Month: July 2010

One-Dimensional Women

In case you think we are getting brilliant analysis on our California Senate campaign, think again:

Public Policy Polling includes this circa-1957 question in its latest poll of the California Senate race:

Do you have a higher opinion of Barbara Boxer’s hair or Carly Fiorina’s hair?

Barbara Boxer’s hair………………………………… 19%
Carly Fiorina’s hair…………………………………… 14%
Not sure…………………………………………………. 67%

No questions on which candidate has the more dynamite body.

Were 67% really not sure? (Hopefully that’s a stand-in for “told pollster to shove it.”)

“Folk” Philosophy

I’m interested to hear what the OOO peeps think about Harman’s take on “folk” philosophy in general. I should really write on this at some point—maybe I’ll suggest this to Speculations. But a big dig at certain parts of African philosophy was that it was “folk” philosophy and that (Western) science (or one really lame interpretation of it) trumped “ethnophilosophy” and thus other forms of knowledge don’t get to count. I’m reading (slowly, among other works) D.A. Masolo’s Self and Community in a Changing World, where he revisits some of these debates. And it seems to me this is a trump card used for “naive village superstition” (Harman’s apt phrase) that is within “European” and between European and other traditions that the “I know nothing about you” ethnocentric trump card is used: it’s just “folk” knowledge. (Let’s not leave aside that certain areas of knowledge have been feminized and rendered “folk” knowledge as well. And let’s leave aside that “folk” knowledge as “false” is as lame as Heidegger’s critique of das Man or Arednt’s view of the social: people are really strange and different and just stupid.)

I once taught a critical thinking course at Chicago State around this idea of “folk philosophy,” using so-called “sage philosophers” (work compiled by the late H.O. Oruka) and then working through the differences he made between “philosophical” sages (“critical”) and sages as such (those knowledgeable about their culture and thus “folk” in the sense of simply repeating it, though of course that’s no easy task either). Then my task was the reverse of what one would think: reading Socrates (or Plato’s Socrates) in order to try to dilineate that line, that is, to read them first as folk philosophers. The point, I guess, could reinforce the point that “folk” was bad, but for a critical thinking course, it worked well—since it was good frame for figuring out what was meant by “critical” thinking.

Also in my mind at the time was Heidegger’s rendition of the Greeks (“natural” or “Greek” Dasein). In any case, the other connecting rod is the accusation of “panpsychism.” The point would be not to say that Harman or someone else is doing “folk” philosophy, but to say that if science does not exhaust objects, then perhaps those previously deemed folk were onto something more than being a marker of our “past” selves. Sure, you will find something different that Harman’s diagrams, but frankly I think I’ve seen versions of the mesh (not that you’re just folkish, Morton) in certain African philosophers. Or better point, to follow up on the intent of Harman’s post, could there be a pretense that the people one disagrees with are not morons or childish? That others have, perhaps in different languages in contexts, thought through the very issues you say they ignore?

(Also, could that be ended in philosophical discussions? So and so “ignores” or “neglects” x, y, or z issue? How do you know what I’m reading before I decide to concentrate on something else, and perhaps for good reason?)

I’ll see you a Harman and Raise you a Morton

On trumpery… I’ll say this: I think, say, “being-in-the-world” isn’t trumpery (it’s out apriori-ism) since it at least adds something (and how, I guess). The worst is repeating a truism that you don’t understand: that’s metaphysics of presence, that’s ontotheology, that’s vitalism, that’s reification, that’s commodification, and on and on, all with the adjective just. You’ll find that the word “tradition” comes in as adjective that means “bad” or “what I’m not arguing,” though it’s not always clear anyone was stupid enough to have that the strawman view you present anyway.

Also, this usually is introduced by telling the reader or whomever some obvious point that people have somehow never understood (time is not the clock!) and that somehow you are radical in proposing.

Bennett Podcast

I was searching to add her book to a course and found this instead, a podcast of a talk on Whitman and the sun.

Jane Bennett – Walt Whitman’s Solar Judgment

In the 1855 Preface to Leaves of Grass, Whitman attributes to the poet this remarkable talent: he has learned how to judge “not as the judge judges but as the sun falling around a helpless thing.” To judge as the sun falls: my goal is to examine the techniques — literary, grammatical, conceptual — that Whitman uses to cultivate this queer, even oxymoronic, practice. I suggest that Whitman’s “solar” judging helps to induce a special kind of auditory perception: the ability to detect the voice of “inanimate” things, a voice that announces the role that such things have played in the particular political actions or events to which one is called upon to judge. Thus Whitman’s claim that poets can take on the posture of falling sunlight is linked to his materialism, or the way he conceives of materiality as a living force.

One day I’ll have to catalog the use of the sun in terms of “realist” discourses going back to Plato through to Meillassoux…

Assange on himself…

Ok, when’s the movie going to get made on this guy?

Assange: We all only live once. So we are obligated to make good use of the time that we have, and to do something that is meaningful and satisfying. This is something that I find meaningful and satisfying. That is my temperament. I enjoy creating systems on a grand scale, and I enjoy helping people who are vulnerable. And I enjoy crushing bastards. So it is enjoyable work.

He even comes with his own tag line…