Thursday, July 31, 2008

Bauerlein, Mark. "How Theory Damaged the Humanities." CHRONICLE BRAINSTORM July 31, 2008.

Hard as it is to believe, given the passions it continues to arouse, 42 years have passed since critical theory started to infiltrate the humanities in the United States. That’s if we count the famous Hopkins conference of 1966 as its inaugural event. And almost as old as theory is its antagonist, anti-theory, which since the early-70s has charged it with a set of intellectual sins. . . . Read the rest here:

Menkiti, Ifeanyi. "On Rationality and the Burden of the Ijele Masquerade: a Note on Emmanuel Eze's Work." Special Issue on Eze. SYMPOSIA (2009).

There is a saying that the eye cannot see what the mind does not already know. Here, Eze is surely right in reminding us that the mind’s knowing, and consequently its seeing, is anchored in an irreducible way in the specificities of circumstance, the exigencies of experience in history. There can be no one fell swoop global perceptual act that anchors all our knowledge, or anchors all our rationality conceived with a capital R. . . . Read the rest here:

CFP: "Rhetoric and the Study of Public Memory," NCA Pre-Conference Seminar, San Diego, November 20, 2008.

Conveners: Kendall R. Phillips (Syracuse University) and G. Mitchell Reyes (Lewis & Clark College). Rationale: The study of public memory has achieved remarkable prominence in the humanities over the past few decades. Not surprisingly, rhetoricians have been heavily involved in this trend and our journals are filled with articles engaging the rhetoric involved in public acts of remembrance. The preconference is designed to provide a space for rhetoricians engaged in questions of public memory to consider the broader relationships between rhetoric and public memory and to consider the role of rhetorical studies in the larger growth of public memory studies. With this goal in mind, the preconference format will integrate three sets of concerns: 1) the theoretical relationship between rhetoric and public memory; 2) the contribution rhetorical criticisms can make to the study of public memory; and 3) the ways that rhetorical studies can be positioned within the broader community of public memory studies. In order to facilitate this conversation, scholars interested in public memory should submit a short position paper (no more than 2 pages single spaced) addressing one of these broad issues: 1) Theoretical Relationships: The rhetorical tradition is replete with references to memory and collective remembrance and contemporary theories of rhetoric continue to develop that connection. Scholars interested in the intersections between theories of rhetoric from classical to contemporary and public memory should submit papers that expand, explore, question, or challenge contemporary thought. 2) Critical Interventions: Case studies constitute much of the work on the rhetoric of public memory. Scholars interested in analyzing the rhetorical dimensions of public memory within a specific context should submit papers offering short but instructive readings that explore the rhetoric of remembrance or the ways that critical case studies expand our understanding of public memory. 3) Disciplinary Issues: In spite of the important work on public memory within rhetorical studies, many of the most prominent public memory scholars are operating within other disciplinary frameworks. Papers under this section should address the relationship between rhetorical approaches and other disciplinary approaches and consider the avenues that rhetoricians might pursue in making rhetoric a more prominent part of the interdisciplinary conversation on public memory. Please send your two page position papers to G. Mitchell Reyes at by September 1, 2008. Please include the issue you are addressing, your current position, and your contact information in your submission.

CFP: Fifth International Symposium on Text Genre Studies, Universidade de Caxias do Sul, Brazil, August 11-14, 2009.

The International Symposium on Text Genre Studies – SIGET – gathers together researchers, university, secondary, and primary school teachers and other professionals involved in the study of text genres. Due to the inherent interdisciplinarity of the study object (text genres), this symposium aims at researchers from different areas within both Theoretical and Applied Linguistics (discourse analysts, researchers on text, conversation, and enunciation, teacher trainers), as well as professionals and researchers of other fields, such as pedagogy, psychology, sociology, communication, terminology, translation, an others. Symposium themes; Text genres: epistemology and methodology Text genres and language teaching Text genre and teacher training Text genres and professional areas Text genre and literacy Text genre and media For more information, visit

CFP: "Sexual Knowledge: Uses of the Past," Department of Classics, University of Exeter, July 27-29, 2009.

Why and how have people throughout history turned to the past in order to make sense of sexual experience? What kinds of authority has the past exercised in popular and scholarly debates about sexual practices, identities, civilization and morality? How do changing interpretations of past sexualities reflect historical shifts in the way sex is understood? The aim of this interdisciplinary conference is to explore the way that discussions about sex and human nature over the centuries have both been informed by and helped to shape ideas about past cultures and the interpretation of their material and textual legacies. The conference organisers invite 300 word abstracts for papers examining any aspect of the way that representations of sexual practices in the past have been invoked in debates, from any era including the present, about the nature of sexuality, religion, civilization or nature and also, in turn, how beliefs, prejudices, anxieties and fantasies frame the analysis of past sexual cultures and societies. We are interested in research exploring the reception in any subsequent era of material (whether textual or visual) such as the Khajuraho carvings, artefacts from Pompeii and Herculaneum, Greek pots, Anglo Saxon carvings, Ovid’s Ars Amatoria, Aretino’s sonnets, the so-called “Kama Sutra,” as well more abstract ideas about the sexual practices of the past such as Roman orgies or Persian harems. Our aim is to create a new focus for international and interdisciplinary scholarship, by bringing together scholars from across the world and from across the full range of academic disciplines whose research interests intersect at this precise nexus, including disciplines such as Anglo-Saxon studies, anthropology, archaeology, art history, classics and classical reception, Egyptology, history, medical history, museum studies and museology, Oriental studies, colonial history, ancient, medieval and modern languages, literary theory, cultural and media studies, film studies, philosophy, psychology, sociology and theology. This conference is part of the Sexual Knowledge, Sexual History project, run by Dr Kate Fisher and Dr Rebecca Langlands. Further details are here:

Barbone, Steven. "Review of Charlie Huenemann, ed. INTERPRETING SPINOZA." NDPR (July 2008).

Huenemann, Charlie, ed. Interpreting Spinoza: Critical Essays. Cambridge: CUP, 2008. 'Caute' ('Attention!') was how Spinoza sealed his letters, and editor and contributor Charlie Huenemann opens this anthology by reminding readers that despite Spinoza's use of the geometric method in the Ethics, Spinoza (whose name derives from the Spanish word for "thorn") must be read with care and attention to avoid the prickles many encounter in his philosophy. While not pretending to deliver the last word on some of the more thorny sticking points in Spinoza's thought, this work proposes and succeeds to offer new (not reprinted) studies to help clarify important intertwining issues in Spinoza's metaphysics, psychology, and politics. Though each contribution was written independently and may stand on its own merit, there is a certain cohesion among the essays, and the reader will discover several themes -- the meaning of 'in' in Spinoza's philosophy, the possibility of free thought, and the role of the imagination especially in his political philosophy -- that reflect and respond to other essays in the collection. Because the volume includes contributions from both well established Spinoza scholars and some researchers newer to Spinoza studies, readers will also discover some refinements and clarifications of current interpretations as well as some new, original analyses. . . . Read the whole review here:

CFP: "Transcendental Philosophy: its History and Nature," BSHP, Manchester Metropolitan University, April 14-17, 2009.

Thinking about the notion of the 'transcendental' in the history of philosophy touches on a number of distinct topics that have proved of central significance. These include the understanding of the a priori, the nature of necessity claims in experience, the question of the nature of experience itself and its possibility, and the understanding of what is essential in claims of knowledge. Whilst transcendental philosophy as a venture has tended in recent years to be identified with the Kantian project it is not exclusively connected to it since successors to Kant have contested the understanding and significance of the transcendental. Included amongst alternatives to the Kantian conception are those of the German Idealists (Fichte, Schelling and Hegel) all of whom have either described themselves or been described by others as transcendental philosophers. Similarly the revival of interest in Kant in the late nineteenth century produced significant revisions in the understanding of transcendental methods and arguments. The traditions of European philosophy include significant re-inventions of the concept of the transcendental in the works of Husserl, Derrida and Deleuze and the analytic tradition includes such transcendental projects as those of Wilfrid Sellars and Peter Strawson. By contrast, in considering the place of the concept of the transcendental in philosophy it is also important to consider its usage prior to the work of Kant in, for example the medieval tradition of describing the transcendentals as providing us notions that exceed those of categorial determination. In responding to this topic contributors might focus, inter alia, on any of the following: Transcendental philosophy: its nature and scope; Transcendental arguments; the nature of transcendental idealism; the viability of transcendental realism; transcendental phenomenology; the role of the transcendentals in medieval philosophy; transcendental empiricism; transcendental philosophy and metaphysics; the synthetic a priori; transcendental deductions; transcendental psychology; analytic philosophy and the transcendental; the intuition of essences; categorial intuition; transcendental subjectivity; science and experience; transcendental apperception; transcendental imagination; transcendental logic; the logic of experience; transcendental ontology; transcendental pragmatism; semiotics and the transcendental; transcendental dynamics; mathematics and experience; nature and world; mind and world; transcendental aesthetics; transcendental dialectic; transcendental methods. Please send abstracts to the following: Gary Banham, Reader in Transcendental Philosophy, Manchester Metropolitan University (; James Clarke, Lecturer in Philosophy, University of York (

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Radford, Gary P., and Marie L. Radford. "Structuralism, Post-Structuralism and the Library: Saussure and Foucault." JDOC 61.1 (2004).

This paper seeks to provide a gateway to new avenues of inquiry and to provide fresh insights for investigating and conceptualizing the field of library and information science (LIS). It describes the principles of structuralism and post-structuralism, illustrating these descriptions with literary examples to clarify these models, and discusses their relevance to LIS. . . . Download the whole document here:

Bapty, Ian. "Nietzsche, Derida and and Foucault: Re-excavating the Meaning of Archaeology."

Bapty, Ian. "Nietzsche, Derida and and Foucault: Re-excavating the Meaning of Archaeology." Archaeology after Structuralism: Post-Structuralism and the Practice of Archaeology. Ed. Ian Bapty and Tim Yates. London: Routledge, 1990. The plan of this paper is to use Nietzsche to frame a discussion of rather more recent trends in 'structuralism' and 'post-structuralism', and to do that specifically in relation to the thought of Foucault and his transition in the late 1960s/early 1970s to a position explicitly and implicitly claiming links with Nietzsche (and then, in a final skew of direction to interpose from this debate into the topic of this book -archaeology after structuralism). The point is not to conduct an analysis ultimately justifying Nietzsche against Foucault or Derrida, or vice versa, and then to impose this new 'truth' as yet another new epistemological underpinning for archaeology - which would be exactly to fall prey to the seductive wiles of what Nietzsche calls the 'will to truth' once more 'tempting us to many a venture' - instead the aim is to consider the value that binds together such opposing positions in their mutual activity and reactivity. . . . Read the rest here:

Bapty, Ian, and Tim Yates. "Archaeology and Post-Structuralism."

Bapty, Ian, and Tim Yates, ed. Archaeology after Structuralism: Post-Structuralism and the Practice of Archaeology. London: Routledge, 1990. Nearly a decade has passed since the symbolic and structural archaeology conference announced a coherent challenge to to the existing paradig­matic and epistemological structure of archaeology. These ten years have been momentous ones for the discipline. Not only has its practice been transformed with the introduction of new conceptual frameworks (such as the notion of the archaeological record - material culture - as text) but also whole issues, questions and debates that were previously unthinkable have become relatively commonplace - debates about the social implications and embeddedness of scientific and academic study, about the politics of archaeological production, about the context of archae­ology and the social sciences in late capitalist society, about the construction of gender relations in the past, and so on. The framework provided by the New Archaeology had provided little, if any, space for consideration of these issues, and although the last three to four years have seen a general mellowing of the initial opposition to structuralism mobilised by the positivists (as elements of structuralist theory are diluted and wash over the international scene), for many processualists it is not only still possible to distance archaeology from these issues, from the present, from society, from contemporary systems of representation, but absolutely vital that we continue to do so. . . . Read the rest of the introductory chapter here:

Monday, July 28, 2008

UPDATE: Smith, David Woodruff. "Phenomenology." STANFORD ENCYCLOPEDIA OF PHILOSOPHY July 28, 2008.

Phenomenology is the study of structures of consciousness as experienced from the first-person point of view. The central structure of an experience is its intentionality, its being directed toward something, as it is an experience of or about some object. An experience is directed toward an object by virtue of its content or meaning (which represents the object) together with appropriate enabling conditions. Phenomenology as a discipline is distinct from but related to other key disciplines in philosophy, such as ontology, epistemology, logic, and ethics. Phenomenology has been practiced in various guises for centuries, but it came into its own in the early 20th century in the works of Husserl, Heidegger, Sartre, Merleau-Ponty and others. Phenomenological issues of intentionality, consciousness, qualia, and first-person perspective have been prominent in recent philosophy of mind. . . . Read the rest here:

Bulson, Eric. "THE MODERNIST PAPERS by Fredric Jameson." TIMES LITERARY SUPPLEMENT July 27, 2008.

Jameson, Frederic. The Modernist Papers. Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield, 2007. Considering the impact of works like The Political Unconscious (1981) and Postmodernism, or, The Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism (1991), Jameson hardly needs an apologist for his style or substance. The publications of his articles and books are intellectual events, and he has that unique power to change the terms of the discussion. His writing is unapologetically difficult and resists quick and easy consumption. And that is precisely the point: Jameson's densely packed sentences with their asides, corrections and elaborations have the effect of slowing readers down and making them think. Reading Jameson makes you aware of the fact that if sentences are, strictly speaking, linear, then thought, the motor behind them, is not. He has made a career out of writing what he calls "dialectical sentences." And as he explains elsewhere in a discussion of Adorno and Hegel, you can't think dialectically without writing dialectically. . . . Read the rest here:

Johnson, Charles R. "The End of the Black American Narrative." THE AMERICAN SCHOLAR (Summer 2008).

As a writer, philosopher, artist, and black American, I’ve devoted more than 40 years of my life to trying to understand and express intellectually and artistically different aspects of the black American narrative. At times during my life, especially when I was young, it was a story that engaged me emotionally and consumed my imagination. I’ve produced novels, short stories, essays, critical articles, drawings, and PBS dramas based on what we call the black American story. To a certain degree, teaching the literature of black America has been my bread and butter as a college professor. It is a very old narrative, one we all know quite well, and it is a tool we use, consciously or unconsciously, to interpret or to make sense of everything that has happened to black people in this country since the arrival of the first 20 Africans at the Jamestown colony in 1619. A good story always has a meaning (and sometimes layers of meaning); it also has an epistemological mission: namely, to show us something. It is an effort to make the best sense we can of the human experience, and I believe that we base our lives, actions, and judgments as often on the stories we tell ourselves about ourselves (even when they are less than empirically sound or verifiable) as we do on the severe rigor of reason. This unique black American narrative, which emphasizes the experience of victimization, is quietly in the background of every conversation we have about black people, even when it is not fully articulated or expressed. It is our starting point, our agreed-upon premise, our most important presupposition for dialogues about black America. We teach it in our classes, and it is the foundation for both our scholarship and our popular entertainment as they relate to black Americans. Frequently it is the way we approach each other as individuals. . . . Yet, despite being an antique, the old black American narrative of pervasive victimization persists, denying the overwhelming evidence of change since the time of my parents and grandparents, refusing to die as doggedly as the Ptolemaic vision before Copernicus or the notion of phlogiston in the 19th century, or the deductive reasoning of the medieval schoolmen. It has become ahistorical. For a time it served us well and powerfully, yes, reminding each generation of black Americans of the historic obligations and duties and dangers they inherited and faced, but the problem with any story or idea or interpretation is that it can soon fail to fit the facts and becomes an ideology, even kitsch. . . . As phenomenologist Edmund Husserl revealed a hundred years ago, we almost always perceive and understand the new in terms of the old—or, more precisely, we experience events through our ideas, and frequently those are ideas that bring us comfort, ideas received from our parents, teachers, the schools we attend, and the enveloping culture, rather than original ones of our own. While a story or model may disclose a particular meaning for an experience, it also forces into the background or conceals other possible meanings. Think of this in light of novelist Ralph Ellison’s brilliant notion of “invisibility,” where—in his classic Invisible Man—the characters encountered by his nameless protagonist all impose their ideologies (explanations and ideas) on the chaos of experience, on the mysterious, untamed life that forever churns beneath widely accepted interpretations and explanations of “history” and “culture,” which in our social world, for Ellison, are the seen. . . . What I am saying is that “official” stories and explanations and endlessly repeated interpretations of black American life over decades can short-circuit direct perception of the specific phenomenon before us. The idea of something—an intellectual construct—is often more appealing and perfect (in a Platonic sense) than the thing itself, which always remains mysterious and ambiguous and messy, by which I mean that its sense is open-ended, never fixed. It is always wise, I believe, to see all our propositions (and stories) as provisional, partial, incomplete, and subject to revision on the basis of new evidence, which we can be sure is just around the corner. . . . Read the rest of this provocative piece here:

Majavu, Mandisi. "The Wretched of the Earth: Critical Psychology in the Colonial Context." PAMBAZUKA NEWS May 22, 2007.

Derek Hook (2004) argues that Frantz Fanon’s greatest source of originality as a postcolonial theorist lay in the fact that he combined psychology and politics in his analysis of colonial problems, national liberation and social revolution. For Fanon, psychopathology in the colonial society, or any other oppressive society for that matter, can be characterised as a ‘pathology of liberty’. This means that for a psychological intervention to be sincere and relevant, the psychological services offered would have to play their part in restoring freedom in some meaningful capacity to the sufferer (Hooks 2004). . . .

Read the rest here:

Hancock, Penny. "Novel Thinking." TIMES HIGHER EDUCATION July 10, 2008.

Until the 1990s, masters in creative writing existed only at the University of East Anglia and Lancaster University. Even ten years ago, courses at BA and MA level were virtually unheard of. English departments at universities focused on the study of literature, both at undergraduate and postgraduate levels. Being a writer of fiction or poetry did not require a degree, and writers evolved regardless - as many, of course, always have. Nobel prizewinners Harold Pinter and Doris Lessing, for example, didn't do a BA, let alone an MA, in anything. So how is it that there are now, in addition to more than 70 universities offering undergraduate degrees in creative writing, at least 50 masters programmes? There are various theories to explain this proliferation. One is that the courses replace the editorial input once provided by small publishing houses to promising new writers. Another is that students erroneously imagine that writing will offer a glamorous career - and one that can be achieved by taking creative writing at postgraduate level. Yet another suggests that there may be a crisis in traditional English studies, and that creative writing is taking over where the dusty academic study of literature leaves off. . . . Read the rest here:

PUB: Devadas, Vijay, and Jane Mummery, eds. PROTEAN BORDERS AND UNSETTLED INTERSTICES. BORDERLANDS 7.1 (2008).

Table of Contents: Vijay Devadas & Jane Mummery Protean Borders & Unsettled Interstices Essays: Nick Mansfield 'There is a Spectre Haunting...': Ghosts, their Bodies, Some Philosophers, a Novel and the Cultural Politics of Climate Change Samuel Chambers & Alan Finlayson Ann Coulter and the Problem of Pluralism: from Values to Politics Debora Halbert A Political Geography of Geneva: Mapping Globalization and its Discontents Michele Acuto Edges of the Conflict: a Threefold Conceptualization of National Borders Rachel Weissbrod Israeli Literature and Cinema in a Web of Intercultural Relations: the Reconciliation of Conflicts on Screen John Hannaford & Janice Newton Sacrifice, Grief and the Sacred at the Contemporary 'Secular' Pilgramage to Gallipoli Narrative Essay: Anthony Burke Life, in the Hall of Smashed Mirrors: Biopolitics and Terror Today Review: Michael Maidan Foucault in the Geographer’s Den (Jeremy W. Crampton and Stuart Elden eds. Space, Knowledge and Power: Foucault and Geography, Hampshire: Ashgate, 2007) Or read the entire issue at:

CFP: "Pragmatism and the Ethics of War," Society for Classical Pragmatism Studies, University of South Florida, March 5-7, 2009.

Keynote: John J. Stuhr, Arts and Sciences Distinguished Professor of Philosophy and American Studies, and Chair, Department of Philosophy, Emory University. Kynote address: "Our Love of War and What to Do About It. The United States has been involved in wars and military campaigns for approximately 3/4 of the years it has been in existence. There can be no doubt that war is a part of the American condition. What, then, does philosophical pragmatism -- a uniquely American school of thought, born during what was arguably the most peaceful period in U.S. history -- have to say on the subject of war? We will consider all papers dealing with pragmatic themes and military conflict, with preference for papers which connect the works of the classical pragmatists to contemporary problems. Suggested topics include, but are not limited to: Just War Theory The Global War on Terror The Ethics of Torture War and Uncertainty The Status of the Enemy Rights During Wartime War and Media Coverage Propaganda Asymmetric Warfare Terrorism as Tactic The Psychology of War Nonviolent Resistance The Ethics of Peemptive Strikes Individual Responsibility and the Military Inquiries and electronic submissions should be sent to: Acceptable document formats: .DOC, .PDF, and .RTF. Please have your paper prepared for blind review, with the e-mail serving as a cover sheet. Papers should be timed for a 20 minute reading (About 10-12 pages). Submission Deadline: November 4th, 2008.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Bauerlein, Mark. "A Lesson in Promotion." BRAINSTORM (Chronicle Blog) July 24, 2008

We might wonder whether de Man marks a success story precisely because he didn’t try to make a proper essay into a tenure-able book. How many other young professors couldn’t resist the book demand, however, and for quite understandable reasons? The result can be found in thousands of volumes in the library with call numbers PA to PT and dated 1975 and after. Instead of writing three rich, thoughtful scholarly essays over six years’ time, they produced . . . well, books that carried the imprimatur of a known press, bore all the signs of professionalism, and said a few interesting things. . . . Read the rest here:


Table of Contents: Power and Virtuality

Theory As Challenge

Too Much Is Too Much

Visit the journal homepage here:

Ruse, Michael. "Handmaiden to the Science." REDORBIT July 23, 2008.

Half a century ago, philosophers of science paid little real attention to the nitty-gritty reality of what happens in the laboratory or field. Idealizations ran rife; the only subject considered was physics; and the only tenable philosophy was a logic- intoxicated form of positivism. But in the 1960s-thanks to people like Thomas Kuhn, who insisted in The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (1962) that philosophers must take seriously the real life of science-the field began to welcome those who took pains to study and understand the actual practice of empirical inquiry. No area saw a greater sea change than the philosophical study of biology. The 1950s and 1960s were good to the science itself, what with the discovery of the double helix at the molecular level and the growth in confidence of evolutionary studies at the organismic level. Looking for areas to conquer, philosophers of science turned to the life sciences, with aims beyond simply showing that organisms are more than just machines or that one must invoke vitalistic modes of understanding to capture the mystery of the organism. The first biennial conference of the (American) Philosophy of Science Association, held in Pittsburgh in 1968, marked the first real awakening of this new way of doing things. I was in attendance, one of a small group who were determined to look conceptually at the life sciences and make the philosophy of biology a genuine and worthwhile branch of the larger discipline. Looking back now, I see that beneath the excitement was a troubling issue that remains with us today. If you are an empirical scientist, the reasons for what you do are fairly obvious: You want to understand the nature and the workings of the world of experience. But what if you are a philosopher, specifically a philosopher of science? What are you doing and why? Is your job primarily to aid science, to be a kind of high-powered theoretician? In the words of the great British empiricist John Locke, is your task that of being a "handmaiden" to the sciences? Or do you have aims of your own, and if scientists do not care for what you are doing, tant pis? Should your primary focus be on the traditional problems of philosophy-epistemology (theory of knowledge) and ethics (theory of morality)? . . . Read the rest here:

Shakespeare, Tom. "A World Based on Reason." NEW SCIENTIST July 23, 2008.

I don't hate reason, and I certainly don't want to dispense with rationality. Faced with the rhetoric of a bigot, I reach for rationality every time to counter his prejudices. But I also recognise that the twisted beliefs of racists or homophobes emerge from a complex mix of fears, half-truths and insecurities. Logic and evidence rarely suffice to dislodge them. For me, ethical judgement has three facets. Strong arguments plus good empirical data, certainly, but let's open a place for feelings, emotions and beliefs. They are part of the human approach to making sense of the world and we would be much worse off without them. I reserve the right to be inconsistent, ground my thinking in messy practicalities, and live up to the fundamental messiness of life. Rationality is a tool, not a universal acid. After all, didn't Niels Bohr once retort to a pig-headed colleague: "You aren't thinking. You are just being logical." . . . Read the rest here:

Smolin, Lee. "Negotiating Diversity." NEW SCIENTIST July 23, 2008.

To me it is most puzzling that so many who live well because of the triumph of reason are unable to forcefully answer the challenges to its reliability which are being increasingly heard. One common challenge to the domain of reason springs from the worry that science and technology can have bad consequences if decisions about their use are divorced from human values. At issue is how much reason can play a role in decisions about the use of science and technology. When we attempt to resolve the difficult problems raised by science we encounter a second problem, which arises from the diversity of contemporary societies. The older notions of liberal democracy grew out of societies where everyone had the same background and history. Today, a citizen of the UK, Sweden, Canada, France or the US may have any ethnic origin, any appearance, and practice any religion – or none. Diversity is increasingly becoming the norm, as unprecedented mobility delivers a planetary society. But as we move around and mix, our differences move with us and, if anything, deepen as the number of philosophies, religions and life styles combine and multiply in unexpected ways. The challenge is how to have a diverse, multicultural society that is based on reason. . . . Read the rest here:

Midgley, Mary. "Reason Eats Itself." NEW SCIENTIST July 23, 2008.

Like the 17th-century philosopher René Descartes and the ancient Greek philosophers, Hume thought that real knowledge had to be infallible. In order to achieve this they had proposed that it is guaranteed, as mathematics is, by logical necessity. But this deductive model is actually only one in great spectrum of patterns that we use in making sense of the world around us. To go back to Franklin's example of death, the mere formal structure of the familiar argument "All men are mortal – Socrates is a man – so Socrates is mortal", does nothing to protect its premises. The bold claim about "all men" has no logical backing; and the doomed attempt to invent one for it gave rise to endless inconclusive worrying about the "problem of induction". Seeing this difficulty, Hume concluded that real knowledge simply didn't exist. If, however, we ask how we actually form such generalizations the answer surely is that we do it not by logic but by pattern-recognition, using a great complex background of comparisons and analogies which we are naturally able to spot and, when necessary, to criticise. . . . Read the rest here:

Special Issue: "Seven Reasons Why People Hate Reason." NEW SCIENTIST July 14, 2008.

From religious fundamentalism to pseudoscience, it seems that forces are attacking the Enlightenment world view – characterised by rational, scientific thinking – from all sides. The debate seems black and white: you’re either with reason, or you’re against it. But is it so simple? In a series of special essays, our contributors look more carefully at some of the most provocative charges against reason. The results suggest that for all the Enlightenment has achieved, we still have a lot of work to do. . . . Access the issue here:

Rundkvist, Martin. "Against Theoretical Archaeology." AARDVARCHAEOLOGY July 23, 2008.

Rundkvist's credo:
  • Archaeology is part of the hugely successful, rationalist, empirical, scientific Enlightenment project to find out what the world really is and has been like.
  • Archaeology is one of the disciplines within this project responsible (in close interdisciplinary cooperation) for finding out what life was like for people in the past.
  • Archaeology alone takes care of the study of material remains of past societies.
  • All enquiry that does not concern the life-ways of people in the past and/or does not study material remains is non-archaeology.
  • All non-rationalist enquiry is non-science and thus non-archaeology.
  • All impressionist-aesthetic commentary is non-science and thus non-archaeology.
  • Politics are about values and thus non-science. Archaeology should therefore resist all attempts from inside and outside the discipline to ascribe political relevance to it.. . .
Read the whole entry here:

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Kirsch, Adam. "Hugh Trevor-Roper's THE INVENTION OF SCOTLAND." NEW YORK SUN July 23, 2008.

Every April, New York's proud Scottish-Americans celebrate their heritage with the Tartan Day Parade, processing up Sixth Avenue in a sea of kilts, to the noble blare of the bagpipes. If you are thinking of attending the festivities next year, however, you might want to keep quiet about having read The Invention of Scotland (Yale University Press, 304 pages, $30), a punchy new book by the late historian Hugh Trevor-Roper. For as Trevor-Roper points out with ill-concealed glee, tartan and kilt, those universal badges of Scottishness, are about as authentic as Disneyland. Until the 18th century, no one north of the Tweed had ever seen a kilt; nor did the clans, as legend has it, distinguish themselves by the pattern of their tartans, until they were taught to do so by an enterprising clothing manufacturer. The Scottish costume is, Trevor-Roper shows, simply the latest example of an ancient national habit: the forging of tradition. . . .

Read the whole review here:

Angier, Natalie. "Mirrors Don't Lie. Mislead? Oh Yes." NEW YORK TIMES July 22, 2008.

For the bubbleheaded young Narcissus of myth, the mirror spun a fatal fantasy, and the beautiful boy chose to die by the side of a reflecting pond rather than leave his “beloved” behind. For the aging narcissist of Shakespeare’s 62nd sonnet, the mirror delivered a much-needed whack to his vanity, the sight of a face “beated and chopp’d with tann’d antiquity” underscoring the limits of self-love. Whether made of highly polished metal or of glass with a coating of metal on the back, mirrors have fascinated people for millennia: ancient Egyptians were often depicted holding hand mirrors. With their capacity to reflect back nearly all incident light upon them and so recapitulate the scene they face, mirrors are like pieces of dreams, their images hyper-real and profoundly fake. Mirrors reveal truths you may not want to see. Give them a little smoke and a house to call their own, and mirrors will tell you nothing but lies. To scientists, the simultaneous simplicity and complexity of mirrors make them powerful tools for exploring questions about perception and cognition in humans and other neuronally gifted species, and how the brain interprets and acts upon the great tides of sensory information from the external world. . . . Read the rest here:

O'Kane, Josh. "Want to Get Ahead? Take Philosophy." TELEGRAPH-JOURNAL July 23, 2008.

Philosophy has become more, not less, relevant in today's world, and the enrolment numbers are there to prove it. Since 2002, UNB Saint John has seen an rise in enrolment of nearly 20 per cent in philosophy classes at the school - increasing from 2,572 students to 3,075 in just five years. UNBSJ professor Murray Littlejohn, one of the two philosophy professors at the school, says the increasing interest in philosophy is part of a national trend. David Flagel is the other professor and co-ordinator of the discipline for UNBSJ. "Physics, biology, astronomy, medicine, psychology, politics, literary studies, cultural studies - these are all philosophy's children," said Littlejohn. "It is very natural for philosophy to continue to reflect critically on the subject matter that is at issue in each of these disciplines since they were all born of philosophical reflection and inquiry." . . . Read the rest here:

Hu, Winnie. "In a New Generation of College Students, Many Opt for the Life Examined." NEW YORK TIMES April 6, 2008.

Once scoffed at as a luxury major, philosophy is being embraced at Rutgers and other universities by a new generation of college students who are drawing modern-day lessons from the age-old discipline as they try to make sense of their world, from the morality of the war in Iraq to the latest political scandal. The economic downturn has done little, if anything, to dampen this enthusiasm among students, who say that what they learn in class can translate into practical skills and careers. On many campuses, debate over modern issues like war and technology is emphasized over the study of classic ancient texts. . . . Read the rest here:

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

McCarthy, Tom. "Top 10 European Modernists." GUARDIAN May 8, 2008.

From time to time, Western literature undergoes an upheaval so momentous that its entire landscape is transfigured. The old order falls away, or rather is devoured and transformed by its own offspring, and the tremors carry on for decades, even centuries, with fault lines spreading out in all directions. Modernism is not a movement, nor even a way of thinking, but an event: an event with which any serious writer has, in some way or another, to engage, and to which they should respond. . . . Read the rest here:

Nemser, Alexander. "Low Truths." THE NEW REPUBLIC July 30, 2008.

Gorky's Tolstoy and Other Reminiscences: Key Writings By and About Maxim Gorky. Trans. Donald Fanger. New Haven: Yale UP, 2008. Literarily speaking, Gorky was never a true 'realist': inventing heroes who were better than life, he placed them in realistic settings and convinced his readers and himself that he was a "chronicler of everyday events." According to the poet Vladislav Khodasevich, "he himself half-believed in that half-truth all his life." Gorky had a tendency toward a broad, bright clarity that blurred life into myth. "In Gorky's books," Victor Shklovsky noted, "things take on an inflated quality without being enlarged out of proportion.... It's like a card game played by some officers sitting in the basket of an observation balloon a mile up in the air." . . . Gorky appeared bearing tales of hoodlums and tramps, but also scraps and pamphlets of anarchist ideas charged with revolutionary hopes. His financial support, much of which came from his own royalties, bolstered Lenin and the Bolsheviks from 1903 until their seizure of power in 1917. Wishing to believe all his life that human reality could be improved and even perfected, Gorky achieved a greatness that was ultimately social, not artistic; at his best he was a grand-scale inspiration for a worldwide cult of human progress and social struggle. He was a famously mesmerizing raconteur, but many who heard his stories in person were disappointed when they read them. He was himself attracted to power and the raw energy of self-assertion, and idolized men who tried to remake the world. . . . Read the rest here:

Brockes, Emma. "America's Last Taboo." GUARDIAN July 21, 2008.

Twenty years ago, Barbara Ehrenreich wrote an article for the New York Times in which she pointed out the growing inequality of American society and was promptly denounced, by a rival paper, as a Marxist. "The Washington Times is an extreme-rightwing publication," she says, so there was no surprise there. But the paper's reaction underlined a general principle: that while one can say "fairly wild" things about race and gender in the US, there persists a certain coyness about class. "There's this powerful myth that America doesn't have classes; that they're an ancient English or European thing that we abolished. And that if you're not rich, it's your own damn fault." . . . Read the rest here:,,2291935,00.html?gusrc=rss&feed=fromtheguardian.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Gert, Bernard. "Review of Quentin Skinner's HOBBES AND REPUBLICAN LIBERTY." NDPR (July 2008).

Skinner, Quentin. Hobbes and Republican Liberty. Cambridge: CUP, 2008. In this book Quentin Skinner contrasts two rival theories about the nature of human liberty. The first, which he traces back to antiquity, is now called republican liberty. It asserts, "freedom within civil associations is subverted by the mere presence of arbitrary power." (p. X) "One crucial implication is that liberty can be lost or forfeited even in the absence of any acts of interference." (p. XII) Skinner contrasts this account of liberty with the definition of liberty with which Hobbes begins Chapter XXI of Leviathan,
Liberty, or freedome, signifieth (properly) the absence of Opposition; (by Opposition, I mean externall Impediments of motion;) and may be applyed no lesse to Irrationall and Inanimate creatures, than to Rationall. For whatsoever is so tyed, or environed, as it cannot move, but within a certain space, which space is determined by the opposition of some externall body, we say it hath not Liberty to go further.
According to Skinner, Hobbes holds that citizens have liberty insofar as they are not physically prevented from acting as they would like. Reading this book made clear to me how different the fields of history, even intellectual history, and philosophy, especially analytic philosophy, are. . . . Read the rest here:

Bay Area Continental Philosophy Association.

Details of a new association and a call for papers are here:

Jacoby, Russell. "Gone, and Being Forgotten." CHRONICLE OF HIGHER EDUCATION July 25, 2008.

How is it that Freud is not taught in psychology departments, Marx is not taught in economics, and Hegel is hardly taught in philosophy? Instead these masters of Western thought are taught in fields far from their own. Nowadays Freud is found in literature departments, Marx in film studies, and Hegel in German. But have they migrated, or have they been expelled? Perhaps the home fields of Freud, Marx, and Hegel have turned arid. Perhaps those disciplines have come to prize a scientistic ethos that drives away unruly thinkers. Or maybe they simply progress by sloughing off the past. . . . Compared with economics, philosophy prizes the study of its past and generally offers courses on Greek, medieval, and modern thinkers. Frequently, however, those classes close with Kant, in the 18th century, and do not pick up again until the 20th century. The troubling 19th century, featuring Hegel (and Kierkegaard and Nietzsche), is omitted or glossed over. General catalogs sometimes list a Hegel course in philosophy, but it is rarely offered. Very few philosophy departments at major universities teach Hegel or Hegelian thought. Philosophy stands at the opposite pole from psychology in at least one respect. In most colleges and universities, it is one of the smaller majors, while psychology is one of the largest. Yet, much like psychology, philosophy has proved unwelcoming for thinkers paddling against the mainstream. Not only did sharp critics like Richard Rorty, frustrated by its narrowness, quit philosophy for comparative literature, but a whole series of professors have departed for other fields, leaving philosophy itself intellectually parched. That is the argument of John McCumber, a scholar of Hegel and Heidegger who himself decamped from philosophy to German. His book Time in the Ditch: American Philosophy and the McCarthy Era (Northwestern University Press, 2001) savages the contemporary American philosophical profession and its flight from history. He notes, for instance, that 10 years after the 1987 "breakthrough anthology" Feminism as Critique, not one of its contributors, from Seyla Benhabib to Iris Marion Young, still taught in a philosophy department. The pressures that force — or tempt — big names such as Rorty and Martha Nussbaum to quit philosophy, McCumber observes, exert equal force on those outside the public eye. He charges, for instance, that senior editors dispense with peer review and run the major philosophy journals like private fiefdoms, and that a few established professors select papers for the discipline's annual conferences. The authoritarianism and cronyism drive out mavericks. . . . Read the rest here:

Polt, Richard. "Review of Andrew Haas' THE IRONY OF HEIDEGGER." NDPR (July (2008).

Haas, Andrew. The Irony of Heidegger. London: Continuum, 2007. After reading a good deal of Heidegger, we start to hear his tones of voice and anticipate his rhetorical strategies. We recognize, for instance, that his lecture courses deliberately pile tension upon tension. We realize that he often pursues a line of thought simply in order to build a house of cards that he will then blow down. Certain words he uses drip with sarcasm, such as freischwebend (free-floating) and harmlos (innocuous). When Heidegger characterizes any viewpoint in these terms, it's a giveaway that he is offering the position a final cigarette before submitting it to his philosophical firing squad. In Andrew Haas' The Irony of Heidegger, then, one might expect to find an interpretation that explored Heidegger's tonalities and tropes in the light of the content of his thought -- but one's expectations might be confounded. . . . Read the rest here:

Friday, July 18, 2008

Mamet, David. "Why I Am No Longer a 'Brain-Dead Liberal.'" VILLAGE VOICE March 11, 2008.

I found not only that I didn't trust the current government (that, to me, was no surprise), but that an impartial review revealed that the faults of this president—whom I, a good liberal, considered a monster—were little different from those of a president whom I revered. Bush got us into Iraq, JFK into Vietnam. Bush stole the election in Florida; Kennedy stole his in Chicago. Bush outed a CIA agent; Kennedy left hundreds of them to die in the surf at the Bay of Pigs. Bush lied about his military service; Kennedy accepted a Pulitzer Prize for a book written by Ted Sorenson. Bush was in bed with the Saudis, Kennedy with the Mafia. Oh. And I began to question my hatred for "the Corporations"—the hatred of which, I found, was but the flip side of my hunger for those goods and services they provide and without which we could not live. And I began to question my distrust of the "Bad, Bad Military" of my youth, which, I saw, was then and is now made up of those men and women who actually risk their lives to protect the rest of us from a very hostile world. Is the military always right? No. Neither is government, nor are the corporations—they are just different signposts for the particular amalgamation of our country into separate working groups, if you will. Are these groups infallible, free from the possibility of mismanagement, corruption, or crime? No, and neither are you or I. So, taking the tragic view, the question was not "Is everything perfect?" but "How could it be better, at what cost, and according to whose definition?" Put into which form, things appeared to me to be unfolding pretty well. Read the rest here:

CFP: "Transmission: Cinema/Psychoanalysis," CRASSH, University of Cambridge, September 16-18, 2008.

The conference will focus around the theme of transmission in its exploration of relationships between cinema and psychoanalysis. This will contribute to discussions of cultural transmission relating to the CRASSH 2007-9 theme. Various possible modes of Transmission will be explored:
  • The transmission of psychoanalytic discourse into film theory (re-visiting and re-assessing 1970s theory, Screen group, Metz, Mulvey etc., evaluating current relations between psychoanalysis and film theory)
  • The transmission of psychoanalytic scenarios into filmmaking (e.g. Hitchcock, Lang; can we uncover what was lost in translation? what is the cultural/historical significance of such transmission?)
  • Cinema as psychoanalysis: image, scene, time, speech, body, sound (how might cinema transmit psychoanalytically? Can cinema be conceived as a psychoanalytic mode of thought?)

In exploring these forms of transmission, the conference will seek to revisit the history of film theory and look forward to its future, asking whether psychoanalysis still has something to offer film theorists. In addition, the parallel histories (to use the term from the title of Janet Bergstrom's edited volume Endless Night) of cinema and psychoanalysis will be re-examined to shed new light on their past entanglement and possible future collaboration. Finally, through the investigation of scenarios and film form and their (mis)translations and mirrorings of psychoanalytic discourse and thought, approaches to film analysis will be explored.

Keynote Speakers:

  • Professor Mieke Bal (University van Amsterdam)
  • Professor Kaja Silverman (University of California Berkeley)
Further information is here:

Sattler, Barbara. "Review of Christopher Shield's ARISTOTLE." NDPR (July 2008).

Shields, Christopher. Aristotle. London: Routledge, 2007. Shields' presentation focuses on philosophical problems that are interesting also for a contemporary philosopher. Shields' conception of his book becomes most obvious in contrast to Ross's well-known Aristotle (1923): While Ross gives us a synopsis of every chapter of a work of Aristotle, Shields picks out some central problems and frequently connects them with contemporary philosophical debates, as when he points out both differences and common features between Aristotle's essentialism and modern modal views (p. 105). What one might miss in Shields is an attempt to give us a sketch of the overall project of a whole work of Aristotle's and an explicit indication of the works that Shields does not discuss at all in this introduction, among others, Aristotle's numerous biological works. . . . Read the rest here:

Tartakovsky, Joseph. "Man of a Thousand Faces." CLAREMONT REVIEW OF BOOKS (Summer 2008).

Manguel, Alberto. Homer's The Iliad and The Odyssey: a Biography. Douglas & Mcintyre, 2007. Alberto Manguel's slim "biography" is a literary history of Homer's epics, half criticism, half Britannica entry. In each of 22 short chapters, averaging ten pages apiece, he examines an angle of the Homeric phenomenon: the question of his existence; his reception by Greek philosophers; his heirs Virgil and Dante; the agonies of St. Jerome and Augustine of Hippo in reconciling him with Scripture; the excavation of Troy; his role in French debates between anciens and modernes; and his lessons on war and peace. Manguel flits about in time, but the progression is roughly chronological, from Homer's heroic age to our insistently anti-heroic one. The epics, thought to have been composed in the 8th century, have had few rivals in the inspiration of pedantry: an ancient scholar named Demetrius of Scepsis amplified 62 lines from the Iliad's Catalogue of Ships into 30 volumes. But Manguel, a critic, novelist, and translator born in Argentina and now living in France, writes with intelligence and curiosity. For a man of letters who has edited 23 anthologies and is reputed to possess a library of 30,000 volumes, he mostly avoids ostentation. Manguel's intent is to show that, for over 2,500 years, countless members of the species have found "in these stories of war in time and travel in space...the experience of every human struggle and every human displacement." The Iliad and Odyssey, which can be thought to represent the two great metaphors of life, a battle and a journey, are the "books which, more than any others, have fed the imagination of the Western world." . . . Read the rest here:

Judson, Olivia. "Darwinmania!" THE WILD SIDE BLOG. NEW YORK TIMES June 17, 2008.

July 1, 2008, is the 150th anniversary of the first announcement of Darwin's discovery of natural selection, the main driving force of evolution. Since 2009 is the 200th anniversary of Darwin’s birth (Feb. 12), as well as being the 150th anniversary of the publication of his masterpiece, On the Origin of Species (Nov. 24), the extravaganza is set to continue until the end of next year. Get ready for Darwin hats, t-shirts, action figures, naturally selected fireworks and evolving chocolates. Oh, and lots of books and speeches. But hold on. Does he deserve all this? . . . Read the rest here: See also by Judson:
  • As the first major statement on evolution and how it works, Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species not only transformed the way we humans see ourselves. It marks the beginning of modern biology. But reading it is evidently not a prerequisite for a successful career in biology — not even for those studying evolution. ) . . . An Original Confession July 8, 2008
  • Darwin did more in one lifetime than most of us could hope to accomplish in two. But his giantism has had an odd and problematic consequence. It’s a tendency for everyone to refer back to him. “Why Darwin was wrong about X”; “Was Darwin wrong about Y?”; “What Darwin didn’t know about Z” — these are common headlines in newspapers and magazines, in both the biological and the general literature. Then there are the words: Darwinism (sometimes used with the prefix “neo”), Darwinist (ditto), Darwinian. Why is this a problem? Because it’s all grossly misleading. It suggests that Darwin was the beginning and the end, the alpha and omega, of evolutionary biology, and that the subject hasn’t changed much in the 149 years since the publication of the Origin. . . . Let's Get Rid of Darwinism July 15, 2008

GUARDIAN Feature to Commemorate the Centennial of Darwin's ORIGIN OF THE SPECIES.

This includes articles by Richard Dawkins on "Why Darwin Matters," John van Whye on "Common Misconceptions about Darwin" and Adam Rutherford's "Teflon Charlie" (unlike Newton and Freud, he writes, Darwin has survived years of scrutiny unscathed . . .). There are numerous other features as well. Visit:

Thursday, July 17, 2008

UC, Riverside Literature Professor Found Murdered.

An autopsy is scheduled Wednesday on the body of well-known English Professor Lindon Barrett, who was apparently murdered last week in his apartment in Long Beach. The body was found in an advanced state of decomposition, according to the Los Angeles County Coroner’s Office, where the autopsy will take place. . . . [Barrett was a well-known UC, Irvine professor associated with the prestigious Critical Theory Institute and author of Blackness and Value: Seeing Double, among other items, who had recently moved to UC, Riverside. See his new Faculty page here:] Read the article here:

Bauerlein, Mark. "The Attack on Theory." CHRONICLE REVIEW July 16, 2008.

Back in the 1980s, when conservatives such as William Bennett began attacking what they termed “the politicization of the humanities,” they made a basic error. They blamed theorists for reducing texts to vested interests, for planting identity politics on campus, for subsuming aesthetic criteria beneath ideological criteria, and for disrespecting the noble inheritance of Western literature and philosophy. The accusations struck humanities professors as hare-brained and panicky and altogether political, but I observed a number of professional occasions to which they applied all-too-well, even though I despised all things Republican at the time. But in one respect the critics were mistaken from the start: they included deconstruction among the prime targets. Deconstruction made everything meaningless, they said, removing classroom discussion from a grounding in tradition and truth, and allowing wayward professors to steer the learning any which way. Deconstruction was a canon-buster, too, irreverent and roguish. It set the critic alongside the novelist—remember Hillis Miller gushing about the creative side of criticism? No wonder it appealed to graduate students and junior faculty, who were only too eager to espouse something that licensed them to drop their humility in the face of the past. . . . Read the rest here:

Costelloe, Timothy. "Giambattista Vico." STANFORD ENCYCLOPEDIA OF PHILOSOPHY (Updated July 15, 2008.)

Vico consciously develops his notion of scienza (science or knowledge) in opposition to the then dominant philosophy of Descartes with its emphasis on clear and distinct ideas, the most simple elements of thought from which all knowledge, the Cartesians held, could be derived a priori by way of deductive rules. As Vico had already argued, one consequence and drawback of this hypothetico-deductive method is that it renders phenomena which cannot be expressed logically or mathematically as illusions of one sort or another. This applies not only most obviously to the data of sense and psychological experience, but also to the non-quantifiable evidence that makes up the human sciences. Drawing on the verum factum principle first described in De Antiquissima, Vico argues against Cartesian philosophy that full knowledge of any thing involves discovering how it came to be what it is as a product of human action and the "principal property" of human beings, viz., "of being social" ("Idea of the Work," §2, p.3). The reduction of all facts to the ostensibly paradigmatic form of mathematical knowledge is a form of "conceit," Vico maintains, which arises from the fact that "man makes himself the measure of all things" (Element I, §120, p.60) and that "whenever men can form no idea of distant and unknown things, they judge them by what is familiar and at hand" (Element II, §122, p.60). Recognizing this limitation, Vico argues, is at once to grasp that phenomena can only be known via their origins, or per caussas (through causes). For "Doctrines must take their beginning from that of the matters of which they treat" (Element CVI, §314, p.92), he says, and it is one "great labor of...Science to recover...[the] grounds of truth-truth which, with the passage of years and the changes in language and customs, has come down to us enveloped in falsehood" (Element XVI, §150, pp.64-5). Unveiling this falsehood leads to "wisdom," which is "nothing but the science of making such use of things as their nature dictates" (Element CXIV, §326, p.94). Given that verum ipsum factum-"the true is the made," or something is true because it is made-scienzia both sets knowledge per caussas as its task and as the method for attaining it; or, expressed in other terms, the content of scienza is identical with the development of that scienza itself. . . .

Read the whole entry here:

Senchuk, Dennis. "Review of Larry Hickman's PRAGMATISM AS POST-POSTMODERNISM." NDPR (July 2008).

Hickman, Larry A. Pragmatism as Post-Postmodernism: Lessons from John Dewey. New York: Fordham UP, 2007. This book, a collection of essays, suggests that Dewey has anticipated solutions to some major problems that plague postmodernism -- a loosely confederated movement which the author characterizes (with help from other scholars) as a rejection of epistemological foundationalism, objectivity, and metaphysical realism, as an affirmation of self-reflexiveness and relativism, and as an attempt to have meaning without transcendent value and action without absolute truth. The essays range over po-mo views on global citizenship, Rorty's neo-pragmatism, divers conceptions of technology, environmental concerns, and some straightforwardly expository discussions of Dewey's philosophy. At book's end, Hickman concludes that Dewey's (and Peirce's) views on habit afford post-po-mo solutions to po-mo problems about objectivity and the interminability of "self-referentiality, redescription, and reinterpretation" (p. 254). . . . Read the rest here:

Dusek, Val. "Review of Steve Fuller's THE KNOWLEDGE BOOK." NDPR (July 2008).

Fuller, Steve. The Knowledge Book: Key Concepts in Philosophy, Science and Culture. Montreal: McGill-Queen's UP, 2007 Steve Fuller's work is in the format of Raymond Williams' Keywords, Elizabeth Fox Keller and Elizabeth Lloyd's Keywords in Evolutionary Biology, and, more recently -- and aptly -- Cary Nelson's Keywords in Academia: a Devil's Dictionary for Higher Education. The work contains forty-two succinct entries, averaging four to six pages long, on a number of notions of relevance to science studies. It contains, for instance, under P: Philosophy versus sociology, Postmodernism, and Progress; under R: Rationality, Relativism versus constructivism, Religion, and Rhetoric. The entries are extensively cross-referenced. The work was originally published in Japan, where there are a number of skilled interpreters of Fuller's social epistemology. . . . Read the rest here:

CFP: "Double Edges: Rhetorics / Rhizomes / Regions," International Association of Philosophy and Literature, Brunel University, June 1-7, 2009.

The deadline for submissions of individual and panel abstracts is October 15. Further information will be posted at the IAPL website in due course:

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Schmidt, James. "Review of Jane Kneller's KANT AND THE POWER OF IMAGINATION." NDPR (July 2008).

Kneller, Jane. Kant and the Power of Imagination. Cambridge: CUP, 2007. Kant tends to be viewed as one of the most stalwart defenders of the Enlightenment, Romantic writers like Novalis have long been cast in the role of the Enlightenment's most vigorous critics, and the relationship of German idealism to Kant's philosophy has always been troubled -- though Fichte saw himself as completing Kant's system, Kant rejected his efforts in no uncertain terms. Not the least of the virtues of Jane Kneller's fine study is that it unsettles the conventional picture of late eighteenth-century German thought by introducing readers to a Kant who had far more in common with Novalis and his colleagues than with Fichte and his. Along the way she explores the ambiguous function of the imagination in Kant's critical enterprise, untangles the philosophical commitments of the first generation of Romantics, and sheds a good deal of light on the extent to which the Jena Romantics might be seen as advancing at least some of the ideals associated with the Enlightenment. . . . Read the rest here:

Fyffe, Richard. "Conversational Constraints: Richard Rorty and Contemporary Critical Theory." ACRL (January 1996).

Rorty's own work be read as an attempt to introduce the vocabulary of what he calls a post-philosophical culture to replace the "objective" ideals of science and Philosophy. Such a culture, he says, would be thoroughly literary -- erasing C.P. Snow's famous split between science and literature. Rorty characterizes this culture as one in which "neither the priests nor the physicists nor the poets nor the Party were thought of as more 'rational' or more 'scientific' or 'deeper' than ... another. No particular portion of culture would be singled out as exemplifying (or signally failing to exemplify) the condition to which the rest aspired." (COP xxxviii). "A post-Philosophical culture, then, would be one in which men and women felt themselves alone, merely finite, with no links to something Beyond. . . . [It would not] erect Science as an idol to fill the place once held by God. It views science as one genre of literature -- or, put the other way around, literature and the arts as inquiries, on the same footing as scientific inquiries" (COP xlii-xliii). Post- Philosophical culture, Rorty concludes, thus amounts to "a study of the comparative advantages and disadvantages of the various ways of talking which our race has invented. It looks, in short, much like what is sometimes called 'culture criticism'" (COP xl). . . . Read the rest here:

Rée, Jonathan. "Remembering Rorty." PROSPECT MAGAZINE 136 (July 2007).

In The Linguistic Turn, Rorty observed that if philosophy could give up its claims to be a modern, scientific discipline, then it would be able to move on to a “post-philosophical phase,” throwing away the cumbersome baggage of “pseudo-scientific argumentation” and reinventing itself as a “new art form.” In his most famous book, Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature (1979), he stepped up to the plate, proposing that philosophy should be seen not as a hotline to Truth about the World but as a loose literary tradition which might from time to time provide the public with new metaphors to live by, or new stories for articulating the past or imagining the future. He was thus able to extend a hand of friendship to the kind of “continental philosophers” who had always been anathema to his colleagues; but then he made new enemies because the admirers of Heidegger, Gadamer and Derrida were not pleased to have their heroes bundled up with loose-talking American pragmatists who had given up on the idea of a shining path to truth. Rorty’s disenchantment with hard-edged scientism led him not only to the sorts of thinkers that most professional philosophers dislike, but also to a kind of politics that they found equally unpalatable. . . . Read the rest here:

"Derrida Today," Department of Critical and Cultural Studies, Macquarie University, July 10-12, 2008.

Update: The programme may be downloaded here: Original Post (October 12, 2007): Deadline for paper abstracts and panel proposals: 15 November, 2007 (For details about submitting abstracts go to the conference website: ) Keynotes: Prof. Catherine Malabou (Paris X Nanterre), Prof. Andrew Benjamin (Monash), Prof. Martin McQuillan (Leeds University). Special Round Table:Julian Wolfreys (Loughborough Uni, UK), Niall Lucy, Ros Diprose (UNSW), Margrit Schildrick (Queens, Belfast), Stephen Barker (Uni California, Irvine), and others to be announced Hosted by: Nicole Anderson & Nick Mansfield, Department of Critical and Cultural Studies, Macquarie University. Contact Nick and Nicole at:Email: The theme of the conference is based on the new journal Derrida Today (general editors: Nick Mansfield and Nicole Anderson, and to be published by Edinburgh University Press, ISSN: 1754-8500). The first issue of the journal will be launched at the conference. Journal Website: Participants will be invited to submit article length versions of their papers for consideration for publication in the journal. Snail Mail: Nick Mansfield and Nicole Anderson, Derrida Today Conference organisers, Department of Critical and Cultural Studies, Macquarie University, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia 2109; Email: ; Phone: +61 2 9850 8044.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Fearn, Nicholas. "Review of Simon Critchley's THE BOOK OF DEAD PHILOSOPHERS." INDEPENDENT July 13, 2008.

Critchley, Simon. The Book of Dead Philosophers. London: Granta, 2008. Once we get into the sober, modern era of analytic philosophy, the deaths become as straight-laced as the thinkers, except on the Continent where things are always different. When Jean-Paul Sartre expired from dropsy, Simone de Beauvoir threw herself on top of his corpse, where she drank herself to sleep. An exception on the Anglo-American side was A J Ayer, who died twice – the first time temporarily after choking on a piece of salmon. He came back with a tale of celestial cabinet ministers and a red light that rules the universe. His wife reported that he "has got so much nicer since he died". . . . Read the rest here:

Thompson, Simon. "Richard Rorty: the Making of an American Philosopher." TIMES HIGHER EDUCATION July 10, 2008.

Gross, Neil. Richard Rorty: the Making of an American Philosopher, 1931-1982. Chicago: U of Chicago P, 2008. This book is a curious hybrid. One part is a relatively orthodox intellectual biography of Richard Rorty. It begins with accounts of his parents' intellectual interests and political commitments, then moves chapter by chapter from Rorty's undergraduate and masters degrees at Chicago, through his doctoral studies at Yale, to his first academic position at Wellesley College, and then to his time at Princeton, before taking up an interdisciplinary professorship at Virginia. The narrative ends with the publication of Rorty's collection of essays, Consequences of Pragmatism, in 1982. This part of the book is interesting for several reasons. Perhaps, most importantly, it counters the widely held view that Rorty began as an analytic philosopher and then defected to the pragmatist camp. In fact, as Neil Gross shows, Rorty was always sympathetic to pragmatist ideas, and in most of his work on analytic philosophy sought to demonstrate the desirability of dialogue between the analytic and pragmatist traditions. The other part of the book is an attempt to make a contribution to a "new sociology of ideas", one that in particular seeks to understand "some of the social processes that intellectuals encounter and navigate as they develop their ideas". In this part of the book, Gross provides an account of the work of Pierre Bourdieu on academic sociology (Homo Academicus) and Randall Collins on the sociology of philosophies. . . . Read the rest here:

Pettigrew, David. "Review of Iain Macdonald, et al., eds. ADORNO AND HEIDEGGER." NDPR (July 2008).

Macdonald, Iain, and Krzysztof Ziarek, eds. Adorno and Heidegger: Philosophical Questions. Stanford: Stanford UP, 2008. This volume proposes a significant undertaking: an investigation of the relation between the philosophical thought of Adorno and Heidegger. The editors write, "there is much to be gained from working through and reassessing the differences that have kept these two thinkers' works quarantined from each other for more than seven decades" (4). The book is, without a doubt, an important contribution to the field. However, the range of articles would have benefited from a more detailed introduction indicating the contents and interrelation of the various contributions. . . . Read the rest here:

Malik, Kenan. "Identity is That Which is Given."

Malik, Kenan. Strange Fruit: Why Both Sides are Wrong in the Race Debate. Oxford: Oneworld, 2008. Excerpt: We’re All Multiculturalists Now observed the American academic, and former critic of pluralism, Nathan Glazer in the title of a book. And indeed we are. The celebration of difference, respect for pluralism, avowal of identity politics - these have come to be regarded as the hallmarks of a progressive, antiracist outlook and as the foundation of modern liberal democracies. Ironically, culture has captured the popular imagination just as anthropologists themselves have started worrying about the very concept. After all, what exactly is a culture? What marks its boundaries? In what way is a 16-year old British born boy of Pakistani origin living in Bradford of the same culture as a 50-year old man living in Lahore? Does a 16-year white boy from Bradford have more in common culturally with his 50-year-old father than with that 16-year old ‘Asian’? Such questions have led most anthropologists today to reject the idea of cultures as fixed, bounded entities. Some reject the very idea of culture as meaningless. ‘Religious beliefs, rituals, knowledge, moral values, the arts, rhetorical genres, and so on’, the British anthropologist Adam Kuper suggests, ‘should be separated out from each other rather than bound together into a single bundle labelled culture’. ‘To understand culture’, he concludes, ‘we must first deconstruct it. . . . Read the rest here: Other long excerpts may be found here: and A review may be found here (

Saturday, July 12, 2008

"Herder and his Impact," International Herder Society, Friedrich Schiller Universitat Jena, August 18-21, 2008.

The programme is available here:

Kim, Alan. "Review of Andrea W. Nightingale's SPECTACLES OF TRUTH IN CLASSICAL GREEK PHILOSOPHY." NDPR (May 2005).

Nightingale, Andrea W. Spectacles of Truth in Classical Greek Philosophy: Theoria in its Cultural Context. Cambridge: CUP, 2004. Spectacles of Truth in Classical Greek Philosophy (SOT) is the latest and hopefully not the last installment of Andrea Wilson Nightingale's (AN) project of situating ancient Greek philosophy in its cultural context. In her book, Genres in Dialogue: Plato and the Construct of Philosophy (Cambridge University Press, 1995), AN presented Plato's dialogues as part of his struggle to define philosophy as a cultural practice distinct from rhetoric and sophistic. In SOT, she turns her attention to the various ways in which the religious pilgrimage called "theôria" was appropriated by fourth-century (BCE) philosophers in crafting both the private and public image. . . . Read the rest here:

Brueckner, Anthony. "Review of Michael Forster's KANT AND SKEPTICISM." NDPR (July 2008).

Forster, Michael N. Kant and Skepticism. Princeton: Princeton UP, 2008. Forster begins by asking: which forms of skepticism is Kant most worried about in the first Critique? Bucking the trend of much Anglo-American Kant commentary, Forster maintains that Kant's concern with what Forster calls "veil of perception" (hereafter vop) skepticism is something of a side show, nothing more than a "secondary concern" for Kant. VOP skepticism is what Kant calls "problematic idealism" in the Refutation of Idealism: it is Cartesian skepticism about knowledge of outer objects (e.g., cats) located in space. The problematic idealist "pleads the incapacity to prove, through immediate experience, any existence except our own". Forster makes a fairly reasonable textual case for downplaying the role of vop skepticism in Kant's thought. Further, there has always been the prima facie worry about how to square a concern with refuting Cartesian skepticism with a full embrace of transcendental idealism. But even so, in a book entitled Kant and Skepticism, one would have expected, for the sake of completeness, more than Forster's perfunctory treatment of the Refutation of Idealism and at least some discussion of the bearing of the Transcendental Deduction on vop skepticism. I will return to the latter issue later, and regarding the former, I note briefly the following criticism from Forster. Kant's premise in the Refutation of Idealism is "I am conscious of my own existence as determined in time". One plausible construal is that I know that I have had "mental states in a certain order over a stretch of time" (fn. 22, 97). However, according to Forster, "no 'veil of perception' skeptic worth his salt will concede this claim" (97). Against this, Cartesian skepticism is not about memory and does not challenge the sorts of knowledge about our own minds to which common sense lays claim (such as knowledge of the temporal ordering of at least some of our mental states). As Kant saw it, the Cartesian problem is about how to move from knowledge of our own minds to knowledge of the world apart from our minds. Kant claims to have solved that problem in the Refutation of Idealism. . . . Read the rest here:

Dentsoras, Dimitrios. "Review of Terence Irwin's THE DEVELOPMENT OF ETHICS, Vol. 1." NDPR (July 2008).

Irwin, Terence. From Socrates to the Reformation. Vol. 1 of The Development of Ethics: a Historical and Critical Study. Oxford: OUP, 2007. In the first volume of his The Development of Ethics, Terence Irwin undertakes the ambitious task of offering a historical and critical study of moral philosophy from Socrates to the Reformation. Unlike other works on the history of ethics, Irwin does not simply give a sequential exposition of various historical moral theories, accompanied by an account of the possible philosophical foundations and merits of each theory. Rather, Irwin views the development of ethics as part of a tradition -- what he calls the "Socratic tradition," which he approaches in a critical manner. Not afraid of expressing his own philosophical preferences, Irwin places Aristotelian naturalism at the center of his exposition, and defends its importance in the history of ethics, as well as its basic philosophical soundness. He does so while remaining historically sensitive and accurate. Irwin achieves this by restricting his critical comments to their historical context, and showing that the original texts are rich enough to express (and perhaps reply to) our contemporary critical philosophical demands. Irwin is aware that his approach is not the only one, but argues convincingly that it is an important one that can promote our understanding both of ethics and of its history. . . . Read the rest here:

"Neuroeconomics: Hype or Hope?," Erasmus Institute for Philosophy and Economics, Erasmus University Rotterdam, November 20–22, 2008.

After having operated as a separate science for decades, economics is now opening up its boundaries to other disciplines. One such discipline is cognitive neuroscience. The nascent field of neuroeconomics is a booming business. Worldwide, more than a dozen of new Centers for Neuroeconomics Studies equipped with high tech brain scanners have been founded within the past few years. Several papers on neuroeconomics already found their way into prestigious academic journals such as Science and Nature. At the same time neuroeconomics meets resistance among economists (as perhaps best expressed in Gul and Pesendorfer's (2008) "The Case for Mindless Economics"). Many economists and methodologists are skeptical about the contribution neuroeconomics can make to economics. They question the relevance of data about decision-making processes at the neural level for addressing the sorts of questions economics is traditionally interested in.Is neuroeconomics a flimsy and fleeting hype in economics that is overselling itself? Or is neuroeconomics here to stay, offering the hope that economics will finally be transformed into a modern science? Topics: The Conference aims to offer a platform for discussing methodological and philosophical issues raised by the advent of neuroeconomics. More specifically, we invite paper submissions on the following topics: - What standards of scientific respectability and progress are implied (or invoked) in the claim that neuroeconomics will finally move economics into its proper standing of a modern science? - What consequences does neuroeconomics have for the subject matter, scope and method of economics? - How do the different disciplines of economics and of cognitive neuroscience relate to each other in neuroeconomics? Does the relationship between economics on the one hand and cognitive (neuro)science on the other need to be redefined? - Do we first need to know how different levels of analysis (e.g. of observable choice behavior, of its underlying computational algorithms and of the neural "hardware" in which they are implemented) relate to each other before we can tell how neuroeconomic evidence and findings bear on economics? If so, what levels are at stake and how are they related? - What light can insights from contemporary philosophy of mind shed on the topics raised here? - How is neural activity in people related to the various institutions in which they function? How can an improved understanding of neural processes inform institutional analysis? - What is the role and place of evolutionary theory in neuroeconomics Keynote Speakers: • Ariel Rubinstein (Tel Aviv University, New York University) • Paul J. Zak (Claremont Graduate University) • Don Ross (University of Alabama Birmingham, University of Cape Town) • John Davis (University of Amsterdam, Marquette University) • Uskali Mäki (University of Helsinki) • Jack Vromen (Erasmus University Rotterdam) • Francesco Guala (University of Exeter, San Raffaele University) Further information is here:


Table of Contents: "The Expression of Meaning in Deleuze's Ontological Proposition" by Ray Brassier "Expression and Immanence" by Miguel de Beistegui "Nonsense and Mysticism in Wittgenstein's Tractatus" by Angela Breitenbach "Epistemology and the Civil Union of Sense and Self-Contradiction: a Co-ordinated Solution to the Shared Problems of Political and Mainstream Epistemology" by Jeremy Barris "Presuppositionless Scepticism" by Ioannis Trisokkas Varia: "Essay on Transcendental Philosophy: A Short Overview of the Whole Work; On the Categories; Antinomies. Ideas" by Salomon Maimon "Conflicted Matter: Jacques Lacan and the Challenge of Secularising Materialism" by Adrian O. Johnson "Alain Badiou: Truth, Mathematics, and the Claim of Reason" by Christopher Norris "On the Horrors of Realism: an Interview with Graham Harman" by Tom Sparrow Reviews: "Earth Aesthesis: Sallis' Topographies and the Aesthetics of the Earth by Bobby George "The Natural History of the Unthinged: Iain Grant's Philosophies of Nature After Schelling" by James Trafford "Jay Lampert's Deleuze and Guattari's Philosophy of History" by Giovanna Gioli and Matthew Dennis Further information is here:

Brook, Eric C. "Review of James Davidson's THE GREEKS AND GREEK LOVE." BMCR (July 2008).

Davidson, James. The Greeks and Greek Love: a Radical Reappraisal of Homosexuality in Ancient Greece. London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 2007. As the subtitle of this text indicates, Davidson questions how ancient Greek homosexuality has been approached in recent scholarship, and seeks to reinterpret the evidence from the primary sources in order to clarify issues under current debate. As such, this text represents a shift that is underway regarding the study of Greek homosexuality that originally took its cue from scholars like Dover and Foucault. Davidson's main objections to their work has to do with their preoccupation with homosexual acts (particularly regarding anal sex), the correlation of these sexual acts with a discourse on domination, and the assertion that the word "homosexuality" does not reflect a historical reality that was true of the Greeks. . . . Read the rest here:

Johnson, David M. "Review of David Wolfsdorf's TRIALS OF REASON." BMCR (July 2008).

Wolfsdorf, David. Trials of Reason: Plato and the Crafting of Philosophy. Oxford: OUP, 2008. Wolfsdorf's book is part of the recent welcome trend to combine the literary and analytical approaches to Plato's early dialogues. While Wolfsdorf positions himself early on as a critic of the analytical approach (associated above all with the late Gregory Vlastos and his students), his main debts clearly lie in that direction. Wolfsdorf's central contribution is a new method to resolve inconsistencies between statements made by Socrates within a single dialogue or within several early dialogues. The resolution of such inconsistencies is one of the greatest problems we face in unraveling the philosophy of the early dialogues, and Wolfsdorf's solution to this problem is clearly and forcefully presented. He argues that the attempt to find a consistent Socrates, whether he be the historical Socrates or a psychologically realistic character largely of Plato's creation, is fundamentally misguided. Socrates is a tool, a puppet used by Plato in different ways at different times, usually to advance Plato's own ideas but sometimes to mouth more conventional ones. By abandoning the search for a consistent Socrates, Wolfsdorf is able to find a consistent Platonic doctrine in the early dialogues. But the dialogues are not only treatises in disguise. Rather, Plato uses the dialogue form to illustrate the conflict between philosophy and what Wolfsdorf calls "anti-philosophy", whence the trials of reason of his title. Wolfsdorf addresses literary issues head-on in a way most unusual in the analytical tradition. But he does not very clearly develop what he means by "anti-philosophy". And by robbing Socrates of his integrity as a psychologically realistic character and therefore of much of his value as an exemplar of the philosophical life, Wolfsdorf effectively disarms philosophy in its battle with its rivals. Plato's Socrates, whether he is historical or not, has certainly led more readers to philosophy than has any other individual in the western tradition, and he has done so as much by the force of his personality and by his deeds as by the philosophical doctrines he advances. If Wolfsdorf is right, such readers have been misled. . . . Read the rest here:

Feeney, Dennis. "Review of I. J. F. de Jong, et al., eds. TIME IN ANCIENT GREEK LITERATURE." BMCR (July 2008).

de Jong, I. J. F., and R. Nuenlist, eds. Time in Ancient Greek Literature: Studies in Ancient Greek Narrative. 2 Vols. Leiden: Brill, 2007. Readers should be advised that the focus is rigorously narratological, so that the title is somewhat misleading: instead of Time in Ancient Greek Literature we might have had Some Results of Applying Narratological Analysis to Ancient Greek Literature. In their Epilogue the editors justify this particular narratological emphasis and make it perfectly plain that there are other approaches to the vast topic of time in narrative texts, such as the "philosophical-historical approach", or "through linguistics" (522). Their own aim has been to enlist contributors who can analyse a wide range of Greek texts through this particular lens, hoping especially to have a diachronic dimension which will throw variations over time and genre into relief (ix): in fact, the main overall conclusion is that "most narratological categories are not bound by genre: the same devices occur in different genres, and genres are not homogeneous where the use of narrative devices is concerned" (522). The risk remains, however, of seeing narratology as an end in itself. Too many of the papers in this volume end up appearing to have a virtually parochial interest in the categories of narratology per se, in a way that makes it hard to keep an eye on the larger picture that such analysis is meant to be elucidating. I kept thinking of the wonderful scene in the movie Shakespeare in Love when the actors have adjourned to the local pub after rehearsing Romeo and Juliet, and the actor playing the nurse is downing a pint as a friend asks him what this new play is all about: with the perspective of the true actor, he replies, "Well, there's this nurse..." I do not mean at all to decry the use of the analytical techniques or terminology of narratology, which can produce extraordinary interpretative results. In the case of Jean Genette, the pater narratologiae, his evolution of terminology in Discours du récit was continually in dialogue with the text of Proust's À la recherche du temps perdu, and the new forms of analysis he produced kept generating deep insights into the novel's core themes and concerns. Again, the point is simply that narratology is not an end in itself. There is a certain interest and utility in having it demonstrated in the case of all kinds of texts that they can be analysed in terms of analepsis and so on, but this demonstration would ideally be the beginning of criticism, not the end. The chapters in this book that really sing are the ones in which narratology is regarded as a tool instead of a goal; in these cases one suddenly sees how much light can be shed in unexpected places by the careful consideration of technique. Space forbids discussion of all the chapters, although they may all be recommended for anyone working on the authors in question, since they all succeed in demonstrating that narratological time-analysis has traction in each instance; I shall concentrate on some cases where the narratology seems to be more of a goal, and on some cases where it seems to be more of a tool. . . . Read the rest here:

Gover, K. "Review of Jennifer Anna Gosetti-Ferencei's THE ECSTATIC QUOTIDIAN." NDPR (July 2008).

Gosetti-Ferencei, Jennifer Anna. The Ecstatic Quotidian: Phenomenological Sightings in Modern Art and Literature. University Park: Pennsylvania State UP, 2007. The quotidian is an elusive and paradoxical phenomenon. Like the anthropologist whose very presence changes the society she intends to study, everydayness is transformed as soon as we try to reflect on it, since it is by definition that which recedes into the background. It seems that the only way to gain traction on the quotidian is through a kind of dialectic, whereby the familiar and the strange are held in contradistinction, each implying the other. Hence the paradoxical title of Gosetti-Ferencei's book The Ecstatic Quotidian, which means "stepping outside of an everyday familiarity": the ordinary can only be got hold of via the phenomenon of the extraordinary, and vice-versa. The conceptual starting point of this book is the observation that modernist movements in philosophy and art all share a distinctive turn toward everydayness as a theme. Gosetti-Ferencei notes that the modernist interest in the quotidian is fundamentally ambivalent: it is an object of both fascination and denigration. In contrast to those theorists who are critical of the everyday, seeing it as fallen, alienated, and empty, Gosetti-Ferencei announces in the introduction that her book takes an affirmative approach. As its subtitle indicates, the book offers "sightings" of the ecstatic-everyday as it manifests itself in modernist art and thought. Each chapter approaches the subject either through a thematic lens, such as childhood, or through a particular medium, such as poetry or painting. As the term implies, these "sightings" are a series of scholarly, detailed discussions of the topic rather than an argument or series of arguments that build to a conclusion. The Ecstatic Quotidian is an excellent resource for those interested in the intersection between phenomenology and the visual art and poetry that both influenced and was inspired by it. Gosetti-Ferencei's insightful reflections and thorough research shows the richness of the dialogue between modernist art and thought. While the book leaves some of the larger implications of this dialogue unexplored, it is a valuable starting point for an investigation of the ways in which art and philosophy were engaged with each other in modernism to a degree perhaps unprecedented in the Western tradition. . . . Read the rest here:

CFP: "Feminist Rhetorics for Social Justice," Syracuse University, October 23-25, 2008.

In the academy, Feminist Rhetorics has, over the past two decades, become a very promising interdisciplinary field, spanning communication studies, women’s studies, rhetoric and writing studies, various branches of ethnic studies, and even branches of the social sciences. In a general sense, the term feminist rhetorics has referred to “to discourse advocating enlarged legal, economic, and political rights for women” (Karlyn Kohrs Campbell “Feminist Rhetoric” 301). Feminist rhetorics also have served as a way to document and analyze the multi-layered histories of feminist social movements. Scholars of feminist rhetorics have undertaken a large-scale historical recovery project that involves recovering, analyzing, and anthologizing speeches and written texts by feminist activists, organizers, and writers. There are now graduate seminars taught nationally on feminist rhetorics and many graduate students in communication studies and rhetorical studies are choosing to focus their work in this area, often blending scholarship and activism. In addition to focusing on the historical past, feminist rhetoricians also have studied and participated in strategies and movements for contemporary feminist social change in the arenas of public policy, politics, education, the workplace, and community organizing. Our major themes and questions for the symposium will be as follows: 

Feminist Activism and Rhetoric:
  • How can we evaluate and understand the influence of women’s historical, geographic, economic, social, and political locations on rhetorical tactics and strategies for feminist activism?
  • How can we understand the roles that individuals or groups take in maintaining or dismantling gender-based inequalities at local, national, and transnational levels?
  • How can we address the presumed division between scholarly theorizing and activist work, and how can rhetoric be a tool for bridging that presumed divide?
Feminist Rhetorical Histories:
  • Which rhetorical histories have been recovered, and which have been omitted? What generational and social movement tensions are present in these feminist rhetorical histories?
  • What role has public memory played in feminist rhetorical histories? How have feminist rhetorical histories accounted for the histories and experiences of aging women, women with disabilities, working class women, women of color, lesbian and transgendered people, women living beyond the borders of the U.S. and Europe?
  • How have rhetorical histories challenged the primary focus on the Anglo-American context as scholars have begun to engage transnational feminist rhetorical histories and contemporary practices?
Further information is available on the conference homepage: