today’s traffic

Today has been the busiest day for this blog, presumably because of this post by Harman, which alerts readers to my post about being emailed by Brian Leiter. More than 500 people visited today. My readership is generally very modest, and on days when Harman or another blogger links to my site the numbers climb steeply. Thanks for the traffic, folks.


new directions and spanish literature

Over the past couple years I have had the pleasure of reading for the first time a number of contemporary Spanish-language authors, the most popular of which is Roberto Bolano. His works The Savage Detectives and 2666 can be found anywhere books are sold. I do not read or speak Spanish, so I read these texts in translation.

Yesterday I received Montano’s Malady, by Enrique Vila-Matas, whose book Bartleby & Co. offers a kind of character study of the Bartleby type in history. I enjoyed the latter very much and had to read more Vila-Matas. Many of these texts weave fiction and reality together, often presenting ‘real’ biographical accounts of fictional figures or ‘fake’ stories about real figures, like Henri Lefebvre, for instance. Bolano’s Nazi Literature in the Americas is a fictional ‘encyclopedia of extremely right-wing writers’, and the spirit of Borges looms large over this text as it does with so many others of this generation of writers.

Many of the texts are put out through New Directions. If  in some grand prize drawing I could win the entire catalogue of just one press, it might be New Directions.

new book on student learning

Here’s a piece in The Chroncle about a new book, Academically Adrift, which paints a pretty sad picture about students coming away from their college years having made little or no advancements in complex, critical thinking. Here’s a snippet:

While these students may have developed subject-specific skills that were not tested for by the CLA, in terms of general analytical competencies assessed, large numbers of U.S. college students can be accurately described as academically adrift. They might graduate, but they are failing to develop the higher-order cognitive skills that it is widely assumed college students should master. These findings are sobering and should be a cause for concern.

Read the article to get the gist of the findings. On the face of it, it would seem that this kind of empirical research would serve as an indictment of faculty. If students aren’t becoming better thinkers at school, then the faculty aren’t doing their job, right? Chances are that this is partly true. Practices like grade inflation and the watering down of expectations certainly do not help to stretch student brains. And, of course, there are simply bad teachers in the mix.

Other conclusions suggest themselves, however. Here’s one: we need to stop cutting the funding for the disciplines that teach critical, complex thinking. Anyone keeping up with the ongoing crisis in the humanities will read this article, or the book presumably (I’ve not a copy), and say, ‘That makes sense’.

digging deeper, backwards

It used to be that an author would publish something, that text would solicit questions, speculation, and the request for clarification. These days authors, and I’m thinking of Bryant and Harman here, work out the details and tensions of their books before putting them on paper. All of the mystery about the text’s meaning has been hashed out ahead of publication, so if you end up reading the text and coming away with questions, there’s a good chance the answers are on the author’s blog pre-print. We await the publication of the book to see which positions and lines of attack and defense make it into the big game. One of the benefits of making the work public ahead of time is that it generates a once unusual amount of feedback that helps hone the argument.

It’s been difficult to keep up with many of the SR/OOO arguments, for instance those made by Levi with respect to his onticology and The Democracy of Objects. I’m looking forward to the publication of this book, which has gone through what are apparently the penultimate revisions. As I’ve told Levi, I think there are a lot of points of contact between his position and my own, so it will be nice to have the whole thing laid out before me on paper. I’m still trying to figure out how to keep up with the speed of blog dialogue, and I often find myself simply skimming through my Google Reader subscriptions.

where’s the new phenomenology of perception?

Several years ago we caught wind of a new translation of Merleau-Ponty’s Phenomenology of Perception, which was undertaken by Sean Kelly. He was blogging about the experience here until the blog went defunct. If I remember correctly, there were some heavy critical comments made in the commentary section and then he stopped making his progress public.

Does anyone know when the new translation is set to appear, and if Kelly is still the translator?

OOO and the problem of knowledge

Levi’s got a nice post up responding to a question that I’ve been turning in my head lately, but have not asked out loud. It is roughly this: object-oriented ontology makes all sorts of claims about the reality of objects, but how can one make such claims if our knowledge of objects is limited by the finitude of reason? Or, to put it in OOO’s terms: if objects always withdraw from every relation and cannot be exhausted by their relations (including the relation that human knower’s have to observed objects), then how can OOO speak of objects in withdrawal?

Perhaps the answer is simple: OOO and SR is willing to risk speculative remarks about objects, and these remarks inherently overstep the boundaries of knowledge. Full stop. Levi provides a more complex response, with appeal to the transcendental argument and heavy reference to Roy Bhaskar’s theory of science.

Read Levi’s anticipatory response to my unasked question here.