Monday, August 25, 2014

My new VAP position

Thanks to everyone for a wonderful first day "back" teaching full-time. I am so proud and happy to have made it this far and to have returned to a ft teaching post after the past three plus years of battling my health.

Thanks to my students especially for always giving me the strength and motivation to do this. "Haters" beware that I am not going anywhere anytime soon; even if ignored I'm only getting stronger.

With support from friends, students, colleagues, and family this 2014-15 year is going to be my best run yet. Great classes, new pubs, and always learning and improving. I won't be stopped!

Here's to a new semester and a chance to start again...

#Proudtobeback. #ESU4life.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

quote of the day

“It is essential to know that every man is immortal and that there is eternal life in him, an unexplored yet inhabited land, which, though he himself may deny its existence, no timely power can ever take from him.” 
- Ernst Jünger

Friday, August 22, 2014

two more publications

First, my "Aesthetic Value in Peirce's Theistic Naturalism" is now published in Charles Sanders Peirce in His Own Words, see HERE.  I'm up first in that publication.

A Philosophy of Sacred Nature has made it to the Rowman & Littlefield / Lexington page HERE with a very nice table of contents, book description, and endorsement.  As soon as the cover image (which should be fantastic, I picked it out personally) is available I shall post here at After Nature.

If you oppose "universalism" in the name of particulars...

Randomly found this retweet on friend Pete Wolfendale's Twitter that I read from time to time...  It couldn't be more true.  Thus I embed the tweet here and refer readers to a like-minded draft of an article that I wrote HERE.

oh Markus Gabriel...

You're about three years late.  See HERE vs HERE.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Mind of Plants: Documentary on The Intelligence of Plants (Video)

Following today's earlier post on the intelligence of cats and parrots, I was reminded by Michael Marder's appearance last year on the Philosopher's Zone (link HERE) that plants ought to be part of this discussion as well.

Other than the documentary below After Nature readers may be interested to listen to Stephanie Theodorou and me on the Philosopher's Zone discussing the emotional lives of animals, HERE.

The intelligible form of semiotic expression - emotional, social, rational - is varied and yet found nearly throughout all of the natural world.

"If a cat could talk" and other articles on what the "otherness" of animals might reveal

First, Aeon magazine gives us "If a Cat Could Talk."  Highlights are below, link to the article HERE.  (If you are a "cat person" it is definitely worth reading the entire article.)

Second is "Not Just a Pretty Boy," about parrots and how these avians with the intelligence of a five year old child reveal complexities in pet-ownership that haven't been previously considered.  See HERE.

Both articles have forced me to think about how I see the reach of reason; of how communication exists within a continuum beginning with sensuous affectivity - aesthetic communication following intelligible semiotic form and information transfer - proceeding along to logical/mathematical  description and communication, a practice of reason that, although one step above the normative and ethical, still evidences the human beings' limitations in abiding to cosmic law.

Peirce was right in saying, I think, that the categories of the human understanding do not "reflect" reality (Kant) but are truly isomorphic to reality.  Thus he was closer to Hegel but moreso Schelling in seeing the universe as ultimately tending toward rationality though never completing succumbing to it.  Firstness is aesthetic qualitative feeling - communication is felt, aesthetic, and sensuous primarily.  Secondness is reaction, two singular items posed to each other form a relationship of contemporaneity from which ethical principles derived; and Thirdness is generality and law - it is the nature of generality as such, for one cannot proceed beyond a singular or particular itself unless a relation to another "can be" generalized.  This is what contemporary "particularists" I shall call them, or those oriented toward singular objects and objects alone, completely miss.  The power and reach of relation ensures communication in logical, rational, and mathematical form - that form itself is an ontology of this Third relation.  Nothing can go further, yet Thirdness generality is never complete.  Or, "The many are one and are increased by one" to put it in Whitehead's language.

It is important to state that Peirce's categories are not hierarchical but are instead co-given, each is dependent upon the other.  Mathematics and the copulas of logic have as much feeling present in them (James' "feeling" of the hesitancy in the logical copula of "but") as much as they possess an abstract and neutral precision in them, or a generality applicable to others.  There is a Firstness in Thirdness as much as there is a Thirdness present in Firstness.  One is nascent, the other blossomed.

When looking into an animal's eyes we often may see "the wheel's turning."  Intelligible form in the multiverse takes on an indefinite variety of shapes and magnitudes; the substratum of this intelligibility is, of course, aesthetic union in more general form.  It is how the varied and different species are able to communicate.



Look into the eyes of a cat for a moment. Your gaze will flicker between recognising another being, and staring into a void…
***
But if the glimpse of a cat can portend the uncanny, what should we make of the cat’s own glance at us? As Jacques Derrida wondered: ‘Say the animal responded?’ If his cat found him naked in the bathroom, staring at his private parts — as discussed in Derrida's 1997 lecture The Animal That Therefore I Am — who would be more naked: the unclothed human or the never clothed animal? To experience the animal looking back at us challenges the confidence of our own gaze — we lose our unquestioned privilege in the universe. Whatever we might think of our ability to subordinate the animal to our categories, all bets are off when we try to include the animal’s own perspective. That is not just another item to be included in our own world view. It is a distinctive point of view — a way of seeing that we have no reason to suppose we can seamlessly incorporate by some imaginative extension of our own perspective.
***
Each cat is a singular being — a pulsing centre of the universe — with this colour eyes, this length and density of fur, this palate of preferences, habits and dispositions. Each with his own idiosyncrasies….So often cats disturb us even as they enchant us. We stroke them, and they purr. We feel intimately connected to these creatures that seem to have abandoned themselves totally to the pleasures of the moment. Cats seem to have learnt enough of our ways to blend in. And yet, they never assimilate entirely. In a trice, in response to some invisible (to the human mind, at least) cue, they will leap off our lap and re-enter their own space, chasing a shadow. Lewis Carroll’s image of the smile on the face of the Cheshire cat, which remains even after the cat has vanished, nicely evokes such floating strangeness. Cats are beacons of the uncanny, shadows of something ‘other’ on the domestic scene.
***
Our relationship with cats is an eruption of the wild into the domestic: a reminder of the ‘far side’, by whose exclusion we define our own humanity. This is how Michel Foucault understood the construction of ‘madness’ in society — it’s no surprise then that he named his own cat Insanity. Cats, in this sense, are vehicles for our projections, misrecognition, and primitive recollection.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Mp3 Audio of Opening Remarks for Philadelphia Summer School inContinental Philosophy: "The Current State of Continental Metaphysics:Realism, Materialism, and Religion?"

"The Current State of Continental Metaphysics: Realism, Materialism, and Religion?" Opening remarks from the 2014 Philadelphia Summer School in Continental Philosophy, HERE. (21 MB mp3 audio file download.  Running time: 23:49.)

Opening and closing music by Death in June, added because "only Continental philosophy" knows!

Note that during the talk I take to task both Peter Gratton's Speculative Realism and Steven Shaviro's The Universe of Things: On Speculative Realism.. Both books have (intentionally or not) omitted key players in the conversation (Blake, Hills, Wolfendale) and suffer quite abit because of it.

Mehdi Belhaj Kacem's first book in English: Transgression and the Inexistent

HERE.  It seems to be a good place to start if one is looking to learn about Kacem, or "MBK" as most call him, especially if one's French isn't perfect (my reading/writing French is decent, my speaking French not the greatest).

Like Quentin Meillassoux, he was a student of Alain Badiou, and is among the new French philosophers of a younger generation.  More rigorous, clear, and academically formidable than someone like Tristan Garcia, I would have to say that if one is looking to read new French philosophy then set Garcia to the side and pick up MBK.

MBK also has a book forthcoming titled The Meillassoux Effect.  A very good article detailing MBK's break from Badiou can be found at The New Inquiry, HERE.

Congratulations to MBK on this achievement!

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

"From Quine to Hegel" (Paul Franks, Yale University)

Kazimir Malevich, Black Suprematic Square (1915, oil on linen).
Interesting chapter/paper HERE covering Hegel, Quine, and philosophical naturalism.

apropos my last post

Bill from New Savanna blog is right, I should have said "as society changes" rather than "as the economy changes."  That was a reading error on my part.

The below film touches on some other ideas discussed in the post.  The film is just a minute and a half long.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

After Speculative Realism: On online philosophy, academic blogging, exclusionism, and how the academy is changing

Bill Benzon at New Savanna blog has a write up HERE on how he perceives the academy to be changing - specifically the academy understood as "the old university system."  Benzon believes that as the economy changes learning will too.  He states that with this change learning will take place elsewhere, such as online rather than on a state or privately funded campus.  Afterall, it is the the thinking that matters and that will survive, while official institutions come and go.

Benzon then goes on to cite the revolution "taking place" (perhaps more accurately the "movement" that "took place") called Speculative Realism.  Stating that "the blosophere is critical of these people" he also notes that some of the primary discussions in Speculative Realism (so-called) takes place on blogs.  I would quickly add that Speculative Realism, as anything coherent, began on blogs, for better or for worse.  Yet, also, it arguably ended there as any serious "label," R.I.P, at least two to three years ago, insofar as any strong influence upon the larger philosophical world is concerned.

Benzon concludes that the old university system is dead, but doesn't know it yet.  The post concludes by insinuating that academic activity - or perhaps thinking about ideas - will transition fully to an online life, whether blogs or whatever new variety of social media is established and popular at the time. He uses "Speculative Realism's" blog activity as an example of this.

I respect Bill's blog and his viewpoints, and I enjoy his photography.  I enjoy his biographies and discussions of his own writing.  But I do believe he has a few things wrong in his post.  Perhaps not wrong per se, but the post suffers from some illusions of grandeur, I think at least.

Social media, including blogs, is a less than ideal place for philosophy to occur as an open and free exchange of ideas, even if the learning found in the old university system (or current system of liberal arts colleges, etc. etc.) is be replaced.  If learning transitions to social media as its main source of exchange (not just websites or other media, etc. etc.), I fear that we are in for a dark time of "learning" comparable to that of the dark ages.

The more popular social media, like Twitter, is motivated almost exclusively by the buzz of euphoric trend-like crazes and mob rule.  Small insular war-like tribes battle each other in a kind of fear-of-witches castle warfare; all the while each castle remains plugged into a generalized affective continuum of effusive sentimentality.  This is to say that each castle influences the other mainly through hearsay and gossip rather than reason and debate. Demagoguery of celebrities reigns supreme (the real kings and queens, or the religious leaders of the castles, if you like).  Those who want power take it by killing the careers of others.

Further, thoughts and emotions are affectively duplicated and amplified in a feedback effect as many Twitter users become nothing more than neuro-livestock; used by the larger, affective continuum of production and profit.  Human beings become "meat capital."  Any meaningful exchange of substantive, slow and careful reasoned content becomes nothing more than spectacle, while individuality and privacy, as well as human dignity, are all sacrificed for the currency of belonging to a tribe and attention supplied by online "friends" (people whom you've never met before in real life and would rather spend your time with by staring at your phone instead of going outside; or, at best, when you are outside, it is all filtered through the stories you report through your phone). Attention but also emotion in the form of narcissistic reinforcement is thus the neuro-resource.

Facebook, while more personal, is also motivated by these cliquish in-group and out-group dynamics, all affected by the drippy affect of "likes" and other attention-grabbing and emotional-reinforcement tactics.  Twitter is much the same way: how many followers do you have and will you retweet me?  Can I have more followers than the number that I am following?  I am not sure that all of the above described dark-age environment is where enlightened, reasonable, open-minded learning and education would be able to take place.

Given the collapse of the modern educational system, the "academic" system, Benzon turns to blogs as the last outpost of ideas.  However blogs do not hold the same sort of institutional credibility or, yes, even open-mindedness, that one typically finds in a more formal, controlled, objectively evaluated, and thus protected educational setting, especially those settings found in the liberal arts colleges that are prospering as opposed to the financially obsessed larger state schools, who, while under attack today and are constrained by economic issues, nevertheless far supersede the blogosphere as an appropriate medium for real learning to occur.

For learning to occur, ideas must be exchanged.  And for ideas to be exchanged participants must be open to receiving new ideas and actually look/confront others' ideas, some of which may be uncomfortable or against the views one currently holds.  It isn't, as is the case with so many blogs, a politics and deliberate exclusion of others whom we simply dislike.  For most blogs (hopefully not mine) this is the rule, rather than the exception.

Benzon then cites two bloggers in the world of "Speculative Realism" as a case in point.  I think it is important to note that there is literally one person on this planet who self-identifies with the label "Speculative Realism."  There is *one* open-access, online, (mostly) graduate student run journal on Speculative Realism that publishes again and again many of the same authors; and now just two books on the subject in the close to ten years that have passed since the original (and only) "Speculative Realism" qua label conference.

The first book on Speculative Realism is from Minnesota UP and the second from Bloomsbury I believe - but each is deficient by overlooking and omitting (whether intentional or not) several of the most active voices of commentary on "Speculative Realism" as it was when it was thought to "exist" - voices including Terrance Blake, Jason Hills, Alex Galloway, Pete Wolfendale, and many, many, many others.  Those who did make the cut into this recent literature are, you guessed it, part of the established online castle factions, as small now as those SR influenced factions are becoming (I should note that fewer and fewer young people are even talking about it and have simply "moved on.")  This is why, thankfully, Accelerationism is going somewhere, and that somewhere is in a more productive direction than where Speculative Realism went.  Further still, I would say that the original philosophers often associated with Speculative Realism (the three good philosophers, who, interestingly, themselves never associated with the label - namely Brassier, Meillassoux, and Iain Grant) all have continued on with their own projects and never looked back to the hackneyed label that Speculative Realism has become.  So, and I am saying this genuinely, good for them.

I mention all of this because "Speculative Realism" - frankly - is, itself, dying or dead, much like the old university system as Benzon suggests. It is ironic that Benzon concludes that the old university system is dead, but doesn't know it yet. Speculative Realism is in a similar state much the same way, although many of those who have name-branded it do not realize it.  It is, to use Ben Woodward's phrase (incidentally an early player in whatever Speculative Realism was), the "dead elephant in the room."  To cite Armen Avanessian, we must begin to think what now comes after Speculative Realism.

Speculative Realism is passing or has passed, for many of the same political reasons that the old university system died. It refused to allow in the notorious "Other" into its own ranks, it refused to allow proliferation in the name of clutching "spots."  But also, for SR, there was gate-keeping and the stupidity of posturing.  Most interestingly for SR, there simply were no good arguments or real, slow and careful debates and exchanges of ideas to be had...essential for any learning environment with a free and open exchange of ideas.  These political reasons boil down to the simple formula of power-play politics that killed, again, to cite Woodard and Avanessian both, "what could have been" in Speculative Realism.  It essentially collapsed into the narrow vision of one or two master Internet Philosophy wizards who, with either a nod of the wand or not, would "allow" one into the clique through acknowledgment and engagement, which ultimately strangulated the initial breath of air that the "movement" (better, "tendency") that Speculative Realism was.

To Sum: lack of acknowledgement quickly becomes lack of engagement.  Academically speaking, in terms of quality scholarship and honest literature review, that is mainly why Speculative Realism suffered and died a rather quick death, say of five years or less.  Larger and larger holes of philosophical integrity became blatantly apparent to everyone, and everyone moved on, save for those still desperately clinging to the label.

Speculative Realism was a curious odyssey.  But mainly it showed what philosophy as an online activity accomplishes, which is, to use a by now infamous phrase that is fairly incontestable, not much more than an "online orgy of stupidity."

This is not to say that the initial, and remember accidental meeting, of the four original philosophers often associated with the label didn't provoke change in the continental philosophical world.  They did.  But I am saying that labels propagated online by one or two politically motivated blogs can hardly pass as a new way to do philosophy or exchange ideas in the spirit of a liberal arts education, or education in general.  I find that to be a wanting claim, at best.

Remember, education, or better, learning, is about new ideas and it requires an unbiased, open mind.  That's hardly what we find in the blogs that Benzon cites.  It's hardly what we find on the majority of social media, period.

A final thought.  I do not want to appear to say that all of social media, or all blogs in particular, are somehow bad or evil.  I am simply saying that if we are to say that the education and learning behind the academy today is to be transferred to blogs or some form of social online life, then we ought to be very careful about and conscientious of the blogs and social media that we do use to learn, because for the most part, many social media sources do succumb to the same forces that for better or worse pushed Speculative Realism to its demise.