A Shameful Plea for Patience

November 27, 2007

Sorry folks. My plans for various posts have come to naught as life takes its toll. Things should settle down quite a bit after my phone interview next Monday — unless, of course, that leads to an on campus interview. If so, all bets are off.

Occasional posting will resume eventually.

A Shameless Plea for Comments

November 5, 2007

We’ve now reached the highwater mark for visitors to this site twice in three days: four! Four distinct IP addresses have made their way here on two separate days, and as many as twelve human beings may have seen this website. Yet as one of these visitors noted: no comments. Not even a “This website sucks,” nor a “Your monkey’s kung fu is weak.” This is not keeping with the radically democratic ethos of the internet age.

So c’mon folks: pony up the verbiage. Your courage shall be justly rewarded. Conversely, your reticence will be ruthlessly punished by “chain letter normativity.” You will most likely get sued by a “Maori lawyer” and attacked by a vervet monkey, possibly simultaneously. Trust me, this is not fun.

Article Titles

November 5, 2007

I think we all know that the best part of writing an article is contemplating the title. Some favorites from over the years:

  • The late, great Joseph Yeh’s idea for a paper on Heidegger: “We Are Stuck.” Best of all, the paper itself would be only the title, with each word footnoted. The footnotes for “We” and “Stuck” would be about 10 pages each. The footnote for “Are” would simply say, “Cf. Being and Time.”
  • I can’t remember if it was Robert Shields, I, or the combination that came up with writing the same paper about personal identity over time twice, once for a stereotypically continental audience, the other time for an equally cartoonishly analytic readership. I can’t remember the continental title precisely (something like “Liminal(who[a])man: Face/Space/Place o’ the Other”), but the analytic title was to be “I @ T2”.
  • Now it looks like the project I’m batting about here will need to be titled something like “Normativity, Explanation, and the Ends of the Social Sciences,” but I remain committed to someday writing a paper titled either “Turner-Proof Practices” or, better, “How to Turner-Proof Your Practices”.

So yesterday Greig Mulberry and I were talking all of this out, and realized again that our projects seem to be leading very slowly but inexhorably to an apologia for some sort of neo-Hegelianism, but without the determinism. A couple of quips from Greig later and our destiny was clear:

“Hegel: Now with Finitude!”

Followed, of course, by:

“Extreme Hegel: Now with Even More Finitude!!”

The universe, and the market, demand it.

Normativists vs. Naturalists

November 5, 2007

Here’s another way to frame this debate: the normativists (Rouse, Risjord, and Steuber) think that normativity plays some role in the generation of human behavior, and the naturalists (Turner, Henderson, and Roth) reject all such proposals as invoking the “supernatural.”

For the sake of argument, accept the naturalists’ view, but distinguish the what, how, and why of action, and note that their causal explanations can only really get at the how. But social sciences and social theory have to be concerned with the what and the why of action as well. In many cases, “how” is the least interesting aspect of human behavior.