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Jon Cogburn
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By Jon Cogburn One of the pleasures of being married to a novelist is that I get to help out with the research sometimes. One of the books that Emily is working on now concerns a couple of disenchanted Classics professors. So one of the things we've been thinking about... Continue reading
Posted yesterday at Philosophical Percolations
Graham Harman in Object-Oriented Philosophy: Social media is reacting to the death yesterday of MARK FISHER. Under the handle kpunk, he was one of the most respected voices in the early years of the philosophy blogosphere. As a writer he was truly gifted. Many were greatly moved by his Capitalist... Continue reading
Posted 3 days ago at Philosophical Percolations
When Jonathon Dancy's son (actor) was on the Late Show he said that most kids incessantly ask their parents "why?" but what was unique about growing up as the kid of a philosophy professor is that your philosophy professor parent is always asking you the question. If my kids recall things like that with similar fondness then I don't think that my time here on Earth will have been wasted.
By Jon Cogburn One of the benefits of being a philosophy professor is that there's never any trouble with playing Opposite Day with your kids. This is the game where the world has been transformed such that English (insert your language here) is now an idiolect where every sentence means... Continue reading
Posted Jan 8, 2017 at Philosophical Percolations
By Jon Cogburn This break the Cogburn family took a pause from our long-running Doctor Who/Adventure Time/Buffy the Vampire Slayer Marathon to watch all four Hunger Games movies in four consecutive evenings. Our kids hadn't seen them and Emily and I had done the usual irritating (to people who have... Continue reading
Posted Jan 3, 2017 at Philosophical Percolations
I. Muhammad al-Jazri O Allah, unite our hearts and set aright our mutual affairs, guide us in the path of peace. Liberate us from darkness by Your light, save us from enormities whether open or hidden. Bless us in our ears, eyes, hearts, spouses, and children. Turn to us; truly... Continue reading
Posted Jan 1, 2017 at Philosophical Percolations
(1) Yeah, I'd love to spend some serious time thinking about these issues and getting more familiar with different clinical approaches., though I don't know if I'd be able to come up with anything helpful or interesting. I realize that a lot of smart people who know more than me would disagree, but I tend to assimilate existential approaches to a kind of applied virtue theory, with just a distinctive set of virtures that the therapist is inculcating (getting the . The danger of thinking of therapy along Senecan lines is that in a world that clearly distinguishes between real instrumental values and illusory external ones, makes therapy just look like a kind of programming where the therapist is just using rhetoric (in the pejorative sense we Socrates attacked) to manipulate the patient. And, as far as I understand it, one of the real virtues of existentialist models is when working well they avoid the negative aspects kind of thing pretty well. [Need to read Adorno and Horkheimer as well as Guattari with this in mind.]. (2) Since I'm traveling I didn't have time to respond to your comments about neurosis above. I want to say that the kind of canonical neurotic creative type we get in the manifest image includes both over-sensitivity to stimulus and the kind of mono-maniacal obsessions that you mention. I think that the two traits can come apart. The kind of nerd completist who collects manga and goes to conventions is obsessive in the same way as a creative type, but still largely consumes rather creates media. And there are a lot of people who are just really, really grumpy who are oversensitive and also don't create very much. I don't think that oversensitivity and mono-mania are sufficient either. The mono-mania has to be directed towards practices relevant to ultimately creating things and the oversensitivity has to be directed at the spiritual realm, for openness to the muse, and to the unnoticed aspects of the material realm relevant to the creation at hand. (3) I love your point about the academic support staff needed to make the whole thing work. It could be the basis for an excellent campus novel. Have you read Lester Bangs' on the Clash just as they were getting big enough to play larger places? He's really excited about all of the brouhaha and just almost taken in by the old rock and roll promise that the band are an integral part of some new better community. But Bangs can't help but notice how much work they are creating for the hotel staff with their penchant for having food fights every night. The whole "Épater la bourgeoisie" thing only remotely works because the people making bank convincing the rest of us to do it are in facet epatering both the lumpenproletariat and the bits of the bourgeoisie lower down the ladder than them. A few years ago I read a book by a highly educated maid. One day she was underpaid to clean the house of a repulsively dirty Marxist who was well known in academic circles. She was pretty excited because she had read some of his books. When he actually got home while she was doing the cleaning she commented on how much she'd liked one of his books and he was so freaked out that the scene ended badly. His books about the possibility of liberating the a-literate were for other academics who invited him to conferences. But his life wouldn't really work without a-literates laboring in the vast infrastructure to get him to those conferences and see to his physical needs before, during, and after those conferences. He just couldn't handle having a literate person cleaning the encrusted shit off of his toilet. One could make a lot of things of this phenomena, the shit-encrusted-toilet Marxist just being an extreme case of something commonplace. I would love to turn some novelists loose on it so that they can see what happens when it becomes explicit. At the very least we'd probably understand our Trumpian present and future a little bit better as a result.
Ooh thanks. These are fantastic comments. I'd be really interested to study the history of the concept of neurosis. With at least Woody Allen movies it's entered part of some people's folk theory of mind. Allen almost certainly got the concept from all of those decades in Freudian Therapy, where dmf notes it is still in use. When concepts like this stick it might be in part because they do perform enough of a useful categorical function to where it's at least pragmatically justifiable for us to treat them as reflecting the way reality is carved up. These kinds of questions don't have easy answers in part because there are all sorts of heterogeneous reasons for going on in various ways linguistically. One of the issues the extent to which the new conceptual vocabulary and associated beliefs helps us make sense of conceptual behavior prior to the introduction of the new vocabulary and beliefs. In graduate school a colleague of mine, Sarah Pessin, claimed that you could best understand some ancient Jewish religious and (if I remember right) philosophical texts by understanding the authors as talking about neurotics, who (according to those texts) were actually closer to God because their oversensitivity to stimuli makes them more sensitive to the presence of God. I don't know if that's true, but I do think it reflects something admirable in certain strains of Jewish culture (my mother's paternal inheritance is Ashkenazim). Being oversensitive and complaining about things are not immediately taken as character flaws. The oversensitive complainer often has valuable wisdom to impart and is also likely to be the funniest, most clever, person in the room. And being an oversensitive complainer does not in any way rob you of human warmth. Here's a test you can perform. Usually philosophers know about the stereotype of Kant who obsessively took his walk at the same time each day, found certain noises (like the Lutheran choir down the street practicing) to be painful, and could only sleep if his manservant bundled him up in blankets so tightly he couldn't move. This kind of thing is common knowledge. But if you actually dig into the accounts of his life you also find out that at any gathering you could hear where Kant was before seeing him because that's the place where people would be laughing. These latter kinds of facts about Kant's personality are usually presented in biographical accounts as a surprising corrective of the view that Kant was this dour, almost monstrously mechanical creature (consider academic views of people on the autism spectrum prior to Temple Grandin's efforts and the intense world hypothesis). But I think if you are Ashkenazi Jewish (and I'm not trying to implicate any thing about people of Sephardic heritage, I just don't have enough cultural experience) or have lots of friends or family who are Ashkenazi, there's nothing at all surprising about the revelation that Kant was very funny and people liked to be around him. I'm *not* saying that all or most Ashkenazi are neurotic, just that the neurotic has a different place in the culture. I suspect that the things I find laudible about the university come from my sensitivity to this, I see the university as having once replicated part of what I love most about my own Jewish heritage. I realize I might be totally off here and that what I'm writing trades in stereotypes. Also note that I'm Presbyterian and having cousins of a different religion/ethnicity doesn't prevent you from engaging in damaging orientalist speculation with respect to that ethnicity. I also might be being mislead by Kant's own being so much less anti-semitic than everyone else in his cultural millieu (in particular his publicly raising money for Mendelssohn and private decency to Maimon). Maybe me seeing him as a friend of the Jews makes me think of him the way I think of some of my favorite people in my own family. In any case, I should have been a little more balanced in my statements about the DSM above. I do think it's a complete mess, but I don't think that that's the fault of psychologists (at least not mostly). What's rather (mostly) happened is that the scientific study of human behavior has revealed how enormously complicated human behavior is, including and especially our creative ability to figure out creative ways to mess up our lives. The tragic peregrinations of successive DSM's has made me a mysterian about the so-called "easy" problems of mind. Even the problems that don't seem to directly involve the place of consciousness in a seemingly material world involve teleology in a way that causes problems for our scientific understanding. I don't think that therapy is ever going to get much better than the kind of think Seneca did in his letters to Lucilius, which is to say that therapy is applied virtue ethics, couched in folk categories of the sort in which Seneca expressed himself. Academic clinical psychologists want to end virtue ethics with the risible belief that mental health is nothing over and above thriving in society. This allows them to be unreflective about the normative. Practicing therapists are anything but unreflective about the normative, but the triumph of the quantitative and death of classical learning in the academia have made it impossible for most academic clinical psychologists to even recognize the extent to which therapy is a normative endeavor. Thus the DSM's beautiful and I think ultimately doomed attempt to come up with a periodic table for humans. A psychologist friend of mine told me that the real job of the DSM is to make it possible for people who need professional help to get support from their insurance companies. Your suffering isn't real and worthy of treatment unless it comes along with a scientifically arrived at DSM number. As a result, we have to do things like medicalize grief, because the alternative in the United States is that people momentarily felled by grief can't get any professional help. Canguilhem realized that even physical health was a normative concept. I think he's difficult to read because he didn't quite figure out why medical institutions had to pretend that it is not a normative concept.
By Jon Cogburn A dear Canadian friend of mine for five years toiled as an instructor in Alabama, a state for which he retains no fondness and the state in which the ski trip began. Being an instructor is not fun. You make less than half the money as the... Continue reading
Posted Dec 27, 2016 at Philosophical Percolations
Oh my Lord it's hard for me to describe just how much I want to plagiarize your comment into the OP.
By Jon Cogburn Baptist Ski Trip is not a place and as such causes no problems for signage. By way of comparison, consider Baptist Louisiana and two signs which can be found on the stretch of Interstate 12 east of Baton Rouge, through Livingston, on the way to Tangipahoa Parish.... Continue reading
Posted Dec 26, 2016 at Philosophical Percolations
A Child’s Christmas Prayer of Despair for a Hindu Saint Santa Claus, for Christmas, please, don’t bring me toys, or games, or candy ... just ... Santa, please, I’m on my knees! ... please don’t let Jesus torture Gandhi! Continue reading
Posted Dec 25, 2016 at Philosophical Percolations
By Jon Cogburn One of the epiphanies near the end of Steve Martin's The Pleasure of My Company involves the proper typology of neuroses. The protagonist/narrator is finally able to sustain a romantic relationship because his girlfriend convinces him that his obsessions, ticks, compulsions, and avoidances fall into three categories:... Continue reading
Posted Dec 23, 2016 at Philosophical Percolations
By Jon Cogburn The Cogburn menagerie currently contains four humans, two dogs (one wiener and one chihuahua mix), two cats, two mice, and four fish. Since I am the person in the house most allergic to cats, it's inevitable that our cat Reilly decided that I am her person. She... Continue reading
Posted Dec 22, 2016 at Philosophical Percolations
By Jon Cogburn New Criticism begin intro here – language means on its own terms --> intentional fallacy But these lines are not by Eliot Soul making *difference and the free play of words But Eliot admits that the note is bogus – Bolgan is here taking the note too... Continue reading
Posted Dec 16, 2016 at Philosophical Percolations
By Jon Cogburn I'm still processing the interesting comments on my post about Babette Babich's views about the analytic/continental split.* As is often the case, J. Edward Hackett's intervention (first comment on the thread) has been quietly gnawing at me (albeit not in an unpleasant way) for a few days... Continue reading
Posted Dec 14, 2016 at Philosophical Percolations
By Jon Cogburn Friend of the blog Chris Bateman recently hosted a two part (Part One HERE and Part Two HERE) interview with Babette Babich about the fate of continental philosophy. As with many interventions by Babich, (1) readers are not unlikely to find it equally exhilarating and infuriating, and... Continue reading
Posted Dec 9, 2016 at Philosophical Percolations
By Jon Cogburn Nearly everyone, and certainly everyone reading this, has had the following experience. You are having a pretty good conversation and suddenly your interlocutor says or does something of (in your opinion) such astonishing unreason that from that point onwards you are precluded from taking them seriously. If... Continue reading
Posted Dec 8, 2016 at Philosophical Percolations
Faith I want to write about faith, about the way the moon rises over cold snow, night after night, faithful even as it fades from fullness, slowly becoming that last curving and impossible sliver of light before the final darkness. But I have no faith myself I refuse it even... Continue reading
Posted Dec 7, 2016 at Philosophical Percolations
As members of the Executive Committee of the Society for Phenomenology and Existential Philosophy, we have wondered whether we should publicly respond to the U.S. presidential election and the events that have followed it. We hesitated to write this statement partly because we disagreed about how to write it, partly... Continue reading
Posted Dec 6, 2016 at Philosophical Percolations
By Jon Cogburn This is Part III on a set of textually inspired meditations on the connection between author and narrator. Part I defended Jack Kerouac's On the Road from common misreadings that wrongly conflate narrator and author. Part II showed how Ian McEwan disastrously conflates himself with his narrator... Continue reading
Posted Dec 2, 2016 at Philosophical Percolations
Wonderful set of reflections. I'd never connected Husserl on the role that imagination plays in phenomenology with the fiction writer's task before, but from what you've said this seems very plausible to me. I tend to think that fiction is first and foremost an exploration of how the actual world would evolves, were it set up differently than it is. On this conception fiction is a description of (counter)factual aspects of the actual world, the actual world makes it the case that some fictional texts are more or less true than others, and as a result of this we learn about the actual world from fiction. I also think that philosophy is just underspecified fiction in something like the way that some Heideggerians think that Vorhandenheit is arrived at privatively from Zuhandenheit (strangely, Edmund Burke suggests something similar about the relation between philosophy and history). On privativity, we can see fiction writers (according to the account gestured at above) doing what Husserl is doing. Or rather, we see Husserl doing what fiction writers are doing, but after abstracting away the overwhelming majority of narratively interesting information. In this sense fiction is at least genetically prior to phenomenology. One can actually read Heidegger's critique of Husserl as saying something very much like this. However, genetic priority of various types of investigations isn't necessarily ontological or even epistemic priority of the things investigated. Perhaps the things Husserl investigated, andt he properties he thereby adduced, are in some sense still prior to the richer world described by novelists and the richer (phenomenologically) world experienced phenomenologically. I'm ambivalent about this. To disagree is to imbibe a pretty strong form of metaphysical holism. In any case, one might argue that fiction doesn't capture what phenomenology does for the same reason that phenomenology doesn't capture what phenomenology does. The richness of perceptual content transcends the conceptual abilities of both phenomenologist and fiction writer. A few years ago, nearly everyone in analytic philosophy had some opinion about "non-conceptual content." This debate seems much more important to me now than it did during its heydey.
Oh my gosh thanks. I hadn't seen this (as far as I can gather Roden's blog accidentally got taken off our roll during some routine housekeeping; it's back on). I *think* I agree with Roden that Harman is committed to a form of the given in Sellars' sense. But one way to spin at least McDowell's (not Brandom's!) take on the myth of the given is that we have to be honest Hegelians in affirming our mythology. This is far left Sellarsianism though, which you only get if (among other things) you take on board McDowell's take on the myth while chucking McDowell's quietism. Roden's post is a great synchronicity for me. I'm teaching Sellars next semester and in my next book I hope to both make the connection between Harman and far left Sellarsianism as well as motivate it. It's fantastic to start to think about Roden's interventions here, both with respect to the post and with respect to the broader project of connecting his dark phenomenology with other strains of speculative realism (my colleague Debbie Goldgaber is thinking about this pretty deeply).