Sunday, October 26, 2008

Dalrymple, Theodore. "False Apology Syndrome: I'm Sorry for Your Sins." IN CHARACTER (Fall Issue 2008).

There is a fashion these days for apologies: not apologies for the things that one has actually done oneself (that kind of apology is as difficult to make and as unfashionable as ever), but for public apologies by politicians for the crimes and misdemeanours of their ancestors, or at least of their predecessors. I think it is reasonable to call this pattern of political breast-beating the False Apology Syndrome. Mr. Blair, the then British prime minister, apologized to the Irish for the famine; one of the first public acts of Mr. Rudd, the Australian prime minister, was to apologize to the Aborigines for the dispossession of their continent; Pope John Paul II apologized to the Muslims for the Crusades. There are many other examples, and there are also demands for apologies by aggrieved, or supposedly aggrieved, groups. What is this all about, and what does it signify? Does it mean that at long last the powerful are making a genuine effort to see things from the point of view of the weak, or is it, on the contrary, a form of moral exhibitionism that subverts genuine moral thought and conduct? . . . Read the rest here:

Dunn, Rob. "The Trouble with Biodiversity." SEED MAGAZINE October 7, 2008.

Alexander von Humboldt's 200-year-old work came close to explaining the distribution of life on Earth. A bit more work and Darwin's theory of natural selection should have been enough to complete Humboldt's picture. But it wasn't. Yes, exploring biodiversity has gotten much easier. With vast computer databases on the distributions of species, we can recreate the list of species that Humboldt might have seen as he traveled. Using evolutionary trees built from fossils, genes, and the structures of living creatures, we can trace the diversification of entire groups of organisms. With satellites we can even model patterns of diversity from space. Nevertheless, instead of an explanation for the patterns Humboldt first saw, we have explanations, plural. Lots of them. . . . The trouble is that revealing the story of biological diversity is akin to reconstructing a lost novel on the basis of chapter headings and fragments of text. From those pieces, we know that the story is grand. But many narratives can be constructed from the same fragments, many stories made to fill out the bits and pieces of the drama we have observed. It remains tempting to believe that with enough time, a single, powerful narrative might come. But it might not. There may be questions in biology for which a consensus will never be reached, but instead for which there are multiple serviceable explanations, none of them quite right, but none of them terribly easy to prove wrong either. . . . Read the rest here:

Chrisafis, Angelique. "The Cultural Whipping Boys' Manifesto: France has Vomited on Us for Too Long." GUARDIAN October 3, 2008.

Levy, Bernard-Henri, and Michel Houellebecq. Ennemis Publics. Paris: Flammarion, 2008. France has often delighted in publicly thrashing its literary greats, from Flaubert and Baudelaire's morality court cases to Françoise Sagan's drug busts. But now two self-declared cultural whipping boys have joined ranks to express their outrage at being constantly "vomited on", ridiculed and victimised by their nation. Michel Houellebecq, the award-winning novelist and ageing enfant terrible, and Bernard-Henri Lévy, the dapper leftwing philosopher, epitomise France's love-hate relationship with its bestselling literary exports. In a surprise joint venture, they have produced a book of confessional letters to each other, raging at the vitriol heaped on them as the "whipping boys of our era in France". The book, Public Enemies - released next week and seen by the Guardian - is being billed as the publishing sensation of the year, sure to spark a fresh slanging match with critics, some of whom are already talking of a work of staggering vanity and egotism, and a precious insight into the mind of French literary celebrities. . . . Read the rest here:

Da Costa, Damian. "Le Reve Gauche." NEW YORK OBSERVER October 1, 2008.

Levy, Bernard-Henri. Left in Dark Times: a Stand against the New Barbarism. New York: Random House, 2008. Yes, he’s a celebrity who wears expensive suits. But he’s a real-deal philosopher, too, so let’s put on our thinking caps and review the principles of Bernard-Henri Lévy’s political thought as presented in Left in Dark Times, a manifesto with a subtitle suitable for the barricades, A Stand Against the New Barbarism. Beware the four pillars of totalitarianism—the Absolute, History, the Dialectic and Disease. The Absolute, Mr. Lévy explains, is the dream of a utopian society emptied of politics and conflict; History is the one-way path to utopian salvation; the Dialectic is the final arbiter of the meaning of events and experience in the light of History’s goal; and the idea of Disease is what, in totalitarian regimes, substitutes for the idea of Evil, replacing that old, religiously rooted notion with a clinical, materialistic image of noxious bacteria or a virus that must be purged from an infected body. . . . Read the rest here:

Freeman, Jeremy. "Mind Games." THE NATIONAL July 3, 2008.

Lakoff, George. The Political Mind: Why You Can't Understand 21st-Century American Politics with an 18th-Century Brain. New York: Viking, 2008. Last November, a group of neuroscientists published an op-ed in The New York Times under the headline “This is your brain on politics”. To investigate the neuro-biological basis of political decision making, the authors had measured the brain activity of voters who were looking at pictures of the American presidential candidates. From those data, the neuro-pundits made some startling conclusions, such as “emotions about Hillary Clinton are mixed”, and “Mitt Romney shows potential”. This “research” was produced by a marketing firm that sells neuro-imaging data to Fortune 500 companies. This work, which was not subject to any peer review or published in a scientific journal, was rife with fallacious inferences; the data hardly justified the conclusions. As the neuroscientist Martha Farah responded, the research was more akin to reading tea leaves than to doing science. But however misguided, this turn to neuroscience is not surprising: political science, like the other social sciences, is eager to ground itself in hard scientific data. When it comes to the mysteries of political decision making, the brain might seem a better source of deep truths than opinion polls. Although he is not one of the aforementioned neuro-pundits, the famed linguist George Lakoff has now jumped on their bandwagon. Lakoff is rightly respected for his work explaining how human thought and language are structured by conceptual frames and metaphors. His earlier writing sought to overturn an Enlightenment model of language and rationality, one in which people are seen as unemotional actors who make conscious decisions based on facts and use language literally. Instead, Lakoff suggested that people reason using metaphors and emotions, often without conscious knowledge of doing so. Words are not understood literally but through their connection to particular “frames” – narratives that structure concepts. Metaphors allow us to link these frames together. For example, we might use road metaphors to argue about romantic love: “the relationship has hit a dead end; we’re going in different directions; we’ve come a long way.” Frames influence decisions, and can be subconsciously activated by the strategic use of language. In a series of recent books, Lakoff has applied these linguistic insights to highlight the role that metaphor and emotion play in political reasoning. But he now seems to be veering into his own brand of neuro-punditry. . . . Read the rest here:


Articles include:
  • Jerome Lewis on abundance
  • Interview with Noam Chomsky
  • Lionel Sims decodes Stonehenge
  • Keith Hart: a philosophy for life
  • Marek Kohn: can we learn to trust?

Access the whole issue here:

Eagleton, Terry. "Culture Conundrum." GUARDIAN May 21, 2008.

Smith, Dai. Raymond Williams: a Warrior's Tale. Carmarthen: Parthian, 2008. Ever since the early 19th century, culture or civilisation has been the opposite of barbarism. Behind this opposition lay a kind of narrative: first you had barbarism, then civilisation was dredged out of its murky depths. Radical thinkers, by contrast, have always seen barbarism and civilisation as synchronous. This is what the German Marxist Walter Benjamin had in mind when he declared that "every document of civilisation is at the same time a record of barbarism". For every cathedral, a pit of bones; for every work of art, the mass labour that granted the artist the resources to create it. Civilisation needs to be wrested from nature by violence, but the violence lives on in the coercion used to protect civilisation - a coercion known among other things as the political state. These days the conflict between civilisation and barbarism has taken an ominous turn. We face a conflict between civilisation and culture, which used to be on the same side. Civilisation means rational reflection, material wellbeing, individual autonomy and ironic self-doubt; culture means a form of life that is customary, collective, passionate, spontaneous, unreflective and arational. It is no surprise, then, to find that we have civilisation whereas they have culture. Culture is the new barbarism. The contrast between west and east is being mapped on a new axis. The problem is that civilisation needs culture even if it feels superior to it. Its own political authority will not operate unless it can bed itself down in a specific way of life. Men and women do not easily submit to a power that does not weave itself into the texture of their daily existence - one reason why culture remains so politically vital. Civilisation cannot get on with culture, and it cannot get on without it. We can be sure that Williams would have brought his wisdom to bear on this conundrum. . . . Read the rest here:

Gowers, Emily. "Thoroughly Modern Lucretius." TLS October 1, 2008.

  • Lucretius. On the Nature of Things. Trans. A. E. Stallings. Intro. Richard Jenkyns. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 2008.
  • Gillespie, Stuart, and Philip Hardie, eds. Cambridge Companion to Lucretius. Cambridge: CUP, 2008.
On the wall of a house at Pompeii are scratched the words “suabe mari magno . . .” (“It is sweet on the great sea . . .”). These are the first words of the second book of Lucretius’ Epicurean poem De rerum natura (On the Nature of Things), and the sentence ends, “. . . to watch from the shore other people drowning”. The house in question overlooks the Bay of Naples, whose villas and libraries offered Lucretius’ contemporaries a comfortable daily view of the hazards of seafaring and where Epicureanism, the Greek panacea that blended soul-soothing with materialist physics, enjoyed a brief resurgence in the first century bc. Lucretius was no early promoter of Schadenfreude. His serene spectator enjoyed a higher kind of pleasure: remoteness from his own suffering. Though Lucretius revived many of Epicurus’ life-saving mantras – steer clear of stress, channel your desires safely, don’t be afraid of death, the gods are not vindictive – this evangelist probably never aspired to convert his fellow Romans en masse. His was a philosophy of detachment in every sense, espoused by drop-outs, aesthetes, atheists, scientists and Democritean observers through the ages: rational scepticism combined with physical aloofness. (Thomas Gray’s “Far from the madding crowd’s ignoble strife” is a Lucretian adaptation.) . . .

Read the rest here:

Hales, Steven D. "Review of Hans-Johann Glock's WHAT IS ANALYTIC PHILOSOPHY?" NDPR (October 2008).

Glock, Hans-Johann. What is Analytic Philosophy?. Cambridge: CUP, 2008. There has been a recent spate of books attempting to explain the origins and intrinsic nature of analytic philosophy. Among these, What is Analytic Philosophy? by Hans-Johann Glock is a standout. As a German trained in Britain who is a professor in Zurich, Glock is particularly suited to offer a cosmopolitan assessment of the philosophical scene and especially the purported difference between the analytic and continental flavors. What's more, his book is jam-packed with argument and nuance, perspicuously organized, historically sensitive, and wrapped in a clear, muscular prose. While some writers are content to offer an historical treatment of the origins of analytic philosophy, or attempt a necessary-and-sufficient-conditions analysis of "analytic philosophy," Glock commendably approaches the subject from several different angles. Chiefly interested in what analytic philosophy presently amounts to, Glock examines not only its genesis, but the geo-linguistic conception of the analytic/continental split, the relevance of the history of philosophy for analytics, whether analytic philosophy is distinguished by particular doctrines, topics of inquiry, or methodology, etc. He eventually works his way to offering a family resemblance account of "analytic philosophy." . . . Glock spends a considerable amount of ink showing that "continental philosophy" is a misnomer, that analytic philosophy had tight ties to continental Europe at its founding (Bolzano, Brentano, Meinong, Husserl, Frege), secondary development (Schlick, Wittgenstein, Carnap, Hempel, Reichenbach), and the present day. The geo-linguistic view of the analytic/continental divide is wrong in nearly every possible way. After a certain point, however, it feels like firing round after round from the Glock into a scarecrow, as if he spent fifty pages showing that "Kimberly" doesn't actually mean "beautiful meadow," no matter what the baby naming book said. Remember good old direct reference? "Continental Philosophy" is just a proper name -- figuring out quite what it is the name of (a philosophical school, method, set of problems, group of thinkers, etc.) is much more interesting than harping on why it is a bad moniker. Of course, Glock does more than criticize the name of continental philosophy. He gives a detailed and systematic account of the development of the fracturing within 20th century philosophy, and his knowledge of 19th and early 20th century German political history well informs his discussion of which philosophers might be in contact with whom. He offers a persuasive case that both the story of the British origins of analytic philosophy and the Anglo-Austrian origins tale told by Neurath and Haller are incomplete and lopsided. Glock maintains that analytic philosophy does not contrast so much with French or German philosophy, as with romanticism, irrationalism, and existentialism. Perhaps this is the nature of historical inquiry, but the entire issue of traditions and influences ultimately seems so varied and convoluted that philosophy resembles a braided rope with the strands frayed at the end. Glock attempts to trace back the frayed to the fray, but a linear journey is impossible. He does provide a worthwhile corrective to those who might be tempted to see analytic/continental as exhaustive. American pragmatism does not fit neatly into either of those categories, nor does traditional historical philosophy, which remains a prominent approach in continental Europe. As ways of doing philosophy, both of these might even be at the same metaphilosophical level as analytic and continental, and properly viewed as orthogonal traditions. . . . Read the rest here:

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Ceccarelli, Leah. "Defenders of Science Shouldn't Let the Sophists Carry the Day." SEATTLE TIMES June 17, 2008.

Public questions in America about science have become the playthings of the manufactured controversy, or "manufactroversy," in which political activists invent a scientific disagreement that isn't real. An example is global-warming skepticism. PR man Frank Luntz admitted as much in an infamous memo in which he confessed that disagreement about global warming was fading away, but he nonetheless urged Republicans "to continue to make the lack of scientific certainty a primary issue." This tactic was taken from the tobacco industry, which likes to say there are two sides to every question. South African President Thabo Mbeki's support for AIDS dissent eight years ago is a similar case. Mbeki ingeniously turned the scientific community's values against it by drawing on the importance of open debate, a skeptical attitude and the need for research. Mbeki alleged that scientists who questioned the causal link between HIV and AIDS had been branded as "dangerous and discredited." Claiming the moral authority of a leader who suffered political intimidation in apartheid South Africa, Mbeki condemned the scientific community for its "campaign of intellectual intimidation." The intelligent-design movement now has a "teach the controversy" campaign against evolutionary biology. Ben Stein's recent movie, Expelled, portrays scientists casting out anyone who questions biological orthodoxy. This movie is the most extreme application yet of the intelligent-design movement's "wedge" strategy to break the scientific community's influence over how science is taught. Of course, any claim by biologists that there is no scientific controversy to teach merely feeds the notion of an orthodoxy. In light of this, some have suggested that the best response to manufactured controversy is no response at all. I understand the impulse to remain silent in the face of nonsense, but I think it's shortsighted to cede the public stage in the naive hope that no one will pay attention. There have long been those who misuse the power of persuasion. In ancient Greece, the Sophists taught the art of persuasion to those who could pay their fee. These included Gorgias, who apparently boasted that he could persuade the multitude to ignore an expert and listen to him instead, and Protagoras, who claimed there are always two sides to a question and that it was the Sophist's job to make the weaker case appear the stronger. It was to oppose such deception that Aristotle wrote Rhetoric. Aristotle wanted to teach experts how to confute those who mislead. . . . Read the rest here:

"The Third Sophistic: New Approaches to Rhetoric in Late Antiquity," Society for Late Antiquity, Philadelphia, January 9-11, 2009.

It is a well-known paradox of Greco-Roman culture that well after the adoption of Christianity as the official religion of the state under Constantine the art of rhetoric successfully maintained its privileged place in the articulation of political, pedagogical, religious, philosophical, and literary power. Late antiquity witnessed a remarkable surge in rhetorical output in both Greek (Libanius,Himerius, Themistius, Julian, Procopius of Gaza, Choricius) and Latin (the Panegyrici Latini, Symmachus, Ausonius, Marius Victorinus). Moreover, under the new establishment the rapprochement between traditional "pagan" rhetoric and Judaeo-Christian modes of expression already evident in Christian apologetic writings of the second and third centuries gained momentum, culminating in the fourth and fifth-century "Golden Age" of Christian rhetoric as represented by the works of Eusebius of Caesarea, the Cappadocian Fathers, and John Chrysostom (in Greek), and Lactantius, Ambrose, and Augustine (in Latin). Before the end of the sixth century the corpus of Hermogenes would achieve canonical status, and in 426 CE Augustine's De Doctrina Christiana fused once and for all Cicero's rhetorical theory with the Christian project of evangelism and exegesis. In light of the wealth of available source material and its parallels to the much more extensively studied Second Sophistic, Europeans cholarship over the past two decades has increasingly come to identify this period as the "Third Sophistic." While this formulation stresses synchronic linkages at the expense of diachronic perspectives, it is nonetheless worthwhile to examine this phase in the cultural history of the late empire as a unity. The Society forLate Antiquity thus invites proposals featuring innovative approaches to the study of rhetoric in late antiquity for a panel to be at the annual meeting of the American Philological Association to be held in Philadelphia, 8-11 January 2009. These might address such issues as the relationship of rhetoric to poetry, philosophy, and historiography; performance and self-presentation; reception and audience; rhetoric, law, and political authority; rhetoric and homiletics; ekphrasis and the rhetorical construction of space. These are only suggestions and proposals which investigate other lines of research are welcome. Abstracts of papers (ca. 500 words) requiring a maximum of 20 minutes to deliver should be sent via email attachment no later than February1, 2008 to Paul Kimball (, or by surface mail (Dr. Paul Kimball, Program in Cultures, Civilizations & Ideas, BilkentUniversity, 06800 Bilkent, Ankara, TURKEY). Please follow the instructions for the format of individual abstracts in the APA Program Guide (see link below). APA membership is required of all presenters and must be verified before proposals are accepted. All submissions will be judged anonymously by two referees. Note that no subventions for travel or accommodation are available from either the Society for Late Antiquity or the APA. Further information may be found here:

Kirsch, Adam. "The Roar of Justice." CITY JOURNAL October 17, 2008.

Geuss, Raymond. Philosophy and Real Politics. Princeton: Princeton UP, 2008. In the first book of Plato’s Republic, Socrates’s measured discussion of the nature of justice is rudely interrupted by a “roar” from Thrasymachus. “He could no longer hold his peace,” Socrates recalls, “and, gathering himself up, he came at us like a wild beast, seeking to devour us. We were quite panic-stricken at the sight of him.” What makes Thrasymachus so angry is the idealistic notion of justice that Socrates tries to defend. The philosopher argues that “justice is the proper virtue of man,” but Thrasymachus demands that he give up such woolly abstractions: “I will not have you say that justice is duty or advantage or profit or gain or interest, for this sort of nonsense will not do for me; I must have clearness and accuracy.” When one looks at justice clearly, Thrasymachus insists, he finds that it’s nothing but the disguise worn by power: “I proclaim that justice is nothing else than the interest of the stronger.” Raymond Geuss, a political philosopher who teaches at the University of Cambridge, does not seem like the kind of man who would try to devour his opponents. But his intention in Philosophy and Real Politics, his short, sharp new book, is the same as Thrasymachus’s: to introduce a note of realism into contemporary philosophical debates about justice, by force if necessary. “I object to the claim that politics is applied ethics,” he writes in his introduction. Rather than starting out, like Socrates, with questions about the good or the just, we should ask the question famously posed by Lenin: “Who whom?” That is, in any actual society, who has power, what do they use it for, and who suffers as a result? “To think politically,” writes Geuss, “is to think about agency, power, and interests, and the relations among these.” Of course, this is hardly an unprecedented approach to political philosophy. In addition to Lenin, Geuss invokes Hobbes, Nietzsche, and Max Weber as teachers in his hard-headed analysis of power. But Geuss’s perspective is especially needed today, he believes, because American political thought is dominated by what he sees as the uselessly abstract neo-Kantian theories of Robert Nozick and especially John Rawls. . . . Read the rest here:

Abensour, Alexandre. "The Unconscious and its Images: Ricoeur, Reader of Freud." LA VIE DES IDEES. July 17, 2008.

Ricoeur, Paul. Autour de la Psychanalyse. Vol. 1 of Écrits et conférences. Paris: Seuil, 2008. This book inaugurates the publications of the “Ricœur Collection” whose mission is to place articles and conferences [lectures] of Paul Ricœur, the majority of which have never been published in French, in the hands of readers. Why begin with works on psychoanalysis? In his introduction, Jean-Louis Schlegel shows that the discussion between Ricœur and Freud was constant and cannot be limited to the major work of 1965 (Freud and Philosophy: an Essay on Interpretation) which is certainly one of the most important philosophical interpretations that has been undertaken of the work of the founder of psychoanalysis. In an excellent postface (“Desire, identity, the other: Psychoanalysis in Paul Ricœur’s works after an Essay on Freud”) Vinicio Busacchi clearly explains the scope and steadfastness of the interest that Ricœur had in Freud, that he traces back to his years of Lycée in Rennes where Ricœur had Roland Dalbiez as a professor—the author of the first important philosophical book on Freud (Psychoanalytical Method and the Doctrine of Freud, 1936, in two volumes). . . . Read the rest of the review here:

Pub: LACANIAN INK 32.1 (2008).

Contents: Access the entire issue here:

Ribard, Dinah. "Foucault: Truth in Action." LA VIE DES IDEES. October 23, 2008.

Foucault, Michel. Le Gouvernement de soi et des autres: Cours au Collège de France, 1982-1983. Ed. François Ewald and Alessandro Fontana. Intro. Frédéric Gros. Paris: Gallimard / Le Seuil, 2008. [not yet translated into English] The Government of Self and Others opens with a famous analysis of Kant’s “Was ist Aufklärung” (What is the Enlightenment?), that Foucault described on January 5 (p.8) as: “text for me a bit of a herald, a bit fetish.” This is the first edition, strictly speaking, of what was only known until now from the text of May 27, 1978 at the Société française de philosophie (French Society of Philosophy) entitled “Qu’estce que la critique?” (What is criticism?), which was published in the Bulletin of this organisation and not republished in the posthumous collection of Foucault’s spoken and written words entitled in French Dits et Ecrits, and which was also published in Magazine littéraire in May 1984, a month before the death of Foucault. This article, an early homage and a publishing event, came precisely from the lessons of January 1983 of the Collège de France. We therefore have available now the complete and authorized analysis of “the ontology of current events”. But this release also gives context to the analysis and brings up new questions: what link is there between this “ontology of current events”, also called by Foucault “ontology of ourselves” and, once beyond the initial “herald”, “the drama of the truth” to which the essential of the lectures of 1982-1983 is dedicated? . . . Read the whole review here:

Friday, October 24, 2008

Terry Eagleton from University of Manchester to Lancaster University.

Professor Terry Eagleton, the internationally celebrated literary scholar and cultural theorist, takes up a Chair within the Department of English and Creative Writing. Eagleton, who has written around fifty books and is himself the subject of at least two monographs, comes to Lancaster as one of the world’s leading literary critics and, according to The Independent in 2007, ‘the man who succeeded F. R. Leavis as Britain's most influential academic critic.’ Prior to his move to Lancaster, Terry Eagleton was John Edward Taylor Professor of English Literature at the University of Manchester (2001-2008) and before that Thomas Warton Professor of English Literature at the University of Oxford (1992-2001). Professor Eagleton is a Fellow of both the British Academy and the English Association, and has held visiting appointments at such universities as Cornell, Duke, Iowa, Melbourne, Notre Dame, Trinity College Dublin, and Yale. Professor Eagleton’s post at Lancaster will include giving public lectures and offering seminars for both MA and PhD students. Read the rest here:

Steinbauer, Anja. "What Simone Said." PHILOSOPHY NOW (September October 2008).

We must ask together with de Beauvoir: What is a woman? What is an existentialist? What is a philosopher? And do any of these shoes really fit her without aches and blisters? . . . Read the answers here:

"The Other Side of Reason: the History of Madness Today," Humanities Institute, SUNY Buffalo, October 31-November 1, 2008.

Taking its inspiration from the recent publication of the complete English translation of Michel Foucault’s History of Madness, this conference aims to examine various histories of madness and what “madness” means today. Foucault reinvented history as a discourse capable of articulating the intimate yet hostile relationship between madness and reason, especially on the far side of the most ambitious attempts to uphold rationality as the basis of human institutions. The questions raised by History of Madness seem especially timely in an era that increasingly invokes “reason” to adjudicate unforeseen ethical and political crises. Yet the urgency of contemporary predicaments all too easily rationalizes the speedy elimination of “madness,” thereby prompting a return to forms of violent confinement—such as “indefinite detention”—that were the object of Foucault’s original critique. Mindful of this critique, our conference seeks to think through manifestations of madness that remain inseparable from its “others,” whether understood as reason, civilization, philosophy, normalcy, law, the university, and so on. . . . Conference Schedule: Friday, October 31 9:30 a.m. Registration, Center for the Arts, North Campus 9:50 a.m. Welcome, Tim Dean, Department of English, Director, Humanities Institute, UB and Bruce McCombe, Dean, College of Arts and Sciences 10:00-11:30 a.m. Elizabeth Lunbeck Departments of History and Psychiatry Vanderbilt University "Narcissism Normalized: Heinz Kohut's Psychoanalytic Revolution" Moderator: Susan Cahn, Department of History, UB 11:45 a.m. - 1:15 p.m. Guy Le Gaufey Psychoanalyst, École Lacanienne de Psychoanalysis, Paris "Knitting Foucault, Purling Foucault" Moderator: Steven Miller, Department of English, UB 2:30-4:00 p.m. Benjamin Reiss Department of English , Emory University "Creative Writing and Psychiatric Surveillance: Virginia Tech and the Politics of Risk Management" Moderator: Carrie Tirado Bramen, Department of English; Executive Director, Humanities Institute, UB 4:15-5:45 p.m. Bruce Jackson Department of English , University at Buffalo "Out of Time and Doing Time: When Madness Became Criminal" Moderator: Lisa Szefel, Department of History, Pacific University Saturday, November 1 9:30 a.m. Registration, Center for the Arts, North Campus 10:00 a.m. - 11:30 p.m. Marjorie Garber Departments of English & American Literature; Visual & Environmental Studies Harvard University "Mad Lib" Moderator: Donald E. Pease, Humanities Institute Distinguished Scholar in Residence 11:45 a.m. - 1:15 p.m. Elizabeth Povinelli Department of Anthropology, Columbia University "The Exclusions of Reason: Ab-Original Truth, Rhetoric, Genealogy" Moderator: Ana Mariella Bacigalupo, Department of Anthropology, UB 2:30-4:00 p.m. Screening: Titicut Follies (1967) Frederick Wiseman's controversial documentary about the treatment of criminally insane inmates at the Massachusetts Correctional Institution. Moderators: Diane Christian and Bruce Jackson, Department of English, UB For further details, consult the conference homepage here:

Two Essays by Hubert Dreyfus on the Interface of Phenomenology and Cognitive Science.

Overcoming the Myth of the Mental: How Philosophers can Profit from the Phenomenology of Everyday Expertise:

Back in 1950, while a physics major at Harvard, I wandered into C. I. Lewis’s epistemology course. There, Lewis was confidently expounding the need for an indubitable Given to ground knowledge, and he was explaining where that ground was to be found. I was so impressed that I immediately switched majors from ungrounded physics to grounded philosophy.

For a decade after that, I hung around Harvard writing my dissertation on ostensible objects -- the last vestige of the indubitable Given. During that time no one at Harvard seemed to have noticed that Wilfrid Sellars had denounced the Myth of the Given, and that he and his colleagues were hard at work, not on a rock solid foundation for knowledge, but on articulating the conceptual structure of our grasp of reality. Sellars’ decision to abandon the old Cartesian problem of indubitable grounding has clearly paid off. While Lewis is now read, if at all, as a dead end, Sellars’ research program is flourishing. John McDowell, for example, has replaced Lewis’ phenomenalist account of perceptual objects with an influential account of perception as giving us direct access to reality.

But, although almost everyone now agrees that knowledge doesn’t require an unshakeable foundation, many questions remain. Can we accept McDowell’s Sellarsian claim that perception is conceptual “all the way out,” thereby denying the more basic perceptual capacities we seem to share with prelinguistic infants and higher animals? More generally, can philosophers successfully describe the conceptual upper floors of the edifice of knowledge while ignoring the embodied coping going on on the ground floor; in effect declaring that human experience is upper stories all the way down?

This evening, I’d like to convince you that we shouldn’t leave the conceptual component of our lives hanging in midair and suggest how philosophers who want to understand knowledge and action can profit from a phenomenological analysis of the nonconceptual embodied coping skills we share with animals and infants. . . .

Why Heideggerian AI Failed and How Fixing It Would Require Making It More Heideggerian:

In 1963, I was invited by the RAND Corporation to evaluate the pioneering work of Alan Newell and Herbert Simon in a new field called Cognitive Simulation (CS). Newell andSimon claimed that both digital computers and the human mind could be understood as physical symbol systems, using strings of bits or streams of neuron pulses as symbols representing the external world. Intelligence, they claimed, merely required making the appropriate inferences from these internal representations. As they put it: “A physical symbol system has the necessary and sufficient means for general intelligent action.”

As I studied the RAND papers and memos, I found to my surprise that, far from replacing philosophy, the pioneers in CS had learned a lot, directly and indirectly from the philosophers. They had taken over Hobbes’ claim that reasoning was calculating, Descartes’ mental representations, Leibniz’s idea of a “universal characteristic” – a set of primitives in which all knowledge could be expressed, -- Kant’s claim that concepts were rules, Frege’s formalization of such rules, and Russell’s postulation of logical atoms as the building blocks of reality. In short, without realizing it, AI researchers were hard at work turning rationalist philosophy into a research program.

At the same time, I began to suspect that the critical insights formulated in existentialist armchairs, especially Heidegger’s and Merleau-Ponty’s, were bad news for those working in AI laboratories-- that, by combining rationalism, representationalism, conceptualism, formalism, and logical atomism into a research program, AI researchers had condemned their enterprise to reenact a failure. . . .

Hourigan, Daniel. "Review of Matthew Sharpe, et al. UNDERSTANDING PSYCHOANALYSIS." MOR October 7, 2008.

Sharpe, Matthew, and Joanne Faulkner. Understanding Psychoanalysis. Chesham: Acumen, 2008. Understanding Psychoanalysis is a brief introduction to the beginnings and basic operations of psychoanalytic thought. Written by Matthew Sharpe and Joanne Faulkner, the book charts the story of psychoanalysis: from the early case study of 'Anna O.', through the renovations and development of psychoanalysis by Sigmund Freud, to the critiques of psychoanalysis and its possible futures. The style is pedagogic, offering key point summaries and revision questions with a clear intent to educate the reader in the psychoanalytic method and history, and its criticisms. Yet the key figure of the entire volume is clearly the progenitor of psychoanalysis, Sigmund Freud, to whom a generous amount of space is allotted early on. The authors of Understanding Psychoanalysis, Sharpe and Faulkner, are two thinkers to have emerged from the healthy ('continental') philosophy scene in Melbourne, Australia. Aside from this volume, their respective publications hover around a diverse range of thinkers including Agamben, Zizek, Nietzsche, Schmidt, and others. And this scope allows Sharpe and Faulkner to consistently provide a variety of reference points for Freud's developments, which is a necessity for a reader seeking out psychoanalysis in our contemporary era of oceanic information. . . . Read the rest here:

Pub: "Perspectives on Heidegger." JOURNAL OF THE BRITISH SOCIETY FOR PHENOMENOLOGY 39.3 (2008).

Essays: MATHESON RUSSELL Phenomenological Reduction in Heidegger’s Sein und Zeit: a New Proposal KRZYSZTOF ZIAREK The Return to Philosophy? Or: Heidegger and the Task of Thinking JANET DONOHOE The Place of Tradition: Heidegger and Benjamin on Technology and Art LIN MA The Mysterious Relations to the East TANJA STAEHLER Unambiguous Calling? Authenticity and Ethics in Heidegger’s Being and Time PATRICK O’CONNOR There is no World Without End (Salut): Derrida’s Phenomenology of the Extra-Mundane Book Reviews: Elizabeth Grosz: The Nick of Time: Politics, Evolution, and the Untimely; and Elizabeth Grosz: Time Travels: Feminism, Nature Power, by Claire Colebrook Val Dusek: Philosophy of Technology: An Introduction, by Mark Sinclair Jennifer Ann Bates: Hegel’s Theory of Imagination; Alfredo Ferrarin: Sagezza, Immaginazione e Giudizio Pratico. Studio su Aristotele e Kant; and Bernard Freydberg: Imagination in Kant’s Critique of Practical Reason, by Katerina Deligiorgi

Terezakis, Katie. "Review of Jean-Luc Nancy's DISCOURSE OF THE SYNCOPE." NDPR (October 2008).

Nancy, Jean-Luc. Le Discours de la syncope. I. Logodaedalus. Paris: Flammarion, 1975. The Discourse of the Syncope: Logodaedalus. Trans. Saul Anton. Stanford: Stanford UP, 2008. Jean-Luc Nancy published Le Discours de la syncope: I. Logodaedalus in 1976, the same year Derrida published Glas and Foucault brought out the first volume of The History of Sexuality. "French theory" was not yet a rhetorically circumscribed approach to reading and writing or an academic sub-discipline; the conference event now famous for confirming Derrida's international status -- 'Les fins de l'homme' in Cerisy-la-Salle -- which Nancy was to organize with his long-term collaborator, Philippe Lacoue-Labarthe, was still four years away. This context is worth mentioning in reference to the 2008 publication of Saul Anton's translation of Logodaedalus because even as Nancy's book insistently raises the question of genre, it presents both its findings and itself in a self-conscious form indicative of an emergent intellectual milieu, albeit one still insufficiently characterized thirty years later with the tags of "deconstructive" or "post-structuralist." Nancy's book is about Kant, or about Kant insofar as Kant's circumscription of the limits of reason exposes the problem, for Nancy, of how to write philosophy. Kant's attempt to create the blueprint or architectural outline appropriate for the presentation of his system, his attempt to remove his own inflections and present the critical project in a "style without style", are taken as seriously by Nancy as Kant's comments, generally reserved for prefaces and parenthetical asides, about the regrettable necessity of excising illustrations and examples from his texts or about printing errors. Likewise, the fact that, according to Nancy, no other philosopher has been appropriated by so many works of literature must be considered together with Kant's literary self-mortification. The nonhierarchical weaving of such different elements of Nancy's guiding question -- how to present philosophy? -- makes for both an extraordinary book and a disobliging one. Nancy is hyperbolic and deeply resourceful. In turns he is annoyingly elusive and genuinely effective in his identification of the way that ontology's transformation into exposition, in the critical turn, creates an ethos of presentation itself, rendering Darstellung one of Kant's underlying concerns, as well as the issue over which his system "syncopates" or blacks out. . . . Read the rest here:

"Deleuze and the Political," Scottish Centre for Contemporary French Philosophy, Department of Philosophy, University of Dundee, November 1, 2008.

Including Ian Buchanan, Simon Choat, John Mullarkey, Dominic Smith, Nathan Widder and James Williams. Location: Tower Building, Baxter Room 1.39, University of Dundee. Admission: Free, but please register interest with the organiser as places are limited. Organiser: Professor James Williams, Philosophy, School of Humanities, University of Dundee, Dundee, DD1 4HN, Provisional timetable: 10 - 10:30 Registration and coffee 10:30 - 12:30 Ian Buchanan and Dominic Smith 12:30 - 2:00 Lunch (not provided) 2 - 4 Simon Choat and Nathan Widder

Saturday, October 18, 2008

2 Reviews of John Gibson's FICTION AND THE WEAVE OF LIFE.

Gibson, John. Fiction and the Weave of Life. Oxford: OUP, 2007.

Frank B. Farrell in NDPR ( Analytic philosophy of literature and deconstructionist thought make strange bedfellows, but they join in making matters difficult for the literary humanist. The analytic philosopher, using investigations regarding truth, reference, meaning, knowledge, justification, and the like will press toward a conclusion that literary fiction cannot be about the world and cannot give us knowledge of it. From quite different considerations, in emphasizing textuality and in supposedly undermining notions of representation and truth, the postmodern thinker concludes that literary fictions do not gain their significance through the ways they link up with a non-textual world beyond them. In contrast, the literary humanist wishes to argue that literature involves a cognitive engagement with the world, in ways that matter to our living out our lives as humans. John Gibson wants to give a strong defense of that claim, while at the same time granting considerable strength to the views of the humanist's opponents. . . .

Clare Carlisle in TIMES HIGHER EDUCATION ( This engaging and admirably clear contribution to the philosophy of literature attempts to rehabilitate what the author terms "literary humanism" - the unfashionable but intuitively appealing view that fictional texts have cognitive value, that they offer a "window on our world" - by disconnecting it from a mimetic or representational model of the relationship between literature and life. In articulating an alternative account of this relationship, John Gibson criticises current trends in both analytic and continental philosophy of literature: the modelling of fiction on games of make-believe, and the post-modern "panfictionalism" inspired by Jacques Derrida's infamous remark that "il n'y a pas de hors-texte". Neither position is hospitable to "humanist" interpretations of works of fiction. Gibson claims that these very different approaches to literature both rest on a "division of word and world into distinct realms that require bridging if language is to touch reality". In his search for fundamental common ground between the specifically literary character of works of fiction and life outside the text, Gibson embarks on a critique of representational thinking. Reference and representation are not the only ways to understand the relationship between language and the world: "there are other forms of linguistic involvement with reality, forms that must already be in place for representation and reference to be possible". Drawing on Wittgenstein's social, cultural conception of language as embedded in types of practice, Gibson suggests that just as the standard metre archived in Paris is not itself an object to be measured but an instrument that functions in a practice of measurement by providing a criterion, so works of literature contain "archived" possibilities of life, aspects of the world - anger, betrayal, suffering, for example. These are neither things nor objects that are represented by fiction, but rather "standards of representation" that "open up a way of seeing the world". . . .

"Making and Thinking: Performance and Philosophy as Participation," University of Wales, Aberystwyth, January 31, 2009.

Performance Studies has long since drawn on philosophy as one set of discourses and concepts amongst others, that might be put to work in the analysis of the performing arts or of other social practices approached as performance. But what is involved in this 'putting to work'? Is it merely a question of applying philosophy to examples of performance, or might there be a new way to conceive of the relation between philosophy and performance­ where performance is understood to raise philosophical questions of its own kind? Is performance a kind of thinking in itself? Is performance a challenge to thought? And what does it mean to participate in (the thought of) performance? There are precedents for such ideas in Film Studies, in which authors suchas Daniel Frampton and John Mullarkey have argued that film does indeed think, but that there is still work to be done to articulate the nature of this specifically filmic thought. Equally, participation is a focus of interest in contemporary discourses on aesthetics (relational and dialogical aesthetics) as well as being a mantra in public art policy. However, the notion of participation is often left vague and undefined, and there is also a tendency to assume that theatre and performance are somehow ontologically equipped to allow participation to take place. In light of this we might want to ask: what is participation? How is it thought and produced in theatre and performance? To question the relationship between performance and philosophy is not simply about demonstrating how a performance might illustrate existing philosophical discourse (eg. this is a 'Derridean performance,' whereas thatis a 'Deleuzian performance'). Rather, it involves an interrogation of the modes of thinking that performance itself engenders, and as such, how performance and our participation in/with it might impact upon how we define 'thought.' The PSi Performance & Philosophy working group would like to invite all interested scholars and artists to submit presentation proposals for thisf orthcoming symposium. You are invited to address any issues you understand to be related to the theme of 'performance and philosophy as participation.' You may want to propose the nature of the kind of thinking and participation that performance suggests, or indeed to question the very idea that performance does a specific kind of thinking or suggests a specific kind of participation. Or whether it is desirable, or indeed possible, to produce participation. All forms of presentation are welcome and all applicants are welcome. You do not need to be an existing member either of PSi or of the working group in order to apply. The deadline for proposals is 8 December 2008. Proposals should be sent to the Chair of the Performance & Philosophyworking group, Laura Cull ( and the Directors of CTPP, Dr Karoline Gritzner ( and Professor Adrian Kear ( The PSi Performance & Philosophy working group was founded in 2007 to encourage debate and collaboration between PSi members who have in common their engagement in philosophy as it intersects with performance studies. If you have any questions regarding the working group or this symposium, please email Laura Cull at the above address.


"Copernicanism tore asunder the fit between the world and man's organs: the congruence between reality and visibility" - Hans Blumenberg, The Genesis of the Copernican World In his Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems, Galileo proclaimed, through his mouthpiece Salviati, that he could 'never sufficiently admire the outstanding acumen' of those early advocates of Copernicanism who, 'through sheer force of intellect' - that is, without even the benefit of a telescope to confirm the theory observationally - 'had done such violence to their own senses as to prefer what reason told them over that which sensible experience plainly showed them to the contrary'. Since Galileo published his work in 1632, recognition of the deeply counterintuitive nature of scientific findings has become virtually commonplace, and the 'explanatory gap' between the 'manifest' and 'scientific' images of reality has long been a central concern for philosophers and philosophically-minded scientists alike. In this volume of Collapse, we bring together samples of the most intellectually challenging contemporary work devoted to exploring the philosophical implications of 'Copernicanism' from a variety of overlapping and complementary standpoints. As in previous volumes, the involvement in Collapse V of several major contemporary artists alongside groundbreaking philosophers and prominent scientists is designed to open up new perspectives and new directions for thinking outside disciplinary constraints. From multiple philosophical and artistic perspectives, and from scientific fields as diverse as theoretical physics and cosmology, biology, mathematics, cognitive neuroscience, and astrobiology, the volume addresses the issues of the 'deanthropomorphisation' of reality initiated by the Copernican Revolution, the relation between scientific and philosophical (Kantian) 'Copernicanism', and the enduring gulf between the spontaneous image of the world bequeathed to us by evolution and that revealed by the physical sciences in the wake of Copernicus. Contents of Volume V will be as follows (some details subject to alteration):
  • In 'Anaximander's Legacy', theoretical physicist Carlo Rovelli (co-founder of Loop Quantum Gravity and author of Quantum Gravity) charts the historical dynamics of science's ever more radical overturning of the commonsense image of the world from Anaximander through Copernicus to the 'unfinished revolution' of twentieth-century physics - a revolution which, suggests Rovelli, challenges us to find a way of understanding the world in the absence of the familiar stage of space and time.
  • Rovelli's question 'Can we think the world without time?' is one which has preoccupied renegade theoretical physicist and historian of science Julian Barbour (author of Absolute or Relative Motion? and The End of Time) for the best part of five decades. In our interview 'The View From Nowhen' we discuss the nature of his radical rethinking of the foundations of physics, his arguments for the non-existence of time and change, and the influence his ideas have exerted on contemporary quantum gravity research from outside the halls of academe.
  • In his contribution to the volume, Turner Prize winning artist Keith Tyson - well known for his intricate and provocative artistic displacements and extrapolations of scientific ideas - presents his own unique take on the enigma of Copernicanism.
  • In our interview with Jack Cohen and Ian Stewart (authors of dozens of ground-breaking popular science books, including their co-authored works The Collapse of Chaos, Figments of Reality, and What Does A Martian look Like?), we discuss with them the continuing collaboration between mathematician and biologist; the key conceptual innovations of their co-authored works; their trenchant criticisms of what they see as the overly conservative and unimaginative nature of contemporary astrobiology; and their positive programme for a new science of alien life, beyond astrobiology, which they call 'xenoscience'.
  • In 'Sailing the Archipelago of Habitability', cosmologist and astrobiologist Milan Cirkovic provides a sophisticated defence of anthropic reasoning (understood in terms of 'observation selection effects') against the charges brought against it by the likes of Cohen and Stewart as part of an ambitious project of laying the 'philosophical groundworks' of the nascent science of astrobiology.
  • In 'Where Are They?', philosopher and transhumanist Nick Bostrom (Director of Oxford University's Future of Humanity Institute, author of Anthropic Bias: Observation Selection Effects in Science and Philosophy) revisits Fermi's Paradox, employing probabilistic 'anthropic' reasoning to motivate the conclusion that, far from being a cause for celebration, the discovery of extra-terrestrial life would in fact augur very badly for the future of the human race.\
  • In his (2006) motion-sculpture Binary Star artist Conrad Shawcross gestured 'Beyond Copernicanism', simulating the experience of life in a solar system where there is 'no such thing as one'. In his contribution to the volume Shawcross investigates the relationship between his work and the philosophical trope of Copernicanism.
  • In an interview charting the journey 'From Copernicanism to Nemocentrism', Thomas Metzinger (philosopher of neuroscience, author of Being No One) discusses his 'self-model theory of subjectivity', the potential social and cultural ramifications of the findings of contemporary neuroscience, and responds to criticisms of his radical eliminativist position with regard to the existence of 'selves'.
  • In his 'Thinking Outside the Brain', philosopher Paul Humphreys (author of Extending Ourselves: Computational Science, Empiricism, and Scientific Method) proposes that computational science is fast displacing humans from the centre of the epistemological universe, speculates on the possibility of a 'science without humans', and presents his proposals for a radically non-anthropocentric empiricism.
  • The paintings of Nigel Cooke present a philosophically-informed meditation on the continual displacement of the author-subject in the history of thought and artistic representation. His contribution in the form of a series of drawings, 'Thinker Dejecta', contributes to a thinking-through of the consequences of Copernicanism from this perspective.
  • In our fourth and final interview, 'Who's Afraid of Scientism?', James Ladyman (philosopher of science, co-author of Every Thing Must Go: Metaphysics Naturalised) discusses the forlornness of contemporary analytic metaphysics and the prospects for a radically naturalised metaphysics which would fully take on board the most counterintuitive findings of contemporary physics, finally dispensing with the habitual ontology of 'little things and microbangings' which continues to hold sway in contemporary 'pseudo-naturalist philosophy'.
  • In his 'The Phoenix of Nature' Martin Schönfeld (artist and philosopher of nature, author of The Philosophy of the Young Kant) presents us with a vivid picture of Immanuel Kant profoundly at odds with the recent popular characterisation of him as a conservative, anti-Copernican thinker, via a stimulating exploration of his early cosmology. Here we are presented a radically anti-anthropocentric, anti-Christian, naturalist, speculatively audacious Kant who pushes 'Copernicanism' to its limits; who abolishes the hand of God from, and introduces a history and evolution into, the Newtonian cosmos; and who as early as 1755 strongly anticipates the fundaments of what became the Standard Model of modern cosmology only in the 1930s.
  • To accompany his piece Schönfeld also contributes a new translation of Immanuel Kant's 'Concerning Creation in the Total Extent of its Infinity in Both Space and Time', an extended excerpt from his 1755 Universal Natural History and Theory of the Heavens in which this astonishingly prescient cosmology of 'island universes' and the birth and death of 'worlds' is most magnificently and perfervidly portrayed.
  • Tackling the great philosophical 'Copernican Revolution' head-on, Iain Hamilton Grant (philosopher, author of Philosophies of Nature after Schelling) examines the 'Prospects for Dogmatism after Kant'.
  • In 'Copernicanism, Correlationism, Critique' Damian Veal (philosopher, editor of the volume) critically re-examines the question of the meaning of 'Copernicanism' for philosophy, providing reasons for rejecting the idea popular amongst recent 'speculative realists' that a proper philosophical assimilation of the findings of the modern sciences demands a thoroughgoing break with the Kantian critical legacy.
  • In 'A Throw of the Quantum Dice Will Never Overturn the Copernican Revolution' Gabriel Catren (Director of the project 'Savoir et Système' at the Collège International de Philosophie, Paris) presents what he calls a 'speculative overcoming' of recent influential quasi-Kantian interpretations of quantum mechanics. Rather than being limited to a mathematical account of the correlations between 'observed' systems and their 'observers', or pointing to the inherent 'transcendental' limits of physical knowledge, Catren argues that quantum mechanics furnishes a complete and realistic description of the intrinsic properties of physical systems, an ontology which exemplifies the Copernican deanthropomorphisation of nature.
  • In 'Errancies of the Human: French Philosophies of Nature and the Overturning of the Copernican Revolution', Alberto Gualandi (philosopher, author of Deleuze and Le problème de la vérité scientifique dans la philosophie Française contemporain) indicates the features common to certain speculative philosophies of nature in 1960s France and problems facing contemporary evolutionary biologists.

For further information, visit:

Allen, Barry. "Review of Neil Gross' RICHARD RORTY." NDPR (October 2008).

Gross, Neil. Richard Rorty: the Making of an American Philosopher, 1931-1982. Chicago: U of Chicago P, 2008. This book is neither a biography nor a critical study of Rorty's ideas. It has very substantial biographical portions, but in intention it differs from either biography or philosophical study. The book is a contribution to the sociology of ideas, and proposes to "use Rorty's biography as a case study by means of which to push the sociology of ideas in new directions." Neil Gross is mainly interested in the early part of Rorty's career, the work that first drew him to the world's attention. The biography ends in 1982, with Rorty's departure from Princeton. . . . Gross wants us to think of his book as a contribution to a "new" sociology of ideas. The old sociology attempts to deduce the individual from the group, regarding a thinker's ideas as an unconscious expression of a prevailing structure, whether of economy, ideology, or libido.The new sociology of ideas, as I gather from Gross’s book, is a theory of the influences operating on intellectual choice, especially in the humanities. The leading contributions to this new sociology all make sociological studies of philosophy and philosophers -- Pierre Bourdieu in Homo Academicus and a book on Heidegger; Randall Collins in The Sociology of Philosophies, and now Gross’s book. The goal is a theory of the social factors that influence the ideas intellectuals take seriously and how they manage their careers. There is no expectation of uncovering general laws, but Gross believes there are "social mechanisms" to be found that probablize outcomes.For Bourdieu, ideas are strategic; preference for ideas is one way people distinguish and position themselves in an academic hierarchy. For Collins, access to high-status networks is the key intellectual resource and major determinate of why "great thinkers" think as they do. Gross' contribution is to assert the influence of intellectual self-concept, the quest for self-concept coherence. In other words philosophers sometimes argue as they do because of their beliefs about who they are and what they want to accomplish. They gravitate toward ideas that synthesize the stories they tell others about who they are and their theoretical expressions. On this account the causes for our taking seriously the ideas we do are not all behind our backs, as Bourdieu and Collins, like Marx and Freud, say. Individuals matter, consciousness matters, the self matters. Very reassuring, romantic, and American. The new sociology confirms the old ideology. . . . Read the rest here:

Riera, Gabriel. "Review of Quentin Meillassoux's AFTER FINITUDE." NDPR (October 2008).

Meillassoux, Quentin. After Finitude: an Essay on the Necessity of Contingency. London: Continuum, 2008. Scientific knowledge often produces statements that refer to realities prior to the appearance of human life, such as the age of the earth and the universe, or the exact dating of a fossil whose species vanished well before human knowledge came into existence. Such statements of astrophysics, geology, and paleontology imply a temporal discrepancy between thinking and being, between the world and the very emergence of thinking. At stake in what Quentin Meillassoux refers to as "ancestrality," the "arche-fossil," and "dia-chronicity" is the nature of empirical science in general, and most importantly, the question of the contentious relationship between philosophy and contemporary scientific discourse. Even though he begins After Finitude with a question pertaining to empirical knowledge, it soon becomes clear that, by taking the meaning of ancestral statements literally, he raises a series of issues that touch the very core of current philosophical debates. This is because the problem of the arche-fossil points to the ontological question of the coming into being of givenness as such, the factiality [factualité] -- the transcendental structure -- of the "there is," and the very possibility of thinking the absolute. Meillassoux argues that the stakes are high since science is able to think a time that cannot be reduced to any givenness, or that preceded givenness itself and, more importantly, whose emergence made givenness possible. One begins to understand the audacity of these claims insofar as they posit a time radically different from that of consciousness, a time that, due to its indifference, would seem to resist the modern tenets of the inseparability of the act of thinking from its content, thus enabling us to conceive the realms of phenomena and of the in-itself each apart from the other. Meillassoux's postulates, therefore, aim to break with those of what he refers to as correlationism: the dominant philosophical position that following Kant postulates that our knowledge can engage only with what is given to thought and never with an entity subsisting by itself, and that reaches its exhaustion with Heidegger and Wittgenstein. This book breaks with modern philosophy in showing that it is science that compels the thinker to discover the source of its own absoluteness. The book therefore deals with two issues -- the arche-fossil and Hume's problem regarding the necessity of the causal connection -- that are linked to the question of the absolute scope of mathematics. The rehabilitation of the mathematical absolute contests three prevalent positions for which the de-absolutization of thought also implies its de-universalization: first, all forms of neo-Kantianism and the different varieties of the contemporary "return to Kant", for whom it is only possible to uncover the universal conditions for an entity's perceptibility; second, the philosophy of "radical finitude" that thinks the facticity of our relation to the world in terms of a situation that is itself finite; and finally, all forms of postmodernism that dismiss any claim to universality as a mystifying relic of old times. . . . Read the whole review here:

"Memory: Rhetoric’s Forgotten Canon," Federation Rhetoric Symposium 2009, Texas A&M University - Commerce, February 6, 2009.

“Memory is the treasury and guardian of all things.” — Cicero, De Oratore At the Federation Rhetoric Symposium two years ago, composition scholar Kathleen Blake Yancey focused our attention on The Fifth Canon – Delivery, foregrounding the many ways that this largely forgotten canon shapes and defines 21st century literacies. This year we’re extending the discussion by considering the fourth canon – Memory. In what ways does memory live in current rhetorical practices? How does this classical device both focus and fragment our research? How does memory mediate our pedagogy and practice? How are 21st century literacies mediated by memory? How does new/old media mediate memory? (And vice versa?) Deborah Brandt (University of Wisconsin-Madison), noted scholar in literacy studies, is the keynote speaker this year. Her book Literacy in American Lives (2001) was awarded the 2002 MLA Mina P. Shaughnessy Prize, the 2003 Grawemeyer Award in Education, and the 2003 CCCC Outstanding Book Award. Brandt has additionally published Literacy as Involvement: The Acts of Writers, Readers, and Texts (1990) and has Literacy and Learning: Reflections on Reading, Writing, and Society forthcoming. We welcome submissions from all areas including but not limited to: Rhetoric and Composition, English, Journalism, Political Science, Education, History, Film Studies, Media Studies, Art, Psychology, and Sociology. We also welcome presentations via non-traditional modalities – video, audio-/image-based. Suggestions of possible areas of interest: Literacy Studies Critical Theory Pedagogy Rhetoric & Technology Composition & Rhetoric Creative Writing Memoir Writing Center Theory & Practice Basic Writing Theory & Practice Rhetoric & Philosophy TESOL, ESL & Composition Pop Culture Film Studies Rhetoric of Mass Media New Media Literature, All Genres Individual and Panel Proposals Welcome. Submissions and Additional Information: Email: Via USPS: Federation Rhetoric Symposium 2009 c/o Melissa Knous Department of Literature and Language PO Box 3011 Texas A&M University – Commerce Commerce, TX 75429-3011. Submission Deadline: November 21, 2008 Acceptance Notification: December 31, 2008 Visit the conference homepage here:

"Phenomenology, Sciences, Philosophy," Conference on 150th Anniversary of Husserl's Birthday, Husserl Archives, Louvaine, Belgium, April 1-4, 2009.

In April 2009 the Husserl-Archives Leuven will hold a four-day conference in occasion of Edmund Husserl's 150th birthday. The director of the Husserl-Archives, Prof. Ullrich Melle, has prepared a brief document on the conference topic, available in English and German. Prof. Robert Sokolowski will hold the Husserl Memorial Lecture on Wednesday April 1, 18.00 as an opening for our conference. On Thursday 2 and Friday 3 the programme will consist of morning sessions 9.00-12.00 and afternoon sessions 14.00-17.00. On Saturday 4 there will only be morning sessions and the conference will end at 13.00. Keynote Speakers: Robert Sokolowski John Drummond Klaus Held Rudolf Bernet Ernst Wolfgang Orth Donn Welton Besides these plenary sessions, the conference will feature 20 further parallel sessions with invited guest speakers (a complete list will be provided soon). For more information, contact Carlo Ierna or visit:

CFP: Annual Meeting, Society for Phenomenology and the Human Sciences, Duquesne University, October 16-18, 2008.


The programme may be found here:

Original Post (February 16, 2008):

SPHS encourages the application of phenomenological methodology to specific investigations within the human and social sciences. You are invited to participate in our engagement of phenomenology with multidisciplinary approaches to the social and human sciences. We are looking for those who share our dedication to theoretical, methodical and practical examinations of the Life-World. We welcome submissions on all topics within the human and social sciences concerned with a reflective appreciation of the nature of experience. SPHS invites submissions for conference presentations that explore or apply qualitative approaches to the human and social sciences. Papers can engage any relevant aspect of the human sciences in general, or can focus on specific fields such as sociology, psychology, political science, anthropology, geography, communication, history, ecology, religion, cultural studies, ethnic/race/gender studies, medical/health sciences, and education. Submissions on all topics are welcome, though we especially encourage papers that advance dialogue between philosophy and the human sciences, address the relation between theory and praxis, focus on embodiment or present reflective investigations of the nature of experience in general. Papers should bear substantive relation to phenomenology, broadly conceived, or its kindred traditions. In addition to phenomenology, examples of methods and approaches relevant to the conference include existentialism, hermeneutics, critical theory, ethnography, ethnomethodology, semiotics, grounded theory, poststructuralism, and deconstruction. Graduate and undergraduate students are encouraged to submit their work. Forms of Submissions:

Presentations may take the form of individual papers, panels, or workshops. If submitting an individual paper final papers are preferred, but extended abstracts will be accepted as well. For panels submit a proposal of less than 1500 words total including individual abstracts, titles and contact information for each presentation. For workshops submit a full abstract of the panel of less than 500 words with a list of all participants and their contact information. To be considered all presentation proposals must include names, paper titles, full contact information including emails and separate abstracts for all presenters. Keep submissions at a length appropriate for a presentation of about 20 minutes. Please identify student proposals as such, indicating school, area of major study, level (graduate or undergraduate). Submissions may be sent via post or email. Electronic proposals should be sent as either a MS Word document or PDF file. For all submissions, please include a separate cover sheet with complete contact information, including email address, postal address, and telephone numbers. Also, please indicate what, if any, audio visual or electronic equipment you desire on cover sheet. Presenters at the conference are expected to be members in good standing with the Society. Submission Deadline: All submissions must be received by Saturday April 5, 2008. Send all submissions to: Erik Garrett, SPHS Program Chair Department of Communication & Rhetorical Studies 340 McNulty College Hall Duquesne University, 600 Forbes Ave Pittsburgh, PA 15282 USA Email: Telephone: (412) 396-1428 Direct additional inquiries to: Celeste Grayson (Graduate student coordinator) (412)396-4855 For additional conference information, please visit:

Cfp: "What Could Unfold Phenomenology in the Field of Psychotherapy?", 7th International Forum of Daseinsanalyse, Brussels, October 9-10, 2009.

En mai 2006, le conseil d’administration de la Fédération Internationale de Daseinsanalyse présidée par le Dr. Gion Fidel Condrau a entériné officiellement la demande du Centre et de l’Ecole Belge de Daseinsanalyse d’organiser leur septième forum. Il aura lieu les vendredi 9 et samedi 10 octobre 2009 à Bruxelles. Etant donné la complexité des traductions dans les trois langues officielles de la Belgique, nous avons décidé en accord avec la fédération internationale d’organiser ce congrès en langue anglaise tout en proposant une traduction simultanée en français, anglais et allemand pour les conférences du premier jour choisies par notre comité scientifique. Tous les conférenciers devront nous remettre le texte de leur conférence en anglais tout en pouvant s’exprimer, s’ils le désirent, en français, en anglais ou allemand. Nous leurs demandons néanmoins de privilégier la langue anglaise qui sera celle de tous les échanges ultérieurs. Sous la présidence d’honneur du Pr. Dr. Paul JONCKHEERE, ce congrès se posera une question fondatrice : « Que peut déployer la phénoménologie dans le champ de la psychothérapie?». Trois axes sont proposés : 1. L’art 2. Le monde de l’enfant et de l’adolescent 3. Conscience et Existence For more information, visit:

Seventh Annual Conference, Nordic Society for Phenomenology (Nordisk Selskab for Fænomenologi), University of Tampere, April 23-25, 2009.

We hereby announce a call for papers in the area of phenomenology, phenomenological philosophy and related philosophical disciplines. Commemorating the 150 years since Edmund Husserl’s birth, we welcome all contributions somehow inspired by phenomenology. Deadline for submission is November 10. A notice of acceptance / rejection will be sent out before the end of the year. Please submit your proposal in the form of an abstract of maximum one A4 page. The Nordic Society for Phenomenology was founded in 2001. Its aim is to further dialogue and cooperation between phenomenologists in the Nordic countries and to promote scholarship, teaching, research, and publication in phenomenology and affiliated theoretical disciplines. The executive committee consists of one representative from each Nordic country. At present its members are Sara Heinämaa (Finland, president), Dan Zahavi (Denmark), Björn Thorsteinsson (Iceland), Anne Granberg (Norway), Hans Ruin (Sweden). Membership of the society is free and open to all persons interested in furthering its purposes and participating in its activities. Please send proposals to

"Kant: Morality and Society," Annual Meeting, UK Kant Society, Lancaster University, August 27-29, 2009.

Keynote Speakers: Stephen Darwall (Yale University) Onora O'Neill (University of Cambridge) (to be confirmed) Arthur Ripstein (University of Toronto) Visit the conference homepage here:

"Thinking and Feeling: Affect and the Embodied Mind," Department of English Studies, Durham University, November 8, 2009.

Since the writing of Plato, the dominant Western model of knowledge has rested on the assumption that we think with our minds and not our bodies, and that rational consciousness is an entirely separate activity from the processes that underpin our lives as bodily creatures. Recent work in philosophy and psychology, however, has re-examined this mind-body dualism and now approaches consciousness, and therefore thinking, as an embodied activity. In this new model of mind, feeling is an intrinsic part of rational thinking and essential to the human capacity to make judgements. The idea was first explored in evolutionary terms in Charles Darwin's seminal work, The Expression of the Emotions in Humans and Animals (1872). Here, Darwin developed the idea that the emotions are fundamentally adaptive and basically evaluative in orienting the organism to its environment. Human beings could neither think nor thrive without them. Though this idea is only now being developed by scientists, in fact poets and novelists have for centuries sought to represent and explore human consciousness in ways that are fascinatingly close to what psychologists are now establishing as the working methods of the mind. Our understanding of human consciousness is progressing through a genuinely interdisciplinary exploration which brings together the arts and the sciences. Three one-day workshops will explore these themes across literary studies, philosophy and psychology and from the medieval to the contemporary period. The first workshop will be held in Lecture Room 20 of the Pemberton Building, Palace Green, Durham University. Programme: 11.00 Welcome Charles Fernyhough (IAS Fellow, Durham University) 11.15-12.15 Thinking with Feeling Mark Turner (IAS Fellow, Case Western University) 12.15-1.00 Thinking about Thinking Charles Fernyhough (IAS Fellow, Durham University) 2.00-2.45 Thinking and Feeling in Depression Matthew Ratcliffe (Durham University) 2.45-3.30 Cognitivism, Feelings and Moral Philosophy Benedict Smith (Durham University) 3.30-4.00 Refreshments 4.00-4.45 Talking Feelings Giovanna Colombetti (University of Exeter) 4.45-5.45 Once more with Feeling: Literature, Performance and Affect Derek Attridge (University of York) This is the first of a series of three related workshops on the theme of "Thinking and Feeling:

The workshops are supported by the Institute of Advanced Study, and coincide with the theme for 2008-2009, Being Human.

The workshops are free and open to all. For more information, and to register your attendance, please contact Professor Patricia Waugh (Department of English Studies): Visit the conference homepage here:

Sandbu, Martin E. "Review of John Parrish's PARADOXES OF POLITICAL ETHICS." NDPR (October 2008).

Parrish, John M. Paradoxes of Political Ethics: from Dirty Hands to the Invisible Hand. Cambridge: CUP, 2007. I write this review during an election campaign that has occasioned more than the usual amount of accusations against the government. The Bush administration stands accused of lying, torture, murder, corruption, and a long litany of rights infringements and violations. Its supporters, of course, deny that any morally (or legally) questionable actions were committed at all, and that in any case, whatever was done was the right thing to do given the threat of terrorism. Theoretically, both sides could be partly right. The government's critics may be factually correct about what the government did, and its defenders may be right that officials had good reasons to believe that what they did was necessary to protect the nation from great ills. This would force us to choose between three unsavory options. The first is to argue that lying, torture, and murder are not crimes after all when committed in the pursuit of the greater good. The second is to retain our intuition that these are grave moral transgressions, but admit that there are situations in which a person ought to commit great wrongs. The third is to say "So much the worse for the common good" and insist that these actions may never be committed, no matter how great the calamity the avoidance of which seems to necessitate them. This is the "problem of dirty hands" that Michael Walzer made famous in his 1973 article with the same title. Walzer did not dwell on the third option, dismissing it -- rightly in my view -- as not morally serious. So long as there are power relations in the world, he who holds power does have the fates of other people in his hands, and there must be some cases (even if fewer than he prefers us to believe) in which keeping his hands clean amounts to abdicating responsibility: "If he remains innocent . . . he not only fails to do the right thing (in utilitarian terms), he may also fail to live up to the duties of his office (which imposes on him a considerable responsibility for consequence and outcomes)". That leaves the politician -- and the analyst of politics -- with a dilemma: Either to claim that actions that we normally consider evil are not in fact evil in the circumstances of politics or to say that they are indeed wrong, but that it is sometimes right to commit wrongful actions. Each answer is paradoxical, though in slightly different ways. The former is morally and intellectually discomfiting. It demands that we revise deeply held moral intuitions, and must explain why it seems to us that there are true moral dilemmas in such cases. The latter, in contrast, validates the perception that we are contravening morality even in doing what is for the best; but for that very reason it risks landing morality in incoherence, for (as Walzer asks) "how can it be wrong to do what is right?" Knowing what we know about the human propensity for cognitive dissonance reduction, therefore, we should not be surprised if much effort in political theory had gone into either dissolving or dissembling this paradox. That this is indeed the case -- and that this has been a task political philosophers have set for themselves since the birth of Western philosophy -- is the premise of the story professor John Parrish tells in his book Paradoxes of Political Ethics: From Dirty Hands to the Invisible Hand. In Parrish's account, three moments in the history of Western political thought developed an original and acute understanding of a dirty hands problem, each culminating in a particularly influential solution to it. The three periods are the confluence and friction of ideas between classical (especially Roman) political thought and the new Christian ideals, the secularizing political thought of the Renaissance, and the theories of the emergent capitalist or "commercial" society in the 17th and 18th Centuries. The book explains the unfolding of related yet original ideas into their prime expressions in the works of, respectively, St. Augustine, Thomas Hobbes, and Adam Smith. . . . Read the rest here:

"Philosophy of Language and Linguistics," University of Łódź, Poland, May 14-15, 2009.

The Department of English and General Linguistics at University of Łódź announces the first International Conference on Philosophy of Language and Linguistics. The title of the Conference is deliberately ambiguous: we wish to investigate the relation between 'philosophy of language' and 'linguistics', but we also want to focus on 'philosophy of language' as opposed to 'philosophy of linguistics'. Are the two in opposition, or do they perhaps complement one another? We also intend to question and verify 'the myths and dogmas' current in contemporary philosophy of language. The principal aim of our Conference is to bring together philosophers and linguists; we would like the papers to address the following issues (the list is not exhaustive): - what are the new problems and issues in the philosophy of language in the 21st century? - have any traditional problems been successfully solved? - how does research in linguistics influence the philosophy of language and philosophy of linguistics? - how does philosophy influence modern linguistics? We also invite papers investigating the relation between philosophy of language and literature and literary theories. The following scholars have accepted our invitation to address the conference as plenary speakers: *Eros Corazza & Kepa Korta (Carleton University, Ottawa & ILCLI, Donostia-San Sebastian) on "Two Dogmas of Philosophical Linguistics" *Katarzyna Jaszczolt (Department of Linguistics, University of Cambridge) on "Time in Language and Thought" *Barbara Lewandowska-Tomaszczyk (Department of English Language and Applied Linguistics, University of Łódź) on "Events as they are" *Michael Morris (Department of Philosophy, University of Sussex) on "The Myth of the Sign" *Jaroslav Peregrin (Department of Logic, Charles University, Prague) on "The Myth of Semantic Structure" Abstracts of papers of max. 500 words should be forwarded by e-mail to and to Deadline for submission is 31 December 2008. Presentations should last max. 30 minutes (including discussion and questions). Notification of acceptance will be sent by 1 March 2009. A volume of conference proceedings will be published with an international publisher. The conference fee is 150 EUR (100 EUR for PhD students). It covers the cost of participation, conference materials and conference dinner. Accommodation will be provided at the University of Łódź Conference Center (Łódź, Kopcińskiego 16/18). Single and double rooms are available. The cost of a single room per night is 140 PLN, double 210 PLN, breakfast is included in the price. Mail and questions concerning registration and accommodation should be directed to and to Organizing committee: prof. dr hab. Piotr Stalmaszczyk ( ) prof. dr hab. Krzysztof Kosecki ( ) dr Janusz Badio ( ) Jerzy Gaszewski ( ) Ryszard Rasiński ( )

Monday, October 13, 2008

Knipp, Kersten. "A Sober Look at Freedom." (2008).

Portrait du Colonisé (the English translation, The Colonizer and the Colonized, being published in 1965) is the title of the 1957 essay by Tunisian author and sociologist Albert Memmi. The title suggests that the author did not hesitate to draw the portrait in broad generalised terms. "The colonised" for Memmi was a type of human being without characteristics, whom "the colonist" did not view as an individual, rather, as part of a collective, one out of a mass placed at his service. This ideology was so overpowering that the colonised had nothing to counter it with: "He did not feel responsible, or guilty, or sceptical – he was out of the game. In no respect was he the subject of history." This short essay became one of the seminal reference texts of the independence movements in the second half of the twentieth century. And if the writer captured the spirit of the time so aptly, it was because he himself was caught between the tensions of not just two, but three cultures. . . . Read the rest here:

Solum, Lawrence B. "Legal Theory Lexicon: Legal Theory, Jurisprudence, and the Philosophy of Law." LEGAL THEORY BLOG October 5, 2008.

The Legal Theory Lexicon series usually explicates some concept in legal theory, jurisprudence, or philosophy of law. But what are those fields and how do they relate to each other? Is “jurisprudence” a synonym for “philosophy of law” or are these two overlapping but distinct fields? Is “legal theory” broader or narrower than jurisprudence? And why should we care about this terminology? As always, this entry in the Legal Theory Lexicon series is aimed at law students, especially first-year law students with an interest in legal theory. Who Cares About Terminology ? Why should we care about terminology? Who cares what goes under the label “jurisprudence” or “philosophy of law” or “legal theory”? Well, of course, there is a sense in which we shouldn’t care at all. What matters in a deep way is the substance of theorizing about law. On the other hand, these labels are important for a different reason—because their use tells us something about the sociology of the academy. When people argue about what “jurisprudence” really is, the terminological dispute may reflect a conflict over “turf” and “authority.” . . . Read the rest here:

Romanyshyn, Robert D., ed. Special Issue on Jan Henrik van den Berg. JANUS HEAD 10.2 (2008)

Introduction: Celebrating the Life and Work of J.H. van den Berg by Robert D. Romanyshyn Essays:
Access the journal here:

McCarter, Jeremy. "He Gave Liberalism a Good Name." NEWSWEEK September 27, 2008.

Lionel Trilling is a hero—one of my heroes, anyway. And for the Trilling devotee, this has been an annus mirabilis. Over the summer, Northwestern University Press published a paperback edition of The Moral Obligation to Be Intelligent, a career-spanning selection of his essays on Keats, Orwell, Austen and more. They showcase his genius for literary sculpting, which is what great critics like Trilling do: use hammer and chisel and inspiration to carve meaning out of a block, whether the substance is marble or something less agreeable. This year has also seen the publication of The Journey Abandoned, the surviving first third of a novel he never finished. It doesn't have the force of his single completed novel, The Middle of the Journey, a political drama about Moscow-sympathizing fellow travelers. But in its best moments, it has a superior style to his other novel's, one that dazzles in its own right, and not just when graded on a critic-who's-moonlighting curve. When describing the boyhood of the central character of his bildungsroman, he's wry and anthropological without being clinical, like the narrator in a Truffaut film. Now, from New York Review Books, comes the grand prize. In 1950, Trilling—then a 45-year-old English professor at Columbia University—assembled 16 essays he'd written over the preceding few years, all unified by what he called "an abiding interest in the ideas of what we loosely call liberalism, especially the relation of these ideas to literature." It was a characteristically mild way to describe a uniquely provocative book. For in The Liberal Imagination, Trilling didn't confine the well-honed tools of his profession to the books under review. He showed how our creative life shapes our political life (and vice versa), and our sentiments shape our ideas (and vice versa), along the way forcing his fellow liberals to confront their blind spots and weaknesses. As the new edition demonstrates, he attained insights in this gutsy, far-seeing book that prove as urgent in the 21st century as they did in the middle of the 20th. Trilling had an intensely dialectical mind, given to thorough bouts of self-qualification, which makes it tricky to boil down the argument of his masterpiece. In quick strokes, he believed that as liberalism works toward the freedom and equality that it insists can be attained, it tends to simplify, leading it into the unintended consequences that conservatives love to deplore. ("Liberalism is always being surprised," he wrote, damningly, in a short book on E. M. Forster.) Because the liberal imagination needs constant refreshing, it ought to turn to literature, which Trilling called "the human activity that takes the fullest and most precise account of variousness, possibility, complexity, and difficulty." At a time when worthy authors offered endless worthy attacks on social injustice, Trilling gave his book a subversive punch line: literature doesn't need more white hats and black hats, it needs "moral realism," books that don't just attack the misdeeds of the bad people but "lead us to refine our motives and ask what might lie behind our good impulses." . . . Read the rest here:

Menand, Louis. "Regrets Only." NEW YORKER September 29, 2008.

Lionel Trilling was not completely happy about being Lionel Trilling. “I have one of the great reputations in the academic world,” he wrote in his journal after being promoted to full professor in the Columbia English Department, in 1948. “This thought makes me retch.” Two years later, he published The Liberal Imagination, a book that sold more than seventy thousand copies in hardcover and more than a hundred thousand in paperback, and that made Trilling a figure, a model of the intellectual in Cold War America. He represented, for many people, the life of the mind. Trilling was baffled by the attention. “I hear on all sides of the extent of my reputation—which some even call ‘fame,’ ” he wrote in the journal. “It is the thing I have most wanted from childhood—although of course in much greater degree—and now that I seem to have it I have no understanding whatever of its basis—of what it is that makes people respond to what I say, for I think of it as of a simplicity and of a naivety almost extreme.” He hated being regarded as a paragon of anything. In 1955, he complained to his analyst about “the effect on my emotional and sexual life of my sense of my prestige” and “my feeling of disgust with my public ‘noble’ character.” He became a University Professor at Columbia, but he did not consider himself a scholar: he had no languages except English and he didn’t see the point of the systematic study of literature. He did not consider himself a critic, either, and was surprised when he heard himself referred to as one. His ambition was to be a great novelist; he regarded his criticism as “an afterthought.” He disliked Columbia; he disliked most of his colleagues; he disliked teaching graduate students—in 1952, after a routine disagreement over the merits of a dissertation, he refused to teach in the graduate school again. He was depressive, he had writer’s block, and he drank too much. He did not even like his first name. He wished that he had been called John or Jack. But although he may not have wanted what he had, and he may not have understood entirely why he had it, he appreciated its value and tended it with care. This meant cultivating a discreet distance from any group with which he might be too quickly identified—professors, public intellectuals, liberals, Jews. He was all of those things, of course; he would never have denied it. But he resented being understood under the aspect of anything so insufficiently nuanced as a category. . . . Read the rest here: