Thursday, 20 January 2011

Yesterday's Staff-Student Seminar

Hello Everyone

I have just received an e-mail from Dom that raises a few questions about yesterday's staff student seminar. This is what it says:

'I've been thinking about the discussion earlier in your seminar, specifically about the references to viewing a philosopher's life alongside their philosophy and the discussion about Neitzsche and Heidegger.

What I seemed to get from the discussion was that it was stated that we have to view Heidegger's philosophy as fascist and that as proof of this we should consider his life. I'm not sure if I agree with this idea of considering a philosopher alongside their philosophy which seemed to me to be a kind of quick and easy way of evaluating their philosophy. Shouldn't we really just deal with the philosophy itself and, if people believe it is fascist or leads to madness, bring it down on its own weaknesses, not by ad hominem?

Also as far as Neitszche is concerned can't he be viewed as the epitome of non-nihilism? What I get with Neitszche is that he is stating that it is the truth-proofs that societies need that actually brings them into nihilism, whereas his eternal return and affirmation acted as a positive denial of nihilism, such as Deleuze used them. This article I thought was both timely and necessary to defend Nietszche as a positive force from people like Jared Loughner and others who use Neitszche to belittle this type of philosophy, such as Bertrand Russell?

This article ( sums it up here when it says that 'Neitszche saw himself as the scourge of European nihilism, and possibly also its remedy. Nietzsche saw nihilism as a disease, which grows from, in Alexander Nehamas' words, "the assumption that if some single standard is not good for everyone and all time, then no standard is good for anyone at any time."'

So what I'm asking you is do you really think that philosophy has to be considered alongside the philosopher's life? I remember someone in the lecture saying that they won't read Heidegger because he's 'evil' and I've been thinking about this and maybe there's a phil blog discussion to be had? Maybe the question 'Is it right to not read things because they don't adhere to our ideological commitments?' could have some going power?'

To answer Dom's question:

The point being made by Dom here is that in making the link between philosophy and biography we are committing the fallacy of 'argumentum ad hominem'.

However, I am not sure that this fallacy applies in all cases. It might not apply to philosophers and it certainly doenot apply to politicians. For example can we really view Thactherism as somehow divorced from Thatcher's own lower-middle class bellicose personality. Isn't Hitler, in some sense, essential the very meaning of Nazi ideology?

Let's take a less well known case - Richard Nixon. Nixon, we know we a paranoid delusionist, who saw enemies everywhere. He was a compulsive seeker of fame and power’, but like many narcissists waqs much ‘more fragile’ than would initially appear.

Psychanalytic theorists have suggested not only that Nixon’s desire to be a leader figure act was a mask for feelings of dependency, rage and envy, but that many of his policy decisions - such as his tragic decision to escalate the war in Vietnam, stemmed from his ‘projecting’ the ‘unacceptable’ aspects of his character onto the world in a ‘paranoid’ manner.

Is this ad hominem? If so, psychoanalysis itself is clearly ad hominem; because it examines the roots of human thought in the unconscious minds of specific individuals (take a look at Freud's study Leonardo da Vinci - a study, incidentally, where 'narcissism' is first deployed as a critical concept).


Wednesday, 19 January 2011

Postponed guest speaker: Wednsday 26th January; 2-4pm in GE089

Hello All

Please see below for details of the postponed guest speaker session, now taking place on the coming Wednesday. I hope to see some of you there!



You are warmly invited to our Philosophy and Everyday Life visiting speaker session under the auspices of the BA Philosophy joint honours programme in the School of Arts and Humanities:

Is there anything that could not count as a moral issue?

NOW ON: Wednesday 26th January from 2-4pm

George Eliot GEE089 (LT3 Clifton Campus)

Trevor Curnow, University of Cumbria

In this lecture, Trevor will consider why he became interested in ancient philosophy, his experiences of moral philosophy before he did, and why he thinks ancient philosophy is in many ways superior to modern philosophy in its approach to life.

Enquiries may be directed to: Dr Ruth Griffin

All welcome.

Monday, 17 January 2011

Agon and Antagonism

I have been thinking today about a distinction made by Chantal Mouffe, the distinction between 'an enemy' and 'an adversary', between agonism and antagonism. How, exactly, are we to make this distinction? Is it the result of a differing attitudes on the part of the people involved, or simply the context in which a relationship takes place?

What ethical and political consequences follow from this distinction? Can we have a society without 'adversaries'?



Staff-Student Seminar: Mad Philosophers?

This Weds Jan 19th Neil Turnbull will present a paper as part of this year's staff-student seminar series. The title of the paper is:

Philosophers and Players: Narcissism and the Philosophical Life

This paper will discuss the role of 'madness' in western philosophy and whether 'the madness of philosophers' poses critical questions for the development of western philosophy as a whole.

The seminar will take place in room 215, 1-3pm (as last time).

Hopefully there will be quite a few undergraduate students attending this one.


Sunday, 16 January 2011

What is Life?

Radical Orthodoxy: A Journal of Theology, Philosophy and Politics is an internationally peer reviewed journal dedicated to the exploration of academic and policy debates that interface between theology, philosophy and the social sciences. The editorial policy of the journal is radically non-partisan and the journal welcomes submissions from scholars and intellectuals with interesting and relevant things to say about the nature and trajectory of the times in which we live. The journal intends to publish papers on all branches of philosophy, aesthetics - including literary, art and music criticism - as well as pieces on ethical, political, social, economic and cultural theory.
The journal will be published four times a year; each volume comprising of standard, special, review and current affairs issues. The journal will also attempt to pursue an innovative editorial policy by publishing pieces both longer and shorter than those typically published in mainstream academic journals (along with those of standard length).
The first issue of the journal will appear on-line in autumn 2011: a double special issue on the theology, philosophy and politics of ‘life’. In recent years, a new vitalist metaphysical discourse has attempted to rearticulate classical philosophical and theological problems in terms of a metaphysical language of process. However, some important questions need to be asked of new vitalist philosophies. For example, what is the relationship between new vitalism and orthodox naturalism and biologism? What, exactly, is the precise nature of the relationship between ‘new’ and ‘old’ vitalisms? Is new vitalism simply a reworking of the positivist dream of ‘a unified science’, or does it represent something of break with scientific metaphysics? What other vitalisms, either social or theological, can contest the wider intellectual legitimacy of new vitalist discourses? This inaugural issue will explore such questions through an assessment of the nature and significance of ‘life’ for contemporary philosophical, theological and social scientific debates. In particular, the journal will welcome submissions on the following subjects:

Life and creativity
Everyday life
Life and the gift
Grace and nature
Thomism and vitalism
Life and phenomenology
Michel Henry
The historical significance of ‘Deleuzianism’
Nihilism and eliminative materialism
The philosophy of biology
The theology, philosophy, politics of the neurosciences
Life and cybernetics

Deadline for submissions is Aug 31st 2011. Please send all submissions to the either the editor, Neil Turnbull, or the managing editor, Eric Lee at