Friday, October 30, 2009

31st Annual Meeting, Nietzsche Society (USA) in conjunction with the Society for Phenomenology and Existential Philosophy, Virginia, October 29, 2009.

  • "Did Nietzsche Follow Friedrich Ritschl to Leipzig?" by Anthony Jensen, Lehman College, CUNY
  • "Writing, Reading, Thinking, Feeling: Nietzsche & the Art of Living" by Alan Milchman & Alan Rosenberg, Queens College, CUNY
  • "Nietzsche as a Reader of Wilhelm Roux, or The Physiology of History" by Lukas Soderstrom, Université de Montréal
  • "Is There Hope for History? The Meanings of 'History' in Nietzsche and Heidegger" by Chiara Ricciardone, SUNY, Binghamton
Chairperson: George Leiner, Saint Vincent College Nietzsche Society Business Meeting: Friday, Oct 30, 2009, 8 AM (TBA)

Cfp: "New Conservatisms and New Approaches: a Conference of Conservatism Studies," Anglo American University, Prague, May 14-15, 2010.

It is hard to exaggerate the influence of Conservative ideas on the current shape of transnational, national and sub-national politics. Conservatives had been among the most powerful political actors in many societies during the 20th century and there seems no reason for a substantial change in the coming years. But the scholar interest to Conservatism still remains weak and Conservatism is mostly neglected as an ideology or a theoretical tool to interpret socio-political phenomena. New Conservatisms and New Approaches is announced with this point in mind, to provide the scholars of Conservatism an opportunity to present their researches, reflect on alternative methods and approaches of Conservatism Studies, share knowledge on peculiar forms of Conservatism in different societies, and form new links to further the scholar understanding of the Conservative ideology. We invite all scholars and postgraduate students who are interested in Conservatism Studies to submit 200 words abstracts for a 40 minute paper (plus a 20 minute discussion time) to by 15th of February 2010. Visit the conference homepage here:

Lambert, Gregg. Review of Steven Shapiro, WITHOUT CRITERIA. NDPR (October 2009).

Shaviro, Steven. Without Criteria: Kant, Whitehead, Deleuze, and Aesthetics. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2009. I often enjoy those books of philosophy that begin like good science fiction. In this vein, Steven Shaviro's Without Criteria begins: "I imagine a world in which Whitehead takes the place of Heidegger." In other words, he poses the question, "What if Whitehead, instead of Heidegger, had set the agenda for postmodern thought?" (ix). Starting from this "philosophical fantasy", Shaviro sets out to describe a possible world without Heidegger, which I take to be a sort of Leibnizian wager that is bound up with the "turn to Whitehead" today. Accordingly, "a world in which Whitehead takes the place of Heidegger" must be understood as a divergence from the image of thought that belongs to a tradition of post-Kantian critical philosophy, the recurrent features of which have been an obsessive concern over the limits of representation and the critique of subjectivity, and by an allergic reaction to modern science and technology. The main objective of this tradition has been the exposure of the limits of all representational systems by a regressive procedure of critical reason that leads them into a state of crisis as an anticipatory step to their radical reconstruction; the second objective is the laying bare of all naïve and subjectivist constructions of identity, which leads to the production of difference introduced from the critical perspective of "otherness" (as in the case, most recently, in the critical perspectives surrounding the animal and the post-human). The shortcomings of this tradition of post-Kantian philosophy have been found in the fact that the anticipated radical phase of "construction" has never become a positive event as such, and the actual discovery of new possibilities for subjectivity have been through a glass darkly. The philosophies of this tradition have never fully been able to depart from a negative or deconstructive phase; as a result, the future is posited as a static and essentially "empty form of time", often accompanied by a highly speculative image of the event itself as the undetermined and the ungrounded, hence "radical", commencement of an entirely new ontological order. In short, we have merely replaced one metaphysics with another, namely, with a metaphysics of difference; moreover, we have supplanted the universal pretentions of the Kantian Subject with a progressive number of new radical subjectivisms. What, after all, is the recent turn to the animal (or to the nakedness of zoe itself) if not yet another in a series of attempts to "de-center the metaphysics of the Western [human] subject" that is already pre-programmed by this tradition of critique (epoké)? But let us stop here! In positing "a world without Heidegger", retracing our steps backward to a point of deviation where Whitehead takes his place, inevitably we must begin somewhere. According to Shaviro, we must start from Kant, whose transcendental philosophy takes up the first half of Without Criteria; more specifically the "Transcendental Dialectic" of the second section of the First Critique and "the Analytic of the Beautiful" of the Third Critique, which are then drawn into comparison with Whitehead's system. Beginning all over again from Kant seems like one possible solution to the impasse brought about by the previous tradition of post-Kantian critical philosophy, and it is here that Shaviro's own intentions are most clear, since we are presented with the image of philosophy at the crossroads, so to speak. Following Kant's transcendental reduction, we are given two possible routes for a philosophy of the future to take: one leads via Heidegger straight to "Derrida and his epigones" (which Shaviro implies is a dead-end for philosophy in this century); the other, offered in Without Criteria, leads to Deleuze via Whitehead, even though this route remains "virtual", that is to say, still under construction (by Shaviro and other Deleuzians, including Isabelle Stengers and Brian Massumi, who might also add James and Pierce along the way). Thus, it is not by chance that Without Criteria is the second volume of the MIT series edited by Massumi and Erin Manning, Technologies of Lived Abstraction, which proposes to publish works not content to rest with the habitual divisions (between "aesthetics" and "politics", for example, central to Shaviro's notion of "critical aestheticism") and "to catch new thought and action dawning at a creative crossroad". This could even be said to signal a "Whiteheadian revolution" that is taking place in some quarters of the Deleuzian camp, if not in the general field of continental philosophy today. . . . Read the whole review here:

Cfp: "Caribbeanscapes: the Vistas of Caribbean Literature," Department of Literatures in English, University of the West Indies, April 29-May 1, 2010.

29th Annual Conference on West Indian Literature. The Caribbean has been perceived in myriad and often contradictory ways: as paradisal isles; outposts of innocence offering Edenic beginnings; hedonistic beachscapes of tourist fantasies; the backwaters of civilization, condemned to mimicry and futile posturing; and vital centres of creative cultural hybridity, literally new worlds that prophesy our globalized futures. Anglophone Caribbean literature is a rich archive of such perceptions, often articulating them as visual tropes of space and place that conflate geography and history, language and cartography in the attempt to chart the imaginative and literal frontiers of psyche and society. To explore this archive of Caribbean literary vistas, the 29th Annual Conference on West Indian Literature invites papers and panel proposals on the following topics: · Tropicalized Spaces : The Power of Vistas · Home and Garden: Domestic Ecologies · Unhomely Spaces · Manscape and Womantongue Trees: the Gender of Vistas in Caribbean Literature · Rural Pastoral, Urban Dystopia? City and Country in Caribbean Writing · Plantation, Yard, Tonelle: Metaphors of Place and Identity · Spectacular Islands: The Visual Politics and Poetics of Caribbean Popular Culture · Translocal and Transnational Vistas · Travel Writing · Bordered Vistas: Border Regimes, Border Clashes, and Border-Crossings · Imagining Caribbean Space Proposals are welcomed on other topics that are relevant to the theme of the Conference. Abstracts should not exceed 250 words in length, and should include (1) a title, (2) name, status and institutional affiliation of the presenter(s), (3) a contact email address, and (4) a mailing address. Please also let us know if you require any special equipment. Papers will be a maximum of twenty (20) minutes in length. Abstracts or proposals for panels comprising three papers should be emailed to the following addresses: The first Call for Papers will close on November 30, 2009.

Taylor, James Stacey. Review of Todd May's DEATH. NDPR (October 2009).

May, Todd. Death. Cheshire: Acumen, 2009. Death exemplifies how popular philosophy should be done. It is a thoughtful, engaging, and carefully written reflection on the nature of death and what our response to it, as mortals who are aware that we will die, should be. Moreover, although it is aimed at a general audience Death is also likely to be of interest to philosophers who are professionally engaged with the questions that it addresses. May's philosophical range is broad, and so this book could profitably be used as an introduction to Ancient, Anglo-American, Continental, and Eastern views on death for persons unfamiliar with one or more of these traditions. Death is divided into three sections of approximately 40 pages each: "Our dealings with death", "Death and immortality", and "Living with death". The volume closes with suggestions for further reading and a short reference section. . . . Read the whole review here:

Roth, Paul A. Review of William Rehg, COGENT SCIENCE IN CONTEXT. NDPR (OCTOBER 2009).

Rehg, William. Cogent Science in Context: the Science Wars, Argumentation Theory and Habermas. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2009.

Books can easily be found that offer to examine and account for the "science wars", understood as the ongoing turf battle between philosophers and sociologists. The focus of the conflict concerns how to explain what considerations actually determine what comes to be accepted as the received views in any one of the natural sciences. The main contenders consist of two apparently opposed explanatory strategies. On the one hand, some advocate the primacy of contextual factors in order to explain why a scientific community settles on a particular view. On such accounts, the norms of scientific inquiry represent only the contingent products of historical circumstance. On the other hand, "internalist" accounts typically seek to establish that evidence can be and is rationally determinative. Evaluative procedures can have validity that transcend their context. On this view, use of proper rational procedure explains what prevails and why within a scientific community. The former view denies and the latter affirms that standards of rationality simpliciter can and do explain accepted scientific views. Unfortunately, authors of such books all too typically begin by assuming the correctness of one of the usual suspects with regard to accounts of scientific rationality. William Rehg's book proceeds by urging that resources can be located for an account of rationality that embraces neither of these views and yet incorporates core contentions of each. Specifically, Rehg argues for the relevance of "argumentation theory", an area of inquiry that straddles several disciplines and with which most philosophers of science will probably be unfamiliar. The "argumentation theory" as Rehg portrays it refers to studies of argument that represent "an interdisciplinary endeavor that provides a set of categories -- drawn from logic, linguistics, dialectic, rhetoric, and so on -- for the description and evaluation of arguments" (4). Rehg offers a straightforward rationale for taking this approach: "Like other areas of human endeavor, the sciences exist and develop as social practices -- exercises in embodied social rationality . . . This trend challenged defenders of science to develop more realistic conceptions of scientific rationality" (3). Argumentation theory as Rehg conceives of it holds the promise of providing a general normative framework for the evaluation of scientific claims that is superior in specific ways to the alternatives scouted above. His book promises a sustained and detailed account of how to construct this framework. Rehg employs the term 'cogency' to connote the joint process of assessing both the psychological effect and the rational strength of an argument. The appeal to cogency arises inasmuch as no one set of factors -- logical, rhetorical, or sociological -- typically suffices to make the case in favor of one view over another. The question that Rehg poses, and the litmus test for the approach of his book, concerns whether or not Rehg's contextualist version of argumentation theory offers a more robust normative framework than any of the alternatives that Rehg finds inadequate to the task of adjudicating disputes on the cogency of scientific claims. The primary challenge to the cogency of scientific argument consists in the need to bridge what Rehg terms "Kuhn's gap", understood as "a gap between logical and social-institutional perspectives, a gap that rhetorics of science attempt to bridge" (33). More specifically, in order to close Kuhn's gap, an argumentation theory must reveal "how persuasion occurs within the transitional phase itself -- the microprocesses that generate agreement on the new paradigm" (47). Kuhn's work poses the question but provides no answer. The gap will only be closed, however, in a philosophically satisfactory way by providing an account of cogency that demonstrates that scientists were persuaded to shift theoretical allegiances for the "right" reasons, i.e., that no group made a weaker argument appear the stronger. . . .

Read the whole review here:

Cfp: "The Place of Psyche: Politics, Art, Nature," Department of Philosophy, Villanova University, April 23-24, 2010.

Keynote Speaker: Jonathan Lear, Department of Philosophy, University of Chicago The Greek concept of “psyche,” often translated as “soul,” “mind,”“ego,” or “unconscious,” has played a central role in philosophical interrogations of the self, nature, community, and creation. We invite submissions that, from either a contemporary or a traditional perspective, address the following metaphilosophical question: What can the concept of “psyche” do for us today, as we think about politics, art, and nature? Professor Lear works primarily on philosophical conceptions of the human psyche from Socrates to the present with an emphasis on health, happiness, and therapeutic action. He is also a trained psychoanalyst and his two most recent books are Freud (2005) and Radical Hope: Ethics in the Face of Cultural Devastation (2006). Submission Guidelines: We encourage submissions from faculty and graduate students of abstracts (300-500 words) and/or papers (3,000 to 5,000 words). Please format these for blind review—personal information, such as name, institutional affiliation, and contact information, should be either in the body of your email or on a page separate from the rest of your paper, and not in the paper itself. Please email your submissions (and any questions you may have) to by February 1, 2009.

Cfp: "Plato's PHAEDRUS," West Coast Plato Workshop, Department of Philosophy, University of California, San Diego, May 22-23, 2010.

Keynote speaker: Rachana Kamtekar, Department of Philosophy, University of Arizona The conference organizer invites proposals for 30 minute talks (to be followed by 45 minutes of commentary or discussion) on any topic related to Plato's Phaedrus. Please send proposals (abstracts) to by 15 December 2009. Also, please forward this announcement to anyone who might be working on the Phaedrus or interested in attending. The first conference, on Plato's Theaetetus, was held in 2008 at the University of California, Davis; the second, on the Euthydemus, in 2009 at the University of California, Berkeley. The conferences are open to all students and faculty, and are organized on an ad hoc basis by the host university.

Roth, Paul A. Review of Robert Piercey, THE USES OF THE PAST FROM HEIDEGGER TO RORTY. NDPR (OCtober 2009).

Piercey, Robert. The Uses of the Past from Heidegger to Rorty: Doing Philosophy Historically. Cambridge: CUP, 2009. Philosophy of history has been undergoing a revival in recent years after languishing too long at the margins of the discipline. Its themes include historical explanation, the reality of the past, history as a science -- in short, issues attending explanations of what now remains and what happened previously. How the reconstruction of a history influences an understanding of the present, and implicitly how one's understanding of the present shapes one's reconstruction of the past, emerge as the central themes of Robert Piercey's account of what he terms "doing philosophy historically". As he states at the outset, "the aim of this book, then, is to understand the nature of the activity that we call doing philosophy historically and to describe this activity's distinguishing features" (2). That this represents a distinctive philosophical approach Piercey has no doubts: "It [doing philosophy historically] has a distinctive object . . . It also employs a distinctive method and has a different set of goals" (ibid.). The burden the book thus assumes consists of making good on these three claims. Piercey undertakes this task by developing an initial outline of what he takes doing philosophy historically to be (Chapters 1-3), and then filling in the outline with three case studies that he claims exemplify the theory in practice. Thus, Chapter 4 examines what he terms the "critical approach" of Alasdair MacIntyre, Chapter 5 details the "diagnostic approach" attributed to Martin Heidegger, and Chapter 6 offers what Piercey terms Paul Ricoeur's "synthetic approach". If successful, Piercey could be credited with identifying and characterizing a genre of philosophical inquiry that has grown and prospered in the last century. Indeed, this genre has emerged, it would seem, without much notice being taken or (and especially) any appreciation being given (see 3-5). Piercey portrays doing philosophy historically as a meta-philosophical endeavor. He writes, "But its goal -- or at any rate, its hope -- is to broaden our conception of what philosophy is" (8). What exactly does Piercey imagine has passed under the philosophical radar? For certainly at least two of Piercey's own examples -- Rorty and Heidegger -- hardly make it a secret that "overcoming the tradition" in philosophy lies on their agendas. What links the philosophers whom Piercey discusses involves not their philosophic aspirations, but their use of the history of philosophy in furthering their metaphilosophical project. Each constructs a history of the discipline to further his case. In this regard, to do philosophy historically is to construct what Piercey terms a "philosophical picture". Every picture tells a story, albeit a different story, about the world seen philosophically. The first three chapters explore the nature of philosophical pictures as Piercey conceives them. . . . Read the whole review here:

Thaler, Naly. Review of Catalin Partenie, ed. PLATO'S MYTHS. NDPR (October 2009).

Partenie, Catalin, ed. Plato's Myths. Cambridge: CUP, 2009. This volume contains ten papers, eight of which have not been previously published, dealing with Plato's use of myth in the dialogues. Of these ten papers, eight contain interpretations of a single myth from a particular dialogue, one contains an attempt to extract a coherent doctrine from Plato's several eschatological myths, and one, the last, discusses the portrayal of themes from Platonic myths in Renaissance art. The volume also contains a helpful introductory essay by the editor surveying and discussing different interpretative approaches to Platonic myth. The introductory essay announces that the papers contained in the volume all treat myth and philosophy as tightly bound together. This however, should not be taken to indicate that the various contributors share a common view as to the nature of this connection. The papers contained in the volume display a wide variety of approaches to their chosen myths. Some of the readings are fairly literal whereas others thoroughly symbolic; some authors read their chosen myth as a support for the dialogue's main argument, whereas others see it as intended to cast doubt on the viability of its conclusion. This fact will be viewed as a shortcoming of the volume only by readers who approach it with the intention of discovering a unified account of what Platonic myth is. Those, on the other hand, who read it in the hope of acquiring a new perspective on the arguments of particular dialogues will be richly rewarded, as the majority of the papers are highly successful in using the myths to shed new and sometimes surprising light on these arguments. . . . Read the rest here:

Monday, October 26, 2009

Philosophy Summer School, Melbourne School of Continental Philosophy, January 25 - February 19, 2010.

Week 1: Jan 25 - 29 11am-1pm DELEUZE'S LEIBNIZ: THE FOLD (Sean Bowden) 2pm-4pm FOUCAULT'S ARCHEOLOGY OF KNOWLEDGE (Jon Roffe) Week 2: Feb 1 - 5 11am-1pm NIETZSCHE'S LEGACY: EXISTENTIALISM, POST-STRUCTURALISM, TRANSHUMANISM (Dr Ashley Woodward) 2pm-4pm PHENOMENOLOGY MEETS THE NEUROSCIENCES (Dr Maurita Harney) Week 3: Feb 8 - 12 11am-1pm THE PROBLEM OF SOCRATES: PLATO, XENOPHON AND THE LIMITS OF PHILOSOPHY (Bryan Cooke) 2pm-4pm HISTORY OF PHILOSOPHY I: THE PRESOCRATICS (James Garrett) Week 4: Feb 15 - 19 11am-1pm JACQUES LACAN AND LEO STRAUSS: A SYMPOSIUM ON THE ANCIENT AND THE MODERN (Dr Matthew Sharpe) 2pm-4pm EMMANUEL LEVINAS: PHILOSOPHY OF RADICAL ALTERITY (Dr Andrea León-Monterro) Full course details, recommended readings and enrolment are available at The school will be held at the University of Melbourne. Each course consists of 5x2 hour seminars, from Monday to Friday. A course reader is provided on the first day of each course.  The Melbourne School of Continental Philosophy is an independent teaching and research group made up of graduate students and academics who share the goal of providing continental philosophy wherever it is needed. The MSCP runs philosophy workshops and teaches annual summer and winter schools. Join our mailing list on the website for updates on MSCP activities.

Cfp: "Second Derrida Today Conference," British Academy, London, July 19-21, 2010.

Update: New keynote speakers announced: Nicholas Royle Marian Hobson Original Post (August 24, 2009): The Derrida Today Conference, hosted by Kingston University and Macquarrie University of Australia, is broadly interdisciplinary and will focus on the ongoing value of Derrida's work to the political- ethical, cultural, artistic, scientific and philosophical futures that confront us. The organisers invite contributions from a range of academic and cultural contexts. We will accept papers and panel proposals on any aspect of Derrida's work or deconstruction in relation to various topics and contemporary issues: philosophy, literature, psychoanalysis, architecture and design, law, film and visual studies, haptic technologies, photography, art, music, dance, embodiment, feminism, race and whiteness studies, politics, ethics, sociology, cultural studies, queer theory, sexuality, education, science (physics, biology, medicine, chemistry), IT and multimedia, etc. Keynotes: 1) Geoffrey Bennington 2) Peggy Kamuf. 3) Further Keynote to be announced. Organising Committee: Martin McQuillan, Nicole Anderson, Simon Morgan-Wortham, Nick Mansfield, Stephen Barker, Eleanor Byrne. The deadline for abstracts/proposals is 30 November 2009. Enquiries and abstracts to: Web address:

Cerbone, David R. Review of Two Books by Don Ihde. NDPR (October 2009).

  • Postphenomenology and Technoscience: the Peking University Lectures. Albany: SUNY Press, 2009.
  • Ironic Technics. Automatic Press, 2008.
This pair of slim volumes presents in condensed form Ihde's distinctive take on the philosophy of technology, which combines the two key terms in the title of the longer volume: what Ihde calls "postphenomenology" and "technoscience". The volume bearing these two words in its title consists of a series of lectures Ihde delivered at Peking University in 2006; the other volume consists of four freestanding, though thematically linked essays. Despite their brevity, there is a great deal of repetition within and across these two volumes, and so rather than deal with them serially, I will mainly concentrate on singling out the key ideas and theses the two works share, taking passages from either or both as needed.

Ihde's notion of postphenomenology serves as something of the master-concept in his view, and so it may be best to begin with it. If we confine ourselves at the start just to Ihde's choice of terminology, the principal question appears to be one concerning how to situate Ihde's notion in relation to what it presents itself as succeeding, namely phenomenology. There is, of course, no single notion of phenomenology -- Husserl himself changed his conception of phenomenology over his career, and the various "existential" phenomenologists such as Heidegger, Sartre, and Merleau-Ponty offered their own distinctive takes on the notion -- and this makes the task of delineating a successor method a rather delicate maneuver (one may be a post-Husserlian phenomenologist, for example, but still be doing plain old phenomenology in, say, Heidegger's sense). What makes Ihde's approach phenomenological is its appropriation of several key ideas from the phenomenological tradition -- and especially from Husserl -- which are then projected into a new domain, namely the philosophy of technology. Ihde claims that technology is not just a particular object of study, but is itself a way in which experience is mediated. This means that intentionality itself -- the principal subject matter of phenomenology in the traditional sense -- is modified by technology: "Technologies can be the means by which 'consciousness itself' is mediated. Technologies may occupy the 'of' [in the 'consciousness of ____' formula of intentionality] and not just be some object domain" (PT, p. 23). What I take this to mean is that technology can play an adverbial role with respect to intentionality, so that it is not so much what we experience (some technological object) as a way we experience: we experience things technologically in that technology modifies -- sometimes modestly, sometimes radically -- both what and how we experience the world. Postphenomenology is interested in documenting these forms of mediation, and so Ihde's discussions abound with examples where technology has shaped the object domain (e.g. the popular song, whose length was determined by the limits of recording technologies) and opened up new domains for exploration (considerable attention is devoted to imaging technologies). . . .

Read the rest here:

Friday, October 23, 2009

Huddleston, Robert. "Leap into Light." BOSTON REVIEW (September/October 2009).

  • Bedient, Calvin. The Yeats Brothers and Modernism’s Love of Motion. Notre Dame: U of Notre Dame P, 2009.
  • Vendler, Helen. Our Secret Discipline: Yeats and Lyric Form. Cambridge, MA: Harvard UP, 2009.

William Butler Yeats has been called the twentieth century’s greatest poet. He may even deserve the title. As Richard Ellmann wrote in his classic study Yeats: The Man and the Masks, “it is not easy to assign him a lower place.” Others may have attempted more; none achieved it. Ezra Pound, T. S. Eliot, Wallace Stevens, and all the other contenders of Yeats’s illustrious generation—none stakes quite the same claim on the imagination, or on the idiom, of our time. “Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold”; “A terrible beauty is born”; “Now days are dragon-ridden, the nightmare / Rides upon sleep.” Even Joyce has his protagonist Stephen Dedalus murmuring lines from Yeats’s early poem “Who Goes with Fergus?” on Sandymount strand: “And no more turn aside and brood / Upon love’s bitter mystery.” Like Shakespeare, Yeats is inescapable.

Yet few critics, including Ellmann, have seemed entirely comfortable with this fact. As a man, Yeats could be personally unappealing, even arrogant and intolerant, although not more so than Eliot and less so than Pound. The problem with casting Yeats as the ne plus ultra of twentieth-century poets stems from the fact that his work defies preconceptions about what a sufficiently modern—and specifically Modernist—poetry should be. Yeats’s ties to the nineteenth century and the legacy of Romanticism were vital and strong. Most importantly, Yeats forsook radical formal innovation and was instead a lifelong advocate of traditional poetic meter and form. However, as Calvin Bedient writes in The Yeats Brothers and Modernism’s Love of Motion—his lively new study of the poet and his brother, the painter Jack Yeats—“Yeats knew what technical resources to call upon to convey movement as force.” Despite the conventionality of its composition, Bedient maintains, Yeats’s work is a revelation and enactment of the twentieth century’s discoveries about the nature of the physical world and of the human psyche. He is the poet of dynamism, of “creative destruction,” and also of violence and horror. . . .

Read the rest here:

Stern, Sol. "E. D. Hirsch’s Curriculum for Democracy." CITY JOURNAL (Autumn 2009).

The “Massachusetts miracle,” in which Bay State students’ soaring test scores broke records, was the direct consequence of the state legislature’s passage of the 1993 Education Reform Act, which established knowledge-based standards for all grades and a rigorous testing system linked to the new standards. And those standards, Massachusetts reformers have acknowledged, are Hirsch’s legacy. If the Obama administration truly wants to have a positive impact on American education, it should embrace Hirsch’s ideas and urge other states to do the same. Hirsch draws his insights from well outside traditional education scholarship. He started out studying chemistry at Cornell University but, mesmerized by Nabokov’s lectures on Russian literature, switched his major to English. Hirsch did his graduate studies at Yale, one of the citadels in the 1950s of the New Criticism, which argued that the intent of an author, the reader’s subjective response, and the text’s historical background were largely irrelevant to a critical analysis of the text itself. But by the time Hirsch wrote his doctoral dissertation—on Wordsworth—he was already breaking with the New Critics. “I came to see that the text alone is not enough,” Hirsch said to me recently at his Charlottesville, Virginia, home. “The unspoken—that is, relevant background knowledge—is absolutely crucial in reading a text.” Hirsch’s big work of literary theory in his early academic career, Validity in Interpretation, reflected this shift in thinking. After publishing several more well-received scholarly books and articles, he received an endowed professorship and became chairman of the English department at the University of Virginia. Hirsch was at the pinnacle of the academic world, in his mid-fifties, when he was struck by an insight into how reading is taught that, he says, “changed my life.” He was “feeling guilty” about the department’s inadequate freshman writing course, he recalls. Though UVA’s admissions standards were as competitive as the Ivies’, the reading and writing skills of many incoming students were poor, sure to handicap them in their future academic work. In trying to figure out how to close this “literacy gap,” Hirsch conducted an experiment on reading comprehension, using two groups of college students. Members of the first group possessed broad background knowledge in subjects like history, geography, civics, the arts, and basic science; members of the second, often from disadvantaged homes, lacked such knowledge. The knowledgeable students, it turned out, could far more easily comprehend and analyze difficult college-level texts (both fiction and nonfiction) than their poorly informed brethren could. Hirsch had discovered “a way to measure the variations in reading skill attributable to variations in the relevant background knowledge of audiences.” This finding, first published in a psychology journal, was consistent with Hirsch’s past scholarship, in which he had argued that the author takes for granted that his readers have crucial background knowledge. Hirsch was also convinced that the problem of inadequate background knowledge began in the early grades. Elementary school teachers thus had to be more explicit about imparting such knowledge to students—indeed, this was even more important than teaching the “skills” of reading and writing, Hirsch believed. Hirsch’s insight contravened the conventional wisdom in the nation’s education schools: that teaching facts was unimportant, and that students instead should learn “how to” skills. Hirsch gave a lecture on the implications of his study at a Modern Language Association conference and then expanded the argument in a 1983 article, titled “Cultural Literacy,” in The American Scholar. The article caused a stir, not so much in the academy (and certainly not in the ed schools) as among public intellectuals. William Bennett, then chair of the National Endowment for the Humanities, encouraged Hirsch to pursue his theme. Education historian Diane Ravitch urged him to get a book out fast and to call it Cultural Literacy as well. Hirsch heeded the advice, and in 1987, the book landed on the New York Times’s bestseller list, where it stayed for 26 weeks, resulting in a dramatic career change for the author. He kept researching and writing about how to improve the “cultural literacy” of young Americans and launched the Core Knowledge Foundation, which sought to create a knowledge-based curriculum for the nation’s elementary schools. A wide range of scholars assisted him in specifying the knowledge that children in grades K–8 needed to become proficient readers. For example, the Core Knowledge curriculum specifies that in English language arts, all second-graders read poems by Robert Louis Stevenson, Emily Dickinson, and Gwendolyn Brooks, as well as stories by Rudyard Kipling, E. B. White, and Hans Christian Andersen. In history and geography, the children study the world’s great rivers, ancient Rome, and the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, among other subjects. By the late 1980s, Hirsch had all but abandoned academic literary studies and become a full-time education reformer. . . . Read the rest here:

Romano, Carlin. "Heil Heidegger!" CHRONICLE REVIEW October 18, 2009.

Faye, Emmanuel. Heidegger: the Introduction of Nazism into Philosophy. New Haven: Yale UP, 2009. How many scholarly stakes in the heart will we need before Martin Heidegger (1889-1976), still regarded by some as Germany's greatest 20th-century philosopher, reaches his final resting place as a prolific, provincial Nazi hack? Overrated in his prime, bizarrely venerated by acolytes even now, the pretentious old Black Forest babbler makes one wonder whether there's a university-press equivalent of wolfsbane, guaranteed to keep philosophical frauds at a distance. To be sure, every philosophy reference book credits Heidegger with one or another headscratcher achievement. One lauds him for his "revival of ontology." (Would we not think about things that exist without this ponderous, existentialist Teuton?) Another cites his helpful boost to phenomenology by directing our focus to that well-known entity, Dasein, or "Human Being." (For a reified phenomenon, "Human Being," like the Yeti, has managed to elude all on-camera confirmation.) A third praises his opposition to nihilism, an odd compliment for a conservative, nationalist thinker whose antihumanistic apotheosis of ruler over ruled helped grease the path of Adolf Hitler in the 1930s. Next month Yale University Press will issue an English-language translation of Heidegger: The Introduction of Nazism Into Philosophy, by Emmanuel Faye, an associate professor at the University of Paris at Nanterre. It's the latest, most comprehensive archival assault on the ostensibly magisterial thinker who informed Freiburg students in his infamous 1933 rectoral address of Nazism's "inner truth and greatness," declaring that "the Führer, and he alone, is the present and future of German reality, and its law." Faye, whose book stirred France's red and blue Heidegger départements into direct battle a few years back, follows in the investigative footsteps of Chilean-Jewish philosopher Victor Farias (Heidegger et le Nazisme, 1987), historian Hugo Ott (Martin Heidegger: Unterwegs zu Zeiner Biographie, 1988) and others. Aim? To expose the oafish metaphysician's vulgar, often vicious 1930s attempt to become Hitler's chief academic tribune, and his post-World War II contortions to escape proper judgment for his sins. "We now know," reports Faye, "that [Heidegger's] attempt at self-justification of 1945 is nothing but a string of falsehoods." . . . Read the rest here:

Sunday, October 18, 2009

"Scientific Philosophy: Past and Future," Center for Logic and Philosophy of Science, Tilburg University, April 13, 2010.

Various philosophers of the past - and many philosophers of today - believe that there can be real progress in philosophy and that such progress is facilitated crucially by a close interaction between philosophy and the sciences. "Scientific Philosophy" maintains that philosophical theses and arguments should be just as clear and precise as scientific ones; philosophers ought to build theories and models much as scientists do; and the application of mathematical methods as well as input from empirical studies are often necessary in order to gain new insights into old philosophical questions and to progress to new and deeper ones. This workshop will address what Scientific Philosophy is all about, what it has in common with science and where it might diverge from it, what we can learn from its historical successes and failures, and, most importantly, how we should assess its future prospects. The invited speakers include: Michael Friedman, Stanford Christopher Hitchcock, Caltech Volker Peckhaus, Paderborn Organizers: Stephan Hartmann, Tilburg Hannes Leitgeb, Bristol Jan Sprenger, Tilburg There'll be three to four slots for contributed papers. If you are interested in presenting something, please send an extended abstract of up to 1500 words to by 15 January 2010. Decisions will be made by 1 February 2010. There is no registration fee. However, participants have to register by sending an email to by 15 March 2010. For further information, visit:

Cfp: "The Politics of Peace," Annual Conference, Society for Continental Philosophy and Theology, Messiah College, April 16-17, 2010.

Call for Papers: SCPT's 2010 conference will focus on PEACE. We invite papers that examine the many dimensions of peace from social, political, religious, scientific, theological, and philosophical points of view. We also seek papers dealing with complementary topics such as justice, reconciliation, forgiveness, and peace-making, and that deal with the practical aspects of the above topics. SCPT is an organization that seeks to promote inquiry at the intersection of philosophy and theology, through the study of phenomenology, deconstruction, feminism, Radical Orthodoxy, and other related fields. Keynote Speakers: Catherine Keller (Drew University) William T. Cavanaugh (University of St. Thomas) Only complete papers with a maximum of 3,000 words will be accepted. Papers should be prepared for blind review and sent to DEADLINE: FREBRUARY 8, 2010 The Society for Continental Philosophy and Theology seeks to promote inquiry at the intersection of philosophy and theology. For more information about SCPT, visit

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Myers, D. G. "The Never-Ending Journey." COMMENTARY MAGAZINE (October 2009).

  • Alexander, Edward. Lionel Trilling and Irving Howe, and Other Stories of Literary Friendship. Somerset, NJ: Transaction, 2009.
  • Kimmage, Michael. The Conservative Turn: Lionel Trilling, Whittaker Chambers, and the Lessons of Anti-Communism. Cambridge, MA: Harvard UP, 2009.

Why the persistent fascination with Lionel Trilling? An English professor, literary critic, and one-book novelist, Trilling continues to generate interest three decades after his death, while his contemporaries—Newton Arvin, Cleanth Brooks, F.O. Matthiessen, Philip Rahv, Yvor Winters—go quietly into obscurity. Two new books by academics of distinction—one with a long career and the other at the outset—wrestle with Trilling’s legacy only three years after Gertrude Himmelfarb named Trilling as the summit of The Moral Imagination in her book of that title three years ago. Just last year, an unfinished novel called The Journey Abandoned appeared in print for the first time and was the occasion of essays everywhere, including in these pages, just as the New York Review of Books reissued The Liberal Imagination, his best-known -volume, in a “classic” edition.

There is something peculiar in this. After all, liberal anti-Communism, the cause Trilling was most closely identified with, is no longer relevant. The Soviet Union outlived him by just a decade and a half, and those who claim the present-day mantle of liberal anti-Communism, like the journalists Peter Beinart and Paul Berman, have had an exceptionally clumsy time of it. There is no liberal anti-Islamism to speak of. Those who now declare themselves liberals (“a word primarily of political import,” Trilling wrote, “but its political meaning defines itself by the quality of life it envisages”) are more impatient to prosecute Bush-administration officials than the war on terror.

What is more, the style of literary criticism practiced by Trilling—and by Irving Howe, whose long friendship with Trilling is lovingly detailed in Edward Alexander’s book Lionel Trilling and Irving Howe—might itself share some of the blame for its current dreadful state. The rise of “literary theory” in the late 70s entailed the “reduction of literature to politics,” Harold Fromm charged in Academic Capitalism and Literary Value (1991), and since then critics have been “more interested in political goals than intellectual activity or aesthetic response.” The same might have been said of Trilling (and Howe).

As a literary man, Trilling was the sworn enemy of the so-called New Critics—his chief rivals to preeminence in the literary criticism of the time—who sought to disconnect literature from an external reality and study poems only in relation to what R. P. Blackmur, one of their more articulate spokesmen, called “the analyzable features of the forms and techniques of poetry.” The effect was to sever literature from any relation to politics.

Trilling believed that withdrawal from politics was unforgivable in an era in which human freedom was threatened by a Soviet totalitarianism that “wants not so much a liberated humanity as a sterilized humanity” and “would gladly make a wasteland if it could call the silence peace.” Intellectual passivity, he warned, was an invitation to violence. Literature had a very immediate connection with politics—though politics did not mean practical arrangements for the improvement of social existence but “the politics of culture, the organization of human life toward some end or other.” The aesthetic effect of the greatest literature was to be found in its “intellectual power,” in the “mind’s success” at confronting social reality. The greatness of literature, in other words, is measured in the level of its engagement with society and therefore with politics. . . .

Read the whole review here:

Pub: RHETORIC REVIEW 7.2 (2009).

  • Sara Newman, review of Carol Berkenkotter, Patient Tales: Case Histories and the Uses of Narrative in Psychiatry;
  • Brenda Griffith-Williams, review of Edwin Carawan, ed. The Attic Orators;
  • Christopher Coffman, review of Tina Skouen, Passion and Persuasion: John Dryden’s The Hind and the Panther;
  • Richard Hunter, review of Casper C. de Jonge, Between Grammar and Rhetoric. Dionysius of Halicarnassus on Language, Linguistics and Literature.

Download the reviews here:

"Crises, Corruption, Character and Change," 9th International Conference on Organizational Discourse (ICOD), Amsterdam, July 14-16, 2010.

Contemporary organizing is confronted by seemingly endless ‘crises’ which are routinely projected through apocalyptic metaphor. Over coffee, we can skip-read through today’s ‘ecological catastrophe’, the ‘global financial meltdown’ and ‘the collapse of capitalism’ before ‘getting down to work’. The global financial system appears to be littered with a variety of corrosive mechanisms in the banks, the housing markets and their institutions, the pensions industry and the short-termism of stock-markets. And these ‘crises’ are of such magnitude that we are threatened with recession if not the more ominous possibility of economic depression. Meanwhile, it seems, global warming and its attendant climate change proceed unabated. We are threatened with the inundation of all low-lying land, the collapse of food production across several continents and the fundamental transformation of ocean currents promising flood and drought in equal measure. Fish and bees are disappearing while feel-good eco-friendly products proliferate within a flourishing carbon-offset ‘market’. And the poverty of our political response is breath-taking – the only tangible outcome of the G8 meeting in L'Aquila (July, 2009) was that world leaders were presented with made-to-measure Belstaff parka jackets individually signed by Italy’s prime minister, Silvio Berlusconi. Crises? What crises? All of which suggests that the distance between our discursive projections of the future and our inability to confront those possibilities has, perhaps, never been greater. In the post-whatever world we now inhabit, all appears to be simultaneously terminal and – bizarrely – transient. We can frame this apparent dissociation of human action from its consequences through the analyses of ‘flexible capitalism’ (Sennett) or ‘liquid modernity’ (Bauman) which have charted the disorienting and destabilising effects of – in its broadest sense – the emergent ‘post-modern’ social reality. However, the persuasiveness of such abstract analyses apparently remains beyond periphery of policy-makers’ thinking. Hence, the theme for the 9th Conference has a narrative focus on the discursive construction and re-construction of crises, corruption, character and change. At the meta-level, the conference theme is intended to elicit papers which address the discursive construction and re-construction of ‘crises’. In our view, linguistic framing is a fundamental aspect of how ‘crises’ are being manufactured, constituted, projected, perceived and addressed (or finessed) at all levels of organization. Despite the apocalyptic metaphors, it appears that any given ‘crisis’ can re-emerge as a ‘manageable risk’, a ‘market opportunity’ or a case for ‘re-regulation’. Perhaps most problematic is how we have depicted the character of these various crises for their technical and global complexity invariably engenders over-simplified description. In parallel, we appear to be experiencing a persistent growth in corruption. This is manifest in at least two spheres. First, we have seen an increasing prevalence of dissociated institutional practices across organizations which have directly undermined the presumed core processes of those organizations – a phenomenon which has occurred not only in financial institutions but also in the political sphere and across public sector organizing. Secondly, in accounting for and representing such seemingly corrupt behaviour, the first resort is invariably to one or other variety of rhetorical dissimulation – a deeply corrosive process which corrupts the conventional meanings of language. These issues raise further questions regarding the problems of continuity and the scope for change. Is socio-political and institutional change desirable or even feasible? If so, what particular forms of change might be instigated? Should change processes be radical and transformational or orthodox and incremental in nature? What is the role for, and status of, discourse(s) in relation to change (or non-change). How does discourse shape ‘character-formation’ and possible responses to crises and corruption? In keeping with past conferences, we also invite papers which engage with the constructs of character, corruption and change in a more specific sense. Hence, character – corrupt or otherwise – could, for example, be considered as an attribute of individuals ‘getting into character’, of organizations (e.g. culture), or as a loaded social phenomena (i.e. with moral, spiritual and/or ethical overtones). Similarly, we welcome submissions which address corruption in the wider etymological sense of contaminating or altering meaning (e.g. relation to a text). Alternative readings of change which apply to discursive aspects of organizing or organizations are also encouraged (i.e. as socially embedded processes of substitution, conversion, disruption or improvement). Given the Conference theme deliberately constitutes a broad discursive canvas, we expect the precise conference streams to emerge from the papers themselves. However, we also anticipate papers that will organize themselves within the following topics: Sensemaking, Stories and Narrative; Corruption, Disruption and Rhetoric; Discourse, Identity and Temporality; Language, Culture and Ideology; Management Philosophy; Professions, Practices and Ethics; Ethnography and Organizational Life; Crisis, Continuity and Change; Reflexivity in Organizing; Critical Discursive Approaches; Metaphor, Tropes and Symbolism; Text, Talk and Technology; Organizational Identities; Management Discourse; Structures, Networks and Agency; Consumption, Brands and Images; Dramaturgy and Aesthetics; Spirituality and Diversity; Conversation Analytic Approaches Papers are invited on talk and text which address issues of social representation, social construction and social interaction in relation to any aspect of organization or organizing in relation to these themes. Contributions may adopt any epistemological perspective but we are concerned to achieve a balance between empirical studies and conceptual/theoretical contributions. Visit the conference homepage here:

Foucault Recordings.

The Media Resources Center of the University of California, Berkeley has recently placed on-line a number of audio recordings of Foucault. These recordings were donated to the library by Professor Paul Rabinow. Please visit:

Project Narrative Summer Institute, Ohio State University, June 28 - July 9, 2010.

The Project Narrative Summer Institute (PNSI) is a two-week workshop on the Ohio State University campus that offers scholars who have earned a Ph.D. (or other terminal degree) in any discipline the opportunity for an intensive study of core concepts and issues in narrative theory. Jim Phelan and Robyn Warhol-Down will direct the 2010 institute, which will accept twenty participants and will run from Monday, June 28th to Friday, July 9th. Rationale: "Narrative understanding"; "narrative explanation"; "narrative as a way of thinking"; "narrative as self-construction" : these phrases are now common currency in the conversations of literary critics, historians, philosophers, social scientists, therapists, legal scholars, and even some scientists and medical professionals, as their disciplines reflect on the ubiquity and power of storytelling. This Narrative Turn, with its cross-disciplinary consensus about the importance of narrative, invites investigation into narrative's form and effects, into its production and consumption. What is it about character, plot, ways of telling, and other elements of narrative that make it such a widely-deployed way of organizing and explaining experience and knowledge? More simply, how does narrative work in itself, how does it try to work on audiences, and how do audiences work with and against it? The Project Narrative Summer Institute will explore these questions in conjunction with a group of diverse literary narratives--diverse both in their media and in their cultural origins—and, in so doing, provide insight into essential elements of narrative and narrative theory. Even as the institute explores such theoretical issues as the dynamics of narrative transmission, the architecture of narrative worlds, and the distinction between fictional and nonfictional narrative, it will emphasize the value of establishing two-way traffic between narrative and narrative theory, that is, of recognizing that just as theory informs our understanding of individual narratives, so too do narratives lead us to revise, extend, and on occasion overturn existing theory. Narrative Texts: We will put a range of work in narrative theory (structuralist, feminist, cognitive, rhetorical, and more) in dialogue with the following set of diverse narratives: five short stories by mainstream and multicultural authors--Edith Wharton's "Roman Fever," Ernest Hemingway's "A Clean, Well-Lighted Place"; Toni Morrison's "Recitatif," Sandra Cisneros's "Barbie-Q," and John Edgar Wideman's "Doc's Story"; one novel, Jane Austen's Persuasion; one graphic narrative (that is, a comics-style text using a sequence of panels with text and image to tell its story), Alison Bechdel's Fun Home: a Family Tragicomic; and one film, Danny Boyle and Loveleen Tandan's Slumdog Millionaire. Participants should read Persuasion and Fun Home in advance of the institute. Theoretical Texts: Among others, the readings in narrative theory will include foundational work in narratology by Gérard Genette, Gerald Prince, Dorrit Cohn, Mikhail Bakhtin, and Uri Margolin; ethnically centered, queer, and feminist essays by Frederic Luis Aldama, Susan S. Lanser, Susan Stanford Friedman, and Robyn Warhol; work in cognitive narratology by David Herman and Alan Palmer; in neo-marxist theory by Alex Woloch; in rhetorical narrative theory by James Phelan; and in narrative approaches to post-modernism by Brian McHale and Brian Richardson. The deadline for applications is Monday, March 1, 2010. For more information, including application instructions and a syllabus, go to

Livingston, Paul M. Review of Alain Badiou, LOGICS OF WORLDS. NDPR (October 2009).

Badiou, Alain. Logics of Worlds: Being and Event II. Trans. Albert Toscano. London: Continuum, 2008. If it is reasonable to hope that the current moment in philosophy may ultimately represent one of transition, from the divided remnants of the still enduring "split" between "analytic" and "continental" philosophy to some form (or forms) of twenty-first century philosophy that is no longer recognizably either (or is both), it seems likely as well that the thought and work of Alain Badiou can play a key role in articulating this much needed transition. One of the central innovations of Badiou's work is that it uses the kind of rigorous formalism characteristic of much good analytic philosophy in its attempt to think through some of the main problems of ontology, metaphysics and political theory that have troubled continental philosophers over the course of the twentieth century. Both in Badiou's 1988 magnum opus, Being and Event and its new sequel, Logics of Worlds, the result is a kind of paradoxical formalism of the limits of formalism itself, striking a sometimes uneasy balance between the inveterate tendency of analytic thought to seek formal solutions for theoretical problems of epistemology and metaphysics, and that of continental thought to seek the solution to what are seen as more-than-theoretical problems of social and political praxis in the kinds of liberation that may occur outside the "closed" regime of all that is calculable or tractable by formal systems. In Logics of Worlds, as in the earlier book, Badiou's overriding aim is to theorize the possibility of radical novelty, or of discontinuous and essentially unforeseeable change, in any of a variety of domains (chiefly those of the "four generic procedures": politics, art, science, and love). To this end, in Being and Event, Badiou developed an elaborate and innovative theory of formal ontology based on mathematical structures, in particular that of mathematical set theory on its standard, ZFC axiomatization. This allowed Badiou to theorize what he there called the "event", the paradoxical occurrence that, by locally suspending the fundamental axioms normally governing the appearance of any object or entity as such, allows essentially new groupings, indiscernible by means of the resources of the existing situation, suddenly to appear and work their transformative effects. In Logics of Worlds, Badiou supplements this earlier "ontological" account of evental change with a comprehensive formal theory of appearance, what Badiou here terms a "phenomenology". Although the underlying apparatus is once again drawn from mathematical formalism, the sociopolitical implications of such possibilities of change are also, once again, very much to the fore. Indeed, in its "Preface", Badiou presents the whole argument of Logics of Worlds as part of an attempt to theorize what escapes the assumptions of contemporary "natural belief", what he sees as the confining dogmas of postmodern relativism and conventionalism (pp. 2-3). Such views, Badiou thinks, can ultimately yield only a monotonous regime of "democratic materialism" that, in seeing all cultures and their claims as on a level, forecloses both any possibility of real development and any effective intervention to produce fundamental change (pp. 2-8). Badiou proposes to replace this axiomatic of contemporary conviction with one that he calls, following Althusser, a "materialist dialectic". The central difference here is Badiou's unhesitating affirmation of what he calls Truths, which are, according to him, generally denied or suppressed in the contemporary orthodoxy of belief (p. 4). Badiou's notion of truth, however, is a heterodox one, not to be understood in terms of any familiar (e.g., correspondence or coherence) notion. For Badiou, the central mark of a Truth is its capacity to break with (or "subtract itself from") an existing regime of knowledge, and so to define a direction of radical transformation which, if followed out, will lead to the substantial re-ordering of basic possibilities of presentation and representation within the existing order (pp. 9-10). This vector of transformation is, for Badiou, always infinite. Thus the punctual articulation of a Truth by means of an evental break with a given situation is always partial, and liable to be taken up again, even after a lapse of centuries or millennia, through the renewal of a faithful tracing of the consequences of a subsequent Event by the agency of what Badiou terms the "subject" (pp. 33-35). Much of this terminology is familiar from Being and Event's theory of radical, evental change, and Badiou's aim here is not so much to alter that theory in any fundamental way as to remedy certain deficiencies he now sees in it. . . . Read the whole review here:

Lewis, William. "Louis Althusser." STANFORD ENCYCLOPEDIA OF PHILOSOPHY October 16, 2009.

Louis Pierre Althusser (1918–1990) was one of the most influential Marxist philosophers of the 20th Century. As they seemed to offer a renewal of Marxist thought as well as to render Marxism philosophy respectable, the claims he advanced in the 1960s about Marxist philosophy were discussed and debated worldwide. Due to apparent reversals in his theoretical positions, to the ill-fated facts of his life, and to the historical fortunes of Marxism in the late twentieth century, this intense interest in Althusser's reading of Marx did not survive the 1970s. Despite the comparative indifference shown to his work as a whole after these events, the theory of ideology Althusser developed within it has been broadly deployed in the social sciences and humanities and has provided a foundation for much “post-Marxist” philosophy. In addition, aspects of Althusser's project have served as inspiration for Analytic Marxism as well as for Critical Realism. Though this influence is not always explicit, Althusser's work and that of his students continues to inform the research programs of literary studies, political philosophy, history, economics, and sociology. In addition, his autobiography has been subject to much critical attention over the last decade. At present, Althusser's philosophy as a whole is undergoing a critical reevaluation by scholars who have benefited from the anthologization of hard-to-find and previously unpublished texts and who have begun to engage with the great mass of writings that remain in his archives. . . . Read the rest here:

"Art and/or Entertainment," 5th Annual Conference on Philosophy and Popular Culture, University of Southern Denmark, November 6, 2009.

Speakers: Irwin, King’s College, Pennsylvania, USA William Westney, H. C. Andersen Guest Professor, SDU; Texas Tech University, USA Kirsten Frandsen, University of Aarhus Cynthia M. Grund, University of Southern Denmark Jørgen Dines Johansen, University of Southern Denmark Carsten Fogh Nielsen, University of Copenhagen Rikke Schubart, University of Southern Denmark. The conference is free and open to all. For further information please contact: Post.doc. Carsten Fogh Nielsen at or Associate professor Cynthia M. Grund at Details on the research project 'Philosophy meets Popular Culture' may be found here:; On Facebook, search for “Philosophy meets popular culture”

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Cfp: "Caribbean Enlightenment," Caribbean Discussion Group, University of Glasgow, April 8-10, 2010.

An Interdisciplinary Caribbean Studies Conference. Keynote Speakers: J. Michael Dash, Professor of French, Social and Cultural Analysis, New York University Paget Henry, Professor of Sociology and Africana Studies, Brown University Nick Nesbitt, Centre for Modern Thought, University of Aberdeen Call for Papers: In a speech widely regarded as instigating the series of events that would lead to the overthrow of the Lescot government in 1946, André Breton's proclamation of Haiti's 'inalienable enthusiasm for liberty and its affirmation of dignity above all obstacles' articulated the enduring revolutionary conviction in the Enlightenment-inspired principles of liberty, equality and fraternity. This artistic, cultural and political expression of a universal right to freedom and self-determination reflects the diverse and complex ways in which Enlightenment ideals have found expression in the Caribbean. From the Haitian Revolution of 1791-1804 to The Black Jacobins, surrealism, négritude, and the contemporary writings of such theorists as Antonio Benítez-Rojo, Édouard Glissant, and Wilson Harris, the interrogation of universality has both contributed to the ongoing dissemination and creolization of Enlightenment discourse and has subjected it to a thorough critique. This conference aims to explore the various ways in which the site of the Caribbean, with its writers, artists, revolutionaries, and diverse peoples, has adapted and questioned the legacies of the Enlightenment. Acknowledging the Caribbean's crucial role in the Atlantic world, the Enlightenment's history of empire building and slave rebellions, colonial domination and postcolonial nation-building, the valorization of reason and its role in the division of knowledge will be interrogated against the dissemination of a discourse promoting universal human rights, democracy and equality. This conference seeks to bring together interdisciplinary perspectives on Enlightenment themes, both historical and contemporary, in order to trace the spread of a universalist discourse across the Caribbean. We hope to bring together Anglophone, Francophone and Hispanophone perspectives that explore figurations of the universal within the Caribbean context. Noting the region's national and linguistic divides, this conference will expose the ways in which Enlightenment ideals have been adapted to express the particular experience of the Caribbean peoples. Finally, we pose the question: 'Does the commitment to universalism amount to a totalizing discourse, or can universalism be revisioned'? We invite papers and panel suggestions that deal with any aspect of Caribbean Enlightenment, but which may include: Reason and Rule of Law Revolutions and uprisings Shortcomings of the Enlightenment: slavery and racism Development of 'improvement' in technologies, medicine and language Universal Human Rights, Democracy, Marxism, Self-determination Economics of Caribbean Enlightenment The impact of surrealism Négritude and the universal Appraisals of The Black Jacobins Contemporary Caribbean literature/philosophy and universality 'revisioned' Gendered, gay, racial, and class perspectives on universality Religion and the Caribbean Caribbean thought and 'post-continental' philosophy. Contact: Please send panel proposals and/or paper abstracts (300 words) with a brief biographical statement (150 words) to Dr. Lorna Burns and Michael Morris at by 1st December 2009. Visit the conference webpage:

Romano, Carlin. "Amartya Sen Shakes Up Justice Theory." CHRONICLE September 14, 2009.

Sen, Amartya. The Idea of Justice. Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press, 2009. Suppose three children—Anne, Bob, and Carla—quarrel over a flute. Anne says it's hers because she's the only one who knows how to play it. Bob counters that he's the poorest and has no toys, so the flute would at least give him something to play with. Carla reminds Anne and Bob that she built the darn thing, and no sooner did she finish it than the other two started trying to take it away. Intuitions clashing yet? Need something more complex to tingle your justice antennae—perhaps a puzzler from game theory? The example is Amartya Sen's, from the Nobel-Prize-winning economist's just-published The Idea of Justice (Belknap Press/Harvard University Press), his magnum opus on a line of work he's long addressed and now thoroughly re-examines: justice theory. And what a growth industry it's been since John Rawls revived the subject with his classic, A Theory of Justice (1971), and colleague Robert Nozick made its core principles into an Emerson Hall battle with his libertarian Anarchy, State, and Utopia (1974). Since Rawls, one hardly ranks as a political theorist without a whack at the J-word. Sen's stepping into the fray should keep things hopping, but justice theory is one subsidiary of philosophy that never really suffers a bad century. . . . Read the rest here:

Herta Muller Wins Nobel Prize in Literature 2009.

The German author Herta Müller has won the 2009 Nobel prize for literature for works inspired by – and often portraying – life under Nicolae Ceausescu’s dictatorship in her native Romania. The Swedish Academy, which awards the £895,000 prize, hailed Müller, 56, as a writer who "with the concentration of poetry and the frankness of prose, depicts the landscape of the dispossessed". Müller was born in a German-speaking village near Timisoara in western Romania but fled the country with her husband in 1987, two years before the fall of the Berlin Wall and the Christmas coup which saw Ceausescu deposed and executed in Romania. She has long been considered a candidate for the award and the permanent secretary of the Academy, Peter Englund, paid tribute to her today as a "great artist of words" who combined a fantastic language with extreme precision. . . . Read the rest here:

Robin, Corey. "The First Counter-Revolutionary." THE NATION September 30, 2009.

Revolution sent Thomas Hobbes into exile; reaction sent him back. In 1640 parliamentary opponents of Charles I such as John Pym were denouncing anyone "preaching for absolute monarchy that the king may do what he list." Hobbes had recently finished writing The Elements of Law, which did just that. After the king's top adviser and a theologian of unlimited royal power were both arrested, Hobbes decided it was time to go. Not waiting for his bags to be packed, he fled England for France. Eleven years and a civil war later, Hobbes fled France for England. This time, he was running from the royalists. As before, Hobbes had just finished a book. Leviathan, he would later explain, "fights on behalf of all kings and all those who under whatever name bear the rights of kings." It was this seeming indifference about the identity of the sovereign that was now getting him into trouble. Leviathan justified, no, demanded, that men submit to any person or persons capable of protecting them from foreign attack and civil unrest. With the monarchy abolished and Oliver Cromwell's forces in control of England and providing for the people's safety, Leviathan seemed to recommend that everyone, including the defeated royalists, profess their allegiance to the Commonwealth. Versions of that argument had already gotten Anthony Ascham, ambassador for the Commonwealth, assassinated by royalist exiles in Spain. So when Hobbes learned that clergymen in France were trying to arrest him--Leviathan was also vehemently anti-Catholic, which offended the Queen Mother--he slipped out of Paris and made his way back to London. It's no accident that Hobbes fled his enemies and then his friends, for he was fashioning a political theory that shredded longstanding alliances. Rather than reject the revolutionary argument, he absorbed and transformed it. From its deepest categories and idioms he derived an uncompromising defense of the most hidebound form of rule. He sensed the centrifugal pulses of early modern Europe--the priesthood of all believers, the democratic armies massing under the banner of ancient republican ideals, science and skepticism--and sought to convert them into a single centripetal force: a sovereign so terrible and benign as to make any challenge to such authority seem not only immoral but also irrational. Not unlike the Italian Futurists, Hobbes put dissolution in the service of resolution. He was the first and, along with Nietzsche, the greatest philosopher of counterrevolution, a blender avant la lettre of cultural modernism and political reaction who understood that to defeat a revolution you first must become the revolution. . . . Read the rest here:

Dalrymple, Theodore. "The Cult of Insincerity." NEW ENGLISH REVIEW (October 2009).

The other day – well, on Saturday, 5th September, to be exact – I opened Le Monde to the page called ‘Debates.’ The page was devoted to prisons in France, where conditions are acknowledged by almost everyone to be very bad. The prisons are overcrowded; there is much violence between prisoners; the staff, according to Dr. Dominique Vasseur, who wrote a best-selling book about her time as a doctor working in the largest prison in Paris, are callous and often corrupt. If her book is to be trusted – and no one, I think, has suggested that she was lying or grossly exaggerating – prisons in France are far worse than those across the Channel, which themselves are by no means always model institutions. Prison reform is an honourable cause; and while I don’t agree with Churchill, that a nation’s level of civilisation can be gauged by the way in which it treats its prisoners, I have always opposed the brutality that can so easily pervade what Erving Goffman called ‘a total institution.’ In the prison in which I worked, I insisted to the staff that their ascendancy over the prisoners must be moral rather than merely physical; and that, while they could be sometimes stern, they must always be fair. Moreover, they should always remember that, in prison, small things become large; and therefore, if they have promised something to a prisoner, they must always fulfil their promise. For otherwise the prisoner will be eaten up by a sense of grievance, and there is nothing like grievance to prevent a man from examining his own responsibility for his situation. But half the page of Le Monde was taken up with a plea for the greatest reform of prison of all: total abolition. It was written by a teacher of philosophy at a lycee, one of the elite state schools of the country; and if it were not for the fact that many young people tend to believe exactly the opposite of what their teacher teaches them, I would have said that he must be a corrupter of youth. It is odd that a man who presumably has spent a large part of his life on abstract questions should show such little capacity for critical thought. In him, at any rate, the Cartesian spirit is dead. . . . Read the rest here:

McWhorter, John. "What Should African American Students Learn?" THE NEW REPUBLIC October 1, 2009.

My point is that the typical African-American Studies department holds front and center a particular lesson: that racism is more influential in American life at present than one might initially think, and always has been. Urban history? Blacks were penned into segregated districts and then factory jobs available to modestly educated men were moved to China. Politics? Radicalism has been most interesting, whether or not it was the source of most black success. Performance? Most resonant in how it Spoke Truth to Power. Is that all we are? Is that all we have been? Is it irrelevant to cover how black people have triumphed against the obstacles? Especially since so many have trumphed that today there are more middle class black people than poor ones? Is the main relevance of the fact that we have a black President--ahem!!!!--that his election didn’t mean, as if anyone thought it did, that there did not remain some racist idiots here and there? It’s time that African-American Studies departments let go of the sixties imperative to defend blacks as eternal victims of racism. Black people can do their best even under imperfect conditions--and if that reality is irrelevant to an African-American Studies curriculum, then we must question the value of said curricula to those whom they purport to speak up for: real people in this real world. . . .

Gray, John. "Behind the Myth." LITERARY REVIEW (October 2009).

Service, Robert.  Trotsky: a Biography. London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2009.

Trotsky has always been something of an icon for the intelligentsia, and it is not hard to see why. He fitted the perception that dissenting intellectuals like to have of themselves. Highly cultured, locked in struggle with a repressive establishment, a gifted writer who was also a man of action, he seemed to embody the ideal of truth speaking to power. The manner of his death solidified this perception, which has shaped accounts of his life ever since.

Trotsky was a charismatic leader whose appeal extended across the political spectrum. When Trotsky was on the run from Stalin, H L Mencken offered to give him his own library (Trotsky refused because he did not want to be indebted to a reactionary). The Bishop of Birmingham signed a petition on Trotsky's behalf, and he was invited to become rector of Edinburgh University. Maynard Keynes tried to secure asylum for him in England, a campaign supported even by the power-worshipping Stalin-lover Beatrice Webb. Literary notables like Lionel Trilling, Edmund Wilson and Mary McCarthy joined the chorus of adulation. A hero-martyr in the cause of humanity, Trotsky deserved the support of every right-thinking person.

This has never been a terribly plausible view of the man who welcomed the ruthless crushing of the Kronstadt workers and sailors when they demanded a more pluralist system of government in 1921, and who defended the systematic use of terror against opponents of the Soviet state until his dying day. Introducing a system of hostage-taking in the Civil War and consistently supporting the trial and execution of dissidents (Mensheviks, Social Revolutionaries, liberal Kadets, nationalists and others), Trotsky never hesitated to endorse repression against those who stood in the way of communist power. This much has long been clear, but the full extent of Trotsky's role in building Soviet totalitarianism has not been detailed - until now. . . .

Read the rest here:

Wade, Nicholas. "Evolution All Round." NEW YORK TIMES October 8, 2009.

Dawkins, Richard.  The Greatest Show on Earth: the Evidence for Evolution.  New York: Free Press, 2009.

The theory of evolution really does explain everything in biology. The phenomena that Darwin understood in broad brush strokes can now be accounted for in the precise language of DNA. And though biological systems have attained extraordinary levels of complexity over the passage of time, no serious biologist doubts that evolutionary explanations exist or will be found for every jot and tittle in the grand script.

To biologists and others, it is a source of amazement and embarrassment that many Americans repudiate Darwin’s theory and that some even espouse counter­theories like creationism or intelligent design. How can such willful ignorance thrive in today’s seas of knowledge? In the hope of diminishing such obscurantism, the prolific English biology writer Richard Dawkins has devoted his latest book to demonstrating the explanatory power of evolutionary ideas while hammering the creationists at every turn.

Dawkins invites the reader to share the frustration of an imaginary history teacher, some of whose students refuse to accept that the Roman Empire ever existed, or that Latin is the mother tongue from which the Romance languages evolved. Instead of concentrating on how Western culture emerged from the institutions of the Roman state, the teacher must spend time combating a school board that insists he give equal time to their alternative view that French has been spoken from time immemorial and that Caesar never came or saw or conquered. This is exactly analogous to the plight of the biology teacher trying to acquaint students with the richness of modern biology in states where fundamentalist opponents of evolution hold sway.

Dawkins has a nice sense of irony, deployed without mercy on the opponents of evolution. . . .

Read the rest here:

Cfp: "Cultures of Differences: National, Indigenous, Historical," Annual Conference, International Association of Philosophy and Literature, University of Regina, May 24-30, 2010.

For more information, visit:

"Crisis of Meaning," a Day of Φιλο-ΣοΦια (Philo-Sophia): Friendship and Philosophical Discussion, Murdoch University, November 27, 2009.

The Murdoch Philosophy Program, in conjunction with the Krishna Somers Foundation, the Murdoch School of Social Sciences and Humanities and the Faculty of Arts and Education, invites abstracts of 250 words for twenty-minute papers in any field of philosophy, or related disciplines.

In choosing Crisis of Meaning as the theme of this year’s Colloquium, we hope to encourage contributions from a range of disciplines that consider philosophical questions relating to the nature of meaning and truth, and their significance in human lives.

Papers might examine the theme along broad philosophical lines, for example, in terms of humanistic compared with scientific forms of meaning, historical and timeless understandings of meaning, phenomenology, hermeneutics, language and interpretation, the meaning of meaning itself, philosophy and truth. Papers might also approach the theme as a question, exploring, for example, the notion that every generation sees itself as having a crisis of meaning (or of circumstance), asking what it means to think of something as a crisis and whether this idea is especially appropriate in particular contexts or whether it is an essential part of the human condition.

Alternatively papers might offer a philosophical examination of a currently perceived crisis, whether philosophical, social, political, psychological, etc., in contexts such as ‘ethics’, ‘the good life’, ‘sustainability’, ‘education’, ‘welfare’, ‘rationality’, ‘communication’, ‘depression’, etc.


Dr Lubica Ucnik, Philosophy Program, School of Social Sciences and Humanities, Murdoch University, Western Australia 6150 (

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Bennett, Drake. "Thinking Literally." BOSTON GLOBE September 27, 2009.

WHEN WE SAY someone is a warm person, we do not mean that they are running a fever. When we describe an issue as weighty, we have not actually used a scale to determine this. And when we say a piece of news is hard to swallow, no one assumes we have tried unsuccessfully to eat it. These phrases are metaphorical--they use concrete objects and qualities to describe abstractions like kindness or importance or difficulty--and we use them and their like so often that we hardly notice them. For most people, metaphor, like simile or synecdoche, is a term inflicted upon them in high school English class: “all the world’s a stage,” “a house divided against itself cannot stand,” Gatsby’s fellow dreamers are “boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.” Metaphors are literary creations--good ones help us see the world anew, in fresh and interesting ways, the rest are simply cliches: a test is a piece of cake, a completed task is a load off one’s back, a momentary difficulty is a speed bump. But whether they’re being deployed by poets, politicians, football coaches, or realtors, metaphors are primarily thought of as tools for talking and writing--out of inspiration or out of laziness, we distill emotions and thoughts into the language of the tangible world. We use metaphors to make sense to one another. Now, however, a new group of people has started to take an intense interest in metaphors: psychologists. Drawing on philosophy and linguistics, cognitive scientists have begun to see the basic metaphors that we use all the time not just as turns of phrase, but as keys to the structure of thought. By taking these everyday metaphors as literally as possible, psychologists are upending traditional ideas of how we learn, reason, and make sense of the world around us. The result has been a torrent of research testing the links between metaphors and their physical roots, with many of the papers reading as if they were commissioned by Amelia Bedelia, the implacably literal-minded children’s book hero. Researchers have sought to determine whether the temperature of an object in someone’s hands determines how “warm” or “cold” he considers a person he meets, whether the heft of a held object affects how “weighty” people consider topics they are presented with, or whether people think of the powerful as physically more elevated than the less powerful. What they have found is that, in fact, we do. Metaphors aren’t just how we talk and write, they’re how we think. . . . Read the rest here:

Pub: Hardt, Michael, and Antonio Negri, COMMONWEALTH.

Hardt, Michael, and Antonio Negri. Commonwealth. By Negri and Michael Hardt. Cambridge, MA: Harvard UP, 2009. When Empire appeared in 2000, it defined the political and economic challenges of the era of globalization and, thrillingly, found in them possibilities for new and more democratic forms of social organization. Now, with Commonwealth, Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri conclude the trilogy begun with Empire and continued in Multitude, proposing an ethics of freedom for living in our common world and articulating a possible constitution for our common wealth. Drawing on scenarios from around the globe and elucidating the themes that unite them, Hardt and Negri focus on the logic of institutions and the models of governance adequate to our understanding of a global commonwealth. They argue for the idea of the “common” to replace the opposition of private and public and the politics predicated on that opposition. Ultimately, they articulate the theoretical bases for what they call “governing the revolution.” Though this book functions as an extension and a completion of a sustained line of Hardt and Negri’s thought, it also stands alone and is entirely accessible to readers who are not familiar with the previous works. It is certain to appeal to, challenge, and enrich the thinking of anyone interested in questions of politics and globalization. Further details are here:

Cfp: Freedom and Power in the Caribbean: the Work of Gordon Lewis, Centre for Caribbean Thought, University of the West Indies, Mona, September 30-October 2, 2010.

Note the revised dates above.

The VIIth Caribbean Reasonings Conference is hosted in association with Africana Studies at Brown University and the Institute of Caribbean Studies, University of Puerto Rico, Rio Piedras. Professor Gordon K. Lewis, (1919 – 1991) taught for many years at the University of Puerto Rico and wrote path-breaking books on the Caribbean’s history, politics and intellectual development. Texts such as Puerto Rico: Freedom and Power in the Caribbean (1963), The Growth of the Modern West Indies (1968), and Main Currents in Caribbean Thought: the historical evolution of Caribbean society in its ideological aspects (1983), exemplify the breadth of his interests as well as the range and quality of his output. Lewis’ work transcended the region’s linguistic fragmentation and was consistent with the view that “No one could really claim to be a full practitioner in Caribbean Studies until he came to write ultimately, on the Caribbean as a whole.” (Main Currents in Caribbean Thought, (1983) Maingot, introduction vi). This conference in 2010 will reopen inter-territorial networks to enable studies across language barriers, a goal the Centre for Caribbean Thought has articulated and continues to realize since 2001 through several conferences and the “Caribbean Reasonings” book series with Ian Randle Publishers. It will also seek to introduce the seminal work of Gordon K. Lewis to a new generation of young scholars, interested in moving beyond constricting national barriers, in order to study the region in its entirety.
There is limited space on the conference programme for individual papers and panels, thus we are suggesting that proposals that fall within the following broad categories will be given serious consideration:
  • Critical examination of Gordon K. Lewis’s scholarship, particularly The Growth of the Modern West Indies; Main Currents in Caribbean Thought; Puerto Rico: Freedom and Power in the Caribbean; and Grenada: the Jewel Despoiled.
  • Critical work on the present state and the future of social sciences research in the Caribbean, with particular emphasis on pan-Caribbean research and inter-disciplinary studies.
  • Critical exploration of the state of Caribbean Thought in the contemporary period beyond Lewis’ assessment in Main Currents in Caribbean Thought
  • The state of politics in the Caribbean, forty years beyond The Growth of the Modern West Indies.
  • The existential condition of Caribbean Intellectuals and intellectualism in the 21st century. Reflections on the Grenada Revolution and Lewis’s assessment of its collapse in Grenada: the Jewel Despoiled.
  • Critical reflection on the state and status of Puerto Rico, beyond Lewis’ analysis in Puerto Rico: Freedom and Power in the Caribbean.
  • Critical analysis of the state and future of Pan Caribbeanism and integration movements. Sports, culture and the future of Caribbean unity.
Abstracts should be sent as a Word attachment to Beverley Sutherland Lewis at:
Visit the conference webpage here:

Johnson, Peter. Review of Fred Inglis, HISTORY MAN. NDPR (October 2009).

Inglis, Fred. History Man: the Life of R. G. Collingwood. Princeton: Princeton UP, 2009. Philosophical biography is as old as philosophy. In the third century Diogenes Laertius wrote wittily and informatively about the lives of philosophers, sometimes telling us about their work, sometimes about their often inglorious attempts to live a philosophic life. In our world few professional philosophers live, or even aspire to live, in the manner of a Socrates or an Aristotle, and even fewer, one suspects, would regard their lives as exemplary if they did. For most contemporary philosophers teaching philosophy in large modern universities, work is about much the same as a day at the office. Moreover, philosophers in our world make use of the work without needing to know a great deal about the life. Journals abound with articles on almost every philosophical topic imaginable. Routinely, philosophers, like scientists or historians, successfully exploit this material while remaining largely ignorant of the lives of those who produce it. And, yet, philosophical biography flourishes. Few major philosophers have not received the full biographical treatment. We should note that word major, for it acts as an assumption and a warning. The assumption is not only that major work in philosophy warrants a biography of the philosopher, but that the life will illuminate the work in ways that reflection on the work alone will fail to do. The warning arises from the assumption, since it is sometimes necessary to remind biographers that what makes a major philosopher is precisely the work alone. What uniquely attracts attention is the quality of the argument, the clarity and precision of the insight, the sustained demolition of a point of view or the spirit in which the philosophy is expressed, or, perhaps, some combination of all these. Even when an original philosophical voice explains what motivates it to do philosophy, or tells us why we should think philosophy worthwhile, we are listening in a different key. Philosophers sometimes write their own biographies. One such is R. G. Collingwood's An Autobiography, rightly considered a classic of its kind. In general, Collingwood had little time for biography. He thought it intrusive, vulgar and, even when well written, a form of writing that panders to the worst of readers' motives. Biography seeks the artist behind the art, the philosopher behind the philosophy, and in doing so peddles the illusion that it is the life which explains the work. Collingwood insists that his work stands apart. The Preface to Collingwood's Autobiography tells us exactly how it should be read -- "the autobiography of a man whose business is thinking should be the story of his thought" -- that is, the story of his philosophy as he saw it from the perspective of 1938, of how his ideas emerged and developed and how his search for a rapprochement between philosophy and history and theory and practice came to shape his intellectual life. We can be pretty sure that Collingwood would not have encouraged a biography. It may be, too, that at least a small motive for Collingwood writing his autobiography is that it spared him the attentions of a biographer. If there is any truth in this then Collingwood's ruse proved successful for some seventy years at least, until this year with the appearance of Fred Inglis's History Man: The Life of R. G. Collingwood, a work which gives Collingwood exactly the kind of scrutiny that, one suspects, he would have welcomed least. . . . Read the whole review here:

Ricciardi, Alessia. Review of Marcus Pound, ZIZEK. NDPR (October 2009).

Pound, Marcus. Žižek: a (Very) Critical Introduction. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2008. Since the end of the 1980s, the American academic world has had to face Slavoj Žižek's repeated, and at times repetitive, critical assaults on identity politics, multiculturalism, and post-Marxism. Žižek has increasingly advocated in his work a return to the notion of modern subjectivity that was initially spelled out by the German idealists and then recuperated and transfigured by Lacan; together, their contributions comprise the strategic knot of the Slovenian philosopher's theoretical framework. His latest salvo against the supposedly widespread liberal assumptions of contemporary culture has taken the form of a revival of religion, particularly of Christianity, in The Fragile Absolute: or why is the christian legacy worth fighting for? (2000), On Belief (2001), and The Puppet and the Dwarf: The Perverse Core of Christianity (2003). In the course of these writings, Žižek has moved from using Christianity as a reservoir of illustrative examples for his philosophical forays to engaging directly with its theological core, ultimately arriving at a position he describes as that of a "Pauline materialist". As a follower of Saint Paul, Žižek takes pride in grappling with religion in its institutional, dogmatic aspects, unlike, say, Levinas who in his eyes insists on reducing it to empty notions such as "Otherness". In line with Hegel's Christology, Žižek insists that Christianity ought to help bring about an end to the God of transcendence and "the beyond", thus enabling us, as a Lacanian would say, "to traverse the fantasy" of the Christian desire for the Divine (and the Judaic desire for God) in favor of love. Christianity becomes for Žižek something akin to a successful analysis and finds its defining moment in the Hilflösigkeit or helplessness experienced by the abandoned Christ on the cross. In fact, according to Lacan, this feeling characterizes the end of an effective analysis. Building on this insight, Žižek rejects the reading of Christ's sacrificial death as perverse and instead emphasizes the redemptive possibilities of Christian faith. What in his view requires further thought is Christianity's reliance on "violent love", which nevertheless accords with the spirit of a radical event, namely the crucifixion. Žižek opposes this spirit to the poetics of harmony and compassion espoused by Eastern religions such as Taoism and Buddhism that have become fashionable in Western culture and function as a mere supplement of capitalism. Žižek's engagement with Christianity raises a host of questions starting with the meaning of his notion of a religious suspension of the ethical, a concept that, notwithstanding its Kierkegaardian pedigree, can be confusing in his work. The most urgent questions are raised by his insistence on an organic relationship between religion and politics. Unlike the Leftist Hegelians, in particular Feuerbach and Marx, who criticized Christianity from a philosophico-political point of view, Žižek seems to believe that in breaking with the logic of desire for a transcendent divinity, Christianity opposes the logic of capitalism through its insistence on love as opposed to the desire that drives perpetual consumption. Although not entirely new, the use of Christianity in support of a Marxist agenda is certainly controversial, as is Žižek's adoption of Hegel's polemic in his Lectures on the Philosophy of Religion, which views other religions, in particular Judaism, as less perfect antecedents of Christianity. By helping to preserve spiritual and political conviction from the attacks of both contemporary skeptics and fundamentalists, Christianity becomes pivotal to Žižek's theory. Given this background, Marcus Pound's discussion of Žižek's work in light of Christianity is an interesting project that helps to highlight the growing importance of questions of faith in orienting Žižek's thought toward a "materialist theology." . . . Read the whole review here:

Read, Jason. Review of Antonio Negri and Cesare Casarino, IN PRAISE OF THE COMMON. NDPR (October 2009).

Negri, Antonio, and Cesare Casarino. In Praise of the Common: a Conversation on Philosophy and Politics. Minneapolis: U of Minnesota P, 2008. In Praise of the Common is a difficult book to categorize; neither a collection of interviews nor a collection of essays, it combines both formats, becoming in the end something unique. It is also a book that not only became something different than was initially intended, but which also explicitly states this difference. The book was conceived as a series of interviews that would address the historical background of Antonio Negri's thought, the tumultuous period of political action and philosophical reflection of the Italian sixties and seventies that remains largely unknown in the Anglo-American world despite the popularity of Empire and Multitude. However, as these conversations developed they became less about the past, less a matter of one person interviewing another about his experiences, and more about the present and future. The interview became a conversation. Unlike an interview, a conversation is determined less by an asymmetry between the one who knows and the one who asks than by the production of some common understanding. In Casarino's terms, "Conversation is the language of the common" (1). The shift in the tenor of the conversation also shifted the structure of the book: it is a collection of these conversations framed by three essays, two by Casarino and one by Negri. The shift in the structure of the book is also a shift in its content, from the reflection on a singular experience to a discussion of not only a common frame of reference, but ultimately the common itself. It is at this point that the shift from provocation to completion becomes more than just a trivial matter and becomes a philosophical problem in its own right. How does something singular become common? How does a specific moment, a particular historical experience, become something that can communicate, exceed its location in time and place in order to become something universal? This is both what the book attempts to answer, and what it enacts through its interplay of essay and conversations. At the center of these essays and conversations is the concept of the common. This term has a long history: its origins predate modernity, as it initially referred to commonly held lands that were the basis of agrarian life, but this has not prevented it from being the term utilized to make sense of the networks of knowledge and communication at the center of contemporary production, and ultimately the capacity to think and communicate. In each case it is a matter of not only that which makes production possible, from pastures to code to language, but that which cannot be possessed, and thus must circulate in order for there to be production. Casarino and Negri's discussion does not focus on this history, but on the current meaning of the term, in relation to their respective works and overlapping political histories, and in doing so it reveals that its conceptual and semantic dimensions are perhaps as deep as its historical levels. . . . Read the whole review here: