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

Wittgensteinian Misanthropy

Paul Wittgenstein, that is.  This week I’ve been casually reading Gitta Honegger’s Thomas Bernhard: The Making of an Austrian before I go to sleep.  I hadn’t really known all that much about Paul Wittgenstein, other than what Bernhard attributes to him in the fictional Wittgenstein’s Nephew, but Honegger provides this account:

A popular anecdote has him attending a Wagner opera conducted by Herbert von Karajan, who took over the post of musical director of the Vienna Staatsoper from Karl Bohm in 1956. The story has Paul running down the aisle toward the orchestra pit after the performance with resounding shouts of “Bravo!” As the maestro slowly turned around with benevolently outstretched arms, Paul exclaimed, “Bravo Bohm!” (167)

Innocent Realism: Susan Haack

This is from an interview with Susan Haack (Haack.interview–warning pdf).  Aside from her Philosophy of Logics textbook, I’m completely ignorant of her work, for the most part.

CB: Could you tell us more about Innocent Realism?

SH: It is, I hope, a metaphysical position that can accommodate the most robust realist intuitions to the most sophisticated anti-realist objections. The main ideas are something like this. The world — the one, real world — is independent of how we believe it to be. In saying this, obviously, the Innocent Realist repudiates both the irrealist thesis that there is no real world, and the pluralist thesis that there are many. However, she of course allows that human beings intervene in the world, and that we, and our physical and mental activities, are part of the world. The one, real world, in other words, is heterogeneous: there are, besides natural things and events, human artifacts of every kind, social institutions, and the theories, depictions, and imaginative constructions of scientists, artists, poets, novelists. etc..Adapting an idea from Peirce (who was in turn adapting an idea from Duns Scotus), the Innocent Realist construes “real” as meaning “independent of how you, or I, or anyone believes it to be”; and as contrasting with “fictional, a figment, imaginary.” Scientific theories are real; and so are works of fiction. But the explanations scientists imagine, when they are successful, are true, and the laws they imagine real; while fictional characters and events are precisely not real, but imaginary.  Though very fallibly and imperfectly, we humans are able to know something of how the world is. This is possible only because we have sense organs able to detect information about particular things around us, and the intellectual capacity to make generalizations about them; and because the things around us are of kinds and subject to laws.

We describe the world, sometimes truly, sometimes falsely. Whether a synthetic description is true or is false depends on what it says (which is a matter of human convention) and on how the things in the world it describes are. There are many different true descriptions of the world, in different vocabularies. All these many different truths must somehow fit together: there can’t be rival, incompatible truths or “knowledges.” But this doesn’t mean that all the truths about the world must fit together by being reducible to a privileged class of truths in a privileged vocabulary; I see the truths of the social sciences as “fitting together” with the truths of the natural sciences more in the way a road map can be superimposed on a contour map of the same territory.

Here’s a pdf of an interesting article by Haack, “Six signs of scientism.”


Badiou Dictionary (Form & Formalism)

For those interested in the work of Alain Badiou, I think it’s worth pointing out the recent activity at the Form and Fomalism blog:

…The Form & Formalism Working Group began in November, 2009, in the wake the first annual “Form & Formalism” conference, held at the Jan Van Eyck Academie in Maastricht, and orchestrated by Tzuchien Tho of the Versus Laboratory research project. A second conference followed in 2010, and Versus is in the process of planning a third for the coming Fall. (Programmes for both FF conferences can be found here: http://versuslaboratory.janvaneyck.nl/events/view/5 and here: http://versuslaboratory.janvaneyck.nl/events/view/11.) From the conferences formed the group, and from the group now comes the blog. Nothing else needs to be said about this just yet.

To get the ball rolling, I’ve decided to make available here a few short texts that I’ve been working on, still in a somewhat rough state, for the Badiou Dictionary that Steve Corcoran is in the process of pulling together for Edinburgh University Press. Your comments, corrections, criticism, etc. are of course welcome.

I’ll try to post an entry every day or so over the next week. Today, FORCING. Stay tuned for GENERIC, MODEL, SUTURE, IDEOLOGY, ONE, and VOID.

Read the definition drafts by Concept of the Model translator, Zachary Fraser, here