Monday, December 11, 2017

Plant Minds: A Philosophical Defense (NDPR review)

Plant Minds: A Philosophical Defense
// Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews

2017.12.09 : View this Review Online | View Recent NDPR Reviews

Chauncey Maher, Plant Minds: A Philosophical Defense, Routledge, 2017, 131 pp., $70.00 (hbk), ISBN 9781138739192.

Reviewed by Colin Allen, University of Pittsburgh

What do you know about plants? You might not be surprised to hear that plants account for much more of the planet's biomass than animals -- hundreds of times more, in some estimates. You may, however, be surprised to learn that the number of plant species is relatively small compared to the number of animal species. It is an interesting question why plants have not diversified as much as animals have, but perhaps their immobility accounts for it. Nevertheless, with somewhere in the range of 300,000 to 400,000 species (estimates vary widely), there is plenty enough diversity among plants to yield some very interesting adaptations, from communication to carnivory.

The details of such adaptations are...

Read More

Sunday, December 10, 2017

The Legacy of Kant in Sellars and Meillassoux: Analytic and Continental Kantianism

For those interested, the book The Legacy of Kant in Sellars and Meillassoux: Analytic and Continental Kantianism, while perhaps being abit limited to specialists in some fairly narrow fields within philosophy, nevertheless does seem to have quite a few interesting avenues of query available for those with a broader interest in the history of philosophy.

I do not own this book but say as much from previewing what I could from it and by inferring that the book is the result of THIS conference (do check out their website). I'll copy below the table of contents and insert a link to the publishers website. But this would certainly be a book I'd love to review, if not to see what contemporary philosophy is doing with Kant and Sellars, and road of development which has as far as I can tell produced some very interesting in-roads and results.

Chapters include:

"After Kant, Sellars, and Meillassoux: Back to Empirical Realism?" by James R. O’Shea
"Sellars and Meillassoux: a Most Unlikely Encounter" by Aude Bandini
"Correlation, Speculation, and the Modal Kant-Sellars Thesis" by Ray Brassier
"Speculative Materialism or Pragmatic Naturalism?: Sellars contra Meillassoux" by Carl B. Sachs
"How to Know that we Know? The contemporary Post-Kantian problem of a priori synthetic judgments" by Anna Longo
"Toward the Thing-in Itself: Sellars’ and Meillassoux’s Divergent Conception of Kantian Transcendentalism" by Dionysis Christias
"A Plea for Narcissus. On the Transcendental Reflexion /\ Refraction Mediation Tandem" by Gabriel Catren
"Speculating the Real: On Quentin Meillassoux’s Philosophical Realism" by Joseph Cohen
"‘It is not until we have eaten the apple’: Forestalling the Necessity of Contingency" by Muhannad Hariri
"Puncturing the Circle of Correlation: Rationalism, Materialism, and Dialectics" by Daniel Sacilotto

Link to publisher's site HERE. Description below:
Contemporary interest in realism and naturalism, emerging under the banner of speculative or new realism, has prompted continentally-trained philosophers to consider a number of texts from the canon of analytic philosophy. The philosophy of Wilfrid Sellars, in particular, has proven remarkably able to offer a contemporary re-formulation of traditional "continental" concerns that is amenable to realist and rationalist considerations, and serves as an accessible entry point into the Anglo-American tradition for continental philosophers. With the aim of appraising this fertile theoretical convergence, this volume brings together experts of both analytic and continental philosophy to discuss the legacy of Kantianism in contemporary philosophy. The individual essays explore the ways in which Sellars can be put into dialogue with the widely influential work of Quentin Meillassoux, explaining how—even though their methods, language, and proximal influences are widely different—their philosophical stances can be compared thanks to their shared Kantian heritage and interest in the problem of realism. This book will be appeal to students and scholars who are interested in Sellars, Meillassoux, contemporary realist movements in continental philosophy, and the analytic-continental debate in contemporary philosophy.

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Involvement of the brain in the experience of chronic pain

At several points the article comes close to "blaming" the patient insofar as there now has been shown to be a direct contribution by the brain (rather than a mere reaction by the body) in the experience of pain. This is nothing new though, but I fear the fact that cognitive behavioral therapy has been shown to "affect" changes in the brain (although studies have not conclusively shown this nor have studies shown that the affect is experienced as a reduction in the perception of pain) may be used as further excuse to place pain almost exclusively in the category of "mere perception." Naturally, then, the experience of pain is said to be the patient's fault because only the patient would be unwilling (or unable) to change that perception of pain.  Terms such as "guarding," "pain catastrophizing," and "fear avoidant behavior" make their appearances in tandem with stating explicitly that "over sensitization" in the perception of pain is physiologically explained by genetics, and implicitly stating that cognitive behavioral therapy alone is an appropriate form of treatment in cases of severe chronic pain (because afterall, pain is "all in the head anyway"). Making matters worse, this new line of thinking follows upon the United State's current hysterics over opioids and considering what positive role opioids might play when appropriately included in a regimen that would actually treat pain, rather than just explain its perception - for the research cited suggests that simply stating pain is mostly a subjective perception is enough to serve as some form of treatment of it (i.e. explanation of pain somehow equals treatment). This puts pain patients at even more of a disadvantage in getting the help they need, moreso than ever before.

Link HERE.

Friday, December 8, 2017

What professional responsibility comes with being an editor-in-chief?

Bill Benzon at New Savannah posted some time back a blog post, "Is formal peer-review really useful anymore?", HERE. The post highlights formal peer-review versus "review by peers" (a much less formal if not completely informal and speedy form of review), and the question as to what purpose review by peers might serve as a "weeding out" mechanism of sorts.

Citing Timothy Gowers of TLS, the post mentions how review by peers before formal peer-review can establish "reliability" in addition to "weeding out the chaff" and "providing feedback to authors." These in the name of determining what scholarship is more valuable than other scholarship and justifying "quick judgments" regarding authors' ideas in certain journals versus others. I should note Benzon's own position here is rather neutral and so I am addressing Gowers moreso than I am Benzon, despite Benzon's post where I initially encountered this thought.

My own perspective is that when it comes to open access journals especially, in the name of the democratization of knowledge formal peer-review instead of review by peers would be the preferred route of review. That is, much like Rawls' veil of ignorance in his theory of justice, blind peer-review (the formal component of it) pretty much eliminates the worst of what inevitably occurs with the worst of review by peers. While there is still the chance of nepotism and the channeling of a journal or book series into ideological organ based upon content, at least authorship is depersonalized and the quality of content, i.e. scholarship, becomes focus. I say this because from my experience political agendas and gate-keeping has come into play on more than one occasion. But I'll come back to that in a moment.

As THIS article points out, titled rather succinctly "Many academics are eager to publish in worthless journals," many open access journals out of desperation abandon formal peer-review in favor of review by peers not to ensure expediency in decision-making, not to better categorize papers as either fitting the journal's theme versus not, nor even to "weed out the chaff" and separate quality scholarship from the rest; but rather to continue an ideological agenda, push or return favors, or simply maintain someone's "spot" (and the corresponding pecking order of their acolytes). This all in the name of weeding out the chaff, which results to not much more than empty gesturing. All too often those whom the editors simply dislike or have decided to blackball from their small neck of the woods (usually some highly specific corner of field x in the philosophy of y) are cut out despite the quality of their scholarship. Had formal review been in place the editors would have been forced to confront their own prejudice and that prejudice at least become visible to others involved in the process, but that hardly ever occurs. It is no surprise that given the review by peers landscape is advantageous to those who happen to have grabbed the vetting power, it is often the preferred form of review in cases where charlatanism and cronyism are rampant anyhow. In short, review by peers over any formal sort of review is a sure-fire way to establish and then secure someone's level of importance or influence beyond what it would be in reality had some other process been going on, or in some cases it even allows philosophers to continue on in a game of charlatanism and dupe others into believing that x "make believe" philosophy exists when in fact it doesn't (again, speculative realism is an excellent case in point).

Returning to speculative realism for a moment, as my post concerning the Edinburgh University Press Speculative Realism Series from several weeks ago HERE has indicated (a post which netted around 750+ views as expected), it appears that the problems concerning a lack of objectivity and professionalism extend far and beyond what many might even realize. My experience was not with Edinburgh but rather Open Humanities Press (a different series within Open Humanities mind you, as I published with OHP anyway but decided to work with another editor who I found to be eminently more professional and actually, you know, fair in their decision-making). However, as I stated in that post, the editor whom I initially was going to contact at OHP wouldn't even agree to receive a manuscript proposal simply because I was the person who wrote it! This without really even knowing me personally, without ever even having spoken to me. So if that's not review by peers rather than formal peer-review I don't know what is. Fantastic to believe, I know. But it is true. Yes, this particular OHP editor refused to read a book proposal before it was ever sent to them, before this person even knew what it was about, before they ever even knew a title, a length, a subject, etc.  Based strictly on my name and the fact they did not like me for whatever reason, and nothing else. Not the level of my scholarship, not my talent, not the quality of my work - but upon what amounted to gossip and hearsay, second-rate information that they "heard" and formed an opinion of me which had no basis in reality and turned out to be false anyway. So, obviously that's a huge problem if that editor, whose job it is to be a consummate professional and behave as much, especially if someone is made editor of a series that has even an iota of pretense to be willing to look at submissions from anyone (even critical submissions - yeah right), or any pretense at all to having a fair or objective review process that would give them or their series credibility. That's what is lost with so-called review by peers. (Needless to say, many years later as this person went on to become the editor for other book series/journals one has to question: how can their judgment be trusted now? Afterall, clearly decisions weren't being made in virtue of the quality of work but rather someone's identity alone. What reason would one to think that that has changed? Further, what does this say about the work that they have agreed to edit? Was it because of that work's quality rather than political ties? We'll never know.)

To sum, Brian Leiter recently has written about such nonsense HERE. His post references an open access journal that explicitly claims it does not tow party lines or push specific political agendas, however that is the sort of wait-and-see claim which I suspect will result in disappointment, much like the case of the Edinburgh University Press Speculative Realism series has or PhilPapers and its editorialship has (again, the Speculative Realism series at PhilPapers has had its fair share of specific authors' work going missing or just never even being acknowledged as a submission, supposedly due to "technical errors" - how convenient! And to think, a book whose title is Speculative Realism: An Epitome is nowhere to be found in PhilPapers given that "Speculative Realism" is a category and the book has that same title. Now that omission is really convenient, wouldn't you say?).

But, you get the idea. My point here isn't that I have some axe to grind or am upset that my own work has been subjected to such silliness. Given that I would end up publishing the book anyway and that it has since been acknowledged and reviewed (quite positively in many cases) by those in that particular area of study, as well as is said to be one of the more objective (as is possible) commentaries on the topic, which is a rarity, I wouldn't be complaining about my situation personally or about any one editor, series, or person individually. My point simply is to address how dangerous and fallible a "review by peers" process can be and that more often than not its intention of providing expediency while at the same time maintaining fairness is more or less, a pipe dream. I have gone at lengths to support this claim with my own experience regarding the situation, that's all. But it is a situation which is much too common.

There is much, way too much, peer review that isn't much more than cronyism, and it needs to stop. One needn't look much further than speculative realism and its world of publishing as a good case in point. But obviously given the fallible nature of the process itself, given human nature, it occurs most times where formal peer review isn't taking place. And that is something which I believe needs to change.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

End of the World As We Know It: What's the Draw of Dystopian Sci-Fi? (article)

LiveScience online magazine with a very nice article HERE. What stood out to me in particular was how science fiction enables one to speculatively imagine a future which isn't as bright as many suppose technological science would deliver us unto. The best of science fiction, I think at least, allows one to feel as if the future in question is right around the corner, even if five minutes away.

Science fiction inevitably is a speculative-imaginative philosophical enterprise allowing human beings to not only consider what French philosopher Quentin Meillassoux has titled "the great outdoors," but to partake in a radical form of deanthropocentric and bleak ecological transcendence by imagining what twentieth century process philosopher Alfred North Whitehead referred to as other cosmic epochs being possible, including futures without the human.

For some H.P. Lovecraft accomplishes this with his use of the horror genre and correspondingly his "cosmic pessimism." I, however, do not find Lovecraft so potent. I find that science fiction, not horror, is the truly more philosophical literature of the two.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

The Quantum of Explanation: Whitehead's Radical Empiricism (NDPR review)

This is refreshing considering the amount of questionable Whitehead scholarship published as of late. Auxier teaches process philosophy at Southern Illinois University Carbondale and is a trusted source on the topic.

The Quantum of Explanation: Whitehead's Radical Empiricism
// Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews // News

2017.12.03 : View this Review Online

Randall E. Auxier and Gary L. Herstein, The Quantum of Explanation: Whitehead's Radical Empiricism, Routledge, 2017, 370pp., $150.00 (hbk), ISBN 9781138700161.
Reviewed by George Lucas, U.S. Naval Academy

This is an insightful and provocative account of Whitehead's metaphysics by two gifted and determined scholars. It centers on the claim that the key concept in that metaphysical system, the "actual entity" or "actual occasion" (res vera), is an explanatory, illustrative, or heuristic concept (as the so-called "Bohr atom" serves in physics, for example), and decidedly neither a "Ding-an-sich" nor a descriptive account of what "actuality" is actually composed of.

Instead, the authors identify Whitehead's technically challenging metaphysics as his effort to understand "the quantum of explanation" rather than to disclose some fundamental quantum of Being itself. 

Monday, December 4, 2017

Nietzsche as Social Critic: “Twilight of the Idols” (Part One) (Partially Examined Life podcast)

Partially Examined Life podcast put out another rather interesting episode on Nietzsche. I believe there are at least two other Nietzsche episodes in their several years-long history, each worth listening to. 

Episode 178: Nietzsche as Social Critic: "Twilight of the Idols" (Part One)
// The Partially Examined Life Philosophy Podcast

Friedrich Niezsche
On Friedrich Nieztsche's 1888 book summarizing his thought and critiquing the founding myths of his society. He defends "spiritualized" instinct and frenzied creativity, but also Napoleon and war. We try to figure out what kind of social critic he'd be today. Would we actually like him?

Sunday, December 3, 2017

J.G. Ballard's contribution to post-punk and new wave

"Punk" aesthetics has had its share of predecessors, but just as important is punk aesthetics' impact upon, and subsequent genre development of, "punk rock" as musical genre (what "punk" is usually most associated with). The close association between cultural phenomenon and musical genre places punk near other counter-culture movements, whether the motorcycle and hot-rod gangs of the 1940's and 1950's listening to doo-wop (i.e. the "rockers" and the "greasers"), the beat generation in America with its jazz, the sun children and "hippies" of the '60s and folk rock, and folk rock becoming the psychedelic (and loud) garage bands that transformed into "heavy metal" during the late '70s and early '80s. Even "alternative" music - made popular among young people due to college radio airplay during the early '90s - was an "alternative" to the main stream and has influenced what today is called "indie music."  In current times as genres are unnecessarily multiplied I find consolation that the do-it-yourself, edgy and aggressive, throw-the-system culture of punk rock has transformed for the better and evolved the way it has while retaining its core aesthetic elements. During the years of (roughly) 1977 through 1983 or '84 punk transformed into something that so many young people today are trying to re-create. Namely, punk became post-punk and new wave. As that transformation took place however, none of punk's edginess or aggressive aesthetic was lost. How did such a transformation occur, and what might we learn from it?

"Post punk," the natural outgrowth of punk that picked up where other alternative and edgy anti-social genres took off (not only music but youth culture more generally), had the identity it did because of a brand new musical invention: the synthesizer.  While the electric guitar took rock 'n roll to an entirely new level in garage bands and then metal, the synth took punk into post-punk and new wave - elevating and developing the original punk aesthetic into something even more dark, edgy, and untimely. Unlike today when counter-cultural genres meet popular or new technologies and dilute as a result, post-punk and new wave retained its distinct "dark" and post-apocalyptic vibe nevertheless. With the invention of the synthesizer and its eventual low cost price point, and the fact that quite simply just more people were incorporating synthesizer into that genre of music, one would expect post-punk to be a former shell of punk rock, especially when it came to its dark and edgy aesthetic and its "underground" and "independent" nature of composition. So how did post-punk and new wave do it? How did they retain that core "punk" aesthetic element? Well, as I found out in the fantastic documentary which I embed below, musicians during those years weren't just playing the synthesizer. They were all reading plenty of J.G. Ballard. Allow me to explain...

Punk rock's transformation into post-punk and new wave just wasn't a matter of brand new musical instrument and whose hands happened to be on it; it was, rather, a matter of there being twin core aesthetic influences affecting and even driving that transformation. Therefore, the transformation of punk into post-punk and new wave was due just as much to new literary/film/cultural genre (including "cyber punk," dystopian or post-apocalyptic science fiction - again, whether literature or film ) as it was to new musical instrument. The relatively new genre of post-apocalyptic sci-fi, of dark futurism, of cosmic pessimism, helped post-punk and new wave keep in view what punk rock could have easily lost: speculating a darker and and more "bleak" future to come. And, that future? It wasn't to be seen five hundred years from then, nor even a hundred. It could very well be five minutes from then. The apocalyptic future was immanent. Ballard, but also Kubrick, and others like them, created speculative futures which could very well be seen as occurring the day after tomorrow for those who encountered them. They were futures which were all the more probable, and this made them all the more terrifying. For as fictional as they were, these were realist speculative futures.

Definitely worth watching, Synth Britannia charts the course of post-punk and new wave circa 1977 through 1984. (For those unable to watch, THIS write-up in the Observer would be almost just as good.) And as we see, J.G. Ballard, Kubrick's 1971 masterpiece Clockwork Orange, and other dark, edgy, and bleak iconic aesthetic cultural treasures had their share fair of influence on the genre of music that, to my mind, represents Generation-X's sensibilities more than any other. Interestingly, if I might add, Gen-X philosophers still read Ballard today (and many, including me, still listen to post-punk and new wave, whether the originals or the "new retro-wave" of today).

My understanding is that the electronics of new wave that transformed into experimental dance music and electronic avante-garde are what influenced CCRU and friends such as Nick Land and Sadie Plant. Philosophers such as Ray Brassier have written about Ballard (and also participated in improvisational music scenarios), and perhaps even more generally speaking, many Gen-X philosophers are tremendously influenced by "cyber punk," post-punk and new wave's corresponding literary genre.

Ballard makes appearances mostly in the first half of the documentary.

Saturday, December 2, 2017

another dissertation: John Maus (yes...John Maus the musician)

HERE. His dissertation, a political treatise in the Continental philosophical vein, is worth looking at, especially if one is a fan of Maus's music. (Check out his music and philosophy HERE.) Vulture Magazine also has a nice write up on Maus's whereabouts and activities HERE.

Maus is a very rare instance of a professional, or highly "successful" let's say, musician who is also a professional (Ph.D.'d) academic philosopher. I think he essentially maintains equal notoriety in both fields.

Maus had been producing music in the 2010's and then went on to focus upon completing his Ph.D. at the University of Hawaii. The dissertation's completion is fairly recent, or recent enough that the fact he has also just released a new album is an amazing feat in itself. I should also congratulate Maus for recently getting married. His wife is a rather famous artist from Hungary and a great human being as well.

New John Maus album Screen Memories is available now.

Dissertation on Post-Kantian process philosophy and Schelling and Whitehead

By Mathew David Segall, HERE. I've know Matt for quite a few years now having been a regular reader of his blog Footnotes to Plato.  My understanding is that he completed the Ph.D. fairly recently and is now teaching out in California somewhere. In any case, Matt has always been supportive of After Nature blog and supportive in our mutual philosophical interests. He is a first rate human being to say the least. During the height of the blog wars ("skirmishes") which took place in the early 2010's  over the meaning of "Speculative Realism" and the validity and worth (or lack thereof) of "object oriented ontology" for example, Matt always responded as a class act to those who, frankly, behaved like disrespectful monsters and thugs. There were several occasions where I saw other bloggers level the most personal and horrible insults at him and he responded with such dignity and class.  That always impressed me so much. When I was personally attacked by these same people Matt was kind and supportive, was never judgmental, and always took the time to listen knowing that there are two sides to every story.  I am so grateful to him for that. 

I've learned alot from interacting with Matt and certainly have learned much from his absolutely fantastic dissertation which you should certainly take a look at if you get the chance. It's excellent work.

Friday, December 1, 2017

A Speculative Phenomenology of Non-human Consciousness (Why Crabs and Lobsters Deserve Protection from Being Cooked Alive)

William James' "On a Certain Blindness in Human Beings" remains an untimely text in its call for human beings to relinquish the anthropocentric standpoint of phenomenology and adopt, rather, a speculative phenomenological approach of non-human forms of consciousness. Thus not only was James ahead of his time, he is, today, ahead of ours. 

If ontology, the science of being, catalogs the "furniture of the universe," as it were, all too often I am asked why we should not consider "objects" per se in an attempt to engage the science of being in its most universal sense. I typically respond that we must examine what is at stake exactly, and that even from a deanthropocentric point of view, ecologically but also methodologically human beings are forced into a position of "transcendence," where transcendence means first and foremost stepping outside of the human - this so that we might accomplish a thoroughgoing, substantial, but most of all accurate picture as to what is and in what way it is. In other words, so that we might achieve not only a speculative phenomenology, but a speculative naturalism.

Phenomenology, as I have incessantly argued over the years, need not be the strictly Husserlian observor-dependent, descriptive-reportage affair we are told that it is (here I am thinking about Tom Sparrow The End of Phenomenology: Metaphysics and the New Realism and its self-refuting thesis regarding the "non-existence" or death of phenomenology and the supposed existence and healthy life of philosophy's Loch Ness monster, Speculative Realism). Indeed, others, whether Alfred North Whitehead or Charles Hartshorne, or C.S. Peirce (incidentally phenomenology was actually a branch of mathematics for Peirce, i.e. category theory), are thinkers unlike Husserl in that their phenomenology is necessarily a speculative non-human, or better, trans-conscious enterprise whose transcendental engagements are logical-mathematical.  Phenomenology understood as mathematical-ontology.

For as abstract as this sounds, we know that in Peirce or Whitehead or Hartshorne value is independent of human valuers. We know that consciousness is a qualitative affair, yet quality need not be limited to consciousness (in fact, in Peirce it isn't - c.f. "Firstness"). What this means, then, is that the stakes of ontology are perhaps even higher than supposed. While consciousness is not a central principle or the category of "life" vitalistically made ultimate in terms of what is  fundamental to this speculative phenomenological enterprise, this is not to say that consciousness or life is not entirely unconducive to the sorts of generic descriptions that make for ontology as a science of being. On the other hand, we should not be considering "objects" or what is like to be the inside of a watermelon or doorknob when forms of consciousness other than our own are being abused, are suffering, are forced into extinction. Categorial logical-mathematical description and operation, when knitted with an axiological perspective that is at once realist and speculative enough to secure metaphysical transcendence, is enough to anchor an ethics wide enough to accommodate the living and non-living alike. Thus it is not just about description but activity and function.

From a post of mine some time back, then a link to an Aeon article with a very, very interesting excerpt which, to me, leads me to continue to think that pain can be said to be the sovereign common denominator. Quoting myself, I wrote:
In the tradition of Jakob von Uexkull or even to some degree William James and Alfred North Whitehead, it isn't about multiplying different world pictures nor even rendering them common to ours, even though the diversity of world pictures has its place.  I think it is about speculatively and phenomenologically allowing non-human worlds to exhibitively self-display their experiential features where these features are attended to for what they are.    Ordinal phenomenology is one method, speculative naturalism another; there is also semiotic phenomenology or more broadly bio and ecosemiotics.  For several years now I've commented on how it isn't anthropocentric/anthropormorphic at all to find that pain, for example, is part of a constituting domain which is extra-human (or non-human).  It's one thing to read a human face across nature by imposing human emotive qualities upon other things within the world, but another to realize the broader intensive aesthetic character of the natural world of which human beings are but a small part.  Equally alien (distinct with our own modes of perception, as are all organisms) we are nevertheless deeply natural - deeply "part" of nature.   
I realize the trend is to de-humanize nature as much as possible, but really, human beings are part and parcel of nature, and so we can expect that what we experience is continuous from the outside in rather than assuming it is always the case we project our experience (onto others) from the inside out...
Even removing human beings from nature and stating, "Ok, the experience of others may not be like our subjective experience" doesn't mean that others aren't capable of experiencing emotion, pain, etc. etc.  The fact is, it isn't our experience to begin with.  If human beings didn't exist, elephants would still grieve the loss of a matriarch, dolphins would still express joy,crabs would still feel pain, and so on.  Further still, all things - taking a panexperiential viewpoint - would struggle to persist and would undergo self-relations.  We don't need to appeal to analogies involving human-centered experience to make that case.  No one is saying the world is like us.  I (for one) am simply saying that we are part of the world, naturally, like everything else.  If that is true then there is continuity as much as there is difference.  Neither is absolute in reality although it is possible to take either epistemologically true and absolute. 
Schopenhauer stated that empathy, given the reality of suffering. could be a basis for ethics; and no one wants to suffer afterall, Yet it seems that the conclusion ontologically precedes what things are.  Which is to say, yes, all things do suffer in their basic and most essential persistence, ontologically. The ethical judgment regarding that ontological fact is a "second," as Peirce would say.  Not a "first."
Aeon has a nice article up HERE. I've touched on the subject HERE and HERE. From the Aeon article I found the following particularly interesting:
In another experiment, Elwood and colleagues found that shore crabs rapidly learn to avoid locations they associate with harmful experiences. The crabs were offered a choice of two dark shelters: in one, they received shocks; in the other, they did not. In general, crabs prefer to return to shelters that they have previously occupied. But after repeatedly receiving a shock in one of the shelters, the crabs were much less likely to return to it – a phenomenon known as conditioned place avoidance. 
Motivational trade-offs and conditioned place avoidance are what I call credible indicators of pain – credible because they cannot be explained away as mere reflexes, and because they tie in with a reasonable theory about the function of pain for animals that feel it. The idea in the background here is that pain is a guide to decision-making. To make flexible decisions, animals need to be able to weigh the seriousness of an injury against other things they need. Sometimes fleeing is the right thing to do; sometimes carrying on as normal is the right thing to do; sometimes tending the injury is the right thing to do – it depends on the situation. Pain is the currency in which the need to stop, or the need to flee, is measured. When we find an animal making flexible decisions by integrating information about past or present injury with information about its other needs, that is a credible indicator of pain.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Process versus object: Which does the metaphysics behind science support?

A philosopher of science/biology chimes in on the debate. He concludes the natural world is not composed of "things" but rather "dynamic processes." Interesting article linked below.

Science and metaphysics must work together to answer life's deepest questions | Aeon Essays

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Aesthetics Today blog on Suzanne Langer

Interesting post wherein Susanne Langer (student of Whitehead) is discussed in quite abit of detail. I thought this was particularly interesting:
[Langer] emphasizes the “semblance of organism.” Dewey stresses that we are live creatures interacting with our environments. Langer tries to keep the two radically separate, but interestingly the value of art is that it reflects us by resembling ourselves as live organisms. “Living organisms maintain themselves, resist change, strive to restore their structure when it has been forcibly interfered with….organisms, performing characteristic functions must have certain general forms, or perish.” (229) Following Aristotle, once again, she stresses that life has necessity, that only life “exhibits any telos” and that the acorn strives to become the oak. Now she stresses that there is “nothing actually organic about a work of sculpture” (230) and yet is gives us “semblance of living form....As Langer puts it “the human environment, which is the counterpart of any human life, holds the imprint of a functional pattern; it is the complementary of organic form” which see sees in terms of the “metabolic pattern” of our both our feelings and our physical acts. But again as opposed to Langer, it is not just complementary or a counterpart; it is just exactly also where we live. To put it briefly: human life is in the human environment...
This brought to mind the Umwelten of Jakob von Uexküll, meaning the perceptual "worlds" in which various organisms exist as subjects, established by the achievement of form through sensuous interaction with their respective environments. I think Uexküll's notion of "significance" and how it functions midway between creature and environment is strikingly similar to Langer's notion of living form and John William Miller's notion of Midworld.

Link to the post at Aesthetics Today blog HERE. More on Langer from After Nature blog HERE. Corry Shore's entry on Jakob von Uexküll HERE.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Hume's Science of Human Nature: Scientific Realism, Reason, and Substantial Explanation (NDPR Review)

For many years I have had an on-again / off-again fascination with Hume, mostly because of his naturalism and sometimes because of his views concerning skepticism and contingency. Always prompted by me teaching him in my intro to philosophy classes though.

This book looks quite interesting, for Hume scholarship. Remember, too, that we might say Quine was a twentieth century Hume in certain respects.

Hume's Science of Human Nature: Scientific Realism, Reason, and Substantial Explanation
// Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews // News

David Landy, Hume's Science of Human Nature: Scientific Realism, Reason, and Substantial Explanation, Routledge, 2017, 278pp., $140.00, ISBN 9781138503137.
Reviewed by Hsueh Qu, National University of Singapore

If we are to view the Treatise of Human Nature as a systematic and cohesive work, we must see Hume's varied investigations as following a consistent and cogent methodology. What is the nature of this methodology? This is the question that David Landy looks to answer in his latest book. Broadly, this monograph argues for a novel take on Hume's understanding of scientific explanation, which undergirds his investigation of the human mind. Crucial to this methodology is the notion of a 'perceptible model' (p.4), involving an experiential model for theoretical posits, with the determinate respects of similarity and differences from concrete experience made clear (akin to Bohr's model of the atom). In arguing for this view, Landy rejects two interpretations:...

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Saturday, November 25, 2017

Erich Hörl, James Burton (eds.): General Ecology: The New Ecological Paradigm

Note in Chapter 14 Brian Massumi's wonderful use of C.S. Peirce's concept of "Firstness." The other chapters were available to read too last time I checked.

Erich Hörl, James Burton (eds.): General Ecology: The New Ecological Paradigm (2017)
// Monoskop Log

"Ecology has become one of the most urgent and lively fields in both the humanities and sciences. In a dramatic widening of scope beyond its original concern with the coexistence of living organisms within a natural environment, it is now recognized that there are ecologies of mind, information, sensation, perception, power, participation, media, behavior, belonging, values, the social, the political… a thousand ecologies. This proliferation is not simply a metaphorical extension of the figurative potential of natural ecology: rather, it reflects the thoroughgoing imbrication of natural and technological elements in the constitution of the contemporary environments we inhabit, the rise of a cybernetic natural state, with its corresponding mode of power. Hence this ecology of ecologies initiates and demands that we go beyond the specificity of any particular ecology: a general thinking of ecology which may also constitute an ecological transformation of thought itself is required.
In this ambitious and radical new volume of writings, some of the most exciting contemporary thinkers in the field take on the task of revealing and theorizing the extent of the ecologization of existence as the effect of our contemporary sociotechnological condition: together, they bring out the complexity and urgency of the challenge of ecological thought-one we cannot avoid if we want to ask and indeed have a chance of affecting what forms of life, agency, modes of existence, human or otherwise, will participate-and how-in this planet's future."

With texts by Erich Hörl, Luciana Parisi, Frédéric Neyrat, Bernard Stiegler, Didier Debaise, Jussi Parikka, Bruce Clarke, Cary Wolfe, David Wills, James Burton, Elena Esposito, Timothy Morton, Matthew Fuller and Olga Goriunova, and Brian Massumi.

Publisher Bloomsbury Academic, London/New York, 2017
ISBN 9781350014695, 1350014699
xv+384 pages


music behind the writing: Transcendental Naturalism

Eight years ago today Cold Cave released its "Love Comes Close" through Matador Records. Here's to my love of Cold Cave with their new track "Glory" (2017) followed by "Love Comes Close" (2009) and an excellent cover of The Cure's "Plain Song."

All three tracks are fantastic, and in addition to their 2011 album Cherish the Light Years' "Confetti" and "Catacombs", these certainly are among my personal go-to favorites whether for grading, writing, etc. etc. etc. Enough music to last while accomplishing some task or another - for me, working on the mighty Transcendental Naturalism.

Hope you enjoy.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

The world of publishing work about speculative realism: are all really "welcome" as we are told?

My copy of Debaise's Nature as Event, just arrived the other day.

Let's call a spade a spade. The world of publishing about speculative realism in a purportedly "academic" context is simply this: we're happy to receive proposals of work having anything to do with "Speculative Realism" if we like you.

True story, and I left this out of my book about speculative realism in order to try to be polite, however due to a recent post that someone just wrote to me about: I feel it necessary in light of the total bullshit that this person just revealed in their email to me to share with the world some more truth in addition to Speculative Realism: An Epitome. What follows is abit of me venting and so if that is not your cup of tea please feel free to move on. However, the reason I am venting is because the words that just appeared on my screen are an insult to someone who has just spent three months researching a currently-being-written manuscript that is speculative realist philosophy yet the proposal for which won't be read due to personal politics despite the smiling face saying that any and all proposals are welcome. Not true, folks. Not true.

Again, what follows is an honest and heart-felt rant. But it is a rant, so if that isn't your thing then please feel free to peruse onward.


 Several years ago I was going to submit a proposal to Open Humanities Press. I won't reveal here what particular series in Open Humanities Press in order to keep polite the post that I am currently writing right now, and also, so as not to reveal specifically what series editor I am talking about. Afterall, it's not the person that I am concerned with here but rather their conduct in the particular situation that I am talking about, as well as the words that appeared in my friend's email to me today. So before we go further, from my end this is not personal. Sadly from their end it is.

A former friend of mine knew this series editor and actually was/is quite close with them, so I thought to have this person contact the editor to see how they'd like for me to submit the proposal, where to send it, and so on.  Well, the series editor promptly told my former friend that they refused to even receive the proposal. Yes, this Ph.D.'d scholar, entrusted with the power of supposed academic objectivity as a series editor, whose job it is to review manuscripts for their series to see which might be worth publishing and which not, on the basis of personal politics and not on the basis of the work itself, absolutely refused to read a proposal before it was even sent to them. True story.

Now, pause.  If you are a series editor and are purporting to contribute to academic scholarship, receive and review any and all manuscripts, you're meaning to tell me, years later, that anyone is "welcome" to submit an ms to your series (now not at Open Humanities Press but elsewhere) when - in fact - on the basis of personal bias it is possible to refuse to even receive a manuscript or even look at a proposal simply because someone has personal issues? Simply because you don't like the person? And worse, you say "any and all proposals are welcome" but yet some proposals shouldn't even be sent because they were written by someone you don't like, you won't read those proposals anyway, based not upon the content of the proposal god forbid, but the name attached to it?  Bullshit.  I call bullshit. I am sorry, but it is is outright disgusting and sick that anyone would put out there with some happy smile on their face that they'll receive any and all proposals when, well, they have to like you first to even look at what you wrote. So, no, your work doesn't matter. The quality of your scholarship doesn't matter. The fact that you have good arguments doesn't matter. What matters is if you are personally liked rather than disliked by the editor. Give me an effing break.

So someone, like me for instance, can spend a year writing a manuscript about speculative realism - a good one - one that is much, much better than most of what's passed through by this person in their series, and I mean they've desperately put out books about everything under the sun and speculative realism, and now due to a lack of a pool of authors who write about the subject are even repeating authors who previously published through the series, but because of some obscure personal bias, when this person doesn't even know me, refuses to even read my work? Are you kidding me? And let me say outright - the personal bias? Based on gossip and hearsay. I was never even asked about the bs that this person said was the basis of their dislike for me. Unreal. Just, unreal.

Let me tell you a quick story to put this in perspective. This summer I spent several hundred hours researching a book which I plan to call Transcendental Naturalism. It's a follow up to Speculative Naturalism: Philosophy After Nature (a book re-written several times and actually the ms that I was originally going to send to this person back then. So, yes, it was Speculative Naturalism which was an ms that this person wouldn't even agree to receive by email based on their personal dislike of me.). Anyway, Transcendental Naturalism is probably the most complex and substantially argued book that I've written yet to date and takes on the arguments of Meillassoux, Brassier, Grant, etc. The book just isn't about speculative realism, it is speculative realist philosophy. (Now, note as an aside that if you've read my latest book Speculative Realism: An Epitome you will see how there can still even be speculative realist philosophy despite my existence claims regarding the name branded "movement" of it. So, the book engages the most contemporary arguments out there and is a direct contribution to the scholarship. But, moving on.)

Transcendental Naturalism is a book that is speculative realist philosophy, and once published I am confident that it will make an impact as it directly engages recent arguments and puts forward what I think, at least, is a novel thesis. I mean, it's still being written, but is mostly researched, I've outlined the chapters, and now am just waiting for December break to put it all together.

But the point is, this book will not be published through the series which claims to "welcome" any and all proposals because despite the caliber of the book personal politics will keep it from even being read.

That's not academic conduct by any stretch of the imagination. That's not professional conduct by any stretch of the imagination.

Don't believe the hype folks. The world of publishing about speculative realism is total bullshit. Obviously I'm irate and insulted because my hard work means absolutely nothing because of personal politics. My summer spent with my wife in Germany and Switzerland, toiling away day after day while she worked during the day and I stayed behind whether at the hotel or coffee shops and libraries to produce what is, with all due humility, the most challenging work I've created to date. It doesn't mean jack because a gatekeeper would refuse to read it. No, in the past I was told not even to bother sending it ahead of time. And now, today, this new book is three months of hard work is not allowed to proceed in the direction that, frankly, it should.  Think about it: how ridiculous is it, that, not just my work, but others (Terence Blake, Jason Hills, Pete Wolfendale) goes unmentioned, unsaid, when it is contributing to the exact same debate? It's like being in a room of about a dozen people (and that's literally about the number of people who work on this stuff, in the world) and some just squinch their eyes shut and put their fingers in their ears and start yelling because they don't want to hear your arguments. I mean, this is crazy. I have never, ever seen anything like this.

So, obviously I wouldn't bother to send my "proposal" there to have that smiling face just step on my work by telling me a priori, no, it won't be read. That is disgusting and that is sick. I am so insulted if only because my hard work means nothing in this case. Nothing. And we're talking three months of my life working on this book. Over the summer I put nothing less than one hundred and ten percent of my effort into this project. And some smiling face will smugly say to the world that they're willing to look at any and all proposals? I don't even know what to say to that, except, in terms of academic scholarship and the integrity that is supposed to go behind editorialship, I've never been so insulted in my life. Who knows, maybe that was this person's goal and they're laughing right now. Well, good. Good for them. Joke's on me.

Don't believe the hype and move on to more professional series where hard work does amount to something and proposals are accepted, any and all. Not just some idle hand waiving and smiling when in fact there are more insidious motives at play. I have nothing to "prove," and am not lobbying for acceptance. I am not lamenting that I am unable to publish in this series. Obviously the book can and will be published elsewhere. And obviously, yet again, the world will be confused as to the great silence that will surround what I think will amount to a fantastic game-changing book. In this post I am asking though that in the world hard work should be reviewed for its merit, not for the politics surrounding who wrote it. That is just shallow and absurd. Judge work for its quality, for what it says, not just by the name on its cover. If you accept anything based on a name, or refuse anything based on a name, then that is not professional editorialship. It's censorship, and it's blatant personal politics.

Venting done, and I move on. Do look out for Transcendental Naturalism though soon enough. I hope that the book accomplishes what I wanted it to. And, for the record, Debaise's book Nature and Event is the better of his most recent two, so ignore the other and buy Nature and Event. It is through Duke University Press which is a legitimate and reputable press whose vetting process is as fair and objective as can be, and the editors are actual human beings rather than monsters with a grudge. (Note that this is not his book through the Edinburgh University Press Speculative Realism Series where, well, much of what I said above applies. And shame on Edinburgh University Press if they support this kind of editorialship. They ought to rethink what they're doing. You now have a blog post which will probably hit seven or eight hundred-plus readers this week alone so maybe they'll listen and change a thing or two.)

Saturday, November 18, 2017

quote of the day

"Just what is it we sense so poignantly below the heart, absorbing the zephyr of sadness, soft as a prevailing breeze? Are you pleased with us, darksome night?...You brace the wings of our sentient being."

- Novalis, Hymns to the Night

Friday, November 17, 2017

Dernière Volonté (Last Will, in English)

French cold-wave/darkwave synthpop band Dernière Volonté has hit the nail on the head with its 2012 "Mon Meilleur Ennemi" album. Released by the Tesco label of Germany, Dernière Volonté (Last Will, in English) has evolved over the years into something like a more dark and brooding Dépêche Mode, one who isn't afraid of venturing out to explore the more melancholic nature of human existence not knowing what one might find.

Favorite track?

On any given night recently, you might find me dancing alone in my living room with the lights low to "J'oublie Que Tu Existes" (embedded above, or click HERE). At least until my wife comes home.

Highly recommended. The entire album, which I'll link HERE is absolutely fantastic.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Karl Jaspers (SEP entry update)

SEP entry update on Karl Jaspers.

Karl Jaspers
// Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy

[Revised entry by Chris Thornhill and Ronny Miron on November 15, 2017. Changes to: Main text, Bibliography] Karl Jaspers (1883 - 1969) began his academic career working as a psychiatrist and, after a period of transition, he converted to philosophy in the early 1920s. Throughout the middle decades of the twentieth century he exercised considerable influence on a number of areas of philosophical inquiry: especially on epistemology, the philosophy of religion, and political theory.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Classic and Romantic German Aesthetics

I am at the mercy of German romanticism and classicism before bed these days, hence I post this. My god, of what beauty is Stephan George. Philosophically, THIS book always proves invaluable.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Louis C.K., Schopenhauer, and Nietzsche on How to Suffer and Be Happy

Partially Examined Life considers why happiness so often presents itself as a problem. HERE.

On a related note, my First Year Writing Seminar, a first year writing seminar developed for first semester college freshmen, is going wonderfully. What a great, great bunch of kids this year. All doing the readings, all have plenty to say, all intelligent and polite. Wow. Blown away by this bunch. The seminar is called "What is the Good Life?"  Basically faculty pick whatever topic they'd like to teach and then follow the basic outlines of a writing course with that content serving as the main center of reading and discussion. We are using Plato's Republic, Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics, Epicurus' The Art of Happiness, Seneca, Montaigne, Schopenhauer, and Nietzsche.

Great class, fun to teach.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Two fantastic SEP entries: "Logic and Ontology" and "Bradley's Regress Argument"

The "Bradley's Regress Argument" obviously draws from Hegel in several important ways. As is well known, Bradley was a British idealist and the example using the the sugar cube comes directly from Hegel's Phenomenology.

"Logic and Ontology" entry HERE and "Bradley's Regress Argument" HERE.

New tag "Logic."

Friday, November 10, 2017

What does it mean to be an idealist?

Interesting article HERE in the October issue of Epoché . I've linked the table of contents because there are a few other good articles (one on Kant in particular) that are quite good.

Creating new tag "Kant." There are many posts about Kant, not sure why I've never formally done that before.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Hegel futuriste - à propos de "Logique de la science-fiction" de Jean-Clet Martin / Mickaël Perre

« Il faudrait arriver à raconter un livre réel de la philosophie passée comme si c’était un livre imaginaire et feint. »
(Deleuze, Différence et répétition, p. 4)

« La Logique (…) se place au-dessus de l’art de son temps, sans doute au-delà de toute esthétique humaine, annonçant des modes d’expression qui n’existaient pas à l’époque de Hegel, des médiations imageantes que son texte appelle, très en avance sur lui-même, vers des créations qu’il ne manquera pas d’inspirer. »
(Jean-Clet Martin, Logique de la science-fiction, p. 132)

« Quoi de plus gai qu’un air du temps ? » demandait Gilles Deleuze peu avant la parution de Différence et répétition[1]. Cette question n’est pas seulement l’expression d’une certaine modestie visant à atténuer l’originalité de sa pensée en la référant à un mouvement d’ensemble dont elle dépendrait. La référence à l’air du temps dissimule en réalité une thèse sur l’origine des problèmes philosophiques : comment expliquer que des penseurs différents, appartenant à des générations différentes, évoluant dans des espaces théoriques différents, puissent poser les mêmes problèmes ? Comment rendre compte de ces convergences ? Si les problèmes doivent être construits et ne se posent jamais d’eux-mêmes, on peut parfois avoir l’impression qu’ils évoluent dans un temps virtuel et participent d’un « esprit du temps »[2]. Cela ne veut pas dire qu’ils sont déjà là, disponibles, n’attendant qu’un penseur volontaire pour les cueillir et les exposer. Les problèmes participent peut-être d’un « air du temps », mais il faut encore être capable de les « reconnaître » ; il faut d’abord être sensible aux virtualités d’une époque avant d’en actualiser les problèmes. Les grands penseurs sont tous des « voyants » en ce sens[3] : ils voient les problèmes là où les autres se contentent de répéter ce qui a déjà été dit ; ils ne s’en tiennent pas à l’histoire des problèmes mais scrutent l’invisible, quitte à revenir les « yeux rouges », fatigués par l’effort d’une vision attentive aux devenirs. Comme le remarque Deleuze dans son texte sur le « structuralisme », c’est seulement parce qu’ils permettent de décrire l’appartenance à un « air libre du temps » que les « mots en -isme sont parfaitement fondés », « tant il est vrai qu’on ne reconnaît le gens, d’une manière visible, qu’aux choses invisibles et insensibles qu’ils reconnaissent à leur manière. »[4]

Le livre de Jean-Clet Martin semble s’inscrire lui aussi dans un « esprit du temps ». Mais cet « air du temps » ne correspond plus tout à fait à celui que Deleuze décrit dans l’Avant-propos de Différence et répétition, à savoir celui d’un « anti-hégélianisme généralisé »[5]. Logique de la science-fiction relève d’une dynamique comparable à celle qui anime le livre de Mark Alizart, Informatique céleste[6] : que signifie lire Hegel aujourd’hui ? Comment penser avec lui ? Comprendre Hegel n’est-ce pas « penser Hegel contre Hegel »[7] ? Ces deux livres, parus à quelques mois d’intervalle, nous donnent à découvrir un autre Hegel et cherchent à savoir, selon les mots de Foucault, « jusqu’où Hegel, insidieusement peut-être, s’est approché de nous »[8]. Celui-ci nous parle encore aujourd’hui parce qu’il était déjà en son temps un penseur « futuriste ». C’est du moins ce que ces deux auteurs ont vu à leur manière : non seulement la Science de la Logique déploie l’ontologie de notre modernité informatique[9] mais ce « livre extraordinaire » (p. 19) est aussi la machine philosophique à laquelle s’alimentent toutes les œuvres de science-fiction. L’air du temps est donc peut-être celui d’un « hégélianisme futuriste » s’efforçant de rendre la Logiqueà son incroyable puissance visionnaire et prospective : texte « très en avance sur lui-même » (p. 132) dont nous commençons à peine à mesurer les effets.

Continued HERE.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Pragmatism as a Way of Life: The Lasting Legacy of William James and John Dewey (NDPR Review)

See the below.

Pragmatism as a Way of Life: The Lasting Legacy of William James and John Dewey
// Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews // News

Hilary Putnam and Ruth Anna Putnam, Pragmatism as a Way of Life: The Lasting Legacy of William James and John Dewey, David Macarthur (ed.), Belknap Press, 2017, 496 pp., $49.95 (hbk), ISBN 9780674967502.

Reviewed by David Boersema, Pacific University

When Hilary Putnam (HP) passed away in 2016, obituaries appeared in the New York Times and other venues. He was called a "giant of modern philosophy," and, indeed, among academic philosophers he was universally recognized as having been influential in a variety of areas, with a number of his articles anthologized in a wide range of publications. While known to some philosophers, HP's wife, Ruth Anna Putnam (RAP) has not received the level of recognition or accolade as HP. This current book is in part an attempt to address and respond to this discrepancy. The book contains a brief introduction by the editor, David Macarthur, followed by twenty-seven essays. Ten of the essays were authored by HP, fifteen by RAP,...

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Sartre and Camus

Speaking of analytic philosophy and its latching onto the interesting merits of Continental philosophy (yesterday's post), Brian Leiter reports on an interesting article on Sartre appearing in TLS, HERE.

Incidentally in my Existential Philosophy class we're covering Sartre, after having just finished up Camus, then Dostoevsky, and now Sartre. Thus the below is also appropriate for today's post.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

The Logic of Being: Realism, Truth, and Time (NDPR review)

NDPR review of a new book The Logic of Being: Realism, Truth, and Time by Paul Livingston. This is, odd.

I know that in recent years analytic philosophy has, well, "analyticized" metaphysics, and then ethics, and then began on Continental philosophy - knowing perhaps that the history of analytic philosophy itself was too boring of a subject to dwell upon, and its traditional subjects of philosophy of language, philosophy of mind, and all things logic - as practiced by analytic philosophers, at least (and I love logic, by the way) weren't grabbing many converts. Keep in mind that this is also not to say that all of analytic philosophy is that bad. It's not. Quine's From a Logical Point of View, abit of Wittgenstein here and there, even the history of mathematical logic whether in Frege or today by the mighty Paul Benacerraf. I mustn't forget that I will be running an independent study on the topic of mathematical logic as well. So it is not like it is outright disdain.

So, at first the analytics started on Deleuze. Then it was Hegel. And now, their arch-nemesis himself, Martin Heidegger.

Yes, my friends. We live in times when an author writes about Heidegger and Frege in the same book. Again, not that in itself this is necessarily evil or wrong. It's just that, ugh.

I do appreciate the clarity of the book and for years have argued that, indeed, ambiguity is not the hallmark of Continental philosophy, nor impenetrable language for the sake of it. Rather, even if the writing style is more prosaic - the topics of ethics, politics, values, power and knowledge, etc. are intrinsic to philosophers in this tradition rather than found as passing topics of curious interest. My experience is that whatever analytic philosophy might mean, its general approach is ok with me - but just not how that approach is actually pulled off sometimes.

Anyway, link to the review HERE.

Monday, November 6, 2017

Galloway's Break Up with Deleuze + Pluto [Updated]

Because I am currently considering some aesthetic changes for this blog - changes that probably will occur just before the migration to YouTube - I am thinking that a more "cosmic-looking" layout for After Nature would be most appropriate to match some of the more "sparse" or "bleak" abstract problems I'll be working on.

We'll see, as the current After Nature design is now two years old, which is the maximum I tend to leave a layout go for without being updated. So, we're due for an update - the final one I am sad to say; but, onward to other places deeper in the cosmos.

 This update and eventual migration to the After Nature YouTube channel will really will fit with the research into speculative and systematic philosophy that I'll be doing for the next two years - whether re-reading Hegel's Science of Logic, two of Kant's critiques, Fichte, Schelling, and so on. All bright life will be drained into the singularity of the Hegelian black hole of negativity, pace Alex Galloway's recent post (see HERE) opining the general consensus that a break-up with Deleuze ought to take place. So I am moving from Deleuze over to the ranks of Kant, Hegel, German idealism, et al.

I commend Galloway though, as his arguments are far and away from the dumb "Deleuze is old wine in a new bottle" complaints that have been made by others critical of Deleuze (mostly by the "object ontologists," so called). The "old wine new bottle" complaint is, by the way, only matched in its stupidity by the claim (also made by object ontologists incidentally) who cry "We ought a priori not read Whitehead because Whitehead is a theist!" But to this I respond: look at how that has turned out! Whitehead scholarship is on the rise moreso than ever before. People read Whitehead, whether Whitehead was a theist or not, whether his metaphysics entails God or not.

Moreover, the anti-Deleuzian object ontologists of whom we speak also somehow believe in the rather disturbing angle of "philosophy as bloodsport." They claim that the Deleuzeans, rather than themselves, are somehow the ones carrying "billieclubs" and looking for a fight - this to match the fact that they believe philosophy is justifiably a "bare-knuckle" sport. That is sick in my opinion. I'm sorry. Absolutely sick. Perhaps violence is intrinsic to their ethic-less ontology? Who knows, or frankly, at this point, who cares. I just cannot but help be very disturbed sometimes by any philosopher (object ontologist or otherwise) who calls philosophy bloodsport or refers to "striking back" with "bare knuckles." Billieclubs, knives, shots fired, dodging bullets, etc. etc. etc. Keep in mind that these are pudgy late 40-something year olds with their threats of intellectual violence, usually (of course) male, and usually having something to prove in order to try to stay relevant. Is this what has become of what it means to say that one intellectual camp has challenged another? When we speak of, say, Deleuzians versus Heideggereans, or whathaveyou?

Back to the matter at hand: I've argued, in THIS post, that synthesis between Deleuze and Hegel is possible. Calls to such intellectual violence (or otherwise, apparently) are not necessary. Synthesis is more productive than divisiveness and derision when it comes to scholarship and behaving like a mature adult.  It's just that when I hear of these divisions cast in such ways I wince.  On the other hand, you do have people like Galloway out there who are producing excellent work and furthering the debate in productive ways. Like I said, in ways that are far and away from the inanity perpetrated by some of these other folks.

'll soon be off to confront Hegel yet again to see if this is truly possible, as much as I believe that it is, I should say. Research into the cosmos of Hegel, Kant, Fichte, and Schelling proceeds in 5...4...3...2...1...

What Darwin Can Tell Us About Aliens

Scientists have published a paper speculating what aliens living upon other worlds might look like. Mostly devoid of anthropocentric trappings, the forms of life imagined are said to have been subjected to natural selection - yet what exactly things turn out to be obviously depends upon to what environment the form of life is adapting.

Fascinating article. Link HERE.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Is the real always concrete and individual?

Speculative theists during the early to mid 1800's were attempting to work out Schelling's various criticisms of Hegel. One output of those criticisms was that of Christian Hermann Weisse (1801–66) who transformed Hegel's absolute idealism into personal idealism. This mainly occurred due to Weisse's association with I.H. Fichte (1796-1879), Johann Gottlieb Fichte's son, where both Weisse and I.H. attempted to work out a philosophical basis for the personality of God.
Personalism in the sense of a distinct philosophy or worldview focusing on the full, accumulated import of the concept of the person, however, emerged only in the context of the broad critical reaction against what can be called the various impersonalistic philosophies which came to dominate the Enlightenment and Romanticism in the form of rationalistic and romantic forms of pantheism and idealism, from Spinoza to Hegel. Key figures in this reaction were Friedrich Heinrich Jacobi (1743–1819), the initiator of the so-called Pantheismusstreit in the 1780s, and F. W. J. Schelling (1775–1854), who in his later work rejected the impersonalist positions of his early idealist systems. (SEP entry "Personalism")
In particular following I.H. Fichte was Hermann Lotze (1817-1881) who emphasized the ancient Greek distinction between persons and things within a personalistic idealism. "Persons" were said to be centers of consciousness, properly "subjects" so-called, which can initiate causes and change by their own intentional volition (among other requirements, many outlined in Schelling's Outline nature book), where volition is understood as agency. In Europe this was picked up later on in the metaphysics of the French philosopher Emmanuel Mounier (1905-1950) in his book Personalism. German personalism, by the time of the twentieth-century, had largely been adopted only by Catholic church but not so much by other philosophers (with the exception of Max Scheler).

While reading this, I had three thoughts that I'd like to type out very, very quickly.

1. Arne Naess, the Norwegian ecophilosopher, proposed we ought to consider mountains "persons," not because they "think" in any regular sense of the term or possess consciousness as in panpsychism (which would be ridiculous), but because of the intrinsic dignity of the mountain afforded by the agency it possesses - its power to affect change. Today, corporations have been long considered "persons." But if a corporation is a "person," then why isn't a mountain? There is a distinction of course between legal and moral rights, yet ontologically legal rights rely upon moral rights - for the value those laws and considerations possess can only be established by the reality and natures of the subjects those laws are said to govern. Thus, according to personalistic criterion, whose lineage goes back to the German idealists and the American personalists who followed from them (from Lotze to Bowne), and the European personalists who followed from the German idealists (in particular Mounier, perhaps Scheler), certain "things" are now being granted rights as persons due to new ontological perspectives which owe their viewpoints to the personalists of the 19th and 20th centuries - for example, recently rivers have been granted the same rights as human beings, due to environmental concerns. See HERE.

2. The danger of miscategorizing all of nature as "objects" or "things" is worse now than its ever been. Object-oriented ontologies may grant agency to things, fine; but nevertheless objects are things according to their view. Many object ontologies deny consciousness or personhood to even the most basic of "things" for fear that consciousness or personhood is an "anthropocentric" trapping. While I agree we ought to, in the name of an ecological approach, not make our choices according to anthropocentric and heirarchical ordering, I do not agree personhood is an improper attribution to non-human animals, for instance; or to rivers and mountains. "Objects" is, frankly, a depersonalizing categorization from the start. And when one starts with a category mistake, then one's following system is completely flawed from the start for it is flawed in its very foundations. "Agents" would at the very least be a better start, if "persons" is too "humanistic" (which, in cases of helping others less fortunate, the weak, the sick, the dying, then a humanistic-oriented form of personalism is indeed called for. In cases where the weak, the sick, the dying or suffering are non-human animals then the more encompassing form of agentialism, personalism, is called for. Afterall, I'd rather be thinking about the metaphysics of animal rights than about what it's like to be the inside of a watermelon, or how the essence of the watermelon forever "withdraws," or how the cotton and the flame magically interact when I'm not looking).

3. If onto-sympathy and empathy are key in understanding persons and their agency, I am wondering how, if the real is always concrete and individual, and if, as in personalism, we universalize the 'I' -so that each particular I is in its center the Absolute, how philosophically "individualism," as a philosophy and approach, lost touch with a notion so central to the philosophy of personalism that grants a common form of singularity among and between each 'I' (thus granting a true "community of particulars"). So in other words, does someone like Max Stirner, for example, make the same mistake as the object ontologists in having each Absolute 'I' so absolute that it is absolutely private and distinct from all others - so much so that it is always collapsing back into its own universality, thus eliminating the very possibility of real connection, contact, feeling, and communication between each 'I'? Or, on the other hand, is it the case that for Stirner universality is commens, and in that very collapse there is an inner form of empathy that is the same as the outer extension of touch, feeling, prehension, or whatever modes of interaction allow communication between particulars. This would mean that any "vicarious" form of causation (connection) between them would not be required. No "magic" needed.

Thinking about Stirner and personalism leaves me torn. There seems to be two very different and distinct dimensions at work when one considers Stirner and personalism. Stirner's "ownness" - each One being the Unique One, each particular itself Absolute. This uplifts each individual self, or subject, or person, or agent, to the infinite degree of value it ought to have in being One. Yet, personalism allows for individuals, selves, subjects, agents, to allow their own current status of value to meet the status of value had by another one suffering - to attempt to feel what they do in lack and need. (See for example Jean Vanier's Becoming Human - it is almost as if in manys' current status of "human" they are actually not human at all, but rather "things." Or at least treated as such.)

Obviously Stirner's "egoistic" personalism is very, very different from its speculative theist roots. But in any case, whether egoistic personalism or personalism proper (idealistic personalism), both are extremely preferably to ontologies which begin from the category mistake of "objects" from the start. Any subject or agent is not a "thing" - persons are not "things," persons are not "objects." This is the sort of thinking that leads to murder, torture, and genocide, not only of "human" persons, but of non-human persons such as non-human animals.

Monday, October 30, 2017

The horror of contingency

Cosmic calamity is possible, and perhaps likely. However, come to think of it, real contingent events are neither likely nor unlikely, otherwise they wouldn't be "contingent" in the true sense of the word. This is because contingency has nothing to do with possibility - bur rather potentiality. No one saw this more clearly than C.S. Peirce, followed only by Hartshorne, Deleuze, and perhaps Meillassoux.

But I've digressed. The interesting article is linked below.

A Nearby Neutron Star Collision Could Cause Calamity on Earth

From certain death to a scientific goldmine, here's the spectrum of possibilities that we might expect from merging black holes, colliding neutron stars or detonating supernovae in our galactic neighborhood.

Saturday, October 28, 2017

quote of the day

"When Fichte says, 'the I is all,' this seems to harmonize perfectly with my statements. But it's not that the I is all, but the I destroys all, and only the self-dissolving I, the never-being I, the -finite I is actually I. Fichte speaks of the 'absolute' I, but I speak of me, the becoming I."

"I am not nothing in the sense of emptiness, but am the creative nothing, the nothing out of which I myself create as creator."

- Max Stirner, The Unique and Its Property 

Also translated as The Ego and Its Own or sometimes most adequately as The Unique One and Its Own, Stirner's text is probably the one I turn to most often when I can tolerate reading political texts (I do not have much interest in the political, save for any ontology undergirding it). Plato's Republic, though, is another "political text" I enjoy, but to me that text is more axiological if not outright ethical.

Ernst Juenger's The Forest Passage is yet another - should I say "quasi-political" text, where again, like Stirner, things are more apolitical than political, if we are speaking ontology first. Nevertheless Stirner's book is quite amazing.

Apparently Stirner's philosophy and subsequent criticism of Feuerbach forced Marx to publish hundreds of pages in response. So there is certainly something there. I myself picked up Stirner due to Ernst Juenger referring to him as "Saint Max."

A highly recommended book.

Friday, October 27, 2017

Process Philosophy (SEP entry)

Another SEP entry update worth looking at.

Process Philosophy
// Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy

Process philosophy is based on the premise that being is dynamic and that the dynamic nature of being should be the primary focus of any comprehensive philosophical account of reality and our place within it. Even though we experience our world and ourselves as continuously changing, Western metaphysics has long been obsessed with describing reality as an assembly of static individuals whose dynamic features are either taken to be mere appearances or ontologically secondary and derivative. 

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Finally, a presentation of objects that makes sense (SEP entry)

A close read of this elucidates a few key theses about object ontology which hadn't been part of my conscious attention until I read this.

1. There is a history of objects which currently only a few attempt to pass off as their own recent discovery. In fact though, here SEP provides an intelligible and most of all *argument-centered* exposition as to the possible natures for objects that doesn't pretend to be the novel invention of a select but very obscure few. Moreover, there is no stomping the ground and huffing "Well, everything's just objects...because!!!!" No, we have *arguments* - real arguments.

2. Adding Lucretius-worship, Spinoza-worship, or Latour-worship doesn't add anything to your argument-less stomping and huffing. No, a sober analysis minus the hero worship or French flavor of the month (Tristan Garcia, et. al.) is possible.

3. Jason Hills long ago (like ten years ago) called out that the obscure object ontology of today is Leibniz lite. Had more studied up on their history of philosophy this SEP entry wouldn't be as revealing as it is.

I love this SEP entry and urge anyone interested in contemporary metaphysics to read it. I think something like this provides sensible and sober material to work with rather than the, well, whatever you'd like to call it (in an attempt to be polite) that's been around for a few years now. I mean, at least that sort of thing wound up floundering about in the outskirts of architecture or art departments rather than sucking up valuable *philosophical* air.

So, great SEP entry linked just below...check it out!

Object (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy)

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Speculative Realism selling extremely well

I have to gush for a moment at this phrase in particular from a forthcoming review about to appear in a very good Continental philosophy journal which states, "Speculative Realism: An Epitome is the best book about 'Speculative Realism' yet." The review in large part appears to appreciate the honesty with which the book was written and how it provides a history of speculative realism as it really happened, something other books refuse to do in the name of pathetic alliances or vain attempts to put one's self over. But blog kingpins and internet wizards have no power outside of the "journals" (and I truly do hesitate to even use that word, and really I should say "journal" as in the singular, because there is only one that I know of, and it hasn't put out an issue in about two years or more) or book series, or other venues that they themselves have created to manufacture the studio-like reality which would suggest that their silly views actually have any sort of current impact in the academy at large, at all, or that these folks are in any way, well, still relevant. They aren't, so don't be fooled.

Like I said before - there are quite a few poseurs and charlatans out there, and, yes, by and large they are ignored. Still, you have a few losers shouting from the sidelines refusing to go home, aged and tired as they are. The nail is in the coffin, and this book is the eulogy. The best one yet, apparently.

Accordingly, I've been told that the book is selling like "hotcakes" and copies of it don't remain on the shelves for very long. The voices in this book have been silenced for too long and I think folks appreciate that those voices are finally allowed to speak.

According to amazon it was the number one selling book in metaphysics and phenomenology, and for awhile was outselling all other books on speculative realism out there.

Not too shabby if I say so myself. 

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Life is not easily bounded (Aeon article)

We may all too easily misattribute the accelerating development of intelligence throughout the natural world to some sort of vital principle, elan vital, or conscious mind of God, working itself out toward a greater form of generality (and this is in part true, although it is not necessarily a conscious process of a divine being) when in fact there is at the very minimum a more basic principle of Gnon at work: Reality Rules.

Reality's processual inclination toward Promethean heights unbound in and of itself knows no limit. It is "not easily bounded."

Life is not easily bounded
// Aeon

Working out where one hare ends and another begins is easy; a siphonophore, not so much. What is an individual in nature?

By Derek J Skillings

Read at Aeon