Month: August 2010

T.H.E. Reviews Morton’s THE ECOLOGICAL THOUGHT

But could this one ever hope to be as insightful as this? The reviewer, Laurence Coupe writes:

Philosophically, in fact, he is much closer to Marxism than to Buddhism. Hence his agitprop denunciation of ecological thinkers such as Arne Naess and James Lovelock: “Deep ecology, which sees humans as a viral blip in the big Gaian picture, is nothing other than laissez-faire capitalism in a neofascist ideological form.”

If such pronouncements make one wince, at least Morton’s political leanings mean that he feels obliged to address the ideas of the most important reinterpreter of Marxist theory of the 20th century, namely Theodor Adorno. But again, it is worrying that Morton seeks to draw on that philosopher’s specific insights while discounting the central importance he gave to the concept of nature. It was Adorno who insisted that “domination over nature is paid for with the naturalisation of social domination” (to use Simon Jarvis’ succinct summary). And it was Adorno who memorably declared: “Art is not nature, but wants to redeem what nature promises.”

There is an interesting book to be written about Adorno’s importance for ecological thought, but it would not be one dedicated to the idea that you can have ecology without nature. While I am sure that many readers will benefit from the challenge of reading Morton, I hope they then go back to Adorno.

Oh Tim, you are so deviously Marxist…

IEP: Entries on African Philosophy

As I noted a couple of weeks ago, I’m (ad hoc) editor of the area for African philosophy seeking contributions for the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy. The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy has a few entries, but this aims further coverage, most notably covering  particular philosophers important to African philosophy.

I have been in touch with certain people about particular entries—thus if you don’t see something below, it might be already taken, though perhaps not!— and I’m happy to hear about other entries that I haven’ listed in this somewhat rambling off-the-top-of-my-head list. (N.B. These are not Encyclopedia Britannica mini-entries, but full 3,000-5,000 word engagements with a particular person or area of study.)

Here are the IEP’s submission guidelines. Some ideas:
African Aesthetics
Africana Conceptions of Identity
Ake, Claude
African Cosmology
African Existentialism
African Philosophy of Science
African Epistemology
African Philosophy and Communitarianism
African Thought/Western Science
African oral traditions
African philosophy and feminisms
African socialism
Afrocentrism
Amo, William
Akan Philosophies of the Person
Anglophone African Philosophy
Appiah, Kwame
Bodunrin, P.O.
Diop, Chiekh Anta
ethnophilosophy
Cabral, Amilcar
Césaire, Aimé
Egyptian Philosophies
Fanon
Francophone African Philosophy
Gyekye, Kwame
Hallen, Barry
Hermeneutics and African Philosophy
Hountondji, Paul
Kagame, Alexis
Masolo, D. A.
Kenyatta, Jomo
Nyerere, Julius
Nkrumah, Kwame
Mbiti, John
Memmi, Albert
Mudimbe, V. Y.
Négritude
Outlaw, Lucius T.
Pan-Africanism
Particularism and Universalism in African Philosophy
Senghor, L.
Serequeberhan, Tsenay
Touré, A. S.
Ujamaa
wa Thiong’o, Ngugi

Espen Hammer on Gabriel and Žižek’s Mythology, Madness, and Laughter: Subjectivity in German Idealism

In an NDPR article, Hammer lays it down… (but does recommend the book):

The text abounds with bold declarations, sweeping generalities, and promises of new beginnings:

The fetishism of quantification and of the logical form prevailing in much of contemporary philosophical discourse is characterized by a lack of reflection on its constitution. It is our aim to dismantle this lack and to argue that we are in need of a twenty-first-century Post-Kantian Idealism which would, of course, not be geographically restricted. The era of German Idealism is over, but the era of Post-Kantian Idealism has just begun (with neo-Hegelianism as its first necessary error) (14).

One may want to know what “the fetishism of quantification” or “the logical form” refers to, why neo-Hegelianism is reduced to a “necessary” error, or what it means to say that “the era of Post-Kantian Idealism has just begun” (is the beginning of this era perhaps marked by the publication of this book?), but the text offers no answers. The general sense one gets from reading this book is that the authors have been more interested in imparting a certain vision of what philosophy should look like than in patiently defending a specific claim or set of claims.

Scu on Immunity/Autoimmunity

With footnotes!

For me, as well as for many other thinkers, the issues of biopolitics are bound up with the issues of immunity. For example, in Foucault we are given schematics of power that correlate to responses of disease. So, Foucault explains that responses to leprosy elucidate sovereign power, responses to plague elucidate disciplinary power, and responses to smallpox elucidate governmentality and biopower.[1] But something else emerges in Derrida[2] and in Esposito[3], rather than responses to certain diseases being models or instances of different logics of power, immunity becomes a way of thinking the social itself, a metaphor or map for community and violence. Esposito warns us that in Derrida’s formulation of immunity, there seems to be no space (or only an infinitesimal space) between immunity and autoimmunity. …

This metalepsis of immunity is something we have to grapple with if we want to seriously understand the concept of immunity. This becomes all the more true if so much is suppose to depend on this issue of immunity; questions of killable and protected, of community and estrangement, of self and other.

Also, his pro-Inception position is…what’s the word?…disturbing. Enough about the spinning top: Better to go see the underappreciated The Prestige (2006)…

Octopi-being-in-the-world

I see on there’s some back and forth on twitter over the use of signs by octopi. Years ago when I first took my son to an aquarium, I knew I had to someday write on them: (1) use of signs: check, (2) use of tools: check,  (3) temporal being: check. They get bored…and one doesn’t need to read Heidegger’s account of boredom in the 29/30 course to go somewhere with that. They also lie and are deserving of proper names:

That Steve was named Steve was also revealing: Octopuses are the only animals, other than mammals like cuddly seals, that aquarium workers bother to name. So Anderson, Seattle’s lead invertebrate biologist, began to wonder: If keepers recognize octopuses as individuals, how much difference is there among individual octopuses? Might these bizarre-looking mollusks have personalities? And if so, how else might their evolution have converged with ours across a billion-year chasm?

Belief Matters

H/T Matt Yglesias. Here’s a chart showing the percentage of Americans that believe in ESP, ghosts, etc. I find this info helpful to drag out in class at certain points in the semester when someone pulls some version of the democratic fallacy. But in case you are checking, that is more people that believe in ESP, ghosts, and telepathy than are registered Republicans.

NPDR Article on Feenberg’s Latest

William Rehg has a review of Between Reason and Experience: Essays in Technology and Modernity.

At the heart of Feenberg’s approach lies a distinction that responds to a set of interrelated oppositions. In the history of reflection on technology, a core opposition appears as two contrasting views: technological determinism and social constructivism. The former view, sometimes attributed to Marx but most famously associated with Jacques Ellul, holds that modern technological development follows a “unilinear” logic inherent in functional necessities, which exercise their force independently of society, culture, or politics. Technological progress thus points in one direction that is determined “by the base,” i.e., the technical conditions of social reproduction (8). Although determinism can feed utopian visions of the future, the history of technologically mediated oppression continues to feed dystopian views: having made the choice in favor of technological progress, we face an inexorable march into slavery, which we can avoid only by renouncing our choice and returning to a simpler, pastoral society. The sheer implausibility of such a return only deepens the pessimist’s despair.