Sunday, June 30, 2013

Allison Krauss: Whiskey Lullaby

Allison Krauss: Whiskey Lullaby
KO, Leon, KO.

Mazzy Star: Fade into You

Mazzy Star: Fade into You
Right jab!

Sneaker Pimps: 6 Underground

Sneaker Pimps: 6 Underground
Bring it,Leon!

Delerium: Lost and Found

Delerium--Lost and Found
Stickin it to Leon of After Nature. Music wars are on! (I'm going to lose, but I don't care.)

A Common Misunderstanding of Pragmatist Philosophy

One of the difficulties of explaining pragmatism and continental philosophy to a person versed only in the analytic tradition, and vice-versa I presume, is grasping the pervasive concepts that a tradition takes for granted. In fact, it is difficult to realize that a tradition has such concepts and what they are unless one studies multiple traditions or divergent subfields within a tradition. For instance, one must comprehend how modern formal logic structures how mainstream analytic philosophy argues in order to grasp many subtleties. Likewise, a person studying recent continental philosophy will be at a severe disadvantage without a solid grasp of phenomenology, hermeneutics, historical-thinking and the concepts of subjectivity, discourse, embodied, etc.

What about pragmatism? Recently, I presented a number of posts on process metaphysics, especially a book Beyond Mechanism, that reminded me of common barrier for understanding the subtleties of pragmatism. Much of classical and contemporary (neoclassical) pragmatism integrates processive and temporalist metaphysics in its thought, whereas analytic philosophy is over-whelmingly mechanistic. In large part, early pragmatism was a response to mechanistic metaphysics and the battle between mechanism and organicism (usually a proxy for idealism).

Trying to explain seemingly unrelated ethical concepts to a person not familiar with an event ontology, phenomenology, or habit psychology challenges both. But the think the biggest problem, at least in my experience, is that when a person points out differences in tradition that are not merely superficial, most audiences react by presuming that the other person is doing something illegitimate or evasive. The odd thing is, the more alien the tradition, the more the person gets a pass: few philosophers in the U.S. complain about incomprehension of a Buddhist answer, yet they will complain about an analytic, continental, or Americanist answer. The presumption of familiarity seems to be a barrier to understanding.

Butler on Whitehead: On the Occassion

Thinking Judith Butler and A.N. Whitehead.

Contemporary Whitehead Studies: Beyond Mechanism

Brian Henning and Adam Scarfe have put out the edited collection Beyond Mechanism.

Contemporary Whitehead Studies: Foundations of Relational Realism

Michael Epperson and Elias Zafiris  have penned Foundations of Relational Realism: A Topological Approach to Quantum Mechanics and the Foundations of Nature.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Delerium: Chrysalis Heart

Delerium's newest single, Chrysalis Heart.

Leon of After Nature shares so much music that occasionally I try to compete.... Delerium has been my favorite group for almost 15 years.

Historical Perspectives on the Peirce Family

Jessica Cohen of the Pocono Record discusses a recent presentation on Peirce.

Spring Breakers and Dionysian Madness

The Pinnochio Theory has a brilliantly succinct analysis of the recent American film, Spring Breakers:

Spring Breakers

Audiovisually speaking, SPRING BREAKERS is utterly ravishing. It is so gorgeous as to negate or suspend the uneasiness one might legitimately feel about 1)the use of GIRL POWER as an alibi to empower a straight white dude’s jerk-off fantasy; & 2)the “wanna-be-black” fantasy by means of which straight white dudes compensate for (supplement, in the Derrida sense) their own feelings of impotent inferiority by adopting, with a vengeance, the most viciously racist stereotypes of “black masculinity” that our culture currently likes to circulate. I notice these things, but I am helplessly & successfully disarmed by Harmony Korine’s relentless audiovisual seduction: the sunsets, the colors, the slow-motion, the breasts, the throbbing but sublimated yearning of the electro score, the intellectual montage that layers Britney over thuggery, and gorgeous beaches over willful stupdity, the heartfeltspirituality of Selena Gomez’s voiceovers. with the mantra-like repetitions of her monologues and other fragments of dialogue… All this as an almost didactic demonstration of the way that, in our neoliberal culture, there is no distinction whatsoever between hedonism and self-help, or between transgression and hypernormativity.

I refused to watch it after seeing a few trailers, precisely because it is a self-conscious excuse to present pornography as film. The reflexive moment, had by thinkers, that the film intends to have that "you know that I know that you know" moment, doesn't mitigate the fact. In fact, I am tempted to think that the film might appeal because it demonstrates the chasm between the erudite who "get it" and the plebes who just skim across the surface. I have been on the lookout for such traps even since I was ... well ... Suckerpunched by a movie promising a feminist theme but was in fact yet another vehicle for "straight white dude" porn delivered in a manner that makes on feel righteous rather than regretful at breaking a taboo. Too many films operate on the grounds of giving us a pornographic or violent feast that we're not supposed to have because it's barbaric and potentially morally eroding, and then make it palatable with a hipster wink and execution by ironizing it.

This is decadence, a Dionysian madness whereas we'll shred our Apollonian strictures while still proclaiming their rightness. It is predation.

Dewey and Descola: philosophical ecology and environmental philosophy (DOWNLOAD)

Leon of After Nature is hooking us up with a link to Hugh McDonald's John Dewey and Environmental Philosophy.

CFP: The Charles S. Peirce 2014 International Centennial Congress

2nd Call for Papers, Short Contributions and Posters
The Charles S. Peirce 2014 International Centennial Congress

The Charles S. Peirce Society and the Peirce Foundation invite the submission of new papers, short contributions, and posters for the Charles S. Peirce International Centennial Congress, to be held at the University of Massachusetts Lowell (July 16-19, 2014). The theme of the Congress is Invigorating Philosophy for the 21st Century. The aim of this conference is to advance scholarship on all aspects of Peirce’s philosophy and biography, and on the influence and contemporary relevance of his thought. Interdisciplinary submissions, and contributions from researchers in disciplines other than philosophy, are welcome.

Confirmed plenary speakers include: Douglas Anderson, Vincent Colapietro, Susan Haack, Christopher Hookway, Nathan Houser, Ivo Ibri, Cheryl Misak, Nicholas Rescher, Claudine Tiercelin, and Fernando Zalamea.

Deadline for paper, short contribution, and poster submissions: September 1, 2013.

Complete submission guidelines:

Friday, June 28, 2013

Get Your Intellectual Fix at The Horizon and the Fringe

Loaded with articles on philosophy, politics, education, gender, race, sex, and all those intellectual topics you  love! For now, Ed and I are holding down the fort until our fellow co-authors survive their doctoral examinations: more and more diverse content coming soon! This blog, Immanent Transcendence, will continue to host its usual content.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Roothan on James' Pluralistic Universe

Prof. Angela Roothan comments on William James' A Pluralistic Universe.

Laruelle "In-the-Last-Humanity: On the 'Speculative' Ecology of Man, Animal and Plant”

Laruelle "In-the-Last-Humanity: On the 'Speculative' Ecology of Man, Animal and Plant”

Leon of After Nature is hooking us up.

From the LGS Seminars (info copied below).

Professor François Laruelle – In-the-Last-Humanity: On the “Speculative” Ecology of Man, Animal and Plant

This is the third in a series of lectures Professor François Laruelle is giving at the London Graduate School, London. This talk was presented with the support of the School of Art, Central Saint Martins, University of the Arts.

Professor Laruelle has taught at both the University of Paris X and the Collège international de philosophie, and is a Visiting Professor at the London Graduate School, Kingston University, London. He is the author of over twenty books, including Philosophies of Difference (trans. 2010), Future Christ (trans. 2010), Principles of Non-Philosophy (trans. 2013), and, most recently, The Concept of Non-Photography (2011) and Anti-Badiou (2011, trans. 2013).

Sunday, June 23, 2013

When Does Social Justice Become Another Form of Oppression?

I comment on a recent New York Times  article on this question at The Horizon and the Fringe.

Aikin and Talisse on Jamesian Ethics

I just saw the back-and-forth on this point in the just-published William James Studies. WOW. I cannot remember the last time I saw such fist-a-cuffs at that level of intensity. Ya know, I'm going to be honest and go with my gut rather than we weighed-down by the usual academic politically-correct talk. By default, I'm hesistant to accept the position of a person who jumps right into name-calling, especially after I recently published a response to that person's essay accusing them of doing the same thing on another topic. So, I will keep back-tracking the conversation, and you can follow along to see who's hurling the most mud. Hint: it's mostly one side.

William James Studies, Vol. 9 is OUT!

Table of Contents

The Religion of William James in Mind and Body: Papers Presented at the 33rd Annual Nineteenth Century Studies Association Conference (2012):

Editor's Preface
Robert D. Richardson

Split Mysticism: William James's Democratization of Religion
Paul J. Croce

The Head and the Heart: William James and Evelyn Underhill on Mysticism
Lynn Bridgers

William James and Swami Vivekananda: Religious Experience and Vedanta/Yoga in America
Norris Frederick

Jonathan Edwards & William James on Religion
Richard Hall

Saturday, June 22, 2013

CFP: Josiah Royce Society at the 2014 SAAP

CFP: Royce Society at 2014 SAAP
The Josiah Royce Society Session at the Society for the Advancement of American Philosophy, to take place March 6-8, 2014, in Denver, CO.

This session will include two or three paper presentations and brief commentary on each presentation.

The word limit is 3000 words, and the abstract should be no shorter than 250 words.

Please prepare your paper or abstract for anonymous review. Attach a separate document with the paper title, author name, affiliation, and contact information (email and phone number).

Prospective presenters/commentators are asked to email Tanya Jeffcoat at
Deadline: November 1, 2013

Notification regarding submission status will be made before December 15, 2013.

What Pragmatism Was

F. Thomas Burke's latest book is OUT!

What Pragmatism Was is published by Indiana University Press.

Friday, June 21, 2013

The Human Eros: Eco-Ontology and the Aesthetics of Existence

Tom is one of the leading thinkers in pragmatist aesthetics, and was one of my mentors in my own work. In fact, my dissertation and book manuscript is a direct inheritor of his work. Where we differ is that he's more interested in ecology and civilization in the widest scope, whereas my work in aesthetics focuses on moral aesthetics and the individual or community.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Master's and Doctoral Grants for Research in Normativity

*English below*



Le groupe de recherche interuniversitaire sur la normativité (GRIN) offre 10 bourses de 5000$ pour les étudiants de 2ème et 3ème cycles.

Le GRIN rassemble 15 chercheurs intéressés par l’étude philosophique de la normativité. Il s’agit là d’une thématique qui se caractérise autant par sa variété que son importance. Les différentes questions ayant trait à la normativité se situent en effet au centre de plusieurs débats en philosophie contemporaine. Le GRIN rassemble ainsi des chercheurs en éthique, en philosophie de l’action, en philosophie de l’esprit et de la psychiatrie et en épistémologie.

Pour la bourse, le GRIN accueille les dossiers de candidats-es qui travaillent sous la supervision d’un membre du groupe de recherche* et dont le sujet de recherche s’inscrit dans un des champs de questions ciblés par le groupe dans l’articulation de son actuelle programmation de recherche :

1) Langage et nature de la normativité,
2) Connaissance et normativité,
3) Normativité et psychologie.

L’étudiant(e) doit être inscrit(e) aux études à temps plein dans son programme durant la période couverte par la bourse.
L’étudiant(e) doit réaliser ses recherches sous la supervision d’un membre régulier du GRIN.*
L’étudiant doit comprendre le français et l’anglais.

Objectif de la bourse :
Soutien aux études supérieures dans le domaine de la philosophie de la normativité.

Montant et durée de la bourse :
Chaque bourse attribuée par le GRIN est d’une valeur de 5000$, pour la période couvrant l’année universitaire 2013-2014. Cette bourse peut être cumulée avec des bourses provenant d’autres organismes.

Engagements du boursier ou de la boursière :
Mener un projet de recherche en conformité avec celui soumis lors de leur candidature.
Participer aux activités organisées par le GRIN (ateliers, séminaires, colloques).

Dossier de candidature :
une lettre de motivation précisant les intérêts de recherche et leur lien avec la question de la normativité.
un projet de recherche (1-2 pages), approuvé par son directeur ou sa directrice de recherche.
un curriculum vitae.

Critères de sélection :
qualité de la lettre de motivation du candidat ou de la candidate;
qualité du dossier universitaire;
intérêt du projet de recherche eu égard aux questions de recherche du GRIN.

Les dossiers doivent être envoyés par courriel à :
Pour tout renseignement :
Date limite de dépôt des dossiers de candidature : vendredi le 16 août 2013, 16h.
Seuls les dossiers complets à la date de clôture de cette offre seront considérés.

* Liste des membres réguliers du GRIN pouvant superviser une recherche de maîtrise ou de doctorat : Renée Bilodeau (Université Laval), Michael Blome-Tillmann (McGill), Yves Bouchard (Université de Sherbrooke), Murray Clarke (Concordia), Luc Faucher (UQAM), Ian Gold (McGill), Iwao Hirose (McGill), Daniel Laurier (Université de Montréal), Andrew Reisner (McGill), Mauro Rossi (UQAM), Sarah Stroud (McGill), Christine Tappolet (Université de Montréal), Patrick Turmel (Université Laval)


The Interuniversity Research Group on Normativity (GRIN) is offering 10 grants of $5000 for master’s and doctoral students.

The GRIN is composed of 15 researchers interested in the philosophical study of normativity; a study characterized by its variety as well as its importance. In effect, various questions about normativity take center stage in numerous debates in contemporary philosophy. The GRIN therefore gathers researchers in ethics, philosophy of action, philosophy of mind, as well as philosophy of psychiatry and epistemology.

The GRIN is accepting applications from candidates who work under the supervision of any member of the research group*, and whose area of research addresses the sorts of questions articulated in the GRIN’s current program of research:

1) Language and nature of normativity
2) Knowledge and normativity
3) Normativity and psychology

The applicant must be enrolled in full-time studies in their program during the period covered by the grant.
The applicant must be working under the supervision of a regular member of the GRIN.*
The applicant must have a working knowledge of French and English.

Grant goal:
Provide support for graduate studies in the philosophy of normativity.

Grant amount and duration:
Each grant is for $5000 and covers the 2013-14 academic year. It may be conjoined with grants or scholarships from other granting institutions.

Recipient commitments:
Develop the research project outlined in the research proposal.
Participate in the activities organized by the GRIN (workshops, seminars, colloquia).

Application package:
Letter of intent stating the applicant’s research interests and their relation to the philosophy of normativity.
Research proposal (1-2 pages), approved by the applicant’s research supervisor.

Selection criteria:
Quality of applicant’s letter of intent
Academic record
Relevance of applicant’s research project to the GRIN’s research goals.

Please send applications by email to:
For additional information:

Application deadline: Friday, August 16, 2013, 16:00.
Only completed applications submitted by this date and time will be considered.

CFP: European Journal of Pragmatism and American Philosophy


*“Language or Experience: Charting Pragmatism’s Course for the 21st Century”*

*European Journal of Pragmatism and American Philosophy
* Volume 6, No. 2, 2014

Guest editor: David Hildebrand (Associate Professor and Chair, Department
of Philosophy, University of Colorado Denver, USA)


Thirty-plus years ago, Richard Rorty published *Consequences of Pragmatism*.
One consequence of that book—along with other subsequent work by Rorty—has
been to challenge the centrality of “experience” for pragmatism’s
conceptions of truth, morality, and reality. Rorty denigrated “experience”
argued that the notion should be eliminated from pragmatism. He criticized
pragmatists like Dewey and James for either lapsing into bad faith
(offering experience as a substitute for “substance,” or “mind,” etc.) or
for simply lacking the linguistic tools (devised later by analytic
philosophy) to escape philosophical dead ends.

Rorty’s challenge, one may safely assert, created both space and motivation
for the development of a more language-centered pragmatism, sometimes
called “neopragmatism” or “new pragmatism.” This language-centered strategy
has become important in the work of figures such as Robert Brandom, Huw
Price, Cheryl Misak, Michael Williams, and Bjørn Ramberg.

However, while Rorty was trying to eliminate experience from pragmatism,
contemporaries of Rorty (e.g., John J. McDermott and Richard Bernstein)
were elucidating the notion and arguing for its *indispensability* to
pragmatism. In a recent book (2010) Bernstein argued that a pragmatic
conception of inquiry requires experience: “Redescription,” Bernstein
writes, “no matter how imaginative, is not enough.” Bernstein traces this
lesson to Charles S. Peirce’s view that “experience involves bruteness,
constraint, ‘over-and-againstness’. Experience is our great teacher. And
experience takes place by a series of surprises.” Without this element,
Bernstein argues, experimental inquiries lack friction. This
experience-centered approach informs the work of a variety of recent
contemporary pragmatists such as Thomas Alexander, Richard Shusterman,
Charlene Haddock Seigfried, Gregory Pappas, Douglas Anderson, and many

This issue of the *European Journal of Pragmatism and American
Philosophy* seeks
to provoke debate about the motives and stakes behind these two approaches
to pragmatism. We welcome any contribution that (i) takes a stand defending
“experience” or “language” as central for (neo/new)pragmatism in the 21st
century or (ii) explains the importance of “experience” or “language” for
pragmatist applications in other disciplines— aesthetics, political theory,
literary criticism, environmental ethics, medical ethics, public
administration, etc. or (iii) proposes (neo/new)pragmatist formulations
that resolve or dissolve familiar tensions between language and experience
(possibly by showing them in innovative relations or by re-interpreting
their derivation from classical or neopragmatist works).


- be written in English
- be limited to 12,000 words
- include an abstract of 200-400 words
- include a list of works cited

*Papers should be sent as an email attachment to David Hildebrand << >> before December 1, 2013 with “EJPAP Submission” in
the subject header. *Acceptance of papers will be determined before
February 15, 2014. Papers will be selected on the basis of a process of
blind review and published in the December 2014 issue of EJPAP. Please
address any questions to David Hildebrand, Associate Professor of
Philosophy, University of Colorado Denver << >>

Robert Brandom: Reason Genealogy and the Hermeneutics of Magnanimity

Leon of After Nature has a nice video of the talk. Check it.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

CFP: Philosophy of Science in the 21st Century – Challenges and Tasks

Philosophy of Science in the 21st Century – Challenges and Tasks

International Conference

4-6 December, 2013 | Lisbon, Portugal

The Centre for Philosophy of Science of the University of Lisbon
(CFCUL) is organizing the Second Lisbon International Conference
Philosophy of Science in the 21st Century – Challenges and Tasks. This
conference will be held in December 4th to 6th 2013, at the Faculty of
Sciences of the University of Lisbon.

Important dates:

Deadline for abstract/proposal submission: 15 September 2013
Notification of acceptance/rejection: 30 September 2013
Deadline for registration: 30 October 2013

New Book on Pragmatism and Phenomenology

I [Ed Hackett] have just been made aware of a book published by John Quay over at Routledge that merges pragmatism and phenomenological accounts of experience in education. This might be an enjoyable read and potential book review for somebody. Check it out.

Here’s the link to the Routledge page.

A Co-Citation Network for Philosophy

Kieran Healy has done some great work creating a connectivity graph showing citation networks for four of the top analytic journals over twenty years. I hope that this kind of work continues. The folk at NewApps are discussing this if you'd like to traipse over.

WE DID IT! 4000+ Visitors!

We have blown away the 4000 unique visits per month barrier!

Thanks for stopping by, and don't forget to visit our new multi-author blog The Horizon and the Fringe. I put more of my political content over there, and we're recruiting colleagues for Spanish-language content and whatever the ladies wish to post, because let's face it gentlemen, this blog could use a little more gender balance. I'm just not queeny enough to solo it.

Building Bridges Conference: Regarding Desire

*Regarding Desire*
*16th Annual "Building Bridges" Graduate Student Philosophy Conference*
*Southern Illinois University Carbondale*

*October 18 -19, 2013*

​Keynote Speaker: Dr. Cynthia Willett
Professor of Philosophy, Emory University, Atlanta , Georgia.

Deadline for submissions: September 7th, 2013

This fifteenth annual Building Bridges conference will be held at Southern
Illinois University Carbondale October 18th and 19th, 2013.

This year’s topic is the concept of “Desire” ̶̶ its nature, its work, and its meaning. How do we navigate and negotiate our desire in spaces and discourses where objectivity is privileged? How does desire come into play with ideas of freedom and autonomy? Why has desire loomed so fearfully in some mythologies? What is the role of *Eros* in the development of community? The topic is to be construed broadly and we invite papers and presentations from all areas of philosophy, as well as philosophically interesting papers from other disciplines.

Submission Guidelines:

Papers should not exceed 3000 words and should be prepared for blind review. Please do not include any personal information in the paper. On a separate cover page include the following items:

The paper's title
The author's name
Institutional affiliation
E-mail address
Word count (3000 words maximum)
An abstract (150 words maximum)

E-mail a copy of your paper and your personal information, as attachments, in MS Word format (.doc), (.docx) or in Adobe Portable Document Format (PDF) to Please name the file of your paper with an abbreviated paper title and title the file of your contact information with your last name and first initial.

Abstracts without papers will be considered. Full papers are preferred.

Conference Statement:

The purpose of “Building Bridges” is to bring into dialogue diverse elements not commonly associated. We seek interdisciplinary as well as intra-disciplinary themes that address problems from multiple philosophical
standpoints, from different traditions, or in which two or more thinkers not customarily brought into conversation are compared. Our goal is to provide a pluralistic forum for constructive and critical communication across boundaries. For more information visit our website:

Trig, Levinas, and Harman

The Pinnochio Theory dishes it up again.

Why I Watch Movies

I cried through half of the new Man of Steel, the new Superman movie. Guess which half? The first half, because it displayed such meaningful suffering, such noble inwardness, that it reminds me why I ever watch film. To catch a glimpse of the ideal, of virtue, even bedecked with tropes for one moment it may flicker and spark the wick of hope.

The first book series I ever read on my own was The Chronicles of Narnia and then The Lord of the Rings around age 11. They have shaped more more profoundly than any other book has, especially The Lord of the Rings. It reminds me, when nothing else does, that there can be a sublime beauty in failure, in loss, and utter human finitude. Finitude without aspiration is ugly despair. But sometimes, when I step away from Tolkien and think about suffering in our world, and not the world of fantasy, I ask whether ennobling one's suffering is still holy. Is the beauty of the uplifted spirit any less when one, who is burdened by the situation, choses to suffer without realizing that moment of sublimity?Or is it just my way that romanticizes suffering and violence when naught else can be done?

Symposium on Schelling

'Freedom--the Beginning and End of All Philosophy'
A Symposium on the Philosophy of FWJ Schelling

Co-organized by the Department of Philosophy at Temple University and
the International Center for Philosophy at Bonn University

October 4-5, 2013, Temple University, Philadelphia, PA


Jennifer Dobe (Grinnell College, USA)
Michael Forster (University of Bonn, Germany)
Markus Gabriel (University of Bonn, Germany)
Marcela Garcia (Universidad Iberoamericana, Mexico City, Mexico)
Sebastian Gardner (University College London, UK)
Yitzhak Melamed (Johns Hopkins, USA)
Dalia Nassar (University of Villanova, Philadelphia, USA, University of Sidney, Sidney Australia)
Lara Ostaric (Temple University, USA)
Richard Velkley (Tulane University, USA)
Eric Watkins (University of California, San Diego, USA)
Jason Wirth (Seattle University, USA)

For more information

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Walt Whitman's American Philosophy

Justin Erik Halldór Smith has a great post on Witman.

Introducing a New Blog: The Horizon and the Fringe

Ed Hackett, a colleague of mine, was looking for a new venue and asked if I would join with him on a collaborative blog. Hey, I can't turn down a good conversation, so go check it out.

For now, I plan to do more collaborative and political work there. Most of my readers are not Facebook friends, and I am sorry to say, you've been missing out! I do most of my political commentary on Facebook, and am that guy who seems to read every newspaper just to share with you. Well now you don't need to feel left out! My current content on this blog won't change, e.g., conference announcements, musings upon continental and pragmatist philosophy, etc., but the other blog, through Ed et al, will give you extra doses of analytic, continental, and pragmatist philosophy. And whatever else we come up with.

Just what you wanted, right?
 (Psssst. Say "yes.")

UnNecessary Mechanism Revealed!

Matt of Footnotes2Plato has been discussing R. Scott Bakker's Blind Brain Theory. I have conversed with him as well some time back.  I think I have finally realized what is motivating many of RSB's pronouncements.


It came to me: Bakker is running with a common implication of the supervenience hypothesis that states that mind or phenomenal consciousness is an "layer" over a physical substrate. Since only the physical substrate or neurobiology is causally efficacious, then the mind is along for the ride.

The problem is that, assuming this is an sufficient depiction, he must prove that supervenience is true. However, he seems more interested in espousing the wondrous consequences of the idea than in defending it. Moreover, hard supervenience is on the decline.

A follow-up problem is that Bakker could do a better job of accomodating an audience that denies the standard supervenience model--that would be myself among others--and other common theories about mind. That is, his defenses of BBT are toothless against an interlocutor that has alternative presuppositions. 

I have pointed this out before in conversations with him, but now I'm being more direct.

How the American University Was Killed in Five Easy Steps

Reblogged from The Homeless Adjunct

Monday, June 17, 2013

Do You Want to Talk?

A Test of a Good Intellectual Interlocutor

There is an easy test to determine whether a person would be a good intellectual interlocutor. Regardless of knowledge, credentials, or intelligence, some people do not make for good interlocutors in the sense that discussing something with them is either not constructive, is emotionally taxing for unnecessary reasons, is not worth the effort for the likely progress, etc. Passing this test does not mean that one is a good interlocutor, while failing it certainly means that one is not. Of course, if one just aims to learn what that person thinks, then this test is irrelevant.

Is the person willing to consider, at least provisionally, that inferences and implications may be drawn from that person's claims that may be unintended and counter to intentions and consciously held beliefs?

If not, then the person is not worth one's time as an intellectual interlocutor insomuch as the person will contest every unwitting implication. At best, the person might be silent about them, or dodge such implications, but I would still count that as "bad"in most circumstances except for maintaining the usual social graces. Typically, such a person would either deny the implication despite the justification, or insist that only that stated claim should be treated, and that it is "unfair" or "unkind" to infer.

If yes, then the person is very likely to be an interesting interlocutor, especially since engaging conversation frequently comes from exploration of previously unthought implications. At the least, the person will not force the conversants to expend enormous effort just to make a point, as opposed to expending that effort elucidating the issues.

Finally, an astute reader might note that my subtitle is inaccurate: this is really a test for whether one is a "bad" interlocutor.

When is the Analytic vs. Continental Distinction Useful?

That is the question we should be asking ourselves. To often the distinction comes up as if we were setting up picket lines, and when I name it, it's as if I gave the opening salvo in a war. Rather, I ask us to think when and how the distinction is useful rather than assume that we are trying to put people in boxes. Some would insist that it's not useful, e.g., some who insist that the difference is "sociological" by which they mean something akin to in/out-group behavior that we should do away with. But then, every time I have heard that said, the person insists that the ways of one side or another are "philosophy," and thereby restart the war in the name of ending it.

Really, when is the distinction useful? This is not to say that the distinction is just utility...

Ian James on a Difference between Analytic and Continental Philosophy

Concerning my prior post on the differences between continental and analytic philosophy, Richard Marshall's review of Ian James' The New French Philosophy gives an accurate and fair depiction:

He [James] continues: ‘Continental philosophies of experience try to probe beneath the concepts of everyday experience to discover the meanings that underlie them, to think the conditions for the possibility of our concepts. By contrast, continental philosophies of imagination try to think beyond those concepts, to, in some sense, think what is impossible.’ Gutting thinks there is a substantial distinction to be made between continental and analytic philosophy and in the course of defending this now contested view he writes that ‘…analytic philosophy reads experience in terms of common-sense intuitions (often along with their developments and transformations in science) and understands reason in terms of formal logic. Continental philosophy, by contrast, typically sees experience as penetrating beyond the veneer of common-sense and science, and regards reason as more a matter of intellectual imagination than deductive rigor.’ If this is right then my disbelief in the causal efficacy of an absent ontology is merely a defect of my intellectual imagination! Well, whatever you might think about this, Gutting’s comments helpfully contextualise the new French philosophers that James writes about.

When an analytic philosopher asks me to, or tells me that I "appeal to your intuitions," I am always amused, because appealing to one's intuitions is anti-philosophical from a continental point of view. My reasons are similar to James', and a common thread in continental philosophy: intuitions are a relatively arbitrary product of culture, something that philosophy and social science has noted for centuries, and thus the methodological appeal to intuitions is almost worthless. Common intuitions are precisely what we are to overcome, and analytic philosophy acknowledges this in its talk of "just-so stories" or "folk theories," yet grasps in one hand what it denies in the other. This is a pervasive, but not total, problem. Hence, when I pick up this year's catalogue of philosophical publications from Oxford Press and see continental philosophy labeled "philosophy of culture" (read: not serious), I cannot help but feel slapped in the face. Insomuch as culture is an irreducible ground for meaningful thought, yes, continental and also americanist philosophy will be very concerned with it. Though not in the same way, for instance, continental tends to focus on "discursive practices" (more passé now), whereas pragmatism focused on "habits" in its cosmic, physical, and physiological connotations (not narrowly behaviorial or linguistic). Moreover, whereas materiality is a recent focus on continental, it was a ground-floor concern since at least William James for pragmatism, and possibly earlier for Americanist thought more broadly. Hence, where many analytic philosophers begin, continental and pragmatist philosophers end. 

In discussions, I usually just "go with" the appeal to intuitions, because I've discovered that challenging them tends to be a show-stopper. But then, I run the risk of being called disingenuine if I disagree with that move latter in the conversation, especially since it's seen as so basic to "philosophy" for analytic philosophers. By the same token, an analytic philosophy may "get my goat" if I am asked what continuity or habit are, as those are such basic and difficult to explicate concepts. But in a good conversation, we try and learn.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

The New French Philosophy

3AM Magazine reviews Ian James' The New French Philosophy.

Thanks to Leon of After Nature for the link.


I have been thinking about this topic and will post again on it later. Let us prepare by highlighting a crucial passage from Terrence, which I would love to hear more about:

Jason was using a sort of imagistic conceptual shorthand to situate and qualify a certain problematic. In Continental circles this is done all the time, and you can’t understand a single word of such thinkers if you don’t understand this dance between concept and image. This allows one to say much in a few words....
This pulsation between image and concept is not just decorative but I think it has a quite important function – that of permitting communication across incommensurable paradigms. An analytic approach often insists on commensurability, and feels that remarks coming from a radically different frame of reference are somehow uncivil, aggressive, or even violent and also ridiculous or nonsensical. The Continental approach (but I would argue that this is the case for the pragmatists as well) just does not see such closure of and incommunicability between theories that are semantically very different, precisely because they see another pragmatic dimension that makes communication both possible and potentially fruitful (dare I say enjoyable?). 

 I am not familiar with Deleuze, and would invite an explanation of image/concept. What I do want to discuss is what I think I am doing and the reaction to this style of communication. Terrence is right to locate it as a  continental style insomuch as that expository technique is common in continental philosophy and much less so in other traditions, especially when combined with continental's emphasis on a thorough grounding of the history of philosophy, which is required to recognize and properly understanding such references.

What I am doing is alluding to a historic problematic in the history of philosophy, preferably one all discussants recognize, and offer an implicit analogy between the current problem (a question) or problematic (a structured way of thinking a problem). In this case, it was Nietzche and the ascetic will as a response to the death of God by privileging scientific thinking, which is analogous to the contemporary problem/problematics of "scientism."
Concerning the reactions to this style of communication, I wish to turn to what Terrence says about analytic philosophy, "An analytic approach often insists on commensurability, and feels that remarks coming from a radically different frame of reference are somehow uncivil, aggressive, or even violent and also ridiculous or nonsensical. " I concur that he has identified both the theoretical and practical problem. Analytic philosophy does insist on commensurability between traditions if for no other reason that the truth is univocal. (Perhaps, but can it be thought as univocal?) Yet what analytic philosophy doesn't "get," and analytic philosophers with whom I've had this conversation at conferences over the years don't get, is that they took the other fork in the road after Kant. That is, analytic philosophy either denied the problematicity of the First Critique per the limitations of human knowledge, or insisted that philosopher's only "study the concept." I recall the latter approach being trumpetted at an eastern APA keynote a few years ago, although the speaker wrote "philosophy" and not "analytic philosophy," the only tradition for which that is true. In contrast, continental philosophy and post-Peircean Americanist philosophy took different paths after Kant and birthed the notion of irreducible subjectivity: we cannot divorce the truth from the subject that thinks it, yet this separation is precisely a founding motivation of analytic philosophy. I'm talking about you, Russell, Moore, Frege, etc ... and one doesn't need to agree with those theses in order to be within their historical grip. Yes, there are sub-traditions of analytic, e.g., feminism, certain Wittgensteinians, Mark Johnson and recent neuro-philosophy, etc. that would disagree, but "some dissenters" is very different from a whole tradition founded on that and other differences, continental or analytic, ... at least 150 years before the dissenters, e.g., analytic feminists, ever arrived. In the case of the Americanists, especially the pragmatists, Peirce played the role of a Husserl  fifty years before Husserl offered his insights to continental philosophy.

What's the point? The point is that continental and select Americanist thought reject commensurability. They do so not as a simple given, but in responses to logical and reasoned limitations on human knowledge. The way to overcome this is not to find the "singular truth," but to share in a tradition of philosophy, which also means that one shares in a circumscribed practice of thinking a concept: one can think the concept wrongly even if one apprehends its definition. If one does not recognize this, then they in fact assimilate one tradition to another: they assume commensurability and thereby do violence. Wonder why we're still talking about this? Violence.

When I make a reference to Nietzsche's aesthetic will before a continental audience, I expect them to begin applying that concept to the current situation in ways that I could never explicate fully, and may only explicit sufficient at great and prohibitive length. It would be a very "analytic" move to require formal logical explication of that concept, in part because few outside of analytic philosophy even suppose that is possible and thus would not make the demand. Instead, we implicitly negotiate an analogical argument. Within analytic philosophy, what I just said is scandalous and would be an obvious case of "unclear" thinking, for analytic philosophy prides itself on "clarity" and "precision." Yet that "clarity" and "precision" comes at the cost of accepting premises that continental and post-Peircean Americanist think to be fundamentally indefensible. I think Terrence's naming of this as "analytic liter-mindedness" apt.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Peirce 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 Chicago, Illinois, USA, February 26 – March 1, 2014); possible publication, subject to editorial revision, in the Transactions of the Charles S. Peirce Society.

Submission Deadline: October 1, 2013

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 the Writings should be to both CP and W.

Submissions should be prepared for anonymous 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 Shannon Dea, Secretary-Treasurer of the Society: . Please include "Peirce Essay Contest Submission" in the subject line of your email.

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

Shannon Dea
Department of Philosophy
University of Waterloo
200 University Avenue West
Waterloo, Ontario, Canada N2L 3G1

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Criticism of "Limited Horizons"

I wish to address one of the criticisms of my article in the Transactions of the C.S. Peirce Society (Winter 2012). This criticism originates from one of the reviewers. I can send a copy of the text upon request.

1. How can I answer the question, “how does this [imagination] work” without giving an empirical answer?

I give a logical and functional answer to the question of “how?” that a purely empirical response cannot supply. Hence, the question relies on an equivocation of what do we mean by “how?” Later, I will explain why a purely empirical response cannot supply this.

 I give a grounded, rigorous, theory of how imagination functions *if* it is to conform faithfully to Dewey’s texts while extending the analysis and interpretation beyond what the historic author probably intended. My intent is to “grow” the tradition: be faithful to its tenets and texts while modifying them only to respond to historic and contemporary problems. “Growing the tradition” is in contrast to neopragmatic or “analytic-pragmatic” approaches that dominate contemporary English-speaking philosophy, which borrow a concept here or there without the original motivations, problematics, theoretical contexts, etc. (Neopragmatism is a tradition within analytic philosophy, whereas “analytic-pragmatic” denotes ad-hoc appropriations.) Rather than being limited by history and a shared vision in a line of scholarship, neopragmatic or “analytic-pragmatic” is bound only by whatever problem or concerns they have. In contrast, I must justify any departure from the tradition, and part of that justification must be a replacement of whatever underlying theory or context I am jettisoning. Analytic-based approaches, since they sever the originating context and goals, do not need to do this.

I mention the issues of tradition and analytic philosophy, because asking for an empirical answer is usually motivated by the concerns of the mainstream analytic tradition, which generally tries to subordinate philosophy to science within any realm where that is possible. Typical members of the analytic tradition disagree on where to draw the line between philosophy and empirical science. Hence, I can read the question “how?” as either a request for more empirical work or as a wholesale skepticism of the viability of my project because it lacks rigorous empirical-scientific grounding required of much contemporary analytic philosophy. I am not sure which it is.

In response to the first reading, that is why I included far more discussion of Mark Johnson in the final draft. Mark Johnson does a lot of empirical work and is well-known, and I showed how my work is continuous with him. Thus, prima facie, my claims are consistent with empirical findings.

In response to the second reading, we would have to agree to disagree. Phenomenological approaches cannot be an empirical science, though they must be informed by them. I offer my theory as an abductive and practical hypothesis that spans both what can and cannot be directly addressed by empirical evidence. In fact, as many pragmatists know, the pragmatic tradition harbored many concepts for decades before they became mainstream in contemporary social psychology, embodied cognition, the extended mind thesis, etc. Hence, traditional pragmatists face far more skepticism than analytic writers unless they couch their writing within the terms of accepted analytic theories. Hence, I won’t cite Varela, but James, Dewey, and Mead. Or, when adventurous, I’ll cite Merleau-Ponty and Kestenbaum (1970s). Hence, In response to skepticism, I would ask the skeptic how much of it is motivated by real concerns vs. differences in the tradition? If it is the latter, we need to bridge those differences before any pragmatist must respond to those concerns. Meanwhile, many pragmatists (both tradition-bound and those not, of which Mark Johnson and others are the latter), are already making those bridges and I would implore the analytic skeptic to avail her- or himself to that literature. Of course, I am speaking of these traditional categories as much more delineated and substantial than they are, but I am sure the reader is aware of that.

Finally, as promised, why cannot an empirical answer be given? The article is an extension of my dissertation which is now a heavily-edited book manuscript. I seek to unify pragmatic metaphysics and phenomenology. Since Peirce did not sever the two from the outset, I don’t face quite the same challenges that a post-Husserlian phenomenology would face, as Husserl articulated phenomenology such that unification would require reconstructing “phenomenology.”  Phenomenology cannot be an empirical science, even on a pragmatic account, but it can be delimited by science is much more direct ways than even a post-Husserlian phenomenology. Hence, my article aimed to systematize principally Deweyan pragmatism to provide the beginning of a core phenomenology, since as yet not enough work has been done to provide a complete target for empirical criticism. This line of scholarship disappeared in the 1980s after the work of Kestenbaum, Rosenthal, Bourgeouis, etc. tapered off. 

Hence, to directly respond to the question, asking for an empirical answer for a phenomenology supposes that a phenomenology can be reduced to the empirical, which is a logical contradiction since any empirical account presupposes an implicit phenomenology. Moreover, it is a practical contradiction until we have a complete science of consciousness that solves both the “big” and “small” problems of contemporary neuro- and cognitive-science.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Saturday, June 8, 2013

My Semiotics Exists: Does Yours?

A common mistake when reading Peirce or talking to a pragmatist, which we pragmatists should do a better job of alleviating (read: me), is to remind our interlocutor what "semiotic" means in a Peircean context.

I have committed an oversight. Reading back through some of my old exchanges with Levi Bryant, I realized belatedly that he understands "semiotics" to mean talk about signifiers and the signified, e.g., formal or phenomenological semiotics. But that is not what it means in Peirce or pragmatism that followed his lead. "Semiotic" does mean that, but it also means the existences that instantiate whatever is taken for a sign.  So when Levi wrote, many months ago while insisting that he was familiar with pragmatism ...

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.
 ... I now realize that he was probably thinking something along the Saussurean signifer/signified distinction, whereas Peirce has a triadic rather than binary system that implies the existential instantiation of a sign. Yes, Peirce also dealt with purely formal systems, but his genius is how he shows the continuity of formal and existential semiotics, or what some now call "biosemiotics." I could just write "biosemiotics" from now one, but Peirce also mean formal, phenomenological, biological, etc., and would only specify based on the context, and I share this trait.

Given yesterday's post on time, which might have seemed strange, I can now connect temporality and semiotics. I delve into semiotics not because I'm interested in formal signification of the usual sort, but because I'm interested in connecting the functional natural instantiation of a sign system (read: culture) with its phenomenological semitioc (read: how we understand the word and ourselves based on a culture), and how the functional structure of the interface opens and forecloses possibilities of understanding (read in a vaguely Heideggerian way: how our embodied habits limit our possibilities of understanding and discerning the necessary from contingent limits). So, I'm doing a lot of semiotics all the time that is probably not even recognizable as such but anyone but a pragmatist, because I don't use the formal languages that most other than Peirceans would recognize. I have branched out to using Mark Johnson's language in my published articles, but he needs to write faster!  (Mark, if you're reading this, finish that ethics book!)

Friday, June 7, 2013

The Structure of Time

I have been musing upon time and temporality, particularly the proto-theory adopted by my book manuscript. Below are some straight-forward thoughts about time assuming a broadly pragmatist perspective. Those unfamiliar with that perspective might find the thoughts anything but straight-forward, since they presume basic premises that are radically at odds with mainstream philosophy in America. Yay, Peirce!

Time is change by definition.
Time is synonymous with, but not identical to, change. "Change" denotes a difference in what exists, and connotes a local change in a determinate existence. If a thing can change, it is temporal, which is synonymous with existing and vice-versa (assuming the real vs. existing distinction). If a thing can not change, then it is atemporal and does not exist. It may still be real, as in the case of numbers or generals/universals (assuming neo-scholastic realism).

Time as such does not exist.
If time is change, then time exists only insomuch as change exists, which further depends upon some other thing in flux.

Is time the same thing or identical to change?
In other words, why is time synonymous with but not identical to change? In a commonsense meaning, "change" requires an alteration in existence, e.g., in predication logically-speaking, whereas there is more to time than actuality or change in actuality. Time also denotes the structure of the possible as well as the actual, and this point qualifies or nuances the prior definition.

Time is change insomuch as change is an alteration in the structure of possibility.
Any change is time, since a difference in the actual connotes a difference in the possible, but the reverse is not necessarily true. There can be an alteration in possibility without an alteration in actuality.

Time is relative.
Since time depends on actual change, it is relative. Since a temporal event is relative to existence, then discussions of possibility must include both the logical and probabilistic senses of "possibility." Hence, an alteration in the "structure of possibility" should be conceived in terms of probability functions or some such, which are not binary true/false functions, but n-dimensional.

Time is local.
Since time depends on a change in existence, and existence is always spatial, then time is relative to a locality.

Time is asymmetric.
Time flows in one way: there is a strict order of events. By implication, causality is neither symmetric nor necessarily reversible. That is, if time is asymmetric, then change is so, and since causality is a kind of change, then causality must be asymmetric. Hence, there may be cosmic epochs that might never repeat.

Since time is relative, local, asymmetric, etc. we should distinguish between the ontological and ontic.
The ontology of time, or descriptions of the structure of possibility as such given a logos of nature, should be distinguished from the onticology of time, or descriptions of the structure of real possibility given a physics of nature. The latter is dependent upon the former.

Time is continuous and teleological.
I have already assumed the continuity of time, and I refer readers to my links and comments on Peirce's arguments. As for "teological," I just take that to be an implication of the combined realities of chance and law: if there is change, then it must be in some degree determinate, and since time is asymmetric, then we can describe this asymmetric determinate change in terms of what might be given this development, i.e., in terms of a non-deterministic emergent teleology.

Why not use "possible worlds" talk to describe this?
Possible worlds talk was not constructed to support my basic ontological principles, and it is not worth the time to attempt to translate it. Consider one immediate obstacle. Typical "possible worlds" is not temporal: discussion of the worlds is static or atemporal. One obvious way to temporalize such discussion would be to provide a temporal index, e.g., World P at time t1 or World Q at time t2. However, the indexical concept of time quantifies and universalizes time. In contrast, I am beginning from a process metaphysics where time as such is indeterminate because it is relative. Moreover, since time is continuous, it cannot be unequivocally indexed or universally measured in any meaningful way befitting ontology. Ontology and metaphysics, unlike science, cannot tolerate measurement imprecision. Relative indices such as "sooner" or "later could obviously be managed, but that is not very productive. Moreover, the act of indexing time, e.g., speaking of "at time t1," implies that a universal signification that cannot be had. That is, indexing implies that it would be meaningful to talk about World P and World Q at time t1, but that is not meaningful and therefore it would be best to avoid that terminology.

Trust me, this is a lot slower and clearer than those 100 pages of my dissertation, let along my revised manuscript.

Need a French Philosophical Translator?

I am looking for more French-language philosophy to translate, since I finished my last project. I would prefer untranslated material that would be helpful for a person (if short) or publishable (if long). I thought I would advertise here--for who knows?

Suggestions, anyone?

I'm well-read in the history of philosophy, the history of continental, and pragmatism, for which I can offer particular expertise. I've published translations on the topics of historic phenomenology, existentialism, and pragmatism, and have unpublished works in neomarxism in addition. For those unfamiliar with translation, this matters because expert knowledge is required for effective translation over and above mere language ability.

If anyone happens to want a page or so of French philosophy translated for a good reason, I'm more than willing to have a good look, though I don't have much interest in translating anything else.

Interview: Richard Kearney on Evil, Ethics, and the Imagination

Get it at The Other Journal.

CFP: Midwest Pragmatist Study Group

of The Society for the Advancement of American Philosophy


Fifteenth Annual Meeting
Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI)
Indianapolis, Indiana USA

21­22 September 2013
Saturday Afternoon and Sunday Morning

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 committee:

Martin Coleman

902 W. New York St, ES0010
Indianapolis, IN 46202

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 chosen to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the birth of philosopher George Santayana: "Philosophical Heresy" (1915), "Normal Madness" (1925), and "Preface to Realms of Being" (1927).

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.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Postdoc in Process Ontology and Contemporary Biology

Reposted from the After Nature link HERE.

A Process Ontology for Contemporary Biology
ERC Advanced Investigator Award, Grant Agreement #324186

This project has three central aims. The first is to rethink central issues in the philosophy of biology by elaborating an ontology for biology that takes full account of the processual nature of living systems. Starting with a careful survey of existing positions, especially Whitehead and the American Pragmatists, the goal will be to develop a concept of process adequate for addressing the multiple levels of interacting processes at different time scales characteristic of living systems. The concept of a stable biological thing will be analysed as a stabilised process relative to an appropriate time scale, and this conception should make possible a better understanding of familiar biological pluralisms (about genes, organisms, species, etc…) in terms of different ways in which distinct scientific practices intersect with biological processes.

Second, the concept of process developed will be used to rethink some highly topical issues in contemporary philosophy of biology (and philosophy of science generally). The project will explore the potential of a processual perspective to provide a critique of widely discussed recent versions of mechanism. The latter have been deployed to offer accounts of explanation and, eventually, causation. Such accounts will be assessed for the possibility of revision in the light of modifications suggested by a processual perspective. The project will explore generally the relevance of this perspective to influential contemporary accounts of causation and explanation.

Finally the project will apply the preceding ideas to several highly active and important areas of contemporary biology: systems biology, synthetic biology, and microbiology. These investigations, in fact, will be carried on in parallel with the more general philosophical enquiries, with the idea that the two will be mutually informative: the philosophical analyses will not only be applied to scientific concepts, but will also themselves be evaluated for their relevance to real cutting edge biology. This evaluation will be guided by interaction with scientific practitioners and an expert Advisory Board, as well as text-based study. The project aims to be of direct relevance to both philosophy and science.

Some preliminary attempts to address some of these issues can be found in J. Dupré, Processes of Life: Essays in the Philosophy of Biology, OUP 2012, especially parts 2 and 3.

The project will employ three postdoctoral research fellows. The first, currently recruiting, is a four year Associate Research Fellowship. The appointee will work closely with the PI on all aspects of the project.

To apply, please complete an application form, your CV and covering letter with the contact details of three referees to Hanan Price ( quoting the reference number P45222 in any correspondence.

To download the application and equal opportunities form please follow the below links;

Two further posts will be advertised during the academic year 2013-14. These will be to work specifically on the application of the project themes to (i) systems and synthetic biology, and (ii) microbiology. Anyone interested in any of these posts is welcome to contact the PI at