About Shahar Ozeri

Neurotic Caffeine driven pseudo-Courtesan

What We’re (Not) Arguing About

Adventures in (Post) Gradland

“The life of the mind is born of fear,” writes Sarah Kendzior, referring to the fact that William Pannapacker and the small number of academics who have spoken out about the crisis in higher education have almost all felt compelled to use pseudonyms. Whatever side of the debate you may be on, I’m at least grateful that more and more people ARE speaking out, that more adjuncts are unionizing, and that potential and current humanities grad students can now make more informed decisions about their futures.

The numbers don’t lie, and they’re worth repeating. 70% of faculty positions are now held by adjuncts. This means that 70% of current humanities grad students, should they seek university jobs, are likely to end up making less than $25,000 a year, living without health insurance or any job security beyond the end of the current semester, and knowing that they…

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Philosophers: “long on promise, short on performance”

The first few paragraphs of Jose Benardete’s 1964 book, Infinity: An Essay in Metaphysics, seems rather apropos these days:

EVER since Hume and Kant, and now with Wittgenstein, the credentials of the metaphysician have been subjected to the severest scrutiny, and found wanting. One is almost tempted to liken the metaphysical ascent to the fabulous Indian rope-trick, one end suspended in midair, the other lost in the clouds. Houdini is reported to have said that, though he had often met people who had met people who had seen the Indian rope-trick, despite all his extensive inquiries he had never succeeded in meeting anyone who had seen the Indian rope-trick. Continue reading

Dylan Trigg’s The Memory of Place forthcoming

Dylan Trigg’s forthcoming book The Memory of Place (Jan 2012, Ohio UP)  is available for pre-order  I’ll certainly read it. Here’s the blurb and a ringing endorsement from Edward Casey:

From the frozen landscapes of the Antarctic to the haunted houses of childhood, the memory of places we experience is fundamental to a sense of self. Drawing on influences as diverse as Merleau-Ponty, Freud, and J. G. Ballard, The Memory of Place charts the memorial landscape that is written into the body and its experience of the world. Dylan Trigg’s The Memory of Place offers a lively and original intervention into contemporary debates within “place studies,” an interdisciplinary field at the intersection of philosophy, geography, architecture, urban design, and environmental studies. Through a series of provocative investigations, Trigg analyzes monuments in the representation of public memory; “transitional” contexts, such as airports and highway rest stops; and the “ruins” of both memory and place in sites such as Auschwitz. While developing these original analyses, Trigg engages in thoughtful and innovative ways with the philosophical and literary tradition, from Gaston Bachelard to Pierre Nora, H. P. Lovecraft to Martin Heidegger. Breathing a strange new life into phenomenology, The Memory of Place argues that the eerie disquiet of the uncanny is at the core of the remembering body, and thus of ourselves. The result is a compelling and novel rethinking of memory and place that should spark new conversations across the field of place studies.

Edward S. Casey, Distinguished Professor of Philosophy at Stony Brook University and widely recognized as the leading scholar on phenomenology of place, calls The Memory of Place “genuinely unique and a signal addition to phenomenological literature. It fills a significant gap, and it does so with eloquence and force.” He predicts that Trigg’s book will be “immediately recognized as a major original work in phenomenology.”

Impossible Professions

I must say with regret that none of these books seems to me quite worthy of its subject—with the exception of Nussbaum’s, a book that needs to be read and heeded, but may not make much headway against the critical consensus. To me, the university is a precious and fragile institution, one that lives with crisis—since education, like psychoanalysis, is an “impossible profession”—but at its best thrives on it. It has endured through many transformations of ideology and purpose, but at its best remained faithful to a vision of disinterested pursuit and transmission of knowledge. Research and teaching have always cohabited: anyone who teaches a subject well wants to know more about it, and when she knows more, to impart that knowledge. Universities when true to themselves have always been places that harbor recondite subjects of little immediate utility—places where you can study hieroglyphics and Coptic as well as string theory and the habits of lemmings—places half in and half out of the world. No country needs that more than the US, where the pragmatic has always dominated.

An excerpt from an NYRB article on Academically Adrift: Limited Learning on College Campuses by Richard Arum and Josipa Roksa,  Higher Education? How Colleges Are Wasting Our Money and Failing Our Kids—And What We Can Do About It by Andrew Hacker and Claudia Dreifus, Crisis on Campus: A Bold Plan for Reforming Our Colleges and Universities by Mark C. Taylor  and Not for Profit: Why Democracy Needs the Humanities by Martha C. Nussbaum.

n+1 review of Nussbaum

From an n+1 review of Nussbuam’s Not for Profit

Postindustrial economies rely on exactly the kinds of skills humanities departments teach: intellectual flexibility, detachment, an understanding of pluralities or difference, creative skepticism. This is scarcely news to anyone 
anymore. It’s a litany familiar from every tech-sector TV ad of the last twenty years. And Nussbaum is absolutely right to trace these business-world desiderata to the educational theory of Dewey, which encouraged collective endeavors (playing together), practical problem-solving (tactile play), and group creativity. “Innovation,” Nussbaum puts it succinctly, “requires minds that are flexible, open, and creative; literature and the arts cultivate these capacities.” Continue reading

Early Modern Philosophy

An interesting blog (click here) on early modern figures like Reinhold, Newton, Boyle etc by four students of early modern philosophy based at the Department of Philosophy of the University of Otago in New Zealand, Early Modern Experimental Philosophy. Here’s the description of the research project “Experimental Philosophy and the Origins of Empiricism:”

Philosophers from the early modern period (from Descartes to Hume) are normally divided into Rationalists and Empiricists. Yet this distinction was developed by neo-Kantian philosophers from the late 18th century. In this research project we are exploring the hypothesis that there is a far better way of approaching early modern philosophers. Continue reading