Monday, March 29, 2010

"New Paths in Political Philosophy," SUNY, Buffalo, and Centre for Modern Thought, University of Aberdeen, March 28-29, 2008.

Friday, March 28 9:00-10:00: Coffee 10:00-10:30: Welcoming Remarks by Dean Charles Stinger (Arts and Sciences, SUNY-Buffalo). 10:30-1:00: David Johnson (SUNY-Buffalo), Chair
  • Carlo Galli (University of Bologna, Italy): "Carl Schmitt nell’etá globale"
  • Adam Sitze (Amherst College): "A Space Without War, a War Without Space: Remarks on Carlo Galli’s Political Spaces"
1:00-2:00: Lunch @ 904 Clemens Hall 2:00-4:30: Galen Brokaw (SUNY-Buffalo), Chair.
  • Giuseppe Duso (University of Padua, Italy): "Pensare la politica oltre i concetti moderni"
  • Miguel Vatter (Universidad Católica de Chile): "Republicanism or Modern Natural Right? The Question of the Origins of Modern Representative Democracy and the Political Thought of Giuseppe Duso"
4:30-5:00: Coffee 5:00-6:30: Sergio Villalobos (University of Arkansas), Chair.
  • Brett Levinson (SUNY-Binghamton): "Politics and Optimism for the Blank Generation"
  • Jon Beasley-Murray (University of British Columbia): "Biopolitics in Esposito and Negri"
9:00: Dinner at Lombardo’s Ristorante, 1198 Hertel Ave., Buffalo NY (873-4291) Saturday, March 29. 9:00-10:00: Coffee 10:00-12:30: Sara Nadal (University of Pennsylvania), Chair
  • Roberto Esposito (University of Naples, Italy): "Persona, Uomo, Cosa: Per una filosofia del impersonale"
  • Tim Campbell (Cornell University): "'Foucault Wasn’t a Person': Reflections on Idolatry and the Impersonal in Roberto Esposito’s Terza persona"
12:30-1:30: Lunch @ 904 Clemens Hall 1:30-4:00: Susana Draper (Princeton University), Chair.
  • José Luis Villacañas (University of Murcia, Spain): "Representación/politización: Los supuestos liberales de la razón populista"
  • Alberto Moreiras (University of Aberdeen, UK/SUNY-Buffalo): "Heimlich/Unheimlich: La in/domesticación del estar político"
4:00-4:30: Coffee 4:30-6:30: Laurence Shine (Buffalo State College), Chair.
  • Bruno Bosteels (Cornell University): "Politics, Infrapolitics, Impolitics"
  • Vincent Gugino (Legal Aid, Buffalo): "Republican Anxiety, or Franklin as Constitutional Thinker"
Further information may be found here:

"Haiti and the Politics of the Universal," Centre for Modern Thought, University of Aberdeen, March 12-13, 2010.

(This conference is already past, of course, but I think it is still useful to include information about it here.) Since 1804, Haiti has named the founding, repressed, ‘legitimate’ violence of Western Modernity in its totality: both our spectral fantasies of slavery, revolutionary violence, and the ‘failed state,’ as well as the site of an eternally disavowed egalitarianism without compromise. After two centuries of neglect and disavowal, the Haitian Revolution has suddenly become a fundamental reference point for global emancipatory politics, a touchstone for critical philosophers such as Alain Badiou, Slavoj Žižek, Susan Buck-Morss, Peter Hallward, and Hardt and Negri. This conference will address this contemporary theoretical turn in Haitian Studies, discussing Haiti’s place in Atlantic Modernity and its central role in political history and theory since 1791. Topics will range from the world-historical significance of the Haitian Revolution to the place of Haiti in the global political order since 2004. The conference will bring together a mix of academic and activist speakers to discuss the broad historical, philosophical, and political implications of Haiti since 1791. Confirmed speakers include: Peter Hallward, Susan Buck-Morss, Bruno Bosteels, Alberto Moreiras, Kim Ives, Deborah Jenson, Patrick Elie, Chris Bongie, and Nick Nesbitt For more information, please contact Nick Nesbitt ( Visit the conference website here:

"Antillanité, Créolité, World Literature," University of the West Indies, Cave Hill, October 14-15, 2010.

Hosted by the Department of Language, Linguistics and Literature. This colloquium will explore a literature in French that, since the 2007 manifesto, more and more critics, suspicious of the term 'Francophonie,' now prefer to designate as 'Littérature Monde' (World Literature). This more inclusive term is already found in Glissant, who saw his concept of 'Antillanité' evolve toward 'Créolité.' Encompassing all the branches of a literature as diverse as the regions and experiences it describes, the expression 'Littérature Monde' has now become predominant. We will include in this colloquium, travel literature, literature of exile and those unclassifiable francophone texts situated between different cultural universes and sometimes two or three languages. Topics: Language alienation Littérature Monde/ World Literature Antillanité – Créolité Francophone literature and globalisation Multiple identities, creole identities Debate around Creolité: ideological backgrounds Works of P. Chamoiseau, J. Bernabé, R. Confiant Gender Representation in Caribbean literature Cultural and political aspects of Littérature Monde/World Literature Race, identity and cultural hybridity Caribbean language culture and politics Orature aesthetics World films in French Diasporic literature Migrant literature Please send a 200 word abstract and a 2 page CV by April 15, 2010 to: Dr Kahiudi Claver Mabana : And Dr. Isabelle Constant : The complete paper should be sent by August 30, 2010. Visit the conference website here:

"States of Freedom: Freedom of States," Duke University and University of the West Indies, Mona, June 17-18, 2010.

How are notions of freedom and governance practiced and contested within and across national spaces in the Caribbean postcolonial? This symposium explores questions of freedom and governance generated from the heart of creolization; a process that forged a uniquely global exploitation of discrete island territories for economic activity, regional influence, and military advantage by many of the major European metropoles. The continuities and discontinuities in this history form the inspiration for our consideration of discourses, cultural forms, geo-political alliances, models of states and citizenship, and forms of (un)freedoms that have emerged in the Caribbean. In this interdisciplinary symposium we will consider how states of freedom (and felt un-freedoms), have been, and are currently being imagined, performed and represented in politics, the visual and cultural arts, as well as in literature, and also examine the consequences of this for the creolization/kreyòlisation of places, power, people, ideas and knowledge. This symposium fosters an intellectual partnership and new networks of collaboration between Duke University and the University of the West Indies-Mona. It is co-sponsored by the Duke University Center for International Studies (DUCIS) and the Office of the Principal and Vice Chancellor at the University of the West Indies, Mona, and supported by the Deans of the Faculties of the Social Sciences and Humanities, the Sir Arthur Lewis Institute of Social and Economic Studies (SALISES), the Department of History, the Institute of Caribbean Studies as well as the Center for Caribbean Thought. The organizing committee includes: Duke University, Michaeline Crichlow (AAAS and Sociology), Deborah Jenson (Romance Studies); UWI-Mona, Patricia Northover (SALISES, Mona), Matthew Smith (Department of History& Archaeology), Sonjah Stanley-Niaah (Institute of Caribbean Studies). Keynote speakers include: Prof. J. Lorand Matory (Chair, African and African American Studies, Duke University), and Prof. Rupert C. Lewis, (Professor of Political Thought, Department of Government, University of the West Indies). For further information, please contact:,; tel: 876 927 1020 or 876 927 1234. Proposed titles and abstracts should be submitted by email under the subject heading “States of Freedom proposal,” by March 5, 2010.

Pub: Tindale, Christopher W. REASON'S DARK CHAMPIONS.

Tindale, Christopher W. Reason's Dark Champions: Constructive Strategies of Sophistic Argument. Columbia: U of South Carolina P, 2010.

Recent decades have witnessed a major restoration of the Sophists' reputation, revising the Platonic and Aristotelian "orthodoxies" that have dominated the tradition. Still lacking is a full appraisal of the Sophists' strategies of argumentation. Christopher W. Tindale corrects that omission in Reason's Dark Champions. Viewing the Sophists as a group linked by shared strategies rather than by common epistemological beliefs, Tindale illustrates that the Sophists engaged in a range of argumentative practices in manners wholly different from the principal ways in which Plato and Aristotle employed reason. By examining extant fifth-century texts and the ways in which Sophistic reasoning is mirrored by historians, playwrights, and philosophers of the classical world, Tindale builds a robust understanding of Sophistic argument with relevance to contemporary studies of rhetoric and communication. Beginning with the reception of the Sophists in their own culture, Tindale explores depictions of the Sophists in Plato's dialogues and the argumentative strategies attributed to them as a means of understanding the threat Sophism posed to Platonic philosophical ambitions of truth seeking. He also considers the nature of the "sophistical refutation" and its place in the tradition of fallacy. In the second half of the book, Tindale turns to specific argumentative practices, mapping how Sophists employed the argument from likelihood, reversal arguments, arguments on each side of a position, and commonplace reasoning. In each instance Tindale grounds the discussion in specific textual examples. What emerges is a complex and complete picture of the theory, practice, and reception of Sophistic strategies that reorients criticism of this mode of argumentation, expands understanding of Sophistic contributions to classical rhetoric, and opens avenues for further scholarship.

Further information may be found here:

Pub: HISTORY AND THEORY (February 2010).

The issue contains the first of what will be a yearly entry, namely, the publication of the annual History and Theory Lecture. This lecture is jointly sponsored by History and Theory and by the Consortium for Intellectual and Cultural History centered at Columbia University in New York City. The first lecture was given on March 5, 2009 by Carlo Ginzburg to a large and appreciative audience; it is entitled, "The Letter Kills: On Some Implications of 2 Corinthians 3:6." It offers a rich history and analysis of the idea of a literal reading of a text and of issues about interpretation that arise from this idea. (The Corinthian verse contains the famous "for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.") In addition to Ginzburg's lecture the issue also contains four articles that show the range of current questions in the theory and philosophy of history:

  • Eelco Runia, "Into Cleanness Leaping: the Vertiginous Urge to Commit History"
  • Jari Kaukua and Vili Lähteenmäki, "Subjectivity as a Non-Textual Standard of Interpretation in the History of Philosophical Psychology"
  • Simon T. Kaye, "Challenging Certainty: the Utility and History of Counterfactualism"
  • Zhang Longxi, "The True Face of Mount Lu: On the Significance of Perspectives and Paradigms"

Review Essays:

  • Michael S. Roth on Georges Didi-Huberman, Images in Spite of All: Four Photographs from Auschwitz, and Michael Fried, Why Photography Matters as Art as Never Before
  • Matt K. Matsuda on Vera Schwarcz, Place and Memory in the Singing Crane Garden
  • Rik Peters on David D. Roberts, Historicism and Fascism in Modern Italy
  • Stephen Bann on Jean-Louis Schefer, L'Hostie profanée: Histoire d'une fiction théologique (Broché)
  • David Carrier on Lydia Goehr, Elective Affinities: Musical Essays on the History of Aesthetic Theory
  • Joan W. Scott on Stanley Fish, Save the World on Your Own Time

Click here to read abstracts of these articles: To download a free copy of Eelco Runia's "Into Cleanness Leaping: The Vertiginous Urge to Commit History," please click here:


New reviews just published online in the Marx and Philosophy Review of Books : · Ted Benton on The Ecological Revolution · Mary Evans on Simone de Beauvoir · Nick Gray and Meade McCloughan on Karl Marx and Contemporary Philosophy · Ishay Landa on Marx’s Philosophy of Nature, Action and Society · Rajeev Sehgal on Work And new list of books for review. Download the reviews here:

"New Developments in Narratology: Cognitive, Communicative and Philosophical Approaches," Tartu University, May 28-30, 2010.

Nordic Network of Narrative Studies. Objectives: The conference seeks to promote a dialogue among scholars of narrative and provide an overview of the current state of narratology, a variety of narratological methods and analytic approaches, overlappings with other fields and borrowings from various disciplines (cognitive science, rhetorics, sociolinguistics, media studies, psychology, philosophy). The conference invites to reflect upon the (enriching or impoverishing) impact of these overlappings on the state of the art, revision of old concepts and transfer of concepts from one domain to the other and the status of fiction within the new paradigms. The conference seeks to develop a critical understanding of these processes and to test the applicability of new methods and concepts. We welcome both theoretical discussions and practical, narrowly focused case studies that address these issues. Invited Speakers: Prof. Daniel D. Hutto (University of Hertfordshire) Prof. Gregory Currie (University of Nottingham) Prof. Marie-Laure Ryan (University of Colorado, Boulder) Visit the conference website here:

7th Annual Meeting, California Roundtable on Philosophy and Race, Northwestern University, October 8-9, 2010.

Update: Please note the changed URL for the conference website below. Original Post (February 3, 2010): Keynote Speaker: Larry Blum, University of Massachusetts, Boston. The California Roundtable on Philosophy and Race announces a call for papers for its seventh annual roundtable. This roundtable brings together philosophers of race, and those working in related fields in a small and congenial setting to share their work and to help further this sub-discipline of philosophy. Philosophical papers are invited on any issue regarding race, ethnicity, or racism, and including those that take up race in the context of another topic, such as feminism, political philosophy, ethics, justice, culture, identity, biology, phenomenology, existentialism, psychoanalysis, metaphysics, or epistemology. Submissions are especially encouraged from junior scholars and philosophers of color. We seek to foster a productive and intellectually stimulating environment for those working in philosophy and race. The Roundtable also aspires to bring together junior and senior scholars to develop and enhance constructive mentoring relationships. Papers should be no more than 30 minutes in length. Please attach a detailed (2-3 page) abstract, as an MS word.doc or .pdf file (please put your name on the file) to Subject heading should read: (your last name) CRPR 10 Submission. Submission Deadline: April 30, 2010. Organizers: Darrell Moore, Philosophy, DePaul University Mickaella Perina, Philosophy, University of Massachusetts, Boston Falguni A. Sheth, Social Science, Hampshire College Guest Organizer: Charles Mills, Philosophy, Northwestern University Please see for more infomation. For questions, please contact us at

"Computational Models of Narrative," Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence, Arlington, Virginia, November 11-13, 2010.

Narratives are ubiquitous. We use them to educate, communicate, convince, explain, and entertain. As far as we know every society has narratives, which suggests they are deeply rooted and serve an important cognitive function: that narratives do something for us. It is clear that, to fully explain human intelligence, beliefs, and behaviors, we will have to understand and explain narrative.


Despite a revival of interest in the computational understanding of narrative, there is still great uncertainty regarding fundamental questions. What does narrative do for us? What exactly is narrative? What representations are required to model narrative? This symposium will address fundamental topics and questions regarding the computational modeling and scientific understanding of narrative. Immediate technological applications, while not discouraged, are not required.

Questions include:
•What makes narrative different from a list of events or facts? What is special about the discourse that makes something a narrative, rather than something else?
•What is the relationship between narrative and common sense? Does understanding narrative first require we understand common sense reasoning?
•How are narratives indexed and retrieved? Is there a “universal” scheme for encoding narratives?
•What impact does the purpose, function, and genre of a narrative have on its form and content?
•Are there systematic differences in the formal properties of narratives from different cultures?
•What comprises the set of possible narrative arcs? Is there such a set? Is there a recipe for generating narratives?
•What are the appropriate representations for the computational modeling of narrative? What representations underlie the extraction of narrative schemas from experience?
•How can we evaluate computational models of narrative?

The symposium will bring together researchers with a wide variety of perspectives to share what is known about the fundamentals of the computational modeling of narrative and to explore the forefront of that knowledge. We seek participation from as wide a variety of approaches as possible, including not only AI researchers and technologists, but also psychologists, cognitive scientists, linguists, philosophers, narrative theorists, anthropologists, educators, storytellers, and neuroscientists.

Visit the conference website here:

Friday, March 26, 2010

Irwin, William. "Fancy Taking a Pop?" THE PHILOSOPHERS' MAGAZINE March 22, 2010.

Ten years have passed since the publication of Seinfeld and Philosophy. That book led to the Simpsons and Philosophy, which led to The Matrix and Philosophy, which has led to an ever-expanding list of books that take philosophy to the general public by discussing the subject in terms of pop culture. Despite the success of this mission, misperceptions and misdirected criticisms of the “and Philosophy” books persist. While I’ve dealt with nearly all of the criticisms before, they seem to warrant address again. (I can only speak for the books that I edited during my time with Open Court and the books in my current series with Blackwell.) Some philosophers are concerned that the “and Philosophy” books will hurt the public perception of philosophy, that the books misrepresent philosophy as trivial and frivolous. This fear is misplaced. Philosophy has had a public relations problem for a few centuries now, but it has nothing to do with philosophy being trivial or frivolous. Rather, people mistakenly think philosophy is some dry, dusty, irrelevant academic subject taught by bearded professors in tweed jackets with suede patches on the elbows. Books in my series aim to correct that misperception by showing people how philosophy is relevant. Philosophy can and should guide our lives. And there is no reason to think that the public perception of philosophy is changing to regard it as a frivolous discipline as a result of these books. Sometimes people think that philosophy is just plain bullshit, but that has nothing to do with “and Philosophy” books. In fact these books have convinced lots of people that philosophy is not bullshit by educating them about what philosophy actually is. The audience for these books is the general public. Sadly, most students go through four years of college without taking a single philosophy course, and the result is a philosophically illiterate society. The aim of these books, then, is to take philosophy to people who might not otherwise be exposed to philosophy. People think better and more critically about things they like and are interested in, whether it be sports, movies, rap music, whatever. The hope is that if we can get them to think philosophically about these things they will come to see the value of philosophy in itself. To paraphrase a British philosopher, we use a spoonful of sugar to help the medicine go down. . . . Read the rest here:

Benton, Thomas H. "Dodging the Anvil." CHRONICLE OF HIGHER EDUCATION January 4, 2010.

The job market in the humanities this year reminds me of those old Road Runner cartoons. Wile E. Coyote, a self-proclaimed "super genius," is devising some elaborate plan to catch his dinner, usually involving the creative use of Acme products, but instead of dining on Road Runner, he falls off a 1,000-foot cliff, suspended in midair just long enough to realize his fate. As he lies on the desert floor, flattened like a pancake, Coyote looks up and sees that a large anvil is about to fall on his head. The Road Runner makes his "beep beep" noise, and the cartoon ends. Even with some cyclic ups and downs, following the U.S. economy, the academic job market has been in a depression since the early 1970s, and—just as we were beginning to accept that things were not going to improve—we are now confronted with an even more desperate situation for the humanities job seeker. If we regard the Modern Language Association's Job Information List as representative of the humanities, then we are seeing the most rapid decline in advertised positions since the MLA started keeping records, 34 years ago ("MLA Newsletter," Winter 2009). Last year, at the beginning of the recession, the number of positions advertised in English declined by 24.4 percent; this year it is down by an additional 40 percent. Last year foreign-language positions were down 27 percent; this year they are down by an additional 52 percent. I complained about the lack of tenure-track jobs back in 1998 in an essay I wrote for The Chronicle, "A Graduate Student's Life," but I had it easy in comparison with this year's graduates. Of course, my cohort had been encouraged to go to graduate school by two factors: the recession of the early 1990s and the prediction that a wave of retirements and growth in the undergraduate population would produce a hiring boom at the end of the decade. That boom never materialized. What did was an overabundance of graduate students and adjuncts willing to work part time for peanuts in the hope of earning a real, tenure-track job. I don't think the current crop of humanities graduates can claim that they were not warned about the weak job market, but the situation is actually much worse now, if you are finishing a Ph.D., than you had any reason to expect when you started. If you once thought that a 40-percent chance of finding a tenure-track position was a risk worth taking (after maybe eight years of graduate school), then how do you feel about a 20-percent chance? Those odds made me feel like protesting for reforms at the MLA convention; the odds suggest either resignation ("What's the use?") or revolution ("Nothing left to lose; let's go out in blaze of glory"). I am sure there will be plenty of soothing talk about the coming rebound in the academic job market. As the economy recovers, institutions gradually may resume their normal hiring plans. If so, by that time, the market will be even more crowded, with a backlog of underemployed Ph.D.'s from previous years and lots of shiny new graduates, along with plenty of more experienced people applying for the more appealing positions. The job search is probably not going to be easier for you in a few years, even if there are more jobs available. But that's an optimistic scenario. It seems likely that this is not a temporary setback in academic employment. I think we are seeing a structural transformation of higher education that makes the current situation—bad as it seems—the beginning of the new status quo. . . . Read the rest here:

"In Defence of the Enlightenment," PHILOSOPHER'S ZONE March 6, 2010.

Todorov, Tzvetan. In Defence of the Enlightenment. London: Atlantic, 2009.

The Enlightenment, that great ferment of ideas in eighteenth-century Europe, has its enemies today on both left and right. This week, we hear a talk from the Franco-Bulgarian philosopher Tzvetan Todorov, author of the recently published In Defence of the Enlightenment, who argues for an Enlightenment approach to developing and understanding an open and just modern society.

Listen here:

"The Relevance of Romanticism," Greater Philadelphia Philosophy Consortium (GPPC), Villanova University, April 16-17, 2010.

Update: The programme is here: Original Post (August 27, 2009): Keynote Speakers:
  • Manfred Frank, Universität Tübingen
  • Frederick Beiser, Syracuse University
With the recent increase of interest in philosophical romanticism, it seems appropriate to ask the question, why romanticism now. What were the philosophical questions and concerns of Romanticism, and why do they seem particularly apt for contemporary philosophical and non-philosophical discussions? What is the value of Romanticism as a philosophical movement, both within the history of philosophy, and for philosophy today? Is Romanticism a fundamentally distinct movement, which offers something to the history of philosophy or to contemporary philosophical discussions, which other movements (Idealism, for example) do not? Can we speak of “philosophical Romanticism” at all? What is philosophical about Romanticism? The conference is dedicated to raising and attempting to answer some of these questions, in light of the work of the two keynote speakers, Manfred Frank and Frederick Beiser. We are seeking papers which address the theme of philosophical Romanticism and its relevance, from a historical or a contemporary perspective. Interdisciplinary approaches to the relationship between philosophical Romanticism and other disciplines (art, science, literature, theology) are also welcome. Papers should exhibit some familiarity with the works of Manfred Frank and/or Frederick Beiser, and, to some degree, engage with their contributions to the field. In addition to the keynote addresses, Manfred Frank and Frederick Beiser will participate in a roundtable discussion with the conference participants. Submissions: Please submit a completed paper (3,500 words) no later than January 31, 2010 to Papers should be prepared for blind-review. Submissions should be in .doc or .pdf format. Questions: contact Dalia Nassar at

Summer School: "Critical Theory and the Political," Birbeck College, University of London, June 28-July 9, 2010.

In the Summer of 2010, the Birbeck Institute of the Humanities will present the first event of the London Critical Theory School - a two week Summer School to be held at Birkbeck College, London University. This will be a unique opportunity for graduate students and academics to follow a course of study with some of the great intellectuals of our time. The aim of the course is to foster exchange and debate and will consist of at least 6 modules over the two weeks, each convened by one of the participating academics. This course will not offer transfer of credits. Participating Academics will include:
  • Etienne Balibar - Concepts of the Transindividual: Can we reconcile the legacies of Spinoza, Marx, Freud, and how?
  • Drucilla Cornell - Socialist Futures
  • Costas Douzinas - The Left and Rights
  • Stephen Frosh - Relational ethics: A conversation between psychoanalysis and social theory?
  • Esther Leslie - The Political and the Arts
  • Jacqueline Rose - Psychoanalysis and the Polis
  • Slavoj Zizek - Hegel as a Critical Theorist

For further information, visit:

"The Many Colours of Hegelianism: Hegel’s Philosophy and its Reception in an International Context," University of Oxford, June 4-5, 2010.

Sponsored by Department of Politics and International Relations, Faculty of Philosophy, New College, and Trinity College. While Hegel’s philosophy itself is an ongoing object of study in philosophy departments all over the world, his influence on the history of ideas, apart from the obvious influence on Marxism, has been less in focus. The political, social, and intellectual landscapes of different countries have influenced the ways in which thinkers have taken up Hegel’s philosophy, and influenced the choice of the aspects of his philosophy that were turned into different forms of “Hegelianism”. In focussing on four cultural-geographic areas—the Anglo-American world, Eastern Europe and Russia, the Romanic countries, and the German-speaking countries and Scandinavia—the reception and further development of Hegel’s philosophy in different parts of the world will be considered in comparative perspective. We hope to bring out a common theme, or themes, that unite Hegelianism in such different shapes as, for example, British Idealism, Russian mysticism and Kojève’s master-slave dialectics. A further focus will be on what Hegelianism means today, both in the academic field and in a wider cultural context. Keynote Speakers: Professor Robert Stern (Sheffield), Professor Ludwig Siep (Münster). Convenors: Robert Harris, New College; Lisa Herzog, New College; Sebastian Stein, St. Hugh’s College For further information, visit:

Gordon, Peter E. Review of Emmanuel Faye, HEIDEGGER: THE INTRODUCTION OF NAZISM INTO PHILOSOPHY. NDPR (March 2010).

Faye, Emmanuel. Heidegger: the Introduction of Nazism into Philosophy. Trans. Michael B. Smith. New Haven: Yale UP, 2009. "All things are wearisome; no man can speak of them all. Is not the eye surfeited with seeing, and the ear sated with hearing? What has happened will happen again, and what has been done will be done again, and there is nothing new under the sun." Thus spake Koheleth, the Hebrew prophet. Of all writers in the Western tradition, Koheleth perhaps more than anyone else owes his singular fame to the fact that he was a man who was not impressed. What might have (and perhaps should have) roused him to moral fury, of the kind that consumed Isaiah and Amos and Jeremiah, prompted Koheleth only to compose a grandiloquent hymn to indifference. No frailty in human character surprised him. Our penchant for war and mendacity seemed in his eyes no more remarkable than the passing of the seasons. Curiosity itself left him cold. "For in much wisdom is much vexation," he observed, "and he who increases knowledge, increases pain." And now, once again, Heidegger and Nazism: Once more the cycles of scandal and denunciation. Once again the shameful revelations and the no-less shameful attempts to conceal or prettify the ugly facts. The rituals of outrage are familiar, the dramatic end-of-innocence reports no less so. After reading Faye's study, writes one critic, "it will be impossible to read Heidegger again naively." But the age of naïveté is long since past. Who reads Heidegger naively? Haven't we seen all of this before, and several times? Emmanuel Faye's book makes its belated appearance in an academic culture that no doubt feels a certain exhaustion with the endless trials of l'affaire Heidegger. The ennui is perhaps justified. One might have thought, after all, that by this point just about everything that needed to be said had been said. But nobody, I think, has said it with quite as much historical evidence, nor with quite the same unrestrained vitriol, as Emmanuel Faye. His book, though it is hardly the only publication in recent years to revisit the matter of Heidegger's politics, has already drawn the attention of the journalists and the journalistic academics for whom, it seems, philosophy merits discussion only when some outrage calls the very legitimacy of philosophy into question. When I undertook the task of reviewing this book, I did so with a sense of scholarly obligation, believing (as I sincerely do) that all scholarly arguments deserve a judicious assessment. I had not anticipated that the task of reading it would prove quite so unpleasant. No doubt a great deal of the unpleasantness is not Faye's fault: to revisit the ugly business of Heidegger's Nazism is hardly an occasion for joy. In fact, although it may come as a surprise that there was more to learn, Faye has unearthed long-neglected and previously unpublished documentation, further proof that Heidegger was a zealous rather than merely opportunistic supporter of the Third Reich. But Faye shares in the responsibility in that his tone is so immoderate and his general line of analysis so lacking in qualification. For this is surely one of the most single-minded and unrestrained political attacks on Heidegger's philosophy ever written. Its genre is not that of a philosophical exposition but a jeremiad. The stance of prophetic outrage, however, is best left to the prophets. Towards the end of this review I shall try to explain in a more precise manner just what is so misguided in its approach, and just how its argument goes awry of its stated aims. But first, a summary is in order. To understand this book, it may be helpful to recall that France has been the chief theater of ongoing controversy concerning the scandal of Heidegger's politics. Beginning shortly after liberation with the publication of critical assessments by Karl Löwith, Maurice de Gandillac, and others in the pages of the newly-founded journal Les Temps Modernes, French intellectuals have returned again and again to the question of Heidegger and Nazism, and they have done so with a passion onlookers often find perplexing. That French intellectuals have not yet grown tired of the debate may say something about Heidegger's prominence in the French philosophical canon. In its classic phase the controversy implicated Sartre as a philosopher whose own work made copious (if somewhat idiosyncratic) use of Heidegger's existential motifs. The debate was never truly repressed but it returned nevertheless with the 1987 publication of a book by Victor Farias, Heidegger and Nazism, which set off a storm of salvos and counter-salvos by philosophers and social theorists such as Jacques Derrida, Pierre Bourdieu, and many others too numerous to mention. It may be of some interest to note that Emmanuel Faye's own father, Jean-Pierre Faye, was a major player in an earlier phase of the Heidegger affair: In 1969, Faye (père) published a scathing attack on Derrida in the pages of the Communist paper L'Humanité, in which he accused Derrida and his colleagues on the journal Tel Quel of betraying the political cause by opening an ideological passage through history from the German right to the French left. Derrida, claimed Jean-Pierre Faye, was an agent of "le malheur Heideggerien."[3] The elder Faye went on to write a book on Totalitarian Languages (1972) and another book addressing the whole phenomenon of Heidegger's philosophy, entitled The Trap: Heideggerian Philosophy and National Socialism (1992). The apple has not fallen far from the tree. . . . Read the whole review here:

Braver, Lee. Review of Bret W. Davis, ed. MARTIN HEIDEGGER: THE KEY CONCEPTS. NDPR (March 2010).

Davis, Bret W., ed. Martin Heidegger: Key Concepts. Chesham: Acumen, 2010. How does one make Heidegger accessible? Explaining philosophers to non-experts is often a tricky business, courting the perils of either dissipating the ideas in trite slogans or merely circulating jargon-like secret passwords known only to the initiated. But with Heidegger, the passage between these dangers is particularly treacherous, as Bret W. Davis acknowledges on the first page of Martin Heidegger: Key Concepts. His solution is to select a number of important ideas that range across great swaths of Heidegger's work, and have prominent scholars "clearly and concisely articulate . . . their understanding of the key concepts of their particular areas of expertise" (xi). Each discussion guides readers through a specific topic; combined in a roughly chronological order, they offer an overview of his oeuvre. The essays are fairly short (usually 10-12 pages) and are broken into bite-size portions, allowing readers to find quick clarifications of particular subjects. Moreover, the editor has inserted references to the relevant chapter when its topic appears in a different essay, enabling the reader to follow up on ideas that catch their attention. Many of the chapters interweave nicely, combining for a total greater than the sum of the parts. Davis' goal is to present essays valuable both to those first approaching Heidegger and to those who know his work well. Obviously, "this daunting balancing act" (xi) is difficult to achieve since these aims tend to pull in opposite directions. The more an article succeeds in giving a general introduction to a topic, the less it usually offers to those conversant with the subject. Conversely, the more an article aims at expanding the knowledge of experts, the more likely it is to leave the uninitiated behind. Davis admits that many of the essays emphasize the one aim at the expense of the other (xii), and it would be difficult to reach any other conclusion. However, most do accomplish one of the goals -- no small achievement in itself -- and some succeed in pleasing both audiences by following a single thread throughout Heidegger's various texts and periods, orienting new readers while simultaneously providing the experienced with a helpful overview of the development of a topic. In general, I think that it would have been more beneficial for new readers had the authors covered less ground but with more detailed elucidation. The individual entries, as with most collections, vary in quality and in how they negotiate the trade-off between accessible elucidation and esoteric disquisition. It is to these that I now turn. . . . Read the whole review here:

"Readings of Difficult Freedom," North American Levinas Society and Société Internationale de Recherches Emmanuel Levinas, Toulouse, July 4-9, 2010.

First published in 1963, with a second edition appearing in 1976, Difficile Liberté is considered Levinas' most accessible book and constitutes an excellent introduction to his work: philosophy, Biblical and Talmudic commentary, and an educational mission. "Readings of Difficult Freedom" is the largest international conference ever devoted to Levinas and his work. For an entire week, more than 180 speakers from 41 countries will present and discuss the ideas presented in Difficult Freedom. In addition, during the entire conference week there will be lectures and debates in a number of cultural centers in Toulouse as well as screenings of movies and documentaries. The conference and events are all open to the public. Information and Registration : E-mail:



Sverre Raffnsøe, Alan Rosenberg, Alain Beaulieu, Sam Binkley, Jens Erik Kristensen, Sven Opitz, Chloë Taylor, Morris Rabinowitz, Ditte Vilstrup Holm 1-4 Special Section on Michel Foucault and Norbert Elias:

  • Introduction to the Special Section by Sam Binkley, Stefanie Ernst 5-7
  • "Space, Time and the Constitution of Subjectivity: Comparing Elias and Foucault" by Paddy Dolan 8-27
  • "Emotional Intelligence: Elias, Foucault, and the Reflexive Emotional Self" by Jason Hughes 28-52
  • "The Planned and the Unplanned: a Roundtable Discussion on the Legacies of Michel Foucault and Norbert Elias" by Sam Binkley, Paddy Dolan, Stefanie Ernst, Cas Wouters 53-77


  • "Stations of the Self: Aesthetics and Ascetics in Foucault’s Conversion Narrative" by Christopher Yates 78-99
  • "Historical Critique or Transcendental Critique in Foucault: Two Kantian Lineages" by Colin Koopman 100-121


  • Response to Colin Koopman’s “Historical Critique or Transcendental Critique in Foucault: Two Kantian Lineages” by Kevin Thompson 122-128
  • "Historical Conditions or Transcendental Conditions: Response to Kevin Thompson’s Response" by Colin Koopman 129-135

Review Essays:

  • Michel Foucault, Le Gouvernement de soi et des autres. Cours au Collège de France 1982-1983 (Paris: Gallimard/Seuil, 2008), ISBN: 978-2020658690 & Michel Foucault, Le Courage de la vérité. Le Gouvernement de soi et des autres II. Cours au Collège de France 1984 (Paris: Gallimard/Seuil, 2009), ISBN: 978-2020658706 by Alain Beaulieu 136-145


  • Ben Golder and Peter Fitzpatrick, Foucault’s Law (New York: Routledge, 2009), ISBN: 978-0415424547 by Max Rosenkrantz 146-150
  • Timothy O’Leary, Foucault and Fiction: the Experience Book (London and New York: Continuum, 2009), ISBN: 978-0826495952 by Marc Trabsky 151-154
  • David Konstan, The Emotions of the Ancient Greeks: Studies in Aristotle and Classical Literature (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2006), ISBN: 978-0802095589 by Kate Drabinski 155-158
  • Michael Ure, Nietzsche’s Therapy: Self-Cultivation in the Middle Works (Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 2008), ISBN: 978-0739119969 by Robbie Duschinsky 159-162
  • Johanna Oksala, How To Read Foucault (New York: W. W. Norton & Company, Inc., 2008), ISBN: 978-0393328196 by Trent H. Hamann 163-165
  • Derek Hook, Foucault, Psychology and the Analytics of Power (Houndsmill, UK: Palgrave Macmillan, 2007), ISBN: 978-0230008199 by Bradley Kaye 166-168
  • Kathrin Thiele, The Thought of Becoming: Gilles Deleuze’s Poetics of Life (Zurich-Berlin: Diaphanes, 2008), ISBN: 978-3037340363 by John McSweeney 169-173
  • Chloë Taylor, The Culture of Confession from Augustine to Foucault: a Genealogy of the ‘Confessing Animal’ (New York: Routledge, 2009), ISBN: 978-0415963718 by Sal Renshaw 174-179
  • Sam Binkley and Jorge Capetillo (eds.), A Foucault for the 21st Century: Governmentality, Biopolitics and Discipline in the New Millennium (Newcastle upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2009), ISBN: 978-1443804448 by P. Taylor Trussell 180-184
  • Lisa Downing, Cambridge Introduction to Michel Foucault (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2008), ISBN: 978-0521682992 by Lena Wånggren 185-188
  • Judith Revel, Michel Foucault: Expériences de la pensée (Paris: Bordas, 2005), ISBN: 2047299446 by Alan Milchman 189-191
  • Judith Revel, Dictionnaire Foucault (Paris: Ellipses, 2008), ISBN: 978-2729830939 by James Muldoon

Download the issue here:

Friday, March 19, 2010

Rasmussen, Andrew. "Americanising the Global Mind." STATS March 15, 2010.

Watters, Ethan. Crazy Like Us: the Globalization of the American Psyche. New York: Free Press, 2010. Watters’ central thesis goes something like this: by expanding their realm through the forces of globalization, American mental health professionals are harming other societies by introducing Western symptoms into the way people in other cultures express their distress and replacing the local explanations for mental health problems with Western scientific models. He begins by introducing readers to a fact that many of us who study mental health globally know well: the expression of and explanation for mental illness depend in part upon the culture in which the individuals afflicted reside. In the language of the field, they are “culturally-mediated.” Watters provides several good examples of this in Crazy Like Us, but the clearest articulation comes from McGill Unversity Professor, and Editor of Transcultural Psychiatry, Laurence Kirmayer who is interviewed at length. Kirmayer explains that most cultures have an experience of isolation and decreased motivation that we, in the United States, typically, would call depression. In India this might be characterized by a feeling that the heart is physically descending in the body, in Nigeria by reports of a peppery feeling in the head, and in Korea by “‘fire illness’… a burning in the gut.” Readers interested in hearing a compendium of foreign mental illnesses will not be disappointed. Most of these have analogs in the West (as with depression), but others do not. The most infamous of these is koro of Southeast Asia, or the sudden feeling that one’s penis is decreasing in size or disappearing altogether. If this sounds amusingly off-beat, an outbreak of a similar condition in the 1990s in a number of West African countries resulted in mobs beating and killing several women suspected of witchcraft. These psychological phenomena are real in that they have real behavioral consequences. These “indigenous” disorders are being displaced by Western concepts primarily, Watters claims, by unwitting journalists in the developing world who defer to Western experts and by adventurous Western mental health professionals out to do good. Westerners introduce ideas of how mental health problems should be expressed – or, more accurately, how they are expressed in Western culture – and sufferers hear about these and mimic them. . . . Read the rest here:

Summer School: 8th Forum on Contemporary Theory, Department of English, University of Pune, June 14-July 10, 2010.

The Forum on Contemporary Theory has been conducting an intensive course in Theory/Praxis since 2003 for the benefit of scholars across disciplines interested in new developments in Theory and their application. The Course includes intensive textual readings in specific areas, supported by seminars and talks on broader but related issues. The Course will be held in the University of Pune from June 14 to July 10, 2010. COURSE OUTLINES The Course is organized around the following topics to be discussed in-depth by the core faculty, supported by public lectures and mini-seminars by the invited scholars. 1) Matters of Life & Death (Faculty: Costica Bradatan) The recent resurgence of the phenomenon of “suicide bombing” has starkly reminded us of the important political functions that a dying body can perform. From the Buddhist monks who immolated themselves in Vietnam in early 1960s to Jan Palach, who did the same thing in Czechoslovakia in 1969, from the Japanese kamikazes during the WWII to today’s suicide-bombers, the ways in which one’s violent death can be turned into an expressive political gesture have been as different as have the ultimate goals sought through such an act. However, despite its persistence and shocking occurrences, this type of voluntary death hasn’t yet received the theoretical treatment it deserves; social and political theorists are still to come up with a comprehensive and interdisciplinary understanding of the dying body as a carrier of political, ideological and religious messages. This course has been born precisely out of the felt need for such a broader understanding of the body and the political functions it can perform in radical situations. The primary theoretical premise on which the course is based is Maurice Merleau-Ponty’s insight that the “use a man is to make of his body is transcendent in relation to that body as a mere biological entity.” Drawing on this insight, we will be looking at various practices through which a body can be made to transcend itself. The course is dedicated to exploring the body as the locus of a number of fundamental experiences: the experience of a living (embodied) being, “thrown into the world,” of living in limit-situations (torture, starvation, physical degradation), the experience of finitude and imperfection, of overcoming one’s natural fear of death, finally the experience of self-transcending and re-signification through dying a violent voluntary death. We will be discussing several types of such voluntary death: martyrdom, self-immolation as a form of political protest, suicide-bombing and the kamikaze pilots. In terms of textual resources, we will be analyzing texts on the phenomenology of the body (Merleau-Ponty), on the phenomenology of death and dying (Heidegger, Landsberg and Michelstaedter), as well as scholarly literature on the posthumous significance that a “martyred body” can acquire in radicalized contexts (Girard). We will also examine fiction literature (Lev Tolstoy), literature by Nazi camp survivors such as Primo Levi and Jean Améry, as well as personal diaries left behind by Japanese kamikaze pilots. Finally, in order to make our approach more intuitive and, at the same time, more interdisciplinary, we will be watching and discussing a number of films on the subject by such major directors as Bergman, Pontecorvo, Benigni, and Iñárritu. Course Structure: • Session I: The Body as a Philosophical Problem; the Body and the World; Being-in-the-World. o Readings: Merleau-Ponty, Phenomenology of Perception, pp. 77-232; Heidegger, Being and Time, pp. 149-224. o Film viewing: 21 Grams (Dir. Alejandro González Iñárritu) • Session II: Death as a Philosophical Problem; Living with Death; Death and (the Quest for) Authenticity; Death, Irony and Humor o Readings: Heidegger, Being and Time, pp. 279-311; Tolstoy, The Death of Ivan Ilyich; Michelstaedter, Persuasion and Rhetoric, pp. 7-57 o Film viewing: The Barbarian Invasions (Dir. Denys Arcand) • Session III: Overcoming the Fear of Death; Self-Transcending; Dying as a Rite of Passage; Death and Meaning o Readings: Plato, Apology; Landsberg, “The Experience of Death”; Michelstaedter, Persuasion and Rhetoric, pp. 61-100 o Film viewing: The Seventh Seal (Dir. Ingmar Bergman) • Session IV: Marked for Death; Torture and Resistance; Scapegoating; o Readings: Améry, “Torture,” pp. 21-40; Girard, The Scapegoat, pp. 1-75 o Film viewing: Agora (Dir. Alejandro Amenabar) • Session V: Dying vs. Death; the Body in the Concentration Camp; Death and Annihilation o Readings: Améry, “At the Mind’s Limits,” pp. 1-20; Primo Levi, Survival in Auschwitz o Film viewing: Life is Beautiful (Dir. Roberto Benigni) • Session VI: Making the Most of the Dying Body. Various Political Uses of the Body; Narratives of Martyrdom o Readings: Girard, The Scapegoat, pp. 100-148; Emiko Ohnuki-Tierney, Kamikaze Diaries; Luke Allnutt, “A True Martyr” o Film viewing: Paradise now (Dir. Hany Abu-Assad) 2) Can Subaltern Studies Speak? A Critical Reading of Three Decades of Discourse on and of Subalternists and Subalternity (Faculty: Arjuna Parakrama) While detractors would admit that the subalternist intervention in colonial historiography and cultural studies was both important and influential, ardent acolytes will concede that there’s been a decline in both interest and interesting new work in the field. This course seeks to examine the ways in which subaltern studies has perceived itself and has been understood by others during the past three decades, in order to better predict its future trajectory. Thus, subaltern theory will be subjected to a discourse study, the assumption being that its reception and reproduction, both complex discursive processes, are (mis)appropriations of power/knowledge in globalised space. Since the public inauguration of Subaltern Studies in the early 1980s, and particularly with Ranajit Guha’s “manifesto” in Subaltern Studies I: Writings on South Asian History and Society (1982) this loosely-knit group of Indian historians and cultural theorists enjoyed a two-decade-long wave of popularity in Indian and Anglo-US academe. Many imitations and applications were spawned during this period, even the inner circle of the Subaltern Studies Collective grew to around 15 amidst much soul-searching [See Hardiman 1986], and included adherents in the most prestigious US and Australian universities. Caricature accounts had US graduate students looking for subalterns in every nook and cranny, and the crudest misunderstandings degenerated into celebrations of primitivism and the romanticizing of marginality. To risk a generalization that this course will unpack, at a more serious level the British and US responses to Subaltern Studies have been markedly divergent because each sees different aspects as its core content. While the first response dealt almost exclusively with colonial historiography, this was quickly followed by a literary critical appropriation of Subaltern Studies which gradually became the one of the trendiest methodologies in US English Departments. Throughout this period the definition of the term “subaltern” came under constant scrutiny and regular revision, a discursive arena that will be meticulously mapped in our readings. Subaltern Studies’ origins as a critical engagement with Marxism is well-known. Hence, serious opposition to Subaltern Studies has most consistently come from the traditional left which argues that revolutionary struggle is being diverted to over-nuanced abstractions and obscurantist theory. A related major strand of criticism exemplified by members of the Cambridge School held that the Subalternists have nothing new to offer which either (British) Marxists and/or Indian historians had not discussed earlier. A rising antagonism from within India, including by a few former members of the Collective such as Sumit Sarkar, has critiqued what it perceives as the post-structuralist turn of later subaltern work. However, the early excitement, both pro and con has diminished, and during the last five or so years the output and interest in Subalternity has reached a low ebb, prompting some critics to express the view that it was merely a fad whose heyday was irrevocably past. We will track these changes in terms of their over-arching conceptual ramifications in the context of the global financial crisis and the rise of ethno-nationalist conflict and reconstitution of new social movements. This course seeks to map the trajectory of subaltern studies as well as critical responses to it over the past three decades, in the attempt to theorize future roles for this intellectual movement. Of particular interest in this regard will be the detailed examination of subaltern studies relationship to Marxism and postcolonial theories in the current conjuncture. The unabashedly elite status of subaltern scholars and the disciplinary privileging of India (even within South Asia) will also be scrutinized to identify how this gets played out in their analysis and presentation. As a capstone exercise, participants will be invited to present a preliminary analysis of a contemporary intervention of struggle or resistance that they feel strongly about from a subaltern perspective, which includes the use of alternative sources and methodologies to mainstream research. Course Structure: • Session I: Subaltern Studies and the Critique of Colonial Historiography: New Wine in Old Bottles? o Readings: Selections from Guha, Ranajit Elementary Aspects of Peasant Insurgency, Dominance without Hegemony, and Guha and Spivak (eds.) Selected Subaltern Studies. Essays by Chandravarkar, Brass and Bayley in Mapping Subaltern Studies o Creative Expression: La Nouba des femmes du Mont Chenoua [Film by Assia Djebar] • Session II: Subaltern Studies and Marxism: Fellow Travellers or Incommensurable Alternatives? o Readings: Essays by O’Hanlon, Washbrook, Prakash (Response), Lazarus & Varma o Creative Expression: Genesis [Film by Mrinal Sen] • Session III: Subaltern Studies and Postcolonial Theory: Orientalism Revisited, Eurocentrism Reinscribed o Readings: Lazarus & Varma, Prakash, Spivak “Can the Subaltern Speak?” o Creative Expression: Kanafani “Men in the Sun” [See Bibliography] • Session IV: The Literary Appropriation of Subaltern Studies: Spivak and Subaltern Sources o Readings: Selections from Spivak, Gayatri In Other Worlds, Other Asias, and the interviews o Creative Expression: Devi, Mahasweta “Draupadi” and “Stanadayini” [English translation by Gayatri Spivak contained in In Other Worlds] • Session V: Synthesizing the Contribution of Subaltern Studies to Present Struggles: Public Debates and Private Wars o Readings: A collection of critical essays and responses from the Economic & Political Weekly in the 1980s and 90s, James C Scott. o Creative Expression: Selected Film Documentaries • Session VI: Whither Subaltern Studies Tomorrow? Subjects, Approaches, Saturation of an Area o Readings: Chatterjee (Selections), Gunawardena, Pandian, Arnold (Selection) o Creative Expression: Abaa (Sri Lankan Film by Jackson Anthony) • Session VII: Participant Presentations and Discussion: How is Subaltern Theory Useful Today? CORE FACULTY Costica Bradatan is Assistant Professor of Honors at Texas Tech University. He has also taught at Cornell University, Miami University, as well as at several universities in Europe (England, Germany, Hungary and Romania). Currently (2009-2010) he is a Solmsen Fellow at the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Institute for Research in the Humanities. Bradatan has held research fellowships at, among others, University of Wisconsin-Madison, University of California Los Angeles, and the Newberry Library in Chicago. His research interests include Continental philosophy, history of philosophy, East-European philosophy, and philosophy of literature. Bradatan’s most recent book The Other Bishop Berkeley: An Exercise in Reenchantment was published with Fordham University Press in 2006. He is also the author of two other books (in Romanian): An Introduction to the History of Romanian Philosophy in the 20th Century (Bucharest, 2000) and Isaac Bernstein’s Diary (Bucharest, 2001), as well as of several dozens of scholarly papers, essays, encyclopedia entries, book translations and book reviews. He has co-edited (with Serguei Alex. Oushakine) In Marx’s Shadow. Knowledge, Power and Intellectuals in Eastern Europe and Russia (Lexington Books, 2010) and guest-edited two special journal issues: one on “Philosophy as Literature” for The European Legacy (Summer 2009) and another on “Philosophy in Eastern Europe” for Angelaki (forthcoming). Arjuna Parakrama is currently Visiting Professor at the School of Language & Linguistics of the National University of Malaysia. He was Professor of English (Cadre Chair) at Sri Lanka’s oldest and most prestigious university, the University of Peradeniya, from 2004 - 2009. He has also served in the United Nations in Nepal and elsewhere as an expert on (post)conflict development and human rights, and has a parallel existence working with multiply marginalized communities in Sri Lanka’s war-ravaged “border villages”. Professor Parakrama was a Fulbright New Century Scholar in 2007/8, a Senior Fellow at the Carnegie Council on Ethics & International Affairs (2000/1), a Senior Fellow at the US Institute of Peace (1999/2000) and a Guggenheim Research Grantee (2002). Among his publications are three books, De-Hegemonizing Language Standards (Macmillan, 1995), Language and Rebellion (Katha, 1990) and Collected Poems (2002) and a monograph Social Cleaving: Resistance and Loss within a Bereaved Culture (2004). His current research interests include anti-languages, extra-linguistic value systems embedded within everyday language, collective trauma and social cleaving in (post)conflict societies, and subaltern discourse. For further information, visit the Forum on Contemporary Theory website here:

Cfp: "On Error," Research Group in Continental Philosophy, Goldsmiths College, University of London, October 29-30, 2010.

Is a form of discourse, philosophical or otherwise, conceivable without a relation to error: the errors it considers potentially amendable, the errors it seeks to distinguish itself from, or the errors it inadvertently generates? If this relation is neither uniform nor stable, if the status, value, and identity ascribed to error may vary across disciplines or even within a single philosophical corpus itself, what does this variability express? And what consequences will the transformations in philosophy’s understanding of error have for its procedure in general? This two-day international conference, organized by INC, the Research Group in Continental Philosophy at Goldsmiths, University of London, aims to ascertain the meaning and function of error for philosophical thought today. Researchers are invited to submit original papers of forty minutes* reading time devoted to any aspect of the theme in question. Areas of research may concern (but are not limited to) the following: Error and • Deception, ideology, and false consciousness • Its relation to concept, category, or statement • Methodologies of correction or adaptivity • History (transmission and persistence of problems) • Determinacy and indeterminacy • Accountability • (Un)predictability: the aleatory instant • Reinventions of the truth-error relation (Hegel, Nietzsche, Heidegger, Derrida, Canguilhem, Foucault) • Being wrong or being right: logics of argumentation • Wilful error (dissimulation, méconnaissance, detour, fabulation, etc.) • Psychoanalysis: situating the subject in the “dimension of making a mistake” Submissions: Please send an abstract of no more than 300 words in length, along with your name, department, institution, and email address. Deadline for submissions: 1 June 2010 (You will be informed of our decision by 1 August 2010). Email abstracts to: For further details:

"The Spirit of German Idealism II," Nordic Network for German Idealism, Siemens Stiftung, Munich, May 26-28, 2010.

Also sponsored by the Department of Philosophy, Ludwig-Maximilian University and the Department of Philosophy, Aarhus University. In the period from 2009 – 2011 the Nordic Network for German Idealism ( is arranging various conferences and workshops for researchers and post-graduate students with interest and expertise in the vast and varied field of philosophy, which takes the philosophies of Kant, Fichte Schelling, Hegel and Kierkegaard as its most crucial point of reference. The papers for the workshop are not restricted with regards to theme, but they should discuss or deal with the philosophies of Kant, Fichte, Schelling, Hegel or Kierkegaard. Since the general theme for work within the NNGI is Spirit (Geist), we particularly welcome papers that deal with this theme. They may be historically oriented or deal with systematic issues as the authors see fit. The deadline for submission of abstracts is April 15th, 2010. Abstracts should be submitted to the following e-mail address: Further information may be found here:

Cfp: "Rhetorics of Reason and Restraint: Stoic Speech from Antiquity to the Present," ASHR, Minneapolis, May 27-28, 2010.

Update: The programme has been posted here: Original Post (October 26, 2009): Annual conference of the American Society for the History of Rhetoric. Set within rhetoric's histories have been consistent cautionary voices, warning rhetors and their audiences of the dangers of rhetorical excesses, enthusiasms, and irrationalities. Stoicism has represented in its ethical ideal, if not always explicitly in its theories, such a cautionary voice—and a major one, influencing directly or indirectly Cicero and Augustine, Lipsius and Hobbes, Wollstonecraft and Lincoln, as well as contemporary ethics of criticism and ideals of public discourse. Plenary speakers at the ASHR Symposium will be Janet Atwill of the University of Tennessee, James Darsey of Georgia State University, and Lawrence Green of the University of Southern California. ASHR invites proposal covering historical as well as more contemporary subjects. Although papers on all aspects of rhetoric's history are invited, we especially welcome submissions that speak to issues related to the theme of Stoicism (e.g. reason, restraint, cosmopolitanism, philosophy's relationship to rhetoric). One-page single-spaced abstracts are due in electronic form (as .doc or .rtf files) to Ned O'Gorman at by 9pm Eastern Daylight Time on November 30, 2009. Abstracts will be competitively reviewed. Authors of accepted abstracts will be notified by December 31, 2009.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Wilson, Robert A. Review of Robert D. Rupert, COGNITIVE SYSTEMS AND THE EXTENDED MIND. NDPR (March 2010).

Rupert, Robert D. Cognitive Systems and the Extended Mind. Oxford: OUP, 2009. Once upon a time, empirically-informed, philosophical work on the mind was pretty straightforward. Mental activity went on inside the head, and we were pretty sure that it, along with all the good stuff associated with it -- consciousness, intentionality, mental representation, computation -- could be most readily understood without having to crease our brows too much about how minds were situated vis-à-vis bodies, or vis-à-vis environments. To be sure, the cognitive sciences had renegade, pluralistic strands running through them, and particular disciplinary itches that needed scratching. But there was a sufficiently articulated paradigm in place that at least made designing jacket covers for books in the field relatively easy. Find a picture of a head, such as a representation of a brain, ideally an image a bit attuned to the title or theme of the book, and you're at least well on your way. I failed to understand this simple point during what were politely called "ongoing discussions" over the cover of The MIT Encyclopedia of the Cognitive Sciences a dozen years ago. "No, I'm sorry, Professor Wilson", I was informed by way of a solemn conclusion delivered by an exasperated senior editor at the Press, someone whom I imagined had to avert his gaze in embarrassment on my behalf as he typed back curtly, "I am afraid that it has to be a head". Designing jacket covers for books in this neck of the woods is no longer so easy. Heads are not exactly out, but they are no longer strictly required. Shaun Gallagher and Dan Zahavi's The Phenomenological Mind (2008) has a person half-way through exit mode on its cover. Fred Adams and Ken Aizawa's The Bounds of Cognition (2008), for crying out loud, has a cube of green cubes on the cover. Not even a thing that thinks, so far as we know. Rob Rupert's stimulating book continues down this path with quite a beautiful black and white photograph of a grove of aspens in the wilds of Colorado plonked right on the cover. It's enough to start me worrying that in order to understand the field that I work in, I can no longer simply look at jacket covers. In order to write this review in my current state of existential confusion, I have thus had to resort to an old trick of the trade, something I learned in grad school but like most things so learnt, haven't had to use much since. Read. And, somewhat to my initial surprise, especially given the total absence of pictures once one gets beyond the cover of Cognitive Systems and the Extended Mind, and the distinct dearth of bad jokes between the sheets, I'm glad I did. Rupert's book is a good read. It is a sustained, systematic, critical examination of the idea that minds are not simply ensconced inside heads, but extend into both bodies and the world beyond the body. As his title suggests, Rupert is focused primarily on the latter of these, the extended mind thesis, a thesis articulated neatly by Andy Clark and David Chalmers a dozen years ago in a paper that, had it been a movie, would have been an instant blockbuster, then a classic, and now be competing with Seinfeld re-runs on cable tv. . . . Read the rest here:

Cfp: "Embodiment, Intersubjectivity and Psychopathology," University of Heidelberg, September 30-October 2, 2010.

During the last decade, the concept of embodiment has become a key paradigm of interdisciplinary approaches from the areas of philosophy, psychology, psychiatry and neuroscience. The body is no longer merely considered as an interesting input for the brain or mind. The new trend is to link embodiment, cognition and emotion in a deeper way, and this has particular repercussions for understanding our social engagements. This in turn has implications for psychopathology and psychotherapy, because embodied and intersubjective views on mental illness can offer new insights useful for diagnosis and remediation. The conference is aimed at creating an interdisciplinary forum for the exchange of ideas on the themes of embodiment, intersubjectivity and their role in psychopa­thology. It brings together worldwide experts from the fields of developmental psy­chology, philosophy, and psychopathology, in order to advance on some key ques­tions for this research area, among them: · What is embodied intersubjectivity? In how far is our relationships with others mediated by the body? · What is the role that embodied intersubjectivity plays for the development of social cognition? · How can mental illness be conceived from an embodied and enactive point of view? · What is the use of the notion of embodiment for therapy and training? Keynote Speakers:

  • Ezequiel Di Paolo, Matthew Ratcliffe, Beata Stawarska, Dan Zahavi(Philosophy)
  • Peter Hobson, Vasu Reddy, Colwyn Trevarthen, Ed Tronick (Developmental Psychology)
  • Jonathan Cole, George Downing, Giovanni Stanghellini (Neurology, Psychology, Psychiatry)

Cfp: "The Horror, the Humour: Satire and Dark Comedy in a Postmodern World," Lincoln School of Humanities and Performing Arts, October 9, 2010.

This one day comedy symposium sets out to examine the notion of satire and the overlap with Dark Comedy in the 21st Century, with particular reference to the post 1960's so called boom. In the last part of his book, That Was Satire That Was (2000), Humphrey Carpenter declares that 'Everyone is [now] a satirist.' The conference then aims to begin to identify where satire stands in the postmodern world. It asks such questions as: How has the political landscape changed the notion of satire (particularly interesting in this election year)? Are people so cynical with regard to politics that the job of the satirist is harder than ever before? How has the notion of Political Correctness affected the work of the satirist and whether Humphrey Carpenter's declaration that 'Everyone is a Satirist' is justified? This is an interdisciplinary conference and welcomes papers on satire in its many forms from TV and Film Drama to debates around political cartoons whilst also seeking papers on non-western forms of Satire in addition to the Anglo-American. Possible topics could include but are not exclusive to these subjects: * Satire and Politics (in every sense of the term 'Politics') * Satire and Gender * Satire in the Global Context * Satire and Journalism * The Satirist and Fine Art * Satire on Film and Television (including Animation) * Satire in Theatrical Performance * Satire in the Novel * Political Cartoons

Further information is available here:

Schliesser, Eric. Review of G. A. J. Rogers, et al., eds. INSIDERS AND OUTSIDERS IN SEVENTEENTH CENTURY PHILOSOPHY. NDPR (March 2010).

Rogers, G. A. J., Tom Sorrell and Jill Kraye, eds. Insiders and Outsiders in Seventeenth-Century Philosophy. London: Routledge, 2010. Imagine a possible distant future in which the poet-philosopher, Jody Azzouni, is at the core of the undergraduate curriculum. His views on ontology are routinely taught in order to prepare students for the great questions of the day. There are, of course, pesky historians who insist that the neo-scholastic reawakening inaugurated by David Lewis should be represented in the undergraduate curriculum -- they claim persuasively that for about a century Lewis attracted far more attention than Azzouni. (In his contribution to the volume under review Robert Adams calls the focus on possible worlds and the logic of modality the "coming of age of American philosophy" (312).) In his day Lewis attracted the very best graduate students in the leading philosophy department; working out the detailed implications of the various components of his system seemed to dominate philosophy for over a century. Meanwhile, Azzouni, who was by no means unknown in his time, never attracted PhD students. His work seemed to prohibit the parceling out of projects so necessary in an age of shortened PhDs, instant publication, and the division of labor within progressive research programs. Ironically, in the twenty-first century Azzouni was better known as a quirky novelist and feminist poet before he was rediscovered as the thinker who radically transformed philosophy post-Quine. So much for fantasy; it was inspired by the volume under review. Its core insight -- to place five now canonical thinkers of the seventeenth century alongside five significant but now largely untaught and unread thinkers -- is worthy of serious reflection. The five "outsiders" (Gassendi, Digby, Gale, Cudworth, and Malebranche) receive an article each. The five "insiders" (Descartes, Hobbes, Spinoza, Locke, and Leibniz) all receive at least two articles. The volume teaches that it is very hard to say at a given time what philosopher/system will last and what the reasons are for such enduringness. Another thing taught by the volume as a whole is that philosophers can rewrite their history in various ways so that a thinker can become an insider or return to canonical status when s/he was once not. "Analytic" philosophers may need their historical "myths" (Cottingham introducing his views on Descartes, 165), but philosophy will not always be analytic and its future may require different myths or a different attitude toward history. . . . Read the whole review here:

Cfp: "Nature and Human Nature," University of Oxford, September 10-12, 2010.

Consciousness and Experiential Psychology Section, British Psychological Society. Mind is part of Nature, not apart from it. To deny this is to make the mind and consciousness alien intrusions into an otherwise mechanistic universe. Consciousness may be a remarkable phenomenon but we will start from the assumption that it is natural, not supernatural. To approach consciousness thus is to be intellectually consistent, aiming to account for the physical, biological and psychological phenomena we encounter without explanatory gaps that require the invention of special forces or substances. From this perspective - that our mental life emerges from, and hence is continuous with, all other living processes - consciousness inquiry becomes an integral part of our ethical domain, and it is easier to recognize that in acting harmfully towards our world we are acting harmfully towards ourselves. The roots of such actions are complex and attempts to uncover them often cite a sense of alienation or disconnection from the natural world. Whatever the case may be, an inquiry into the nature of mind, the nature of nature, and the nature of their interdependence is timely. This conference aims to promote such an inquiry. With this in mind we propose the following three broad themes for the 2010 CEP conference: (1) the nature of human nature, (2) the nature of nature and (3) the nature of their interdependence. Keynote Speakers:
  • David Abram, cultural ecologist, philosopher, and founder and creative director of the Alliance for Wild Ethics.
  • Matthijs Cornelissen, physician, psychologist, and founder of the Sri Aurobindo Centre for Consciousness Studies
  • Peter Fenwick, neuropsychiatrist, neurophysiologist and Senior Lecturer at the Institute of Psychiatry, Consultant Neuropsychiatrist at the Radcliffe Infirmary Oxford and Honorary Consultant Clinical Neurophysiologist at Broadmoor Hospital
Further information may be found here:

Fish, Stanley. "Pragmatism’s Gift." NEW YORK TIMES March 15, 2010.

Margolis, Joseph. Pragmatism's Advantage: American and European Philosophy at the End of the Twentieth Century. Stanford: Stanford UP, 2010. Like any philosophy pragmatism offers answers to the questions the tradition of philosophical inquiry has been asking since its beginning. What is truth? What is real? How are we to act? What is the source of moral and/or epistemological authority? Pragmatism’s basic move is to declare that the answers to these questions will not be found by identifying some transcendental universal and then conforming ourselves to its normative demands (like “Be ye perfect”). Rather, we must, and can, make do with the “ordinary aptitudes of human beings (ourselves) viewed within a generously Darwinized ecology, without transcendental, revelatory, or privileged presumptions of any kind.” Pragmatism “completely undermines any assurances, empirical or transcendental, that exceed the provisionality of what we may consensually construct (in our own time) as a workable conjecture about the way the world is.” I quote from Joseph Margolis’s new book Pragmatism’s Advantage, which is, he says, that it is among the “very small number of Western philosophical movements … that … never exceed the natural competence and limitations of mere human being.” Why is that an advantage? Because, Margolis asserts, it avoids having to choose between “the alleged necessity of some ineliminable invariance in thought and/or reality” and some wholesale subjectivism or idealism that claims “that the natural world is itself constituted or constructed by the cognizing mind.” On the one hand, no “transcendental faculty” of reason or some other quasi-deity that will guide us infallibly if only we attach ourselves to it (not that there haven’t been any candidates for this honored position; there have in fact been many, too many). On the other hand, no surrender to the “preposterous doctrine” that we just make it all up as we go along. Instead pragmatism, Margolis explains, “favors a constructive (or constructivist) realism … freed from every form of cognitive, rational, and practical privilege … [and] committed to the continuities of animal nature and human culture, confined to the existential and historical contingencies of the human condition, and open in principle to plural, partial, perspectived, provisional, even nonconverging ways of understanding.” Quite a mouthful, but we can make it manageable by asking just what is a “constructive realism”? In the vocabulary pragmatism rejects, “realism” is (among other things) the thesis that (a) the world is independent of us and our thoughts, and (b) therefore our thoughts (or interpretations or calculations) should always be checked against, and evaluated as adequate or inadequate by, that independent and prior world. Pragmatists by and large accept (a), but not (b). They believe with Richard Rorty (a key figure in the revival of pragmatism in the last quarter of the 20th century) that “things in space and time are the effects of causes which do not include mental states” — the world, in short, is “out there” — but they also believe that the knowledge we have (or think we have) of the world is given not by it, but by men and women who are hazarding descriptions within the vocabularies and paradigms (Thomas Kuhn’s word) that are in place and in force in their cultures. Those descriptions are judged to be true or false, accurate or inaccurate, according to measures and procedures that currently have epistemic authority, and not according to their fit with the world as it exists independently of any description. If a philosophy doesn’t have a real world payoff, what’s the use of it? While there surely is such a world, our only access to it, Rorty and Margolis say, is through our own efforts to apprehend it. Margolis: “The real world … is not a construction of mind or Mind … but the paradigm of knowledge or science is certainly confined to the discursive powers of the human.” Thus the content of realism — of what the best up-to-date accounts of the world tell us — is constructively determined by the workings of a culture-bound process of hypothesis, experiment, test and calculation that is itself a constructed artifact and as such can change even as it guides and assesses research. In the absence of the alternative pragmatism rejects — something called Mind equipped with something called reason which enables it to describe accurately something called the World (Bacon’s dream) — “realism cannot fail to be constructivist, though reality is not itself … constructed” (Margolis). A constructive realism will still make use of words like “true” and “better,” but these are judgments that a proposition is or is not warranted — has sufficient evidence backing it up — within the prevailing paradigms. (What higher judgment could here be? Kuhn asks.) In the event of a paradigm change — not an event that can be predicted or planned; it takes the form of conversion not demonstration — there will be new canons of evidence and new measures of warrant. Notice how far this is from saying that “anything goes.” At any moment the protocols and procedures in place will enforce a rigor of method and interpretation; it is just that the rigor lives and has its shape entirely within “the existential and historical contingencies of the human situation” and not in a realm of extra-human verification and validation, whether that realm be theological, philosophical or empirical. The implications of the pragmatist argument are at once far reaching and unthreatening. They are far reaching because, as Margolis points out, “If realism takes a constructivist turn, then all the normative features of the sciences (say truth and validity) must be constructivist as well — as … our moral and political norms would be.” These implications are unthreatening because if the pragmatist account is right it is describing what has always been the case. When Margolis announces that there are “no privileged faculties, no preestablished harmony, no exceptionless universals, no assured natural necessities … no escape from the contingencies of whatever we report as ‘given’ within human experience,” he is not ushering in a new age, but describing the necessary condition of all the old ones. It has ever been thus (again, if pragmatism is right), and yet the world’s business has always been done. . . . Read he rest here:

Doxiadis, Apostolos, et al. "Exclusive Claude Lévi-Strauss Cartoon." FINANCIAL TIMES February 27, 2010.

The cartoon is here:

Farrell, Thomas J. "Who Was Walter Ong and Why is his Thought Important Today?" OPEDNEWS.COM March 12, 2010.

Ong's multivariate thought is important for liberals and conservatives alike to understand in order to get their cultural bearings about the world today. The world today can be understood in terms of Western culture versus all the other cultures in the world. Ong's multivariate account of the development of Western culture can help us understand certain distinctive features about Western culture, features that are not as widely characteristic of non-Western cultures today as they are of Western culture for example, the quantification of thought in modern science and the culture of modern science; the transformed agonistic structures of modern science and modern capitalism; the inward turn of consciousness (David Riesman's inner-directedness) connected with modern science, modern capitalism, modern democracy (as exemplified in the United States), the Industrial Revolution, and the Romantic Movement; and the visualist tendencies that are integral to modernity. Arguably one of the most significant transformations that occurred in emerging modernity involved what Ong styles agonistic structures. In Manliness (Yale University Press, 2006: 230), Harvey C. Mansfield in effect writes about agonistic structures. The title of his book involves the meaning of the Greek term andreia, which means both courage and manliness. In any event, Mansfield makes a telling observation about modernity: "The entire enterprise of modernity . . . could be understood as a project to keep manliness unemployed." Yes, it could. In the history of modern literature, the rise of the mock epic should be understood as showing the waning of the old oral manliness and the code of the hero, as should the later rise of the antihero in literature. In general, the old oral orientation toward the heroic gives way to the inward turn of consciousness toward inner-directedness. Nevertheless, modernity cannot be understood as keeping agonistic structures entirely unemployed, for modern capitalism and modern science employ agonistic structures, as do old warrior religions such as Christianity and Islam. Moreover, in American popular culture today, we find an extraordinary fascination with the agonistic spirit in televised sports and in comics and action movies. For Ong, the corpuscular sense of life is expressed not only in visualist tendencies in ancient Greek philosophy and in modern print culture but also in the oral sense of life as event. But as Plato and Aristotle and Thomas Aquinas and Bernard Lonergan and Ong understand the human mind, the human mind transcends the corpuscular sense of life. Even though the prolific conservative Roman Catholic writer Michael Novak gives no evidence of having studied Ong's thought about the corpuscular sense of life in depth, he has studied Lonergan's thought well enough to grasp how the human mind is different from the corpuscular sense of life that Ong writes about. In the introduction to the recent reprinting of his 1965 book Belief and Unbelief: A Philosophy of Self-Knowledge (Transaction Publishers, 1994: xv), Novak sets forth the following critique of the visualist tendencies in Richard Rorty's thought:
Rorty thinks that in showing that the mind is not "the mirror of nature" he has disproved the correspondence theory of truth. What he has really shown is that the activities of the human mind cannot be fully expressed by metaphors based upon the operations of the eye [see Ong's visualist tendencies]. We do not know simply through "looking at" reality as though our minds were simply mirrors of reality. One needs to be very careful not to confuse the activities of the mind with the operations of any (or all) bodily senses [see Ong's critique of the corpuscular sense of life]. In describing how our minds work, one needs to beware of being bewitched by the metaphors that spring from the operations of our senses. Our minds are not like our eyes; or, rather, their activities are far richer, more complex, and more subtle than those of our eyes. It is true that we often say, on getting the point, "Oh, I see!" But putting things together and getting the point normally involve a lot more than seeing," and all that we need to do to get to that point can scarcely be met simply by following the imperative, "Look!" Even when the point, once grasped, may seem to have been (as it were) right in front of us all along, the reasons why it did not dawn upon us immediately may be many, including the fact that our imaginations were ill-arranged, so that we were expecting and "looking for" the wrong thing. To get to the point at which the evidence finally hits us, we may have to undergo quite a lot of dialectical argument and self-correction.

I do not understand Jacques Derrida's thought about phonocentrism and logocentrism well enough to compare his thought with Ong's critique of the corpuscular sense of life, so I will leave it to someone else to undertake constructing a comparison and contrast of their thought. In any event, had Samuel P. Huntington understood Ong's multivariate account of Western cultural history, he could have used Ong's thought to deepen and strengthen his clash-of-civilizations thesis in the 1990s, which seemed to be confirmed by the attacks on the United States on September 11, 2001. . . . Read the rest here:

On September 10 and 22, 2009, Prof. Farrell discussed Walter Ong's work on the blog radio talk show Ethics Talk that is hosted by Hope May in philosophy at Central Michigan University. Each hour-long show has been archived and is available for people who missed the live broadcast to listen to:

Other articles by Prof. Farrell on OpEdNews may be found here:

Moore, Christopher. Review of William Wians, ed. LOGOS AND MUTHOS. BMCR (March 2010).

Wians, William, ed. Logos and Muthos: Philosophical Essays in Greek Literature. Albany: SUNY Press, 2009. This book's cover wonders whether literature and philosophy "are in fact two rival forms of discourse mutually opposed to one another." But really its dozen essays take on less programmatic issues. Each submits an early Greek text--frequently the Homeric epics or the Agamemnon, but also archaic poetry and classical tragedy--to the sort of careful reading such texts, by themselves, occasion. As a loosely coordinated collection of readings, a couple of which I would recommend to others, this collection proves satisfactory. As an argument about the position of philosophy in works outside the philosophical canon, it proves less so. The book, according to its editor, means to "explore philosophical dimensions of literary authors." This goal gets haphazardly glossed across the first several pages as, e.g., (i) to "consider philosophical issues and ideas as they arise from or can be applied to literary... texts"; (ii) to "challenge [the] assumption ... that literary texts are somehow lacking when measured against standards of philosophical reasoning and argument"; or (iii) to "demonstrate that the poets... exhibit a high degree of critical self-awareness and reflection on issues more typically associated with ancient philosophers" (1-2). The last of these glosses best reflects the success of the book: the poets come out looking highly well-worth reading by people concerned about their own self-knowledge and all those topics such a concern could entail. The second gloss, about the relative rigor of argument, is never addressed, and struck me as almost by definition impossible (if a philosophical text is called so just because of its preponderance of explicit argument). The first gloss, with no attention to what would make an "issue" philosophical, as opposed simply to what reasonable people would think about, struck me as vacuous. By leaving "philosophy" undefined, or, at best, by treating it as claiming things about knowledge, or identity, or the soul, or the four elements, the book forewent a chance, I think, to ask as seriously as possible what role the appreciation of literature could have played in a classical Greek philosophical life. Assume, for instance, that philosophy is an activity that involves bringing ourselves to have only those commitments (i.e., about truth and value) for which we can find good reasons to maintain. Or assume that it's a practice meant to achieve self-knowledge, whatever self-knowledge might be. From either of those perspectives, the question about the philosophicality of a text would be a question about how that text could contribute to living rationally or to developing self-recognition. Homer's or Aeschylus's occupation with problems of ignorance or fate or virtue could then be judged perspicuous or not, mature or not, persuasive or not, rigorous or not, from some common viewpoint. The analysis of will this text give me a productive site for philosophizing? seems to me often more fruitful (as, in part, the question is answered mainly by trying) than does this text have a high philosophical quotient? In most of the cases developed in this book, the answer to the first question is "yes," and to the second question, so it seems to me, is "I'm still not quite sure what's being asked." . . . Read the whole review here: (Thanks for the tip to Ed Brandon.)

Hall, Edith. Review of Peter J. Ahrensdorf, GREEK TRAGEDY AND POLITICAL PHILOSOPHY. NDPR (March 2010).

Ahrensdorf, Peter J. Greek Tragedy and Political Philosophy. Cambridge: CUP, 2009.

This new study of the relationship between religious and political thought in Sophocles consists of three substantial chapters analysing the 'Theban plays', Oedipus Tyrannus, Oedipus at Colonus and Antigone respectively, framed by an Introduction and Conclusion. Ahrensdorf opens his study with the claim that, since the Enlightenment, political theory has tended to sideline the issue of religion. One way of countering this is to consider pre-modern thought about the relationship between religion and political enlightenment. Sophoclean tragedies, and in particular the 'Theban plays', offer a promising arena in which to conduct such an analysis. Ahrensdorf nails his colours to the mast at the beginning of the book: Sophoclean drama, in his view, is both deeply respectful of the power of religion and at the same time politically rationalist. In the Sophoclean world it is, basically, possible to be both respectful of divinity and a rational political agent. According to Ahrensdorf, Nietzsche was therefore quite mistaken in seeing in the Greek tragic hero (and especially in Oedipus) a figure of huge grandeur who only achieves his nobility and wisdom through accepting the utter chaos, mystery, and cruelty of the world, along with the human inability to comprehend the metaphysical forces which govern it. Ahrensdorf argues in his Introduction that the Nietzsche's reading has been predominant ever since the early 20th century, with scholars as diverse as Heidegger, Harold Bloom, Peter Euben and Arlene Saxonhouse acquiescing in Nietzsche's insistence on the anti-rationalism of the Sophoclean tragic hero. He identifies his own position as one that differs from what (he claims) is this post-Nietzschean scholarly consensus. His Sophocles is in fact not a critic of rationalism, but advocates, rather, a 'humane rationalism'. Its vehicle is a model of statesmanship that follows a middle way. It involves neither an extreme rationalism that excludes a religious perspective, nor an extreme anti-rationalism that excludes the power of reasoned argument and self-questioning. A good leader will do a great deal of Socratic inductive reasoning, but leave a substantial place for acknowledging the power of the divine and the unknowable in human life. . . .

Read the whole review here:

Friday, March 12, 2010

ONLY A GOD CAN SAVE US: MARTIN HEIDEGGER AND THE THIRD REICH, Center for Humanities, CUNY Graduate Center, March 17, 2010.

A film-screening and discussion. Join us for the American premiere of the documentary Only A God Can Save Us, a critical examination of Martin Heidegger’s thought and actions during the Third Reich. Fifteen years in the making, the film reveals how essential elements of Heidegger’s philosophy led him to become an enthusiastic supporter of Adolf Hitler and the National Socialist revolution. The film also addresses his long post-war silence about the Holocaust and his reluctance to make a public apology. Following the screening we will host a discussion with filmmaker Jeffery Van Davis and Richard Wolin, Distinguished Professor of History, the Graduate Center.

10th Annual Meeting, Foucault Circle, Morgan State University, April 9-11, 2010.

Visit the website of the Foucault Circle here: Download the programme here:


Faye, Emmanuel. Heidegger: the Introduction of Nazism into Philosophy. New Haven: Yale UP, 2009. Heidegger is undoubtedly a genius. You can tell he's a genius because his philosophy is so hard to understand. A word of background first, before we tackle Emmanuel Faye's book. Alasdair MacIntyre, the venerable 20th-century philosopher especially respected for his views on politics and morality, says of Heidegger's key text, Being and Time, that "The great difficulty with Sein und Zeit (which is a far better book than those who have not read it generally allow) is that the perhaps warranted apprehension of traditional philosophical terminology is too often used to permit the invention of a new word". Naturally, not wishing to waste time on those who have not worked through Heidegger, he does not elaborate, but one example springs to mind as part of his discussion of "nothingness". Heidegger tells us that "the Nothing noths". "Noths" being a word Heidegger has made up, it is hard to know what it means. Aside from which, it is hard to understand why he was an enthusiastic supporter of the Nazis in the 1930s, why he continued to support them during the Second World War, and why he even refused to condemn the ideology afterwards. Fortunately, many philosophers do understand all this. MacIntyre himself has no trouble. He says: "We should not be surprised that Heidegger was for a short period a Nazi, not because anything in Sein und Zeit entails National Socialism but because nothing in Sein und Zeit could give one a standpoint from which to criticise it or any other irrationalism." Equally, Michael Inwood, the Trinity College, Oxford expert in Heidegger's work, opines that the "controversies" over Heidegger's "initial support" for Nazism result from a failure to understand that his stance was rooted in "distaste for technology and industrialised mass society ... rather than with anti-Semitism". As to why Heidegger "failed to speak out after the War in condemnation of the Nazi atrocities", David Farrell Krell, professor of philosophy at DePaul University, Chicago, adds that this had more to do with "a Kierkegaardian contempt for publicity and our media-dominated lives" than anything else. So why step forward into this old controversy - now seemingly settled - Emmanuel Faye, professor at the University of Rouen? Particularly as within France, Heidegger is not only "understood" but much cherished, and the reading of his thoughts obligatory for all high school students as part of the baccalaureate. Over the decades that followed the war, if elsewhere Heidegger's critics kept nibbling away, in France the likes of Sartre, Foucault, Ricoeur, Levinas and so on kept admiring the philosophy. In a newspaper interview in 1987, Jacques Derrida threw down the gauntlet to Heidegger's critics, demanding that they either show substantial links between Heidegger's texts and "the reality of all the Nazisms" or shut up. It is this challenge, in effect, that Faye's book, first published in France in 2005, takes up. . . . Read the rest here: