Category Archives: about me

Real Objects/Material Subjects Journal Issue (finally.)

So I’ve let this blog wither away into nothingness….but would like to try to insert a spark of being into it again by posting the table of contents for an upcoming issue of Cosmos and History edited by Brian Smith and myself. It features papers that are based on presentations given at the ‘Real Objects or Material Subjects?’ conference which took place at the University of Dundee in March, 2010. As C&H is open access, the issue will be available for everyone. I’ll post again once it’s online. Until then, here is what you can expect:

Real Objects or Material Subjects?

The Future of Continental Metaphysics

Table of Contents

Editors Introduction

Michael O’Neill Burns & Brian Anthony Smith

The Problem with Metzinger

Graham Harman

The Transcendental Core of Correlationism

Paul Ennis

Critical Idealism and Transcendental Materialism: A Speculative Analysis of the Second Paralogism

Michael Olson

Objects in manifold times: Deleuze and the speculative philosophy of objects as processes

James Williams

Becoming L’Homme Imaginaire: The Role of the Imagination in Overcoming Circularity in Sartre’s Critique of Dialectical Reason

Austin Smidt

Beyond Objects, Beyond Subjects: Giorgio Agamben on Animality, Particularity and the End of Onto-theology

Colby Dickinson

Fanon and Political Will

Peter Hallward

The Necessity of Contingency or Contingent Necessity: Meillassoux, Hegel, and the Subject

John Van Houdt

Aufhebung and Negativity

Ryan Krahn

Lacanian Materialism and the Question of the Real

Tom Eyers

Materialism, Subjectivity and the Outcome of French Philosophy

Interview with Adrian Johnston

upcoming paper at UCF

In early April i’ll be leaving full-time residence in the UK and moving back to Orlando, FL to have free rent, finish writing my PhD, and hopefully get some teaching work. Luckily, I’ve been invited to give a colloqium paper in the department of philosophy at the University of Central Florida on April 14th. If any readers are in the central Florida area, I encourage you to come. Here are the details of the paper I’ll be giving:

Title: Anxious Ontology: Reading Søren Kierkegaard between Idealism and Materialism

Abstract: In much of the recent secondary literature, Søren Kierkegaard has been read as pre-figuring much of what took place in 20th century European philosophy. Often this reading places Kierkegaard in a philosophical lineage that came to be embodied in the ethical, hermeneutic, and deconstructive methods which are often considered to be parts of the larger post-modern sensibility of 20th century philosophy. In this paper I will break from this tradition of considering Kierkegaard’s relation to 20th century philosophical trends by considering him in both the 19th century context of German Idealism and the recent 21st century turn to speculative, or transcendental, materialism. In particular, I will focus on Kierkegaard’s The Concept of Anxiety, reading this text both as a response to theories of immediacy emerging in German Idealism and as pre-figuring recent materialist re-considerations of Idealism. Along with providing my own attempt at a 21st century reading of Kierkegaard, I will place my argument into dialogue with two recent interpretations of Kierkegaard offered by David Kangas and Slavoj Žižek. At the heart of my argument will be the claim that Kierkegaard’s potential relevance to 21st century debates is dependent on a rigorous re-consideration of his indebtedness to the philosophical climate of the early 19th century.

academic back up plans?

With the recent decline in full-time academic jobs (and jobs in general), and especially jobs in the humanities, there has been a bit of talk amongst friends and colleagues about potential back-up plans if some (or many) of us are unable to acquire full-time academic employment.

For the time being, I’m hoping to move back home (to Florida), finish writing my thesis, and find some sort of adjunct teaching at a local college. Past that, I have thought about doing an alternative teaching certification program in urban education, but have just realized that the job market in that area is just about as grim as the academic market. If not that, I used to work in community development, and while I think I’d find it fairly intellectually stimulating, the non-profit market is just as bad as education these days.

I heard from a friend last night that in some states nurses are being hired with six-figure starting salaries. While I’d never considered nursing before, it could be an interesting option after finishing my thesis. I feel like ‘Dr. Michael Burns, R.N.’ would be a great title, and cause quite a bit of confusion amongst doctors at the hospital who would take shots at a man who was a nurse and not a ‘doctor’. Also, if I could deal with the piss, puke, and shit; I’d make way more than any academic position.

All of that said….what are the non-academic back-up plans others have been considering? I think this is an important discussion that some of us may be avoiding…..

my first journal article, now online

please excuse the self promotion, but i was pleasantly surprised to see that an article i’ve written has finally been published in the new issue of the heythrop journal. The article is entitled ‘The Self and Society in Kierkegaard’s Anti-Climacus Writings’, and if you have access you can read it here.

if anyone without access to the journal has interest in reading it, let me know and i can email you a copy.

thoughts on conference etiquette

I attend a lot of conferences. sometimes giving papers, sometime just hanging out, taking notes, and drinking afterward. i find them to be the one of the necessary antidotes to the isolation and loneliness that comes with doing phd research; especially when you’re based in a very small department in a fairly dis-connected scottish town. that said, i have to come to the belief that there is a sort of un-written code of conduct that makes for the best conference experiences, and after recently attending a conference (which will not be named) in which all of these rules were broken time and time again, i’d like to outline a few of these simple rules.

first, and most importantly: if you’re presenting a paper at a small conference with no parallel sessions, go to other papers besides your own. in my mind, nothing makes a graduate student seem more pretentious than traveling to a far off city to present at a conference, skipping all the other papers, then showing up for your own and expecting people to give a shit. at the conference i attended recently there were 7 papers (with responses) over the course of 1.5 days. out of all of the presenters, a friend and i were the only two to actually go to the other papers. even the (very well known) keynote was there for the entirety of the second day of the conference, yet many of the graduate students simply came and went, showing very little respect to the other presenters.

another thing i recently noticed is something that should never be said while giving a paper at a conference, and in can come across in a few different ways. examples:

‘i would talk more about (topic x) but this is actually from a larger work/article….’


‘if i had more time i would go into (x), but…’

Okay. you’re a graduate student. someone put out a call for papers, likely telling you at the outset that you had 20 minutes to speak. you sent in a short abstract, and had months to figure out what to say during your presentation. please (please) do not show up with some 8,000 word article you’re working on, and then attempt to rush through it in 20 minutes, all the while acting like what you have to say is so deeply important that you can’t express it in 20 minutes.

and along with this, can we all agree to stop providing textual summary, literature reviews, and exegesis in short conference papers? wouldn’t it be much more productive (and fun) if we made arguments? i thought phd theses and journal articles were our opportunities to prove how many books we’ve read and how many footnotes we have? why not take advantage of the chance to be around other young scholars working in a similar area and make an interesting, even provocative, argument and then have a lively discussion afterward? i hate being self-referential, but alas, this is one of the things i really appreciated about all of the students presented by graduate students at the conference in dundee last month. they each stayed to 20 minutes, and provided interesting/provocative arguments that lead to productive discussion. and along with this, they were committed to the event as a whole, interacting with the papers and ideas of others the whole way through.

i’ll stop there, but will return later to offer some more thoughts on conference etiquette and strategy. in particular i will attempt to offer the perfect ratio of alcohol to coffee that allows one to spend 2-3 days barely sleeping yet somehow able to interact with complex ideas during the day and drink like a frat-boy (or sorority girl) at night.

Lecture in London: Kierkegaard for the 21st Century

for a bit of annoying self promotion…

I’ll be giving a talk at the Roehampton University, London (hosted by the Royal Institute for Philosophy) on March 23rd at 6pm. The title of the talk is Kierkegaard for the 21st Century, and during it I’ll be sketching out what I see as the main problems with the way Kierkegaard was read/used during the 20th century, and outline a new reading of him which puts him in dialogue with what I see as the currents that will shape philosophy in the first part of the 21st century.

If you’re in London and interested, come check it out. Details here.

immanence-materialism papers

I know a few of these were up a while ago, but almost all of the papers (including mine) from June’s Immanence and Materialism conference at Queen Mary are now up on the conference website.

If anyone has thoughts on my paper, feel free to comment. It contains a lot of ideas I’m exploring and playing around with, and I’m already convinced some of the arguments in this don’t pan out, but either way, would love to chat about it more, especially as some of what I try to outline here relates (i think) to the recent Hallward discussion.

hard books

Right now I’m engaged with a colleague in a slow and intense study of Hegel’s Science of Logic. Embarrassingly enough, I’ve never really spent that much time on Hegel, and have been content with the crude (and incorrect) ‘thesis-antithesis-synthesis’ version of his system that has been handed down through generations of laziness. The only real Hegel study I’ve done before this has been selections from the Phenomenology, read alongside Kojeve’s lectures.  I’m now starting to get why someone like Badiou holds such contempt for the influence of Kojeve’s reading of the Phenomenology on the French reception of Hegel, and while the Science of Logic is a much more difficult work, it is infinitely more rewarding as an attempt to think through systematic metaphysics. The intensity of this work seems to be obvious when looking for secondary work on the Science of Logic, as thus far I’ve seen only two book length studies which seem decent, and this is compared to the countless studies of the Phenomenology of Spirit.

Well, as I’m sure none of this is news to anyone else, feel free to share what the hardest book you’ve ever come across is, I’m always into stories of intellectual self harm of this extent. Or, if anyone has any recommendations for any secondary sources that deal with the Logic, that’d be nice too.

whats going on

So, after a pretty good stretch of consistent blogging I’ve taken a two week+ break. But I have good excuses! I spent a little over a week travelling around going to conferences with little to no internet access.

The first conference was the Immanence and Materialism event at Queen Mary, University of London. By clicking the above link you can access some of the papers, and hopefully I’ll have mine up soon. While I’m not the type to recount conferences play by play, I will say that I found this to be an excellent event, and almost every paper was highly interesting and there was some great debate during the discussion times. One interesting aspect was the contrast between the panels. For example, myself and a colleague were the only two papers on the first panel, and we both gave presentations that dealt with issues of freedom, subjectivity, choice, will, and the like. The next panel then featured papers of a highly determinist/monist bent, and one presenter even said, during her paper, “I’m glad that there have already been some papers dealing with will and freedom, because I am TOTALLY against that.” It was bold, but I appreciated the honesty, and it led to a fun debate over dinner where the two of us from Dundee attempted to convince this individual of the necessity of an ontological account of freedom. I don’t think we were convincing enough…

Wonderful conference though, and I look forward to future events at Queen Mary.

The next conference I attended was the ‘Towards a Philosophy of Life’ event at Liverpool Hope University. This event was the launching point for the new Association for Continental Philosophy of Religion. Although my panel was absolute shit, due to the fact that no chair showed up to moderate, and the first person decided to take 35 minutes to give their 20 minute presentation, the conference itself was a very good event. I got to meet lots of interesting people, and catch up with some old friends, and overall I was left feeling quite positive about the future of Continental Philosophy of Religion in the UK. The only horrible parts were the keynotes by John Caputo and Don Cuppit, who are collectively the most boring philosophers of religion still living, maybe when they die this obsession with ‘postmodernism’ will die too. Cuppit was one of the most bold apologist for globalization and the religion of capital I’ve ever seen, but maybe he can blame it on age or something.

Overall, I had a great time at both, and it was a wonderful excuse to get out of scum-dee Scotland for a week.

That’s all for now, but will attempt to get back to ‘real’ posting soon enough.

summer activities

Following the lead of others I’ve decided to add a post regarding my summer ‘to do’ list. Hopefully publicly posting this will help provide some sort of motivation…


  • Chapters on ‘Kierkegaard and Badiou’ and ‘Kierkegaard and Sartre’ for the collection Kierkegaard’s Influence on Social-Political Thought.
  • Essay on Meillassoux and philosophy of religion for the volume Anthony Paul Smith/Daniel Whistler are editing.
  • A paper (or, papers) on the concept of life in Badiou and Henry. One version with a more political bent for a conference on immanence/materialism in London, the other with a more ‘continental philosophy of religion’ approach for a conference in Liverpool.
  • Editing half of my first chapter to submit for publication


  • Sartre’s Critique of Dialectical Reason Vol. 1 and 2
  • Hegel’s Science of Logic
  • The more ‘category theory’ oriented sections of Logics of Worlds, as well as some secondary literature on category theory.
  • Random secondary texts on Sartre/Hegel/Marxism


  • Still haven’t found out what I’m teaching in the fall (it’ll be either the first or second year philosophy tutoring) but when I do, I’ll hopefully spend a bit of time familiarizing myself the material.

that’s all.  hopefully I’ll be able to provide updates when I actually do these things, and luckily, there are deadlines attached to most of these tasks which will hopefully keep me from straying too bad. although I wonder…how pissed do editors get if you get your chapter in a week or two late?