Oct 152016

I invite you to read my recently published paper, “The Overturning of Heidegger’s Fundamental Ontology”, in which I interpret “the turn” in Heidegger’s thought as, not a change in topic or style from early to late, but rather the very issue at stake in all the key concepts of his thought. Specifically, I use the examples of temporality, justice, and ontological difference as windows through which we can picture the movement that characterizes die Kehre. But, it is my belief that this movement is not meant to be merely viewed but experienced by the reader following along in Heidegger’s texts. This is most evident in Heidegger’s peculiar use, beginning in the 1930s, of Seyn alongside Sein as the name for being, and it is captured in the eventful character of Ereignis.

I also critically discuss the work of Derrida, Caputo, Sheehan, and Wood in relation to this interpretation.

All this converges on the development of an idea I call the overturning of ontological difference. This is what Heidegger struggled to articulate with all the variations on the Seinsfrage, and it is the reason that there was any “turn” at all in his writing. What is the overturning? How is it related to the occurrence of being and to the “nether side” of difference? What does this tell us about Heidegger scholarship and philosophical practice?

The paper is available in the Journal of Philosophical Research, or you can download the author’s manuscripts here.

Sep 122014

We can make a mess of things very quickly by trying too hard to force the thinking of past philosophers into relation with dates and events. Philosophy is not unlike politics in that, though a greater understanding may be gained retrospectively, it is written, and lived, forward and in freedom. “Facts” are not the whole truth, but the occasion for it. But I have been reading the recently published English translation of Heidegger’s seminar on Hegel’s Philosophy of Right, and there are some dates that just jump out at me, begging for interpretation.

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Sep 042014

A short but fruitful conversation between Robert Paul Wolff and I begin when he posted comments about a New York Times review of a new book on the historical Eichmann. The new book is Eichmann Before Jerusalem: The Unexamined Life of a Mass Murderer by Bettina Stangneth, and neither of us have read it. But our dialogue about this book we haven’t read was fruitful because it highlighted some of the problems with the Arendt-Eichmann debate that are insufficiently discussed.

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Jul 162014

Luciano Floridi tries to make an analogy between computer systems and philosophy, calling for a “reboot” in philosophy, while promoting his new book here (linked to from here). He says:

Philosophy is a bit like a computer with a memory leak. It starts well, dealing with significant and serious issues that matter to anyone. Yet, in time, its very success slows it down. Philosophy begins to care more about philosophers’ questions than philosophical ones, consuming increasing amount of intellectual attention. Scholasticism is the ultimate freezing of the system, the equivalent of Windows’ “blue screen of death”; so many resources are devoted to internal issues that no external input can be processed anymore, and the system stops. The world may be undergoing a revolution, but the philosophical discourse remains detached and utterly oblivious. Time to reboot the system.

Echoing the always popular sentiment that philosophy is “detached” from something important (politics, history, life, etc.), and riding the wave of cultural optimism about information technology, this analogy sounds smart and relevant. Just what philosophy may need–except if you have any knowledge of actual computer systems, Floridi’s analogy falls flat.

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Apr 252014

Reading this article on “The White Tourist’s Burden”, I couldn’t help but think of Žižek. Or rather, I thought of Hegel, and Žižek was the occasion. What is it that strikes us as not quite right about the idea of voluntourism? Why is it that the fact that there are other things going on (a vacation, for example) along with volunteering takes away from the altruistic act? And why does it matter? Isn’t the school built or the relief aid given the same whether or not the volunteer is acting as part of a tourism package?

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