Thursday, February 22, 2018

Mind, Semiotics, and Symbols in Nature (Eighth International Congress on Ecstatic Naturalism)

Eighth International Congress on Ecstatic Naturalism

2018 Theme: 
Mind, Semiotics, and Symbols in Nature

Drew University, Madison, NJ – April 13th and 14th

 Leon Niemoczynski (Moravian College) and Robert S. Corrington (Drew University)
All papers, meals, wine, beer, coffee, and non-alcoholic drinks will be in the Founder’s Room of Mead Hall (Administration Building)

Friday April 13th

Registration Table Open all Day and Tomorrow by Desmond Coleman

9:00-10:10: Cosmology

  “Re-Imaging the Human Mind in the Mysteries of Space-Time and the Existence of Gravitational Waves” – Moon Son (Yonsei University)
  “Ecstatic Naturalism and Quantum Physics in Terms of Consciousness”- Wang-Eun Serl (Drew University)

10:30-11:40: Semiotics

  “Ecstatic Naturalist Semiotics of the Sexed Body” – Susan Erke (CUNY)
  “Relations and Insides: Using the Semiotic of John Deely to Think Natural Interiority” – Desmond Coleman (Drew University)

11:50-1:00: Psychoanalysis

  “The Spirit In-Between the Pulsing Heart of Nature: Interrogating Iterative Nihilation as Integral to Ecstatic Difference” – Frank Scalambrino
  “Adapting Freud for a Philosophy of Other-Than-Human Mind” – Lydia York

Lunch 1:00-2:00

Group Photograph 2:00-2:30

2:40-3:50: Mind in Nature
  “Mind, Extended. or Artificial, or Naturalized?: An Ecstatic Naturalist Quest for Mind and Nature” – Iljoon Park (Methodist Theological Seminary)
  “Human Mind and Nature’s Mind” – Gene Nasser

4:10-5:20: Eco-Theology and Panpsychism
  “A Study of Eco-Cosmological Theology from a Naturalist Perspective” – SooYoun Kim
  “As so Many Sense-Organs of the Earth’s Soul: The Continuing Relevance of William James’s Reflections on Panpsychism “ – Jonathan Weidenbaum (Berkeley College)

5:30-6:00 Announcement of the Ralph Waldo Emerson Prize for the Best Paper by a Junior Scholar ($500)

Dinner 6:00-7:30

7:45 – Panel: Interview of Dr. Robert S. Corrington by Dr. Leon Niemoczynski
“Questions Concerning Mind in Nature

Saturday April 14th

9:00-10:10: Expression of Mind

  “On the Participation of Nature in the Emergence of the Sacred: Bateson’s Ecology of Mind, Ecstatic Naturalism, and Environmental Ethics” – Sarah O’Brien (Drew University)
  “Deep Pantheism: Nature Naturing and the Problem of Consciousness” -Thomas Millary

10:25-11:35: Metaphysics

  “Transcendentalist Metaphysics of the Semiosis of Nature” – Nicholas L. Guardiano (Southern Illinois University)
  “The Object Objects: An Animist Turn to the Visceral Semiospheric Commens” – Emile Wayne (Drew University)
11:50-1:00: Other Thinkers

  “The Post-human and Today’s Understanding of Paul: ‘The Remnants,’ ‘Becoming’ and the Ecstatic Naturalist Mind” – Ick Sang Shin (Sunkonghoe University)
  “To Find Reality: Bradley and Ecstatic Naturalism” – Guy Woodward

Lunch 1:00-2:00

2:10-3:20: Asian Religion

  “Learning from Water: A Daoist Ecstatic Naturalism” - Jea Sophia Oh (West Chester University)
  “Thinking ‘Creative Integrity’: Non-Coercive Ethical Agency in Ecstatic Naturalism and Confucian Rule Ethics” – Joseph E. Harroff (East Stroudsburg University)

3:35-4:45: Community and Cosmos

  “Beloved Community as Cosmic Symphony” – Rory McEntee (Drew University)
  “           “

Concluding Remarks

Refreshments: Dinner on your own

Special Korean Session – Monday April 16th at 3:00 in Seminary Hall

  “The Mind and Nature in the Prophetic Tradition” – Ji Eun Park

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Twelth Biennial Personalist Seminar: C.S PEIRCE AND ROBERT CORRINGTON JULY 24-28 Western Carolina University


JULY 24-28

Western Carolina University

About 15-25 participants

Program Structure
The program will center around the Ecstatic Naturalism of Robert Corrington and the thought of C.S. Peirce, with separate days devoted to different aspects of their work. The first day will introduce the group to Ecstatic Naturalism and Peirce and the background in their contexts. These discussions will be led by Robert S. Corrington, Henry Anson Buttz Professor of Philosophical Theology at Drew University and Douglas Anderson, Chair of Philosophy and Religious Studies at the University of North Texas. The remaining days each participant will be responsible for a specific text and/or aspect, or present a paper on Corrington’s thought and/or Pierce and will help lead that part of the discussion.

Submit a title and brief (no more than one page) summary of your interest in the seminar’s subjects.  Accepted projects will receive between 60 and 90 minutes for presentation and discussion of the finished projects. Proposals should be sent to:Dr. James

Due Date:  June 15

The seminar will be held on the campus of Western Carolina University in Cullowhee, North Carolina. Cullowhee is located approximately 50 miles west of Asheville and sits near the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Appalachian Trail, Blue Ridge Parkway, and several national forests which make up some of the largest wilderness areas in the Eastern United States.

Lodging & Meals
Affordable on-campus accommodations are available in Madison Hall (the site of the meeting). These are standard residence hall rooms, but all have a private bath. Linen packets are included. On-campus stays include breakfasts and lunches Monday through Friday.  Dinner is on your own.

Single Occupancy w/ meals = $308
Double Occupancy w/ meals = $258



Off campus lodging is available in area hotels.

Conference Registration
The conference registration fee is $50 (Paid separately).

For further information, contact Dr. James M. McLachlan, Dept. of Philosophy and Religion, Western Carolina University, Cullowhee, NC 28723. Phone 828-227-3940 or email

For questions about registration or accommodations contact Bobby Hensley, Associate Director of Continuing Education, at 828-227-7397 or email

How 5,000 Pencil-Size Robots May Solve the Mysteries of the Universe (Space dot com) has a decent feed of articles worth looking into from time to time, such as the article below.

How 5,000 Pencil-Size Robots May Solve the Mysteries of the Universe

The little, swiveling robots will look at a new portion of the sky for the invisible force called dark energy that may be causing the accelerating expansion of the universe.

Monday, February 19, 2018

Quote of the day

"In the presence of death reason and philosophy are silent."

- Ambrose Bierce

Friday, February 16, 2018

After Nature new layout and some thoughts about the forthcoming YouTube channel

For those of you who read the blog using a laptop or desktop instead of reading posts through a smartphone or "feed" app (such as Feedly), then you may have noticed the update to After Nature's layout.

Within the past two weeks I've actually tried two new layouts, settling on the second for more practical reasons. It is supposed to be representative of Blogger's new "contemporary" theme-set which is supposed to look more modern and streamlined. I actually prefer the ancient 2007 Blogger themeset because one can actually see more of what they could potentially look at, such as links in the sidebar, and so on. Now one must click the little drop-down box at the upper left hand corner to open up links to other websites, etc.

I've brought back the After Nature mp3 downloads page due to reader requests. So that is in the drop-down menu, in addition to links to other websites.

The older Blogger themes, in my opinion, are much, much better and it is possible that I may revert to one of the those in the future. I do take the design of this blog quite seriously and have put alot of time and effort and deep thinking into what would be the best theme to use, what colors to use, and how to present things in the best possible way.

I also must say that the next theme I put up (if I do, it's tough to say) will be the last because as many of you know, After Nature is transferring to YouTube to go from blog (weblog) to vlog (video weblog). I am still searching for a YouTube channel name though - and so if any readers have thoughts or opinions about whether I should keep the After Nature name or create a new name, that would be helpful.

On the one hand, After Nature, to me, represents a brand of nearly ten years. Sadly though, the brand is often associated with the mess that was/is known as "Speculative Realism," and I despise that fact. On the other hand, After Nature is also known as a blog that reports and offers commentary on the latest happenings in the contemporary Continental philosophy blogosphere, in the world of academic publishing, and in the academy generally. Whether it is posting about the latest "must have" books that are published in the world of Continental philosophy, informing readers about important updates to philosophical resources online such as SEP or IEP, posting links to some of the best but not-so-well-known papers found on or other resources online, providing links to interesting music or offering commentary and reflection on music, travel, nature, philosophy, and art, or informing readers about interesting (or even at times humorous) articles and videos available from places such as VICE, McSweeny's, Aeon, or YouTube, so that readers can be up to date with quality information relating to the world of someone who is primarily interested in philosophy, then After Nature has tried with the utmost sincere effort to bring those sorts of things to its blog readership. And so, having a nearly ten year history with this blog, I would hope that the After Nature name, if brought over to YouTube, would take with it its readers/followers. I just wonder if I would lose a percentage of readership if I changed the name of After Nature to something else. Would changing the name be a fresh start or a mistake?

I suppose the final determination would come down to: what do I hope to accomplish with the YouTube vlog? Will I be changing the sorts of things discussed here at After Nature, or, would I be doing something different? What sorts of topics would After Nature reader like to see appear on my YouTube channel? That is the question.

I do know that I was hoping the vlog would be more personal. By that I mean, perhaps not so much reporting what is out there in the world of Continental philosophy, but rather offering reflections on how I see Continental philosophical ideas. What are my perspectives on these things. Other than personal commentary on Continental philosophy - such as offering my perspective on new books, interesting articles, happenings in the world of the academy, I am considering to, from time to time, post some videos just about my life, such as vlogging about the beautiful area in which I live and showing viewers what it looks like, vlogging about my home and aspects of either my home life (such as the perils and joys of home ownership) or professional life or maybe even married life (what is it like to be married as a philosopher or someone who teaches and has a career and yet balances that with a home life), or perhaps even offering responses to other vloggers in the world of those who vlog about what it is like to live in today's world as a philosopher. There are vloggers out there who put out wonderful content that I'd like to respond to: Greg Sadler, Cliff Sargent at Better Than Food Book Reviews, Jordan Peterson, the Weinstein brothers, Owen Benjamin, Roaming Millennial. All are philosophical in their own way - some are outright philosophers in terms of career, others simply enjoy discussing philosophical ideas whether through literature or film, and others discuss politics with heavy philosophical themes behind them. And so that is more of the thing I think I'd like to do with the vlog which is different from what I do with the blog now.

What say you, readers? Feel free to email me and let me know your thoughts.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Transcendental Philosophy and Naturalism - Call for Papers for Journal and Conference

"Transcendental Philosophy and Naturalism"

Naturalism has been described as the dominant worldview of contemporary philosophy. It is variously defined as the rejection of supernatural entities, as the view that the method of philosophy does not (or must not) differ from the method of natural science, and as the epistemological claim that science offers all the knowledge that is humanly possible. Despite its wide acceptance, in recent years a loose chorus of critics of naturalism has emerged. Many of them associate theirwork with the tradition of transcendental philosophy, i.e., the manner of philosophizing inaugurated by Immanuel Kant and recast creatively by a variety of leading philosophers of the 19th, 20th, and 21st centuries. Critics of naturalism from the transcendental philosophical camp broadly construed typically claim that normativity cannot be reduced to natural causality, that consciousness as condition of access to the world is not a natural fact in the world, that the validity of knowledge rests on a priori truths, i.e., truths that are not empirical in nature. Yet some philosophers identifying themselves with the transcendental tradition have expressed sympathy to naturalistic views. Early on thinkers such as Fries, Herbart, Bona Mayer, Helmholtz, and Riehl tried to connect Kantian claims about a priori knowledge with considerations about human psychology and with the deliverances of natural science. Similarly, early-day pragmatists, such as C. S. Peirce, held Kant’s philosophy in great esteem but advocated a fundamentally naturalistic view on the relationship between philosophy and science. Among the largely anti-naturalistic Neo-Kantians, members of the so-called Marburg school (Cohen, Natorp, Cassirer) held that, while there is a difference between philosophy and science, there is a thoroughgoing continuity between both. Nowadays, the landscape is even more diverse. While it is customary to associate naturalism with analytic and antinaturalism with Continental philosophy, despite the intrinsic vagueness of these labels, one can find naturalistically-minded thinkers, such as Evan Thompson, within the ranks of phenomenology (which founder Edmund Husserl unambiguously declared a form of transcendental philosophy hostile to naturalism),and anti-naturalists, such as Thomas Nagel, among the ranks of analytically trained philosophers. Hence, the relationship between transcendental philosophy and naturalism is still a contentious issue, both historically and systematically.
The conference will also serve to launch a new philosophical journal, called Journal of Transcendental Philosophy (De Gruyter, 2019, edited by Andrea Staiti, Sebastian Luft, and Konstantin Pollok) whose first issue will host a selection of papers from the conference.

Please, send an abstract (max. 500 words) or a full-blown paper (max. 3,000 words) for sessions of 30 minutes presentation plus 15 minutes Q&A no later than February, 15th 2018 (by midnight). The language of the conference will be English.

HERE. A full .pdf file of the call for papers is HERE. The conference is May 18th, 2018.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Gilles Deleuze (SEP entry update)

SEP entry updated on Deleuze. Link and description below.
Gilles Deleuze
// Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy

Gilles Deleuze (January 18, 1925 - November 4, 1995) was one of the most influential and prolific French philosophers of the second half of the twentieth century. Deleuze conceived of philosophy as the production of concepts, and he characterized himself as a "pure metaphysician."

Sunday, February 11, 2018

On Neorationalism (Deontologistics)

Wolfendale on neorationalism, below. 

On Neorationalism
// Deontologistics

So, the word 'neorationalism' is not one I coined, but it's consistently been used to describe the work of Ray Brassier, Reza Negarestani, and myself, along with numerous fellow travellers. It's nothing something we've ever defined as such, precisely because it's not a moniker we ever consciously picked. However, today I'm reminded of the implicit commitment that might be taken to distinguish neorationalism from its opponents, if it can be said to be anything like a consistent philosophical program. It's this:
To reject all rational intuition in the name of reason, to insist that not only is there no intuitive faculty of rational knowledge, but that there is no intuitive purchase on reason's own structure, possibilities, and limits. Reason is not what you think it is. Reason is not rationalisation. Reason is not reasonable.
What distinguishes neorationalists isn't just this principled commitment, but our practical response to it. Our main departure from the classical rationalism of Descartes, Leibniz, and Spinoza, is a fidelity to the computational turn begun at the beginning of the 20th century, and whose consequences we are still working out; consequences which land blow after blow on our intuitive conception of what thinking is, breaking our ways of rationalising what we are, and shattering our illusions regarding what it's reasonable to believe.
Reasoning is something that is done, and it's something that can be done by processes other than us, processes that can and have been studied using reason, with the unforgiving precision of mathematical proof. Russell's paradox and Gödel's theorems lie at the beginning of an ongoing process through which we demonstrate reason's own limits, and then, following Turing, use these limits as purchase to pull it out of our hominid skulls and realise it in new and stranger forms. We haven't yet created artificial rational agents, only fragments thereof, but the humanist hubris that refuses to see these processes as fragments of things like us, looks increasingly desperate, increasing willing to rationalise away the advance of mathematical logic, the progress of artificial intelligence, and the encroach of computational neuroscience.
If you think that you can't be studied as an information processing system, and that this allows you to wall off your intuitive conceptions of not just the human condition but what is good in this condition, then I'm afraid there's an oncoming wave that will crest those walls and drown your parochial ambitions. The promise made by neorationalism isn't that this wave is empirical science come to show you the horrors or your neuronal substrate, but that it's mathematical science come to show you the wonders of your computational soul. We are non-terminating processes interacting with our environment and with one another, exploring the mathematical and empirical realms together, playing games of proof and refutation, and building systems and models that are beginning to encompass ourselves. We are beautiful. We are free. Computational self-consciousness will only enhance this, even if it changes our understanding of what it means.


Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Umwelt (Aeon video)

Aeon video rendering the ideas of Jakob von Uexküll through the film technique of Yoshiyuki Katayama.

// Aeon

A term introduced by the Baltic German biologist Jakob von Uexküll in 1909, Umwelt refers to an organism's internal and limited perceptual experience of the external world. This stunning experimental exploration of the concept from the Japanese artist Yoshiyuki Katayama contrasts flowers blooming at time-lapse speeds with insects and spiders atop them, captured in real time. As these two organisms move at what appear to be similar speeds, the viewer is reminded of the disparate timescales on which they usually operate, and the very different evolutionary goals that they pursue even as they interact with one another.

By Aeon Video
Watch at Aeon


Thursday, February 1, 2018

A possible theory of art inspired by Plato's Ion (Aesthetics Today)

Interesting post on Plato's aesthetics.

A possible theory of art inspired by Plato's Ion
// Aesthetics Today

Could Plato have been suggesting the following theory of art in his Ion?  What follows is a possible theory of art inspired by Plato, although not necessarily his own.

For something to be art (in, for example, the Kantian sense of "fine art" which is to say, art of genius) it must be:

1.  Inspired. 
2.  Contain something god-like as the source of inspiration.  [The source of inspiration might not be an actual god but rather some person or thing, for example other art, that takes one out of oneself, that causes ecstasy.  This thing may be god-like not only in this but in that it has created a world.]
3.  The artist must be taken out of himself, must create in ecstasy.
4.  The artist enters into a fictional world (as Ion, a rhapsode, enters into the world of Homer) and, for example, feels emotions appropriate to that world. [This is part of what is meant by being out of one's senses.]
5.  The artist, in entering into another world, sees our world (or aspects of it) in a transformed way:  i.e. he/she takes elements from our world and gives them heightened significance (for example, the poet sees water as milk and honey).  In this way or sense the artist him or herself is "holy," i.e. god-like. 
6.   The artist breaks down the gap between human existence and the natural world in some way.  For example in seeing the creek as milk and honey the artist humanizes it, i.e. makes it more intimate.
7.  The artist recognizes the limitations of his/her self knowledge:  i.e. achieves a kind of Socratic wisdom.  This would involve recognition of those realms in which he or she does not have expertise, for example being a charioteer.  [This condition is not stated or even implied by Socrates.  Socrates, as a character makes a very strict distinction between knowledge based art and the arts of inspiration.  But Plato as the writer of this drama may be suggesting this in the end.]
8.   The artist does have a field of expertise.  For example Ion is able to imitate characters in Homer and knows how to influence audiences just as a doctor is able to influence a patient. [Socrates probably would not have subscribed to this.  But it makes sense.  Surely Plato was not unaware of this possibility, much as he disapproved of the actual influence of artists.]

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Reza, Brassier, and naturalism stripped bare

Reza Negarestani has a new blog called Toy Philosophy, HERE. I like how it seems like it will be an open work-space of sorts and that he is open to exchange and influence of ideas. Ideally how blogging should be, in other words.

Already, even from his initial post, alot of what he is saying seems quite compelling and has inspired me with a few thoughts of my own. I can't say that I agree with him, that is - his identification of a "greedy naturalism" - just in the same way I don't agree with some of the specifics in Brassier's naturalism (compelling in its own right, but for different reasons). But both Brassier and Reza have "stripped-bare naturalisms'" that are lean enough to accommodate structural conceptual integrity. And that is key.

More soon.

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Weltschmerz: Pessimism in German Philosophy, 1860-1900 (NDPR Review)

More on Schopenhauer and pessimism in German philosophy.

Weltschmerz: Pessimism in German Philosophy, 1860-1900
// Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews

Frederick C. Beiser, Weltschmerz: Pessimism in German Philosophy, 1860-1900, Oxford University Press, 2016, 301 pp., $74.00 (hbk), ISBN 9780198768715.

Reviewed by Sandra Shapshay, Indiana University-Bloomington

It is well known that Schopenhauer's philosophy -- especially the pessimistic, resignationist strand thereof -- prompted Nietzsche to undertake a "justification" of life as an aesthetic phenomenon in the Birth of Tragedy, and an "affirmation" of life in many other works. It is not well known, however, especially in the Anglo-American philosophical world, that Schopenhauer's generally pessimistic take on the value of human existence sparked an entire controversy in Germany, the "Pessimism Controversy" in the second half of the 19th century. Or I should say, it has not been well known until now . . . with the publication of Frederick Beiser's ground-breaking book.


Monday, January 29, 2018

YouTube channel

Just an update that preparations for the YouTube channel are going quite well, and in fact we had bought a new camera (two, actually) and ran some test shots with video that looked very good. Things are still very much in the elementary planning stages but an initial video is nevertheless planned to appear soon. As it stands my laptop is not capable of processing the immensely huge video files that these sorts of cameras produce and so I am left with figuring out the best way to put them together.

I am also pretty close to deciding that the channel will go by a name other than After Nature. My thought is to take a different angle of sorts than the one presented here and to just start from scratch with an entirely new name for my project, given that vlogging would be completely new to me. As to what name, I have no idea currently. The channel will be run anonymously perhaps by using first name only and while I may make an announcement here and tell readers how to find the channel (if that's what I do) I more than likely would not make a direct link in order to quasi-preserve anonymous identity at the new channel.

So I am hoping that by word of mouth the channel would pick up viewership and that perhaps by a final post here at After Nature I could leave a clue as to how to find the channel at YouTube or what you could search to find it, etc. We'll see though.

Saturday, January 27, 2018

Dan Zahavi interviews at 3AM Magazine

Excellent interview with an excellent philosopher. For those who don't remember, Zahavi masterfully exposed several charlatan philosophers who were mewling about the so-called "existence" of Speculative Realism and corresponding "death" of phenomenology (spoiler alert: he shows it patently false that phenomenology never existed or that it is somehow now "dead," as opposed to Speculative Realism itself which doesn't seem to pass any "existence" test very well at all).

Zahavi also has a new book about Husserl out now, so check it out.

Phenomenology: Husserl's Legacy -

Friday, January 26, 2018

How Schopenhauer’s thought can illuminate a midlife crisis (Aeon)

The only thing missed is how, for Schopenhauer, art is itself an atelic activity and thus therapeutic. Schopenahuer's views about the function of art aren't mentioned at all in the article, which I found quite odd.

Still, a good article worth reading. Hopefully the book at least discusses Schopenhauer's theory that art is a anecdote to suffering and how art, in particular music, might lift one out of suffering.

Regarding "midlife," Schopenhauer's theory points to the fact that immersing oneself in the right music can experientially lift one's self up out of the regret of missed opportunities past or even the dread of uncertain future.

Link and article below.

How Schopenhauer's thought can illuminate a midlife crisis
// Aeon

Despite reflecting on the good life for more than 2,500 years, philosophers have not had much to say about middle age. For me, approaching 40 was a time of stereotypical crisis. Having jumped the hurdles of the academic career track, I knew I was lucky to be a tenured professor of philosophy. Yet stepping back from the busyness of life, the rush of things to do, I found myself wondering, what now? I felt a sense of repetition and futility, of projects completed just to be replaced by more. I would finish this article, teach this class, and then I would do it all again. It was not that everything seemed worthless. Even at my lowest ebb, I didn’t feel there was no point in what I was doing. Yet somehow the succession of activities, each one rational in itself, fell short.

I am not alone. Perhaps you have felt, too, an emptiness in the pursuit of worthy goals. This is one form of midlife crisis, at once familiar and philosophically puzzling. The paradox is that success can seem like failure. Like any paradox, it calls for philosophical treatment. What is the emptiness of the midlife crisis if not the unqualified emptiness in which one sees no value in anything? What was wrong with my life?

In search of an answer, I turned to the 19th-century pessimist Arthur Schopenhauer. Schopenhauer is notorious for preaching the futility of desire. That getting what you want could fail to make you happy would not have surprised him at all. On the other hand, not having it is just as bad. For Schopenhauer, you are damned if you do and damned if you don’t. If you get what you want, your pursuit is over. You are aimless, flooded with a ‘fearful emptiness and boredom’, as he put it in The World as Will and Representation (1818). Life needs direction: desires, projects, goals that are so far unachieved. And yet this, too, is fatal. Because wanting what you do not have is suffering. In staving off the void by finding things to do, you have condemned yourself to misery. Life ‘swings like a pendulum to and fro between pain and boredom, and these two are in fact its ultimate constituents’.

Schopenhauer’s picture of human life might seem unduly bleak. Often enough, midlife brings with it failure or success in cherished projects: you have the job you worked for many years to get, the partner you hoped to meet, the family you meant to start – or else you don’t. Either way, you look for new directions. But the answer to achieving your goals, or giving them up, feels obvious: you simply make new ones. Nor is the pursuit of what you want pure agony. Revamping your ambitions can be fun.

Still, I think there is something right in Schopenhauer’s dismal conception of our relationship with our ends, and that it can illuminate the darkness of midlife. Taking up new projects, after all, simply obscures the problem. When you aim at a future goal, satisfaction is deferred: success has yet to come. But the moment you succeed, your achievement is in the past. Meanwhile, your engagement with projects subverts itself. In pursuing a goal, you either fail or, in succeeding, end its power to guide your life. No doubt you can formulate other plans. The problem is not that you will run out of projects (the aimless state of Schopenhauer’s boredom), it’s that your way of engaging with the ones that matter most to you is by trying to complete them and thus expel them from your life. When you pursue a goal, you exhaust your interaction with something good, as if you were to make friends for the sake of saying goodbye.

Hence one common figure of the midlife crisis: the striving high-achiever, obsessed with getting things done, who is haunted by the hollowness of everyday life. When you are obsessed with projects, ceaselessly replacing old with new, satisfaction is always in the future. Or the past. It is mortgaged, then archived, but never possessed. In pursuing goals, you aim at outcomes that preclude the possibility of that pursuit, extinguishing the sparks of meaning in your life.

The question is what to do about this. For Schopenhauer, there is no way out: what I am calling a midlife crisis is simply the human condition. But Schopenhauer was wrong. In order to see his mistake, we need to draw distinctions among the activities we value: between ones that aim at completion, and ones that don’t.

Adapting terminology from linguistics, we can say that ‘telic’ activities – from ‘telos’, the Greek work for purpose – are ones that aim at terminal states of completion and exhaustion. You teach a class, get married, start a family, earn a raise. Not all activities are like this, however. Others are ‘atelic’: there is no point of termination at which they aim, or final state in which they have been achieved and there is no more to do. Think of listening to music, parenting, or spending time with friends. They are things you can stop doing, but you cannot finish or complete them. Their temporality is not that of a project with an ultimate goal, but of a limitless process.

If the crisis diagnosed by Schopenhauer turns on excessive investment in projects, then the solution is to invest more fully in the process, giving meaning to your life through activities that have no terminal point: since they cannot be completed, your engagement with them is not exhaustive. It will not subvert itself. Nor does it invite the sense of frustration that Schopenhauer scorns in unsatisfied desire – the sense of being at a distance from one’s goal, so that fulfilment is always in the future or the past.

We should not give up on our worthwhile goals. Their achievement matters. But we should meditate, too, on the value of the process. It is no accident that the young and the old are generally more satisfied with life than those in middle age. Young adults have not embarked on life-defining projects; the aged have such accomplishments behind them. That makes it more natural for them to live in the present: to find value in atelic activities that are not exhausted by engagement or deferred to the future, but realised here and now. It is hard to resist the tyranny of projects in midlife, to find a balance between the telic and atelic. But if we hope to overcome the midlife crisis, to escape the gloom of emptiness and self-defeat, that is what we have to do.Aeon counter – do not remove

Kieran Setiya

This article was originally published at Aeon and has been republished under Creative Commons.

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Hegel on Philosophy in History (NDPR Review)

Info below.

Hegel on Philosophy in History
// Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews // News

Rachel Zuckert and James Kreines (eds.), Hegel on Philosophy in History, Cambridge University Press, 2017, 260pp., $99.99 (hbk), ISBN 9781107093416.

Reviewed by Kristin Gjesdal, Temple University

This volume, published to honor the work of Robert Pippin, includes contributions by an impressive range of German and Anglophone scholars: John McDowell, Sally Sedgwick, Ludwig Siep, Paul Redding, Robert Stern, Terry Pinkard, Rolf-Peter Horstmann, Karl Ameriks, Christoph Menke, Axel Honneth, Jay Bernstein, Slavoj Žižek, and Jonathan Lear. The volume addresses central topics in Hegel's work as well as debates in recent Hegel scholarship, most often (but by no means exclusively) with reference to Pippin's work. Attention is paid both to the limits and nature of subjectivity (autonomy, self-consciousness, self-legislation, recognition, spontaneity) and to the nature of the modern project -- i.e., key topics in Pippin's work, whether in his early study of Kant's theory of form, his seminal interpretation...

Read More


Wednesday, January 24, 2018

I’d Like to Be a Creative Director, Please (McSweeny’s)

Ah yes, the story of the twenty-something year old. I'd even say those in their early thirties may not be exempt. Actually, it's not a question of age but moreso a generational thing. If something weren't there generationally-speaking then it wouldn't be as funny as it is. I am sorry but I still maintain that Gen-X survived their twenties with dignity intact, despite being in the down-and-out as much as Millennials are today. But we survived and took names. And we didn't whine and complain.

I'd Like to Be a Creative Director, Please
// McSweeney's

Yoooo Mr. Spivak of Spivak Recruiting,

My name is Mike, and I'd like to become a Creative Director. Not an Art Director or a Brand Director, but a Creative Director, please. I don't exactly have a "professional" résumé or portfolio per se, but you can peep my Twitter and I.G. to check out my personal brand. I'm also attaching a screenshot of the time Drake favorited one of my tweets. (Dope, right?)

My qualifications? Where to start… well, I have "Creative Director. New York and Los Angeles. DM me to link and build" listed on my Instagram bio. (I go to L.A. every couple of years.) I overuse the word "aesthetic" and spend at least $100 and $200 a month on pour-over coffee and obscure European fashion magazines, respectively. I also DJ every fifth Tuesday at this rad dive bar in the L.E.S. (That stands for Lower East Side — I have a pretty killer knowledge of New York City even though I have only been living here for three-and-a-half months.)

When it comes to "traditional" qualifications, I should mention I have a degree in marketing and communications. (My parents' suggestion.) Don't mistake me for a business guy; I took a PhotoShop elective during my sophomore year and watched a documentary on the designer Milton Glaser at least twice before graduating. I'm really into graphic design, by the way. But, as previously stated, I'm not looking to be anything less than a Creative Director. (Graphic Designer just doesn't sound as cool, you know?)

I guess I've kinda always been a little bit "artistic" and somewhat "aimless." (My parents' words.) I'm not trying to become a corporate drone and my family knows I'm too "creative" for a typical job. (My own words.) Most recently, I screen printed some T-shirts and sold them online and made like $320, which is a not bad considering it only cost me $250 for the supplies. I already spent the profit on a neck tattoo though, so I'm definitely looking to start a new job ASAP.

I don't have traditional references because I've spent the few months trying to open a pop-up streetwear store in this shuttered bus station in Chinatown, which is way cooler than having worked some boring office gig with great health insurance. (However, feel free to call Vince, my T-shirt printing guy, or Enrico, my tattoo artist.) Don't fret though, I've still been working my ass off. I hustle hard and tweet about how hard I hustle, but definitely more of the latter. How else do you think I've racked up 698 followers on Twitter? Not to brag, but Kanye West's stylist's former assistant's friend follows me. It's only a matter of time before I get that blue verification check. (Seriously, do you know how I can get verified?)

Honestly, it's kind of a bummer that modern-day skills like tweeting rap lyrics, making SoundCloud mixtapes, and designing bootleg Gucci T-shirts don't seem to show up in most job descriptions, but I'm not one to give up hope. To me, being a Creative Director is more than just a career — it's a lifestyle. It's all I talk about when I meet people at parties. I was even on a date recently and I had to bring it up myself because she didn't even ask! She seemed a little annoyed when I spent 45 minutes talking about the font Helvetica, but I just can't turn my Creative Director-ness off. (Helvetica is the official font of the New York City Subway. Did you know that? My date didn't but she wasn't impressed by my knowledge of Swiss typefaces.)

I understand that you and most people think being a Creative Director means having experience working at an "agency" or for a "brand" that actually "pays" a salary. And I get it, but that's a pretty old-fashioned way of thinking. To me, a Creative Director is anyone who can masquerade as vaguely interesting via social media and probably has rich parents. It's a person who conducts all of their personal and professional business in the DMs. Internet clout may not pay the bills but that is what a trust fund is for.

I am all of these things and more. I'm always posting photos of the mid-century armoires and fiddle leaf plants I see at coffee shops. I own an Eames chair. I know who the fashion designer Raf Simons is. I'm ready to take my skills to the next level!

Can please you help me find a real Creative Director job? Or did I misread the LinkedIn post about your temp agency that my dad sent me? Either way, he says hello and hopes you, Laurie, and the kids are well.


P.S. Please follow me on Instagram.


Monday, January 22, 2018

NrX online publication Social Matter on Ernst Juenger's The Worker

NrX online publication Social Matter has posted a rather exceptional write-up covering Ernst Juenger's The Worker (1932) as well his quite interesting relationship with Ernst Niekisch (for as strained as that relationship was. Somewhat on Juenger's watch Niekisch was imprisoned, went blind, and died shortly after his release. Although Juenger himself could hardly be blamed as, he, too, was nearly imprisoned - some say nearly executed - for charges similar to Niekisch's).

Regardless, the article has a ... unique way of reading The Worker, one which views Typus in a way that I'd never really considered before. It's worth a read and a ponder. The Worker remains one of EJ's most under-appreciated works. Cliche' to say, but definitely true. Heidegger dedicated to Juenger a volume of his Gesamtausgabe (vol. 90, published in 2004 to be exact) and later EJ would respond in the year 1950 with his essay "Across the Line" (Ueber die Linie).


Friday, January 19, 2018

Better Than Food Book Reviews on Seneca's "On the Shortness of Life"

Cliff of Better Than Food Book Reviews (YouTube channel) reviews Seneca's "On the Shortness of Life." I found the review particularly interesting and it was great to hear Cliff reflect on how the essay has impacted how he sees time, aging, and life in general.

I used the same essay in a first-year writing seminar (required of all freshmen at Moravian) that I opted to title, "What is the Good Life?"  The central question was, of course, "What makes a life, a good life?" We used the Hadas Seneca book but the translation was dated enough that in the future when I teach the course I'd probably try to find another. Seneca is, however, particularly compelling for such a seminar and the students enjoyed him immensely.

We also covered Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Epicurus, Epictetus, Montaigne, Schopenhauer, Nietzsche, and a few others.

While I'm thinking of it, several years ago when this blog first started ('s been nearly seven years!) I wrote THIS piece on ancient ethics.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Deleuze and Ancient Greek Physics: The Image of Nature (NDPR Review)

A new book on Deleuze and the "image of nature."

Deleuze and Ancient Greek Physics: The Image of Nature

Michael James Bennett, Deleuze and Ancient Greek Physics: The Image of Nature, Bloomsbury, 2017, 288pp., $114.00 (hbk), ISBN 9781474284677.
Reviewed by Brent Adkins, Roanoke College

The scholarship that examines Deleuze's use of and relation to Hellenic philosophy is rich and growing. Recent works include Sean Bowden's The Priority of Events and Ryan Johnson's The Deleuze-Lucretius Encounter. Michael James Bennett's book is a new and important contribution to this conversation. Not only does it give new insight into Deleuze's sources and arguments, but, in the spirit of Deleuze's history of philosophy, Bennett also allows us to see what the Stoics and Epicureans (and Deleuze with them) are creating in their thought.

Chief among these creations, according to Bennett, is a new "image of nature." "Image of nature" is deployed here with technical specificity, meant to invoke Deleuze's use of the phrase...

Read More

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Deadline extension for North American Schelling Society

From the North American Schelling Society, see below:


Dear Friends of the North American Schelling Society,

We hope you all had a delightful holiday season. We are writing today to inform you that the deadline for abstracts for the Sixth Annual Meeting of the North American Schelling Society (NASS 6), which will take place in Volcanoes National Park, Hawaiʻi, 5-8 September 2018, has hereby been extended to 22 January 2018. The revised Call-for-Papers is attached.

As a reminder, the theme of this year's meeting will be "Schelling and Philosophies of the Earth." The North American Schelling Society thus invites presentations on vulcanism, the world-soul, and the powers of nature, and their relationships to other areas of Schelling’s philosophy. As always, submissions on other topics related to Schelling studies are also welcome.

Proposals should be sent to Chris Lauer ( Please feel free to share this Call-for-Papers widely.

We look forward to seeing you in Hawai'i in 2018!

The North American Schelling Society

Call for Papers

Schelling and Philosophies of the Earth

Sixth Annual Meeting of the North American Schelling Society

5-8 September 2018
Volcanoes National Park, Hawaiʻi

NASS invites presentations on vulcanism, the world-soul, and the powers of nature, and their relationships to other areas of Schelling’s philosophy. Submissions on other topics related to Schelling studies are also welcome.  Papers may be presented in English, French, German or Spanish. Conference events and lodging will be located inside Volcanoes National Park on the Big Island of Hawaiʻi. The venue is remote, but transportation from the Hilo airport to the park will be available. NASS deplores the U.S. government’s recent travel restrictions and will work with presenters to help secure visas.

Send 500-word proposals for thirty-minute presentations, prepared for blind review, to Chris Lauer ( by January 22, 2018. Acceptance letters will be sent by February 8, 2018.