So as Graham blogged yesterday, I am in Claremont for the Metaphysics and Things conference, put on by the Whitehead Research Project. It’s been a great conference and I’m really glad it gave me the opportunity to meet Graham, Levi, Ian and Jeff in person. It’s also sort of weird to meet people here who I don’t know but who know my blog and have even read and enjoyed my essay in Speculations I! (Sidenote: when we were first introducing ourselves to each other each other in the lobby, Donna Haraway was very interested in the way blogs are helping academics subvert the standard publishing practices/system. I couldn’t agree more.)
I gave my paper, “The Inner Lives of Objects: Speculative Metaphysics for the 21st Century,” yesterday afternoon and I guess it went well. There were only a couple of questions (from Graham and then Jim, who is now my advisor as well as friend and department head) so I was worried initially as to what that meant. Both Roland Faber (the head honcho ’round these parts) and Nathan Brown had questions for me afterwards, and a couple of students did as well. Roland’s struck close to home since it’s an issue I’m still working through. Essentially, I claim that Schopenhauer is inconsistent with his use of ‘Will’ such that we should read it as multiple in the form of direction. That is to say, there is only one Will but it moves two different ways (inside and outside or more precisely, there is an expansive will [will to live or will to exist] and a contractive will [will to annihilation]). Roland disagrees and thinks there is only the destructive Will. It’s certainly a debate worth having. A big part of the problem here, as was raised by Graham question about linking Schelling and Schopenhauer, is that Schopenhauer is very particular to not ally himself with anyone too seriously and so his context gets thrown out and he’s treated as an idiosyncratic, individual thinker. His critique of Kant for instance is fairly devastating; very little of the actual Kantian system remains once he’s done with it. The problem though is that he has clear ties to many thinkers. As I mentioned, he is clearly indebted to Schelling (and I believe attended several of his seminars), and besides this there is the influence of the Schellingian school of dynamic psychiatry or Romantic psychology which was influential on Schopenhauer’s thought (he worked in a mad house, after all).
In any case, people seem genuinely interested in what I’m working on, which is good to know because it doesn’t really fit what anyone else is doing right now so it’s easy to worry I’m off my rocker or something. Levi chastised me at dinner a couple nights ago for not blogging anymore, so I’m going to try to keep it up once I get back to Newfoundland.