General Thoughts

Bergson: Thinking Beyond the Human Condition

Reviewed by Don Landes at NDPR. A quick peak:

Henri Bergson occupies an intriguing place in the history of philosophy. Despite being the most famous philosopher during his lifetime and possessing a lucid and engaging style of philosophical reflection, his importance has nonetheless waxed and waned with the times. Perhaps this is not surprising, given that Bergson’s philosophy requires a constant attempt to resist dogmatic or static thinking in the face of the inevitability of this tendency. Nevertheless, not only have many of his concepts sedimented into our collective philosophical lexicon, but Bergson has also had a marked influence on specific thinkers (such as Merleau-Ponty and Deleuze) and on developments outside of philosophy. Following Gary Gutting’s description, Ansell-Pearson suggests that Bergson’s enduring greatness perhaps lies in his unique “combination of descriptive concreteness and systematic scope and metaphysical ambition” (1). His philosophy is a call to a going beyondof philosophy and the human condition, since traditional approaches to the problems of philosophy “presuppose a subject already installed in being” and thus already located within the confines of the human condition (ibid.).

Life: A Modern Invention, Reviewed at NDPR

Davide Tarizzo’s Life: A Modern Invention, tr. Mark William Epstein (University of Minnesota Press, 2017), is reviewed by Charles T. Wolfe (Ghent U.). The review marks out only “minor quibbles” and jumps, like the book, across so many figures as to lose any thread on what is meant by the “invention” of “life” (presumably one that is non-teleological). One would think this was more than a “minor quibble” below in the italicized sentence:

That Tarizzo thinks Darwin and Darwinism lead to Hitlerism is clear enough: “Darwinism, i.e., the theory of natural selection, is racist and discriminatory, as facts have demonstrated many times and unfortunately continue to demonstrate” (194). Why this is the case is a bit trickier to make out from his book [my emphasis]. Most basically, both raise life to the status of an ultimate value. But then, we (we moderns, we people of today, whoever the ‘we’ is) are just as bad! Indeed, “Worse still, we are the last racists, because we already embody the future, we embody human beings to come, we embody the eschatological Race that by definition and on principle cannot be followed by any other” (213).



Adorno’s Lectures on Aesthetics Reviewed

Culled from recordings in 1958/9 and published in German in 2009, the lectures (Polity: 2018) are reviewed by Lydia Goehr (Columbia University) in NDPR. Goehr notes:

[The lectures on aesthetics] are indispensable because they show the workings of aesthetic theory in philosophy more generally, when, whatever the topic, philosophy shows itself willing to submit to its own immanent critique against its positivistic tendency to discipline its thought through too pure an engagement of logic or reason. To discipline thought, for Adorno, is to erase what cannot be contained by the logic of achieved concepts: the mimetic trace or aesthetic movement that sustains the ongoing and open labor of thinking. When this movement is excluded, concepts tend to become closed off from all that gives thought its particularity, contingency, and historicity, even, we are told, its expressivity and life. He writes of the closure as a pyrrhic victory: the concepts seem clarified but dialectically they only affirm the tendencies toward complacency, rigidity, and regression in the society at large.