Tuesday, October 17, 2017

For a New Naturalism

Forthcoming and edited by Australian philosopher Arran Gare, For a New Naturalism features a range of philosophers drawing upon the speculative naturalist tradition and utilizing approaches fashioned by the likes of C.S. Peirce, Merleau-Ponty, C.D. Broad, Catherine Malabou, just to name a few.

You can read the introduction online, HERE.

Monday, October 16, 2017

YouTuber Roaming Millennial visits Lafayette College

Roaming Millennial (a vlogger on YouTube) visited Lafayette College not so long ago. This is pretty close to where I teach at Moravian so had I known it was going on I would have gone. Might be interesting to bring Roaming Millennial to Moravian College - afterall, she declares herself to be a "philosopher king" and we just finished the Republic. She would also be an interesting figure to talk to our ethics bowl team.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

new track from John Maus' forthcoming album, 'Screen Memories'

I'd love to chat with Maus to discuss some of his philosophical views - mostly those I've garnered from looking over his dissertation. Two Ph.D.s discussing music, particularly music in Maus' own vein, would be quite a rare conversation. So - John Maus - if your out there, get in touch!

John Maus' forthcoming album Screen Memories will be available October 27th. Definitely looking forward to it. Here is a new track that has just appeared on YouTube.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Thoughts inspired by the New York Times article "Return of the ’80s! Synth-Pop Bands Stage a Middle-Aged Comeback"

I often repeat ad nauseum a number of theses to any of my full-blown Millennial students who will listen. No, I state ad nauseum a number of facts. Facts are facts, therefore they are self-evident. But allow me to characterize or explain a number of facts about music of the '80s and early to mid '90s.

Number one: '80s and to some extend early to mid '90s music is far superior to the music which is being produced today. I support this fact by explaining how nearly all of the 14 year-olds running up and down the comments of YouTube are constantly opining how today's music isn't very good at all ("it sucks") and that they wish they were "living in the '80s."

Number two: Analog was, is, and always will be better than digital. Support? Vinyl and cassette are all the rage among the youngins' these days. Who would have thunk it? Analog has that "warm" feel that digital doesn't. It's more authentic, rich, and full despite not usually being as bright and crisp. But in the brightness one loses tone. An atmosphere revolves around tone rather than clarity.

Number three: The fact that each artists' release had to be curated - that what contributed to the album overall was the placement of each song - meant that each release had its own atmosphere. Today, though, there is Spotify and "the playlist." But anyone can put any song on a playlist. To the argument that bands can release albums" as mp3 downloads, which means a specific order - well, not everyone downloads each song, nor listens to those songs in a specific order, nor has to go through the trouble of fast forwarding/rewinding or picking up the needle to move through the songs.

Number four: the proliferation of music is not necessarily a good thing. The very aesthetic enjoyment of music has changed due to the fact that via mp3s (which lop off huge amounts of high ends and low ends - again, tone is everything) one no longer has to "stay" one one song or a group of songs for much time. We scroll through our mp3s like we do our news feeds, and pay as much attention to each song and care about it for as long as we do for those headlines. In essence, mp3s allow one to have hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of songs at one's fingertips, and so one isn't even allowed to actually focus on, re-listen to, any one song individually. I mean, one can do that. But the tendency is - given that they are available - is to just scroll through and hit upon whatever one happens to land upon. This also means that one quickly forgets which songs are good and which ones aren't. Soooooo many bands/artists to choose from, and given data holding space, one will soon be able to have them all.

Number five: the proliferation of artists is a good thing. Any Millennial with a laptop and keyboard now has their own band. Go to bandcamp to see this in action. Spot FM (and probably soon Spotify) furthers the fragmentation of these bands further and further into sub-genres, into sub-sub genres, into sub-sub-sub genres. Postpunk or New wave becomes synthwave becomes retrowave becomes darkwave becomes cold-dark wave until finally the niche-carving nature of the datasphere (internet) makes a new "genre" for each and every single individual artist/band!!!

Number six: Following this, you do NOT require talent to be a muscian today. When I listen to music from, say, the '50s, '60s, '70s, and especially '80s and '90s - you had to be able to play your instrument as there weren't computer programs to create it for you. One could object that music is always ever-becoming technologized: the lyre becomes the guitar becomes the electric guitar. But you still need to know to play a guitar. And in fact, with a distortion pedal hooked up to it, you can achieve even more unique sounds and tones to couple with that musicianship. No auto-tuning, no sampling and feedback loops. Nothing. Just you and the instruments and possibly whatever electric medium they pass through. Here my point is: a laptop can create a song for you, rather than you using the laptop to create the song.

Am I a disgruntled Gen-Xer (technically Xennial) yelling at the kids to get off my lawn? Absolutely not. YouTube, the public commons of music lovers galore, has all of the evidence one needs. Teenagers and young people of today will most emphatically tell you that they "wished they lived in those times," or that the music of today "was like that."

On the other hand, is today's music lost? Absolutely not. Why not? Read THIS New York Times article. YouTube kids opine for the "nostalgia they never knew" not because their just a nostalgic bunch. They long for music that actually means something. And in the music of the '80s/'90s they get that.

Hence why so many bands today reach for that style today.

Relations, relations

Once in a great while I will actually take a look at what posts seem to be popular on my blog (usually I am much too busy to look). The following little segment of posts was popular over the last few days - not sure how it was shared, but, quite a few folks were looking at some of these.

When I looked at them of course I picked out a few things I didn't like. However, I always resort to the disclaimer found at the bottom of this blog: things I have posted in the past do not necessarily reflect how I think now. On the other hand...a few of the posts had me thinking.

Linked somehow I updated a few posts on speculative realism as well, just because I was in housekeeping mode for abit. The Benzon post (I forget what it is called) needed some pruning and updating to current thinking, but for the most part when I post things I leave them as be.

It's strange to look back at posts from three, four, five years ago - when one does it's like hoping you won't cringe. Thankfully generally I don't for the most part, but no one is perfect. We always can look at things with fresh eyes as time goes on.

Anyway, here are the string of posts, from another one of my posts:

For more see:
  1. "Ecology Re-naturalized" HERE.
  2. "Why a Relationless Universe Cannot Be" HERE.
  3. "The Human and 'Mesomining'" HERE.
  4. "Massumi on Relations and Relationalism" HERE.
  5. "Are All Relations Internal?" HERE.
  6. "More on Internal and External Relations" HERE.
  7. "In Defense of Relations" HERE.
  8. "The Deep Transcendence of Objects" HERE.
  9. "Irreducible Relationality" HERE.
  10. "Simondon's Transindividual and Nonreductive Relationalism" HERE.
  11. "Latour on Simondon's Mode of Existence" HERE.
  12. "Who's Afraid of Realism? (Part 1) HERE.
  13. "Who's Afraid of Realism" (Part 5) HERE.
  14. "Probing the Idea of Nature" HERE.
  15. "Transcendentalism and Correlationism" HERE.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Tropes of Transport: Hegel and Emotion

This looks incredibly interesting. Hegel is usually pegged as the poster-child for abstract reasoning gone wrong. That, when formal mediation is applied to anything concrete (life, emotions, the individual or particular), the Notion (the universal in action) immediately swallows into a higher generality that concrete.

As we see in the below such is hardly the case.

Katrin Pahl: Tropes of Transport: Hegel and Emotion (2012)
// Monoskop Log

"Intervening in the multidisciplinary debate on emotion, Tropes of Transport offers a fresh analysis of Hegel's work that becomes an important resource for Pahl's cutting-edge theory of emotionality. If it is usually assumed that the sincerity of emotions and the force of affects depend on their immediacy, Pahl explores to what extent mediation—and therefore a certain degree of manipulation but also of sympathy—is constitutive of emotionality. Hegel serves as a particularly helpful interlocutor not only because he offers a sophisticated analysis of mediation, but also because, rather than locating emotion in the heart, he introduces impersonal tropes of transport, such as trembling, release, and shattering. "

Publisher Northwestern University Press, 2012
Creative Commons BY-NC-ND 4.0
ISBN 0810127857, 9780810127852
ix+282 pages

Reviews: Emilia Angelova (Parrhesia, 2014), David H. Kim (Parrhesia, 2014), John McCumber (Parrhesia, 2014), Jason J. Howard (Parrhesia, 2014), Katrin Pahl (response to the 4 reviews, Parrhesia, 2014).

Interview with author (Rorotoko, 2012)



Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Deleuze and New Materialism: Naturalism, Norms, and Ethics

What I like about Ansell-Pearson's work is that when it comes to the new metaphysics he doesn't try to concoct philosophical movements or brands where none exist. It's easy these days to be duped by poseurs and charlatans who attempt to create such nonsense for their own personal gain (whatever that might result in). But, usually they're found out and ignored anyway. You can read Ansell-Pearson's very excellent paper HERE. It's authentic and puts Deleuze further in touch with new materialism and naturalism, which is a profitable and upcoming area of scholarship for sure.

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Blast from the past: 1977-1997 Xennial Paradise

THIS article from Chris Morgan at Jacobite resonated with me. I was around for alot of the '90s counter-culture, alternative, "underground" scene - a scene which included "'zines", tape trading, shows held in basements, barns, and living rooms usually packed with young people beyond whatever entrance door, letter-writing, running your own 'zines and shows, creating your own music using a cassette 4 track!

It was a great time when true independence and music were alive. I had migrated back and forth between two scenes really, due to my two main underground music interests - one line going from the late '70s/early-to-mid '80s and then early '90s punk-to-hardcore-to straightedge hardcore-to-metal-death-metal-black-metal and then done when it sold out in the late '90s; but also post-punk ‘70s and '80s synthwave, whether coldwave, neo-romanticist wave, sometimes college underground alternative at its more goth or darker edges (The Cure mostly - whose album "Disintegration" is still unbeatable today, but also on a lite note bands like Neds Atomic Dustbin, The Smiths, Morrissey, etc.), also synthwave like Argento/Carpenter-isms moving more into early/mid-’80s new wave which was always dark, weird, contemplative and sometimes creepy or (most times) sad and melancholic.  Occassionally the two would overlap, but they were distinct by my age as I moved from the whole metal thing of my teenage years to the synthwave thing of my twenties.  The overlap would be something like the first three Katatonia albums, the Darkthrone band Neptune Towers (believe it or not I used to be friends with Gylve Nagell, also Faust, the drummer of Emperor, I knew the guy from Katatonia pretty well, some others I am missing I am sure).

Today bands like La Cassette or Umberto keep the tradition alive, as does probably in the most important way: John Maus. John Maus is amazing, so definitely go to YouTube or search him on this blog and check him out.  Gateway Drugs (from South Africa) is pretty good, the band Cold Cave is really good (love them, check them out), Blood Sound is great (from Philly), Graveyard Club, Geometric Vision, and for other current bands I know I am forgetting so much.  Oh, I also think very early Raveonettes is pretty good, melancholy inside an indy-pop wrapper of sorts, with all of the lyrics covering the "darker" subjects of life we Xennials (borderline Gen-X and please-oh-God-I-am-too-close-being-a-Millennial-Nooooo!) You know, the sort of subjects that when I tell my students about the trouble we used to get into, they are astonished.  Their eyes pop open wide when I tell them something as innocent as my parents allowing me out all night when I was 16 or 17 years old and how I would hang out with friends yet still go to school the next day. The fact that many of us smoked, many of my friends did hard drugs (thankfully I avoided that), just total nihlism and debauchery of the the '80s and '90s into the 'oughts. If Na and I ever have children (we do want children desperately) I wonder how they'll turn out as raised by Xennials or X-ers.

Sorry, looks like I'm digressing here!

The scene the above article references is the scene which included the vegan/vegetarian and animal rights folks that I hung with in my teenage years. We took no shit because we had a life-style which was pretty self-righteous, and we knew it. Our lifestyle just happened to overlap with the Thrudvant folks who also just happened to be radical Odinists. They basically were pescetarians and had many of the straight-edge kids values. Crazy times to be a teenager. I remember the righteousness, the militantism, and the awe of just how many young people like me were interested in such an "underground" thing. I'm laughing at how we dressed with our choker beads and bleached spikey hair... (oops, I wear choker beads today, they're from Thailand though so I hope it's not too out of style). We loved bands like Earth Crisis ("Firestorm," "All Out War," "Destroy the Machines"), Hatebreed, also Chokehold was pretty big (and is, as of two years ago when they played a year-long reunion tour aged in their late '30s. Still playing...wow, so great). Almost forgot the great band Abnegation.

Youth culture is a funny thing, because it seems alot of those values are things I'm still concerned with today, or still find interesting today at the least: things like nature mysticism, animal rights, sentionautics, the aesthetic feel and tone of melancholia, counter-culture, and anything which brings me back to the best decade of time itself: the '80s. Further, I believe the little tunnel of, oh, 1977 through to 1985ish give or take, maybe up to the early '90s if I were pressed (I think by 1997 things were over) - those were the times. I mean, not that I literally remember or experienced the late '70s, if you were born in the early to mid '80s you still felt the impact. (Millennial kids worship Xennials for this - they try to appropriate a nostalgia they never knew.)

Something did happen after the turn of the century. But engaging that change is for another day. I think I've made my point, which I absolutely know, trust me, is very subjective. But I do think that anyone who is in their mid '30s or late '30s will also resonate with all of this.

Saturday, October 7, 2017

"Dark Star: A Special Review of Nick Land's ‘A Thirst for Annihilation"

HERE. A pretty interesting read - be warned though, it's fairly subtle writing given the content so take your time.

Friday, October 6, 2017

Profound Plato: What Brings Plato to Life for Undergraduate Students?

Part of the joy of teaching Plato is seeing just how non-antiquarian his ideas truly are. I have to admit though, I hadn't always found such joy in teaching Plato and in fact re-discovered Plato when I started teaching Ancient Greek Philosophy about, oh, three or so years ago.

The very first time I taught the class was while I was VAP at East Stroudsburg University, teaching the class while also teaching three other sections of Intro with about 75 students in each section save for the large auditorium section which had 140 students. 145 students I believe, to be more precise. Yes I had two TA's, but they didn't do anything except complain how I put them to work editing a book I was working on at the time (within their scope of duties, technically).

Anyway, it was then that as I began teaching the class I first discovered a love for the Presocratics - which I always had given that a main research area of mine is the philosophy of nature. The Presocratics' various ontologies of nature has always fascinated me, but not until I actually started teaching them in-depth had I learned more than what I did as a foundation in my graduate studies. In the teaching-world that's common, however.

But, Plato was different. I, like many undergraduates, wasn't particularly excited about Plato when I was in my early college years. The professor who taught the Ancient Greek Philosophy class I took was himself quite ancient! And as an impatient young person I couldn't get myself too terribly excited about the class despite doing quite well in it.

Enter my graduate school days: a Plato seminar on the M.A. track had me reading once again the in's and out's of the dialogues and the Republic. But other than the very first class, the material just wasn't brought to life.

This brings me to my point: it is so, so important that - at least in one's undergraduate training, when one is first introduced to any philosophy, where that philosophy has even the remotest potential to be a turn-off to a student - that one approaches with great care how that philosophy is taught. It must be done very, very carefully. As it turns out, my belief is that how one teaches Plato is almost just as important as the content of Plato we decide to teach in the class. Now, obviously it is not up to the student as to how the material is taught - which is why so many young people miss out on Plato. Many professors simply don't know how to teach it. (Many, but not all.)

Not until my Ph.D. days did I even begin to glimpse the full power of Ancient Greek philosophy. I had taken a seminar on Aristotle (our doctoral program had us taking seminars in all of the major historical thinkers, whether Plato, Aristotle, Kant, Hegel, etc. etc.) where I noticed just how absolutely profound Ancient Greek thought was. That experience I can recount another day. But for now, it seems to me that it can certainly be a good thing that as we mature our approach to things we once liked (or didn't like), changes.

Sometimes this may occur in the case of, say, some sort of band or music one enjoyed as a teenager. There are plenty of things which I listened to then which may me cringe now. On the other hand, there are things I listened to then which I still listen to and enjoy now. Whether mark of quality or personal taste is unimportant when it comes to trying to pass on the value of something as we see it. But for philosophy I think it is different.

The sad part is when (as a youngster) one cringes at the good stuff when what they are cringing at is very, very good. Such is the case with Plato. (Perhaps, too, a case may be made here for classical music as well. By that I mean, despite one for example not having a taste for classical music, perhaps one's maturity and patience would allow them to see the beauty present in it. And as I always say, the more one learns about classical music, and one understands how it can be profitably listened to so that its true scope becomes present, then one's taste might possibly change to include it. This became true when I began re-learning how to play the piano as an adult after having studied as a child.)

For me, Plato brings to life philosophy in its most active but also troubled sense. In a book like the Republic for example, something as (supposedly) simple as the translation of "justice" features in such a way that, college age or not, the stakes of its meaning is absolutely relevant. And of course as any philosopher who has read Plato knows, not just politically but in moral terms - in axiological terms.

How does one bring Plato to life for students? Well, part of the trick is that one must be ready to teach Plato. This means one personally seeing the value in and importance of what one is teaching. I hadn't sat down to actually carefully read through the Republic again since graduate school. So not until I was reading it to prepare to teach it for my first Ancient Greek Philosophy class had I not seen it with eyes which were ready. But what made me ready? The fact that (hopefully) my philosophical eyes have matured abit? The mere fact that I was older and had more patience? I'm not sure.

I can say, though, that if one personally sees what is profound in Plato, one's students will too.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Ernst J√ľnger's Philosophy of Technology: Heidegger and the Poetics of the Anthropocene (NDPR Review)

Ernst J√ľnger's Philosophy of Technology: Heidegger and the Poetics of the Anthropocene

2017.10.02 : View this Review Online | View Recent NDPR Reviews

Vincent Blok, Ernst J√ľnger's Philosophy of Technology: Heidegger and the Poetics of the Anthropocene, Routledge, 2017, 153pp., $140.00 (hbk), ISBN 9781138737594.
Reviewed by Robert P. Crease, Stony Brook University

Ernst J√ľnger (1895-1998) was a writer, novelist, author, and philosopher whose significant influence on 20th century thought was twofold. The first is via his notion of "total mobilization," a description of the technological age as characterized by a wholesale transformation of human life into exploitable energies and resources. The second is via his impact on the thought of Martin Heidegger, one of the greatest of 20th century philosophers. This influence is manifested particularly in Heidegger's notion, in The Question Concerning Technology, of the Gestell or "Enframing," a mode of existence in which beings of all sorts, including human beings, appear as means towards ends. Blok's book is a narrow exposition of both of these aspects of J√ľnger's thought.

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