Winter School 2019
Nine philosophy short-courses taught in Melbourne June - July.
When: 17 June - 26 July 2019
Where: Church of All Nations (CAN), 180 Palmerston st, Carlton. There will be MSCP signage at CAN. Note: Disabled access is via the rear of the building which will also have MSCP signage.
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The enrolment form includes both attendance and distance enrolment options. Distance Enrolment is available for all courses.
Winter School Programme
2 hours per week for 5 weeks
2 hours per day for 5 days
Invaders from the Future: The CCRU’s Writings and Their Legacy
Lecturer: Vincent Le
Schedule: 6.30-8.30pm. 5 Mondays starting June 17
Location: CAN, 180 Palmerston St, Carlton.
This course provides an introduction to the Cybernetic Culture Research Unit’s writings, as well as traces their important influence on contemporary philosophy, aesthetics and political theory. Initially established in 1995 at Warwick University to support philosopher and cyberfeminist Sadie Plant’s work before being banished from academia and falling under Nick Land’s tutelage in 1997, the Cybernetic Culture Research Unit (CCRU) has become the subject of much myth and legend for its rather unorthodox compositions, reading groups, conferences and art shows, all of which sought to theorize and produce immanently with rather than about and from on high the cybercultures they studied. It was particularly in their later years outside the university that the CCRU took an ever more literary and even occult turn. Free from the confines of academic acceptability, no subject was considered too outrageous to seriously devote themselves, be it Aleister Crowley’s numerology, H.P. Lovecraft’s Cthulu mythos, or conspiracy theories about secret societies and alien abductions. Many of the group’s writings not only drew upon fictions, but sought to merge with them, becoming what they termed (following Baudrillard) “theory-fictions” or “hyperstitions”: imaginary worlds that are not yet real, but will become so in the future. Through this unholy, alchemic cocktail of fiction, science and the occult, the CCRU sought to strip language of anthropocentric meanings and dogmas in such a way as to stage an encounter with the inhuman “Outside” beyond the finite bounds of our reason.
The demands of their often narcotic-fueled collective thinking on minimal sleep would ultimately lead to the CCRU’s virtual disbandment in 2003, with only sporadic communication on their Hyperstition blog before going radio silent in 2007. Nonetheless, their influence continues to live on today like a spectre haunting the academy as many former members and associates have gone on to achieve prominence in their own right, including philosophers Anna Greenspan, Luciana Parisi, Reza Negarestani, Kodwo Eshun, Iain Hamilton Grant, Robin Mackay and Mark Fisher, as well as artists Jake and Dino Chapman, Ranu Kuherjee, Maggie Roberts and Steve Goodman (better known under his pseudonym Kode9). To cover both the CCRU’s collective writings and some of the key members’ subsequent trajectories, this course will be structured into three modules: the first module looks at the CCRU’s collective theory-fictions and occult rituals; the second covers Land’s post-CCRU writings as the group’s key intellectual guru; and the third explores how other former CCRU members went on to pioneer three cultural movements of our time: speculative realism; accelerationism (including xenofeminism); and the antihumanist aesthetic.
Lecture 1. Fictions of the Future, Numerologies of the Past: The CCRU’s Theory-Fictions and Occult Practices
The CCRU’s efforts to critique the limits of our thought through biotechnology, advanced AI and other modern and near-future technologies’ capacities to modify and even surpass humanity initially incited them to model their writings on science fiction stories about the end of the world. If their writings became extremely literary, it was not because they were no longer interested in serious philosophy, but because they held it is only through fictions that we can truly think about what reality is like without us. This first lecture will be broken into two parts. The first part will focus on the CCRU’s early theory-fictions in which they time-travel to a future where advanced biotechnology and strong AI are already a reality. We will also look at the work of the fictitious Professor D.C. Barker through whom the CCRU develop a theory of the emergence of life and thought as “geotraumatic” repressions and stratifications of the earth’s chaotic molten core. The second part will then examine how the CCRU’s writings became increasingly abstract and occult as they turned to qabbalistic and mathematical numbering practices like Crowley’s numerology and Cantor’s set theory in an effort to open up our language systems to modernity’s increasingly confounding technological entanglement.
- Nick Land, “Meltdown,” in Fanged Noumena: Collected Writings 1987-2007, eds. Robin Mackay and Ray Brassier (Falmouth: Urbanomic, 2012), 441-460.
- CCRU, “Barker Speaks: The CCRU Interview with Professor D.C. Barker,” in CCRU: Writings 1997-2003, ed. Robin Mackay (Falmouth: Urbanomic, 2017), 155-162.
- Nick Land, “Qabbalah 101,” in Fanged Noumena, 591-606.
- Andy Beckett, “Accelerationism: How a Fringe Philosophy Predicted the Future We Live In,” in The Guardian, 11 May, 2017, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/may/11/accelerationism-how-a-fringe-philosophy-predicted-the-future-we-live-in.
- Nick Land, “Cyberrevolution,” in Fanged Noumena, 375-382.
- Nick Land, “Mechanomics,” in Fanged Noumena, 507-526.
- Nick Land, “Tic Talk,” in Fanged Noumena, 607-622.
Lecture 2. Malfunctioning Academia: Hyperstition and The Urban Sublime
The key overarching concept that cohered the CCRU’s diverse and peculiar output is what they called hyperstition, “fictions that make themselves real.” The first half of this session will work through the different aspects and significations of hyperstition to show how it essentially designates the idea that fictions like qabbalistic numerologies, religious doomsday myths, and science fiction stories should be seen as realisms insofar as they teleologically herald the future reality of humankind’s annihilation at the hands of an AI-God. The session’s second half will then consider how Land and Anna Greenspan’s initial post-CCRU writings envision modern megacities and particularly Shanghai as centres of an ever-accelerating intelligence explosion in a way which directly materializes the future singularity’s dissolution of dogmatic metaphysics’ last anthropomorphic vestiges.
- CCRU, “Communiqué One: Message to Simon Reynolds,” in CCRU: Writings, 7.
- CCRU, “Communiqué Two: Message to Maxence Grunier,” in CCRU: Writings, 9-12.
- CCRU, “Lemurian Time War,” in CCRU: Writings, 33-52.
- CCRU, “Axsys-Crash,” in CCRU: Writings, 121-122.
- Anna Greenspan and Nick Land, “Neo-Modern Shanghai and the Art of Abstraction,” in Flash Art, 206, 37-46.
- Nick Land, “Implosion,” Urban Future 1.0, 29 April, 2011, https://oldnicksite.wordpress.com/2011/04/29/implosion/.
- Excerpts from Anna Greenspan and Nick Land, Urbanatomy Shanghai 2009 (Shanghai: Urbanatomy, 2009).
- Nick Land, “Re-Animator” Parts 1-5, Urban Future 1.0, 2011, https://oldnicksite.wordpress.com/?s=re-animator.
Lecture 3. Philosophy’s Dark Heirs: Abstract Horror and Patchwork Theory
This session’s first half explores Land’s political philosophy of a “patchwork” of privately-owned states, which purportedly set capitalism free to pursue technological advancement without needing to cater to humanity’s needs. This will put us in a good position to consider later critiques of Land by left-wing thinkers like Ray Brassier, Nick Srnicek and Alex Williams.
While Land’s compositional prose style has always bordered on the literary and experimental particularly during the CCRU years, it is only more recently that he has written two novellas of what he terms “abstract horror fiction.” This lecture’s second half will examine how Land turns to writing horror fiction because he sees the genre as a better compositional form than traditional philosophy to continue the CCRU’s critique of dogmatic metaphysics insofar as it is able to stage a confrontation with that which lies beyond our parochial comprehension.
- Nick Land, “The Dark Enlightenment” Parts 1-4f, Urban Futures 1.0, 2012, https://oldnicksite.wordpress.com/?s=dark+enlightenment.
- Nick Land, “Manifesto for an Abstract Literature,” in Chasm (Shanghai: Time Spiral Press, 2015, eBook).
- Nick Land, “Appendix 2: On the Exterminator,” in Phyl-Undhu (Shanghai: Time Spiral Press, 2014, eBook).
- Nick Land, “Suspended Animation” Parts 1-5, Urban Future 1.0, 2011, https://oldnicksite.wordpress.com/?s=suspended+animation.
- Nick Land, Chasm.
- Nick Land, “Calendric Dominion” Parts 1-6, Urban Future 1.0, 2011, https://oldnicksite.wordpress.com/?s=calendric+dominion.
Lecture 4. Time Travel to Judgment Day: Bitcoin, The Chapman Twins, Orphan Drift, Negarestani, Kode9
Land’s most recent theoretical writings focus on developing a theory of time as a positive feedback loop of explosive change accelerating towards a future singularity, which is paradoxically determining the present in advance of its own becoming. In particular, he has looked to bitcoin as a way to incarnate time itself as the blockchain technology successively locks in proofs as to what is real which cannot be reversed, thereby separating the transcendental from the empirical, truth from its false appearances. This lecture’s first half concludes our analysis of Land’s oeuvre by considering his theory of bitcoin’s absolute succession towards an AI-God to come as the culmination of his entire philosophical trajectory.
Having worked through Land’s post-CCRU philosophy, we shall then consider the work of some of the CCRU’s key members and associates, beginning with those artists who have elaborated on the group’s ideas through their respective art forms: Jake and Dinos Chapman’s controversial exhibition Chapmanworld; Orphan Drift’s cyberpunk novel Becoming Cyberpositive; Reza Negarestani’s theory-fiction Cyclonopedia; and Kode9’s dubstep album Nothing.
- Nick Land, “Teleoplexy: Notes on Acceleration,” in #Accelerate#: The Accelerationist Reader, eds. Robin Mackay and Armen Avanessian (Falmouth: Urbanomic, 2014), 509-520.
- Excerpts from Nick Land, Crypto-Current: Bitcoin and Philosophy, 2019, Urban Future 2.1, http://www.ufblog.net/.
- Orphan Drift, “Vampiric Machines,” in Becoming Cyberpositive (London: Cabinet Editions, 2012), 73-100.
- Reza Negarestani, “Paleopetrology: From Gog-Magog Axis to Petropunkism,” in Cyclonopedia: Complicity with Anonymous Materials (Melbourne: Re.press, 2008), 9-37.
- CCRU, “From Subversion to Submersion: Galactic Bureau of Investigations Report to the Galactic Federation on New Sonic Insurgencies,” in CCRU: Writings (Falmouth: Urbanomic, 2017), 131-134.
- Nick Land, Templexity: Disordered Loops through Shanghai Time (Shanghai: Time Spiral Press, 2014, eBook).
- Kode9 and Tom Watson, “Kode9: Nothing is Empty,” in Crack Magazine, 2015, http://crackmagazine.net/article/music/kode9-nothing-is-empty/.
- Kode9 and Sukhdev Sandhu, “How Dub Master Kode9 Became the Hero of Zero,” in The Guardian, 2015, https://www.theguardian.com/music/2015/nov/16/kode9-nothing-album-steve-goodman-hyperdub-interview.
Lecture 5. Accelerating Speculations: Brassier and Grant, Plant and Parisi, Srnicek and Williams
The final session will begin by tracing the CCRU’s influence on the work of Ray Brassier and Iain Hamilton Grant, two former associates who would go on to found the speculative realism “movement” along with Quentin Meillassoux and Graham Harman. On the one hand, while Grant initially adheres to the CCRU’s antihumanist thought almost entirely, he later follows Schelling’s absolute idealism by coming to model substance on subject, nature on reason. On the other hand, while Brassier adopts the CCRU’s notion of human extinction as the organon for the critique of anthropocentric philosophies, he repudiates their tendency to identify the subject of this critique with technocapitalism in favour of looking to science as better able to index the gap between the anthropic and nihilistic images of reality.
Given that the CCRU and particularly Land’s writings are largely pro-capitalist, it is perhaps surprising that they helped inspire a recent left-wing groupuscule of thinkers calling themselves “accelerationists” and “xenofeminists.” The course will conclude by looking at how both left accelerationists like Mark Fisher, Nick Srnicek and Alex Williams and cyberfeminists like Sadie Plant, Luciana Parisi and Laboria Cuboniks co-opt the CCRU’s theory of cybernetics as a revolutionary weapon to be wielded against both capitalism and patriarchy.
- Iain Hamilton Grant, “At the Mountains of Madness: The Demonology of the New Earth and the Politics of Becoming,” in Deleuze and Philosophy: The Difference Engineer, ed. Keith Ansell Pearson (London: Routledge, 2002), 93-111.
- Ray Brassier, Preface and “Binding Extinction,” in Nihil Unbound: Enlightenment and Extinction (New York, Palgrave Macmillan, 2007), x-xii, 238-9.
- Ray Brassier, “Session 1,” Accelerationism, conference, Goldsmiths, University of London, 13 September, 2010, https://moskvax.wordpress.com/2010/09/30/accelerationism-ray-brassier/.
- Nick Srnicek and Alex Williams, “#Accelerate: Manifesto for an Accelerationist Politics,” in #Accelerate#: The Accelerationist Reader, eds. Robin Mackay and Armen Avanessian (Falmouth: Urbanomic, 2014), 347-362.
- Excerpts from Sadie Plant, Zeros + Ones: Digital Women + The New Technoculture. London: Doubleday, 1997.
- Luciana Parisi and Stanimir Panayotov, “To Engineer the Time by Other Means: Interview with Luciana Parisi,” in Figure/Ground, 2016, http://figureground.org/interview-with-luciana-parisi/.
- Iain Hamilton Grant, “Why Schelling? Why Naturephilosophie?,” in Philosophies of Nature After Schelling (London: Continuum, 2006), 1-25.
- Alex Williams, “Escape Velocities,” in E-Flux, 2013, http://www.e-flux.com/journal/46/60063/escape-velocities.
- Nick Srnicek and Alex Williams, “On Cunning Automata,” in Collapse: Philosophical Research and Development Volume 8, ed. Robin Mackay (Falmouth: Urbanomic, 2014), 463-505.
- Laboria Cuboniks, “The Xenofeminist Manifesto,” in Futures and Fictions, eds. by Henriette Gunkel, Ayesha Hameed and Simon O’Sullivan (London: Repeater Books, 2017), 232-248.
Tarkovsky’s Philosophical Portrait
Lecturer: Dr Valery Vinogradovs
Schedule: 6.30-8.30pm. 5 Tuesdays starting June 18
Location: CAN, 180 Palmerston St, Carlton.
Ingmar Bergman observed once: ‘There was a man who could express that which I always wanted to but was not able, -- that was reassuring and inspiring. Andrei Tarkovsky is for me the greatest, the man who invented a new language, true to the nature of film as mirror of life, life as a dream’.
It must be a testing experience to witness the WWII as a child, to go through adolescence and educational training when totalitarian regimes take turns. Such reality must be particularly stimulating for a genius. After all, genius is a raw creative energy and freedom. And all freedom defines itself when limited.
Andrei Tarkovsky’s genius is universally applauded for his pioneering and deeply meaningful films. His genius was that of an artist, a poet who tackled serious existential and metaphysical problems. During the Soviet period, only five of Tarkovsky’s projects came to fruition, in a twenty year period. During this period, it was immensely difficult to get original and thought-provoking work screened without being forced to compromise material, one’s vision of art and life. As a Soviet citizen, occupying an ordinary flat, Tarkovsky was often in debt, with no money to support his family. Still, an author of one of the most influential ensemble of films of all time, Tarkovsky never compromised his dedication to truth, never forcefully changed a line in his artwork.
Our course will investigate five (out of seven) Tarkovsky’s films: Ivan’s Childhood, Andrei Rublev, Solaris, Stalker, and Sacrifice. The first goal of these lectures is an understanding of the prominent philosophical themes explored in films selected. As Nietzsche pinpoints, however, an author’s work is like an autobiography. Indeed, these themes can be nothing else but the key philosophical problems Tarkovsky wanted to address in his interesting life. Possibly, Tarkovsky’s films tell us a dramatic story about the author’s ideals, struggles, beliefs, passions and commitments. If this is so, then these films can be studied to ascertain Tarkovsky’s philosophical portrait, its modifications over his career. This is the second and ultimate goal of this course.
Ivan’s Childhood: Experience of Suffering
Tarkovsky’s first full-feature film sets out to explore a rather Dostoevskyian theme: the problem of suffering. More specifically, the role of human sacrifice and martyrdom, through which the world and mankind can be salvaged. Here, Tarkovsky develops an idea of the unity of our shared fate that demands sacrifice from each individual. At the centre of this movie for Tarkovsky is the question of individual responsibility, the question he will take up once again in the last film.
- Green, P (1993) ‘Ivan’s Childhood’, in Andrei Tarkovsky: the Winding Quest, London: The Macmillan Press, pp. 24-39
- Efirt, R (2009) ‘Dreams, Mirrors and Subjective Filtration in Ivan’s Childhood’, Studies in Russian and Soviet Cinema, vol. 3: 289-308
Andrei Rublev: Destruction and Aesthetic Hope
In this masterpiece, Tarkovsky deals with the problem of human striving. An existentialist epic captures a human being as it strives to create meaning. To create something lofty and eternally valuable despite the world plunging into illusion, lies, misery, treacherous passions, and empty pleasures. Perhaps the key question Tarkovsky addresses here is the purpose of high art. Rublev is a response to this question.
- Tarkovsky, A (1987) ‘Art: a Yearning for an Ideal’, in Sculpting in Time, University of Texas Press, pp. 36-56
- Efirt, R (2007) ‘Andrei Rublev: Transcendental Style and the Creative Vision’, Journal of Popular Film & Fiction, vol. 35: 86-93
Solaris: Absurd Being and the Birth of Individuality
Tarkovsky’s Solaris is a philosophical thought-experiment. The author removes the characters from ordinary life, removes all distraction. One’s attention is thus drawn to a seemingly purposeless relationship between oneself and the rest of the world. This way, all that is hidden, that is private and unknown, comes to the surface, -- all the fears, dreams, insecurities, desires and regrets. On the whole, Tarkovsky’s position in this film seems to be a distinctly Hellenistic one: an individual should not only live in the moment but also in eternity.
- McLenachan, T (2014) ‘Truth is Stranger than Science Fiction: The Quest for Knowledge in Andrei Tarkovskii’s Solaris and Stalker’, Slovo, vol. 26: 8-29
- Žižek, S (1999) ‘The Thing from Inner Space: on Tarkovsky’, Angelaki, vol. 4: 221-231
Stalker: a Zone of Possibilities
Stalker marks a change in Tarkovsky’s worldview. There are no signs of harmony, symmetry, and hope for beauty. The image of the horse is replaced with a dog; an apple with a rotten orange. Man is a groundless creature that nonetheless aspires to an ideal: to become who s/he is. In this film, Tarkovsky re-evaluates human reality, our tasks and possibilities. To become a new man, Tarkovsky urges us to neglect the ‘all too-human’ and to become a stalker, one who pursues being. Hence, a new man is the one who has to leave behind the redundant habits, beliefs, people, and even family, -- whatever is necessary. As Stalker suggests, this radical project may be worth it.
- Johnson VT & Petrie G (1994) ‘Stalker’, in The Films of Andrei Tarkovsky: A Visual Fugue, Indiana University Press, pp. 137-156
- Foster, D (2010) ‘Where Flowers Bloom but Have no Scent: the Cinematic Space of the Zone in Tarkovsky’s Stalker’, Studies in Soviet and Russian Cinema, vol. 4: 307-320
Sacrifice: Contemplating the Fallen World
The last work of Tarkovsky is devoted to the catastrophe of the world. Not a possible, future catastrophe, but one that is immanent. It is rooted, according to Tarkovsky, in the fact that people have lost faith in lofty personal ideals. In this film the urgency of an individual and collective action is tangible. The represented world is fragile, its beauties are thin. Happiness may re-turn, provided we abandon the idea of happiness for now.
- Tarkovsky, A (1987) ‘The Sacrifice’, in Sculpting in Time, University of Texas Press, pp. 217-231
- Azgin, B (2018) ‘Tarkovsky’s Philosophy of Love: Agape in Stalker and Sacrifice’, Journal of History Culture and Art Research, vol. 7: 205-215
To achieve our goals we will first and foremost draw from Tarkovsky’s films, their aesthetics; and on top of the primary readings, from the works of the philosophers he knew well, such as Heidegger, Bergson, Nietzsche, Dostoevsky, Kierkegaard, Kant and, of course, Plato. The main secondary text used for this course will be I. Evlampiev’s Artistic Philosophy of Andrei Tarkovsky, of which my own translations will be provided.
A philosopher, a painter and a poet walked into a pub… Conversations in thinking poetically
Lecturer: Dr Rachel Joy
Schedule: 6.30-8.30pm. 5 Wednesdays starting June 19
Location: CAN, 180 Palmerston St, Carlton.
While philosophy has its own forms and means of expression, continental philosophy has, nevertheless, deeply shared concerns with those who make art. Among other things, these interests revolve around issues of space, time, the un-representable, the nature of the sensible and the possibility of transformation in the face of doubt, and even failure. Many poets, artists and philosophers are directly influenced by or responding to each other’s work as if in a conversation. This course examines some of these relationships and some of the philosophical and artistic works they produced. Over the five sessions we will encounter the following:
Week 1. The beginning of the modernist period in the arts is linked by many theorists, to the work of poet Charles Baudelaire. For Walter Benjamin, Baudelaire's greatness consisted precisely in his representativeness: in the manner in which his poetry laid open the catastrophe of the capitalist structures and mechanisms of his age. This week’s theme explores ends; the end of god through Baudelaire’s refusal of redemption in his classic work Les Fleurs du Mal, and the end of the poem in Agamben’s notion of messianic time, and how these ideas interact with one another.
- Agamben, ‘The end of the Poem’, pp109-115, in The end of the poem: studies in poetics, Stanford University Press 1999.
- Agamben, ‘Baudelaire; or, The Absolute Commodity’ in Stanzas: Word and Phantasm in Western Culture. pp41-46.
- Baudelaire, Les Fleurs du Mal, Trans. Richard Howard. David Godine Boston 1982. pp77-82. Especially the last seven poems in the Spleen et Ideal section: Obsession, Craving for Oblivion, Alchemy of Suffering, Sympathetic Horror, Heauton Timoroumenous (self-tormentor), The Irremediable, The Clock.
- Benjamin, ‘On some motifs in Baudelaire’, in Walter Benjamin: the writer of modern life, essays on Charles Baudelaire. Ed. Michael W Jennings. The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press Cambridge, Masschusetts, and London, England 2006. pp 170-210.
Week 2. As a young man, the poet Rainer Maria Rilke worked in the Paris atelier of sculptor August Rodin which influenced his early understanding of the poetic in the plastic arts. This appreciation was later to be powerfully expressed in his poem Archaic Torso of Apollo. Klee, Picasso and Chagall were friends of Rilke’s, but it was Cezanne whom Rilke would claim to have been his greatest influence and his letters about a posthumous exhibition of Cezanne’s work confirm this. This week we will consider the relationships between the work of Rodin, Rilke, and Cezanne and explore Maurice Merleau-Ponty’s lecture on Cezanne’s doubt. It will be a journey through sensory perception, doubt and transformation rendered through art.
Suggested Texts include:
- R.M. Rilke, Letters on Cezanne, North Point Press, New York, 2002.pp3-85.
- R.M. Rilke, August Rodin, Sunwise Turn, New York 1919. pp13-80.
- R.M. Rilke, ‘Archaic torso of Apollo’, in Selected Poems: with parallel German text, Oxford University Press, 2011. pp81-83.
- Merleau-Ponty ‘Cezannes doubt’ in The Merleau-Ponty Reader Eds. Ted Toadvine and Leonard Lawlor. Northwestern University Press. 2007. pp59-75.
Week 3. Martin Heidegger is said to have expressed a pressing need to revisit his lecture The Origin of the Work of Art and add an addendum after viewing an exhibition of Paul Klee’s paintings in 1957 and reading his lecture On Modern Art. Heidegger’s early writings on art ignore contemporary artists and instead focus on the classical world, it is not until his interactions with the work of Klee, whom he would describe as a greater artist than Picasso, that contemporary art engaged him. This week we explore the works of Heidegger and Klee and their shared ideas of “bringing forth”, ways of “seeing”, “not images but states” and “the visible and the invisible”.
- Heidegger, ‘The Origin of the Work of Art’, in Poetry, Language, Thought, Perennial Classics 2001. pp15- 86.
- Heidegger, Notes on Klee. Philosophy Today, Volume 61, Issue 1 (Winter 2017). pp7-17.
- Klee, On Modern Art, Faber and Faber, London 1954. pp9-55.
- Klee, ‘Creative Credo’, in Manifesto: A Century of Isms. Ed. Mary Ann Caws. University of Nebraska Press, Lincoln 2001. pp255-259.
Week 4. Paul Celan was an important poet peer of theorists Walter Benjamin, Theodor Adorno, and Maurice Blanchot. Jacques Derrida wrote a number of lectures on Celan that are collected as Sovereignties in Question: The poetics of Paul Celan. However, Celan’s poetry had also been a powerful influence on visual artists. This week we will explore his influence on the works of painter Anselm Keifer and the sculptor Doris Salcedo. Our focus will be on questions of memory; how we remember, what it means to witness and, how artists attempt to represent trauma memory – the unthinkable – the un-representable.
- Celan, ‘The Meridian’ in Selected Prose, Trans. Rosmarie Waldrop. The Sheep Meadow Press, Riverdale-on-Hudson New York. 1986. pp37-55.
- Celan, ‘Fugue of Death’, in Selected Poems, Trans. Michael Hamburger and Christopher Middleton, Penguin UK, 1972. pp 33-34.
- Bal, ‘Introduction’ in Of What One Cannot Speak: the political art of Doris Salcedo. The University of Chicago Press 2010. pp1-28.
- Derrida. ‘Poetics and Politics of Witnessing’, in Sovereignties in Question: The poetics of Paul Celan. Eds. Thomas Dutoit and Outi Pasanen. Fordham University Press, New York. 2005. pp 65-96.
Week 5. In our final week we will encounter Gilles Deleuze and his exploration of the work of painter Francis Bacon especially Bacon’s ideas about painting sensations, forces, time and space. This will be coupled with a selection of the artworks and writings of the abstract painters Piet Mondrian, Wassily Kandinsky, and Kasimir Malevich expressing space-time and colour concepts.
- Deleuze, ‘Painting and Sensation’ pp34-43 and ‘Painting Forces’ Pp56-64, in Francis Bacon: The Logic of Sensation. New York Continuum 2003.
- Kandinsky, ‘Seeing’, ‘Sounds’, ‘Line and Fish’, and ‘Preface to Blaue Reiter Almanac’, in Manifesto: A Century of Isms. Ed. Mary Ann Caws. University of Nebraska Press, Lincoln 2001. pp 270-275.
- Malevich, ‘Suprematism’, in Manifesto, pp 404-412
- Mondrian, ‘Neoplasticism in Painting’, in Manifesto pp 425-430.
Introduction to Philosophical Hermeneutics
Lecturer: Dr Mammad Aidani
Schedule: 6.30-8.30pm. 5 Thurdays starting June 20
Location: CAN, 180 Palmerston St, Carlton.
Hermeneutics is concerned with ‘understanding’. Hermeneutics as a practice is universally recognised as the art and science of textual analysis and interpretation. In the traditional sense, hermeneutics is the systematic study and interpretation of written texts, especially religious, legal and literary ones. Modern hermeneutics embraces everything in the interpretative process from verbal and nonverbal forms of communication to other factors that influence communication, such as presuppositions, pre-understandings, perceived meanings and the philosophies of religion, language, culture, arts, sign and mind. In the past, the terms ‘exegesis’ and ‘hermeneutics’ were used interchangeably. However, hermeneutics is now a more widely defined discipline of interpretative theory, including the entire framework of the interpretive process. Exegesis, on the other hand, focuses only on the written text.
This short course aims to focus primarily on this modern theory of knowledge as initiated by Martin Heidegger in the 20th century and further developed by Hans-Georg Gadamer in his seminal book Truth and Method, while also taking up the theories of Paul Ricoeur and others significant hermeneuticians. The course will also investigate and explicate the essential ideas of the key early thinkers of hermeneutics such as Friedrick Schleiermacher and Wilhelm Dilthey whose ideas greatly influenced Martin Heidegger and other Hermeneutics’ philosophers to set the ground for a close analysis of the ideas of these key modern thinkers in the field of philosophical hermeneutics.
The course will primarily focus on the key concepts of these philosophers to introduce the students to this significant and influential brand of continental philosophy.
Week 1: What is Hermeneutics?
General Introduction to Hermeneutics and its keys modern philosophers
Week 2: Friedrich Schleiermacher
This presentation discusses Schleiermacher’s main ideas on reading, comparative and divinatory, the process of interpreting, language, understanding, creative process, grammatical and psychological interpretation and hermeneutic circle.
Week 3: Wilhelm Dilthey
Introducing Dilthey’s key concepts such as his methodology of using hermeneutics understanding in the human science, acculturation, inner meaning, understanding foreign cultures and people as well as hermeneutics as the science of understanding written monuments.
Week 4: Martin Heidegger
Discussing concepts of understating, facticity, Dasein, being- in -the- world, phenomenological hermeneutics, fore- structures of understanding, care and anxiety.
Week 5: Hans–Georg Gadamer
Examining his theory of understanding as dialogue, hermeneutic and the effect of history, prejudices, tradition, interpretation and how the interpreter applies the text to her or his situation for understanding what the text has to say and the fusion of horizons.
- Richard E. Palmer (1969) Hermeneutics: Interpretation Theory in Schleiermacher, Dilthey, Heidegger, and Gadamer. Evanston, IL: North-western University Press.
This is a useful initial English Language introduction, particularly concerning literary interpretation.
- Rudolf A. Makkreel (1975) Dilthey Philosopher of the Human Studies. Princeton, N: Princeton University Press.
This is an excellent book that emphasises the importance of Dilthey’s psychology and aesthetic on his theory of understanding, with brief comparisons to Husserl and Heidegger.
- Kathryn Plant (2003) The Philosophy of Gadamer (trans.) Chesham: Acumen.
This book is a significant and readable introduction to Gadamer's thoughts and analysis of Truth and Method.
Level: Intermediary / advanced.
About the Lecturer
Dr Mammad Aidani has a PhD in hermeneutics and phenomenological social psychology and an MA in sociolinguistics and identity. His research interests are in the genres of textual interpretation (hermeneutics) and lived narratives in the fields of history, culture, displacement, memory, trauma and suffering in diaspora communities as well as the history of thought, literature and theatre.
Enlightenment: Its Brief History
Lecturer: Dr Martin Black
Schedule: 6.30-8.30pm. 5 Fridays starting June 21
Location: CAN, 180 Palmerston St, Carlton.
The modern enlightenment promise was that a new science would make human beings masters both of non-human nature and of human affairs. The subsequent revolutions in our knowledge of the natural world and in human affairs are unparalleled in human history. Yet contemporary thought seems to reject the very notion that there are genuine answers to the fundamental questions of human existence, or true principles of nature and of human action and thought. Both the attempt to deconstruct and the attempt to continue the enlightenment, i.e. both continental and analytical philosophy, appear in different ways to relegate the human world to the status of an artifice or an illusion. This brief history of the enlightenment over the last several hundred years is in some ways a return to the beginning of philosophy.
Philosophy began as the discovery of an intelligible natural world that seemed to make the human world and most human thought an artifice or illusion. By contrast, philosophy was re-established by Socrates in a way that ambiguously centred the world on the human being as the creator of the artificial instruments by which we engage with and understand the principles of the cosmos. Socrates brought about this re-orientation of philosophy by forcing the inquiry into nature to comprehend unavoidable human questions, such as what happiness, justice or beauty is. The modern enlightenment sought to replace the false image of life with its “effective truth” or with new and more precise “orders and measures”. Thus the modern enlightenment, in the words of a proponent, constitutes a “retraction of the Socratic turning” (Blumenburg, The Legitimacy of the Modern Age). However, when this effectual truth came to be understood as the knowledge of and control over the laws of nature, the ends of human life to which we could put our new powers seemed to be reduced once more to an illusion.
This course offers a reading of selected modern and ancient texts to trace back the philosophical roots of our current dilemma and a re-reading of some of the classics on the same problem.
Key readings from the texts listed in the schedule of readings and discussion will be available before classes.
WEEK 1: CONTEMPORARY NIHILISM—NIETZSCHE AND RAWLS
Discussion Nietzsche intended his claim that life has no purpose that is not created and illusory, or that there is no relation between the good and the true, to be a shocking innovation. This claim has now become routine for contemporary political and moral philosophy, albeit with an intention opposite to that of Nietzsche: to eliminate the notion of the superiority of different ways of life. In addition to the difficulty of asserting that the best understanding of human nature excludes any understanding of what is good, there are obvious difficulties with attempting to live according to the thesis that life is empty of meaning.
- Brief excerpts from a number of continental and analytical philosophers
- Nietzsche, Excerpts from Twilight of the Idols, Beyond Good and Evil, and the Nachlass
- Rawls, Excerpts from A Theory of Justice
WEEK 2: THE PROBLEM OF UNIVERSAL MORALITY—KANT AND MILL
Discussion The conclusion that nothing can be said reasonably about good and bad in human life derives from the attempt to apply an inappropriate standard of rationality to questions of good and bad. This week we will discuss this hypothesis in relation to the two main strands of modern moral philosophy, the utilitarian and deontological, deriving from Mill and Kant respectively.
- Kant, Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals and “On the common saying: That may be true in theory but it is of no use in practice”
- Mill, Utilitarianism
WEEK 3: DESCARTES AND BACON
Discussion The inappropriate application of a standard of reason derived from mathematics issues from the founding enlightenment thinkers, in particular Bacon and Descartes. They promised that mathematics could inform a new practical philosophy that allowed humanity to conquer nature for its own benefit. They both left clues to show that they were aware of the difficulty of applying the new method to human life itself.
- Bacon, New Organon
- Descartes, Discourse on Method and Meditations
WEEK 4: ARISTOTLE
Discussion Aristotle was the main target of the enlightenment critique of ancient philosophy and the modern science that stems from it has clearly revealed many empirical facts of which Aristotle was unaware. This discussion will focus on Aristotle’s approach to the same problem of technology, power, politics and the limits of human nature that the moderns confronted.
- Aristotle, Excerpts from the Politics, Nicomachean Ethics, Physics and other writings
WEEK 5: PLATO
Discussion Plato provided the classic image of the cave to illuminate the paradox of the relation of the human world to the truth. Plato, however, did not relegate human life to an illusion. Instead, Plato created this image (among others) as a conscious expression of the relation between an image and reality that are both aspects fo our experience. This discussion will focus on the Socratic turn, or how Plato thought individual and political life was informed by reason in its relation to the good.
- Excerpts from Symposium, Parmenides, Phaedo, Republic and other dialogues
The Communist Hypothesis: The Politics of Alain Badiou
Lecturer: Dr Robert Boncardo
Schedule: 10am-12noon. July 22-26
Location: CAN, 180 Palmerston St, Carlton.
There are few contemporary thinkers who have argued so consistently and in such trenchant terms as Alain Badiou has for communism as the solution to humanity’s secular political predicament. But what does Badiou mean by communism — or, more precisely, by what he terms the ‘Communist Hypothesis’? What does Badiou’s proposal entail for the future of humanity? How does his vision of communism respond to the many challenges we face today, from the crisis of capitalism, to migration, to the impending ecological catastrophe? Where do Badiou’s ideas about communism come from, and how have they evolved over time? What forms have Badiou’s own political engagements taken from the 1960’s until today?
In this course, we will examine the contours and evolution of Badiou’s ‘Communist Hypothesis’ and assess its pertinence to our contemporary situation. Students will be introduced to the key components of Badiou’s thinking about communism, including his account of equality, of capitalism and its contradictions, of political organisation and of the history of Marxism, of the worker’s movement and of decolonisation struggles. Students will also learn about Badiou’s own engagement in political movements in France and in other parts of the world. The course will thus provide students with a sense of the scope of Badiou’s political activities — both practical and theoretical — and will familiarize them with those aspects of Badiou’s philosophical system that attempt to ground or orient these activities.
The course will be structured chronologically, tracking the evolution of Badiou’s communist politics from the 1960’s until today:
- In the first two lectures, students will be introduced to Badiou’s early political engagements in France’s Parti Socialiste Unifié in the 1960’s and to his activities as a national leader of the Union des Communistes de France Marxiste-Léniniste in the 1970’s. In these two opening lectures, students will explore Badiou’s references to Maoism and to the Cultural Revolution in China and will learn how he applied these points of reference to local struggles in France, particularly amongst immigrant workers and poor peasants. As the major philosophical reference for these two lectures, students will engage with short extracts from Badiou’s 1982 work Theory of the Subject.
- In the third and fourth lectures, students will encounter Badiou’s political activities from the period of 1982-2007, during which he militated with the Organisation Politique. In this period, Badiou radically reformulated his conception of politics, in particular as regards Marxism and the question of the State, while continuing to engage in similar political struggles, in particular movements of undocumented workers. To grasp the philosophical stakes of this evolution, students will be introduced to Badiou’s short 1985 book Can Politics Be Thought? and to his masterwork, 1988’s Being and Event.
- Finally, the fifth lecture will engage with Badiou’s recent pronouncements on the contemporary political conjuncture. Topics will include the Arab Spring, the crisis in the Eurozone, the election of Donald Trump, and the Yellow Vests movement in France.
This course will require no prior knowledge of Badiou’s corpus, nor of philosophy, but only a desire to engage critically with one of today’s foremost thinkers. At the end of the course, students will be able to arrive at their own determination as to the relevance of Badiou’s politics for the struggles of the past and of the contemporary world.
Suggested Background Reading
- Alain Badiou, The Communist Hypothesis (Verso, 2010)
- Alain Badiou, Theory of the Subject (Bloomsbury, 2013)
- Alain Badiou, Greece and the Reinvention of Politics (Verso, 2018)
- Alain Badiou, Can Politics Be Thought? (Duke University Press, 2019)
The Ecology of Latour: His metaphysics, theory of modernity, and environmental thought
Lecturer: Dr Peter Gratton
Schedule: 12.30-2.30pm. July 22-26
Location: CAN, 180 Palmerston St, Carlton.
Bruno Latour’s (1947- ) writings, both in public magazines and in his important books, are widely studied today. He has been awarded the academy’s highest honors (including the Holberg Prize) and been translated into over a dozen languages. He is clearly one of the most preeminent voices coming out of France today and this course looks to outline his writings concerning modernity, metaphysics, and ecology.
The Ecology of Latour course will offer a guide to his writings and ideas after the so-called science wars of the 1980s. In short, we will take up the Latour of the past 25 years: the one who has written cogently about and redefined debates around ecology, politics, religion, and metaphysics. We will think of his development in terms of Modernity (We have Never Been Modern, Pandora's Hope, War of the Worlds, etc.); Metaphysics ("Irreductions," An Inquiry Into Modes of Existence (AIME), Rejoicing; and Ecology (Facing Gaia).
Below are the course readings. Once registered, see grattoncourses.com and click on the Latour course for direct links to his works in PDF form. Below are the required readings, but the course site itself will have helpful works on Latour, interviews with Latour, and videos of lectures he has given on the topics at hand.
This class will go over the major themes of Latour’s “Irreductionism,” a deceptively short essay. My introduction to the class will provide an overview of how this essay fleshes out major claims in his other words, such as We have Never been Modern and the later An Inquiry into Modes of Existence. But for this class, we will focus on his irreductionist approach, which as the name suggests means that nothing is irreducible to anything else. For example, we might think that all discourses can be reduced to evolutionary psychology or to economic relations or some such, but Latour thinks that we must appreciate different modes of existence on their own and not engage in “critique”—reducing one set of things (e.g., religion) to another (e.g., an ideology covering over economic relations). This doesn’t mean that one should simply accept what is on offer in society, but rather the ways in which networks or relations are based on actants seeking to increase their power by making more alliances and relations with others. Once we understand this “constructivism,” we get a powerful tool for understanding existence and why “we have never been modern.”
Latour, “Irreductions,” from Pandora’s Hope.
Latour, Chapter 1, “Crisis,” We Have Never Been Modern (1993).
We will continue reading from Latour’s We Have Never Been Modern to understand what he calls the “modern constitution.” We will use this, then, to understand his proposed “constitution” of people and things in light of his ecology. Key readings this week, then, will take up how he views as “Platonic” previous considerations of ecology and why he proposes to do away with thinking nature as such—not to ravage it more since it doesn’t exist, but rather to do away with a bifurcation of the realm of science (nature) and the realm of politics (society) as an artificial remnant of the Modern.
Latour, Chapter 2, “Crisis,” We Have Never Been Modern (1993).
Latour, Chapter 5, “The Redistribution,” We Have Never Been Modern (1993).
Latour, Chapters 1-2, Facing Gaia: Eight Lectures on the New Climatic Regime (2017)
Continuing from last time, we will read from much of Facing Gaia in order to understand Latour’s ecological politics. The lecture portion of the class will focus on how Latour’s approach fits both with his irreductionism and how it differs from other “environmental philosophies.”
Latour, Chapters 4, 6-8, Facing Gaia: Eight Lectures on the New Climatic Regime (2017).
This class will seem to head in a different direction, but we will use his thinking of religion as “beyond belief” as a way of thinking our way into his “modes of existence,” which will be the focus of the next two classes. My surmise is that this thinking of religion is central to understanding Latour.
Latour, Rejoicing: Or the Torments of Religious Speech, selections.
This class will look at brief—all too brief—selections from AIME. We will look at REL specifically to follow on from last time, but all to flesh out how his metaphysics makes room for different modes of existence irreducible to one another.
Latour, An Inquiry into Modes of Existence, selections.
Deleuze’s Logic of Sense
Lecturer: Dr Jon Roffe
Schedule: 3-5pm. July 22-26
Location: CAN, 180 Palmerston St, Carlton.
This course will provide a thorough overview of one of Deleuze’s most enigmatic texts, Logique du sens (1969). While it touches on many of the themes explored in his other great works of the sixties, the Logic of Sense is also the book of Deleuze’s closest to psychoanalysis, and the one in which he develops his most extensive account of language.
Monday. Introduction. Bodies and events in the Stoics and Lewis Carroll.
After a general overview, we will introduce the broad ontology proposed in the Logic of Sense. To do so, we will draw, as Deleuze does, on the Stoic account of the relationship between bodies and events. We will also accent this account, as Deleuze also does, by introducing one of the three heroes of this ‘psychoanalytic novel’ (LS ix), Alice.
Tuesday. Five propositions on the event.
Drawing from a range of thinkers including Plato, Leibniz, and Nietzsche, Deleuze will take up and elaborate the Stoic distinction between bodies and events. We will present the outcome of this elaboration in the form of five propositions.
Wednesday. Sense and nonsense.
The third class will respond to an obvious question: what has any of this got to do with sense? Deleuze’s answer to this question will go by way of a daring interpretation of the Stoic theory of lekta or ‘sayables’.
Thursday. From the depths of the body to the surface of sense.
The first three classes present a summary of Deleuze’s ontological claims (taken in a very broad sense, as we will see). The fourth class will turn instead to the genetic moment in the analysis, and give a summary of how, for Deleuze, the capacity for meaningful speech arises from the noisy depths of the body of the infant.
Friday. An ethics of the event. Conclusion.
The final class will turn to the third main strand of the book’s argument – its ethics. While this ethics once again draws on the Stoics, its major figure is instead Joë Bousquet. A surrealist writer and poet who spent his adult life paralysed and in constant pain after suffering a spinal wound in the first world war, he nonetheless could wrote: ‘Become the man of your misfortunes; learn to embody their perfection and brilliance’. Central here, for Bousquet and for us all in Deleuze’s view, is the ethical work of counter-actualisation.
Readings: selections from the Logic of Sense will be set for each class, along with one additional secondary piece. All of these will be provided.
Difficulty level: intermediary to advanced. While the classes will not presuppose any particular knowledge about Deleuze or his influences, the material is of a challenging difficulty.
From Maths to Madness, the work and thought of Ian Hacking
Lecturer: Jon Rubin
Schedule: 6-8pm. July 22-26
Location: CAN, 180 Palmerston St, Carlton.
Although he describes himself as an analytic philosopher, he is also the only Anglophone speaker to hold Foucault’s own chair (renamed the chair of the ‘Philosophy and History of Scientific Concepts’, from ‘The History of Systems of Thought’) at the Collège de France. Hacking’s work continually demonstrates the power of Foucault’s archaeological method, whilst never being dogmatic. A thinker obsessed with the historicity of human ‘kinds’, he is ironically sui generis. His work spans a vast arena, but if there is a common thread that binds his works on the history of mathematics to the history of madness, it is his interest in the way people make up ‘kinds of people’ and the ‘looping effects’ whereby these new descriptive-kinds, make possible and produce, new kinds of behaviour and understanding.
This five session course will provide an introduction and overview of the key elements of Hacking’s work. It will be addressing (but not limited to) the following questions and topics:
- Hacking wishes to be be an experimental realist (scientists produce phenomena and effects which they then try to explain) about the natural sciences but a dynamical nominalist (naming a group of people has effects, intended and unintended) about human kinds. Can he consistently maintain this kind of opposition?
- The continuity of investigation of both human indeterminateness as measured by statistics and human unreasonableness as described by psychiatry.
- Finally, perhaps the most surprising question of all: is the past fixed? Hacking does not mean that our memories of the past can change, of course they can. Hacking wishes to insist that the past itself can be changed, as we change our understanding of the present.
The course will focus on five core texts (buttressed by additional reading). Each text will be the topic of a lecture.
- Chapter six of Historical Ontology, ‘Making Up People’.
- Chapter twelve of Historical Ontology, ‘ “Style” for Historians and Philosophers’.
- The Taming of Chance.
- Mad Travelers, mainly chapters three and four.
- Rewriting the Soul, chapters thirteen to seventeen.
Bibliography / Reading List
Hacking, Ian. 1975. The Emergence of Probability: A Philosophical Study of Early Ideas about Probability, Induction and Statistical Inference. London [etc.]: Cambridge University Press.
———. 1983. Representing and Intervening. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
———. 1990. The Taming of Chance. Ideas in Context. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
———. 1995. Rewriting the Soul: Multiple Personality and the Sciences of Memory. Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press.
———. 1998. Mad Travellers Reflections on the Reality of Transient Mental Illnesses. Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia.
———. 2002. Historical Ontology. Harvard: Harvard University Press.
———. 2014. Why Is There Philosophy of Mathematics at All? Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Hacking, Ian. 1979. ‘Michel Foucault’s Immature Science’. Noûs 13 (1): 39–51.
———. 1982. ‘Biopower and the Avalanche of Printed Numbers’. Humanities in Society 5 (3–4): 279–95.
———. 1983. ‘Nineteenth Century Cracks in the Concept of Determinism’. Journal of the History of Ideas 44 (3): 455–75. https://doi.org/10.2307/2709176.
———. 1988a. ‘Philosophers of Experiment’. PSA: Proceedings of the Biennial Meeting of the Philosophy of Science Association 1988: 147–56. http://www.jstor.org/stable/192879.
———. 1988b. ‘On the Stability of the Laboratory Sciences’. The Journal of Philosophy 85 (10): 507–14. http://www.jstor.org/stable/2026809.
———. 1991. ‘Two Souls in One Body’. Critical Inquiry 17 (4): 838–67. http://www.jstor.org/stable/1343746.
———. 1992. ‘“Style” for Historians and Philosophers’. Studies In History and Philosophy of Science Part A 23 (1): 1–20. https://doi.org/10.1016/0039-3681(92)90024-Z.
———. 1994. ‘Memoro-Politics, Trauma and the Soul’. History of the Human Sciences 7 (2): 29–52. https://doi.org/10.1177/095269519400700203.
———. 1996a. ‘Automatisme Ambulatoire: Fugue, Hysteria, and Gender at the Turn of the Century’. Modernism/Modernity 3 (2): 31–43. https://doi.org/10.1353/mod.1996.0036.
———. 1996b. ‘Les Alienes Voyageurs: How Fugue Became a Medical Entity’. History of Psychiatry 7 (27): 425–49. https://doi.org/10.1177/0957154X9600702705.
———. 2002. ‘Inaugural Lecture: Chair of Philosophy and History of Scientific Concepts at the College de France, 16 January 2001’. Economy and Society 31 (February): 1–14. https://doi.org/10.1080/03085140120109222.
———. 2003. ‘Indeterminacy in the Past: On the Recent Discussion of Chapter 17 of Rewriting the Soul’. History of the Human Sciences 16 (2): 117–24. https://doi.org/10.1177/0952695103016002006.