Upcoming Talk…

Before putting the announcement, let me note the link has recordings of other great talks from this seminar series…

The Writing & Society Research Centre and the Philosophy Research Initiative at University of Western Sydney, Australia presents following seminar on Wednesday July 4:

SPEAKER: Peter Gratton (Memorial University of Newfoundland)

TITLE: Spinoza and the Biopolitical Roots of Modernity

TIME: July 4, 3-5pm

PLACE: UWS Bankstown Campus, 3.G.55

Much has been written about bio-political sovereignty in the wake of Giorgio Agamben’s work, which relies, at least in the first volume of Homo Sacer, on Carl Schmitt’s transcendental account of sovereignty. I will argue, however, that Foucault and Arendt rightly identify what Derrida once called the “changing shape and place of sovereignty” in modernity, which for them is horizontal and disseminated within a presupposed nation. For this reason, we will look to the source of modern philosophical immanentism, Spinoza, to show that he is not extrinsic to this modern bio-politics, and demonstrates how the sovereign exception and its nationalized version work hand-in-glove in the era of which he was a part. In this way, we argue that it is Spinoza’s political theology, not Schmitt’s, that is the better pass-key to what Foucault and Arendt identify as biopolitical. By doing so, I put in tension two trends in recent Continental philosophy–philosophical vitalism and the critique of biopolitics–while raising questions about the use of political, if not ontological, forms of immanence.

For the entire 2012 program of the Philosophy seminar series at UWS see this page.

The Philosophers Magazine Needs Female Writers, or Just not these Guys

I don’t mean to be that harsh, but it’s in my RSS feed.

These are just three of the last four posts. I need some rest for an early flight to Hobart, so I’m not digging further:

1. There’s this about how the writer can’t hug women because he’s sexually attracted to them. He then is some ethereal discussion of the ethics of this, which tells you a lot about how abstract certain neo-Kantian ethics are.

2. Then there’s this about the ethics of porn, which handrings over the lost salaries of workers who may lose jobs as porn goes online, complete with a discussion of whether it’s appropriate to copy porn you haven’t paid for. Also, there’s a helpful picture for those who need it.

3. Then, there’s this on so-called “booth babes” (don’t worry, there’s a picture, too!), and the author ends with his worry that business might lose sales because women may be turned off by them.

I couldn’t bring myself to read each post thoroughly, but jeebus–it’s like they found problems (always involving the objectification of women) and managed to ask all the wrong questions.

Really, the ethics of stealing porn? Or should men pay for their porn if the industry is going under? Really?

Speculative Realism and Real Time

I just posted this to the empyre listserv, which has had a wonderful set of discussions about object-oriented ontology (what great timing, since I’m editing a chapter of my book on Speculative Realism on OOO). But one thing came up about the concept of time and OOO.

I am discussing this tomorrow, by the way, at the University of Tasmania in Hobart, where I’ll present some of my work on the need for thinking a real time.

I want to note one thing: for Harman, entities do not emit time. Time is but a “tension in its sensual qualities”–that is, not in the object’s “hidden” reality. See Harman’s diagram (see below) on p. 114 of the Quadruple Object. In his essay “The Road to Objects,” Harman sums up his view:

According to the object-oriented model only the present exists: only objects with their qualities, locked into whatever their duels of the moment might be. In that sense, times seems to be illusory, though not for the usual reason that time is just a fourth spatial dimension always already present from the start. Instead time does not exist simply because only the present ever exists. Nonetheless, time as a lived experience [i.e, within the sensuous—here he follows Husserl to the letter] cannot be denied. We do not encounter a static frame of reality, but seem to feel a passage of time. It is not pure chaos shifting wildly from one second to the next, since there is chance with apparent endurance. Sensual objects endure despite swirling oscillations in their surface adumbrations, and this is precisely what is meant by the experience of time. Time can be defined as the tension between sensual objects and their sensual qualities.[i]

Thus the relation of objects is “apparent” and at the “sensuous” level–not at the level of the real object and its real qualities. And thus things in themselves are forever in the present, which is doubling down on the metaphysics of presence.
This, to say the least, needs to be discussed whenever OOO comes up: since if objects in their reality are forever in the present, then how to explain objects such as music, films, or, as Harman discussed in a recent interview, “The Arab Street.” This is what Husserl realized in his time lectures of 1905-1911: moving beyond the mathematical, he noted that he must think how to adequately explain music, for example–hence his theory of protensions and retentions. And never mind Heidegger, Derrida, Deleuze, etc.
My task in my work is to think a real time, one that can account for different ecologies of time and their cultural measures. This, not correlationism, is the true legacy of the twentieth century thinkers such as Heidegger and Derrida.

[i] “The Road to Objects,” 176, my emphases.

On Greece…

A really good post on theSociety and Spaceopen site:

From the dawn of the democratic era then, Exarcheia found itself holding something of an exceptional status. In the years and decades that followed the small Athenian neighbourhood would play host to unrest of all different shapes and sizes: commemorative/ritualistic riots on anniversaries of the uprising; at times weekly (perhaps even more regular) skirmishes between youth and the police that came hand-in hand with the growing of a counter-culture also partly tracing back to the 1973 uprising. Last but not least, the revolt of December 2008 would break out from the heart of the neighbourhood.

Antonis Vradis reads Exarcheia in terms of the etymology of the neighborhood (outside of the arche–the principle or rule) and in terms of its unique place in recent events.

Road Tripping…

The last two weeks, I’ve spoken at the University of New South Wales and La Trobe University on speculative realism, basically discussing Meillassoux’s project as well as his discussion of time (in terms of UNSW–my thanks especially to Joanne Faulker, whose work on the notion of innocence of children is next up for me) and community (at La Trobe–my thanks especially to Jack Reynolds, who is also working on the notion of time and just published Chronopathologies, which I need to get my hands on). The graduate students at La Trobe especially are doing a lot of work with SR, and there’s great faculty at both place to hash out ideas on how I’m going to get to the end of the speculative realism volume I’m working on.

Next week, I’m off to Hobart in Tasmania to discuss my work on ecologies of time, which should be fun. Hobart is a beautiful little city, and my trip to Tasmania four years ago was one of my favorites. The air at this time of year is crisp and fresh, so I look forward to that. The week after that, on July 4th, I’ll be at the University of West Sydney discussing biopolitics and immanentism through Spinoza, which is not part of my The State of Sovereignty book (I promise–less expensive paperback coming soon!), but takes up a point I made in the introduction, namely that the passkey to modernity is not the political theology of Schmitt, but that of Spinoza.

Jim Bradley’s Last Published Piece

Until a collection of his work that Sean McGrath and others are putting together comes out. The CSCP was kind enough (thanks Iain and Marie-Eve for the quick work) to post it open access:

James Bradley, longtime professor of philosophy at Memorial University of Newfoundland, passed away on May 17, 2012. His last publication had just appeared in Symposium, vol. 16, no. 1. As a tribute to Professor Bradley’s remarkable academic career, the CSCP would like to offer this publication to members and friends of the Society. It may be downloaded here.

I can hear Jim’s voice and wit and wisdom as I read it. You get the basics of his work: the fact that, abductively, given the success of trinitarian thinking in the history of the West, we can grant the hypothesis that any metaphysics works best in trinitarian terms; that Continental Philosophy and Analytic Philosophy are both avowed enemies of speculative philosophy (for those interested in speculative realism, Jim provides the speculative background you need); and his discussion of processes of actualization.

And, course, there’s his sharp opening: There is no Continental philosophy, only “‘Pseudo-Continentalism,’ [which is] no more than a highly selective rendering of Western European Philosophy.” Which he published, of course, in the leading journal in Canada for Continental philosophy.

Scu on Flat Ethics

Here. I particularly like two things:

1. The rejection of the conatus as centering ethics. I think Hasana Sharp’s work on this is impecable and should be read by the many, way-too-many philosophers who don’t get Spinoza (and those who do), but I can never get around the fact that it’s defined specifically by Spinoza as perseverance and later Deleuze uses it to talk of a “pure life,” which in Spinoza thus leads to his politics of fear. Here Arendt’s critique of that modern legacy is crucial.

2. Secondly, Scu’s discussion about getting rid of the idea of the innocent of life follows from this. It is, by definition, a fully juridical concept–one that means someone is making that divide between what is and what isn’t so “innocent.” (In animality, it’s the cute vs. the shark–I say tongue only a bit in cheek.)

Finally, can we call a time-out in philosophy about the “innocent child”? It appears in Deleuze’s book on Life, Meillassoux’s work on the future God, and even in some discussions of Agamben. I always wonder what childhood these guys (and it’s always guys) had, since this is always matched with descriptions of unmatched joy, etc. After Freud, one would think we need not follow psychoanalysis, but at least we wouldn’t have to read such things as a pivot central in these works.

New Symposium Out

It includes an excellent, thought-provoking paper by Jim Bradley.

Vol. 16, No. 1 (2012)


MARIE-ANDRÉE RICARD, Proust et le nouveau: Une lecture anti-platonicienne de son œuvre [abstract]

L’objectif de cet article est de montrer, contre toute attente peut-être, que le thème du nouveau est au centre du projet proustien d’une « recherche du temps perdu », autrement dit de sa conception de l’art comme une réminiscence. Compris dans un sens anti-platonicien, le nouveau correspond ultimement chez Proust à notre besoin d’être.

MARGUERITE LA CAZE, Moss, Fungus, Cauliflower: Sartre`s Critique of  “Human Nature” [abstract]

I argue that Sartre’s understanding of needs is not inconsistent with his conception of the human condition. I will demonstrate that his use of the term “needs” signals a change of focus, not a rejection of his earlier views. Sartre’s later “dialectical” account of human needs should be read, in light of his phenomenological account in Being and Nothingness, as aspects of our facticity and situation. Satisfying needs is compatible with a range of choices about how to satisfy those needs and what they mean for us. I contend that Sartre remains true to the phenomenological roots of his work and avoids a commitment to a human nature or essence. Finally, I will address some of the questions that arise from Sartre’s focus on needs in his dialectical ethics. I will begin by examining Sartre’s early account of the human condition, and then consider his focus on needs in relation to this account.

PIERRE-ALEXANDRE FRADET, La durée bergonienne et le temps d’Einstein: Conciliation et insubordination [abstract]

Une vulgate interprétative a repéré chez Bergson deux intentions majeures : d’une part, celle de montrer que le temps d’Einstein est compa-tible avec la conception de la durée; d’autre part, celle de subordonner le temps einsteinien au temps vécu. Les pages qui suivent seront l’occasion pour nous d’ébranler le second volet de cette interprétation. Sans le réfuter de point en point, nous voudrions en effet montrer que de nombreux passages de l’œuvre bergsonienne permettent d’atténuer l’idée que Bergson ait inféodé le temps d’Einstein au sien propre. L’intérêt principal de cette tâche sera de faire contrepoids à une conception bien ancrée, mais excessive, et de montrer que le temps de la relativité restreinte a pleine valeur non seulement dans le cadre des sciences physiques en général, mais aussi dans celui du bergsonisme en particulier.

CHRISTIAN LOTZ, Distant Presence: Representation, Painting and Photography in Gerhard Richter’s Reader [abstract]

In this essay, I offer thoughts on the constitution of images in art, especially as they are constituted in painting and in photography. Utilizing ideas from Gadamer, Derrida and Adorno, I shall argue that representation should be conceived as a performative concept and as an act of formation; i.e., as a process rather than as something “fixed.” My reflections will be carried out in connection with a careful analysis of Gerhard Richter’s painting Reader (1994), which is a painting of a photograph that depicts a female who is reading. I demonstrate how a close analysis of this fascinating painting leads us deeper into the problem of painted images, insofar as it enacts what it is about, namely, the constitution of itself as an image by means of a complex and enigmatic relationship between seeing, reading, memory, inner, outer, gaze and blindness.

VITTORIO HÖSLE, Sociobiology [abstract]

The essay explores the development of sociobiology, its basic tenets, and its contributions to the study of human nature as well as ethics. It insists that Darwinism is more than a biological theory and presents a possibility of interpreting sociobiology as manifesting not the triumph of the selfish gene but, on the contrary, the only way in which the expansion of altruism was possible.

OLIVIER HUOT-BEAULIEU, Négativité et logos dialectique chez le jeune Heidegger (Winner of the CSCP 2011 Graduate Essay Prize) [abstract]

Tout au long de sa carrière philosophique, Heidegger s’est livré à une constante explication avec Hegel, qu’il considérait comme son plus vif antagoniste. Dans le cadre de cet article, nous entendons nous rapporter aux origines de leur différend et prendre la mesure des griefs du jeune Heidegger à l’endroit de la dialectique hégélienne. Nous tenterons en un second lieu de démontrer que son opposition frontale camoufle en fait une secrète appropriation, puisque Heidegger aurait préalablement fait sienne l’idée d’un usage productif de la négation en philosophie.

JAMES BRADLEY, Philosophy and Trinity [abstract]

I will argue that “Continental Philosophy” is an Anglo-American invention. It is “Pseudo-Continentalism,” no more than a highly selective rendering of Western European Philosophy. Borne out of opposition to the dominance of analytical philosophy in our universities, Pseudo-Continentalism in fact converges with analysis in remarkable ways. Both are advertised as revolutions in thought and both stand over against the tradition of speculative philosophy; both repeat each other’s historical shibboleths about traditional speculative philosophy in respect of the completeness of reason and of reality, the priority of identity and totality, the predetermined fixity of teleology. What this amounts to is a common rejection of a chimera, which in Pseudo-Continental Philosophy is usually called onto-theology or the metaphysics of presence and in the analytic tradition is sometimes called speculative philosophy. Here, indeed, the analytic tradition is more radical: as I will show, it characteristically rejects any notion of a special kind of activity of actualisation as a feature of the real, whether this is understood as Being, mind, will, the élan vital, Difference, or the impotential. These are the vestiges of the tradition of speculative philosophy that are retained under the rubric of Continental Philosophy.

IAN ANGUS, The Pathos of A First Meeting: Particularity and Singularity in The Critique of Technological Civilization [abstract]

In this essay, I will outline the positive content of George Grant’s conception of “particularity” and clarify it by comparing it to Reiner Schürmann’s similar concept of “singularity” as a starting point for an engagement with the positive good to which it refers. In conclusion, a five-step existential logic will be presented, which, I will suggest, can resolve the important aspects of the difference between them.

MAX DEUTSCHER, In Sensible Judgement [abstract]

Only in being pleased at what is done can I judge it as right. Kant is correct, nevertheless, that my motive is not the object of my judgment’s concern. In working to make a good judgment, it is not pleasure but the right result that one seeks. In taking the jury’s decision to be right, one is pleased at it—one takes pleasure in it. At the same time, it would shift attention from judgment’s proper object to find the point of the justice of the decision in one’s having been pleased

Études critiques / Review Essays

Constantin V. Boundas, Jean-Clet Martin, Une Intrigue criminelle de la philosophie: Lire La Phénoménologie de l’Esprit de Hegel

Comptes Rendus / Book Reviews

Devin Zane Shaw, Miguel Abensour, Democracy Against the State: Marx and the Machiavellian Moment

Tracy Colony, Rob Boddice (ed.), Anthropocentrism: Humans, Animals, Environments

Anna Carastathis, Ladelle McWhorter, Racism and Sexual Oppression in Anglo-America: A Genealogy

Steven Sych, Simon Morgan Wortham, The Derrida Dictionary

Élodie Boublil, Stefan Kristensen, Parole et Subjectivité. Merleau-Ponty et la phénoménologie de l’expression

Joe Balay, Mauro Carbone, An Unprecedented Deformation: Marcel Proust and the Sensible Ideas

Yasemin Sari, François Raffoul, The Origins of Responsibility

Maxwell Kennel, Félix Guattari, Soft Subversions: Texts and Interviews 1977-1985

Travis Holloway, Marc Crépon and Bernard Stiegler, De la démocratie participative: Fondements et limites

Kevin W. Gray, Hauke Brunkhorst, Habermas. Gordon James Finlayson, Habermas: A Very Short Introduction. Mattias Iser and David Strecker, Jürgen Habermas: zur Einführung

Devin Zane Shaw, Bernard Stiegler, For a New Critique of Political Economy.

Eva Buccioni, Vittorio Hösle, Die Rangordnung der drei griechischen Tragiker. Ein Problem aus der Geschichte der Poetik als Lackmustest ästhetischer Theorien

Kristin Rodier and Emily Anne Parker, Simone de Beauvoir, The Second Sex