Saturday, October 22, 2011

A Question about Withdrawal In Object-Oriented Ontology

I have a question to ask of object-oriented philosophers, and I hope that they can clarify a crucial point.  If they cannot, then much of their ontology remains a mystery.  I suspect that such individuals have an answer, but even if they do, then the exact details are significant unto the entirety of its ontology, and it would be good to explain them.

If the real being of an object is withdrawn, then what does "real" mean in regards to it?  And what is this "real being" as contrasted with whatever the term is not signifying?  I ask the question from the standpoint of a person not satisfied with answers that repeat and reinscribe withdrawal, because then one merely defers a keystone question of their metaphysics.

My insufficiently tutored suspicions are that "withdrawal" is much less novel than it first appears.  Can not many process metaphysicians also point out that what is becoming is processional, then what exist now comes into the light from out of a dark past, out of a dim hallway of its history to which we cannot have immediate access?  We could call that "withdrawal."  The more I think about it, the less mysterious the concept becomes, until I remember that OOO frequently claims to be a substance metaphysics.  Then I wonder whether the confusion is my own, or whether what is discussed is not clear, and I hope to be enlightened on the subject.

I suspect that the answer depends on the specific thinker, and I would welcome responses from any.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

CFP for Ecstatic Naturalism

Call for Papers

2012 Conference on Ecstatic Naturalism
April 13th & 14th, Drew University - Madison, New Jersey

Plenary Speaker:

Robert Neville

Departments of Religion, Philosophy and Theology – Boston University

Dean, Boston School of Theology

President, Highlands Institute for American Religious and Philosophical Thought 

"Ecstatic Naturalism" is a relatively new but influential school of philosophical theology which proposes to conjoin continental phenomenology and American pragmatism from within the tradition of philosophical naturalism. Broadly put, ecstatic naturalism recognizes a deep and self-transforming dimension of nature: the difference between natura naturans (nature naturing) and natura naturata (nature natured).  It is natura naturans which affords the possibility of religious transcendence via the ejection and subsequent semiosis of its potentials that take the shape of nature’s sacred folds. The religiosity of such transcendence is fully natural, as according to ecstatic naturalism, there is nothing other than nature.  Ecstatic Naturalism's founder, Robert S. Corrington (Drew University) is heavily influenced by both the American and continental philosophical traditions generally, but in particular by philosophers such as C. S. Peirce, John Dewey, and George Santayana, as well as by F. W. J. Schelling, Martin Heidegger, and Karl Jaspers, to name but a few.

Paper topics may include the following, but should include reference to ecstatic naturalism: philosophical naturalism, speculative and systematic philosophy, process philosophy, phenomenology, existentialism, hermeneutics, German idealism, mysticism, Asian religious traditions (Hinduism, Shamanism, Buddhism, Daoism, etc.) or philosophers such as Peirce, James, and Dewey; Buchler, Emerson, Schelling, Hegel, Leibniz, Spinoza, Heidegger, Tillich, Jaspers, Whitehead, Hartshorne, Bergson, Deleuze, Badiou, Žižek, Marion, etc.

This year the conference especially welcomes interdisciplinary papers, and papers which discuss contemporary American philosophy and ecstatic naturalism vis-a-vis recent developments in the continental tradition (speculative realism, object oriented philosophy, Caputo, Kearney, Desmond, Meillassoux, Harman, Latour, Laruelle, etc.) 

Submissions require a proposal only, 250 words.  Conference registration fee includes the conference, dinner, and an after-dinner presentation on the campus of Drew University which houses the Graduate Division of Religion and Drew Theological School. 

Please email proposals by December 31st, 2011 to:  We intend to notify authors of our decisions by January 31st, 2012.

The conference is being organized by Wade Mitchell and Renee Blanchard (both Drew University), with support by Leon Niemoczynski (Loras College).

Harman and Bryant on the Analytic/Continental Divide

And Levi Bryant commenting.

I agree with both, of course, and have previously discussed the issue.  Per Harman, there is a divide.  It's not necessarily a bad thing.  Those who deny the divide often call for us to do just "philosophy," which happens to accede to the existing (power) structures under another name.  As Levi Adds, its also about power, e.g., political and institutional power.

I am very glad that in the just-released JFP a number of ads specify that they want someone with the analytic take on the AoS, or someone who teaches the analytic variant of this or that course.  Some might find the recognition of the division as unhelpful for reconciliation.  I say quite the contrary; I prefer that we be honest to each other as a starting point of genuine communication.  Thank you, departments, for not wasting the time of either of us.

Pluralism does not mean assimilation.  It means that we work together and allow each of us to be different.

Friday, October 14, 2011

CFP: Pragmatism, Law, and Language

Call for Abstracts for the 15th Annual Inland Northwest Philosophy

Topic: Pragmatism, Law, and Language
Location: University of Idaho, Moscow, ID
Dates: March 23-24, 2012
Contact: Graham Hubbs <>

This conference will bring together philosophers and legal scholars
interested in the pragmatist tradition, whether as critics or
advocates, so that each might learn from the other.

The Keynote Address will be delivered by Robert Brandom of the
University of Pittsburgh.

Participants include:

David Boersema (Philosophy, Pacific), Brian Butler (Philosophy & Law,
UNC Asheville), Tom Burke (Philosophy, South Carolina), Matthew
Chrisman (Philosophy, Edinburgh), Janice Dowell (Philosophy,
Nebraska), Heidi Li Feldman (Law, Georgetown), Danielle Macbeth
(Philosophy, Haverford), Martin J. Stone (Law, Cardozo), Karl Schaffer
(Philosophy, Pittsburgh), Michael Sullivan (Philosophy & Law, Emory),
Robert Talisse (Philosophy, Vanderbilt), Lynne Tirrell (Philosophy,
UMass Boston), and Benjamin Zipursky (Law, Fordham).

We invite papers in all areas of philosophy and law related to the
conference theme, including but not limited to the following:
pragmatic accounts of the evolution of legal meaning, the common law
method, constitutional law, law and economics, hate speech, justice
theory, and normative discourse.

To participate in this conference, submit an abstract of no more than
300 words via email to The deadline for submissions
is December 1, 2011. Individuals will be notified of decisions
regarding submissions in mid-December. Chairs and commentators are
also needed: if you are interested, please indicate areas of

A selection of the conference's papers will be published by MIT Press
as part of its Topics in Contemporary Philosophy
Series. All accepted papers, including commenting papers, will be
considered for publication.

Additional information about the conference can be obtained at our

Graham Hubbs
Assistant Professor
Department of Philosophy
University of Idaho
409 Morrill Hall
Moscow, ID 83844-441110

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

The Public Philosophy Network

Encouraging and Supporting Publicly Engaged Philosophical Research and Practices

This network has become popular with members of the Society for the Advancement of American Philosophy.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Lecture on Peirce, Part 1

I was preparing a critical thinking lecture that included some C.S. Peirce and thought that I would present a variant of it to a wider audience.  Since many of the SR and OOO crowd is more familiar with Whitehead than his predecessor Peirce, I hope that this is helpful and informative.  Note that I have simplified it as befits an undergraduate course, and thus I have significantly rephrased some of the questions.  That said, the re-phrasing might be more obviously informative.

"Questions Concerning Certain Faculties Claimed for Man"
Peirce asks seven questions in this article concerning thought and its ability to know.

Question 1.
Without previous knowledge or reasoning, can we immediately distinguish between introspection and perception?

We feel that we have this power or faculty, but there is no evidence that we do.
There is lots of evidence that we do not.
"Every lawyer knows how difficult it is for witnesses to distinguish between what they have seen and what they have inferred" (CP 5.216).

Two of the four sources of knowledge, introspection and perception, are not distinct.

Question 2.
Do we have an intuitive knowledge of ourselves, i.e., have self-consciousness?

"I" or self-reference has to be taught to children.
So does ascribing what others says to ourselves.

Question 3.
Do we have a power to distinguish subjective from objective elements of thought?

We have no intuitive power, but we have methods of verification.
Much of this follows from question 1.

Question 4.
Do we have a power of introspection, or is our knowledge of the internal world derived from observation of external facts?

No evidence.
Per question 3, we cannot know immediately.
The only way to investigate it is through psychology, but that is not based on introspection.
We cannot use non-introspective methods to prove the power of introspection.

Question 5.
Can thought reference nothing?

Thought is always about something.

Thought is intentional, although for Peirce we should understand this as originating from the thing, not mind.

Question 6.
Is anything unthinkable?

To be is synonymous with to be thinkable.

To be is to be related, which is to be thinkable.

Question 7.
Can we think things other than thought itself?


*The last few questions concern his semiotic.  As for question 7, I suspect that it has significance for the OOO crowd and others worried about anthropocentrism.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Pragmatism is a Realism and Leads to a Realist Phenomenology

I would highlight some important tenets of pragmatism that do not appear to be not widely known.

Recently, it was argued that William James argued that the truth was what was expedient to believe.      The next thought that James would have is, "what about the situation makes this an expediency?"  He would then transfer the issue from one about facile truth-wishing to one about a scientific study of the conditions for belief and knowledge.  He was particularly interested in those cases for which insufficient evidence is given to believe on thing or another, but we still find ourselves forced to make a decision.  One does not usually find existentialism so closely accompanied by experimental science.    Let me point out some other perhaps unexpected points about pragmatism.

Pragmatism is a realism.  It is not the common contemporary realism that argues that only things that exist are real, and therefore science is the proper study of the real.  It argues for the reality of universals, e.g., of qualities, and thus argues against those who would say that phenomenal experience either only partially or not real.  It is opposed to nominalism, whether open or crypto, the view that leads to the thought that universals are arbitrary.  E.g., whiteness is just a name, and thus "whiteness" or any quality is just an occurence due to arbitrary events none of which can be said univocally to give rise to "whiteness."  In consequence, "whiteness" might have an intension (description) but certainly has no extension.  But that means that "whiteness" is an arbitrary description.  This nominalist view has monumental consequences for phenomenology if one adopts it.

Pragmatism argues for a derivative of scholastic realism about universals, following Peirce, that culminated in the Peircean triad.  Reality can be described in terms of the generative categories of firstness, secondness, and thirdness, which have many denotations since they are generative, but include possibility/quality, existence/activity/force, and determinate existence/habit/law, respectively. Pure quality has reality, but does not exist.  Aside, one consequence of this view, popularized by William James, is the thesis that relations are real.

Pragmatism is, in contemporary parlance, a mixed constructivist view.  That means that we take everything that exists, whether love, rocks, fancy handshakes, etc., to be a combination of what exists in nature and semiotics (the science of relations)--and it all is real.  Many contemporary "naturalists," whether of the hard or soft (scientific) naturalist variety would not agree with this and call phenomenal qualities a "non-natural kind."

When I speak of a pragmatic phenomenology as a realist phenomenology, I am insisting that the phenomenon is a real sign of that which gave rise to it.  I am insisting that we not fall into the trap of the contemporary Cartesian dualist--still well practiced by so many who disavow it--and look only for the (efficient) "cause" of the phenomenon for only that is reputedly real.  A pragmatist, following the theory of continuity (synechism), would say that there must have been causes that gave rise to that real phenomenon.  Though there may be various existential conditions that give rise to "whiteness," we should not assume a nominalism about whiteness, but investigate the semiotic conditions, e.g., what are the relations in the situation and which were taken by the human organism as significant relations.  This includes, as researchers like Mark Bickhard note, the notion that hierarchy and structure is causal, and thus an effect can point to a structure rather than singular existents.

As a researcher, I am interested in the embodied cultural (semiotic) structures that are also embodied hermeneutics.  Specifically, I am not interested in the actual structures per se, e.g., what Johnson would call metaphors and a metaphor logic, but the habitual structures that limit concrete habituated or learned structures.  E.g., why we take this or that to be meaningful.

Monday, October 3, 2011

CFP: Epictetus and Stoicism at RIT, April 2012

Epictetus and Stoicism at RIT, April 2012

Rochester Institute of Technology Department of Philosophy announces a conference:
Epictetus and Stoicism: Continuing Influences and Contemporary Relevance
Thursday 26 April and Friday 27 April 2012
Keynote speaker: Katja Vogt (Philosophy, Columbia University)
Call for Papers: The RIT Philosophy Department invites papers that address any topic on or related to Epictetus and Stoicism, including, but not limited to: happiness, tranquility, detachment, reason, fate, volition, agency, what is (and is not) under our control, our moral purpose, virtue, cosmic order, divine providence, death, the Stoic sage, Epictetus as teacher, influence of earlier thinkers on Epictetus, Epictetus’s influence on later thinkers (including writers of our own time), the “practical” philosophy of Stoicism, and comparisons and contrasts with other traditions (such as Buddhism, Epicureanism, Christianity).
Submission Deadline: January 15, 2012. Papers should be 4,500–5,500 words in length (35–40 minutes reading time), and prepared for anonymous review. Please submit full papers as email attachments to (and direct inquires to):

*This is my undergraduate alma matter.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Pragmatic Theory of Imagination in the Transactions

Finally, I have received word that my article on a new pragmatic theory of imagination has been accepted!  I will shortly lift the veil on my recent work, as I do not blog (much) about my publishable work.

As a teaser, I am describing a theory of imagination from a Peirce-Deweyan basis that hits all the big neoclassical pragmatist points: process metaphysics, is naturalistic (emergentism), plays nice with science, is fully temporal, ..., and is part of my project of pragmatic phenomenology.  It's very, very different from conventional or classical conceptions and also critiques and complements Mark Johnson's work.

Moore on James & Jason on Moore

I have been responding to Crispin Sartwell's post on G.E. Moore on James' pragmatism here.  Basically, Moore appears to misunderstand James in the predictable fashion, e.g., running with a metaphysical notion of truth rather than a practical notion.  Of course James is not saying that believing something makes it true, but when believing makes a difference in the world, there is a sense in which we "make truth."  Moreover, since every case of claiming metaphysical truth is also a "making truth," there is a strong sense in which practical truth is more important in our everyday lives.  But this also means that many natural factors come into play, including the human one of culture, politics, etc.

Sartwell said that Stuhr, McDermott, and Rorty couldn't explain pragmatism to him, and I don't think I could do any better if they failed.  That said, I insist that the position is being misunderstood, especially since corrupted forms of the view have been prevalent for a long time.  Case in point, thinking that "believing makes something true" in the simple sense is a misreading that is still a prevalent one.  I'm astonished that it is even seriously entertained ....
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