Summer School 2019
Nine philosophy short-courses taught in Melbourne Jan - Feb.
When: 7 Jan - 15 Feb 2019
Where: Church of All Nations (CAN), 180 Palmerston st, Carlton. There will be MSCP signage at CAN. Note: Disabled access is via the rear of the building which will also have MSCP signage.
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The enrolment form includes both attendance and distance enrolment options. Distance Enrolment is available for all courses.
Summer School Programme
2 hours per week for 5 weeks
2 hours per day for 5 days
The Postmodern: Looking to the past or going back to the future?
Lecturer: Dr Graham Jones
Schedule: 6.30-8.30pm. 5 Mondays starting Jan 7
Location: CAN, 180 Palmerston St, Carlton.
From the vantage-point of 2018 it would seem ‘obvious’ to many in both the arts and the academy that postmodernism is clearly done and dusted – an amorphous and relativistic paradigm that ruled for a time but is now thankfully passé. And now in the aftermath of its seeming demise, assorted theorists rush to fill the vacuum it has left in the market-place of ideas, with all manner of new movements and manifestos that profess or promise unambiguous objects for cultural analysis (eg. post-postmodernism, the ‘new realism’, ‘post-9/11 paranoia’, ‘surveillance culture’, the ‘new sincerity’, ‘metamodernism’, etc.). However, assuming for a moment that we accept this declaration of its supposed extinction and the heralding again of all things new (or even old), surely then we should be able - with the benefit of hindsight - to say what postmodernism is or was? Why it mattered? Whether, in fact, it was a case of an era or an error? Or even how something that once seemed so important to so many has ended up as a universal term of abuse on both sides of politics?
This course will examine whether these are valid queries or instead the ongoing symptoms of a conceptual failure – a refusal even - to understand what has occurred, and is still unfolding in the arts specifically, and Western society more generally. As such the course begins by identifying relevant issues, concepts and constraints pertaining to the way the notion of the postmodern has been conceived and approached over the last seventy-five years - particularly its relation to the notion of modernity, on the one hand, and of modernism, on the other – whilst illustrating these with examples drawn from literature, music, and the visual and performing arts. After providing this initial overview it will then closely examine the ideas of the three most well-known and influential theorists associated with understanding the postmodern condition.
This seminar presents an introduction to the key issues and concepts, framing them in terms of context, history and taxonomy. It also briefly examines some of the purportedly ‘typical’ phenomena associated with postmodernism (not just in respect to the arts but also the social, political and economic domains). This will also require some detailed excavation of related terminology such as ‘globalisation‘ and ‘post-structuralism’ - which are often mistakenly conflated with postmodernism – and raises the important question of scope in respect to what a theory of the postmodern can be expected to encompass in explanatory terms. It also will address the two closely related and potentially misleading issues of characterisation and periodisation that beset any attempt at coming to grips with the notion of the postmodern in all its supposedly most well-known iterations.
This seminar provides a brief survey of a number of different accounts of the postmodern (including those of Venturi, Jenks, McHale, Harvey, Haraway, Hutcheon, Huyssen, etc.) which characterise it in terms of an identifiable style or set of conceptual features, on the one hand, and often congruently reduce it to being merely an historical period or stage, on the other - as well as briefly examining the complex relationship that has emerged over the last seventy-five years between commerce, the arts in general, and ‘innovation’ more specifically. It then turns towards examining Fredric Jameson’s ‘cognitive mapping’ of postmodernism as culturally symptomatic of fundamental shifts within global capitalism and his analysis of the key traits experientially indicative of this transformation, including the new ‘depthlessness’, the waning of affect, the loss of historicity, and the shift from parody to pastiche.
This seminar examines the theories of Jean Baudrillard, particularly his critical examination of the shift in Western society from production to consumption, the loss of the symbolic dimension, the role of the mass media (and the related notion of ‘hyperreality’) and, most importantly, his account of the changing nature and function of signs in contemporary culture.
This seminar focusses on the work of Jean-François Lyotard, particularly his highly influential (but largely misunderstood) book The Postmodern Condition: A Report on Knowledgeand its account of meta-narratives and ‘paralogy’. It will also look at the article ‘Answering the question: what is postmodernism?’ appended to the Report which specifically addresses the relation of the postmodern to the arts.
In this last seminar we return to Lyotard, looking at the seeming ‘revision’ of his position in the paper ‘Rewriting Modernity’ (although, more accurately it is a teasing out of the implications of his earlier view), which presents a more constructive way of conceiving of the relationship between modernity, the modern and the postmodern. Finally, time-permitting, we will follow this up with a brief discussion of issues and criticisms pertaining to more recent phenomena – such as potential confusions or false groupings of disparate philosophical ideas; the emergence of identity politics, cultural appropriation and issues of ‘authenticity’; and glocalisation and cultural imperialism (ie. coca-colonisation) – in the light of whether or not a theory of the postmodern can still prove useful for addressing such matters.
- Jameson, Fredric. Postmodernism, or the Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism
- Baudrillard, Jean. Simulacra and Simulation
- Lyotard, J-F. The Postmodern Condition
Excerpts from the above works as well as a reading-list and several other relevant articles will be provided on-line just prior to the beginning of the course.
Unknown Lands: Introduction to Nick Land’s Accelerationist Philosophy
Lecturer: Vincent Le
Schedule: 6.30-8.30pm. 5 Tuesdays starting Jan 8
Location: CAN, 180 Palmerston St, Carlton.
This course will trace the development of Nick Land’s accelerationist philosophy as it emerges through his critical engagement with canonical figures like Kant, Heidegger, Schopenhauer, Nietzsche, Freud, Bataille, Deleuze and Guattari, as well as the philosophy of artificial intelligence. More precisely, the course’s guiding thread is that Land’s seemingly contradictory shifts in position are actually motivated by the same underlying goal to critique anthropomorphizations of reality by confronting us with the brute fact of our inexorable death beyond which we cannot trespass. Seen in this way, Land’s various shifts in position do not signal a change in his overarching goal, but in what he sees as the best means to effectuate his critique of anthropocentrism. In particular, we shall see that, while what we will term the “young Land” from 1988-1992 identifies an insurrection against capitalism as the key mechanism for de-anthropomorphizing thought, the “mature Land” from 1993 onwards re-evaluates capitalism’s technological innovation as the best means to critique anthropocentrism by confronting us with the coming artificial superintelligence, which renders our own intelligence radically contingent and finite.
Why study Nick Land? is a question that we must immediately address. After all, the sceptic will object, did not Land abandon academic scholarship when he resigned from his lectureship at Warwick University in 1998? Despite now living on the margins of academia, Land is far more influential on contemporary philosophy, political theory and aesthetics than the sceptic might imagine. In philosophy, for instance, Land taught former Warwick students Iain Hamilton Grant and Ray Brassier, two of the four founding figures of speculative realism, perhaps the most significant contemporary philosophical movement in its quest to rid philosophy of its pervasive humanism in favor of new and strange voyages into the Great Outdoors. Moreover, the specter of Land is endemic throughout the art scene through cultural theorists like Mark Fisher and Kodwo Eshun and artists like Orphan Drift, Jake and Dino Chapman and Kode 9 (Steve Goodman), all of whom seek to liberate art from its anthropoid prison. Land is also the key influence on accelerationism, arguably the most important of contemporary political theories in its mission to expand and repurpose technocapitalist processes as a prelude to radical social change. Several cyberfeminists have also drawn on Land’s work, such as Luciana Parisi’s theory of future technology’s potential to abstract sex from reproduction through advances in biogenetics and human enhancement. It would thus seem that Land’s shadow stretches far and wide over the contemporary philosophical, political and cultural conjuncture. So, much as Heidegger needed to be studied to comprehend his influence on Sartre, Levinas, Merleau-Ponty, Derrida and other philosophers and phenomenologists, so, too, do we need to read Land as a symptom of the situation in which we are in.
This course’s guiding question concerns how Land could have such a significant influence on contemporary continental philosophy’s return to metaphysics, materialism and realism. Our initial hypothesis is that, despite his various positions and myriad subject matters, the driving motor of all of Land’s work is the seizure of death as the organon for the transcendental materialist critique of thought’s pretention to project itself onto an inhuman cosmos, since death marks the absolute limit concept of thought. A second, interconnected question that the course will consider is how Land can be positively appraised by both left and right-wing political and cultural theorists. The hypothesis here is that Land’s guiding thread of confronting humanity with our own mortality led him to turn away from the critique of capitalism to its rehabilitation as just such a destructive mechanism for melting all anthropogenic values into air. So, the course’s key contention is that Land’s underlying ambition across all of his work is to critique anthropocentrism by analyzing various philosophers for the extent to which they can recognize their own finitude. To this end, the various twists and turns in Land’s focus, from artistic genius and feminist insurrection, to capitalism and AI, are all motivated by the same goal to find the best means to effectuate death’s transcendental materialist critique.
The course’s basic structure will be to trace the development of Land’s thought, from his earliest writings in the late 1980s to his fully formed accelerationist philosophy throughout the 1990s, by providing an exegesis of the major figures he engages with before turning to see how he interprets and uses them. While Land is influenced by many figures, the eight key thinkers are Kant, Heidegger, Schopenhauer, Nietzsche, Freud, Bataille, and Deleuze and Guattari, as well as a host of philosophers of artificial intelligence (particularly I.J. Good, Nick Bostrom, Eliezer Yudkowsky and Hugo de Garis). Since Land often treats Schopenhauer, Nietzsche, Freud and Bataille together as espousing the same “libidinal materialist” philosophy, this course will be broken up into five lectures on Kant, Heidegger, the libidinal materialists, Deleuze and Guattari, and the philosophy of AI.
Lecture 1. Critique of Accumulative Reason: Kant and Capital
Land’s earliest writings focus on the critique of capitalism, and its philosophical expressions through Kant and the phenomenologists, for anthropomorphizing a chaotic and destructive cosmos with our parochial concerns for order and homeostasis. In the first lecture, we will make a close exegesis of Land’s critique of Kant’s transcendental idealism for ideologically reflecting Western capitalist imperialism’s attempts to geographically distance itself from the very third world labor that constitutes it whilst also threatening to annihilate it through sublime, insurrectionary resistance.
- Nick Land, “Kant, Capital and the Prohibition of Incest: A Polemical Introduction to the Configuration of Philosophy and Modernity,” in Fanged Noumena: Collected Writings 1987-2007, eds. Robin Mackay and Ray Brassier (Falmouth: Urbanomic, 2012), 55-80.
- Nick Land, “Delighted to Death,” in Fanged Noumena, 123-144.
Other recommended readings:
- Nick Land, “Fanged Noumenon (Passion of the Cyclone),” in The Thirst for Annihilation: Georges Bataille and Virulent Nihilism (London: Routledge, 1992), 105-120.
- Robin Mackay and Ray Brassier, “Editors’ Introduction,” in Fanged Noumena, 1-54.
Lecture 2. Reading with Fangs: Trakl, Heidegger, Derrida
The young Land’s other theoretical arch-nemesis is phenomenologists who for him include Hegel and Derrida as well as Husserl and Heidegger, insofar as he sees them all as more or less recapitulating Kant’s humanist hubris over the past two centuries. The second lecture will examine Land’s critique of the phenomenological tradition, from Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit to Derrida’s deconstruction, and particularly Heidegger’s discussion of Georg Trakl’s poetry for misreading images of animality, irrationality and death as narcissistic symbols of spirit, reason and the soul’s immortality. As we shall see, Heidegger thereby ignores the conceptual resources that Trakl can arm us with to precisely critique our delusions of grandeur in favour of an encounter with a radically inhuman nature.
- Nick Land, “Narcissism and Dispersion in Heidegger’s 1953 Trakl Interpretation,” in Fanged Noumena, 81-122.
- Nick Land, “Spirit and Teeth,” in Fanged Noumena, 175-202.
Other recommended readings:
- Nick Land, “The Death of Sound Philosophy,” in Thirst for Annihilation, 1-26.
Lecture 3. A Concise History of Libidinal Materialism: Schopenhauer, Nietzsche, Freud, Bataille
Having critiqued Kant and the phenomenologists, the rest of Land’s early work traces another “libidinal materialist” tradition which seizes upon death in order to critique our pretentions to know and exhaust reality. The first half of this lecture will consider Land’s readings of Schopenhauer, Nietzsche and Freud as the first three modern thinkers to uncover a savage, impersonal world transcending our rational knowledge. The second half will examine how Land uses Bataille’s nihilistic conceptual armature to wage a ruthless critique of the origins of philosophy in Socrates’ repression of death when he immortalizes spirit.
- Nick Land, “Art as Insurrection: The Question of Aesthetics in Kant, Schopenhauer and Nietzsche,” in Fanged Noumena, 145-174.
- Nick Land, “After the Law,” in Fanged Noumena, 229-260.
Other recommended readings:
- Nick Land, “Shamanic Nietzsche,” Fanged Noumena, 203-228.
- Nick Land, Thirst for Annihilation, particularly the preface and chapter 9 “Aborting the Human Race,” xi-xxii, 133-159.
Lecture 4. Land’s Deleuze and Guattari: Capitalism, Fascism and Schizoanalysis
Although all of Land’s writings are motivated by the same driving motive to critique anthropomorphism by confronting us with our own demise, from 1993 onwards his works differ in two key respects. Firstly, Land re-evaluates capitalism not as humanity’s repression of the inhuman Outside, but rather as the Outside’s immanent meltdown of our most cherished truths and values. More specifically, Land envisions capitalism’s technological advancement in the fields of cybernetics and AI research as exposing the limits of mammalian reason before an artificial superintelligence. Although he develops these two theses simultaneously in the same texts, for clarity’s sake, the fourth lecture will focus on Land’s re-evaluation of capitalism before considering how this connects with AI in the final lecture. In both cases, however, the key work that inspires Land is Deleuze and Guattari’s two-volume Capitalism and Schizophrenia. The fourth lecture will thus trace how Land draws upon Deleuze and Guattari to develop his theory of capitalism as the ultimate deterritorialization of anthropomorphism, whilst also departing from their reservations about capitalism’s fascistic tendencies.
- Nick Land, “Making it with Death: Remarks on Thanatos and Desiring Production,” in Fanged Noumena, 261-288.
- Nick Land, “Machines and Technocultural Complexity: The Challenge of the Deleuze-Guattari Conjunction,” in Theory, Culture and Society, 12, 2, 1995, 131-40.
Other recommended readings:
- Nick Land, “Meat (or How to Kill Oedipus in Cyberspace),” in Fanged Noumena, 411-440.
- Nick Land, “Critique of Transcendental Miserabalism,” in Fanged Noumena, 623-628.
- Charles J. Stivale, “The Rhizomatics of Cyberspace,” in The Two-fold Thought of Deleuze and Guattari: Intersections and Animations (London: The Guilford Press, 1998), 90-100.
- Mark Fisher, “Terminator vs Avatar,” in #Accelerate#: The Accelerationist Reader, eds. Robin Mackay and Armen Avanassian (Falmouth: Urbanomic, 2014), 335-346.
- Ray Brassier, “Session 1,” Accelerationism, conference, Goldsmiths, University of London, September 13, 2010.
Lecture 5. Terminator as Ontology
If the mature Land’s first key thesis is the reconceptualization of capitalism as the agent of the Outside rather than its impediment, it is ultimately because of his second major thesis that capitalism’s constant revolutionization of the productive forces is leading to the creation of a technological singularity which will effectuate death’s transcendental materialist critique. The final lecture will work through Land’s writings throughout the 1990s to trace his theory that technology, from cyberspace and virtual reality to human enhancement and ultimately artificial intelligence, provide ever greater insights into the Outside beyond the finite bounds of our reason.
- Nick Land, “Circuitries,” in Fanged Noumena, 289-318.
- Nick Land, “Machinic Desire,” in Fanged Noumena, 319-344.
- Nick Land, “Cybergothic,” in Fanged Noumena, 345-374.
Other recommended readings:
- Nick Land, “No Future,” in Fanged Noumena, 391-400.
- Nick Land, “Cyberspace Anarchitecture as Jungle-War,” in Fanged Noumena, 401-410.
- Vernor Vinge, “The Coming Technological Singularity: How to Survive in the Post-Human Era,” in NASA Conference Publication Vision-21: Interdisciplinary Science and Engineering in the Era of Cyberspace Conference Proceedings (Ohio: NASA Lewis Research Centre, 1993), 30-1.
- Nick Bostrom, “The Superintelligent Will: Motivation and Instrumental Rationality in Advanced Artificial Agents,” in Minds and Machines, 22, 2, 2012, 72-85.
From the Stellar Void to the Space of Reasons: how to read Ray Brassier
Lecturer: Emma Black
Schedule: 6.30-8.30pm. 5 Wednesdays starting Jan 9
Location: CAN, 180 Palmerston St, Carlton.
In pursuing a problem, the philosopher inevitably comes up against the limits of a particular philosophical framework to deal with that problem. At this juncture, she may either abandon the problem in the interests of the framework or abandon the framework in the interests of the problem. The former constitutes intellectual myopia. The latter constitutes thinking.
In fearlessly and relentlessly pursuing philosophical problems, Ray Brassier not only transcends academic enclaves, he problematises the commodification of philosophy as a finished product to be marketed and exchanged. Above and beyond what he thinks, Brassier’s contemporary significance consists in how—or rather, that—he thinks. This course will explore the philosophical and political implications of both. Renowned as Speculative Realism’s unwitting founder, Ray Brassier is a philosopher in constant movement. Over the past twenty years, he has been synthesising New French Philosophers such as François Laruelle, Alain Badiou, and Quentin Meillassoux with the Anglo-American traditions of cognitive science (Paul Churchland) naturalism (Wilfrid Sellars) and inferentialism (Robert Brandom). While these anomalous exercises in conceptual subversion are often brilliantly disorientating, Brassier’s infidelity to any particular philosophical tradition betrays a profound fidelity to particular philosophical problems. This course will take up the three major philosophical problems pre-occupying Brassier: the problem of nihilism, the problem of naturalism, and the problem of normativity. Although they remain inextricable from one another, each problem becomes the focus of his work at a different point in time. Thus, it is possible to distinguish between Brassier’s nihilistic phase (extending from his earliest articles up until the publication of Nihil Unbound in 2007); his naturalistic phase (consisting of a sustained engagement with Wilfrid Sellars between 2008 until 2013); and his normative phase (indexing an increasing interest, since 2014, in Anglo-American Hegelianism and Marxism).
Week 1: “The intelligence of the real adopts reason solely as a provisional skin.”
Ray Brassier’s earliest writings seek to mobilise the non-individual, the impersonal, the real nothing, against defenders of reason (critical, legislative, normative); elders of sense (phenomenological, pragmatic, propositional); and partisans of Life (auto-affective or an-organic) alike. This instrumental unleashing of the void is enacted in accordance with the writings of heretical non-philosopher Francois Laurelle. Our first lecture will provide an instruction manual for Laruelle’s complicated theoretical machinery in order to understand its influence on Brassier’s intellectual emergence.
- Ray Brassier (2001). “Alien Theory: The Decline of Materialism in the Name of Matter” (PhD). University of Warwick, Warwick, U.K.
- Ray Brassier. (2003). “Axiomatic Heresy: The non-philosophy of Francois Laruelle.” Radical Philosophy, 121(September/October), 24–35.
Other Recommended Readings:
- Francois Laruelle. (2010). Philosophies of Difference: A Critical Introduction to Non-Philosophy (R. Gangle, Trans.). London: Continuum.
- Ray Brassier. (2012). “Laruelle and the Reality of Abstraction.” In J. Mullarkey & A. P. Smith (Eds.), Laruelle and Non-Philosophy (pp. 100–122). Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.
Week 2: “Nihilism is not an existential quandary, but a speculative opportunity.” An assault on the sensibilities of twentieth century Continental philosophy, Brassier’s Nihil Unbound seeks to exacerbate—rather than attenuate—the disenchantment of the world wrought by
the Enlightenment’s shattering of the great chain of being. As well as analysing key sections of the text, our second lecture will draw out its unifying themes and anticipate Brassier’s turn toward transcendental naturalism as a way of addressing arising tensions.
- Ray Brassier. (2007). Nihil Unbound: Enlightenment and Extinction. London: Palgrave Macmillan - key extracts.
Other recommended Readings:
- Quentin Meillassoux. (2008). After Finitude: An Essay on the Necessity of Contingency (R. Brassier, Trans.). London: Continuum.
Week 3: “I am a nihilist precisely because I still believe in truth.” While Brassier’s “turn” to Anglo-American pragmatism may at first appear perplexing, our third lecture will show how Wilfrid Sellars’ critical or transcendental naturalism furnishes Brassier with the conceptual tools he needs to carry out a non-Nietzschean overcoming of nihilism. Together, we will explore how a thoroughgoing commitment to nihilism need not entail sacrificing truth to an arena of empowering and disempowering fictions.
- Ray Brassier. (2014). “Nominalism, Naturalism, Materialism: Sellars’s Critical Ontology.” In B. Bashour & H. D. Muller (Eds.), Contemporary Philosophical Naturalism and Its Implications (pp. 101–114). New York: Routledge.
- Wilfrid Sellars. (1963). “Philosophy and the Scientific Image of Man.” In Empiricism and the Philosophy of Mind (pp. 1–40). London: Routledge & Kegan Paul Ltd.
Other recommended Readings:
- Ray Brassier. (2011). “The View From Nowhere.” Journal for Politics, Gender, and Culture, 8(2), 7–23.
- Ray Brassier. (2011). “Concepts and Objects.” In The Speculative Turn: Continental Materialism and Realism (pp. 47–65). Melbourne: re.press.
- Ray Brassier interviewed by Marcin Rychter. (2011). “I am a Nihilist Because I Still Believe in Truth.”
Week 4: “My conviction is that only reason is entitled to fix the limits of reason.” If Sellars inaugurates the Kantian turn in Anglo-American analytic philosophy, then Robert Brandom (Sellars’ student) ushers it from its Kantian to its Hegelian stage. Our fourth lecture will explore how Brassier’s engagement with Brandom’s inferentialism consolidates his critique of both Enlightenment optimism and postmodern pessimism. While reason is conditioned by history, history is the condition for reason’s advancement.
- Ray Brassier. (2016). “Dialectics Between Suspicion and Trust.” Stasis, 4(2), 98–113.
- Robert Brandom. (2012). “Reason, Genealogy, and the Hermeneutics of Magnanimity.” Retrieved from: pitt.edu/~brandom/downloads/RGHM%20%2012-11-21%20a.docx
Other recommended readings:
- Robert Brandom. (2019). A Spirit of Trust: A Reading of Hegel’s Phenomenology. Harvard: Harvard University Press.
Week 5: “We have to defend the normative status of the claim that things are not as they should be, and that things ought to be understood and reorganised.”
Our final lecture will explore the political implications of Brassier’s philosophical edifice, with a focus on his ambivalence toward accelerationism, his engagement with Marxism, and his commitment to the reinstantiation of communism as a Promethean project.
- Ray Brassier. (2014). “Prometheanism and Its Critics.” In R. Mackay & A. Avanessian (Eds.), #Accelerate: The Accelerationist Reader (pp. 467–489). Falmouth, UK: Urbanomic.
- Ray Brassier. (2018). “Concrete-in-Thought, Concrete-in-Act: Marx, Materialism, and the Exchange Abstraction.” Crisis & Critique, 5(1), 111–129.
Other recommended readings:
- Ray Brassier. (2014). “Wandering Abstraction.” Mute. Retrieved from http://www.metamute.org/editorial/articles/wandering-abstraction
Approaches to Marx’s Capital Volume II
Lecturer: Dr Rory Dufficy
Schedule: 6.30-8.30pm. 5 Thursdays starting Jan 10
Location: CAN, 180 Palmerston St, Carlton.
This course aims to introduce and explain Volume Two of Karl Marx’s Capital, looking at the text not as an outdated handbook or, alternatively, as a religious tome, nor yet as a work of ‘economics’, but instead as a massive attempt to account for an entirely new object of study: a mode of production.
Capital Volume II remains the least studied volume of Marx’s major work, yet, in its focus on the market and on circulation – a concept bracketed entirely in Volume One – it is perhaps the most relevant to contemporary political economy. What this volume shows is how the central ideas of Marx’s conceptualisation of the capitalist mode of production, above all the concept of value developed in Volume One, cannot be grasped fully without situating them within a broader capitalist market. So where Volume One explores the hidden abodes of the factory and workhouse, Volume Two ventures into the stockyards, ports and warehouses of the first truly global mode of production.
The lectures will focus on key chapters in the text that allow the book to be elucidated most thoroughly. This means certain chapters, primarily ones where Marx elucidates and critiques previous expositions of the concepts he discusses, have been excised. Students are encouraged to read the full work, however, and the chapters not discussed in detail will be briefly summarised where necessary. A list of further reading will be supplied to all students. Although all the key concepts from Capital Volume I will be reviewed as necessary in this course, it is recommended that students have some familiarity with the ideas developed there.
Note: The translation used will be the one published by Penguin Classics, translated by David Fernbach. All page numbers (which are preserved in every edition) refer to this translation.
Lecture 1: Introduction to Capital Volume II & The Three Circuits of Capital
This lecture will outline the place of Capital Volume II within Marx’s overall project and look at its textual history, as well as introducing the general concepts of money capital Marx will use throughout the book.
Reading: Capital Volume II, Chapters 1-3 (pp. 109-179)
Lecture 2: Circulation
This lecture will explore Marx’s discussion of the costs specific to the circulation of capital, and the place of temporality in his understanding of the movements of capital.
Reading: Capital Volume II, Chapters 4-6 (pp. 180-229)
Lecture 3: Turnover
Building on the discussion of temporality in Lecture 2, this lecture will explore the turnover of individual capitals, and delve more specifically into Marx’s understanding of the dual temporalities of Production Time and Circulation Time.
Reading: Capital Volume II, Chapters 7-9 (pp. 233-267); Chapters 12-14 (pp. 306-333)
Lecture 4: Value in Process
In this lecture, concepts Marx has developed in Volume I of Capital, in particular Surplus-Value, are reintroduced. This lecture will examine how these concepts have been transformed when seen from the perspective of circulation as opposed to production.
Reading: Capital Volume II, Chapters 15-18 (pp. 334-434)
Lecture 5: Reproduction
This lecture will bring together the concepts developed over the preceding lectures, and examine how Marx conceptualises the reproduction of capital as a total process.
Reading: Capital Volume II, Chapters 20-21 (pp. 468-599)
Rory Dufficy completed a Ph.D. in English at Western Sydney University in 2016 and is teaches Literature at Deakin University. He is currently writing a book entitled An Epoch of Possibility: The Avant-Garde in the 20th Century.
Early Modern Rationalism
Lecturer: Dr Jon Roffe
Schedule: 9.30am -11.30am. Monday, Feb 11 – Friday, Feb 15
Location: CAN, 180 Palmerston St, Carlton.
This course will present a topical survey of the tradition of early modern rationalism, and discuss the work of the three greatest exponents of this moment in the history of philosophy: René Descartes, Benedict de Spinoza and Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz. The approach we will adopt is a topical one. At the general level, the course will discuss the clash between, and potential for compatibility for, two ideas about causality, both drawn from Aristotle: that of efficient cause (‘billiard ball’ causality) and that of final cause (the goal or purpose of a thing). It would not be false to claim that the play between these two categories – and their correlates – is the one of the two or three main dynamics in this period of philosophy. At the level of each thinker, we will set aside (for lack of time) a detailed examination of arguments and instead aim to get clear on the main claims that orient their work.
Lecture 1. The first class will be given over to an historical framing of early modern rationalism. We will focus in particular on three topics: Aristotelian metaphysics, the scholastic theology that arose in its wake, and then the rise of mechanistic science after Copernicus. We will turn, finally, to discuss some shared commitments that bring together Descartes, Spinoza and Leibniz, despite their disagreements.
Readings: 1) Stuart Brown, ‘The seventeenth-century intellectual background’ from The Cambridge Companion to Leibniz; 2) Descartes, ‘Letter of Dedication to the Sorbonne’ (at the opening of the Meditations)
Lecture 2. We will take René Descartes’ famous Meditations on First Philosophy (1641) as emblematic of his work as a whole. The discussion will focus on his goals as a philosopher; the nature of his account of thought; his proofs for God’s existence and God’s nature on his view; and the way in which he attempts to explain at once the unity and the distinction between minds and bodies.
Readings: Descartes, Meditations 1 and 2
Lecture 3. The next class will turn to the ‘savage anomaly’ of seventeenth century philosophy, Benedict de Spinoza, and his magisterial Ethics (1677) Here, our goal will be to understand Spinoza’s novel ontology, involving the three categories of substance, attribute and mode; his subsequent rejection of Descartes’ metaphysics; his account of affects; and his definition of ethics, or what constitutes the life of the free.
Readings: 1) Spinoza, Ethics, Appendix to Book 1; 2) Gilles Deleuze, ‘Life of Spinoza’, and ‘Bibliography’
Lecture 4. The final great rationalist, whose work crosses over into the eighteenth century, is that of Leibniz. We will take the late summary essay ‘Monadology, or Principles of First Philosophy’ (1714), which presents in baroque fashion his mature metaphysical position, as our touchstone here. We will work to understand: his peculiar-seeming view that the universe is composed of simple, spiritual substances (the monads) that do not interact with each other; his theory of perception; his phenomenalist account of bodies; and his view that this is the best of all possible worlds, created by God, and that it is governed by a pre-established harmony. Time permitting, we will finish by considering the principle of sufficient reason, not just as it appears in Leibniz, but also with an eye to the form it adopts in Descartes and Spinoza.
Reading: Leibniz, ‘The Principles of Philosophy, or the Monadology’
Lecture 5. In the final class we will return to a somewhat more general historical perspective to answer the question: what became of the project of early modern rationalism? We will consider two critical alternatives in developing an answer: David Hume, whose empiricism undermines the methodological grounds of rationalism, and Immanuel Kant, who transforms both Humean empiricism and early modern rationalism in the development of his own transcendental idealism. Our final question will be: what would a contemporary rationalist philosophy look like?
Readings: 1) extract from the ‘Introduction’ to Hume’s A Treatise of Human Nature, 2) extract from the ‘Preface’ to Kant’s Prolegomena to any Future Metaphysics
Level: Introductory. No knowledge of the history of philosophy or of rationalism will be presupposed.
Understanding Jean-François Lyotard’s Economic Philosophy
Lecturer: Dr Sharon Jane Mee
Schedule: 12noon - 2pm. Monday, Feb 11 – Friday, Feb 15
Location: CAN, 180 Palmerston St, Carlton.
Jean-François Lyotard begins Libidinal Economy with a call to action: “Open the so-called body and spread out all its surfaces” (Lyotard, p. 1). For Lyotard, the opening of the libidinal band/skin is an energetic investment of components. Juxtaposed with the investment of libidinal energies are “structures” that channel and exploit; dispositifs. In this five-seminar intensive course, we will discuss Lyotard’s work to understand his economic philosophy and the force of energetic investment as it relates to exchange (exploitation) and expenditure (jouissance). Each seminar will focus on one text by Lyotard—Libidinal Economy and four essays recently translated in Graham Jones and Ashley Woodward’s Acinemas: Lyotard’s Philosophy of Film.
Day 1: Libidinal energies and dispositifs
Libidinal Economy will be discussed in terms of investments of desire and the dispositifs that structure them.
Reading: Jean-François Lyotard, Libidinal Economy
Day 2: “Acinema” and the aesthetics of expenditure
“Acinema” describes the economic “form” of experimental and avant-garde cinema, and will be used to explore the political economics of aesthetics.
Reading: Jean-François Lyotard, “Acinema” in Jones and Woodward, Acinemas, pp. 33–42.
Day 3: The “scene” of the unconscious; return to dispositifs
We will analyse the investment of the “scene” of the unconscious and the staging of desire in “The Unconscious as Mise-en-scène.”
Reading: Jean-François Lyotard, “The Unconscious as Mise-en-scène” in Jones and Woodward, Acinemas, pp. 43–54.
Day 4: Operations of seduction and their economy
Lyotard’s move to linguistic pragmatics in “Two Metamorphoses of the Seductive in Cinema” will allow us to discuss the terms of the operation of seduction: terms such as deception and dissoi logoi (duplicitous speech) that are also found in Lyotard’s Duchamp’s TRANS/formers.
Reading: Jean-François Lyotard, “Two Metamorphoses of the Seductive in Cinema” in Jones and Woodward, Acinemas, pp. 55–61.
Day 5: Understanding expenditure and the sovereignty of film
“The Idea of a Sovereign Film” is a provocative work emphasising the development of Lyotard’s thought from the libidinal economy of avant-garde cinema analysed in “Acinema” to the sovereignty informed by Georges Bataille’s economic theory, which will enable a consideration of the breadth of Lyotard’s work on economy.
Reading: Jean-François Lyotard, “The Idea of a Sovereign Film” in Jones and Woodward, Acinemas, pp. 62–70.
Heidegger’s Alternative History of Time
Lecturers: Dr Emily Hughes and Dr Marilyn Stendera
Schedule: 2.30pm - 4.30pm. Monday, Feb 11 – Friday, Feb 15
Location: CAN, 180 Palmerston St, Carlton.
While Heidegger is known as a philosopher for whom time is a significant focus, his thinking on the subject is fragmented, making it difficult to grasp in all its depth and complexity. One way to begin understanding Heidegger’s philosophy of time is through his own critical analysis of the history of the philosophy of time in Western thought. In contrast to both the analytic philosophy of time dominant in contemporary philosophy and the scientific trajectory of thinkers like Newton and Einstein, Heidegger traces a history that focusses on the studies of time put forward by Aristotle, Plotinus, Augustine, Kant, Hegel, Bergson and Husserl.
In this course, we will take seriously Heidegger’s claim that these seven figures are essential to any understanding of time. We will explore what his alternative history of the concept of time can tell us about his work and theirs, about temporality and existence, about the history of philosophy and philosophy as a historical discipline, especially in contrast to the lineage informing the analytic study of time. In so doing, we will draw out what it is that makes time of such significance for Heidegger, and what it is that might be missing from the contemporary analytic philosophy of time.
This course is suitable for anyone interested in Heidegger, phenomenology, the philosophy of time, and the figures included in Heidegger’s alternative history of time. It will also offer something to those interested in exploring broader themes such as the so-called analytic/Continental distinction; the history of philosophy and philosophy of history; and the relationship between science and philosophy.
Lecture One: History of the concept of time: Heidegger’s critical project.
- Heidegger Being and Time Division II Chapter 6
- Heidegger Basic Problems of Phenomenology §19 Time and temporality
- Heidegger Zollikon Seminars p. 24–74
Lecture Two: Aristotle, Plotinus, and Augustine
- Aristotle Physics Book IV, parts 10-14
- Plotinus Enneads III, tractate 7
- Augustine Confessions, Book XI
Lecture Three: Kant and Hegel
- Kant Critique of Pure Reason, Transcendental Aesthetic Section II: Of Time
- Hegel Encyclopedia of the Philosophical Sciences Part II: Philosophy of Nature §257–61 on Space and Time
- Hegel Phenomenology of Spirit §46
Lecture Four: Bergson and Husserl
- Bergson Time and Free Will
- Bergson Creative Evolution, Chapter 1, sections 1-2 and Chapter IV, sections 2-4
- Husserl Ideas I, §81-82
- Husserl Lectures on the Phenomenology of the Consciousness of Internal Time, §1-2, §8-32
Lecture Five: Heidegger’s model of temporality
- Heidegger Being and Time §65, §68 and §69
- Heidegger Metaphysical Foundations of Logic §12–13
- Heidegger Basic Problems of Phenomenology §20–22
- Heidegger Time and Being
Emily Hughes has undergraduate degrees in both philosophy and in cultural studies and creative writing. She has a PhD in philosophy from the University of New South Wales, a year of which was spent researching at the Martin-Heidegger-Institut in Wuppertal. Her thesis focused on Martin Heidegger’s concept of affect. Other areas of interest include phenomenology, existentialism, and the philosophy of time and temporality. She has taught at UNSW, and for the SSCP and MSCP.
Marilyn Stendera has undergraduate degrees in philosophy, social theory and German studies. She received a PhD in philosophy from the University of Melbourne, with her thesis exploring intersections between Heidegger’s model of time and contemporary cognitive science. She is also interested more generally in phenomenology, philosophies of cognition and temporality, virtue ethics and the analytic/Continental distinction. She has taught at Melbourne, Monash and for the MSCP.
Nihilism and Platonism
Lecturer: Dr Martin Black
Schedule: 4.45pm - 6.45pm. Monday, Feb 11 – Friday, Feb 15
Location: CAN, 180 Palmerston St, Carlton.
The most important thinkers of recent times claim that our time is characterized by nihilism. According to these philosophers, poets and other writers of the last century and a half, we have entered an epoch in which the meaning and purpose of human life are being radically degraded. The most powerful of these thinkers, Nietzsche and Heidegger, locate the root cause of the current florescence of meaninglessness in the thought of Plato. This claim that has since become widely accepted, not to say an unexamined foundation of much intellectual work despite, or because of the fact that their views on nihilism and Platonism are frequently interpreted in a manner directly contrary to their intentions.
This course will present an interpretation of the key texts that will allow for an open-minded assessment of these claims and for a reappraisal of Plato’s thought in their light, in order to gain clarity about the fundamental alternatives open to us. After suggesting the main lines of thought that Nietzsche and Heidegger develop to imply the nihilistic consequences of Plato’s teaching, the course will offer an interpretation of Plato’s intentions as an argument against nihilism as a permanent problem of human nature. This presentation is intended to open the way to questioning which elements from the thought of Plato, Nietzsche, and Heidegger can provide guidance to our current dilemmas.
Extended excerpts from the key texts listed below will be provided to allow for a collective discussion of the central issues.
Monday: Introduction and Nietzsche on nihilism and Platonism
An introduction to the course, including the meaning of nihilism and the apparent agreement between Nietzsche, Heidegger and Plato on the meaning of moral and political decadence. Nietzsche on the causes of nihilism and its overcoming.
Texts: excerpts from Nietzsche’s Zarathustra and The Will to Power, Heidegger’s Introduction to Metaphysics and Plato’s Republic.
Tuesday: Nietzsche (cont.) and Heidegger on nihilism and the question of being
Nietzsche on Platonism as the origin of nihilism. Heidegger on nihilism and the forgetting of the meaning of being.
Texts: excerpts from Nietzsche’s Beyond Good and Evil and Twilight of the Idols, and Heidegger’s “What is Metaphysics”, Introduction to Metaphysics and the “Letter on Humanism.”
Wednesday: Heidegger on nihilism and Platonism
Heidegger on nihilism as the history of metaphysics beginning with Plato.
Texts: excerpts from “Plato’s Doctrine of Truth” and Nietzsche (esp. I.11, I.19-25; IV.15, 21-29 in the Krell translation).
Thursday: Authentic Platonism
Transition to the classical viewpoint of the relation between lived experience and metaphysics. Discussion of the Platonic conception of the principles of human existence, the ideas and “the idea of the good.”
Texts: Xenophon, Memorabilia I.11-16 and Phaedrus 229; Phaedo 96-101 and Republic 505-517.
Friday: The Platonic alternative to nihilism and concluding discussion
The possibility that what is called nihilism is not a historical phenomenon but a possibility inherent to human nature, and that a dialectic from a nihilistic understanding of human life on modern premises can lead to a non-reductive understanding of human life.
Text: excerpts from Plato’s Phaedrus.
Kant’s Aesthetics: The Beautiful, the Sublime, and the Aesthetic Ideas
Lecturer: Felicity Jarosz
Schedule: 7pm - 9pm. Monday, Feb 11 – Friday, Feb 15
Location: CAN, 180 Palmerston St, Carlton.
The term “aesthetics” was first used by Alexander Gottlieb Baumgarten in 1735 to mean epistêmê aisthetikê, or the science of what is sensed and imagined (Baumgarten, Meditationes §CXVI, pp. 86–7). Since that time, the term has been modified, re-conceputalised, and even entirely altered to mean everything from a philosophical study of art, to a theory of our appreciation of nature. The German Enlightenment philosopher Immanuel Kant is arguably the most well-known aesthetic theorist of the eighteenth-century. His work on the subject spanned his whole life, and culminated in the work of his third Critique, The Critique of the Power of Judgment published in 1790. In this work, Kant delivers his own theory of fine art posed in relationship to his two separate theories of our experience of the sublime and the beautiful in nature. His conceptualisation of aesthetic experience has since exerted an enormous influence on later theories of aesthetics, right up to the present.In this course, students will be introduced to the key concepts of Kant’s aesthetics, with a focus on his third Critique. In addition to discovering the differences between concepts such as the beautiful and the sublime, students will also learn of the place of Kant’s third Critique in the rest of his work, and will encounter some contemporary theories which take their bearings from this text. Students will also gain a sense of the evolution of Kant’s own thinking on aesthetics. We will inquire, for instance, into the differences between Kant’s earlier theory of aesthetics, contained in his Observations on the feeling of the beautiful and the sublime, published in 1764, and the third Critique. One key aspect of this change, as we will see, is Kant’s introduction of a theory of aesthetic ideas: “by an aesthetic idea, however, I mean that representation of the imagination that occasions much thinking though without it being possible for any determinate thought, i.e., concept, to be adequate to it, which, cconsequently, no language fully attains or can make intelligible” (CPJ; 5:314, p.192). For Kant, the highest form of art is poetry, and poetry has the power to present the indeterminate ideas formulated by our imagination and understanding in an object of art. Kant thus moves from an empirical understanding of aesthetics, whereby the concept of the sublime or the beautiful is revealed in works of art, to a transcendental theory of the power of human genius to create works of art that go beyond the representation of concepts. Throughout the course, students will thus gain a sense of the development of the key concepts that underlie Kant’s aesthetic theory. Finally, we will consider how this theory can shed light on the place of aesthetic experience in today’s world, in particular in light of questions concerning our engagement with the natural environment.
This course will be of an introductory nature, and will suppose no prior knowledge of Kant’s work or of aesthetics. While some of the material will be difficult, all that is required is an interest in the topic.
Session One: Key Critical concepts
Aims: To provide an introductory exploration of the key terms which underlie Kant’s aesthetic philosophy.
In this session students will be introduced to key concepts of Kant’s aesthetics such as, what grounds the understanding and reason in his transcendental philosophy; the conditions for rational and aesthetic forms of judgment; and the roles of space and time as subjective forms of human sensibility. Students will also develop an understanding of the roles of apperception, imagination, intuition, and the understanding, in the formation of a concept. By way of an introduction, this session will also provide a contextual understanding of Kant’s place in history as a philosopher of the German Enlightenment, and students will discover some interesting nuances to Kant’s use of style throughout his philosophical opus.
Kant, Immanuel. Critique of Pure Reason. Edited by Paul Guyer and Allen W. Wood, Cambridge University Press, 1998. (Sections TBA)
Frierson, P. (2011). Kant: Observations on the Feeling of the Beautiful and Sublime and Other Writings (Cambridge Texts in the History of Philosophy) (P. Frierson & P. Guyer, Eds.). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. §1 - §2.
Session Two: Theory of the beautiful
Aims: To develop an understanding of Kant’s Critical theory of the beautiful and its role within Kant’s aesthetic philosophy.
In this session students will learn about Kant’s theory of beauty and the role of taste in aesthetic judgments of beauty. This shall include an in depth analysis of the the necessary conditions which ground judgments of taste: disinterest, universality, indeterminateness, and perceived unity. Students will learn about the types of objects which can inspire aesthetic judgments of beauty, and shall develop an understanding of the role of pleasure in indeterminate aesthetic judgments.
Readings: Kant, I. (2000). Critique of the Power of Judgment (The Cambridge Edition of the Works of Immanuel Kant) (P. Guyer, Ed.; E. Matthews, Trans.). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Analytic of the Beautiful §1 - §22
Session Three: Theory of the sublime
Aims: To develop an understanding of Kant’s Critical theory of the sublime and its role within Kant’s aesthetic philosophy.
In this session students will learn about Kant’s theory of sublimity and how it contrasts with Kant’s theory of the beautiful. This shall include a complimentary reading of the necessary conditions which ground aesthetic judgments of sublimity in comparison to those of beauty, such as, formlessness, negative pleasure, contrapurposiveness, and measurements of quantity. Students will learn about the types of objects that can inspire an experience of sublimity, and shall develop an understanding of the contemporary debates which surround the ongoing relevance of the sublime to contemporary aesthetics.
Readings: Kant, I. (2000). Critique of the Power of Judgment (The Cambridge Edition of the Works of Immanuel Kant) (P. Guyer, Ed.; E. Matthews, Trans.). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Analytic of the Sublime §23 - §29
Session Four: Theory of Fine Art
Aims: To engage students in the critical analysis of Kant’s theory of Fine Art in the third Critique, and to develop their understanding of the role of aesthetic ideas in Kant’s overall aesthetic philosophy.
In this session students will examine three key components of Kant’s theory of Fine Art: art as distinct from nature, the role of genius in the creation of Fine Art, and the significance of Aesthetic Ideas as produced in the mind in response to works of Fine Art. This understanding of Kant’s theory of aesthetic ideas will prefigure a discussion on the possible nature of the artistic sublime and the revelation of ideas of reason in our aesthetic experience of the world.
Readings: Kant, I. (2000). Critique of the Power of Judgment (The Cambridge Edition of the Works of Immanuel Kant) (P. Guyer, Ed.; E. Matthews, Trans.). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Aesthetic ideas §30 - §53
Session Five: Contemporary considerations
Aims: to engage students in contemporary aesthetic debates which draw from Kant’s aesthetic theory in their desire to understand the relationship between human beings and the natural world.
In this final session, students will draw upon what they have learned in the four preceding sessions in order to engage with some contemporary interpretations of Kant’s aesthetic philosophy. Students will consider how Kant’s theory has been used to shed light on the place of aesthetic experience in today’s world, particularly in light of questions concerning our engagement with the natural environment. By way of a conclusion, this session will provide students with the ability to apply their own interpretation of Kant’s aesthetic philosophy in the wider context of their engagement with the natural environment.
Abaci, Uygar. “Kant's Justified Dismissal of Artistic Sublimity.” The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism, vol. 66, no. 3, 2008, pp. 237–251. JSTOR, JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/40206342.
Brady, Emily. “The Environmental Sublime.” The Sublime in Modern Philosophy: Aesthetics, Ethics, and Nature, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 2013, pp. 183–206.
Anthropocentric Sublime (“Sublime. Tremors of the World”, Centre Pompidou-Metz, 2016) – document will be consulted during lectures.