Nostradamus and other philosophers…

A student sent this along to me today…

I think you will enjoy this: I went to a (new) dentist yesterday, and after a stream of quite routine (dentisty) questions, it came out that I was studying philosophy. As he slowly withdrew his utensils in grave surprise, breaking out in an almost naive flick of earnestness, his first response, of all things, went: “Oh, great! So you’ve read Nostradamus, of course!”

Which leads me to wonder what the strangest reply has been that people have gotten. I should say that most times when I say the word philosophy—and it doesn’t matter what language I’m working in or where—I’m often asked to repeat it two or three times before the person goes, oh, philosophy! Of course, when I’m in Europe, i can say, “I teach philosophy, as in Descartes, Plato, and so on.” That dropping of names to help doesn’t work so well in the U.S.

Until, of course, I get Glenn Beck to read my new book. Then it will all come together…

Rules of Engagement: Different Heroes, Please

If I’ve been reading my Continental political philosophy right over the past few years, I really must have gone wrong somewhere in my political upbringing. Because I really don’t want to read another article or another major writer that tells me the radical politics of two particular people (and I’m sure I’ll think of more later on):

1. Bartleby: Deleuze, Agamben, Zizek, and I’m sure I’m missing a few people who have held up Melville’s Scrivener as the go-to for emancipatory politics. First, I don’t think “I prefer not” really disrupts the traditional binary of actuality and possibility, but let’s leave that aside. He prefers not … to do work. With you on that one. He prefers not … to be bossed around. Still there. He prefers not to …turn on the heat. Well, I’ve been through a NY winter, but sure, if it’s also getting him out of work…

But finally the man brings him down and forces him out. And he still prefers not. Some time later, he finally dies, preferring not … to eat. And this, Zizek notes, could be the greatest violence of all. And I love that work by Zizek, but, um, no. This is, in fact, a great story about the self-abdication of a certain part of the left, which Zizek is often so good at taking down (for example, in critiquing Critchley’s infinite demands for finite demands). We are so cynical about the whole of politics, and for good reason, that we take our distance from the state, we practice a micro-politics of the local, and then we just circle up and prefer not…to engage. 

2. Paul: I’ll pop this one in to spike my blog numbers. Now Paul preferred a lot: the kairos, the universalism of humanity, and, right, the conversion of the heathens. Paul is great for thinking of the universal, if that means all others have to agree with you in order to be part of that universal. He also tells a lovely story of our saving at the hands of a messiah. Great story. But while I’m waiting, preferring not along the way, can I still be deconstructing ontotheology?

Ah this sounds cranky but I’ll post it anyway….

Syllabus Help

A Humble Request to Any Readers of Speculative Realism (or even the party apparatchiks themselves!):

I’m thinking ahead to a senior seminar I’m teaching in the spring exclusively on Speculative Realism. Of course, I already have some ideas (some obvious: teaching Meillassoux, Harman, Brassier, Grant; some not: Latour, Malabou, Adrian Johnston, Nancy)…but could use help with suggestions and resources.

Any help will be greatly appreciated.

Harman pops in…

I didn’t mean to make it seem that Graham was for re-instituting the Inquisition. I think his post is clear that he would never want to relive the 4th century, though there is something wonderful about revisiting the era as I’ve been rereading Gibbon as Graham has been posting some of his greatest hits from Decline and Fall. (By the way, one thing Graham I don’t think has mentioned in relation to something he discusses from time to time: No one would publish Gibbon today, at least in academia. Where are all the footnotes? Good grief, did the man know anything?) And it’s true, upon further reflection, that we have the inverse of what Graham notes about Gibbon’s dig at the “triviality” of the arguments over the Trinity. Nowadays, it seems like the smaller the issue in the US and the less likely the larger effect of some X, the more angry people are. Of course, the idiots screaming at the health care Congressional meet-and-greets are an example of this. But there was also the handwringing over Guantanamo Bay. This was right to do, but the context of decades-long CIA detention centers barely made a mention. It had to be brought down to one person, which trivialized a larger issue. And never mind that this handwringing happened while, say, little attention continued to be paid in Western Europe and the US over the mass numbers of casualties in the Congo, which were by 2008 claiming tens of thousands of lives per month. But I digress…

I was more or less using his post as a jump-off for the discussion of the legacy of the culture wars.  I think I guess what I was thinking more was something I see in a number of the SR-related blogs, namely an idea that all those philosophies of difference were not serious, were just about play. I think this came up in an interview with Chris Srnicek, whose piece in the recent Pli, like so much of his stuff that I’ve read, is really good. But he says something like, “do we need another article on marginalized cultures?” And I thought, well, that’s better than reading, say, another piece on Heidegger and the wonder of the Greeks. (Not that, like you, I don’t get so much out of reading and re-reading Plato and Aristotle…) And I guess i don’t know if I would say I would even have a grudging respect for that time, given that religious fanaticism (e.g., the killing of abortion doctors) continues. Though, when the time does come for the SR death panels, I will wholly submit to my worthy overlords…

Heidegger and Memory Conference

Technology, Time, and the Political.
Modernity and memory from Heidegger to Stiegler.

One Day Workshop in continental philosophy
at Michigan State University

Saturday, October 3


Time and memory are predominate themes throughout Continental Philosophy. This workshop begins with Heidegger’s meditations on historical time and existence and connects them to contemporary discussions on technology and the political, looking closely at Bernard Stiegler’s thesis in “Technics and Time” that technics is not the result but the condition of human life and its cultural evolution. In addition, Jean-Luc Nancy’s reflections on world and globalization, as well as Philippe Lacoue-Labarthe’s reflections on Heidegger will be addressed. The workshop will problematize these connections through David Barison and Daniel Ross’ documentary film “The Ister,” which deals with the problem of technology in connection with Heidegger’s interpretation of Hölderlin’s poem “The Ister,” and features Nancy, Lacoue-Labarthe, and Stiegler. Of special concern are questions about how technology mediates, determines, and narrates human existence, social life, creativity, history, and the environment. The film will be featured during the workshop followed by brief introductions and extended discussions. More information about “The Ister” can be found at http://www.theister.com.

The Ister:

At the height of WWII, one of the most influential philosophers of the twentieth century delivered a series of lectures on a poem about the Danube river, by one of Germany’s greatest poets. In 1936 Heidegger spent the summer semester lecturing on the poetry of Friedrich Hölderlin. He focused on a poem about the Danube known as “The Ister.” Rather than an esoteric retreat into the world of poetry, Heidegger’s lectures were a direct confrontation with the political and cultural chaos facing the world in 1942. The film The Ister takes up some of the most challenging paths in Heidegger’s thought, as it journeys from the mouth of the Danube river in Romania to its source in the Black Forest in Germany. However controversial Heidegger continues to be, his thought remains alive in the work of some of the most remarkable thinkers and artists working today. Three of these conduct our voyage upstream along the Danube: Philippe Lacoue-Labarthe, Jean-Luc Nancy, and Bernard Stiegler. The film presents an extended reflection on how technology, time, and modernity are interconnected and how human reality can no longer be understood without the inclusion of technics.

Website: http://www.msu.edu/~lotz/modernityworkshop2009

Schedule: Saturday, October 3

10 Welcome, Richard Peterson, Chair of the Philosophy Department

10 -11 Introduction

Christian Lotz, Remarks on Heidegger and Hölderlin + Discussion

Text: Heidegger, Hölderlin’s Hymn ‘The Ister,’ sections 5-7; 13-15; 22-23; Hölderlin, The Ister

Kyle Whyte, Remarks on Stiegler and Technology

Text: Text: Stiegler, Technics and Time, vol 1, pp 1-28

11-12:15 Film screening, part 1: Bernard Stiegler on Technology and Modernity

12-:15-1:15 Kyle Whyte, Remarks on Stiegler + Discussion

Text: Stiegler, Technics and Time, vol 1, pp 1-28

1:15-2:15 Lunch

2:15-3 Film screening, part 2: Philippe Lacoue-Labarthe on Heidegger, Auschwitz and Technology; Jean-Luc Nancy on the

Foundation of the West

3-4 Kyle Whyte, Remarks on Nancy + Discussion

Text: Nancy, The Inoperative Community, pp. 43-70; Nancy, The Creation of the World, pp. 96-109

4-5 Film screening, part 3: Bernard Stiegler on Time and Memory; Syberberg on the Past

5-6 Christian Lotz, Remarks on Stiegler/Syberberg + Discussion

Text: Stiegler, Technics and Time, vol 2, pp. 1-11

6:30pm Social event, Richard Peterson’s house

Brief readings are available for download here: http://www.msu.edu/~lotz/modernityworkshop2009

More on the workshop’s topic can be found here: http://www.transformationsjournal.org/journal/issue_17/editorial.shtml

Attachment to this email: workshop flyer

Organization: Prof. Christian Lotz / Prof. Kyle Whyte, Dept. of Philosophy, MSU

RSVP would be much appreciated: lotz@msu.edu or kwhyte@msu.edu