Summer School 2022

Fourteen 10-hour courses taught online January-February

The Melbourne School of Continental Philosophy is proud to present the Summer School 2022 curriculum.  All courses are 10 hours in length.  All courses will be taught via Zoom. As always significant discounts apply for those enrolling in multiple courses. If you have any questions which aren't in our FAQs please email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

When: 10 January - 18 February

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 with the registration email.  All payment must be made via credit card during enrolment.  Also it's worth noting that Melbourne (AEDT) is 11 hours ahead of UTC (5pm here is 7am in Berlin and 10pm in LA).

Fees (AUD):

Courses Waged Unwaged
1 $120 $80
2 $180 $120
3 $210 $140
4+ $240 $160


Summer School Program

2 hours per week for 5 weeks

Mon 5:00-7:00pm
Starts 10 Jan
Deleuze’s Nietzsche
Lecturer: Jon Roffe
Mon 7:30-9:30pm
Starts 10 Jan
Murnane and his precursors
Lecturer: Brendan Casey
Tue 5:00-7:00pm
Starts 11 Jan
To Think the Absolute — Gillian Rose’s Speculative Philosophy
Lecturer: Daniel Lopez
Tue 7:30-9:30pm
Starts 11 Jan
The Sublime: An Environmental Perspective
Lecturer: Nanda Jarosz
Wed 5:00-7:00pm
Starts 12 Jan
The Rise of Neorationalism: From Speculative Realism to Speculative Critique
Lecturer: Daniel Sacilotto
Wed 7:30-9:30pm
Starts 12 Jan
Badiou’s Fidelities
Lecturer: A.J. Bartlett
Thu 5:00-7:00pm
Starts 13 Jan
Rilke’s Duino Elegies: what are poets for?
Lecturer: Eva Birch
Thu 7:30-9:30pm
Starts 13 Jan
The Clamour of Being: Badiou vs Deleuze
Lecturer: Caitlyn Lesiuk
Fri 5:00-7:00pm
Starts 14 Jan
African Political Philosophies
Lecturer: Peter Gratton
Fri 7:30-9:30pm
Starts 14 Jan
Biopolitics as a System of Thought
Lecturer: Serene Richards

2 hours per day for 5 days

14-18 Feb
Prophet Zarathustra
Lecturer: Valery Vinogradovs
14-18 Feb
Introduction to the Philosophy of Medium
Lecturer: John Lechte
14-18 Feb
The Philosophy of Scale: Levels, Layers, and Abstract Domains
Lecturer: Geoff Hondroudakis
14-18 Feb
The Philosophy of Gnosticism
Lecturer: Nina Power


Course Descriptions

Deleuze’s Nietzsche

Lecturer: Jon Roffe

Starts: Mon 5:00-7:00pm 10 Jan

Full Schedule: Jan 10, 17, 24, 31, Feb 7

Location: Taught via Zoom online.

The aim of this course will be to understand the philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche as it is construed by Gilles Deleuze. Our concern will not be to either criticise nor correct Deleuze’s reading, though we will touch on some of the major criticisms that others have raised with respect to this reading. The reason why such a critical-comparative approach is not fruitful lies with the very way that the issues of critique and evaluation themselves are formulated in this reading itself.

The central text will be Deleuze’s influential 1962 Nietzsche and Philosophy, but we will also draw upon the other significant reflections on Nietzsche’s work, particularly those found in Difference and Repetition (1968), and Anti-Oedipus (1972)

1. Introduction. Context. Orientation of Deleuze’s reading

After providing some general contextual information about Deleuze's relationship to Nietzsche's thought, we will turn to consider some introductory questions about his reading of Nietzsche. More specifically, we will consider two main questions: what is the core of Nietzsche's thought, according to Deleuze? And why does Deleuze hold onto the notion of the 'tragic' to think a philosopher who - in his view - abandons the main features of the argument of The Birth of Tragedy?

  • Reading: 'The Tragic', Chapter 1 of Nietzsche and Philosophy

2. Methodology. The transcendental framework

Deleuze repeatedly makes a pair of claims about Nietzsche's place in the history of philosophy. The first consists in a rejection of any rapprochment between Nietzsche and Hegel, a topic we will return to in the final lecture. But the second, perhaps more surprising, is that Nietzsche's philosophy is to be situated in the post-Kantian heritage, and that his philosophy is a transcendental philosophy. It is this perspective we will examine in the second lecture.

  • Reading: 'Critique', Chapter 3 of Nietzsche and Philosophy
  • Additional readings: 'The Image of Thought,' chapter 3 in Difference and Repetition; 'The Image of Thought,' conclusion to part one of Proust and Signs.

3. Force and repetition. The ontological framework

Alongside the transcendental, Deleuze wants to present the ontological dimension of Nietzsche's thought. Two of the features of this account are famous: the will to power and the eternal return. But Deleuze will base the discussion on a more mundane concept, that of force, and build the ontological picture up on this basis. We will see that, as a result, the will to power loses its personological characteristics - something that, he will later argue, the post-Hegelian tradition failed to do - and becomes an ontological principle. We will then turn to the challenging ontological account of the doctrine of the eternal return. We will consider in passing a fairly robust criticism levelled at Deleuze's reading of Nietzsche on this point

In Nietzsche and Philosophy, Deleuze will also lean on the proximity of Spinoza's account of the role of power in existing modes. As we will see, it is by taking this into account - alongside the Kantian investment discussed in the previous seminar - that the prima facie puzzling invocation of differential calculus can be understood.

  • Deleuze, 'Active and Reactive,' Chapter 2 of Nietzsche and Philosophy
  • Spinoza, extracts from books 2, 3 and 4 of the Ethics
  • (we will also touch on the significance of Solomon Maimon's Essay in Transcendental Philosophy; for those interested in digging a little deeper into Deleuze's heritage, this book will also be provided).

4. Consciousness and bad conscience. The historical framework

The previous seminar elaborated what we might call Nietzsche's ontological topology. In this seminar, we will turn to his historical typology. At the heart of the second half of Nietzsche and Philosophy is a conception of type as the basic organisational category of human being in its historical dimension. Our first concern in this seminar, then, will be to understand the relationship of type to other, component, categories (including race, nationality, religious belief). The second concern will be to show how the reactive quality of force lead, under the weight of certain historical developments, to the current human type, and to the apparent cul de sac of nihilism.

The work of Freud is of great significance here. As we will see in this seminar, Deleuze's Nietzsche is deeply Freudian in character - or, better perhaps, the way that Deleuze construes the key issue of the status of consciousness is found at the confluence of the two positions. Furthermore, we can see just how profound Deleuze takes this confluence to be by looking at Nietzsche's appearance in Deleuze and Guattari's Anti-Oedipus, published a decade after his Nietzsche book.

  • Deleuze, 'From Ressentiment to Bad Conscience,' Chapter 4 of Nietzsche and Philosophy
  • Deleuze and Guattari, extract from 'Savages, Barbarians, Civilised Men,' chapter 3 of Anti-Oedipus
  • Freud, 'Two Principles of Mental Functioning,' 'The Unconscious,' and 'The Mystic Writing-Pad'

5. Nihilism, dialectics and politics. Conclusion.

The final lecture will consider three lingering questions. First, where might the long story of ressentiment in human history end? Here, Deleuze will take up the infamous theme of the übermench. The possibility of a new form of existence appears, according to Deleuze as we will see, out of the self-nihilating movement of nihilism. This leads to the second question: does Deleuze violate his own edict that there is no possible rapprochment between Hegel and Nietzsche? And finally, how should we understand Deleuze's critical series of rhetorical questions directed at Marx's use of the dialectic?

The issue of Nietzsche's politics has recently been foregrounded in Losurdo's Nietzsche: The Aristocratic Rebel. We will be in a position, by the end of this fifth class, to give a Deleuzean response to Losurdo's reading. But also, by concluding with a consideration of the status of politics in Nietzsche and Philosophy, we open onto the broader terrain of Deleuze's philosophy itself, and the nature of what is called politics in it.

  • Deleuze, 'The Overman,' Chapter 5, and the 'Conclusion' of Nietzsche and Philosophy

Murnane and his precursors

Lecturer: Brendan Casey

Starts: Mon 7:30-9:30pm 10 Jan

Full Schedule: Jan 10, 17, 24, 31, Feb 7

Location: Taught via Zoom online.

Description: The Australian novelist Gerald Murnane has published eleven books of fiction, two collections of essays and a book of poems. Certain adjectives show up again and again in the critical reception of his work: his fiction has been called difficult, hermetic, affectless, and even solipsistic. This course aims to shed Murnane’s rebarbative reputation by examining his work within the context of five key literary forebears: Emily Brontë, Marcel Proust, Gyula Illyés, Henry James and Charles Kingsley. These are authors that Murnane cares deeply about, and they provide valuable inroads to his unique and complex thought. Literary theorists of intertextuality and influence, such as Gärard Genette, Harold Bloom and Jed Rasula, will provide a necessary background for our reading. However, the main objective of the course is to extract from Murnane’s literary precursors a solid understanding of his own philosophy of fiction.

The courses title comes from Jorge Luis Borges’ short essay ‘Kafka and his Precursors’, in which the Argentinian writer states: ‘The fact is that each writer creates his precursors. His work modifies our conception of the past, as it will modify the future.’ Following Borges’ lead, an aim of this course is to come to new understandings of each of Murnane’s five precursors, by reading them reflexively (and ahistorically) through him. By the end of this course we will understand Murnane’s robust vision of collegiality in literary history, in which he is formed by his forebears, but equally and more mysteriously, they in turn are equally formed his subtle and idiosyncratic readings (or, as the case may be, misreadings) of them.

Preparatory reading: Jorge Luis Borges, ‘Kafka and His Precursors’ (1951)

1: Juvenilia as late style: As the story goes, the gift of a set of toy soldiers from her father in 1826 stimulated Emily Brontë and her siblings to make ‘plays’ about her new toys. The juvenilia paracosms (fictional worlds) she invented remained a persistent part of her writing up until her death in 1848. In this first lecture, Brontë’s invented realms of Gondal and Gaaldine will be examined with reference to Murnane’s own paracosms, New Arcadia and New Eden.

Core readings:

  • Gerald Murnane, ‘The Interior of Gaaldine’ (1995)
  • Emily Brontë selections from the Gondal poems

Supplementary reading:

  • Gerald Murnane, ‘Birds of the Puszta’ (1988)

2: Miracles and le moi profond: Marcel Proust’s A la recherche du temps perdu provided Murnane with his most enduring model for a philosophy of fiction. However, Murnane’s interpretation of Proust is idiosyncratic, and it breaks with prevailing understandings of the French novelist. This lecture will focus on Murnane’s adopted distinction between le moi profond and le moi social that underpin his ontologies of fiction and the real world.

Core reading:

Gerald Murnane, ‘Invisible Yet Enduring Lilacs’ (2005)

Selections from Marcel Proust, Swann's Way (1913), Le Temps retrouvé (Time Regained, 1927)

3: The woman in the well: Part social ethnography, part literary essay, Gyula Illyés’ Puszták népe (People of the Puszta) describes the landless farmworkers of Transdanubian countryside in West Hungary. In the 1990s, at the age of 56, Murnane taught himself Hungarian so as to be able to read Illyés in his native language. This lecture will discuss the recurrent image—poached from Illyés—of a young woman drowning in a well. The sexual and gendered politics of Murnane’s writing will also be explored this week.

Core reading:

  • Gerald Murnane, ‘The Angel’s Son: Why I Learned Hungarian in Late in Life’ (2003)
  • Selections from Gyula Illyés, Puszták népe (1936)

Supplementary readings:

  • Gerald Murnane, Inland, (1988)
  • Janos Zoltan, Secret Matters (2015, documentary)

4: Retrospective illumination: In a letter to his publisher from July 1905, Henry James wrote of his desire to ‘furnish’ the New York Editions of his collected works with an authoritative explanation of his fiction and the history of its production. In the resulting ‘prefaces’, James acts as historian and scholar of his own work, surveying, evaluating and interpreting the texts ‘in a way hitherto rather withheld of them, and for which they have long and patiently waited.’ In this lecture, I argue that James’ Prefaces provide a model for thinking about the Murnane’s spiraling, self-referential fiction.

Core reading:

  • Gerald Murnane, A Million Windows (2014)
  • Henry James, New York Preface for Portrait of a Lady (1908)

Supplementary readings:

  • Further selections from Henry James’ New York Prefaces

5: Late style as lifework: This concluding lecture returns us to Murnane’s interest in ‘lifelong juvenilia’ through an examination of Charles Kingsley’s children’s fiction and Murnane’s hugely significant, though seldom discussed, short story ‘Last Letter to a Niece’.

Core reading:

  • Gerald Murnane, ‘Last Letter to a Niece’ (2001)
  • Charles Kingsley, selections from The Water-Babies, A Fairy Tale for a Land Baby (1863) & Hereward the Wake (1866)

Supplementary readings:

  • Gerald Murnane, ‘A History of Books’ (2012)

Bio: Brendan Casey a PhD researcher at the University of Melbourne and Cordite Scholarly Editor. Recent essays and criticism by him have been published in Meanjin, JASAL, Cordite, Dušan and Voitre Marek: Surrealists at sea (Art Gallery of South Australia), The Cambridge Companion to the Australian Novel (forthcoming) and elsewhere.

To Think the Absolute — Gillian Rose’s Speculative Philosophy

Lecturer: Daniel Lopez

Starts: Tue 5:00-7:00pm 11 Jan

Full Schedule: Jan 11, 18, 25, Feb 1, 8

Location: Taught via Zoom online.

Some 27 years after her untimely death, Gillian Rose’s philosophical oeuvre has not yet attracted the attention it deserves, scholarly or otherwise. This is no doubt in part due to her “severe” style, which eschewed pleasing audiences in favour of an uncompromisingly radical, nuanced, broad-ranging and at times polemical mode of expression.

This course will provide an overview of Rose’s life and major works, while focusing on her account of the Absolute and of speculative philosophy. As she wrote in what is perhaps her most important work, Hegel Contra Sociology,

“Hegel's philosophy has no social import if the absolute cannot be thought. If we cannot think the absolute this means that it is therefore not our thought in the sense of not realised. The absolute is the comprehensive thinking which transcends the dichotomies between concept and intuition, theoretical and practical reason. It cannot be thought (realized) because these dichotomies and their determination are not transcended.”

Beginning with her widely acclaimed autobiography, Love’s Work, as well as selected essays, lecture one will overview the major themes in Rose’s thought. In lectures two and three, we will closely work through Hegel Contra Sociology. Subsequently, the fourth lecture will discuss selections from The Broken Middle before lecture five concludes with selected essays from Mourning Becomes the Law.

In addition to Rose’s thinking of the Absolute, will pay particular attention to her call for a “Reformation of Marxism,” her account of the law and the role played by mourning in her philosophy. Finally, we will conclude with reflections on Rose’s deathbed conversion to the Anglican Church and considerations on the future of her thought.

Each lecture will consist of two 45-50 minute presentations punctuated by a short break, with time for questions and discussion. This course does not require a background knowledge of Gillian Rose’s philosophy or Hegelian philosophy in general. However, because Rose’s prose is as challenging as it is beautiful, participants are advised to leave ample time to read each week’s set material. Readings are ordered according to priority. Digital copies of the set reading will be made available well in advance of the first lecture.

Course Structure:

Week One: Keep your mind in hell and despair not

  • Love’s Work
  • “Athens and Jerusalem: a tale of three cities” in Mourning Becomes the Law
  • “From Speculative to Dialectical Thinking — Hegel and Adorno” in Judaism and Modernity

Week Two: Relative ethical life and the antinomies of sociological thought

  • Hegel Contra Sociology, chapters 1-4

Week Three: Will the circle be unbroken?

  • Hegel Contra Sociology, chapters 5-7

Week Four: The aporia is the Janus face of the universal

  • The Broken Middle, chapter 5
  • “‘Would that they forsake me but observe my Torah’: Midrash and political authority” in Mourning Becomes the Law

Week Five: Among the fleeting, in the realm of declination

  • “The Comedy of Hegel and the Trauerspiel of modern philosophy” in Mourning Becomes the Law
  • “Potter’s Field: death worked and unworked” in Mourning Becomes the Law
  • “O! untimely death. / Death!” in Mourning Becomes the Law

The Sublime: An Environmental Perspective

Lecturer: Nanda Jarosz

Starts: Tue 7:30-9:30pm 11 Jan

Full Schedule: Jan 11, 18, 25, Feb 1, 8

Location: Taught via Zoom online.

There is no one official view or definition of the sublime in the twenty-first century. As a reoccurring concept in fields as diverse as literature, art history, science, and environmental ethics, the sublime is both elusive and widely relevant. Describing moments of rapture beneath the seemingly infinite expanse of the night sky, or the terror of standing on the edge of a mountain precipice, the sublime represents nature’s capacity to instil wonder and awe in the heart of human observers. In this course, students will learn about the sublime in the context of environmental philosophy and will explore how the sublime helps us to better understand the human/nature relationship.

Over five lectures, this course will offer students a historical understanding of the concept of the sublime, beginning with Immanuel Kant’s enlightenment theory, moving through European Romanticism, through to its continued relevance to contemporary environmental philosophy. Charting this historical path, students will investigate what the sublime can tell us about different ways of relating to the natural world and how these different perspectives can be harnessed in response to the challenges posed by climate change.

Focusing on the field of environmental aesthetics, this course will investigate the relationship between the sublime and human conceptions of nature. References to the appearance of the sublime in art and literature, though present, will not be central to this course. Instead, students will learn about the possibilities of harnessing aesthetic experience to foster an ethical relationship to the world of nature.

The course will be of an introductory nature and will suppose no prior knowledge of aesthetics or environmental philosophy. While some of the material will be difficult, all that is required is an interest in the topic. A list of required readings is provided below and students are required to read the texts prior to class.

Course Schedule

Week 1: Introduction: The sublime from Longinus to now

  • Brady, The Sublime in Modern Philosophy, Introduction (Available in box)
  • Falconer, Signs and Wonders (Available in box)

Week 2: Kant’s pre-critical theory of the sublime: an empirical pursuit

  • Kant, Observations on the Feeling of the Beautiful and Sublime (Available in box)

Week 3: Kant’s mature theory of the sublime: emphasising the role of nature

  • Kant, Critique of the Power of Judgment, Analytic of the Sublime (Available in box)

Week 4: German Romantic sublime: nature vs. art

  • Clewis, “The Place of the Sublime in Kant’s Project” (Available in box)

Week 5: The contemporary environmental sublime: aesthetics and ethics in a changing world

  • Brady, The Sublime in Modern Philosophy, The Environmental Sublime (Available in box)
  • Cronon, “The Trouble with Wilderness” (Available in box)

The Rise of Neorationalism: From Speculative Realism to Speculative Critique

Lecturer: Daniel Sacilotto

Starts: Wed 5:00-7:00pm 12 Jan

Full Schedule: Jan 12, 19, 26, Feb 2, 9

Location: Taught via Zoom online.

This seminar proposes to explore the rise of the so-called “neo-rationalist” orientation in contemporary philosophy, exploring works by Quentin Meillassoux, Ray Brassier, Reza Negarestani, Gabriel Catren, and Nathan Brown. In essence, neorationalism critically and constructively responds both to vitalist and empiricist metaphysics, as well as to the deflationary consequences of phenomenological, historicist, and deconstructionist approaches elaborated throughout the 20th Century and until today. In response to these modes of thought, neorationalism proposes a revalorization of the Platonic emphasis on ideation and mathematical formalization against sensibility, an insistence on the indispensability of Kantian critical epistemology in relation to metaphysics, and a development of the systematic Hegelian and Sellarsian social-historical account of rational normativity. In doing so, neo-rationalist thinkers generate new avenues to cross the methodological divide between analytic and continental philosophical traditions, unabashedly affirming the valences of truth, systematicity, reason, and knowledge. In examining this constellation of thought, we will furthermore address how neo-rationalist philosophy proposes new means not only to reconstitute the theoretical aims of philosophy, but also to rethink its practical and political scope, by way of new accounts of subjectivation and collective agency.

In the first week, we trace the origins of the neo-rationalist sequence as a singular vector within the rise of “speculative realism,” looking in particular at the speculative materialism of Quentin Meillassoux in his work After Finitude, which is largely inspired by the mathematical Platonism of Alain Badiou and Hegel’s speculative idealism. In the second week we examine the development of Ray Brassier’s pursuit of a new form of materialism that reconciles the positional realism of Francois Laruelle’s non-philosophy, and the transcendental naturalism of Wilfrid Sellars. In the third week, we explore Reza Negarestani’s ‘inhumanist’ reinterpretation of Hegel’s social and ‘deprivatized’ account of social cognition or Geist, in the wake of the computer theoretic program of Artificial General Intelligence, as elaborated in his recent work Intelligence and Spirit. In the fourth week we assess Gabriel Catren’s attempt to bring about a synthesis of transcendental materialism and speculative idealism, in the pursuit of a “absolutely modern philosophy” that also amounts to a “true Copernican revolution” in response to the “Ptolemaic counter-revolution” incubated during the German Idealist sequence. In doing so, we shall see, Catren draws from the works of Husserl, Laruelle, Badiou, and Hegel, to pursue a radically new form of systematic philosophy. Finally, in the fifth week, we address Nathan Brown’s attempt to dialectically reconcile rationalist and empiricist methodologies in his recent work Rationalist Empiricism, articulating a theory of “speculative critique” that synoptically draws from the works of Hegel, Bachelard, Althusser, Badiou, and Meillassoux.


Week I (January 12th) – Introduction: Realism after Correlationism

  • Readings: Quentin Meillassoux, “Iteration, Reiteration, Repetition: A Speculative Analysis of the Sign Devoid of Meaning,” in Genealogies of Speculation, pp. 117-199.

Week II (January 19th) – The Rehabilitation of Nihilism

  • Readings: Ray Brassier, “Concepts and Objects,” in The Speculative Turn: Continental Materialism and Realism, pp 47-66; Nihil Unbound: Enlightenment and Extinction: Chapter I.

Week III (January 26th) – Radical Inhumanism: German Idealism and Artificial General Intelligence

  • Readings: Reza Negarestani, Intelligence and Spirit, Introduction, Chapter I; The Labor of the Inhuman.

Week IV (February 2nd) – A Truly Modern Philosophy: Overcoming the Ptolemaic Counter-Revolution

  • Readings: Gabriel Catren, Outland Empire, in The Speculative Turn: Continental Materialism and Realism, pp. 334-368.

Week V (February 9th) – Rationalist Empiricism: The Search for Immanent Critique

  • Readings: Nathan Brown, Rationalist Empiricism: A Theory of Speculative Critique, Intro, Chapter I-II.

Badiou’s Fidelities

Lecturer: A.J. Bartlett

Starts: Wed 7:30-9:30pm 12 Jan

Full Schedule: Jan 12, 19, 26, Feb 2, 9

Location: Taught via Zoom online.

Alain Badiou claims that for him there are three crucial philosophers: Plato, Descartes, Hegel. Yet he also claims that without Lacan, the antiphilosopher, there is no contemporary philosophy.

This course will look at these, Badiou’s fidelities, seeking to elaborate on Badiou’s claim in terms of the relation he establishes with each thinker relative to his own work. It will entail examining who each of these figures is for Badiou and, to a limited but critical extent, marking this against what each thinker says in their own terms.

Four key interrogations organise this retroactive engagement with each thinker:

  • the situation of said thinker;
  • the invention of each within this situation;
  • the limit or aporia each bequeaths, requiring, in Badiou’s sense, recommencement
  • the critical thought thereby articulated.

For example, schematically, and with regard to each:

For Plato, we look at the discursive situation of Athens as he shows it; the intervention on sophistry; the Idea functions at the limit of this invention; the relation between philosophy and the polis is integral to the philosophical transmission.

Descartes’ situation is framed by the work of the scholastics or logicians; a ‘new’ geometry features as critical to his intervention; the dialectic of matter and idea constitutes a type of limit; the (in)division of rationality at the heart of the subject.

Hegel (for Badiou) ‘in France’; away from and against Kojeve’s inheritors and renegades; the rational turn to immanence; the operative forces of dialectic, logic, phenomena; the Idea as/and the Absolute.

With Lacan, the anti-philosopher par excellence, whose work traverses all three of the above philosophers with regard not to what they fulfil, but the lack ‘in it’, we see not the influence of aporia as such — to be commented on, elaborated anew, rejected out of hand etc. — but as the site of what will be for Badiou a recommencement. Lacan doesn’t argue with the philosopher, he sites the intervention. For Badiou, the operative themes in Lacan’s analysis include: subject, matheme, intervention, cuts, risk, adventure and the reworking of the truth/knowledge couple.

The course will be broken down in the above manner with the first week devoted to Alain Badiou’s own situation, his oeuvre and its developments, his orientation or method as such and the invention of his thought as contemporary philosophy.

Week 1: Badiou’s situation.

Week 2: Plato – For today

Week 3: Descartes – Double sided materialism of the subject

Week 4: Hegel – The operative forces

Week 5: Lacan – Working through


  • Lauren Sedofsky & Alain Badiou, ‘Being by Numbers’, Art Forum, 1994.
  • Lauren Sedofsky & Alain Badiou, ‘Matter of Appearance’, Art Forum, 2006.
  • Badiou, ‘Plato, Our Dear Plato, Angelaki, 2006.
  • Badiou, ‘Hegel and the Whole’, Theoretical Writings. Or Book II,  Section 2 ‘Hegel’, Logics of Worlds.
  • Badiou, Meditation 34, ‘Descartes/Lacan’, Being and Event.
  • Badiou, Lacan, Anti-philosophy 3, Session 1. OR ‘Truth: Forcing and the Unnameable’, Theoretical Writings

Rilke’s Duino Elegies: what are poets for?

Lecturer: Eva Birch

Starts: Thu 5:00-7:00pm 13 Jan

Full Schedule: Jan 13, 20, 27, Feb 3, 10

Location: Taught via Zoom online.

Rainer Maria Rilke wrote the Duino Elegies between 1912 and 1922 at the Duino Castle on cliffs overlooking the Gulf of Trieste in Italy. While out walking he claimed to hear a voice calling to him the first lines of the first Elegy: ‘Who, if I cried out, would hear me among the hierarchies of angels?’

In this course we will study the relationship between tradition and modernity, and what Heidegger calls the ‘trace of the holy,’ in the Dunio Elegies. Rilke suffered from the new conditions of modernity, moving between between the city and the country, and questioning whether he should stop writing poetry and begin psychoanalysis. Ultimately, with the Duino Elegies, he achieved his aim of finding meaning in his suffering and providing, as he describes it, ‘peace’ and ‘safety’ to the readers of his poetry.

We will read selections from Rilke’s novel, art writing, and letters, to contextualise the Duino Elegies and to consider more broadly the role of the poet in modernity.


Week One

  • The First Elegy and The Second Elegy

For all primary readings we will refer to this version:

Rilke, Rainer Maria. Duino Elegies: A Bilingual Edition. Trans. Edward Snow. Northwestern University Press, 1998.

Further Reading:

  • Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet

Week Two

  • The Third and the Fourth Elegy

Further Reading:

  • Martin Heidegger, ‘What are poets for?’

Week Three

  • The Fifth Elegy and the Sixth Elegy

Further Reading:

  • Rainer Maria Rilke, Auguste Rodin

Week Four

  • The Seventh Elegy and The Eighth Elegy

Further Reading:

  • Rainer Maria Rilke, The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge

Week Five

  • The Ninth Elegy and The Tenth Elegy

Secondary Reading:

  • Rainer Maria Rilke, Sonnets to Orpheus

The Clamour of Being: Badiou vs Deleuze

Lecturer: Caitlyn Lesiuk

Starts: Thu 7:30-9:30pm 13 Jan

Full Schedule: Jan 13, 20, 27, Feb 3, 10

Location: Taught via Zoom online.

This course offers an introduction to the philosophy of Alain Badiou and Gilles Deleuze by way of the “debate” between them. Each week we will compare their philosophical responses to various works of art and political events—such as the literature of Samuel Beckett and the revolution of May 68—moving toward an understanding and evaluation of Badiou’s accusation that Deleuze ultimately reverts to thinking according to a doctrine of “the One” over the multiple. In the course of this discussion, we will explore how each philosopher understands concepts such as “event”, “time” and “truth”, and, indeed, the task of philosophy itself. In an attempt to truly stage a “dialogue” between their systems of thought, we will be joined by guest lecturers Corey Cribb, Dr Joe Hughes and Dr Jon Roffe. 

Week 1: Introduction 

To quote Lewis Carroll, as Deleuze is wont to do, we will “begin at the beginning” by tracing the conceptual rifts that emerge from Badiou and Deleuze’s very first epistolary exchanges. In this session, we will establish a foundational understanding of these two philosophical systems by looking at some comparative studies from the early 90s by thinkers like Francois Wahl and Éric Alliez.

Recommended reading:

  • Wahl F (2008) “The Subtractive: Preface by Francois Wahl” in A Badiou Conditions (S Corcoran trans), Bloomsbury, London, viii-xxiii.

 Further readings:

  • Badiou A (1994) “Gilles Deleuze, The Fold: Leibniz and the Baroque”, in Olkowski D and Boundas C (eds) Gilles Deleuze and the Theatre of Philosophy, Routledge, London, 51-72.
  • Deleuze G and Guattari F (1994) What is Philosophy? (Tomlinson H and Burchell G trans), Columbia University Press, New York, 151-3.

Week 2: Beckett

Lecercle observes that Badiou and Deleuze not only have markedly different approaches to reading literature, but also to writing philosophy. As such, we will turn to their engagement with Samuel Beckett’s work to explore the question of style.  

Recommended reading:

  • Lecercle J (2010) Badiou and Deleuze Read Literature, Edinburgh University Press, Edinburgh, 129-54. 

Further readings:

  • Badiou A (2008) “The Writing of the Generic” in Conditions (Corcoran S trans), Bloomsbury, London, 249-84. 
  • Deleuze, G (1995) “The Exhausted” (A Uhlmann trans), SubStance, 24 (78): 3-23. 

Week 3: Deleuze’s “spiritual” cinema

In this session, we will see how well Badiou and Deleuze’s theory of cinema contends with Resnais’ film Last Year at Marienbad. More specifically, will bring Deleuze’s work on cinema and thought into dialogue with Badiou’s reservations about thought as “spiritual automation”.

Recommended viewing: Resnais A (1961) Last Year at Marienbad, Dyaliscope Productions, France.

Further readings: 

  • Badiou A (2005) “The False Movements of Cinema” in Handbook of Inaesthetics (Toscano A trans), Stanford University Press, California, 78-88.
  • Deleuze G (1989) Cinema 2: The Time-Image (Tomlinson H and Galeta R trans), University of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis, 156-173.

Week 4: Has nothing taken place but the place? 

After exploring the encounter of philosophy and art, we will turn to the question of what, exactly, the task of philosophy itself is for each of these thinkers. Here, we will trace the metaphilosophical commitments underpinning their respective methodologies, with a particular focus on the concept of the “event” as central to both their projects. 

Recommended reading:

  • Bartlett A J, Clemens J, Roffe J (2014) Lacan Deleuze Badiou, Edinburgh University Press, Edinburgh, 129-163. 

Further readings:

  • Badiou A (2007) “The Event in Deleuze” (Roffe J trans), Parrhesia 2, 37-44.
  •  Deleuze G (1990) “Twenty-Fourth Series of the Communication of Events” in The Logic of Sense (Lester M and Stivale C trans), The Athlone Press, London, 169-77.

Week 5: Final confrontation: does Deleuze give in to “the One”? 

Finally, we will embark upon a deeper consideration of Badiou’s claim that Deleuze, despite his efforts, is a thinker of “the One”. We will consider Badiou’s own account of his departure from Deleuze as laid out in The Clamor of Being, and engage with a contemporary evaluation of this work by Jon Roffe. 

Recommended reading:

  • Roffe J (2012) “Is Deleuze a Philosopher of the One?” in Badiou’s Deleuze, Routledge, New York, 6-23.

 Further readings: 

  • Badiou A (2000) “Univocity of Being and Multiplicity of Names” in The Clamor of Being (Burchill L trans), University of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis, 19-30.
  • Badiou A (2007) “The One and the Multiple: A Priori Conditions of any Possible Ontology” in Being and Event (Feltham O trans), Bloomsbury Academic, London, 25-34.

African Political Philosophies

Lecturer: Peter Gratton

Starts: Fri 5:00-7:00pm 14 Jan

Full Schedule: Jan 14, 21, 28, Feb 4, 11

Location: Taught via Zoom online.

The study of political philosophy worldwide is not just dominated by a few Western figures, but is also guided by concerns often seen as abstract and of little relevance to developments in Africa and elsewhere. This short course looks to provide an introduction to African political philosophy in the post-colonial context. African Philosophy as a self-demarcated field is only decades old—though the African archive of thought is perhaps older than any—and was formed in the heady days of widespread national liberation, sustained itself during the most difficult periods of neocolonialism and fraternal violence, and today offers promising lines of inquiry that could reshape the whole of philosophy in the future. Political philosophy from out of Africa mirrors this historical context, forging works that attempt to follow the difficult trajectory from traumatic memory to political and communal hope.

Most work on Africa tends to focus on viewing its communities as all-but-passive recipients of movements and forces arriving from the West: the horrors of slavery, colonialism, and racism; the Manichaean Cold War-era bifurcation of the continent in a wider war over the fate of communism; the blank slate onto which Western neoliberal dreams of triumphant capitalism can be realized; etc. The goal, ultimately, is to arrive at the end of the course better able to show how, with the provincialization of Europe, Africa’s political philosophers see the future as anchored by Africa as a true subject of world history. The syllabus of readings below focus on those writers in dialogue with Continental thinkers, all to allow a more fruitful discussion of how these philosophers recognize specific African differences in thinking and political existence.

Each class begins with a pre-written lecture shared via the screen, with plenty of pauses when needed for questions and comments. We then proceed by using the reminder of the time as a seminar engaged in the questions raised by the readings:

Lectures 1-2:

This class takes up the physical and epistemic violence of colonialism with readings that also offer wider lessons about the legitimization of violence within politics and the modes of resistance necessary in the wake of psychic colonialism and self-Other misrecognition.


  • Aimé Césaire, Discourse on Colonialism (1950, selections)
  • Frantz Fanon, Wretched of the Earth (1961, selections)
  • Kwame Nkrumah, “Consciencism: Philosophy and Ideology for Decolonization” (1965, selections)
  • V. Y. Mudimbe, The Invention of Africa. Gnosis, Philosophy, and the Order of Knowledge (1988, book).

Lectures 3-4:

At the heart of African ontologies are critiques of Western atomized conceptions of individuality and the politics and ethics that follows from it. In these classes, we read about a supposed African communalism that grounds many political discussions. This will lead us into questions about whether such a communalism can be found in pre-colonial archives; whether such a communalism is inherently reactionary and conservative, i.e., traditionalist; and how contemporary thinkers have posited such a communalism without lapsing into forms of essentialism. 


  • Kwame Gyekye, Tradition and Modernity,” from Tradition and Modernity: Philosophical Reflections on the African Experience (1997, selections)
  • D. A. Masolo, Self and Community in a Changing World (2010, selections)
  • Leopold S. Senghor, “On Negrohood: Psychology of the African Negro,” African Philosophy: Selected Readings, ed. A. Mosley (1995)
  • Ifeanyi Menkiti, “Community, Communism, Communitarianism: An African Intervention” (2017)
  • Nkiru Nzegwu, Family Matters: Feminist Concepts in African Philosophy of Culture (2007, selections)

Lecture 5:

In this class, we chart, by way of Achille Mbembe, the various paths to thinking Afropolitanism, which argues that the future of the world is to be found in lived everyday experiences found in the arts, music, philosophies, and communities of Africa. This will mean reviewing previous ways of depicting Africa in the pan-Africanist and Negritude movements. Of note will be Mbembe’s concern that if the world is to become “black,” it must avoid the horrors of globalizing the horrors of commodifying the human being found in African enslavement.


  • Achille Mbembe, Critique of Black Reason (2013, selections)
  • Mbembe, Out of the Dark Night (2020, selections)

Biopolitics as a System of Thought

Lecturer: Serene Richards

Starts: Fri 7:30-9:30pm 14 Jan

Full Schedule: Jan 14, 21, 28, Feb 4, 11

Location: Taught via Zoom online.

Sylvain Lazarus in Anthropology of the Name asks whether politics is a thought or an activity encompassed by the State relation? The peculiarity of biopolitics is that it is reliant upon a system of thought and a set of assumptions drawn from the study of man as both subject and object, as well as being a technique of government of the living and a characteristic of sovereignty. The aim of this short course will be to sketch out the stakes of biopolitics, extending the analysis from its traditionally conceptualised definition as a form of governance of ‘biological life’ or the ‘species’ to one that considers biopolitics as a form of rationality with the question of value at its core. This rationality sets out the terms and limits of political activity, so that it would be necessary to ask: what would a non-biopolitical mode of political organisation look like?

1. A Double Bind: Knowledge and Politics

  • Gilles Deleuze, 'The Image of Thought’ in Difference and Repetition (London and New York: Continuum, 1994)
  • Sylvain Lazarus, extract from Anthropology of the Name (Chicago: Seagull Books, 2015)
  • Jean-François Lyotard, extract from The Postmodernism Condition: A Report on Knowledge (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1984)
  • Michel Foucault, extracts from The Order of Things (New York and Oxford: Routledge, 2002)

2. Government of the Living

  • Alain Desrosière - The Politics of Large Numbers: A History of Statistical Reasoning (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1998), pp.1-15.
  • Michel Foucault, Lecture 11, Society Must be Defended 1975-76, (New York: Picador, 2003)
  • Michel Foucault, Lecture 10, Security, Territory, Population (New York and London: Palgrave, 2007)

3. Life: A Fragile Threshold

  • Giorgio Agamben, The Use of Bodies (Stanford: Stanford University Press), pp.195-206
  • Giorgio Agamben, §4, §7, §9, §17, The Open: Man and Animal (Stanford: Stanford University Press)
  • Xavier Bichat, extract from Physiological Researches on Life and Death (London: Longman, 1815)
  • Georges Canguilhem, extract from Knowledge of Life (New York: Fordham University Press, 2008)

4. Juridical Artifice

  • Giorgio Agamben, Homo Sacer: Sovereign Power and Bare Life (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1998), pp.126-135
  • Marta Madero, “Interpreting the Western Legal Tradition: Reading the Work of Yan Thomas,” Annales. Histoire Sciences Sociales, (2012) pp.117-132
  • Gilles Deleuze, ‘G as in Gauche,’ Abécédaire
  • Gilles Deleuze, ‘Control and Becoming’ in Negotiations 1972-1990 (New York: Columbia University Press, 1997)

5. Being and Exchange Value

  • Walter Benjamin, Capitalism as Religion (1921)
  • Lenin, extracts from What is to be Done?
  • Griorgio Agamben, ‘What is a Command?’ in Creation and Anarchy (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2019)
  • Dardot & Laval, extracts from The New Way of the World: On Neoliberal Society (London and New York: Verso, 2013)

Prophet Zarathustra

Lecturer: Valery Vinogradovs

Starts: Mon 12:00-2:00pm 14 Feb

Full Schedule: Feb 14-18

Location: Taught via Zoom online.

Our course offers a series of close readings and discussions of Friedrich Nietzche’s Thus Spoke Zarathustra:

‘My Zarathustra has a special place for me in my writings. With it, I have given humanity the most profound gift it has ever received’ The Anti-Christ

‘In order to understand anything at all from my Zarathustra, you might need to be as I am – with one foot beyond life’ Ecce Homo

‘Perhaps none of them are even alive yet. Maybe they are the ones who will understand my ZarathustraThe Anti-Christ

‘Whenever I glance through my Zarathustra, I walk around the room for half an hour, sobbing uncontrollably’ Ecce Homo

In the wake of the official directive to try to return to normality and tourism, we shall read through, above and below Nietzsche’s sayings about the crowd and dogmatic instincts in the marketplace, a risky dance in solitude, about children and melancholy, lions, lioness, and other parabolic body-thoughts vital to appreciate and learn from the last sceptical prophet at the zenith of his philosophical dying.

Part 1: Now we can feast, with triumph in the air

Part 2: The fest of all fests

Part 3: Friend Zarathustra came, the guest of all guests!

Part 4: The world can laugh, the gruesome curtain tear

Conclusion: The wedding day of light and dark was here . . . (with Daniel Stewart)

  • Textbook: a hard-back edition of Thus Spoke Zarathustra: a book for all and none

Secondary literature

  • C.G. Yung (1989). Nietzsche’s Zarathustra: notes of the seminar given in 1934-39. London: Routledge
  • Pierre Clossowski (1969). Nietzsche and the Vicious Circle. Chicago: UCP
  • Maurice Blanchot (1992). The Infinite Conversation. Minnesota: UMP
  • Laurence Lampert (1989). Nietzsche’s Teaching: an interpretation of “Thus Spoke Zarathustra”. New Haven: YUP
  • Stanley Rosen (1995). The Mask of Enlightenment: Nietzsche’s Zarathustra. New Haven: YU

Introduction to the Philosophy of Medium

Lecturer: John Lechte

Starts: Mon 2:30-4:30pm 14 Feb

Full Schedule: Feb 14-18

Location: Taught via Zoom online.

The overall orientation of this course is to reconsider the meaning and significance of the notion of medium and the idea of ‘media specificity’ as derived from Marshall McLuhan’s catch phrase, ‘the medium is the message’.  It will be shown that the origin of the term, ‘medium’, reveals a far deeper meaning than is commonly acknowledged, including the notion of medium as ‘middle’ and as linked linguistically to the ‘middle voice’. To highlight the issues at stake, reference will be made to the latest developments in German media theory, in particular as seen in the work of Sybille Krämer, who argues that the medium qua medium does not appear as such; Wolfgang Ernst and the notion of media archaeology, where archaeology is loosely based on Michel Foucault’s concept of archaeology, and Friedrich Kittler, who argues that individual media disappear once digitalisation becomes widespread. In the wake of Kittler’s work, Rosalind Krauss has coined the term, ‘post-media’, and an evaluation of her approach will be proposed.


To begin, we consider, as an example, the immanence of the medium – medium as milieu -- such as fish in water, or maybe the human in an/the environment? According to Bernard Stiegler, Plato says in Timaeus that ‘if the world were made of gold, gold would be the only thing that we could not know’ (cited in Stiegler 1998: 109). Aristotle, too, comments that ‘animals that live in water would not notice that the things which touch one another in water have wet surfaces’ (see Stiegler 109). In other words, the medium is what is not perceived.

The medium, on this basis, would be a supreme test of thought, not something that can be approached lightly and in a ‘taken-for-granted’ mode. 

This is very different from how the medium has been approached in modern societies, where ‘media specificity’ reigns, that is, where the medium is deemed to be what can be perceived, known, analysed – and this because it is objectified. But is the medium an object? Reading Marshall McLuhan, the answer would seem to be ‘yes’.

In this introductory lecture, we will begin to question and problematize McLuhan’s notion of medium as the message, which is equivalent to media specificity, where the medium ‘speaks’. We will challenge the dominance of media specificity in relation to meaning, message, image, etc. With media specificity, time presented by the clock becomes ‘clock time’; orality produces an ‘oral’ – non literate – view of the world; the printed word opens out on to a ‘bookish’ view of the world; a photograph presents a photographic view of the world; the computer would produce an essentially virtual world, etc. Or, as Mark Hansen says regarding the digital and time: ‘time has changed in the wake of the digital computational revolution’ (Hansen 2009: 295). Moreover, in light of the dominance of the technical artifactual, digital medium: ‘we cannot but recognize the extensive temporalizing power wielded by technical artifacts that function autonomously or quasi-autonomously in relation to narrowly human regimes of temporalization’ (304). Hansen goes on to note ‘the ways in which media objects function to capture human time’ (306. Emphasis added).


  • Guillory, J. (2010). Genesis of the media concept. Critical Inquiry, 36(2), 321–362. doi:10.1086/648528
  • *Hansen, Mark B.N. (2009) ‘Living (with) Technical Time From Media Surrogacy to Distributed Cognition’ Theory, Culture & Society, 26 (2–3), 294–315.
  • *Stiegler, Bernard (1998) Technics and Time, 1: The Fault of Epimetheseus, trans. Richard Beardsworth and George Collins, Stanford: Stanford University Press.


Re-examining the Meaning and Signification of ‘Medium’

This lecture aims to establish the meaning and signification of the term, ‘medium’, the better to understand the notion of ‘media specificity’, as employed by media theorists. ‘Media specificity’ relies on only one possible meaning of ‘medium’. We will see, in particular, that the notion of medium as milieu (already mentioned in Lecture ONE), and as ‘middle voice’ offer fruitful ways of understanding the medium.


  • Williams, Raymond (1985) Keywords, London and New York: Oxford University Press.
  • Kristeva, Julia (1986) ‘Word, Dialogue and Novel’ in Moi, ed, The Kristeva Reader, Oxford: Blackwell, 39-51 (on 0-2).
  • *Fenves, Peter (1998) ‘ “Out of the Order of Number”: Benjamin and Irigaray Toward a Politics of Pure Means’, Diacritics, 28 (1), 43-58.
  • Krämer, Sybille (2015) Medium, Messenger, Transmission: An Approach to Media Philosophy, trans. Anthony Enns, Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 36.
  • Heidegger, Martin (1978) Being and Time, trans. John Macquarie and Edward Robinson, Oxford: Blackwell.
  • Heidegger, Martin (1978) ‘Temporality and Within-time-ness’ in Being and Time
  • McLuhan, Marshall (2008 [1964]) ‘The Medium is the Message’ in Understanding Media, London and New York: Routledge, 7-23.
  • *Scott, Charles (1989) ‘The Middle Voice of Metaphysics’, The Review of Metaphysics’, 42 (4), 743-764.
  • Scott, Charles (1988) ‘The Middle Voice in Being and Time’ in Sallis and Taminaux, eds, The Collegium Phaenomenologicum, The First Ten Years, Dordrechte and Boston: Kluwer Academic, 159-173.
  • *Wolf, Herta (2007) ‘The Tears of Photography’, Grey Room, 29, (Fall), 66-89. (on media specificity)


On the idea that ‘the medium disappears’.

This lecture will focus on the work of the German media philosopher, Sybille Krämer. After indicating the scope of Krämer’s research, we will undertake a reading of methodological considerations in the book, Medium, Messenger, Transmission: An Approach to Media Philosophy. It is in this chapter that Krämer sets out her thesis of the disappearance of the medium.


  • Krämer, Sybille (2015) ‘Methodological Considerations’ in Medium, Messenger, Transmission: An Approach to Media Philosophy, 27-37 and passim.


Revisiting the ‘Medium is the Message’: McLuhan and Media Specificity

In this lecture we will be undertake a reading of a selection from McLuhan’s classic text, Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man. Reference will also be made to the aim of the book, The Guttenberg Galaxy: The Making of Typographic Man

The first task will be to acknowledge the apparent plausibility of McLuhan’s historical approach to the evolution of communications media and to examine Macro and Micro Approaches to the Medium


  • McLuhan, Marshall (2008 [1964]), Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man, London and New York: Routledge Classics, 24-80; 157-169 (on Clocks).
  • McLuhan, Marshall (2011[1962]) The Guttenberg Galaxy: The Making of Typographic Man, Toronto: University of Toronto Press.
  • Goody, Jack (2000) The Power of the Written Tradition, Washington and London: Smithsonian Institution Press.
  • Ong, Walter J. (1997 [1982]) Orality and Literacy: The Technologizing of the Word, London and New York: Routledge.


Medium as Immaterial and Material Object (Part 1)

The notion that media are what disappears is effectively challenged by another strand of German media theory, one that explicitly promotes the medium as concrete object.  And it is necessary to address this. Indeed, despite appearances to the contrary, with the approach inaugurated in the modern era by Marshall McLuhan, the study of the medium in many quarters remains dominated by the notion that the material support, historically inflected, is the medium. To be considered in this lecture is the work of media archaeologist, Wolgang Ernst, and that of media theorist, Friedrich Kittler. 

What is of pertinence in Ernst is the question of whether the medium as such ‘speaks’, or whether, alternatively, the medium is the condition of possibility of all forms of communication. With Kittler, the issue is whether the blurring of forms of media means that, effectively, the medium as such ‘disappears’.


  • Ernst, Wolfgang (2016) Chronopoetics The Temporal and Operativity of Technological Media, trans. Anthony Enns, London and New York: Rowman and Littlefield, Parts I and II.
  • *Ernst, Wolfgang (2013), ‘From Media History to Zeitcritique’, Theory, Culture and Society, 30 (6), 132-146.
  • Kittler, Friedrich (1999) Gramophone, Film, Typewriter, trans Geoffrey Winthrop-Young and Michael Wutz, Stanford: Stanford University Press.
  • Kittler, Friedrich (1990) ‘Rebus’ in Discourse Networks, 1800/1900, Stanford: Stanford University Press, 265-346.
  • *Kittler, Friedrich (2009), ‘Towards and Ontology of Media’, Theory, Culture and Society, 26 (2-3), 23-31.

Medium as Immaterial and Material Object: ‘Post-medium’ (5, Part 2).

In the wake of the putative dissolution of media comes Rosalind Krauss’s formulation of a ‘post-media’ reality. In her critique of ‘post-media’, Krauss, inspired by Benjamin, endeavors to rehabilitate obsolescent media – in effect, media as object – the better to gain a deeper understanding of that which in its operation went more or less without saying. Obsolescent media can, Krauss proposes, come to assume a ‘redemptive’ role by bringing to light the ‘necessary plurality of the arts’ (199: 305).    

  • Krauss, Rosalind (2000) 'Voyage on the North Sea: Art in the Age of the Post/Medium Condition’, New York: Thames & Hudson.
  • *Krauss, Rosalind (1999) ‘Reinventing the Medium’, Critical Inquiry, 25 (2), 289 305.
  • *Kim Ji-Hoon (2009) ‘The Post-medium Condition and the Explosion of Cinema’, Screen, 50 (1), 114-123.

* = Reading available in course Box.

The Philosophy of Scale: Levels, Layers, and Abstract Domains

Lecturer: Geoff Hondroudakis

Starts: Mon 5:00-7:00pm 14 Feb

Full Schedule: Feb 14-18

Location: Taught via Zoom online.

Questions of scale, have, in recent years, emerged as central vectors for philosophy, manifesting across epistemological and ontological lines as questions of levels, layers, and the demarcation of abstract domains. Contemporary situations—from climate change, the planetarisation of capital, and the miniaturization/infrastructuralisation of computation—have prompted philosophers to consider anew how things inhere in levels and layers, substrates and strata. Accordingly, thinkers across philosophy of science and technology, new materialisms and speculative realisms attempt to address, in their own ways, how different temporal, spatial, and conceptual scales reorient thinking and being. This course aims to trace the history and current state of philosophical thinking of the concept of scale in order to shed light on contemporary debates surrounding abstraction, materialism, complexity, and structure.

Session 1: Prolegomena to a Philosophy of scale

In the first session, we will introduce the concept of scale, and address how and why scale has come to be particularly relevant now. The philosophical stakes of scale are expressed in three primary areas of concern: computation, climate change, and capitalism. In each of these domains, philosophers come to be concerned with the levels and layers, abstract forms and concrete particulars that form the architectures of complex systems. Scalar questions in these areas branch out into larger questions regarding culture, representation, cognition, the philosophy of science, and abstraction’s relationship to the material. Across these fields of thought, scale functions as a means of both binding and splitting, producing cuts and bridging divides between areas of relative commensurability and incommensurability. These prolegomena will set up the inquiries of the subsequent sessions, establishing the terrain in which scale becomes a significant and contested concept for philosophy.

Required Reading:

  • Timothy Clark, “Scale,” in Telemorphosis: Theory in the Era of Climate Change, Volume 1, ed. Tom Cohen (Ann Arbor: Open Humanities Press, 2012), 148–66.

Recommended Reading:

  • Zachary Horton. “Scale Theory,” in The Cosmic Zoom: Scale, Knowledge, and Mediation (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press), 1-36.
  • Anna Lowenhaupt Tsing, “On Nonscalability: The Living World Is Not Amenable to Precision-Nested Scales,” Common Knowledge 18, no. 3 (2012): 505–24.
  • Bernard Stiegler, “Foreword,” in On the Existence of Digital Objects, trans. Daniel Ross (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2016), vii–xiii.

Session 2: History of the Philosophy of Scale

Session two will provide an overview of the long history of scalar thinking, tracing classical origins in Platonist and Aristotelian traditions, through the Copernican turn and the changes in philosophical approaches to scale with the development of modern science and philosophy. This is, necessarily, something of a retroactive reading of a concept onto history, but one that can productively trace certain historical debates, disagreements, and commonalities useful for interpreting the present state of philosophical affairs. This schematic history, then, produces some ways for reading the concepts of the history of philosophy in light of a present conceptual debate, in a way that should shed some light in both temporal directions.

Required Reading:

  • John Tresch, “Cosmopragmatics and Petabytes,” in Aesthetics of Universal Knowledge, ed. Simon Schaffer, John Tresch, and Pasquale Gagliardi (Fondazione Giorgio Cini onlus, 2017), 137–68.

Recommended Reading:

  • Yuk Hui, “Form and Relation: Materialism on an Uncanny Stage,” Intellectica 61, no. 1 (2014): 105–21,
  • Gaston Bachelard, “Noumena and Microphysics,” trans. David Reggio, Angelaki - Journal of the Theoretical Humanities 10, no. 2 (2005): 73–78.
  • Michael Tavel Clarke and David Wittenberg, “Introduction,” in Scale in Literature and Culture, ed. Michael Tavel Clarke and David Wittenberg (Palgrave Macmillan, 2017), 1–34.

Session 3: Disciplinary Concepts of Scale

A large part of the impetus for philosophy to need to think scale today is that is has emerged as a crucial question in the sciences, social sciences, and humanities. While philosophy has, historically, produced many ways of engaging with scale, its primary orientation has often been to occlude it except as a contingent supplement to more trans-scalar truths. However, the last century has seen different disciplinary knowledges produce their own, often highly specialised, accounts of scale, addressing the particular concerns of their respective fields. This session will examine some of the different local formulations of scale found in different disciplines across the sciences and humanities, including physics, geography, ecology, engineering, computing, and media studies. Seeing how the proliferation of disciplinary knowledges produce and relate to scale in turn will serve as a means for addressing how these are incorporated or excluded by their philosophical correlates.

Required Reading:

  • Mark Wilson, “The Greediness of Scales,” in Physics Avoidance: Essays in Conceptual Strategy (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2017), 201-240

Recommended Reading:

  •  Zachary Horton, “The Trans-Scalar Challenge of Ecology,” ISLE Interdisciplinary Studies in Literature and Environment 26, no. 1 (2019): 5–26.
  • Andrew Herod, “Preface”, in Scale (New York: Routledge, 2011), xi-xvii.
  • Benjamin H. Bratton, “Introduction,” in The Stack: On Software and Sovereignty (Cambridge: The MIT Press, 2015), 3-17.

Session 4: Contemporary Philosophers of Scale:

In the contemporary landscape of philosophy and theory, there is a division between positions that aim to produce rigorous and systematic theories of scales, levels, and layers in abstract structures, and proponents of ‘flat’ ontological thinking, where the concept of scale is explicitly denounced in favour of radically horizontal forms of thought. This session returns us to the landscape of contemporary philosophy, examining some of the ways that philosophers have attempted to think the question of scale today. For some, this takes the form of an explicit orientation around scale, while for others the concept is given different names: from hierarchies, to cosmologies, levels and layers of abstraction or organization. By analysing and comparing these thinkers’ disparate attempts to address scalar concerns, we will be able to identify some common features of the concept and its philosophical functions.

Required Reading:

  • Zachary Horton, “Scale and Difference: Towards a New Ecology,” in The Cosmic Zoom: Scale, Knowledge, and Mediation (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2021), 137-170.

Recommended Reading:

  • William C. Wimsatt, “The Ontology of Complex Systems: Levels of Organization, Perspectives, and Causal Thickets,” in Re-Engineering Philosophy for Limited Beings: Piecewise Approximations of Reality (London: Harvard University Press, 2007).
  • Luciano Floridi, “The Method of Levels of Abstraction,” in The Philosophy of Information (New York: Oxford University Press, 2011), 46-78.
  • Bruno Latour, “Anti-Zoom,” in Scale in Literature and Culture, ed. Michael Tavel Clarke and David Wittenberg (Palgrave Macmillan, 2017), 93–101.

Session 5: Implications and Issues:

In light of these accounts of scale we studied throughout the course, we will now re-examine questions of planetary computation, climate change, and scalar politics. In the final session, we will relate the philosophical landscape of scalar thinking back to these matters of concern, mapping them onto the philosophical terrain. Ontological and epistemological accounts of scale both emerge from and respond to the pragmatics of our social, technological, and political situations. This will entail linking these concerns into current debates between different materialisms, and the thinking of abstraction and structure as the pragmatics of how to orient interscalar action. Finally, we will discuss some of the open questions in thinking scale today, and the potential vectors for its future study in philosophy.

Required Reading:

Recommended Reading:

  • Alberto Toscano, “The Culture of Abstraction,” Theory, Culture & Society 25, no. 4 (2008): 57–75.
  • Anna Lowenhaupt Tsing, “Some Problems with Scale,” in The Mushroom at the End of the World: On the Possibility of Life in Capitalist Ruins (New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 2015), 37-52.
  • Tiziana Terranova, “Red Stack Attack,” in #Accelerate: The Accelerationist Reader, ed. Robin Mackay and Armen Avanessian (Urbanomic,

The Philosophy of Gnosticism

Lecturer: Nina Power

Starts: Mon 7:30-9:30pm 14 Feb

Full Schedule: Feb 14-18

Location: Taught via Zoom online.

This course will examine, via the writings of Georges Bataille, Ioan Couliano, Gershom Scholem, Elaine Pagels, Hans Jonas, Harold Bloom, Philip K. Dick and Eric Voegelin the contemporary meaning of Gnosticism as a theory of knowledge. This five-day course will examine the core gnostic concepts and approaches, including dualism, Sophia, the demiurge, logos and aeon. It will ultimately aim to provide students with the ability to see how gnostic ideas have permeated our contemporary culture, even, or especially, when we believe we live in secular times.

Reading marked with an asterisk is primary, but try to read as many of the texts as possible for the full experience!

Day 1: What is Gnosticism?


  • *Ioan P. Couliano, ‘Chapter 2: Myths about Gnosticism: An Introduction’, The Tree of Gnosis: Gnostic Mythology from Early Christianity to Modern Nihilism, translated by H. S. Wiesner and the author (New York: HarperCollins, 1992), pp. 50-69
  • *Kurt Rudolph, ‘THE SOURCES’, Gnosis: The Nature and History of Gnosticism, translation edited by Robert McLachlan Wilson (New York: HarperCollins, 1987 [1977]), pp. 9-52
  • Henry Corbin, ‘The Dramatic Element Common to the Gnostic Cosmogonies of the Religions of the Book’, Studies in Comparative Religion, Vol. 14, Nos. 3 & 4 (Summer-Autumn, 1980), pp. 199-221.
  • Michael Allen Williams, Introduction & ‘Chapter 1 What Kind of Thing Do Scholars Mean by “Gnosticism”? A LOOK AT FOUR CASES’, Rethinking “Gnosticism”: An Argument for Dismantling a Dubious Category (Princeton, New Jersey, Princeton University Press, 1996), pp. 3-28

Day 2: Gnostic Texts


Day 3: The Meaning of Gnosticism


  • *Hans Jonas, Prefaces & ‘Part 1: Gnostic Literature – Main Tenets, Symbolic Language, Chapter 2: The Meaning of Gnosis and the Extent of the Gnostic Movement’, The Gnostic Religion: The Message of the Alien God and the Beginnings of Christianity, second edition (Boston: Beacon Press, 1963 [1953]), pp. xiii-xx & pp. 31-47
  • *Georges Bataille, ‘Base Materialism and Gnosticism’ (1930), The Bataille Reader, edited by Fred Botting and Scott Wilson (London: Blackwell, 1997), pp. 160-164
  • Gershom G. Scholem, ‘Chapter IX, THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN GNOSTIC AND JEWISH SOURCES. JEWISH SOURCES ON THE OGDOAS. YALDABAOTH AND ARIEL. ELIJAH AND LILITH’, Jewish Gnosticism, Merkabah Mysticism, and Talmudic Tradition, Second Edition (New York: The Jewish Theological Seminary of America, 1965 [1960]), pp. 65-74
  • *Ioan P. Couliano, ‘Chapter 11: Modern Nihilism’, The Tree of Gnosis: Gnostic Mythology from Early Christianity to Modern Nihilism, translated by H. S. Wiesner and the author (New York: HarperCollins, 1992), pp. 249-266
  • Ioan P. Couliano, ‘Chapter 10: The Tree of Gnosis’, The Tree of Gnosis: Gnostic Mythology from Early Christianity to Modern Nihilism, translated by H. S. Wiesner and the author (New York: HarperCollins, 1992), pp. 239-248

Day 4: Gnosticism and Politics


  • *Eric Voegelin, The New Science of Politics: An Introduction (Chicago & London, The University of Chicago Press, 1974 [1952]).
  • *Eric Voegelin, Science, Politics and Gnosticism: Two Essays (Washington D.C., Gateway Editions, 1997 [1959])
  • Harold Bloom, ‘Chapter V: Millennium’, Omens of Millennium: The Gnosis of Angels, Dreams, And Resurrection (New York: Riverhead Books, 1996), pp. 217-230

Day 5: Gnosticism and Culture


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