Thinking About the Process of Philosophy in José Ortega y Gasset’s The Origin of Philosophy

Origin of Philosophy pictureIn José Ortega y Gasset’s The Origin of Philosophy, he remarks about our relationship to the past:

It remained, however, where it was—in the realm of what has been. Embalmed, but finally dead. It was an archeological view. Now, however, we realize that those formed experiences must be continually reconstructed, albeit with the benefit of having been received ready-made. Thus we do not leave them behind, but our present philosophy is in great part the current resuscitation of all the yesterdays of philosophy (29).

I find this passage so eloquent. We reconstruct elements of our experience by being aware of the needs of why we are resuscitating the past for our present. This is Deweyian, but also it is awareness of James’s “conceivable effects,” which have invoked so many wrongful characterizations of nominalism to which James never falls prey. Moreover, this thought hits the Gadamerian tinges too. We philosophize not only because of the intrinsic thinking need, but also in large part because other philosophers have also answered the same pressing questions. Next, our awareness of their earlier efforts often goes silent in our efforts. We are as curious as those who have come before. Our very ability is as Ortega y Gasset says “in great part the current resuscitation of all the yesterdays of philosophy.” The phrase to pay attention to is “in great part.” There is still a tiny part not constituted by the past, but involves us—the very snake of the human.

Such metaphilosophical thoughts regarding our philosophizing often brings doubt that this hermeneutic and pragmatic attention to the past is simply a self-defeating historicism. Such doubters might think we are proffering a view that philosophy should be reduced to literary or historical studies and only be an articulation of various historical periods. Of course, this is a red herring, but since it’s proven so common in my academic life when I talk to varying philosophers outside Continental and American traditions, the fallacious nature and characterization of these claims is never generous. For this reason, I’d like to think alongside Ortega y Gassett this morning and pay attention how he continues. “The historical past is not past simply because it is not now in the present…but because it has passed or happened to other [persons] whom we remember, and consequently it keeps happening to us in our continual repassing or reviewing of it” (30). For Ortega y Gasset, like Gadamer, the historical past happens to those of us in the present. The same needs, the same practical interests drive our very reasons for inquiry in the first place. The need to ask a philosophical question that enlivened the past invigorate me. However, this truism is not simply about philosophy. At its core, all experience is a culmination of the past encompassing the present. As the future cannot be possessed “except in the measure in which we can predict it” (30).

Our knowledge to predict the natural sciences is the answer to the gap of unknowability in the future, and becomes Ortega y Gasset’s model of how we might regard the temporalizing process and limits of experience outlined above. The more we can predict of the future, the more persons will eternalize themselves in the same scientific thinking. To be fair, though, enduring and persisting in the same way is not what he means by self-eternalization. For Ortega y Gasset, self-eternalization means “remembering and foreseeing” such that one is ”not moving from the present, but allowing the past and future to attain the present and occupy it” (31). Philosophy is, then, the reflective practice and awareness of bringing these streams of the past and future to occupy our present-day need, and it falls on us to decide if we think the history of philosophy is a history of errors or affirmation (or some history of errors and/or some affirmations to be more nuanced and less vague).

If we generalize this conception of philosophy to something resembling analytic philosophy whereupon the philosopher is more like a speculative naturalist, then some interesting implications are generated. I’m proposing this terminology because to be quite frank, there are so many varieties now of “analytic philosophy” that the sociological category is almost meaningless except to say, perhaps, a few comments about types. Let me further clarify what I mean by a speculative naturalist.

A speculative naturalist is someone—perhaps like Hume—who is in touch with the predictive power of the sciences, and maybe someone who is well aware of the conceptual limitations of that regional ontology of objects in that science. Thus, the philosopher qua speculative naturalist frees up the conceptual space of a natural science and employs their imagination to speculate about the most likely true picture of what concepts can explore or know but contemporary science cannot. By extension, speculative naturalism is the thesis that our philosophical concepts should be compatible and coextensive with the most informed scientific account of reality. From our contrast above, the speculative naturalist is only aware of bringing the future into present and thereby ignores the fact that history is happening to them at this very moment in the field of experience. The speculative naturalist is not interested in the wisdom of how-we-got-here that conditions and enables the present inquiry. The philosopher qua speculative naturalist regards philosophizing as a temporary responsibility in which the philosopher is asking until scientists can take over from that initial conceptual exploration. In effect, speculative naturalists are denying the very temporal limits of experiencing the very inquiry they are set upon, and by thinking of philosophy as a not-yet science, these philosophers tend to be indifferent of the past and elevate the status of the present in much the same way that a scientist dismisses a failed hypothesis for whatever current  hypothesis is working presently.

Such indifference, however, is not wrong in Ortega y Gasset’s eyes. The speculative naturalist is only wrong in being wholly dismissive and thinking that her speculation carries more weight beyond the necessity to see one’s efforts as an extension of history happening to her. Philosophical history can look as if the past is filled with error, or it can be affirmed means that we should be indifferent to the judgment itself. Instead, the past contains some truths and some errors. In this way, Ortega y Gasset sees philosophical history in a dialectic process of getting some aspects right and wrong. We could only make judgments about the errors of philosophy if we had some knowledge of the partial truths gleaned. In his words, “With the realization that the philosophical past is, in reality, indifferent to its aspect of error and to its aspect of truth, we ought in our behavior abandon neither, but to integrate both” (33, italics belong to Ortega y Gassett).

In short, the fact that the speculative naturalist cannot deal with the ongoing temporal nature of inquiry, which results in uncritical dismissal of the past for a privileged look at one’s efforts, generates the problem that philosophy is unaware of its overall dialectical growth. Philosophers only have partial expressions of the truth at any one time, and when philosophers ignore this history, they are prone to an elevated hubris of their present conceptual elaboration as ultimately expressing the whole truth, but certainly – perhaps – the philosopher has only a glimpse of the overwhelming perplexity whence we consider rightly how to reconcile present philosophizing in relation to its historic origins in earlier efforts.

At the center of my synthesized definition of philosophy is, then, the process of growth entailed by the limits of experience, the aims of speculation, and the awareness of this process. These elements must be present in our future efforts. Reality has a process that we experience, and every historical exploration of this process embodies the same growth of philosophy itself, but it would seem that in order to express this process we must turn philosophy towards becoming. All Being is becoming.  

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From the book…what remains

Sorry, it has been awhile. In the words of my students, “it’s been a minute.”

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The manuscript that has taken me two years to put together is now a monograph: Persons and Values in Pragmatic Phenomenology: An Exploration in Moral Metaphysics. I have been asked to put together a few words of meditation from what I learned about it, and I also conjecture where I might go. At present, the book touches upon how persons participate in intentional feeling to create values into the world, but I have not

When I had decided to write Persons and Values in Pragmatic Phenomenology: An Exploration in Moral Metaphysics, I had no idea of the result. I had published several papers with two thinkers in each: James correcting Husserl, Scheler correcting Heidegger, an aspect of Heidegger helping us with Scheler, Scheler correcting James, and James correcting Scheler. In these explorations, I suddenly found the possibility of the title by bringing these essays together; I am forming a system out of both Jamesian pragmatism, and the phenomenological tradition.

At the point when you discover you are systematizing yourself it’s a very weird experience. That moment is the closest you can come to disembodied state of consciousness. You begin to look down on your own self as if you floated above your own philosophical life. Then, you can move the various pieces of your beliefs and commitments around, adjusting them as you see fit to address the existential and pragmatic needs of life—both for yourself and whoever you think will be listening to your thoughts.

I discovered a few things.

First, I have never given up on the role intentionality plays in concrete life, and this is undoubtedly Husserl’s influence in me. However, Husserl only indicated the absolute need in every description of consciousness is a consciousness-of. Paul Ricoeur’s dictum of Husserl remains true for all time—the history of phenomenology is “the history of Husserlian heresies.” Everyone must start with Husserl, but nobody remains with him for very long unless, of course, they want some level of systematization that doesn’t exist in the rest of Continental philosophy.

Second, Scheler’s contribution to metaethics is unacknowledged in analytic philosophy, but then again, there’s no patience for sustained descriptions of the primordiality intentionality plays in concrete life (or what we might call doing phenomenology with a capital “P”). That’s the insight I took from Scheler. Scheler provides a type of phenomenological dictum to all moral theorists and ethicists alike. Before all moral theorizing can occur, we need to engage in a phenomenological description of persons, values, and otherness. These are the three concepts I see at the basis of all ethical inquiry, and we need to understand exactly how each concept is situated in the most concrete way. In this way, we should seek to describe the conditions under which these concepts are given in the modalities of experience: self-to-self relation, self-to-other relations, self-and-temporal-horizon, and self-to-nature-and-God. Currently, we could say these are the architectonic assumptions of what lies behind my commitments to personalism and pragmatic phenomenology as a method of doing philosophy.

In the first, we might think of the Socratic impulse to “Know Thyself,” and perhaps Kant’s duties of self-perfection. Next, the self-to-other relationship is at the heart of it a commitment to the radical belief about the absolute uniqueness of every person that resonates in Scheler, but ever more lively in Levinas’s phenomenology of the face-to-face relation, and what Buber called the I-thou relationship. An entire work could be done on this level of philosophical engagement with the ethical. The self-and-temporal horizon is what limits our ability to transcend the very conditions of being subjects unfolding and living out the structures of experience in time. To some extent, Heidegger, but more importantly, James’s radical empiricism articulates this within-time-ness the best.

Finally, I put self in relation to nature-and-God. Nature and God can stand in for ideas of unified totality, and if these two are exclusive then we should try to find out exactly what it means to relate to the entire whole. Philosophical anthropology, then, is an attempt to articulate the most general interpretation of human beings in relation to a conception of the totality of reality within the bounds of unified experience. Questions of philosophical anthropology are not settled, and I am cautious when talking about really big ideas of totality and unity. Practically speaking, the manner in which someone believes they are in relation to reality of the whole—whether that is Nature or some ideas of the Divine like God (and what could be meant by God and even collapsing the distinction between Nature and God), these are metaphysical interpretations that become culturally sedimented in human practices and daily life, which is the brilliance of Husserl’s Crisis in the European Sciences. Imagine various interpretations of human beings and the cosmos as a whole: Greco-Roman humanism, Judeo-Christian traditions, and the scientific materialism of the human person. Scheler rightly understood that in the 20th century we’ve forgotten ourselves much like Heidegger thought we have forgotten the question of being, but also how to frame the very question of our being—being a person. The success of Scheler over Heidegger is that values saturate our very existence, and Heidegger so divorced values from action that his Nazism is no surprise to me. His fundamental ontology does not have a place for the absolute uniqueness and dignity of persons to be felt at all (let alone values), and every Heideggerian I meet is guilty of a flirtation with fascism because of the dearth of values in the heart of Heidegger’s fundamental ontology.

Currently if I were to commit a digression, I might say that my colleagues in English, Cultural Studies, and more worldly engaged humanities are thinking through the devastation of the environment. For them, this is the age of the anthropocene, a term invented to signify that human civilization has altered the very geophysical situatedness of the planet, and a thorough exploration of how we got here can be traced to the Judeo-Christian religious tradition in thinking that God provided nature for human beings to do with what they saw fit with it rather than perceiving the interdependency of all living things. Christianity and capitalism proved to be a dangerous combination. In this way, a proper pragmatic phenomenology might align itself with those engaged in philosophical genealogies of Nietzsche and Foucault and try to understand both how the anthropocene started philosophically in the habits of the past and what new possible understandings of the human person in relation to the cosmic whole are necessary to affect change. If the environment is already ruined, then it stands to reason we should lessen our impact. I know that I have left us far afield from where I started so let me return now to the discoveries I previously mentioned.

Third, unlike Husserl, Scheler regards moral values and non-moral values to be rooted in intentional feeling. Intentional feeling is itself not a type of rational logic motivated by epistemic concerns that inaugurated the development of both the epoche and reduction in Husserl’s thought. Instead, the ordo amoris, as Scheler called it, has its own logic, and it precedes all other epistemic motivations. In this way, Scheler’s interpretation of phenomenology is that it discerns essences in the interconnections between feeling acts and the value-qualities that form the object of those feeling acts. To understand, then, the metaphysics of value, which is the heart of my current thinking and what Persons and Values in Pragmatic Phenomenology is about, is to understand the very phenomenological relation with the world. For me, Scheler’s affective intentionality is the answer both to the metaphysics of value question but more importantly a guiding principle to answer how phenomenologies always become ontologies themselves. I also see this in Scheler’s later concern with philosophical anthropology and his sociology of knowledge. The very core of his phenomenological ethics is never abandoned, the same value-rankings and respective hierarchy are maintained. It’s a more difficult question about whether or not he is phenomenological in his later works.

Fourth, the type of ontologies you get in pragmatism tend to be a metaphysics where phenomenological essences activate in relation to the objects of experience. I know that sounds a bit vague, so let me explain. If all ideas functionalize as Scheler put it, then they unfold in relations, the metaphysics of value are what phenomenologists describe, but we shouldn’t just take phenomenologists at their word. Part of the problem of phenomenology is that after you describe the world and open up eidetic seeing, you’re essentially done with the philosophizing. Pure phenomenological descriptions are inert if we don’t ask what effects those descriptions have in our experience. These descriptions can be tested by seeing how they harmonize in action pragmatically and what their conceivable effects are. I saw this union when James and Scheler both gave primacy to felt relations and the essences and/or habits such relations entail. When I saw that, that’s when I decided to place them together in dialogue. Persons and Values in Pragmatic Phenomenology is a consequence of that insight.

The fifth and final discovery is that James’s radical empiricism might just be the best form of phenomenology ever to be developed. I have yet to explore or develop this insight, and it would require juxtaposing James in relation to every major phenomenologist to see if such a working hypothesis has any traction. As a consequence of Persons and Values in Pragmatic Phenomenology, I may be returning to James more fervently than when I started. What’s clear to me, however, is that you can do more with James, but it’s not clear that phenomenologists alone can do much without pragmatism.

What’s Actual?

download-2The metaphysical status of pure actuality is interesting to me. Before me, I regard the physical as the actual. That’s an easy intuition to hold onto. Butter is one of only a few ingredients right now capable of being a bonding agent in baking. It’s unfolding in experience; I see the cupcakes rise in the oven. I take them out. I cut into one of them, and see the ingredients becoming whole. Now, those of you who read me know of my commitments to phenomenology and the ongoing experienced phenomena know that I do not divide nature and reality into what’s subjective and what’s objective. Like Whitehead and James, there’s no bifurcation of nature. Following this phenomenological commitment, pure actuality refers to both what’s going on in each of the act-side and object-side.

Even if we are phenomenologists, it’s easy to identify the actual with simply the nonreductive content that’s immanent in the field of pure experience. In phenomenology, we might even reify the nonreductive as what is only capable of being actual in the same way that we wrongly associate the actual with the physical.

Pure actuality is what is experienced in immediate flux. One could easily be a neutral monist to what is considered actual.

The more difficult thought is to think that what’s actual does not track the potentiality of growth and the overwhelming openness of both conscious acts and the objective side. A pragmatic phenomenology would sustain a vision to the growth and becoming of how ideas and habits guide our limited, but by no means exhaustive, experience of nonreductive contents. Just as much as every snowflake (as seen in the picture) is so unique, the possible configuration of how reality becomes is unique into every event that arises, and also of the position of experiencer in relation to that event. The very ground of phenomena isn’t settled; it’s in the process of becoming. We experience experiencing. Every experienced phenomena is an experiencing. What’s actual now is, then, only possible because all actualities are possible (or so I am thinking). Simply because something is not appearing, or something is not taken as physical doesn’t imply that actualities don’t exist independently of their instantiation in the field of experience. In fact, we might posit that all actualities exist universally until their instantiation in the growth and process of reality itself.

The strange thing is that there’s no knockdown argument for this speculation as there is for any metaphysical description. The sole criterion is how we experience the world and if that description coheres with those facts of experience.

All actualities are universally possible.

All possibilities we know are actualized.

Simply because we know some actualities doesn’t mean that other configurations of reality are not possible and could not like a tree limb grow towards what’s possible in a way yet to be experienced.

 

 

Epistemic Inconsistency and Lying About Santa

santa lieIf we accept the goal of epistemology, then we’re concerned with finding the conditions that describe when we should accept some beliefs over others. We look for principles of justification. In this way, epistemology is normative and descriptive; it gives us a thick analysis of beliefs.

One principle I think useful is called Ockham’s razor. Ockham’s razor stipulates that we should not posit entities in explanation needlessly. When the simpler explanation is possible, we should go with the simpler one over the more complicated one. During medieval times, there was a debate about whether or not the planets were pushed by angels or if God is so powerful, he could create planets that moved under their own power. Ockham’s razor would stipulate we should accept the latter over the former.

Now think about Christmas. On Facebook, I am waking up to family and friends all claiming that Santa came, yet some of these people are also philosophers and scientists with whom I would think find Ockham’s razor useful—if not true. These philosophers and scientists are placing gifts under the tree and then telling their children that Santa came.

For these philosophers and scientists, there’s a bit of inconsistency between the roles of parent and philosopher-scientist. If they ultimately thought that their children should be forming true beliefs about the world based on evidence, then philosophy/science-parents should teach their children about Ockham’s razor. When they do, children are faced with two competing interpretations of Christmas morning. Either Santa brought those gifts or parents bought them and placed them there. Accordingly, we know what we should believe since as adults we’re all in on the joke.

There’s a real problem in the United States with a lack of scientific knowledge informing policy and opinion. A National Science Foundation survey in 2014 found that of those 2200 Americans surveyed, 1 in 4 believed that the sun revolved around the Earth. More than that, we all participate in the collective lie about Santa. There’s no real benefit to lying to our kids other than the jealously we all have about their innocence. At that point, we might as well tell them that Frodo is real, being a Jedi is possible, and that their cousin is Kryptonian. These lies would at least be entertaining, yet what makes this type of lying wrong (and lying about Santa) is that these lies violate Ockham’s razor. I am not on rapport with reality if I think that Santa is real or that being a Jedi is possible. In effect, philosophy-science parents this morning are in tension and contradiction with what they find valuable (if they accept Ockham’s razor) on some practical or epistemological grounds and parenting.

Next, consider the ethics of lying. Is it right to lie collectively to children about non-entities that don’t exist? Without straying too much into religion, I will only focus on Santa’s existence. Generally, lying is at least prima facie wrong. As a deontological principle, the thought is we betray the rationality and autonomy of another when we lie to them. Under a consequentialist ethic, lying is more complicated because we could justify some white lies because no damage really results from them, and lying about Santa tends to fall in this category. Yet what if the harm is in not teaching children the truth about the world?

Consider again the NSF survey from above. Some Americans believe the Earth is flat, or any number of weirdly false claims about the world. They are false because those beliefs are not in rapport with what’s real, and one way to describe what’s real reliably is through teaching our children what’s scientifically accurate and in accordance with Ockham’s razor. It’s immoral then to lie about Santa Claus.

My Review of The Last Jedi (Spoilers Everywhere)

download-1Concerning The Last Jedi, I will spell out a few disappointments before giving my own philosophical take and embrace of the original trilogy. There are several initial disappointments.

First, I am disappointed with Snoke. We know nothing about this villain, and we were slightly invested in him from Episode 7: The Force Awakens. The internet was filled with speculation about his identity, how he survived and his relationship to the Sith and the Dark Side, and the Emperor.

Initially, the Emperor set up the Empire with a Dark Side theocracy at its center. Without the Force, it would collapse, and this was a theme Timothy Zahn explored in the Heir to the Empire Trilogy (1991) and other expanded universe sources picked up, e.g., Dark Empire (1997) graphic novels. From what I have seen of the First Order, the idea remains the same. Force-users hold the reins of power, and the First Order and the Empire are instantiations of the Dark Side where those reins of power become more than just metaphors.

Second, the Star Wars universe has developed technologies that have some rationale for their existence in the fictional setting. Weapons hurl energy bolts against other ships and we see turrets, turbolaser batteries, missiles and the like. When Vice Admiral Holdo rams the ship into the fleet, I do not think this is technologically feasible in this fictional setting. This tactic renders the very idea of modified freighters or capital ships with large weapons useless. Why build such ships and fleets if you are just going to ram capital ships slags of metal into fleet formations?

Third, when Holdo smashes the enemy fleet, the First Order had enough ships to encompass the fleeing ships three-dimensionally on the aft, port, and starboard formations. Much like the mistake of the fleet in Starship Troopers (1997) who clustered their ships around the planet to be beaten up by insectoid races hurling asteroids, the First Order failed fleet tactics 101.

Fourth, Finn is not very developed, and probably represents the most creative origin for a Star Wars character ever despite the writers lack of developing him. He is a stormtrooper brainwashed from birth who grows a conscience, and he obeys that moral conscience to flee from the insipid evil of the First Order. There’s some speculation that he grew a conscience in tune with the Force in some way. Notice Ren’s attention to him in the opening sequence, and we see him take up a lightsaber against Kylo Ren in The Force Awakens. In both films, Finn winds up trying to flee from battles he cannot runaway from (a possible analogy to millennial feelings about being born and thrust into the legacies of austerity and neoliberalism). In the heat of conflict, he finds his moral resolve, but only when his friends are in danger. His only practical function seems to be to know layout of Star Destroyers, Imperial bases, and has an extensive knowledge of tactics. However, this is not a very impressive reason for him to be kept around. His character has untapped potential and should be developed further than he is.

Luke’s character rejects everything that came before. He grew wise to the hubris of the Jedi at the height of their power. Luke is critical of the Jedi allowing Darth Sidious to grow in power right in front of them. Luke is rejecting the orthodoxy of tradition. Such tradition breeds hubris and mortal certitude. Yoda seems to agree, and in rejecting tradition, Luke’s refusal to teach Rey looks like the right call. She already has power enough to renew in orthropraxy what Luke rejects in orthodoxy. Yoda reminds Luke, our students succeed and exceed the charges of their masters. That’s the curse of all masters. When Luke is confronted by Yoda’s Force-ghost, he’s already on his way to burn sacred texts and teachings of the Jedi. Yoda calls down lightning to drive Luke’s point home, but also in refusing Rey, the Force and something like the Jedi will survive. Yoda and Luke fade away in The Force Awakens to inaugurate new adventures. images-1

In Buddhism, sometimes monks will burn sacred texts in front of their students. It’s very easy for the young and devoted to attach themselves to the possession of a sacred teaching rather than focusing on the right conduct such teachings should bring about in those that study them. In this way, both Luke and Yoda recover a pragmatic and existential orientation to what it means to be spiritual, religious, and in this case, Jedi, and they see this renewal of purpose to the Jedi in Rey. Rey also seems to embody a more complementary idea of the Force than what seemed a separation between good and evil from before.

Rey is the cosmic balance to Ren’s raw power. Snoke reveals that he thought Luke was Ren’s equal in power, and here the Force seems to have chosen a nobody-Jakku-born spacerat to bear that responsibility. Rey and Kylo overthrow Snoke and in their cooperation, Rey pleads with Kylo not to go in the direction of the First Order. He asks her to join them, and she pleads with him to stop. Their interaction embodies the ebb and flow of a complementary universe rather than the earlier dogmatic black and white, light and dark absolutism of the hero’s journey me and those older than me grew up with. In some ways, this might resemble a millennial retelling of the Star Wars mythos from a younger generation that seems to reject organized religion for both science or spirituality. For me, this retelling of the Force is more Tao than the rigid orthodoxy of an inherited Judeo-Christian (Jedi vs. Sith) dogmatism (I’ve talked about this before over at Philpercs).

Like the Tao, Rey seems to be fluid with respect to the Light and the Dark. When she goes into the Dark Side hole on Ahch-To, she is looking for answers about her parents. In her vision, her image is reflected back in a nearly endless mirror until she sees her own reflection staring back at her. One possible interpretation could be that she has no parents, and that she may well be a clone—a copy of a copy of a copy.* Of course, this only holds if we maintain a very literal interpretation the nearly endless mirror scene. The Dark Side cave warned Luke about his possible folly. Another interpretation might be to figure out what the Dark Side warning is. Perhaps, she expends so much energy on her parents that she loses sight of herself—a more likely interpretation, I think.

The Last Jedi succeeds more than it fails, however. First, I like the more nuanced understanding of the Force. Today’s youth is more cynical, more appreciative of context, and the directors are capitalizing on these more contemporary (and sensible) attitudes. As a moral theorist, contextual details matter more than adherence to rigid uncompromising moral principles that oversimplify moral understanding and nuance. At least, this describes my theoretical commitments regarding morality. In Episode 7 and 8, the morality of the Force is not as dogmatic as in the original trilogy. In the original trilogy, Star Wars suffers from what Terry Gilliam said of fantasy in an interview several years ago. “Fantasy isn’t just a jolly escape. It’s an escape, but into something far more extreme than reality, or normality. It’s where things are more beautiful and more wondrous and more terrifying. You move into a world of conflicting extremes.” In fantasy, good and evil can acquire more poignant and manifest roles in everyday life.

The fact that fantastic fiction can oversimplify conflicting extremes is a reason why I do not accept Dan Fincke’s interpretion of The Last Jedi over at Patheos. He’s sees Nietzsche’s critique of dualistic morality in The Last Jedi everywhere (where in this essay it should be understood perhaps as embracing a more virtue-oriented approach to Jedis, or understanding the transition away from deontological rigidity to a more Taoistic metaphysics undergirding the Force). While I am sympathetic, Fincke ignores the metaphysical truth of the conflicting extremes in the original trilogy and the role that fantasy embodied rather than imposing our own philosophical views and finding confirmation of them in the original trilogy. We should understand the contrast provided by both The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi and the ultimate philosophical departure concerning those conflicting extremes. We are moving away from those extremes, or at the very least as a culture we are seeing uncompromising rigidity and tradition in a negative light, especially regarding the Trumpist era of politics.

The Last Jedi speaks directly to Millennials about the uncompromising rigidity of tradition when Rose interferes with the Finn’s impending heroic sacrifice. Finn is about to take the speeder directly into battering ram cannon on the planet Crait. Rose flies right into his speeder preventing that sacrifice. Nearly dying, she looks up to Finn. She says that what makes us different is our ability not just destroy what’s in front of us, but what we find worthy to love. At this moment, the multicultural Disney ABC franchise is speaking to our contemporary climate, and I am glad they went there. So much hate has funneled out of the White House that citing the difference between love and hate is a necessary message. The earlier franchise romanticized violence in the oversimplifying extreme of calling for its necessity, and perhaps the love/hate distinction is this generation’s conflicting extreme.

Finally, we should talk a little bit about Luke Skywalker. If I were writing a roleplaying supplement, I’d make a new Force power and call it “Astral Projective Illusion,” and require Affect Mind and Projective Telepathy as its prerequisites. Luke projects himself across the galaxy, and everyone can see him. He’s not an illusion as much as we might think of a soft light hologram like we encounter in the X-men’s Danger Room. Poe Dameron, Leia, Hux, and Ren all see him. The illusion buys time for the rest of the resistance to escape, and Rey levitates rocks with the Force. Everyone witnesses her power and Luke’s power. The Force, then, is known and celebrated in the tale of Luke’s sacrifice again. Luke becomes the very legend Luke didn’t want himself to be.

Luke sees the Jedi complicit in the rise of the Dark Side Force Users. In fact, he stands over Kylo Ren momentarily thinking he should strike him down. This scene is told in three different tales borrowing from the narrative strategy of the Kurosawa’s Rashômon. In this Japanese samurai film, the same tale is told from three fluid perspectives, and this living fluidity of the encounter that turns Kylo and causes Luke to doubt himself eventually is a powerful tool. In Rian Johnson’s cinematic Star Wars tale, The Last Jedi is still a postmodern eclectic collage of cinematic influences.
NOTES

*I owe this insight to the science fiction fantasy writer Casey Matthews.

 

Scheler and Vulnerability

imagesThe insight I find remarkably refreshing in Scheler is that values are given in intentional feeling. There’s no good (such as knowledge or friendship), person, or deed that’s not given-as-felt. Each good, person, or deed is encountered in terms of its value quality precisely because Scheler discovered the phenomenological reality of values resided in correlated feeling acts.

The implication of this view is that all felt aspects of experience and what can be experienced (all intended objects) are shot through with value. Like a drop of ink in water, the feeling acts always correspond to value qualities. For me, it also explains the content of what intuitions target. Moral intuitions track the feeling acts and intuitive content of them. They are given immediately.

Accordingly, there’s a hierarchy of varying degrees of givenness of feeling acts and values. The more endurable values are permanent, less transient. The more endurable values are intrinsically whole and less divisible. From these two working assumptions, Scheler posits that the highest feeling are spiritual feelings and the highest value is the dignity of persons given in religious holy values. That’s the contentious realm of Scheler’s more controversial claim. The really ethical implies an adherence to religious values. In this post, I do have a suggestion to rethink that hierarchy such that the religious and holy domain of values and feeling may not be the highest. Instead, they are just cultural regions in which values of vulnerability manifest the most. Let me explain.

Consider in Christianity that the Gospels contain an entire social ethic that addresses the marginalized, the poor, the unclean (as opposed to the Pharisees code of cleanliness). In Buddhism, our more natural and enlightened state is one in which we are spontaneously responsive to the suffering of others. What’s phenomenologically salient is that the absolute dignity of persons are given as wholly valuable, unique, but also vulnerable. Morality tracks self-other relationships and the various ways in which persons appear valuable simultaneously appear as vulnerable.

Religions, on their own, are attempts to address the existential realities of our suffering. They address what I call the aesthetics of suffering. With this in mind, the entire orthropraxy of religion consists of recognizing the vulnerability of the other, not just its singular unique transcendence found in the face-to-face encounter. Instead, Levinasian transcendence is undergirded by vulnerability, and while not all vulnerability can be eradicated (such as our mortality or suffering bodily disease), human action can contribute to or lessen institutional and intrapersonal vulnerability. We can realize more love into the world and foster conditions that can arrest willing exploitation and objectification of others that contributes to transgressing the other.

Of course, I will not get into the role religion has had both positive and negative effects on transgressing vulnerability and its history. My only intention in this post is to explain how we might reconcile what Scheler and Levinas find redeemable in religious phenomenological talk, and highlight (at the very least) what Scheler might be doing with putting personalist values within the sphere of the Holy. In a functional sense, it makes sense that religions are the place most responsive to the absolute dignity of persons. However, like most things, human beings are very good at exploiting vulnerability and “ruining a good thing.” There are plenty of instances in which religion is used as a way to gain advantage and power over others and sometimes it can be a sincere attempt to address the suffering of others.

From Husserl to James as Phenomenological Exemplar

wizard 9When I first started to read William James phenomenologically, I had felt as if I had discovered a strategy to reconcile the many deep tensions in James’s thought and this reading of James explains my departure from Husserl. I had come to Southern Illinois University to study Husserl with Anthony Steinbock, and in Steinbock’s phenomenology, I found also a set of concerns I had long attended to in my own private philosophizing the desire for transcendence in understanding God and values. As I attended his phenomenological research groups at his new center, seminars, and invited lectures, I discovered what Steinbock had already known. In Scheler’s phenomenology, both these concerns became one, and around this time Steinbock authored Phenomenology and Mysticism: The Verticality of Religious Experience.

I have never liked this book. First, it seems as if Steinbock ignores the very ontology of objects of religious phenomenology for the want of pure description. For that reason, he’s open to nominalistic objections as to what he is doing. Second, his caricature of ethics in that book regards ethical reflection as domain-specific, more applied than theoretical, and third, his descriptions of religious feeling were always too quick. He dances around St. Teresa of Avila and her work to even give her a fair reading—let alone the other mystics. He does that because his point is to drive home how mysticism is all rooted in a type of intentionality much different than horizontal intentionality. He uncritically seemed to adopt Scheler’s framework without again asking the question about the metaphysical status of concepts in that framework—which was the subject of my continuing reflections on the metaphysics of value. God and value were just given in ways that other phenomena are not, which sneaks in the supernaturalism of value into a spatial metaphor and then closes off the need to engage in any need for more proof for those concepts and their existence—let alone the biases of seeing the Divine only as the Abrahamic religions report. In effect, Steinbock tried to do too much with too little.

Regardless of the defects of Steinbock’s analysis, I found Scheler because of that work, and how the absolute givenness of the Holy was the absolute dignity of persons. Religion became a cultural mode of possibility for understanding how values were experienced, but it remains largely unaddressed in Scheler’s work (and what I found in Steinbock at the time in 2009) It set up more questions than answers and isolated some more tensions in my thought. Steinbock also once again uncritically adopted a Schelerian framework in his Moral Emotions: Reclaiming Evidence of the Heart (2014) as it adopted Scheler’s affective intentionality and value-rankings without explicit attention to the ontological indeterminacy of values nor a decent ontology of persona and agency. Again, the tension surfaced again between uncritically assuming the existence of what Steinbock described versus the need to explore and further refine the ontology of moral experience from what we wished it included. This is the tension between the everyday and unconcealed, the banal natural attitude and the givenness turned supernatural. In effect, Steinbock is religious with phenomenology, and this corrupted how I was both first taught phenomenology and to which I would then find solace in James’s thought. For James, however, this tension is out in the open in the very promise of his thought.

To this day, the largest tension in me is the religious and the natural, the mystical and the scientific and how these distinctions entwine with value within experience. For James, all of these possibilities can be given in experience (an unnerving point to the more familiar analytic work on James in people like Richard Gale), yet unlike Steinbock,, James is honest about the limits of experience. If something is given-as-Holy, then that’s reason to regard it as given-as-Holy. However, one does not uncritically assume that is evidence enough. Steinbock takes intuitive givenness as the need not to go further in ontological exploration. For this reason alone, we should see James a correction to phenomenology and to Husserlian and Steinbockian phenomenology in particular. The natural and the scientific are possibilities we can choose to relate and even experiment to see if the choice of a given possibility, a possible belief to navigate the world as a future rule or habit will be useful and facilitate our interactions with the world and others. In this reconciliation, I posit that the person is a set of dynamic intentional relations and to explore how the possible objects of intentionality will facilitate experience in the various intersubjective ways we relate to the world: socially, politically, morally, mystically, and scientifically.

Jamesian thought (and in this case radical empiricism) put the relationally concrete back into the transcendental subject I had adopted for the longest time. However, this move also opened up doors to how much of phenomenology do I give up when I open the pragmatic shutters. Is the transcendental subject now a methodologically sound posit? What elements of a person are rightly in flux, and what parts are not in that much flux and relatively-stable over time? Are there are any features of James’s theory of self that are assumed to be a transcendental precondition of pragmatic processing of experience?

For the most part, I see both Jamesian pragmatism and Schelerian rooted phenomenology as mutually reinforcing. Both possess a vocabulary of habits or functionalizing essences that activate in experiencing x, and it’s this process of experiencing various essences where one can make a fruitful synthesis between the two. Let me explain (or at least attempt to explain…blog posts are ways to explore thoughts).

Pragmatic phenomenology pays attention to how an object is given within the socio-political and socio-historical circumstance of praxis such givenness will illuminate. In this first move, what’s given is not a static phenomenon, but more like an event. In other words, pragmatism restores a bit of activity to the inertia of phenomenology. Since phenomenology is pure description of the act-object intentional relationship of consciousness, once description is over, the aim of phenomenology is over. On these grounds, then, pragmatism returns the inertia of description to matters of praxis and confirms in a cheeky-way why Peirce may have been more right about phenomenology-as-firstness. The phenomenon is not just given to us as passive intentional subjects (which I think is my problem with phenomenology on a general level) but an event in which the whole field of a person is given in terms of the possibilities realized through action. Concepts arise from this action (or interaction), and phenomenological description is attending to how the subject comes aware of how the concepts become constituted in praxis, not how they are solely given.

It’s for this reason many phenomenologists can become enamored only with how a phenomena is intended in consciousness, but never extricate philosophical wonder to see that as just one overall sliver of experience. For me, James’s repudiation of rationalism comes very close to reasons we shouldn’t be Husserlian phenomenologists (and also marks the reasons why we can only be mystics, but never adopting of one creed over another), though honestly that’s only in spirit but not a fair reading of his varying degrees of static and genetic phenomenology (a point I owe to Tony’s scholarship). Moreover, is this not the Heideggerian/Merleau-Pontyian correction to Husserlian transcendental phenomenology? Shouldn’t we get outside consciousness to embody and enjoin the concrete modalities of action to givenness itself? Phenomenology in an attempt not to isolate itself from concreteness sometimes removes us farther away from that concreteness than the straightforward honesty of Jamesian radical empiricism.

A Possible Defense of Neutral Monism?

downloadNeutral monism is a philosophical position that William James came to defend after he adopted skepticism concerning any rationalistic metaphysics and the ability to engage in metaphysics. Neutral monism contends that reality is constituted by one type of primal stuff, but that we cannot draw ontological distinctions about what this stuff is—whether it is material or immaterial. The thought-object we have in our minds is experientially the same as the physical object, and because we cannot tell otherwise, because we don’t have access to the true way things are, all we have are our experience of particulars.

In this way, neutral monism is a position that only surfaces when we exhaust other options through Jamesian pragmatism’s critique of metaphysics. Thus, there are two parts:

(1) The Inaccessibility Thesis: S has no privileged access to the way reality ultimately is, but can only know the particulars x, y, and z in experience.

(2) Pragmatic Treatment of Metaphysical Ideas: S can only treat metaphysical ideas as rules of action about x, y, and z.

I think James held (1) and (2) together, and for him they are mutually supporting. I won’t defend that thesis here about James.

In my interpretation, however, (2) is a consequence of (1). Since reason and/or intuition cannot access the way reality ultimately is, reason and/or intuition is only a construction of the way ultimately reality is. S is left operating in limits and must then settle for testing metaphysical ideas pragmatically. S can have knowledge of God, but only because of the consequence those ideas allow for (this is how one should make sense of James’s Will-to-Believe Argument). It then makes sense to adopt a less dogmatic approach and consider the openness of experience to parallel that of a growing, organic and becoming cosmos. The coextensiveness of experience and the cosmos is how each other becomes in light of the other. At its heart, this is the same as neutral monism. Both a metaphysics of thought generates idealism, which may have some benefit to it however much James was suspicious of what we could call absolute idealism James criticized in A Pluralistic Universe. However, there’s no knockdown argument for why someone might be idealist as much as one might be a materialist; these are two forms of monism.

A metaphysics of objects will convince us that all things should be measured by the physical; it will eventually be reductive and explain x, y, or z in virtue of some aspect of the physical sciences. According to James, we can’t tease the physical and the thought-content apart, so why try! We cannot know what is, but we can employ our ideas to interpret the contents of experience. Moreover, this also means that we don’t give up on trying to make sense of reality and its dynamism. Our inability to tease the sciences and thought apart pragmatically means that science can be reconciled to our subjective experience of the same phenomenon. Thought-objects and objective characteristics can be of the same thing. Neutral monism, then, promotes a unity of the sciences. This unity also gives us a possible speculative solution to the alleged separation between mind and world, which we can accept on pragmatic grounds. 

The moral imperative is, thus, that our beliefs being rules of action can adopt pragmatic positions because of (1) leading to (2). Belief in God or the Tao are equally up for grabs because of the conceivable effects these ideas generate, but not because there’s some type of principled evidence that can achieve universal consensus between others about which we ought to prefer. The belief in the Divine—no matter its object and conceivable effect—is a genuine option on the table for all of us. This also makes metaphysical ideas rooted in the habits they generate for our practical differences. If one constructs a philosophical system of concepts to account for the metaphysical reality of values, then the only rule of such a construction is what it does for experience. The habits it generates. A solid metaphysical basis for values inculcates the habit that there are moral principles that if they were to be adopted, then it would benefit everybody. Hence, metaphysics of our most basic concepts are adopted because of their pragmatic benefit—this and nothing more.

All in all, there’s no knockdown argument to defend neutral monism, which is the very part of departure that inaugurates this idea. I cannot experience anything other than particulars, and because I have no privileged access to reality, I am forced to pragmatically adopt the inability to draw distinctions that would refute materialistic monism or idealistic monism. My inability to draw distinctions decisively, then, means that we can have interpretations instead of decisively-proven metaphysical systems. To say that one does not have privileged access is not the same as saying I don’t have access to the way these ideas will manifest in experience. There are threads and connections I can make between the discrete particulars of experience. Let’s take a case in point of how one might tie several discrete particulars of experience. I may have a religious experience, and feel the existential compulsion of higher ordered values in my own affectivity. I may interpret these values as either Buddhist, Taoist, or Christian. I may think of religious experience and the call of the hour to honor the Holy in any number of ways (even if it means being inter-religious), but I cannot decide between them apart from their conceivable effect these particulars generate in my experience and in that of others. What I can say is that persons often experience the Holy as the highest feeling that highlights what is highly valued. In this way, James came to the conclusion of radical empiricism only through the limits of what supported neutral monism in (1) and (2).

Upholding Creative Standards!

4x5 originalAt first, what appears below was a humorous response to Liam Kofi Bright’s post over at Sooty Empiric, which received some helpful and sympathetic hints from Eric Schliesser. Then, the post got away from me in the very same way that philosophy is therapy for my soul, but maybe not yours.

Here is a possibility I recommend for consideration: we ought to hold ourselves to stricter creative standards than we often do, in our philosophical research manuscripts or public forum presentations. They should be more literary, more creative, more artistic perhaps, and vastly more engaged with culturally relevant themes (what I would call pragmatic and existential concerns). Before getting into what I mean by this, why I think it, and why I am saying it, now, it is worth saying a couple things immediately. First, I haven’t always followed this ideal, but indeed for the purpose of this post, I am trying to capture what I take to be the best creative practices that can generate good and decent philosophy.

Second, this post does not pretend to be metaphilosophically neutral. Indeed, I am after what I take to be the best practices in conventional-Continental-philosophy and am not impartial. I judge it to be superior to analytic philosophy because of its power to illuminate the contours of lived-experience. I advocate that we that we all in our own work implement these changes, and aid others in doing so. Let me be explicit: what I think is we should strive for voluntary self-change in this. I do not believe in using gatekeeping mechanisms to enforce the following. Sincere adoption and internalization of the norms that govern philosophy can only be effectively brought about if it is unforced, and rekindle the intellectual imagination in which art and philosophy swim. I’ll give you two examples of what I have in mind.

First, there are a great many places where it seems to me that people ought weaken their dedication to logocentric presentation of philosophy, and not abstract from lived-experience as much as they do. This focus on argument and the intellectual abstraction created and fostered by dominant philosophical forces oftentimes substitute an abstraction for how we truly experience the world. Dewey called this the philosophic fallacy, and while I have no particular tradition in mind (as this flaw is a cross-traditions fallacy), it abounds anytime an –ism becomes more important than paying attention to where that –ism applies concretely. Put more succinctly, many philosophers in the tradition of Western thought have identified relatively stable structures of experience and given them pride of place over those that are more concrete and dynamic. What seems to be the case is that there are plenty of philosophers obsessed with truncated arguments and debates inside analytic philosophy that regard the conceptual landscape of their own debates as what philosophy should be doing rather than articulating the pragmatic concrete effect of what it is they are truly doing (or not doing as it may have no concrete effect on our collective experience of the world—the navel gazing and armchair irrelevancy of philosophers overall). In these efforts, there’s something like what Dewey described about previous metaphysicians who reified concepts from experience in his Experience and Nature (1925) and privileged those beyond all others to the point that we still read philosophy in the shadow of these concepts.

This touches upon a second point: I think much could be achieved by adhering to standards of writing philosophers commonly dismiss, but in my opinion, we should actually be creative when we present our ideas. Take for instance the nuanced focus on what I take to be a family resemblance property of analytic philosophical writing: the tracing out of a thesis in various arguments, moves, and counter-moves. Some are so convinced that this is the only way philosophy can be done that the very young graduate students are often met at the nearby Starbucks outside the APA denouncing Continental without having read any of it.

In Continental philosophy, the story seems to be trying to focus on the interpretive milieu and how an idea arises and can impact the current cultural lifeworld (if it is entirely relevant to lived-experience). When we acknowledge the historicity of an idea, we can often gain a sense into the underpinning philosophical narratives of how these ideas emerge in time, and we can glean if our contribution to understanding has come before us rather than boldly claiming its originality. The limits of language and history become relevant to what we can say. When the ideas illuminate our practices, however, we find that stories are possible. Ideas illuminate aspects of our experience. Sartre wrote Nausea as a way to articulate the depths of our existential anguish, and perhaps, when we read this novel, we find another (and arguably better) way of attempting to bring philosophy to the level of people most concerned with the ideas we are in the business of addressing, solving, speculating about, and proposing.

However, I am not beyond thinking that philosophy shouldn’t be in other creative works. Philosophical ideas emerge in lived-experience, and photography, the image, and especially videos and plays are the embodiment of ideas and lived-experience. Sartre wrote many reviews as he was simultaneously a philosopher and a critic, engaged with theatre and visual arts. For him, art was a way of coping with existential reality of imprisonment. I, too, find writing creative works ways to experiment and have received some advice about how I shouldn’t publish a novella. What’s more science fiction is a fantastic example of speculating what the concrete effect and consequence an idea would have if we were habituated to that practice. In this way science fiction can embody the pragmatic spirit all philosophy should have!

Needless to say, the profession would have a hard time if a philosopher wrote research articles, books, and then in addition submitted a creative works portfolio of exhibitions, aesthetic critiques in the popular press, and an artistic installation. Most promotional reviews of a colleague abide by fairly convention standards (oftentimes privileging epistemology and metaphysics over other forms of philosophical inquiry), but as we are seeing many departments are under pressure to close. Philosophers write to only other philosophers, and we keep digging deeper into obscurity (who reads dissertations or research articles on metaethics, Wittgenstein, or Kripke for fun and the same holds for those concerned with redeeming Heidegger from himself after publishing the Black Notebooks or Badiou’s latest writing). Adding some creative energy to our writing would certainly help possibly arresting ourselves and maybe even legitimize the type of public engagement philosophy was meant to have—that is if we recall Epictetus’ words that philosophy is therapy for the soul.

Unfortunately, I do not see that the therapeutic function of philosophy something many in the analytic world think philosophy should have (applied ethicists, I think, are the rare exception to this rule). Maybe some allowance for this idea holds in people’s teaching, but not in the concerns they think and are taught worthy to research. The problem is that once a way of doing things has been around a while that way of doing things becomes habit. Like William James, I hold we can overcome these habits and ways of doing things if we have good reason to change them (yet again philosophy must be concerned with the existential and pragmatic matters of life to accept that conception of philosophy itself). For a long time, many in the analytic world have become so enamored with identifying philosophizing and its expression in writing with some reification they think underlies scientific writing. We write short journal articles.* We publish them, and only read what’s very recent.**

Needless to say, I think our writing should still focus on arguments, but I am committed to the fact that we need not just focus solely on arguments. If there’s an insight to be gleaned, philosophy should see itself not as a continuation and extension of the sciences—philosophy as handmaiden to the queen of science herself in Kant’s language. Instead, we should think boldly about the power to write. Being artistic is one way we can do that just as much as the norms of solid argumentation. I’d like to end on two points of ten made in a list of writing recommendations Nietzsche sent to Lou Andreas-Salome in August 1882 about writing:

  1. Style ought to prove that one believes an idea; not only that one thinks it but also feels it.
  2. The more abstract a truth which one wishes to teach, the more one must first entice the senses.

* In the Continental world, we write exegetical papers that probably are better transformed into monograph chapters.

** It’s in these circles that we find some analytic historians of philosophy complaining to their own about the dearth of historical work in analytic departments.

Dearth/Death of Philosophy Blogging

Sometimes I feel like nobody is out there. Blogging is a shot in the dark, an empty vessel adrift a sea of many people who could come to the shore. These people could offer ropes to pull the boat in. They could explore it and take a look around. The fact that people don’t is striking to me (because, like any academic, it’s impossible for me to imagine that you couldn’t find philosophy fascinating). The internet has become an echo chamber for one’s thoughts, including my own.

Perhaps, blogging was only fun when it concerned one’s dissertation, or possible speculations grad students make into the night. There was a time when Heidegger, Scheler, and Husserl were new to me. I had to tell the world about why I thought Heidegger’s avoidance of values in a fundamental ontology was a mistake and defend the prospect of a moral phenomenology against Walter Sinnot Armstrong. . I still remember reading an essay by Daniel Dahlstrom on Heidegger and Scheler and feeling stunned that someone could read both philosophers so closely.  At that point I was envious of the knowledge it took to write that essay.

Not many people read the philosophers I’ve devoted so much time to. My interests in philosophy are not that well represented from process-thinkers (admittedly even Scheler and James are and not just thinkers like Whitehead) to pragmatism, Boston personalism, and back to phenomenology. I even wrote a chapter employing Scheler to correct Ross’s intuitionism, which I think is the most impressive thing I have ever written as it concerns a way that phenomenology and metaethics intersect. Nobody hardly notices this piece, yet it stands as the one piece I am most proud of since it reflected the choice to get an analytic MA and a Continental Ph.D.

This is not to say that I’m way off the deep end and have no mainline interests. I’ve been attracted to debates in applied ethics about drones in war, health care policy, and genetic enhancement not to mention more applied issues about gender, sexuality, and race that pervade what we might call social and political philosophy.

I am, as it were, at a loss as to find conversational partners. Conferences seem like the best way to exercise one’s energy nowadays. At least there, everyone has gone with the explicit purpose of trying to make one’s paper better and perhaps help you with yours. Again, however, this is a hit or miss. I have bad experiences at the APA, but wonderful experiences from groups like the Society for the Advancement of American Philosophy. Working papers conferences have been a blessing; the Pittsburgh Area Philosophy Conference Continental group has been a place to share my thoughts and revise for publication. Also, I have published papers that came out of Midsouth Philosophy Conference held in Memphis.

As I grow older and have four sections with 124 students, I now know what others were talking about. During my Ph.D., a professor remarked, “Ed you’ve never worked this hard.” It’s true. It’s hard to be productive at a teaching intensive position, and blogs were a way to share our creativity with the world. I’m wondering if I should continue with this one.

My favorite blog for years was New APPS, but sadly that blog has fallen away like a shell discarded for a creature to big to fit inside. Nobody but Gordon Hull contributes. Philpercs became that way too after Jon Cogburn left. Now, there are two or three who post at moderate intervals. Leiter’s blog is more a professional gossip blog, and it’s clear that even Justin is monetizing Daily Nous. These are not good blogs to share one’s ideas concerning developing a conception of pragmatic phenomenology, or why Dewey is not wrong about democracy against so many Continental-leaning leftists who rob the pragmatic center of its starting power before it begins.

My students do not blog anymore either. If they write at all, they are creative works or only write as much as they need in order to survive the classroom. There is little exception, but this reflects a growing trend in the university where the liberal arts feel like they are continually dying and being reborn as career training. That’s the subject of another post, or should I even write it?