Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Music for preparing for classes next week

Music for preparing for classes next week. I was lucky enough to discover Slowdive when I was just beginning my teenage years. Surprised they are still around today. Great live version of this song below. I'll also embed the full set (from KEXP).



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.

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Corringron’s new blog



Linked below. There's actually quite a few interesting posts so definitely check it out if you have time. In a sense, the blog is a sincere foray into the petrified forest known as the "blogosphere" - where it casts a ray of light among dead husks of old trees long forgotten. Perhaps a new small, little tree has been planted.

https://ecstaticnaturalism.org/

Monday, November 12, 2018

Animality and Animals in Continental Philosophy – Course Reading List (Spring 2019)


Animality and Animals in Continental Philosophy – Course Reading List (Spring 2019)
  • Giorgio Agamben, “Mysterium disiunctionis,” “The Anthropological Machine,” and “Anthropogenesis” in The Open: Man and Animal
  • Donna Haraway, “The Companion Species Manifesto”
  • David Abram, “The Speech of Things” and “The Discourse of the Birds” in Becoming Animal
  • Astrida Neimanis, “Becoming-Grizzly: Bodily Molecularity and the Animal that Becomes”
  • Deleuze & Guattari - Becoming-intensitiy, becoming-animal
  • Fernand Deligny, “The Arachnean” (excerpts)
  • Philippe Descola, “Metaphysics of Morals” from Beyond Nature and Culture
  • Eduardo Kohn, “Introduction” from How Forests Think: Toward and Anthropology Beyond the Human
  • Jacques Derrida – The Animal that Therefore I am (369-397 only)
  • H. Peter Steeves – Animal Others: On Ethics, Ontology, and Animal Life
  • M. Calarco - Zoographies: The Question of the Animal from Heidegger to Derrida
  • Bell and Naas – Plato’s Animals