My good friend and Camus scholar/political theorist colleague Pete Petrakis has always said that despite my work in continental philosophy he long suspected I was a closet analytic philosopher. I have not vigorously denied these claims, which has no doubt fueled Pete’s suspicions. I did present a paper at the SEP-FEP conference in Dundee in 2006 on Deleuze and analytic philosophy. The paper (which can be had here for those who are interested) led to a nice conversation with John Llewelyn right after the talk and later that night at dinner. I’ve also had long discussions with James Williams about these issues, and James has done some great work connecting Deleuze’s thought to issues and problems that are important within the analytic tradition (especially on Davidson and Lewis). A good example of James’ work, along with others who take up similar themes, can be found in the edited collection of essays, Postanalytic and Metacontinental. With Llewelyn’s and Williams’ encouragement I had long planned to pursue the implications of Deleuzian thought for analytic philosophy but then I got caught up with the Hume book and I put that project aside.
For anyone who has followed the philosophy blogs at all for the past week, they already know about the Synthese controversy. For those who don’t know about it (and some of my Scottish friends may not), it was prompted by Brian Leiter’s call to boycott Synthese for editorial misconduct regarding a special issue, Evolution and its Rivals (here is the original post). The papers for this issue were published online but then Barbara Forrest (who is a colleague of mine at Southeastern La. Univ.) was asked by one of the editors-in-chief to make changes to her essay, the “Non-Epistemology of Intelligent Design,” even though her essay had already been accepted and published online. The stated reason for the request was that it was due to “forces beyond the control” of the Editors-in-Chief at Synthese. The reason for the sudden turn around, as it is being widely interpreted, is that Francis Beckwith (or more likely “friends” of Beckwith) lobbied and pressured the editors to get Forrest to make changes. Whether or not the editors caved to this pressure (John Symons, one of the editors, explicitly denies caving though has not directly answered the question whether he and/or the other editors-in-chief were lobbied on behalf of Beckwith), or whether the editors came to agree (on second thought so to speak) with some of the criticisms regarding Forrest’s essay is a subject that has been furiously debated on the blogs (see here and here for instance). Forrest, however, did not make the changes since she felt that it was important to detail the political, institutional, and financial connections between Beckwith and those (such as the Discovery Institute) who had a vested interest in getting intelligent design legitimized, whereas Beckwith himself interpreted Forrest’s essay as an attack on his entire life rather than on his philosophical ideas (see here for Beckwith’s take). There was some discussion of a disclaimer, apparently, but the guest editors and authors claim that they were told the print version of the journal would not have a disclaimer, but when it came out it did have a disclaimer which stated, among other things, that “some of the papers in this issue employ a tone that may make it hard to distinguish between dispassionate intellectual discussion of other views and disqualification of a targeted author or group.” Now it is hard not to see the disqualified, targeted author as Beckwith, though Larry Laudan in the comments to one of the posts linked above makes the case that he himself is targeted in the essay by Robert Pennock with a tone that justifies the disclaimer (which in turn initiated another round of debate and accusations of Laudan mining quotes inappropriately). Whatever the true, full story is, there is enough here to raise concerns about the conduct of the editors. Most importantly, as Ingo Bragandt and Eric Schliesser point out, Beckwith cites the extraordinary step of the editors choosing to issue a disclaimer as evidence in support of his claim that the substance of Forrest’s article, rather than just its tone, is suspect, and it is this which many feel might be used in an effort to de-legitimize any testimony Professor Forrest might give in the future in a courtroom or before the Louisiana state legislature as she fights to undermine legislation that places the teaching of intelligent design on a par with evolutionary theory in biology classes. As a result of this concern, in addition to the apparent editorial misconduct, a number of petitions have been set forth which range from calling for the editors to disclaim the disclaimer to, most recently, allowing Forrest to rebut Beckwith’s rebuttal.
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.