Saturday, March 31, 2012

What is an Object?

From my "Limited Horizons:"

In summary, an "object" manifests from the activity of resisting something in the environment. Such activity disintegrates the habitual unity of impulses and frees them to recoil inward as consciousness of the tensive region of experience. The disintegral habits manifest qualitatively and give a sense of their anticipated outlet and felt involvements in the situation.”

In sensation, the act is first.  Sensation is not passive per Descartes, Locke, Hume, etc., but is the result of an activity. Sensation is possible because a bodily act met resistence, wherein that resistence is symbolically encoded by the body.  The body, through habitual memory, registers a given pattern of resistence, i.e., a given disruption in dynamic equilibrium, as a “feeling.”  Feelings are not at first determinate or noetic, but become so based on situational conditions.  Feeling, insomuch as it becomes determinate, becomes felt quality that signals the felt involvements of the situation that become conscious experience.  Feeling constitutes the totality of conscious experience and is the limit-phenomena of consciousness.  A feeling is a moment in time that presents a localized shift in the transactive networks of activity in which the human body is involved, though not the body is not sensitive to all logically or physically possible involvements.  Feeling is our primal conscious attunement to the world, the situation, and nature.

Friday, March 30, 2012

A Glossary of Pragmatic Phenomenology

This is a glossary of terms for my research program in pragmatic phenomenology/phenomenological pragmatism.    My project is a contemporary derivation of John Dewey's work as read through Thomas Alexander, Jim Garrison, James Gouinlock, Victor Kestenbaum, and others.  The glossary will be helpful for those interested in peering into the depths of Deweys thought, which is often omitted by contemporary commentaries, and into my own development of it.

For everyone who is curious, I can provide far, far more citations, reference, etc. with little trouble.  The "MW" and such citations are to Dewey's collected works using the standard critical edition notation.  A warning: the technical terms in this glossary reference each other, and thus the glossary must be read as a whole.  Terms that are entirely my own and not Dewey's are marked.


There is no faculty of the will.
Choice is a release of energy due to sufficient reintegration of disrupted habit (MW 14:134).
Choice implicates "character," not conscious choice or cognition.

(body of habits/habitual body)
Character is the total interpenetration of habit.
(See Dewey's Ethics)

Reasonableness is the effective immanent organization of desire per "emotional sensitiveness" (MW 14:137-138).  The organization is a "quality of effective relationships among desires" (MW 14:135).  Reasonableness is habituated from the environment; the individual is reasonable only if the environment is so (cf Dewey's The Public and Its Problems).

Agency is the immanent determination of the object of desire (or so-ordered activity).  Agency is primarily attributed to the situation and secondarily to the human being.  Agency within the scope of conscious experience implies a unity and integrity of character such that choice is conscious rather than autonomous.
(see also Gouinlock, Dewey's Philosophy of Value, 282-286)

Desire is the organic ordered and telic activity of the human organism.  It is a process from which characteristic events emerge, e.g.,  paradigmatic case is "conscious desire."  "Desire" is a synonymous for the human process of valuation.
        event--"felt emotion"/"conscious desire"/"desire"        
(see also Gouinlock, Dewey's Philosophy of Value and Dewey's Theory of Valuation)

Conscious Desire
Conscious desire occurs when ongoing activity meets environmental/habitual resistence; conscious desire emerges as an affective response to signal a problematic situation.  "Conscious desire" connotes a  telos while "affect" and "felt emotion" do not.

Feeling (Dewey)
Feeling is a realization of a potentiality, by definition (LW 1:204, 227).
(See Dewey, Experience and Nature)

Feeling (Hills--derivative of Dewey and Alexander)
Feeling is the prereflective sensitivity to the structure of a situation that presents tacit environmental involvement as felt quality.  Feeling is a continual and persistent process, and presents sufficiently tensive relationships.    Feeling is intentional (anticipative) and its predominate quality is affect/mood.   
        event--"felt quality"
(see also Alexander, Horizons of Feeling; Rosenthal, Speculative Pragmatism)

Felt Quality
(quality in its phenomenological denotation)
Felt quality is a distinct event in which the relatively passive sensitivity of feeling meets sufficient resistance to become felt quality.  Felt quality is also a First of a Second in Peircean terminology (cf Dewey's article on Peirce).  The particular quality is determined by the characteristic differentiae of the disrupted habitual coordination (cf Dewey's "Emotion," Garrison's "Emotion," or Hills' Immanent Transcendence).
(see also Dewey, "Qualitative Thought"; Experience and Nature)

(conscious experience)
Feeling comprises the lowest level of conscious awareness, as consciousness is "on the psycho-physical level … the totality of actualized immediate qualitative differences, or 'feelings’" (LW 1:229).

(linguistic and/or cognitive consciousness, reflective experience)
"Mind" is the "actualized apprehensions of meanings, that is, ideas," and therefore "consciousness" is not identical to "mind," since the latter is discursive and beyond the scope of the present analysis (LW 1:229). 

Emotion is a modification of feeling that is a focusing, affective response to disruptively tensive relationships.  As a distinct event, it is paradigmatically an assertive, affective summons to  reconstructed, focal experience.  Phenomenologically, it is in a foreground/background relationship with feeling.
        event--"felt emotion"
(see also Alexander, Horizons of Feeling; Rosenthal, Speculative Pragmatism; Kestenbaum, Phenomenological Sense of John Dewey)

Felt Emotion
(affect, desire, felt difficulty, etc)
Felt emotion is an event in which the activity of emotion registers in focal attention as felt.
Has a genus-species relationship with felt tension (species).

Triadic Model of Consciousness (Hills)
Conscious experience occurs through a continual triadic event of activity, resistance, and presentation.  In short, resistance to ongoing activity constitutes conscious presentation of the environment.  Resistance and thereby presentation occur through a dynamic transaction of the organism and the environment, the whole of which is a situation.  Resistance is first felt and becomes sense, object, and thought depending on the situational conditions. 

Existential environmental condition that resists ongoing habitual activity.
(See also Dewey, Logic)

The feeling of resistance.  Tension is existential, while tension is qualitative.
(See also Dewey, Logic)

Consciously experiencing a quality/phenomenon.

Associative Structure (Hills)
anticipatory pre-objective "horizon" of the habitual body.  is given in feeling. founds imaginative horizon.
(see also Dewey, "Qualitative Thought" and Kestenbaum, Phenomenological Sense)

Imagination (Alexander)
1.  extension of activity
2.  temporally complex event
3.  projected possibilities of action
extends activity into the possible
(Alexander, “Pragmatic Imagination,” “Moral Imagination,” Horizons of Feeling)

Imagination (Hills—Alexander derivative)
Imagination is the activity of giving meaning to conscious experience.  This is primarily the activity of habitual projection in conscious experience.  Imagination projects an imaginative horizon that includes the momentary comprehensive meaning of an immediate object or situation.
“the persistent operation of a prior object which has been incorporated in effective habit” (MW 14:40). 
(Hills, “Limited Horizons,” Immanent Transcendence)

Horizon (Hills-Alexander derivative)
(imaginative horizon)
The imaginative horizon is the anticipatory limit (horizon) of conscious experience.  is the complete, momentary habitual possibilities for action given momentary possibilities of (mediated) stimuli.
from “Limited Horizons,”
“Since the meaning of an object is the range of anticipated consequences of its enaction, the horizon includes the momentary comprehensive meaning of an immediate object.”
(see also Alexander, Horizons of Feeling and various articles)

An object is a localized field of foiled anticipation that has recoiled as (consciousness of) some disruptively tensive region of experience.  It's qualitative character is given per past habituations (experiences), present situation (e.g., perception)/context, anticipation (future).  An object need not be attended to.
        process--"objection," or "objective experience"
"An object, in other terms, is a series of qualities treated as potentialities of specific existential consequences." (Deledalle, Histoire de la philosophie americaine, 158)
(see also MW 14, Kestenbaum, Phenomenological Sense; Rosenthal, Specualtive Pragmatism)

Immediate Object
An object that is immediately experienced in primary experience.

An idea is an attentively apprehended possibility for action thematized as meaningful.  An attentively apprehended object becomes an idea.  The process of converting an object into an idea is idealization.

creative projection of past experience.
taken as a kind of end-in-view.
(see also Dewey, 1932 Ethics)

Ideal Object
presented (ideal) unification of disrupted habit.  is a sign for the presentation of relatively unified habit that is not present.
sign for anticipated reintegration of underlying disrupted habit
 (see also Dewey, "Desire and Intelligence," in Human Nature and Conduct)

the process of a feeling/emotive thematic unification of disrupted habit "prior" to cognitive control.

Phenomenology (pragmatic)
the study of the logic of conscious phenomena.  Pragmatic phenomenology is the study how habit informs experience, e.g., how the pre-objective phase informs the objective phase of experience.  This phenomenology, per Dewey's theory of continuity that implicates process metaphysics, connects conscious phenomena to the prior phases of the organic process that are not experienced as phenomena, not given, and therefore illegitimate in Husserlian phenomenology.  

EDITS:  Edited almost every entry.  Added "idea," "imagination (Alexander), "imagination (Hills)," "consciousness," "mind."  This glossary is 2 years old; I am updating it and changes will be ongoing.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

A Response to a Question about Emergentism

This is in response to that query, which I missed.

I, and pragmatists in general, deny the “generally Kantian construal of the real as existing forever beyond human knowledge.”  Let me summarize the Kantian problem to summarize the rejection.  For Kant, the real is “out there,” while the meaningful is “in here,” and never shall the two meet.  The external world is real independent of human experience, and the universal forms/rules/categories of human understanding are internal to human nature.  Cross-reference the whole dance about space being empirically real and transcendentally ideal; we must experience the world that way and it is an a priori condition, but those conditions are internal to human and not attributable to supra-human nature.  The problem with this account is that it places the categories of the understanding internal and relative to human nature as opposed to nature.  Why is this a problem?  Because it is both an unfounded and inadvisable assumption.  Why radically oppose nature vs. nature?  Or is human nature something over-and-against nature?  It should not be construed as such, but that is precisely what modernist notions of human nature assume.

The universals are something basic to reality and not just to existent human nature.  If we stop thinking that they are just in the head, or the body, but in nature itself, then we can begin to understand that human experience penetrates into nature, or that nature penetrates into us.  However, this view also rejects any representationalist concept of experience.  Meaning is not about reference or representation.

Matt asks “is it really sufficient to say that mind emerges from otherwise insensate matter simply because that matter is structurally organized in a new way?”  Before I respond, I would insist that “insensate matter” is already loading the question, because it presumes an originary distinction between the sensate and insensate.  Why does this matter?  Because we need to avoid treating mind as a singular or complex potentiality of matter (existence) that is just waiting to be realized.  Now to respond to the question, although I do not think structural organization is sufficient, my question is why not?  If we accept structural causation as I do, then we are saying that existential structures can be generative of unforeseen potentialities.  I would also add that potentiality simpliciter is integral; potentialities can combine to create novel potentialities given local conditions.  Hence, it is no just structure, but the existential locale and cosmic epoch that matter.  (The epoch matters because the natural laws are understood to be habits, law-like, and not absolute; nature and the cosmos evolves.)  I have blog much on this topic.

I would agree with Matt that “thinking is an especially refined kind of feeling,” although I mean that in a Deweyan sense not reducible to Peirce or Whitehead.  I could explain, but if asked I will first try to find a blog post.  The model here diverges quite a bit.  I would also agree with Matt that “consciousness” (awareness) is not foremost linguistic or cognitive, and that it stretches from sensuality and affectivity to conceptuality.

I have not fully answered the question here, as I have doen so elsewhere on my blog.  At this point, I'd need to go back through and start linking.  I am short on time atm.

CFP: Midwest Pragmatist Study Group

of The Society for the Advancement of American Philosophy

Fourteenth Annual Meeting
Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI)
Indianapolis, Indiana USA
22–23 September 2012
Saturday Afternoon and Sunday Morning


The Midwest Pragmatist Study Group meets annually to promote interaction
among scholars and students interested in classical and contemporary
pragmatism broadly conceived. Papers on any aspect of pragmatist philosophy
are welcome.

The annual meetings do not have themes or special topics. However, each
year one session is devoted to analysis and discussion of a significant
text in American philosophy. This year's texts are "Racial Remediation: An
Historical Perspective on Current Conditions" (1976/1977), "Racial Realism"
(1992), and "The Space Traders" (1992) by Derrick Bell; and "Democracy is
Radical" (1937) and "Creative Democracy—The Task Before Us" (1939) by John

There is no registration fee or formal registration. Interested persons
from any field and students and faculty from any discipline are invited to
participate. The meetings are small and friendly, and the sessions
emphasize collegial conversation and helpful criticism.

Reading time for submitted papers should be around 30-45 minutes. Each
session runs 90 minutes leaving time for plenty of discussion. Works in
progress are particularly encouraged.

The Hans Seigfried Student Travel Fund will provide $50 to any student
presenting a paper. The fund honors the memory of Professor Seigfried by
encouraging new participants in the study group he founded. If you are a
student, please indicate that in a message accompanying your submission.

Please submit a draft or a complete paper, suitable for blind review, as an
e-mail attachment (MS Word .doc or Adobe .pdf files are preferred) to the
chair of the local arrangements committee for forwarding to the program

Martin Coleman
Email: m a r t c o l e [ a t ] i u p u i [ d o t ] e d u

Institute for American Thought
902 W. New York St, ES0010
Indianapolis, IN 46202

A Self-Criticism and Criticism of Syncretism

I have been critical in the past of certain philosophies.  I would like to visit some criticism upon myself for a change as a point of fairness.  Criticism is easy, but constructive criticism is hard.

1.  it's a functionalist account and therefore must leave much unexplained
2.  process metaphysics needlessly complicates established thought
3.  I do not adequately explain emergence
4.  I do not adequately explain how bodily nature becomes conscious phenomena
5.  I do not currently engage with many contemporary views
6.  I presume that there is no problem with the conversion from natural temporality to phenomenological temporality with little argument
7.  I presume Peirce's metaphysics without adequately defeating other views
8.  I presume a derivation of Dewey's metaphysics that itself presumes Peirce's without clearly delineating the two.

These are the criticism that are haunting me at the moment, especially because addressing them could take a lifetime.  Most people just borrow another philosopher and plug them into their own thought, but I am a systematic philosopher and find myself constitutionally unwilling to do that.  That is also the source of much of my criticism of others who do so; I see so many fault lines and inconsistencies to be addressed, but syncretistic philosophy tends to ignore them.  But then, what is the difference between synthetic and syncretistic (or appropriative) philosophy?  That can be a hard call.

I will say this, I am suspicious of philosophies whose works are peppered with names of thinkers from various traditions.  The work is either syncretistic or a brilliant synthesis.  Syncretistic philosophy tends to view theories and thinkers from the perspective of "what can I do with this?," and runs the danger of treating thought mechanically rather than organically, i.e., as pieces to be placed in the machine of one's thought.  In contrast, I recommend wholesale appropriation and synthesis.  However, recent bloggers are right in noting that there is a major trend in philosophy to protect canons and "major" interpretations, which makes it difficult to admit to performing wholesale appropriation and synthesis.  Instead, one claims  to be giving a better or innovative interpretation, which I see as a necessary scholarly evil at best, but is intellectually dangerous when one does not realize that is precisely what one is doing, a necessary evil.

CFP: Josiah Royce Society

Josiah Royce Society, Session at Eastern APA
Call for panel proposals/papers/abstracts 

Josiah Royce Society Session at the Eastern APA, to take place December 27-30, 2012, in Atlanta, GA at the Marriott Marquis.

Group session panels are to be organized around a theme related to Royce's philosophy.

It is possible to submit, instead of a full panel proposal, an abstract, paper, or partial panel proposal. Full panels may be built from such submissions.

Full panel proposals should include an abstract for the whole panel, as well as either an abstract or a completed paper for each of the papers comprising the
panel. Each of the papers should be able to be read in 25-30 minutes (around 3000-3500 words). Abstracts should be no shorter than 250 words.

Prepare for blind review. Author name(s), affiliation(s), and contact information (email and phone number) should be given in a separate document; no such information is to be within the abstracts, papers or panel proposals.

Please send your submission to: Mathew Foust at

Deadline for submissions: Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Notification regarding submission status will be made on or before May 31, 2012.

Dr. Mathew A. Foust
Assistant Professor of Philosophy
Department of History & Philosophy
Lander University
320 Stanley Avenue
Greenwood, SC 29649-2099

Office: LC 375B
Office Phone: 864-388-8383

A Defense of Panpsychism

Leon of After Nature gives a detailed defense.

I plan to critique him, particularly on the point of emergence.  I expect that he already knows what I am going to say, but I think that the exercise will be productive for both of us.  Moreover, one of my first thoughts was that his description of panpsychism makes it sound like he is accepting dualism without admitting it.  Leon, be thinking about that, as I suspect you will have time to give a counter to that argument before I can raise a predictable critique.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Update on NM-WT Conference and My Projects

The New Mexico-West Texas conference was a resounding success.  I was able to introduce a number of people to pragmatic phenomenology, and they were quite interested.  I want to thank my fellow bloggers for the months of practice that they have given me on explaining the depths of pragmatism, and on gaining a greater sensitivity to what is not obvious to those less familiar with it, as I was able to use that knowledge to communicate the tradition's insights without asking too much of my interlocutors.  Likewise, that also enabled them to better aid me in finding (mostly analytic) sources of inspiration.  I would like to thank John Symons in particular, who was rightly dissatisfied with my explanation of how Peirce responds to the problem of Cartesianism (that part of the problem in which continuity is the answer).  He thought that I did not give Peirce enough credit.

I have been planning to write an entry-level introduction to my pragmatic insights, so hopefully you will see that soon.  And no, almost nothing that I have written on this blog has been entry-level, which is something that I hope to correct as it would enable better criticism.  I will need to gain greater skill at writing for a general audience, and I encourage readers to comment.

CFP: SAAP Session at the Eastern APA

Society for the Advancement of American Philosophy, Session at Eastern APA

Call for panel proposals 

SAAP Session at the Eastern APA, to take place December 27-30, 2012, in Atlanta, GA at the Marriott Marquis. 

Group session panels are to be organized around a theme. Panels may focus on a single theme, an individual philosopher, or be comparative in nature. 

Panel proposals should include an abstract for the whole panel, as well as either a completed paper or abstract for each of the papers comprising the panel. Each of the 2-3 papers should be able to be read in 25 minutes, (around 3000 words). Abstracts should be no shorter than 250 words.

Prepare for blind review. Author name(s), affiliation(s), and contact information (email and phone number) should be given in a separate document; no such information is to be within the papers, abstracts or panel proposals. 

Please send your submission to: Seth Vannatta at

Deadline for Submissions: Tuesday, May 1, 2012 

Notification regarding submission status will be made on or before May 31, 2012.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Misinterpretations and Misunderstandings

Tom at Plastic Bodies has this to say on philosophical style as prompted by Levi Bryant at Larval Subjects.  Many have responded, including Jon Cogburn and Graham Harman.  For those just tuning in, the topic is how some interlocutors convert disagreements into misunderstandings as a rhetorical maneuver to defeat supposed opponents.  This is widely seen as a fallacious move.

I like a lot of Tom's and Harman's points, especially the admission by Harman that analytic culture is much better about converting disagreements into misunderstandings, although I would add that I believe that analytic philosophy is far more circumspect about having a definite and circumscribed technical vocabulary on the whole.  For those

I broached the question at Cogburn's site: how applicable are the points about converting disagreements when the conversation crosses traditions?  I asked and ask the question again because I think we should be careful about attributing this fallacy to an interlocutor, especially to one outside of one's own specialty or even tradition.  That said, this is yet another reason why I think philosophers should be conversant in many traditions and be encouraged to specialize or gain competency in more than one.  As my mentor said so many years ago, it allows you to talk to many great people.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

CFP: Southwest Philosophical Society



November 9-11, 2012 • Lavin-Bernick Center of Tulane University, New Orleans, LA

Conference URL:

Overview: Papers on any theme or problem in philosophy are welcome.  Presented papers will be published in the Society’s journal, Southwest Philosophy Review.  The Society gives an annual award of $100 to the best paper accepted for the program written by a graduate student or recent Ph.D. (degree must have been granted within three years of the meeting).  Authors who are eligible for the prize should indicate this on the cover page of their submission.

Submissions: Electronic submissions are required and should be sent to  Papers must be in MS Word (.doc) or Rich Text Format (.rtf). Papers submitted in any other format cannot be processed.  Papers may not exceed 3000 words in length.  Submissions should include a word count and 150 word abstract (not counted in total word count) on the title page.  Papers exceeding this length will not be considered. Papers should not contain any information identifying the author of the submission.  Submission deadline: Papers must be received by Friday, 13 July 2012.

In a separate title page document, please submit the following: title of the paper, abstract of the paper, author’s name, affiliation, email address and phone number. 

Membership: You must be a member to present. To join the society, send inquiries to: Deb Heikes, University of Alabama - Huntsville,<> 

Questions or comments: Randall Auxier, Southern Illinois University Carbondale,

2012 Conference Hotels: Hampton Inn-Garden District (2 miles from Tulane, but on the St. Charles streetcar line). Rooms are $139 plus taxes. Reservations can be made at  On Where you are going, type “New Orleans, LA.”  Type the group code SWP under “Group Code.”  You can also reserve a room by calling 504-899-9990.  The rate includes breakfast, parking, and wireless internet.  Reservations must be made by 10/9/12.  The hotel website is

Thursday, March 22, 2012

New Mexico-West Texas Philosophy Conference

It's this weekend, and I'll be presenting on pragmatism and phenomenology--see my prior post for an abstract.

One thing I enjoy about this conference is how relaxed, open, and friendly everyone is.  It's also very pluralist; you can hear presentations on analytic, continental, history, Asian, etc.  I recommend it to anyone in the region who looking for a small regional conference.

For info:

Monday, March 19, 2012

Pragmatism and Phenomenology: A Reconciliation

This is the introduction to a conference paper that I will be giving at the New Mexico-West Texas conference this weekend.

Pragmatism and Phenomenology: A Reconciliation 
            Scott Aikin in his 2006 article, "Pragmatism, Naturalism, and Phenomenology" argues that pragmatism and phenomenology are incompatible.  Pragmatic naturalism is incompatible with phenomenology's anti-naturalism.  Therefore, pragmatists trying to appropriate insights from phenomenology encounter a dilemma: either reject naturalism and thereby pragmatism, or reject anti-naturalism and thereby phenomenology.  Aikin names a list of pragmatists faced with this dilemma: Bruce Wilshire, Sandra Rosenthal, Victor Kestenbaum, Vincent Colapietro, Philip Bourgeois, Shannon Sullivan, and others.  Aikin has thrown down the gauntlet.
            I will argue that Aikin's dilemma is unmerited, because he has misidentified its horns.  It will require no subtlety and few words to establish this.  Given his definition of naturalism, all of the classical pragmatists are neither naturalists nor pragmatists.  Moreover, most discussion of "phenomenology" misconstrues phenomenological method as subjective self-reporting.  The term "phenomenology" in his usage refers to a narrow reading of Husserl and not pre- or post-Husserlian phenomenology.  As stated, the two horns of Aikin's dilemma are neither classical pragmatism nor phenomenology, but scientific naturalism and subjectivism.
            There are antipathies between classical pragmatism's naturalism and classical Continental phenomenology, but I will argue that they do not proscribe pragmatic appropriation of phenomenology in general.  In the conclusion, I will argue for phenomenologically-informed pragmatism, and will discuss one barrier to the appropriation of classical Continental phenomenology, the principle of continuity.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

CFP: Personalist Seminar: Dewey and Niebuhr

*JULY 29-AUGUST 3, 2012*
*Western Carolina University*

*Examining Personalist Options in Philosophy*

ProgramAbout 15-25 participants

Program StructureThe program will center around Niebuhr and Dewey, with separate days
devoted to different aspects of their work.
The first day will introduce the group to Niebuhr and Dewey and the
background of their thought. These discussions will be led by Garry
Dorrien, Reinhold Niebuhr Professor at Union Theological Seminary and John
Shook, of The Center for Inquiry Transnational. The remaining days each
participant will be responsible for a specific text and/or aspect, or
present a paper on Niebuhr’s and Dewey’s thought and will help lead that
part of the discussion.

ProposalsSubmit a title and brief (no more than one page) summary of your interest
in the seminar’s subjects. Accepted projects will receive between 60 and
90 minutes for presentation and discussion of the finished projects. *Proposals
should be sent to: *
*Dr. James McLachlan by July 1, 2012*

The seminar will be held on the campus of Western Carolina University in
Cullowhee, North Carolina. Cullowhee is located approximately 50 miles west
of Asheville and sits near the Great Smoky Mountains National Park,
Appalachian Trail, Blue Ridge Parkway, and several national forests which
make up some of the largest wilderness areas in the Eastern United States.

LodgingWCU Village
Double and single occupancy accommodations are provided in one of two
town-house style apartment buildings. These spacious houses have ten double
occupancy rooms each along with a large kitchen and common area (where the
daily meetings will be held). This casual atmosphere will add to the
comfort of your stay and make the seminar feel more cozy and relaxed.
Residence hall furnishings include one pillow, sheets, a blanket and five
towels and washcloths. Brining extra of these items is strongly
recommended. Note that there is no daily maid service in the residence
halls. All rooms have two twin-sized beds and a private bath. Accompanying
guests or spouses who share a room would be required to purchase a housing
and meal option as well.

Madison Hall – Meeting LocationA limited number of hotel style rooms with daily maid service are available
at Madison Hall (where the conference will take place). Rooms at Madison
are fully furnished but have only one bed per room. Note that some rooms
have queens, some full-sized, and some twin-sized beds. Rooms are assigned
in order of registration. Attendees traveling with a spouse will be given
preference for larger rooms.

Housing CostsFinal costs are yet to be determined. The following rates are
Housing and meal packages include all breakfasts, lunches and 4 nights
lodging. Dinner is on your own. Single occupancy room/meal packages are.
Madison Hall for 4 nights with the meal plan is going to be $387.00. The
Village for 4 nights with the meal plan is going to be $273.00 (including a
linen packet). (Breakfast and lunch W-F, breakfast only on Saturday)Off
campus lodging is available in area hotels. For more information about
these off-campus options and area attractions please visit our local
chamber site at

RegistrationThe conference registration fee is $50 (Paid separately).For further
information, contact Dr. James M. McLachlan, Dept. of Philosophy and
Religion, Western Carolina University, Cullowhee, NC 28723. Phone
828-227-3940 or email For questions about
registration or accommodations contact Bobby Hensley, Associate Director of
Continuing Education, at 828-227-7397 or email


Tuesday, March 13, 2012

An Epiphany about Realism vs. Idealism

I had an epiphany while reading Cathy Legg's article "Predication and the Problem of Universals" in Philosophical Papers 30:2, esp. 139-140.

I had several actually, but one off-hand comment hit me with the force of a eureka moment.  She notes that most analytic philosophers (and myself) conflate idealism with anti-realism, but that Peirce was an idealist and a realist (about universals and the mind-independent existence of the external world).  She does not define the term "idealist," other than to affirm the reality of ideas,  and I lack the sufficient knowledge of Peirce to explain his idealism, but the point was striking because of its unexamined truth.  Perhaps this is why so much of classical and neoclassical pragmatism seems odd or wrong-headed to analytic philosophers.

I am quite tired to defending to possibility of a realist phenomenology.   It never occured to me how ingrained the notion that idealism, which is what many analytics hear when the word "phenomenology" is uttered, or to do one better they hear "what-it-is-like," which still horribly mangles and misrepresents what it is about, ... that idealism need not be an anti-realism.  Part of the reason that it never occurred to me is that I was ferociously encouraged by Thomas Alexander not to think in binaries or -isms--to think in catchphrases rather than definitions--and thus I did not realize how what I and many pragmatists look like they are doing on the face of it, at least to some audiences.  I can see now why "panpsychism" has come back into vogue, though it is really a new way of saying "idealism."  Don't think so?  Did I give a definition of either term?  Then you should not be so quick to disagree.

Peirce, and many pragmatists, argue for a modal view of being following Peirce.  The notion was later introduced (made popular might be a better word) to continentals through Heidegger.  This means that there is more to being or reality than, for instance, existence.  There is true universality or generality, which has also been called the Idea.  Panpsychism is another way to broach this topic.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Reality of Generals vs. Universals

I ask those more steeped in classical metaphysics than I.  What are the distinctions between claiming the reality of universals vs. generals?  And how would one argue that universals are not merely merely generals?  By the latter, I mean general concepts created through a process of induction or what Locke called "abstraction," though I mean that loosely.  I think one contemporary term for it--I hear it most in cogsci--is "modelling."  By the former, I mean it in the classical way, i.e., that there exist predicates, especially certain qualities, that may be universally predicated of subjects; e.g., redness is not just a abstraction from particulars but an intuition/perception/etc. of a universal predicate.

I see some of my work going into this in more detail on the far horizon.  Where's a medieval logician when you need him or her?  They're always spot-on with these questions....

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Introduction to Limited Horizons: The Habitual Basis of the Imagination

Below is a draft introduction of my forthcoming article.  The editor requested an abstract and revised introduction that included far more specifics.


This essay on pragmatist aesthetics explains how imagination extends the environment into the possible.  While there is no lack of pragmatic theories claiming that imagination extends the environment, few explain how within scholarship on John Dewey.  After discussing the incompleteness of Mark Johnson’s scholarship on this question, I engage and expand upon Thomas Alexander’s work to construct a novel Deweyan pragmatic view of the dynamic structure of imaginative function that emphasizes continuity, temporality, and the emergence of meaning.  Pragmatist scholars must address the question of how, else they are blind to the limitations of imagination while making promises on its transformative power.  Though the present work is rooted in historic scholarship, it promises to flower in contemporary debates in aesthetics, realist phenomenology, and reconciling naturalism and phenomenology.


Dewey scholarship on moral imagination is insufficient because it neglects the dynamic structure of imagination.  When reflection erupts into experience and unleashes new possibilities, imaginative function shifts, and the reflectively apprehended meaning of a situation is always different from unreflective experience.  Scholars well note the difference of reflection and imaginative rehearsal in rendering thought more intelligent, but without accounting for how imagination extends the environment, the limit of its power remains a mystery.  I propose that the question of how is answered by a theory of the functional structure of imagination.

There are two established accounts, Mark Johnson’s and Thomas Alexander’s.  I begin by discussing why I have singled-out these two accounts and why Johnson’s answers are incomplete.  Johnson is responding to contemporary analytic philosophy of mind, and his engagement with Deweyan pragmatism is instrumental and selective towards that end such that he quietly neglects or misconstrues pivotal theses.  Scholars who wish to grow the living tradition, such as myself, cannot uncritically accept Johnson’s work without thereby creating many internal contradictions.  For example, we cannot accept Johnson’s early Kantianism about imaginative function and its trace in his later work.  Instead, I accept Alexander’s account of how imagination extends the environment.

Imagination presents the anticipated meaning of an action, and thereby lights the present by the lamp of the future.  Since imagination is limited to what may be anticipated as meaningful, its light is bounded by memory or “habit” as Dewey used the term.  Noting this, I proceed by investigating how habit may limit imaginative projection.  However, the emphasis on the temporal structure and continuity of imaginative function inherited from Alexander leads to a creative reinterpretation of Dewey.  From a synoptic view of his work and subsequent scholarship, I put together his puzzle pieces in a novel way.

The first piece is an interpretation of his theory of experience, the triadic model of conscious experience, that describes the continuity of the metaphysical, biological, and phenomenological significations of “experience.”  Designation of the continuity of the process of experience is crucial to locate when imaginative activity occurs, which is no trivial task when the phases of experience are continuous and emergent.  The second piece is a metaphysical explanation of how imagination extends the environment into the possible that builds upon Alexander’s and Jim Garrison’s work on the conversion of natural potentialities into experienced possibilities.  That is, I explain how nature has ideas.  The third piece establishes that imagination is basic to conscious experience, as imagination and meaning is grounded in bodily dynamics and becomes a conscious event only under particular conditions.  The fourth piece explains the particular conditions under which imaginative function becomes explicit and reflective rather than implicit, and implicates the role of Dewey’s theory of emotion in his aesthetics.  This piece of the puzzle is revelatory of the transformative power of imagination and its limitations.  The habits that render reflective experience meaningful can diverge from emotive habits that guide our unreflective involvement in the world, attentiveness, affectivity, and ultimately our interpretations of a situation.  The fifth and last piece of the dynamic structure of imaginative function articulates the gestalt shift in conscious experience occuring during the transition from unreflective to reflective experience.  What and how we experience differs before and after the transition such that we may not be aware of schisms between the two.  This is a problem, for example, for inquiry and education, which require a unity of what we think and what we do.  Else, we think one thing and do another while developing habits that split meaning and action, which is incipient of hypocrisy, false consciousness, ressentiment, etc.

CFP: Midwest Workshop on Metaphysics

1st Midwest Annual Workshop in Metaphysics (MAWM)
October 19-20, 2012
Saint Louis University

Calling all Midwestern Metaphysicians!  On October 19th and 20th, 2012
St. Louis University will host the first-ever Midwest Annual Workshop
in Metaphysics (MAWM).  Confirmed speakers are:

Karen Bennett,
Jeffrey Brower,
Peter Ludlow,
David Manley,
Christina van Dyke, and
Peter van Inwagen.

More information can be found on the website:

MAWMs are targeted workshops for Midwestern faculty and graduate
students working in metaphysics.  Each MAWM features 5-7 invited
speakers, the majority of whom come from midwestern institutions.
They provide a venue for sharing new research and building community
among metaphysicians in the region. For more information, visit the
website,, and to keep up to date,

The MAWM Organizing Committee:
Jonathan D. Jacobs, Saint Louis University
Timothy Pawl, University of Saint Thomas (Saint Paul, MN)
Meghan Sullivan, University of Notre Dame

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Autopoetic as the New Homeostasis?

Perhaps my readers might inform me if there is something to my suspicion about the difference between "autopoetic" and "homeostatic" as philosophical concepts.  Is there a significant difference?

I ask because I realized that I have been using "homeostatic," as has my tradition for at least a century, in ways that compatible with the more recent notion of "autopoetic."  My suspicion is that the concept might not be as novel as some make it out to be, but then, I might be wrong.  If it is not that novel, then there can be even more of a rapprochement between classical and neoclassical pragmatism and other traditions.

Provocateur or Sage? Which Should an Academic Philosopher Be?

One cannot be both; one can only seem to be.

DMF commented in one of my posts about showing generosity to one's audience.  The discussion was within the context of my own work and, from my point of view, I was wavering on whether to make it obvious to other Dewey scholars that I was wading into a familiar scholarly battle or not.  If yes, then I planned to write something bombastic, e.g., accusing them of Oedipal blindness, and if no, then showing that we all are Oedipally blind without pointing fingers at anyone in particular.

Should one be a provocateur or a sage?  I have heard many arguments from both sides, and I will tell you that I see the former winning most of the time.  Being a sage is very different work, and although some manage a share of both, most appear to gravitate to provocateur.  What I have noted is that there are those who are fortunate enough to publish solid work and not worry about this--I envy them--and those that manage to find a balance between provocation and interest that gets their work published.  The latter tend to be good writers at the least.

I wonder if my readers have any thoughts on the issue?  For my part, my work cannot help but be provocative because I constantly drag the scholarship back to primary sources and unearth skeletons that few appear to what to talk about.  When the contemporary discussion passes something by, not even zombies can bring them back.