Thursday, November 02, 2017

New Banjo Album

I recorded an album called Down Creek. Solo banjo, mostly instrumental, on two different banjos, with a version of "Wayfaring Stranger" at the end. You can listen and/or order a copy here:


Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Updates and More to Come

1. The paperback edition of On Patience is now shipping out. Order from the publisher and use the code LEX30AUTH17 to get a discount on any edition.

2. Over the summer, my university-hosted webpage was deleted because the whole system was taken down. This means that there will be several broken links on old posts, and I don't anticipate trying to update all of them. However, I do plan to chip away at moving several of the papers I had up on that website to my page, as well as to "self-archive" some of the published versions that are now more than a year old.

3. My days of actively blogging and keeping up with blogs has passed. I never adapted well to the death of the Google Reader. I don't so much miss the academic gossip news blogs, but I do miss being in closer touch with a few others. But there's only so much time in the day, and when I'm not teaching, reading, or writing, I've usually got a banjo on my knee. If you're interested in that side of me, you can try looking me up on Facebook. Now that school is back in session, I'll be trying to get back to work on some philosophy of music writing. I'll have to decide what to do with this space.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Ethics Beyond Sentience

This paper has been forthcoming for the three or four years, but here it is in its final version, in the first issue of the Chautauqua Journal. In it, I probe whether moral consideration should end where sentience ends. I suggest not. Corpses and mountains, among other things, are discussed.

Thanks to Minh Nguyen for inviting me to write something, and to Erik Liddell (who has taken over the lecture series and journal project) for getting this out.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

It's Out: On Patience: Reclaiming a Foundational Virtue

Available in hardback and ebook via the Rowman & Littlefield website, Amazon, and other online sellers. A paperback edition will be released at a later date.

Tuesday, February 02, 2016

On Patience Blog/Site

I've sent the final manuscript off to my editor, and so now another round of (hopefully patient) waiting begins as the book finds its way into the typesetting phase. I've put together a blog/site for the book: On Patience: Reclaiming a Foundational Virtue (also the book title). I'll post updates there and in various other places, as they become available. There are links to a few other things to read on that page, too, while you wait for my book!

Friday, January 08, 2016

Happiness, Patience, & Banjos

Here's wishing all a (late) Happy New Year.

I'm currently wrapping up a multi-book review of some recent introductory books to ideas about happiness and the good life for Teaching Philosophy. I have joked that, paradoxically, this project has not been conducive to my own happiness. (But perhaps it's made my life better?)

Just as the fall semester was ending, I received a very positive report on my manuscript On Patience from the publisher's anonymous reader. I will be making a few changes, and if all goes well, the book may be published later this year! Stay tuned.

January 3 was my second banjo anniversary. I made a video of the tune "Last Chance" to commemorate the occasion and to document my progress, posted below. The general consensus is that I'm making good progress.

It's been an interesting, if obsessive, journey. (I spend a good amount of time practicing. But that's the only way to learn and improve.) I've learned a lot about the history of old-time and Appalachian music, all of which was pretty much new to me when I started learning to play. However, there's something about all of it that speaks to me--among other things, the DIY spirit of the music and the diversity of banjo styles (if all you know is Dueling Banjos, then you're missing out on the expressive range and stylistic possibilities in this peculiar drum-on-a-stick). The are also several things about folk traditions in general that contrast quite interestingly, from a philosophical point of view, with "high art" music such as the classical tradition. So it's been interesting to read my musical learning onto the reading I've been doing in the philosophy of music (where some but not all authors seem to forget about, or dismiss, folk music).

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Art & Banjo

I've mostly been a mole in the ground lately. Lots of reading about philosophy of music and art in general. A little writing on music and value (responding to some puzzling yet repeated claims by Alan Goldman). I'm going to try teaching philosophy of art in the spring. If you have any favorite books or articles or other tips, send them my way. 

And I've been up to quite a bit more of this, which is partly why I've gotten interested of late in arts and aesthetics issues:

Friday, July 17, 2015

The Kreutzer Sonata

Vladamir Jankélévitch refers to Tolstoy's The Kreutzer Sonata when discussing Tolstoy's negative views on music (in his Music and the Ineffable). I was intrigued so I found a copy. Doris Lessing is surely right in describing it as a compelling read (in her introduction to the edition I got). But in light of Tolstoy's aims in writing the book, it is truly bizarre. (A real counter-point to my big summer read last year, Anna Karenina.)

What we get is a story of sexual desire, jealousy, and self-hatred, told by a man who murders his wife on the basis of some truly paranoid suspicions that she cheating on him. In the "Sequel" to the book, Tolstoy reiterates his conservative arguments on sexual morality and marriage. But it is truly perplexing to think that he could have seen this book as a good argument for his positions (not only because many of his own ideas are put into the mouth of a murderer). For all the while, as I read the narrator's bitter views on sex and marriage, I find myself thinking that for all the bluster, this guy is just unhappy and doesn't know how to deal moderately with his own sexuality.

Furthermore, as Lessing discusses, there is the problem of not really giving any even-handed consideration to the female (heterosexual) perspective. Lessing does a nice job of trying to help us imagine sexual life in the 19th century (no birth control), and Tolstoy's (and his wife's) life in particular (she makes a lot, quite to the point, about the number of children they had). But she also rightly, I think, sums up the "philosophical" aims of the work as those of a "fanatic," locked tightly into an ideological perspective that is not only unrealistic (Tolstoy responds to that charge in the Sequel) but also paradoxically oblivious to the complexity and varieties of sexual intimacy. (Lessing speculates that perhaps Tolstoy wasn't good in bed, which would explain the frustration surrounding some of the discussions of sex.) Tolstoy's dualism--sex is "animal," "man" should transcend "animal nature"--forces sex to remain "dirty" and something to be avoided. But there's a false dichotomy here, if you think we can accept our "animal nature" and yet remain "human," where acceptance means something other than trying to get as far away from the animal as possible. As Lessing points out, Tolstoy "went at it" into his seventies, and so maybe part of the problem (as with his narrator) is that he happened to have a rather strong sexual appetites. But this is the sort of thing I despise: projecting your own personal struggles onto humanity as a whole, such that we are all assumed to have the same problem, and then giving your personal plan or cure as the norm for all.

Read as a story about sexual frustration, jealousy, and madness, it's a real page-turner. But I'm not sure I would go to Tolstoy for relationship advice.