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)
How can we combine the economic necessities of work with caring for infants? This dilemma recurs across cultures, and western culture is no exception. In a series of interviews with professors who are mothers (which I hope to put on NewApps by the end of this month), one of my respondents, who has grown children remarked about their preschool years:
"I was completely stressed out. It wasn’t just that childcare was expensive—and even with two salaries it was a stretch: It was insecure. If a childcare provider decided to quit, I would be left in the lurch; if my kid wet his pants once too often he’d be kicked out of pre-school [which had strict rules about children being toilet-trained] and I’d have to make other arrangements."
This concern resonates with many parents. It is especially acute among low-income, single mothers who struggle to find last-minute childcare to fit their employers' unpredictable scheduling. Also symptomatic are heart-wrenching stories about a woman whose children were taken away because she failed to find childcare when she had to go on a job interview and left them in a car, or a woman who was arrested for allowing her nine-year-old daughter to play in a park while she worked in a nearby fast food restaurant.
Can we learn anything from how other cultures solve the working mother's dilemma?
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.]
Tristan wrote me an e-mail kindly pointing out that in previous links I'd put the apostrophe before the s. Wow that would be weird, some one person known as "Philosopher" who has this travelling carnival. I don't know what all that would include, but I don't think it's too much to hope for waltz dancing by Henry the Horse.
Anyhow there's lots of fun stuff at the carnival with the apostrophe after the s too. Joe Bob says check it out.
For they know they are not animals. And at the very moment when they discover their humanity, they begin to sharpen their weapons to secure its victory. --Frantz Fanon, The Wretched of the Earth America has been and remains an apartheid state. That sad but increasingly undeniable fact was made apparent last night in Ferguson, Missouri to a group of peaceful protesters amidst tanks, deafening LRADs, a haze of tear gas and a firestorm of rubber (and real) bullets. The other tragic fact made apparent in Ferguson last night is that America is only ever a hair's-breadth away from a police state... if we understand by "police"not a regulated body of law-enforcement peacekeepers empowered to serve and protect the citizenry, but rather a heavily-armed, extra-constitutional, militarized cadre of domestic soldiers who provoke and terrorize with impunity. Much of the time, we are able to forget or ignore these unfortunate truths about contemporary America-- and by "we" I mean our elected officials, our bureaucrats and financiers, and a lot of self-delusionally "post-racial," though really white, people-- but the mean truth of gross inequality, both de facto and de jure, remains ever-present in spite of our disavowals, simmering steadily just below the allegedly free and fair democratic veneer of our polis.
Greg Howard, journalist and parrhesiates, said it about as plainly as it can be said this past Tuesday in his article for Deadspin: America is not for black people. The truth of "American apartheid" should make us all ashamed, saddened, angry, deeply troubled as moral and political agents. And, what is more, it should frighten us all.
As I noted in an earlier post, preparing for a seminar on privacy and surveillance has given me the opportunity to learn more about any number of aspects of the topic – in this case (again) the feminist critique of privacy. To recap: on this argument, which is most commonly associated with Catharine MacKinnon (see the abortion chapter here for a succinct, 10-page version), privacy manages to be very bad for women under conditions of structural sex inequality. Because women are socially unequal, “privacy” manages to protect men, but not women. Wife-beaters, for example, get to hide behind the veil of privacy in the home to shield their conduct from scrutiny: “a man’s home is his castle.” (MacKinnon then answers the obvious question: why does patriarchy support abortion rights? The answer is that the availability of abortion removes the one last obstacle men faced in the complete social domination of women: the possibility of undesired pregnancy. So abortion rights justified on privacy grounds (as opposed to equality) end up being tools of patriarchy. But that’s a different conversation)
MacKinnon’s argument is a lot more subtle than it usually gets portrayed as being, but it’s vulnerable to some obvious objections. For example, Jena McGill, writing out of her experience working in battered women’s shelters, points out that privacy is the thing that women who make it to the shelters need most of all. If they don’t get it, their abusers are very likely to kill them and their children. One way of interpreting the implications of this point is to say that the value of privacy for women depends on where it’s claimed; once women leave the traditional patriarchal household, privacy suddenly becomes a lot more important as a concept.
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.
At the request of the folks over at Hypatia, we're helping to publicize the open online forum they will be hosting in conjunction with their recently published special issue on Climate Change.
Here's the description the editoral staff at Hypatia provided for the event:
Policy makers have recently begun to acknowledge the disproportionate impacts of climate change on women and disadvantaged communities, but feminist analyses of the complex epistemic and political dimensions of climate change, as well as its causes and effects, are urgently needed. Hypatia recently published a special issue on Climate Change that initiates a necessary conversation that will deepen our understanding and help identify promising opportunities for positive change. Feminist philosophers Chris Cuomo (author of Feminism and Ecological Communities: An Ethic of Flourishing) and Nancy Tuana (author of Feminism and Science) have invited scholars and activists working at the forefront of feminist climate justice to share their perspectives.
I’ve recently encountered a suggestion (in personal communication) that it might be difficult for an Enlightenment thinker to envisage republicanism in barbarian or even more savage peoples. While that makes sense with regard to the civility and legal institutions that Enlightenment thinkers are looking for in a desirable state, and saw in the ancient republics of Greece and Rome, there are some other sides to this. I cannot look into properly right now, but it is sometimes held that the founders of the American republic took some inspiration from the Native Americans with regard to the institutional arrangements they were designing, particularly the federal nature of the republic (preceded by a period of confederation), which may have had some reference to the groupings and alliances of small native communities into nations. In any case, the dressing up in native garb during the Boston Tea Party certainly made some reference to the idea of a natural freedom.
[3 updates below] A quick informational note apropos of my previous post.*
In addition to the email-writing campaign and the various petitions that have been circulating re: the Salaita case, there is an initiative, begun by Corey Robin (see here), to organize groups of scholars by discipline who would commit to refusing to make any visits to the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign campus until such time as Professor Salaita's appointment was reinstated.
So far, this effort has borne fruit among philosophers (organized by John Protevi, here) and political scientists (organized by Joe Lowndes, for info see here). Those with appropriate disciplinary affiliations who are inclined to participate in these initiatives should contact the organizers, as noted. Those in other disciplines who are willing to organize their own list should contact Professor Robin, as detailed here.
Update: A statement by professors of English is being managed by Elaine Freedgood (info here.)
Update 2: A statement by professors of Sociology is being organized as a petition and a statement by professors of Rhetoric and Composition is being managed by Matthew Abraham (info on both can be found in this post on Corey Robin's site).
Update 3: There is now a statement of refusal for faculty in women’s studies, gender studies, and feminist studies being managed by Barbara Winslow and a general statement that is not limited to scholars in any particular field (info on both can be found here.)
* Please note that this post is offered in an informational capacity, and should not be taken as an endorsement by NewAPPS or any of its individual authors of these campaigns.
By now, readers are likely aware of the case of Steven Salaita, who was hired away from Virginia Tech by the University of Illinois, as a tenured associate professor of American Indian Studies, only to see his position terminated weeks before he was supposed to begin teaching on account of his remarks on Twitter regarding current events in Gaza. If you need to catch up on the details, a good place to start would be this story in the Chronicle. Also, Corey Robin, who has been a leading advocate for Salaita, has written a number of posts tracking the conversation as it unfolds (see his blog here).
While this sentiment is not universal, many, many people—including the AAUP—are treating this case as a serious breach of key principles of academic freedom. How that is so has, perhaps, been best summarized in this piece by John K. Wilson over at Inside Higher Ed.
Without trying to reproduce a rich set of discussions, it seems important to take note here of several points that have been made in recent days,* and which connect to discussions we've had here previously: 1) that this firing** constitutes a case where statements on social media are being treated as exempt from the principles of academic freedom; 2) that this firing constitutes an example of the way that civility standards (or, shall we say, matters of 'tone') are worrying not only from the point of view of their differential impact on variously positioned members of the profession, but also from the point of view of academic freedom; and 3) that terminating Salaita's appointment at this stage in the hiring process effectively means that the basis on which many people accept new academic jobs (and leave their old ones) has become unreliable.
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.
All papers are anonymously reviewed. Author's name, institution, or references pertaining to the identity of the author must be removed from the paper, abstract, notes, and bibliography. Papers containing such identifying references may be rejected.
There are at least two ways that one might remove one's identity:
One might leave in the references to oneself, but refer to oneself in the third person, e.g., "As Millstein (2009) argues, populations are individuals."
One might delete all references to oneself, e.g., "As I have argued elsewhere (reference deleted), populations are individuals."
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.
I'm spinning out a series of posts at The Splintered Mind, based on a new citation database my son built for me, from the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Maybe it will be of interest to some NewAPPS readers.
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.
In the immediate aftermath of 9/11, we did some things that were wrong. We did a whole lot of things that were right, but we tortured some folks. -- President Barack Obama, Press Conference (Aug 1, 2014)
"That is another of your odd notions," said the Prefect, who had a fashion of calling everything "odd" that was beyond his comprehension, and thus lived in an absolute legion of "oddities." -- Edgar Allen Poe, "The Purloined Letter" (1845)
I don't suspect that President Barack Obama reads most of his mail. I am 100% certain that whoever reads his mail would certainly not pass this letter on to him. That said, I am confident that there are millions of Americans who have, as I've often described my situation to Ideas Man PhD, had their political (and real) hearts broken by President Obama over and over again. This is my "I quit you" letter to our Commander-in-Chief, who is not up for re-election, of course, but it's gotta be said.
Dear President Obama,
In your press conference last Friday addressing the U.S. Senate's decision to declassify the CIA's "Torture Report," which details so-called "enhanced interrogation techniques" approved by the Bush Administration post-9/11, you finally lent state authority to a truth that has been evident for at least a decade: the United States sanctioned and practiced torture as a matter of official anti-terrorism state policy. That this horrible truth is true should come as a surprise to no one. We saw the photos from Abu Ghraib released in 2004, we knew about the "torture memos" as early as 2009, we've spent the last dozen years as an electorate officially and unofficially debating the moral permissibility of torture, what "counts" as torture, how we might mitigate and/or disavow our responsibility for torture, even being entertained by the fantastical/fictional playing out of all our ambivalence on the matter. Torture has been the pink noise of American life since 9/11, producing a sound that could be heard, but is designed such that its power rolls off at higher frequencies, masks aural distractions, soothes and at the same time becomes lost in other noises.
But that sound was always there. You should have heard it long ago. And unlike the sound of actual torture, it should have been and should have remained deafening to you for every second that you have occupied the Oval Office. You could have always heard it if you had made the effort to listen, to not be distracted, to not allow yourself to be lulled into sleep by its tranquilizing and insidious diversion.
[Update: I didn't realize that these rules (and the story) are acutally seveal months old when I posted this. That said, we haven't as far as I know discussed them here, so I'll leave the post up to facilitate that.]
There has been talk for some time suggesting that the Affordable Care Act might have the effect of forcing colleges and universities in the United States to start providing health-care to many, or even all of their part time instructors. For some, this has seemed like a very promising possibility, since it might alter (perhaps radically) the fiscal calculus that has tilted in favor of ever-increasing use part-time instructors at most American institutions.
Corresponding to this, there have also been fears among those working as traditional, half-time adjuncts and even more those working those who had full or nearly full time contingent contracts that their courses would be cut or their positions eliminated. Obviously, in the grand scheme of things, we all want adjunctification to end; but if the effect of destabilization were simply to force all adjunct positions to be maximally precarious, that would, at least in the short term, be movement in exactly the wrong direction.
Accordingly, people have been waiting anxiously for the Obama administration to issue their rules for calculating how many 'hours' part-time instructors are actually working for the purposes of determining their eligibility for ACA.
They're out. And the best short characterization of them that I can think of is that the administration has imposed a set of rules that effectively neutralize any possibility that ACA will significantly affect the way universities use adjunct labor. Details and a few remarks below
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.
Recent research has led me to look at the role of irony in aesthetics and philosophy. My interest was most immediately stimulated by section 408 of Vico’s New Science, which seems to me to point towards the role of irony and literary aesthetics in the Jena Romantics and Kierkegaard. Vico does so by referring to the simultaneous emergence of philosophical reflection and consciousness of irony in the Athens of Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle.
The idea of irony is not directly addressed much by Vico, but his approach needs to be grasped to understand his full argument about the significance of the ‘persona’ as object of Roman law (that is the creation of a personality in law distinct from ‘life’ personality). The reading great significance into brief passages of Vico in terms of his overall argument and the resonance of his work with later thought, is inevitable given the nature of his argumentation and the structural oddities of the New Science.
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.