Villanova Conference! And philosophy versus theory . . .
So, the Villanova Philosophy conference was this weekend, and it was a really excellent event. So many stimulating conversations, great papers, nice people, excellent afterparty, fun and a great learning opportunity all around.
I gave two talks this weekend, the first at Villanova on Friday, entitled “Epistemology or Ontology? Yes, Please! A Critique of Object Oriented Ontology.” After giving this, I went out with folks for dinner and drinks, then I made my way to New Brunswick to deliver another paper at the NeMLA (North Eastern Modern Language Association) called “Ne0-medievalism and the Techno-Image: Ranciere, Rotman, McLuhan, Flusser.” Then I went BACK to Villanova in time to catch the tail end of the talks being given that day, and for Graham Harman’s keynote, and the evening party.
So much fun, and lots to think about. I’ll prob be posting moments of reflection on this conference over the next few days, including more on the papers I gave.
But one major insight I had was that conferences can be a lot of fun. I guess its been a while since I’ve been to one where I didn’t know anyone, and I kinda dread the odd awkwardness that goes along with this, and then the hassles that go with buses, trains, hotels, etc. So I tend to avoid conferences where I don’t know someone. But after this one, I think I’m gonna have to change my tune. Then again, the NeMLA looked like absolutely no fun unless you knew people, as it was a machine with hundreds of panels, thousands of participants, and in the Hyatt. Ewwww. I met some cool folks at my panel, but then everyone left town immed after their own panel was done.
But Villanova was great. Everyone was really chill and down to earth, and just geekily excited about minor points in many of the thinkers I find so fascinating.
Granted, philosophers, more than ‘theory’ types, seem less concerned with real world issues than I’d like, seems to me that those who do philosophy outside of philosophy departments are always thinking philosophy ‘in relation’, philosophy and film, philosophy and technology, philosophy and literature, etc., depending on their home dept/area of study. I guess I find myself having a foot in both ends of things, because I’m a total philosophy geek, and it was great to be surrounded by philosophers for once who don’t do analytic stuff, yet also I feel the pull of more theory oriented stuff.
Once or twice I found myself wondering why when you raised issues of context or application people felt like the question came from out of left field. Sometimes even asking about relations to other philosophers was seen as out of left field! But it was really nice to hang out with folks who could answer specific questions I had with essays and concepts from specific philosophers off the top of their heads. If theory folks tend to be more ‘big picture’ types, who bring philosophy outside of itself, philosophy students have a level of detailed focus on the philosophers that was, for me, refreshing.
Now I’ve got to go back to some thinkers I haven’t visited in a while to track down some of the more obscure things they do, because they seem newly relevant or meaningful. Things like Spinoza’s take on the imagination, or Fichte’s minor essays between editions of the Wissenschaftslehre. And when you hang out with only theory/media types, and are often the most traditionally philosophically oriented guy in the room, you don’t get pushed to do these things, but rather, watch more films you haven’t seen, things like that. And its nice to be pushed in more than one way at once, and perhaps good for you. I think philosophy on its own is far too limiting, but there’s totally something to be said for attention to detail. I’d love to be as precise in my knowledge of Fichte as Freud and Lacan and Deleuze, so its good to feel the pressure to be so, which I won’t get from hanging out with my media and cultural studies friends.