Syllabi

Stiegler and the Art of Syllabi

Taking note of the Heidegger conference posted below makes me return to a problem I had putting together my syllabus this semester for a general continental philosophy course. I try to teach a completely different syllabus each year (a rule that I apply for all of my courses). I had to put in my book order before I could do my syllabus, which means I ordered too many books for what I could cover. In the end, it came down to whether I would work through Stiegler’s Time and Technics II or Foucault’s Birth of Bio-Politics. Yeah, those are sometimes the weird choices of syllabus writing. I like Foucault’s book since it allows me to teach him without spending forever on disciplinary power, which while important, is not the most interesting to teach. I also like this course since he talks quite a bit about his method and he’s also working through contemporary problems directly. Of course, the lacuna in the work is that he is describing what we could just call the ideology of a period (using that in the Enlightenment sense given Foucault’s critique of Marxian ideology analysis) and thus what may or may not be productive of given subjectivities in the neo-liberal period. Of course, this leads one easily to take up the entire problem of all of his genealogies, since it’s not always to consider the difference between those works productive of ideas (and thus not indicative of operative techniques of power) and those that are; the seeming test often in Foucault is that its simply a work that’s older. I imagine that if these neo-liberal texts were not modern but more dated, Foucault would be much more likely to identify them with a given technique of power, rather than hesitate as he does, which of course, points out a problem of his choice of any of his sources, however helpful his work often is. 

In any event, sourcing is also a problem in Stiegler’s work. First, I think the second volume of TT is better in the sense that it begins with a nice introduction of the first volume, Stephen Barker has really done a really flowing translation, and he takes up what I think would be issues more “relevant” to students. But I also worry that he relies on really outdated scientific ideas on biology and evolution, though ultimately if one is thinking of a “deconstructive materialism” or somesuch, as I often am, it’s a bit less than helpful than, say, Jean-Luc Nancy’s work, which while less interested in technology as such, offers better general discussions on differance and the real and the excess of sense of each thing. But if you have different ideas on this, let me know since there’s still time to switch things on the syllabus…