Monday, May 31, 2010

"Time in Culture: Mediation and Representation," Centre of Excellence in Cultural Theory, University of Tartu, October 28-30, 2010.

This year the international autumn conference of the Centre of Excellence in Cultural Theory (CECT) focuses on the topic of time as a category which, in every respect, touches upon human gency and entity. Issues of past, present, future and the culture of history (time) are symptomatic to our era. This topic also enables us to intertwine the viewpoints of the different disciplines of cultural research. The autumn conference aims at critical and reflexive discussions on the tendencies of how time functions within culture. An additional starting point would be the ways different media construct time within the framework of private, institutional, group specific, etc., interests. The points of departure for discussion would be the following interconnected aspects of the construction and representation of time/temporality: • The mediality and intertextuality of time; specific genres of mediating time, their sociocultural, technical, etc., development; • Agency, private and public aspects in the production and reception of temporality; empowerment and domination in the construction of temporality; • Institutional (museum, archive, school, church, etc.) and group specific usage of time and its means of mediation; • The domain of the category of time in social and culture studies; the concept and discussion of time in different disciplines and approaches; how we use concepts based on time to define our objects of study, how the times on object- and meta-levels are related. The keynote speakers are Eviatar Zerubavel (Rutgers University, USA), Gunther Kress (University of London, UK) and Carmen Leccardi (University of Milan-Bicocca, Italy). The aim of the conference is to dislocate the established academic borderlines and – focusing on the consciousness of time in culture – encourage research that leads to presentations employing the possibilities of several disciplines. Joint presentations by researchers from different research fields are preferred. Please send the abstract of your presentation (200–500 words) by June 15, 2010, to Selected papers based on conference presentations will be published in the CECT compendium. For additional information, email: Monika Tasa, Visit the CECT home page:


New reviews just published online in the Marx and Philosophy Review of Books: · Peter Amato on G.A. Cohen · Tom Eyers on Alberto Toscano · Daniel Whittall on Alex Callinicos · Terrel Carver on Tristram Hunt · Paula Cerni on Habermas · Rich Daniels on Adorno And a new list of books for review. Download the reviews here:


This issue contains articles from Chris Anson and Shawn Neely; Geoffrey Carter and Bill Williamson; Steven Fraiberg; and Paul X. Rutz. The Praxis section has an article from Paige Paquette and Mike Warren; the Disputatio section has an article from Dawn Penich-Thacker. In our Interviews section, Carl Whithaus interviews Noam Chomsky, Ryan Trauman interviews Hugh Burns, and Mike Edwards and Alexis Hart interview Lt. Gen. William B. Caldwell IV. Reviews include Wired for War: The Robotics Revolution and Conflict in the Twenty-first Century by Peter Singer and The Blog of War: Front-Line Dispatches from Soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan by Matthew Currier Burden. Download the essays here:

Cfp: "Reading Ricoeur Once Again: Hermeneutics and Practical Philosophy," Universidade Nova de Lisboa, July 7–10, 2010.

Update: The conference website is here: Original Post (December 12, 2009): With the Official Support of the Fonds Ricoeur, the International Institute for Hermeneutics and the Society for Ricoeur Studies. Confirmed Keynote Speakers: Axel Honneth (Johann Wolfgang Goethe-Universität, Frankfurt am Main), Andrzej Wiercinski (Albert-Ludwigs-Universität, Freiburg) Carlos João Correia (Universidade de Lisboa), Daniel Frey (Université Marc Bloch, Strasbourg), David Pellauer (DePaul University, Chicago), Fernanda Henriques (Universidade de Évora), George Taylor (University of Pittsburgh), Gilbert Vincent (Université Marc Bloch, Strasbourg), Jerôme Porée (Université de Rennes), Johann Michel (Université de Poitiers, EHESS), Maria Luísa Portocarrero (Universidade de Coimbra), Michel Renaud (Universidade Nova de Lisboa), Richard Kearney (Boston College) This four-day international symposium will aim to pay homage to the influential French philosopher Paul Ricoeur, on the fifth anniversary of his death. Ricoeur’s vast and prolific philosophical career left us with an immense corpus whose hermeneutical appropriation and reinterpretation might still contribute to expand several philosophical areas, if complemented by new theoretical insights. We intend to analyze and further develop what we could call Ricoeur’s Practical Philosophy, that is, his reflections on Ethics, Political Philosophy and Social Philosophy. We welcome papers assessing the contributions of Ricoeurian philosophy in any one of these areas, but also contributions coming from moral, political and social philosophers who are not specialists in Ricoeur, as long as their insights help us explore and rethink the creative possibilities of human action. Papers dealing with the role of recognition theory in philosophy will be especially welcome as well as, of course, presentations dealing with the areas of hermeneutics indicated below. The topics of the papers might include, but need not be restricted to: Applied Ethics Critical Theory Ethics and Politics Feminist Theory Hermeneutics and Law Hermeneutics and Literature Hermeneutics, Memory and History Hermeneutics and Philosophy of Religion Hermeneutics of the Self Recognition Theory Theology Abstracts (approximately 300 words, either in English or French) should be sent to Gonçalo Marcelo, Maria João Coelho and Sara Fernandes ( The deadline for submissions is February 15, 2010. Submissions should include a separate sheet with the title of the paper, author’s name, contact, institutional affiliation, main research interests and works published. Notification of acceptance will be given by April 1. Final papers will have to be suitable for a 30 minutes presentation.

Kissler, Alexander. "Chalk and the Abyss." SIGN AND SIGHT May 19, 2010.

The bitter word stands in the room. It casts huge shadows over his work. Was Martin Heidegger a "Nazi philosopher"? Did Heidegger, as his student the philosopher Ernesto Grassi emphasised in 1988, derive "justification from his theoretical principles for an anti-Semitic and National Socialist position"? The case against the dark thinker is made with recourse to passages from his Being and Time as well as an assortment of statements, letters and reports and, above all, the Freiburg rectoral address and a seminar from the winter semester of 1933/34. This seminar was declared to contain decisive evidence for "the total identification of Heidegger's teachings with the principles of Hitlerism". This was how Emmanuel Faye expressed it in his book Heidegger: the Introduction of Nazism into Philosophy, which was published last year in English and German translations. Faye was building on the 1987 book Heidegger and Nazism by the Chilean historian Victor Farias, who turned 70 last week. Until now you could either believe Emmanuel Faye's theories or not; the seminar in question was completely inaccessible. The Heidegger Jahrbuch (Heidegger yearbook) closes this gap. For the first time you can read and judge for yourself. . . . Read the rest here:

Du Plessix Gray, Francine. "Dispatches from the Other." NEW YORK TIMES May 20, 2010.

De Beauvoir, Simone. The Second Sex. New Translation by Constance Borde and Sheila Malovany-Chevallier. Intro. Judith Thurman. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2010. Constance Borde and Sheila Malovany-Chevallier’s new translation of The Second Sex is the first English-language edition in almost 60 years, and the first to restore the material Parshley excised. In this passionate, awesomely erudite work, Beauvoir examines the reasons women have been forced to accept a place in society secondary to that of men, despite the fact that women constitute half the human race. Supporting her arguments with data from biology, physiology, ethnology, anthropology, mythology, folklore, philosophy and economics, she documents the status of women throughout history, from the age of hunter-gatherers to the mid-20th century. In one of her most interesting chapters, “The Married Woman” (a chapter Parshley particularly savaged), she offers numerous quotations from the novels and diaries of Virginia Woolf, Colette, Edith Wharton, Sophia Tolstoy and others. She also scrutinizes the manner in which various male authors, from Montaigne to Stendhal to D. H. Lawrence, have represented women (and, in many cases, how they treated their wives). Urging women to persevere in their efforts at emancipation, she emphasizes that they must also do so for the sake of men: “It is when the slavery of half of humanity is abolished and with it the whole hypocritical system it implies that the ‘division’ of humanity will reveal its authentic meaning and the human couple will discover its true form.” How does Beauvoir’s book stand up more than a half-century later? And how does this new translation compare with the previous one? I’m sorry to report that The Second Sex, which I read with euphoric enthusiasm in my post-college years, now strikes me as being in many ways dated. Written in an era in which a minority of women were employed, its arguments for female participation in the work force seem particularly outmoded. And Beauvoir’s truly paranoid hostility toward the institutions of marriage and motherhood — another characteristic of early feminism — is so extreme as to be occasionally hilarious. Every aspect of the female reproductive system, from puberty to menopause, is approached with the same ferocious disdain. . . . Read the whole review here: Read the introduction here: Read an excerpt from Chapter 1 "Biological Data" here:

"Between History and Narrative: Colloquium in Honor of Hayden White," University of Rochester, April 24-25, 2009.

I just came across this conference devoted to Hayden White last year which some might find interesting. Here is the description: This colloquium honors the work of Hayden White, one of the most influential thinkers in the humanities for over thirty years. Since the publication of his groundbreaking monograph Metahistory in 1973, Hayden White's theory of narrative and narrative representation has been crucial to disciplines in which the role of narrative and narratively produced discourse is of primary concern, principal among them: history, literary studies, anthropology, philosophy, art history, and media and film studies. White's contention that narrative form conveys a certain content, and that the process of "emplotment" (a term he coined) necessarily involves a fundamental fictionalization, has proved provocative, particularly in the more positivistic disciplines, such as history, which are concerned with the recounting of real events. The rapprochement White effects between literary or fictional storytelling and the historical or real-life narrative has thus made him a controversial figure in the humanities. Nevertheless, his books and articles are standard reading in courses on historiography and the theory of history; and in literary studies, he is considered a major thinker in the fields of narratology, semiotics, rhetoric, and discourse analysis. This colloquium brings together a large number of prominent humanists from around the world who have either been influenced by or are working in the same vein as Hayden White. The program will also feature UR faculty from various departments. Speakers include Frederic Jameson, Hans Kellner, F. R. Ankersmit, among others. Visit the conference website here:

Pub: F. R. Ankersmit, et al., eds. RE-FIGURING HAYDEN WHITE.

Ankersmit, F. R., Ewa Domanska, and Hans Kellner, eds. Re-Figuring Hayden White. Stanford: Stanford UP, 2009. Produced in honor of White's eightieth birthday, Re-Figuring Hayden White testifies to the lasting importance of White's innovative work, which firmly reintegrates historical studies with literature and the humanities. The book is a major reconsideration of the historian's contributions and influence by an international group of leading scholars from a variety of disciplines. Individual essays address the key concepts of White's intellectual career, including tropes, narrative, figuralism, and the historical sublime while exploring the place of White's work in the philosophy of history, postmodernism, and ethics. They also discuss his role as historian and teacher and apply his ideas to specific historical events. Further information may be found here:


White, Hayden. The Fiction of Narrative: Essays on History, Literature, and Theory, 1957-2007. Ed. Robert Doran. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins UP, 2010. Here is the book blurb at Amazon: Hayden White is celebrated as one of the great minds in the humanities. Since the publication of his groundbreaking monograph, Metahistory, in 1973, White's work has been crucial to disciplines where narrative is of primary concern, including history, literary studies, anthropology, philosophy, art history, and film and media studies. This volume, deftly introduced by Robert Doran, gathers in one place White's important -- and often hard-to-find -- essays exploring his revolutionary theories of historical writing and narrative. These texts find White at his most essayistic, engaging a wide range of topics and thinkers with characteristic insight and elegance. The Fiction of Narrative traces the arc and evolution of White's field-defining thought and will become standard reading for students and scholars of historiography, the theory of history, and literary studies.

Further information may be found here:

Middlesex University's Response to the Controversy over the Closure of its Philosophy Programmes.

Read it here:

Bakewell, Sarah. "Montaigne, Philosopher of Life, Part 4: Borrowing the Cat's Point of View." GUARDIAN May 31, 2010.

One of Montaigne's favourite hobbies was imagining the world from different perspectives. To remind himself how strange human behaviour looked if one's vision was not dulled by familiarity, he collected stories from his reading: tales of countries where men urinated squatting and women standing, where people blackened their teeth or elongated their ears with rings, where hair was worn long in front and short behind, or where boys were expected to kill their fathers at a certain age. It was not just that these were marvels in themselves. Montaigne loved such stories because they lent him an altered point of view from which to look back on his own culture and see it afresh. Most human beings judged what was merely habitual to be what was natural. Montaigne tried to wake himself from this dream. . . . Read the rest here:

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

"Right, History and Religion: Readings on Hegel's PHILOSOPHY OF RIGHT," Universidade Salamanca, Spain, September 22-24, 2010.

Fourth International Conference of the Sociedad Española de Estudios sobre Hegel. Plenary Speakers: Mariano Álvarez Gómez (Univ. Salamanca) Gabriel Amengual (Univ. P. de Mallorca) Edmundo Balsemao (Univ. Coimbra) Pedro Cerezo (Univ. Granada) Jean-François Kervegan (Univ. Paris-I) Juan Manuel Navarro (Univ. Complutense, Madrid) María del Carmen Paredes (Univ. Salamanca) Ludwig Siep (Univ. Münster) Salvi Turró (Univ. Barcelona) Robert R. Williams (Univ. Illinois, Chicago) Papers of around 3000-3500 words are invited from faculty members and graduate students across the theme of the conference. A 1000-Word Abstract should be sent as e-mail attachment, to:, specifying name, affiliation and contact e-mail address. For further details please mail to: or visit the conference web page here:

Tiles, J. E. Review of Richard Gale, JOHN DEWEY'S QUEST FOR UNITY. NDPR (May 2010).

Gale, Richard. John Dewey's Quest for Unity: the Journey of a Promethean Mystic. Amherst, NY: Prometheus Books, 2010. Richard Gale professes to favor "determining the greatness of a philosopher . . . by the morally beneficial effects that the philosopher's writings have on the reader. By this criterion," he reckons, "John Dewey must be the greatest philosopher of all time" (9). However, Gale urges, Dewey's "grand normative vision" -- a "pyramid" the apex of which is growth, and the supporting strata of which are inquiry, democracy, freedom, communication and education -- needs to be freed from "his misbegotten attempt to root it in his metaphysics" (16). This metaphysics in its turn needs to be rescued from the implications of Dewey's "metaphilosophical theory about the nature of philosophy," which requires that a metaphysical theory be verifiable and contribute to meliorating the problems of men. This requirement "would rule out Dewey's metaphysics, along with most of his philosophy, as illegitimate" (ibid.). . . . Read the whole review here:

Sperry, Elizabeth A. Review of Alan Malachowski, THE NEW PRAGMATISM. NDPR (May 2010).

Malachowski, Alan. The New Pragmatism. Chesham: Acumen, 2010. Alan Malachowski's The New Pragmatism accomplishes its central goal, which is to introduce non-specialists to the work of Rorty, Putnam, and their forebears Peirce, James, and Dewey. Malachowski nicely explains the main connections and points of difference between these figures, as well as how their work has been received. Philosophers who lack detailed knowledge of pragmatism could do worse than to begin with this relatively slim volume, which reads quickly, neither bogging down under a load of technicalities nor over-simplifying the issues. Malachowski urges adoption of the term "The New Pragmatism" (apparently coined by Cheryl Misak) to describe the work of Putnam, Rorty, and their philosophical co-workers, because, he says, the "neo" in neo-pragmatism implies inferiority to classical pragmatism. Rorty sometimes called himself a neo-pragmatist, so presumably the rhetorical concern is not universal. Regardless, Malachowski treats Putnam, Rorty, and the classical pragmatists with equal respect, which is not always the case in this philosophical arena. Quite often scholars attached to Dewey are dismissive of Rorty, or those impressed by Putnam have little time for James (this despite the fact that Rorty wrote admiringly of Dewey, as did Putnam of James). Malachowski's unabashedly pro-pragmatist stance enables him to analyze each figure's strengths and weaknesses charitably, and to explain how less-than-nuanced criticisms -- for instance, those lobbed by Russell against James -- have been readily accepted in some philosophical circles. . . . Read the whole review here:

Diagne, Souleymane. "Négritude." STANFORD ENCYCLOPEDIA OF PHILSOPHY May 24, 2010.

Towards the end of his life, Aimé Césaire has declared that the question he and his friend Léopold Sédar Senghor came to raise after they first met was: “Who am I? Who are we? What are we in this white world?” And he commented: “That's quite a problem” (Césaire 2005, 23). “Who am I?” is a question Descartes posed, and a reader of the French philosopher naturally understands such a question to be universal, and the subject who says “I” here to stand for any human being. But when “who am I?” has to be translated as “who are we?” everything changes especially when the “we” have to define themselves against a world which leaves no room for who and what they are because they are black folks in a world where “universal” seems to naturally mean “white”. “Négritude”, or the self-affirmation of black peoples, or the affirmation of the values of civilization of something defined as “the black world” as an answer to the question “what are we in this white world?” is indeed “quite a problem”: it poses many questions that will be examined here through the following headings: •1. The genesis of the concept •2. Négritude as revolt / Négritude as philosophy •3. Manifestos for Négritude •4. The inescapable disappearance of Eurydice •5. Négritude as ontology •6. Négritude as aesthetics •7. Négritude as epistemology •8. Négritude as politics •9. Négritude beyond Négritude Read the rest here:

Morrison, Richard. "Philosophy Hasn't Been this Newsworthy since Wittgenstein Threatened Popper." TIMES May 21, 2010.

It's been drawn to my attention that my updates on the crisis in Philosophy at Middlesex University have not, for some unknown reason, been picked up by Feedburner and included in the regular email updates. For the background (including the initial decision to close the programmes and, more recently, the suspension of three faculty members), see my updates at this post here: Not since the opening of Brent Cross Shopping Centre has our neck of North London known such heady intellectual excitement. Middlesex University, our local seat of learning, is in disarray. Students occupied one building for 12 days; the sit-in was ended only when the authorities served a High Court injunction. More than 14,000 people have signed a protest petition and 60 top international academics, including Noam Chomsky, have written angry letters. Tariq Ali has made a speech. There’s talk of barricades being manned, ramparts being stormed and Whitehall being invaded. The stroppy spirit of 1968 is in the air. And all because Middlesex University, which seems to sprout a brash new glass building every month, has announced that it is closing its philosophy department. The reaction has been heartwarming. So much for those who lament (or rejoice) that Britain is dumbing down. Philosophy hasn’t been this newsworthy (or energetic) since Ludwig Wittgenstein threatened Karl Popper with a red-hot poker. What explains the furore? Well, unlikely though it seems, Middlesex’s philosophy department has become the lightning-rod for the pent-up fear and loathing crackling round universities. For many academics, what has happened here seems a plausible portent of what’s in store for arts and humanities faculties throughout Britain. After all, Middlesex’s philosophers weren’t failing. On the contrary: they were ranked 13th out of 41 philosophy departments — above such fine universities as York and Durham. Indeed, they had a higher research score than any other department at Middlesex, thus earning hundreds of thousands of pounds in grants. Why, then, have they got the chop? . . . Get the answer here:

"Nietzsche and Phenomenology," Canadian Philosophical Association, Concordia University, May 30, 2010.

This symposium wishes to examine, without anachronism, not only the presence of a Nietzschean questioning in the traditional problems addressed by phenomenology, but also the possible sources themselves of the phenomenological method within the perspectives proposed by Nietzsche. Our symposium aims at re-opening the debate initiated by Heidegger, once again appraising the role played by Nietzsche within the history of contemporary European philosophy. All presentations will deal with some of Nietzsche’s main themes (the deconstruction of the subject, perspectivism, will to power, linguistic constitution, etc.) with regard to their implicit or explicit treatments in the works of Husserl, Heidegger and Merleau-Ponty. Through the papers presented as part of this symposium, we wish to show that this “re-connection” can bear new ethical insight. Further information, including the programme, may be found here:

"Nietzsche and the Will to Power." THE PHILOSOPHER'S ZONE. May 22, 2010.

Friedrich Nietzsche was the son of a preacher who came to despise Christianity. He was a scholar of the Greek and Roman classics who became better known as a philosopher. And he was a philosopher whose ideas -- rejecting the idea of pity, embracing the will to power and the ideal of the superman -- cast long shadows over the twentieth century. This week, we take a sympathetic look at this troubling, and troubled, thinker. . . . Download the discussion here:

Bakewell, Sarah. "Montaigne, Philosopher of Life, Part 3: Believer and Doubter." GUARDIAN May 24, 2010.

Montaigne was a good Catholic. He was also a man who doubted almost everything: the most influential sceptic of his day. He devoted long sections of his Essays to exploring reasons why nothing could be certain and everything was up for question – yet he claimed to accept whatever the church decreed without reservation. Was this just doublethink? Did he really mean it? I think he did mean it. But we can only understand exactly what he meant by making a great leap from our world to his, and discovering a kind of scepticism different from the one we are familiar with. . . . Read the rest here:

Friday, May 21, 2010

Closure of Philosophy Programmes, University of Middlesex.

Even More Updates: Some Middlesex University Philosophy students, along with Philosophy professors Peter Osborne and Peter Hallward, were suspended from the University this afternoon. Hallward and Osborne were issued with letters announcing their suspension from the University with immediate effect, pending investigation into their involvement in the recent campus occupations. The suspension notice blocks them from entering University premises or contacting in any way University students and employees without the permission of Dean Ed Esche ( or a member of the University’s Executive. (Read more here: More Updates (May 17, 2010): John Protevi, "Why Middlesex Matters": The past three weeks have seen an international outcry at the decision by the administration of Middlesex University in London to close its small but very highly regarded philosophy program. Why were so many American academics, many of them besieged by budget crises at their own universities, so upset at this decision made so far away? Why did Middlesex matter to those thousands who so quickly became involved, and why should it matter to all American academics, even those who are only just now hearing of it? First, it matters because the administration’s decision wasn’t just meekly accepted. The resistance to it by faculty and students at Middlesex is remarkable, and their courage and organizing skill serve as an inspiring model to academics here suffering from years of the "death by a thousand cuts" of reduced hiring and operating budgets, larger classes, increased teaching loads, and more use of precarious adjunct labor – all delivered with top-down administrative arrogance more or less fig-leafed with talk of "shared governance." . . . ( Jeremy Gilbert, "The Loss of Philosophy": About a month ago I was chatting to a friend, and happened to mention the vague rumours I’d heard that Middlesex University, North London, was on the point of closing its Philosophy programmes. Even as the words came out of my mouth, I found myself unable to believe them. I said, ‘I must have got that wrong’, the thought was not only shocking but simply absurd. Why would any university close a research centre and teaching programme, which was widely known to be popular and profitable, with a world-class reputation well beyond the normal confines of its own discipline? Several weeks later, this is what the academic community - and above all the students and staff of Middlesex Philosophy - are still asking themselves. The shock has been widespread and deeply felt. A wave of threatened and actual redundancies, and a responding wave of frequently-successful protests against them, has shaken British universities over the past year, as managements prepared for the series of deep funding cuts that began in April and are expected to continue for several years to come. As commentators have pointed out (see the Guardian article here), philosophy is often a vulnerable discipline, under these circumstances, for a range of political reasons: most notably its apparent lack of fit with the government’s drive to push more students into ‘degree’ programmes tailored to the demands of commerce. Middlesex is an exceptional case, however. Not only is it one of very few places in the UK where students can follow programmes in ‘continental’ philosophy (which is what Anglo-American philosophers call what everyone else in the world calls ‘philosophy’) and in particular its radical leftist and feminist variants, but it has been for many years a beacon of internationally-renowned research, one of relatively few such research centres to have survived and prospered in the ‘new universities’. While some parts of government in recent years have been trying to reinstall the rigid hierarchy between research-focussed elite universities and their lesser counterparts that was disrupted in the 1990s [see Boonery and Open Democracy), centres like Middlesex’s Centre for Research in Modern European Philosophy have shown that non-elite institutions can become homes of dynamic world-leading innovation in subjects that don’t require massive levels of infrastructural investment. . . . ( More Updates (May 8, 2010): More links added below. Update (May 6, 2010): I have added to the links below. Original Post (April 30, 2010): Late on Monday 26 April 2010, the Dean of the School of Arts and Education at Middlesex University, announced the closure of all its Philosophy programmes, including the largest MA programme in Philosophy in the UK. Philosophy is the highest research-ranked subject in the University, and Middlesex is the highest rated of all the post-92 institutions in the subject. Philosophy at Middlesex is one of only a handful of programmes left in the UK that provides both research-driven and inclusive post-graduate teaching and supervision aimed at a wide range of students, specialist and non-specialist. It is the main centre in the UK for the study of European or 'continental' philosophy. The Centre for Research in Modern European Philosophy is the main centre for 'continental' philosophy in the UK, with an established international reputation, frequent visiting speakers from abroad and increasing numbers of postgraduate students. There are currently 63 postgraduate students in the Centre: 48 MA students and 15 PhD students. 5 PhDs were awarded in 2009. These are remarkable numbers, especially for a small group of six staff. The Middlesex Philosophy submission to RAE2001 was graded 5, and the 2008 submission was awarded a GPA of 2.80, ranking it joint 13th out of 41 institutions entered in Philosophy - above both its main competitors, Warwick and Sussex. It has hosted 2 Leverhulme Fellowships in the last 6 years, and recently completed a £245,000 AHRC-funded research project, 'Concept and Form: The Cahiers pour l'analyse and Contemporary French Thought' (which included production of a major web research resource). It recently submitted an application for a 2-year AHRC Project Grant on Transdisciplinarity, and held an international event on Transdisciplinarity in French Thought at the French Institute). To express support and to help with the campaign against the closure, email Professor Peter Osborne at making reference to Middlesex philosophy in the subject line. Persons to write to:

Further information is available here:

Sign the petition here:

Edelstein, Dan. "Gerrymandering the Canon." INSIDE HIGHER ED February 16, 2010.

In a recent New York Review article on Byron, Harold Bloom makes the following passing remark: “In the two centuries since Byron died in Greece [...] only Shakespeare has been translated and read more, first on the Continent and then worldwide.” Bloom does not cite any statistics, and one cannot help but wonder: Really? More than Homer and Dante, or, among the moderns, more than Sartre and Thomas Mann? Of course, what Bloom really means is that Byron was translated and read more than any other English writer, and he may well be correct on that count.

Yet this omission is telling, as it highlights an unfortunate tendency (recently diagnosed by David Damrosch) among certain English professors to equate literature in general with literature written in English. This disciplinary bias, less prejudice than habit, can distort their scholarship – the authors that they admire tend to be far more catholic in their reading. But this pattern also raises a larger academic question: Why do we still partition the literary canon according to nationalist traditions? Is this really the most intellectually satisfying and authentic approach to literary studies? . . . Bloom is certainly no provincial, and his own, published version of The Western Canon includes German, Spanish, French, and Italian works – although this canon, too, is heavily tilted toward English authors. But can this be avoided? No doubt French scholars would produce a version of the canon equally tilted toward the French, just as scholars from other nations would privilege their own authors. To an extent, this literary patriotism is normal and understandable: every culture values its heritage, and will expend more energy and resources promoting it. From the viewpoint of literary history, however, such patriotism is also intellectually wrongheaded. To be sure, writers are often marked most strongly by their compatriots: one must read Dante to understand Boccacio, Corneille to understand Racine, or, as Bloom would have us believe, Whitman to understand T. S. Eliot. But such a vertical reading of literature (which Bloom himself mapped out in The Anxiety of Influence) overlooks the equally – sometimes far more – important horizontal ties that connect authors across national borders. T. S. Eliot may have been “hopelessly evasive about Whitman while endlessly revising him in [his] own major poems,” yet by Eliot’s own admission, the French school of symbolist poetry had a far greater impact on his work. Some of Eliot’s first published poems, in fact, were written in French. Conversely, the French novelist Claude Simon may have endlessly revised Proust, but his own major novels – such as La Route des Flandres and L’Herbe – owe far more to William Faulkner. Such examples could be multiplied ad infinitum: they are, in fact, the stuff that literary history is made of. . . .

Students wishing to study English Romanticism ought to have more than Wikipedia-level knowledge about German Idealist philosophy and Romantic poetry; students interested in the 18th-century English novel should be familiar with the Spanish picaresque tradition; and so on and so forth. Comp lit alone cannot break down the walls of literary protectionism. The fact that we even have comp lit departments reveals our ingrained belief that “comparing” literary works or traditions is merely optional. Despite Bloom’s own defense of a “Western canon,” such a thing no longer exists for most academics. This is not because the feminists, post-colonialists, or post-modernists managed to deconstruct it, but rather because our institutions for literary studies have gerrymandered the canon, department by department. Is it not shocking that students can major in English at many colleges without ever having read a single book written in a foreign language? Even in translation? (Consider, by contrast, that history majors, even those desirous to only study the American Revolution, are routinely required to take courses on Asian, African, and/or European history, in many different time periods, to boot.) Given that English is the natural home for literary-minded students who are not proficient in another language, it is depressing that they can graduate from college with the implicit assumption that literature is the prerogative of the English-speaking peoples, an habeas corpus of the arts.

But wait a minute: how dare I criticize English curriculums for not including foreign works, when the major granted by my own department, French, is not exactly brimming with German, Russian, or Arabic texts, either? To the extent that French (or any other foreign language) is a literature major, this point is well taken. But there are differences, too. First, it is far more likely that our students will have read and studied English literature at some point in high school and college. They will thus already have had some exposure, at least, to another national canon. Second, and more importantly, a French, Spanish, or Chinese major is more than a literature major: it is to no small degree a foreign language major, meaning that the students must master an entire other set of linguistic skills. Finally, language departments are increasingly headed toward area studies. German departments routinely offer classes on Marx, Nietzsche, and Freud, none of whom are technically literary authors. Foreign language departments are sometimes the only places in a university where once-important scholarly traditions can still be studied: Lévi-Strauss’s Tristes tropiques probably features on reading exam lists more often in French than in anthropology departments. A model for such an interdisciplinary department already exists in Classics. . . .

What, then, is to be done? . . . Get the answer here:

Pub: RELEVANT RHETORIC 1.1 (2010).

Table of Contents: •Kevin A. Stein, “Jewish Antapologia in Response to Mel Gibson’s Multiple Attempts at Absolution.” Many people find racist or discriminatory statements or acts to be more offensive than acts that do not denigrate the character of others, even when those behaviors may be illegal. Is it possible that hateful utterances are so reprehensible that any strategies utilized to counteract their effects are rendered meaningless? This essay discusses Mel Gibson’s attempts to explain or account for his racist comments directed at police officers in Malibu, California. It also examines the Jewish community’s response to Gibson’s comments. •Adria Y. Goldman and Jim A. Kuypers, “Contrasts in News Coverage: A Qualitative Framing Analysis of ‘A’ List Bloggers and Newspaper Articles Reporting on the Jena 6.” We compare news coverage of the Jena 6 found in “A” list blogs to traditional print news articles. We found that the print articles shared four themes and framed those themes in a similar fashion. Similar themes were found among blog entries, although the framing of those themes broke down along political lines. However, all blogs framed the media’s role in the Jena 6 as negative. •Nancy J. Legge, “The Paradox of Commitment: Jakob Dylan’s Philosophy in ‘Will It Grow.’” A rhetorical analysis of the ideas and arguments in Jakob Dylan’s song, “Will It Grow.” In a fractured narrative about farming, Dylan addresses philosophical issues about the nature of commitment and the role of fate vs. free will. The engaged audience supplies warrants about perseverance and resolve, thereby providing ways to manage the paradoxes. Watch live performances of the song on youtube: Nissan Sets and at the Austin City Limits Festival. •William L. Benoit and Jeffrey Delbert, “‘Get A Mac’: Mac vs. PC TV Spots.” This paper examines the texts of 47 ads advocating Mac computers over PCs: “Get a Mac.” We identified three themes addressing the computers and their operating systems and two focusing on the brands’ personified traits. We evaluate this campaign as effectively conceived and executed. Evidence suggests that it may have contributed to an increase in sales of Mac computers. Watch the Mac ads at •Bruce Loebs, “Hitler’s Rhetorical Theory.” In 1939 Hitler claimed, “I am conscious that I have no equal in the art of swaying the masses.” By examining historical texts, including Hitler’s own writings, this paper articulates numerous components of Hitler’s rhetorical theory. One central element was his belief in the power of the spoken word. This was the starting point for Hitler’s belief that rhetoric would play an indispensable role in his quest for power. Download the essays here:

Melbourne School of Continental Philosophy Winter School 2010.

The Melbourne School of Continental Philosophy is pleased to announce the curriculum for the upcoming Winter School 2010. Week One (5-9 July) Lévinas and Derrida: another time at the anarche of subjectivity (11am-1pm) Andrea León Maurice Blanchot: literature and the ambiguity of the negative (2-4pm) Mark Hewson Week Two (12-16 July) Heidegger's Aristotle (11am-1pm) James Garrett History of Philosophy II: Plato (2-4pm) Martin Black Week Three (19-23 July) Spinoza's Ethics (11am-1pm) Jon Roffe Max Weber - Social Philosopher (2-4pm) Cameron Shingleton Each course consists of 5 x 2-hour seminars. Fees begin at $80 The Melbourne School of Continental Philosophy is an independent teaching and research organisation made up of academics and graduates who share the goal of providing philosophy wherever it is needed. The MSCP runs 1-day free workshops in autumn and spring, and teaches a variety of courses at its annual summer and winter schools, and throughout the year in evening classes. Join our mailing list online to receive updates on mscp and associated philosophical activities. The MSCP is housed by the philosophy department at the University of Melbourne. For further information, visit:

"Language, Truth, and Literature," Department of Philosophy, University of Liverpool, June 7, 2010.

A one day workshop addressing the cognitive value of literature

  • Mark Rowe 11 a.m. 'Poetry, Philosophy and the Language of Power'
  • Richard Gaskin 2 p.m. 'The Cognitive Value of Literature'
  • Peter Lamarque 4 p.m. 'A defence of the "no truth" theory of literature against recent attacks'

The humanistic tradition in literature may be encapsulated in two claims, one about truth and the other about knowledge. Samuel Johnson said that ‘the value of every story depends on its being true. A story is a picture either of an individual or of human nature in general; if it be false, it is a picture of nothing’. And Dylan Thomas remarked that ‘A good poem . . . helps to extend everyone’s knowledge of himself and the world around him’. For centuries these claims passed as the merest common sense, but in recent decades they have come under increasing attack, not only from outside the tradition of analytic philosophy, but also by practitioners of that style of thinking. Deconstructionists, as is familiar, have long challenged the presupposition of humanism that literary texts have a stable and determinate meaning; but more recently a number of analytic or analytically inclined philosophers have argued that, although texts do have such meaning, and although they have value, perhaps even value of a broadly cognitive sort, they do not propound or express true (or false) propositions, and so do not serve as a means of transmitting propositional knowledge to the reader. The issue concerns not so much concise, individual aperçus that, as everyone acknowledges, works of literature may contain—passing observations or bits of advice that hit the nail on the head—but rather the meaning of a work of literature taken as a whole (or a significant part thereof). Is the humanist right in maintaining that these larger stretches of literary discourse can in some way contain, or embody, truths that a reader with a suitable background can come, by engaging appropriately with the text, to know? That is the topic of this one-day workshop. Peter Lamarque, who has written a number of important books and articles in this area, will be one of the speakers: Lamarque’s published position is broadly sympathetic to some form of cognitivism, but hostile to propositionalism about literary value. Mark Rowe and Richard Gaskin, the other two speakers, have published work that is more favourable (but in different ways) to the letter of humanism, as explicated above. Visit the conference webpage here:

Rohlf, Michael. "Immanuel Kant." STANFORD ENCYCLOPEDIA OF PHILOSOPHY May 20, 2010.

Immanuel Kant (1724–1804) is the central figure in modern philosophy. He synthesized early modern rationalism and empiricism, set the terms for much of nineteenth and twentieth century philosophy, and continues to exercise a significant influence today in metaphysics, epistemology, ethics, political philosophy, aesthetics, and other fields. The fundamental idea of Kant's “critical philosophy” — especially in his three Critiques: the Critique of Pure Reason (1781, 1787), the Critique of Practical Reason (1788), and the Critique of the Power of Judgment (1790) — is human autonomy. He argues that the human understanding is the source of the general laws of nature that structure all our experience; and that human reason gives itself the moral law, which is our basis for belief in God, freedom, and immortality. Therefore, scientific knowledge, morality, and religious belief are mutually consistent and secure because they all rest on the same foundation of human autonomy, which is also the final end of nature according to the teleological worldview of reflecting judgment that Kant introduces to unify the theoretical and practical parts of his philosophical system. . . . Read the rest here:

Monday, May 17, 2010

Cfp: "Immigration against the Empire." Inaugural Issue of PRO/VISIONS (forthcoming).

About pro/visions pro/visions is a new magazine/journal (double blind peer-reviewed) that seeks to push critical theory beyond the academy and into the streets. Therefore the content will reflect rigorous (and playful) thought but using language that is accessible to anyone. We seek to create a space for theory to meet praxis (and the ivory tower the people/s). Think Gramsci's "organic intellectual" meets Chuck D and they get into a fist fight--with the world. "immigration against the Empire" This issue situates immigration (and other forms of nomadism) as a disruptive event against Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri's concept of Empire. Between Arizona's new immigration law in the United States and the French government's response to immigration, it would seem that as the "Third World" pops up in the "First World" neo-liberal policing comes into view of the Global North. In light of the various reactions to these events, responses from the radical Left, in and outside of academia, need to be formulated in order to map resistances and the role of the immigrant and the exile within the Empire. Articles should be connected to the following suggested topics: •Specific case scenarios of immigration in and between geopolitical regions around the globe. •Legal, ethical and political controvery/ies concerning immigration policy. •The political role of the undocumented worker within U.S. and global paradigms •Underground immigrant support networks and their clashes with the "minutemen" •Conceptions of identity in relation to immigration •Spanglish (or other creoles) as political act •Strategies for immigrant solidarity, locally and globally •Immigration as a response to neo-liberal forces •Illegal immigration as a form of resistance to politics and ideology •Systems of race, gender and other social norms within nomadism submission guidelines: Submissions are welcome in all languages, with a preference toward English, Spanish and Spanglish. Articles must be between 2,000 and 3,000 words in length with endnotes and a bibliography. Citations should follow the latest version of MLA. Abstracts must be between 150 and 300 words. A short biographical description of 3-5 lines should be included. contact: If you are interested in submitting to pro/visions, please send an abstract by email to no later than July 1, 2010. Final versions of articles will be due August 1, 2010.

"Kant and Colonialism: Historical and Critical Perspectives," University of Oxford, September 30-October 2, 2010.

Centre for the Study of Social Justice, Department of Politics and International Relations.

The conference will explore the relevance of Kant's critique of colonialism to an appropriate reconstruction of Kant's cosmopolitan theory in recent global justice debates. The focus will be on Kant's unusually critical stance towards European colonialism on the one hand and the uneasy relationship between contemporary liberal theory and its colonial heritage on the other. In considering Kant’s cosmopolitanism within the context of his critique of colonialism and related anthropological reflections, the conference will query the tendency among many current liberal cosmopolitans to interpret Kant's account as a version of their own favoured unrestrained ‘moral universalism’. A philosophically and historically more nuanced reading of Kant's cosmopolitan thinking against the background of emergent European colonialism may encourage a more modest, more self-critical liberal approach to current global issues, such as fair trade, migration, and humanitarian intervention.

Confirmed Keynote Speakers:
Prof. Dr. Pauline Kleingeld, University of Leiden, “Kant on race and economic globalization: On just trade and free trade”
Prof. Dr. Peter Niesen, Technische Universität Darmstadt, “Restitutive justice in international and cosmopolitan law”
Prof. Sankar Muthu, University of Chicago, “World citizenship and global connections in Enlightenment political thought”
Prof. Howard Williams, “Tensions in Kant's theory of colonialism”

If you would like to give a paper, please submit electronic copies of the title and a summary (350-500 words) of your proposed contribution to Lea Ypi ( and Katrin Flikschuh (; please also include an abbreviated CV with your submission. Analytical and historical approaches to the conference theme are equally invited. The deadline for submission is 31 May 2010. We aim to reach a decision within 6 weeks of the deadline.

"The Port-Royal GRAMMAIRE GENERALE ET RAISONNEE: 350th Anniversary," Maison Française d'Oxford, May 19-20, 2010.

Wednesday, 19 May 1.45 to 2.00 pm Tea/Coffee Chair: Richard Scholar, Oriel College 2.00 to 2.15 pm: Luc Borot (Director of the MFO) and Martine Pécharman (CNRS-MFO), Welcome and Introduction 2.15 to 3.00 pm: Bernard Colombat (Université Paris VII-Paris Diderot), “De la Nouvelle Méthode latine à la Grammaire générale et raisonnée, et vice et versa” 3.00 to 3.45 pm: Irène Rosier-Catach (CNRS-EPHE, Paris), “On the analysis of the demonstrative pronoun in the Eucharistic formula” 3.45 to 4.15 pm Tea/Coffee 4.15 to 5.00 pm: David Cram (Jesus College, Oxford), “John Wallis and the Port-Royal Grammar” Thursday, 20 May 9.45 to 10.00 am Tea/Coffee Chair tba 10.00 to 10.45 am : Jean-Marie Fournier and Valérie Raby (Université Paris III-Sorbonne Nouvelle), “What is particular in the General and Rational Grammar of Port-Royal: the case of the participle” 10.45 to 11.30 am: Jaap Maat (University of Amsterdam), “The Grammaire Générale et Raisonnée and Leibniz's rational grammar” 11.30 to 12.00 am Tea/Coffee 12.00 to 12.45 am: Sylvain Auroux (CNRS-ENS Lyon), “La place du mouvement Européen de grammaire universelle dans l'histoire des sciences du langage” 1.00 pm Lunch Convenor: Martine Pécharman (CNRS-MFO) Maison Française d’Oxford, 2-10 Norham Road, Oxford OX2 6SE Tel.: 01865 274 220; email:

Cfp: "No Future," Institute of Advanced Study, Durham University, March 25-27, 2011.

From biblical apocalypse to the nihilism of the late nineteenth century, from the Enlightenment invention of progress to the counter-cultures of the late twentieth century, from technological utopianism to contemporary anticipations of environmental catastrophe, western civilization has been consistently transfixed by the figurative potential of the future. 'No Future' seeks to connect and inter-animate these disparate ways of thinking about the future, while at the same time questioning the basis of the various discourses of futurity they have produced, and which have proliferated in recent years. 'No Future' thus also implicitly questions what it is - other than the preoccupations of the present - that is invoked when we talk about the future. The conference aims to stage a series of inter-disciplinary encounters around these different senses of 'No Future', and to examine the value and implications of adopting a 'futurist' position across and between a range of disciplines in the Humanities and Social Sciences. Contributions may take retrospective form, re-assessing significant moments in past discourses of futurity such as apocalypticism, Enlightenment ideas of progress, the persistence of the apparent dialectical unity of utopia/dystopia, the constructions of Modernism and the Historical Avantgarde, the symbolic projections of psychoanalytic theory. Others might examine the disciplinary shifts that have displaced or dispersed avantgardism in postmodernity, opening out onto such themes as transhumanism, post-postmodern reinflections of the dialectic, and various forms of contemporary utopianism. All of these are related to the central question of the ideological and aesthetic implications of any appeal to futurity, at the heart of which lies the tension between the future as rhetorical evasion and the future as the most persistent and deeply embedded of all heuristic devices. Keynote Speakers: Mikhail Epstein (Emory University) Jean-Michel Rabaté (University of Pennsylvania) Patricia Waugh (Durham University) Plenary Panels: Apocalyptic Futures Lenin and Futurity Bloch and Utopian Futures Proposals that specifically engage with any of the following themes are particularly welcome: Ontologies of the Future Forms of Utopia Dystopian Futures Aesthetics and Technology Eco-criticism and Ecotopia Gendered Futures Transhumanism Futurism(s) Futures of Freud Dialectics of the Future The Future of Theory Visit the conference website here:

"Nietzsche and Naturalism," School of English, Communication and Philosophy, Cardiff University, September 20-21, 2010.

The conference is in celebration of the outstanding work of eminent Nietzsche scholar Professor Richard Schacht. The topic of Nietzsche and Naturalism has been a key feature of Richard Schacht’s work for many years and has now become a central concern for anyone with a serious interest in Nietzsche interpretation. Professor Schacht would like the conference to serve as a forum for critically addressing various naturalistic interpretations of Nietzsche’s thought. Papers should be of approximately 25 minutes duration. The deadline for the first round of the call for papers is June 25th 2010. Please submit a title and brief abstract of no more than 300 words by email to Peter R. Sedgwick:

Asma, Stephen T. "Soul Talk." CHRONICLE OF HIGHER EDUCATION May 2, 2010.

No self-respecting professor of philosophy wants to discuss the soul in class. It reeks of old-time theology, or, worse, New Age quantum treacle. The soul has been a dead end in philosophy ever since the positivists unmasked its empty referential center. Scientific philosophy has shown us that there's no there there. But make no mistake, our students are very interested in the soul. In fact, that is the main reason many of us won't raise the soul issue in our classes: The bizarre, speculative, spooky metaphysics that pours out of students, once the box has been opened, is truly chaotic and depressing. The class is a tinderbox of weird pet theories—divine vapors, God particles, reincarnation, astral projections, auras, ghosts—and mere mention of the soul is like a spark that sets off dozens of combustions. Trying to put out all these fires with calm, cool rationality is exhausting and unsuccessful. Lately, perhaps sparked by Dan Brown's best seller The Lost Symbol, I have had to repeatedly extinguish confident student dogma assuring me that "noetic science" has "proven" the existence of the soul. Since the early 1900s, a handful of marginal experimenters have tried to weigh the soul—by arranging dying people on scales and taking their weight before and after the moment of death. Nothing even vaguely suggestive was discovered by that experimental approach, except a very high degree of wishful thinking. One humorous and underreported "finding," made by an Oregon sheep rancher and earnest amateur scientist, was the discovery that sheep actually gain a little weight as they die. It's hard to know where to start with all this. Even if we could show that some energy was leaving our bodies at the moment of death, it can't really be a surprise, since thermodynamics tells us that energy is always being exchanged through physical systems. When I die, the slowing of my thermodynamic processes will become irreversible; my local entropy will increase. When I die, my energy will go on. But, of course, we can't get too excited by that fact, since we're talking only about heat and the chemical transformation of my decaying flesh, taken up and conserved in new organisms and physical systems. The conservation of energy doesn't give us any conservation of consciousness or any continuation of personal identity. And personal continuity is the hope for most soul proponents. But if we could set aside all the problems with these badly controlled and executed experiments—if we could create highly precise measurements—we would still have the more challenging issue of coherence. Most people's concept of the soul includes the idea that it is incorporeal or immaterial (this is how the religious traditions have conceptualized it), so how could an incorporeal entity have any weight or mass or volume, any of the spatial properties we assign to matter? Thinking that the soul has weight seems like a category mistake—like saying the number 4 weighs 30 pounds, or the color blue smells bad. Weighing the soul, or searching for the soul in the brain, seems like a similar mistake. Science seems entirely justified in its soul skepticism. But if such speculative metaphysics is bracketed out of science, then what is left of the soul issue? What remains of soul talk? Is it merely folk language that has been replaced by more-accurate descriptions of the human experience? One response is for believers to rush headlong into a faith-based rejection of rationality and just hold fast to the traditional soul idea; another is to give it a New Age paint job with quantum-energy talk. Our students are very enticed by that response, partly because they see no other avenue for preserving their meaningful soul language. But lately I have been offering them a fresh alternative. Instead of asking whether we can verify the soul's existence—find some empirical evidence for it—I suggest a Wittgensteinian approach. Following the Austrian philosopher, I ask: How do people actually talk about the soul? How is soul talk used in ordinary language? And here we find that the soul is alive and well in certain kinds of expressive language. . . . Read the rest here:

Critchley, Simon. "What is a Philosopher?" THE STONE. NEW YORK TIMES May 16, 2010.

The philosopher is the person who has time or who takes time. Theodorus, Socrates’ interlocutor [in the Theaetetus], introduces the “digression” with the words, “Aren’t we at leisure, Socrates?” The latter’s response is interesting. He says, “It appears we are.” As we know, in philosophy appearances can be deceptive. But the basic contrast here is that between the lawyer, who has no time, or for whom time is money, and the philosopher, who takes time. The freedom of the philosopher consists in either moving freely from topic to topic or simply spending years returning to the same topic out of perplexity, fascination and curiosity. Pushing this a little further, we might say that to philosophize is to take your time, even when you have no time, when time is constantly pressing at our backs. The busy readers of The New York Times will doubtless understand this sentiment. It is our hope that some of them will make the time to read The Stone. As Wittgenstein says, “This is how philosophers should salute each other: ‘Take your time.’ ” Indeed, it might tell you something about the nature of philosophical dialogue to confess that my attention was recently drawn to this passage from Theaetetus in leisurely discussions with a doctoral student at the New School, Charles Snyder. Socrates says that those in the constant press of business, like lawyers, policy-makers, mortgage brokers and hedge fund managers, become ”bent and stunted” and they are compelled “to do crooked things.” The pettifogger is undoubtedly successful, wealthy and extraordinarily honey-tongued, but, Socrates adds, “small in his soul and shrewd and a shyster.” The philosopher, by contrast, is free by virtue of his or her otherworldliness, by their capacity to fall into wells and appear silly. . . . Read the rest here:

Bakewell, Sarah. "Montaigne, Philosopher of Life, Part 2: Learning Not to be Afraid." GUARDIAN May 17, 2010.

Montaigne, as a young man, had an excessive fear of death, and it made it almost impossible for him to enjoy living. This was partly the result of a fashion of the time, which stated – following some of the ancient philosophers – that the best way to be at ease about your own mortality was to think about it constantly. Dwell on your death every day, went the theory, and you will become so used to it as an idea that it cannot scare you when it arrives in reality. Not surprisingly, the results could be quite the opposite. Brooding on death could make the fear worse, not better. That was certainly what Montaigne found when he tried it. It did not help that, as he entered his 30s, he suffered a series of bereavements. His best friend Etienne de La Boétie died of the plague in 1563. Next, his father died of a kidney-stone attack; then a younger brother suffered a fatal haemorrhage after being hit on the head by a tennis ball. This last freak accident particularly horrified Montaigne. "With such frequent and ordinary examples passing before our eyes," he wrote, "how can we possibly rid ourselves of the thought of death and of the idea that at every moment it is gripping us by the throat?" Fortunately, at around the same time, he had a near-death experience of his own, and it was just what he needed to release him from his fear. . . . Read the rest here:

Pub: KB JOURNAL 6.2 (2010)

Table of Contents: Editorial for Spring 2010 Editor's Announcement Floyd D. Anderson, "Five Fingers or Six? Pentad or Hexad?" Clarke Rountree, "Revisiting the Controversy over Dramatism as Literal" Brian T. Taylor, "Savior, Fool or Demagogue: Burkean Frames Surrounding the Ten Commandments Judge" Brian Bailie, "Smart Mobs and Kenneth Burke" Book Review: M. Elizabeth Weiser, Burke, War, Words: Rhetoricizing Dramatism Book Review: W. B. Worthen, Drama: Between Poetry and Performance Book Review: Dana Anderson, Identity’s Strategy: Rhetorical Selves in Conversion Book Review: Clarke Rountree, Judging the Supreme Court: Constructions of Motives in Bush v. Gore Book Review: Michael Burke, Swan Dive Special Book Review: Michael Burke, Swan Dive Book Synopsis: Larry Baker, A Good Man Download the issue here:

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Pub: "Arousal." NEW WORLD PICTURE 4 (2010).

Table of Contents: Peggy Ahwesh, The Color of Love Peggy Ahwesh, Collections: The Hermitage featuring The Qajar Dynasty, Persia Sam Cooper, Sex and the Situs Maya Deren, Four Unpublished Poems Rosalind Galt, Perverse Aesthetics: Maria Beatty, Masochism, and the Cinematic Elena Gorfinkel, Arousal in Ruins: The Color of Love and the Haptic Object of Film History Ken Jacobs, About Myself Ken Jacobs, Nymph, Berkeley to San Francisco, and Selections on the Theme of Arousal Michael Lawrence, “Carefully Posed Thighs”: The Garden of Eden in 1966 James Mensch, Arousal: The Intertwining of the Within and the Without Kelly Oliver, Wake Up! Even if Life Is but a Dream: Ethics of/as Arousal John David Rhodes, Notes on Cinematic Desire (for Louis) Nicole Rizzuto, Colonial Insurgency and the Spectral Rhetoric of Arousal Meghan Sutherland, About Opsis Domietta Torlasco, I am you, if I am: Notes for a Phenomenology of Narcissism Download the issue here:

Dostal, Robert. Review of Kristin Gjesdal, GADAMER AND THE LEGACY OF GERMAN IDEALISM. NDPR (May 2010).

Gjesdal, Kristin. Gadamer and the Legacy of German Idealism. Cambridge: CUP, 2009. As the title suggests, this is a work that examines the relation of Gadamer's hermeneutics to German Idealism. Gjesdal reminds us with the motto of the book that Gadamer himself writes that his starting point was a "critique of German Idealism and its Romantic traditions" from a Heideggerian point of view. Gjesdal's central thesis is that Gadamer espouses "an aestheticizing model of understanding" that "prevents him from developing an adequate notion of normative issues in hermeneutics" (p. 3). Her critique of Gadamerian hermeneutics, which is developed by the consideration of Gadamer's reading of Kant, Hegel, and the Romantics, represented especially by Schleiermacher, leads her to endorse, against Gadamer, the hermeneutics of Schleiermacher: "I recommend a return to the early nineteenth-century theory of interpretation" (p. 4). . . . Read the rest here:

Fukuyama, Francis. "Nietzsche: a Philosophy in Context." NEW YORK TIMES April 29, 2010.

Young, Julian. Nietzsche: a Philosophical Biography. Cambridge: CUP, 2010. One of the pitfalls of writing a biography of a great philosopher is the temptation to reduce important ideas to mere psychology, an outgrowth of some fluke in the philosopher’s personal development. Julian Young, a professor at the University of Auckland and Wake Forest University, has for the most part avoided this trap by writing a “philosophical” biography of Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900) in which the life story provides context but ultimately not explanation for the ideas. In so doing he has provided a serious and readable, if not exactly ground-breaking, introduction to Nietzsche’s “philosophy with a hammer.” Context is particularly important in Nie­tzsche’s case because his life story was so dramatic. . . . Read the whole review here:

Goldstein, Rebecca Newberger. "Theory, Literature, Hoax." NEW YORK TIMES April 29, 2010

Update: Read Thomas Apolis' response here: Original Post: We love stories as much as we need them, but a funny thing has happened to departments of literature. The study of literature as an art form, of its techniques for delighting and instructing, has been replaced by an amalgam of bad epistemology and worse prose that goes by many names but can be summed up as Theory. The situation seems to call for a story, and one written in the style of Jorge Luis Borges, the grand chronicler of the tragicomic struggle between humans and logic. . . . Read the rest here:

Bywater, Michael. "HOW TO LIVE, by Sarah Bakewell." THE INDEPENDENT January 29, 2010.

Bakewell, Sarah. How to Live: a Life of Montaigne in One Question and Twenty Attempts at an Answer. London: Chatto and Windus, 2009. Early on in this illuminating and humane book, Sarah Bakewell announces that it is not only about about Michel de Montaigne the man and the writer, but also "about Montaigne, the long party". The phrase is both apt and happy. The subject of this Life of Montaigne in One Question and Twenty Attempts at an Answer was pleased with his Essays. "It is," he says, "the only book in the world of its kind", and I suppose it remains so even today. Rousseau made a similar claim for his Confessions but its very title placed him firmly centre-stage - he, not his book, was the unique object - while the Essays put Montaigne on a level with the reader. He doesn't instruct or boast but asks us to join him in looking at himself, wondering how one should live and hopefully becoming "reconciled to this colicky life". An essay is a gesture of imperfection, an essai - an "attempt" or a "trial". Montaigne's signature phrase is "but I don't know." He may be wrong. We may be right. It's all an ongoing conversation, across time. Hence the "long party". A common remark by Montaigne's readers has been that it felt as if you'd written it yourself. Our receptions of him change according to the times. His Enlightenment readers read in Montaigne justification for their own Enlightenment; Romantics saw their exalted super-sensibilities reflected; various bowdlerisations recast the Essays in a form suitable for the emerging brash timidity of the Victorian consciousness. Nietzsche read him with the same (and entirely different) delight as Shakespeare had. Semioticians, deconstructionists and literary psychoanalysts have all had a pop at Montaigne and found exactly what they expected. If there's one word that suits his style, it's that coinage of the 20th-century guru of deconstruction, Jacques Derrida: the punning différance, a slippery hybrid of differentiation and deferral. Montaigne was an expert at both, but deferral always won. . . . Read the whole review here:

Bakewell, Sarah. "Montaigne, Philosopher of Life, Part 1: How to Live." GUARDIAN May 10, 2010.

This series is about Michel Eyquem de Montaigne, a 16th-century philosopher who proposed no theories, put no trust in reason, and showed no desire to convince readers of anything. In his vast book Essays, he contradicted himself, preferred specifics to generalities, embraced uncertainty, and followed his thoughts wherever they led. Was he a philosopher at all? In his own view, he was, but only of an "unpremeditated and accidental" kind. He wrote about so many things, he said, that his essays were bound to coincide with the wisdom of the ancients from time to time. Others have seen him not just as a philosopher but as the world's truly modern thinker, because of his intense awareness that he was complex and self-divided, always double in himself, as he put it. In my opinion, he was the first and greatest philosopher of life as it is actually lived, and perhaps the one who has the most to offer our troubled 21st century. . . . what he truly liked doing had nothing to do with either work or family. He would go walking or riding in the local forests, thinking inquisitive thoughts about himself and the world; at home, he would read, and write, and talk to people. He converted a chubby tower at one corner of his property to be his library. (You can still visit it today.) There, he started writing down the hundred or so lively, rambling pieces which he called his Essays – a word he coined from essayer: "to try". That is just what they were: trials, or attempts upon himself. What is it to be a human being, he wondered? Why do other people behave as they do? Why do I behave as I do? He watched his neighbours, his colleagues, even his cat and dog, and looked deeply into himself as well. He tried to record what it felt like to be angry, or exhilarated, or vain, or bad-tempered, or embarrassed, or lustful. Or to drift in and out of consciousness, in a half-dream. Or to feel bored with your responsibilities. Or to love someone. Or to have a brilliant idea while out riding, but forget it before you can get back to write it down – and then feel the lost memory recede further and further the more you hunt for it, only to pop into your head as soon as you give up and think about something else. He was, in short, a brilliant psychologist, but also a moral philosopher in the fullest sense of the word. He did not tell us what we should do, but explored what we actually do. He published the results for the first time in 1580, and saw his Essays become an instant Renaissance bestseller. . . . Read the rest here:

Carlisle, Clare. "Kierkegaard's World, Part 8: God and Possibility." GUARDIAN May 3, 2010.

I want to conclude this series by considering what Kierkegaard means by "God" and "belief in God", and how this shapes his understanding of human life. Kierkegaard is often rather conservative theologically, but in The Sickness Unto Death his pseudonym Anti-Climacus offers a surprising description of God:
Inasmuch as for God all things are possible, it may be said that this is what God is: one for whom all things are possible. . . . God is that all things are possible, and that all things are possible is the existence of God.
This alludes to a teaching that is recorded in the Gospels of Mark, Matthew and Luke. When Jesus tells his disciples that 'it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God,' they ask, in amazement, 'Who then can be saved?' Jesus replies, "With men it is impossible, but not with God: for with God all things are possible". Kierkegaard seems to have been fascinated by this biblical text, for he echoes it in several of his works, including Fear and Trembling. However, in The Sickness Unto Death he goes beyond it, claiming not just that all things are possible for God, but that God is this possibility – and that believing in God means believing in possibility. For Kierkegaard, possibility is integral to human life – and his own use of pseudonyms and fictional characters enables him to dramatise different philosophical or existential possibilities. In The Sickness Unto Death he states that the human being is a synthesis of possibility and "necessity", which in this case means actual, concrete existence. At any moment in time, in any situation, there are facts of the matter: right now, for example, I am sitting at home in Manchester, writing; it is raining. But we also reach out into the future to envisage various possibilities: if I finish my work in time, and if it stops raining, I might go out for a walk this afternoon. Even the past is haunted by possibility, since things might have happened differently. Possibility fills each present moment with meaning. Of course, some possibilities are more significant than others. But Kierkegaard's point is that human existence is not confined to concrete, factual actuality, but opens out onto the dimension of possibility. This, he thinks, is what makes us free – but it also gives rise to anxiety. If the human being is a synthesis of possibility and necessity, then both of these aspects are equally important. When he discusses despair in The Sickness Unto Death, Kierkegaard identifies several different forms of despair. In one case, a person lacks concrete actuality: he loses himself in imagining, reflecting on and dreaming about different possibilities, without actualising any of them. In the opposite case – which seems to be the most common – a person loses himself in concrete things. This is the despair that lacks possibility. . . . Read the rest here:

Monday, May 10, 2010

Carlisle, Clare. "Kierkegaard's World, Part 7: Spiritlessness." GUARDIAN April 26, 2010.

As we saw last week, Kierkegaard identifies a certain mode of suffering as fundamental to human life: despair. We fall into despair when we lose ourselves – when we overlook the spiritual aspect of our being that is, according to Kierkegaard, the most essential aspect of human existence. However, Kierkegaard's analysis of despair arose not simply from his interest in the human condition, but from his concern to respond to problems that he regarded as specific to the modern age. In The Sickness Unto Death, Kierkegaard describes various forms of despair. He suggests that in the modern age, the most common kind of despair is that which is in ignorance of itself. A person who despairs in this way not only fails to notice that she has lost herself, but also overlooks the fact that she has a self to lose in the first place. In other words, she does not recognise herself as a spiritual being – and Kierkegaard calls this form of despair "spiritlessness". According to Kierkegaard, in modern times
most men live without ever becoming conscious of being destined as spirit. . . . There is so much talk about wasting a life, but only that person's life was wasted who went on living so deceived by life's joys or its sorrows that he never became decisively and eternally conscious as spirit, as self.
Kierkegaard insists that this lack of awareness of one's true nature always involves the will: it is not, in fact, simply a matter of ignorance, for it involves self-deception. Moreover, this is not just an individual tendency, but one that is embedded within modern society. As he writes in The Sickness Unto Death,
A self is the last thing the world cares about and the most dangerous thing of all for a person to show signs of having. The greatest hazard of all, losing the self, can occur very quietly in the world, as if it were nothing at all. No other loss can occur so quietly; any other loss – an arm, a leg, five dollars, a wife, etc. – is sure to be noticed.
Of course, there is a great irony here, given that modern culture is widely held to be characterised by individualistic, self-serving attitudes, and by a cult of personality and celebrity. For all our talk of self-fulfilment and self-realisation, the "selves" we seek to preserve and promote are often not spiritual beings, but "consumers" whose desires need to be satisfied, or even commodities to be consumed. According to Kierkegaard's criteria, these are not genuine selves at all. Kierkegaard suggests that the distinctive feature of modern life is "abstraction", which in this instance means a mode of relationship that is emptied of personal feeling and significance. . . . Read the rest here:

Bloechl, Jeffrey. Review of Daniel Greenspan, THE PASSION OF INIFINITY. NDPR (May 2010).

Greenspan, Daniel. The Passion of Infinity: Kierkegaard, Aristotle and the Rebirth of Tragedy. Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, 2008. Among nineteenth century philosophers taking an interest in Greek tragedy, we are most likely to think of Friedrich Nietzsche, whose Birth of Tragedy from the Spirit of Music (1872) withstood early scorn on its way to becoming a classic in twentieth century letters. Nietzsche's vision is well known: with the arrival in Greece of the cult of Dionysus, art that had hitherto been concerned only with appearances submitted to quiet observation became capable of evoking in the observer a frenzied sense of life otherwise occluded by the play of forms. Dionysian ecstasy, in other words, is the antecedent of an art that consumes the distance between observer and observed, an art that is no longer merely submitted to our consideration but instead takes possession of us. Nietzsche does not hesitate to find in the religious import of Dionysus a confirmation of the importance of this new art: just as the practices of the cult conduct the participant beyond the simple limits of individuality, so too does contact with certain works of art free us from the coil of our mortality. Of these works of art, Greek tragedy -- specifically until Euripides -- is supreme. It is the achievement of Aeschylus and Sophocles to have invested the Apollonian craft of appearance with the Dionysian fire of vitality, and the promise of their craft to have provided spectators with a temporary relief from the suffering that accrues to finite, death-bound existence. And yet the achievement no less quickly succumbed to the advances of a Socratic insistence on knowledge and truth, which Euripides introduced into the theater itself. In short, tragedy was born and fell ill within the bare century that separates the flourishing of Aeschylus and that of Euripides, and western culture has fallen slowly into the decadence at last recognized by Nietzsche. Daniel Greenspan's The Passion of Infinity: Kierkegaard, Aristotle and the Rebirth of Tragedy reminds us that Kierkegaard had already taken a quite different view of some of these matters three decades earlier, chiefly in some works of his so-called "first authorship" (1841-1846). In the order of Greenspan's presentation, these include Either/Or, Stages on Life's Way, Fear and Trembling, and The Concept of Anxiety. Well over half of the book -- chapters 6-12 -- develops a reading of these works, followed by shorter discussions of a few others, all on the matter of a suppression and reemergence of certain elements of tragedy. As one might expect, Kierkegaard's interest in Greek tragedy is complex. His focal point, as Greenspan develops it, is the interplay of freedom and fate, or more specifically the tragedian's attention to the manner in which fate may assert itself in the eruption of passions that overwhelm our freedom. From a great distance, this resembles something that Kierkegaard finds in the biblical accounts of Abraham or Job, both of whom, we ought not to forget, he reads decidedly in the service of efforts to awaken authentic Christianity from a deadening lethargy. Of course, there is a great difference between Greek tragedy and the Jewish bible, indeed even when interpreted by a single author with famously singular concerns. So how then might these things be squared? . . . Read the rest here:

Cfp: "Objectivity and the Practice of Science," Center for Logic and Philosophy of Science, Tilburg University, October 5, 2010.

Science is arguably among our most successful and sophisticated epistemic endeavors. But how objective is it? Aren't scientists and their methods susceptible to all forms of bias? Traditionally, answers to this question have focused on the social construction of scientific knowledge. On the level of individual research, however, other questions might be more pressing: How objective are statistical inference tools? Can evidence-based medicine keep its promise to replace subjective assessments by hard facts? Is it possible to design and conduct a social science experiment that is not contaminated by the experimenter's research agenda? How does the concept of objectivity vary over different scientific disciplines? We invite contributions that address these and similar research questions on the objectivity of scientific research. More information is here:

Cfp: "Humans and Other Animals: Challenging the Boundaries of Humanity," University of Manchester, June 11-12, 2010.

Hosted by Institute for Science, Ethics & Innovation, Manchester and Institute of Philosophy, University of London. Theme This conference will seek to examine and challenge the boundaries so often drawn in philosophy, as elsewhere, between humans and other animals. It will draw on philosophical, legal and scientific perspectives in order to question the legitimacy and utility of such distinctions and thereby to explore the moral and philosophical meanings of humanity and being human. Background A century and half ago, Darwin’s theory of evolution challenged the notion of absolute species boundaries, showing that humans were related to animals rather than created unique amongst living creatures and putting us on a continuum with other animals and indeed all life on earth. We now accept that that there are many ways in which human and animal are both genetically and behaviourally similar. While there are ways in which we are different, according to Darwinian theory these are not differences in kind, but in degree. Nevertheless, the notion that we are somehow ‘special’, separated from other animals because of our species, purely in virtue of being human, has persisted. Several commentators writing on animal rights and interests have suggested that to deny animals equal moral consideration on the basis of their inherent capacities rather than as a function of species membership is morally unsound. Despite this, the notion of humanness as something qualitatively distinct in moral terms, the existence of the human “Factor X”, continues to retain philosophical credibility in many discussions. We talk of “human nature” as an essential quality of morally significant beings – that is, ourselves; “human rights” as something to which we, as morally significant beings, are entitled; “humanity” as a morally significant quantity. This focus on humanness as an indicator of moral status draws an implicit line: entities which are human are different, morally speaking, to entities which are not. Of chimeras and chimpanzees: re-questioning the (moral) meaning of ‘human’ Today, contemporary research across a range of scientific disciplines serves to blur the boundaries between human and non-human animals even further than Darwin’s discoveries did. Xenotransplantation, animals with human transgenes or engrafted with human tissues and cytoplasmic hybrid embryos all involve a mixture of human and animal biological components, leading to questions about how (and more importantly why) we should attempt to classify such creatures – as human or animal, or something else? Research in cognitive ethology reveals that animals may possess mental and psychological capacities such as self-awareness and complex reasoning ability, previously ascribed only to humans and often used to justify the moral line drawn between ourselves and other animals. Finally, studies of primate behaviour demonstrate that morality itself may have an evolutionary basis, challenging the view that moral agency and moral reasoning are the sole purview of humans. All of these serve to erode whatever sharp distinctions we might still think to draw between humans and other animal species. Genetically, biologically, as moral subjects and even as moral agents, humans are a species of animal. What implications might this have for philosophical considerations of human nature, for the use of ‘human’ as a qualifier or distinguishing feature in moral, legal and social contexts, and for how we view ourselves, other creatures that exist now and creatures that might one day exist? Further information may be here:

Cfp: "After Kant: Beyond Idealism and Naturalism," Late German Philosophy Project, Institute of Philosophy, University of London, December 2-3, 2010.

The departure point of the conference is the attitude of some British and German philosophers of the period 1860-1950 towards idealism and naturalism—an attitude at once of contempt and dependence still found among some contemporary British and German philosophers. We invite submission of papers discussing this legacy. For example: How successfully did British and German philosophers of the period challenge idealist and naturalist interpretations of Kant’s critical philosophy? Papers, prepared for a 40-minutes presentation, to be followed by a 10-minutes discussion, should be sent to Further information may be found here:

Saturday, May 08, 2010

"Abstraction, Universality and Money," 7th Annual Conference, Marx and Philosophy Society, Institute of Education, University of London, June 5, 2010

  • Richard Seaford (Exeter), "Money, Abstraction, and the Genesis of the Psyche"
  • Alberto Toscano (Goldsmiths), "The Dead Pledge of Society: Methodological Problems and Political Consequences of 'Real Abstraction'"
  • Christopher Arthur, "Abstraction, Universality and Money"

Graduate Panels:

  • Jan Sailer (Freiburg), "Securities: The Purest Form of Abstract Wealth"
  • Nick Gray (Sussex), "Abstraction, Universality, Money and Capital"
  • Marina Vishmidt (Queen Mary, University of London), "Art in and as Abstract Labour"
  • Brian Fuller (York, Toronto), "Materialism and Dialectic: Reading Marx after Adorno"
  • Tim Carter (Sussex), "Alienation and Domination in Marx and Wittgenstein"
  • Chris Allsobrook (Sussex), "The Ideological Normative Grounds of Immanent Critique"

Further details:

Kirsch, Adam. "The Jewish Question: Martin Heidegger." NEW YORK TIMES April 29, 2010.

  • Faye, Emmanuel. Heidegger: the Introduction of Nazism into Philosophy. Trans. Michael B. Smith. New Haven: Yale UP, 2009.
  • Maier-Katkin, Daniel. Stranger from Abroad: Hannah Arendt, Martin Heidegger, Friendship and Forgiveness. New York: Norton, 2010.

It may seem surprising that so many books continue to be written debating Martin Heidegger’s Nazi affiliations, since the fact that Heidegger was a Nazi has never been in dispute. How could it be, when the great philosopher took office as rector of Freiburg University in April 1933 specifically in order to carry out the Gleichschaltung, or “bringing into line,” of the school with Hitler’s new party-state? Didn’t he tell the student body, in a speech that November, that “the Führer and he alone is the present and future German reality and its law”? After the war, didn’t he go out of his way to minimize Nazi crimes, even describing the Holocaust, in one notorious essay, as just another manifestation of modern technology, like mechanized agriculture? Yet by the time of his 80th birthday, in 1969, Heidegger had largely succeeded in detaching his work and reputation from his Nazism. The seal was set on his absolution by Hannah Arendt, in a birthday address broadcast on West German radio. Heideg­ger’s Nazism, she explained, was an “escapade,” a mistake, which happened only because the thinker naïvely “succumbed to the temptation . . . to ‘intervene’ in the world of human affairs.” The moral to be drawn from the Heidegger case was that “the thinking ‘I’ is entirely different from the self of consciousness,” so that Heideg­ger’s thought cannot be contaminated by the actions of the mere man. The history of Heidegger scholarship over the last 20 years has been the gradual demolition of this forgiving consensus endorsed by Arendt. . . . Read the rest here:

Carlisle, Clare. "Kierkegaard's World, Part 6: On Learning to Suffer." GUARDIAN April 19, 2010.

Kierkegaard experienced much suffering in his relatively short life. By the age of 25 he had lost both his parents, and five of his six siblings. In addition to this, his sensitive temperament, his tendencies to melancholy and anxiety, and his difficult relationships to his father and his one-time fiancée Regine gave him an intimate understanding of various kinds of psychological pain. Rather than avoiding or denying suffering, Kierkegaard was unusually willing to confront it and investigate it. His sensitivity to suffering extended to others: one of his friends remembered that "he gave consolation not by covering up sorrow, but by first making one genuinely aware of it, by bringing it to complete clarity". This approach characterises Kierkegaard's philosophical work as well as his personal life. In his 1844 book The Concept of Anxiety, he writes that "Every human being must learn to be anxious in order that he might not perish either by never having been in anxiety or by succumbing in anxiety. Whoever has learned to be anxious in the right way has learned the ultimate." He expresses a similar attitude to despair in his later work The Sickness Unto Death. So, what is the "right way" to suffer, and how can this be learned? Read the rest here:

Halteman-Zwart, Megan. Review of Francisco J. Gonzalez, PLATO AND HEIDEGGER. NDPR (May 2010).

Gonzalez, Francisco J. Plato and Heidegger: a Question of Dialogue. University Park: Pennsylvania State UP, 2009. There is broad consensus that Heidegger's 'relationship' with Plato is one of misrepresentation, caricature, and dismissal. Those unsympathetic to Heidegger point to his coercive readings of Plato's dialogues, his single-minded focus on Plato as prototypical metaphysician and his violent use of history of philosophy in general. Those with more sympathy for Heidegger, while acknowledging these points, allow themselves to wistfully imagine what might have been if Heidegger had had the good sense to undertake a meaningful dialogue with Plato's work, rather than merely to force Plato into a role that suited Heidegger's agenda. Few, if any, have devoted significant attention to the many points in Heidegger's lengthy career where Heidegger undertakes sympathetic and profitable engagements with Plato, largely because these charitable readings are hard to fit into the story of Heidegger's Plato as original metaphysician -- a story so forcefully and clearly laid out by Heidegger himself in the only work devoted to Plato which he choose to publish: the 1940 essay 'Platons Lehre von der Wahrheit'. Francisco J. Gonzalez's Plato and Heidegger: a Question of Dialogue makes many important contributions to our view of Heidegger's Plato, but none is more important than its success at complicating this consensus story that Heidegger is merely a bad reader of Plato. Gonzalez's avowed goal is to take the dialogue between Plato and Heidegger further than Heidegger himself was willing or able to go. By undertaking an exhaustive look at both Heidegger's sustained engagements with Plato and passing comments, Gonzalez rounds out our picture of Heidegger's Plato to include many surprising affinities between the two thinkers. In most cases, Gonzalez admirably resists the temptation to downplay the charitable elements of Heidegger's Plato even though attending to these elements calls for a more complicated story. Through the twists and turns of Heidegger's often contradictory accounts of Plato, Gonzalez leads us to a surprisingly clear and compelling conclusion: Heidegger's Plato is substantially more sympathetic than we have come to expect, but there is a deep and abiding difference between the two that presented a persistent road block to Heidegger's reading of Plato; as Gonzalez puts it, "there was something genuinely foreign to Heidegger's thought in Plato's texts, something that Heidegger could not appropriate without fundamentally changing the direction of his own thinking" (2). By the book's conclusion, this obstacle is clear:
While neither Plato nor Heidegger looks for the truth of beings in beings themselves, Plato turns to logoi and how the truth of being manifests itself therein, whereas Heidegger insists on attempting to see and say being directly in a way that bypasses both beings and logoi. (335)
Gonzalez characterizes this as a root difference in their very approaches to thinking being: Plato recognizes that our best efforts will remain 'dialectical/dialogical'; Heidegger persists in aiming towards a 'phenomenological/tautological' approach (345). Due to this fundamentally different orientation, Heidegger is never able to really do justice to Plato's thought. . . . Read the whole review here: