Thursday, June 24, 2010

Mahoney, Daniel J. "An Independent Mind." CITY JOURNAL June 18, 2010.

Sowell, Thomas.  Intellectuals and Society. New York: Basic, 2010.

Thomas Sowell occupies a unique place in American intellectual life, at the intersection of economics, social science, and public philosophy, even as he writes a lively syndicated column. He is equally at home discoursing on “Say’s Law” (or the Law of Market) and exposing divisive and counterproductive affirmative-action programs. He is also among this nation’s most prominent black conservatives, which suggests a certain independence of mind and spirit. That independence, along with truly prodigious learning, is amply on display in his latest book.

Intellectuals and Society is something of a summa of Sowell’s concerns over the last 40 years. It builds upon the “informal trilogy”—A Conflict of Visions, The Vision of the Anointed, and The Quest for Cosmic Justice—in which he first examined the conflict between a “constrained” vision of politics and social change and a vision of society by which intellectuals (“the anointed”) seek permanent “solutions” to social and national problems. Modern intellectuals, Sowell writes, have a “vision of themselves as a self-appointed vanguard, leading towards a better world.” Unlike advocates of the more conservative, constrained vision, this intellectual vanguard tends to take the “benefits of civilization for granted.” The “vision of the anointed” lacks respect for the wisdom inherent in experience and common opinion. Its practitioners value abstractions—dreams for a peaceful, egalitarian world where conflicts have been overcome—over the “tacit knowledge” available to the parent, the consumer, the entrepreneur, and the citizen.

Sowell vigorously defends wisdom—practical reason—against an abstract rationalism that values ideas over the experience of actual human beings. Intellectuals, he argues, are particularly suspicious of the ties ordinary men and women feel to family, religion, and country. They look down upon “objective reality and objective criteria” in the social sciences, art, music, and philosophy. Their “systems” tend to be self-referential and lack accountability in the external world. . . .

Read the rest here:

"Challenges of German Idealism from Kant to Hegel," Centre for German Idealism, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, August 27, 2010.


9:45 Welcome

10:00 Session 1: Kant

  • Wooram Hong (Leuven University), Kant’s Metaphysical Deduction of the Idea of God in the CPR
  • Stijn van Impe (Ghent University), Kant’s Moral Despair Argument against Atheism
  • Arthur Kok (Tilburg University), The Moral Essence of Kant’s Philosophy
11:30 Coffee Break

11:45 Session 2: Kant

  • Hein van den Berg (VU University Amsterdam), Kant on Biology and Explanation
  • Job Zinkstok (University of Groningen), The Formality of Kant’s Logic and His Characterization of Judgment
12:45 Lunch Break

14:00 Session 3: Fichte and Hegel

  • Michael Kolkman (University of Warwick), The Co-Genesis of Self and Other from Fichte’s Tathandlung
  • Emiliano Acosta (Ghent University), The Argumentative Structure in the Establishment of the Three Axioms of Fichte’s Foundation of the Entire Doctrine of Science (1794/95)
  • Kirill Chepurin (State University – Higher School of Economics, Moscow), The Place of the Soul’s Intensity in Hegel’s Philosophy of Spirit: Concrete Subjectivity and the res publica
15:30 Coffee Break

16:00 Session 4: Hegel

  • Michela Bordignon (University of Padova), Contradictio regula veri
  • Elisa Magrì (Scuola Normale Superiore, Pisa), Difference and Negation in Hegel’s Philosophy of Mind
  • Ralph Palm (Katholieke Universiteit Leuven), Hegel’s Conception of Sublation: Misreadings and Implications
For further information, visit the Centrum voor Duits Idealisme here:

Pub: Huhn, Peter, et al., eds. THE LIVING HANDBOOK OF NARRATOLOGY. Hamburg: Hamburg UP, 2009 - .

The Living Handbook of Narratology (LHN) is based on the Handbook of Narratology first published by Walter de Gruyter in 2009. As an open access publication it makes available all of the 32 articles contained in the original print version—and more: the LHN also offers the additional functionality of an electronic publication, including full-text search facility, one-click-export of reference information, and digital humanities tools for text analysis.

The LHN continuously expands its original content base by adding new articles on further concepts and theories fundamental to narratology, and to the study of narrative in general. The LHN is published in a WiKi-System: it offers registered narratologists the opportunity to comment on existing articles, to suggest additions or corrections, and to submit new articles to the editors.

  • Author by Jörg Schönert
  • Character by Fotis Jannidis
  • Cognitive Narratology by David Herman
  • Coherence by Michael Toolan
  • Conversational Narration / Oral Narration by Monika Fludernik
  • Dialogism by David Shepherd
  • Event and Eventfulness by Peter Hühn
  • Fictional vs. Factual Narration by Jean-Marie Schaeffer
  • Focalization by Burkhard Niederhoff
  • Heteroglossia by Valerij Tjupa
  • Identity and Narration by Michael Bamberg
  • Illusion (Aesthetic) by Werner Wolf
  • Implied Author by Wolf Schmid
  • Mediacy and Narrative Mediation by Jan Alber and Monika Fludernik
  • Metalepsis by John Pier
  • Metanarration and Metafiction by Birgit Neumann and Ansgar Nünning
  • Narration in Film by Johann N. Schmidt
  • Narration in Poetry and Drama by Peter Hühn and Roy Sommer
  • Narration in Various Disciplines by Norbert Meuter
  • Narration in Various Media by Marie-Laure Ryan
  • Narrative Constitution by Michael Scheffel
  • Narrative Levels by Didier Coste and John Pier
  • Narrativity by H. Porter Abbott
  • Narratology by Jan Christoph Meister
  • Narrator by Uri Margolin
  • Performativity by Ute Berns
  • Perspective / Point of View by Burkhard Niederhoff
  • Reader by Gerald Prince
  • Schemata by Catherine Emmott and Marc Alexander
  • Space by Marie-Laure Ryan
  • Speech Representation by Brian McHale
  • Tellability by Raphaël Baroni
LHN is a product of the Interdisciplinary Center for Narratology, Hamburg University (

Download the essays here:

Lamey, Andy. "The Thinking Man's Marxist." LITERARY REVIEW OF CANADA June 1, 2010.

Cohen, G. A.  Why Not Socialism?.  Princeton: Princeton UP, 2009.

Cohen’s path in that world saw him study philosophy at McGill University and, beginning in 1961, Oxford. The image of a staunch Marxist such as Cohen arriving at Oxford that year is incongruous. Oxford was then a bastion of so-called analytic philosophy, a tradition of thought that traced its roots to British philosophers such as G.E. Moore and Bertrand Russell. Insofar as analytic philosophy of the 1960s took up political questions at all, as it did in the work of Isaiah Berlin, it was explicitly anti-communist. Berlin’s interest in politics however was the exception. Oxford-style philosophy focused overwhelmingly on the philosophy of mind, logic and, above all, language. Political philosophy was so marginal that a year after Cohen arrived Berlin published an essay under the morose title “Does political theory still exist?”

It was a common occurrence during the 1960s for politically committed students to be hostile to analytic philosophy, on the grounds that it was quietist and trivial. “If you are young and left-wing,” Cohen has said, “and you come to university with a thirst for relevant ideas, and academic philosophy of the Oxford kind is the first system of thought you encounter, then it will be hard for you not to feel disappointed or even cheated by it.” But precisely because Cohen was already so politicized, he did not go to class looking for a political system. As a result Cohen was able to engage analytic philosophy on its own terms and excel at it—and, in time, be transformed by it.

The late 1960s saw Marxist ideas gain academic prominence. Works by French thinkers such as Louis Althusser were translated and widely discussed. Cohen’s analytic training made him critical of 1960s Marxism, which he came to term “bullshit Marxism.”

Its practitioners claimed to possess their own intellectual method, known as dialectics. Such claims struck Cohen as an excuse not to observe normal standards of evidence and rigour. When one read French Marxists closely, Cohen felt, their ideas were often expressed in such a gassy way it was impossible to determine if they were true or false. Cohen’s preferred approach was on display in the 1978 book that made his name, Karl Marx’s Theory of History: A Defence. It saw Cohen give an intellectually respectable account of Marxism by jettisoning Marx’s least defensible ideas and setting out the remainder with ruthless clarity.

Cohen soon became a leader of a school of thought known as analytic Marxism. Analytic Marxism eventually rejected so much of Marx—the dialectics, the scientific pretensions, the claims of historical inevitability—that it has long been debated whether it really is a form of Marxism. Cohen thought the question was misguided. In his view, Marx began a tradition of political and economic equality, and everything else was negotiable. Cohen once noted that Galileo and Newton founded physics, but physicists are never asked whether they are a Galilean. “Physics must contradict (much of) what Galileo and Newton said: only so can it be loyal to the tradition which they founded.” Whatever the accuracy of the Marxist label in other ways, it is definitely misleading if it is taken to suggest that only a Marxist can agree with Cohen’s arguments. . . .

Read the rest here:

Romano, Carlin. "The Second 'Second Sex.'" CHRONICLE OF HIGHER EDUCATION June 20, 2010.

As translation contretemps go, the one surrounding French philosopher Simone de Beauvoir (1908-86) and her foundational work of modern feminism, Le Deuxième Sexe, first published in two volumes in French in 1949, remains one of the most tempestuous and fascinating. For decades, Beauvoir scholars in the English-speaking world bemoaned, attacked, and sought to replace the widely used 1953 translation by H.M. Parshley (1884-1953), a zoologist at Smith College who knew little philosophy or existentialism, had never translated a book from French, and relied mainly on his undergraduate grasp of the language. A few years back, they succeeded in getting the rights holders, Gallimard in France and Alfred A. Knopf and Vintage in the English-speaking world, to commission a new translation. Now that second version has appeared from Knopf (The Second Sex, by Simone de Beauvoir, "A New Translation of the Landmark Classic by Constance Borde and Sheila Malovany-Chevallier," with an introduction by Judith Thurman, "Complete and Unabridged for the First Time").

If Knopf and its partners expected to be showered with feminist appreciation, they've been sorely disappointed. The Norwegian Beauvoir scholar Toril Moi, a professor at Duke and one of the foremost critics of Parshley's translation, savaged the new version in the London Review of Books. Francine du Plessix Gray, in The New York Times Book Review, also expressed reservations. How everyone involved got from vituperative discontent to hopeful triumph and back to discontent makes an instructive tale in itself and offers some lessons for what matters and doesn't in the evolution of a classic. . . .

Read the rest here:

Scott, Sarah. "Martin Buber." INTERNET ENCYCLOPEDIA OF PHILOSOPHY June 21, 2010.

Martin Buber was a prominent twentieth century philosopher, religious thinker, political activist and educator. Born in Austria, he spent most of his life in Germany and Israel, writing in German and Hebrew. He is best known for his 1923 book, Ich und Du (I and Thou), which distinguishes between “I-Thou” and “I-It” modes of existence. Often characterized as an existentialist philosopher, Buber rejected the label, contrasting his emphasis on the whole person and intersubjectivity rather than self-reflective, isolating monolog. In his later essays, he defines man as the being who faces an “other” and constructs a world from the dual acts of distancing and relating. His writing challenges Kant, Hegel, Marx, Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, Dilthey, Simmel and Heidegger, and he influenced Emmanuel Lévinas.

Buber was also a cultural Zionist who advocated a binational state and promoted Jewish cultural renewal through his study of Hasidic Judaism. He was an important pre-World War 1 German voice of cultural Zionism. He argued for the renewal of society through decentralized, communitarian socialism. He recorded and translated Hasidic legends and anecdotes, translated the Bible from Hebrew into German in collaboration with Franz Rosenzweig, and wrote numerous religious and Biblical studies. The leading Jewish adult education specialist in Germany in the 1930s, he developed a philosophy of education based on addressing the whole person through education of character, and directed the creation of Jewish education centers in Germany and teacher-training centers in Israel.

Most current scholarly work on Buber is done in the areas of pedagogy, psychology and applied social ethics. . . .

Read the rest here:

Bauerlein, Mark, et al. "We Must Stop the Avalanche of Low-Quality Research." CHRONICLE OF HIGHER EDUCATION June 13, 2010.

Everybody agrees that scientific research is indispensable to the nation's health, prosperity, and security. In the many discussions of the value of research, however, one rarely hears any mention of how much publication of the results is best. Indeed, for all the regrets one hears in these hard times of research suffering from financing problems, we shouldn't forget the fact that the last few decades have seen astounding growth in the sheer output of research findings and conclusions. Just consider the raw increase in the number of journals. Using Ulrich's Periodicals Directory, Michael Mabe shows that the number of "refereed academic/scholarly" publications grows at a rate of 3.26 percent per year (i.e., doubles about every 20 years). The main cause: the growth in the number of researchers.

Many people regard this upsurge as a sign of health. They emphasize the remarkable discoveries and breakthroughs of scientific research over the years; they note that in the Times Higher Education's ranking of research universities around the world, campuses in the United States fill six of the top 10 spots. More published output means more discovery, more knowledge, ever-improving enterprise.

If only that were true.

While brilliant and progressive research continues apace here and there, the amount of redundant, inconsequential, and outright poor research has swelled in recent decades, filling countless pages in journals and monographs. Consider this tally from Science two decades ago: Only 45 percent of the articles published in the 4,500 top scientific journals were cited within the first five years after publication. In recent years, the figure seems to have dropped further. In a 2009 article in Online Information Review, Péter Jacsó found that 40.6 percent of the articles published in the top science and social-science journals (the figures do not include the humanities) were cited in the period 2002 to 2006.

As a result, instead of contributing to knowledge in various disciplines, the increasing number of low-cited publications only adds to the bulk of words and numbers to be reviewed. Even if read, many articles that are not cited by anyone would seem to contain little useful information. The avalanche of ignored research has a profoundly damaging effect on the enterprise as a whole. Not only does the uncited work itself require years of field and library or laboratory research. It also requires colleagues to read it and provide feedback, as well as reviewers to evaluate it formally for publication. Then, once it is published, it joins the multitudes of other, related publications that researchers must read and evaluate for relevance to their own work. Reviewer time and energy requirements multiply by the year. The impact strikes at the heart of academe. . . .

Read the rest here:

Eshleman, Matthew. Review of Jennifer Ang Mei Sze, SARTRE AND THE MORAL LIMITS OF WAR AND TERRORISM. NDPR (June 2010).

Sze, Jennifer Ang Mei. Sartre and the Moral Limits of War and Terrorism. London: Routledge, 2010.

Jennifer Ang Mei Sze's Sartre and the Moral Limits of War and Terrorism provides an ambitious study of Jean-Paul Sartre's widely varying analyses of violence. Traversing his massive corpus, Sze both "reconstructs" (2, 3, 4, 7, 132) and "reinterprets" (4, 7, 27, 107) her way to what she labels 'the violent Sartre.' This is a self-consciously ironic label, since the "reconstructed 'violent Sartre'" takes an "absolutist" position that prohibits certain kinds of violence, "especially when terrorist tactics are involved" (2, 89, see also 132). Undoubtedly this book will stir controversy, especially given Sartre's many incendiary remarks about violence, which do not appear (at all) to caution against terrorist tactics and/or the killing of civilians, at least not at first glance; e.g., those from his preface to Fanon's The Wretched of the Earth [1961] and later from essays in the Maoist revolutionary newspaper La Cause du peuple [early 1970's]. While Sze offers reasonable interpretations of these polemical essays, which render them consistent with her reconstructed view, her relative strengths and least controversial analyses occur when she focuses on Sartre's theoretical works, which provide this book's central focus.

Read the whole review here:

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

"Marshall McLuhan in a POMO World: Is the Medium the Message?," Department of Rhetoric, Writing and Communications, University of Winnipeg, October 14-16, 2010.

Thirty years after his death, Marshall McLuhan (1911-1980) is widely known for his aphorisms about electronic media (having called the world a “global village” and the medium “the message”). Many consider him to have shaped twentieth-century thinking about technology and communication, and as technology continues its march there has been a resurgence of interest in his ideas and work. Our conference -- convened in Winnipeg, where McLuhan received both his B.A. and M.A. -- invites you to consider how McLuhan’s ideas resonate in media-saturated post-modern culture.

Other topics related to language and culture, especially those related to media and communications, are also welcome.

Keynote Speakers:

Douglas Coupland, award-winning author of McLuhan
Robert Logan, physicist, media ecologist, author, McLuhan collaborator

See the Call for Papers here:

Worster, Donald. "Historians and Nature." THE AMERICAN SCHOLAR (Spring 2010).

In biology the evolutionist tries to explain change over time by constructing what evolutionary biologist Ernst W. Mayr calls a “historical narrative.” Such a narrative addresses questions like these: Why did this trait appear in an organism when it did, what function did it serve? How did it reshape the whole organism and help it reproduce itself? When did the trait decline and disappear? These are good questions for historians as well as biologists to pursue. They should lead us to create narratives around changes in soil or climate conditions and in accessibility of resources and to relate those changes to technological innovation, the rules people make up and follow, and the moral ideals they invent to guide their relations with the natural world.

Telling such stories would require that historians follow the natural sciences by taking the environment more seriously as a force in human life. Historians would need to acknowledge, with the aid of evolutionary psychology, the reality of a human nature that evolves through time. At the same time they would need to think about the role of cultural beliefs and rules as a quasi-independent but never isolated force on the planet–a force that never functions in an ecological void, a force that can have a devastating effect on other forms of life and can enhance or threaten our survival.

The human mind is remarkable for finding multiple pathways through the natural world, but those paths are always contingent on what came before and what is happening now to the planet. Historians need to acknowledge the importance of the environment and to embrace the theory and worldview of evolution for the dazzling light it sheds on the origins, development, and fate of humanity. . . .

Read the rest here:

Fish, Stanley. "Deep in the Heart of Texas." Opinionator Blog. New York Times June 21, 2010.

Student evaluations (against which I have inveighed since I first saw them in the ’60s) are all wrong as a way of assessing teaching performance: they measure present satisfaction in relation to a set of expectations that may have little to do with the deep efficacy of learning. Students tend to like everything neatly laid out; they want to know exactly where they are; they don’t welcome the introduction of multiple perspectives, especially when no master perspective reconciles them; they want the answers.

But sometimes (although not always) effective teaching involves the deliberate inducing of confusion, the withholding of clarity, the refusal to provide answers; sometimes a class or an entire semester is spent being taken down various garden paths leading to dead ends that require inquiry to begin all over again, with the same discombobulating result; sometimes your expectations have been systematically disappointed. And sometimes that disappointment, while extremely annoying at the moment, is the sign that you’ve just been the beneficiary of a great course, although you may not realize it for decades.

Needless to say, that kind of teaching is unlikely to receive high marks on a questionnaire that rewards the linear delivery of information and penalizes a pedagogy that probes, discomforts and fails to provide closure. Student evaluations, by their very nature, can only recognize, and by recognizing encourage, assembly-line teaching that delivers a nicely packaged product that can be assessed as easily and immediately as one assesses the quality of a hamburger. . . .

Read the rest here:

Pub: HISTORY AND THEORY 49 (May 2010).

  • Berel Lang, "Six Questions on (or about) Holocaust Denial" (available free here:
  • Hermann Paul, "Who Suffered From the Crisis of Historicism? A Dutch Example"
  • Elias Jose Palti, "From Ideas to Concepts to Metaphors: the German Tradition of Intellectual History and the Complex Fabric of Language"
  • Stefan-Ludwig Hoffmann, "Koselleck, Arendt, and the Anthropology of Historical Experiences"
  • Jan Plamper, "The History of Emotions: an Interview with William Reddy, Barbara Rosenwein, and Peter Stearns" (available free here:
Download the issue here:

Di Leo, Jeffrey R. "In Praise of Tough Criticism." CHRONICLE OF HIGHER EDUCATION June 13, 2010.

Professor Jones is well known for her generosity. She encourages nonconfrontational exchanges of ideas and is always upbeat and positive about her colleagues and their work. She is patient with her graduate students, encouraging them to be patient with one another as well. When a student makes a comment in class that is weak or off base, unlike some other faculty members in her department, Jones will not make a fuss. When the appropriate opportunity presents itself, she will try to work with the student to improve his or her thinking. Jones's critical credo is, "If you don't have something positive to say, then it is best not to say anything at all—at least not in public."

Her colleague Professor Smith is quite the opposite. He has built a successful career by telling people that they are wrong. The goal of criticism, he believes, is to persuade other people to see the world his way, and if they don't, then he will do everything he can to prove to them—and anyone else who will listen—that they are wrong. Criticism is a competition of ideas, a nasty business in which it is acceptable and sometimes necessary to be a brute. Strong ideas survive, weak ones perish; there is no room for wishy-washy opinions and people. Smith's assessments are harsh but well argued and persuasive. His critical credo is, "Public criticism is as valid as public praise."

Most of us probably know someone like Jones. Others have either heard of someone like Smith—or have been attacked by someone like Smith. The bulk of literary scholars and critics, I think, believe that our profession would be better off if it contained more people like Jones and fewer people like Smith—more compassion, less confrontation. The critic Jane Tompkins has bemoaned scholarly attacks as evidence of a "decline of civility," and Herbert S. Lindenberger, a professor emeritus of humanities at Stanford University, has lamented the "warlike atmosphere" of English studies.

Such comments are indicative of a broad dissatisfaction with harsh criticism, which is frowned upon both because of its potential for emotional disruption and for its alleged divisiveness. Therefore critics like Jones, who believe that solidarity is not possible in a climate where ideas are publicly dismantled, call for the adoption of a more civil form of criticism. But when it comes to criticism, is compassion really preferable to combativeness? Does an upbeat style actually encourage positive tendencies in the profession? Is compassion an intellectual virtue? The answer to those questions is no. If a compassionate, caring form of criticism entails removing the "critical" from "critical exchange," then I would rather see the field move toward a more combative, confrontational style—even if it means ruffling a few feathers. . . .

Read the rest here:

Bakewell, Sarah. "Montaigne, Philosopher of Life, Part 7: What Can We Learn from Montaigne?" GUARDIAN June 21, 2010.

So, are we all Montaignes now? In many ways, yes.

Few of us write long books of essays, and even fewer of us immerse ourselves in classical and historical sources until they become indistinguishable from our very selves. But we are curious, well-informed, well-connected, introspective and hyper-communicative. We never tire of talking about the things that go through our heads. The diversity of cultural perspectives is a familiar idea to us, in a way it wasn't in the 16th century, and many take it for granted that truth is relative. We know about psychology: about unconscious drives, repressed memories, hormones, and moods. We don't expect ourselves to be rational all the time. We apparently forgive ourselves a lot of bad behaviour, on the excuse that it's the fault of our upbringing or genes. Do we really need Montaigne to tell us to relax, accept our mistakes, go with the flow, and gaze fascinated at ourselves all day?

Get the answer here:

Friday, June 18, 2010

Parekh, Serena. Review of Jason D. Hill, BEYOND BLOOD IDENTITIES. NDPR (June 2010).

Hill, Jason D.  Beyond Blood Identities: Posthumanity in the Twenty-First Century. Lanham, MD: Lexington, 2009.

The position argued for in this book -- strong cosmopolitanism -- is one that will be unfamiliar to many readers. Cosmopolitanism itself is an ancient moral and political theory that holds that all human beings should be thought of as belonging to the same human community; we should all see ourselves as "citizens of the world." This view can be traced back to at least the Stoics, and has been popularized in recent years by people like Martha Nussbaum and Anthony Appiah. The form of cosmopolitanism advocated by these philosophers is referred to by Hill as moderate or weak cosmopolitanism because it does not see itself as being incompatible with the local identities that many people hold on to even while believing in cosmopolitan values. For Nussbaum and Appiah, one can identify as a Muslim or a Tutsi and still believe that the relevant moral group of concern is all humanity.

The strong version of cosmopolitanism put forth by Hill in this book, by contrast, does not share this view. For him, all forms of "tribal" identification (i.e., identity based on culture, race, language, ethnicity, nationality, etc.) are entirely without warrant and should not play any role in our moral or political framework. In Hill's view, we need to move beyond these forms of identification in order to achieve the goals of cosmopolitanism. We need to see ourselves and each other first and foremost as individuals, without limiting ourselves to narrow forms of group identification. Since most people are raised to see themselves according to "tribal" identifications -- as an American, a Jew, Chinese, Sicilian, etc -- this position is not intuitively obvious. While I think Hill does a laudable job trying to make this position seem credible and morally desirable, I do not think it is sufficient to overcome the (legitimate) reservations many people will have in giving up cultural, ethnic, or racial identity. Nonetheless, this book is an important contribution to the scholarship on cosmopolitanism and furthers the debate over exactly what form this political and moral philosophy should take. . . .

Read the whole review here:

Donougho, Martin. Review of G. W. F. Hegel, HEIDELBERG WRITINGS. NDPR (June 2010).

Hegel, G. W. F.  Heidelberg Writings: Journal Publications. Ed. and trans. Brady Bowman and Allen Speight. Cambridge: CUP, 2009.

This text -- first in a projected series, under the general editorship of Michael Baur -- presents two essays from Hegel's stint at Heidelberg in 1816-18. One essay, previously untranslated, reassesses the philosophical significance of F. H. Jacobi, who had been roundly criticized by the young Hegel in Faith and Knowledge (1802). The other, partially translated by T.M. Knox in Hegel's Political Writings (Oxford, 1964), is an extended polemic against the Proceedings of the Assembly of the Württemberg Estates, 1815-16. The series aims to offer "translations of the best modern German editions of Hegel's work in a uniform format suitable for Hegel scholars, together with philosophical introductions and full editorial apparatus" (p. i). This inaugural volume gets things off to an excellent start.

On taking up his position at Heidelberg Hegel was invited to help edit the Jahrbücher der Literatur (Yearbooks of Literature). He clearly relished the chance to engage in a public forum beyond teaching and esoteric theorizing. Written in a relatively accessible style, the pieces here display a different, more expansive side to Hegel's personality. As interventions in cultural and political life they may be seen as a rehearsal for his career at the University of Berlin. They appear, moreover, at a time critical for reconsidering the political and cultural legacy -- post-Kantian, post-revolutionary, post-Napoleonic -- of the period of Hegel's youthful formation. . . .

Read the whole review here:

"In the Footsteps of William James," William James Society, Harvard University, August 13-15, 2010.

A symposium on the legacy – and the on-going uses – of James's work organized by the William James Society and co-sponsored by the Chocorua Community Association and the Houghton Library at Harvard University.


Susan Gunter: "Alice Gibbens James and William James in Chocorua"
Doug Anderson: "William James in the Woods: Glenmore and Chocorua"
Charlene Haddock Seigfried: "Four Dimensions of Rationality: William James and Jane Addams"
Amy Kittelstrom: "William James and Liberal Religion: The Context Hidden in Plain Sight"
Tyson-Lord Gray: "The Contemporary Relevance of William James’s Varieties of Religious Experience for Religion and Ecology"
Jacob Risinger: "William James, Romanticism, and the Varieties of Environmental Experience"
John Snarey: "All Unplanned for and Unexpected: William James on the Nature of Religious Experiences"
James Pawelski: "Beyond Healthy-Mindedness: William James, Positive Psychology and the Science of Well-Being"
Henry Greenspan: "Trauma, Testimony and Pluralistic Tolerance" (tentative)
Eric Charles: "Edwin Bissell Holt’s William James"
J. C. Hallman: "The Moral Equivalent of Paradise: William James and Utopian Thought"
Alexandra Pleshoyano: "William James’s Varieties of 'Spiritual' Experience"
Deborah Whitehead: "James’s Middle Way: Beyond Pragmatism"
Donald Crosby: "Mind and Body, Self and World in William James"
Renato Kinouchi: "Does Consciousness Still Exist?"
Nobuo Kazashi: "From James to Nishida and Soseki: Two Metamorphoses of the Jamesian Philosophy of 'Pure Experience' in Modern Japanese Thought"
Robert Richardson: "Will You or Won’t You Have It So?: James on the Will"
Miriam Strube: "Racing Pragmatism"
Trygve Throntveit: "James, Obama and Deliberative Pragmatism"
Kevin Zdiara: "Horace M. Kallen and the Legacy of William James"
Mark Franklin: "The Will to Believe and the Will to Truth"
Lee McBride: "William James and Weak Moral Objectivism"
Tadd Ruetenik: "The Book of James: Pragmatism and the Research of Gary Schwartz"
Mike Dieciuc: "James and the Resurgence of Psychedelic Research in Psychology"
Mike Leighton: "Standardized Measures in Psychical Research: Updated James Model for Detecting Causal Source of Agency"
Linda Simon: "'Life is in the Transitions': the James Centennial Exhibit"
Eugene Taylor: "William James and Contemporary Neurophenomenology"
Ezekiel Kimball: "'Old Truth' and 'New Fact' at Harvard: The Pragmatic Relationship of James and Eliot"
Richard Hall: "James on the Humanities"
James Kloppenberg: "What Makes William James Significant?"
Pamela Crosby: "The Social Value of Undergraduate Learning: William James on Educating Moral Leaders for Democracy"
Arthur Lothstein: "The Moment of Transition: Emerson, James and Radical Empiricism"

Further information is here:

Cfp: "Architecture + Philosophy 2011," Department of Philosophy, Boston University, April 9-10, 2011.

Thinking about architecture has long been an enterprise of philosophers and architects alike, but in recent years there has been a growing divergence between them over terminological and methodological issues. Philosophers charge architects with mishandling texts and architects charge philosophers with mishandling buildings.

But there are also other divisions among contemporary architectural theorists themselves. Some theorists concern themselves with the human experience, with ethical and poetical questions, and with sensory and aesthetic explorations of architecture and its environment. Other theorists are bent on treating architecture as a form of knowledge that takes shape as a formal and socio-political practice through tools such as language, algorithms, and diagrams. Still other theorists see their task as navigating among these sometimes quite distinct approaches.

Architecture+Philosophy 2011 seeks to clarify thought on the intersection of architecture and philosophy. Keynote speakers will be Dr. Karsten Harries and Dr. Alberto Pérez-Gómez. Two panel discussions will be held on concrete and on ethics, love, and architecture. . . .

Find further information here:

Calcagno, Antonio. Review of Eugene W. Holland, et al., eds. GILLES DELEUZE: IMAGE AND TEXT. NDPR (June 2010).

Holland, Eugene W., Daniel W. Smith, and Charles J. Stivale, eds. Gilles Deleuze: Image and Text. London: Continuum, 2009.

Eugene Holland, Daniel Smith, and Charles Stivale, three leading Deleuze scholars, have collaborated to produce a much needed and excellent book that focuses on Deleuze's work on art, film, image, text and literature as well as philosophy. The book is comprised of thirteen essays and includes an introduction by Holland. This collection stems from a conference originally held at the University of South Carolina from April 5-8, 2007, sponsored by the Program in Comparative Literature, the English Department and College of Arts and Sciences, and organized by Professor Paul Allen Miller. Featured in the text are essays by major Deleuze and Guattari scholars, including Constantin Boundas, Elizabeth Grosz, and Éric Alliez. Holland notes,
Deleuze was intensely interested in the medium of thought -- interested in both individual styles of thought and in the various genres in which thought is conducted. For thought is by no means limited to philosophy alone: it also takes place -- can also take place, in the right hands and under the right circumstances -- in science, mathematics, literature, painting and cinema, to mention some of the genres or media of thought to which Deleuze most often refers. (1)
Faithful to Deleuze's vision, the editors bring together scholars and artists to think about and extend Deleuze and Guattari's specific philosophical legacy concerning the arts and philosophy. But this collection is more than expository, as the editors have arranged the essays so that they assist readers in seeing how key concepts in Deleuze can actualize themselves through different frameworks. Holland comments,

In this volume, we have grouped essays according to genre categories -- literature, art, philosophy -- but as we and the contributors understand Deleuze's work, these categories intersect in an ongoing circulation of conceptual exchange. . . . We wish to introduce this volume by highlighting some of the transverse connections linking the essays via issues of representation, temporality, affect, sensation and counter-actualization. . . .  (2)
Read the whole review here:

Recent Reviews on MARX AND PHILOSOPHY REVIEW OF BOOKS. June 14-19, 2010.

  • Negri, Antonio.  Reflections on Empire.  Trans. Ed Emery.  Cambridge: Polity, 2008.
  • Negri, Antonio.  Empire and Beyond.  Trans. Ed Emery.  Cambridge: Polity, 2008.
Reviewed by John McSweeney.

  • Rancière, Jacques.  The Aesthetic Unconscious.  Trans. Debra Keates and James Swenson.  Cambridge: Polity, 2009. 
Reviewed by Owen Hulatt.

  • Mei, Todd S.  Heidegger, Work and Being.  London: Continuum, 2009.
Reviewed by Robert Farrow.
  • Burkett, Paul.  Marxism and Ecological Economics: Toward a Red and Green Political Economy.  Chicago: Haymarket Books, 2009.
Reviewed by Gerry Gold and Steven Harris.
  • Amartya Sen, Amartya.  The Idea of Justice.  London: Allen Lane, 2009.
Reviewed by David Marjoribanks.

Download the reviews here:

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Pinker, Steven. "Mind Over Mass Media." NEW YORK TIMES June 10, 2010.

NEW forms of media have always caused moral panics: the printing press, newspapers, paperbacks and television were all once denounced as threats to their consumers’ brainpower and moral fiber. So too with electronic technologies. PowerPoint, we’re told, is reducing discourse to bullet points. Search engines lower our intelligence, encouraging us to skim on the surface of knowledge rather than dive to its depths. Twitter is shrinking our attention spans.

But such panics often fail basic reality checks. When comic books were accused of turning juveniles into delinquents in the 1950s, crime was falling to record lows, just as the denunciations of video games in the 1990s coincided with the great American crime decline. The decades of television, transistor radios and rock videos were also decades in which I.Q. scores rose continuously.

For a reality check today, take the state of science, which demands high levels of brainwork and is measured by clear benchmarks of discovery. These days scientists are never far from their e-mail, rarely touch paper and cannot lecture without PowerPoint. If electronic media were hazardous to intelligence, the quality of science would be plummeting. Yet discoveries are multiplying like fruit flies, and progress is dizzying. Other activities in the life of the mind, like philosophy, history and cultural criticism, are likewise flourishing, as anyone who has lost a morning of work to the Web site Arts & Letters Daily can attest.

Critics of new media sometimes use science itself to press their case, citing research that shows how “experience can change the brain.” But cognitive neuroscientists roll their eyes at such talk. Yes, every time we learn a fact or skill the wiring of the brain changes; it’s not as if the information is stored in the pancreas. But the existence of neural plasticity does not mean the brain is a blob of clay pounded into shape by experience.

Read the rest here:

Schulz, Kathryn. "The Bright Side of Wrong." BOSTON GLOBE June 13, 2010.

Schulz, Kathryn.  Being Wrong: Adventures in the Margin of Error.  New York: HarperCollins-Ecco, 2010.

Being wrong, we feel, signals something terrible about us. The Italian cognitive scientist Massimo Piattelli-Palmarini summed up this sentiment nicely. We err, he wrote, because of “inattention, distraction, lack of interest, poor preparation, genuine stupidity, timidity, braggadocio, emotional imbalance,...ideological, racial, social or chauvinistic prejudices, as well as aggressive or prevaricatory instincts.” In this view — and it is the common one — our errors are evidence of our gravest social, intellectual, and moral failings.

Of all the things we’re wrong about, this view of error might well top the list. As ashamed as we may feel of our mistakes, they are not a byproduct of all that’s worst about being human. On the contrary: They’re a byproduct of all that’s best about us. We don’t get things wrong because we are uninformed and lazy and stupid and evil. We get things wrong because we get things right. The more scientists understand about cognitive functioning, the more it becomes clear that our capacity to err is utterly inextricable from what makes the human brain so swift, adaptable, and intelligent.

Misunderstanding our mistakes in this way — seeing them as evidence of flaws and an indictment of our overall worth — exacts a steep toll on us, in private and public life alike. Doing so encourages us to deny our own errors and despise ourselves for making them. It permits us to treat those we regard as wrong with condescension or cruelty. It encourages us to make business and political leaders of those who refuse to entertain the possibility that they are mistaken. And it impedes our efforts to prevent errors in domains, such as medicine and aviation, where we truly cannot afford to get things wrong.

If we hope to avoid those outcomes, we need to stop treating errors like the bedbugs of the intellect — an appalling and embarrassing nuisance we try to pretend out of existence. What’s called for is a new way of thinking about wrongness, one that recognizes that our fallibility is part and parcel of our brilliance. If we can achieve that, we will be better able to avoid our costliest mistakes, own up to those we make, and reduce the conflict in our lives by dealing more openly and generously with both other people’s errors and our own.

To change how we think about wrongness, we must start by understanding how we get things right. . . .

Get the answer here:

Visit the book's website here:

Fish, Stanley. "Styles of Judging: the Rhetoric and the Reality." OPINIONATOR BLOG. NEW YORK TIMES June 14, 2010.

The upcoming judiciary committee hearings on the nomination of Elena Kagan to be an associate justice of the Supreme Court will likely unfold under the shadow of Chief Justice John G. Roberts’ declaration (at his own hearing) that “judges are like umpires; umpires don’t make the rules, they apply them.” Kagan will probably be asked to pledge allegiance to this account of judging and repudiate its disreputable alternative — judges who make law, legislate from the bench and import their politics into precincts where they don’t belong.

In a new book, Beyond the Formalist-Realist Divide: The Role of Politics in Judging, Brian Z. Tamanaha first describes the opposition that has such a hold on the public’s imagination — on the one hand “self-applying legal rules,” on the other “judges pursuing their personal preferences beneath a veneer of legal rules” — and then debunks it. His argument is that although historians, legal theorists, political scientists and sometimes judges themselves have over time constructed a “standard chronicle” in which these two views of judging vie for supremacy, no one has ever been a genuine adherent of either: “No one thinks that law is autonomous and judging is mechanical deduction, and rare is the jurist who thinks that judges are engaged in the single minded pursuit of their personal preferences.”

Why then has what Tamanaha calls “this myth” managed to flourish? One answer is that it serves the ends of those who wish to accuse one another of bad judicial behavior. . . .

Read the rest here:


Tamanaha, Brian Z.  Beyond the Formalist-Realist Divide: the Role of Politics in Judging.  Princeton: Princeton UP, 2009.

According to conventional wisdom in American legal culture, the 1870s to 1920s was the age of legal formalism, when judges believed that the law was autonomous and logically ordered, and that they mechanically deduced right answers in cases. In the 1920s and 1930s, the story continues, the legal realists discredited this view by demonstrating that the law is marked by gaps and contradictions, arguing that judges construct legal justifications to support desired outcomes. This often-repeated historical account is virtually taken for granted today, and continues to shape understandings about judging. In this groundbreaking book, esteemed legal theorist Brian Tamanaha thoroughly debunks the formalist-realist divide.

Drawing from extensive research into the writings of judges and scholars, Tamanaha shows how, over the past century and a half, jurists have regularly expressed a balanced view of judging that acknowledges the limitations of law and of judges, yet recognizes that judges can and do render rule-bound decisions. He reveals how the story about the formalist age was an invention of politically motivated critics of the courts, and how it has led to significant misunderstandings about legal realism.

Beyond the Formalist-Realist Divide traces how this false tale has distorted studies of judging by political scientists and debates among legal theorists. Recovering a balanced realism about judging, this book fundamentally rewrites legal history and offers a fresh perspective for theorists, judges, and practitioners of law.

Brian Z. Tamanaha is professor of law at Washington University School of Law. His books include On the Rule of Law and Law as a Means to an End.

Further information may be found here:

PHILOSOPHY'S OTHER Listed at #8 on "50 Philosophy Blogs to Help You Find the Meaning of Life."

Thanks to institutions such as school, the public library, houses of religious worship, and the internet, everyone has a portal to exploring all the ideologies that have molded the world and its peoples into what they are today. The following blogs, listed in no particular order, serve as an admittedly barebones guide to some of what floats about in academic and hobbyist circles. They were chosen for not only their content and legibility, but frequency of updates as well. Use them and their contemporaries as a stepping stone to opening up the mind to new ideas and possibilities. . . .

To borrow a phrase from Eugene Hütz, Philosophy’s Other could very well be considered the “super theory for supereverything.” It covers mankind’s perceptions of tops as diverse as architecture, psychology, and rhetoric in addition to discussing journal publications and conferences.

Access the list here:

Monday, June 14, 2010

"The Legal Case: Interdisciplinary Perspectives," Law and Literary Studies Colloquium, Hong Kong University, June 23-25, 2010.

The doctrine of stare decisis, whereby courts are bound by precedent cases, underpins legal reasoning in the common law world. At the same time, the legal judgment is itself a product of institutional and linguistic practices, and raises broader questions about the foundations and boundaries of law. This colloquium re-examines the seemingly familiar notion of a 'legal case' by exploring the histories, practices, conventions and rhetoric of 'case law'. It will also investigate the interaction between cases and other discourses such as fiction, drama and film. Speakers will include legal philosophers, legal historians, literary critics, and linguists who work at the intersection of law and the humanities.

Visit the conference website here:

Keneally, Christine. "Language Lessons: You Are What You Speak." NEW SCIENTIST June 1, 2010.

LANGUAGES are wonderfully idiosyncratic. English puts its subject before its verb. Finnish has lots of cases. Mandarin is highly tonal.

Yet despite these differences, one of the most influential ideas in the study of language is that of universal grammar. Put forward by Noam Chomsky in the 1960s, it is widely interpreted as meaning that all languages are basically the same and that the human brain is born language-ready, with an in-built program that is able to decipher the common rules underpinning any mother tongue. For five decades this idea has dominated work in linguistics, psychology and cognitive science. To understand language, it implied, you must sweep aside the dazzling diversity of languages and find the common human core.

But what if the very diversity of languages is the key to understanding human communication? This is the idea being put forward by linguists Nicholas Evans of the Australian National University in Canberra and Stephen Levinson of the Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics in Nijmegen, the Netherlands. They believe that languages do not share a common set of rules. Instead, they say, their sheer variety is a defining feature of human communication - something not seen in other animals. And that's not all. Language diversity is the "crucial fact for understanding the place of language in human cognition", Levinson and Evans argue. . . .

Thanks for the tip to Marcel Pragnell (

Read the rest here:

"Wilson Harris Knighted." STABROEK NEWS June 14, 2010.

United Kingdom–based Guyanese writer Wilson Harris has been knighted by Queen Elizabeth, the honour coinciding with Her Majesty’s birthday celebrations this year.  A writer of fiction and non-fiction essays, Theodore Wilson Harris featured on Queen Elizabeth’s 2010 birthday honours list for his contribution to literature and he joins several other Guyanese who have been similarly honoured. . . .

Read the rest here:

Cfp: "The Future of Continental Philosophy of Religion," Postmodernism, Culture and Religion 4, Syracuse University, April 7-9, 2011.

Paper submissions are invited on the topic "The Future of Continental Philosophy of Religion," its past and present, its history and its prospects, in the widest possible terms, addressing the whole range of its implications—politics, feminism, constructive theology, philosophy, history, literature, interfaith dialogue, and the hermeneutics of sacred texts.

In the past, these conferences, which have provided a forum for the most influential philosophers, theologians, and cultural theorists to interact, have consisted solely of several keynote speakers. This conference will be different. It will feature three plenary speakers and offer multiple concurrent sessions devoted to papers submitted on a diversity of issues relating to the primary theme. This call for papers is deliberately open, befitting the conference's animating concern with the future. Papers are invited that address questions like (but not limited to) the following:
  • What now, or what comes next—specifically, after the death, if not of God, at least of the generation consisting of Derrida, Deleuze, Foucault, Levinas, etc.? This question concerns not only the future after those significant theorists, but also the future after-life of these eminent minds who have left such a deep impact on Continental philosophy of religion.
  • What is the future of Kant and German Idealism, of Kierkegaard and Nietzsche in Continental philosophy of religion?
  • What remains for the future of phenomenology? Of the "theological turn" in the phenomenology of Jean-Luc Marion and others? Of Gadamer, Ricoeur and philosophical hermeneutics? Of apophatic or mystical theology?
  • What is the future of feminism and Continental philosophy of religion?
  • What are the status and future of the new trinity of Agamben, Badiou and Zizek?
  • What relevance do the political interpretations of Antonio Negri, Michael Hardt, and the more recent Continental philosophers such as François Laruelle and Catherine Malabou have to philosophy of religion and political theology?
  • What about the future of sovereignty, of money and capitalism, as in the work of Philip Goodchild?
  • What is the future of the movements of Radical Orthodoxy and of radical death of God theology, whether in their original or contemporary manifestations?
  • What about the new sciences of information and complexity in thinkers like Mark C. Taylor and Michel Serres?
  • What about Continental philosophy of religion and our “companion species” in Donna Haraway?
  • What about “Post-Humanism”?
  • What is the future of Continental Philosophy of religion and Judaism? And Islam? Or world religions generally?
  • What is the relationship between postmodernism, religion and postcolonialism?
  • What role can Continental philosophy play in the future of religion? In the professional study of religion?
  • How does Continental philosophical theology relate to the ethnological and empirical-scientific study of religion?
  • How does Continental philosophy of religion differ from traditional philosophy of religion? Or from analytic philosophy of religion?
  • What is continental philosophy of religion anyway?

JOHN D. CAPUTO, Watson Professor of Religion and Philosophy, Syracuse University (

PHILIP GOODCHILD, Professor of Theology and Religious Studies, University of Nottingham(

CATHERINE MALABOU, Professor of Philosophy, University of Paris-X, Nanterre (

Visit the conference website here:

Bakewell, Sarah. "Montaigne, Philosopher of Life, Part 6: The Moment is Everything." GUARDIAN June 14, 2010.

The idea of cultivating full awareness of every instant owed much to the Stoic and Epicurean philosophers of antiquity. One of Montaigne's favourites, Seneca, wrote that life runs through our fingers like water. We cannot stem the flow, but we can drink deeply while it is there. Philosophy helps to remind us to do this. It works like the mynah birds in Aldous Huxley's novel Island, which are trained to fly around all day calling "Attention! Attention!" and "Here and now!" The pages of Montaigne's book were his mynah birds. So determined was he to squeeze out every drop of his life's experience that he had a long-suffering servant wake him repeatedly in the middle of the night, so he could catch a glimpse of his own sleep as it left him. No wonder the 20th-century philosopher Maurice Merleau-Ponty described Montaigne as someone who put "a consciousness astonished at itself at the core of human existence".

Montaigne liked to say that the Essays were a casual pursuit, thrown on paper in idle hours. But at times he confessed to the difficulties of this discipline of attention and astonishment. "It is a thorny undertaking, and more so than it seems, to follow a movement so wandering as that of our mind, to penetrate the opaque depths of its innermost folds."

As he got older and realised that the life remaining to him could not be of great length, he exerted himself even more. "I try to increase it in weight," he wrote, "I try to arrest the speed of its flight by the speed with which I grasp it ... The shorter my possession of life, the deeper and fuller I must make it." At every moment, he brought himself back to himself. "When I walk alone in the beautiful orchard, if my thoughts have been dwelling on extraneous incidents for some part of the time, for some other part I bring them back to the walk, to the orchard, to the sweetness of this solitude, and to me."

The result was an almost Zen-like presence of mind in the moment. . . .

Read the rest here:

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Huenemann, Charlie. Review of Julian Young, NIETZSCHE: A PHILOSOPHICAL BIOGRAPHY. NDPR (June 2010).

Young, Julian. Nietzsche: a Philosophical Biography. Cambridge: CUP, 2010. Simply put, this is an excellent biography of Nietzsche, and a model of what a philosophical biography should be. Young offers a smooth integration of biographical detail and philosophical analysis so that one can readily see how Nietzsche's life and thought informed one another. He stakes out some controversial interpretive claims, but even setting these aside, Young has produced a study that must be read by every Nietzsche scholar and by anyone interested more generally in the shaping of the modern philosophical landscape. Among other Nietzsche biographies available in English, Young's biography improves hugely upon Safranski (2002) and Hollingdale (1965), and sizably upon both Kaufmann (1950) and Hayman (1980) in scope and detail. It is a difficult balance to achieve, but Young has a keen sense of exactly how much detail to relate without becoming tedious and tiresome. He vividly describes the particulars of Nietzsche's very real "living concerns" -- his fragile health, his financial limits, his changing relations with family and friends, and his constant quest to find the atmospheric conditions for his work -- without reducing Nietzsche's thoughts to these concerns. Young preserves this balance by alternating between sections of mainly biographical material and sections with more substantive philosophical analysis. He usefully enlists a wide array of materials, from Nietzsche's notebooks to the correspondence of his various acquaintances (both with Nietzsche and with one another) in order to illuminate Nietzsche's life and thought. And so we are provided with helpful accounts of the relevant historical and political circumstances, including the events of the Franco-Prussian war, Bismarck's rise to power, and the growth of Bayreuth and the Wagner industry. At the same time, we are given stimulating and informed philosophical discussions of Hölderlin, Schopenhauer, and (once again) Wagner. All of these discussions combine to provide a rich sense of Nietzsche's circumstances -- social, historical, and intellectual. . . . Read the rest here:

Lec: Stephen White, "Continental and/versus Analytical Political Thought," University College London, June 14, 2010.

Prof Stephen White (University of Virginia) will be giving a talk entitled 'Continental and/versus Analytical Political Thought' on Monday 14 June in London. The discussant will be Prof Jane Bennet (Johns Hopkins University). Venue: The Council Room, School of Public Policy, 29/30 Tavistock Sq, London WC1H 9QU. Time: 5-7 pm, 14 June 2010. This event is organised by UCL and the Centre for the Study of Political Thought at Queen Mary, University of London. For further information please contact Prof Jeremy Jennings at

"Wozu Hermeneutik? 50 Years since TRUTH AND METHOD," NASPH, Seattle University, September 16-18, 2010.

Update: Confirmed Speakers: Nicholas Davey, Dennis Schmidt. Original Post (April 30, 2010): 5th Annual Meeting, North American Society for Philosophical Hermeneutics. Submissions for papers are invited on all themes related to philosophical hermeneutics, but we are especially interested in papers related to Hans-Georg Gadamer’s Wahrheit und Methode, Vol. I or II of Gadamer’s Gesammelte Werke, and the question of the future development of his hermeneutics. Inorder to promote a spirit of dialogue and meaningful reflection on each paper, presenters will be asked to make their papers available for posting on our web site to be read in advance. Sessions will consist of 15-20 minutes of reflective summaries of papers, followed by 45-60 minutes of discussion. Since papers will not be read in-session, there is some flexibility regarding length: submissions may be between 3,000 and 6,000 words in length. Complete papers in English, formatted for blind review, must be submitted electronically to Attachments in either *.doc or *.rtf format are preferable. The deadline for full-paper submissions is June 15, 2010. Notifications of acceptance will be sent by July 15, 2010. Visit the conference website here: For more information about the society and/or to be put on an e-mail list, please visit our blog at or contact Monica Vilhauer ( or Jamey Findling (

An End to the Crisis at Middlesex?

The campaign to save our philosophy programmes has just won a partial but significant victory: Kingston University in south-west London announced today that it will re-establish our Centre for Research in Modern European Philosophy (CRMEP) at Kingston, by employing the four senior staff in Philosophy at Middlesex (Eric Alliez, Peter Hallward, Peter Osborne and Stella Sandford). Our MA and PhD programmes (full-time and part-time) will be re-launched at Kingston this September, and all current post-graduate students will be invited to move along with the staff. . . . [I was wondering when a smart university would take advantage of this opportunity. . . .] Read the rest of the announcement here:

Monday, June 07, 2010

"Concepts of Tradition in Phenomenology." STUDIA PHAENOMENOLOGICA 11 (2011).

The 2011 issue of Studia Phaenomenologica is dedicated to the topic: Concepts of Tradition in Phenomenology. As it is commonly known, Husserl’s phenomenology demanded at its first breakthrough a total refutation of all uncertified knowledge, theory or meaning inherited from the past. However, the development of phenomenological inquiry gradually resulted in a more ambiguous attitude towards history and tradition. On the one hand, history and tradition are necessary but still unfortunate distortions, which hinder phenomenological research in its strive for original self-givenness; on the other hand, they become themselves universal phenomena that must be explored as such. As recent publications of late Husserlian manuscripts have revealed, Husserl himself became more and more aware of these topics in his last decade, as he was finally inclined to interpret the Life-world itself in its full concreteness as a “generative tradition”. Tradition in this sense pertains to all meaning sprung from earlier acquisition. Therefore, the concept obviously exceeds its ordinary meaning, exclusively related to inter-subjective historical inheritance, by gaining a fundamental importance for all areas of phenomenological analysis, as they all have the characteristic of “traditionalizing”. Thus, there is “tradition” at work in all action or bodily movement, in every instance of a given situation and in any relation to another thing or being. Understood in this broad sense, the term does not address only the genetic fact of sedimentation, but also a specific, “habitual” quality that things allow to see through themselves, as bearers of a past. Hence, the theme marks an intersection of various problematic strata in Husserlian phenomenology, starting from the correlation of genetic and static phenomenology, following through different aspects of phenomenological methodology, and up to several ground-themes of phenomenological research, such as historicity, memory, language, bodily existence, inter-subjectivity, life-world and others. The same twofold relation to tradition – of growing thematic interest, on the one hand, and utter criticism, on the other – shows in the post-Husserlian phenomenology as well. Heidegger, for instance, is from his early beginnings convinced that history should be the true guideline for phenomenological research, while at the same time pleading for a systematic destruction of the philosophical tradition. A similarly ambiguous position defines his later project of transcending metaphysics, and certainly other examples can be found as well. The aim of our 2011 issue is therefore to explore the two fundamental poles that define the phenomenological approach of tradition: the task of understanding the problem of tradition thematically, on one hand, and the necessity of confronting it methodically as a residual distortion, on the other hand. We welcome all submissions addressing either one of these two landmarks. Contributions to the late Husserlian topic of “tradition”, in its universal acceptation or in some concrete life-worldly application, are particularly encouraged, as well as submissions dealing with other, post-Husserlian, phenomenological approaches to the concept of “tradition”. Contact:

"Edmund Burke." IN OUR TIME. BBC Radio 4.

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the work of the eighteenth-century philosopher, politician and writer Edmund Burke. Born in Dublin, Burke began his career in London as a journalist and made his name with two works of philosophy before entering Parliament. There he quickly established a reputation as one of the most formidable orators of an age which also included Pitt the Younger. When unrest began in America in the 1760s, Burke was quick to defend the American colonists in their uprising. But it was his response to another revolution which ensured he would be remembered by posterity. In 1790 he published Reflections on the Revolution in France, a work of great literary verve which attacked the revolutionaries and predicted disaster for their project. The book prompted Thomas Paine to write his masterpiece Rights of Man, and Mary Wollstonecraft was among the others to take part in the ensuing pamphlet war. Burke's influence shaped our parliamentary democracy and attitude to Empire, and lingers today. With: Karen O'Brien, Professor of English at the University of Warwick Richard Bourke, Senior Lecturer in History at Queen Mary, University of London John Keane, Professor of Politics at the University of Sydney.

Listen here:

"Yes, but How do you Know? Scepticism and Philosophy." PHILOSOPHER'S ZONE June 5, 2010.

This week, we meet Stephen Hetherington, Professor of Philosophy at the University of New South Wales, who believes that sceptical thinking is one of the most authentic forms of philosophical thinking there is. Scepticism isn't just any old refusal to believe: it's an orderly reconsideration of what we know and why we think we know it. How much can we know about our surroundings? Do we in fact have any surroundings or could we just be disembodied brains in vats being fed what feels like experience? Scepticism is a radical way of thinking and, in a way, it's the beginning of thinking philosophically. Listen here:

Goldblatt, David. Review of Barry Allen, ARTIFICE AND DESIGN. NDPR (June 2010).

Allen, Barry. Artifice and Design: Art and Technology in Human Experience. Ithaca: Cornell UP 2008. Barry Allen's new book is unusual in its enormous chronological scope and its vast geographical coverage. Artifice and Design: Art and Technology in Human Experience takes us from the Upper Paleolithic Age to the present time and from East Africa to the lifelines of Manhattan. To say that it is interdisciplinary is to understate his attempt to be everywhere academically. Allen turns to "evolutionary biology, cognitive psychology, science studies, aesthetics, and the history, philosophy, and anthropology of art and technology" to put in place his panoramic thesis. In its refusal to accept widely accepted views, Artifice and Design is as stubborn as it is provocative. Disagreement with Allen on the history and conceptual analysis of humanity's relationship to art and artifice should not prevent strong praise for his undertaking. So what is it about? Allen claims that the civilization that best manages its technology, the society of well-made works, must include the humanizing appeal of art -- a consideration of aesthetics. Beginning before the existence of what are believed to be the first tools and working up through the history of modern building and contemporary manufacturing, Allen insists that aesthetics, the way things look and feel, has been part of good design and, then, good engineering. Artifice, or workmanship, he says, is intimately connected to a work's perceptual appeal. Whatever else is involved in putting something together, its success requires perceptual concern as well. And art is, or ought to be, not disinterested perception, not art for art's sake, not exiled in museums or otherwise isolated from human life, but rather an integrated part of life, just as technology is irreversibly at one with how we live. Allen is a contextualist. When we utilize and evaluate artifacts, cars for example, we must also consider their effects and recognize that smog too is an artifact whose history is at one with the history of the automobile. So artifacts can be coherent or incoherent with the motives that originated them. Talk about technology always includes talk about a tradition of design and an economy of a people. Designers of machines need to care about what happens to them when machines are no longer needed or when they stop working. When retired, can they be recycled or repaired, or will they simply be added to the accumulating world of trash? "Repair," he says very nicely, "is a kind of care . . . Repair is a caring reply to skill's art". Allen prefaces his discussion of technology with nothing less than speculations on the origins of knowledge. Knowledge, he claims, has little to do with the modern and contemporary epistemology of the epistemologists. For Allen, knowledge begins with doing something. . . . Read the whole review here:

"Breaking up Time: Settling the Borders Between the Present, the Past and the Future," Albert Ludwigs Universität Freiburg, April 7–9, 2011.

Sponsored by Freiburg Institute for Advanced Studies and School of History. Since the birth of modernity history has presupposed the existence of ‘the past’ as its object, yet the concept of ‘the past’ and the distinction between the categories of ‘the past’, ‘the present’ and ‘the future’ have seldom been reflected upon within the boundaries of the discipline. Indeed the question of time has largely been omitted from the agenda of history. We feel that it is about time for historians and philosophers of history to start to analyze how cultures in general and historians in particular actually distinguish ‘the past’ from ‘the present’ and ‘the future’, and how their interrelationships are constructed: is distinguishing between past, present and future simply a matter of passively ‘recognizing’ or ‘observing’, what is ‘natural’ and ‘undeniable’, or does it involve a more active stance in which social actors create and recreate these divisions? Can we claim to know precisely how ‘present’ social and cultural phenomena turn into (or come to be perceived/recognized as) past phenomena? It seems worthwhile to make a connection between the historical and the philosophical debates about the temporal distinctions between ‘past’, ‘present’ and ‘future’. What have so far been lacking are comparative analyses of the variety of ways in which historians and historical actors have been breaking up time in practice. Both historians and philosophers have emphasized the role played by catastrophic political ruptures, for example revolutions and major wars, in ‘breaking up time’. However, the effects of these ‘transformative events’ on notions of temporality have hardly been studied in a comparative perspective and as ‘performative’ events. ‘Year 1’ in the French Revolution and ‘Stunde Null’ in post-1945 Germany probably are two of the most well known examples of this type of event in ‘the past’, but the end of the Cold War in 1990 may be considered as the most ‘epoch making’ event in ‘the present’. The workshop solicits papers which focus on (preferably two) ‘transformative events’ and compare the ways in which they have recalibrated thinking about the relationship between the ‘past’, ‘present’ and ‘future’. The temporal framework of the workshop covers classical and high modernity, that is: from 1789 until today. As to the spatial framework the workshop is subdivided in three clusters: 1. Europe; 2. Europe and its colonies; 3.Europe and non-colonial ‘outer-Europe’. Please send proposals of maximum 500 words before 15 September 2010 to Chris Lorenz ( and Berber Bevernage ( You will be notified about the acceptance of your contribution and the preliminary program in early November 2010.FRIAS will reimburse accommodation and travel costs of the participants. Papers submitted to the workshop will be considered for publication. Confirmed participants include: Lynn Hunt (University of California, Los Angeles) François Hartog (École des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales, Paris) Constantin Fasolt (University of Chicago) Sebastian Conrad (European University Institute, Florence) Peter Osborne (Middlesex University, London) Aziz Al-Azmeh (Central European University, Budapest) Lucian Hölscher (Ruhr-Universität Bochum) Peter Fritzsche (University of Illinois) For more information see website:

"Reading Sartre: on Phenomenology and Existentialism," École Normale Supérieure, September 20-21, 2010.

A two-day conference on Sartre's philosophy of the 1930s and 1940s. Conference will launch the book Jonathan Webber, ed. Reading Sartre: On Phenomenology and Existentialism. London: Routledge, 2010. Papers include: The Ethics of Authenticity – Christine Daigle (Brock) Imagination in Non-Representational Painting – Andreas Elpidorou (Boston) What Is It Like To Be Free? – Matthew C. Eshleman (North Carolina Wilmington) The Transcendental Dimension of Sartre’s Philosophy – Sebastian Gardner (UCL) Being Colonized – Azzedine Haddour (UCL) A Sartrean Critique of Introspection – Anthony Hatzimoysis (Athens) Imagination and Affective Response – Robert Hopkins (Sheffield) The Significance of Context in Illustrative Examples – Andrew Leak (UCL) The Graceful, the Ungraceful, and the Disgraceful – Katherine J. Morris (Oxford) Magic in Sartre’s Early Philosophy – Sarah Richmond (UCL) Alienation, Objectification, and the Primacy of Virtue – Alan Thomas (Tilburg) Bad Faith and the Other – Jonathan Webber (Cardiff) Pre-Reflective Self-Consciousness and the Autobiographical Ego – Kenneth Williford (Texas Arlington) Shame and the Exposed Self – Dan Zahavi (Copenhagen) Further information may be found here:

Crockett, Clayton. Review of Frederiek Depoortere, BADIOU AND THEOLOGY. NDPR (June 2010).

Depoortere, Frederiek. Badiou and Theology. London: Continuum, 2009. Despite Badiou's professed atheism, there are a number of ways that his philosophy can be related to theology. The value of Depoortere's book is that it is not simply a survey but a constructive engagement with Badiou's thought, centered on his set-theoretic ontology. This value, however, is also a limitation, because Depoortere's overall engagement is somewhat idiosyncratic and incoherent, as I will discuss below. After an introduction that provides helpful context for reading Badiou in terms of Christian theology, the rest of the book consists of three fascinating but uneven chapters. The body of the book represents an attempt to articulate, justify and defend a proof of God's existence in both traditional Thomistic and modern set-theoretical terms, over against Badiou's atheistic interpretation of set-theoretic ontology. . . . Read the whole review here:

Chambers, Samuel A. Review of Stephen B. Smith, ed. CAMBRIDGE COMPANION TO LEO STRAUSS. NDPR (June 2010).

Smith, Stephen B., ed. Cambridge Companion to Leo Strauss. Cambridge: CUP, 2009. Readers looking for a fight, or the next round of an on-going fight, will not find it here. And by "here" I mean to refer both to the book under review and this review itself. In just the past six years there have been at least a dozen books published on Strauss and Straussians, on the work of the thinker and on the politics of his putative influence over his students. A student of philosophy who somehow missed the entirety of the past decade might pick up Smith's collection of essays and see nothing more than a standard, rigorous academic treatment of a philosopher in the Cambridge Series. Yet anyone who has paid even scant attention to the recent literature would see something else as well: a careful and purposive choice to avoid rehashing the debate between, on the one hand, those who wish to draw the link between Strauss and neoconservatism and/or the Iraq War and, on the other, those who wish to break that connection, to defend Strauss (and sometimes, but not always, his students as well) from those charges. Instead, and keeping well with the mission statement of the Cambridge Companion to Philosophy series -- to overcome "intimidation" and "serve as a reference for students and non specialists" -- Smith has assembled a very sober volume. As Smith says in his lucid and succinct introduction, he has brought together the ten essays in the volume (plus his intro and his own brief biographical overview of Strauss's life and work, for a total of 12 chapters) in order "to canvass the wide range of Strauss's interests" (6). Some might question whether the term "wide-ranging" can aptly be applied to the group of contributing authors, most of whom are either self-identified Straussians, students of Strauss, or scholars who have taught or studied at the University of Chicago. Yet I use this passive construction not to smuggle in my own criticism on this front, but rather to displace it. Many recent works on Strauss and contemporary politics have become caught up in a hopeless and seemingly endless process of name calling, and I have no interest in playing that game. More importantly, it should not come as a surprise that when faced with the editorial task of finding experts on Strauss to contribute to an edited volume, Smith would wind up choosing many individuals who fall into one of these three groups. Finally, Smith has, in fact, brought together a wide array of approaches to Strauss – including some criticisms. More importantly, the book proves broad in terms of themes (from the problem of modernity, to religion and reason, to social science method, to political regimes), time periods (from early writings and letters, some still not translated into English, through the well-known and widely-read books, to late essays and spoken remarks), and approaches (some authors treat Strauss as a scholar and actor in his own right, some take him as a teacher, and some address him as a philosopher engaging with timeless questions). . . . Read the whole review here:

Prado, C. G. Review of Lee Braver, A THING OF THIS WORLD. NDPR (June 2010).

Braver, Lee. A Thing of This World: a History of Continental Anti-Realism. Evanston, IL: Northwestern UP, 2007. This impressive book is characterized by three special virtues: first, it presents difficult philosophical ideas and developments clearly; second, it manifests an unusual and admirable facility with both analytic and continental positions and methodologies; and third, it boasts an extraordinary level of scholarship. My strongest endorsement of Braver's book is that I dearly wish I'd had it two decades ago. . . . The Introduction begins with a comparison of the contemporary split between analytic and continental philosophy and the split between rationalism and empiricism at the end of the eighteenth century, a split that culminated in rationalist metaphysical excess and empiricist epistemological bankruptcy. Braver maintains that the ground for reconciliation of analytic and continental philosophy is "the very idea that forms the core of the Critique of Pure Reason and the linchpin of its rationalist-empiricist synthesis" and this is "the idea that the mind actively organizes experience" (5). This is where Braver's originality shows itself, and also where things begin to get complicated for readers who don't approach the book with an open mind. Braver goes on to say that the mind's organizing activity is seen as entailing anti-realism by analytic philosophers and has been extensively discussed by such notables as Davidson, Dummett, Goodman, Putnam, Quine, and Wittgenstein. Given Kant's influence on continental thought, the mind's organizing activity is also pivotal for continental philosophers. Braver's idea is that if the two traditions' different vocabularies are properly understood and correlated by members of each, we will be able to "identify Kant's idea as seminal for both camps" and thereby have a basis for "informed dialogue and debate" (5). . . . Read the whole review here:

Annual Conference, International Society for the Study of Narrative, Washington University of St. Louis, April 7-10, 2011.

The 2011 Narrative Conference is an interdisciplinary forum addressing all dimensions of narrative theory and practice. The conference is sponsored by Washington University in St. Louis and the International Society for the Study of Narrative. Keynote Speakers: Patrick Colm Hogan,University of Connecticut Janet H. Murray, Georgia Institute of Technology Michael Rothberg, University of Illinois Organizers: Emma Kafalenos, Erin McGlothlin, Visit the conference website here:

Update on Middlesex University Philosophy Crisis.

See Vice Chancellor Michael Driscoll's update on philosophy provision here: See Stella Sandford's response on behalf of the philosophy programmes here:

Bernstein, J. M. Review of Axel Honneth, THE PATHOLOGIES OF INDIVIDUAL FREEDOM. NDPR (June 2010).

Honneth, Axel. The Pathologies of Individual Freedom: Hegel's Social Theory. Trans. Ladislaus Löb. Princeton: Princeton UP, 2009. What do we want from political philosophy now? The fundamental enterprise of the discipline over the past half century seems to have been normative reassurance: providing vindication of universally binding ethical first principles as they apply to the basic structures regulating human interaction. One patent cost of philosophically securing reassurance has been the methodological necessity of abstracting the political subject from the concrete institutions in fact constitutive of modern life in general: the nuclear family, the capitalist market, and the liberal state. But what if not just the social identity of the modern subject is constituted through these three forms of social practice, but the ethico-political ambitions and meaning of moral modernity are themselves somehow congealed in the way in which these core institutions are articulated with one another? What if the joining of deontology and methodological individualism simultaneously obscures and deforms both the ethical contours of modernity and the way we as modern subjects live out our commitments? What if the methodological orientations of political philosophy in providing normative reassurance effectively alienate us from political reality? According to Axel Honneth, a fierce version of this thought is a premise of Hegel's social theory. Given its emphatic binding of categorial self-reflection to social reality, Hegel's Philosophy of Right (PR) has had a surprisingly insignificant effect on the politico-philosophical self-understanding of the present. Honneth avers that the most evident reasons for this lack of influence are, first, the belief that PR's apparent subordination of the freedom of the individual to the state has antidemocratic consequences; and second, the belief that the structure of Hegel's argument is bound to the conceptual apparatus of his Logic with its commitment to an ontological concept of spirit. Although running the risk of sacrificing what might be the true substance of PR for the sake of a stripped down reconstruction, Honneth's own commitment to what he terms "our own post-metaphysical standards of rationality" (5) leads him to adopt a method of indirect reactualization. Honneth is concerned with unearthing and validating the deep structures of Hegel's argument through which he is able to reposition the atomistic assumptions of social contract theory as practiced by Locke, Kant, and Fichte by folding them back into the dominant institutions of modern life, "those spheres of reciprocal recognition that must be preserved intact because they constitute the moral identity of modern societies" (5). Terming the dominant institutions "spheres of reciprocal recognition" turns Hegel's project into the forerunner to Honneth's own pioneering study, The Struggle for Recognition: The Moral Grammar of Social Conflicts (1995). Yet, and here is the hermeneutical rub, the theory of recognition does not transparently play the same formative role in PR as it does in Hegel's Phenomenology of Spirit. Honneth's philosophical gamble is thus to see if, by adopting an arm's length approach to Hegel's text its core argument can be reconstructed along recognitive lines. . . . Read the whole review here:


Mack, Michael. Spinoza and the Specters of Modernity: the Hidden Enlightenment of Diversity from Spinoza to Freud. London: Continuum, 2010. Spinoza and the Specters of Modernity draws new theoretical conclusions from a study of Spinoza’s legacy in the age of Goethe and beyond, largely transmitted through the writings of Herder, that will have implications for the study of German intellectual history and, more broadly, the study of religion and literature. Michael Mack describes how a line of writers and thinkers re-configured Spinoza’s ideas and how these ideas thus became effective in society at large. Mack shows that the legacy of Spinoza is important because he was the first thinker to theorize narrative as the constitutive fabric of politics, identity, society, religion and the larger sphere of culture. Indeed, Mack argues for Spinoza’s writings on politics and ethics as an alternative to a Kantian conception of modernity. More information may be found here:

Cfp: "The Critical Potential of Language," Special Issue JOURNAL FUR PSYCHOLOGIE.

Spawned by the linguistic turn, and in psychology specifically by the narrative turn associated with the names of Theodor Sarbin and Jerome Bruner, language became the central focus in many areas of the social sciences. The special issue of the German Journal für Psychologie aims to look behind the curtains of this development to investigate the meaning of language for our understanding of psychic life as the core subject matter of psychological investigations. Specifically, language shall be investigated with respect to its critical potential for psychology in particular and the social sciences more generally. The works of Giambattista Vico and Johann Gottfried Herder mark an important starting point for two different developments in the conceptualization of language. The positivistic approach regards language as a tool, used by actors to communicate. Language is seen to be a specifically human ability, a system to be investigated. It is merely used in order to describe reality, from which it is completely detached. Hence, language is not seen to be actively creating something, but merely an ability to describe and capture reality. In contrast, the aim to define language can also be understood as an investigation into the being-in-the-world of subjects. The major categories such as 'world', 'reality', 'nature', 'humanity' may be counterposed or related to the category 'language', but it seems clear that all categories, including the category ' language', are themselves constructions in language, and can thus only within a particular system of thought be separated from language for relational inquiry. Thus, language is not seen as a passive tool but as the active praxis of subjects to create the world. Fundamental for this understanding are the works of Mikhail Bakhtin. He introduced a new understanding of the 'sign' which is never equivalent to what it signifies, but instead derives its meaning from social convention. Bakhtin, therefore, not only rejects a positivistic understanding of language but also de-individualizes language and renders it a social element which makes possible collaborative action. It was Lev Semyonovich Vygotsky who utilized these insights for psychology by studying the internalization of these social signs in the process of language acquisition. Another point of departure for investigations into language can be found in the works of Karl Marx. His ideas and concepts are present - even though implicitly – in the works of Bakthin as well as the Vygotsky School. Similarly implicit is the way in which Marx treats the phenomenon of language. Most commonly quoted are the Theses on Feuerbach, in which an idealistic understanding of language is countered with a dynamic-dialectical approach. Language is thus rendered as practical consciousness and combines the creative and active character of language with its analytic character. While the above outlines only a few approaches among many to a critical understanding of language, this special issue of the Journal für Psychologie aims at exploring language as a concept that is capable of critique. Is language emancipatory per se, creative, and as such critical? Or do we need a specific concept of language in order to unfold its critical potential? Is it possible to deconstruct existing illusions, ideologies and fetish form by means of language? And most importantly: To what extent is it possible to envision a critical psychology that utilizes the power of language? Abstracts (approx. 2 pages) should be submitted to no later than August 31, 2010.

Bakewell, Sarah. "Montaigne, Philosopher of Life, Part 5: Humanity, Cruelty and Fellow-Feeling." GUARDIAN June 7, 2010.

Philosophical detachment went against Montaigne's grain because of his natural tendency to empathise with others, and to sympathise with them – in the full, original sense of this word, meaning "to feel with". Watching a human or animal in pain, Montaigne felt some of that pain himself. This made it impossible for him to collaborate in the cruel judicial procedures of the day. As a magistrate and mayor of Bordeaux, he was expected to order tortures and public killings, but refused to do so. "I am so squeamish about hurting that for the service of reason itself I cannot do it. And when occasions have summoned me to sentencing criminals, I have tended to fall short of justice". In any case, he knew torture to be useless as an investigative procedure: people will say anything at all to stop the pain. As for burning witches, "it is putting a very high price on one's conjectures to have a man roasted alive because of them". Montaigne lived in an era when standards of evidence were being relaxed for witchcraft trials, because – as his contemporary Jean Bodin influentially argued – witches were uniquely strong at resisting interrogation, yet their planned crimes were uniquely dangerous and must be prevented at all costs. Medieval torture techniques had been revived after years of disuse, on the all-too-reasonable-sounding argument that the public good required it. Always sceptical of reasonable-sounding arguments, Montaigne remained unconvinced. In any case, he was too connected to other beings to be able to countenance their suffering, regardless of justifications. "I cruelly hate cruelty", he wrote, emphasising the paradox. It was an aversion of feeling as much as of reason. Not suprisingly, he disliked hunting, although his position as noble host occasionally obliged him to start a deer hunt in his woods for guests: he mentions doing this once for Henri of Navarre, the future Henri IV. Similarly, he was expected to supply meat to his cooks for his sociable table, and did so – yet he could not watch a chicken having its neck wrung in the yard. In his book, Montaigne presents all this as an accident of his own temperament. At the same time, he derives a powerful ethical code from it: an ethics founded in the body and in human nature. It is personal in origin, and he does not lay it out as a system. Yet it does, I believe, have the force of a moral law for him. . . . Read the rest here:

"Current Topics in the Human Sciences," Technische Universität Berlin, June 18-19, 2010.

The conference seeks to analyze concepts that denote characteristics typically (though not necessarily exclusively) associated with being /human/. A guiding question is whether something can be gained from putting the category of the human back on the agenda of philosophy of science and inquiring into similarities and differences between questions and problems arising in various fields that study humans. Methodologically, two features are distinctive of the approach taken here: 1. We focus on specific concepts that denote the subject matters or methods of various human sciences, but that have also been objects of reflection within philosophy for a long time (for example practice, meaning, values, empathy). 2. We bring together * philosophers of science, who think philosophically about the research done about a given object of the human sciences (for example emotions, rationality, consciousness), * philosophers working in other fields, who think about the objects of the human sciences in the context of, say, philosophy of mind or ethics, * historians of philosophy (of science), who think about the ways in which our philosophical thinking about the concepts in question have developed. These two features are meant to stimulate discussions about (a) the extent to which philosophy is (or should be) informed by scientific studies of specifically human traits, (b) the extent to which philosophy of science is (or should be) in touch with more traditional philosophical debates, and (c) the extent to which the history of the philosophy (of the human sciences) can make a systematic contribution to current philosophy (of the human sciences). Visit the conference website here: