Sunday, July 24, 2011

Daniel Kelly

Daniel Kelly is an assistant professor in the philosophy department at Purdue University. His research interests are at the intersection of the philosophy of mind, cognitive science and moral theory. In addition to his work on disgust he has published papers on moral judgment, social norms, racial cognition, and cross-cultural diversity.

His new book, Yuck!: The Nature and Moral Significance of Disgust.

Recently I asked Kelly what he was reading. His reply:
The Situated Self by J.T. Ismael

Part of the reason I got into the philosophy of mind and cognitive science is that I’m not infrequently kept up at night by questions about minds and selves and personal identity (who am I? what am I? what makes me me, or you you? what’s the difference between a self-image and the actual self that it’s an image of?). The insomnia hasn’t changed much, but I have found myself frustrated by how these types of issues tend to be framed in a lot of contemporary philosophy. Ismael’s book was revelatory, and completely reoriented a lot of my midnight ruminations. It is exactly the kind of philosophy I like most: challenging, naturalistically grounded, clear and rigorous, but also imaginative and far-reaching. Ismael pulls together ideas and strands of thought from a range of different discussions, putting them to work to shed new light on a number of familiar philosophic puzzles. Her view unlocks new, exciting territory to explore as well.

Inside Jokes: Using Humor to Reverse Engineer the Mind by Matthew Hurley, Daniel Dennett, and Reginald Adams

I spend a lot of time looking for stuff that makes me laugh. Every now and then I’ll reflect on this, and end up wondering what, exactly, I’m doing, and why I’m doing it. I’m hoping this book has some answers for me. I just started in, and things look promising – Inside Jokes is almost immediately engaging. It helps that Hurley and his coauthors have filled the book with examples of its subject matter, and their theory of why and how we humans evolved to find all those jokes funny is laid out in lucid, accessible prose.

A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan

This book has it all: clever formal inventiveness that enhances (rather than gets in the way of) its many crisscrossing storylines; a multi-angle view into the machinery and types of people who inhabit the music industry; insightful extrapolations into a possible not-too-distant future; and an ensemble of characters who are interesting, funny, and endearingly flawed. On top of all that, it’s a ton of fun to read.

Ray by Barry Hannah

Compact, cutting, brilliant.

Underworld by Don Delillo

I have a soft spot for these big, sprawling, zeitgeisty novels, dating back to when I got hooked by the Illuminatus! Trilogy, through books like Gravity’s Rainbow and Infinite Jest to 2666. This one has been on my queue for a while now, and I’m excited to finally get immersed in Delillo’s world of Cold War paranoia. The famous opening scene, which starts off following a group of kids crashing the gates at the Polo Grounds and is built around Bobby Thomson’s “Shot Heard ‘Round the World,” lives up to its billing; it’s masterful.

The Pale King by David Foster Wallace

When this was released a couple of months ago, I spent an inordinate amount of time reading through the wave of reviews and commentaries on Wallace’s legacy that it generated. I still haven’t cracked open the novel itself yet, though, and I’m not totally sure why. For years now I would basically put everything on hold when new DFW stuff came out. I think the difference this time has to do with trying to prolong the anticipation. More than anticipation, really – I want to draw out and savor everything about this one, because sadly, it’s the last David Foster Wallace novel I’ll ever get to read. Infinite Jest is one of those rare works of art that, when I first read it 10 odd years ago, resonated deeply and changed the way I experience the world and my place in it. All of DFW’s stuff, fiction and non-fiction alike, is dazzling. The world is a duller place without him in it.
Learn more about Daniel Kelly's Yuck!: The Nature and Moral Significance of Disgust at the MIT Press website.

The Page 99 Test: Yuck!: The Nature and Moral Significance of Disgust.

--Marshal Zeringue