Philosophy in the Hopper

FWIW, I currently have two pieces in the hopper:

1. Distracted from Meaning: A Phenomenology of Smartphones — a monograph, under contract with Bloomsbury Academic (2022).

2. “Performance, Technology, and Well-Being” — a chapter I am writing for The Oxford Handbook on the Phenomenology of Music (2022). This chapter will draw upon Albert Borgmann’s philosophy of technology—specifically his concepts of focal practices and focal things—to make sense of the precariousness and meaningfulness of live musical performance.

Being-with Smartphones

My essay, “Being-with Smartphones,” is in Techné: Research in Philosophy and Technology 25, no. 2 (2021). Here’s the abstract:

In a social situation, why is it sometimes off-putting when a person reaches for his smartphone? In small-group contexts such as a college seminar, a business meeting, a family meal, or a small musical performance, when a person begins texting or interacting with social media on a smartphone he may disengage from the group. When we do find this off-putting, we typically consider it to be just impolite or inappropriate. In this essay, I argue that something more profound is at stake. One significant way in which individuals shape their self-identities is through interactions with others in small groups. Much identity-work is interdependent; it requires generating and preserving social contexts. I argue that the smartphone-use of some individuals can fracture a group’s context and thus negatively affect the identity-work of others. In this essay, I examine identity-work, sociality, and personal technology from a perspective of existential phenomenology.

my writing

My research is phenomenology—philosophy of technology, philosophy of art

• I am currently writing Distracted from Meaning, a book about smartphones, self-identity, and well-being (Bloomsbury Academic, 2022);

• I am currently writing “Live Performance as a Focal Practice” — for The Oxford Handbook on the Phenomenology of Music (2022). This chapter will draw upon Albert Borgmann’s philosophy of technology—specifically his concepts of focal practices and focal things—to make sense of the precariousness and meaningfulness of live musical performance.

• “Being-with Smartphones,” Techné: Research in Philosophy and Technology 25, no. 2 (2021)

“On the Divide: Analytic and Continental Philosophy of Music,” The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 75, no. 1 (2017): 49–58;

• “From the Author’s Perspective: Groove: A Phenomenology of Rhythmic Nuance,” American Society for Aesthetics Newsletter, Spring 2015;

• Groove: A Phenomenology of Rhythmic Nuance, Bloomsbury Academic, 2014;

• Key Terms in Philosophy of Art, Bloomsbury Academic, 2013;

• “In Praise of Ambiguity: Musical Subtlety and Merleau-Ponty,” Contemporary Aesthetics 11 (2013);

• “Philosophy of Music,” in The Grove Dictionary of American Music, second edition. Ed., Charles Hiroshi Garrett, (Oxford University Press, 2013). Also published online at Grove Music Online (Oxford Music Online, Oxford University Press);

• “Continental Philosophy and Music,” in The Routledge Companion to Philosophy and Music. Eds., Theodore Gracyk and Andrew Kania (Routledge, 2011);

• “Musical Musical Nuance,” The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 68 (2010): 1-10;

• “Musical Experience, Philosophical Perspectives,” in The Oxford Companion to Consciousness. Eds., Tim Bayne, Axel Cleeremans, and Patrick Wilken (Oxford University Press, 2009) Also published online at Oxford Reference.

on the divide: analytic and continental philosophy of music

My 2017 essay, “On the Divide: Analytic and Continental Philosophy of Music,” which was published in The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism, is one of the top-downloaded articles in the journal’s recent publication history. (By January 2018, the article had been downloaded 549 times.)

For an interesting response to my essay see Andreas Vrahimis, “Is There a Methodological Divide between Analytic and Continental Philosophy of Music? Response to Roholt.” In The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism (Volume 76, no. 1, 2018).

reviews/musings on groove

Follow these links for reviews and discussions of my book Groove: A Phenomenology of Rhythmic Nuance. I really appreciate the time these reviewers and writers invested in the book.

from the author’s perspective: groove

I’ve written a fairly lengthy piece—”From the Author’s Perspective: Groove: A Phenomenology of Rhythmic Nuance”—which appears in the new American Society for Aesthetics Newsletter. Here is the opening paragraph:

How should we understand the relationship between music and body movement? The common view is that a listener’s body movement is a reaction to, an effect of, perceiving music. I don’t doubt that this is, in part, correct. I claim in Groove, however, that moving our bodies is often something that we do in order to grasp certain rhythmic qualities; our movement is an integral part of a perceptual skill for grasping qualities such as a groove. We know that the perception of music is not passive; I view bodily movement as a component of one’s active perception of music. To develop this, I draw upon the phenomenologist Maurice Merleau-Ponty’s account of embodied perception, emphasizing his notion of motor intentionality. Before we get to this, though, let’s take a few steps back…

Read the rest here:  35.1

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.