Two requests for suggestions

Last year’s instructors of Humanities 1 (Art and Music) developed a new format for the class that is loosely organized around Ovid’s Metamorphoses, a text that has inspired a lot of art and music and is also in large part about human creativity. There were, however, a couple things that didn’t fit as well into that framework, including Svetlana Alpers’ The Vexation of Art: Velasquez and Others. The goal was to provide some art criticism from a woman in a class where it is otherwise difficult to find women’s work to include — and so I ask you, dear readers, if anyone by chance knows of another work of art criticism by a woman that has more direct overlap with art inspired by Ovid. (I know this is a weirdly specific request and probably something of a long-shot.)

In addition, for my elective over Being and Time, I have tentatively decided to begin with a couple days each on phenomenology and hermeneutics, then work through The Concept of Time (i.e., the unpublished book review that is billed as “the first draft of Being and Time,” not the lecture series with a similar title). Given that we’ll be reading through Being and Time in painstaking detail, I thought using his shorter “first draft” would be a good way to get an overview of the project as a whole without biasing them toward any particular scholar’s interpretation of it. A colleague of mine has a good text of Husserl’s in mind, and another has recommended some passages from Gadamer — but I would prefer to use Dilthey if possible, given that that’s who Heidegger is directly discussing. Does anyone know of a good essay or chunk that we could spend a day or two on?

Please note: I am not planning to use any secondary sources for the Heidegger course, so I would prefer that you not make any recommendations of that kind. (And just to make sure: yes, I am aware of Simon Critchley’s online introduction to Being and Time.)

Science envy

The hottest new trend in continental philosophy is scientism. Where all of us benighted continentalists worry over meta-commentary on previous readings of interpretations of old German texts, you see, scientists are really engaging directly with the real!

Well, let me tell you: I’ve actually been doing science this semester in the Shimer Natural Sciences 1 class I’ve been auditing. I’ve laboriously read through foundational texts of pre-modern and modern chemistry. I’ve taken part in modern adaptations of classical lab experiments, such as the experiment with the calcination of tin that allowed Lavoisier to definitively disprove the existence of phlogiston and cleared the way for the recognition of oxygen. I daresay that this experience, however rudimentary it undoubtedly is, represents a more concrete engagement with scientific practice than most of our current science fetishists have had since high school.

As a result of this engagement, I’ve come to some preliminary conclusions. First, the natural sciences are conceptual disciplines and mostly don’t want to admit it. Experimental results are not unmediated encounters with the real, but tests of concepts — often requiring extremely contrived set-ups that would never be even approximated in a thousand years of passive “empirical observation.” Any number of “wrong” systems can account for observed results (viz., the phlogiston theory, which was actually pretty robust, until someone thought of the question it couldn’t answer).

The scientific method is obviously extremely powerful, but its (often willful) blindness to the real nature of its practice and its totalitarian ambition to explain everything (i.e., reduce everything to “scientific” terms) also make it extremely dangerous. Hence one of the most important jobs of philosophers is to be critics of science, in the Kantian sense of the word. In other words, Husserl and Heidegger and Foucault were basically right.

The Synaptic Gospel: Published!

The Synaptic Gospel habituating in my basement work area.

I am pleased to report that The Synaptic Gospel is published and I have now seen the finished product.  Thanks to everyone who pre-ordered the book.

The book is an attempt to force a conversation between phenomenology and affect neuroscience to re-think religious communities’ practical paradigms for worship and religious education.  Thinkers engaged along the way include Husserl, Stein, Panksepp, Csikszentmihalyi, and others.

Read the rest of this entry »

The Synaptic Gospel: Pre-orders

My Book, The Synaptic Gospel, is now available to pre-order directly from me.  I am attempting to sell a limited number of books before it goes to press to keep the price as low as possible and keep it out of library market-only pricing.

The book is scheduled to be published in March.

The Synaptic Gospel is a book that examines the nature of religious communities from phenomenological and neurological perspectives.  While not a “neuro-theology,” I attempt to use what we know from science about plasticity to make conclusions about faith communities.  Read the rest of this entry »

A Husserlian Question

My copy of Husserl’s Ideas is a mass-market paperback published by Collier in 1931, with a translation by W. R. Royce Gibson. If I were to read this copy rather than other extant versions, would I come away with a tragically distorted idea of Husser’s ideas and Ideas?

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