Monday, September 19, 2011

Inaugural Meeting, Kristeva Circle, Siena College, October 12-13, 2012.

The Kristeva Circle supports research on or influenced by philosopher, psychoanalyst and novelist Julia Kristeva. Our mission is to establish and advance Kristeva scholarship nationally and internationally. The Circle was established in 2011 by Fanny Söderbäck (Siena College) and Sarah Hansen (Rhodes College) with support from Kelly Oliver (Vanderbilt University).

For more information about The Kristeva Circle, please visit our website:

Kelly, Michael R. Review of Keith Ansell-Pearson, et al., eds. THE NEW CENTURY. NDPR (September 2011).

Schrift, Alan D., and Keith Ansell-Pearson, eds.  The New Century: Bergsonism, Phenomenology, and Responses to Modern Science. Vol. 3 of The History of Continental Philosophy.  8 Vols.  Chicago: U of Chicago P, 2010.

The New Century is the third of an eight volume set on the history of continental philosophy. It is aptly titled, capturing the innovative spirit of the early twentieth century, even in philosophy, with a nod toward one of its forgotten idols -- Henri Bergson -- and his emphasis on genesis, novelty, and creativity. For both those new to and those steeped in continental philosophy, it provides useful overviews of most of the most significant thinkers, issues, and movements of the continental tradition from (roughly) the 1890s to the 1930s (ix). Its selection of essays on central and marginal figures, movements, and themes of significance for early continental philosophy is complemented by a generous and helpful (twenty page) timeline of philosophical, cultural, and political events from the seventeenth century to the present (381-400). The contributions, generally of very high quality, are written, by and large, by leading scholars. For any given topic, the extensive (but not tedious) bibliographic information and footnotes should facilitate further research. It is a largely accessible, reliable, and thus recommendable collection that often combines the range of an encyclopedia and the substance of an article.

Like the series as a whole, the volume presents the methods of continental thought and its representative thinkers and issues in the context of "figures and developments outside philosophy (in the sciences, social sciences, mathematics, art, politics and culture)" as well as "philosophers not usually associated with continental philosophy" (viii) rather than "a chronologically organized series of 'great thinker' essays". The editors frame the volume according to the spirit of the times understood as a set of varied responses to nineteenth-century positivism and scientism more specifically (5). As Keith Ansell-Pearson notes in his detailed introduction, 'continental' thinkers at the turn of the 'new century' – thinkers as diverse as its inaugurators, Nietzsche, Bergson, and Husserl -- pursued a unified 'vocation' of regaining philosophy's independence and reasserting culture's future "faith in the human as the being in search of truth and rational modes of being" (4). These thinkers respected the regional inquiries of the sciences while developing the conviction "that the 'true being' is not a possession the human has, like the self-evidence of the 'I am', but . . . echoing Nietzsche, a task" (3). For these thinkers, who one could call the 'founders' of continental philosophy, the task was one of creating anew (in Bergson's case) or renewing (in Husserl's case) philosophy's "own sources of knowledge" rather than "imitating developments in the method of science" (6). . . .

Ebels-Duggan, Kyla. Review of Hubert Dreyfus, et al. ALL THINGS SHINING. NDPR (August 2011).

Dreyfus, Hubert, and Sean Dorrance Kelly.  All Things Shining: Reading the Western Classics to Find Meaning in a Secular AgeNew York: Free Press, 2011.

Those not initiated into the practice of academic philosophy tend to assume that daunting questions about the meaning of life are its main occupation. But any academic philosopher knows how far this is from the truth. Speaking to questions simultaneously so momentous and so ill-defined hazards both offensive pretension and embarrassing silliness. So it is easy to see why, over the last century, an increasingly professionalized discipline agreed to treat them as inappropriate for grown-up philosophers, notwithstanding the interest they held for grown-ups such as Plato and Kant. But in a salutary trend, some mature minds have recently returned to this topic. Hubert Dreyfus and Sean Kelly are to be commended for their presence among them.

Having determined to face the risks, Dreyfus and Kelly take no half measures. They open All Things Shining with a promise of no less than deliverance from the boredom, nihilism and despair that they think characteristic of our "secular age:"
anyone who is done with indecision and waiting, with expressionlessness and lostness and sadness and angst, and who is ready for whatever it is that comes next; anyone with hope instead of despair, or anyone with despair that they would like to leave behind, can find something worthwhile in the pages ahead. (xi)
To accomplish this deliverance they take readers on a whirlwind tour through the history of Western thought. The tour, though necessarily selective, serves two purposes. First, it provides an account of the causes and character of the contemporary malaise. In short, the problem is the need for a middle path between two tempting, though in the authors' view bankrupt, positions. The first is the "temptation to monotheism," which they trace to the rise of Christianity. But this is not a book for monotheists and does not purport to address them. Rather, its audience is those living in the wake of monotheism, people who cannot regard believing in God as a serious option but still have sensibilities shaped by a recently monotheistic culture. Monotheism promised "ultimate or final" meaning (179), "an ultimate truth behind everything that is" (181). The authors never make entirely clear what they mean by a "final" or "ultimate" account. But, as their extended discussion of Melville's Moby Dick makes clear, they think that the possibility of such a thing disappears with monotheistic faith. Still saddled with unsatisfiable longing for ultimate meaning, post-monotheist secularists fall prey to the second temptation, trying to create this meaning for themselves. This turns out to be merely a detour to the same ennui and despair it aimed to avoid.

Though they claim to provide glimpses of a "hidden history of the West" (89), some elements of the authors' historical story are familiar: Judeo-Christian monotheism crowds out earlier possibilities, Luther -- quite unintentionally -- plants the seeds of autonomous meaning-creation with his individualist opposition to the Catholic church, Descartes expands individualism into epistemology, Kant carries this further than anyone had intended with his Copernican revolution, and this leads on to Nietzsche's subjectivism. David Foster Wallace is cast as spokesperson for the contemporary inheritors of the nihilism that the authors think results. On their view, Wallace displays particular insight into the problem of contemporary life: our loss of the sense that anything could be more worth doing than anything else. Their Wallace tries to apply a Nietzschean solution, inserting significance into the world through individual acts of will. But the attempt fails and despair ensues. . . .

Westerman, Richard. Review of David Ingram, ed. CRITICAL THEORY TO STRUCTURALISM. NDPR (August 2011).

Ingram, David, ed.  Vol. 5  Critical Theory to Structuralism: Philosophy, Politics, and the Human SciencesVol. 5 of The History of Continental Philosophy.  8 Vols.  Chicago: U of Chicago P, 2010.

According to Hegel, "the history of Philosophy is not a blind collection of fanciful ideas, nor a fortuitous progression," but rather a "necessary development of the successive philosophies from one another, so that the one of necessity presupposes another preceding it." In the end, a history of philosophy narrates the unfolding of "one Philosophy, the contemporary differences of which constitute the necessary aspects of the one principle." Hegel's strictures are perhaps particularly relevant for any history of continental philosophy: though it may be arguable whether the term refers to any coherent school, one thing that unites many of those identified as continental philosophers is that they develop their own ideas in direct engagement with the historical tradition.

Chicago's handsome new eight-volume History of Continental Philosophy is therefore a very welcome addition to the literature: their comprehensive catalogue of the "tradition that has its roots in several different ways of approaching and responding to Immanuel Kant's critical philosophy" will help both the novice and the specialist trace a path through the often-convoluted genealogies of contemporary continental philosophy. Whilst the publishers' website refers to the project as "the most comprehensive reference work to date," the Series Preface suggests an intention to follow Hegel's guidance. There, the series is described as "a coherent and comprehensive account of the continental philosophical tradition." The editors acknowledge that "telling the history of continental philosophy cannot simply take the form of a chronologically organized series of 'great thinker' essays" (pp. vii-viii).

David Ingram takes on the job of editing Volume Five of the collection -- a difficult task, since most of the writers covered in this volume did not treat philosophical problems in isolation, but instead both used philosophical ideas to interpret social and political problems and also tried to answer philosophical questions with reference to the social sciences. As he explains in a comprehensive, clear introduction, "the figures, schools of thought, and themes represented in this volume can best be understood as responses to this chronic crisis of modernity and, more specifically, the liberal state." (p. 1) Ingram rightly highlights the way this practical crisis led to a deeper philosophical scepticism about the value of reason. Hanging over this volume, then, is the fundamental question of disciplinary boundary: how far can normative philosophical arguments be applied to concrete social or political problems, and what is left to philosophy when other disciplines begin to answer some of its central questions? . . .

Beiser, Frederick. Review of Daniel Conway, et al., eds. NINETEENTH CENTURY PHILOSOPHY. NDPR (August 2011).

Schrift, Alan D., and Daniel Conway, eds.  Nineteenth Century Philosophy: Revolutionary Responses to the Existing Order.  Vol. 2 of The History of Continental Philosophy.  8 Vols.  Chicago: U of Chicago P, 2011.

Volume 2 of the new eight-volume series The History of Continental Philosophy, which is edited by Alan Schrift and Daniel Conway, is devoted to nineteenth-century philosophy between 1840 and 1900. This volume, like others in the series, is aimed at both specialists and beginners who need an overview and introduction to a specific topic. There can be no question that the volume succeeds, at least to some extent, at its prescribed task. Most of the essays in this volume, especially those by Terrell Carver, F.C.T. Moore, Alastair Hannay and Alan Sica, provide useful introductions to particular thinkers and developments in nineteenth-century philosophy.

Yet it must also be said that the success of this volume is very limited. It provides introductions and surveys only for someone who works within the standard curriculum of nineteenth-century philosophy, i.e., for what is now taught in Anglophone universities and what is now discussed in academic journals. But it does not even begin to supply an accurate or adequate knowledge of philosophy in the nineteenth century. The problem here has nothing to do with the editors themselves, still less with the authors who have written for them, but it has everything to do with the standard curriculum, which adopts assumptions about what is of historical and philosophical significance about the period (1840-1900) that cannot survive serious scrutiny. If our curricula are to be true to history -- if they are to preserve what is actually of greatest historical and philosophical significance in this period -- they stand in need of drastic revision.

All would have been well if Conway and Schrift had self-consciously intended to follow the standard curriculum and if they were quite clear about this in the beginning. They would be above criticism if they made no pretense to provide knowledge of nineteenth-century philosophy itself. Unfortunately, this is not the case. In his introduction to this volume Conway writes that it "charts the most influential trends and developments of European philosophy in the tumultuous period 1840 to 1900" (p. 1). It is just this claim that is problematic. If we take a broad historical perspective of this period, and if we focus especially on German philosophy, which was decisive for the century as a whole, then "the most influential trends and developments" were the following: the materialism controversy, the rise of historicism, and the emergence of neo-Kantianism, especially the formation of the Southwestern and Marburg schools. None of these developments are even mentioned in this volume. . . .

Calcagno, Antonio. Review of Alan D. Schrift, ed. POSTSTRUCTURALISM AND CRITICAL THEORY'S SECOND GENERATION. NDPR (August 2011).

Schrift, Alan D., ed.  Poststructuralism and Critical Theory's Second Generation.  Vol. 6 of The History of Continental Philosophy.  8 Vols.  Chicago: U of Chicago P, 2010.

Alan's Schrift's work, as scholar, philosopher and editor, is known for both its acuity and rigour. This volume of his The History of Continental Philosophy is yet another testament to Schrift's ability to gather leading scholars around an important theme, ultimately producing an excellent history of and guide to more recent developments in Continental philosophy. Volume 6: Poststructuralism and Critical Theory's Second Generation consists of 17 entries that commence with the reception of Nietzsche's thought into recent French philosophy and end with a discussion of Rorty among the Continentals, covering a period of Continental philosophy from about 1945 to 2007. The volume is also supplemented with a useful bibliography of major works relevant to the period as well as a chronology that simultaneously lists major philosophical, cultural and political events. This certainly helps situate thinkers, ideas and movements within the context of events in general but also within the broader developments in philosophy, including the Anglo-American and analytic traditions.

The volume opens with a preface by Schrift in which he explains the evolution of Continental philosophy. He notes,
"Continental Philosophy" itself is a contested concept. For some, it is understood to be any philosopher after 1780 originating on the European continent . . . . Such an understanding would make Georg von Wright or Rudolf Carnap . . . a "continental philosopher," an interpretation neither they nor their followers would easily accept. For others, "continental philosophy" refers to a style of philosophizing, one more attentive to the world of experience and less focused on a rigorous analysis of concepts or linguistic usage. (vii)
Rather than focus on a discussion of what constitutes Continental philosophy proper, Schrift maintains that one way to approach the question is to focus on the history of Continental philosophy, thereby avoiding nettling, polemical discussions between analytic and Continental philosophers. What we have, then, is the presentation of the content of a tradition broadly defined. This broad approach is both comprehensive and yields much food for thought about the particular philosophers discussed as well as the tradition as a whole, its past, present and future.

Schrift is not only the General Editor for the History but he also serves as the Editor of the poststructuralism volume. In total, there are eight volumes that constitute the whole History. In his Introduction to the present volume, Schrift sets the stage for poststructuralism, "French" Feminism and second-generation critical thinkers. Though he is mindful that poststructuralism has roots that go deeper than the turbulent years of the 1960s on the Continent, he begins with the theme of conflict and change that mark those years. Key in the development of poststructuralism in France was not only the death of philosophy as the master-discourse, mostly through the structuralists' engagements with the social sciences, but also the death of existentialism, which privileged subjectivity and consciousness. (5) Schrift identifies Foucault, Deleuze and Derrida as laying the groundwork for what would become dominant in the remainder of the twentieth century as Continental philosophy. . . .

"Kuhn and Rationality," Centre for Logic and Philosophy of Science, Ghent University, September 23, 2011.

Kuhn's description of the aggregate dynamics of scientific change rests on a vague and fragmented account of how scientists choose between theories. Criteria of theory choice are not an algorithmic set of rules waiting to be discovered but rather "rules of thumb": vague and conflicting. Theory choice
can therefore never be settled by logic and experiment alone, but relies on "persuasion" and "conversion". And once converted, scientists "dogmatically" stick to their paradigm even when good reasons arise for its rejection. The lack (impossibility?) of rationality on Kuhn's approach is one of the main reasons why Kuhn's philosophy of science failed to gain widespread acceptance despite its intuitive appeal and popularity among practicing cientists. 50 years after the publication of the Structure of Scientific Revolutions the following questions still arise:

- Is an account of Kuhnian rationality impossible or did Kuhn just fail to articulate one?
- In what sense can Kuhnian scientists be said to be rational?
- Can new perspectives (network theory, bounded confidence,...) on rationality clarify Kuhn's claims to rationality?

More information:

Adams, David. Review of Hans Blumenberg, PARADIGMS FOR A METAPHOROLOGY and CARE CROSSES THE RIVER. NDPR (August 2011).

Blumenberg, Hans.  Paradigms for a Metaphorology Ithaca: Cornell UP, 2010;
Blumenberg, Hans.  Care Crosses the River.  Trans. Paul FlemingStanford: Stanford UP, 2010.

The publication in 2010 of two new English translations of books by Hans Blumenberg is cause for celebration. Their nearly simultaneous appearance may be a coincidence -- Paradigms for a Metaphorology was translated by Robert Savage for Cornell and Care Crosses the River was translated by Paul Fleming for Stanford -- but the coincidence could not be more fortunate as the two works complement each other superbly. These relatively brief, stylistically divergent works from opposite ends of Blumenberg's career (1960 and 1986) provide English-language readers with long-overdue access to Blumenberg's reflections on the role of metaphor in philosophical discourse.

Blumenberg is one of Germany's most important postwar philosophers, but his presence in the English language has so far been limited. Born in Lübeck in 1920, his studies were interrupted by the war, during which he was persecuted as a Halbjude ("half Jew") and sheltered by the family of his future wife. Following the war he promptly completed his doctoral and postdoctoral dissertations (1947 and 1950), then taught successively at universities in Hamburg, Giessen, and Bochum, landing finally in Münster from 1970 to 1986. Beginning in 1966 he published a series of weighty volumes, three of which were translated into English by Bob Wallace and published by MIT Press in the 1980s: The Legitimacy of the Modern Age, Work on Myth, and The Genesis of the Copernican Age. Since his death in 1996, a steady stream of posthumous publications has accompanied the intensified interest in his work in Germany; interest from the Anglophone world is increasing as well, evidenced in part by these two new translations.

Independently of the linguistic turn in France, Blumenberg began highlighting the role of metaphor in philosophical discourse in the 1950s. More than a decade before the appearance of Jacques Derrida's "La mythologie blanche", for example, Blumenberg published "Light as a Metaphor for Truth" (1957), which includes his earliest reference to nonconceptuality (Unbegrifflichkeit), his paradoxical concept for perceptions and experiences that do not lend themselves to representation in precise, univocal concepts and thus invite expression in metaphor, myth, and symbol. Paradigms for a Metaphorology, coming three years later, argues for a broadening of the field of Begriffsgeschichte (the history of concepts) to include the history of metaphors. Metaphors are not merely ornamentation, Blumenberg argues, but are
foundational elements [Grundbestände] of philosophical language, 'translations' that resist being converted back into authenticity and logicality. If it could be shown that such translations, which would have to be called 'absolute metaphors', exist, then one of the essential tasks of conceptual history (in the thus expanded sense) would be to ascertain and analyze their conceptually irredeemable expressive function. (Paradigms, 3)
The first half of Paradigms for a Metaphorology demonstrates this expressive function in several metaphors, such as the powerful truth, the naked truth, terra incognita, the incomplete universe, and the book of nature. The second half begins to demarcate the realm of metaphor with paradigms for a "typology of metaphor histories." The paradigms focus on "transitional phenomena" that illustrate the historical transformations between, and distinct functions of, absolute metaphor, myth, symbol, and concept. This tentative typology involves the discussion of additional metaphors that would become the focus of later, longer works by Blumenberg, including Plato's allegory of the cave and Copernicus's cosmology. . . .

"Psychology, Emotion, and the Human Sciences," University of Windsor, April 20-21, 2012.

In Alchemies of the Mind: Rationality and the Emotions [Cambridge, 1999], Jon Elster argues that "with an important subset of the emotions [for example, regret, relief, envy, malice, pity, indignation, ...] we can learn more from moralists, novelists, and playwrights than from the cumulative findings of scientific psychology." Elster then explores the work of both ancient and early modern moral philosophers in order to substantiate his argument.

This symposium will explore Elster's assertions: what can contemporary 'scientific psychology,' barely 150 years old, teach us about the emotions that early modern literary and philosophical inquiry cannot? Does psychology [of various sorts] deserve its status as the discipline of feeling? What can contemporary philosophical work teach us about feeling and emotion? Are there viable ways of bringing historical and contemporary emotional inquiry into contact? What insight can various forms of inquiry bring to the increasingly prominent issue of affective education [the education of emotions, dispositions, and values]? What is the status of emotional inquiry across disciplines?

Possible topics might include, but are not limited to, the following:
- rhetoric and the emotions
- emotion and informal logic
- argument and emotion
- affective education
- emotion in the classroom
- the history of psychology
- neuroscience and emotion
- the passions in history:
- psychoanalysis and emotion
- the sociology of emotion

The organisers are hopeful that participants are aware of, and incorporate, the history of emotion in their respective disciplines or areas of inquiry. Selected papers will be considered for a collection of essays, and all applicants will be informed by 15 November 2011 about their participation in the symposium.

Contact Stephen Pender,

"Derrida and the Theologico-Political: from Sovereignty to the Death Penalty," Spindel 2011, Department of Philosophy, University of Memphis, September 29-October 1, 2011.

Drawing on Derrida’s later seminars on “sovereignty” (published in 2008 and 2010) and “the pardon” (with a particular emphasis on the yet-to-be-published “death penalty” seminars), the speakers of the 30th Annual Spindel Conference will address Derrida's analyses of “the theologico-political” in works of philosophy, political theory, religion, and literature. By theologico-political, Derrida referred to the unacknowledged theological roots of political concepts, modern political institutions, and practices. Putting into question the supposed secularism of the modern nation-state, Derrida’s later writings undertake an extensive study of the relation between sovereignty, the death penalty, and the “theologico-political.” Devoted to detailed and painstaking examinations of major texts of philosophy and literature by Plato, Rousseau, Kant, Schmitt, Heidegger, La Fontaine, Hugo, Camus, and Genet, among others, the seminars enrich the elaboration of the theologico-political in already published works. Featuring some of Derrida’s foremost interpreters and translators, the conference aims to further this exploration.

Derrida's Seminars

From the beginning of his teaching career at the Sorbonne in 1960 to his last seminars at the Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales in 2003, Jacques Derrida completely wrote out all his lectures and seminars. Presented over twelve to fifteen weeks a year, these seminars, in addition to the scores of books that he published during his lifetime, amount to some 14,000 printed pages in 43 volumes. They thus constitute an invaluable addition to the already existing corpus. A decision was made by Derrida’s heirs to edit and publish these seminars. These heretofore unpublished seminars will appear in reverse chronological order, published by Editions Galilée in France and the University of Chicago Press in the English-speaking world. Information about the seminars can be found at


A special roundtable discussion will be held following the individual paper presentations. Presenters Kamuf, Bennington, Naas, Oliver, Dutoit, and Rottenberg will participate in the roundtable.

"Thinking Feeling: Critical Theory, Culture, Feeling," University of Sussex, May 18-19, 2012.

‘Happiness is obsolete: uneconomic’ (Theodor Adorno, Minima Moralia)

As the recent UK riots indicate, there is no escaping the fact that economics provokes, amongst other things, strong feelings. Whether we like it or not, a neoliberal language of economics now pervades and colours our inner ‘private’ emotional lives; the government’s emerging plans to compile
a ‘happiness index’ is a clear example of how a rhetoric of ‘feeling’ can be co-opted by capital. More than ever, then, it is important we do not simply accept ‘feeling’ as a spontaneous or natural phenomenon, but instead subject it to genuinely critical scrutiny. Are some feelings static, essential and ahistorical, or can we trace their genealogies? Are feelings entirely subjective and individual, or are they actually objective and social? If they are social, whose feelings are they?

By placing contemporary cultural and literary theory (especially as it deals with ‘affect’) alongside the tradition of Critical Theory, this conference asks what might be at stake politically, aesthetically and even experientially in the recent turn towards a discourse of feeling. With its roots in Hegel, Marx and Freud, Critical Theory has always been concerned with the role of feeling, in all its senses. Meanwhile, literary theorists and practitioners as diverse as Georges Bataille, Raymond Williams and Eve Sedgwick have also focused on relations between culture, society and felt experience.

The conference will therefore set out to utilise these approaches for a critique of modern and contemporary culture. Contributors are encouraged to engage notions of feeling as they relate to particular cultural practices, objects or texts, and are also invited to use recent work on the emotions to rethink aspects of the Marxist theoretical tradition. We welcome proposals from all relevant fields, including philosophy, literary studies, visual culture, music theory, art history, sociology, political economy, psychology, etc.

Possible topics may include but are not limited to the following:

The intersection of emotion and economics in contemporary life, literature, film or art; the genealogy of feeling; feeling and revolutionary potential; the political economy of feeling; rhetoric and feeling; the commodification of emotion; culture and ‘modern’ moods (guilt, cynicism, ecstasy, indifference, anxiety, melancholia, depression, shame, boredom, paranoia, rage, paralysis, joy, (un)happiness, etc.)

Abstracts of 200-250 words should be sent to Dr Doug Haynes, University of Sussex: (please mark the subject heading as ‘Thinking Feeling’)

Monday, September 12, 2011

Seeskin, Kenneth. Review of Michael Fagenblat, A CONVENANT OF CREATURES. NDPR (August 2011).

In the Preface to this rich and thought-provoking study, Fagenblat raises a good question: "Another book on Emmanuel Levinas?" But it does not take long for the reader to see that this volume is definitely needed. According to Fagenblat, Levinas's fundamental project was to develop a post-Heideggarian account of ethics, which means an account that retains the binding nature of our most basic ethical intuitions. In Fagenblat's words:
Levinas sought to restore a new sense of an unconditional ethical imperative that could not be dismissed as merely abstract, formal, ahistorical, inauthentic, and ontologically inadequate. He did this by developing a phenomenology of the moral imperative that was derived not from the fact of Reason but from the face of the Other. (p. xix)
Against Heidegger and much of twentieth-century philosophy, Levinas was firmly convinced, as Fagenblat puts it (p. 14), that ethical judgment is exercised over history and not simply within history.

The problem is that for Levinas, the face of the Other is completely transcendent and thus cannot be captured by description, explanation, or narration. As Fagenblat rightly observes (p. xx), it can only be respected or desired, loved or hated. That is why Levinas thinks ethics is first philosophy: it is the source of all meaning and intelligibility and cannot be derived from anything more basic. I will postpone the question of what type of ethics this approach produces until later. For the present, the important point is that, according to Fagenblat, Levinas reaches this conclusion not by conducting an exercise in pure phenomenology but by drawing on sources from Jewish tradition. What results is in fact "a coherent philosophy of Judaism" (p. xxii).

Cfp: Kogler, Hans-Herbert, et al., eds. "Contemporary Advances in Hermeneutics." COSMOS AND HISTORY forthcoming.

Submissions are invited for a special issue on contemporary advances in hermeneutics. While contributions on the hermeneutics of nature are of particular interest, papers on advances in any area of hermeneutics are welcome. Although the emphasis is on contemporary advances, this could
include the rethinking of established theorists and positions. Papers exploring the relationship between hermeneutics and other philosophical approaches or traditions of thought will also be considered.

Submission deadline: 30 November 2011;
For author guidelines and submission instructions, visit

Pub: "Language and Education." HERMENEIA (2011).

Download the essays here:

Elridge, Richard. Review of Raymond Barfield, THE ANCIENT QUARREL BETWEEN PHILOSOPHY AND POETRY. NDPR (September 2011).

Barfield, Raymond.  The Ancient Quarrel between Philosophy and Poetry.  Cambridge: CUP, 2011.

Barfield undertakes to survey, compare, and assess i) various conceptions of what he regards as poetry's founding influence on philosophy, centered in poetry's expressions of wonder and of experiences of the divine, and ii) philosophy's various self-definitions against that influence, via resistance, counterargumentation, and appropriation. The project is carried out in 12 chapters, each on one or two major figures from the history of philosophy: Socrates-Plato, Aristotle, Plotinus-Augustine, Boethius, Dionysius, Thomas, Vico, Kant, Hegel, Kierkegaard, Dilthey, Nietzsche-Heidegger, and Bakhtin. In each chapter, the focus is on how the various philosophers discussed specifically comment on, resist, accept but refigure, or argue about poetry's putative insights.

One way to get a feel for the project is to note what it is not. It is not philology. The individual chapters make little use of the massive secondary literatures on the philosophers discussed, and they are not intended to advance our understanding of details of individual arguments and positions by unpacking ambiguities, comparing and reconciling difficult passages, tracing detailed lineages of arguments, motifs, and images, and so forth. It is not philosophy of literature. There is no mention of or engagement with the works of philosophers such as Stanley Cavell, Martha Nussbaum, Cora Diamond, Peter Lamarque and Stein Haugom Olsen, Frank Farrell, or myself, no Derrida or Gadamer or Adorno or Benjamin from the European tradition, and no Abrams, Bloom, de Man, Hartman, or Hillis Miller among critics. In various ways these philosophers and critics, and others, have thought about literature in relation to epistemology and moral philosophy, focusing on how literary works might be forms of knowing or might contribute to moral understanding. It is not philosophical reading of literature. Only one paragraph from one literary work, Steinbeck's Sea of Cortes, is discussed specifically, very briefly.

The unvoiced primary reason why Barfield does not engage with these traditions of philological scholarship and philosophy of/and literature is that he does not share their initiating assumption that the existence of God or the divine cannot just be taken for granted, but must at the very least be argued about. While some of the figures mentioned above are not strict secularists, they nonetheless all take pains to engage with secular audiences by beginning from general questions about the nature and importance of literature as a potential form of knowledge, without taking for granted that literary production is motivated by the divine or that it registers something about a divine object.

Barfield's stance is different. His governing assumption is that we are, all of us, as long as we are not too busy or cowardly or dull or distracted, always already engaged in "the human search for the truth about the world, about ourselves, and about the divine" (2); "human consciousness . . . lives most fully among the poetical limits of life -- portents, history, stories, the gods" (2). Poets are then, at least initially, the ones most in touch with and able to give expression to this human search and to the situation of consciousness. Poets, or at least poets as Heidegger receives them, "utter the holy in the middle of darkness, sensing and singing clues about that which eludes a benighted age" (251), and Barfield largely works within this Heideggerian framework, though without at all privileging Heidegger's vocabulary. Poetry is primal, formal, finished, and seductive in being in touch with the initiating conditions of human existence, including the divine; philosophy in contrast is belated, open, skeptical, unfinished, and difficult (25). . . .

5th Sydney-Tilburg Conference on the Progress of Science, Tilburg Center for Logic and Philosophy of Science, April 25-27, 2012.

This year is the 50th anniversary of Thomas S. Kuhn’s seminal book The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, which forcefully questioned the idea that science makes steady, rational progress towards truth. After half a century his challenge is everything but outdated. Look at the failure of economic science in the financial crisis, or the fierce debate about whether string theory is just a mathematical gimmick, unable to connect to empirical data. At the same time, however, the scientific enterprise appears to be more dynamic than ever, with an explosion of publications and new subdisciplines emerging by almost the hour. Philosophy of science has changed too. The abstract account of ‘method’ which Kuhn criticized have been replaced by efforts to model how science proceeds, exploring, for example the epistemic benefits and drawbacks of division of scientific labor. What is more, scientometric data and a wealth of case studies are readily available to empirically test theses about what progress in science means today. In this conference, will revisit this classical question in the philosophy of science in the light of current developments and invite contributions on both historical and systematic aspects of the progress of science. We particularly encourage work on progress in the special sciences, the emergence of new disciplines, and empirically informed reassessments of classical positions.

KEYNOTE SPEAKERS: Heather Douglas (Waterloo), Paul Hoyningen-Huene (Hannover), Theo Kuipers (Groningen), and Michael Weisberg (Philadelphia)

Contact: tilps@UVT.NL.

"The Politics of Interpretation and the Interpretation of Politics," Department of Politics and International Relations, University of Oxford, September 23-24, 2011.

Within the last fifty years, interpretation has become one of the most important intellectual paradigms of humanities and social sciences scholarship. Theories about law and literature, philosophy and political thought, history and theology all rely on textual interpretation. Issues such as the role of intentions in the interpretation of texts, the question of whether texts determine, or constrain, interpretations of them, and how much, if any, contextual information is required for their understanding, concern all those disciplines, and call for cross-disciplinary collaboration and exchange. Finally, the simultaneous proliferation of certain interpretive approaches such as ‘hermeneutics’, ‘deconstruction’, and ‘feminist (re)readings’ of texts across disciplinary divides has shown the permeability of these boundaries, and has thus made this call for collaboration even more pertinent.

This conference will provide a setting in which distinguished proponents and critics of some of the prevalent interpretive approaches currently used in humanities and social sciences research are able to engage, for the first time, in a rigorous debate about the advantages and costs of each approach, and to discuss the political assumptions that inform them, as well as aims that drive them.

One of the primary goals will be to evaluate the validity of each interpretive method in reference to the readings it produces when applied to texts. Some of the key questions in this respect include: What is it that each method can or cannot claim to be able to show? To what extent do these methods succeed both in theory and in practice? Do they prevent or improve our understanding of texts? A second focus of the conference is to shed light upon the political dimension of interpretive enterprises and to decode their ideological presuppositions. There has virtually been no interdisciplinary exchange about the question of whether these approaches are ideologically sustained, and if so, whether ideologically charged approaches in turn induce interpreters to systematically ignore some aspects of texts, whilst emphasizing others. Here, consequences will be drawn for the interpretation of politics, widely construed.

In order to address these questions properly, the conference will be structured around panels of up to four presenters each on ‘Strauss and Esoteric Reading’, ‘Contextualist Approaches’, ‘Hermeneutics’, ‘Deconstruction’, ‘Feminist Interpretations’, and ‘Philosophy, Law & Interpretation’.  In so doing, the conference seeks to create a workshop environment in which individual methods are considered as what they are—the results of methodological disputes between different schools of interpretation rather than unconnected monolithic blocs.

Contact: jens.olesen@POLITICS.OX.AC.UK

Pub: Ashley Woodward, ed. INTERPRETING NIETZSCHE.

Woodward, Ashley, ed.  Interpreting Nietzsche: Reception and Influence.  London: Continuum, 2011.


Introduction: Whose Nietzsche? Ashley Woodward \ 1. Loewith’s Nietzsche J. Harvey Lomax \ 2. Jasper’s Nietzsche Leonard Ehrlich and Edith Ehrlich \ 3. Heidegger’s Nietzsche Sean Ryan \ 4. Bataille’s Nietzsche Yue Zhuo \ 5. Kaufmann’s Nietzsche David Rathbone \ 6. Deleuze’s Nietzsche Jonathan Roffe \ 7. Klossowski’s Nietzsche Ashley Woodward \ 8. Müller-Lauter’s Nietzsche Ciano Aydin \ 9. Kofman’s Nietzsche Duncan Large \ 10. Strauss’ Nietzsche Mathew Sharpe and Daniel Townshend \ 11. Derrida’s Nietzsche Carolyn D’Cruz \ 12. Irigaray’s Nietzsche Joanne Faulkner \ 13. Vattimo’s Nietzsche Robert Valgenti \ 14. Nehamas’s Nietzsche Mark Tomlinson \ Notes on Contributors \ Bibliography \ Index.

"Left and Right: the Great Dichotomy Revisited," University of Minho, Braga, Portugal, March 23, 2012.

Ever since the French Revolution, the terms 'left' and 'right' have been used to frame and explain the political positioning of parties, voters and public policies. Although many thinkers claim that this dichotomy is exhausted and no longer provides an adequate understanding of contemporary political divisions, 'left' and 'right' remain central in political debate. But is the content of these terms really understood by all political actors? What does each individual or group recognize as 'left' and 'right'?

It is true that other classifications of political cleavages have been suggested, but none seems to have replaced the traditional division between left and right. Many people have thought that an opposition between materialist and post-materialist orientations or between libertarian and authoritarian values could cut across left and right. However, these new oppositions seem to have been absorbed, at least partly, by the old dichotomy. But is this really the case? Are there, in fact, no other sets of terms that might provide a clearer division of the political spectrum? The standard most commonly used to distinguish left from right has been the concern with equality. But is this social-economic criterion actually the best? Particularly at a time when very divisive “new politics” issues arise? And even if one accepts the validity of the traditional criterion, how can we describe and explain the approaches from left and right on equality issues?

Furthermore, there is more than one ideology within each side of the political spectrum – there is not only one left, there are several lefts, and the same is true about the right. If we accept that there is something that unifies these several lines within each side of the political divide, what, then, separates different views of the left or the right and allows us to distinguish between them? Which are the political values that are shared by the different ideologies on the left and on the right and which are those that keep them apart?

Contact BOTH Ana Rita Ferreira ( and João Cardoso Rosas ( by November 30, 2011.

Cfp: Cauchi, Mark, et al. eds. "Kierkegaard at Year Two Hundred." Special Issue of THE EUROPEAN LEGACY, forthcoming 2013.

“Whatever one generation learns from another, no generation learns the essentially human from a previous one. In this respect, each generation… has no other task than what each previous generation had, nor does it advance further….” Kierkegaard, from the Epilogue to Fear and Trembling

 “The present age is essentially… devoid of passion, flaring up in superficial, short-lived enthusiasm and prudentially relaxing in indolence.… [W]e must say of the present age that it is going badly.” Kierkegaard, from “The Present Age,” in Two Ages

This special issue of The European Legacy, to be published in 2013, is dedicated to celebrating the two hundredth anniversary of the birth of Kierkegaard (1813-1855) by posing two questions: first, the relevance of his thought for, and the challenge that he directs to, the single individual in the present age; second, the challenge that the present age directs to the thought of Kierkegaard. In light of these questions, it is worth recalling Kierkegaard’s conception both of the present age and of the single individual. For Kierkegaard, because all generations share the same task, each age, and each individual in each age, is like every other in that they must take upon themselves, singularly and distinctly, the tasks of their time. The present age thus encompasses the history in which single individuals respond to the issues and debates that distinguish their time by establishing as its most fundamental priority what Kierkegaard calls, in Fear and Trembling, the essentially human – what he also calls faith, love, the neighbor, God: the absolute relation to the absolute. Yet, according to Kierkegaard, the present age and the single individual are characterized by their already having shunned their essentially human task, by their being divided against themselves, alienated from themselves, in their superficiality and indolence. The present age, for Kierkegaard, is thus an age of despair in which the single individual who goes badly must engage in what he describes as the task of coming historically into existence as the genuine contemporary – the task of loving God and neighbor.

How, then, do we assess the pertinence today of Kierkegaard’s assessment of and prescription for the present age – both his own and ours? From what standpoint do we even pose the question of the relevance of Kierkegaard at year two hundred? In asking about the ways in which Kierkegaard’s thought challenges us today, must we not also ask about the ways in which, or the principles in light of which, we respond to Kierkegaard? At issue is what it would mean, today, to be a genuine contemporary – of Kierkegaard, of the present age, of ourselves.

For this special issue of The European Legacy we invite contributions on a wide range of issues that examine the implications of Kierkegaard’s thought for debates, issues, and questions that are central to the challenge of the single individual in the present age. Topics might include, but are not limited to, the following:

· the relationship between Kierkegaard’s critique of the present age and contemporary critics of the present age;
· the relationship between Kierkegaard’s concept of single individuality and contemporary questions of pluralism, cosmopolitanism, and globalization;
· the relationship between, on the one hand, what Kierkegaard explicates as Christian ideals, concepts, and values, and, for example, on the other hand, deconstructive, postmodern, feminist, and LGBTQ approaches to the problems of the present age;
· the relationship between the religious and the secular, between the divine and the human, between faith and reason;
· the relationship between ethics and divine command;
· the relationship between art and the indirect communications of the religious imagination;
· the relationship between truth as subjectivity and truth as alterity.

Proposals of one single-spaced page in length should be submitted either to Mark Cauchi ( or to Avron Kulak ( by January 1, 2012.

Pub: Stephen Greenblatt, THE SWERVE.

Greenblatt, Stephen.  The Swerve: How the World Became Modern.  New York: Norton, 2011.

One of the world's most celebrated scholars, Stephen Greenblatt has crafted both an innovative work of history and a thrilling story of discovery, in which one manuscript, plucked from a thousand years of neglect, changed the course of human thought and made possible the world as we know it.

Nearly six hundred years ago, a short, genial, cannily alert man in his late thirties took a very old manuscript off a library shelf, saw with excitement what he had discovered, and ordered that it be copied. That book was the last surviving manuscript of an ancient Roman philosophical epic, On the Nature of Things, by Lucretius—a beautiful poem of the most dangerous ideas: that the universe functioned without the aid of gods, that religious fear was damaging to human life, and that matter was made up of very small particles in eternal motion, colliding and swerving in new directions.

The copying and translation of this ancient book-the greatest discovery of the greatest book-hunter of his age-fueled the Renaissance, inspiring artists such as Botticelli and thinkers such as Giordano Bruno; shaped the thought of Galileo and Freud, Darwin and Einstein; and had a revolutionary influence on writers such as Montaigne and Shakespeare and even Thomas Jefferson.