES]
This post was inspired by reading some unpublished papers by Sandrine Berges, who is a leading authority on the political philosophy of Wollstonecraft and Sophie de Grouchy. Prof. Berges points out that in contrast to Rossseau and Wollstonecraft, De Grouchy rejects the close link between birthing and nursing in her (1797) Letters on Sympathy, which De Grouchy attached to her translation of Adam Smith's The Theory of Moral Sentiments. De Grouchy's move opens up the possibility of recognizing nursing as a distinct and politically significant activity that can be valued (morally, politically, and economically) by society within the division of labor. In fact, if Diderot is right, nursing need not be a gender-specific activity. Motherhood, thus, need not confine women to domestic careers.
Does anyone know of interesting work on the conatus and Freud ? I remember reading a bit about this sort of thing in Stuart Hampshire's book, and there's a fair bit of (often unnecessary) writing in France on Lacan and Spinoza, but I am looking for helpful, conceptually oriented essays on Spinoza's notion and how it compares to Eros and Thanatos, all that stuff. This is not directly for me but I'll be glancing at the material. (Oh, before someone mentions that, I do remember the long passage in Difference and Repetition on death drive and some faintly Spinozist ideas.) The work can be more analytic (although I suppose it will be soft analytic), or more continental. Or, of course, beyond all that. Please, no Badiou. Thanks!
After some (slightly circular?) debates here on methodology in/and the history of philosophy, here's an interesting review essay (in the language of Molière) on the collection of essays by Alexandre Matheron, one of France's greatest historians of philosophy of the 20th century.
After some solitary notes on empiricism here a little while back ... another interesting episode in the Internationale of early modern medicine and natural philosophy: new blog posts here by Benny Goldberg (Pitt HPS) on William Harvey as 'medical Aristotelian'. While I think the Aristotelian reading is overdone (and it's also the old-fashioned view in history of medicine from before WW II), some interesting things are happening here. I'd say: if he was such an Aristotelian, why did Descartes give him pride of place in the Discourse on Method? If he was such an Aristotelian, why does he sometimes say that final causes may have no explanatory power whatsoever? Of course he speaks of 'office', of ends, which doesn't quite make him an Aristotelian, and (just sayin'), might the design language just be English bourgeois cultural standards?
A nice little workshop will be held on May 27 at the Center for Phil. of Science, Pittsburgh on early modern medicine and philosophy: here. Participants include Jole Shackleford, distinguished observers such as Domenico Bertoloni Meli, and unqualifiable empiricists such as myself.
Kudos to Peter Distelzweig and Benny Goldberg for their organizational conatus.
From a philosophical perspective, the problem of illness can be seen to emerge from the tension between the subjective (a life which is mine) and objective dimensions of life. On the one hand, illness is irreducible to an objective fact, as if independent of the subjectivity which it affects; on the other hand, it is irreducible to a mere signification, and cannot be understood independently of its inscription within a living organism, its relation to an environment, and even the effort, on the part of other living beings, to know and treat it. Illness is a qualitative and individual experience that takes place within human life itself. Once we recognise the specificity of illness in those terms, can we not arrive at an understanding of life, and the normal, on the basis of the pathological, and not as what is simply threatened and, ultimately, annihilated by it? Similarly, should medicine not recognize in care (and its latin etymology cura) the ethical implications of the internal tension of life and not isolate the pathology from the subjectivity in which it is rooted?
Far from being of interest only to biology and medicine, the question of the normal and the pathological implicates our perception of life as a whole, in all its forms.
It's a shame that because it comes at the end of a long discussion and we have already created a few other pages and posts on the topic, Ph. Huneman's comment didn't get noticed much: I am happy to agree that the disclaimer letter is not a great, great thing to do, or a nice experience for an innocent author -or any author. And, not that anyone is seriously debating that, I agree with those who feel that it's not such a hot idea to do a special issue on evolution and ID. But I find it surprising and saddening that so many of us are so quick to know just what happened behind the scenes (e.g., that the Eds in chief never contacted the guest editor; something I don't believe). By now it doesn't matter much: we can debate the pros and especially cons of Beckwith, and the merits of letting him respond; oh, and we can parse the strange comments on Laudan and argue that they are not so bad. And, of course, we can try and polish our reputations on the backs of Synthese. I find the mixture of posturing and stubborn moralism a real disappointment. Guys: write an elegant, sharp letter and have it signed by 10 luminaries (including some excellent European philosophers of science :) ) and published in some grand place - the LRB? Nature?; and don't submit your fine papers to the journal. And get on with formal epistemology, common sense, the history of animal spirits, or Dreideggerian enownment!! As, in, our work !
Some of us knew the empiricists were right all along. Did Bach-y-Rita help with that? I can't remember but his last name stuck in my mind... Did the rewired ferrets - a memory from way back in 2000?
Oh, I know there are plenty of fans of Leibniz — especially in the cocktail 'Leibniz-Whitehead', like this — out there, but sorry: empiricism was right this time. Of course, one can respond to the news in different ways: just accept it — follow the science — or, like Diderot in the Letter on the Blind (for which he got sent to jail; here in a dusty translation), go on to assert a metaphysics in which each sense constitutes a world!
The discussion about empiricism (in this case the pertinence of the distinction between empiricism and rationalism as historical / interpretive categories) continues at the Experimental Philosophy Blog here:I think the 'find' concerning the translation of Diderot is a nice one.
While I agree that the experimental-speculative distinction (on which see particularly Anstey's “Experimental Versus Speculative Natural Philosophy,“ 2005) is quite pertinent - and also relevant to the investigation of someone like Diderot in relation to Venel and the chemistry of their time - and historically appropriate, I continue to be more intrigued by problems concerning the status of early modern empiricism in other directions, such as 'moral', 'medical' (see here and my own later paper, available in shorter form here), and in connection to materialism, here. I emphasize the moral dimension more specifically in an unpublished paper written with Anik Waldow on ... empiricism as a moral project. It's also worth noting that David Norton had a really interesting paper reevaluating the historical status of empiricism in the early 80s ("The Myth of British Empiricism"; see my book notes here). See also Eric Schliesser's thoughts on empiricism earlier on in the life of this blog, here.
We are deeply concerned with gender in the profession, and have mostly been discussing the United States. (A very detailed blogpost on the situation in France by Sophie Roux, w. various links is here.)
But a somewhat different - and tragic - story was that of the brilliant young philosopher Marie-Claude Lorne, who was also a dear friend. She committed suicide in 2008 after being denied tenure at the U. de Brest after she had already been hired as a 'maître de conférences' (tenure in these cases is almost always automatic in France after 1 year, the année de stage). She left behind a letter saying philosophy was her life and if she couldn't do philosophy...
It became glaringly obvious that the tenure meeting was conducted in all kinds of procedurally (and perhaps legally) wrong ways, not least that the chair, who had a history of being opposed to her, arranged to call the meeting when he knew most of the committee members would be out of town; so the quorum became 2 people, him and a 'friendly' colleague. You can find an elegant and informative obituary in English that appeared in Biology and Philosophyhere and more info and homages at the Institut Jean Nicod's page here.
Anyway, now (April 2011) this has become an official affair, with a government inquiry into the circumstances of her non-renewal, how the chair of the department waited an additional 3 months to inform her (just before the next academic year would have started), and so on. The inquiry is expected to look further at the hiring process in the humanities overall in France. Here are stories from Le Monde and L'Express on the current state of the inquiry.
We can hope that Marie-Claude's story continues to have an impact (in addition to the posthumous publication of her excellent papers and perhaps her thesis on biological functions).
Bracing but pretty fair review of 'ambitious' volume I put together with former colleague. Anglocentrism an interesting criticism given my own work is not very anglocentric. Embodied mind...well I guess I wish I could clone J. Sutton's essay and have more of them be like that...
Nice comment by John Wilkins over on his blog Evolving Thoughts, on Uexküll's book, which is now out in English (look for my review on NDPR in a few months). Here's a link to the University of Minnesota Press page on the book.
Promissory note. I want to say something here about - embodiment, invocations of the 'first person', why phenomenology remains respectable in some quarters and why it shouldn't - 'biochauvinism' (I forget whose phrase this is but it comes up in papers in the special issue of Topoi on embodied cognition, in which I've read Di Paolo and Thompson & Stapleton so far) - in 2 weeks there is a special workshop in Sydney on such themes, but focusing on memory, culture, cognition, etc., with people doing cognitive archaeology and the likes. I will be trotting out a version of my forthcoming paper on Organism (HPLS 32:2-3, 2010). - thus I also need to say something about the concept of organism. - For people who are on the Virno/Negri wavelength(s) it is an odd fact of recent intellectual history that some of the loyal Negrists attacked the Virnians (and their erstwhile journal Forme di vita) for being too "naturalistic", too inclined to talk about philosophical anthropology, the body, etc. There is something odd here to be worked, and future intellectual historians will find it odd, I bet. OK that is a longish promissory note !
Since there are both Spinozists and people interested in economics in the 'matrix' or 'dna' of this blog, i thought i'd let people know of a new book by Frédéric Lordon, whose work as far as I know is untranslated so far (even essay/article pieces), which is a shame as it's a step up from the anglophone 'New Spinoza' discourse. Lordon defines himself as a Spinozist economist, and co-edited a nice-looking collection a year or two back on Spinoza and the social sciences.
It's funny, my first response to the emergence of this blog was that I didn't have immediate input into the future of the profession; and I hadn't even looked at Eric's post when I said that. Either my intuition is on the money, or it is blindingly true that what most of us would be most likely to talk about, is that. I feel like pasting/posting Lafargue's Eloge de la paresse or Hakim Bey's TAZ ... instead I will continue with brains, vitalism, embodiment and constitutive ontology. This coming week giving talks on La Mettrie and monsters; and attempting to force into existence a recalcitrant collective in Paris (international but based there) called ... Conatus. Things I'd like to hear informed opinions on: enactivism (Evan Thompson's recent book: I find it terribly subjectivist); experimental philosophy (I like it yet I sense there is something fishy in the argument); and other things surely not starting with 'e'.