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).
Lots of cool stuff. Anyone at all interested in Meillassoux's claims about absolute contingency will want to read the Alexander Pruss piece (and the material linked to therein), as Pruss' argument can work as a lemma in a reconstruction of Meillassoux's argument.
HERE, courtesy Cosmos and History: The Journal of Natural and Social Philosophy. Just tons of fascinating stuff on German Idealism, McDowell, and recent French metaphysics.
Man I'd love to be a graduate student at the University of New Mexico's Department of Philosophy. I shouldn't complain though. I'll get to see Johnston at the Translating Realism conference at Notre Dame this coming May, and I got to see Paul Livingston and Iain Thompson at SPEP this year, which was also completely awesome.
After much thought, this would have to be my proposal:
If you have time, please put forward other suggestions in the comments section (Queen? AC/DC? The White Stripes? Neil Young? Nirvana? I don't know. . .). Youtube links to canonical performances would be cool too.
For people not following, let me be clear that Alberto Del Rio is a babyface (good guy) and tea partiers Zeg Colter and Jack Swagger are heels.
Note how both wrestlers break kayfabe (the sacred code of wrestling where one never admits that anything is scripted) at 1:38, just to twist the knife in Glenn Beck. I love how they condescendingly explain what a "promo" is. Then the way they effortlessly go back into character at 4:46 is wonderful.
Beck didn't show up to Raw, but WWE did broadcast a reporter failing to get an interview with him at his headquarters. Not since Dusty Rhodes have I seen left wing positions so clearly paired with stereo-typical professional wrestling virtues. Given wrestling's history as a cultural bellwether, this strikes me as a very good thing.
Jill Vance Buroker's excoriating review of Daniel Robinson's How is Nature Possible? (HERE and earlier NewAPPS discussion HERE) begins with the following:
A helpful interpretation of Kant should do a number of things. First, it should have a clear conception of its target audience and their familiarity with Kant. Second, it should treat systematically Kant's method and strategy in the Critique, including the place of each argument in his "architectonic." Third, as background it should explain clearly the views of the philosophers to whom Kant is responding. Fourth, it should take seriously Kant's technical terminology and the positions based on it. And finally, it should demonstrate good familiarity with the Kant literature. This book misses the mark on all counts.
This seems to me to leave out something crucial, which is the reception of the work in the immediate cultural milieu. As far as I can tell, this isn't anomalous in contemporary history though.
While doing job searches in history, I've noticed that the norm in dissertations concerns deep reading of the figure's texts themselves, and sometimes discussion of what came before the figure. But there is almost never discussion of the immediate reception of the figure. Though I'm not a historian, this strikes me as frankly weird and potentially damaging. Is it possible to be a Kant scholar, for example, without having any expertise on German Idealism?
I'm interested if any historians think that the lack of this norm has harmed analytic history of philosophy. First, two possible examples.
Some nice meditations HERE. For the very reasons that Harman gives, I've started to wonder if I'd do a better job on hiring committees if I just didn't read the reference letters at all.
My first problem is that one has to try to triangulate with respect to the reference writer's personality (and nationality) in order to get anything at all from the letter, and I'm not sure that it is really possible to do this well enough to be fair to the job candidates. The second problem is that I just don't think reference writers are very good predictors of what the candidate is going to be like. Having been on hiring committees for over a decade now, I'm able to follow the careers of many of the people whose letters I've read and I've just seen to many "best philosopher I've ever taught" not publish very much and, on the other hand, lots of people with less effusive praise do amazing things.
I still do read them, though I only look for three things: (1) a better sense of what the person's research is about, especially if she has other fires in the iron besides the dissertation and writing sample (which suggests at least a little that the person will be tenurable, not stop after tenure, and also be a good philosophical conversationalist), (2) a sense of whether the person will be selfless about picking up service work, and (3) red flags. Again though, I don't know if this is fair, given Harman's concerns and my two worries. I try to discount how famous the letter writer is, which seems to me to be the most common source of people putting too much stock in these things. Though again, this isn't always possible as some famous people write shorter letters as a matter of course, and one has to factor this in to be charitable to the applicant (though, again, this is unfair to the candidate with the non-famous letter writer who also writes short letters as a matter of course).
Characteristically trenchant thoughts on religious agnosticism HERE. Gutting's reflections on the relation between knowledge and understanding are in reaction to a couple of very nice earlier meditations by Simon Critchley. Here's the punchline with respect to religion:
Knowledge, if it exists, adds a major dimension to religious commitment. But love and understanding, even without knowledge, are tremendous gifts; and religious knowledge claims are hard to support. We should, then, make room for those who embrace a religion as a source of love and understanding but remain agnostic about the religion’s knowledge claims. We should, for example, countenance those who are Christians while doubting the literal truth of, say, the Trinity and the Resurrection. I wager, in fact, that many professed Christians are not at all sure about the truth of these doctrines —and other believers have similar doubts. They are, quite properly, religious agnostics.
James argues that what is characteristic of assholes is that they systematically "act out of a deep-rooted sense of entitlement, a habitual and persistent belief that they deserve special treatment." He develops a typology of different kinds of assholes, and also theorizes about the rise of "asshole capitalism," which is where:
Two general questions about statistical and moral norms governing rank.
Among tenure-track and tenured faculty, to what extent does having a higher rank typically give one greater control over teaching assignments?
To what extent should having a higher rank give one greater control over teaching assignments?
For example, is it normal for all ranks to typically teach the same distribution of upper and lower level courses? Or is it normal for Fulls to teach whatever they want, even if this means some of them only teach upper level courses while Associates and Assistants are required to teach freshmen and sophomore general education courses? Are there any good arguments for the norms being one way or the other?
I genuinely have no idea what the answers to the above are, and as a result think I don't really know the commonly accepted meaning of the terms "Full," "Associate," and "Assistant" as applied to job titles, e.g.
To what extent is it the job of Assistant Professors to assist higher ranked professors?
To what extent is being an "Associate Professor" like what retail stores mean when they call non-management employees "associates."
I'm not being sarcastic by asking these questions. The answers would be extremely helpful information, if only so that I know what I'm saying when I say that I am an Associate Professor.*
[*Full disclosure: I was a "K-Mart Associate" for three years and am so confident in the meaning of that term that I have in fact co-written with my wife two (unpublished) work-place comedies which go far towards explaining the meaning of the term. Even though I've worked four times longer in academia at this point, I couldn't begin to imagine penning an academic comedy without resolving basic questions such as the above. I guess I'd also have to find academia comedic, and that's a much dicier sell than it was in the glory days of Kingsley Amis or even David Lodge's early novels. Ah well, at least we've got Merle Haggard, even with the goofy instrumental solos still a pure thing in this fallen world.]
There's a particular kind of validation where the stuff you've been digging starts to gain traction, though one must avoid the music fan trope of accusing the now popular thinkers of "selling out" at exactly the moment this happens.
My friend and colleague Ian Crystal died suddenly on the morning of last Wednesday, November the 14th.
His obituary is HERE, with information about the kind of person he was, his research, and how to donate to a scholarship that his brother Michael is setting up in Ian's memory. If you have memories of Ian you want to share with his family, the site I linked to has a place to leave comments.
Given the picture à droite, the timing might prove to be as unpropitious as the 2010 Eastern Division meeting of the APA, where airline and rail shutdowns caused something like a third of the speakers not to make the conference (I'm still bitter about the Lance and Kukla author meets critics not being held).
Mark Ohm and I have just managed to move our flight (going from Baton Rouge through Atlanta) to Tuesday the 30th so I'm hoping to beat the storm as well as the possible cascading flight delays and cancellations. I'm wondering what anybody else is doing. Amtrak runs the "Empire Service" line (the one from NYC to Niagara Falls through Rochester), but the entire line will be in the affected area. Still, rail tends to be more reliable than air during this kind of thing. Maybe, one could take the Maple Leaf line from Toronto to Niagara Falls, and then hop east on the Empire Service?
Any other thoughts? Is there a blog or web page where people are announcing whether they are making it or not? Please feel free to post in this string what your plans are as they develop. If nobody else is doing this, I can try next week to keep an updated list of cancellations on a dedicated post here at NewApps. Just put in the comments of this post (and then the one I'll start next week) if you can't make it, and I'll organize and update the master list above that. But if someone is alreadly doing that in the blogosophere, please let me know and we'll just prominently link to that effort.
Karl Sharo's parody of Zizek HERE. Representative sample:
Romney’s choice of words was very interesting, in the sense that Freud described when he developed the idea that what is said is not important, but how you can reinterpret it. To remind ourselves, Romney said ‘I love Big Bird’. Love. Curious choice of words. Love is the word we use to imply gluttony, as in ‘I love McDonald’s’ or ‘I love Dunkin' Donuts’. The Republican candidate wasn’t making a reference to public funding cuts directly, he wants to devour the flying nemesis, the feathered image of ourselves that has been repeatedly defeated since Icarus.
There is an interesting performative contradiction to this kind of thing. You would have to know Zizek pretty well to know if it's really funny (I don't and I don't), but anyone who knows Zizek that well is likely to be so invested in him that they are unable to appreciate the humor, if it is indeed funny.
Linking to this story, Brian Leiter (here) issues a judgment that strikes me as so curmudgeonly as to be perhaps exaggerated on purpose for comic efffect:
it's outrageous, and anyone who live-tweets a conference should be immediately disinvited from the event, and any future ones.
Is this in the neighborhood of being correct?
[Full disclosures. (1) I've never tweated anything, but I often do enjoy reading other people's blog descriptions of conferences that I cannot attend. Some of these are penned in real time as are tweats. (2) I have nothing against curmudgeonliness per se, nor (Kingsley Amis and Philip Larkin being my favorite writers) against its use in penning entertaining prose.]
It's still called ADHD. A new suggestion for the upcoming Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), published by the American Psychiatric Association and expected to appear in May 2013, alters the diagnostic guidelines so that far more adults will be eligible for prescription amphetimines. Now take a look at some of the characteristics of ADHD:
Often fails to give close attention to details or makes careless
mistakes in schoolwork, at work, or during other activities (e.g.,
overlooks or misses details, work is inaccurate).
Often has difficulty sustaining attention in tasks or play
activities (e.g., has difficulty remaining focused during lectures,
conversations, or reading lengthy writings).
Often does not seem to listen when spoken to directly (e.g., mind
seems elsewhere, even in the absence of any obvious distraction).
Often does not follow through on instructions and fails to finish
schoolwork, chores, or duties in the workplace (e.g., starts tasks but
quickly loses focus and is easily sidetracked; fails to finish
schoolwork, household chores, or tasks in the workplace).
Often has difficulty organizing tasks and activities (e.g.,
difficulty managing sequential tasks; difficulty keeping materials and
belongings in order; messy, disorganized, work; poor time management;
tends to fail to meet deadlines).
Often avoids, dislikes, or is reluctant to engage in tasks that
require sustained mental effort (e.g., schoolwork or homework; for older
adolescents and adults, preparing reports, completing forms, or
reviewing lengthy papers).
Often loses things necessary for tasks or activities (e.g., school
materials, pencils, books, tools, wallets, keys, paperwork, eyeglasses,
or mobile telephones).
Is often easily distracted by extraneous stimuli (for older adolescents and adults, may include unrelated thoughts).
Is often forgetful in daily activities (e.g., chores, running
errands; for older adolescents and adults, returning calls, paying
bills, keeping appointments).
A good number of these nine criteria apply to about 90 percent of humans I know... Go figure!
In reading through the kerfluffle about Berit Brogaard's post yesterday I realized that some of the discussion was a bit too harsh on the DSM.
First off, it should be clear that the psychological disorders delineated by the DSM do not pick out natural kinds in the way the periodic table does. Psychology is not chemistry. For one, the phenomena are maddeningly vague. And for two, one can only delineate the phenomena to the extent that one has a pretty robust normative Aristotelian account of human flourishing (note that this does not mean Chemistry is non-normative, it's just that the norms don't so clearly require Aristotelianism about chemicals, or at the very least no theory of chemical flourishing).
Mark Silcox and I have received agrieved e-mails from people taking us to be responsible for issues concerning the (possibly) forthcoming Blackwell anthology "Philosophy of Dungeons and Dragons." Because of the weird way search engines are treating this, people falsely believe that we've treated authors badly. Thusfar I've been publicly circumspect about the backstory of this. But one of the philosophers that e-mailed us put up a public blog post on the issue, I need to set the record completely straight.
Silcox and I originally submitted a proposal to Blackwell series editor William Irwin for "Dungeons and Dragons and Philosophy" (note that I still have the original proposal and all relevant e-mails from the press editors). Irwin was enthusiastic but the marketing people required us to write a separate marketing justification. This was not hard since every major book store has a dedicated D&D session, since the marketing plan of Wizards of the Coast requires new editions to be released periodically, and since similar non-fiction books about D&D get floor space and have sold. But, according to Irwin, the Blackwell marketing rejected the project because there wasn't a "marketable moment" like a film release that they could use to sell the book. Fine, that's the considered judgment of a successful press. Mark and I retooled the proposal and pitched the project to Open Court, who accepted it. Our book is out now. You can purchase it HERE. And the Blackwell marketing people didn't know what they were talking about, as it's currently taking up shelf space on the floor of your local Barnes and Noble. Bully for us.