Summer School 2021
14 philosophy short-courses taught online January - February.
When: 11 Jan - 19 Feb 2021
Where: ONLINE. All courses will be taught via Zoom. Video recordings will also be available within a few days after each seminar for those who can't make the schedule. Readings are made available online before the school begins. Links to the Zoom classroom are sent out approximately 1 hour before class. All payment must be made via credit card during enrolment. Also it's worth noting that Melbourne is 11 hours ahead of UTC (5pm here is 7am in Berlin and 10pm in LA).
Summer School Programme
2 hours per week for 5 weeks
2 hours per day for 5 days
Chaosmos Refracted: The Schizophrenic Ecologies of Félix Guattari
Lecturer: Dr Timothy Deane-Freeman
Schedule: Mon 5-7pm Starts 11 Jan
Location: Taught via Zoom online.
This course offers an introduction to the philosophy of Félix Guattari, which we will unfurl along its two key axes: schizophrenia and ecology. As such, each week we will read excerpts from a key Guattarian text, beginning with those works dedicated to the propagation of schizoanalysis -The Machinic Unconscious, Molecular Revolution, and Schizoanalytic Cartographies- before moving to those texts which advance an “ecosophical” critique of Integrated World Capitalism -The Three Ecologies and Chaosmosis: An Ethico-aesthetic paradigm.
In keeping, however, with Guattari’s heterodox methods, our study will itself take the form of a schizo-ecological cartography, with each seminar dedicated to “reading” Guattari through, within and alongside other semiotic materials. Thus we will encounter an unconscious structured like free jazz, revolution modelled as a coral reef, ecology as we find it in the novels of Jane Austen, and capitalism conceived as a particular speed of light. In so doing, we will activate the “concrete machine” which constitutes Guattari’s thought- “an intradisciplinarity that is capable of traversing heterogenous fields and carrying the strongest charges of transversality.”
Guattari begins The Three Ecologies by quoting Gregory Bateson: “there is an ecology of bad ideas, just as there is an ecology of weeds.” The task of refashioning this first ecology -before the implosion of the biospheric systems which sustain it- is what makes the study of Guattari’s work a most pressing task today.
Week 1: Transversality as method
In week one, we will introduce Guattari via one of his most important concepts, transversality- an affective and noetic capacity for movement between disparate semiotic territories. Transversality emerges from Guattari’s work at the experimental La Borde psychiatric clinic, and his determination that analysis should not restrict itself to the pathologies of the “mad,” rather traversing the institution to interrogate the interdependent repetition compulsions of doctors, nurses, administrators and cooks. In so doing, Guattari instigates an immediately pragmatic and political philosophy which is dedicated to the multilateral problematisation of hierarchies and established orders, such as will spread out from La Borde into his parallel lives as an anti-capitalist militant and ecologist.
- Félix Guattari, “Transversality” in Molecular Revolution: Psychiatry and Politics, translated by Rosemary Sheed, Penguin, Harmondsworth, 1984, pp. 11-24
- Félix Guattari, “Introduction to Institutional Psychotherapy,” in Psychoanalysis and Transversality: Texts and Interviews 1955-1971, translated by Ames Hodges, Semiotext(e), Los Angeles, 2015, pp.60-75.
- Gary Genosko, “The Life and Work of Félix Guattari: From Transversality to Ecosophy,” in Félix Guattari, The Three Ecologies, translated by Ian Pindar and Paul Sutton, The Athlone Press, London, 2000, pp.106-160
- Anne Sauvagnargues, “Guattari: A Schizoanalytic Knight on the Chessboard of Politics,” in Éric Alliez & Andrew Goffey (eds.), The Guattari Effect, translated by Andrew Goffey, Continuum, London, 2011, pp.172-185.
Week 2: Machine and structure
In week two, we turn a to text which occupies a significant place in Guattari’s intellectual trajectory, marking his break with Lacanian structuralism and the beginning of his association with Gilles Deleuze, with whom he will develop a radically materialist semiotics. Against, however, a tendency in subsequent scholarship towards a marginalisation of Guattari -in favour of the more academically credentialled Deleuze- we will here map the fundamental contributions of Guattari-thought: the concepts of deterritorialization, desiring-machines and micropolitics, as well as a generalised critique of semiotics in the Saussurean mode. Against this model, and the formal dyad of signifier/signified, Guattari will draw on the work of Louis Hjelmslev and Charles Sanders Pierce, exploring a universe of inhuman signs, from birdsong to computer code, extending his transversal analyses into a critique of anthropocentric modes of thought and of life.
- Félix Guattari, “Machine and Structure,” in Molecular Revolution: Psychiatry and Politics, translated by Rosemary Sheed, Penguin, Harmondsworth, 1984, pp. 111-120.
- Félix Guattari, “Escaping from Language” and “Assemblages of Enunciation, Pragmatic Fields and Transformations,” in The Machinic Unconscious: Essays in Schizoanalysis, translated by Taylor Adkins, Semiotext(e), Los Angeles, 2011, pp.23-74.
- Ferdinand de Saussure, “Nature of the Linguistic Sign,” in Course in General Linguistics, translated by Roy Harris, Bloomsbury, London, 2013, pp.73-82.
- Louis Hjelmslev, “Expression and Contents,” in Prolegomena to a Theory of Language, translated by Francis J. Whitfield, The University of Wisconsin Press, Madison, 1961, pp.47-60.
Week 3: Actually existing schizoanalysis
Week three will see us grapple with the densest of Guattari’s theoretical interventions, his 1989 work Schizoanalytic Cartographies. As translator Andrew Goffey has noted, Cartographies constitutes “perhaps one of the last big books of French ‘theory’ […] to be translated into English,” and like other well-known works in this tradition, it is dedicated to an analysis of those unanticipated singularities which might open up “mutant universes of reference [for which] no calculation can predict the position or the potentialities.” Guattari’s approach, however, sets him apart from other francophone thinkers of the “event,” given his construction of an arduous fourfold diagram which might serve as an “instrument for deciphering modelling systems in diverse domains.” In this seminar, we will carefully enter this complex diagram, setting it to work on a series of aesthetic and political case studies - the music of Alice Coltrane, the Italian “Movement of 1977” and the photographs of Keiichi Tahara- each of which we will probe for consistencies and fields of reference which might resist normative semiotics, and elude the dominant modes of capitalist subjectivation.
- Félix Guattari, “The Cycle of Assemblages (First Global Approach),” in Schizoanalytic Cartographies, translated by Andrew Goffey, Bloomsbury, London, 2013, pp.69-102.
- Félix Guattari, “The Schizoanalyses,” in Sylvère Lotringer (ed.), Soft Subversions: Texts and Interviews 1977 – 1985, translated by Chet Wiener & Emily Wittman, Semiotext(e), Los Angeles, 2009, pp. 204-225.
- Hanjo Berressem, “Schizoecologic Cartographies,” in Félix Guattari’s Schizoanalytic Ecology, Edinburgh University Press, Edinburgh, 2020, pp.51-124.
- Félix Guattari, “Cracks in the Street,” in Schizoanalytic Cartographies, translated by Andrew Goffey, Bloomsbury, London, 2013, pp.253-262.
Week 4: Fractal Ecologies
The 1980s saw Guattari implicated in two “existential refrains” characteristic of 21st century subjectivity more broadly. Alongside a growing interest in the fraught relationship between human life and the Earth’s biosphere, he was subject to an immense and almost suffocating depression. Guattari’s response to this confluence demonstrates his conceptual ingenuity, as he outlines the transversal relationship between these subjective and planetary “pollutions.” In The Three Ecologies, he will thus advocate a fractal and multivalent ecology across the subjective, the social and the planetary registers. It is only by simultaneously seeking opportunities for intervention and resistance on all of these fronts, he will claim, that we might commence “the reconquest of a degree of creative autonomy… [and] counter the pervasive atmosphere of dullness and passivity.” In this seminar, we will attempt to be adequate to this challenge, with a speculative reading of subjective, social and environmental ecology as they intermingle across Jane Austen’s Emma.
- Félix Guattari, The Three Ecologies, translated by Ian Pindar & Paul Sutton, The Athlone Press, London, 2000, pp.23-70.
- Félix Guattari, “Plan for the Planet,” in Sylvère Lotringer (ed.), Soft Subversions: Texts and Interviews 1977 – 1985, translated by Chet Wiener & Emily Wittman, Semiotext(e), Los Angeles, 2009, pp.229 -243.
- Verena Conley, “New Ecological Territories,” in Gary Genosko (ed.), Deleuze and Guattari: Critical Assessments of Leading Philosophers, Vol. II, Guattari, Routledge, London, 2001, 645-664.
- Gregory Bateson, “Pathologies of Epistemology,” in Steps to an Ecology of Mind, Ballantyne Books, New York, 1972, pp.478-487.
Week 5: Chaosmosis
Chaosmosis crystalises themes which are marbled throughout Guattari’s many lives, aiming at nothing less than the instigation of a new “ethico-aesthetic paradigm” proper to the vast energies of mediatic subjectivation and the economic mechanosphere. Attendant to these hyperactive networks, Guattari perceives an immense potentiality for “resingularisation” -the creation of new Universes of value and of reference beyond the homogenising aspirations of an ascendant neoliberalism. In this context, he will turn to the autopoietic processes of art, which “rebounds and irrupts on states of things” in a “relative chaotization in confrontation […] with heterogenous states of complexity.” Far, however, from emphasising the reified productions of a “culture industry,” Guattari’s aesthetics opens onto a politico-metaphysical valorisation of creation and experimentation at every register of life, in transversal operations which Guattari’s nascent “ecosophy” is dedicated to mapping.
- Félix Guattari, “The New Aesthetic Paradigm,” in Chaosmosis: An Ethico-Aesthetic Paradigm, translated by Paul Bains and Julian Pefanis, Indiana University Press, Indianapolis, 1995, pp. 98-118.
- Félix Guattari, “Entering the Post-Media Era,” in Sylvère Lotringer (ed.), Soft Subversions: Texts and Interviews 1977 – 1985, translated by Chet Wiener & Emily Wittman, Semiotext(e), Los Angeles, 2009, 301-306.
- Humberto Maturana & Francisco Varela, Autopoiesis and Cognition: The Realization of the Living (Extract), D. Reidel Publishing, Dordrecht, 1980, pp.73-95.
- Paul Virilio, “From Highway Right to State Right,” in Speed and Politics, translated by Marc Polizzotti, Semiotext(e), Los Angeles, 2006, pp.49-57.
Grown Wrong: Biophilosophy after Darwin
Lecturer: Dr Ben Woodard
Schedule: Mon 7.30-9.30pm Starts 11 Jan
Location: Taught via Zoom online.
This course examines the philosophical and scientific history of post-Darwinian biology paying particular attention to the rise of eugenics in the late 19th and early 20th century. By analyzing the various combinations of philosophical, political, and anthropological texts the aim of the course is to discern the unquestioned assumptions and persistent concepts that made, and unfortunately continue to make, eugenical thinking possible in the present. Specifically we will look at how the role of philosophical concepts often produced theoretical constructs such as ‘bloodline’, ‘mutation’, or ‘race’ all of which were used politically while being justified by pseudo-scientific claims.
Topics discussed will include: reactions to Darwin’s theory of evolution, the emergence of eugenics and sociobiology, blood line and heritage as biopolitical objects, mutations, statistical models, and the biopolitics and biophilosophy of racism.
1. In the Shadow of Darwin (1860-1880)
- “Towards the Sociogenic Principle”-Wynter
Optional: “Freudarwin” - Guenolli and Marcaggi
2. Models and Mutations (1880-1920)
- Selection from Creative Evolution-Bergson, p 43-87
Optional: “William Bateson and the Science of Form”-Webster
3. Seed and Blood (1880-1920)
- “The Black Stork”-Harriet Washington
Optional: “From Impressibility to Interactionism”-Schuller
4. Modern Eugenics (1920-1950)
- “Was Hitler a Darwinian?” - Richards
Optional: “Us: On the Use and Abuse of Life for History”-Tarizzo
5. Contemporary Eugenics (1950-)
- “Being Cellular” - Jayna Brown
Optional: “The Race Question”-UNESCO
Ethico-political engagement and the self-constituting subject in Foucault
Lecturer: Dr Lenka Ucnik
Schedule: Tues 5-7pm Starts 12 Jan
Location: Taught via Zoom online.
This lecture series discusses Foucault’s final works on the care of the self and its connection to political and ethical agency. Over the 5 weeks we will look at Foucault’s shift to practices of the self, discuss his account of the hermeneutics of the subject from the lecture series of the same name, and demonstrates how this attitude of self-care serves as a form of critique and resistance—where it is both a way of living and acting in the world, and a critical response to a particular time and place.
Lecture 1: Overview of Foucault’s works on knowledge and power, and his shift to practices of the self
In the first lecture we will discuss Foucault’s three modes of objectification, which he identifies as affecting the constitution of subjectivity: truth, power and ethics. Additionally, this first lecture serves as an overview of Foucault’s works, looking at,
- Modes of scientific formation involving scientific investigations in which human beings are the subjects of scientific study and classification. The Order of Things is illustrative of this approach
- Regulating systems of power concerning practices of manipulation and examination that locate, shape and classify bodies in the social field. Examples of the second mode, typified in Discipline and Punish, include the division between the mad and the sane, the sick and the healthy or, the criminal and the good
- The final mode (ethics) deals with the ways in which individuals establish a relationship to the self that is self-constituted and facilitates personal understanding and the recognition of themselves as subjects.
Lecture 2: Hermeneutics of the self (exegesis and framework for Foucault’s care of the self)
In this lecture we will examine the “appearance” of the care of the self presented by Foucault and explain his 3 models of self-care in antiquity: Socratic-Platonic (ancient Greek), Roman-Hellenistic, and Christian.
In the posthumously published 1981-2 lectures at the College de France on The Hermeneutics of the Subject Foucault discusses the historical dimensions of subjectivity-truth relations and presents a detailed account of the relationship between truth and the subject. In the context of his broader examination of self-constitution, Foucault investigates how people are brought to see themselves as particular subjects in the first place.
Lecture 3: The subject of ethics
In this lecture we will examine Foucault’s understanding of ethical substance as an aspect of the self that is relevant for ethical judgment, and provides the basis of personal concerns and self-understanding.
Foucault identifies three aspects of ethics: ethical substance, the mode of subjection, and ascesis (technique). The particularities of these modes of subjectivity govern a person’s thinking and actions, and can range from such things as forms of sexual identity to how people are brought to embrace the ideals of a socio-cultural milieu. The formation of a particular kind of subject, a process that Foucault refers to as subjectivation, is the result of a complex set of forces acting and reacting upon one another. This contrasts with a view of subjectivity that casts it as unchanging and fundamental.
Lecture 4: Aesthetics of existence
In lecture four, we look at Foucault’s account of an aesthetics of existence, where the use of the term “art” exists in the space between ancient notions of technique and modern ideas of art as beautiful objects.
The constitution of subjectivity and self-knowledge is a never-ending process, with personally monitored practices of self-care at its centre. The relationship between ethics and aesthetics manifests through technical and ascetic practices, whereby ethical practice is principally a matter of self-critique and development, and not located in a “universal form of the subject”. The task Foucault sets, in articulating an ethical practice based in freedom, is to bring out ascetic practices from the realm of art, and place them into politics and society more broadly.
Lecture 5: Freedom, political thought and the ethical subject
In the final lecture, we will explore Foucault’s vision of the care of the self as a form of critique and resistance wherein the critical task is to question and challenge forms of domination, at whatever level, and sound a warning through one’s words and deeds
Self-care is central to Foucault’s vision for the expansion of resistance, with ethics serving as the mediator between the subject, knowledge and power. Through a critical attitude towards the present via an individual ethics, based on a specific notion of freedom, Foucault questions the limits imposed upon us and experiments with ways to reconfigure such limits. Simply, the care of the self is the acknowledgement that a person exists in a world that cannot be transcended, whilst simultaneously remaining an active part in it.
Lecturer: Dr Jon Roffe
Schedule: Tues 7.30-9.30pm Starts 12 Jan
Location: Taught via Zoom online.
Gilles Deleuze’s book Foucault, published two years after death of Michel Foucault, is described by its author as a portrait of ‘the greatest of modern philosophies’
At first glance, the book appears to be a fairly routine summary, framed in terms of an initial engagement with knowledge, a turn to the problematic of power, and then an examination of the nature of subjectivity. Deleuze also works through some of the most prominent points of contention about Foucault’s work: the particular modality of the functioning of power and its relationship to normativity, for instance, or the evergreen idea that, in his final work, Foucault ‘returns to the subject’.
Upon closer attention, however, what appears is a highly idiosyncratic effort to unify all of Foucault’s various works into one complete, carefully delineated structure – and one that draws just as heavily on the Kant of the first Critique as it does on the Nietzsche of the Genealogy, and more heavily on differential calculus than it does on the rich tradition of French history into which Foucault intervenes. More than this, it is based upon a comprehensive reading of Foucault’s body of work, giving pride of place for texts that are often overlooked (The Birth of the Clinic, Raymond Roussel)
The aim of this course is not to test the veracity of Deleuze’s reading, but to work through this remarkable reconstruction on its own terms.
Our major text will be the English translation of Deleuze’s book, which appeared in 1988. Given certain decisive infelicities in this translation, some alternative renderings of certain passages will be circulated in advance of class.
1. Introducing Foucault
Beyond providing an introduction to the course, this goal of this first seminar will be to present a relatively standard overview of Foucault’s work, broken down into the now traditional tripartite distribution mentioned above: the archeology of knowledge, the genealogy of modern power, and the ethics of the self. But throughout, I will characterise Foucault as a thinker of the possible. This seminar will lay the ground work for the more sophisticated reading that Deleuze will provide of Foucault’s work.
- Readings: Deleuze, ‘Life as a Work of Art’, François Dosse, ‘A Philosophical Friendship’, Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari
2. The double archive
The second seminar will turn directly to Deleuze’s book, and to the topic of knowledge.
Deleuze’s novelty in this regard is to separate out the visible and the sayable as the two heterogenous components of knowledge, and allows him to take into account texts (like Discipline and Punish) that are not traditionally foregrounded in considerations of Foucault’s analysis of knowledge. The division of knowledge into these two registers necessitates a form of mediation that co-adapts the one to the other. It is to this topic that we will turn in the next seminar.
- Readings: Foucault chapters 1 and 3
Additional reading: Foucault, ‘Conclusion’,The Birth of the Clinic. Foucault, ‘Conclusion’, The Archeology of Knowledge
3. Diagrams and forces
It is the analysis of power relations that will provide Deleuze with the schematism able to bring together the visible and the sayable. Foucault’s analysis of power is famous, but remains misunderstood – for this reason, we will dwell in the first hour on the second chapter of the book to clarify what he means by the term. In the second hour, we will turn to the ingenious definition of the diagram Deleuze elaborates, in attempting to show the relationship between forms and forces. We will conclude by discussing two questions: what is thought? What is life?
- Readings: Foucault chapters 2 and 4
Additional reading: ‘Panopticism’, Foucault, Discipline and Punish. ‘”We Other Victorians”’, Foucault, History of Sexuality 1
4. Folds of the soul
In this fourth seminar, we will consider Deleuze’s response to the idea that Foucault’s final works stage a ‘return to the subject’, which is negative, and see how he justifies his claim that Foucault had been concerned with subjectivity from the very beginning of his work. This will involve a continued deployment of all of the earlier categories in his study.
- Reading: Foucault chapter 5
Additional Readings: Foucault, ‘Modifications’ and ‘Morality and Practice of the Self’, History of Sexuality 2
5. What is human being? Conclusion
Deleuze’s book finishes with an appendix. What is perhaps strangest about this text is that it does not aim to give a further unity to the survey already completed, but to return to a specific problem – the status of human being – and to a specific text – the final chapter of The Order of Things, with its infamous closing wager that the form of man itself may ‘be erased, like a face drawn in sand at the edge of the sea.’ Our final seminar will aim to situate this meditation on the form of human being, and its overcoming, in the context of the previous discussions.
- Reading: Foucault, ‘Appendix: On the Death of Man and Superman’
Additional reading: Foucault, ‘The Human Sciences’, The Order of Things
Level: Intermediate. While no particular information will be presupposed – though a general familiarity with Kant’s critical philosophy will be a help – the course will cover some difficult material.
Bakhtin’s Voices and Official Culture
Lecturer: Dr Valery Vinogradovs
Schedule: Wed 5-7pm Starts 13 Jan
Location: Taught via Zoom online.
Mikhail Bakhtin (1895-1975) belongs to a group of Soviet artists of thought -- together with the likes of Solzhentsyn and Tarkovsky -- whose names and legacy are widely known in the West. Like his brothers and sisters in arms, Bakhtin suffered immensely during the Soviet regime, which, like many other regimes, directed funds and efforts into all kinds of affairs besides supporting daring artistic and intellectual searches for meaning. Most of Bakhtin’s work in English has been published posthumously, whereas much of it was conceived decades earlier in the 20’s and 30’s. This is partly due to the systematic harassment of the state, and also due to Bakhtin’s idiosyncratic writing style in Russian -- his own voice and language -- reflecting an enigmatic person.
Bakhtin’s philosophy draws from a bountiful intersection between verbal art, semiotics and real life. These three axes are inextricable. As social creatures, we are defined by our capacity to communicate. Art is a special means of communication, and it is charged with human values, since the artist draws from their life, cognitions, feelings and acts, so as to create. However, for Bakhtin, life is different from art in that the latter has a wonderful capacity to morph the original material into something new -- possibly, into new values. This way, art is always ideological, and yet some art may impose no ideology.
As in Nietzsche, creation of new values (concepts and aspirations) is a disruptive process, calling into question the official culture -- that which is diligently followed by the many. Bakhtin’s philosophy is in principle disruptive, then, as it celebrates the idea of “heteroglossia”: diversity of consciousnesses and lifestyles engaging in a dialogue in a work of verbal art. Incidentally, diversity is also the feature of folk culture, in Bakhtin, representing the carnival spirit, emptied and, typically, policed in contemporary Western culture. Note that it is not the “high” urban culture that covers the vast plurality of experience that the malleable human nature is disposed toward. It is in the “low” culture, formerly called Dionysian, or the culture of the collective body, that we may discover instincts and meanings essential to unleash the human potential.
The phenomenon of carnival and the art of the novel, Bakhtin argues, share a fundamental trait -- hence, in our course we will traverse his choice of key literary texts. For example, Bakhtin chooses Rabelais because the renaissance master’s work marks Western culture’s last productive clash between a life-affirming impulse to carnival and the state subsuming anything unpredictable and joyous and transgressive under its rational directives. Further, Bakhtin chooses Dostoevsky, because the great Russian genius forces no single autocratic voice onto his readers. Dostoevsky is plagued by riddles, and his characters communicate all kinds of conflicting and convincing views; collectively they fit into no plan or a rigid body of values, inviting us to explore a perspective of our own.
Meaningful engagement with a novel, as a quintessential artform reflecting life, is Bakhtin’s chief educational objective. At the same time, an acquisition of this skill-set is conducive to one’s critical engagement with any other voice or a choir that wants to appear absolute. Accordingly, our course capitalises on the polyphonic and dialogical nature of Bakhtin’s legacy, examines his oeuvre, navigating through literary theory and texts, so as to better understand the voice of Bakhtin himself, publicised in a recently translated series of interviews, and considered at the end of our course.
1. The Dialogic Imagination
- M. Bakhtin (1981). The Dialogic Imagination: Four Essays. Austin: University of Texas Press.
2. Rabelais and Gogol: Folk Culture and Urban Culture
- M. Bakhtin (1984). Rabelais and his World. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.
- M. Bakhtin (1983). “Rabelais and Gogol: The Art of Discourse and the Popular Culture of Laughter”. Mississippi Review, vol. 11 (3): 34-50.
3. Dostoevsky vs Tolstoy: Question of Polyphony
- M. Bakhtin (1984). Problems of Dostoevsky’s Poetics. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.
4. Problems of Literary Texts: Late Developments
- M. Bakhtin (1986). Speech Genres and Other Late Essays. Austin: University of Texas Press.
5. Act of Creation: Bakhtin in Conversation
- M. Bakhtin (1993). Toward a Philosophy of the Act. Austin: University of Texas Press.
- M. Bakhtin (2019). The Duvakin Interviews, 1973. Lewisburg: Bucknell University Press.
Shoshana Zuboff’s ‘The Age of Surveillance Capitalism’
Lecturer: Elise Addlem
Schedule: Wed 7.30-9.30pm Starts 13 Jan
Location: Taught via Zoom online.
In The Age of Surveillance Capitalism: The Fight for a Human Future at the New Frontier of Power (2019), Shoshana Zuboff theorises the issue of online privacy and data surveillance in a manner that speaks to both the complexity of the urgent moral and ethical issue at stake. Zuboff argues that we are currently living in a new capitalist age, wherein a ‘Big Other’, called surveillance capitalism, has given birth to a qualitatively different kind of power. Zuboff argues that Google, Facebook and other big tech companies extract endless data from human experience - the new kind of surplus value - thus robbing human beings of the right to our own experiences, turning these experiences into a resource that can be accumulated, while at once shaping our futures. In this course, we will explore the nature and implications of surveillance capitalism for privacy, autonomy, freedom and political action.
1. The historical conditions for surveillance capitalism
We will consider how Zuboff frames her concept of surveillance capitalism. With Google as its pioneer, Zuboff argues that the ‘laws of motion’ of surveillance capitalism, which began roughly 20 years ago, can be understood in a systematic fashion.
Key reading: Zuboff, S., (2019), The Age of Surveillance Capitalism (SC), Chapter 2 and 3
Extra reading: SC Chapter 1
2. Democracy, privacy and the conquest of everyday life
Zuboff describes a process whereby Google, followed by Facebook, begins to corner human beings, changing the socio-political landscape through an incursion of undefended territory. We will look at how these companies move from understanding to predicting human behaviour. Moreover, we will consider the vast range of ‘smart’ technologies that proliferate daily life that Zuboff argues are closing the gap between experience and data by understanding the human body and mind.
Key reading: SC Chapter 5 and 8
Extra reading: chapter 6 and 7
3. Shaping personality, emotion and political opinion
We will consider the effects on autonomy of using data accumulation to predict and shape and manipulate human emotions, views and beliefs, looking at Cambridge Analytica’s effect on Brexit and the 2016 US election to understand Zuboff’s argument about the relationship between data and political opinion.
Key reading: SC Chapter 9 and 10
Extra reading: Chapter 11
4. Instrumentarian power and the Big Other
Zuboff terms the new kind of power exerted under surveillance capitalism ‘instrumentarian power’. Seeing how Zuboff contrasts this with totalitarianism, we will explore how it works, its implications for human freedom, and the right of human beings to have a will to decide our own futures. Central will be the freedom to will the future.
Key: SC chapter 12 and 13
Extra reading: SC chapter 14
5. Surveillance capitalism in the pandemic world
Zuboff argues that the coronavirus pandemic has helped the expansion of big tech companies' invasion into every aspect of our world, as we have come to rely more heavily on online tools. We will also consider what Zuboff calls the human right to sanctuary from surveillance capitalism, and how human beings may fight in this new power struggle.
Key: SC chapter 16 and 17
Extra reading: SC chapter 15 and 18, Surveillance capitalism in the age of Covid-19, 2020,
The Three Conversions of Bernard Stiegler: An Overview
Lecturer: Dr Daniel Ross
Schedule: Thur 5-7pm Starts 14 Jan
Location: Taught via Zoom online.
Bernard Stiegler died on 5 August 2020, an immeasurable loss whose significance remains for us still to measure. This task remains for us in part because Stiegler’s work involves a profound reconsideration of the whole task of philosophy itself, shaking up both its means and its assumptions, yet most of the philosophical world has not yet felt the force of this rumbling. In other words, in addition to the analytical novelty of Stiegler’s thought, and the critical power he manages to summon, his work also embodies an attempt to renew and reinitialize what it is to do philosophy, and what it is to do it in this difficult age, faced as we are with a critical situation in which all of our contemporary systems seem to be rushing headlong towards their threshold limits.
This Summer School Course aims to introduce the fundamental tenets and approach of Stiegler’s work, proposing that it can be divided into three phases, each of which follows what can be considered a kind of ‘conversion of the gaze’. The first of these conversions derives from the existential crisis into which Stiegler was thrown personally when he found himself incarcerated, and consists in asking himself the question of what constitutes the ‘element’ of what Aristotle called the noetic soul, leading to a critique of the place of technics and technical memory in Heidegger and Husserl. The second conversion stems from the consequences of 9/11 and other portentous events occurring around the same time, which made clear to Stiegler the depths of the consequences of having entered a ‘cinematic age’, and led to the formulation of a ‘general organology’ revising Simondon’s account of individuation, extending Auroux’s concept of grammatization, and generalizing Derrida’s reading of the duplicity of the pharmakon. The third conversion arose from the realization that the problems named geologically by the notion of a new epoch – the Anthropocene – send us into a paradoxical situation in which absolute urgency must be combined with profound reflection, leading to a reinscription of the history of philosophy in terms of a reconsideration of concepts of entropy, negentropy and anti-entropy, in light of the works of Vernadsky, Schrödinger, Georgescu-Roegen and especially Lotka, and in relation to a new critique of political economy on the scale of the biosphere-cum-technosphere.
The course is also intended to prepare the way for a Semester 1 course at MSCP that will build upon Stiegler’s thought in order to begin to strike out a path to be pursued in the aftermath of his massive contribution.
1. Introduction and Remembrance:
Who was Bernard Stiegler; tendency and counter-tendency; the question of the noetic soul
- Reading 1: Bernard Stiegler, ‘How I Became a Philosopher’ (in Acting Out)
- Reading 2: Daniel Ross, ‘Introduction’, in Stiegler, The Neganthropocene.
- Reading 3: Stiegler, ‘Technics of Decision: An Interview’, Angelaki (2003).
2. Technics and Time, 1
Critique of Derrida’s différance, Heidegger’s temporality, Husserl’s retention
- Reading 1: Stiegler, Technics and Time, 1, pp. 134–42.
- Reading 2: Anne Alombert, ‘From Derrida’s Deconstruction to Stiegler’s Organology’, Derrida Today (2020).
- Reading 3: Ross, ‘Tertiary Retention’, from Political Anaphylaxis (manuscript), pp. 113–41.
3. General Organology and Pharmacology
The three strands of individuation; grammatization and proletarianization
- Reading 1: Stiegler, ‘Allegory of the Anthill’, Symbolic Misery, Volume 1, ch. 3.
- Reading 2: Stiegler, For a New Critique of Political Economy, pp. 14–44.
4. Desire and Derive, and the Lost Spirit of Capitalism
Freud, Marcuse and the depletion of libidinal energy in consumerist capitalism
- Reading 1: Stiegler, ‘Freud’s Repression’, Symbolic Misery, Volume 2, ch. 4.
- Reading 2: Stiegler, ‘The Automatization of the Super-Ego’, The Lost Spirit of Capitalism, part 2.
- Reading 3: Stiegler, ‘Introduction’, What Makes Life Worth Living.
5. Exorganology and Neganthropology
Anthropocene as Entropocene, the Internation, and the need for a major bifurcation
- Reading 1: Stiegler, ‘The Anthropocene and Neganthropology’, The Neganthropocene.
- Reading 2: Stiegler, ‘The New Conflict of the Faculties and Functions’, Qui Parle (2017).
- Reading 3: Stiegler, ‘The Internation and Internationalism’, Alienocene (2019).
- Reading 4: Stiegler, ‘Introduction: Decarbonization and Deproletarianization’, in Internation Collective, Bifurcate (forthcoming).
Political Keywords of Emancipatory Politics
Lecturer: Dr Steven Corcoran
Schedule: Thur 7.30-9.30pm Starts 14 Jan
Location: Taught via Zoom online.
Sessions 1 and 2
The first half hour will serve us to discuss what is meant by a politics of emancipation, specifically one that takes equality as its central axiom. Indeed, the central stake in this series of lectures will be to explore the political forms and experiences that are indicated by our list of political keywords viewed through the lens of the egalitarian axiom. The general argument is that it is only if we centre these words on this axiom that we can gain an effective understanding of their current use and of the problems facing politics today.
The remainder of session 1 and all of Session 2 will be devoted to mapping the use of the terms ‘democracy’, ‘the people’, representative government, and other cognate concepts through a series of fundamental historical experiences up to the present. The aim here will be to delve into the imaginaries and statements, as well as institutional and extra-institutional forms that have underpinned effective egalitarian politics. The hope is that this will give us some measure of recent transformations in what is seen as democracy at the state level, but also to gauge present attempts at establishing practices of so-called direct democracy at the movement level. Finally, if time permits, we will ask how philosophy itself has historically received attempts at socio-political transformation.
- Bernard Manin, The Principles of Representative Government (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press., 1997)
- Jacques Rancière, Dis-agreement: Politics and Philosophy, trans. Julie Rose (Minnesota: University of Minnesota Press, 2004).
- Jacques Rancière, Hatred of Democracy, trans. Steven Corcoran (London: Verso, 2006)
Sessions 3 and 4
For these two sessions will we delve into the modern advent of egalitarian politics that goes by the name of communism – or rather look at attempts to verify that Alain Badiou calls the communist hypothesis. What exactly is this hypothesis? What attempts have been made at its verification? Does it remain relevant today?
Alessandro Russo has produced a masterful account of a key egalitarian sequence of communist politics: the cultural revolution. Exploring its rise and its demise, we will seek to clarify the political sense that can be attached today to the word ‘communism’ (or communist idea), ‘dictatorship of the proletariat’, ‘working class’, organization’, ‘revolution’ and ‘dialectics’ itself.
- Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, The Communist Manifesto, with an Introduction by David McLellan (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1992).
- Alain Badiou, The Communist Hypothesis, trans. David Macey and Steven Corcoran (London: Verso, 2010).
- Alain Badiou, The Century, trans. Alberto Toscano (Cambridge: Polity Press, 2007), Chapter 6, ‘One Divides into Two’.
- Alessandro Russo, The Cultural Revolution and Revolutionary Culture (Durham: Duke University Press, 2020).
Drawing on our analyses of the aforementioned political keywords, the last session aims at gauging current attempts to reinvent radical egalitarian politics: from the Arab Spring to Syntagma Square, from Occupy Wall Street to Nuit Debout, how are we to understand the forms that attempted reinventions of egalitarian politics are taking today? What problems do they evince? What guiding ideas can help us to grasp their general orientation?
- Alain Badiou, Greece and the Reinvention of Politics, trans. David Broder (London: Verso, 2018).
- Jacques Rancière, What Times Are We Living In? trans. Steven Corcoran (Cambridge: Polity, 2020).
Stoicism as a Social Philosophy
Lecturer: Dr Will Johncock
Schedule: Fri 5-7pm Starts 15 Jan
Location: Taught via Zoom online.
Stoic philosophy has recently experienced a resurgence of public and academic interest. Much of this attention celebrates the benefits that are perceived to arise for individuals if they employ the ancient Stoic mantra of being indifferent to what is not within one’s control. Discussions of personal rewards regularly dominate modern commentaries that focus on the Stoic division of (a) internal, mental, rational functions that are within our control, from (b) external, social, physical, and circumstantial phenomena that are beyond our control. Also habitually stressed is the Stoic concern that when we are influenced by what is not internal to the self, we are living outside our essential, rational nature.
This course, however, presents what is essential to the self in Stoic philosophy by going beyond notions of internal control. We will instead contextualise the Stoic sense of the individual through Stoicism’s primary preoccupations with communal principles and collegial ways of being. Such a study is timely, given the collective responsibilities required of populations in response to COVID. For the Stoics, it is in our rational nature to prioritise social rather than individual ends. In exploring the Stoic impression that our individual nature is a trace of a universal fellowship, we will in this course participate in a heritage of thought that interrogates distinctions of what is internal versus external to the self. Featuring all major ancient Stoics, later ancient accounts of early Stoicism, and modern Stoic scholarship.
1. Our internal and external social lives
What is Stoic philosophy (ancient and modern)?
How does Stoicism separate our internal mind from an external world?
What is our daimon according to Epictetus, Posidonius, and other Stoics?
What might be shared about our individual minds/rationalities?
- Epictetus. 2004. Enchiridion. Translated by George Long. New York: Dover Publications. (Chapter 1).
- Epictetus. 2008. Discourses and Selected Writings. Translated by Robert Dobbin. Oxford: Penguin Classics. (Passages from Books 1-3).
Optional further reading
- Bobzien, Susanne. 1998. Determinism and Freedom in Stoic Philosophy. Oxford: Clarendon Press. (pp. 330-45).
- Diogenes Laërtius. 1853. The Lives and Opinions of Eminent Philosophers. Translated by Charles Yonge. London: Henry G. Bohn Publishers. (Book 7.52-79).
- Dyson, Henry. 2009. ‘The God Within: The Normative Self in Epictetus.’ History of Philosophy Quarterly 26(3): pp. 235-53.
- Stephens, William. 2014. ‘Epictetus on Beastly Vices and Animal Virtues.’ In Dane Gordon and David Suits (eds.) Epictetus: His Continuing Influence and Contemporary Relevance. New York: RIT Press. (pp. 207-39).
2. Caring for the self and others
Why is self-preservation our primary impulse for Zeno, Chrysippus, and other Stoics?
Are our self-preserving tendencies in fact concerned with collective goals?
Why does Hierocles want us to care about strangers the way we care about our closest friends and family?
Is this demand socially achievable? How do modern Stoics respond to Hierocles?
- Cicero, Marcus Tullius. 1914. De Finibus Bonorum et Malorum (On the Ends of Good and Evil). Translated by Harris Rackham. London: William Heinemann. New York: The Macmillan Company. (Passages from Books 3 and 4).
- Cicero, Marcus Tullius. 1928. De Officiis (On Duties). Translated by Walter Miller. London: William Heinemann Ltd. New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons. (Passages from Books 1 and 3).
- Hierocles. 2009. Hierocles The Stoic: Elements of Ethics, Fragments, and Excerpts. Edited by Ilaria Ramelli. Translated by Ilaria Ramelli and David Konstan. Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature. (Passages from Book 4).
Optional further reading
- Annas, Julia. 1993. The Morality of Happiness. New York: Oxford University Press. (pp. 262-76).
- Aristotle. 2004. The Nicomachean Ethics. Translated by J. Thompson. London and New York: Penguin. (Book 1).
- Becker, Lawrence. 1998. A New Stoicism. Princeton: Princeton University Press. (pp. 69-80).
- Schibili, Hermann. 2002. Hierocles of Alexandria. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press.
3. Our socially oriented education?
Does the education and training of individuals have only socially intended goals?
What are the social arts in which Seneca wants us to be educated? Might they calm our fears?
How do Sextus Empiricus and Epictetus disagree regarding education and knowledge?
What are Musonius Rufus’ societal ambitions behind his argument for educational equality?
- Epictetus. 2008. Discourses and Selected Writings. Translated by Robert Dobbin. Oxford: Penguin Classics. (Passages from Books 1-4).
- Musonius Rufus. 2011. Musonius Rufus: Lectures & Sayings. Edited by William Irvine. Translated by Cynthia King. CreateSpace. (Selected Lectures).
- Seneca, Lucius Annaeus.1969. Letters from a Stoic. Edited and translated by Robin Campbell. London and New York: Penguin. (Selected Letters)
Optional further reading
- Grahn-Wilder, Malin. 2018. Gender and Sexuality in Stoic Philosophy. New York: Palgrave MacMillan. (pp. 264-72).
- Nussbaum, Martha. 2002. ‘The Incomplete Feminism of Musonius Rufus, Platonist, Stoic, and Roman.’ In Martha Nussbaum and Juha Sihvola (eds.) The Sleep of Reason: Erotic Experience and Sexual Ethics in Ancient Greece and Rome. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press. (pp. 283-326).
- Plato. 2012. Republic. Translated by Christopher Rowe. London and New York: Penguin Books. (Book 6).
- Sextus Empiricus. 2005. Against the Logicians. Translated by Richard Bett. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. (Books 1-2).
4. A community of bodies
How separated are our bodies?
What does Zeno mean that everything that exists is bodied?
How do ancient Stoics define the universe as interconnected? How do some modern Stoics view this interconnection differently?
How does Marcus Aurelius describe the world as one community?
- Long, Anthony, and Sedley, David (editors and translators). 1987. The Hellenistic Philosophers: Volume 1: Translations of the Principal Sources, with Philosophical Commentary. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. (Passages from the SVF).
- Marcus Aurelius. 1964. Meditations. Translated by Maxwell Staniforth. London: Penguin Books. (Passages from Books 1-10).
Optional further reading
- Baltzly, Dirk. 2003. ‘Stoic Pantheism.’ Sophia 42(2): pp. 3-33.
- Plato. 1871. ‘Sophist.’ In The Dialogues of Plato: Volume IV. Translated by Benjamin Jowett. London: Oxford University Press. (pp. 281-408).
- Stephens, William. 1994. ‘Stoic Naturalism, Rationalism, and Ecology.’ Environmental Ethics 16(3): pp. 275-86.
- Whiting, Kai, and Konstantakos, Leonidas. 2019. ‘Stoic Theology: Revealing or Redundant.’ Religions 10(3). https://www.mdpi.com/2077-1444/10/3/193/htm
5. Collective happiness
How do reason and emotion interrelate for Epictetus, Chrysippus, and Posidonius?
Why is Stoic happiness not exactly a state of emotion?
What is the connection between happiness and virtuous action?
Does happiness in Stoicism manifest through communal activity?
- Long, Anthony, and Sedley, David (editors and translators). 1987. The Hellenistic Philosophers: Volume 1: Translations of the Principal Sources, with Philosophical Commentary. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. (Passages from the SVF and Galen’s “On Hippocrates’ and Plato’s doctrines”).
- Posidonius of Rhodes. 1999. Posidonius: Volume III: The Translation of the Fragments. Edited by J. Diggle, N. Hopkinson, J. Powell, M. Reeve, D. Sedley and R. Tarrant. Translated by I. G. Kidd. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. (Selected Fragments and Testimonia).
Optional further reading
- Cooper, John. 1998. ‘Posidonius on Emotions.’ In Juha Sihvola and Troels Engberg-Pedersen (eds.) The Emotions in Hellenistic Philosophy. Edited by. Dordrecht: Springer Science+Business Media. (pp. 71-112).
- Gill, Christopher. 2007. ‘Galen and the Stoics: Mortal Enemies or Blood Brothers.’ Phronesis 52(1): pp. 88-120.
- Robertson, Donald. 2014. ‘Stoics Are Not Unemotional!’ In Patrick Ussher (ed.) Stoicism Today: Selected Writings I. Edited by Patrick Ussher. CreateSpace. (pp. 33-6).
- Tieleman, Teun. 1996. Galen and Chrysippus on the Soul: Argument and Refutation in the De Placitis Books II-III. Leiden, New York, and Koln: Brill.
Possibility and Contradiction: An Introduction to Hegel’s Doctrine of Essence
Lecturer: Dr Nahum Brown
Schedule: Fri 7.30-9.30pm Starts 15 Jan
Location: Taught via Zoom online.
Hegel’s Science of Logic (1812-1816) is one of the most complicated but rewarding books of ontology ever written. This course presents a second installment of an initiation into Hegel and the Logic by focusing on the Doctrine of Essence division of the book. Hegel’s Doctrine of Essence is filled with insights about the underlying substratums of reality. We will look at Hegel’s thesis that the various modes of outward appearance (shine, concrete existence, actuality, etc.) dialectically overlap with, even emerge as, their underlying substratums (essence, ground, absolute necessity, etc.). Hegel claims that each particular thing constitutes the entirety of itself as essence; each particularity is at the same time both itself and the universal; each thing expresses the whole and is thoroughly interconnected with everything. To explore this insight, we will explicate Hegel’s dialectical analysis of the fundamental structures of the doctrine. We will also look closely at Hegel’s modal argument, as it appears in the “Actuality” chapter. As one of the core themes of the Doctrine of Essence, Hegel claims to have discovered the developmental relationship between actuality, possibility, necessity, and contingency. We will pay special attention to Hegel’s discussion of actuality and possibility as transitional concepts, Hegel’s contentious claim that possibility only seems to be different from necessity, and we will also investigate the roles that negativity and contradiction play in terms of modality. This course is built to be a continuation of an advanced introduction to Hegel’s philosophy, and to the Logic as a book, but this course is also designed, for those students who did not attend the first installment, to be a stand-alone introduction to Hegel. As with the first installment, this course is ideal for students who are interested in the historical foundations of continental philosophy and who would like to explore Hegel’s Logic as a precursor to the contemporary tradition.
- Hegel, The Science of Logic, translated by di Giovanni, Cambridge University Press, 2010.
Suggested Readings (Hegel commentaries)
- Brown, Nahum. Hegel on Possibility: Dialectics, Contradiction, and Modality. London: Bloomsbury, 2020.
- Burbidge, John W. The Logic of Hegel’s Logic. Peterborough: Broadview Press, 2006.
- Carlson, David Gray. A Commentary to Hegel’s Science of Logic. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2007.
- Hahn, Songsuk Susan. Contradiction in Motion: Hegel’s Organic Concept of Life and Value. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2007.
- Houlgate, Stephen. The Opening of Hegel’s Logic: From Being to Infinity. West Lafayette: Purdue University Press, 2006.
- Hyppolite, Jean. Logic and Existence, translated by Leonard Lawlor and Amit Sen. Albany: SUNY Press, 1997.
- Longuenesse, Béatrice. Hegel’s Critique of Metaphysics, translated by Nicole J. Simek. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2007.
- Maker, William. Philosophy without Foundations: Rethinking Hegel. Albany: SUNY Press,1994.
- Malabou, Catherine. The Future of Hegel: Plasticity, Temporality and Dialectic, translated by Lisabeth During. London: Routledge, 2005.
- Moss, Gregory S. Hegel’s Foundation Free Metaphysics: the Logic of Singularity. New York: Routledge, 2020.
- Nancy, Jean-Luc. Hegel: The Restlessness of the Negative. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. 2002.
- Winfield, Richard Dien. Hegel’s Science of Logic: A Critical Rethinking in Thirty Lectures. Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield, 2012.
Week 1: Being and Essence
We focus on the large-scale relationship between the Doctrine of Being and the Doctrine of Essence. We review some of the major motifs from Being, such as Hegel’s claim that the Logic is a presuppositionless science, the being-nothing-becoming nexus, and the good infinite passages. We do this review so that we can examine how Hegel develops these insights in terms of Essence. In the second half of this week’s seminar, we discuss Hegel’s analysis of “shine” as the first conceptual layer of the Doctrine of Essence. Hegel proposes that when we look back at being from the advancement of essence, being appears first as “shine,” that is, as the surface of reality, whereas essence appears as the substratum.
- “Being,” 59-60
- “The Doctrine of Essence,” 337-340
- “Shine,” 341-353
Week 2: Essence Must Appear
This week is devoted to Hegel’s primary thesis from the Doctrine of Essence, that is, his dialectical account of outward appearance and substratum. As a critical response to numerous conventional metaphysical models (from Plato and Aristotle to modern philosophy), which view outward appearance and the substratum to be fundamentally distinct, Hegel claims that particularity and universality cannot be fully separated, but are instead dialectically intertwined, each emerging in and as the other. This has the big consequence of causing us to revise our common sense notion that there are other worlds or realms beyond our everyday world. Hegel’s dialectical account is epitomized in the catchphrase “essence must appear.”
- “Appearance,” 437-448
Week 3: Hegel’s Theory of Possibility
In the final three weeks of the seminar, we do an in-depth study of Hegel’s theory of possibility as it appears in the “Actuality” chapter (the penultimate chapter of the Doctrine of Essence). The “Actuality” chapter offers a dense but engaging developmental conceptual analysis of the modal categories of “actuality,” “possibility,” “contingency,” and “necessity.” In week 3, we give an overview of Hegel’s theory, present Hegel’s modal theory as a solution to the problem of modal indeterminacy, and situate his analysis of the modal categories within the history of responses to the problem. We also compare Hegel’s solution with two popular solutions to modal indeterminacy – (1) modal priority and (2) world separation.
- “Actuality,” 477-488
Week 4: The Possibility Not to Be
This week, we focus on the role that negativity plays in Hegel’s theory of possibility. As the basis of the “Actuality” chapter, Hegel claims that if something is possible, this means that it can become actual, but that it also can not become actual. There are, in effect, two sides of possibility in Hegel’s account. There is a positive side, which is that something can become actual. But there is also a negative side, which is that something can remain merely possible as the possibility not to be. We look at Hegel’s argument that the negative side of possibility plays a significant role in the constitution of modal reality. We also look at Hegel’s contentious claim that, because of the existence of the negative side of possibility, the actualization of possibility leads to a productive contradiction, that this contradiction cannot be sustained, and that, because of this, modal reality takes on a developmental structure in which actuality expands to include in concrete existence the totality of possibility.
- “Actuality,” 477-488
- “Contradiction” and Remarks, 374-385
Week 5: Expanded Actuality and Substance
In our final session, we come to terms with Hegel’s developmental revision of the concept “actuality” as a term that includes both the positive and negative sides of possibility as one expanded actuality, rather than as a conventional conception of actuality that excludes various unactualized possibilities for the sake of actualization. Ultimately, in Hegel’s theory, actuality expands so much that it eventually becomes a transitional concept with possibility. To address how this expansion works, we outline three strategies Hegel takes up in the text. (1) The indifference strategy presents actuality as contingent, and thereby unifies the sides of possibility through an actuality that could have been otherwise. (2) The dispersion strategy presents the process of conditional, material actualization, where the possibilities of one thing exist dispersed in the actualities of others. And (3) the substance strategy presents an actuality that is itself both the particular thing and at the same time the universal substance, that is, both the instantiation and the totality of all possibilities of the thing in question. This course ends with the recognition that, according to Hegel, actuality expands to the point of being substance, and that as the culmination of the Doctrine of Essence, substance gives way to a new domain of logic in the Doctrine of the Concept.
- “Actuality,” 477-488
- “The Absolute Relation,” 489-492
Emmanuel Levinas: Reimagining Subjectivity and Ethics
Lecturer: Tiffany Plotzza
Schedule: 12noon-2pm 15-19 Feb
Location: Taught via Zoom online.
With neoliberal ideology pervading the western collective consciousness, ‘human nature’ is routinely described as fundamentally egotistical. In line with this, our moral obligations to others are regularly viewed as a problem, and this is highlighted in the language of moral philosophy as the ‘problem’ of moral obligation. When we understand the human subject to be defined by an individualistic and selfish nature other people are viewed primarily as a constraint to individual freedom, and ethics becomes the task of securing the subject’s rights and interests. This approach to moral obligation dominates western moral philosophy, and when we consider the moral crisis that encapsulates this cultural moment - the global refugee impasse, apathy to the climate emergency, the rise of demagogues, insipid and structural violence against women, people of colour, and other minorities, unconversable tribalism, the widening gap between the rich and the poor - perhaps a rethinking of subjectivity is needed to enact a fresh approach to ethics. The thought of Emmanuel Levinas challenges our established ways of conceiving of subjectivity and ethics in a manner that is uncommon to traditional western moral philosophy. A contemporary of Simone de Beauvoir, Jean-Paul Sartre and Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Levinas is often overlooked or dismissed as a ‘religious thinker’ or as a ‘moral idealist.’
This course will present Levinas’s conception of subjectivity as other constituted, and his account of ethics defined by the relation with the human other, as a means of reimagining our understanding of subjectivity and our approach to ethics. We will begin by analysing Levinas’s phenomenological descriptions of subjectivity in his two major works – Totality and Infinity and Otherwise Than Being or Beyond Essence – before examining the implications this has for the way we understand and address both subjectivity and the ‘problem’ of moral obligation in moral philosophy, and for how these are considered in the wider public consciousness. Finally, we will see if Levinas’s phenomenology of the subject and ethics can be practically applied to current moral dilemmas.
The aim of the course is to not only employ Levinas’s phenomenology as a means of rethinking our common understandings of subjectivity and ethics, but to challenge the generic picture of Levinas as simply the philosopher of ‘the other’.
Lecture One: ‘A Defense of Subjectivity’
In this first lecture we briefly examine key concepts in Levinas’s first major work - Totality and Infinity - with an overview of the questions raised by its preface, before forming an understanding of Levinas’s conception of the nature of subjectivity through a close analysis of section II. Although this section is often skipped over in favour of section III and Levinas’s phenomenological account of the ‘face’, we will come to see that is it only through a careful examination of section II that we can understand Levinas’s conception of the ‘face’, or relation with the transcendent human other, introduced at the beginning of the text. The aim of this lecture is to apprehend the significance of egoism in Levinas’s phenomenology of the subject, which is often lost in the standard description of his ethics of the ‘face’.
- Levinas, Emmanuel 1969, “Preface”, Totality and Infinity: An Essay on Exteriority, trans. A Lingis, Duquesne University Press, Pittsburgh, pp. 21-30.
- Levinas, Emmanuel 1969, “Section II: A. Separation as Life”, Totality and Infinity: An Essay on Exteriority, trans. A Lingis, Duquesne University Press, Pittsburgh, pp. 109-121.
- Levinas, Emmanuel 1969, “Section II: B. Enjoyment and Representation”, Totality and Infinity: An Essay on Exteriority, trans. A Lingis, Duquesne University Press, Pittsburgh, pp. 122-142.
- Levinas, Emmanuel 1969, “Section II: C. I and Dependence”, Totality and Infinity: An Essay on Exteriority, trans. A Lingis, Duquesne University Press, Pittsburgh, pp. 143- 151.
- Levinas, Emmanuel 1969, “Section II: D. The Dwelling”, Totality and Infinity: An Essay on Exteriority, trans. A Lingis, Duquesne University Press, Pittsburgh, pp. 152-174.
- Levinas, Emmanuel 1969, “Section II: E. The World of Phenomena and Expression”, Totality and Infinity: An Essay on Exteriority, trans. A Lingis, Duquesne University Press, Pittsburgh, pp. 175-182.
- Bernasconi, Robert 1989, “Rereading Totality and Infinity”, in C Katz with L Trout (eds.) Emmanuel Levinas: Critical Assessments of Leading Philosophers Vol. I, Routledge, London, pp. 32-44.
- Critchley, Simon 2002, “Introduction”, in S Critchley and R Bernasconi (eds.), The Cambridge Companion to Levinas, Cambridge University Press, New York, pp. 1-32.
- Davis, Colin 1996, “Chapter 2: Same and Other: Totality and Infinity”, Levinas: An Introduction, University of Notre Dame Press, Indiana, pp. 34-62.
Lecture Two: ‘I am you, when I am I’
With the conception of subjectivity presented in Totality and Infinity in mind, we will perform a close analysis of Levinas’s descriptions of the nature of the subject in chapter 4 of Otherwise Than Being or Beyond Essence. In this chapter entitled Substitution, we are presented with a somewhat different depiction of the concept described in the earlier text. Reading through this chapter we will see how this later description of subjectivity is a continuation of Levinas’s phenomenology of the subject described in Totality and Infinity. The difference in style between the two texts means that the connection between them is often oversimplified, when in fact reading them together gives us the full picture of Levinas’s conception of subjectivity.
- Levinas, Emmanuel 1998, “Chapter IV: Substitution, 3. The Self”, Otherwise Than Being or Beyond Essence, trans. A Lingis, Duquesne University Press, Pittsburgh, pp. 109-113.
- Levinas, Emmanuel 1998, “Chapter IV: Substitution, 4. Substitution”, Otherwise Than Being or Beyond Essence, trans. A Lingis, Duquesne University Press, Pittsburgh, pp. 113-118.
- Levinas, Emmanuel 1998, “Chapter IV: Substitution, 6. “Finite Freedom””, Otherwise Than Being or Beyond Essence, trans. A Lingis, Duquesne University Press, Pittsburgh, pp. 121-129.
- Levinas, Emmanuel 1998, “Chapter III: Sensibility and Proximity, 3. Sensibility and Psyche”, Otherwise Than Being or Beyond Essence, trans. A Lingis, Duquesne University Press, Pittsburgh, pp. 68-72.
- Levinas, Emmanuel 1998, “Chapter III: Sensibility and Proximity, 4. Enjoyment”, Otherwise Than Being or Beyond Essence, trans. A Lingis, Duquesne University Press, Pittsburgh, pp. 72-74.
- Levinas, Emmanuel 1998, “Chapter III: Sensibility and Proximity, 5. Vulnerability and Contact”, Otherwise Than Being or Beyond Essence, trans. A Lingis, Duquesne University Press, Pittsburgh, pp. 75-81.
- Davis, Colin 1996, “Chapter 3: Ethical Language: Otherwise Than Being or Beyond Essence”, Levinas: An Introduction, University of Notre Dame Press, Indiana, pp. 63-92.
- Edelglass, W 2006, “Levinas on Suffering and Compassion”, Sophia, vol. 45, no. 2, pp. 43-59.
- Bernasconi, Robert 2002, “What is the Question to Which Substitution is the Answer?”, in S Critchley and R Bernasconi (eds.), The Cambridge Companion to Levinas, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp. 234-251.
Lecture Three: “You Shall Not Commit Murder” or the Ethics of the Face
In this third lecture, we will examine what Levinas’s conception of subjectivity means for ethics. With his account of the other-constituted subject firmly established, we can proceed with how this conception provokes a novel approach to the problem of moral obligation. To understand what makes Levinas’s approach novel, we’ll briefly consider how the problem has been framed in the history of modern moral philosophy, and the how the connections between subjectivity and moral obligation have been traditionally understood. Against this background, we’ll closely analyse section III of Totality and Infinity to determine the nature of Levinas’s much discussed but often misunderstood ‘face-to-face’ or ethical relation, and how it operates. We will read beyond Levinas’s beautiful, yet often hyperbolic and confusing language, to clarify key phrases like the ‘alterity of the other’, ‘the face’ and ‘the epiphany’ or command of the face – “you shall not commit murder. The main aim is to disentangle Levinas’s evocative philosophical lexicon, rather than simply repeating it, to provide a clear picture of Levinas’s phenomenology of ethics.
- Levinas, Emmanuel 1969, “Section III: B. Ethics and the Face”, Totality and Infinity: An Essay on Exteriority, trans. A Lingis, Duquesne University Press, Pittsburgh, pp. 194-209.
- Levinas, Emmanuel 1969, “Section I: A. Metaphysics and Transcendence”, Totality and Infinity: An Essay on Exteriority, trans. A Lingis, Duquesne University Press, Pittsburgh, pp. 33-52.
- Levinas, Emmanuel 1969, “Section III: A. Sensibility and The Face”, Totality and Infinity: An Essay on Exteriority, trans. A Lingis, Duquesne University Press, Pittsburgh, pp. 187-193.
- Shaw, Joshua James 2008, Emmanuel Levinas on the Priority of Ethics, Cambria Press, New York, pp. 37-52.
- Morgan, Michael L 2011, The Cambridge Introduction to Emmanuel Levinas, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, pp. 41-58.
Lecture Four: The Ethical Content of the Face… and the Trace
Continuing on from the previous discussion, we’ll delve deeper into the operation of the ethical relation, attending to some significant questions raised by the analysis undertaken in the last lecture. We’ll examine ‘thick’ and ‘thin’ interpretations of the ethical relation, and determine if the introduction of the notion of the trace in Otherwise Than Being means that the ethical relation must be devoid of ethical content. Furthermore, we’ll consider if the introduction of the trace means that the ethical relation cannot be read as a non-traditional foundation for ethics. To do so, we’ll perform a close analysis of the sections of Otherwise Than Being that attend to the concept of the trace and ‘the Saying and the Said.’ We will also examine the argument raised by prominent Levinasian scholar Diane Perpich that the ethical relation having the structure of the trace means that it cannot contain any ethical content that can tell the subject what she ought to do. The primary of goal of this lecture is to determine the ‘status’ of the ethical relation, and if it has any means of directing the subject to what she ought to do when confronted with an ethical dilemma. Introducing and analysing Levinas’s conception of discourse will provide us with a way of determining the latter.
- Levinas, Emmanuel 1998, “Chapter 1: Essence and Disinterest”, Otherwise Than Being or Beyond Essence, trans. A Lingis, Duquesne University Press, Pittsburgh, pp. 3-20.
- Levinas, Emmanuel 1998, “C. The Said and the Saying”, Otherwise Than Being or Beyond Essence, trans. A Lingis, Duquesne University Press, Pittsburgh, pp. 37-38.
- Levinas, Emmanuel 1998, “E. Proximity and Infinity”, Otherwise Than Being or Beyond Essence, trans. A Lingis, Duquesne University Press, Pittsburgh, pp. 93-94.
- Levinas, Emmanuel 1986, “The Trace of the Other”, in MC Taylor (ed.) Deconstruction in Context: Literature and Philosophy, trans. Alphonso Lingis, University of Chicago Press, Illinois, pp. 345-359.
- Perpich, Diane 2008, “Chapter 4: Ethics: Normativity and Norms”, The Ethics of Emmanuel Levinas, Stanford University Press, Stanford, pp. 124-149.
- Chanter, Tina 1997, “The Betrayal of Philosophy: Emmanuel Levinas’s Otherwise Than Being”, Philosophy & Social Criticism, vol. 23, no. 6, pp. 65–79.
- Robbins, J 1995, ‘Tracing Responsibility in Levinas’s Ethical Thought’, in AT Peperzak, (ed.), Ethics as First Philosophy: The Significance of Emmanuel Levinas for Philosophy, Literature and Religion, Routledge, New York, pp. 173-184.
Lecture Five: Moral Revolutionary or ‘Mere Nuisance’ – Levinas and Applied Ethics
In this final lecture we will attend to a common objection raised against Levinas’s ethical framework – that it can have no practical bearing on our everyday lives. For context, we will begin by briefly considering the different variations of this objection, which includes a survey of Levinas’s description of the relation between ‘ethics’ and ‘politics’ through his conception of the ‘third party’. Against this background we will determine if and how the ethical relation can direct action, examining key concepts in Levinas’s phenomenological picture - discourse and teaching. With an understanding of these concepts along with other significant features of Levinas’s framework covered in the previous lectures, like the ethical relation and other-constituted subjectivity, we will test their application to practical political and ethical issues like harmful practices in the workplace and the current impasse in the #MeToo debate. Engaging in these test cases will provide an overview of the reading of Levinas’s phenomenology of subject and ethics developed in the previous lectures, and allow us to assess his contribution to traditional moral philosophy.
- Levinas, Emmanuel 1969, “Section III: B. Ethics and the Face, 6. The Other and the Others”, Totality and Infinity: An Essay on Exteriority, trans. A Lingis, Duquesne University Press, Pittsburgh, pp. 212-214.
- Levinas, Emmanuel 1998, “Chapter V: 3. From Saying to the Said, or the Wisdom of Desire”, Otherwise Than Being or Beyond Essence, trans. A Lingis, Duquesne University Press, Pittsburgh, pp. 153-162.
- Levinas, Emmanuel 1969, “Section I: 5. Discourse and Ethics”, Totality and Infinity: An Essay on Exteriority, trans. A Lingis, Duquesne University Press, Pittsburgh, pp. 72-77.
- Levinas, Emmanuel 1998, “Chapter IV: 5. Communication”, Otherwise Than Being or Beyond Essence, trans. A Lingis, Duquesne University Press, Pittsburgh, pp. 118-121.
- Levinas, Emmanuel 1969, “Section I: 5. Transcendence as the Idea of Infinity”, Totality and Infinity: An Essay on Exteriority, trans. A Lingis, Duquesne University Press, Pittsburgh, pp. 48-52.
- Bernasconi, Robert 1999, “The Third Party. Levinas on the Intersection of the Ethical and the Political”, Journal of the British Society for Phenomenology, vol. 30, no.1, pp. 76-87.
- Herzog, A 2002, ‘Is Liberalism "All We Need?: Lévinas's Politics of Surplus’, Political Theory, vol. 30, no. 2, pp. 204-227.
- Morgan, Michael L 2016, “Chapter Five: Responsibility for Others and the Discourse of Rights”, Levinas’s Ethical Politics, Indiana University Press, Indiana, pp. 90-124.
German Romanticism: Literature as Life
Lecturer: Dr Nanda Jarosz
Schedule: 2.30pm-4.30pm 15-19 Feb
Location: Taught via Zoom online.
This course will offer an understanding of early German Romanticism not so much as a school of thought, a philosophical movement, or even a response to a particular historical context, but rather as an intersection of personal and external relations that shaped a series of ideas, or ways of looking at the role of literature in the world of philosophy.
Over five lectures, students will be introduced to the philosophical works of a particular group of German Romantics known as ‘The Jena Circle,’ which included: the brothers Friedrich Schlegel and Wilhelm Schlegel, their wives Dorothea Schlegel and Caroline Schlegel, the young poet Novalis (Friedrich von Hardenberg), and the founder of ‘Naturphilosophie’ (Philosophy of Nature) Friedrich Schelling.
Focusing on the field of aesthetics, this course will investigate the importance of literature and poetry to the Jena Romantics in their pursuit of an ideal harmony between the mind and the external world. In this way, students of this course will come away with a greater understanding of the relationship between art, life and philosophy in the context of early German Romanticism.
This course will be of an introductory nature and will suppose no prior knowledge of German Romanticism. While some of the material will be difficult, all that is required is an interest in the topic.
Monday: Historical and philosophical context surrounding the emergence of German Romanticism
Reading: Goethe, Johann Wolfgang von. The Sorrows of Young Werther. Trans. Michael Hulse. United Kingdom: Penguin Books, 1989
Tuesday: Development of the field of aesthetics in the eighteenth century
Reading: Kant, Immanuel. Critique of the Power of Judgment. Trans. Paul Guyer. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2013. Online. Specifically: Introduction. Pages 59-86. AND Schiller, Friedrich. On Naïve and Sentimental Poetry. Trans. William F. Wertz, Jr.
Wednesday: Relationships of the Jena Romantics
Reading: Novalis. Hymns to the Night. Trans. George Macdonald. United Kingdom: Crescent Moon Publishing. Online: http://www.george-macdonald.com/etexts/hymn_to_night.html
Thursday: The idea of art as a process of historical development
Reading: Schlegel, Friedrich von. Dialogue on Poetry. Trans. Ernst Behle. University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1968.
Friday: Literature as life in the work of F.W.J Schelling
Reading: Schelling, F.W.J. Philosophy of Art. Trans. Douglas W. Stott. University of Minnesota Press. Specifically: General Section on the Philosophy of Art. Pages 78-161.
Luce Irigaray: The philosophy of sexual difference and women in film
Lecturer: Mara Antic
Schedule: 5pm-7pm 15-19 Feb
Location: Taught via Zoom online.
This course is conceptualised as an encounter between cinema and Luce Irigaray’s ontology of sexual difference. Irigaray’s attempt to reimagine female subjectivity and sexuality beyond the phallogocentric parameters is immensely productive for thinking about gendered spectatorship, authorship and the filmmakers’ strategies for representing female consciousness and corporeality on screen. The aim of the course is to explicate the points of convergence between the alternative filmmaking practices that challenge masculine film language and Irigaray’s insistence on the notion of sexual difference grounded in the specificities of female body, especially the female auto-eroticism and bodily multiplicity. Each class is devoted to the specific aspect of Irigaray’s theory of alterity, such as feminine language, enunciation, haptic visuality, and female genealogy, exemplified in the films of Agnès Varda, Marguerite Duras, Chantal Akerman, Claire Denis, Jane Campion, Céline Sciamma, Moufida Tlatli and Shirin Neshat.
Lecture 1: Sexual difference and film representation
The primary aim of this lecture is to introduce the key concepts and frameworks of Irigaray’s theory of sexual difference and discuss its overlapping relations (convergences, affinities or tensions) with the early feminist film theory. In particular, we will examine Irigaray’s This Sex Which Is Not One ( 1985) and Laura Mulvey’s seminal essay “Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema” (1975), both of which employ psychoanalytic tools to expose the objectification of women within the dominant phallocentric economy and seek to reconceptualize the traditional perceptions of female body, sexuality and its cultural representation.
- Irigaray, Luce (1985) This Sex Which Is Not One, Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, pp.23-85; 170-191; 205-218.
- Mulvey, Laura (1975) “Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema,” Screen 16:3, pp. 6-18.
- Grosz, Elizabeth (1989) “Luce Irigaray and Sexual Difference” In Sexual subversions: three French feminists, Sydney: Allen & Unwin, pp.100-183.
- Rivière¸ Joan (1929) “Womanliness as a masquerade,” The International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 1929: 10.
- Doane, Mary Ann (1982) “Film and the Masquerade: Theorising the Female Spectator,” Screen 23:3-4, pp. 74-87.
Lecture 2: The film language and female subjectivity
In her early work, Irigaray exposes erasure of the feminine from the Western philosophical tradition which privileges the male subject, arguing that the woman is defined only through her reflective function (she exists only as the negative of his reflection). In this lecture, we first examine Irigaray’s notion of the speculum, which she employs to disturb traditional perceptions and representations of female morphology. Then, we look at how this concept can be used to map out a space for the female specificity and desire in cinema. This particularly relates to alternative filmmaking techniques and strategies of representation of female subjectivity, or what Lucy Bolton calls “the camera as Irigarayan speculum” (2011).
- Luce Irigaray (1985) Speculum of the Other Woman, Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press. pp.112-145.
- Lucy Bolton (2011) “The Camera as an Irigarayan Speculum” in Film and Female Consciousness: Irigaray, Cinema and Thinking Women, New York: Palgrave Macmillan, pp.29-59.
- Whitford, Margaret (1991) “Subjectivity and Language” in Luce Irigaray: philosophy in the feminine, London; New York: Routledge, pp. 29-52.
- Moi, Toril (1985) Sexual-Textual Politics: Feminist Literary Theory, London: Methuen, pp.126-148.
- Bainbridge (2008) “Riddles of the Feminine in The Piano” in A Feminine Cinematics, London: Palgrave Macmillan, pp.155-184.
- Films: Jeanne Dielman (Chantal Akerman, 1975), Vagabond (Agnes Varda, 1985), Lost in Translation (Sofia Coppola, 2003), The Milk of Sorrow (Claudia Llosa, 2009), Women Without Men (Shirin Neshat, 2009).
Lecture 3: Female genealogies
Countering the backdrop of hegemonic patriarchal control and masculine filiation systems, Irigaray positions the female genealogies and woman-to-woman relationships as crucial for establishing the female subject in her own right. According to Irigaray, the mother-daughter relationship is related to the idea of divine necessary for women to establish themselves as subjects defined outside of their function in the patriarchal symbolic order. In this lecture, we will look at how women filmmakers engage with this issue and what strategies and techniques they employ to represent the female collectivity and mother-daughter relationships.
- Luce Irigaray (1994) Je Tu Nous: Toward a Culture of Difference, New York: Routledge, pp.7-15; 31-54; 121-126.
- Irigaray, Luce (1981) “And the One Doesn’t Stir without the Other,” Translated by Hélène Vivienne Wenzel, Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society, Vol.7.No.1, pp.60–67.
- Bainbridge (2008) “Screening Parler Femme: Silences of the Palace, Antonia’s Line and Faithless” in A Feminine Cinematics, London: Palgrave Macmillan, pp. 99-124.
- Irigaray, Luce (1993) The Ethics of Sexual Difference, Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, pp.59-72; 97-132.
- Whitford, Margaret (1991) “Maternal genealogy and the symbolic” in Luce Irigaray: philosophy in the feminine, London; New York: Routledge, pp. 75-98.
- Films: The Piano (Jane Campion, 1993), Silences of the Palace (Moufida Tlatli, 1994), Women Without Men (Shirin Neshat, 2009), No Home Movie (Chantal Akerman, 2015).
Lecture 4: Irigaray’s theory of love and gender relations
In the later stage of Irigaray’s work, her emphasis shifts from theorising female subjectivity to reconsidering intersubjective relations within a (heterosexual) couple, which she sees as foundational for envisioning a new socio-political order. In I Love to You and To Be Two, Irigaray reconceptualises love to include the space between the self and the other she calls the interval. This space of transcendence which acknowledges differences and prevents reduction of a person to an object. In this lecture, we will focus on how the cinematic spatial and temporal regimes render this space between the two subjects.
- Irigaray, Luce (1996) I Love to You, New York: Routledge, pp.97-128.
- Irigaray, Luce (1999) To Be Two, London: Athlone, pp.17-29.
- Irigaray, Luce (1992) Elemental Passions, New York: Routledge.
- Hill, Rebecca (2012) The Interval: Relation and Becoming in Irigaray, Aristotle and Bergson, New York: Fordham University Press, pp.113-125.
- Films: Orlando (Sally Potter, 1993), Trouble Every Day (Claire Denis, 2001), Portrait of A Lady on Fire (Céline Sciamma, 2019).
Lecture 5: Haptic visuality
As early as in Speculum and This Sex Which Is Not One Irigaray developed a theory of tactility associated with the female body and sexuality. Her insights into the affinities between the male identity and primacy of vision as well as her work on the caress allowing for female subjectivity and intersubjectivity can be particularly useful for discussing the feminist film phenomenology. The final lecture will thus combine Irigaray’s writings with Laura U. Marks’ (2000, 2002) theory of haptic cinematics to underline the importance of the embodied experience for the representation of female subjectivity in women’s cinema.
- Irigaray, Luce (1993) The Ethics of Sexual Difference, Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, pp. 133-217.
- Irigaray, Luce (2004) “To paint the invisible,” Continental philosophy review, Vol.37 (4), pp.389-405.
- Marks, Laura U. (2002) Touch: Sensuous Theory and Multisensory Media, Minneapolis: Minnesota University Press, pp.1-20.
- Merleau-Ponty, Maurice (1968) “The Intertwining—The Chiasm” in The Visible and the Invisible, Evanston: Northwestern University Press, pp.130-155.
- Grosz, Elizabeth (1993) “Merleau-Ponty and Irigaray in the Flesh” Thesis eleven, Vol.36 (1), pp.37-59
- Olthius, James H. (2009) Gazing Through a Prism Darkly: Reflections on Merold Westphal's Hermeneutical Epistemology, New York: Fordham University Press, pp.150-162.
- Films: India Song (Marguerite Duras, 1975), Friday Night (Claire Denis, 2002), Water Lilies (Céline Sciamma, 2007)
The World Does Not Exist: What this means and why it matters
Lecturer: Austin Hayden Smidt
Schedule: 7.30pm-9.30pm 15-19 Feb
Location: Taught via Zoom online.
The world does not exist. What could it possibly mean to utter such a seemingly nonsensical phrase? And more, why does it matter? Is this just some obscure philosophical phrase that is great for old guys with tweed jackets drinking sherry and smoking pipes in the halls of prestigious universities?
In this seminar, we will explore what it means to refer to “the world.” Then we will explain how this thing, this thing we call “the world,” does not – and cannot – exist. Then we’ll investigate why it matters that we understand the non-existence of the world.
We will begin by exploring a debate between György Lukács and Jean-Paul Sartre over the status of totality. That is, can we conceive of the whole? How ought we understand the relation between the parts and the whole? Can we still meaningfully talk about history and society and politics and ethics without a concept of the whole? Etc. Then we will focus on certain “postmodern” rejections of totality. In short, such approaches advocate for a radical constructivism. We will discuss post-structural constructivism, systems theory, and more. The political and social importance for these theories in rejecting totality will be our focus.
The final three sessions will be close readings of the work of Paul Livingston, Sergei Prozorov, and Markus Gabriel. Each of these figures offer a critique of totality and build their own model or theoretical system to replace it. For Livingston, it is his Paradoxico-Critical orientation; for Prozorov, it is his Badiou-inspired “void universalism”; and for Gabriel, it is his no-world view.
We will pay particular attention to the political stakes of thinking beyond totality and “the world.” Namely, that if we think from the world, then we end up with an ontotheology that leads to a dogmatic and moral image of thought (a la Deleuze’s critique of thinking from identity in Difference and Repetition). But if we are oriented via the Paradoxico-Critical, the “void,” or the no-world view then we can speculatively open ourselves up to expressions of thinking that might be able to eschew dogmatic and moralizing forms of thinking, while not giving up on the need to build strategies for global politics.
Seminar readings will be excerpts taken from select texts that will be provided by the convenor well in advance of the seminars.
Lecture 1: Totality v. Totalization
The first seminar will address a debate between Lukács and Sartre over the status of totality. Lukács is a great thinker of totality. However, for Sartre, Lukács’ theory produces an “idealist dialectics.” Why this matters for Sartre is that thinking from totality produces a serial form of thinking that forecloses the variation of the multiplicity from expressing itself in freedom. Thus, contra Lukács, Sartre proposes a theory of “totalization” that he believes allows us to still think a single meaning of History but without falling into dogmatism or bad faith.
- Excerpts from History and Class Consciousness (Lukács)
- Excerpts from Critique of Dialectical Reason, Volume 1 (Sartre)
- Excerpts from Sartre, Imagination, and Dialectical Reason: Creating Society as a Work of Art (by Austin Hayden Smidt)
Lecture 2: Rejecting Totality and Totalization
Seminar two will explore certain postmodern critiques of totality and totalization. We will spend the majority of our time examining the political and social importance for such thinkers in rejecting totality and totalization in favor of a radical constructivism. This class will be a survey of many different postmodern, post-structuralist, systems theory, etc rejections of totality.
- TBD (will be available well in advance of the seminar)
- But to prepare, students can consider the work of Lyotard, Foucault, Luhmann, etc.
Lecture 3: Paul Livingston and the Paradoxico-Critical Orientation
Seminar three will be a close reading of Paul Livingston’s Four Orientations between Thought and Being from his book The Politics of Logic. He demarcates four ways that philosophers have conceived of the relation between Thought and Being: ontotheological, constructivist/criteriological, Generic (Badiou), and Paradoxico-Critical. We will discuss each of these and the various thinkers that are categorized within them. Then we will present his own view as an alternative to the postmodern skepticism towards totality, while also embracing some of the critiques that postmodern thinkers offer.
- Excerpts from The Politics of Logic (Livingston)
Lecture 4: Sergei Prozorov and Void Universalism
Seminar four will present Sergei Prozorov’s Badiou-inspired theory for World Politics. Prozorov rejects 1) false universals, that merely inflate a specific regional narrative to the status of the universal; 2) passive nihilism, that rejects that status of the universal in favor of a multiplicity of regional narratives; and 3) active nihilism, that rejects the status of the universal but relies on the active power of a will to make a decision in putative freedom or authenticity to overcome the instability of passive nihilism (cf Carl Schmitt and Nietzsche here). Instead, Prozorov offers a theory of a “void universalism” that allows for politics to have a universal ground but without falling into the traps of dogmatism that accompany most theories of totality.
- Excerpts from Void Universalism: Ontology and World Politics (Prozorov)
Lecture 5: Markus Gabriel and the No-World View
The final seminar culminates our investigation by looking into the work of Markus Gabriel, whose no-world view will fully explain how and why the world does not, in fact, exist and why we need to think differently. We will summarize the central arguments of his no-world position and will then spend a good amount of time discussing how and in what ways this view is valuable for political and social thought and action.
- Excerpts from Fields of Sense (Gabriel)
- Other excerpts from Gabriels work might be provided as well.