New Lightning Bolt (Reviewed and Streamed)

earthlydelightsPitchfork has a review of Lightning Bolt’s new record – Earthly Delights – and you can stream al 9 tracks for your very own pleasure.

For something so simple and direct, Lightning Bolt’s music is pretty genre-straddling. Ask a fan for a description and you’ll likely hear more about what they do– play loud, fast, and insanely repetitive– than how they sound. Not so long ago “loud and fast” meant punk, but now those words could just as easily mean noise, prog, metal, grunge, lo-fi, even techno. Lightning Bolt’s chugging riffs, splattering beats, and amplified overload contain all those styles. Often the only difference between their songs is which label fits a little more than the others.

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

The Insight That Never Was: More on Mark C. Taylor’s After God

Let’s start then from the end of chapter 1 (“Theorizing Religion”) – as Shahar insightfully points out – it is not clear from my two previous posts what exactly is Taylor’s big contribution to the theory of religion. Assuming a rather uncharacteristically humble position, I am thinking that maybe I am missing something in Taylor’s discussion of the definition of religion.  The first chapter ends with this statement of purpose:

My aim is both analytic and constructive: first, I seek to show how and why religion continues to play such an important role in the modern and postmodern world, and second, I attempt to provide a more adequate religious vision and ethical framework for negotiating the complexities and contradictions of life at the beginning of the twenty-first century. (42, emphasis mine) Continue reading

What Is Religion? Continuing With Taylor’s After God

So the reading continues from yesterday’s post.

In the previous episode, Taylor introduced his definition of religion and the main crux of his argument that religion is everywhere and is very dangerous seemed to be contained in the phrase “figure(s) schemata” – religion is a type of network of symbols, myths and rituals that “figure schemata of feeling, thinking, and acting in ways that lend life meaning and purpose.” However, Taylor adds, this would seems like a very traditional definition if not for an additional element: religion is also a network of symbols, myths and rituals that “disrupt, dislocate, and disfigure every stabilizing structure.” When I first read this definition, I thought Taylor was trying to say something like this: religion is a certain type of network of elements that, as a network, acts in a constructive and a destructive way. Now that I’ve looked at it again, due to the form of the verbs “figure” and “disrupt, dislocate, and disfigure,” it seems that Taylor is referring not to the network’s figuring and disfiguring, but to the work of the “symbols, myths, and rituals” which, I suppose, means that religion is a type of network that manages to put together symbols, myths and rituals that act here creatively, there destructively.

Once Taylor returns from his description of “complex adaptive networks” that he borrows from physics, he launches into a rather interesting, even if somewhat imaginary, description of how our “cognitive activity” works: here one finds all kinds of interesting diagrams, suggestions (“data” – “information” – “knowledge” – “meaning” movement), insightful comments and more. The basic idea is to understand how understanding works, or to be more precise, how “schematization” functions. After Taylor is done with the basics, he writes: Continue reading

Books Are For Squares: Reading Mark C. Taylor’s After God

After I had a chance to hear Mark C. Taylor talk about his recent book – After God – I have decided to read it to see what the deal is. Admittedly, Taylor’s talk was very informative but in a kind of uninformative way, i.e. I learned about free markets and morgage crisis but not too much about his view on religion. So reading the book was the next logical step. It’s a thick one too. Having finished it late yesterday, I remain somewhat ambiguous about it and in an attempt to clarify certain things, I might as well write them out.

Taylor opens with a very ambitious statement: “You cannot understand the world today if you do not understand religion. Never before has religion been so powerful and so dangerous.” (xiii) Clearly, this statement is aimed to provoke a thoughtful discussion of the issues and to set a tone for the book. Taylor states his intentions right from the very start: he is not persuaded by the discourse of secularization and will spend the next 400 pages trying to show that, “it is necessary to consider not only [religion’s] explicit manifestations but also its latent influence on philosophy, literature, art, architecture, politics, economics, and even science and technology.” (xiii, my bold) For many years, Taylors tells us, his “tutored eye” has tracked the traces of religion and found it everywhere – now he’s ready to tell the world what religion is and how to deal with it. Ok, here’s a quick run through the chapters and what Taylor promises to do in them: Continue reading

Mark Dooley , Liam Kavanagh, The Philosophy of Derrida (NDPR Review)

Review of The Philosophy of Derrida from Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews:

Mark Dooley , Liam Kavanagh

The Philosophy of Derrida

Mark Dooley and Liam Kavanagh, The Philosophy of Derrida, McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2007, 164pp., $22.95 (pbk), ISBN 9780773532359.

Reviewed by Matthew C. Halteman, Calvin College

The Philosophy of Derrida is the latest installment in McGill-Queen’s Continental European Philosophy series — a line of books that aims to furnish accessible introductions to the work of influential European thinkers, all the while “combin[ing] clarity with depth, introducing fresh insights and wider perspectives” and “providing a comprehensive survey of each thinker’s philosophical ideas.” It goes without saying that producing an introduction to Derrida that is at once clear, deep, original, and synoptic is a tall order to fill.

Dooley and Kavanagh succeed in a number of important respects. They offer a brisk but wide-ranging rendition of the increasingly popular narrative in which the seemingly disparate emphases of Derrida’s “early” and “later” work are unified by an underlying continuity. Highlights along the way include an informative take on Derrida’s relationships to Freud, Husserl, and Heidegger, and a more insightful and even-handed treatment of Rorty’s interpretation of Derrida than is typical. Accompanying these strengths, however, are a number of problems that, according to reviewers, have also challenged other recent introductions to Derrida. Such problems include the taking of a somewhat insular approach that hesitates to subject Derrida’s guiding assumptions to critical scrutiny, an underdeveloped assessment of alleged points of contact between “Derrida and analytic philosophy,” and an account of Derrida on “ethics” and “politics” that leaves these central terms ill-defined and pays insufficient attention to the difference between doing ethical or political philosophy and inquiring into the conditions of possibility for doing ethical or political philosophy.[1]

Continue reading