Something from the archives

Archive of Richard Rorty’s contributions over at the London Review of Books. All of Rorty’s contributions to the fortnightly magazine are available online, most of them for free. Other famous philosophers whose work is archived include A. J. Ayer, Thomas Nagel, Bernard Williams and Terry Eagleton; see here for a full list of contributors. Continue reading “Something from the archives”

Sonic Warfare

kode9 aka Steve Goodman

Steve Goodman’s Sonic Warfare was published in November. Goodman is best known under his alias kode9, which he uses as a producer, DJ and founder of the record label Hyperdub. However, Goodman (unbeknownst probably to many of his fans) has written extensively on philosophical themes, taking his PhD at Warwick where he was also a member of the influential Ccru (see here for an article describing their theoretical position and methods as well as their fraught relationship with University of Warwick authorities).

Sonic Warfare focuses on the use of sound “to modulate affect” – as a weapon in postmodern warfare, as a method of crowd control, or as a way or creating “bad vibes”. Goodman draws heavily on Deleuze and Guattari, Kodwo Eshun and A. N. Whitehead, at the same time offering perceptive critiques of Virilio, Bergson and Marinetti, among others.

Goodman focuses on sound as vibration, and it is this that distinguishes his position. Firstly, it leads him to describe the sonic as amodal, pre-sensory, working at the most fundamental ontological level. Secondly, the sonic is re-imagined as non-anthropocentric, since it is no longer reliant on human audition. Instead, it is a concept that stretches from the vibrations at a quantum level to those at an architectural level in 21st century cities. He offers a radical reimagining of the concept of sound/unsound, casting it as a force that can be deployed to remould and reorder societies, bodies, and the very ontological structure of human beings.

Art and Negative Affect
By Aaron Smuts , Temple University
(Vol. 4, February 2009)
Philosophy Compass

Taste and Objectivity: The Emergence of the Concept of the Aesthetic
By Elisabeth Schellekens , University of Durham
(Vol. 4, August 2009)
Philosophy Compass

Twittering On

The Thread begins a new series on London’s Resonance FM, starting with an episode entitled ‘The Poetics of Twitter‘. The Twitter device reveals interesting and often counter-intuitive phenomena that challenge pre-conceived philosophical and aesthetic notions – about formation of the self, about Ego, about what ‘space’ or ‘network’ might mean, about semiotics.

Most fascinating are the multifarious manipulations of the Twitter form by artists, poets, academics: a piece of software designed to attract followers according to an exponential scale and then groom these followers according to a specific demographic; another that posted every letter typed into a particular PC directly onto a Twitter account, revealing intimate details of a person’s activities; another using Twitter as the structural framework for a kind of automatic poetry.

Fascinating also is what the response to such new media may be from traditional academic circles. In an attempt to keep up with hyperspeed technology, will we see more fragmentary, topical discussion-based analysis and less long-form literature?

Related articles:
Experimental Philosophy
By Joshua Knobe , University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill
(Vol. 1, November 2006)
Philosophy Compass

The Text-Performance Relation in Theater
By James Hamilton , Kansas State University
(Vol. 4, June 2009)
Philosophy Compass

Punking the BNP

Scientific_racism_irishK-Punk (aka writer Mark Fisher) writes about possible responses to the BNP on his blog:

“Much of the BNP’s appeal derives from its granting of legitimacy to those feelings of resentment and aggrievement – yes, it says, you’re right to feel angry and betrayed…Here, class emerges…But this brief flash of class antagonism is immediately subsumed by race-logic”.

Later on he notes that any effective response to the BNP cannot simply argue with the BNP within the current framework, but seek to undermine the framework itself, this thing that sublimates class differences into racial differences. He describes this process using a particularly philosophically-loaded term: Narrative.

Narrative is that which gives structure to everyday human existence – it is historical, social. In After Virtue, Alasdair Macintyre argues that the self is a “narrative self” (as opposed to an “emotive self”) – identity is constructed by the myriad roles an individual plays in multiple systems. The good for an individual must therefore be “the good for one who inhabits these roles” (AV, 220). If Macintyre’s argument holds water, this means that social critiques – such as the one detailed in the previous paragraph – have not only political implications, but moral ones.

Related articles:

Contemporary virtue ethics
By Karen Stohr, Georgetown University
(Vol. 1, February 2006)
Philosophy Compass

Race, Colorblindness, and Continental Philosophy
By Michael J. Monahan , Marquette University
(Vol. 1, September 2006)
Philosophy Compass

In Defence of Lost Causes?

401px-University_of_Warwick_flag_2007Warwick University announces the creation of a new post in the Philosophy department: ‘Senior Fellow in the Public Understanding of Philosophy’. The role will be taken up by Angela Hobbs, and will involve her ‘bringing Philosophy to as wide an audience as possible both domestically and internationally’. As Mark Vernon notes, this parallels Richard Dawkins position with regard to Science at Oxford. Obviously any attempt to make Philosophy engage with the world/society in general, and to make the world/society engage with Philosophy, is a good thing. However, if the following comment on Vernon’s article by ‘smellthecoffee’ is anything to go by, Hobbs has her work cut out:

‘There are two types of philosophers
1. The bullshit peddlers: academics from universities who have no real experience of life outside their hallowed halls and dining rooms, but can quote a million words and call it debate.
2. Academics from the university of life: (except the above) from dishwashers to billionaires whose philosophy comes from personal experience.’

Good luck to her.

Related articles
The Open Borders Debate on Immigration
By Shelley Wilcox , San Francisco State University
(Vol. 4, September 2009)
Philosophy Compass

Recent Work on Cinema as Philosophy
By Paisley Livingston , Lingnan University
(Vol. 3, June 2008)
Philosophy Compass

Owls and Rave Music

Minerva
Minerva

Sorry to make it two in two on Simon Reynolds but something else struck me when writing my previous post. A recent grenade in certain parts of the blogosphere has been his concept of a “hardcore continuum”, the theory of a strand of music stretching from breakbeat hardcore in the early nineties, through jungle and garage to dubstep and grime in the noughties. Reynolds writes in his introduction to his seminal series of articles in The Wire that “it was only in 1999…that I really became conscious that for several years I’d been documenting a continuum of musical culture that emerged out of the British rave scene”. In doing so he makes explicit something that lately seems to have slipped his mind: that it is only after something has happened that we can begin to understand it. This is what Hegel meant when he said that “the owl of Minerva spreads its wings only with the falling of dusk” – we can only understand a particular historical (or social or cultural) moment once it has passed. Continue reading “Owls and Rave Music”

In defence of theory

theory as drug
theory as drug

A recent article for frieze by Simon Reynolds defends the importance of theory in discussions of music. Several issues raised by this:

1. The fact that writers such as Reynolds feel the need to jump to its defence is a symptom of the profound mistrust that large parts of society have of Theory, specifically critical/cultural theory, sometimes known as continental philosophy. Is this something that is growing or has it always been the case? Continue reading “In defence of theory”