Winter School 2022
Nine 10-hour courses taught online June-July
When: 20 June - 29 July
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 (AEST) is 10 hours ahead of UTC (5pm here is 7am in Berlin and 10pm in LA).
Winter School Program
2 hours per week for 5 weeks
2 hours per day for 5 days
Introduction to the work of Peter Sloterdijk
Lecturer: Luca Possati
Starts: Mon 7:30-9:30pm 20 Jun
Full Schedule: Jun 20, 27, Jul 4, 11, 18
Location: Taught via Zoom online.
What does Peter Sloterdijk – German philosopher born in Karlsruhe, where he still lives and teaches, in 1947 – have in common with the great thinkers of the twentieth century such as Husserl, Heidegger, Derrida, Wittgenstein? It is not so much the interest in language as a theme, as the core of the philosophical reflections, as the attempt to go beyond the limits of expression through the creation of new words, concepts, expressions, phrases, lemmas, which can account for realities that had not been thematized in the history of theory, or that, on the contrary, suffered crushed under the millennial weight of an interpretative tradition that prevented an ex-nihilo analysis.
Sloterdijk’s philosophy is inseparable from the linguistic creations that run through it, from his style, from the formulation of innovative and provocative concepts, which try to explain, by creating them, realities different from those considered by the classical philosophical tradition. Sloterdijk does not seek to transcend language through language. Sloterdijk’s attempt, titanic and ironic at the same time, is to create – through his semantic ability – new objects of thought, to which to refer in order to think in a new way about our past and our present.
The five weeks of the course intend to offer a general introduction to the main concepts of Sloterdijk’s philosophy starting from his main work, namely the trilogy Spheres, composed by three volumes published respectively in 1998, 1999 and 2004. Spheres certainly represents Sloterdijk’s most organic contribution to contemporary philosophy. The course is divided into two parts. The first is a general introduction to Sloterdijk starting from the main themes that marked his formation: the attention to autobiography and Gnosticism, his Nietzsche’s reading, his criticism to Heidegger, and the book Critique of Cynical Reason. The second part analyzes the fundamental structure of Spheres. Sphere I represents the culmination and sum of the analyzes on the constitution of the subject that had occupied Sloterdijk’s reflection right from the interest in autobiography. Spheres II can be considered a broad phenomenology of the spirit in the era of globalization; an era that for Sloterdijk begins with the constitution of the first images of the world understood as a cosmos by the Greeks. Spheres III represents the conclusion of the trilogy, an attempt to describe the contemporary world, in which the concept of spheres has dissolved into that of “foams.”
The course will be organized as follows:
The first week will develop a general introduction to Sloterdijk’s thought. Passages from one of his most important texts will be read and commented: Critique of cynical reason.
The second week will be dedicated to a general introduction to the trilogy Spheres. The central themes and concepts of the trilogy will be identified. We will focus on Sloterdijk’s interpretation of Nietzsche.
The third week will focus on the first volume of Spheres. Several passages from the work will be analyzed. The commentary will try to frame the text in Sloterdijk’s overall work and show its originality.
The fourth week will instead be dedicated to the second volume of Spheres and the concept of globalization. Also in this case, different passages of the work will be analyzed and commented.
In the fifth week the course will cover the third volume of Spheres. Also in this case, we will try to reconstruct the general structure of the work starting from the analysis of some key passages.
Level: Intermediate. No familiarity with Sloterdijk’s philosophy will be presumed.
Introduction to Jacques Derrida
Lecturer: Peter Salmon
Starts: Tue 7:30-9:30pm 21 Jun
Full Schedule: Jun 21, 28, Jul 5, 12, 19
Location: Taught via Zoom online.
Jacques Derrida remains one of the most influential thinkers of the last half of the twentieth century. But for many the difficulty of reading him is a huge barrier to a full appreciation. Having emerged fully formed in 1967, it can be hard for the general reader to find a way into his thinking.
In this weekly course Peter Salmon, author of An Event Perhaps: A Biography of Jacques Derrida (Verso 2020), will situate Derrida in the philosophical tradition, starting with his long engagement with phenomenology and thinkers such as Heidegger and Levinas, and in particular Edmund Husserl, whose work Derrida engaged with for many years before his breakthrough.
It will then follow Derrida’s linguistic turn – often the starting point in Anglophone reception – and examine how Derrida’s earlier work led to his engagement with thinkers such as Saussure. Finally, it will explore the later Derrida, in particular his hugely influential work on ethics, hospitality, the gift and the law, and his great work Spectres of Marx, as well as the ways in which Derrida has become part of the culture wars has re-emerged as a lightning rod for a certain resistance to pluralist thinking.
The course will explore some of the main Derridean ideas, such as deconstruction, the metaphysics of presence, différance, logocentrism, trace and hauntology in ways that make them accessible to those new to Derrida, and deepen their understanding for those already engaged with his work. And as Derrida’s biographer, Salmon will also identify those aspects of the thinkers life which influenced his thinking – his contested childhood, and the ethical battles of his later life.
Please note, the below lists the text which will be helpful to each session, but do not constitute a reading list – unless you want to!
- Derrida, Monolingualism of the Other; Derrida, ‘Circumfessions’
2. Derrida as Phenomenologist
- Husserl, ‘The Origin of Geometry’; Zahavi, Phenomenology the Basics; Derrida, Speech and Phenomena
3. The Birth of Deconstruction
- Derrida, “Violence and Metaphysics”; Derrida, Of Grammatology
4. Here Comes Everybody
- Derrida, Glas; Derrida, ‘Plato’s Pharmacy’
5. The ‘Ethical Turn’ – Spectres of Derrida
- Derrida, ‘Force of Law: The “Mystical Foundation of Authority”’; Derrida, Spectres of Marx
Stephen Jay Gould vs the World
Lecturer: Ben Woodard
Starts: Wed 7:30-9:30pm 22 Jun
Full Schedule: Jun 22, 29, Jul 6, 13, 20
Location: Taught via Zoom online.
Up until his death some twenty years ago Stephen Jay Gould was one of the best known popularizers of the life sciences, and in particular, evolution theory in the English speaking world. In addition, Gould was one of the most vocal defenders of a leftist political view of biology and evolution from a practicing scientist – defending the right to teach evolutionary theory in public schools while also launching an extensive critique of scientific racism in the legacy of biology and physical anthropology.
Gould’s star has fallen as of late and he has been increasingly dismissed as ‘too political,’ as a ‘Marxist Charlatan’ and worse. Rather than defending Gould’s legacy for its own sake the aim of this class is to take the deflation of his work and influence as a canary in the coal mine – as a warning sign that biology and evolutionary theory have been moving further and further to the right though often in the name of political neutrality.
To this end we will look at two connected themes in Gould’s work: the material contingency of natural history via evolution and the persistence of eugenics and other forms of scientific racism. Specifically the class will investigate how material and historical accounts of biology are consistently supplanted by a gene-centrism which utilizes ever more elaborate rationalializations to maintain the possibility of eugenics. Gould’s work, and the spirit of his work and his collaborators, is in dire need in a time of ‘left’ hereditarians, alt-right eugenics, and post-genomic racisms.
1- Selections from Wonderful Life - Gould
Recommended: Excerpts from Contingency and Convergence – Rachel Powell
Optional: Morris on Convergent Evolution: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5cbc7XkinfY
2-Chapter 2 from The Mismeasure of Man - Gould
Recommended: “Has Stephen Jay Gould’s The Mismeasure of Man really been discredited?” – Simon Whitten
Optional: “Organs of War” from Becoming Human – Zakiyyah Iman Jackson
3-”Stephen Jay Gould as Political Theorist” - David Prindle
Recommended: “More things in Heaven and Earth” - Gould
Optional: Lewontin on Race https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JvG1ylKhzoo
Recommended: ‘A Candle in the Dark” from Dawkins vs Gould – Kim Sterleny
Optional: Gould on teaching evolution https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pywn_iuF85o
5-Why Gould now?
The Spirit/s of Surrealism between Hegel and Schreber - CANCELLED
Lecturer: Thomas Mical
Starts: Thu 7:30-9:30pm 23 Jun
Full Schedule: CANCELLED
Location: Taught via Zoom online.
This course cross-examines the emergence of the psychoanalytic subject to articulate a nuanced theory of the spirit/s of surrealism for life. In this course we begin by questioning, connecting, and aligning the circuits of subjectivity and the spirit medium of surrealism between those 2 mad systems (Hegel mirroring Schreber mirroring Hegel), drawing our obscure knowledge the productive tensions created in their reciprocating proximities and intellectual interference patterns. The first source is the unique and influential psyche-soul-theology of Judge Schreber detailed in his modern Anatomy of my Nervous Illness (c. 1900) as well as the recent secondary literature that sketches a trajectory of media-philosophy of the ethereal drawn from Schreber’s panoramic textual psychosis. We pursue the markers of the channel for the modern subject emerging as a process, a questioning, tending towards a non-standard dualist worldview, where the subject is the construction site of other immaterial modern process formations (psychology, theology). In this manner, placing Schreber’s bifurcated soul under glass, we will also see the subtle influence of precedent in Hegel, detailed in his Phenomenology of Spirit (1807) which also strongly influenced modern Psychology and the Surrealists, Freud to Kojeve to Lacan. Hegel’s exegesis of Spirit in this cross-examination acts as a curious book-end to Schreber’s world-view. The world for Schreber was twofold, the world of the mechanical everyday and a second secret world of arcane permutations and communications, with the bifurcated subject ensnared in both.
Turning to surrealism, we will discover how surrealism founder Andre Breton's focus upon inner workings of thought (the psychic realism in the first surrealist manifesto) untethers the conscious processes elaborated in the Phenomenology of Spirit, reconsidered as a proto-surrealist work. Surrealism deviates from the valences of Geist (spirit, ….) in Hegel’s system in turning to psychoanalytic processes, obscure dialectics, supernatural forays, and creative practices including the search for trace surrealism in everyday spaces. The spirit of surrealism includes all the spirits in the world, the phantom limbs of urban life, representations of hauntings and indexical shadows in surrealist art and cinema. The exposure of the hidden unconscious through creative processes (such as automatism) arise from the prior spirits of German Romanticism, and the Romantic Science emphasis upon invisible forces of nature and the birth of the unconscious. While the strong influence of Hegel upon surrealism is well established, the difficult Hegelian principles are layered within surrealism arise from the French return of Hegel. We can follow Surrealism’s abductive logic and reality-shifting capacities, and the derangement of the dialectic for other effects.
We will parallel trace Schreber’s minor hauntology in some works of first and second-generation surrealism. We will seek intellectual pathways from Hegel and Schreber’s influence on 21stC occult surrealism of the present, valences of the uncanny, and hysterical realism when it approximates global surrealism. There will be some attention to theories of the ether, telepathy/clairvoyance, and all sorts of mad machinery… twittering-machines, paranoiac-machines, miraculating-machines, and influencing-machines. We note the contemporary re/turn to haunted media, forms of ethereal dwelling, the return of global surrealism and strange gothics, perhaps the dematerializing of the world order as the emergence of something more supernatural.
Course Content & Readings
The title for each weekly session draws together some of the primary categories of thought and analysis we will explore. The recommended reading lists are non-hierarchical, so posses or be possessed by these as you prefer. All readings will be housed in the course Box folder; many can also be found online. We will also include select visual works in the presentations.
Week 1: The Phenomenology of Spirit for the Spirit/s of Surrealism
The extension of thought from mind to world and back establishes a reciprocating mechanism requiring great precision of analysis to get through mimesis into a psychic realism. Here we begin with Hegel’s “Introduction” taken as a proto-surrealist tale. This resonates in tandem with Breton’s later search for the true operations of the psyche in the “Manifesto.” Between these two texts stretches an emergent circuitry we must learn for Spirit, and spirits, actively surrealist.
- “Introduction” in Hegel, G.W.F., A.V. Miller, and J.N. Findlay. Phenomenology of Spirit. Oxford University Press, 1977.
- “First Manifesto of Surrealism” in Breton, A., R. Seaver, and H.R. Lane. Manifestoes of Surrealism. University of Michigan Press, 1969.
Alternate link: http://www.kristinedoor.com/uploads/1/1/4/0/11407928/manifestopdf.pdf
- “Genealogy One: Hegel’s Plague” in Rabaté, J.-M. The Future of Theory, Oxford, UK ; Malden, MA : Blackwell Publishers, 2002
- Baugh, B. French Hegel: From Surrealism to Postmodernism. Routledge, 2003. (reading selection TBD)
- Butler, J. Subjects of Desire: Hegelian Reflections in Twentieth-Century France. Columbia University Press, 2012. (reading selection TBD)
- Conley, K. Surrealist Ghostliness. Nebraska, 2013. (reading selection TBD)
- Hippolyte, J. Genesis and Structure of Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit. Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press, 1974. (reading selection TBD)
- Kojeve, A. Introduction to the Reading of Hegel. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1969. (reading selection TBD)
- Magee, G.A. Hegel and the Hermetic Tradition. Cornell University Press, 2008. (reading selection TBD)
Week 2. Schreber’s Media Occult Theology
In this case we attend to the precise and peculiar dualist cosmology of Judge Schreber in his self- diagnosis of his psychosis. Soul voluptuousness, miraculating machines, unmanning rays, fleeting improvised men, and divine bird communication all circulate in this apparent media occult theology. This document exposes a deviant but intact thought and sensation system to rival Hegel’s phenomenology, and we will use the intense body of works on Schreber to tease out more of these hidden correlations.
- Santner, E.L. My Own Private Germany: Daniel Paul Schreber's Secret History of Modernity. Princeton University Press, 1997. (reading selection TBD)
- Schreber, D.P., and R. Dinnage. Memoirs of My Nervous Illness. New York Review Books, 2000. (reading selection TBD)
- Goodrich, P., and K. Trüstedt. Laws of Transgression: The Return of Judge Schreber. University of Toronto Press, 2022. (reading selection TBD)
- Lothane, Z. Zvi In Defense of Schreber: Soul Murder and Psychiatry. Hillsdale, NJ, and London: The Analytic Press, 1992. (reading selection TBD)
Week 3. Luminous Desire becomes Everyday Marvellous
The consciousness of spirits, informed by the Hegel-Schreber Enlightenment, is transformed this week into an investigation of surreal theories of desire that are written in luminous letters, and surrealist theories of the everyday as marvellous. In these protocols the sensorium in the mind becomes open to derangement and re-arrangement in the radiant world, which we will illustrate with a range of occult works from surrealist visual culture, past and present. We can follow Surrealism’s abductive logic and reality-shifting capacities, and the derangement of the dialectic for other effects.
- Mundy, J., V. Gille, D. Ades, Tate Modern, and Metropolitan Museum of Art. Surrealism: Desire Unbound. Princeton University Press, 2001. (reading selection TBD)
- Sheringham, M. Everyday Life: Theories and Practices from Surrealism to the Present. Oxford University Press, 2009. (reading selection TBD)
- Bauduin, T.M., V. Ferentinou, and D. Zamani. Surrealism, Occultism and Politics: In Search of the Marvellous. Taylor & Francis, 2017. (reading selection TBD)
- Choucha, N. Surrealism & the Occult. Mandrake of Oxford, 2016. (reading selection TBD)
- Masschelien, Anneleen. The Unconcept: The Freudian Uncanny in Late Twentieth Century Theory. SUNY Press, 2012. (reading selection TBD)
Week 4. Automatism, “Modest Recording Devices,” and other Mad Machines
The question of automatic writing, automatic processes, and the wild proliferation of forms of automatism in the present time deserves a close-up look, here informed by the surrealist practices of automatism to signal-jam reflective consciousness so as to unlock mysteries. We will investigate how Surrealist artists functioned as experimental automatons and performed as modest recording devices to their own subconscious flows, and in so doing how they established a future realm of mad artistic machines, influencing machines, and widening subliminal machinic thought.
- Lomas, D. “‘Modest recording instruments’: science, surrealism and visuality” in Art History, Volume 7 issue 4, September 2004.
- Tausk, Viktor. “On the Origin of the Influencing Machine in Schizophrenia” (1919)
- Lomas, D. The Haunted Self: Surrealism, Psychoanalysis, Subjectivity. Yale University Press, 2000. (reading selection TBD)
- Lomas, David “Becoming Machine: Surrealist Automatism and Some Contemporary Instances
- Involuntary Drawing” in Tate Papers
- Thompson, Rachel Leah. “The Automatic Hand: Spiritualism, Psychoanalysis, Surrealism” in Invisible Culture: An Electronic Journal for Visual Culture, Issue 7, Spring 2004.
Week 5. From Ethereal Dwelling to Haunted Media
In the final week we turn to the practical applications of our dual origins of modernity, specifically the challenge of a dual model of interiority. Here we can appreciate the mental structures of the psyche in tension with the base materialism of the interior world, encased in the architectural object, but adrift in the city. The ambient spaces of contemporary dwellings recall the deluge of signals in Schreber’s world. Here we amplify the construct of the surrealist house, locating automatism even in the subtle equipment of doorknobs and light switches. The interior of the self and of the house is bathed in media, and is haunted by media.
- Hollier, D., and B. Wing. Against Architecture: The Writings of Georges Bataille. MIT Press, 1992. (reading selection TBD)
- Levy, A. “Menace: Surrealist Interference of Space” in Mical, T.. Surrealism and Architecture. Routledge, 2005.
- Milutis, Jo. Ether: The Nothing that Connects Everything. University of Minnesota Press, 2005. (reading selection TBD)
- Alison, J., M.A. Caws, and Barbican Art Gallery. The Surreal House. Yale University Press, 2010. (reading selection TBD)
- Matheson, N. Surrealism and the Gothic: Castles of the Interior. Taylor & Francis Group, 2020. (reading selection TBD)
Philosophy and Love
Lecturer: Emmalea Russo
Starts: Fri 7:30-9:30pm 24 Jun
Full Schedule: Jun 24, Jul 1, 8, 15, 22
Location: Taught via Zoom online.
“How can we kiss and think?” asks contemporary poet Lisa Robertson in 3 Summers. In this class, we’ll explore philosophical and poetic inquiries into (romantic/erotic) love, thinking about how love and philosophy (the love of wisdom…) relate to and illuminate one another. Paying special attention to the language used to describe and evoke love’s strange shades, we’ll ask: how might thinking begin with eros? How might eros take thinking to a kind of limit? What is the difference between wisdom and information? What do distance and proximity have to do with philosophy and love? Can philosophy account for love? Throughout the course, we’ll relate these questions to contemporary experience, asking how love and philosophy might morph under digital conditions, pandemic, dating apps, and more.
We’ll begin with Plato’s erotic dialogues and go on to read various philosophical/poetic/epistolary texts by Roland Barthes, Anne Carson, bell hooks, Sappho, Byung-Chul Han, Georges Bataille, Ovid, Marie de France, and others.
- Eros and Speaking
- Plato, The Symposium
- Plato, Phaedrus
- “An Introduction to the Philosophy of Love” in Eros, Agape, and Philia by Alan Soble
- Eros and Writing
- If not, winter: The Fragments of Sappho
- Eros the Bittersweet by Anne Carson
- A Lover’s Discourse by Roland Barthes
- All About Love by bell hooks
- Love Letters and Courtly Love
- The Art of Love by Ovid
- The Romance of the Rose
- The poetry of Marie de France
- The letters of Heloise and Abelard
- Eroticism, Philosophy, and Silence
- Erotism: Death and Sensuality by Georges Bataille
- The Erotic Phenomenon by Jean-Luc Marion
- Blind Date: Sex and Philosophy by Anne Dufourmantelle
- Love, Philosophy, Information, and The Internet
- The Agony of Eros by Byung-Chul Han
- Why Love Hurts by Eva Illouz
Ettingerian Psychoanalysis and the Anti-Oedipal Rift
Lecturer: Will Hallett
Starts: Mon 11:00-1:00pm 25 Jul
Full Schedule: Jul 25-29
Location: Taught via Zoom online.
The break with psychoanalysis produced by Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari's Anti-Oedipal theory has led to conflicting accounts of the overarching relation between Deleuzianism and Jacques Lacan. To Peter Hallward, by the time of A Thousand Plateaus, the split is definitive. For Daniel Smith, it is perhaps less clear than that and the overarching relation remains to be theorized. On a certain level, and if we are to agree that a definitive break with Lacan is not entirely right, it does appear that we lack a scholarly account of some sort of Deleuzian and Lacanian program.
As we will show in this course, the theoretical works of Bracha Ettinger (particularly in its resonances with her career as a painter) establish such a synthesis, albeit in a highly enigmatic way. Following her interdisciplinary elaboration of a "metafeminist" psychoanalytic theory, we will see how the apparently contradicting concepts of an individual subjectivity in Lacan and a rhizomic or "several" subjectivity in Deleuze and Guattari can in fact become complementary from Ettinger's unique psychoanalytic lens. That the status of the feminine as a signifier and the role of the artwork in knowledge production are central to this complementarity, speaks to both the effectiveness of Ettingerian theory as a synthesis of the Lacanian and Deleuzoguattarian models of subjectivity and mind, and indicates why the question of the Anti-Oedipal 'break' is so crucial to revisit in the current intellectual situation.
Deferring in the final week to the ongoing debate about how best to describe the computational or 'Digital' state of the world today, we will discuss the potential role of Ettingerian or 'Matrixial' theory in thinking machine and mind at once, or at all. Somewhat surprisingly, it is along this vector that we may come to understand more fully the relation of the Anti-Oedipal split to the emergence of computing machines and of Deleuze and Guattari’s broader contextual relation to the discrete and the continuous frame of mathematics and thought. Readings will draw from Lacan's late work on femininity and the Real, sections of Deleuze's Logic of Sense, Ettinger's very recent articles on Eros and the Life-Drive, secondary literature on all accounts, and the relevant media theory. In as much, we will attempt a cursory evaluation of the state of psychoanalytic philosophy and the ethical, aesthetic, and political challenges that currently befall it.
Monday – Lacan’s Materialist Subject: Sexual Difference and Thanatos
- Jacques Lacan, Seminar XX (Selections)
- Alenka Zupancic, What is Sex (Selections)
- Joan Copjec, “Sexual Difference”
Tuesday – Deleuze’s Psychoanalytic Novel: Eros, Thanatos, Chronos, and Aion
- Gilles Deleuze, Logic of Sense (Selections)
- Theodore Bergsma, “Aion and Chronos: Both Directions at Once"
Wednesday – Ettingerian Theory: Eros, Humanization, and a Metafeminist Theory of Mind I
- Bracha Ettinger, “Wit(h)nessing Trauma and the Matrixial Gaze”
- Bracha Ettinger and Felix Guattari, “What’s Left of Transference”
Thursday – Ettingerian Theory: Eros, Humanization, and a Metafeminist Theory of Mind II
- Bracha Ettinger, "Beyond the Death-Drive, beyond the Life-Drive: Being-toward-Birthing with Being-toward-Birth; Copoiesis and the Matrixial Eros—Metafeminist Notes"
Friday – The Turing Question: Digitality and Feminine Sexuation
- Alexander Galloway, "The Golden Age of Analog"; “The Gender of Math"
- Sarah Pourciau, “On the Digital Ocean"
The Body and its Discontents (the body that arrived late in Lacan)
Lecturer: Robyn Adler
Starts: Mon 1:30-3:30pm 25 Jul
Full Schedule: Jul 25-29
Location: Taught via Zoom online.
In Joyce le Sinthome, Lacan states “de LOM il a un corps”, of LOM he has a body. The ‘de’ in this enigmatic enunciation is an expression that we will examine with the later Lacan. The body that one has, in a partitive sense, departs from the subject of the signifier and from the body of the individual thought to possess their own image. The symbolic holds to the body as an incorporated structure that resists representation. The symptom as an opaque place, a foreign body in the subject, is on the side of the absolutely singular where non-negativisable jouissance remains to be taken up as know-how, with use value. Via a detour that traverses the feminine side of the table of sexuation, a world of discourse is punctuated by the infinite opening a space of radical politics such that the subject, ceasing to be subjected, is endowed with authority that is on the side of the body, not on the side of institutions. By subtracting from the body of the One, of biopolitics, one by one, homonymic ties are replaced with homophonic resonances in a kind of ‘bondage up yours’ to the Enlightenment's autonomous individual cleansed of the pathological and founds, instead, a politics of dispossession such that the unconscious is politics. Here a logic of the collective is an event that is always already here.
- Introduction: from the body of the imaginary to the body of LOM.
- Reading: Heidegger, ‘The Age of the World Picture’; Lacan, ‘Joyce le Sinthome’ (II).
- The signifer takes body: Stoic incorporeal/A body not-without organs.
- Reading: Lacan, ‘Radiophonie’.
- Formulae of Sexuation
- Reading: Lacan, Seminar XX, Encore; Copjec, ‘Sex and the Euthanasia of Reason’.
- Homonymy/homophony; sounding boards/tuning forks
- Lacan, ‘La Troisième’; Freud & Breuer, ‘Studies in Hysteria’; Freud, ‘Inhibitions, Symptoms and Anxiety’.
- Exousia as authority, one by one/Collective logic.
- Lacan, ‘Logical Time and the Assertion of Anticipated Certainty’.
Readings are indicative of the paths we will traverse and by no means expected reading. Shorter readings/extracts will be provided.
Continental Philosophy of Information
Lecturer: Ashley Woodward
Starts: Mon 4:00-6:00pm 25 Jul
Full Schedule: Jul 25-29
Location: Taught via Zoom online.
‘Philosophy of Information’ has been established over the last 25 years, by Luciano Floridi and others, as a significant area of philosophy, largely in the analytic tradition. However, information has also been treated quite extensively in the continental tradition, in ways that have often remained submerged or disconnected. This course aims to given an introductory outline of some of the main ideas and themes in this neglected area. Information, in the contemporary, technical sense, was established as a theory by Claude Shannon in 1948, and was quickly disseminated through many disciplines, notably through the research programme of cybernetics. This idea of information lies at the heart of the information technologies which dominate our contemporary world, and it has given rise to a host of philosophical problems and speculations.
What makes continental approaches to information distinctive is that they examine the implications of Information Theory for broad social, political, and existential issues. Such issues are beginning to be raised by Floridi and others, but in a way which generally neglects the valuable work that has already been done by continental philosophers, starting in the 1950s. The course is structured around the identification of two main approaches to information, the ‘critical’ and the ‘constructive.’ The critical approach tends to view information negatively, as a reductive and destructive influence on human life. This approach will be surveyed in two main traditions of continental philosophy, phenomenology (with Martin Heidegger and Paul Virilio) and poststructuralism (with Jean-François Lyotard and Jean Baudrillard). These traditions and thinkers will be used to discuss two main areas of critical focus: the nature and meaning of language, and the cultural politics of communication technologies.
While the issue of information itself has usually not been foregrounded, these ‘critical’ thinkers and traditions have had a healthy reception in the English-speaking world for quite some time. On the other hand, the ‘constructive’ approach to information is represented by thinkers who have been relatively neglected, even in their native France, until relatively recently. This course will examine the responses to cybernetics and Information Theory of two such important thinkers, Raymond Ruyer and Gilbert Simondon. While each were critical of the limits of the technical approach to information, they also saw great value and potential in the idea of information, seeing it as able to positively reformulate a wide range of foundational philosophical concepts, and to forge a more positive cultural relation to technology. The works of these thinkers are now being rediscovered, as their relevance to the information society in which we live today is becoming increasingly apparent.
The course will draw on original research and translations by the lecturer, and will make availble to students material which is not yet published.
1. Introduction and Overview. Introduction to Philosophy of Information; introduction to cybernetics and Information Theory; the idea of a ‘continental’ philosophy of information; brief overview of philosophers and traditions to be covered.
- Luciano Floridi, “What is the Philosophy of Information?”
- The Π Research Network, The Philosophy of Information: A Simple Introduction, 1.1: “A Quick History of the Philosophy of Information”
2. Language (Heidegger and Lyotard). Heidegger’s critique of cybernetics and information; poetry as a model of meaning in language; ontological language vs. communication; the link between information and capitalism (exchange); paradox and paralogy as alternative views of meaning.
- Martin Heidegger, “Traditional Language and Technological Language”
- Jean-François Lyotard, “Rules and Paradoxes and Svelte Appendix”
3. Cultural Politics (Virilio and Baudrillard). How the rapid technological exchange of information alters social reality; speed as an essential dimension of how information technologies are changing the world; the link between new technologies and the Military Industrial Complex; against the cyborg: cybernetics destroys what is essential to being human (phenomenal reality); simulation and hyperreality; information and semiology.
- Paul Virilio, The Information Bomb, chapter 14.
- Jean Baudrillard, “The Implosion of Meaning in the Media”
4. Raymond Ruyer. The first philosophical critique of cybernetics; a strong argument against naturalizing meaning with information; ‘Absolute survey’: essential aspects of first-person consciousness; scientific explanation also requires this perspective; a metaphysical, Platonic explanation of the origin of information; an idealism which encompasses both science and human value; how the technical concept of information can be extended to psychology, culture, and society (“quasi-information”).
- Raymond Ruyer, Cybernetics and the Origin of Information, “Introduction.”
- Raymond Ruyer, “Quasi-Information.”
- Ashley Woodward, “Ruyer, Information Philosopher.”
5. Gilbert Simondon. Individuation: How something becomes what it is; information as the formula for individuation; the central role of information in a speculative, naturalist metaphysics; Simondon’s system (types of individuation); the relationship between machines and humans; how we are alienated by our relation to technology, and the role of the concept of information in overcoming this alienation.
- Gilbert Simondon, “Form, Information, and Potentials.”
- Gilbert Simondon, “Cybernetics and Philosophy”
- Gilbert Simondon, “The Epistemology of Cybernetics”
- Ashley Woodward, “Philosophy of/as Information.”
Gilbert Simondon’s Individuation in light of notions of form and information
Lecturer: Gus Hewlett
Starts: Mon 6:30-8:30pm 25 Jul
Full Schedule: Jul 25-29
Location: Taught via Zoom online.
This course aims to provide a thorough and critical overview of Simondon’s Individuation, his largest and most ambitious text. We will reflect on the ways in which the text can be read as a whole (or even a ‘whole philosophy’, as Deleuze suggests): Simondon’s claim that transduction pertains to ‘any situation’ of individuation and his division of the real according to domains of individuation – physical, vital, psychic, collective. We will also discuss the originality of Simondon’s conception of individuation, particularly his critique of atomism and hylemorphism and their replacement by transductive individuation; and the ways in which it attempts to meet the classical demands for individuality: namely, unity and singularity. Finally, we will attend to Simondon’s method and means for philosophising in Individuation, particularly his use of example, primarily taken from the natural sciences.
After a brief introduction to Simondon’s work and life, we will turn to the Introduction to Individuation. We will focus on the critique of hylemorphism and atomism; the structure presented here for the book as a whole; and the ‘methods’ – paradigmatic and transductive for approaching individuation.
2. Physical individuation
Turning to ‘physical individuation’, we will discuss Simondon’s critique of hylemorphism through the example of brickmaking and its replacement by transduction, thought and presented through the first and most important (‘paradigmatic’) example of crystallisation. We will then turn to Simondon’s critique of ancient atomism through Louis de Broglie’s ‘double solution’ to quantum mechanics. With this we will begin to develop a grasp of Simondon’s conceptions of energy and information, the temporality and relationality of transduction, and a flavour of the way in which it relates to multiplicity.
3. The individuation of living beings (vital individuation 1)
We begin this session by discussing the first transition in the text, from physical to vital individuation, and the effects that this has on the development of transduction.
We will then turn to an account of the first section of vital individuation, guided by the problematic distinctions of growth and reproduction and interior and exterior milieux. Here multiplicity takes centre stage whilst information has a costume change; relation remains key, whilst temporality is surprisingly withdrawn. Elements of the science and philosophy of life will also be offered for critical context: Bergson, Bernard, Canguilhem, Darwin, Lamarck, Rabaud and Wiesmann.
4. Psychic individuation (vital individuation 2)
In this session we approach the second transition of transduction, and the complexification of vital individuation, in the move from vital to psychical individuation. We will begin by discussing the relationship between non-psychical and psychical vital individuation, and the introduction of the concept of ‘individualisation’. We will then turn to the problem of perceptual unities, and then to the abilities for affection-emotion and sensation-perception. Relation here takes on Kantian and phenomenological tones, whilst the critique of atomism returns in a critique of Gestalt psychology.
5. The collective and the foundations of the transindividual (vital individuation 3)
In the final session we will focus on the transindividual, paying particular attention to its relation to other vital individuations, and to Simondon’s criticism of ‘psychology’ and ‘sociology’. Multiplicity is again at the heart of the problem of this section, whilst temporality takes on a dimension which is both intra- and extra-individual, to the extent that the transindividual is a ‘new’ individuation which nonetheless depends on prior individuations. This session will also be an opportunity to look back at the text as a whole.