Philpercs is up and running and my blogging will be over there from this point forward.
Joe Bob says check it out.
[Updates: (1) Thus far, in addition to me and the Rochas, we also have Mark Silcox, Neal Hebert, J. Edward Hackett, Charles Pence, Tiffany Cvrkel, BP Morton, Debbie Goldgaber, Olufemi Taiwo, Duncan Richter, Stephen C. Finley, Tristan Haze and one or two more forthcoming authors that will be added here. (2) We've decided that the go date will be around May 13th., (3) our reason for being and general policies are up here.]
With the amount of work I'm putting into my book on Tristan Garcia and am about to undertake on the new edition of the Martin philosophy of language book with Heidi Savage and Mel Ebbers, blogging has clearly fallen by the way-side. So I'm going to make the hiatus official.
When I come back it will be via a return to group blogging (with Mona and James Rocha and hopefully some other people).
The reason I still believe in blogging is that it can still be a good antidote to problems that arise from the way that professional advancement forces the unit of philosophy to be the chapter, article, and presentation. IMHO, this is in general, a good thing. But I still think that philosophy, done properly, gives you all sorts of weird insights into everything under the sun, most of which aren't fit to be packaged into a journal article. Blogs give you a chance to try out these insights prior to the point of even thinking about whether you would compose a paper containing them. They also give you a chance to be a dilettante, in the more original, non-insulting sense of the term.
In this post I covered Acts I and II of the John Stewart/Seth Rollins feud. In Act III Seth Rollins went on TMZ Hollywood Sports to respond to Stewart's promo:
Then, Act II, Rollins upped the ante by showing up on Stewart's own turf:
And, finally, the denouement. And I must say that Stewart's appearance on WWE's Monday Night Raw was certainly my moment of Zen:
I love how Seth Rollins' flunkies laughed at his jokes and he told them to shut up whenever they hammed it up too much. Really first-rate, classic heel behavior.
I can't quite figure out why Randy Orton was the one who came in to save Stewart though. Are they once again trying to make Orton play face now (a role for which he's singularly ill suited)? Does giving Stewart a wrestler champion mean that the feud is going to continue? Maybe with Stewart in a quasi-managerial role?
In Act II above, Rollins mentions an angle where Jay Leno defeated Hulk Hogan. He was certainly also thinking of the similar angle with David Arquette in WCW. Most historians regard Arquette's reign in the belt as one of the biggest instances of what's technically known as "wrestlecrap" in the history of the sport. See this cracked dot com article on the five most baffling celebrity cameos in professional wrestling. Arquette beat out Leno, Pete Rose, Robocop, and the Muppets. As much as I'd like further acts in the Stewart/Rollins feud, history teaches that it's much better to get out early with this kind of thing.
This review by York University's Daniel F.J. Siksay is pretty gratifying. If you can't make it past the pay-wall and want a copy, just e-mail me and I'll send you one.
Helping Mark Allan Ohm translate Garcia's magnum opus was probably the second hardest thing (after caring for a newborn) I've yet done, and it's tremendously validating to get a pat on the shoulder as well as to see that other people agree with me that it was not time wasted.
To be clear, if you had to translate a one hundred seventy thousand plus word metaphysics tome from its original French, you could not do better than to translate one by as preternaturally gifted a writer as Tristan Garcia. But it's still a lot of moving pieces you have to juggle for sustained periods.
A new post by Emily about how talent is overrated here. It's an interesting synchronicity to read that post after reading Peter Railton's recent APA Presidential address, specifically his remarks on the cult of smartness in philosophy:
How did smartness get to be so central in evaluation in a discipline that is supposed to be seeking knowledge and wisdom? And what is it doing t o us as students, teachers, colleagues, and researchers to allow this culture to persist? What are the full costs of this culture, in which we all to some degree participate, even if only passively?
Sarah-Jane Leslie and colleagues (2015) have done research which might tell us something about these costs. Leslie and colleagues polled academics nationwide in disciplines across the university and got evidence that philosophers are at the very high end of the spectrum of disciplines in their answer to the question whether success in their field requires “raw, innate talent” or “a special aptitude that can’t be taught”. Moreover, Leslie and colleagues discovered that, in general, disciplines where such an idea prevails—mathematics, physics, music composition, among others—have lower representations of women and historically under-represented groups than disciplines where greater importance is attached to “effort and dedication” as opposed to “raw ability”. Our ideology of smartness may work against an ideal of inclusiveness. So it’s no longer cute—can we also make it no longer cool?
Railton also makes the point that the kind of divergent thinking that can really aid philosophical creativity is likely to be systematically suppressed by the hegemony of smart.
We’ll never know what this ideology of smartness has cost the discipline over the years in terms of the discouragement of creative minds of all ages who just didn’t, or wouldn’t, fit that mold.
I think this actually ties to Emily's point about hard work.
In my experience I only ever get good at something to the extent that I can overcome my anxieties and embarrassments and be willing to do it badly. When I write a paper or book I have to tell myself that the first draft is going to suck. And sometimes it does. Sometimes the final draft sucks pretty bad or is embarrassing. But (and this applies to everything) if I wasn't willing to work really hard putting out crap, I'd never achieve even basic competence, not to mention maybe achieving real understanding or beauty. The ideology of smart strikes me as a tremendous impediment in this regard.
There are things we can do though. Railton again:
I was speaking with a mathematician the other day—the quintessential field of “smarts”. She has an international reputation and works in a top department. She looked at me in a level gaze. “I always tell my women students that I wasn’t the strongest student in my graduate class. And I wasn’t the second strongest student. But maybe I had better ideas. Or asked better questions. Or cared more about the work.”
Good advice for men too.
I'm probably the last person in the world to see this, but it's pretty cool. Here's WWE Superstar Seth Rollins calling out John Stewart:
And here's Stewart cutting a pretty credible promo in response:
I wish Stewart hadn't broken kayfabe with the balsa wood schtick, but it's still pretty credible overall. He even cites a gimmick match at the end. I'm praying this goes somewhere.
One of the central axes in Heidegger scholarship involves the extent to which one can make sense of the following deeply weird passages from Paragraph 44 of Being and Time:
“There is” [“gibt es”] truth only insofar as Da-sein is and as long as it is. Beings are discovered only when Da-sein is, and only as long as Da-sein is are they disclosed. Newton’s laws, the law of contradiction, and any truth whatsoever, are true only as long as Da-sein is. Before there was any Da-sein, there was no truth; nor will there be any after Da-sein is no more. For in such a case truth as disclosedness, discovering, and discoveredness cannot be. Before Newton’s laws were discovered, they were not “true.” From this it does not follow that they were false or even that they would become false if ontically no discoveredness were possible any longer.
This can be read this in a variety of ways, from a nearly trivial stipulation about how we are going to use technical notions of truth or falsity on the one hand to an affirmation of full blown Berkeleyan idealism on the other. Heidegger explicitly tries to distance himself from the idealist extreme. He goes on to write:
The fact that before Newton his laws were neither true nor false cannot mean that the beings which they point out in a discovering way did not previously exist. The laws became true through Newton, thorough them beings in themselves became accessible to Da-sein. With the discoveredness of beings, they show themselves precisely as the beings that they previously were. To discover in this way is the kind of being of “truth.”
But then a few pages later, Heidegger seems to take back precisely this very realist concession.
“There is” [Es gibt] being--not beings--only insofar as truth is. And truth is only because and as long as Da-sein is. Being and truth “are” equiprimordially.
But the three passages together trap Heidegger in an absurdity.* Being is only insofar as truth is. But earlier he has asserted that truth is only insofar as Dasein is. So being is only insofar as Dasein is. But in his rejection of idealism, he has said that beings exist without Dasein. But all of this together would entail the prima facie absurd position that beings exist without being. Some of the best essays in Crowell and Malpas' magnificent Transcendental Heidegger explore these issue, particularly those by Christina LaFont and Herman Phillipse, who uses these and other passages to pose “Heidegger’s problem of the external world.” LaFont and Phillipse separately show that it is very, very difficult to make sense of just exactly what the question of the meaning of Being is supposed to amount to if things can exist without being. Interesting, Phillipse and LaFont's concerns are largely homologous to the concerns raised by Quentin Meillassoux in After Finitude about the entire phenomenological tradition.
Interpreters such as Taylor Carmen or Robert Brandom tend to see the question of the meaning of being as a question of transcendental psychology, that is concerning how minds are able to comprehend that and what things are. As such they have a much easier time dismissing such problem passages. But interpreters such as Graham Harman who take the problem of the meaning of being to have much stronger metaphysical resonance, concerning actuality (that things are) and essence (what they are) (and note that in the Nietzsche lectures Heidegger traces the fall from pre-Socratic wisdom to be precisely the separation of these notions), find Heideggerian philosophy of mind to be a caricature of Heidegger’s essential idea.
As someone who is not a specialist in Heidegder, to me the state of secondary literature seems to be this. Carmen develops a profound Heideggerian philosophy of mind, in part by building on Dreyfus and Okrent’s groundbreaking work, but also in part by ignoring much of what Heidegger has to offer metaphysics. Likewise Harman develops a profound metaphysics by ignoring much of what Heidegger has to offer the philosophy of mind.* Weirdly, French post-structuralist Heideggerians do something in between! That is, current debates about "The Speculative Turn" include debates about whether to read the work of post-structuralists along Carmanian or Harmanian lines. Brad Elliot Stone (here) has utilized P.F. Strawson's work to make the most powerful generalized case for Harmania, a case for which assorted Deleuzians, Simondonians, Whiteheadians, Lacanians, etc. have been paving the way the last decade or so.
In Heidegger's Philosophy of Being Herman Phillipse argues that traditional Heidegger scholarship’s willingness to accept Heidegger’s pretense that there is a univocal problem of being places the scholars in question in a similar epistemic state of those theologians who start interpreting the Bible by taking its (supposed) own assertion of consistency at face value. Since I'm more interested in what we can learn from philosophers Heidegger, I don't feel the need to adjudicate this issue (albeit self-awareness of what one is doing requires registering it).
Rather, what I want to do at least by this Summer is see where Kris McDaniel's metaphysical reading of the Vorhandenheit/Zuhandenheit distinction as well as his program for phenomenological metaphysics fits into Harman's earlier interpretation of Heidegger as well as happenings in "the new continental metaphysics" (as personified by Harman and Stone's positive programs) more generally. From my brief read-throughs thusfar, I think that reading McDaniel from the perspective of recent events in continental metaphysics will be pretty productive.
[*I should note that in A Thing of This World Lee Braver has an interesting take on these passages that ends up having him attribute a view to Heidegger interestingly homologous to Robert Kraut's "Robust Deflationism." A chapter in a book I'm writing is dedicated to this homology. It's interesting stuff.
I should also note that Bill Blattner's work is relevant to all of this in all sorts of cool ways that I hope to untangle.]
In this post I hypothesized about why so many urban fantasy series written by women start out wonderful and end up unreadable, with reference to Jacqueline Carey, Laurel K. Hamilton, Kim Harrison, and Anne Rice. In that post I mistakenly identified Harrison's tick as starting bits of dialogue with "Uh," when in fact it is "Ah." This happened so many times in the penultimate few Hollows novels that I couldn't finish them. But today I gamely made my way through the finale, The Witch With No Name. And I must say that it was much better in the ah department than the previous few. But I still can't understand why HarperCollins cannot do a better editing job for a series that has produced multiple New York Times best sellers. Consider the following sixty-five examples from the book.
Maybe I would not have noticed these had the previous five or so books in the series not sensitized me to occurrences of the execrable word. But still, why dear Jesus? Why?
In this post I described how overactive master spam algorithms were preventing people from commenting on blogs (and showed how to get your name removed from one such list). Now Matt Brown has contacted me noting that typepad's reCAPTCHA software has prevented him from commenting on an earlier post I did about the pandora algorithm (everything seems to be about algorithms these days). Here was the comment:
Along the lines of (1) in BP Morton's first comment, it's important to point out that Pandora (supposedly) draws on the Music Genome Project to characterize similar songs. Tone Loc, Sir Mixalot, and Sublime may not have influenced Beastie Boys, nor be liked by those who like the Beastie boys, but they may share some "musicological DNA" with the Beastie Boys. (And sampling the first Tone Loc song that came up on YouTube, I can see how that overlap might work, w/ early Beastie Boys, at least.)
ReCAPTCHA software tries to prevent bots from posting on blogs by having users retype text that is distorted enough to not (at least not yet) be recognizable by machines used by spammers. Brown tried again and again and the thing wouldn't accept what he typed.
From googling, I gather that other people have this problem. Posts like this shows how to turn of the reCAPTCHA algorithm in typepad. Basically you click Settings, the click Comments, and then un-tick Require Verification Code (there are pictures on the post to which I linked). One weird thing is that I never ticked that box in the first place, but I've unticked it now.
Another nice post by Emily from the fiction writing trenches.
Somewhere Graham Harman wrote that your biggest enemy is the blank page. Just tell yourself that your first draft is going to suck and that you'll have plenty of time to rewrite. I find this pretty helpful advice.
Emily doesn't mention a couple of other things we both do. First, it really helps if writing is ritualized. I always end up writing about the same time of the day in the same place and listening to music. These slowly change as life presents different obstacles and possibilities, but they usually stay the same for months or years. Right now the only way I can write is to wake up at 4:45 AM, ride my bicycle into my office by 6:00 AM, and get a few hours in before students start to show up and make noise. Second, distractions should be minimized. Emily writes in a little side room in our house where the wifi doesn't come in. In addition to writing in my office before the custodial staff even show up, I've found that things go much better if I don't open facebook until I've finished whatever goal I set the night before for my writing.
Finally, Graham Harman also somewhere said that your second biggest enemy is the completed book or article. It's very important the day before to figure out exactly what tiny piece you want to get accomplished the next day (of course there might be some lagniappe, but focus on the tiny piece) and then when you're actually writing don' t worry about anything but that tiny piece.
Admittedly these are not sufficient. You also have to cultivate certain character traits that keep you doing it. If you are writing for publication, you have to be able to get back up over and over again and resubmit things that have often been rejected multiple times. When the acceptance rate is lower than 5%, that means if you are average with respect to other people submitting you will have to submit at least twenty times for each acceptance. The odds of acceptance are vastly worse in fiction. There's a karmic balance though. If it's easier to get academic work published, it's not any easier to get it read. The overwhelming majority of articles and books never get cited by anyone other than the author self-citing her own texts later on. Most of us have to master the art of writing into the void.
If writing into the void drives you nuts, take some consolation in the fact that even the people most cited are in all likelihood writing into the void as well. I'm not talking about the heat death of the universe. Intellectual fashion is fickle. Suzanne Langer and Hans Vaihinger were probably bigger names than anyone writing today, but who is teaching their books. If Nelson Goodman can fall from grace, then anyone can and almost everyone will.
The benefit of writing into the void is that it keeps us honest. There's a bit of a paradox here. The collective system that does or doesn't recognize us only works if enough people remain unmotivated by collective recognition. I'm sure a good Hegelian like Robert Brandom would have interesting things to say about this. . . but I need to get back to work.