Bio · Philosophy · Social/Politics

Out-of-Sync ‘Loners’ May Secretly Protect Orderly Swarms

Dense clouds of starlings dip and soar, congregating in undulating curtains that darken the sky; hundreds of thousands of wildebeests thunder together across the plains of Africa in a coordinated, seemingly never-ending migratory loop; fireflies blink in unison; entire forests of bamboo blossom at once. Scientists have studied these mesmerizing feats of synchronization for decades, trying to tease apart the factors that enable such cooperation and complexity.

Yet there are always individuals that don’t participate in the collective behavior — the odd bird or insect or mammal that remains just a little out of sync with the rest; the stray cell or bacterium that seems to have missed some call to arms. Researchers usually pay them little heed, dismissing them as insignificant outliers.

But a handful of scientists have started to suspect otherwise. Their hunch is that these individuals are signs of something deeper, a broader evolutionary strategy at work. Now, new research validating that hypothesis has opened up a very different way of thinking about the study of collective behavior.


Human-ities · Philosophy · Science



There continues to be an impressive appetite for conceptual and philosophical explorations of psychiatry. The publishing field is now populated by a diverse array of backgrounds and perspectives. The general public seems mostly interested in decrying the medicalization of normal and the transformation of our woes into neatly packaged mental disorders. The academic literature is dominated by philosophers and philosophically-trained professionals; while the intellectual discourse is of high caliber, it unfortunately remains largely inaccessible to mental health professionals and much of the general public, and resultantly it has had little influence outside the academic community. There is also a cohort of individuals with a critical interest in the subject but whose philosophical focus remains stuck on classical critical figures such as Thomas Szasz, Michel Foucault and R.D. Laing, with little engagement with contemporary philosophy of science. The philosophical work of Kenneth Kendler and his various collaborators (John Campbell, Carl Craver, Kenneth Schaffner, Erik Engstrom, Rodrigo Munoz, George Murphy, and Peter Zachar) assembled in a specially curated volume occupies a unique and special position in this contemporary landscape and there is much to be said in its favor.

Via Metapsychology

Book-Text-Read-Zines · Human-ities · Philosophy

On Cruelty | Judith Butler

‘Whence comes this bizarre, bizarre idea,’ Jacques Derrida asks, reading Nietzsche on debt in On the Genealogy of Morals, ‘this ancient, archaic (uralte) idea, this so very deeply rooted, perhaps indestructible idea, of a possible equivalence between injury and pain (Schaden und Schmerz)? Whence comes this strange hypothesis or presumption of an equivalence between two such incommensurable things? What can a wrong and a suffering have in common?’ By way of an answer, he points out that ‘the origin of the legal subject, and notably of penal law, is commercial law; it is the law of commerce, debt, the market, the exchange between things, bodies and monetary signs, with their general equivalent and their surplus value, their interest.’

In the first volume of The Death Penalty, Derrida considers the jus talionis, the principle of equivalence according to which a relation is set up ‘between the crime and the punishment, between the injury and the price to be paid’. Debt, in On the Genealogy of Morals, gives Nietzsche a way of understanding how ‘the “consciousness of guilt”, “bad conscience”’ came into the world. Earlier he laments ‘that whole sombre thing called reflection’, in which the self becomes its own object of relentless scrutiny and self-punishment. If one wants to keep a promise, one must burn memory into the will, submit to – or submit oneself to – a reign of terror in the name of morality, administer pain to oneself in order to ensure one’s continuity and calculability through time. If I am to be moral and keep my promises, I will remember what I promised and remain the same ‘I’ who first uttered that promise, resisting any circumstances that might alter its continuity through time, never dozing when wakefulness is needed. The promise takes on another meaning in Nietzsche when what I have promised is precisely to repay a debt, a promise by which I enter into, and become bound by, a certain kind of contract. What I have apparently burned into the will, or had burned there, is a promise to remember and repay that debt, to realise the promise within a calculable period of time, and so to become a calculable creature. I can be counted on to count the time and count up the money to make the repayment: that accountability is the promise. I can count on myself, and others can count on me. If I prove capable of making a contract, I can receive a loan and be relied on to pay it back with interest, so that the lender can accumulate wealth from my debt in a predictable way. And if I default, the law will intervene to protect his interest in the interest he exacts from me.

Read full text at London Review of Books

Architectonic · Book-Text-Read-Zines · Human-ities · Philosophy · Public Space · Social/Politics · Technology

A Critique of Everyday Life

Henri Lefebvre’s magnum opus: a monumental exploration of contemporary society.

Critique of Everyday Life Volume One: Introduction. A groundbreaking analysis of the alienating phenomena of daily life under capitalism.

Critique of Everyday Life Volume Two: Foundations for a Sociology of the Everyday. Identifies categories within everyday life, such as the theory of the semantic field and the theory of moments.

Critique of Everyday Life Volume Three: From Modernity to Modernism. Explores the crisis of modernity and the decisive assertion of technological modernism.

Verso Books: Henri Lefebvre’s three-volume Critique of Everyday Life is perhaps the richest, most prescient work by one of the twentieth century’s greatest philosophers. Written at the birth of post-war consumerism, the Critique was a philosophical inspiration for the 1968 student revolution in France and is considered to be the founding text of all that we know as cultural studies, as well as a major influence on the fields of contemporary philosophy, geography, sociology, architecture, political theory and urbanism. A work of enormous range and subtlety, Lefebvre takes as his starting-point and guide the “trivial” details of quotidian experience: an experience colonized by the commodity, shadowed by inauthenticity, yet one which remains the only source of resistance and change.

This is an enduringly radical text, untimely today only in its intransigence and optimism.

Text and Images via Verso Books

Film/Video/New Media · Human-ities · Philosophy · Videos

Omar Khayyam: The Poet of Uncertainty – Full BBC Culture Documentary

Film/Video/New Media · Philosophy · Videos

Michel Foucault Documentary: Beyond Good and Evil 1993

Human-ities · Philosophy

Fat-free chocolate and absolutely no smoking: why our guilt about consumption is all-consuming | Slavoj Žižek

During a recent visit to California, I attended a party at a professor’s house with a Slovene friend, a heavy smoker. Late in the evening, my friend became desperate and politely asked the host if he could step out on the veranda for a smoke. When the host (no less politely) said no, my friend suggested that he step out on to the street, and even this was rejected by the host, who claimed such a public display of smoking might hurt his status with his neighbours … But what really surprised me was that, after dinner, the host offered us (not so) soft drugs, and this kind of smoking went on without any problem – as if drugs are not more dangerous than cigarettes.

This weird incident is a sign of the impasses of today’s consumerism. To account for it, one should introduce the distinction between pleasure and enjoyment elaborated by the psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan: what Lacan calls jouissance (enjoyment) is a deadly excess beyond pleasure, which is by definition moderate. We thus have two extremes: on the one hand the enlightened hedonist who carefully calculates his pleasures to prolong his fun and avoid getting hurt, on the other the jouisseur propre, ready to consummate his very existence in the deadly excess of enjoyment – or, in the terms of our society, on the one hand the consumerist calculating his pleasures, well protected from all kinds of harassments and other health threats, on the other the drug addict or smoker bent on self-destruction. Enjoyment is what serves nothing, and the great effort of today’s hedonist-utilitarian “permissive” society is to tame and exploit this un(ac)countable excess into the field of (ac)counting.

Continue to full article at The Guardian

Architectonic · Art/Aesthetics · Book-Text-Read-Zines · Design · Philosophy

Toward an Architecture of Enjoyment

The relationship between bodily pleasure, space, and architecture—from one of the twentieth century’s most important urban theorists

Toward an Architecture of Enjoyment, the first publication of Henri Lefebvre’s only book devoted to architecture, redefines architecture as a mode of imagination rather than a specialized process or a collection of monuments. Lefebvre calls for an architecture of jouissance—of pleasure or enjoyment—centered on the body and its rhythms and based on the possibilities of the senses.

Lukasz Stanek’s work has already taken scholarship on Henri Lefebvre’s concept of space to an unprecedented level of philosophical sophistication. With the discovery of the new text, Toward an Architecture of Enjoyment, Stanek escorts Lefebvre to the center of architecture theory since 1968. Lefebvre’s conceptual text and Stanek’s exquisite introduction together enable the possibility of thinking not about architecture, but thinking architecturally about how we inhabit our world. Toward an Architecture of Enjoyment takes us toward a concept of the architectural imagination that is a powerful mediator between thought and action.

—K. Michael Hays, Harvard Graduate School of Design

Text and Image via UPRESS

Human-ities · Philosophy · Science · Theory

Grand Unified Theory of Female Pain

Different kinds of pain summon different terms of art: hurt, suffering, ache, trauma, angst, wounds, damage. Pain is general and holds the others under its wings; hurt connotes something mild and often emotional; angst is the most diffuse and the most conducive to dismissal as something nebulous, sourceless, self-​indulgent, and affected. Suffering is epic and serious; trauma implies a specific devastating event and often links to damage, its residue. While wounds open to the surface, damage happens to the infrastructure—​often invisibly, irreversibly—​and damage also carries the implication of lowered value. Wound implies en media res: The cause of injury is in the past but the healing isn’t done; we are seeing this situation in the present tense of its immediate aftermath. Wounds suggest sex and aperture: A wound marks the threshold between interior and exterior; it marks where a body has been penetrated. Wounds suggest that the skin has been opened—​that privacy is violated in the making of the wound, a rift in the skin, and by the act of peering into it.

Read Full Article by Leslie Jamison at VQR

Book-Text-Read-Zines · Earthly/Geo/Astro · Human-ities · Philosophy · Science

Everything is Leaf: In The Metamorphosis of Plants, Goethe turned to botany — because sometimes, poetry isn’t enough.

Found among the notes of the poet Johann Wolfgang Goethe is a stupendous claim: Everything is leaf. This is a statement that seems too beautiful to be science. Goethe came to this idea on a trip to Italy in the late 1700s. The more Goethe looked at plants, and lived and breathed with plants, the more profoundly he felt poetry’s limits. He turned to botany and began publishing scientific works. He created his own study of seeing, which he called “morphology.” In this, Goethe’s love of plants followed the same path that all lasting love must take. Goethe wanted to know plants from their most essential beginnings, wanted to touch their seeds, follow their cycles. He couldn’t be satisfied just wandering around parks, glancing at the flowers and pronouncing metaphors upon them — Goethe had to understand what a plant truly is. Everything is leaf, he discovered at last, every part of a plant is leaf. The cotyledon, the foliage, the cataphylls, the petals — a plant is fundamentally leaf. Goethe published this intimate memoir of his relationship with leaves and named it The Metamorphosis of Plants.

It’s unsurprising that Goethe came to his idea about the everythingness of leaf while wandering the lush countryside of Naples. I wonder if he could have had his realization trudging through the barren early spring gardens of Weimar. “The Neapolitan firmly believes that he lives in Paradise and takes a very dismal view of northern countries,” Goethe wrote in his notebook. “Sempre neve, case di legno, gran ignoranza, ma denari assai — that is how he pictures our lives. For the edification of all northerners, this means: ‘Snow all the year round, wooden houses, great ignorance, but lots of money.’” That is to say, a leaf in Germany is a mostly invisible thing. It is an entr’acte, a promise. In the northern parts of the world, the leaves hide inside the sticks; the sticks, for most of the year, look dead. And only a poet or a flimflammer could come up with the notion that something hardly visible is everything.

Text by Stefany Anne Golberg. Continue at The Smart Set.

Human-ities · Philosophy · Sonic/Musical

Toward Cultural Citizenship

The decline in student interest is recent, and particularly affects elite institutions like Harvard, Yale, and Stanford, says Bass professor of English Louis Menand. (His 2008 lectures at the University of Virginia, collected in The Marketplace of Ideas, trace the long-term national decline in the humanities since the early 1970s.) The current crisis is “continuous with that [national] story” of polarizing and contentious philosophical debates about the legitimacy of various subjects and approaches, but those conflicts, he says, “were never accompanied by a huge flight of students.” Now, “the numbers are a little alarming. From 2006 to 2012 we had a 35 percent drop in concentrators in English. I think history has also had a fairly dramatic drop. And when sophomores signed up for concentrations last fall, almost every department in the arts and humanities was down—some by a lot.” In five departments, there were fewer than half as many concentrators as among the previous class.

The reasons for waning student interest are not entirely clear. The Teaching of the Arts and Humanities at Harvard College: Mapping the Future, a report of the Humanities Project published in the spring of 2013 that included a quantitative study of the problem, revealed a 50 percent attrition rate among Harvard students who as pre-freshmen had expressed an intention to concentrate in the humanities. Most of those students defect to social sciences such as economics, government, and psychology. Menand believes that this trend is partly attributable to “what has become a kind of general conventional wisdom: that the humanities don’t offer people much that is practical in way of a career. And that is a little scary.” But because this has all happened since the recession, he says, “The hope is that these choices are tied to the economy,” and that with rising prosperity, interest will rebound.

Read full article at Harvard Magazine

Human-ities · Philosophy · Science · Social/Politics · Theory

Happiness and Its Discontents

As a critical theorist working at the intersection of Continental philosophy, psychoanalysis, and feminist and queer theory, I make observations about human life that are speculative rather than empirical. That may explain why my definition of character pertains to what is least tangible, least intelligible about our being, including the inchoate frequencies of desire that sometimes cause us to behave in ways that work against our rational understanding of how our lives are supposed to turn out.

If identity captures something about the relatively polished social persona we present to the world, then character—in my view—captures something about the wholly idiosyncratic and potentially rebellious energies that, every so often, break the facade of that persona. From this perspective, our character leaps forth whenever we do something “crazy,” such as suddenly dissolving a committed relationship or leaving a promising career path. At such moments, what is fierce and unapologetic about us undermines our attempts to lead a “reasonable” life, causing us to follow an inner directive that may be as enigmatic as it is compelling. We may not know why we feel called to a new destiny, but we sense that not heeding that call will stifle what is most alive within us.

Text by Mari Rutti at The Chronicle Review. Continue THERE

Book-Text-Read-Zines · Eco/Adaptable · Human-ities · Philosophy

W.H. Auden and Ecopoetics

W.H. Auden is a Greek poet, at least when it comes to nature. No, I don’t mean that he is all about olive trees and white sand beaches: I mean there is something fundamentally classical in his attitude toward the natural world, something that puts him at odds with the two dominant modes of nature poetry of our time—something that, indeed, casts light on the outlines of those norms.

The two most common attitudes toward non-human nature in contemporary poetry are the Romantic (or sentimental—if we can use that word without condescension) and the ecopoetic. The first of these dates back more than two centuries, and receives its most powerful theoretical articulation in Friedrich Schiller’s great essay of 1795, “On Simple and Sentimental Poetry.” Here, Schiller begins by describing the longing for the realm of nature among self-conscious and sophisticated people:

There are moments in our life, when we dedicate a kind of love and touching respect to nature in its plants, minerals, animals, landscapes . . . not because it is pleasing to our senses, not even because it satisfies our understanding or taste . . . but rather merely because it is nature. Every fine man, who does not altogether lack feeling, experiences this, when he walks in the open, when he lives upon the land . . . in short, when he is surprised in artificial relations and situations with the sight of simple nature.

Excerpt from a text written by Robert Archambeau at the Boston Review. Continue THERE

Human-ities · Philosophy · Social/Politics

Economics as a moral science

INGRID ROBEYNS: For a while I have been working on a paper on democracy, expert knowledge, and economics as a moral science. [The financial crisis plays a role in the motivation of the paper, but the arguments I’m advancing turn out to be only contingently related to the crisis]. One thing I argue is that, given its direct and indirect influence on policy making and for reasons of democratic accountability, economics should become much more aware of the values it (implicitly or explicitly) endorses. Those values are embedded in some of the basis concepts used but also in some of the assumptions in the theory-building.

The textbook example in the philosophy of economics literature to illustrate the insufficiently acknowledged value-ladenness of economics is the notion of Pareto efficiency, also known as ‘the Pareto criterion’. Yet time and time again (for me most recently two days ago at a seminar in Oxford) I encounter economists (scholars or students) who fail to see why endorsing Pareto efficiency is not value-neutral, or why there are good reasons why one would not endorse the Pareto-criterion. Here’s an example in print of a very influential economist: Gregory Mankiw.

In his infamous paper ‘Defending the One Percent’ Mankiw writes (p. 22):

“Discussion of inequality necessarily involves our social and political values, but if inequality also entails inefficiency, those normative judgements are more easily agreed upon. The Pareto-criterion is the clearest case: if we can make some people better off without making anyone worse off, who could possibly object?”

Continue at Out of the Crooked Timber HERE

Human-ities · Philosophy · Technology


“The drones were terrifying. From the ground, it is impossible to determine who or what they are tracking as they circle overhead. The buzz of a distant propeller is a constant reminder of imminent death.” This account of what a drone feels and sounds like from the ground comes from David Rohde, a journalist who was kidnapped and held by the Taliban for seven months in 2008. Yet this kind of report rarely registers in debates in the United States over the use of drones. Instead these debates seem to have reached an impasse. Opponents of drone strikes say they violate international law and have caused unacknowledged civilian deaths. Proponents insist they actually save the lives of both U.S. soldiers, who would otherwise be deployed in dangerous ground operations, and of civilians, because of the drone’s capacity to survey and strike more precisely than combat. If the alternative is a prolonged and messy ground operation, the advantage of drone strikes in terms of casualties is indisputable, and it is not my intention to dispute it here.

But the terms of this debate give a one-sided view of both the larger financial and political costs of drones, as well as the less than lethal but nonetheless chronic and intense harm continuous strikes wage on communities. This myopia restricts our understanding of the full effects of drones; in order to widen our vision, I provide a phenomenology of drone strikes, examining both how the world appears through the lens of a drone camera and the experience of the people on the ground. What is it like to watch a drone’s footage, or to wait below for it to strike? What does the drone’s camera capture, and what does it occlude?

Excerpt from an article written by Nasser Hussain at the Boston Review. Continue THERE

Animalia · Bio · Human-ities · Performativity · Philosophy

A Philosophy of Tickling

Aristotle famously defined man as the rational animal (zoon echon logon), and as the political animal (zoon politikon). But there are also passages in his work that indicate another less remarked upon, though no less profound, definition. In Parts of Animals, he writes: “When people are tickled, they quickly burst into laughter, and this is because the motion quickly penetrates to this part, and even though it is only gently warmed, still it produces a movement (independently of the will) in the intelligence which is recognizable. The fact that human beings only are susceptible to tickling is due to the fineness of their skin and to their being the only creatures that laugh.” Perhaps this notion of the “ticklish animal” was further elaborated in the second book of the Poetics, the lost treatise on comedy; indeed, the relationship between ticklish laughter and comic laughter remains an open question. Should tickling be investigated under the heading of comedy or of touch? Touch, Aristotle argues, is the most primary sense, and human beings are uniquely privileged in possessing the sharpest sense of touch thanks to the delicate nature of their skin. Though other animals have more advanced smell or hearing, “man’s sense of touch … excels that of all other animals in fineness.” We might view tickling as a side effect of the hyper-sensitivity of human touch. Our peculiar vulnerability to tickling is the price to be paid for more sophisticated and discriminating access to the world.

Excerpt via Cabinet. Continue THERE

Book-Text-Read-Zines · Performativity · Philosophy · Public Space · Theory

Dispossession: The Performative in the Political (PCVS-Polity Conversations Series)

Dispossession describes the condition of those who have lost land, citizenship, property, and a broader belonging to the world. This thought-provoking book seeks to elaborate our understanding of dispossession outside of the conventional logic of possession, a hallmark of capitalism, liberalism, and humanism. Can dispossession simultaneously characterize political responses and opposition to the disenfranchisement associated with unjust dispossession of land, economic and political power, and basic conditions for living?

In the context of neoliberal expropriation of labor and livelihood, dispossession opens up a performative condition of being both affected by injustice and prompted to act. From the uprisings in the Middle East and North Africa to the anti-neoliberal gatherings at Puerta del Sol, Syntagma and Zucchotti Park, an alternative political and affective economy of bodies in public is being formed. Bodies on the street are precarious – exposed to police force, they are also standing for, and opposing, their dispossession. These bodies insist upon their collective standing, organize themselves without and against hierarchy, and refuse to become disposable: they demand regard. This book interrogates the agonistic and open-ended corporeality and conviviality of the crowd as it assembles in cities to protest political and economic dispossession through a performative dispossession of the sovereign subject and its propriety.

Text and Image via Politybooks

Book-Text-Read-Zines · Philosophy · Theory

Phenomenology never goes out of date

Susanna Siegel is the major philosophical mentalist who gets into our heads and deep into the depths of philosophical phenomenology, epistemic downgrades, how the issues can be approached from different traditions, considers a gun in a fridge, how priming examples don’t reveal underlying psychological mechanisms, cognitive modularity and what it does and doesn’t insulate, top-down effects, the rational accessibility of perception, the contents of visual experience, the richness of perception and what to do about sexism in professional philosophy. Off we go.

3:AM: You remember ‘….staring up at the ceiling as a little girl and wondering whether the marks she saw on the white surface were tiny holes or tiny dots.’ So was that when you decided you’d be a philosopher?

Susanna Siegel: I was around 4 when I wondered about the ceiling. I wanted to be a philosopher when I read Alice in Wonderland and Raymond Smullyan’s “What is the Name of this Book?” around age 7.

3:AM: Are you a very up to date phenomenologist? Can you say something about your philosophical interests in all things perceptual?

SS: Phenomenology never goes out of date.

3:AM: You talk about cases where prior mental states interfere with perception. Can you talk about this idea and why this might lead to what you call an epistemic downgrade?

SS: Suppose you are afraid that I am angry at you, and your fear makes me look angry to you when you see me. Do you get any reason from your experience to believe that I’m angry at you? There’s something fishy and even perverse about the idea that your fears can get confirmed by fear-induced experience. I focus on the general notion of rationality. I am interested in the epistemic status of the type of “top-down” influences on perception from fears and desires. If you could confirm your fears through such fear-influenced experiences, rational confirmation of fears would be too cheap.

Continue interview of Susanna Siegel by Richard Marshall at 3AM Magazine

Philosophy · Social/Politics · Technology

The Drone Philosopher

From the thumbnail headshot accompanying his essay in the Times, “the drone philosopher,” as I’ve begun to think of him, appears to be in his late twenties, or a boyish 30. In an oddly confessional-style first paragraph, he recalls what it was like to watch the second Iraq War from his college dorm television. He has clean-shaven Ken-doll looks and a prominent squarish jaw, recalling the former Republican vice-presidential candidate and representative from Wisconsin’s First Congressional District, Paul Ryan. I doubt the drone philosopher would be flattered by the comparison. The tone of his article makes him out to be a thoughtful liberal, more interested in weighing complexities than in easy solutions, simultaneously attracted by and wary of power, not unlike the commander in chief he hopes will one day read his papers.

I can make out a bit of wide-striped collegiate tie, a white collar, and the padded shoulders of a suit jacket in the photograph. I know I’m being unfair, but I don’t trust his looks. Since Republicans have become so successful at branding themselves the party of white men, I now suspect that any white guy in a suit may harbor right-wing nationalist tendencies, much as the CIA’s rules governing drone strikes have determined that groups of “military age” men in certain regions of Pakistan and Yemen may be profiled as terrorists. Even more unkindly, I catch myself thinking the drone philosopher’s portrait looks like it was taken for the high school debate club he surely belonged to. Maybe that was where — for competitions in dim auditoria from state to regional to national level, prepping in a series of carbon-copy cheap motels, four to a room — he first learned to be rewarded for making audacious arguments. It was like a job or a sport. Maybe there was one particularly formative debate, “Resolved: The United States was right to use the atomic bomb against Japanese civilians.” He would have parsed this proposition into a value, such as “Right Action” or “Justice,” made up of a checklist of criteria: saving American lives, the primary but not sole duty of the deciders; weighing potential lives lost or saved on both sides when contrasted with the alternative policy of full-scale invasion of Japan.

Excerpt from an article written by MARCO ROTH at n+1. Continue THERE

Book-Text-Read-Zines · Philosophy · Science · Social/Politics

An Inquiry Into Modes of Existence by Bruno Latour

The result of a twenty five years inquiry, it offers a positive version to the question raised, only negatively, with the publication, in 1991, of ”We have never been modern”: if ”we” have never been modern, then what have ”we” been? From what sort of values should ”we” inherit? In order to answer this question, a research protocol has been developed that is very different from the actor-network theory. The question is no longer only to define ”associations” and to follow networks in order to redefine the notion of ”society” and ”social” (as in ”Reassembling the Social”) but to follow the different types of connectors that provide those networks with their specific tonalities. Those modes of extension, or modes of existence, account for the many differences between law, science, politics, and so on. This systematic effort for building a new philosophical anthropology offers a completely different view of what the ”Moderns” have been and thus a very different basis for opening a comparative anthropology with the other collectives – at the time when they all have to cope with ecological crisis. Thanks to a European research council grant (2011-2014) the printed book will be associated with a very original purpose built digital platform allowing for the inquiry summed up in the book to be pursued and modified by interested readers who will act as co-inquirers and co-authors of the final results. With this major book, readers will finally understand what has led to so many apparently disconnected topics and see how the symmetric anthropology begun forty years ago can come to fruition.

Text and Image via Bruno Latour

Human-ities · Performativity · Philosophy · Public Space

What Urban Planners Can Learn From a Hindu Religious Festival

What they don’t tell you about Varanasi, probably India’s holiest city, is that in addition to being filled with sacred temples, mischievous monkeys and bearded ascetics, it’s also full of waste of all kinds: mountains of fetid cow and other, much worse kinds of dung, muddy tributaries of dubious origin, mounds of fast-decaying flowers, shards of shattered clay cups. As I left the utter squalor of Varanasi, a permanent and ancient city of four million, for a temporary religious celebration of even more people nearby, I could only imagine the enormous crowds, inescapable filth and utter chaos that it would produce.

It was January, and I was headed 80 miles west to the Maha Kumbh Mela in Allahabad, a Hindu religious festival in which tens of millions of pilgrims come together at the convergence of two real rivers, the Ganges and the Yamuna, and one mythical stream, the Saraswati. They stay for all or part of a celebration—this year’s would last 55 days—that is the largest single-purpose human gathering on earth.

In the mythology of the Kumbh Mela, gods and demons fought for 12 days over a pitcher (kumbh) of nectar of immortality from the primordial ocean, and the nectar spilled onto the earth at four different places, including Allahabad. The gathering (mela) takes place every three years at one of the four locales in a 12-year cycle—a day of the gods’ time corresponds to a year of human time—with the largest (maha) celebration in Allahabad. The first written record of its occurrence dates to the seventh century A.D.

Excerpt from an article written by Tom Downey at the Smithsonian. Continue THERE

Animalia · Philosophy · Science · Theory

On Animal Morality

Kindness and patience seem to have a clear moral dimension. They are forms of what we might call ‘concern’ — emotional states that have as their focus the wellbeing of another — and concern for the welfare of others lies at the heart of morality. If Nina and Tess were concerned for the welfare of my son then, perhaps, they were acting morally: their behaviour had, at least in part, a moral motivation. And so, in those foggy, sleepless nights of early fatherhood, a puzzle was born inside of me, one that has been gnawing away at me ever since. If there is one thing on which most philosophers and scientists have always been in agreement it is the subject of human moral exceptionalism: humans, and humans alone, are capable of acting morally. Yet, this didn’t seem to tally with the way I came to think of Nina and Tess.

Many scientists (and more than a few philosophers) would have no hesitation in accusing perhaps several billion people of such delusional anthropomorphism. A growing number of animal scientists, however, are going over to the dark side, and at least flirting with the idea that animals can act morally. In his book Primates and Philosophers (2006), the Dutch primatologist Frans de Waal has argued that animals are at least capable of proto-moral behaviour: they possess the rudiments of morality even if they are not moral beings in precisely the way that we are. This was, in fact, Charles Darwin’s view, as developed in The Descent of Man. In a similar vein, the American biologist Marc Bekoff has being arguing for years that animals can act morally, and his book Wild Justice (2009) provides a useful summary of the evidence for this claim. Perhaps scientists such as Darwin, de Waal and Bekoff are also guilty of anthropomorphism? The evidence, however, would suggest otherwise.

Excerpt from an article written by Mark Rowlands at AEON. Read it THERE

Film/Video/New Media · Philosophy


THE PERVERT’S GUIDE TO IDEOLOGY: The makers of THE PERVERT’S GUIDE TO CINEMA return with THE PERVERT’S GUIDE TO IDEOLOGY. Philosopher Slavoj Zizek and filmmaker Sophie Fiennes use their interpretation of moving pictures to present a compelling cinematic journey into the heart of ideology – the dreams that shape our collective beliefs and practices.

Book-Text-Read-Zines · Philosophy · Social/Politics · Theory

Does Europe Exist?

The Hungarian philosopher Agnes Heller, in a chapter she contributed to a book published in 1992, stated with some confidence her view that there was no such thing as European culture. There was certainly, she wrote, Italian and German music, and Florentine and Venetian painting, “but there is no European music and no European painting”.

It is true that the history of art and culture was not really Heller’s field, but it would seem that those who, in the same year as she wrote her essay, framed the Maastricht Treaty, signalling the transition from European Community to European Union, at least partially agreed with her. The treaty was the first time the community had taken for itself significant powers in the cultural field. European cultures (note the plural), the relevant article stated, were to be understood as requiring “respect” – by which one understands freedom from too much supranational interference (“The Community shall contribute to the flowering of the cultures of the Member States, while respecting their national and regional diversity …”). At the same time however, the Community was to be entrusted with the task of “[b]ringing the common cultural heritage to the fore”.

Excerpt from an essay written by Enda O’Doherty at DBR. Continue THERE

Bio · Human-ities · Philosophy · Theory

The Role of Bodily Perception in Emotion: In Defense of an Impure Somatic Theory

In this paper, we develop an impure somatic theory of emotion, according to which emotions are constituted by the integration of bodily perceptions with representations of external objects, events, or states of affairs. We put forward our theory by contrasting it with Prinz’s (2004) pure somatic theory, according to which emotions are entirely constituted by bodily perceptions. After illustrating Prinz’s theory and discussing the evidence in its favor, we show that it is beset by serious problems—i.e., it gets the neural correlates of emotion wrong, it isn’t able to distinguish emotions from bodily perceptions that aren’t emotions, it cannot account for emotions being directed towards particular objects, and it mischaracterizes emotion phenomenology. We argue that our theory accounts for the empirical evidence considered by Prinz and solves the problems faced by his theory. In particular, we maintain that our theory gives a unified and principled account of the relation between emotions and bodily perceptions, the intentionality of emotions, and emotion phenomenology.


Art/Aesthetics · Book-Text-Read-Zines · Digital Media · Performativity · Philosophy · Technology

Moving without a Body: Digital Philosophy and Choreographic Thoughts

Digital technologies offer the possibility of capturing, storing, and manipulating movement, abstracting it from the body and transforming it into numerical information. In Moving without a Body, Stamatia Portanova considers what really happens when the physicality of movement is translated into a numerical code by a technological system. Drawing on the radical empiricism of Gilles Deleuze and Alfred North Whitehead, she argues that this does not amount to a technical assessment of software’s capacity to record motion but requires a philosophical rethinking of what movement itself is, or can become.

Discussing the development of different audiovisual tools and the shift from analog to digital, she focuses on some choreographic realizations of this evolution, including works by Loie Fuller and Merce Cunningham. Throughout, Portanova considers these technologies and dances as ways to think—rather than just perform or perceive—movement. She distinguishes the choreographic thought from the performance: a body performs a movement, and a mind thinks or choreographs a dance. Similarly, she sees the move from analog to digital as a shift in conception rather than simply in technical realization. Analyzing choreographic technologies for their capacity to redesign the way movement is thought, Moving without a Body offers an ambitiously conceived reflection on the ontological implications of the encounter between movement and technological systems.

Moving without a Body: Digital Philosophy and Choreographic Thoughts by Stamatia Portanova. Text and Image via MIT Press

Human-ities · Philosophy · Technology


Upon his retirement from Yale, Donald Kagan considers the future of liberal education in this farewell speech.

Donald Kagan, Sterling Professor of Classics and History at Yale University and recipient of the National Humanities Medal (2002), retired in May. In forty-four years at the University, Professor Kagan has served in such varied capacities as Dean of Yale College, Master of Timothy Dwight College, and Director of Athletics. He has been a prolific author as well as a celebrated teacher; his four-volume history of the Peloponnesian War is widely considered to be among the twentieth century’s greatest works of classical scholarship. The following essay on liberal education is a revised version of the valedictory lecture he delivered on April 25 to a capacity audience in Sheffield-Sterling-Strathcona Hall, New Haven, Connecticut.

Donald Kagan: My subject is liberal education, and today more than ever the term requires definition, especially as to the questions: What is a liberal education and what it is for? From Cicero’s artes liberales, to the attempts at common curricula in more recent times, to the chaotic cafeteria that passes for a curriculum in most American universities today, the concept has suffered from vagueness, confusion, and contradiction. From the beginning, the champions of a liberal education have thought of it as seeking at least four kinds of goals. One was as an end in itself, or at least as a way of achieving that contemplative life that Aristotle thought was the greatest happiness. Knowledge and the acts of acquiring and considering it were the ends of this education and good in themselves. A second was as a means of shaping the character, the style, the taste of a person—to make him good and better able to fit in well with and take his place in the society of others like him. A third was to prepare him for a useful career in the world, one appropriate to his status as a free man. For Cicero and Quintilian, this meant a career as an orator that would allow a man to protect the private interests of himself and his friends in the law courts and to advance the public interest in the assemblies, senate, and magistracies. The fourth was to contribute to the individual citizen’s freedom in ancient society. Servants were ignorant and parochial, so free men must be learned and cosmopolitan; servants were ruled by others, so free men must take part in their own government; servants specialized to become competent at some specific and limited task, so free men must know something of everything and understand general principles without yielding to the narrowness of expertise. The Romans’ recommended course of study was literature, history, philosophy, and rhetoric.

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Human-ities · Philosophy · Science · Theory

Faith in the Unseen: Curtis White’s ‘Science Delusion’

Existential angst: The German idealist philosopher Friedrich Schelling, circa 1820.

Most works in philosophy enter the world quietly, but not Thomas Nagel’s recent “Mind and Cosmos.” With its chin-leading subtitle, “Why the Materialist Neo-Darwinian Conception of Nature Is Almost Certainly False,” the slim volume met with a firestorm of indignation from critics who thought Nagel had lost his mind or, worse, had thrown in with intelligent design theory. (Steven Pinker tweeted: “What has gotten into Thomas Nagel? . . . a once-great thinker.”) What incited the reaction was Nagel’s questioning whether advances in neuroscience are on the verge of resolving the mysteries of consciousness, and with it issues that have fueled philosophical speculation for centuries, from subjectivity to free will.

Rather like Nagel, but angrier, is the novelist and critic Curtis White. Though neither a research scientist nor a trained philosopher, he is infuriated by the sunny confidence of neuroscience, arguing that it is not just a product of ambitious overreach but, more, a willful act of arrogance. In his rambling book “The Science Delusion,” he writes that the coming battle in this neo-Darwinian culture war will be an all-out assault against imagination by scientists and popular science journalists: “Freed at last from the limits imposed by religion, science has extended its ambitions beyond the debunking of Christian dogma. It has now turned its attention to another old competitor, the secular world of the humanities and the arts.” This may come as news to some of White’s would-be shock troops, who generally haven’t announced their hostile intentions to art and the imagination, but White sees their pernicious effects spreading across contemporary American life.

Excerpt from an article written by ERIC BANKS at NYT. Continue THERE

Book-Text-Read-Zines · Philosophy · Theory

Philosophical Temperaments: From Plato to Foucault

Peter Sloterdijk turns his keen eye to the history of western thought, conducting colorful readings of the lives and ideas of the world’s most influential intellectuals. Featuring nineteen vignettes rich in personal characterizations and theoretical analysis, Sloterdijk’s companionable volume casts the development of philosophical thinking not as a buildup of compelling books and arguments but as a lifelong, intimate struggle with intellectual and spiritual movements, filled with as many pitfalls and derailments as transcendent breakthroughs.

Sloterdijk delves into the work and times of Aristotle, Augustine, Bruno, Descartes, Foucault, Fichte, Hegel, Husserl, Kant, Kierkegaard, Leibniz, Marx, Nietzsche, Pascal, Plato, Sartre, Schelling, Schopenhauer, and Wittgenstein. He provocatively juxtaposes Plato against shamanism and Marx against Gnosticism, revealing both the vital external influences shaping these intellectuals’ thought and the excitement and wonder generated by the application of their thinking in the real world. The philosophical “temperament” as conceived by Sloterdijk represents the uniquely creative encounter between the mind and a diverse array of cultures. It marks these philosophers’ singular achievements and the special dynamic at play in philosophy as a whole. Creston Davis’s introduction details Sloterdijk’s own temperament, surveying the celebrated thinker’s intellectual context, rhetorical style, and philosophical persona.

Text and Image via CUP

Book-Text-Read-Zines · Human-ities · Philosophy · Social/Politics · Technology · Theory

Protocol: How Control Exists after Decentralization

Is the Internet a vast arena of unrestricted communication and freely exchanged information or a regulated, highly structured virtual bureaucracy? In Protocol, Alexander Galloway argues that the founding principle of the Net is control, not freedom, and that the controlling power lies in the technical protocols that make network connections (and disconnections) possible. He does this by treating the computer as a textual medium that is based on a technological language, code. Code, he argues, can be subject to the same kind of cultural and literary analysis as any natural language; computer languages have their own syntax, grammar, communities, and cultures. Instead of relying on established theoretical approaches, Galloway finds a new way to write about digital media, drawing on his backgrounds in computer programming and critical theory. “Discipline-hopping is a necessity when it comes to complicated socio-technical topics like protocol,” he writes in the preface.

Galloway begins by examining the types of protocols that exist, including TCP/IP, DNS, and HTML. He then looks at examples of resistance and subversion—hackers, viruses, cyberfeminism, Internet art—which he views as emblematic of the larger transformations now taking place within digital culture. Written for a nontechnical audience, Protocol serves as a necessary counterpoint to the wildly utopian visions of the Net that were so widespread in earlier days.

Text and Image via MIT PRESS