Philosophy

Ted Cohen (1939–2014)

March 21, 2014
By
Ted Cohen (1939–2014)

Ted Cohen, legendary professor at the University of Chicago and scholar of aesthetic philosophy, whose expertise included, “jokes, baseball, television, photography, painting and sculpture, as well as the philosophy of language and formal logic,” passed away last Friday at age 74.

From the University of Chicago News:

While some philosophers aim to construct large-scale theories, others “look with a very fine, acute eye at specific phenomena and work from the example outwards, beginning with the ordinary and exposing the extraordinary within it,” said Cohen’s longtime friend and colleague Josef Stern. “Ted was that kind of philosopher.” From the Chicago Maroon:

Many students remembered him as an expert in his field and an excellent professor, always welcoming others’ insight and connecting his rambling anecdotes back to the text. The “classic image” of him smoking outside of Harper Memorial Library wearing a red beret will also be a part of that memory, said fourth-year Julie Huh. “His presence exuded such nonchalance, and he always took his time with his cigarette outside Harper.”

We remember Ted Cohen as the author of Jokes: Philosophical Thoughts on Joking Matters (1999) and contributor to The Great Latke–Hamentash . . .

Read more »

Excerpt: Robert B. Pippin’s After the Beautiful

January 23, 2014
By
Excerpt: Robert B. Pippin’s After the Beautiful

Excerpt from After the Beautiful: Hegel and the Philosophy of Pictorial Modernism by Robert B. Pippin

There are many reasons to be skeptical that anything of value can result from trying to project Hegel into the future like this. After all, anyone who has heard anything about Hegel has probably heard that he said two things: that philosophy was its own time understood in thought, and some summary of the following remarks.

In all these respects art, considered in its highest vocation, is and remains for us a thing of the past. Thereby it has lost for us genuine truth and life, and has rather been transferred into our ideas instead of maintaining its earlier necessity in reality and occupying its higher place. What is now aroused in us by works of art is not just immediate enjoyment but our judgment also, since we subject to our intellectual consideration (i) the content of art, and (ii) the work of art’s means of presentation, and the appropriateness or inappropriateness of both to one another. The philosophy of art is therefore a greater need in our day than it . . .

Read more »

Excerpt: Contesting Nietzsche

December 2, 2013
By
Excerpt: Contesting Nietzsche

An excerpt from Contesting Nietzsche by Christa Davis Acampora

***

Homer is Nietzsche’s exemplar for two key crucial concerns throughout his works: creativity and power. The potency of Homer’s poetic transformation of human toil and struggle both fascinated and spurred Nietzsche to try to capture and command the same kind of force. Nietzsche’s Homer is not simply the founder of a certain form of culture; he is a revolutionary, a reformer, someone who effects a tremendous revaluation. Thus, it is important in Nietzsche’s account that Homer is late. Here, late means that Nietzsche regards the emergence of what is classically considered Homeric as standing at the end of a significant period of cultural development rather than at the beginning. Nietzsche regards Homer as having overcome dominant cultural traditions that developed prior to his arrival on the scene. Thus, he considers Homeric literature to be a late development in Greek culture rather than its founding moment. The life of struggle, previously . . .

Read more »

Bernard E. Harcourt, from Occupy Wall Street

November 20, 2013
By
Bernard E. Harcourt, from Occupy Wall Street

Compelled by the title of Bernard E. Harcourt’s upcoming talk (tomorrow) at Yale University—

“So Michel Foucault and Gary Becker Walk into a Bar. . . .  A Lecture and Conversation with Bernard Harcourt on Punishment, Sexual Capital, and Neoliberalism”—we remembered a passage of his from Occupy: Three Inquiries In Disobedience. “We the People”: Myth and Democratic Challenge Judith Butler said, at Occupy Wall Street, “We’re standing here together making democracy, enacting the phrase ‘We the people!'” A bold statement—indeed, a real reappropriation that raises deep questions about this collective myth.

In an odd way, it almost feels as if the Occupy movement had it harder than other contemporary resistance movements—dare I say, harder than even the Arab Spring revolutions. To be sure, the resisters in the Arab world faced (and may still face today) brutal authoritarian regimes. They risked, and in many cases lost, their lives. Their unmatched courage has been an inspiration around the world. On that count, they have stared down a far more violent and oppressive adversary than anyone else. But they had one. They had an identifiable adversary—oppressive and authoritarian regimes—that they could target and topple. They had and have a concrete goal, grievances, an objective, . . .

Read more »

The Idea of Nature, the Nature of Ideas

July 17, 2013
By
The Idea of Nature, the Nature of Ideas

Guest blogger: Ryo Yamaguchi

It is hard to imagine the world—or ourselves for that matter —without DNA, but for most of our intellectual history we knew nothing about those slender molecules. The modern microscope was invented near the beginning of the seventeenth century, with Friedrich Miescher isolating DNA in the late nineteenth, and between those times theories regarding biological formation and reproduction were explored by Enlightenment thinkers and scientists such as John Locke, Anton van Leeuwenhoek, Carl Linnaeus, and Comte de Buffon. We overlook it now as common knowledge, but biological reproduction was something these people had to think through, to explain without DNA, and the debates between concepts such as God, mechanics, fermentation, homunculi—and how they could inform life’s larger lineages, of the differences between species, of a natural history as a whole—abounded.

Enter Immanuel Kant. Many of us do not think of Kant as a biologist, but he was deeply interested in natural history throughout his career, an interest that Jennifer Mensch takes up in Kant’s Organicism, published last month. Situating Kant among the above thinkers, she shows not only that Kant had theories of his own on the . . .

Read more »

PODCASTS: A not-quite episodic series

February 7, 2013
By
PODCASTS: A not-quite episodic series

The phonograph predates the podcast by about 125 years, but theoretically any device used to reproduce sound could carry the moniker. So we say: ready your zonographs and talking machines—as part of our ongoing podcast series, hosted by Chris Gondek of Heron & Crane, we’re delivering a fresh batch from some of our Fall 2012 and Spring 2013 favorites. More information and links for listening below.

***

Stephen T. Asma’s Against Fairness vindicates our unspoken and undeniable instinct to favor—and makes the case for favoring favoritism, so to speak. In this podcast interview, Asma considers where preferential bias fits in our utilitarian construction of fairness—and what this might have to say about our larger ethical worldview. The job of the philosopher, the evolutionary advantages of favoritism, Confucian thought, quotable Gandhi, the multinational politics of maternity leave, and the ideology of equality all make an appearance in a larger discussion about what might lead us to happier, more productive lives.

Listen to the podcast here.

***

First Son: The Biography of Richard M. Daley has already been heralded by Publishers Weekly as “compelling,” “dynamic,” “highly focused” and “meticulous.” In his . . .

Read more »

Joseph Cropsey, political philosopher (1919-2012)

July 9, 2012
By
Joseph Cropsey, political philosopher (1919-2012)

Joseph Cropsey—American political philosopher; distinguished service professor emeritus in the Department of Political Science at the University of Chicago; dedicated teacher; and coeditor of the “Strauss–Cropsey Reader” (History of Political Philosophy), a staple in universities for fifty years—died last week at the age of 92.

Cropsey completed his PhD in economics at Columbia University in 1952, with a dissertation on the work of Adam Smith, one of his lifelong scholarly interests (in addition to interstitial aspects in the works of Plato and Karl Marx, the figure of Socrates and issues of philosophical sobriety, and the limitations and entrapments of modern liberalism). By 1957, Cropsey was at the University of Chicago (after stints at the CCNY and the New School) as a Rockefeller Foundation Fellow, following Leo Strauss, who would become his most significant collaborator, and assist in his intellectual turn from economics to political philosphy.

The University of Chicago News Office reports on their intellectual partnership:

Strauss encouraged Cropsey to examine texts deeply. “When Strauss was at the head of his class, sitting up there, he would at a certain point say, ‘What does this mean?’ When I have . . .

Read more »

In Search of Goodness

March 31, 2011
By
In Search of Goodness

“Be good and you will be lonesome.”—Mark Twain

What constitutes goodness? For Twain, there’s humor in how we uphold the idea of the “good” alongside an exalted code of social behavior. Follow it too righteously and you might miss out on the fun, something quite literally suggested by Katharine Hepburn in an often-quoted line: “If you obey all the rules, you miss all the fun.” But is goodness really about the nature of our actions? What does a good life look like? How does one become good? And how is a good life involved with the lives of others?

In Search of Goodness, a new collection edited by Ruth W. Grant, grapples with just these questions. Contributors explore the concept of the good from diverse angles and multiple approaches, from film and literature to cognitive psychology and moral philosophy, all while enlisting a cast of characters that includes Billy Budd, Shel Silverstein, Iris Murdoch, Achilles, and Oskar Schindler, among others. In Search of Goodness problematizes the dichotomies that have long governed our discussions of the good while at the same time offering an array of insights which help us to understand this complex ideal.

Grant, a professor of political . . .

Read more »

Richard McKeon: Twentieth-Century Man

March 22, 2011
By
Richard McKeon: Twentieth-Century Man

By all accounts, philosopher Richard McKeon (1900-85) was a legend in the classroom. The list of students for whom McKeon shepherded an academic pursuit or two reads like a roster of the twentieth-century’s most noted cultural figures: Robert Coover, Paul Goodman, Susan Sontag, Richard Rorty, Paul Rabinow, and Wayne Booth, among them. But McKeon never quite knocked out the one bankable work that makes an intellectual’s name. Instead, his contributions—to everything from human rights, medieval philosophy, and the history of science to dialectics, literary criticism, and rhetoric—remain as diverse as the pluralist approach he helped espouse.

**

Our own executive editor Doug Mitchell shares the following thoughts about McKeon’s contributions to twentieth-century thought:

The University of Chicago Press has been home to many publications by and about Richard McKeon, going back to editions of Cicero and Aristotle and up to an ongoing series of Selected Papers in three volumes, of which two are already published, with a third due in 2013. McKeon’s range as a philosopher was enormous (from metaphysics and philosophy of science to ethics and international politics to aesthetics, education, and the philosophic arts, with special emphasis on the arts of logic and rhetoric). His participation in . . .

Read more »

William James, 100 years gone

August 23, 2010
By
William James, 100 years gone

This Thursday, August 26th, will mark the centenary of the death of William James, and to mark that date the online literary site The Second Pass has declared this William James Week.

In an introductory post, the site’s editor, John Williams, writes,

I read The Varieties of Religious Experience for the first time about four years ago, and I quickly became a James fanatic.… I’ve found since discovering his work for myself that fellow fans share my affection for him, my sense that he is almost a real friend—a remarkable feeling to have for any author, much less one who has been gone for a century.

It’s a feeling that is far from uncommon from those who read James—in many ways he is the opposite of his brother Henry, warm where Henry is cerebral, accessible where Henry is occluded, open and even friendly where Henry is stand-offish. On a recent episode of Melvyn Bragg’s BBC show “In Our Time,” philosopher Jonathan Ree described James in similar terms:

First of all, I think William James is one of the greatest philosophers ever, and he’s untypical. Twentieth-century philosophers, I think, fall into two groups: they’re either nitpicking, pettifogging bureaucrats . . .

Read more »

Search for books and authors