Skip to Main Content
Have library access? Log in through your library
Practical Judgments

Practical Judgments: Essays in Culture, Politics, and Interpretation

Mark Kingwell
Copyright Date: 2002
Pages: 352
  • Book Info
    Practical Judgments
    Book Description:

    This collection of essays and reviews reveals the sources and developments of popular Toronto philosopher and cultural theorist Mark Kingwell's thought and examines the nature and limits of intellectual engagement.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-7869-9
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

Export Selected Citations Export to NoodleTools Export to RefWorks Export to EasyBib Export a RIS file (For EndNote, ProCite, Reference Manager, Zotero, Mendeley...) Export a Text file (For BibTex)
  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-2)
  4. Introduction: Representations of the Intellectual in Everyday Life
    (pp. 3-32)

    The essays contained in this book were composed and published over a period of about ten years, roughly the first decade of my career as an academic philosopher. They are all concerned, in their various ways, with the related issues of culture, politics, and interpretation. They are, likewise, an attempt to illuminate some of the many complicated crossfertilizations among those three subjects: the hermeneutic dimensions of political action; the ideological underpinnings of cultural experience; the need for nuanced stances of interpretation and criticism when one attempts to engage mass culture; and the role of wonder in both philosophy and everyday...


    • The Plain Truth about Common Sense: Scepticism, Metaphysics, and Irony
      (pp. 35-62)

      A historically minded reader will see that my title is a cobble of titles: both the famous pamphlet by Thomas Paine and the less famous objection to that work which indicated how, in political argument anyway,Plain TruthandCommon Senseneed not always be in agreement.¹ The title is also meant to recall Thompson Clarke′s influential dissection² of that quintessentially plain philosophical man, G.E. Moore – whose ′Defence of Common Sense′³ is taken by Clarke to get some airplanes off the ground of the plain and, therefore, unwittingly to inspire an uncommonsensical scepticism about them.

      The title is meant,...

    • Husserlʼs Sense of Wonder
      (pp. 63-94)

      The experience of astonishment before the world – ′wonder′ – demands serious investigation. That investigation may be hampered by vagueness, disagreement, or obscurity; and no final illumination may prove possible. But these difficulties have not deterred previous wonderers. Indeed, it is perhapsbecauseof its lack of ultimate success that the investigation of wonder is so long-standing – at least as old as Plato and Aristotle, who heldthaumazein, wonder at the fact of the world, to be the beginning of philosophy.

      It is important for my present purposes, purposes that will emerge as we go along, that Edmund Husserl...

    • Phronesis and Political Dialogue
      (pp. 95-115)

      Consider one recent version of the claim that we¹ badly need the Aristotelian virtue ofphronesisin order to make sense of our ethico-political lives. ′[M]odern critical theory which envisages an emancipated society based on our interest in autonomy vastly overestimates the role of reason in human affairs,′ Steven Smith argues.²

      It avers that through the power of their own self-critical rationality people can come to an understanding of themselves and their affairs and thus reorder their collective lives to express better their desire for freedom. But what this demand conceals is the problem of exactly how the insights of...

    • Keeping a Straight Bat: Cricket, Civility, and Post-Colonialism
      (pp. 116-152)

      ′What I really hate about cricket,′ says Tommy Judd in the filmAnother Country, ′is that it′s such a damn good game.′ We might be forgiven for thinking the sentiment expresses a feeling deeper than, and ironically at odds with, the Marxist ideology that fuels Tommy′s rebellion against his schooling at a thinly masked Eton.¹ ′Judd′s Paradox,′ his friend Guy Bennett calls it, indulging in a parody of the Marxist analysis that was later, one imagines, to underwrite his own spying and celebrated defection to the Soviet Union. ′Cricket is a fundamental part of the capitalist conspiracy,′ mocks Guy. ′There′s...


    • Two Concepts of Pluralism
      (pp. 155-170)

      There are many strands in the thought of Charles Taylor, a gathering of philosophical interests diverse enough to embrace both political theory and philosophy of science, epistemology and practical ethics, Nietzsche and Davidson. If he has not succeeded in generating any supreme synthesis out of this diversity (sometimes, to be sure, conflict); if, indeed, he has sometimes finessed the material to fit a bigger picture, as in the controversial details of his grand intellectual history of modern consciousness,Sources of the Self,¹ Taylor has nevertheless created, within his own work, a lively conversation – a dialogue at least as expressive...

    • Critical Theory and Its Discontents
      (pp. 171-181)

      On the evidence of these two very different but equally excellent books, one might conclude that the growing influence of critical theory, the school of post-Marxist political and aesthetic thought inspired by the Frankfurt School and its inheritors, is largely owing to a basic uncertainty at the heart of rationality. The point is nicely captured by McCarthy and Hoy in the introduction to theirCritical Theory. Referring to Francisco Goya′s well-known etchingEl sueño de la razon produce monstruos(1799) – a scene of a prostrate man, presumably Goya himself, afflicted by a host of bat-like demons – they note...

    • Nietzsche’s Styles
      (pp. 182-193)

      ′The whole art of Kafka,′ said Albert Camus, ′consists in forcing the reader to reread.′ So true. The hanging storylines, the vague not-quite-endings, the dreamy unfulfilled narrative logic – all these features of Kafka′s style turn the reader back to the story, and so back upon the experience of reading itself. Kafka′s works are not metafiction in the recently conventional sense of the term: there are no Foster Wallace–style footnotes, no extended Barthian flourishes, no Cooveresque direct address. But his fiction is nevertheless about the fact of fiction itself.

      The whole art of Nietzsche consists, it seems, in forcing...

    • Viral Culture
      (pp. 194-211)

      A man, let′s say a quarterback or a hockey centre, does something extraordinary and erupts into celebration. Randall Cunningham points both index fingers at the sky; Wayne Gretzky goes into a sliding crouch while pumping his fist. It′s spontaneous, it′s unthinking. The next thing you know, everyone from college athletes to the kid down the street is doing it. Somebody turns his baseball cap around, who knows why. Overnight, as if by divine fiat, every cap in the land is backwards. Paula Abdul or Scary Spice or Snoop Doggy Dog comes up with a new dance move. Soon we′re all...

    • Interior Decoration
      (pp. 212-226)

      The bookLife Style, like the concept it names, is something you may not realize you already know a lot about. The Canadian graphic designer Bruce Mau, whose work is documented in this heavy, lush volume, is by no means yet a household name, unless perhaps the household is a garden flat in Chelsea, a loft conversion in Amsterdam, or a Lloyd Wright knock-off in the Berkeley Hills. But Mau′s work has become stealthily ubiquitous, from early book design for the cult-success Zone imprint to recent advertising campaigns for mainstream bookstores and museums. His type designs, which artfully combine old-fashioned...


    • Tables, Chairs, and Other Machines for Thinking
      (pp. 229-247)

      It′s a curious fact, but one not often remarked, that philosophers have no sense of furniture. Curious because, after all, they spend at least as much time sitting and lying and lounging as the rest of the populace – maybe more so when it comes to lying and lounging, actually. And yet in the vast volumes of Plato and Aristotle, of Kant and Hume, you will not find, to my knowledge, any serious consideration of what they are sitting, lying, or lounging upon. There are many thousands of pages on the nature of knowledge, the question of the meaning of...

    • Being Dandy: A Sort of Manifesto
      (pp. 248-267)

      My father′s mess kit was not what it sounds like, namely, a snapped-together aluminum dinner set, complete with dualpurpose utensils, that you buy to go camping. It was, instead, the formal uniform he wore to attend mess dinners in the Canadian Air Force squadrons – the 404 in Nova Scotia, the 415 in Prince Edward Island – to which he was attached during his twenty-year association with late-century air power. The mess kit was impressive and extravagant, like all military dress uniforms a combination of evening wear and martial regalia.

      The black bow tie, white shirt, and cummerbund were standard-issue...

    • Storage and Retrieval
      (pp. 268-283)

      The battle for the soul of the age, to use an antique expression, is happening not in our churches or universities but on television and via the Internet, in multiplexes and playdiums. This is not news.

      Like all modern battles, it is one where victory goes to the swift. Speed is the essence of the times, and the relentlessness of cultural production and consumption has come to dominate our sense of ourselves. There is always more of everything, from television stations to web sites to video-game releases. Much of it is negligible, certainly, but none of it is ignorable, because...

    • Fear and Self-Loathing in Couchland: Eight Myths about Television
      (pp. 284-306)

      Because I have some critical things to say about television in what follows, I want to make it clear from the outset that I write as someone who believes television is a mediumworth taking seriously. Put that way, the point may sound a little condescending; but the reason I use that phrase is because it is part of my contention that people, both inside the television industry and outside it – makers and watchers alike, that is – don′t take television seriously enough. When we do talk about the power of television, or the place of television within our...

    • What Does It All Mean?
      (pp. 307-322)

      I take as my title a question that outlines the modest theme I will pursue: the nature of meaning itself. Like many philosophers, I am fond of titles that are questions – or, at least, of titles that end with question marks, which is not always the same thing. A colleague of mine was once advised that everything in his book calledThe End of Metaphysicscould be rendered true, or anyway less false, if he added a question mark to the end of it. The end of metaphysics? Could be, could be. In fact, why not? But we have...

  8. Index
    (pp. 323-344)