Prof. David Kolb

Charles A. Dana Professor Emeritus of Philosophy, Bates College

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 Fordham University, the University of Chicago, Nanzan University in Japan, and has been at Bates College in Maine, as the Charles A. Dana Professor of Philosophy in the Department of Philosophy and Religion at the college.
Since 2002 he has devoted himself full-time to writing and lecturing.

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.

Currently I've just finished revising the book version of Sprawling Places, which will appear this fall or winter from the University of Georgia Press. I'm working on a book review about Heidegger, and beginning a hypertext project about metaphysics, Hegel, Deleuze, and sundry topics.

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

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, where David 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, which 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

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

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

A list of links to sites relevant to what is changing the habits and processes of the intellectual life in today's digital and wired world. The list was prepared in connection with a talk at SUNY Stony Brook in March 2006.

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

"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.

Sprawling Places. This is the hypertext version, still being improved, of my current project. It is a book-length web site that offers a theory about what makes areas of space into human places. It defines and uses a criterion of place complexity to discuss contemporary suburbs and themed places. A book manuscript related to the web site is currently being revised.

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 general; 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 an always conditioned dialogue with past language and tradition.

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.

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. This area includes the largest share of my writing over the years, though the other areas have grown in the last decade. Most of the writings on German philosophers 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.

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.

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 architecture.

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.

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

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.

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