There are a number of reasons why the latest New APPS interview with Paul Livingston is worth reading. He speaks about his academic trajectory as well as his teaching experience before landing at New Mexico.
I’m getting set to read Tim Morton’s continent essay on objects as autonomous zones. In Plastic Bodies, the book, I think of objects in one aspect as having what I call “fleeting autonomy” and “temporary immunity,” so I’m quite keen to know how Tim’s neurons are firing on this issue. Report forthcoming.
Yesterday I finally made it to McConnells Mill state park, where I enjoyed a spectacular 12.4 mile hike on the most pleasant day of this September. The hike, which follows the Western side of the Slippery Rock Gorge, begins at Hell’s Hollow and terminates at Eckert Bridge (below). I took this picture while having lunch in the creek (safely atop a rock).
At one point during the hike, I was moving at a pretty swift pace. At a small stream crossing I planted my foot on a large rock situated at roughly a 45 degree angle. The rock was damp and I immediately felt unsure of my footing, so I froze. In an instant my body registered its uncertainty and took stock of its position, and as I stared intently at my foot I was made aware of three options. Now, as I stared–and I should say that all of this exhibits the kind of knowledge, or ‘practical competence’, discussed by Merleau-Ponty in Phenomenology of Perception–my mind was pretty much empty. It was too fixated on my foot to think, but nevertheless my body knew the condition it faced. As I am a relatively experienced hiker, I kept my footing and avoided an immediate spill. Such is the nature of my habit body. The three possibilities my body faced were: 1) attempt to move ahead, apply too much pressure and risk slipping; 2) lean backward and disengage the rock; 3) maintain a balance that would enable my body to remain on the rock and eventually step forward. Sensing that the risk of slippage was too great in #1 and #3, I ‘chose’ #2. It was an act of corporeal wisdom.
In one respect, this picture represents the body as an ‘I can’, a competent and able body that is well-adjusted to its environment and capable of dealing with its demands. But on the other hand, one must also see the body in this situation as compelled by an imperative that is commanded by the environment. Lingis is getting at something like this in The Imperative (pp. 67-8), when he writes:
The imperative in our environment is received, not on our understanding in conflict with our sensuality, but on our postural schema which integrates our sensibility and mobilizes our motor forces. It is received on our sensory-motor bodies as bodies we have to center upon things that orient our movements, bodies we have to anchor on the levels down which our vision, our touch, our listening move, on which we station ourselves and move in the heart of reality. It orders our competence.
Yes, as I stood frozen on the rock I was ‘anchoring’ myself; I had to. In that moment, on the rock, it was the rock that dictated my body’s orientation. This is not to say that I was at the total mercy of the rock, for I did not succumb directly to its slick and unpredictable surface. But I must admit that my body was caught somewhere between and ‘I can’ and an ‘I can’t', which played out as a negotiation between the imperative of the trail and the know-how of my postural schema.
Just browsing through the early job postings, there appears to be a demand this year for philosophers doing social/political philosophy and/or applied ethics, or some combination of the two. Last year it seemed like you needed to do race theory in addition to whatever your specialization is. Of course, this is anecdotal and the product of my particular perspective on the market, which is focused on a certain subset of advertisements. This year I’ve decided to avoid most job market advice, and to try to stay away from discussions of the market in general. Although, I was intrigued by this discussion at New APPS and a recent thread about uploading letters of recommendation at Leiter Reports.
Last week we finished the Euthyphro in my introduction to philosophy course. One of my students clued me into these lyrics from the new Jay-Z/Kanye West collaboration, Watch the Throne. Witness the first verse from ‘No Church in the Wild’:
Tears on the mausoleum floor, blood stains the Colosseum doors
Lies on the lips of priests, Thanksgiving disguised as a feast
Rolling in Rolls Royce Corniche
Only the doctors got this, I’m hiding from police
Cocaine seats, all white like I got the whole thing bleached
Drug dealer chic, I’m wondering if a thug’s prayers reach
Is Pious pious cause God loves pious?
Socrates asked whose bias do y’all seek?
All for Plato, screech, I’m out here balling, I know y’all hear my sneaks
Jesus was a carpenter, Yeezy he laid beats
Hova flow the Holy Ghost, get the hell up out your seats, preach
See, philosophy is everywhere! Thanks for the tip, Eric.
In case anyone in the SR/OOO community missed it, here’s a recent post by Crispin Sartwell on why he’s excited about speculative realism. Sartwell, if I may say, will bring a unique set of interests and assets to the SR debate.
In a post from awhile back I noted a question I got once at a conference. It was about how I ensure a critical distance in my work. I speculated in that post that a critical distance was something of a sham, precisely because the things we need to be critical of typically are our blind spots, whose existence cannot be identified with any guarantee. Thus our critical distance is always jeopardized. Now I’m inclined to add that these same blind spots are precisely the locus of our critical distance, since they are the black holes into which our ideologies disappear from our view and elude our manipulation. And this disappearance is crucial to sincerity, sincerity being a necessary condition of criticism. I mean, the answer to the question How do you maintain a critical distance can’t possibly be: Well, I read a lot of feminist, Marxist, deconstructive, poststructuralist, postcolonialist, queer, etc., literature. Can it? That can’t be the answer because the audience member would not have asked their question if it was.
Here’s a related point: I’m a self-reflective person. That’s not enough for critical distance, but it’s a start. Sometimes I push this so far that I imagine myself as if I were in a movie. This is depressing when I’m doing something that’s cliche. I don’t do this for fun, but as a kind of critical exercise. This comes from reading too much fiction, watching too many movies and television shows. Listening to decent pop music. If you do enough of these things, you eventually realize that just about anything you find yourself doing on a given day has been sung or written about or filmed. When you read, see, or hear this stuff it clicks with you because good writers know you. But it works the other way, too. You can begin to see your own life as if it were a novel or a drama, and this is kind of weird. Then I sometimes have the idea of sitting down with a friend and confessing to them that I sometimes feel–really feel–like I’m in a movie, that my life is appearing in a script of some kind. But then I realize that actually having this conversation with a friend would exactly be something that you would see in a movie! You can hear Kramer on Seinfeld, or Jason Lee before he was Earl, saying this on screen. So I don’t tell anyone. Until now. Being able to see yourself from this perspective is evidence of a certain critical distance.
So, I’ve finally found my answer to that audience member: I keep my critical distance by looking at myself as if I were in a movie. Or a Franzen or DeLillo novel.