Month: December 2010

What is Life? CFP

What is Life?

Radical Orthodoxy: A Journal of Theology, Philosophy and Politics is an internationally peer-reviewed journal dedicated to the exploration of academic and policy debates that interface between theology, philosophy and the social sciences. The editorial policy of the journal is radically non-partisan and the journal welcomes submissions from scholars and intellectuals with interesting and relevant things to say about the nature and trajectory of the times in which we live. The journal intends to publish papers on all branches of philosophy, aesthetics – including literary, art and music criticism – as well as pieces on ethical, political, social, economic and cultural theory.


The journal will be published four times a year; each volume comprising of standard, special, review and current affairs issues. The journal will also attempt to pursue an innovative editorial policy by publishing pieces both longer and shorter than those typically published in mainstream academic journals (along with those of standard length).


The first issue of the journal will appear on-line in autumn 2011: a double special issue on the theology, philosophy and politics of ‘life’. In recent years, a new vitalist metaphysical discourse has attempted to rearticulate classical philosophical and theological problems in terms of a metaphysical language of process. However, some important questions need to be asked of new vitalist philosophies. For example, what is the relationship between new vitalism and orthodox naturalism and biologism? What, exactly, is the precise nature of the relationship between ‘new’ and ‘old’ vitalisms? Is new vitalism simply a reworking of the positivist dream of ‘a unified science’, or does it represent something of break with scientific metaphysics? What other vitalisms, either social or theological, can contest the wider intellectual legitimacy of new vitalist discourses? This inaugural issue will explore such questions through an assessment of the nature and significance of ‘life’ for contemporary philosophical, theological and social scientific debates. In particular, the journal will welcome submissions on the following subjects:


  • Life and creativity
  • Everyday life
  • Life and the gift
  • Grace and nature
  • Thomism and vitalism
  • Life and phenomenology
  • Michel Henry
  • The historical significance of ‘Deleuzianism’
  • Nihilism and eliminative materialism
  • Bio-politics
  • The philosophy of biology
  • The theology, philosophy, politics of the neurosciences
  • Life and cybernetics


Deadline for submissions is August 31st 2011. Please send all paper submissions to Neil Turnbull (editor) or Eric Austin Lee (managing editor) at



Graham has a post up (here: my linker isn’t working: about the 1970s and dens and it just so happens that I’m in a bona-fide den while this blizzard goes on. (My father in law was kind enough to clear it out for me to do grading here.) But that’s clearly a word from the 70s and 80s. Then the den became an “office” (very 80s “professional”—which means having the same stuff but without the shag carpet) and now, having lost all sense of irony from its first use, we have (or at least my brother has, along with millions of others) the “man cave” (the shag carpet can come back).

Let’s see how this works on the other side for women for “personal space”: 1950s: the kitchen; 1970s: the kitchen; the Aughts: the kitchen… (when not in the “family” room)

Blizzard Blogging

Unable to get out to visit my old college roommate and certainly one of my dearest friends in Brooklyn because of the blizzard, now’s a good time to get back to some blogging in between finishing up grading. I’ll post soon another call for Internet Encyclopedia entries related to African philosophy (the first round of articles from some really eminent people in the field is due in the next month or so), but for now here’s a couple of good articles someone sent me:

1. Barry Hallen’s article here on ethnophilosophy:

The meaning of the term “ethnophilosophy” has evolved in both a significant and controversial variety of ways since it was first introduced by Paulin Hountondji in 1970. It was first challenged by the Kenyan philosopher, H. Odera Oruka, as based upon Hountondji’s unfair appreciation of Africa’s indigenous cultural heritage. Barry Hallen and J. Olubi Sodipo, using a form of analytic philosophy as foundational, thereafter argued that Yoruba ordinary language discourse also served to undermine Hountondji’s critique. The later work of the Ghanaian philosopher, Kwame Gyekye, and the Kenyan D. A. Masolo have further legitimized the epistemological status of elements of African culture that once would have been labeled as of no genuine philosophical significance because they were ‘ethnophilosophical’ in character. The end result of this debate seems to be that both the form and content of philosophy in culture generally must be relativized. The most significant consequence of this would be that African and non-Western
philosophy generally would finally be culturally liberated from the oppressive influence, indeed dominance, of what has conventionally come to be known as ‘mainstream’ (Western) philosophy.

2. Jennifer L. Vest’s article on the “perverse” relation of African philosophy to Western thought:

This article examines the concerns and debates that have arisen in African philosophy over the last few decades, and asks whether it continues to be necessary for African philosophy
to take on what the author calls “perverse questions” or “perverse preoccupations” with the West. The author argues that to engage and respond to questions about the intellectual capabilities of African thinkers or the possible existence of philosophical resources in African cultures is to respond to perverse questions. To engage in academic dialogues implicitly or
explicitly guided by a request or a felt need to justify and defend the very possibility of African philosophy or African rationality is to engage in perverse and unnecessary dialogues.
Because these perverse debates often precede, prevent, or condition the formulation of what count as necessary debates, it is important that they be identified and critically assessed, and when possible, dispensed with. Only then can African philosophy pursue necessary and fruitful debates.

Random Links

1. Here’s an online poll about moving the timing of the APA-East. While I don’t like the timing right after the holidays (it does seem designed to give lonely philosophers an excuse to get away from their families…), it is the time each year when I’m in New York with family, so I’m biased toward the timing of the conference, which is usually in the Northeast and thus saves what would be another flight from the West

2. Another link via Feministphilosphers, here’s a story on students lying on course evaluations.

3. Meet the nefarious, clearly dangerous individual that UK police needed to take down right away…

4. Adriaan Peperzak’s To The Other: An Introduction to the Philosophy of Emmanuel Levinas, originally published in 1992, is now online (okay, online in a no-copyright-infringement sort of way), with an update of a couple of chapters.

5. Some advice (via Stuart Elden) for PhD students.

6. John David Edbert has a review of Slojterdijk’s latest book to be translated in English.

7. The International Journal of Postgraduate Philosophy is online with a special issue on Continental philosophy. Gail Weiss is among those with good articles included.

8. CREMP has online a series of lectures on Foucault’s 1982-3 course.

9. Benoît Dillet has a short piece up that summarizing Roberto Esposito’s work on community.


Can We Just Put a Cloth on Them when Tourists Go By?

Apparently, the way the New York Times is reacts to the problem of tens of thousands of homeless in LA is that it’s just wrecking the day for privileged tourists. First the headline:

Los Angeles Seeks to Shed Homelessness Reputation

Yes, it’s the reputation that is the problem. Here’s how the writer Adam Nagourney frames his article:

Part of the impetus for this most recent flurry of attention is concern in the business and political communities that the epidemic is threatening to tarnish Los Angeles’s national image and undercut a campaign to promote tourism, particularly in downtown, which has been in the midst of a transformation of sorts, with a boom of museums, concert halls, restaurants, boutiques, parks and lofts.

This tells you a lot about what you need to know about LA’s “business and political communities.” Also note, I put that headline up for the post before noticing that the actual picture in the article has a homeless person covered as people walk by.

Jean-Luc Nancy on the SUNY-Albany Cuts

As many of you know, SUNY-Albany has proposed cutting a number of its language and theory departments. This is a month old, but here’s Nancy’s reaction hits just about the right tone:

To choose between eliminating French or Philosophy . . . what a fabulous choice! Should one rather take out the liver or the lung? The stomach or the heart? The eyes or ears?

We need to invent teaching that is, on the one hand, strictly monolingual – for isn’t it true that everything can be translated into English? – and strictly lacking in all forms of questioning (for example concerning what is implied by “translation” in general and from one language to another in particular). A single language unencumbered by the static [parasites] of reflection would be a great subject for university study, smooth, harmonious, easily submitting to the controls of acquisition.

We should propose eliminating both of them, French and Philosophy. And everything existing in proximity to them, like Latin or psychoanalysis, Italian, Spanish or literary theory, Russian or History. Perhaps it would be wise to introduce in their place, as requirements, certain computer languages (like Java), as well as commerical Chinese and technological Hindi, at least until such languages are able to be completely transcribed into English. Unless the inverse were to happen first.

In any case, let’s teach what is displayed on our advertising billboards and on the stock exchange monitors. That and nothing else!

Courage, comrades, a new world is about to be born!

Jean-Luc Nancy, Emeritus Professor of an old French (not for long) university.



No doubt, we’re due soon to have special issues of journals, etc., on the politics and/or ethics of Wikileaks. To prepare, here’s a a couple of  links (I had others open, but then my browser crashed… taking them and their web addresses with it):

1. Geert Lovink and Patrice Riemens in Eurozine: Twelve theses on WikiLeaks.

2. Peter Ludlow’s exposition of Assange’s political philosophy and aims.


Michael Wood on Finnegan’s Wake

In the London Review of Books, here. He offers, along with some other good insights, a general taxonomy of different readers of Finnegan’s Wake (those who don’t try, those who try and fail, those who don’t try and fail and say that’s the reason they gave up, etc..):

But reading Finnegans Wake is more than a matter of collecting one’s favourite quotations – even if there is a huge pleasure in that, especially if you admire truly terrible jokes. You have to like the sheer strain that goes into a phrase like ‘a pentschanjeuchy chap’, which comes in the middle of a paragraph mentioning all the early books of the Old Testament (including ‘guenneses’), especially if you don’t really know how to connect Punch and Judy to the Pentateuch. I think of the worst (best) joke in Walter Redfern’s fine book on puns. A person who has been given bits of greenery for her birthday instead of the colourful flowers she was hoping for decides to make the best of things. She says: ‘With fronds like these, who needs anemones?’

Writers on or introducers of Finnegans Wake regularly imagine three sorts of reader or non-reader of the book. Philip Kitcher, in Joyce’s Kaleidoscope, lists ‘those too intimidated to try to read it, those who have tried and failed, and … those who write about it’. Roger Marsh, the producer of Jim Norton’s and Marcella Riordan’s haunting audio version, names ‘new readers’, ‘readers who have never been able to make much headway’ and ‘those who already have some familiarity with the book’. For good measure, there is also Seamus Deane’s group of untimid abstainers for whom the book’s taken-for-granted unreadability becomes ‘the pseudo-suave explanation for never having read it’. Of course these three (or four) groups may represent quite different people, but it is possible (I speak for myself) for one person to belong to all of the first three: to have tried without regarding what one has been doing as a real try; to have failed by dint of not trying hard enough; and to have written about the book anyway, because ‘some familiarity’ is not entirely nothing. I take comfort from the fact that Jacques Derrida manifestly (in ‘Deux mots pour Joyce’) put himself in this category, and for such a reader the scepticism about grand schemes or total understanding that we find in the best recent criticism is very attractive. John Bishop, for example, says ‘the only way not to enjoy Finnegans Wakeis to expect that one has to plod through it word by word making sense of everything in linear order.’ This is a brave claim, but it is true that the book is hard not to enjoy – it’s just even harder to cope with one’s bewilderment.

Any Story that Begins this Way should be Saved for Late Nights around the Campfire…

Truly a scary opening (worse than “it was a dark and stormy night…”):

Business leaders in Louisiana are working with Gov. Bobby Jindal on a plan to grant considerable autonomy to Louisiana State University’s flagship campus at Baton Rouge, with the goal of helping the campus improve academically at a time of limited state support, The Times-Picayune reported. The plan would grant LSU exemptions from many state requirements and give it increased freedom on setting tuition rates.

Louisiana: clearly accepting UK imports….

The Strangest Reason Yet I’ve Gotten for Missing Classes

It’s that time of year in the academy: grandmothers and other dear relatives are dropping like flies, at least according to our emails, as final paper due dates draw near. It is a dangerous time for the elderly.

But a couple of weeks ago, one of my better undergraduates comes to my office to tell me he’ll be missing a few classes to fly to Germany to join his uncle chasing down a 97-year-old Nazi his uncle had befriended in hopes of serving him with some sort of civil law suit for his activities during the Holocaust. (I’ll leave that a run-on to give a sense of how quickly this info was coming at me, after discussing Aristotle’s theory of substance with the previous student.) He returned yesterday to class a little tired from his journey, and it’s depicted in the New York Times today (thankfully, I can link to it since it doesn’t have his name: he’s the nephew mentioned in the story).

The article gives a good feel for the (seeming?) strangeness of the whole enterprise, not least the uncle who has somehow funded buying up Nazi materials for years and has book and film plans for this, while taking his non-German-speaking nephew to Germany for … well, I did ask a lot of questions…

It’s just not often that your student’s reasons for missing class are covered in the New York Times. Of course, he better get that make-up work in…