Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Reza, Brassier, and naturalism stripped bare

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

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

More soon.

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

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

More on Schopenhauer and pessimism in German philosophy.

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

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

Reviewed by Sandra Shapshay, Indiana University-Bloomington

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


Saturday, January 27, 2018

Dan Zahavi interviews at 3AM Magazine

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

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

Phenomenology: Husserl's Legacy -

Friday, January 26, 2018

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

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

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

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

Link and article below.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kieran Setiya

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

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Hegel on Philosophy in History (NDPR Review)

Info below.

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

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

Reviewed by Kristin Gjesdal, Temple University

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

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Monday, January 22, 2018

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

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

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


Friday, January 19, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, January 18, 2018

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

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

Deleuze and Ancient Greek Physics: The Image of Nature

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

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

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

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Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Deadline extension for North American Schelling Society

From the North American Schelling Society, see below:


Dear Friends of the North American Schelling Society,

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

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

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

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

The North American Schelling Society

Call for Papers

Schelling and Philosophies of the Earth

Sixth Annual Meeting of the North American Schelling Society

5-8 September 2018
Volcanoes National Park, Hawaiʻi

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

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

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Nature and Experience: Phenomenology and the Environment (NDPR Review)

Perhaps of interest to After Nature readers...

Nature and Experience: Phenomenology and the Environment
// Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews // 

Bryan E. Bannon (ed.), Nature and Experience: Phenomenology and the Environment, Rowman and Littlefield, 2016, 242 pp., $127.00 (hbk), ISBN 9781783485208.

Reviewed by Jonathan Maskit, Denison University

Environmental philosophy, like much of philosophy, is methodologically fractured. For many years the dominant strain has been environmental ethics, an approach that seeks to provide the normative grounding for environmental concern. Many environmental ethicists have debated how best to conceive of nature -- holistically, ecosystemically, as species, as individuals, etc. -- as well as what it is about nature conceived in this way that makes it morally considerable. A number of assumptions lie in the background of this approach. First is that there is a meaningful distinction to be drawn between human moral subjects and nature as an object, or set of objects, that may be deserving of moral consideration, even if incapable of reciprocal moral agency.