new course: Contemporary Continental Philosophy

People in Montclair:  I am teaching a new course in Fall 2015: Contemporary Continental Philosophy (PHIL 339). This course satisfies a requirement in our newly tweaked Philosophy Major. The course surveys four main movements of the continental (European) philosophical tradition: (1) 19th century German philosophy, (2) Marxism/critical theory, (3) phenomenology/existentialism, and (4) post-structuralism/post-modernism. The continental philosophical tradition runs from the late 19th Century to the present day. Continental philosophy stands in contrast to the dominant, Anglo-American, “analytic” philosophical tradition. This course gives students the opportunity to examine the ways in which continental philosophers approach issues in the core subfields of philosophy, such as epistemology, metaphysics, ethics, political philosophy, and aesthetics. Students will also have the opportunity to explore similarities to and differences from the analytic philosophical tradition. Frankly, I can’t wait!

motor intentionality and groove

One of the ideas I leverage in my book, Groove, is the French phenomenologist Maurice Merleau-Ponty’s notion of motor intentionality.* Phenomenologists use the term “intentional” to refer to our directedness toward something. Merleau-Ponty’s idea is that, in certain movements, our bodily directedness toward objects constitutes a kind of practical, noncognitive understanding of them. (For example, I have a practical rather than intellectual understanding of the shape and flimsiness of this Coke can through the movements of my fingers and thumb.)

It’s commonly believed that a groove is, in some sense, the feel of a rhythm. But the feels of grooves seem somewhat mysteriously embodied. I try to make sense of this through a particular characteristic of motor intentionality. Notice that our motor-intentional understanding of something can be effective or ineffective. (A faulty understanding may result in my not succeeding in picking up the Coke; the can may slip from my hand, spill.) Merleau-Ponty believes we experience this wrongness and rightness of our bodily understanding as bodily feelings of tension, equilibrium, etc. I think that when we move to music we are attempting to understand it, bodily, through our movements.

I argue that this felt, affective dimension of motor intentionality is the basic nature of the feel of a groove. The embodied understanding of a groove, on the one hand, and the feel that informs this motor-intentional activity, on the other, are two sides of the same coin: to “get” a groove just is to comprehend it bodily and to feel that comprehension.

*For more on motor intentionality, see Merleau-Ponty’s Phenomenology of Perception. Also see Sean D. Kelly’s “Merleau-Ponty on the Body: The Logic of Motor Intentional Activity,” Ratio XV, no. 4 (2002): 376– 91. For more on Merleau-Ponty in general, see Taylor Carman’s Merleau-Ponty. London and New York: Routledge, 2008.

endorsements for Groove

My book, Groove: A Phenomenology of Rhythmic Nuance, is just published on Bloomsbury Academic. These four endorsements appear on the back cover:

“For decades, philosophers and theorists of music have been promising an embodied phenomenology of music. Tiger C. Roholt’s Groove is an original and insightful essay that makes good on that promise. Roholt challenges analytic and quantificational approaches to rhythmic nuance and argues that grooves are non-conceptual, felt, and understood through bodily engagement. Full of smart musical examples and sound arguments, Groove is much more than just a book on rhythm or drumming. It is a cornerstone for any future phenomenology of music.”
BRIAN KANE, Associate Professor of Music, Yale University, USA

“Tiger C. Roholt’s energetic new study of a neglected but undeniably central aspect of rhythm represents a major step forward in understanding how and why music moves us as it does. Roholt writes both as a philosopher and as a player, which readers will quickly see is a great advantage on this topic, and he knows the value of examples, many of which are thoroughly absorbing in their own right. Roholt describes the motor-intentional process that actualizes the implicit groove of a song, giving us a new appreciation of the embodied character of this kind of aesthetic experience and the ‘groove-completing’ role of the listener. A wonderfully interesting study.”
GARRY L. HAGBERG, James H. Ottaway Jr. Professor of Philosophy and Aesthetics, Bard College. USA

“Exploring uncharted philosophical territory, Tiger C. Roholt’s smart, thorough account of groove pushes us to rethink the nature of music and musical engagement. Experiencing music is not merely Continue reading

fall 2014 course, “phenomenology and art”

PHIL 233 Contemporary Philosophers: Phenomenology and Art

The first half of this course will consist of an introduction to phenomenology in general—both Edmund Husserl’s brand of phenomenology and the existential phenomenology of Martin Heidegger and Maurice Merleau-Ponty. In the second half of the course, we will explore contemporary phenomenological examinations of art. We will consider different art forms, including music.