Friday, April 18, 2008

The Paranoid Style in American Science

Clark, at Mormon Metaphysics, has a Sideblog to a very interesting article: The Paranoid Style in American Science. It's a fascinating discussion of what happens when doubt becomes the guiding principle in politics, PR, philosophy, and science.

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Thursday, April 17, 2008

Malpas on Heidegger and Nazism

I'm beginning to go through Jeff Malpas' Heidegger's Topology: Being, Place, World and just barely got to his section on Heidegger and National Socialism. He makes an interesting point about the notion of place in Heidegger's thought and when it took prominence, decidedly after his fiasco with Nazism. Here's an extended quote:
Thus the addresses from the early 1930s in which Heidegger seems to align himself with elements of Nazi ideology combine the vocabulary of Being and Time with ideas and images also present in Nazi rhetoric, including notions of "Volk" and of "Blut und Boden," but they do not deploy any developed notions of place or dwelling as such (and the distinction is an important one, both within Heidegger's own thinking and within thought, politics, and culture more generally). Talk of "Blut und Boden" seems to feature in Heidegger's vocabulary in only a few places, and although the notion of "Volk" does have a greater persistence and significance, it too is almost entirely absent from Heidegger's postwar thought. Significantly, it is in his engagement with Hölderlin, immediately after his resignation of the rectorate, in 1934-1935, that ideas of place and dwelling begin to emerge more explicitly (though still in a relatively undeveloped form) as a focus for Heidegger's thinking. Moreover, the influence of Heidegger on contemporary thinking about place does not stem from the work in the 1920s and early 1930s, but rather from that of the middle to late 1930s and, especially, of the period from 1945 onwards, particularly essays such as "Building Dwelling Thinking." In this respect, the strategy that appears in Harvey, Massey, and Leach [which he just analyzed] seems to be one that attempts to discredit ideas explicit in the later thinking largely on the basis of the political engagement apparently present in the earlier. (20)
I will admit, the question of Heidegger's relation with Nazi ideology is not a topic that interests me, so I am not someone who can speak about the issue in an informed way. However, the above does seem to present a decent case for how to distinguish Heidegger's thought on place from Nazi ideology by situating the former in Heidegger's developed interest in Hölderlin in his post-Nazi period.

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Sunday, April 13, 2008

More Online Books

I've recently stumbled on Fark Yaraları = Scars of Différance by way of Continental Philosophy and found a huge assortment of books that will be of interest to anyone interest in Husserl, Heidegger, and Deleuze (among others). As with the previous post, most of these are in RAR format, so try to get your hands on WinRAR to take advantage of this great selection.

Also, Continental Philosophy has a link to a site that has a number of texts on religion, philosophy, and philosophy of religion. The Cambridge Companion series' should be of particular interest.


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Heidegger Reexamined, 4 Vols.

This is probably one of the most important posts on Heidegger I have given to date. Hubert Dreyfus and Mark Wrathall got together and created an anthology of, in their mind, some of the best and most important works on Heidegger's thought. Normally you would have to pay a small fortune (at least on a student's income) to get your hands on this set. I've been searching for online copies for some time and, with one failure, I've finally located them! They are in RAR format, so you need to download WinRAR or another program that unpacks it, but you can get a trial version. So enjoy!!!!

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Friday, April 11, 2008

Merleau-Ponty on the History of Philosophy

I recently acquired Merleau-Ponty's The Incarnate Subject: Malebranche, Biran, and Bergson on the Union of Body and Soul, the notes from a lecture course he gave at Ecole Normale Supérieure in Paris and the University of Lyons to prepare students for the qualifying exam for the agrégation in philosophy. In it he has an interesting statement on how one does the history of philosophy:
The objectivity of the history of philosophy is only found in the practice of subjectivity. The way of understanding a system is to ask of it the questions with which we ourselves are concerned: it is in this way that systems appear, with their differences, and bear witness whether or not our questions are identical to those which their authors themselves posed.

The history of philosophy is a confrontation, a communication with systems, analogous to that which we are able to have with persons. Even though philosophers may choose, their choice is always accompanied, as if in the margins, by a suspicion of what is overlooked. All consciousness of a thing is, at one and the same time, consciousness of what is not this thing. Each philosophical choice stands out in relief against the background of what was not chosen, and it is in this way that philosophers communicate; it is the residue which maintains the dialogue among persons and, consequently, the history of philosophy.

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Wednesday, April 02, 2008

My Thesis Prospectus

Part of my absence the last few months has been my initial work on my thesis. After much work with my primary thesis advisor, this is the mostly-finished prospectus:

Embodying Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy of Depression:
A Phenomenological Critique of Aaron Beck

Cognitive-behavioral therapy (hereafter CBT) is one of the dominant therapeutic paradigms in our time. With its focus on cognition, however, CBT virtually ignores the body and its role in human existence. My thesis will be a philosophical critique of CBT through the question of the body’s role in human existence. While it is admitted that CBT is a clinical and not a philosophical discipline, I believe that every method in every discipline is grounded by (sometimes implicit) philosophical theories and that an examination of those theories should be a vital aspect of psychology (Gadamer, 1960/1989; Slife & Williams, 1995). I will focus on Aaron Beck’s CBT model and will use depression as the target psychological phenomenon by which to compare Beck’s model with my phenomenological alternative. My analysis will primarily be informed by Maurice Merleau-Ponty’s phenomenology of embodiment. This thesis is not meant as a refutation of CBT, but an attempt to find those structures of active embodiment that essentially undergird and give meaning to cognition as understood by CBT.

The first section of the thesis, essentially the first chapter, will be my literature review of CBT followed by a brief look at the body’s place within that literature. Aaron Beck’s (1976) cognitive-behavioral therapy combines cognitive psychology’s focus on meaning with behaviorism’s theory of learning (Rupke, Blecke, & Renfrow, 2006). Beck (1976) proposed that “[p]sychological problems…result from commonplace processes such as faulty learning, making incorrect inferences on the basis of inadequate or incorrect information, and not distinguishing adequately between imagination and reality” (p. 20). The behavioral aspect of cognitive-behavioral therapy provides a theory of learning and action. Psychological disorders develop when we habitually pair objects, people, events, and actions to certain values, beliefs, and/or consequences (Farmer & Chapman, 2008). With this understanding, depression is grounded in various beliefs: “I am unworthy,” “I am/life is hopeless,” or the unrealistic and ultimately futile belief that “I must be perfect” (Riso & Newman, 2003). These beliefs are “maladaptive schemas” through which the depressed person interprets the events in their lives, essentially filtering out those things that don’t cohere with the belief and emphasizing those things that do. The goal of the therapist, then, is to help the patient correct their maladaptive schemas through vigilant reflection and evaluation of their beliefs, reality testing, and the development of cognitive skills to similarly evaluate and work past future maladaptive schemas, possibly supplemented by medication (Beck, Emery, & Greenberg, 1985, Chapter 11).

The body is rarely mentioned in works on CBT. Naturally, the body is implied in the very notion of behavior and one can easily find discussions of the brain in relation to the usefulness of medication. Beyond these, the most prevalent use of the body is in reference to the “body image”: “one’s perceptions, attitudes, and experiences related to one’s body, especially his or her physical appearance” (Cash & Hrabosky, 2003, p. 255). The body, then, can be said to have a two-fold significance in CBT: first, it is the physical (what I will call the objective) body; second, it is the body as represented in the mind (what I will call the cognitive body).1

The second part of the thesis will be an extended exposition of Merleau-Ponty’s phenomenology of embodiment. The first chapter will be a discussion of Merleau-Ponty’s notions of “form” in Structure of Behavior (1942/1963) and the figure-ground structure of experience in Phenomenology of Perception (1945/1958). These concepts form the background from which to understand the motile structure of the body. The second chapter will be an analysis of the arguments and evidences given by Merleau-Ponty and others (e.g., Gallagher, 2005) for the “body schema” —“a global, practical, and implicit notion of the relation between our body and things, of our hold on them…[a] system of possible movements, or ‘motor projects’” (Merleau-Ponty, 1962/1964, p. 5)—in contrast to the “body image” of either objectivistic or cognitive models of the body. The final chapter of this section will be an analysis of the temporal structure of embodiment, including the encultered nature of embodied action and experience (Ingold, 2000; Bourdieu, 1980/1990).

The final section will consist of an analysis of depression through Merleau-Ponty’s phenomenology of embodiment. It will attempt to answer the following questions: how is depression situated within the motile body? What is the relation between the temporal structure of embodiment and the most common symptoms of depression? Why is it important to examine depression by way of the objects that we interact with in an embodied way? How does the above account for the success of cognitive-behavioral therapy? Finally and tentatively, what potential therapeutic techniques can help in developing a therapeutic approach geared to the motile body?

1. Bennett and Hacker (2003) point to a propensity within cognitive science and neuroscience to equate the brain with the whole person. Though pertinent to the issues discussed in this thesis, neural reductionism is not going to be explicitly addressed, though I believe the critique I will give can also apply to this approach.


Beck, A. (1976). Cognitive therapy and the emotional disorders. New York: International Universities Press.

Beck, A., Emery, G., and Greenberg, R. (1985). Anxiety disorders and phobias: A cognitive perspective. New York: Basic Books.

Bennett, M., and Hacker, P. (2003). Philosophical foundations of neuroscience. Oxford: Blackwell.

Bourdieu, P. (1980/1990). The logic of practice (R. Nice, Trans.). Stanford: Stanford University Press.

Cash, T., and Hrabosky, J. (2003). The effects of psychoeducation and self-monitoring in a cognitive-behavioral program for body-image improvement. Eating Disorders 11(4), 255-270.

Farmer, R., and Chapman, A. (2008). Behavioral interventions in cognitive behavior therapy: Practical guidance for putting theory into action. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

Gadamer, H-G (1960/1989). Truth and method (J. Weinsheimer & D. Marshall, Trans.). New York: Continuum.

Gallagher, S. (2005). How the body shapes the mind. Oxford: Clarendon Press

Ingold, T. (2000). The perception of the environment: Essays in livelihood, dwelling and skill. New York: Routledge.

Merleau-Ponty, M. (1942/1963). The structure of behavior (A. Fisher, Trans.). Pittsburgh: Duquesne University Press.

Merleau-Ponty, M. (1945/1958). Phenomenology of perception (C. Smith, Trans.). London and New York: Routledge & Kegan Paul.

Merleau-Ponty, M. (1962/1964). An unpublished text (A. Dallery, Trans.). In The primacy of perception (pp. 3-11). Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press.

Riso, L., and Newman, C. (2003). Cognitive therapy for chronic depression. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 59(8), 817-831.

Rupke, S., Blecke, D., and Renfrow, M. (2006). Cognitive therapy for depression. American Family Physician, 73(1), 83-86.

Slife, B., and Williams, R. (1995). What’s behind the research: Discovering hidden assumptions in the behavioral sciences. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications.

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Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Malpas on Heidegger's Topology and Later Heidegger

Jeff Malpas provides a critique of Edward Relph's critique of his Heidegger's Topology: Being, Place, World. The last four paragraphs are particularly interesting:
Heidegger’s Topology attempts to provide an account of the way in which place provides a starting point for Heidegger’ s thinking as well as an idea toward which it develops. Indeed, it is only in the very late thinking, from perhaps 1947 onward, that Heidegger’s topology emerges in a fully developed form (although a form that can only be appreciated when viewed in terms of the problems in the earlier thinking to which it is also a response).

If we are to take Heidegger as making a significant contribution to the philosophical analysis of place in the 20th century, then it must be primarily on the basis of the later thinking rather than the earlier. But the later thinking also makes demands on the reader that are much greater than those of the earlier work—demands that follow, in part, from Heidegger’ s own attempts to think topologically—and as a result the later thinking is more prone to being misread and misconstrued.

I had hoped that Heidegger’s Topology would go some way toward correcting this tendency, but if Relph’s comments are taken as an indication, the work would seem to have fallen short of at least one of its objectives. On the other hand, if the sort of topology or topography in which I take Heidegger to have been engaged and to which I take my own work to be a contribution does constitute a different, if not entirely unprecedented, mode of thinking, then perhaps one simply has to accept certain inevitable difficulties in the communication and elucidation of that thinking.

Heidegger’s Topology does not, however, stand alone. Not only does it seem to me to be supported by the work of others in the same field, most notably, by that of Ed Casey, but it should also be read against the background of my other work. In this respect, Heidegger’s Topology is only the second book in what should be a sequence of works that will together, I hope, provide a more fully elaborated account of the philosophical topology that is adumbrated in Heidegger.

I believe the second book is his Place and Experience: A Philosophical Topography. I'll be getting both soon (for my thesis) and look forward to reading his insights.

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A Chance Discussion of Existentialism at a Buffet

Jay Wilkinson, at Twin Cities Daily Planet, talks about dining at Kim Huoy Chor and overhearing a conversation:
Two 45-50 year old guys ate and skipped back and forth in matching books and discussed Heidegger, existentialism and other such things well beyond me. At one point one of them mentions “Schlomo Levin (or some such name) – he was a German Jewish philosopher in the last century.”
This, along with a few chance relationships, ends up uniting a few tables for discussion. Why can't this happen in my town?

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