What is a Philosopher? (whiny edition)

Look, Simon Critchley wouldn’t be my first choice either, and it wasn’t perhaps the best of invites on the part of the gray lady (if it was an invite at all), but gatekeeper of the profession, Brian Leiter is very upset:

They create a blog forum related to philosophy (“The Stone”), and then choose a complete hack as its moderator.  Simon Critchley?  Even among scholars of Continental philosophy (his purported area of expertise), he’s not taken seriously, let alone among philosophers in any other part of the discipline.  (When Michael Rosen [Harvard] and I edited The Oxford Handbook of Continental Philosophy, the idea of inviting Critchley never came up–how could it?)  If the APA weren’t fatally compromised by its need to pander to everyone, it would launch a formal protest.  Unbelievable.

I would urge readers to send a short note to the public editor, Clark Hoyt, stating, roughly, that you are pleased to see increased attention to philosophy in the NY Times, but are concerned that someone who is not taken seriously as a philosopher or scholar has been invited to serve as “moderator.”  Keep it short and sweet.  If they get a couple thousand e-mails to that effect, maybe they will wake up to the spectacular mistake they’ve made.

I don’t know.  This just sounds bitchy and somewhat petty to me.  Am I wrong?  What was that comment from Socrates Critchley cited?  Something about the philosopher’s clumsiness in day to day affairs makes him appear stupid or, “gives the impression of plain silliness.”  Hmm…

More Derrida To Come?

Is there a flood of Derrida seminars about to be unleashed on the unsuspecting general public? An editorial note to the Russian review of recently released Séminaire La bête et le souverain: Volume 1 (2001-2002) claims that there are 40-50 volumes of Derrida seminars in all to be released. Say what? I’m not really sure where this information is coming from but the French review (PDF) of the above book does mention about 14 000 pages of Derrida material just waiting to be processed and published: Continue reading

Braver Reading Group: Introduction and Some Preliminary Comments

[If you’re just joining us, please click on the cover icon on the right side of the page to see the post that gathers all the discussions of Braver Reading Group, or click here]

It begins. I think it’s fair to say a few words about the general goal of this reading group as Jon and I initially envisioned it: on one hand, the immediate goal is to slowly read through Lee Braver’s erudite account of the relationship between analytic and continental traditions as it shows itself in the discussions of realism/anti-realism; on the other hand, we would like to present the issues raised in the book for discussion and see where it takes us, i.e. we do not feel limited by the book’s presentation of the issues and will take the discussion wherever it leads us. Braver’s book proposes to look at continental tradition and its position of anti-realism and present the issue to analytic side in somewhat familiar terms in order to show that “we are not so different after all”!

We hope to post on one chapter a week (total of 8 chapters) and discuss various aspects of the chapter in whatever way that seems appropriate. Jon and I will alternate on posting a main description and discussion of the chapters, with an option of posting a rejoinder to the other’s post on the matter. As we hope it will become quite clear soon, we come from different traditions and different sets of questions, concerns, philosophical interests and modes of engagement. This is our first attempt at a public reading group, practice that has been present on the blogs for some time now and we are open to any suggestions that can make this experience enjoyable and profitable for everyone involved.

Continue reading

Daily Rountine: Hobbes

There’s a blog on the daily routines of writers and such that used to be updated quite often but now seemed to have died, which is a pity since it was kind of fun, I think. In any case, John Aubrey’s Brief Lives is full such stories and since today seems to be Thomas Hobbes day, here’s something to entertain you for a lunch break: Continue reading

Random Quote: Preface To A Commentary on Kant’s First Critique.

Opened Jay F. Rosenberg’s Accessing Kant: A Relaxed Introduction to the Critique of Pure Reason this afternoon:

Kant is hard to access. Understanding him requires a good bit of context, both historical and problematic, and mastery of a considerable amount of idiosyncratic terminology. Thus, although the classroom sessions during which, for the past thirty years, I’ve been introducing advanced philosophy students to Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason have always nominally been meetings of a seminar, it has inevitably turned out that I’ve done most of the talking. In the course of three decades, I have consequently accumulated a thick collection of what are basically lecture notes.

When I began seriously to consider formally retiring from teaching, it occurred to me that, once I did so, advanced philosophy students would subsequently have to be introduced to Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason by someone else. This was a sobering thought. I realized, of course, that even now most advanced philosophy students are introduced to Kant’s work by someone else, but the thought of a future in which this unfortunate state of affairs would become absolutely universal filled me with anticipatory regret.

Now, that’s the sort of opening that makes me actually read the book in its entirety.

Metaphysical Novel.

I dug out an old but good book by Gottfried Martin, Kant’s Metaphysics and Theory of Science, and decided to read it again in the light of all the present discussions of Kant and his ontology. I think it’s a shame that this book is so hard to find, it came out in 1955 and I think it certainly deserves a good paperback reissue. Martin opens with a discussion of Leibniz and especially the idea of God: Continue reading

Philosophical Trivia: Old Hobbes

Apparently (very old ) Thomas Hobbes’ most extensive single undertaking was a translation of Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey in 1670s – who would have thought? Instead of answering young Leibniz’ adoring letter of July 1670, the old-timer was working on a translation that is now available in the Clarendon Edition of the Works of Thomas Hobbes for mere $250. Speaking of Leibniz’ letter to Hobbes, it is found in the second volume of the two volume edition from the same series and you can see it on the preview of the volume on Google Books here. Young Leibniz is polishing apples like there’s no tomorrow – anyone with any ambition in the scholarly world should memorize it. My favorite part is the opening: 

Most distinguished Sir, 
It made me extremely happy to learn (from a letter sent to me be a friend of mine who is touring England) that you are still alive and in good health, at your age; and I could not refrain from writing you.

Hobbes was 82 at the time and I imagine without Wikipedia it would be impossible to check if he was still around. I seem to remember reading that the letter never actually reached Hobbes, but also that he did receive it but never responded, possibly due to Leibniz’ strange flattery. This second source might be Riley’s introduction to Political Writings – in any case, a nice piece of philosophical trivia for you!