Folding the Manifold

Screen Shot 2019-04-09 at 2.43.25 PMI think often about these passages in Kant and how they describe the details of something like phenomenological intentionality. Along these lines, I think of skilled intentionality as a practice of conformation, of training the manifold of perception and intuition to bend in certain ways on purpose.

The Side View’s thesis is based on something like this idea: Practices of conformation, in Kant’s sense of “objects conforming to cognition,” are ways of bending and folding the manifold in certain ways.

I also noted recently that we might define a concept as a fold in perception. Taking up a concept as a part of experience is to shape the manifold of intuition in such a way so as to realize new details, emphasizes, and meanings for action.

But the concept is just one way of reorganizing the manifold. Practices of all kinds are nondiscursive (nonlinguistic) means of shaping perception. They also “fold” experience in different ways and allow new subtleties to show up.

If you can see the links between Kant’s manifold of intuition, and its potential of being shaped through practice, you can start to look at spiritual, religious, and contemplative exercises in a new light, one that might interest even the ardent atheists among you.

This shaping of the manifold is what unites the different disciplines The Side View draws from. The emphasis on practice also lets us view a variety of disciplines from a different angle. This includes the sciences, the humanities, the arts, as well as the contemplative, spiritual, and religious traditions, and their various philosophical commitments.

When we link these disciplines through the idea of practice—rather than in an effort to forcibly compare, contrast, conjoin, or reduce one tradition to another—a number of unhelpful divisions can be resolved, such as those between the religious and the secular the scientific and the philosophical, and the theoretical and the practical, especially in terms of their existential value for transforming perception and action.

In this sense, the practices, habits, and rituals explored through TSV are treated as ways of conjuring up novel syntheses of perception in experience that yield new meanings, details, and possibilities for action in the practitioner. I explore these ideas in more detail in my introduction to the first issue of The Side View Journal, which you can find here.

Consider downloading a copy for $5. All proceeds are put towards supporting TSV!


The Ecology of the Concept Essay

Over the summer, I submitted a reworked version of my PACT conference paper to a fairly well-respected journal in the fields of philosophy, phenomenology, and cognitive science. When I received the paper’s rejection letter, I wasn’t too surprised, nor was I too discouraged by the news. I knew going into the submission process that the journal has a pretty high rejection rate, and that it’s a bit above my current pay grade as graduate student. Still, I found the comments that I received from both reviewers to be quite helpful and generous, and I’ll be working on updating the paper in the coming months to take advantage of that helpful feedback. Right now my attention is focused on preparing for an upcoming comprehensive exam on the work of Pierre Hadot, and it’ll be some time before I can return to this paper and its future iterations. So, for now, I’m sharing the paper below, and I’m uploading a pdf here. Continue reading

Next Up: Speaking at PACT

I just received confirmation that I’ll be speaking at the ninth annual conference of the Pacific Association for the Continental Tradition (PACT). The conference will take place in San Francisco at USF over September 28–30. My abstract is below. Feel free to get in touch in the comments or drop me a line on Twitter (@KnowledgEcology) if you’re interested in reading a draft of the paper, which is more or less ready to go. 

Title: The Ecology of the Concept: Montero, Dreyfus, and McDowell

Abstract: In their recent debates, Hubert Dreyfus and John McDowell have advanced the stakes in the dispute over the role of concepts in embodied action. For Dreyfus, to allege that embodied action is conceptual in nature is to overintellectualize the body, to illegitimately read into more primary processes a set of rational faculties that participate in action only in rare moments of detached reflection. In contrast, McDowell, following Wilfrid Sellars, alleges that even basic embodied comportment requires for its success a conceptual structure. In this paper, I will argue with McDowell and Barbara Gail Montero and against Dreyfus, that the way to think about embodied action is not to see it as nonconceptual but to re-read the conceptual as a nondistanced act or skill of the body. The concept on this view is a technique for drawing together the objects of the perceptual field; it is a skill of the understanding, to us Alva Noë’s language. Insofar as such objects afford meaningful discernment and possibilities for action, the concept becomes an act of transformation in the experience of the individual, allowing him or her new capacities unavailable to the uninitiated. In other words, I will show that the concept is an activity, a way of acting upon one’s actions; it reorganizes the content and meaning of perception, affording new sites of engagement. To articulate this ecology of the concept, I will re-situate the body as the site of the conceptual and suggest that the body’s engagement with the environment is already conceptually structured, though not necessarily in an intellectually distanced way.

Sketching Kant’s Critical Philosophy

As of late, I’ve been working my way through a number of German idealist thinkers, producing a series of small posts as I investigate the tradition (see on Kant and Fichte here, on Fichte and Schelling here, and on Goethe here). In this post, I move back to Kant himself, sketching an outline of the critical philosophy, as expressed in The Critique of Pure Reason, including an account of his rejection of rationalism and empiricism, his account of intuitions, concepts, and ideas, and his notions of judgment, imagination, and apperception. Understanding Kant’s critical philosophy is essential to understanding the evolution of German idealism as a whole. As Frederick Beiser notes, those involved in this tradition strove to find a middle path between a number of competing binaries, including that between skeptical subjectivism and naive realism, foundationalism and relativism, materialism and idealism, and Platonism and historicism, binaries which, as Beiser rightly suggests, are still the concern of much contemporary epistemology.[1]  Continue reading