Sunday, February 27, 2011

Zen College life has me wrong

Of the top blogs listed in philosophy over at They list my blog at #2 and say of me "...The Philosophical Chasm is a dark look into the thoughts of a Canadian philosophy teacher lecturing at Southern Illinois University, while finalizing his PhD. A great blog if you identify with the philosophers from whom Carbondale Chasmite (our author) draws his inspirations."

As far as I can tell, is a mill site paid for by online colleges. There's nothing really honorable in being associated with a site that promotes irresponsible financial practices and burdening students with cheap curriculums. Aside from that, however, a couple things need mentioned:

First, I lament ever leaving Canada, but that was as an American. I love BC and all its quirkiness, and I'm quite public about that fact. However, I do not think I can be Canadian as I was born in New Jersey and have spent my entire adult life in Western Pennsylvania. I did take a Masters at Simon Fraser, but that's quite another story entirely.

Secondly, I don't know why it is so dramatic. This blog is not a "dark look into" my thoughts. I try and be as honest as I can about matters in philosophy. And perhaps, it is a dark thing, philosophy. The only thing philosophers can ever agree on is anything written in philosophy demands to be scrutinized, challenged and reflected upon. So if we find Nietzsche's pronouncement about the fact that we have killed God, we should ask ourselves why Nietzsche said what he did. We do not shy away from him. Is that dark? How about Heidegger? Heidegger showed that philosophy is highly determined by history and language. Do we shy away from him for saying what he did? Is that dark? I reject Heidegger almost completely, then again, I still read him.

Contemporary philosophy of mind has settled upon materialism about mind. This means that there are no more souls. Is that dark? I still confess a slight interest in philosophy of mind, and I still read some of it.

I am hostile to naive religious dogmas that inform American conservative politics and cultural praxis. I reject traditional views about God, while still believing in a divine reality. I maintain that we need a new parousia of understanding God, and follow Irigaray -- a French psychoanalytic thinker and feminist -- in this regard. Is that dark? America needs a newer conception of God to replace its inert, reified and patriarchal figurehead for more reasons than the feminist ones I tend to agree with.

I am hostile to ethical theories that only seek to supply us with notions of right and wrong. I want a fuller, more developed ethical theory that meshes with our phenomenological experience of value and at the same time considers what type of people we ought to become. Is that dark? So, I like Aristotle.

Now some will disagree with me. Someone might find Irigaray's writings obscure. Others might find it possible to accommodate my phenomenological worries without sliding into a virtue ethics. Someone might opt for a defense of Cartesian dualism against my acceptance that a physical substrate underlies human minds. The dialectic of philosophy is a dark place for those that want to preserve beliefs. Philosophy leaves no stone unturned in questioning and the pursuit for truth. That is dark for others, but I in no way find it uncomfortable, nor do I think it is uncomfortable to even my analytic friends in this universe. To call my thoughts "dark" is to look at philosophy from the outside and not practice it from within.


Dane meets Simone said...

"I reject Heidegger almost completely"

what does this mean, if you don't mine asking?

Carbondale Chasmite said...

Sure. The answer is simple. Philosophy is made into the hermeneutic analysis of ideas rather than thinking that philosophy can elucidate fundamental truths about a particular subject matter whether we're doing ethics, political philosophy or epistemology. Instead, for Heidegger, these discourses are not capable of timeless conceptual truths achieved through argumentation, but rather these discourses are determined (one might say over-determined) by history and language. The point of a hermeneutic philosophy is to bring to light how these ideas have been shaped within history, language and culture. Then, we might be able to say something modest about the subject matter we're investigating. Let me give you an example. Heidegger would never think that a philosopher could analyze the concept of justice itself, but more analytically-inclined philosophers like Rawls want to offer a conceptual description of that concept that works to explain justice itself.

When I say that I reject Heidegger almost completely, I reject in principle that his conception of philosophy should turn to hermeneutics completely. I consider myself somewhat of a rationalist and think there are some types of a priori knowledge possible. This is not to say that history, language and context are not important. I take his hermeneutic reasons to give pause to my reflections. We should be mindful how history shapes our concepts, but we should not also think this is a reason to completely reject the possibility that we can have knowledge of concepts independently of history. That's what it means.