The Politics of Reading ... in China

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Forever (42 bicycles), Ai Weiwei
Originally uploaded by PJMixer
NANJING, China - I must admit, I am a bit uneasy about delivering this talk on Plato and the Politics of Reading here at Nanjing University. You see, I am simply not sure what it means to speak in China about the erotic nature of politics.

But this uneasiness is not unfamiliar to the discipline of Philosophy; in fact, one might tell a long story about how the history of Western philosophy, at least, is the history of trying to do away with uncertainty, of repressing it by appealing to some ultimate Archimedean point on which we can ultimately depend. But Philosophy goes astray the moment it denies its own uneasiness and seeks refuge in the delusions of certainty.

So I begin by embracing my uneasiness, acknowledging that my ignorance is the very condition under which I speak this afternoon; and let me further suggestion that the recognition of ignorance is the condition under which erotic politics is practiced.

Here we can take Socrates as a guide; for Socrates, after all, was famous for claiming only one sort of knowledge: the knowledge of his own ignorance. And yet, he refused to remain silent in the face of that deep recognition of his human limitations. He sought, instead, always to find words to orient those with whom he spoke to questions of Justice and Beauty and the Good.

This is, in fact, the practice of erotic politics: without denying our human fallibility, to speak in ways that open up new possibilities for community by orienting our words to the ideals of justice, beauty and the good that lay beyond our power to grasp and yet retain a power to enrich our lives together.

This is what it means to practice an erotic politics.

===
So begins my lecture at Nanjing University on Plato and the Politics of Reading.

I sought, during the lecture, to live tweet the talk, as has been my habit, under the hashtag #CpLatNJU. You can follow along there, or not, depending on how successful I was in generating tweets from China about the erotic politics of reading.

To read more about the larger book project to which this talk is related, read this post on The Book as Ecosystem of Scholarly Dialogue.

Putting the Liberal Arts into Practice @NewmanU

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Long at NU
Originally uploaded by cplong11
WICHITA, KS - The Liberal Arts are not so much a set of disciplines to be studied as they are a set of habits to be practiced. This is the central point and main theme around which my visit to Newman University in Wichita, KS is organized. 

These habits include the capacity to communicate effectively, to appreciate diversity, to perceive globally, and to respond to complexity with nuance. 

But the cardinal virtue of the liberal arts is ethical imagination: the disposition to envision new possibilities of more just, enriching relationships beyond existing realities. This involves the capacity to discern and understand perspectives other than our own.

During my time at Newman, I've attempted to put these values into practice in three venues: a workshop on teaching and learning with technology, an interactive keynote address/performance entitled "Liberal Arts and the Ethical Imagination," and a workshop on using technology to cultivate communities of education in academic and administrative contexts. Digital artifacts from each are curated below.

Teaching and Learning with Technology


This prezi outlines the affordances and limitations of using blogging and podcasting to blur the boundaries between the classroom and the wider public.

Interactive Keynote: Liberal Arts and the Ethical Imagination

This interactive lecture at the Gerber Institute at Newman University draws upon the classical idea that an education in the liberal arts is integral to living a rich and fulfilling life. With reference to Ancient Greek Philosophy and Tragedy, I demonstrate how the capacity to imagine one's way into the position of another is the cardinal virtue of a liberal arts education. Using Twitter to empower the active participation of the audience during the lecture, I hope to begin to cultivate the ethical imagination I argue is central to living a good life in community with others.




Here is the curated Storify. It will develop further after the lecture itself as I curate tweets from the discussion.


 
Workshop on Using Technology to Cultivate Educational Community
This Prezi demonstrates how we have used social media in the Liberal Arts Undergraduate Studies (@LAUSatPSU) to empower students to give voice to their liberal arts undergraduate experience.
 

PPJ Workshop at PPN13

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Public Philosophy Journal
Originally uploaded by cplong11
ATLANTA, GA -Publicness and collaboration are two of the virtues we hope the journal will embody. To that end, we want the creation and development of the journal to put those virtues into practice. So, our workshop at the Public Philosophy Network meeting at Emory University is designed to encourage both. 

Regarding publicness, we hope participants will join our online community by posting things about the journal and the workshop on your blogs, affinity groups, Facebook pages, Twitter and whatever other modes of social media communication you use. 

We encourage you to curate those online communications on twitter using the #PPN13 hashtag. 

The journal itself has a twitter account: http://www.twitter.com/PubPhilJ Further, we invite you to visit our website: http://publicphilosophyjournal.org Regarding collaboration, we encourage you to visit the Google 

Form we are using to collect information about those interested in the journal: http://goo.gl/yCknb Please add your information and any reasons for your interest in the journal and encourage your friends and colleagues to do the same. In addition, during the workshop, we hope you will collaborate with us on a number of Google Docs.    

That document will start out as an agenda, but will morph into our collaborative notes on the session. We encourage everyone to bring laptops to help in the collaborative writing processes we will undertake together.
 

Public Philosophy in Digital Dialogue

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11/365: The Virtue of Dogs
Originally uploaded by cplong11
ATLANTA, GA - There is a difference between the ways Socrates turns those with whom he speaks in Plato's dialogues to consider questions of justice, beauty and the good and the ways Plato's writing turns his readers to consider the same ideals. But there is also a strikingly analogous set of philosophical practices by which Socratic speaking enjoins interlocutors and Platonic writing enjoins readers to orient our lives toward the question of justice. 

These philosophical practices are themselves political insofar as they are capable of transforming human communities by allowing a concern for what is just and beautiful and good to orient our relationships with one another. 

Tracing the contours of this analogy between the philosophico-political practices of Socratic speaking and those of Platonic writing is at the center of my enhanced digital book project to by published by Cambridge University Press entitled Socratic and Platonic Political Philosophy: Practicing the Politics of Reading.  

What makes the enhanced digital book more than simply an interesting technological addendum to an otherwise traditional academic monograph is the manner in which the digital book itself seeks to perform the politics of collaborative reading for which it argues. 

The book itself came to life in dialogue, digital and otherwise, with many of those of you who follow this blog. It has been enriched by our ongoing conversation about ancient philosophy, Socrates, the writings of Plato, and the transformation of literacy in a digital age

In my presentation here at the Public Philosophy Conference at Emory University, I hope not only to talk further about the nature and practices of Socratic and Platonic politics, but also to continue to cultivate a community of engaged readers who will help me further develop the ideas articulated in the book.

To that end, I have sought to publicly perform my presentation in a variety of ways, first by tweeting it live during the talk itself using the hashtag #PPN13. I explain how and why I do that in this post On Live Tweeting Your Own Lecture.

This blog post, of course, is part of my attempt to open digital public spaces of dialogue around the ideas of the book and the endeavor to use digital media to create communities of scholarly communication. So, I invite your comments here as well.

Finally, I have curated some of the links associated with the talk through this Diigo list of links so that those who are interested can more easily access some of the material to which I gesture in the talk itself.

The hope, then, is that you will join me in an ongoing digital and face to face dialogue about Plato, Socrates and the practices of the politics of reading in a digital age.

Public Philosophy Journal

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46/365: Finishing a Draft
Originally uploaded by cplong11
Philosophy is often mistakenly viewed as distant from public life, secluded in the Ivory Tower away from the public concerns of civil society. However, the affordances of digital scholarly communication have enabled philosophers increasingly to bring the value of their work to bear on matters of public importance from ethics and public policy to cultural criticism. Even so, however, there are few publishing venues available for philosophers to gain publicity for their work and to reach diverse audiences. 

The Public Philosophy Journal is designed to re-envision the relationship between the academy and everyday life by creating a public space for accessible but rigorous scholarly discourse on challenging contemporary issues of public concern. 

The Public Philosophy Journal is a collaborative endeavor between the Department of Philosophy and the Humanities in a Digital Age initiative at the Pennsylvania State University, and Matrix: The Center for Humane Arts, Letters, and Social Sciences Online and the Department of Philosophy at Michigan State University.

Our intent is to create a journal that will perform public philosophy as its mode of publication. 

By leveraging the open and collaborative capacities endemic to digital communications, the Public Philosophy Journal will cultivate a community of scholars engaged in curating, reviewing, editing, co-writing and modeling rigorous work related to public philosophy broadly construed. 

The process of publication for the journal will involve five basic dimensions:

  1. Curate: Current digital public philosophy discussions and pertinent web content will be curated by leveraging the work and input of a world-wide community of scholars, graduate students, and policy makers;
  2. Review: The journal will include mechanisms for open peer review of curated content, including a system for reviewing reviewers and credentialing reviewers who are consistently engaged and thoughtful in their contributions;
  3. Enrich: Digital public philosophy will be greatly enriched by creating a space for collaborative writing to further develop the content of the online discussions into a rigorous scholarly article;
  4. Publish: Reviewed articles will be openly published together with invited responses to the reviewed work;
  5. Cultivate: Ongoing open dialogue about the published articles will be cultivated by invited and curated responses that have the potential to feed the development of new collaborative scholarship.
Below is a Prezi that Mark Fisher and I developed for the Networked Humanities conference at the University of Kentucky, February 15-16, 2013, #NHUK, that explains in a bit more detail the vision behind the Public Philosophy Journal.


If you are interested in being a part of the @PubPhilJ community, please fill out the attached form and help curate excellent content from around the web.



Keynote Address: Liberal Arts and Politics

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Liberal Arts and Politics
Originally uploaded by cplong11
From its earliest articulation in Ancient Greek thinking, the first principle and ultimate end of an education in the liberal arts has always been to live an excellent human life. Because, however, human life can only flourish in community with others, a liberal arts education has always been at its root political.

This is the central thesis around which my interactive keynote address to the 2012 freshman class at the Catholic University of America is organized.

Taking the figure of Athena as she appears in Aeschylus' Oresteia as a guide, I argue that the fundamental virtue of a liberal arts education is the ethical imagination: our capacity to create new, more just possibilities of human community by imagining our way into the position of others, and particularly of those others with whom we disagree.

By inviting the 900 freshmen with whom I will be speaking to take an active role in the presentation through twitter (#cuafye), I hope to cultivate something of the ethical imagination for which the lecture advocates. The use of twitter is designed to enrich the content of the lecture by infusing it with a diversity of perspectives and to extend the boundaries of the conversation both physically, by including a wider off-site public, and temporally, by enabling the conversation to continue after the lecture itself.

To facilitate this, I have curated the content of the lecture using a variety of social media sites in addition to twitter.

I have created a Diigo list with links to all the resources mentioned in the lecture.

There is a Pinterest page with the diversity of images to which I appeal in the lecture.

And I have created a Storify of the interactive lecture in an attempt to curate something of the dynamic conversation that I hope will emerge from the lecture itself.



The strategic and integrated use of these social media outlets is designed to empower students to engage the material of the lecture in creative and innovative ways.

My hope is that in this way a space will be opened for students and a wider public to put their liberal arts education into practice in the spirit of the argument for which the lecture argues.

If I had to distill that argument to a single sentence, it would be this:

An education in the liberal arts is schooling in the beautiful life.

Plato and the Politics of Reading

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Laurentius de Voltolina painting of
a Henricus de Alemannia lecture, 1350.
SAN FRANCISCO, CA - To give a lecture on the politics of collaborative reading without inviting one's listeners to become active participants would be a performative contradiction

So, in this lecture, Plato and the Politics of Reading, delivered at the University of San Francisco, I have sought ways to use digital technologies like twitter, Storify and, of course, this blog, to invite my listeners to participate in the lecture itself. (I wrote a post about live tweeting my own lecture to explain the rationale and logistics of this.)

As this post is designed to be a platform for further discussion, let me offer a brief synopsis of the lecture articulates.

Socratic politics may be characterized as the practice of using spoken words to turn those individuals one encounters toward the questions of what is just and beautiful and good. These ideas function as erotic ideals that entice those animated by Socratic questioning to live a life seeking justice, beauty and the good. Of course, one of the main things we learn from the figure of Socrates we meet in the Platonic dialogues is that those ideals, however alluring, remain always ultimately elusive to finite human beings. Even so, Socratic politics is designed to turn individuals toward those ideals and to enjoin us to weave a concern for them into our relationships with one another.

The main argument of the lecture is that what Socrates attempts to do with those with whom he speaks, Plato attempts to do with those to whom he writes. 

Platonic writing is political not because it presents manifestos, but because it requires each of us who encounters his texts to become actively concerned with the ideals of justice, beauty and the good and to consider how the course of our lives and our relationships with one another can be enriched by an engagement with those ideals.

The lecture ultimately seeks to articulate three dimensions of Platonic writing that demonstrate its profound political power. 

  1. By calling our own beliefs and opinions into question, Platonic writing opens us to what is beyond ourselves. 
  2. By confronting us with Socrates' public failures and pointing to his more private interpersonal successes, Platonic writing cultivates in us the ability to imagine new, more just political realities. 
  3. By depicting a Socrates unwaveringly animated by a concern for the erotic ideals of justice, beauty and the good, Platonic writing invites us to consider how these ideals themselves are capable of transforming the nature of our relationships with one another.
But if this is what Platonic writing does with us, the politics of reading points to what we might do together as engaged readers of his texts, for the most transformative possibilities emerge from Plato's writings only when we take them up and actively read them together.

Works Cited in the Lecture



In an attempt to perform something of this in public, I have sought below to curate some of the collaborative discussion that emerged from the lecture in the Storify story embedded below. I invite you participate in the Storify by way of twitter (@cplong and #bapca) or by commenting on this blog post.

Here is the Storify:


Socrates: Platonic Political Ideal

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Students in the Courtyard
Originally uploaded by cplong11
Christopher P. Long, "Socrates: Platonic Political Ideal," Ideas y Valores, 61, 149: 2012.

This essay articulates the differences and suggests the similarities between the practices of Socratic political speaking and those of Platonic political writing. 

The essay delineates Socratic speaking and Platonic writing as both erotically oriented toward ideals capable of transforming the lives of individuals and their relation- ships with one another. Besides it shows that in the Protagoras the practices of Socratic political speaking are concerned less with Protagoras than with the individual young man, Hippocrates. In the Phaedo, this ideal of a Socrates is amplified in such a way that Platonic writing itself emerges as capable of doing with readers what Socratic speaking did with those he encountered. Socrates is the Platonic political ideal. 

The result is a picture of the transformative political power of Socratic speaking and Platonic writing both.

* * *

Some of the material for this essay was developed during my February 2011 visit to Bogotá, Colombia, where I gave a seminar on Plato's Apology and a lecture on Aristotle's Phenomenology.

Here are some pictures from that visit:



On Touch and Life in the De Anima

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CITTÀ DI CASTELLO, Umbria, Italy - Late last year, I received a very kind set of questions from Matteo Cosci, a PhD student in Italy at the University of Padua, about my book Aristotle on the Nature of Truth. One of the issues he raised about the book was that it did not flesh out the meaning of the methodological approach that informs the book, an approach I call a "peripatetic legomenology."

In this, Matteo agreed with Sean Kirkland's review of the book in Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews in which he suggested that "more contextualizing methodological reflections" on the meaning of legomenology would have been welcome.

In this paper, On Touch and Life in the De Anima, I attempt to further flesh out the meaning and nature of the legomenological method by putting it to work on the question of touch in the De Anima. More specifically, because legomenology involves the attempt to discern the nature of a phenomenon by attending to the things having been said (ta legomena) by thoughtful predecessors who have sought to articulate the meaning of the phenomenon itself, this paper seeks to follow the things Aristotle says about touch in the De Anima.

The most effective articulation of the meaning and nature of legomenology is not to offer a meta-reflection on it as a methodology separable from a way of inquiry, but to perform it so that the hermeneutical possibilities it opens may be experienced.

This is the spirit in which this paper was offered, as a performance of legomenology at work on the question of touch in the De Anima. By following the manner in which Aristotle speaks of touch in the De Anima, we identify an itinerary in which the nature of touch is felt to haunt Aristotle's account of the other proper powers of perceiving - seeing, hearing, smelling and tasting - in such a way that the nature of perceiving itself comes ultimately to language in the chapter on touch in De Anima II.11.

More specifically, the aporia of touch, which seems not to require a separate medium through which to operate as the other powers of perceiving do, appears in the middle of the De Anima, forcing Aristotle to speak not of a medium (to metaxu) but of a mean (to meson). This enables him to articulate the nature of perceiving itself as a mean condition (mesotes) that puts us in intimate touch with the world in which we live. But perceiving turns out not only to be the manner in which animals inhabit the world, but the mode by which the world habituates us to it.

The legomenology of touch in the De Anima uncovers the dynamic, reciprocal relationship between animal life and the world in and with which it lives.

Listen to Christopher Long: On Touch and Life in Aristotle's De Anima

Below is a small slide show with some images from the Circolo, where the Collegium is held:


Attempting the Political Art

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BACAP 2011
Originally uploaded by cplong11
Christopher P. Long, "Attempting the Political Art," Proceedings of the Boston Area Colloquium in Ancient Philosophy, 27 (2012): 153-74.

The main thesis of this essay is that the practice of Socratic political speaking and the practice of Platonic political writing are intimately interconnected but distinct.

The essay focuses on the famous passage from the Gorgias in which Socrates claims to be one of the few Athenians who attempt the political art truly and goes on to articulate the nature of his political practice as a way of speaking toward the best (521d6-e2).

It then traces the ways Socrates attempts to use words to turn Gorgias, Polus and Callicles toward the best in the course of the dialogue. What emerges is a picture of a philosophical friendship between Gorgias and Socrates rooted in a common concern for justice.

Yet, Socrates' success with Gorgias is overshadowed by his failure to convince Polus or Callicles to allow a concern for truth, justice and the good to animate the course of their lives. Even so, the political practice of Platonic writing is shown in the essay to be designed to awaken in us, the readers, precisely such a concern to live a life in which words are spoken in ways that uncover the truth and are directed toward the best.

Please contact me if you are interested in a copy of this essay.
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