I wrote most of this post in Nafplio, living close to nature. The photograph is of the abandoned robin’s nest found in our hanging ivy planter.
There’s been a resurgence of conversation in philosophy about the role of the nonhuman in recent years. I’ll be honest, I haven’t given it that much thought. But I came to this ah-hah moment the other day in conversation with my lovely husband about sacrifice as the production of the distinction between gods and beasts and the subsequent production of the space in between: the site of the mortal. How sacrifice does that is complicated (see Vernant, Girard, Burkart and Agamben), but the implication of this account is that the line between the beast and the human (and the god) needs to be produced. Read more
I spent the last two days attending the Faculty Workshop on Democracy and Civic Engagement at Wabash that was organized and facilitated mostly by members of the Rhetoric Department at Wabash. It’s been glorious to slow down and take some time to think about the teaching we spend so much time doing, so I’m feeling rejuvenated and enthusiastic about planning for civic engagement components in the classroom. One issue that kept recurring for me was the tension between, or at least, the question of whether there is a tension between, thinking and acting. Plato and Aristotle both distinguish between actions you do for themselves and actions you do for some end outside of themselves, and they argue that actions that you do for themselves are better than actions you do for some product or goal beyond the action. I found myself concerned that measuring the success of a course in terms of some action that might come of it beyond the thinking that takes place within it privileges action and makes thinking instrumental to action. This dispute reaches back to the ancients. In Politics VII.3, Aristotle remarks that some people think that politics is a better life than philosophy because they think that politics is action but philosophy is not. Aristotle accepts the view that a life of action is better than a life of inaction, but he rejects the idea that philosophy is not action in itself. Read more