on Sloterdijk

June 1, 2012

A morphological thinker
continually morphs
the forms of collectivity;
collective forms of individuality,
intra-uteral life —
the apartment-dweller,
the visual-field,
discovery of the sea,
the primary medium of modern being.
A cosmogonic character.

(Reductive poem, after Schinkel and Noordegraaf-Eelens, In Medias Res, p. 7)


still sorry, silly store, silly story

October 31, 2009

Every Hallowe’en the great owl with wide yellow eyes (they say a cat with feathers and wings) stops the hunting of little critters — mice, squirrels, kittens, even other birds — and swoops down upon the childrens’ candies…

“Who, who, who!” he says and flies away with the loot.

But every year the following day his stomach gives him pain…

“Why, why, why?” he says, plodding through the sky.

And days and days go by and by, and still his tummy hurts…

“Oh when, when, when,” he says, “will I fly like I did before?”

He goes to water and and to grass, and still he will not pass;

“Oh where, where, where must I go so I can feel like air?

“And how, how, how can find my old familiar howl?”

Till “what, what, what unshackled that unsightly splat?”

And now he’s back to “who!”, until next year, say you,

when “Who, who, who!” he’ll fly to seize the candied loot.


mixture and combination

May 6, 2009

between chaos and stability, progression,

colours in bits of chalk at the window corner.


reacting to the Philosophical Gourmet Report on Analytical Philosophy

May 1, 2009

There are several problems with the Philosophical Gourmet Report (see also the Facebook page, Analytical Philosophy is Awesome), that I’m not sure where to begin. First of all, it’s rhetoric, and not “analysis”. Perhaps the 2nd last paragraph, with its imperialism and proprietary relation to philosophy. Or the predictable French envy in the last paragraph (why single out the French?). I suspect that the humbug referred to is the absent Derrida, the typical straw man of so-called continental philosophy, a term invented by Anglo-Saxon philosophers that is practically speaking meaningless. So, too, then, the distinction between analytical and continental, which has hurt North American philosophy. Analytical philosophy (for lack of a better term) must be faced with the same problems that “continental philosophy” has faced: its own nihilism. But finally, the very problematic reference to ranking departments: can knowledge be ranked, quantified? Who decides? Philosophy, and thinking, is free.

Edit (as of Oct 31, 2009): Unfortunately/fortunately, the Philo. Gourmet entry has been altered (expanded, but still manifesting the usual philosophical envy). This is the entry on the Facebook page, and seems closer to the original that I had read earlier this year (QUOTE Facebook):

From the philosophical gourmet report (I’ve edited it a bit); http://www.philosophicalgourmet.com/analytic.asp :

“Analytic” philosophy today names a style of doing philosophy, not a philosophical program or a set of substantive views. Analytic philosophers, crudely speaking, aim for argumentative clarity and precision; draw freely on the tools of logic; and often identify, professionally and intellectually, more closely with the sciences and mathematics, than with the humanities. (It is fair to say that “clarity” is, regrettably, becoming less and less a distinguishing feature of “analytic” philosophy.) The foundational figures of this tradition are philosophers like Gottlob Frege, Bertrand Russell, the young Ludwig Wittgenstein and G.E. Moore; other canonical figures include Carnap, Quine, Davidson, Kripke, Rawls, Dummett, and Strawson.[1]

“Continental” philosophy, by contrast, demarcates a group of French and German philosophers of the 19th and 20th centuries. The geographical label is misleading: Carnap, Frege, and Wittgenstein were all products of the European Continent, but are not “Continental” philosophers. The foundational figure of this tradition is Hegel; other canonical figures include the other post-Kantian German Idealists (e.g., Fichte, Schelling), Schopenhauer, Kierkegaard, Marx, Nietzsche, Husserl, Heidegger, Merleau-Ponty, Sartre, Gadamer, Horkheimer, Adorno, Marcuse, Habermas, and Foucault. Continental philosophy is sometimes distinguished by its style (more literary, less analytical, less reliance on formal logic), its concerns (more interested in actual political and cultural issues and, loosely speaking, the human situation and its “meaning”), and some of its substantive commitments (more self-conscious about the relation of philosophy to its historical situation).

Criticisms of “analytic” philosophy are familiar: arid, insular, boring, obsessed with logic-chopping, irrelevant. The criticisms are not without some truth. Clearly the “best” analytic philosophers do not resonate with the concerns of the broader culture in the way that figures like Nietzsche and Sartre do. Analytic philosophers do often miss the forest for the trees, and they often let dialectical ingenuity trump good sense (and sometimes science!) in terms of the views they will defend.

Typical of the doubts about analytic philosophy is the late William Barrett’s complaint that “an ‘analytic’ philosopher…earn[s] this title by grinding away at the consequences of this or that particular proposition as if filing a legal brief.…[B]ut [p]hilosophy is a way of seeing rather than the tedious business of a lawyer’s brief” (The Illusion of Technique [1978], p. 66). Notice that a representative spokesman for the analytic orthodoxy can essentially echo Barrett, though with a rather different valence: “Philosophy is not primarily a body of doctrine, a series of conclusions or systems or movements. Philosophy…lies in the detailed posing of questions, the clarification of meaning, the development and criticism of argument, the working out of ideas and points of view. It resides in the angles, nuances, styles, struggles, and revisions of individual authors” all of which constitutes “the grandeur, richness, and intellectual substance of our subject” (Tyler Burge, “Philosophy of Language and Mind: 1950-1990,” Philosophical Review 101 (1992), at p. 51). Neither extreme is very plausible: the lasting significance of, e.g., Plato, Kant, and Hegel among others surely has to do with their “way of seeing,” even though these thinkers are also distinguished by their attention to “the development and criticism of argument.”

Whatever the limitations of “analytic” philosophy, it is clearly far preferable to what has befallen humanistic fields like English, which have largely collapsed as serious disciplines while becoming the repository for all the world’s bad philosophy, bad social science, and bad history. (Surely English professor “celebrities” like Stanley Fish and Andrew Ross are fine contemporary examples of “the man of letters who really is nothing but ‘represents’ almost everything, playing and ‘substituting’ for the expert, and taking it upon himself in all modesty to get himself paid, honored, and celebrated.…”) When compared to the sophomoric nonsense that passes for “philosophizing” in the broader academic culture—often in fields like English, Law, Political Science, and sometimes History—one can only have the highest respect for the intellectual rigor and specialization of analytic philosophers. It is also because analytic philosophy remains very much a specialty that it is possible to rank departments: the standards of success and accomplishment are relatively clear, maintained as they are by a large, dedicated scholarly community.

Indeed, it is fair to say that analytic philosophy is the philosophical movement most continuous with the “grand” tradition in philosophy, the tradition of Aristotle and Descartes and Hume and Kant. Only analytic philosophers aspire to the level of argumentative sophistication and philosophical depth that marks the great philosophers—even as analytic philosophers typically fail to achieve the grand visions, the “ways of seeing” of the great historical figures.

The Continental tradition contains most of the great, truly synoptic, European thought of the past 200 years. That is why…whereas analytic philosophy has proved of little or no interest to the humanities other than itself, the impact of Continental philosophy has been enormous. But there is also a great deal of (mostly French) humburg in the Continental tradition. This is why there is a powerful need for philosophers equipped with analytic methodology to work within…the Continental tradition—to sort the gold from the humbug.


Looking at trees

May 1, 2009

The wind’s gently shaken trees smile and spread their pleasure across the broken land, befriending grass and loam to build the promised forest upon the deconstructed walls and glass.


Light of the sun

May 1, 2009

Light can be just as uncanny as dark: imagine it was so endlessly bright you couldn’t see. On the other hand, many thanks must go to the inhabitants of the sun who so generously share their rays with no desire for reciprocation. Perhaps we can, by way of gratitude, emit sound rays from here to there, in the form of whale music or techno.



August 25, 2008

What does an uncontainable philosophy look like?