Thursday, December 02, 2010

Vernon, Mark. "William James: a Religious Man for Our Times: Part 1." GUARDIAN October 18, 2010.

James the man was ambivalent about the existence of God, and he has been called a humanist. But I think his fascination with what he came to call "the more" – coupled to the fact that in his crises and work alike he was obsessed by spiritual questions – demands that we think of him as a religious person. He described writing the Varieties as "my religious act". He was existentially troubled, intellectually brilliant, linguistically talented, openminded and humane. In short, he is an excellent, even necessary, person to read today if you are interested in matters to do with truth, pluralism, experience and God. This year is the centenary of his death. It's a good moment to explore his thought, as we will do in these blog posts. . . .

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Hibbs, Thomas S. "Stanley Cavell's Philosophical Improvisations." CHRONICLE OF HIGHER EDUCATION October 10, 2010.

Cavell, Stanley.  Little Did I Know: Excerpts from Memory.  Stanford: Stanford UP, 2010.

In God, Philosophy, Universities: A Selective History of the Catholic Philosophical Tradition, the latest in a number of recent books critical of the modern research university, the influential Irish-born philosopher Alasdair MacIntyre argues that "neither the university nor philosophy is any longer seen as engaging the questions" of "plain persons." These questions include: "What is our place in the order of things? Of what powers in the natural and social world do we need to take account? How should we respond to the facts of suffering and death? What is our relationship to the dead? What is it to live a human life well? What is it to live it badly?" Now in his 80s, MacIntyre is among a small group of philosophers who have sought to address such questions. Other members, about the same age, include the Canadian philosopher Charles Taylor and, perhaps especially, the American philosopher Stanley Cavell, whose life both in and out of philosophy is on display in his just-published autobiography, Little Did I Know (Stanford University Press).

In his book, MacIntyre indicts the university for its lack of integration, the disconnections among the disciplines, and the intellectual disregard of one discipline for another. He writes: "In contemporary American universities, each academic discipline is treated as autonomous and self-defining, so that its practitioners, or at least the most prestigious and influential among them, prescribe to those entering the discipline what its scope and limits are. And in order to excel in any one particular discipline, one need in general know little or nothing about any of the others." Returning philosophy to the concern of ordinary human persons and showing how it might speak across disciplinary lines of inquiry are not easy tasks. But the life and career of Cavell testify not just to the possibility of such achievements but also to just how rich the results can be. . . .

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"Hegel and Hegel's God." THE PHILOSOPHER'S ZONE November 27, 2010.

This week, in another trek through the luxuriant and fascinating jungle that is the thought of one of the greatest philosophers of the nineteenth century, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, we turn to Hegel's god and look at Hegel as a rational mystic. Our guest again is Robert M. Wallace, a philosopher best known for his book Hegel's Philosophy of Reality, Freedom and God, and a man with a keen interest in philosophical mysticism. Liberal theologians during the last century and a half have wanted to articulate a conception of God that could satisfy people's spiritual longings without conflicting with Darwinian evolution and other well-established scientific discoveries. Robert Wallace believes that Hegel had already done this. . . .

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Kamtekar, Rachana. "Marcus Aurelius." STANFORD ENCYCLOPEDIA OF PHILOSOPHY November 29, 2010.

The second century CE Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius was also a Stoic philosopher, and his private Meditations, written in Greek, gives readers a unique opportunity to see how an ancient person (indeed an emperor) might try to live a Stoic life, according to which only virtue is good, only vice is bad, and the things which we busy ourselves with are all indifferent. The difficulties Marcus faces putting Stoicism into practice are philosophical as well as practical, and understanding his efforts increases our philosophical appreciation of Stoicism. . . .

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Gopnik, Alison. "How Weird is Consciousness?" SLATE November 29, 2010.

Consciousness used to be the crazy aunt in psychology's attic. Behaviorists and cognitive scientists alike practiced denial, but the squeaking floorboards troubled our dreams of a truly scientific discipline. Now, the old lady has been given pride of place in the parlor, with all the respectable scientific furnishing of societies and journals. But let's face it—she's still weird.

In some ways, the scientific study of consciousness has been a great success. We know more than ever about the relationship between specific types of conscious experiences and specific mind and brain states. Discouragingly, though, we are still no closer to solving the Problem of Big-C Consciousness. How is consciousness possible at all? How could the few pounds of gray goo in my skull give rise to my experience of the particular blue tint of the sky? Scientists and philosophers have suggested everything from quantum effects to information integration to brain-wave patterns. Some deny that consciousness exists at all; others argue that consciousness couldn't possibly be the result of just the brain. The scientific organizers of one of the principal consciousness conferences, in fact, deliberately let in woo-woo stuff about altered states and past lives on the principle that we have no idea where the answer might come from.

This may be less dispiriting when you realize we've been here before. The philosopher Patricia Churchland has pointed out that the problem of "Life" in the 19th century was much like the problem of "Consciousness" in the 21st. How could a few molecules ever give rise to breathing, moving, living creatures? The answer turned out to be that it was the wrong question. We now understand a great deal about the many different ways in which complex organisms with a multitude of different properties arise from much simpler chemistry. The Problem of Big-L Life has simply faded away. . . .

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Friday, November 26, 2010

Cfp: "Reading Michel Foucault in the Postcolonial Present," University of Bologna, March 3-4, 2011.

Neoliberalism is superficially understood as a theory of political economic practices proposing that human well-being can best be advanced by the development of entrepreneurial freedoms within an institutional framework characterized by private property rights, individual liberty, unencumbered markets, and free trade. Less understood, however, is how its claims to be able to develop wealth and freedom became correlated with claims to develop the prosperity and security of life itself. Life, in the form of species existence, rather than human nature, has progressively emerged as a singularly important a priori for liberal political economy. Neoliberalism breaks from earlier liberalisms and traditions of political economy in so far as it pursues the development of economic profitability and prosperity not just with practices for the development of the human species, but with the life of the biosphere.
These correlations of economy, development, freedom, and life in and among neoliberal regimes of practice and representation comprise some of the foundations of its biopolitics. As this symposium will explore, we cannot understand how liberalism functions, most especially how it has gained the global hegemony that it has, without addressing how systematically the category of life has organized the correlation of its various practices of governance, as well as how important the shift in the very understanding of life, from the human to the biospheric, has been for changes in those practices.

Today it is not simply living species and habitats that are threatened with extinction, and for which we must mobilize our care, but the words and gestures of human solidarity on which resistance to biopolitical regimes of governance depends. A sense of responsibility for the survival of the life of the biosphere is not a sufficient condition for the development of a political subject capable of speaking back to neoliberalism. What is required is a subject responsible for securing incorporeal species, chiefly that of the political, currently threatened with extinction, on account of the overwrought fascination with life that has colonized the developmental as well as every other biopoliticized imaginary of the modern age.

While Foucault’s thought has been inspirational in diagnosing this condition of the postcolonial age, his works have too often failed to inspire studies of political subjectivity. Instead they have been used to stoke the myth of the inevitability of the decline of collective political subjects, describing an increasingly limited horizon of political possibilities, and provoking a disenchantment of the political itself. In contrast this symposium will excavate the importance of Foucault’s work for our capacities to recognise how this debasement of political subjectivity came about, particularly within the framework of the discourses and politics of “development”, and with particular attention to the predicaments of postcolonial peoples. Why and how it is that life in postcolonial settings has been depoliticized to such dramatic effect? And, crucially, how can we use Foucault to recover the vital capacity to think and act politically in a time when the most basic expressions of thought and human action are being targeted for new techniques of control and governance?

The immediacy of these themes will be obvious to anyone living in the South of the world. But within the academy they remain heavily under-addressed. In thinking about what it means to read Michel Foucault today this symposium will address some significant questions and problems. Not simply that of how to explain the ways in which postcolonial regimes of governance have achieved the debasements of political subjectivity they have. And certainly not that of how we might better equip them with the means to support life more fully. But that of how life itself, in its subjection to governance, can and does resist, subvert, escape and defy the imposition of modes of governance which seek to remove it of those very capacities for resistance, subversion, flight, and defiance.

This symposium will be the second in a series, the first having been held in Calcutta in September 2010, “The Biopolitics of Development: Life, Welfare and Unruly Populations”. As was established there, the formulation of and response to these questions and problems remains open. The political reception of Foucault’s thought is not monolithic and the debates provoked among the participants at the Calcutta event are far from settled. Hence the demand for a second symposium, this time in Bologna.

Confirmed speakers include Michael Dillon, Sandro Mezzadra, Julian Reid, Judith Revel, and Ranabir Samaddar. We also invite papers on this thematic from anyone else wishing to participate. Contributions analysing the topic of Foucault, political subjectivity and development from the perspective of other postcolonial locations will be particularly appreciated.

Send your abstracts to the organizing committee: Sandro Mezzadra (, Julian Reid ( and Ranabir Samaddar ( by December 31, 2010.


  • Review of Louis Althusser and the Traditions of French Marxism by Matt Bonal
  • Recension à Jean-Claude Bourdin (ed.), Althusser: une lecture de Marx by Andrea Cavazzini
  • "On the Cultural Revolution" by Anonymous (tr. Jason E. Smith) [Attributed to Louis Althusser]
  • "Sur la révolution culturelle" by Anonyme [Attribué à Louis Althusser]
  • "El Materialismo Tardío de Althusser y el Corte Epistememológico" by Giorgos Fourtounis (Tr. Aurelio Sainz Pezonaga)
  • "Escatologia à la cantonade: Althusser oltre Derrida" by Vittorio Morfino
  • "On the Emptiness of an Encounter: Althusser’s Reading of Machiavelli" by Filippo Del Lucchese (tr. Warren Montag)
  • "Il riconoscimento delle maschere: Soggettività e intersoggettività in Leggere «Il Capitale»" by Cristian Loiacono
  • "Zizek y Althusser: Vida o muerte de la lectura sintomática" by Mariana de Gainza
  • "El Althusser Tardío: ¿Materialismo del Encuentro o Filosofía de la Nada?" by Warren Montag (tr. Aurelio Sainz Pezonaga)
  • "Mil Fisuras. Arte y Ruptura a partir de Althusser" by Aurelio Sainz Pezonaga
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Latour, Bruna.  On the Modern Cult of the Factish Gods.  Durham: Duke UP, 2010.

On the Modern Cult of the Factish Gods continues the project that the influential anthropologist, philosopher, and science studies theorist Bruno Latour advanced in his book We Have Never Been Modern. There he redescribed the Enlightenment idea of universal scientific truth, arguing that there are no facts separable from their fabrication. In this concise work, Latour delves into the “belief in naive belief,” the suggestion that fetishes, objects invested with mythical powers, are fabricated, and that “facts” are not. Mobilizing his work in the anthropology of science, he uses the notion of “factishes” to explore a way of respecting the objectivity of facts and the power of fetishes without forgetting that both are fabricated. While the fetish-worshipper knows perfectly well that fetishes are man-made, the Modern icon-breaker inevitably erects new icons. Yet Moderns sense no contradiction at the core of their work. Latour pursues his critique of critique, or the possibility of mediating between subject and object, or the fabricated and the real, through the notion of “iconoclash,” making productive comparisons between scientific practice and the worship of visual images and religious icons.

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Cfp: "Freedom," Annual Conference, International Hegel Association, Stuttgardt, June 22-25, 2011.

As every six years, the International Hegel Association will hold its traditional conference in Stuttgart in June 2011, bringing together philosophers from all over the world to discuss central issues of Hegel's thought in the context of contemporary research. In 2011, the overarching topic will be "Freedom".

Speakers include (as of November 2010): David Bakhurst, Harald Bluhm, William Bristow, Daniel Brudney, Hauke Brunkhorst, Thomas Buchheim, Andrew Chitty, Giuseppe Duso, Dina Emundts, Franck Fischbach, Lisa Herzog, Gunnar Hindrichs, Axel Honneth, Stephen Houlgate, Rahel Jaeggi, Jean-Francois Kervégan, Andrea Kern, Rudolf Langthaler, Charles Larmore, Cardinal Karl Lehrmann, Marcus Llanque, Steven Lukes, Scott Meikle, Francesca Menegoni, Christoph Menke, Fred Neuhouser, Andrew Norris, Angelica Nuzzo, Claus Offe, Philip Pettit, Terry Pinkard, Michael Quante, Birgit Recki, Paul Redding, Peter Rohs, Michael Rosen, Sebastian Rödl, Hans-Christoph Schmidt am Busch, Sally Sedgwick, Martin Seel, Ludwig Siep, Pirmin Stekeler-Weithofer, Robert Stern, Holm Tetens, Dieter Thomä, Peter van Inwagen, R. Jay Wallace, David Wellbery and Marcus Willaschek.

There will be 12 panels on: Freedom and First Nature; Freedom and Second Nature; Freedom and Determinism; Social and Individual Freedom; Freedom as Autonomy; Republican Freedom; Freedom and the Market; Freedom and Law; Liberation; Hegel's Philosophy of Right; Aesthetic Freedom and Religion of Freedom. Additionally, there will be a panel dedicated to discussion about translating Hegel chaired by Jean-Pierre Lefebvre. There will also be an opportunity for younger scholars to present their work in three panels chaired by Andreas Arndt, Rolf-Peter Horstmann and Beatrice Longuenesse.

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Cfp: "Italian Social Theory from Antonio Gramsci to Giorgio Agamben," 8th Annual Social Theory Forum, University of Massachusetts, Boston, April 13-14, 2011.

We invite proposals addressing the span of modern Italian social theory, including but not limited to thinkers such as Galvano Della Volpe, Norberto Bobbio, Paolo Virno, Giovanni Arrighi, Antonio Negri, and Umberto Eco.  Relevant themes may include: hegemony, culture wars, neo-Gramscianism and international relations, globalization, shifts in global capitalism; biopolitics, homo sacer, immigration, ethnicity and the war on terror, resistance, state sovereignty and power, nationalism, propaganda and agitation, Negri’s theory of “exodus”; technology experience, social media, digital labor, and Agamben’s “bare life.” Conference organizers also welcome topics bearing on the relevance of Italian Social Thought for the understanding of cultural studies, semiotics, textual analysis, linguistics, structuralism, psychoanalysis, and literary criticism in contemporary scholarship and scientific research.

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Monday, November 22, 2010

Joll, Nicholas. "Contemporary Metaphilosophy." INTERNET ENCYCLOPEDIA OF PHILOSOPHY November 17, 2010.

What is philosophy? What is philosophy for? How should philosophy be done? These are metaphilosophical questions, metaphilosophy being the study of the nature of philosophy. Contemporary metaphilosophies within the Western philosophical tradition can be divided, rather roughly, according to whether they are associated with (1) Analytic philosophy, (2) Pragmatist philosophy, or (3) Continental philosophy.

The pioneers of the Analytic movement held that philosophy should begin with the analysis of propositions. In the hands of two of those pioneers, Russell and Wittgenstein, such analysis gives a central role to logic and aims at disclosing the deep structure of the world. But Russell and Wittgenstein thought philosophy could say little about ethics. The movement known as Logical Positivism shared the aversion to normative ethics. Nonetheless, the positivists meant to be progressive. As part of that, they intended to eliminate metaphysics. The so-called ordinary language philosophers agreed that philosophy centrally involved the analysis of propositions, but, and this recalls a third Analytic pioneer, namely Moore, their analyses remained at the level of natural language as against logic. The later Wittgenstein has an affinity with ordinary language philosophy. For Wittgenstein had come to hold that philosophy should protect us against dangerous illusions by being a kind of therapy for what normally passes for philosophy. Metaphilosophical views held by later Analytic philosophers include the idea that philosophy can be pursued as a descriptive but not a revisionary metaphysics and that philosophy is continuous with science.

The pragmatists, like those Analytic philosophers who work in practical or applied ethics, believed that philosophy should treat ‘real problems’ (although the pragmatists gave ‘real problems’ a wider scope than the ethicists tend to). The neopragmatist Rorty goes so far as to say the philosopher should fashion her philosophy so as to promote her cultural, social, and political goals. So-called post-Analytic philosophy is much influenced by pragmatism. Like the pragmatists, the post-Analyticals tend (1) to favor a broad construal of the philosophical enterprise and (2) to aim at dissolving rather than solving traditional or narrow philosophical problems.

The first Continental position considered is Husserl’s phenomenology. Husserl believed that his phenomenological method would enable philosophy to become a rigorous and foundational science. Still, on Husserl’s conception, philosophy is both a personal affair and something that is vital to realizing the humanitarian hopes of the Enlightenment. Husserl’s existential successors modified his method in various ways and stressed, and refashioned, the ideal of authenticity presented by his writings. Another major Continental tradition, namely Critical Theory, makes of philosophy a contributor to emancipatory social theory; and the version of Critical Theory pursued by Jürgen Habermas includes a call for ‘post-metaphysical thinking’. The later thought of Heidegger advocates a postmetaphysical thinking too, albeit a very different one; and Heidegger associates metaphysics with the ills of modernity. Heidegger strongly influenced Derrida’s metaphilosophy. Derrida’s deconstructive approach to philosophy (1) aims at clarifying, and loosening the grip of, the assumptions of previous, metaphysical philosophy, and (2) means to have an ethical and political import. . . .

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"The Mystery of Hegel." THE PHILOSOPHER'S ZONE. November 20, 2010.

His thought was hugely influential and hugely difficult. The philosopher Bertrand Russell once described him as the single most difficult philosopher to understand. He was Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel. Though he enjoyed relative fame during his lifetime, in the decades after his death in 1831, according to one writer, Hegel's ideas were treated with "a mixture of contempt, horror and indifference." But something happened during the 20th century that brought Hegel back into sight for philosophers and thinkers. This week on The Philosopher's Zone find out what that was.

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Save Philosophy at Howard University.

The Department of Philosophy at Howard University is in danger of being shut down. The administration is poised to fold this BA and MA degree granting department into an interdisciplinary program offering only core and service courses. This will mark the end of the only graduate degree program in philosophy at an HBCU; it will weaken the university’s commitment to the kind of humanistic self-examination that underwrote the US black freedom movement; and it will repudiate the legacy of philosophy at Howard, a legacy forged by the likes of Alain Locke, one of the central figures in the Harlem Renaissance. Please help us encourage Howard’s president to strengthen philosophy rather than abolish it.

For more information, visit the SAVE PHILOSOPHY AT HOWARD website here:

Cfp: Fifth Annual Meeting, philoSOPHIA: a Society of Feminist Philosophy in the Continental Tradition, Vanderbilt University, May 5-8, 2011.

We welcome project proposals of works in progress that engage continental feminist theory and work done on major figures and themes from the continental feminist tradition, as well as feminist work inspired by continental philosophy more generally. We also strongly encourage interdisciplinary and innovative approaches that combine theoretical perspectives and situated reflections.

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"Beyond Aftermaths: Contemporary (Post-)Postmodernism in the Shadow of the Twentieth Century," University of Groningen, December 20-21, 2010.

Keynote Speakers:
• Hans Bertens (University of Utrecht)
• Frank Ankersmit (University of Groningen)

In the new millennium, the high tide of postmodernism has passed away. Indeed, writers, artists and thinkers are increasingly extending their scope beyond postmodernism’s voids and silences. These endeavors are arguably most striking when they deal with the traumas and cataclysms of the twentieth century. This conference aims to create a forum for discussing recent intellectual and artistic attempts to find new means of confronting the catastrophes of the twentieth century – means that challenge the received postmodern paradigms of aftermaths. As such, it intends to raise such questions and issues as whether we are – after over forty years of deconstruction – heading towards a re-construction of some of the truths and certainties that have been questioned or abandoned in the wake of twentieth-century catastrophes. And what could reconstruction possibly entail? The rehabilitation of narratives that no longer annul, or reflect upon, themselves? A substitution of irony and relativism with a ‘new sincerity’ or a ‘new seriousness’? Or escapes from unspeakable realities into the playful realm of fantasy, fabulation and mythmaking? And do these projects actually mark a step beyond the aporia of postmodern thought, or do they signal rather a restoration of values and beliefs that have long been thought to be untenable?

A number of hand-picked philosophers, historians, and literary critics address these issues from a variety of angles. Key note speaker Hans Bertens argues that in recent metafictional novels like Michael Chabon’s The Yiddish Policemen’s Union, David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas, and others, a more representational mode is gaining ground. The postmodern impulse, he suggests, is still alive and well, but it has taken on a more sedate appearance. In the second key note lecture, Frank Ankersmit explores the fate of History in the context of an imminent ecological crisis. If myth deals with the transition from Nature to History, History marks man’s ultimate triumph over the domain of Nature. But what happens to History, Ankersmit wonders, when Nature announces its firm and final decision to abolish it? What happens to historical awareness when the impending rule of nature makes the future weigh heavier upon us than the past?

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Cfp: "Passionate Minds: Knowledge and the Emotions in Intellectual History," 11th International Conference, Society for Intellectual History, University of Bucharest, May 26-28, 2011.

The centrality of the emotions in all areas of human thought, action and expression has lately begun to be recognized and investigated with increasing interest within a variety of disciplines, from cognitive science and the philosophy of emotions to literary and anthropological studies. One central insight of such explorations is that the view of the separation and even opposition between cognition and affectivity is an unjust representation of the complexity of the life of both individuals and communities. Intellectual historians have also become sensitive to the issue and are in fact in a privileged position to bring to the fore the variety and richness of the approaches to the interplay of knowledge and the emotions in the history of thought.

This conference aims to address the topic of the interplay of emotions and cognition as it bears on historical views of epistemology, logic, psychology, theology, medicine, moral philosophy or aesthetics, on approaches to education and the transmission of knowledge, as well as on the dynamics of intellectual communities. We invite panels and individual papers that address any aspect of this theme with reference to any historical period, as well as relevant methodological and historiographic questions. There will also be general sessions devoted to other proposed intellectual historical topics.

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Pub: RHETORICAL REVIEW 8.2 (2010).

  • Lois Peters Agnew, Outward Visible Propriety: Stoic Philosophy and Eighteenth-Century British Rhetorics (Jon Viklund);
  • Robert J. Penella, ed. Rhetorical Exercises from Late Antiquity: a Translation of Choricius of Gaza’s Preliminary Talks and Declamations (David Westberg);
  • James M. Wilce, Language and Emotion (Sara Newman).
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Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Epstein, Joseph. "T. S. Eliot and the Demise of the Literary Culture." COMMENTARY MAGAZINE (November 2010).

No one writing in the English language is likely to establish a reigning authority over poetry and criticism and literature in general as T.S. Eliot did between the early 1930s and his death in 1965 at the age of 77. Understatedly spectacular is the way Eliot’s career strikes one today, at a time when, it is fair to say, poetry, even to bookish people, is of negligible interest and literary criticism chiefly a means to pursue academic tenure. Literary culture itself, if the sad truth be known, seems to be slowly but decisively shutting down.

The fame Eliot achieved in his lifetime is unfathomable for a poet, or indeed any American or English writer, in our day. In 1956, Eliot lectured on “The Function of Criticism” in a gymnasium at the University of Minnesota to a crowd estimated at 15,000 people. “I do not believe,” he remarked afterward, “there are fifteen thousand people in the entire world who are interested in criticism.” Eight years earlier, in 1948, he won the Nobel Prize in literature. In later years, when he went into the hospital, which he did with some frequency, suffering from bronchitis and heart troubles, news of his illnesses appeared in the press or over the radio both in England and America; and so too did news of his second marriage, in 1957, at the age of 69, to his secretary, a Miss Valerie Fletcher, 38 years younger than he. He lectured often and everywhere, so much so that Lyndall Gordon, his most penetrating biographer, wrote that his “face acquired a sort of exposed reticence from the habit of looking down from a lectern into rows upon rows of eyes.” Eliot was the equivalent in literature of Albert Einstein in science in that everyone seemed to know that these men were immensely significant without quite knowing for what.

An immitigable highbrow, Eliot was concerned about the slackening of high culture and the diminishing quality of education—concerns that have proved prophetic. The poetry on which his reputation as a leading figure of the modernist avant-garde was based was not easily comprehended. “Poets, in our civilization, as it exists at present, must be difficult,” he wrote, but he also wrote that “genuine poetry can communicate before it is understood,” which seems to have been the case with his. His criticism, much of which began as lectures, always came from on high. This was not a man who wrote or spoke down to his audience, ever. Which makes all the more curious his widespread fame. . . .

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Garvey, James. "Hacker's Challenge." THE PHILOSOPHER'S MAGAZINE October 25, 2010.

So long as people read Wittgenstein, people will read Peter Hacker. It’s hard to imagine how his work on the monumental Analytical Commentary on Wittgenstein’s Philosophical Investigations could possibly be superseded. He spent nearly twenty years on that project (ten of them in cooperation with his friend and colleague Gordon Baker), following in Wittgenstein’s footsteps, and producing a large number of important articles and books on topics in the philosophy of mind and language along the way. Nearer the end than the beginning of a distinguished career as an Oxford don, at a time of life when most academics would be happy to leave the lectern behind and collapse somewhere with a nice glass of wine, Hacker is in the middle of another huge project, this time on human nature. He also seems keen to pick a fight with almost anyone doing the philosophy of mind.

This has a much to do with his view of philosophy as a contribution to human understanding, not knowledge. One might think that philosophy has the same general aim as science – securing knowledge of ourselves and the world we live in – even if its subject matter is more abstract and its methods more armchair. What is philosophy if not an attempt to secure new knowledge about the mind or events or beauty or right conduct or what have you? According to Hacker, philosophy is not a cognitive discipline. It’s something else entirely.

“Philosophy does not contribute to our knowledge of the world we live in after the manner of any of the natural sciences. You can ask any scientist to show you the achievements of science over the past millennium, and they have much to show: libraries full of well-established facts and well-confirmed theories. If you ask a philosopher to produce a handbook of well-established and unchallengeable philosophical truths, there’s nothing to show. I think that is because philosophy is not a quest for knowledge about the world, but rather a quest for understanding the conceptual scheme in terms of which we conceive of the knowledge we achieve about the world. One of the rewards of doing philosophy is a clearer understanding of the way we think about ourselves and about the world we live in, not fresh facts about reality.”

His account of the nature of philosophy is Wittgensteinian through and through. It’s a conception of philosophy which regards philosophical problems as confusions in language rather than deep mysteries encountered in the world. The job of the philosopher is to make these conceptual errors clear to us and in so doing help us out of our muddles. Philosophical questions aren’t solved; they’re dissolved. There is knowledge here, in a sense, but it’s not the sort of knowledge most philosophers think they are pursuing.

“By doing philosophy you come to realise things about the structure of our conceptual scheme that you would never have realised otherwise. Realization is indeed a dawning of knowledge. But the knowledge here is not knowledge of the world we live in. It is knowledge of the structure of our conceptual scheme. It very often looks like “metaphysical knowledge” of reality – as it were knowledge of the scaffolding of the world. But it’s no such thing. The world doesn’t have scaffolding. Rather, in doing philosophy, we come to realise the character of the grammatical and linguistic scaffolding from which we describe the world, not the scaffolding of the world.”

“The main barrier is the scientism that pervades our mentality and our culture. We are prone to think that if there’s a serious problem, science will find the answer. If science cannot find the answer, then it cannot be a serious problem at all. That seems to me altogether wrong. It goes hand in hand with the thought that philosophy is in the same business as science, as either a handmaiden or as the vanguard of science. This prevailing scientism is manifest in the infatuation of the mass media with cognitive neuroscience. The associated misconceptions have started to filter down into the ordinary discourse of educated people. You just have to listen to the BBC to hear people nattering on about their brains and what their brains do or don’t do, what their brains make them do and tell them to do. I think this is pretty pernicious – anything but trivial.”

In the last decade Hacker has turned his attention from the philosophy of language to the philosophy of mind, dealing with what he sees as a whole raft of conceptual confusions in cognitive neuroscience. Philosophical Foundations of Neuroscience, which he co-authored with the neurophysiologist M. R. Bennett, works through a number of tangles in detail. As we talk about some of them, I begin to see that there is a straight line from his Wittgensteinian thoughts about the nature of philosophy to his work on the mind. . . .

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Scialabba, George. "The Critic as Radical." THE AMERICAN CONSERVATIVE November 1, 2010.

Simone de Beauvoir wrote of the 20th-century conservative thinker: “Gloomy or arrogant, he is the man who says no; his real certainties are all negative. He says no to modernity, no to the future, no to the living action of the world; but he knows that the world will prevail over him.” That T.S. Eliot at least partly resembled this portrait he himself acknowledged. As he wrote to a friend in 1921: “Having only contempt for every existing political party, and profound hatred for democracy, I feel the blackest gloom.”

In daily life, Eliot was neither gloomy nor arrogant but serene and gracious, generous and humble. At the height of his fame, his courtesy even to the callow and importunate was legendary. Yet however Eliot achieved this extraordinary equableness, he doubtless saw himself as a man whose vocation was to say no, to stand athwart history strenuously wielding negative certainties. Why, exactly, did Eliot loathe modernity and what did he hope to conserve against its advance? . . .

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Cfp: "Kenneth Burke, Rhetoric and Social Change," Eighth Triennial Conference, Kenneth Burke Society, Clemson University, May 26-29, 2011.

Surveying the global scene in 1933, Burke wrote in his notes for what would become Permanence and Change, “We are trying to solve cultural problems with the most explosive words in our vocabulary, and we need not be surprised that there are continually occurring frightful accidents which rip out half a continent and maim the lives and bodies of millions.” The step away from these explosive words is, Burke claimed, “the step which [humankind] has never been able to take. Heroism; Jungle authority; acquisition; pugnacity; inspiration; ‘superiority’ . . . this is still at the bottom of our thinking, though [the] situation no longer ‘requires’ it. . . . This is the crux—can we make this change, from which all else would radiate?” In our own historical moment, which so eerily echoes the cultural, political, and technological upheavals of the first half of the twentieth century, Burke’s question remains urgent—and unanswered. Can we make this change?

This theme calls on conference participants to explore the relevance of Burke’s thought and practice for defining, analyzing, or producing the kinds of change that would enable us to transcend or disarm our “explosive words”:
• What cultural problems need to be solved?
• What rhetorical practices cause, cloud, or intensify those problems?
• Where, when, and how does change occur?
• What genres of persuasion and identification encourage or enable change?
• What role do we as teachers, artists, scholars, critics, citizens play in creating change?

Featuring diverse opportunities for engagement with Burke’s enduring relevance, the Eighth Triennial Conference will continue the interdisciplinary tradition of past events, with participation by students and scholars from communication, rhetoric, composition, literary theory and criticism, cultural studies, sociology, technical communication, art, economics, political science, and other disciplines. Thus, in addition to proposals addressing the conference theme, we welcome those that address topics of continuing relevance in Burke studies:
• Burke and his circles
• Archival research in the Burkean corpus
• The meaning and relevance of particular Burkean texts
• Burke in the fields
• The future of Burkean studies
• New applications of Burke’s insights to contemporary issues

Over the course of the conference, a combination of keynote speakers, featured presenters, and seminar leaders will explore the possibilities of and conditions for meaningful change. Keynote speakers, seminars, and seminar leaders will be announced in mid-December, 2010.

Visit the conference website here:

"Heidegger and Wittgenstein," Department of Government and International Studies, Harvard University, December 10, 2010.


  • MICHAEL ROSEN AND PETER GORDON (Harvard) – European Philosophy in the Early Twentieth Century: a discussion
  • EDWARD MINAR (University of Arkansas) – “Understanding the Being of the Philosophical ‘We’: Thoughts on Wittgenstein, Heidegger, and Idealism” (Chair: SEAN KELLY [Harvard])
1:00-2:15pm LUNCH BREAK

  • ANDREAS ELPIDOROU (Boston University) – “The Epistemology of Moods Revisited”
  • EYLEM ÖZALTUN (Harvard) – “Non-cognitivism and the critique of traditional metaphysics in Wittgenstein and Heidegger”
  • MAX DE GAYNESFORD (University of Reading) – “Mineness and Meanness in Heidegger and Wittgenstein” (Chair: RICHARD MORAN [Harvard])
5:30-6:00pm RECEPTION

6:00pm DINNER

For further information, contact Bernardo Zacka:

Monday, November 15, 2010

Sixth Annual Meeting, Comparative and Continental Philosophy Circle, University College Cork, March 3-5, 2011.

The Comparative and Continental Philosophy Circle is an open, congenial, and discussion-driven philosophy Circle that meets nationally every spring. The CCPC has been meeting regionally since 1995 and internationally since 2006. We invite papers/presentations on any aspect of Comparative philosophy, Continental philosophy, and/or bridges between them. Papers will be considered for publication in our journal, Comparative and Continental Philosophy.

Send electronic abstracts, papers, or inquiries to this year’s program chair, Michael Schwartz, by January 5, 2011: or

For more information, see our website:

Cfp: "McLuhan's Philosophy of Media," Centennial Conference, Vrije Universiteit Brussels, October 26-28, 2011.

Marshall McLuhan (1911-1980): media theorist, cultural critic, provoker. But undoubtedly influential. In 2011, McLuhan would have celebrated his 100th birthday. A perfect moment to look back as well as ahead. During this interdisciplinary conference, we will discuss McLuhan's ideas from different perspectives and traditions, but at the same time highlight an aspect of McLuhan that until now has been underexposed: his philosophy of media.

Keynote Speakers: Eric McLuhan, Robert K. Logan, Paul Levinson, Graham Harman, Peter-Paul Verbeek.

Visit the conference website here:

Marder, Michael. Review of Simon Skempton, ALIENATION AFTER DERRIDA. NDPR (November 2010).

Skempton, Simon.  Alienation after Derrida.  London: Continuum, 2010.

It is no secret that contemporary philosophy is under the spell of the Other. A host of rather automatic, ethico-political associations follows the invocations of "otherness" like a comet-tail: hospitality, respect, tolerance, diversity, multiculturalism, etc. We are urged to come to terms with that which is alien, to learn to live with foreignness, to recognize the uncanny -- in Freud's vernacular, the "strangely familiar" -- within us, to derive our very sense of identity from alterity. The approaches to alterity, in turn, may be broadly classified into those that are purely formal in their refusal to endow the Other with determinate features or objective characteristics and those that fill it with concrete, infinitely variable content, depending on the Other's race, sex, gender, economic status, and so on. Still, regardless of the elected framework and of the qualifier "radical" often attached to it, "otherness" is domesticated not only as a hegemonic concept that, rather than awakening, brings critical thinking to a halt, but also as a bearer of intransigent humanism, willing to confer this title on no being other than human. Although the current theoretical interest in animal alterities goes a long way toward undoing such domestication, it is ultimately insufficient for the purpose of questioning the hegemonic status of the Other.

What is required, in addition to a thorough de-humanization of the concept, is its historicization thanks to a sound philosophical genealogy, extending all the way back to the ancient Greek heteron and, more recently, to Hegel's dialectics. To understand the current emphasis on alterity, we ought to situate it within the current "trans-valuation of values," as Nietzsche puts it, where the highest -- from the metaphysical standpoint -- values are debased and the lowest elevated, that is to say, where the same, the proper, and the identical cede their privileged place to the other, the alien, and the non-identical. This lopsided dialectic indicates, however, that the Nietzschean trans-valuation is far from being complete: in its second stage, at the threshold of which we find ourselves today, it will necessitate a de-hierarchization of the already inverted values, so that alterity, too, would lose its newly acquired transcendental status, just as sameness and identity did in twentieth-century thought. The promise of deconstruction lies, precisely, in its ability to inspire this post-metaphysical thrust "beyond the same and the other."

Simon Skempton glimpses the promise of deconstruction in the fifth (and final) chapter of his book, dedicated to "Deconstructive De-alienation." Despite a token tribute to alterity, the other and the same trade places so vertiginously in his text that the metaphysical distinction is wholly transformed, if not leveled. For example:
Alienation is the effacement of this instituting activity, of différance, through the latter's objectification . . . This is an alienation of subjectivity insofar as subjectivity is the opening to the other. Thus alienation is a suppression of otherness, and de-alienation is then an opening to and welcoming of the other. This may seem paradoxical, as it means that alienation suppresses alienness and de-alienation welcomes the alien. (170) 
The core argument of Alienation after Derrida hinges on aligning différance -- the difference from and the deferral of identity -- with "inalienable alienation" (4), which has been, traditionally, covered over and disavowed by the metaphysical yearning for originary wholeness and purity. This disavowal is the reason why classical critiques of alienation, relying upon the myth of an undisturbed, paradisiacal, originary unity, are read as "the effacement . . . of différance," while deconstructive de-alienation is invested with the positive function of affirming that which has been effaced. But it is also the reason why theories of alienation have become outmoded in the second half of the twentieth century, after the metaphysics of presence and of the proper had been relentlessly debunked, first and foremost by deconstruction itself. The anachronism of a return to alienation in the aftermath of its discrediting as a philosophical fiction is at the heart of this study, which wishes to carve out a niche for the concept already processed by the deconstructive machinery and, thus, purged of metaphysical overtones. . . .

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Cfp: "Celebrating TOTALITY AND INFINITY at 50," North American Levinas Society, Sixth Annual Conference and Meeting, Texas A & M University, May 1-3, 2011.

“Everyone will readily agree that it is of the highest importance to know whether we are not duped by morality.” Levinas, Preface to Totality and Infinity.

Celebrating the 50th anniversary of the publication of Totality and Infinity, the North American Levinas Society invites submissions of individual paper and panel proposals for our sixth annual meeting and conference, hosted by Texas A&M University, to be held May 1-3, 2011. We are especially interested in organizing the conference around considerations of Totality and Infinity with regard to both its historical framework and relevant contemporary readings and questions that the work continues to engender. Although preference will be given to papers that address the conference theme, papers and panels on any topic related to Levinas will be considered.

Confirmed Plenary Speakers

Robert Bernasconi (Penn State University);
Adriaan Peperzak (Loyola University, Chicago);
Lisa Guenther* (Vanderbilt University).

Cfp: "Phenomenology and the Human Positioning in the Cosmos -- the Life-World, Nature, Earth," 61st International Congress of Phenomenology, Istanbul Kultur University, June 27-July 1, 2011.

Deadlines and Fees:

Abstracts due by January 1, 2011
Full Papers due by April 1, 2011
Registration Fee: $200.00 before May 1 and $250.00 after May 1, 2011


Professor Anna-Teresa Tymieniecka
The World Phenomenology Institute
1 Ivy Pointe Way, Hanover NH 03755, USA
Fax: 802-295-5963.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Annual Seminar, Association for the Rhetoric of Science and Technology, San Francisco, November 13, 2010.

The Association for Rhetoric of Science and Technology is again hosting its annual pre-conference prior to NCA. We invite scholars to submit works in various stages of progress. One of the strengths of the pre-conference is that it is a fairly intense day-long set of interactions, ideal for non-traditional presentations or projects in relatively early stages. Presentations addressing any aspect of the ways in which communication impacts the production, dissemination, and utilization of scientific knowledge are invited, using any methodological or theoretical approach. Our goal for this year’s pre-conference is to begin with a wide variety of brief scholarly presentations, and then build on those insights to address some of the perennial tensions in rhetoric of science. Conversation last year focused on several topics that we are looking to develop further, including:

• Risk communication and assessment
• Public engagement
• Negotiation of expertise
• Private/public boundary
• Health as scientific rhetoric
• Governance in science/policy
• Other issues as appropriate

Visit the conference website here:

Cfp: "Rhetoric and Writing across Language Boundaries," 22nd Penn State Conference on Rhetoric and Composition, Pennsylvania State University, July 10-12, 2011.

Developments in globalization, new media literacies, and postcolonial perspectives have called attention to the transnational flow of people and texts and to the hybridity of language itself. These developments have made scholars in rhetoric and composition aware of the monolingual assumptions informing their disciplinary discourses and pedagogical practices. With scholars considering such issues, there are calls now to understand the cross-language relations of writers and writing in an effort to reconfigure the discourses and practices of our discipline.

In light of these disciplinary trends, the 22nd Penn State Conference on Rhetoric and Composition will focus on defining a multilingual rhetoric and writing practice. Featured speakers include leading scholars who address multilingualism in their research and scholarship. We invite you to share your reflections and research on this theme.

Visit the conference website here:

4th Biennial Summer Institute, Rhetoric Society of America, University of Colorado, Boulder, June 20-26, 2011.


Seminar 1: Composing Multimodal Rhetorics, Anne Frances Wysocki (University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee)and Dennis A. Lynch (University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee)

Seminar 2: Rhetoric’s Critical Genealogies, Jim Jasinski University of Puget Sound), Vanessa Beasley (Vanderbilt University), Chuck Morris (Boston College) and Kirt Wilson (Pennsylvania State University)

Seminar 3: Communicating Science to 21st Century Audiences, Alan G. Gross (University of Minnesota)

Seminar 4: Digital Humanities and the History of Rhetoric, Ned O’Gorman (University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign), Ekatrina Haskins (Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute) and Kassie Lamp (Arizona State University)

Seminar 5: Rhetoric in the Schools—A Seminar for Denver Metro and Boulder High School Teachers, Roger Cherry (Ohio State University) and David Jolliffe (University of Arkansas)


Workshop 1: Mass Communication in Rhetorical History, Peter Simonson (University of Colorado) at Boulder and Dave Tell (University of Kansas)

Workshop 2: Rhetoric’s Materiality, Greg Dickinson (Colorado State University) and Brian Ott (University of Colorado at Denver)

Workshop 3: The Possibility and Limits of Human Rights Discourse, Gerard Hauser (University of Colorado at Boulder) and Erik Doxtader (University of South Carolina; Institute for Justice and Reconciliation [Cape Town])

Workshop 4: Communication and Social Justice in a Global Age, Stephen John Hartnett (University of Colorado at Denver)

Workshop 5: The Intersections of Rhetoric and Ethnography, Ralph Cintron (University of Illinois at Chicago), Phaedra Pezzullo (Indiana University) and Candice Rai (University of Washington at Seattle

Workshop 6: Klal Rhetorica: Jewish Rhetorical Traditions, Janice W. Fernheimer (University of Kentucky) and David Metzger (Old Dominion University)

Workshop 7: Remembering as Citizens, Bradford Vivian (Syracuse University) and Carole Blair (University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill)

Workshop 8: Science, Controversy, Policy, Jean Goodwin (Iowa State University)

Workshop 9: Non-rational Rhetorics, Debra Hawhee (Pennsylvania State University) and Diane Davis (University of Texas at Austin)

Workshop 10: The Local Public Sphere: Deliberation and Community, Linda Flower (Carnegie Mellon University) and Elenore Long (Arizona State University)

Workshop 11: Medicine and Its Publics, Lisa Keränen (University of Colorado at Denver) and J. Blake Scott (University of Central Florida)

Workshop 12: Emerging Genres, Carolyn R. Miller (North Carolina State University) and Victoria Gallagher (North Carolina State University)

Workshop 13: Critical Discourse Analysis, Tom Huckin (University of Utah) and Jenny Andrus,(University of Utah)

Workshop 14: "Free" Speech and the Production of Truth in Rhetoric, Susan C. Jarratt (University of California at Irvine) and Katherine Mack (University of Colorado at Colorado Springs)

Workshop 15: Going Deep with "The New Rhetoric", Linda Bensel-Meyers (University of Denver), James Crosswhite (University of Oregon), David Frank (University of Oregon) and John Gage (University of Oregon)

Workshop 16: Rhetoric, Difference and Practical Criticism, Lester Olson (University of Pittsburgh)

Workshop 17: Rhetoric, Latin American and Latino/a Rhetoric, Lisa Flores (University of Colorado at Boulder) and Damian Baca (University of Arizona)

Workshop 18: Technological Rhetorics, Jordynn Jack (University of North Carolina - Chapel Hill) and Jeremiah Dyehouse (University of Rhode Island)

Workshop 19: Rhetorical Leadership, David Kaufer (Carnegie Mellon University), Ron Placone (Carnegie Mellon University) and Gregory Clark (Brigham Young University)

Workshop 20: RSA Career Retreat for Associate Professors, Cheryl Geisler (Simon Fraser University) and Patricia Roberts-Miller (University of Texas at Austin)

Download the seminars and workshops here:

Melbourne School of Continental Philosophy Summer School, January 31-March 1, 2011.

Evening School Over Five Weeks (Jan 31 - March 1):

Aesthetics: A Philosophical Introduction Mondays 6-8pm
Introduction to Jacques Lacan Tuesdays 6-8pm

Week 1: 31 Jan - Feb 4:

Phenomenology meets the Neurosciences 11am-1pm
Deleuze and Cinema 2-5pm

Week 2: Feb 7-11:

Brandom's Linguistic Rationalism 11am-1pm
Jacob Klein: Greek Mathematical Thought and the Origin of Algebra 2-4pm

Week 3: Feb 14-18:

European Philosophy and The Law (Part 1) 11am-1pm
The Philosophy of Alain Badiou (Part 1) 2-4pm

Week 4: Feb 21-25:

European Philosophy and The Law (Part 2) 11am-1pm
The Philosophy of Alain Badiou (Part 2) 2-4pm

The Melbourne School of Continental Philosophy is an independent teaching and research group housed in the Philosophy Department at the University of Melbourne. The MSCP teaches philosophy courses at its annual summer and winter schools. Please see the website for details and join our mailing list to be notified of upcoming MSCP events and philosophical activity in the community.

Visit the School website here: For any enquiries:

MacCabe, Colin. Review of Patrick Wilcken, CLAUDE LEVI-STRAUSS: THE POET IN THE LABORATORY. NEW STATESMAN November 4, 2010.

Wilcken, Patrick.  Claude-Levi-Strauss: the Poet in the Laboratory.  London: Bloomsbury, 2010.

Between his own publication of Tristes tropiques in 1955 and Jacques Derrida's publication of De la grammatologie in 1967, Claude Lévi-Strauss bestrode western humanities and social sciences as no one has before or since. Unlike philosophy or literary criticism, his discipline, anthropology, was not divided between "Anglo-Saxon" and "Continental" approaches, and the promise of a method that would analyse the fundamental processes of the human mind was initially plausible.

From the beginning, Lévi-Strauss argued two theses, logically separate but inseparably linked in his own writing. His great idea - the fruit of a close friendship with Roman Jakobson forged in wartime exile in New York - was that both myth and kinship were to be analysed by a functional relationship not to social and physical reality, but to the most elementary processes of human thought. The establishment of difference - the distinction between animals with or without cloven hooves, say - was dictated by the need to structure the world into pairs of binary oppositions. This insight built on the greatest discovery of 20th-century linguistics: rather than analyse the positive features of sound across an infinite continuum, the Russian linguist Nikolai Trubetzkoy and his successors had focused simply on the differences (between "b" and "p", for example) that produced meaning.

Lévi-Strauss claimed to have discovered the fundamental differences on which all kinship and myth were based, and produced a simple combination of differential oppositions that, he thought, underpin even the most complex and apparently dissimilar myths. Myths were privileged insights into thought, and here his second thesis came into play: "primitive" societies or, as Lévi-Strauss termed them, "societies without writing" are more authentic than societies that have succumbed to writing. Ever since Montaigne, and receiving its fullest expression in Rousseau's noble savage, there had been a current in western thought which saw in "primitive" societies a richer, less alienated relationship between men and their world than that which obtained in "civilisation".

Lévi-Strauss thus promised two things: first, a combinatory schema that would reveal the basic operations of the human mind - all kinship systems would be conceived as variations on a single theme, and all myths would operate around a set of basic differences - and second, a demonstration of the superiority of forms of thought that came before writing, before the fundamental alienation that occurred when writing intruded into an authentic idyll.

However, Lévi-Strauss's dominance of western thought evaporated after Derrida devoted a 40-page analysis to the anthropologist's foray into the world of the Nambikwara Amazonians. . . .

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Rée, Jonathan. "Antichrist." NEW HUMANIST 125.6 (2010).

To anyone who met him in his prime, Friedrich Nietzsche looked like a genial old-style man of letters: a quiet, dapper, unworldly bachelor, kind to children and exceedingly polite. But those who kept up with his prodigious output of books – he wrote more than one a year once he hit his stride in the 1880s – knew that the mild manner concealed incandescent ambition. The gentle professor liked to think of himself as a wild beast on the rampage, an intellectual terrorist who was going to “divide history into two halves”. His mission: to destroy the last vestiges of Christianity by means of a free-spirited “philosophy of the future” – a brave new pagan philosophy heralding a brave new pagan world. “I am no man,” he said. “I am dynamite.”

One of the books on which Nietzsche pinned his hopes was Twilight of the Idols – an immoralist manifesto which backed the “instinct of life” in its fight against dismal moral precepts. “There is no such thing as a moral fact,” Nietzsche wrote. “Moral sentiment has this in common with religious sentiment: it believes in realities which do not exist.” But he meant to make still bigger waves with Thus Spake Zarathustra, a pseudo-Biblical rhapsody about a messianic Eastern preacher who wanders the earth with an eagle and a serpent, preaching the “death of God”. God has died, we are told, from an excess of “pity”, and his fate should be a warning to us all. We must “beware of pity”, Zarathustra says, and never forget that our first duty is not to others but to ourselves. We should also learn to think of the present as the prelude to a joyous new epoch – an age liberated not only by the death of God but also by the end of humanity as we know it and its transfiguration into the Übermensch, in other words something post-human, superhuman or better-than-human. And if we should find these oracles baffling or repulsive, that lies not in them but in our own all-too-human prejudices: thus spake Zarathustra.

When Zarathustra and Twilight first appeared, they attracted little interest and Nietzsche’s name remained obscure. During the 1890s, however, they caught the public imagination and Nietzsche became the celebrity of world literature he had always wanted to be. He was admired not as a venerable old philosopher in the high tradition of Plato or Kant, but an outrageous and irreconcilable enemy to religion and morality, especially when they deck themselves in the robes of philosophical reason. By that time, however, he was in no condition to savour his success: back in December 1888, at the age of 44, he had collapsed in a square in Turin, and the remaining twelve years of his life were to be passed in a state of serene insanity.

The calamity of madness did no harm to Nietzsche’s burgeoning reputation: he came to fame as the philosopher who denounced the demands of reason so effectively that at last he lost his own. Twilight could now be seen as foreshadowing the eclipse of an intellect of such power that no one could stand it, even himself, and Zarathustra became a record of insights too deep to be expressed in the ordinary discourse of reason: indeed it inspired two of the most adventurous young composers of the 1890s – Richard Strauss and Frederick Delius – to transpose the gospel of the death of God into swathes of futuristic sound. . . .

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Cfp: "Towards Cognitive Semiotics," Seventh Conference, Nordic Association for Semiotic Studies, Centre for Cognitive Semiotics and Centre for Languages and Literature, Lund University, May 6-8, 2011.

For most of the second half of the 20th century, semiotics and cognitive science have been rival transdiciplinary or interdisciplinary approaches to the human and social sciences, even including some parts of the natural sciences such as, most notably, biology. Apart from everything else they are, both semiotics and cognitive science may be seen as being involved with the central notions common to all of the social sciences and the humanities. From this point of view, the core interest of semiotics is the structuring of meaning and its carriers, while cognitive semiotics focuses on the modes of access to meaning (though it often gives them some other name). It has been observed (notably by Dadessio) that these two aspects can hardly be discussed separately. While generalizing the notion of cognition to make it cover most of mental life (as well as, sometimes, many “subpersonal” aspects), cognitive science has hardly left any specific place to phenomena of meaning. Semiotics, on the other hand, at least in some of its manifestations, those, notably, inspired by Peirce, tends to resolve about everything into constellations of signs. The result, in both cases, is one-sidedness and conceptual confusion. Cognitive semiotics, or semiotic cognitive science, recently proposed in different quarters as a new paradigm for the human and the social sciences, aims to wed cognitive science with semiotics. Epistemologically, the task of cognitive semiotics consists in relating these two instances of single vision, putting mind where mind should be and signs in their proper place.

Presentations should involve research involving the relation between semiotics and cognitive science, or, more broadly, which attends to cognitive issues while taking a semiotic approach, or puts the quest for meaning into focus within a cognitive science approach. Topics include, but are not limited to:

• Cognition and meaning
• Cognitive science and semiotics
• Perception and semiotics
• Language within a semiotic framework
• Cognitive linguistics and semiotics
• Semantics and pragmatics within semiotics
• Gesture studies and semiotics
• The psychology of pictures and pictorial semiotics
• Narrativity and the self
• Semiotic artefacts and the mind
• The social and cognitive construction of meaning
• Semiotic resources in child development
• Semiotic resources in evolution
• Semiotics and primatology
• Cultural semiotics and developmental psychology
• Phenomenological analyses
• Husserlean and Peircean phenomenology
• Linguistic and other kinds of semiotic releativity
• Semiotic typology

Visit the conference website here:

Cfp: Annual Conference, Canadian Society for the Study of Rhetoric, University of New Brunswick and St. Thomas University, Fredericton, New Brunswick, May 28-30, 2011.

The Canadian Society for the Study of Rhetoric (CSSR) invites members to submit proposals for papers to be presented at its annual conference, to be held in conjunction with Congress 2011 at the University of New Brunswick and St. Thomas University in Fredericton, New Brunswick from May 28-30, 2011.

Special Session: “Rhetoric and Eloquence in the Renaissance” (Chair: Claude La Charité, Université du Québec à Rimouski)

This special session will be a joint session held with the Canadian Society for Renaissance Studies (CSRS). Scholars are invited to propose papers on rhetoric and eloquence in the Renaissance. However, scholars are invited to interpret this session topic creatively, addressing issues related to Renaissance rhetoric, rhetoric in/of (the) Renaissance, and renaissance(s) of rhetoric. The session will be an opportunity to explore the conceptual as well as historical connection between Renaissance and rhetoric, and between ideas of rhetoric and ideas of renaissance. Figures such as the Gallic Hercules are invoked to characterize Henri III’s rhetorical performance and the rhetorical tradition is reconsidered in the cultural context of early-modern Europe (from a search for verbal abundance to the elaboration of the appropriate style for the Papal administration), inviting explorations of the rhetorical theory and practice in the Renaissance. On the other hand, this joint session will be an opportunity to examine renaissances in rhetoric, as an art, discipline, and theory that has known many high and low points. Possible topics may include reformulations of rhetoric, redefinition of its scope, object, and even medium, adaptation to new fields, rise of new disciplines and integration of new theoretical frameworks (as in queer rhetoric).

Open Sessions

Papers concerning more general aspects of rhetoric are also welcome: topics may include (but are not limited to) rhetorical theory, rhetorical criticism, history of rhetoric, rhetoric in popular culture, media communication, discourse analysis, rhetoric of political and social discourse, pedagogy of commmunication, rhetoric and the media, sociolinguistics, semiotics, professional and technical communication.

For more information on the society, visit:
Visit the conference website here:

Kelly, Mark. "Michel Foucault." INTERNET ENCYCLOPEDIA OF PHILOSOPHY November 10, 2010.

Michel Foucault was a major figure in two successive waves of the 20th century French thought–the structuralist wave of the 1960s and then the poststructuralist wave. By the premature end of his life, Foucault had some claim to be the most prominent living intellectual in France.

Foucault’s work is transdisciplinary in nature, ranging across the concerns of the disciplines of history, sociology, psychology, and philosophy. At the first decade of the 21st century, Foucault is the author most frequently cited in the humanities in general. In the field of philosophy this is not so, despite philosophy being the primary discipline in which he was educated, and with which he ultimately identified. This relative neglect is because Foucault’s conception of philosophy, in which the study of truth is inseparable from the study of history, is thoroughly at odds with the prevailing conception of what philosophy is.

Foucault’s work can generally be characterized as philosophically oriented historical research; towards the end of his life, Foucault insisted that all his work was part of a single project of historically investigating the production of truth. What Foucault did across his major works was to attempt to produce an historical account of the formation of ideas, including philosophical ideas. Such an attempt was neither a simple progressive view of the history, seeing it as inexorably leading to our present understanding, nor a thoroughgoing historicism that insists on understanding ideas only by the immanent standards of the time. Rather, Foucault continually sought for a way of understanding the ideas that shape our present not only in terms of the historical function these ideas played, but also by tracing the changes in their function through history. . . .

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Diprose, Rosalyn. Review of Maurice Merleau-Ponty, INSTITUTION AND PASSIVITY. NDPR (November 2010).

Merleau-Ponty, Maurice.  Institution and Passivity: Course Notes from the Collège de France (1954-1955).  Foreword by Claude Lefort.  Trans. Leonard Lawlor and Heath Massey.  Evanston, IL: Northwestern UP, 2010.

Institution and Passivity is Leonard Lawlor and Heath Massey's translation of Merleau-Ponty's course notes for the two lecture courses he taught contemporaneously at the Collège de France in 1954-55. Also included is Claude Lefort's lengthy and informative Foreword to the French edition. The volume is significant for several reasons. Appearing in French for the first time in 2003, it is only the second volume of detailed lecture notes from the twelve courses that Merleau-Ponty taught at the Collège de France to be published in any form. While Merleau-Ponty's summaries of these courses have been available in French since 1968 (Résumés) and in English since 1970 (Themes), the more detailed course notes have remained unpublished until recently. Those who have been tantalized by the summaries of three courses on the topic of "nature" have had access to the more detailed lecture notes (two courses documented by a student and one by Merleau-Ponty) since the publication of Nature in French in 1995 (and in English in 2003). Institution and Passivity, to my mind, is more rewarding and coherent than Nature for the reason that it consists entirely of Merleau-Ponty's own sequentially numbered notes, scrupulously compiled by Dominique Darmaillarcq, Lefort, and Stephanie Ménasé. The philosophical significance of the volume then is this: it makes available key aspects of the development of Merleau-Ponty's thought in the period just prior to the penning of The Visible and the Invisible. . . .

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Cfp: 18th Biennial Conference, North American Sartre Society, TÉLUQ, Montréal, April 27-29, 2011.

Papers in any area of Sartrean scholarship are welcome (philosophy, literature, psychology, politics, intellectual history). Reading time for a paper should be 25-30 minutes (to be followed by the respondent’s commentary (optional) and 10 minutes of discussion). In addition to individual papers, we would be most interested in receiving suggestions for panel topics. Panel topics that deal with any aspect of Sartre’s work; its relationship to other authors as well as those that deal with Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir will be seriously considered. Graduate students are encouraged to submit papers. A limited number of stipends will be available to help defray the cost of travel and lodging. Graduate students whose paper has been accepted must apply for these stipends.

This year’s keynote speaker will be Régine Robin. Robin is Professor Emerita in the Department of Sociology of Université du Québec à Montréal (UQÀM). She is an historian and sociologist who also writes novels and essays. In her work, she explores questions related to collective and individual memory, Jewishness, city dwelling, as well as relations between literature, culture and society. In 1987, she was awarded the prestigious Governor General of Canada’s prize for her book Le Réalisme socialiste: une esthétique impossible. In 2001, she was awarded the City of Montreal’s Grand Prix du livre for Berlin chantiers. She has published more than twenty theoretical and critical essays including Le roman mémoriel: de l’histoire à l’écriture du hors-lieu (1989), Le Golem de l’écriture: de l’autofiction au cybersoi (1997), La mémoire saturée (2003), Mégapolis: les derniers pas du flâneur (2009), as well as La Québécoite (1983), considered to be one of the representative novels of what has been coined the migrant literature of Quebec.


Please E-MAIL a 2 page abstract of your paper as an attachment to For panel submissions, please submit an abstract for the whole panel as well as abstracts for each individual paper. These will be forwarded to the Program Committee for blind refereeing.

Read, Jason. Review of Simon Choat, MARX THROUGH POST-STRUCTURALISM. NDPR (November 2010).

Choat, Simon.  Marx through Post-Structuralism: Lyotard, Derrida, Foucault, Deleuze.  London: Continuum, 2010.

To anyone who was educated in the Anglo-American academy during the 1980s and 90s, Simon Choat's Marx through Post-Structuralism might appear at first to be a work of alternative history, like the novels in which the Axis powers won World War II or John Brown's raid on Harper's Ferry was successful. Within the academy, at least for people interested in "theory," those decades were marked by a quarrel between Marxism and post-structuralism, in which each were hostile camps, vying for intellectual hegemony. The accusations on each side were as follows: Marxists were accused of being too wedded to totality, teleology, and economic determinism, while post-structuralists were accused of forgetting history, agency, and replacing politics with the play of language. This conflict has now dissipated as new philosophical perspectives have emerged and the heyday of theory has waned. Choat, however, rewrites this history by reexamining some of the central post-structuralist texts: Lyotard, Derrida, Foucault, and Deleuze. His intention is not to make post-structuralists into crypto-Marxists, or to argue that Marx was a post-structuralist avant la lettre, but to demonstrate that post-structuralism was constituted by an engagement with Marx; a critical engagement, but an engagement nonetheless.

Each chapter takes on a singular itinerary, following each thinker's specific engagement, critique, and (sometimes) avoidance, of Marx. These itineraries follow very different paths: from Lyotard, who began as a critical Marxist intellectual only to move away from Marx, penning the famous line about the end of metanarratives, to Derrida, who avoided Marx during the tumultuous sixties and seventies, only to declare his allegiances rather late, after the fall of the Berlin wall, with Specters of Marx, which situated deconstruction as an heir of Marx. The different paths of these thinkers risk turning the book into a series of essays, different variations on the themes of post-structuralism and Marx.

Choat avoids this by the way in which these specific examinations are organized. Althusser frames the book, introducing and closing the examinations. In the first case, Althusser functions as something of an origin, having been a teacher of Foucault and Derrida and an occasional correspondent with Deleuze. However, Choat is less interested in the intellectual history that would place Althusser at the origins of post-structuralism, than in demonstrating the way in which he is a precursor whose problematic frames much of the encounter between Marx and post-structuralism. This problematic can be summarized by a critique of humanism, historicism, and Hegel. Althusser's works of the 1960s were focused on expunging any remnant of these from Marx's thought, arguing for a break between the young Marx and the older, true Marx who understood "history as a process without subject or goals," to state the formula that comes the closest to encompassing all three critiques. The later post-structuralists share this critique, but shift it from a distinction between the young and old Marx to a critique of all of Marx. . . .

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Simms, Karl. Review of Gert-Jan van der Heiden, THE TRUTH (AND UNTRUTH) OF LANGUAGE. NDPR (November 2010).

van der Heiden, Gert-Jan.  The Truth (and Untruth) of Language: Heidegger, Ricoeur and Derrida on Disclosure and Displacement.  Pittsburgh: Duquesne UP, 2010.

Van der Heiden's project is deceptively modest: to understand how Heidegger, Ricoeur and Derrida address poetic language and truth through the twin concepts of disclosure and displacement. This, of course, already presupposes much: that truth is to be found in poetic language rather than any other sort (scientific, propositional, etc.), and that the concepts of disclosure and displacement are central to discerning a certain commonality of purpose between these three thinkers.

Van der Heiden's book is organised into four principal chapters: 'Heidegger on Disclosure and Language', 'The Transference of Writing', 'Inventions of Metaphor', and 'Mimesis in Myth and Translation'. . . .

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Cfp: "Reasoned Argument and Social Change," 17th Biennial Conference on Argumentation, National Communication Association and American Forensic Association, Alta, Utah, July 28-31, 2011.

The Alta Conference invites papers, panel proposals, and paper proposals from any of the traditional perspectives on argumentation or from emerging contemporary views in the social sciences and humanities. Papers may reflect pedagogical, philosophical, theoretical, interpretive, empirical, critical, or cross disciplinary perspectives.

Visit the conference here:

Monday, November 08, 2010

Boehm, Omri. Review of Michael Mack, SPINOZA AND THE SPECTERS OF MODERNITY. NDPR (October 2010).

Mack, Michael.  Spinoza and the Specters of Modernity: the Hidden Enlightenment of Diversity from Spinoza to Freud.  London: Continuum, 2010.

In the last ten years or so, the question of Spinoza's impact on Enlightenment thought has been opened anew. The thinker who up until recently was deemed "hardly to have had any direct influence on eighteenth-century thought" (Ernst Cassirer, The Philosophy of the Enlightenment, 187) is now being read as a major contributor -- perhaps the major contributor -- to Enlightenment thinking and politics. Jonathan Israel's Radical Enlightenment marks the founding moment of this trend -- a trend motivated not only by a historical interest, to uncover Spinoza's far-underestimated impact on the Enlightenment, but also by a normative project: to revive Enlightenment values -- the true ones, of 'radical', secular, anti-colonial modernity.

Michael Mack's Spinoza and the Specters of Modernity certainly belongs to this trend, extending it to the study of Herder (this is the book's core), Goethe, George Eliot and Freud. Herder's Spinozist radical Enlightenment is presented as an answer to the Enlightenment of Kant which is infected, on that reading, with an unwelcome baggage of Christian dualism, faith in teleology and even racism. I believe that there is little room for doubt that Spinoza's impact on Enlightenment thought indeed deserves the growing attention it now receives. But the belief that a remedy for modernity's malaise can be found in more Spinozism (and less Kantianism) seems to me questionable. I will review Mack's new contribution from that perspective.

The systematic question guiding Mack's project is the (often doubted) compatibility of Enlightenment universalism with the modern commitment to the value of diversity. Universalism is commonly judged as a symptom (or even the origin) of colonial European chauvinism. But by treating a non-exclusivist thinker like Herder as a true heir of the Enlightenment -- rather than as an anti-Enlightenment figure, as he will be remembered from Isaiah Berlin or more recently from Zeev Sternhell's The Anti-Enlightenment Tradition -- Mack challenges this common judgment.

The book's first two chapters are dedicated to Spinoza, whose philosophical position is presented as a conceptual framework enjoining universalism with diversity. . . .

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Cfp: "Psychoanalysis and Politics: National and the Body Politic," Norwegian Psychoanalytical Society, Oslo, March 25-27, 2011.

We cannot, argued Gullestad in Plausible Prejudice (2006), understand the appeal of right-wing politics if we do not take into account how this rhetoric is underpinned by and embedded in rearticulated neo-ethnic ideas. She argued that politicians from non-right-wing populist parties have resisted specific ways of talking that are considered too extremist, rather than their underlying frame of interpretation.  Recent news stories appear to lend support to her view: Civil rights campaigners have accused governments, not just in France but across Europe, of adopting anti-immigrant and anti-Roma policies to win popular support. The issue of the so-called 'Ground Zero mosque' has caused agitation in the US. In Denmark, the nationalist party is now in government, while the Sweden Democrats have been battling up in the recent elections, appealing to hostility towards immigrants and Muslims in particular, employing the slogan Tradition and Security. In relation to the Wolf-man's phantasies, where the passive role he played towards his sister was envisioned as reversed, Freud (1914) wrote that they corresponded exactly to the legends by means of which a nation that has become great -and proud tries to conceal the insignificance and failure of its beginnings. Given that we are witnessing a revival of nationalist ideas, it is worth asking what fantasies these give voice to. One might think in terms of 'cultures of fear' (Moïsi 2009) in reference to recent developments in USA and Europe and of fantasies of fusion or 'imagined sameness' (Gullestad). Alongside the image of the nation as a mother and/or father, Reich (1933) called attention to the fantasy of the nation as a body. This metaphor is echoed in Money-Kyrle's (1939) haracterization of 'group hypochondria' in connection with the burning of witches and heretics. The Church, with the State united to it, could tolerate no foreign body within itself, and turned ferociously upon any that it found. The analogy may call to mind fantasies of scooping out, sucking dry, of poisoning, or of the other's supreme enjoyment. Where 'the foreign body' in Freud/Breuer's (1893-95)formulation designates the memory of the trauma, the analogy breaks down in that resistance is what infiltrates the ego. The treatment consists in enabling the circulation to make its way into a region that has hitherto been cut off. Conversely, one might think, along the lines of Butler's (2004) reflections on the obituary as an act of nation-building, the instrument by which grievability is publicly distributed, which calls attention not as much to the iconic images celebrated as to what violence and what losses are derealized. When the national public sphere is constituted on the basis of a prohibition on certain forms of public grieving, what has been cut off?

This is an interdisciplinary conference – we invite theoretical contributions and historical, literary or clinical case studies on these and related themes from philosophers, sociologists, psychoanalysts, psychotherapists, literary theorists, historians and others. Perspectives from different psychoanalytic schools will be most welcome. Please send an abstract of 200 to 300 words to by December 1st 2010.

Project Narrative Summer Institute (PNSI), Ohio State University, June 13-24, 2011.

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 Frederick Aldama will direct the 2011 institute, which will accept twenty participants and will run from Monday, June 13 to Friday, June 24.

"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.

Visit the website here:

Pub: Richard Rorty and Gianni Vattimo, AN ETHICS FOR TODAY.

Rorty, Richard, and Gianni Vattimo.  An Ethics for Today: Finding Common Ground Between Philosophy and Religion.  New York: Columbia UP, 2010.

Richard Rorty is famous, maybe even infamous, for his philosophical nonchalance. His groundbreaking work not only rejects all theories of truth but also dismisses modern epistemology and its preoccupation with knowledge and representation. At the same time, the celebrated pragmatist believed there could be no universally valid answers to moral questions, which led him to a complex view of religion rarely expressed in his writings.

In this posthumous publication, Rorty, a strict secularist, finds in the pragmatic thought of John Dewey, John Stuart Mill, Henry James, and George Santayana, among others, a political imagination shared by religious traditions. His intent is not to promote belief over nonbelief or to blur the distinction between religious and public domains. Rorty seeks only to locate patterns of similarity and difference so an ethics of decency and a politics of solidarity can rise. He particularly responds to Pope Benedict XVI and his campaign against the relativist vision. Whether holding theologians, metaphysicians, or political ideologues to account, Rorty remains steadfast in his opposition to absolute uniformity and its exploitation of political strength.

More information is available here:

Wilson, Catherine. Review of David Cunning, ARGUMENT AND PERSUASION IN DESCARTES' MEDITATIONS. NDPR (October 2010).

Cunning, David.  Argument and Persuasion in Descartes' Meditations.  Oxford: OUP, 2010.

David Cunning's Argument and Persuasion in Descartes' Meditations is three very different books, Book A, Book B, and Book C, enclosed between a single cover. While Book C is the best of the three in the opinion of this reviewer, there are valuable insights and discussions in Books A and B.

Book A tries to show how the Meditations is an argument addressed to a range of different seventeenth-century readers, including Aristotelians, mechanists, atheists, and skeptics, groups characterized by their different basic beliefs and presuppositions about God, the soul, and the world, all of them erroneous. Book B is a step-by-step exposition of Descartes' Meditations with discussion and interpretation of selected passages. Book C -- the unintentional book -- has little to do with either argument or persuasion. Rather, it is a study of the unexpectedly Spinozistic cast to Descartes' thought. Descartes comes across as a philosopher for whom God can no longer be considered as a responsive personality with intentions but only as identical with the nature and necessity of things, laid down once and irrevocably for all time. Cunning argues that Descartes is committed to human free will only considered as an experience, not as liberty of indifference. This is an original and challenging interpretation, yet the evidence Cunning presents is compelling. . . .

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Reasoning and Argument: Computer and Cognitive Science Perspectives, 2nd Summer Institute on Argumentation, Centre for Research on Reasoning, Argumentation and Rhetoric, University of Windsor, May 9-27, 2011.

The institute has the dual purpose of offering a course for graduate students who have an interest in reasoning, argumentation, artificial intelligence and/or cognitive science, as well as an introduction to these topics for post-doctoral students and junior faculty who may attend as Summer Institute Fellows. The course, 'Current Issues in Argumentation Theory', (30 hours) will be a 500-level course (the University of Windsor's designation for graduate courses) and can be taken for either an Arts (Humanities) or Social Science credit. The Institute and course are under the direction of Professor Marcello Guarini (Department of Philosophy, University of Windsor) who will share the teaching duties with Professor Chris Reed, (School of Computing, University of Dundee, Scotland).

More information may be found here:

French Connection Marks Philosophy Relaunch At Kingston University.

The Centre for Research in Modern European Philosophy (CRMEP) celebrated its relaunch at Kingston University by announcing its new partnership with the Department of Philosophy at Paris 8. . . .

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Death: Claude Lefort (1924 - 2010).

Le philosophe Claude Lefort est mort dimanche 3 octobre à l'âge de 86 ans. La disparition du philosophe, dont l'œuvre importante s'est concentrée sur la critique du totalitarisme, a été annoncée dans Libération. . . .

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Outlaw, Lucius T. "Africana Philosophy." (STANFORD ENCYCLOPEDIA OF PHILOSOPHY).

“Africana philosophy” is the name for an emergent and still developing field of ideas and idea-spaces, intellectual endeavors, discourses, and discursive networks within and beyond academic philosophy that was recognized as such by national and international organizations of professional philosophers, including the American Philosophical Association, starting in the 1980s. Thus, the name does not refer to a particular philosophy, philosophical system, method, or tradition. Rather, Africana philosophy is a third-order, metaphilosophical, umbrella-concept used to bring organizing oversight to various efforts of philosophizing—that is, activities of reflective, critical thinking and articulation and aesthetic expression—engaged in by persons and peoples African and of African descent who were and are indigenous residents of continental Africa and residents of the many African Diasporas worldwide. In all cases the point of much of the philosophizings has been to confer meaningful orderings on individual and shared living and on natural and social worlds while resolving recurrent, emergent, and radically disruptive challenges to existence so as to survive, endure, and flourish across successive generations.

The emergent third-order work defining the field has been focused on identifying for research and teaching, and for further refinements and new developments of, instances of philosophical articulations and expressions regarding what has been, and is, of thoughtful, aesthetic significance to persons African and of African descent. This work has produced educative catalogings and critical surveys of particular ideas and idea-spaces; intellectual and aesthetic expressive agendas, practices, and traditions; and networks of individuals, organizations, and institutions serving philosophizing in African and African-descended life-worlds. . . .

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Pub: K.B. JOURNAL 7.1 (2010).

Essays in this issue include:
  • Charles Blair, "Breakfast with Two Kenneths: Kenneth Burke and Kenneth Fearing"
  • Zac Gershberg, "Existentialist Literature in the Burkean Parlor: Exploring the Contingencies and Tensions of Symbolic Action"
  • John M. McKenzie, "Reading Resistance to Kenneth Burke: 'Burke the Usurper' and Other Themes"
  • C. Wesley Buerkle, "Cynics, Hypocrites, and Nasty Boys: Senator Larry Craig and Gay Rights Caught in the Grotesque Frame"
  • Brett Biebel, "Standing Up for Comedy: Kenneth Burke and The Office"
  • Nick Bowman and Jeremy Groskopf, "Appalachia: Where the Squids hate the Chalkies."
Download the essays here:

Saturday, October 23, 2010

"German Idealism and its Critics," Nordic Network for German Idealism, Department of Philosophy, Classics, History of Art and Ideas, University of Oslo, December 10-11, 2010.


Marcia Cavalcante (Södertörn University College)
Taylor Carman (Barnard College)
Lore Hühn (University of Freiburg)
Alastair Hannay (University of Oslo)
Michelle Kosch (Cornell University)
Marius Mjaaland (University of Oslo)
Jon Stewart (Søren Kierkegaard Research Centre, University of Copenhagen)


10:00 – 10: 15 Welcome

10:15 – 11:30 Michelle Kosch (Cornell): Fichte (and Wilhelm) on Practical Reasoning

I have elsewhere argued that Fichte, rather than Kant or Hegel, should be taken to be the main model behind Kierkegaard’s characterization of the ethical standpoint in Either/Or II. Here I offer a detailed account of one of the main reasons for thinking that: the distinctiveness of Fichte’s account of practical reasoning, coupled with the correspondence of key features of the account of practical reasoning implicit in Either/Or II to the Fichtean account.

11:45 – 13:00 Lore Hühn (University of Freiburg): "Vom Zweifel zur Verzweiflung. Kierkegaards Kritik an der Philosophie Fichtes und Hegels"

Zweifel steht ein für das cartesianische Prinzip der Erkenntnissicherung, welches in seiner daseinsanalytischen Verschärfung von Fichte wie von Hegel als Verzweiflung ausgelegt wird. Kierkegaard ist der Kritiker dieser idealistischen Tradition, insofern er die existenzielle Bedeutung der Verzweiflung von jeder theoretischen Form des Zweifels abgrenzt.

13:00 – 14:30 Lunch

14:30 – 15:45 Marius Timmann Mjaaland (University of Oslo): "Kierkegaard’s Destruction of Hegel"

There is an obvious influence from Hegel and German Idealism on Kierkegaard’s definition of Spirit in The Sickness unto Death. He describes a self-reflective relationship of opposites that could only be completed in a Third, i.e. the synthesis. Moreover, the key to achieve such a synthesis is found in consciousness of oneself by penetrating all aspects of thought, passion, and action. Yet still, the entire book sets out to prove that Hegel and the Hegelians are wrong: their effort to achieve self-consciousness through speculation is futile and produces simulacra and caricatures rather than discovering the truth of human existence. Although he applies many features from Hegel’s philosophy, e.g. the distinction between Schein and Sein and a phenomenology of Spirit, I will argue that this is the work where Kierkegaard most systematically rejects Hegel. I see it as an effort of destruction in the Heideggerian sense, thus exploring a philosophical impulse from Luther: Kierkegaard displays the basic error of Hegel’s idealism while trying to discern an alternative, critical concept of Spirit. That concept is approached from the reverse side (Kehrseite), through a detailed phenomenological analysis of the split of despair within the Spirit, thereby insisting on the open wound of negativity as a guiding methodological principle.

16.00-17.30 Marcia Cavalcante Schuback (Södertörn University College): "Tragedy and Evil - between Schelling and Kierkegaard"

The purpose of this presentation is to investigate how Schelling's and Kierkegaard's views on the modern meaning of tragedy can contribute to an understanding of the question of evil, such as developed by both thinkers. Rather than a discussion about the difference of Scheling's and Kiekergaard's systems of philosophy, the text will discuss the necessity of rethinking tragedy and the tragic understanding of difference in order to reconsider the question of evil.

17.30-20.00 Reception


10: 15 – 11:30 Taylor Carman (Barnard College): "Kierkegaard and the Limits of Ethical Reflection"

What is the substance of Kierkegaard’s critique of the ethical standpoint? Michelle Kosch has argued that the critique takes aim at the ethics of autonomy, which misrepresents the nature of agency by denying our freedom to do evil. I argue that Kierkegaard’s concept of the ethical is wider and that his criticism of it cuts deeper. The ethical is, for Kierkegaard, not just Kantian ethics, but any generally applicable system of action-guiding norms or principles. No such system can by itself make sense of the irreducible goodness of ethically unjustiable acts of faith, that is, acts based on commitments of passionate trust. Acts of faith, like acts of desperation, can violate ethical norms and yet still be good. In short, the ethical standpoint fails to appreciate the seriousness of the question, What shall I do? as distinct from the question, What should I do?

11:45 – 13:00 Jon Stewart (Søren Kierkegaard Research Centre, University of Copenhagen): "Kierkegaard and Hegel on Faith and Knowledge"

One of Kierkegaard’s main objections to Hegel’s philosophy is that it misunderstands the nature of religion by placing it on a par with various forms of scholarship and knowing. Through his pseudonymous authors, Kierkegaard stubbornly insists that faith is fundamentally different from knowledge. How would Hegel respond to Kierkegaard’s objection? I wish to argue that Hegel would find Kierkegaard’s conception of faith to be a pure formalism with no determinate content. For this reason, it cannot be properly designated as Christian faith since it has no content by which it can be distinguished from the faith of other religions.

13:00 – 14:30 Lunch

14:30 – 15:45 Alastair Hannay (University of Oslo): "Saving Kierkegaard’s Analysis of Despair"

Kierkegaard’s positing and ordering of the two main forms of despair in The Sickness unto Death depend on the notion of a power, identified as God, in which the self is ‘grounded’. The text says that, without this notion, there would be only one form of despair: not wanting to be oneself; but with it there is also a second form: wanting to be, or asserting, one’s own self, something the text describes as ‘defiance’. However, the text has it that defiance is also the ‘form’ of the despair that is not wanting to be oneself. Some commentators see this as dictated by the religious ‘premise’ prefixed to Kierkegaard’s works, thereby obscuring their relevance for a post-metaphysical age that they also anticipate. Michael Theunissen has claimed that Kierkegaard’s insights, and even intentions, are better represented in a reordering of the two main forms of despair, priority being given to the despair of not wanting to be oneself. I suggest that, containing as they do a teleology inherited from German Idealism, Kierkegaard’s insights and intentions are accurately represented in the order that he himself adopts. Whether this is to confine him, on the one hand, to either the metaphysical past or an unfashionably non-secular present, or on the other hand to present him as a still potent challenge in a post-metaphysical age, will depend partly on what sense we can find, and find acceptable, in characterizing an unwillingness to be oneself as a case of defiance as well as of despair.

15:30 Closing remarks

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