Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Hip Philosophers: The Short List for 2015

Back by popular demand in its third year: "Hip Philosophers: the Short List." This is, of course, *tongue in cheek* relax. Don't freak out. It's "snarkiness" mode "lite." Enjoy!

Hip Philosophers: The Short List for 2015

1. Pete Wolfendale. Out of the rising young stars of philosophy Wolfendale has recently overtaken all French or Italian "peddled goods" by delivering a true masterpiece of critical philosophy from the UK. Hailed by some as building something of a "cathedral" when going out to "shoot a lame dog," a masterpiece was born. Add a postscript by one Ray Brassier and Wolfendale takes the number one spot.

2. Terrance Blake. Another newcomer to our list, Blake has popped on the scene in a very visible way within the past year despite him working his way up the ranks of good philosophers for many years. Publications in Theoria as well as a very prominent journal covering Mehdi Belhaj Kacem, Blake takes number two as a philosopher to watch out for. Plus, outsiders have placed him in the Wolfendale/Brassier/Niemoczynski/Blake axis, which increases his visibility as a bonus. All in all Blake is writing about some of the hottest topics today and taking no prisoners. Read him!

3. Eduardo Viveiros de Castro. de Castro has idled on breaking the top five but this year appears at #3. His "multinaturalism" has impressed many outside of his own circles of anthropology by heading toward the realms of philosophical naturalism and pragmatism. The fact that he typically draws from William James and John Dewey is a plus. And he graciously linked one of my posts about his work HERE, which was a nice gesture.

4. John Caputo. Caputo has straddled the speculative blogosphere while lecturing on "speculative realism" in the form of seminars at Syracuse for about three years or more now. He takes the number 4 spot due to his Insistence of God publication which rocked the world of radical theology, but also that of speculative philosophy. Adding to that he presented two seminars this past year at the Philadelphia Summer School for Continental Philosophy. One on Meillassoux and Brassier, the other on Malabou and Latour. He's still relevant while being a mover and shaker for many.

5. Adrian Johnston. This was a tough one as Nick Land was hot on the heels of breaking into the list. (Land is a phenomenal philosopher who is bringing something new to the table.) Still, Johnston's working with Malabou and pushing forward with a number of books through Northwestern UP earned him a spot. Yet he slips to number 5 by publishing, again, in Speculations where recently that journal features the same people over, and over, and over, and over again ad nauseum. You can literally count on one hand the same folks who publish there, and its abit stale. Why not add fresh voices?

Runners up:

1. Nick Land may very well grab the number one spot next year. His posts at Outside In are just, well, interesting. Probably the most interesting blog of all year. NRx, love it or hate it, is hot right now and everyone is talking about it. (Accelerationism still has serious momentum too.) Land is an intellect to watch out for, and I think a venture into the philosophical realm in a more direct way rather than on the periphery (perhaps in bleak theology?) would be welcome, and extremely awesome.

2. Philippe Descola Stylish, but...meh. Too "Latourish" this year; while Latour fades from popularity it appears the same is happening for Descola. New non-peddled voices please.

Biosemiotics as a foundation for animal and environmental ethics?

I discovered THIS abstract for a rather interesting looking paper, co-authored for the Animal meta-ethics: New directions in animal philosophy anthology edited by John Hadley and Elisa Aaltola.

"Beyond sentience: Biosemiotics as foundation for animal and environmental ethics" 
Morten Tønnessen (University of Stavanger, Norway) and Jonathan Beever (Purdue University, USA)

In this chapter we argue that biosemiotics can and should serve as foundation for animal and environmental ethics, particularly with regard to justifying attribution of moral status to non-humans. Our contribution rests on a contemporary semiotic interpretation of the Umwelt theory of Jakob von Uexküll (1864-1944), one of the founding fathers of ethology.

Our approach argues that sentience is not coextensive with phenomenal subjective experience, but instead is a particular instance of such experience. In an Uexküllian sense, all living beings, even unicellular beings, have subjective experience by having semiotic agency, the capacity to navigate in a world of signs (aka the capacity for signification). The reason why moral status (general moral considerability) and moral value should be attributed to all living beings is that all living being have semiotic agency. This latter assertion implies that there is a world of experience that means something to each living creature, and all living beings are capable of distinguishing between what is attractive (good) to them, what is repulsive (bad) to them, and what has no function for them.
Our actions might affect the wellbeing of any living creature insofar as they affect its worlds of experience and action. Whereas sentience has traditionally been understood in relation to the moral weight of suffering and pain in particular, our approach involves an acknowledgement that the wider ground of sentience is a reality of subjective experience that is omnipresent in the realm of the living at large.

Scientific questions such as How widespread is sentience in the animal kingdom? are certainly of continued interest. What we suggest is that we start out by recognizing what is common to all living organisms, namely their semiotic agency, and that this stand should inform these other discourses as well.

Attribution of moral status can be done at different levels of biological organization. We hold that moral status and value should be attributed at various levels simultaneously. Our basic premise, that semiotic agency is the soundest foundation for attributing moral status and value, suggests a certain (but not exclusive) emphasis on subjective experience and thus on the level of the organism/individual, where applicable. However, individuality is no simple notion, and the organism’s character of being already-ecological points to valuation of ecological levels too. An account of animal ethics, on this relational view, demands a complementary account of valuation of those environmental relations as well.

We propose particularism defined by the normative maxim that each living being deserves to be treated well in accordance with its specific needs. These needs vary so much that it neither makes sense to value all living beings evenly nor to rank them hierarchically. Proper treatment of different living beings has to be case-specific and take species-specific and other needs into consideration. Facilitating the fulfillment of the needs of the living to the greatest extent possible is what ethics is all about.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

The Animal Mind

The Animal Mind: An Introduction to the Philosophy of Animal Cognition.  Amazon link HERE.

I purchased my copy at the APA and it looks like it is an excellent book.

Friday, December 26, 2014

some resources on biosemiotics + Uexküllian/Peircean phenomenology

I thought to provide some resources given my post on semiotics from a few days ago.  Some of the below might be useful for After Nature readers who are new to semiotics.

1.) On whether the natural semiotic must be a living system or not, "The Scope of Semiosis: Can Non-living Systems be Considered Semiosic?" HERE.

2.) "How Living Systems Become Minded," HERE.

3.) "Feeling" is the bond between any and all objects or agents, HERE.

4.) "Why We Should Take Biosemiotics Seriously," HERE.

5.) On biosemiotics and information transfer.  See "Can Plants Communicate?" (HERE); "The Mind of Plants" (HERE); "A Phenomenology of Vegetal Life" (HERE); and "If Cats Could Talk" (HERE).

6.) Readers might want to check out the OHP book on biosemiotics HERE which is free for download, or the work of Jakob von Uexküll found HERE, again free for download; or THIS post on the biosemiotic philosophy of organism.

7.) Finally, THIS Powerpoint is extremely helpful on Uexküllian phenomenology.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

quote of the day

"Nothing is done in philosophy until one is changed as a person. Problems must be seen through, they must be understood; they must be made one's own. One cannot study philosophy without accepting the burden of its issues as one's own."

- John William Miller, "Style in Philosophy" (1933-34, Miller Papers 19:11)

Monday, December 22, 2014

Matthew David Segall on the Semiotic Universe

Interesting video by fellow Whiteheadian and ecophilosopher Matt Segall.  In the video he points out that there is no hard and fast ontological divide between nature and culture pace John Dewey, or between the realm of a natural semiotic and a human cultural semiotic pace Philippe Descola.  Drawing on the ideas of Charles Sanders Peirce then, Matt notes how the natural realm indicates or expresses data or information - "meaning" - just as the human symbolic realm does.

Just as the rings of a tree means that the tree is x number of years old, dark clouds and rumbling of the sky means that it will storm or rain.  I think "meaning" is off-putting to those who are afraid that meaning means a Platonic universal, or that it means some value that only humans can understand or possess (as in, there is a "meaning" to life).  Naturalists who are reductive naturalists in their approach tend to think of meaning in precisely that way and thus reject it, thinking meaning is somehow "outside" of nature or simply a "construction" in the mind of human beings.  A radically reductive naturalist would keep emphasizing how without human beings there couldn't be meaning in the world.  In this sense they would say, perhaps in the vein of some form of nihilistic naturalism, "life is devoid of meaning," or if humans are honest there just simply isn't meaning "out there" in the world.  Yet isn't it anthropocentric pride to think that human beings have some special "status" so as to be the only forms of existence to bring meaning into the world?

There are obvious problems with such a view of "meaning."  In actuality, meaning is nothing more than the natural action of an indexical sign.  It is simply "information transfer." All of nature is constantly sign-ing, whether there are human beings there to interpret the meaning of those signs or not.  The natural world is constantly in a state of information transfer through the interaction of agents or bodies.  Because there is nothing non-natural, and because there are bodies present throughout the world (even molecules interact semiotically, this is the basis of chemistry and thus how various bonds form - as in, various compositions where behaviors of atoms mean such and such an atom is of a specific type and is able to bond with such and such other atom), we cannot say that human beings and the symbolic cultural realm of meaning is somehow "separate" or different from the ubiquitous natural semiotic that includes all of the material realm or perhaps even its structuring conditions.

Biosemioticians do not think there must be intelligent interpreters there in order for meaning to happen.  All of nature has mentality present within it insofar as nature communicates with itself.  So long as events occur in the universe there will be data transfer.  Even within the cold void reaches of space, so long as the universe is expanding the change present within the universe indicates various happenings and events, thus data that has occurred for expression.  I suppose the only time the natural semiotic would die is if the universe in its growth died (but is it possible for all universes to simultaneously die in some absolute manner such that there was absolute nothingness, and yet, even in such an absolute form, that "nothingness" would still reify itself to be and mean what it is, as itself as some state that has occurred!)

However, back to the natural semiotic that is present now.  Regardless of whether or not there are human beings on the planet the number of rings on a tree stump still indicates that the tree is x number of years old.  In this way the expressed information is objective, as the "meaning making" or action of data expression is found within the semiotic communicative power of the agent in question, which is the tree stump.  This is what Peirce called the semiotic object.  The "sense" of the sign - its data or information - is represented in the form the sign takes and is available for other interpretants to discover.  Red dust on Mars would still mean rust even if no one ever saw the planet.  And rust means that Mars cannot sustain a certain form of atmosphere.  I couldn't help but thinking of this as Matt walked through the forest: look at the color of trees around him, where the healthy color of the pines indicated the health of the tree via pine needles, and so on.

In the triadic exchange of data, certain possibilities are afforded and others are denied.  Objects communicate actions to other objects which in turn stand in for signs.  Signs are objects and objects signs.  What's "in between" is both sign and object in a different sense.  And so on. Or again, citing Peirce, "Namely, a sign is something, A, which brings something, B, its interpretant sign determined or created by it, into the same sort of correspondence with something, C, its object, as that in which itself stands to C."

True, Peirce states that 'A sign... [in the form of a representamen] is something which stands to some body for something in some respect or capacity."  But as Matt pointed out, so far as there are "bodies" interacting there will be information transfer in a triadic relation (just like in chemistry).  It is also how information may be regarded as "mind" or mentality when the sense of that information is distributed before other acting bodies.

Belfiore's book The Triadic Mind emphasizes such a point (see HERE).  Matt's video is below, about six minutes in length and worth a watch.

Gilbert Simondon's Psychic and Collective Individuation (NDPR Review)

Review of an introductory text and guide covering Simondon's as-of-yet translated Psychic and Collective Individuation.  It's a good review that walks through the exposition provided in the book, and covers some basics of Simondon and his connection to Deleuze, Nietzsche, Whitehead, and process philosophy.

Link HERE.  As an aside, HERE is a very good write up by Latour on Simondon, and a post HERE titled "Simondon's 'Transindividual' and Nonreductive Relationalism."

Friday, December 19, 2014

a nice video touching on how ecology is process-relational (Aeon video)

Whale Fall (After Life of a Whale) from Sweet Fern Productions on Vimeo.

new Cosmos & History now online: special issue on "Naturalism" with an article on "Speculative Naturalism"

A very interesting issue of Cosmos & History is now posted, featuring "Naturalism" as its theme (this issue rivals my other favorite from 2008 "What is Life?" - HERE).

What's great is that Arran Gare (the editor) has published an essay on "Speculative Naturalism," tracing its historical roots in American speculative Idealism and the Naturphilosophie of F.W.J. Schelling, Alfred North Whitehead, Gilles Deleuze, and C.S. Peirce.  He also situates speculative naturalism in context of "speculative realism" (speculative materialism) and recent Continental metaphysics.

There's really nothing that I disagree with in his characterization of Speculative Naturalism, and I like how his characterization of the view is open to other articulations of it (including my own) while remaining loyal to something of a consonant core of the view as it has developed historically.  In fact, there is nothing that I said HERE in my own paper "Speculative Naturalism" - published some months ago - that contradicts his painting of the speculative naturalist picture.

I have a few thoughts about his paper before posting a link.

All in all, speculative naturalism focuses on speculative query rather than critical analysis; it is a non-reductive form of naturalism when it comes to science (and thus makes room for topics of concern within the camps of Idealism or spiritualism, i.e. mind or Spirit); it challenges strictly analytic types of naturalism (those types that paralyze speculative inquiry); embraces neo-rationalism and speculative materialism (pace Meillassoux with emphases on creativity and contingency); and embraces "synthetic" historical thinking and philosophical realism going beyond the anti-realism of deconstructive postmodernism. 

Tracing speculative naturalism's history, of course, begins in Presocratic nature ontologies, although Garre picks up with Quine's naturalism (for constraints of space) to illustrate speculative naturalism's non-reductive character (and such is why Democritus or much later Lucretius would have been left out in favor of, say, Anaximander or Pythagoras, or much later Epicurus, or perhaps even Seneca for admitting reason as a divine principle into the equation, in tracing Ancient origins for the view).  It's a nice touch how Garre also points out the importance for logic for speculative naturalim, given the fact that the general belief is that logical and mathematical conclusions may reach ontological ones.

From Quine, Garren then proceeds to set out how the naturalism of American Idealism (Garre mentions Royce but I think John William Miller, Justus Buchler, Paul Weiss, or Nicholas Rescher with his pragmatic idealism would be a bit closer) is able to challenge Quinean naturalism by simply being a more defensible position.  He then travels to the moment of siding with either Kant or Hegel within German Idealism in order  to show how Schellingean ("speculative") naturalism - as it is found in the German moment of Idealism - is superior to Quine's own conception of nature.  So, "between" so to speak Kant and Hegel one must follow Schelling.  I completely agree that it is Schelling's philosophy which is truly the lynchpin for any speculative naturalism.  Let me say just abit more about this.

As I've argued, recovering the tradition of speculative naturalism requires recovering Schelling and his Naturphilosophie - a domain of interest that has been brought back to light by figures such as Iain Grant and Sean McGrath, to name two that have impacted me.  The key is thinking about how, not just a speculative naturephilosophy sits with regard to reductive materialist naturalism, but how the concept of nature entails a physics of the Idea with respect to the Absolute.  Thus, it involves thinking about mentality, or Spirit for some, but more generally for most about motion, activity, generation, and the conditions of ultimacy. A true transcendental materialism of the All, or better, empiricism extended to the All as Absolute.  Speculative naturalism therefore today asks "what are the conditions for the dynamic construction of matter, and how do they - if at all - relate to the Absolute?"  Further, what is the precise relation between the Absolute and intelligence or the Idea?  How does human intelligence - or the creative intelligence of any living form for that matter - represent nature's ultimate determinative conditions? 

In order to flesh out these questions Garre points to the American reception of Schelling's nature philosophy, specifically C.S. Peirce.  Garre writes, "Like Schelling, Peirce was a speculative naturalist concerned to conceive physical existence in a way that would enable humans to be understood as creative products of, and participants in, nature."  So a tradition is traced from American (and German) Idealism to pragmatism: from Schelling to Peirce, Dewey, and Whitehead.  On the Continental side Bergson and Deleuze are mentioned.

Garre ends the piece on a practical note and a call for the future: "The development of the natural sciences on the more defensible foundations of speculative naturalism [rather than the foundations of analytic naturalism, or materialist naturalism] makes science consistent with the reality of humans and their potential for understanding and creativity...speculative naturalism supports Aldo Leopold's dictum that 'A thing is right when it tends to preserve the integrity, stability, and beauty of the biotic community.  It is wrong when it tends otherwise."  And so there are ethical implications for speculative naturalism (in addition to the theological ones that I have so oftenly pointed out).  The ethics of speculative naturalism recognizes and augments the condition for the flourishing of ecosystems, of multiple agencies, none of which are separate, static, or strictly quantifiable but are rather interconnected, active, and qualitative and temporal at their core.

Worth checking out the entire issue HERE, or Garre's paper specifically, HERE.  

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Noncorrelationist phenomenology: the Whitehead-Hartshorne-Peirce axis

In polishing my book tentatively titled Speculative Naturalism: An Ecological Metaphysics, I came across the following part of a book review where two useful paragraphs never made it to print, at least in full. These two unpublished paragraphs will actually form the kernel of a chapter in my book.

I think the below paragraphs from THIS review (second part HERE) provides a good taste for the chapter and the amount of detailed argument I plan to present.

[Update: I guess I wasn't clear in saying at first that I am the author of the review!]

Hartshorne's “My Eclectic Approach to Phenomenology” articulates a phenomenological method which is a “descriptive science” – one that, in Whiteheadian terms, “gets its basic concepts from the most general aspects of experience” and which does not specifically reference the observer but experience itself” (Harsthorne, 11). Hartshorne articulates how his phenomenology is different from Husserl’s and Heidegger’s - he met and briefly studied with both philosophers during his travels in Europe as a Sheldon Fellow in 1924-1925 (Hartshorne published the first English review of Sein und Zeit in 1929). If some argue that phenomenology may never truly be a “realist” method of metaphysics due to the “human-centeredness” of its methodology (the charge is that the phenomenological method espoused by Husserl is “correlationist” because it refers its results to a human standpoint, that is, always to an observer), then Hartshorne’s version of phenomenology easily dodges the correlationist bullet.

Hartshorne emphasizes that the question of phenomenology is, “As what are sensations experienced?” Disagreeing with Husserl and agreeing instead with Whitehead (and Peirce), Hartshorne explains that, “Experience-of-x is x plus something. But the relation of the two is no mere and. Experience-of-x includes x. Whitehead uses ‘prehend’ for this inclusion” (Hartshorne, 12). This is to say that reality is experiential and not just experiential-for a human observer which activates within an observation some experience. Experience and sense (feeling) are instead said to be one. Hartshorne’s phenomenology, being panexperiential and a priori in metaphysical orientation, shifts speculative query back into an exhibitive display of the real without recourse to a specifically anthropocentric intentionality. As an “eclectic phenomenologist,” Hartshorne elaborates, “I can say…Husserl was right in seeking the source of meanings in concrete experience as such but dismally wrong in trying to conceive experience in abstraction from an actual world, without…dynamic agents other than the experiencing or experiencer itself” (Hartshorne, 24). In this Hartshorne establishes the beginnings of a “non-correlationalist” phenomenology, indebted to both Peirce and Whitehead for its construction.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

"Here's the tiny human twig in the Tree of Life"

Pointer to Nick Land for drawing my attention to this.

From the Tree of Life Web Project : "[T]his epic infographic is one monster family tree, showing the history of 3.5 billion years of life on Earth."
As you look at the graphic, realise that time radiates outward and each kingdom’s appearance is also in chronological order from left to right. What you’ll discern then is a story of origins and mass extinctions, the way life almost bided its time through the Ice Age then hit the gas through the Cambrian Explosion. It was here when the protostomes (everything from trilobites to squids) simply went nuts, and the separation of plants vs. animals as we know them arose. 
Those big white splotches that disrupt various branches throughout the tree represent either extinction events or the end of species whose evolutionary pathway did not lead to further species. 
It’s a pretty sobering thought that humans, all the way down there in the bottom right-hand corner, have been wiping their way through so many species, particularly in the past half a century."
It's also sobering to see how late in the game humans have arrived, and how another mass extinction seems inevitable.  As Whitehead said, other cosmic epochs are indeed possible.  It's mind boggling to see the various natural historical epochs - even those of the earth's own life forms.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

a very interesting post on "anim(al)ism"

HERE.  Some highlights:

"Animal is the one who phenomenally shows to have a soul, by being drawn to things, or pushed away by them. The animal is not like the rock who stays where it is, no matter what, or the water, which indifferentially seeks the easiest route. Not even like the plant, which shows some kind of sensitive reaction, but which never moans for pain, or jumps for joy. The animal is the most expressive creature of them all. It cannot resist to react visibly or audibly to what it meets. Even not when keeping things in with grand mastery. So what is an animalist? It is someone who feels that the human being is not only not alone for being part of the world of ongoing translation between all creatures, but still less alone for belonging to a large family of expressive creatures."

"The animalist is by definition an animist, in my view – for I have never met an (non-human) animal who didn’t treat the whole of visible reality as being inhabited by spirit/soul. No fools among animals."

Readers may be interested to see my "If Cats Could Talk" post HERE which considers what the "otherness" of animals might reveal; and my link to "The Soul of All Living Creatures" HERE.

For more on panpyschism see a link to Charles Birch on the soul HERE with a post "Is Matter Mental?", and posts on Plato and Hartshorne on the soul HERE and HERE.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

recommending a smart, compelling, and overall fantastic new series on Netflix

Black Mirror (TV series) is a smart, entertaining, and thought provoking techno-apocalyptic fusion of The Twilight Zone and Tales of the Unexpected.  It has won several awards including Best TV Mini-series at the International Emmy's.

Each episode is a different story featuring different characters.  Each episode, like The Twilight Zone, features a different reality with unique plots and compelling content.

Described as "a twisted parable for the Twitter age," the program generally shows the dark side of life with technology; with twists-in-tale and lots of philosophical ideas to chew on. It masterfully achieves a "techno-paranoia" feel for our modern age.

I started with "The Entire History of You" and was instantly hooked.  Each episode is 60 minutes long, but they're great and well worth watching.  The program has a nihilistic, dark, crypto-techno apocalyptic feel featuring some very interesting themes from within the science fiction genre.  Very good stuff here.  Highly recommended for fans of The Twilight Zone (I was also a fan of the '80s three season version of The Twilight Zone).

More info on Wikipedia HERE.  Two seasons now available on Netflix.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Nick Land (and Ernst Juenger) on Ultimate Exit

Nick Land put up THIS post about "tech secessionism."  The basic idea stems from "seasteading" where, because no government will give up its lands yet 70% of the world is covered by ocean, experimental city-states not bound by current existing government law could be floated upon the water.  In other forms tech secessionism looks to a mass "ultimate exit" into the frontiers of the Net, where alternate currency and new forms of expressive freedom could be found.  See THIS article on the "ultimate exit," for example.  In short, "cloud-based communities of individuals are imagining city-state-like sites escaping state jurisdiction."

In many ways this sort of fleeing or inner emigration reminds me of the flight-to-the-forest imagined by science fiction author and philosopher Ernst Jünger. Jünger (himself "apolitical") in several places wrote about and anticipated the sort of retreat into the Net that we see beginning to happen today.  But instead of taking the uncolonized frontier of the Net to be an autonomous zone of individual liberty he had a sort of inner spiritual domain represented by the forest in mind.  The frontier of individual liberty, he stated, is any zone where inner freedom is the pillar allowing escape from extraneous forces.  One may look to his science fiction masterpiece Eumeswil (1977) or his essay "Retreat to the Forest" (1951) to see this idea take shape.

In his writings Jünger develops the prototype of the "Forest Fleer," a version of his "Anarch" (neither anarchist nor libertarian but a kind of fusion of both).  In Jünger's words, "One becomes a Waldgänger [Forest Fleer; sometimes translated as Forest-Goer] and by extension an Anarch not only when one enters or flees to the literal forest but at the deepest level of being each single person is already in the forest, is already a forest-goer, the forest being the original untamed core of one's being."  (See THIS post for more.)

Jünger's book The Forest Passage is a testament to opposing the power of the omnipresent state, where freedom found in the forest is found in each individual. "No matter how extensive the technologies of surveillance become, the forest can shelter the rebel, and the rebel can strike back against tyranny."  Indeed, the book is a manifesto for freedom.

I've written about Jünger periodically before, see my posts "The Forest Passage" HERE, "The Magic of the Real" HERE, or "More on Juenger" HERE.

Finally, I think that there is a neat tie between Jünger's embrace of technology as an accelerationist device for freedom - a device that he developed very early on in his writing career in his The Worker: Dominion and Form (1932).  The book was never published in English although I do have a copy of Dirk Leach's proposed translation that he had once submitted to SUNY Press in the early '90s.  I plan to scan and post that typescript here time permitting.  But the interesting thought is that Landian themes conducive to a "Right Accelerationism" are primarily Jüngerian in orientation.  There is definitely an affinity, and if I can I'd like to write an essay on NRx, Land, and Jünger in my forthcoming book (as it covers some of Accelerationism too) which I'll be polishing up this coming winter break.  It would fit in the theme of a metaphysics of freedom, environmental thinking, and political ecology.

My last post touched on wandering and the exploration and colonization of space. Landian-Jüngerian themes are timely (especially given the excitement over Interstellar) in that more individuals are looking not only to the deep space of the cosmos, but also to the deep space present within.  It seems that the renewed dream of space exploration is not only a proposed escape from ecological collapse then, it is also a proposed escape from the forces which deny the human quest to transcend the current and embark into the limitless space of the future. 

It is truly a form of Promethean time travel where the "inside" and "outside" become one.

Wanderers (Aeon video)

A stunning vision of the possibilities of humanity’s expansion into space.

Wanderers - a short film by Erik Wernquist

Immanent Polytheism (paper)

Thomas Millary has a new paper up on "Immanent Polytheism" which takes a new materialist and pluralist approach to theology using a diverse range of figures from James, to Latour, to Whitehead, to Connolly and Keller.

The interesting part of the paper is where Millary tries to fashion his own emergent-pluralist concept of gods rather than rely upon the (process-relational) concept of God as creative-ground and universal; or the traditional theistic notion of God as ultimate personality.  For Millary, the concept of gods, rather than the process of emergent creative becoming, cannot be grouped under one universal or concept, as God(s) is or are within panentheistic process theology or more traditional theism.  Millary states that a polytheistic notion of a multiplicity of divine personalities best expresses what a true pluralistic cosmotheology might achieve in rendering adequately divinity.

Thomas and I have corresponded some, and he participated in the Philadelphia Summer School of Continental Philosophy this past summer where John Caputo lectured (and incidentally Millary mentions Caputo's Divine Insistence book of this past year in his own paper).

The only thing I am left wondering, that I am always left wondering with polytheism, is what distinguishes divine multiple becomings (or personalities) as such from other multiple becomings.  It seems to me that the universal of creative ground found in panentheistic ontologies, which are indeed pluralistic as well, is that that creative ground is what precisely guarantees its own ontological integrity so as to be considered ultimate or divine.  Even if all mutiplicities house their own specific creative grounds, some are more capable than others, with only one taking the name "ultimate."  But with this, the notion of personality is lost.  So I haven't figured out how that works just yet.  Maybe Thomas has some thoughts.

Link to his paper HERE.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

interviews with Synthetic Zero blog and Homebrewed Christianity blog

Dirk and Michael from Synthetic Zero have gotten in touch with the prospect of an interview with me for their blog.  I am told that I'd be able to give some thoughts about ecological metaphysics, realism, phenomenology, bleak theory, etc.  Sounds like it will be fun.  Dirk has always been a "connector" and I appreciate very much his willingness to bring folks together in conversation.

On the topic of interviews, Tripp Fuller from Homebrewed Christianity blog reports that his interview with me from this past summer is now in the production stages where they are recording the introduction for it this evening, actually.  It should be one of the next two interviews to go up on his blog.  Tripp was a blast to talk with, and with him I spoke about process philosophy and ecological thinking; hiking and metaphysics; Whitehead, Schelling, and Hegel; God and the problem of evil; and my latest books on naturalism and animal emotions.  We also spoke about my new project of "speculative naturalism" as an ecological metaphysics.  Really looking forward to hearing how that conversation turned out.

I'll post links for these when they appear in time.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Dewey and the Ancients (NDPR review) + Schelling's 1794 commentary on the Timaeus

HERE.  This seems timely for me to think about, as lately I've been looking into Plato's import for deep ecology and environmental philosophy.  (Dewey has alot to say about Plato and environmental philosophy or nature ontologies, as do others - e.g. Peirce, Schelling, Whitehead.)  Most especially I have been looking at Schelling's commentary on the Timaeus with an eye toward thinking about Greek organic naturalisms.

THIS book is also helpful on the subject (another resource on how ancient philosophy might contribute to modern ecological theory), as is THIS IEP article on Plato's organicism.  There is some mention of Whitehead in it, fittingly.

Thanks to Matt / Footnotes to Plato blog for the Schelling's commentary on the Timaeus piece (from 1794).  That's definitely playing into my current research.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

"Bees have feelings too, and scientists should respect them" (Aeon article)

Some highlights from a very interesting article covering insect (and other non-human) emotions.  Concerning bees, other than exhibiting the emotion of anger, bees actually communicate a range of complex behavior and feelings:

From the article:

"The scientists at Newcastle wanted to know if stress would affect the bees’ mood, so they vigorously shook one group of bees to simulate an invasion into the hive. The bees, it turns out, were not just physically but also psychologically shaken. Not only did they exhibit lower levels of serotonin and dopamine, they also became pessimistic in their responses..."

"The pessimistic reaction, seen as an emotional response to stress, thrilled the researchers. ‘We show that the bees’ response to a negatively valenced event has more in common with that of vertebrates than previously thought,’ the team wrote in Current Biology in 2011. The finding suggests ‘that honeybees could be regarded as exhibiting emotions’."

Link HERE.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

my latest book now available

I am proud to say that my most recent co-edited book, A Philosophy of Sacred Nature: Prospects for Ecstatic Naturalism, is finally published! The book is the result of two and a half years of hard work, but I think the end product was well worth it. Anyone who is interested in a good introduction to the philosophy of Robert S. Corrington - his "ecstatic naturalism" - should pick up this book. The amazon link is HERE. Act quickly as apparently they are already selling out on amazon for a reduced price.

If you are curious about how ecstatic naturalism fits into today's metaphysics of the 21st-century, specifically as an American complement to Continental philosophy, I have posted the first page of our introduction in addition to the table of contents.  Along with Robert Brandom, Nicholas Rescher, and William Desmond, Corrington certainly has a new outlook to bring to the table within Euro-American philosophy (those philosophies that synthesize the Continental and American traditions).

Monday, November 24, 2014

Nick Land on Interstellar

A great write up with some very interesting thoughts expressed - ending with just a fantastic line:

"It might be human triumphalism that sells Interstellar to its audience, but this is a movie aligned with the distant Outside."

Click HERE to read his full post.

Attention Economy versus Attention Ecology

Some very good points in a nice post covering Yves Citton's Pour une Ecologie de l'Attention, HERE, by Unemployed Negativity Blog.

On the Romantic Absolute (3:AM interview with Dalia Nassar)

HERE.  I've posted HERE a link to the NDPR review of (and bought, recently) her book The Romantic Absolute: Being and Knowing in Early German Romantic Philosophy.

It's among my favorites of recent books on the subject in addition to the related Hegelian Metaphysics by Robert Stern (see HERE for my take and HERE for Stern's 3:AM interview).

Sunday, November 23, 2014

"Still: Journey with a free diving philosopher, into the beautifully alien world of the living ocean" (Aeon Magazine video)

Not technologically savvy enough to embed THIS highly recommended video courtesy of Aeon Magazine.
Carlos Eyles is a a 72-year-old ocean photographer, author, and free diver. In Still, we accompany him into the ocean, as he describes his intimate relationship with the marine world. Reflecting on a realm that is still within the province of the unknown, Eyles illuminates how profoundly wondrous it is to live within the great scheme of life.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

short-listed for a prize in the Voiceless Media Prizes

The producer of the ABC National Radio program The Philosopher's Zone informs me that the episode "The Emotional Lives of Animals" featuring Niemoczynski and Theodorou has been short-listed for a prize among ten others in Voiceless Media Prizes.

The Voiceless Media Prize recognizes the most accurate and influential reports on animal protection and ethics.  Winners will be announced in December where there is a $15,000 reward.

For more information see the below copied post from earlier this summer.


Animal Experience: Consciousness and Emotions in the Natural World has now been published in the "Living Books About Life" series through Open Humanities Press.  The book is open-access, free, and online for you to read. 

ANIMAL EXPERIENCE, edited by Leon Niemoczynski and Stephanie Theodorou (both at Immaculata University, US)

Additionally Leon Niemoczynski and Stephanie Theodorou appear on ABC National Radio's The Philosopher's Zone promoting the book.  Direct link to MP3 DOWNLOAD HERE (11.2 MB). 

A link to the radio program's webpage where you can listen to or download the program:

A link to an article about us with snippets from the program and links to closely related topics: 

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

A Critique of Creativity and Complexity

Process-relational philosophy is often critiqued for its "relational" component in that relations are taken either to be not as "real" as things related (or to the defense of the opposing view that William James defended: relations are just as real as what's being related), or that things somehow "exhaust" their relations (or to the defense of the opposing view that Whitehead and Hegel defended, no thing can be a "thing" unless it is related - so the notion of relation is inherent to being a thing).  Thus in defense a basic Fichtean-Hegelian move whether that relation is to be found between things or even at any things' constituting heart and center of negativity, the self-positing I as not-I, etc.

This book titled A Critique of Creativity and Complexity looks very interesting because even though process-relational philosophy is not to be found in it -at least not directly and upon a cursory glance - it does the job in defending that other notion that is often seen as a major component of process philosophy, and that's the (ultimate) category of creativity.

Also of note perhaps is the book's concern with order despite radical contingency or chaos, pace Quentin Meillassoux.  It discusses in other words how it is possible for order, or harmony, to emerge despite radically chaotic transcendental conditions.  Insofar as process-relational philosophy goes, C.S. Peirce, Charles Hartshorne, and Alfred North Whitehead were all interested in this question.

A free preview (73 pages!) of the book is available HERE.  Definitely worth a look at an often cliched subject: creativity.

Monday, November 17, 2014

quote of the day

Apropos the social media rage of today and the fact that we exist as personal "brands" and not much else.

"The pure form of servitude is to exist as an instrument, as a thing. And this mode of existence is not abrogated if the thing is animated and chooses its material and intellectual food, if it does not feel its being-a-thing, if it is a pretty, clean, mobile thing.”

- Herbert Marcuse, One Dimensional Man

"Neuro-livestock" was how it was best put, recently.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Process Thought From a Continental Perspective

An article that contains the below very interesting tidbit:
In certain respects, the interest of European philosophers in the thought of A.N. Whitehead has proven often to be (after the title of a recent popular movie) a "Fatal Attraction." (I owe these stories to George Lucas.) In 1956, Professor John E. Smith of Yale University paid a visit to the venerable Martin Heidegger. Their conversation lasted for three hours, during which time Heidegger expressed his passionate interest in turning toward a new, post-Hegelian pursuit of a philosophy of nature. Smith responded that in America A.N. Whitehead had already spawned such a movement. Heidegger was most pleasantly surprised and interested, and expressed a desire to read some of Whitehead’s philosophy. It was, in fact, at Heidegger’s request that the tremendous project of translating Process and Reality (PR) was begun at Suhrkamp Verlag (Frankfurt). However, before the translation could be made available to him, Heidegger died.
Link to the full article HERE.  A book possibly of interest HERE.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Caputo, Catherine Keller and John Cobb

Courtesy of Homebrewed Christianity blog at the AAR.  A panel bringing together (for the first time) John Caputo, Catherine Keller, and John Cobb.  The panel will be broadcast live in the form of a podcast. Friday, November 21st from 7pm until 9pm

More information and link to the live broadcast of the event HERE.

Thanks to Marilynn L. for the tip.  This looks like it will be very exciting!

Saturday, November 8, 2014

bad infinity

Wayne Martin was kind enough to post a very interesting (and fantastically clear) paper on Hegel's notion of "bad" infinity versus a "true" infinity (sometimes rendered as "spurious" versus "genuine" infinity).  Or in German schlect Unendlichkeit versus wahrhaft Unendlichkeit.  His analysis centers mainly on the larger Logic and its section on infinity which is part of chapter 2 "Determinate Being," section c. (a) through (c). Anyone wanting a refresher or just a clear articulation of Hegel's at times just incredibly cumbersome discussion of the metaphysics of infinity ought to read the paper, which interestingly has some larger goals in mind (such as providing a Fichtean response to Hegel's pre Phenomenology of Spirit essay "The Difference Between Fichte's and Schelling's Systems of Philosophy" of 1801).

In a nutshell a bad infinity, for Hegel, is just one that is open-ended.  For Hegel true infinity - accessible by reason, but still beyond the understanding - is a totality.  Intensive and extensive mathematical infinities, such as those infinitesimally available between any two numbers or those which are sets of numbers to be aggregated indefinitely to any other set, fail before the sort of actual infinity that is an absolute total requiring nothing outside of itself.

The interesting part isn't Hegel's critique of the bad infinite as one that is a possible infinite.  It is that Hegel states an infinity that "sets itself over and against" any other (such as the finite) is bad precisely because it lacks an infinite nature that is its own and is therefore delimited by negating something else so as to take on its own identity.  So the logic of contrasts that establishes an infinite precisely because it is not finite, or "in-finite" is one that necessarily fails having no essential nature that is, itself, properly infinite or total.

Hegel compares the "true" infinite for this reason to a circle.  A circle does not "go on and on forever" but rather is "unending" in the sense that it is a closed actual total.  This total encompasses the finite, or contains it, but is in no way limited by it. God, for Hegel, in traditional definitions, fails to capture the logical meaning of true infinity because God's nature and infinitude is always set over and against finite creation and thus is always dependent upon it to be what it is.  God in that sense is limited and finite, but not truly infinite.

A final thought. As the paper's title is "In Defense of Bad Infinity" it seemed appropriate to me to recommend in contradistinction to Hegel's infinite Schelling's take on infinity, for it was Schelling who was the first German idealist I had encountered even before Hegel. For a time in fact it was Schelling's "bad infinity" that served as a model for me to attempt to understand Hegel's own division between true infinite and spurious infinite.

To whit, then: might we be able to define the absolute not necessarily as something unending such as in an unending series of numbers (a potential infinite) or on the other hand as something total as in a closed circle (an actual infinite). Perhaps, rather, might not the absolute be something absolutely unconditioned as Schelling ventured to maintain? That is, an unconditioned infinite? What might this mean?

It was Schelling's view that absolute being - "the Absolute" - must mean unconditioned being, and as unconditioned being, the absolute, must therefore be "endless" for any "beginning" or "end" of it would qualify some condition as being other to that absolute's identity and the result would be a non-absolute identity. Here we see that for Hegel the absolute contains its own identity as well as all else, and this is what makes it "genuine" or "true" (wahrhaft Unendlichkeit). In this way we might say its infinite nature is of a pure metaphysical positivity of sorts. Schelling's absolute, on the other hand, is said to be "spurious" for it is absolutely indifferent to any particular identity in the sense that nothing can be other to it save only for itself. Paradoxically to be "itself" it must both be "itself" and "not itself" in different respects (so that there is no "other" conditioning it). Therefore, Schelling's absolute is "endless" but without closure as a totality because there is nothing other that it could be other than its own identity, but also quite strangely, its "non-identity"; that is, it accommodates for "that which it is not."  In this way we might say that Schelling's absolute is "in-different." And so with that said, why might Schelling's notion of the absolute be preferable to Hegel's?

Hegel's absolute is a thing, it is an identity: the Absolute, the All, which contains all things. But Schelling's main point was that the absolute, unlike in Hegel's philosophy, could never be a totality or a thing. Schelling claimed instead that the absolute was no-thing at all! Here Hegel railed against Schelling for thinking that the absolute had no identity sensu stricto and raved that as being "nothing" Schelling's absolute could only be a blanket that simply absorbed all things in its cloak of night, in a "blank" identity, where those particular things would not be preserved within the circle of infinity. This is to say that Hegel was fearful that Schelling's absolute annulled particular things within an indifferent identity instead of raising them up and encircling things within the identity of an absolute that is itself complete and total. Thus Hegel claimed that Schelling's absolute was an identity that was a "night in which all cows are black."

In short, then, it seems that Schelling's infinite or absolute is conditioned by no other indeed. But... it is "absolutely unconditioned" as indifferent to identity in its being unconditioned. And this, therefore, can be said be its positive. Schelling's unconditioned infinite is absolute indifference; that is, it is unconditioned ground in perpetuity and as such it nevertheless exhibits a sort of metaphysical positivity that Hegel claimed it was lacking.

Should we agree with Hegel that this lack of identity within Schelling's notion of the absolute means that his concept of the absolute as infinite is deficient as compared to Hegel's own understanding of the absolute? Or, might it be that in this very deficiency, in this "spurious" nature lies hidden a more adequate "positive" conception of the absolute and hence its virtue?

Paper "In Defense of Bad Infinity" HERE.

Friday, November 7, 2014

quote of the day

Thursday, November 6, 2014

"Crash and Burn: Debating Accelerationism" (Alex Galloway and Ben Noys interview at 3:AM Magazine)

Link HERE.  I think what's interesting, for me at least, is how at one point in the interview it is suggested that there is a sort of "Existentialist Revival" going on.  But unlike classical existentialism the subject is either annihilated, or it is "evacuated" into an undetermined space of the future.

I think the "evacuation" of the subject puts it best, in the sense that with the always ongoing annihilation of the present out-moded subject a new form of subject is continually being re-created on a basis or "ground" of freedom which is the very possibility of the future.  In this it seems the classical existentialists were right.

The existential moment in Accelerationism seems to be that an existential self, a self-creating "self," is only a self in its light of its continual and future self re-creations.  This is a process of creativity that creates at perpetual telescoping speed until a base line of flight (infinite speed) is achieved.  Here the immanent presence of self-hood and the ground of freedom and creativity upon which self-hood is based would become an indistinguishable one.  At that point time would ultimately be transcended.  So this process accelerates in creativity and intelligence faster and faster, moving and being driven by a form of tension found in a vital negativity that continually uses its own out-moding (or continual "crashing and burning," continual self-revision) to leap over itself again and again in acts of self-recreation until a point of absolute singularity is achieved.

Also, in the interview there is plenty of discussion about the role of the negative - or what in the past I have referred to as "vital negativity."  Here it seems that not only Hegel and Nietzsche are lurking in the background -  Nietzsche for his, what he called "active" nihilism, endorsed over what he called "passive" nihilism - but also Schopenhauer, whose name is brought up with mention of Land, Thacker, and Brassier.

This interview has prompted me to glance at again Schelling in the context of his "proto-existentialism."  What is the role of freedom and vital negativity in Schelling's proto-existentialist work?  How does that sense of freedom relate to the sort of freedom, futurity, and vital negativity that classical existentialists endorse in their discussions of the self and its creative act of determining a future self.  What about Sartre or Jaspers, for example?  Would Schopenhauer here too have a form of proto-existentialism?  And finally, in what sense might "will," or in terms of contemporary metaphysics - agency - come to play in this?

Could we update classical existentialism in this current "revival" and call it agentialism?  

Monday, November 3, 2014

Meillassoux and Malabou (with an audio link)

HERE and HERE.  Pointer to J.C. Martin.  (To hear Malabou present her keynote "It Does Not Have to Be Like This - On Meillassoux and Contingency," from  the Society for European Philosophy, click HERE.)

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

quote of the day

"We never educate directly, but indirectly by means of the environment." 

- John Dewey

Ht Tom Sparrow's Twitter.  See also my prior post on John Dewey and environmental philosophy HERE.

Monday, October 27, 2014

New Book: Mehdi Belhaj Kacem and Tristan Garcia

(PHOTO: Mehdi Belhaj Kacem et Tristan Garcia à l'entrée de Radio France)
New book Algebre de la tragedie, HERE.  JC Martin provides thoughts about the book HERE.

Friday, October 24, 2014

"Are You Teaching Next Semester?"

It's that time.  Registration for spring classes.  While I am finishing up my current VAP position I am getting mobbed by students with the question, "Are you teaching next semester?  What will you be teaching?"

I told my wife that this was a heartbreaker.

She says that it is something to be proud of.

Monday, October 20, 2014

thoughts on philosophy outside of the walls of the neoliberal university

(I've bolded the most important ideas/highlights in this post due to its length.)

After Nature reader Brian B. wrote to me last week asking me about my thoughts concerning philosophy in light of the rise of the "neoliberal" university - which is essentially where the core of philosophy has now been placed, that is, in terms of of degree granting education and training  (the "formal" or "traditional" place of philosophical activity, corresponding to peer-reviewed publication) - versus philosophy that happens outside of those walls, such as online.

Brian then went on to take Speculative Realism as a test case for an event or occurrence of philosophy whose main incarnation happened online rather than in the rooms of graduate seminars or in the pages of well known, peer-reviewed, professional academic journals (e.g. non-graduate student run journals whether print or online Open-Access, or non "independent" journals); that is, inside academic walls.  Brian wondered whether there was more "creativity" happening outside the walls of academia in the "underground" of philosophy/online, or whether "real philosophy" can happen inside the formal university, perhaps even today (e.g. within the neoliberal university).  He pointed out that I have experience in both places, having myself been a tenure track professor and then having had several offers for tenure positions before voluntarily "retiring" to a VAP position due to my health issues, where then I picked up philosophy again in the "underground" and online.

There's alot to think about, but I told him I'd offer some thoughts in the form of a blog post.

I think that philosophy, creatively speaking, is happening in both places.  Although how philosophy occurs is markedly different.  I do believe that how philosophy occurs in one place is by and large better than in the other, although as neoliberal institutional models increase that form of "traditional" philosophy inside the academy will more than likely vanish.

It is true that the anarchic conditions outside of academic walls can, at times, spur creative philosophical events - as in the case of the "former" Speculative Realism (not the current trademarked "brand" of Speculative ®ealism™.  But, how philosophy then is sustained as an activity changes due to sheer nature of the medium.  I am not sure that philosophy is meant to happen on Twitter for instance, where the speed of thought trumps the rigor of argument or the slow and careful reading and evaluative decision making that is required for the sound apprehension of  detailed and subtle philosophical positions.  I think alot of conversation in philosophy can occur online, but the hard work of philosophy itself, still to me at least, seems best reserved for more formal argumentative presentations of view, whether through papers, book chapters, books, or even conference presentations (which can be recorded and then uploaded online) as places to test those argumentative presentations of view.  But for me, publication slows down at least to a moderate degree the speed of philosophy online, which is why Open-Access publication online can set a more reasonable pace for publication than the glacial advance of print publication.  So long as the publication venue is peer-reviewed and of moderate to good quality I cannot see why publication online would succumb to uncalled for speeds of thinking that undercut the activity of philosophical discourse.

Now, even slow and carefully reasoned philosophy - as an event inside university walls - is itself under attack, where market conditions and new educational models of neoliberal education (online classes, for example) replace core pedagogical techniques that have been more or less "traditional" but are also often times more helpful in learning difficult texts and materials - this even beyond taking or teaching a class online, or via whatever method the current university will state that makes the most financial sense.   Two examples might help me make this point.

First, inside university walls graduate education can often times be a transformative experience where the apprehension of material is slowed down in a group reading process that provides the structure required for a more formal engagement with the material; in a place where real human beings face to face engage, dialogue, receive, and shape texts and ideas.  This seems to be simply an educational experience that is just not available online, even through GoogleHangouts (to a limited degree) which would be the nearest thing one could get.  I think just the credentials involved, the tradition of a department and its faculty who've spent years developing key research profiles, all shapes that personal face to face experience.  This is not to say that those experiences cannot be recreated elsewhere, such as at the recent PAF Summer Institute. The latter seems rare however, but is still possible..

Second, the act of writing graded papers and book reviews in a graduate seminar, and then finally even the act of writing the dissertation itself, where feedback and appropriate face to face dialogical conversation can actually mature one's philosophical perspective, seems to trump (in most cases at least) many of the popular forms of online philosophical practice.  I remember quite well actually that the very process of writing the dissertation changed me and changed my perspective - I learned so much from the experience of doing a formal literature review but then having the chance to vet the literature review before my advisor and before my colleagues.  While my own perspective was able to grow and mature beyond graduate school and take on new schemes of ideas, those ideas varying but nevertheless relating back to areas of inquiry that I took up in the dissertation, that development has been slower only because of a lack of opportunity for in-person communication and dialogical conversation.  In short, in person conversation goes a long way in maturing and developing one's views.  Again, this often times can be re-created outside of academic walls although is rare in online interactions.
To that end, still, in person face-to-face conversation always seemed more valuable to me.  I recall several years ago having a conversation about Speculative Realism with Tom Sparrow at the December APA.  And just that conversation about Speculative Realism seemed to impact us both, perhaps moreso than the ongoing occurrence of Speculative Realism happening online!
My point is that philosophy as I see it and try to practice it, is essentially an activity where human beings sit down face to face and dialogically engage in conversation about questions of ultimacy.  The medium of online philosophy outside of the academy, so far at least, has more often times than not stifled any productive way to engage in that same activity.  But it has also expanded the range of the conversation.  Blogs and social media are instrumental in establishing that range.  On the other hand, whether reading body language, or simply sitting before others who have worked through a difficult text that you yourself are trying to learn, the rules of engagement are different in that conversation is the most "concrete" transmission of ideas, where ideas can be worked upon "in depth" - beyond the "surface" of quick social media grazing.

However, as the university is neoliberalized, I fear that those measures,too, will be supplanted by facile and surface dwelling techniques of all things within an online education: the speed of thought, the lack of real depth in engagement, the propaganda of social media accounts, fad and fashion.  All things that have to some degree been kept in check in former university environments.  This isn't to say that traditional graduate programs haven't been swayed by fashion (some have), or that time limits apply for one to complete a degree in the first place.  My point is that the creative fires burning in graduate departments always had checks and balances - checks and balances that are largely absent when philosophy is had in the anarchic conditions of the online world.

Philosophy online seems (to me) to be more of a conversation, part of a process of individuation, where indeed good results can occur from time to time, finding their way to publication whether print or online Open-Access.  See my post HERE on "Blogophobia" for example.

On the other hand, as the rise of the neoliberal university and its educational model supplants those traditional models with their checks and balances, and as the neoliberal university affects for the worse the job market, the anarchic world of online engagement - blogs and online journals that are "indie" or "underground" - may be the only place that philosophy is left with - the last outpost where real creative and new ideas can occur.  Although, as I have stated elsewhere (HERE), if that is the case then I do not have much hope for carefully reasoned and just and fair debate given the politics involved.

Is there a middle between the two?  In favor of that, Robin Mackay from Urbanomic's comment found in Jon Cognburn's take on Pete Wolfendale's latest book - a comment which I've been meaning to copy now for more than a week - puts in perspective how "underground" or "independent" philosophical events, such as publishing houses, can best institute new checks and balances that would apply to the anarchic online philosophical world.

I'll post Robin's comment as a way to close this post, along with two other comments after that, as a way to show how this checks and balances system seems to be trying to work itself out online.  The test case is Pete Wolfendale's latest book where the Preface talks about the new Speculative ®ealism™.   Whether the event or philosophy in question chooses to respond to those proposed checks and balances, and acknowledge those who deserve to be acknowledged, is a different story.  Please carefully read what Robin has to say as he spent some time evidently writing it.  Unlike a blog post which usually is scanned, his comment really should be read.  (Originally found on Job Cogburn's "Circling Firing Squad" post HERE from 10/10/14.)  The issue is of course whether Pete was justified in the claims he presents in his Preface.  But because the book was published by Urbanomic Robin would like to provide justification for the contents of the book given the political conditions surrounding "Speculative Realism."  There are also some other political dimensions at stake but I'll let readers see for themselves how that all works out.

I feel like I’ve been forced to spend time responding to this, time I really can’t spare and which I fear will be wasted, but since you have mentioned me by name, and despite the welcome comments from others in defence of Urbanomic, I have spent considerable time doing so in what I hope is a reasonable fashion (at least, reasonable in view of what Pete and I have been accused of). 
I have spent over a year with Pete working on his book. I have read every line of every chapter and have discussed it with him and offered extensive comments; there were certain parts that I advised him to take out or alter, and each time this was discussed at length and Pete, being an intelligent adult (and a far better philosopher than I!), was able to hear my views, consider them, and make his own decisions. At every point we continued to reevaluate the content of the book, the reasons for and against publishing it, the possible positive and negative effects of its appearance, the fact that Pete is a previously unpublished author and what that means, and the fact that its polemical nature was sure to anger some people. Pete and I also carefully reviewed and reshaped the overall trajectory of the book and the tone in which its arguments are conducted. 
More generally, if you were to ask any one of the authors who have written for Collapse or any other Urbanomic publication I think they would confirm that Urbanomic if anything has an unusually traditional hands-on interventionist editorial policy. Compare this with, for example, Zero Books, who have published many Harman titles: You can email your book proposal to Zero from their website, they have an almost entirely automated system for production, the editorial touch is by all accounts extremely light, and many of the books published are in effect enhanced collections of blog posts. That seems to me an entirely valid, and evidently successful, approach for a twenty-first century publisher - it’s just not Urbanomic’s. Then on the other hand, you have academic presses, which certainly have systems for review in place. But I’m afraid one would be mistaken in thinking their editorial, copyediting and proofreading services to be impeccably professional (I could give some shocking examples).

My point is, there are different models, and models within those models. Why do you believe, on the basis of (the preface to) one book, that Urbanomic alone has fallen below the universal standards – and moreover why do you think in the first place that *your* standards (especially on this issue in which you obviously have a strong personal investment) are *the* universal standards? (They’re also standards that would write Schopenhauer, Nietzsche, Hegel, and many others out of the history of philosophy). All the more so given that, as has been pointed out above, academic literature is in fact full of *dissimulated* infighting, spite, snarking, jockeying for position, etc. It would seem that you object simply to someone actually saying what they think – that this strikes you as vulgar or improper. Is this the case even when their right to speak has been earned by penning thousands of words of closely-argued readings of an author’s arguments, on the basis of having read *all* of their books.
Regardless of this, it is simply patronising to Pete to suggest that he has no mind of his own, and that somehow because he is a ‘kid’ (like you once were before you became wise i.e. got a job) he is prey to unscrupulous bad editors. It seems that the pivot of all your arguments is the academic job market: what you can’t say if you don’t have an academic job; what you mustn’t say if you ever want to have an academic job; what people with academic jobs have agreed is allowed; what is widely read and referenced by people with academic jobs. According to the above, what people without academic jobs write is apparently entirely determined by their desperation to get an academic job; and those with academic jobs are ‘successful’ and shouldn’t have to respond to them … What about argument, what about philosophy?  
If all this is what ‘professionalism’ amounts to, it’s appalling. That’s the reason why Urbanomic exists and was announced from the outset (intro. to Collapse I) as being *amateur* (in the proper sense) in spirit. Urbanomic is not an academic press. I am one person (btw I’m not wearing a suit) who has invested a decade of my life, without any of the support a university press can count on, without any public funding, without the backup of academic or other employment, in order to publish work that I believe is important and deserves to be read, regardless of the author’s ‘status’. This is not a corporate monograph factory. Each book involves large personal financial and time commitments. No project is taken lightly or pursued for spurious ends, and they always involve close collaboration with the author(s). To be frank I absolutely don’t care whether any of these publications are seen to be abiding by the ostensible probity of academic norms. In my view those norms are self-evidently not a solution, but part of the problem, as far as the future of philosophy is concerned; and through the integrity of Urbanomic’s work I’m quite confident in having earned the right not to have to answer to them, or to such repulsive arguments from authority as are presented above.  
For many people – all four of the original Speculative Realists among them - Urbanomic has offered a chance to be read and appreciated by a wide audience that they wouldn’t have found through the professional channels because (a) their work just wouldn’t have been accepted for academic journals; and (b) reception of those journals would have remained inside a closed academic circle. Most authors have been happy about this situation, have shown good grace, have remained on friendly terms with me, and have continued to keep in mind the fact that not only are there other ways of doing things, these other ways are in fact *crucial* to the flourishing of the intellectual climate. Pete book continues that tradition. 
It’s nonsense that Urbanomic is a ‘vanity press’; and it’s simply bad faith to suggest that no editorial care has been taken with this book, just because you happen to disagree with it or dislike its tone. There are plenty of vanity presses out there, and there are plenty of crappy print-on-demand books (some of them put out by university presses). Printing a real print run of a real book, in a narrow subject area such as philosophy, is a serious investment in every sense for a small press. There are very few people still doing this, and the dissemination of indiscriminate opinionated views such as yours are, if anything, just going to help kill them off. 
As for me, I’m delighted that for now this is even anywhere near being a viable way of life. But only just: I have no time off, I have no vacations, I have no life insurance, I have no pension, I have no job security, I have two kids to support. My life is spent searching out, editing, designing, typesetting, translating, writing introductions to, marketing, and mailing out books (in your case Jon, a free copy) that I believe are philosophically significant and have the potential to make a contribution to a cultural life including but wider than professional philosophy. 
And what do you do, Jon? It’s great that you have an academic job, it’s great that you use logic symbols in the majority of your papers; but is it really the most constructive use of this fortunate position to denigrate Urbanomic's work for no apparent reason, and simultaneously to be condescending and insulting to someone who has spent two years of his own time simply *doing philosophy* – i.e. rigorously following up on his misgivings and questions about a philosophical position, meticulously working through them, and arriving at a conclusion – not because it’s his job, but because he believes that this is an interesting and important thing to do? 
Your vituperative attack on Pete’s admirable persistence in a rather thankless task is launched solely on the basis of an extremely tendential reading of the preface. As is traditional, the preface sets out (rather calmly and reasonably I think) the *causes* for the book’s existence and the *reasons* why it deserves to be read; and gives some anticipation of what it will contain. I believe the preface succinctly answers your own question ‘Why write a four hundred page book about something dynamically pathological’? But you have preferred to amplify the mild tone of irritation in which Pete recounts the episode with Harman and Bryant into a ‘kvetching revenge narrative’. In fact, as is quite clear, the whole point of the story is that when Pete tried to formulate his objections more precisely he found this was actually quite a rewarding and productive challenge to take on, given what it revealed about conetmporary relations between metaphysics and ontology, and how methodology, argument, and allusion function in philosophical writing . That, *quite obviously*, is the *first reason* (in the order of reasons rather than that of causes!) for the book’s existence. (And in fact it reflects badly on a whole lot of us that none of us did it. We have a lot to thank him for!) 
And then of course you also refer to Ray’s postscript, which, evidently, you turned to *before* reading the rest of the book, as you were hoping it would supply some scandal, and in which you found exactly what you were hoping to find. 
It really seems to me that you, and others, are really keen for this to be nothing but a flamewar (or as you have it ‘circular firing squad’) and are doing your best to make it so before reading and digesting the arguments of the book. I hope I’m wrong, I hope that Pete’s work is treated seriously as it warrants. I’m sure I’m right in saying that Pete would have no problem with his arguments being taken apart, refuted and condemned for their incompetence if that’s what ensues upon a serious reading of the book; the book is precisely an appeal for that kind of philosophical engagement. His contention is that such engagement has been sorely lacking in the case of OOP. This is a reasonable contention, which I have no hesitation in defending. 
I have remained largely silent in all of the arguments over SR/OOO/etc. (ok, apart from flippant offhand comments on social media). This is partly because I had already had my fill of blog-bickering before SR even ‘broke’. But also because one of the principles of Urbanomic was always that it had no ‘party line’ but is interested in publishing work from different perspectives which, together, could provide some co-ordinates for the space of contemporary philosophical thinking. 
But since your intervention more or less demands it, let me tell you what I know of the sad story already alluded to above, a story which may or may not explain why, after having published Graham Harman’s work, I, and Urbanomic, became an ‘enemy’, and which may lend some justification to the claims of Pete's book (although this is my personal view, not his) I am not writing this so as to stoke the controversy, but because telling the truth about what happened then, even if it's a partial, personal narrative, helps me to put into perspective what you’re saying now. 
(Firstly I should mention that, as far as being ‘one of Brassier’s people’ goes, I have no idea what that means, he’s certainly a good friend but I am not absolutely in agreement with Ray philosophically, nor on other matters – for instance, as should be evident from Urbanomic’s social media profile, I don’t agree with his wholesale dismissal of online stupidity, nor do I think that SR should – or can – simply be written off, although I agree it has given rise to some facile rubbish. Nor for that matter do I agree with Pete about everything. Forming a group where you all agree on everything is not really the point, is it?) 
Ray was at one time an enthusiastic promoter of Graham’s work. He introduced it to me in 2006-7, describing it as an original, interesting and promising philosophical enterprise. I read *Tool-Being* and agreed, and I was happy to publish Graham’s work in Collapse alongside that of Ray and Quentin, under the then rather vague rubric of ‘Speculative Realism’ (along with that of astrophysicist Roberto Trotta, Reza Negarestani and Paul Churchland…SR was pleasingly inchoate in the pre-branding era!) However I already had some questions about the overall direction of the project. In the original draft of the introduction to that volume (Collapse 2), I wrote a couple of sentences suggesting that, with this ‘aesthetics as first philosophy’, one would have to guard against its going beyond phenomenology into simple poetic evocation. Having read the draft, Graham requested (via Ray) that I remove this comment. He didn’t argue the actual point with me, but effectively insisted that, as his junior, and in the spirit of fair play, it was *improper* that I should make such a negative comment. Ray spoke up on Graham’s behalf and I was persuaded to remove it, it wasn’t really a big deal for me. Quentin never objected to being described as ‘grand-style French’ though! But perhaps here I was already crossing the boundaries of propriety. In any case, that seemed to be that. Collapse II was a great volume. 
After Collapse 3 (with the SR transcript) was published, I set up a private blog where a few of us could discuss the issues arising from this discussion (some of those involved didn’t feel happy participating in a public blog discussion). There were about 7 people invited, if I remember rightly, and it was rather shortlived. There I wrote a post, not particularly sophisticated, maybe a little abrupt, following up a little on one of Peter Hallward’s comments in the conference, addressing the question of what Graham meant by an object, whether human encounters with objects were being transferred to object-object interaction, and above all whether, in addressing object-object interactions, one could possibly avoid ‘undermining’ (ie decomposing and thus losing sight of) ‘objects’ in the sense of the discrete unities that we (humans) consensually recognise. Again, Graham demanded that this post (which only 7 people would ever see) be removed, again he appealed to Ray, and Ray emailed me, saying that Graham was sensitive about criticism and that perhaps I should just remove it. So I did. 
Soon after, a friend of mine (who is also called Robin) posted something on a shortlived blog of his that I hosted on Urbanomic, where he suggested he was unconvinced by Harman’s arguments, and made a lame joke about Harman’s use of index cards when lecturing. Again I received an indignant Harman takedown notice (obviously, he thought it was me, but when explained otherwise remained adamant that the post shouldn’t be there). This all seemed a bit strange at the time (‘weird petulance’ if you like, Jon) but, I thought, maybe understandable – my rationalisation was that Harman had been something of an ‘outsider’ because of how his thesis had raised the hackles of orthodox Heideggerians, and perhaps that had made him more defensive about his own work being critiqued. 
Unfortunately I came to learn of other cases (some more serious in their consequences for those concerned), and I saw the pattern repeated and exacerbated: criticisms being met with allegations of impropriety, deviousness, folly, and personal undermining, rather than the straightforward philosophical response they merited. This happened until, I think, a good many people (those who weren’t happy simply to reiterate the wonders of OOO) simply gave up, or decided it was more productive and life-affirming to step aside, do something else, and possibly sporadically take the piss instead. At the same time, Harman continued to gather around him a coterie of OOO fans who tended to reiterate these tactics – the overall outcome was to make OOO apparently effectively ‘invulnerable’, so that the ratio of argument to assertion dropped dramatically (nb. Pete has some very interesting things to say in the book on how OOO’s longevity is partly explained by the intrication of many strands of argument and assertion, and the impossibility of a ‘knock-down critique’ of OOO) 
Of course, a whole book of responses has been promised by Harman, but, to take Pete’s case alone, if you search Harman’s blog for Pete’s name you’ll see that in May 2010, June 2010, Sept 2012, June 2013, and April 2014 Harman enumerated various reasons why he hadn’t found time yet to respond to Pete, and repeatedly promised a response that in fact has never come. Which seems remarkable given the lengths to which Pete went to engage with Harman’s philosophical position. There are reasonable grounds here to claim that criticisms of Harman’s OOP are not being answered; and they can’t be dismissed by saying that Pete is presumptuous to expect to be answered by someone so ‘successful’ – he’s been ‘charitably’ awaiting an answer for four years now! But things got worse. As Mark has already alluded to above – and I don’t wish to elaborate - Harman made some vile personal attacks on friends and associates, concentrating not only on their academic ‘failure’ (somehow seen to be the worst sin and to warrant dismissal of anything they may say) but also their character, motives, and even their mental health (the worst of these have now been removed from his blog at the very strong request of others, but they are on record elsewhere). 
I’m not sure, since I had no contact with Harman since Collapse 4, but I think I became an official ‘enemy’ with Collapse 5, mostly edited by Damian Veal, who for a brief period was one of his prime targets (not only because he is a philosopher of science, which Harman seems to take as a personal affront in itself; but also because, once again, he had no job, and had the temerity to mount a philosophical critique of OOO on a blog comment somewhere. Nb. Isn’t this strange given Harman’s championing of the blogosphere as a suitable site for philosophical debate?) At that point Harman apparently decided that Collapse was to be lumped in with the ‘scientistic’ camp and declared on his blog that he ‘for one, would not be reading Collapse again’. Well thanks. This despite the fact that anyone who reads Collapse can see that there are a great many different viewpoints represented (including OOO even in the most recent volume!) This is where the real sadness lies for me: The original idea of the journal, as set out in vol. 1, was NOT to represent or form a school, NOT to have any editorial ‘line’, and to UNDO rather than to promote factionalism. So perhaps you can understand why, for me at least, ‘SR’ has become something of a frustration, and why it seems important that we begin (a) to understand its ascendancy in symptomatological terms and (b) to counteract the popular spread of a set of uninterrogated notions with some vigorous philosophical examination. This is precisely what Pete has begun to do, with great panache. 
I regard all of this as frustrating and regrettable; and can’t help thinking all the bad blood is entirely unnecessary and was very much avoidable. I’m afraid it’s not personal animus that leads myself and others to attribute it to Harman’s way of dealing with criticism. That’s simply what we saw happening, even when all of us (including Ray) were at the outset well-disposed toward him and his work.    
There are times I have bitterly regretted publishing the transcript of the SR event. The wonderful thing about Pete’s book is not that it sets out to destroy something, but that it shows how, after all, there is still hope that Speculative Realism has been instrumental in stimulating renewed philosophical thinking rather than just hype, gang-mentalities, and bad anthropocene-poetry.

Comment from Mark:
I am fully aware that this is not the book review itself, and that fact was clear throughout my long comment above (thus I kept saying “If you do decide to write a review…”). And frankly, the fact that you are determined to stand by your baseless and potentially very damaging assertions that Wolfendale wrote the entire 400-page book “purely as an act of revenge” suggests to me that you are simply not competent to write such a review. I do not suggest that all your academic work is incompetent; I have no idea about that. But as I said above, it is clear to me that you have far too emotionally investment in the issues treated in the book to evaluate it with the objectivity it merits.
Your claim that the book “was not edited properly by the people at Urbanomic” seems to be based upon the occurrence of the word “pathological” in the preface. Allow me to quote the passage in question more fully:

“After this, the book turns to the historical and sociological significance of OOP (chapter 4): I integrate the insights uncov¬ered earlier into a synoptic picture of the rise of correlationism after Kant (4.1), in order to describe the genesis of OOP/OOO in the present (4.2), and then provide a ‘hyperbolic reading’ of a future in which its influence is unopposed (4.3). This is the culmination of a historical story that slowly develops over the second half of the book (3.4, 3.5, and 4.1), and which encom¬passes the overarching dialectic of metaphysics, its split and parallel development in the analytic and Continental traditions, and the evolution of the Kantian noumenon within the latter tradition. This story forms the background for a sociological account of the development of the Continental tradition from the middle of the twentieth century to the present day (4.1), which explains the influence of correlationism, its imbrication with the project of critique, and the emergence of an opposing constructive orientation. Taken together, these analyses do more than let us understand where OOP/OOO has come from and where it is going—they give us a chance to take stock of where we are as a discipline, and what must be done if we want to divest ourselves of the pathological dynamics typified by Harman’s work.”

Now, having not read the book, I do not know what Wolfendale is referring to here by “pathological dynamics”, but I would be surprised if that does not become clear upon reading the relevant chapters. Since you have yourself not yet read the chapters in question, don’t you think it might have been advisable for you to have done so before declaring the publisher to be either a “a vanity press” or “suffering from Harman derangement syndrome”? You will of course excuse your own hypocritical use of the language of pathology here by saying “this is a blog, not a book”, but you should realise it’s an exceptionally feeble defence, not least because blogs are far more readily accessible than the insides of printed books published by obscure independent publishers.
In effect, what you are saying is that, regardless of context, and regardless of how much interpretative and argumentative work is wielded in support of it, it is simply never acceptable for anyone to use the term “pathological” with reference to somebody else’s work in a printed book, but that it’s perfectly acceptable to dismiss an entire publisher as a either a “vanity press” or as “suffering from Harman derangement syndrome” on the basis of them allowing the word “pathological” to appear in one of their books. Never mind the fact that you claim to admire Urbanomic for its “cool punk rock samizdat ethos”. Never mind the fact that they are clearly *not* an "academic press", and explicitly state that they set up the press to explore philosophy outside of mainstream academia, and academia per se (see Robin Mackay’s extensive comments above). No, according to you they are duty bound to adhere to the accepted conventions of academic discourse as established by the likes of Oxford University press. So much for your supposed admiration for that dissident “punk rock ethos” eh? 
Moreover, if Wolfenale and Urbanomic are beyond the pale in publishing a book in which the words “pathological dynamics” appear, what about Harman’s comment that “the psychologizing of one’s opponents is not always beyond the pale, but sometimes has valuable rhetorical power and even a grain of truth”? What about all his published tirades against “the table-pounding aggressions of hack scientism”? What about his attacks upon Metzinger as "completely overrated”, a “devotee of aggressive-exterminative scientism”, and a “don’t-have-a-clue-materialist” who “generally behaves like a haughty modern physician laughing off a coven of village witches” and “displays markedly aggressive animal passion?” (Have you read any Metzinger? If so, does any of this strike you as remotely fair or accurate??!!) What about his contention that anyone who refers to “folk psychology” is an arrogant “scientistic hack”? What about his contention that the natural sciences are based upon “a metaphysics fit for two-year olds”? What about his dismissals of epistemology as a “cop’s fantasy project”? What about all his comments about “the aggressive self-assurance that typifies analytic philosophy”? What about his dismissal of Quine as “a desolate tax lawyer” who, like all analytic philosophers, is a “dreadful writer”? What about his contention that there has rarely been “a more ridiculous philosophical boast” than to suggest that Metzinger and Dennet count as “imaginative thinkers” (“if the robotic debunkers Dennett and Metzinger count as ‘imaginative’ thinkers, then black is white and night is day”)? What about his suggestion that we should leave behind “all Heideggerians (they will hardly be missed)” 
And these are just a few things that I can recall off the top of my head from his published works (of which I am only familiar with a few). Are you now going to write a post berating e.g. Open Court, Edinburgh UP and and Zero Books for failing to edit his books properly, or accuse them of being either vanity presses or run by deranged people suffering from some kind of revenge syndrome?
You also say:
“one can disagree with even central points without coming even close to dismissing someone's entire body or work as being both pathological and indicative of the main weakness of a whole tradition of philosophy. These are both the kind of absurd, indefensible claims we wouldn't accept in form an intro student.”
So, on the basis of reading only the short preface of the book, and having yet to engage with a single one of the book’s many detailed arguments, you have come to the firm conclusion that because the phrase “pathological dynamics” occurs in the preface, not only is the publisher either a vanity press or run by deranged people, but that the author must be doing no more than “dismissing someone’s entire body of work … as pathological”. Do you perhaps think you might be overlooking the fact that the author -- who you yourself acknowledge as one of the most promising philosophers of his generation -- has spent more than three years of his life engaging every facet of Harman’s oeuvre and now produced a 400-page book devoted to carefully, rigorously and critically examining them? How does this amount to simply “dismissing” that oeuvre as “pathological”?
And again, you have decided that to arrive at the conclusion that a certain philosophical trend is (in your words) “indicative of the main weakness of a whole tradition of philosophy” is “absurd” and “indefensible” and that “we” (i.e. "we professional philosophers") “wouldn’t accept it from an intro student”. Oh really? And what if said student was not only prepared to argue this at length by drawing upon detailed knowledge of the entire history of philosophy since Kant, but handed you a 430 page manuscript setting out the arguments for the claim in painstaking argumentative detail? On the basis of those professional accolades you keep boasting about, you might be labouring under the assumption that you can easily refute Wolfendale’s arguments -- after all, he is only “a kid fresh out of graduate school”. Well if so, all I can say is: yes, please, give it your best shot. What you will find is that Wolfendale is not only one the very brightest philosophers of his generation, but also that he can run rings around you when it comes to the history of philosophy.

Thus, if he does indeed claim that Harman’s philosophy is “indicative of the main weakness of a whole tradition of philosophy”, it’s not as if this is just an off-the-cuff remark by some ignorant undergraduate hell-bent on personal revenge against a professor he doesn’t like. No, rather this is coming from an exceptionally gifted philosopher who has a truly extraordinary grasp of both the analytic and continental traditions, who has spent years studying Harman’s entire corpus in great detail, and who has produced a 400-page book packed with arguments in defence of his claims. From the preface alone, it is clear that Wolfendale is not simply “dismissing” Harman’s entire oeuvre as indicative of what he finds most problematic about a certain tradition of philosophy. Rather, he has gone to the length of reconstructing that entire tradition. Thus he says that his conclusions about OOP are“the culmination of a historical story that slowly develops over the second half of the book … and which encom¬passes the overarching dialectic of metaphysics, its split and parallel development in the analytic and Continental traditions, and the evolution of the Kantian noumenon within the latter tradition. This story forms the background for a sociological account of the development of the Continental tradition from the middle of the twentieth century to the present day … which explains the influence of correlationism, its imbrication with the project of critique, and the emergence of an opposing constructive orientation”.
But you, instead of reserving judgement until you have read these hundreds of pages of dense argumentation, simply decide that his claim is “absurd”, “indefensible” and unworthy of first-year undergraduate. Are you beginning to see why I might have doubts about your ability to write an objective review of this book? 
While you insist upon continuing to falsely attribute to Wolfendale the view that he was motivated to write the entire book out of “pure revenge”, you seem to have missed passages in the preface such as the following: 
“It is all too easy in contemporary philosophical discourse to use the mere fact that one seriously disagrees with another’s ideas as a reason not to explore the nature of the disagreement any further. But it is worth remembering that doing so can improve our understanding of the relevant issues and stimulate the evolution of our own ideas. This is certainly what I got out of exploring my disagreements with OOP/ OOO. However—and this is where things took an unusual turn—these theoretical gains did not come from uncovering useful philosophical insights or novel dialectical distinctions lingering beneath the surface. Quite the reverse: whenever I began to address seemingly simple ideas that struck me as problematic, their flaws would turn out to run much deeper than was initially apparent. Time and again, I discovered that I couldn’t pull on a single loose thread without unravelling the whole fabric.” 
Now, what is your assessment of this statement? That Wolfendale is lying? That he claims to have discovered that Harman’s metaphysics is vitiated throughout by arguments that do not withstand rational scrutiny, but that as a matter of fact he is just saying this because he is motivated by a malicious and deranged spirit of ressentiment? 
Well, no, it seems to me that Wolfendale has discovered what many of us have discovered upon reading Harman’s work: namely, that he has built nothing but a philosophical house of cards, and that the core arguments upon which he rests the entire edifice are riddled with howling non sequiturs thinly disguised by the use of confused metaphors centring around the terms “withdrawal” and “exhaustion”. Having discovered this, a number of philosophers (such as those who run or ran the Kvond, After Nature, Agent Swarm and others blogs) have been making this case for many years now, and yet Harman refuses to address his critics otherwise than by launching ad hominem attacks upon them or by citing how many books he has published in comparison with them.

Now, you may think that my contention that Harman’s entire metaphysics rests upon little but blatant non sequiturs “absurd” and “indefensible”. That is fine, but it seems to me that Wolfendale has arrived at much the same conclusions, and spelt them out over hundreds of pages, basing his critique upon a thoroughgoing study of Harman’s entire corpus. Thus, you now have the opportunity to grapple with Wolfendale’s arguments and attempt to show where and why you think they are misguided. I wish you every luck with that, but how about if we stick to *philosophy* and *arguments* from now on, rather than issuing baseless denunciations based upon the “tone” that somebody or other has chosen to adopt?

Comment from Roger:

If I may make a recommendation, Jon, perhaps a productive way forward here would be for you to host a reading group/forum for discussion of Wolfendale's book in which you respond to each of the sections of the book and leave comments open for others (e.g. Wolfendale, Harman and others) to respond? There have been many of us looking to have this debate about OOP/OOO for years now, a debate in which it is purely and simply the claims and arguments that are discussed, minus all the personal attacks and smear campaigns, so what better opportunity has there been than here, now (or rather, once the book is published at the end of the month)? So long as everybody promises to keep personal animosities out of it (and as blog owner, you could moderate this), and not have recourse to vacuous arguments from authority, it could be the most interesting online debate for many years, with both OOO's advocates and supporters (e.g. yourself, Harman, Bryant, Morton and Bogost) debating their critics (e.g. Wolfendale, Brassier, Niemoczynski and Blake). What do you think?