Ornette Coleman

Ornette Coleman died today. I am saddened that the universe no longer includes him, and heartened by the thought that it once did. When I was 15 years old, broke and bored in a world without a car or an Internet, the local library’s vinyl collection held high a tiny torch of hope. And there in the racks was Ornette, carving a new world out of the empty air. Maybe it was Song X I heard first, but Free Jazz and The Shape of Jazz to Come weren’t far behind. Like all those who move me – philosophers, musicians, and the rest – he showed what was possible as though I was invited to play and think and create with it. He taught me that there is a fearlessness born out of joy, not just anger. That a world in flux can be embraced, not just feared. That there are ways of living without feeling the ground beneath your feet in which you are flying, not just falling. That there is always more music to play.

2015 Bitterness Brackets

I know very little about the head-to-head statistics of college basketball. I couldn’t tell you whether Lousiville or Duke has a better offense, for instance. But like many people, I enjoy playing with data. And one thing I do have is a series of longstanding grudges against many colleges and universities. I was on the job market on and off for 12 years with great success – I am now tenured at the third place to offer me a tenure-track job, which puts me in some ridiculously rare percentage of all candidates. But I also applied to hundreds more, much like all other candidates, and got jerked around furiously by some of those. So every year I pick an NCAA bracket based entirely on lingering bitterness towards schools. It’s cathartic, really. Very good for me. Picture the Emperor from Return of the Jedi hissing, “Let the hate flow through you…” as you pick your bracket.

The rules are relatively simple. Continue reading 2015 Bitterness Brackets

Self-Doubting Philosopher Public Talk Schedule

This Saturday is the Pittsburgh Area Philosophy Colloquium, and I’m looking forward to seeing a bunch of interesting papers.  The act of giving a paper in a public forum can be nerve-wracking even in collegial settings (you’ve only been working on this most of your adult life, of course, so it’s not like rejection would hurt or anything).  So it’s important for young and old philosophers alike to harness that feral panic of self-doubt and turn it into an engine of productivity for their work. That reminded me of something I wrote a few years back about getting ready for an impending Big Talk. The key is planning, people. Make yourself a schedule with all that nervous energy.

Continue reading Self-Doubting Philosopher Public Talk Schedule

Big Map of Pragmatism

Below is a map of authors in the pragmatist tradition, with a lot of major authors, scientists and activists.  The intent here was initially to create something that my student might use as a resource to think about how some big debates unfolded.  Where one person contributed favorably to another’s work, a green line connects them.  Where one author tended to clash with another, a red line connects them.  The connections there are about the predominance of support/agreement or disagreement between the authors.  If we were being totally honest, every author should be connected to every other by a variegated braid with more colors than your monitor would support, of course.  This simply suggests predominant patterns on stuff for which we would remember their work.

This is a work in progress, as I am sure anyone who sees it can imagine.  It might evolve into something else down the line, or it might not.  To the degree that it helps others teach this material, feel free to use it.



The Pittsburgh Area Philosophy Colloquium

Hosted by Washington and Jefferson College


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