Sunday, February 28, 2010

some points of philosophical corroboration

Speaking of philosophical work, I’m really not quite so odd as I self-effacingly say. Joseph Margolis (a senior member of America’s philosophical community, author of 30 books, it’s said) has just published Pragmatism’s Advantage, evidently the culminating work of his life, which seeks no less than to prospect and recommend a sense of philosophy as such for the 21st century—and I’m beyond him!—though I’m the only one who knows that, and I lack his erudition (which will be useful for me to appropriate—with all due credit), which is not especially important, by his own argument, for scoping a sense of the future of philosophy, where we’re all boy/girl scouts.

He says he wants to Darwinize Hegel and Hegelianize Darwin, put in terms beyond that of 20th century Analytical, Continental, and pragmatic philosophy. I’ve been explicit about wanting to avoid Hegelian dynamics (second part of that posting) in what I’m doing, because it’s obvious (to me) that I’m seeking a generative self-reflectivity (1/31 there, midway) in my sense of discursive inquiry (sec. 6). My obsession with evolving may even be tiresome at this point. So, I have no trouble seeing what Margolis is trying to do (having read his long “Preface,” where he’s explicit about the scale and character of what he’s doing). I’m thrilled, though, that he’s doing what he’s doing, as it’s very affirming of my own Project. His confessed audacity is credible by way of the esteem of his career; but it echoes mine, yet unearned. But I do easily see what he’s doing, and I have intuited, unwittingly along with him, the promise of philosophy as such for the early part of this century.

If only I had more free time to do the work. I thought I’d have the piece on individuation uploaded today, but I see that it’ll be next weekend before I’m ready. The whole “conceptuality…” project is supposed to be precursory, circumspective. That’s why I’m not working with readings of others, rather sketching—but carefully—a sense (albeit detailed) of living well which will serve ethical-theoretical work, but also literary-theoretical excursions I want to do, at least as amplifications of an ambitious sense of lifeworld, but also as a matter of finding artfulness to be a very good concept for thinking about ethics, mind, and cultural evolution.

What I’m doing has nothing do with religious thinking. But an anthropological sense of religious thought belongs to the far reaches of my Project. One would expect that our evolving humanity was actually doing something valid via the ultimately-invalid terms of religious thought. I see today—and it thrills me further—that Princeton philosopher Mark Johnston’s new book Surviving Death is conveying a sense of anthropological humanity in religious thought that accords with my own sense of high humanism and endeavor to base ethics in values of flourishing (apart from the Aristotelian tradition). Johnston proffers an overtly “protean” intuition of Self giving itself over, as “caretaker of humanity,” to the “onward rush of humankind” that is shared by all the great religions (he argues), a notion which is, I think, a spiritualist intuition of our evolving. There’s great value to me in finding a viable sense of our evolving intuited in the paradigms of religious thought (as complement, not as resource for what I’m doing, fundamentally without regard for religious conceptions). Johnston is on a campaign against supernaturalism, but employs the conceptual resources of Parfitian identity analysis to a range of religious narratives in order to find the naturalist potential in our cultural evolution. I will dwell with him later; but, for now, I’m enthused by the sense of shared Zeitgeist that these two new books give me. I am so on the right track in what I’m trying to do.

a note on “selfidentity”

Saturday — 10:36 am

I love solitude with you.

The days’ll be fruitful.

Saturday — 5:34 pm

Yes: no hyphen: ‘selfidentity.’ It’s a variation on the lexical norm, allowing for a philosophical sense that’s largely unrelated to the standard definition.

Sunday — 12:53 pm

I’ve completely revised it, ensuring that I have as few readers as imaginable (hiding my abundance of self-effacing levity, a mark of peak mental health aka humility).

Friday, February 26, 2010


Fascination with the diverse scale of the days, making a fine-grained incohering of labyrinthine times a sign of some fantastic artistry in our evolving, a wealth of a library that interests a few, so much good reason for happy conversation—and serenely fruitful solitude.

self-reflectivity: where learning never ends

Writing in good conscience, questioning what’s presumed to be valid by another, is no problem for another who’s acting validly (believing, assessing, thinking, etc. validly). Validity isn’t intimidated by good-faith questioning of it; so, validity isn’t intimidated by others’ misunderstanding. Living validly, with regard to some point (or focus or habitation), implies feeling rightly confident about who one is, relative to what’s rightly held to be valid. So, relationships are easily unthreatening, and a person living validly values helping repair misunderstanding for the sake of the valued relationship.

Good faith questioning of presumed validity that intimidates (and angers) the person holding to that claim to validity mirrors something wrong with that claim to validity.

Being the invalid one isn’t useless! If I’ve had a stance that I know is invalid relative to what it’s primarily about, the event of that may nonetheless validly tell me something about my own [mis]understanding of things (good for critical learning), self-understanding, and what I might’ve been doing that relates constructively to creative process (especially via critical learning).

Dear others are likely in no position to understand what’s going on. I have to trust in their good faith. But trust in others is good reason for candor, and that can be a risky venture.

Anyway, misunderstanding may involve features that are important for me independently of the contexts that caused an invalid stance (made in good faith, I hope). Fictionalization of the features provides a way to make good use of them later—for exploration, fleshing out in new contexts, and self-reflective learning. Though fictionalization also provides a way to simply organize lots of features (regardless of implied validities), giving some coherence to a bricolage, fictionalization creates a venue for informing questions like: What did I want to do or to understand? Was the intention good? Did the interest have integrity? How does it happen that good faith stumbles? Better understanding of what I wanted to do (what theme or story or project I subconsciously wanted to actualize) requires courage to sometimes stumble tellingly.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

a note on “philosophical work”

6:51 am

Question for today: Why does—might—philosophical work matter?

2:27 pm

I asked that morning question because...hmmm, I forget. The question is about a kind of work, not: Why does...philosophy matter? That question pertains to lecturing about philosophical topics; but is such lecturing philosophical work? Is “doing” philosophy the same as presenting well-organized explications of philosophical material, i.e., themes, arguments, ideas, taken from standardly “philosophical” works? What can be distinctively said about a kind of work, appropriately called “philosophical”? Why does that matter?

So, obviously, one can’t constructively address a question “Why does X matter?” unless one is clear what X is—truly is.

Long interesting to me is the ordinary use of the term ‘philosophy’, typically in such idioms as “my philosophy on that is”; or “the philosophy of the company is....” There, ‘philosophy’ is synonymous with something much like “guiding policy” toward interpretation of some matter, perspective, or goal orientation for activity. Philosophical work would be—well, such persons wouldn’t use the phrase, but—it would be work in policy analysis and policy formation. Everybody’s got a “philosophy” on this-and-that, but it’s no result of analysis and careful position formation! It could be fruitful, though, to transpose spontaneous or intuited positions into explicit policies, analyze the result, and re-formulate a set of beliefs or values in some more-appropriate manner. Ideally, that takes ordinary perspective and goal orientation and improves it relative to standards of policy articulation, criticism, and formulation.

That’s a process of progressive explicitness and appropriation to standard contexts, moving from improvised views to something much more formal. Leap from that into a fleshed-out professionalization of a topic, look at some comprehensive sense of professionalization, the academic domains backing up all of them, the conceptual commitments of each domain, the interrelations of domains, and the conceptual bridgework that seems to ground many of them, then you likely find yourself facing a history of discursive inquiry with a canonical legacy of conceptual views on standard topics that become analytical frames for emerging issues that are found to relate to each. Academic philosophy is closely related to the basic conceptual issues shared by domains, which may or may not anymore translate into standard issues in the history of philosophy. Emergent interdomainal interests (e.g., in now-institutionalized interdisciplinary programs) may or may not translate fairly into standard topical divisions of philosophical inquiry. Philosophical work is not necessarily reducible to the content of standard academic philosophy. This kind of condition of domainal and interdomainal conceptual work suggests notions of philosophy as process, e.g., as conceptual analysis or a conceptual therapeutic, independently of topical divisions. Philosophy meets the world as given and addresses—clarifies, critiques, or revises—the given world. What, then, is the “nature” of that work? Is there something constructive to be said about the pluralism of approaches to issues that is considered to be “philosophical”?

Why does such explication and questioning matter?

When I started to write something a few minutes ago, I had no explicit plan. I started with the morning question and have improvised. In the end, though, I see that I’ve improvised a preface to “integrative discourse,” 3 years ago, which—ha!—claimed to be an improvisation, too—but in a wholly different register of conceptual prospecting. Still, yes it was an improvisation, done over several days, not presuming to be a presentation of philosophical work, in the sense I’m implicitly anticipating with the morning question. The 2007 piece anticipates philosophical work near its ending, in its own obtuse register. The Website area of “conceptual adventuring” hasn’t really begun (let alone showing how it relates to an integratedsense of Appropriative philosophy,” which is presently a small set of occasioned topics and promissory indications of topics).

Believe it or not, a singular project has been developing that those Website areas [were to] anticipate. It’s thrilling to me to recognize (to recall again) that something specifically evolving backgrounds it all and has continued to develop over the past couple of years (notwithstanding periods of my life that took me away from The Work, gladly), which coming months of online work will continue to introduce in occasioned ways. It all feels like such fun to me.

What an odd person I am, to be sure.

Monday, February 22, 2010

words of love from a mind being disembodied

“…remember Rilke's admonition: love consists in leaving the loved one space to be themselves while providing the security within which that self may flourish…,” Tony Judt, ”Historian’s Progress,” The New York Review of Books, March 11 issue.

Maybe Salinger read Rilke.

Judt is an esteemed intellectual historian who has written for the NYRB for years. He’s writing a lot these days, and each of his articles have the narrative smoothness and lucidity one might expect of NYRB. His present one is on love of trains. There’s no hint of the growing ALS “imprisonment,” which he recently wrote about matter-of-factly.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

good sense of holistic well-being

I’m enjoying myself. One person’s inappropriateness might be another’s good conscience. Inquiring minds are open on the matter.

Some persons might think me callous; others, that I need adult supervision. Or I’m essentially and inconsiderately obtuse.

No, I care. But life has to be fun, and I make mine conceptual.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Searching for Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe

Catching up on news of the day online—“Whose news?” is a relevant question—can be like traipsing through a mall: so much busyness graphically casting for eyeballs, be it a leading site (e.g., The New York Times) or partisan streetlife (e.g., gawd, The Huffington Post, from which I stay away)—isn’t it mindboggling?

I cope by relying on Reuters’ sense of “Top Stories” and emails of NY Times headlines.

Here, this blog, is a quiet place, a “green world.”

I confess, though, that the dynamics of it all (inasmuch as I can make good sense of it) can be addictive; so, I have to retreat willfully.

One of my favorite features of the daily mall is the political theatric of opposing something via true statements that are irrelevant to the issue at hand. Syria opposes sanctions against Iran because nations (in general, apparently) have a right to develop nuclear energy resources, though the issue is the compelling evidence (according to those with access to relevant information) that Iran is not doing that. In the U.S., Republican Senator Mitch McConnell opposes Obama health care reform because the bills in consideration don’t include Republican proposals, though the Party Of No has offered none, rather only opposing Obama’s efforts at bipartisan work.

The woman truly missing from my life might be Jane Wagner.

But Gail Collins, you are enough.

I read; I retreat. I read again. I retreat again.

Friday, February 19, 2010

semantic compression of developmentality

I know I don’t write plainly sometimes. But that’s not because I can’t. Writing can be the sharing of an exploration, not just conveyance.

Yet, my choices—semantic compressions?—can serve me well for orientation to open-minded, improvised dailiness.

That’s not to say that I’m always satisfied the next day or the next week with what I’ve done. But eventually, things get to a form that stays (compressed and not), though sometimes the staying expresses a developmental period. I’m big on developmentality, you know.

All of that occurred to me this afternoon as I was midstream with some paragraphs of “living brightly,” which I just uploaded.

Living brightly: self-determining efficacy

Living brightly is an intuitive notion I relate to capability, sensitivity to the better senses of things, persistent curiosity, appreciability, and thinking well.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

one’s projections may not be the other’s unconsciousness

I’m deliberately avoiding allusion to philosophical views that come easily to mind when I do my discursive sketches, because I’m gradually setting up a perspective that would be the basis for traditional philosophical engagements.

For example: I’m aware that my notes about a “...’Self’ interested ethic” could seem to some readers to be implicitly a Kantian valuation of persons as ends unto themselves. But whose end? The end that the Kantian apperceives independently from engagement with the other? The end that the Kantian perceives through engagement? Does a person understand their life in terms of an end? Does a person understand their life as an open-ended venture? A Project? What’s a very good way to understand the ongoingness of a well-growing life? I’m not oriented by Kantian views. Down the road, I might engage Kantian views—likely, though, in terms of others’ engagement with Kant, e.g., Michael Slote (whose critique of Kant’s ethics is extensive) or Martha Nussbaum, who steers away from Kant’s alienation from his own embodiment (his problem of “inclinatons”). The issue would be: How to mediate what I’m doing with Kantian conceptions (including “Transcendental Illusions”).

Another example: I know that my endearment to discursivity can be read to suggest Hegel’s interest in a phenomenology which seeks completion in the conception of its completing, the “Absolute Concept,” i.e., the comprehensive conception of the phenomenology that completes itself via engagement with its own conceiving. My interest in discursive integrating which advances our self-understanding of inquiry as such is no interest in any discursive Completion. I would even humbly suggest that I’m working beyond Heidegger, but presently in proximal terms.

Monday, February 15, 2010

conceptuality of a good life

Sunday, 2/14 — 11:47 pm

Extended free time exposes the suppressed reality that my circadian rhythm doesn’t gel with the turn of the Earth. I want 27 hour days. I want to not need sleep.

Monday, 11:03 am

The day’s so pretty for you.

5:44 pm

Grow well and fruitfully. Die very old, yet thriving.

The title, “conceptuality of a good life,” feels a little comical to me, but the endeavor will be seriously pertinent to later work. It’s work in progress. Anyway, I’m glad I got it “done” and uploaded today.

My entire agenda will take years to complete! I love it.

The “conceptuality...” abstract there now will be revised and become more related to the particular heuristic topics, as each topic area goes online.

Everything I do for the Website is sketching. Everything will be revised and transformed into a very different site down the road.

Thursday, 2/18 — 8:37 am

Exuberance is a good thing, provided it stays wedded to modesty. I’ve deleted a bunch of stridency from the end of the piece, which was obscurely anticipating a large-scale venture way beyond the scope of that project.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

a note on discursive reading

11:53 am

A philosophical book review can be a useful occasion for discursive inquiry apart from depending on its reading of the book reviewed (having no pretense of letting the review substitute for the richness and detail of the book). Here’s how the story goes.

1:43 pm

I added a couple of paragraphs. The end of the revised posting stands on its own as important to me, apart from the rest of the posting:
Synthetic abilities are undervalued in professional philosophy because they are so commonly miscarried, implying metaphysicalist desires (if not overt stances) that are untenable. But it’s not the business of a venture in cohering to be, at the same time, a venture in analysis. Analytic work might develop into synthetic positions (not in the sense of ‘synthetic’ that belongs to the analytic/synthetic distinction in Analytic philosophy). But synthetic positions are usually not meant to be derivations. A completely tenable position might have enough to do just by explicating what, it is claimed, can be argued with precision. An excellent floor plan for an awesome house is not claiming to be every subcontractor’s blueprint.

Friday, February 12, 2010

fielding resonant feeling

I may seem foolish by seeking a resonant sense of living relationship with textuality—ambivalence of reading, a marrying of genres, fiction and realism mirroring each other. I want characterization that provides a site for fielding narratology, for gardening inwordness, down the road. If I have to seem foolish in the process, so be it.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

a conceptual reverie

Understanding individuation can be a conceptual art. In anticipation of what I’m planning to do in coming weeks, I’ve improvised on that idea.

an unsynoptably-complex feeling for what happens

revised Friday, 2/12

Each day has too many interesting advents in the news for me to put time into noting that here. So, the archiving process in the morning is comforting: All those things are gradually, aggregatedly shaping the uncounted topics (limited in number, though) that are “self-assembling,” in that sense.

I’m enthusiastic about Michael Slote’s Moral Sentimentalism, 2010, for many reasons, but especially as excursion into a sense of “natural virtue” that would (I hope) accord significantly with Philipa Foot’s sense of “natural goodness” (which I’ve fleshed out, offline).

Monday, February 08, 2010

ethical art, artful living: discursive homemaking

E.M. Dadlez argues her book title that David Hume and Jane Austen are “Mirrors to One Another.” What a darling idea.

You think I’m some kind of Romantic, wanting to marry philosophical and literary value. But wanting a mirrorplay of sensibility figured in an idealized venue of human Relationship is not itself Romantic. Dadlez, in effect, proves that through her example.

Dadlez claims, according to Alice MacLachlan’s review of Dadlez’s book, that “Austen's Humean us more reason to think of her in the context of Enlightenment thinkers, and not the Romantics or Victorians...Austen's novels function as thought experiments, demonstrating and illustrating Hume's meta-ethical and normative claims; both her narrative content and her literary (clear, sparse, ironic) style make her novels ideal for this philosophical function in ways that few other works of fiction can boast.”


Tomorrow I’m receiving Slote’s reconceptualization of moral sentimentalism as an ethic of care based in empathy, inspired by Humean aspirations, yet in contemporary terms. But I’m not about to have an affair with Jane Austen’s novels. It’s just that the idea of the woman as philosophical fictionist is so delightful.

Consider their mirroring as a general thematic space bridging philosophy and fiction, albeit relative to 19thC life. Issues of human nature (epistemic), feeling (aesthetic), and virtue (ethical life) emerge through Austen from the estated world of English life she indirectly knew. Dadlez’s mirroring of Austen and Hume would be instructive inasmuch as the two—the mirroring—focuses “what is central to the vision of human psychology, ethics and society found in both” in terms of empathy (understood as “sympathy”—Slote wants us to understand sympathy as really in Hume what we know as empathy), “the moral importance of happiness and pleasure” (which contemporary moral inquiry might do well to better appreciate), “and the close connection between morality and emotion,” whose “and” is about valuation.

It’s not just that fiction provides a good venue for discovering philosophical themes (which is a common tactic in introductory courses), but that storiation can be a means of philosophical inquiry. We appreciate this with existential novels. But contemporary moral theory is sometimes culpable (maybe often) for the phony scenes relied on, for exemplifying moral problems (e.g., the tired trolly scenario). When I read Sobel and Copp’s extended critique of recent virtue ethics, I’m nearly appalled by the psychologically-contrived fiction they rely on to make “real” claims about ethical life. Contemporary philosophy is full of implausible scenarios used for points of principle. One might take the cliché of the ivory tower to have much credibility, given some of the unrealistic fictions that philosophers cherish. I want to say to them: Look at what you have to presume about the world to make your isolated scenarios serve your problematic (as if the problematic emerged from some general plight and the scenario simply exemplifies, rather than creates, the problematic so exemplified). A backstage is suppressed in order to make a frontstage focus manageable. (This is generality, but you should see the fiction that Sobel and Copp’s endeavor of comprehensive coverage of recent virtue ethics relies on.)

Anyway, I’m glad to see that Dadlez takes issue with Martha Nussbaum, who is perhaps the leading voice on relations of philosophical ethics and literary art, though I have no reason to believe offhand that Dadlez’s critique of Nussbaum is valid.
Dadlez argues convincingly [according to MacLachlan], contra Nussbaum, that literature can provide morally sophisticated ‘Aha’ moments through clarity and simplicity, as in Austen, as well as through complexity and obscurity, as in Henry James.
I’m glad to know of Dadlez’s endeavor, since I intend to make a big deal of Nussbaum’s work later this year.

Of course...
Austen is not, as it turns out, a moral philosopher of Hume's stature, but a coincidental combination of factors, “the enlightenment sensibility, the ironic detachment, the normative stances adopted,” nevertheless make her fiction the ideal location for Humean insight (214).
But the theme of mirroring is worth taking further. What can realistic narrative do to enact discursive inquiry and insight?
Many philosophers, most famously Gilbert Ryle and Alastair MacIntyre, have argued for an Aristotelian reading of Austen: in doing so, they draw on themes of moderation, the importance of habituation, the happiness that comes from practicing virtue with moderate resources, and the role granted to pleasure in the good life.
Nussbaum, too, would probably take an Aristotelian view of Austen (Nussbaum is quite overtly neo-Aristotelian). Austen’s exemplification could be enough to detail the point that philosophical significance is not the same as philosophical thematization. For example, a truly virtuous life is not especially one that claims its own virtue, i.e., talks about being virtuous or thematizes what one is doing. Indeed, to do otherwise (to promote one’s virtue) would be contrary to a truly virtuous life. Philosophical insight isn’t always the same as insight into philosophical themes. A person might be a living aesthetic (a uniquely conceptualizable approach to life in aesthetic-theoretical terms) without having thought of herself in conceptual or theoretical terms.

I’m delighted to read that Austen is an “ethical cognitiv[ist],” as reviewer MacLachlen notes that “Dadlez moves relatively quickly to dismiss Austen's rather obvious ethical cognitivism....Austen...insists that her virtuous characters subsume their sentiments to reason....something closer to the practical wisdom of an Aristotelian phronimos” or principled prudentialist. But MacLachlan evidently doesn’t appreciate that “useful”ness ordinarily has a practical sense that is not utilitarian, when she writes critically that
It might seem that one obvious point of connection for Austen and Hume not shared by Aristotle is their character utilitarianism; both emphasize how “virtues are the traits that make people useful,” where the ‘useful’ is understood as the ability to produce happiness and avoid misery (105).
But there’s nothing cost-beneficial (utilitarian) about that; it’s standard in notions of human flourishing (neo-Aristotelian eudaemonia) to find practicality to be in service to happiness. Being “helpful,” may be an expression of overriding care for one’s life and others, that has no thought of comparative assessment or recognition of value, let alone price-able benefit. (Specifically-utilitarian attitudes include some kind of quantification of value.)

I’m glad to read that, all in all, MacLachlan finds much occasion in Dadlez’s book for “profound philosophical insight...[through] the individual comparisons and remarks scattered across the fourteen topics covered,” which “makes the book of particular value in interdisciplinary contexts,” which are often leading crucibles for new ideas.

Sunday, February 07, 2010

prologue for a marriage

I am no Harold Bloom, but anyway long for deeply appreciating—embodying— literary value, poetic bearing. Am I silly to want to capture some “nature” of English humanity? I long to marry philosophical and literary validity. Questions stay through an ever appealing swirl of living time, as if always in a prologue.

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

recollective prospecting

Recapitulation may reorient, recall, and be an appealing, a gathering, for better intent—granting more promise (potential for constructiveness), thus durability (maybe).

I periodically go back through recent postings and pages to gather up appealing themes that become implicit in the upcoming agenda. I want to do that again soon. But I’m going to shelve that desire for awhile (which causes unwanted repetition).

you and me and everyone we know

A creative writer may have an interpretive plight unlike a reader with text in hand: the writer “reading” the invisible audience, if not living with an audacity of anticipating a specific character of mind.

Here we are, where I must trust in your graciousness toward our presence.

Monday, February 01, 2010

a creative lamentation

On pleasures of askewed fruitfulness.