Friday, July 22, 2011

Brooks, Peter. "Our Universities: How Bad? How Good?" NEW YORK TIMES March 24, 2011.

The rhetoric of crisis seems to have become endemic to writing about the American university. Some twenty-five years ago, Harvard Dean Henry Rosovsky declared American universities to be “the world’s best.” There was a good deal of dissent from this judgment during the 1980s and 1990s, beginning with Allan Bloom’s The Closing of the American Mind (1987) and continuing with more juvenile attacks such as Charles Sykes’s Profscam (1988) and Roger Kimball’s Tenured Radicals (1990). But these were salvos in a culture war about the definition and mission of the university, and political dissents from what was seen as a predominantly leftist intellectual and artistic elite.The new crisis accuses the American university of failing to educate (variously, failing to train the mind and to prepare for the workplace), of losing its place in international competition, of being an institution top-heavy with administrators and pandering to a faculty that does very little, as well as to students who care more about expensive cars and state-of-the-art fitness rooms than about Socrates. Above all, the university has become unjustifiably expensive, inaccessible, and unaccountable. The subtitle given by Andrew Hacker and Claudia Dreifus to Higher Education? sums it up: How Colleges Are Wasting Our Money and Failing Our Kids—And What We Can Do About It.

Debating education has always been an American pastime, and choosing the “best colleges” a lucrative business, as U.S. News and World Report has well understood. The debate has long been studded with reformist notions, utopian or practical, but it was sustained by the belief that American universities were something of high quality—indeed, something precious—that were worth the attention they got, and worth striving to enter. . . .

Brooks, Kim. "Is It Time To Kill the Liberal Arts Degree?" SALON June 19, 2011.

Employment rates for college graduates have declined steeply in the last two years, and perhaps even more disheartening, those who find jobs are more likely to be steaming lattes or walking dogs than doing anything even peripherally related to their college curriculum. While the scale and severity of this post-graduation letdown may be an unavoidable consequence of an awful recession, I do wonder if all those lofty institutions of higher learning, with their noble-sounding mission statements and soft-focused brochure photos of campus greens, may be glossing over the serious, at-times-crippling obstacles a B.A. holder must overcome to achieve professional and financial stability. I'm not asking if a college education has inherent value, if it makes students more thoughtful, more informed, more enlightened and critical-minded human beings. These are all interesting questions that don't pay the rent. What I'm asking is far more banal and far more pressing. What I'm asking is: Why do even the best colleges fail so often at preparing kids for the world? . . .

Heer, Jeet. "Divine Inspiration." THE WALRUS (July / August 2011).

McLuhan has strong claims to being the most important thinker Canada has ever produced. In his first book, The Mechanical Bride, published in 1951, he established himself in the emerging field of cultural studies by offering a caustic survey of the dehumanizing impact of popular magazines, advertising, and comic strips. By the 1960s, he had widened his lens to examine the power of media as a whole. In The Gutenberg Galaxy, he offered a map of modern history by highlighting the hitherto-unexplored effect of print in shaping how we think. This was followed by Understanding Media, which prophesied that new electronic media would rewire human consciousness just as effectively as print once did, giving birth to a “global village” where people all over the world would be linked via communication technology.

McLuhan has also long been a fiercely polarizing figure, especially during the height of his fame in the 1960s and ’70s. For instance, the American novelist and social critic Tom Wolfe praised him in the most extravagant terms: “At the turn of the nineteenth century and in the early decades of the twentieth there was Darwin in biology, Marx in political science, Einstein in physics, and Freud in psychology. Since then there has been only McLuhan in communications studies.” Meanwhile, the German essayist and poet Hans Enzensberger denounced McLuhan as a “reactionary” and a “charlatan,” a shallow theorist who attempted to “dissolve all political problems in smoke” and promised “the salvation of man through the technology of television.”

One of the most contentious aspects of McLuhan’s life and work was his devout Catholicism, which some critics saw as antithetical to his academic pursuits. . .

Carlisle, Clare. "Spinoza, Part 6: Understanding the Emotions." GUARDIAN March 14, 2011.

In the third book of the Ethics, Spinoza writes that he intends to consider human emotions "as if the surfaces of lines, planes or solids". Because the emotions are just as natural and as law-governed as all other modes, he suggests, they can be studied with mathematical precision. And this means that human behaviour, so often motivated by emotion, must be completely intelligible and explicable.Spinoza criticises people who, believing "that man rather disturbs than follows the order of nature, that he has absolute power over his actions", tend to adopt a misguidedly moralistic attitude. "They refer the cause of human weakness and inconstancy not to the common forces of universal nature, but to I know not what vice in human nature, which they therefore bewail, deride, despise, or more frequently detest." Spinoza thought that it was more fruitful to understand our emotions and actions than to hate or ridicule them.

According to Spinoza, we understand something fully when we know what causes it, and how. From the perspective of his philosophy this is rather a tall order, since everything is connected, and therefore the causes of any particular phenomenon are highly complex. In fact, understanding something ultimately means knowing the whole of which it is a part – in other words, knowing God. . . .

Vernon, Mark. "Carl Jung, Part 8: Religion and the Search for Meaning." GUARDIAN July 18, 2011.

Jung is often criticised by religious thinkers for his poor theology and perennial philosophy. They are often correct, but they can also miss the main point. Jung was clear that his analytical psychology was not a new religion, neither was he a guru. "Psychology is concerned with the act of seeing and not with the construction of new religious truths," he wrote.
So its role is to provide a language for grappling with what's at stake. "Since the stars have fallen from heaven and our highest symbols have paled, a secret life holds sway in the unconscious. That is why we have a psychology today, and why we speak of the unconscious. All this would be quite superfluous in an age or culture that possessed symbols."

Symbols do die. "Why have the antique gods lost their prestige and their effect upon human souls? It was because the Olympic gods had served their time and a new mystery began: God became man." Which raises the question of whether the Christian dispensation has now served its time too and we await a new mystery. Perhaps we do live on the verge of a new age, of another transformation of humanity. . . .

Cfp: Alessandro Bertinetto and Alberto Martinengo, eds. "Rethinking Creativity," TROPOS: JOURNAL OF HERMENEUTICS AND PHILOSOPHICAL CRITICISM (forthcoming, December 2011).

Tropos invites submission of papers on topics related to creativity, from arts to philosophy.

Mail to:

The idea that art is (the result of) a process of creation is a modern one. Through a complex history, which is not without contradictions, in the 20th Century its connection to art was debated in different fields, from psychology to epistemology, from cognitive science to hermeneutics. Tropos aims at discussing this complex relationship with a monographical issue, that will be published in December 2011.

Philosophical papers are welcome that investigate:
- The deep transformations of creativity during Modernity;
- The normative significance of creativity;
- Its performative dimension;
- Its connection with action and/or understanding.

Papers may offer: methodological researches; historical-philosophical reconstructions; investigations in aesthetics and art theory; theoretical arguments.

Articles should not exceed 6,500 words and will be submitted to a blind refereering process.

Atterton, Peter. Review of Michael L. Morgan, CAMBRIDGE INTRODUCTION TO EMMANUEL LEVINAS. NDPR (July 2011).

Morgan, Michael L.  Cambridge Introduction to Emmanuel LevinasCambridge: CUP, 2011.

Several years ago I had the privilege of reviewing and qualifiedly endorsing Michael L. Morgan's Discovering Levinas (Cambridge University Press, 2007). When I accepted the invitation to review The Cambridge Introduction to Emmanuel Levinas, I did so on the assumption that it would not, unless clearly stated on the book's back cover or on the Cambridge University Press web site, consist mainly of material derived from the earlier book. But I was wrong. As Morgan explains in the preface, when Discovering Levinas was about to appear in paperback, the editors at Cambridge suggested that he "abridge and revise the book with an eye to introducing Levinas to readers and students who wanted a clear and helpful initial guide to understanding his thinking" (p. vii). The Cambridge Introduction to Emmanuel Levinas is the result of that effort, and at under half of the length of Discovering Levinas, it is a much leaner, more focused book that is basically an abridgement of its predecessor.

To be sure, the book does contain some original material, principally by way of a fourteen-page Introduction and nine-page Conclusion ("Conclusions, Puzzles, and Problems"). The long penultimate paragraph of Chapter 4 (p. 112), the last four pages of Chapter 5 (pp. 132-135), and the last six pages of Chapter 6 (pp. 155-160) also appear to have been written especially for the volume (not counting a relatively small number of transitional paragraphs). The rest of the book comprises three complete (Chapters 2, 3, and 7) and five abridged (1, 4, 5, 6, and 8) chapters of Discovering Levinas. There are some alterations in the footnotes of Chapters 2 and 3 (Chapter 7 is identical), but surely not enough to substantiate Morgan's claim that he has made "significant modifications" "in every case" to the book's eight chapters for the purpose of uniformity, etc. For the most part the abridgment poses no obvious unifying issue, with one exception. On page 197, during a fascinating and important discussion of theodicy, Morgan begins talking out of the blue about Levinas's review of Philippe Nemo's book Job and the Excess of Evil, leaving the unsuspecting reader disoriented and confused. The two-page lead-up discussion included in the earlier book was simply excised in the later book, with nothing to replace it. This is apt to happen where already published chapters are shortened or rearranged; but it is still not something I expected to encounter from such a prestigious press.

The question I will ask, then, is what special value this book can have for its intended buyer and reader, important enough to justify reprinting much of the earlier work. The simple answer to this question is that it does a far better job at doing what the first book was only able to do with limited success. The problem with Discovering Levinas is that it tried to do too much; it was intended to be an introductory text that aimed to make plausible Levinas's kinship with various important Anglo-American philosophers, while also offering a survey of the development of Levinas's ethics, as well as being an examination of Levinas's involved connection with Judaism, religion, and politics. Although these are worthy goals in their own right, they did not sit very comfortably with each other. The elimination of those chapters and discussions in particular that required special background knowledge of analytic philosophy, and the focus instead on Levinas's central texts and themes do much, I think, to enhance significantly the book's value as an introductory text. . . .

"Life and Narrative," Narrative Matters 2012, American University of Paris, University of Paris Diderot-Paris 7 and the Centre for Interdisciplinary Research on Narrative, St. Thomas University, May 29-June 1, 2012.

What is the relationship between life and narrative? As noted by Jerome Bruner in his article on “Life as Narrative” (1987), this is one of the central intellectual questions facing narrative inquiry and narrative practice across multiple disciplines – psychology, narratology and literary theory, digital media, sociology, history, sociolinguistics, philosophy, medicine, education, gerontology, communications, social work, ethics, religious studies, etc.

Scholars are invited to organize panel sessions and present papers on various aspects of the broad theme of “Life and Narrative.” Possible questions include:
  • What is the relationship between telling and living?
  • How can the narrative concept help us to better understand experience, interpretation and action?
  • What does literature teach us about aspects of life, experience, mind, and social relationships?
  • How can narrative research have a greater impact on the lives of real persons and institutions?
  • How can narrative theory and practice better inform one another?
  • Can there be a “true” narrative? What are the boundaries between fact and fiction, between autobiography and autofiction?
  • How is identity storied, restoried, even de-storied across the lifespan?
  • What is the effect of the media (new and old) on identity?
  • What is the relationship between what is archived in individual memories and social institutions and the stories that we tell?

"Rhetoric and its Masses," Annual Symposium, American Society for the History of Rhetoric, Philadelphia, May 24-25, 2012.

“There are in fact no masses; there are only ways of seeing people as masses.” (Raymond Williams, 1958)

In virtually every epoch of its history, rhetoric has understood the masses as a topoi of central concern. The “masses” has a history as fluid as “rhetoric” itself: in every age it has captured different ideas, been entangled with different politics, signaled different segments of the population, and intersected with rhetoric in historically specific ways.

The 2012 Symposium will focus on these intersections, seek to recapture the historically specific ways in which rhetoric and the masses have been articulated, and pay special attention to the political motives attending these articulations.

The Symposium seeks to understand rhetoric and its masses from as wide a perspective as possible. Appropriate topics include, but are not limited to: rhetorics both to and from the masses, anxieties about the hoi polloi and/or the dêmos, various understandings of “mass communication” and the technologies that underwrite them, propaganda studies, publicity, and the invocations of crowds, mobs, herds, classes, imagined communities, the people, publics, counter-publics, etc. Further, the Symposium welcomes attention to the anxieties that have historically attended invocations of the masses: contagions, vulgarity, disorder, devaluation, chaos, regimentation, etc.

Cfp: Christiane Chauviré and Sabine Plaud, eds. "Wittgenstein and Pragmatism: a Reassessment," EUROPEAN JOURNAL OF PRAGMATISM AND AMERICAN PHILOSOPHY 4.2 (2012).

The connections between Wittgenstein’s philosophy and the pragmatist tradition are often alluded to, but seldom thoroughly explored. It is an established fact that Wittgenstein was scarcely acquainted with such authors as Charles Sanders Peirce or John Dewey, even though he had a rather extended knowledge of the philosophy of William James. Nevertheless, the converging features between Wittgenstein and pragmatism are quite striking: we shall hardly need to mention Wittgenstein’s claim that meaning is use, his insistence on the pictorial dimension of mathematical proof, or again his emphasis on action in his characterization of will and intention. On the other hand, modern and contemporary pragmatist philosophers (R. B. Brandom, H. Putnam...) have often developed a complex and intricate relationship to Wittgenstein’s philosophy, since they sometimes use it as a support to their own arguments, but sometimes also point at its insufficiencies, and try to amend them. Hence the following questions: in what sense may Wittgenstein’s philosophy be described as “pragmatist”? Symmetrically, in what sense may contemporary pragmatist philosophy be described as “Wittgensteinian”? What are the incompatibilities, if any, between these two traditions? Lastly, what part has been played by such “middlemen” as C. K. Ogden or F. P. Ramsey in the interactions between Wittgenstein and pragmatism? Answering these questions should provide an opportunity to explore the dialogues and/or misunderstandings between a European or continental tradition in philosophy, and a more specifically American analysis of the notions of meaning, reasoning, action, etc. This special issue of EJPAP will welcome historical or even “philological” approaches, as well as more analytic ways of dealing with these debates.

Papers should be sent to Sabine Plaud ( before May 1st 2012. Papers should not exceed 10,000 words and must include an abstract of 200-400 words and a list of works cited. Papers will be selected on the basis of a process of blind review. Acceptance of papers will be notified before July 1st, 2012.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Carlisle, Clare. "Spinoza, Part 5: On Human Nature." GUARDIAN March 7, 2011.

One of the central questions of philosophy is: what is a human being? And this question can be posed in a more personal way: who am I? As we might by now expect, Spinoza's view of the human being challenges commonsense opinions as well as prevailing philosophical and religious ideas. We are probably inclined to think of ourselves as distinct individuals, separate from other beings. Of course, we know that we have relationships to people and objects in the world, but nevertheless we see ourselves as autonomous – a view that is reflected in the widelyheld belief that we have free will. This popular understanding of the human condition is reflected in Cartesian philosophy, which conceives human beings as substances. In fact, Descartes thought that human beings are composed of two distinct substances: a mind and a body. 

For Spinoza, however, human beings are not substances, but finite modes. (Last week, I suggested that a mode is something like a wave on the sea, being a dependent, transient part of a far greater whole.) This mode has two aspects, or attributes: extension, or physical embodiment; and thought, or thinking. Crucially, Spinoza denies that there can be any causal or logical relationships across these attributes. Instead, he argues that each attribute constitutes a causal and logical order that fully expresses reality in a certain way. So a human body is a physical organism which expresses the essence of that particular being under the attribute of extension. And a human mind is an intellectual whole that expresses this same essence under the attribute of thinking. . . .

Vernon, Mark. "Carl Jung, Part 7: The Power of Acceptance." GUARDIAN July 11, 2011

Jung believed that we are psychosomatic creatures who must attend to matters of the spirit as well as the body. Further, our psyche is not just our own. It is connected to others, both those with whom we visibly interact, and those who have come before us, via the dynamic he called the collective unconscious. Life goes well when these links are open. Flow brings a sense of purpose. Conversely, blockages can lead to ill-health with possibly physical and psychological manifestations. "A psychoneurosis must be understood, ultimately, as the suffering of a soul which has not discovered its meaning," Jung wrote, in an essay wittily entitled "Psychotherapists or the Clergy".

Other observers of the human condition make similar remarks. Bertrand Russell, who could hardly be different from Jung in terms of his spiritual outlook, nonetheless averred that the happy individual feels himself "part of the stream of life, not a hard separate entity like a billiard ball, which can have no relation with other such entities except that of collision". Such a person knows themselves as a "citizen of the universe".

Jung preferred overtly religious language – instead of the universe talking of the "soul of the world" or anima mundi – and this was more than a question of taste. He believed spiritual connectedness was fundamental to being human and that, wary of religiosity, modern consciousness was struggling to take it seriously. The default image of secular individuality was, indeed, the billiard ball. Notions such as the stream of life, let alone the soul or the collective unconscious, tend to be treated as poetic fictions, at best, with damaging implications for human wellbeing. . . .

"Argumentation in Political Deliberation," Faculdade de Ciências Sociais e Humanas, Universidade Nova de Lisboa, September 2, 2011.

Political deliberation, understood as a public debate aimed at forming political opinions and deciding what course of action to take, has traditionally been seen as a prime venue for public reasoning and argument. Aristotle considered political deliberation – next to forensic dispute and public oratory – as one of the three main genres of rhetoric. Today, different modes of political deliberation – from formal institutional procedures in parliaments, to public hearings, to citizens’ conferences, to televised debates, to informal online discussions among “ordinary citizens” – are at the centre of interest in argumentation theory, deliberative theory of democracy, and communication and media studies alike.
The goal of this colloquium is to bring together scholars from these interrelated disciplines to examine the role, shape and quality of argumentation in political deliberation. A theoretical and empirical focus of the presentations and discussions will be on the practices of argumentation. The questions addressed include: How can we best theorize, analyze and evaluate argumentation in the context of political deliberation? What is the impact of the contextual conditions in different deliberative activities on the shape and quality of public argument? What are the typical forms of deliberative argument and counterargument? To what extent is the “virtual public sphere” transforming the way we engage in public argument? Does it allow for inclusive participation and genuine argumentative debate between advocates of various political views? By addressing these questions, the colloquium hopes to provide a focused account of the multifaceted argumentative practices in political deliberation.

The colloquium is part of a project Argumentation, Communication and Context sponsored by the Portuguese Foundation for Science and Technology (FCT: PTDC/FIL–FIL/10117/2009) and carried out at ArgLab, Universidade Nova de Lisboa.

For more details (full programme, abstracts) and updates please go to (info available soon)

Schmitter, Amy M. Review of Peter Machamer, et al., eds INTERPRETATION. NDPR (July 2011).

Machamer, Peter, and Gereon Wolters, eds.  Interpretation: Ways of Thinking about the Sciences and the Arts.  Pittsburgh: U of Pittsburgh P, 2010.

This wide-ranging collection of essays emerged from what must have been an enjoyably eclectic 2008 meeting of the Pittsburgh-Konstanz Colloquium in the Philosophy of Science, one charged with the double task of honoring Gereon Wolters and of showing off the many arenas where interpretation has a place. Peter Machamer sets the stage in an opening essay, in which he expresses his hope that the anthology will rectify the loss of interpretation as "a hot topic in contemporary philosophy" (p. 14). Machamer is surely right that interpretation occupies an odd place in contemporary philosophy: despite its cognitive significance, it garners little attention in epistemology. But it does constitute a central area of investigation for some stripes of philosophy of language, for hermeneutics, and for philosophy of art and literary criticism. If Machamer, Wolters and their contributors have their way, it should also figure importantly in various areas of the philosophy of science, philosophy of mind and action, and practical aesthetics.

"Perspectivalism," Universiteit Ghent, January 19-20, 2012.

"Nothing dictates whether the skies shall be marked off into constellations or other objects. We have to make what we find, be it the Great Dipper, Sirius, food, fuel, or a stereo system." (Nelson Goodman)

Various philosophers have claimed that facts of a certain sort somehow depend on our perspective on the matter. It has for example been suggested that causal facts, temporal facts, moral facts, facts concerning existence, identity, boundaries, etc. are perspective-dependent. Such a position goes under various names: perspectivalism, anti-realism, metaphysical relativism. This workshop aims at reviewing new arguments for and against.

Example questions: (i) What does perspective-dependence amount to? (ii) What sort of facts are perspective-dependent? (iii) Does perspectivalism entail some sort of relativism? (iv) Is perspectivalism coherent?

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Behnke, Elizabeth A. "Husserl's Phenomenology of Embodiment." INTERNET ENCYCLOPEDIA OF PHILOSOPHY July 7, 2011.

For Husserl, the body is not a physical substance, but a central, vibrant perspective relative to which our understanding of the world is oriented. It is a locus of distinctive sorts of sensations felt firsthand by the embodied experiencer, and it is a coherent system of movement possibilities by which we experience our situated, practical-perceptual life as an arrow to a new perspective. To identify such experiential structures of embodiment, Husserl must identify not only the ways in which the natural sciences approach the body, but also the ways we have tacitly taken natural-scientific assumptions into our everyday understanding of embodiment. Husserl’s phenomenological investigations eventually lead to the notion of “kinesthetic consciousness”, which is not a consciousness of movement, but a consciousness of motility (the ability to move freely and responsively). In Husserl’s phenomenology of embodiment, the body is a center of experience, and both its movement capabilities and its distinctive register of sensations play a key role in his account of how we encounter other people in the shared space of a coherent and ever-explorable world. Many of Husserl’s theories were taken up by such later figures in the phenomenological tradition as Heidegger and Merleau-Ponty, who gave them an ontological interpretation. However, Husserl’s main focus is epistemological, and for him, embodiment is not only a means of practical action, but an essential part of the deep structure of all knowing. . . .

Vernon, Mark. "Carl Jung, Part 6: Synchronicity." GUARDIAN July 4, 2011.

Jung and Pauli conjectured that they were dealing with a link between the apparently disparate realities of matter and mind. Jung objected to the dualism implied by suggesting these two aspects are distinct kinds of stuff, and so sought a unitary dimension beneath the dualism. In this, he is far from unusual: philosophers and mystics alike have discerned what Jung called the unus mundus or unitary world.Archetypes, as implicit structuring principles, provide a way of conceptualising the common ground shared by mind and matter.

Pauli called it a "missing link", though he was also very aware of the accusation of providing mystification rather than explanation. "In my own view it is only a narrow passage of truth (no matter whether scientific or other truth) that passes between the Scylla of a blue fog of mysticism and the Charybdis of a sterile rationalism," he observed. "This will always be full of pitfalls and one can fall down on both sides."

Individuals from Plato to Spinoza have similarly tried to chart that fine course. However, apart from the breakthroughs such intuitions produced, Pauli had reason to trust that the world was odder than he might otherwise think. . . .

Carlisle, Clare. "Spinoza, Part 4: All There Is, Is God." GUARDIAN February 28, 2011.

If, as Spinoza argues, there is only one substance – God – which is infinite, then there can be nothing outside or separate from this God. Precisely because God is a limitless, boundless totality, he must be an outsideless whole, and therefore everything else that exists must be within God. Of course, these finite beings can be distinguished from God, and also from one another – just as we can distinguish between a tree and its green colour, and between the colour green and the colour blue. But we are not dealing here with the distinction between separate substances that can be conceived to exist independently from one another.

Again, this is rather abstract. As Aristotle suggested, we cannot think without images, and I find it helpful to use the image of the sea to grasp Spinoza's metaphysics. The ocean stands for God, the sole substance, and individual beings are like waves – which are modes of the sea. Each wave has its own shape that it holds for a certain time, but the wave is not separate from the sea and cannot be conceived to exist independently of it. Of course, this is only a metaphor; unlike an infinite God, an ocean has boundaries, and moreover the image of the sea represents God only in the attribute of extension. But maybe we can also imagine the mind of God – that is to say, the infinite totality of thinking – as like the sea, and the thoughts of finite beings as like waves that arise and then pass away.

Spinoza's world view brings to the fore two features of life: dependence and connectedness. Each wave is dependent on the sea, and because it is part of the sea it is connected to every other wave. The movements of one wave will influence all the rest. Likewise, each being is dependent on God, and as a part of God it is connected to every other being. As we move about and act in the world, we affect others, and we are in turn affected by everything we come into contact with. . . .

"Paranoia and Pain Embodied in Psychology, Literature and Bioscience," Inaugural Literature and Science Conference, School of English, University of Liverpool, April 2-4, 2012.

The conference aims to explore overlapping paradigms of paranoia and pain in psychology, biological sciences, and literary texts/contexts. How is paranoia related to pain? How is pain expressed with/without paranoia? How are these two terms exposed in various contexts? How does our understanding of the psychophysiology of pain interrelate with literary accounts of paranoia and pain? What does research in the field of paranoia offer to literary studies surrounding this concept and vice versa? To what extent does pain echo paranoia; and is this echo physiological, stylistic, psychological, symbolic, or literal? How do these terms regulate our behaviour and expression of emotions in relation to broader concepts such as faith, ethics, and the value of human life? What does the study of these concepts offer today’s generation of intellectuals with regard to human relationships and the way we communicate with each other? This international conference brings together experts from different fields to address these questions by incorporating individual presentations and panels that focus on cross-disciplinary studies.

Considering the diversity of themes and questions for this conference, individual papers as well as pre-formed panels are invited to examine the following three key areas, proposed by the conference organizers. Other inter- and multi-disciplinary topics, relevant to the conference, will also be considered:

1- Impressions:

Expression of paranoia and pain in literary/scientific contexts; Metaphorical and literal exposition of pain and paranoia; Paranoid texts, painful contexts; The image of paranoia and pain in poetry, prose, and visual arts; Textual culture and the symbolics of pain; Stylistics of pain and paranoia in communication; How does the narrative of pain/paranoia identify with studies of affect?
2- Intersections:

The biology of pain and the emotional interpretation; The biology/literature of anaesthesia; Physical symptoms, emotional translations; Aesthetics and affective perspectives on pain/paranoia; How have cultural attitudes to the experience of pain and/or paranoia changed over the course of history?

3- Dissections:

Faith and the formation of our ideas on pain/paranoia; Side effects of pain-relief medication; Ethics and the questions of double effect; Is it ever appropriate to withhold pain relief in order to extend the life of a sufferer where analgesics have the side effect of shortening life?

Romano, Carlin. "What's a Metaphor For?" CHRONICLE OF HIGHER EDUCATION July 3, 2011.

Geary, James.  I Is an Other: the Secret Life of Metaphor and How It Shapes the Way We See the World.  New York: Harper, 2011.

James Geary's playful, accessible I Is an Other: the Secret Life of Metaphor and How It Shapes the Way We See the World (Harper), comes burdened with such an atrocious title. The line is a literal translation of one of the French poet Arthur Rimbaud's most famous lines, better translated by Lydia Davis as "I am someone else." No matter. Ignore the title. Think of Geary, even at his glibbest, as the bridge between the burgeoning field of metaphor studies and the man and woman in the street.Geary announces his high regard for metaphor at his book's outset:
Metaphorical thinking—our instinct not just for describing but for comprehending one thing in terms of another—shapes our view of the world, and is essential to how we communicate, learn, discover and invent. ... Our understanding of metaphor is in the midst of a metamorphosis. For centuries, metaphor has been seen as a kind of cognitive frill, a pleasant but essentially useless embellishment to 'normal' thought. Now, the frill is gone. New research in the social and cognitive sciences makes it increasingly plain that metaphorical thinking influences our attitudes, beliefs, and actions in surprising, hidden, and often oddball ways.
Geary further unpacks metaphor's influence in his foreword:
Metaphor conditions our interpretations of the stock market and, through advertising, it surreptitiously infiltrates our purchasing decisions. In the mouths of politicians, metaphor subtly nudges public opinion; in the minds of businesspeople, it spurs creativity and innovation. In science, metaphor is the preferred nomenclature for new theories and new discoveries; in psychology, it is the natural language of human relationships and emotions.
All true, though Geary occasionally makes it sound as if the importance of metaphor to human language, knowledge, and comprehension is a recent discovery. (At other times, he gives deserved credit to early champions of metaphor such as the Italian philosopher Giambattista Vico, who was born in the late 17th century.) In fact, many modern thinkers and scholars have agreed that all language is at root metaphorical. Rousseau argued that man's ''first expressions were tropes''; modern analysts such as Nelson Goodman recognized that metaphor still ''permeates all discourse''; and continental theorists like Derrida concurred (''Abstract notions always hide a sensory figure''). Fontanier, the great French theorist of tropes, pointed out that even so abstract an idea as ''idea'' grew from the Greek eido, ''to see.''

Anderson, Mark, "Telling the Same Story of Nietzsche's Life." JOURNAL OF NIETZSCHE STUDIES 42 (Autumn 2011).

In the spring 2011 issue of this journal there appeared a review of Julian Young’s recent and well-received Friedrich Nietzsche: a Philosophical Biography. The author of the piece, Daniel Blue, writes from the perspective of one of the book’s very few detractors. His objections, however, mainly concern the philosophical-interpretive chapters of Young’s book. Regarding the biographical material, Blue judges that the book provides “a lively and intellectually bracing account of Nietzsche’s life.” On this point I would not like to contradict Blue’s opinion. I am, however, inclined to lay a critical finger upon his remark that Young “[o]f necessity…tells the same story as [Ronald] Hayman and [Curtis] Cate,” two of the more ambitious among Nietzsche’s English-language biographers. Taking the point as Blue no doubt intends it, his remark is unobjectionable. Nietzsche lived only one life; his biographers, therefore, have in a general way only one story to tell. They distinguish themselves, as Blue correctly indicates, by providing their “own emphases.” I would elaborate upon this point by noting that apart from being a meticulous compiler and collator of dates and information, a successful biographer must also be something of an artist. And I would add that the biographer’s art is manifest, not in his chronological ordering of the events of one year after another, but in his particular selection of facts, in his narrative interpretation of these facts, and, perhaps most of all, in his prose, his language, which, after all, is the only medium at his disposal for characterizing his subjects, communicating their attitudes and moods, and for attracting us to them, or repelling us from them, as individual personalities.

We agree, then, that Nietzsche’s many biographers must in a general way tell the same story. Having conceded this point, however, let us consider Julian Young’s brief history and description of Nietzsche’s boarding-school, Pforta:
Originally a Cistercian abbey called Porta Coeli (Gate of Heaven), Pforta (‘Gate’—now to education rather than heaven) had been transformed into a school in 1543 by the Prince-Elector Moritz of Saxony…Pforta, or Schulpforta (Pforta School), as it is known today, is about an hour’s walk from Naumburg—Fritz sometimes walked home for the holidays. It lies just south of the ambling Saale River in a wooded valley that extends from the western edge of Naumburg to the narrow gorge of Kösen. The school estate comprises some seventy-three acres of gardens, orchards, groves of trees, buildings, and cloisters, protected from the outer world by a thick twelve-foot-high wall, which forms an almost perfect rectangle. A branch canal of the Saale flows through the middle of the enclosure, separating the work buildings and gardens and most of the teachers’ houses from the school itself. (Young 2010, 21-22)
Now compare this to the following passage from the late Curtis Cate’s biography, Friedrich Nietzsche:
Originally a Cistercian monastery bearing the Latin name, Porta coeli (Gate of Heaven), it had been transformed in 1543 into a ‘Prinzenschule’ by the Protestant Prince-Elector Moritz of Saxony. Situated slightly south of the Saale river in a wooded valley extending from the western edge of Naumburg to the narrow gorges of Kösen, Pforta or Schulpforta, as it is known to this day, consisted of some sixty acres of gardens, orchards, groves, buildings and cloisters, protected from the outer world by a thick twelve-foot-high wall, which formed an almost perfect rectangle. A branch canal of the Saale flowed through the middle of the enclosure, separating the vegetable and other gardens, the ‘household’ barns and workshops and most of the teachers’ houses from the school buildings and quadrangles. (Cate 2005, 17)
These two passages are strikingly similar; they are much closer to one another than either is to the corresponding passage in Ronald Hayman’s Nietzsche: A Critical Life, which reads: “Built in the twelfth century as a Cistercian abbey, with walls twelve feet high and two-and-a-half feet thick, [Pforta] was isolated in a valley about four miles from Naumburg” (Hayman 1982, 27). Hayman tells the same story as Cate and Young, to be sure; but his version of the story is unique. How shall we explain the parallels between Young’s story and Cate’s? . . .

Bartlett, Tom. "Alan Sokal, the 1996 Hoaxer, Takes Aim at an Accused Plagiarist at Rutgers." CHRONICLE October 14, 2010.

Two scholars have accused another scholar of committing plagiarism multiple times in a half-dozen books, the first of which was published in 1980 and the most recent just last year. The scholars make the accusations in a 70-page document, provided to The Chronicle, that includes many instances in which exact wording is reproduced without quotation marks, and long passages that closely mirror other authors' previously published work.

It is an unusually painstaking effort to uncover apparent scholarly wrongdoing. But what makes it even more unusual is how it all came about, and how it came to involve Alan Sokal, a physics professor at New York University who is best known for the hoax that bears his name. . . .

Medical Humanities Conference, Western Michigan University, September 29-30, 2011.


Read the CFP here:

Michael Polanyi and the Current Situation, Gummersbach, Germany, July 28-31, 2011.


Thurs 28th
Afternoon: Assemble
19.30 Wecome and Session 1: ‘An outline of Polanyi`s work in politics and economics’, Dr Richard Allen

Friday 29th
09.00 Session 2: ‘Freedom’ (1): 'Polanyi and liberty: the Hungarian background’, Prof. Dr Endre Nagy, Semmelweis University, Budapest
11.00 Session 3: 'Freedom’ (2): 'Polanyi and public liberty’, Prof. Dr Mullins, Missouri Western State University
14:00 Session 4: 'The organisation of science in Polanyi`s day and now’, Dr Klaus-Ulbricht Neumann, Loughborough University
16.00 Session 5: ‘Polanyi on general and specific authority in science and society’, Dr Simon Smith, Kingston College, London
19.30 Session 6: ‘The from-to structure of political and economic thinking’, Prof. Dr Richard Moodey, Gannon University, Erie, PA.

Saturday 30th
9.00 Session 7: 'Moral inversion’ (1): Its political aspects’, Viktor Genk, Budapest University of Technology and Economics
11.00 Session 8: Session 8: 'Moral inversion (2): Its social aspects’, Prof. Tihamér Margitay, Budapest University of Technology and Economics.
16.00 Session 9: ‘Polanyi and the sociology of economic life’, Dr Richard Moodey
19.30 Session 10: ’30 years working with Polanyi', Prof. Dr Klaus R. Allerbeck, Frankfurt University.

Sunday 31st
9.00 Session 10: ‘Some cultural and economic boundary conditions of politics’, Dr Richard Allen
11.00 Session 11: General discussion with panel of all the speakers.
12.30 Closure and Departure

Cfp: Hegelian Topics in Aesthetics, EVENTAL AESTHETICS 1.1 (forthcoming).

Evental Aesthetics is an international, peer-reviewed journal dedicated to interdisciplinary theoretical perspectives on art and aesthetics. We are dedicating EA's inaugural issue to Hegelian Topics in Aesthetics.

For more information about the journal and for submission guidelines, please see:


Download the entire issue here:

Braver, Lee. Review of Iain D. Thomson, HEIDEGGER, ART AND POSTMODERNITY. NDPR (July 2011).

Thomson, Iain D.  Heidegger, Art, and Postmodernity.  Cambridge: CUP, 2011.

Heidegger is the focal point of the history of continental philosophy. He gathers together the movements before him -- transcendental idealism, existentialism, phenomenology, hermeneutics -- and profoundly influences those that follow -- post-structuralism, the Frankfurt school, postmodernism. It is the last of these that Iain Thomson writes about in his excellent new book, Heidegger, Art, and Postmodernity, using the topic of art to mutually illuminate Heidegger's later writings and postmodernity. More than just tracing a line of influence, Thomson uses Heidegger's later work to critique certain problematic aspects of postmodernism (i.e., the philosophical movement) which can then provide a "meaningful postmodernity" (p. 1) (i.e., the period following the present one).

Thomson tells his readers at the outset that he has difficulty placing himself in the contemporary division of philosophy between analytic and continental thinkers. As someone who has also tried to defy or "bridge" this divide, I find works like this extremely heartening. Thomson's explanations of Heidegger's difficult later works are unfailingly clear, carefully laying out the arguments and explaining all technical terms. Furthermore, the book's organization guides the reader so smoothly through the steps of his discussion that it should make knee-jerk objections about Heideggerian obscurantism much harder to make. . . .

Computational Models of Narrative, Istanbul, May 20-22, 2012.

Narratives are ubiquitous in human experience. It is clear that, to fully understand and explain human intelligence, beliefs, and behaviors, we will have to understand why narrative is universal and explain the function it serves.

The aim of this workshop series is to address key, fundamental questions about narrative, using computational techniques, so to advance our understanding of cognition, culture, and

The computational study narrative does not yet have carefully constructed shared resources and corpora that can catalyze the way forward. This meeting will not only be an appropriate venue for papers addressing fundamental topics and questions regarding narrative, but also those papers which focus on the identification, collection, and construction of *shared resources and corpora* that facilitate the computational modeling of narrative.

Papers should focus on issues fundamental to computational modeling and scientific understanding, or issues related to building shared resources to advance the field. A technological application or motivation is not required.

Illustrative Topics and Questions:

* What kinds of shared resources are required for the computational study of narrative?
* What content and modalities should be put in a "Story Bank" at formal representations should be used?
* What shared resources are available, or how can already-extant resources be adapted to common needs?
* What makes narrative different from a list of events or facts? What is special that makes something a narrative?
* What are the details of the relationship between narrative and common sense?
* How are narratives indexed and retrieved? Is there a "universal" scheme for encoding episodes?
* What impact do the purpose, function, and genre of a narrative have on its form and content?
* What comprises the set of possible narrative arcs? Is there
such a set? How many possible story lines are there?
* Are there systematic differences in the formal properties of narratives from different cultures?
* What are appropriate representations for narrative? What representations underlie the extraction of narrative schemas?
* How should we evaluate computational models of narrative?

"A Dangerous Liaison: the Analytic Engagement with Continental Philosophy," Department of Philosophy, University of York, December 9, 2011.

The history of antagonism between the analytic and hermeneutic-phenomenological traditions of philosophy suggests that dialogue is simply not possible, and that the difference runs deeper than approaches, methods, and styles. It seems, however, that both are asking the same questions – or at least questions about the same subjects – even if their answers differ radically. The problems of knowledge, existence, ethics, and aesthetics feature on the agendas of Anglo-American and Continental philosophy alike, and a minority of analytic philosophers have regarded their counterparts as a source of potential enlightenment. Phenomenology in particular is relevant to the philosophy of mind, and Merleau-Ponty’s work has been employed by Shaun Gallagher, Alva Noë, Brian O’Shaughnessy, and Charles Taylor. Husserl is another popular choice, with Dan Zahavi and Shaun Gallagher editing Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences, a journal aimed at applying Husserl’s work to analytic philosophy and other disciplines. Heidegger’s hermeneutics have drawn attention from Richard Rorty, Hubert Dreyfus, Gilbert Ryle, and Andy Clark. Christopher Norris has even argued against the perception of Derrida as a postmodernist, advancing his work as a Kantian critique rather than a deconstruction of analytic philosophy. It appears that cross-pollination is not just possible, but actively practised by a self-selected few. 

Keynote Speakers:

· Professor Barry Dainton (Liverpool) on TBA
· Professor Christopher Norris (Cardiff) on Derrida
· Dr Denis McManus (Southampton) on Heidegger
· Dr Joel Smith (Manchester) on Merleau-Ponty

Kaufer, Stefan. Review of Mark A. Wrathall, HEIDEGGER AND UNCONCEALMENT. NDPR (July 2011).

Wrathall, Mark A.  Heidegger and Unconcealment: Truth, Language, and History.  Cambridge: CUP, 2010.

This volume collects eight previously published and two new essays Mark Wrathall has written on the topics of truth, language, and history in the work of the later Heidegger. This body of work is an astonishing achievement. Wrathall's writing is clear and comprehensive, ranging across virtually all of Heidegger's collected works. The essays are full of illuminating examples and draw with equal expertise on the history of philosophy and the literary and religious contexts that inform Heidegger's writing. Wrathall's overall interpretation of Heidegger's work is crystal clear, compelling, and relevant. Every philosopher interested in Heidegger should read this book.

Wrathall's work provides a much need roadmap to Heidegger's later work. "Later Heidegger" refers to views worked out after Being and Time. Beginning in the 1930s Heidegger no longer focuses on the phenomenology of individual existence. Instead, he turns to broader themes about the history of being, i.e., the different ways humans have experienced the being of entities, the nature of language, and the receding role of the divine in our technological age. Around the same time Heidegger also adopts novel styles of doing philosophy. He interprets paintings, poetry, and the pre-Socratics, and he often ventures poetical uses of language in his own writing. For almost half a century he produces essays, talks, letters, dialogues, and lecture notes, but no real book that sums up his views.

Clear philosophical interpretations of "early Heidegger," in particular of Being and Time, have been available for more than two decades now, and a generation of interpreters has produced excellent scholarship on Heidegger's existential analytic and its implications for the philosophy of mind, cognitive science, the philosophy of perception, and related fields. Later Heidegger, however, has largely resisted fruitful interpretations. In part this is because Heidegger's topics are so broad and abstract, and because he frequently uses language in unconventional ways. Further, the lack of a single, sustained authoritative text requires scholars to piece together a view from lecture notes and essays. Most significantly, there are some basic misunderstandings that impede progress towards successful interpretations. One reason why Wrathall's essays are so important is that he patiently and convincingly clears up some of these basic misunderstandings. . . .