Continental Philosophy Review, Volume 40, Number 3 (July 2007)

Just a quick reference to this interesting issue of Continental Philosophy Review – published by Springer (Nederlands) – this is the latest issue and it contains, among other things, a translation of an essay by Levinas and an great essay on a (possible) Levinasian reading of Kierkegaard’s Works of Love:


  • Emmanuel Levinas, “Being Jewish” (trans. Mary Beth Mader, University of Memphis) : 205-210

Abstract: “Being Jewish” is a translation of Emmanuel Levinas’ 1947 essay “Être Juif.” Its topics include Jewish and Sartrean facticities; modern science, Christianity and Judaic temporality; Judaism and the non-Jewish world; personhood and election; freedom, passivity and anxiety; and anti-Jewish hatred. The original essay was first published in the French journal Confluences, 1947, année 7, nos. 15–17, pp. 253–264. It was reprinted in Cahiers d’Etudes lévinassiennes, 2003, Numéro 1, pp. 99–106. The Editor and Translator would like to thank Michaël Levinas for his kind permission to publish the English translation of “Être Juif.” Continue reading

Malaise: The Awesomeness of Students Part 2

This post over at Larval Subjects muses about a general passivity with regards to language. In this post by Paco many of the same themes come up, whether student’s inability to recognize and evaluate either fallacies or arguments due to a general passivity that allows language to “work” us rather than the reader to evaluate or “work” language. Or, in Paco’s case, he points to the broader university structure and culture to suggest that philosophy itself (as construed in Philosophy departments within the University) may in fact be irrelevant. I generally don’t like to complain about my students, although certainly I do, because I feel like lousy teachers blame their students. However, sometimes I just don’t understand.

One of my more shocking discoveries while teaching this semester has been the refusal of many of my students to read attentively and really, responsively. When I asked what they do when they come across a word or concept they don’t know or if they don’t understand a passage all 29 of them said that they just keep on reading. This is shocking to me. There are prerequisites to the course, not least is the Eng 101 series. How are these students passing English 101? I can’t help but think of Paco’s suggestion that grade inflation is a cover for lowering standards. Continue reading

Post-Continental Philosophy?

Yet another use annoying use of “Post-.” Have you heard? A concern with (and subsequent betrayal of) immanence means we can file it under the “Post-” moniker. Anyway, a newish book by John Mullarkey, called Post-Continental Philosophy: An Outline (Continuum, 2006) is reviewed in the Notre Dame Philosophical Review by Alistair Welchman. Here is an excerpt from the review:

This book has two aims. First, it provides readings of four French philosophers more or less outside of the main phenomenological stream of French (‘continental’) thought exemplified by Derrida. The philosophers are Gilles Deleuze, Michel Henry, Alain Badiou and François Laruelle. Collectively they constitute the beginning of what Mullarkey takes to be the post-continental philosophy of his book’s title. Mullarkey considers these thinkers to be united by a commitment to the idea of immanence. But he argues that each of these philosophers tacitly betrays the immanence they are officially committed to. And this leads to the second aim of the book: an original philosophy of immanence that avoids the pitfalls identified in the rest of book. Here Mullarkey’s central term is ‘diagram’, a word that he intends literally (among other ways). The term ‘immanent’ is a slippery one, as Mullarkey himself acknowledges (7). But its basic sense emerges quickly from his analysis of Deleuze, an analysis that plays a coordinating role in relation to Badiou and Henry. According to Mullarkey, Deleuze’s claim to be a philosopher of immanence is vitiated by his commitment to a ‘two-world ontology’ (25) spanning both the virtual and the actual. Although Deleuze himself is at pains to distinguish the virtual from the possible, this nicety does not concern Mullarkey because for him any ontological category going beyond what actually exists (the actual) is ipso facto transcendent and therefore no longer immanent.”

Read the rest here

Joakim Garff, Søren Kierkegaard: A Biorgaphy (Review by Tatiana Patrone)

This is a review of Garff’s huge (pages-wise and achievement-wise, including the ability to make a paperback that is as heavy as a hardback) biography of Kierkegaard by Tatiana Patrone of Ithaca College.  It was published in the recent issue of Metapsychology Online Reviews  (October 23rd, 2007 – vol. 11, no.43) – enjoy!

“Even though Kierkegaard’s journals and published writings seem to tell us almost too much, we have no idea what he was really like” (13).  In his carefully crafted and finely written biography of Kierkegaard, Joakim Garff tells a fascinating philosophical story of Kierkegaard’s life, a story that is bound to interest and to captivate not only philosophers who have long been attracted to Kierkegaard’s thought, but also to anyone who would like to take a look at a great thinker’s life.

Kierkegaard’s corpus is vast and yet, as Garff says, “we have no idea what he was really like.”  Indeed, Kierkegaard himself wrote:  “after my death, this is my consolation:  no one will be able to find in my papers one single bit of information about what has really filled my life” (101).  Garff argues that from the moment Kierkegaard started to write he was very careful to come up and to maintain a myth of himself, an interpretation of his own life story (philosophical and social, romantic and familial), a story that he presents to his future biographers and readers, a story in which every thought and every word is masterfully expressed and documented ‘just right.’  In fact, Garff claims, Kierkegaard was not manipulating his reader; on the contrary — he himself saw his life as a narrative to be uncovered and told in such a way that it would make certain sense to him as the one who was living this life.  That is, looking back at his own past, Kierkegaard was always in the business of recollecting it rather than merely remembering it (97).  Garff goes as far as to remark that in this, “deception and self-deception walk faithfully hand in hand” (202).  However, the picture of Kierkegaard that Garff paints is quite moving — Kierkegaard’s seriousness with respect to his life projects and to how they were to be taken by his contemporaries and by his successors both inspires and humbles.  In this picture, Kierkegaard does not appear to be writing in bad faith; on the contrary — he comes off as a philosopher who treats philosophizing and reflection upon one’s life and work with utmost earnestness. Continue reading

Early Weekend Perversity: Opera Edition.

So allow me to share some rather quick observations about my early weekend, which, since I am a lazy bastard, started very early this Friday – I knew this was going to be a strange one when I saw that someone came to our page by doing a search “Jeff Scholes 2007” – now for those who know who Mr. Jeff Scholes is this should be enough of a shock to fill many weekend afternoons of frightened shivering and utter confusion – I suppose there exists out there a new “2007” version. 

 So I got the new 2006 production of Shostakovich’s Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk directed by Martin Kusej and Nikolaus Lehnhoff at  De Nederlandse Opera which is available on Netflix and Amazon.   Simply judging by the photo on the cover of this 2 DVD version (includes an hour long documentary about the production) one can already tell that this is a rather brave and very perverse version of the classic which, although controversial, did not explicitly make all the points that Kusej-Lehnhoff version makes: including the implication that Sergei rapes Katerina, that Katerina is a virgin after years of marriage to Zinoviy who, in turn, looks rather weak, and that Boris Timofeyevich is clearly intending on seducing his daughter-in-law and only her affair with Sergei prevents him from proceeding with the plan – one cannot help but wonder how this opera was ever permitted on stage before it’s inevitable condemnation and banishment from “pure” Soviet opera stage in 1936.

As is well-known, young Dimitri’s second opera has first premiered on January 22nd of 1934 at Leningrad Maliy Theater – it was well received and was only “condemned” in 1936 after the great Georgian himself found it vulgar and, of course, anything the fearless leader did not like was against the very essence of the progressive Soviet operatic culture – only in 1960s the opera was revived under a new name – Katerina Izmailova – and with some changes.  This is how Tim Ashley (of The Guardian) eloquently describes the event of the opera’s unfortunate banishment. Continue reading

Is Philosophy Irrelevant?

Is Philosophy largely irrelevant? Or at the very least, no different then say, gardening?

Like many other people, I always hope that when I teach logic it would help my students to argue more effectively, more critically, and really, more logically. I am not the first I am sure to be disappointed. Even the students who can understand and conceptualize the techniques of logic often can’t seem to execute these skills in day to day situations. What they learned in the logic classroom becomes irrelevant. All that ” logic stuff:” truth-tables, syllogisms, Venn diagrams, existential factuals etc. were of no use to the reasoning students face day to day, whether in another course, or while listening to our country’s leaders prate upon god knows what. The addition of critical thinking to the term logic, thus creating the Logic and Critical Thinking course, which was supposed to curb some of these problems by making it more relevant (let’s look at arguments found in our lives using some fancy techniques), but it is more of the same. Many of my students are all too ready to take things at face value, often misunderstanding rhetoric as rhetoric, misunderstanding the role ideology plays in daily life, and often have trouble recognizing the difference between a nicely constructed argument and a fallacious one when we compare them side by side. While I understand this as the my role as the teacher, e.g. to teach how to dissect, analyze and critique an argument, it’s rather disheartening sometimes. Continue reading

Evangelical Christians and Pornography

Via Andrew Sullivan at The Atlantic Monthly, this short video, from the God Tube teaches the proper evangelical Christian manner in which one should deal with internet pornography.

Er…I’m pretty sure that’s not quite what Matthew had in mind….it said gauge out your eye, not destroy office machinery.

Naji Hakim, or Dissonance Scares Me.

This afternoon, after it snowed in my anytown U.S.A and I decided to stay in, or rather exchange a usual stroll outside for the warmth of a concert hall, I had a chance to hear organist Jörg Abbing perform a piece by Naji Hakim of whom I knew next to nothing. The program included a piece by Olivier Messian and following it a piece by Hakim called Le Tombeau d’Olivier Messiaen. I suppose it is an interesting move, especially since Hakim followed Messiaen as an organist at Eglise de la Trinité, as I learned after the concert when I googled Hakim. Even though I find all things modern pretty engaging and either thoroughly enjoyable or, at the very least, tolerable. Hakim’s Le Tombeau, however, opens with a series of such loud and dissonant chords that I was literally scared (if a strange physical sensation is any indication and thus a justification of the use of ‘literally’) – I believe that it would be an ultimate frightening exprience if a haunted house installed an organ and just repeatedly played some dissonant music with creepy improvisations and tinkerings that would explode into more dissonance. There would be absolutely no need for skeletons, masks, spooky lights and even pumpkins – a sort of Halloween in its pure and natural state… well, maybe with some candy.

Strangely enough, Hakim’s website contains this quotation – “Min sjæl ophøjer Herren”! – which, it claims, comes from Luke 1:46 but I have no idea which language it is in. According to a small bio Naji Hakim comes from Beirut and is now residing in London – it looks very Scandinavian or Northern European at the least. Puzzling… My other musical adventure this weekend was my courageous attempt not to fall asleep while at the performance of Elgar’s First Symphony – my Lord, how utterly boring and forgettable it was! I am usually the first one to throw a condescending and judgmental look at anyone who dares to nap during the performance: “vy, vy must yu sleep at ze performans!” – I yell, but yesterday I was very much on the verge of dozing off. And to think that early critics of Elgar’s symphony accused it of having “too many themes” – yes, too many very boring and whiny themes that kept coming back to haunt my struggle with Morpheus. Anyway, I believe these casual observations create an adequate illusion of my sophistication and awesomeness – mission accomplished!

UPDATE I: Some 40 videos about Arnold Schönberg are posted on YouTube by Schönberg Archive here. A nice way to kill the rest of this long Sunday.