Category Archives: boring

humanism as backlash

I just read Scu’s blog post which provides his riff on Harman’s thoughts on the Adrian Johnston interview carried out by Brian Smith and myself. While I completely get where he is coming from, I think it may be a bit much to call the position outlined by Johnston an ‘anthropocentric backlash’ for at least two reasons. First, it’s hardly a new position to privilege the human to some extent, and there is a certain French reliance on Descartes and Rousseau that seems to have never really left (the best contemporary example would be Badiou). Second, it seems like the position of someone like Johnston is far to subtle to be taking for a sort of reactionary humanism, as for him, following someone like Zizek, the point is that through a sort of evolutionary glitch (or fuck-up) humans have been left with a certain capacity for freedom and reflection which is unique to our species. Thus rather than being a ‘traditional’ humanism, it’s a sort of humanism grounded in a thoroughly materialist account of how life and subsequently thought are events which take place after the primacy of matter. After reading some of the excerpts of Meillassoux’s Divine Inexistence in the Harman book, I think his own position (in which humans are ‘the ultimate’) is probably a better target for anyone out to fight the ‘new humanism’.


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

the hegel variations

has anyone had a chance to read this yet?

contemplating a purchase and would love to hear some thoughts before i do…

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.

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.

what just happened?

So, in the past 30 hours or so, everyone has collectively decided that they hate Badiou. What a burst of originality.

I’m glad at least some people are getting the ridiculous and sad irony in all of this. I’m not going to bother linking to all the ‘lets kill the father’ posts out there, I’m sure you’ve seen them or can find them, but almost all of them share one troubling thing, an odd absence of any philosophical or textual engagement with his work. And, if I can make a guess, at least a few seem to be written by people critiquing a book (LoW) which they have not read, or, understood.

As I said in a comment on one of the previously mentioned blogs, this reminds me of being 14 years old and turning violently against one of my favorite punk bands when they would sign with a major label or put a video on mtv.

Dark and obscure doesn’t always equal rigorous or interesting.

a necessary distinction.

Just a thought. I think a distinction should be made between two sorts of people who are all over academia:

The Procrastinator, and the Lazy ass.

Whereas these two are often conflated, I think the distinction is crucial. One who procrastinates does (or, can) still work very hard and produce a very high quality of work. The main problem being that they usually have near panic attacks every time deadlines approach, but are willing to go nights without sleeping or cancel days worth of social activities to produce work they are proud of. I usually tend to fall into this.

Lazy people on the other hand, do not work hard. They do the absolute least amount of work to get by, and more often then not end up producing sub-standard work, and getting by on the merits of being good talkers, or sometimes (as Graham has pointed out on his blog recently) simply by being hyper-critical of the work of others.  Lazy people can sometimes be fun people to talk to, or decent friends, but intellectually they will always fail to produce good work.

Lazy people really piss me off, especially when they get in the way of people who actually work hard, even if much of this hard work takes place in an intense and last minute period of time.

Apologies for the rant, but it was needed.

re: journals

After some looking around, I think I’m going to submit the chapter to the heythrop journal, as it’s a journal of philosophy-theology, and looking through the recent issues, has published pieces dealing with fairly interesting continental topics. And as much as I’m more keen to publish a philosophy-as-such journal, almost all of the interesting/important Kierkegaard scholorship in recent years has taken place almost exclusively in theology based journals. This may be because when taught in theology departments, Kierkegaard is more connected to issues of existentialism and phenomenology, while I’ve come across much recently ‘philosophical’ work on Kierkegaard with a heavy analytic taste to it.

that said, if anyone has any good reasons why I should not attempt to submit to heythrop, let me know!