Friday, September 29, 2017

the aesthetics of accelerationism

Following yesterday's post which covered the music of John Maus and featured an interview with Adam Harper, I'm posting a link to Harper's blog "Rouge's Foam" which seems to still be more or less active, HERE. The theme is "excessive aesthetics" although plenty of other sorts of philosophy makes its way into the posts as well, for example with THIS post on the aesthetics of accelerationism.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

John Maus

John Maus's '80s synthwave revivalism and "post-utopian romanticism" is the subject of this interesting podcast. Posting the roughly 30 minute episode below, followed by two very good interviews with Maus, followed by a few of my favorite Maus tracks.

For those who don't know, Maus holds a Ph.D. in philosophy, a fact which has come to bear not only upon his music making but upon the title of his most recent album, "We Must Become the Pitiless Censors of Ourselves" - a phrase taken from contemporary French philosopher Alain Badiou.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

cover for Nature's Transcendence and Immanence

Featuring my essay, "The Meaning of Nature: Toward a Philosophical Ecology." The painting on the cover is by my good friend, Marilynn Lawrence.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Heidegger's Shadow: Kant, Husserl and the Transcendental Turn (NDPR Review)

Heidegger's Shadow: Kant, Husserl and the Transcendental Turn
Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews //

Chad Engelland, Heidegger's Shadow: Kant, Husserl and the Transcendental Turn, Routledge, 2017, xiv + 275pp., $140 (hbk), ISBN 9781138181878.

Reviewed by Sacha Golob, King's College London

One way to understand the trajectory of Heidegger's thought is as a series of engagements with the possibilities and the risks inherent in transcendental philosophy. This approach is the basis of Engelland's book; as he elegantly puts it, the transcendental functions throughout Heidegger's career as the 'shadow' which he cannot jump over, the hermeneutic situation out of which he writes (p.206). Heidegger's attitude to the transcendental evidently undergoes complex shifts, shifts mediated in part by his successive dialogues with Husserl, Kant, and others, but Engelland's central argument is that this attitude is never purely negative: as he sees it, even the later Heidegger offers what is effectively a 'transcendental critique of transcendence' (p.172).

Read More HERE.

Friday, September 22, 2017

Lisa Blackman's "Loving the Alien: A Post-Post-Human Manifesto"

Lisa Blackman: "Loving the Alien: A Post-Post-Human Manifesto" (2016)
Originally published on Monoskop Log

This essay explores the ambivalent position of the alien in order to reflect upon the question of whether there is a place for a non-body politic. Lisa Blackman brings together a number of different debates from “new biologies” to “alien phenomenologies” that provide some ways of framing a possible non-body politics founded on radical relationality, contingency and “inhuman formation” that might go some small way to recognising what might be at stake.

Publisher Fall Semester, Miami, 2016
Open access
22 pages
via Fall Semester

PDF download HERE. Special issue of Subjectivity HERE. After Nature Google Drive link HERE.

Resistance of the Sensible World: An Introduction to Merleau-Ponty (NDPR Review)

Resistance of the Sensible World: An Introduction to Merleau-Ponty
Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews // 

Emmanuel Alloa, Resistance of the Sensible World: An Introduction to Merleau-Ponty, Jane Todd (tr.), Fordham University Press, 2017, 128pp., $28.00 (pbk), ISBN 9780823275687.

Reviewed by David Morris, Concordia University

Emmanuel Alloa's insightful book compellingly shows how Maurice Merleau-Ponty's philosophy is oriented by a resistance manifest in things and the sensible world. This resistance counters philosophical efforts at seeking (at least in principle) fully clarified accounts of things, others, and ourselves. Where ideologies of transparency (12) encounter this resistance as a problem, Merleau-Ponty finds it integral to philosophy, animating philosophical questions and granting philosophy things to think about in the first place. In effect, Merleau-Ponty recasts the transcendental condition of philosophy as an as yet indeterminate resistance operative prior to philosophy that can never be fully exhausted by it. Alloa's conclusion pushes these results about resistance beyond Merleau-Ponty, to show how they require a methodological transformation of philosophy.

Read More HERE.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

The healing power of nature (Aeon article)

A very good excerpt first, then link to the article.
The tradition was already ages-old in Japan, but naming it went hand in hand with making recommendations for best practices: one should walk, sit, gaze and exercise among the trees; eat well-balanced meals of organic, locally sourced food; and, if available, immerse in hot springs. All five senses should be engaged, especially for certification as one of Japan’s official Forest Therapy Bases, which are well-maintained, embraced by the local community, and which are required to show, in practitioners, a decrease in physiological markers such as levels of the stress hormone cortisol after wandering in the woods. 
When Akiyama recommended forest bathing all those years ago, he knew about the pioneering studies of phytoncides – basically, pungent essential oils – conducted by the Soviet scientist Boris P Tokin in the 1920s and ’30s. The oils, volatile compounds exuded by conifers and some other plants, reduce blood pressure and boost immune function, among other benefits. 
In recent years, a host of other mechanisms have come to light – in fact, there are up to 21 possible pathways to improved health, according to a review paper in Frontiers in Psychology from scientists at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Among the elements that have been identified, of particular note are bright lights and negative air ions (oxygen atoms charged with an extra electron), known to ease depression; simple views of nature, which enhance autonomic control of heart rate and blood pressure; and even the sounds of nature, which help us to recover from heightened stress. 
Blood tests revealed a host of protective physiological factors released at a higher level after forest, but not urban, walks. Among those hormones and molecules, a research team at Japan’s Nippon Medical School ticks off dehydroepiandrosterone which helps to protect against heart disease, obesity and diabetes, as well as adiponectin, which helps to guard against atherosclerosis. In other research, the team found elevated levels of the immune system’s natural killer cells, known to have anti-cancer and anti-viral effects. Meanwhile, research from China found that those walking in nature had reduced blood levels of inflammatory cytokines, a risk factor for immune illness, and research from Japan’s Hokkaido University School of Medicine found that shinrin-yoku lowered blood glucose levels associated with obesity and diabetes. 
‘People respond very favourably to water, whether a fountain in a healing garden or a river or shoreline’ 
Studies showed that just three days and two nights in a wooded place increase the immune system functions that boost feelings of wellbeing for up to seven days. The same amount of time in a built environment has no such effect. Human response includes increased awe, greater relaxation, restored attention, and boosted vitality. Health outcomes on the receiving end of the pathway are astounding: enhanced immunity, including reduced cardiovascular disease, fewer migraines, and lowered anxiety, to name but a few. According to Frances Ming Kuo , the lead author of the University of Illinois review: ‘The cumulative effect could be quite large even if many of the individual pathways contribute only a small effect.’

Link HERE.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Jim Carrey's "bizarre" interview offers more existential wisdom than this reporter can handle...

Kudos to Tamara, a student in my Existential Philosophy class, for sending the below to me. Obviously Carrey has been reading his Nietzsche, Kierkegaard, Heidegger, etc.  The reporter-woman with her whole superficial "don't you want to empower people?" line is immediately confused upon hearing Carrey's existential wisdom. She doesn't even know what to do. Hilarious.

Friday, September 15, 2017

Does imagination precede language? Aeon tries to find out...

"Imagination is ancient, our imaginative life today has access to the pre-linguistic, ancestral mind: rich in imagery, emotions and associations." 

Link to the article HERE.

Some highlights:
"Aristotle described the imagination as a faculty in humans (and most other animals) that produces, stores and recalls the images we use in a variety of mental activities. Even our sleep is energised by the dreams of our involuntary imagination. Immanuel Kant saw the imagination as a synthesiser of senses and understanding. Although there are many differences between Aristotle’s and Kant’s philosophies, Kant agreed that the imagination is an unconscious synthesising faculty that pulls together sense perceptions and binds them into coherent representations with universal conceptual dimensions. The imagination is a mental faculty that mediates between the particulars of the senses – say, ‘luminous blue colours’ – and the universals of our conceptual understanding – say, the judgment that ‘Marc Chagall’s blue America Windows (1977) is beautiful.’ Imagination, according to these philosophers, is a kind of cognition, or more accurately a prerequisite ‘bundling process’ prior to cognition. Its work is unconscious and it paves the way for knowledge, but is not abstract or linguistic enough to stand as actual knowledge."
"We’ve romanticised creativity so completely that we’ve ended up with an impenetrable mystery inside our heads. We might not literally believe in muse possession anymore, but we haven’t yet replaced this ‘mysterian’ view with a better one. As the Austrian painter Ernst Fuchs said of the mysterious loss of self that accompanies the making of art: ‘My hand created, led in trance, obscure things … Not seldom, I get into trance while painting, my state of consciousness fades, giving way to a feeling of being afloat … doing things I do not know much about consciously.’ This mysterian view of imagination is vague and obscure, but at least it captures something about the de-centred psychological state of creativity. Psychologists such as Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi have celebrated this aspect of creativity by describing (and recommending) ‘flow’ states, but the idea of ‘flow’ has proven little more than a secular redescription of the mysterian view.
"Evolutionary thought offers a path out of this confusion. In keeping with other evolved aspects of the human mind, the imagination has a history. We should think of the imagination as an archaeologist might think about a rich dig site, with layers of capacities, overlaid with one another. It emerges slowly over vast stretches of time, a punctuated equilibrium process that builds upon our shared animal inheritance. In order to understand it, we need to dig into the sedimentary layers of the mind." 
"Contrary to this interpretation, I want to suggest that imagination, properly understood, is one of the earliest human abilities, not a recent arrival. Thinking and communicating are vastly improved by language, it is true. But ‘thinking with imagery’ and even ‘thinking with the body’ must have preceded language by hundreds of thousands of years. It is part of our mammalian inheritance to read, store and retrieve emotionally coded representations of the world." 
"It is possible that Homo sapiens of 40,000 years ago were graphically literate before they were verbally literate." 
"Hominin waking life might have been closer to the free associations of our contemporary dream life."
Regarding aesthetics and creativity, imagination, and process-evolutionary theories of cognitive development, see my After Nature post "Whitehead's influence on Susanne Langer's Conception of Living Form," HERE.

Plato on the Metaphysical Foundation of Meaning and Truth (NDPR Review)

​More Plato as we cover more of the Republic. See Plato on the Metaphysical Foundation of Meaning and Truth reviewed at NDPR, HERE.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Pragmatism and Objectivity: Essays Sparked by the Work of Nicholas Rescher (NDPR Review)

Pragmatism and Objectivity: Essays Sparked by the Work of Nicholas Rescher
// Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews // News

2017.09.09 : View this Review Online | View Recent NDPR Reviews

Sami Pihlström (ed.), Pragmatism and Objectivity: Essays Sparked by the Work of Nicholas Rescher, Routledge, 2017, ix+282 pp., $ 140.00 (hbk), ISBN 9781138655232. Reviewed by Michele Marsonet, University of Genoa

In this collection of 14 essays many aspects of classical and contemporary pragmatism are examined with reference, at least in most cases, to the work of Nicholas Rescher. Usually, those who are interested in pragmatism from an historical point of view tend to forget that, from the beginning, a substantial polarity is present in this tradition of thought. It is a dichotomy between what Rescher calls "pragmatism of the left", i.e. a flexible type of pragmatism which endorses a greatly enhanced cognitive relativism, and a "pragmatism of the right", a different position that sees the pragmatist stance as a source of cognitive security. Both positions are eager to assure pluralism in the cognitive enterprise and in the concrete conduct of...

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Visual Phenomenology (NDPR Review)

Apropos our upcoming Phenomenology seminar expected to run Spring 2018.

Visual Phenomenology
// Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews // News

2017.09.10 : View this Review Online | View Recent NDPR Reviews

Michael Madary, Visual Phenomenology, MIT Press, 2016, 247pp., $45.00 (hbk), ISBN: 9780262035453. Reviewed by Susanna Siegel, Harvard University

The central thesis of this book is that "visual perception is an ongoing process of anticipation and fulfillment." Madary calls this conclusion "AF", and the book is organized around a two-premise argument for it:
P1. The phenomenology of vision is best described as an ongoing process of anticipation and fulfillment.
P2. There are strong empirical reasons to model vision using the general form of anticipation and fulfillment.
Conclusion (AF): Visual perception is an ongoing process of anticipation and fulfillment.
Madary devotes Part I to defending phenomenological analyses of the dynamic and perspectival aspects of visual experience that he takes to support premise 1, and Part...

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Plato's Ethics and Politics in The Republic (SEP entry update)

In our First-Year Writing Seminar (FYWS) "What is the Good Life?" we're currently reading Plato's Republic, and so I thought the below might be of interest to some of my students who read this blog.

Plato's Ethics and Politics in The Republic
// Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy

[Revised entry by Eric Brown on September 12, 2017. Changes to: Main text, Bibliography] Plato's Republic centers on a simple question: is it always better to be just than unjust? The puzzles in Book One prepare for this question, and Glaucon and Adeimantus make it explicit at the beginning of Book Two. To answer the question, Socrates takes a long way around, sketching an account of a good city on the grounds that a good city would be just and that defining justice as a virtue of a city would help to define justice as a virtue of a human being....