Pragmatism has enjoyed a major resurgence in Anglo-American philosophy over the course of the last decade or two, and Robert Brandom’s work – particularly his 1994 tome Making it Explicit (MIE) – has been at the vanguard of this resurgence (Brandom 1994).2 But pragmatism comes in several surprisingly distinct flavours. Authors such as Hubert Dreyfus find their roots in certain parts of Heidegger and in phenomenologists such as Merleau-Ponty, and they privilege embodied, preconceptual skills as opposed to discursive practices as (...) the basic sites of meaning and agency (Dreyfus 1991; Dreyfus 1992; Todes 2001). With strong inheritances from Dewey and Wittgenstein, Richard Rorty has championed a pragmatism whose core emphasis is on the rejection of transcendental truth and high metaphysical theorizing (Rorty 1982), and this anti-theoretical banner has been taken up by several prominent ethicists, among others. For his part, Brandom, who purports to offer a systematic theory of language and meaning grounded on a foundation of pragmatic normative relationships between speakers, looks back instead to Sellars and Quine for his stripe of pragmatism. Near the start of MIE, he writes: The explanatory strategy pursued here is to begin with an account of social practices, identify the particular structure they must exhibit in order to qualify as specifically linguistic practices, and then consider what different sorts of semantic contents those practices can confer on states, performances, and expressions caught up in them in suitable ways. (Brandom 1994, xiii) Despite his professed pragmatism, Brandom is no foe of high theory or metanarratives, and he is vastly more interested in language and theoretical reason than in the rest of human bodily activity. For Brandom, inferentially articulated discourse forms an autonomous domain of normativity, while our bodily encounters with the world in perception and in action serve as language entry and exit points respectively.. (shrink)
In this article, we present an analysis of defeasible generalizations -- generalizations which are essentially exception-laden, yet genuinely explanatory -- in terms of various notions of privileged conditions. We argue that any plausible epistemology must make essential use of defeasible generalizations so understood. We also consider the epistemic significance of the sort of understanding of context that is required for understanding of explanatory defeasible generalizations on any topic.
Particularism is a justly popular ‘cutting-edge’ topic in contemporary ethics across the world. Many moral philosophers do not, in fact, support particularism (instead defending "generalist" theories that rest on particular abstract moral principles), but nearly all would take it to be a position that continues to offer serious lessons and challenges that cannot be safely ignored. Given the high standard of the contributions, and that this is a subject where lively debate continues to flourish, Challenging Moral Particularism will become required (...) reading for professionals and advanced students working in the area. (shrink)
What is the function of concepts pertaining to meaning in socio-linguistic practice? In this study, the authors argue that we can approach a satisfactory answer by displacing the standard picture of meaning talk as a sort of description with a picture that takes seriously the similarity between meaning talk and various types of normative injunction. In their discussion of this approach, they investigate the more general question of the nature of the normative, as well as a range of important topics (...) specific to the philosophy of language. (shrink)
We discuss first a "stance" methodology toward the problem of personhood. This is to ask first, what it is to take something to be a person, and then to move via a notion of appropriateness to an answer to what it is to be a person. We argue that the distinctions between persons and non-persons, between agents and patients, and between subjects and mere objects are deeply connected. All three distinctions are themselves traced to a fundamental distinction within the space (...) of reasons -- between, that is, two sorts of material inferential propriety. These two structures of inference are made explicit by indicative and subjunctive conditionals. Tracing personhood to the fundamentally stereoscopic structure of material inference sheds light not only on notions of freedom, agency, and personhood, but on the nature of modal judgments, on the conceptual space of causation, and on the semantics of the explicitating conditionals. We conclude with a pragmatic argument for belief in persons. (shrink)
Curiously, though he provides in Making It Explicit (MIE) elaborate accounts of various representational idioms, of anaphora and deixis, and of quantification, Robert Brandom nowhere attempts to lay out how his understanding of content and his view of the role of logical idioms combine in even the simplest cases of what he calls paradigmatic logical vocabulary. That is, Brandom has a philosophical account of content as updating potential - as inferential potential understood in the sense of commitment or entitlement preservation (...) - and says that the point of logical vocabulary is to make available the expressive resources to make explicit such semantic structures as arise from discursive scorekeeping practice. Thus, one would expect an account of the updating or inferential potential of sentences involving logical vocabulary, an account which is such as to assign to those sentences the inferential significance necessary for this expressive job. In short, one would expect a semantics of logical vocabulary - &, ν, ∼ → - in terms of the difference an assertion of a sentence involving it makes to the atomic score of a linguistic agent, and a completeness proof for the logic generated by this semantics. Despite this, no such semantics is given in MIE. It is in the current paper. (shrink)
In "The Logical Structure of Linguistic Commitment I" (The Journal of Philosophical Logic 23 (1994), 369-400), we sketch a linguistic theory (inspired by Brandom's Making it Explicit) which includes an "expressivist" account of the implication connective, →: the role of → is to "make explicit" the inferential proprieties among possible commitments which proprieties determine, in part, the significances of sentences. This motivates reading (A → B) as "commitment to A is, in part, commitment to B". Our project is to study (...) the logic of →. LSLC I approximates (A → B) as "anyone committed to A is committed to B", ignoring issues of whether A is relevant to B. The present paper includes considerations of relevance, motivating systems of relevant commitment entailment related to the systems of commitment entailment of LSLC I. We also consider the relevance logics that result from a commitment reading of Fine's semantics for relevance logics, a reading that Fine suggests. (shrink)
What is the logic of entailment? The latter half of the twentieth century has seen, for even the simplest languages, a proliferation of distinct formal entailment systems, each having those willing to defend its status as the answer. Among those defenders, and among the most adamant and mutually critical, are the champions of strict implication and relevance logic. To an outsider, this debate must seem singularly odd. Here we have a group of philosophers who cannot agree on the validity of (...) a simple, easily comprehensible inference scheme. They seem to think that they are not talking past one another---that there is some reality each seeks to describe---for they continue to write articles declaring that the opposing view is wrong. Yet they cannot seem to convince the other side that their view is even remotely plausible, thus leading some to an instrumentalist dismissal of the whole debate.I argue that the defenders of the two systems are right to suggest that something deeper is at issue between them than mere usefulness in particular applied contexts. Once we see what this is, however, we will see that they are, after all, talking past one another. When we succeed in clarifying the crucial underlying issue, we can then succeed in clarifying the crucial distinction between two dimensions of the underlying concept. Both the classicalist and the relevantist, then, will be seen to have accurately captured one dimension of the root concept. (shrink)
Reasoning es una obra monumental de más de mil páginas editada en estrecha colaboración por el filósofo Jonathan E. Adler y el psicólogo Lance J. Rips para esclarecer el intrincado campo de investigación relacionado con los fundamentos de la inferencia y, en general, del razonamiento humano. En la actualidad, en pocos casos va unido el trabajo de compilar y editar textos científicos con el afán enciclopédico: un proyecto editorial que sobrepasa con razón los objetivos de la mayor parte de (...) los libros editados para la recopilación de artículos en torno a un mismo tema de investigación. Reasoning supone un empeño de características enciclopédicas: ha conseguido convertirse en una referencia obligada desde que saliera a la luz en 2008 para ofrecer al lector especialista artículos científicos de las más reputadas y consolidadas voces en aquellos campos de conocimiento presentes ya en los proyectos enciclopédicos europeos del siglo de las luces, a saber: el significado del racionalismo, los límites imputables a la naturaleza del conocimiento humano, las paradojas presentes en la inducción, etc. (shrink)
Do we need defeasible generalizations in epistemology, generalizations that are genuinely explanatory yet ineliminably exception-laden? Do we need them to endow our epistemology with a substantial explanatory structure? Mark Lance and Margaret Little argue for the claim that we do. I will argue that we can just as well do without them – at least in epistemology. So in the paper, I am trying to very briefly sketch an alternative contextualist picture. More specifically, the claim will be that although (...) an epistemic contextualist should commit himself to epistemic holism he can nevertheless appeal to epistemic principles other than defeasible generalizations in order to provide his epistemology with a structure. (shrink)
O Jornalismo Esportivo utiliza-se da memória como forma de fortalecer conceitos e ideias associadas ao futebol, aos clubes e seus torcedores. No Brasil, o diário esportivo Lance! recorreu ao passado na cobertura anterior da final do Campeonato Carioca de 2009, como parte da estratégia de lançamento de uma promoção. O trabalho avalia a produção, nesta circunstância, do discurso para atrair o torcedor do Botafogo.
continent. 2.1 (2012): 40–43. Lance Olsen is a professor of Writing and Literature at the University of Utah, Chair of the FC2 Board of directors, and, most importantly, author or editor of over twenty books of and about innovative literature. He is one of the true champions of prose as a viable contemporary art form. He has just published Architectures of Possibility (written with Trevor Dodge), a book that—as Olsen's works often do—exceeds the usual boundaries of its genre as (...) it explores his interests in narrative theory and pedagogy. The book is a kind of “anti-textbook;” a performative polemic against the stale, conservative and monolithic conception of the literary that so often dominates institutional discourse around creative writing. The following interview takes the occasion of AoP's publication as a chance to speak with Olsen about the book itself as well as to engage with larger, unanswerable, questions about the futures and intersections of literature and education. —Ben Segal INTERVIEW: 1) First, I want to start before the beginning, with the title. I’m really fascinated by the concept it conjures. Can you say something about innovative/experimental/(choose your adjective) literature in relation to both ideas around architecture and possibility? Innovative or experimental are tremendously fraught adjectives, needless to say. But for the purposes of my book, they modify a fiction concerned with the questions: What is fiction? What can it do, and how, and why? Now, of course, what looks “innovative” or “experimental” to one at 17 may not be what looks “innovative” or “experimental” to one at 27 or 57, and what looks “innovative” or “experimental” in 1812 may not be what looks “innovative” or “experimental” in 2012. A certain existential and historical perspectivism is always at work. But I think it’s fair to say that innovative and experimental usually refer to a narrativity that includes a self-reflective awareness of and engagement with theoretical inquiry, concerns, and obsessions, as well as a sense of being in conversation with fiction across space and time. One can't create challenging writing in a vacuum; it has to challenge in relation to something. So contemporary writers interested in the subject are not only in pursuit of the innovative, but are also always-already writing subsequent to it—writing, that is, in its long wake. Architectures of Possibility conceives of creativity as a possibility space, a locale just outside our comfort zones where we can and should take multiple chances in order to imagine in new ways, explore fresh strategies for finding and cultivating ideas, re-view what it is we’re doing and why, better understand what Samuel Beckett meant when he wrote: “Try again. Fail again. Fail better.” It reminds us that there are other ways of narrating our worlds and ourselves than those we have inherited from the entertainment industry, the government, academia, previous writing, and so on. 2) AoP seems to be directed at several audiences (and purposes) simultaneously. What I mean is that it seems at times a polemic in favor of innovative literature, at other times a creative writing textbook, and still other times a guide to the network of publishers, journals, and programs that make up the current world of non-mainstream literary art in the U.S. In my mind, Architectures is a theorized anti-textbook about writing. Most textbooks on the subject (think of Janet Burroway’s Writing Fiction: A Guide to Narrative Craft , taught in most creative-writing classroom across the country) orchestrate how to construct conventional stories. They instruct from a place of power how to generate familiar stories that are repeated so often that many of us begin to take them as the primary model for narrativity, if not unconsciously as a kind of truth. The result, as Brian Kiteley points out in 3 A.M. Epiphany (one of the only other alternative textbooks about innovative writing around, by the way, and a tremendous repository of exercises), is merely competent texts. Architectures problematizes that gesture by outlining what conventional narrativity looks like, urging writers to think about its ideology of form as well as content, and invites them to imagine writing, not as a set of relatively stable conventions, but, rather, as a possibility space where everything can and should be thought, tried, challenged. It thereby rhymes with Roland Barthes’s definition of literature: the question minus the answer—which is to say Architectures poses complications to the act of writing rather than solutions. 3) One of the most notable things about the book is the use of interviews. This is also one of the reasons that I think the book works so well for a variety of audiences—that anyone with even a passing interest in the state and future of literature will have an interest in your conversation with people like Ben Marcus, Samuel Delany, and Lydia Davis. I was hoping you could just talk a little about how you chose these subjects to interview, how you edited the interview material, and which answers you received struck you the most. Experimentalism , like realism , wants to appear in the plural. The idea of gathering more than forty interviews (with the help of my awesome collaborator, Trevor Dodge, himself a fine innovative author) represents an attempt to suggest that: the wide, rich, exciting opportunities inherent in the term. There are interviews with younger writers, elder statesmen in the field, publishers, editors, hypermedia artists, comic book makers, and so on: Joe Wenderoth, Carole Maso, Scott McCloud, Nick Montfort, Kathy Acker, et al. Trevor and I decided to do flash interviews: short, concentrated Q&As, each focusing on a particular troubling of writing. We only lightly edited the results to match the manuscript’s overall style, and every interview arrived as a surprise housing several unexpected insights. Three brief examples: Michael Mejia, when asked about what he dreads when setting about writing: “Dread is an interesting word here. I associate it less with loathing or aversion, I suppose, than with a kind of productive fear. Do I dread a project’s failure? Sure, who doesn’t? Who wants to waste time on something that comes to nothing, or is unreadable? But then, what do these terms mean, and who or what defines a work as a ‘failure,’ as ‘waste,’ as ‘unreadable’? Should a work actually try to interrogate and exceed these conceptual limitations? My tendency is to write into dread in order to reveal to myself, as much as to any reader that may come after, the varied complacencies that make other, mostly more conventional writings, readable. It’s at the frontier between readability (security) and unreadability (terror) that I want to live creatively.” Carole Maso, when asked what she’d like a sentence to accomplish: “I think a sentence can if allowed carry emotional and intellectual states as they flee, as they come and go, an escaping essence difficult to hold in other ways. In this way I think the sentence can work as a phrase of music does, sounding something large and elusive in us. Alternatively it can provide sometimes a stability, an essence, a moment of being. Unlike music the sentence also of course carries language with all its potential for meaning making and memory traces and association with it as well. I probably love the accretion of sentences most—those patterns, that shimmer, that resonance.” Shelley Jackson, when asked what is innovative about the innovative: “The purpose of the innovative is, I think, to wake us up. We are not quite alive, most of the time; we occupy a sort of cartoon version of our lives, its lines made smooth by repetition. Writing can open the seams in that world, reintroduce us to the real lives that we have forgotten. Maybe all good writing is innovative in some sense, in that it shows or tells or makes you feel something you never felt before—something for which you have no cartoon ready.” 4) You talk a little about N. Katherine Hayles’s concept of Media Specific Analysis and propose the supplemental notion of Medium Specific Generation—basically taking Hayles and applying her thought from the perspective of the writer. I’ve been trying to develop somewhat related theoretical frameworks, so I was really excited to come upon this section of the book. I’m wondering if you can talk a little more about this idea and, in general, about the potentials that you see as being opened up by writers engaging with and exploiting different media as literary platforms? “Lulled into somnolence by five hundred years of print,” Hayles urges in her (at least for me) transformative 2004 essay, “Print is Flat, Code is Deep,” “literary analysis should awaken to the importance of media-specific analysis, a mode of critical attention which recognizes that all texts are instantiated and that the nature of the medium in which they are instantiated matters.” She goes on to argue critics should learn to become more attuned to the materiality of the medium under investigation—which is to say a story isn’t a story isn’t a story. Rather, the “same” story remediated through film is intrinsically different from that story remediated through conventionally printed books is intrinsically different from that story remediated through hypermedia. “Materiality,” Hayles goes on, “is reconceptualized as the interplay between a text’s physical characteristics and its signifying strategies, a move that entwines instantiation and signification at the outset.” My point in Architectures is simply to emphasize Media Specific Generation: the idea that when writing you should be cognizant, not only of the thematics of the text you are working on, and, as it were, the internal components of its narrativity (character, language, plot, etc.), but also of the material embodiment those components take, and, perhaps more important, the material embodiment those components can take. The idea that the way texts matter matters isn’t something usually addressed in any significant way in creative-writing classrooms and textbooks. It may almost go without saying such experimentation with typography, layout, and white space has a long tradition—certainly one that tracks back at least as far as Guillaume Apollinaire’s early twentieth-century Calligrammes , Laurence Sterne’s textually ribald eighteenth-century Tristram Shandy , although one could arguably plot a hypothetical trajectory that reaches to ancient Greek romances like Achilles Tatius’ second-century Leucippe and Clitophon . Experiments into atomic materiality and digital immateriality bracket the definition of “book” at the same time they highlight Michael Martone’s prediction of its present future as increasingly viral, collaborative, and ephemeral. Or, as Matthew Battles points out: the future of the “book” has already arrived, and it is “ethereal and networked” rather than “an immutable brick.”While conventional writing and reading practices are conceptualized as private, individual, relatively fixed experiences, many of the new forms indicate that writing and reading—from production through dissemination—are rapidly becoming public, collective, incrementally unfixed experiences. That strikes me as an astonishing set of opportunities for a writer to investigate. 5) Another concept you elaborate in AoP is that of limit texts, basically texts that, once you read them, change what you imagine as the shape/horizon/potential of literature. You provide a fantastic reading list of limit texts at the end of AoP. I was hoping you could talk about a few of them in terms of how they specifically operate as limit texts for you—how they expand your understanding of what literature could be or do. Karl Jaspers coined the word Grenzsituationen (border/limit situations) to describe existential moments accompanied by anxiety in which the human mind is forced to confront the restrictions of its existing forms—moments that make us abandon, fleetingly, the securities of our limitedness and enter new realms of self-consciousness. Death, for example. Limit texts are a variety of disturbance that carries various elements of narrativity to their brink so the reader can never quite imagine them in the same terms again. Once you’ve taken one down from the shelf, you’ll never be able to put it back up again. They won’t leave you alone. They will continue to work on your imagination long after you’ve read them. Simply by being in the world, they ask us to embrace difficulty, freedom, radical skepticism. One of the most important for me is Samuel Beckett’s The Unnamable . Instead of establishing conventional setting and building traditional character, from its first words it unsettles both: “Where now? Who now? When now?” That first trio of question marks broadcasts the thematics of the writing (“novel” may be too strong a word) that will follow: it is all about a voice (or, perhaps, voices, about the grammatical mistake of the first-person pronoun), a consciousness (maybe, again, too strong a word), often genderless, removed from place and chronology and socioeconomic reality, hovering in a state of perpetual aporia. All it knows is what it doesn’t know, and its not-knowing is blackly, sardonically comic. The Unnamable is the embodiment of an unreliable narrator—a subject position that can’t trust itself, let alone be trusted by a reader. It contradicts, takes back, digresses, undoes what it just did, forgets, lies, hallucinates gloriously. The language is abstract, disembodied, devoid of sensory data, grayish rather than painterly in texture. Without knowing this passage is from a novel, a reader might well conclude s/he were reading a patch of (anti-)Cartesian philosophy. It might be helpful to conceive of what Beckett is doing as post-genre writing, then, or perhaps what Raymond Federman referred to as critifiction—a mode that blurs conventional distinctions between theory and narrative. In completely different register, and much more recently, Anne Carson’s Nox blew me away. It takes the form of an elegy for her older brother, whom she didn’t know well and who died unexpectedly while on the run from the law in Europe. The thing itself arrives in a box that simulates a thick book, as well as the brother’s textual coffin. Open it, and inside you discover, not a codex, but an accordioned series of “pages” that folds out into an arrangement that suggests an ancient scroll (Carson is, perhaps illuminatingly, a professor of classics) made up of shards of her brother’s letters, old photographs, tickets, Carson’s observations, Catullus’ poem 101 (the one addressed to the Roman poet’s dead brother, a doubling of Carson’s situation), and extensive dictionary entries on all the words that compose that poem. The aggregate produces a collage about the impossibilities of aggregates, the impossibilities of understanding fully, of capturing absences in language. At times Nox feels less an example of what most readers consider a book than something closer to a three-dimensional work of assemblage art. It’s a beautiful mechanism for contemplating Media Specific Analysis, for urging us all to be more extreme. 6) Finally, I want to talk a little about pedagogy and institutions. I’m less interested in questions like “Are MFA programs good for writers?” than in questions about how your role as teacher informs your understanding of literature and your writing practice. I’m also very curious about your take on how commercially marginal literary art is largely patronized by large state institutions and at the same time often imagines itself as a critical and even possibly revolutionary practice. How have your own positions within universities and university-affiliated organizations shaped your thinking about them and about innovative literature? I can imagine in many ways it might make you even more critical. And (I know, another ‘and’...) how does AoP (especially given its relation to Rebel Yell , your previous text on creative writing) reflect your personal history and experience as a teacher and member of communities that are largely defined by institutions? In the classroom, I try to generate the pedagogical field I would have liked to have inhabited as a student, but didn’t. Roland Barthes has a lovely line about this: “We need to substitute for the magisterial [classroom] space of the past (the word delivered by the master from the pulpit above with the audience below, the flock, the sheep, the herd)—a less upright, less Euclidean space where no one, neither teacher nor students, would ever be in his final place.” Easier said than done, of course, but an important life project for all who think of themselves as educators. My own classroom, my own writing, and Architectures of Possibility itself attempt to create the sort of possibility space where, as I mentioned at the outset of our interview, everything should be thought, tried, challenged; where everything rhymes with Roland Barthes’s definition of literature: the question minus the answer. I’m not sure I could write what I’m writing now without the conversations I have almost daily with my students, the conversations they have with each other, the conversations we all have with the texts we study. Especially in light of the paradigm shift over the last, say, quarter century from academia as intellectual exploration to academia as McDonaldized trade school, the irony isn’t lost on me concerning the discrepancy between the safe harbor innovative authors find there and the cultural critiques those authors launch through their writing and pedagogical work. In 2001, I quit my full professorship at one institution precisely because of my disappointment over what had happened to the learning environment there. I had no intentions of reentering the field. In 2007, however, the University of Utah approached me, and I found myself in an environment much more hospitable to the sort of work I want to do—teaching experimental narrative theory and practice. It isn’t by any means a simple irony. One could easily argue innovative writing and pedagogy represents the trace of the paradigm Barthes suggests, and that trace is tremendously productive in all kinds of ways. Innovative writing has never and will never change the world in any large, macrocosmic way. But we’ve all had our lives changed, one by one, by an encounter with a difficult, rich, resonant piece of prose, poetry, music, art, you name it. We’ve all had our lives changed at the ahistorical, microcosmic moment by a class we’ve taken, a teacher we’ve studied with, to such an extent that we became, quite literally, different people. I just came across a stunning set of sentences from Derrida on the topic: “What is education? The death of the parents.” That’s what we’re all up to in the innovative, be it in written texts or the texts we call our classrooms or the texts we call our politics: trying to disrupt what both can and can’t be disrupted, trying to undo what both can and can’t be undone, continuously. (shrink)