I find the following to be a good methodological principle. If your view of the world commits you to the proposition that the dominant philosophers between (and including) Kant and Hegel were naive and unsophisticated, then YOUR ARE DOING IT WRONG.
Great posts by John Dahanar, James Gray, Tristan Haze, Clayton Littlejohn, Deborah Mayo, Colin McLarty, Daniel Mullen, Eric Schwitzgebel, Bruce Waller (cool to see so many friends-of-the-blog represented and also doing such cool stuff).
A really talented sophomore/junior undergraduate e-mailed me this week asking for books that would serve as good bridges to being able to read contemporary articles in analytic philosophy.
He's already working through one of the L metaphysics books now (either Lowe or Loux, I forget) this summer, and rocking out at it, but it's a little hard going all by itself if you've just got logic, existentialism, and intro under your belt.
Any advice would be greatly appreciated and maybe helpful to others in the same situation.
Graham Harman printed a memorial a few days ago, and the sad news is now officially on the SUNY Stony Brook web page.
We just wanted to join Graham in expressing our condolences to all of the many people who take sustenance from Hugh Silverman's life and work.
In addition to all of his books, translations, and edited series, Professor Sivlerman's work with the International Association for Philosophy and Literature was indefatigable. In all of these respects, he was one key figures that over the past thirty-five years has helped philosophy move out of the disciplinary confines that often still hinder it. All of us who think that philosophy must take into account wisdom from literature broadly construed (and vice versa) remain in Silverman's debt.
One of the two most persistent misunderstandings of university life is that because we are not teaching over the summer, we "get the summer off."Almost every academic I know actually works harder over the summer than the rest of the time, but none of their extended families or non-academic friends seem to understand this.
In an effort to fight this, for the past few years on my own (now defunct) blog, I've hosted a beginning of summer post where people share what they hope to get done in the ensuing summer. Please contribute to this public awareness campaign by sharing (plus, I'm not the only one interested in what you are working on). My summer plans below the fold:
In Fall I'm teaching my senior/graduate class on Philosophy of Language. Two-thirds of the semester will be spent going over Alexander Miller's generally* excellent Philosophy of Language book.
For the final third, I'd like to do something on two-dimensional semantics, if that's possible for students who have a general textbook like Miller's under their belt. Assuming it is, can anyone recommend a readable introduction suitable for smart upper-level undergraduates?
And now, for our regularly scheduled break from left-wing inerwebs policing, the one and only Junior Brown!
Possibly the best thing ever to come out of Austin, TX. Certainly the best since the halcyon days when the Bad Livers and Daniel Johnston warmed up crowds for their good friends the Butthole Surfers. If you don't believe me just google "Hillbilly Hula Gal," "You're Wanted by the Police, and My Wife Thinks Your Dead," and of course the epochal "My Baby Don't Dance to Nothing But Ernest Tubbs."
After some thought, I realize that it was wrong. Use of the word in a public forum like this encourages essentialist thinking about gay people. I apologize.
Unlike the r-word (see video to right), I do think there are occasions where "gaydar" is appropriate. In less enlightened parts of the world if you yourself are gay it's extraordinarily important to be able to pick up on whether other people are gay prior to explicit conversation. This how I learned the word a couple of decades ago, and it's a fine word in those contexts. But it seems to me that a good rule of thumb is that if you are straight you don't get to use it.
During my five or six years in graduate school two pretty strong correlations held up: (1) married students (at least the majority whose spouses were not academics) who did not have children were much less likely to complete the PhD than unmarried students, (2) married students with children were much more likely to complete the PhD than unmarried students.
I think the first one held because the demands of cultivating the relationship with the non-academic spouse (and his or her work friends) often ended up eating into cultivating relationships with fellow graduate students and fully participating in the life of the department.
The second one was utterly surprising to me. But now that I have children I think it probably holds for four reasons: (1) having a kid makes you much, much better at time management, (2) a lot of the stuff you give up when your kids are young are things that actually work against academic success, (3) raising a kid is much harder than academic work, so the time you get to actually do your academic work starts to seem no longer like work at all but rather a break, (4) the kind of anxiety that leads to graduate school writer's block doesn't really apply any more; worrying about your kids liberates you from all sorts of narcissism, including lots of useless anxieties.
Does this jibe with other people's experiences? Anything I'm missing?
Over at Spiros' place there's a nice discussion (HERE) about weird expectations people have about academic philosophers. I'm interested if any friends of the blog have similar experiences.
The most depressing reaction I get is sometimes naked hostility from Tea Party types. It's a weird inversion in the American South, because when I was a kid in Alabama if anything university professors were put up on too high a pedestal. I mean, a professor would certainly be allowed to sit on the nice couch in the parlor, the one still had the plastic wrap on it.
The weirdest reaction I've ever gotten though is from a carpenter who both confused philosophy and psychology and who had that weird 1950s belief (cf. psychiatrists in shows like "I Dream of Jeannie") that learning psychology gave one the ability to automatically discern people's deepest beliefs and desires by little behavioral tells that we all give off at various times.
Now here's the weird thing. My gaydar was pinging extraordinarily loudly in the direction of this carpenter, despite (because of?) his projecting a very stereotypical southern guy toughness. And he kept saying "What am I thinking right now?" I didn't go there though, and instead just kept saying that my colleagues were much better at this kind of thing than I was. He was a nice man (and extraordinary carpenter), and I felt pretty bad that I couldn't tell that he was thinking about his phone bill or whatever.
Full schedule HERE (conference web page HERE). Man, I'm going to learn a lot at this conference.
To the extent that American and British metaphysics is historically informed it tends just to be because of the labors of a few crossover medievalists and a general awareness of the agonies of logical positivism. It's just so exciting to see the emergence in Europe a new generation of metaphysicians aware of the agonies of phenomenology as well as the other essential aspects of our post-Kantian inheritance.
I'd love to see an era where Anglo metaphysicians as a rule also live in the space opened up when one takes seriously the period from Kant to Hegel, 19th century anti-metaphysics, the (related) rise and fall of phenomenology (and the Spiders from Mars), as well as the great French philosophers of the 60s and their philosophical offspring.
Given the quality of work being done at places like the University of New Mexico (especially when combined with the limitations of post-Quinean analytical metaphysics), I think that this kind of metaphysical ecumenicalism really could happen in our lifetime.
Things have been uneven since the year of Blood Money and Alice, so I haven't been following Tom Waits as closely lately. I just heard this song for the first time today:
Pretty horrifying. The top youtube comment is:
I did one pump in iraq, two more in afghan. Now i'm out of the service and listen to this song when I think about how badly my body has been broken down, how my illusions about america and the world broke down, how everything in my life has broken apart in one way or another as a result of my service.
I honestly can't tell how funny most of these are. I think in general it's hard when you are the target of something to be a good judge in this manner. Some (e.g. "Point unclear? Better change some words to italic." as well as the one about using "she" but citing no women) do strike me as hilarious, but many are too unfair and misleading.
Nonetheless, I'm impressed that one (or people) this knowledgeable of analytic philosophy can hate it so much. I mean with most paradigm type issues understanding usually breeds respect.
I think I'd appreciate it more if the meme was academic philosophy instead of "analytic philosophy," and if the dehumanizing "scumbag" wasn't used, but perhaps that is just me being defensive. I don't know. Any thoughts? Which ones work and which ones don't? Why and why not?
Nice discussion HERE including a cool shout out to friend-of-the-blog L.A. Paul. Most horrifying part:
What percentage of graduate students end up with tenure? (About one in four.) How much more unhappy are graduate students than other people? (About fifty-four per cent of graduate studentsreport feeling so depressed they have “a hard time functioning,” as opposed to ten per cent of the general population.)
Nice meditations by Graham Harman HERE on how writing styles are inextricably tied up to different conceptions of thinking.
Harman himself thinks that philosophical texts are more like aesthetic objects in that there is an indeterminacy between content relevant formal properties and content irrelevant formal properties. Different interpretations will take different formal properties to be content relevant (see Nelson Goodman on plagiarism for why this is a constitutive norm for art interpretation). This leads to a an undermining of accounts of content that treat the differentiation between style and content as unproblematic (cf McDowell on scheme-content).
Now what's interesting in terms of the post is that this leads Harman to see the analytic philosopher's typical disagreement with him about form-content indeterminacy in terms of the literary style of analytic philosophy.
This strikes me as rather deep. . . In any case, I could not agree more with the conclusion of the post.
I’ve often quoted the following remark reported to me from the Rorty archive. Rorty joked that “every 10 years or so, a book is published with a title something like ‘Beyond Realism and Idealism.’ And it always turns out that what’s beyond realism and idealism is– idealism!”
I feel much the same way about those who claim to be “beyond” the analytic/continental philosophy distinction. If that happens, it’s simply going to mean all analytic philosophy, with a sprinkling of ambitious ex-continentals who think they can pitch Deleuze or Derrida in ways that analytics will find sensible.
So, allow me to propose a toast to the analytic/continental divide. (With one caveat: we really ought to be reading each other more. There’s always room for that.)
Professor Galloway could probably moonlight writing dialogue for David Mamet. Student e-mail and his response HERE. Even though every thing he says is true I could never in a million years respond the way he did:
My baseline of cowardice with respect to interpersonal conflict is too high,
Students are already accommodating my inability to get my own sh*t together as far as various neuroses (mostly gum chewing and leg bouncing), so who am I to lecture them?
Sometimes what we take to be evidence of the student not having their sh*t together is really just the detritus of them fighting the good fight too many fronts.
As far as the third one goes, an increasing problem I've seen since the great recession began is students missing class because of their work schedules and then showing up often not during your office hours asking you to teach them half a semester's worth of material. Nobody I know has a good policy to deal with this, and when you are teaching something like logic, this can entail giving the same lecture over and over and over again in the course of semester. I can imagine writing a letter like Galloway's in response to this kind of thing, but I just think it would be wrong. Many of these students are the first to go to college in their family and they happen to be going at a time when the social contract has been rewritten expressly to screw them over. I mean, I can't say that they should be taking out unsubsidized loans instead of working. On the other hand, if enough students do it, it can crowd out everything else you might get done that day.
I'd be really interested in what people think of Galloway's letter and any policies people put in place to deal with students who don't have their sh*t together in various ways.
This bears some relation to Helen De Cruz's earlier post today about how one's non-philosophical activities relate to one's philosophy. One very strange convergence happened when the original four speculative realists discovered that, like almost all contemporary horror writers (and philosopher of horror Noel Carroll too), they all shared a reverence for Lovecraft's achievement.
What was supposed to be a two-page introduction ballooned into the first twenty pages. For the final version we'll have to take most of that out, but it was worth working through, and I think worth reading for anyone interested in the hoopla surrounding speculative realism, object-oriented ontology, and the recent explosion of continental metaphysics generally.
The general upshot of the paper is also nice; building on work by me and Mark Silcox, Ohm and I further develop an account of what the actual truth of fictional texts amounts to. The key insight is that narrative texts are thought experiments in the same manner as natural science thought experiments. On our account the only difference between physics and fiction is that the discursive norms surrounding the texts treat the form-content distinction in characteristically different ways. Fun stuff.
Spending this Good Friday hunkered down in my office trying to work on a paper on object oriented ontology and hermeneutics that Mark Ohm and I are giving at the Subverting the Norm II postmodern theology conference next week.
It's weird. The building is locked, but people keep trying to come inside. So over and over again I hear people yanking violently on the metal doors. Should I let them in?
By far the best is the one by John Kavaratis, who carefully enumerates our sins, which include (1) using feminine singular pronouns, and (2) apparently being too stupid to know that fantasy and horror are distinct genres. I can't get too het up though. There's a Simpson's comic book guy inside of all of us.
I'm going to abuse my prerogatives as a blogger here and, instead of posting this as a response to Berit's nice meditations and the resulting discussion HERE, start another top level thread.
First let me note that I think the worries about problems caused by hyperproffesionalisation in the commenters are not without basis. However, I have equally valid worries about the romantic cult of genius that seems to me to infect professional philosophy. There are just so many ways that pursuit of the great is the enemy of the good.
I"m putting the finishing touches on a paper that Mark Ohm and I are writing for the Subverting the Norms II conference on postmodern theology (among other cool things, our first chance to see John Caputo), and I'm flummoxed by my inability to find a passage from Kurt Vonnegut.
Some background- In the paper Ohm and I argue that even one were to categorize the Bible as a work of fiction, this doesn't justify reading it like the "Jefferson Bible," denuded of supernatural aspects. The manner in which we argue this comes from thinking of fictions as thought experiments (a view initially suggested by Mary Sirridge, developed recently by Eva Dadlez in terms of ethical thought experiments, and more recently generalized as a model of truth from fiction in terms of physical thought experiments by Mark Silcox and myself).