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 (wow...it'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."

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


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

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

Read More
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Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Deadline extension for North American Schelling Society

From the North American Schelling Society, see below:

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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 (lauer3@hawaii.edu). 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

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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 (lauer3@hawaii.edu) 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...

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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. 
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Monday, January 15, 2018

The Swiss Consider the Lobster. It Feels Pain, They Decide (New York Times)

I don't think that it is anthropomorphizing to attribute to non-human animals the conscious apperceptive awareness of pain, especially when those same non-human animals clearly show preference in not feeling pain, at all. To blame a difference of perception on dissimilar "hardware" is lazy reasoning.

Clearly these animals do not want to experience the sort of pain that comes with being electrocuted (as studies have shown) or boiled alive when humans wish to consume them. It is ethical prudence to err on the side of caution and thus on the side of the animal than on the side of the hungry, insensitive human who would like to cannibalize the flesh of a fellow sentient creature.

All the more reason to believe that pain is the sovereign, common denominator. Excerpts from the article below.

(As an aside, the article also reinforces my thought that the Swiss are light-years ahead of the U.S. in all sorts of moral reasoning, especially given how the Swiss have handled the drug epidemic in their own country versus how the United States has handled it. In one country - their's - drug abuse rates and correspondingly addiction/crime/etc. etc. have all significantly dropped; in another country - mine - despite crack-downs the situation is only getting worse. Go figure.)

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The Swiss Consider the Lobster. It Feels Pain, They Decide. - The New York Times
// The Swiss Consider the Lobster. It Feels Pain, They Decide. - The New York Times

The Swiss Consider the Lobster. It Feels Pain, They Decide.

The Swiss government has ordered that lobsters no longer be dropped alive into boiling water. But scientists say they're unsure whether lobsters feel pain.CreditRobert F. Bukaty/Associated Press
The government of Switzerland kicked off a debate this week when it ordered that lobsters and other crustaceans no longer be dropped alive into boiling water. Boiling them causes pain, the government said, and should be replaced by a more rapid method of death — such as stunning.

Still, even the scientist who conducted the foundational research for the government's decision said he's not 100 percent sure that lobsters can feel pain. But he's concerned enough that he's only cooked a live lobster once and doesn't plan to do it again.

"There's no absolute proof, but you keep running experiments and almost everything I looked at came out consistent with the idea of pain in these animals," said Robert Elwood, professor emeritus of animal behavior at Queen's University in Belfast, Northern Ireland. "There should be a more humane approach with lobsters."

Dr. Elwood's position — and the Swiss government's — is outside the scientific mainstream, said Joseph Ayers, a professor of marine and environmental sciences at Northeastern University in Boston.

"I think the idea of producing such a law is just a bunch of people anthropomorphizing lobsters," Dr. Ayers said, adding that there were other possible explanations for Dr. Elwood's findings. "I find it really quite remarkable that people attribute to these animals humanlike responses when they simply don't have the hardware for it."

Lobsters lack the brain anatomy needed to feel pain, said Dr. Ayers, who builds robots modeled on lobster and sea lamprey neurobiology. Lobsters and other crustaceans are often swallowed whole by predators, he added, so they never needed to evolve the ability to detect pain from say, warming water or an electric shock.

Michael Tlusty, a lobster biologist at the University of Massachusetts Boston, takes a middle ground. He agrees that lobsters lack the brain anatomy that we associate with pain sensation. But crustacean brains are so different from ours, he said, that no one can really say for certain what they are feeling.
For instance, when a lobster's claw is being attacked, it will jettison its own arm to escape. "When a human does that, we make a movie about it," Dr. Tlusty said, referring to the 2010 survival drama "127 Hours."

Lobsters continue to twitch after they've had their limbs ripped off, he noted, but it's unclear whether that's in response to unpleasant sensations or a programmed reflex — like your leg kicking when a doctor taps your knee in a particular place.

Dr. Elwood got the idea for researching lobster pain about a dozen years ago at his local pub. Celebrity chef Rick Stein, known for his seafood dishes, was having a pint, and Dr. Elwood introduced himself. The chef stumped him by asking if lobsters felt pain when cooked.
In several studies since, Dr. Elwood has shown that crustaceans guard wounded limbs and avoid areas where they've been shocked — even leaving their shells behind if necessary. When he traveled to Singapore, he said he watched as street sellers kept grabbing live crabs as they scuttled off a barbecue grill, keen to get away.

He's now convinced that those responses are the crustacean equivalent of pain. As David Foster Wallace observed in his famous article "Consider the Lobster," lobsters remain the only animals we still kill in our own kitchens. We have to face the ethics of that decision, he noted, while we more easily ignore such feelings about other animals in our diet.

Boiling might take as long as a minute to kill a lobster, long enough for it to suffer, Dr. Elwood said. A skilled chef who slices right into a lobster's head should be able to kill the animal faster, he said. "That should be a reasonable way of doing it."
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Schelling and Naturphilosophie: Comparative and Continental Philosophy


Comparative and Continental Philosophy has a nice issue covering Schelling, where you can read the editors' introduction for free HERE.

Friday, January 12, 2018

Ray Brassier (Dictionary Entry)


Courtesy of Pete Wolfendale, HERE and certainly worth a read. I suspect this is from The Meillassoux Dictionary, a book to which I myself have contributed and which I write about HERE.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

'Black Hole Apocalypse' Premieres on PBS Tonight

I always loved popular science like this. As I stated in an interview some time back, one of the main reasons I think I have a philosophical mind is due to how my father, always at the end of dinner, would ask my sister and I such strange questions such as "where does the universe end?" or "how did the universe begin?" "Do you think one day we can travel in time?" Mind you, we we're six, seven, or eight years old. When I was even younger I remember watching The Black Hole Disney movie (1979) as well as plenty of Doctor Who (with Tom Baker, the best doctor. Recently I obtained all seasons starring him and am re-watching those episodes).
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'Black Hole Apocalypse' Premieres on PBS Tonight
https://www.space.com/39344-black-hole-apocalypse-pbs-premiere.html
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Monday, January 8, 2018

How Forests Think: Toward an Anthropology Beyond the Human (mp3 download)


"How Forests Think," lecture on his book How Forests Think: Toward an Anthopology Beyond the Human by Eduardo Kohn.

Kohn was a candidate for the keynote of Ecstatic Naturalism 2018 (the eighth year of the conference!) but lack of available dates during the conference got in the way. It's interesting to know that Kohn privileges C.S. Peirce and his semiotics as a main source of philosophical inspiration. Kohn outright claims that Peirce's semiotics is crucial for his project, which I find interesting. See After Nature post "A Speculative Phenomenology of Non-Human Consciousness" HERE to see the connections. It would have been great to have him as a keynote, as his project overlaps with the theme of the conference so well.

You can listen to the lecture HERE, and see the call for papers to the conference below. Note that papers can still be accepted for a few select spots if arranged ahead of time. Note also the change of conference date.


Eighth International Congress on Ecstatic Naturalism 
April 13th & 14th, 2018
Campus of Drew UniversityMadisonNew Jersey

Theme:
"Nature and the Symbolic in the Human and Non-human"


A central feature of any naturalism is that there is at least some form of continuity between mind and nature – or, that mind "stretches" to meet nature (in the words of John Dewey). But, what is "mind" within a naturalistic register? A basic premise for naturalists such as Charles S. Peirce, John Dewey, George Herbert Mead, Alfred North Whitehead, or Susanne Langer – naturalists in the American philosophical tradition – is that "mind" is essentially symbolic. This is to say that, conceptually, mind is both expressive and representational. This, though, begs the question: what within nature might be able to "think?" As any "ecstatic" naturalism seeks to explore nature's deeply embedded transformational potential, the theme of this year's congress questions nature's potential for "mind" – or "intelligence" - and questions how that mind might be at work within the natural world, especially as expressed by means of symbol. What precisely is nature's potential for expressive intelligence and how is it expressed through symbol and concept? And further, what other than the human might be able to "think?" What does it mean to think? Can machines think? Can forests think? Insects? Birds? Fish? Transcending beyond the boundaries of the human, we seek papers that wish to explore especially non-human modes of intelligence within the realm of the symbolic in order to connect naturalism to applied philosophical fields, whether animal ethics, cognitive science and artificial intelligence, political ecology, biosemiotics, and so on. Papers need not be exclusively about the philosophy of ecstatic naturalism but are encouraged to at least minimally address its perspective before moving on to present a different thesis of the paper so as to place all papers of the congress within the stream of contemporary philosophical naturalism.

Submissions of abstracts 300-500 words in length should be emailed to: niemoczynskil@moravian.edu Paper deadline (no more than 15-20 minutes in length of reading or 6-8 pages double-spaced) of March 1st.

RALPH WALDO EMERSON PRIZE:
GIVEN TO A GRADUATE STUDENT, OR SOMEONE WHO GOT HER OR HIS PhD WITHIN THE PAST FIVE YEARS, FOR THE BEST PAPER BY A JUNIOR SCHOLAR. THE PRIZE COMES WITH A $500 AWARD.

TO QUALIFY FOR THE EMERSON PRIZE, YOU MUST WRITE ON ECSTATIC NATURALISM PER SE. AS IN THE OTHER PAPERS, THE PAGE LIMIT IS 6-8 PAGES. SEND THE COMPLETED PAPER TO EITHER OF THE ABOVE EMAILS BY MARCH 1ST.

THE GENERAL THEME OF THE CONGRESS SHOULD TAKE PLACE WITHIN THE CONTEXT OF RELIGIOUS OR NON-RELIGIOUS NATURALISM AS IN THE PREVIOUS SIX YEARS.

REGISTRATION FEES: $ 75 FOR FACULTY AND $ 25 FOR GRADUATE STUDENTS. SHORTLY WE WILL HAVE AN ONLINE SITE FOR REGISTERING WITH CREDIT CARDS. PERSONS USING CASH OR CHECK CAN REGISTER AT THE CONGRESS.