Sunday, September 27, 2009

Porter, Bernard. "The Anglo World of Settlers, not Dominators." TLS September 23, 2009.

Belich, James. Replenishing the Earth: the Settler Revolution and the Rise of the Anglo-World. Oxford: OUP, 2009. Writing history is largely a matter of what filters you use. Different-coloured filters bring out different patterns. For most recent chroniclers and analysts of the Anglo-Americanization of the world in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, the filters used have been those that show up the “imperialism” of the process. The most startling novelty of James Belich’s Replenishing the Earth: The Settler Revolution and the Rise of the Anglo-World is that it scarcely mentions imperialism at all, except to marginalize it (“with all due respect to the rich scholarship on European imperialism, in the very long view most European empires in Asia and Africa were a flash in the pan”); yet it still makes a pretty convincing job of explaining the huge and important process that is its subject. Even where it does not totally convince, it is immensely illuminating, as new filters invariably are. This is one of the most important works on the broad processes of modern world history to have appeared for years – arguably since Sir Charles Dilke’s pioneering Greater Britain introduced a concept very like Belich’s “Anglo-world” to his Victorian contemporaries in 1868. Dilke’s book was written before the word “imperialism” came into vogue, at least in connection with British overseas expansion. Empire carries essential connotations of power, or domination, whose major manifestation in Britain’s case was India – which again finds no place in Belich’s book, and hardly featured in Dilke’s either. Dilke was interested in something else: the migration of the British people over the globe, including North America; with the aid of some state power, certainly – the general protection afforded by the Royal Navy, occasional military expeditions to pull the migrants out of trouble, charters and treaties – but not in order to dominate anyone. Rather, the aim was to reproduce British-type “free” societies, usually freer than Britain’s own, in what were conveniently regarded as the “waste” places of the earth. Belich calls this “cloning”. It was an entirely different process from the more dominating sort of “imperialism”, representing a different philosophy, involving different social classes, and mainly affecting different regions of the world. Belich believes that it was a far more important influence than what is generally understood as imperialism on the whole course of modern history. Belich’s approach brings out two further features obscured by conventional models. First, “settlerism” was transnational, in several senses, quite apart from the obvious one that it pushed beyond national frontiers. Other peoples did it besides Britons or even northern Europeans: Belich has interesting sections on Iberian, Chinese and Russian movements of settlement, the last-named mainly in Siberia, uncannily similar in many ways to the great “Anglo” ones. Or, rather, the “Anglo” one; for Belich is insistent that the British colonization of Canada and Australasia, and the Americans’ opening up of their West, were not merely similar but essentially the same phenomenon, umbilically linked, to a far greater extent than national accounts of each of them – and especially the myth of American “exceptionalism” – would lead one to believe. That is the first thing you discover when the imperial element is filtered out. The second is that this kind of colonization was not necessarily a case of the centre “exploiting” the periphery. Settlers positively sought out “oldland” goods and capital rather than having them forced on them. They arguably gained more from the exchange than the metropoles did. At the very worst, “exploitation was mutual”. The cultural ties between them were also voluntary. It was the Australians who wanted to retain their British identity, rather than its being forced on them, and Britain which eventually cut the tie between them (by joining the Common Market). Resentment over their rejection by Britain led Australians to reconfigure themselves thereafter, fashionably, as colonial victims; but for most of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries Australians and Californians preferred to regard themselves as “co-owners” of the great British and American enterprises – even as superior partners: fitter, more democratic, less debilitated by “civilization”, “Better Britons” (or Americans) – rather than marginal to them. Some even dreamt of shifting the metropolises of their worlds to their new lands: to Bismarck, North Dakota, for example, which one optimist in the 1880s “predicted seriously would someday be the centre of Western civilization”. It was this kind of process and feeling that created what Belich calls the “Anglo-world”, and contributed – more than a more one-sided “imperialism” could possibly have done – to its success. . . . Read the rest here:

Horn, Karen. "The Serendipity of Genius." STANDPOINT (October 2009).

What is economics? Is it a science? Haven't all its failures of prediction and political guidance proved its lack of respectability? The current financial crisis also reveals a deep crisis of economics. We seem to be witnessing the dismantling of an approach that, at least in its shallow mainstream version, has to make a series of absurd assumptions in order to reach any conclusion — with both the assumptions and the conclusions being astonishingly out of touch with reality. Its scholars have come to use mathematical logic as some sort of l'art pour l'art, falling into the trap of technicality rather than aiming at the wider horizon of an all-encompassing social science.
Competent economists are the rarest of birds. . . . The master-economist must possess a rare combination of gifts...He must be mathematician, historian, statesman, philosopher — in some degree. He must understand symbols and speak in words. He must contemplate the particular in terms of the general, and touch abstract and concrete in the same flight of thought. He must study the present in the light of the past for the purposes of the future. No part of man's nature or his institutions must lie entirely outside his regard. He must be purposeful and disinterested in a simultaneous mood; as aloof and incorruptible as an artist, yet sometimes as near the earth as a politician.
We owe this job description to John Maynard Keynes and the situation hasn't changed since he wrote it nearly a century ago. The scarcity of good economists has indeed been a constant plague of humankind. This is not to say that all economists are by nature technocrats who fail to recognise the relevant questions. This would just not be true. The verdict of narrowness and non-scientific shallowness cannot be directed against those economists who have made their career outside the mainstream, the so-called "orthodoxy" — in institutional economics, for example, or in public choice, in law and economics, game theory and behavioural finance. In these relatively new and innovative fields, scholars have been endeavouring to fill the gaps in mainstream theory, hoping to contribute to what should one day be a better and more fruitful mainstream. The goal is a body of theory that would be able to answer more relevant questions about how mankind can peacefully live together in society, granting personal autonomy and economic progress for all, building on the institutional achievements of Western civilisation, such as individual liberty, the free market and the rule of law. . . . Read the rest here:

Sorman, Guy. "Economics Still Doesn’t Lie." CITY JOURNAL September 25, 2009.

“The French have heads not for economics but for politics,” Alexis de Tocqueville wrote wisely in 1848. Along with this disinclination toward economics, the French tend to be anticapitalist and friendly to state intervention. So for them, for others annoyed by economics, and even more for those who can’t stand the free market, the recession has an upside: it’s open season on economists. How could economists fail to predict the crisis? Doesn’t their shortsightedness impeach the very status of economics as a science? Not at all. Economists follow the scientific method. Based on observed facts, they measure, examine regularities, derive models from such regularities, and submit the models to criticism and to the test of reality. Thus economics progresses from one falsifiable hypothesis to another. Some models stand up to tests; these become laws that can be expressed mathematically; and the number of economic laws grows. Economics is a science because it is a system of thought that moves forward, leaving behind old notions that have proven false. And not least among its accomplishments is improving the condition of the human race. Consider the history of the twentieth century after 1945. Millions of human beings have emerged from poverty, and millions continue to do so. Eastern Europe is rebuilding; Brazil, India, and China are making great progress. But their accomplishments are not due to cultural shifts, political changes, or the sudden discovery of natural resources. Rather, these nations moved out of poverty and toward relative well-being by following sound economic strategies: free trade, business competition, and a stable money supply. These strategies are part of a broad consensus among economists about the way to achieve economic growth. Other elements of that consensus include the relation between wage levels and employment, Joseph Schumpeter’s concept of “creative destruction” (economic evolution spurred by innovation does not proceed in smooth linear fashion, but through alternating phases of expansion and crisis), and the advantages of securitization (namely, the spreading of financial risk). Economists continue to have lively quarrels, but these disputes generally take place within certain parameters. For an economist to contest the principle of free trade or to recommend inflation, for example, would be comparable to a physician’s practicing bloodletting. . . . Read the rest here:

Hoffman, Leon. "Freud’s Adirondack Vacation." NEW YORK TIMES August 29, 2009.

SIGMUND Freud arrived in Hoboken, N.J., 100 years ago today on his first and only visit to the United States. He came to lecture on psychoanalysis and to receive an honorary degree from Clark University, in Worcester, Mass. It was, he said, “an honorable call,” a mark of his academic success. Freud was then 53 and had been practicing for 23 years. At the time, most doctors here and in Europe still considered mental illness to be caused by “degeneration” of the brain. They assumed that there was little to be done for it beyond physical treatments like diet, exercise, drugs, rest and massage. But a growing awareness that the mind could influence bodily functions was giving rise to debates about the nature of the unconscious mind. G. Stanley Hall, the president of Clark and the first person to earn a doctorate in psychology from Harvard, invited American scientists to hear Freud’s ideas about the unconscious roots of mental illness. William James, the philosopher and psychologist, was among those who attended, as were other prominent academics, like Adolf Meyer, who would become perhaps the most important psychiatric educator in the first half of the 20th century, and Franz Boas, the father of American anthropology. Emma Goldman, the noted radical, who was also there, remarked, “Among the array of professors, looking stiff and important in their caps and gowns, Sigmund Freud, in ordinary attire, unassuming, almost shrinking, stood out like a giant among Pygmies.” Speaking in German and without notes, Freud delivered five lectures covering the basic principles of psychoanalysis: hysteria and the psychoanalytic method, the idea that mental illness could arise from a person’s early experience, the importance of dreams and unconscious mental activity, infantile sexuality and the nature of transference. . . . Read the rest here:

Corbett, Sara. "The Holy Grail of the Unconsious." NEW YORK TIMES September 16, 2009.

Jung, Carl. The Red Book. Ed. Sonu Shamdasani. Trans. Mark Kyburz and John Peck. New York: Norton, 2009. This is a story about a nearly 100-year-old book, bound in red leather, which has spent the last quarter century secreted away in a bank vault in Switzerland. The book is big and heavy and its spine is etched with gold letters that say Liber Novus, which is Latin for “New Book.” Its pages are made from thick cream-colored parchment and filled with paintings of otherworldly creatures and handwritten dialogues with gods and devils. If you didn’t know the book’s vintage, you might confuse it for a lost medieval tome. And yet between the book’s heavy covers, a very modern story unfolds. It goes as follows: Man skids into midlife and loses his soul. Man goes looking for soul. After a lot of instructive hardship and adventure — taking place entirely in his head — he finds it again. Some people feel that nobody should read the book, and some feel that everybody should read it. The truth is, nobody really knows. Most of what has been said about the book — what it is, what it means — is the product of guesswork, because from the time it was begun in 1914 in a smallish town in Switzerland, it seems that only about two dozen people have managed to read or even have much of a look at it. . . . Read the rest here:

"Samuel Johnson and the Stoics." PHILOSOPHER'S ZONE September 26, 2009.

Three hundred years ago this month, the great Samuel Johnson was born. He was a lexicographer, a poet, an essayist, a heroically good man and a tortured depressive. But was he also a philosopher? This week, we look at Johnson and at the ancient Stoics, whose sober philosophy combined with Christianity in Johnson's view of the world.

Download the audio here:

"New Marxian Times," Seventh Annual Conference, Rethinking Marxism, University of Massachusetts, Amherst, November 5-8, 2009.

Update: The programme is here: Original Post (August 17, 2009): 'New Marxian Times' is dedicated to exploring the possibilities and challenges of Marxism for understanding and engaging with the contemporary world. Neoliberal capitalism, long criticized by Marxists and others on the Left, is now going through its own long-term economic and social crises. What new possibilities do these crises create for Marxist and other progressive ideas and visions? How does Marxism, and left-wing thought more generally, need to be rethought to respond to these challenges? Decades of declining real wages with rising levels of exploitation and economic inequality, increasingly unaffordable energy costs, and a loss of the illusion of middle-class status characterize large parts of the world, in the North as well as the South. Declining state support for social welfare programs, privatization and deregulation, record levels of migration of people, growing urban slums, and increasingly authoritarian state interventions in the lives of ordinary citizens have become the norm in the past two decades. Concurrently, multiple environmental crises (from climate change and global warming to increasing food insecurity, water shortages and health challenges) have been receiving increased attention. From the anti-elite sentiments expressed in response to the bailout of the financial industries to emerging anti-immigrant and nationalist efforts and ethnic and religious-based movements, average people are feeling both angrier and more insecure in response to current conditions. And the elites have few if any answers to the economic and social crises that beset the existing national and international orders. Perhaps coalescing in the financial crisis acknowledged in the autumn of 2008, these dynamics represent both a significant crisis for currently constituted capitalism and modes of governance as well as a set of challenges and possibilities for all of us concerned with working towards a non-exploitative and more equitable world. In that light, we are seeking intellectual, political, and cultural works that address the possible contributions that Marxist ideas and forms of analysis can make in responding to the challenges of these new times. Human rights, democracy, environmental concerns, new organizing movements in South America and elsewhere throughout the globe, the growth of social activisms represented as anarchist, anti-imperialist, or in response to globalization, workers subjectivities and movements, contradictions within emerging and transitional economies, emergent nationalisms, and debt and the credit crises all represent possible areas for contributions to new thinking about the role of Marxist theories, cultures, and politics in today’s world. We strongly encourage papers that address these topics in relation to the global south. Of course, we also understand the vital importance of analyzing history in order to help us to understand and respond to contemporary conditions. To understand the new, we must reflect upon and learn from the old. In that light, we are also interested in panels and papers that emphasize historical analysis such as the history of Marxism(s), labor history, historical analysis of academia, histories of social movements and political practices, the historical development of Marxist/Socialist feminism, imperialisms, and the historical relationships between class and race- based movements. Visit the conference webpage here:

48th Annual Meeting, Society for Phenomenology and Existential Phenomenology, George Mason University, October 29-31, 2009.

The programme is here:

Plagens, Peter. "Kandinsky's Heirs." NEWSWEEK .

New York's Guggenheim has just opened a retrospective on the man who invented, so the story goes, modern art. . . . Read the rest here:

Rossmeier, Vincent. "Is the Internet Melting Our Brains?" SLATE September 19, 2009.

Baron, Dennis. A Better Pencil: Readers, Writers and the Digital Revolution. Oxford: OUP, 2009. By now the arguments are familiar: Facebook is ruining our social relationships; Google is making us dumber; texting is destroying the English language as we know it. We're facing a crisis, one that could very well corrode the way humans have communicated since we first evolved from apes. What we need, so say these proud Luddites, is to turn our backs on technology and embrace not the keyboard, but the pencil. Such sentiments, in the opinion of Dennis Baron, are nostalgic, uninformed hogwash. A professor of English and linguistics at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Baron seeks to provide the historical context that is often missing from debates about the way technology is transforming our lives in his new book, A Better Pencil. His thesis is clear: Every communication advancement throughout human history, from the pencil to the typewriter to writing itself, has been met with fear, skepticism and a longing for the medium that's been displaced. Far from heralding in a 2001: Space Odyssey dystopia, Baron believes that social networking sites, blogs and the Internet are actually making us better writers and improving our ability to reach out to our fellow man. A Better Pencil is both a defense of the digital revolution and a keen examination of how technology both improves and complicates our lives. Recently, Salon spoke with Baron by phone. . . . Read the rest here:

Friday, September 25, 2009

O'Hagan, Andrew. "The Powers of Samuel Johnson." NEW YORK REVIEW OF BOOKS October 8, 2009.

On the eve of his three-hundredth birthday, Johnson's glory lives in his multiplicity. He was never one thing. He was Janus-faced but also Janus-souled: investing as much of himself in the opposite of rancor and enmity as he did in rancor and enmity, and sometimes within the same half-hour. It is the main reason why James Bos-well was able to make him the subject of the best biography ever written: the two-minded biographer met his four-minded subject and a form of literary intimacy was born that time has neither breached nor weathered. . . . Read the rest here:

Pub: Kansteiner, Wulf, and Christoph Classen, eds. HISTORICAL REPRESENTATION AND HISTORICAL TRUTH. HISTORY AND THEORY (May 2009).

The May 2009 issue of History and Theory is the postponed (from December 2008) Theme Issue 47 on Historical Representation and Historical Truth, edited by Wulf Kansteiner and Christoph Classen. The issue explores the ways various non-standard modes of representing historical events (such as films, museum exhibits, novels, photographs, historical video games, and a non-standard history book) can succeed (or not) in revealing what these events were, and the ways these modes enrich the notion of historical truth. The Issue is particularly mind-opening in expanding the possibilities for doing history and for representing past events. It contains the following articles:
  • CHRISTOPH CLASSEN and WULF KANSTEINER, "Truth and Authenticity in Contemporary Historical Culture: an Introduction to Historical Representation and Historical Truth"
  • ANN RIGNEY, "All This Happened, More or Less: What a Novelist Made of the Bombing of Dresden"
  • WULF KANSTEINER, "Success, Truth, and Modernism in Holocaust Historiography: Reading Saul Friedländer Thirty-Five Years after the Publication of Metahistory"
  • JUDITH KEILBACH, "Photographs, Symbolic Images, and the Holocaust: On the (Im)possibility of Depicting Historical Truth"
  • CHRISTOPH CLASSEN, "Balanced Truth: Steven Spielberg’s Schindler’s List among History, Memory, and Popular Culture"
  • CLAUDIO FOGU, "Digitalizing Historical Consciousness"
  • BETTINA M. CARBONELL, "The Syntax of Objects and the Representation of History: Speaking of Slavery in New York"

Click here to read abstracts of the articles in this issue:; to download a free copy of Classen’s and Kansteiner’s Introduction or of Fogu’s essay about what digitalization is doing to historical consciousness, please click here: To read the full issue, a subscription is required.

Chace, William M. "The Decline of the English Department." THE AMERICAN SCHOLAR (Autumn 2009).

During the last four decades, a well-publicized shift in what undergraduate students prefer to study has taken place in American higher education. The number of young men and women majoring in English has dropped dramatically; the same is true of philosophy, foreign languages, art history, and kindred fields, including history. As someone who has taught in four university English departments over the last 40 years, I am dismayed by this shift, as are my colleagues here and there across the land. And because it is probably irreversible, it is important to attempt to sort out the reasons—the many reasons—for what has happened. . . . What are the causes for this decline? There are several, but at the root is the failure of departments of English across the country to champion, with passion, the books they teach and to make a strong case to undergraduates that the knowledge of those books and the tradition in which they exist is a human good in and of itself. What departments have done instead is dismember the curriculum, drift away from the notion that historical chronology is important, and substitute for the books themselves a scattered array of secondary considerations (identity studies, abstruse theory, sexuality, film and popular culture). In so doing, they have distanced themselves from the young people interested in good books. . . . Read the rest here:

Vernon, Mark. "Plato's Dialogues, Part 8: A Man for All Seasons." GUARDIAN September 21, 2009.

The most famous image of Plato is found in the Vatican mural by Raphael, The School of Athens. Positioned centrally are Plato, pointing to the heavens, and Aristotle, pointing to the earth. It conveys a presumed difference between the two philosophers, Plato being the idealist, Aristotle the materialist. And yet it was Aristotle who wrote the following: "We must be like immortals insofar as possible and do everything toward living in accordance with the best thing in us." That's a sentiment with which his teacher, Plato, could readily agree, and the painting is misleading. Moreover, if materialism is associated with humanism today, and so Aristotle tends to be preferred over Plato, for much of the Renaissance, it was Aristotle who was sidelined. He was the philosopher most closely associated with the theology of the Middle Ages. For the Renaissance humanists, Plato was the thinker who seemed new and free of the excesses of scholastic speculation. It's funny how the ancient Greeks fall in and out of favour. Plato is never likely to be forgotten; he's too seminal a figure. Bernard Williams once asked what makes a great philosopher. He listed intellectual depth; a grasp of the scientific, the political, the creative and the destructive capabilities of humankind; imagination; an ability to unsettle; and ideally the gifts of a writer. "If we ask which philosopher has, more than any other, combined all these qualities," he continued, "to that question there is certainly an answer, Plato." That said, a number of spheres in contemporary thought today suggest that Plato can play more of a role for us than just as a giant in the history of ideas. One is physics and mathematics. . . . Read the rest here:

Berube, Michael. "What's the Matter With Cultural Studies?" CHRONICLE OF HIGHER EDUCATION September 14, 2009.

I'm saying this baldly and polemically for a reason. I know there are worthy programs in cultural studies at some North American universities, like Kansas State and George Mason, where there were once no programs at all. I know that there is more interdisciplinary work than there was 25 years ago; there is even an entire Cultural Studies Association, dating all the way back to 2003. But I want to accentuate the negative in order to point out that over the past 25 years, there has been a great deal of cultural-studies triumphalism that now seems unwarranted and embarrassing. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, we heard (and I believed) that cultural studies would fan out across the disciplines of the humanities and social sciences, inducing them to become at once more self-critical and more open to public engagement. Some people even suggested, in either hope or fear, that cultural studies would become the name for the humanities and social sciences in toto. Lest that sound grandiose, I want to insist that there was, at the time, good reason to think that way. The period of theoretical ferment that began in the late 1960s and gained traction in the 1970s seemed to have reached the boiling point. In 1990, my first year as an assistant professor there, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign held a conference on "Cultural Studies Now and in the Future." The program included historians, media theorists, sociologists, anthropologists, and AIDS activists; and the theoretical terrain—over which cultural studies had held earlier skirmishes with deconstruction, psychoanalysis, feminism, and, of course, in an epochal struggle, with Althusserians and neo-Gramscians—had lately been enriched by the arrival of Foucauldian historicism and queer theory. It really did seem plausible that cultural studies could be the start of something big. I'm not saying that it has had no impact. Cultural critics like Marc Bousquet, Cary Nelson, Andrew Ross, and Jeffrey Williams have written indispensable accounts of academic labor in America, and each has been inspired, in part, by some of the best work in the cultural-studies tradition, the branch that analyzes the social foundations of intellectual labor. But if you compare the institutional achievements of cultural studies with its initial hopes, I don't see how you can't be disappointed. . . . Read the rest here:

Cfp: "The Borderland between Philosophy and Design Research," Centre for Philosophy and Design, Danish Design School, Copenhagen, January 27-29, 2010.

Deadline for contributions: October 18, 2009. The purpose of the conference is to stimulate the flow of ideas between research in philosophy and research in design. At an operational level, the conference aims at creating personal and institutional contacts of lasting value for research cooperation across national and discipline borders. The expected audience includes researchers in design, philosophy or other relevant disciplines, whose work may benefit from or contribute to cross-fertilization between philosophy and design research. Emphasis will be on exchange of promising ideas, rather than on showcasing finished work. Accordingly, most of the presentations and discussions will take place in small round-table groups of about 10 persons. However, to provide a common background, plenary sessions will feature presentations by invited speakers and subsequent debates. Invited Speakers (Confirmed):
  • Louis L. Bucciarelli, Emeritus Prof. (Eng. & Technology Studies), MIT School of Engineering;
  • Nathan Crilly, Dr., Cambridge Engineering Design Centre, University of Cambridge;
  • Soeren Kjoerup, Emeritus Prof. of Philosophy, Roskilde University and Bergen National Academy of the Arts;
  • Peter Kroes, Prof. of Phil. of Technology, TU Delft;
  • Terence Love, Dr. (Eng. Des.), Curtin University of Technology, Western Australia, Lancaster University, and IADE, Lisbon.
  • Peter-Paul Verbeek, Prof. of Philosophy, University of Twente;
  • Pieter Vermaas, Dr., Dept. of Philosophy, TU Delft.
Visit the conference webpage:

Jacquette, Dale. Review of Garry L. Hagberg, DESCRIBING OURSELVES. NDPR (September 2009).

Hagberg, Garry L. Describing Ourselves: Wittgenstein and Autobiographical Consciousness. Oxford: OUP, 2008. We describe ourselves when we articulate the condition of our bodies and minds. Since other persons from an external standpoint can often do at least as good a job of characterizing the public facts about us as we can ourselves, it seems to fall to a certain kind of introspective philosophical autobiography to delve into the inner world of first-person psychological experience in the self's encounters with itself. Or so we might naturally think from the standpoint of naïve but commonly accepted assumptions about the literature of autobiography as self-descriptive linguistic expression. Such a view of things is typically wedded to a number of substantive philosophical commitments amounting to a metaphysics of the self, of how meaning relates thought to language and the world, and potentially involving a fundamental division of mind and body, of internal and external phenomena. These commitments, powerful as they may seem, are not easily sustained when subjected to the kinds of criticisms Wittgenstein raises in his later posthumous writings, particularly in the Philosophical Investigations and Lectures on Philosophical Psychology. Wittgenstein is frequently seen as challenging the internalist proposition that the self is in a privileged epistemic position to understand its sensations, beliefs, attitudes, judgments, emotions, responses to others and whatever else occurs within a psychological subject's supposedly impenetrable subjectivity that makes the self uniquely qualified to understand and report on its own immediately lived-through experiences. Garry L. Hagberg, in this interesting new philosophical study of the literature of autobiography, explores these topics in relation to the mind's efforts to understand itself reflexively and to share the information with others. The book develops three major themes: (1) the nature of autobiographical thinking, self-investigation, memory, recollection, and writing about one's self from the standpoint of an attitude that Hagberg calls autobiographical consciousness; (2) the concept of the self implied or presupposed by autobiographical practices as contrasted with Hagberg's references to the dualistic 'Cartesian legacy'; (3) Wittgenstein's philosophical remarks especially in the later period as they relate both positively and negatively to the concept of self and the philosophical understanding of autobiography as self-discovery, self-exploration, and, as Hagberg's title indicates, self-description. In the course of considering these topics, Hagberg discusses, in fine, such autobiographical classics as Augustine's Confessions and Fyodor Dostoyevsky's Notes from Underground, as well as literary and artistic self-portraits by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Leonardo da Vinci, Rembrandt van Rijn, Vladimir Nabakov, along with related reflections on the self and the art of autobiography by Arthur Schopenhauer, Søren Kierkegaard, Iris Murdoch, Stanley Cavell, Donald Davidson, and, of course, with special focus throughout, Wittgenstein. . . . Read the whole review here:

Puryear, Stephen. Review of Janice Thomas, THE MINDS OF THE MODERNS. NDPR (September 2009).

Thomas, Janice. The Minds of the Moderns: Rationalism, Empiricism, and Philosophy of Mind. Cheshire: Acumen, 2009. In this work Thomas surveys the contributions of (pre-Kantian) early modern philosophy to our understanding of the mind. She focuses on the six canonical figures of the period -- Descartes, Spinoza, Locke, Leibniz, Berkeley, and Hume -- and asks what each has to say about five topics within the philosophy of mind. The topics are (1) the ontological status of mind, (2) the scope and nature of self-knowledge, (3) the nature of consciousness, (4) the problem of mental causation, and (5) the nature of representation or intentionality. The overarching aim of the book is to show that the theories articulated by these thinkers are not just historical curiosities, but have much to contribute to our understanding of these topics today. . . . Read the rest here:

"Reconciliation and the Transition from Orality to the Written Expression," Saint Paul University, Ottawa, October 29-30, 2009.

The goal of this conference is to bring together a broad audience of Aboriginal Peoples, First Peoples, and scholars; academics; and other interested individuals to discuss Reconciliation and the Transition from Orality to the Written Expression as well as to break new ground in terms of alternative approaches and further paths of research. In many cases, the process of objectification assumes that the only difference between oral and written records is materiality, and that once this is achieved, oral [Aboriginal] records then conform to a Western prerequisite for verifying truth; that is, they appear more trustworthy because they become immutable and hence can be assumed genuine based on Western standards .This conference proposes to research and explore how this perception is integrally connected with reconciliation and how language and culture are the basis of a climate of reconciliation towards fostering respect and understanding and thus possible work toward mutual reconciliation. Please send an abstract, maximum length of 150 words, by October 1st, 2009 to: Anitta Aaltonen (

Cfp: "Knowledge: (Trans)Formation," Tunisia, March 3-4, 2010.

This is the 2nd Joint Conference held by the Ecole Normale Supérieure and the English Department, Institut Supérieur des Etudes Littéraires et Humaines of Tunisia. One of the defining features of our modern life is the unremitting accumulation of knowledge. Indeed, we live in an era governed by a race for knowledge and described by such catchphrases as "the age of knowledge" or "the knowledge society." In earlier phases of the modern project of Enlightenment, the positive aspects of knowledge were emphasised. Rational knowledge was deemed essential to human liberation and accomplishment. Knowledge, however, has darker sides and may have dire consequences. Francis Bacon’s aphorism, "knowledge is power," stated some four centuries earlier, operates at its best now. For knowledge, like any other type of power, can be transformed into a tool of coercion. In our age of impressive development of cognition, it is significant to interrogate the role of knowledge and its effects on individuals, societies and humanity in its entirety. This conference, therefore, will focus on knowledge as a cultural form, liable to produce meanings and construct new socio-political practices as well as modes of resistance. It will attempt to engage a debate on the formation and transformation, uses and abuses, origins and consequences of different types of knowledge. Participants are invited to bring their contribution to the following thematic areas: - Knowledge and artistic production: how can art (literature, painting etc.) construct, manipulate and reorient our knowledge of the world? - Knowledge and postmodernism: does the world provide us with a foundational reality? Is it possible to authenticate any form of knowledge as ‘truth’? - Knowledge and Feminist thought: how can a feminist informed critique destabilize the hierarchal organization of knowledge and the oppressive structures within which it is assembled and propagated? - Knowledge and language: does language mediate knowledge? What is the role of discourse in the production, deployment and development of knowledge? Cross-cultural knowledge and interlanguage. - Knowledge, education and digital technology: how is knowledge produced, disseminated and legitimized in the Academia? How does the electronic revolution affect prospects of human knowledge? How can e-learning and the Virtual Divide reshuffle traditional concepts of education? Can we speak now about efficient education with the chasm separating Digital Natives from Digital Immigrants? - Knowledge and multimedia: what is the role of media, cinema and cyberspace in creating culturally-determined knowledge constructs? - Knowledge and Globalization: what are the consequences of the growing worldwide economic, political and cultural interdependence? How to cope with the uneven distribution of knowledge? - Knowledge, history and representation: how do issues of identity, community, time and ideology infiltrate knowledge systems? - Indigenous or "subaltern" knowledge (memory, heritage, folklore, myths, proverbs, dances etc): how can the revival of indigenous knowledge be a form of resistance? Submission Instructions: Presentations should not exceed 20 minutes. Abstracts should have about 250 words. The following information should be sent: 1- Title of paper 2- Section (thematic area) 3- Name 4- Affiliation 5- E-mail address 6- Abstract Schedule: Deadline for submitting abstracts: December 12th, 2009. Acceptance of proposals will be notified no later than January 9th, 2010.   Contact: Hager Ben Driss (

Caputo, John D. Review of Slavoj Zizek and John Milbank, THE MONSTROSITY OF CHRIST. NDPR (September 2009).

Zizek, Slavoj, and John Milbank. The Monstrosity of Christ: Paradox or Dialectic?. Ed. Creston Davis. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2009. Materialism just isn't what it used to be. Nowadays everyone wants to be a materialist, even the theologians, while the materialists want to look like they lead a spiritual life. The battle that is joined today is no longer between materialism and idealism, or hard-nosed Newtonians and far out spirit-seers, but between "materialist materialism" and "theological materialism", between crude soulless materialism and materialism with spirit, a materialism of the spirit, a religious materialism (93). "Materialist materialism is simply not as materialist as theological materialism", says John Milbank, the leading Anglo-Catholic theologian of the day, in this published debate with Slavoj Žižek, a Lacanian neo-Marxist writer and something of a Slovenian philosophical sensation in the Anglophone world (206). Theological materialism goes back to Christology, the materialism of the Logos made matter, in which matter really matters. Žižek would agree, but he would stand this statement on its head in a resuscitated and refashioned neo-Hegelian death of God theology. The debate that unfolds is strikingly Christological, in which both parties agree that Christianity is the absolute truth (Hegel), where Milbank takes his Christology straight up (treating Žižek's as a "counterfeit") and Žižek takes his on the rocks (treating Milbank's version as "imaginary" (153, 245). The book is a splendid condensation and cross section of a contemporary debate between writers who seek to position themselves beyond the postmodernism or poststructuralism that dominated the last few decades of European thought. Whatever one thinks of the views of Milbank or Žižek, we may be very grateful to editor Creston Davis for crafting such a first rate exchange. . . . Read the whole review here:

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Cfp: "Objectivity in Science," University of British Columbia, June 17-20, 2010.

Over the past two decades questions have arisen regarding the objectivity of specific projects in or fields of science: for example, can we trust medical research when it is funded by pharmaceutical companies? Or, whose research in climate science meets the standards of scientific objectivity? Such questions have become important in framing public debate about science and science policy. At the same time, the objectivity of science has become an increasingly important topic among historians and philosophers of science as well as researchers in other fields in science and technology studies (STS) such as sociology of science, rhetoric of science, and cultural studies of science. This conference seeks to advance scholarly perspectives on the objectivity of science by bringing them into conversation with one another. The conference also asks whether and how such scholarly perspectives on objectivity might or should inform public debate. The conference will investigate, moreover, how the specific concerns of scientists, science policy experts, science journalists, and other groups might be made more salient in the research of the STS community. The goal of this conference, thus, is to provide a forum for STS researchers of diverse disciplinary backgrounds, practicing scientists, and other researchers to discuss and debate issues concerning the nature of objectivity in science. A particular concern will be to discuss how, when, and why questions of objectivity arise within science, in science policy debates, and in public engagement with science. In addition to conference sessions held during the day, this conference will feature two evening panel discussions, open to the public and focused on particular areas of research wherein the issue of scientific objectivity is particularly salient. The public panel discussions will focus on questions of objectivity in collaborative aboriginal research and in research on harm reduction. Confirmed keynote speakers include Professor Ian Hacking (University of Toronto and the Collège de France) and Professor Naomi Oreskes (University of California at San Diego). Program Committee: Alan Richardson (UBC), Robert Brain (UBC), Candis Callison (UBC), Lesley Cormack (Simon Fraser University), Flavia Padovani (UBC), and Jonathan Tsou (Iowa State University). The deadline for paper and panel submissions is December 1, 2009. Please email submissions to Dani Hallet at:

Cfp: "Dialogisme: Langue, Discours [Dialogism: Language, Speech]," Universite de Montpellier, September 8-11, 2010.

Nowadays, the concept of dialogism is widely used in linguistics, where it proves to be of a great heuristic help, especially in the sub-disciplines of discourse analysis, discourse semantics, grammatical semantics, textual linguistics and enunciation. If it is commonly accepted that the concept comes from the writings of the Bakhtine's circle, and especially of that author's, no explicit explanation appears in those works. Relying on them, dialogism can be defined as the orientation of any discourse towards other discourses. This can appear as echoes, harmonics that refer to other texts; as voices introducing a text in another. Those features of dialogism, more or less explicit, mark the discourse at several levels from macrotextual (novel, text, speech, speech turn) to microtextual (word); as well as in its various dimensions: semantic, syntactic, intonative, enunciative. The aim of this colloquium is both theoretical and practical. (i) To establish the theoretical basis for the concept, by for instance coming back to this history of its production as well as to its present success, by confronting it to related concepts, by reworking on its definition (the one offered above is only provisional and explanatory)
  • What are the origins and the position of the concept in the works of the Bakhtine's circle? In contemporary research, what is the position of the concept of dialogism in discourse analysis? in textual analysis? in enunciative linguistics? in semantics? How does it fit in the different 'toolboxes'?
  • Does the dialogic dimension concern only discourse, as Bakhtine would sometimes claim? to what extent does it have an influence on language too?
  • What are the links between the concept of dialogism that is little or not used in the Anglo-Saxon linguistic writings, and concepts such as subjectivity, speaker empathy, point of view, subject-raising, etc., that allow dealing with partly similar linguistic facts? What are the possible relationships with the concepts of relevance, mental spaces or the de re/de dicto distinction.
  • What is the relationship between "dialogal" and dialogic? What are the possible articulations between the two concepts, partly in competition, of dialogism and polyphony?

(ii) The heuristic properties and the relevance of the concept of dialogism will also be tested through concrete analysis of linguistic and discursive data to precisely study the advances and the renewal of approaches it allows, as well as its limits.

  • How does dialogism precisely play a role in a specific discursive type? in a type of textuality? in a discursive genre?
  • What areas of the language - in addition to those already well described such as negation, concession, conditional etc - are likely to be studied through dialogism? is it possible to talk of a dialogic marker? How does the dialogic dimension of a specific element concretely show?
  • To what extent and in which way is dialogism part of the grammaticalisation ands pragmaticalisation processes?
Further information:


Editor’s Introduction: Lacan for Critics! by Carol Owens I II III IV V Download the essays here:

"Women, Philosophy and History," Center for Research on Women, Barnard College, October 2-3, 2009.

A Conference in Celebration of the Work of Eileen O'Neill. This two-day conference continues the groundbreaking work of Eileen O'Neill '75 by examining the standard narrative of the history of philosophy from a feminist perspective. O'Neill's pioneering scholarship has brought to light the texts and ideas of women in the early modern period, and demonstrated the substantial contributions they made to philosophy. Her work has encouraged the analysis of thinkers as diverse as Marie de Gournay, Margaret Cavendish, Anne Conway, Elisabeth of Bohemia, Anna Maria van Schurman, Mary Astell, Émilie du Châtelet, and Damaris Masham. It has also challenged philosophers to reconsider methodological assumptions that have hidden these women and their works from view. The eminent international scholars gathered for this conference will continue this exploration and discuss the methodological, pedagogical, and philosophical implications of O'Neill's work. The conference also celebrates the impact of O'Neill's commitment to women in philosophy more generally. Further information is here:

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Vernon, Mark. "Plato's Dialogues, Part 7: Plato and Christianity." GUARDIAN September 14, 2009.

The year 529 is a seminal date, and a handy one to keep in mind when trying to untangle Plato first from Platonism and then from Christianity. In that year, Plato's Academy was finally closed in Athens, almost 900 years after it had opened. Plato's successors had fallen foul of the Christian emperor Justinian. Death penalties were issued. The philosophers fled. Plato's philosophy had evolved dramatically in the centuries since his death in 347BC. For . . . Read the rest here:

Lee, Jung H. Review of Yong Huang, ed. RORTY, PRAGMATISM AND CONFUCIANISM. NDPR (September 2009).

Huang, Yong, ed. Rorty, Pragmatism, and Confucianism, with Responses by Richard Rorty. Albany: SUNY Press, 2009. The essays in this volume stem from a conference held on "Rorty, Pragmatism, and Chinese Philosophy" in Shanghai as the culminating event of Rorty's lecture tour of China in 2004. The selected papers include contributions on Rorty's views on epistemology, relativism, moral philosophy, human nature, religion, and socio-political philosophy. All of the essays attempt to weave Rorty's ideas into a conversation with Chinese philosophy in general and Confucian thinkers (most notably Confucius and Mencius) in particular. As the editor notes in his deft introduction, "some have found surprising similarities, while others notice unignorable differences; some try to use Confucianism to modify Rorty's ideas, while others try to appropriate Rorty's philosophy to update Confucianism" (2). The volume concludes with a sober set of responses by Rorty to his critics that gives pause to those who would wish to see Rorty as a latter day Confucian or, worse, see Confucius or Mencius as a former day Rortian. Although the quality of the essays is uneven at times, the work as a whole is a solid contribution in comparative philosophy and contemporary Confucian studies. . . . Read the rest here:

Shank, J. B. "Voltaire." STANFORD ENCYCLOPEDIA OF PHILOSOPHY August 31, 2009.

François-Marie d'Arouet (1694–1778), better known by his pen name Voltaire, was a French writer and public activist who played a singular role in defining the eighteenth-century movement called the Enlightenment. At the center of his work was a new conception of philosophy and the philosopher that in several crucial respects influenced the modern concept of each. Yet in other ways Voltaire was not a philosopher at all in the modern sense of the term. He wrote as many plays, stories, and poems as patently philosophical tracts, and he in fact directed many of his critical writings against the philosophical pretensions of recognized philosophers such as Leibniz, Malebranche, and Descartes. He was, however, a vigorous defender of a conception of natural science that served in his mind as the antidote to vain and fruitless philosophical investigation. In clarifying this new distinction between science and philosophy, and especially in fighting vigorously for it in public campaigns directed against the perceived enemies of fanaticism and superstition, Voltaire pointed modern philosophy down several paths that it subsequently followed. To capture Voltaire's unconventional place in the history of philosophy, this article will be structured in a particular way. First, a full account of Voltaire's life is offered, not merely as background context for his philosophical work, but as an argument about the way that his particular career produced his particular contributions to European philosophy. Second, a survey of Voltaire's philosophical views is offered so as to attach the legacy of what Voltaire did with the intellectual viewpoints that his activities reinforced. . . . Read the rest here:

MacAvoy, Leslie. Review of Joshua James Shaw's EMMANUEL LEVINAS ON THE PRIORITY OF ETHICS. NDPR (September 2009).

Shaw, Joshua James. Emmanuel Levinas on the Priority of Ethics: Putting Ethics First. Amherst, NY: Cambria, 2008. In Emmanuel Levinas on the Priority of Ethics: Putting Ethics First, Shaw suggests that Levinas scholarship increasingly has concerned itself with questions of language and epistemology, and consequently has lost sight of what Levinas's philosophy is really about, namely ethics. Shaw opposes the 'deconstructionist' reading, which holds that Levinas cannot provide a normative ethics and can tell us nothing about how we should act. Shaw argues that Levinas's philosophy does contain a normative dimension since the face-to-face encounter discloses an obligation to care for others, and this, he argues, can ground a normative ethics. He defends this claim by offering a 'pragmatist' reading of Levinas, emphasizing the practical normative character of the relation to the other, which Shaw elaborates using ideas from analytic moral philosophy. . . . Read the rest here:

Pub: KRITIKE 3.1 (2009).

Featured Essay: Articles: Denkbilder: Download the issue here:

Bryant, Levi R. Review of David Couzens Hoy's THE TIME OF OUR LIVES. NDPR (September 2009).

Hoy, David Couzens. The Time of Our Lives: a Critical History of Temporality. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2009. If one were to cite one set of issues that distinguishes the Continental philosophy of the last century from prior philosophy, a red thread uniting movements as disparate as Frankfurt school critical theory, German and French phenomenology, and French post-structuralism, it would be no exaggeration to cite the focus of these philosophical movements on issues revolving around time and temporality. To be sure, Aristotle had reflected on the nature of time in his Physics, just as Augustine presented a profound meditation on the nature of time in his Confessions. Moreover, attempts to conceptualize the nature of time have never been absent in the history of philosophy. However, never before had questions of time been given the centrality, the pride of place, they took on in the Continental philosophy of the last century. Here questions of time were no longer treated as an ancillary issue, belonging perhaps to philosophical physics. To the contrary, what was new in the Continental thought of the last century was a sense that questions of time and temporality lay at the heart of questions of ontology, epistemology, philosophy of mind, ethics, and political theory. The twentieth-century philosophical literature surrounding questions of time and temporality is vast, eclectic, complicated, and difficult. It is hard to see, for example, what might unite the historical meditations of quasi critical theorists such as Walter Benjamin with the phenomenological investigations of temporality carried out by Husserl, Heidegger, and Merleau-Ponty. It is for this reason that David Couzens Hoy's The Time of Our Lives is such a welcome contribution to the philosophical literature surrounding questions of temporality. Written in a lively and exceptionally clear style, Hoy's book is wide ranging, lucidly discussing the theories of time and temporality developed by Kant, Nietzsche, Bergson, James, Husserl, Heidegger, Merleau-Ponty, Bourdieu, Derrida, Deleuze, Benjamin, and Žižek. Hoy successfully manages to put these thinkers, so diverse in their methodologies and preoccupations, in dialogue with one another, staging a theater of ideas revolving around the role that temporality plays in our self-relation, the sense of our lives, and questions of politics and ethics. However, it would be a mistake to imagine that his book is simply a catalogue of theories of temporality, presenting the reader with a convenient series of commentaries on what this or that thinker has said about temporality. Hoy's book, the first volume of a history of consciousness, is an excellent resource for the student or scholar seeking some orientation within the bewildering labyrinth of Continental thought surrounding questions of temporality. This first volume deals with time and time-consciousness; the second will deal with self-consciousness. Hoy's provocative thesis, contra Kant and Husserl, is that temporality precedes the self-relation of self-consciousness, and is therefore prior to the self and mind. . . . Read the rest here:

Pub: THE AGONIST 2.2 (2009).

Contents include:
  • "Zarathustra and the Children of Abraham" by James Luchte WEB PDF
  • An interview with Babette Babich by Nicholas Birns WEB PDF
  • 6 reviews

Further information is here:

Rinderle, Peter. Review of Peter Kivy's ANTITHETICAL ARTS. NDPR (September 2009).

Kivy, Peter. Antithetical Arts: on the Ancient Quarrel between Literature and Music. Oxford: OUP, 2009. How are we to understand those beautiful noises made by a symphony orchestra, a string quartet or a piano player? And why do we value them so highly? It is the quarrel between two opposing traditions about how to understand music to which the title alludes. The narrativists, as Kivy calls them, use a literary analogy. They attribute meaning to a piece of instrumental music as they attribute meaning to a novel or a theatre play. For them, in music as in novels we are mainly interested in the representation and arousal of certain emotions. The formalists, on the other hand -- and Kivy is the leading musical formalist of our times -- are strongly opposed to this way of "reading" absolute music. It is the formal composition in which the meaning of music resides and it is an ecstatic or even mystical experience to which music, if attended to appropriately, might lead that is the true source of its value. Read the rest here:

Fourth Independent Conference, Hannah Arendt Circle, Department of Philosophy, DePaul University, April 16-18, 2010.

We invite individual submissions for papers on any aspect of Arendt's work, including critiques and applications of her thinking. Please send an abstract of the paper, by e-mail (750 word limit). Abstracts should be formatted for anonymous review and submitted to the program committee chair, Tama Weisman at on or before November 30th 2009. Please indicate "Arendt Circle submission" in the subject heading, and include the abstract as a ".doc" attachment to your message. Program decisions will be announced by the beginning of January. Program Committee: Tama Weisman, Dominican University Sarah MacMillen, Duquesne University Peg Birmingham, DePaul University Our first three independent meetings were outstanding, and we are looking forward to the same camaraderie and intense discussion of Arendt’s work at this year’s conference. Each speaker will have approximately 35 minutes for paper presentation and discussion combined —papers should be a maximum of 3000 words (15-20 minutes). Further information is available here:

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Minnich, Elizabeth. Review of Stephan Kampowski, ARENDT, AUGUSTINE AND THE NEW BEGINNING. NDPR (September 2009).

Kampowski, Stephan. Arendt, Augustine, and the New Beginning: the Action Theory and Moral Thought of Hannah Arendt in the Light of her Dissertation on St. Augustine. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2008. Saint Augustine's significance for Hannah Arendt -- a modern, apparently secular Jewish woman who took as given the irreversibility of "modern 'deaths' -- of God, metaphysics, philosophy." (Life of The Mind, p. 11) -- is an obviously tantalizing question. On the face of it, these two thinkers would seem at best incompatible. In this superb book, Stephan Kampowski takes up this challenging inquiry, following a winding trail through Arendt's life as it is intriguingly marked, both early and late in her work, by her citations of Augustine. Kampowski's quest turns out to illuminate the whole of Hannah Arendt's, and strands of Augustine's, thought afresh. It does so in good measure because of his approach, on which I will therefore spend more than the usual time. Kampowski neither forces either of these distinctive thinkers into the other's terms nor stops when he has located divergences. Instead, as Arendt's dissertation supervisor, Karl Jaspers, put it, he seeks "the heartbeat" of their philosophizing below and beyond tangles, by-ways, contradictions as well as similarities. To thus reflect on Augustine and Arendt as they cast light on each other is to remember and take seriously the fact that, however different their paths, both sought meaning to sustain lives in "dark times," as the title of one of Arendt's books has it. . . . Read the rest here:

Minogue, Kenneth. "The Elusive Oakeshott." THE AMERICAN CONSERVATIVE October 1, 2009.

At the end of his Inaugural Lecture at the London School of Economics, Oakeshott, whose conservatism rested on his skepticism of all grand plans for human improvement, expressed the conservative position in a famous image:
In political activity, then, men sail a boundless and bottomless sea: there is neither harbour for shelter nor floor for anchorage, neither starting-place nor appointed destination. The enterprise is to keep afloat on an even keel: the sea is both friend and enemy: and the seamanship consists in using the resources of a traditional manner of behaviour in order to make a friend of every hostile occasion.
It is clear that Oakeshott was a philosopher concerned not at all with what policies a government ought to adopt but with political reality as it is experienced through the haze of illusions in which we live. Unlike recent political philosophers, he was not interested in normative questions. The idea of human rights he thought a rather second-rate caricature of the inherited Common Law freedoms of English-speaking peoples. Social justice was merely a bit of political salvationism trading by its name on the real conceptions of justice found in any stable state. In most of these views, Oakeshott was part of that remarkable generation of political philosophers who lived through the totalitarian excesses of the 20th century and, after World War II, reflected on them. It is striking that those concerned with the reality of politics in that period—figures such as Leo Strauss, Eric Voegelin, and Hannah Arendt—still speak to us more directly than more recent figures dealing in normative argument. . . . Read the rest here:

Furedi, Frank. "Specialist Pleading." THE AUSTRALIAN September 2, 2009.

ONE of the most influential contemporary cultural myths is that our era is characterised by the end of deference. Commentators interpret the declining influence of traditional authority and institutions as proof that people have become less deferential and possess more critical attitudes than in the past. However, it is less frequently noted that deference to traditional authority has given way to the reverence of expertise.Western culture assumes that a responsible individual will defer to the opinion of an expert. Politicians frequently remind us that their policies are "evidence based", which usually means informed by expert advice. Experts have the last word on topics of public interest and increasingly on matters to do with people's private affairs. We are advised to seek and heed to advice of a bewildering chorus of personal experts -- parenting specialists, life coaches, relationship gurus, super-nannies and sex therapists, to name a few -- who apparently possess the authority to tell us how to live our lives. The exhortation to defer to experts is underpinned by the premise that their specialist knowledge entitles them to a higher moral status to the rest of us. For example, Ken Macdonald, former director of public prosecutions in Britain, pushed for the right to use expert witnesses to help boost the low conviction rate in rape trials. Former Home Office minister Joan Ryan, a junior Home Office minister at the time, backed him, arguing that expert evidence in court could "address myths about rape and its victims". The assumption seems to be that ordinary jurors lack the intelligence to grasp how rapists and their victims behave, which is why courts need the expert psychologist to put them right. In previous times, pronouncement about who was evil or who had sinned was the prerogative of the priest. With the end of deference to the church such mystical powers have become associated with the authority of the professional expert witness. The call for ordinary jurors to ignore their intuition and subjugate themselves to the superior insight of the expert is seldom characterised as what it really is, a new form of non-traditional deference. According to this perspective, the prejudices and myths of ordinary jurors need to be overcome through the intervention of the enlightened views of the expert. It is necessary to state at the outset that any civilised 21st-century society is likely to take expertise seriously. The efficient functioning of such a society depends, to a significant extent, on the quality of contribution made by its experts. Anyone who is ill or confronted with a technical problem will turn to an expert. The problem is not the status of the expert but its politicisation. All too often experts do not confine their involvement in public discussion to the provision of advice. Many insist that their expertise entitles them to have the last word on policy deliberation. Recent studies indicate that in public debates those whose views run counter to the sentiments of scientific experts find it difficult to voice their beliefs. From time to time experts also use their authority to silence opponents and close down discussion. For example, those who argue that the debate on climate change is finished claim the authority of scientific expertise. That was how former British environment minister David Miliband justified his 2007 statement that "that the debate over the science of climate change is well and truly over". The impulse to close down debate is also evident in the attacks on Australian geologist Ian Plimer for raising questions about the prevailing consensus on climate change in his book Heaven and Earth. Plimer, it was pointed out with some finality, was not a climate change expert. . . . Read the rest here:,25197,25979808-25132,00.html.

Schine, Cathleen. "Grrr, Sniff, Arf." NEW YORK TIMES September 13, 2009.

Horowitz, Alexandra. Inside of a Dog: What Dogs See, Smell, and Know. New York: Scribner, 2009. The literature about dogs is not quite the same as the literature about, say, Norwegian rats. Dogs get the literary respect: there are brilliant memoirs about dogs like J. R. Ackerley’s My Dog Tulip and Elizabeth von Arnim’s All the Dogs of My Life; there’s James Thurber and Virginia Woolf and Jack London; there’s Lassie and Clifford and, of course, Marley. White rats, on the other hand, get most of the scientific attention. Alexandra Horowitz’s Inside of a Dog: What Dogs See, Smell, and Know attempts to rectify that situation, exploring what science tells us about dogs without relegating our pets, emotionally, to lab rats. As a psychologist with a Ph.D. in cognitive science, as well as an ardent dogophile, Horowitz aims “to take an informed imaginative leap inside of a dog — to see what it is like to be a dog; what the world is like from a dog’s point of view.” Her work draws on that of an early-20th-­century German biologist, Jakob von Uexküll, who proposed that “anyone who wants to understand the life of an animal must begin by considering what he called their umvelt . . . : their subjective or ‘self-world.’ ” Hard as we may try, a dog’s-eye view is not immediately accessible to us, however, for we reside within our own umwelt, our own self-world bubble, which clouds our vision. Consider one of Horowitz’s examples: a rose. . . . Read the whole review here:

Gray, John. "The Red Flag: Communism and the Making of the Modern World." NEW STATESMAN August 27, 2009.

Priestland, David. The Red Flag: Communism and the Making of the Modern World. London: Allen Lane, 2009. It cannot be long before progressive opinion begins to look back on communism with nostalgia. Whatever they may have been like in practice, communist states were established to embody ideas that progressives understood and to a large extent shared. The Soviet Union and Maoist China were seen as advancing the cause of humanity and many on the left judged it best not to make too much of any crimes these regimes committed along the way. However imperfectly, communism continued an authentic tradition of European radical humanism. One of the many virtues of David Priestland's The Red Flag is that it places communism squarely in this tradition. Citing Marx's description of Prometheus as "the most eminent saint and martyr in the philosophical calendar", Priestland shows how Marx's Promethean world-view has animated communist movements and regimes throughout their history. In the preface to his dissertation, Marx wrote, in the words of Aeschylus: "In sooth all gods I hate. 'Tis better to be bound on a rock than bound to the service of Zeus." In Marx's variation on the Promethean myth, heroic humanity wages war against religion, inequality and subservience to nature. Priestland shows that this modern mythology was propagated right up to the end of communist Russia. As a graduate student at Moscow State University in 1987-88, studying (in secret) Stalin's Terror half a century earlier, he found himself "at the centre of a curious communist civilisation: my neighbours had come from all corners of the communist world - from Cuba to Afghanistan, from East Germany to Mozambique, from Ethiopia to North Korea - to take degrees in science and history, but also to study 'scientific communism' and 'atheism', the better to propagate communist ideology at home . . . The system was unravelling and revealing its secrets, but it was still communist." Just over 20 years later, that curious communist civilisation has all but vanished from the face of the earth. . . . Read the whole review here:

Berkowitz, Peter. "Conserving." POLICY REVIEW (August / September 2009).

Allitt, Patrick. The Conservatives: Ideas and Personalities Throughout American History. New Haven: Yale UP, 2009. Patrick Allitt displays a superb eye for the paradoxes that constitute conservatism in America. The Goodrich C. White Professor of History and Director of the Center for Teaching and Curriculum at Emory University, Allitt has written a fine book that is especially valuable at this moment of conservative soul-searching and regrouping. The questions that guide his study are straightforward: “Where did conservatism come from, what are its intellectual sources, and why is it internally divided?” In answering them, however, he is obliged to undertake considerable intellectual legwork because a recognized conservative movement in America only came into existence after 1950. This doesn’t prevent Allitt from reconstructing “a strong, complex, and continuing American conservative tradition” stretching from The Federalist to the Federalist Society. It does mean, though, that to justify his decisions about whom and what to include and exclude in the absence of a formal conservative tradition, a common canon, and an established set of spokesmen, Allitt is compelled to spell out the conflicting elements that distinguish a distinctively conservative approach to politics in America. Allitt does not seek to go beyond his role as a historian. Yet his learned and fair-minded reconstruction lends support to the view that the proper way forward for conservatives is neither greater purity nor a more perfect unity, but a richer appreciation of the paradoxes of modern conservatism and a more assiduous cultivation of the moderation that is necessary to hold conservatism’s diverse elements, frequently both complementary and conflicting, in proper balance. According to Allitt, conservatism is, first, “an attitude to social and political change that looks for support to the ideas, beliefs, and habits of the past and puts more faith in the lessons of history than in the abstractions of political philosophy.” Second, it involves “a suspicion of democracy and equality.” This can be divided into a concern that the formal equality of men before God and law not be confused with equality in all things, particularly virtue, and that too much government power not be placed directly in the people’s hands. Third, conservatism reflects “the view that civilization is fragile and easily disrupted” and therefore it teaches that “the survival of the republic presupposes the virtue of citizens” and calls for “a highly educated elite as guardians of civilization.” Within this unity, considerable diversity of opinion has flourished. Conservatives, Allitt emphasizes, have differed in their “attitude to the proper role of government” and can be found on “both sides of great conflicts.” For example, while Alexander Hamilton, as first secretary of the treasury, sought to increase the size and scope of government’s responsibility for the economy, conservatives, by the time of the New Deal, opposed a larger federal role in the economy. In the run-up to the Civil War, northern statesman Daniel Webster strove to conserve the Union and southern conservative John C. Calhoun strove to conserve the southern way of life. Since the founding, many American conservatives have viewed democracy as destabilizing because it gave too much power to ordinary people; more recently conservatives have seen ordinary people’s common sense and decency as a bulwark against elite ideas about radical change. . . . Read the rest here:

Smith, Bruce L. R., Alan Wolfe, and Mark Lilla. "Conservativism in Academe: an Exchange." CHRONICLE OF HIGHER EDUCATION September 11, 2009.

In his essay, "Taking the Right Seriously," Mark Lilla argues that academe has treated conservative ideas with derision and that universities do not show interest in promoting true intellectual diversity. For responses, we turned to Bruce L.R. Smith, a visiting professor in the School of Public Policy at George Mason University, and Alan Wolfe, director of the Boisi Center for Religion and American Public Life and a professor of political science at Boston College. Lilla also provides a rebuttal. Follow the debate here:

Lilla, Mark. "Taking the Right Seriously." CHRONICLE OF HIGHER EDUCATION September 11, 2009.

The unfortunate fact is that American academics have until recently shown little curiosity about conservative ideas, even though those ideas have utterly transformed American (and British) politics over the past 30 years. A look at the online catalogs of our major universities confirms this: plenty of courses on identity politics and postcolonialism, nary a one on conservative political thought. Professors are expected to understand the subtle differences among gay, lesbian, and transgender studies, but I would wager that few can distinguish between the American Enterprise Institute, the Heritage Foundation, and the Cato Institute, three think tanks that have a greater impact on Washington politics than the entire Ivy League. Why is that? The former left-wing firebrand David Horowitz, whom the professors do know, has a simple answer: There is a concerted effort to keep conservative Ph.D.'s out of jobs, to deny tenure to those who get through, and to ignore conservative books and ideas. It is an old answer, dating back to the 1970s, when neoconservatives began writing about the "adversary culture" of intellectuals. Horowitz is an annoying man, and what's most annoying about him is that . . . he has a point. Though we are no longer in the politically correct sauna of the 1980s and 1990s, and experiences vary from college to college, the picture he paints of the faculty and curriculum in American universities remains embarrassingly accurate, and it is foolish to deny what we all see before us. Over the past decade, our universities have made serious efforts to increase racial and ethnic diversity on the campus (economic diversity worries them less, for some reason). Well-paid deans work exclusively on the problem. But universities show not the slightest interest in intellectual diversity among faculty members. That wouldn't matter if teachers could be counted on to introduce students to their adversaries' books and views, but we know how rarely that happens. That's why political diversity on the faculty does matter. As it stands, there is a far greater proportion of conservatives in the student body of typical colleges than on the faculty. A few leading thinkers on the right do teach at our top universities—but at some, like Columbia University, where I teach, not a single prominent conservative is to be found. Contra Horowitz, the blackballing of conservatives and conservative ideas is by now instinctive and habitual rather than self-conscious, reflecting intellectual provincialism more than ideological fervor. . . . Read the rest here:

Kirsch, Adam. "Justice and its Critics." CITY JOURNAL September 11, 2009.

Sandel, Michael. Justice: What’s the Right Thing to Do?. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2009. Sen, Amartya. The Idea of Justice. Cambridge, MA: Harvard UP, 2009. “Justice, justice shalt thou pursue,” commands the Book of Deuteronomy. But for American political philosophers, it is not so much justice as A Theory of Justice that is the object of pursuit. Since John Rawls published that seminal book in 1971, its ideas and language have exercised an extraordinary hold on the imagination of political thinkers. Just look at Justice by Michael J. Sandel and The Idea of Justice by Amartya Sen—two books, coincidentally appearing at the same moment, by leading political philosophers, both of them professors at Harvard (as Rawls was). Justice is the more accessible work, based on Sandel’s popular introductory course in Harvard’s Core Curriculum, while The Idea of Justice is more ambitious, treating a range of theoretical and practical problems in political economy. Yet both books are, at heart, responses to and revisions of Rawls, and their titles deliberately allude to Rawls’s magnum opus. Just as the nineteenth-century critics of Hegel were still known as Young Hegelians, so these critics of Rawls are essentially post-Rawlsians. The power of A Theory of Justice, which functions in Sen’s and Sandel’s books like the Freudian father who both must and must not be slain, comes from the way Rawls gave theoretical form to the core assumptions of late-twentieth-century left-liberalism. Rawls’s version of social contract theory is almost as well known by now as Hobbes’s and Locke’s. The only way for us to design a truly just society, Rawls argues, is to imagine ourselves behind a “veil of ignorance” that prevents us from knowing what our actual place in society will be—more, that blocks off our view of our own abilities, desires, and values. People negotiating in this “original position,” Rawls holds, will necessarily agree on two basic principles: first, that the liberty of every person will be inviolable; second, that economic disparities will only be allowed if they serve the advantage of the worst-off in society. Read the rest here:

"Metaphor and the Domains of Discourse," Researching and Applying Metaphor International Association, Vrije Universiteit, June 30-July 3, 2010.

As an association, RaAM strives to advance the study of metaphor, metonymy and other aspects of figurative language, with a commitment to the application of metaphor research to 'real world' issues. In light of this, the theme of our upcoming 8th conference will be 'metaphor and domains of discourse'. The theme is intended to highlight the socio-cultural as well as the situational diversity of metaphor as manifested in, for example: • government and politics; • religion and ethics; • education; • science and healthcare; • business and organizations; • mass media and journalism; and • literature and the arts. The conference will feature plenary lectures by: •Paul Chilton, Dept. of Linguistics and English Language, Lancaster University, UK •Dedre Gentner, Dept. of Psychology and School of Education and Social Policy, Northwestern University, USA •And an address by the outgoing Chair of the RaAM Executive Committee, Lynne Cameron, Faculty of Education and Language Studies, Open University, UK Visit the conference homepage here:

Cfp: "Oakeshott, Strauss and Vogelin," Biennial Conference, Michael Oakeshott Association, Baylor University, November 12-14, 2009.

Update 2: The Programme has now been updated and may be downloaded here: Update 1: Visit the conference webpage here: Also, of course, the Association website is back up and running. Original Post (February 9, 2009): 2009 marks the fifth meeting of the Michael Oakeshott Association, a group founded in 2001 to encourage the study of one of the 20th century’s most important political philosophers. Previous conferences have taken place at the London School of Economics, Colorado College, and the University of Jena in Germany. This year, Baylor University will host the conference, broadening its scope to include the thought of Leo Strauss and Eric Voegelin. Because Oakeshott, Strauss and Voegelin overlapped so extensively in their interests and yet differed sharply on certain points of method and teaching, comparisons among them often prove fruitful and enlightening. This is why readers of one thinker often become serious readers of the others. And yet we rarely if ever have an occasion to come together as a group and to benefit directly from each other’s insights. We thus especially invite papers on topics that all three thinkers address, such as the function and place of liberal education, the fruitful tensions between reason and revelation, the relationship of religion and politics, the meaning of political philosophy, the crisis of modernity, and the role that studying the ancients may play in better understanding our modern situation. This list is not exhaustive, but we strongly encourage potential presenters to engage such comparative topics. Abstracts, no more than 500 words, should be sent by April 30, 2009 to Abstracts should also include: title of paper, full name(s), affiliation, current position, and an email address. The conference will take place at the Armstrong Browning Library at Baylor University in Waco, Texas.

Podcast: ABC's PHILOSPHER'S ZONE on 50th Anniversary of Michel Foucault's MADNESS AND CIVILISATION.

Foucault, Michel. Folie et déraison: Histoire de la folie à l'âge classique. Paris: Plon, 1961. Translations include:
  • History of Madness. Foreword by Ian Hacking. Ed. Jean Khalfa. Trans. Jonathan Murphy and Jean Khalfa. London: Routledge, 2006.
  • Madness and Civilization: a History of Insanity in the Age of Reason. Trans. Richard Howard. New York: Pantheon, 1965.
Exactly fifty years ago, a 33-year-old Frenchman named Michel Foucault completed what would become one of the most influential works on the history of psychiatry: Madness and Civilization: A History of Insanity in the Age of Reason. The book made a philosophical star of its author and changed our view of madness. Visit the webpage here:; Listen here to the interview with Justin Clemen:

Shelley, James. "The Concept of the Aesthetic." STANFORD ENCYCLOPEDIA OF PHILOSOPHY September 11, 2009.

Introduced into the philosophical lexicon during the Eighteenth Century, the term "aesthetic" has come to be used to designate, among other things, a kind of object, a kind of judgment, a kind of attitude, a kind of experience, and a kind of value. For the most part, aesthetic theories have divided over questions particular to one or another of these designations: whether artworks are necessarily aesthetic objects; how to square the allegedly perceptual basis of aesthetic judgments with the fact that we give reasons in support of them; how best to capture the elusive contrast between an aesthetic attitude and a practical one; whether to define aesthetic experience according to its phenomenological or representational content; how best to understand the relation between aesthetic value and aesthetic experience. But questions of more general nature have lately arisen, and these have tended to have a skeptical cast: whether any use of "aesthetic" may be explicated without appeal to some other; whether agreement respecting any use is sufficient to ground meaningful theoretical agreement or disagreement; whether the term ultimately answers to any legitimate philosophical purpose that justifies its inclusion in the lexicon. The skepticism expressed by such general questions did not begin to take hold until the later part of the Twentieth Century, and this fact prompts the question whether (a) the concept of the aesthetic is inherently problematic and it is only recently that we have managed to see that it is, or (b) the concept is fine and it is only recently that we have become muddled enough to imagine otherwise. Adjudicating between these possibilities requires a vantage from which to take in both early and late theorizing on aesthetic matters. Read the whole entry here:

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

"Derrida's Ghosts: Five Years After His Death," Istituto Italiano per gli Studi Filosofici, Università di Torino, October 7-10, 2009.

Wed, 7 Oct.
3.30-7 p.m. Aldo Masullo, Introduction Peter Sloterdijk, "Lectio Magistralis" Maurizio Ferraris, "Derrida’s Ghosts"
Thurs, 8 Oct.
9.30 a.m.-1 p.m. Politics Chair: Armando Massarenti Roberto Esposito, "Biopolitics and Immunity" Giacomo Marramao, "From the Politics of Friendship to the Beast and the Sovereign" Sebastiano Maffettone, "Force and Justice: Derrida in International Relations" Giovanna Borradori, "The Other Speech, Another Trace: Derrida, Habermas and Religion" Corrado Ocone, "Derrida and Enlightenment" 3.30-7 p.m. Ethics Chair: Giuseppe Cantillo Vincenzo Vitiello, "De amicitia: Derrida, Nietzsche, Schmitt" Bruno Moroncini, "Ash Ethics" Pieraldo Rovatti, "An Ethics of the Impossible" Pina De Luca, "The Stranger that We Are: Ethics and Aesthetics of Hospitality" Silvano Petrosino, "Experience and Textuality" Giovanni Leghissa, "Derrida and the Moderns’ Religion"
Fri, 9 Oct.
9.30 a.m.-1 p.m. Technique Chair: Stefano Poggi Gianni Vattimo, "A Politics of Difference?" Carlo Sini, "Beyond Text" Gianfranco Dalmasso, "Nothing but Text" Vincenzo Costa, "The Difference as a Condition of Appearing" Gaetano Chiurazzi, "'The Fact that I Do not Understand': Writing Between Technique and Event" 3.30-6.30 p.m. Biography Chair Nuccio Ordine René Major, "Derrida’s Psychoanalysis" Benoît Peeters, "A Life of Jacques Derrida" Marie-Louise Mallet, "Why Publish Derrida’s Seminars?" Manuel Asensi, "Play It Again, Derrida" Charles Alunni, "Derrida’s Ghost" 6.30-8 p.m. Viewing of Derrida, by Amy Ziering Kofman and Kirby Dick
Sat, 10 Oct.
9.30 a.m. -1 p.m Irradiation Chair: Umberto Curi Caterina Resta, "Globalization and New International: For a Cosmopolitics to Come" Beppe Sebaste, "The Ghost’s Body" Simone Regazzoni, "Sovereignty in Deconstruction" Amelia Valtolina, "With Him, Towards Him: Jacques Derrida and Paul Celan" Francesco Vitale, "Writing and Space. The Deconstruction’s Architecture" Alberto Andronico, "Derrida as Read by Jurists" 3.30-7 p.m. The Future of Deconstruction Chair: Antonio Gnoli Final Round Table

Menon, Suresh. "Poet of the Willow: Archie Jackson, 1909-1933." CRICINFO September 6, 2009.

Frith, David. Archie Jackson: the Keats of Cricket. London: Pavillion, 1987.

Comparisons with music seem to fit cricket better than comparisons with literature. Or perhaps we have been led to believe this is so by the writings of Neville Cardus, who thought nothing of grabbing his readers with: "And Spooner's cricket in spirit was kin with sweet music, and the singing of Elizabeth Schumann in Johann Strauss." Somehow it has always seemed more appropriate to compare a genius cricketer to Mozart, say, than to Shakespeare; even established literary figures when they occasionally wrote on the game tended to look outside their stream for analogies and comparisons. JB Priestley, for example, in his study of Garry Sobers did not see fit to bring Shakespeare into the equation as an allrounder.

So it was with some surprise that I read the subtitle of a biography of Archie Jackson. The surprise vanished when I read the author's name - David Frith, who, though certainly more literary than musical, is without the need to impress by dipping into the cauldron of cricket clichés. The subtitle? "The Keats of Cricket."

It is superbly apposite, conjuring up images that represent talent, suffering, delicacy, romance, tuberculosis and untimely death. Keats died at 25. His grave proclaims, "Here lies one whose name was writ in water." Jackson was 23 when he died, and Frith's attempt to ensure that his name is not merely writ in water is an admirable one. . . .

Read the rest here:

Pub: GLOSSATOR 1 (2009).

  • INTRODUCTION by Nicola Masciandaro Abstract PDF
  • TINTERN ABBEY, ONCE AGAIN by J. H. Prynne Abstract PDF
  • NEW WORK: A PROSIMETRUM by Daniel C. Remein Abstract PDF

Focus and Scope:

Glossator publishes original commentaries, editions and translations of commentaries, and essays and articles relating to the theory and history of commentary, glossing, and marginalia (catena, commentum, gemara, glossa, hypomnema, midrash, peser, pingdian, scholia, tafsir, talkhis, tika, vritti, zend, zhangju, et al). The journal aims to encourage the practice of commentary as a creative form of intellectual work and to provide a forum for dialogue and reflection on the past, present, and future of this ancient genre of writing. By aligning itself, not with any particular discipline, but with a particular mode of production, Glossator gives expression to the fact that praxis founds theory.

Download the issue here: