Tuesday, April 28, 2009

McLemee, Scott. "Print or Byte?" INSIDE HIGHER ED April 8, 2009.

It's clear that the recession is accelerating the shift to digital publishing. “With the economy shaping up as it seems to be,” one astute observer of trends in the university press world told me last summer, “we’re going to see a 15 year leap in publishing in the next two years.” And that was well before trillions of dollars started vanishing into the ether. But the very notion of digital publishing tends to provoke resistance -- much of it rather underinformed. As noted in this column recently, some people evidently equate it with creating a Web site. This is worrying, insofar as people making choices about the allocation of resources may share in this confusion. When "the decider" is hopelessly befuddled, things tend to go badly. (No need to name any names here. I’m just sayin'.) Only compounding the problem is the tendency to regard digital and print books as completely different (indeed, counterposed) categories of publishing. Which then fosters a belief that the expansion of digital book publishing will yield a world in which you won’t be able to find the old-fashioned kind, with spines and pages and covers. . . .

Read the rest here: http://www.insidehighered.com/views/mclemee/mclemee237.

Boyd, Brian. "Purpose-Driven Life." THE AMERICAN SCHOLAR (Spring 2009).

Evolutionary thinking has lately expanded from the biological to the human world, first into the social sciences and recently into the humanities and the arts. Many people therefore now understand the human, and even human culture, as inextricably biological. But many others in the humanities—in this, at least, like religious believers who reject evolution outright—feel that a Darwinian view of life and a biological view of humanity can only deny human purpose and meaning. Does evolution by natural selection rob life of purpose, as so many have feared? The answer is no. On the contrary, Charles Darwin has made it possible to understand how purpose, like life, builds from small beginnings, from the ground up. In a very real sense, evolution creates purpose. . . . Read the rest here: http://www.theamericanscholar.org/purpose-driven-life/.

Michael Oakeshott Bibliography Update, April 2009.

Visit http://www.michael-oakeshott-association.com/index.php/bibliography for the latest update by Efraim Podoksik.

Lehrer, Jonah. "Picturing Our Thoughts." BOSTON GLOBE August 17, 2008.

In May 1991, Dr. Kenneth Kwong, a radiologist at Massachusetts General Hospital, became one of the first scientists to enjoy a new vision of the human brain. The experiment was simple: Kwong would show a subject some visual stimuli - such as a sequence of flashing red lights - and then monitor the brain to see how it reacted. To Kwong's surprise, even a brief light show triggered a telltale pattern of activity in the visual cortex, as the brain processed the sensory information. "It took a few months before I believed what I was seeing," Kwong remembers. "I was actually watching the brain at work." This ability to peer inside the mind was made possible by a new technology known as fMRI, or functional magnetic resonance imaging. The technology quickly became one of the most popular tools of neuroscience. Last year, an average of eight peer-reviewed papers using fMRI were published per day, and more than 19,000 fMRI papers have been published in the last 15 years. The past few months have brought articles on everything from the neural substrate of sarcasm to the patterns of brain activation triggered by pornography. The technique is invading other fields as well, as psychologists, psychiatrists, philosophers, and even economists increasingly rely on these powerful machines. The brain scan image - a silhouette of the skull, highlighted with bright splotches of primary color - has also become a staple of popular culture, a symbol of how scientific advances are changing the way we think about ourselves. For the first time in human history, the black box of the mind has been flung wide open, allowing researchers to search for the cortical source for every flickering thought. The expensive scanners can even decode the hidden urges of the unconscious, revealing those secret feelings that we hide from ourselves. The machine, in other words, knows more about you than you do: It's like a high-tech window into the soul. . . . Read the rest here: http://www.boston.com/bostonglobe/ideas/articles/2008/08/17/picturing_our_thoughts/.

Weisberg, Deena Skolnick: Two Essays on the Allure of Neuroscience.

Mandik, Peter. Review of Catherine Malibou's WHAT SHOULD WE DO WITH OUR BRAIN? NDPR (April 2009).

Malabou, Catherine. What Should We Do with Our Brain?. Trans. Sebastian Rand. New York: Fordham UP, 2008.

There's little doubt of the increasing significance of the brain sciences for the rest of our contemporary culture, though there's much to explore about what this all amounts to. It is appropriate for the portions of the academy beyond the centers of neuroscientific activity to take note of and absorb the significance of the advances made about such a crucial literal part of each of us. Neuroscience has already received relatively widespread attention from philosophers, most notably from philosophers of mind and of science (though neuroethicists seem to be growing in number), well versed in the technical details of functional magnetic resonance imaging, dopamine, the lateral geniculate nucleus, and long-term potentiation. However, to my knowledge, the resultant philosophy produced by philosophers attending to the neurosciences has been overwhelmingly done in the tradition of analytic philosophy, a few references to Merleau-Ponty notwithstanding. The item under current scrutiny is not part of this neuroscience-influenced strand of contemporary analytic philosophy. The volume appears in Fordham University Press's series Perspectives in Continental Philosophy, is authored by a previous co-author of Derrida's, and has as one of its back-cover blurbs one from Žižek (which I cannot resist pointing out starts off like this: "As a rule, neuroscientists avoid two things like a vampire avoids garlic: any links to European metaphysics, political engagement, and reflection upon the social conditions which gave rise to their science"). What we have here, for better or for worse, is a piece of continental neurophilosophy.

What should we do with What Should We Do with Our Brain?? For starters, let us not doubt that the titular question is a good one. The question does however admit of multiple readings, some of which hinge on how to take the 'should'. Reading it as asking a practical question renders it akin to "What should we do with our abs?" Closer, however, to Malabou's purposes is a reading more political, if not moral, making it more along the lines of "What should we do with our homeless?" Or closer to the actual question at hand: "What should we do with ourselves?" Malabou's answer may be summarized concisely in her own words: We should

refuse to be flexible individuals who combine a permanent control of the self with a capacity to self-modify at the whim of fluxes, transfers, and exchanges, for fear of explosion . . . To ask "What should we do with our brain?" is above all to visualize the possibility of saying no to an afflicting economic, political, and mediatic culture that celebrates only the triumph of flexibility, blessing obedient individuals who have no greater merit than that of knowing how to bow their heads with a smile. (pp. 78-79)

If that's the answer then, one might wonder, what's any of this got to do with brains? Couldn't someone who didn't even know we have brains nonetheless make such a moral/political recommendation? Malabou's answer arrives very close to the end of her 82-pages of main text. However, despite being a short journey, one nonetheless wonders if the destination really needed a route that took a detour through neuroscience. . . .

Read the whole review here: http://ndpr.nd.edu/review.cfm?id=15887.

Brooks, David. "The End of Philosophy." NEW YORK TIMES April 6, 2009.

The first nice thing about this evolutionary approach to morality is that it emphasizes the social nature of moral intuition. People are not discrete units coolly formulating moral arguments. They link themselves together into communities and networks of mutual influence. The second nice thing is that it entails a warmer view of human nature. Evolution is always about competition, but for humans, as Darwin speculated, competition among groups has turned us into pretty cooperative, empathetic and altruistic creatures — at least within our families, groups and sometimes nations. The third nice thing is that it explains the haphazard way most of us lead our lives without destroying dignity and choice. Moral intuitions have primacy, Haidt argues, but they are not dictators. There are times, often the most important moments in our lives, when in fact we do use reason to override moral intuitions, and often those reasons — along with new intuitions — come from our friends. The rise and now dominance of this emotional approach to morality is an epochal change. It challenges all sorts of traditions. It challenges the bookish way philosophy is conceived by most people. It challenges the Talmudic tradition, with its hyper-rational scrutiny of texts. It challenges the new atheists, who see themselves involved in a war of reason against faith and who have an unwarranted faith in the power of pure reason and in the purity of their own reasoning. Finally, it should also challenge the very scientists who study morality. They’re good at explaining how people make judgments about harm and fairness, but they still struggle to explain the feelings of awe, transcendence, patriotism, joy and self-sacrifice, which are not ancillary to most people’s moral experiences, but central. The evolutionary approach also leads many scientists to neglect the concept of individual responsibility and makes it hard for them to appreciate that most people struggle toward goodness, not as a means, but as an end in itself. . . . Read the rest here: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/04/07/opinion/07Brooks.html?_r=1.

Taylor, Mark C. "End the University as We Know It." NEW YORK TIMES April 26, 2009.

GRADUATE education is the Detroit of higher learning. Most graduate programs in American universities produce a product for which there is no market (candidates for teaching positions that do not exist) and develop skills for which there is diminishing demand (research in subfields within subfields and publication in journals read by no one other than a few like-minded colleagues), all at a rapidly rising cost (sometimes well over $100,000 in student loans). Widespread hiring freezes and layoffs have brought these problems into sharp relief now. But our graduate system has been in crisis for decades, and the seeds of this crisis go as far back as the formation of modern universities. Kant, in his 1798 work “The Conflict of the Faculties,” wrote that universities should “handle the entire content of learning by mass production, so to speak, by a division of labor, so that for every branch of the sciences there would be a public teacher or professor appointed as its trustee.” Unfortunately this mass-production university model has led to separation where there ought to be collaboration and to ever-increasing specialization. In my own religion department, for example, we have 10 faculty members, working in eight subfields, with little overlap. And as departments fragment, research and publication become more and more about less and less. Each academic becomes the trustee not of a branch of the sciences, but of limited knowledge that all too often is irrelevant for genuinely important problems. A colleague recently boasted to me that his best student was doing his dissertation on how the medieval theologian Duns Scotus used citations. The emphasis on narrow scholarship also encourages an educational system that has become a process of cloning. Faculty members cultivate those students whose futures they envision as identical to their own pasts, even though their tenures will stand in the way of these students having futures as full professors. . . . Read the rest here: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/04/27/opinion/27taylor.html?_r=2.

Michaels, Walter Benn. "Going Boom." BOOK FORUM (February / March 2009).

When, in 1989, Francis Fukuyama announced the end of history, he did so with mixed feelings. The good news, he thought, was that the ideological supremacy of free markets and of the political arrangement most suited to them (liberal democracy) had been established—even communists were talking about the importance of being competitive in the marketplace. The bad news was that without “the worldwide ideological struggle” between capitalism and socialism to inspire us, we were in for “a very sad time.” “In the post-historical period,” he wrote, “there will be neither art nor philosophy, just the perpetual caretaking of the museum of human history.” The end of history would be good for markets, bad for art. Right now, of course, it’s not so clear how the good-for-markets thing is working out. But it’s still true that we don’t have any socialists—unless, like Sarah Palin and Joe the Plumber, you count Barack (“I love the market”) Obama. If things get really bad, however, that might begin to change. What if there turned out to be more truth to the conservatives’ outlandish accusations than to the liberals’ indignant denials? What if what we’re seeing now is not just the end of a boom but the beginning of a new period of “ideological struggle”? If good for markets was bad for art, will bad for markets be good for art? For it does seem fairly clear that, with respect to at least one art form, market triumphalism hasn’t been so great. The past twenty-five years have been a pretty sad time for the American novel, and a lot of the best ones have been committed to historical caretaking. It’s no accident that Toni Morrison’s Beloved was proclaimed the best work of American fiction over the period by the New York Times or that prominent also-rans included Blood Meridian, Underworld, and The Plot Against America. Even younger writers like Michael Chabon and Colson Whitehead have rushed to take up the burden of the past. And it’s not hard to see why. For although it’s true that books about slavery and the Middle Passage, the Holocaust and the extermination of Native Americans, are more or less definitionally sad, it’s also true that the logic by which they are produced and that makes them so attractive is an optimistic one. Why? Because trying to overcome, say, the lingering effects of slavery doesn’t involve criticizing the primacy of markets; it just involves making sure that everyone has equal access to them. So when Beloved reminds us that we are a nation divided by race and racism (and, in case we start to forget, A Mercy reminds us again), we’re effectively being told that our problem is lingering racism—not burgeoning capitalism. And when Morrison wins the Nobel Prize and Obama becomes president, we’re being reassured that we are headed in the right direction, even if we’re not there yet. But as the current economic catastrophe has the great merit of demonstrating, we are not headed in the right direction. People are losing their health care, their houses, and now their jobs for reasons having nothing whatsoever to do with bad things that happened in the past (done to and by our ancestors) and everything to do with bad things happening right now (done to and by us). Indeed, the only relevant past here is the very recent one: the one in which the triumph of markets that Fukuyama announced took place, and during which things got not better but worse. . . . Read the rest here: http://www.bookforum.com/inprint/015_05/3274.

Service, Robert. "The Frock-Coated Communist: the Revolutionary Life of Friedrich Engels." TIMES April 26, 2009.

Hunt, Tristram. The Frock-Coated Communist. London: Allen Lane, 2009. Alone amid the Manchester 19th-century “cottonocracy”, Friedrich Engels hoped for the British economy’s collapse and was carefree about losing his fortune forever. That alone would have made him the most extraordinary capitalist. But of course we have a further reason to remember him: Engels and his friend Karl Marx were communists. Together they developed a theory proclaiming the inevitable fall of capitalism; and neither of them would have been as surprised as most of our financial commentators have been by the world economy’s vulnerability to the rapacity and irresponsibility of bankers. As Tristram Hunt’s excellent book emphasises, Engels was nearly 50 before he left the offices of Ermen & Engels in the north of England and dedicated himself full-time to the revolutionary cause. Born into an industrialist’s family in the Rhineland in 1820, he horrified his parents with his radical beliefs. He took a break from his capitalist functions in the mid-1840s and wrote The Communist Manifesto with Marx. Returning to Germany in 1848 when revolutions broke out in Europe, he saw armed action before their suppression. He had always been an involuntary factory owner. Without agreeing to tend his German father’s business interests in Manchester he would have lacked the income for himself and Marx to live in the comfort they took as their right. The profligate Marx was constantly on the edge of penury. Engels counted his pennies (or rather his tens of thousands of pounds) more carefully but did not stint in his pleasures. He rode out regularly with the prestigious and costly Cheshire Hounds. He drank wine of quality and ­Pilsner beer in quantity. He treated himself to bevies of young women, including prostitutes. He dressed in fashion. Engels kept up bourgeois appearances by holding his capitalist and communist lives separate. The frock-coated German industrialist bought a second home in Manchester where he installed his fiery Irish mistress Mary Burns and welcomed his socialist comrades. Mary’s sister Lizzy took her place as his lover when she died. Northern industrialists knew he was a “red” but Engels was discreet about his political and sexual activity and avoided social ostracism. After 1869, when the Ermen brothers bought him out of the business, he moved to London and continued to flourish handsomely through judicious ­investments. He was one of those coupon- ­snipping rentiers that he and Marx subjected to withering contempt in their pamphlets. . . . Read the whole review here: http://entertainment.timesonline.co.uk/tol/arts_and_entertainment/books/non-fiction/article6154072.ece.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Kristoff, Nicholas D. "Humanity Even for Nonhumans." NEW YORK TIMES April 8, 2009.

One of the historical election landmarks last year had nothing to do with race or the presidency. Rather, it had to do with pigs and chickens — and with overarching ideas about the limits of human dominion over other species. I’m referring to the stunning passage in California, by nearly a 2-to-1 majority, of an animal rights ballot initiative that will ban factory farms from keeping calves, pregnant hogs or egg-laying hens in tiny pens or cages in which they can’t stretch out or turn around. It was an element of a broad push in Europe and America alike to grant increasing legal protections to animals. Spain is moving to grant basic legal rights to apes. In the United States, law schools are offering courses on animal rights, fast-food restaurants including Burger King are working with animal rights groups to ease the plight of hogs and chickens in factory farms and the Humane Society of the United States is preparing to push new legislation to extend the California protections to other states. At one level, this movement on behalf of oppressed farm animals is emotional, driven by sympathy at photos of forlorn pigs or veal calves kept in tiny pens. Yet the movement is also the product of a deep intellectual ferment pioneered by the Princeton scholar Peter Singer. . . . Read the rest here: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/04/09/opinion/09kristof.html?_r=3&ref=opinion.




Book Reviews:

Visit the journal homepage here: http://www.criticalanimalstudies.org/JCAS/index.htm.

"Transforming Higher Education Into an Ethical Space and Place for Learning," Yale University, April 25, 2009.

7th Annual Conference for Critical Animal Studies. We are especially interested in topics such policy reform and activism in higher education in relation to critical animal studies, animal rights, and/or animal liberation. We are also interested in reaching across the disciplines and movements of environmentalism, education, poverty, feminism, LGBTQA, animal advocacy, globalization, prison abolition, prisoner support, disability rights, indigenous rights/sovereignty, and other peace and social justice issues. Paper presentations should be fifteen to twenty minutes in length. We are receptive to different and innovative formats, including, but not limited to roundtables, panels, community dialogues, theatre, and workshops. You may propose individual or group 'panel' presentations, but please clearly specify the structure of your proposal. Preference will be given to papers focusing on the program theme, linking environmental and nonhuman animal advocacy. Visit the conference homepage here: http://www.criticalanimalstudies.org/international2.htm.

Cohen, Patricia. "In Tough Times, the Humanities Must Justify Their Worth." NEW YORK TIMES February 24, 2009.

One idea that elite universities like Yale, sprawling public systems like Wisconsin and smaller private colleges like Lewis and Clark have shared for generations is that a traditional liberal arts education is, by definition, not intended to prepare students for a specific vocation. Rather, the critical thinking, civic and historical knowledge and ethical reasoning that the humanities develop have a different purpose: They are prerequisites for personal growth and participation in a free democracy, regardless of career choice. But in this new era of lengthening unemployment lines and shrinking university endowments, questions about the importance of the humanities in a complex and technologically demanding world have taken on new urgency. Previous economic downturns have often led to decreased enrollment in the disciplines loosely grouped under the term “humanities” — which generally include languages, literature, the arts, history, cultural studies, philosophy and religion. Many in the field worry that in this current crisis those areas will be hit hardest. . . . Read the rest here: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/02/25/books/25human.html?_r=2.

Kaplan, Robert D. "The Revenge of Geography." FOREIGN POLICY (May / June 2009).

When rapturous Germans tore down the Berlin Wall 20 years ago it symbolized far more than the overcoming of an arbitrary boundary. It began an intellectual cycle that saw all divisions, geographic and otherwise, as surmountable; that referred to “realism” and “pragmatism” only as pejoratives; and that invoked the humanism of Isaiah Berlin or the appeasement of Hitler at Munich to launch one international intervention after the next. In this way, the armed liberalism and the democracy-promoting neoconservatism of the 1990s shared the same universalist aspirations. But alas, when a fear of Munich leads to overreach the result is Vietnam—or in the current case, Iraq. And thus began the rehabilitation of realism, and with it another intellectual cycle. “Realist” is now a mark of respect, “neocon” a term of derision. The Vietnam analogy has vanquished that of Munich. Thomas Hobbes, who extolled the moral benefits of fear and saw anarchy as the chief threat to society, has elbowed out Isaiah Berlin as the philosopher of the present cycle. The focus now is less on universal ideals than particular distinctions, from ethnicity to culture to religion. Those who pointed this out a decade ago were sneered at for being “fatalists” or “determinists.” Now they are applauded as “pragmatists.” And this is the key insight of the past two decades—that there are worse things in the world than extreme tyranny, and in Iraq we brought them about ourselves. I say this having supported the war. So now, chastened, we have all become realists. Or so we believe. But realism is about more than merely opposing a war in Iraq that we know from hindsight turned out badly. Realism means recognizing that international relations are ruled by a sadder, more limited reality than the one governing domestic affairs. It means valuing order above freedom, for the latter becomes important only after the former has been established. It means focusing on what divides humanity rather than on what unites it, as the high priests of globalization would have it. In short, realism is about recognizing and embracing those forces beyond our control that constrain human action—culture, tradition, history, the bleaker tides of passion that lie just beneath the veneer of civilization. This poses what, for realists, is the central question in foreign affairs: Who can do what to whom? And of all the unsavory truths in which realism is rooted, the bluntest, most uncomfortable, and most deterministic of all is geography. Indeed, what is at work in the recent return of realism is the revenge of geography in the most old-fashioned sense. In the 18th and 19th centuries, before the arrival of political science as an academic specialty, geography was an honored, if not always formalized, discipline in which politics, culture, and economics were often conceived of in reference to the relief map. Thus, in the Victorian and Edwardian eras, mountains and the men who grow out of them were the first order of reality; ideas, however uplifting, were only the second. And yet, to embrace geography is not to accept it as an implacable force against which humankind is powerless. Rather, it serves to qualify human freedom and choice with a modest acceptance of fate. This is all the more important today, because rather than eliminating the relevance of geography, globalization is reinforcing it. Mass communications and economic integration are weakening many states, exposing a Hobbesian world of small, fractious regions. Within them, local, ethnic, and religious sources of identity are reasserting themselves, and because they are anchored to specific terrains, they are best explained by reference to geography. Like the faults that determine earthquakes, the political future will be defined by conflict and instability with a similar geographic logic. The upheaval spawned by the ongoing economic crisis is increasing the relevance of geography even further, by weakening social orders and other creations of humankind, leaving the natural frontiers of the globe as the only restraint. So we, too, need to return to the map, and particularly to what I call the “shatter zones” of Eurasia. We need to reclaim those thinkers who knew the landscape best. And we need to update their theories for the revenge of geography in our time. . . . Read the rest here: http://www.foreignpolicy.com/story/cms.php?story_id=4862&print=1.

Hunt, Tristram. "No Marx without Engels." HISTORY TODAY 59.4 (2009).

It is a truth now universally acknowledged that capitalism’s most insightful philosopher is Karl Marx. For over a decade, the one time ideological ogre ‘responsible’ for the killing fields of Cambodia and excesses of the Soviet Union has been lauded as the first thinker to chart the true nature of the free market. ‘Marx’s Stock Resurges on a 150-Year Tip’ was how the New York Times marked the 150th anniversary of the publication of The Communist Manifesto – a text which, more than any other, ‘recognised the unstoppable wealth-creating power of capitalism, predicted it would conquer the world, and warned that this inevitable globalisation of national economies and cultures would have divisive and painful consequences.’ In 2005, the French politician-cum-banker Jacques Attali went further, to pinpoint Marx as the first great theorist of globalisation. Today, in the midst of a once-a-century crisis of capitalism, Das Kapital has raced to the top of the German bestseller lists and even President Sarkozy has been caught leafing through its pages. But as with so much of the Karl Marx myth, the role of his lifelong friend and ideological ally Friedrich Engels has been airbrushed from history. The co-author of The Communist Manifesto, co-founder of Marxism and architect of much of modern socialism, is nowhere to be seen in this shower of admiration. Yet when it comes to the Marxian analysis of capitalism, any credible account must have Engels alongside Marx. For Marx only gained his unique appreciation of the functioning of capitalism thanks to Engels’ first-hand experiences. Moreover, it was Engels who went on to edit the crucial passages of Das Kapital which dealt with the inherent instability of the capitalist model. If we are to look for the origins of one of the most salient criticisms of the market system, we should start with Engels. . . .

Harvey, David. "Why the US Stimulus Package is Bound to Fail." THE BULLET February 12, 2009.

Much is to be gained by viewing the contemporary crisis as a surface eruption generated out of deep tectonic shifts in the spatio-temporal disposition of capitalist development. The tectonic plates are now accelerating their motion and the likelihood of more frequent and more violent crises of the sort that have been occurring since 1980 or so will almost certainly increase. The manner, form, spatiality and time of these surface disruptions are almost impossible to predict, but that they will occur with greater frequency and depth is almost certain. The events of 2008 have therefore to be situated in the context of a deeper pattern. Since these stresses are internal to the capitalist dynamic (which does not preclude some seemingly external disruptive event like a catastrophic pandemic also occurring), then what better argument could there be, as Marx once put it, “for capitalism to be gone and to make way for some alternative and more rational mode of production.” I begin with this conclusion since I still find it vital to emphasize if not dramatize, as I have sought to do over and over again in my writings over the years, that failure to understand the geographical dynamics of capitalism or to treat the geographical dimension as in some sense merely contingent or epiphenomenal, is to both lose the plot on how to understand capitalist uneven geographical development and to miss out on possibilities for constructing radical alternatives. But this poses an acute difficulty for analysis since we are constantly faced with trying to distill universal principles regarding the role of the production of spaces, places and environments in capitalism's dynamics, out of a sea of often volatile geographical particularities. So how, then, can we integrate geographical understandings into our theories of evolutionary change? Let us look more carefully at the tectonic shifts. . . . Read the rest here: http://www.socialistproject.ca/bullet/bullet184.html.

Hitchens, Christopher. "The Revenge of Karl Marx." THE ATLANTIC (April 2009).

Until comparatively recently, with the slight exception perhaps of certain pockets within the academy, it was a general tendency among educated people as well, even those of radical temper, to put their old volumes of Marx up on the shelf reserved for the phlogiston theory. Would we again need to consult Critique of the Gotha Program, or the celebrated attacks on Dühring and Lassalle? A few of us kept a bit of powder dry, just in case the times should turn dialectical again. One or two writers predicted that Marx’s relevance would be rediscovered: John Cassidy was arguably the most surprising of these in that one hardly expected, in the fall of 1997, an essay from the economic specialist of The New Yorker announcing that the co-author of the 1848 Communist Manifesto could turn out to be “the next” significant intellectual for those whose job it was to study the markets. James Ledbetter, himself an accomplished business journalist, has since produced an admirable Penguin edition of Marx’s journalism (most of the best, which was very good indeed, having been produced for Horace Greeley’s New York Tribune). And Francis Wheen, who wrote a notable biography of Marx in 1999, has now published an anatomy of Capital (as I shall henceforth call it), which concludes with the opinion that Marx “could yet become the most influential thinker of the twenty-first century.” As I write this, every newspaper informs me of frantic efforts by merchants to unload onto the consumer, at almost any price, the vast surplus of unsold commodities that have accumulated since the credit crisis began to take hold. The phrase crisis of over-production, which I learned so many long winters ago in “agitational” meetings, recurs to my mind. On other pages, I learn that the pride of American capitalism has seized up and begun to rust, and that automobiles may cease even to be made in Detroit as a consequence of insane speculation in worthless paper “derivatives.” Did I not once read somewhere about the bitter struggle between finance capital and industrial capital? The lines of jobless and hungry begin to lengthen, and what more potent image of those lines do we possess than that of the “reserve army” of the unemployed—capital’s finest weapon in beating down the minimum wage and increasing the hours of the working week? A disturbance in a remote corner of the world market leads to chaos and panic at the very center of the system (and these symptoms are given a multiplier effect when the pangs begin at the center itself), and John Micklethwait and Adrian Wooldridge, doughty champions of capitalism at The Economist, admit straightforwardly in their book on the advantages of globalization that Marx, “as a prophet of the ‘universal interdependence of nations,’ as he called globalization … can still seem startlingly relevant … His description of globalization remains as sharp today as it was 150 years ago.” The falling rate of profit, the tendency to monopoly … how wrong could that old reading-room attendant have been? Not all of these ironies are at capitalism’s expense, or at least not in a way that can bring any smirk, however wintry, to the grizzled features of the old leftist. After all, who was predicting even 30 years ago that Russia and China would today be turbocharged capitalist systems, however discrepant in type? And the present crisis was actually triggered by a “subprime” attempt to transform low-income people into property owners, albeit indebted ones. . . . Read the rest here: http://www.theatlantic.com/doc/200904/hitchens-marx.

Horn, Karen. "Why Adam Smith Still Matters." STANDPOINT ONLINE (April 2009).

John Maynard Keynes is high in the list of bestselling books now. Adam Smith is not quite as popular. The reason is not that books from the 18th century tend to be a demanding read: Keynes's General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money, although from the 20th century, is no piece of cake either. Instead, the present global financial crisis has made the godfather of classical economics look strikingly irrelevant in comparison with Keynes, the inventor of modern disequilibrium theory. Even worse, now that bankers are being castigated as the incarnation of greed, blindness and irresponsibility, the man who wrote in his famous Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations that "it is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker" - or perhaps the banker in our day - "that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own interest" is again accused of being the chief advocate of heartless laissez-faire capitalism, a system that failed and had to fail. In this view, capitalism is nothing but a false religion, with Mammon as its god and Smith as its high priest. Critics worry that markets need a moral foundation that they automatically erode. They ridicule the naïve belief that free markets bring everybody happiness at no cost, a conviction allegedly lacking all philosophical underpinnings. This is entirely off the mark. The last thing one can say about Smith is that he lacked philosophical depth. A moral philosopher, Smith was a figure of the Scottish Enlightenment, a progressive school of philosophy with members including Francis Hutcheson, David Hume and Adam Ferguson. Their approach was inspired by Isaac Newton, perhaps the greatest scientist ever. His deep persuasion was that simply observing reality enables us to discover the underlying natural principles. The Scottish Enlightenment thinkers aimed at shedding light on the laws governing human behaviour, and on their consequences for life in society. . . .

Read the rest here: http://www.standpointmag.co.uk/node/1069/full.

Posner, Richard A. "Why the Economic Crisis Was Not Anticipated." CHRONICLE OF HIGHER EDUCATION April 17, 2009.

An article in the October 11 New York Times attributed the almost universal failure to anticipate our current economic crisis to "insanity" — more precisely, to a psychological inability to give proper weight to past events, so that if there is prosperity today we assume that it will last forever, even though we know that in the past booms have always been followed by busts. But experts on the business cycle, such as Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke, are not confined to basing predictions on naïve extrapolation. So why did he and other experts, inside and outside of government, neglect warning signs of a coming crash? Real-estate bubbles are common. The supply of "good" land is fixed in the short run, the housing stock is extremely durable and therefore does not expand rapidly when demand increases, and land and the improvements on it cannot be sold short. And the bursting of a real-estate bubble can lead to bank insolvencies — as it did in Japan in the 1990s — because most real estate has heavy indebtedness, financed by banks or other financial intermediaries, and real-estate debt is a significant fraction of all debt. When the rise in housing prices began to slow in 2005 after an increase of more than 60 percent since 2000, the press began talking about a housing bubble. Newspaper articles featured such headlines as "Housing Bubble Is Real, So Don't Get Hurt When It Finally Pops," "If Housing Bubble Pops, Look Out!," and "Hear a Pop? Watch Out." Yet in October of that year, Bernanke, then on the Fed's board of governors, denied there was a housing bubble, saying that "these price increases largely reflect strong economic fundamentals." The alarm bells were sounded ever more loudly in the following years. On August 17, 2008 — just a month before the financial tsunami struck — The New York Times Magazine published an article revealingly titled "Dr. Doom" about an economist at New York University named Nouriel Roubini, who, for years, had been predicting with uncanny accuracy what has happened. Two years earlier Roubini had "announced that a crisis was brewing. In the coming months and years, he warned, the United States was likely to face a once-in-a-lifetime housing bust, an oil shock, sharply declining consumer confidence and, ultimately, a deep recession. He laid out a bleak sequence of events: homeowners defaulting on mortgages, trillions of dollars of mortgage-backed securities unraveling worldwide, and the global financial system shuddering to a halt. These developments, he went on, could cripple or destroy hedge funds, investment banks, and other major financial institutions like Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac." No one in a position of authority in government, and very few in business or academe, heeded the warnings. In May 2007 Bernanke said, "We see no serious broader spillover to banks or thrift institutions from the problems in the subprime market," though by then many banks and thrift institutions were insolvent. In February 2008 he said, "I expect there will be some failures," referring to smaller regional banks that had invested heavily in mortgage-backed securities, but "among the largest banks, the capital ratios remain good, and I don't anticipate any serious problems of that sort among the large, internationally active banks that make up a very substantial part of our banking system." The financial crisis, when it finally struck the nation full-blown in September 2008, caught the government, the financial community, and the economics profession unawares. . . . And not just Republican officials and the economists who advise them. President Bill Clinton's economic policies were shaped by establishment Wall Street figures, such as Robert Rubin, along with economists like Alan Greenspan, a conservative, and Lawrence H. Summers, a moderate. The many positive experiences with deregulation and privatization, the many economic success stories that followed the collapse of communism, and the many failure stories of countries that curtail economic freedom supported this belief system and made it bipartisan. There hadn't been a depression in the United States since the 1930s, and economists believed and were assuring the public that there would never be another one because they had learned how to prevent depressions. Overconfidence is a common cause of being surprised. . . . Read the rest here: http://chronicle.com/temp/reprint.php?id=1n299m9tcq02w99lgc8x14v0qdc9cmpd.

Nealon, Jeffrey T. Review of Bernard Stiegler's ACTING OUT. NDPR (April 2009).

Stiegler, Bernard. Acting Out. Trans. David Barison, Daniel Ross, and Patrick Crogan. Stanford: Stanford UP, 2009. Acting Out consists of a very fine translation of two brief 2003 books by French philosopher and social critic Bernard Stiegler: Passer à l'acte, which is translated under the title "How I Became a Philosopher"; and Aimer, s'aimer, nous aimer: Du 11 septembre au 21 avril, which is rendered here as "To Love, to Love Me, to Love Us: From September 11 to April 21." "How I Became a Philosopher" is an account of just that, a memoir of Stiegler's "passage to the act" of philosophy, with special emphasis on his five years of imprisonment for armed robbery (1978-83), where he first began this difficult passage. This text is a lyrical, elliptical, and philosophically rich recounting of Stiegler's own transformation, under the most dire conditions, in and through the practices of thinking. "To Love" is a very different kind of text, a piece of social criticism that takes the form of an extended meditation on what Stiegler calls the "loss of individuation" (39) under contemporary consumption capitalism, pointing out the toxic, violent effects of de-individuation for both the individual and the community (or, in Stiegler's preferred Hegelian vocabulary, the "I" and the "we"). . . . Read the whole review here: http://ndpr.nd.edu/review.cfm?id=15885.

Sperry, Elizabeth A. Review of Lorenzo Fabbri's THE DOMESTICATION OF DERRIDA. NDPR (April 2009).

Fabbri, Lorenzo. The Domestication of Derrida: Rorty, Pragmatism and Deconstruction. London: Continuum, 2008. Profound disagreement can be more comfortable for interested parties than a family resemblance between broadly similar approaches. Where there is a shared bloodline, more complete alignment seems within reach, if only the other side would wise up on a few details. Derrida and Rorty are just such philosophical siblings. Each appreciated the other, but expressed puzzlement at aspects of the other's work. The puzzlement was all the more vexing because seemingly irresolvable, despite Derrida's and Rorty's shared project of questioning philosophical absolutes. Lorenzo Fabbri passes judgment on this scene of sibling strife in The Domestication of Derrida: Rorty, Pragmatism and Deconstruction. Adjudicating a dispute over fine points requires care: it demands an accurate portrayal of each account and a thoughtful sifting of differences. Unfortunately, Fabbri routinely fails to demonstrate such care. Nevertheless, The Domestication of Derrida may prove useful to some non-Continental philosophers, given its accessible treatment of Derrida. Juxtaposing Derrida and Rorty enables Fabbri to piggyback some of Derrida's ideas on Rorty's, a device that could be helpful to American readers already familiar with Rorty. Fabbri sets himself three tasks: first, to explore areas of agreement between Derrida and Rorty; second, to present Rorty's failings as an interpreter of Derrida; and third, to expose Rorty's own philosophical shortcomings. Fabbri's title initially suggests a primary focus on Derrida, but in fact Fabbri is largely occupied with assessing Rorty. This is no bait and switch: it makes perfect sense given Derrida's and Rorty's overlapping intellectual territory. Fabbri writes in a continental style, as befits a monograph in the Continuum Studies in Continental Philosophy Series. While pursuing his three aims, Fabbri expostulates on Benjamin, Harold Bloom, De Man, Foucault, Habermas, Hegel, Heidegger, Husserl, Kant, and Nietzsche. Analytic philosophers might consider these discussions to be unfocussed digressions; continental philosophers may see them as interesting intellectual back-story. Still, it is surprising that a book announcing Rorty's shortcomings finds so much time and space for so many other thinkers, when so little time and space is devoted to independent textual analysis of Rorty's oeuvre. . . . Read the whole review here: http://ndpr.nd.edu/review.cfm?id=15867.

Cfp: "The Semiotics of Time," 34th Annual Meeting, Semiotic Society of America, University of Cincinnati, October 15-18, 2009.

Further information is available here: http://www.uwf.edu/tprewitt/2009SSAcallFINAL.htm.

Shieh, Sanford. Review of Robert Brandom's BETWEEN SAYING AND DOING. NDPR (April 2009).

Brandom, Robert. Between Saying and Doing: Towards an Analytic Pragmatism. Oxford: OUP, 2008. Ever since Richard Rorty's Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature, many have thought that there is a long-standing, perhaps dominant, philosophical tradition -- of which analytic philosophy is the most recent instance -- according to which the essence of language is representation of the world. On this supposed tradition, words refer to aspects of the world, and statements composed of words represent, truly or falsely, facts about the parts of the world to which words refer. Rorty also taught us that this conception of language is opposed by pragmatism, according to which the purportedly fundamental representational notions of reference and truth are in fact grounded on conceptually prior notions of the use of language, such as asserting and inferring. Brandom's monumental Making It Explicit (MIE) is usually taken to be the most influential articulation and defense of pragmatism in contemporary philosophy. We learn from Brandom's Afterword in Between Saying and Doing (BSD) that this book's project is distinct from that of MIE. In particular, in BSD, Brandom presents a new "theoretical apparatus," "meaning-use analysis," which he takes to be a way of extending, rather than opposing, the "classical project" of analytic philosophy by incorporating the insights of its pragmatist critics. Nevertheless, meaning-use analysis grew "out of [Brandom's] thinking about what [he] was doing in" MIE (234), and many of the main examples of meaning-use analysis recount arguments and doctrines from MIE. Thus, not only is this new style of analysis significant in its own right, it helps us understand better both the views of MIE and the nature of its philosophical project. I will accordingly do two things in this review. First, I will give an account of meaning-use analysis, raising a few questions along the way. Second, I will, by focusing on Brandom's analysis of modality, discuss his conception of the enterprise of meaning-use analysis and its consequences for the metaphilosophical status of MIE. The project of BSD is motivated by a particular conception of analytic philosophy and its history. On Brandom's reading, the central concern of analytic philosophy is with semantic reduction or reconstruction relations among "vocabularies." This concern manifests itself in two core programs: empiricism and naturalism. Both seek to show how the meanings expressed by philosophically problematic vocabularies can be reconstructed from the meanings expressed by philosophically privileged vocabularies with the help of logical vocabulary, the use of which is always taken to be legitimate. These programs differ over which vocabularies are privileged, the former going for phenomenal or observational vocabulary, the latter for the vocabulary of physics or of the natural sciences. They differ to a lesser extent on what kinds of talk are problematic. Empiricism, for instance, tends to attempt to reduce objective vocabulary, talk of how things are, to phenomenal vocabulary, talk of how things seem; while naturalism tends to take objective vocabulary for granted. But both programs tend to treat modal, normative, semantic, and intentional vocabularies as targets for reconstruction. Like Rorty, Brandom takes this classical analytic project to be decisively challenged by pragmatism, which urged a "displacement from the center of philosophical attention of the notion of meaning in favor of that of use . . . , replacing concern with semantics by concern with pragmatics" (3). . . . Read the whole review here: http://ndpr.nd.edu/review.cfm?id=15886.

"Nietzsche in New York," Hunter College, CUNY, April 30-May 2, 2009.

Update: The programme has been announced: Thursday April 30:
  • 9.30am-10.45am: Simon Robertson (Southampton): "Nietzsche and Practical Reason."
  • 11am-12.15pm: Martine Prange (Amsterdam): "Kant and Nietzsche, Conflict and Cosmopolitanism."
  • 1.30pm-2.45pm: Robert Guay (Binghamton): "Order of Rank."
  • 2.45pm-4pm: Jessica Berry (Georgia State): "'Perfect Moral Skeptics': Moral Skepticism in Nietzsche and Moral Disagreement in the Skeptics."
  • 4.15pm-5.30pm: Babette Babich (Fordham/Georgetown): "From Nietzsche to Adorno on Anarchy, Socialism and Nihilism: Modern Science, Conservation, and the Anarchist’s Cry: Ni Dieu, ni Mâitre."
Friday May 1:
  • 9.30am-10.45am: Heike Schotten (UMass Boston): "Reading Nietzsche in the Wake of the 2008-09 War on Gaza." 11am-12.15pm: Dirk Johnson (Hampden-Sydney): "A Reading of GM II: 1-5: Aspects of Nietzsche's Challenge to Darwin's Evolutionary Paradigm."
  • 1.30pm-2.45pm: Mark Migotti (Calgary): "Priests, Philosophers and the Ascetic Ideal: Towards a Reading of On the Genealogy of Morality III."
  • 2.45pm-4pm: Gary Shapiro (Richmond): "States and Nomads: Hegel's World and Nietzsche's Earth."
  • 4.15pm-5.30pm: Ken Gemes (Birkbeck/Southampton): "Freud and Nietzsche on Sublimation."

Saturday May 2:

  • 10am-11.15am: Christian Emden (Rice): "Against Moral Communities: Political Realism in Friedrich Nietzsche and Max Weber."
  • 11.30-12.45pm: Dan Conway (Texas A&M): "The Community Organizer and the Provincial Governor: Beholding Nietzsche in Ecce Homo."
Original Post (April 22, 2009): Nietzsche in New York (NiNY) is an annual meeting of scholars whose research focuses on Nietzsche's philosophy and related areas. It is intended to be a productive, interactive event where we help each other define problems and ways of addressing them. NiNY aims to build a community that provides one of the only opportunities in the United States for specialists and researchers in allied sub-fields to discuss Nietzsche (and related topics) over the course of several days. The primary goals are to share information and give and receive helpful criticism of recent and new research. Papers and presentations need not be strictly limited to discussion of Nietzsche; works on areas of contemporary philosophy to which Nietzsche is relevant are certainly welcome. NiNY 2009 speakers are: Babette Babich (Fordham/Georgetown) Jessica Berry (Georgia State) Dan Conway (Texas A&M) Christian Emden (Rice) Ken Gemes (Birkbeck/Southampton) Robert Guay (Binghamton) Dirk Johnson (Hampden-Sydney) Mark Migotti (Calgary) Martine Prange (Amsterdam) Simon Robertson (Southampton) Heike Schotten (UMass Boston) Gary Shapiro (Richmond) Further information is here: http://www.hunter.cuny.edu/philosophy/jns/NiNY09.shtml.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Posnock, Ross. "Black Is Brilliant." THE NEW REPUBLIC April 15, 2009.

Harris, Leonard, and Charles Molesworth. Alain Locke: the Biography of a Philosopher. Chicago: U of Chicago P, 2009. Locke remains best known as a prime catalyst of the blossoming of black literary and artistic life in 1925 known as the Harlem Renaissance, which he showcased in his landmark anthology The New Negro. Always a controversial figure--"the high priest of the intellectual snobbocracy" was not an untypical reaction--Locke is now the subject of a first biography that rescues him from caricature and brings alive his distinctive fashioning of the role of black intellectual. Like Du Bois, Locke studied at the University of Berlin before taking a Harvard doctorate. And as they returned from the relative freedom of Europe, both men would wrestle with "unreconciled strivings," as Du Bois called the tension between race man and aesthete, between puritan and pagan, between the pursuit of social justice and the self-cultivation embodied in their cherished German ideal of Bildung. It was a homegrown figure, William James, whom Du Bois and Locke held in common as an intellectual touchstone. Of his Harvard mentor, Du Bois had declared in his autobiography: "God be praised that I landed squarely in the arms of William James." James had pretty much retired from teaching by the time Locke entered Harvard, but when he lectured at Oxford in 1908, Locke was a most receptive member of the audience. James's pragmatism spoke with particular urgency to these black thinkers. Along with Franz Boas's anthropology, which was another crucial influence on both Du Bois and Locke, pragmatism was a tool that virtually stood alone from turn-of-the-century behavioral and social sciences in opposing the theory and the practice of white supremacy. Pragmatist pluralism, like Boasian contextualism, dismissed what James called "all the great single word answers to the world's riddle, such as God, the One ... Nature" and "The Truth," as "perfect idols of the rationalistic mind!" Locke possessed a cool detachment that was the source of a remarkable self-awareness and absence of self-pity, qualities that allowed him to minimize and to manage the pathos that inevitably afflicted an American of his gifts, ambitions, and color. Like all black intellectuals of his era he found himself "trapped between two worlds," but unlike many others Locke seemed to resolve the frustrations. Unlike Du Bois, he did not make a career out of them. He would never be capable, at least in public, of the flamboyant histrionics that Du Bois displays at the start of his autobiography: "Crucified on the vast wheel of time, I flew round and round with the Zeitgeist, waving my pen ... to see, foresee and prophesy." The audacity of Du Bois's mind set him apart, and eventually made him a worldhistorical figure. Locke knew his own limits and was guided by a stoic steadiness and an irony about himself that helped him to persevere and thereby to avoid becoming one more burned-out case, the fate of many of his famous Harlem friends. Refusing to be a "problem," Locke instead led a life "in the key of paradox, " as he retrospectively remarked. And his cultivation of paradox has always kept him out of focus. Contemporary scholars tend to simplify by casting him either as a race man or an apolitical aesthete. Yet in fact, as Leonard Harris and Charles Molesworth show, Locke kept up the pressure on both roles, as his thought continually refined itself and deepened. Though he wrote excellent literary journalism, he was primarily an academic philosopher, and the slim amount of his published work reflected a pace customary in his discipline. If and when he is read these days it is for his introduction to The New Negro. . . . Read the whole review here: http://www.tnr.com/story_print.html?id=e9d5f5c3-16b0-4506-ac08-2911400f4ad4.

Cfp: "Healthcare Disparities." DREW UNIVERSITY JOURNAL OF MEDICAL HUMANITIES 2 (forthcoming).

The Drew University Journal of Medical Humanities (DMH) is looking for submissions for its second edition on the topic of healthcare disparities. Suggested threads include: Health/illness/access to care and social disparities (e.g. urban versus rural communities)Health/illness/access to care and racial/ethnic disparities Heath/illness/access to care and socioeconomic disparities Health/illness/access to care and disparities with regard to other demographic information (e.g.: gender, age, etc.) Healthcare as a right Social justice v. market justice Health care reform that might respond to or rectify the above disparities We welcome discussions on these topics from the standpoints of bioethics, public health, medical anthropology, health policy, medical narrative, and history of medicine. As medical humanities is highly interdisciplinary, we encourage submissions from whatever your field of expertise. We hope this edition of DMH will offer a greater understanding of the issues that we face as a national community in trying to determine what health care justice encompasses. DMH publishes peer-reviewed, original research of an interdisciplinary nature, aimed at breaking down conventional boundaries, bridging the gaps between the humanities, social science, technology, medical education, and public policy, and inviting an honest discussion about the human experience of illness and the need for a more humane approach to health care. DMH, like the field of Medical Humanities as a whole, is committed to infusing medical education and practice with ethical, historical, social, and cultural meaning. DMH engages and informs scholars across all disciplines, health care professionals, health care consumers, medical educators, and policy-makers. Giving a platform to a range of diverse voices, DMH publishes articles that advance the work of Medical Humanities in general as well as articles that focus on special issues or symposia topics. Submitted manuscripts undergo a rigorous peer-review and editorial procedure to ensure the academic integrity of all published work. Please send a statement of intent to Managing Editors Elizabeth Fehsenfeld (aefehsenf@drew.edu) and Katie Grogan (akgrogan@drew.edu). Manuscripts should be submitted no later than June 12, 2009 and will be reviewed by members of the editorial advisory board. Manuscripts should be formatted in Microsoft Word or WordPerfect, with one inch margins and twelve point font, and should be in the range of 2500 to 3500 words. All copy, including quotations, footnotes, and references should conform to the guidelines of the Chicago Manual of Style, Fifteenth Edition. Please include a cover sheet with: name, title, address, phone number, email address, affiliation. Submissions can be emailed to the managing editors or mailed to: Editor—Drew University Journal of Medical Humanities Caspersen School of Graduate Studies, Drew University, Madison, New Jersey 07940-4000, USA.

Death: Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick (1950-2009).

Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, whose critical writings on the ambiguities of sexual identity in fiction helped create the discipline known as queer studies, died April 13 in Manhattan. She was 58.

Read the New York Times obituary here: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/04/15/arts/15sedgwick.html?_r=2&adxnnl=1&emc=eta1&adxnnlx=1239984171-lMriwPkxnTyRBSRwXMQDlg.

Read a tribute here: http://www.hastac.org/node/2081.

Pub: THE SYMPTOM 10 (2009).

Contents: Visit the journal homepage here: http://www.lacan.com/thesymptom/. (thanks to www.continental-philosophy.org)

Eagleton, Terry. "Culture and Barbarism: Metaphysics in a Time of Terrorism." COMMONWEAL March 27, 2009.

Why are the most unlikely people, including myself, suddenly talking about God? Who would have expected theology to rear its head once more in the technocratic twenty-first century, almost as surprisingly as some mass revival of Zoroastrianism? Why is it that my local bookshop has suddenly sprouted a section labeled “Atheism,” hosting anti-God manifestos by Christopher Hitchens, Richard Dawkins, and others, and might even now be contemplating another marked “Congenital Skeptic with Mild Baptist Leanings”? Why, just as we were confidently moving into a posttheological, postmetaphysical, even posthistorical era, has the God question broken out anew? . . . Read Eagleton's answer here: http://www.commonwealmagazine.org/article.php3?id_article=2488.

"Bourdieu and Literature," Humanities Research Centre, University of Warwick, May 16, 2009.

Pierre Bourdieu (1930-2002) was one of the pre-eminent figures in a French intellectual field that included Barthes, Blanchot, Derrida, Foucault and Lyotard, and which launched semiology, deconstruction and postmodernism. Highly influential in the disciplines of sociology, anthropology and cultural studies, and highly visible in his later years as an outspoken public intellectual, Bourdieu’s legacy continues to inspire research and debate across national frontiers and academic disciplines. Supported by the Warwick Humanities Research Centre and the French Studies Society, the Bourdieu and Literature conference comes at a moment of growing interest in Bourdieu’s work on literature. Bringing together scholars and staff from across the faculties, the Bourdieu and Literature conference will provide both an introduction to Bourdieu’s work on literature, and a supportive workshop environment to test ideas. Speakers will demonstrate and explore the range and potential of Bourdieu’s theory and method of literary analysis; examine the place of language and literature in Bourdieu's work; and discuss recent attempts to take Bourdieu's theory of literary fields to the transnational level. Featuring internationally recognized keynotes Anna Boschetti, Jeremy Lane, Michael Grenfell and Neil Lazarus, this conference will attract delegates in both the humanities and the social sciences who have either an established or emerging interest in Bourdieu. Due to the generalizability of Bourdieu’s concepts and methodology, the Bourdieu and Literature conference will be relevant to researchers and academics working across the range of national literary traditions, including French, German, Italian and English. Sociologists will also benefit from this opportunity to reflect on an underexamined but central component in Bourdieu’s intellectual project. Visit the conference homepage here: http://www2.warwick.ac.uk/fac/arts/hrc/confs/bl.

Pub: THE AGONIST 2.1 (2009).

The Agonist is published by the Nietzsche Circle.


  • “On the Sublime in Dawn” by Keith Ansell-Pearson WEB PDF


  • Circulus Vitiosus by Pierre Klossowski; translated by Joseph D. Kuzma WEB PDF


  • Jill Marsden interviewed by Christopher Branson, University of Warwick WEB PDF


  • Rhetorical Allure, Real Evil: Claire Ortiz Hill, The Roots and Flowers of Evil in Baudelaire, Nietzsche, and Hitler written by Claire Ortiz Hill, reviewed by Angela Holzer, Princeton University WEB PDF
  • Only a Promise of Happiness: The Place of Beauty in a World of Art written by Alexander Nehamas, reviewed by Jill Marsden, University of Bolton WEB PDF
  • Metaphysics without Truth: On the Importance of Consistency within Nietzsche’s Philosophy written by Stefan Lorenz Sorgner, reviewed by Yunus Tuncel, Ph.D., The New School WEB PDF


  • Pierre Klossowski: Works in English & Translations compiled by Rainer J. Hanshe WEB PDF

Visit the journal homepage here: http://nietzschecircle.com/AGONIST/agonist.html.

Sunday, April 19, 2009


Anthropocentrism can be a charge of human chauvinism, yet it can also be an acknowledgement of the boundaries of human consciousness; it is in tension with nature, the environment and nonhuman animals; and it is in apparent contrast to other-worldly cosmologies, religions and philosophies. Anthropocentrism has provided order and structure to humans' understanding of the world, while unavoidably expressing the limits of that understanding. It influences our ethics, our politics, and the moral status of others, yet how thoroughly is the concept and its history understood? This collection seeks essays that question the assumptions behind the label anthropocentrism, specifically aiming critically to enquire into presuppositions about the meaning of 'human'. The book will look fundamentally to understand what is anthropos in anthropocentrism. What are the epistemological and ontological problems of charges of anthropocentrism? Are not all human views inherently so? What scope is there for objective, 'ejective' or empathetic views that genuinely, and not merely rhetorically, trump anthropocentrism? In addition, essays may explore the history of anthropocentric ideas and their relation to, or implications for, the nonhuman world. Possible contributions on anthropocentrism include discussions relating to: the moral status of nonhuman animals; the history of theology; spirits, angels and God(s); humanism; creation and/or dominion; the history of science and scientific research (vivisection, Darwinism, etc.); the history of the environment and environmental activism/conservation; concepts of nature. Topics are not place or period limited. The collection as a whole should serve as a course text for classes in intellectual history or the history of philosophy, as well as being pertinent to animal studies, environmental studies, theology and philosophy. Please send abstracts of no more than 500 words, with an accompanying CV to Rob Boddice, boddice@hotmail.co.uk, by May 15th, 2009. For further information, visit: http://independent.academia.edu/RobBoddice.

Diagne, Souleymane Bachir. Review of David Sherman's CAMUS. NDPR (April 2009).

Sherman, David. Camus. Oxford: Blackwell, 2009.

The last section of the chapter before the "Epilogue" of David Sherman's Camus is titled "Rebirth", an appropriate title for many reasons. First, because the section is devoted to an examination of Albert Camus' last (in fact posthumously published) work, The First Man, a largely autobiographical text which relates the birth and upbringing of the narrator as well as the experience of the pieds-noirs, the European settlers who established themselves in Algeria after 1848, looking for a new life in what became home for them and their descendants. Second, this text was the unfinished manuscript that Camus was carrying with him when his life met its end in a fatal car crash on January 4, 1960. It is difficult not to see in the posthumous publication of the work found on the very site of the crash some form of rebirth of its author, especially because the book turned out to be an important factor in changing the perception many had of Camus as an intellectual who failed to support the Algerian nationalists fighting for their independence. Another Camus scholar, David Carroll, states that The First Man changed his perception of Camus' position on the Algerian war as it did for many others (Albert Camus the Algerian, Columbia UP, 2007). So, indeed, the publication of The First Man does mark a rebirth for its author at a time when the collapse of ideological certitudes means that Camus is no longer persona non grata and can be read afresh as "a philosopher of our times after all" to quote the last words of Sherman's book.

In 1994, the year The First Man was published, five years after the collapse of the Berlin wall, the intellectual world was ready for Albert Camus' rebirth and also ready to reread his work. He had been ostracized and ignored by the intelligentsia on the Left following the publication in 1955 of The Rebel (without being any more palatable to the Right). In the 1980's, the discredit into which Communism had fallen had led to some reconsideration of The Rebel's ethical posture which endorsed neither Capitalism nor Communism. David Sherman rightly states that "in the 1990's a renewed commitment to such cosmopolitan ethico-political concerns as dialogue and human rights" could not but bring back Albert Camus as "a man for our times" since those constitute, ultimately, what he championed as an intellectual and a writer all his life. In 1996 Olivier Todd's monumental biography, Albert Camus, une vie (Gallimard), translated into English the following year (Albert Camus: a Life, Alfred A. Knopf), was another milestone in this comeback. David Sherman's Camus in the Blackwell Great Minds series is certainly a sign that now Albert Camus has found the place he deserves among Western thinkers whose voice our times must hear.

Sherman's book provides an excellent account of Camus' fortunes and misfortunes in the intellectual realm in France immediately following the war. . . .

Read the whole review here: http://ndpr.nd.edu/review.cfm?id=15847.




Contents: ARTICLES




  • "Narrative and the Psychology of Character" (p 61-71) by GREGORY CURRIE Abstract Full Text: HTML, PDF (Size: 134K) Save Article
  • "Virtual People: Fictional Characters through the Frames of Reality" (p 73-82) by IRA NEWMAN Abstract Full Text: HTML, PDF (Size: 121K) Save Article



Visit the journal homepage here: http://www3.interscience.wiley.com/journal/120083102/home.

Pinkard, Terry. Review of Beatrice Longuenesse's HEGEL'S CRITIQUE OF METAPHYSICS. NDPR (April 2009).

Longuenesse, Béatrice. Hegel's Critique of Metaphysics. Cambridge: CUP, 2007. One of the issues facing any study of Hegel's Logic has to do with one of the most contested themes in the current Hegel revival: Just what is Hegel's philosophical relation to Kant (and by implication Hegelianism's relation to the great Kant revival itself of the last several years)? It is a big, almost unmanageable question, but it is a good sign that one of the most influential people in Kant-studies has now finally published in English her study of Hegel's Logic. Those who have admired Béatrice Longuenesse's book on Kant will find equally as much to admire here; along with her usual insight and close attention to detail, there is also her ability to write and think clearly on demandingly abstruse topics in a highly readable way. As always, there is also much more to a book like this than a reviewer can even suggest. I will have to confine myself to a few of the highlights. Although at first glance Longuenesse's book might look like only a limited study of a limited part of only one section of Hegel's system (the doctrine of reflection in the section of Hegel's Logic called "Essence"), she in fact has much larger goals in its sight. Longuenesse begins with a focus on Hegel's well known claim in the Phenomenology that the task of Hegel's philosophy is to show how "substance" must become "subject." There is a traditional reading of this claim which holds that this means that we must conceive of the underlying "substance" of the world as something more like a kind of monist holism that sees reality as a whole (a totality), which is itself to be conceived as something along the lines of a cosmic mind developing itself (and is thus usually identified with God). Very sophisticated versions of this more traditional view have recently appeared from Frederick Beiser and Paul Franks. This traditional reading has been subjected to quite a bit of criticism from what is called the "post-Kantian" interpretation (or sometimes, somewhat misleadingly, the "non-metaphysical" interpretation) of Hegel. Longuenesse's interpretation belongs mostly to the latter camp, but her post-Kantian Hegel is post-Kantian with a difference. . . . Read the whole review here: http://ndpr.nd.edu/review.cfm?id=15849.

"Communities and Networks in the Ancient Greek World," Department of Classics, Trinity College Dublin, July 6-9, 2009.

Communities are the cornerstone of any society, but Greek history is often focused on the communities of citizens. Studies of other groups are often defined by their opposition to this citizen community: citizen/foreigner, free/slave, male/female etc. Literary accounts, written predominantly by a wealthy male citizen elite, often emphasise these differences, but status distinctions are much less distinguishable outside of legalistic or ideological contexts. In visual culture it is difficult to discern these kinds of status differentials. In material culture it is almost impossible.This conference aims to move away from these polarities to examine the formation of communities and the networks of interaction between different groups in the classical and early hellenistic periods. Status could be a fluid concept: slaves, foreigners and citizens worked side-by-side; they lived together, dedicated to the gods together, and were receptive to similar cultural impulses. The conference therefore aims to examine the following questions: • What constituted a ‘community’ within the Greek world? • What networks did people create, belong to, and destroy? • How were different groups of people interconnected, and how did they negotiate the ‘boundaries’ between them? • How did communities change in response to social, political, economic impulses? • How can we use networks to access the lives and activities of people for whom little traditional evidence survives? Visit the conference homepage here: http://www.tcd.ie/Classics/cnagw/index.php.

"Nietzsche on Nihilism and the Affirmation of Life," Institute of Philosophy, University of London, May 15-16, 2009.

Programme: FRIDAY 10.00 Registration & coffee 10.30 Bernard Reginster (Brown University) "Nihilism, Affirmation, and the Cult of the Untrue" 12.15 Lunch (own arrangements) 1.30 Simon May (Birkbeck) "Affirmation without Justification" 3.15 Tea 3.30 Ken Gemes (Birkbeck) "Nihilism and the Paradox of Affirmation" 5.15 Close SATURDAY 9.30 Christopher Janaway (Southampton) "Affirmation and the horrible truth?" 11.15 Tea 11.30 Panel Discussion 1.30 Close The conference webpage is here: http://www.philosophy.sas.ac.uk/Nietzsche.htm.

Cfp: "The Roots of Europe," Institute of Philosophy Edith Stein, International Academy of Philosophy, Granada, June 30-July 2, 2009.

In celebrating 150 years of Edmund Husserl´s birth, and 55 years of the complete publication of The Crisis of European Sciences, the Institute of Philosophy Edith Stein and the International Academy of Philosophy are organizing an International Conference in Granada under the title "The Roots of Europe." The conference aims to join specialists in Husserl's work, in phenomenology and in European studies to reflect on the cultural, moral and spiritual roots of Europe. Visit the conference webpage here: http://www.if-edithstein.org/actividades/ing/Acticongreso2.php.

Cfp: "Beyond Boundaries: Media, Culture and Identity in Europe," Bahcesehir University, Istanbul, October 2-3, 2009.

What is Europe according to its others? An essence, an origin, a center? Or is it nothingness, a void or chiasm? Where is Europe? In diasporic or migrant spaces? How is Europe different from the West? Can an identity be made European? Could it be Eurocentric or Euro-chiasmic? Can one leave one's cultural frame to take on another? Can one transnationalize and/or regionalize a national identity or vice versa? Can the European Union create a single entity or a grand signifier of Europe out of multiple differences? What is the role of communication, media, and culture in such exchanges, transformations, processes and practices? Can we account for the similarities, proximities, and relations or should we focus on the differences, cleavages, and tensions? This conference aims to explore the questions above and how such questions surface in media and cultural texts, ranging from everyday practices to media representations. The papers may deal with various meanings of Europe and its relation to non-European cultures, and how these are experienced or altered at the level of media, culture, and identity. Possible paper topics are: Eurocentrism and its alternatives Transnationalism and nationalisms Global, regional, and local media and culture Diasporic and migrant culture and identities Gender equality and cultural diversity Tactics and strategies of dialogue between cultures Symbolic representations of Europe in various cultural practices Theories of European cinema, media and culture Challenges for European cinema, media, and cultural studies European communication studies and strategies The EU policies on media, communication, and culture Visit the conference homepage here: http://www.emcs.bahcesehir.edu.tr/conference.html.

Friday, April 10, 2009

"Appropriating the Past: the Uses and Abuses of Cultural Heritage," Centre for the Ethics of Cultural Heritage, Durham University, July 6-8, 2009.

This two-day conference should be of wide appeal to archaeologists, anthropologists, philosophers, lawyers and others with an interest in the ethical principles and problems associated with the concept of cultural heritage. The meeting will open with four invited lectures to introduce the conference theme and relate it to the specific aims and methods of the new Centre. In recent years, the right of archaeologists to erect ‘Keep Out' signs around what they conceive of as the archaeological record has come under increasing challenge from other interest groups which may assert equal or superior rights to access, utilise and manage those remains, or to determine their significance. So a decorated bronze vessel which for an archaeologist is primarily a source of information to be extracted by academically approved methods may be, to other eyes, a sacred or tabooed object, an anchor of social or cultural identity, a work of art, or a legitimate source of hard cash. These different perceptions correspond to different forms of appropriating the past, and they can give rise to sharp practical conflicts. This conference will explore some of the key ethical issues raised by the competing modes in which archaeologists and others appropriate the past. These include: rights to interpret the past and tell stories about it; handling the sacred; the concept and ethics of birthright; local versus national versus international rights over sites, antiquities and artefacts; roles and responsibilities of museums; duties/rights of international intervention to defend antiquities; study and custodianship of human remains; looting and the antiquities trade; the economic exploitation of sites and resources; duties of preservation for future generations; the use of destructive research techniques; the roles of codes of ethics and of legal frameworks. Keynote Speakers: Professor James O. Young (Philosophy, University of Victoria, Canada) Professor Robert Layton (Anthropology, Durham University, UK) Dr John Curtis OBE (Keeper, Dept. of Middle East, British Museum, UK) Ms Janet Ulph (Law, Durham University, UK). Visit the conference homepage here: http://www.dur.ac.uk/cech/conferences/appropriatingthepast/.

"Culture and Media: Local and Global Aspects," Faculty of Philosophy, Vilnius University, May 22-23, 2009.

Even though networking of the world by means of various media is obvious, the impact of this process is rather ambiguous. On the one hand, the media seem to be shaping new transnational global culture, where there is "no sense of place" (J. Meyrowitz) and the wide cultural variety seems to be getting unified into global media culture. On the other hand, global media evokes local reactions, interpretations and resistance to the global culture. This ambiguity raises questions about the media itself: what are they, powerful tools of cultural transmission, or means of constructing culture? The aim of the conference is to contribute to the analysis of interconnections between media and culture both on the global and on the local level. Possible topics include, but are not limited to, the following: * The impact of the media on social life * Media and the construction of identity (nationality, ethnicity, gender) * Mediatization of politics, everyday life and the public sphere * Place of media theorizing in contemporary discourse of humanities * Media art and its place in contemporary culture The conference will be hosted by Faculty of Philosophy, Vilnius University together with Institute of Media Studies, Ruhr-University Bochum and Institute of Philosophy, National Academy of Sciences of Belarus. Further information and application form: http://www.filosofija.vu.lt/media.