At my main site, I've just written up a summary of my recent activities in various domains. Here I thought I would summarize what I've been doing in my more strictly academic work. Inevitably, there will be some overlap.
My new book, Nature, Human Nature, and Human Difference: Race in Early Modern Philosophy, will be appearing in print from Princeton University Press in early 2015, and is already available for pre-order on Amazon.
I have just submitted the manuscript for a subsequent book, The Philosopher: A Short History, also to appear at Princeton. Here is the opening paragraph:
This book, an essay in the proper Montaignean sense, seeks to answer that most fundamental of philosophical questions: What is philosophy? It does so, however, in an unusual way: by refraining from proclamations about what philosophy, ideally, ought to be, and by asking instead what philosophy has in fact been, what it is that people have in fact been doing under the heading of philosophy in different times and places. In what follows we will survey the history of the various self-conceptions of philosophers in different historical eras and contexts. We will seek to uncover the different ‘job descriptions’ attached to the social role of the philosopher in different times and places. There will be some autobiographical interjections, and some parafictional excursuses, but the principal purpose will be to enrich our current understanding of what the project of philosophy is, or could be, by uncovering and critically examining lost, forgotten, or undervalued conceptions of the project from philosophy’s distinguished past.
I am hosting a conference at Paris 7 this coming week on 'Embodiment', bringing together the participants in a volume on the same topic that I am editing for the Oxford Philosophical Concepts series.
This past November my book, Divine Machines: Leibniz and the Sciences of Life, was the focus of a session of the Séminaire Descartes at the École Normale Supérieure. I received some excellent comments from Arnaud Pelletier and Raphaële Andrault, and it was enjoyable to revisit the ideas and arguments in this book that came out in 2011.
In January I will be the invitee at a seminar on philosophical anthropology at the École Normale Supérieure Lyon, hosted by Delphine Antoine-Mahut and Samuel Lezé, which will involve a discussion of my new book on race.
The critical edition and translation of the Leibniz-Stahl controversy that I have been working on since 2008 with François Duchesneau is finished and has gone through final review at Yale University Press. We expect it will appear in the Yale Leibniz Series early in 2015.
I am currently working on two edition and translation projects, in various states of completion. One is a translation of selected works of Anton Wilhelm Amo, on which I am working with Stephen Menn. The other is a translation of the 'Logica' section of Pierre Gassendi's Syntagma Philosophicum, together with Rodolfo Garau, for which we have obtained a contract with Oxford University Press. We hope this project will develop into a multi-year, collaborative team effort, which might come to be known as 'The Oxford Gassendi', and which would include the subsequent sections of the Syntagma and, eventually, the collected works of this philosopher, who was so important in his era but remains so little studied today.
One of the greatest things about being based at Paris 7, in a unit that brings together philosophers, historians of science, and mathematicians, is that I am increasingly being called upon to widen my circle of interests in ways that would be very difficult without such a rich and diverse institutional setting. For example I was recently invited to offer commentary at a conference on the history of critical editions, hosted within Karine Chemla's Science in the Ancient World, a European Research Council multi-year project. One of the papers I commented was from Jerrold Cooper, on the challenges of editing Sumerian cuneiform tablets, about which I previously knew nothing, and another was a paper by Alessandro Grahelli on the history of editions of the Nyāyabhāshya, about which I knew just a little bit more. This is how things should work, and how, at Paris 7, they do work: throw interested people with very different research profiles together, and see what comes of it.
Karine Chemla's SAW project is proving to be my true intellectual home base among the many different groups at Paris 7. In the coming year I will be participating in a project with this group that aims to reflect on questions of methodology in the study of the history of both mathematics, the exact sciences, and philosophy.
I am currently pushing to finish three articles by the end of January. One is for an edited volume on theories of animal perception and cognition in early modern Europe, in which I will be writing about the question of bird 'language'. A second article is for a handbook, outlining the global context of classical Indian philosophy. The third is a treatment of the historiography of non-Western philosophy in 19th-century Europe, with special attention to the work of Hegel.
An anthology to which I made some small contributions (a translation of a selection from Linnaeus's Systema Naturae from Latin into French; introductions to the work of Linnaeus, Buffon, and John Bulwer) has appeared from Classiques Garnier: Raphaële Andrault, Stefanie Buchenau, Claire Crignon and Anne-Lise Rey (eds.), Médecine et philosophie de la nature humaine. De l'âge classique aux Lumières (2014). This is a great work; I wish there were more anthologies like this in English. I will be using it as my course textbook in the introductory history and philosophy of science course I teach to genetics students at Paris 7 in the Winter.
Speaking of teaching, in the Winter I will also be holding a course at the MA level, the generic title of which is 'Philosophie des Sciences du Vivant', in which we will be focusing on 'Folk Taxonomy, Ethnoscience, and the Cognitive Bases of Biological Systematics'. This continues and develops my now longstanding interest in 'doing philosophy anthropologically'.
I will be on a panel at the Spring APA in Vancouver on problems of canon formation in the study of the history of philosophy. Naturally I have much to say.
A month later I will be participating in a conference at the Bard Graduate Center in New York on 'conjectural historiography'. I will be presenting some of my initial findings related to Kant's circumnavigation of Eurasia in the 1770s, and the importance of his encounters with the indigenous peoples of Indonesia and New Guinea for what would later become the Critique of Pure Reason.