Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Theme: Philosophy

  • Always attach yourself to the best master and, following him everywhere, it would be unnatural for you not to take on his manner and his style’ writes Cennino Cennini in his ‘Libro dell’arte’ at the end of the fourteenth century. What is this style? Perhaps no more than the artists’ hallmark that can be acquired by others. Read more
  • Herb and Harry were the names of our two steers, the one a Hereford, the other a Holstein. They did not do much but stand, bovine and stoic, from one day to the next. They sculpted strange rolling shapes into the salt lick with their fat blue tongues, and delighted, with minimal expression, in the delivery of fresh hay. My father liked to joke that they were 'out standing in their field', and they were. They excelled in matters of bovinity, one could not dream of surpassing them.Read more
  • On a certain plausible --but ultimately unsatisfactory-- definition, ‘philosophy’ is simply a proper noun. It describes a particular tradition, just like the terms ‘ballet’ and ‘butoh’. It would be odd to claim that there is an indigenous tradition of Polynesian ballet, not because anyone believes that Polynesians are inherently incapable of appreciating or mastering this sort of dance, but simply because, as a matter of contingent historical fact, ballet emerged in Europe.Read more
  • This debate is a good example of why ‘human nature’ is still a relevant concept. What does biology actually say about the origins of human morality and its flexibility? Is it true that we are slaves to our biological imperatives or can we use our flexible minds to significantly change our behavior? Read more
  • What are we to make of the recent ascendance of Alain Badiou to the position of general representative of French philosophy in the Anglophone humanities? There are multiple possible explanations, none of which seem immediately convincing on their own. Perhaps there is a general exhaustion with the linguistic focus of priorly dominant movements, most obviously deconstruction, inciting the fashion for Badiou at the same moment that it has birthed the rather different resurgence of Continental metaphysical realisms.Read more
  • I dreamt last night that I was sharing a taxi with Putin from Moscow to Sheremetyevo airport. He was being very friendly and I could tell he liked me. I felt like a coward and a moral cretin for not saying anything critical that would cause him to not like me, and at the same time I kept trying to convince myself that there were strong pragmatic reasons for maintaining good relations, at least for now, as this would enable me to eventually write more revealingly about him.Read more
  • Quotes and video games.Read more
  • Kebede proposes examining how the concept of time shapes Ethiopian identity and Ethiopia's relationship to modernity. He distinguishes between a cyclical conception of time and a teleological conception of time. In the cyclical conception of time, things change into what they are not, and then back again. We are always becoming what we were not. This means that those who are down may move up, and those who are up may move down.Read more
  • There is an oft-ignored detail about Nietzsche’s story of the madman in the marketplace: the good townspeople who aren’t ready to receive the news of God’s death aren’t Christians — they’re atheists. Today’s marketplace is no longer the town square; it’s the hyper-connected virtual world of global commerce. Read more
  • Raymond Williams in conversation with Jacques Derrida, 1986. Filmed at the end of the Linguistics of Writing Conference, Glasgow.Read more
  • Although it was largely forgotten in the wake of 9/11, after Occupy Wall Street it is worthwhile to recall that the 21st century began with the first planetary uprising in history, one that in many respects was similar to the occupation movement of the 2010s. The antiglobalization movement, or as it was often called outside of the US, the altermondialisation movement, sought to propose alternatives to the neoliberal agenda promoted by global capitalist institutions such as the World Trade Organization and the International Monetary Fund/World Bank.Read more
  • Hylomorphy thinks of all objects as a combination of matter and form, which is problematic to Simondon both at the physical-chemical level and at the social level. He describes at length the molding of a brick as a paradigmatic example of how the matter already contains the notion of form within itself – what he calls the “colloidal characteristics of the matter” – and how the form needs to materialize first in the object of the mold in order to realize itself. Read more
  • I would like to offer you today a beginning of a meditation on the word yes, on the gesture of affirmation. We should take great care not to conflate affirmation and saying yes – saying it once, twice, or many times over – and in which language? All too easily. As I will try to elucidate, there is an abyss between saying yes and affirming that is not easily crossed, let alone bridged.Read more
  • Delivered between January and March 1973, La société punitive was Foucault’s third annual course at the Collège de France. It is the eleventh of his thirteen courses there to be published, in what have been uniformly excellent editions under the general editorship of François Ewald and the recently deceased Alessandro Fontana. Read more
  • A foundationalist in ethics, for instance may reasonably ask what grounds (notice the metaphor!) our ethical judgment in general (as opposed to asking what reasoning has brought one to a particular ethical judgment about whatever matter happens to be under discussion). There are, of course, a number of different approaches on offer: from divine law (yeah, I know) to conventionalism, various forms of moral realism and anti-realism, and so forth.Read more
  • In his 1790 Critique of Judgment, Kant famously predicted that there would never be a “Newton for a blade of grass.” Biology, he thought, would never be unified and reduced down to a handful of mechanical laws, as in the case of physics. This, he argued, is because we cannot expunge teleology (goal-directedness) from living systems. The question “what is it for?” applies to living structures in a way that has no corollary in physics.Read more
  • It may perhaps seem to you as though our theories are a kind of mythology and, in the present case, not even an agreeable one. But does not every science come in the end to a kind of mythology?” These words, addressed to Albert Einstein, were written by Sigmund Freud in 1932, seven years before his death.Read more
  • Wittgenstein certainly regarded himself a philosopher, and certainly believed in the fundamental truth of what he was saying. So it would be a misleading oversimplification to maintain that he was “against philosophy” or against “the possibility of philosophical truth”. More accurately, what he criticized was a certain kind of philosophy – perhaps the dominant kind in the West.Read more
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