Friday, August 21, 2009

After Finitude is the best diagnosis of the problems with contemporary philosophy

Thursday, August 13, 2009 Interview with Nick Srnicek
Nick also has a personal blog which I cannot recommend enough. Paul John Ennis

Undoubtedly, all three of the books selected will be indicative more of my interests rather than suggestions about what are objectively the 'best' books. There's already a large and increasingly growing collection of SR-related work, and to name all the great books would take some time. With that caveat, the first work one needs to read if one's interested in SR is Meillassoux's After Finitude. It simply is the best diagnosis of the problems with contemporary philosophy, and it's argued with a clarity that proves logic, surprise and wonder don't need to be mutually exclusive. Nearly everyone I've seen write about it, says that it was a shock to their system after years of training had led them to focus on subjective and linguistic structures. The arguments may be debatable (and there's already a small cottage industry in discussing the book), but the sheer force with which they hit you when you first read it makes it the best introduction to SR.

The second book I'd suggest is Brassier's Nihil Unbound. His work is a strikingly original and provocatively argued work that aims to shatter all the comforts of a human-centric worldview. It is an unflinching look at nihilism and the Enlightenment project, and I think as neuroscience continues to progress and exteriorize the interiority of the mind, Brassier's work will be the foundation for the rethinking of ourselves that neuroscience triggers. As such, it's a crucial work that may still be ahead of its time.

The third and final work I'd suggest is Harman's Prince of Networks, which I think is the clearest and most developed exposition of his philosophy yet. Not only is the second half devoted to a highly illuminating defence and explanation of his work, but the first half provides the best philosophical reading of Bruno Latour available. It is my belief that Latour provides the key insights into rescusitating continental philosophy's politics from its indecisive and abstract doldrums, and as such, Harman lays down the path for a debate between them. And with Harman's powerful critiques of Latour in the second half, it's like getting two books for the price of one. Definitely recommended.


Science, Culture and Integral Yoga Saturday, August 22
On Universalism: In Debate with Alain Badiou by Etienne Balibar
by Debashish on August 22, 2009 12:21 AM (PDT)

Etienne Balibar (1942- ) is a French philosopher and political theorist who was among the principal students of Louis Althusser. In this thought dialog with Alain Badiou (a worthy counterpart of the interview on Universalism carried on sciy earlier), Balibar conducts a sophisticated investigation on universalism - its dichotomies, its establishment as truth and the responsibility implicit in its pursuit.

Why is universalism always ridden with contradiction? Can it be spoken of in a singular fashion or can it be reduced to the proper side of a single dichotomy? In tracing a speculative history of universality, Balibar moves through the variety of dichotomous displacements through history to bring to focus the intrinsically dialectic essence of universalism.

Which leads to the political question of the establishment of universalism. Balibar extends the philosophical discourse of dialectics to the perpetuallly revolutionary essence of the politics of universalism - that is, it is in ceaseless reviolution that the single-dual ideal of what Balibar calls "equaliberty" becomes the quasi-transcendental horizon of realization. One may say that social consciousness expands in this process in unpredictable dimensions.

Finally, on the question of the responsibility intrinsic to the pursuit of universalism, Balibar points out how the question of violence is also intrinsic to it. This question is not merely an external or extensive one, a fact of revolution as mentioned before, but an internal and intensive responsibility - that of the violence of internal exclusivism. This is the specter of the terror of totalism or absolutism which we are so familiar with today. Balibar points to the always present specter of this danger and something the responsibility of the pursuit of universalism needs to be constantly vigilant about. - db more » Leave Comment Permanent Link

Friday, August 21 Capitalism a Love Story by Michael Moore
by Rich on August 21, 2009 05:37 PM (PDT) Michael Moore returns with class warfare on his mind. more » Leave Comment Permanent Link

Science, Culture and Integral Yoga Thursday, August 20
An Interview with Alain Badiou: “Universal Truths & the Question of Religion” by Adam S. Miller, Journal of Philosophy and Scripture
Debashish on August 20, 2009 01:11 AM (PDT)

Is universalism an ideology in the self-proclaimed name of the Human which is meant to spread its normative hegemony over all forms of particularism, with a discursive disciplinary and regulative mechanism so ubiquitous that it disappears into unnoticeability? And in doing so, does it indeed wipe out all particularisms, or being itself a particularism pretending to be undeniably universal, does it instead enable a numberless plethora of fundamentalistic particularims to be equal claimants to the right of universalism in innumerable contested definitions of the Human?What then happens to universalism? Must we discsard this utopian ideal of the Enlightenment in the rubbish heap of History? Or is it an alternate locus that we must seek for it, a locus in which difference can inhere at the horizon of identity ?

Alain Badiou (1937- ), prominent French philosopher and former chair of Philosophy at the Ecole Normale Superieure, addrersses these questions in a book on St. Paul, where he develops his notion of universalism as a revolutionary aspect of becoming rooted in the idea of the Event. Such an Event cannot be predicted outside the appearance of dialectical contradictions, but in its appearance, such contradications lose their contradictory significance, either in an indifference or in a coexistence where new properties subsume their significance beyond contradiction.

Perhaps it may not be too far to apply Sri Aurobindo's phrase to this event-ual nature of the becoming: "Trasncendence transfigures," though to Badiou such transcendence does not bear any inevitability or predictability to it. In the present interview with Adam S. Miller of the Journal of Philosophy and Scripture, Badiou expands on his views on universalism and also inflects his positions vis-a-vis that of Giorgio Agamben and Slavoj Zizek. - db more » Leave Comment Permanent Link

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Ronald Bogue first introduced Deleuze to the English speaking world

Aug 18, 2009 Review of Difference and Givenness
from Larval Subjects . by larvalsubjects

For those who have online access to Project Muse, Ronald Bogue’s review of Difference and Givenness is now available volume 16 of Symploke. From the final paragraph:

His argumentation is dense, yet pursued with rigor and systematic coherence. His reading of Difference and Repetition is one of the finest now available and a significant contribution to the growing body of serious engagements with Deleuze as a philosopher. Bryant’s study will be difficult going for anyone unfamiliar with the Deleuzian corpus, but for those who have struggled with Deleuze’s complex works, this book will prove an invaluable guide and an essential stimulus to further discussion of his thought. In every way, Difference and Givenness is a major achievement.

This is a truly gratifying review, not only because it was Bogue that first introduced Deleuze to the English speaking world and because he has done so much excellent work on Deleuze (particularly his three volumes on Deleuze and the arts), but also because Ronald Bogue’s work has been so influential in my own thought. Difference and Givenness would not have been possible without his book Deleuze & Guattari, and especially the chapters on Difference and Repetition and The Logic of Sense.

Material History from Larval Subjects . by larvalsubjects

Marx famously said that Hegel must be made to walk on his feet. By this Marx meant that history does not move as a result of the agency of the concept, spirit, or the idea as Hegel would have it, but rather as a result of this material history that Braudel is referring to and which Braudel explores in satisfying detail dwarfing anything like what we find in Marx. Of course, from the standpoint of my object-oriented ontology I would include signs, minds, and all the rest as real actors as well.

Nonetheless, in a philosophical context intoxicated by texts, signs, language, and mind, a historian like Braudel is discovered like a breath of fresh air, reminding us of another domain of mute objects that everywhere intertwine with imbroglios of human and non-human actors. In this respect, Braudel’s Civilization & Capitalism is also a therapeutic work as it reminds us of what becomes invisible in approaches to thought saturated by textuality and a reflection on mind.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

The trick is to tolerate uncertainty without becoming either a skeptic or a dogmatist

Monday, August 10, 2009 Augustine, Husserl, and Certainty

In his magisterial Augustine of Hippo, Peter Brown writes of Augustine, "He wanted complete certainty on ultimate questions." (1st ed., p. 88) If you don't thrill to that line, you are no philosopher. Compare Edmund Husserl: "Ohne Gewissheit kann ich eben nicht leben." "I just can't live without certainty." Yet he managed to live for years after penning that line, and presumably without certainty.

I would say that the ability to tolerate uncertainty without abandoning the quest for certainty is a mark of intellectual and spiritual maturity. A truth seeker who can tolerate uncertainty is one who will not seek false refuge in dogmas that provide pseudo-certainty. I cannot help but think of Islamo-terrorism in this connection. Had Muhammad Atta and the boys entertained some doubts about the bevy of black-eyed virgins awaiting them at the portals of paradise, they and three thousand others might still be alive. The trick is to tolerate uncertainty without becoming either a skeptic or a dogmatist. [...]

I conclude that there are some propositions the truth of which can be grasped with objective certitude even though these propositions are not about such mental data as pleasures and pains. The mind has the power to transcend its own states and not only to know, but to know with objective certitude, truths whose truth is independent of mind. That is amazing.

One some days, existence strikes me as the deepest and most fascinating of philosophical topics. On other days, I give the palm to time: "What, then, is time? If no one asks me, I know; if I want to explain it to someone who does ask me, I do not know." (Augustine, Confessions, Bk. 11, Ch. 14) But today, the honor goes to knowledge. Posted at 08:12 PM in Augustine, Certainty, Husserl .. Maverick Philosopher: In Praise of Blogosophy by Bill Vallicella 9:31 AM 9:54 AM

Friday, August 14, 2009

One of Rorty's central and oft-repeated themes is anti-essentialism

A Psychology of Reading Rorty Oct 1, 2007
philosophy autobiography by Jeff Meyerhoff

More than any other philosopher I keep reading Richard Rorty; its been 20 years now. What is it that draws me back to him when I don’t read any other philosopher with that consistency? Rorty himself recently said that nowadays he’s just “tweaking” what he’s already written. If it’s the same old stuff repackaged why do I keep wanting to read it? Of course the ease with which he delivers his views makes for a pleasurable read, but there wouldn’t be such a level of desire to keep reading him unless there was something I needed to get from his work. Somewhat contradictorily, I understand what he’s saying while at the same time I can’t quite grasp something and so need to keep reading.

One of Rorty's central and oft-repeated themes is anti-essentialism. That philosophy presumes that things, its objects of inquiry – knowledge, truth, the good, reality, the mind – have an essential, unchanging nature which we can grasp by thinking rigorously about them. It’s assumed that the entities of the world have a nature, are a particular way, and we can finally grasp their nature by thinking rationally about them.

Rorty asserts that this assumption of the essentialism of the objects of philosophy has created problems for philosophy and that a better understanding is that these objects are always meaningful objects that arise from language which in turn arose and arises through our social practices and interactions. Words serve useful purposes for contingent occasions and as those occasions and our needs change so too do our words and their meanings. The concept of “the soul” was a palpable reality (and still is for many), but in philosophical circles it has been replaced by the concept of “the mind” which, for many, has a palpable undeniability.

I ‘m drawn to reading Rorty saying this over and over in a variety of different ways even though I can already state the idea accurately and believe that he’s right. But if I understand the point, why not be done with him? Because there is a level at which I don’t understand it and don’t believe it. So on one level I believe it and on another I believe the opposite. What are those two levels?

On an intellectual level I’m mostly convinced and yet on a psychological level I believe the opposite. Psychologically, in my moment-to-moment, daily living, I assume and operate as if there is an objective way that the world is, objectively right things I should be doing and that it is my job to try to discern them. I live as if my true life course is objectively out there, but I don’t know it and that it is my job to fathom it. This is another example of “the pathos of distance,” the sad separation of humans from some eternal, certain, completing Other which life seems inexplicably constructed to keep us from, or make it monstrously hard to grasp. This Other has taken many forms: it is the nature of the virtues in ancient Greece, it is God in Christianity, Nature in science, the Truth in philosophy.

More specifically, I live as if the central ruling conceptual scheme of my psyche, which I wrote about in my first few blog entries: the fact of being a nobody and the corresponding desire to become a somebody, has an essential and substantive character and reality. It’s an essentialism of the psyche which rules my life, but which, upon reflection, I can see as a mutable, human creation that I needn’t be subject to. But while I can see it intellectually, just as I understand Rorty’s work intellectually, psychologically I continue to act out their dictates as if they were an essential and real polarity of life. Since this living, concrete polarity of nobody and somebody operate in my day-to-day living despite my best efforts to escape them, I gain a secondary, but never completely liberating satisfaction from reading Rorty. Oct 1, 2007

Thursday, August 13, 2009

DeLanda’s Intensive Science and Virtual Philosophy

The Insufferable Figure of the Scholar from Larval Subjects by larvalsubjects

Derrida’s Speech of Philosophy, despite being devoted exclusively to Husserl and a close reading of certain key moments in Husserl’s thought is not a work of scholarship but a genuine work of philosophy in its own right. Derrida does not set out to represent Husserl, but produces something new in and through Husserl.

Heidegger’s Sophist lectures or his massive four volumes on Nietzsche, while engaging with a particular thinker, are not scholarship but genuine works of philosophy.

Iain Hamilton Grant’s book on Schelling is not scholarship, though it is very scholarly, but is a genuine work of philosophy. Although the dividing line is fuzzy, the difference between a scholarly work on a philosopher and a philosophical engagement with a philosopher seems to revolve around whether the work seeks to represent the philosopher or whether it is engaging with the philosopher to produce a new work of philosophy.

In this respect, my Difference and Givenness is a work of scholarship insofar as it seeks to represent Deleuze and explain his transcendental empiricism and how it is working with the rationalist tradition and the tradition of transcendental idealism,

whereas DeLanda’s Intensive Science and Virtual Philosophy is a genuine work of philosophy in that it takes up Deleuze’s thought to produce a philosophical work of its own. Both types of work are valuable and make their own contributions.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Sri Aurobindo comes at a very crucial moment in the history of thought

Through sheer human efforts and by mere aspiration
Sri Aurobindo's influence by Tusar N Mohapatra

Sri Aurobindo's extensive mapping of consciousness and his life-long endeavour to fathom the overhead regions through poetry and yoga are seminal contributions. His emphasis on attainability of highest possible perfection through sheer human efforts and by mere aspiration is a great message of hope. Further, the adventure of consciousness is not aimed at isolated spiritual salvation. Rather, a harmonious collective living is the ultimate destination. By translating this ideal to practical terms, Sri Aurobindo draws an elaborate blueprint concerning the ideal of human unity leading to the establishment of a World-Union.

Sri Aurobindo comes at a very crucial moment in the history of thought when Marxist materialism, Nietzschean nihilism and Freudian vitalism were popular and fashionable. Besides, phenomenology and existentialism had their run along-side him. On the whole, along with the new-fangled science and Theosophy, these new philosophical formulations fermented enough confusion among the elite. In a way, the disparate positions arrived at in Western thought find their synthesis in Sri Aurobindo's philosophy. By aligning them with the ancient Indian wisdom, he comes up with an integral vision that breathes universality as well as contemporarity.

Thus, Kant's sublime, Hegel's absolute, Schopenhauer's will, Kierkegaard's passion, Marx's matter, Darwin's evolution, Nietzsche's overman, Bergson's élan vital, all find their due representation in Sri Aurobindo's grand exposition. His thought successfully overarchs cultural as well as religious chasms. S. K. Maitra and Haridas Chaudhuri are first among the academicians to discern the import of Sri Aurobindo's integral philosophy. D. P. Chattopadhyay wrote a seminal treatise juxtaposing Sri Aurobindo and Marx to examine their utopian prophecies. [ Wikipedia Posted by Tusar N Mohapatra at 2:54 AM ] Wednesday, 20 December, 2006 Posted by Tusar N Mohapatra at 1:17 PM


Saturday, February 21, 2009 Zizek and Rorty on the Real

An interesting aspect in Slavoj Zizek’s writings is the way he says something about and uses the concept of “the Real,” yet the Real he describes is similar to the reality that Rorty describes which philosophers and other beings have tried to grasp. For Rorty the real or reality is a philosophically empty concept. We have different candidates for the Real: God, Matter, What Is, Truth, Nature, Knowledge, but the debates about it are inconclusive and it seems to just serve as an unknowable ultimate justifier for our beliefs. Rorty’s pragmatic solution is to stop talking about it.

Zizek’s Real from Lacan is a gap, lack or absence, in a way not there, yet it’s incorporated into a psychoanalytical-philosophical understanding that gives it a useful role in helping us to understand ourselves and the world. The Real as a lack or absence lay at the center of our symbolic order and is why we can’t create a finished intellectual system. It is that uncanny, indefinable attractive something that causes certain objects to attract and entrance us. It is the trauma around which we construct our selves and repeat our behavioral patterns which contradictorily both offer to resolve the trauma and help us to avoid confronting it. So Rorty says reality as the really real is not there and not a good use of our time to think about. Zizek says yes, it isn’t there in the way people want – a substantial something, a graspable bedrock – but in its absence it is there and has a determining presence which we see in its effects. He analyzes its qualities of attractiveness and repulsiveness. It’s the psychology of what ultimately isn’t there but can’t be gotten rid of.

There’s an Eastern spiritual version of this. The ultimate stuff is paradoxical: The Tao, Nirvana, Atman, the Non-Dual are ineffable and yet named. We try to grasp It or surrender to It but the very effort to know It causes It not to be known. It is beyond conceptuality. But the Eastern practices do believe there is a final attainment or resolution, whereas Zizek and Lacan don’t think there is. Posted by Jeff Meyerhoff at 1:37 PM 13 comments

Sunday, August 09, 2009

I see the world as a messy, complex place with theory as only the best approximation

Keith M Ellis Says: August 8th, 2009 at 12:40 pm
Myles, our disagreement in the specific reflects our disagreement in the general. The supposed ultimate outcomes of “classical liberalism” and libertarianism are, in my opinion, mostly beside the point. Postulating so is a bunch of hand-waving. I’m not very interested in political theory that has little relevance to what’s actually happening in the world. The same was true when I was in school (and now) with regard to philosophy.

I am interested in what I believe is the most meaningful descriptive level upon which to examine a political philosophy that has influence in this world: the psychological/sociological/historical context in which it formed and exists. I think that context is both far more predictive as to what particular positions will be widely adopted as orthodox by that philosophy and how the group which holds this philosophy will influence the greater polity.

People have, and will, construct elaborate intellectual edifies rationalizing their favored political philosophy but, in practice, the larger group of people who hold that philosophy will adopt beliefs and positions largely independent of that rationalization and, more to the point, they will be quite often inconsistent beliefs and positions. Coherent theory has utility at some rarified level where the intellectuals and the powerful intersect—occasionally at pivotal moments—but, generally, comprehension of the politics of the matter is more greatly limited by ignorance of the sociological context of the political philosophy than by its theory.

Those who write and talk about libertarianism (as distinct, I think, from those who merely adopt libertarianism as a felicitous set of political beliefs) are the type of people who have a great fondness for simplifying abstract theory and naturally expect the world to conform to it. In this they are quite like, say, Marxists. I am not like this. I have a great love for, and facility with, theory of all kinds but I see the world as a messy, complex place with theory as only the best approximation for something we probably don’t understand very well, anyway.

Saturday, August 08, 2009

Demoralizing caution and prudence of professional academic philosophy

New Metaphysics
Series Editors: Graham Harman and Bruno Latour
Open Humanities Press is pleased to launch a new series in continental philosophy published in conjunction with the University of Michigan Library's Scholarly Publishing Office. Each New Metaphysics book will be freely available as an electronic book (open access) and as reasonably priced paperbacks.

The world is due for a resurgence of original speculative metaphysics. The New Metaphysics series aims to provide a safe house for such thinking amidst the demoralizing caution and prudence of professional academic philosophy. We do not aim to bridge the analytic-continental divide, since we are equally impatient with nail-filing analytic critique and the continental reverence for dusty textual monuments.

We favor instead the spirit of the intellectual gambler, and wish to discover and promote authors who meet this description. Like an emergent recording company, what we seek are traces of a new metaphysical 'sound' from any nation of the world. The editors are open to translations of neglected metaphysical classics, and will consider secondary works of especial force and daring. But our main interest is to stimulate the birth of disturbing masterpieces of twenty-first century philosophy. To contribute to the series, please contact Graham Harman

Alterity, comparative philosophy, and colonialism

CFP: Levinas and Asian Thought from Continental Philosophy by Farhang Erfani
Call for Papers: Levinas and Asian Thought Edited by Leah Kalmanson, Frank Garrett, and Sarah Mattice

Comparative philosophy has often reached out to major figures within the continental European tradition, resulting in such successful publications as Heidegger and Asian Thought and Nietzsche and Asian Thought. In recent years, the editors of the present volume have noted a growing number of journal articles and conference presentations exploring connections between Emmanuel Levinas and various Asian philosophies. The time is ripe for an essay collection that will help highlight and bring into focus this developing field of inquiry. We invite submissions addressing any one of many possible topics falling under the theme of Levinas and Asian thought, including but certainly not limited to:

* Alterity, inter-subjectivity, and the relational self. * The implications of Buddhist “no-self” for alterity. For example, does no-self imply, in any way, no-other? * Alterity and the family in Levinas and Confucian role ethics. * Infinity and nothingness in Levinas and Kyoto School philosophy. * Being, non-being, and “otherwise than being” in Levinas and Daoism. * Alterity, as articulated in either non-dualist or dualist schools in Indian philosophy. * Alterity and the problematizing of comparativist projects. For example, is the “other” philosopher always the non-western one? * Critique directed at Levinas’s own accounts of Asian “others.” * Alterity, comparative philosophy, and colonialism. * Levinas, Asian traditions, and feminist discourse. * Comparative explorations of Levinas’s Judaism and the religions of Asia. * Levinas, Asian thought, and environmental ethics or animal studies. For example, how might an Asian tradition help us think through the idea of a non-human other?