Six philosophy short-courses taught in Melbourne June - July.
When: 20 June - 21 July, 2017
Where: Kathleen Syme Centre, cnr Faraday and Cardigan st. Carlton & 1888 Building, UniMelb.
The enrolment form includes both attendance and distance enrolment options. Distance Enrolment is available for all six courses.
Winter School Programme
Lecturer: Dr Lenka Ucnik
Schedule: 6.30-8.30pm. 5 Tuesdays starting June 20
Location: Kathleen Syme Centre. See board for room allocation.
Lesson 1: The consistent thought of Hannah Arendt
This opening session aims to introduce the themes Arendt explores in her later work, The Life of the Mind and connect these to her earlier concerns with public, political action. Some commentators suggest Arendt’s early and late works are incongruous, with some arguing that her later contemplative turn undermines her account of the political realm.
I intend to show that Arendt is a systematic thinker and regardless of her later move towards withdrawal and contemplation, the overarching narrative throughout her work remains the same. Firstly, I will present an overview of the main themes in Arendt’s earlier works and then show how these same ideas are presented in her later discussions on the life of the mind.
1.1 Politics and Freedom
Explain Arendt’s particular account of politics and freedom.
1.2 Political action and the public space
Arendt critiques what she sees as the Western tradition’s denigration of the political realm, and opens a dialogue where, as in the arena of political actors, novelty may arise through the vigorous exchange of competing ideas. Public performance and a public forum where political actors can present their ideas and be judged by others is central to Arendt’s account of political action.
1.3 The influence of the Eichmann trial on Arendt’s political action
Arendt is (1) interested in knowing who Eichmann is in real life, and how he matches up to the totalitarian mentality she studied in On Totalitarianism; (2) she wants to analyse the capacity of legal institutions to handle the possibility of a new type of crime and criminal and (3) she wants to expose herself to the “evil-doer” because, “for many years or, to be specific, for thirty years, [she has been thinking] about the nature of evil”.
Lesson 2: The consistent thought of Hannah Arendt
The second session continues on from week 1 to show that despite the different objectives between The Human Condition and The Life of the Mind, there are some fundamental concerns present in both that lie at the heart of Arendt’s endeavours. Arendt stresses the importance of thinking as early as The Human Condition, where she says thinking is the “highest and perhaps purest activity of which men are capable”. Yet it is not until her work after Eichmann that she explores these earlier insights in detail—where her concern with thoughtlessness, mentioned in the Prologue to The Human Condition, becomes the major focus.
In Arendt’s investigation into the life of the mind, where she grapples with the problem of why people come to act as they do, action and politics are never far from sight. Themes of political engagement, independent judgment and the potential to bring forth the never before seen remain constant despite some critics’ suggestions that there is a conflict inherent to Arendt’s earlier and later concerns.
2.1 Vita Contemplativa – the life of the mind. A comparative
There is a coherence between Arendt’s account of politics and action, and her interest in the life of the mind. Key concerns with plurality, judgment, and words and deeds remain constant. However, I acknowledge that superficially there appears to be a shift in Arendt’s line of inquiry from the late 1960s onwards.
2.2 “Philosophy and politics”
An analysis of Arendt’s paper “Philosophy and politics” where Arendt uses the figure of Socrates to highlight a particular attitude that reinforces her position regarding political engagement and the importance of fostering a perpetually critical mindset. In her essay, “Philosophy and politics”, which comes from the third and final parts of a series of lectures at Notre Dame University in 1954, Arendt uses the figure of Socrates to depict someone living with others, moving about the marketplace and engaging with competing doxai.
2.3 “Thinking and moral consideration”
An analysis of Arendt’s paper “Thinking and moral consideration” where Socrates becomes the figure to best encapsulate the thinking experience. Socrates embodies both a thinking that is representative for “everybody”, as well as someone living among others with no aspirations to rule or with claims to superior knowledge or wisdom.
Lesson 3: The Life of the Mind – thinking
Thinking, willing and judging together form what Arendt regards as the life of the mind: thinking is a dialogic withdrawal from the world, re-presenting things that are absent; willing is future directed and has the capacity to bring about the unexpected; and judging concerns making evaluative decisions about particular events without subsuming these events under pre-established, universal standards. Thinking, willing and judging each have different concerns, but are nevertheless interrelated. Although these differing concerns can, at times, conflict, good mental governance demands that never must the relation between the three faculties become one of dominance of one over the other. For Arendt, the internal freedom of each faculty is a precondition for mental harmony, and good mental governance exists when all three faculties check and balance each other without any being denigrated. This session is on thinking.
3.1 Thinking and knowledge
The investigation in LM-I begins with the almost naive questions: What are we “doing” when we do nothing but think? Where are we when we are with no one but ourselves? At first glance these questions appear to belong to standard questions in metaphysics; however, it soon becomes clear Arendt’s concern is with something different. In her 1971 paper, “Thinking and Moral Considerations” Arendt distinguishes between what she terms, “ways of thinking” and the “ability to think”.
We look at two Socratic insights: (1) the Delphic maxim, “know thyself”, and (2) the statement, “It is better to be in disagreement with the whole world than, being one, to be in disagreement with myself”. These two insights form the basis for Arendt’s description of the phenomenal experience of the activity of thinking and her account of conscience, which she regards as thinking’s by-product. For Arendt, both insights rely on the premise that only by knowing what appears to me is it possible to understand my personal relationship to truth.
Thinking, considered in terms of the two-in-one, forms the basis of Arendt’s conception of conscience. Conscience in Arendt is used in a very specific sense. It is not the divine word of God or the lumina natural. Arendt’s idea of conscience differs from its use in moral and legal matters because it is not ever-present, and only presents in times of solitude when the self divides and the two are in disagreement causing internal contradiction. Arendtian conscience is not the conscience commonly depicted in children’s cartoons, where on one shoulder sits the “bad” self who encourages the satisfaction of desires to the detriment of all else, and on the other sits the “good” self, the voice of conscience, reminding the character about the right course of action. Conscience, for Arendt, is better conceived as an after-thought that is only aroused when the two-in-one are no longer friends.
Lesson 4: The Life of the Mind – willing
Arendt’s account of willing is broad in scope, spanning from the ancient Greeks through to the twentieth century. Arendt is very clear that it is the faculty of the will that offers the possibility to bring about the never before seen. Like thinking’s two-in-one, the faculty of the will is inherently divided. However, unlike the necessity for unity in the two-in-one, willing exists in permanent tension. The divide is a battle between the pull to will or not will—a tension that only stops in the moment of action. Furthermore, just as the faculty of thinking has a liberating effect on the faculty of judgment, Arendt sees a necessary connection between willing and judging.
4.1 The “discovery” of the will
Arendt’s discussion of the will in The Life of the Mind follows the concept as it is presented throughout the history of Western thought. It is with Christianity that the idea of the will enters philosophy. In Christian doctrine, a person’s afterlife is decided while still on earth, wherein there remains a future beyond that of the necessity of mortal death. It is his preparation for this future life that paves the way for Paul to first “discover” the will and its connection to freedom, where freedom becomes located in a faculty of mind.
4.2 The key features of the will
The will is neither unitary nor coherent. In the moment of willing either reason or desire is affirmed, and with the affirmation of reason or desire always lies the negation of the other. There is the experience of a disharmonizing moment when making a choice between one path or another because the outcome is unknown. The I-will and I-nill represent the two conflicting sides of the willing ego, where a person’s character and actions are not predetermined. This conflict of the will in choosing is a sign of its ultimate human freedom because whatever the choice, it could always have been otherwise. In every affirmation of the will there is simultaneously a negation (velle-nolle), and therein lies its freedom and the potential for novelty.
4.3 The will to bring about the new
Arendt considers Duns Scotus to be the other great philosopher of the will. Arendt’s interest with Scotus’ treatment of the will is its connection to freedom, uniqueness and action. Willing is central to the notion of freedom since it causes volitions, whereby freedom is demonstrated through the basic quality of either willing or nilling. Citing Scotus, Arendt suggests that the test of freedom lies in the knowledge that “a decision actually taken need not have been taken and a choice other than the one actually made might have been made”.
Lesson 5: The Life of the Mind – judging
The final mental faculty of the mind Arendt examines in The Life of the Mind is judgment. It is this third faculty that some consider as the potential link between Arendt’s life of thought and public action. It is because of the apparent tension between solitude and the public realm that many supporters of Arendt look to the unfinished work on judgment as a possible bridge between the life of the citizen and the life of the mind. Arendt refers to judgment in her Lectures on Kant as the most political of the mental faculties and “the political faculty par excellence”.
5.1 Actor-based judgment
In the context of human plurality and political action Arendt regards actor-centred judgment as a necessary part of political debate. To highlight the difference between the professional thinker and the political actor Arendt draws on Kant’s notions of “enlarged mentality” and Aristotle’s phronesis—“representative thinking”—when developing her account of judgment and political thinking.
5.2 Spectator-based judgment
There is a shift in focus here from judgment played out in a public performative space to the non-participatory judgment of uninvolved spectators. Arendt’s later account of judgment holds similarities with earlier descriptions in reference to Kant’s aesthetic judgment, the emphasis on judging particulars without subsuming them under universals and the reappropriation of Kant’s “enlarged mentality”.
In Arendt’s focus on the contemplative life and her concern with multiplicity, action and politics are never far from sight. Despite accusations of contradicting earlier political concerns, Arendt continues to argue that the work of philosophers cannot, and should not, be regarded as separate from the political domain of action. Such a separation does not exist except by means of force.
Lecturer: Dr Valery Vinogradovs
Schedule: 6.30-8.30pm. 5 Wednesdays starting June 21
Location: Kathleen Syme Centre. See board for room allocation.
Russia is a colossal country, and philosophy has played a major role in forming its culture. Fortunately, philosophy has not become a mere academic discipline or a game of the intellectual elite, but is more along the lines of a common interest of a civilised citizen. As a matter of fact, this explains why Russian universities are crowded with philosophers. For example, the St Petersburg State University has fifteen philosophy departments, with numerous teaching and research staff in each department. Philosophy is alive in Russia. Yet, Russian thinkers have kept a bad Soviet habit: namely, they tend to write exclusively in Russian. Hence, the ideas that Russian philosophers are preoccupied with remain inaccessible to us. This course has been designed to rectify a small fraction of this issue.
The purpose of the seminars is to introduce the audience to two intriguing figures, both unknown in Australia. Of course, everyone is familiar with Nietzsche and Dostoevsky. A few of us have some understanding of the striking parallels between these two giants of thought. A Russian Nietzsche and a Russian Dostoevsky, however, are novel subjects of study. By these two figures I mean Nietzsche and Dostoevsky considered by Russian philosophers interested in their influence on the formation of Russian culture and the fate of humanity in light of the vibrant Russian history.
Our course focuses on philosophy of art, aesthetics, metaphysics, as well as philosophical psychology and is divided in three parts:
1. Dostoevsky and the Russian Renaissance and Silver Age: Symbolism, Mysticism, Tragism
2. One Hard Way: Dostoevsky on Human Spirit
3. Nietzsche and the Russian Renaissance and Silver Age: Eroticism, Futurism, Symbolism
4. Your Hard Way: Nietzsche on Human Spirit
5. The Philosophers of Tragedy: A Comparative Analysis and Discussion
The course draws from the wealth of Russian philosophical literature devoted to these questions. To prepare for the seminars, we shall read some primary texts in English, but only articles and books written in Russian are used for composing the seminars. All translations are mine.
Lecturer: Dr Mark Hewson
Schedule: 10am - 12noon. Monday, July 17 – Friday July 21
Location: 1888 Building, Grattan st, University of Melbourne. See board for room allocation.
This course is intended as an alternative introduction to Heidegger, using the lecture course The Fundamental Concepts of Metaphysics, rather than the usual starting point, Being and Time. The course was delivered only a couple of years after the publication of Being and Time (1927), and it presents many of the same concepts in a way that is a little more accessible, due to its composition as a series of lectures.
Heidegger envisaged the course as a new beginning, rather than as a further development of the systematic presentation of Being and Time. It takes the same basic questions - existence, world, time, being - and unfolds them anew through a new series of phenomenological analyses. Thus, one of the innovations of Being and Time was to place affect and mood at the centre of philosophical questioning, by recognising their disclosive value. Heidegger claimed that it was possible to reveal the limitations of philosophical conceptions of subjectivity by bringing the reflection closer to the givens of concrete experience. The lecture course continues this initiative through the analysis of boredom, which becomes the revelation of “the nothing” that existence opens on to, and the starting point for an encounter with existence, as a demand, rather than a mere fact. Likewise, the central question of “world” is explored in a new way in the lecture course through the contrast between the human and the animal experience of world. Throughout the course, too, one can follow the re-statement of the ethical and activist dimension of Heidegger's thought, first presented (in Being and Time) through the notion of an “authentic” existence.
The Fundamental Concepts of Metaphysics was only published in 1981, but it has since taken on a life of its own in the scholarly literature, and is discussed as a work in its own right, on the same level as the published books. In particular, the treatment of the human and the animal in this course is now widely referred to, after it figured in the late writings of Jacques Derrida on the animality of the human, and in Giorgio Agamben's book, The Open. This course is primarily intended to guide students through a reading of the course as a whole, but it will also give some orientations on its place in contemporary debates.
Week 1: Philosophy as the question of being. Heidegger's use of the term “metaphysics”.
Fundamental Concepts of Metaphysics, introduction.
Fundamental Concepts of Phenomenology, introduction.
Week 2: The concept of mood. The phenomenological analysis of boredom.
Fundamental Concepts of Metaphysics, part 1, chapters 1-4.
“What is Metaphysics” in Pathmarks (on the mood of anguish).
Week 3: Introduction to the concept of “world”.
Fundamental Concepts of Metaphysics, part 1, chapter 5, part 2, chapters 1-2.
Week 4: Human and animal experience of world
Fundamental Concepts of Metaphysics, part 2, chapters 3-5.
Agamben, The Open
Week 5: The human as world-forming. The concept of transcendence.
Fundamental Concepts of Metaphysics, part 2, chapter 6.
Fundamental concepts of Metaphysics. Translated by William McNeill.
The course will be primarily devoted to working through and discussing this course, with occasional reference to Being and Time and other texts written around the same time.
There will be some reference to the following texts, and possibly other commentators on Heidegger.
Giorgio Agamben, The Open.
Jacques Derrida, The Beast and the Sovereign.
William McNeill, The Time of Life.
Lecturer: Dr Rhonda Siu
Schedule: 12.30pm - 2.30pm. Monday, July 17 – Friday July 21
Location: 1888 Building, Grattan st, University of Melbourne. See board for room allocation.
The main aim of this course is to introduce students to key themes in the philosophy of music from a Continental perspective. More so than the other creative arts, music has been overlooked as a proper subject of philosophical investigation. Philosophy’s hesitation before music can be mainly attributed to the significant challenge posed by music’s seemingly indefinable nature our what Theodor Adorno terms its “enigma”. Music is usually regarded as inherently non-representational and a-conceptual, thereby tending to frustrate attempts to define it made by traditional philosophical frameworks (especially analytic ones) that privilege epistemological forms of analysis. This course would explore how key figures in the Continental tradition have examined music, from a variety of perspectives (e.g. metaphysical, corporeal and affective). Further details are provided below.
Lesson 1 – Music’s “enigma”: Adorno’s philosophy of music
To introduce some main concepts in the Continental philosophy of music, this session would explore key themes in Adorno’s aesthetics of music, such as: (1) music’s “enigma” or indefinability, (2) its complex relationship with language and other art forms, and (3) its dialectical interaction with history, politics and society. Key texts to be explored include Aesthetic Theory, Philosophy of Modern Music and Essays on Music.
Lesson 2 – Music as metaphysics: A Schopenhauerian view
Beginning with an overview of Schopenhauer’s metaphysics (on which his aesthetics of music is based), this session would explore his key claim that music can express the essence of existence by virtue of being a “copy of the will itself”. Music, for Schopenhauer, is valuable because it can temporarily alleviate our pain and suffering through epistemological means. This session would also explore the analogies he establishes between the nature and movement of the musical elements and the empirical world (i.e. the “world as representation”). Excerpts from The World as Will and Representation would be explored.
Lesson 3 – Music’s life-affirming power in Nietzsche’s Birth of Tragedy (and other works)
This session would explore how Nietzsche both draws upon and transforms Schopenhauer’s metaphysical views of music in his analysis of the contribution of the Apollonian and Dionysian principles to the life-affirming power of Greek tragedy in The Birth of Tragedy. The analysis would be supplemented by insights from early (and rarely discussed) unpublished works like “The Dionysian Worldview” and “On Music and Words”. Nietzsche’s views of music in his later works may also be explored.
Lesson 4 – Temporality, intersubjectivity and lived experience: Schutz’s phenomenology of music
Departing from the metaphysics of Will that features in both Schopenhauer and Nietzsche’s philosophies, this session would explore the role of temporality and intersubjectivity in the lived experience of music in Schutz’s phenomenological philosophy. It would investigate what it actually means to “make music together” by focussing on his key notion of the “mutual tuning-in relationship”. The musical manifestation of the latter, Schutz claims, describes the ways in which participants in the musical experience meet in overlapping dimensions of what he calls “inner” and “outer time”. The Husserlian underpinnings of Schutz’s thought may also be examined to situate the discussion, for example, Husserl’s notion of the “ideal object” and his conception of temporality in terms of “retention”, “reproduction”, “protention” and “anticipation”. Key texts would include “Making Music Together: A Study in Social Relationship” and “Fragments on the phenomenology of music”.
Lesson 5 – Corporeality, affect and creative expression: Music in Merleau-Ponty’s existential phenomenology
This session would continue the exploration of music in terms of lived experience by investigating its role in Merleau-Ponty’s existential phenomenology. While Merleau-Ponty does not write about music in an explicit or sustained manner, his investigation of the corporeal, affective, creative and transformative nature of all expression provides a constructive opening for discussing an aesthetics of music. That his philosophy is conducive to an aesthetics of music is indicated by the way he sometimes uses concrete or “real-life” examples of musical experiences to elaborate and substantiate his claims about the inherently expressive nature of language. Key concepts to be discussed here include the “lived” or “phenomenological body”, “habit”, “corporeal intentionality” and “expressive silences” in both music and language. Key texts include Phenomenology of Perception, The Primacy of Perception, The Visible and the Invisible, and Signs.
Lecturer: Robyn Adler
Schedule: 3pm - 5pm. Monday, July 17 – Friday July 21
Location: 1888 Building, Grattan st, University of Melbourne. See board for room allocation.
Marie José Mondzain is a philosopher of the image, a Directrice de Recherche at CNRS Paris and daughter of the painter Simon Mondzain. Her research on the iconoclastic crisis in the Byzantine and translation of the work of the patrist Nikephorus, informs this small book, the only of her works to have thus far been translated into English, which traces the origins of the contemporary imaginary to the Byzantine. Her work is by no means limited to what she laments in regards to her reception in the US as framed by “The book”. She has published widely on areas as diverse as cinema, visual arts, mourning, philosophical anthropology, psychoanalysis, politics and fashion. Whilst this course will be based around this one book as the foundation of Mondzain’s concerns, I hope that we will avoid this indiscrimination of her work in the English speaking world and to stretch the logical implications of her work particularly as they apply to the political. Invoked by figures as diverse as Agamben and Kristeva, Mondzain’s work has not received the attention it deserves in Australia. This course will be of interest to a broad range of people-from those interested in visual culture and cultural production; to those interested in the production of culture within the economy; to those interested in theological conceptions of the trinitarian economy; to those interested in psychoanalytic questions of the image and the body; to the very fundamental questions of philosophy around mimesis-putting into question the cogito as an “I think” through an image; to those thinking political change.
The iconoclastic crisis in the Byzantine may seem far from contemporary questions regarding the image and the status of the imaginary today but Mondzain demonstrates that the seeds for the current crisis of the domination of visibility, or Debord’s ‘spectacle’, have their roots in economic articulations figured discursively during the second iconoclasm. Far from being reduced to a communicative tool, recreational and therapeutic amusement or commodity, the image is inseparable from the symbolic and puts into question the very semblance of discourse and the very operations of the economy. Indeed it was through philosophical discourse and a return to Greek thought that the iconophiles eventually succeeded over the iconoclasts and the artificial image commenced its reign, simultaneously subsuming the natural image through an economic conception of their living relationship. The icon visibly manifested the invisible image of the divine economy itself rather than any specific sensible object of perception. In particular reference to the work of the patrist, Nikephoros, Mondzain outlines the intricacies of ontological speculation about doxa, mimésis and the phenomenon that enabled the formulation “an economic conception of the natural image founds the artificial image, and an economic conception of the artificial image, in turn, founds temporal power” (IIE: 2).
What is at stake in the image is the very nature of thought and liberty-whoever manages to to master both the natural and the artificial image draws together all possible benefits between faithfulness and unfaithfulness to guarantee both power in the visible and authority in the invisible. The crisis persists today as a crisis of authority and a crisis of recognition-now that god is dead, his visible icon is paraded everywhere, but now unhinged from any métron, just measure, and hinged only to the insatiable demands of the market to enjoy without limit, relying in turn on rendering invisible, as exceptional, the other half of the world’s population who are literally without resources.
This course will endeavour to get through this one small book without too many detours, however inevitable ones will be the problematising of the mimetic relation against/with Plato; connections to Lacan’s conceptions of the gaze and the image; a comparison to Agamben’s Kingdom and the Glory; and Kojève on the notion of authority.
Principal themes: economy; rhetoric; crisis; authority; image.
A semantic study of the term economy: before the church fathers (oikos/polis)
Iconic Space and Territorial Rule-a theocracy of the visible: coins and seals; the icon of the mother and son. Because the invisible has a universal value, the legitimization of iconic hegemony is produced through dogmatically sanctioned means of making it visible. The visible image of today’s economy borrows from the theological constructions of the image in its territorial reign, prevailing over all other modes of communication. The monopoly of the production of the visible image betrays the invisible enigma of the image in the name of economic glory, sovereign power and universal territorial rule.
The paradigmatic exception-The Jew, Frontally and in Profile
Pasolini’s Teorema as site of catastrophe and redemption; the operator of the stranger as the invisible in the visible and organiser of desires.
What is to be done? Rethinking the notion of authority and the exception in relation to the capitalist discourse and the temporality of crisis.
Debord, G. (1994). The society of the spectacle. New York : Zone Books, 1994.
Mondzain, Marie-José. 2004. Image, icon, economy : the Byzantine origins of the contemporary economy. Palo Alto: Stanford University Press, 2004.
Articles by Mondzain available in English:
Mondzain, Marie-José. 2010. "What Does Seeing an Image Mean?." Journal Of Visual Culture 9, no. 3: 307-315.
Mondzain, Marie-Jose, and Sally Shafto. 2009. "Can images kill?." Critical Inquiry no. 1: 20-52.
Mondzain, Marie José, 2003. "Matthew Barney ou les noces menaçantes du paganisme et du sacré / Unanimous Acclaim." Art-Press no. 290: 64-66 (this is in French and English).
Selected bibliography (in French):
L’image naturelle, Le Nouveau commerce, 1995
Image, icône, économie : les sources byzantines de l’imaginaire contemporain, Seuil, 1996
Van Gogh, ou La peinture comme tauromachie, Épure, 1996
Cueco dessins, Les Éditions Cercle d'art, 1998
Transparence, opacité ? : 14 artistes contemporains chinois, Les Éditions Cercle d'art, 1999
L’image peut-elle tuer ?, Bayard, 2002
Le commerce des regards, Seuil, 2003
Texte de Jean-Toussaint Desanti, avec Marie-Josée Mondzain, Myriam Revault d'Allonnes, Patrice Loraux, et al., Voir ensemble, Gallimard, coll. « Réfléchir le cinéma », 2003, ouvrage coordonné par Marie José Mondzain ; [publié par] L'Exception, Groupe de réflexion sur le cinéma
L’Énigme du deuil (avec Laurie Laufer), Presses universitaires de France, 2006
Homo spectator, Bayard, 2007
Qu’est-ce que tu vois ?, Gallimard, 2008
Images (à suivre) : de la poursuite au cinéma et ailleurs, Bayard, 2011
L'image peut-elle tuer ?, Bayard Culture, 2015
Confiscation : des mots, des images et du temps, Les Liens qui libèrent, 2017
Lecturer: Dr Jon Roffe
Schedule: 5.30pm - 7.30pm. Monday, July 17 – Friday July 21
Location: 1888 Building, Grattan st, University of Melbourne. See board for room allocation.
Between 1972 and 1991, Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari published four books together: Anti-Oedipus, Kafka: Toward a Minor Literature, A Thousand Plateaus, and What is Philosophy?
These books are, by their own account, quintessentially political in character; the aim of this course is to explicate the nature of this politics. Practically speaking, we will consider in turn each of the four major forms of social organisation, what they call social machines or formations: pre-State or ‘savage’ society, State or ‘barbarian’ society, capitalism, and finally the counter-State nomadic formation. The course will conclude with a consideration of some critical problems that can be raised to their account.
While the bulk of the discussion will focus on the two volumes of Capitalism and Schizophrenia, we will turn to both the Kafka volume and What is Philosophy? at various points. The course, consequently, functions as an introduction to Deleuze and Guattari’s joint works, with a particular focus on their claims about the nature of society, the nature of the human subject, and the capacities we may or may not possess for transforming our social context.
Monday: Introduction. The first seminar will lay out the general framework of Deleuze and Guattari’s account of society, both in terms of the ontology of desire found in Anti-Oedipus, and the machinic ontology of A Thousand Plateaus.
Suggested reading: “Micropolitics and Segmentarity,” chapter 9 of A Thousand Plateaus
Tuesday: The pre-State formation. In the second seminar, we will discuss the form of society that, in Deleuze and Guattari’s view, precedes, anticipates, and wards off the advent of the State.”
We will spend a significant proportion of the first hour in a discussion of Deleuze and Guattari’s most important influence in this context, the anthropologist Pierre Clastres. In the second hour, we will consider this formation from both the libidinal perspective of Anti-Oedipus (in which the incest prohibition is at issue) and the economic perspective of A Thousand Plateaus (in which the operation of warding is at issue)
Suggested reading: Pierre Clastres, “Society against the State”
Wednesday: The State formation. The middle seminar will consider what is arguably the central category in Deleuze and Guattari’s theory of society, the State. In the second hour, we will again consider the libidinal and economic perspectives in turn: the State foreclosure of incest, and the State, from the economic point of view, as an apparatus of capture. We will also touch on the place of the State-city opposition in the analysis.
Suggested readings: extracts from “Savages, Barbarians, Civilised Men,” in Anti-Oedipus, and “Apparatus of Capture,” in A Thousand Plateaus.
Thursday: The capitalist formation. We will turn, in the fourth seminar, to Deleuze and Guattari’s analysis of capitalism. While broadly Marxist in character, its libidinal and machinic emphases mean that it develops in a rather unorthodox direction. The second hour will again turn to the libidinal and economic registers. On the one hand, we will see how the advent of the Oedipus complex is a result of the advent of capitalism. On the other, we will see how the displacement of limits proper to capitalism appears from the point of view of the price-value opposition.
Suggested reading: extract from “Apparatus of Capture,” in A Thousand Plateaus
Friday: The nomadic formation, the case for revolution, conclusion. In this last seminar, we will consider the two major lines of revolutionary thought in Deleuze and Guattari’s work. The first is the claim that capitalism must be pushed beyond its own limits in order to transform it beyond its rapacity, a thesis that appears in all of Deleuze and Guattari’s political works; the second is the much more substantial claim for a fourth social formation advanced in A Thousand Plateaus, the nomadic formation.
We will close the seminar series by considering two important open question. First, how viable are these critical proposals, even on the grounds that Deleuze and Guattari themselves provide? Both the notion of acceleration, and Eugene Holland’s rather different proposal for a free market communism will be considered here. Second, what does the term ‘politics’ mean for Deleuze and Guattari, especially given their hostility to the normative categories that are normally presupposed by it?
Suggested readings: extract from “Treatise on Nomadology,” from A Thousand Plateaus; Alex Williams and Nick Srnicek, “#Accelerate Manifesto”; Eugene Holland, extract from Nomad Citizenship; Jean-François Lyotard, “Energumen Capitalism”