With midterms out of the way I’ve been able to begin preparing for some upcoming events. In particular, I’ll be one of the lecturers at this year’s Deleuze Camp, along with Ian Buchanan, Dan Smith, and Ron Bogue (there are a couple others as well, I believe, but that’s all I know for now), and so I’m busy preparing for what I’ll do there. I’m also editing a book with Levi Bryant and have finally gotten together my proposed abstract for that project. I post the abstract here since I’ve already posted on this blog many of the ideas that will eventually appear in that essay. This work is also related to what I’ll be doing at the Deleuze Camp so any feedback or suggestions are welcome. As is the nature of abstracts, they often make broad sweeping claims and promises with only an indication, if that, of how successful the arguments will be in the end. I would hope that combined with previous posts some of these inherent problems in abstracts will be alleviated. Regardless, comments are welcome. The tentative title for the essay is ‘Conceptual Automata’.
At the Leiter blog there was an interesting thread (here) concerning Philip Kitcher’s recent essay, “Philosophy Inside Out” (here). Given the current state of support for philosophy (or lack thereof) within the academy, it was not surprising that many of the comments were in support of Kitcher’s basic claim that philosophy ought to reconsider or reflect upon its core mission, although not everyone agreed with how such a reconsideration would look in practice, or what has put philosophy into the state it is in.
Kitcher’s basic argument stems from his reading of Dewey, who he ‘take[s] to be the most important philosopher of the twentieth century.’ In particular, Kitcher analogizes much of the “core” work that is most highly valued in philosophy today, by which Kitcher means epistemology, philosophy of language, and philosophy of mind, with placing the highest musical value upon those who can perform an ‘ornamented Quadruple Temolo 41 with an extra trill.’ In short, much of the core work in philosophy Kitcher claims is increasingly devoted to making finer and finer distinctions, the relevance of which is apparent to an ever-dwindling number of fellow neo-scholastics (referring here to Ladyman and Ross’s critique of contemporary analytic metaphysics, as discussed here). The overall message: it’s no wonder philosophy programs are at risk. It’s time to take stock of what we philosophers are doing and whether it is worth doing.
Over at the New APPS blog Protevi has a nice weekly feature where he interviews a philosopher, asking them about their daily routines, how they got into philosophy, their views on the university today, etc. It is interesting to see how people ended up in the not so common path of pursuing an academic career in philosophy. This week I’m up (the interview is here). Since I know John well and we’ve talked much over the years about Deleuze and other matters, it became more of a dialogue than an interview.
In my post on historical ontology over at the new APPS blog (here), I anticipated the following criticism: how is the multiplicity related to actual beliefs and states of affairs? Are you not appealing to some mysterious aspect of reality, a pure becoming so to speak, that transcends the actual, in order to account for how what we actually know becomes other? Is this not contrary to the very spirit of Spinozism to take immanence seriously, and to take it all the way to its natural conclusions? This is a variation on a criticism that is often directed at Deleuze’s theory of the virtual (most notably by Badiou as I discuss here). Fortunately or not, I was spared this criticism to my post, but it still seems appropriate to address it for I think it clarifies a number of points. This also gives me the opportunity to deliver on a long overdue promissory note I offered Steven Shaviro in my response to one of his posts (here) that was itself in response to my post on eternity and duration in Spinoza (here). Some differences will likely remain, but hopefully what’s at stake will be clearer, and with luck Shaviro will feel I’ve made good on the promise.
This post will be long, though it’s likely to be my last on Spinoza for some time. In fact, this will probably be my final blog post at this blog for a while (many other obligations are piling up, though I’ll likely post over at the New APPS blog on occasion). I may make one final post summarizing some of my thoughts about how blogging has fit into (or not) my philosophical work, but most importantly the blog has become, for me at least, a vehicle that compels me to write more, to come up with something to say. Now this might seem to be a good thing but it is not, for I agree with what Deleuze says, in a Nietzschean vein,
What a relief to have nothing to say, the right to say nothing, because only then is there a chance of framing the rare, or even rarer, the thing that might be worth saying.
With this caveat, therefore, and with utter irony, I’ll now attempt to do good on what I had promised Shaviro in my earlier post.
There has been an interesting number of posts at the newapps blog on the relationship between history and philosophy. Since I deal with historical issues in some detail in Deleuze’s Hume, devoting an entire chapter to an analysis of the history of the Scottish Enlightenment, for example, I’ve thrown my concept of historical ontology into the mix and have posted on it over at newapps (here). I provide links in this post to the other posts that have been discussing this topic. As I note there, the term historical ontology was one Foucault mentioned in his “What is Enlightenment?” essay, but he mentions it without fully elaborating its implications. Ian Hacking picks up the term and has written an essay on historical ontology which is published in a book of the same name. Yet even here, I argue, the full implications of the concept are not addressed. Hacking uses the concept in order to elucidate the processual nature of the subject of knowledge, or to lay out the dynamics associated with the various ways in which a subject can be, whereas I understand it more generally, in a Deleuzo-Spinozist manner as a concept that can elucidate the processual nature of beings in general. In short, it’s an effort to cash in on Foucault’s project while drawing on the work of Deleuze and a reading of early modern philosophy, especially Hume and most recently Spinoza.
During my runs I will always be found with my iPhone, which has an app (RunKeeper) I use to map my route and track my pace (through the phone’s built-in gps) all while listening to my favorite playlist or CD. Frequently I’ll get a text from my wife or daughter, or occasionally from my orthopedist friend, each from their own iPhones, while I’m out on my run. If the text is not urgent I can always wait until the cool down to reply, and then I’ll also use the phone to check my email and reply to comments on my blog (or check blog statistics, which is in itself a bad habit, I know). Moreover, if I were to happen to run out of the house on an errand and forget my phone, which is itself a rare occurrence, I will feel a notable sense of lack. Many I’ve talked to feel the same way. As I’ve heard it put so many times, “I can’t live without my iPhone.” There are three philosophical points that come to mind from this rather humdrum example, points that may reciprocally clarify and be clarified by this example.
- If God, in Spinoza’s sense, is the immanent cause of things, then in an important sense things express or manifest God, including my iPhone
- My iPhone is an excellent example of desiring-production, in Deleuze and Guattari’s sense of the term, in that the lack I feel is not the cause of the desire for the iPhone; rather, it is the machinic assemblage of desires associated with the iPhone that causes the feeling of lack, and hence the reproduction of the assemblage (which includes, among many other things, the phone, Apple, and AT&T).
- The fact that iPhones are ubiquitous among a broad swath of society, from middle class teens to wealthy doctors and surgeons, offers a window onto contemporary perceptions of wealth and poverty.
Frege’s famous essay, “On Sinn and Bedeutung,” begins with the problem of identity, or equality. If a and b designate the same thing, Frege argues, then ‘it would seem that a = b could not differ from a = a.’ But the latter, as Kant argued, is an analytic statement while the former may ‘contain very valuable extensions of our knowledge’ and cannot be validated a priori. This problem sets the stage for Frege’s well-known solution: ‘a = b’ and ‘a = a’ differ in sense (Sinn) while they are identical with respect to reference (Bedeutung). More to the point, for Frege one may grasp the sense of a statement, word, thought, etc., but ‘one is not,’ he claims, ‘thereby assured of a Bedeutung.’ For Frege fiction is an example wherein one may grasp the sense of the story, follow the adventures of Odysseus for example, and yet this sense does not have a Bedeutung. As Frege puts it, ‘The thought remains the same whether “Odysseus” has a Bedeutung or not.’ In fiction, therefore, it is only the sense or thought that matters. But for Frege whatever ‘aesthetic delight’ we may derive from the thoughts associated with such fictional accounts, the will to truth (to borrow a phrase from Nietzsche) will lead us to move beyond them: ‘The question of truth would cause us to abandon aesthetic delight for an attitude of scientific investigation.’ Or again: ‘It is the striving for truth that drives us always to advance from the sense to the Bedeutung.’ It is this striving for truth, this will to truth, that drove Heinrich Schliemann on his quest to determine whether story of the Iliad were merely a story or whether Troy actually existed – that is, he sought to determine whether or not the Sinn of ‘Troy’ had a Bedeutung.