Pragmatism and the Cultivation of Digital Democracies

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“Pragmatism and the Cultivation of Digital Democracies.” In Richard J. Bernstein and the Expansion of American Philosophy: Thinking the Plural, edited by Marcia Morgan and Megan Craig, 37–59. Lanham: Lexington Books, 2016.

As technology enables us to communicate with one another in unpredictable ways that allow for an unprecedented public exchange of diverse ideas, cultivating the philosophical habits of an engaged fallibilistic pluralism gains in urgency. Read More

Creating Humane Metrics for the Humanities and Social Sciences

By | Grants, Fellowships, Awards, Vita | No Comments

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

The Liberal Arts Endeavor: The Arts of Liberty in a Time of Uncertainty

By | Journal of General Education, Publication: Journal, The Liberal Arts, Vita | No Comments

“The Liberal Arts Endeavor: The Arts of Liberty in a Time of Uncertainty.” Journal of General Education, 65, 2 (2017), v-vi.

Even if, as Hannah Arendt suggests, “we are always educating for a world that is or is becoming out of joint,” 1 our commitment to general education as “a distinctive cornerstone of the arts of liberty” gains urgency in times of uncertainty.

Although we often think of liberty as a basic right bestowed upon us, it is more fundamentally an activity rooted in the human ability to begin anew. As an activity, liberty can be practiced well or poorly. Practiced well, the arts of liberty enrich our communities, enliven our connection with the natural world, and advance the cause of social justice. Practiced poorly, the arts of liberty diminish us, impoverish our relationships, and destroy the environment on which life depends. Read More

Reiner Schürmann: Care of Death

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“Care of Death: On the Teaching of Reiner Schürmann.” Philosophy Today, January 31, 2017. doi:10.5840/philtoday201713141.

A homage in the guise of an essay, this is the story of the last course Reiner Schürmann taught. As a text, it attempts to describe, situate, and come to terms with the power of Schürmann’s teaching in the context of his last lectures on Heidegger’s Being and Time. But if it is to be true to the deepest lessons of Schürmann’s thinking, it will also need to be heard as an invitation to interpret together the significance of his reading so that it may be permitted to shape the course of the lives of those who encounter it. Read More

Bianchi’s the Feminine Symptom – A Response

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This is the text of the response I made to Emanuela Bianchi, The Feminine Symptom: Aleatory Matter in the Aristotelian Cosmos, (New York: Fordham University Press, 2014) at the 2016 meeting of the Society for Phenomenology and Existentialist Philosophy in Salt Lake City on October 21, 2016. It is the continuation of a 25 year old conversation Emma I have had on how to read Aristotle.

In the very middle of her masterful and beautifully written book, The Feminine Symptom: Aleatory Matter in the Aristotelian Cosmos, Emma Bianchi gestures to the risk and power of her hermeneutic approach to Aristotle.

On the one hand, she recognizes Page duBois’s critique of feminist psycholanalytic readings of ancient texts as a “colonizing gesture that reduces a rich and multivalent field of representations of women and sexual difference in the ancient world to a crude schematism of presence and absence of the phallus.” 1 On the other hand, she deftly reminds us that this every reduction and crude schematism shows itself in the Aristotelian texts themselves. Here, she embraces Luce Irigaray’s approach, which “offers the possibility of an immanent critique, in that when deployed critically and to feminist ends, psychoanalysis not only foregrounds questions of sex and gender in philosophy, but also permits a disclosure of the precise topologies of the reductions at play and the symptoms produced by those reductions.”2

For Bianchi, an immanent feminist psychoanalytic engagement with Aristotle is well worth the risk of a bit of crudity, for its power lies in its ability to disclose the pathological reductions at work in the Aristotelian texts. Indeed, one might say, having learned something of the lesson Bianchi’s book has to teach, these very reductions, the ways the recalcitrant feminine is repressed, are not only at work in these texts but are precisely what make these texts work. They enact a repression of the disruptive energy of the feminine which, precisely because of this act of repression, comes to language in the texts at certain symptomatic moments. We will return to this symptomology in a moment, for the degree to which it resonates with what I have called legomenology turns out to be at the heart of an ongoing and long-standing, generous, and, for me, enriching dialogue with Emma about the nature of Aristotelian thinking and writing.

But before delving more deeply into the meaning of the symptom in Bianchi’s book, it is important to recognize that her methodological approach moves also beyond the immanent critique for which Irigaray advocates. Bianchi’s is a queer feminism, so her feminist critique is, as she puts it here in the middle of her book, “entwined with a queer critique of ontological sexual difference, engaging the Aristotelian text in a practice that is simultaneously faithful and irreverent, rigorous and deforming, legitimate and bastard—in a word, symptomatic—and also, I hope, illuminating, enabling, and generative.”3

One of the most important and powerful aspects of Bianchi’s book comes to language here, for she speaks of her reading as a practice. Interpretations do things, and Bianchi’s reading of Aristotle is designed not only to do things with him and with his legacy, but also with each of us who enter into genuine hermeneutical dialogue with the text.

This dialogue involves, for Bianchi, what Spivak calls “critical intimacy,” a way of engaging the text that is both generous and skeptical. She rightly understands reading itself as a practice, indeed, she calls it a “responsive practice, one which not only reads but responds.” 4 Such a responsive practice, of course, is not undertaken in a contextual or historical vacuum, and Bianchi’s book is thus oriented, as it must be, both toward Aristotle and toward the current situation in which the reading takes place.

Reading Aristotle from the perspective of the present, Bianchi charts a delicate course between Aristotle as master systematizer, the first of a long line of Aristotelians, and what she calls “reparative phenomenological readings in the Heideggerian vein.” 5 If I am not mistaken, Bianchi has my own reading of Aristotle in mind with this later formulation. Here, as elsewhere in the book, Bianchi is generous in her critique: on the one hand, she recognizes that my phenomenological approach seeks, like her own aleatory feminism, to attend to countercurrents in Aristotle’s texts. She appreciates too, my designation of Aristotle’s methodology as a “legomenology,” the attempt to do justice to the manner in which beings express themselves and come to expression. Yet, on the other hand, she is, as she has long been, graciously insistent about the limits of a reparative approach. She writes: “Such approaches are certainly exemplary in their attunement to Aristotle’s words, but however richly they complexify his legacy, they do not entirely vitiate the overarching teleological and hierarchical architecture with which I am grappling.”6

It is, of course, not only Bianchi who is grappling with the legacy of the hierarchical architecture of Aristotle’s thinking, but all of us insofar as the effective history of Aristotle’s teleology and the patriarchy it consolidated, legitimized, and passed down continues to structure our social, political, and indeed personal relationships with one another. The gracefulness of Bianchi’s approach is experienced in the manner in which she is able to grapple seriously and critically with Aristotle’s teleology without reducing the living and dynamic nature of his thinking to caricature.

Throughout the book she resists the temptation to explain away Aristotle’s systematic aspirations, and when she encounters contradictions, she identifies them, rightly, as symptoms of an aleatory materialism that refuses to go quietly into the hierarchical structure of Aristotle’s patriarchal architecture. There are two moments in the book that illustrate this poignantly, and they are worth considering in more detail both because they demonstrate the power of Bianchi’s intimate critique and because they enable us to practice an intimate, immanent critique of our own.

The first moment on which to focus is her reading of Aristotle’s God, a figure who, more than any in the Aristotelian corpus, embodies the potency of Aristotle’s teleology—or to be perhaps more accurate: a figure who fails to embody any potency at all, if we are to adhere rigidly to Aristotle’s insistence, in Metaphysics XII.6, that if what is primary has potency, “there would not be everlasting motion, since what has being in potency admits of not being.”7

The second moment on which to focus is Bianchi’s careful reading of Aristotle’s shifting account of generation in the Generation of Animals, which she calls, channeling Heidegger’s characterization of Aristotle’s Physics, “the hidden and therefore never adequately studied foundational book of Western patriarchal metaphysics.”8 This formulation is telling for two reasons. First, it justifies the way The Feminine Symptom is structured, framed as it is by opening and closing chapters that engage Generation of Animals in substantive ways. Second, however, it also suggests the degree to which Bianchi’s own reading presumes a kind of grand narrative of the history of philosophy that the deconstructive theory she also embraces has done so much to call into question. One might say that this poetic formulation about Generation of Animals as the hidden book of Western patriarchal metaphysics is itself a symptom of Bianchi’s tendency to frame her reading of Aristotle in terms of the broad sweep of Western philosophy. She comes by this honestly, of course, as we both were attracted to the New School in part at least because of philosophers like Agnes Heller and Reiner Schürmann, who told such wonderful and compelling stories about the history of Western philosophy. Even so, however, we also learned there to be critical of grand narratives, so where it symptomatically appears in Emma’s book, I’ll gesture to it so we can perhaps take it up together in our ongoing discussion of the broad historical implications of this excellent study.

In order to address these two moments in Bianchi’s text with the critical intimacy they deserve, it will be important first to outline briefly the two central concepts around with the book is organized: aleatory matter and the feminine symptom.

Aleatory Matter and the Feminine Symptom

The aporia that most tellingly haunts the Aristotelian system is the appearance of the female offspring herself. On the one hand, Aristotle’s canonical account of generation requires the male form embodied in the semen to master and shape the female matter in order to produce one such as himself. The female appears as the result of a failure of mastery, or as Bianchi puts it “a material mishap.”9 On the other hand, of course, without the female, no generation at all is possible. The feminine is at once necessary and accidental.

Bianchi captures the signature of this aporia with the phrase “aleatory matter.” She puts it this way: “Aleatory matter—that is, matter that is apparently self-moving, disruptive, exterior to any teleological unfolding, indeed that acts against nature—poses continual difficulties for the Aristotelian cosmos.”10 The aleatory, for Bianchi, names that chance happening which Aristotle’s teleological system can neither subdue nor do without. As a result, it appears throughout the Aristotelian corpus as a sign of a certain inability, that is, as a symptom of the system’s incapacity to account for what it seeks to capture.

Symptom, here, takes on an important technical meaning. Bianchi draws together the two dimensions of the Greek word “sumptōma,” which combines the prefix sum-, which means “together,” and pipto-, “to fall,” in order to amplify the manner in which chance and coincidence befall the Aristotelian system. For Bianchi, “the sumptōma signifies a fundamental disruption of hierarchy and teleology.”11 A reading attuned to the feminine symptom in Aristotle will hear in certain decisive passages an equivocation, inconsistency, or vacillation, that is symptomatic of the resistance of aleatory matter to the hegemonic operation of the Aristotelian teleology. The beauty of Bianchi’s reading is the way it refuses to shrink from such symptomatic moments, finding in them instead precisely the signs of another dimension of Aristotle’s thinking that comes to language despite itself. Her intention is neither to indict nor repair, but rather, as she writes at the end, “to tarry with the aleatory.”12 In this, however, we also encounter the practical dimension of Bianchi’s reading, for in attending carefully to her texts, in following along with her as she enters into an intimate and critical engagement with Aristotle, we too learn to cultivate something of what she calls “interruptivity,” “a capacity both to be interrupted and to interrupt existing orders.”13 The cultivation of capacities of interruption enables us to welcome alterity in ways that can lead to more enriching modes of being together with others in a shared world.

Let’s Talk About God

There is no other figure in the Aristotelian imaginary less welcoming to alterity than the Prime Mover. I say “Prime Mover” here specifically, because God in Aristotle is said in many ways, and one way God comes to language is as first mover responsible for the motion of the cosmos. Another way, however, God comes to language is as “the thinking of thinking thinking.” What precisely comes to language in this later formulation is worth pursuing in more detail once we have established the robust and in many ways compelling critique Bianchi levels against the Prime Mover.

Following Irigaray, Bianchi traces a line of thinking in Aristotle from the account of place in the Physics to the figure of God in Metaphysics. She begins, in fact, further back, with an account of Plato’s conception of space or chōra as receptacle, with its rich resonances with the feminine, arguing that in Aristotle, the feminine receptacle is recast as place or topos. This is important because it opens the crucial question of the container, the contained, and the boundary between them. In the Physics, Aristotle develops a conception of topos as boundary, indeed, as the “primary motionless boundary of that which contains.”14 After citing this definition, Bianchi calls our attention to this important passage: “a place is together with [hama] the thing [contained], for the limit [of that which contains] coincides with [hama] that which is limited.”15 Here issues of inside, outside, and boundary are somehow navigated by means of the appearance of the little word, hama, which itself takes on significance in Bianchi’s reading as an expression of the feminine symptom.

The annunciation of “hama” here, according to Bianchi, draws together the temporal and the spatial in a telling way, for it means both “at the same time” and “together with.” This duplicity of meaning gives expression to the paradox of the boundary itself and points to the manner in which the rectilinear motions of the sublunary realm where each element tends toward its proper place give way to the higher circular motions of the stars that marks the passing of time. But, according to Bianchi, the hama here is symptomatic insofar as it brings to language the perplexing structure of the boundary itself in which the contained and the container somehow coincide. Even my own formulation here resorts through the use of “somehow” to an Aristotelian tendency to appeal to an indefinite pronoun to signal the ambiguity of the problem.

For Bianchi, however, Aristotle himself never tarries long with the ambiguous moments his own language betrays. Rather, in the end, he opts to appeal to an ultimate principle of hegemonic authority, the Prime Mover itself, unmoved, but capable of moving others by virtue of its divine authority. On this reading, the Prime Mover is the engine of Aristotle’s teleology. Bianchi puts it this way: “the masculine signifier par excellence is unmoved, motionless, standing beyond the physical cosmos, outside space and time.”16

Here the symptomatic ambiguity heard in the word “hama” gives way to the dominance of patriarchal automony.

In the heavens, the feminine no longer has any place at all, not even as a giver of place. The woman/mother is superseded and the relation between subject and paternal function, now understood as that between heavenly body and divine prime mover, is mediated at her expense, at the price of her disappearance.17

Yet there remains this “hama,” the symptom of aleatory matter and the trace of that which cannot be disappeared by the positing of an ultimate.

It should come, then, as no surprise that when Aristotle turns his attention to the living activity of God perhaps here now properly described as “Father,” that little word appears again as Aristotle attempts to give voice to the complete activity that has its end in itself. To express this, as he does in Metaphysics IX.6, Aristotle differentiates between incomplete activities, like building, which have their ends outside of themselves in the product toward which they aim, and complete activities, like seeing, thinking, living. Aristotle expresses complete activities this way: “one is seeing and at the same time (hama) one has seen (heōrake), and one is practically wise (phronei) and one has been practically wise (pephronēke), is thinking and has thought (nenoēken)….”18 Striking here, is first how Aristotle deploys a combination of verb tenses, the present, with its progressive aspect, and the perfect, with its completed aspect, to bring to language an ongoing activity that is complete in itself.19 In this context, Bianchi rightly emphasizes again the appearance of the adverb, hama, which, as she says, “explicitly seeks a unity, collapsing the present and perfect tenses, while also marking and giving the possibility of a temporal difference, the possibility of a time other than the present.”20 Just as in the case of the earlier discussion of place where the adverb announced a chiasmatic coincidence and separation of time and space at the boundary of the sub- and super-lunary spheres, here too, hama appears symptomatically to gesture to another time. Bianchi is right too to identify this other time with the living activity of God, which Aristotle also describes in terms of receiving, touching, holding, thinking, seeing, being loved, and, living. In this sense, the adverb again announces the recalcitrant feminine symptom, for as Bianchi herself emphasizes, with these formations, the divine activity “also in its articulation bears traces of that very materiality, embodiment, and temporality from which it is purportedly free as a superlatively perfect form of life.”21

Aristotle thus posits the autonomous activity of God, pure and complete, as the ultimate hegemonic principle of patriarchal metaphysics at the same time as (hama) he gives voice also to the feminine symptom that refuses to go into the teleological system without remainder. The feminine symptom comes to language again, it seems to me, in the very manner in which Aristotle articulates the activity of God as the thinking of thinking thinking (noēsis noēseōs noēsis), a formulation which, I have argued, “declares the manner in which a certain dynamis remains cooperative in that activity of thinking which expresses the relational dynamic of encounter on which all life depends.”22 Attending to those moments in Aristotle’s text when the feminine symptom comes to language is what I have called “legomenology,” a method that follows Aristotle’s lead in attending to the things said by those who seek to give voice to the truth of things.

Bianchi has long been a trusted interlocutor who attempts in what she says and writes to give voice to the truth of things, and her book is an eloquent testimony to her endeavor to hold Aristotle accountable for the things he says. In a sense, she attempts to do with Aristotle what Aristotle did with Empedocles when, at the beginning of the Metaphysics, he sought to “pursue and get hold of Empedocles’ thinking, rather than what he said inarticulately.”23 To this end, she insists that the thinking behind the articulation of God as life without body, matter, and time is the establishment of a teleological of order in which the feminine is systematically repressed. There can be little doubt that this has been the misogynistic legacy of Western thinking and acting that a certain Aristotelianism has wrought.

Her critique of my legomenological approach, despite its similarity with her symptomology, is my alleged unwillingness to hold Aristotle’s feet to the misogynistic teleological fire. She writes:

Long’s immanentist reading moves quickly over the radicality of this transcending of matter in the figure of the prime mover, instead emphasizing its rootedness in the relationality of perception and thus its continuity with the human experience of thinking as apprehension and encounter with alterity.24

If, however, I move too quickly over the way Aristotle radically attempts to transcend matter and divorce God from the world, which indeed I very well might, Bianchi could be said to move too quickly to posit the hegemonic dominance of the prime mover as the ultimate teleological principle of patriarchal metaphysics. Ironically, of course, as she suggests, my desire to tarry with ambiguity and affirm relationality at the root of Aristotle’s thinking is animated by a philosophical commitment similar to her own. It is a commitment to do justice to difference, indeed, to learn the habits of welcoming alterity that Bianchi so eloquently associates with aleatory matter. What she calls the feminine symptom, I trace through Aristotle’s legomenology, decidedly not however I hope, as an apology for the misogynistic tendencies in Aristotle. If my reading colludes in covering over the misogynistic tendencies in Aristotle’s thinking and the broader impact such tendencies have long had on the history of Western thinking and acting, Emma is right to criticize me and to highlight these dimensions of Aristotle’s legacy.

However, I would suggest that my legomenological approach is consistent with and capable of lending further support to her own feminist symptomology. To flesh that out further, it will be helpful, finally, to turn our attention to the Generation of Animals, that hidden foundational book of Western patriarchal metaphysics. Here, however, although our approaches resonate with one another, we ourselves fall on different sides of the question of the degree to which the technological model ultimately holds sway as the central metaphor through which Aristotle understands generation.

Generation and Techne

Bianchi begins and ends her book with a substantive engagement with Aristotle’s Generation of Animals. A thread that runs through her interpretation of generation in Aristotle is that Aristotle tends to assimilate the processes of “nature to the scene of technical production….”25 In this, she follows our teacher, Reiner Schürmann, who insisted that Aristotle ultimately treated politics and nature in terms of human fabrication.26

In the final chapter of her book, Bianchi turns her attention to what might be considered the central crisis of Aristotle’s canonical account of generation in the Generation of Animals. The crisis concerns the appearance of certain hereditary phenomena associated with the mother and with the maternal ancestry of the offspring. The canonical account bases generation on production, a model in which the male semen provides the form that shapes the material provided by the mother. As the producing agent, the masculine principle overcomes the feminine matter to produce offspring like itself. This is the source of the odious tendency in Aristotle to identify the generation of a female as a “teras,” a monstrosity, because it is a departure from the masculine norm.27 Indeed, at the beginning of her book, Bianchi points to the female offspring herself as the feminine symptom par excellence.28

Aristotle’s canonical account of generation, predicated as it is on the model of technical production, demonstrates its limitation in the wake of attempts to account for the generation of the female and of the appearance of maternal hereditary features. In GA IV.3, Aristotle deploys a sophisticated battery of concepts to attempt to account for such hereditary phenomena, including, first and foremost, the very appearance of a daughter. Chief among these concepts is the distinction between two sorts of interaction between the powers of the male and female: existasthai, which names the failure of the mastery of the male that results in the appearance of the female; and luesthai, a loosening of the agent resulting from its being acted upon by that upon which it acts. Aristotle deploys the difference between these two ways the male principle can fail to produce one such as himself to account, through existasthai, for the appearance of the female, and through luesthai, for the appearance of male children with maternal characteristics.

Bianchi does a very nice job of summarizing it this way:

Loosening (luesthai) is a rather passive failure of the generative principle, and results merely in a walking over (meta-bainei) to the next same-sex ancestor in line. Existasthai marks a misdirection or deviation in matter that results in radical transformation into a contrary: a meta-ballei or throwing over into sexual alterity.29

The solution is as creative as it is problematic. While is saves the phenomenon of generation and heredity, it problematizes the canonical model of generation in which form imposes itself upon matter in a manner analogous with technical production. Bianchi suggests as much when she writes: “Aristotle’s quite brilliant solution to the problem of inherited characteristics nevertheless results in a profound incoherence in relation to his theory of sexual reproduction, because it requires a balance of powers (dunameis) between the sexes that cannot be effectively translated into the matter-form distinction.”30

This incoherence has far reaching implications for how we understand Aristotle’s thinking as a whole, for it falls together symptomatically, arguably, at the very heart of his biology, which Bianchi rightly situates at the root of his thinking.31 It has implications too, for the degree to which we ought to follow Bianchi (and Schürmann) in identifying technical production as the central model according to which Aristotle thinks natural being. Although it is true that technological thinking haunts Aristotle’s corpus throughout, particularly when it intends to articulate the separate dimensions of form in its relation to matter, the complex messiness of generation undermines the sort of clean distinctions between form and matter Aristotle’s canonical hylomorphism seems to require. Bianchi recognizes and indeed emphasizes it as one of the primary sites in which the feminine symptom appears. Indeed, I would argue, the feminine symptom comes to language in a wide variety of places in the texts handed down to us under Aristotle’s name, including here in the discussion of the generation of animals in the form of the distinction between existasthai and luesthai. Yet, Bianchi herself here might be said to move too quickly away from the incoherence that comes to language here, an incoherence that would require us to consider the degree to which Aristotle’s thinking truly is obsessed with the technological model of production and the rigid teleology in which it finds a home.

The point here is not to initiate a reparative reading of Aristotle, but to complicate the grand narrative that situates his thinking at the beginning of the history patriarchal metaphysics. In complicating things in this way, however, I hope am beginning to learn the habits of interruptivity that a reading of this remarkable book cultivates. If so, it is yet another symptom of how Emma’s work continues to enrich my own engagement with Aristotle and the broader lens through which I encounter the world and those I meet in it.

The Liberal Arts Endeavor: On Editing the Journal of General Education

By | Journal of General Education, Publication: Journal, Vita | 3 Comments

“The Liberal Arts Endeavor: On Editing the Journal of General Education.” Journal of General Education, 65, 1 (2016), v-vii.

In accepting the editorship of the Journal of General Education: A Curricular Commons of the Humanities and Sciences, I am pleased to recognize the thoughtful and creative work of Jeremy Cohen and Patty Wharton-Michael, who have served as editors for the past four years, and of Catherine Jordan, who served as the editorial manager. They cultivated and nurtured a journal committed, as they so eloquently articulated, to general education “as a distinctive cornerstone of the arts of liberty.” Drawing on this enduring mission, the journal will be committed to furthering the arts of liberty as integral to our attempts to “prepare citizens to live engaged, responsible, and meaningful lives.” Read More

Bringing Your CV to Life

By | Blogging and Social Media, Digital Scholarship, Presentation: Interactive, The Long Road, Vita | 2 Comments

Traditionally, a curriculum vitae (CV) is an articulation of one’s qualifications and accomplishments in an academic context. The Latin root of the term suggests the extent to which the CV indicates a “course of life.”

Despite the dynamic and organic connotations of this Latin root, most CVs are printed documents updated periodically by faculty members as we accumulate accomplishments rather than living expressions of the course of our academic lives.

Increasingly, however, faculty are beginning to take advantage of the affordances of digital modes of scholarly communication not simply to document accomplishments and credentials, but more ambitiously to cultivate communities of practice and engagement around the work we are doing.

Inexpensive hosting services (like Reclaim Hosting), powerful publishing platforms (like WordPress) that are easy to set up and broadly accessible, and the wide adoption of social media (TwitterFacebook) have opened new opportunities for us to create communities of colleagues interested in our work and capable of enriching it through dialogical response and collaboration.

The barriers to our success in creating and nurturing such communities of scholarship on the web are now less technological than they are cultural. Our habits of online communication, scholarly and otherwise, remain immature; we are still learning what we can do with our new technologies and what they are doing with us.

The situation in which we find ourselves calls for examples and opportunities to reflect together on what is possible in a course of a scholarly life rooted in digital modes of engagement.

The Academic Advancement Network (#msuaan) session on October 4, 2016, brings faculty together from across campus who have created dynamic and living online spaces that open new opportunities not simply for wide exposure, but more significantly, for collaboration and engagement that can enrich and advance the quality of their work.

A major challenge for highly productive faculty is how to integrate habits of online community building into our everyday scholarly workflow so we are not pulled away from our research and teaching.

In identifying these colleagues, calling them together, and amplifying their work, we have sought in the session and here online, to embody a culture of generosity, amplification, and engagement that we hope will begin to take root and grow, not only here at Michigan State University, but more broadly across other academic communities and their emerging digital networks.

This approach is consistent with the long-standing MSU land-grant commitment to advancing knowledge through public engagement, and it’s integral to bringing our academic work to life.

Participants in the Oct. 4th #msuaan session include:

Alexandra Hidalgo:

David Lowery:

Dylan Miner:

Robby Ratan:

Chris Long:

Public Philosophy and Philosophical Publics

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de Avlillez, André Rosenbaum, Mark Fisher, Kris Klotz, and Christopher P. Long. “Public Philosophy and Philosophical Publics: Performative Publishing and the Cultivation of Community.” The Good Society 24, no. 2 (2015): 118–45.

The emergence of new platforms for public communication, public deliberation, and public action presents new possibilities for forming, organizing, and mobilizing public bodies, which invite philosophical reflection concerning the standards we currently look to for coordinating public movements and for evaluating their effects. Developing a broad understanding of public philosophy, this article begins with the view of philosophy and intellectual freedom articulated in Kant’s publicly oriented writings. We then focus on the power of philosophical discourse to form and further articulate public bodies. Drawing on Dewey’s work, we discuss the role of philosophical discourse in the articulation of publics into self-regulated, sovereign entities. We conclude with an account of how publishing itself might come to play an important role in the practice of public philosophy in a digital age. Read More

Tweeting the Liberal Arts @Muhlenberg #MCLA16

By | Presentation: Interactive, Presentations, The Liberal Arts, The Long Road, Vita | 2 Comments

In his inaugural address as president of the college he founded, Frederick Augustus Muhlenberg spoke of the values that animate the institution: “We do not regard an education as complete that aims only at improving the intellect,” he said, and goes on to emphasize that Muhlenberg is an institution that “contemplates the education of [one’s] conscience and the cultivation of [one’s] heart.”

This commitment to a complete education, one that includes the cultivation of intellectual and ethical habits of thinking and acting, is at the heart of a liberal arts education. Even as the liberal arts come under attack from wide range of voices across the American political spectrum, we do well to remember that this commitment to educate the whole person is deeply rooted in the history of American higher education and has long been a source of innovation and growth.

In the wake of new, dynamic modes of digital communication made possible by the creation of the world-wide web in 1989, this commitment to educating the whole person and the need to bring the excellences of the liberal arts to our interactions with one another have never been more important.

The technologies associated with the web have now grown so familiar and become so ubiquitous that it is easy to forget how new they are and how young we are with them. We are still learning what we can do with them and what they are doing with us.

Technologies always work both ways.

Their affordances and limitations can best be discerned by putting them into practice; for by using the technologies and being used by them, we come to better understand the possibilities they open for us and the challenges they present.

My visit to Muhlenberg is informed by a commitment to put the technologies of digital communication into a liberal arts practice in order to open a space to reflect upon how they might enrich and impoverish our relationships with one another.

The education of conscience to which Muhlenberg calls us is a task to be taken up anew each day; it involves a commitment to weave a concern for justice into our interactions with one another be they online or in person.

Cultivating Communities of Learning with Digital Media

Drawing on my experience with public writing in an Ancient Philosophy course, this faculty workshop focuses on the pedagogical affordances and limitations of public writing in digital environments. The discussion will circle around questions raised by my article, Cultivating Communities of Learning with Digital Media: Cooperative Education through Blogging and Podcasting.

Of central importance to the design of that course was the scoring rubric used to cultivate the habits and practices of public writing on the co-authored blog. I share it here so that it can be freely adapted as needed.

Tweeting the Liberal Arts @Muhlenberg #MCLA16

Below are the curated posts from the interactive presentation held at Muhlenberg on February 1, 2016 at 8pm.


On Touch and Life in the De Anima

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“On Touch and Life in the De Anima.” In Phenomenology and the Metaphysics of Sight, edited by Antonio Cimino and Pavlos Kontos, (Leiden: Brill Academic Publisher, 2015, 69-94).

Although Aristotle is often thought to give canonical voice to the priority of vision as the most noble of the human powers of perceiving, this article demonstrates that in Aristotle, touch has a priority vision lacks.

By tracing the things Aristotle says about touch in the De Anima and specifically the manner in which he identifies touch as a kind of mean condition, this essay argues that a deeper understanding of the nature of touch connects us humans more deeply to animal life and the natural world we inhabit. Read More

Tracking Plato’s Dogs

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“Who Let the Dogs Out? Tracking the Philosophical Life Among the Wolves and Dogs of Plato’s Republic.” In Plato’s Animals: Gadflies, Snakes, Stingrays, Swans, and Other Philosophical Beasts, edited by Jeremy Bell and Michael Naas, (Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 2015). Available in Open Access Format:

Identifying a sustainable model for open access publishing in the humanities is a challenge that calls for creative experimental solutions. The model that sustains the growth of open access scholarship in the sciences is rooted in federal funding mechanisms that are unavailable at the same scale for the humanities. This situation requires innovative collaboration between humanities scholars and publishers to develop sustainable ways to provide open access to humanities scholarship at scale.

I am happy to report here on one such collaborative experiment in open access publishing in the humanities. Read More

Mellon Grant Expands Support for the Public Philosophy Journal

By | Grants, Fellowships, Awards, Vita | One Comment

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.

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Performing Collaborative Scholarship

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In this interactive keynote address for the Bucknell Digital Scholarship Conference: Collaborating Digitally, I articulate a model of collaborative scholarship in Philosophy that has enabled me to bring undergraduate students and a wider community of scholars into the research that has informed two projects: my interactive enhanced digital book, Socratic and Platonic Political Philosophy, published by Cambridge University Press, and the Mellon funded, Public Philosophy Journal.

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Philosophy and the Networked Public

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Philosophy has always been a public activity, although its relationship with the public and its own public nature have long been fraught with anxiety for philosophy and the public both.

At this year’s Society for Phenomenology and Existentialist Philosophy, the advocacy committee organized a panel entitled “New Media, Social Networks, and Philosophy.” Each panelist was asked to frame the conversation in ways that might open a wider discussion.

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The Ethics of Philosophy in a Digital Age

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To honor the work of Richard J. Bernstein, a group of colleagues and former students will gather at Stony Brook University for a conference entitled, Thinking the Plural: Richard J. Bernstein’s Contribution to American Philosophy.

The papers from this conference are also being collected for a volume of the same name, edited by former students Marcia Morgan and Jonathan Pickle.

My contribution has the working title: The Ethics of Philosophy in a Digital Age: Peirce, Dewey, Bernstein and the Cultivation of Creative Digital Democracies. Drawing on Bernstein’s account of the ethos of pragmatism in his 1988 Presidential Address to the American Philosophical Association, the essay advocates for practices of digital communicative transaction rooted in the habits of an “engaged fallibilistic pluralism.”

Because these habits must be informed by digital practices, I’ve invited comment on an earlier draft of this paper here on this site, and received substantive feedback both in the comment section and via Twitter.

At Stony Brook, I will continue the process of drawing on a wider digital public to further develop the argument of the paper by live tweeting my talk and opening a space for ongoing conversation here on the blog.

AltAc and the Engaged PhD

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Without diminishing the centrality of the PhD research endeavor, how can we cultivate more engaged graduate students?

This presentation situates the graduate research endeavor in its wider institutional and public context and suggests two concrete ways to give PhDs enhanced skills that will enable them to enrich their institutions and the wider world they inhabit.

For the full text of the presentation, see The Engaged PhD.

Socratic and Platonic Politics

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This presentation argues that there is a difference, and a similarity, between the ways Socrates and Plato practice politics.

Socratic politics, as depicted in Plato’s dialogues, may be characterized as the practice of using spoken words to turn the individuals one encounters toward the questions of what is just and beautiful and good. These three ideas function as erotic ideals that entice those animated by Socratic questioning to live a life seeking justice, beauty and the good. Of course, one of the main things we learn from the figure of Socrates we meet in the Platonic dialogues is that those ideals, however alluring, remain always ultimately elusive to finite human beings. Even so, Socratic politics is designed to cultivate in individuals a desire for them and to enjoin us to weave a concern for them into our relationships with one another.

The main argument of the lecture is that what Socrates attempts to do with those with whom he speaks, Plato attempts to do with those to whom he writes.

Platonic writing is political not because it presents manifestos, but because it requires each of us who encounters his texts to become actively concerned with the ideals of justice, beauty and the good and to consider how the course of our lives and our relationships with one another can be enriched by an engagement with those ideals.

The relationship between Socrates and the individuals he encounters is the site of Socratic politics. It is a “topology,” a place of saying.

The relationship between the written text and each individual reader is the site of Platonic politics. It is a “topography,” a place of writing.

The interactive lecture will outline the differences between the topology of Socratic politics and the topography of Platonic politics in order to invite further engagement with these ideas on the interactive website of my enhanced digital book: Socratic and Platonic Political Philosophy: Practicing a Politics of Reading.

The Public Philosophy Journal at #DH2014

By | Presentations, The Public Philosophy Journal, Vita | 2 Comments

In this poster session, we present the project of the Public Philosophy Journal and our plans for cultivating a community of engaged scholars to sustain it.

At the session, we explain our motivations for designing the journal to perform public philosophy as its mode of publication, highlight the journal’s role as a hub for community-sourced curation and open peer review of existing work, and introduce our model for the collaborative writing and editing of publicly engaged scholarship.

We draw attention to common aims of differing conceptions of public philosophy, and discuss how the PPJ will leverage digital media in promoting both reasoned deliberation concerning the public good and the modeling of virtues of thought, expression, and action within the public sphere.

Here is the poster itself, designed in collaboration with Matrix at Michigan State:

Public Philosophy Journal Poster for DH2014

Public Philosophy Journal Poster for DH2014

Cultivating an Online Scholarly Presence

By | Presentation: Interactive, Presentation: Other, Presentations, The Graduate Experience, Vita | 5 Comments

Graduate students are often confronted with conflicting advice about how much of their academic work they should share publicly online.

Although there are good reasons to consider carefully what one shares and how, graduate students who do not intentionally cultivate an online scholarly presence will increasingly be at a disadvantage both professionally and academically.

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Following the Footprints of Aristotle: On Kosman's The Activity of Being

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Aristotle’s thinking is peripatetic. It moves along paths, some of which are well-worn, others newly cleared by the creative elasticity of his thinking. It pursues questions by traversing along a course for a stretch, on the scent of truth itself, but when it finds its way impeded, it is unafraid to turn around, return to the start, or even to cut a new path of its own to navigate a hindrance, to find a way to around an aporia.

To read Aristotle well is to cultivate something of that peripatetic elasticity of mind; it is to learn to walk with him, without rushing; it is to tarry with his thinking and to patiently follow where it leads

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The Peripatetic Method: Walking with Woodbridge, Thinking with Aristotle

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“The Peripatetic Method: Walking with Woodbridge, Thinking with Aristotle.” In The Bloomsbury Companion to Aristotle, edited by Claudia Baracchi, (London: Bloomsbury Publishing, 2014).

Published in The Bloomsbury Companion to Aristotle (Bloomsbury Companions), this essay, entitled “The Peripatetic Method: Walking with Woodbridge, Thinking with Aristotle,” attempts to articulate the manner in which Aristotle’s thinking unfolds.

You can read the The Peripatetic Method on the Bloomsbury site, where they have made it openly accessible.

Drawing on the poetry of Wallace Stevens and the remarkable series of lectures Frederick J. E. Woodbridge gave at Union College in 1930 entitled, simply, “The Philosophy of Aristotle,” but published under the title Aristotle’s Vision of Nature, this paper identifies the path of Aristotle’s thinking, its method, as a “peripatetic legomenology.” It is a legomenology because it attends carefully to the manner in which things are said (ta legomena), and peripatetic because it follows the things said as a way into the nature of things. Read More

Public Digital Scholarship: The @PubPhilJ at the #APAEastern

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This presentation on the Public Philosophy Journal, invited by the APA Committee on Public Philosophy, provides an update on the status of the development of the open access, open peer review journal.

However difficult it is to create an open access, open peer review site of excellent digital scholarship, the Public Philosophy Journal includes a yet more ambitious performative dimension: the PPJ seeks to perform, as its very mode of scholarly publication, the sort of public philosophy it hopes to cultivate and amplify.

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The Public Philosophy Journal $236,000 Mellon Grant

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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.

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Socrates, Plato and Digital Scholarship at #ECDS

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The Emory Center for Digital Scholarship asked me to give a version of the presentation at gave at #DH2013 last summer entitled eBook as Ecosystem of Digital Scholarship

Socratic and Platonic Political Philosophy: Practicing the Politics of Reading (forthcoming Cambridge University Press) is an enhanced digital book that attempts to use digital media technology to cultivate the political practice of collaborative reading for which it argues.

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Reading the Death of Socrates

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Returning to Wittenberg for the first time since graduating in 1991, I gave an interactive, live-tweeted, lecture on Reading the Death of Socrates. The paper argues that the Phaedo is Plato’s most eloquent political dialogue, and it seeks not only to argue that both Socratic and Platonic politics recognized the transformative power of words, but also to use social media to experience the way words can enrich, or impoverish, community.

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Performative Publication in a Digital Age

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New affordances in dynamic modes of digital scholarly communication have enabled authors to tailor the content of our texts to the forms in which they appear in public.

This presentation focuses on two performative publication projects I am currently undertaking: Socratic and Platonic Political Philosophy: Practicing a Politics of Reading to be published by Cambridge University Press, and the Public Philosophy Journal which is in the final stages of being considered for a Mellon Grant.

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eBook as Ecosystem of Scholarly Communication

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Socratic and Platonic Political Philosophy: Practicing the Politics of Reading (forthcoming Cambridge University Press) is an enhanced digital book that attempts to use digital media technology to cultivate the political practice of collaborative reading for which it argues.

The book’s central argument is that there 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.

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Forever (42 bicycles), Ai Weiwei

The Politics of Reading … in China

By | Presentation: Academic, Presentations, Socratic and Platonic Politics, Vita | 2 Comments

NANJING, China – I must admit, I am a bit uneasy about delivering this talk on Plato and the Politics of Reading here at Nanjing University.

You see, I am simply not sure what it means to speak in China about the erotic nature of politics. But this uneasiness is not unfamiliar to the discipline of Philosophy; in fact, one might tell a long story about how the history of Western philosophy, at least, is the history of trying to do away with uncertainty, of repressing it by appealing to some ultimate Archimedean point on which we can ultimately depend.

But Philosophy goes astray the moment it denies its own uneasiness and seeks refuge in the delusions of certainty.

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Public Philosophy in Digital Dialogue

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There is a difference between the ways Socrates turns those with whom he speaks in Plato’s dialogues to consider questions of justice, beauty and the good and the ways Plato’s writing turns his readers to consider the same ideals. But there is also a strikingly analogous set of philosophical practices by which Socratic speaking enjoins interlocutors and Platonic writing enjoins readers to orient our lives toward the question of justice. This presentation traces the contours of this analogy that is at the center of my enhanced digital book: Socratic and Platonic Political Philosophy.

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Public Philosophy Journal

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Philosophy is often mistakenly viewed as distant from public life, secluded in the Ivory Tower away from the public concerns of civil society.

However, the affordances of digital scholarly communication have enabled philosophers increasingly to bring the value of their work to bear on matters of public importance from ethics and public policy to cultural criticism. Even so, however, there are few publishing venues available for philosophers to gain publicity for their work and to reach diverse audiences.

The Public Philosophy Journal is designed to re-envision the relationship between the academy and everyday life by creating a public space for accessible but rigorous scholarly discourse on challenging contemporary issues of public concern.

The Public Philosophy Journal is a collaborative endeavor between the Department of Philosophy and the Humanities in a Digital Age initiative at the Pennsylvania State University, and Matrix: The Center for Humane Arts, Letters, and Social Sciences Online and the Department of Philosophy at Michigan State University.

Our intent is to create a journal that will perform public philosophy as its mode of publication.

By leveraging the open and collaborative capacities endemic to digital communications, the Public Philosophy Journal will cultivate a community of scholars engaged in curating, reviewing, editing, co-writing and modeling rigorous work related to public philosophy broadly construed.

The process of publication for the journal will involve five basic dimensions:

  1. Curate: Current digital public philosophy discussions and pertinent web content will be curated by leveraging the work and input of a world-wide community of scholars, graduate students, and policy makers;
  2. Review: The journal will include mechanisms for open peer review of curated content, including a system for reviewing reviewers and credentialing reviewers who are consistently engaged and thoughtful in their contributions;
  3. Enrich: Digital public philosophy will be greatly enriched by creating a space for collaborative writing to further develop the content of the online discussions into a rigorous scholarly article;
  4. Publish: Reviewed articles will be openly published together with invited responses to the reviewed work;
  5. Cultivate: Ongoing open dialogue about the published articles will be cultivated by invited and curated responses that have the potential to feed the development of new collaborative scholarship.

Below is a Prezi that Mark Fisher and I developed for the Networked Humanities conference at the University of Kentucky, February 15-16, 2013, #NHUK, that explains in a bit more detail the vision behind the Public Philosophy Journal.

If you are interested in being a part of the @PubPhilJ community, please fill out the attached form and help curate excellent content from around the web.

Plato and the Politics of Reading

By | Presentation: Academic, Presentations, Socratic and Platonic Politics, Vita | 3 Comments

SAN FRANCISCO, CA – To give a lecture on the politics of collaborative reading without inviting one’s listeners to become active participants would be a performative contradiction.

So, in this lecture, Plato and the Politics of Reading, delivered at the University of San Francisco, I have sought ways to use digital technologies like twitter, Storify and, of course, this blog, to invite my listeners to participate in the lecture itself. (I wrote a post about live tweeting my own lecture to explain the rationale and logistics of this.)

As this post is designed to be a platform for further discussion, let me offer a brief synopsis of the position the lecture articulates.

Socratic politics may be characterized as the practice of using spoken words to turn those individuals one encounters toward the questions of what is just and beautiful and good. These ideas function as erotic ideals that entice those animated by Socratic questioning to live a life seeking justice, beauty and the good. Of course, one of the main things we learn from the figure of Socrates we meet in the Platonic dialogues is that those ideals, however alluring, remain always ultimately elusive to finite human beings. Even so, Socratic politics is designed to turn individuals toward those ideals and to enjoin us to weave a concern for them into our relationships with one another.

The main argument of the lecture is that what Socrates attempts to do with those with whom he speaks, Plato attempts to do with those to whom he writes.

Platonic writing is political not because it presents manifestos, but because it requires each of us who encounters his texts to become actively concerned with the ideals of justice, beauty and the good and to consider how the course of our lives and our relationships with one another can be enriched by an engagement with those ideals.

The lecture ultimately seeks to articulate three dimensions of Platonic writing that demonstrate its profound political power.

  1. By calling our own beliefs and opinions into question, Platonic writing opens us to what is beyond ourselves.
  2. By confronting us with Socrates’ public failures and pointing to his more private interpersonal successes, Platonic writing cultivates in us the ability to imagine new, more just political realities.
  3. By depicting a Socrates unwaveringly animated by a concern for the erotic ideals of justice, beauty and the good, Platonic writing invites us to consider how these ideals themselves are capable of transforming the nature of our relationships with one another.

But if this is what Platonic writing does with us, the politics of reading points to what we might do together as engaged readers of his texts, for the most transformative possibilities emerge from Plato’s writings only when we take them up and actively read them together.

Works Cited in the Lecture

Plato and the Politics of Reading is a group in Education, Philosophy on Mendeley.

In an attempt to perform something of this in public, I have sought below to curate some of the collaborative discussion that emerged from the lecture in the Storify story embedded below. I invite you participate in the Storify by way of twitter (@cplong and #bapca) or by commenting on this blog post.

Here is the Storify:

Socrates: Platonic Political Ideal

By | Articles, Publication: Journal, Vita | 7 Comments

Christopher P. Long, “Socrates: Platonic Political Ideal,” Ideas y Valores, 61, 149: 2012.

This essay articulates the differences and suggests the similarities between the practices of Socratic political speaking and those of Platonic political writing.

The essay delineates Socratic speaking and Platonic writing as both erotically oriented toward ideals capable of transforming the lives of individuals and their relation- ships with one another. Besides it shows that in the Protagoras the practices of Socratic political speaking are concerned less with Protagoras than with the individual young man, Hippocrates. In the Phaedo, this ideal of a Socrates is amplified in such a way that Platonic writing itself emerges as capable of doing with readers what Socratic speaking did with those he encountered. Socrates is the Platonic political ideal. Read More

On Touch and Life in the De Anima

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CITTÀ DI CASTELLO, Umbria, Italy – Late last year, I received a very kind set of questions from Matteo Cosci, a PhD student in Italy at the University of Padua, about my book Aristotle on the Nature of Truth. One of the issues he raised about the book was that it did not flesh out the meaning of the methodological approach that informs the book, an approach I call a “peripatetic legomenology.”

In this, Matteo agreed with Sean Kirkland’s review of the book in Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews in which he suggested that “more contextualizing methodological reflections” on the meaning of legomenology would have been welcome.

In this paper, On Touch and Life in the De Anima, I attempt to further flesh out the meaning and nature of the legomenological method by putting it to work on the question of touch in the De Anima. More specifically, because legomenology involves the attempt to discern the nature of a phenomenon by attending to the things having been said (ta legomena) by thoughtful predecessors who have sought to articulate the meaning of the phenomenon itself, this paper seeks to follow the things Aristotle says about touch in the De Anima.

The most effective articulation of the meaning and nature of legomenology is not to offer a meta-reflection on it as a methodology separable from a way of inquiry, but to perform it so that the hermeneutical possibilities it opens may be experienced.

This is the spirit in which this paper was offered, as a performance of legomenology at work on the question of touch in the De Anima. By following the manner in which Aristotle speaks of touch in the De Anima, we identify an itinerary in which the nature of touch is felt to haunt Aristotle’s account of the other proper powers of perceiving – seeing, hearing, smelling and tasting – in such a way that the nature of perceiving itself comes ultimately to language in the chapter on touch in De Anima II.11.

More specifically, the aporia of touch, which seems not to require a separate medium through which to operate as the other powers of perceiving do, appears in the middle of the De Anima, forcing Aristotle to speak not of a medium (to metaxu) but of a mean (to meson). This enables him to articulate the nature of perceiving itself as a mean condition (mesotes) that puts us in intimate touch with the world in which we live. But perceiving turns out not only to be the manner in which animals inhabit the world, but the mode by which the world habituates us to it.

The legomenology of touch in the De Anima uncovers the dynamic, reciprocal relationship between animal life and the world in and with which it lives.

Below is a small slide show with some images from the Circolo, where the Collegium is held:

Attempting the Political Art

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Christopher P. Long, “Attempting the Political Art,” Proceedings of the Boston Area Colloquium in Ancient Philosophy, 27 (2012): 153-74.

The main thesis of this essay is that the practice of Socratic political speaking and the practice of Platonic political writing are intimately interconnected but distinct.

The essay focuses on the famous passage from the Gorgias in which Socrates claims to be one of the few Athenians who attempt the political art truly and goes on to articulate the nature of his political practice as a way of speaking toward the best (521d6-e2). Read More

ALP at Penn State: A Vision of the New Research University

By | Grants, Fellowships, Awards, The Administrative Life, Vita | 5 Comments

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.

ALP at University of Chicago: Virtues of an Education for Democracy

By | Grants, Fellowships, Awards, The Administrative Life, Vita | 2 Comments

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:

    1. 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;
    2. 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;
    3. 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.”

The 2012 Academic Leadership Program Fellows at the University of Chicago.

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.

HASTAC 2011: Digital Scholarship and the Institutional Structure

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Long at HASTACANN ARBOR, MI – The story I told at the 2011 meeting of the Humanities, Arts, Science, and Technology Advanced Collaboratory (HASTAC) conference is rooted in my pedagogical practices of using digital media technology to cultivate communities of learning in the classroom. The story itself is told at a moment of intense transformation in education as we move from a culture of print scholarship to that of digital scholarship.  The main thesis of the presentation is that by drawing on the best virtues of both print and digital scholarship a new educational model capable of transforming the culture of the university itself can be developed.

In the presentation, I attempt to articulate how I have sought to translate those pedagogical practices associated with digital scholarship — openness and collaboration – with those practices associated with print scholarship — careful review and the certification of expertise — into both my scholarly and my administrative practices.

In the presentation I did not have enough time to talk about the details of the work we are doing in the College of the Liberal Arts to cultivate a digital culture of scholarship.  When I started as Associate Dean, we hired John Dolan at Director of Digital Media and Pedagogy in the College. Last summer we held our first Liberal Arts Scholarship and Technology workshop for faculty and graduate students in the Liberal Arts. John has been working with both faculty and staff to find new ways to use digital media to enrich our work in the College of the Liberal Arts.

HASTAC11: Digital Scholarship and the Institutional Culture.mp3





  • Digital Research in the Liberal Arts: This blog is co-authored by faculty in the College of the Liberal Arts doing academic scholarship using digital media.
  • Instructional Space at Penn State Task Force Blog: This blog is part of our attempt to up a university wide discussion about instructional space and scheduling. It is an example of how I have sought to use what I learned in my teaching with technology in my administrative work.

ALP at Indiana: Herman B. Wells

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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.

Ethical Imagination

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.

Philosophy and the Digital Public

By | Presentation: Academic, Presentations, Vita | 2 Comments

Rembrandt’s Philosopher in Meditation

WASHINGTON, DC – Today at the Advancing Public Philosophy Conference hosted by the Public Philosophy Network, Cori Wong, a graduate student in the Philosophy Department at Penn State, and I are holding a workshop entitled Philosophy and the Digital Public.

Rembrandt’s image, Philosopher in Meditation, presents a vision of the philosopher as isolated from the world. The Public Philosophy Network and the Advancing Public Philosophy Conference challenges this image by advocating for a vision of the philosopher as deeply engaged with the public and philosophy as a fundamentally human way of being with others in the world.
As part of the larger effort to advance publicly engaged philosophy, our Philosophy and the Digital Public workshop is designed to open a sustained dialogue about the relationship between philosophy and the digital public.
The workshop is divided into three parts. The first part, which I lead, focuses on the transformation of literacy through which we are currently living as we move from print to digital culture. It then turns to concrete examples of how I have used my Digital Dialogue podcast, and other modes of collaborative research to do philosophy publicly in ways that enrich my scholarship. The model here involves the attempt to do philosophy more publicly.
The second part, which is led by Cori, focuses on doing philosophy with and for the public. She has used social media, such as Youtube and her personal blog, to present philosophy to wider public audiences in ways that seek to cultivate and enhance public discourse on issues like racism and homophobia. The goal of making philosophical reflection relevant and accessible to general audiences has required her to develop different pedagogical skills, which are in many ways beneficial for her as an instructor, but this public work on the Internet is also seemingly in tension with the sort of scholarship that is viewed as legitimate, credible, and more valuable when establishing oneself as a rigorous scholar. Furthermore, despite her own skepticism about the pedagogical promise of teaching to the public through social media versus teaching in residence to students in a classroom, a number of “viewers” have urged her to continue this public work and stress that it is important for them and others.
The third part of the workshop will involve the creation of a collaborate digital artifact that captures something of the spirit and nature of the discussion we had and establishes a basis for ongoing dialogue concerning the nature of public philosophy in a digital age.

New Cultures of Scholarship

By | Presentation: Other, Presentations, Vita | 2 Comments

STATE COLLEGE, PA – In my keynote address at the inaugural Liberal Arts Scholarship and Technology Summit, I discuss how the transition from print literacy to digital literacy is transforming the nature of academic scholarship.

[The live stream recording of the event can be seen below.]

The presentation is divided into two parts. The first part focuses on the theoretical background that helps us put the transformation of literacy through which we are living into a wider context. In the second part, I focus on a few of the ways I have sought to integrate digital technologies into my scholarly practices.

The theoretical background begins with a discussion of what Lars Sauerberg has called the “Gutenberg Parenthesis,” suggesting by this term a contained period of literacy characterized by the dominance of the printed book. I use Thomas Pettitt’s lecture at the 2010 conference at the MIT Communications Forum to emphasize that the parenthetical period was no mere digression, but added substantively to the history of literacy.

After pointing briefly to how pre-literate oral cultures undertook many of the practices we now find in digital culture–remixing, borrowing, creatively changing and modifying stories for particular audiences–I turn to Walter Ong’s book, Orality and Literacy, to suggest the manner in which print culture values the ideals of completeness, originality and creativity in ways that gave rise to the idea of authorial genius that continues to determine how we think about scholarship and scholars.

In the second part of the talk, I illustrate how I have sought to use digital literacy to reinforce and amplify those values of print literacy worth retaining–the established practices of peer review, caring attention to detail and the permanence of books. I tell the story of my own use of digital media for scholarship, focusing on how I used Diigo to annotate and respond to a recent review of my book in the Bryn Mawr Classical Review, and how some of my colleagues, notably Rose Cherubin from George Mason University, added substantively to that digital discussion.

I talked also about the Digital Dialogue podcast to suggest how digital media can be used to create new print scholarship.

From Sauerberg:
In a cognitive context the mass-produced and mass distributed book has been of the greatest significance for the way we approach the world. In the transition from the printed book to digitized textuality the mode of cognition is being moved from a metaphorics of linearity and reflection to a-linearity and co-production of “reality.” This means moving from the rationality accompanied by the printed book to an altogether different way of processing, characterized by interactivity and much faster pace. The book as privileged mode of cognition is, it seems, being marginalized and transformed (Sauerberg, 79)
From Ong:

“Print encourages a sense of closure, a sense that what is found in a text has been finalized, has reached a state of completion … Print culture gave birth to the romantic notions of ‘originality’ and ‘creativity’, which set apart an individual work from other works even more…” (Ong, 132- 133).

From Carson:

An individual who lives in an oral culture uses his senses differently than one who lives in a literate culture, and with that different sensual deployment comes a different way of conceiving his own relations with his environment, a different conception of his body and a different conception of his self (Eros the Bittersweet, 43).


Responding to Gonzalez Review of Aristotle on the Nature of Truth

By | Aristotle on the Nature of Truth, Recognition and Responses, Vita | No Comments

Earlier this week, Frank Gonzalez published a review of my book, Aristotle on the Nature of Truth, in the Bryn Mawr Classical Review.

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:

Frank Gonzalez and Christopher Long at the 2011 Ancient Philosophy Society

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:

Frank Gonzalez Review of Aristotle on the Nature of Truth in the Bryn Mawr Classical Review with annotations by Christopher Long.

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.

Collaborative Research in Philosophy

By | Presentation: Other, Presentations, Vita | 9 Comments

Today in the Foster Auditorium of the Pattee/Paterno Library, my undergraduate research assistant, Lisa Lotito, and I gave a presentation about the workflow we use in doing philosophical research.

I have written in some detail about my basic research cycle, but this presentation allowed us to articulate more fully how we use the collaborative power of digital media to do scholarly research in philosophy.

The process begins with a discussion about my current book project on Socratic and Platonic politics. Once Lisa had a sense of the project, we were able to delineate a basic set of sources on Plato’s Phaedo for a chapter on that dialogue I was also going to present at the 2011 Hermeneutisches Kolloquium in Freiburg.

The presentation, the recording for which I embed below, articulated how we created a shared collection on Mendeley to manage pdf resources, how Lisa added notes to Mendeley summarizing some of the main points of those articles and how they related to my thesis. We discuss how I use Dropbox to collect all the documents and Evernote and GoodReader to annotate the pdf files.

We used direct messaging in Twitter to communicate in a dynamic and asynchronous way that allowed me to request more resources or ask Lisa to look for specific issues in the secondary literature. This was particularly helpful during the two week period when I returned to the primary text to develop the details of my interpretation. I was able to rely on Lisa to help me recall the terms of the debate in the secondary literature on an issue or theme in the dialogue.

I used Word and Scrivener to write the chapter and, because of the ongoing limitations of Mendeley with citations, we returned to Zotero to add citations.  Obviously, the constellation of technological tools we used to do this research is varied and perhaps complex; but what stands out, it seems to me, is the way Lisa and I were able to work in a collaborative way to do serious philosophical research. The asynchronous nature of our communication and the digital medium of many of the texts to which we referred allowed us to work in a collaborative way even when we were often at opposite ends of the Commonwealth.

My hope is that this might serve as one model for collaborative research in the humanities; for we have not historically cultivated the models of scholarly apprenticeship in the humanities that the sciences and social sciences have when they undertake research with students in their labs and research groups.

The Research Circle from Christopher Long on Vimeo.

Platonic Writing and the Practice of Death

By | Presentation: Academic, Presentations, Socratic and Platonic Politics, Vita | 3 Comments

FREIBURG, GERMANY – Today at the Freiburg Institute of Advanced Studies, I presented a paper entitled The Politics of Finitude in Plato’s Phaedo at the 2011 Freiburger Hermeneutisches Kolloquium, whose theme was Hermeneutik (in) der Antike.

The paper, written specifically for this conference, will also be the middle chapter of my book on Socratic and Platonic politics.  This chapter traces the differences and continuities between what I have been calling the topology of Socratic politics and the topography of Platonic politics.

The Phaedo, I argue, is perhaps Plato’s most eloquent political dialogue. To quote from the paper:

Its eloquence, however, is not heard in the political theories it sets forth or in the dogma it allegedly establishes, but in the way the poignant things Socrates says to and with his friends on the last day of his life are woven together into a written recollection that requires those who enter into dialogue with it not merely to reflect upon, but also to act differently in the footsteps of the words encountered there.

You can, I hope, hear the influence of Gadamer here, who argued that genuine interpretation requires the willingness of the interpreter to risk entering into dialogue with the text in such a way that the interpreter’s own thoughts and possibilities are brought into play (Truth and Method, 388).

The paper traces the way Kebes and Simmias are themselves transformed by the power of the things Socrates says to them, moving then in the second half to trace the ways Platonic writing attempts to transform the course of the life of the interpreter of the text by showing Phaedo practicing what Socrates calls a “second sailing” with Echecrates.

If politics, for Socrates, is a way of caring for the soul, then Plato has given us a provocative vision of politics in the Phaedo.

Long Responds to Commentators

By | Aristotle on the Nature of Truth, Recognition and Responses, Vita | 8 Comments

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.

Christopher Long responds to commentaries on Aristotle on the Nature of Truth

To hear the other comments and my responses, click on the links below:

Here are images from the APS Book Panel:


Lysaker Comments on Aristotle on the Nature of Truth

By | Aristotle on the Nature of Truth, Recognition and Responses, Vita | 7 Comments

Lysaker Animated

Originally uploaded by cplong11

John Lysaker, Professor of Philosophy at Emory University, commented on my book, Aristotle on the Nature of Truth, at the 2011 meeting of the Ancient Philosophy Society.

John’s comments invited me to consider more fully my ethos as an author and challenged me to articulate more fully what animates the legomenological approach.  His concern, in part, is how it is determined what of the things said by one’s predecessors are deserving of response and amplification. This is an important issue, particularly if legomenology is not to become a echo chamber legitimizing one’s own previously held opinions.  “How,” John asks, “does legomenology welcome interlocutors?”
I tried to perform an answer to that in my response to him, but for now, listen to John’s commentary, and particularly to the way he calls into question the propriety of my embracing Woodbridge’s language of “cooperation.” This, indeed, is a central issue; one that we discuss in more detail on episode 48 of the Digital Dialogue, which will be posted in a week or so.

To hear the other comments and my responses, click on the links below:

Here are images from the APS Book Panel:

Hyland Comments on Aristotle on the Nature of Truth

By | Aristotle on the Nature of Truth, Recognition and Responses, Vita | One Comment

Drew Hyland

Originally uploaded by cplong11

Drew Hyland, Charles A. Dana Professor of Philosophy at Trinity College, commented on my book, Aristotle on the Nature of Truth, at the 2011 meeting of the Ancient Philosophy Society.

Drew’s comments focused largely on the question of my interpretation of Aristotle’s approach to the thinking of his predecessors. I argue in the book that the practice of “legomenology” involves attending to the things said by one’s predecessors as the place where philosophy must begin.  Further, I suggest that Aristotle’s engagement with his predecessors was not designed simply to legitimize Aristotle’s own position, but was a genuine attempt to think with and against those who in the past had sought to speak the truth of nature.
Drew recognizes this as precisely the way philosophy ought to be practiced, but he questions what he calls my generous reading of Aristotle, suggesting that Aristotle in fact is interested in his predecessors only insofar as they lead up to his own thinking. Drew also calls into question the degree to which I read a Heraclitean understanding of logos into Aristotle. He argues further that I bring Aristotle too close to Plato who made aporia a stance toward the world as opposed to focusing on aporiai which point to a series of problems to solve.  Finally, at the end, Drew calls attention to my interpretation of God in Aristotle.
In his commentary, Drew touched upon two of the most difficult sentences to write in the book. Give a listen to his commentary, and to my response (to be posted in the days to come).
Drew Hyland responds to Aristotle on the Nature of Truth

To hear the other comments and my responses, click on the links below:

Here are images from the APS Book Panel:

"The Politics of Truth" at University of Kansas

By | Presentation: Academic, Presentations, Socratic and Platonic Politics, Vita | 3 Comments

LAWRENCE, KS – The paper I presented here today, entitled The Politics of Truth, argued that Socratic politics is a matter of speaking truth with a concern for justice and the good. I suggested further that the practice of Platonic writing is also a kind of politics in which texts are crafted in ways that enjoin readers to consider the course of their lives and the degree to which their lives are animated by a concern for justice.

I pursue this largely by a reading of the Gorgias in which I contend that Socrates establishes a philosophical friendship with Gorgias that in fact transforms Gorgias’s own understanding of his art of rhetoric.

One of the central issues that was raised in the question and answer period concerned the meaning of the erotic in Plato generally and in my use of it specifically as an important dimension of the political. This is an issue I need to develop more fully as I continue to work on my book about the practices of Socratic and Platonic philosophy.

For Socrates and, I would argue, for Plato, cultivating a proper erotic relation to the good and the just is a political activity – I might even say, it is the political activity par excellence … although I offer that tentatively here. I say this because the practice of Socratic politics involves using words to turn those he encounters toward the question of the good and the just as ideals toward which we should strive even as he recognizes that, as erotic, these ideals remain forever elusive. No human can possess determinate knowledge of the good and the just in an absolute sense, but in orienting one’s life toward the attempt to bring the good and the just into being by and through the words we speak to and with one another, we can begin to cultivate healthier human relationships.

In my essay, The Politics of Music, I do develop the meaning of an erotic principle along these specific lines.

Precisely what a “proper erotic relation to the good and the just” would look like, remains in need of further articulation. We all are drawn to one degree or another by a sense of justice, but we also too easily fall into the delusion that we possess an adequate understanding of what is just. The proper erotic relationship toward the good and the just would need to involve allowing ourselves to be animated by a concern for justice without deluding ourselves that we possess it adequately.

Liberal Arts in a Time of Crisis

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Originally uploaded by cplong11
STATE COLLEGE, PA – These remarks were delivered at the 2011 Symposium of the Center for American Literary Studies: Crisis? Whose Crisis? What Crisis?

Imagine that you are a graduate student in Philosophy writing a dissertation on Plato in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s and you met a visiting professor from Egypt; let’s call him “Theuth.” And Theuth came to you and said: “I have discovered a new art of writing; one that will make it possible for you to simultaneously co-author a document with your students about the Platonic dialogues you are teaching.” 

Let us imagine further, that Theuth explained his new technology this way: “This living document is structured in such a way that you and your students can comment on what you are writing together. It allows you to tag the things you write with multiple terms so you can actually watch themes arise organically in the course as you and your students write reflectively about the dialogues.” 
And then imagine that he began to get very excited and said, almost in a whisper: “The best part of this new art of writing, the aspect that makes it most wonderful and compelling, is that it can be made public in such a way that anyone, anytime, from anywhere can read and respond to it.” 
How would you respond? 
Would you say to Theuth: “as the father of this new technology, you have too much affection for it and you fail to see the damage this sort of exposure to the public will do to these young, impressionable minds; you fail to recognize that young people are not prepared to determine for themselves what is important or interesting or compelling about these ancient texts. And besides, it will kill our students’ capacities to concentrate and contemplate.” 
And let’s imagine yet further, that Theuth was so deflated by this that he returned to Egypt and hid his technology away and that you went on teaching as you were taught, lecturing, encouraging students to focus, concentrate and reproduce on exams and papers the wonderful things they heard from you, which they submitted dutifully–and privately–to you as the authority on the topic. 
Suppose, however, that one day, Theuth’s technology was discovered and put into the hands of students, and that some faculty had wind of this and were beginning to find ways to use it to empower students to write reflectively and dynamically on all conceivable subjects. Imagine that you have in the meantime become an established faculty member, a respected authority in your field. 
This would be the crisis you then faced: the intellectual and ethical capacities you have developed over the course of your career, the very abilities that made you the success that you are, no longer provide traction in a new, more dynamic world in which an unfathomable amount of information is always accessible, collaboration is the main way to create meaning and writing is instantly public to the widest extent imaginable
What I hope you can imagine feeling on a personal level–overwhelmed, dismissive, defensive, and ill-equipped–is amplified and rendered acute when we move from imagination to the concrete realities of our educational institutions. For you see, whatever else this time of crisis involves, whatever the limits of our old funding models, whatever the challenges the liberal arts face from increasing professionalism, whatever budget cuts are announced, these all pale in comparison to the crisis brought on by the revolution in literacy new media technologies have introduced
How will we as faculty, as administrators, as institutions and, indeed, as human beings respond? 
The good news is that the core values of a liberal arts education have never been more important as we attempt to navigate this crisis in ways that might in fact enrich rather than impoverish our lives. The bad news, however, is that although we have long held the values of excellent communication, ethical imagination, global understanding, an openness to difference and responsiveness to change–we have in our teaching and in the structures of our institutions done less to cultivate the intellectual and ethical practices that underwrite these values.
Our teaching remains largely a matter of conveying information delivered by the authoritative expert who controls the discussion and assesses the value of the responses. Our scholarship–particularly in the Humanities–is pursued largely in isolation, made public–to the extent that it is–at small, intimate conferences and only after long periods of incubation. Our disciplines remain dependent on a model of authorship that measures success by the reputation of old media journals read rarely and when read, almost exclusively by isolated experts. Our institutions remain determined by a business model that rewards the adoption of practices that increase efficiency rather than the quality of the educational experiences of our students. 
And yet, our institutions have the capacity to adapt; they remain committed in principle at least to the core values of the liberal arts. Our disciplines have become porous and are beginning to reach out across boundaries to draw rich resources to and from one another. And our scholarship–especially in the Humanities–is able to reflect upon the limits of its practices, to criticize the calcified conceptions of authorship and authority on which we have come to rely and which have begun to dissolve. And in our teaching, we are learning to empower our students to take an active role in their own education, to become writers, podcasters, bloggers, videographers–makers of meaning in a new and multifaceted world. 
Imagine, then, if you were a graduate student studying Philosophy today and you found your students and a few colleagues, perhaps even a faculty member or two, using Theuth’s technologies–how would you respond? And more importantly, how will we as faculty, administrators, institutions and, indeed, as human beings respond to this revolution in literacy in ways that enrich the educated life? 
Cultivating the intellectual and ethical practices that enable us to do this should be the main focus of the liberal arts in this time of crisis.

McNeill Comments on Aristotle on the Nature of Truth

By | Aristotle on the Nature of Truth, Recognition and Responses, Vita | One Comment

Drew, Chris, Will and John

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William McNeill
, Professor of Philosophy at DePaul University, commented on my book, Aristotle on the Nature of Truth, at the 2011 meeting of the Ancient Philosophy Society.

Will’s comments offer a very good introduction to the scope, methodology and significance of the book.  His kind words are greatly appreciated as are the important questions he raises.
He begins with a very thoughtful and thorough account of the main themes of the book, including my attempt to understand truth in terms of justice and my development of a new understanding of ecology and ecological community.  He then goes on to explicate the meaning of “legomenology,” which designates the method I argue Aristotle follows. This approach recognizes that the nature of things is revealed in part in and through the things said about them, that our attempts at articulating the truth of things lends insight into something of the nature of things: ta legomena, the things said, are able to reveal something of the truth of ta phainomena, the things appearing.
Will also challenges me to consider more fully the degree to which I privilege a sort of homecoming over “a certain homelessness” and he points me to Heidegger’s interpretation of dynamis in the 1931 lecture “On the Essence and Actuality of Force” on Metaphysics Theta, where Heidegger focuses on negativity, withdrawal and inner finitude as a place where a different vision of Aristotle is developed.  He invites me to address more deeply the implications of modern technicity and globalization on what I have called the “ecological community.”  This, indeed, is an important dimension of the book that remains an open area of research, one that I hope to address as I think more deeply about the original Greek understanding of techne with the help, no doubt, of by Will and Heidegger.
I invite you to listen to Will’s paper here and to respond to the things he says:
To hear the other comments and my responses, click on the links below:

Here are images from the APS Book Panel:

Aristotle on the Nature of Truth Premiers at Sundance

By | Presentation: Academic, Presentations, Recognition and Responses, Vita | One Comment

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).

Curating Your Digital Vita

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WACO, Texas — During my visit to Baylor this week, I guest taught Anne Schultz’s class on Plato’s Symposium and joined the Academy for Teaching and Learning to speak about how I use digital media in my teaching, research and administrative work.

The title of my talk is Curating Your Vita: Cultivating Communities of Teaching, Research and Administration in a Digital Age.

The presentation is divided into three parts: Teaching, Research and Service. It takes each activity in turn as an opportunity to cultivate community around one’s scholarly interests. I tried to rely on concrete examples of what has worked, and failed to work, for me as I put social media into practice in ways that, I hope, invite dialogue and discussion.


My Philosophy 200 course, Ancient Greek Philosophy, was the focus of the section on teaching. Here are resources related to how I used a co-authored course blog to create a community of education in that course:

I talked about the way I use the Digital Dialogue to invite scholars and colleagues to talk about their work and to develop my own work on Socratic politics.

I talked about how we use blogging, podcasting and video in the Liberal Arts Undergraduate Studies office in the College of the Liberal Arts to empower students to give voice to their undergraduate experience in the liberal arts.

In putting the presentation together, I was struck by something that had not occurred to me in concrete terms about how and why I share my activities on the internet. Although this sharing, which for some, I know, is over sharing, began as a natural desire to reach out to others about my work and invite them to share theirs, I realize that one of the most powerful things about sharing on the internet is the unanticipated possibilities that open when people put words to their experiences in public. In the presentation, I put it this way:
Sharing opens the possibility of serendipity.  
Here are some videos that show some of the serendipitous possibilities that opened as I shared my teaching, research and administrative activities: 

Finally, take a look at the slideshow of my excellent visit to Waco and Baylor University.  Thanks to all who made it possible.

Institutional Transformation

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The annual Teaching and Learning with Technology Symposium held yesterday at the Penn Stater had an intensity to it that I had not experienced in years past.

The energy and excitement we felt so palpably are symptoms, I think, of the success we at Penn State have had in theorizing and practicing social media in ways that create an enriching community of education. At the heart of our practice has long been the recognition that the educational power of social media lies in its ability to cultivate dynamic and genuine relationships between students, faculty and administrators.

Yesterday’s conference was eloquent testimony to the degree to which the communities we have been cultivating at the local level are taking root at the University level.

For me, one of the most remarkable moments at the Symposium happened at the very start, during the keynote address by Clay Shirky.  Shirky is widely known for having said: “Institutions will try to preserve the problem to which they are the solution,” a statement Kevin Kelly dubbed the Shirky Principle.

So it was striking that Shirky emphasized that he used to think digital media would transform the academy discipline by discipline as each determined ways to effectively adopt new media technologies for their specific content areas. Yesterday, however, he said he was increasingly convinced that the academy will be transformed institution by institution as administrators become willing, as he put it, to provide “air cover” for faculty on the ground engaging their students through social media.

As Associate Dean for Undergraduate Studies in the College of the Liberal Arts, these words resonated with me. Indeed, they affirmed something I have been attempting to do since taking on this position a year an a half ago.

But Shirky’s point needs further refining, because it is not simply by providing “air cover” for faculty that we will transform institutions of education, but by adopting communicative practices as administrators that are rooted in the recognition that education is a cooperative, social activity.

At this year’s Symposium the Liberal Arts Undergraduate studies office gave a presentation that focused on how we have adopted precisely such a communitlcative practice in an attempt to empower our atudents to give voice to their undergraduate experience in the liberal arts. Geoff Halberstadt, Liberal Arts Undergraduate Council President, has written eloquently about his experience engaging with us in LAUS through digital media. Jillian Balay spoke about her role curating our blogs and podcasts by thoughtfully working with students to articulate their educational experiences in compelling ways. And John Dolan talked about our College wide Teaching and Learning with Technology initiative which is designed to allow faculty to lead the College as we adopt new media practices.

In order to try to capture the spirit of the approach we have undertaken, we put together this fun little video which not only shows students, faculty and staff engaged in a cooperative project, but presents the caricature of an Associate Dean who does not get it, played by an Associate Dean who is trying to understand the affordances and limitations of social media by putting new digital media into practice:

BACAP Presentation: Attempting the Political Art

By | Presentation: Academic, Presentations, Socratic and Platonic Politics, Vita | No Comments

BOSTON, MA – The main thesis of the paper I delivered today at the Boston Area Colloquium for Ancient Philosophy is that the practice of Socratic political speaking and the practice of Platonic political writing are intimately interconnected but distinct.

To develop this position, I focused on the famous passage from the Gorgias in which Socrates claims to be one of the few Athenians who attempt the political art truly and goes on to articulate the nature of his political practice as a way of speaking toward the best (521d6-e2).

I then trace the ways Socrates attempts to use words to turn Gorgias, Polus and Callicles toward the best in the course of the dialogue.  What emerges is a picture of a philosophical friendship between Gorgias and Socrates rooted in a common concern for justice.

Yet, Socrates’ success with Gorgias is overshadowed by his failure to convince Polus or Callicles to allow a concern for truth, justice and the good to animate the course of their lives. Even so, the political practice of Platonic writing is shown in the paper to be designed to awaken in us, the readers, precisely such a concern to live a life in which words are spoken in ways that uncover the truth and are directed toward the best.

Here is a slideshow of images from the visit:

There were a number of important points developed in the question and answer period to which I will point here, but they remain issues I am thinking about as I develop this larger book project on the practices of Socratic and Platonic politics.

Nalin Ranasinghe of Assumption College, who received his PhD from Penn State in the late 1980’s, delivered a very generous response to the paper in which he agreed in large part with the project in general and my reading of the Gorgias in particular, a text on which he has written a book himself: Socrates in the Underworld: On Plato’s Gorgias.

He did raise, however, a number of concerns that echo some of the things I heard in response to the seminar I gave on the Apology in Colombia last month.

Just as Catalina González Quintero had pressed me in Bogotá to delineate the negative side of Socratic politics in which Socrates provokes and punishes his interlocutor, Nalin was concerned that I did not do full justice to the agonistic dimension of the Gorgias, and particularly the fact that Socrates was punishing Callicles and Polus with public shame.  In the question and answer period, this issue was amplified with a number of questions about how rarely Socrates actually succeeds in cultivating in those he encounters a disposition to speak words “toward the best” and to respond to others with a shared concern for the truth.

To respond adequately to this issue requires detailed textual analysis of specific dialogues in which it can be argued that Socrates does succeed in cultivating the active desire to speak and seek the truth, as for example, I argue happens to some degree with Gorgias in the Gorgias, and in a different and less developed way with Hippocrates in the Protagoras; and Glaucon shows some signs of this in the Republic too.

Other questions that arose concerned the degree to which the Socratic activity of philosophizing can be called “political” in any meaningful sense.  To this, however, I would defend the central claim of the project which is that “politics” needs to be rethought in terms of the activities that most effectively open the possibility of cultivating healthy communities of relationship between people. Such an understanding of politics would imply that “politics” is at work each time two people enter into relation with one another.

Socrates, Plato and the Politics of Truth

By | Presentation: Academic, Presentations, Seminar: Academic, Socratic and Platonic Politics, Vita | No Comments

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.

Crisis of Community

By | Articles, Publication: Journal, Socratic and Platonic Politics, Vita | One Comment

Long, Christopher P. “Crisis of Community: The Topology of Socratic Politics in the Protagoras,” Epoché: a Journal for the History of Philosophy, 15, 2 (2011): 361-377.

In Plato’s Protagoras Alcibiades plays the role of Hermes, the ‘ambassador god’, who helps lead Socrates’ conversation with Protagoras through a crisis of dialogue that threatens to destroy the community of education established by the dialogue itself.

By tracing the moments when Alcibiades intervenes in the conversation, we are led to an understanding of Socratic politics as always concerned with the course of the life of an individual and the proper time in which it might be turned toward the question of justice and the good.

The full text of the article, Crisis of Community: The Topology of Socratic Politics in the Protagoras is available for download from my Humanities Commons page.

To hear an audio recording of a version of this paper with a response from Anne-Marie Bowery and questions from the audience at the 2010 Ancient Philosophy Society, listen above.

Teaching Philosophy: Cultivating Communities of Learning with Digital Media

By | Articles, Publication: Journal, Vita | 9 Comments

Digital media technology, when deployed in ways that cultivate shared learning communities in which students and teachers are empowered to participate as partners in conjoint educational practices, can transform the way we teach and learn philosophy. This essay offers a model for how to put blogging and podcasting in the service of a cooperative approach to education that empowers students to take ownership of their education and enables teachers to cultivate in themselves and their students the excellences of dialogue. The essay is organized around a compelling story of how the students in an Ancient Greek Philosophy course responded to an anonymous, belligerent commenter on the blog from outside of the class. The incident brings the pedagogy of cooperative education into sharp relief.

I am also embedding here a video the students in the class made with me after the course was over. In the video, we speak only words we wrote on the blog in order to capture something of the spirit of the conversation we had over the course of the semester.


The full text of Cultivating Communities of Learning through Digital Media is available for download on from the Humanities Commons.

Seminar on the Apology in Bogotá

By | Presentation: Academic, Presentations, Socratic and Platonic Politics, Vita | 2 Comments

Seminar on the Apology

Originally uploaded by cplong11

BOGOTÁ, COLOMBIA – Today I gave a seminar on Plato’s Apology at the Universidad de los Andes to graduate and undergraduate students and faculty. The seminar was based on a paper I wrote entitled, Socratic Disturbances and Platonic Politics.

I argue in that paper that the Apology is a dialogue between Socrates and the “men of Athens.” In order to discern the dynamics of this dialogue, the paper follows those moment when the “men of Athens” create disturbances (thorubein) in response to the things Socrates says. These disturbances suggest the degree to which the practice of Socratic politics provokes those with whom he is engaged to think and act differently.

The paper also further develops the difference between the practice of Socratic politics as it is performed in the Platonic dialogues and the politics of Platonic writing as it presents itself to us in the written texts. The end of the paper attempts to lend some determination to the way Plato practices politics in his writing by thinking through the deep symbolism of the proposal Plato puts into the mouth of Socrates that his punishment should be to receive free meals for life in the Prytaneion. The Prytaneion was the center of Athenian life, the site of the hearth of Hestia, and the suggestion, which is quite likely a Platonic creation, emphasizes the importance of attempting to integrate the practices of philosophical politics into the very heart of the city.

The participants in the seminar were excellent. They had prepared by reading the Apology with great care and considering the details of my paper. I was encouraged to think more deeply about a few of the issues I raise in the paper, particularly about the differences between Platonic and Socratic politics.

One suggestion by Catalina González Quintero was particularly helpful insofar as it invited me to consider further if the Socratic practice of politics is essentially provocative and negative – as suggested by the gadfly metaphor – and Platonic politics is more educative and positive, concerned to cultivate habits of thinking and acting in the citizens of the city.  I am concerned about divorcing these two dimensions of politics, but there might be a sense in which Socratic politics leads with provocation and moves only hesitantly toward education, while Platonic politics is concerned primarily with education, even if it retains always a provocative dimension.

The discussion of these and other issues continued on Digital Dialogue episode 44 in which I was invited by Sergio Ariza, Nicolas Parra and Norman Mora to articulate the difference between Platonic and Socratic politics in more detail.
Here are some images from the seminar:

Aristotle's Phenomenology in Colombia

By | Aristotle on the Nature of Truth, Presentation: Academic, Presentations, Vita | 4 Comments

At the Universidad de los Andes

Originally uploaded by cplong11

BOGOTÁ, COLOMBIA – This evening I gave a public lecture at the Universidad de los Andes entitled Aristotle’s Phenomenology of Truth in which I articulate the basic argument of my book, Aristotle on the Nature of Truth. The lecture, and the book, attempt to re-think the nature of truth not as correspondance, but in terms of the ability to respond together with the things of nature.

The lecture locates in Aristotle resources by which to understand truth in terms of the attempt to put words to things in ways that do justice to the ways they express themselves. I draw on Heideggerian phenomenology and American naturalism in order to identify Aristotelian phenomenology as a ‘legomenology’ that attends to the ways things are said in order to gain access to something of the nature of things.

The ability to respond to the logos of things is at the root of an understanding of truth in terms of justice.

Here is a slideshow of the visit to Colombia:

Blogging and the Business Classroom

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July 2010 029

Originally uploaded by Penn State Smeal MBA

Today I venture outside of my comfort zone in talking about teaching and learning with technology in the Liberal Arts to address a group of faculty from the Smeal College of Business. In so doing, I am been thinking about how to translate the teaching and learning philosophy that has guided my teaching of Philosophy courses into the context of the Business classroom.

This led me to the embedded video below, in which Professor Debbie Ettington says:

“I think of learning as an active process, as a social process … we try to use lots of different ways to engage different learning styles, to engage students in working with each other …” (see: 0:45-1:03 in the video).

Professor Ettington’s words resonate with my own attempts to put a genuinely cooperative approach to education into practice in my teaching. They also give me the courage to share the story of how I use blogs in my Philosophy courses in order to open a discussion about how this model might be adapted to the particular contours of the environment in a Business classroom.

Below is a link to the presentation that lays out the model, but how precisely this might be taken up by professors in Business will, I hope, be part of our discussion we have in the session and perhaps here on the blog.

Traditional and New Media Literacies

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Writing Three Ways

Originally uploaded by cplong11

New media technologies are transforming the practice of education, and our practices of education must change in the wake of the emergence of new media technologies.

In this presentation, I discuss how new media literacies can be cultivated in students, faculty and staff in ways that deepen our understanding of the world, the university and the community of education in which we live.

Focusing on some the initiatives we have adopted in the Liberal Arts Undergraduate Studies office, I point to concrete examples of how new media literacies are empowering students to critically reflect upon their undergraduate experience. In the process, they are learning, and teaching us, about the educative power of the social web.

Here is the YouTube video of the presentation itself:

I also embed the Prezi itself here so everyone can explore the videos posted of our students:

Aristotle on the Nature of Truth

By | Aristotle on the Nature of Truth, Books, Vita | No Comments

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

CAS Teaching with Technology Workshop

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In my ongoing attempts to think more reflectively and act more deliberately about teaching and learning with technology, I am speaking with a group of graduate students and faculty today in the Department of Communications, Arts and Sciences. 

Today I am talking more about the meaning of cooperative education, about which I have written previously. My hope is that CAS students will join and contribute to some of the work we did in a workshop a few weeks ago with PHIL students in which we developed a Google Doc that is designed to be an ongoing, co-authored field guide to teaching and learning with technology.
The idea behind the guide is to see if we can develop a living, ongoing and collaborative document that articulates the goals, vision and best practices of education rooted in a vision of genuine cooperation.
The Google Doc is embedded below. If you are interested in co-editing, send me your gmail account and I will add you.

Teaching Philosophy with Technology Workshop

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Colorful Prometheus

Originally uploaded by Allison Harger

This workshop, for graduate students in the Philosophy Department at Penn State, focuses on using social media technologies to cultivate cooperative communities of learning in Philosophy courses. Its purpose is to transform our pedagogical practices in ways that empower students to take co-ownership of their own education.

Its main outcome of the workshop will be a co-authored field guide for teaching and learning philosophy with technology. In order to facilitate this, participating students are asked to send me their gmail addresses (and to sign up for a gmail account if they don’t already have one) so I can add them as co-editors to our shared google document.

The workshop itself will be held on Friday, September 3rd, from 3:30-5pm in Willard 173.
Participating students are asked to do two other things prior to the workshop. First, please visit the following poll we have set up to learn a bit more about your familiarity with social media technology.
Second, please take a moment to write a comment on the current blog in which you tell us two things about yourself, one of which is true, the other of which is false. Do not tell us which is true and which false as we are going to use this for an ice breaker at the workshop.

Finally, students are encouraged to bring their laptops to the workshop if they have them.

Reflections on the Hacking Pedagogy Presentation

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Originally uploaded by docZox

My friend and colleague, Cole Camplese, and I gave a joint presentation on a collaborative project we have developed called “Hacking Pedagogy.” The idea is to open a digital space in which we, together with the education technology community here at Penn State and beyond our institutional boundaries, will write a living field guide dedicated to articulating, cultivating and facilitating a cooperative approach to education.

Specifics about how to participate in this project are available on our Hacking Pedagogy Blog.

In reflecting on the event, there are a few points I would like to emphasize that were either insufficiently developed in the presentation or left unaddressed from the Live Question Tool from the event.

Let me begin with the term ‘hack’. There are a number of connotations associated with this term, some of which I would like to endorse, others I would not. I would not endorse, for example, the notion that a hack is something that involves the unethical appropriation of the work of others without giving them due credit. Nevertheless, I would like to affirm some of the subversive connotations of the notion of a ‘hack’, particularly those that understand hacking as an attempt to leverage existing structures of hegemonic authority in order to open up new possibilities of relation less dominated by a desire to dominate. Hacking has always had these two sides, the one interested in subversion for its own sake, the other animated by the attempt to establish new, more liberating and responsible community dynamics. This latter is the sense of hacking to which Rey Junco appeals when he suggests that “educators must become hackers.” 
The Hacking Pedagogy project aims at undermining those existing pedagogical practices rooted in a logic of domination and control in which faculty authority suppresses student creativity
The corrosive sense of ‘hack’ seems to have found a counterpart in a corrupted understanding of cooperation, at least as it was articulated by one respondent to our Live Question Tool. There it was suggested that cooperation can be understood to involve submission to a dominating power or interest. I do not deny that much coercion has been perpetrated under the guise of “cooperation.” Yet, there is a difference between cooperation and conformity; for genuine cooperation does not involve capitulation.
I tried to articulate the deeper meaning of cooperation in my post, From Engagement to Cooperation. There I suggested that cooperation means, literally, to work together, to act in conjunction with another. All human relations, indeed, all human interactions with the world, are predicated on a certain capacity to cooperate; without it, our eyes could not see, nor our ears hear.
These these rudimentary modes of cooperation – the sort of cooperation that opens the world to us – points to another, higher dimension of cooperation: the ability to work together to articulate a common vision of truth or justice or meaning. This is the sense of cooperation at stake in the discussion of cooperative education.
Thus, in the presentation, we sought to identify four pedagogical attitudes:
  1. Disengagement involves general apathy and, often, the active repression of the natural human desire to learn.
  2. Engagement involves attention, directed psychic involvement with the learning community.
  3. Participation involves taking an active role in the pedagogical process but,
  4. Cooperation is rooted in the recognition that pedagogical practice is most transformative when it is undertaken as a conjoint activity in which student and teacher share ownership. 

Teaching the Ethics of Dialogue

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Last Fall I gave a presentation to faculty in the Rock Ethics Institute entitled The Ethics of Blogging Ethics in which I outline some of the main pedagogical benefits of adopting an open blog as a site for cooperative learning.

Subsequently, I posted a screencast of a related presentation entitled the Pedagogy of Blogging that articulates why I consider blogs pedagogically important.
Today, as I address another group of faculty from the Rock Ethics Institute, I would like to focus attention on one specific dimension of teaching ethics, namely, the cultivation of the excellences of dialogue.
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Crisis of Community Paper at the 2010 APS

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EAST LANSING, MI It was particularly poignant for me to give a paper on the nature of Socratic political community at the tenth annual meeting of the Ancient Philosophy Society.

The APS has been for me a professional community of education of rich fecundity and enormous depth. The values the Society embodies and the spirit of friendship in which philosophy is pursued here stands as an example of what is possible when scholars enter into relation with one another committed at once to attending to the letter of the ancient texts and to responding the demands of the contemporary social, political and historical situation.

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Relinquish Control, Empower Engagement

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In this presentation to the Teaching Forum of the Department of Sociology and Crime, Law, and Justice, I emphasize how relinquishing control of assignment topics in a course can open a space for students to take a more active role in their own education.

The key pedagogical decision I made in structuring my PHIL200 course was not to decide the writing topics on which students would focus during the semester.
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TLT Symposium 2010: Teaching and Learning in Digital Dialogue

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Today students from my Fall 2009 Philosophy 20, Ancient Greek Philosophy, course present a short video that seeks to express something of the learning community that grew when we did all our writing in the course in public on a course blog.  (The students posted the video on the course blog as well.)

All the words spoken on the video were written on the blog during the semester.  I am grateful to Cody Yashinski, Pam Dorian, Jordan Sanford and Joni Noggle for helping to conceive and produce this video, and to Tony Arnold, Anthony Zirpoli, Daniel Mininger, Sam MacDonald and Marina McCoy for participating.

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Brief Reflection on the Essence of Technology

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Consider the following two passages, written in the wake of the enormous technological advances of the early 20th century:

“Technology is … no mere means. Technology is a way of revealing.  If we give heed to this, then another whole realm for the essence of technology will open itself up for us.  It is the realm of revealing,
i.e., of truth.” (Martin Heidegger, The Question Concerning Technology,

“During long periods of history, the mode of human sense perception changes with humanity’s entire mode of existence.” (Walter Benjamin, The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction, 1936.)

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PRC Talk on Oedipus

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In the wake of a paper on Oedipus and his relationship with his daughters in Oedipus at Colonus I gave at the Philosophy Research Colloquium, I have put together some thoughts for how I will further develop the paper as part of my larger work on patriarchal politics. After mentioning some of the points that were raised in the discussion, I invite others to contribute further comments, feedback and suggestions.

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Engaged Learning with Technology

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UVU View.jpgOREM, UT – I was asked to address a group of faculty at the Utah Valley University, where there is a strong commitment to engaged learning. In the presentation that follows, I offer a model by which social media technology can be used to cultivate the active engagement of students in their own education. This model has been developed in my Philosophy courses taught at the Pennsylvania State University.

The model is based on two insights:

  1. Learning is social and so it is most effectively pursued in communities of education in which teachers and students are actively engaged together.
  2. Social media technologies are transforming education because they are able to open dynamic communities of learning between teachers and students.

The power of new social media technologies for education lies not in the information they deliver, but the communities they can create.

Let me begin with a short presentation on the pedagogy of blogging and why I think it is particularly powerful in cultivating dynamic communities of engaged learning.

In order to speak in practical terms about how faculty might begin to cultivate such a dynamic community of learning in their classrooms, I would like to highlight the structure of my course on Ancient Greek Philosophy at Penn State.

This course focuses on the question of Socratic politics and is driven completely by our course blog, Socratic Politics in Digital Dialogue.  All the writing for the course except for the final research paper is posted to the blog.

Here is the syllabus for my PHIL200 Ancient Greek Philosophy course in pdf format.

There are no specific writing assignments. Students write when they are moved to write by the texts we are reading. As faculty, I have clearly set out the expectations for the course in the Blogging rubric (.pdf), which is the key to the success of this model.

The other way I try to cultivate the active participation of the students is through the Weekly Round-up podcasts they produce in teams each week.  The goal of these podcasts is for students to reflect upon the week of class and to highlight readings, aspects of in-class discussion, blog posts and to connect them to issues of contemporary social-political concern.

Highlighting Success
Here I have gathered some links that highlight some of the ways we have been successful in cultivating a community of learning this semester:

  • Cody Yashinsky and Pam Dorian produced a weekly round-up podcast that focused on the media’s influence on Philosophical discussion, the question of the Good and specific blog posts of the week.

Listen to Cody and Pam on Weekly Round-up #2

  • Themes and topics emerge organically as students gravitate to issues of common concern.  This semester some of those issues have included:

These examples beautifully illustrate the power social media has to cultivate a dynamic community of engaged learning.

Videos Tell The Story
Below you will find a three videos related to PHIL200.  The first is entitled The Story of PHIL200 in which my students and I recorded ourselves speaking text from the blog we had written during the semester.  We did this in part to try to capture something of the nature of our dialogue and, in particular, our encounter with an antagonistic anonymous commenter on the blog.  
The second is a video of a presentation outlining the basic structure of the course and the pedagogical principles behind it.
Finally, there is this documentary video of the course with student testimony, produced by my colleagues at Teaching and Learning with Technology at Penn State.
The Comments
Finally, the story behind the first comments you read below is this: About two hours before I gave this presentation, I emailed the class to tell them that I was about to present on what we were doing in

class.  I invited them to comment and, by the time I went to present, I had a number of very good comments posted here to which I could refer.

Sophocles in Utah

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SUNDANCE, UT – Today I participated on a panel for the honors program at the Utah Valley University, whose director, Michael Shaw, invited Marina McCoy and me to present papers for a panel dedicated to Women in Sophocles.
My paper entitled, A Father’s Touch, A Daughter’s Voice: Antigone, Oedipus and Ismene at Colonus, traces three moments of touching in Oedipus the King and Oedipus at Colonus that mark the emergence of a politics other than that of patriarchal domination.

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The Philosophy Job Market in Today's Economy

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ARLINGTON, VA – The search for a job in any field in the midst of an economic downturn can be harrowing; for those seeking jobs in a field like Philosophy where even in good economic times, the competition for jobs is stiff, the job search can be especially demoralizing.
Here I have gathered some resources for the graduate student who attended the Graduate Student Colloquium at the 2009 Society for Phenomenology and Existentialist Philosophy (SPEP) where I spoke on a panel entitled “The Job Market in Today’s Economy.”

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The Voice of Singularity

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The Voice of Singularity traces what Reiner Schürmann calls the “double comprehension of being” in Kant in which the sense of being as pure givenness is said to be recognized but denied by Kant as his thinking undertakes its Copernican turn. By attending to the voice of singularity as it expresses itself in Kant’s texts, this essay seeks to open the possibility of a “philosophy to come” that remains attuned to the dynamic between natality and mortality that is always at play in articulation.

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Integrating Teaching and Research with Technology

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This presentation is based on two insights that have grown over time but came into sharp focus over the summer of 2009 during which time I was a faculty fellow at Teaching and Learning with Technology here at Penn State:

  1. Education is being radically transformed by technological advances that allow communities of learning to grow in ways that cut across time, space and philosophical perspective.
  2. In higher education, these technological innovations can be leveraged to integrate scholarly research and teaching at both the graduate and undergraduate levels in ways that extend the reach of research and deepen the scholarly roots of teaching.

The Project
The figure of Socrates who appears in the Platonic dialogues is shown to practice a very peculiar form of politics: he enters into dialogue with each individual he encounters, attempting to turn their attention to the question of the Good, the Beautiful and the Just. My current research focuses on the various dimensions of the Socratic practice of politics and specifically on the question of how to cultivate the excellences of dialogue that open possibilities of human relation that are socially and politically transformative.

The Structure of Integration
I use my blog, the Long Road, which has been redesigned in as three blogs in one, to integrate my research and teaching.

Socratic Politics in Digital DialogueThe blog platform offers me a dynamic digital environment in which to develop a community of learning that roots my teaching in my scholarship and infuses my scholarship with new insights and connections that emerge out of the living dialogue of the community.

The Community of Learning

Cambridge University Press to Publish "The Saying of Things"

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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.

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On Saying the Beautiful in Light of the Good

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ALTOONA, PA – Today I gave the keynote address at the West Virginia Philosophical Society being held at Penn State Altoona.

This presentation is drawn from the penultimate chapter of the manuscript for my book, The Saying of Things: The Nature of Truth and the Truth of Nature in Aristotle. In the book, I draw on Aristotle’s naturalistic phenomenology in order to articulate truth in terms of the ability to respond to the ways things express themselves. This understanding of truth as co-response-ability is rooted in Aristotle’s recognition that human-being is natural being and its ways of saying naturally co-operate with the logoi of things, the manner in which things express themselves. This allows me to argue that truth is a question of doing justice to the saying of things.

The chapter from which this presentation is taken is designed to suggest the degree to which truth as justice must not only be rooted in concrete encounters with individual things, but that it also must attempt to articulate things within the larger context of the whole to which they and we belong. This chapter, then, attempts to account for the peculiar way in which human-being is bound up with and related to the manner in which the whole expresses itself as beautiful and good.

The Ethics of Blogging Ethics

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“… we’re in the midst of a literacy revolution the likes of which we haven’t seen since Greek civilization.”

Andrea Lunsford, in Wired article “Clive Thompson on the New Literacy

The web log, or blog, opens up new possibilities for teaching and learning by cultivating social communities of education. The power of blogging as a pedagogical practice is rooted in the recognition that meaning is made and knowledge created in social interaction. As Dewey put it in Democracy and Education:

“Schools require for their full efficiency more opportunity for conjoint activities in which those instructed take part, so that they may acquire a social sense of their own powers and of the materials and applications used” (Democracy and Education, 37).

As a sophisticated yet simple publishing platform, the blog offers a powerful opportunity for conjoint activities of learning.  By opening a rich, diverse and broadly accessible site of dialogical engagement, a blog is able to cultivate dynamic social contexts of communication in which a symbiotic relationship between teaching and learning becomes possible.

The Pedagogy of Blogging
This presentation is illustrates the power of blogging as a pedagogical practice by focusing first on what a blog is, second, on the dynamic structure of a blog, and third, on how this dynamic structure can be leveraged to cultivate robust learning communities. 
In the context of ethics education, this presentation seeks to articulate how blogging allows faculty not merely to deliver content to students about ethical theory and practice, but also to perform the virtues of inter-human ethical interaction with students in light of the theories and practices under consideration.

Blogging thus allows us to perform the ethics we teach.

The Virtues of Blogging

Some Examples/Possibilities

The Ethics, from the Rock blog seeks to engage in public deliberation concerning pressing ethical questions with students, faculty, alumni and the broader local and global community:

Diversity of Expression 

Other Resources

TLT Faculty Fellowship Coverage

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CpL PSU Live.jpgOne of the most rewarding aspects of my Teaching and Learning with Technology Faculty Fellowship has been the recognition my efforts in this area are beginning to gain.
Last week, my work over the summer was featured on PSU Live, Penn State’s Official News Source, with a very nice article written by Mary Janzen highlighting the fellowship and specifically the development of the Digital Dialogue podcast.
Over the course of the summer, the Digital Dialogue Podcast (iTunes link) has received a lot of publicity and recognition from the institutions with which my guests on the podcast are associated.

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.

Ongoing Connections
Below is a running feed tagged as links related to the Socratic Politics in Digital Dialogue project:

Associate Dean for Undergraduate Studies

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LA.jpgLast week I was offered and accepted the position of Associate Dean for Undergraduate Studies at the College of the Liberal Arts at The Pennsylvania State University.

In this position, which officially begins January 1, 2010, I will manage and lead the College’s undergraduate studies operations, including the College-wide advising structure, the Paterno Fellows program, the on-going operations of the records office, and curricular enrichment initiatives. As Associate Dean I will also represent the College on university-wide undergraduate committees and councils and work with departmental undergraduate officers and other faculty to continue to improve the quality of undergraduate education in the College. A significant portion of this job will also involve “other duties as assigned” by the Dean.

I undertake these new responsibilities in the same spirit and with the same commitment with which I first began a career in philosophy.  Then as now I seek to engage students at a formative time in their lives and encourage them to orient their lives toward activities informed by the core values of the liberal arts: ethical leadership, critical and reflective thinking, and an openness to other peoples, ideas and cultures.

Learning Design Summer Camp Panel

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STATE COLLEGE, PA – As one of the Teaching and Learning with Technology summer faculty fellows, I am on a panel at the 2009 Learning Design Summer Camp that focuses on new forms of digital scholarship.

The panel is designed to think about and discuss the possibilities for academic scholarship that emerge with new social technologies.  The panel includes Carla Zembal-Saul, Ellysa Cahoy, and Stuart Selber.
During the course of the panel, a number of themes emerged.  First, new technologies challenge faculty to relinquish control of content and open opportunities to empower students to give voice to their own perspective. We talked about how modeling good pedagogical practices can cultivate dialogue and responsive discussion. 
Second, new forms of digital expression are challenging the traditional conception of authorship and ownership.  Assessment tools have to be adapted to these new forms of digital expression.
Third, with the emergence of new forms of digital expression come new forms of literacy; indeed, different media require different skills.  We emphasized the importance of rooting the use of new technologies in concrete pedagogical objectives.

To follow the discussion, see the twitter feed here and watch the online discussion tool here, you can see some notes taken by TK, a member of the audience, here.
To view the entire panel, a recording of the live stream is embedded below:

ETS Summer Faculty Fellowship

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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. 

During the course of the summer, I will work closely with the TLT staff to brainstorm ideas, produce digital content, develop new and enhance existing tools of digital expression in order to model a practice of using Web 2.0 technologies as a mode of philosophical research that is also socially and politically engaged. The point will not be to research the impact of technology on philosophy, but to explore the possibility of pursuing rigorous academic philosophical research using digital media and innovative technology.
Visit the wiki we have set up for the project here:

Blogs and Assessment

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This post is designed to facilitate a round table discussion of using blogs for assessment at the 2009 Penn State Assessment Conference: Putting Your Assessment Plan to Work.
Over the past four years, I have used blogs regularly in my classes to facilitate philosophical discussion and assessment philosophical writing. I have used two implementations models:

  1. Multiple Blogs – student owned and operated blogs with a course blog that aggregates material from the student blogs.
  2. Common Course Blog – one blog with students either posting through comments or set up as editors.

There are positive and negative dimensions of each model and the assessment techniques differ in each case.

Multiple Blogs

  • Student Ownership
  • Diversity of Perspectives
  • Student Work easy to Identify & Evaluate


  • Difficult to Establish Community of Discussion
  • Lack of Cross Fertilization of Ideas
  • Aggregated Community

Assessment for Multiple Blog Model
Individual Assignments/Individual rubrics; see:

Ongoing Assignment, single rubric; see:

Common Course Blog

  • More Organic Community
  • Centrally Managed
  • Facilitates Cross-fertilization of Ideas through Posts and Comments
  • Unified Discussion
  • Cultivates Social Learning


  • Work of Individual Student is More Difficult to Access and Evaluate
  • Minimizes Idiosyncratic perspectives, creative outlets
  • No Individual Student Ownership

Assessment for Common Course Model
Ongoing Assignment with a single, comprehensive scoring rubric:

The Metaphysics of Truth

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PHILADELPHIA, PA – Today I presented a paper entitled The Metaphysics of Truth at the annual meeting of the Metaphysical Society of America at the American Philosophical Association’s 2008 Eastern Division meeting in Philadelphia, PA.

The paper was part of a panel with Vincent Colapietro, my colleague at the Pennsylvania State University, and Brian Henning from Gonzaga University.  My paper focused on the many ways truth is said in Aristotle, arguing that the two fundamental ways in which Aristotle speaks of truth–as noetic touching and as declarative saying–must be thought together as part of an organic and unified understanding of truth. 

The panel as a whole was very well received and the discussion was lively and insightful.  I am grateful to the MSA for inviting me to be part of this panel.

The Duplicity of Beginning

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This essay is an immanent critique of the story Reiner Schürmann tells concerning the origins of metaphysics as an epoch of hegemonic principles. In both Heidegger on Being and Acting and Broken Hegemonies, Schürmann identifies Aristotle as the father of a metaphysics that understands being in terms of human fabrication. The Duplicity of Beginning attempts to problematize this reading by suggesting that it too is a fabrication that succumbs to Schürmann’s own critique of hegemonic metaphysics. This opens the possibility of reading the poetics of Aristotle’s thinking as bound to the “ravaged site” between natality and mortality.

“The Duplicity of Beginning: Schürmann, Aristotle and the Origins of Metaphysics.” The Graduate Faculty Philosophy Journal, 29, 2 (2008).

The Graduate Faculty Philosophy Journal has generously allowed me to make the full text of this article available in .pdf format: Click this link to download the full text of the article.

The Saying of Things

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NEW YORK CITY – Today I returned to the New School to present what will be the first chapter of my forthcoming book, The Saying of Things: The Truth of Nature and the Nature of Truth in Aristotle.  It was wonderful to return home to the New School to present my latest work and to engage in the tradition of rigorous and lively dialogue that makes the New School such a rich site of intellectual development. The questions were welcomed and pressed me to think through more rigorously my understanding of “doing justice to things” and “ontological response-ability.”

I was happy to know that although the building has changed, the spirit of the New School for Social Research endures.

The Ethics of Truth

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HARTFORD, CT — Today I gave a paper here at Trinity College on the nature of truth in Aristotle entitled, “The Ethics of Truth: Saying It Like It Is”.  The presentation sought in part to link the way Aristotle speaks of the truthful person in the Nichomachean Ethics to his more strictly theoretical understanding of truth which has traditionally been identified as the first articulation of the so-called correspondence theory of truth. This is part of a larger project that attempts to rethink the correspondence theory in terms of co-response-ability.

The presentation was well received and the ensuing discussion with a group of very intelligent and thoughtful undergraduates and faculty was stimulating and helpful to me as I continue to work on this issue for my book, The Saying of Things.

Between Natality and Mortality

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PITTSBURGH, PA – A panel on the work of Reiner Schürmann entitled “Philosophy-to-come: Reading Reiner Schürmann” was held today at the 47th Annual Meeting of the Society for Phenomenology and Existentialist Philosophy.  The panel included a paper by Emmanuela Bianchi entitled, “From (Sexual) Difference to (Sexual) Differend: A queer feminist reading of Broken Hegemonies,” one from Richard Lee entitled, “A Break in the Middle: From Epochal Principles to Hegemonic Fantasms,” and a paper from me entitled, “Between Natality and Mortality: The Torments of Autonomy.”

My paper traced what Schürmann calls the “double comprehension of being” in Kant in which the sense of being as pure givenness is said to be recognized but denied by Kant as his thinking undertakes its Copernican turn.  Schürmann suggests that this can be heard in the ambiguous ways two German terms that mean “posit or position” are used by Kant.  The terms are “Position” and “Setzung.” Schürmann shows that these two terms point at various moments in Kant either to the notion of being as a category that arises from the transcendental operations of the subject or to being understood as pure givenness external to the transcendental subject.  Schürmann insists that this second sense of being threatens to undermine the entire transcendental project and so must be denied by Kant.

Drawing on this reading, I attempt to show that Schürmann’s own deep skepticism about philosophical language and particularly his insistence that language always involves the violent supression of singularity is itself undermined by Schürmann’s own suggestion that the singular comes to language in the tension between Position and Setzung that gives voice to the two comprehensions of being in Kant.   

Designs on e-Learning

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This September I will be presenting at the Designs on e-Learning Conference held here at Penn State.  My presentation is entitled Blogging and Podcasting the Liberal Arts (the link is to the blog post on which the presentation is based).

The abstract is as follows:

Over the past two years, I have worked to incorporate podcasting and blogging into my First-Year seminars in Philosophy. This session will present some of the best practices I have found to be particularly effective in the effort to use technology to expand the classroom experience and encourage the active engagement of my students in their own education. The presentation will touch upon my valiant failures as well as substantive successes. Some of the issues discussed will include: integrating podcasting and blogging, using RSS feeds to facilitate online community, example blog and podcast assignments and a discussion of the place of technology in the classroom. Attendees should come prepared to engage in a substantive discussion of both the concrete, practical issues associated with blogging and podcasting in the classroom and the more theoretical questions surrounding the use of technology in the pedagogical process.

Ontological Response-Ability and the Ethics of Truth

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FREIBURG, GERMANY – Today I present a paper entitled Ontological Response-Ability and the Ethics of Truth at a conference jointly organized by the Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg and the Pennsylvania State University.

The paper will outline some of the basic idea underlying my book project entitled The Saying of Things: The Nature of Truth and the Truth of Nature in Aristotle.  The central argument of the paper is that the question of truth is fundamentally a matter of doing justice to the expression of things.  Justice in this case is ontological: it concerns the logos at work in everything that is.  Thus, to do justice to the expression of things is shown to involve an ability to respond to the ways things speak that is rooted in an ethical community of communication with nature.