kurt's nightmare

Generally, I post once a week. Topics are randomly selected and depend mostly upon whether it's baseball season or not. Other topics will include sex, politics, old girlfriends, music, and whatever else pops into my little brain. If you'd like to read, or ignore, my blog about China: http://meidabizi.blogspot.com/

Location: Dayton, OH, Heard & McDonald Islands

I'm an Associate Professor of Philosophy at the University of Dayton. I represent no one but myself, and barely do that. I'm here mostly by accident.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

The book

As my reader probably remembers, I have a book coming out in the Summer, from the good folks at Catholic University of America Press. All praise is due to Allah for this press; it was hard to find someone to publish it.

They asked me to write the back copy recently. It's difficult, because lots of people, I think, might actually buy a book on the basis of what is on its back. So I had to write something that was zippy and provocative, but it was a book about logic, Kant, and the Critique of Pure Reason. I have pretty minimal expectations that anyone is going to be able to pick this thing up in a bookstore to begin with, but just in case, I wanted something, well, zippy and provocative.

I've given below the one I wrote, and the one I considered. Let me know which one I should use.


Combining the effervescent prose of Ken Kesey, the incandescent ledgerdemain of Borges, and the depth of Aristotle, Kurt Mosser has produced a book that answers—correctly—all questions about the philosophy of Kant. It also provides, in an appendix, handy instructions for how best to insulate one's house, and an outstanding recipe for Crawfish Etoufée.

Kant's reputation for difficulty is shown to be overstated, and following Mosser's simple advice, the reader will, in no time, be an expert not just on Kant' s Transcendental Philosophy, the history of logic, postmodernism, and epistemology, but also on German Idealism, Delta Blues, Sudoku, linear algebra, and how to get chocolate stains out of wool. After reading this book, the reader can stride confidently into any English, German, French or Italian bar, confident of the expectation that before the night is over, he or she will have not bought a single drink after having amazed, astounded, and baffled the crowd with insights and bons mots hitherto unavailable to homo sapiens. There is also a two-for-one coupon for Applebee's.

An underground classic.


If logic provides rules for thought, can there be similar rules for human experience? Kurt Mosser argues that reading Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason as an argument for such a logic of experience makes more defensible many of Kant’s most controversial claims, and makes more accessible Kant’s notoriously difficult text. By pursuing this strategic hint, Kant’s philosophical claims about human experience are seen as extraordinarily strong—as universal and necessary—but only as providing the conditions for experience to be possible. Thus just as logic doesn’t determine what thoughts are about, such a logic of experience doesn’t determine the content of experience.

Drawing on Kant’s published and unpublished texts and a wide range of texts from the history of logic and philosophical inquiries into language, Mosser provides an interpretation of some of Kant’s most difficult arguments, such as the Metaphysical Deduction. He demonstrates that, in spite of appearances, Kant appeals to common sense to reveal both the scope and limits of human knowledge. Engaging a wide range of writers, including W.V. Quine, Donald Davidson, Richard Rorty, and Michel Foucault, Kant’s arguments are also shown to retain considerable relevance to contemporary issues in epistemology, the philosophy of language, and current debates over postmodernism.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Electile Dysfunction

One of the reasons—there are a few more substantive ones—that I'm supporting Obama for the Democratic nomination for President is that I simply can't bear to imagine what her Administration will look like.

All Administrations have pretty large screw-ups.

  • Kennedy: Bay of Pigs; Viet Nam.
  • Johnson: Viet Nam.
  • Nixon: well, he was the screw-up.
  • Carter: Iran.
  • Reagan: Iran. Nicaragua. Opening his 2nd campaign in Philadelphia MS. Many.
  • Bush: Economy.
  • Clinton: Monica.

One can argue about these screw-ups, whether they were fairly treated by opponents, by the media, etc.. That's fodder for extensive and useful debates. But that's not the point here.

Rather, imagine the Republicans without the Executive branch, as minorities in both the Senate and the House, as minorities in Governorships, and with two or three Supreme Court seats coming up before the next Presidential election in 2011. At the same time, many of these Republicans are truly annoyed with George W. Bush, who began a war that was not only disastrous economically, but politically (perhaps globally, certainly domestically). They are further miffed that a weak group of candidates left them with a choice of Romney—rejected by a substantial portion of evangelical Christians as not "really" a Christian—or McCain. The profound hatred of McCain on the far right (which overlaps with the Republican base) is palpable. Led by entertainers such as Limbaugh and Coulter, those who consider themselves "genuine conservatives" either stay home, or vote for a candidate simply because he is not Hillary Clinton. This is not a winning strategy. Ask Bob Dole. The right didn't hate Dole with anything like the passion they do McCain (plus Dole was funnier).

This leads to a situation of a lot of well-organized and well-funded conservatives sitting around with little to do but complain about the government, and attack it as best they can. They have an excellent example to follow, their own: the Arkansas Project, with such folks as Richard Mellon Scaife ponying up the dough, the American Spectator and its "journalists" pushing various tales poisoning the atmosphere and making governance that much more difficult to do. This is a result, of course, that they don't mind: imagine Clinton not distracted by the Starr investigation, imagine us not having to pay for the Starr investigation, as well as what followed. It's rather hard to imagine that other things would not have received some more attention.

The hatred this group has for Hillary Clinton has been developed and polished to a remarkable white-hot ferocity. It is easy to find pictures of her dressed as Hitler, and she is frequently referred to by the right (at least among themselves) as "Shrillery Hitlerbeast" and "Hildabeast." This is well before she even has the nomination. Imagine these angry, well-funded, and otherwise unoccupied folks who so hate her when they hear a modest proposal about health care or revision of the tax structure.

All administrations have their screw ups. If (when) Clinton has one, I fear all hell will break loose, and we will have a repeat of her husband's impeachment, with her opponents having the advantage of experience. Thus one can already find bumperstickers as the one at the top of this entry, provided by by those patriots at AIM (Accuracy in Media).

I don't want to spend four years going through that, or imagining what things won't get their due attention because of it.

That is enough to look elsewhere, so I'm supporting Obama. I think there are plenty of other reasons to embrace his candidacy, and plenty of other reasons to reject Clinton's.

But simply to avoid moving the political debate from noxious to toxic is enough of a reason for me.