David Bourget (Western Ontario)
David Chalmers (ANU, NYU)
Rafael De Clercq
Jack Alan Reynolds
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Philosophy and Social Criticism 36 (9):1053-1073 (2010)
The article takes Giorgio Agamben’s declaration of his optimism with regard to the possibilities of global political transformation as a point of departure for the inquiry into the affirmative aspects of Agamben’s political thought, frequently overshadowed by his more famous critical claims. We reconstitute three principles grounding Agamben’s optimism that pertain respectively to the total crisis of the contemporary biopolitical apparatuses, the possibility of a radically different form-of-life on the basis of their residue and the minimalist character of this transformation that consists entirely in the subtraction of existence from these apparatuses. While the first two principles are unproblematic in the wider context of Agamben’s work, the third principle introduces the problematic of will that remains highly ambiguous in his philosophy. In the remainder of the article we address this ambiguity in an analysis of Agamben’s reading of Melville’s ‘Bartleby the Scrivener’ and conclude that Agamben’s optimism ultimately consists in the affirmation of absolute contingency, beyond both will and necessity
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