Google translate gives me gibberish, but with the possible exception (I can't tell) of comments at the end of both blurbs the gibberish seemed to be downplaying the elephant in the dining room. My German is inexcusably (for someone who lived there for two years as a child) awful, so I'd be really interested to see how the blurb accords with the Derbyshire piece.
In particular a couple of things seem clear to me:
Now, 3 and 4 may be completely wrong, or may be the kind of things that informed people of good will can disagree about*. But if the blurbs are written in a way that forecloses 3 and 4, this seems a little bit problematic to me.
It is not very difficult to give undergraduates advice about where they might pursue graduate study without egregiously insulting large numbers of your professional colleagues.
But then how to explain the ubiquity things like this not unrepresentative post by Spiros?*
In the context of a very nice post about an exceptional department, Professor Leiter claims: "The term 'pluralism'** has, alas, been debased to the point that everyone now knows it is usually a code word for 'crappy philosophy is welcome here'."
That's accurate, but a little too generous! For one thing, it understates the self-congratulation with which the term is deployed, and well as the ways in which it is wielded in order to deceive those most vulnerable in our profession.
I realize that many of our judgments of concerning philosophical work are somewhere between full-bore cognitive judgments and Kantian judgments of taste rather than judgments of things you happen to find agreeable. I mean, my distaste for a philosophical view or text is not the same as my distaste for bitter vegetables. And that's fine!
Eric Schliesser's post HERE. In praise of the efforts of Profs. Hardcastle, DesAutels, and Fehr (as well as the good people at Boulder's philosophy department who are working to improve their climate) the following:*
*(1) Apologies for whatever commercial shows up at the twelve second mark yellow bar; the only add-free version was a pretty bad cover. And who can begrudge Daniel Johnston a little bit of money at this point? You can hit the x and remove the add. (2) This is always a good song to listen to in honor of the monster slayers on the rare occasions when human depravity** takes a solid blow. One might end up being a bit like this, but that's O.K.
Once again I've been called in for Jury Duty.
It's nearly a priori that they won't impanel me for death penalty or war-on-drugs type cases, since I'm up front about exercising my right to jury nullify in the case of unjust laws or state sanctioned murder.*
But I have no idea what to do with respect to someone who has both broken a just law and who should not be on the streets.
How can anyone in good conscience send another human being to an American prison?
But as a juror the only choice they give you is sending the person to prison or releasing them. And many people are too predatory to be allowed to operate in normal society.
I've got two weeks until I have to go in. Any advice about from people agree with me that this is a genuine dilemma** and/or have some experience negotiating the system would be greatly appreciated.
One of the worst things I've done as a parent is take my then four year old son to see Disney's documentary-style nature film African Cats. In it, Samuel Jackson and Patrick Stewart narrate the partially successful struggle of a mother cheetah to raise her cubs and the unsuccessful struggle of an alpha male lion, Fang (so named for a hideously looking broken tooth that juts out of his mouth) to protect his family.
The narration around Fang concerning the successful coup by his replacement alpha male, Kali, is almost surreal. We get all of these "Lion King" type quips about the noble role male lions play in protecting the female lions and their cubs, even as the female lions are really doing all of the work hunting the food and raising the babies. For 95% of the time the male lion just lies around doing nothing and/or taking food away from his family.
The only way Jackson/Stewart are able to make this have any resemblance to Mufasa and Simba from the Lion King is by stressing how the male lion protects the female lions. But what on earth could a female lion need protection from? I mean, they are just these incredible killing machines. Very slowly in the movie it begins to dawn on you that the only thing male lions protect female lions and their cubs from is the vile depredations other male lions.
Anyhow, it's a good thing that human gender norms are nothing at all like that. We'd be in terrible shape if they were.
Yesterdary was International Holocaust Remembrance Day.
One of the many horrific consequences of radical evil is that it functions to let everybody else off the hook for their depravity. Thus, for example, the narrative that the United States and the Soviet Union could do no wrong because they had defeated the Nazis. Not something the tortured or dead victims in Castillo's Guatemala, the Shah's Iran, etc. etc. etc. or the people of Eastern Europe during that period would have understood in the least.
But remembering can have another function completely at odds with this, making us aware of our own historical complicity with the radical evil as well as the fact that the perpetrators of radical evil are almost always not very different from any other human beings. Americans in particular must see the Shoah in light of a prolonged genocide against the native peoples of this land, over two hundred years of slavery, another hundred of disenfranchisement and extreme economic injustice instituted by widespread terrorism, and over fifty years of post-civil rights disenfranchising retrenchment after that.
But what does the holocaust have to do with any of this? Please consider the following passages from two recent books.
Page 163 of Eckart Förster's The Twenty-Five Years of Philosophy: A Systematic Reconstruction*contains a footnoted dig about Heidegger I just don't get. The sentence in the text is:
Fichte's discovery is unprecedented in the history of philosophy: it is the insight that the proposition 'I am' expresses an utterly different kind of being than any existential proposition about a thing or state of affairs:14 "The initial incorrect presupposition, and the one which caused the Principle of Consciousness** to be presupposed as the first principle of all philosophy, was precisely the presupposition that one must begin with a fact. We certainly do require a first principle which is material and not merely formal. But such a principle does not need to express a deed [Tatsache], it can also express an action [Tathandlung], if it is permissible to wager a proposition which can neither be explained nor proven here" (GA 1,2:46; W 1:8) (164).
This is how Fichte is able to come up with non-divine instances of Kantian "intellectual intuition,"*** non-sensory experiences that, like concepts, are active. Just as for many theists (Kant included), God's creation and knowledge of the world are not two separate acts, for Fichte we become selves by the very act of gaining knowledge about ourselves.***** This makes self-knowledge radically different from normal varieties of empirical and a priori knowledge.
I spent last year's graduation day on campus working through Dale Snow's book on Schelling. It was the fifth consecutive year I had successfully avoided having to put on the monkey suit and suffer through the interminable ceremony*. I was pretty happy.
Moreover, it's fun to walk around campus during the day, just because the outpouring of joy is so infectious. All these parents are there to honor their kids' accomplishments. You can hear laughter rising up from all these different groups of people distributed all across campus.
But as the day goes on and all of the parents (and most of the students) have left, the tone of the laughter beings to shift into something a little uglier, as if it is now at someone else's expense. It becomes less dispersed, centralizing at parties around campus, in some cases devolving into the kind of primal hooting that is perhaps the purest expression of unoriginal macho energy in all of its depraved imbecility.
Dad music: Huey Lewis and the News
Cool uncle music: Elvis Costello
Creepy uncle music: Girls' Generation, Burzum, Kid Rock, Insane Clown Possee, etc.
[Brief reflections after the jump.]
I once had a student at the Ohio State University who, by very improbable means, ended up talking with then President Bill Clinton for over an hour. The guy was an Army Ranger who had been wounded in the Battle of Mogadishu (of Black Hawk Down fame) and Clinton had afterwards visited everyone in the hospital. It was pretty interesting to hear about the whole thing, but one of the weirdest aspects is that the student (with slight exaggeration) noted that everyone wounded in the battle ended up being Democrats as a result of the hours with Clinton. This was prior to Bush's wars, when even grunts overwhelmingly tended to be Republican. Also, the wounded soldiers in question had been so furious about the Somali cluster**** that an officer had yelled at them right before Clinton showed up, telling them that he was the commander in chief and they'd better be respectful. But Clinton just did his thing, staying there way over-schedule, and all of the solidiers had a blast talking with him.
From this and other stories, I gather that Bill Clinton is an archetype of a kind of person who can have a mutually entertaining conversation with anybody in any circumstance. Of course, at the other end of the spectrum are Nietzsche's gods/monsters/philosophers, people who are only really comfortable talking with themselves.
I'm not a logician. Nor do I play one on T.V. So please be patient if I'm messing up something basic in what follows. An explanation of what I'm messing up and/or some relevant citations would be pretty helpful too.
Gregory Moore's masterful Zermelo's Axiom of Choice: Its Origins, Development, and Influence contains the following passage:
Vestiges of the first state - choosing an unspecified element from a single set - can be found in Euclid's Elements, if not earlier. Such choices formed the basis of the ancient method of proving a generalization by considering an arbitrary but definite object, and then executing the argument for that object. This first stage also included the arbitrary choice of an element form each of finitely many sets. It is important to understand that the Axiom was not needed for an arbitrary choice from a single set, even if the set contained infinitely many elements. For in a formal system a single arbitrary choice can be eliminated through the use of universal generalization or similar rule of inference. By induction on the natural numbers, such a procedure can be extended to any finite family of sets.
I don't get this at all.
Yuck. This is the first one that didn't even bother to include a title of something I've published:
Dear Jon Cogburn,
I am writing on behalf of a German publishing house, LAP Lambert Academic Publishing.
In the course of a research on the internet, I came across a reference to your paper on "philosophy of mind, language, and logic".
Has anyone in the world ever written exactly one paper on "philosophy of mind, language, and logic"? Not only must the paper discuss all these things, but for the communication to be felicitous it must be the only paper you have written on these topics. And if the author of the e-mail really came across a reference to it, why couldn't they tell me the title? And why the quotation marks? Are these scare quotes and there's some Pythonesque wink-wink-nudge-nudge thing I'm missing. Or are they McWhorterian "shout quotes." Neither one makes sense.
Purported Nigerians trying to get me to help them access frozen funds pen less infelicitous missives.
Bob Dylan is often the worst interpreter of his own songs. Not because of the old saw that his voice is bad (it's not). Rather, the songs themselves often combine the angry and the elegiac, but when Dylan does his own songs there's often a kind of sneering quality and so you don't hear the elegiac. More generally, the best covers of his songs are almost in dialogue with Dylan, discovering aspects of them that are not prominent in his versions. The songs themselves are so rich that these facets are waiting there to be uncovered.* Consider for example, Bryan Ferry's cover of "Don't Think Twice," at right.
Unlike Dylan's (or Johnny Cash's version, for that matter)** there's just absolutely nothing sneering about it, and the melody and sentiment*** becomes even more universal, expressing what a drag it is when things have gone so comperehensively bollocks up that a friendship ends, and also what is sometimes the correct response. The narrator starts by simply blaming his friend ("You're the reason"), but (especially in Ferry's performance) can't really sustain this reaction even though he tries throughout. And its clear that the dawning realization of his own complicity doesn't really change anything. All he can do is evict himself from his friend's life, sadness slowly crowding out the anger.
Saul's petition and and supporting material (e.g. how to avoid a gendered conference here) focus on helping organizers of conferences and edited anthologies avoid having an all male lineup.
Schliesser's applies more leverage, also focusing on those who might present at (or submit to) a conference (or anthology) with an all male lineup.
What we are calling for is a strong defeasible commitment not to participate in exclusionary conference line-ups.) The aim of this call is not the refusal, but the deployment of leverage, where it resides, so that inclusiveness becomes an integral part of conference-planning. Further, we ask senior male philosophers to carefully consider refusing invitations to conferences and edited volumes in which the line-up is disproportionately male.
We call on all philosophers - male and female, junior and senior - not to organize male-only or male-almost-only conferences,workshops, or edited volumes. (Information on female experts in various areas is available here, here, here, here, here, here, and here).
Now here is my question. In what manner should the above be thought to apply to summer schools?**
Article in Science Daily here, which claims that a lot of new evidence supports Roger Penrose's old conjectures about the the way that quantum physics is implicated in consciousness. If any philosophers of mind feel like explaining this to the rest of us, that would be very cool.
In the same manner that world history is a struggle between grasses and trees*, the internet is a struggle between producers and consumers of media for control of the way in which media is displayed on the user's screen.
The earliest versions of HTML were specifically designed so that the consumer had maximal control over how the information was presented. The exeption was <table>, which allowed the producer to order the information in rows (<tr>) and columns (<td>). But one of the cool things about <table> is that it allowed nesting. You could do a new table inside the cell of an existing table. Producers of content very quickly begain to use this nesting to control how the information displayed itself on the user's desktop.**
And then along came movable gifs, videos that start automatically, and Cascading Style Sheets (CSS). Things seemed to shift decisively in favor of the producer's colonization of the laptop.
Weirdly, in the early phases of this just about every "Web Design for Dummies" type book warned content producers not to put movable gifs on their web-pages, because they are distracting and a non-trivial percentage of users hate them. But as the web commercialized, "distractability" became a feature, not a bug, and most commercial web pages are like seething mounds of cockroaches, little bits moving here and there all over the place.
I'm posting this in the hopes that scholars of François Laruelle can add to the list. As people who have tried to read his difficult texts know, Ray Brassier is on to something when he writes (citation below):
The truth is that his thought operates at a level of abstraction which some will ﬁnd debilitating, others exhilarating. Those who believe formal invention should be subordinated to substantive innovation will undoubtedly ﬁnd Laruelle’s work rebarbative.
But I think that anyone reading the following texts with a minimal level of charity will agree that he is a fascinating philosopher:
I know there's more good stuff out there, but that's all I've read thusfar.
My six year old is rocking out with MIT's Scratch. He's half way through this great book (we're doing this one next). It's really cool, because you can do real programming with a drag and drop interface; kids who can't type well can put together pretty complicated programs (youtube search "MIT Scratch tutorial" for examples). Below the fold is the first program that Thomas actually designed himself (warning, slow load time).
Oh wow this looks awesome. I'll hitchike there if I have to.
This year's Summer School is organized by Michael Forster and Markus Gabriel (discussed briefly in this post), and in addtion to Gabriel, Willem DeVries, Paul Redding, and Robert Stern will all be lecturing.
I'm in the middle of two Stern books and they're just dynamite, After Virtue level dynamite where you start reading at eleven and then realize it's four in the morning and don't know where the time has gone.
Imagine for a minute how you might respond if I were to insist that Cornell West can only be understood as a black philosopher and presented my own work in terms of the necessity of overcoming black philosophy. Imagine that my work involved understanding the history of philosophy in terms of a contrast between black and Greek philosophy and moreover understood different black philosophers in terms of their place in this contrast. Moreover, imagine that Cornell West repeatedly publicly stated that he hated my reductive understanding of his work as merely being epiphenomenal aspect of some black racial essence, yet I continued to hector him with it.
Would it be hyperbole to say that I was being racist?
Is it hyperbole to say that the homologous aspects of François Laruelle's work are anti-semitic ("black" being "Jewish" and "Cornell West" being Jacques Derrida)? I write this because I feel bad for snarkily responding to a comment by "APS" to this post. The fact is, I had no idea what she was talking about when she wrote:
So is this what OOO does now? They just write posts about how they are unfairly maligned and treated poorly while their major figures go around accusing people of anti-semitism? Neat. Really makes me want to take you guys seriously.*
APS' comment was not only surreally uncharitable to my post, but I just had no idea who is going around accusing people of anti-semitism. This has prompted quite a bit of e-mail discussions to try to discern what she was talking about. Yesterday we figured it out.
A nice week for all things Carnapia:
Anyhow, please check out Eric's post and new blog. He's allowing comments, so I'm doing the unborglike thing* by closing comments to this post.
*And pre-empting any Pacino turns.]
I think that a lot of people in the straight world* react weirdly to disabled people for a couple of reasons. First, they recoil at just how much effort it takes the person to accomplish some task ("Jesus Christ, that person's killing himself just to get into a chair!"). Then, the imaginitive placing of themselves in the disabled person's body leads to a further feeling about how humiliating it would be to be like that.** There might also be some instinctive recoil based on the fact that it is initially harder to discern many disabled people's intentions just from scanning their posture and face. But one of the nice things about humans is just how easily they get past these reactions, not just cognitively but phenomenologically. The most ignorant clod will start to see people with Down Syndrome completely differently after a few days working with them. Now consider this bit of rock awesomeness:
Zimmer is amazing in part because nobody has to spend time with him to see beyond his disabilities. It's just impossible to ignore his beauty when he's playing drums.
Slate's Mark O'Connell (here) highlights one of the main virtues of Nardwuar the Human Serviette:
One of the most interesting things about watching a lot of Nardwuar’s interviews (and if you watch one, chances are you’ll end up watching a lot) is the way that they tend to reveal aspects of artists’ personalities that we’re not accustomed to seeing. His aggressive uncoolness—the silly hat, the grating manner, the relentlessly pursued obsession with minutiae—amounts to a kind of challenge. The respect he gets from people like Big K.R.I.T., Grimes, Brother Ali, Pharrell, Snoop Dogg, Joanna Newsom, El-P, Questlove, and Ian MacKaye reflects the extent to which these people are, in their different ways, smart and empathic enough to see past the geeky, gimmicky surface to the value of what he’s doing.
But that uncoolness brings out a lack of basic decency—a shabbiness and stupidity—in others. A 1991 interview with Sonic Youth, for instance, was especially difficult for me, a Sonic Youth fan, to watch—first for how it reveals their stunted and clichéd conception of what it means to be a bunch of cool people in a cool rock band, and then for how it reveals them as just standard-issue schoolyard bullies. Lee Ranaldo breaks a rare 7-inch record Nardwuar has brought them, and then he and Thurston Moore (then age 33 and 35 respectively) grab him and pull his T-shirt over his head as he struggles and shouts. “You idiot!” he screams at Ranaldo. “You fucking piece of shit!” It’s a grim spectacle, but worth sitting through as a reminder of how shallow and transparently fraudulent the performance of countercultural cool can often be.
The biggest failing in my generation is the inconstancy of our affections, driven by an inconsistent mix of ironic detachment and fear of being uncool.
Think of poor hair bands like RATT, on tour in 1991. In the exact same weeks as Nirvana's "Smells Like Teen Spirit" starts its relentless climb up the charts RATT suddenly finds themselves playing to stadiums that are not even half full. Gen Xers' affections are so inconstant that poor RATT went from the Beatles to Spinal Tap in two weeks.
And then when grunge did get over almost everybody was too scared to really be fans. What if these Nirvana guys end up like RATT?* Far better to mark an arbitrary point where the band "sold out" and claim to only like stuff before that (for Nirana fans Bleach and the material later released on Incesticide, for Soundgarden fans everything before Superunknown, for Nine Inch Nails fans everything before Downward Spiral, for REM fans everything before Warner Brothers debut Green, etc. etc. etc.).
Punk was in part supposed to be about freeing oneself from the hegemony of cool. Grunge was supposed to be a return to this, but it wrecked itself on the shores of a generation embodied by the content-free irony that characterized the television show Seinfeld (laugh track and all) at its best. Irony becomes not the appropriate response to certain aspects of life, but rather a detached way of engaging with everything.
Even the noblest vocation carries with it spiritual dangers unique to that calling.
Medical doctors are in grave danger of seeing all humans all the time as automobiles to be fixed. Police officers see too much depravity in every context. Dentists start to feel generally unloved. And for the humble professor, other people become lecture room audiences. Worse, in critical fields such as the humanities, the whole world starts to look like nothing more than grist for one's favorite hermeneutic framework.
Part of the problem is the necessity of adopting a persona, which has far more to do initially with how you move your body in certain circumstances. With respect to teaching, it's initially pretty terrifying to be up there in front of a bunch of people. So most of us find comfort in subconsciously aping mannerisms of the professors that strike us as confident and successful.
It's fun to consider particularly viral personality types in this regard. Consider the sort of limping way that Jim Morrison would stumble around. If I had a nickle for how many people I've known both in and out of the music industry who perfected the Jim Morrison stumble,* then my kid's piggy bank would be appreciably heavier. Or consider Charles Bukowski's Los Angeles patois, leavened by drink. Mickey Rourke got this perfect in Barfly and as a result a million drunk adolescents have at least at one point in their lives non-ironically intoned "To all my friends!" with exactly the same distinct vocal inflections. In philosophy, we all know of stories of students of Kripke who, when particularly moved by the Spirit/Mind, compulsively move their torsos back and forth, make an irritatingly high pitched keening sound, and (in the same rhythm as the prayerful rocking back and forth) do that little hand motion where it's like they are screwing the idea into their head with their fingers.
Thanks to Michael Friedman's heroic efforts, the outright distortions that governed much of our common sense concerning the logical positivists is finally beginning to fade. For example, most of us now know that the so-called "Quine-Duhem hypothesis" was explicitly (e.g. "one can hold true a proposition come what may") stated and defended by A.J. Ayer before Quine, and that Carnap was every bit as holistic. For example, the Aufbau contains the sentence, "The unit of meaning is the language as a whole." A lot of salutary reassessment of Carnap's philosophical value and standard Whig histories of analytic philosophy have taken place in light of Friedman's labors.*
One of Friedman's major contentions is that both phenomenology and logical positivism must be seen in terms of the "back to Kant" movements in Germany. Heidegger's dissertation advisors were the two dominant Southwest School neo-Kantians, Windelband and Rickert. His very first lecture series, where something like the tool analysis actually appears, is on these two thinkers. Carnap also was writing in the millieu of key Marburg School neo-Kantian Hermann Cohen.**
Friedman does not just establish various anxieties of influences, but actually provides substantive philosophical sense to the claim that twentieth century philosophy was overwhelmingly dominated by neo-Kantianism. He does not, however, do much with the fact that "back to Kant" was a rejection of German Idealism, and indeed wishes to take us back to a form of neo-Kantianism distinct from both Marburg and Southwest school, Ernst Cassirer's.
Though I find Friedman's variety of neo-Kantianism fascinating, I don't think that Cassirerian notions of the relativized a priori (and both Rorty and Brandom are doing something similar) go far enough. I am more excited about re-examining the entire German Idealist tradition in light of the fruits of positivism and phenomenology, a project I have argued in the blogosphere and in print to be at the very heart of the recent "return to metaphysics" in Continental Philosophy.
Lovely bit from the preface to Prolegomena to Any Future Materialism: VOLUME ONE The Outcome of Contemporary French Philosophy:
Stuck between capitalist techno-manipulation and its irrationalist discontents, seesawing between the twin big Others of the nature of scientism and the God of superstition within the constraining global space of a neo-liberal economy, humanity is stranded in the waking nightmare of a disgustingly reactionary and horrifically hopeless period of history.
Thus, the main metaphysical task by which Johnston critiques Zizek (earlier work) and Lacan, Badiou, and Meillassoux (in this book) concerns the extent to which they can develop a non-scientistic naturphilosophie that does not fall into superstition. In this context I find particularly interesting Johnston's development of Lacan's claim that extant naturalisms almost always tend to even more strongly embody what they take to be wrong about superstition. There is a lot in here that challenges both naturalists and anti-naturalists, as these debates have been working out over the last century or so.
Here (hat tip dmf) is a really nice interview where Johnston describes to Peter Gratton the trilogy and his conception of transcendental materialism. If anyone has any time, I'd be interested to see in the comments what people think of the interview, especially since I'm still early in the first episode and relatively new to much of the relevant background material.