Monday, November 16, 2015

Sartre Society Wrap

Today's my first full day back from the North American Sartre Society. Lately, since Storm Heter specifically asked me about this, the blog writing process proceeds as follows:
  1. Brainstorm. In this case: good conference, good people.
  2. Read material for teaching. Why did I put this off until today?
  3. Three weeks later.
So I'll write this now. I don't promise any literary quality. Notice how most of these sentences are structured as subject/verb/predicate. Only the second using any recursion?

As it turns out, the Sartre Society meetings are my favorite conferences. The papers that I attended were great, and ranged over a diverse set of topics. For a field that probably seems to outsiders to be fairly narrow, the papers ranged from politics and critical race theory to the meaning of groove, and in many ways Sartre himself formed the background point of reference but not always the immediate focus. I moderated the panel on jazz, and only one panelist made an explicit reference to Sartre.

If you're interested in tweets and pictures, we even tried the hashtag thing, #SartreSociety2015, which was temporarly derailed my comments about our attempt to absorb the nightlife in Bethlehem.

Finally, I left feeling motivated to reread Sartre and write more. I also with a strong idea of what my next Sartre Society paper would be about. My paper started like this:
This talk is the first part of a larger project that is currently entitled Negative Philosophy: Extinction, Humanism, and Animal Rights. While I cannot outline the entire project, I can indicate how today’s talk fits within the whole project.
[The talk was dedicated to a response to the thesis of extinction as defined by Eugene Thacker, who himself picks it up from Ray Brassier, who in a sense picks it up from Lyotard, Nietzsche, et cetera. Sartre also maintains that there is no ultimate--transcendent, teleological, ontotheological--meaning, but does not embrace (and for good reason) the pessimist aesthetic or the mysticism that Thacker endorses.]
In the second chapter, I will argue that Existentialism is a Humanism is a performative text, in which Sartre nihilates the anthropocentrism and human triumphalism present in traditional accounts—such as those of Pico della Mirandolla and Feuerbach—of humanism. The final chapter asks whether or not it is possible for a nihilist or pessimist to defend animal rights, and I will contend that it is possible to hold a position that sounds like a nihilistic Tom Regan.
Most of the questions I got during later, informal discussions had to do with the part about a nihilistic Tom Regan. People wanted to know what the hell that meant. Given that I also want to know, I'll be writing that up for 2016.

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