Tuesday, June 22, 2010

The Summer of Maimon

Over at Perverse Egalitarianism a Maimon Reading Group is now up and running. I plan to take part and post some thoughts here as things develop. We are reading the new translation of Maimon's Essay on Transcendental Philosophy, so make sure to check it out or take part. For an introduction to Maimon this Stanford Encyclopedia article is nice. There is also a Maimon conference in August, the details of which you can find here. Happy SOM.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Hegelian Analysis of the Tea Party

Jay Bernstein, who is at the New School for Social Research and was my dissertation adviser, has published in the NY Times an interesting analysis of the motivations behind the Tea Party. The piece is really a Hegelian analysis of the underlying anger motivating the Tea Party. Why are they so angry? Check it out! Here are some highlights:

My hypothesis is that what all the events precipitating the Tea Party movement share is that they demonstrated, emphatically and unconditionally, the depths of the absolute dependence of us all on government action, and in so doing they undermined the deeply held fiction of individual autonomy and self-sufficiency that are intrinsic parts of Americans’ collective self-understanding.


Tea Party anger is, at bottom, metaphysical, not political: what has been undone by the economic crisis is the belief that each individual is metaphysically self-sufficient, that one’s very standing and being as a rational agent owes nothing to other individuals or institutions. The opposing metaphysical claim, the one I take to be true, is that the very idea of the autonomous subject is an institution, an artifact created by the practices of modern life: the intimate family, the market economy, the liberal state. Each of these social arrangements articulate and express the value and the authority of the individual; they give to the individual a standing she would not have without them.


The issue here is a central one in modern philosophy: is individual autonomy an irreducible metaphysical given or a social creation? Descartes famously argued that self or subject, the “I think,” was metaphysically basic, while Hegel argued that we only become self-determining agents through being recognized as such by others who we recognize in turn. It is by recognizing one another as autonomous subjects through the institutions of family, civil society and the state that we become such subjects; those practices are how we recognize and so bestow on one another the title and powers of being free individuals.

All the heavy lifting in Hegel’s account turns on revealing how human subjectivity only emerges through intersubjective relations, and hence how practices of independence, of freedom and autonomy, are held in place and made possible by complementary structures of dependence. At one point in his “Philosophy of Right,” Hegel suggests love or friendship as models of freedom through recognition. In love I regard you as of such value and importance that I spontaneously set aside my egoistic desires and interests and align them with yours: your ends are my desires, I desire that you flourish, and when you flourish I do, too. In love, I experience you not as a limit or restriction on my freedom, but as what makes it possible: I can only be truly free and so truly independent in being harmoniously joined with you; we each recognize the other as endowing our life with meaning and value, with living freedom. Hegel’s phrase for this felicitous state is “to be with oneself in the other.”

Hegel’s thesis is that all social life is structurally akin to the conditions of love and friendship; we are all bound to one another as firmly as lovers are, with the terrible reminder that the ways of love are harsh, unpredictable and changeable. And here is the source of the great anger: because you are the source of my being, when our love goes bad I am suddenly, absolutely dependent on someone for whom I no longer count and who I no longer know how to count; I am exposed, vulnerable, needy, unanchored and without resource. In fury, I lash out, I deny that you are my end and my satisfaction, in rage I claim that I can manage without you, that I can be a full person, free and self-moving, without you. I am everything and you are nothing.

This is the rage and anger I hear in the Tea Party movement; it is the sound of jilted lovers furious that the other — the anonymous blob called simply “government” — has suddenly let them down, suddenly made clear that they are dependent and limited beings, suddenly revealed them as vulnerable. And just as in love, the one-sided reminder of dependence is experienced as an injury. All the rhetoric of self-sufficiency, all the grand talk of wanting to be left alone is just the hollow insistence of the bereft lover that she can and will survive without her beloved. However, in political life, unlike love, there are no second marriages; we have only the one partner, and although we can rework our relationship, nothing can remove the actuality of dependence. That is permanent.

Many philosophy blogs were irritated by Simon Critchley's inaugural post on the NY Times The Stone, but it looks as if the blog is heading in the right direction now with Bernstein's post and posts by other philosophers like Peter Singer, Nancy Sherman, and Arthur Danto.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

New Kant Journal

There is a new Kant journal, Kant Studies Online, which is peer reviewed and open access. Here are the details:
Kant Studies Online publishes articles written in English on all aspects of Kant’s works including historically informed studies, applications of Kantian thought to contemporary problems, the relationship between Kantian and Neo-Kantian thinking, and detailed scholarly works on interpretation of Kant’s works. It will also include review articles of secondary works on Kant. An issue of the journal will be deemed to exist whenever an accepted article is published. The journal is edited by Gary Banham in association with an editorial board and is published in the spirit of the open access movement. Whilst its target audience is academic philosophers and students it aims to attract non-academic readers by making all its material freely available without restriction.
This is a promising development for Kant scholarship. I imagine as more journals are online and open access, like Philosophers Imprint, they will gain a larger following, more esteem, and publish better scholarship. Four Kant journals come to mind that publish in English: Kantian Review, Kant-Studien, The Kant Yearbook, and now Kant Studies Online. Am I missing any?

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Define Self-Positing!

I'm defending my dissertation this Friday, and have been reading through it. I've always struggled with defining Fichte's conception of self-positing. Here is what I say it is at one point:
Self-positing is the very activity in which the I is constituted as an I by virtue of reflexively self-reverting into itself so to immediately become intuitively aware of its own reflexive activity involved in the self-ascription of representations in judgment.
This account is defended by a good bit of interpretation and argumentation (or so I'd like to think). I'm curious how others might define self-positing. Give it a shot in the comments if you dare!

Sunday, May 2, 2010

NY German Idealism Workshop

The next meeting of the NY German Idealism Workshop will be held on Friday, May 7th at The New School. Jon Burmeister (Boston College) will be giving a paper entitled, "Hegel on Ordinary and Philosophical Language." Roy Ben-Shai (The New School for Social Research) will respond.

Date: Friday, May 7th
Location: The New School for Social Research, 6 East 16th St., Wolff
Conference Room (906/913)
Time: 4:30–6:30

I will actually be at the New School, but won't make the meeting because I will be defending my dissertation at the same time.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Midwestern Study Group of the North American Kant Society (CFP)

Midwestern Study Group of the North American Kant Society
October 23-24, 2010

University of Western Ontario
London, Ontario, Canada
Keynote Speaker: Angelica Nuzzo (Brooklyn College, CUNY)

Call for papers: We welcome submissions from all areas of Kant studies, broadly construed to include not only contemporary approaches that are “Kantian” in methodology or content, but also the discussion of Kant's immediate predecessors, contemporaries, and successors.
The deadline for submissions is July 1, 2010. Papers should not exceed 25 double-spaced pages. All submissions should be prepared for blind review and should be accompanied by an abstract of no more than 300 words. Papers read at any other NAKS meeting may not be submitted.

Send submissions, and direct any enquiries, to Corey W. Dyck (cdyck5@uwo.ca).Program Committee: Corey W. Dyck and Bill Harper (UWO), Brigitte Sassen (McMaster)

Monday, March 22, 2010

The Relevance of Romanticism (Conference)

Villanova University is hosting a conference The Relevance of Romanticism April 16-17. The lineup is quite strong and the keynote speakers are Manfred Frank and Frederick Beiser, two figures that have done a lot to clarify the philosophical contribution of the German Romantics. Here you will find the conference program.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

NY German Idealism Workshop

Over the last year or so posts have been quite sporadic, but I hope to get back into posting more often. So, expect more posts in the next few days/weeks.

The NY German Idealism Workshop is meeting on Friday, March 26th: "A Dialogue on Fichte and Recognition" with Jay Bernstein (The New School for Social Research) and Fred Neuhouser (Barnard College). Both are featured in the recent publication, The Philosophy of Recognition: Historical and Contemporary Perspectives, ed. Hans-Christoph Schmidt am Busch and Christopher Zurn (Lexington, 2010). Prof. Bernstein will give a short presentation of his paper, "Recognition and Embodiment: Fichte's Materialism" (see attached) to which Prof. Neuhouser will respond.

A Dialogue on Fichte and Recognition with Jay Bernstein and Fred Neuhouser
Date: Friday, March 26th
Time: 4:30–6:30
Location: Philosophy Hall, Room 716, Columbia University

For a copy of Jay Bernstein's paper email Karen Ng:

Saturday, January 30, 2010

International Summer School in German Philosophy

The Philosophy Department at Bonn University is pleased to announce the First Annual International Summer School in German Philosophy. This year's topic is "Transcendental Ontology and Issues in Epistemology in Post-Kantian Idealism."

Professor Markus Gabriel (Bonn University) will organize and teach the seminar, with Professors Paul Franks (University of Toronto) and Espen Hammer (Temple University) giving keynote addresses.

One of the aims of the summer school is to argue that the thinkers of Post-Kantian Idealism defend a new ontology, one which lays out the conditions of possibility for transcendental, higher-order thought. Despite Kant’s negative verdict on ontology, these conditions appear
precisely ontological as soon as the existence of the alleged transcendental subject is confirmed. Since the world cannot be reduced to a strictly ”external world” in the Cartesian sense, the
conditions of possibility for referring to determinate objects in the world come to be conceived as themselves determinate objects in the world. With this re-evaluation of the status of ontology in mind, we will read key texts by Kant, Fichte, Schelling, and Hegel, with specific attention to the relation between epistemology and ontology. Through this ”ontologized” reading, we will attend to certain essential claims of each thinker: Hegel’s thinking not only substance as subject, but the subject as substance, the later Fichte’s re-introducing the notion of being into his Wissenschaftslehre, and finally, Schelling’s ontology of ”ground”, ”existence” and the ”will” in his Freiheitsschrift and Weltalter.

The Summer School will be organized seminar-style, emphasizing group discussion and close readings of key texts of German Idealism (Kant, Fichte, Schelling and Hegel).

The Summer School will run June 14-25, 2010, and all discussions will be in English. Please send your application in English (CV and short letter of intent) to idealism2010@uni-bonn.de by March 10. There are some stipends (€ 800-1000) available, which cover travel expenses and part of the accommodation. To apply for a stipend, please send your CV and a short letter of intent that explains your need for financial support. Please note that there is no registration fee for the summer school.

Other information--including a description of the syllabus, and information about stipends--can be found on the website: http://www.idealism.uni-bonn.de/ and all inquiries should be directed to idealism2010@uni-bonn.de.