Saturday, April 9, 2022
Tuesday, January 18, 2022
Today would have been Deleuze's 97th birthday. Here is a short homage of him I wrote several years ago. Today I also got in a new copy of A Thousand Plateaus. I got my first copy, and until now my only copy, May of 2001. So, that copy is now old enough to drink. And it is falling apart, tons of notes and underlinings. It has seen things. Cameron Kunzelman told me that the Bloomsbury editions were nice sizes, good font size, etc. (actually, seems he told the world!) So I ordered one from the UK, and waited for it to randomly appear. Today is the day! I got the new copy because I decided I wanted to read the book again from cover to cover. Despite being a book that has inspired me a lot, I haven't read it cover to cover since early in grad school. There are chapters I return to again and again, and a few I have barely touched. So, I am going to move through it. Nothing special, about a chapter a week. My goal right now is to post reflections and impressions on each chapter as I go through. Maybe you will want to read along.
Sunday, January 9, 2022
Okay, so Huemer argues that pragmatists like William James and Piecer get the concept of truth wrong. He argues that concept of truth is trivial, and that is basically the correspondence theory of truth. So, as he points out in a pervious blog post:
The correct theory of truth is the correspondence theory: truth is correspondence with reality. I.e., if a sentence or belief represents the world to be a certain way, and the world is actually that way, then the sentence/belief is true. If the world isn’t that way, the sentence/belief is false.
I think this is trivial, but somehow people have managed to have big debates about it.
This leads him to point on the first blog post I linked to,
Some smart and important philosophers have held what I would describe as complete non-starter theories about “truth”. (These theories are so far off that I refuse to recognize them as actually being about truth; hence the quotation marks.) For example, “truth is what is useful”. [...] Sometimes people say things. When you say things, sometimes stuff is the way that you say it is. Other times, it isn’t. When stuff is the way that you say it is, we call your statements “true”. When stuff is not the way that you say it is, we call your statements “false”. For instance, if you say that all cats are green, then your statement is “true” if and only if all cats are green.
So let's talk about William James. First of all, James agrees. Sorta. As he says in ch. 6 of Pragmatism:
Truth, as any dictionary will tell you, is a property of certain of our ideas. It means their 'agreement,' as falsity means their disagreement, with 'reality.' Pragmatists and intellectualists both accept this definition as a matter of course. They begin to quarrel only after the question is raised as to what may precisely be meant by the term 'agreement,' and what by the term 'reality,' when reality is taken as something for our ideas to agree with. .
Okay, so we agree that reality and our ideas have to be in agreement, but, uhm, we are actually going to disagree about all those terms and how we do that. So, James argues a little further down in the same chapter his famous claim that truth is verification and validation:
The moment pragmatism asks this question, it sees the answer: True ideas are those that we can assimilate, validate, corroborate and verify. False ideas are those that we cannot. That is the practical difference it makes to us to have true ideas; that, therefore, is the meaning of truth, for it is all that truth is known-as.
This thesis is what I have to defend. The truth of an idea is not a stagnant property inherent in it. Truth happens to an idea. It becomes true, is made true by events. Its verity is in fact an event, a process: the process namely of its verifying itself, its veri-fication. Its validity is the process of its valid-ation.
So when Huemer says your statement that all cats are green if, and only if, all cats are actually green, we have to take a step back and figure out what it means to say something is green in reality? Remember this?
Is the dress blue and black or white and gold? The correspondence theory of truth might say something like: if you went and saw this dress in the original, it is clearly white and gold, so it is true to say it is white and gold, and false to say it is blue and black. But, to paraphrase Magritte, ceci n'est pas une robe. The question is not what color is the original dress itself, but what color is the dress in this picture. Is color in the eye of the beholder? Does it belong solely to the image? Is color produced through some sort of interpretative community? The pragmatist, under the right conditions, could accept the as true that this image of the dress is white and gold, or blue and black, or even both. The condition for the answer requires us to first decide what processes of verification and validation we are engaging in. James again:
Pragmatism, on the other hand, asks its usual question. "Grant an idea or belief to be true," it says, "what concrete difference will its being true make in anyone's actual life? How will the truth be realized? What experiences will be different from those which would obtain if the belief were false?
Now when we get to issues of verification, or what beliefs make different, we are no longer according to Huemer, really talking about truth.
Another possibility is that people confuse the idea of the meaning of “truth” with the idea of a criterion for telling when something is true. Hence you get coherence or ideal inquiry theories of truth.
I’m fine with asking these other questions. “What beliefs do you approve of?” and “How can you tell when something is true?” are better discussion questions than “What is truth?” But you shouldn’t just reinterpret the latter question as meaning one of the former. Making huge confusions like this just makes it hard to get the right answers to anything. If you want to answer one of the more profound questions, instead of claiming to be giving an account of truth, just say, “Look, the nature of truth is a boring question. Instead, let’s talk about what beliefs one should approve of …”
But for the Jamesian pragmatist believes if you don't answer what we are corresponding to in the correspondence theory of truth, the whole thing is question begging. Let me give one of my favorite examples, the placebo. Does a placebo work? As I argued in that previous post, if you are a patient, and you are given the placebo, and the placebo works, in what way can we say that the placebo didn't make you feel better? Did that not happen in reality? Is that not true? But what if you are working to create a drug trial, there is another mode and experience of the placebo. Another process of verification and validation. Then, of course, we can say the placebo does not work, it does not treat. So the mode within which you are engaging the placebo matters dramatically about whether it is true, or not. This why James says that truth happens to an idea, that it is an event. We can't simply say, is an idea true or false until we also say under which processes of verification. Let's take a different example. We are beset by various problems that large parts of both our country and the world are simply in denial about. And it is common in certain Democratic discusses of global warming or covid to say something like, we should do what the science tells us. This statement is baffling, because it basically combines at least two different processes of verification. Science, including perhaps social sciences, can tell us things like how big of a potential problem we are facing, what are some of the possible solutions, maybe what some of the solutions are. What science cannot do is to tell us what to do, how much risk we should take, what trade offs we are okay with. You can affirm these second set of questions are about truth without undermining the first set of truths (the scientific ones), because are just dealing with two different processes of verification and validation. This is why James might something like (though not exactly) usefulness matters to truth. Usefulness is one of the ways we can figure out what process of verification we are engaging in. James' committed pluralism is on full display here. This not a position where anything gets to be true, but there are as many truths as there are processes of verification. The Truth Is Not Out There.
Friday, December 31, 2021
According to my admittedly sloppy records, I listened to 435 albums that were released in 2021. Here is my list. First my top 5, then the next 25, then the next 50, and as a bonus, my top ten EPs. Each category is internally organized alphabetically. I only had time to talk about the first five, but it was a great year for music (though again, when isn't it?).
Best Albums 2021
1.Art D’Ecco—In Standard Definition
A glam rock and pop album from another time. Conceptually it is obsessed with celebrity, and also concerned with celebrity obsession. Sure, the influences are pretty obvious, but when you are doing your best to channel early Roxy Music and 70s Bowie, that might not be so bad. And sure, it doesn’t hit those immortal highs, but I found myself wanting to groove along from start to finish.
2.Midnight Sister—Painting the Roses
Why just do one glam pop album? If Art D’Ecco wants to channel Roxy Music and Bowie, Midnight Sister is more T. Rex and Donna Summers, trying to give us some sort of glitter disco cabaret. And sure, it doesn’t always do that, but I found myself seduced by their vision and enthusiasm. Also, I don’t know much about music videos, but they direct their own music videos, and I really suggest watching them. It’s a different way to see the surrealistic soundscape they are seeking to create.
3. Shungudzo—I Am Not a Mother, But I Have Children
Okay, this is clearly trying to produce a protest album. And has gotten some criticism for being too on the nose, too try hard. Which… sure. But sonically something is often working against the lyrics, winking subtly at the audience. I found myself caring less about the obviousness, and more often being impressed by the sheer audacity of the thing. Not to mention so many of the songs are dangerously catchy.
4. St. Vincent—Daddy’s Home
I said on facebook that it was weird to choose this album to begin the inevitable St. Vincent backlash, because the whole thing is so good. It is a self-aware attempt to both change her sound, and try to maybe undermine her reputation as aloof while, you know, trying to actually cement that reputation. Okay, let’s backup. I was lukewarm when it was released. But I found myself listening to it again and again, liking it more and more. And well, here we are. The album, for the five of you who haven’t listened to it, is trying to reproduce a kind of 70s New York grimy sound (kind of like Nick Cave attempts on Dig, Lazarus, Dig!!!). But of course this meets St. Vincent’s trade mark precision and careful production values. I think that is why we have an artifact that doesn’t fully work on the first listen, but really captivated me by the end.
5. Sarah Mary Chadwick—Me and Ennui are Friends, Baby.
This was a year in which many of the women musicians who wrote personal and haunting lyrics of my teenage years released albums. Including new work by Ani DiFranco, Tori Amos, Aimee Mann, and Liz Phair. None of them were bad, but something was missing. Maybe they had changed, or I had, or probably both. But then I listened to this album by Sarah Mary Chadwick, and it captured a bit of that old feeling. It probably helps that Chadwick is close to my current age. Before I go further, I should say this album needs basically every kind of content warning, dealing with depression, death, suicide, drug and alcohol abuse, and lots of explicit lyrics. But it’s deeply confessional, and clever, and sad, and I listened to the whole thing with my eyes extra big. If you want 42 minutes of heartbreak and brilliance, you should give this a try.
Amyl and The Sniffers—Comfort to Me
Amythyst Kiah—Wary + Strange
Cassandra Jenkins--An Overview on Phenomenal Nature
Charley Crockett—Music City USA
The Coral—Coral Island
Curtis Harding—If Words Were Flowers
Death From Above 1979—Is 4 Lovers
Dominique Fils-Aime—Three Little Words
Faye Webster—I Know I’m Funny haha
Jupiter & Okwess—Na Kozonga
Lael Neale—Acquainted With Night
Lingua Ignota—Sinner Get Ready
Lord Huron—Long Lost
Melissa Carper—Daddy’s Country Gold
Nancy—The Seven Foot Tall Post-Suicide Feel Good Blues
Nick Cave & Warren Ellis—Carnage
Nick Shoulders—Home on the Rage
Shannon & The Clams—Year of the Spider
Tele Novella—Merlynn Belle
Valerie June—The Moon and Stars: Prescriptions for Dreamers
Viagra Boys—Welfare Jazz
Allison Russell—Outside Child
Anna B. Savage—A Common Turn
Arlo Parks—Collapsed in Sunbeams
Billie Eilish—Happier Than Ever
Black Country, New Road—For the First Time
Claire Rousay—A Softer Focus
The Courettes—Back in Mono
Daniel Knox—Won’t You Take Me With You
Field Music—Flat White Moon
Gary Louris—Jump for Joy
Haiku Salut—The Hill, the Light, the Ghost
Hamish Hawk—Heavy Elevator
Illuminati Hotties—Let Me Do One More
Jack Ingram, Miranda Lambert, & John Randall—The Marfa Tapes
Jarvis Cocker—Chansons d’Eunni Tip-Top
John Hiatt & Jerry Douglas—Leftover Feelings
Jungle—Loving in Stereo
La Luz—La Luz
Lana Del Rey—Blue Bannisters
Lil Nas X—Montero
Little Simz--Sometimes I Might Be Introvert
Matthew E. White—K Bay
Maxwell Farrington & Le SuperHomard—Once
Mdou Moctar—Afrique Victime
Monophonics & Kelly Finnigan—It’s Only Us
Nick Waterhouse—Promenade Blues
Night Beats—Outlaw R&B
Parquet Courts—Sympathy for Life
The Peacers—Blexxed Rec
Pearl Charles—Magic Mirror
Pokey LaFarge—In the Blossom of Their Shade
Pom Pom Squad—Death of a Cheerleader
Riddy Arman—Riddy Arman
Riley Downing—Start It Over
She Drew the Gun—Behave Myself
Sierra Ferrell—Long Time Coming
Tamar Aphek—All Bets Are Off
Vincent Neil Emerson—Vincent Neil Emerson
The War on Drugs—I Don’t Live Here Anymore
William Doyle—Great Spans of Muddy Time
Willie Nelson—The Willie Nelson Family
Yola—Stand for Myself
Top Ten EPs
Ber--I'm Not In Love
Billy Nomates--Emergency Telephone
Blood Red Shoes--Ø
Car Seat Headrest--Madlo
Dessa--I Already Like You
Gabriels--Bloodlines/Love and Hate in a Different Time
Molly Lewis--The Forgotten Edge
Near Tears--Get With the Program
Pixey--Free to Live in Colour
Tuesday, June 30, 2020
1. Michel Foucault--History of Sexuality, Vol. 4: Confessions of the Flesh.
this review from Stuart Elden.
But here is the summary from the book:
Brought to light at last--the fourth volume in the famous History of Sexuality series by one of the most influential thinkers of the twentieth century, his final work, which he had completed, but not yet published, upon his death in 1984.
Michel Foucault's philosophy has made an indelible impact on Western thought, and his History of Sexuality series--which traces cultural and intellectual notions of sexuality, arguing that it is profoundly shaped by the power structures applied to it--is one of his most influential works. At the time of his death in 1984, he had completed--but not yet edited or published--the fourth volume, which posits that the origins of totalitarian self-surveillance began with the Christian practice of confession. This is a text both sweeping and deeply personal, as Foucault--born into a French Catholic family--undoubtedly wrestled with these issues himself. Since he had stipulated "Pas de publication posthume," this text has long been secreted away. However, the sale of the Foucault archives in 2013--which made this text available to scholars--prompted his nephew to seek wider publication. This attitude was shared by Foucault's longtime partner, Daniel Defert, who said, "What is this privilege given to Ph.D students? I have adopted this principle: It is either everybody or nobody."
2. Jacques Derrida--Geschlecht III: Sex, Race, Nation, Humanity.
second volume of Psyche. Geschlecht IV, "Heidegger's Ear" can be found in the collection Reading Heidegger. (One more quick note is that the new set of Derrida lectures, Life Death, is also forthcoming).
A significant event in Derrida scholarship, this book marks the first publication of his long-lost philosophical text known only as “Geschlecht III.” The third, and arguably the most significant, piece in his four-part Geschlecht series, it fills a gap that has perplexed Derrida scholars. The series centers on Martin Heidegger and the enigmatic German word Geschlecht, which has several meanings pointing to race, sex, and lineage. Throughout the series, Derrida engages with Heidegger’s controversial oeuvre to tease out topics of sexual difference, nationalism, race, and humanity. In Geschlecht III, he calls attention to Heidegger’s problematic nationalism, his work’s political and sexual themes, and his promise of salvation through the coming of the “One Geschlecht,” a sentiment that Derrida found concerningly close to the racial ideology of the Nazi party.
Amid new revelations about Heidegger’s anti-Semitism and the contemporary context of nationalist resurgence, this third piece of the Geschlecht series is timelier and more necessary than ever. Meticulously edited and expertly translated, this volume brings Derrida’s mysterious and much awaited text to light.
3. Gilles Deleuze--Letters and Other Texts
This is the third collection of shorter Deleuze works edited by David Lapoujade (following up Desert Islands and Two Regimes of Madness).
A posthumous collection of writings by Deleuze, including letters, youthful essays, and an interview, many previously unpublished.
Letters and Other Texts is the third and final volume of the posthumous texts of Gilles Deleuze, collected for publication in French on the twentieth anniversary of his death. It contains several letters addressed to his contemporaries (Michel Foucault, Pierre Klossowski, François Châtelet, and Clément Rosset, among others). Of particular importance are the letters addressed to Félix Guattari, which offer an irreplaceable account of their work as a duo from Anti-Oedipus to What is Philosophy? Later letters provide a new perspective on Deleuze's work as he responds to students' questions.
This volume also offers a set of unpublished or hard-to-find texts, including some essays from Deleuze's youth, a few unusual drawings, and a long interview from 1973 on Anti-Oedipus with Guattari.
4. Gilbert Simondon--Individuation in Light of Notions of Form and Information, and Volume II.
5. Édouard Glissant--Treatise on the Whole-World AND Introduction to a Poetics of Diversity AND The Baton Rouge Interviews.
6. And a German one, Theodor Adorno--Aspects of the New Right-Wing Extremism
Monday, June 1, 2020
1. Just out now is Joshua Bennett's Being Property Once Myself: Blackness and the End of Man.
A prize-winning poet argues that blackness acts as the caesura between human and nonhuman, man and animal.Throughout US history, black people have been configured as sociolegal nonpersons, a subgenre of the human. Being Property Once Myself delves into the literary imagination and ethical concerns that have emerged from this experience. Each chapter tracks a specific animal figure―the rat, the cock, the mule, the dog, and the shark―in the works of black authors such as Richard Wright, Toni Morrison, Zora Neale Hurston, Jesmyn Ward, and Robert Hayden. The plantation, the wilderness, the kitchenette overrun with pests, the simultaneous valuation and sale of animals and enslaved people―all are sites made unforgettable by literature in which we find black and animal life in fraught proximity.
Joshua Bennett argues that animal figures are deployed in these texts to assert a theory of black sociality and to combat dominant claims about the limits of personhood. Bennett also turns to the black radical tradition to challenge the pervasiveness of antiblackness in discourses surrounding the environment and animals. Being Property Once Myself is an incisive work of literary criticism and a close reading of undertheorized notions of dehumanization and the Anthropocene.
2. Also just out is Zakiyyah Iman Jackson's Becoming Human: Matter and Meaning in an Antiblack World.
Argues that blackness disrupts our essential ideas of race, gender, and, ultimately, the human.Rewriting the pernicious, enduring relationship between blackness and animality in the history of Western science and philosophy, Becoming Human: Matter and Meaning in an Antiblack World breaks open the rancorous debate between black critical theory and posthumanism. Through the cultural terrain of literature by Toni Morrison, Nalo Hopkinson, Audre Lorde, and Octavia Butler, the art of Wangechi Mutu and Ezrom Legae, and the oratory of Frederick Douglass, Zakiyyah Iman Jackson both critiques and displaces the racial logic that has dominated scientific thought since the Enlightenment. In so doing, Becoming Human demonstrates that the history of racialized gender and maternity, specifically antiblackness, is indispensable to future thought on matter, materiality, animality, and posthumanism.
Jackson argues that African diasporic cultural production alters the meaning of being human and engages in imaginative practices of world-building against a history of the bestialization and thingification of blackness―the process of imagining the black person as an empty vessel, a non-being, an ontological zero―and the violent imposition of colonial myths of racial hierarchy. She creatively responds to the animalization of blackness by generating alternative frameworks of thought and relationality that not only disrupt the racialization of the human/animal distinction found in Western science and philosophy but also challenge the epistemic and material terms under which the specter of animal life acquires its authority. What emerges is a radically unruly sense of a being, knowing, feeling existence: one that necessarily ruptures the foundations of "the human."
These two new books join several other monographs on the intersections of race and animal studies.
3. Aph Ko's 2019 Racism as Zoological Witchcraft: A Guide to Getting Out.
4. Also in 2019 we had Lindgren Johnson's Race Matters, Animal Matters: Fugitive Humanism in African America, 1840-1930
5. Bénédicte Boisseron's 2018 Afro-Dog: Blackness and the Animal Question
6. Julietta Singh's 2018 Unthinking Mastery: Dehumanism and Decolonial Entanglements
7. Aph and Sly Ko's 2017 Aphro-ism: Essays on Pop Culture, Feminism, and Black Veganism from Two Sisters
8. And lastly, Claire Jean Kim's 2015 Dangerous Crossings: Race, Species, and Nature in a Multicultural Age
In addition to these several monographs, there have also been more than a few edited volumes on these issues. These include:
1. The 2020 collection, Colonialism and Animality: Anti-Colonial Perspectives in Critical Animal Studies edited by Kelly Struthers Montford and Chloë Taylor.
2. The 2019 collection Veganism of Color: Decentering Whiteness in Human and Nonhuman Liberation, edited by Julia Feliz Brueck.
4. And of course, A. Breeze Harper's 2009 collection, Sistah Vegan: Black Female Vegans Speak on Food, Identity, Health, and Society.
And of course, these are only books (and probably not all of the books), there are plenty more chapters and articles that address these issues. Hopefully, as animal scholars, this work will challenge a tendency in the field to simply engage in what Alexander Weheliye, in Habeas Viscus, correctly pointed out as "the not so dreaded comparison."
Friday, May 15, 2020
Vasile Stanescu, and John Sanbonmatsu, recently appeared on the Always for Animal Rights podcast/radio show, in order to discuss animal right and vegan support of lab-grown meat (sometimes called clean meat, or in virto meat, or cultured meat). Vasile's discussion here extends many of his arguments from his earlier blog post, arguing against the idea that vegan advocacy has failed and against the idea there are 2% of Americans who are vegetarian and vegan.