To support the Humane Metrics for the Humanities and Social Sciences (HuMetricsHSS) initiative, Michigan State University has received a $309,000 grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. The collaborative HuMetricsHSS pilot aims to create a values-based framework that will enable humanities and social science scholars to tell more textured stories about the impact of their research and teaching. Read More
Michigan State University will use a three-year $1.2 million grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to lead a multi-university research project to improve the teaching of less commonly taught languages, or LCTLs.
Faculty from MSU’s Center for Language Teaching Advancement, or CeLTA, housed in the College of Arts and Letters, will direct the initiative on behalf of the Big Ten Academic Alliance (formerly the Committee on Institutional Cooperation, or CIC).
Read the the MSU College of Arts & Letters Press Release and watch the video below for more on this project:
Here is the press release we wrote for the second Public Philosophy Journal grant from the Mellon Foundation:
Penn State has been awarded $549,000 by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation for an additional two years of development for the Public Philosophy Journal, an online space for accessible and rigorous scholarly discourse on issues of public concern. The project is a collaborative endeavor between the Department of Philosophy at Penn State and the Matrix Center for Digital Humanities & Social Sciences at Michigan State University.
Supported during its first year by a $236,000 Mellon grant, the Public Philosophy Journal grew an active community of readers and curators on its development website while building the networking and publishing platform that will be released in beta early in 2015. The second and third years of funding will enable further development of the platform and infrastructure, ongoing community development, a graduate apprentice program with Penn State University Press, writing workshops, and sustainability planning. The journal expects to publish its first open-peer-reviewed scholarly artifacts in Fall 2015, with its first volume being complete by early 2016.
This drawing from Mathew Paris (1217-1259), made famous more recently by Derrida’s disquisition on it in The Postcard, appears in a 13th century manuscript that contains a series of fortune-telling tracts. Now, with the generous permission of the Bodleian Library, the image will also appear on the cover of my book, Socratic and Platonic Political Philosophy: Practicing a Politics of Reading, inviting readers to consider the enigmatic relationship between Socrates and Plato.
On Friday, October 4th, we received the good news that the Mellon Foundation’s Scholarly Communications and Information Technology program will provide $236K to support the development of the Public Philosophy Journal (PPJ, aka @PubPhilJ).
The grant marks the end of the beginning for the Public Philosophy Journal, a collaborative endeavor between the Department of Philosophy at Penn State and Matrix at Michigan State, to create an open access, open peer review digital publication intent on performing public philosophy as its mode of publication.
The Public Philosophy Journal, an innovative open access, open peer review online publication in philosophy, has received a one-year, $236,000 grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.
The grant will support the development of the journal which, in addition to accepting traditional submissions, will also search the web each day for content at the intersection between philosophy and issues of public interest in order to identify digital conversations that might be developed further for scholarly publication.
The CBO is Cambridge Books Online, the electronic books platform for Cambridge University Press (CUP). This is the platform into which Mike Chaplin and a team of programmers working for CUP will build the Socratic and Platonic Political Philosophy: Practicing a Politics of Reading.
Already at the beginning, I was worried that my vision of an open and fluid boundary between the written text and the online community of readers using social media to share ideas would dissolve as a rigid wall was established between the text and a wider public. Obviously, we are dealing with issues of access and questions of monetization, both of which are important concerns in a project like this, engaged as it is with a major University Press.
These concerns, however, have been assuaged, as Mike has sought my frequent advice and direction during these early phases of development. Right now he is playing around with mock-ups of the environment, and I have been suggesting models of online digital communication and interaction that might help provide a path to a more open, dynamic and interactive reading experience.
Toward More Opennness
Mike’s first mock-ups sought to integrate some of the features of highlighting and annotation into the CBO environment. I had suggested that the way Diigo allows you to highlight text on any web site and take notes, which can be made public or private, might serve as a model for us.
Figure 1.0: Diigo on the Uni(di)versity blog:
Here you can see the ability to highlight and add a kind of sticky note that can be private or publicly viewed. I like the little menu bar at the top right to add notes, bookmarks and highlights. I also like the new feature that Diigo has added with the little orange dot on the right margin that indicates an annotation is at that location. I’d like us to develop a way to use such dots to indicate points of common interest among readers. The idea would be that the dots would get larger and more intense in those spots where multiple highlights and annotations are being added, so that hot spots of conversation and interest can be easily identified.
Mike then developed this initial mockup of what the book might look like in a CBO environment.
Figure 1.1: Reading Inline
Here the text appears immediately under the main area with information on the title, etc., with the sticky note metaphor floating in its own window outside of the main central column of text.
In the next image, Mike tried to illustrate how we might integrate social media into the system, bringing voices from outside into the the CBO environment and allowing those reading the book to share the text or their comments with wider social media communities.
Figure 1.2: Social Media and Notes
Here you can see how facebook and blogger might be integrated, and in turn, how I as author might appear as part of the conversation.
Philosophical issues of authorial authority lurk here. Although I am identified as the author, I like how I am not afforded special status and that I would appear in line with other comments and annotations.
The design ought not to reinforce the aura of authorial authority.
My voice as author will, of course, overdetermine the nature and direction of the conversation simply by virtue of the fact that the conversation centers around the things I wrote. Because of this, I will need to participate in these conversations with care, attending to the manner in which my responses themselves will have weight and authority, even if that authority is being directly challenged in the comments and annotations.
Extending Beyond the Column
In thinking about how to integrate comments and social media into the experience, I was beginning to feel too constrained by the single column of content sandwiched between two wide expanses of Cambridge University Press blue. I suggested to Mike something along the lines of CommentPress.
Figure 1.3: Comment Press
Here I liked the clean look in which reading is clearly a priority, but elements of interaction are inserted by means of chat bubbles and a column on the right with two tabs: comments and activity.
Also, and importantly, the text is organized by paragraph marks, not page numbers, a feature I would like to see added to both the print and digital editions of the book. This would make referring to specific passages consistent between the paper and the digital formats.
Mike then responded with a mockup that extended the inline reading experience outside of the single main column.
Figure 1.4: Extended Column
Here you begin to see the manner in which social media profiles can be drawn upon and the comments and annotations can extend beyond the main column of text even as the annotation column would be easy to access, if desired.
Directions to Pursue
I would be interested in your thoughts and ideas about the layout and direction developed thus far.
A number of features now seem to be emerging as important:
- Paragraph reference markers in the digital and print editions should be established to facilitate cross referencing in paper and digital environments;
- Textual “hotspot” markers could be implemented to suggest emerging areas of reader interest;
- Design elements should not overdetermine and reinforce authorial authority;
- There is not, as yet, a space for more extensive and detailed conversation in a forum. For this, I have in mind a model of something like Discourse.org, but I think I am getting ahead of myself…
As my book, Socratic and Platonic Political Philosophy: Practicing a Politics of Reading, goes officially into editorial production on the print side of Cambridge University Press, I have started to work with Mike Chaplin on the innovative features of the enhanced digital book.
From the beginning, this book has sought to put a certain kind of public scholarship and engagement into practice by leveraging digital media to cultivate community around the ideas for which the book itself argues. So it is only fitting to continue in that spirit of publicness by sharing and reflecting upon the process by which we are developing what I hope are innovative aspects of the digital book itself.
Mike has graciously agreed to let me share some of his mockups as we work through how the book will ultimately look and feel in a digital environment. From the beginning of this project, the process itself has been the product; so it makes sense to document and reflect upon the process by which the digital book itself evolves.
The original book proposal was rather traditional, as I wanted it to go through all the standard processes of peer review required of any other manuscript submitted to Cambridge.
Robert Dreesen, the editor with whom I have been working, has been extremely supportive from the beginning. He saw the value of both the philosophical content of the book and the attempt to publish it in a way that performs the book’s central argument – that reading is a political activity.
In making that argument in the book, I trace the manner in which Platonic writing is designed to cultivate in readers three virtues of community:
- The ability to attend to the individual in concrete contexts so as to open new possibilities of more just relationships;
- A hermeneutical imagination capable of diagnosing the limits of existing political realities;
- The capacity to put a vision of the just, the beautiful, and the good into words that can enrich the communities in which we live.
What features of an enhanced digital book would cultivate such virtues of community? How can the design of the digital book itself embody and foster these virtues? How can I, as author, respond to readers in ways that model them?
These are the questions that will inform design decisions about the electronic book. Can we design a book to cultivate a community of readers capable of these virtues of community?
This series of posts under the heading The Evolving Book will be an attempt to articulate and document the process by which the book itself came into being.
Last week humanities scholars from around the world descended upon Lincoln, Nebraska for DH2013, the annual international conference of the Alliance of Digital Humanities Organizations.
It was my first time at the DH conference and I certainly felt welcomed by everyone I met, reinforcing my sense that, as an endeavor, the digital humanities brings together a wide variety of very creative, intelligent people committed to working across and between disciplinary boundaries.
As many of you know, I have long been experimenting with how to use twitter effectively in academic contexts. Many are skeptical of twitter’s ability to add substantive value to academic conversations because of its character constraints and its culture of snark and attempted witticisms.
On Thursday, October 25th, at 4:30 PDT, I will read a paper entitled, Plato and the Politics of Reading at the University of San Francisco. One of the main points of the paper is that reading is fundamentally a collaborative endeavor.
Traditionally, when one delivers a paper in the discipline of philosophy, one simply reads, that is, one “lectures” (from the Latin legere, to read). But it would be ironic to read a paper on the collaborative nature of reading without inviting those listening to become actively engaged in the reading.
So, I intend to invite those attending the lecture and anyone following along on twitter, to join in an ongoing discussion of the lecture during the lecture itself.
The idea is not only to talk about collaborative reading, but to perform it as well.
Now, there are certain influential voices in the discipline who say anyone who tweets a lecture on philosophy should be ejected from the lecture post-haste, so I surmise that my attempt to use twitter to enrich and expand the reach of the philosophical ideas I am presenting will meet with more than a little skepticism, if not dismissive derision. There is, however, at the root of this skepticism the valid concern that a technology like twitter is unable to offer anything more than a truncated, impoverished and fragmented account of the lecture’s content.
Given that the skepticism is not unfounded, let me articulate how I intend to use twitter and, through it, other digital technologies to address each concern in turn.
From Truncated to Extended
Anyone who actually uses twitter knows that its 140-character constraint forces each tweet to extend somehow beyond itself. This occurs most effectively by means of shortened links to more substantive resources.
In order to point my listeners to those resources, I have set up the Keynote presentation I will use during the reading of my paper to tweet for me. For those of you interested in how, precisely, one might do that, take a look at this video:
So, during the lecture, I will have populated certain Keynote slides with tweets that will extend the discussion in at least three ways:
- I will post phrases and formulations I think are important for the listeners in the room and beyond to reflect upon and remember. This will allow them to favorite the tweets to return to them later or to retweet them in order extend the discussion to their followers.
- I will link to references to important secondary sources to which I appeal during the lecture so listeners can follow up on specific passages I discuss in more detail.
- I will tweet links to my own published work on the nature of Socratic and Platonic politics, so listeners can deepen their understanding of the wider project into which this lecture fits.
From Impoverished to Enriched
Anyone who actually uses twitter recognizes that its power comes not from what one pushes out, but from what one receives. This is felt most palpably when one invites those with whom one tweets to share the wisdom they bring to the issue under discussion.
To facilitate this sort of sharing, I will explicitly invite those present at the lecture to actively tweet during the lecture itself. The hope is that the questions and suggestions posted will cultivate a vibrant back-channel discussion that will add insight and value to the reading itself. At the end of the lecture, questions and ideas raised on the back-channel can be brought into the discussion and other voices from outside the room can be integrated into the discussion we have there. As an author, I hope to encourage robust and lively engagement with the ideas I present in the lecture so that I too might learn something in the process that I can, in turn, integrate into my ongoing scholarship.
From Fragmented to Integrated
Anyone who actually uses twitter knows that the deployment of hashtags is the best way to mitigate against the fragmentary nature of a conversation on twitter.
In order to curate the tweets related to the lecture, I will append the hashtag #bacpa (one of the sponsors of the talk is the Bay Area Continental Philosophy Association) to my tweets and invite others to use that hashtag as well. To further integrate the tweets related to the lecture, I will curate them using Storify.
This will allow me to add other digital artifacts related to the lecture and to weave a story around the tweets I receive from those participating. This will afford me the opportunity, after the lecture, to consider in a more reflective way the things others have added to the lecture.
The Storify story will be embedded into the blog post on my Digital Vita I will have written outlining the basic argument of the lecture, a post that will, I hope, be a platform for further discussion.
To that end, I would like to invite anyone who has been interested enough in this endeavor to read to this point to join the lecture on twitter (following me @cplong or the #bacpa hashtag) or to come in person on Thursday, October 25th, 2012 at 4:30 PDT in MC 252 on the campus of the University of San Francisco.
Here is the Storify:
Consider this an invitation to continue along a path we have traversed together over the past three years.
This path, which began in the wake of my 2009 Summer Faculty Teaching and Learning with Technology Fellowship, has now, with the completion of a draft manuscript of my book, Socratic and Platonic Political Philosophy: Practicing a Politics of Reading, reached a kind of crossroads.
The book itself came to life in dialogue, digital and otherwise, with many of you. It has been enriched by our ongoing conversation about ancient philosophy, Socrates, the writings of Plato, and the transformation of literacy in a digital age.
With the submission of the manuscript, however, we approach a crossroads in which the digital dimension of the dialogue we have been having can either wither away as the book appears in traditional print, or further grow and blossom with the publication of an enhanced digital book that combines the virtues of print and digital scholarship and communication.
Consider this, then, an invitation to continue together along that second path, which, like the path that led us here, cannot be traversed alone.
An outline of the manuscript itself points in the direction of the proposed path. At the center of the manuscript is an analogy between the ways Socrates practices politics with those he encounters in the dialogues and the ways Platonic writing turns us as readers toward ideals of speaking and acting capable of transforming our lives and the community in which we live.
The manuscript argues that Platonic writing itself cultivates in readers specific habits of thinking and creative habits of responding that are able to integrate a concern for the erotic ideals–of justice, beauty and the good–into the relationships we have with one another. Platonic political writing is shown to require a peculiar politics of reading in which the community of readers is called to consider how a commitment to speaking the truth and acting toward justice can, in fact, enrich our lives together.
If, however, the book is not to be a mere abstract academic exercise, it will need to be published in a way that performs and enables the politics of collaborative reading for which it argues.
The manner in which the research for the book was undertaken in dialogue with you here in this public space has already cultivated such a community of readers. The path forward is to create an interactive and evolving ecosystem of print and digital content capable of enlarging and enriching the existing community of scholarly discourse we have cultivated through the Digital Dialogue.
Before we explore what such an ecosystem of scholarly dialogue would involve and how we might together accomplish it, let me chart the itinerary of the manuscript itself.
The Itinerary of Socratic and Platonic Politics
The seeds for the book were planted more than a decade ago in those courses on Ancient Greek Philosophy I taught as a young professor just out of graduate school. In dialogue with students over the course of semesters, the question of the peculiar manner in which Socrates says he practices the true art of politics in the dialogues presented itself with increasing urgency. As we discussed it and focused more attention on the practice of Socratic dialogue, two things became clear: 1) we began to thematize and reflect upon our own dialogical practices and 2) we began to sense that Platonic writing itself was cultivating in us certain practices of engaging one another in dialogue.
The idea for this book, however, began to take determinate shape in the summer of 2009 when, as a Summer Faculty Teaching and Learning with Technology Fellow, I developed the Digital Dialogue, a podcast dedicated to cultivating the excellences of dialogue in a digital age.
The book that emerged from those digital dialogues, augmented and enriched by face to face dialogue at conferences and on campuses here in the US and abroad, is divided into seven chapters:
- Philosophy as Politics introduces the central distinction between the things Socrates says to those characters he encounters in the dialogues and the ways Plato writes to move readers to consider questions of justice, the beautiful and the good. The first I call the “topology of Socratic politics,” because it points to the place (topos) of Socratic political speaking (logos); the second I call the “topography of Platonic politics,” because it points to the place (topos) of Plantonic political writing (graphein). This chapter also indicates the rather peculiar way in which Socrates says he “practices politics,” and illustrates that politics for him and thus for this book means something different from taking power through the political institutions of a city or state.
- Crisis of Community illustrates how Socrates practices politics with Protagoras in the Protagoras, focusing on Socrates’ concern for the soul of Hippocrates, his young associate who comes at the start of the dialogue to ask Socrates if he would accompany him to see the great sophist Protagoras. This is one of the two chapters in the book that have been published elsewhere: Long, C. P. (2011). “Crisis of Community: The Topology of Socratic Politics in the Protagoras.” Epoché: a Journal for the History of Philosophy, 15 (2), 361-377. Digital Dialogue episode 31 with Ryan Drake and episode 32 with Anne Bowery focused on ideas articulated in this chapter.
- Attempting the Political Art is a reading of the Gorgias in which Socrates explicitly claims to be one of the few Athenians to practice the art of politics truly. This chapter illustrates how Socrates speaks differently with different interlocutors depending on their philosophical commitments. The result is an image of philosophy as an activity not opposed to rhetoric, as has been typically argued, but as intimately bound up with a specific kind of rhetoric commited to putting words in the service of the ideal of justice. This is the second of the two chapters that have been published elsewhere: Long, C. P. (2012). “Attempting the Political Art: Socrates, Plato and the Politics of Truth.” Proceedings of the Boston Area Colloquium in Ancient Philosophy, 271, 153-74. The chapter itself grew out of a presentation and a reading seminar at Boston College in the spring of 2011.
- The Politics of Finitude is the fulcrum of the book. It marks a transition from a focus on the practices of Socratic political speaking to those of Platonic political writing. A reading of the Phaedo, this chapter demonstrates first how Socrates is able to create a powerful community of people committed to speaking truth to and with one another and, second, how Plato writes in ways that encourage his readers to commit themselves to the same. A version of this chapter was presented at the Freiburger Hermeneutisches Kolloquium in June 2011.
- Socratic Disturbances, Platonic Politics considers the Apology of Socrates as both an account of Socrates’ self-defense before the Athenian citizens and a Platonic attempt to defend the life of his teacher in the wake of his death. Here the topography of Platonic politics is brought further into focus by attending to the way Plato has Socrates say provocative things at specific points in order to provoke us as readers to consider the roles speaking the truth and a concern for justice play in our own lives. This chapter was enriched by a seminar on the Apology given in Bogotá, Colombia in February 2011.
- The Politics of Writing traces how the collaborative reading of Lysias Socrates undertakes with Phaedrus in the Phaedrus opens the possibility of developing an understanding of reading itself as a political activity capable of transforming a community of readers by orienting them toward questions of justice and the beautiful.
- Politics as Philosophy further develops the manner in which Platonic writing cultivates in readers specific habits of thinking and creative habits of responding that are able to integrate a concern for the erotic ideals–of justice, beauty and the good–into the life of the community itself. Here Platonic political writing is shown to require a peculiar politics of reading in which the community of readers is called to consider how a commitment to speaking the truth and acting toward justice can, in fact, enrich our lives together.
The book thus argues for a politics of reading and suggests that a reading of Plato offers a unique opportunity to cultivate such a politics. In order to accomplish something of what it argues, the book must be capable of combining the best of print scholarship with the best of digital scholarship. As an enhanced digital book, the text might be able to perform what it argues.
Research by Public Dialogue
In her book, Planned Obsolescence: Publishing, Technology, and the Future of the Academy, Kathleen Fitzpatrick articulates the intuition that animated the research and writing of this book. She writes:
If we were to shift our focus in the work we’re doing as authors from the moment of completion, from the self-contained product, to privilege instead the process of writing, discussion, and revision, we’d likely begin to “publish” work–in the sense of making it public in readable form–earlier in its development (at the conference paper stage, for instance) and to remain engaged with those texts much longer after they’ve been released to readers (p. 12, see findings.com).
Although Socratic and Platonic Politics has not been “published” online and publicly peer reviewed, it has been exposed to the wider public from its earliest beginnings. The decision to open it to the public in the form of audio podcasts that attempt to perform the practices of scholarly dialogue in a digital age was intentional, rooted in the recognition that Socrates articulates something of the truth in the Phaedrus when he says:
In a way, Phaedrus, writing has a strange character … if you question [written words] with the intention of learning something about what they are saying, they always just continue saying the same thing” (Phaedrus, 275d3-10).
Podcasting, because it is more dynamic, fluid and less easy to cite, offered the inchoate ideas of the book a space in which to move and grow. They developed, however, not simply in as I engaged primary and secondary texts in the quiet, private spaces of the library and my study — though they developed there too, and importantly so — but also in dialogue with others.
Further, these dialogues were for the most part staged around the scholarly work of those I invited to the Digital Dialogue, as opposed to being centered on the Socratic and Platonic Politics project itself. The podcast thereby exposed the ideas ultimately articulated in the book to a wider range of scholarship by forcing me, in preparing for each episode, to read a wider range of work in a responsible way that would lead to an enlivening and fulfilling public dialogue on the podcast itself.
The public nature of this philosophical research had a powerful motivating effect. In fact, I would not have read nearly as much nor as diverse a collection of scholarship for the book had I not been motivated by the knowledge that my colleagues would be joining me for a public discussion of their work on the podcast.
Cultivating the Politics of Reading
If the book was born in public dialogue, it should continue to live in public dialogue. If the book argues for a politics of collaborative reading, it should be published in a way that embodies the possibilities of precisely such a politics.
To do this I envision a dynamic enhanced digital book that will embed the audio of the eleven podcasts cited in the manuscript into the digital book itself, enabling readers to listen to the podcasts directly as they encounter them in the text. In order to cultivate a community of collaborative reading, the enhanced digital book should also enable the reader to make all highlighting and annotations public if desired.
Those annotations and markings should then themselves generate a feed that interfaces with a blog plug-in like Comment Press or some other form of integration by which the annotations and highlights can appear in public in ways that are open to further response. Although readers might decide to publish the annotations to a preferred social media site, the annotations should also be accessible to a blog managed and moderated by me so that I can respond to and engage with readers as they engage with the book itself.
The publication of this enhanced digital book is designed to facilitate an ongoing dialogue about the book, its ideas and the larger question concerning the politics of reading. As the conversation develops, I envision recording new episodes of the Digital Dialogue podcast with readers who have had particularly insightful annotations or comments. Those podcasts too, if desired, could be made available in the enhanced digital book.
I envision the printed version of the book as another way to give readers access to this enhanced digital version and the community of dialogue to which it is intimately connected. I would like to have QR codes or some other method of moving the reader from the physical book to the online conversation. I would hope that the enhanced digital book would interface with existing systems of curated annotations as those found on the Kindle via Amazon.com and sites like Findings.com and Apple’s iBookstore.
This vision for Socratic and Platonic Politics combines the best elements of print scholarship with the best elements of digital scholarship: by bringing the print culture of rigorous, creative and careful reading, clear and compelling writing, peer review, and detailed and attentive editing together with the digital culture of dynamic interaction, exposure to a widely educated public, and the cultivation of a community of actively engaged and creative readers, the publication of the book would perform the very politics of collaborative reading for which it argues.
An enhanced digital book designed to create an ecosystem of scholarly dialogue is the above mentioned second path I hope to chart; but it is a path that cannot be embarked upon without you.
University budgeting and strategic planning was the focus of the final Academic Leadership Program (ALP) sponsored by the Committee on Institutional Cooperation (CIC) held at Penn State, April 12-14, 2012. No two topics have more impact on the life and direction of an institution than these.
In reflecting on this final ALP seminar (the other two were at Indiana University and the University of Chicago), I began to imagine what it might look like for Penn State to pursue a bold strategic vision of the new public research university in the 21st century. The vision would need to be grounded in the history of Penn State as a public institution, even if it would likely involve greatly diminished support from a Commonwealth intent on systematically starving the University of the resources that first made it possible over a century and a half ago.
At the center of the vision would be an unwavering commitment to the excellences of rigorous public research. The rigor would be rooted in a curriculum designed to cultivate in each student, undergraduate and graduate alike, a sense for the transformative power of inquiry and the imaginative intellectual abilities to discover new knowledge. The university would be “public” less because it receives public funding, and more because it is oriented toward public concerns and intent on pursuing the public good. Its research endeavor would be integrated into undergraduate and graduate teaching at all levels of the university. The historical commitment to ensuring that education remains accessible would be pursued on a global scale through the reach of the World Campus, and new technologies would be used to create new opportunities for innovative collaborative research and teaching. The new public research university would be smaller, more nimble, bolder and unwaveringly focused on initiatives that strengthen its core mission to pursue rigorous public research.
At the 2012 Teaching and Learning with Technology Symposium at Penn State, I had the honor of introducing Jane McGonigal, Creative Director of Social Chocolate, and game designer extraordinaire.
In his book, The Grasshopper, Bernard Suits writes:
- The title of her New York Times best selling book.
- Three games she has developed to help people tackle real world problems.
- The title of her TED talk. Bonus: How many times has it been viewed?
- What is her current job title?
- Where did she get her PhD?
- Tweet the link to her webpage with her twitter handle, the TLT Symposium hash tag and one of my twitter handles.
- Tell us something we didn’t know, something I would not have come up with in a traditional introduction.
In her address to the Committee on Institutional Cooperation‘s Academic Leadership Program at the University of Chicago last Thursday, Martha Nussbaum offered a compelling defense of a liberal arts education. She advocated for an education for democracy in the face of increased global emphasis on education for economic growth.
In the United States and around the world education policy has come to be driven by a concern more for economic growth than for a flourishing democracy. One need only look as far as the 2006 Spellings Report (pdf) to see this trend at work:
“America’s national capacity of excellence, innovation and leadership in higher education will be central to our ability to sustain economic growth and social cohesiveness. Our colleges and universities will be a key source of the human and intellectual capital needed to increase workforce productivity and growth.” (Spellings, 7)
Nussbaum sought instead to articulate a set of educational virtues for democracy around which our institutions of higher education should mobilize. The three on which she focused were:
- Socratic self-criticism: the ability to argue coherently, to criticize thoughtfully and to hold one another accountable for the implications of our political policies and beliefs;
- Becoming a citizen of the world: the ability to understand and converse about global problems, the recognition that we are part of a global community;
- Narrative imagination: the ability to “read” the stories of others, to recognize that everyone has a internal life and a set of motivations that determines the way they relate to others.
These three virtues, decisive for the long term well-being of democracy, are cultivated largely through the traditional liberal arts curriculum which is increasingly under attack by those pressing for a more focused, narrower, professional education oriented toward economic growth.
As the Academic Leadership program at the University of Chicago unfolded, the tension between an education for democracy and an education for economic growth came more fully into focus. When we turned our attention to the research mission of the University, it seemed that the economic argument for research came to eclipse the concern for the virtues of democracy for which Nussbaum advocated.
Joseph Walsh, Vice President for Research at Northwestern University, began his presentation by emphasizing the educational mission of research, suggesting that in the classroom, we teach our students, but with research, we teach the wider world. However, he focused most of his comments on those research discoveries at Northwestern that had the most palpable impact on the economy, reminding us that four-fifths of all economic growth comes from technological development, and that much of that development happens at research universities. In this context, he outlined the argument he offers to the politicians in Washington whose funding support research universities seek: economic growth is driven by the research done at our best research universities; funding research increases employment opportunities. It is all about “jobs, jobs, jobs.”
As we returned from Chicago, I found myself reflecting on this tension between education for democracy and education for economic growth. Then, we were lucky enough to miss our connection from Dulles to State College. I say ‘lucky’ here, because the long drive from Dulles offered a number of us the opportunity to talk further about our experience at the University of Chicago. Driving through rural Virginia, Maryland and Pennsylvania, we began to focus our attention on what a major land-grant research university has to offer students educationally that they can’t get from smaller, private liberal arts colleges. We kept coming back to the research mission of the university.We began to consider ways to integrate the research enterprise more tightly into the undergraduate experience at Penn State. Students need to be exposed to the passion for discovery that animates all great research endeavors. They need more opportunities to work closely with our research professors so that they might feel the power and excitement of research as an educational endeavor. To accomplish this on a grand scale at Penn State would likely require substantive changes to the general education curriculum and other significant financial resources, but I am convinced that if we are able to integrate the research enterprise more deeply into the undergraduate experience, we will have begun to cultivate in our students the very virtues Nussbaum suggests are critical for a flourishing democracy. Students engaged with research will learn self-criticism, the concerns of a global community and narrative imagination as they come to experience precisely these abilities at work in our most excellent academic researchers.
Following such a path at Penn State would, I imagine, illustrate the extent to which economic growth is not so much a goal of research, but an important, albeit secondary, outgrowth of an education rooted in traditional liberal arts virtues infused with a deep engagement with the research enterprise. Perhaps an education for democracy can also be an education for economic growth–the history of the American land-grant system of higher education seems to suggest that this is precisely the case. Perhaps the best way to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the Morrill Act is to redouble our efforts to combine rigorous research with the long standing virtues of an education in the liberal arts.
Sometimes without looking, one finds a paradigm – an example that can serve as a model.
Last week I visited Indiana University as a one of Penn State’s Academic Leadership Fellows in the Academic Leadership Program of the Committee on Institutional Cooperation (Big 10 Academic Alliance).
I went expecting to hear administrators from across the Big Ten speak about best administrative practices and about the role of the public research university in the 21st century. Although I received what I expected in that sense, I did not anticipate encountering a figure who embodied some of my own most deeply held educational convictions: Herman B. Wells.
Wells, who died in 2000, was the 11th president of Indiana University. Born in 1902, he was the youngest state university president at the age of 36, in 1937. While there are many important contributions Wells made to the educational mission of Indiana University, I would like to focus here on three, each of which embodies one of the themes that became important to me during the seminar at Indiana University entitled The Evolving University.
In 1958, the Committee on Institutional Cooperation was established by the presidents of the Big Ten Conference. Herman B Wells was one of its founding members and lasting champions. As I listened to former president of Michigan University, James Duderstadt, speak at Indiana about the importance of increased collaboration between public universities in the 21st century, the foresight of Wells and his generation of presidents came into focus.
Duderstadt described a 21st century world that does not respect traditional boundaries between regions and geopolitical borders. He spoke about the need for more collaboration between universities and the hope that we might reduce the zero sum attitude that establishes intensely competitive relationships between us and places us in extremely predatory environments with one another. The vision of cooperation Wells laid out and helped put into practice, places the CIC universities in a strong position to cultivate yet more cooperative relationships given the 50 year history of collaboration and interaction on which we can draw.
Wells was well known as an advocate for student self-governance, for a desegregated university and for academic freedom. He worked tirelessly and unobtrusively to end racial segregation in the dining halls and on campus housing; he protected Alfred Kinsey’s controversial and ground breaking research on human sexuality, and he worked to preserve the woods on campus. These are all elements of what I would call his highly cultivated ethical imagination: the ability to imagine one’s way into the position of each individual other. Wells held office hours for students, and they came to talk with him about their individual experiences. He signed each individual diploma himself, over 62,000 of them, because he wanted “a sense of direct identification with each graduate.”
This capacity for ethical imagination serves as a model for what is possible when administrative service is able to make decisions for the mission of the university by attending carefully and with care to each individual member of the community.
In her remarks, Provost Karen Hanson spoke of the suspicions faculty have about administrators. She traced that suspicion to the late ’60’s and early ’70s when the institutional authority of universities were called into question. She then spoke about the qualities of a good administrator: the ability to disagree without being retributive, the need to be open and patient, circumspection. She also reminded us that the word “administer” derives from the Latin, “ministrare“, which means “to serve”.
I left Indiana with a much deeper appreciation of the nature of administration as a way of serving.
Wells put it this way: “Remind yourself daily that general administration must be the servant, never the master, of the academic community. It is not an end unto itself and exists only to further the academic enterprise.”
And as we left Indiana, the news about the Sandusky indictment broke, and we returned to a Penn State transformed. In the week since, the nature of administration as service and the need for ethical imagination and cooperation have taken on a deeper and more urgent meaning.
His review is the latest contribution to a decade’s long dialogue we have had about how to read Aristotle, the meaning of energeia and dynamis in Aristotle’s thinking, and the nature of Aristotle’s God.
Our conversation, which has always pressed me to articulate my position with more care and, I hope, more subtlety, extends back to the first gathering of the Ancient Philosophy Society at Villanova University in the Spring of 2001.
Mine was the first paper delivered there, later published in Epoché as The Ethical Culmination of Aristotle’s Metaphysics. That paper argued that Aristotle’s Metaphysics culminated not in the purity of God’s self-thinking, but in the more contingent and ambiguous principles articulated in Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics.
His was the first question I fielded. That question challenged me to think more carefully about the nature of God in Aristotle, and specifically it encouraged me to consider that perhaps God as “ἠ νοήσις νοήσεως νοήσις”, “the thinking of thinking thinking” (Metaphysics, XII.9, 1074b33-5), did not express the totalizing principle I ascribed to it.
Frank’s question haunted me as I completed my first book on Aristotle, The Ethics of Ontology: Rethinking an Aristotelian Legacy. But in that book, I continued to understand God in Aristotle as the activity of self-identity and thus, as I argued in an article published in Philosophy and Social Criticism entitled, Totalizing Identities: The Ambiguous Legacy of Aristotle and Hegel after Auschwitz, as a totalizing principle.
In his essay length review of The Ethics of Ontology in the Graduate Faculty Philosophy Journal, volume 26, issue 2 (2005), entitled, Form in Aristotle: Oppressive Universal or Individual Act?, Frank took me to task for failing to appreciate the radical otherness of God in Aristotle. There he wrote:
A genuinely third way of knowing [one that is neither anarchic nor totalizing] could have been found where Long refused to look for it: in the knowledge of what is most radically unique and Other; what, as the absolutely self-contained activity of life and thus pleasure, i.e., the unmoved mover or God” (GFPJ, 26.2, 2005: 181).
He was right to insist that I read Aristotle on God more closely, a project I explicitly undertake in chapter 7 of Aristotle on the Nature of Truth, but what is less clear on Aristotle’s own terms is the degree to which the thinking of God is radically other to human thinking or even, as I suggest in the Truth book, to human perceiving.
In fact, establishing the connection between the middle voiced activity of perceiving (αἰσθάνεσθαι) and the middle voiced activities of imagining and thinking is central to the argument of chapters four and five of Aristotle on the Nature of Truth. Recognizing that activity itself involves a kind of receptivity, as I mention in note 6 on page 118, caused me to reconsider my own interpretation of the hegemonic dimensions of divine identity in Aristotle. Yet, because my reconsidered interpretation continues to insist on a dimension of dynamis, or potency, in God, Frank, as our most recent discussions make clear, remains unsatisfied.
To hear some of the details of those more recent discussions, I would invite you to listen to Digital Dialogue 41: On Time and Motion in which I talk to Frank about his work on Heidegger’s interpretation of Aristotle, and his critique of Heidegger. There the discussion again gravitates to the meaning of God as energeia, or pure activity, in Aristotle.
Given his continuing critique, it was no surprise that Frank was the first to ask a question at the session the Ancient Philosophy Society held on Aristotle on the Nature of Truth this spring at Sundance.
His question asked about two key moments in the book where my voice and Aristotle’s seem to diverge. The first, of course, is in the discussion of God, where I continue to want to insist upon a dimension of dynamis in the divine; the second is the question of justice, which I want to extend beyond the inter-human realm to the relationship between humans and the things we encounter.
Listen to the six minute clip of our exchange at Sundance on the player at the bottom of this post, or by clicking the link below, which will open a new window:
The two issues Frank raises in that exchange are expressed also in his review in the Bryn Mawr Classical Review commentary. I have used Diigo to reply to specific points he makes in that review, and I invite you read that review with my annotations and sticky notes by following the link below:
Because my annotations speak to a number of the specific points Frank raises, here I would like to highlight an important dimension of the book that Frank does not even mention in the review: its peculiar methodology, which I refer to as “legomenology.”
I now realize in listening again to the recording of our exchange at the 2011 Ancient Philosophy Society that I did not respond to what was at the core of Frank’s important question about where and how my voice diverges from Aristotle in the book. The more critical moments of the BMCR review are animated by Frank’s insistance that my interpretation of truth in Aristotle “turns out to require some hermeneutical violence.” A better understand of the phenomenological legomenology I undertake in the book will suggest both how my voice diverges from Aristotle’s and how I seek to minimize the violence of my interpretation with candor when the things I say diverge from things that can be easily ascribed to Aristotle.
The legomenological method the book undertakes is rooted in the idea that the very attempt to put the truth of things into words articulates something of the truth.
With regard to the question of God in Aristotle, it is not simply a matter of reconstructing what Aristotle might have intended. In that case, I am inclined simply to agree with what Frank says at the end of the BMCR review that if my thinking is animated by the paradigm of dialogue, Aristotle’s is animated by the paradigm of self-identity. And yet, even on Aristotle’s paradigm of self-identity, and indeed, at the very moment when that paradigm achieves its most poignant articulation in the formulation “ἠ νοήσις νοήσεως νοήσις”, “the thinking of thinking thinking” (Metaphysics, XII.9, 1074b33-5), something of the dialogical truth is heard in the very way the idea comes to language.
This is the core of the argument of chapter 7, an argument that culminates with the sentence “God is relationality” (Aristotle on the Nature of Truth, 237). When I speak about “relationality” I mean to point to that which enables things to enter into relation with one another in the first place, perhaps I could call it the erotic site of relational happening … The formulation “ἠ νοήσις νοήσεως νοήσις” articulates and indeed declares the structure of relationality itself.
The legomenology I pursue attempts to remain attuned always to the truth in the things said, even if that means diverging from what the speaker might have intended. This point is an echo of the very thing Aristotle said about Plato in the Nicomachean Ethics, 1096a16-7:
… although both our friends and the truth are loved, it is more sacred to give truth the higher honor.
The legomenological method opened a path that allowed me, I hope, both to love Aristotle and to honor the truth. Frank very kindly notes at the beginning of his review that “[t]his is a highly original book both in its approach and its conclusions…” And if this is true, then its originality is rooted in a careful, caring reading of Aristotle, that remains, however, always willing to relinquish the attempt to reconstruct Aristotelian thought in order to undertake the yet more difficult attempt to articulate the truth.
That, indeed, is ultimately what is at stake in my ongoing discussion with Frank about God in Aristotle and about the meaning of justice. For it is not only the Aristotelian texts to which we must do justice, but in our ongoing dialogue with one another, we must attempt to speak the truth to and with one another.
I have gathered the various ways we have each attempted to do that over the years here in this post in order that it might provide fertile soil for further discussion in which the truth might not only take root, but grow.
STONE HARBOR, NJ – Just midway through my week vacation, I am beginning to learning the art of relaxation.
As a faculty member, when the semester of teaching is over, a span of summer begins in which time takes on a different dimension as research responsibilities press themselves upon you. The result is an expanse of unstructured time that needs to be given structure by disciplined research.
In my response to the generous, thoughtful and provocative commentaries of Will McNeill, Drew Hyland and John Lysaker, I attempted to perform the methodological approach I adopted in Aristotle on the Nature of Truth. John Lysaker had asked an important question: how does legomenology welcome interlocutors?
In my response, I tried to model how I hope one committed to the practice of legomenology would enter into dialogue with others.
This meant first listening attentively and with patience, particularly in the face of strong and provocative criticism. Second, in considering a response, I tried to be generous in drawing on the work of those who were generous enough to take the time to read my work so carefully. Finally, I tried to defend the position for which I argued as strongly as possible, recognizing when appropriate, the limits of the things I said and the need to be willing to reconsider my position in the face of new insights.
What you hear here, then, first, is my response to the commentators, and then my responses to questions from those gathered at the 11th annual meeting of the Ancient Philosophy Society.
To hear the other comments and my responses, click on the links below:
Here are images from the APS Book Panel:
To hear the other comments and my responses, click on the links below:
Here are images from the APS Book Panel:
Here are images from the APS Book Panel:
Here are images from the APS Book Panel:
SUNDANCE, UT – Today there was a panel on my book, Aristotle on the Nature of Truth, at the Ancient Philosophy Society held this year at Sundance in Utah. The panel included Will McNeill, Professor of Philosophy at DePaul University, Drew Hyland, Charles A. Dana Professor of Philosophy at Trinity College, and John Lysaker, Professor of Philosophy at Emory University.
You can find each individual commentary, including sound recordings of their presentation at the links provided below:
I invite you to listen to the recording of my APS Book Panel Introduction.
Here are some images from the book panel:
The text of my introductory comments is below:
This book begins and ends with these words from Heraclitus:
“… wisdom is for the one’s listening to speak truth and act according to nature.”
It was, indeed, by way of a certain listening that this book itself came into being; for by attending to the ways my daughters found their ways into the world–at first by touch and taste, and now increasingly by words, spoken, whispered, sung and written that I was first able to discern something of the language of nature and, I hope, of the nature of truth–which inhabits the space between being and language.
But in speaking at the beginning of the book as I do about my daughters, I only spoke part of the truth. For this book was born in the wake of my move to Penn State, where the thinking of Heidegger has long been permitted to engage that of American Pragmatism, and the spirit of that pragmatism, infused with continental phenomenology, has allowed a certain approach to Ancient Greek Philosophy to flourish. And yet, to say this is still inadequate; for the Aristotle who speaks in this book is one who has been nourished by what is now over a decade’s worth of conversations, with many of you here in the Ancient Philosophy Society.
So, I can imagine no better place than this place, no more appropriate group than you, in which and with whom to embark on a discussion of a book that attempts to articulate the nature of truth and the truth of nature.
As recently as a week ago, I had intended use this time to frame the book, to speak of its method and structure, of the way it is organized around the central metaphor of articulation, which for the Greeks functions also as a joint or lever capable of translating those rudimentary encounters in perceiving into the vernacular of thinking. I had intended to speak of truth, not as correspondence, but as the ability to respond together with the things of nature, that is, I had intended to speak of truth as a co-response-ability.
But that was before I received the three gifts you are about to hear. For Will, Drew and John, have responded to the things I have said in my book in ways that do justice at once to it and to the truth. And although to be heard is a great gift, greater still is to hear the articulate responses of friends whom one holds dear–even if, as Aristotle so eloquently reminds us, “although both our friends and the truth are loved, it is more sacred to give truth the higher honor” (NE, 1096a16-7).
Next week I am giving a lecture on Plato’s Gorgias at Boston College for the Boston Area Colloquium for Ancient Philosophy. The title of the lecture is Attempting the Political Art.
Prior to the lecture, I will hold a seminar in which we will focus on those passages in the Gorgias in which truth is at stake as a political question. The seminar, entitled Socrates, Plato and the Politics of Truth, will begin with that strange passage from the Gorgias in which Socrates claims:
I think that with few Athenians, so as not to say the only one, I attempt the political art truly [ἐπιχειρεῖν τῇ ὡς ἀληθῶς πολιτικῇ τέχνῃ] and I alone of those now living do political things [πράττειν τὰ πολιτικὰ]; for it is not toward [πρὸς] gratification that I speak the speeches I speak on each occasion, but toward [πρὸς τὸ βέλτιστον] the best, not toward [πρὸς] the most pleasant … (Gorgias, 521d6-e2).
This passage invites us not only to ask about the nature of the “art” that Socrates claims to be one of the few to attempt, but also to consider the question of the political nature of Platonic writing.
The distinction between the ways of saying endemic to Socratic politics and the ways of writing endemic to Platonic politics will frame the discussion in the seminar. In an essay on Plato’s Protagoras that has recently appeared in Epoché, I have thematized this distinction in terms of the “topology of Socratic politics” and the “topography of Platonic politics.” (For a more detailed discussion of the distinction, see Digital Dialogue 31: Shame and Justice, and more recently, see, Digital Dialogue 44: The Apology.)
For those students and faculty who will attend the seminar, we will focus our attention on the following passages in addition to the one cited above:
- 453a8-b3: Where Socrates claims that he and Gorgias are each the sort of person who wants to know “the very thing for which the logos exists.”
- 453c2-4: Where Socrates connects the proper way to proceed with a way of speaking that makes things as evident as possible.
- 457c4-d5: Where Socrates distinguishes between a way of speaking animated by a desire to win and one committed to making the matter at hand evident.
- 458a2-5: Where Socrates insists that he is as happy to be refuted as to refute.
These passages point to the nature of the relationship between Gorgias and Socrates, which, I argue, grows through the dialogue into a kind of friendship rooted in a shared desire for the truth. This can be heard in these passages, which we will also consider:
- 463a1-5: Where Socrates is empowered by Gorgias to continue his discussion with Polus so as to make what they have been discussing evident. This leads to the discussion of the difference between a techne and an empeiria, an art or a knack.
- 464e2-465a6: Suggests the nature of a techne, as Socrates uses it in the dialogue.
- 500c1-503a9: Where Socrates articulates the beautiful rhetoric associated with philosophy.
- 506b2-3: The final words Gorgias speaks in the dialogue, in which he encourages Socrates to continue the logos even when Callicles refuses to respond any longer.
In the months since my last posts on using Mendeley, Zotero and the iPad for academic research, my experience has been more fully informed by practice. This fall I was able to research, develop and write an essay on Plato’s Apology for a talk and seminar I will be giving in Bogata, Columbia at the Universidad de los Andes.
Today I received a box, and in that box were six objects with a certain degree of heft, a solidity I did not quite expect. The objects in question were copies of my new book, Aristotle on the Nature of Truth.
It is difficult to articulate how strange it is to hold in one’s hands the concrete manifestation of years of intellectual labor. It feels so … mundane, so … prosaic. It is a book, like the thousands of other books one finds all around one. And when you show it to someone, they celebrate with you a bit, saying how proud you must be, how great it is that this thing here is accomplished.
And of course, this is a book about Aristotle, indeed, about the nature of truth in Aristotle, not exactly the sort of book most people find easily accessible. So the discussion focuses, as it must, on the thing itself – this book here, which is so obviously something real … not like those hours of work and thought in dialogue with commentators both long dead and still living.
But this thing here, this object, has in it those hours of intimate struggle, those moments of self-doubt and exhilarating insight. I can open a page and recall almost palpably where I was sitting when I wrote that, or what was happening in my life when, in the course of its development, that specific part of the book found the words to give it shape.
Strange now, though, that this intimate and very personal struggle is now a concrete something for others to share, if they so choose. And while I hope they do engage it in a substantive way, still, it is likely that the thing itself, this book here, is just a mile marker on a longer road that seeks to put words in the service of relational justice.
Christopher P. Long, Aristotle on the Nature of Truth, 1st ed. (Cambridge University Press, 2010).
This book reconsiders the traditional correspondence theory of truth, which takes truth to be a matter of correctly representing objects.
Drawing Heideggerian phenomenology into dialogue with American pragmatic naturalism, I undertake a rigorous reading of Aristotle that articulates the meaning of truth as a cooperative activity between human beings and the natural world that is rooted in our endeavors to do justice to the nature of things.
By following a path of Aristotle’s thinking that leads from our rudimentary encounters with things in perceiving through human communication to thinking, this book traces an itinerary that uncovers the nature of truth as ecological justice, and it finds the nature of justice in our attempts to articulate the truth of things.
Endorsements of the book:
“An original interpretation of Aristotle that subtly weaves together the themes of truth and justice. Christopher Long shows how the question of truth leads us ineluctably to justice and the question of justice leads us back to truth. He combines a rigorous reading of Aristotle’s texts with an imaginative discussion of how American pragmatic naturalism and Heideggerian phenomenology illuminate Aristotle’s attentive response to the world. Through Long’s rich text, we can virtually hear Aristotle’s voice speaking to us in new, relevant, and exciting ways.”
— Richard J. Bernstein, New School for Social Research
“Christopher Long’s new book, Aristotle and the Nature of Truth, is a remarkably fresh and original treatment of one of the most central topics in all of philosophy. Long shows through penetrating and persuasive scholarship that for Aristotle the question of truth is about the nature of things and the things of nature. Thus, this is as much a book about nature and about ecology as it is about truth and being, and it is an indispensable tool for those whose work in environmental philosophy is committed to mining the tradition in order to retrieve a theoretical basis for a new sense of ecological justice. Long philosophizes with a remarkable gracefulness and he has a unique ability to work across methodological traditions to offer a reading of Aristotle that draws resources equally from phenomenology, pragmatism, and analytic philosophy. This book will contribute a great deal to overcoming the polarization that inhibits the usual philosophical approaches to ancient Greek philosophy.”
— Walter A. Brogan,Villanova University
“This is a boldly conceived, painstakingly researched, and exquisitely executed work. The author’s intensely focused attention on the relevant texts is matched by a hermeneutic sensibility animated by imagination, probity, and a steadying awareness of Aristotle’s principal preoccupations and commitments. Christopher Long exemplifies what he takes to be at the heart of Aristotle’s understanding of truth – responsibility in the sense of responsiveness (including reflexive responsiveness). His reading of Aristotle as an integral part of philosophical naturalism, taken to be a living philosophical tradition, is just one of the notable and valuable aspects of this unique contribution to contemporary philosophy, not just contemporary scholarship. At every turn, Professor Long shows in detail the relevance of Aristotle’s writings – indeed, the force of his arguments and the depth of his insights.”
— Vincent Colapietro, Pennsylvania State University
“This is a deeply insightful, genuinely important book that says things far beyond what its title might suggest. It is at once a learned and original study of Aristotle and his contemporary importance; a brilliant and productive dialogue with naturalism, pragmatism, and existential phenomenology; and a profound and moving meditation on truth, nature, and justice.
Aristotle and the Nature of Truth is philosophy at its best.”
— John J. Stuhr, Emory University
It is widely recognized among educators that student engagement is a key to academic success. Disengaged students erode the social dynamics in the classroom, have a negative impact on their peers and drop out at a high rates. Thus, it is no surprise that the desire to move students from a disengaged attitude to one of engagement has become a major goal of our pedagogical practices.
Of course, student engagement has many meanings. Engagement might be measured by certain behaviors, as when students write effectively and with nuance; it might be felt in certain emotions, as when students express excitement about the ideas they encounter; or it might be understood by way of certain cognitive activities, as when students demonstrate an ability to analyze and synthesize in sophisticated ways. 1
Yet, despite its many dimensions, engagement itself seems too impoverished a pedagogical ideal. We ought to aspire to something more for our students and ourselves.
Let us move from the ideal of engagement toward that of genuine cooperation.
Strange as it sounds, focus on engagement remains too student centered. Its primary emphasis is on changing the habits, behaviors and attitudes of students, and often fails to consider those habits, behaviors and attitudes of faculty that close off the possibility of cooperative education.
Cooperative education takes seriously the social and reciprocal nature of teaching and learning. It recognizes that students, both individually and in the aggregate, have something to teach even as they have much to learn. It empowers teachers to relinquish authoritarian control, and encourages them to weave their expertise into the community of learning that emerges dynamically in the courses they teach.
Cooperative education understands that the teacher-student relationship is reciprocal, even if it is also asymmetrical. It is reciprocal insofar as students teach and teachers learn, but asymmetrical insofar as the teacher retains a certain privilege as one who has learned and thus has earned a certain expertise.
Cooperative education does not seek to elide this asymmetry, but rather, to invite teachers to carefully consider how their authority operates in the delicate ecologies of learning in which they participate. How we as teachers respond to this invitation is critical; for our authority is operative in everything we do. It can be used to close off discussion and shut down debate, or it can open students and, on our better days, ourselves, to new connections, richer and deeper insights and surprising discoveries.
Cooperative education, then, must cultivate certain excellences in those faculty and students committed to it. It will need to teach and learn openness, comfort with ambiguity, generosity and equity. It will need to affirm the value of difference, embrace diversity and seek common ground. It will need to be animated by mutual respect for the experience of students and for the wisdom of teachers. It will need to empower students to take ownership of their education and faculty to move from imposition to collaboration.
Cultivating these excellences is no easy task, but they can be learned, if they are practiced.
The American philosopher (who was also a Dean at Columbia University), Frederick Woodbridge, has articulated the sense of cooperation that informs this vision of education:
“There is cooperation in the pursuit of knowledge, an interchange of discoveries, opinions, and results, a communication which would put agreement in the place of disagreement. We are not left each to his own devices, but employ the aid of others.” 2
For Woodbridge, this sort of cooperation is rooted ultimately in the human ability to work together with Nature in such a way that we are able to respond in meaningful ways to the world we encounter. The pedagogical significance of this robust naturalism is that we humans are deeply cooperative beings who naturally learn by working with one another in order to come to a deeper understanding of the world in which we live, together.
Cole Camplese and I were invited to be part of this year’s Learning Design Summer Camp at Penn State. The presentation topic that was proposed to us was strong in and of itself, but when we got together to really flesh it out we thought we would try something that modeled the ideas we really wanted to cultivate in the PSU learning design community.
It seems that my quest to close the digital research circle has been joined by a few fellow researchers. The idea is compelling and would not only save both time and paper, but would offer new opportunities for collaborative research.
Last fall, Teaching and Learning with Technology shot some footage of me in the classroom as I was teaching my Philosophy 200 course on Socratic Politics. In that course, I made extensive use of blogs in the hopes of empowering more active student engagement with the material in the course.
Last month in a post about closing the digital research circle, I wrote about using the iPad to read, take notes on pdf files and integrate those files into a bibliography program. We are still some distance from the vision of the closed research circle I ultimately envision, however, there are some positive new developments.
I have been looking for a way to close the circle of my digital academic research. The idea is to do rigorous philosophical research without paper, taking full advantage of cloud computing, the syncing of notes, articles, bibliographic information, and the ultimate production of academic work in a completely digital environment.
Over the past few days I have been thinking more intensely about the meaning and nature of academic transformation.
In the wake of the TLT Symposium at Penn State last weekend, I traveled to Orlando to participate in the National Center for Academic Transformation’s Redesign Alliance conference.
I have been struck by a contrast that disappoints me from a national perspective even as it encourages me at local level.
Let me mention a two challenges in particular and suggest how three recent trends could in fact help cultivate abilities that help us meet these challenges.
After talking to trusted people, thinking things over and otherwise working through the transition I am making to Associate Dean for Undergraduate Studies at the College of the Liberal Arts, I have decided to embrace the model that Dean Chris Brady uses over at the Schreyer Honors College at PSU and tweet in two voices. So, you can now find me at: http://twitter.com/LAUSDeanLong And, as always, you can still follow me at: http:/twitter.com/cplong
One of the more important of the many unexpected benefits of
producing the Digital Dialogue is the feedback I have received from
friends who listen. In a strange way, the podcast offers me some
distance on myself such that I am able to hear certain suggestions and
comments about how I “appear” in public in a less defensive way. This
strikes me as an important insight directly related to the question of
the excellences of public dialogue. Appearing in public, appearing to
someone allows you to be reflected back to yourself in ways that are
revealing. If this reflection can be faced, it opens up the
possibility of self-transformation through/with others.
Let me be more concrete: in the course of a discussion about the sound quality of
the podcasts, I have solicited feedback from those I trust. My wife,
Val, of course, is my most trusted advocate, adviser and critic, so it
was important to hear her suggest the difference between my philosophy
persona and my more informal and relaxed persona. We had discussed this
issue before, particularly as she began, early in our relationship, to
come to hear me give papers or lectures. It is not that I am a
different person, but that I have a way of talking when I am in my
teaching or professional mode.
Allan Gyorke has made a similar point to me in email:
When your podcast starts, I’ve seen you take on a very scholarly persona that is very intense and quieter (Dr. Christopher Long) than the person you are when we were brainstorming about your video and playing around (Chris).
It turns out, however, that this issue is becoming more complex for me as I turn my attention to my new role as Associate Dean for Undergraduate Studies in the College of Liberal Arts. Not only do I need to think about how Chris relates to Dr. Christopher Long, but now too, we have this new fellow, Associate Dean Long. Of course, these three are also related to the person I am as a father and husband.
We have an ongoing discussion of these various identity questions on my little blog about blogging, Mapping the Long Road, and more questions are being raised in my mind than answers…
On October 9th, 2009, I received official word that my manuscript, The Saying of Things: The Nature of Truth and the Truth of Nature, was accepted for publication at the Cambridge University Press under the title: On the Nature of Truth as Justice in Aristotle. I am excited and honored to be part of a tradition of publishing that extends back 475 years to when King Henry the VIII first granted the University of Cambridge Press a “Letters Patent” that allowed them to print “all manner of books.”
The manner of my particular book involves taking up the thinking of Aristotle in a way that challenges the traditional understanding of the meaning of truth as the correspondence of idea and object.
One of the great privileges of my summer faculty fellowship has been the opportunity to work with creative and thoughtful educators and designers who were able to help me think more holistically about my identity on the web.
I have been blogging here on the Long Road since June 10, 2007, attempting to give voice to certain dimensions of my personal, political, academic and teaching life. Over time, however, it has become clear that my attempt to “blog the philosophical life” involves multiple dimensions that are somewhat separate even if fundamentally integrated.
Perhaps this is simply the digital articulation of the deeper, existential question of personal identity.
In any case, the redesign of the website that we have rolled out in the course of the last few weeks grows out of an ongoing dialogue with all the great educational designers and IT managers at Education Technology Services, but in particular with two who deserve special mention and thanks here: Brad Kozlek and George Webster.
George has patiently and expertly worked with me to design the font, colors, look and feel of the site. He was always willing to change things I found problematic and willing too, to change them back when I realized that the way we had it first was best.
The design itself is based on this image of an antique map of the arctic I found online as I was searching for an inspiration for the colors and feel of the site. The map captured the spirit of the central metaphor around which the long road is organized: the attempt to chart in words the course of a life.
The long road is now composed of three blogs feeding a main home page, which serves as a pathway into the larger site. George worked with me to design the icons that go with each dimension of the site.
the long road is the site on which you will find my attempt to put things personal, political, remarkable and mundane into words.
digital vita is the site that gives voice to my academic life, including information and resources related to the various presentations I make.
One of the main purposes of redesigning the site was to host the Digital Dialogue, the podcast I developed during my faculty fellowship. The Digital Dialogue is designed to generate discussion around questions concerning but not limited to the nature of digital dialogue, its political possibilities, the excellences associated with it and the impact it might have on our pedagogical practices.
Brad added the Yahoo! player to the site so that people could easily listen to episodes of the Digital Dialogue right from their browser. Everyone can also subscribe to the podcast through iTunesU by clicking this link which opens iTunes on your local computer.
I hope everyone enjoys the new look of the site and continues to return frequently. You are, as always, warmly invited to comment on anything that appears here should you be so moved.
Many thanks to George and Brad for their great work on the site.
Boston College highlighted my discussion with Marina McCoy about the importance of attentive listening for the cultivation of dialogue on their main web portal.
Digital Dialogue episode seven with Leigh Johnson on Humanism was recognized by the Dean’s Office at Rhodes College where Leigh is Assistant Professor of Philosophy. A post on the Dean’s Blog emphasizes her appearance on the podcast as one of the ways Leigh makes “philosophy a living, breathing discipline.”
After the discussion Shannon Sullivan and I had on the Digital Dialogue episode eight on Noelle McAfee’s book, Democracy and the Political Unconscious, the Institute for Conflict Analysis and Resolution, where Noelle serves as a faculty member, added the episode to their podcast feed of interviews related to the Institute. They also added it to their Facebook page. Noelle herself highlighted it on her blog: GonePublic: Philosophy, Politics, & Public Life.
Yesterday Alan Levine, aka cogdog, gave a presentation on 50+ Ways to Tell a Story using Web 2.0 technologies. The presentation was excellent as it introduced us to a variety of tools available online for telling stories. The power of Levine’s presentation was the way he told and retold the same story about losing and then finding his dog, Dominoe, using the different tools.
I am very excited to have been awarded a 2009 Education Technology Services Summer Faculty Fellowship. The project I will be working on this summer, Socratic Politics in Digital Dialogue, is designed to explore the opportunities digital expression offers to enhance, deepen, expand and promote my academic scholarship in philosophy by focusing on issues related to the Socratic practice of politics.
I have just finished listening to Doris Kearns Goodwin’s book on the Lincoln Presidency, Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln. Although the book takes a largely uncritical view of Lincoln‘s political wisdom, it was compellingly told and insightful. What struck me most was the political power of magnanimity. Goodwin does not make this point explicitly, but it seems to me that the central friendship of the book, that between Lincoln and his political rival turned close friend, William Henry Seward, was rooted in the core virtue of magnanimity which both men embodied.
I am beginning to notice something about my course blog for PHIL298H: Patriarchal Force and Political Power. As we discuss the material we have been reading for class and engage with one another online through the blog we are creating a communal document, a digital artifact of our work together this semester. I am struck by this more this semester because of the structure I am using in which we all co-edit one blog rather than each editing a blog of our own.
For those of you who have noticed a lack of postings here recently, this is largely because I am doing a lot of blogging with my honors class over at the course blog for an honors course in Philosophy I am teaching on patriarchal politics.
I woke, this much anticipated morning, to the news of the death of a colleague. Professor Paul Lyons taught history, social work and holocaust studies for 29 years at the Richard Stockton College of New Jersey, where I began my academic career. He was a man dedicated to social justice and committed to teaching young people to think critically about the world and to orient their lives toward the question of justice.
Paul’s response to the attacks on September 11, 2001 was powerful: he collaborated with his fellow Stockton professor David Emmons to teach a course on the event. The power of this response lies in the thoughtful and expansive influence it has on future generations. In the wake of oversimplified, dogmatic rhetoric, Paul responded with a depth of historical understanding and a passion to engage students directly about an event that changed the course of our lives.
So, this morning, as we our attention to the future with the inauguration of the first black president, I also pause to remember all those teachers, like Paul Lyons, committed to orienting young people toward justice and opening the possibility of this moment.
I am currently slugging through what I hope are the last few chapters of a book on Aristotle and it is not easy going. Although writing has always been something I love–crafting sentences, considering the nuances of words, playing with metaphors and images–it is also one of the most difficult things my job and career demand of me.
This week, though, as summer comes to an end and the pressure to make significant progress has increasingly taken a toll on my psychological well-being, I was released from my self-imposed obsession with the minutia of Aristotle scholarship by two moments, one involving Hannah, the other, Chloe.
Yesterday, I was particularly frustrated as I emerged from my basement office after a day of writing and torment. The effects of it must have written on my face, because when Hannah saw me, she said, “Daddy, why are you mad?” When I told her I wasn’t mad, just thinking about my writing, she said, “Daddy, I missed you when you were at work. I love you; you’re my best Daddy. Do you want to sit with me and play?” It was a great gift, a reminder that forced things into perspective.
Heraclitus put it best: “A lifetime is a child playing … the kingdom belongs to a child” (fr. 52).
The other moment was also very touching. I often bring Hannah and Chloe to the Penn State library when I need to pick up something. They love to run through the stacks of books and play on the ancient elevator with the gate in front of the door. We were in a corner of the basement where the books on Ancient Greek philosophy are and I noticed my book, The Ethics of Ontology, sitting on the shelf. (Shockingly, it was not checked out!)
I picked up the book and asked Chloe if she could read the name on it. She was able to identify some letters and ultimately came to the surprising conclusion that the name on it was that of her very own Dad. “Oh Daddy,” she exclaimed, falling into me with a huge hug, “you wrote that book all by yourself?!? I am so proud of you! That’s great! And how did it get in the library?” When I explained that they bought it from the publisher, she said, “They bought it! I can’t believe it. Your book is in the library.”
Her pride and excitement were so affirming and genuine that I immediately felt the years of work that went into the writing of that book–and this one–come suddenly into poignant focus: this moment made it all worthwhile.
A Liberal Arts Education is committed to cultivating habits of thinking and acting capable of responding to the world in ways that open new possibilities for human community. It is oriented in part by what may be called the reading life and the writing life.
- Locate an academic secondary source that presents an interpretation of the assigned section of Plato’s Gorgias. Produce a podcast that summarizes the interpretation.
- Stephanie Marek’s podcast on the Gorgias with Casey Cox.
- Find a picture on the web or take a picture that grows out of your experience reading the Oedipous trilogy.
Post the picture to your blog and write a post that explains how the picture relates to your experience with these texts. Present then a “reading” of the picture.
- Amanda Wise’s reading of her picture of the leaves in its relation to Antigone.
- Be well organized from beginning to end
- Be well written and edited
- Articulate original ideas
- Reflect thoughtfully and critically on the texts
- Samantha Miller’s post on Art in the Education System.
This year witnessed the death of Richard Rorty, an important American philosopher and good friend to my own teacher, Richard Bernstein. I embed here a YouTube clip posted by my colleague at Penn State, Phillip McReynolds, who is working on a documentary entitled American Philosopher.
The book to which many of those who appear in this clip refer is:
Rorty, Richard. Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1980.
I wrote a review of The Descent of Socrates: Self-knowledge and Cryptic Nature in the Platonic Dialogues, by Peter A. Warnek (Indianapolis, IN: Indiana University Press, 2006) in The Continental Philosophy Review, (forthcoming).
In 2004 my book, The Ethics of Ontology: Rethinking an Aristotelian Legacy, was published by the State University of New York Press.
A novel rereading of the relationship between ethics and ontology in Aristotle. Concerned with the meaning and function of principles in an era that appears to have given up on their possibility altogether, Christopher P. Long traces the paths of Aristotle’s thinking concerning finite being from the Categories, through the Physics, to the Metaphysics, and ultimately into the Nicomachean Ethics. Long argues that a dynamic and open conception of principles emerges in these works that challenges the traditional tendency to seek security in permanent and eternal absolutes. He rethinks the meaning of Aristotle’s notion of principle (archē) and spans the divide of analytic and continental methodological approaches to ancient Greek philosophy, while connecting Aristotle’s thinking to that of Levinas, Gadamer, and Heidegger.
“This book is cogently presented, well written, and easy to follow. Long defends a controversial thesis and provides persuasive and extensive argumentation. The carefully constructed treatment of the relationship between Aristotle’s theoretical and practical philosophy offers an integrated interpretation of Aristotle’s philosophy as a whole.” — Walter Brogan, coeditor of American Continental Philosophy: A Reader
I wrote a review of Does Socrates Have a Method? Rethinking the Elenchus in Plato’s Dialogues and Beyond, edited by Gary Alan Scott (University Park, PA: Penn State University Press) inn The Review of Metaphysics, 57 (2004): 650-2.
The Review of Metaphysics has generously allowed me to make the full text of this review available in .pdf format: Click this link to download the full text of the review.
I wrote a review of Contemporary Portrayals of Auschwitz: Philosophical Challenges, edited by Rosenberg, Alan, James Watson and Detlef Linke (Amherst, New York: Humanity Books, 2000) in the Journal of Speculative Philosophy, 15, 1 (2001): 62-65.