Thursday, May 31, 2012

Limited Horizons Published!

My article "Limited Horizons: The Habitual Basis of the Imagination" has been published in the Transactions of the C.S. Peirce Society, Vol. 48, No. 1 (Winter 2011): 71-102.

In short, I claim that if you cannot imagine something, then you cannot experience it as meaningful. As a teacher, I face this in every class wherein the students understand my words, but cannot imagine what the would would be like if they were true, as they struggle to come to grips with them.

In long, I claim that if you cannot imagine a possibility or a line of action, then you cannot experience it as meaningful. The limit of imaginable possibilities is the "horizon" of imagination, and it is limited by what is not imagined or thought but it only signified, the operation of habit. Habit is proximately determined, in as much as that can be said, by sociality, culture, civilization, etc.

Sometimes I tell my students that we philosophers are necromancers of the dead, as we bring mummified ideas to life so that they may live again. Intone the words of this book, and you will know the secrets passed down from the ancients.... We need this because we are so caught in the sorcery of our own culture that only necromancy might turn our heads around to see from what we have come. Sadly, the article is technical and not mythic--no zombies.

If someone is curious about why I herald the danger of aestheticizing everything, as our times are want to do, I have more than a little to say about it in that article. We limit our imaginal horizon to a particular aesthetic, and then "see" goodness with our eyes rather than our hearts or minds and perhaps can no longer tell the difference.

Why are Physicists Hating on Philosophy and Philosophers?

NPR has a fantastic article up on "Why Are Physicists Hating on Philosophy and Philosophers?"

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Harman Critiques Bryant

Graham Harman has posted a comparison of himself and Levi Bryant, which I find very informative, and I would like to emphasize a critical point:

"The danger is that we become trapped in a model in which the real is too indeterminate and the sensual is too determinate– a model in which the real apple has no qualities but just capacities, while the apple of experience is overly defined by all of its qualities, so that an added fleck of color as I rotate the apple is enough to constitute a brand new apple of experience.

In other words, the real apple would be undermined (by turning it into a capacity rather than an object) while the sensual apple would be overmined (by turning it into a bundle of qualities). This is, I think, one of the primary dangers faced by Levi’s philosophy as it goes forward, and I believe his lack of interest in Husserl (quite common among those of Deleuzian inspiration) will make him pay a price. For it is only from Husserl that we learn the flaws in the “bundle of qualities” theory of experienced objects.

It follows from this point that Levi doesn’t see the experienced world as itself split between objects and qualities, so there is no internal tension within the sensual realm for him."

I would disagree that we learn that "only from Husserl," but that's beside the point, as the last of my quoted lines is exactly the line of criticism that I have been pointing at, though from a completely different and informative angle. For us non-specialists, we can but nudge and motivate a critique.

In closing, I agree with Harman that Berry's post was not "sufficiently useful" to merit a response. Though it was thought-provoking, an internationally known scholar is likely only to respond to a criticism that is either novel or crystallizes a problem. I think there was too much invective and lack of clarity, but let this be a challenge to him to produce a publishable-level articulation. As for myself, I will get back to the criticism for which I am a specialist ... let me tell you the dangers of supposing that all desire is available to reflective and cognitive awareness....

CFP: Charles S. Peirce Society Essay Contest

The Charles S. Peirce Society 
Essay Contest 
Topic: Any topic on or related to the work of Charles Sanders Peirce. 

Awards: $500 cash prize; presentation at the Society's next annual meeting, held in conjunction with the Central APA (in New Orleans, Louisiana, USA, February 20-23, 2013); possible publication, subject to editorial revision, in the Transactions of the Charles S. Peirce Society.

Submission Deadline: October 1, 2012

Length: Because the winning essay may be published in the Transactions, the length of contest submissions should be about the length of an average journal article. The maximum acceptable length is 10,000 words, including notes. The presentation of the winning submission at the annual meeting cannot exceed 30 minutes reading time.

Open to: Graduate students and persons who have held a Ph.D. or its equivalent for no more than seven years. Entries from students who have not yet begun their graduate training will not be considered. Past winners of the contest are ineligible. Joint submissions are allowed provided that all authors satisfy the eligibility requirements.

Advice to Essay Contest Entrants: The winning entry will make a genuine contribution to the literature on Peirce. Therefore, entrants should become familiar with the major currents of work on Peirce to date and take care to locate their views in relation to published material that bears directly on their topic.

Entrants should note that scholarly work on Peirce frequently benefits from the explicit consideration of the historical development of his views. Even a submission that focuses on a single stage in that development can benefit from noting the stage on which it focuses in reference to other phases of Peirce's treatment of the topic under consideration. (This advice is not intended to reflect a bias toward chronological studies, but merely to express a strong preference for a chronologically informed understanding of Peirce's philosophy.)

We do not require but strongly encourage, where appropriate, citation of the Writings of Charles S. Peirce: A Chronological Edition. Ideally, citation of texts found in both the Collected Papers and theWritings should be to both CP and W.

Submissions should be prepared for blind evaluation and must not be under consideration for publication elsewhere.

Cover letter or email should include complete contact information, including mailing address and phone numbers, and a statement that the entrant meets the eligibility requirements of the contest. Electronic submissions are preferred. Submissions should be sent as email attachments (Microsoft Word documents, RTF files, or PDF files only) to Robert Lane, secretary-treasurer of the Society: rlane "at" westga "dot" edu . Please include "Peirce Essay Contest Submission" in the subject line of your email.

Submissions by traditional mail are also acceptable. Please mail submissions to:

Robert Lane
Philosophy Program
University of West Georgia
Carrollton, GA 30118

Attn: Peirce Essay Contest

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

The Contradiction of Object-Oriented Ontology

It was requested that I repost a condensed version of my argument about why certain forms of object-oriented ontology are inherently contradictory. Levi and any other scholar that uses this method will have the same problem. I will establish the context and then give the argument.

In a comment on Matt's blog, Levi writes,

"Yes Jason, I’m a nominalist and believe that mathematical and logical generality is only a syntactic phenomena. I don’t see that as a “problem”, but as a real feature of the world. I would also disagree with the thesis that signification can exist without these [neurological] systems.

As for Matt’s question about how “matter forms itself”, this is already an odd question that begs the question. Matter doesn’t “form itself”. It is always already formed. That form can take new forms as a result of interactions between new entities, but there’s just no such thing as unformed matter. Again Matt reveals way in which the analogy to the craftsman works in his thought. He’s the one under the burden to show that there is unformed matter, not me."

I discuss how Levi continually misrepresents his interlocutors and then challenge him to respond to the following.

"Let me repeat my core argument that I posted on my blog awhile ago that explains the problem of methodology that, prima facie, Levi must overcome.

Given a standpoint of scholastic realism, which argues against the post-Kantian positions of most continentals, for which there are excellent arguments, abduction as an inference is no longer simply reducible to anthropocentrism. [This is my view.] If one accepts the contrary, nominalism, then abductive inference is simply reducible to anthropocentrism given the necessity of abductive criteria.

“Form” is a logical tool arrived at via abduction, and it offers an explanation for real phenomena that many opponents either do not explain or explain away, such as explaining intentionality or qualitative consciousness. A “form” does not exist, and not “form” or “general descriptive category of reality” is particular. All matter is “formed,” for both Matt and myself, but you, Levi, cannot use the word “form,” “structure,” etc. without equivocation since you deny real generality. I’ve discussed ways out of this problem on my blog, but you seem to want it both ways. Feel free to cite pages of your works that would correct me."

In the first passage, I show that Levi's use of "transcendental" method commits him to either begging the question or contradicting himself, since he must give some reason for making any inference in his adoption of transcendental method, yet any reason he gives is prima facie from his own anthropocentric perspective. (See my earlier post today where someone else discusses this problem of OOO.) Since he is also an avowed nominalist, which is to believe that only particulars exist and no real general descriptions can be given, then he cannot use the transcendental method to escape from anthropocentrism, since any claim he makes at any time cannot generalize by his own admission. In conclusion, he must either reject the transcendental or any equivalent method, or his "flat ontology" since he must elevate himself as a special object telling us what the other objects must be, i.e., anthropocentrism.

I cannot write this with certainty, but I am sure that Harman does not use this method, and I cannot speak to Morton, Boghost, etc.

Object-Oriented Ontology and Politics: The Debate Continued

Levi of Larval Subjects has responded to David of Stunlaw blogging about object-oriented ontology and politics. I would rather that he respond to Throne's critique, which appears the better of the two.

I will weigh-in shortly, mostly upon the uses of OOO about which I will likely be kinder.


David is not charitable when he writes “I am working through Ian Bogost’s (2012) work as a representative example of object-oriented ontology and allow it to stand in for the varieties of speculative realism,” since no movement should be reduced to the work of one scholar, especially when that scholar is not a founder of the movement.  Throughout his discussion, he makes a lot of good points, but also is uncharitable. Regardless, his ultimate conclusion appears sound when he claims that OOO is engaged in a “performative contradiction” and “unexamined formalism.”

In general, David of Stunlaw notes the same thing that I do. OOO  appears to contain a methodological contradiction, since any method used to describe objects must be used from the human-object perspective, and unless one adopts some way of overcoming a reduction to perspective, which a nominalist is not likely to achieve, the human object becomes special. Stunlaw writes, responding to Boghost,

“But of course there is a connection, a link, a thread, performed by the philosographer who chooses consciously or unconsciously the elements that make up the chain, and which are inscribed in books and articles. The use of object-oriented ontology, then, is bound up in its apparent conservatism which rallies at the temerity of human-beings to believe in themselves, their politics, and their specialness.”

The trace of the particular OOO scholar runs through the work, and it is up to the scholar to explain how this is not the case, especially when talking about value fields such as politics.

Levi’s response to David is, for the most part, besides the point. I recommend a response in the form of a scholastic disputation, wherein a scholar charitably summarizes the opposing positions and then refutes them directly. Yes, Levi has written a lot about politics, but is this not in fact against the claimed foundation of OOO? Why should not objects destroy each other? Give me a valuation without begging the question. Any response to this question that I can imagine is likely to contradict a basic tenet of OOO. I have not seen Harman make this error, and I cannot comment on the other OOO scholars as I have insufficient exposure to their work, so I think that a response is possible while remaining coherent. But then they still suffer the charge of constructing empty formalisms. If I am identifying foundational and methodological problems, then any object-oriented philosopher is extremely likely to have this problem unless an ingenious solution is found. That solution must be demonstrated, and in the case of Harman, I suspect he will be found internally consistent, though that is not the only virtue a metaphysics should have.

John Dewey's Concept of Natural Freedom

An encounter between myself and Ed Hackett of The Philosophical Chasm blog has lead me to revise a portion of my book to make Dewey's notion of human freedom clearer. He rejects the modernist notion, but in doing so, he commits himself to rethinking much of the "value fields" of philosophy, including ethics, politics, etc. Below is part of my response, and I would like to thank Ed for making its necessary inclusion apparent.

            "The concept of freedom, for Dewey, is not based on the modern notion of freedom from causal determinacy. In that view, we are free if a thought determines itself apart from the influence of nature, yet this is possible only if thought is not natural, which Dewey rejects. Instead, his concept of freedom is based on creativity. We are “free” if we are able to participate in the world such to create new potentialities for action that are also new experiences and meanings. Thus, the contest between impulsive and intelligent desire is also between withering and growing possibilities. Freedom or agency is realized in and through the immanent determination of the object of desire.[ii]"

[i]           James Gouinlock, John Dewey’s Philosophy of Value (New York: Humanities Press, 1972), 242; see also 264.
[ii]           See also Gouinlock, John Dewey’s Philosophy of Value, 282-286.

Monday, May 28, 2012

The Asymmetric Continuity of Experience and Nature

Once again, I offer a passage from the book on John Dewey that I am editing concerning the relation of his metaphysics and phenomenology. I will supply a bit of background. The "postulate of immediate empiricism"is his first prominent avowal of a phenomenological method ("The Postulate of Immediate Empiricism,"1905), which was superceded by the "denotative-empirical method" (Experience and Nature, 1925). Many have misunderstood Dewey because they did not recognize that for him experience is asymmetric and continuous with nature, including his own scholars.

"In transitioning from the postulate of immediate empiricism to the denotative method, we see the mature articulation of the relationship of experience and nature. Experience is an emergent phenomenon and is the result of natural transactions that reveal potentialities of nature, yet the relation of experience and nature is asymmetric. For instance, and contra Richard Bernstein, experienced meaning is not reducible to some underlying truth without denying the reality of experience and likewise denying the continuity of experience and nature. Since Berstein denied the continuity of experience and nature, he could not understand why Dewey began his metaphysics with a study of experience. If experience is continuous with nature, then experience should not be treated as a medium to get at something beyond itself, and one critical purpose of Dewey’s metaphysics is to remind us of that. However, experience is not identical with nature. Given the prominence of continuity, it is time for a full articulation of Dewey’ theory of continuity followed by his theory of situations as an entry into his phenomenology."

The theory of continuity is how Dewey is a scholastic realist, but the full details require an explication of his theory of situations. His fundamental descriptive categories, about which he is a scholastic realist, are called the "generic traits of existence." They are all equi-primordial (irreducible) ontological descriptions.

One criticism that I launch in my book is that Dewey misunderstood the implications of his theories, especially phenomenological semiotics and hermeneutics.

This is an edited passage from copyrighted material to which I reserve all rights.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Realist Process Phenomenology in the Pragmatist Tradition

Below is a passage from my book manuscript that explains Dewey’s Hegelian empiricism and phenomenology. Reading Dewey as a Lockean (or Kantian) has lead to generations of misinterpretation, and outside of pragmatist scholars this mistake and its implications are virtually unknown. Rorty knowingly severed this aspect of Dewey in his reading, as he willfully ignored Dewey’s metaphysics, but at least he was explicit and honest about it. Regular readers of this blog know that I work in “realist process phenomenology,” and this section should crystallize many previous posts. The metaphysics grounding my view is neo-Aristotelian (“neo” to the Nth power), which is crucial for the  presuppositions about temporality, and includes dialectical thinking. Of course, there is much more to the metaphysics, but I mention these two points since they are departures from the Peircean elements that I frequently mention.

In “The Postulate of Immediate Empiricism,” Dewey attempted to define immediate empiricism as “a presupposition as to what experience is and means” (MW 3:158; 74). Thomas Alexander calls this a “presupposition” or “attitude” that is the “postulate and criterion of immediate empiricism.” He is alluding to the natural versus phenomenological “attitude” of Husserl that is a methodological presupposition for a phenomenological analysis of experience. The postulate is “immediate empiricism postulates that things—anything, everything in the ordinary or non-technical use of the term ‘thing’—are what they are experienced as” (MW 4:158; 74). This is neither a naive realism nor subjectivism. Alexander explains the postulate in terms of the history of empiricism and idealism.

Consider the term “immediate.” It refers to something in direct contact that is not separated by a medium. With Descartes and then Locke, what are immediate to mind are ideas, which represent the external world. This leads to Humean skepticism, because the representation of the external world is a postulate that cannot be proven. The tradition of Kant and Hegel offered an alternative: the mind must mediate what is presented to it. There must be something immediate before the mind to inform its content, but in mind it is a “mediated immediacy.” According to the tradition of Fichte, Schelling, and Hegel, this revealed mind to be a self-transcending process that thereby grasps itself. Knowledge as self-knowledge is therefore possible as the result of a historic and temporal process that culminates in the Absolute’s knowing itself. Because such knowledge is internally related, as opposed to the external relations of the British empiricists, the Absolute grasps itself as an organic whole. Hence, immediacy then refers to the “immanent organic wholeness of the temporal process instead of a static relation of a mind to an idea.”

Dewey's initial phenomenological method was misunderstood, Alexander explains, because his contemporaries worked in the tradition of Locke rather than Hegel. For Dewey there would be no problem with experience being immediate, organic, temporal, internally mediated; he offered a naturalized Hegelian view. The postulate was not that “‘subjective appearances are reality,’ but that the present moment of experience is a dynamic orientation to a whole process; it is the attempt to organize that process [experience] into a unity. Alexander emphasizes the “temporal teleological structure of such a process; the attitude taken [towards the world] will reflect a certain perspective on the past as past and the future as future.” An act in the process is also an act of interpretation since it must select some plan of action to reconfigure ongoing activity. The intelligent articulation of experience is not a matter of overcoming immediacy to get mediated experience as knowledge. It is a matter of “investigating the possibilities inherent in the present to reconstruct itself,” which as knowledge “arises from the way we are in the world.”

The postulate of immediate empiricism entails that experience is a process that reconstructs the immediately given experience into a mediated experience. The reconstruction is internal to the process in which the present moment is dynamically oriented to the remembered past and anticipated future. The orientation reflects an attitude taken towards the world that selects a certain temporal perspective and the potentialities so afforded. Each act is also an interpretation as it is a selection of potentialities and thereby funds experience with new meaning. This process will be discussed later in detail.

An implication of this, writes Alexander, is that there are “other attitudes toward the world than those of trying to ‘know’ it,” which is a departure from both Hegelian idealisms and Lockean empiricisms. This leads to the distinction between reality as known and as encountered in other types of experience.

I hold the copyright to the text from which this selection is lightly edited.  Posting it should not be construed as granting rights to any entity.

Friday, May 25, 2012

CFP: Hermeneutics of Interpreting Philosophical Classics East and West

Hermeneutics of Interpreting Philosophical Classics: East and West 2013
February 22nd-25th, 2013, University of Hawai’i at Manoa


The Department of Philosophy at the University of Hawai’i at Manoa will hold a conference on the Hermeneutics of Interpreting Philosophical Classics: East and West. The chair of the conference, Professor Chung-ying Cheng, invites submissions on a wide range of topics. Suggested topics include the following:

* Philosophical hermeneutics and /or onto-hermeneutics in relation to philosophical issues or problems.
* How does a philosophical tradition stand in relation to us?
* The nature and function of a philosophical tradition within a community, or in a globalized world.
* What are the available methodologies of interpretation within a given tradition: east and west?
* Hermeneutical interpretation across or within a tradition.
* What are the foundations (the how and why) of interpretation?
* What is involved in interpretation; what is the nature of understanding or perspectives of understanding within interpretation?
* Interpretation and philosophy of the human mind.
* Understanding, knowledge, and truth.
* Comparison of approaches: Gadamer, Ricoeur, and others.
* Hermeneutics and ethical or aesthetic issues.

We think that it is high time to consider hermeneutics in the context of understanding and the harmonious relating of human beings. Participants shall present their paper within 30 minutes, followed by open panel discussion. Each paper will also be considered for publication in the Journal of Chinese Philosophy. Submissions should not exceed 8000 words, and should be accompanied by an abstract of 250 words and a CV of 200 words. All submissions will be reviewed for quality and appropriateness to the subjects of the conference. Submissions must be submitted electronically to Attachments in either *.pdf, *.doc, or *.rtf format are preferable. *The deadline for abstracts is July 31st, 2012*.

*For more information* about the conference please visit the conference website at, or email conference staff at UHHC2013@hawaii.eduThis conference will involve a number of prominent scholars of hermeneutics from China and the United States. We will be able to provide room and board for three nights (Friday, Saturday, and Sunday) during the conference. However participants will be responsible for their own travel expenses.

Why Reading Is a Lost Art

Many scholars, academics, teachers, and intellectuals claim that people do not read anymore. When philosophers complain, it is usually to say that another academic interlocutor is not carefully reading that person’s claims and being a fair interpreter. What is going wrong?

Most frequently a philosopher insists that the appropriate texts are not being read at all, not carefully, not sympathetically, not with the appropriate background, etc. These may all be true, but let me suggest a two-part reason that is not obvious.

First, readers often do not attend to the network of words or ideas in a text, which implies how a singular word functions as part of the whole. When reading an unfamiliar work, whether an original work or a text from a tradition with which one is not familiar, one should note the denotations, connotations, diction, the actual work it performs, etc. in a work. This requires an uncommon attentiveness and discernment, but it also requires that the author pay some attention to this when writing. An author who has not done this, arguably, is not worth giving the time for an attentive reading.

A perfect example of this is when a reader balks upon seeing a certain word. In my experience, “phenomenology” is frequently such a word. When I use it, a reader typically thinks “Husserlian phenomenology” and is sympathetic or venomous depending upon one’s predispositions. I wish I were making this up, but I am not, and in my own work I constantly remind readers that phenomenology as a method was popularized by Husserl, but that there are many other phenomenologies, some of which predate him by decades. Some of them use the word “phenomenology” and some do not. Just as an author should write for attentive reading, a reader is usually at fault for not giving it.

I admit that I am taking a stand on this first point, because I would remind my fellow philosophers that we purport to be writing technical nonfiction, and though we may write in many literary genres, the emphasis on developing systems of thought should be constant. That said, I would also argue that this applies to most western and eastern philosophies, a claim that might shock, because each genre has its conventions with which a reader should become familiar. Lao Tzu is clear, but part of his genre’s expectations are not written in the work itself, and the reader should familiarize oneself in advance, especially since all philosophy should not be judged by contemporary academic conventions. An experienced reader should be able to identify one’s own genre expectations and whether the text is within one’s own known orbit of genre expectations. If not, then far more charity must be given.

Second, and this becomes a monolithic problem when reading a philosophical tradition within which one is not trained, is the problem of how to think a concept. Texts invoke ideas and networks of ideas. Some genres, notably analytic genres, attempt to “be clear” by allowing a simple correspondence of the written word and the ideas thought.  (Apologies if I am too presumptuous here.)  Others, notably continental and historic genres, implicitly require rigorous training in how to think a concept. One must know the root metaphor by which to think it, which is a matter of theory and knowledge, but must also have the practical ability to think the metaphor correctly. I have had this conversation with a number of analytics over the years, and they think it odd and often unnecessary, while the continentals grasp the issue immediately.  Historians give me the “well, duh!” look. There are a number of qualifications that could be given on this point, yet I do not want to be bogged down in them.

Dialectic is an example. One can explain in great detail what it is as a method of conceiving a concept, but demonstration of understanding requires a performance of it. Further experience and training allows a flexibility and subtlety of thought in its employment, perhaps to the point where only the most astute reader recognizes a concept as dialectical.

The issues that I am pointing at in the second case are that there are limitations to anyone’s ability to 1) externalize one’s own thought and 2) represent it in such a way that 3) it is well communicated. Different traditions require different training, and sadly, I see far too little emphasis on this in philosophical studies in the U.S. outside of historically-focused programs. 

Let’s keep it real. I’ve had a few tussles in the local blogosphere, and more and more I discover that part of the problem is a large schism in the kind and extent of training that different individuals have. Aside from the point of whether I am successful at bridging these schisms, which I will admit is not always a priority for me, I do wish to make them apparent since I do not think that communication can possibly be productive until this is acknowledged. I gladly accept the charge that pragmatism, especially what I discuss, employs radically different “networks of words and ideas” than those commonly familiar to readers. But that is also the point of my blog and my work—to explore the radically different side of a tradition, the dark side of the moon, whereas so many see only the lighted side. The friendly, familiar, but also sterile side. Welcome to the dark, where beastly ideas lurk.

CFP: U.S. Intellectual History

Call for Papers: U.S. Intellectual History
Communities of Discourse

Fifth Annual Conference and Annual Meeting of the Society for U.S. Intellectual History
Co-sponsored and hosted by the Center for the Humanities,
The Graduate Center of the City University of New York
New York City 

November 1-2, 2012
Submission deadline: June 1, 2012

The Society for U.S. Intellectual History (S-USIH) invites panel proposals for its fifth annual conference to be held at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York on November 1-2, 2012. S-USIH is very pleased to announce that the keynote address will be delivered by David A. Hollinger, Preston Hotchkis Professor of American History at the University of California-Berkeley.

This year’s conference theme is “Communities of Discourse.” The theme highlights the fact that communities are essential to intellectual life. Intellectual historians often focus on individual figures, yet individuals are always embedded in wider communities of intellectual exchange. In addition, intellectual historians are themselves situated in communities of exchange that include not only other historians, but also academics from a broad range of fields (including literature, political science, communications, religion, sociology, anthropology, art history) and the wider public as well. The conference committee invites participants to reflect on all aspects of communities of discourse and the study of intellectual history. Although proposals that relate to the theme are particularly welcome, the committee will accept submissions that are relevant to any aspect of the study of American thought.

Given the growing popularity of the conference, the committee is introducing a number of new submission rules in order to ensure fairness. Please read carefully. We will only accept submission of complete panels and will no longer accept individual paper submissions. Panel submissions must include an abstract of each presentation, a separate description of the panel itself, and one-page CVs including the relevant means of contact for all participants. Abstracts for individual presentations should be no longer than 250 words; panel abstracts should be no longer than 500 words.

Please observe the following:

1. The number of participants in each session will vary with the format but each panel should have a chair. We will accept the following formats:

a. Traditional panels: Sessions featuring three academic papers and one commentator, who will also serve as the panel chair.

b. Roundtables: A series of ten-minute extemporaneous presentations on a topic followed by discussion among the panel and audience.

c. Discussion panels: Sessions in which the papers are circulated online prior to the conference. The entire session is devoted to discussions of the papers.

d. Brownbags: One-hour long presentations during the lunch period.

2. Each panel submission must indicate a panel organizer, who will serve as the point of contact for the conference committee.

3. The committee is especially eager to ensure a diverse representation of participants at the conference. All academic considerations being equal, panels will be selected whose participants contribute to that goal.

4. Participation will be limited to once on the program, so a person should only join one panel submission.

5. The committee assumes that submission to the conference is an indication that participants will be attending the entire conference. We are unable to accommodate scheduling requests.

6. All persons appearing on the program must become members of S-USIH and register for the conference in advance.

7. Deadline for submissions is June 1, 2012. All submissions must be emailed as attachments in MS Word or .pdf format.

Send all submissions to:
2012 Conference Committee

Other queries may be directed to:
David Sehat, 2012 Conference Committee Chair

Creation and Destruction of Worlds: Americanists and Materialists

Matt of Footnotes to Plato and Levi of Larval Subjects are going at it again.

I have copied my comment on Matt's post below.  In general, I insist that Levi's arguments are beside the point, and given that this has been discussed for at least nine months, I can only conclude that Levi is committing fallacious reasoning or a misinterpretation leading to that. Particularly, he continues to read classical Aristotelian views into myself, Matt, and Whitehead that are not there, and rebukes all patient efforts to correct him on that point. I give some detailed explanation below.


In responding to you, Levi writes "The concept of formal causality only makes sense and is required if one advocates the view that there’s unformed passive matter awaiting form to give it structure." I disagree and would like to know if your thinking aligns with mine on the issue.  As I have been explicating for some time, another reason to argue for "form" other than for the Aristotelian reasons to which Levi alludes, is to argue for scholastic realism.  This is to argue against nominalism, the idea that only particular things exsist, and therefore no general or universal statements can be made about anything that exists. If one adopts nominalism, many implications follow. So, when I advocate "form," I am merely saying that there is some real structures and qualities (predicates) to a thing that have true generality and are not singular to that thing. I am not, contra Levi, arguing for "unformed matter," which is a strictly Aristotelian view that you and I have been rejecting. Matt, you've posted a lot on Whitehead's view, which is different from my more Peircean view, but I believe this can be said of both of us, no? Perhaps both of us would agree that a given "form" or structure is not absolute, but I'm not 100% certain that can be said of Whitehead, though it can be certainly said of Peirce as its an implication of his theory of synechism (continuity) relating to tychism (chance).

If one accepts materialism, implying the existence that only the material exists, then true unviersality or generality is impossible, and one almost certainly embraces nominalism. For us robust realists, that is a reduction, and that is also a point that Deacon is making. That is, we are disagreeing with Levi's claim that "While signifying systems can’t exist without electro-neural-chemical systems, we would learn next to nothing about a particular signifying system by studying neurology." Signification can exist without these systems, though it may not be the kind of "signification" that one is familiar with from Frege's logic; it is Peirce's logic.

Is not this ongoing issue beside the point? Or am I missing something? What is on point? I ask these question out of hermeneutic charity.

A thought.  Is Levi arguing for emergence without purposiveness? E.g., creativity without emergent teleology?

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Summary of How Nature Thinks: John Dewey and the Unification of Phenomenology and Metaphysics

Here is a tentative outline of the book that I have been editing. It should be interesting for those interested in non-Husserlian and realist phenomenologies, non-Whiteheadian process metaphysics, emergent naturalism, aesthetics, and pragmatist thought in general. Most of my editing has been in a sizeable restructuring of the book to make it more accessible to a general audience and to pragmatist scholars who are not also phenomenologists in any sense or tradition.

Consider an outline of the book. Chapter One, “Introduction,” addresses the general problem of how intelligence and agency are possible if impulsivity and desire occur first and constitute them. Since unthinking impulse is the contrary of intelligence and agency, how could the latter arise from the former? Part of the solution requires systematizing Dewey’s unification of phenomenology and metaphysics to show how we become conscious of an encounter and establish cognitive control leading to intelligent behavior. I identify Dewey’s question-begging assumption, that impulsive desire is always in principle open to conscious control, and propose a creative solution that preserves the historic spirit of his thought while laying a foundation for contemporary applications. The chapter concludes with distinguishing Deweyan phenomenology from the Husserlian tradition of phenomenology, with which it has little similarity.

Chapters Two and Three, “The Metaphysics of Experience” and “The Embodied Mind,” introduce basic concepts in Deweyan metaphysics and phenomenology through exploring Thomas Alexander’s John Dewey’s Theory of Art, Experience & Nature: Horizons of Feeling. This includes explanations of Dewey’s theories of experience, continuity, situations, meaning, and the denotative-empirical method. Most importantly, the chapters explicate Alexander’s account of the “temporal teleological structure” of the “situation,” which is a particular interpretation of Deweyan temporality and emergent teleology that I will adopt and extend. Throughout the chapters, I exhibit the basics of Dewey’s non-Husserlian phenomenology and non-Whiteheadian process metaphysics.

Chapter Four, “,” re-introduces the general problem of establishing self-control over impulses through a detailed textual analysis of Dewey’s works on several topics: how “desire” as part of a process of valuation, what is “self-control” and how it is achieved, what is is a “choice” and how do we become aware of likely choices, and more. Progressing through the topics gives the reader a cumulative picture of the dilemma of wrestling real choices from unconscious impulses, while offering some provisional solutions. The chapter indicates the need for “idealization” of desire tat allows for the apprehension of unwitting inclinations.

Chapter Five, “The Methodological Thematization of Desire,” applies the interpretive framework developed in chapters two and three to the topics broached in chapter four. I revisit the provisional solutions of chapter four and refigure them within the earlier framework, and it is at this point that the book ceases to be an explication and commentary on historic scholarship and commences being a contemporary work.

Chapter Six, “Conclusion” discusses the implications. [I am going to rewrite this twenty-page conclusion.]

Below is the original table of contents for the manuscript. The section headings are informative. The "generic traits of existence" are Dewey's equivalent of universal descriptive categories.

CHAPTER 1 – Introduction........................................................................................... 1
            §1  Phenomenological Pragmatism.................................................................... 11
            §2  Summary.................................................................................................. 14
            §3  Conclusion................................................................................................. 23
CHAPTER 2 – Review of Literature............................................................................ 25
            §1  Melvin Rogers' Phenomenological Reading of Dewey................................ 27
            §2  Bruce Wilshire and the Problem of Thematization..................................... 34
            §3  Raymond Boisvert and the Necessity of Tragic Blindness......................... 39
            §4  James Gouinlock and Seeing Limitation as Limitation................................ 41
            §5  James Gouinlock on Desire, Intelligence, and Freedom.............................. 43
CHAPTER 3 – The Aesthetic of Experience............................................................... 50
            §1  The Metaphysics of Experience................................................................. 52
              historic criticism reveals three issues.............................................................. 53
              the postulate of immediate empiricism........................................................... 55
              the generic traits of existence........................................................................ 61
              the principle of continuity.............................................................................. 68
              the theory of situations................................................................................... 72
              conclusion..................................................................................................... 81
            §2  The Embodied Mind................................................................................... 83
              the act as the unit of meaning........................................................................ 84
              the reflex arc concept in psychology.............................................................. 85
              the relation of emotion and impulse................................................................ 93
              the habitual body and structure of action....................................................... 98
              synoptic summary........................................................................................ 103
              conclusion................................................................................................... 108
CHAPTER 4 – The Methodological Thematization of Desire.................................. 115
            §1  Dewey’s Theory of Objects..................................................................... 118
            §2  A Method for Controlling Desire.............................................................. 124
            §3  Dewey’s Theory of Desire....................................................................... 132
            §4  Dewey’s Theory of Emotion.................................................................... 144
            §5  The Methodological Thematization of Felt Emotion................................ 154
            §6  The Temporality of Conscious Desire and Its Thematization................. 161
            §7  The Interpretation of Desire..................................................................... 174
            §8  Conclusion............................................................................................... 180

State of the Blog Update


I would provide a summary of some of the recent updates to the blog. It has always been my intention to be a portal to scholarly and institutional resources on pragmatism and American philosophy as well as provide technical and detailed discussions of classical and neoclassical pragmatism.

Recently, I have greatly expanded the number of links to resources on individual thinkers both in English and in the U.S. and throughout the world in their native languages. I would welcome contributions from any readers, even if it is just a small but established reading group, in any language.

Let me give a list of information, most of which has been recently updated.
1.  Societies, institutes, and archives of classical american philosophers and the living traditions.
2.  A similar list to non-English sources world-wide.
3.  A list of journals that frequently publish articles in classical and neoclassical pragmatism.

4.  An annotated bibliography of introductory readings in classical pragmatism
5.  A glossary of terms for my own research program, phenomenological pragmatism.

I hope to keep building all of these in the future.

CFP: 14th International Meeting on Pragmatism in Sao Paulo

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

CFP: 2013 Society for the Advancement of American Philosophy

March 7-9, 2013
The Richard Stockton College of New Jersey

The Society for the Advancement of American Philosophy cordially invites the submission of papers and proposals for its 40th annual meeting, to be held at Stockton Seaview Resort in Galloway, New Jersey. Papers in all areas of American philosophy are welcome.
One does not need to be a member to submit a paper, but one must be a member in order to present his or her accepted paper. To become a member, please visit the Society’s membership page:
DEADLINE for submissions is September 1, 2012. This is a firm deadline. We will stop accepting submissions at midnight Pacific Standard Time on September 1. Please submit your paper or proposal following the guidelines below.
All submissions must be submitted electronically via the annual meeting website:

Electronic submission requires the following: (1) Submission Title, (2) Submission Type, (3) Author(s) Information, (4) Abstract, (5) Keywords, and (6) a Submission File prepared for blind review.
Anonymity: Papers, Discussion Papers, and Panel Proposals must be suitable for blind review. Please refrain from making references to your own work, your location, or anything obvious that could reveal your identity. If the author’s identity can be determined through self-references, endnotes, etc., the submission may be disqualified. Avoid headers/footers because they often contain information that breaches anonymity. NOTE: MS Word documents can sometimes reveal the author's identity through word tags. Microsoft explains how to change or erase these here:
Number of Submissions: Please note that multiple submissions will not be accepted and that persons participating in invited sessions may not submit to the regular program.
Commentators and Session Chairs: Persons interested in serving in these capacities should contact the 2013 Program Co-Chairs, Felicia Kruse and Dwayne Tunstall, and indicate areas of interest.
Submissions that do not meet the following guidelines will not be considered.
Traditional Paper: Papers should be no longer than 3500 words. Longer papers will not be considered. Submissions must include a 100-150 word abstract Accepted papers will be presented in their entirety by the author during a session and, in most cases, will be followed by a ten minute commentary and a period of open discussion.
Discussion Paper: Papers should be no longer than 6000 words. Submissions must include a 100-150 word abstract. Discussion papers accepted for the program will be made available online prior to the meeting. Those who attend discussion paper sessions are expected to have read the paper in advance. Therefore, authors of discussion papers should prepare a concise summary or introductory statement limited to 10 minutes. The session's remaining time will be devoted to an invited commentary and open discussion. The Program Committee may limit the number of discussion paper sessions due to space constraints in the overall program and their estimation regarding which papers can generate sufficient interest to be read in advance.
Panel Discussion: A panel discussion should provide an opportunity to examine specific problems or topics from a variety of perspectives and should do more than present a set of related papers. Panel proposals should include a description of the issue that the session will address, an explanation of the relevance of this issue to the study of American philosophy or to wider social and philosophical issues, and an indication of how each paper in the panel addresses this issue. Panel Discussion proposals should include: (1) a title, (2) an abstract of 450-600 words for the panel as a whole, and (3) either complete papers (of no more than 3500 words) or abstracts (of no fewer than 600 words) for each paper in the panel. Please do not send a separate file for each panelist.
Author Meets Critics proposals must include:
* Name and affiliation of book's author(s)
* Complete title of the book
* Publication date and name of publisher (only books published in 2012 will be considered)
* Brief statement of the book’s significance for American philosophy and rationale for inclusion in the program
*Names and affiliations of confirmed critics and session organizer, and why they were chosen

The committee anticipates a very limited number of these sessions, perhaps two.
Poster Presentation: Proposals for Poster Presentations should be in the form of a description of the research project to be presented. The description should not be longer than 2600 words and should include a description of its relation to issues in American philosophy or wider social and philosophical issues. The proposal should also include a brief summary of materials to be included in the visual display. Poster Presentations will be on display throughout the meeting, with presenters available in the display area for a designated time during the meeting. Presenters may provide accompanying papers for distribution in the display area.
Book/Article Discussion: Proposals should include a brief summary of the book or article to be discussed and its general relation to American philosophy or wider social and philosophical issues. Proposals should not exceed 1500 words. All accepted book/article discussions will be scheduled as round-table discussion breakfast sessions at the hotel restaurant.
NOTE: To encourage the development of original philosophy rooted in the American tradition while creatively developing it, the SAAP Program Committee plans to set aside a special session to feature such works.  If you would like your paper to be considered for this session, please indicate this in the “Optional Comments” field of your electronic submission.
If you have ideas for special sessions beyond the categories indicated in this CFP, please contact the Program Co-Chairs by July 1.
Please note that only Book Discussions, Poster Presentations, Author Meets Critics, and Panel Proposals can submit with only an abstract.
Please note any AV needs with your online submission by indicating them under “Optional Comments.”
Confirmation: All persons making submissions to the annual meeting website will receive automatic confirmation of receipt of their submission. If you have not received an automatic confirmation within 48 hours, the submitter should contact the Secretary directly. If you have not received notification regarding the Program Committee’s decision about your submission by 15 November, please contact the Secretary.
Scheduling: The Program Committee assumes that it may schedule a paper or session at any time between Thursday at 2:00 p.m., and Saturday late afternoon.
Student Travel Funds: Limited travel funds are available to assist students whose papers are accepted for the program. Please Contact Bill Myers, SAAP Treasurer, for more information,
Prizes: Only papers that are accepted to the regular program, that is, not panels or invited group presentations, are eligible for the Greenlee, Blau, Mellow, Addams, and Inter-American Philosophy Prizes. Papers previously submitted to The Pluralist are not eligible for prizes. For full descriptions of the prizes, please visit the SAAP website:
Greenlee Consideration: If you are currently a student or within five years of having completed your Ph.D, you are eligible for consideration for the Douglas Greenlee Prize. If you fit within these qualifications, please indicate this in your submission by checking “Yes” for “Student” when prompted during the online submission process.
Publication Possibilities: SAAP will plan to publish selected papers from the annual SAAP conference. If your paper is accepted for the annual meeting, it will be considered for publication unless you indicate in your submission under “Comments to Chair” that you do not wish this to be the case. Only those papers that are complete at the time of submission will be considered for publication.


For all correspondence regarding the program content, contact the Program Co-Chairs:
Felicia Kruse 
Southern Illinois University - Carbondale

Dwayne Tunstall
Grand Valley State University

Local Arrangements and Conference Host:
Herman Saatkamp
The Richard Stockton College of New Jersey
Primary contact: Brian Jackson

SAAP Secretary:
Chris Voparil
Union Institute & University

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