Sunday, July 31, 2011

Dissertation Problem: Heidegger and Scheler on Moods

This post presupposes familiarity with Heidegger's thought. 

The distinction between fundamentally authentic moods and inauthentic moods differentiates with the depth of complexity. Fear takes an object and is, in a certain sense, not as primordial as anxiety. Anxiety is so fundamental that it does not take an object, but concerns everything and nothing. I want to claim that anxiety is derivative of a more basic mood. I am substituting anxiety with the example of love found in Scheler's work. At least, this is the basis of my critique. 

Love does not take a specific object, but requires others. I want to say something like  love concerns everyone and nobody all at the same time (thinking that love would have the identical structure to anxiety). It is a moral orientation I take up in relation to the world at a primordial level. Someone might object that I've just substituted an impersonal other to stand in for everyone and nobody all at the same time. Of course, my analytic training -- like a Spidey-sense if you're a comic book geek -- informs me I should reject the distinction authentic/inauthentic moods in Heidegger. However, this impedes my story to say that anxiety is not derivative at all. To say something derives from something else is to give an interpretation as to why X is more primordial than Y. Therefore, I still need to assume a level of primordiality which occupies the level of the authentic. This is my current problem. 

I could disassociate authenticity from primordiality, but I take it that Heidegger's want for a primordial science, a fundamental ontology, is the aim of phenomenological research itself. If phenomenology is not after the fundamental structures of human existence at the primordial level, then I abandon the level where I am working out the problem. In Scheler, the immediately given within intuition is what is proper to phenomenology. I could substitute Scheler's conception of phenomenology first as a more "realistic" and concrete version. At that point, though, it is not so much as working the problem out within phenomenology as simply asserting that one is better. My project needs to be worked out in phenomenlogy for two reasons: A) it is the common background from which this problem emerges and B) internal to phenomenology, there are resources I think are here; I just need to find them. 

Moreover, Merleau-Ponty might be right in thinking there is no complete reduction. As such, Heidegger is a product of that level of skepticism and Scheler is an enthusiast with respect to its exercise. 

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Echoes and Thoughts

Part of the reason for studying Heidegger is my admiration for his thought, his uncanny way in which thinking tends to come alive in his texts. The same can be said for Nietzsche and Kierkegaard. I’ve been accused of making Heidegger a sacred text, and perhaps that’s a little hyperbole about my stated interest. It would be more careful to say I find Heidegger constantly irksome, intriguing and often downright wrong—all at the same time! On some things, we agree. It is, therefore, difficult to tell where the admiration and hatred begin and end.

One central point of agreement would be on method. I am a self-identifying phenomenologist since I like to put the “subject” back into experience. I like discerning the structures of existence, seeing what is there phenomenologically and thinking that philosophy qua phenomenology ought to put me into contact with the texture of life as lived. There are many philosophies that reify, objectify and assume characterizations about experience without looking to the first-personal experience how it is lived. This makes philosophy detached from the demands life makes in how it is lived. I found an echo of this love in Michael Bowler’s Heidegger and Aristotle.

Heidegger rejects any philosophy’s claim to be primordial science if it is not situated in life. The lack of primordiality in the philosophies of Rickert, Husserl and Natorp is indicated by the fact that one finds at the foundation of their philosophies a living element that they simply do not account for. Thus, according to Heidegger, the renewal of philosophy as primordial science requires exhibiting how philosophy is located in life as well as how it can be productive of life, most specifically, how it can be productive of the non-primordial sciences. This necessitates an investigation into philosophy as lived, i.e. philosophy as situated in life. In essence, philosophy as primordial science must be a ‘philosophy of life’ in the sense of belonging to life, but also as constitutive of life….if philosophy is to be primordial science then the concepts of world and intentionality must be resituated in life itself. They must be resituated in life because they have been removed from life by philosophical worldviews that conceptually objectify them (p. 92)

For obvious reasons…

Steven Crowell Interview

Steven Crowell's Interview over at Figure/Ground. 

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Non-Argumento-Centric Philosophy Anthology

The title is a term coined by Simon Glendinning, a philosopher at the London School of Economics who does research in Wittgenstein, ordinary language philosophy and then add "Continental philosophy." He has a piece in the Chase and Reynolds anthology I've recommended below. I also appreciate his book In the Name of Phenomenology. 

Call this a speculative idea for now!

With that aside, I had an idea. I wanted to make a call on the blogosphere for a discussion about an anthology inspired by Glendinning's piece. Specifically, I wanted to organize an anthology about divergent traditions that are critical of the narrow focus of logical dialectic. I would want a whole range of perspectives, but the central issue would have to be if one acquires wisdom through non-argumento-centric modes, then what constitutes those modes? And how are they an improvement over narrow logical dialectic? Does the mode work in tandem with the argumento-centric mode, or does it modify, change, revise or undermine it? I imagine pieces from hermeneuts, psychoanalysts, pragmatists and phenomenologists would all be invited, not to mention philosophers of literature or maybe even philosophers of religion.

Each piece would, therefore, have to take up an "analytic theme" but do so in a non-polemic way. The piece would have to show intimate familiarity with the analytic tradition, and come to terms with how wisdom is given in that they are questioning argumento-centric modes of philosophizing.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Mortimer Adler's How to Read A Book

My wife unknowingly downloaded Mortimer Adler's book How to Read a Book without knowing that Adler was a philosopher. In the future, I want to incorporate this book into Introductory courses, yet I wondered if anyone has ever required an audible text for their students?

In addition, I just wondered if anyone had devoted about 4-5 weeks to a how-to skills portion in their introductory courses?

Last time, I taught Intro to Philosophy, I used Lewis Vaughn's book on how to write philosophy for two weeks.

Philosophers Anonymous Thread

My blog has been quoted as touching upon the Leiterite/Pluralism issue, "albeit badly." Posters are encouraged to post more about where I went wrong. The common device might be actual arguments.

From the main thread,
My biggest surprise, though, is the relative silence of some of the more vocal opponents of the Leiter Report. The Pluralist's Guide actually and overtly manifests all of the methodological flaws that critics of the PGR typically (though mistakenly) claim undermine the PGR and render it pernicious. So anyone who (misguidedly) objects to the PGR on methodological grounds has especially strong reason to object to the Pluralist's Guide-- the Pluralist's Guide really is what Leiter's ignorant critics say the PGR is

Someone care to explain?
Now, my criticisms of the PGR have always been twofold. First, 250 or so (depending on the year) people cannot speak for more than 10,000 + philosophers in the United States. That's pretty simple, and the methods simply reify attitudes of institutional pedigree that seem to result in silliness. Consider the following quote from Leiter,
The quality of philosophy and scholarship at the recommended SPEP Guide programs in continental philosophy is generally inferior to that at programs either ignored or not recommended that have offerings in the same areas.  This is a judgment on the merits of work, a judgment based on considerations like argumentative and dialectical sophistication and perspicuousnes, historical and cultural erudition, and knowledge of the history of philosophy.
We're putting our faith in those that have faith in pedigree before substance, even to the point where we exclude others that are clearly doing excellent work. Let me point you to an example. Would I want Sean Kelly to supervise my dissertation if I wanted to work on Husserl, or Memphis with Thomas Nenon? I think the choice of the latter over the former an obvious one for supervisory reasons alone.
I think Memphis has a top-notch PhD program. Leiter has used it as an example of what he called Party-Line Continentalism some time ago. 
The good news here is that Party Line Continentalism is, ironically enough, increasingly just an Anglophone phenomenon, confined to a handful of departments in the U.S. (e.g., Penn State, Stony Brook, DePaul, Memphis, Vanderbilt, the New School, Dusquesne), the U.K. (e.g., Middlesex and Dundee), and Australia (e.g., New South Wales). (Even these Party Line Continentalist departments are increasingly diverse, which is a welcome development!) On the European Continent itself, Party Line Continentalism is in retreat almost everywhere, as rigorous historical scholarship, that transcends national boundaries, and Anglophone-style philosophical work is increasingly dominant.
So, we have two examples of Leiter thinking such a program as lesser than a PGR ranked school. Why not, however, see Memphis as a place that just does things differently? Certainly, it is impossible for a single man to render judgment on all these programs and their collective work given that nobody could sample all their work, yet he does. The philosophical reason to call Leiter out on his attitude comes from the tremendous power exercised on behalf of his blog and position in the profession. I think having such a polemical attitude towards other philosophers is dangerous, and downright wrong.

Those that agree with him have a self-interest in the perception of their program being maintained. These are the very same people enacting the surveys, though it should be clear that a surveyor cannot render judgment about their own department. Even more to the point, these same people have now had the favor of Leiter's rankings to the point that undergraduate students of placed PhDs are sending those undergraduates back to the same resource they consulted. Thus, the reification of pedigree continues.

In my eyes, such reification is bad because it divides up the professional community in ways that do not benefit the whole of the community. With that said, Leiter is at least exemplary when any department of philosophy comes under attack. His blogging during the Middlesex fiasco supported philosophy, even though they were Party-Line Continentals.

The same reification would happen eventually to the Pluralist Guide. That's just the danger of ranking. It shores up our biases.

This isn't to say that Leiter is wrong about everything. His concerns about how exactly the women section was reported has some merit.

In conclusion, the criticism of PGR is that it reifies institutional pedigree over and above what actually might be prudent for a student to choose. I've used the example of Nenon vs. Kelly. If your interests were to use phenomenological method in conjunction with analytic discourses in the philosophy of mind, you'd go to Harvard (but then again, Memphis just got Shaun Gallagher whose work is very comparable). Again, we are only talking about supervisory reasons and the quality of work scholars produce that motivate those reasons for applicants. Therefore, the applicant should decide where they would receive the best supervision from the quality of work actually done. The point is that there will be times where a highly ranked program cannot supervise what an applicant wants to work on, and the reification prevents a solid evaluation of someone's work simply because they work at an under-valued department.

I don't know if any ranking could prevent this reification. As such, it might be better to have more than just Leiter's rankings out there, but the danger of reification would rear its ugly head conceivably in that way. As such, I firmly accept that the APA's statement on rankings. Then again, that's just me.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Commentary on the Ends of Thought Entry "Why is Continental Philosophy So Bad?""

I have responded to comments over at the Ends of Thought blog. I like Roman a lot. He's been a good interlocutor in the past, and with that said, I respectfully think he tells a very oversimplified story about Continental philosophy. I argue for a principle of charity that is hermeneutic in nature since so many of the ways of the writing of Continental philosophy is tied to particular pedagogic aims. It is unfair to say that Continental philosophy is all bad, especially how it is framed. That's just a one-sided engagement that would never honestly see what is at work in a particular text. How about some examples?

Caputo writes texts that deconstruct themselves or Levinas avoiding epistemic frameworks altogether in order to describe how such a view would "reduce the other to the same." Irigaray uses language to avoid the gendered speech of Romance languages and alludes to the symbolism and metaphor of things like angels and mucous to talk about something that has never existed before (a wholly developed living subjectivity of women liberated from power structures). Could analytics buy into Irigaray's use of figurative expression, Levinas' avoidance of all Western discourses that subsume difference into the same, or Caputo's heuristic deconstructionistic style? There's a point sometimes to the ambiguity. Or my particular favorite, Heidegger's move to change our understanding of language to a form of poetics. These are all points worthy of our consideration as philosophers. We need not stray away from Heidegger, Irigaray, Levinas or Caputo to see if they have anything to say. It's about time that analytic philosophers learned to read hermeneutically, not the other way around. 

The example of Irigaray is interesting. The New APPS blog did not comment on Margaret Whitford's contributions to philosophy but only listed her as doing work on Irigaray. Irigaray is an awesome styled thinker. As I noted earlier, her writing is Nietzschean and provocative in its own way. It would never sate the appetite of your typical analytic, however, nor the basis of her writings stemming from Lacan. It would be as dismissed as easily as women have been in this profession. It is one thing to shore up and be honest about one's personal biases and taste. It is another to think that there is no redeeming value in the strategies of engagement some Continental writers have taken up.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Leiterite Hysteria and the Protevi Journal Experiment

John Protevi works on Deleuze. He's good, and often goes to SPEP. He corresponds with "analytics" like this New APPS thread. The thread is started out as an empirical attempt to see where Continental thinkers have been covered in "mainstream" journals. So far, the disparity hasn't really been commented on or explained.

There has been a point of impatience from more mainstream philosophers (to call them analytic philosophers now might be to belabor the point) that Continental philosophy has not been victimized. An anonymous poster by the name of Bizarre wrote this full length comment on Lance's "Queering the Analytic/Continental Distinction" thread.

I find sk's and Shelley Tremain's interpretation of the tenor of the discussion here rather tendentious. Being a party-line continental is not in itself at all like being a woman in philosophy, or a gay person in philosophy, or a person of colour in philosophy, or a disabled person in philosophy. For any criticism of party-line continentals to "sound like blaming the victim" it would have to be plausible that they are in any reasonable sense victims qua party-line continentals. But they are not. There is a crowd whose egos are apparently in such need of Brian Leiter's approbation that they will raise all hell if they don't get it (cf. Michael Fray, who writes on another blog "I take special offense at [Leiter's view of SPEP departments] because I am studying at one of the programs Leiter impugns in that post. I have been absolutely infuriated ever since. It is TOTALLY untrue that my professors are 'inferior' or that I am receiving sub-par training; Leiter should be ashamed of himself for saying such things."). But having Leiter (or any other philosopher) think you are an intellectual mediocrity because of the kind of work you do (as opposed to because you are a woman, or gay, or a person of colour, or disabled) is not in and of itself being oppressed. Party-line continentals have for a while now had a much broader influence across the humanities than party-line analytics (and some of their defenders readily admit as much; cf. John Drabinski complaining how "far behind" the other humanities philosophy supposedly is). This overall intellectual climate makes cries of continental oppression sound rather hollow. Someone uncharitable might even compare the situation to astrologers complaining about not being respected in astronomy departments - never mind how many millions of dollars more are globally spent each year on astrological services and merchandise than on astronomical research.
Likewise, it would be cavalier to dismiss party-line continentals' facing the prospect of being "out of a job" if what was being discussed was in fact unemployment simpliciter, with all the difficulties it brings ("visiting the food-bank (again), making decisions whose alternatives are paying rent or purchasing a much-needed prescription drug, going on welfare, eating a steady diet of boiled potatoes, becoming a sex worker, committing suicide"). But it is not. Rather, the discussion merely touched upon the fact that they may not be able to get a job in philosophy departments ranked (highly) in the PGR. And while it's reasonable to think that everyone is entitled to gainful and non-dehumanising employment, it's surely not reasonable to think that everyone is entitled to being a philosophy professor (much less a philosophy professor in some select group of departments).
The academic job market is abysmal for everyone. Many departments train many more PhDs than there are available jobs. This is not limited to philosophy, either, as we all know. One of the roles the PGR (or any alternative) has to play is to give prospective graduate students some sense of how professionally risky it is to undertake a particular course of study (of course, mentors have a much larger responsibility to do this). Ideally, all philosophy students would be aware of their almost universally dismal academic job prospects. But this is all orthogonal to the continental/analytic divide and what we ought to think of it. Mark Lance, and Brian Leiter, and Rebecca Kukla, and Lee Braver, and some others in this thread, have made a number of useful suggestions as to how the divide should be understood and overcome. All of these suggestions centrally depend on the intellectual merits of pluralism, and intellectual demerits of anti-pluralism. None depend on the idea that party-line continentals are somehow victimised in the profession

I do not think anyone would say that systemic discrimination against sexual orientation or race is analogous to the often felt boundary policing on the part of Party-Line Analytics against the internal achievements of Continental philosophy. Again, boundary policing is not the same as discrimination, but it is a form of powerplay. In my own experience, I've seen it happen firsthand and it's embarrassing. At a national conference, I've heard a famous analytic metaphysician once claim that one avoids Foucault as a matter of "intellectual hygiene." I once heard an up and coming Descartes historian laugh off Continental philosophy as he proceeded down the hallway. At the University of British Columbia, it is so bad that an UNDERGROUND group of students met in secret to read Continental authors. I have no knowledge if they continue to meet. I met one of them in Point Grey at a cafe. The group member was so happy to know that I was leaving SFU to study Husserl. Somehow, this confirmed they were not crazy.

The success of Continental philosophy in the humanities is an indication to them that they have not been victims of intellectual censorship from more analytic heavy weights. However, the success of a worldview or thinker to have an effect on other topics not covered by "mainstream" philosophy is logically independent as to whether or not mainstream philosophy has been discriminatory to Continental philosophy. When you consider that analytic philosophy has strictly confined itself to a narrow focus on matters largely epistemic, then what goes on outside of their attention is completely unknown to them. Continentals did have a large impact on more humanistic and historically-centered disciplines, but analytic philosophy could have never known that it did have this effect all the while discriminating against this type of "other."

Of course, it is healthy for this silly distinction to go away. Yet, it has to go away for the right type of reasons, as I've said. There must be equal respect and command of hermeneutic attention to central Continental thinkers in a way that engages "Continental" philosophy for what it says in its own way. This means an enlargement of philosophy that accepts in principle that art, literary works and creative expression can also be ways to share ideas inasmuch as logical dialectic. Given this, I very much sympathize with Babette Babich's heated comment from the same thread above.

Analytic philosophy remains and will always remain closed to ‘continental philosophy’ of any but the ‘analyticized’ kind (i.e., the kind of continental philosophy that eliminates all the continental bits like style and like authors referred to in favor of analytic bits).
The reason for denying the distinction between the two, for arguing that such distinctions should be abolished, is the logical consequence of this closed approach. Thus one speaks of “philosophy” just philosophy – which is coincidentally the method of choice in analytic philosophy to exclude or banish whatever one does not wish to engage, one argues that the refused is simply not doing philosophy.
Q. E. D.

She's right. I hate to say it. In my short experience (10 years of schooling, or half a decade between studying analytic and Continental philosophy), it is never that analytics were interested in collaboration or integration with the exception of the Davidson / Gadamer correspondence about the Philebus. It has always been from those, like myself in question, that see merits in being philosophically ambidextrous.

However, it is hard to accept that philosophical ambidexterity will result any time soon. If typical Party-Line analytics continually insist that philosophical analysis consists in providing causal explanations, and these explanations must be made consistent with science, even if the consistency is speculative on the basis of science, then those philosophers have a different ideas altogether of what philosophy is from someone like me. I agree with Gadamer or Heidegger that philosophy is about the hermeneutic engagement with the various strands of philosophical history that enable us to talk to each other. I won't spell out what this means right now, but these are two very different and incompatible metaphilosophical and methodological commitments. Someone needs to analyze these moments of methodological differences before pluralistic analytics want to dissolve "Continental philosophy" and engage it analytically. This is easier said than done.

Even I am at odds within my own soul on this point. When I do "ethics", I am attempting to describe moral reality, arrive at a non-foundational account of morality, while trying to eschew charges of relativism. I stand firmly against consequentialist approaches and find Bernard William's assessment of utilitarianism persuasive. When I do this, I am certainly not at all consistent with the previous claim of favoring the hermeneutic style of reflection I often engage in. Then again, philosophy requires an encounter with cognitive dissonance. It is about shaking the ground of one's soul to enter the depths. It's not easy. I'm still trying to figure this all out, and probably won't for a while. Then again, that's the whole point. Part of the solution might rest in the following article:
Glendinning, Simon (2010) Argument all the way down: the demanding discipline of non-argumento-centric modes of philosophy. In: Reynolds, J. and Chase, J. and Williams, J., (eds.) Postanalytic and metacontinental crossing philosophical divides. Continuum, London, UK, pp. 71-84
Again, engaging Continental philosophy means at least understanding why it is that analytics did not engage with it in the first place and I haven't really heard any honest explanations on that point. Undoubtedly, this will be a principle explanation as to why Continental thinkers haven't been taken up in "mainstream" journals.

I wonder what the consensus will be empirically, yet I dare not remind everyone on Protevi's thread that interpretation of empirical results is just another form of hermeneutics.

Pictorial Representations of Scheler's Philosophy

I took these from a wiki page article, which on its own isn't that bad. It could be written better and more informative.

Below is a diagram of the hierarchy of values. Someday, I'll explain how this all works--post prelim examination in the PhD. For now, it's a nice picture. Philosophy rarely comes with pictures except during the Renaissance.

I'm ranting, but then again, this is a blog. If I can rant anywhere, then it is my blog.

In addition, the author included corresponded feeling states to their value-modalities.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Max Scheler Society of North America

The Max Scheler Society of North America has put up conference papers from both the 2006 and 2010 meeting. These are some solid works. They appear on the right side panel.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Who is Zarathustra's Nietzsche? By David Allison

This paper has been shared openly on other media platforms (by the editor of New Nietzsche Studies, Babette Babich), and the historical scholarship is pristine. David Allison informs us about the transitional awareness Nietzsche demonstrates in his own writings about himself. This Allison argues becomes a central point that provides explanation into Nietzsche's later works in the post-Zarathustra-period.

I liked it a lot. And, my reasons for posting it are twofold. Again, I liked it a lot, and in addition this piece wonderfully demonstrates the high quality of scholarship one might come to expect from SPEP "affiliated" schools.

Origins Essay and Heidegger

Today, I am concerned with Heidegger's Origins on the Work of Art. In this blog post, I specifically want to concentrate on why poetry is extolled over all other art forms at the very end. In Origins, he writes:

Art, as the setting-into-work of truth, is poetry. Not only the creation of work is poetic, but equally poetic, though in its own way, is the preserving of the work; for a work is in actual effect as a work only when we remove ourselves from our commonplace routine and move into what is disclosed by the work, so as to bring our own essential nature itself to take a stand in the truth of beings.
The art of essence is poetry. The essence of poetry, in turn, is the founding of truth. We understand founding here in a triple sense: founding as bestowing, founding as grounding, and founding as beginning. Founding, however, is actual only in preserving. Thus to each mode of founding there corresponds a mode of preserving... (186).
Now, this just might come across as confusing Heidegger-ese, but I think there is more to this lecture than meets the eye. First, the fact that Heidegger had always adapted his German to the phenomenon in question is notable, especially for adopting the phenomenological attitude that seeks to pay attention to experiences as they unfold in lived-experience. Such an attitude of reflection must adapt language to the purpose of the phenomenon in question and here Heidegger is describing the work itself without presupposing anything about the work itself. For the uninitiated, this is the basic phenomenological dictum in action "to return to things themselves" but only with Heidegger, the application of phenomenology brings into relief our existential relation to a phenomenon. In this case, both Gadamer and Heidegger pay attention to the movement of the text or work itself. The thought is an art work gains a life of its own, even after the artist created the work. The agency of the artist, however, doesn't matter if a particular life or strand of interpretation takes over the work.

I picked this passage since Heidegger specifically invokes poetry as the chief art form par excellence. Moreover, in choosing poetry, Heidegger's choice reveals his reluctance to regard language as a system of cohering statements that correspond to the world, or any formal structural criteria in language at all. For him, "all language is, in essence, poetry." In fact, he uses the word "poesy" which comes from the older poesis. It can mean the art of composing poetry, but in its sheer meaning "poesy" designates "creativity." This brings us to the opening of the passage above: "Art, as the setting-into-work of truth, is poetry. Not only the creation of work is poetic, but equally poetic, though in its own way, is the preserving of the work." It should be understood that Heidegger is trying, again, to put us back into the texture of lived-experience where we experience the work itself. As such, to say that art sets into motion the work of truth indicates the work has something to say, some meaning relevant to our participation with it, yet it does not arise solely from us like some noncognitivism. Instead, the art work creates meaning. Thus, we can understand why poetry is chosen. In poetry, there is no structure, no set or established rules to communicate or convey its message. Often, poetry is short, concise and plays at the boundaries of what we think the structure of language could be, and it still achieves to produce meaning. In producing meaning, the work also preserves the truth it set into motion. This is especially true if a work has a longstanding persistence in the imagination of those belonging to a tradition and the work returns again and again thematizing itself what truth it preserves. But again, this preserving of meaning is a creative force itself. If a work has a longstanding tradition to be taken a certain way, there is no anchoring that interpretation, the work is the locus of meaning-production.

To say the work is the locus of meaning-production sounds too technical. First, Heidegger has in mind a primordial interpretation of an art work. He is attempting to strip the layers down and in peeling away all these different layers we get to the most fundamental being of the work. This is why the "actual effect" of the work requires "we remove ourselves from our commonplace routine and move into what is disclosed by the work, so as to bring our own essential nature itself to take a stand in the truth of beings." Given that the work preserves truth and puts the meaning of truth into contact with us, we cannot help but participate. Otherwise, we make culture inert, and our routine life in which the expectations we make for ourselves are not challenged by art or anything at all. Instead, routine is commonplace and deadens us to receive, welcome and see anew the world disclosed by the art work. A world in which we are closed off from the creative forces, the very forces that beckon us to come forward and "take a stand in the truth of beings" is a world made comfortable by the ease of technological production and mass culture. It is a safe world, but as Heidegger's own shortcomings reveal, human life can get swept up very easily by forces outside one's own routine.

I was not too subtle there. I made a distinction between those that are dead to the creative forces of the world and those capable of an exchange with the world and the art work. I politicized this distinction since namely we are undergoing something of a mass deadening in our ability to receive, articulate and interpret meaning in this culture. This shows itself anecdotally in higher education and in our political imaginary. At your fingertips, you can just "google" an art work, find what someone else wrote about it, and put that into your paper. You can do this in 20 minutes if you really want, and the art history professor overburdened with a 4/4 teaching load might miss it, or not care. He might know its the standard interpretation. Like any mass movement, higher education promotes a level of this passivity on a massive scale, even though it is perhaps the most necessary of institutions for democracy in training informed citizens.

The Tea Party is even worse. The Tea Party while constantly resistant to thematization has at least some beliefs they do cluster around. In this cluster, it is safe to say that some gravitate towards originalism or what Justice Scalia has called textualism. This is a very naive engagement with the constitution in which originalists/textualists think that by looking at the historical legislative intent of a law, or precedent that we can be guided by this force as if history was entirely independent of our coming upon the law to say nothing of a tradition and the demands of the living-present. If we had the ability to take a stand in the production of meaning of the text of the US Constitution, we could see how the text through its historical manifestation has meaning for us. It is not the case that the text had the meaning there the whole time, and that we simply discovered it. In fact, for Heidegger, these meanings constitute our relation to the text for us now. Art works and cultural works more broadly effectuate in their present situatedness--that is, where the art work is encountered they literally produce meaning. Thus, the interest in the ideology of the Tea Party wants to constrain the possibility of what the Constitution might mean for us today by substituting its own interests as the only possible "meaning" of the text. This is what happens when ideology takes over our capacity to receive and stand in a disclosive relation with works (and tradition more generally). It is within maintaining and preserving an openness to

While I have maintained some measure of politicization with Heidegger's passage above, let me now return to the important philosophical messages. There are, namely, two. First, I have already gestured and explained how it is that the work takes its own fluidity, its own event-like life in which the art work constitutes meaning by its sheer force of allure and indeterminateness. It is indeterminate because there is no fixivity to what meaning can be produced. Heidegger tries to give us the analogy to the poetic side of language that sustains and preserves this fluidity. For there are many examples of deadening discourses that stifle those concepts that ought to be about more than just their logical implication or propositional truth. In Descartes, God is that which we can be absolutely certain, yet God is de-personalized into an ontological principle of organization and certainty. It is God's divine veracity that guarantees the intelligible order of the world even to the point I can have a clear and distinct idea of the existence of an external world. God would never allow my senses to be wrong about that! By contrast, look at Kierkegaard. Kierkegaard shows how committed one must be to God as absurd. He articulates the lively manner in which the requirements of faith must be affirmed (if you think he has described faith's structure accurately).

Secondly, the constitution of the work involves an active relation of a community of those that engage the work. This is the work of the language of founding, and I've already hinted at this through the example of the Tea Party. To found something denotes a multiplicity of senses to the "founding of truth", and Heidegger separates them for us. Founding-as-bestowing means to present, as in to make manifest for the participant in relation to the work. The language of bestowal has a Husserlian ring to it. Husserl speaks of the constitutive function of intentionality as "sense-bestowal." This is to say that it is within consciousness access through the reduction I will get at the core of the structure. Since this structure is intentional, it is always relational. There is never just a subjective awareness and an object. They are conjoined into one field in which the subjective and objective poles may be gleaned, even separately but never without emphasizing how they fold into each other.

Next, the art work literally creates and opens up a horizon of the world. It "grounds truth" by founding it.  This is an ontological realization of meaning. Literally, the art work grounds the possibility of the world to have meaning in the first place. Consider the United States. If the United States has a political narrative from the inception of the Republic all the way until now, then such a political narrative can only take shape if we consider the writings of Jefferson, the Constitution, the Gettysburg address, the Greco-Roman emulating architecture of Washington DC, the immortal images of General Washington crossing the Delaware River and the photograph of Iwo Jima all come to converge. Now, I want to be clear that the grounding function of founding is an establishing of meaning and while we might think of the experience of attending the museum or exhibition at a gallery, it is not a solitary experience. The grounding is necessarily intersubjective, and the political example serves to drive home the sense this grounding has when an entire tradition of art and cultural works converge together and engender meaning.

The last sense is founding as beginning. In the beginning, an event can rupture and ripple outward like a maddening disease. It can create a fervor, and the indeterminate nature of works does not help the situation. The meaning of a work cannot even be foreshadowed by its author or artist. However, while it certainly can be abused, the concept of a beginning is also a hopeful and liberating one. The work points to the future, and in the future, no one can control the indeterminate nature of the work. There are some that may try, suppress and control intensely what may be said, written, or thought. However, the phenomenological structure of the art work itself cannot help but be indeterminately open, world-creating and unfolding before others.

A commitment to this relation requires that all three senses of founding be preserved. Without which, human life would be boring, stale and utterly without meaning. I interpret Heidegger as thinking all three senses of founding manifest simultaneously. Moreover, they co-penetrate or complement the whole of the work in question. The political example of America proves all too easily. To be without works is to be in a world without wonder. If society gets to that point, we are dead already. Luckily, there are those that still engage with works. This engagement cannot be measured by typical art works alone, but means any work that sufficiently arouses our engagement and prompts us to be aware, to be in relation with the work's hold over us and the self-understanding accompanying it. Thus, I come to my last and perhaps dangerous conclusion. To be open to art as poetry is also to be a citizen open to the world.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Bengtsson's Article and Solid Quote

I like this:

The reason for this restraint [not to speculate about realities beyond appearances] on the part of phneomenology is that lived experience is conveived of as a pre-predicative and pre-reflexive level that precede and is presupposed in every theoretical discourse. To avoid spceulative constructions and arguing in a circle, phenomenology takes this departure in lived-experience. (p. 521 'Phenomenoological Historical Outlines' by Jan Bengtsson in Phenomenology World-Wide: Foundations, Expanding Dynamics - Life Engagements ed. A. T. Tymieniecka, Dordrecht: Kluwer, 2002, p. 520-531)

This is one of the best articles I've encountered on the various ethical approaches taken in "moral phenomenology." Good solid review.

I did not know this, but Roderick Chisholm translated two books about Brentano's ethical theories as well. The Origin of Knowledge of Right and Wrong and The Foundation and Construction of Ethics.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Mark Lance's "Queering" the Analytic/Continental Divide

As pointed out by N.J. Jun on a previous thread, Mark Lance's thread is quite good. It suggests the divide is more damaging to the concept of rankings in general. I do have reservations, however, about the comment that someone just trained in, say, phenomenology has received bad training. Lance assumes a lot about an ideal world in which it is only the analytic and Continental philosophies that require synthesis.

When approached by someone else on the thread about various other regional and historical philosophies, there is an unfriendly tone.

I should just say that I've been living in this distinction for a while and would welcome its dissolution. However, it has to be dissolved for the right reasons over and against simply feigning tolerance for what has been around for a long time. These analytics have been fighting battles against Continentals for a great while. There is a long line of conflict stretching back to when Ryle reviewed Being and Time. This is to say nothing of the fact that I don't even know about LGBT philosophy, Latin-American political thought or Native-American philosophy, nor will I likely know more about them any time soon. I've been forced to specialize and read a lot about phenomenology and ethics. The dissertation will take time, and when applying for jobs all that time and research goes into specializing even more. I don't have the time to go off and read about an environmental ethics based off some Native-American conception of nature. I wouldn't know if I could learn from it one way or the other---that's the point! That's why the best inference suggests that we ought to be pluralistic.

We cannot know for certain where we can learn from, and hopefully we can find some common language to cross the threshold of why I ought to learn from this outside tradition... to the point that it is no longer even called an "outside" tradition. Thus, the openness of experience and to the world in general must be maintained for reasons above and beyond thinking that we have a sense of what could be "good philosophy" prior to its articulation. I will someday form a hiring committee and I will look for the philosopher of biology capable of teaching social/political and has an interest in medieval thought. I will write the job ad as wide as possible to catch someone that might somehow fit everything the search committee is looking for. I just hope that Kukla and Lance might see that someday.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Feminist Philosophy Blog has a thread on the Pluralist Guide to Philosophy. Leiter continues to insult places like SIUC and calling all these schools, SPEP schools. We do shoddy work? Really? Come down and see what at least I do. I'll take you out for coffee.

I don't think ad hominems are good practice in philosophizing.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Continentalists, Americanists and Feminists Strike Back

Many have come here and sometimes requested opinions in private correspondence about my conjoined interests in analytic ethics and phenomenology. Allow me the luxury of anticipating a thoughtful response.

Lo and behold, I woke up this morning to find on Leiter's blog a disparaging analysis of the type of philosophy he marginalizes had organized against his rankings with the Pluralist Guide to Philosophy Departments. Now, I have often wondered why he was so invested in the PGR rankings for philosophy departments. I have very much advocated on this blog a climate of co-operation and coexistence with my fellow philosophers no matter their self-identification because when axe comes down from those that don't appreciate the humanities at all, administrators won't distinguish a Heideggerian from a Strawsonian.

I told my logic students last semester to avoid hasty generalizations, and we should too. Perhaps, Leiter hasn't taught one of these classes in a while, otherwise he wouldn't have said this:

SPEP represents a group of philosophers in the U.S. who strongly identify with a certain conception of philosophy, most traceable to Heidegger (I have called it Party-Line Continentalism), and which identifies philosophy more closely with the kind of stuff that goes on in English Departments and cultural studies, than with the natural sciences, linguistics, history or psychology.   These are generalizations, but as Nietzsche often remarks, the rule is usually more interesting than the exception.

SPEP is not a homogenous group. To be fair, there is an "air of Heideggerian orthodoxy" and I deeply disagree with this. I am not alone, however. This can be seen if A) Leiter were to attend an actual meeting and B) look at the program. Every celebrated Husserl scholar I love attends SPEP and these people are by no stretch of the imagination liking the Heideggerian motif. One SPEP member, for instance, told me that Continental philosophy had become textual exegesis to such an extent that they no longer want to talk about structures of experience, and this is why phenomenology had more in common with the analytic tradition. I've heard this from several people.

SPEP is more numerous than I would like to count. There are people working on race, politics and gender. There are people very suspicious of phenomenology and there are people equally suspicious of the poststructuralism. Likewise, I cannot say that even with the Heideggerian orthodoxy, Continental philosophy is moving in different directions than when Carl Schrag and company founded the group. Marion and Henry, for example, are re-inventing phenomenology to articulate structures of religious experience while more naturalistic inclined phenomenologies are working alongside cognitive scientists on embodiment. I know one Merleau-Pontyian that is working on neo-natal development. If I were to include myself in the mixture, then I embrace the reflective equilibrium of Rawls but want to get clear first on what exactly constitutes moral experience in agency, values and otherness--a metaethical phenomenology of sorts which brought me to my current project of pitting Scheler and Heidegger together.

Now, let me concede even if it were true that these departments resemble English and Cultural Studies departments, then what would be wrong with that in principle? Why can't literature inform us with just as much as science unless of course Leiter thinks science more reliable in producing answers to the type of philosophical problems that constitute philosophy. This is what I suspect is the case. The divide between Leiter and these group of graduate schools is a disagreement about what constitutes philosophical questions and ultimately the methods employed in answering those questions. Further, I speculate that this difference comes across in the PGR rankings. There has been a cultural gap for years between these two and I think it is about time that this divide goes away. It won't go away any time soon nor can we afford the divisiveness professionally---this is a point of prudence, however, not substance. Substance is what divides.

There are times when literature can be more helpful than science, depending on the question. Let me take for example a question I have often thought about since my undergraduate days. What should be the lasting philosophical significance of Auschwitz? How should an ethicists respond to the Holocaust? I think these are questions that philosophy can answer, and some like Adorno have. Beyond that, however, as a side project, I am taking an English literature theory seminar that examines Holocaust literature. I do not think this question is easily answered in any ONE way or the other. Yet, it might help to read some Primo Levi and other survivor stories to get clear as to how exactly those people understood their experience.

Art can serve equally well in a concern like this that science cannot. Several German artists also represent a lifetime of being raised in the country that committed the Holocaust. For example, Anselm Kiefer moved me with his piece Lot's Wife.

Also, I want to speak to the SAAP "alliance"

One important caveat about the generalization:  in this case, the SPEP folks have also allied with philosophers involved with the Society for American Philosophy.  This alliance is political, not intellectual:   like the SPEPPies, the SAPies, feel marginalized from the dominant tendencies in the profession. 

There has been several moves of exclusion, and this exclusion can be seen from the treatment of central authors in the American tradition. Dewey comes to mind. Here is a man that did not have an idle pen, wrote as much as Husserl from what I can tell, and is often not even taught at top recommended philosophy departments (despite Dewey's mainstay was Columbia University). Moreover, I take this move personally since much of SAAP and SPEP call attention to the same matters.

My department is particularly represented at SAAP meetings as we have people doing dissertations that fuse Heidegger and Dewey together. Some work in philosophy of literature and have equal interests in Peirce and Gadamer. I am not saying that SIUC should be regarded as typical. I don't know. I just have friends that work in both areas and it is quite common for my department to have people common to both sets. Therefore, there is at least prima facie evidence to suggest that those interested in American philosophy might have equal interest in Continental figures. Therefore, it is not just that SAAP and SPEP are politically aligned. Instead, there is common ground between the two intellectually.

In this post, I have shown several things:

1. SPEP is made up of more than just Party-line Continentalists (and even that distinction is moribund and superficial. I've spoken about it before here);

2. Science can and does figure into the work of some phenomenologists who also attend SPEP;

3. Even if we grant Leiter's caveat about the work resembling English and Cultural Studies, there can still be philosophical work done that takes its inspiration from English and Cultural Studies. Holocaust literature provides me with a framework to ask questions about Auschwitz in as much as art does (See the Levi and Kiefer examples above)


4. There has been an attempt to control what counts as philosophy and this has resulted in the exclusion of American philosophers just as much as Continental philosophers. It is perhaps just surprising that by excluding Continentals, the Continentalists gathered at several schools, put a stake in the ground and declared some turf. From what I can tell, Americanists weren't even that lucky. SIUC is a wonderful little island for that reason.

Of those that I know, several of them are interested in cross-fertilization projects and this suggests prima facie reasons for rejecting Leiter's characterization of SAAP and its relation to SPEP.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Analytic Versus Continental by James Chase and Jack Reynolds

I recently got the following text out at the library. Analytic Versus Continental: Arguments on the Methods and Value of Philosophy by James Chase and Jack Reynolds. As I've said before, this blog originally arose as a way to synthesize my analytic experience with the Continental turn I made. Therefore, I have always enjoyed pieces that synthesize philosophical differences. I believe my enthusiasm got the better of me.

I read through several chapters. The phenomenology chapter did a very brief job of explaining the Husserlian roots, and it did a great job of putting the reader in contact with those who are critical of phenomenology and the dialectic strategy phenomenologists constantly employ against the criticisms. This is where the book excelled. It excelled at highlighting and underscoring the major themes of the positions. That's about all.

This book had so much potential. The extensive capability to describe such widespread traditions with charity impressed me greatly. However, that's where the book stopped. It emphasized a moderately controlled attempt at engagement only when greater exploration of methodological differences can be better articulated. Yet, it's been nearly half a century and any two that are capable of such splendid exposition don't need to wait---unless that's the subject of a future book.