Sunday, January 15, 2017

Greg Sadler on the possibility of After Nature becoming a YouTube channel

I had the pleasure of meeting for the first time and having a consultation-Skype session with Greg Sadler the other day concerning the issue of pros and cons of possibly transferring After Nature blog (short for "web log") over to a "vlog" (short for ''video log").  For those who don't know Greg's work - his online presence is immense - I highly encourage that you take a look at his YouTube channel HERE which has an *enormous* amount of high quality content. (His "Half Hour Hegel" series is especially worth looking at, HERE.)

Greg was kind enough to spend about an hour and a half (!!!) of his (I'm sure) precious and much valuable time consulting me in the basics of beginning a YouTube channel, including discussing technical details as well as the prospects and challenges involved, and just overall providing me with so much needed information that I had been seeking for so long.  So I'd like to publicly first, thank him of course; but second, state that he is very, very knowledgeable having the experience that he does.  So thanks so much Greg!

About two or so years ago I had considered beginning a podcast to either supplement (or replace) After Nature blog, but as Greg and I discussed, there is something about a live presentation of the human form which can do so much more for the presentation of content, especially given some of the ideas I have for what I'd like to accomplish in terms of my "brand."  I think what attracts me to the possibility of transferring After Nature over to a video log ("vlog") would be that it would be more personable and I'd be able to allow my ability to relate to people as I do (for example while I teach) to shine through via video presentation.  Not that the videos would be lectures, but the presentation of ideas would be in the same vein of passion of my teaching - and I think viewers would certainly enjoy that.

Give that presentation, however, Greg had mentioned that from what I had been telling him it almost sounded as if I was aiming to produce a short philosophy video program (whether weekly, monthly, etc.) rather than just setting a camera on myself and speaking or lecturing.  And that would require some work. I do not want the viewer to just sit there and stare at me sitting there speaking. I'd like to interject videos of nature or stills of things; incorporate very short clips of music; have textual transitions involving quotes; and if I am speaking it'd be in various natural environments interspersed with other things to keep things "moving along" at a quicker pace despite the overall arc of the idea/reflection presented being just one central hub as to what the video would be about.

All in all I'd need to develop a pilot episode to see how After Nature readers respond; and if a YouTube channel seems more palatable for the presentation of content then that would be the route I'd go.

As the new semester begins this Monday I'm sure it will be some time before I could on such a pilot episode.  But what I walked away with after my conversation with Greg was something like a seven to ten minute program (he said it'd likely more be about 15 minutes) in which I'd discuss just one main idea or present one main reflection. How the presentation of that one idea would be structured is the challenging part and almost would have to be written into a 'script" of sorts.

Part of me would like to, if this makes sense, "de-professionalize" an After Nature vlog/YouTube channel in that it would be a more "personal" presentation by broadening the content to include not only philosophy, but more personal reflections on nature, art, culture, music, food, and travel. That indeed would be a 15 minute program.

So, I'll ponder some of these ideas but if readers have ideas or suggestions please feel free to let me know.  I do know that blogging is now *extremely* outdated as a form of presentation - indeed a medium of the mid '00s., Twitter, too, is on its way out as a medium of relevance (I don't have Twitter and don't plan on it), and Facebook (which I do not have either nor plan to) has been out of the game for some time among younger folks but increasing in popularity among the elderly (literally, those above 65 years of age).

YouTube channels seem to be the route of the future (not only for Millennials but the the upcoming unnamed younger generation behind them)  - and if I go that way, as I told Greg, whatever I present I'd like for it to be, most of all, *dynamic* in presentation. So a short "video program" of sorts might be about right.

If a pilot episode does develop obviously it would post here at After Nature blog first before I made any official transition, archiving the blog and moving over conclusively to a vlog. As things develop you'll hear here first.

Friday, January 13, 2017

We must stop animal abuse. Now.

Today our Animal Ethics online class ends with video journal projects and for my students, as we were discussing music, I wanted to share a video of some old friends of mine playing when I was more involved with the animal rights and liberation scene (especially the music) of the late '90s/early '00s. Bands like Earth Crisis's early albums - the first two - or Green Rage, Tears of Gaia,etc.  Here we have my very good friends Gather. Check them out.

This was before I went retro and decided to hide permanently in the coldwave / new-wave retrosynth scene of the '80s.  I've remained hidden in the '80s since and haven't come out. (YouTube channels like NewViceCity and NewRetroWave keep my auditory attention occupied for hours while I am stuck in grading jail.)

Hanging onto my late '30s, I find that hiding in the the precious decade of the '80s suits me best, at this point in my life. And while I am "Gen-X" it seems the kids these days love '80s music too, especially the obscure stuff, so maybe they and I both have good musical taste...somehow.

But anyway, from another time in my life when I had different musical tastes and when my radical environmentalist interests were much more pronounced - or at least pronounced in a different way, here's Gather. Enjoy, and perhaps be inspired as I was.

Monday, January 9, 2017

"The Meaning of Nature: Toward a Philosophical Ecology" now posted on academia.edu


HERE. It's a paper that I've been working on for awhile and I think After Nature readers will enjoy it.  Set to appear in Nature's Transcendence and Immanence edited by Lawrence and Oh through Lexington this year.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Critique of Judgment (AUFS blog post)

Yes. To all of this.

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Critique of Judgment
// An und für sich

Presumably we have all seen The Social Network, or at least heard of the primal scene of Facebook that it stages. One night, a bored Mark Zuckerberg uses his ability to type really fast to set up a website to judge the hotness of the women of Harvard. It proves so popular that it threatens to bring down Harvard's entire computer network. Here was the kernel of Facebook, with a foretaste of its worldwide success.

While it has evolved into something far more complex than its "hot or not" roots, Facebook is still a technology for passing judgment. The zero-level gesture of engagement with Facebook is to click "like," a positive judgment that was recently diversified to allow one to express a range of judgments corresponding to the range of emotions we learn to name in kindergarten. People have found many other uses for it as well — it is, after all, a flexible discursive medium — but the core functionality remains that of passing judgment. It is the easiest thing to do on Facebook, almost effortless.

Making Facebook do anything else can be hard. For instance, some people try to make it into a technology for sharing interesting links. But in point of fact, that effort devolves into the activity of passing judgment on those links — sharing them without reading, for instance, to express approval of the anticipated message (or to incite disapproval among one's fellows). Some people try to make it a forum for open-ended discussion, but there, too, the inertia of judgment is strong. A real discussion requires some degree of critical distance, a willingness to entertain unfamiliar and even opposed views for the sake of argument — but inscribed in the comment box itself is a little picture of you. Indeed, as you scroll down the page, you see your own picture over and over again, making every comment box a space for you to assert yourself and your opinions and your precious, precious judgments. And if other people's judgments show up in that space, that provides you with the opportunity to pass judgment on them.

Twitter lacks that genealogical root in a literal "hot or not" contest, but it too is a technology for judgment. Users seek followers, retweets, and (as a kind of consolation prize, since they do not present themselves so forcefully) likes — and that very quest for approval renders them vulnerable to negative judgment. What began as a popularity contest devolves into a continual reality-show exercise of voting people off the island by systematically harrassing them to render it impossible for them to use the platform any longer. Indeed, Twitter is a much more efficient technology for passing negative judgments, insofar as it breaks everything down into easily digested 140-character chunks that can be divorced from their context and literalized into objects of outrage — an especial danger for a medium that prizes irony. And meanwhile, what is the characteristic genre of the Twitter rant but a way of laying down the law, of throwing truth bombs (because truth hurts, of course) — in short, what is the Twitter rant but a sermon?

Whatever else the internet is, the hegemony of social media has turned it into a machine for passing judgment — an apparatus for seeking attention and courting the near-certainty of negative judgment. In the future, everyone will be hated by thousands of strangers for 15 minutes.

Why are we so addicted to passing judgment? I think we enjoy the feeling of strength and rightness, coupled with the license for cruelty. It's an intoxicating mix, especially in an era where people experience less and less control and agency in their own lives. As previously noted, a genuine dialogue requires critical distance to one's own views and a willingness to entertain those of others — the exact opposite of the brew of certitude and spite that the internet breeds in us. But it's not just a question of our having picked up bad habits from social media, which begs the question of why we would turn away from (or in many cases, preemptively reject) dialogue in the first place. The truth is that dialogue is risky, because your efforts may not be rewarded with new insight. Indeed, you may be played for a fool by a bad-faith interlocutor who is purposefully trying to waste your time or even elicit condemnable statements from you.

By contrast, judgment has an immediate, guaranteed payoff. You get your pellet of jouissance every time you hit the lever. This is where people go wrong in scolding — casting judgment once again! — the laziness of internet users nowadays. It's not that people are too lazy to read carefully, though surely they are, at least sometimes. Nor is it that people are too impatient to engage in genuine dialogue, though again, they often are. I would even go so far as to say that the problem is not simply, or at least not directly, that people are uneducated and willfully educated. All of these factors are real, but they are symptoms rather than causes.

The problem is that U.S. culture has become an intellectual food desert, and the profit-driven, ad-driven, click-driven internet is the local fast food place. Yes, we should make more of an effort to go to the farmer's market. Yes, we should take the time to cook at home. But the fast food restaurant is right there, and it's a known form of satisfaction that we can have right now. The fact that people turn to the easy satisfaction of passing judgment is a problem, but the bigger problem is that that's increasingly the only feasible option presented to them.

In other words, the problem with people in food deserts "choosing" fast food isn't their lack of willpower — it's the fact that the food desert exists in the first place. Similarly, the problem with the internet isn't that people are "choosing" the satisfaction of snap judgments, but the fact that capitalist exploitation is increasingly hollowing out institutions of education and information.

I'm not sure exactly what we can do to solve that problem, but I am pretty confident the answer isn't to whip up some online outrage.

Free-writing a pensive post (Part 3a of 3)

I am going to break down the third and final installment of this post into several parts (labeled a, b, and so on) simply because I'll be covering some different things and did not want to allow the last post in this series to balloon out of control in size.

In my last post (HERE) I discussed my research trajectory from last year which covered mostly my sojourn through aesthetics and environmental philosophy as well as some of the classes I had been teaching. I also discussed some publications that would be appearing this coming year and some thoughts about those publications.

Before I go into what the upcoming year holds for me in terms of planned publications, classes, and a possible research trajectory I just wanted to mention a more personal situation (with discretion of course) and let After Nature readers know that it turned out well.  I'll try to keep things brief.

***

Essentially since this past summer I had been having trouble sleeping - whether being kept awake or waking up - with an incredibly fast and uncomfortable heart rate. Long-time After Nature readers will know about my health issues involving my heart and TIAs, failed surgery for my hip, nerve injury, chronic pain from the failed surgery on my hip, etc. however I don't think I have talked about much what recently has happened. But, because many students actually had been emailing me to see how things went and how I was doing, I thought just to very quickly mention a recent development here.

So essentially this past summer it was discovered that I have a cardiac arrhythmia, which is an abnormal heart rhythm.  While seeking help for my insomnia doctors kept wondering why my resting heart rate was elevated to about 180+ beats per minute.  After some investigating and seeing a cardiologist the initial diagnosis was "stress."  They said that for someone my age it was impossible to have any heart problem and they could not understand my past TIAs or the fact that I was going about three days without sleep at a time.  Surprised that stress could cause such severe insomnia and severely fast heart rate (which I would experience whether stressed or not) I sought a second opinion (which turned out to be quite wise, as it saved my life).

I went to see a second cardiologist and after being assigned a holter monitor (a monitor that watches your heart rate) the new cardiologist found the cardiac arrhythmia. When telling me the specific kind of arrhythmia and what could happen his face went white while looking at the holter monitor results.  I'll spare technical details but the particular arrhythmia that I have/had involved some non-dangerous things such as atrial flutter and atrial fibrillation (one's heart "quivers" and the top chambers do not pump regularly or normally allowing blood to pool in the atria, increasing risk of blood clots), but also it was discovered that I have some not-so-nice things in the heart involving the lower chambers of my heart throwing irregular beats as well. It was determined that because of my abnormal heart rhythm that I was/am five times more likely to have a stroke (which certainly explains past events, no one could understand how someone so young could have TIAs like that) and 50% more likely for cardiac arrest (which is different from a heart attack; for in the former the heart stops - usually from beating too fast and then failing, and in the latter the heart stops from a blockage of some kind, which I do not have).

It was decided that because of the not-so-nice nature of the arrhythmia that an "emergency" heart procedure to attempt to correct the problem would be needed.  In fact, as soon as they found out it was recommended the procedure be performed the following week.  This now was back in November.

At this time also it was discovered during CT scans that I had developed an aneurysm in my brain. An aneurysm is a weak part of an arterial wall that can rupture or bleed easily (and which can be fatal if left untreated).  The cardiologist was nervous that because during the heart operation blood thinners would be being pumped into me that such could cause the aneurysm to burst.  And so a possible brain surgery prior would be recommended if the heart was to be fixed.  Long story short is that the brain surgery was not needed due to the size of the aneurysm and it being controlled. But investigated that took a month.

The heart procedure took place last week. Called a "cardiac ablation," an electrocardiologist inserts tubes into incisions made on each side of the groin and threads the tubes through the veins/arteries up into the heart - traveling up through the leg, through the lung, and into the heart itself.  From there the inside of the heart is "burned" in specific areas on the pulmonary veins so that the erratic electrical impulses causing the heart to beat irregularly are not able to travel over the burned areas.  Eventually the burned areas "scar" and heal and the impulses will not be able to pass over the dead scar tissue correcting the arrhythmia. (For details on the procedure I'd recommend THIS website, which is what I used to educate myself on what would be happening.)

In itself the procedure is not dangerous, however going through it is not exactly "easy" either.  Many people opt not to due to the possible complications but are forced to (like me) because their arrhythmias are so severe.  Mine was not asymptomatic, as many people have no symptoms. However the ones that do (like me) are forced to do the surgery because the quality of life has been so affected they feel there is no other choice.  Many of the anti-arrhythmic drugs are in fact more dangerous than the surgery itself and so surgery seems to be the better option.  At its worst the arrhythmia would make me very,very tired - so tired I could not even get out of bed or off of the couch. I could not walk very far or go up stairs without feeling like I ran a mile. Dizziness, shortness of breath, chest pain, not being able to think clearly or focus was all common. But of course the absolute worst was lack of sleep. Anecdotally afib and insomnia go hand in hand, although one does not cause the other.  But they are linked. Not being able to breath, or chest pain, or waking up with a feeling like your heart is going to blow out of your chest certainly interferes with sleep. And at the time (November to December, at its worst) I rarely slept for more than two to three hours at a time.

The surgery was last week and went well, and I am currently recovering. I am experiencing normal recovery-type things: bruising, swelling, tiredness, pain. But it was worth it as the irregular beat has since been regular. So I am very, very pleased with the results and if anyone has an arrhythmia I would recommend the procedure despite the risks. I noticed a night and day difference in the quality of my life and feel so much better. Just a few interesting things about the procedure.

During, apparently I was "cardioverted" twice. Cardioversion is when paddles are used to electrocute the heart back into a normal sinus rhythm. So to find out where the abnormal electrical activity is coming from the heart surgeon will usually induce abnormal rhythm, then burn the heart, and then wait and see if the abnormal  rhythm continues. If not then they burned the correct spot. If not, they keep burning. This can last up to several hours (my operation lasted I think somewhere between six to ten hours).  What's interesting though is that immediately after surgery I was told that during the procedure my heart rate "went out of control" - not induced by the surgery - and they had to cardiovert to keep it from going dangerously fast risking arrest, but I was cardioverted not once but twice. In my case they took "paddles" and after tying me to the table to keep me from flopping around (I have no recollection of this) they zapped me attempting to restore my heart rate back to normal. I was told the first attempt "did not take" and so they had to try again, which worked. Thus that could explain the burn marks on me from where they zapped me with the paddles.  The second thing which happened was a very strange "dream" I had during the procedure when this happened. Upon waking up I told the nurse about it - right before the two techs slipped and mentioned how they had to zap me with the paddles.

I also found out that, apparently, I have some sort of genetic immunity to pain medicine. I was the only person awake in the recovery room and told the nurse that I thought the morphine being injected into me was water, because it wasn't working. But then I remember that my father, who had a car accident and brain bleed, required triple the amount of pain medicine to control his pain. And he is 74 years old and never took a pain killer in his life.  So, the surgeon on hand had said that I am not "the average bear" and for whatever reason was requiring about three times the amount of meds a normal person required. But knowing that is important because of my hip pain etc., which is another story for another time.

In the end, my recovery is going well. I am very, very pleased with the results and have had a normal heart rhythm/rate since.  For anyone experiencing this sort of thing I'd recommend the procedure (with a good, experienced surgeon of course).  But for as scared as I was  to go through this it was certainly worth it.  Now I just need to rest and recover, which will take about two or so weeks.  But I am doing well and am glad this is over so I can move on and think about other things.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Corry Shores with analysis on Jakob von Uexküll's "A Stroll through the Worlds of Animals and Men: A Picture Book of Invisible Worlds"


"An animal subject is fully active in its environment when it both processes perception signs and produces in response effect signs, by seeking and encountering perception cues and creating effect marks in the world." - Jakob von Uexküll

More HERE. Shorres proceeds section by section of the Introduction focusing on Uexküll's central question of whether organisms, given their perceptual activities and the "perceptual universes" created by those activities, are more like automated objects (like machines) or more like "machine operators" - like subjects given the reality of sign-activity.

In a lovely quote from  von Uexküll we get "... every living cell is a machine operator that perceives and produces and therefore possesses its own particular (specific) perceptive signs and impulses or 'effect signs.' The complex perception and production of effects in every animal subject can thereby be attributed to the cooperation of small cellular-machine operators, each one possessing only one perceptive and one effective sign."

And,

"The relation between living subject and object is unlike that between two objects; for, the subject does not react mechanistically to all object stimuli but rather it assigns a significance or meaning to specific ones."

Upon reading such quotes I never cease to be amazed at just how beyond his time von Uexküll truly was.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Richard Rorty Against Epistemology (Part One, Partially Examined Life Podcast)


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Episode 155: Richard Rorty Against Epistemology (Part One)
// The Partially Examined Life Philosophy Podcast

On Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature (1979), Part II: "Mirroring." Is a "theory of knowledge" possible? Rorty thinks that any such account will be a fruitless search for foundations. Knowledge is really just a matter of social agreement, and beliefs must be justified from other beliefs, not from any alleged relationship to reality. 

Monday, December 26, 2016

The newest issue of the Journal of French and Francophone Philosophy: "Bergsonian Continuations: Commemorating 75 Years Since the Death of Henri Bergson"

Very interesting issue, no pay-wall. Featuring a new translation of Bergson and many great articles. Check it out, link HERE. Copying contents below:


Journal of French and Francophone Philosophy
Vol 24, No 2 (2016)
Table of Contents

Forum
——–
Introduction: 75 Years Later (1-2)
Mark William Westmoreland
Politeness (3-9)
Henri Bergson
Mysticism and War: Reflections on Bergson and his Reception During World War I (10-20)
Donna V. Jones
Human Rights and the Leap of Love (21-40)
Alexandre Lefebvre
Bergson and the Morality of Uncertainty (41-61)
Adriana Alfaro Altamirano
The Intuitive Recommencement of Metaphysics (62-83)
Camille Riquier
On Bergson’s Reformation of Philosophy (84-105)
Keith Ansell-Pearson
Beyond Dualism and Monism: Bergson’s Slanted Being (106-130)
Messay Kebede
Darkened Counsel: The Problem of Evil in Bergson’s Metaphysics of Integral Experience (131-153)
Anthony Paul Smith
The Concept in Life and the Life of the Concept: Canguilhem’s Final Reckoning with Bergson (154-175)
Alex Feldman
Bergson before Bergsonism: Traversing “Bergson’s Failing” in Susanne K. Langer’s Philosophy of Art (176-202)
Iris van der Tuin
The Cinematic Bergson: From Virtual Image to Actual Gesture (203-220)
John Ó Maoilearca

Roundtable
——–
Bergson(-ism) Remembered: A Roundtable (221-258)
Mark William Westmoreland and Brien Karas, eds.

Articles
——–
Beauvoir’s Reading of Biology in The Second Sex (259-285)
David M. Peña-Guzmán
Solidarity and the Absurd in Kamel Daoud’s Meursault, contre-enquête (286-303)
Sarah Horton

Review Essays
——–
Recent Work on Negritude (304-318)
Chike Jeffers

Does logic have a normative status?

An interesting question, SEP entry updated and discussing it HERE.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

BADIOU ON INFINITY AND THE GOOD LIFE: “mathematical rudiments and poetic breakthroughs” (Agent Swarm blog post)

Link to original below:

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BADIOU ON INFINITY AND THE GOOD LIFE: "mathematical rudiments and poetic breakthroughs"
// AGENT SWARM

In my recent series of posts I have been presenting an entry into Badiou's system by way of his readings of various poets. For the moment I have translated and summarised from his discussion of poems by Arthur Rimbaud, René Char, and Victor Hugo, and next I will be moving on to Mallarmé.

Badiou's philosophy has been amply discussed in terms of the mathematical condition and of the political condition, but a more existential entry is possible. Badiou himself has placed increasing emphasis on the question of "what is it to live?", on the problem of the good life, true life, and happiness.

However, Badiou maintains that although this is a genuine and important philosophical question, it cannot be answered at the purely speculative level as it involves the category of "life", which is an empirical category. Poetry has the advantage of transposing life into language.

According to Badiou, poetry, like mathematics, is particularly suited to the critique of the dominant ideology of the finitude of human life. This ideology of finitude is the source of the multiple obstacles and repressions to the life of immanence, which is necessarily a life of immanence to truths conceived as infinite processes immanent to a determinate world.

After discussing Victor Hugo's poem "Words on the Dunes" and extracting the concept of infinity as point Badiou passes to a discussion of ω, the first infinite ordinal , which is the order type of the natural numbers, that can also be identified with the entire set of natural numbers. There is no immediate predecessor to ω, i.e. the meaning of ω – 1 is undefined, but ω has an infinity of successors.

Badiou concludes this discussion of "mathematical rudiments" by extracting a typology of infinities: the infinite as point, as place, as horizon, and as repetition. He then returns to poetry to "explore the labyrinth of the different forms taken by the couple finite/infinite".

The role of poetry and of the "poetic breakthroughs" it accomplishes (but I would argue this characterisation applies also to science fiction) is to provide figurations, between the speculative and the empirical, of the noetic life and its incorporation in or exclusion from the truths of science, art, politics and love.

Badiou concludes at the end of the first year of his seminar on the immanence of truths:

"The principal obstacle encountered…, the nucleus of the repressive practices that constrain us to be ignorant of the replies to the question "what is it to live?", is the multiform ideology of the finitude of life. Which is natural, as every process of truth is virtually infinite…We have thus explored the labyrinth of the different forms taken by the couple finite/infinite, making use of, in order to do this, mathematical rudiments and poetic breakthroughs".