Monday, May 30, 2011

Derrida Today Conference 2012, University of California, Irvine, July 11-13, 2012.

KEYNOTES (in alphabetical order):

Tom Cohen (University of Albany)
Penelope Deutscher (Northwestern University)
Elisabeth Roudinesco (University of Paris VII – Denis Diderot)
David Wills (University of Albany, SUNY)


The Derrida Today Conference will focus on the ongoing value of Derrida’s work to the political-ethical, cultural, artistic and public debates and 0philosophical futures that confront us.

The conference will be broadly interdisciplinary and invites contributions from a range of academic, disciplinary and cultural contexts. We will accept papers and panel proposals on any aspect of Derrida’s work or deconstruction in relation to various topics and contemporary issues, such as: philosophy, phenomenology and other theoretical/philosophical thinkers, literature, psychoanalysis, architecture and design, law, film and visual studies, haptic technologies, photography, art, music, dance, embodiment, feminism, race and whiteness studies, politics, ethics, sociology, cultural studies, queer theory, sexuality, education, science (physics, biology, medicine, chemistry), IT and multimedia, technology, etc. 


Monday, May 23, 2011

Norris, Christopher. "Hawking Contra Philosophy." PHILOSOPHY NOW May / June 2011.

Stephen Hawking recently fluttered the academic dovecotes by writing in his new book The Grand Design – and repeating to an eager company of interviewers and journalists – that philosophy as practised nowadays is a waste of time and philosophers a waste of space. More precisely, he wrote that philosophy is ‘dead’ since it hasn’t kept up with the latest developments in science, especially theoretical physics. In earlier times – Hawking conceded – philosophers not only tried to keep up but sometimes made significant scientific contributions of their own. However they were now, in so far as they had any influence at all, just an obstacle to progress through their endless going-on about the same old issues of truth, knowledge, the problem of induction, and so forth. Had philosophers just paid a bit more attention to the scientific literature they would have gathered that these were no longer live issues for anyone remotely au fait with the latest thinking. Then their options would be either to shut up shop and cease the charade called ‘philosophy of science’ or else to carry on and invite further ridicule for their head-in-the-sand attitude.

Predictably enough the journalists went off to find themselves media-friendly philosophers – not hard to do nowadays – who would argue the contrary case in a suitably vigorous way. On the whole the responses, or those that I came across, seemed overly anxious to strike a conciliatory note, or to grant Hawking’s thesis some measure of truth as judged by the standards of the natural science community while tactfully dissenting with regard to philosophy and the human sciences. I think the case needs stating more firmly and, perhaps, less tactfully since otherwise it looks like a forced retreat to cover internal disarray. Besides, there is good reason to mount a much sturdier defence on principled grounds. These have to do with the scientists’ need to philosophize and their proneness to philosophize badly or commit certain avoidable errors if they don’t take at least some passing interest in what philosophers have to say. . . .


Shermer, Michael. "Stephen Hawking's Radical Philosophy of Science." BIG QUESTIONS ONLINE November 23, 2010.

Hawking, Stephen, and Leonard Mlodinow.  The Grand Design.  New York: Bantom, 2010.

The models generated by biochemical processes in our brains constitute “reality.” None of us can ever be completely sure that the world really is as it appears, or if our minds have unconsciously imposed a misleading pattern on the data. I call this belief-dependent realism. In my forthcoming book, The Believing Brain, I demonstrate the myriad ways that our beliefs shape, influence, and even control everything we think, do, and say about the world. The power of belief is so strong that we typically form our beliefs first, then construct a rationale for holding those beliefs after the fact. I claim that the only escape from this epistemological trap is science. Flawed as it may be because it is conducted by scientists who have their own set of beliefs determining their reality, science itself has a set of methods to bypass the cognitive biases that so cripple our grasp of the reality that really does exist out there.

According to the University of Cambridge cosmologist Stephen Hawking, however, not even science can pull us out of such belief dependency. In his new book, The Grand Design, co-authored with the Caltech mathematician Leonard Mlodinow, Hawking presents a philosophy of science he calls “model-dependent realism,” which is based on the assumption that our brains form models of the world from sensory input, that we use the model most successful at explaining events and assume that the models match reality (even if they do not), and that when more than one model makes accurate predictions “we are free to use whichever model is most convenient.” Employing this method, Hawking and Mlodinow claim that “it is pointless to ask whether a model is real, only whether it agrees with observation.” . . .


Warman, Matt. "Stephen Hawking Tells Google ‘Philosophy Is Dead.’" TELEGRAPH May 17, 2011.

Stephen Hawking, the renowned physicist, has declared that “Philosophy is dead”.

Speaking to Google’s Zeitgeist Conference in Hertfordshire, the author of  A Brief History of Time said that fundamental questions about the nature of the universe could not be resolved without hard data such as that currently being derived from the Large Hadron Collider and space research. “Most of us don't worry about these questions most of the time. But almost all of us must sometimes wonder: Why are we here? Where do we come from? Traditionally, these are questions for philosophy, but philosophy is dead,” he said. “Philosophers have not kept up with modern developments in science. Particularly physics.”

Prof Hawking went on to claim that “Scientists have become the bearers of the torch of discovery in our quest for knowledge.” He said new theories “lead us to a new and very different picture of the universe and our place in it.” . . .


Saturday, May 21, 2011

Haslett, Adam. "How to Write a (Good) Sentence." SALON January 23, 2011.

Fish, Stanley.  How to Write a Sentence and How to Read One.  New York: HarperCollins, 2011.

This question of how forms of writing produce forms of thought is one that the literary critic and legal scholar Stanley Fish has been wrestling with most of his career. He first came to prominence in the late 1970s with his theory of "interpretative communities." This held that all readings of literary texts are inescapably bound up with the cultural assumptions of readers, an uncontroversial proposition now but one that quickly earned him the sloppy epithet of "relativist." In the late 1980s and early 1990s he turned the Duke University English department into the headquarters of the then-burgeoning "theory" industry before, in 1999, surprising the academic world by moving to the University of Illinois at Chicago, where he set himself the task of trying to renovate undergraduate education in basic skills like writing. Though he doesn't mention that experience in his new book, How To Write a Sentence and How To Read One, it's not far offstage. The problem with Strunk & White, in Fish's view, is that "they assume a level of knowledge and understanding only some of their readers will have attained," that is, the Cornell kids whose secondary education did at least a halfway decent job of teaching them the basics.

Fish's aim is to offer a guide to sentence craft and appreciation that is both deeper and more democratic. What, at base, is a sentence? he asks, and then goes on to argue that the standard answer based in parts of speech and rules of grammar teaches students "nothing about how to write." Instead, we should be examining the "logical relationships" within different sentence forms to see how they organize the world. His argument is that you can learn to write and later become a good writer by understanding and imitating these forms from many different styles. Thus, if you're drawn to Jonathan Swift's biting satire in the sentence, "Last week I saw a woman flayed, and you will hardly believe how much it altered her person for the worse," then, Fish advises, "Put together two mildly affirmative assertions, the second of which reacts to the first in a way that is absurdly inadequate." He offers, "Yesterday I saw a man electrocuted and it really was surprising how quiet he became." Lame, and hardly Swift, as Fish is the first to admit, but identifying the logical structure does specify how satire functions at the level of the sentence and, if you want to employ the form, that's a good thing to know. . . .


Diski, Jenny. "Save It for HBO." LONDON REVIEW OF BOOKS March 17, 2011.

Fish, Stanley.  The Fugitive in Flight Faith, Liberalism, and Law in a Classic TV Show.  Pennsylvania: U of Pennsylvania P, 2010.

Academics: beware of loving what you write about. Fandom can tempt intellectuals to take uncharacteristic risks with their primary sources. Even Stanley Fish, who as the author of Is There a Text In This Class? knows better than anyone how important the division of insider and outsider is for keeping amateurs at bay. In 1993, Fish-the-fan, enamoured of the American television series The Fugitive, joined the faithful at a convention in Hollywood to rerun, adore and discuss the episodes, to listen to actors and directors of the programme talk about their experience. There’s probably an internally understood hierarchy of TV series obsessives, but I don’t know where Fugitive-heads come in relation to Trekkies, Python freaks or Dynasty divas. On the other hand, and at the same time, Fish-the-intellectual wanted to write a book about The Fugitive as it ‘celebrated and anatomised the ethic of mid-20th-century liberalism’, and, without doing a Christopher Ricks, who unnecessarily upgraded Bob Dylan’s songs to Great Poetry rather than the more-than-adequate great lyrics that they are, also wanted to claim that there was enough serious and educated thought behind the creation of the series to merit his academic attention. It is central to his essay that the people who conceived, pitched and wrote The Fugitive were not simply writing popular fiction in a winning formula but, in setting up the drama series and conceiving each episode, had the conscious intention to explore the same ideas as Fish does in writing about it. . . .


Bauerlein, Mark. "A Solitary Thinker." CHRONICLE REVIEW May 15, 2011.

It is tempting to attribute Fish's enduring marquee value to professional savvy and provocative temper. Nobody else has slid in and out of controversy and dispute so often, nor has anyone proven so willing and able to combat conservatives and (sometimes) liberals in academic forums and nationwide media alike. Think of major debates in literary and cultural studies, and Fish is there—High Theory in the 70s, culture wars in the 80s, political correctness in the 90s, and ideological bias in the 2000s. Over time, the labels have accumulated and contradicted one another:
  • "The scourge of Western civilization" (The New Yorker)
  • "The willfully provocative, politically conservative law professor" (The New York Times Magazine)
  • "Pied Piper of Relativism" (The Wall Street Journal)
  • "Academic radical" (Roger Kimball)
  • "Totalitarian Tinkerbell" (Camille Paglia)
  • "He's One of Us!" (The Duke Review, a conservative student newspaper)
  • "The High Priest of PC" (Minneapolis Star-Tribune)
  • "A 53-year-old white male ... [who has] taught only traditional texts written by canonical male authors of the ultracanonical English Renaissance" (Fish on himself)
One could add the jeers that sprinkle comments on nearly every one of Fish's Times articles, as well as the accusations of radical subjectivism and sophistry by traditionalist academics from the 70s forward (a collection of essays about Fish's work is titled Postmodern Sophistry). Add up the judgments, and Fish's character lessens and simplifies. He's a polarizer, a provocateur, a controversialist, a casuist. For him, it's the game that counts, not the truth.

So goes the common opinion, but in truth it devalues Fish's thought and his disposition. Yes, Fish has adjusted his opinion about many things, but one root belief stands firm, which he summarized recently in a conversation with me: "Forms of knowledge are historically produced by men and women like you and me, and are therefore challengeable and revisable." Moreover, Fish has maintained the historicity of all truths and methods at complicated and crisis-ridden times, taking positions that have alternately inspired and affronted his colleagues. There's a pattern: Fish championed new ideas and interests at times of ferment and controversy, only to dissent when the profession absorbed those ideas and converted them into dogmas and reflexes. It was the trendiness and sectarianism of literary studies that made him seem ever tactical and adversarial. As theories and missions, at first fresh and creative, congealed into group outlooks, a nonconformist impulse burst through, a habit of mind partly for and partly against the pieties of the moment—which, of course, makes him the pious ones' most irritating colleague. . . .


Carlisle, Clare. "Spinoza, Part 1: Philosophy as a Way of Life." GUARDIAN February 7, 2011.

Although Baruch Spinoza is one of the great thinkers of the European philosophical tradition, he was not a professional scholar – he earned his modest living as a lens grinder. So, unlike many thinkers of his time, he was unconstrained by allegiance to a church, university or royal court. He was free to be faithful to the pursuit of truth. This gives his philosophy a remarkable originality and intellectual purity – and it also led to controversy and charges of heresy. In the 19th century, and perhaps even more recently, "Spinozist" was still a term of abuse among intellectuals.

In a sense, Spinoza was always an outsider – and this independence is precisely what enabled him to see through the confusions, prejudices and superstitions that prevailed in the 17th century, and to gain a fresh and radical perspective on various philosophical and religious issues. He was born, in 1632, to Jewish Portuguese parents who had fled to Amsterdam to escape persecution, so from the very beginning he was never quite a native, never completely at home. Although Spinoza was an excellent student in the Jewish schools he attended, he came to be regarded by the leaders of his community as a dangerous influence. At the age of 24 he was excluded from the Amsterdam synagogue for his "intolerable" views and practices.

Spinoza's most famous and provocative idea is that God is not the creator of the world, but that the world is part of God. This is often identified as pantheism, the doctrine that God and the world are the same thing – which conflicts with both Jewish and Christian teachings. . . .


Vernon, Mark. "William James, Part 2: the Scientific Study of Religion." GUARDIAN October 25, 2011.

The Scotsman of May 1901 records how William James began the lectures that became The Varieties of Religious Experience, "in the English class-room of [Edinburgh] University, where a crowded audience assembled". He was the kind of communicator who attracted more and more auditors as a course proceeded. When, in 1908, he gave the Hibbert lectures in Oxford, the venue had to be changed from a modest library to the vast rooms of the Examination Schools building.

"It is with no small amount of trepidation that I take my place behind this desk," he opened, "and face this learned audience." The reasons for his strikingly humble tone were several. American universities had only recently started to award higher degrees, so thinkers of James' generation travelled to Europe to research. James himself had no such academic qualification.

That said, it quickly became clear that he had all the boldness of the brilliant amateur. . . .


Zakin, Emily. "Psychoanalytic Feminism." STANFORD ENCYCLOPEDIA OF PHILOSOPHY May 16, 2011.

This article will discuss psychoanalytic feminism, not feminist psychoanalysis (i.e., except indirectly, it will not address ideas about developing feminist principles in clinical practice, although most of the authors discussed below are trained analysts). Psychoanalysis develops a theory of the unconscious that links sexuality and subjectivity ineluctably together. In doing so, it discloses the ways in which our sense of self, and our political loyalties and attachments, are influenced by unconscious drives and ordered by symbolic structures that are beyond the purview of individual agency. It might appear at the outset that any alliance between feminism and psychoanalysis would have to be coordinated on treacherous ground: in Sigmund Freud's lecture on “Femininity,” for instance, while discussing the“riddle of femininity” (Freud 1968 [1933], 116) or of sexual differentiation, Freud's rhetoric impeaches women as“the problem” (113) and excuses members of his audience from this indictment by offering the hope that they are “more masculine than feminine” (117). Many feminists have been wary both of the biases contained in Freud's oratory and of the overt content of his claims. This article will explain how and why feminist theory has, nonetheless, undertaken a serious reading of Freud and developed careful analyses of his fundamental concepts, working out their limits, impasses, and possibilities.

In the same essay cited above, Freud writes that“psychoanalysis does not try to describe what a woman is—that would be a task it could scarcely perform—but sets about enquiring how she comes into being, how a woman develops out of a child with a bisexual disposition” (Freud 1968 [1933], 116). In using the term ‘bisexual,’ Freud refers to a quality of the sexual instinct, not a relation to a sexual object (which would be denoted by the term ‘inversion’); the bisexual child is one who psychically is not yet either a man or a woman, whose instinctual life functions prior to sexual difference. Freud here portrays femininity as one trajectory of the Oedipal Complex and indicates that sexed identity is a fragile achievement rather than a natural given or essence. By circumscribing the terrain on which the psychoanalytic account of sexual difference moves, and by seeing unresolved, even unresolvable, riddles where others might see the work of nature or culture, Freud problematizes any causal, seamless, or direct tie between sex, sexuality, and sexual difference. Psychoanalytic inquiry does not fit comfortably with, and even unsettles, biological theories of sex and sociological theories of gender, thus also complicating the sex/gender distinction as it has often been formulated in feminist debates. While sex and gender are sometimes construed in feminist theory in terms of the contrast between biology and culture, or nature and nurture, Freud's theory, as discussed below, challenges these dualisms, developing an account of the sexual drive that traverses the mental and the physical, and undergoes idiosyncratic vicissitudes rather than assuming a uniform anatomical or social shape. Whatever the hazards of Freud's writings on women, then, his work explores in new ways the meaning and possibilities of sexed identity. Likewise, as I will argue below, psychoanalytic feminism interrupts many assumptions about what feminism is and the conceptual and material objects it theorizes, including especially the very concept of woman. In unsettling our understanding of this concept, psychoanalysis also poses questions to feminism about the value of difference and the quest for equality, and the unresolved tensions between these divergent pursuits.

While there is no doubt a vast ouvre of disparate positions that might fall within the framework of psychoanalytic feminism, what is shared in common is a descent from, respect for, and some minimal borrowing of Freudian accounts of the unconscious, even while criticizing and/or revising his theoretical apparatus. Any properly psychoanalytic theory must at the least offer an account of the unconscious and its bond with sexuality and, arguably, death. Precisely this descent, however, has also provided a barrier to feminist deployment since Freud is sometimes read, at least superficially, as proffering misogynist, and perhaps Procrustean, elaborations of psychic structuration, curtailing and diminishing the diversity of individual women's experiences into a restricted and unvarying formula that will fit within its own theoretical parameters. Nevertheless, Freud's reflections and hypotheses concerning hysteria, the Oedipal Complex, female sexuality and femininity, and women's role in civilization, among other ideas, have provided the volatile grounds, the sites of contention, for feminist re-articulation. Before any of the multiple and divergent articulations of psychoanalytic feminism can be discussed in more detail, we must thus first establish their historical roots and the conceptual terrain on which they arise. Since a great deal of psychoanalytic feminist theory is specifically concerned with revising the Oedipal narrative of Freud, this article will devote particular attention to Freud's theories of the unconscious as they pertain to the Oedipal Complex. . . .


Ferguson, Andrew. "Converting Mamet: a Playwright's Progress." THE WEEKLY STANDARD May 23, 2011.

His fame was enough to fill the stalls of Memorial Hall at Stanford University when he came to give a talk one evening a couple of years ago. About half the audience were students. The rest were aging faculty out on a cheap date with their wives or husbands. You could identify the male profs by the wispy beards and sandals-’n’-socks footwear. The wives were in wraparound skirts and had hair shorter than their husbands’.

Mamet had been brought to campus by Hillel, and the subject of his talk was “Art, Politics, Judaism, and the Mind of David Mamet.” There wasn’t much talk of Judaism, however, at least not explicitly. He arrived late and took the stage looking vaguely lost. He withdrew from his jacket a sheaf of papers that quickly became disarranged. He lost his place often. He stumbled over his sentences. But the unease that began to ripple through the audience had less to do with the speaker’s delivery than with his speech’s content. Mamet was delivering a frontal assault on American higher education, the provider of the livelihood of nearly everyone in his audience.

Higher ed, he said, was an elaborate scheme to deprive young people of their freedom of thought. He compared four years of college to a lab experiment in which a rat is trained to pull a lever for a pellet of food. A student recites some bit of received and unexamined wisdom—“Thomas Jefferson: slave owner, adulterer, pull the lever”—and is rewarded with his pellet: a grade, a degree, and ultimately a lifelong membership in a tribe of people educated to see the world in the same way.

“If we identify every interaction as having a victim and an oppressor, and we get a pellet when we find the victims, we’re training ourselves not to see cause and effect,” he said. Wasn’t there, he went on, a “much more interesting .  .  . view of the world in which not everything can be reduced to victim and oppressor?”

This led to a full-throated defense of capitalism, a blast at high taxes and the redistribution of wealth, a denunciation of affirmative action, prolonged hymns to the greatness and wonder of the United States, and accusations of hypocrisy toward students and faculty who reviled business and capital even as they fed off the capital that the hard work and ingenuity of businessmen had made possible. The implicit conclusion was that the students in the audience should stop being lab rats and drop out at once, and the faculty should be ashamed of themselves for participating in a swindle—a “shuck,” as Mamet called it.

It was as nervy a speech as I’ve ever seen, and not quite rude—Mamet was too genial to be rude—but almost. The students in Memorial Hall seemed mostly unperturbed. The ripples of dissatisfaction issued from the older members of the crowd. Two couples in front of me shot looks to one another as Mamet went on—first the tight little smiles, then quick shakes of the head, after a few more minutes the eye-rolls, and finally a hitchhiking gesture that was the signal to walk out. Several others followed, with grim faces.

It was too much, really. It’s one thing to titillate progressive theatergoers with scenes of physical abuse and psychological torture and lines like “You’re f—ing f—ed.” But David Mamet had at last gone too far. He’d turned into a f—ing Republican. . . .


"Knowledge / Culture / Social Change," Centre for Cultural Research, University of Western Sydney, November 7-9, 2011.

The humanities and social sciences today struggle to come to terms with the explosion of knowledge in increasingly complex, diverse and networked societies. Which forms of knowledge work best for managing, challenging or engaging with rapid social change? Do new kinds of information play an increasing role in economic and social management? Do these changes raise questions about what ‘knowledge’ is, or is to become? What are the new rules for engagement between academic and other knowledge practices and institutions?

This conference will bring together theorists and practitioners from a range of backgrounds and knowledge institutions to debate these questions in relation to the following themes:

Shifting knowledge maps: Discipline boundaries are increasingly permeable within the humanities and social sciences and across these and the natural and physical sciences. Yet it often proves difficult to connect these new knowledge maps both within academia and across sectors (university/government; public/private; NGO/university/government, etc.). Knowledge engagement is more problematic, just as it is becoming more important and desirable. How are these problems best addressed?

Knowledge and globalisation: Processes of globalisation undermine the relevance of purely national knowledge frameworks, while the hegemony of Western knowledge systems is challenged on many fronts: the increasing influence of Asia; the resurgent interest in indigenous and community knowledges; and the competing perspectives of multiple modernities. How can the relations between these multiple knowledge practices best be engaged with?

A (Post)humanities? The nature/culture dualism is under challenge from a diverse range of knowledges (ecological, post-rational, feminist, animal studies, etc). These interventions engage the global predicament presented by climate change, blurring the boundaries between natural and social environments, while medical and nano technologies radically restructure our sense of the boundaries and constituents of personhood. How can we now best understand our entanglements with the more-than-human?

Digital knowledge practices: New electronic and digital technologies are rapidly changing the mechanisms and speeds of knowledge flows with profound consequences for intellectual property and the practices of knowledge institutions, while also enabling new ways of knowing that significantly challenge older relations of knowledge production. How can our practices respond to these new knowledge possibilities?

Knowledge and governance: New kinds of data – quantitative and qualitative – and methods and techniques of visualisation play an increasingly important role in economic and social management, while science/arts divisions are undermined by new kinds of art/science practice. Knowledge institutions and technologies play new roles in processes of social and cultural change; e.g. archives, museums, science centres, statistical and other data banks. In what ways do these new knowledge practices actively intervene and shape social life?

Keynote Speakers:

Dawn Casey, Director, Powerhouse Museum; Chair, Indigenous Business Australia.
Museums, Conflicting Cultures and the Politics of Knowing.
Dipesh Chakrabarty, Lawrence A. Kimpton Distinguished Service Professor of History, South Asian Languages and Civilizations, University of Chicago.
The Human after Climate Change.
Penny Harvey, Professor of Social Anthropology at the University of Manchester; a Director in the ESRC Centre for Research on Socio-Cultural Change.
Surface Dramas, Knowledge Gaps and Scalar Shifts: Infrastructural Engineering in Sacred Spaces.
Bruno Latour, Scientific Director, Professor and Vice President for Research, Sciences-Po.
Social Theory, Tarde, and the Web [via videolink].
Nikolas Rose, James Martin White Professor of Sociology, London School of Economics; Director, BIOS Centre for the Study of Bioscience, Biomedicine, Biotechnology and Society.
The Human Sciences in the Century of Biology.


Friday, May 20, 2011

Birmingham, Peg. Review of James Dodd, VIOLENCE AND PHENOMENOLOGY. NDPR (May 2011).

Dodd, James.  Violence and PhenomenologyLondon: Routledge, 2009.

James Dodd's Violence and Phenomenology begins by considering whether we have become the "dupes of violence." The danger of being duped by violence, he argues, is particularly grave in the violence of war because in the form of war especially we expect both too much and too little. We expect too much when violence is used to shore up state authority or to spread spheres of power, and we expect too little when we think that violence will eventually "whither away due either to the weight of our moral vigilance or the effectiveness of the political, legal, social, or ethical instruments that we employ in the hope of avoiding the destruction of war" (1). Dodd suggests that becoming the dupes of violence, by either expecting too much or too little from it, is rooted in an unacknowledged tension or opposition between a purely instrumental conception of violence and a conception of violence as uniquely constitutive of its own meaning or sense. In other words, we are easily duped by violence because we do not grasp that violence is always more than simply instrumental, used as a means to accomplish some end; it is at the same time constitutive of the meaning or sense of human existence which, he argues, makes violence a philosophical problem of the first order.

Violence is also a philosophical problem because from its beginnings philosophy has been bound up with the question of war. By this Dodd does not simply mean that Plato's philosophy arises out of the catastrophe of the Peloponnesian Wars or that Hobbes's thought is born of the English Civil Wars (6). Eather, he claims that philosophy's central concerns with freedom and the nature of the self emerge from a reflection on how we fight: "There is something fundamental about free being that finds its way into expression through the peculiar intensification of the experience of war" (9). Both war and philosophy for him are extreme circumstances that reveal the self:
For if both of these experiences -- the assumption of risk, of standing together in danger that is basic to the combat experience, and the struggle with the question of the self, in dialogue standing together to face the risk of an uncertain result -- manifestly define in basic ways the primordial experience of freedom, then is there not the possibility that, on some fundamental level, philosophy and war are the same event? (10)
The risks and uncertainty of waging war and the risks and uncertainty of rational free argument are for Dodd one and the same, thereby putting philosophy and war on the same footing. Thus, the philosophical examination of violence is at the same time self-examination.

Dodd turns to phenomenology to navigate the tension between understanding violence as either instrumental or constitutive of sense because of phenomenology's "conviction that all genuine philosophical problems are problems of sense and meaning" (15). His turn to phenomenology, however, is more than simply the use of a method. With chapters on Clausewitz and Schmitt, Arendt and Sartre, Jünger and Heidegger, and, finally, Patočka, Dodd does not limit himself to a phenomenology of violence. Instead, he shows how phenomenology itself emerges out of the violence of the twentieth century, a century that Patočka calls "the century of war." In other words, while it is true that for Dodd phenomenology is the philosophical method best suited for grappling with the sense of violence, nevertheless, the importance of his analysis lies in its examination of how various phenomenological understandings of the self, freedom, possibility, history, and responsibility emerge from out of the violence of war. . . .


Ingram, David. Review of Barbara Fultner, ed. JURGEN HABERMAS: KEY CONCEPTS. NDPR (May 2011).

Fultner, Barbara, ed.  Jürgen Habermas: Key Concepts.  Chesham: Acumen, 2011.

Anyone who has read Habermas knows how daunting his writing can be. Aside from the notorious density and abstractness of his prose, there is the challenge posed by the sheer scope of his undertaking. Quite simply, he stands out among our great contemporary thinkers for having dared to write a system of philosophy that crosses both disciplinary and thematic boundaries. In addition to this challenge, his thought has undergone several major permutations and countless minor ones over the past half century, as evidenced by the thirty some odd books and collections he has authored.

So we are truly fortunate that Acumen chose to include a book on Habermas in its exceptional Key Concepts series. These volumes are designed to provide synoptic introductions to important thinkers. This volume, edited by the well-known Habermas translator and scholar, Barbara Fultner, is a fine addition to the series. The essays included in this volume are written by eminent specialists in their respective fields, many of whom studied with Habermas. They are uniformly of high quality, and most are written at a level that upper-division undergraduates should find accessible. Furthermore, although most of them present a sympathetic case for Habermas's ambitious undertaking, they do not shy away from noting potential weaknesses. In short, this is about as complete an account of Habermas's social philosophy as one might possibly expect from a modestly sized volume. . . .


Pub: Michel Foucault, THE COURAGE OF THE TRUTH.

Le Courage de la vérité: la Gouvernement de soi et des autres II: Cours du Collège de France, 1984.   Edition établie sous la direction de François Ewald et Alessandro Fontana, par Frédéric Gros.   Paris: Gallimard, 2009.  The Courage of the Truth. Trans. Graham Burchell. London: Palgrave, 2011.

The Courage of the Truth is the last course that Michel Foucault delivered at the Collège de France. Here, he continues the theme of the previous year’s lectures in exploring the notion of “truth-telling” in politics to establish a number of ethically irreducible conditions based on courage and conviction. His death, on June 25th, 1984, tempts us to detect the philosophical testament in these lectures, especially in view of the prominence they give to the themes of life and death.


"The Power of the Word: Poetry, Theology and Life," Heythrop College and Institute of English Studies, School of Advanced Study, University of London, June 17-18, 2011.

Religion has always been part of Western literary traditions. Many canonical literary texts engage extensively with theology and religious faith and practice, and theological and spiritual writers make liberal use of literary genres, tropes and strategies. Recent work in philosophy of religion, theology, the study of religions and literary criticism has once again brought to the fore issues which arise when literature, faith, theology and life meet, whether in harmony or in conflict.

This international conference aims to:
• foster a dialogue among scholars in theology, philosophy, spirituality and literature and between these and creative writers;
• discuss the ‘truth’ of poetry and the ‘truth’ of theology in relation to each other;
• reassess the idea of poetry as a criticism of life;
• discuss the relationship between faith, theology and the creative imagination through an examination of theoretical issues and the study of specific texts;
• examine the importance of poetry for personal and social identity, social cohesion and relations between faiths and cultures.

Keynote Speakers:

Gianni Vattimo (Turin): "Poetry as Prayer"
Jay Parini (Vermont): "Poetry as Scripture: the Idea of Inspiration"
Michael Paul Gallagher (Rome): "Identifying a Religious Imagination"
Paul Fiddes (Oxford): "Law and Divine Mercy in Shakespeare’s Measure for Measure and The Merchant of Venice"
Helen Wilcox (Bangor): "'When the Soul unto the lines accords': Faith and Imagination in the Poetry of Donne and Herbert"


Does Poetry Matter?                                          
Imagination, Theology and Faith
Poetry and Theology                                        
Poetry, the Mystical and the Devotional
Poetry and Sacred Texts                                   
Poetry, Ethics and Society
Poetry, Philosophy and Theology

Inwood, Michael. Review of Robert B. Pippin, HEGEL ON SELF-CONSCIOUSNESS. NDPR (May 2011).

Pippin, Robert B.  Hegel on Self-Consciousness: Desire and Death in the Phenomenology of Spirit.   Princeton: Princeton UP, 2011.

Hegel's account of self-consciousness in chapter IV of his Phenomenology of Spirit is the most influential, and perhaps the most insightful, passage in his works. Yet, like Plato's allegory of the cave, it seems to point in too many directions to allow a consensus about its meaning. In this book, Robert Pippin produces an interpretation that attempts to accommodate all the elements in Hegel's engaging narrative: desire, life, encounter with another self-consciousness, struggle to the death, and recognition. Hegel is commonly supposed to be giving a quasi-Hobbesian account of the transition from a state of nature to a state of society. But Pippin's Hegel begins where Kant left off.

Kant had argued that the conceptual contribution that we make to our sensory input enables us to be more than the sentient perceivers that animals supposedly are and to make perceptual judgements about objective states of affairs. We humans can stand back from our representations, make judgements based on them, and wonder whether they are really veridical. Similarly, we can stand back from our desires and emotions and ask whether they are appropriate and justifiable. We are 'self-conscious' creatures, not simply absorbed in our current passing state of consciousness. Because of this we advance claims about putatively objective states of affairs. But to make such claims, Pippin argues, is to claim an authority or entitlement to do so, and this claim needs to be justified. This is why Hegel introduces other self-conscious creatures, who were neglected by Kant in his theoretical philosophy, though not in his practical philosophy. One's authority to advance objective claims needs to be recognised or acknowledged by another self-conscious being; the claims themselves must be supported by reasons presented to the other self-consciousness and defended against their challenges, defended, if need be, to the death. Hegel is more aware than Kant that a self-conscious being is an embodied living creature as well as a bare 'I think', but it must be willing to risk the loss of its biological life in the defence of its objective authority. . . .


Friday, May 13, 2011

Baggini, Julian. "The Whole Truth." PROSPECT MAGAZINE April 20, 2011.

The problem with telling “the truth” starts with the definite article, because there is always more than one way to give a true account or description. If you and I were to each describe the view of Lake Buttermere, for example, our accounts might be different but both contain nothing but true statements. You might coldly describe the topography and list the vegetation while I might paint more of a verbal picture. That is not to say there is more than one truth in some hand-washing, relativistic sense. If you were to start talking about the cluster of high-rise apartment blocks on the southern shore, you wouldn’t be describing “what’s true for you,” you’d be lying or hallucinating.

So while it is not possible to give “the truth” about Lake Buttermere, it is possible to offer any number of accounts that only contain true statements. To do that, however, is not enough to achieve what people want from truth. It is rather a prescription for what we might call “estate agent truth.” The art of describing a home for sale or let is only to say true things, while leaving out the crucial additional information that would put the truth in its ugly context. In other words, no “false statement made with the intention to deceive”—St Augustine’s still unbeatable definition of a lie—but plenty of economy with the truth. . . .


Botz-Bornstein, Thorsten. "Philosophy of Film: Continental Perspectives." INTERNET ENCYCLOPEDIA OF PHILOSOPHY May 12, 2011.

This article introduces the most important perspectives on film (movies) from the continental philosophical perspective. “Continental” is not used as a geographical term, but as an abstract concept referring to nineteenth and twentieth century European philosophical traditions exemplified by German idealism, phenomenology, existentialism, hermeneutics, structuralism, post-structuralism, French feminism, and the Frankfurt School. The continental-friendly philosophy of film that has emerged in Anglophone countries since the 1980s also is taken into account in this article.

If one considers only contributions by well known philosophers, the philosophical output on film might appear relatively meager. Books that deal with the philosophy of film are equally rare. If, however, one considers the scholarly contributions from the entire field of humanities, specifically in the form of film aesthetics and film theory, the body of reflections on film inspired by philosophical ideas (in the most general sense) is impressive. Most of these works are linked to the European philosophical tradition of philosophy of film, which developed from the 1920s onward. Henri Bergson (1859-1941) was the first philosopher to show interest in film, though his influence on continental philosophy of film remained minor – though not inexistent – before the publication of Gilles Deleuze’s two volumes on cinema (1983 and 1985). In the 1980s, two French philosophers, Jean-Louis Schefer and Gilles Deleuze, decided to devote their attention to film studies. These studies began a continuous line of European philosophical works on film that stretched through to today’s writings by Jacques Rancière and Slavoj Žižek. In the English-speaking world, philosophical concepts entered the discourse on film at around the same time. Stanley Cavell’s work The World Viewed: Reflections on the Ontology of Film (1971) was a notable precursor of this tendency. In 1988, Noel Carroll published a critique of contemporary film theory (Mystifying Movies) which he criticized as being overly determined by Psycho-Semiotic Marxist paradigms. In the same year he published Philosophical Problems of Classical Film Theory that examined pre-semiotic theorists like Bazin and Arnheim in an analytical fashion.

Both representatives of the analytical and the continental tradition see thinkers that were active before the analytical-continental divide (for example, Münsterberg, Kracauer) as being central to their film studies; however, the interpretations of such thinkers differ considerably in both traditions.
A significant amount of continental work developed around the British journal Screen, which was very influential in the 1970s and has laid many of the foundations of Lacanian and neo-Marxist film theory.

Analytical philosophy of film has profited greatly from its rich tradition of analytical aesthetics. A significant part of this philosophy has attempted to push its studies in the direction of evidence-based scientific models. Continental thought has typically been inspired by the softer fields of humanities and has displayed a solid amount of political engagement. In the former Soviet Union, a complex discourse on the semiotics of film, inspired by a Russian formalist heritage that has a natural affinity with film, has made numerous philosophical statements. . . .


Troxell, Mary. "Arthur Schopenhauer." INTERNET ENCYCLOPEDIA OF PHILOSOPHY May 9, 2011.

Arthur Schopenhauer has been dubbed the artist’s philosopher on account of the inspiration his aesthetics has provided to artists of all stripes. He is also known as the philosopher of pessimism, as he articulated a worldview that challenges the value of existence. His elegant and muscular prose earn him a reputation as one the greatest German stylists. Although he never achieved the fame of such post-Kantian philosophers as Johann Gottlieb Fichte and G. W. F. Hegel in his lifetime, his thought informed the work of such luminaries as Sigmund Freud, Ludwig Wittgenstein and, most famously, Friedrich Nietzsche. He is also known as the first German philosopher to incorporate Eastern thought into his writings.

Schopenhauer’s thought is iconoclastic for a number of reasons. Although he considered himself Kant's only true philosophical heir, he argued that the world was essentially irrational. Writing in the era of German Romanticism, he developed an aesthetics that was classicist in its emphasis on the eternal. When German philosophers were entrenched in the universities and immersed in the theological concerns of the time, Schopenhauer was an atheist who stayed outside the academic profession.

Schopenhauer’s lack of recognition during most of his lifetime may have been due to the iconoclasm of his thought, but it was probably also partly due to his irascible and stubborn temperament. The diatribes against Hegel and Fichte peppered throughout his works provide evidence of his state of mind. Regardless of the reason Schopenhauer’s philosophy was overlooked for so long, he fully deserves the prestige he enjoyed altogether too late in his life. . . .


Joseph, Peniel E. "Rescuing Malcolm X from his Calculated Myths." CHRONICLE REVIEW May 1, 2011.

Marable, Manning.  Malcolm X: a Life of Reinvention.  New York: Vintage, 2011.

Malcolm X bestrides the postwar age of decolonization alongside global icons like Martin Luther King Jr. and Mahatma Gandhi. If King and Gandhi evoked nonviolence and disciplined civil disobedience as a shield to protect the world from imperial wars, racism, and rampant materialism, Malcolm wielded the specter of self-defense, violence, and revolution as a sword to permanently alter power relations between the global North and South. In an epoch contoured by revolutions that connected local political struggles to national and international upheavals, he self-consciously brokered links among Africa, the Middle East, and America, setting the stage for political, religious, and cultural reverberations that would continue past his lifetime.

Almost a half-century after his death in 1965, Malcolm X continues to capture the global political imagination. His denunciations of white racism to packed Harlem crowds remain searing images that capture a specific style of black radicalism while simultaneously serving as a template for political revolutions that go beyond race and established the Third World as a bracingly independent geopolitical force. His speeches, political activism, and religious beliefs achieved mythic proportions after his death, spurred by the huge success of The Autobiography of Malcolm X, written in collaboration with Alex Haley and published posthumously. It remains a classic memoir of the once wayward youth's transformation from juvenile delinquent and criminal into the Nation of Islam's fiery national spokesman and, following a messy divorce from the group that would ultimately lead to his death, a radical human-rights advocate and Pan-Africanist who candidly admitted that some of his past views had been politically shortsighted, even reckless.

Embraced by Black Power activists, hip-hop artists, socialists, and black nationalists, Malcolm's iconography had been successfully rehabilitated enough by the 1990s to merit a major motion picture, an official U.S. postage stamp, and mainstream identification as King's angry but eloquent counterpart. Recognition came at a high cost. Despite a plethora of popular and scholarly works—on Malcolm's political and religious views, his life as hipster and hustler, his embrace of Pan-African impulses, his break with the Nation of Islam—a definitive scholarly biography illuminating his singular importance as a dominant 20th-century historical figure remained absent. For personal, financial, and political reasons, his widow and subsequently his estate restricted access to important archival material until 2008. His former associates were loath to give interviews, and the Nation of Islam remained mostly silent about the circumstances surrounding his death. The FBI and the New York City Police Department closed off thousands of pages of surveillance and wiretapping records. Then too, the success of the Autobiography as a literary memoir narrowed the opening for a scholarly biography.

Historical scholarship has focused on Malcolm's words of fire, depicting him more as a brilliant speaker than a community organizer. His supple intellect, burgeoning political ambitions, and organizing prowess have garnered far less attention. As have details of his private life. And no single volume has attempted to craft a cohesive portrait that stands outside the Autobiography's considerable shadow. In that celebrated book, Malcolm X outlined his views on the importance of producing an accurate history: "I've had enough of somebody else's propaganda," he proclaimed.

Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention (Viking), by Manning Marable, a historian at Columbia University who died just days before publication of what is clearly his life's work, achieves the rare feat of rescuing a man from his own mythology with deep archival research and brilliant insight. Marable's untimely death adds a layer of poignancy to a biography that will stand as the most authoritative account of Malcolm's life that will be written for a long time. . . .


Romano, Carlin. "Harold Bloom by the Numbers." CHRONICLE REVIEW April 24, 2011.

If you look up "Bloom, Harold" under "author" in the University of Pennsylvania's main library catalog, the computer shoots back 846 entries. Most are his Chelsea House collections of critical essays on authors, each one "edited and with an introduction" by Harold Bloom. Now 80, Yale's longtime Sterling Professor of the Humanities has knocked out volumes on, for starters, A.E. Housman, A.R. Ammons, Agatha Christie, Albert Camus, Aldous Huxley, Alexander Pope, Alexander Pushkin, Alexander Solzhenitsyn, Alfred Lord Tennyson, Alice Munro, Alice Walker. ...

I'd proceed right through the alphabet—or at least to the letter "B"—but my editor insists that I write some of this essay myself. Those volumes, of course, don't include the collections by Bloom, also "edited and with an introduction," on specific works of literature. He's written about Aeschylus's the Oresteia; Alan Paton's Cry, the Beloved Country; Albert Camus's The Stranger; Aldous Huxley's Brave New World; Alex Haley's The Autobiography of Malcolm X; Alexander Pope's The Rape of the Lock; Alice Walker's The Color Purple. . . .


Monday, May 09, 2011

Cfp: "Rhétorique et traduction," Société d’Etudes des Pratiques et Théories en Traduction (SEPTET) and Laboratoire Ligérien de Linguistique (LLL), Université d’Orléans, January 26-27, 2012.

Pour les Latins, le terme de Traductio désignait une figure de rhétorique. On mesure ainsi la pertinence d’une rencontre portant sur les liens entre traduction et rhétorique. Aujourd’hui, la rhétorique, tout comme la traduction, rapproche des champs disciplinaires variés : linguistique, littérature, anthropologie culturelle, philosophie du langage, etc.

Les différents axes de travail suivants pourront être explorés:

1. La traduction et la nature de la rhétorique

La rhétorique peut-elle être encore aujourd’hui conçue comme un ajout, un supplément d’âme et de présentation, voire même un masque (plutôt qu’un visage) ? Autrement dit, la rhétorique cessant progressivement de se confondre comme dans l’Antiquité gréco-romaine avec l’art de dire, mais aussi de penser, peut-elle être confondue avec un ensemble de procédés, qui sans être strictement ornementaux, l’engage néanmoins dans le sens d’une esthétique seconde, comme c’est le cas chez un Fontanier par exemple ? Le traducteur doit-il alors considérer qu’un « contenu » invariant est ainsi masqué ? Par voie de conséquence, la rhétorique peut-elle se confondre avec un aspect de l’art du traducteur qui serait de faciliter (mais aussi éventuellement d’agrémenter) la lecture ? Les dimensions clairement « rhétoriques » du texte-source (par exemple les questions précisément dites « rhétoriques », liées à la seule gestation du texte) doivent-elles être gommées dans le travail du traducteur?

La rhétorique du traducteur a-t-elle une dimension « critique » ? Est-elle censée véhiculer (aussi) le point de vue singulier du traducteur ? Quelle est la part de la rhétorique dans le fait qu’historiquement les traductions ont si souvent fait l’objet d’adaptations marquées par la censure, l’idéologie, la volonté pédagogique, etc ? Quels sont les liens avec l’argumentation ? Le texte, la « lettre », doivent-ils dans l’acte de traduire s’effacer derrière des intentions, représentationnelles, polémiques et autres ? La rhétorique est-elle une « technique » ou un art « tactique ? Le traducteur doit-il être rusé?

Doit-on à rebours s’attacher à relever, comme le fait un Dumarsais, des liens étroits entre grammaire et rhétorique (nonobstant le trivium médiéval) ? La rhétorique, au contraire de l’idée commune, plonge-t-elle ses racines au cœur même de la langue ? Quelles seraient les conséquences d’une réponse positive pour la traduction?

2. La traduction entre champs rhétorique, poétique et émotionnel

Quels sont les liens entre rhétorique en tant que visée d’action, proche de la pragmatique moderne et poétique en tant qu’imitation d’action (mimesis) ? La traduction doit-elle être conçue comme une action, rendre le texte-source toujours plus efficace, ou doit-elle déployer et explorer les sources de sa propre poéticité

La rhétorique est-elle délibérément « cibliste » ? Est-elle idiosyncrasique, un art différent dans chaque langue particulière… ou relève-t-elle au contraire de techniques tendanciellement universelles?

La distinction entre rhétorique et poétique ne serait-elle pas une conséquence d’une vision réductrice de ce qu’était la rhétorique des origines, celle d’Aristote, comme semblent en attester certaines des plus récentes traductions de son texte fondateur et qui montrent l’indissociabilité non seulement des propriétés sémantiques et esthétiques du langage, mais aussi de ses propriétés esthétiques et poétiques? 

On pourra s’interroger sur l’instabilité du statut de l’émotion et de ses inscriptions passionnelles dans le champ rhétorique. Qu’à l’occasion d’un événement émotionnel, on convoque le concept de thymie en sémiotique, ou tout autre concept affine, comment cette « subconscience » où se déploient les instances affectivo-émotives est-elle saisie dans l’acte traductif ?

3. Rhétorique et traduction dans leurs dimensions philosophiques et sémiologiques

D’une part: 

la rhétorique ne serait-elle pas au fond de nature philosophique ? Peut-on y voir l’art même de former des concepts en les délivrant?

la rhétorique se confond-elle avec la pragmatique moderne (wittgensteinienne, austinienne …)?

D’autre part :

Quels liens avec la sémiologie et/ou la sémantique discursive et textuelle ? Comment la traduction doit-elle prendre en compte des effets comme l’idiomaticité, le cliché, le stéréotype, l’emblèmatisation, les « métaphores conceptuelles », etc. Les questions évidemment décisives de l’analogie, de la polysémie, de l’implicite, de l’inférence, comme mécanismes de production des textes sont-elles rhétoriques et relèvent-elles à ce titre d’un chapitre autonome de l’art du bien traduire ?

Et finalement:

Quels liens entre rhétorique, traduction et phénoménologie : le « contenu » peut-il être distingué de son apparaître, de ses modalités de donation ? L’essence figurale du langage renvoie à l’expérience immédiate, au « corps vécu » ? La traduction est sans arrêt confrontée à cette alternance de présentation (figurale, motivée, phénoménologique) et la gestation de contenus de représentation. Tout accès au réel est partiel, de l’ordre de l’esquisse, mais il s’impose avec la force du tout : ce que la tradition figure en termes - trop analytiques - de métaphore, métonymie, synecdoque, etc. renvoie à cette réalité en quelque sorte anthropologique. Mais très différemment d’une langue à l’autre. Comment la traduction doit-elle affronter ce problème?


Das, Saitya Brata. "Friedrich Schelling." INTERNET ENCYCLOPEDIA OF PHILOSOPHY March 14, 2011.

F. W. J. von Schelling is one of the great German philosophers of the late 18th and early 19th Century. Some historians and scholars of philosophy have classified him as a German Idealist, along with J. G. Fichte and G. W. F. Hegel. Such classifications obscure rather than illuminate the importance and singularity of Schelling’s place in the history of philosophy. This is because the dominant and most often limited understanding of Idealism as systematic metaphysics of the Subject is applicable more to Hegel’s philosophy than Schelling’s. While initiating the Post-Kantian Idealism of the Subject, Schelling went on to exhibit in his later works the limit and dissolution of such a systemic metaphysics of the Subject. Therefore, the convenient label of Schelling as one German Idealist amongst others ignores the singularity of Schelling’s philosophy and the complex relationship he had with the movement of German Idealism.

The real importance of Schelling’s later works lies in the exposure of the dominant systemic metaphysics of the Subject to its limit rather than in its confirmation. In this way, the later works of Schelling demand from the students and philosophers of German Idealism a re-assessment of the notion of German Idealism itself. In that sense, the importance and influence of Schelling’s philosophy has remained “untimely.” In the wake of Hegelian rational philosophy that was the official philosophy of that time, Schelling’s later works was not influential and fell onto deaf ears. Only in the twentieth century when the question of the legitimacy of the philosophical project of modernity had come to be the concern for philosophers and thinkers, did Schelling’s radical opening of philosophy to “post-metaphysical” thinking receive renewed attention.

This is because it is perceived that the task of philosophical thinking is no longer the foundational act of the systematic metaphysics of the Subject. In the wake of “end of philosophy,” the philosophical task is understood to be the inauguration of new thinking beyond metaphysics. In this context, Schelling has again come into prominence as someone who in the heyday of German Idealism has opened up the possibility of a philosophical thinking beyond the closure of the metaphysics of the Subject. The importance of Schelling for such post-metaphysical thinking is rightly emphasized by Martin Heidegger in his lecture on Schelling of 1936. In this manner Heidegger prepares the possibility of understanding Schelling’s works in an entirely different manner. Heidegger’s reading of Schelling in turn has immensely influenced the Post-Heideggerian French philosophical turn to the question of “the exit from metaphysics.” But this Post-Structuralist and deconstructive reading of Schelling is not the only reception of Schelling. Philosophers like Jürgen Habermas, whose doctorate work was on Schelling, would like to insist on the continuation of the philosophical project of modernity, and yet attempt to view reason beyond the instrumental functionality of reason at the service of domination and coercion. Schelling is seen from this perspective as a “post-metaphysical” thinker who has widened the concept of reason beyond its self-grounding projection. During the last half of the last century, Schelling’s works have tremendously influenced the post-Subject oriented philosophical discourses. During recent times, Schelling scholarship has remarkably increased both in the Anglo-American context and the Continental philosophical context. . . .


Bowell, T. "Feminist Standpoint Theory." INTERNET ENCYCLOPEDIA OF PHILOSOPHY March 10, 2011.

Feminist standpoint theorists make three principal claims: (1) Knowledge is socially situated. (2) Marginalized groups are socially situated in ways that make it more possible for them to be aware of things and ask questions than it is for the non-marginalized. (3) Research, particularly that focused on power relations, should begin with the lives of the marginalized. Feminist standpoint theory, then, makes a contribution to epistemology, to methodological debates in the social and natural sciences, to philosophy of science, and to political activism. It has been one of the most influential and debated theories to emerge from second-wave feminist thinking. Feminist standpoint theories place relations between political and social power and knowledge center-stage. These theories are both descriptive and normative, describing and analyzing the causal effects of power structures on knowledge while also advocating a specific route for enquiry, a route that begins from standpoints emerging from shared political struggle within marginalized lives. Feminist standpoint theories emerged in the 1970s, in the first instance from Marxist feminist and feminist critical theoretical approaches within a range of social scientific disciplines. They thereby offer epistemological and methodological approaches that are specific to a variety of disciplinary frameworks, but share a commitment to acknowledging, analyzing and drawing on power/knowledge relationships, and on bringing about change which results in more just societies. Feminist scholars working within a number of disciplines—such as Dorothy Smith, Nancy Hartsock, Hilary Rose, Sandra Harding, Patricia Hill Collins, Alison Jaggar and Donna Haraway—have advocated taking women’s lived experiences, particularly experiences of (caring) work, as the beginning of scientific enquiry. Central to all these standpoint theories are feminist analyses and critiques of relations between material experience, power, and epistemology, and of the effects of power relations on the production of knowledge. . . .


Pomerleau, Wayne P. "William James." INTERNET ENCYCLOPEDIA OF PHILOSOPHY February 10, 2011.

William James is considered by many to be the most insightful and stimulating of American philosophers, as well as the second of the three great pragmatists (the middle link between Charles Sanders Peirce and John Dewey). As a professor of psychology and of philosophy at Harvard University, he became the most famous living American psychologist and later the most famous living American philosopher of his time. Avoiding the logically tight systems typical of European rationalists, such as the German idealists, he cobbled together a psychology rich in philosophical implications and a philosophy enriched by his psychological expertise. More specifically, his theory of the self and his view of human belief as oriented towards conscious action raised issues that required him to turn to philosophy. There he developed his pragmatic epistemology, which considers the meaning of ideas and the truth of beliefs not abstractly, but in terms of the practical difference they can make in people’s lives. He explored the implications of this theory in areas of religious belief, metaphysics, human freedom and moral values, and social philosophy. His contributions in these areas included critiques of long-standing philosophical positions on such issues as freedom vs. determinism, correspondence vs. coherence, and dualism vs. materialism, as well as a thorough analysis of a phenomenological understanding of the self and consciousness, a “forward-looking” conception of truth (based on validation and revisable experience), a thorough-going metaphysical pluralism, and a commitment to a full view of agency in connection with communal and social concerns. Thus he created one of the last great philosophical systems in Western thought, even if he did not live quite long enough to complete every aspect of it. The combination of his provocative ideas and his engaging writing style has contributed to the enduring impact of his work. . . .


Pub: Edelman, Christopher. "Michel de Montaigne." INTERNET ENCYCLOPEDIA OF PHILOSOPHY April 28, 2011.

Michel de Montaigne is widely appreciated as one of the most important figures in the late French Renaissance, both for his literary innovations as well as for his contributions to philosophy. As a writer, he is credited with having developed a new form of literary expression, the essay, a brief and admittedly incomplete treatment of a topic germane to human life that blends philosophical insights with historical anecdotes and autobiographical details, all unapologetically presented from the author’s own personal perspective. As a philosopher, he is best known for his skepticism, which profoundly influenced major figures in the history of philosophy such as Descartes and Pascal.

All of his literary and philosophical work is contained in his Essays, which he began to write in 1572 and first published in 1580 in the form of two books. Over the next twelve years leading up to his death, he made additions to the first two books and completed a third, bringing the work to a length of about one thousand pages. While Montaigne made numerous additions to the book over the years, he never deleted or removed any material previously published, in an effort to represent accurately the changes that he underwent both as a thinker and as a person over the twenty years during which he wrote. These additions add to the unsystematic character of the book, which Montaigne himself claimed included many contradictions. It is no doubt due to the unsystematic nature of the Essays that Montaigne received relatively little attention from Anglo-American philosophers in the twentieth century. Nonetheless, in recent years he has been held out by many as an important figure in the history of philosophy not only for his skepticism, but also for his treatment of topics such as the self, moral relativism, politics, and the nature of philosophy. . . .


Fish, Stanley. "Dorothy and the Tree: a Lesson in Epistemology." Opinionator Blog. NEW YORK TIMES April 25, 2011.

At one point in The Wizard Of Oz, Dorothy (Judy Garland) picks an apple and the tree she picks it off protests: “Well, how would you like to have someone come along and pick something off of you?” Dorothy is abashed and she says, “Oh, dear — I keep forgetting I’m not in Kansas,” by which she means she’s now entered an alternate universe where the usual distinctions between persons and objects, animate and inanimate, human beings and the natural world that is theirs to exploit do not hold. In Kansas and, she once assumed, everywhere else, trees are things you pick things off (even limbs) and persons are not. Persons have an autonomy and integrity of body that are to be respected; trees do not. A person who is maimed has a legal cause of action. A tree that has been cut down has no legal recourse, although there may be a cause of action (not, however, on behalf of the tree) if it was cut down by someone other than the owner of the property it stood on.

All this seems obvious, but what the tree’s question to Dorothy shows is that the category of the obvious can be challenged and unsettled. . . .  Hers is not a failure of memory. Hers is not a failure at all, but the inevitable and blameless consequence of having a consciousness informed by certain assumptions about the classification of items in the world, assumptions that deliver those items already catalogued and labeled, exactly in the manner Darwin labels those to whom sympathy is being extended “lower animals” and drops the adjective “useless” ever so casually, that is, without thinking. Rorty is no less limited (not a criticism, but a description) in his vision of things when he restricts the category of the unjustly marginalized to “people.” What about cats, trees, stones, streams and cockroaches?

The obvious answer to this not entirely frivolous question is, “you can’t think of everything,” and that’s the right answer. Despite imperatives like “broaden your thinking” or “extend your horizons or “widen your sense of ‘us,’” thought is not an expandable muscle that can contain or comprehend an infinite number of things. Thought is a structure that at once enables perception — it is within and by virtue of thought’s finite categories that items emerge and can be pointed to — and limits perception; no structure of thought can enable the seeing of all items, a capacity reserved for God. It follows that when you have a change of mind (of the kind the tree is trying to provoke when it addresses Dorothy) you won’t see more; you will see differently. A system of distinctions (and that is what thought is) will always privilege some categories of being and devalue others, sometimes even to the extent of not recognizing them. And when one system is succeeded by another and new things come into view, some old things will have been consigned to the category of chimera and, except for histories of error, will have vanished from sight. (Thomas Kuhn’s The Structure of Scientific Revolution is a primer on the process.) . . .

Read the rest here:

See the follow-up article, "Ideas and Theory: the Political Difference," here:

"The Foucault Effect 1991-2011," Birkbeck College, University of London, June 3-4, 2011.

Published seven years after Michel Foucault’s death, The Foucault Effect: Studies in Governmentality provided access to a little known and major new area of his later research, accompanied and illustrated by a rich collection of complementary studies by his co-researchers. The volume has served over the past 20 years as an influential and widely cited source, stimulating new work in many fields. In the past decade its effects has been accompanied by the acclaimed, ongoing publication of Foucault’s lectures, including the full original sources of The Foucault Effect. Foucault’s work on governmentality is now recognised as one of the important developments in later twentieth-century reflection on the political, whose implications may not yet have been fully registered.

This event brings together the editors and several contributors to The Foucault Effect, along with leading international scholars who have taken up and explored its themes in several interconnected areas, engaging with the history and issues of a changing present. Among them are editors of two important new publications: Lectures on The Will to Know (Foucault’s first College de France lecture series, edited by Daniel Defert) and Mal Faire, Dire Vrai (his 1981 Louvain lectures on confession, criminology and social defence, edited by Fabienne Brion and Bernard Harcourt, to be published in French by Louvain University Press and in English by Chicago University Press). Both of these new publications are likely to modify our understanding of Foucault’s enterprise and of its relevance to our time.

The programme and contributions will be structured around five topic areas:

- Global and postcolonial dimensions
- Law, rights, justice, punishment
- Problematising the political and the left
- The history of governmentality
- Social defence in the 21st century

Provisional Programme:

Daniel Defert: The emergence of power in Michel Foucault’s 1970-71 lectures.
Colin Gordon: Governmentality and the genealogy of politics*
Graham Burchell: Reflections on governmentalities and political culture (with Italy in mind)
Paul Patton: tbc
Peter Fitzpatrick and Carolina Olarte: Foucault and the Laws of Death
Ben Golder: The Limits and Possibilities of a Foucauldian Politics of Rights*
Fabienne Brion: Governmentality, citizenship and dangerousness*
Bernard Harcourt: tbc
Giovanna Procacci: From social insecurity to human security*
Peter Miller: The calculating self
Jonathan Simon: tbc

* exact title to be confirmed


Cutrofello, Andrew. Review of Rebecca Comay, MOURNING SICKNESS. NDPR (May 2010).

Comay, Rebecca.  Mourning Sickness: Hegel and the French RevolutionStanford: Stanford UP, 2010.

Rebecca Comay's insightful study of Hegel's philosophical reflections on the French Revolution clarifies Hegel's conception of the temporality of absolute knowing. On her account, absolute knowing is neither an atemporal intellectual intuition of the absolute nor the immediate self-presence of a persisting subject. It is, instead, a conceptual elaboration of the ubiquity of delay. This is not to say that thought is discursive in the Kantian sense of requiring the performance of temporal syntheses. The delay of the concept registered in absolute knowing is not due to the fact that concepts are second-order representations that succeed or postpone intuitions of objects. Absolute knowing represents thought as essentially belated (subsequent to events never apprehended and so unavailable for synthesis) and premature (prior to events whose essential, and therefore irreducible, futurity again makes them unavailable for synthesis). Acknowledging itself to be a Johnny-come-lately-and-early, spirit abandons previous conceptions of itself as a gathering subject of retentions and protentions (Self-certainty), or the gathered Da of a three-fold temporal ekstasis (Sittlichkeit). Terror, not anxiety, has taught it that time is out of joint. The moral impossibility of setting right a time disjoined by terror is brutally summarized by Lady Macbeth: "What's done cannot be undone." Despite the definitiveness of this hard, if banal, lesson, Hegel allows the confession of un-undoable evil to be answered -- not without a crucial delay (123) -- by an act of forgiveness that purports to undo past crime (146): "The wounds of the Spirit heal, and leave no scars behind" (129). This response marks, for Comay, the advent (in every sense of the term) of absolute knowing. Whether Hegel succeeds in reconciling Lady Macbeth's thesis with his own antithesis -- a veritable antinomy in Comay's juxtaposition of the two -- is the difficult question posed by Mourning Sickness.

As the title of her book indicates, Comay represents Hegel's philosophical response to the French Revolution in the vocabulary of psychoanalysis: trauma, repetition compulsion, mourning, melancholia, introjection, incorporation, etc. This approach is justified by the fact that the Phenomenology of Spirit prefigures (both conceptually and lexically) psychoanalytic descriptions of the experience of loss (96). Comay does not seek to psychologize Hegel's dialectical analyses of shapes of consciousness, but rather to bring out their "normative" significance (6). As she says of her guiding concept: "by 'trauma,' I don't mean anything psychological. . . . My interest is philosophical: to explore trauma as a modal, temporal, and above all a historical category" (4). This raises the stakes, inviting us to wonder not only about the philosophical significance of psychoanalytic concepts, but about what it might mean to absolve them of psychological significance. . . .


"Beyond Spinoza," Goldsmith's College, University of London, July 2011.

Beyond Spinoza invite proposals for 30 minute presentations which trace or explore the presence of Early Modern philosophical concepts in contemporary philosophy and psychoanalysic theory. These could include, but are not limited to:
Spinoza and French philosophy (Badiou, Deleuze),
Spinoza and psychoanalysis (Freud, Lacan),
Spinoza and politics (Balibar, Macherey),
Spinoza and self-transformation (Foucault, Lacan),
Spinoza and schizoanalysis (Guattari, Deleuze),
Leibniz and French philosophy (Deleuze, Gueroult),
Leibniz and contemporary art,
Leibniz and maths.

Beyond Spinoza is a collective of London-based postgraduate students who wish to enrich and deepen their understanding and enjoyment of contemporary philosophy by exploring its historical and conceptual roots.

The series will run once a week, for three consecutive weeks, at Goldsmiths College in July 2011. Each session will comprise two 30 minute presentations followed by discussion and drinks. The series will be followed later in the year by a publication of revised papers.

Cfp: "Theoretical Turbulence: a Paradigm Shift in Intercultural Communication?", 18th Symposium, Nordic Network for Intercultural Communication (NIC), Helsinki, December 1-3, 2011.

In intercultural communication, where are we theoretically and where could or should we go? Is there theoretical turbulence that is unique to this field? If so, what kind of turbulence? Are there paradigms in intercultural communication, and if so, are we in the middle of a paradigm shift?

The conference theme asks for critical evaluations and larger paradigmatic discussions of intercultural communication research and education. The concerns and questions suggested by the theme are shared in different disciplines (media and communication, education, business studies, organizational and management studies, linguistics and sociolinguists, sociology, cultural studies) in Nordic countries and all over the world.

Presentations could touch upon, but are not limited to the following themes:

• Theoretical choices in intercultural communication research;
• Critical evaluations of theories of intercultural communication;
• Pedagogical applications of theoretical knowledge in teaching and consultation;
• Examples of the application of interpretive or critical theories of intercultural communication in intercultural education and training;
• Alternative perspectives for intercultural consultation or multicultural leadership;
• Redefining key concepts in intercultural communication, for example, multicultural identity, culture, nation, diversity, intercultural communication, adaptation, intercultural skills or competence;
• Challenges for intercultural communication (theories) set by the global world and individual multicultural experiences.


Friday, May 06, 2011

"Global Perspectives on Habermas," University of Groningen, April 27-28, 2011.

[This conference is over but the information might still be useful to some.]



9.00 Welcome
9.30 Prof Joost Herman, University of Groningen: Globalisation Studies
9.45 Dr Vivienne Matthies-Boon and Dr Andrej Zwitter, University of Groningen: Research in Ethics and Globalisation
10.00 Dr Tom Bailey, John Cabot University and LUISS, Rome: Editor’s Introduction
11.00 Dr Vivienne Matthies-Boon, University of Groningen: Exporting Democracy to the Middle East: Habermas and Bush’s Neoconservatives (Discussant: Dr Andrej Zwitter)
12.00 Lunch
13.00 Dr Péter Losonczi, University of Antwerp: The Global Ambiguity of Habermas' Post-secular Thesis (Discussant: Dr P. Boele van Hensbroek)
14.00 Dr Kevin Gray, American University of Sharjah: What is Living and What is Dead in Habermas’ Secularization Hypothesis? (Discussant: Dr Vivienne Matthies-Boon)

15.00 Coffee break

15.30 Dara Salam, LUISS, Rome: The Diversity of Public Spheres: The Case of Iraq (Discussant: Mohamad Forough)


09.00 Dr William Smith, Chinese University of Hong Kong: Deliberation Without Democracy? Reflections on Habermas, the Public Sphere and China (Discussant: Dr Frank Gaensmantel)
10.00 Dr Vincent Yohanes Jolasa, University of Indonesia: Habermas on
Distortion, Communication and Depth Hermeneutics (Discussant: Dr Timo Juetten)

11.00 Coffee break


11.30 Dr Kanchana Mahadevan, University of Mumbai: Feminist Solidarity: Communitarian Challenges and Post-national Prospects (Discussant: Prof Jaap de Wilde)
12.30 Prof Jaap de Wilde, University of Groningen: Closing remarks

12.45 Lunch

Enquiries: Tom Bailey (

Cfp: Annual Conference, International Society for the Study of Narrative, Las Vegas, March 15-17, 2012.

Plenary Speakers:

Steven Mailloux, Loyola Marymount University
Ramón Saldívar, Stanford University
Vanessa Schwarz, University of Southern California

Contemporary Narrative Theory Session Speakers:

Heather Dubrow, Fordham University
Margaret Homans, Yale University
Deirdre McCloskey, University of Illinois Chicago
Mark McGurl, UCLA
Alan Nadel, University of Kentucky
Peggy Phelan, Stanford University

Conference Coordinators:

Eddie Maloney, Alan Nadel, James Phelan, Robyn Warhol

Call for Papers:

We welcome proposals for papers and panels on all aspects of narrative in any genre, period, discipline, language, and medium.

Deadline for Receipt of Proposals: Monday, October 17, 2011

Proposals for Individual Papers:

Please provide the title and a 300-word abstract of the paper you are proposing; your name, institutional affiliation, and email address; and a brief statement (no more than 100 words) about your work and your publications.

Proposals for Panels:

Please provide a 700-word (maximum) description of the topic of the panel and of each panelist’s contribution; the title of the panel and the titles of the individual papers; and for each participant the name, institutional affiliation, email address, and a brief statement (no more than 100 words) about the person’s work and publications. Please send proposals by email in PDF, Word, or WordPerfect to:

All participants must join the International Society for the Study of Narrative.

For more information on the ISSN, please visit: ttp://



Bloom, Harold.  The Anatomy of Influence: Literature as a Way of Life.  New Haven: Yale UP, 2011.

"Literary criticism, as I attempt to practice it," writes Harold Bloom in The Anatomy of Influence, "is in the first place literary, that is to say, personal and passionate."

For more than half a century, Bloom has shared his profound knowledge of the written word with students and readers. In this, his most comprehensive and accessible study of influence, Bloom leads us through the labyrinthine paths which link the writers and critics who have informed and inspired him for so many years. The result is "a critical self-portrait," a sustained meditation on a life lived with and through the great works of the Western canon: Why has influence been my lifelong obsessive concern? Why have certain writers found me and not others? What is the end of a literary life?

Featuring extended analyses of Bloom's most cherished poets—Shakespeare, Whitman, and Crane—as well as inspired appreciations of Emerson, Tennyson, Browning, Yeats, Ashbery, and others, The Anatomy of Influence adapts Bloom's classic work The Anxiety of Influence to show us what great literature is, how it comes to be, and why it matters. Each chapter maps startling new literary connections that suddenly seem inevitable once Bloom has shown us how to listen and to read. A fierce and intimate appreciation of the art of literature on a scale that the author will not again attempt, The Anatomy of Influence follows the sublime works it studies, inspiring the reader with a sense of something ever more about to be.


Hertzberg, Lars. Review of James C. Klagge, WITTGENSTEIN IN EXILE. NDPR (April 2011).

Klagge, James C.  Wittgenstein in Exile.  Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2011.

In Wittgenstein in Exile, James Klagge discusses the tendency of philosophers from the time of Wittgenstein down to this day to find his thought either difficult to understand, hard to accept, or both. He argues that the difficulty is not so much one of style or method, but rather of the spirit in which Wittgenstein worked, and he suggests that the problem should be seen in the light of the intellectual distance between Wittgenstein and his cultural surroundings, a distance that he himself was painfully aware of and that can be characterized by means of the metaphor of exile. Wittgenstein, Klagge claims, was an exile in space but also in time: in Spenglerian terms, Wittgenstein saw himself as the representative of a culture that was already a matter of the past, while his audience belonged to its present state of decline. (At this point, it might be objected that Wittgenstein saw himself as torn between the old and the new; thus, he worried about the fact that he was not carrying out the kind of work the great classical philosophers had done.) While on this theme, one might ask whether Wittgenstein's sexual orientation may not have contributed to his sense of exile. . . .


Marder, Elissa. Review of Peggy Kamuf, TO FOLLOW. NDPR (April 2011).

Kamuf, Peggy.  To Follow: the Wake of Jacques Derrida. Edinburgh: Edinburgh UP, 2010.

Peggy Kamuf long ago established herself as one of Jacques Derrida's most discerning readers and finest translators, but in To Follow: the Wake of Jacques Derrida, she offers her readers a rare opportunity to follow her as she works through critical questions in Derrida's thinking in the wake of his death. The book comprises seventeen beautifully written and delicately interwoven chapters, composed before and after Derrida's death in October 2004. In each chapter, Kamuf picks up on a word or phrase (what she calls a "watchword") in Derrida's writings in order to attend to the critical inventions and political interventions called forth by and in his thought.

This illuminating and moving book is also explicitly a work of mourning. Following Derrida's life-long work on mourning, Kamuf begins her book by pointing out that mourning does not begin with the other's death but is at work from the beginning in the names by which we come to know ourselves and through which we are called by others: "From the very first, every name, anyone's name, names a site of mourning to come." And if, as Kamuf suggests, the name is itself another name for mourning, this is because every name bears the trace of a division within: to be what we call a name, a name must be repeatable in the absence of the one to whom it ostensibly "belongs" and therefore must always be able to live on after the death of its bearer. In this sense, then, a proper name is not the property of the person named as it is also borne and carried by those who follow. It will follow from this that mourning is always already at work in every relation with the other. Mourning conditions all ethical positions and political actions and cannot be relegated to a uniquely personal experience in spite of (or perhaps even because of) the singular unbearability that attends each person's "personal" experience of loss.

Thus, although To Follow is punctuated by several poignant "personal" anecdotes (culled from her long professional and personal relationship with Derrida as critic, translator, and friend), its primary critical focus (and philosophical appeal) resides in the way that Kamuf cares for Derrida's legacy by caring about the ways in which his own inimitable texts are themselves responsive readings to the question of what it means to inhabit or inherit a tradition. Inheritance, Kamuf reminds us, is not a positive value that is passively received, but rather requires attentive and attuned reading. Throughout the book, Kamuf explores how Derrida's legacy takes the form of haunting questions that ask us to keep watch for what cannot be seen, known, or understood in advance: "The watch watches for -- it knows not what may come. This vigilance does not anticipate or expect an arrival that will put an end to or interrupt its waiting, but nonetheless it watches for another's coming to interrupt it" (11). . . .

Thursday, May 05, 2011

"Hegel Now?," Department of Philosophy, Middlesex University, May 5, 2011.

Society is divided, and the social order is riddled with contradictions. Does Hegelian philosophy provide the basic method for understanding the way societies are structured by their own contradictions? Is it possible to be a Hegelian now? Could it even be necessary to be a Hegelian now? Or is it impossible to be a Hegelian, especially now? And what is a Hegelian? This workshop will assess the ongoing relevance of Hegelian thought for the 21st century.


2.45 Welcome
3.00 Ali Alizadeh, ‘Why Hegel Now?’
4.00 Slavoj Zizek, ‘Is it Still Possible to be a Hegelian Today?’
6.00 Break
6.30 Katerina Deligiorgi, ‘Hegelian Individualism’.
8.00 Ian Jakobi, ‘The Lacerated Dialectic: On Madness and Subjectivity in Hegel's Encyclopaedia’