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

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.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Larry May and Just Cause

Here is a paper I'm writing right now. For some flavor for ya'll, I've put the beginning outline and proposal out there. I'm still working out both A) the label for the type of pacifism defended (as well as some content consideration), and B) how one who holds that human lives can be offset against other moral considerations for supporting jus ad bellum .


Larry May’s work in philosophy of war is very well-known and respected. For me, his interpretation of just cause principle(s) are the most reasonable with the caveat that war is a permissible moral activity. One might say, for this reason, that May’s version is the most reasonable view of just cause. In fact, many of my own prima facie moral intuitions about war are worked into his reconceptualized view of the just cause principle. Yet, I am not willing to grant him the caveat of war’s permissibility. However critical May’s reconceptualized just cause principle, the critical stance and acknowledged attendant horrors of war cannot serve as a reason to constrain that only a small number of wars, those justified by a just cause, can be fought. Instead, the horrors of war serve as a wrong-making property to undermine that just causes justify war at all. This does not mean that there’s no such thing as a just cause, but only the remedy of addressing the just cause cannot be war.

As remedies go, I propose a contextual pacifism that rejects all forms of war that pose a danger to massive amounts of non-combatants, a large portion of whom are innocent. My particular intuitions reject warfare in cases where a large amount of people will unnecessarily suffer. Thus, my contextual pacifism concerns how states and internationally mobile sub-state actors ultimately relate. This pacifism does not cut down all the way into personal relationships, however.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Metaphysics of Presence?

Derrida regarded Husserl's phenomenology to be the culmination of everything that is wrong with the metaphysics from the Greeks onward. Simply put, for Husserl, all phenomena are constituted by consciousness. Meaning is enduring beyond describing how consciousness constitutes a phenomena, and the meaning of the phenomena persist through time. Anyone else engaged in phenomenological description of the same phenomena would achieve the same result. The tendency for both the subject, or ego, to persist through time as well as objects of consciousness undergird all of metaphysics. Both Heidegger and Derrida see this tendency played out in historical examples of metaphysics. As such, the question of presence ultimately becomes one resulting in skepticism that the subject exists.

Now, I don't want to get into the reasons for why Heidegger and Derrida are skeptical about the subject's existence (As I go into my Husserl and Derrida Seminar this Fall, I will no doubt have much more to say on this issue), but I do want to be skeptical of their initial skepticism. I want to rethink why such a bias of presence should be avoided. I may be a herald of tradition and nothing more at this point, but I think a metaphysics of presence should be encouraged, not avoided. Like Gadamer, biases are not something to be avoided as in the concept of bias in the Enlightenment. Instead, our biases are productive; they form the basis of my encounter with the world in a tradition.

I think a metaphysics of presence is right in some regard. Consider two cases of wonder where philosophy is said to have started. First, the wonder of philosophy begins by curiosity of a world whose mystery endures through time. If it is the world, it's mystery escapes me, outstripping my ability to know wholly the status of its reality. Next, the fact that I have a sense of continuity of my habits, dispositions and very self while not proof in itself, certainly adds some intuitions to the fact that I am in a world. I have a sense of my own being that likes, hates, shutters, fears and shivers. Thus, in both the mystery of the self and the nature of the world, I find wonder persists. It is a phenomenological fact that when I am mystified by the world or my own subjectivity, it persists through time.

Finally, maybe Derrida is right in a limited sense. Some system builders in metaphysics maintain a concept of the self that is devoid of sociality, history and intersubjectivity. Even contemporary moral philosophers that want to find how it is that agent's exhibit practical reason as such, ahistoricize the agent, and speak about agency in terms of some impersonal conceptual scheme. Perhaps, this is the quagmire. We cannot conceive of our selves as either wholly phenomenological or natural. Our conception of our selves may be mediated between a conception that preserves presence, eschewing Heidegger and Derrida, while preserving a more healthier understanding of humban beings as connected with a time, place and understanding.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

The Problem of the Lifeworld's Legitimacy as a Philosophical Problem

I am interested in the origins of phenomenology as a way into explicating irreducible structures of our social and historical experience, what we might call the field of the lifeworld. The tendency of the Neo-Kantians to link science with Kant was, as far as I can tell, a similar situation with contemporary philosophy today. Analytically-trained naturalists are skeptical of a philosophy that seeks to explain all fields of experience. What counts as worth talking about is only those categories supported by the natural sciences, or in a way, at least plausible within a narrow scientifically informed window of plausible speculation. In their view, science should not seek to integrate in explanation of our experience sources of artistic, cultural or historical domains. These features are more for the phenomenologist that accepts these features of human existence as irreducible in the sense that the analytically-trained naturalist could not provide a suitable space for them in the first place. We just tend to ignore this refusal to talk. Thus, there is a disagreement between whether or not to treat irreducible features of human existence as real. Instead, our philosophy should only be engaged with what the sciences directly or indirectly support as real.

More specific to the German situation was the relationship of science to culture. To explain this relationship, it is important to first mention something of the term for science since it is peculiar to the German language. The word for 'science' is Wissenschaft. Wissenshaft includes both the natural sciences and humanities under its rubric. Thus, to strive for unity in science in general is to explain how physics or history may relate to each other. This striving-for unity engages in a dialogue with how science relates to culture at large. As far as I can tell, a philosopher that wants to integrate cultural life into science would be forced to equate forms of culture, like art, with the value of science. However, since much of ontology for the analytically-trained naturalist drives the machine of what we should even begin to philosophize about, I wonder if the Divide between Analtyic/Continental should be recast as a problem of legitimacy of the lifeworld.

I find this problematic attractive since I entertain the thought that objects of culture like historical works, literature and art contribute and express insights about humanity. To consider them sources of knowledge would mean that analytic philosophers would have to abandon the professional insight that we can only talk about things that science can support and that are clearly expressed in logical argumentation. We would have to embrace other forms of communicating insights about the human condition in ways other than logical argumentation. For me, this makes legitimate more literary or poetic styles of communicating even philosophical ideas.

The Meaning of Acceptance Is their Pride