Braver Reading Group: Chapter 8 – Derrida


[All of the posts related to Lee Braver’s book – A Thing of This World – are collected here.]

The chapter on Derrida is the last one in the book (there is a short conclusion as well) and I have to admit that even though we have only been reading this book for 8 weeks now, it seems as though it was at least a year or so, most likely because of the rich content and the amount of potential distractions and my own attempts to chase down some reference or a thought I found to be especially interesting.  I hope that if the time allows us to do so sometime this week or next week, it would be great if Jon and Lee could post their own impressions of this reading group in a sort of conclusive post.

1. Metaphysics of presence as a form of realism.

The first point of the chapter is, I think, easy to make and easy to see – what Derrida labels “metaphysics of presence” is a form of realism, that is, realism as a philosophical move that is premised on a view of reality that consists of things “out there” presencing and thoughts “in here” thinking about things immediately and through language: Continue reading

Braver Reading Group: Chapter 7 – A Short Rejoinder (by John Protevi)


[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.]

[Note from Jon Cogburn—

I felt bad that project overcommitment made me phone in the post on Foucault to some extent, and that its hasty nature made it uncharitable both to Braver and to Foucault. So I sent my post to John Protevi asking him for a response. I knew that Protevi’s expertise could help make up for whatever sin I committed against Lady Philosophy. Also, what Protevi is doing with respect to biology and mind is pretty analogous to what Braver is doing with respect to realism/anti-realism debates insofar as both obliterate the supposed incommensurability of the analytic/continental split.

Unfortunately Protevi’s traveling in Europe right now so had to write the below quickly and without access to any of the relevant books; he’s particularly bummed that he didn’t have Braver’s book with him. There are some links to papers though that are really helpful.]

John Protevi’s Rejoinder:

1. About Foucault’s “false historical claims”: Gary Gutting has an essay in his Cambridge Companion to Foucault on this issue; we’d also want to consult Tom Flynn’s book on Foucault and historical reason (Volume 1 (mostly on Sartre, except for the last chapter) and Volume 2). Gutting says that Foucault makes historical claims as illustrations of his philosophical points, not as evidence for a historical argument. So in Madness and Civilization the point is to get at the episteme (later renamed regime of truth), which is the conditions for a statement to be serious, that is, to have a truth value, that is, to be recognized as belonging to the domain of knowledge claims — it could be true, even if it happens not to be; a statement attaining the status of discourse avoids Dirac’s gibe that “X is so bad it’s not even wrong.” Continue reading

Braver Reading Group: Chapter 7 – Foucault’s History of Truth


[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.]

Apology

Due to cascading obligations I’ve only been able to read this chapter once, and am going to have to phone this one in, which is a shame: (1) it’s a great chapter, amply verifying the claims that Foucault can be understood very well with the realism matrix and as a late Heideggerian, (2) it raises a lot of fascinating philosophical issues in its own right, and (3) should be mandatory reading for anyone moved by Chomsky’s infamous dismissal of “postmodernism” (on-line HERE). Chomsky’s argument (that philosophical theory is often just a baroque way to state the obvious) ties in to Alexei’s interesting comments about metaphor (and the role of set theory for Badiou) at the tale end of the discussion of Chapter 5.

In lieu of a comprehensive book report and development of specific themes I’m just going to present some marginal notes and hope that they spark conversation. I’m leery of doing this. Usually on a first read of a really interesting work of philosophy like Braver’s, I write lots of disgruntled comments in the margins, and then in a second read I try to answer the questions from the author’s point of view in the most charitable manner possible.  But I’ve only done half the work here, and I’m sorry if the below is as a result less philosophically valuable anything else I’ve posted in reaction to Braver’s book. Continue reading

Braver Reading Group: Chapter 6 – Later Heidegger


Since this chapter is about the size of a small book, my intention here is not to rehearse its main arguments (although it’s almost never my intention to begin with), but to attempt to highlight some of its most provocative (on my view) ideas in light of the already raised issues of realism/anti-realism in general and the discussion of so-called Kantian Paradigm in particular.  I will confess immediately that having read my share of later Heidegger and having heard my share of philosophical smirks about it (“Can you hear the call of Being right now?”) I still don’t get much of what Heidegger is talking about, or, I should qualify this statement, I don’t think I get much of what Heidegger is talking about, regardless of many moments of profound philosophical excitement that accompanied my readings of later Heidegger.  Having said that, I must then confess that my discussion of Braver’s chapter will not be (since it simply cannot be) a probing investigation along the lines of “Did Braver get Heidegger right?” for two reasons: 1) I don’t know enough about later Heidegger interpretation field to claim any sort of expertise and, most importantly, 2) probing is ultimately a rather boring exercise…

As tempting as it is to begin at the beginning of the chapter, I think a better way to appreciate the real shift from previous discussion is to cite a small section closer to the end of the chapter: Continue reading

Lee Braver Interview


Lee Braver whose book we are currently reading and discussing answers from questions here. First question made me a bit nervous:

AHB: You’ve been involved in an online reading group for your new book ‘A Thing of This World’. Can you tell us whether you consider the exercise a success and do you think such reading groups have anything to tell us about the emerging blog culture associated with many contemporary philosophical movements?

I was surely awaiting a version of “what an enormous waste of time that is” and “it only shows the ultimate degradation of blog-writing as a genre” or something like “define ‘success’?”…

Braver Reading Group: On Later Heidegger


As I am still working on my post on Chapter 6 (to be posted later today), I am excited to direct your attention to a post by Gary Williams on the same chapter – hopefull, since the chapter itself is basically a small book, we can incorporate as many takes on it as possible:

In this post, I want to take some time to outline the extent to which I disagree with Lee Braver’s analysis of Heidegger in chapter six of his A Thing of this World: A History of Continental Anti-Realism. The reason I have chosen this purely negative analysis is because if I included all the points on which I agreed with Braver in addition to all the points I disagree on, this would be a a rather long and boring post. By jumping straight into the areas of disagreement I have with Braver, I hope to show that according to my interpretation, early Heidegger and later Heidegger do not explicitly contradict each other but rather, only reaffirm the central philosophical insights towards which Heidegger was working at throughout his entire life.

The rest of the post is here.

Braver Reading Group: Chapter 5 – A Rejoinder.


Since Jon has already done a great job addressing this chapter, my task here is only to provide a short list of issues that I think are worth our attention.  I think I have just a couple of observations that I would like to make concerning the discussion so far:

1) Putting Issues in Context: Away from Kant.

I wonder if the issue of noumena that has been a “stumbling block” since Kant can be brought back here in order to show how Heidegger’s solution to this problem is really moving the agenda of anti-realism along.  I found this particular part of Chapter 5 to be illuminating, especially since my knowledge of Heidegger is rather general.  The passage in question is on page 193 – after citing Heidegger’s discussion of the matter, Braver concludes:

In other words, part of the way objects appear to us is as not dependent on appearing to us. That does not mean that they really are independent of their manifestation, just that they manifest themselves that way; paradoxically, they depend on Dasein to manifest themselves as independent of all manifestation. Continue reading

Braver Reading Group: Chapter 5 – Early Heidegger: Fundamental Ontology


[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.]

1. Plea for Attention to Philosophical Context

In a footnote to “Predicate Meets Property” Mark Wilson notes that he had thought of presenting his view as an interpretation of Wittgenstein’s Philosophical Investigations, but he was dissuaded by the fact that the book sometimes seems to operate as a Rorschach Test for philosophers. He wanted people to respond to the philosophical content of what he was saying instead of entering debates about what Wittgenstein “really meant” (of course if one has a competing Wittgenstein who can do the relevant philosophical work better than Wilson’s, then that’s fine, but most of the debate should still be philosophy, not hermeneutics).

Part of what makes a great work of philosophy great is that it does function as Rorschach Test for other good philosophers, and certainly Being and Time is no exception. For these books the main question about philosophically interesting interpreters has got to be what they are doing with the text, and where that goes philosophically. What does early-Heidegger-as-pragmatist (Okrent) allow us to do? Similarly with early-Heidegger-as-virtue-theorist (Bernasconi), early-Heidegger-as-anti-representationalist (Dreyfus, Gibson, Okrent), early-Heidegger-as-radical-externalist-about-scheme-content (Harman), and early-Heidegger-as-transcendental idealist (Blattner, Crowell/Malpas et. al.). The “real Heidegger” yields such diverse interpretations that all impact on on-going philosophical dialectic in non-trivial ways. Like any great philosopher, this is a part of of his brilliance.

So when we look at Braver’s presentation let’s please be sensitive to what “the early Heidegger” is doing in Braver’s book. [And before saying anything about this I should be clear about one point, by “early Heidegger” we mean the Heidegger of Being and Time and surrounding writings, not the brilliant earliest pre-Husserlian Heidegger who was doing interesting things in reaction to his teachers (the first 1919 formulation of Vorhandenheit/Zuhandenheit is in reaction to Rickert, who is discussed in this regard in History of the Concept of Time, but then the citation of the very same discussion is dropped in Being and Time), the Southwest School neo-Kantians, nor  Heidegger right after that whose lectures of that period that spends 9/10ths of the time going through the ritualized dance of setting up the phenomenological verbiage. Being and Time is (among other things) a brilliant (though possibly inconsistent) working out of his earliest anti-neo-Kantian insights in the context of a very neo-Kantian Husserliana, the different interpretations above are all to some extent in reaction to the tensions between these two aspects.]

The key point about reading Braver on the early Heidegger charitably is to note that his discussion is the first sustained, careful, and charitable (c.f. Ferry and Renaut’s influential-in-Europe French Philosophy of the Sixties: An Essay on Anti-Humanism) attempt to see what happens when you construe the dialectic such that it takes seriously Foucault and Derrida’s own claimed debts to the later Heidegger. Braver sets up the early Heidegger to be able to explain this version of the later Heidegger in maximal clarity. This is his primary purpose, and the context in which we need to understand the application of the realism matrix. His secondary purpose is of course the rapprochement between the analytic and continental traditions, not by meta-philosophical exhortation, but rather by showing the interesting things that happen when you instantiate such rapprochement. His fascinating discussion of Davidson and Heidegger at the end of the chapter is an example of this. Continue reading

Braver Reading Group: Chapter 4 – Nietzsche’s Will To Truth


[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]

A Thing of This World‘s fourth chapter is dedicated to Nietzsche, a rather interesting choice, as Braver states from the very beginning of the chapter.  Nietzsche’s big beef with realism is its psychological motivations “that cause people to find certain views persuasive” – if realism is a disease, so to speak, then what is the cure (if there’s one) or, more interestingly, what is the motivation behind the philosophical view of reality that is always assuredly there?  Nietzsche’s response is simple: the motivation is weakness in the face of chaos and flux of becoming, realism is but an escapist fantasy, a support group for the weak (“Too overwhelmed with chaos, change and becoming are getting you down, have no friends and nowhere to go, join Realism Support Group this Wednesday”)  In this sense, realism as a belief in the independent reality “out there” is akin to a religious outlook in its search for certainty and its way of dealing with the responsibility to create one’s own world.  This “realism as religion” view is also confirmed, Braver writes, by the simple observation that “God is the oldest and obvious example of an independent reality issuing commands.” [117]  Braver has a section on Nietzsche’s specific takes on “realism” and a section on “anti-realism” which one can easily acquaint oneself with – everything is splendidly compared and contrasted there.  R5 Passive Knower and R1 Independent Reality are most obviously in trouble, and so is R2 Correspondence and R3 Uniqueness.  R4 Bivalence is out of the question as Nietzsche often addresses the issue of “black-and-white thinking” that has overcome philosophy lately.  R6 Realism of the Subject with its belief in a core, atomistic self is surely a myth aimed to help us deal with whatever it is that we are so need to deal with. Continue reading