Increasingly, when I see someone accused of "ableism" because of some inartful (or perfectly fine) turn of expression, I become angry. It just strikes me as Forrest Gumpism. Everything is really peachy, as long as we confine our discourse to positive platitudes (and attacking those who don't so confine themselves).*
But all else being equal, it is better to be able. Speaking in ways that presupposes this is not bad, at least not bad merely in virtue of the presupposition (see also the Johnny Knoxville/Eddie Barbanell video below).
The place where my son gets occupational therapy (to deal with a bunch of sensory processing disabilities he inherited from me)** is called "Abilities." Good for them! I don't want my child to suffer as much as I do. The thought that I should feel guilty for that, or feel guilty for expressing something that presupposes it, just strikes me as insane. And I don't feel guilty for saying it strikes me as insane. To not be able to use "insane" as a derogation when it is appropriate would be to lose sight of the fact that it is horrible to be insane, which would in fact be extraordinarily cruel to the insane.
My friend Justin Isom dealt with his blindness and cancer with incredible dignity. He played a very bad hand extraordinarily well. But any pretense that it was not a bad hand would have been insulting and condescending (just as he would have taken, on the other side, excessive pity to be condescending). Justin thought it was hilarious when I first squirmed about saying "see you later" to him. When you have a blind friend you realize just how much language is seeded with visual metaphors. For the anti-ableist, we are supposed to police our speech in ways that would pretend otherwise. (And please read Neil Tennant's obituary for Justin below,*** which speaks to Justin's astonishingly rich ability (not just astonshingly rich for a blind guy, but all the more interesting and impressive since it's a blind guy talking) to describe experiences, such as public street in Indonesia, in visual terms.)
But for the anti-ableist speech policer, we can't say that a good idea is "visionary" because that might have hurt Justin's feelings. No. I reject that. You don't speak for Justin and you have no right to present him as emotionally infantile enough to care about such things.
There's not much new that one can currently do to add to the variety of possible time travel metaphysics explored in literature. Try-to-improve-stuff-make-other-stuff-much-worse is a pretty reliable trope by this point. Stephen King's 11/22/63 (in addition to being a great novel) is still philosophically interesting though.
What 11/22/63 makes distressingly clear is that in King's universe Leibniz is correct that this is the best of all possible worlds. When the time-traveller goes back in time the universe supernaturally conspires (through standard horror movie tropes such as inanimate objects behaving as if they are agentive, people acting possessed, etc.) to prevent him from altering anything that would change the course of history or to put history back on track once he's altered it. When the time traveller finally beats the universe at this game, the results are catastrophic, and he then becomes part of the universe horrifically setting itself aright.
For the poor time-traveller it is impossible* to improve history. The thought that one might improve history is only the result of ignorance.
Again, this is not new stuff. It's one response to the problem of evil. What's new in King's book is that he shows Leibniz's conclusion to be itself horrific. It would be madness to worship whatever supernatural forces ensure that this is the best possible world. By realistically portraying the moral psychology of humans buffeted by these forces (made visible to humans by time travel) King is able to demolish the Leibnizian intuition more effectively than Voltaire.
Reformation Theology can be summed up by three Gs: Guilt, Grace, Gratitude. For King, if this really were the best possible world, that's all the more reason to be ungrateful. We're not faced with a good God who can't do better than this (is that process theology?). But rather horrific processes that we can't understand making it impossible that things could be better.
*To be fair, horror impossibility is not the kind of impossibility philosophers normally think about. In horror the impossible is sometimes actual. Noel Carroll comes closest to explaining how this works. Neal Hebert and I tried to expand on Carroll's analysis, but I think our account was overly epistemic. I'm going to teach Harman's book on Lovecraft next year and hopefully be able to rethink this.]
When I watch this I realize how stupid I was to take to heart Cobain's* claim that Pearl Jam was the 90's version of Boston. In this performance he's not doing that Jim Morrisony thing that he did in Pearl Jam's first album and that the lead singer of Stone Temple Pilots did too.
It's pretty powerful stuff, and wonderful to watch Roger Waters digging so much Vedder's performance. I'm going to go dig through Peral Jam's back catalog now.
[*DNA testing reveals that Cobain and I share Gospatric, Earl of Northumbria** as an ancestor. All of the extant Cogburns and Cobains descended from him. This isn't actually that weird though; if you go back far enough any two people share a common ancestor. . . It would be nice if this fact led us to treat one another more nicely.
**One of the many lords in Saxon England whom the Normans displaced. The wikipedia article on the "harrying of the north" is pretty good. William the Conqueror was a real bastard. No less an authority than Orderic Vitalis wrote:
The King stopped at nothing to hunt his enemies. He cut down many people and destroyed homes and land. Nowhere else had he shown such cruelty. This made a real change.
To his shame, William made no effort to control his fury, punishing the innocent with the guilty. He ordered that crops and herds, tools and food be burned to ashes. More than 100,000 people perished of starvation.
I have often praised William in this book, but I can say nothing good about this brutal slaughter. God will punish him.
I remain obsessed with the Saxons, the very week they finally defeated the Vikings they were invaded by the Normans. Then a somewhat crap 80's hair metal band was named after them. Can it get much worse?]
Twenty or so years ago some friends and I voted over and over again to try to get Wodehouse listed in the infamous Modern Library reader's choice of top 100 novels of the twentieth century. Due to our labors, for a week or so "Bertie Wooster Sees it Through" was in the top ten.
Those were good times. In the end though we just couldn't compete with the objectivists, the scientologists, the Heinlein weirdos. . . For what it's worth, we still can't, though I do hope to be able to play all of these songs at some point. That's a little bit of consolation at least.
Since I'm not a naturalist, I'm sort of on Monk/Wittgenstein's side, but I find some of the dichotomies to be a little bit tendentious. Monk opposes "non-theoretical understanding" to the kind of understanding proper to science, and argues that naturalizing programs in philosophy all fail because they don't realize that the domains proper to the two forms of understanding are pairwise disjoint.
Maybe something in the neighborhood of this is true but Monk doesn't mark the distinction in the Sellarsian way one would expect now in terms of the kind of normative presuppositions required by the relevant kind of understanding. Instead, we get this:
One of the crucial differences between the method of science and the non-theoretical understanding that is exemplified in music, art, philosophy and ordinary life, is that science aims at a level of generality* which necessarily eludes these other forms of understanding. This is why the understanding of people can never be a science.
I'm just not sure this is true. It's not at all clear to me that morphologists in biology aim at a greater level of generality than music theorists do.
The guitarist is playing with an "EBow"! Does anybody remember those? They peaked in the 1980s.
I love this song (and this is a credible, if truncated, cover), but I'm kind of glad we're back to using the fingers of our left (right for Cobain, Hendrix, et. al.) hand to get the strings vibrating. I'd bet a decent sum of money that Scott Thurston employed old fashioned volume swells* in the original.
*Cf. Eddie Van Halen's "Cathedral" for a canonical example. Isaac Dinesen/Karen Blixen once wrote something to the effect that you've never truly lived until you've played this solo note-for-note in front of a four dozen or so intoxicated rednecks in a dilapidated rural AlabamaVFW hall.]
So, the response must be multi-faceted. It isn’t enough to feel outrage, but do nothing. Or to feel fear, but do nothing. Or to feel utter, bone-crushing grief, but do nothing. We must institute policies that limit access to guns. Weapons of war have no place in our homes, communities, or law enforcement. But more than that, we as Church must confront the social sin of racism head-on. We must get outside our church buildings, beyond our comfort zones, and say loud and clear, “this is my brother and I will not accept that his life is less valuable than mine. The violence has to stop.” We must be willing to challenge the culture that tells African American boys that their lives are worth less than the lives of White boys. We live in a culture that attempts to justify itself by claiming “self-defense” when we really mean fear and bigotry, or pride, or individualism. But all of this is sin.Our faith reminds us that God is all sovereign and that “God calls us to love our neighbors, not protect ourselves against our neighbors.”
Read the whole thing, which focuses on both gun violence and racism (and concludes with a prayer) here.
Provocative essay here by Charlie Huenemann on how academic philosophy broke bad and what might be done to correct it. Most people that make these kinds of criticisms assume that it would be easy to fix the problems so that all of us could get back to doing old-style philosophy like Plato, Kant, and Hegel did. What's most interesting to me about Huenemann's essay is that he explicitly rejects this assumption.
Huenemann first argues that the modern cult of management in academia brought about a situation where there is:
(1) more attention devoted to narrow problem-solving activity rather then efforts to deepen philosophical wonder; (2) increasingly narrow specialization and less general knowledge of the discipline itself and its history; (3) less engagement with anyone outside the professional guild; and (4) development of various cants and shibboleths to patrol membership in the guild.
There is a lot of wisdom here. However, as noted above, whenever I read this kind of whingeing (and I routinely write it in this forum), I'm almost always struck by the whinger's optimism that there could be any alternative, i.e. if we were all just less narrow we'd be able to do the same kind of stuff that Kant or Schopenhauer did. But is this not exactly like telling a music theory professor that he should compose late period Beethoven quartets and stop with all of the articles on Schenker Analysis? It's a transparently silly demand.
I've done two posts before (here and here) about the ethical status of "jury duty," particularly the extent to which its trolley problem-like structure allows one to justifiably shirk.
Well, I spent today in the Baton Rouge Courthouse and once again I was recused from duty during the period where the plaintiff and defendant's lawyers question potential jurors. Since it was a civil trial (no jail) I had many less qualms about the whole process, but still ended up inadvertantly saying and doing things that got me recused.
This has allowed me to begin to think about why lovers of wisdom might be in some ways systematically unsuited for serving. I don't intend to encourage people shirking their duty, though I will present my insights as a set of commands, just because they read better that way (and yes I realize how ironic all of this, given how Western philosophy begins with a trial)
As I've started to work through Alain Badiou's thought, it's really struck me how destructive the analytic-continental split has been to his English language reception. Even though Badiou says nasty things about French (post)structuralism and analytic philosophy, it's nearly impossible to really understand him unless you have less than trivial familiarity with both traditions.
I'm really interested how many existent PhD programs even come close to helping students achieve this fluency. Ideally there would be regular graduate level course work in core analytic (mind, langauge, epistemology, metaphysics, logic) and core continental* (German Idealism, 19th century post German Idealism (including the big three hermeneuts of suspicion and the twentieth century traditions that two of them spawned), phenomenology, and French (post)structuralism).
I typically send students interested in graduate work to Leiter's specialty rankings, Leiter's comments on M.A. programs, the Pluralists's Guide, and the CDJ rankings. Taken holistically, these give students a very good starting off point for researching particular schools. But there's no list of good crossover** departments where a student could come out with enough mastery in core analytic and continental to be able to easily read someone like Badiou (or Frederic Nef, for that matter). Any suggestions would be helpful to my students. I can think of University of New Mexico, Northwestern, and Notre Dame off the top of my head. I'm sure there must be others though.
[*I realize this is highly contestable, in part because continental philosophers tend to be more critical of the idea of a canon. I'll be happy approving comments for anyone who wants to take issue with me on this. For me, a philosophical area counts as core if work outside that area needs to take it into account. For example, you can't do decent meta-ethics without knowing quite a bit of philosophy of language. From a purely anthropological perspective, the areas/traditions of continental philosophy I listed above serve the same purpose. Nearly everything English langauge speakers call continental philosophy is parasitic on oner or more of them in some way.***
**Notice I didn't say "pluralist." I used to use that word to denote this kind of thing, but too many other people are using it differently in important contexts now. Since "crossover" hasn't been used in this context, I can stipulateively define it in terms of involving core areas of both analytic and continental.
***The idea of core areas is to be distinguished from the sense that philosophy has certain core problems such as the epistemology and metaphysics of deontic and alethic modalities, the problem of the external world, etc.]
This is the time of the year at LSU where incoming students get processed via "freshman orientation." You can see a PDF listing all the stuff they have to do here. In my experience, the people who handle this kind of thing at LSU care a lot about the students and work very hard to put together helpful programs. I do transfer advising a few times a year as part of it. The trick is to try to get incoming students' transfer credits to cover LSU Gen. Ed. requirements. It's pretty rewarding, because you're meeting people at an exciting time in their lives and the little bit of effort you expend can make a big difference to them. Plus, it's one area of services at LSU that doesn't seem to have been hit by budget cuts.
This being said, some of it is pretty irritating. A certain subset of current students, called LSU Ambassadors, help out with the process, leading tours around campus and whatnot. You can recognize them because they wear these distinctive yellow shirts and get their tour groups to do military boot camp like call and response routines relating to LSU school spirit as they walk through campus buildings. I think it's just a coincidence that they do this outside of my office over and over again. I mean, I don't think anyone in administration hates me that much.
Honestly, the school spirit chants make me a little bit ill, not just because they're loud and distracting, but also in part because they remind me so much of church camps from my youth, which were Max Weber cubed. If you didn't manifest this kind of hysterical forced gaiety no matter what you were going through, then God must have some issues with you. And if God doesn't give a spit about you, why should I? What do the LSU Ambassadors think about the people who would rather not chant along to athletic oriented cheerleader routines?
More importantly, the whole point of going to a big state university is precisely to escape that kind of nonsense. You've already read Salinger in high school and all of the forced gaiety has begun to seem deeply suspect. Then college gives you a few years try to find out who you might become. In my case, this involved smoking cigarettes in cafes and having the exact same conversations that teenage smokers have had ever since the beatniks, the existentialists, and the German Idealists before them. It was trading one work for another, but I was seventeen. What do you expect? And if the existentialists are correct, that's all we have anyhow.
Thought-provoking essay here* by UC Berkeley's Elizabeth Segran critiquing standard pedagogy in Women and Gender Studies courses. She makes a kind of left wing usage of some of the tropes* that accompanied the slow death of theory (and ascendancy of new historicism and now digital humanities/surface reading) from the mid 90's through now.
From my friends who teach these classes, I don't think that Seagran's piece actually works that well as a critique of what is being taught in WGS classes. This being said, it is interesting to think of it in light of the kinds of issues we might teach in practical ethics classes. Too often we either stick to hot button political issues or issues of professional ethics, and ignore some of the most pressing issues that students face, such as hook-up culture, slut shaming, campus sexual assault, the Greek system, college athletics, etc.
I think there's also something to her point that it's just much easier for all sorts of reasons (involving both students and administrators) to teach broader theoretical/jargony issues that people are less antecedently psychologically invested in. A friend of mine who researches and teaches about hook up culture often has to deal with Beavis and Butt-Head types who half the time are mocking him and the other students and who are usually a priori convinced that anything short of an A+ is evidence that they are being graded for their rebarbative views rather than inability to learn the material. It can be a real drag and I doubt that I would have the courage to put myself in his position. Far easier to swim in the Wide Sargasso Sea of the various neologisms that at this point aren't really new anymore. It's relaxing. The water is warm. You get a nice tan.
There's a non-trivial chance that I'll be teaching an introductory philosophy of religion course for the first time this up and coming semester. When I took the class with Robert Koons when I was an undergraduate we mostly used Mackie's The Miracle of Theism. It was pretty good, but I'm sure that better books must have come out in the ensuing twenty or so years. If anyone has any suggestions, or knows of any discussions that might be helpful, that would be aces.
Justin Weinberg hosted a pretty interesting discussion about the state of the field over at the Daily Nous (here) about whether philosophy of religion should be taught in the first place. The consensus of the people against it seemed to be some combination of: (a) most philosophy of religion is Christian apologetics in disguise, and (b) Christianity is so antecedently stupid that it is malpractice to take it seriously (cf. philosophy of telepathy).
I don't think Christianity is antecedently stupid, and I think the first isn't a complaint about philosophy of religion per se, but rather a broader complaint about the lack of engagement with non-Western philosophy in Western departments. I am, however, concerned that books like Mackie focus so much on the question of whether or not God exists. As has been discussed by Helen De Cruz multiple times here, it's very weird to filter all philosophically interesting questions through this one lens and also possibly involves systematically misconstruing religious practice. It would be nice to be able to focus at least as much on broader epistemological and ethical/socio-political questions (as well as metaphysical and meta-metaphysical questions beyond the simple "does x exist?" kind) arising from philosophical reflection on religion. But that might be a bit much to ask for in an intro class. Anyhow, if anyone has any suggestions for syllabi or textbooks, that would be gravy.
Interesting article on trolley problems in the Atlantic Monthly here. I had no idea that there was such a sizable experimental literature surrounding the issue. The upshot of the article is that maybe there shouldn't be.
I'm not well versed in the recent thinking about it in psychology* or philosophy, but textbook portrayals of it seem to always partially miss the point to me. I mean, it is interesting how people's consequentialist versus deontological intuitions cash out in specific cases. But I think it's more interesting to think of how the real world is filled with analogous tragic choices. I did a post suggesting this with respect to jury duty about this six months ago, but the discussion got derailed by the very practical issue of what I should do.***
Expanded trolly problems are where someone is forced to decide between something bad and something worse (I'm guessing that lots of such situations won't reveal anything about consequentialism or deontology). The interesting thing, it seems to me, is that this is a key way that oppressive systems make people complicit in their own subjugation.**** With the jury duty thing you either: (a) go to jail for refusing, (b) be a part of sending someone to prison, or (c) be a part of letting a possibly dangerous person back into the public where he might very well cause a lot of harm. This is incredible pressure to take part in an unjust system. Any cognitive dissonance one might feel is almost always going to be resolved in terms of thinking the system just. And so the ubiquity of real world trolley examples plays a constitutive role in the self-perpetuation of oppressive structures.
Maybe it's a lack of philosophical imagination on my part, but this seems at least as interesting to me as whether one would throw the guy off the bridge or whatever. I still don't know what to do with respect to jury duty. I suspect that this is one area where passive aggression will save the day. Last time I had jury duty I got thrown out for arguing with the prosecutor over points of Louisiana Law. The judge agreed with me, but the prosecutor got revenge by using his last vote to get rid of a juror. Perhaps I should feel guilty about this, along the lines of "someone has to do it," but I don't.
One might argue that passive aggressively getting yourself out of having to declare one way or the other is to make a choice (the Kantian one in the traditional trolley problem). But this is to ignore the political nature of the problem. If enough people passive aggressively got out of having to make a choice, this would undermine the manner in which the existing institution pushes people into trolley situations. Perhaps that's some consolation of a rule utilitarian sort. I don't know.
Yesterday's post about the the extent that mainstream feminist thinking is implicated in trans exclusinary radical feminism generated some great comments. In particular, my impression that Women and Gender theorists overwhelmingly defined gender differences as being in the contingent realm of culture and sex differences as being in the realm of nomic necessity was mistaken. However, nobody took up the main point I was trying to make (and it should be clear that no one has an obligation to do so) so I'll try to frame it more generally.
First, with respect to gender, it's not enough to problematize the gender/sex distinction merely by arguing that sexual difference itself is imbued with cultural and epigenetic factors. Has the debate gone beyond that sort of generic culturally relativist move? It was not clear from the comments. The challenge by Serano and Garcia is in part from the other direction; denying that aspects of gender difference are in the realm of nomic necessity leads to other forms of oppression. From Sullivan's post, the denial of this by many feminist activists involves systematically ignoring or dismissing the testimony of many trans people, and this suppression accounts for much of the acrimony between TERFs and transgender people.
Second, the gender/sex issue wasn't a little bit orthogonal to the problem I tried to pose, which was that much feminist theory (at least the stuff I studied seven years ago) wasn't able to navigate a Scylla and Charibdis between politics of identity and difference. Serano and Garcia argue that even recent feminist theorists (who are aware of the danger) end up denigrating femininity and telling women that they should have traditionally masculine traits. But if the alternative is Carol Gilligan or Glover type theory, no thanks. Glover critiques the "final girl" in horror movies (the last possible victim who survives and kills the killer) as a "male adolescent in drag" in part because the final girl has "masculine" attributes such as planning and use of reason. As far as infantalizing condescension goes, this is about on par with pesticide companies giving pink teddy bears to women with breast cancer.
A few months ago some of us discussed Julia Serano's book Whipping Girl, which argues that a lot of mainstream feminism ironically enforces the Aristotelian view that masculinity is healthy and normal and femininity is artificial and harmful. The chapter on gender in Tristan Garcia's Form and Object makes a similar argument with respect to some academic queer theorists who (according to Garcia) end up excoriating people who don't cowboy up and take responsibility for their own gender.
If there is a problem here it has to do with a calim that is taken to be almost analytically true in many Women and Gender's Studies classes. It goes like this. The division of sexes is a biological notion, and hence tied up with nomic necessity in some manner, while gender division is merely cultural, and hence highly variable and contingent. But the biology doesn't really support the presupposed views about biological sex (there are more than two genetic sexes, and the leap from genetic to genital sex requires at the very least lots of epigenetic factors we don't understand, and there are more than two genital sexes). And the view of gender as entirely cultural involves systematically ignoring what a lot of transgender people such as Juliana Serano have to say about their experience (and perhaps some of the relevant biology as well).
A recent post by Andrew Sullivan chronicles how this debate has gone beyond academia and is actually become poisonous in the activist community, pitting trans exclusionary radical feminist ("TERF") activists against transgender activists.
You can find here the latest iteration of quotes from a philosopher cleverly juxtaposed with incongruous pictures.
I think maybe that philosophers divide into those whose prose works well for this kind of thing and those for whom it doesn't. Anything even slightly portentous works, and if you are skilfull in choice of images, I think that anything with technical vocabulary would probably be ripe, but the result would be funny for different reasons.
Some philosophers' work can be illustrated in a non-ironic way. Peter Singer once said that the pictures in his animal cruelty book convinced a lot more people than the actual arguments. Probably any non-trivial work of ethics could benefit from this kind of illustration. And, finally, visual artists have been appropriating philosophical sentences for decades. I forget the guy who put a sentence from Davidson next to all of his paintings (I can't find this because there is a guy who does watercolors of flowers also named Donald Davidson). It was cool stuff. More recently (due in part to the labors of the Rays, Negerestani and Brassier, as well as Armen Avinessian and Graham Harman) lots of artists are doing things with respect to Speculative Realism.
I wonder what it is about philosophy such that our sentences work so well in conjunction with pictures, both in ironic contraposition and non-ironically. In any case, we should probably be happy to provide the service.
Justin Weinberg has a nice post and discussion at the dailynous of the old story that people on airplanes ask us for our sayings (it's variously attributed, twenty-five or so years ago Charles Hartshorne told me it happened to him). It was kind of a cool synchronicity that on the same day I read Weinberg's post, I discovered this? There's not that much wisdom among them, but some are pretty funny. Examples:
“Logicians love to confuse people, just for the sake of getting clear on logic.”
— Logic professor
“Let me tell you about how different philosophy classes were in the ’60’s. I had a Norwegian philosophy professor at Berkeley who, one day, had our class take a walk through San Francisco and climb up a rope onto a cliff. Then we sat at his feet while he read from ‘Being and Time’.”
— Philosophy of Mind professor
“I always laughed at the honor pledge because it seems like that would be the first thing you would lie about.”
— Ethics professor
“This is at least how it works for human beings. I don’t know how it works for gods—I’ve never been one and I don’t know any.”
Nice NDPR review here by Riccardo Pozzo of Maurizio Ferraris' Goodbye Kant!: What Still Stands of the Critique of Pure Reason. According to Pozzo, the book is actually a best-seller in Italy, which is pretty cool. There's also this very funny passage (have to read it through to the end):
For Ferraris, given that "ontology includes everything that is in heaven and earth, the realm of objects that are available to experience," which makes up the first main topic of Kant's Critique of Pure Reason, and given that "metaphysics deals with what goes beyond or transcends [experience]," which makes up the second main topic of the book, it does indeed make sense to speak of Kant's metaphysics and ontology (p. 20). In fact, "the reader of the Analytic has before him Kant's ontology, a work of construction and not of destruction" (p. 21). Ferraris follows suit with the two otherwise opposed readings of Kant by Strawson and Heidegger, with Strawson calling for a metaphysics of experience and Heidegger for an analysis of finite human being, "which amounts" -- Ferraris succinctly notes -- "to the same thing, said with more passion" (p. 21).
Ferraris himself is rapidly becoming one of the key figures in the movement in continental philosophy sometimes called "the new realism" or "back to metaphysics." His English language wikipedia page is pretty informative as far as these things go. In light of the recent reappraisal of Derrida by people such as Paul Livingston, Martin Hagglund, Graham Priest, and Debbie Goldgaber (following earlier work by people such as Sam Wheeler, and to some extent contraposed by Lee Braver's important interpretation of Derrida) it's interesting that Ferraris's early work is influenced by, and often about, Derrida. The wikipedia page (take with a grain of salt) says that his new realism comes in part by systematizing Vattimo and Derrida. A bunch of his stuff is coming out in English over the next few years. It will be fun to follow it.
This is very funny. In the spirit of Derrida responding to Searle, I'll just go ahead and fully exerpt Kotsko's annotated version of the first two paragraphs of "Structure, Sign, and Play:"
Perhaps [weasel-word!] something has occurred in the history of the concept of structure that could be called an “event,” if this loaded word [loaded according to whom?] did not entail a meaning which it is precisely the function [is this really its only function?] of structural–or structuralist–thought [which is it?] to reduce or to suspect [again, which?]. But let me use the word “event” anyway, employing it with caution and as if in quotation marks. In this sense, this event will have the exterior form of a rupture and a redoubling[why? Unpack this].
It would be easy enough to show [then show it! This is a big generalization that you never support!] that the concept of structure and even the word “structure” itself are as old as the episteme[is this a reference to Foucault? In that case, cite]–that is to say, as old as western science and western philosophy [this is a big claim, citation?]–and that their roots thrust deep into the soil of ordinary language, into whose deepest recesses the episteme plunges to gather them together once more, making them part of itself in a metaphorical displacement [unclear -- I think I see what you're getting at, but it could be expanded and unpacked a bit more]. Nevertheless, up until the event which I wish to mark out and define [maybe you should lead off with what this event is supposed to be, rather than making the reader wait? I'm already losing the thread], structure–or rather the structurality of structure–although it has always [careful with these generalizations] been involved, has always been neutralized or reduced, and this by a process of giving it a center or referring it to a point of presence [this feels jargony to me], a fixed origin. The function of this center was not only to orient, balance, and organize the structure–one cannot in fact conceive of an unorganized structure–but above all to make sure that the organizing principle of the structure would limit what we might call the freeplay of the structure [what does this mean? Unpack]. No doubt [this does not seem as immediately obvious to me] that by orienting and organizing the coherence of the system, the center of a structure permits the freeplay of its elements inside the total form. And even today the notion of a structure lacking any center represents the unthinkable itself [this seems a bit overblown -- maybe nuance?].
I think with the very best satire there is always instability concerning the target. Moreover, as Kotsko's effort makes clear, a measure of how ideological you are might be the extent to which you fail to realize this. Here one could with equal justification view Kotsko as satirizing either Derrida or his detractors. The inability to see it as both would be a clear example of the way that ideological commitments trump aesthetic ones. Not that that's always a bad thing. The early Nietzsche was, after all, wrong about the primacy of aesthetic norms over moral ones. I do, however, wonder what the final draft of The Birth of Tragedy would have read like if he'd turned it in to me for comment.
The program for the up and coming SPEP conference in New Orleans* is on-line here.
Compared to the last two years, Badiou and German Idealism are very well represented this year. Cool stuff!
I'm pouring a little bit of rum** on the ground every night in the hope that it will propitiate whatever gods might have some say with respect to hurricanes. Two years ago a pretty nasty one walloped the East Coast during SPEP.
*Which is a fun place, if you dutifully consult your Fodor's*** guide. The last Central APA in New Orleans was kind of a depressing affair during the evening talk times. It was a little bit like the hotel in The Shining, symmetrical framing and all.
**I'm not really a pagan, but hurricanes do kind of bring that out in you. It's not just the kind of waving-with-your-arms-to-get-the-already-released-bowling-ball-to-move type superstition. It's also that every time one misses Baton Rouge, my relief at not being hit myself substantially outweighs my upset for those currently suffering elsewhere. It's not a very Christian attitude. This beign said, anyone but a saint who has lived through one of those things understands the sentiment. Now I'm going to get back to my Voltaire. . .
***Not that Fodor, this is SPEP after all.****
****As much as I miss discussions of innateness, languages of thought, semantic atomism, anti-evolution, etc. at SPEP, it is a bit of a relief not to have to worry about feeling like a jerk for never laughing whenever various of Fodor's pets and older female family members are jokingly mentioned.]
I'm breaking our policy* of not posting calls for papers for three reasons: (1) two friends of the blog are involved in this, (2) the topic concerns things we've blogged about at newapps before, and (3) crossover material is part of this blog's raison d'etre (prounounce that like Joe Bob Briggs would).
The department of Philosophy and Moral Sciences, Ghent University, Ghent, Belgium, is pleased to host a workshop on "Analytical Existentialism," October 20–21, 2014
Keynote: LA Paul (UNC): "Transformative Experiences"
We welcome abstracts on topics related to Analytical Existentialism, which is the use of an analytical style to investigate topics that matter to us as human beings capable of feelings and anxieties or joys while doing justice to our first-person (even phenomenological) perspective. In particular, we welcome papers that instantiate and theorize Analytical Existentialism (and its history) as well as criticize it. In addition, we welcome papers on transformative experiences from any perspective, including phenomenological and other non-analytical traditions.
Leg bouncers - Tend to bounce at a rhythm of around ten times per second, achieved by pressing and releasing the forward part of the metatarsals on the floor while the calcaneus remains consistently raised.
Foot bouncers - Legs are crossed, and the tallus of the raised foot is held still, while the phalanges move side to side at about ten cycles per second.
Thigh massagers - Feet are ususally flat on the floor, and knees move closer together and further apart at a rate of about three times per second. Each knee moves horizontally about three to five inches each half cycle with the average distance between the knees somewhere between one and a little over two feet, depending on the particular man who can't sit still's style of thigh massage.
Foot rotators - Langorous, veering into laconicity, phalanges make a slow circle at about once per second.
The diameter of the bomb was thirty centimeters and the diameter of its effective range about seven meters, with four dead and eleven wounded. And around these, in a larger circle of pain and time, two hospitals are scattered and one graveyard. But the young woman who was buried in the city she came from, at a distance of more than a hundred kilometers, enlarges the circle considerably, and the solitary man mourning her death at the distant shores of a country far across the sea includes the entire world in the circle. And I won’t even mention the crying of orphans that reaches up to the throne of God and beyond, making a circle with no end and no God.