Monday, March 11, 2019

Quote of the day

"The idea that unites all is the idea of beauty, taking the world in a higher, Platonic sense. I am now convinced that the highest act of reason, that in which reason contains all ideas, is an aesthetic act, and that truth and goodness are only united in beauty. Indeed, the philosopher must possess as much aesthetic power as the poet. The philosophy of spirit is [fundamentally] an aesthetic philosophy."

- "The Oldest Programme for a System of German Idealism" (1795-97)

[Authorship attributed to Schelling, Hegel, and Hoelderlin, jointly]

Thursday, March 7, 2019

Some new Schelling texts, including the 1811 'Ages of the World'

It is well known that Schelling drafted three distinct versions of his Ages of the World (Weltater) in the years 1811, 1813, and 1814/15. Until now, the last two had been published under the same name by SUNY and the 1813 version was published as The Abyss of Freedom. Now, many years later we finally find the 1811 version (the first version) of Ages of the World published by SUNY. This is truly a landmark event in Schelling scholarship.

Interestingly, a smaller publishing house has published the 1841-42 lecture “Philosophy and Revelation” as On the Doorstep of the Absolute. This was the same house that published Schelling’s 1804 Philosophy and Religion back in 2009. I remember that I had made some very good use out of that when I was working on my dissertation, so it is interesting to see a related lecture published all of these years later as I have circled back around to German idealism and romanticism.

Finally, we find Schelling’s Statement on the True Relationship of the Philosophy of Nature to the Revised Fichtean Doctrine published this year, which consists of his scathing reviews of Fichte. I've just come off of a fairly intensive year-long study of Fichte so the timing for me is impeccable. Other than Fichte and Schelling I have been working with Kant and Hegel quite abit.

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

9th International Bonn Summer School in German Philosophy - Call for Applications

From the Bonn University website, please see the call for applications below. This year's topic is the tradition of hermeneutics in German philosophy.

Course Description 
This year's summer school will focus on the tradition of hermeneutics that stretches from Herder and Schleiermacher to Heidegger and Gadamer. In particular, we will look at their various conceptions of what exactly it takes to understand others and ourselves, paying special attention to their theories of the interpretation of texts. 
In the first week, we will examine what has been called "romantic hermeneutics": the approaches developed by Herder, Schleiermacher, and Friedrich Schlegel that sought to enable discovery of an assumed original meaning. These approaches rested on two important breaks with assumptions commonly made by the Enlightenment: a rejection of the Enlightenment's conviction in the universality of mental characteristics in favor of a conception of radical mental differences; and a rejection of the Enlightenment's dualistic conception of the relation between language and thought/concept in favor of doctrines that assert the intimate interdependence, or even identity, of the two sides. Schleiermacher's approach is the best known of the three and will accordingly receive especially close attention, but the contributions of Herder and Schlegel are of at least equal intrinsic importance, and will therefore be considered carefully as well. 
In the second week, we will look at Heidegger's and Gadamer's conception of hermeneutics as a foundational discipline and its potential relevance for contemporary debates. Our focus will be on issues pertaining to the relation between self-consciousness and understanding; phenomenology and meaning-holism; and the relation between understanding different kinds of utterances (ranging from ordinary conversations to what Gadamer calls "the eminent text") and the question of the objectivity of meaning. In this context, we will assess Heidegger's and Gadamer's meta-philosophical approach (hermeneutics as first philosophy) in light of various prominent criticisms of it (in particular, ones that come from so-called "critical theory").
Please send the following by April 1st, 2019 to: 
  • CV of no more than 2 pages
  • Statement of intent of no more than 1 page. Please mention in your statement whether you are interested in attending and participating in several seminars on the topic in German, which will be offered should demand warrant.
  • Writing sample of no more than 2,000 words in either English, French or German.
  • All students must in addition have at least one degree in philosophy.
  • All texts and discussions will be in English.
  • The course will be open to a maximum of 40 participants.
For more information please see their website HERE.

Sunday, February 17, 2019

Ecstatic Naturalism Congress 2019 - Program Schedule (Ninth International Congress on Ecstatic Naturalism)

Ninth International Congress on Ecstatic Naturalism

2019 Theme: Race, Class, and Gender

Drew University, Madison, nj – April 12th and 13th


Stephanie Theodorou and Robert S. Corrington

(“Perkiomen in November” by Marilynn Lawrence)

The Papers and most of the Meals Will Take Place in the Great Hall of the Graduate School Building (S.W. Bowne)

Friday April 12th

Registration Table Open all Day and Tomorrow by Sarah O’Brian

9:30 – 10:20:

Nick Wernicki. Abby Wernicki, and Susan Erck (panel):

Economies of Nature: A Dialogue on the Human Process and Class Structure.”

10:30 – 11:40:

Sasinan Kruaechaipinit and Leon Niemoczynski:

The Ontological Influence of Sociopolitical Transitions Upon Women’s Empowerment in Southeast Asia.”

Iljoon Park:

Betweenness and Intersectionality in Human Identity of Gender, Race, and Sex.

11:50 – 1:00:

Jung Doo Kim:

“The Problem of Racism from the Perspective of Planetary Theology.”

Hyun Shik Jun:

Sex and Gender in Ecstatic and Dialectical Relations”

Lunch 1:00 – 2:00

Group Photograph 2:00 – 2:30

2:40 -- 3:50:

Adam Crabtree:

Is it Possible to Identify a ‘Meta-Telos’ in Natura Naturans?”

Robert S. Corrington: Response

4:00 – 5:10:

Jea Sophia Oh:

Entanglement of Nature and Expansion of Care, Ecstatic Family of Nature.”

Joseph Harroff:

Toward an Ecstatically Naturalist and Pragmatist Conception of Persons.”

5:20 – 5:40: Announcement of the Ralph Waldo Emerson Prize for an Outstanding paper by a Junior Scholar ($500)

6:00 – 7:30: Dinner in University Commons

7:45: Plenary Speaker:

Elaine Padilla:

Totality, Nothingness, and The Dark Luminous Being”

Saturday April 13th


Moon Son:

Creating Change in the Ecology of Religious Education for Overcoming Racism.”

Thomas Millary:

Inexhaustibly Complex: Pursuing Justice in an Unpredictable World.”


Sarah O’Brien:

Ecstatic Naturalism and Eco-Phenomenology.”

Stephanie Theodorou:

Mind as Subject and Substance: Hegel, Naturalism, and the Sacred.”

12:10 – 1:20: Lunch

1:30: 2:40:

Kim Soo-Youn:

Sacred Nature, (M)Other and Tao.”

Marilynn Lawrence:

Healing the Holes of Nature: Post-Jungian Considerations.”

2:50 – 4:00

Jonathan Weidenbaum:

The Mixture of Unity and Diversity: The Social Relevance of William James and the Metaphysics of Ecstatic Naturalism.”

A.J. Turner;

What’s so Radical About Radical Empiricism?

4:20 – Plenary Speaker:

Desmond Coleman:

On Being Sunk.”

Refreshments after Plenary Address: Dinner on Your Own

Korean Session – Monday April 15th at 3:00 in Seminary Hall:

Young Sup Song:

A.I. Counseling and its Ethical Implications.”

Sunday, January 13, 2019

A quick sketch of Schelling

Corrington has put up on his new blog a nice post discussing Schelling HERE where he sketches a few of Schelling's main ideas and then relates those ideas to his own perspective of "ecstatic naturalism."  For as brief a writing that it is, it is nevertheless remarkably elucidating.

I also found on Corrington's blog an interesting series of posts titled, "What is Living and Dead in Whitehead's Metaphysics." Having glanced at the first part I plan to read the rest as time permits. For those interested I shall link the parts here (Part ONE, TWO, THREE, FOUR, FIVE).

Back in the golden age of blogging - the "glory days" so to speak - I remember that Matthew David Segall used to write quite abit about both Schelling and Whitehead, exploring the connections between those two philosophers as well as their utility for contemporary philosophy (in particular, philosophical cosmology and environmental philosophy).  During the writing of my dissertation and for a few years after, I, too, had researched and written about rather extensively the connection between Schelling and process philosophy, whether that of Whitehead or Hartshorne.

It's interesting because whenever I happen to come across  Schelling in the literature, but most especially as of late, I am reminded of just how important understanding his perspective truly is.  This has just happened as I had finished working with Hegel and moved back into Fichte with some current things I am working on. This prompted me to purchase The Philosophical Rupture between Fichte and Schelling in addition to some Fichte texts that I hope to discuss in a future post, again time permitting. But the point is that no matter where one goes in the philosophy of nature, Schelling is never far behind. Even with giants such as Hegel or side-roads involving Fichte, Schelling's profound insights are ever-present and his importance never fades.

Sunday, January 6, 2019

Thinking twice about Kant and correlationism

In my recent readings of Kant, in particular the lectures on anthropology as well as his Anthropology from a Pragmatic Point of View, I came across a well known passage toward the end of the text where Kant discusses the possibility of extra-terrestrial life and its role in understanding human nature.
The highest concept of species may be that of a terrestrial rational being, but we will not be able to describe its characteristics because we do not know of a nonterrestrial rational being which would enable us to refer to its properties and consequently classify that terrestrial being as rational. It seems, therefore, that the problem of giving an account of the character of the human species is quite insoluble, because the problem could only be solved by comparing two species of rational beings on the basis of experience, but experience has not offered us a comparison between two species of rational beings.
He then goes on to develop the distinction between (non-human) animals that are rational, and rational beings. 

It struck me how the age-old (by now) charge of correlationism and anthropocentrism against Kant may be misguided if we take the above into account.  As Heidegger during the '30s for example formulated Daseyn as a "more than human" although encompassing-of-the-human prototype, I see in Kant something similar as he struggles to define the nature of so-called "rational beings."  A sort of transcendending- the-anthropos toward a true non-human rational form of universality which nevertheless encompasses the human but is also beyond the human is in order, according to his project. Perhaps more clearly put, he is struggling to wrestle with a metaphysical ecology of the cosmos and its "Others" vis-a-vis the human yet simultaneously beyond the human.  And so while quite a few today bash Kant in the name of correlationism, his focusing upon the "human-all-too-human" (Nietzsche said Kant did not go far enough) is a paradox as it is none other than Kant who went furthest in speculating upon the Descolian Ecology of Others.

In order to "sketch the character of the species" in its truly universal form, an extra-species or non-human rational being species is desirable to compare, said Kant.  And thus we are forced to move toward a "cosmopolitics" or exo-political notion of what non-human rationality means for rational beings as such.  It is the "as such" part which forces us beyond the terrestrial landscape, for Kant is seeking the truly universal character of what it means to be a "reasoning being" sui generis.

This is quite interesting, I think. For as much as Kant is taken to be a correlationist par excellance' given his categories of the mind and so on, it is nevertheless his drive for universality that seeks to include the content and form of a species of rational beings within experience. This experience, paradoxically, opens up and extends beyond the merely human in its scope.

THIS article had an interesting take on what this might mean for Kant's ethics.  Kant himself had an idea when he speculated of how there may be a race of beings who are unable to think and express a thought unless the thought is spoken verbally.  That is, unless it is outwardly uttered the thought cannot be formed.  This would make lying impossible.  He then uses this speculation as a way to claim that as we human beings are morally perfectable, we ought to struggle toward that perfection and do good (which includes not telling lies, etc.)

As an aside, I thought of extra-terrestrial beings who may be telepathic.  If there is no private I or thoughts which are private, telling a lie would be impossible if these beings are able to remain aware of the contents of anothers' thoughts. Further, I wonder how these beings would regard brutal honesty? Having "heard" it all in the minds of others I am wondering if there is anything which would shock them or cause them dismay. Without anything being hidden there is only brutal honesty.

Regardless, THIS 90-page document was interesting, "Kant's Aliens: The Anthropology and its Others."

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

New Death in June (!!!)

Brand new song is "The Trigger" from their forthcoming album, The Essence.

"Not only did I lose you, I lost myself too..."

Friday, December 7, 2018

Philosophies of art & beauty

This past semester's classes went exceptionally well. In particular I have to commend the students in my Philosophies of Art & Beauty class who did extremely well in handling what was for many of the students in that class their first philosophy class!  This was the second time I've taught the course while at Moravian and I stuck to the plan utilized so successfully the first time I taught it. In essence I basically followed the layout of the course that was taught to me when *I* was an undergraduate - topics, philosophers, textbook, and all.

Hofstadter and Kuhn's Philosophies of Art & Beauty knows of no comparison both in depth and breath if one is selecting a premier aesthetics text. While historically oriented it nevertheless provides students with clear fundamental concepts in a way that is also fresh and engaging with respect to young people and their views about art today.  I even decided to show the same rendition of Sophocles' Oedipus Rex that my professor showed to our class when I took the course and was so moved by it.

When teaching the course I begin with Plato on the good and the beautiful, discuss his theory of form, his theory of beauty found through the unity of variety, and his views on symmetry, order, harmony, measure, balance, and proportion. Next comes Aristotle on tragedy, techne' and technique in craft, the theory of form and matter with respect to creativity and the vision of the artist, and Sophocles' Oedipus Rex. Then was David Hume on taste and the role of the critic - asking whether beauty is in the eye of the beholder (a favorite question that students love to pose).  Then was Kant's four moments of the beautiful from The Critique of Judgment (by far the most important part of the course). We then read and discussed Schopenhauer on music, and ended with Nietzsche on tragedy, distinguishing Nietzsche's views from Aristotle's. What worked particularly well was using Nietzsche's The Dionysian Vision of the World in addition to The Birth of Tragedy, the former of which resonated with students in its clarity and audacity.

I have to say that along with courses like Continental Philosophy, Existential Philosophy, and Philosophy of Human Experience (Phenomenology) this course is certainly one of my favorites to teach because it provides more than ample opportunity for students to find a topic that genuinely interests them and they then pursue that topic working out how it is relevant in their lives.

This semester's class went really well and I am very proud of the students who worked so hard and learned so much.

Saturday, November 17, 2018

Why is ethics impossible for object-oriented ontology?

Speculative theists during the early to mid 1800's were attempting to work out Schelling's various criticisms of Hegel. One output of those criticisms was that of Christian Hermann Weisse (1801–66) who transformed Hegel's absolute idealism into personal idealism. This mainly occurred due to Weisse's association with I.H. Fichte (1796-1879), Johann Gottlieb Fichte's son, where both Weisse and I.H. attempted to work out a philosophical basis for the personality of God.
Personalism in the sense of a distinct philosophy or worldview focusing on the full, accumulated import of the concept of the person, however, emerged only in the context of the broad critical reaction against what can be called the various impersonalistic philosophies which came to dominate the Enlightenment and Romanticism in the form of rationalistic and romantic forms of pantheism and idealism, from Spinoza to Hegel. Key figures in this reaction were Friedrich Heinrich Jacobi (1743–1819), the initiator of the so-called Pantheismusstreit in the 1780s, and F. W. J. Schelling (1775–1854), who in his later work rejected the impersonalist positions of his early idealist systems. (SEP entry "Personalism")
In particular following I.H. Fichte was Hermann Lotze (1817-1881) who emphasized the ancient Greek distinction between persons and things within a personalistic idealism. "Persons" were said to be centers of consciousness, properly "subjects" so-called, which can initiate causes and change by their own intentional volition (among other requirements, many outlined in Schelling's Outline nature book), where volition is understood as agency. In Europe this was picked up later on in the metaphysics of the French philosopher Emmanuel Mounier (1905-1950) in his book Personalism. German personalism, by the time of the twentieth-century, had largely been adopted only by the Catholic church but not so much by other philosophers (with the exception of Max Scheler).

While reading this, I had three thoughts that I'd like to type out very, very quickly.

1. Arne Naess, the Norwegian ecophilosopher, proposed we ought to consider mountains "persons," not because they "think" in any regular sense of the term or possess consciousness as in panpsychism (which would be ridiculous), but because of the intrinsic dignity of the mountain afforded by the agency it possesses - its power to affect change. Today, corporations have been long considered "persons." But if a corporation is a "person," then why isn't a mountain? There is a distinction of course between legal and moral rights, yet ontologically legal rights rely upon moral rights - for the value those laws and considerations possess can only be established by the reality and natures of the subjects those laws are said to govern. Thus, according to personalistic criterion, whose lineage goes back to the German idealists and the American personalists who followed from them (from Lotze to Bowne), and the European personalists who followed from the German idealists (in particular Mounier, perhaps Scheler), certain "things" are now being granted rights as persons due to new ontological perspectives which owe their viewpoints to the personalists of the 19th and 20th centuries - for example, recently rivers have been granted the same rights as human beings, due to environmental concerns. See HERE.

2. The danger of miscategorizing all of nature as "objects" or "things" is worse now than its ever been, and this danger is much worse than miscategorizing all of nature as "persons" by way of contrast. Object-oriented ontologies may grant agency to things, fine; but nevertheless objects are things without personal rights, according to their view. Many object ontologies deny consciousness or personhood to even the most basic of "things" for fear that consciousness or personhood is an "anthropocentric" trapping. While I agree we ought to, in the name of an ecological approach, not make our choices according to anthropocentric and heirarchical orderings of value, I do not agree personhood is an improper attribution to non-human animals, for instance; or to rivers and mountains given proper metaphysical consideration. "Objects" - as a category - is, frankly, a depersonalizing categorization from the start. And when one starts with a category mistake, then one's following system is completely flawed from the start for it is flawed in its very foundations. "Agents" would at the very least be a better start, if "persons" is too "humanistic" (which, in cases of helping others less fortunate, the weak, the sick, the dying, then a humanistic-oriented form of personalism is indeed called for. In cases where the weak, the sick, the dying or suffering are non-human animals then the more encompassing form of agentialism, personalism, is called for.

3. If onto-sympathy and empathy are key in understanding persons  (persons, not things) as well as their agency, I am wondering about the following when it comes to the connection between persons, each its own center of value deserving dignity, value, and response as a person. The question is. if the real is always concrete and individual, yet through empathy we are able to universalize each individual so that each is its own center of value within a community of fellow centers of value (each is its own "I" so to speak), that it is nevertheless possible to lose a sense of community among the particulars we are universalizing. So in other words, does someone like Max Stirner, for example, make the same mistake as the object ontologists in having each I universalize into its own Absolute such that any chance for empathic community is lost due to that particular I being so absolutely private and distinct from all others that it is always collapsing back into its own universality, thus eliminating the very possibility of any real community or connection, any real contact or feeling, or any communication between each 'I'? Or, on the other hand, is it the case that for Stirner, universality is commens, and in that very collapse there is an inner form of empathy that is the same as the outer extension of touch, feeling, prehension, or whatever modes of interaction allow communication between particulars? This would mean that any "vicarious" form of causation (connection) between them would not be required. No "magic" needed.

Thinking about Stirner and personalism leaves me torn. There seems to be two very different and distinct dimensions at work when one considers Stirner and personalism. Stirner's "ownness" means each One is a Unique One, each particular itself Absolute. This uplifts each individual self, or subject, or person, or agent, to the infinite degree of value it ought to have in being One. Yet, personalism allows for individuals, selves, subjects, agents, to allow their own current status of value to meet the status of value had by another.  This is especially apparent in connections involving suffering, to attempt to feel what others do in lack and in need. (See for example Jean Vanier's Becoming Human - I would also point out the work of Robert Spaemann, Jacques Maritain, or Wojtyla's Person and Act.)

Obviously Stirner's "egoistic" (or better, "individualistic") personalism is very, very different from its speculative theist roots. But whether "individualistic" personalism or personalism proper (idealistic personalism), both are extremely preferably beginning points to ontologies which begin from the category mistake of seeing persons as "objects" from the start.

Any subject or agent is not a "thing" - persons are not "things," persons are not "objects." This is the sort of thinking that leads to murder, torture, and genocide, not only of "human" persons, but of non-human persons such as non-human animals. This is why object-oriented ontologies are not able to complete the ethical projects they propose to begin - especially ethical projects dealing with non-human persons (i.e. animal ethics, but there are issues with how it sees environmental justice).

For object-oriented ontology, it seems that ethics is impossible if only because in its treatment of value something quite necessary for ethics is lost. Namely, the notion of a "to whom" might we attribute such a value. In other words, object oriented ontology is unable to recognize the notion of a "subject of a life" and how non-human beings especially (animals) are not objects or "things" but rather are fellow subjects-of-a-life.  This is not to anthropocentrically raise up the non-human to some supposed "higher level" of consciousness and feeling occupied by the human being, but nor is it to categorically drain all beings of subjectivity in fear of subjectalism and render all to the common value level of "objects' either.

To see beings as fellow "subjects-of-a-life" is to accept the notion of "ontological parity" (cf. Justus Buchler's Metaphysics of Natural Complexes) among and between any and all beings not just in terms of reality status - that nothing is more nor less real than anything else - but also in terms of axiological value: each being is equally infinite in its dignity, worth, and value so far as it exists... in whatever way it exists.  It is from personalism that we inherit the strongest alternative to the kind of thinking that in fear of anthropocentrism reduces all persons to the level of non-personal objects. And this is why ethics shall forever be impossible for object oriented ontology.  It is, afterall, object oriented.

Friday, November 16, 2018

Fichte contra object-oriented ontology

It never took much for object-oriented ontology to be revealed as the house-of-cards philosophy that it is, if only because it rests primarily on allure and slippery rhetoric rather than any real solid or rigorous argument (its authors have even admitted that one should save rigor "for the dead.")

Still, if for some amusement you want to see object-oriented ontology easily crack under pressure, watch Fichte blow over the house of cards in Book Two ("Knowledge") of the Vocation of Man. It is there he addresses a familiar question that I once posed to Tom S., one of the last few object-ontologists remaining today, namely the question of, "Why objects?" And to this Tom S. answered, "Well, that's what I *perceive*."

Boy does Fichte ever have fun with that answer! Read the second book of the Vocation of Man. It doesn't disappoint.

I'll have to dig it up sometime, but I recall Iain Grant dismantling object-oriented ontologies for similar reasons to Fichte, and he also brings in Deleuze to finish the job.

Just a thought as I've been working through Kant and Hegel, Ficthe and Schelling as of late.