Month: August 2009

The Hiring Process

Here’s an inside view of one philosophy dept.’s hiring process (600 applications…bad math from there)…. Sadly as depressing as it is, it’s obviously worse when you cut out the earnestness here. I obviously take to heart the seriousness that the people described took with the process, but the give-away of what happens is the move from the specific (we took care with each application…) to the general (we got a good idea, not of individual files, but of the next generation) is swift and, sadly, what applicants are in for: the sheer volume of reading deprived us of the leisure to contemplate each and every writing sample as deeply as we might have liked, overall we got a very good sense of what the next generation of philosophers is up to.


Now Wikipedia is going to color code  entries soon based upon trustwortiness:

To appease critics and combat bias, Wikipedia will institute an optional feature called WikiTrust, which according to Wired Magazine “will color code every word of the encyclopedia based on the reliability of its author and the length of time it has persisted on the page.”  

To which I reply (a) all trustworthy text from this blog will be in your browser’s default color, (b) it’s good to see Homeland Security’s still-in-use color coding system is migrating to wiki, and (c) I can’t wait for this to come to philosophy journals…

Question for G.H. at OOP

And the object is?

(That is, for the CRESC conference we are to choose an object as part of the display.)

I haven’t finished choosing mine. I might use my father as the stand-in, since he is something I have around the house now and again and that would upset the normal discussion of what an object is. Plus, I’ve carted him all over Scotland now and it would seem a waste not to use him. Though, I do worry he won’t want to stay in the exhibit all that long. He’s a challenge, he is…

In the original language

G.H.’s post on style and original language reminded the geek in me about that great line from one of the Star Trek movies about loving Shakespeare in the original Klingon. Apparently, someone took that quite seriously:


Also, I take it that (a) style is untranslatable, that (b) the French writers post-Sartre have translations that only sound pedantic and thus have formula that get oft-repeated in translation, and (c) I don’t know whether or not to hope, from his description, I can be translated well. I had to think of this once when a friend was translating something of mine into French and asked me if that was what I meant, and I thought, well actually that’s even more subtle in the French and better.

And speaking of Graham, I want to thank him for pointing out Gibbon’s use of “insensibly.” Now when I’m driving through the Scottish countryside, I hear it each time. And, yes, if you want to know, I have a great, sharp reader of Gibbon, who uses every word of Germanic origin in the English language and has taught me that I know nothing in the art of the put-down. I mean his formula of X is as Y (vain or whatever) as he was Z (negation move). Graham’s offered several examples of it.

Great Scot

The Thin Red Line–the famed Scottish Brigage–thankfully took down, as I read at their museum today, those “uncivilized Indian revolutionaries” who were taking on the British crown for their independence.

Then I learned that thank God for Robert the Bruce, who took on the British crown for their independence.

Humans and other Animals

Renee at Womanist Musings and Feministe had a post up on the perhaps perverse effect of the animal rights’ movement on the politics of decolonization. Critical Animal, I think, replies a bit hastily but sets up the problem well. The reason I say hastily is because I think politics is always a question of strategy and at moments I think the rhetoric of a certain humanism is useful, as long as at the end we continue to recognize that we have to stop treating animals like animals, too:

So much of the struggles of the colonized and persons of color have come from a commitment to being human, too. 
There always exists a politics when a non-paradigmatic human being claims the title of human. This is as true for when the colonized claim to be humans, as when the Great Ape Projects argue for the personhood of Great Apes. However, in a fine Ranciere-ian fashion (a Ranciere devoid of his anthropocentrism, so therefore a Ranciere beyond Ranciere), while the claim to be human may be political, it does not remain political. For those of us on the critical animal studies side of the process, these political moments of demands for the right to claim humanness or personhood are also moments to continue the political. That is to say, to forward our argument that the human/animal distinction cannot stand. To say, “If you got this one wrong, maybe you very ordering system is wrong.” In this way we hope to not just change the count, but change the very logic of counting through this moment of tort. This is where I don’t know how to make common cause. For me, it is obvious that the wrong done to the non-paradigmatic human beings is based upon the ability to do wrong to animals. If we end the ability draw lines between the human on one side and all animals on the otherside, if we embrace the monstrosity of the human animal, then we end the ability to continue to do harm to people of color by calling them animals. That loses the power of justification. But it seems to me that for many people of color that such a move jeopardizes their lives instead of enriching their lives.

I realize I’ve just quoted a bit much of CA’s post. But here Derrida’s work in his lectures The Animal that Therefore I am is quite helpful. His critique of continuinism and so on don’t really advance much in this area, but his crucial point that in the history of philosophy just about every philosopher can be undone based upon where he (and it was a patriarchal he) put the human/animal distinction. Pedagogically, this is far more useful than, say, having to point out the metaphysics of presence or some such. But more to the point: it has the upshot of being right. And once this is destabilized, so does the dichotomy that soon follows in the modern period through to Hegel and beyond between the European and its dark other. Emmanuel Eze made a similar point in his last book on Enlightenment reason. So ultimately, I don’t think either hold, and in fact, pulling the thread on the first unspools the second rather quickly, since as we all too well know, the racialized other is invariably the animal other. All one needs to do is listen to the biopolitical rancor for a few minutes in any discussion of immigration in San Diego and beyond.

But Renee’s point is well taken, since we must recall how certain notions of human dignity are and continue to be crucial in decolonizing movements.