Category Archives: academic

Cosmos and History

The ‘Real Objects or Material Subjects’ issue of Cosmos and History edited by Dr. Brian Smith and myself is now online here.

We put some work into this and I hope some of you enjoy it, or are at least productively provoked by it.

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…..

‘The unity of the philosophical in question: a workshop on continental and analytic philosophy’

(this may be of interest to some. note that there are travel grants available to PG students)

‘The unity of the philosophical in question: a workshop on continental and analytic philosophy’, to be held at the University of Dundee on October 27, 2010

2 – 3
Sherah Bloor (LaTrobe University), “The idea of the divide as a dual perspective upon ‘the whole’”.
Ricky Sebold (LaTrobe University), “Are Continental philosophers idealists?”
3 – 4
Simon Glendinning (LSE), “The unity of the philosophical in question: interference and opacity within philosophical communication today”
4 – 5
Jack Reynolds (LaTrobe University), “Analytic Versus Continental? A methodological aporia?”
5 – 6
James Chase (University of Tasmania), “Steering clear of Rorty”
6 – 6:30
Closing remarks
All papers to take place in Room 2F15 Dalhousie Building
The workshop is free and open to all. Please register interest with James Williams
There are small grants for travel in the UK available to postgraduate students for attendance at the workshop. Contact James as soon as possible with a short account of why you wish to participate and what funding you require.
Contact: James Williams,
This workshop is staged with the support of the Australian Research Council and the School of Humanities, University of Dundee

speculations arrives

[i know this announcement has been making the rounds, but one more won’t hurt. of particular interest is austin smidt’s book review, not that i get a nod in it or anything…..but well done Paul and the gang….]

The first volume of Speculations is now online. Speculations is a journal dedicated to research into speculative realism and post-continental philosophy. Our aim is to facilitate discussion about ongoing developments within these emerging movements and related disciplines. The journal is open access and peer-reviewed.

Information about how to access the various formats can be found at our website. The journal is available in a physical print on demand format. As a free PDF. And individual PDFs of the articles can be downloaded at our site.

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.

new IJZS issue

while avoiding ‘real work’ i’ve been browsing the new issue of the international journal of zizek studies and think two pieces are of note to anyone reading this.

The first is Peter Gratton’s review essay of Adrian Johnstons The Cadence of Change. While being a good review of a worth reading book, Gratton brings up some very important/interesting issues regarding Johnston’s discussion of the pre-evental in Badiou’s thought, affect, and the role of philosophy in thinking through actual political engagement. I also think he rightly draws attention to the thin line between the recent obsession with notions of the ‘event’, and the competing obsession with the ‘new’ offered by capitalist culture.

To digress a bit, I found it reassuring to see Gratton taking seriously the question of the pre-evental in Badiou (and Johston’s work), as when I gave a paper on that topic at a conference in the states this spring, I was shocked by the hostile response I received. One fellow presenter in particular seemed to think that there is no need to talk about the ‘problem of the pre-evental’ in Badiou’s work, as in the chapter on forcing in Being and Event he already gives us a theory of the pre-evental. (Personally, I think that is equivalent to saying we shouldn’t have invented flying machines because Michelangelo already sketched out some great options) That said, I’m planning on talking about the issue of affectivity and the pre-evental in the paper I’ll be preparing for this year’s SPEP conference, so I’ll hopefully post some notes here in the autumn while I’m getting it ready.

The other piece I found of interest is the related ‘Open Letter to Slavoj Zizek’ written by Adrian Johnston. While the piece is mostly his response to In Defense of Lost Causes, he also brings up a lot of interesting thoughts on nature, particularly in the way he qualifies Zizek’s assertion that there is ‘no such thing’ as nature. He also mentions a book manuscript that he ‘wrote after finishing his dissertation’ but was never published. Only Adrian Johnston would casually write up a quick book post-phd and move on before publishing it…lengendary.

Regardless, if you have some free time check those pieces, and the other in the issue, out.

Real Objects/Material Subjects: Audio

I know these are long overdue (apologies to all) but posted below is the audio from the keynote presentations from ‘Real Objects or Material Subjects’, a philosophy conference hosted by the postgraduate students at the University of Dundee.

James Williams: Contemplating Pebbles


Graham Harman: I Am Also of the Opinion that Materialism Must be Destroyed


Adrian Johnston: Naturalism or anti-naturalism?  No, thanks–both are worse!’:  Science, Materialism, and Slavoj Zizek


Peter Hallward: Self-Emancipation between Hegel and Marx



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.