Events Santa Barbara

Endless Happiness: Confessions of a Recovering Addict 889 1024 Tom Carlson

Endless Happiness: Confessions of a Recovering Addict

November 1, 2019 at 2 p.m.

Robertson Gymnasium 1000A

I set out to write about how to be happy, and my questions about happiness led me to a consideration of addiction because I began to notice a fundamental similarity: Like addicts, we mortals suffer a dependence on finite substances for our happiness, and their passing away always brings a comedown. To think through the implications of this parallel, I went to Augustine’s Confessions—one of the most poignant and impactful reflections on the relationship between death and happiness in the Western tradition. My original research question, “What does it mean for a human to be happy?” transformed through my readings of Augustine into “If being human is a ‘condition’, then what are its symptoms, and, furthermore, what would it mean to recover from it?” In this essay, “Endless Happiness,” I analyze Augustine’s own attempt to come to terms with the fact that, for us mortals, being happy means having something to lose.

Reading

Luke McCracken is a PhD student in Religious Studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara, specializing in existential philosophy and the history of Christian thought. His research focuses on questions of happiness, mortality, coping with loss, and nihilism. His published work includes, most recently, an article with the Journal of Cultural and Religious Theory, “A Note on Pre-Positions: Methodology in the Continental Philosophy of Religion,” and a translation of Emmanuel Falque’s The Loving Struggle: Phenomenological and Theological Debates.

With the World at Heart: Studies in the Secular Today 682 1024 Tom Carlson

With the World at Heart: Studies in the Secular Today

October 18, 2019 at 2 p.m.

Robertson Gymnasium 1000A

Based on a reading of key chapters from Thomas A. Carlson’s With the World at Heart: Studies in the Secular Today (University of Chicago Press, 2019), and touching on a range of thinkers from Saint Augustine through Martin Heidegger to more recent theorists of “secularization,” this seminar discussion with the author will aim to explore and elucidate 1) the different understandings of time—and especially of the future—that most decisively shape contemporary debate about the meaning of “secular” modernity; 2) the role of human affection, and of love specifically, in the human enterprise of world-building; and 3) the work of education in shaping our affective relations to the world and its futures.

The seminar will be followed by a reception.

Reading

Thomas Carlson, With the World at Heart: Studies in the Secular Today, Introduction, Ch. 5, Ch. 7 & Conclusion.

Those pressed for time should focus on Chapter 5 and the concluding “Last Look.”

For those interested, the entire book is available on reserve in the Davidson Library under the call number BD 436 .C375 2019.

The Law and Love in Schelling’s Pauline Anthropology 460 288 Tom Carlson

The Law and Love in Schelling’s Pauline Anthropology

May 31, 2019 at 10:00 a.m.

Robertson Gymnasium 1000A

Schelling’s late philosophy is rightly held to have a strong, if not simply one-dimensional, connection to the question of the religious, and a particular investment in Christianity. Here I will investigate one particular aspect of that connection: Schelling’s philosophical reappropriation of the Pauline critique of the Law.

By the Law, Schelling understands the moral law, and so the condition of possibility of any universal normative ethics. Such an ethics, Schelling seeks to show, is irreconcilably at odds with the concept of personhood. But only as persons can we hope to live lives well-pleasing to God – lives, that is, in which our estrangement from the world, our fellow man, and God is overcome. It is thus only by striving to establish a relationship from person to person, from individual seeker to personal God, that consciousness can hope to be reunited with God in actuality and attain what one might call blessedness or, in more everyday terms, genuine happiness.

Schelling’s Pauline anthropology thus forms the hinge between the two halves of his late system, that is, between his purely rational, a priori negative philosophy on the one hand, and the historical movement which consciousness goes through in its relation to the divine in his so-called positive philosophy on the other. This anthropology, elaborated in the 24th lecture of the late text known as the Philosophical Introduction to the Philosophy of Mythology, thus forms not merely a poignant but a privileged site for thinking through what meaning the religious has for Schelling’s metaphysical and ethical thought.

Reading

Friedrich Wilhelm Joseph Schelling, Philosophical Introduction to the Philosophy of Mythology, Lecture 24.

A Defense of Reading at the End of the World 795 1024 Tom Carlson

A Defense of Reading at the End of the World

May 13, 2019 at 2:30 p.m.

Robertson Gymnasium 1000A

In 1936, Wallace Stevens argued for the need for a poetic response to the crises of his age, writing that “[t]he poet who wishes to contemplate the good in the midst of confusion is like the mystic who wishes to contemplate God in the midst of evil.” And what of the prosaic academic who wishes to read literature in the midst of our contemporary crises? In my talk I will present a theory of literature and reading as a mode of knowing the (normative, narrative, and historical) conditions of our humanity, based on Michael Polanyi’s work on tacit knowledge and his conception of reality as the condition of inquiry and discovery. I then invite seminar participants to collaborate in putting this theory into practice with a consideration of Robert Lowell’s apocalyptic 1946 poem “The Quaker Graveyard in Nantucket.”

Reading

Michael Polanyi, The Tacit Dimension, Ch. 1 (“Tacit Knowing”), pp. 1-26.
Robert Lowell, “The Quaker Graveyard in Nantucket.”

Recommended

Michael Polanyi, “Meaning” Lectures 1 (“From Perception to Metaphor“) and 2 (“Works of Art“).

Lindsay Atnip is a PhD candidate in the Committee on Social Thought at the University of Chicago. Her recently-submitted dissertation is entitled “From Tragic Form to Apocalyptic Reality in Four American Works: Toward an Epistemological Theory and Practice of Reading.” She also teaches in the University of Chicago Graham School’s Basic Program of Liberal Education for Adults.

Lee Bontecou, Sixth Stone I, 1964. Color lithograph on paper, 93 x 71.

The Ethics of Powerlessness 700 525 Tom Carlson

The Ethics of Powerlessness

Keynote Presentations

Tuesday, April 16
Robertson Gymnasium 1000A, 4 pm

The Idea of the Theological Virtues   
Daniel Watts, University of Essex

The doctrine of the theological virtues holds that faith, hope and love are virtues of a special kind. Being divine gifts, and directed towards our supernatural telos, these virtues differ in kind from those on the classical lists, not least the ones Aquinas called ‘cardinal’. This doctrine gives rise to a dilemma. Either the theological virtues are capable of being cultivated through human agency, in which case they do not in this respect differ in kind from those on the classical lists – or they are incapable of being cultivated through human agency, in which case they are not really human virtues. In this paper, I chart possible responses to this dilemma and advance what I call a non-theological solution to the problem it articulates. Developing Alasdair MacIntyre’s notion of ‘virtues of acknowledged dependence’, I argue that there is a cogent way of thinking of faith, hope and love as virtues of a kind, without recourse to Aquinas’ views about human teleology or to any special theory of divine agency. On the approach I develop, faith, hope and love are virtues of a kind because of the way in which they express the distinctive stance involved in owning up to our human dependence and vulnerability. My overall aim is to show that ethicists still have much to learn from the idea of the theological virtues, even if they do not accept the Thomistic framework in which this idea is traditionally advanced.

Wednesday, April 17
Robertson Gymnasium 1000A, 10 am

Love’s Telos: Kierkegaard’s Critique of Preferential Love    
Daniel Watts, University of Essex

Kierkegaard’s Works of Love is often associated with a harshly dismissive stance toward ordinary human love, as measured against an ascetic ideal of pure, Christian, non-preferential love. Despite a number of recent attempts to give it a sympathetic hearing, the worry persists that this text denigrates most what we ordinarily call love in ways that are extreme and implausible. My own view is that, on a standard, moralizing reading of Works of Love, this sort of complaint cannot be adequately answered. However, I believe that the moralizing reading misconstrues the overall structure of Kierkegaard’s critique and misses its internal character. My main aim in this paper is therefore to clarify the structure of Kierkegaard’s argument and to develop an alternative interpretative framework. While I shall not try here to offer a full defense of the standpoint of Works of Love, I do hope to indicate why stock criticisms miss their target and how this text offers a cogent overall contribution to the philosophy of love.

Presentations by Humanities & Social Change Postdoctoral Fellows

Wednesday, April 17
Robertson Gymnasium 1000A, 2-5 pm

The Problem of Inherited Guilt in Kierkegaard’s Either/Or
Simon Thornton

Autonomy, Authenticity, and Alterity
Martijn Buijs

Thursday, April 18
Robertson Gymnasium 1000A, 9-12 pm

A Leftist Turns from Marxism to the Poem: On the Soul’s Relationship to Form
Saleem Al-Bahloly

The Lament in Songs and Narratives of Slavery in the Romantic Archive
Catherene Ngoh

Some Concluding Reflections on Powerlessness

Thursday, April 18
Robertson Gymnasium 1000A, 2-5 pm

Watchfulness as a Virtue: Christian and Secular Perspectives
Daniel Watts, University of Essex

Daniel Watts is Senior Lecturer in the School of Philosophy and Art History at the University of Essex, and co-investigator on “The Ethics of Powerlessness” project. His work focuses on Søren Kierkegaard, Ludwig Wittgenstein, and the phenomenological tradition. Author of numerous articles on Kierkegaard, he is currently working on a book titled, Thinking Humanly: Kierkegaard on Subjectivity and Thought.

Regression, Ressentiment and the Crisis of Democracy 900 201 Tom Carlson

Regression, Ressentiment and the Crisis of Democracy

March 22, 2019 at 10 a.m.

Robertson Gymnasium 1000A

In this seminar discussion of her paper “Regression, Ressentiment and the Crisis of Democracy,” Rahel Jaeggi responds to the question, “Are we facing a crisis of democracy?” Engaging a range of thinkers from Friedrich Nietzsche and Max Scheler through Max Horkheimer and Theodor Adorno to Wendy Brown, Jaeggi argues that the crisis of democracy today is a crisis of addressing and even experiencing crisis.

Recommended Reading

Max Scheler, Ressentiment (1915).

Rahel Jaeggi is Professor of Social and Political Philosophy and Director of the Center for Humanities and Social Change at the Humboldt University of Berlin, Jaeggi is a leading voice in Critical Theory and author of numerous important works including, in English, Alienation (Columbia University Press, 2014) and Critique of Forms of Life (Harvard University Press, 2019).

Moral Grace: On K.E. Løgstrup’s Theory of Expressions of Life 816 1024 Tom Carlson

Moral Grace: On K.E. Løgstrup’s Theory of Expressions of Life

March 15, 2019 at 10 a.m.

Robertson Gymnasium 1000A

K.E. Løgstrup’s (1905-1981) signature theory of “expressions of life” represents the culmination of his ethical thought. According to this theory, some phenomena expressive of human interdependence – such as trust and compassion – are seen to be fundamental for our capacity to respond excellently to the needs of others. So construed, on Løgstrup’s view, the expressions of life provide phenomenological attestation of the possibility of agapic love.

In developing this theory, Løgstrup engaged with various philosophical and theological viewpoints, ranging from the analytic British moral philosophy of his day, through to stalwarts of the ‘continental’ tradition (such as Kierkegaard, Heidegger and Sartre), as well as with strands of dialectical theology and Lutheran natural theology that were prominent in Denmark at the time Løgstrup was writing. Unfortunately, Løgstrup’s thinking in this area remained unfinished at the time of his death. Consequently, interpreting and assessing Løgstrup’s theory of expressions of life is doubly difficult: Firstly, it demands that readers become oriented to Løgstrup’s specific way of thinking, which not only resists easy categorization into either camp of the so-called analytic/continental divide, but also resists any sharp distinction between the religious and the secular. Secondly, given its unfinished and fragmented state, Løgstrup’s theory places further interpretive burdens on the reader to parse and elucidate the sometimes under-determined and sometimes even contradictory analyses that it comprises.

Nonetheless, Løgstrup’s ethical thought is currently enjoying a revival of interest, especially within Anglo-American moral philosophy. In this revivalist spirit, I will, in this seminar, canvass one plausible interpretation of Løgstrup’s theory of expressions of life. Specifically, I will suggest that Løgstrup’s theory of expressions of life can be fruitfully understood as representing a version of moral internalism, which is in many respects comparable to that contained in the thought of Iris Murdoch. I shall term the distinctive version of moral internalism promoted by Løgstrup as moral grace. Then, I will consider two objections to Løgstrup’s theory, so interpreted: (1) I defend Løgstrup’s position against a general falsifying objection that has been levelled against moral internalism; and (2) I defuse a worry that emerges in light of this defence – namely, that Løgstrup’s theory precludes the possibility of moral progress.

Reading

K.E. Løgstrup, The Sovereign Expressions of Life” in Beyond the Ethical Demand (Notre Dame, 2007), 49-81.

Democratic Affections 1024 768 Tom Carlson

Democratic Affections

The death in 2018 of Stanley Cavell brought to its ends an exceptionally rich life in philosophy, one that continues to inspire readers and colleagues throughout the humanities and the humanistic social sciences. In this two-day event commemorating Cavell’s career, scholars from Europe and America join in a discussion of his contributions to our understanding of the affective dimensions of democratic life, particularly as these play out in film, religion, and what Cavell terms Emersonian Perfectionism.

Conference Program

Thursday, February 14
Annenberg Conference Room
Social Sciences and Media Studies, 4315

8:45 Opening Remarks
John Majewski, UCSB, Michael Douglas Dean of Humanities and Fine Arts

9:00 Session I
Andrew Norris, UCSB
“The Mood of the World”
Respondent: Eric Ritter, Philosophy, Vanderbilt

Espen Hammer, Temple University
“Moods and Experience in Cavell”
Respondent: Luke McCracken, Religious Studies, UCSB

11:00 Session II
William Rothman, University of Miami
“Pursuits of Happiness: Cavell in Transition”
Respondent: Chip Badley, English, UCSB

Russell Goodman, University of New Mexico
“Cavell and the Transcendentalists”
Respondent: Christopher Morales, Religious Studies, UCSB

1:00 Lunch for Participants

2:00 Session III
Kay Young, UCSB
“Listening to Cavell”
Respondent: Alex Lebrun, Philosophy, UCSB

Sandra Laugier, Paris I
“Cavell, Film, and Moral Education”
Respondent: Felicity Stone-Richards, Political Science, UCSB

Joshua Foa Dienstag, UCLA
“What is the Democratic Mood?”
Respondent: Caleb Miller, Political Science, UCSB

Film Screening & Discussion

7 pm The Lady Eve, followed by a Q&A with Sandra Laugier and William Rothman
Pollock Theater, UCSB

Friday, February 15
Center for Humanities and Social Change
Robertson Gym 1000A

9:00 Opening Remarks
David Cavell

9:30 Session IV
Tom Carlson, UCSB
“Religious Receptions and Democratic Futures:
A Learning of the Heart from Emerson to Cavell”
Respondent: Samantha Copping Kang, Religious Studies, UCSB

Tyler Roberts, Grinnell College:
“Walden as ‘Scripture’: Cavell, Religion and the Language of Criticism”
Respondent: Eva Braunstein, Religious Studies, UCSB

11:30 Session V
Pierre Fasula, Paris I
“The Expression of Passions and its Political Implications”
Respondent: Sherri Lynn Conklin, Philosophy, UCSB

Paola Marrati, Johns Hopkins University:
“The Reasons of Emotions”
Respondent: Tim Snediker, Religious Studies, UCSB

UCSB Campus Map.
Conference poster can be downloaded here.

Co-sponsored by the Center for Humanities & Social Change, the College of Letters and Science, the Graduate Center for Literary Research, the Department of Philosophy, the Carsey-Wolf Center, the Interdisciplinary Humanities Center, the Literature and the Mind Program, the Departments of Religious Studies, Political Science, Film and Media Studies, French and Italian, and the Comparative Literature Program.

The Universal, the Individual, and the Novel: Hegel, Austen, and Ethical Formation 1024 649 Tom Carlson

The Universal, the Individual, and the Novel: Hegel, Austen, and Ethical Formation

February 22, 2019 at 10 a.m.

Robertson Gymnasium 1000A

The seminar will focus on Professor Lewis’s recent piece “The Universal, the Individual, and the Novel: Hegel, Austen, and Ethical Formation,” which itself constitutes work toward a larger book project. While much recent work in ethics has focused on a purported absence in modern ethical thought of practices for the formation of good character, that book will argue that practices of ethical formation have neither gone away nor ceased to be objects of concern. They have migrated to the margins in canonical modern thought; but even in the case of canonical modern thinkers, scrutiny reveals much more attention to practices of ethical formation than scholars typically appreciate. In the wake of the Reformation, these practices have largely become embedded in ordinary life. Accordingly, four sites have taken on particular significance: home, school, work, and church. Lewis’s project seeks to uncover and argue for the significance of oft-neglected treatments of ethical formation from a decisive moment in Western thought. In providing a more nuanced account of the history of modern ethics, he seeks to demonstrate what we can learn from these debates about the compatibility of a distinctly modern emphasis on freedom and close attention to the formation of character.

Reading

The Universal, the Individual and the Novel: Hegel, Austen and Ethical Formation,” in The Unique, the Singular and the Individual, ed. Ingolf U. Dalferth (Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, Forthcoming).

Recommended

G.W.F. Hegel, Elements of the Philosophy of Right, §§ 142-160 and §§ 257-270.

Jane Austen, Mansfield Park 

Essays by Professor Lewis available via email upon request:

“Feeling, Representation, and Practice in Hegel’s Lectures on the Philosophy of Religion.” In The Oxford Handbook of Hegel, ed. Dean Moyar (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2017), 581-602.

“Beyond Love: Hegel on the Limits of Love in Modern Society.” Zeitschrift für neuere Theologiegeschichte/Journal for the History of Modern Theology 20:1 (2013): 3-20.

“Cultivating Our Intuitions: Hegel on Religion, Politics, and Public Discourse,” in Religion, Modernity, and Politics in Hegel (OUP, 2011).

Thomas A. Lewis is Professor of Religious Studies, as well as Co-Deputy Dean and Associate Dean of Academic Affairs in the Graduate School, at Brown University. He has taught previously at the University of Iowa and at Harvard University. He specializes in religious ethics and philosophy of religion in the modern West and has strong interests in methodology in the study of religion. His research examines conceptions of tradition, reason, and authority and their significance for ethical and political thought. His publications include Freedom and Tradition in Hegel: Reconsidering Anthropology, Ethics, and Religion (University of Notre Dame Press, 2005); Religion, Modernity, and Politics in Hegel (Oxford University Press, 2011); Why Philosophy Matters for the Study of Religion–and Vice Versa (Oxford University Press, 2015); and articles on religion and politics, liberation theology, communitarianism, and comparative ethics.

The Cognitive Value of Love in Tolstoy’s Philosophy and Aesthetics 1024 576 Tom Carlson

The Cognitive Value of Love in Tolstoy’s Philosophy and Aesthetics

March 1, 2019 at 10 a.m.

Robertson Gymnasium 1000A

The cognitive value of love or the dynamic between love and knowledge for Tolstoy is not only a philosophical conundrum explored in the content of his works but a moral and epistemological configuration that directly affects his aesthetics: the overall form and genre of his works as well as particular narrative techniques employed in these works. As Tolstoy revises his philosophy of love, his aesthetics change accordingly. In this seminar discussion, we will trace this trajectory and uncover how Tolstoy’s quest for universal love leads him to a revision of human subjectivity, epistemology, morality and aesthetics.

The relationship between aesthetics and philosophy of love in Tolstoy remains a constant connection throughout his intellectual life. His belief in the centrality of love as the essence of humanity was a strong note of continuity on both sides of his famous conversion and spiritual crisis. His understanding of love, however, changed quite dramatically. Is love prerequisite for knowledge? Or is knowledge prerequisite for love? Does love present an epistemological obstacle or a miracle? Does it blind us or does it yield privileged knowledge? Or is love rather what results from knowledge and familiarity? As Tolstoy changes his answers to these questions and revises his philosophy of love, his aesthetics change accordingly.

Before the crisis, believing that love is prerequisite for knowledge and trying to follow the steps of Plato in the Symposium from the love of a particular person to universal love, Tolstoy repeatedly failed to arrive at the all-inclusive love he so longed for. There was always an excluded remainder. If the romanticization of family led him to nationalism (consider the end of War and Peace), romantic love led either to distractive passions, or, at best, to a family (Anna Karenina). The family as a model even when including the neighbor in its sphere of love, could not extend to a love of humanity as a whole. Tolstoy could not be comfortable with such vicious circularity.

Already in Anna Karenina Tolstoy begins to entertain another configuration: what if knowledge is prerequisite for love? This scenario runs into more problems: how much do we need to know about an object of love and how can this knowledge follow a developing subject? Moreover, how could we possibly love everyone? Once again, Tolstoy seems to be failing to logically secure the possibility of universal love. While trying to ‘fix’ these paradoxes Tolstoy revised his entire philosophy and aesthetics. After the crisis, he reversed the direction of Plato’s ‘Ladder’: we are now supposed to begin with the love of everything, which will logically imply the love of particular people as constituent parts. Tolstoy also comes up with a new conception of subjectivity, which follows his new philosophy of love: he claims that we are all the same underneath, thus can all be known and loved. This, in turn, changed which consciousnesses Tolstoy found necessary to represent: instead of depicting the consciousnesses of characters he loves in order to show their development, Tolstoy now depicts consciousnesses that fail to see his newly discovered truth and need to be taught the lesson. In other words, Tolstoy’s quest for universal love leads him not only to a rejection of the family as a main priority, but also to a revision of human subjectivity, epistemology, morality and aesthetics.

Reading

Leo Tolstoi, “Father Sergius” (1911).

Caryl Emerson, “Solov’ev, the Late Tolstoi, and the Early Bakhtin on the Problem of Shame and Love,” Slavic Review 50:3 (1991): 663-671.

Recommended

Mikhail Bakhtin, Towards a Philosophy of the Act (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1993).

Mikhail Bakhtin, “Author and Hero in Aesthetic Activity” in Art and Answerability: Early Philosophical Essays (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1990).

Vladimir Solovyov, The Meaning of Love (1894).

Victoria Juharyan is a Visiting Assistant Professor in the Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures at the University of Pittsburgh. Victoria completed her PhD in the Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures at Princeton University in 2018. She also holds an MA in Comparative Literature from Dartmouth Colleague and a BA in Literary Editing from St. Petersburg State University in Russia. Her research interests include the relationship between philosophy and literature, German Idealism and Russian Realism, 19th century Russian literature, Tolstoy, Dostoevsky, aesthetics, philosophy of emotion and cognition in literature, the theory of the novel, Bakhtin, Russian theater, poetry and translation. In addition to completing a manuscript on Tolstoy’s philosophy of love titled The Cognitive Value of Love in Tolstoy: A Study in Aesthetics, Victoria is working on two other long term projects: one on Hegel’s influence on Russian Literature titled German Idealism and Russian Realism: Hegel’s Philosophy in Goncharov, Turgenev, Tolstoy, and Dostoevsky, and the other on the 18th century Ukrainian philosopher Hryhorii Skovoroda titled Hryhorii Skovoroda: Socrates in Russia.