Saturday, February 14, 2015

Speculative Philosophy and the Philosophy of Nature with Leon Niemoczynski (audio interview with Homebrewed Christianity podcast)

Leon Niemoczynski (2015)
Interview with me on Homebrewed Christianity podcast.  Please spread the word - thanks!
Leon Niemoczynski (Immaculata University) on the Homebrewed Christianity podcast with Tripp Fuller. Audio podcast HERE. (Link to full webpage HERE.)  Topics of discussion include the philosophy of nature, German idealism, philosophical ecology, animal emotions, Schelling, Peirce, Whitehead, speculative realism, process philosophy, ecstatic and sacred naturalisms, bleak theology, the problem of evil, and so much more! 
Leon's forthcoming book is titled Speculative Naturalism: An Ecological Metaphysics.  He is the co-editor/author of Animal Experience: Consciousness and Emotions in the Natural World (Open Humanities Press, 2014) and A Philosophy of Sacred Nature: Prospects for Ecstatic Naturalism (Lexington Books, 2014).  He is also the author of Charles Sanders Peirce and a Religious Metaphysics of Nature (Lexington Books, 2011). 
In 2015 Leon's interview on "The Philosopher's Zone" was nominated for a Voiceless Media Prize, an award recognizing the most accurate and influential reports on animal protection and ethics, exposing animal suffering and informing the public.

Friday, February 13, 2015

"Letting the Finite Vanish: Hegel, Tillich, and Caputo on the Ontological Philosophy of Religion" (paper)


"What is Living in Deep Ecology?" (paper)

Interesting paper on the history of philosophical ecology, HERE.  In the paper you'll find mention of many classics including the journal of ecosophy, The Trumpeter.  For those unaware, The Trumpeter has been around for many years and is a top notch open access journal in the field of "deep ecology." 

Some time back they had twin issues dedicated to Arne Naess HERE and HERE.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

"Two Metaphysical Naturalisms: Aristotle and Justus Buchler" (new book)

THIS looks quite interesting.  "Columbia naturalism" is a school not covered as well as it should be.  In this book the author compares and relates the naturalisms of Aristotle and Justus Buchler. 

For those interested I've posted about a unique Aristotle translation HERE.  For more on Buchler see my take on his essay "Probing the Idea of Nature" HERE; or the philospher's profile on Buchler HERE and HERE on After Nature blog.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Petrified Intelligence: Nature in Hegel's Philosophy (NDPR Review with Highlights)

I just picked this up on amazon: Petrified Intelligence: Nature in Hegel's Philosophy, by Allison Stone.  The full NDPR is HERE, and I'll copy some highlights below.  All in all, the review (rightly) points out that this book is "a compelling reconstruction of Hegel as a metaphysician of nature."  Compared to Pinkard's Hegel's Naturalism one ought to prefer Stone's book.

"Stone ties this fashionable line of criticism to an very unfashionable reading of Hegel. Not only does she see him as a metaphysician with a strictly rationalist, a priori theory of nature, but she argues that this reading is essential for articulating his ecological concerns. Hegel approaches the study of nature a priori, by first deducing the order and structure of natural forms given the internal, dialectical logic of the concept [Begriff]. Once this logical grid is in place, Hegel then turns to the empirical sciences to see how well they mesh with his deductive system."

"Stone believes that Hegel's a priori metaphysical approach has two advantages that give it enduring relevance, two things to offer that contemporary science does not. First, she argues that Hegel's procedure is uniquely able to capture our pre-scientific experience of nature; and second she shows that Hegel captures a sense of nature's intrinsic value in a way that our current scientific paradigm does not."

"[O]ur senses must have some privileged proximity to what is occurring in nature, because they themselves are natural...She writes: "because we have emerged from nature, the system of our senses arises as a recapitulation of preexisting patterns that objectively structure various natural forms" (p. 131). Thus, there must be something correct about our sensuous grasp of nature..."

The review fits hand in hand with a Zizek talk I once saw, "The Reflection of Life in Hege" (see video HERE).  Close to the ideas of biophilosopher Lynn Margulis (HERE).

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

another telling review through NDPR: The Allure of Things: Process and Object in Contemporary Philosophy

This time in a review of The Allure of Things: Process and Object in Contemporary Philosophy, HERE.

Colapietro (Penn State) gives a fair review, and it's telling.  Political ties and the fact of writing about a faddish topic in no way shields the text in question from Colapietro identifying and reporting this book's obvious shortcomings.  Such was the case with Sparrow's book reviewed on NDPR which I comment upon HERE.

I didn't bother to obtain this book (or ask for it for our library) simply because, once again, I knew well in advance the politicized agenda of the editors.  Sadly this is becoming more of the rule rather than the exception in the publication of texts covering Speculative Realism.  Again, Speculative ®ealism™ takes hold.  True, the conference happened before the whole "process versus object" debate happened online, yet nevertheless in retrospect the book could have corrected obvious loopholes within its edited essays before its publication which took over five years.  

Sometimes Faber has things right, see HERE for example.  Other times not.

In strong agreement with Vincent Colapietro I cannot recommend this book.  As a scholar of process philosophy I must admit that the book's approach is simply unimaginative.  Rightly he calls out the "superficial engagement" present in the book.  A "lack of engagement" is putting it nicely.  Agent Swarm blog can tell us all about withdrawal.  Because there is no real engagement beyond the confines of the Speculative ®ealism™ inner circle, a sort of scholasticism is taking place.  Other process philosophers out there are light years beyond what this book seems to be putting out there, but because of agendas the conversation simply won't happen.  The result is a generation of younger philosophers or young graduate students who miss the boat entirely.

In short, to cite Colapietro, "[A] respectful yet critical exchange between champions of process metaphysics and those of 'speculative realism' mostly failed to occur."  Delete mostly and this review hits the nail on the head.

We're still here...writing and advancing and developing process metaphysics from within Speculative Realism.  That's been happening for years.  Yet where is the other side?  Writing essays directed to the inner circle of approved "friends" who aren't even in the same volume?  It's sad.  Just, sad.

"Harmony or Intensity? Process Philosophy and Suffering" (recommended blog post)

HERE by Jesse Turi.  I post a response from the "bleak" theological perspective, in the comments section.  Jesse follows up in the vein of radical theology, HERE.

It's an interesting exchange I think.  His radical theology post goes in some interesting directions.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

information on 5th Bonn summer school in German philosophy: “The ‘idealism’ in German Idealism” (July 20-31, 2015)

Catherine Malabou will be there.  Forster and Gabriel organizing/leading the event.

It's strange because recently I have been sharpening my take on Fichte.  Admittedly, I haven't really studied Fichte as well as I could have when first encountering German idealism as an undergraduate and then returning to Kant/Hegel/German idealism in graduate school.  Other than taking three seminars in texts by Kant (the three critiques) and a year-long seminar in The Phenomenology of Spirit, my training in Schelling, as well as the German romantics happened on the side through independent readings and then dissertation.  Fichte was always someone whom, other than the Vocation of Man and Critique at All Revelation, was just barely visible in the background.  So recently I began Hegel's Difference essay in order to wade into Fichte on my own (on the difference between Fichte and Schelling's philosophy - Hegel's first publication even before the Phenomenology - and it is remarkably clear, his clearest no doubt).

Bernstein said reading Fichte is like going into a swamp.  He's lost students in there. They've never come out.

The goal of course is to read the Wissenschaftslere. However there seems to be so many versions of the "Science of Knowledge" - some with various introductions, some with a "new method," that it is quite confusing to figure out where to begin.

In any case, my decision to sharpen my take on Fichte must have had some subconscious or subliminal connection to this year's summer school!  Fichte makes a major appearance, and it just seems timely.  In any case,

here are the course descriptions for the Bonn Summer School in German Philosophy.

5th International Summer School in German Philosophy:
“The ‘idealism’ in German Idealism”
(July 20-31)

Course description:
  • The first week (July 20-24) with Prof. Forster will mainly focus on Kant’s “transcendental idealism”. We will discuss the emergence of, and the original philosophical motivations for, such a position in Kant’s precritical writings, and above all his arguments for it in the Critique of Pure Reason (1781/7), where special attention will be paid to the Transcendental Aesthetic, the Transcendental Deduction, the Principles, and the Antinomies. We will also consider, though more briefly, the historical fate of, and the philosophical prospects for, such a position after Kant. 
  • The second week (July 27-31) with Prof. Gabriel will mainly focus on idealism in Fichte and Hegel. On some very problematic straw-man readings, Fichte and Hegel aim at developing a Kantianism without things in themselves by simply dropping the very idea of a thing in itself and thereby claiming that we must contend ourselves with Kantian appearances all the way down. Against such straw-man readings – made prominent by figures as different as Heidegger and Russell – the second week of the course with Prof. Gabriel will be dedicated to Fichte’s and Hegel’s early understanding and criticism of transcendental idealism as proposed by Kant. In particular, we will read passages from Fichte’s Wissenschaftslehre 1794 and Hegel’s Faith and Knowledge (1802). The leading question will be how Fichte and Hegel are able to incorporate an improved variety of the Kantian distinction of theory-orders separating transcendental idealism from empirical realism. Arguably, this early stage of what was later dubbed “German Idealism” is actually concerned with spelling out the structure of the metaphysics and epistemology needed in order to make sense of both the very existence of a first-order realist theory layer and the overall intelligibility of the facts obtaining and the objects existing within the domain posited on the higher-order level of idealistic theorizing. Thus, surprisingly, German Idealism might come to be seen as providing a deflationary meta-theory for Kant’s enterprise. 

Friday, February 6, 2015

Tristan Garcia and Patrice Maniglier on The New Existentialism

HERE.  The argument is that speculation invokes an act of freedom akin to the Sartrean assertion of a "pillar of freedom" that is immune from being affected by, or tied to, immanent conditions. The New Existentialism appears to be a form of agentialism that returns to the "vital negative" present in existentialism minus its humanist or anthropocentric trappings.  In other words, if it is possible, try to imagine existentialism as a philosophy where the human being has disappeared into darkness.  Pretty interesting.

On a side note I was underwhelmed by Garcia's philosophical ability real-time.  His boyish appropriation of a language obviously picked up from reading philosophy exclusively online is quite visible.  He latches on to the language of branding by leaning on concepts such as "withdrawal" etc. etc. as well as ideas that come directly from blogs and blogs alone. (It's alright to start on blogs in order to gain a sense of direction or trajectory or to put one's finger on a pulse, but nothing can replace working through the texts in question themselves.  *Dwelling* on online concepts and discussions - especially while at a conference or presentation - without moving on to the arguments and texts in question themselves immediately challenges your credibility.)  I hardly had a sense that he is trained or even able as a philosopher.  As sad as it is to say, in the end he just came off as an online groupie.

As a "young" scholar who is being peddled as the next greatest-French superstar (mainly in order to shill a book series by the person pushing him as the flavor of the month) his appearance speaks for itself: he is visibly aging and is outclassed in appearance but also in ability by Maniglier.  Harsh I know, but I must speak the truth.  Do not be misled.

pleasure to make the acquaintance of...

Jonathan Beever of the Rock Ethics Institute at Penn State. Jonathan's work was mentioned HERE at After Nature (relating to his excellent dissertation The Semiotic Foundation of an Ecological Ethic, Purdue 2012), in addition to some of the other very exciting projects Jonathan was/is working on.  He contacted me with a kind note of thanks for the mention, which in turn prompted us to trade emails about our work!  Excellent!

Jesse Turri, fellow Northeasterner and Pennsylvanian philosopher got in touch as well through the Homebrewed Christianity podcast.  It was great to receive his note and I am glad to make the acquaintance of another After Nature reader.  Thanks for the support Jesse!

Thursday, February 5, 2015

"The Naturalistic Idealism of American Philosopher John William Miller: His Concept of 'Midworld' Applied to Philosophical Ecology" (abstract for conference paper and AJTP article)

"The Naturalistic Idealism of American Philosopher John William Miller:
His Concept of 'Midworld' Applied to Philosophical Ecology" 

Leon Niemoczynski
Immaculata University

In this paper I attend to the naturalism (and idealism) of the American philosopher John William Miller (1895-1978).  I explore Miller's concept of the "midworld" and relate it to the notion of ontological "scale" within philosophical ecology.  Specifically, I argue that just as reality is ontologically flat - so "ordinal" and of "ontological parity" pace Buchler and Corrington - reality's ontological depth and breadth stretches to meet axiological value as well, most especially considering the reality of relational value. Relations on the level of the ant and its environment, for example, are not only "just as real as" but are also "just as important as" the human relation to its world and the relation between God and a divinely created world.  To say that these relations are each as important as the other is not to say a.) that they are absolutely relative to the agents involved or b.) that relations collapse into the flat reality of one, univocal relation.  There are varying "scales" of ontological relation where each varying scale has just as much value as the next.  I think Miller's notion of "midworld" can add something to philosophical ecology in this respect: one gains a better appreciation for how other agents interact with their own environments, and yet those smaller or larger environments affect other larger or smaller environments. Axiological value is one although the perspectives and relations between perspectives are many.

"Feeling and the Role of Empathy in Animal Ethics" (abstract for my forthcoming book chapter)

Abstract for "Feeling and the Role of Empathy in Animal Ethics" in Ecotheology and Nohuman Ethics, edited by Melissa Brotton (Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, forthcoming 2015).

"Feeling and the Role of Empathy in Animal Ethics" 
Leon Niemoczynski, Immaculata University

This chapter seeks to address the role of empathy in animal emotions drawing out its ethical implications.  In particular, I explore how empathy and the emotions may be understood to be a means of direct affective communication - but also indirect semiotic communication - between human and nonhuman animal species.  Drawing on the work of eco-process philosophers (and theologians) Charles Hartshorne and Alfred North Whitehead I draw upon the importance of feeling insofar as it is understood to be an emotive bond and manner of expression that allows creatures, human and nonhuman, to communicate with one another.  The chapter concludes by articulating why centering on empathy and feeling within animal emotions might be important for bettering the welfare of nonhuman species in human and nonhuman relationships, thus bettering in turn environmental and ecological justice.

Leon Niemoczynski teaches in the Philosophy Department at Immaculata University. His research focuses on the philosophy of nature, where he is especially interested in issues pertaining to philosophical naturalism, logic and metaphysics, aesthetics, German idealism, philosophical ecology, animal ethics, environmental philosophy, and environmental philosophy's relationship to the philosophy of religion. Niemoczynski is the author of Charles Sanders Peirce and a Religious Metaphysics of Nature (Lexington Books, 2011) and is a co-editor of A Philosophy of Sacred Nature: Prospects for Ecstatic Naturalism (Lexington Books, 2014). In 2014 he co-edited through Open Humanities Press Animal Experience: Consciousness and Emotions in the Natural World, where his radio interview about that book on "The Philosopher's Zone (ABC National Radio)  was nominated for a Voiceless Media Prize, a prize which honors work contributing to animal rights and advocacy.  

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Books, books, books! (Currently reading)

The End of Phenomenology? Not quite (a fitting book review)

HERE.  I never bothered to buy a copy, but only because I knew this book like Shaviro's and Gratton's was (intentionally or not) going to omit major players/commentators and thus wind up in the thankfully ever-shrinking pile of "Speculative ®ealism™" rather than go on to be the real deal, i.e. Speculative Realism.  The reviewer obviously caught on to that, so I was vindicated in thinking it couldn't have just been me with such thoughts.  Oh, and the first line of defense regarding the review (not by its author but by the usual blog kingpin who literally rushes to make sure his name-brand creation remains like Teflon) was the typical and rather stale, "The reviewer is someone that I've personally tangled with years of course its an unkind attack and its personal").  I'm not sure if I should chuckle or roll my eyes.

Nick Land on the "shipwreck" HERE; the initial "blow up" or "meltdown" HERE; or my reportage on that "kerfuffle" HERE.  Most of that is old news though, as entertaining as it is.

Other writings by me: "Noncorrelationist Phenomenology: The Peirce, Whitehead, Hartshorne Axis" HERE; "Noncorrelationist Phenomenolgy: Is it a Possibility?" HERE; "Workshop in Noncorrelationist Phenomenology" HERE; or, when it comes to Speculative Realism instead of Speculative ®ealism™ see THIS.

Moving on...I can see the trolls approaching.  Forbid I offer my opinion on what an NDPR reviewer rightfully called out anyway.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

"Entanglement, Speculation & the Future of Relation" (blog post by Beatrice Marovich)

Beatrice reflects on Catherine Keller's Cloud of the Impossible, the process versus object debate, and the importance of relational ontology within speculative philosophy, HERE.  Some highlights then thoughts.
"Ultimately, my point is this: Catherine is a thinker of relation, of relations. Entanglement is the chief and primary metaphor for relation that she elaborates, ontologically, in Cloud of the Impossible. But there are others that are not quite the same (folds, for instance). I don’t want to suggest that entanglement is somehow ancillary to Catherine’s work on relations. But I want to set it to the side very briefly just to underscore the extent to which Catherine’s entire career—beyond this book—has been dedicated to speculatively exploring, with increasing nuance and complexity, the ontological possibilities for thinking relations. I’m describing her work, of course, using language that she doesn’t quite use to describe it herself (speculation, ontology, etc…) And it’s possible that she will resent me for doing so (though her fidelity to Whitehead—the metaphysician—really does make these connections more logical). But I think it’s important to stress the extent to which she is doing this kind of work—speculative work in relational ontology—because I think it’s important work that defies some of the theoretical trends that have been rising up from the deconstructive rubble* over the past several years. This is the adventure of ideas that Catherine’s work invites us to endeavor."
"What, at the end of the day, isn’t relational? I suppose, on some level, I am making a backhanded reference to some of these post-deconstructive versions of speculative thought that have emerged over the past half decade or so—many of which seem to want to pull ontology away from the relational. My own introduction to these new forms of speculative thought (“speculative realism” as it’s more frequently called) was at a 2010 conference, at Claremont, which ended up turning into a kind of objects vs. processes philosophical death match. I exaggerate. But, really, I left the conference struck by the extent to which many of the thinkers who were defending process thought were also, in part, defending the ontological value of relations (primarily, their potential irreducibility). Quentin Meillasoux’s critique of correlationism seemed—on some level—to make the relational itself problematic in new ways. The Object Oriented Ontologists (perhaps primarily Graham Harman) defended the object’s withdrawal, and process thought did seem to take on a kind of coercive cast or character, in its blatant denial of this negation of relation as such. Despite a kind of intuitive mistrust I had for the notion of withdrawal (I suppose, on some level, it sounded a bit too much like a philosophical pull-out method) I found all of this intriguing, and spent way too much time in the months after this conference following blog posts that rehashed this debate between objects and relations. I think the take away, for me, came from a comment in a blog post (and I wish I could remember where I read it!) that basically took a semi-conciliatory position between objects and relations. The gist, as I recall it, was something like this: relations aren’t inherently bad or problematic, but process thought does have the tendency to simplify relationality by an often hasty reduction of everything down to relations as such. My agreement morphed into a kind of semi-formulated position of its own: if relational thought has the capacity to make constructive interventions into developing forms of speculative thought, then relational ontology has to become more complex, nuanced, specific. It’s possible that speculation is already over, and no one wants to do it anymore. But anyone who’s interested in advancing a philosophical position is always already speculating. I’d like to see what would happen if relational ontology became a thing that people actually admitted that they did."
"I do think that Cloud of the Impossible is many things. It is a complex book. But one of its projects, as I see it, is ontological. It does work to make relational ontology more complex, nuanced, specific. Catherine is exploding (or perhaps imploding) the staid metaphysics of the God-World relation. What she illuminates is a relation that refuses to validate one single thread of this relation, or refuses to let this relation be confined to one thread. Rather, she’s insisting on illuminating the web of relations that build what was once simply a God-World connection. This is a web that is so complex, it doesn’t even look like a web. It looks much cloudier. But it’s not intangible, it’s not without matter or substance. She’s describing this relation under the sign of entanglement. And I think the questions about the suitability of entanglement to this descriptive task can be productive. But I hope that this text can serve as an injunction into similarly nuanced and intricately wrought reflections on forms, shapes, and patterns of connection, rather than a point of recoil or withdrawal."
I met Beatrice once, briefly, at Drew University during a conference.  She seemed nice - we didn't have much time to talk as I was rushing off somewhere in between sessions.  She works in theology and animal studies (from what I can tell) and we both have a connection to process thought through Drew - her through Keller and me through Corrington. Which is interesting because neither of us were schooled in process thought through Claremont, which most folks who do process thought are!  I thought her post was interesting for a number of reasons, mostly because she appears to support process-relational ontology within the scheme of contemporary speculative philosophy by stating that relational ontology ought to be nuanced sufficiently and made complex enough to support the claims that it makes (and I wholeheartedly agree). She alludes to the challenge from process thought made to one Quentin Meillassoux that "correlationism" is not necessarily relationalism, at least as it is conceived by process philosophers.  And she also alludes (subtly) to the notion that withdrawal or "recoil" ought to be jettisoned for "patterns of connection" or "intricately wrought reflections on forms, shapes, and patterns of connection."  This all makes sense to me so thought to post.

On this blog I posted many times answering the challenges brought to process-relational philosophy by others in the camp of contemporary speculative metaphysics.  But, process thought is another position within the camp of contemporary speculative metaphysics afterall, and that is a good thing, I believe.

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.