The question that I kept before me as I was reading this book and preparing to write this review is whether philosophers can learn anything valuable from it. After all, it is a book written by someone who has published extensively on film, it treats various Hollywood and European films that are classics and certainly worthy of attention, and it purports to engage with the work of an important twentieth-century philosopher as part of its project. To be sure, one can learn something even from a book that has significant deficiencies, but what I have been asking myself is something different. It is whether a philosopher could learn anything positive from the book. Does the book say helpful and interesting things about Emmanuel Levinas? Does it show us how to explore films in the light of Levinas’s philosophical work? Does it read films in a way that is philosophically novel and interesting, about film itself or about these particular films? I wish that I could answer “yes” to one or more of these questions, but I cannot. The most I can say is that in the course of reading what Girgus has to say about Levinas and the nine or so films he discusses, one is provoked to reflect upon a number of problems and issues concerning Levinas and film, and although Girgus has nothing particularly helpful to say about most of them, it is worthwhile to have them called to our attention. Continue reading
I think one has to admire this. Here is an excerpt from Thomas Bernhard’s will:
Whatever I have written, whether published by me during my lifetime or as part of my literary papers still existing after my death, shall not be performed, printed or even recited for the duration of legal copyright within the borders of Austria, however this state identifies itself.
Having discussed the fate of transcendental reasoning in the analytic tradition, Reynolds and Chase (in Postanalytic and Metacontinental: Crossing the Divide) turn to the continental side, wherein transcendental reasoning is “perhaps even permanently contested terrain…but not controversial enough to induce general abstinence.” The authors suggest:
…the implicit rationale seems to be a bit like Pascal’s Wager–believing in the efficacy of transcendental arguments, if they work, may result in tremendous results (a Copernican revolution); if they do not, some important concepts will have nonetheless been created. Better that, on this view, than disbelieving and being the under-laborer of science (37). Continue reading
Here’s the abstract (full article here) for an interesting article I came across, “Kafka, paranoic doubles and the brain: hypnagogic vs. hyper-reflexive models of disrupted self in neuropsychiatric disorders and anomalous conscious states, ” by Aaron L Mishara:
Kafka’s writings are frequently interpreted as representing the historical period of modernism in which he was writing. Little attention has been paid, however, to the possibility that his writings may reflect neural mechanisms in the processing of self during hypnagogic (i.e., between waking and sleep) states. Kafka suffered from dream-like, hypnagogic hallucinations during a sleep-deprived state while writing. This paper discusses reasons (phenomenological and neurobiological) why the self projects an imaginary double (autoscopy) in its spontaneous hallucinations and how Kafka’s writings help to elucidate the underlying cognitive and neural mechanisms. I further discuss how the proposed mechanisms may be relevant to understanding paranoid delusions in schizophrenia. Literature documents and records cognitive and neural processes of self with an intimacy that may be otherwise unavailable to neuroscience. To elucidate this approach, I contrast it with the apparently popularizing view that the symptoms of schizophrenia result from what has been called an operative (i.e., pre-reflective) hyper-reflexivity. The latter approach claims that pre-reflective self-awareness (diminished in schizophrenia) pervades all conscious experience (however, in a manner that remains unverifiable for both phenomenological and experimental methods). This contribution argues the opposite: the “self” informs our hypnagogic imagery precisely to the extent that we are not self-aware.
Rick Santorum seems ready to run for President:
What does the president of the United States do? He sides with the protesters,” Santorum said. “I am not suggesting that we shouldn’t side with the protestors but what message are we sending to countries around the world who are friends of ours – when things get tough we walk away.
Er..ok. Read the whole thing here.
I came across an interesting site this evening, Argumentics: The Physics of Argumentation, which looks like extended commentary and analysis of a broad range of texts. What caught my eye was this most recent post about Emmon Bach:
Emmon Bach delivered these lectures in 1984 at Tianjin Normal University (China). The general topic is model-theoretic semantics. Presented in the preface as the first of the three “self-imposed constraints”, Bach goes about explaining the groundwork in model-theoretic semantics without presuming any logical or linguistic background for the reader’s part, and without unnecessary formalism. The lectures are therefore (uncommonly) easy to read and apprehend. I agree fully with the author’s saying that “it should be possible for a specialist or technician to explain what he or she is doing to anyone who is interested and who is willing to go along and do a little work” (p. 1). It is partly the spirit that lies behind this section altogether; with me in the set denoted by “anyone”, of course.
Check out the first in a series of posts on Bach here.
So the global academic buzz over Academically Adrift has prompted us to organize our third ever ISW reading group (following groups on James Lang’s On Course and Martha Nussbaum’s Not for Profit). Here’s our plan:
We’ll begin the group the week of February 28. You can anticipate two or three posts per week, in addition to the usual ISW content. Since the book is brief, we’re not going to adopt the chapter-based approach we followed with past reading groups. Instead, ISW contributors will offer posts highlighting themes or claims in the book, linking these themes or claims to teaching philosophy. Richard Arum and Josipa Roska, the book’s authors, have indicated they may drop by from time to time to offer comments on our discussion.
Certainly I didn’t think that Mubarak and Co. would just take it and go away, but it seems that some sober assessments of the situation in Egypt are coming out, slowly but surely:
While much of American media has termed the events unfolding in Egypt today as “clashes between pro-government and opposition groups,” this is not in fact what’s happening on the street. The so-called “pro-government” forces are actually Mubarak’s cleverly orchestrated goon squads dressed up as pro-Mubarak demonstrators to attack the protesters in Midan Tahrir, with the Army appearing to be a neutral force. The opposition, largely cognizant of the dirty game being played against it, nevertheless has had little choice but to call for protection against the regime’s thugs by the regime itself, i.e., the military. And so Mubarak begins to show us just how clever and experienced he truly is. The game is, thus, more or less over.
The threat to the military’s control of the Egyptian political system is passing. Millions of demonstrators in the street have not broken the chain of command over which President Mubarak presides. Paradoxically the popular uprising has even ensured that the presidential succession will not only be engineered by the military, but that an officer will succeed Mubarak. The only possible civilian candidate, Gamal Mubarak, has been chased into exile, thereby clearing the path for the new vice president, Gen. Omar Suleiman. The military high command, which under no circumstances would submit to rule by civilians rooted in a representative system, can now breathe much more easily than a few days ago. It can neutralize any further political pressure from below by organizing Hosni Mubarak’s exile, but that may well be unnecessary.
More at Foreign Policy. I wonder if this is Egypt’s 1905 Revolution or if this is Egypt’s Iran “Green Revolution”? If we go with “preparatory revolution” scenario, this will form new alliances and raise new revolutionary consciousness. If we go with Iranian experience, it will be just a waste of popular rage – without strong ideological message, revolution is impossible. And yes, armed insurrection would help as well, of course. Cue-in Lenin.