Time, History, and Social Change
Society for Philosophy in the Contemporary World
Estes Park, Colorado
August 8-14, 1999
Participants are linked to abstracts of their paper where these are available
Sunday August 8: Welcome
Evening Session: The Changing Profession of Philosophy
“An Unsuitable Job for a Philosopher,” Ellen Feder
“Feminism and Philosophy: From Invisibility to Inspiration,” Lani Roberts
Monday August 9: Living and Theorizing the Passage of Time
Morning Session: Tradition
8:30-9:20, “Living Within Tradition,” Laura Duhan Kaplan
9:30-10:20, “Personal Identity and Social Change,” Krassimir Stojanov
10:30-11:20, “Here and Now, There and Then: Nostalgic Identities,” Andreea Deciu
Afternoon Session: Metaphysics of Time
2:00-2:50, “Multiple Parallel Universes and Time Travel,” Judith Presler
3:00-3:50, “Temporal Idealism,” Lee Werth
4:00-4:50, “A Hestian Perspective on Space-Time,” Patricia Thompson
Tuesday August 10: Environmental Ethics
Morning Session: Land and Nature
8:30-9:20, “Land: Expensive Commodity or Expansive Divinity?”, Joe Frank Jones III
9:30-10:20, “The Aesthetics of Nature,” Noel Boulting
10:30-11:20, “Individuation Through Experientialization: James and Mead on Social Differentiation,” Benjamin Hale
Afternoon Activity: Group hike
Evening session: Meaning and Change
“Interpretation and Its Ontological Entanglements,” Michael Krausz
“Where Has All the Meaning Gone?”, Timothy Murphy
Wednesday August 11: Political Philosophy
Morning Session: Democracy and Liberalism
8:30-9:20, “Political Equality and Minority Exclusion,” Andrew Schwartz
9:30-10:20, “Social Change, Class, and the Problem of White Racialized Identity,” Steve Martinot
10:30-11:20, “The Present Crisis and the Politics of Eschatology,” Andrew Fiala
11:30-12:20, “A Response to Fiala’s ‘The Irony of Political Philosophy’,” Richard Detar
Afternoon Session: Critiques of Capitalism
“On the Logic of Social Transformation: Hegel’s Economic Thought and the Case for Market Socialism,”
3:00-3:50, “Reactionary Dystopia,” Robin Podolsky
Evening Session: Business meeting
Thursday August 12: Science and Technology
Morning Session: Social Impact
8:30-9:20, “Angelic Machines,” Raymond Kolcaba
“Proximity and Simulacrum: On the Possibility of Ethics in an Electronically Mediated World,”Lucas Introna
10:30-11:20, “Memes, Minds, and Social Change,” Jeff Jordan
11:30-12:20, “Planck’s Black-body Radiation Problem and the Role of Narrative in Science Practice,”
David Lay, Juan Ferret, William CowlingLunch 12:30-1:50
Afternoon Session: Rereading Major Figures
“Politics and Poesis: Rereading Heidegger’s ‘The Question of Technology’ at the End of the Millenium,”
3:00-3:50, “Freud Among the Ruins,” Matthew Altman
4:00-4:50, “(Sur)passing Time: Hegel and Augustine on the Teleological Subject,” Cynthia Coe
Evening Activity: Group dinner
Friday August 13: Dilemmas of Modernity
Early Morning Activity: Fall River Road Trip
Afternoon Session: Dilemmas of Modernity
1:00-1:50, “The Existential Condition at the Millenium,” Ralph Ellis
2:00-2:50, “The Manliness of Stoicism in Tom Wolfe’s A Man in Full,” William O. Stephens
3:00-3:50, “False Moustaches: Fred and Adolph,” Joseph Ulatowski
Abstracts of Papers
“Freud Among the Ruins: Re-visions of Psychoanalytic Method”
Integral to understanding the recovery of repressed memories through psychoanalysis is an explication of Freud’s “archeology metaphors.” The shift from psychoanalysis as “excavating archeology” to psychoanalysis as “surface archeology” represents two distinct approaches to deciphering trauma. The early Freud employs hypnosis to uncover the cause of the patient’s illness, but presenting him or her with a repressed idea discovered under hypnosis fails to consider the patient’s inability to confront the memory. In later psychoanalytic theory, Freud emphasizes the effort of the analysand: by working through such resistances, the analysand can confront the trauma and subject it to unification with other (conscious) ideas. An exploration of why this shift took place can provide insight into how, under Freudian psychoanalysis, the past simultaneously shapes and is shaped by the present subject, structuring the self-constitution of the subject through the givenness of its history and constituting that history through the activity of interpretation.
“(Sur)passing Time: Hegel and Augustine on the Teleological Subject”
Considerable disparities between Hegel and Augustine’s broader philosophical projects cover over the extent to which they share a conception of subjectivity and temporality as originally tied to presence beyond becoming. This identification depends upon two processes: the internalization of time within the subject, and the reduction of the subject to consciousness. In so doing, both Hegel and Augustine transform the passing of time into the autobiography of a rational self-conscious agent. Yet memory, crucial to the self-representation that sustains this model of subjectivity, betrays the absence of what is to be represented, and reintroduces the problem of the passing that marks temporality. This essay examines the convergence of Hegel and Augustine around the teleological subject, whose self-possession is constantly disrupted by its very attempt to become self-possessed within time.
“Here and Now, There and Then”
Nostalgic Identities and the Search for the Past
This paper engages with the theme of “Personal Identity and Personal Past,” proposing a theory of nostalgia as a hermeneutic representation of the past than can be instrumental in the construction of identity in exiles, in particular. Nostalgia is a loose concept, highly loaded with vague, poetical connotations, commonly believed to be simply synonymous with “homesickness.” By sketching a history of the medical notion of nostalgia and looking into the intellectual context of the emergence of this term in the scientific discourse of the 19th century, I argue for a connection between nostalgia and the theory of narrative identity. I draw on several philosophical conceptions of the self as a narrative project, but I specifically focus on Paul Ricoeur’s distinction between identity as sameness and identity as difference (idem- and ipse-identity). My claim is that, though seemingly distinct and not easy to reconcile, idem- and ipse-identity are contiguous stages of constructing identity. More important, nostalgia illustrates the shift from the former to the latter; thus indicating that identity presupposes a strong sense of sameness, as well as openness to difference and change.
A Response to Andrew Fiala’s “The Irony of Political Philosophy’
At these conferences, there always seems to be a paper or two which I find particularly stimulating, which sometimes means, in part, “I really disagree with them.” Past examples include Joe Jones’s “Meaning, Metaphysics, and the History of Philosophy” and Richard Cohen’s “Religion and Spinoza” in 1995 and Joseph Wagner’s 1997 critique of conservatism as political philosophy. Last year’s winner was Andrew Fiala’s”The Irony of Political Philosophy.” Its author critiques political philosophy as irrational. He does this by setting up what I find to be an unrealistically high standard of rationality, which leads to an ironic attitude, not bad in itself, but which might too easily lend itself to cynicism. I argue that political philosophy is partly rational and partly not, and that this blend of rationality and irrationality simply marks it as an integral part of human life in general.
“The Existential Condition at the Millennium”
Intensification of the experience of value (not just attaining it) must be strong to over shadow Heideggerian finitude. For Levinas, appreciation of another’s value through intense empathy is pulled by vulnerability and finitude. For Unamuno, this compassion of passion determines its force, contrasting a being’s uniqueness and irreplaceability with its possible non-being. This appreciation of value instantiated in love objects is more powerful and more important than ‘happiness.’ Intensely conscious beings (e.g., humans) feel this transforming value experience because they desire to be qua intensely conscious beings, through value-expressive,’ not just ‘drive reductive’ activity – not to attain what valuation posits as desirable, but also to feel and affirm its value. As Freud’s Beyond the Pleasure Principle admits, if pleasure (drive-reduction) were the end of motivation, life’s aim would be death. Love can respond to finitude’s dilemma, not by attaining what we value, but by expressing experiential commitment to those values.
Ellen K. Feder
“An Unsuitable Job for a Philosopher: Graduate Education and the Limits of the Profession”
Recently, philosophers have begun to respond to the prolonged scarcity of academic jobs in the profession and the changes such scarcity might provoke with respect to the conduct of graduate education; nevertheless, there has been a curious lack of distinctively philosophical interrogation of this problem and our response to it. In this paper, I draw on the work of Pierre Bourdieu to pose the question as to what could account for this apparently uncharacteristic refusal to raise questions concerning our practice as philosophers, and argue that our practice does constitute a suitable object of philosophical interrogation.
Individuation through Experientialization: James and Mead on Social Differentiation
Contemporary political philosophy often disregards the potential significance of the natural environment in political decision making. Jürgen Habermas, in particular, advances a heavily anthropocentric picture of discourse and language as fundamental to the functioning of a democratic society. His picture relies on presuppositions about the individuals who comprise democratic societies, individuals who derive their individuality from interactions with other humans. He draws much of this picture from the writings of the American pragmatist George Herbert Mead. This is crucial to Habermas’s Hegelian-Marxism, since Mead provides a theory of the individual that is (i) non-materially based; (ii) dialectically developmental; (iii) intersubjective and (iv) non-essential. In this paper, I argue that the musings of William James-an early American pragmatist and influence on G. H. Mead-may provide a more environmentally responsible picture for Habermas’s discourse ethics. Accounting for the development of an individuated subject through shared and unshared experiences, rather than intersubjectively shared symbols, will allow political theorists to reclaim the natural environment as a relevant ethical arena.
Lucas D. Introna
“Proximity and Simulacrum: On the Possibility of Ethics in an Electronically Mediated World”
In this paper I attempt to develop a critique of the mediation of social relations by means of information technology. In developing this critique, I draw of the work of Emmanuel Levinas. In using his work, I develop my argument in three stages. In the first movement I discuss the notion of the ethical relation as the primordial relation that founds sociality through the notion of proximity. The face of the absolute other puts the ego into question, keeps him hostage. As a hostage the domestication of the other through intentionality is reversed into a substitution, I for the other.
The ego responds “here am I”. No other can take up this response. The accused transcends the tyranny of the ‘there is’ and responds to the face facing it. In the second movement I discuss the how the self encounters the other, the ethical contact. How can the self make contact with the other without turning the other into a theme? The face expresses itself through speaking. In speaking, the other signifies its alterity. In speaking, I face the other that expresses, not content, not something as something, but its otherness which overflows every theme or concept that the ego may bring to it. This expression is in the form of a trace. As a trace it disturbs but is never there to be known. It is a momentarily present but with no past and no future. It disturbs through its persecuting knock but is never there when I open the door. The notion of a trace provides a very subtle understanding of the nature of the ethical contact, the proximity of the other. In the third movement, I discuss the mediation of the social through information technology as simulation. I argue that simulation shatters proximity since it turns everything into an image (its like-ness). The ‘distance’ produced by the mediation is one in which the ego can no longer be disturbed; no longer become a hostage. As such the trace of the face becomes part of the image. To be presented and re/presented in an endless play of the image. In the final section, I explore the possibility of electronic mediation that preserves the trace, that possibility of being disturbed.
Joe Frank Jones III
“Land: Expensive Commodity or Expansive Divinity?”
This essay is basically about place, which is to say the effect physical location has on persons. The concept of place has a long and obscure career as a sometimes pallid reflection of the experience persons have of place, but has often, lately, been upstaged by a relative newcomer, space, which is to say the geometricized, or universalized version of place. Certain philosophico-religious views stand or fall depending on whether one countenances place or space exclusively, particularly the status of experience which has traditionally been counted as religious. Neither exclusive view is correct and there is truth in both. I try in this essay to say what the boundaries between these categories might be, which is an attempt to say what an authentic relationship with physical place might be. Comparison and contrast points of view from Native Americans, and the author’s experience of the power of place to change one’s views, in this case the Garden of Gethsemene in Jerusalem, are used as foils, or stories, to help with words for wordless experiences.
“Memes, Minds, and Social Change”
In 1976, in the last chapter of his book The Selfish Gene, Richard Dawkins, the Oxford zoologist, speculated that in addition to the gene, there existed another unit of replication, the meme, which accounts for cultural evolution, much as the gene accounts for biological evolution.
In this paper I flesh out Dawkins idea of the meme. In particular, I take a look at an argument that the existence of memes renders the idea of a human self superfluous. In a memetic universe, there are two only kinds of organisms: there are replicators genes and memes – and there are vehicles – the flora and fauna of everyday life. There is no place in that universe for what common-sense calls minds, or selves.
Laura Duhan Kaplan
“Living Within Tradition”
Hans Georg-Gadamer describes living within tradition as a continuous process of fusing the present with the past. In this paper, I explore three examples of such fusion: connecting philosophical theory with lived experience; reconstructing ancient religious tradition in terms of contemporary ethical norms; and making sense of contemporary women’s issues in light of fragmented knowledge of women’s history. The common thread running through the examples are the interpretation of metaphor, the ambiguity of time, and the question of personal identity.
Is machine autonomy the same as human autonomy? Answers to this question are developed in philosophical dialog. Becket Geist, a romantic philosopher with scientific leanings, is irked by the arrogance of FortranMcCyborg at Model 2000 cyborg. Nonette Naturski, a champion of naturalistic views, joins Becket in playing devil’s advocate by arguing that Fortran is not free, does not make choices, and does not perform actions. In response to the attempts to reduce his status, Fortran ups the ante by arguing for yet higher status— that he is an angel. The dialog closes with the realization that the conversation which denied Fortranautonomous status presupposed it on some level. At the 1996 SPCW conference, I presented a dialog with the same characters called Loss of the World. Angelic Machines picks up where it left off.
David Lay, Juan Ferret, and William Cowling
“Planck’s Black-body Radiation Problem and the Role of Narrative in Science Practice”
We argue in this paper that narrative plays a constituitive role in science practice. We show that an adequate understanding of narrative might have helped resolve the dilemma Planck faced as he struggled to interpret the results of his Black-body radiation problem in light of what we claim was the entrenched narrative of classical physics within which his work was originally situated.
Where Has All the Meaning Gone?
A phenomenon of modern society has been characterized by a pervasive meaninglessness. This loss of meaning, this paper proposes, is rooted in the demise of our frames of reference, which can no longer be taken for granted as basic assumptions. This paper analyzes frameworks, first of all, in terms of whether the analyzer is observing from within a particular framework or from outside of it. Secondly, it examines notion of open and closed frames. This distinction of open and closed frames will be examined in terms of Kierkegaard’s criticism of Hegel’s System. While this paper focuses primarily on language, it will also examine what mathematics in the form of Georg Cantor’s “Theory of Transfinite Numbers” and Kurt Godel’s “Incompleteness Theorems” reveal about frames and the implications of these observations to meaning.
“Dystopia Rules: The Nitty Gritty City and Reactionary Chic”
This paper examines the extent to which dismal visions of the polymorphous, polygot world city (visions that sport a hypercool urban “look” and appeal to visual pleasure) are utilized, in popular film and TV, to promote anti-cosmopolitanism and a political agenda that starves cities, favors small towns and suburbs and rewards white flight. Such dystopic exercises foreclose all hope except for individual escape. Images developed from counter-cultural rebellion are appropriated in service of conservative values and portray the triumph of the market as the endpoint of history. For the neo-conservative rightwing, are we at the end of time; has teleology stopped? For the rest of us, can there be Utopian visions without naivete, tyrannical blueprints or annoying smarminess? For clues, we’ll look to techno-drama from Blade Runner to The Matrixand to the worldview clashes played out in the Star Trek permutations. Can we re-vision the future as that which we have not yet seen?
“Politics and Poesis: Rereading Heidegger’s ‘The Question Concerning Technology’ at the End of the Millennium”
In this paper I maintain that it is no longer possible to read Martin Heidegger’s essay, “The Question Concerning Technology” as favourably as before the proliferation of literature on his support for National Socialism. I maintain that although his diagnosis of the dangers of modern technology is apt, his antidote, which privileges the poiesis of the ancient Greeks, requires more careful analysis. Providing an exegesis of the text and drawing on recent criticism, I argue that it suggests shades of fascist politics subtly expressed under the aegis of a mythical Greco-Germanic ideal. I contend that it has little to unambiguously contribute to the establishment of a genuine human freedom which is not defined by conformity to a singular model of identity, by liberation from the body, nor by adherence to an elitist and undemocratic politics. At millennium’s end, the epochal dawn to which Heidegger alludes warrants caution rather than reassurance of a “saving power”.
William O. Stephens
“The Manliness of Stoicism in Tom Wolfe’s A Man in Full”
Wolfe’s protagonist, Charlie Croker, is the model of manliness early in the novel. But Croker’s vanity and overweening ambition bring him to the brink of financial ruin, social disgrace, and marital disaster. It is the working class manual laborer Conrad Hensley who discovers Epictetus in prison and is deeply inspired by Stoicism. Hensley becomes the paradigm of manliness once armed with the Stoic wisdom and moral fortitude, which Croker has yet to acquire. The manly self-sufficiency, social courage, strength of character, and uncompromising moral integrity demanded by Stoicism prove the deliverance of both Hensley and his convert Croker. I explicate how Stoicism both articulates and transforms the conception of manliness in A Man in Full.
“Personal Identity and Social Change towards a Posttraditional Lifeworld”
The paper attempts to describe mechanisms personal identity development in regard of the radical break with traditions, which is typical for the age of reflexive modernity. Here the development is no longer possible on the base of identification with inreflexive, traditionally given symbols of a local culture. The posttraditional identity does not refer to the past but to the future, which has optional as well as contingental character. This identity is been formed through participation in a kind of intersubjectivity with a reflexive and universal structure. I try explaining this model of intersubjectivity by a comparative analysis of two opposite concepts of interpersonal communication, respectively of the relationship between I and We – namely those of Charles Taylor and Jürgen Habermas.
Joseph W. Ulatowski
“False Mustaches: Fried and Adolf”
This paper explores the relationship between the moral system of Friedrich Nietzsche and Adolf Hitler. Hitler, hiding behind a “false mustache,” exploited Nietzsche’s moral philosophy, thus concealing Nietzsche’s true moral doctrine. This essay intends to clarify whether Hitler actually produced a systematic approach to morality based in Nietzsche’s teachings. Although there are some token similarities between the world views of Nietzsche and Hitler, this relationship neither permits a direct correlation nor does it exonerate the charge that Nietzsche’s philosophy had some influence over Hitler’s tyrannical reign of Nazi Europe.
It is argued that Platonizing space-time and embracing a “block” universe has many conceptual advantages. Time need not begin ex nihilo; time on such a view is mind-dependent and relative to the elements of the “block” which are being experienced. Plato’s cave allegory receives a contemporary interpretation in which we are to understand ourselves as at least four-dimensional. Plato claimed that time is the moving image of eternity. The eternity imaged (experienced) is an immutable space-“time” physical universe on this view. Temporal idealism can accommodate empirical physics without ruling out a priori alleged parapsychologicalphenomena such as precognition, or the significance of mystical experience.