Saturday, January 28, 2012

Analysis of the Dao De Jing

Anvikshiki has begun an analysis of the Dao De Jing.  He also has amazing astute American political analyses as part of his regular posting.


I recommend his brilliant thought and remind readers that this is primarily a blog of Americanist and cross-tradition thought, although I've been much caught up in Americanist and Continental metaphysics in the last 6 months.  

That said, I will be teaching a class in "World Religions" next semester and am glad for the opportunity to  revitalize my memory.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Precarious Causation

Michael of Archive Fire has an excellent post here.

I am pleased to see that someone more knowledgeable than I is repeating some of the criticisms that I have leveled, as it tells me that I was on the right track.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

CFP: Contingency at the International Philosophy Colloquium

18th International Philosophy Colloquium Evian:
Contingency – Chance, Luck, Haphazardness

Evian (Lake Geneva), France
July 15-21, 2012

We invite proposals (maximum length: one page) for presentations, along with a short CV (maximum length: two pages), by March 15, 2012. Please send these documents via e-mail to the following address:
evian@philosophie.fu-berlin.de

A detailed exposition of the topic and all relevant information concerning the character and history of the colloquium as well as matters of accommodation and costs can be found on our website:

http://www.geisteswissenschaften.fu-berlin.de/eviancolloquium/

Contingent is what could be otherwise or not exist at all: It is thus what is neither necessary nor impossible. What is contingent is that which is not completely determined by logical or metaphysical principles, or else by fate or divine providence. That is, what is contingent belongs to the realm of what is changing or changeable; it is, therefore, a realm into which human actions inherently fall. Because human actions take place in the realm of the contingent, every practical self-reflection is confronted with contingency as an inherent problem. Practical reason, rational planning, and free deliberation are bound up with the uncontrollable contingency of chance, luck, and haphazardness: chance, because the consequences of action cannot be completely anticipated or explained given the unforeseeable effects of accidental causes that condition or help to shape the outcomes of our actions; luck, because the realization of intended goals or attitudes can often come about only with the world playing along, i.e., only through the coincidence of events behind the backs of agents; and haphazardness, because the good life itself, framed by the decisive or fateful events of birth and death, always has to reckon with the happening of events large and small that continually break into our lives and affect them going forward, so that one needs luck (fortuna, Glück, chance) for attaining happiness (beatitudo, Glück, bonheur) in a way that challenges our conceptions of virtue and justice.

What is the significance of contingency for the self-understanding of human beings in their practices? The 18th International Philosophy Colloquium Evian invites philosophers to come to the shores of Lake Geneva to examine the concept of contingency in all the different and possibly incompatible ways in which this concept can be considered and determined. The International Philosophy Colloquia Evian welcome philosophers who are interested in engaging in discussion across traditional disciplinary boundaries. They are conceived particularly as a place where the divide between continental and analytic philosophy is overcome, or at least where their differences can be rendered philosophically productive.

Passive comprehension of all three languages of the colloquium, namely French, German, and English, is a prerequisite for all applicants.

Organisation: Georg W. Bertram (Berlin), Robin Celikates (Amsterdam), David Lauer (Berlin)
In cooperation with Karin de Boer (Leuven), Karen Feldman (Berkeley), Jo-Jo Koo (Montreal), Christophe Laudou (Madrid), Jérôme Lèbre (Paris), Diane Perpich (Clemson), Hans Bernhard Schmid (Wien), Chris Doude van Troostvijk (Strasbourg)

Contact: Prof. Dr. Georg W. Bertram, Freie Universität Berlin, Institut für Philosophie, Habelschwerdter Allee 30, D-14195 Berlin, Germany

CFP: Feminist Interpretations of William James

* Feminist Interpretations of William James *

[For a conference panel and edited volume]

“The world experienced…comes at all times with our body as its center,
center of vision, center of action, center of interest…”
–William James, Principles of Psychology

“Out of whose subjectivity has this ideal [of objectivity] grown?”
–Lorraine Code, What Can She Know?

The American Pragmatist philosopher William James was in many respects
ahead of his time, emphasizing attention to the situated and bodily
character of knowledge and value before the advent of standpoint theory, as
well as the concrete consequences of philosophizing in a way that
pre-figures recent feminist efforts to investigate the troubling collective
habits that academic philosophy has helped to perpetuate. Although James’
own status as a feminist is dubious, his work, many have argued, is ripe
with resources for contemporary feminist epistemology, ethics,
phenomenology and philosophy of psychology.

We seek scholars interested in contributing to a panel discussion on
feminist readings of James to be held at the Society for the Advancement of
American Philosophy meeting in the spring of 2013, and ultimately, to the
anticipated edited volume, Feminist Interpretations of William James (to be
submitted to Penn State Press’ “Re-Reading the Canon” series, ed. Nancy
Tuana). Any and all feminist approaches to and/or criticisms of James are
welcome.

* Please respond to Shannon Sullivan (sws10@psu.edu) or Erin C. Tarver (
erin_tarver@georgetowncollege.edu) to express your interest in
participating in the panel and/or the volume by February 17, 2012. *

For now, we hope to hear from people who are interested, possibly
interested, gently persuadable, and/or have questions -- no firm
commitments are needed at this time, in other words. Abstracts (of no less
than 600 words) or full papers (of no more than 3500 words) for the SAAP
panel will be due to Shannon and Erin by August 1, 2012. We hope that the
discussion generated by the SAAP panel will help spark new ideas for
feminist engagements with James, but you need not participate on the SAAP
panel to contribute to the Re-reading the Canon volume later on. Detailed
information on submitting to the Re-reading the Canon volume will be
forthcoming in 2013, after the annual SAAP meeting in March.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Mobilization in the OOO DMZ? A Response to Harman's Review


Anthony Paul Smith responds to a blog post from Harman about Anti-Badiou.

I'll ask the same question I asked there.  What's behind this bit of hostility?  I have a feeling that I brushed against the DMZ (de-militarized zone, e.g., like the one between North and South Korea) again and didn't realize it.



Sunday, January 22, 2012

New Journal Issues!

New issues of the Inter-American Journal of Philosophy, European Journal of Pragmatism and American Philosophy and Pragmatism Today have just come out.  Peruse the links on the right side of my blog for access.

Dewey and Hegel
A review of my good friend James Good's most recent book (with John Shook), John Dewey's Philosophy of Spirit was reviewed in the European Journal of Pragmatism and American Philosophy.  I do concur with his argument that Dewey was and remained far more Hegelian than has been admitted by historic or contemporary philosophers.  This oversight is primarily a matter of academic politics, e.g., "Hegel" and "idealism" became "bad words" and were not to be uttered with sight of a Dewey text.  It has lead to terrible misunderstandings of his work for generations even among his own scholars.


Thursday, January 19, 2012

APA Joint Session: Whitehead and Merleau-Ponty

JOINT SESSION, CENTRAL DIVISION

THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 16, 2012

7:40-10:40 P.M.

THE PALMER HOUSE HOTEL—CHICAGO


(Room location given out with conference program at registration)

A DISCUSSION BY AUTHORS AND CRITICS OF A NEW BOOK, NATURE AND LOGOS,

“THE INFLUENCE OF ALFRED NORTH WHITEHEAD ON THE THOUGHT OF MAURICE
MERLEAU-PONTY”


William Hamrick (author), SIU-E, “The Creative Becoming of the Flesh.”

Scott W. Sinclair (discussant), St. Louis Community College—Forest Park,
“Nature and Logos, Appreciation and Extension.”

John Cogan (discussant), Independent Scholar, “Ruminations Across Borders.”

Jan Van der Veken (author), Katholike Universiteit Leuven, “Meeting
Merleau-Ponty.”


CO-PRESENTED BY THE SOCIETY FOR THE PHILOSOPHY OF CREATIVITY AND THE
SOCIETY FOR THE STUDY OF PROCESS PHILOSOPHIES

CFP: European Conference on Pragmatism and American Philosophy


First European Conference on Pragmatism and American Philosophy


 Venue: Rome, University of Roma Tre
 Date: September, 19-21, 2012


 The Italian Association Pragma and the Nordic Pragmatist Network are pleased to announce the first European Conference on Pragmatism and American Philosophy. The conference will be held in Rome on September 19-21, 2012 and will gather the most prominent scholars in the field. Invited scholars include: Patrick Baert, Mats Bergman, Rosa M. Calcaterra, Ramon del Castillo, Daniel Cefai, Umberto Eco, Rossella Fabbrichesi, Roberto Frega, Mathias Girel, Christopher Hookway, Sandra Laugier, Giovanni Maddalena, Jaime Nubiola, Sami Pihlström, Emil Visnosky.
 The Conference language will be English.

With this call for papers we invite European and non European scholars to participate to the conference. The focus of the conference is on a better understanding of the relevance of American philosophy in general, and pragmatism in particular, to contemporary philosophical debates. American philosophy is here considered as a proper tradition of philosophy, distinguished from, and capable of dialoguing with, any other tradition of thought. Papers are expected to illuminate both differences and convergences as well as new creative perspectives stemming from the background of pragmatism and American philosophy in any possible field of philosophical relevance.

We are accepting submissions for contributed papers. Please send an abstract of 500 - 1,000 words to 
europeanpragmatism@gmail.combefore April 1, 2012.  Notification of acceptance will be done by May 31st. Accepted papers will have to be received by August 31st. Papers must not exceed 4,000 words in length and be adequate for a 40 minutes presentation.
 Attendance to the conference is free.

 For more information on the conference, please contact one of the organisers, Roberto Frega (
fregarob@gmail.com), Giovanni Maddalena (maddalena@unimol.it), Henryk Rydenfeld (henrik.rydenfelt@helsinki.fi) or visit the conference homepage




Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Symbolic Shutdown To Protest SOPA

I cannot shutdown my blog to participate in the protest, as I have not the power, captain!  I will do so symbolically, and since Google is also a signatory, they might do so as well.  It starts tomorrow!


For those not aware, or perhaps not in the United States, the U.S. Congress has been debating an article of legislation that would make any site any allows user-uploaded content impossible to maintain against legal liability.  It is insanity.

For more on the protest, see:

On Harman's 'Time, Space, Essence, and Eidos"


This article was recommended to me to address my questions about temporality.  It does not address those questions; Guerilla Metaphysics is a far better source.  Regardless, I will post some thoughts.

It is rhetorically aimed for a continental audience.  The problematics and their dynamics, though recognizable, fall on deaf ears in my case since they are not shared problems.  If those aren’t my problems, I will not be much motivated by their solutions,  e.g., discussion of causality has been rampant in analytic, and the human-world relation is not so large an issue in pragmatism.  Why mention this to a general audience, to you?  To tone down the presentation; its pathos speaks to a need that I and other philosophic discourses do not have.

Harman begins with his creative re-reading of Heidegger.  Since I do not agree with his characterization of Heidegger, which is far from a standard reading, I will treat it as a new offering to philosophy.  His reading of Heidegger’s tool analysis is soo far from a standard reading, e.g., Heidegger is “against relationality per se” and must be for “substance” that I will not grant him the prominence of Heidegger’s ediface; he will have to pull his own weight.  If someone can convince me that the semiotics of worldhood implies that, they are welcome to try to get me to accept the following.

“But there really are autonomous objects that withdraw from all interaction, just as occasionalists think. I base this on the authority of Heidegger’s tool-analysis, which really needs to be read in the way that I have described.”

That said, I agree with Harman’s warning against reading Heidegger as a “pragmatist” in which case he mirror Dewey.  E.g., Dewey’s theory of continuity and realism is irreconciliable with Heidegger.

By the way, my dissertation was originally a comparative of Heidegger and Dewey, but I realized that Dewey scholarship was not ready for the comparison that I wanted to do (cf Bill Blatner’s book on it), and thus I settled for working a realist, pragmatist phenomenology within the topical domain of ethics.  Oh, and Dewey was not a Lockean of Humean empiricist, but a neo-Hegelian one, which has lead to generations of misreadings.

When Harman enters into his exposition of Heidegger’s tool analysis, I can only say that it’s interesting but is not Heidegger.  This is not a problem, but it also means that he’s unhitched his wagon from the most formidable horse of the 20th century.  It appears that he’s 1) taken the revealing/concealing of a phenomenon that generates the hermeneutic circle, 2) ontologized that mechanic, and 3) severed it from phenomenology.  He may not have intended it, but that’s what “withdrawal” looks like.  Just add his analysis of relativity and some salt.  Ok, some special mereology sauce to build his objects into something big enough for my appetite.

Since I do not find this compelling, I have little more to write about it.  It tries to scratch an itch I don’t have.  And if I wanted anything like this, I would look to Americanist scholarship, e.g., Peirce, Whitehead, Hartshorne, etc.  That said, he is offering something to continentals who wish to remain within that milieu.  

Monday, January 16, 2012

OOO and Materialism


This is a recap of prior conversation and a response to Levi's Bryant's recent post.  First, the recap and setup....

The blogosphere has been talking about object-oriented ontology and materialism lately.  As I suspected, it appears that there's a wide range of what writers mean by the term.  See Adam Robert at Knowledge Ecology; Hilan Bensusan at No Borders Metaphysics has 1, 2 , and 3; Matt Segall at Footnotes to Plato has 1 and 2; my own which is a response to Leon at After Nature; and the most recent by Levi Harman at Larval Subjects.  Apologies for those I've left out, and for some of the older posts concerning Jussi Parikka's provocative post, see Been Woodard's links at Naught Thought and a belated response to Jussi by Ian Bogost.

Now my thoughts.  First, the "materialisms" that are gettting thrown around what I expected, and I should have known better.  I now realize that I was thinking of materialism from the viewpoint of analytic philosophy, which they are more likely to call "physicalism."  Thus my own contribution above may not be on target, and will now speak to that in the context of my prior post.

Leon argued against the "pure immanentism" of materialism.  Part of my response wherein I disagreed with him includes:

"I am not certain that pure immanentism is a problem.  It depends on what that means, and my first  hypothesis is materialism.  If all reality is material, then transcendent identity is impossible.  That is, if identity has no fixity other than momentary configurations, then we are at best in a materialist version of Heraclitean flux." 

This addresses the differences between Harman and Bryant that the latter mentions, and the difference appears to be the necessity (or not) of transcendent identity:

"Harman seems to argue that for the materialist, if the parts change then the entity is no longer the same entity. Yet this would only hold if the being of the entity were individuated solely by the parts of which the entity is composed. If, by contrast, entities are individuated by both their parts and organization, then so long as that organization is maintained, the entity persists. All that’s required is that that organization be embodied in some way."

Bryant has not completely addressed the issue.  If individuation occurs through 1) parts and 2) parts-whole relationships or organization, then 1) plus 2) equals 3) an individuated unity that is greater than the sum of its parts.  If it were anything less, then it would be reducible, and we would have an infinite regression of objects.  The usual problems of regression ensue, and this also threatens the irreducibility of objects.  If individuation is more than 1) and 2), then what is it?  Bryant mentioned emergentism, and that would be my solution to that kind of problem; "there’s no inconsistency between materialism and theories of emergence."  

The unity that is an individual is more than either the parts or organization since, as implied above, it constitutes a third thing.  Hence, contra Bryant, it's possible that "if the parts change then the entity is no longer the same entity" because any change to a part also changes the whole.  Changes to a part may not be significant to the whole, however, as it is possible for multiple changes in parts to recreate a virtually identical whole.  E.g., moving the chairs on the deck of the Titanic doesn't change the fact that it is sinking.  This is how an emergent phenomenon is not reducible eitehr from a metaphysical or epistemic perspective.  

The ultimate issue to be addressed is an old one, what is identity? 







Musing upon Scientific Naturalism



Rene Descartes proposed that we need to find the limit of human understanding so that we may restrict thought within those limits.  He thereby launched the modernist period in philosophy, especially for British/Scottish empiricism.  I propose thinking scientific naturalism as a legacy of this circumscription of thought.

Scientific naturalism, as a metaphysical thesis, holds that what is real are the objects of science, and science studies nature.  Many distinctions may be made, but for the most part and in this context, objections are reducible to this point.  In Cartesian terms, I would characterize scientific naturalism as limiting proper thought to what contemporary science can best prove, which is what I take to be its paradigmatic trait.

A problem with this is that separations between vetted thought and actual thought cannot de facto occur and de jure should not be attempted, because we then misunderstand the nature of thought and the basis of scientific claims.  In essence, scientifical naturalism is not coherent or even self-consistent if we measure recent neuro- and cognitive science against the self-assured claims of scientific naturalism.  It’s an ideal that we cannot hold and is not a good regulatory ideal.  It ensconces false notions of human powers and systematizes hubris.  This is not a new claim, and has been made from many traditions of philosophy.  My personal favorite expressions of this critique are Helen Longino’s Science as Social Practice (analytic), John Dewey’s Experience and Nature (pragmatism), and the pair of Edmund Husserl’s Crisis of the European Sciences and Martin Heidegger’s “Question Concerning Technology” (continental per phenomenology).

I prefer the former two, though I grant the theoretical powerhouses of the latter two, because Dewey and Longino share an emphasis on practice as a solution.  I would rather affect positive change than be intellectually justified.  The former is more difficult and more valuable, but the latter is something accomplishable upon one’s own merits and without so much good fortune.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

A Field Theory of Experience


Musing upon and working up to it.

Another way of explaining Dewey’s theory of experience is to call it a “field theory” of experience, which he did in Experience and Nature.  Human experience is a field of interaction between the organism and environment from which all distinctions are made.  Distinctions are made at the level of physics, of biology, of the body and its habitual and homeostatic activities, of consciousness, and of mind; making distinctions is a dividing up of the field of experience that occurs at all levels, but not in the same way.  At the level of mind there is explicit signification, the taking of this quality to indicate these possible consequences of those possible interactions with it; i.e., there is meaning.

James Gouinlock puts the notion of taking distinctions well in John Dewey's Philosophy of Value:

“the organic unity of subject and object is such that the distinction between them is perceived by deliberate analysis and is not found in immediate experience itself” …. A red object is red, for example, because certain of its properties interaction with certain of those of a subject; and the subject experiences red because certain properties of the subject interact with certain of those of the object.  The red is neither ‘in the subject’ nor ‘in the object,’ nor even in an exclusive relation between antecedently determinate subject and object.  Rather, it is a feature of the situation itself, which is inclusive of subject and object; what are called subject and object are two functional constituents of that entire set of relations constituting the situation” (18)
“Situation” is the name given to the local field of experience.  The “traits of experience” are the “traits of nature” that emerge under certain interactive or transactive conditions.  Experience is real and of nature, not an epiphenomenon.

Continuing,

“The experience of a red object is an outcome of all the various functional constituents of the inclusive situation.  In this situation—that is, in this set of relations—the object is really red, and it is this object which is experienced.” (18).

Rather than agree with Locke that “primary qualities have “powers” that produce sensual “secondary qualities,” Dewey understands “quality” to be participative.   The thing really does have a potentiality, but redness is a fusion of many potentialities and not just those attributed to the red object.  The difference between appearance and reality is, then, a demarcation of natural conditions and not between experience and world.

Hey, didn’t I say that I’d talk about a field theory of experience?  Well, what do you think a dynamic “fusion of many potentialities” is?  A field.  For the adventurous, I offer an insight into how I visualize human experience as a field.

I visualize it as a a collection of 5-dimensional graphs like so many I saw when I was earning my degree in math (3 spatial dimensions, time, and telos—potentiality to be).  Note that this visualization is only an aid, as it spatializes time, and reduces the significant factors just to their telos and thereby also privileges futurity.  Why would I simplify an n-dimensional field to 5?  Because its close to how we actually live experience: what’s going on around me, how is it changing, and what do I anticipate happening.

Much more to come...

CFP: Workshop on Teaching Philosophy

ANNOUNCEMENT AND CALL FOR PROPOSALS
Deadline February 9, 2012

The American Association of Philosophy Teachers
THE NINETEENTH INTERNATIONAL WORKSHOP-CONFERENCE ON TEACHING PHILOSOPHY
St. Edward’s University Austin, Texas July 25 - July 29, 2012

Proposals for interactive workshops and panels related to teaching and
learning philosophy at any educational level are welcome. We especially
encourage workshops and panels on the following topics:
• innovative and successful teaching strategies
• professional issues connected to teaching
• how work in other disciplines can improve the teaching of philosophy
• engaging students outside the classroom
• innovative uses of instructional technologies
• the challenge of teaching in new settings
• methods to improve student learning


PROPOSAL GUIDELINES
Send Submissions, via email, to Russell Marcus: rmarcus1@hamilton.edu.
Submissions should be received by February 9, 2012
Each submission must contain, as attachments, both a proposal and a cover
sheet in Word (.doc or .docx), PDF (.pdf), or WordPerfect (.wpd) format.
Please label attachments with your name (e.g., Doe- Proposal.doc and
Doe-Cover.doc).

The Proposal should include:
• the session title
• a one-to-three page description of what the presentation will cover,
what participants will do during the session, and what the session seeks to
achieve
• a list of references, especially to relevant pedagogical literature
• descriptions of any useful handouts to be provided
• a list of equipment needed
• To facilitate blind review, no identifying information should appear
in the Proposal.

The Cover Sheet should include:
• the session title
• a 100-200 word abstract for use in the printed conference program
• each presenter’s name, institutional affiliation (if any), and contact
information
• the length of the presentation (60 or 90 minutes)
• the format of the presentation (workshop, panel, discussion, or
demonstration)

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Dancing in Time, Singing in Tune: Harman and Temporality



Ian Bogost, in response to my question about temporality in a comment, gave me some references in Bryan and Harman.  Ian,  thanks, as your citations are extremely helpful.  Below is my response, which is a quick exposition of Harman.  

The most appropriate part of that selection is the first full paragraph of p. 249:

“The question can be rephrased slightly to ask whether time and space are autonomous substances or only interlocked systems of events. When stated in this way it forms an exact parallel to the question of whether objects should be regarded as indivisible and substantial ultimates, or whether they are merely a nickname for a certain series of tangible effects or bundle of qualities. In the case of objects we were forced to reject both alternatives, since both turned out to be exaggerated and untenable. For precisely the same reason, we must reject both the Leibnizian and Newtonian views of space-time . On the one hand, we must agree that space and time cannot be empty objective containers, and that all of the paradoxes Leibniz ascribes to absolute space and time remain insoluble. On the other hand, it cannot strictly be true that space and time are merely relational: this is at best a half-truth, for if the whole of space and time were relational, all objects would be sucked into these relations entirely and could not be carved up into districts in any way at all. Sheer relation without barricades and boundaries would mean the pure totality of apeiron, and this is not what experience shows us. If space and time are relational in one sense, there is another sense in which they must be anti-relational, since we can easily speak of parts of space or eras of time in the plural.” (249, emphasis omitted throughout)

Ha, “apeiron” comes up again.  I’ve been talking about that on the blog for the last day.  I wholly agree with all these points and love to see them, as it makes going through this more interesting (for me).  Then he writes,

“Time is the strife between an object and its accidents or contiguous relations. Time is black noise: not the con­ dition of possibility of this noise, nor the ecstatic structure through which humans encounter it, but simply this noise itself.” (250)

Here, we have an answer to the question of what is time for Harman; “time is black noise.”  The first discussion of the three forms of noise and black noise in 181-183.  I have to hand it to Harman; he’s such an excellent writer.  I appreciate such summaries as [first form of noise] “Here we have nothing less than a duel between the thing and its notes (or substance vs. quality)” (182), [second] “…there is the thing as composed of all its notes, and on the other the various fluctuations that play on their surface (or substance vs. accident)”. [And the third form] “We can call this the duel between an individual thing and all else that inhabits the field of experience (or substance vs. relation)” (183).  Finally, “black noise” is the dual “cloud of qualities surround such an object” and the “kind of a black hole whose interior has receded infinitely from view, but which also leaks a certain amount of radiant energy … inscrutable holes of withdrawn energy that somehow still emit fragrance or radio signals…” (183-184).

Much of this clarifies my earlier question of time and generativity.  I do not immediately see anything that I would critique, and on the face of it this definition is worth interrogation.





Functional Hiding: How Does Nature Hide from Itself?

A anonymous poster said that "functionality would fully temporalize it" ["hiding out" in reference to whether nature "hides" itself].  The assertion, as I understood it, was that functionalizing the concept would solve a lot of problems.  Let's run with this.


Let us distinguish between “substantial” and “functional” definitions.  I will subsequently apply this to the word “object.”  A substantial definitions defines or distinctly characterizes something in terms of what it is by itself, e.g., its substance, essence, quiddity, Platonic form, Aristotelian ousia, etc.  A functional definition defines or distinctly characterizes something in terms of how it functions, e.g., its activity, dynamic structure, pattern of effects, etc.  The thing literally is its function and ceases to be when it stops functioning or functioning in that way.   Hume famously claimed in Enquiry Concerning the Principles of Morals that justice was such a thing.  As I told my Ethics class last semester, there is no justice in Mad Max’s dystopian world, since the social patterns that would give justice its utility and therefore existence would not be operative.  This is only one understanding of a functional definition that is either a formal distinction or at best a real distinction, but has no real referent or extension.

Consider the difference between a functional description and a functional definition with real referent or extension.  In the former, the description is an analytic tool vs. a definition.  “Just think of it this way” is the former, while “it really is this way” is the latter. 

Is an “object” a substantial or functional term in OOO, and its it descriptive or definitional?   I believe the answer varies depending upon which OOO.  It's something to think about if one wants to functionalize OOO.  In my own pragmatism, it's all functional, which goes along with processive, but is sometimes descriptive and sometimes definitional depending upon what we're talking about.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Pragmatism: Another Solution for Correlationism

I was reading Meillassoux's "Potentiality and Virtuality" in Collapse II when something hit me.

His criticism of Nelson Goodman's solution to the problem of causality in Hume does not address the solution of classical American pragmatism.  Recall the problem.


We experience a "cause" and "effect" whenever we experience concurrent events in which case a psychological habit assigns one the title of "cause" and the other of "effect."  What we experience is a sentiment from which we tacitly infer this relation.  But there is no necessity to this relation other than an arbitrary psychological one that can be rescued only by assuming the uniformity of nature, etc.  I will presume that the rest of the story is known.

One way of putting the Peirce or subsequent Deweyan solution is to say that by analogy they ontologize habit.  That is, the connection of events is not merely a psychological habit, but a cosmic one.  Nature itself has "habits," and in that consists the uniformity of nature.  However, this is temporal and historical self-similarity rather than identity.  Moreover, "psychological habits" that allow us to experience "causes" and "effects" are not identical with the cosmic habits.

However, this does not solve the original problem, but restates it, which might appear to be the "abandonment" and "reformulation" of the problem that Meillassoux derides.  It is not.  Rather, all the assumptions that lead to the problem, most of the modern tradition, are abandoned.  Experience is not representational.  Experience is not even, prima facie, something humans do.  Rocks can experience.  I will leave that part of the story untold, especially since I have addressed it numerous times on this blog.

Hence, the problematic that Meillassoux elaborates dissolves:

"Can we prove the effective necessity of the connections observed between successive events? The presupposition made both by Hume and by Goodman is that, if we cannot, then any ontological treatment of what is called real necessity (that is to say, of the necessity of laws, as opposed to so-called logical necessity) is consigned to failure, and consequently must be abandoned." (58)

Real necessity is either a posit or a myth.  It's contingency all the way down, but contingency does not mean arbitrariness.  One need only accept the problematic if one accepts the Humean premises, but classical pragmatism does not.  It's another way out of the problem ... by avoiding it entirely.  One need only work around a problem that is placed in one's path, or one can take another path.

Hence, Meillassoux's claim is old hat to classical pragmatists:

"the ontological approach I speak of would consist in affirming that it is possible rationally to

envisage that the constants could effectively change for no  reason whatsoever, and thus with no necessity whatsoever; which, as I will insist, leads us to envisage a contingency so radical that it would incorporate all conceivable futures of the present laws, including that consisting in the absence of their

modification." (59)

We're a small group.  I don't think anyone noticed we were left out.

Continuing, on this view, the principle of sufficient reason, that everything occurs according to some necessary logos, finds its analogue in the notion that every cause has a natural history, though perhaps not necessity.  In his defense, this position might not qualify as "metaphysics, any postulation of a real necessity" (61).  Metaphysics becomes reformulated as an abductive entreprise, wherein what is really real is experience and not the theory of experience.  (See above: "experience" is not just something humans do.)

I would continue, but I wanted to make a small but important point.  It seems that Meillasoux's concerns about the "pragmatic" moves of Nelson (Editor Mackay first called it "pragmatism") have nothing to do with the tradition of classical and neoclassical American pragmatism.  Road less travelled and all that.

CFP: la Société de philosophie des sciences

The Société de philosophie des sciences launches its journal!

Call for papers for issues 1 and 2
Lato Sensu: revue de la Société de philosophie des sciences

Journal Description:
The Société de philosophie des sciences was founded in 2002, with the
aim of promoting philosophy of science in the wide sense (comprising
such fields as epistemology, philosophy of mind and language,
philosophy of medicine and clinical ethics, as well of course as
philosophy of social sciences and the closely related areas of
rationality, social choice, law, environmental ethics, etc.). Its
intended constituency includes scholars working in totally or
partially French-speaking countries, as well as those who are
interested in interacting with those or in working on authors writing
in French. It is thus an international learned society, based in
France. Our website provides a more detailed view of its goals and
activities, such as the biennial congress, the Duhem Lectures and the
yearly Young Scholars’ Prize:

The Société has founded a peer-reviewed, open-access, web-based
journal. Entitled Lato Sensu, Revue de la Société de philosophie des
sciences, it will appear two or three times a year and will publish
texts in French and in English. The main publication criterion will
be, of course, scientific excellence, evaluated according to criteria
in effect in international journals; particular attention will be
given however to originality. Different kinds of contributions,
besides the standard paper, such as state-of-the art surveys,
positions papers, debates, thematic ensembles, will be considered. We
believe this will make the journal more dynamic, more attractive, more
useful. . Lato Sensu will be advised and supported by a prestigious
international Advisory Board, composed in equal numbers of
philosophers and scientists.

How to submit:
No length limit is imposed, however the editors could refuse papers
judged too long. No element of style or format is imposed for a first
submission, except that the manuscript must be anonymous. Therefore
the author must avoid any reference that could help the two referees
to identify him/her. If the paper is accepted, the author will have to
provide a version of the paper in the style required by the editors.
Until the journal's website is launched, all submissions (joined with
an abstract) must be sent, as an attached PDF file, to Alexandre Guay
at the following address alexandre.guay@u-bourgogne.fr

The deadline for submissions for the first issue is April 25, 2012.

Editorial Advisory Board
Renée Baillargeon (Univ. of Illinois), Arnaud Basdevant (Univ. Pierre
et Marie Curie), Alexander Bird (Univ. of Bristol), Paul Humphreys
(Univ. of Virginia), James Lennox (Univ. of Pittsburgh), Richard
Lewontin (Harvard Univ.), Paolo Mancosu (Univ. of California,
Berkeley), Denise Pumain (Univ. Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne), Alex
Rosenberg (Duke Univ.), Carlo Rovelli (Univ. de la Méditerranée Aix-
Marseille 2)

Consulting Editors
Claudia Bianchi (Univ. Vita-Salute San Raffaele), Catherine Dekeuwer
(Univ. Jean Moulin Lyon 3), Paul Égré (Institut Jean Nicod), Alexei
Grinbaum (CEA), Max Kistler (Univ. Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne), Jean-
Pierre Marquis (Univ. de Montréal), Gloria Origgi (Institut Jean
Nicod), Julian Reiss (Erasmus Univ. Rotterdam), Stéphanie Ruphy (Univ.
de Provence), Christian Sachse (Univ. de Lausanne), Mark van Atten
(IHPST), Pierre Wagner (Univ. Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne)

Director: Daniel Andler (Univ. Paris-Sorbonne Paris 4)
Editor: Alexandre Guay (Univ. de Bourgogne)
Managing editor: Pierre Uzan (Fondation Santé des Étudiants de France)

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Phenomenological Intentionality: Realist, Processive, Pragmatic


I would like to reintroduce my realist and pragmatic theory of phenomenological intentionality based on the processive emergent naturalism of John Dewey.  This should serve as an introduction to those unfamiliar with the classical and neoclassical pragmatist tradition, and I invite questions, clarifications, and criticisms (always).


John Dewey holds an unconventional model of thought clearly articulated in his How We Think.  It is called the “problematic situation” model that has three steps.  1.  Something arrests our ongoing activity and forces us to resolve a “problem.”  Our autonomous bodily and unreflective activity is insufficient to re-establish its prior dynamic equilibrium.  2.  A “problem” summons reflective thought (cognition), and the contours of the “felt difficulty” guide thought about the “problem” so that it may be identified.  At the outset, we experience only a peculiar quality of resistance to whatever we were doing.  3.  The “problem” is resolved when we examine our experiences and ideas about what is going on and conduct an inquiry into the matter.

This model has many consequences that are not immediately obvious.  One is that reflection and conscious intentionality, i.e., experiencing or thinking about something, is not a singular activity or agency of the subject.  Rather, the thing itself provokes consciousness of it.  By “thing itself,” I mean neither phenomenon nor noumenon, but simply an existential encounter with something in nature.  The encounter summons attention and reflection, and as the encounter unfolds it guides the interaction.  See Heidegger’s Being and Time and compare the ready-at-hand to present-to-hand discussion as a later analogue.

Experience, by definition, is an “interaction” or “transaction” of things in nature.  Experience is not a “mirror” of nature, and the imagistic metaphor inaugurated with Descartes and continued throughout Modern Empiricism should be set aside if one would understand Dewey.  Experience is foremost an activity of nature, a transaction, an encounter.  From the encounter emerge new qualities not found in either actor as such, just as “redness” emerges from the encounter with a (red) rose, and it not a determinate potentiality of the rose itself.  

“Problems,” or reflective thought, arise when our everyday encounters surge over habitual channels due to some novelty in the situation.  Since a problem manifests from an encounter, a transaction, a twoness of act and resistance, we call the situation a “problematic situation.”  There is not initially the problem, but a problematic situation.  The goal of reflective thought is to identify the problem, which is concurrent with identifying the solution.  Dewey explains that we do not understand a problem fully without comprehending its solution, as a key fits a lock.  However, as experience is no mirror of nature, the problem and solution are not singular but multiple.  Whatever returns us to regular activity is a solution, and the multiplicity of resolutions implies that ethics (valuing, choice, and responsibility) is implicated at a level prior to reflective thought.  Morality is an aesthetic, but in the Kantian and not Humean sense of aesthetic that places Dewey closer to Scheler, as I have discussed in another post.

My Deweyan and process theory of realist phenomenological intentionality builds upon the model and his theory of experience.  It’s quite simple at first.  Intentionality emanates from the encounter.  The felt quality of the resistance in the ongoing transaction, beginning as a bodily intentionality, becomes a conscious intentionality.  The problematic encounter does not arrest and end activity; it transforms it and raises it to a “higher” dynamic.  Reflection, as the “highest” level of organic function  is the last phase of a natural process trying to regain homeostatic equilibrium.  Reflective experience attempts to symbolically represent the encounter as something meaningful and thereby expand the possibilities of interaction beyond rote habit.

My prior and forthcoming published work focuses on explicating this synoptic reading of Dewey, especially the processive and temporal elements.  While the explanation of intentionality seems a little quick and easy, relatively speaking, by that degree the exposition of temporality and meaning becomes vastly more complicated.  E.g., what happens when the temporality of a natural, non-human process becomes temporalized as human conscious experience?  I insist that temporality and phenomenological temporality are continuous, wherein the key to the shift is imagination.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Eating Popcorn Watching the OOO Blogosphere


Salted, no butter please.

I went back after a hiatus and read through some of Levi Bryant's recent posts.  He's doing a lot to respond to the various criticisms.  I suspect that he's not saying much new so much as articulating it in a different way; its a lot more direct than what I've seen.  Hey, I like direct.

Recently, he answered a comment by Glen Fuller on Jussi Parikka's blog that I discussed in a prior post ....  I would link it but the link is dead.  I do have the quotation, however:

"Levi, if it is ‘very similar’ why then would I bother with OOP? Why not stick with Whitehead? Is it the whole ‘God’ thing you don’t like? I read eternal objects the same way as Shaviro, Massumi, etc as virtual singularities that can be repeated in different ways under different conditions, like the boiling point of water."

In a recent post, he directly responds to the question qua Massumi.  Given what he quotes of Massumi concerning the relation of objects to becoming, it should be easy for him to defend against the critiques at least as stated, and he does so successfully  There is not an absolute distinction between being and becoming in Americanist process metaphysics, e.g., Whitehead, especially since once you piivilege one side explaining the other becomes problematic.  That has been a process philosopher mantra, and if we include Buddhism (cf Nagarjuna) as I would recommend, that mantra has been around for a loooong time.

There are a lot of reasons, aside from plain ol' criticism, not to stick with Whitehead.  I follow William James on this point and would accept "temperament" as an answer.  One still has to contend with the past, but "slaying the master" is not the only way.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Response to Graham Harman


Harman responds to a prior post here.

Before I begin to respond, I do want to be very clear.  My question about what under- and over-mining is, was an honest one.  I do not ask questions or be critical to score points, which would not benefit me anyway.  I also did not address it to anyone in particular, despite what Harman says.

When Harman kindly answers my question--thank you sir--I am not implying that he is "attempting to conceal my [his] sources."  It was an open question, and it has become less obvious what the answer might be given the seemingly increasing divergence of the OOO field.  I do not think that "classical" should be considered a derogatory term, by the way, especially since I am a specialist in classical, neoclassical, and neo-pragmatism.  I have been somewhat critical of Harman per what seems to be an absolutist concept of withdrawal and thus my preference for Levi's, but I leave detailed criticisms to OOO scholars.  They have supplied commentary, and I am thankful that some of my concerns and educated opinions were not entirely inaccurate.

Finally, I really wish that Harman and Levi would realize that I do not share many of Leon's opinions or the bad blood between them.  I suspect those prior feuds have lead to months of misinterpreting my intentions and to posts such as Harmans, which presumes that I was talking about him.  It saddens me really.  Consider this a reaching out, gentlemen.

My Recent Scholarship

I managed to do three things over the holiday break. I completed the final revisions on my article proposing a pragmatic theory of imagination that is processional and realist in the American tradition's senses of those terms. Second, I sent out another article dealing with logical problems in Dewey's theory of experience, which explains the basis of a realist theory of phenomenological intentionality as a corollary. Third, I submitted another article defending pragmatism and phenomenology; It's not just for Husserlians. Now, I just need my book to finish  revising itself....

Question to the OOO Community

I have a question.  It just occurred to me that I do not know who OOO is "against;" i.e., who are the opponents of object-oriented philosophy?

I can think of many differing positions, but who is actively arguing against it?  I am not, as I do not mean to include critical commentary from the sidelines like mine, since criticism and opposition are two different things.  Harman et all are obviously reacting to someone, who is it?


Undermining and Overmining

... are they the new "reductivism" and "master narrative?"  That is, rather than accuse someone of reducing this to that or providing a master narrative of phenomena that lurks behind them as puppet-master, we now accuse someone of under- or over-mining?

My point?

Is this really a new concept, or just a re-deployment of an old one?  I am fond of the latter move, though I do insist that we realize what it is.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Update on Scholarship

An update for those interested.

1.  I finally completed the final revision of my essay on pragmatist aesthetics.  I proposed a theory that explains how imagination extends the environment into the possible.  That is, much of our "intelligence" consists in our ability to convert natural potenticies into anticipated possibilities of action that we may then symbolicly represent and consciously mediate.  The account is processional, phenomenological, realist, naturalist, and pragmatist.

2.  Submitted a long-belated article on a logical problem (contradiction) in Dewey's theory of experience.  The solution also gives a  theory of phenomenological intentionality that is, per above, processional, realist, naturalist, and pragmatist.  Both play nice with science, unlike Husserl.

3.  If you've seen the previous post ....  I'm aiming to try to finish my book this semester; last semester was too hectic for me to do anything--even breath.  1 and 2 are advances well beyond my book, which is a major revision of my dissertation.  By the time the book is done, I hope to have a better handle on the intricacies of creative, processional metaphysics so that I can better defend a realist, emergent naturalist phenomenology.  Most people have problems with the emergence part, as most are epiphenomenolist, i.e., believe that conscious states "free ride" on physical states without a real relation or causal efficacy.

Rewritten Introduction To My Book


I decided that the introductory paragraph of my book lacked clarity and punch.  Below is a draft of what is replacing it.  It concerns valuation, process metaphysic, and realistic and naturalistic phenomenology that is not Husserlian.



John Dewey’s theories of valuation, experience, and inquiry are contradictory because they share a fundamental flaw.  Dewey insists that our impulses, interests, and motivations, are always available for reflective analysis, evaluation, and amelioration (cite).  He is both wrong and inconsistent on the matter.  By his own theories, desire is not always ideational, and therefore our deepest impulses, momentary interests, and true motivations may evade reflective recuperation.  Admitting fallibility is not a solution, especially when the opaqueness of desire to thought is structurally necessary.  Dewey fails to confront the problem, which positions him to commit the hubris of technocratic thinking villified by Reinhold Niebhur.

Most extant scholarship either denies (Lekan or other guy), avoids (Hickman, most everyone), or dances around the issue (debate on Dewey and tragedy).  The scholars who address it (Boisvert, Stuhr, Wilshire, etc.) do not fix the problem.  The few who address it suffer a scholarly backlash (Gouinlock—conservative, Kestenbaum—accused of radical re-reading, Lachs vs. Stroud) unless they do so by extending Dewey’s work rather than directly critiquing it (Alexander per cultural naturalism, Schusterman per somaestehtics, Stuhr)

My goal is to rehabilitate Dewey’s theories of valuation, experience, and inquiry by excising the flaw.  Doing so requires answering the following question.  How is desire presented to thought so as to become meaningful, and how do we achieve reflective control over desire?  My answer builds upon prior scholarship, especially Gouinlock, Alexander, and Kestenbaum, to yield a Deweyan theory of the conscious representation of desire.  Given this theory, I reinterpret and rehabilitate Dewey’s method for the the first-person reflective control of desire given in the 1932 Ethics and perfected in Theory of Valuation.  In the process, I will achieve two goals that surpass resolving the flaw and render this work to be of great interest beyond Dewey scholars.  First, I will unify Dewey’s theories of habit, quality, and experience through interpreting his thought as thoroughly processional.  Second, and building on the first, I will offer a preliminary realistic and naturalistic phenomenology that is completely independent of Husserl and his heirs.
There was an error in this gadget