Welcome to

[IMAGE of David Kolb]

David Kolb grew up mostly in the New York City suburbs, studied with the Jesuits in New York and Maryland, received his PhD in philosophy from Yale University, taught at at Fordham University, the University of Chicago, Nanzan University in Japan, and Bates College in Maine, as the Charles A. Dana Professor of Philosophy in the Department of Philosophy and Religion at the college. Since moving to Eugene, Oregon, in 2006 he has devoted himself full-time to writing and lecturing.

Recent Talks and Writings

  1. This May I delivered a talk on the topic "Why Plato thinks democracy leads to tyranny, and why we should be worried about what he says." The talk looked into Plato's reasons, discussed the differences between Athenian democracy and our own, and posed a number of questions. There is a handout which contains quotations from Plato, and a set of slides I used at the talk. They can be downloaded : the handout, and a PDF copy of the slides.
  2. I have written an autobiographical essay about being a philosopher with Parkinson's Disease. What can philosophy say to me about how to live well with this chronic disease? For a description of my essay and links to copies in various formats, click here.
  3. The Israeli literary magazine Dehak has published an interview with me about how to interpret Hegel's philosophy and its influence on thought and art today. Their questions and my responses can be read in English and Hebrew.
  4. I contributed this essay to a recently published journal issue honoring Karsten Harries. Karsten had asked people to respond to the ideas in his book The Ethical Function of Architecture. I discuss several places in the US and Brazil, with pictures, and evaluate strategies for building in ways that confirm an identity, in a world where all identities are challenged by other identities and different, often rival, centers.

Themes in my writings

I've written essays and books; the sidebar on the left connects you to a listing by theme that includes all the books and those of the essays that are easily available on the web. Most of these are from the last ten years or so. I hope to make more of the current and earlier essays available over time. (For a full listing of published essays, see the Curriculum Vitae.)

Most of what I've written connects in one way or another to questions about what it means to live with historical connections and traditions at a time when we can no longer be totally defined by that history. I've explored this through German philosophers (Hegel, Heidegger) who are themselves concerned with this issue, through architecture and urbanism, where these issues take concrete form, and through experiments in new styles of writing and scholarship. In these different areas one keeps seeing new kinds of looser, linked, and less centered unities emerging in cities, in architecture, in lives, and in texts and ways of writing.

By the way, I am not the author of those excellent works on learning styles and experiential learning that were written by another David Kolb at Case Western Reserve University.

"Places", Urbanism, Suburbia, Architecture

Architecture and urbanism are important on their own, as we try to make a more livable world and discover ways to keep up with our own changes. They are also practical studies in new modes of unity and community.

NEW Jane Austen Meets the GPS: Place and Space. Draft version of a discussion of the relations of place and space, tradition and modernity, by contrasting the homey centered world of Jane Austen's novels with the abstract spaces of the GPS. Hegel's notion of "abstract" turns out to be helpful in criticizing too easy and too dualistic conceptions of these dualities, and helps us see how each side depends on the other.

NEW Has Architecture Lost its Bearings?. The text of my keynote talk at the 2012 Phil/Arch conference at Boston University in October 2012. It argues that the situation of architecture today demands creative new kinds of unity both for buildings and for working groups.

Sprawling Places. This is the book version of discussion of the nature of places and the meaning of sprawl and suburbia. I disagree with many negative criticisms of contemporary places. I use a criterion of place complexity to make suggestions about improving contemporary suburbs and themed places.

Sprawling Places. This is the hypertext version of the project described in the previous item. Like the book it treats criticisms of contemporary places and proposes a theory of place complexity. It also includes hundreds of images and narratives and discussions of topics and philosophical background that go beyond what is presented in the more tightly focused book version.

Escaping the Museum: A hypertextual essay on the problem of having people properly experience transformative architecture. Can Arakawa and Gins' radical proposals be places to live instead of objects for contemplation or tourism?

NEW Dialog with the spirits, a series of conversations with the spirits of place (genius loci) in Japan and America, as they struggle to adapt to a new kind of world. (Gathered from the Sprawling Places web site listed above).

Connections . . . . Can Technology Save Suburbia? Draft version of a series of fictional interviews and short essays examining suburban reactions to peak oil crises, and arguing for the importance of maintaining wide connections by whatever means possible.

A book, Postmodern Sophistications: Philosophy, Architecture, and Tradition This book is not so much about design as about what it means to design or plan, and what sort of position the designer occupies. The first half of the book includes essays about finitude and history in thought and language; the second half concentrates on architecture. It critiques the idea that the philosopher or the architect can float above history, and studies what it means to work and build in in new ways yet within an always conditioned dialogue with past language and tradition.

Borders and Centers in an Age of Mobility. This essay questions some ideas from Kenneth Frampton and Karsten Harries about the need for bounded and centered architectural and urban forms today. It was published in an online journal's Festschrift honoring Karsten Harries.

Universal and Particular Persons and Places. This is the text of a talk given at the Philadelphia philosophy consortium meeting about the collision of universal and particular values and identities today.

Public Exposure: Architecture and Interpretation,in Cloud-Cuckoo-Land, Fall 2008 (online architecture journal). This discusses the ways in which buildings and places are exposed to outside factors that destabilize their meanings. It also disputes the idea that the building sits passively waiting for meaning to be imposed on it by an individual or a community.

Real Places in Virtual Spaces. A discussion of the ways virtual worlds can contain socially defined places that function as "real" as areas of physical space.

Oh Pioneers! Bodily Reformation Amid Daily Life. This article discusses Arakawa and Gins' revolutionary views on what architecture can do to change our bodily habits and mode of survival. The article is available as a PDF from the contents page of the special issue the journal Interfaces published on the work of Arakawa and Gins.

Collisions and Interactions: A Philosophical Perspective. This is a short summary comment delivered at the 1998 London conference on Cultural Attitudes towards Technology and Communication.

Before Beyond Function. This is an essay on the ways Hegel sees architecture going beyond building function.

NEW I was interviewed in 2005 for the soundtrack of a short film about a proposed real estate development and theme park on the outskirts of Malmö, Sweden. The film was recently released on YouTube, although in the meantime the proposed theme has changed from historical to environmental. The film is found here, and the revised proposal here.

For a full listing of published essays, see the Curriculum Vitae

Hypertext and Digital Scholarship

When I heard about fiction writers using non-linear hypertext techniques to disrupt or multiply the narrative line, I wondered what the new kinds of writing might offer to philosophy, and how they would interact with the argumentative line. This led to a series of writings on hypertext and argument, and about non-linear ways of writing argumentative and expository prose. Then I began to wonder about how digital technology and the web were putting pressure on older practices in scholarship and structures in the university. Here are some of the results:

Socrates in the Labyrinth This is a long discussion in hypertext form concerning how non-linear writing might function in philosophy and in presenting argument. It is followed by a series of smaller essays giving examples of various approaches and formats.

Socrates' Apology. A brief hypertext essay that appeared in a 1995 issue of Seulemonde, and discusses questions raised about his views about hypertext and argument.

Ruminations in Mixed Company: Literacy in Print and Hypertext Together. A talk on hypertext and argument rhetoric, given at the Open University in Britain in 1998. This talk includes an early vision for the Sprawling Places project. Not all those plans worked out as expected.

Hypertext as Subversive?. A hypertext essay about new media, hypertext linking, and their effect on universities. It disagrees with some political worries about new media. The essay originally appeared in Culture Machine, in issue 2 on universities as culture machines.

Twin Media: Hypertext Structure Under Pressure, a hypertext essay about experience of writing the Sprawling Places project that combines a book and a hypertext, focusing on the pressures that linear book writing put on scholarly hypertext composition.

Sprawling Places. This is the essay that the previous item talks about. Although it's mostly about places and suburbia, the lengthy hypertext also contains some reflections on its own genesis, and there is a discussion of different kinds of linkage and proximity when I make a parallel between the explicit links in hypertexts and the non-architectural links that make suburbs more complex places than they appear at first to be.

NEW Story/Story is a draft tale about and demonstrating the interweaving of narrative and meta-narrative in story-creation, plus some philosophical reflections on writing and reading. It was a dark and stormy night...

NEW The Tree and the Internet, a short video defending linked writing against the attack that it weakens our minds and distracts our concentration.

A 1997 interview with me about hypertext, schools, and learning, translated into Italian for Mediamente, a program on Italian public television.

"Hegelian Buddhist Hypertextual Media Inhabitation, or, Criticism in the Age of Electronic Immersion," discusses how we might criticize immersive media without presupposing we stand on some secure separate critical platform. The essay was published in Adrift in the Technological Matrix, Bucknell Review 46.2, Autumn 2002, 90-108.

Two papers for the Hypertext08 conference: "Making Revisions Hypervisible" concerns issues that arise when revising hypertexts, and "The Revenge of the Page" studies the way web argumentative hypertexts do not use complex link chains, and whether or not we should give up the ideal of hypertexts that make rhetorical gestures that are accomplished over complex link patterns. I don't think so (surprise!) and I make some suggestions about ways of overcoming the bias towards single-link rhetorical moves that I see built into the structure of node-and-link hypertext. (Required note: These two papers are (c) ACM 2008. These are the author's version of the works. They are posted here by permission of the ACM for your personal use. Not for redistribution. The definitive versions are published in the proceedings of the Hypertext08 conference.)

"Other Spaces for Spatial Hypertext," an essay on other topologies for organizing spatial hypertexts, in in the Journal of Digital Information special issue on spatial hypertext.

Hypertext and Philosophy. A set of quotations (mostly from DK) prepared for a class discussion on hypertext, philosophy, and deconstruction.

A brief set of short outline points from a talk on The Prose of Hypertext

For a full listing of published essays, see the Curriculum Vitae

Modernity Postmodernity and German Philosophy

Most of the essays I've written in this area have dealt with Hegel and/or Heidegger, as well as some other figures from nineteenth and twentieth century German and French philosophy. I've been concerned with how these provocative thinkers should be interpreted and compared with each other, especially on issues relating modern freedoms and unfreedoms. Lately I've been writing more about Hegel trying to evaluate claims about the success of the dialectical process in his Logic, which I find fascinating and helpful. Many of the ideas about new kinds of unity that show up in the essays on hypertext and on contemporary places were suggested by my reading of Hegel. Most of the essays on Heidegger have been published in venues not accessible from the web; listings can be found in the Curriculum Vitae, which also includes references to my essays on other philosophers and topics.

History of German Philosophy

NEW/OLD Paul Natorp, "On the Objective and Subjective Grounding of Knowledge". This is my translation of an important 1887 article by the Neo-Kantian Paul Natorp, attacking nineteenth-century German positivism. Edmund Husserl said he was influenced by this article, and it foreshadows the attacks on sense data theories and "the myth of the given" by Wilfrid Sellars and others half a century later. (The translation was published in the Journal of the British Society for Phenomenology, 1981, 245-261)

Hegel and Heidegger on Modernity and Postmodernity

The Critique of Pure Modernity: Hegel, Heidegger and After. This book compares Hegel and Heidegger in general, what each would say about the other, with special focus on their views and worries about the changes that have created our modern or postmodern world.

"Authenticity With Teeth: Positing Process," an essay developing a notion of authenticity as faithfulness to all the moments of the process of creation of conceptual frameworks and modes of life. In Philosophical Romanticism, Routledge, 2006.

Hegel on Nature and Science

NEW "Outside and in: Hegel on natural history," on Hegel's discussion of nature and its relation to spirit. In Poligrafi (number 61-62, volume 16, 2011), 27-43.

"Darwin Rocks Hegel: Does Nature have a History?" Bulletin of the Hegel Society of Great Britain, Nos. 57/57, 2008, 97-116.

Hegel on Religion

NEW "Metaphysics and Religion: Avoiding Double Truth, Twice," keynote at the conference on Hegel and Religion, at the University of Sydney, September 2010.

New Perspectives on Hegel's Philosophy of Religion. This book I edited contains essays by a variety of scholars re-evaluating Hegel's philosophy of religion in the light of a new edition of his lectures.

Hegel on Art and Architecture

Before Beyond Function. An essay on the ways Hegel sees architecture going beyond building function.

Postmodern Sophistications: Philosophy, Architecture, and Tradition This book critiques the idea that the philosopher or the architect can float above history, and studies what it means to work and build in an always conditioned dialogue with past language and tradition. The first half discusses contemporary theories; the second discusses the current state of architecture and architectural theory.

Hegel on Logic and the Categories of Thought

The Logic of the Critical Process. A paper on Hegel's method, delivered at a panel on Hegel and Critical Theory at SPEP 2001 in Baltimore.

The Necessities of Hegel's Logics. A paper delivered at the APA in the spring of 2005, questioning certain claims that Hegel's Logic is a successful presuppositionless self-development of pure categories of thought.


Recent writings

Themes in my writings

"Places", Urbanism, Suburbia, Architecture

Hypertext and Digital Scholarship

Modernity, Postmodernity, German Philosophy

Curriculum Vitae

Links to others ofå my writings.

Selfie of the month

[IMAGE of David Kolb]

In restaurant in Sevilla, at the end of a trip and a family reunion dinner, toasting with the glass that had contained a portion of gin-and-tonic jello desert.

Philosophy Quote of the month

"Philosophic study means the habit of always seeing an alternative, of not taking the usual for granted, of making conventionalities fluid again, of imagining foreign states of mind"

William James