Thursday, August 25, 2011

Yeah Okay But Still Blog's Practical Reason Proposal, Part 1 and 2.

I find any moral philosopher that questions mainstream ethical theories refreshing. Somehow, I think, moral philosophy has to re-invent itself and its methods when it gets to the point that ethics conceptualizes matters to such an extent that it does not bare out in experience. Sometimes you can run across a traditional metaethics professor that has conceptualized issues to such an extent that experience does not relate to the concepts. However, this is rare.  For me, this was the only area in analytic philosophy in which something-like phenomenological description and lived-experience mattered to the subject.

Still, I have questioned Nick's proposal in Part 1 and 2 while still optimistic about its initial thrust. It's a proposal worth checking out. My comments are under Part 2.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Philosophy, Philosophers and the PGR/Pluralist Affair

I do not like this singling out of an individual on the web, especially when it comes to singling out and ostracizing another professional philosopher. First, it wreaks of rumormongering and I wonder what effect it will have on someone's career. At worst, it comes across as bullying, and even more to the point, it promotes divisiveness. As if philosophers of any affiliation, expertise or approach can practically stand to be divided given that we live in an academic world that prides itself on supplying the demand of unreflective vocational degrees like business majors rather than valuing anything in the humanities! Much of the content on Leiter's Philosophy Reports has descended to that level with this whole Pluralist Guide debacle.

As philosophers, our common exchange is argumentation and interpretation. We give each other reasons for thinking X or Y, and that's the appropriate place for what we do. This includes the treatment of each other. Lately, there have been several blogs that trade in vitriol. I don't like it. It only bespeaks the implicit commitment that there is not only a divide between an us and them--without really knowing what it is exactly that we're disagreeing about while everyone insisting that the reason they personally are disagreeing with this whole affair is the same as everyone else's. It comes across as more attitudinal sometimes rather than substantive.

Surely, you can disagree with the actions of a professional colleague. Surely, you could raise these points with tact, but really to launch a survey about the issue, to elicit feedback from Leiter's gossip page can really damage someone's career. If Leiter doesn't like you, if you enter his little radar to the point that you piss him off, he could literally hurt you with his blog. I am privvy to the effects he made personally about a fellow colleague.

I have no evidence either way to infer anything on the part of Linda Martin Alcoff's actions or her motivations. I sometimes wonder what she heard that made her so fervently decide to place three top PG ranked schools as bad places for women to study philosophy. I don't know anyone at these schools; I probably never will. The point, however, should be what would motivate someone to suffer the cost of those reports? Equally disturbing is, if she is wrong, then how have her comments been received and affected the status of those graduate programs? If you are reading this, you probably don't know anymore than me. That's the point. We ought to suspend judgment on the truth of the proposition rather than surveying our social perceptions of a colleague. This is a reaction of taste. It's in poor taste that Leiter made it a survey. Again, tact is a wonderful thing. Tactful action at minimum involves respectful engagement with a colleague.

Can you imagine if the whole world of philosophy voted about your status? Imagine what it must be like to be under the hot seat. I'd be silent too. I'd wish it to go away. Moreover, if Leiter really wanted some answers about the Status of Women report, then a respectful engagement with Dr. Alcoff might have presented the results he would want: Answers.

Ever since this started, I've started her Feminist Epistemologies. It's quite good, thorough and well-researched. The only conclusions I could ever possiblly reach from her work (other than the obvious implications for phenomenology): She is more than likely smarter than me, and I'll probably teach at some liberal art school while she will carry the torch of Continental philosophy and feminist philosophy. Someone so accomplished does not require me to defend her, and this should not be read as a defense or a position in the whole affair. Instead, it is merely a judgment of taste, and an honest evaluation about what we truly know--little to nothing. If I were teaching critical thinking and my students told me that we knew little to nothing about a particular problem, then I'd advise them to suspend judgment until they acquire more evidence.

It is despicable what has become of this whole affair, and you can point fingers... The only conclusion that can be drawn is the following:

1. There are implicit power formations about what constitutes proper philosophy.

2. Various parties have a vested interest in maintaining some version of what constitutes philosophy proper and where best one should study such a conception. I don't make any claim as to what this type of philosophy should be.

3. Given 1 and 2 above, there is something like a "divide" and no precise definition can be given about it, though something like Wittgensteinian family resemblance is possible.

If 3 is remotely possible, then whatever it is that "divides" philosophers is a hermeneutic condition of the activity to such an extent that the denial that there was no divide ever seems naive. But, I digress from the main point of this post.

I don't think I'll go to Leiter's website anytime soon, and the fact that it seemed so distasteful the way he handled his criticisms, I don't suspect my call to boycott his site would have any effect. Regardless, that's where I am. I neither excuse nor praise Linda Martin Alcoff's actions since all that I know is that I don't know---what a wonderfully modest beginning and starting place for philosophy should also hold for a point as to how we conduct ourselves professionally.

That's all I got. I am glad the poll is closed. I will not post anymore about the whole Pluralist Guide/PGR debacle. I will simply end where I think philosophy is heading. If I am not mistaken, philosophy is headed towards more pluralistic grounds, and I don't know if that upsets the old guard. I have friends at some Pluralist Guide schools, and I have friends at excellent to mid-range PGR schools.  I have friends writing on Sellars and pragmatism, I have other friends writing on moral psychology and philosophy of action. I have friends writing on Agamben, and I know others writing on Merleau-Ponty and Levinas. I have friends that do metaethics, and I know others that do philosophy of culture and feminism. I, myself, seem headed toward a comparative dissertation between Heidegger and Scheler with the last chapter devoted (maybe) to Jesse Prinz's naturalistic conception of moral emotions. I read Matt Radcliffe's work on philosophy of psychology and his engagement with Heidegger. My associations are erratic, inspiring and intriguing. This is why I am excited to finally and hopefully transition to finishing the PhD and joining the ranks of my fellow colleagues. It is a truly inspiring thing we do, philosophy. For me, it's like art. It takes a while to appreciate how complex another philosopher's work is, and undoubtedly, you need to be trained to appreciate philosophy just like it takes one some time to familiarize oneself with art to appreciate its current manifestation.

In the end, all I really can say about the whole thing is "I don't like green eggs and ham. I don't like them Sam I am."

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Friday, August 12, 2011

Gov. Perry's Transcript and Political Rant

Yeah, that's what you get in the cult of personality Conservative politcs, completely mediocre students achieving power without intelligence. Here's Gov. Perry's transcript.

It should be said, however, that I think it is somewhat sleazy to run the story like the Huffington Post did. It's yellow journalism at its finest. You can reject conservatism without smearing the person. Both Senator Kerry and George Bush had C averages at their Ivy league schools.

What is interesting for me philosophically is the traits necessary to succeed in politics. You do not need intelligence. All it seems one require is wealth, social capital and a bit of charisma.

Years ago, I interned for a Congressman. I'll leave his name anonymous. At that point, the man was a freshman Congressman. He had attended law school. He'd been a State Representative and ran from State Representative all the way up to heavily populated 90% Democratic district. He was the up-and-comer in that state.

For two months, I answered calls, filled out paper work for flag requests and helped put together folders for academy nominations. I compiled a database of US manufacturers in the several counties. I met him once. He stopped by the office, and when I shook his hand, I felt just how "fake" he was. There was no doubt in my mind. The Congressman had a very charismatic personality, but I didn't feel anything very genuine from him. He had already been oiled and slicked by the party machine. I think this holds for almost any politician. Once they are situated in power, a variety of interests come to court them. They are forced to embed themselves in a nexus of power interests that hold sway over their reelection coffers.

US politicians don't do anything. They don't make anything. They don't wrestle with anything too controversial that would cost them to upset their respective constituents. In effect, they are useless. Call me bitter.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

4 Problems of Attunement and Mood in Being and Time

I wanted to share something I'm working on, and wondered if I am off base. Heideggerians and Schelerians alike are welcomed to respond. These are four criticisms I'm using in what will become my Dissertation Prospectus and Chapter 1. I'm still working out whether or not these are appropriate and well justified criticisms. 

I wish to summarize the claims I have made and will make based on extrapolating from them.

            (1) Heidegger’s conception of attunement through mood does not explain how attunement through mood brings into relief what matters to us. He merely insists on this point, and this cannot be given without some level of interpretation which he does not provide. If he did, then a proper candidate for bringing into relief what matters to us is not that the world is disclosed as such. More than that, the world is already “charged” by the very moods that prepare a way for the world to be disclosed. In this fashion, Heidegger is not wrong in thinking that there is already some agreement about what we find threatening prior to experience—we’ll see this in the example of fear below. Even more so, Heidegger outlines the basic non-neutrality of knowledge in general. We are already underway. We come to inhabit a world saturated with meanings already interpreted. As such, I am not claiming that Heidegger’s mood bring us into an original transcendent relation to what matters to us. Instead, I am merely claiming that without really stating how attunement relates to what matters to us, attunement leaves unsaid the truly interpersonal and intersubjective factors that help describe how it is that we come care about what matters to us. Put another way, how does attunement through mood find its expression in things mattering to us when there is no correlate established to how things actually matter to us? What is the phenomenological depth beyond simply positing that they matter?

            (2) Heidegger’s avoidance of connecting affective life to value can partially be explained by Heidegger’s interpretation of values as present-at-hand. This explains why Heidegger never wanted to include within BT’s fundamental ontology a type of moral phenomenology. Even in Scheler’s dissertation, Parvis Emad reminds us that Scheler regarded values as nothing.[1]  That is, Scheler did not even take up values as propositions or the discourse of moral facts. In the Formalism in Ethics and Non-Formal Ethics of Values, Scheler describes value phenomenologically. For him, values are expressed as emotive intuition (f├╝hlende Anschauung).[2] As it is too early to spell out these differences in full, part of the disagreement with Scheler will be the essential doctrine of intentional feeling and its correlate (or as Scheler uses the term “connection”) of values. It is within lacking intentional feeling that Heidegger fails to observe the reality of the full emotional life. This also follows that Heidegger does not observe the interpersonal dimension of emotional life and leads us directly into (3) below.

            (3) Heidegger’s care structure is not primordially constitutive of Dasein. By describing affective life as co-operative with other elements of the structure, Heidegger cannot see the full independent problematic offered by the complexity of emotional life. Specifically, emotional life is its own independent sphere. It is rather the sphere of spirit at the level of the person that demands analysis. As such, care and anxiety are not fundamental but derivative structures of what is more fundamental, spirit. Within spirit, Scheler offers the interpretation that love and hate are more essential than anxiety.

            (4) A central concern in Heidegger’s notion of authenticity is that an anticipatory resoluteness is not constrained by norms. This follows from the fact that in authenticity Dasein leaps ahead of others on its own, and if we admitted a degree of interpersonal dimension, such a possibility of Dasein would be a leaing-in would not be construed negatively as ontic and inauthentic. Leaping-in extols the publicness of the They to overtake my own possibilities. Thus, the authentic mode of being-in-the-world embodied in Befindlichkeit must shed the evaluative associations with inauthenticity over authenticity, even despite Heidegger’s claiming these are non-evaluative concepts in his fundamental ontology.

Given my interpretive claims above, Heidegger opens the way for phenomenologists. Heidegger provides the first primordial interpretation to emotional life apart from Scheler’s contribution anterior to his efforts of the early 1920s. Ever since Plato, most of Western thought has regarded the emotions with a secondary importance. Reason is that which most often trumps the passions. However, Heidegger might have opened the door for a conception of the emotions, but his aim has always been to provide an ontologically constitutive interpretation of human life in general and given how values centrally feature into human experience in general, no ontologically constitutive schema can avoid them. This is the shortcoming of Heidegger’s basic approach, and one I will advance in this dissertation. For now, let us move on to his example of fear in §30 in order to make good on my interpretation.

[1]  Parvis Emad, Heidegger and the Phenomenology of Values (Glen Ellyn, IL: Torey Press, 1981), p. 110.
[2] Formalism Max Scheler, Formalism in Ethics and Non-Formal Ethics of Values: A New Attempt Toward the Foundation of an Ethical Personalism trans. M. S. Frings and R. Funk, (Evanston: Northwestern University Press, 1973), p. 265. I cite this as the Formalism hereafter.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Canadian PhDs

I notice that I get several hits from Canada and thought it pertinent to mention.There is an article over at the New APPS about how Canadian departments do not hire Canadians attending their own Canadian PhD programs.

I cannot attest to the perceptions of Canadians about other Canadian departments. I will say, however, it was common knowledge that the MAs at Simon Fraser should seek to go to the United States rather than, say, someplace like Dalhousie to study philosophy. This was prudent advice offered by several members of the faculty. I've heard the same elsewhere. I talked to several folks at a university event over at UBC from the University of Alberta. They felt it was wrong of so many of U of A's PhDs did not fare well on the job market as compared to Canadians who attended prestigious American universities.

Now keep in mind. This is just the two incidents I have been privy to hear. I have a sense that the article does bear some truth to it.

The greatest thing about Simon Fraser's Philosophy Department is how developed the MA program is. Frankly, I am a better philosopher for having attended there, and while I only maintain a marginal interest in the courses I took there I know how well-suited I am to go on the market having gone there. Like Tulane or maybe Miami University of Ohio, there are few schools where as an MA student you can get trained to improve your dossier for PhD applications and receive funding at the same time.

Consider SFU if you are into philosophy of mind. With Eric Margolis at UBC and Kathleen Akins at SFU, Vancouver is a city primed for philosophy of mind. UBC tends to attract a lot of important speakers and SFU/UBC always have a tight-knit affiliation with courses taught between the two schools at SFU's Harbour Centre.

Moreover, Vancouver has a wonderful fringe art scene and great music. I would venture to say that several of my colleagues got sucked up into Vancouver as an awesome place to live.

New APPS Blog on more Ethics Suggestions

The works on the list are quite good and predictable from a pluralistic perspective.

Props to Roman for mentioning Scheler before I did.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Women and Works in Moral Philosophy over the last 200 years

Undoubtedly women have been pushed to the side in philosophy, and if and when I graduate with this damn PhD, I'll be hard pressed to tell future female philosophy students some of the experiences I've heard about. With that said, it is also incumbent upon us men to highlight those women that have had considerable impact in moral philosophy. 200 years is a long time, and certainly we have had women in the 20th century than should have made the list.

To be fair, Leiter has included many seminal works in analytic and Continental philosophy respectively.

I nominate several following women whose works should be on the list. Certainly, there will be disagreements, but part of the sensitivity to women in the profession revolves around interrogating the philosophical reasons as to why that exclusion happened. Therefore, while some of these thinkers might be labeled more directly feminist than others, I think it is hard to claim that feminism is, in principle, not a form of moral philosophy. Feminism is so steeped in both a criticism of the history of philosophy and overriding normative concerns in both the history and contemporary life it can never be non-ethical. I don't even think the claim could be argued personally.

Judith Butler (Say what you will. Butler has wholly embraced the controversial thesis that values are wholly a social construction with specific with attention to gender and bodies)
Claudia Card
Virginia Held
Simone De'Beauvoir (especially Simone. To suggest Sartre over her "Ethics of Ambiguity" is a crime of clarity and sophistication)
Luce Irigaray
Marth Nussbaum
Jane Addams

There will, of course, be others. I am not perfect and this is off the cuff. Feel free to suggest more.