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.

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

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

The After Nature Korean world tour continues

Interview with Corrington and Niemoczynski by Seoul's largest Ecumenical newspaper on ecstatic naturalism and speculative naturalism, soon to be published along with video clips and photos on their website. (See below.) - A huge amount of thanks is in order both to our host and translator, Iljoon P., as well as the interviewer who asked absolutely amazing questions. Very deep questions actually, over an hour long interview.

Also, there was another interview I did a week ago in the US with a smaller publication, more on that soon, but the essence of it was the spirit of speculative naturalism (versus other real or imaginary "movements" found elsewhere online) as speculative naturalism is found here represented on my blog of seven years, After Nature.

The rest of this week is devoted to two conferences, the largest of which is actually on Thursday, contrary perhaps to my prior report.

The After Nature Korean world tour continues!

Saturday, October 27, 2018

After Nature Korean World Tour

If anyone is in Seoul, Korea I'll be delivering two talks Wednesday and Thursday at Yonsei University, or if you're an After Nature reader and want to meet, please feel free to send an email. The first talk is entitled "The Sorrow of Being" and the second is on bleak theology, the latter being a debate of some sort in front of what is expected to be a rather large audience. - Below is a view from downtown Seoul last evening. -

I have quite a few thoughts on Seoul but will save them for a future post. Let's just say a Nick Land assessment is in order. (Certainly different from Japan's vibe, that's for sure. My time at Kyoto University two years ago was incomparable to this. We're talking accelerationism and hyper-capitalism unleashed... and I don't think either Japan or Hong Kong could ever catch up.)

Friday, September 21, 2018

Overcoming the fear of diving into the intensity of life (quote of the day)

"You have to be always drunk. That's all there is to it—it's the only way. So as not to feel the horrible burden of time that breaks your back and bends you to the earth, you have to be continually drunk.

But on what? Wine, poetry or virtue, as you wish. But be drunk.

And if sometimes, on the steps of a palace or the green grass of a ditch, in the mournful solitude of your room, you wake again, drunkenness already diminishing or gone, ask the wind, the wave, the star, the bird, the clock, everything that is flying, everything that is groaning, everything that is rolling, everything that is singing, everything that is speaking. . .ask what time it is and wind, wave, star, bird, clock will answer you: "It is time to be drunk! So as not to be the martyred slaves of time, be drunk, be continually drunk! On wine, on poetry or on virtue as you wish."

- Charles Baudelaire