By Phil Percs (with Jon Cogburn and John Fletcher)
If you're lucky, at the right time you come across music that is not only "great," or interesting, or "incredible," or fun, but actually sustaining. Though some elusive but tangible process, a piece of music cuts through all defenses and makes sense of every fear and desire you bring to it. As it does so, it exposes all you've held back, and then makes sense of that, too. Though someone else is doing the talking, the experience is like a confession. Your emotions shoot out to crazy extremes; you feel both ennobled and unworthy, saved and damned. You hear that this is what life is all about, that this is what it is for. Yet it is this recognition itself that makes you understand that life can never be this good, this whole. With a clarity life denies for its own good reasons, you see places to which you can never get.
- Greil Marcus
- LRB's T.J. Clark reviews The National Gallery's exhibit of Goya portraits. Goya is a master of greys: sometimes one feels that a grey tinged with pink, as in Jovellanos, or with mortuary green, as in Self-Portrait with Doctor Arrieta – the colour’s innate ghastliness brought back just far enough into the world by the touch of its complementary – speaks directly to his whole sense of life. ‘Damaged’, ‘precarious’, dreamlike, bewildered, and above all profoundly (unknowingly) terrified: this is the world as Goya conceives it.
- NYRB's Tim Parks on the phenomenology of disliking writers that you are supposed to like. I live under the constant impression that other people, other readers, are allowing themselves to be hoodwinked. They are falling for charms they shouldn’t fall for. Or imagining charms that aren’t there. They should be making it a little harder for their authors. Great stuff, though I honestly have no idea why he includes Jennifer Egan in his list of the needlessly complex overrated (or why DeLillo and Pynchon are missing from his list of rogues). And the end might be a little too kum-ba-ya for inveterate dyspeptics who dig the first bit, but it's still on the whole thought provoking and entertaining.
- The Hedgehog Review's Chad Wellmon tries to get to the bottom of the contemporary brouhaha about computational literary theory and distance reading. In their opposition to machine reading, Marche and his fellow critics join the melancholy moderns who, in similar fashion, bemoaned the loss of coherent and fully integrated forms of life. To Friedrich Nietzsche’s last man, Max Weber’s disenchantment, and Hans-Georg Gadamer’s lament for a lost Lebenswelt (“world of lived experience”) we can add the loss of “literature” and the reduction of reading to a rationalized, technically determined process bereft of meaning.
- Remodern Reviews' Richard Bledsoe on fuselage art.
- Gene Roddenberry's backstory.
- What Snapes' first words to Potter mean.
- Michael Morisy of MuckRock discovers I Write Like, an online analysis tool where you input your writing to see what famous writer your style resembles. Morisy feeds in various responses to FOIA requests from government agencies, discovering, for example that the CIA writes like H. P. Lovecraft, while the Bureau of Prisons resembles Stephen King.
- Michael Connor at Rhizome has a fascinating piece about "Black MIDI," a new genre of composition for electronic piano programs that aims to create ever-more-elaborate musical pieces that are literally unplayable by real-world human methods. Composers aim to cram as many notes (as in: numbering in the millions) as possible while still creating a recognizably musical piece. Move over, "Circus Galop"; make room for Bad Apple.
Bad News for Defenders of the Evidential Argument from Evil:
Ethics and Political Theory:
- See entry #1 in History.
- Boston Review's Stuart White reviews three recent books about the causes and solutions of increased inequality.
- digressions&impressions' Eric Schliesser on how regulatory capture should be seen as a canonical way that capitalism defeats itself. The issue is not just ironic. If the proper functioning of markets (let's stipulate that's desirable) requires the right sort of legal and regulatory framework (whatever that may be) then the theory of regulatory capture tells us that it will be nearly impossible for the political and regulatory process to achieve that desired outcome. To put the point more tragically: it's often thought that economists presuppose a tacit theodicy (and it is true that much bread and butter economics can be traced back to the mathematics and tacit metaphysics of Leibniz, Euler, and the Bernoullis); but the theory of regulatory capture teaches otherwise: we should expect not to live in the best possible world.
- See entry #1 in Philosophers, Stylin' and Profilin'.
- Twenty three questions the people at the Virtues Blog are asking.
- Timothy Burke reflects on the controversies brewing at Yale. He has great insights into the nature of cultural appropriation, the pitfalls of appealing to institutional authority structures to redress perceived offenses, and the constant danger of activist solipsism. A quick quote: All political ideologies in the contemporary American public sphere, from the most radical to the most reactionary, have a troubling tendency to assume that agreement with their views is the natural state of the mass of people except for a thin sliver of genuinely bad actors, and therefore where a lack of agreement or acceptance holds, it must be because the requisite knowledge has been kept from the masses. This is a really dangerous proposition, because it blinds any political actor to the possibility that many people have have heard what you have to say and don’t agree for actual reasons–reasons that you’ll have to reckon with eventually.
Gender and its Discontents:
- LARB's Sarah Blackwood reviews Emma Donaghue's Room. Room is being described as stunning, insightful, feminist: instead, I find that it sustains some of our culture’s worst assumptions about the bonds between mother and child, and about the shame that attends female sexual violation. It reminds me of another debacle of failed progressive narrative: the 2004 movie Crash. Just as Crash was a racist exercise in trying to exorcise racism, Room is a misogynistic exploration of the suffering misogyny causes women. I’m just going to say it: Room is the Crash of feminism. I am sure the film is going to win multiple Oscars.
- Utah judge removes lesbian couples' foster child because couple is lesbian. Hoagland told KUTV that Johansen said that “through his research he had found out that kids in homosexual homes don’t do as well as they do in heterosexual homes.” She added that, when the judge was asked to show the research, he wouldn’t.
- Emily Bass writes about the divergence between AIDS activism and LGBT rights in "How to Survive a Footnote."
- Mosaic's Walter Laqueur adds to the mound of criticism facing Timothy Snyder's recent Black Earth: The Holocaust as History and Warning. Given the centrality of Snyder's claims about the role of "stateless zones" this is really important for anarchists, e.g. As for the instrumental utility of “stateless zones” in Nazi plans for political control and mass murder, this was evident enough in some places (like Poland and the Czech protectorate), but not in all (Slovakia, among others). And as for the odds-on advantage of living in Germany as opposed to a “stateless zone” in Eastern Europe, even those only vaguely familiar with the European situation in the 1930s and 40s know otherwise. In 1938, Snyder writes portentously, “some Nazis discovered that the most effective way to separate Jews from the protection of the state was to destroy the state”—as if the German state had protected the German Jews in 1937. Once the war broke out, the situation of German Jews was virtually hopeless, and only a few hundred survived underground. In the stateless zones, by contrast, there were many opportunities to hide, to assume new (non-Jewish) identities, and even to escape to neutral countries.
Metaphysics, Broadly Construed:
- aeon's Eric Schwitzgebel on our moral obligations to robots. I, for one, welcome our new. . .
- Philosophy, etc.'s Richard Yetter Chappell on three options in the epistemology of philosophy.
- Three Pound Brain's R. Scott Bakker critiques the newest version of the Attention Schema Theory.
- LARB hosts a round table on what is becoming of Deleuze.
- Gloria Origgi ruminates, What Is Reputation? I hear good things about her.
Philosophers, Stylin' and Profilin':
- Philosop-her's Meena Krishnamurthy profiles Julia Annas. I’d like to end by pointing out how the modern revival of interest in virtue and virtue ethics has been largely driven by the original contributions of women. Anyone talking about virtue has to mention Elizabeth Anscombe’s pathbreaking article in the 50s pointing out the deficiencies of then modern ethics. Nor can anyone pass over the work of Philippa Foot, or Rosalind Hursthouse. Different, non-Aristotelian versions of virtue and virtue ethics have been developed by Christine Swanton, Linda Zagzebski and Julia Driver. And, although they are not virtue ethicists, I should mention the work that virtue ethicists engage with in Humean studies with Rachel Cohon and Kate Abramson, and in Kantian studies with Christine Korsgaard and Barbara Herman. I am deeply grateful to all of these for their original work which has enabled progress to be made by people like me. Despite all the real bad news about women in philosophy, I am modestly optimistic for the future of women philosophers in the fields I work in, which is another thing to be grateful for.
Politics, Not Otherwise Categorized:
- Southern California's Public Radio KPCC presents a sobering (depressing?) report about officer-involved shootings. Some quick numbers: between 2010 and 2014, on-duty officers shot at least 375 in Los Angeles county. Some 25% of those shot were unarmed. LA county officers shot black people fatally at triple the rate they shot white or Latino/a people relative to population. No officers were prosecuted.
- Researcher Marie Gottschalk tells Jacobin what's missing from progressive narratives explaining the US's abominably high prison population in "It's Not Just the Drug War." She disputes, for example, the popular notion (on the left) that most prisoners in the US are there for petty drug crimes. Not so (though she is of course for ending the "war on drugs"). Her work points to a deeper problem, a turn toward more punitive responses to and definitions of crime that combines with other trends to create lots of people in prison, lots of racial disparities, and lots of profiteering private actors involved in making the whole thing worse.
(Pseudo-)Science and Techmology:
- Nautilus' Corey S. Powell on attempts to reconcile quantum physics and relativity theory.
Race and Racism:
- African American Intellectual Historical Society's guest poster Dr. Ibram X. Kendi. on Mizzou and the power of black students.
- Big changes just happened in the LDS Church this last week, a new policy declaring openly gay and lesbian people to be apostates (a move that bars their children from joining the church until adulthood). The AP explains. Religion Dispatches recaps. Mary Barker and Joanna Brooks react.
- The Notorious BIV.
- If lions could teach.
- I’m Taking My Child to Toddler Yoga So That When He Grows Up He Will Conquer the Fucking World.
- Is Your Baby an Asshole?
- CIA Admits Role In 1985 Coup To Oust David Lee Roth.
- Toyota Recalls 1993 Camry Due To Fact That Owners Really Should Have Bought Something New By Now.
- Kids Love When Mom Sad Enough To Just Order Pizza.
- Do you ever wonder how long you'd likely survive a zombie apocalypse? Well, wonder no more. Just enter your location into this program, and you'll get a good idea. . . . that is, as long as "where you live" is "somewhere in the UK." If you don't live there, well, make sure you're friends with some doomsday preppers.
This Week’s IEP:
- James A. Marcum's Thomas S. Kuhn (1922—1996).
- Regina A. Rini's Morality and Cognitive Science.
- Dale Tuggy's Theories of Religious Diversity.
This Week’s NDPR:
- Diane Jeske reviews Ibo van de Poel, Lambèr Royakkers, and Sjoerd D. Zwart' Moral Responsibility and the Problem of Many Hands.
- Frode Bjørdal reviews Penelope Rush (ed.)'s The Metaphysics of Logic.
- Patrick Burke reviews Jason M. Wirth's Schelling's Practice of the Wild: Time, Art, Imagination.
- Ian Carter reviews Carina Fourie, Fabian Schuppert, and Ivo Wallimann-Helmer (eds.)' Social Equality: On What It Means to Be Equals.
- Charles H. Kahn reviews Myles Burnyeat and Michael Frede's The Pseudo-Platonic Seventh Letter.
- David A. Reidy reviews Jeremy Moss' Reassessing Egalitarianism.
- David Shoemaker reviews John M. Doris' Talking to Our Selves: Reflection, Ignorance, and Agency.
This Week’s SEP:
- Stanisław Leśniewski (Peter Simons) [REVISED: November 10, 2015]
Changes to: Main text, Bibliography.
- The Problem of Perception (Tim Crane and Craig French) [REVISED: November 10, 2015]
Changes to: Main text, Bibliography.
- Optimality-Theoretic and Game-Theoretic Approaches to Implicature (Robert van Rooij and Michael Franke) [REVISED: November 9, 2015]
Changes to: Main text, Bibliography, notes.html.
- Sophismata (Fabienne Pironet and Joke Spruyt) [REVISED: November 9, 2015]
Changes to: Main text, Bibliography.
- Mohism (Chris Fraser) [REVISED: November 6, 2015]
Changes to: Main text, Bibliography.
This Week’s Wiphi:
- Joseph Wu's Equivocation.
- dailynous' Justin on Moti Mizrahi's data about how unlikely anything you (philosophers) write is to be cited.
- Inside Higher Ed's Fabio Rojas on what the Yale and Mizzou protests tell us about the relationships between students and administrators.
- The Academe Blog's Hank Reichman on the whole welder/philosopher thing. Graham Harman on it too. And slate's Alan Levenovitz.
- Wesley Buckwalter joins The Philosophers' Cocoon. Joe Bog says check it out.
- Missouri state senator aims to block student's dissertation on abortion.
- The awful cost of getting a PhD.
- Against the furor about political correctness stifling college free speech, Massoud Hayoun at Al Jazeera America reminds us where some real threats to academic freedom are coming from. Lindsay Ruhr, a doctoral student at the University of Missouri, is writing her dissertation on the effects of the state's draconian abortion laws on women. State Senator Kurt Schaefer is trying to stop her, writing a letter to the University protesting her research, calling it "a marketing aid for Planned Parenthood--one that is funded, in part or in whole, by taxpayer dollars."
What it's Like:
- Watching another Force Awakens trailer (answer: SO COOL!).