Academic Fencing: Review and Counterreview.


Margaret J. Osler‘s recent review of Catherine Wilson‘s new book – Epicureanism at the Origin of Modernity – is feisty to say the least. According to Osler,

A good history of Epicureanism in early modern thought would be a welcome addition to the existing literature. Unfortunately, this is a gap that Wilson’s book does not fill. It suffers from a number of problems — some systemic and some detailed — that undermine its reliability. Her view of seventeenth-century issues is blinkered because she restricts her analysis to an account of philosophers who hold a place in the modern canon of the history of philosophy. This limitation coupled with a tendency to make anachronistic judgments prevents her from examining the abundance of alternatives that competed with Epicureanism in seventeenth-century philosophy. Further, she neglects to consider other traditions — such as late Scholasticism, alchemy, Renaissance humanism, Copernican astronomy, and Galileo’s new science of motion — that contributed directly to the development of a corpuscularian philosophy and an empirical and experimental approach to natural knowledge. Her own patently intolerant attitude towards theology prevents her from understanding that theological presuppositions were virtually axiomatic for most of the philosophers of the period.

That’s pretty rough, don’t you think? “She neglects to consider other traditions” is the most annoying move in the above citation – the book clearly limits itself to Epicureanism, therefore the charge that one neglects other traditions is preposterous, but let’s read on. Continue reading

The Met To Do Shostakovich’s Nose in 2009-2010


Shostakovich’s Nose is a rather interesting piece of music / opera. It’s rarely performed and there are not too many recordings of it. It’s also quite a listen even for crusty Shostakovich fans, I think (see some videos below).

Production is by South African artist William Kentridge – see Kentridge’s images for The Nose here. This could be a great reason for a trip to NYC.

Conductors:  Valery Gergiev / Pavel Smelkov
Police Inspector:  Andrei Popov
The Nose:  Gordon Gietz
Kovalyov:  Paulo Szot

The premiere will be on 5 March 2010 with performances on 11, 13, 18, 23, &
25 March

Here’s the info from The Met’s site: Continue reading

Publishing The Same Article Twice (Or More Times)


You know how all the journals always frighten you with stuff like “must be original work, never published before”? I’m reading Critchley’s essay on Rousseau in the latest Continental Philosophy Review (great essay, I’m thinking of writing something about it on the blog soon) only to discover that it is the exact same essay already published in the first issue of Law and Humanities in 2007. I mean it is the same text:

Simon Critchley, “The catechism of the citizen: politics, law and religion in, after, with and against Rousseau,” Law and Humanities, 1:1 (Summer 2007), 79-109.

Simon Critchley, “The catechism of the citizen: politics, law and religion in, after, with and against Rousseau,” Continental Philosophy Review, 42:1 (February 2009), 5-34.

I mean, I don’t really care, I think the policy of single submissions is rather idiotic, considering how much time it takes for a journal to review your submission and get back to you – I say everyone should just submit their work to as many publications as they feel like and let the editors deal with it – not fair? Tough shit, deal with it – authors should be deciding where to publish their work and publications should be competing for good work. In any case, how is it possible that Critchley can publish the same text twice? It’s kind of strange, is it not?

Zizek at Harvard (Altizer Still Alive?)


The announcement:

Harvard Book Store is once again delighted to welcome renowned philosopher and critic SLAVOJ ZIZEK for a discussion of his new book, in which he debates the very meaning of theology, Christ, the Church, the Holy Ghost, universality, and the foundations of logic with theologian John Millbank.

In one corner, there stands Zizek, who represents the critical-materialist stance against religion’s illusions; in the other corner, “radical orthodox” theologian John Milbank, an influential and provocative thinker, argues that theology is the only foundation upon which knowledge, politics, and ethics can stand. Continue reading

Rosenzweig and the Systematic Task of Philosophy (New Book)


This looks quite good, but very expensive. It adds to the dearth of secondary literature on Rosenzweig. Well, comparatively. From Cambridge UP:

Franz Rosenzweig and the Systematic Task of Philosophy
Benjamin Pollock
Michigan State University

Benjamin Pollock argues that Franz Rosenzweig’s The Star of Redemption is devoted to a singularly ambitious philosophical task: grasping ‘the All’ – the whole of what is – in the form of a system. In asserting Rosenzweig’s abiding commitment to a systematic conception of philosophy, this book breaks rank with the assumptions about Rosenzweig’s thought that have dominated recent scholarship. Indeed, the Star’s importance is often claimed to lie precisely in the way it opposes philosophy’s traditional drive for systematic knowledge and upholds instead a ‘new thinking’ attentive to the existential concerns, the alterity, and even the revelatory dimension of concrete human life. Pollock shows that these very innovations in Rosenzweig’s thought are in fact to be understood as part and parcel of the Star’s systematic program. But this is only the case, Pollock claims, because Rosenzweig approaches philosophy’s traditional task of system in a radically original manner. For the Star not only seeks to guide its readers on the path toward knowing ‘the All’ of which all beings are a part; it at once directs them toward realizing the redemptive unity of that very ‘All’ through the actions, decisions, and relations of concrete human life.

Presents a philosophical introduction to Rosenzweig’s Star of Redemption, offering an in-depth explanation of Rosenzweig’s philosophical method • Revises the conventional view concerning Rosenzweig’s opposition to German Idealism, showing Rosenzweig’s uniqueness • Uses hitherto unknown or little-used archival material to shed light on the intellectual context within which Rosenzweig wrote, especially his inner circle of correspondents

Click here for more information.

Expectation Heightened, Suddenly Disappears Into Nothing: A Joke.


Justin E. H. Smith has a new post on “gelastics” – “a neologism coined by Mary Beard from the Greek ‘gelan’: ‘to laugh’” – my favorite section is on Kant:

Kant is generally held to have offered the most disappointing account of music in the history of philosophy, one that cordons it off to the margins of human society and human experience, while failing to charge it with that mysterian force that Plato gave it in arguing that it is something too powerful to be allowed to be permitted, unregulated, into the Republic. Certainly, the feature of Kant’s philosophy of music that disappoints the most is that, while for us music is supposed to be serious, for him it is of a pair with jokes. But those who are gravely serious about music should bear in mind that, even if he ranked the figurative arts higher than the aural, he does not seem to have known much, or cared much, about either. Kant was likely the greatest thinker ever to tackle the philosophy of art in the absence of any critical sensibility whatsoever for the object of his theorising.

His sense of humour was equally underdeveloped, as we’ll see. Yet, I want to argue, it is Kant who has given the strongest theoretical account ever offered of the structure and nature of jokes.  Kant is the most prominent representative of what has come to be known as the “incongruity theory of humour,” according to which instances of humour are generated out of the temporal experience of a mixing of incongruous conceptual categories, a mixing that, as he elegantly puts it, gives rise to “the sudden transformation of a strained expectation into nothing [die plötzliche Verwandlung einer gespannten Erwartung in nichts].” Kant explains: “[W]e laugh, and it gives us a hearty pleasure: not because we find ourselves cleverer than this ignorant person, or because of any other pleasing thing that the understanding allows us to note here, but because our expectation was heightened and suddenly disappeared into nothing.”