Tuesday, April 25, 2017

A who's who of realism today

The  list of names from the colloquium "Things in Themselves: Metaphysics and Realism Today" essentially has every philosopher you ought to know about if you are studying the moment of realism, metaphysics, and contemporary speculative philosophy today.

There are some papers in English (Brassier, among others) - as well as many questions - in English, for those of you who do not speak French.

Full playlist on YouTube HERE.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Tense Bees and Shell-Shocked Crabs: Are Animals Conscious? (NDPR review)

Michael Tye, Tense Bees and Shell-Shocked Crabs: Are Animals Conscious?, Oxford University Press, 2017, 256pp., $29.95 (hbk), ISBN 9780190278014.
Reviewed by Colin Klein, Macquarie University

Most of us are willing to accept that some nonhuman animals are conscious. Primates and dogs are an easy sell. Once upon a time, it was also easy to draw the line at mammals. The past few decades have revealed surprising complexity and intelligence among vertebrates like fish and birds, however, and even the higher invertebrates such as the octopus. More recently, cautious claims have appeared on behalf of simpler invertebrates like insects and crabs. Yet does the cleverness of the honeybee really give us reason to think that it has phenomenal consciousness?

Michael Tye argues for the affirmative. Arguing from straightforward principles, he comes to the conclusion that consciousness is widespread. Along the way, he marshals an impressive array of empirical evidence,...

Friday, April 21, 2017

First review of Speculative Realism: An Epitome comes in

The review is objective in tone and very nicely summarizes what the books is about, what it does, and what its merits and shortfalls are. Overall a positive review, I am glad to report.

Review can be found HERE.

Friday, April 14, 2017

A humble attempt to introduce the philosophy of Nick Land...

Craig H. at Southern Nights blog (formerly Social Ecologies blog) has posted a very good collection of posts regarding a number of varied but centrally related topics concerning the philosophy of Nick Land. I am not sure how to pin a post, however even for my own personal interest I am going to make my way through all of the below posts (I've read closely just a few of them). It will take you (and me) some time to read and digest; although I must say that, oh, probably for the past month or so I've been curiously hovering around Land's ever-entertaining Twitter account, and his own blog Outside In (linked below) has been a long-time friend in my Feedly blog subscription app.

In what follows there is perhaps a gushing over Land's philosophy as much as an introduction, yet, it cannot go unsaid that at least in my humble opinion, his work is more enticingly interesting than anything going on today in contemporary Continental philosophy. This is not to say I take it all as true. But I do take it as absolutely fascinating and compelling. There are some very interesting ideas at work.

Let me also say this: in the posts below you'll read much about the CCRU, Accelerationism, as well as Nick Land (my favorite), and lots of other "intense" or "at the fringe things." It's justified, as that is what philosophy at its best does. But be prepared, because it all turns out to be philosophy-on-the-edges, probing time and what is real through "untimely meditations" so-to-speak, revealing an unknown as unknown. The Real. Call it what you want. What Land uncovers is not for the faint-hearted.  Thus, pretty dark stuff.

Land is indeed a genius of our time, though he is also "ahead" of our time (whatever "time" might mean - you'll see when you read the posts). Everything Craig has covered here is absolutely fascinating (again, reiterate: whether much of it is "true" is another story). Nonetheless, if one wants an education in Land's outlook, read closely the below.

So, over the next week or so I shall work my way through Craig's posts as a guide (no pressure, Craig). So far, though, if through these posts you want to know what's coming in discovering what Land is all about, imagine his philosophy something like Nietzsche, Schopenhauer, Cioran, Freud, Deleuze, and Bataille  mixed in a hyperstitious synthetic steroid cocktail of accelerationism, cyberpunk culture, NrX, Dark Enlightenment, CCRU, and discussion about something called "time wars" and "Studio Reality." Dizzying, but fun - we'll be dancing at the asylum, and that's a good thing .

The Awl blog puts everything rather succinctly:
Philosophically, the nineties iteration of Land was one of the most significant modern descendants of the sceptical and nihilist tradition in Western philosophy. Like his heroes, Nietzsche and Bataille, he was unremittingly hostile to the liberal Enlightenment philosophy of Immanuel Kant, which he saw as a failed attempt at replacing God with sacralized reason following the collapse of religion as source of philosophical certainty. Once set free from this religious cage, however, thought proceeded to demolish reason as well as any other claims to truth; for Land, Enlightenment notions of rationality, free will, and selfhood were naïve efforts to save human consciousness (what he called the “Human Security System”) from being overwhelmed by the senseless and inhuman chaos of the universe — Lovecraft’s “shadow-haunted Outside” — whose truth was accessible only through the communions of art, death, ritual, and intoxication (of which Land enthusiastically partook). 
Land’s greatest legacy was a philosophy now known as “Accelerationism,” a heady cocktail of nihilism, cybernetic Marxism, complexity theory, numerology, jungle music, and the dystopian sci-fi of William Gibson and Blade Runner. Land identified the critique that progressively dissolved all claims to truth as the philosophical correlate of a capitalist economic system locked in constant revolutionary expansion, moving upwards and outwards on a trajectory of technological and scientific intelligence-generation that would, at the limit, make the leap from its human biological hosts into the great beyond. For Land, as for Nietzsche, the death of God results ultimately in the desire to be destroyed, with capitalism the agent of this destruction.
To conclude, alongside Land one may wish to read his book on Bataille, something I am going to try to help me get at Land's core ideas - (and a decisive interpretation on my part of how exactly one ought to interpret and take away Bataille's conclusions determines what Land will look like for you; just like in Hegel, it depends what of Hegel one takes) - this seems to be in order for me, after I finish my re-read of Land's edited writings (1987-2007) within Fanged Noumena. Though, I may order his book on Bataille. We'll see.

(From a fellow blogger who understands how time consuming it is to produce such things, thanks to Craig for writing such lengthy detailed posts - some of which I'll put below.)

Link, link, link...cognitive labor...ugh...but work your way through and become amazed. Here we go:

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

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

In the last post of this series, HERE, I discussed how things had been going for my health during the last few months.  If you've been following along Part 1 is HERE, Part 2 HERE, and Part 3a HERE. Ironic, maybe, that just recently, actually, I followed up with the heart doc three months after the cardiac ablation surgery. So far so good.  And I am feeling much better.  Now on to thinking about total hip replacement.

In this post I'd like to update my readers on my academic plans, specifically my teaching but also discuss some of this past year's research.

My first First Year Writing Seminar "Meaning of Life" proved interesting.  I've always enjoyed mentoring students and so when asked if I'd be interested to teach FYWS again for fall 2017 I of course agreed.  The theme I created is "An Inquiry into the Good" which seeks to answer the question, "What makes a life a good life?" My Chair was informed by the approving Dean of Humanities that the course sounded so interesting that even she'd like to sign up - so I must be doing something right!  Very excited to teach that.  Here is the course description:
What is “the good life?” Is it having money, success, fame, or power? What is “good,” anyway? Does goodness consist in being just or truthful, in partaking in acts of kindness and beauty? Or is goodness simply what is pleasurable and thus a material matter? What if it were argued that the good we all seek is, of course, happiness. This then begs the question: what is happiness? Is being happy always good, and does goodness necessarily involve happiness? This course explores two interrelated questions: “What makes for a good life?” and “What is happiness?” The course overall conceives of goodness and happiness – whatever those terms might mean – as first and foremost a matter of self-exploration and self-realization. That is, goodness and happiness are both ideals and states to be realized and achieved. Students will read, critically interpret, and write about a wide range of philosophers who have something to say about the nature of a good life and happiness – philosophers including Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Epicurus, Epictetus, Seneca, Augustine, Montaigne, Pascal, Nietzsche, and Schopenhauer, to name a few. In the course of engaging the writings of these philosophers students will have the opportunity to develop critical thinking, research, and writing skills.
Next on the agenda for fall 2017 is Existential Philosophy.  I'll be using Solomon's Existentialism text like usual but am also adding my Speculative Realism text in order to read the chapter on subject-at-center metaphysics.  Given that I am slated to teach a seminar in Phenomenology in the spring of 2018 I am hoping to use the SR text for both classes to get the most use out of it.  And finally for fall is Introduction to Philosophy (one of my favorite classes to teach, actually).

Spring semester has me slated for Ancient Greek philosophy, Introduction to Philosophy, and the seminar in Phenomenology (which I am still debating how best that'd be run).

Speculative Realism: An Epitome is now published.  I am glad that that project is over, for a multitude of reasons.  Probably the most pressing was just how politicized the available literature was, in addition to the sheer paucity of available, but also reputable, literature (meaning, there was hardly any). This made the book tremendously difficult to write.  I saw authors making 90 degree right turns to avoid mentioning this person or that person, or editors of online journals (graduate-student run and reviewed, mind-you) behaving like jerks on Twitter and hence compromising even ever hoping to achieve any semblance of trustworthiness or respectability for whatever they did publish on SR, and overall just ridiculousness that was so laughably bad that I couldn't even believe it was published online to begin with (Figure/Ground was especially terrible with repeatedly interviewing the same people over and over and over again, and one other journal that shall not be named were guilty of this but with the same authors appearing in each and every single issue. But said unnamed journal is just so repetitive in who publishes in it - most articles are within the bubble, and there is nothing new or informative about it. But, I think Figure/Ground is run by undergraduate students which, well, are we now quoting "journals" online run by newly declared philosophy majors?)

One strong case in point was how one of the very few authors who did manage to publish a book on the subject intentionally appeared to avoid using at all costs my interview with Iain Hamilton Grant while simultaneously complaining on Twitter that he was unable to locate a woefully outdated interview with Grant published in PLI over a decade earlier which he was hoping to use for his book. This was perplexing. Further, bowdlerized histories weren't uncommon in the other two books on the subject which were published, and this further frustrated my research.  So, I did what I could.

I saw on Twitter Urbanomic liken the situation to a broken-down abomination clawing its way back to momentary attention just to remind everyone  how it had already come and gone.  True. But also maybe there is another way to put it.  First, perhaps it could be described that in writing the book it would be as if I were showing around curious onlookers the crash site and decade-old remains of a once fancy airliner that had taken off for a flight but immediately had exploded over the runway just as its wheels left ground. The second way to put it (and this is to my own detriment) would be that there once was a conversation occurring in an ornately adorned lecture hall that over a few years happened to empty out.  But yet a decade later there I am in that room, long since abandoned, mumbling to those looking in from the hallway who had become curious hearing me as they passed by. I think this analogy explains why I sometimes feel as though this publication could have been better supplanted by my own thinking on a new topic.

Ah, before I forget. There was yet another comparison which had come to mind in writing the book.  So from the viewpoint of those who adamantly pound on the table and shout "It still exists! It still exists!" I thought: These are the 48 year-olds and their friends who were once star high-school quarter backs, but show up to today's games and shout from the sidelines how the game should be played.  They even attempt to climb over that chain-link fence separating the team from the crowd.  The sad part is, they're not even at their own high-school team's game, as that high-school shut down about ten years ago.

I'm weird, I know.  I just couldn't think of any other way to describe the experience of writing that book.

Anyway, the book-writing process is done and over with - the story told, and I move on to bigger and better things.

Other publications: I wrote something much more fun - a book chapter on the philosophical ecology of John William Miller.  Over winter break one year we had a reading group dedicated to Miller (who I discovered incidentally by reading an essay that Corrington had written about him).  That essay will be published in a book called Nature's Transcendence and Immanence, edited by Oh and Lawrence.  Given that the SR book took up so much time, and also battling my health, those were the only two big projects I could find time to publish. Although, I'd say that I managed to be fairly productive enough all things considered, as a book is no small feat.  And with the Miller/ecology chapter I was glad I could turn it over on time, as I know as a former book editor myself how time is of the essence.

Teaching went very, very well this past fall and currently has been going great (one can read about this semester's classes in the second post of this series).  Actually, it is hard to believe that the spring semester is nearly over.  It feels as though it just began!  That's a good thing, I think.  Great students - and I managed to nab two philosopher majors! Very cool. I was in charge of our "Exceptional Promise in Philosophy Award" which honors undeclared non-majors who have performed very well in our current philosophy classes this semester. It is a confidence boost for them and a good recruitment strategy. But I am honored to give out the award to some outstanding students.  In particular, Continental Philosophy went very well this term, against my expectations. In fact, many students in the class were prone to volunteer excellent examples and other ways in which something might said so everyone could comprehend the theory we happened to be discussing for the day.  Same with Environmental Philosophy and Intro.  Excellent, wonderful students.  I am indeed blessed.

In any case, now I am at the fun part of the crossroads which is determining where I go from here for my next research project.  Classes are set for fall and spring of next year: An Inquiry into the Good, Intro to Philosophy, and Existential Philosophy for fall; and then Ancient Greek Philosophy, Intro, and Phenomenology for spring.

I just need to decide what I'd like to accomplish research-wise next year, or at least what topics I'd be interested in exploring.  I really need to set a new and fresh direction.  Blaze a trail.  I will discuss that in the last post of this series, part "3c."

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

quote of the day

"Cosmic imbalance is the motor of reality."

- Nick Land

After Nature looks, nods in agreement, and gives a look of approval back to F.W.J. Schelling.

Friday, April 7, 2017

quote of the day

"Idealism is the soul of Philosophy; Realism is its body; only the two together constitute a living whole."

- F.W.J. Schelling

Thursday, April 6, 2017

quote of the day

"[W]e do not mean that metaphysics is one subordinate subject-matter within the subject-matter that is philosophy. The term 'metaphysics' is not analogous to the terms 'aesthetics'....'ethics' etc. It is not a subject-matter area...It is one of the functions of philosophy...."

- Justus Buchler, Metaphysics of Natural Complexes

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

music, music

Philadelphia dark-wave trio Blood Sound has an album "Too Much Sun and Not Enough Gloom" which is going to be the soundtrack for my writing/research this coming year.

Or, it's good to turn it up and dance alone to it in your bedroom during these dark times.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Land says it best yet again

Nick Land states, "First it collapses down to a partisan bubble with zero credibility beyond its own constituency. Then it dies."

Perfect. I am stealing this.

Comment section is awesome (note: at last count there were 160+ replies where most of what is said there is true).


Monday, April 3, 2017

Exceptional promise in philosophy

Each year our department awards to students a certificate of recognition for their hard work and demonstration of promise in a current philosophy class. So, if you are a student who is not a philosophy major but has performed extraordinarily well then you would be a candidate for this award.

We really don't have an official title for it yet - but last year it was called the "Excellence in Philosophy" certificate.  Each faculty member of our department selected the best non-majors in their classes and invited them to the ceremony/event to receive their award.

Receiving such an award that recognizes one's hard work, talent, and most of all "promise" boosts one's confidence.  My thought expressed to our department was that this was a good recruiting mechanism.  Student's who are told they have a talent for philosophy but are non-majors are more likely to major.  This in fact happened.

My thought this year was to re-title the award as the "Exceptional Promise in Philosophy Award."  It's a certificate,, but most of all it is recognition for that talent and promise that a non-major, or usually undeclared major freshmen/sophomore, would demonstrate in your class.  This would be the those one or two students who impress, who naturally seem to comprehend the ideas in play, and just through their academic excellence show promise in the field of philosophy.

I think it's nice too because when students receive the award it is indeed a big deal.  Their name is called, they come before a room full of people, and with a handshake we give them their certificate. It's a great moment for each student called, and it's a great moment for us faculty who are so proud of them.

Mathification (Galloway on Badiou + Updated)

Interesting post by Andrew Galloway. Visit his blog too, it's tremendous.

UPDATE: A former student of mine, now a graduate student at U of Memphis, mentioned he was using some mathematical proofs in his dissertation on - I want to say Badiou - but I know it is a critique of Meillassoux from a mathematical-ontological perspective.  In any case, the below by Galloway (again, please always visit the sites themselves, too) is remarkably clear.  If one does not know Badiou you'd get a very good general sense by reading Galloway's post. Wonderful.

// Alexander R. Galloway

I've been returning frequently in recent weeks to that momentous section from Being and Event where Alain Badiou marshals all his poetic and persuasive powers. I refer to the important meditations Twenty-Six and Twenty-Seven and the "impasse of ontology" described therein, the crux of the book if not the crux of Badiou's project overall, with page 278 in the English edition containing perhaps the single most important paragraph in all of Badiou.

Badiou testifies in this section that the impasse of ontology was triggered world-historically by what he calls the "Cantor-Gödel-Cohen-Easton symptom," referring to the four mathematicians who together, in Badiou's assessment, have revealed a condition within mathematics, and hence also within ontology, that forces a choice (280). Cantor primarily and Cohen secondarily are the two most important figures for Badiou, particularly in Being and Event. Gödel figures a bit as well and Easton less so. Nevertheless Badiou combines these four figures into a single event within the history of mathematics. Badiou defines the event as an "errancy" or "excess of the state" over the situation (282). Such errancy mandates a subjective choice.
By what path does Badiou arrive at the impasse? It all begins with a query. "[I]s being intrinsically quantifiable? ... Is there thus an essential numerosity of being?" (265). The query is innocent enough. Is it always possible to compare two things quantitatively? Is it always possible to say that there is something that is larger than something else? Is there a concept of "larger than" from which to construct quantity or numerosity, and, if so, is there a concept of "larger than" in thought overall? The path to the impasse begins just like that, because (as will be explained in a moment) the simple numerosity of being, the simple notion that everything is intrinsically quantifiable and therefore relatable via the operation of "larger than"--this simple reality collapsed under the weight of Cantor-Gödel-Cohen-Easton.

The impasse can be defined both in socio-political terms as well as in mathematical terms. First, in socio-political, "the state of a situation is quantitatively larger than the situation itself" (273); now again mathematically, the power set is quantitatively larger than the original set. Badiou's word is "quantitatively," but do not be mislead, the nub is that the state is immeasurably larger than the situation itself, and thus qualitatively larger. Likewise the fact that a power set will always be larger than its original set is a way of saying that the numerosity of the power set qualitatively or indeed immeasurably exceeds the numerosity of the original set. This observation is perhaps insignificant or even illegible when considering finite sets, but, as Cantor showed, it becomes terribly important when considering transfinite sets.

But such claims are already too abstract. So what are some actual sets that might allow us to explore these claims, and even to approach Badiou's impasse directly? Mathematicians have a particular interest in certain kinds of sets, certain types of numbers that are important within number theory. For instance, one might consider the set of simple counting numbers like 1, 2, or 3, collectively called the natural numbers. Or one might wish to talk about the integers: 1, 2, 3, and so on, but also including zero and negative numbers like -1, -2, and -3. Or one might discuss all the fractional values like 1/2 or 15/16, these being the numbers expressible via a ratio of integers and thus gaining the title of rational numbers. Or one might wish to discuss an even more capacious category of numbers called the real numbers, those being the sum total of all of the above--the natural integers and the fractional rationals--plus everything else on the continuous number line, all the so-called irrational numbers like π that can not be written as a ratio of integers. The real numbers thus include integers like -2, fractions like 3/4, but also irrationals like π. And it turns out there are quite a lot of irrational numbers, an innumerable number of them in fact, even though only a few of them are commonly used in calculation.
Such examples are not chosen at random, particularly the natural numbers and the real numbers. Indeed mathematicians have a special interested in these two particular sets. An examination of the cardinality of the two sets, that is, the size of the real numbers versus the size of the natural numbers, produces a startling result. Based on Cantor's innovations and his explorations into the size of infinite sets, mathematicians refer to the "infinite" size of the set of all natural numbers. But, at the same time, the set of all real numbers is also infinite. Cantor's startling discovery was that these two infinities are different. Even more astounding, Cantor showed that the two infinities are not simply different, they have a different size, that is, there is no way to map a one-to-one relationship between each natural number and each real number. The cardinality of the natural numbers is of a different magnitude than that of the real numbers. A seeming paradox ensues, for how can infinity exist in two different magnitudes? Nevertheless Cantor demonstrated that the infinite size of the natural numbers will always be smaller than the infinite size of the real numbers.

Of the many repercussions produced by Cantor's theory, consider just one, the simple act of counting. Since the natural numbers are by definition the counting numbers, natural infinity is, by extension, countable, at least in principle. Yet if real infinity has a larger cardinality than natural infinity, then real infinity is "larger than countable," or more simply uncountable, innumerable. In other words, there is no way--no practical way but no theoretical way either--of counting all of the real numbers. With what tools would they be countable, now that the natural numbers are exhausted? The real numbers are innumerable, and thus the two number sets are numerically incompatible.

As a consequence of these discoveries, Cantor proposed in 1878 what he called the Continuum Hypothesis. The Continuum Hypothesis says, in essence, that the cardinality of the natural numbers is different from the cardinality of the real numbers, with no other set of numbers between them. Thus the natural numbers have one kind of infinity, natural infinity, while the real numbers have a larger kind of infinity, real infinity. And these two different kinds of infinity have two different "sizes." (Although the question of size starts to lose its meaning in this context, which is one reason why Cantor preferred the notion of cardinality to that of size.) With the former, natural infinity, it is possible to make a one-to-one correspondence with the counting integers, and thus the former is "countable." With the latter, real infinity, such a correspondence is not possible, and thus real infinity is quite literally uncountable.

The Continuum Hypothesis gets its name from "the continuum," that more poetic monicker for the real number line. Still, the Continuum Hypothesis asserts an elemental dis-continuum, namely the insurmountable discontinuity between the natural and real numbers. According to the hypothesis no number exists between the cardinality of the natural numbers and the cardinality of the real numbers. According to Cantor, it is not possible to count continuously from the cardinality of the natural numbers "up" to the cardinality of the real numbers; a jump, is all, from one to the other. There exists a mathematical rift, as it were, a gap between numbers. (Cantor elegantly mapped this on to sets and their power sets, since the power set of the natural numbers will produce the real numbers, with an intermission between the two cardinalities.) More generally the hypothesis says--now following a looser interpretation--that there are two fundamental kinds of numbers, the natural kind and the real kind. These are not two different mathematics, as it were, but nevertheless two essentially different modes of number: natural and real with a fissure in between.

This impasse so captured Badiou's imagination that, as I have suggested, he structured Being and Event almost entirely around it, around what he called the errancy or the unmeasure of ontology. In Badiou's view Cantor unearthed "two regimes," mandating an "arbitrary decision" between them (278). In that momentous Meditation Twenty-Six, Badiou labeled this arbitrary decision a "wager" (pari) beyond the effectivity of known calculation. The English term wager does not entirely capture the meaning of Badiou's original pari. But the gist is that when calculation fails one is forced to gamble. One is obligated to make a choice, if not a leap of faith then a leap of faithfulness (fidélité). "A chasm opens" in the wake of Cantor, Badiou wrote, a chasm that requires "a conceptless choice" (280). If this sounds like existentialism, it should; Badiou is, in a sense, rewriting existentialism for a new age.

Yet, at this stage in Being and Event, Badiou has not yet turned to the work of Cohen in any real detail. Thus Badiou's "conceptless choice" is not a reference to the independence of the Continuum Hypothesis, at least not yet. There's something else, something within the hypothesis itself that provides Badiou with his initial fuel. The simple premise that the cardinality of the real numbers is qualitatively larger than the cardinality of the natural numbers--with no gradation between the two--this simple premise is enough to precipitate Badiou's "conceptless choice."

In the wake of the discoveries by these four mathematicians -- Cantor-Gödel-Cohen-Easton -- Badiou observed that "Being...is unfaithful to itself," and that, as a result, "quantity...lead[s] to pure subjectivity" (280). It is an astounding if not radical claim. Begin with quantity, with mathematical concepts; pursue their consequences far enough by following all the innovations of modern mathematics; and the result will be subjectivity. In other words, at some point Cantor's impasse will intrude, and one will encounter a point of decision, a point that is not quantifiable, a point that does not follow the succession of numbers. A yawning void will eventually open at the heart of mathematics, a void within mathematics, to be sure, but the consequence of mathematics nonetheless. And from out of this abyss, via the conceptless choice, the subject appears. The pursuit of quantity leads to subjectivity. In other words, math makes subjects. Such is the fundamental principle guiding all of Badiou's work as a philosopher. Its proper name shall be mathification.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

How For-Profit Colleges Sell 'Risky Education' To The Most Vulnerable : NPR

Listening to this on a replay this morning. The sad part is that the larger world of traditional universities and colleges are looking to for-profits for "better, more cost effective models" in running their schools which relies on tuition growth to cover costs.


Saturday, April 1, 2017

"Resisting The Corporate University: What It Means To Be A 'Slow Professor'"

Interesting article on NPR 13.7 on a recent book which challenges the culture of speed and the corporatization of the academy, HERE.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

#1 New Release...

Last post about the new book, I promise. But in the past I've seen others gloat over their amazon sales rankings so I just "had to" when I saw this. Thanks especially to After Nature readers who've helped to make this book such a success.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

It exists! Speculative Realism: An Epitome in printed form


Wow! Kismet Press did a wonderful job with this - in fact my wife said it was "beautiful."

What I like is how the book is that soft "squishy" material; especially the cover which just feels good in your hands.  It is small and portable and fun - or as Na said, "a pocket book."

My ruling: small and portable; feels extremely good in the hands. A "fun" book to carry around because it is so small yet packs a punch with some very dense philosophy inside. I am very, very impressed with how this turned out.  Thanks so much to Kismet Press for accomplishing such a quality job with my book: the design, the materials, everything just works. Perfect!

Speculative Realism: An Epitome out now (open access online, in print, and ebook)

Amazon link HERE (paperback just $12.50) or freely available to read online HERE. Preview the .pdf (3MB) HERE.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Dewey on mind and nature

I remember in graduate school speaking with another student who was perplexed but also frustrated as to what "experience" might mean for philosophers such as William James and John Dewey.  These two philosophers in particular seem to use the term quite abit, nearly so much so that one might be suspicious that it is a sort of "duct tape" within their philosophy.  "What is experience, afterall?" - one might ask.  Trying to figure that out has been a cottage industry for those who read James and Dewey and then publish something informative about it.

In our Dewey reading group we've been looking at (tangentially at least) the book John Dewey and Environmental Philosophy.  There it is explained how, while the term "experience" is indeed vague, it is left vague by Dewey almost intentionally.  What function is the term supposed to serve?

For starters, in naturalistic register Dewey is concerned with softening anthropocentric conceptions of what "experience" might mean.  For as phenomenological as the notion might be (i.e. "qualitative"), it is not necessarily human for it exceeds what is human.  Like James, mind and nature, or better, the appropriation of nature as experience, occurs "as an activity."  In this, perception, habit-taking, and the activity of the organism are at the forefront.  Thus it is an embodied but also enacted theory of perception.  Whatever experience is it is what an organism does.  Like in Merleau-Ponty, there is no strict division then between subject and object, creature and environment, or even "inner as well as outer."  From a metaphysical point of view experience consists not of just what or how something is experienced (phenomenologically), but also consists of a non-phenomenological, liminal "total experience" which is either before or at the fringes of consciousness.  (Think of Dewey's "Reflex Arc" essay for example.)  And so it is not to impugn consciousnesses or mind upon nature but to see mind and nature as mixed, continuous, or even as inseparable - the two being part of an indivisive nature that separates either term only "after the fact."  Again, this is nothing new: James, Dewey, Merleau-Ponty all have maintained such a notion of "body-mind," that is, they have maintained the inseparability of experience and nature.  But what I think is novel in Dewey is how this sort of thinking is used (or can be used) to empower environmental ethics.  He writes, for example, "Experience is of as well as in nature. It is not experience which is experienced but nature - stones, plants, animals, diseases, health, temperature, electricity, and so on."

What we find is that while the term "experience" is vague, it does much to break down barriers supposed between body and mind or qualitative consciousness and the natural world.  As Dewey employs the term, nature itself becomes "panexperiential" in the sense that whatever "experience" is, it is not limited to humans.  In terms of environmental ethics, or more specifically animal ethics, the term, despite its ambiguity, has a one-up on something like "sentience" as found in Peter Singer as "experience" does not bring to mind the sort of pitfalls associated with conceptual or rational consciousness that "sentience" might.  And so it is one thing to think of plants as capable of experiencing something and another to think of them as "sentient."

In the end the term "experience" as it functions in Dewey's writing reminds us of the interconnection between organism and environment, and indeed that the qualitative dimension of the natural world is not something unique or specific to human beings.  In fact, if anything, Dewey's "experience" reminds us that perhaps we have the duty to speculate upon non-human forms of experience that may or may not be like human consciousness.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Speculative Realism: An Epitome available this coming Tuesday, March 28th

Free ebook online will be available and paperback is just $12.50, which is an extremely competitive price. Kindle version is just $5.00. After Nature readers who would like a review copy of paperback please get in touch.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

"A Brief Guide to Embodied Cognition: Why You Are Not Your Brain", or, Dewey, Merleau-Ponty, and Embodied Cognition

THIS article in Scientific American reaffirms the connection I see between Dewey and Ponty on the notion of embodied cognition and just how fruitful it is to read these two philosophers together - especially Dewey's "Reflex Arc" essay from 1896 and Ponty's The Structure of Behavior (1942).

See also Ted Toadvine's reworked SEP entry on Ponty HERE which does seem to pick up upon such an important connection between these two great philosophers (as of 2016, replacing the former entry written by a different author).

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

follow After Nature blog by email

If you don't use a feed-reader (like Feedly, for example) After Nature now has an email sign-up feature where you can enter your email address and receive once per day (or to whatever setting you'd like - weekly, bi-weekly, however you'd like) email updates notifying that a new post has appeared.

Just FYI for those who'd like nature philosophy delivered directly to their inbox!

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

"The Truth Behind the Myth of Correlationism" (Three Pound Brain blog)

Repeat: disco is dead, and so is correlationism.

The Truth Behind the Myth of Correlationism
// Three Pound Brain

A wrong turn lies hidden in the human cultural code, an error that has scuttled our every attempt to understand consciousness and cognition. So much philosophical activity reeks of dead ends: we try and we try, and yet we find ourselves mired in the same ancient patterns of disputation. The majority of thinkers believe the problem is local, that they need only tinker with the tools they've inherited. They soldier on, arguing that this or that innovative modification will overcome our confusion. Some, however, believe the problem lies deeper. I'm one of those thinkers, as is Meillassoux. I think the solution lies in speculation bound to the hip of modern science, in something I call 'heuristic neglect.' For me, the wrong turn lies in the application of intentional cognition to solve the theoretical problem of intentional cognition. Meillassoux thinks it lies in what he calls 'correlationism.'

Since I've been accused of 'correlationism' on a couple of occasions now, I thought it worthwhile tackling the issue in more detail. This will not be an institutional critique a la Golumbia's, who manages to identify endless problems with Meillassoux's presentation, while somehow entirely missing his skeptical point: once cognition becomes artifactual, it becomes very… very difficult to understand. Cognitive science is itself fractured about Meillassoux's issue.

What follows will be a constructive critique, an attempt to explain the actual problem underwriting what Meillassoux calls 'correlationism,' and why his attempt to escape that problem simply collapses into more interminable philosophy. The problem that artifactuality poses to the understanding of cognition is very real, and it also happens to fall into the wheelhouse of Heuristic Neglect Theory (HNT). For those souls growing disenchanted with Speculative Realism, but unwilling to fall back into the traditional bosom, I hope to show that HNT not only offers the radical break with tradition that Meillassoux promises, it remains inextricably bound to the details of this, the most remarkable age.

What is correlationism? The experts explain:

Correlation affirms the indissoluble primacy of the relation between thought and its correlate over the metaphysical hypostatization or representational reification of either term of the relation. Correlationism is subtle: it never denies that our thoughts or utterances aim at or intend mind-independent or language-independent realities; it merely stipulates that this apparently independent dimension remains internally related to thought and language. Thus contemporary correlationism dismisses the problematic of scepticism, and or epistemology more generally, as an antiquated Cartesian hang-up: there is supposedly no problem about how we are able to adequately represent reality; since we are 'always already' outside ourselves and immersed in or engaging with the world (and indeed, this particular platitude is constantly touted as the great Heideggerean-Wittgensteinian insight). Note that correlationism need not privilege "thinking" or "consciousness" as the key relation—it can just as easily replace it with "being-in-the-world," "perception," "sensibility," "intuition," "affect," or even "flesh." Ray Brassier, Nihil Unbound, 51

By 'correlation' we mean the idea according to which we only ever have access to the correlation between thinking and being, and never to either term considered apart from the other. We will henceforth call correlationism any current of thought which maintains the unsurpassable character of the correlation so defined. Consequently, it becomes possible to say that every philosophy which disavows naive realism has become a variant of correlationism. Quentin Meillassoux, After Finitude, 5

Correlationism rests on an argument as simple as it is powerful, and which can be formulated in the following way: No X without givenness of X, and no theory about X without a positing of X. If you speak about something, you speak about something that is given to you, and posited by you. Consequently, the sentence: 'X is', means: 'X is the correlate of thinking' in a Cartesian sense. That is: X is the correlate of an affection, or a perception, or a conception, or of any subjective act. To be is to be a correlate, a term of a correlation . . . That is why it is impossible to conceive an absolute X, i.e., an X which would be essentially separate from a subject. We can't know what the reality of the object in itself is because we can't distinguish between properties which are supposed to belong to the object and properties belonging to the subjective access to the object. Quentin Meillassoux,"Time without Becoming"

The claim of correlationism is the corollary of the slogan that 'nothing is given' to understanding: everything is mediated. Once knowing becomes an activity, then the objects insofar as they are known become artifacts in some manner: reception cannot be definitively sorted from projection and as a result no knowledge can be said to be absolute. We find ourselves trapped in the 'correlationist circle,' trapped in artifactual galleries, never able to explain the human-independent reality we damn well know exists. Since all cognition is mediated, all cognition is conditional somehow, even our attempts (or perhaps, especially our attempts) to account for those conditions. Any theory unable to decisively explain objectivity is a theory that cannot explain cognition. Ergo, correlationism names a failed (cognitivist) philosophical endeavour.

It's a testament to the power of labels in philosophy, I think, because as Meillassoux himself acknowledges there's nothing really novel about the above sketch. Explaining the 'cognitive difference' was my dissertation project back in the 90's, after all, and as smitten as I was with my bullshit solution back then, I didn't think the problem itself was anything but ancient. Given this whole website is dedicated to exploring and explaining consciousness and cognition, you could say it remains my project to this very day! One of the things I find so frustrating about the 'critique of correlationism' is that the real problem—the ongoing crisis—is the problem of meaning. If correlationism fails because correlationism cannot explain cognition, then the problem of correlationism is an expression of a larger problem, the problem of cognition—or in other words, the problem of intentionality.

Why is the problem of meaning an ongoing crisis? In the past six fiscal years, from 2012 to 2017, the National Institute of Health will have spent more than 113 billion dollars funding research bent on solving some corner of the human soul. [1] And this is just one public institution in one nation involving health related research. If you include the cognitive sciences more generally—research into everything from consumer behaviour to AI—you could say that solving the human soul commands more resources than any other domain in history. The reason all this money is being poured into the sciences rather than philosophy departments is that the former possesses real world consequences: diseases cured, soap sold, politicians elected. As someone who tries to keep up with developments in Continental philosophy, I already find the disconnect stupendous, how whole populations of thinkers continue discoursing as if nothing significant has changed, bitching about traditional cutlery in the shadow of the cognitive scientific tsunami.

Part of the popularity of the critique of correlationism derives from anxieties regarding the growing overlap of the sciences of the human and the humanities. All thinkers self-consciously engaged in the critique of correlationism reference scientific knowledge as a means of discrediting correlationist thought, but as far as I can tell, the project has done very little to bring the science, what we're actually learning about consciousness and cognition, to the fore of philosophical debates. Even worse, the notion of mental and/or neural mediation is actually central to cognitive science. What some neuroscientists term 'internal models,' which monolopolize our access to ourselves and the world, is nothing if not a theoretical correlation of environments and cognition, trapping us in models of models. The very science that Meillassoux thinks argues against correlationism in one context, explicitly turns on it in another. The mediation of knowledge is the domain of cognitive science—full stop. A naturalistic understanding of cognition is a biological understanding is an artifactual understanding: this is why the upshot of cognitive science is so often skeptical, prone to further diminish our traditional (if not instinctive) hankering for unconditioned knowledge—to reveal it as an ancestral conceit

A kind of arche-fossil.

If an artifactual approach to cognition is doomed to misconstrue cognition, then cognitive science is a doomed enterprise. Despite the vast sums of knowledge accrued, the wondrous and fearsome social instrumentalities gained, knowledge itself will remain inexplicable. What we find lurking in the bones of Meillassoux's critique, in other words, is precisely the same commitment to intentional exceptionality we find in all traditional philosophy, the belief that the subject matter of traditional philosophical disputation lies beyond the pale of scientific explanation… that despite the cognitive scientific tsunami, traditional intentional speculation lies secure in its ontological bunkers.

Only more philosophy, Meillassoux thinks, can overcome the 'scandal of philosophy.' But how is mere opinion supposed to provide bona fide knowledge of knowledge? Speculation on mathematics does nothing to ameliorate this absurdity: even though paradigmatic of objectivity, mathematics remains as inscrutable as knowledge itself. Perhaps there is some sense to be found in the notion of interrogating/theorizing objects in a bid to understand objectivity (cognition), but given what we now know regarding our cognitive shortcomings in low-information domains, we can be assured that 'object-oriented' approaches will bog down in disputation.

I just don't know how to make the 'critique of correlationism' workable, short ignoring the very science it takes as its motivation, or just as bad, subordinating empirical discoveries to some school of 'fundamental ontological' speculation. If you're willing to take such a leap of theoretical faith, you can be assured that no one in the vicinity of cognitive science will take it with you—and that you will make no difference in the mad revolution presently crashing upon us.

We know that knowledge is somehow an artifact of neural function—full stop. Meillassoux is quite right to say this renders the objectivity of knowledge very difficult to understand. But why think the problem lies in presuming the artifactual nature of cognition?—especially now that science has begun reverse-engineering that nature in earnest! What if our presumption of artifactuality weren't so much the problem, as the characterization? What if the problem isn't that cognitive science is artifactual so much as how it is?

After all, we've learned a tremendous amount about this how in the past decades: the idea of dismissing all this detail on the basis of a priori guesswork seems more than a little suspect. The track record would suggest extreme caution. As the boggling scale of the cognitive scientific project should make clear, everything turns on the biological details of cognition. We now know, for instance, that the brain employs legions of special purpose devices to navigate its environments. We know that cognition is thoroughly heuristic, that it turns on cues, bits of available information statistically correlated to systems requiring solution.

Most all systems in our environment shed information enabling the prediction of subsequent behaviours absent the mechanical particulars of that information. The human brain is exquisitely tuned to identify and exploit the correlation of information available and subsequent behaviours. The artifactuality of biology is an evolutionary one, and as such geared to the thrifty solution of high impact problems. To say that cognition (animal or human) is heuristic is to say it's organized according to the kinds of problems our ancestors needed to solve, and not according to those belonging to academics. Human cognition consists of artifactualities, subsystems dedicated to certain kinds of problem ecologies. Moreover, it consists of artifactualities selected to answer questions quite different from those posed by philosophers.

These two facts drastically alter the landscape of the apparent problem posed by 'correlationism.' We have ample theoretical and empirical reasons to believe that mechanistic cognition and intentional cognition comprise two quite different cognitive regimes, the one dedicated to explanation via high-dimensional (physical) sourcing, the other dedicated to explanation absent that sourcing. As an intentional phenomena, objectivity clearly belongs to the latter. Mechanistic cognition, meanwhile, is artifactual. What if it's the case that 'objectivity' is the turn of a screw in a cognitive system selected to solve in the absence of artifactual information? Since intentional cognition turns on specific cues to leverage solutions, and since those cues appear sufficient (to be the only game in town where that behaviour is concerned), the high-dimensional sourcing of that same behavior generates a philosophical crash space—and a storied one at that! What seems sourceless and self-evident becomes patently impossible.

Short magic, cognitive systems possess the environmental relationships they do thanks to super-complicated histories of natural and neural selection—evolution and learning. Let's call this their orientation, understood as the nonintentional ('zombie') correlate of 'perspective.' The human brain is possibly the most complex thing we know of in the universe (a fact which should render any theory of the human neglecting that complexity suspect). Our cognitive systems, in other words, possess physically intractable orientations. How intractable? Enough that billions of dollars in research has merely scratched the surface.

Any capacity to cognize this relationship will perforce be radically heuristic, which is to say, provide a means to solve some critical range of problems—a problem ecology—absent natural historical information. The orientation heuristically cognized, of course, is the full-dimensional relationship we actually possess, only hacked in ways that generate solutions (repetitions of behaviour) while neglecting the physical details of that relationship.

Most significantly, orientation neglects the dimension of mediation: thought and perception (whatever they amount to) are thoroughly blind to their immediate sources. This cognitive blindness to the activity of cognition, or medial neglect, amounts to a gross insensitivity to our physical continuity with our environments, the fact that we break no thermodynamic laws. Our orientation, in other words, is characterized by a profound, structural insensitivity to its own constitution—its biological artifactuality, among other things. This auto-insensitivity, not surprisingly, includes insensitivity to the fact of this insensitivity, and thus the default presumption of sufficiency. Specialized sensitivities are required to flag insufficiencies, after all, and like all biological devices, they do not come for free. Not only are we blind to our position within the superordinate systems comprising nature, we're blind to our blindness, and so, unable to distinguish table-scraps from a banquet, we are duped into affirming inexplicable spontanieties.

'Truth' belongs to our machinery for communicating (among other things) the sufficiency of iterable orientations within superordinate systems given medial neglect. You could say it's a way to advertise clockwork positioning (functional sufficiency) absent any inkling of the clock. 'Objectivity,' the term denoting the supposed general property of being true apart from individual perspectives, is a deliberative contrivance derived from practical applications of 'truth'—the product of 'philosophical reflection.' The problem with objectivity as a phenomenon (as opposed to 'objectivity' as a component of some larger cognitive articulation) is that the sufficiency of iterable orientations within superordinate systems is always a contingent affair. Whether 'truth' occasions sufficiency is always an open question, since the system provides, at best, a rough and ready way to communicate and/or troubleshoot orientation. Unpredictable events regularly make liars of us all. The notion of facts 'being true' absent the mediation of human cognition, 'objectivity,' also provides a rough and ready way to communicate and/or troubleshoot orientation in certain circumstances. We regularly predict felicitous orientations without the least sensitivity to their artifactual nature, absent any inkling how their pins lie in intractable high-dimensional coincidences between buzzing brains. This insensitivity generates the illusion of absolute orientation, a position outside natural regularities—a 'view from nowhere.' We are a worm in the gut of nature convinced we possess disembodied eyes. And so long as the consequences of our orientations remain felicitous, our conceit need not be tested. Our orientations might as well 'stand nowhere' absent cognition of their limits.

Thus can 'truth' and 'objectivity' be naturalized and their peculiarities explained.

The primary cognitive moral here is that lacking information has positive cognitive consequences, especially when it comes to deliberative metacognition, our attempts to understand our nature via philosophical reflection alone. Correlationism evidences this in a number of ways.

As soon as the problem of cognition is characterized as the problem of thought and being, it becomes insoluble. Intentional cognition is heuristic: it neglects the nature of the systems involved, exploiting cues correlated to the systems requiring solution instead. The application of intentional cognition to theoretical explanation, therefore, amounts to the attempt to solve natures using a system adapted to neglect natures. A great deal of traditional philosophy is dedicated to the theoretical understanding of cognition via intentional idioms—via applications of intentional cognition. Thus the morass of disputation. We presume that specialized problem-solving systems possess general application. Lacking the capacity to cognize our inability to cognize the theoretical nature of cognition, we presume sufficiency. Orientation, the relation between neural systems and their proximal and distal environments—between two systems of objects—becomes perspective, the relation between subjects (or systems of subjects) and systems of objects (environments). If one conflates the manifest artifactual nature of orientation for the artifactual nature of perspective (subjectivity), then objectivity itself becomes a subjective artifact, and therefore nothing objective at all. Since orientation characterizes our every attempt to solve for cognition, conflating it with perspective renders perspective inescapable, and objectivity all but inexplicable. Thus the crash space of traditional epistemology.

Now I know from hard experience that the typical response to the picture sketched above is to simply insist on the conflation of orientation and perspective, to assert that my position, despite its explanatory power, simply amounts to more of the same, another perspectival Klein Bottle distinctive only for its egregious 'scientism.' Only my intrinsically intentional perspective, I am told, allows me to claim that such perspectives are metacognitive artifacts, a consequence of medial neglect. But asserting perspective before orientation on the basis of metacognitive intuitions alone not only begs the question, it also beggars explanation, delivering the project of cognizing cognition to never-ending disputation—an inability to even formulate explananda, let alone explain anything. This is why I like asking intentionalists how many centuries of theoretical standstill we should expect before that oft advertised and never delivered breakthrough finally arrives. The sin Meillassoux attributes to correlationism, the inability to explain cognition, is really just the sin belonging to intentional philosophy as a whole. Thanks to medial neglect, metcognition,  blind to both its sources and its source blindness, insists we stand outside nature. Tackling this intuition with intentional idioms leaves our every attempt to rationalize our connection underdetermined, a matter of interminable controversy. The Scandal dwells on eternal.

I think orientation precedes perspective—and obviously so, having watched loved ones dismantled by brain disease. I think understanding the role of neglect in orientation explains the peculiarities of perspective, provides a parsimonious way to understand the apparent first-person in terms of the neglect structure belonging to the third. There's no problem with escaping the dream tank and touching the world simply because there's no ontological distinction between ourselves and the cosmos. We constitute a small region of a far greater territory, the proximal attuned to the distal. Understanding the heuristic nature of 'truth' and 'objectivity,' I restrict their application to adaptive problem-ecologies, and simply ask those who would turn them into something ontologically exceptional why they would trust low-dimensional intuitions over empirical data, especially when those intuitions pretty much guarantee perpetual theoretical underdetermination. Far better trust to our childhood presumptions of truth and reality, in the practical applications of these idioms, than in any one of the numberless theoretical misapplications 'discovering' this trust fundamentally (as opposed to situationally) 'naïve.'

The cognitive difference, what separates the consequences of our claims, has never been about 'subjectivity' versus 'objectivity,' but rather intersystematicity, the integration of ever-more sensitive orientations possessing ever more effectiveness into the superordinate systems encompassing us all. Physically speaking, we've long known that this has to be the case. Short actual difference making differences, be they photons striking our retinas or compression waves striking our eardrums or so on, no difference is made. Even Meillassoux acknowledges the necessity of physical contact. What we've lacked is a way of seeing how our apparently immediate intentional intuitions, be they phenomenological, ontological, or normative, fit into this high-dimensional—physical—picture.

Heuristic Neglect Theory not only provides this way, it also explains why it has proven so elusive over the centuries. HNT explains the wrong turn mentioned above. The question of orientation immediately cues the systems our ancestors developed to circumvent medial neglect. Solving for our behaviourally salient environmental relationships, in other words, automatically formats the problem in intentional terms. The automaticity of the application of intentional cognition renders it apparently 'self-evident.'

The reason the critique of correlationism and speculative realism suffer all the problems of underdetermination their proponents attribute to correlationism is that they take this very same wrong turn. How is Meillassoux's 'hyper-chaos,' yet another adventure in a priori speculation, anything more than another pebble tossed upon the heap of traditional disputation? Novelty alone recommends them. Otherwise they leave us every bit as mystified, every bit as unable to accommodate the torrent of relevant scientific findings, and therefore every bit as irrelevant to the breathtaking revolutions even now sweeping us and our traditions out to sea. Like the traditions they claim to supersede, they peddle cognitive abjection, discursive immobility, in the guise of fundamental insight.

Theoretical speculation is cheap, which is why it's so frightfully easy to make any philosophical account look bad. All you need do is start worrying definitions, then let the conceptual games begin. This is why the warrant of any account is always a global affair, why the power of Evolutionary Theory, for example, doesn't so much lie in the immunity of its formulations to philosophical critique, but in how much it explains on nature's dime alone. The warrant of Heuristic Neglect Theory likewise turns on the combination of parsimony and explanatory power.

Anyone arguing that HNT necessarily presupposes some X, be it ontological or normative, is simply begging the question. Doesn't HNT presuppose the reality of intentional objectivity? Not at all. HNT certainly presupposes applications of intentional cognition, which, given medial neglect, philosophers pose as functional or ontological realities. On HNT, a theory can be true even though, high-dimensionally speaking, there is no such thing as truth. Truth talk possesses efficacy in certain practical problem-ecologies, but because it participates in solving something otherwise neglected, namely the superordinate systematicity of orientations, it remains beyond the pale of intentional resolution.

Even though sophisticated critics of eliminativism acknowledge the incoherence of the tu quoque, I realize this remains a hard twist for many (if not most) to absorb, let alone accept. But this is exactly as it should be, both insofar as something has to explain why isolating the wrong turn has proven so stupendously difficult, and because this is precisely the kind of trap we should expect, given the heuristic and fractionate nature of human cognition. 'Knowledge' provides a handle on the intersection of vast, high-dimensional histories, a way to manage orientations without understanding the least thing about them. To know knowledge, we will come to realize, is to know there is no such thing, simply because 'knowing' is a resolutely practical affair, almost certainly inscrutable to intentional cognition. When you're in the intentional mode, this statement simply sounds preposterous—I know it once struck me as such! It's only when you appreciate how far your intuitions have strayed from those of your childhood, back when your only applications of intentional cognition were practical, that you can see the possibility of a more continuous, intersystematic way to orient ourselves to the cosmos. There was a time before you wandered into the ancient funhouse of heuristic misapplication, when you could not distinguish between your perspective and your orientation. HNT provides a theoretical way to recover that time and take a radically different path.

As a bona fide theory of cognition, HNT provides a way to understand our spectacular inability to understand ourselves. HNT can explain 'aporia.' The metacognitive resources recruited for the purposes of philosophical reflection possess alarm bells—sensitivities to their own limits—relevant only to their ancestral applications. The kinds of cognitive apories (crash spaces) characterizing traditional philosophy are precisely those we might expect, given the sudden ability to exercise specialized metacognitive resources out of school, to apply, among other things, the problem-solving power of intentional cognition to the question of intentional cognition.

As a bona fide theory of cognition, HNT bears as much on artificial cognition as on biological cognition, and as such, can be used to understand and navigate the already radical and accelerating transformation of our cognitive ecologies. HNT scales, from the subpersonal to the social, and this means that HNT is relevant to the technological madness of the now.

As a bona fide empirical theory, HNT, unlike any traditional theory of intentionality, will be sorted. Either science will find that metacognition actually neglects information in the ways I propose, or it won't. Either science will find this neglect possesses the consequences I theorize, or it won't. Nothing exceptional and contentious is required. With our growing understanding of the brain and consciousness comes a growing understanding of information access and processing capacity—and the neglect structures that fall out of them. The human brain abounds in bottlenecks, none of which are more dramatic than consciousness itself.

Cognition is biomechanical. The 'correlation of thought and being,' on my account, is the correlation of being and being. The ontology of HNT is resolutely flat. Once we understand that we only glimpse as much of our orientations as our ancestors required for reproduction, and nothing more, we can see that 'thought,' whatever it amounts to, is material through and through.

The evidence of this lies strewn throughout the cognitive wreckage of speculation, the alien crash site of philosophy.



[1] This includes, in addition to the neurosciences proper, research into Basic Behavioral and Social Science (8.597 billion), Behavioral and Social Science (22.515 billion), Brain Disorders (23.702 billion), Mental Health (13.699 billion), and Neurodegenerative (10.183 billion). https://report.nih.gov/categorical_spending.aspx 21/01/2017



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Complete recordings of Dreyfus's Merleau-Ponty Phenomenology of Perception Lectures

On YouTube, although give that Tripp Fuller's Caputo mp3 website is currently down (not sure what happened - I did download the Caputo Phenomenology of Perception seminar lectures in case anyone wants them), it might be prudent to grab these Dreyfus lectures and convert to mp3 just in case while they last.  I'll embed the playlist below.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Conference: Between Metaphysics, Aesthetics, and Religion (April 19-20, 2017)


International Symposium in honour of William Desmond
April 19-20, 2017
KU Leuven (University of Leuven)

Metaphysics has gotten a bad rep throughout the last decades. This ancient practice is thought to be not simply archaic as the systematic interrelationship of concepts that fails to understand the twists and turns of the human condition, but also hegemonic, oppressive and just plain wrong. As a result of this point of view, most philosophers abstain from providing a comprehensive and overarching account of such things as being, religion, art and ethics.

Wiliam Desmond
One vocal opponent of this evolution is William Desmond. In his works, he draws on various past traditions and current insights so as to argue that metaphysics does not belong to a dim and distant past. Instead, human beings find themselves always in the midst, or 'between', in terms of standing porous in the grand pageant of existence. From that perspective, one can speak intelligibly about the intimate strangeness of being in all its aspects. 'Metaxology' is the key-term of Desmond's philosophy, which is a way of doing philosophy in the 'between'. Central to this style of philosophizing is a 'porosity' to an 'overdeterminacy', in terms of a surplus to (self)determinate being, that resists 'univocal' or 'dialectical' (self)mediation, which in turn engenders a 'perplexity' towards such a 'surd' to determination. The task of metaxological philosophy is then to stay faithful to what exceeds univocalizing thought by allowing reflection to hyperbolically (i.e. to 'be thrown beyond') transcend itself for a metaphysical account of being. Central to metaxological philosophy is then a profound engagement with being (metaphysics), being good/beautiful (ethics and aesthetics) and absolute being (religion). Among the many thought-provoking features of metaxology, there are two that merit special mention since they go against the grain of postmodern philosophy. On the one hand, metaxology cultivates a community in which there is an open dialectics between being, goodness, beauty and absolute being; on the other hand, metaxology does not shun a metaphysical account of that open dialectics, in which porosity between being receptive (porosity) and being active (thought) is of central importance. Needless to say, most of postmodern philosophy prefers to separate being, goodness, beauty and absolute being into their respective domains.

This symposium is dedicated to clarifying, testing and applying metaxological philosophy with regard to metaphysics, aesthetics and religion. The keynote speakers are companions of Desmond's philosophy and, although critical of many aspects, appreciative of the stubborn tenacity of metaphysical questions. These include: Richard Kearney, John Milbank, Jack Caputo, Cyril O'Regan, Christoph Schmidt, and Sander Griffioen.
Important links:

"Monologue: Not to Brag, But I’m Totally Intellectual Enough to Be Brutally Murdered By Fascists" (McSweeney's article)

This so applies to those annual barely-looked-over-before-posting mega .pdf online journals run by fourth year Ph.D. students and ABDs. Anything at all to shout "We're important!" at cost of actual respectable, peer-reviewed *quality* work.

Monologue: Not to Brag, But I'm Totally Intellectual Enough to Be Brutally Murdered By Fascists
// McSweeney's

I don't mean to sound conceited, but my obvious mental acuity makes me an easy target for some autocratic tyrant's curb-stomping goon squad.

What I'm saying is if a ruthless dictator were to strong-arm his way into the White House and decree that intellectuals be exterminated lest they pose a threat to the ruling fascist regime, I would, like, totally be murdered. I mean look at me! I'm an adjunct professor at Florida State University!
Sure, technically I'm a part-time lecturer and not a professor, but seeing as how no one in my family gets that, a roving gang of far-right street thugs won't request my full job title and last pay stub before bashing in my skull with a mini-bat.

So what if my brother-in-law the auto mechanic can afford to take his family on vacation and doesn't have to subsist on day-old bread for the summer? I bet a fascist will never try to crush his windpipe.
When you think about it, I might be the only one intellectual enough at FSU to pose a real threat to an autocratic administration. I'm certainly the most murderable person on this campus. Way more murderable than my goody two-shoed colleague, Jennifer.

In a sense, I can understand why they would want to kill me. The fascists likely would have a dossier of my many pointed comments on The Atlantic's website, or they would dig up a receipt from my recent $32 contribution to the ACLU as evidence that I am a cerebral force of powerful dissent and must be neutralized. Or maybe they'd murder me just because of my sharp-looking, clear-framed eyewear.

It's easy to imagine how the fascists would come for me. Jackbooted stormtroopers would descend upon the university, scanning the student body for the best and brightest FSU has to offer, only to find yours truly as worthy of their ire. They'd probably look right past Jennifer even though she was recently asked by the university to come on full-time. Instead they'd track me down in my office of the main campus in a basement of the engineering building annex. Or if it's a Monday, Tuesday, or Friday evening, the on-campus Starbucks where I sometimes hold office hours. Then they'd pluck me out of the crowd and pound my smart face and brain into ground chuck before hauling me away to a black site prison.

The fascist's would choose ME! I mean, wow! Wouldn't it be truly something?
I mean, scary. Yeah, of course — it would be a scary vision of the possible future of America.
All I'm saying is, if fascists wanted to kill us intellectuals, I don't think Jennifer would have to worry. She doesn't even wear glasses!

Anyway, getting back to that horrifying vision — the fascists would probably scream something like, "You look like you should hold a tenure-track position. Come with us!" Or, "If only the FSU employment search committee could see you now!" Maybe they would say it loud enough for everyone to hear. Who knows?

Then I'd be dragged through the quad as onlookers, possibly including Little Miss Full-Time Faculty, stood powerless to do anything other than silently agree that I am their intellectual superior.
I wonder if I'm smart enough to be buried alive in an unmarked grave?

Maybe they'd even tie a rope to my feet and drag my corpse through the street as a warning to agitators! Everyone would see it, even my brother-in-law. "That guy must have been way smart to get all this! I guess he wasn't a loser, after all." he'd say.

It'd be awful, of course. Being murdered, I mean. That part would be awful. But man oh man, what a ride it'd be!

"Why do philosophers make unsuitable life partners?" (article link)

Is "parentism" a problem in academia? Excellent article, HERE.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Earth Crisis - Demo 1993 (mp3 audio files for download)

Earth Crisis were among the first earth and animal liberation bands around in the early '90s.  Stuck in the Past blog has cleaned up their '93 demo and made it available for download in remastered format.

Earth Crisis - Demo 1993 [remastered]

In my endless quest to produce a decent sounding version of the Earth Crisis - Demo 1993, I finally got my hands on multiple cassette copies. I ripped each full tape to WAV files, isolated the best sounding version of each song, adjusted levels and remastered as a final group for continuity.

In regards to Time Of Strife and whether it belongs as a part of this demo recording, I contacted Scott Crouse, and he gave me a rundown:

 There are actually 2 versions of Time Of Strife. The demo was originally 9 songs, but we didn't like that version of Time Of Strife so we never included it on any copies that went to other people. It was mostly clean vocals and musically pretty different than where it ended up on the Structure Records comp. So the short answer is no, I think the version you have was not done in the same recording session. I don't know if the anyone has the "original" version anymore. I think only band members would have it and I'm pretty sure none of us even have a copy of that demo.

As you can imagine, there are still limitations when dealing with 25 year old cassettes, but I think this is, by far, the best sounding version of the demo out there. For all the total nuts out there, here it is, in your choice of 320k mp3s or FLAC files.

(actual cover sent with tapes to record labels)

Earth Crisis - Demo 1993
(320k mp3)


A philosopher enjoys a lovely trip to Yellowstone

A philosopher enjoys a lovely trip to Yellowstone (see HERE).  I am jealous because if I could only find some time I'd pull together those Colorado photos I've been promising my readers.  To my credit, maybe, I did manage to go through the photos of this past year's trip to Maine, although Picasa changed to Google photos and that ruined everything.  But this past summer's Maine trip's photos *are* sitting here on my desktop.

Yellowstone is on our list; but first is Europe (for Na's job this summer: Heidelberg, Germany and Lucerne, Switzerland for a month each where - surprise, surprise - not relaxation for me but book-writing time)...and second is Cambodia en route to Thailand come winter break.

I am not complaining. I am blessed to at least have the opportunity to travel with my wife and see such beautiful places.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Belong: more on ontological regard and a one sentence rant about unanswered emails

If ontological regard and social-recognition are properly fundamental prime categories, let us assume then that the denial of hospitality, fellow-feeling, and perhaps even generosity and kindness (based upon fellow-feeling and suffering itself being the sovereign common denominator) means that the disregard of any others' given invitation actively and actually contributes to the suffering of that other.

There was a grad student out in California some years ago who through online interactions with me seemed friendly enough and we would share links and information about philosophy we both enjoyed; and I took the time to correspond with him abit here and there as we had/have similar interests in knowledge and ecology.  He even said at one point it'd be cool to meet up at a conference - him emailing me with an invitation to get together just to talk shop. I said that would be great.

He's since disappeared running an editing business of sorts while attending a Ph.D. program.  But apparently he is too busy to answer a cordial email from me just to see how he is doing. And I attempted to reach out to him twice.  Strange considering we have similar interests and used to correspond quite abit before.  But now he has just stopped answering his emails. Weird.

This rarely happens where someone I know online just stops answering emails, but I can't understand how with a friendly invitation of hospitality - just to check in to see how someone is doing - one can be bluntly ignored. Not cool.

But, that's his problem I suppose.

reality as social process and onto-empathy

Hartshorne wrote in his Reality As Social Process that, "It may seem that the logical structure of reality should not be the only test of sociality. Let us define the social as the appeal of life for life, of experience for experience in another. Hence nothing can be social that is without experience. The minimum of experience, let us further agree, is feeling. Creatures are social because they feel, and feel in relation to each others' feelings. Can this be true of all things?"

I think what is most horrifying about object-oriented ontologies is the blank disregard for not only the social dimension of individuation, but the ethical dimension as well.  Pace my post below regarding selfishness, in a truly ecological ontology agencies are super-abundant as individuals only because of the common continuum of affect or feeling among them (what I have called "onto-empathy.")  Even the whole notion of regarding individuals as "objects" rather than "subjects" (for fear of reading human subjectivity or consciousness into material agents, there is no fruitful or meaningful answer that even could be given to the question, "Why objects?").  Reading nature as objects simply detracts from the sort of empathy that is required to understand and feel any other; in short, it pulls one into one's own "bubble" of selective awareness when in fact, because of ontological regard, it should be the other way around: one ought to be "pulled out of" one's self always and already: not withdrawal but rather semiotic super-expressive abundance.

Ecologically it is one thing to deconstruct the hierarchy assumed by human beings as pinnacle agents by bringing up to the same level of value-importance all other things (Buchler's notion of "ontological parity," that no one thing is more real nor less real than any other thing - although he develops this notion well beyond the simplistic "flat ontologies" that had been purported but never developed in the mid 2010's - and done so nearly twenty years beforehand).  It is another to assume the relevance of agencies within the world holds same.  And, it is another thing entirely to assume that ethical or value judgment need not be relevant when addressing these agencies - and, indeed, as ontological regard is a prime category, the recognition of various agents in the world itself ought to be equal if a truly capacious and yet environmentally just ontology ought to be achieved (or at least aimed for as a regulative ideal).

Considering how the object ontologists disregard and ignore those whose values differ philosophically (if they aren't attacked ad hominem, furthering the idea that object-oriented ontology lacks any notion of onto-empathy), this then becomes all the more rich.

But I've discussed this at length nearly six years ago in THIS post, "Do Animals Grieve?" The thought came to me as our John Dewey reading group was discussing sociality and the construction of the Good.

To close, and hopefully not to put too fine of a point on it, this made its way into my Speculative Realism book as well a few weeks ago while editing it, where I mention in a footnote how a former friend of mine responded to the question, "Why objects?" with "that is what I perceive."  Yet, he spoke nothing of any object's generation or relation.  Thus the major mistake of object-oriented ontology is its "shallow range" empiricism which misses the continuum of feeling, affectivity, and contemporaneity entirely. And there are dire consequences when missing how that affectivity fits into the realm of ethics - of which object-oriented ontologies have none that I know of. Perhaps for them it is a metaphysical-logical impossibility.