Tuesday, December 22, 2009

CT and the Insurance Industry

Here is a PDF I found on the insurance industry in the state of CT. I don't know how accurate it is.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Call for Public Option Support

What does it mean that the government will take over health care?

A suspicion of big government is cited by libertarians and conservatives alike. But, what does it mean? The implicit commitment is that we are less free if the government has more authority to enforce a set of provisions that affect all our lives. Citizens are less free the bigger the government. However, this is all smoke and mirrors. This is only meant to further the interests of those capable of already flourishing in a free enterprise system. Moreover, this type of fanatical skepticism impedes people and legislators to often come together and address a massively huge injustice, like health care. We should put our skepticism a different way.

I propose the more just a society, the more free the people since morality protects everyone impartially from the predilections of strife and injustice that plague human beings. We are a vicious species to each other, and the law and our civil institutions keep us in check. As Aristotle said so long ago, the object of government is to inculcate good habit so that we can all flourish. The ultimate end of our society is human happiness (by happiness, I mean flourishing). Are we to think that the United States government is any less responsive to the needs of its citizens? The United States, also, has the end of happiness in mind when it governs; otherwise, I would never vote if it weren’t true. Our Congress just needs to be reminded of the basic duties of morality.

If the bill passes the Senate, it will meet the public option in the House bill in conference committee. We should support the public option in health care reform since it will benefit everyone to have free accessibility to health care needs that the insured take for granted. I have lived in two countries where the public option is a reality and found it very comforting to know that no matter what happened to me, I could still have at least my most basic medical needs met. I had this right as a visitor to the UK and Canada while a graduate student. You would think that the most basic rights of health care could be achieved in the wealthiest country on earth.

Health Care Reform

Ladies and Gentlemen,

With the death of any public option, I am skeptical the health care reform bill will do much to solve anything. In a telephone conversation, I called Lieberman's staffer and called him "a prick and a coward" (had it out with their staffer). It probably wasn't the most productive call. Still, I can't help and wonder why Republicans and this independent in the Senate are worried about the cost. They are fine supplying a military budget for two theatres of war ($70 billion), and they are fine with a budget of $515 million in the early part of this fiscal year.

Consider this statement from his website

While I objected to some provisions that I believed would unnecessarily add to the national debt, raise taxes, or endanger the fiscal solvency of the Medicare program, there is much that is needed and worthy in the core bill that I support.

So, this is the only thing I could find on his website as to why he wouldn't support a public option. His worries are all financial, better put with the phrase 'financial solvency'. This seems either really concerned to the spending or a completely vague rhetorical trick. It's a little ambiguous given how much we are shelling out in stimulus spending (Lieberman voted for HR 1 Economic Package which allocated 317 billion and increase tax credits on 2/13/09), and military budgets. And the unpopular observation by me is the American public does not pay enough in taxes like other contemporary Western democracies that all have public health care as a basic right.

What's more is the ethical argument. Whatever the cost financially, the public option is a right, and should be fought on these grounds alone. Rights are secured by the people and respected in the practices of governments. At least, one hopes this is so. Moreover, if a large portion of the population is either under-insured or un-insured, then their suffering prohibits the flourishing of our society. So, the philosopher in me has not really unpacked these two intuitions, but at the very outset, I would defend a public option along deontological and neo-Aristotelian grounds.

One could also find the backing of our Founding Fathers when Jefferson says that "Freedom and happiness of man are the sole objects of all legitimate government" and he also said "The most sacred duties of governments is to do equal and impartial justice to all its citizens." This talk of justice and duty are exactly what is needed, and a public option does just that, allows for everyone to access basic health care needs. The problem is that we think in terms of cost. How much will such accessibility cost me (the individual) in taxes? The problem is to think like that is already to think outside the commitments of morality and justice. Once we put the burden and cost before us to see if it is prudent to do something, we have already succumbed to the same basic instrumental rationality that befit Wall Street moguls to maximize what was beneficial for themselves at the expense of an entire nation's economy. The massive injustice of both health care reform and the economic meltdown turn on those that maximize their own benefit at the suffering of others.

Morality requires we take the interest of others "to heart." To live a moral life is to be committed to the simple fact that our actions must take others into account. Even if Republican assessments about the cost are right, do we dispose of the very option that meshes with the need to address an injustice. Lieberman's talk of financial solvency can be solved. It's called stop supporting Israel, war and a huge ass military that fights unnecessary wars.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Holiday Break

So, I will stop posting for a while, and take a break for the holidays. I will post a series of links of upcoming call for papers with cool Continental departments shortly. Of course, these are just re-statements of Continental Philosophy Blog, but the more people post the CFP, the more calls will get out there. I will be taking up Nussbaum, Aristotle and a host of commentaries on the Nichomachean Ethics. New problematics in Kant's ethical writings and Levinas will appear on my radar.

Take care and have a good holiday break.

Carbondale Chasmite!

Monday, November 30, 2009

Truth and Hyperbole

Maverick Philosopher gives the following example of a sober philosopher exaggerating one's truth.

For a second example, consider Martin Heidegger. Somewhere in Sein und Zeit he writes that Das Dasein ist nie vorhanden. The human being is never present-at-hand. This is obviously false in that the human being has a body which is present-at-hand in nature as surely as any animal or stone. What he is driving at is the truth -- or at least the plausibility -- that the human being enjoys a special mode of Being, Existenz, that is radically unlike the Vorhandenheit of the mere thing in nature and the Zuhandenheit of the tool. So why doesn’t he speak the truth, and nothing but the truth, without exaggerating?

First, we are told somewhere in BT, not very reasonable for a philosopher, revealing already the beginnings of uncharitability. Next, without really arguing for his disagreement, Maverick Phil makes an appeal to something "obviously false." That's not really an argument in itself, but simply an assertion. As any interlocutor knows, a the disagreer has the burden to offer a replacement view to advance the intuition of falsity of the target position in question. You can't just blurb out disagreement and call it an exaggeration.

Now, there is an analogue to Heidegger's intention. Well, sorta. Consider the Third Antinomy of Kant in the CPR. Being a mere thing in nature understood from the third-personal viewpoint of science (the impartial viewpoint, the view from nowhere) is a particular way of being and can be found historically in Kant's Third Antinomy. Most of metaphysics and philosophy has assumed this is a primary mode of being, and place human beings in this type of understanding/framework/interpretation. Upon phenomenological reflection (from the first-person point of view, the phenomenological attitude), however, we experience ourselves as acting under the conception of freedom, what Kant calls transcendental freedom. You can understand Heidegger's intuition in the same way Kant will privilege a practical mode of being, the mode of transcendental reflection over an undrestanding that places human beings as simply an object to be subsumed under causal determinism of the third-person viewpoint. In this way, so does Heidegger. He finds that we are in a primary mode of being as absorbed in the practical affairs of our everyday life and we can consider this a more narrow conception of the first-personal viewpoint. Moreover, this is primary whereas the viewpoint from nowhere is an unrealistic abstraction. We can make sense of Heidegger's motivations in a consistent way that doesn't mean he is exaggerating anymore than the assertion of him being wrong.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Another Leiter Travesty Pt. II

I am quite unnerved by this recent tirade, but let's be fair to a man that labels, yet rejects being labeled himself. First, let us be concise about the definition of Party Line Continentalsm (PLC).

Party Line Continentalism" since what it actually picks out is a political effort to enforce a certain philosophical orthodoxy, namely, that which arises from a conception of philosophy and its methods that is largely fixed by Heideggerian phenomenology and developments in mostly French philosophy that involve reactions to Heidegger (such as Derrida, but not only him).

Is the nature of philosophy fixed by one author, or methodology? Is CP? I wasn't aware that PLC was fixed by Heideggerian phenomenology nor its French reception. But let's be fair to what he thinks Good philosophy is. Good philosophy is well-composed prose, good reasoning and a decent understanding of the history of philosophy. All these things are beyond PLCers. As Leiter puts it,

their command of the history of European philosophy after Kant is often quite weak and idiosyncratic...
Party Line Continentalists are very exercised about the fact that there are philosophical scholars of the Continental traditions who treat the figures of post-Kantian European philosophy as philosophers, without reading them through the lens and the methods of Heidegger and/or post-structuralism. Heidegger and (most) of the post-structuralists (Deleuze is an exception) were not, however, very good scholars or philosophical expositors, so it is not surprising that those with real training in philosophy and its history would not read the great figures of the Continental traditions in accord with the Party Line.

I think the use of the term PLC vs. Scholars of the Continental tradition is a misnomer first of all. There is more diversity between all the work I have ever encountered. Of course, we cannot assume my experience typical, but the anecdotal experience here is in part what carries evidence for Leiter's conclusions about philosophy as a whole. Leiter picks up the self-identification of the ostracized from the very philosophical orthodoxy historically that smushed all these thinkers and traditions together in the first place. Only "real philosophers" appear as the group I mention. Then, Leiter accuses Continentals of banding together when they were initially just thrown to the wind in the time of dominant analytic philosophy. However, this is not my gripe, just an unfair time slice of the exclusion as it stands now. It's a separate and independent issue whether or not this ostracizing is still active by what PLCers call "Analytics."

And again, it's not the party line, nor is it anyone's line per se. Anyone that has ever been to SPEP or even the Heidegger meeting at the Pacific APA knows there are as many different versions of Heidegger and Derrida than an official line. Such a generalization betrays the exact content and variety of scholarship within “Continental philosophy.” Of course, Leiter would have to take seriously the journals Continental Philosophy Review, Philosophy Today and Research in Phenomenology and the New Yearbook of Phenomenology as sources of top ranked journals since many of these authors are truly scholars of various thinkers, not PLC in whole. In fact, I know of many Husserlians that have started picking up on certain problematics such as Zahavi in cognitive science, or how I situate my work as trying to discern structures of moral experience by appropriating Husserl as a way to enter metaethical problems. But, I digress. There never was a PLC, but then again, there were many people interested in Heidegger and Derrida's problematic with the metaphysical tradition. Let me make my second point.

The point is that PLCers (even though there are really noPLCers) were never bad expositors if one understood what their gripe was WITH THE TRADITION as a whole. They spoke in the same OVERALL tone that Putnam mentioned when he uttered that “Meaning ain't in the head” or Gauthier calls for a solution to the “crisis of morality” ushering in such an ambiguous phraseology to call for a solution to moral foundations as the result of moral bargaining. It's just for these thinkers (Derrida and Heideggger) the history of Western philosophy is one huge conceptual scheme in the very same way that semantic and representational content were encountered historically in the whole of metaphysics for Putnam and the history of ethics is encountered for Gauthier.

Given that one can conclude generalities about the history of Western philosophy, then such generalizations or trend-observations can stand in for decent understanding of history, as long as they lead to a clear problematic. Given that Heidegger and Derrida consider the history of Western metaphysics as uncritically accepting of presence from the Greek onwards, then it is not that they are bad expositors of history; it is Leiter and the rest of the Anglophonic world that are bad at recognizing what it is and how they are encountering the conceptual scheme of Western metaphysics. Being insular for one party is directly connected to the inability for others to even want to listen. We should be mindful of that. I will concede, however, that the predecessors were better at expressing the criticism of Western metaphysics than Heidegger or Derrida.

For these Anglophones, it all comes down to clear writing. Of course, if you were to read my paper on Stevenson's emotivism, you would think that I was an "analytic." If you read my Husserl & Derrida seminar paper, you would see me oscillating between historical clarity and the alleged obscurantism since the very critique of metaphysics/Husserl involves many locutions of Derrida, as well as the attempt to make sense of them. It's not that PLCers are bad at philosophy; it's that Anglophones pretend that the prose they write can be understood by a decently educated man in general which is as much a fiction as the ideal observer in consequential theories. However, this type of clarity in their projects was as never true as they wanted to it to be when analytic philosophy held its domination. Clarity is a matter of degrees. Just read Grice's proposal about meaning, or Davidson. You'll get levels of clarity depending on how convoluted the problem and its historical dimension. Thus, you can see my problem with the want of exclusion entirely as he says it,
I am genuinely hopeful that over the next generation Party Line Continentalists will be exiled entirely to literature departments, where lack of real depth in philosophy and its history does not matter. If, in addition, some of the unfortunate "fads" in Anglophone philosophy--and the trivial intellectual parochialism that often accompanies them--do not intervene, then we may really enter a period of philosophical scholarship in the Anglophone world in which "analytic" and "Continental" as terms of partisan battle are largely uintelligible to those drawn to the problems of philosophy.

Not only does this speak to a generous spirit to the humanities, but the biased assumption of science-philosophy relation over the humanities. How is it that English departments lack real depth? I recall Nussbaum's fascinating point about the role of literature in moral thinking and the transformative dimension we have from our encountering literature and art at large.

I have a problem with anyone that starts off with faulty assumptions. First, that Heidegger and Derrida are bad expositors and bad historians of philosophy given that such generalizing can come in the same Anglophonic tendency to stand in relation to history (I'm not just repeating this, I have reasons for thinking this, e.g. the argument of analogy contained herein with David Gauthier and Hilary Putnam). Next, these trends carried on in their predecessors not as bad scholarship and philosophy. Instead, they are like projects picked up just in the analytic tradition. Consider the term "cottage industry." Every student of analytic philosophy is aware of those papers that have spurned cottage industries of papers, and some of my favorite works of analytic philosophy come from these papers, like Bernard Williams "Internal and External Reasons" or "Moral Luck." PLCers are interested in problems, but want to see them articulating in the textual history, not abstracted into logic.

Finally, the dominant trend to see philosophy as only problems that transcend their historical significance is itself a presupposition that needs defense, and itself an uncritically held belief by many philosophers. In essence, you don't get that for free, Mr. Leiter. In philosophy, none of us get our assumptions and starting premises free. That's the point, and uncharitable point you miss completely. Don't get me wrong. I think Derrida misses the point of Husserl's complexity the more I read Voice and Phenomenon, and Violence and Metaphysics. Moreover, I see Husserl as an interlocutor to expose the shortcomings of Heidegger. I would just rather expose and treat them fairly as taking up problems within the context of the history they encountered and makes my ability to understand them possible.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Derrida Abstract

I know some of you have asked informally when I was going to post something about the Husserl and Derrida Seminar. I finally have a brief sense of the argument I will advance. Of course, this, like everything I do, is under a constant state of revision. Here's the current form:

Abstract: In this paper, I argue that the sign is not undermined by the co-contamination of expression or indication. Instead, they co-operate at nuanced levels in which expression is the “solitary of the soul” and indication is the level in which such expression requires an articulation to the mediated Other. In fact, we can reinscribe this motif of the distinction back into the entire overall ambition of Husserlian phenomenology. Such a reinscription will allow me to agree in part with Derrida that this distinction does inaugurate phenomenology, but the call of contamination of the sign is too quick. In La Voix et La Phénomène, Derrida confuses too quickly expression and indication as blurred contaminated senses, yet the essential distinction is an attempt to phenomenologically describe an experience that's content can only be articulated after it is undergone. I find this to be the aim of the Fifth Meditation. As such, I instantiate my claim in how we should take Fifth Meditation in CM as both an expression of the phenomenologist articulating how the other is given to me and simultaneously CM as expressing “in living speech also function” as indicating the content of this description to others.

SIU Phenomenology Research Center

I usually don't post things about my host institution, preferring to keep separate my blog life from my school. However, this news should be known by others.

SIU now has a dedicated center researching phenomenological work. It is VERY EXCITING to me since the bulk of my work is in phenomenology. There are only a handful of centers dedicated to phenomenology, and we are well positioned to have relationships with these few centers as well, including Dan Zahavi's Centre for Subjectivity Research.

We'll be hosting our phenomenology workshop finally in the new center! Moreover, we will be active, and even have Francoise Dastur over in late April.

Our website is now up, and is a work in progress.

This new resource strengthens my ability to apply phenomenology to areas of value inquiry, and moral phenomenology in general.

With the Phenomenology Center, and Dewey Center, we are very well-positioned to advance the fields of American philosophy and phenomenology respectively.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Health Care Debate

So, the Teabagging movement and these Congressmen were involved speaking at a rally with this sign in the back of the podium. The sign reads: National Socialist Health Care, Germany, 1945 with a picture of heaped bodies of Holocaust victims.

Michele Bachmann:

Washington Office
107 Cannon HOB
Washington, DC 20515
Phone: (202) 225-2331
Fax: (202) 225-6475

John Boehner:

Washington, D.C. Office
1011 Longworth H.O.B.
Washington, DC 20515
Phone: (202) 225-6205
Fax: (202) 225-0704 Toll-free number

Eric Cantor:

329 Cannon Building
Washington, DC 20515
P: 202.225-2815
F: 202.225-0011

Jeb Hensarling
129 CHOB
Washington, DC 20515
(202) 225-3484

I called these offices. One of Cantor's interns or staff (it was unclear which it was) couldn't even tell me what Dachau was, and the same held for Hensarling's intern/staff member. She simply put me on hold and wished me away. Bachmann and Boehner's offices both repeated the same thing--they were not responsible for a rally of 10,000. I said that is also slightly misleading. We can associate with whom we choose. Our ethical associations have bearing on our character and practical identity. We can choose to be in the company of people, and that doesn't really remove the fact that the sign is distasteful and the Conservative opposition to health care is resorting to uncritical rhetoric and symbolism. It makes me sick.

If there are sensible Republicans "out there" that have substantial criticism, then they are being lost in the shuffle of stupidity with which these people are choosing to enact their opposition with equating Obama to Hitler, appropriating genocide in awfully erroneous and disanalogous ways, and ambiguous word toting like "freedom."

Monday, November 2, 2009

Nietzsche As Naturalist: Discussing Leiter's Nietzsche

There are some interesting threads worked out in B. Leiter's paper available on the the Social Science Research Network, Nietzsche's Naturalism Reconsidered and while we may not see eye to eye on many things, I have been having similar thoughts about Husserl given my exposure to the proprioception literature in Shaun Gallagher's How the Body Shapes the Mind, and his call for a neurophenomenology. For me, it seems that Husserl's critique of the natural attitude is a critique of strong naturalism:

Strong Naturalism (SN): All events require physical explanation.

If all events require physical explanation, then the laws of logic must be physically based, and the move to psychology to explain the rules of logic is the very source of the psychologism Husserl defends against.

Weak Naturalism (WN): All events require explanation, but not all explanations need to be physical (some can be simply descriptive like phenomenological descriptions)

I digress.

I am particularly interested in Leiter's paper as a good example of scholarship on Nietzsche despite some skepticism of poster's in another thread that Leiter is a hack Nietzsche scholar. Being skeptical about the PGR is a separate issue from his view of "naturalizing Nietzsche" So, given that my audience has always been MORE Continental, I thought that we should look to the arguments presented in the most clear concise writing I know of Leiter, and propose where he goes wrong (if he does).

For me, this is a wonderfully written piece where the argument is very clear. My exact skepticism falls on method here. I'm skeptical that every piece of Nietzsche's corpus can be unified under one single authored motivation. Philosophical exegesis sometimes tries to unify disparate elements into one single guiding thread for interpretation--sometimes this seems to quick, other times too slow. This is often done in hard cases like Aristotle in which the Metaphysics resist easy unification of theme since we cannot account for how the author's mind regarded the place of the various inconsistencies (where did Aristotle change his mind?). The same may be said of how particular some of the texts in Nietzsche's corpus seem to be.

However, let's give Leiter his due despite people emailing me that we shouldn't. If you don't think that Nietzsche can be naturalized, then argue for the claim. As I said, I'm sympathetic that there are degrees of rejecting naturalism that doesn't admit of reading Husserl as a full-blown anti-naturalist. There could be many shades of naturalism, even open for Nietzsche.

Right now, I'm wondering about distinction between a therapeutic and speculatively naturalist reading of Nietzsche. Can such a distinction hold?

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Taking Up History as the Decisive Universal Moment

Meaning for Husserl is the result of a transcendental realm accessible by suspending our worldly relation. Heideggerians, instead, think that we cannot circumvent the historical situation we find ourselves. From their viewpoint, Husserlian phenomenology is a turning away from the concrete historical world. Thus, perhaps, if anyone thinks that Heidegger contributes to our understanding of philosophy, it is in showing that the descriptive efforts of philosophy are essentially bound up with the history it takes up.

This same Heideggerian tendency to see philosophical problems embedded in a horizon of intelligibility that proceeds from our relation to history produces a view that amounts to a historicism. Philosophical problems only make sense given we can still speak and make sense of the very history in which we find ourselves. However, I want to argue against this view. For me, this is only one layer of the problem, and is distinct from asking if what a philosopher has said is true. Moreover, this also explains a key difference between styles of doing philosophy (and perhaps why Husserlians are alone on this). In truth, we need both, but the dynamic of doing philosophy doesn't bear on the problem that we can still carry on as if history does not matter. I don't think this is just some philosophers being dismissive about history; it speaks to our abilities to philosophize on our own in our own historical situation.

So, in this brief post, if we can still carry on as if we do not require history, then I want to ask is it a product of our historical situation that we can abstract from history? Perhaps, the pressing question I want to ponder is what is it about our historical situation that makes it possible to carry on in anglophone philosophy as if history doesn't matter as much as asking whether or not what a philosopher says matters to us?

I don't think there is any easy answer to these questions. But, I have an inclination as to where to start. First, the fact that Anglophone philosophy has largely been a project of centralizing the epistemological subject in a variety of problems is on track. In centralizing the epistemological task, philosophers make philosophy about both our historic situation as knowers and establishing formalistic criteria that transcend the very history we find ourselves. We can identify those structures of subjectivity in a variety of contexts, but we must see it is these objective conditions that establish our ability to make sense of meaning. Therefore, we might want to consider that identifying the epistemic conditions of our knowing stand over and above the historical situation. However, such a move is replete with problems.

My second move is to address that though we have access to what the subject qua epistemologist is, such a subject needs grounding in the history of its occurrence. It doesn't make sense not to make history a level of analysis. As Gadamer shows, we are beholden to history since it is the very possibility of making sense of what is handed down in tradition, yet that doesn't mean that we are bound to that history since we take it up. We take up history and that is the moment we can see that there is something universal, something transcendent in that we can speak about our ability to take up history. In this way, we can see that a universal subjectivity does come into our concrete experience, it is just that if you stand on one side of doing philosophy than the other, you miss both dimensions to philosophy. That's an oversight on both our parts.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Another Leiter Travesty

Leiter has remarkably come to the defense of a hack job book on Heidegger by Carlin Romano indirectly. See the post here.

But that does stop his rumination about Heidegger scholars, what I take it to be meant by cult:

There is also something interesting to be written about the ways in which the Heidegger cult and its temporal and cultural kin, the Strauss cult, have operated in similar, quasi-fascistic, "in group" vs. "out group" ways: esoteric terminology, hostility towards dialectic engagement, worship of the master, and so on.

Heidegger doesn't engage in dialectical argument because for him, the purpose of philosophy is to describe human facticity. He is teasing out phenomenological descriptions of human existence. Maybe that is, in itself, an argument---yet in so doing, philosophy is not a description of some problem abstracted from history. It occurs within an ontotheology. In this way, it is resistant to the very positivism that carries Leiter's naturalistic Nietzsche (of course, I would argue something like that someday)! This is not some weird obscurantism if people were honestly going to give him an honest reading, know the background of the philosophy that gives birth to Heidegger, i.e. Husserl, know his contemporaries like Natorp, the background of Dilthey, and see him as completing (by Heidegger's self-estimation) the shortcoming of Husserl's phenomenology. When you know all of that, Heidegger is up to something whether or not one agrees with its status in the history of phenomenology, or philosophy at large.

Moreover, understanding the context of Heideggerian phenomenology in its beginning allows one to encounter why Heidegger moves to poetry. In fact, the language Heidegger adopts is provocative; it has a purpose beyond the lens put to language in any analytic framework. But again, one would have to understand the under-currents of Rilke, Holderlin, Heidegger's rejection of some central themes of the metaphysics of presence and the attempt to implement phenomenology as reasons for why Heidegger requires/uses language the way he does.

The charitability of Leiter's lapse is as charitable as a Protestant Minister's characterizing Leiter's work on moral psychology and Nietzsche. Just because Heidegger and those influenced by his philosophy look like something from the outside doesn't mean they are that way. This is a separate issue from whether or not Continental philosophers and supporters of Heidegger in general have done a good job of talking to outsiders. However, the outsiders must be willing to listen, and one good way might be to honestly represent Continental philosophy schools that are marginalized. And, I might add, have great scholars in phenomenology working on Heidegger! But this problem is more complicated than just than the professional dimension.

Leiter also displays some ignorance of the status of this debate. Consider the following,

"Faye's leitmotif throughout is that Heidegger, from his earliest writings, drew on reactionary ideas in early-20th-century Germany to absolutely exalt the state and the Volk over the individual, making Nazism and its Blut und Boden ("Blood and Soil") rhetoric a perfect fit." OK, so how do these "reactionary ideas" about exaltation of "the state and the Volk" figure in the main themes of Being and Time? I have no idea...

Since Leiter finds the argument from one phrase of Romano on Faye somewhat "interesting", let's look at the above. First, this theme has already been taken up by a number of skeptics and critics. The big book, Mr. Leiter is Victor Farias' Heidegger and Nazism. So, now you have some "idea"; you're only about twenty years too late in your ignorance (It was published in 1987 by Temple University Press).

Really... Oh yes, he does Continental philosophy lady and gentleman. Lest we forget. Now, I know he is nice to me when he says, "The ideas that Heidegger's books should be banned and that anyone who studies Heidegger is a Nazi sympathizer are so ludicrously offensive as to defy belief." I take that as nice, and what he might mean by generous. But seriously, you have to listen to people, like myself, who engage in this stuff before characterizing us from the outside. At least, he goes to Thomson and Carman as good philosophers working on phenomenology. At least, we should respect him that far. Yet, the spirits of his comments are redolent of generosity cloud in the intolerance we Continental Philosophers (Aspiring or Established) find ourselves.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Moral Philosophy for the Masses

This just goes to show how relevant ethics is, and how unlike other areas of philosophy, moral philosophy is just germane to one's life. Michael Sandel, a moral philosopher at Harvard, is publicizing his course (allegedly the most popular at Harvard) "Justice" to local PBS stations in Boston. Here's the article off the NY Times website.

TV episodes can be gleaned from the website of Michael Sandel here.

Women in Philosophy: A Question for You?

While I have revealed a new love of Irigaray and that I am in a Continental Feminism Survey Seminar, this post should not be seen as connected to these recent motivations (or maybe it should since I have found a love of how Continental Feminists have appropriated and successively demonstrated a research project in Continental philosophy). Apparently, one of those mass-consumption philosophy periodicals have published an article on women in philosophy in general. Here's one of the interviewees blog entry about her interview, and the recent debacle with the NY Times.

My question to many here is given the dearth of women (for whatever reason or variety of reasons), is it right to teach with this sensitivity in the back of one's mind? Should I actively try and recruit talented women students into the major given the dearth of women in general? Would it be more responsible of me to actively recruit women students given that I have some working knowledge prior to recruitment of the reason or reasons why women are not in philosophy to begin with?

Assume for a moment a possible world in which philosophy actively discriminates against women (which might be very possible, I admit) and I recruit students into the philosophy profession (it should be clear this is hypothetical and not associated with my home institution), convincing a few to pursue graduate study. In so doing, it is possible I have done some form of intellectual violence to them. No? Shouldn't the causes of women aren't in philosophy first be identified so that my talented women students can have this information to see if they truly want to go into philosophy, or is recruitment itself a way to lessen whatever forces are at work keeping away women in philosophy?

What do you think?

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Derrida and the Close Reading of Texts

I know I keep posting about methodology--methodology is a central theme of what it is that I do, phenomenology. Moreover, methodology is crucial for many different types of philosophy across its wondrous facets. For experimental philosophers, there is a school of thought that surveys folk philosophical intuitions and in philosophy of mind, the philosophers sometimes work in labs with psychologists. In the Continental tradition, it would seem that a Husserlian has an exact method, and Derrida can be seen as interrupting the phenomenological method (this much is certain), asking about the presuppositions and exposing phenomenology to whatever it is that Derrida is doing. There is a method. Fleshing that out, and giving it content is the problem. So, anyone with knowledge of this, jump right in.

Part and parcel of this method is regarding the entire history of philosophy as guilty of a metaphysics of presence. In so doing, the entire tradition accepts uncritically the reality of presence. I don't know how to put this without using his language. As such, let's see if this makes sense.

1) All conceptual frameworks of philosophy have assumed uncritically presence.
2) Husserl is an example of uncritically assuming presence.
3) Therefore, Husserl is guilty of a metaphysics of presence.

Derrida seems to be doing that.

Examples of a presence are an enduring subject through time in epistemology, that the self has transparent access to its own states is another example of presence in a metaphysics of mind. Historically questions of metaphysics and epistemology typically motivate a lot of philosophical attention, so I can see the large historic concern. However, what I cannot see is that skepticism about this fact of presence is reason enough to dismiss these systems of philosophy...I guess that is where I am now.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Some Cool Abstracts

I found these on a random Google Search and would love to get a hold of some of these papers on Husserl and ethics. Some are also on Adam Smith as well.

Here's the link

I should say that John Drummond's work on Husserl and ethics is especially impressive.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Can Philosophy Be Done without History?

I want to ask people in general what you think the place of history in philosophy is. One may argue the following:

1. Philosophy is, in part, a sustained reflection with a historical-tradition.
2. Any Introduction to Philosophy is (in part or wholly) a sustained reflection with a historical-tradition.
3. Therefore, an introduction to philosophy class should study its history.

Now, does it follow that we should think of history as IN PART or WHOLLY RELEVANT? This question is just asking quite another thing: Can we have philosophical discourses that attempt to describe in some way the world?

Now, I answer the intuitively obvious answer: Yes, we can, but with qualification. Let's take a case I know intimately. For within the history of phenomenology, phenomenology developed as a method to describe the givenness of phenomena. Some people reject this idea or series of ideas that have come to us through history. Yet, to discuss the validity/objectivity of the phenomenological reduction is on the same level as asking which better fits with reality: act utilitarianism or rule utilitarianism. So, we come to phenomenology only through the history of Husserl's texts and what follows them. However, our entrance into the problem of phenomenology as a method may be both historical -- if we so remain in those texts -- or we attempt to move from the history to describing it and the status of its method. This moving beyond would be an independent evaluation as to meet those skeptics of Husserl's method. Either way, we are doing philosophy.

In other words in the above argument, 1) can only be true if we meant IN PART. For the whole of philosophy has different conceptions that articulate its very possiblity. The Heideggerian agreement in me is that philosophy is an interpretation of human facticity whereas the other conceptions of philosophy hold that our concepts describe the world in some way. We should get clear on their limits and what they do and do not describe. As such, we can hold other conceptions of philosophy as true or relevant for so long as 1) is read as "in part." One can do philosophy as a meditation on texts and then take the insight from those texts to problems that tickle our philosophical imagination. For me, these have always been: What is practical reason like? How do I come to know moral beliefs? What are moral beliefs? What is agency like? We move from history to the ahistoric dimension of philosophical problems.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Reacting to Derrida

So, I am perplexed about any topic for research in our new reading of Leonard Lawlor's Voice and Phenomena. We're taking a look at the new translation he has provided, and our own Anthony Steinbock is an editor for the project. We're reading the French and David Allison's translation alongside Husserl in the German (maybe it should be said that Steinbock is doing all of this in front of us as we all try to play the game of catching up to his pace). It is a daunting task to see in motion. It's quite wonderful actually. I'm digressing though.

I can't find a research project for the seminar paper.

I think there are two overall reactions to Derrida with a spectrum of nuance in between these readings. First, the Analytic in me wants to slap Derrida upside the head, calling his deconstructionist reading of texts a denunciation of meaning itself. Such a denunciation is a denial to be philosophical. In so doing, I would wear a T-shirt that says Unrepentant Logocentrist. Don't be taking this idea! I'm uploading it as a T-shirt on cafepress.com in the near future.

At the outset, it seems that Derrida could find where the meaning breaksdown in a text since the literary interpretation from the outside looks like self-serving selection of what binary opposition is at work, and how exactly Derrida pushes that binary opposition to the limit. All this could be self-serving, read in a particular way in which Derrida couldn't help but come to a skepticism about the meaning of a text. For instance, the abuse Derrida puts Husserl through in wanting to conclude that phenomenology is just a guilty version of the metaphysics of presence sometimes comes off as pure word-association.

Even in such an outside portrayal of Derrida's project(? Is that even the right word?), one is misinformed. This leads me to the second interpretation. Derrida started out as a Husserlian, and interrupts phenomenology in the very beginning of his work (what constitutes this interruption is not important). The ties to this interruption as I call it signify a gross under-appreciation and over-estimation of his project when it is taken outside the limit of the phenomenological interruption it seeks to provide. That is why, I think, it is so essential to understand Voice and Phenomenon, and situate Derrida works within the horizon of a well-versed historical and Continental reading of his work, NOT COMPARATIVE LITERATURE DEPARTMENTS!

Realize in between completely rejecting Derrida and fully embracing him with appropriate understanding, there is a world of Derrida in-between.

So my reactions to Derrida probably constitute the impression I get from him, or the trace of him in his writings. In his early work, he is detailed and knowledgeable of Husserl's project, but at the same time that knowledge is synthesized with what appears to be an abuse of the text. Or is the the text that abuses me, convincing me of its life independent of the philosopher? As if taking a life of its own, the text takes on a seductive allure, and comes into its interpretation only through me, or I it? One cannot be sure in Derrida's world.

As such, I said to many of my readers I would post about this seminar, and the related topic of a metaphysics of presence. However, with the active efforts to find a possible paper topic, I have exhausted myself. I've actually found that the Continental French Feminists have what the analytics would call a sustained research program, and find their criticism of Western philosophy fascinating. It is a very descriptive and hermeneutic project, and each has implemented Continental philosophy in different ways unlike other areas of Continental philosophy awaiting or reinventing the past for a sustained research project---a move that for me never gets old. But, I am an old soul so to speak, agreeing with Husserl that to be a philosopher is always to begin anew with the same questions that motivated curiosity before (or was this Fink talking about Husserl?). I just wish a paper topic would spring up in my beginning anew.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Ethics and the Tradition of Cultural Critique

This opposition between a timeless conceptual analysis in ethics of, say, common sense morality, and the Continental suspicion of mainstream culture overlap, I think. This overlap is another point of contact between roughly two figures that would not talk to each other, and as such, I want to at least offer an initial point of contact.

After having seen Butler in action in Bodies That Matter, one might regard her analysis as calling into question mainstream cultural opinions, especially about how it is that we acquire a sexed position in language. Her critique resembles the general propensity of Continental philosophers to question culture, and offer critique. In some ways, Heidegger reading back the question of Being into our culture and finding no ability to express this question (to the point that even Carnap becomes a symptom of the question's inexpressibility) is a symptom of our culture. In Husserl, the natural attitude conceals over the implicit consciousness that structures our world. We forget that intentionality is there, and take it for granted. In all these ways, there is a suspicion of our cultural world. So, what I am getting at is exactly this: construing philosophy as a form of cultural critique would inform a general suspicion that can also be suspicious of certain trends within philosophy that exemplify a targeted cultural problematic. As such, some philosophical questions in the Analytic tradition presuppose what some Continentals would reject as ridiculous unsubstantiated assumptions.

Now, take this move of cultural critique to someone like Sidgwick and his ruminations about the possibility of ethics. Sidgwick is answering the question why do we find common-sense morality so plausible. For me, this may assume a hegemony of one's culture, upbringing or Zeitgeist of the age that determines why Sidgwick is answering this question. Before we answer this, let's at least be clear what Sidgwick might think he is doing. First, Sidgwick is not saying that common sense morality is independently valid. Clearly, he thinks that common sense morality offers us action-guidance, but it must do so only because a more fundamental principle undergirds its possibility for action-guidance. For him, it is the utilitarian principle.

There is a backdoor to this line as well. Sidgwick reconciles an intuitionist epistemology with the utilitarian principle. In this way, Sidgwick opens himself up to the charge that all intuitionists face, namely, that one's intuitions are simply echoed historical socializations. Thus, his classical four criteria for an intuition to be true is just a deeper problematic of our age, one in which elevates the subject beyond the historical conditions under which the subject is realized (as Foucault explains very well in applying a Nietzschean geneaology to numerous problematics). This might also be a way of reading historicity back into another author that offers another anti-historic analysis of right and wrong. You might notice, dear reader, I have been thinking of this theme of history as it relates to the possibility of ethics as of late.

Now, I'm not going to give content to Sidgwick or to any particular form of cultural critique. Instead, I am only suggesting an initial conceptual tension, one already realized at least on the side of the Continental tradition that sees historicity as a theme of human existence inseparable from the possibility of realizing an ethics (where ethics means the possibility of creating a theory that explains what I ought to do). Thus, the analytic move to offer a conceptual story is left at an impasse, yet that is not the only impasse here. Moreover, this move to account for historicity and seeing ethics as determined by cultural forces also confronts the possibility of some Continental authors that see their work in light of emancipation, such as maybe Critical Theorists or Marxists themselves. The Continentals seem required to explain why some normative emancipation is better than the cultural status-quo. Whatever the complaint may be, the normative force driving any emancipatory analysis requires moral justification. Moral justification would seem, then, be needed, and traditionally, I find only analytic ethics concerned solely with why I find certain actions, policies or events morally valuable. Thus, the Continentals at large are largely at an impasse too.

Where does this leave me? Well, I don't know. I don't have an answer of how to incorporate an appropriate understanding of historicity or cultural critique into ethics without transgressing the limit of one side of the Analytic/Continental divide. If I were to venture a guess, then incorporating historicity might involve (amongst other things), the habituation we find in Aristotle and hermeneutic problem of practical wisdom in general. In one sense, such a response will lose precision in action-guidance, though it is arguable whether or not content of action-guidance was ever a strong feature of moral theory anyway, and that action-guidance would be more sensitive to the framework of its historical origin. Thus, a return to the Nicomachean is in order at least if the beginning ruminations on my part can sketch a response to the concerns of both traditions in ethics.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Intuitions and Ontotheology

The use of intuitions in moral philosophy, and whether or not the ontotheology of our day and age has any relation to the claim of intuitions and their independence in moral theorizing constitute the limit and power moral theorizing has for us. I've been in recent discussion with a number of people in the Continental tradition that eschew straight up moral theorizing. Instead, they regard moral theorizing as a product of an age, a certain history. For moral theorizing to have any intellectual purchase, therefore, it is important to inquire into its possibility and limits. The threshold of this limit can have an impact over the whole field of moral theorizing which to a certain extent is too large a term to have any significant sense for us. As such, I take my cue from Ross, and want to narrow the focus on Ross' intuitionism. In so doing, I will draw together some themes from Heidegger that challenge the common deontological assumption about morality's independence, and test the waters concerning the historicity that informs so much of the Continental tradition influenced from Heidegger onward.

In the first sense, this question is like many others that I have posed in the past, namely, about the phenomenology of our moral experience and all its facets from the beliefs to justifications we have for them. In another way, it is different since "intuition" is reserved for Ross in a very limited sense. For Ross, there is some issue at stake in a situation that has value. For instance, we might say that if I am not paid for services I have provided, or the customer feels I haven't done my service adequately to warrant payment, what is at stake is the integrity of my service. Did I truly do it right to warrant payment? If I didn't do what someone paid me to do, then that would be the wrong-making property of the situation, and the customer can withold payment. If I was true to the service provided, then the wrong-making property is in the customer lying about why he will not pay me. Thus, we have moral intuitions that recognize higher-ordered properties of situations and how, initially, to know what we ought to do.

Another important point about intuitions is that they are not incorrigible for Ross. Instead, they are comparable to other duties we may have, and they are defeasible because of this comparability. For instance, if I have promised to meet a friend for lunch and my wife is suddenly struck ill, I can realize by critical reflection that one intuition to honor my obligations of my wife trump considerations of a friendly lunch. Moreover, there is no infallibility in our intuitions. Critical reflection may amend the status of our immediately recognizable intuitions to do my duties.

Now that these two features of moral intuitions are generally known, I think we should switch it up to some Heidegger. For Heidegger, an ontotheology means a historical constellation of intelligibility that the current metaphysical presuppositions of the time condition exactly how we understand aspects of our place and being in the world. For Heidegger, this means that historical influences of various stages of metaphysics determine the expressibility of the human experience. This means that once a metaphysics determines what is, then this will delimit what anything is (I should mention the overwhelming exposition of an ontotheology is indebted to Iain Thomson's work). Let's try to give content this idea by looking at the history of ethics for a clue.

Some might think that the formulaic constructions of moral philosophies like Kant and Mill exemplify some aspect of our modern age whereas before a language of virtue reigned supreme. These two thinkers share something in common, the fact that they wanted to boil morality down to one basic principle from which all else would follow. Once we have the secret philosophical principle, we can determine all matters of right and wrong. This sounds very much like the ideal of the Enlightenment science which tried to grasp the ideality of the world through reason. Perhaps, the fact that the Enlightenment defined the age as one in which men would autonomously aspire to control nature through reason might have bearing as to how morality was understood. Something is missed in this age about morality.

If Heidegger is right, the history of Western metaphysics determines different type of epochs that determine the limit of how exactly we can understand the world, including morality. Of course, we can have some disagreement about what ontotheology holds true for metaphysics right now, whether or not we find ourselves thinking being is no longer asked, or that scientific-technological utopianism governs our epoch is open for discussion. I don't care either way; it's only if Heidegger is right that the historical status of the world is thus determined by a historical understanding of metaphysics that affects moral philosophy.

For Ross, this would mean that the intuitions we recognize as the wrong-making property are actually products of the type of historical epoch we are living in. Moreover, if we possess these inherited intuitions about morality, then the independent ability for moral theorizing to arrive at a way to decipher the concepts of right and wrong are overdetermined by ontotheologies, that is, we couldn't tell one way or the the other what makes actions right or wrong in moral theorizing since moral theorizing is determined by the historical understanding of metaphysics. Instead, what I call moral intuitions, in turn, might just be granting value and legitimacy to a historical product. Morality might be arbitrary because of historicity. Ultimately, this undermines the independence of ethics to suggest a criteria of why certain actions are wrong and right, and this is what I desire from a moral theory (and Ross for that matter).

So, I leave this blog entry in aporia. Does anyone think I have set up this problem in an accurate way? What possible solutions are there for ethics' independence in light of Heidegger?

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Oxford University Press, Milestones

So, I just called for my first ever desk copies for my first ever course I'm teaching. It's PHIL 102 Introduction to Philosophy. I'm really excited. When dealing with an academic press, all they do is just send you the book. You call, talk to someone, and that's it.

I'll be adopting some intensive-writing techniques for the introductory course, and have decided that the Vaughn text Writing Philosophy should take a more active role than I have seen it before. Moreover, I have developed a formal rubric for students to follow, which basically amounts to a student defending a thesis and anticipating intellectual objections to that thesis. I saw this general strategy as immensely powerful in improving philosophical writing in Vancouver, particularly for a largely ESL student audience. I think it should work here, although some of the Vancouver model lacks exegetical concerns and historical context one finds in Continental pedagogy. I'll have to see how it is received by the students and my peers.

I anticipate some very rudimentary problems and want to think of ways to make the writing component of the course easier on students. The equivalent problem of Vancouver students at SFU may surface at SIU, namely that students are now more under-prepared for abstract thinking and subsequent writing philosophy requires. The strength of an American university is that they only speak one language. There is no language barrier between myself and the students. This takes a lot of pressure off of me when I think about teaching philosophy.

To make it easier, I've adopted the general strategy of grading drafts and providing systematic feedback as an expert reader. I wanted to take the time, and perhaps develop several feedback sheets for various courses since much of my interests will fall along more historically-centered coursework.

Secondly, I have chosen to use Richard Double's Beginning Philosophy. This book is a wonderful introduction to various philosophical problems, even including some meta-ethics at the introductory level. While this book is largely analytic, I have a strange appreciation for this book. It's incredibly clear and concise about very dense topics. I've never seen a book explain so clearly Aquinas' contingency argument for God's existence and Mackie's error theory. Moreover, the focus on clarity and dialectic throughout is something I think may help others with their coursework at SIU. Most students cannot fathom that one would be arguing after the truth of how the world is; most students regard the humanities with some strange relativism.

It's just really exciting to be teaching my own course. Rarely, I am told is this opportunity given to a first-year PhD.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Posting Schedule

I can't seem to breakaway from my studies for any length of time to post. I'm sorry for my regular followers. I think a post once every two weeks is possible during semesters. So that's what I'll do.

As always, I love hearing from people who read this blog.

Don't be a stranger. Philosophy is all about talking to strangers, unless doing so will result in a cup of hemlock.

Irigaray, Language and Conservatism

Luce Irigaray has devastated my brain. But as usual, there's a certain sense of a problem that drives home for me. In her criticism of language, language is sexed; it sexuates and prevents the recognition of sexual difference. It has a prefigured intelligibility to it already, and governs the possible articulations and meanings before we even speak. In this way, we might say that "language speaks us" determining the threshold of our ways of being and speaking.

This insight isn't new, but harder to see in English. For Irigaray, language is gendered and that cuts all the way down for her in her native French language. Gender is harder for an English monolinguist to see. Yet, there are certain patterns of cultural norms, what we might call certain intelligible orders that want to prefigure essences of sexuality: there is man and then there is woman. As always, this problem hits home for me--conservatism is entrenched in preserving intelligible orders that constrain the newness of discourse. Let me explain.

If our language affects the possibilities of how we can even talk about sexuality, about being a 'woman', then we determine the limit of what can be said. (I have a similar point in the abortion article I wrote on here some time ago). We would speak in such a intelligible order to only repeat what can be said. We would be closed off from even thinking anew. As Irigaray puts the point,
Nothing new, nothing being born in this universal Word which amounts to the most solipsistic construction, constitution of a subject who would no longer know, or not know, the event. Who, in a certain way from the beginning, in a language that has been determined in this way. Like a present that would move around while remaining the same?...like a machine that puts or sews things together by making a forward stitch bacward and a backward stitch forward, and so on, indefinitely. Without any creation, invention, event, or randomness except for this interminable operation. (The Invisible of the Flesh in An Ethics of Sexual Difference (Cornell University Press, 1993)p. 178)

Conservativism moves within history, or so it claims. It attempts to inscribe a current complaint or violation of tradition within a historical claim or narrative, conceptually a larger part. In order to inscribe the meaning of the words used in such a claim to history, they merely repeat; they re-instantiate an intelligible order of the past/tradition/history. In doing so, they close themselves off from the new, and as I urge the better.

Now, it is foolish for a philosopher to assume all new formations are better. All new formations may create more problems than they are intended to solve. But shouldering history as a sign, a threshold to NOT do the RIGHT thing is something I can never understand. For me, ethical knowledge is realizable; we do it everyday. But the point is to be made aware about how our culture, language and norms inscribe injustice in their very articulation of a problem, in terms of how we speak about it. Allowing the newness of discourse, of speech or a problem, is a way to explore the human condition, not prefigure woman into a home, a black man to the fields or a gay man to the infernos of hell.

We can see this in bigoted non-denominational forms of Christianity. Homosexuality must be a sinful choice in their rhetoric, what I've called their intelligible order of what-can-be-saidness. There's no other way to even talk/think about it. If it is not sinful choice, then God has created by design people condemned to hell from the very outset. Since God is a morally-perfect being, he would not do such a thing, so one inference is that homosexuality is by choice. It is a desire that can be cleansed from someone's behavioral tendency. Now, of course, this doesn't stand for all forms of Christianity, but is one sign of how conservatism in its repetition of the past can never say anything new. Here, Irigaray is writing about sexed language prefiguring what woman is. What I am doing with this insight is reading it back into our American political situation.

Conservatives can never say anything new since they are trapped by a re-enacting of the past, a repetition of language in which nothing new, no new meanings or possibilities can enter as even legitimate. They are the worst forms of politicians constantly re-enacting a past they can't ever get to or know epistemically and doing it at the expense of a solution that could benefit exigent political matters. They are like those weird experiences in which someone realizes they know more than they thought they did about something only to forget they were prefigured in that knowing from the outset. You cannot dissimulate the past as new either. But that's a story for another time.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

On the Tension in Doing Philosophy

I have the practical wisdom to see that writing in a Continental style requires a close examination of the text, and the "argument" is interwoven with the attempt to come to grips with the text before me.

To come back, to return to the style of my literary love is hard. When you read my statement of research, I say that I look at Continental philosophers as those that offer insights into typical meta-ethical problems. I take from them like a robber in the night an insight, put it into a proposition to be argued for as it relates to my philosophizing as a description of the world. In this way, my robbery of a text transgresses against the careful details of figurative expression, symbolism, metaphor and historical horizon of these texts. Two opposite poles are at tension in my philosophizing: (1) where philosophy is systematically argued description of ahistorical problems and (2) that philosophy is a description of our lived-experience, our facticity, our situatedness in the context of our very historicity. If philosophy, according to many Continental authors, cannot be lived in concrete experience, then all the fancy moves of a deductive logically preserving language bear no fruit. They have no intellectual purchase.

In a way, my style borrows from an example known to many, Korsgaard. Korsgaard's Kant is not the historically and textually centered Kant. Far from it, her eoKantianism in ethics is like what I saw myself doing when I applied. Korsgaard borrows from the historical Kant for a descriptive project outside the aim of historically situating Kant. This is just the tension of the historian of philosophy qua philosopher AND the problem-solver qua philosopher. For myself, I wanted to use phenomenology, but in so doing, appropriation is like a heresy, a heresy where the aim transgresses the text to the point that I'm worse than Derrida. At least, Derrida tries to read the author against himself (whatever that means specifically); I'm, as I said, a robber. Borrowing with only the smallest intent to return!

This is not to say that learning these texts is outside my intention. In fact, just the opposite---I want to learn the movement of these texts. Any philosopher may know that outside philosophy departments, these texts of Continental philosophy inspire thousands. There is a dimension to which they have reached that analytics envy, and rightly so. Their ideas are infectious, bound to the very marrow of human experience in ways that scientiphiles loathe. It's just that I wanted to craft a philosophy that achieves two levels of adequacy. I call these two conditions of adequacy of any philosophical theory, influenced by my love of philosophy as an intertwining of the Continental and the Analytic perspectives. Consider the following two conditions of adequacy:

A) Phenomenologically a theory must make sense of our lived-experience, and no attempt can be made to subordinate the phenomenology to a naturalistic ontology.

B) Weak Naturalism sees all events, I claim, in terms of explanations (but not all events require causal explanation) and where it is appropriate elements of our human experience might have to look to the sciences for compatibility as long as A) is maintained as well.

In doing philosophy, I come up against the challenge of writing it well. In my discussions in the teaching seminar, I have begun to dig deep on the analytic perspective that philosophy is about conceptual clarity: clarity in writing reflects the level of clarity in one's thinking, as long as the equation between thought in the head and spoken language can be maintained. I feel this, I really do. However, I also see the merit in saying the goal of teaching philosophy is about the questions that stir one to take it, to awaken in students the philosophical core of their own inquiry. Perhaps, this is true only insofar as students are willing to work, yet the method of many Continentals seems rather to disturb the ground of students, to make them uncomfortable and shock them out of their absorption of the world. This again, I think, speaks to the difference in which Continentals write. Continentals write within the text many layers, many layers of subtle meaning -- shifting from clarity to the ambiguity -- , often exploiting the very ambiguity in their own language. For example, Luce Irigray exploits the French:

There is not, there will not be the moment of wonder of the wedding, an ecstasy that remains in-stant. ("Sexual Difference" in An Ethics of Sexual Difference (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1993), p 14).

Here's the clincher: The hyphenation of the normal word "instant" plays upon the notion of standing within oneself, its root meaning. Such a standing within oneself emphasizes the contrast with ecstasy, which is standing outside the self. The playing off these senses is crucial to the overall point she is making. Explaining it would take away from what I am doing here, but the point holds as far as writing in Continental philosophy holds. The root meanings of these words are approached as a medium in which understanding of sexual difference occurs. As such, the metaphors, figurative expressions and symbolism of our language invoke atypical manners of expressing how charged or loaded language is. Such conventions are appropriate to use and illustrate, especially for an author that sees her native French language as sexed.

The example of Irigaray brings up another salient point, one which I think is lost on the complaint as old as Heidegger and Carnap: the charge of obscurantism. This charge equally is a hyperbolic of two things. First, the fact is, we are reading Continental philosophers in translation and translating ourselves the distance of those authors and the text itself. In so doing, we keep to the same verbosity of our tradition not out of disrespect for clarity, but keeping the horizon in which these authors are writing in either the French of the German. Since so much hinges on that contextual understanding, we keep the history of their discourse in mind as a background in order to engage the very act of the translated/translating text.

Such historic motivations fall on deaf ears. My analytic gut tells me to logically preserve the meaning and seek out the problem they are addressing. There must be some abstraction, some sense to which Foucault or Heidegger are writing. A successful implementation of philosophy would find that problem, dissolve it of its ambiguity and place it in its very clarity for all to see. However, in doing that, I do violence to Continental philosophy wherein my biases for clarity prevent accessibility in the very way I ought to proceed. If the essence of language is logic, then I can see myself very much in this tradition seeing all philosophy as only the current set of problems for all to see and solve by rigor, consistency and dialectic exchange of arguments.

Likewise, the inverse is equally true. My Continental gut tells me to not logically preserve meaning. Yet, I do violence against the Continental side--that's what motivated this initial explanation of what I mean by the "tension in doing philosophy." I do violence in the very way that one of the introductions to Heidegger's Kant Book. It is the violence of interpretation which robs the context of the Continental philosopher. Violence in this case is robbing the text, paying no heed to the with-textness illustrated by the Latin root of "context." I merely seek to describe some audacious claim, inspired as if a muse had instructed my stealing away from history and context. A grave robber of ideas?

However, philosophy is not only about the historical situation in which I find myself but also describing the world in my encounter with it. On this, I feel I will always be in tension. So I ask the larger world, can the tension between both conceptions of philosophy I offer as well as the two levels of adequacy of any philosophical theory hold? Can they even commingle? And what does that say about my reflections in writing and teaching philosophy at large?

Sunday, August 30, 2009

The Existential Problem of the Present for American Conservatives

The central problem for American conservatism is its fascination with its past at the expense of the present. I call this problem, the problem of the present. In moral situations, we face the exigencies of life afforded by sensitivity to the fact that people are vulnerable to a range of injuries and injustices of life presently and currently. As such, the liberal intelligentsia often observes remedies to immediately respond to the temporal proximity of an injurious reality or institutional injustice, often with the medium of government in some way.

To resist this liberal intrustion, the American conservative is aesthetically obsessed with providing moral justifications of why we cannot remedy, undue or modify an existing practice especially those practices that are institutionally ingrained in American life. The Conservative goes out of their way to enshrine the past with a detached contemplative reverence in what could only be called an aesthetic attitude. This attitude is much the same with that of the tourist walking the Roman ruins. As Simone De Beauvoir says, "The tourist considers the arena of the Coliseum, the Latifundia of Syracuse, the thermal baths, the palaces, the temples, the prisons and the churches with the same tranquil curiosity" (Ethics of Ambiguity, p. 75) These things merely existed, and in that, they satisfy. In political culture -- and this is the point we are aiming at -- the American conservative uplifts the practices of the past in a magical and deceptive manner. For them, as De Beavoir says of the estranged Italian too, "the present already seems like a future past" (Ibid, p. 75) For the Conservative wants a Jeffersonian purity or a Madisonian understanding of our institutions and our Jurisprudence to reflect the past as if it were truly present as a perceptual object. However, the sad case, and this is what we academics understand, this can never be so. We cannot will the present to be a future past anymore than we could believe in square-circles.

The reason we cannot accept a willed action to be a future-past in the present is that we cannot extoll the conditions of our nation's history to the point we are willing blindly. The very philosophical truth is harder to admit. We are limited by our own finitude. We cannot reach out beyond the circle of our age, and transcend time and place to enter the subjectivity of a past author anymore than we can recreate the conditions under which the past was realized within that author. In thinking this transcendence of history possible, American conservatives merely "understand the temporary events and through them to cultivate that beauty which perishes not"--they are victim to their own blind reverence, the aesthetic attitude of history. They take the point of view of history when the present challenges their understanding. In taking that point of view, which I and many others have already shown to be an impossibility, they, as De Beauvoir would say flee "the truth of the present" (Ethics of Ambiguity, p. 76) According to the existentialist, choice is deprived of meaning if it is effaced willingly by those that could act, that could respond to the present.

If ethics has any meaning, then it can be agreed solely that ethics is about the freedom to respond. This aesthetic attitude, as De Beauvoir rightly claims, causes "inertia," or our inability to respond to the exigency of injury and injustice. The freedom to respond to meaning, to someone's suffering, is at heart why liberals are so emphatic about uprooting the bonds of tradition that hold sway over our considerations. We want to upsurge the existence of others, and make those outside our sphere better in some way. Ethics is about responding and uprooting the false views that blindly steer us away from a full commitment to the moral life.

Of course, the Conservative can only come up with two responses. First, the unreflective conservatives will esteem the fact that in religion one can have access to the past as it was revealed in a text. But such a response dares to cut its own feet off when even in their own view, the religious text is the only revealed access to that transcendence they seek in human tradition. For the religious conservative, only the Bible is capable of that transcendence. If they admit of American exceptionalism, then they are harder pressed to be dissuaded by their own shortcomings. American exceptionalism is at the root of all conservative fanaticism and stupidity. If we admit that we -- as a nation -- share in the teleology of a divine plan, and that our greatness coincides with the plan of God, then those exceptionalists succumb to the same version as before. They forget that transcendence is only capable of God, and put themselves on a pedestal of the sacred being they all admit more infinite in nature than they can possibly understand. To put these versions down, I need not even get started in my own philosophical views.

The second response is more sensitive to the content of what I have said here. He will say that you cannot forget history, we ourselves and our nation being the product of historical forces. In that, we both agree. I take to heart the historicity of our being. We are being, thrown by the world and its forces as directed by the fact that we are temporal beings. We live in time's ebb and likewise when we view the past with a backward glance, we cannot help but see the past solidify into a narrative. The point is, we don't forget the history. We do not make the history to be something so metaphysical that we are determined within the limit of history. Instead, we view that the freedom to respond to the present is more important, and that in our response will have a human signification, a meaning that attaches on to the forever moving present that we will make into history. In this way, liberals perceive the present as something not detached from history, but as a continuum without losing sight of the exigency of the present. In this way, we are progressive without being determined by the optimism about the future, but keeping the future open to all possibilities because we realize that we are bound ethically to all.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Does this work?

It has come to my attention that moral realists have been hard-pressed in many instances to provide an ontological story as to why others should assent to the moral realist's claim of independent existing moral facts. By moral facts, I mean the set of moral beliefs that inform our everyday day-to-day deliberation in the same way someone would speak of a set of worldly facts like how many grains of sand there are on Earth, or how many snakes are poisonous. The only difference in form from the analogy is that moral facts express evaluative notions about what ought to be the case rather than describing the world. I claim that the existence of moral facts can be treated as a body of truths that is implied by the acceptance of their relevance in lived-experience. Thus, I accept the following argument as a way of entering into the truth of moral realism.

P1: If moral facts exist independently of our endorsement of them, then moral facts constitute the fabric of the world.
P2: If moral facts constitute the fabric of the world, then moral facts arise in our experience of knowing the fabric of the world.
IC: If moral facts exist independently of our endorsement of them, then moral facts arise in our experience of knowing the fabric of the world. (HS, 1 and 2)
P3: If moral facts arise in our experience of knowing the fabric of the world, then moral facts, according to phenomenology, are rooted in our subjective constitution of moral intentionality that bestows meaning-formation of our lived-experience. (HS, IC and 3)
C: If moral facts exist independently of our endorsement of them, then, moral moral facts, according to phenomenology, are rooted in our subjective constitution of a moral intentionality that bestows meaning-formation of our lived experience.

Friday, August 14, 2009


Everyone has been super with our move. My wife and I love how we envision our life growing here in Southern Illinois. The university has been spectacular, and the department is encouraging. What a wonderful place!

Ross, Motive and the Sense of Duty

In a revisitation of Ross' The Right and the Good, I have been strangely trying to figure out a decent representation of the following textual argument. Here is that little snippet that catches my fancy:

Those who hold that our duty is to act from a certain motive (Kant is the great exemplar) usually hold that the motive from which we ought to act is the sense of duty. Now if the sense of duty is to be my motive for doing a certain act, it must be the sense that it is my duty to do that act. If, therefore, we say 'it is my duty to do act A from the sense that it is my duty to do act A.' And here the whole expression is in contradiction with a part of itself. The whole sentence says ' it is my duty to-do-act-A-from-the-sense-that-it-is-my-duty-to-do-act-A.' But the latter part of the sentence implies that what I think is that it is my duty to-do-act-A simply. And if, as the theory in questions requires, we try to amend the latter part of the expression to bring it into accord with the whole expression, we get the result 'it is my duty to do act A from the sense that it is my duty to do act A from the sense that it is my duty to do act A,' where again the last part of the expression is in conflict with the sentence as a whole. It is clear that a further similar amendment, and a further, and in the end an infinite series of amendments would be necessary in the attempt to bring the last part of the expression into accordance with the theory, and that even then we should not have succeeded in doing so. (R&G, p. 5, CH 1).

This seems, at first glance, to be a devastating argument. Motive and duty cannot be contained in the other. However, I am unsure as to how the contradiction is reached given that the contradiction is internal to the statement. And how exactly does Ross understand the given expression? Untangling this mess will require some effort, and has been the subject of some scholarship since this is a famous argument made against Kantians (Arthur T. Shillinglaw 1933 in Mind for starters). Before we get to analysis of this argument, I want to further add what he says about acting from the sense of duty.

On this argument, Ross clearly says that only acting from sense of duty will it lead to a infinite regress (p. 6). However, acting from other motives will be free from the infinite regress. Still, he reminds "it would be paradoxical to hold that we ought to act from some other motive, but never ought to act from a sense of duty, which is the highest motive." For Ross, there is a positive significance acting from a sense of duty has; it is just that we cannot regard any theory which holds "that motive of any kind is included in the content of duty" (p. 6)

Now, reductios attempt to get A and Non-A statements together in a proof. In application, this means showing that a theory or thesis commits one to its negation as well as positive formation. Above, let's identify what thesis is up for attack. I'll call that the Kantian Containment Thesis, or KCT for short.

KCT: The motive from which a moral agent ought to act is the moral agent's sense of duty.

So, Ross would show us how we reach ~KCT:

~KCT: The motive from which a moral agent ought to act is not the moral agent's sense of duty.

Yet, I am not too sure that this is done. Any thoughts? I could be missing something, but I'm going to think more on this.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Where Have All the Essences Gone?

When someone finds themselves influenced by a historical thinker, one takes up positions counter to others along shared beliefs with the philosopher in question. However, sometimes, what strikes me most about Husserl is what little is said about a key issue, and the problem left in its wake has an effect. Consider for a moment what we can glean from Husserl's phenomenology about ideal objects, or what I take essences to be.

Essences are eternal, apodictic and eternal. They are non-temporal, and are only described by phenomenology since phenomenology is the descriptive science of phenomenological essences. The descriptive focus is the most attractive thing for being a phenomenologist; it allows me to get to the concrete matters of our lived experience whereas other more naturalistic philosophies often conceal over the elements of our lived experience in which decisive data for philosophical problems can be gleaned (this is the source of dialectic tension between the broad landscape of naturalists in Anglophone philosophy with my non-natural leanings). However, this descriptive emphasis avoids the metaphysical problems associated with ideal objects. These essences have no ground other than they occur within our experience of consciousness in the world and are describable.

At first, I always never thought of these essences as anything more than realized intuitions that appear to us at the end of phenomenological reduction. I thought of them as byproducts, and easily regard them as a coherentist would a series of representations and non-inferential intuitions that mesh together in a series of propositions. For me, the intuition of these essences consists nowhere but their apprehension. I was left with just ideal objects looming in Husserl's system (esp. in Ideas I where Husserl talks about the world could vanish and as long as there appears before consciousness phenomena, phenomenology would be a viable enterprise), and him denying possible grounds, or hypostases as we might call them Julian Marias confirmed this shared suspicion with his chapter on Husserl. I like how he divcides them up:

1. Psychological hypostasis would locate ideal objects in the mind; their existence would be mental and they would exist in my thought.

2. Metaphysical hypostasis would state ideal objects are entities located in an immaterial place, e.g. Platonism

3. Theological hypostasis would locate ideal objects in the mind of God who is constantly thinking them. (Marias, p. 406, The History of Philosophy)

Now, given that Husserl rejects all of these but still maintains the existence of ideal non-temporal objects/essences, then where exactly can we put essences in our ontology? While I think Husserl would avoid the metaphysics of the issue, there is a decisive advantage to 1. For whichever theory of pscyhology pans out as the truest in the discourse of psychology, we could wait for theoretical consensus and be consistent with the result of the science to say we've only been describing the world the whole time. However, that might have the dogmatism of the natural attitude all over it.

If we indulge in 2, committing to a immaterial plane, then the immateriality of God in 3 is but one step away given our interpretation will eventually require God, I think. Yet, the decisive advantage is that we gain that truth is guaranteed by relating to an ultimate Absolute, very much in the spirit of the American philosopher Josiah Royce. For he claimed that truth only occurs by being in reference not to a contingent world of nature, but to an Absolute ground. Our experience of the world would be limited unless it refers to a reality that outstrips it. Husserl would, I think, reject 3 clearly in thinking that emphasizing that ideal objects are the absolute reality we lose a connection to the lived-experience of the concrete world in the very same way that the natural attitude operates. Ideal objects become presentations of God's mind, and we no longer can follow the Husserlian motto: To get back to things themselves if the things themselves (ideal objects) become something other than they are. For Husserl, we are strictly limited to our consciousness of the world, and how it constitutes phenomena. That's it. Plain and simple.

Therefore, it would seem we are left with 2 as long as we don't read into the immateriality of ideas. We would be left with the same place we started from, only sure that what is required is a loosely-based Platonism without any commitment to the content of the ideal object's ontological nature. All we can know of them is that they are epistemologically required via phenomenology qua philosophy. For the other options 1 and 3 lead us away from the very insight as to why we practice phenomenology in the first place.

Friday, July 24, 2009


For a long time, I have been concerned with reconciling the broken traditions of philosophy plagued by difference in style and attention to matters ruptured along EITHER thinking that philosophy should follow clearly the sciences to the effect that most, if not all, philosophical problems are in some way scientific problems OR that philosophy should interrogate the structures of our lived experience without which we could never make sense of the facticity, let alone our science. In this, I am decided that the latter should have my attention. For all its worth, I cannot help but think that philosophizing about the concrete matters of our practical life and lived-experience evoke a fuller conception of philosophy than the sterility of the Anglophonic tradition.

As of now, I think I will take the more Continental direction in the road. I will still, from time to time, meditate on those problems that inspire me, the existence of practical reason as such, what is agency, the objectivity of morality and the best normative theory for describing the content of morality. However, these deviations will occur along a fissure that cuts down all the way in every philosophical bone in my body. For now, I am more dedicated to the pursuit of Continental philosophy and Husserl than ever before.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Graham Harman Interview

Graham Harman agrees to an interview over at anotherheideggerblog.blogspot.com.

Love at First Sight

So, I'm visiting Carbondale, IL and I have met several of the graduate students. I can already feel a sense of community that previous graduate school experience did not afford. They're friendly, helpful and above all motivated. In one day, I have had social outings and experienced a level of personal contact far surpassing a month of the old school. Now, I am not one for "knocking" what came before. For those that may come here from there, this is, perhaps, a shortcoming.

My blog will be slowing down, and many of whom frequent my blog may be upset. I will be posting primarily on Derrida and Husserl in the next few upcoming months, as that is the seminar I will be invested in. I'm still unsure of my second seminar. In that time, I want to get some good solid Continental essay on Husserl out there for the 2010 meeting of the Husserl Circle, and SPEP for 2010.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Continental/Analytic Divide

Paul Patton's lovely talk about Continental philosophy is stirring and inspirational. It's absolutely lovely and correct--understanding CP as an Anglophonic projection! His thoughts connect themes of Continental philosophy to application of immediate insight to one's concrete world (especially thematic reflections on Australia). Among these I liked: The Question of the Other in Derrida, Levinas and maybe Arendt as real themes in Australia's colonial past. Foucault's analysis of our present with the modes of past thought---philosophy as a mode of reflection on the present and its consequence for Australian law.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Value-Predicates & Being and Time

In BT, Heidegger writes,

value predicates cannot tell us anything at all new about the Being of goods, but would merely presuppose again that goods have pure presence-at-hand as their kind of Being. Values would then be determinate characteristics which a Thing possesses, and they would be present-at-hand. They would have their sole ultimate ontolgoical source in our previously laying down the actuality of Things as the fundamental stratum. But even pre-phenomenological experience shows that in an entity which is supposedly a Thing, there is something tht will not become fully intelligible through Thinghood alone. Thus, the Being of Things has to be rounded out. What then does the Being of values or their 'validity' really amount to ontologically? And what does it signify ontologically for Things to be 'invested' with values in this way? (BT, H. 99)

A Few Things:

First, I cannot tell if 'goods' here refer to moral goods, or are goods meant in terms of instrumental goods like when one looks at a shop sign reading "goods and services."

This sounds like Heidegger has reached the often observed gap between fact and value. The above passage reads as if it is skeptical about equating values with material objects that are judged valuable.

Moreover, the problems of metaethics and the objectivity of values has always talked about values as enduring reasons of action for one agent and others like the agent. Agent-neutral values, as it were, inherent the talk of what Heidegger would call present-at-hand.

Any thoughts?

Thoughts on Contextual Pacifism

Let contextual pacifism be a rejection of any form of violence or war where the means to control the effect of war or violence from the agent(s) disperses beyond control of the agent(s) in question. This dispersion requirement conceptually grounds what type of contexts justify pacifism. As such, any form of violence that can be restricted to a smaller locus between agents and the victim has a greater chance of not dispersing, actually controlled, and therefore might justify smaller uses of violence in different contexts.

In war, the effects of agents will always, I think, cause unnecessary suffering. The missile misses, the magazine emptied into a building where the enemy and a family were, and the nerve gas hit a windstorm blowing into the civilian areas. The larger an area of effect, and the larger the amount of people, the more organization will break down between the agents and targets to the point where innocent people will get hurt. It's as if entropy enters into these organized activities exemplifying what Clausewitz called "the fog of war." The entropic breakdown of war and its effect of killing civilians is the wrong-making property of initiating war.

Smaller contexts seem intuitively more plausible. If I am at a bar and someone finds me revolting (probably my sense of humor) to punch me, then I certainly have the right to block the punch, arm bar the attacker and say enough is enough. If I am a police officer and in the heat of longstanding struggle, I have to shoot an armed perpetrator in the leg (all things being equal: I'm a good shot, I won't miss etc.), then it seems reasonable. Moreover, if someone during a hostage situation is becoming more and more of a danger to himself and the hostages, a sniper can kill. What makes these contexts different to me is that we can be reasonably confident about how we control the means of our agency in conflict.

It might seem like I've taken a back-step for any general pacifist will be appalled by my thoughts, and I could be accused of being logically untenable in that I accept violence in smaller forms than largely organized ones. Do these contextual differences really explain the moral rightness and wrongness of war generally speaking? My answer is yes. When military leaders want to justify just causes as an offset to a gain to initiate a war, they are more confident in the means to direct their own troops than they should be. The gain is illusory in that their confidence blinds them to the fact that the value of human life is worth risking for the better world. Yet, that is not so. In addition, massively organized troops differ in context than a Seargant of 22 years in New York who has to order his SWAT team take out a lunatic with a gun. The sniper can be accurate. He doesn't have the fog of war looming over him.

In conclusion, my contextual consideration preserves intuitions about self-defense and the defense of others we legitimate in our normal civilian life. We often take these intuitions and put them on the legitimacy of war. That is a mistake. As I think it conceivable and reasonable, we should see the fog of war as a wrongmaking property that eventually will transgress against others, contributing unnecessary suffering in the world. For that reason, smaller contexts of violence seem more plausible to justify than those plagued by the chaos of war itself.