How To Think About Science.

A great radio series – I only listened to a few of these, but it’s very thought-provoking and for general public (like myself): 


If science is neither cookery, nor angelic virtuosity, then what is it?
Modern societies have tended to take science for granted as a way of knowing, ordering and controlling the world. Everything was subject to science, but science itself largely escaped scrutiny. This situation has changed dramatically in recent years. Historians, sociologists, philosophers and sometimes scientists themselves have begun to ask fundamental questions about how the institution of science is structured and how it knows what it knows. David Cayley talks to some of the leading lights of this new field of study.

Schedule: Continue reading

Everyone loves Levinas: CFP

While “societies” based around a single philosopher often result in old fashioned philosophical hagiography, it’s too bad that it looks like I will have exhausted my travel funds by then, but regardless, er..FYI:

Fourth Annual Conference and Meeting: “Philosophy and Its Others”
June 28-30, 2009
University of Toronto (Ontario, Canada)
The North American Levinas Society invites submissions of individual paper proposals and panel proposals for the fourth annual meeting and conference to be held June 28-30, 2009. While we will organize the conference around the broad theme of “Philosophy and Its Others,” we will consider proposals for paper and panels on any topic related to Levinas in an effort to draw the widest array of interests.
Individual paper proposals: Individual abstracts, prepared for blind review, should be 500 words outlining a 20-minute presentation. Accepted papers will be organized into panels of two or three presentations.

Panel proposal: Panel proposals, consisting of 2-3 speakers, should be 1000 words for a 75-minute session. Please include the session title, name of organizer, institutional affiliations, discipline or department, along with the chair’s name and participants’ names in addition to 250 word abstracts detailing the focus of each paper. Prepare panel proposals for blind review as well.Please send materials via email attachment (preferably Microsoft Word) to: Deadline: April 13, 2009.

If you have questions regarding the Society or the conference, please send inquiries to


“Gratuitous Mischief:” Tenured Faculty

I came across an article in The Symptom (over at entitled “Towards a Theory of the Tenured Class,” and there were some passages that just made me giggle out loud (I’m not sure because it rings true or because it’s just plain silly-I’m going with a combination of both!). For one:

To professors with a taste not just for jargon incomprehensible to common people but also for otherwise unacceptable contradictions, tenure offers authoritarian leverage in mind-fucking.

And this one:

Predisposed to pontificate, if not to bluster and bluff, they develop a resistance to doing first-hand research as beneath them, something strictly for the lower academic classes, much as those who become bosses become incapable of doing menial work. Indeed, especially if trained in philosophy, literature, and sociology, rather than history or economics, tenured profs are in my observation prone to making stuff up, often outrageously. When George Orwell once quipped that only intellectuals with a taste for peculiar ideas could be so stupid it was obvious that he didn’t know tenured profs, some of whom can be yet stupider at no cost to themselves, who are, in effect, a licensed jerks. The inspiration for this critique was a sociologist who seems to take particular glee in demonstrating how sociologically dumb an academic sociologist can be. A Victim of Tenure I rank him to be. Outrageous Stupidity becomes for the tenured the analogue of Conspicuous Consumption-an inexpensive privilege that Thorstein Veblen attributed to the “leisure class.”

Continue reading

Boycotts and Other Refusal

Now, this is interesting.  From the Guardian:

Nicolas Sarkozy this week faces the first mass-protests over his handling of the financial crisis as unions prepare to paralyse France in a general strike uniting train-drivers, air traffic controllers, journalists, bank staff and even ski-lift operators.

“Black Thursday” is the first general strike since the French president’s election in 2007. All the leading unions have joined forces to protest that the government’s stimulus plans should focus less on companies and more on workers’ job-protection and purchasing power. The protests reflect a mood of social unrest that has been building for months. Unemployment had dropped in the first half of last year but it is now spiralling, particularly among the young, and is forecast to reach 10% in 2010. The recession is predicted to be worse than thought while flagging exports and consumer sales have hammered the manufacturing sector.

The strike will unite private and public sector workers from schools, hospitals national TV and radio to postal services, bank clerks and supermarket employees. Even helicopter pilots and staff from the company that operates the French stock exchange are taking part. High school pupils, university lecturers, lawyers and magistrates will also protest a raft of Sarkozy’s reforms and planned job cuts. Despite the predicted chaos, one poll found that 70% of French people either support or sympathise with the strikes.

Read the rest here. Meanwhile in Kenya:

Over 200, 000 teachers in Kenya have boycotted work since early this week, paralyzing learning in schools with a view to forcing government to accept their terms over salary offers. This strike action followed several meetings with the government that failed to resolve differences over a payment of Sh. 17.3 billion salary increase.  Sources in the Teachers Service Commission (TSC) disclosed that the matter has been referred to the industrial court for arbitration and obtained orders stopping the strike, but officials at the Kenya National Union of Teachers Union (KNUT) argued it had not received it.

Old New Philosophy.

Terry Pinkard has this translation of Hegel’s advertisement for his then upcoming Phenomenology:

This volume is the exposition of the coming to be of knowledge.  The phenomenology of  spirit is supposed to take the place of psychological explanations and also those of abstract discussions about the grounding of knowledge.  It examines the PREPARATION for science from a standpoint through which it constitutes a new, interesting philosophy and a “first science” for philosophy.  It comprehends within itself the various SHAPES OF SPIRIT as stations on the way through which spirit becomes pure knowledge, that is, absolute spirit.  Consequently, the principal sections of this science are examined in terms of the following divisions, which themselves are divided into even more sections: consciousness, self-consciousness, observing and acting reason, spirit itself as ethical, as culturally maturing, and as moral spirit, and finally as religious spirit in its distinct forms.  The wealth of the appearances of spirit, which at first glance seem to be only chaotic, is brought into a scientific order, exhibiting them in terms of their necessity and within which the imperfect modes fall into dissolution and pass over into the higher forms which are their proximate truth.  They find their final truth at first within religion and then, as the result of the whole, in science.  

In the PREFACE, the author explains what the current standpoint regarding the necessity of philosophy seems to amount to; further, he explains the presumptuousness and nonsense of philosophical formulas which belittle contemporary philosophy, and he explains what is at stake in contemporary philosophy and the study of it. Continue reading

CFP: Deconstruction and Science

The journal Derrida Today is planning a special issue on “Deconstruction and Science”

Deadline for submission of 300-word abstract: 30 June 2009

Deadline for submission of paper (no more than 6000 words): 30 November 2009

Co-edited by:
Nicole Anderson
Critical and Cultural Studies Department
Macquarie University, Australia
General Editor, Derrida Today

H. Peter Steeves
Professor of Philosophy
DePaul University, Chicago


All submissions should be prepared for blind review and emailed to: with the title “”Deconstruction and Science”” as the subject title of the email.

Special Issue Topic Continue reading

German Question: Pfaffenthum

This is my first real question to our imaginary audience, an important step on the way to the real blogging experience, I am sure, and it deals with a word Pfaffenthum that Kant uses in several places and that is generally translated in the Cambridge edition as “priestcraft” or “popery” (in Notes on Metaphysics, 18:601). There is a good old Russian word поповщина that seems to have the same sentiment attached to it (especially in Lenin). I wonder if anyone knows of some either contemporary Kantian or any other interesting contextual situations that can help me with this term (I’m looking at you, Alexei). In 7:60 Kant defines it as eine Herrschaft der Werkleute des Kirchenglaubens, a sort of an interesting connection then between Pfaffenthum and Herrschaft… Continue reading

History Of Philosophy.

Sorry about the apparent overuse of striking through words, but it just looks so much better that way. I came across this interview (.PDF) with Robert Pippin in which he covers some of the issues discussed in the recent posts vis-a-vis history of philosophy and Hegel. Scroll to the back of the file, the interview is the last things in the issue.

Rebels Without A Cause A Pause.

Graham Harman presents his own (semi-serious, I hope) interpretation of the origins of “speculative realism”:

I would argue that Ray [Brassier]’s phrase “speculative realism,” which he now likes much less than I do, performs a similar function. There were lots of frustrated ex-continental types out there, bothered and annoyed by something, but they didn’t quite know what it was. But just give them the chance to say “hey, I’m a speculative realist! Now I know what I’ve been all this time!” then you hold up a candle in the darkness for those who feel like outcasts. And there is really no more generous service that one can perform than that. Continue reading