Research in Progress Speaker Series


Friday, February 16, 2024 | 4:00 – 6:00 PM | GLN-B 104

Until recently, the received view has been that Nietzsche was a staunch secularist and hence, his philosophy is hostile to religiosity in its entirety. Commentators often appeal to Nietzsche’s most quoted blasphemous proclamation about the death of God, his unrelenting condemnation of Christian morality, his categorical denial of the existence of an immaterial soul and the otherworld, and his recurrent advocacy for naturalism to establish that Nietzsche is a secular philosopher par excellence. Nevertheless, the past two decades have witnessed a gradual shift in interpreting Nietzsche’s attitude towards religiosity. They are gradually coming to acknowledge that Nietzsche, despite his scathing criticism of Christianity, remained ‘religious’ throughout his philosophical career. Further, it is now largely conceded that Nietzsche’s denunciation of religiosity is that of a life-denying religiosity, i.e., while he destroys a life-denying religiosity, he inaugurates a life-affirming religiosity. In this paper, I make a fresh claim that Nietzsche’s alleged new religiosity is influenced by Hindu thought. Specifically, I argue that Nietzsche’s doctrine of the Übermensch appropriates some important attributes of its Hindu parallel. I appeal to Nietzsche’s acknowledgement of Hindu (Brahmanical) asceticism of the strong, with its idea of intensifying feeling of power in ascetics, Vedantic theodicy of the world as divine order, its morality of beyond good and evil and value creation (i.e., its invention of “holy lies” to make life with its “terrifying and questionable character” acceptable) to support my claim that Nietzsche’s Übermensch is inspired and influenced by Hindu thought.

“But What Should I do in my methodology chapter?” Promoting Philosophy as Research” by Dr. Trevor Norris

Friday, February 2, 2024 | 4:00 – 6:00 PM | GLN-B 104

What counts as ‘research’ in the modern university? Philosophy faces many challenges, new and old. Current emphasis on empirical evidence, perhaps an understandable response to fake news and misinformation, marginalizes and minimizes more abstract and conceptual research, often construed as mere opinion or arbitrary speculations. This presentation considers concrete and specific strategies for justifying, promoting and undertaking philosophical as ‘research’ in the face of demands for more overtly empirical research. I examine the relative merits of specific remedies, questions, and tactics aiming towards a deeper understanding of strategies that might help promote and justify philosophical research. This presentation explores how best to defend the value of not doing empirical work—even arguing that philosophy itself is empirical work: our “data sets” are books, ideas, the imagination, and the range of human possibilities. Our “method” consists of arguments, reasoning, induction, and the exercise of writing itself. Philosophy must justify itself as a rigorous normative undertaking that is not mere arbitrary opinion. I begin by describing the problematic character of most research methods courses, consider appropriate terminology (is philosophy ‘empirical’?), and conclude with a discussion of practical strategies to effectively advocate for philosophy as a legitimate research method.

The Subject Reimagined: Ontological Anthropology in Dastur, Foucault, and Merleau-Ponty by Kenton Engel

Friday, January 13, 2023 | 4:00 – 6:00 PM | Online

In this talk, I attempt to think through the relation between psychē and logos in event thought, specifically to propose a subjectivity that is capable of experiencing event. Such a subjectivity is elusive, as transcendental phenomenology’s nomological impulse creates an interior delimitation between language and phenomenology. To the extent that event is excess, the event must, then, exceed some limit in relation to the subject and its concatenation to the linguistic and phenomenological registers. From this view, event would appear subjectively limited and thus impossible; hence, the turn to an ontological anthropology that in-builds event into the nature of subjectivity. The psychē, as it appears in Heraclitus and his interpretation by Dastur, Focault, Merleau-Ponty (and their interlocutors) is useful in this context, because it is proposed as always more than that which ostensibly contains it (the subject) – and is thus already eventful, but must be exposed to that which is otherwise by some ontologically salient mechanic. Because many phenomenologists have followed Heidegger’s adversarial turn to psychoanalysis, this talk is a mediatory work in which I propose logos, through Dastur’s reconfiguration of Austrag, as this mechanism. In it, I attempt to show that Heidegger – and following, Dastur – misunderstand the value in Ludwig Binswanger’s Daseinanalyse, which in its anthropological rejection of the ontological difference, though it is a mistake on Binswanger’s part, provides the mediation between ontological and ontic that event commands. To provide a sensible architecture for a psychē that phenomenology cannot, but must access, I link the young Foucault with the late Merleau-Ponty to show what underlines the subject is an ontological anthropology, which has for its most appropriate implement psychoanalysis.

Interrogating Historical Narratives of Progression within the Trans Community by Courtney Earl

Friday, November 11, 2022 | 4:00 – 6:00 PM | Online

Utilizing a Foucauldian genealogical method of analysis, I intend to examine the ways in which specifically trans bodies are made subject by systems which exercise power over them through institutional restrictions and limiting medical taxonomies. The privileges of power specific to the creation of knowledge endowed medical professionals with the ability to define what transness is while simultaneously denying trans people the right to define themselves. I will juxtapose the contrasting methods of subjugation exercised on trans people throughout the last century by relying primarily on the works of Leslie Fienberg and Sandy Stone. Through this juxtaposition I hope to challenge the historical narrative of progression regarding transness by illustrating that the punishment of trans bodies is something that, while significantly deterred by trans-inclusive policies, is far from over; in addition, I intend to highlight the importance of the voices of trans individuals when contextualizing subjugation of trans bodies.

Learned Milkers of He-Goats: Problem, Purpose and Pathology in some discussions of academic freedom by Professor Rohit Dalvi

Friday, November 4, 2022 | 4:00 – 6:00 PM | Online

Abstract: Contesting the force of opinion has been the historical burden of philosophy. Sophistry of every sort is deployed to defend opinion and to disguise it as knowledge. Entrenched opinions continue to be among the stumbling block in the development of a progressive and democratic university. Underneath idealizations of notions of “academic freedom” and what it means to be an in academic in the present, is an inability to engage philosophically with the problem of opinion and its pervasiveness. How do we explain this inability? Why does it remain impervious to rational edification? Is it a neurotic discourse? In what sense can the demand for the protection of academic opinion be considered “fraudulent”? Can we attribute this inability to epistemic defects or to willful ignorance? The resources available in the literature on psychopathology are particularly relevant here. Bion’s concepts of “arrogance” and “pseudo-stupidity” can help up articulate what is at work in this philodoxy, the “love of opinion”.