I Read It for the Phenomenology

Tonight, it’s time for philosophy, bad journalism, and porn.

A while back (okay, about two weeks ago), Slate’s XX Factor blog put up a piece “explaining” why the stereotypical male porn actor is, well, not attractive to women.  According to Lowder’s interpretation of Amanda Hess, who wrote the profile his theorizing is based on, it’s because straight men are afraid that, if a man women are interested in were cast, they’d be attracted to him, and thus insecure about their masculinities.

I’m not buying it.  Well, okay.  I guess it could be a possible interpretation, but not a likely—or even good—one. Continue reading

Michel Foucault, Relationship Counselor: Philosobabble Has a Point

So this is part two of an unintentional series, it seems.  I don’t know if I’m on to something or not here, but . . .

If words and language support and are supported by a whole network of epistimic presuppositions, power structures, assumptions, overtones, nuances of meaning, etc., then, if somebody was trying to do something constructive with language, such as correct an unhealthy pattern of thought or interpersonal interaction, then it would seem logical to suppose that the words and patterns of language chosen should be those most apt to the task at hand.  This at least partially explains why philosophers love technical and specialized jargon, besides the fact that we just really love tossing around fun words; certain terms have specific connotations, implications, and shades of meaning that naturally lead the listener to the intended conclusion, as well as bearing a whole web of related information.  For instance, the term “quidity” has implications neither its translation “whatness” or strict Latin rendering “quiditas” have; while sounding like something that is part of a specialized philosophical lexicon, with its own particular uses, rather than a word made up on the spot, it still sounds like something used in current debates, rather than historical medieval disputations.  Using either the translated neologism or the strict Latinism would detract from the philosophical point at hand, while the Anglicized form of the Latin references the metaphysical debate in contemporary philosophy. Continue reading

For those who follow such things

For those who follow such things, the deliciously wonderful Publishing Trendsetter is doing a series on positions in publishing; though it’s geared mostly to trade (surprise, surprise), there’s naturally a nice bit of niftiness.

Of course, you could just skip straight to their YouTube channel and indulge your impatience like I did.

The Medieval Ebook, Part II: Writing in the Margins

As I mentioned last time, the odd writings you find in the margins of medieval books (and, for that matter, in between the lines or on loose sheets of paper inserted between the pages) are often of great importance.  Known as marginal or interlinear glosses (or, if on loose paper, extras), these notes, asides, and corrections took on a life of their own, sometimes rivaling the importance of the book they were written in.  Perhaps the most famous collections based largely on these writings would be the Catena Aurea of Thomas Aquinas, one of many such catenae aureae compiled by late antique and medieval authors, and the four books of Peter Lombard’s Sentences—though most any Scholastic writing on philosophical or theological  matters will cite glosses or extras at some point or other.

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We've lost a lot since we decided "*" was good enough.

Which brings me to the point I was making at the end of my previous post.  If you have a copy of the books/papers being cited at your fingertips, in parallel with a paper or essay using them, then, rather than having some artifact of scholarship divorced from its roots, you can see the organic growth and web of relationships between source text and new work.  Though this would be helpful enough if you could click on a citation in a paper and be taken directly to the location cited, the reverse—reading a book or paper and seeing who and what cites it as you’re reading it—could be more interesting and fruitful. Continue reading

A Thought on Electronic Publishing, Returning to Form (Part 1)

This post is part 1 of (at least) two; the second part is located here.

“Everyone” in publishing (well, other than at my small academic press where people still submit things in WordPerfect) seems to be all excited/worried/up-in-arms about the Impending Ebook Revolution.  It may happen, for obvious reasons.  It may not happen, again for obvious reasons.  I’m not a tech blogger, nor an industry pundit, nor even a cranky old emeritus professor who causes Bossman to say things about people who submit in WordPerfect before dumping it onto the production editor, so I’d suggest finding one of those if you want to know why ebooks are The Next Big Thing/The End of the World.

Rather, I was thinking about why someone would prefer electronic reading material to print.  Much of this will be addressed in later posts, but one thing that struck me as a potentially interesting consequence of electronic book downloading is how similar it is (or could be) to how reading materials were bound in the middle ages.

Yes, really. Continue reading

Jean-Paul Sartre, Relationship Counselor

I know, I know, taking relationship advice from disillusioned French intellectuals may not seem like the best idea, but it works.

Really.

First, the idea of philosophical counseling isn’t exactly new; to be honest, if I weren’t so interested in publishing (yes, I have more than a little bit of a soft spot for making academic prose look good), I’d probably get myself certified and become Phill Melton, Philosopher at Large.  There’s something about helping people with conundra and difficulties that seems to get back to the Socratic ideal of the philosopher as a doctor for the soul, rather than an isolated practitioner in the academy.  I’ll probably address this in a later post, but much of philosophy nowadays isn’t particularly concerned with whether or not belief in proposition X entails action Y; ethicists, for instance, have a reputation as actually being somewhat unethical, and metaphysicians will gladly bang their fists on tables that they’re trying to prove don’t exist.  There are a few branches of philosophy—especially feminist philosophy—that actually care about the practical implications of all these abstruse reasonings, but they’re definitely outside the Anglophone analytic mainstream.

So, now that I’m out of school, I can actually admit that some of what I do has very practical applications.  Like existential relationship counseling.  Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus has nothing on Being and Nothingness as a guide to understanding the significant Other. Continue reading

A Question (or two) for Literary Agents

First, who seriously hires a literary agent for an academic book?  Most academic book deals, at least at our little press, come out of glad-handing and conference drinking sessions; Bossman knows pretty much everyone who submits a book to us, having been on the philosophy and religion circuit for years.  Forget the agent fees and just buy a ticket to ACPA or AAR and a few drinks for the folks manning the book booths.

Second, the editor and intern are both academics.  We both read academic books.  You know, dry, dusty, and boring tomes.  Even the best are usually dense, of interest to only a few nerds who find questions of (law as a kind of rule-guided social behavior/interpretive jurisprudence/modality in medieval logic and metaphysics/the possibility of unicorns existing) so amazingly fascinating that they’ll shell out a nice sum of money for a copy of their own.  Thus, is describing the book you’re representing as “new and exciting” really a good idea?

Bossman and I got a few laughs out of the inquiry.  Hey, if bad presentation’s the worst thing about that inquiry . . .