About the Hammer
Welcome to Todd’s Hammer. I hope this blog will be a forum where I can sort of “try out” ideas and get feedback and interaction from other people (non-academics as much as academics) around the internet. I’m constantly reading new things and learning and trying to stretch the way I think about things, but I find that in my day-to-day life I don’t often have the chance to have conversations where I can try an idea on for size or rant about an idea that irritates me or just explore the possibilities of an idea I’ve been mulling over for a while. I would like the blog to provide a place for ‘gathering’ to talk and debate and discuss. In addition, the internet paves the way for making new aquaintenances and being intellectually stimulated by new folk, so all are welcome. The tone will range from hard-core academic egg-head speak, all the way to informal water-cooler chat (at least what you might hear around the water cooler in the halls of academia).
The title of the blog is a reference to the Nietzsche quote at the top of the left-hand column, from Twilight of the Idols. Nietzsche has been one of my favorite thinkers in Western history since I first read Twilight, to teach it in Western Civ II when I was a grad student. Nietzsche’s unflinching willingness to examine our most sacred values, “the revaluation of all values” he called it, inspired me at a time when I was leaving Mormonism, coming out, and finding my own intellectual voice. Philosophically, what I bring to my blog is that sense of trying to explore and “sound out the idols” of our culture and of my training. I am probably more fearful and careful than Nietzsche was in a lot of respects. And I do believe that sometimes when you sound the idol with your hammer, it rings solid and true. But it’s an ideal I aspire to, the willingness to hold up to the light any and all of my beliefs.
Topics to Expect:
Social Theory, Cultural Theory, and Sociology occupy a lot of my mental space, especially my own special interest in the naturalism and instrumentalism of John Dewey and other American pragmatists (but not the neo-pragmatists who use pragmatic language for postmodern ends). In some ways, I’m a philosopher at heart, but one who is tied to the social and cultural worlds, where philosophy matters. That has tied me both intellectually and morally to the development of social theory, and I’m constantly reading about it and thinking about it. As for real substantive sociology, my primary interests are symbolic interaction and micro-sociology of all kinds, queer cultures and sexual difference, sociology and history of religion, mass culture and pop culture, immigration, and globalization; but I may venture beyond my own expertise from time to time for some speculative thinking.
Evolution began fascinating me about three years ago. My readings in John Dewey’s middle career led me to reconsider the role of biological sciences in the social sciences, and now I’m hooked by the complexity and sheer elegance of this natural process. I am new to evolutionary theory and so will be exploring ideas. If any biologists/geneticists reading, I’d appreciate their input.
Cogntive Science, like evolution, began to interest me while writing my dissertation, when I found that the cultural theory and social theory explanations of the sources of ‘identity’ were no longer satisfying to me in my studies of a group of men in the past who were generating knowledge about their environment. There is a lot of overlap in my reading of evolution and cognitive studies. When my current book project is completed, my next large project will be a re-examination of the issues pertinent to social science within sociology and anthropology, taking seriously the work in evolutionary and cognitive sciences.
Politics and Economics are key to my personal interests because I have a bloated sense of justice that is constantly being violated by American capitalism and the political system we almost jokingly call democracy in the United States. I believe in an engaged sociology, that is a sociology that is working to address real problems in the real world, not merely grand theorizing or detached abstractions and description. So you may find some political discussions here as well, as I work out my values in real-time vis-a-vis my intellectual work.
Some rules of thumb for posting on the Hammer:
1) I will post when I have time or inclination on topics ranging from pop culture to philosophy; from politics to science.
2) I welcome all comments that seek to engage in some way in ideas or friendly banter. Unwelcome comments are those that are nothing more than personal attacks or unsubstantiated or unargued assertions. Sarcasm and snark are welcome as long as there’s an engagement and/or argument behind it.
3) So kick back, get some popcorn, and enjoy the Hammer.