The Secret lives of Philosophy Profs…


An amusing article from The Philosophers Magazine, not having to do with those sexy shiny new toilets (unfortunately), but amusing nonetheless. Really, it’s a window into my ego driven, out of control RegisPhilbin-like-id, completely narcissistic soul:

Having read the repudiations of wealth in Plato, the Epicureans, and Augustine; having read about moderation and restraint in Cicero, Spinoza, Nietzsche, and Wittgenstein; and having accepted the low pay rates of the academy, philosophers ought to be, I concluded, the sort of people whose contempt for money and status would be matched only by the purity and passion of their engagement with reasoning, theorising, contemplation, and speculation. Alas.

Instead, I’ve found that the secret lives of philosophers are more often than not pre-occupied with status and acquisition. What one might call “positioning” conversations that, back in the day, had been largely confined to the dolorous waiting area for job candidates at American Philosophical Association meetings, now seem commonplace at conferences, receptions, lectures, and wherever philosophers gather. Like debutantes at the ball, philosophers now often spend much of their time dropping names, gossiping, promoting their connections, hawking their publications, passing out business cards and polishing their self-promotional web sites. Having rarely heard the phrase “Research Institution” during the first decade or so of my life in the profession, and then among only administrators, I now encounter it at nearly every professional meeting I attend. It seems to trip off the tongues of younger faculty, in particular, as easily as remarks about the football standings. Continue reading


Riera review of Meillassoux

I missed Gabriel Riera’s review of Meillassoux’s After Finitude in the NDPR a couple of weeks back. Riera sums up and contextualizes Meillassoux’s argument succinctly. Here’s his assessment, more allusive than concrete, but certainly accurate:

The book’s meticulous argumentation is not for the logically faint of heart. There are passages of logical exasperation that at times may work against its own objectives, thus reinforcing a reactive skepticism. In spite of the absence of resolution to the absolutization of mathematics, the book succeeds in articulating the problematic and in mapping a new field of inquiry. For this reason, After Finitude will certainly play a central role in ongoing debates on the status of philosophy, on questions pertaining to epistemology and, above all, to ontology. It will not only be an unavoidable point of reference for those working on the question of finitude, but also for those whose work deals with political theology, and the status of the religious turn of philosophy. After Finitude will certainly become an ideal corrosive against too rigid assumptions and will shake entrenched positions.

Although the book is written with clarity and consistency, it presupposes a familiarity not only with dogmatic metaphysics, post-Kantian critical philosophy, phenomenology and post-Heideggerian philosophy, but also and above all with Alain Badiou’s materialist ontology, and more specifically, with his ontological re-formulation of post-Cantorean set theory, as well as his conception of the event as what exceeds the grasp of an ontology of being qua being. Contingency, Meillassoux’s crucial concept, is inextricably linked to Badiou’s conception of the event.

I guess I’m not logically faint of heart because I don’t remember being too exasperated when I read it, but really sometimes logical exasperation is better than dealing with the endless equivocation of many of those deconstructionists, though such logical exasperation often results from reading some of Plato’s dialogues, at least according to my students.

Read the full review here

Review of Badiou’s Being and Event: Too Theological?

As anybody that reads this blog in even a less than cursory way, it’s clear that I have some problems with Badiou’s work, particularly methodological and interpretative ones. That said, there’s something in Badiou that keeps me coming back for more. Regardless, the NDPR has a fine review of Badiou’s Being and Event by Peter Dews, who concludes by noting:

As we saw at the beginning of this review, it is not easy — even for proclaimed philosophical atheists ­– to avoid recycling religious and theological tropes in their very effort to break with the past. But Badiou goes one step further than this, since his philosophy plays deliberately and provocatively with religious language (not just the language of fidelity, but of ‘conversion’, and even of ‘grace’). Some of his most admired militants of the event belong to the religious sphere, such as Pascal and Saint Paul. And on some occasions, in Being and Event, he admits the possibility of religious truth (e.g., p. 399) — even though this disrupts his own categorization of truths. The problem is that Badiou’s transposition of the notion of fidelity from the sphere of love (to which he concedes that it directly refers (p. 232)), the misdirection of his passion for the unconditional towards happenings in the mutable socio-historical world, brings with it the dangers of dogmatism and exclusivism, if not worse. And it also raises one final issue. Badiou repeatedly declares that God ‘does not exist’ (e.g., p. 277). But the whole of Being and Event is an intense and intricate exploration of what does not exist — namely the event, for which there is ‘no acceptable ontological matrix’ (p. 190). Furthermore, Badiou’s own thinking cannot help but lead towards the question: why ought we to become subjects, why should we commit ourselves to a life of fidelity? Indeed, Badiou himself later poses this question in terms of the ‘fidelity to fidelity that defines ethical consistency’ (Ethics, pp. 49-50). And although this may not be Badiou’s answer, it is not clear what aspect of his system would rule it out as a response: because we are called by God, who is the event of events.

This seems to be particularly ironic, because it resembles Badiou’s criticism of Levinas in Ethics, namely, that Levinas is a theologian masquerading as a philosopher. The whole review nicely contextualizes Badiou’s work in light of the controversies in the 19th century about the superseding of religion, esp. Feuerbach. Read the full review here.

Post-Continental Philosophy?

Yet another use annoying use of “Post-.” Have you heard? A concern with (and subsequent betrayal of) immanence means we can file it under the “Post-” moniker. Anyway, a newish book by John Mullarkey, called Post-Continental Philosophy: An Outline (Continuum, 2006) is reviewed in the Notre Dame Philosophical Review by Alistair Welchman. Here is an excerpt from the review:

This book has two aims. First, it provides readings of four French philosophers more or less outside of the main phenomenological stream of French (‘continental’) thought exemplified by Derrida. The philosophers are Gilles Deleuze, Michel Henry, Alain Badiou and François Laruelle. Collectively they constitute the beginning of what Mullarkey takes to be the post-continental philosophy of his book’s title. Mullarkey considers these thinkers to be united by a commitment to the idea of immanence. But he argues that each of these philosophers tacitly betrays the immanence they are officially committed to. And this leads to the second aim of the book: an original philosophy of immanence that avoids the pitfalls identified in the rest of book. Here Mullarkey’s central term is ‘diagram’, a word that he intends literally (among other ways). The term ‘immanent’ is a slippery one, as Mullarkey himself acknowledges (7). But its basic sense emerges quickly from his analysis of Deleuze, an analysis that plays a coordinating role in relation to Badiou and Henry. According to Mullarkey, Deleuze’s claim to be a philosopher of immanence is vitiated by his commitment to a ‘two-world ontology’ (25) spanning both the virtual and the actual. Although Deleuze himself is at pains to distinguish the virtual from the possible, this nicety does not concern Mullarkey because for him any ontological category going beyond what actually exists (the actual) is ipso facto transcendent and therefore no longer immanent.”

Read the rest here