Month: June 2014

The Concept of World from Kant to Derrida Reviewed

Another NDPR Review: J. Colin McQuillan reviews Sean Gaston’s The Concept of World from Kant to DerridaThe weakest part of the book, I found, was a reduction of any thinking of the world prior to Kant (and even after) to some “tradition.” While it’s true there’s an ordering of the kosmos in post-Platonic thought, it’s another to say that’s the only thought of the “world” until Kant came along–even in Plato, given how the Timaeus is almost vertiginous in the “likely story” it gives. As McQuillan writes:

The history of the concept of world is a worthy subject, but one might question the dismissal of “metaphysical” concepts of the world with which Gaston begins his history. Dispatching ancient Greek thought, medieval theology, and early modern philosophy in the space of a few sentences is less common and less welcome than it used to be, not only because the falsehood of such sweeping claims about the history of philosophy is readily apparent, but also because contemporary philosophers are less committed to a view shared by many analytic and continental philosophers in the 20th century — the idea that metaphysics is a monolithic edifice that should be torn down and consigned to the past. Historians of ancient, medieval, and early modern philosophy have shown that there is not only a diversity of views on metaphysics during these periods, but also that there is much to be gained by studying Plato’s Timaeus and its reception, debates between Muslim and Christian scholars about Aristotle’s views on the eternity of the world, the mechanistic view of nature Descartes proposes in Le Monde, and Leibniz’s pre-established harmony. Should readers really believe that there is only one “metaphysical” concept of world at work here?

That said, the reviewer’s conclusion that what’s really missing is Kripke and Lewis (with a dash of physical cosmology) just says that one should have a book that covers everything (I guess it is about the world!) without saying what that would have added other than covering wholly other areas of philosophical discourse.

via The Concept of World from Kant to Derrida // Reviews // Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews // University of Notre Dame.

Jean-Luc Nancy and the Thinking of Otherness: Philosophy and Powers of Existence // Reviews // Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews // University of Notre Dame

Jean-Luc Nancy and the Thinking of Otherness: Philosophy and Powers of Existence // Reviews // Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews // University of Notre Dame. My first publications were on Nancy’s relation to Heidegger, specifically as a counter to Levinas’s notion of alterity, so this is an interesting read by Raffoul on Rugo’s book going back to those themes.

Foucault’s Lectures on the Punitive Society XIII

Stuart Elden has been nicely providing links to Barry Stocker’s Lectures on the Punitive Society XIII, which he is now concluding. I’ll be looking to teach it in the Fall as part of my course on Foucault/Derrida on Punishment and the Death Penalty, so this is helpful. (I’m just presuming I can get away with teaching a French text to a graduate class in Canada–if anyone knows otherwise, let me know.)

Reading Ranciere in Thailand

xI’m writing a paper called “Reading Ranciere in Thailand”–part for obvious reasons given where I am but also because his Aesthesis manages to speak of aesthetic modernity wholly in terms of the male gaze of authors and doesn’t mention the post/colonial that is another word for modernity. It polices it’s own discussions of un-policing the aesthetic.

Quick Thoughts on Derrida Today Conference

I’m a little late on this–many participants have commented on FB (at least from what I’ve seen while traveling). A bit jetlagged here in Thailand, here are quick thoughts:

1. This was one of the better conferences I’ve attended. The conference organizers did excellent work. The speakers weren’t just the usual Derrida translators but such new materialists as Karen Barad and Liz Grosz (both of whom I spotted at my own special panel–and later got to thank for contributing for a collection I’m putting together). The panels were most often vibrant (save those few younger scholars who tried to fit 40 minute papers into 20 minutes).

2. The top themes were certainly the world (particularly coming out of his last seminars), the death penalty (the most recently translated set of lectures), and animals. In short, except for the middle one, a great many papers were taking up Derrida’s work in light of speculative realism, critical animal studies, and the new materialisms. This meant that papers weren’t just of the “As Derrida reminds us…” variety, but full-on engagements and occasional critiques.

3. Derrida Today is huge. I can’t think of another philosopher who has a conference dedicated to them that gets this many participants on a bi-annual basis (at least 200).

4. It turns out there’s a tightly overlapping Venn diagram between “Derridean” and “really nice academic.” Maybe it’s all that stuff on the Other from the 90s, but Nicole Anderson, Michael Naas, Sam Haddad, and many others, down to newer people on the block are just some of the nicest people you’ll get to meet.

5. The stuff on new materialism–I noted this at several times during the conference–has run its course. Liz Grosz talked about the pain of rocks, Barad discussed the unconscious of protons…we have moved to the stage where there’s no method for the use of these terms, except anthropomorphism. I almost want to analyze why certain figures (and there were many at the conference) want to arrive at the conclusion that rocks have a world, etc. There are conclusions we don’t want to reach in this world: the rich only get richer, the frustration at work may just be leftover angst from one’s parental relation, racism will never end, etc. And then there’s this stuff about the pain of rocks and it having a “pure auto-affection”–it’s a conclusion that seems wanted at this moment. I’ll have to think this more through, but count me as incredibly dubious: it doesn’t multiply the differences in the world but in fact says to the world, you’re great, you’re like us. Martin Hägglund, who also gave a great talk, and I chatted about this quite a bit. (In any case, there’s an easy way out of not doing anthropomorphism, at least one from the tradition that inspires new materialists: just go Spinoza and say there are many more attributes to the modes than simply mind and body. And thus a rock’s self-relation may be many things that we cannot gather given our own attributes.)

Finally, I was glad Michael Naas capped the conference–it was after a long day and his paper was loose but masterful, but also expounded on something he told me when at DePaul some years ago: if I suspect there is a theme in Derrida, I would do no better than to look at Glas, which is a text I’ve never particularly loved. It was fun to hear his paper, think about the issues he raised, and then get the chance to hang out with him and other former DePaulians afterward.