The definition, assessment, predictive validity, demographic correlates, and promotion of critical thinking at the college level are addressed in this article. Although the definitions of critical thinking vary substantially, a common theme is the linkage of conclusions to relevant evidence. Assessment measures range from quasi-standardized instruments to informal class assessment and include both generic and subject-specific formats. Although critical thinking potentially serves both as a predictor of college success and as a criterion of suceess, its greater utility may be as (...) a predictor. nonetheless, the college experience in general and critical thinking courses in particular offer some promise for promoting critical thinking. However, efforts to infuse critical thinking activities into subject-specific courses have produced marginal improvement in critical thinking. (shrink)
Philosophers of literature direct their studies to the moral, cognitive, and emotional aspects of our involvement with fiction. In spite of this, they rarely engage works of popular fiction. In this paper I use The Da Vinci Code as a case study of the impact of popular fiction on readers in terms of these three areas. Although this book will never be considered good literature, its impact is far reaching. l address concerns dealing with the fiction/non-fiction distinction as weIl as (...) issues with history, accuracy, and falsehoods. I flesh out the issues The Da Vinci Code brings up and argue that it, along with other works of popular fiction (Oprah’s book club for example), might be taken more seriously by philosophers of literature. (shrink)
One of the most important aspects of our lives is the conception which we have of ourselves. For the way in which we view ourselves fundamentally affects how we interact among others and, most importantly perhaps, how we think others should treat us. For instance, one will not expect others to regard one as having a high mathematical acumen if one. realizes that one's mathematical skills are very minimal. Of course, persons may be mistaken in their assessment of themselves. And (...) it is not clear, at least to me, that we are for the most part morally justified in trying to get persons to have an accurate assessment of themselves, especially in the case of those whose mistaken assessment of themselves is in their favor. To deal someone a severe blow to their self-esteem comes very close to being cruel. Yet, it is very difficult to tell someone that he is not as good as he thinks he is without dealing such a blow to his self-esteem. Again, one will not expect others to regard one as a talented artist if one realizes that one is not. And so on. What is more, not every person can rightly take him-or herself to be talented in this or that area. And given that this is so, what inevitably follows is that the self-esteem of some will be lower than the self-esteem of others, and rightly so.See note 7 above.But if I have argued soundly in this essay, we have seen that there is a respect in which no person rightly thinks less of him-or herself vis à vis any other person. For each person, it has been shown, is deserving of fair treatment in virtue of the fact that he or she is a person. I have called the sense of worth which corresponds with having this conviction self-respect. Whatever a person's abilities are, whatever a person's moral character is like, he should not lose sight of the fact that he is deserving of fair treatment in any case. The social institutions of a society are fairly arranged, I have argued, when they are conducive to persons having this conviction.Little has been said on the connection between morality and our self-concept. And if anything, I have only touched the surface of what needs to be said. I should like to acknowledge the recent appearance of Stephen L. Darwall's important essay “Two Kinds of Respect,” Ethics, Vol. 88 (1977), although I have not been able to take into account the differences between his views and mine. (shrink)
Stephen Yablo has attempted recently to revive the notion of contingent identity, identifying this with a relation of L coincidence between objects that are "distinct by nature but the same in the circumstances" (296). Yablo argues convincingly for the need of essentialist metaphysics to recognize some relation of this sort, a relation of "intimate identity-like connections between things" (296) if it is to acknowledge properly the intuitive difference between (i) the nonidentity of a bust B and a hunk of (...) wax H of which it is composed, and (ii) the nonidentity of the hunk H and the Treaty of Versailles. (i) and (ii) are clearly not on the same level. Even though B, like the Treaty of Versailles, fails to be strictly identical to H, it is very closely, and quite specially, related to it. What this relation is is certainly worth a general inquiry. (shrink)
Ce n'est que tard dans sa vie que Wilhelm von Humboldt a donné au concept de « forme de la langue » son nom et sa définition. Ce qui est réellement nouveau dans cette conception, par rapport à ses analyses plus anciennes, c'est que, à côté de sa fonction régulatrice en linguistique, elle correspond chez Humboldt à une affirmation accrue de l'unité et de l'autonomie de chacune des langues. Une langue n'est pas l'émanation d'une nation donnée ; c'est un être, (...) pas un simple phénomène. Cela ne veut pas dire que les langues auront toutes la même valeur spirituelle, ni que l'individu sera prisonnier de la langue ; mais, dans son chemin vers la reconnaissance de cet être de la langue, Humboldt prend le risque de rouvrir le dualisme qu'il voulait fermer. Tout spécialement quand la « forme interne de la langue » évoque quelque sujet spirituel qui se servirait des outils grammaticaux et lexicaux. Cela ne veut pas dire que les langues auront toutes la même valeur spirituelle, ni que l'individu sera prisonnier de la langue ; mais, dans son chemin vers la reconnaissance de cet être de la langue, Humboldt prend le risque de rouvrir le dualisme qu'il voulait fermer. Tout spécialement quand la « forme interne de la langue » évoque quelque sujet spirituel qui se servirait des outils grammaticaux et lexicaux. Wilhelm von Humboldt gave the concept of « form of language » a name and a definition only late in his life. What is really new in this conception, in comparison to his older ones, is that, besides its regulative fonction for the linguist, it has to be linked to a stronger emphasis put by Humboldt on both unity and autonomy of every language. A language is not only the émanation of a certain nation ; it is a being, not only a phenomenon. This does not mean that all languages will have the same spiritual worth. It does not either mean that the individual will be some prisoner of the language ; but in his path towards the recognition of the being of the language Humboldt runs the risk of breaking open the dualism he wanted to heal up. Especially when the « inner form of the language » calls up some spiritual subject using both grammatical and lexical tools. (shrink)
Paul W. Taylor has defended a life-centered ethics that considers the inherent worth of all living things to be the same. l examine reasons for ascribing inherent worth to all living beings, but argue that there can be various levels of inherent worth. Differences in capacities among types of life are used to justify such levels. I argue that once levels of inherent worth are distinguished, it becomes reasonable torestrict rights to human beings.
Chesterton was a serious and even excellent philosopher, whose reputation has suffered because his style was so striking, and his conversion to Catholicism so unpopular with Whiggish Britons. He had many ?politically incorrect? opinions, but those ?faults? were symptoms of a greater virtue, his insistence that ?the whole object of history is to make us realize that humanity can be great and glorious, under conditions quite different and even contrary to our own?. His desire for a United Europe was not (...) for a larger, self?willed State, but for a continent of peasant proprietors, workers owning their own tools, citizens alive to their own local heritage. What he distrusted was the Laodicean mood that best defines modernity, that nothing is worth dying for but life is not worth living. What he consistently opposed was the power of businessmen and aristocrats, and their Whiggish supporters? habit of supposing that the actual course of history was inevitable. Speculation about might?have?beens (including the great might?have?been of medieval Christendom) is a way to subvert the oppressive weight of the present. His hope was for a revolution ('we may or may not see the New Jerusalem rebuilt. .. on our fields, but in the flesh we shall see Babylon fall'), one made easier by the realization that Babylon need never have been built. (shrink)
Rhetorical ethos and dramatic theory -- Syntax, style, and ethos -- The worth of words -- Memory and ethos -- Shaw, ethos, and rhetorical wit -- Athol Fugard's dramatic rhetoric -- Rhetoric and silence in Holocaust drama.
Considered the most original thinker in the Italian philosophical tradition, Giambattista Vico has been the object of much scholarly attention but little consensus. In this new interpretation, David L. Marshall examines the entirety of Vico's oeuvre and situates him in the political context of early modern Naples. He demonstrates Vico's significance as a theorist who adapted the discipline of rhetoric to modern conditions. Marshall presents Vico's work as an effort to resolve a contradiction. As a professor of rhetoric at the (...) University of Naples, Vico had a deep investment in the explanatory power of classical rhetorical thought, especially that of Aristotle, Cicero, and Quintilian. Yet as a historian of the failure of Naples as a self-determining political community, he had no illusions about the possibility or worth of democratic and republican systems of government in the post-classical world. As Marshall demonstrates, by jettisoning the assumption that rhetoric only illuminates direct, face-to-face interactions between orator and auditor, Vico reinvented rhetoric for a modern world in which the Greek polis and the Roman res publica are no longer paradigmatic for political thought. (shrink)
Comparable worth is a controversial compensation strategy. In this paper, research issues that arise when employers perform point-based job evaluations, but deviate from them because of market factors, are discussed. Greater research attention to the actual operation of markets and to the consequences of conflicts in equity perceptions is encouraged.
A discussion of why a strong doctrine of 'reason' may not be worth sustaining in the face of modern scientific speculation, and the difficulties this poses for scientific rationality, together with comments on the social understanding of religion, and why we might wish to transcend common sense.
C'est la double dimension de la religion que Bergson souligne : magie et superstition d'un côté, force de progrès moral et d'amour de l'autre. Le souci de l'élan spirituel des mystiques est très précoce et commence dès le début du siècle, au plus tard en 1905. Le caractère exceptionnel de l'expérience mystique intéresse Bergson qui y voit un signe de valeur. L'émotion créatrice et la réflexion philosophique partagent avec l'expérience mystique une énergie morale qui n'est pas pure contemplation ni pure (...) spéculation, mais qui fait avancer l'humanité vers la joie d'accomplir sa destinée. Bergson stresses the twofold dimension of religion : i.e. magic and superstition on the one hand, and strenght of moral progress and of love, on the other. Bergson's interest in the spiritual surge of the mystics starts as early as the beginning of the century, anyhow not later than 1905. Bergson finds the exceptional characteristic of the mystical experience interesting because he sees in it a sign of worth. Both the creative emotion and philosophical reflection share with the mystical experience a moral energy which is neither a mere contemplation nor a mere speculation, but, rather, enables humanity to move one step forward towards achieving its fate. (shrink)
Three clusters of philosophically significant issues arise from Frege's discussions of definitions. First, Frege criticizes the definitions of mathematicians of his day, especially those of Weierstrass and Hilbert. Second, central to Frege's philosophical discussion and technical execution of logicism is the so-called Hume's Principle, considered in The Foundations of Arithmetic . Some varieties of neo-Fregean logicism are based on taking this principle as a contextual definition of the operator 'the number of …', and criticisms of such neo-Fregean programs sometimes appeal (...) to Frege's objections to contextual definitions in later writings. Finally, a critical question about the definitions on which Frege's proofs of the laws of arithmetic depend is whether the logical structures of the definientia reflect our pre-Fregean understanding of arithmetical terms. It seems that unless they do, it is unclear how Frege's proofs demonstrate the analyticity of the arithmetic in use before logicism. Yet, especially in late writings, Frege characterizes the definitions as arbitrary stipulations of the senses or references of expressions unrelated to pre-definitional understanding. One or more of these topics may be studied in a survey course in the philosophy of mathematics or a course on Frege's philosophy. The latter two topics are obviously central in a seminar in the philosophy of mathematics in general or more specialized seminars on logicism, or on mathematical definitions and concept formation. Author Recommends: 1. Kant, Immanuel. Critique of Pure Reason . Trans. P. Guyer and A. Wood. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999 [1781, 1787], A7-10/B11-14, A151/B190. In the first Critique , Kant appears to give four distinct accounts of analytic judgments. The initial famous account explains analyticity in terms of the predicate-concept belonging to the subject-concept (A6–7/B11). In this passage, we also find an account of establishing analytic judgments on the basis of conceptual containments and the principle of non-contradiction. (The other accounts are in terms of 'identity' (A7/B1l), in terms of the explicative–ampliative contrast (A7/B11), and by reference to the notion of 'cognizability in accordance with the principle of contradiction' (A151/B190).) 2. Frege, Gottlob. The Foundations of Arithmetic . Trans. J. L. Austin. 2nd ed. Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press, 1980 , especially sections 1–4, 87–91. Frege here criticizes and reformulates Kant's account of analyticity. Central to Frege's account is the provability of an analytic statement on the basis of (Frege's) logic and definitions that express analyses of (mathematical, especially arithmetical) concepts. 3. Frege, Gottlob. Review of E. G. Husserl. 'Philosophie der Arithmetik I ,' in Frege, Collected Papers . Ed. B. McGuinness. Trans. M. Black et al. Oxford: Blackwell, 1984. 195–209. In this review, Frege responds to Husserl's charge that Frege's definitions fail to capture our intuitive pre-analytic arithmetical concepts by claiming that the adequacy of mathematical definitions is measured, not by their expressing the same senses, but merely by their having the same references, as pre-definitional vocabulary. It follows not only that Husserl's criticism is unfounded, but also that there can be alternative, equally legitimate, definitions of mathematical terms. 4. Frege, 'Logic in Mathematics,' in Frege, Posthumous Writings . Trans. P. Long and R. White. Oxford: Blackwell, 1979 . 203–50. These are a set of lecture notes including, among other things, an account of proper definitions as mere abbreviation of complex signs by simple ones, in contrast to definitions which purport to express the analyses of existing concepts. Frege here claims that if there is any doubt whether a definition purporting to express an analysis succeeds in capturing the senses of the pre-definitional expressions, then the definition fails as an analysis, and should be regarded as the introduction of an entirely new expression abbreviating the definiens . 5. Picardi, Eva. 'Frege on Definition and Logical Proof,' Temi e Prospettive della Logica e della Filosofia della Scienza Contemporanee . i vol. Eds. C. Cellucci and G. Sambin. Bologna: Cooperativa Libraria Universitaria Editrice Bologna, 1988. 227–30. Picardi sets out forcefully the view that unless Frege's definitions capture the meanings of existing arithmetical terms, his logicism cannot have the epistemological significance he takes it to have. 6. Dummett, Michael. 'Frege and the Paradox of Analysis,' in Dummett, Frege and other Philosophers . Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1991. 17–52. Dummett agrees with Picardi's view and analyzes the philosophical pressures that led Frege to the account of definition in 'Logic in Mathematics.' Especially significant is Dummett's claim of the centrality of the transparency of sense – that if one grasps the senses of any two expressions, one must know whether they have the same sense – in Frege's account. 7. Benacerraf, Paul. 'Frege: The Last Logicist,' Midwest Studies in Philosophy . vol. 6. Eds. P. French, T. Uehling, and H. Wettstein. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1981. 17–35. Frege's aims, on Benacerraf's reading, are primarily mathematical. Frege was interested in traditional philosophical issues such as the analyticity of arithmetic only to the extent that they can be exploited for the mathematical goal of proving previously unproven arithmetical statements. Hence, Frege never had any serious interest in or need for showing that his definitions of arithmetical terms reflect existing arithmetical conceptions. 8. Weiner, Joan. 'The Philosopher Behind the Last Logicist,' in Frege: Tradition and Influence . Ed. C. Wright. Oxford: Blackwell, 1984. 57–79. Weiner argues that on Frege's view, prior to his definitions of arithmetical terms the references of such expressions are in fact not known by those who use arithmetical vocabulary. Thus, in Foundations , Frege operated with a 'hidden agenda' (263) namely, replacing existing arithmetic with a new science based on stipulative definitions that assign new senses to key arithmetical terms. 9. Tappenden, Jamie. 'Extending Knowledge and 'Fruitful Concepts': Fregean Themes in the Foundations of Mathematics.' Noûs 29 (1995): 427–67. Tappenden argues that Frege takes his crucial innovation over previous practices and accounts of mathematical concept formation to be the role of quantificational structure made possible by his logical discoveries. 10. Horty, John. Frege on Definitions: A Case Study of Semantic Content . Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007. A useful interpretation of Frege's views of definition, together with suggestive extensions for resolving the issues framing Frege's views. 11. Shieh, Sanford. 'Frege on Definitions,' Philosophy Compass 3/5 (2008): 992–1012. A more detailed account of Frege's views on definition and the philosophical issues they raise, surveying and discussing critically the main substantive and interpretive issues. Online Materials On Frege http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/frege/ On the Paradox of Analysis http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/analysis/ Sample Syllabus The following is a 3-week module that can be incorporated into fairly focused historically oriented graduate-level seminars on logicism or on the paradox of analysis. It is also possible to compress the material into 2 weeks in an undergraduate or graduate class Frege's thought in general. Week I: Background, Kant on Analyticity; Definition in Foundations , Review of Husserl, and 'Logic in Mathematics' Readings Kant, Immanuel. Critique of Pure Reason , A7–10/B11–14. Frege, Gottlob. The Foundations of Arithmetic , sections 1–4, 87–91. Frege, Gottlob. Review of E. G. Husserl, Philosophie der Arithmetik I. Frege, Gottlob. 'Logic in Mathematics.' Optional Proops, Ian. 'Kant's Conception of Analytic Judgment,' Philosophy and Phenomenological Research LXX, 3 (2005): 588–612. Week II: The Supposed Paradox of Analysis, Picardi and Dummett; Bypassing Traditional Epistemological Issues About Mathematics, Benacerraf Readings Picardi, Eva. 'Frege on Definition and Logical Proof.' Dummett, Michael. 'Frege and the Paradox of Analysis.' Benacerraf, Paul. 'Frege: The Last Logicist.' Optional Tappenden, Jamie. 'Extending Knowledge and 'Fruitful Concepts': Fregean Themes in the Foundations of Mathematics.' Week III: Weiner's Hidden Agenda Interpretation Readings Weiner, Joan. 'The Philosopher Behind the Last Logicist.' Optional Weiner, Joan. Frege in Perspective . Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1990. Focus Questions 1. To what extent is Frege's account of analyticity in Foundations a rejection, and to what extent an updating, of Kant's view of analyticity? 2. According to Picardi it 'would be incomprehensible' how Frege's proofs tells us anything about the arithmetic we already have unless his 'definitions [are] somehow responsible to the meaning of [arithmetical] sentences as these are understood' (228). Why does she hold this? Why does Dummett agree with her? Do you think Frege's logicism needs to address this worry? 3. What are the major differences and continuities in Frege's discussions of definition in mathematics in Foundations , the review of Husserl and 'Logic in Mathematics'? 4. Frege writes that definitions must prove their worth by being fruitful. He also says that nothing can be proven using a proper definition that cannot be proven without it. Are these claims consistent? Why or why not? 5. Weiner held that in Foundations Frege had 'hidden agenda.' What, according to her, is this agenda? How does this fit with Frege's later views of definition? 6. What are Frege's main complaints about Weierstrass's definitions in 'Logic in Mathematics'? Are these criticisms consistent with Frege's account of 'definition proper' in the same text? Seminar/Project Ideas What, if anything, is the relation between Frege's critique of Hilbert's use of definitions and Frege's later views of definitions? (shrink)
In Mumford’s Dispositions, the reader will find an extended treatment of the recent debate about dispositions from Ryle and Geach to the present. Along the way, Mumford presents his own views on several key points, though we found the book much more thorough in its assessment of opposing views than in the development of a positive account. As we’ll try to make clear, some of the ideas endorsed in Dispositions are certainly worth pursuing; others are not. Following Mackie, Shoemaker, (...) and others,1 Mumford stresses that it’s one thing to distinguish between dispositional and categorical ascriptions and quite another to draw an ontological line between dispositional and categorical properties. The book itself can be divided roughly into those chapters that deal with the relationship between dispositional ascriptions and corresponding conditionals (like ‘is fragile’ and ‘would break if struck’); and those chapters that deal with the relationship between dispositions and their categorical bases (like fragility and having internal structure XYZ). We shall examine each cluster of issues in turn. (shrink)
The thesis that numbers are ratios of quantities has recently been advanced by a number of philosophers. While adequate as a definition of the natural numbers, it is not clear that this view suffices for our understanding of the reals. These require continuous quantity and relative to any such quantity an infinite number of additive relations exist. Hence, for any two magnitudes of a continuous quantity there exists no unique ratio. This problem is overcome by defining ratios, and hence real (...) numbers, as binary relations between infinite standard sequences. This definition leads smoothly into a new definition of measurement consonant with the traditional view of measurement as the discovery or estimation of numerical relations. The traditional view is further strengthened by allowing that the additive relations internal to a quantity are distinct from relations observed in the behaviour of objects manifesting quantities. In this way the traditional theory can accommodate the theory of conjoint measurement. This is worth doing because the traditional theory has one great strength lacked by its rivals: measurement statements and quantitative laws are able to be understood literally. 1 This paper was completed in 1990-1. while the author was a visiting scholar at the Irvine Research Unit in Mathematical Behavioral Sciences. University of California. Irvine. The author wishes to thank the Director. Professor R. D. Luce, for the generous provision of space and facilities within the Unit and for his critical comments upon some of the ideas expressed herein: Professor L. Narens. for his trenchant criticisms: and the University of Sydney, for granting Special Study Leave and financial assistance to make the visit possible. (shrink)
Life may turn sour and, in extremis, not worth living. On occasion it may be best, moreover, to lay down one's life for a greater cause. None of this is any news, debatable though it may remain, in general or case by case. Now comes the news that life does not matter in the way we had thought. No resurgence of existentialism, nor tidings from some ancient religion or some new cult, the news derives from the most sober and (...) probing philosophical argument (the extraor- dinary Parfit, 1984, Part III), and takes more precisely the following form: Even though life L is optimal (in all dimensions), and even though if it were extended L would continue to be optimal, it does not follow that it is best to extend it, even for the subject whose life L is. What is the argument? Section II will defend a certain view of the nature of persons and personal identity, and Section III will then argue for the Paradox on that basis, and reflect on its philosophical implications and on the options it presents. (shrink)
continent. 1.2 (2011): 78-91. This article consists of three parts. First, I will review the major themes of Quentin Meillassoux’s After Finitude . Since some of my readers will have read this book and others not, I will try to strike a balance between clear summary and fresh critique. Second, I discuss an unpublished book by Meillassoux unfamiliar to all readers of this article, except those scant few that may have gone digging in the microfilm archives of the École normale (...) supérieure. The book in question is Meillassoux’s revised doctoral dissertation L’Inexistence divine (or The Divine Inexistence ), with its seemingly bizarre vision of a God who does not yet exist but might exist in the future. Without literally accepting this view, I will claim that it is philosophically interesting in ways that even a hardened sceptic might be able to appreciate. Third and finally, I will speculate on the possible future of Meillassoux’s speculative materialism itself. And here I mean its future development not by Meillassoux, but by those readers who might be inspired by his book. Plato could never have predicted the emergence of Aristotle’s philosophy, despite the obvious debt of the latter to the former. Nor could Descartes have predicted Spinoza and Leibniz, nor Kant the German Idealists, and neither could Husserl in 1901 have foreseen the later emergence of Heidegger. How are the works of interesting philosophers transformed by later thinkers of comparable importance? While it may seem that there are countless ways to do this, I think there are only two basic ways in which this happens: you can radicalize your predecessors, or you can reverse them. I will close this article with a few words about these two methods, and try to imagine how Meillassoux might be radicalized or reversed by some future admirer. My view is that the more important thinkers are, the easier they are to radicalize or reverse. This helps explain why the great philosophers of the West have so often appeared in clusters, succeeding one another at relatively brief intervals during periods of especial ferment. 1. After Finitude After Finitude is unusually short for such an influential book of philosophy: running to just 178 pages in the original French, and an even more compact 128 pages in the English version, despite the introduction of roughly eight pages of new material for the English edition. Rather than summarizing Meillassoux’s book in the order he intended, I will focus on six points that strike me as the pillars of his debut book. Along the way, I will offer a few criticisms as well. The first pillar of the book is Meillassoux’s own term “correlationism.”1 Although he introduces this term as the name for an enemy, it is striking that Meillassoux remains impressed by correlationism much more than his fellow speculative realists are. This continued appreciation for his great enemy influences the shape of his own ontology. Is there a world outside our thinking of it, or does the world consist entirely in being thought? Traditionally, this dispute between realism and idealism has been dismissed in continental philosophy as a “pseudo-problem,” in a strategy pioneered by Husserl and extended by Heidegger. We cannot be realists, since following Kant we have no direct access to things-in-themselves. But neither are we idealists, since the human being is always already outside itself, aiming at objects in intentional experience, deeply engaged with practical implements, or stationed in some particular world-disclosing mood. The centuries-old dispute between realism and idealism is dissolved by saying that we cannot think either real or ideal in isolation from the other. There is neither human without world nor world without human, but only a primordial correlation or rapport between the two. This is what “correlationism” means: philosophy trapped in a permanent meditation on the human-world correlate, trying to find the best model of the correlate: is it language, intentionality, embodiment, or some other form of correlation between human and world? Among other problems, this generates some friction between philosophy and the literal meaning of science. When cosmologists say that the universe originated 13.5 billion years ago, they do not mean “13.5 billion years ago for us ,” but literally 13.5 billion years ago, well before conscious life existed, and thus at a time when there was no such thing as a correlate. Meillassoux also coins the term “ancestrality” (10) for the reality that predated the correlate, and later expands this term to “dia-chronicity,” (112) to refer to events occurring after the extinction of human beings no less than to those occurring before we existed. Up to this point, Meillassoux’s focus on ancestral entities existing prior to consciousness might seem like a straightforward realist who wants to unmask correlationism as just another form of idealism. Yet Meillassoux also admires the correlationist maneuver, which can obviously be traced back to Kant. Unlike a thinker such as Whitehead, Meillassoux feels no nostalgia for the pre-critical realism that came before Kant: “we cannot but be heirs of Kantianism,” he says (29). What impresses Meillassoux about correlationism is something both simple and familiar. If we attempt to think a tree outside thought, this is itself a thought . Any form of realism which thinks it can simply and directly address the world the way it is fails to escape the correlational circle, since the attempt to think something outside of thought is itself nothing other than a thought, and thereby collapses back into the very human-world correlate that it pretends to escape. For Meillassoux this step, suggested by Kant but first refined by the ensuing figures of German Idealism, marks decisive forward progress in the history of philosophy that must not be abolished. Any attempt to break free from the correlate must first acknowledge its mighty intellectual power. Realist though he may seem, Meillassoux’s works are filled with praise of such figures as Fichte and Hegel, not of so-called “naïve realists.” It is also the case that for Meillassoux, not all correlationisms are the same. The second pillar of his book is a distinction between various positions that I have termed “Meillassoux’s Spectrum,” though of course he is never so immodest as to name it after himself. He distinguishes between at least six different possible positions, and perhaps we could add even subtler variations if we wished. But in its simplest form, Meillassoux’s Spectrum allows for just four basic outlooks on the question of realism vs. anti-realism. Three of these are easy to understand, since we have already been discussing them. At one extreme is so-called “naïve realism,” which holds that a world exists outside the mind, and that we can know this world. Meillassoux rejects this naïve realism as having been overthrown by Kant’s critical philosophy. At the other extreme is subjective idealism, in which nothing exists outside the mind. For to think a dog outside thought immediately turns it into a thought, and therefore there cannot be anything outside; the very notion is meaningless. In between these two is what we have called correlationism. And here comes a crucial moment for Meillassoux, since he distinguishes between the two forms of “weak” and “strong” correlationism, and chooses the strong form as the launching pad for his own philosophy. Weak correlationism is easy to explain, since we all know it from the philosophy of Kant. The things-in-themselves can be thought but not known. They certainly must exist, since there cannot be appearances without something that appears. And we can think about them, which idealism holds to be impossible. They are simply unknowable due to the finitude of human thought. Strong correlationism is the new position introduced by Meillassoux (though he sees it at work in numerous twentieth century thinkers), midway between weak correlationism and subjective idealism. The major difference between the three positions is as follows. Weak correlationism says: “The things-in-themselves exist, but we cannot know them.” The subjective idealist says: “This is a contradiction in terms, since when we think the things-in-themselves, we already turn them into thoughts.” But the strong correlationist says: “Just because ‘things-in-themselves’ is a meaningless notion does not mean that they cannot exist. No one has ever traveled to the world-in-itself and come back to make a report on it. Thus, the fact that we cannot think things-in-themselves without contradiction does not prove that they do not exist anyway. There may be things-in-themselves, we simply are not capable of thinking them without contradiction form within the correlational circle.” This step is crucial for Meillassoux, since strong correlationism is the position he attempts to radicalize into his own new standpoint: speculative materialism. As I see it, this step of the argument fails. Strong correlationism cannot avoid collapsing into subjective idealism, since the statements of the strong correlationist are rendered meaningless from within. All three of the other positions in the Spectrum make perfectly good sense even for those who disagree with them. The naïve realist says that things-in-themselves exist and we can know them; the meaning of this statement is clear. The weak correlationist can say that things-in-themselves exist but lie forever beyond our grasp; this too makes perfect sense, even though the German Idealists try to show a contradiction at work here. We can also understand the claim of the subjective idealist that to think anything outside thought turns it into a thought, and that for this reason we cannot think the unthought. The strong correlationist, alone among the four, speaks nonsense . This person says “I cannot think the unthought without turning it into a thought, and yet the unthought might exist anyway.” But notice that the final phrase “the unthought might exist anyway” is fruitless for this purpose. For we have already heard that to think any unthought turns it into a thought. But now the strong correlationist wants to do two incompatible things simultaneously with this unthought. On the one hand, he neutralizes the unthought by showing that it instantly changes into just another thought. But on the other hand, he wants to appeal to the unthought as a haunting residue that might exist outside thought, thereby undercutting the absolute status of the human-world correlate found in idealism. But this is impossible. If you accept the argument that thinking the unthought turns it into a thought, you cannot also add “but maybe there is something outside that prevents this conversion from being absolutely true,” because this “something outside” is immediately converted into nothing but a thought for us. In short, Meillassoux here seems to be offering a kind of Zen koan: his “strong correlationism” is reminiscent of the gateless gate, or the sound of one hand clapping, or the command to punch Hegel in the jaw when meeting him on the road. We cannot at the same time both destroy the realist challenge of the things-in-themselves in order to undercut realism and reintroduce that very realist sense in order to undercut idealism. In a world where everything is instantly converted into thought, we cannot claim that there might be something extra-mental anyway, because this “might be something” is itself converted into a thought by the same rules that condemned dogs, trees, and houses to the idealist prison. This brings us to the third pillar of Meillassoux’s argument, which is the key to all the rest: the necessity of contingency. His strategy is to transform our supposed ignorance of things-in-themselves into an absolute knowledge that they exist without reason, and that the laws of nature can change at any time for no reason at all. In this way the cautious agnosticism of Kantian philosophies is avoided, but so is the collapse of reality into thought as found in German Idealism. Meillassoux does try to prove the existence of things-in-themselves existing outside thought; he simply holds that they must be proven after passing through the rigors of the correlationist challenge, not just arbitrarily decreed to exist in the manner of naïve realism. As he puts it, “Everything could actually collapse: from trees to stars, from stars to laws, from physical laws to logical laws; and this not by virtue of some superior law whereby everything is destined to perish, but by virtue of the absence of any superior law capable of preserving anything, no matter what, from perishing” (53). If idealism thinks that the human-world correlate is absolute, for Meillassoux it is the facticity of the correlate that is absolute. He tries to show this with a nice brief dialogue between five separate characters (55-59) which is covered in detail in my forthcoming book,2 but which I will simplify here for reasons of time. In this simplified version, we first imagine a dogmatic realist arguing with a dogmatic idealist. The realist says that we can know the truth about the things-in-themselves; the idealist counters that we can only the truth about thought, since all statements about reality must be turned into statements concerning our thoughts about reality. Here the correlationist enters and proclaims that both of these positions are equally dogmatic. For although we have access to nothing but thoughts, we cannot be sure that these thoughts are all that exist; there could be a reality outside thought, there is simply no way to know for sure. And this latter position is the one that Meillassoux attempts to transform from an agnostic, skeptical point into an ontological claim about the contingency of everything. Consider it this way. How does the correlationist defeat the idealist? The idealist holds that the existence of anything outside thought is impossible. The correlationist, by contrast, holds that something might exist outside the human-world correlate. But this “something might” has to be an absolute possibility. It cannot mean that “something outside thought might exist for thought ,” because that is what the idealist already says. No, the correlationist must mean that something might exist outside thought quite independently of thought. In other words, the correlationist says that idealism might be wrong, and this means it is absolutely true that idealism might be wrong. Thus, correlationism is no longer just a skeptical position. It holds that all the possibilities of the world are absolute possibilities. We have absolute knowledge that any of the possibilities about the existence or non-existence of things-in-themselves might be true, and this means that correlationism flips into Meillassoux’s own position: speculative materialism. As Meillassoux sees it, there are only two options here. Option A is to absolutize the human-world correlate, which is what the idealist does: there absolutely cannot be anything outside thought. Option B, by contrast, is to absolutize the facticity of the correlate: its character of simply being given to us, without any inherent necessity. The correlationist cannot have it both ways by saying: “there absolutely might be something outside thought, yet maybe this is absolutely impossible.” In other words, once we escape dogmatism we can only be idealists or speculative materialists, not correlationists. The human-world correlate is merely a fact, not an absolute necessity. But this facticity itself cannot be merely factical: it must be absolute. Here Meillassoux coins the French neologism factualité , which has been suitably translated into the English neologism “factiality.” (7, 122-3) Factialty means that for everything that exists, it is absolutely possible that it might be otherwise, not just that we cannot know whether or not it might be otherwise. Just as Kant transformed philosophy into a meditation on the categories governing human finitude, Meillassoux wishes to turn philosophy into a meditation on the necessary conditions of factiality, which he calls “figures”—a new technical term for him. (80) One such figure is that the law of non-contradiction must be true, and for an unusual reason. Since everything is proven to be contingent, nothing that exists can be contradictory, for whatever is contradictory has no opposite into which it might be transformed, and thus contingency would be impossible.3 Another such figure is that there must be something rather than nothing: for since contingency exists, something must exist in order to be contingent. It is a daring high-wire act, one that sacrifices realism to the correlational circle in order to rebuild it from out of its own ashes. Some might conclude that the lack of reason in things is a byproduct of the ignorance of finite humans, Meillassoux is making precisely the opposite point. For in fact, the doctrine of finitude usually leads directly to belief in a hidden reason. The fact that it lies beyond human comprehension merely increases our belief in this arbitrarily chosen concealed ground. By defending anew the concept of absolute knowledge Meillassoux evacuates the world of everything hidden. The reason for things having no reason is not that the reason is hidden, but that no reason exists. Thus, even while insisting on the necessity of non-contradiction, he rejects the other Leibnizian principle: sufficient reason. Everything simply is what it is, in purely immanent form, without deeply hidden causes. Or as Meillassoux puts it: “There is nothing beneath or beyond the manifest gratuitousness of the given—nothing but the limitless and lawless power of its destruction, emergence, or persistence” (63).The world is a “hyper-chaos”(64). But this is not the same thing as flux. For the chaos of the world is such that stability might occur just as easily as constant, turbulent change. Let’s now digress a bit, and return to the question of ancestrality, which Meillassoux transforms later in the book into “dia-chronicity.” Correlationism holds that all talk of a world outside the correlate is immediately recuperated by the correlate. The phrase “13.5 billion years ago” becomes “13.5 billion years ago for us ,” and the phrase “the universe following the extinction of humans” becomes “the universe following the extinction of humans for humans .” But notice that whether we talk about the world before or after humans, in both cases it is time that is used to challenge the correlate. Meillassoux has no interest in challenges that might be posed by space. For example, what about a vase in a lonely country house that topples to the floor and smashes when no one is there to watch it? Isn’t this also a challenge to correlationism, no less than the Big Bang or the heat death of the universe long after humans have vanished? In an eight-page supplement to the English translation of After Finitude ,4 possibly in response to my own 2007 review of the French original,5 Meillassoux bluntly denies that space is of any relevance to the question. Spatial distance is a merely harmless challenge to the human-world correlate. After all, even though no one is there in the lonely country house to witness the shattering of the vase, we can say that had there been an observer , that observer would have witnessed the toppling and destruction of the vase. For this event still occurs in a world in which the human-world correlate already exists, whereas the diachronicity of events both before and after the existence of humans makes it impossible to say that had there been an observer they would have witnessed the Big Bang occurring in such and such a fashion. However, it seems to me that Meillassoux merely asserts that the temporal simultaneity of our existence with that of the vase in the lonely country house is enough to render it harmless. It is true that the house does not exist prior to the correlate, but nonetheless it exists outside the correlate, and that is enough to make the same challenge. It is difficult to see why the “had there been an observer” maneuver succeeds in the case of a vase in the countryside in April 2011 but fails in the case of the Big Bang. This is not just a matter of nitpicking Meillassoux’s argumentative style: the fact that he bases his argument on time has at least two important consequences for his position. For in the first place, even though Meillassoux insists that the laws of nature are absolutely contingent, this turns out to be true only in a temporal sense. That is to say, it is a paradoxical feature of Meillassoux’s philosophy that he does allow for the existence of laws of nature, and simply believes that they can change at any moment without reason. Within any given moment, laws of nature do exist. He never suggests that different parts of the universe can have different laws at the same time, nor does he have any interest in the laws of part/whole composition that take place within any given instant. Could it be the case that rather than being made of gold atoms, a small chunk of gold could be made of silver atoms, cotton, horses, or that this same small piece of gold could be made of gigantic vaults filled with even more gold? These are not topics that draw Meillassoux’s attention, since he is focused solely on how the laws of nature might change or endure from one moment to the next . Another implication for Meillassoux’s system is that his concept of things-in-themselves turns out to be to be inadequate. For when he proves that things-in-themselves can exist without humans, this turns out to be true only in a temporal sense as well. Namely, things-in-themselves existed ten billion years ago, and they will continue to exist after all humans have succeeded in exterminating themselves. However, being able to exist before our births and after our deaths is just one small part of what it means to be a thing-in-itself. The more important part is that even if a thing is sitting on a table right now, in front of me, even if I stroke it lovingly or press my face up against it directly, I am still dealing only with a phenomenal version of the thing; the thing-in-itself continues to withdraw from all access. Yet no such thing is acknowledged by Meillassoux. For him finitude is a disaster, and absolute knowledge is in fact possible. Meillassoux’s thing-in-itself exists in independence only of the human lifespan , not of human knowledge. The fifth pillar of Meillassoux’s argument is his use of Cantor’s transfinite mathematics to show that even if the laws of nature are contingent, they need not be unstable, and thus we cannot use the apparent stability of nature to disprove his metaphysics of absolute contingency. What Cantor showed is that there are different sizes of infinity, and that all these infinities cannot be totalized in a single infinite number of infinities. Meillassoux sees this as crucial, since it allows him to discredit any “probabilistic” argument against his theory. The probabilistic argument (as defended quite clearly by Jean-René Vernes)6 would say this: given that the laws of nature seem so stable, it it is extremely improbable that there is no hidden reason for their remaining so stable. As Meillassoux sees it, probability is of value only when we can index an accessible total of cases. These can even be infinite: for example, there are an infinite number of points where a rope can break when stretched tight, but this does not stop us from calculating probabilities for various sections of the rope to break. By contrast, there is no way to sum up the number of possible laws of nature. For here there is no way to totalize; we cannot stand outside of nature and calculate the possible number of laws so as to determine the probabilities that any one of them might change. Therefore, although we can speak of probability when dealing with intraworldly events such as elections, horse races, and coin-flips, we cannot use the words “probable” or “improbable” when describing alterations at the level of nature as a whole. Rather than commenting on the validity of this argument and its use of Cantor, let me simply note that it once again creates a dualistic ontology. We already saw that Meillassoux treats time differently from space. In analogous fashion, he now treats the level of world differently from that of intraworldly events. The emergence of worlds is purely contingent and virtual and governed by no probability at all, while events within the world necessarily follow laws (even if these laws can change at any moment without reason), and thus their probabilities can be calculated. It is a strategy deeply reminiscent of Badiou’s (2005) own dualism between the normal “state of the situation” and the rare and intermittent “event.” The sixth and final pillar of Meillassoux’s book can be dealt with briefly, since we have already touched on it elsewhere. It comes at the very beginning of the book, when Meillassoux says that we must revive the distinction between primary and secondary qualities, and that the primary qualities are the ones that can be mathematized. He admits that he has not yet published a proof of this idea, though in fact it is already known as one of his primary doctrines. And here we encounter the familiar problem with Meillassoux’s inadequate conception of things-in-themselves. “Primary qualities” refers to those qualities that a thing has independently of its relations with us or anything else. But if the primary qualities can be mathematized, this means that they are not entirely independent of us, since our knowledge can get right to the bottom of them. The mathematized qualities of things are independent of us only in Meillassoux’s sense that they will still have those qualities even when all humans are dead. But to repeat, autonomy from the human lifespan is not the same as autonomy from human access. Here once more Meillassoux is concerned only with independence from the human-world correlate across time, not in any given instant. 2. L’Inexistence divine In 1997, the same year in which he turned thirty years old, Meillassoux earned his doctorate at the École normale supériuere with a brazen dissertation entitled L’Inexistence divine ( The Divine Inexistence ). The work was substantially revised in 2003. But even then, with typical fastidiousness, Meillassoux decided that the work was not yet ready for press. It has now been scrapped in favor of some future, multi-volume work bearing the same title. While writing my book on Meillassoux for Edinburgh University Press, I was permitted to translate excerpts from this unpublished work for use as an appendix in my own book; in total, the appendix contains approximately twenty percent of Meillassoux’s 2003 manuscript, the first time any of it will be published in any language. Nonetheless, a portion of the argument was already tested in the article “Spectral Dilemma,” published in English in the journal Collapse (2008: 261-75). There the philosophical motives for the virtual God are already made clear. What troubles us most are early deaths, brutal deaths, deaths of especial injustice– the sorts of deaths in which the brutal twentieth century was so abundant. And here, neither the atheist nor the believer can help us. The atheist can offer nothing but a sad and cynical resignation when reflecting on the victims of these terrible crimes. The believer does little better, being unable to explain how God could have allowed such things to happen, due to the famous intractability of the problem of evil. The solution offered to this dilemma by Meillassoux is bold, and all the more so given that he emerges from such a deeply Leftist, materialist, and unreligious background. His solution is that God does not yet exist, and therefore is not blameworthy for these catastrophes. Given that everything is contingent in Meillassoux’s philosophy, this God and divine justice might never exist, but they can at least exist as an object of hope. Let’s begin by jumping to the end of L’Inexistence divine , where the alternatives are laid out so nicely. There are four basic attitudes that humans can have towards God, Meillassoux says. First, we can believe in God because he exists. This is the classical theist attitude, rejected for the simple reason that it would be amoral and blasphemous to believe in a God who allows children to be eaten by dogs, to use Dostoevsky’s example. Second, we can disbelieve in God because he does not exist: the classical atheist attitude. But this leads to sadness, cynicism, and a sneering contempt for the greatness of human capacity. The third option, rather more complex, is to disbelieve in God because he does exist: in other words, to exist in rebellion against God as the one who must be blamed for the evils of the earth. The examples here might range from Lucifer himself, to the more human figure of Captain Ahab in Melville’s Moby-Dick , to Werner Herzog’s even more recent catchphrase, “Every man for himself, and God against all.” That leaves only the fourth option: believing in God because he does not exist. Meillassoux closes his book by saying that the fourth option has now been tried (namely, in the course of his own book), and that now that all four have been specified, we must choose. The first reaction to this theory of the inexistent God will be laughter. Few readers will ever be literally convinced by it, and probably none will immediately be convinced by it. But if we ask ourselves why we laugh, the answer is because it sounds so improbable that an inexistent God might suddenly emerge and resurrect the dead. It obviously sounds more like a gullible theology than a rigorous piece of philosophical work. Yet two things need to be kept in mind. First, Meillassoux’s theories are hardly more unlikely than those of great philosophers of the past such as Plato, Plotinus, Avicenna, Malebranche, Spinoza, Leibniz, Nietzsche, or Whitehead. We read the great philosophers not because their systems are plausible in commonsense terms that can be measured by the laws of probability. Instead, we read them precisely because they shatter the existing framework of common sense and open up new window on the universe. Second, and even more importantly, Meillassoux has already rejected probability as a valid measuring stick in philosophy. Or rather, he accepts probability in the intra-worldly realm (where it is linked with potentiality), and rejects it at the level of the world itself (where potentiality is replaced with what he calls virtuality). The virtual God can appear at any moment for no reason at all, just as any other new configuration of laws of nature can appear: in a manner that the laws of probability cannot calculate. Responding to those who might ridicule the idea of a sudden emergence of God and a resurrection of the dead, Meillassoux cites Pascal, who asserts that the resurrection of the dead would be far less incredible than the fact that we were born in the first place. This shifts philosophy onto new ground. Rather than concerning ourselves with what is likely to happen in the world as we know it, we focus instead on the most important things that could happen. For this reason, the expected objection that a virtual God is no more likely to appear than a virtual unicorn or a virtual flying spaghetti monster misses the point. Unicorns and spaghetti monsters could also appear, just like any other non-contradictory thing. But these would just be novel bizarre entities among others, not the heralds of completely new worlds. For Meillassoux, the emergence of matter, life, and thought have been the three truly amazing advents of the world so far, each of them dependent on the advent(s) preceding them. As he sees it, there can be no greater intraworldly entity than the human beings who already exist, since nothing in the world is better than the absolute knowledge of which humans alone are capable. This means that the next great advent must be something that perfects human beings rather than superseding them. And this can only be the world of justice, in which the dead are resurrected and their horrible deaths partially cancelled (Meillassoux never considers the possibility of a God who would literally erase the pre-divine past so that it never happened at all). The only immortality worth having is an immortality of this life, not an existence in some ill-defined afterworld. Human existence, he holds, must always be governed by a “symbol” that gives us the “immanent and comprehensible inscription of values in a world.” And just as cosmic history made the three great contingent leaps of matter, life, and thought, with a leap to justice as the only one still to come, a similar structure occurs within human culture and its symbols, which consist so far of the cosmological, naturalistic, and historical symbols, with a “factial” symbol still to come. We can review each of these symbols briefly. The cosmological symbol refers to the ancient dualism between the terrestrial and celestial spheres. Here below everything is conflict, corruption, and decay; but in the heavens nothing is perishable, all movement is circular, and everything is arranged in mutual harmony. This symbol is ended by modern physics when Galileo discovers such blemishes as sunspots and craters on the moon, and when Newton integrates both celestial and terrestrial movement into a single gravitational law. Next comes the naturalistic or romantic symbol, in which perfection comes not from the sky but from nature itself. The world is filled with pretty flowers (Meillassoux claims that the ancients never discussed the beauty of flowers until Plotinus in the third century) and with living creatures naturally moved by pity, at least until society corrupts them. This symbol collapses in the face of reality as we know it, since pity is no more common than war, corruption, and violence. This brings us to the historical symbol, which only now is passing away. Bad things may happen, but history has an inner logic of its own, such that everything works out in the end. The ultimate form of the historical symbol is the economic symbol, whether in a Marxist or neo-liberal form. Just as the Marxist holds that the inner economic logic of the capitalists will inexorably lead them to self-destruction, the neo-liberal assumes that the sum total of individual selfish actions will lead, in the long run, to the greatest possible good. We worship the economy and let it guide history for us, just as the ancients worshipped celestial bodies and held them to be free from blemish. The final remaining symbol is the factial symbol, which Meillassoux hopes will now emerge. Factiality, we recall, is his term for the absolute contingency of everything that exists. Once we have grasped this absolute contingency, we are free to expect the dramatic advent of the coming fourth World: the world of justice, inaugurated by a virtual God and even mediated by a messianic human figure. There is the added feature, however, that this messiah must abandon all claims to special status once the messianic realm of justice is achieved. The messianic figure will then be no more special than any person on the street, since a reign of human equality will have arisen. Although this focus on human being might seem like a return to standard humanism, Meillassoux holds that human pre-eminence has never truly been maintained. Previously, humans have been treated as special only because they contemplate the Good, because they resemble their omnipotent creator, or because they happen to be the temporary victors in a cruel Darwinian death-match between millions of living species. For Meillassoux, by contrast, humans have value because they know the eternal. But it is not the eternal that is important, since this merely represents the blind, anonymous contingency of each thing. What is important is not knowledge of the eternal , but knowledge of the eternal. We should not admire Prometheus for stealing fire from the gods; Prometheus is simply as bad as all the gods, no matter how much he increased our power. Feuerbach and Marx were wrong to say that God is a projection of the human essence, since for Meillassoux the usual concept of God represents the degradation of the human essence. If the traditional God was allowed to inflict plagues and tsunamis on the human race, the Promethean human of the twentieth century simply assumes the right to inflict death camps and atomic fireballs instead. In this respect, we have simply begun to imitate the degradation of humanity that was formerly invested in an omnipotent and arbitrary God. In response to charges that absolute contingency might lead to political quietism, Meillassoux counters that the World of justice would mean nothing unless we had already hoped for it beforehand. A World of justice that came along at random would merely be an improved third World of thought: indeed, a perfect one. But it would have satisfied no craving, and would therefore have no redemptive power. For this reason, we must actively hope for the fourth World of justice for such a fourth World ever to arise. Not only justice, but beauty is dependent on such hope: for Meillassoux, who is here somewhat dependent on Kant, beauty means an accord between our human symbolization and the actual world, which could never be present in a World of the blessed any more than justice could. And just as a messianic figure is needed to incarnate our hope and then abandon power once the World of justice is realized, it is the figure of the child whose fragile contingency shows us a dignity and a demand for justice beyond all power. 3. Meillassoux Radicalized or Reversed Given the promising reception of Meillassoux’s first book, it would not be groundless to engage in early speculation about what it might take to earn him a place in the history of philosophy. Maybe this will never happen—who knows?—but quite possibly it will: his lucid argumentative methods and sheer philosophical imagination at least make him a good candidate to be read well into the future, especially following further elaboration in print of his mature system. Philosophy is often practiced as thought it were nothing more than the amassing of “knockdown arguments.” But this is no more insightful than saying that good architecture is the amassing of steal beams. It is true that poorly constructed building cannot stand for long, but sound construction is merely the first, indispensable step in building. In fact, I am inclined to say that what really makes a philosopher important is not being right, but being wrong . I mean this in a very specific sense. I once heard the interesting remark about twentieth century culture that “you have to remember that the sixties really happened in the seventies.” That is to say, it was in the 1970’s rather than the more honored 1960’s that civil rights, free love, long hair, and the rock and roll drug culture really took root. With respect to the history of philosophy, we might just as easily say: “you have to remember that Plato really happened in Aristotle,” that “Kant really happened in Hegel” or “Hume really happened in Kant,” or that “Husserl’s phenomenology first achieved its truth in Heidegger.” One becomes an important philosopher not by being right, but by attracting rebellious admirers who tell you that you are wrong , even as their own careers silently orbit around your own. To recruit faithful disciples may be comforting and flattering, but the greatest thinkers have generally had to experience refutation at the hands of their most talented heirs. For this reason, I would propose that we size up the magnitude of living thinkers not by deciding how many times they are right and wrong, but by asking instead: who would take the trouble to refute this author? For this reason I do not ask: “Is Meillassoux right?”, since I do not believe in the virtual God myself, nor am I convinced by any important aspect of Meillassoux’s philosophy. Instead, I ask if there are interesting ways to overturn him. Only by being overturned, by no longer remaining a contemporary, does one become a classic. Let’s begin with a simple model of refutation, which can be refined further at a later date once the basic point is established. One kind of refutation simply consists in saying: “This author is a complete idiot.” The refuter now walks away in celebration, and no link between the present and the future is built; all is reduced to rubble. But this sort of mediocre triumphalism is generally practiced by those who achieve little of their own, and is not especially interesting. Much more interesting is the sort of refutation that does not take its target to be a complete idiot. I would like to suggest that there are just two basic ways in which this can be done: radicalization and reversal . It has not escaped my notice that this is a fairly good match for the Deleuzian distinction between irony and humor. Whereas irony critiques and adopts the opposite principle of what it attacks, humor accepts what it confronts but pushes it into highly exaggerated form. The ironist is like the worker who sows chaos by rebeling and contradicting the boss, while the humorist is like the worker who follows orders to an absurdly literal degree, with equally chaotic results. Let’s start with a few examples. In Aristotle’s treatment of Plato, and Heidegger’s of Husserl, we find reversal. Plato’s eidei are transformed by Aristotle into mere secondary substances, and the individual worldly things despised by Plato become what is primary. For Husserl what is primary is whatever is present to consciousness, while for Heidegger this is precisely what is secondary, since the primary stuff of the world withdraws from any form of presence at all. As for radicalization, it is most easily found in the transformation of Kant by German Idealism: “Kant was right to wall off the things-in-themselves from human access, and simply should have realized that the thought of the Ding an sich is also a thought, and thereby the noumena are just special cases of the phenomena,” with much following from this discovery. It would also be easy to read Spinoza as a radicalizer of Descartes, and Berkeley and Hume as radicalized versions of Locke. Perhaps the distinction is now sufficiently clear. Admiring refutations are not those that say “Professor X is an idiot,” which is merely the flip side of the eager disciple’s fruitless “Professor X got everything right.” Instead, it will be some variant of one of the following two options: “Professor X is important, but got it backwards,” or “Professor X is important, but didn’t push things far enough.” In the history of philosophy these two latter cases have often been painful in purely human terms: Aristotle expresses sadness at refuting Plato, Kant is openly annoyed at Fichte, and Husserl feels betrayed and used by Heidegger. Rude handling from later figures almost seems to be the sine qua non of being a great philosopher. Now, it has already been claimed that Meillassoux is an emerging philosopher of the first importance, and by no less a figure than Alain Badiou: “It would be no exaggeration to say that Quentin Meillassoux has opened up a new path in the history of philosophy…” (Preface, vii). But rather than taking Badiou’s word for it, or rejecting his word, we might experiment by asking how Meillassoux could be radicalized or reversed. Are there interesting ways of doing this that might launch whole new schools of philosophy, unexpected or even condemned by Meillassoux himself? While no one can see the future, the present is poor when it is not riddled with virtual futures. The relation between philosophers and their predecessors and successors is always somewhat complicated, of course. But generally there is one central divergence at stake, which might be taken as the key to all the others. On this basis we could say that new thinkers primarily radicalize or primarily reverse the main ideas of their chief philosophical forerunner. There may be specific historical conditions and perhaps even personality traits connected with these two types, but this question can be left aside for now. More important for us is that radicalizers will generally be followed by reversers, and vice versa. Consider the textbook example of a reversal in the history of philosophy: Kant’s Copernican Revolution, which inverts the so-called dogmatic tradition that addresses the world itself, and makes the world revolve instead around the conditions by which it is known. While it is not completely impossible that Kant’s successors might have re-reversed this principle back into a new and stronger dogmatic realism, conditions were premature for such a move. Anyone doing this too early would likely have been an angry anti-Kantian reactionary rather than an original thinker in command of a genuinely new realist principle. The far more likely outcome is the one that actually happened: Kant’s reversal of his predecessors was viewed as incomplete, or as retaining lamentable bits of the traditional view, which despite his admirable breakthrough he was unable to shake off. This was the view of German Idealism, anyway. In similar fashion, Spinoza could also be viewed as a radicalizer of Descartes, who is equally accused of preserving various Scholastic dogmas in an otherwise radical project of philosophical reversal. The point is this: reversals in the history of thought tend to be followed soon thereafter by radicalizations of those reversals. The same may hold true in reverse: radicalizations might generally be followed by reversals, given that it is not always possible to be more radical than the radicals have already been. Consider the case of Husserl, who radicalizes Brentano’s early vagueness about what lies beyond immanent objectivity, and Twardowski’s assertion that there must be an external object lying outside the intentional content, by collapsing everything into the intentional sphere: there is no difference between the Berlin in my consciousness and the actual Berlin that is home to millions of people. It is difficult to see how one could be even more radical than Husserl’s idealist turn here. And thus the road is paved to Heidegger’s reversal of classical phenomenology, in which the key point is what lies deeper than any presence to consciousness: the Sein whose power and obscurity cannot be made exhaustively present, but only sends itself in historical epochs. In similar fashion we might also read Leibniz as a reverser of Spinoza’s radicalization, retrieving a strong sense of individual substance and a certain validity of what the Scholastics had said. Returning to Meillassoux, we might ask which kind of philosopher he is: a radicalizer or a reverser? At present, Meillassoux looks to me like a radicalizer (though for now his future remains shrouded in mist). He takes the correlationist tradition, which allows us to speak only of the relation between human and world, and tries to raise it into an even more extreme claim about the absolute contingency of everything. But whereas German Idealism did this by trying to collapse the distinction between thought and world entirely into the “thought” side, Meillassoux does it by trying to shift the non-absolute contingency of the thought-world correlate from epistemology to ontology. It is no longer a question of the inability of human knowledge to know what lies outside the correlate, but the inability of reality itself to be rooted in any definite laws. Furthermore, if we look at the various features of Meillassoux’s philosophy identified earlier tonight, all but one are already so radical that there is no obvious way to push them further. The one exception would be his claim that the world as a whole can change for no reason at any moment, coupled with the inconsistent claim that within a given world there are laws of nature that everything must follow. If gravitational attraction between all masses is a current law in our world, then for Meillassoux there can be no exceptions to this law for as long as it remains in force. A toppled vase will fall to the floor every time for sure,unless there is a cosmic change by which the laws of nature as a whole have altered. (This is reminiscent of the late medieval distinction between the absolute and ordained power of God, according to which God has the power to set or change the laws of nature, but not to contravene those laws locally once they are set.) On this point, to radicalize Meillassoux would simply be to say: there are no laws of nature even in the local sense. Everything that happens, even in the world here and now, is purely contingent and not governed by even a trace of law. And while this would be a more consistent development of Meillassoux’s thoughts on contingency, it is difficult to see how it could lead to a new philosophy. Instead, the admiring successors of Meillassoux are more likely to reverse one of his already sufficiently radical points. At least four candidates come to mind: *First, we have seen that Meillassoux thinks correlationism is challenged by a time before or after consciousness, but not by a space lying outside it. Perhaps this could be reversed into saying that spatial exteriority is the really crucial point. The arguments on this point are perhaps the least convincing in After Finitude (and do not even occur in the original French edition), and therefore it might be a candidate for the “blind spot” of which no philosopher is ever free. *Second, Meillassoux uses Cantor to claim that the contingency of laws of nature would not entail that they are unstable. A successor of Meillassoux might claim that it does make them unstable, and celebrate this fact. This person would then have to explain why common sense seems to encounter a relatively stable world despite its truly rampant instability. Whereas Meillassoux’s problem is to show how stability might exist despite contingency, this successor’s problem would be slightly different: to show why actual, full-blown instability might have the appearance of stability. *Third, Meillassoux claims that the primary qualities of things are those that can be mathematized. He might be reversed by a successor who says the opposite: the mathematizable qualities are the secondary ones, and the primary ones are those that elude symbolic formulation. While this is a perfectly valid possible objection to Meillassoux, it is one that is made in advance by some of his predecessors and is still made by some of his peers, making it less interesting for futurology than some of his other points. *Fourth and finally, whereas Meillassoux claims that God does not exist but might exist in the future, a successor might argue even more bizarrely that God has always existed but might vanish in the future. Let’s arbitrarily select the first of these possibilities, and imagine briefly where it might lead, if pursued in the future by admiring detractors. Meillassoux comes from the circle of Badiou, and some of Badiou’s most ardent admirers are found in Latin America. So, let’s imagine that towards mid-century some ingenious reversers of Meillassoux emerge in that portion of the Spanish-speaking world. Just for fun, let’s call them Castro and Chávez. And in order to avoid any confusion with the present-day politicians of those names, we will stipulate that Meillassoux’s great successors are both women. The philosopher Castro (we will suppose she comes from Peru) reverses Meillassoux’s argument that the ancestral or diachronic are what most threaten the human-world correlate. Instead, she claims that the diachronic does not threaten the correlate at all, and that we must instead look at space as what ruins the correlate and demands a strange new realism. What would such a philosophy look like? In order to determine this, we might ask what price Meillassoux pays for doing it the opposite way. As I see it, he pays in two separate ways. One is that laws of nature for him are contingent over time . The laws of nature apply to the universe as a whole at any given moment, and would be changed globally if they are ever changed at all. The second price he pays is that Meillassoux has no mereology , or theory of parts and wholes. Everything for him is on the level of the given, or immanent in experience, with the sole proviso that the laws governing this immanence might change without notice at any given moment. In reversing Meillassoux, Castro makes the following claims in the preface to her stunning debut book of 2045, The Cosmos and its Neighborhoods , rapidly translated from Spanish into all the languages of the world: Despite his brilliant analysis of the contingency of laws of nature over time, Meillassoux gets two important assumptions wrong. First, he allows for only one set of contingent laws to govern nature as a whole. Second, he allows laws to govern only the world that is immanent in experience, and thereby fails to explore the contingency among part-whole relations. In this book I will argue, first, that the laws of nature vary in any given instant between one region of the universe and the next; and second, that the world is made up of layers of parts and wholes that are also contingent with respect to one another. Those are the words of Castro. This may sound like a hopeless free-for-all of chaos, yet the book somehow succeeds in drawing some compelling deductions about how laws must vary from one place or level in the world to the next. Trapped in the limited horizon of 2011, and not yet inspired by the heavily balkanized political and technological situation of 2050 that somehow lends additional credence to Castro’s vision, we can only vaguely grasp what such a philosophy might look like. After this reversal of Meillassoux by Castro, the usual pattern leads us to expect a radicalization by Chávez, a young Argentine student of Castro. How could the already strange theories of Castro be radicalized? Perhaps as follows, in a disturbing new book entitled The Implosion of the Neighborhoods , which argues as follows: Castro was right to shift the Meillassouxian framework of contingency from time to space. However, in this respect she retained a surprisingly traditional opposition between the two. In this book I will show that time and space collapse into one another. This may sound too much like the discredited four-dimensional block universe of twentieth century physics and philosophy. However, the four-dimensional universe is a model biased in favor of space, merely adding an extra dimension to the commonsense spatial continuum while stipulating that the serial passage of time is an illusion. In this book I will argue instead for a one-dimensional space-time modeled after our experience of time, in which there is no simultaneous co-existence at all between different parts of the universe, or ‘neighborhoods’ as my esteemed teacher Castro has called them. Instead, the various portions of the universe link to one another by succession rather than by coexistence. Buenos Aires, New York, and Amsterdam do not exist simultaneously in the same landscape, but one after the other in the mind of some observer, and this observer can only be an observer much larger than any human. Against Meillassoux’s notion of a virtual God that does not exist now but might exist in the future, I will argue for an actual God that surveys the universe in sequence, thereby generating the illusion of spatial diversity and even the illusion of individual minds located within that diversity. Once this divine observer dies, the universe as a whole must perish. Again, these ideas are so bizarre that we of 2011 can barely comprehend them, just as Aristotle would have had a difficult time grasping the theories of Descartes. We could then perhaps imagine a further reversal of this theory, emanating from the intellectually resurgent Philippines of the twenty-second century. The Filipino School might argue that the universe is already dead, given the collapse of its spatial richness into the serial observations of a flimsy and mortal God. The virtual universe does not yet exist, but might exist in fully spatial form in the future, and this would require the death of God and the resulting liberation of God’s succession of images as independent, spatially situated realities. With a bit of sharpening, we might be able to make all of these imaginary thinkers more intuitively clear. Along with the history of philosophy, there might arise a new discipline generating imaginary futures for philosophy. The richness of Meillassoux’s system comes not from the fact that he is plausibly right about so many things, but because his philosophy offers such a treasury of bold statements ripe for being radicalized or reversed. He is a rich target for many still-unborn intellectual heirs, and this is what gives him the chance to be an important figure. NOTES 1. Quentin Meillassoux, After Finitude . Trans. R Brassier. (London: Continuum, 2008.) Page 5. The word “correlationism” does not appear in his doctoral thesis. As Meillassoux informed me in an email of February 8, 2011, he first coined this term in 2003 or 2004, while editing for publication a lecture he had given at the École normale supérieure on a day devoted to the theme of “Philosophy and Mathematics,” an event including Alain Badiou as one of the participants. 2. Graham Harman, Quentin Meillassoux: Philosophy in the Making . (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, forthcoming 2011). 3. In an email of December 6, 2010, Meillassoux clarifies that in After Finitude he only deduces the impossibility of a “universal contradiction,” not of a determinate contradiction. In the same email he suggests that he can also prove the latter, though the proof is somewhat lengthier than the one found in After Finitude . 4. After Finitude (18-26), in the passage falling between the two sets of triple asterisks. These pages were sent by Meillassoux to translator Ray Brassier (in French) during the translation process, and do not appear in the original French version of the book. 5. Graham Harman, “Quentin Meillassoux: A New French Philosopher.” Philosophy Today 51.1 (2007): Pages 104-117. The passage where I raise the question of space can be found in the first column of page 107. 6. Vernes is first cited on p. 95 of After Finitude . See Jean-René Vernes, Critique de la raison aléatoire, ou Descartes contra Kant . (Paris: Aubier, 1982).  . (shrink)
continent. 2.1 (2012): 6–21. The French philosopher and novelist Tristan Garcia was born in Toulouse in 1981. This makes him rather young to have written such an imaginative work of systematic philosophy as Forme et objet , 1 the latest entry in the MétaphysiqueS series at Presses universitaires de France. But this reference to Garcia’s youthfulness is not a form of condescension: by publishing a complete system of philosophy in the grand style, he has already done what none of us (...) in the older generation of speculative realists has done so far. His book is sophisticated, erudite, rigorous, imaginatively rich, and abundant in worldly wisdom– despite the author’s conclusion that wisdom does not exist. The quality and scope of Forme et objet took few observers by surprise, since Garcia has been treated as an emerging philosopher to watch across half a decade of Parisian oral tradition. But Garcia was not just the subject of rumor, being already well known to the French public as a writer of fiction. His debut novel, La meilleure part des hommes , 2 was awarded the 2008 Prix de Flore 3 and has already appeared in English as Hate: A Romance . 4 His follow-up novel, Mémoires de la jungle , 5 made clever use of a chimpanzee narrator. Nor was Garcia only published as a novelist before last November: his philosophical study L’Image 6 had already appeared when the author was just twenty-six, a year before he was crowned by the muses at the historic Café de Flore. And then in 2011, just months before the appearance of Forme et objet , Garcia published a widely distributed work entitled Nous, animaux et humains , 7 with its focus on Jeremy Bentham’s ideas about animals. Given this prolific and versatile track record, an optimistic scenario might envisage the young Garcia as one of those combined literary/philosophical talents who appear intermittently in France across the centuries: Jean-Paul Sartre is merely the most famous recent case. While more time is needed to see how Garcia will channel his impressive mental energies, Forme et objet displays such breadth of insight that its author has a good chance to emerge as one of the leading philosophers of his generation. If we accept Aristotle’s dictum that the peak mental age is fifty-one, then to read Garcia’s massive book is to gain some idea of what European philosophy might look like in the futuristic-sounding 2030’s. The present article is confined to Forme et objet . At 486 pages, the work is obviously daunting in size. Indeed, it is even longer than it sounds, given that many of its early sections are printed in a smaller typeface to designate them as supplemental commentary to the main flow of the argument. But while the length of the book reportedly led to delays in French publication, and will probably slow the inevitable appearance of an English translation, the length of the book should not deter interested readers– much of it results from Garcia’s teacherly writing style. Whereas Quentin Meillassoux’s prose displays an arctic economy of means, Garcia’s style is reminiscent of the repeated lessons of oral classroom proceedings. Rarely is the reader given fewer than three or four chances to master an idea before the author moves on to the next. In practice, the style feels welcoming rather than long-winded. Otherwise, the structure of Forme et objet is surprisingly simple. There is a useful Introduction of less than twenty pages. Then comes Book I: Formally , running to approximately 135 pages. Here Garcia outlines the most basic features of a thing “no matter what it is,” or n’importe quoi , an everyday phrase that Garcia shapes into a technical term. This part of the book feels at times like a more amiable version of Hegel’s Science of Logic , a parallel emphasized further by the threefold articulation of its theme: 1. Thing; 2. Thing and World; 3. Being and Understanding. This is followed by the much longer Book II: Objectively , totaling more than 300 pages. It contains sixteen essay-like meditations on specific kinds of objects—including time, animals, humans, history, gender, and death. Here each chapter rolls smoothly into the next, making this second part of the book feel more like a different work of Hegel: The Phenomenology of Spirit . But these are merely analogies. Garcia is no Hegelian, even if the book contains a few dialectical flourishes that seem to reflect his early enthusiasm for the Frankfurt School. Forme et objet ends with a six-page Coda, followed by the usual page of acknowledgments. In what follows, I will briefly summarize each of these four parts of the book before ending with some more general remarks. Before doing so, it will be useful to situate Garcia biographically (as much as I am able) and philosophically. Though Toulouse is his native city, his formative years were spent largely in Algeria, where his family has deep roots. During our sole private conversation, Garcia mentioned that his parents are professors of literature. 8 As a student of philosopher Garcia flourished so early that many of his current ideas date to his teenaged years: “There are sentences in Forme et objet that I wrote when I was seventeen,” he said in response to a question on that cold night on the Canal St.-Martin. I recalled that remark when reading his brilliant account, late in the book, of the central role of adolescence in contemporary culture. While many prodigies blow through their formal academic training without serious obstruction, Garcia’s student memories are rich in tales of isolation and struggle, though equally rich in gratitude for a half-dozen or so exceptional teachers who provided the intellectual space he needed: Meillassoux and Alain Badiou are simply two of the most prominent figures on that list. Though there are many points of agreement between Garcia’s philosophical position and my own, he not only reached his position years before reading my work, 9 he arrived along a rather different path: not through phenomenology, but via the Frankfurt School, which may be one of the reasons for his profound fascination with aesthetics. Garcia’s cultural background is as broad as one could wish: he is no less informed about punk rock and European football leagues than about the spiritualist roots of Bergson’s philosophy. Curious about everything and contemptuous towards nothing, Garcia can be expected to write insightfully on dozens of topics in the years to come. Given that his philosophy is so personally tantalizing in its agreements and disagreements with my own, and given the great internal richness of Forme et objet itself, the present review is no better than a first effort at coming to terms with the challenges posed by this minstrel from the rising generation. This is especially intriguing for older Generation X’ers like me, since confrontation with the younger generation is one of the many themes treated insightfully in Garcia’s book. 1. Introduction Garcia begins in defense of a so-called “flat ontology,” in which all things are equally things. While Roy Bhaskar 10 used this term pejoratively to refer to anti-realist philosophies that flatten everything onto an epistemic plane of human access, Manuel DeLanda 11 (an admirer of Bhaskar) reversed it into the positive principle that all realities are equally realities. Similar notions can be found in the “absistence” of Alexius Meinong, 12 the “irreduction” of Bruno Latour, 13 and my own critique 14 of the undermining/overmining pair. Also noteworthy is Levi Bryant’s use of the term “flat ontology” throughout The Democracy of Objects 15 and his earlier essay “The Ontic Principle.” 16 But for Garcia, flatness is only one face of the cosmos, and one that he ultimately declares to be rather impoverished. Even so, he always remains an advocate of a flat ontology. Insofar as everything is equally something, no matter what it is ( n’importe qui ), everything is equally a thing, equally solitary in its relation with world. This is why his book abounds in those long lists of random, ontologically equivalent entities that Ian Bogost has playfully termed “Latour Litanies.” 17 The first litany in Garcia’s book runs as follows: “We live in this world of things, where a cutting of acacia, a gene, a computer-generated image, a transplantable hand, a musical sample, a trademarked name, or a sexual service are comparable things.” (7) Yet Garcia is frankly dualistic; his flat ontology only lasts until page 159 and the end of Book I (entitled “Formally”), which deals entirely with things that are equally things. Thereafter Garcia turns his attention from things to objects, which are not flat in the least, but engage in hierarchical relations with one another. In agreement with both DeLanda and the speculative realists, Garcia proclaims that his book “proposes to put to the test a thought about things rather than a thought about our thought about things .” (8) Just as ducklings are “imprinted” (9) after hatching and treat the first creature they see as their mother, philosophers are imprinted by the idea with which they begin. Hence, philosophies that begin with human access will never truly find their way back to things. This makes Garcia rather suspicious of twentieth century philosophy, since “the twentieth century—to which in some way this work proposes to bid adieu—has been a period of theorizing modes of access to things rather than things...” (9) Among other possible benefits of the philosophy of things that Garcia proposes, it is fully able to account for thought as a special variant of things, while the reverse is not possible.(10) In Book I of Forme et objet , Garcia’s “things” are so flat, so de-determined, that he is forced to renounce some of the most basic features ascribed to things by most realists. As he tells us in his foreboding third footnote: “We will maintain that the solitude [of things] is less than unity, less than identity, and that it does not imply acceptance (any more than refusal) of the principle of non-contradiction.” (11) In a contemporary world cluttered with too many things, Garcia’s flat and formal plane provides us with some breathing room: “The formal plan of thought enables or re-enables us to cut short all accumulation—whether of knowing, experience, or action—by a simplicity, an impoverished surface...” (13) As Garcia says elsewhere in responding to a Deleuzian critic of the book, his starting point in flat ontology is designed to obstruct the claims of both analytic philosophy and Hegelianism: “Hence, this work seeks to protect each thing—real, imaginary, inconsistent, contradictory—both against Ockham’s Razor and against the Aufhebung or dialectical process.” 18 Yet contrary to the equalizing spirit of many flat ontologies, “we will add to our formal ontology of the equal, an objective ontology of the unequal.” (13) But initially, Garcia joins all flat ontologists in holding that everything is irreducible: “this irreducibility, which we will term the ‘chance’ of each thing... also marks the refusal of a positive thought that reduces things exclusively to natural things, or social things, or historical things, etc.” (15) This irreducible “chance” of a thing emerges as an important technical term in the book, always paired with its inverted brother, the “price to pay” ( prix à payer ). On pages 17-19, we find the only diagrams in the book. What they illustrate is that Garcia wishes to avoid two equally dangerous extremes. The first is the philosophy of substance, featuring the thing-in-itself as a mighty river fed by attributes as if by subordinate tributary streams. This model can be found in many of the classic thinkers of West and East alike. In it, “there is obviously a hierarchization between that which is dragged towards something other than itself, and this other which serves it as an ontological support while supporting its proper being.” (16) For Garcia, the second extreme worth avoiding is the philosophy of events: “One thus conceives trajectories of being, identified as events, facts, powers, intensities, or intentionality. These vectors of being come first, bearing and supporting being, displacing it, but without ever finding a stopping point, a buffer, an objective consistency.” (17) The first model gives us a thing too wrapped up in itself, too compact . This word “compact” (the French and the English are the same) is another technical term for Garcia. But if the “compact” model of things leads us to something more than things, the philosophy of events gives us less than things, by dissolving them into a play of vectors. Garcia’s alternative lies midway between these two extremes: Being enters the thing, being comes out of it. And a thing is nothing other than the difference between the enters and the being that comes out. Thus, the circuit of being is never halted. In the thing, there is never the thing-in-itself. And the thing is never in-itself, but outside of itself. Nonetheless, being is not eventally “pollinated” by vectors: it possesses an objecting halting-point... (19) This single idea is the key to Garcia’s book: the thing is neither a self-contained durable lump nor some sort of evental flux. Instead, the thing is the difference between its various components and its relations with its environment. Or stated differently: “the price to pay for this disposition is a circulation of being that systematically distinguishes two senses of things: that which is in the thing , and that in which the thing is , or that which encompasses it and that which it encompasses,” (19) translating comprendre here as “encompass.” 19 In a beautiful description of a piece of black slate, Garcia sums up the various minerals, qualities, and shapes that compose [ comprend ] it, and calls them “that which is in the thing,” (20) noting that this tells us nothing about “that in which [the slate] is”—namely, all the various situations in which the black slate can be found. Instead, the slate is the difference between these two: the most characteristic principle of Garcia’s philosophy. 2. Formally Book One of Forme et objet , “Formally,” is concerned with the formal equality of all things in a flat world. “Two questions mark the boundaries of reflection: of what is everything composed [ composé ], and: what do all things compose?” (27) Looking downward, we wish to know what everything is made of; looking upward, we want to know the ultimate result of the combination of all things. Here we must turn our attention to the thing n’importe quoi— no matter what it is. (30) Anything with finite qualities is obviously too specific to be relevant to global ontological questions. To an equal degree, something possessing all qualities (think of Whitehead’s God) 20 would not be n’importe quoi either, since it would still be too definite, even if incredibly vast. The same holds for contradictions, since these all differ from each other. The square circle, the non-white black white, and the non-city city are all too distinct to count as the thing no matter what it is. The n’importe quoi must be devoid of all specific qualities, including contradictory ones. In one of the more intriguing points in his book, so reminiscent of Meinong, Garcia proclaims that “the ‘no matter what it is’ is neither a reality nor an abstract construction, nor both of these at once; the ‘no matter what it is’ is simply the plane of equality of that which is real, that which is possible, that which is inexistent, that which is past, that which is impossible, that which is true, that which is false, that which is bad.”(39-40) Since everything has two faces, it would be a grievous mistake to focus on just one of them at the expense of the other, as physicalism or materialism do when reducing the world to minuscule physical underpinnings. For scientistic materialism, “it is either atoms, particles, or fields of force... which are the things.” (47-48) Moreover, “these more-than-things are accompanied by less-than-things: for example, ideas or facts of consciousness are determined by the state of matter and are not autonomous things, but manifestations reduced to secondary effects of material processes...” (48) On this point, Garcia’s position is in complete accord with my own critique of undermining and overmining. 21 Where we disagree is that Garcia is more deeply suspicious of the notion of substance, which I view as salvageable with a few needed changes, while Garcia sees this operation as hopeless: “A substance, in the history of philosophy, is the more-than-thing par excellence.” (51) Another agreement between our positions is visible when Garcia claims (correctly, in my opinion) “that it is vain to distinguish between things which are material and those which are not.” (52) Yet we also find an even more important disagreement, since for Garcia withdrawal cannot be the quality of a thing. Instead, the absence of a thing is simultaneous with it, embodied in all that is not it– the absence of the sculpture of a woman is to be found in the mold that appears at the same time as it, and thus withdrawal must be viewed as an “event” rather than as something pertaining to an object. For Garcia, nothing withdraws beyond access. Since we must distinguish between “that which is something” and “that which something is,” and since the former is identified with “no matter what it is is” and the latter with “ not no matter what it is,” we can say that “everything is thus a milieu, a fragile link between ‘no matter what it is’ and ‘ not no matter what it is.’” (62) And here we find Garcia’s critique of the thing-in-itself: “A thing is never defined en bloc . We can affirm that a thing is this or that, but that does not suffice. It is still necessary to state precisely that which is this thing .” (62) Stated differently, “something is not in itself : for that which is in the thing is not the thing, and that in which the thing is is not the thing.” (62) And here Garcia and I, facing the same evidence, draw opposite conclusions. For me, the fact that nothing can be identified with either its components or its concrete location means that the thing must be something in-itself distinct from both of these. Yet for Garcia, to be in-itself would mean to be identified with just one of these two extreme terms, and hence the thing can only be the difference between them. Garcia is equally suspicious of the classical tendency to view “unity” as a property of the thing, since in his eyes unity is too relational a property to belong to things. (65) While specific things are situated determinately with respect to other things, we are still speaking here about the thing no matter what it is, and this can be viewed only in terms of solitude, which all things share: a human being, a hand, or a chair or all equally things insofar as they are on their own , not insofar as they are one . (64) A thing is alone, and relates only to the one thing that is not another thing: world. In a striking parallel to my own argument for a partial revival of occasionalism, Garcia tells us that “the things communicate only by their solitude: it is because everything is equally on its own in the world that things can be together, enmeshed in one another.” (67) Alone in their solitude, things all relate to world, which serves as a mediator allowing them to become mixed up in one another. As we have seen, one reason that nothing can be in itself is because everything is in something else. For Garcia, “to be in something and to be something are equivalent.” (69) Stated more broadly, “being is thus the difference between the two aspects of each thing: that which is it, and that which it is.” (70) And even more vividly: “a thing is almost like a sack: there is that which one puts in the sack and that which remains outside the sack.” (70) But not quite like a sack, “since a thing is not a thin skin or film. Instead, a thing is comparable to a sack that is immaterial and without thickness: it is nothing other than the difference between that which is this thing and that which thing is, between content and container.” (71) Nothing can be in-itself because everything is two selves at once. For example, we cannot say that our self is defined by our consciousness: “Everything has a self because nothing is in itself. The self is not the quality of that which is related to itself (which is conscious, for example) or which thinks itself related to itself. Nonetheless, for an entity called ‘conscious’ to be related to itself, it is necessary that this very relation should be another thing than the self to which it is related.” (71) Consciousness cannot be the self, precisely because it is other than that of which it is conscious. Nothing is able to grasp itself. The self is “the function by which being and composition [ compréhension ] are mutually excluded...” (72) The self is “the point of shadow of everything that projects some light...” (72) The in-itself faces two opposite dangers: “For something to be in-itself is to be a self. Something which is a self flies out through one of its two sides... Stated differently, being in-itself is simply the possibility of a double failure.” (73) The in-itself can be termed compact : “There remains to us a means of thinking that which does not fully enter into the world, though without exiting from it. This means is what we call the compact.” (76) In a sense, the compact is the opposite of the world. For in the case of the world, everything enters it and it enters nothing; as for the compact, it enters the world (since it is something, after all) while nothing enters it. (77) The compact marks the presence of the impossible in the world. (78) It is not impossible, but possible only on the condition that it fails. (78) The time has come to speak of where a thing is located. “The sole condition of a thing is that of being in another thing than itself, and thus in another thing than something.” (78) A condition is “that which determines something, that which forms something, that in which something is.” (78) As for humans, “the condition of someone is his situation; my social condition is that which socially determines me, my place and my function...” (79) More generally, “to be conditioned is to find oneself reduced to that in which one is.” (79) Everything is conditioned, but nothing is reducible to this condition. To determine the condition of something is to determine in what it is. A thing is located in that which contradicts it, just as a statue exists in its mold, which is precisely that which it is not. Since the thing is finite and definite, its condition or form must be infinite and indefinite. That in which all things are is the world, which Garcia also terms “the whole.” (81) “To try to be in-itself is to attempt to remain outside the world. And indeed, to try to be in-itself is only a path of entry into the world.” (83) For Garcia, “the world is not the pre-existent container of the things it contains, a priori , nor the construction by the mind of a fictional ensemble of all things, a posteriori .” (85) Instead, the world is simultaneous with all things; the two always go together. The world cannot be a determinate world, such as the physical universe or mathematical space, since these are already too specific and limited. “Every determinate world, which is in fact a universe , is a ‘big thing’ [ grosse chose ]: it is a set, however vast, of composite things which itself embodies a thing.” (85) Every determinate world is really just a “big thing.” Stated differently, “it is nothing other than a balanced milieu between the things that compose it and the thing that it composes.” (85) We generally picture the world as a physical univer. (shrink)
God Owes Us Nothing reflects on the centuries-long debate in Christianity: how do we reconcile the existence of evil in the world with the goodness of an omnipotent God, and how does God's omnipotence relate to people's responsibility for their own salvation or damnation. Leszek Kolakowski approaches this paradox as both an exercise in theology and in revisionist Christian history based on philosophical analysis. Kolakowski's unorthodox interpretation of the history of modern Christianity provokes renewed discussion about the historical, intellectual, and (...) cultural omnipotence of neo-Augustinianism. "Several books a year wrestle with that hoary conundrum, but few so dazzlingly as the Polish philosopher's latest."--Carlin Romano, Washington Post Book World "Kolakowski's fascinating book and its debatable thesis raise intriguing historical and theological questions well worth pursuing."--Stephen J. Duffy, Theological Studies "Kolakowski's elegant meditation is a masterpiece of cultural and religious criticism."--Henry Carrigan, Cleveland Plain Dealer. (shrink)
Biologists Richard Dawkins and Stephen Jay Gould have recently extended their decades-old disagreements about evolution to the issue of the nature and reality of evolutionary progress. According to Gould, 'progress' is a noxious notion that deserves to be expunged from evolutionary biology. In Dawkins' view, on the other hand, progress is one of the most important, pervasive and inevitable aspects of evolution. Simple appeals to 'the evidence' are clearly insufficient to resolve this disagreement, since it is precisely the interpretation (...) of the evidence that is in dispute. Scientific controversies in general, and the Dawkins/Gould dispute over evolutionary progress in particular, are worth examining in some detail because doing so sheds light on the interconnected roles of methodological and contextual factors in the formation, articulation and defense of scientific claims. My aim in this paper is to clarify the structure of the Dawkins/Gould dispute by analyzing it in terms of a tri-level model of scientific controversies, involving 'top-level' substantive disagreements, 'middle-level' methodological differences, and 'bottom-level' differences in historical and social factors. This simple three-tiered model is sufficiently abstract to have more general applicability to other scientific controversies. (shrink)
Stephen Kershnar (2004) recently argues that under its most plausible interpretation, equality of opportunity is simply not something worth pursuing; at least, not for itself. In this paper I try to show that even if we accept Kershnar's characterisation of equality of opportunity in terms of weighted aggregate chances, none of his objections succeed. Opportunities, not outcomes, are the appropriate focus of EO advocates; hedonic treadmills are irrelevant to the issue; we do not need to assume general equality (...) in some attribute to ground equality of opportunity; finally, it is possible to show that it is permissible to promote EO at some cost to other independent values. (shrink)
The government itself, which is the only mode which the people have chosen to execute their will, is equally liable [with the standing army] to be abused and perverted before the people can act through it. Witness the present Mexican war, the work of comparatively a few individuals using the standing government as their tool; for, in the outset, the people would not have consented to this measure. Henry Thoreau, in “Civil Disobedience”It is easy to say — and often is (...) said — that we cannot have tolerable relations with new revolutionary regimes. The problem is that our anticommunist paranoia has made it impossible to find out. We do not know whether Mao's declared interest in a relationship with the Americans in the 1940s or Ho Chi Minh's were sincere. And the reason we don't know is that we never tried to find out. Those who reported it was a possibility were hounded out of the foreign service because of our suspicion and fear of communism. The legacy of that era brings to mind Ivan the Terrible's practice of murdering the bearer of bad news. We are more civilized than that; we have been content simply to ruin people's careers. J. William Fulbright, in The Price of Empire (1989) This poisonous thing I'm trying to describe is [a] characteristic way of dealing with criticism. It used to be enough to brand a critic as a radical or a leftist to make people turn away. Now we need only to call him a liberal. Soon “moderate” will be the M word, “conservative” will be the C word and only fascists will be in the mainstream. E. L. Doctorow, Brandeis Commencement, May 21, 1989We have lived with violence for seven yearsIt was not worth one single lifeBut the patriot's fist is at her throatHer voice is in mortal danger...Adrienne Rich, “Natural Resources,” in Dream of a Common Language (Norton, 1978). (shrink)
Cet article questionne la relation de pensée entre Martin Heidegger et Ernst Jünger. Pour comprendre les motifs philosophiques qui la sous-tendent, nous situons Jünger dans la reconstruction heideggérienne de la métaphysique. On s’aperçoit alors que Heidegger mesure la pensée de Jünger en fonction de la place de Nietzsche dans l’histoire de la philosophie. Parce que Jünger appartient au paradigme nietzschéen, Heidegger le juge digne d’être lu, et critiqué, car Jünger n’a pas accompli le projet que Nietzsche a rendu possible en (...) signant l’achèvement de la métaphysique. C’est ce projet que Heidegger a adapté, en menant la pensée philosophique par-delà la métaphysique et en espérant un renouveau civilisationnel de l’Allemagne. Nietzsche se présente comme le pôle central de la relation entre Heidegger et Jünger: à travers sa lecture critique de Jünger, Heidegger mène un dialogue ininterrompu avec Nietzsche.This article investigates Martin Heidegger’s intellectual relation to Ernst Jünger. In order to show that Heidegger’s appraisal of Jünger is directly related to his understanding of Nietzsche’s pre-eminent standing in the history of Western philosophy, I situate Jünger in the Heideggerian reconstruction of the history of metaphysics. It is because Jünger belongs to the Nietzschean paradigm that Heidegger believes he is worth reading-but also worth criticizing Indeed, Jünger did not overtake the philosophical project that Nietzsche made possible by accomplishing the end of metaphysics. This is the very project adopted by Heidegger, first by thinking beyond metaphysics, and second by hoping Germany would turn towards a spiritual renewal of its civilization. Thus, since Nietzsche is the central figure who stands between Heidegger and Jünger, this article wishes to show that through his critical reading of Jünger, Heidegger in fact fosters a fundamental and uninterrupted dialogue with Nietzsche. (shrink)
Seattle, the city where I live, teach, and do physics research, is the home of Paul Allen’s new Science Fiction Museum (SFM), located in the Experience Music Project building at Seattle Center, in the shadow of the Space Needle. The SFM is well worth a visit, offering a fascinating display of collected TV and movie props (e.g., Captain Kirk’s Chair from Star Trek ), SF memorabilia, and treasured books and manuscripts from the classic works of science fiction. In early (...) December 2005, Stephen Hawking was on a fund-raising tour in celebration of.. (shrink)
There are intriguing hints in the works of Stanley Cavell and Stephen Mulhall of a possible connection between ethics and Wittgenstein’s remarks on private language, which are concerned with expressions of Empfindungen: feelings or sensations. The point of this paper is to make the case explicitly for seeing such a connection. What the point of that is I will address at the end of the paper. If Mulhall and Cavell both know their Wittgenstein and choose their words carefully, which (...) I will take as given, then the (to me) irresistible inference is that they see a connection between Wittgenstein’s thoughts on ethics and his thoughts on private language. Yet this connection has not, as far as I know, been made explicit. Can it be? Should it be? These are my questions. Even if no one ever intended a connection between the “Lecture on Ethics” and the remarks on private language, those remarks do at least touch on issues raised in the lecture, and it is worth thinking about what the author of those remarks would say about the lecture. So in this paper I summarize the “Lecture on Ethics” (in part I), look at the private language remarks themselves (in part II), and then apply some ideas from these remarks to the “Lecture on Ethics” in part III. My conclusion will be that Wittgenstein’s later remarks are largely consistent with his earlier ones, the main difference being that some of what he first called nonsense he later called secondary meaning. One result of this change is that attempts to express the feelings that Wittgenstein regards as fundamental to ethics, aesthetics, and religion are first treated as doomed to result in nonsense but later as risky. Like cries of pain, they might or might not find a sympathetic audience. (shrink)
This essay attempts to assess recent communitarian charges that liberalism cannot provide for genuine bonds of community or fraternity. Along with providing an analysis of fraternity, I argue that there is more common ground here than supposed by communitarians and l iberals alike. Communitarians often fail to see that liberal concerns for liberty and equality function as substantive constraints on the moral worth of fraternal bonds. On the other hand, insofar as liberals ignore fraternity, or see it as a (...) purely derivative ideal, they too make an important error. (shrink)
In late September 1838, Darwin read Malthus's Essay on Population, which left him with “a theory by which to work.”115 Yet he waited some twenty years to publish his discovery in the Origin of Species. Those interested in the fine grain of Darwin's development have been curious about this delay. One recent explanation has his hand stayed by fear of reaction to the materialist implications of linking man with animals. “Darwin sensed,” according to Howard Gruber, “that some would object to (...) seeing rudiments of human mentality in animals, while others would recoil at the idea of remnants of animality in man.”116 With this link closed, Darwin hung the materialist chain around his own neck, where it rested most uncomfortably. Stephen Gould, supporting Gruber's argument, finds evidence for this reconstruction in Darwin's M and N notebooks, whichinclude many statements showing that he espoused but feared to expose something he perceived as far more heretical than evolution itself: philosophical materialism-the postulate that matter is the stuff of all existence and that all mental and spiritual phenomena are its by-products. No notion could be more upsetting to the deepest traditions of Western thought than the statement that mind-however complex and powerful-is simply a product of brain.117The proferred hypothesis suggests, then, that Darwin was acutely sensible of the social consequences of equating men with animals and therefore mind with brian, and that he thus shied from publically revealing his views until the intellectual climate became more tolerant.The history I have examined makes this hypothesis implausible. Even if Darwin warily explored the implications of his emerging theory in his notebooks, his subsequent study of Fleming, Wells, Brougham, and Kirby should have quieted any trepidation. If these natural theologians did not flinch at seeing human reason prefigured in the mind of a worm, should Darwin have? Moreover, he recognized in his M notebook that the thesis of evolutionary continuity between men and animals did not require an explicit avowal of his conviction that brain was the agent of thought.118 And in any case, his materialism was of a rather benign sort; at least he so expressed it in an annotation in Abercrombie's Inquiries concerning the Intellectual Powers (1838): “By materialism I mean, merely the intimate connection of thought with form of brain — like kind of attraction with nature of element.”119 This belief would have held little terror for British intellectuals, who were quite familiar — some even comfortable-with Locke's anti-Cartesian argument that there was nothing contradictory in supposing God could make matter to think.120 Finally, even if the intellectual atmosphere of early nineteenth-century Britain were inhospitable to Darwin's brand of materialism, there is little reason to believe he breathed a different air at mid-century while preparing his manuscript.That Darwin should not have feared suspicions of materialism, of course, does not mean that he did not. But I think there were other, more persistent sources of anxiety that kept him from rushing to publish: namely, the several conceptual obstacles he had to overcome if his theory of evolution by natural selection were to be made scientifically acceptable. Prominent among these were the problems surrounding his changing notions of instinct.The inertia of his older ideas about instinct at first made it hard for Darwin to gauge how far the theory of natural selection might be applied to behavior. By the early 1840s he finally felt ready to meet the challenge of the natural theologians by providing a naturalistic explanation for the wonderful instincts of animals. In his “Essays” of 1842 and 1844 one sort of instinct is, however, not considered-that of neuter insects. Yet Darwin seems to have appreciated the difficulties such instincts entailed at least by 1843, when he read Kirby and Spence. He simply required time to work out a solution to a problem he initially perceived as “fatal to my whole theory.” Even while writing the “Species Book” in the summer of 1857, he was still juggling several possible solutions compatible with natural selection. It was only a short time before he actually turned to work on the Origin of Species that he appears to have settled on a single explanation for the difficulties posed by the instincts of worker bees and ants. The force of his theory of community selection snapped the last critical support of the creationist hypothesis and, conveniently enough, also fractured the generalized Lamarckian account of the evolution of behavior. These results were worth waiting for. (shrink)
John Maynard Smith, one of the world's leading evolutionary biologists, recently summarized in the NYRB the sharply conflicting assessments of Stephen Jay Gould: "Because of the excellence of his essays, he has come to be seen by non-biologists as the preeminent evolutionary theorist. In contrast, the evolutionary biologists with whom I have discussed his work tend to see him as a man whose ideas are so confused as to be hardly worth bothering with, but as one (...) who should not be publicly criticized because he is at least on our side against the creationists." (NYRB, Nov. 30th 1995, p. 46). No one can take any pleasure in the evident pain Gould is experiencing now that his actual standing within the community of professional evolutionary biologists is finally becoming more widely known. If what was a stake was solely one man's self-regard, common decency would preclude comment. (shrink)
This work is in two parts. The main aim of part 1 is a systematic examination of deductive, probabilistic, inductive and purely inductive dependence relations within the framework of Kolmogorov probability semantics. The main aim of part 2 is a systematic comparison of (in all) 20 different relations of probabilistic (in)dependence within the framework of Popper probability semantics (for Kolmogorov probability semantics does not allow such a comparison). Added to this comparison is an examination of (in all) 15 purely inductive (...) dependence relations. ————Part 1 leads in an axiomatic step-by-step development from the elementary classical truth value semantics of a sentential-logical language, called ‘L’, (chapter 1) to the elementary Kolmogorov probability semantics of L (chapter 2), which is then extended to four axiomatic semantical theories of dependence relations between the formulae of L. First the elementary Kolmogorov probability semantics of L is extended to a theory, called ‘Kdd’, of the relations of deductive dependence and deductive independence between formulae of L (chapter 3). Then Kdd is extended to a theory, called ‘Kpd1’, of the degree to which formulae of L probabilistically depend on each other in regard to a given probability distribution on the set of all formulae of L (chapter 4). Kpd1, in its turn, gets extended to a theory, called ‘Kpd2’, of the relations of probabilistic dependence and independence, relativized to unary Kolmogorov probability functions defined on L (chapter 5). Then Kpd2 is extended to a theory, called ‘Kid’, of the relations of inductive dependence and inductive independence, again relativized to unary Kolmogorov probability functions defined on L (chapter 6). Finally, Kid is extended to a theory, called ‘Kpid’, of the relations of purely inductive positive and negative dependence, relativized to unary Kolmogorov probability functions defined on L (chapter 7). ——Chapter 1, which deals with the familiar notions of truth value functions, tautologies, consequence relations and relations of logical opposition, is naturally the shortest chapter of part 1.——In chapter 2, the elementary classical semantics of L is extended to the elementary Kolmogorov probability semantics of L, i.e. to an axiomatic theory of unary and of binary Kolmogorov probability functions defined on the set of formulae of L. Because of the elementary character of this theory, chapter 2 is also rather short.——Chapter 3 introduces the first theory on dependence relations, to wit: Kdd, the theory of deductive (in)dependence between formulae of L. I follow here the well-known idea of Popper and Miller, who have used it in a famous discussion on the nature of probabilistic support for their arguments that probabilistic support is deductive, not inductive. I develop Kdd in the form of about 100 theorems, making ample use of the fact that deductive independence is nothing but subcontrary opposition, and close with a remark on the fundamental difference between deductive and logical dependence—two relations the ideas of which are all too easily mixed up.——Chapters 4 and 5 deal extensively with the traditional ideas of probabilistic (in)dependence, applied to formulae rather than to events. As always, I proceed axiomatically in a step-by-step process under systematic viewpoints and obtain about 300 theorems in this way. In the formulation of the theorems, I took special care to state clearly and expressly so-called tacit assumptions, especially those concerning the probability values of the formulae said to be dependent on each other. These assumptions are usually missing in the literature, due either to economy of writing or to sloppiness of thinking. Presumably, both chapters contain little that is new, their value lying more in the systematic grouping and organic development of the theorems than in the newness of these.——In chapter 6, I extend the axiomatic theory about probabilistic (in)dependence which has been elaborated in chapter 5, to an axiomatic theory of inductive (in)dependence by requiring of the relation of inductive (in)dependence that it be probabilistic (in)dependence, but not also logical implication or logical opposition. I point out the differences between probabilistic and inductive (in)dependence by means of some 60 theorems and close my examination of inductive (in)dependence by considering its relationship to the notion of support in the philosophy of science.——Finally, in chapter 7, the last of part 1, I take the step from inductive dependence to what I call ‘purely inductive dependence’ by combining the idea of inductive dependence with that of deductive independence in a way which is suggested by writings of Popper and Miller. I arrive at two noteworthy theorems. Firstly, there is indeed no purely inductive support. But secondly, and perhaps amazingly, countersupport is purely inductive.————Whereas the probabilistic framework of part 1 of the present work is Kolmogorov probability semantics, the framework of part 2 is Popper probability semantics, which is not only worth examining as a fascinating alternative to orthodox Kolmogorov probability semantics, but also allows us to examine dependence relations more deeply, than Kolmogorov probability semantics does. Part 2 leads—again in an axiomatic step-by-step development—from the basic Popper probability semantics of L, called ‘Pb’, (chapter 8) via a probabilistic theory of logical attributes, called ‘Ps’, (chapter 9) to four axiomatic semantical theories of dependence relations between the formulae of L. First, Ps is extended to a theory, called ‘Pdd’, of the relations of deductive dependence and deductive independence between formulae of L (chapter 10). Then Pdd is extended to a theory, called ‘Ppd’, of (in all) 20 relations of probabilistic (in)dependence, relativized to binary Popper probability functions defined on L (chapter 11). Ppd, in its turn, is extended to a theory, called ‘Pid’, of (in all) 10 relations of inductive dependence, again relativized to binary Popper probability functions defined on L (first part of chapter 12). Finally, Pid is extended to a theory, called ‘Ppid’, of (in all) 15 relations of purely inductive positive and negative dependence, relativized to binary Popper probability functions defined on L (second part of chapter 12).——Chapter 8, the first chapter of part 2 of the present work, is entirely preparatory. It introduces the axioms and about 180 theorems (150 of them together with their proofs) of basic Popper probability semantics in order to set this kind of semantics under way.——Then, in chapter 9, basic Popper probability semantics is extended to a probabilistic theory of logical properties of and relations between the formulae of L. Although I think that the way I did this extension is of some interest in itself, the main task of chapter 9 is again a preparatory one: to yield the indispensable lemmata (about 90 in number) for the theorems concerning probabilistic dependence relations in chapter 11 and concerning inductive dependence relations in chapter 12.——Chapter 10 brings the extension of Ps to the theory Pdd of deductive (in)dependence. Only half a dozen theorems are noted here for later use in the Pdd-extensions Ppd and Ppid. In view of the over 100 theorems already gained on this topic in the Kolmogorovian framework (cf. chapter 3), a similar extensive elaboration of Pdd would have been superfluous.——Chapter 11 is the most important one of part 2. It consists of a systematic comparison of 20 probabilistic (in)dependence concepts by means of about 230 theorems, obtained within the axiomatic theory Ppd, which is built up as an extension of Pdd. The main points of comparison were: differences in logical strength; reflexivity and symmetry; behaviour under the condition that the probability values of the formulae in question are extreme. It turned out that each of the examined concepts violates a strong and straightforward version of the intuitive requirement that probabilistic dependence should go with logical dependence. Whereas the corresponding chapter 5 in part 1 of the present work may not have led to new theorems, chapter 11 yields dozens of them in the process of comparison of concepts of dependence and independence which had—as far as I know—never before been treated in a single theoretical framework. With Popper probability semantics, this framework has become available, and here I have simply made full use of it.——In chapter 12, I extend the theory Ppd of probabilistic (in)dependence to the theories Pid and Ppid of inductive and purely inductive dependence, in a way very similar to that in which I have extended the theory Kpd2 to the theories Kid and Kpid in chapters 6 and 7. The first main result of Kpid (roughly: there is no purely inductive support) could be repeated for four of the five purely inductive positive dependence relations considered in chapter 12, whereas the second main result of Kpid (roughly: there is purely inductive countersupport ) could be repeated for each of the five examined purely inductive negative dependence relations. Chapter 12 closes with a brief recapitulation and critical discussion of the main results. (shrink)
Many writers in various fields--philosophy, religion, literature, and psychology--believe that the question of the meaning of life is one of the most significant problems that an individual faces. In The Meaning of Life, Second Edition, E.D. Klemke collects some of the best writings on this topic, primarily works by philosophers but also selections from literary figures and religious thinkers. The twenty-seven cogent, readable essays are organized around three different perspectives on the meaning of life. In Part I, the readings assert (...) and defend the theistic view that without the existence of God--or faith in God--life has no significance or purpose. In Part II the selections deny this thesis, defending instead the humanistic alternative--that life has or can have meaning and worth without any theistic beliefs or commitment. In the final group of readings, contributors ask if the question of the meaning of life is in itself legitimate and significant. The volume also includes an introduction by the editor and a selected bibliography. This new edition adds essays by A. J. Ayer, Hazel Barnes, William Lane Craig, Owen Flanagan, Antony Flew, Thomas Nagel, Kai Nielsen, Philip L. Quinn, Arthur Schopenhauer, and Walter T. Stace. The only anthology of its kind, The Meaning of Life, Second Edition, is ideal for courses in introduction to philosophy and human nature. It also provides an accessible and stimulating introduction to the subject for general readers. (shrink)
continent. 1.3 (2011): 158-170. The Fragment as a Unit of Prose Composition: An Introduction —Ben Segal The fragment, the note, the idea, the aphorism even: there are many names and as many uses for such small shards of free-floating text. Typically fragments are less works than gestures, arrows pointing in the direction a person might research, meditate on or develop. Unlike paragraphs or sentences, they do not flow directly from and into their bordering text. Instead they are independent, defined by (...) their singularity, by the white space that encases them on a page – even when they are cobbled together and marshaled into service as the contents of a book. Still, though not exceedingly common, books of fragments (or notes or what-have-yous) do exist. However they are labeled, the very aloofness of disconnected micro-texts allows them certain privileges and possibilities that a writer can employ and exploit. In such instances, the book of fragments may, almost paradoxically, gain a coherence as a singular work, all the more satisfying for its fractures. Two such books are Maggie Nelson's Bluets and Evan Lavender-Smith's From Old Notebooks . In this mini-feature, continent. is pleased to present a series of excerpts from each of these books, a selection of 'outtakes' – fragments that did not make it into the final manuscripts – from each, and short interviews with both Nelson and Lavender-Smith about the fragment as a literary device. Notes on the interviews: 1) Since this feature includes excerpts and outtakes from both Bluets and From Old Notebooks , I chose to ask both Nelson and Lavender-Smith similar questions about working with the fragment as the building-block of a larger work. This means that the questions are, for the most part, more concerned with things like form than about specific passages from the books. 2) In both interviews, I ask a question that cites The Literary Absolute . It should be noted that TLA is concerned with the fragment as developed and understood in the context of the Jena Romantics (the Schlegel brothers, Novalis, etc.), not necessarily the fragment in general. Maggie Nelson Interview: 1. "Bluet" conjures a constellation of similar words. These include Blue, Bullet, and the flower to which the word actually refers. I'm wondering if this range is intentional and if there's anything I'm leaving out. Or, more simply, can you talk a little about the title? I first got interested in the word BLUETS via the painter Joan Mitchell, about whom I’d written earlier in my book on women and the New York School. LES BLUETS is the name of one of my very favorites of all her paintings; she painted it the year I was born. Later the poet Jimmy Schuyler wrote a lovely prose poem about this painting, which I also adored, and which I’ve also written about. So the word had been in my mind for some time, as had her amazing painting (which is in several panels, so also in parts—i.e. in dialogue with questions of parts/wholes). While it was in progress, I always called BLUETS “The Blue Book.” But I knew I always wanted an eventual title that referred, however obliquely, to the book’s form. In this case, the form is notably PLURAL, as is BLUETS, which seemed right. Also, I have always pronounced BLUETS “bluettes,” which is kind of a personal joke about feminization. Like, “majorettes,” etc. It’s a joke because I think the book has a lot to do with the robustness of being a female human, so I found irony in the diminutive nature of the suffix. I also liked the fact that the word means a kind of flower, as it allowed each proposition, or whatever you might call each numbered section, to be thought of as a single flower in a bouquet. This sounds cheesy here, but I think I talk about this idea in a less cheesy way in the book itself, near the end, when I’m ruminating on its composition, and its surprising (to me) slimness, or “anemia.” 2. I know you've thought (and taught) about the fragment as a mode of writing. I'm wondering how your study of the form influences the way you use it. While writing a book, I’m influenced by things the same way I would imagine most writers are: I look for what I want to steal, then I steal it, and make my own weird stew of the goods. Often while writing I’d re-read the books by Barthes written in fragments— A Lover’s Discourse , Roland Barthes by Roland Barthes —and see what he gained from an alphabetical, somewhat random organization, and what he couldn’t do that way. I mostly read Wittgenstein, and watched how he used numbered sections to think sequentially, and to jump, in turn. I read Shonagon’s The Pillow Book , and tried to keep a pillow book about blue for some time. (It didn’t last long, as an exercise, but some of the entries made it into BLUETS.) I re-read Haneke’s Sorrow Beyond Dreams , which finally dissolves into fragments, after a fairly strong chronological narrative has taken him so far. In the course I taught on the fragment, which was somewhat after the fact of writing BLUETS, but conceived in relation to it, we studied a kind of taxonomy of fragments: the decayed fragment (Sappho); the contemporary fragment (text messages, twitter, blog posts, etc.); the modernist fragment (T.S. Eliot; fragment as mark of psychological disintegration); Freud’s fragment (dreams, slips, etc. as thruways to the unconscious; the sampled or plagiarized fragment; fragment as waste, excess, or garbage; the footnote; fragment as frame (Degas, Manet); life narrative as fragment: we can’t see the whole until we’re dead, and then we can’t see it (pathos); fragment as psychological terror (castration, King’s head); fragment as fetish, or as “organ-logic,” as pornography; fragment as metonym & synecdoche; fragment as that which is preserved, or that which remains; fragment as the unfinished or the abandoned; and so on and so forth. I think, in the back of my mind, I was aware of all these categories while writing BLUETS, and put them each into play as needed while writing. The book seems to me hyper-aware of the fragment as fetish, as catastrophe, as leftover, as sample or citation, as memory, and so on. Many of the anecdotes in the book (such as about the decay of blue objects I’ve collected, or my memory of a particularly acute shade of blue, or the recountings of dreams) perform these concepts quite directly. 3. In The Literary Absolute , Philippe Lacoue-Labarthe and Jean-Luc Nancy write that "each fragment stands for itself and for that from which it has been detached."(44) They go on to explain that the fragment is both "sub-work" (in the obvious sense of being only a small piece of the Work), but also "super-work", as it stands, complete in itself, outside the work and calls up the plural potentiality of the work. What do you make of this idea and how do you understand the relation of the fragment to the Work as a whole? I like the idea of the “super-work,” the fragment that indicates the whole it has been excised from. However, on a concrete level, I don’t think that’s really true of BLUETS. Some of the propositions are very much in dialogue with the ones that have come before it, acting as rebuffs, or conclusions, or swerves. To detect their motion, one has to already be in the car. Often they are as short as: “ Disavowal , says the silence,” or “As if we could scrape the color off the iris and still see,” or “In any case, I am no longer counting the days.” These don’t make much sense outside of their context. Although, now that I’ve isolated just these few, I can see that they might gesture to the whole—but I think you’d have to know what the whole was, for the exercise to feel full. I am interested, however, in the notion of collecting, of a collection—and how to know when to stop, when you’ve amassed enough. While writing BLUETS, I thought of Joseph Cornell as the ultimate teacher in this respect: he collected enormous amounts of junk, he “hunted” for treasures all over the city, but each box or collage or even film has a certain minimalism, each feels as if it’s been distilled to become exactly as specific as it should be. In other words, the composition emanates from the piles of junk left in its wake, but it in itself becomes perfect. It may be unfashionable, but I’m interested in this sense of perfection. 3b. Fragments collected together become a whole that gestures to dozens of other, potential wholes. How, if at all, do you think about your book in relation to the preservation of potentiality? I have to admit, I don’t entirely understand this question. Preservation of potentiality—that’s what I don’t quite understand. I will say this, though: writing a book, especially a book of this kind (i.e. I’d wanted to write a book on the color blue for my whole life), has a certain pain in it—the pain of manifestation. Every word that gets set down, every decision made—form, content, sentence structure, image—begins to define a work that previously was a kind of infinitely indeterminate mental cloud, or beautifully diffuse physical sensation. As the book comes into being, I’m often thinking, “this is it? this is all it’s going to be?” For me, I think it’s this feeling, rather than that of not having anything to say, or a terror of the blank page, that can bring a sort of writer’s block. Think of Lily Briscoe at the end of Woolf’s To the Lighthouse —after her long reverie, she eventually must make the mark on the canvas. She brings the brush down, then sighs: “There, I have had my vision.” To have made the mark, to have manifested the vision, brings with it a certain satisfaction, a certain euphoria and relief—but also a brand of pathos. Of all the possible books, you wrote this book. Of all the possible brush strokes, you made this one. How very strange! The good news is, you’re usually so tired when you finish a book that you don’t care anymore—you’re just happy it’s finished, and that you can move on. And if you’re lucky, you may eventually marvel at the specificity of the result, feel the magic and largesse in its specificity, in its singularity. I feel this way about BLUETS. 4. Can you talk a little about the way traditional prose standbys like character and narrative develop out of distinct and disconnected fragments? I feel like this definitely happens in Bluets as well as other texts that use a similar approach. BLUETS always had a specific set of dramatic personae, and also a sort of narrative arc. It begins by saying, “Suppose I were to begin,” which places the whole book, at least for me, in the realm of the novelistic, or at least the speculative. That freedom was important to me while writing. I have a lot of issues, for lack of a better word, with narrative, but I also have no problem with trying to structure a work so that it acts as a page-turner. I wanted there to be a lot of momentum in this book, as well as plenty of opportunities for eddying out into cul-de-sacs. That was the tension—how to make some chains of propositions that pull you forward, and then allow for some to bring you so far afield that you might find yourself wondering, “why are we talking about this here?” before remembering how you got there, and why it might matter. While some of the fragments may seem disconnected or distinct, the truth is that they each had to fall into one the book’s major categories, which included love, language, sex, divinity, alcohol, pain, death, and problems of veracity/perception. If I truly couldn’t tether an anecdote or factoid to the thread, it eventually had to go. I also spaced out the distinct threads fairly methodically, and had the characters reappear at a fairly regular rate. There’s even a kind of “where are they now?” section at the end, announced by my injured friend’s letter to her friends, in which she tells them how her spinal cord injury has affected her life, and how she feels today. I’m sure one could write a book of very disconnected fragments that didn’t so overtly weave into a whole—I’ve read many of them—but it’s also true that the mind will always work overtime to put disparate things together; the Surrealists mined that tendency for all it was worth. I think that’s a cool approach, to let the reader make the connections, but it’s important to me as a writer to make sure that the connections, when made, actually point toward what I want to be pointing at, rather than just reflecting the human brain’s capacity to make a bridge. 5. To what extent does how you label your texts matter? What is the difference between notes, fragments, bluets, and aphorisms? Basically, is taxonomy important? Taxonomy, hmm. At some point I was very compelled by issues of taxonomy, but over the years I’ve grown less interested in the question, as the notion of the “hybrid” or the “cross-genre” seems to have become its own kind of jargon or pitch. I got very excited some time ago when I was trying to subtitle my book JANE, and I came across Brian Evenson’s book DARK PROPERTY: AN AFFLICTION. I thought—of course! A book can be a CONDITION rather than a GENRE. So I subtitled JANE “A Murder,” with this concept in mind. My most recent book, THE ART OF CRUELTY, I subtitled “a reckoning,” using the same logic. This has been one means of skirting the whole genre issue. On the other hand, I don’t really like it when people called BLUETS “notes” or “aphorisms,” or “fragments,” because it’s not really any of those things. Aphoristic philosophy—which was one of this book’s inspirations—is not made up of just aphorisms per se. There may be great aphorisms to be found in Nietzsche or Wittgenstein, for example, but neither is writing a series of one-liners. Their projects are bigger than that. They are in dialogue with argumentation as much as with impression. Likewise, I don’t really see BLUETS as poetry. I mean, I don’t care if someone wants to call it that—if they do, it happily expands the notion of poetry—but I’ve written enough poetry to have a lot of respect for its particular tools, which include the line break, and forms of logic unavailable to prose. BLUETS thinks in prose; it is written in prose. It sometimes thinks in images, and sometimes in sound, but essentially it is about sentences, and about trains of prose logic and their limits. But if someone wants to call it poetry, I wouldn’t go to the mat about it. 6. Are there other texts (of or about fragments) that you'd like to recommend? Texts about fragments to recommend: Here are the ones that come immediately to mind: The Notebooks of Joseph Joubert , Anne Carson’s If Not, Winter , Stevie Smith, “The Person from Porlock,” the poetry of Lorine Niedecker, Lucille Clifton, and Paul Celan, Tom Phillips’s A Humument , Ann Lauterbach’s essay on “the whole fragment,” Linda Nochlin, The Body in Pieces , Mary Ann Caws, The Surrealist Look , Heather McHugh, Poetry and Partiality . And the drawings of David Shrigley 7. And finally, is there anything you wish I would have asked? Please ask/answer if so. No, I’m happy with these questions!! The Beginning of Bluets (An Excerpt) 1. Suppose I were to begin by saying that I had fallen in love with a color. Suppose I were to speak this as though it were a confession; suppose I shredded my napkins as we spoke. It began slowly. An appreciation, an affinity. Then, one day, it became more serious. Then (looking into an empty teacup, its bottom stained with thin brown excrement coiled into the shape of a sea horse) it became somehow personal. 2. And so I fell in love with a color – in this case, the color blue – as if falling under a spell, a spell I fought to stay under and get out from under, in turns. 3. Well, and what of it? A voluntary delusion, you might say. That each blue object could be a kind of burning bush, a secret code meant for a single agent, an X on a map too diffuse ever to be unfolded in entirety but that contains the knowable universe. How could all the shreds of blue garbage bags stuck in brambles, or the bright blue tarps flapping over ever shanty and fish stand in the world, be, in essence, the fingerprints of God? I will try to explain this. 4. I admit that I may have been lonely. I know that loneliness can produce bolts of hot pain, a pain which, if it stays hot enough for long enough, can begin to stimulate, or to provoke – take your pick – an apprehension of the divine. ( This ought to arouse our suspicions. ) 5. But first, let us consider a sort of case in reverse. In 1867, after a long bout of solitude, the French poet Stéphane Mallarmé wrote to his friend Henri Cazalis: “These last months have been terrifying. My Thought has thought itself through and reached a Pure Idea. What the rest of me has suffered during that long agony, is indescribable.” Mallarmé described this agony as a battle that took place on God's “boney wing.” “I struggled with that creature of ancient and evil plumage – God – whom I fortunately defeated and threw to earth,” he told Cazalis with exhausted satisfaction. Eventually Mallarmé began replacing “le ciel” with “l'Azur” in his poems, in an effort to rinse references to the sky of religious connotations. “Fortunately,” he wrote Cazalis, “I am quite dead now.” 6. The half-circle of blinding turquoise ocean is this love's primal scene. That this blue exists makes my life a remarkable one, just to have seen it. To have seen such beautiful things. To find oneself placed in their midst. Choiceless. I returned there yesterday and stood again upon the mountain. 7. But what kind of love is it, really? Don't fool yourself and call it sublimity. Admit that you have stood in front of a little pile of ultramarine pigment in a glass cup at a museum and felt stinging desire. But to do what? Liberate it? Purchase it? Ingest it? There is so little blue food in nature – in fact blue in the wild tends to mark food to avoid (mold, poisonous berries) – that culinary advisers generally recommend against blue light, blue paint, and blue plates when and where serving food. But while the color may sap appetite in the most literal sense, it feeds it in others. You might want to reach out and disturb the pile of pigment, for example, first staining your fingers with it, then staining the world. You might want to dilute it and swim in it, you might want to rouge your nipples with it, you might want to paint a virgins robe with it. But you still wouldn't be accessing the blue of it. Not exactly. 8. Do not, however, make the mistake of thinking that all desire is yearning. “We love to contemplate blue, not because it advances to us, but because it draws us after it,” wrote Goethe, and perhaps he is right. But I am not interested in longing to live in a world in which I already live. I don't want to yearn for blue things, and God forbid, for any “blueness.” Above all, I want to stop missing you. 9. So please do not write to tell me about any more beautiful blue things. To be fair, this book will not tell you about any, either. It will not say, Isn't X beautiful? Such demands are murderous to beauty. 10. The most I want to do is show you the end of my index finger. Its muteness. Bluets that did not make the final version of Bluets We think of a glowing chunk of sapphire, for instance, or a pane of Chartres stained glass, as luminous, and God knows they are. But such luminosity doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with clarity . To call something a false idol is to elevate it to the company of deities, even if one eventually casts it down (cf. Milton giving Lucifer the best speeches). For the truth is that I have never really understood what love and will have to do with each other. Following the blue, as if tracking a trail of decomposing crumbs left in the woods by a benevolent or absentminded stranger, is, at times, the best I can do. Joan Mitchell: so beautiful and athletic when young; so craggy and indomitable as she aged—in both cases, without vanity —like my Swedish grandparents, whom I barely knew, but whom I remember as being tan and fair at the same time, prematurely decimated by morning vodka with OJ and an endless boil of cigarettes. Do not think, however, that this is a scrapbook in which blue is the star and I its delirious fan. For it is a mistake to think of blue as separate from us. It is the bulge of the carotid against the bracket of your skin. It is the matrix of veins that enlaces your heart. At one point during this period, Klein—no stranger to grandiosity—“signed the sky.” He also arranged performances at which he dipped naked women from head to toe in IKB blue, rolled an enormous canvas out on the floor, and instructed the women to drag each other around on top of it while a string quartet played nearby. He called the women “human paintbrushes.” In both cases, I have arguably been nothing more than a child of illusion. Beethoven felt differently. “Can you lend me the Theory of Colours for a few weeks?” he wrote to a friend in 1820. “It is an important work. His last things are insipid.” There would seem to be a lesson here, but I am not prepared to describe it. “They feel as though if you fell into them you would be trapped and unable to breathe, choked and suffocated by the powdery pigment,” wrote Berger of Klein’s IKB monochromes. At times I look forward to this ravaging, if only because it represents all that I am supposed to fear, and because, if one manages to live long enough, it seems something of an inevitability, and looking forward to an inevitability seems at least an approximation of spiritual wisdom. In the far-off blue places, one finds oneself face to face with one’s stupidity. The cradle of it. It is a tremendous relief. Instead of sputtering forth a gargle, a howl, or an assertoric proposition, one can remain silent, stupefied. It is as if one’s tongue had been sewn, at long last, into its den. For one does not just seek oblivion. One can also find it. Sometimes one can even purchase it. Of the oblivion seekers themselves, Eberhardt says simply: “They are people who like their pleasure.” Caravaggio is a serious painter. He does not use blue. Neither does Goya, nor Velasquez. They are tenebrists , not denizens of the carnival. The blues of Picasso and Matisse, even in their most melancholy applications, do not strike me as altogether serious. The blues of Joseph Cornell, Hiroshige, Fra Angelico, and Cézanne, on the other hand, strike me as quite serious. The blue of Vermeer is simply too painful to discuss here. Let us leave the woman in blue alone with her letter. Let us leave her transfixed, standing on the bright edge of the earth, about to fall. In the Middle Ages, it was commonly thought that the most powerful mordant was a drunk man’s piss: yet another instance in which alcohol fastens the blue. But one can, I think, feel similarly bound, without the spirit. And when Cornell made Rose Hobart , he had to snip away 57½ minutes of the original film in order to showcase the object of his desire. Love, too, can sometimes be a condensery . On the other hand, speaking through the voice of the Egyptian god Thamus, Socrates comes down fairly forcefully for poison : “This discovery of yours [i.e. writing] will create forgetfulness in the learners’ souls, because they will not use their memories; they will trust to the external written characters and not remember of themselves. The specific which you have discovered is an aid not to memory, but to reminiscence, and you give your disciples not truth, but only the semblance of truth.” But what has a soul to do with memory? I admit that here I run out of ideas; I must again consult the Encyclopedia. “Much of our moral life depends on the peculiar ways in which we are embedded in time.” This has the aura of truth, but really it takes us no further. For what has morality to do with memory, or with a soul? Instead of a roving dialogue unfolding under the shade of a plane tree, this is more like a coarse talk show taking place in a hall of mirrors: no guests, one host. To do: make a list of people who seem to have found some dignity in their loneliness, and consult it when I feel constitutionally incapable of abiding my own. “Frequent tears have run the colours from my life” (Elizabeth Barrett Browning). Does it follow, in spiritual matters, that one’s doubt is surrounded by a plateau of certainty? “Whosoever unceasingly strives upward, him can we save,” wrote Goethe. But who is to say that faith isn’t the abyss, and doubt the surrounding peaks? For while we may have learned the names for these things, articulation is still a form of accommodation. We stutter to each other in a sort of shorthand, at times carving out shapely analogies. But we cannot be sure that we are talking about the same things, or that we are employing the same code. —But now you are talking as if you were drowning, your lungs swollen with expired air. Why not just give up the dive? In which case you could start swimming along the surface: a cold spot here, a warm patch there. Same pond. Remember: the knights pure enough to enter the presence of the Holy Grail never return. It is only those who have been “incompletely transformed” who come back to tell the tale. And some seekers don’t come back from the wilderness as shamans, but rather as brain-damaged vegetables whose musculature now resembles gelatin. Remember this if someone appears in a field of chollas, hands you a loincloth and a tab of pure blotter acid with one hand, and keeps the other out of sight. We might here note that Andy Warhol was also, for a time, riveted by blue pussy. His blue pussy was a beatific cat, gazing upward from the last page of his 1954 book of watercolors, 25 Cats Name Sam and One Blue Pussy , looking as if he were happily anticipating “pussy heaven,” as Warhol elsewhere termed the feline afterlife. Perhaps, then, the mistake is to look for a vividness, or a sweetness, apart from illusion. In which case we waste much precious time warding off the specter of the mirage . In such moments, death itself may appear a light-hearted occurrence. Evan Lavender-Smith Interview: 1) Do you consider From Old Notebooks (FON) to be a kind of constraint writing? I guess it would have been more of a constraint if you'd only culled things from your notes instead of writing pieces specifically for/relating to FON. I certainly think that the book shares something important with constraint writing, as I think it does with conceptual writing, although I don't know that it fits neatly into either of these categories. Perhaps it's a kind of faux-constraint or -conceptual writing. The book's primary constraint—only things written in notebooks are allowed —sort of collapses under the weight of its own self-reflexivity; as you say, the entries become about the book itself, which I think ends up undermining or subjugating the austerity we associate with a more typical constraint-based writing. I suppose there's also a secondary constraint associated with the structure of the book and the ordering of the entries, this zany process whereby I classified entries according to a number (1 through 12, I think) referencing subject/theme, then deleted all of the entries leaving only their reference numbers, then arranged the numbers in something resembling sonata form, then plugged all the entries back into their placeholders. But that's a very secret, Roussel-type constraint, one that perhaps does not do much to create a noticeable intensity of constraint. And also I ended up making many revisions to the order of the entries that broke with the output of my secret formula. So yes, I think something like "sham constraint" writing is probably a more appropriate designation. 2) FON is very often self-reflective, often feels as if it is struggling to pin itself down. I'm wondering if the form (disjointed notes) allows for that kind of reflection to creep in repeatedly without weighing down the whole book. Does the ability to ask a question and then immediately head off in a totally different direction free you to be self-doubting without wallowing? Does this question make sense? Maybe I should ask more generally what kinds of content does this form afford that more traditionally structured work might not? I am hopeful that the self-reflexivity is less cloying in this book than I find it to be in other highly self-reflexive texts on account of what you mention, the ability of the book to veer off in another direction nearly every time an instance of explicit self-reflexivity occurs. I would say this is also the case with respect to the book's many instances of pathos and sentiment or even bathos and sentimentality: whenever the book broaches sentimentality in an entry, it is followed by another entry about something totally different, which can serve to undercut the sentiment of the previous entry. And this is probably also the case with the book's movement toward and immediately away from entries/fragments dealing with specific literary or philosophical texts/authors with which some readers may be unfamiliar, insofar as one entry might concern Kant's transcendental idealism and the next entry the color of my infant son's poo. The book is quite contrapuntal, in this respect, which is one of the things that original structuring scheme was meant to effect. As to alternative or unusual kinds of content afforded by the book's form, I'd like to think they are many, but I have always been most excited by what I perceive to be the book's presentation of a kind of form-becoming-content, this process by which the reader is engaged with form as he might otherwise be with character, or with setting, or with plot—part of what's driving the reading experience may be the reader's sense of an evolving form, a form that begins somewhat expositionally, that becomes somewhat conflicted and tense, and that finally achieves a kind of resolution. But, from another perspective, the book's form remains exactly the same from the first to the last page. My reading of the book would posit or project a kind of talk-to/talk-back relationship between form and content; each is strongly influencing our vision of the other, and perhaps, over the course of the book, they become difficult to distinguish. 3) In The Literary Absolute , Philippe Lacoue-Labarthe and Jean-Luc Nancy write that "each fragment stands for itself and for that from which it has been detached."(44) They go on to explain that the fragment is both "sub-work" (in the obvious sense of being only a small piece of the Work), but also "super-work", as it stands, complete in itself, outside the work and calls up the plural potentiality of the work. What do you make of this idea and how do you understand the relation of the fragment to the Work as a whole? I like this idea, but I may have some reservations about generalizing it too far beyond Nancy and Lacoue-Labarthe's intended historical context. In my book, there are perhaps some entries/fragments that possess a sort of immanent intensity—entries seemingly able to "speak for themselves," so to speak—but there are also very many that do not. I think that the book itself would argue—in fact, I believe it explicitly does so—against this notion that any one of its constituent parts could be removed from the whole and still remain "meaningful" or "true." I imagine the parts of the whole, in this book, not as cogs in relation to some whole mechanics or machine, say, but instead as mechanical movement itself; perhaps the most important thing about any given entry is not what it says so much as the fact that it begins and ends. The book seems to me to be always moving forward in time and space; once a fragment has happened, the book is done with it; there's no turning back, no looking over the shoulder. There's an entry somewhere that goes something like "This book is nothing more than the trash can of my imagination," a potential interpretative model that has become something of a guiding light in my understanding of the book's form: the entries/fragments do certainly accrue, as trash accrues, but we don't necessarily feel compelled to go picking through this heap of trash. 3b) Fragments collected together become a whole that gestures to dozens of other, potential wholes. How, if at all, do you think about your book in relation to the preservation of potentiality? Of course I think about this mostly in relation to the fragments/entries concerning specific potential works, the entries that begin "Story about" or "Novel about," etc. As I continue to work to see many of the ideas in the book realized, even today—and as I will likely continue to do for a long time—I remain in a sort of dialogue with the book. So I find myself still writing the book, in some sense, even though the book is already written. One of my favorite things about From Old Notebooks is how it opens its own amorphous and evolving prefatory engagement with my future writing. I believe the book references the claim of some critics that Ulysses was written in such a way to make it appear as if it were presaged by passages in the New Testament, just as some have claimed that passages in the New Testament were written to create the appearance of having been forecasted by passages in the Old Testament (I believe there is a specific poetic figure denoting this kind of retroactive foreshadowing that I'm now failing to recall). I've always really loved that idea and perhaps still hold out hope that my future writing will serve to indirectly modify From Old Notebooks in these types of sly and tricky ways. Also, in relation to the above-mentioned trash-can model as one of many such potential models for the book's form, there's a way in which the book regularly returns to a reading of itself, always trying to understand how it is working and always coming up with new strategies for its own analysis. So it seems to me, with respect to the preservation of potentiality, that the book is also intent on preserving its own "infinite hermeneutics" (or at least an illusion thereof). 4) Can you talk a little about the way traditional prose standbys like character and narrative develop out of distinct and disconnected fragments? I feel like this definitely happens in FON as well as other texts that use a similar approach. I think it's important to address the burden placed on the reader vis-à-vis development when considering narratological staples like character and plot in relation to highly fragmented narratives. In my own reading experience of books in which neat narrative progression is supplanted by a fragmentary or elliptical progression, the reader oftentimes must begin committing to processes of projection and transference in order to eke out that amount of development she would require of narrative. I especially like this possibility for two reasons. The first is that in the absence of stable or "full" development, we may feel inclined, as readers, to fill in the blanks with manifestations of our own, consciousness-specific desire for coherence, which can create a sort of personalized Möbius strip out of reading and writing, artistic creation and reception becoming tangled, distinctions and distances between these categories becoming blurred. The second, which may follow from the first for the more theoretically inclined reader, is that this process may serve to expose our own prejudices about what narrative is supposed to do or achieve, thereby leading us to an anxious readerly condition in which we are forced to confront the poverty of our own understanding regarding the first principles of narrative art. These two effects—1) tangling the reading/writing experience, and 2) forcing the reader's reconsideration of artistic rule—are, to my thinking, among the most powerful effects available to writing. 5) To what extent does how you label your texts matter? What is the difference between notes , fragments , thoughts , and aphorisms ? Basically, is taxonomy important? Supplementary question: In FON , there is a passage: "Why am I so averse to classifying FON as poetry-because poetry doesn't sell." If you want, this might be a good place to talk about genre classifications as well. This answer will surely seem coy or naïve to some people, but the fact is that my own tedious and protracted grappling with the strictures and arbitrariness of generic classification has finally given way to a vision of an imaginative writing largely unfettered by those academic or commercial or cultural pressures which have served to delimit the typological boundaries of art and language. That seems to be a goal for me, anyway, to work to maintain a position of restless and relentless searching in relation to form, and to resist, as best I can, pressures associated with the commodification or canonization of language and form. Of course that position is itself probably overdetermined by pressures both within and beyond my comprehension—e.g. it is very reactionary; very Modernist, in a sense—and it also strikes me to be of a piece with a rather antiquated and distasteful image of artistic creation and the "author-function," but nonetheless it's what I seem to prefer. 6) Are there other texts (of or about fragments) that you'd like to recommend? Here are some things I've recently read and enjoyed in which I felt the fragment was the text's dominant or near-dominant mode of engagement with narrative/poetic/philosophical development and progression. Mean Free Path , Ben Lerner Bluets , Maggie Nelson Varieties of Disturbance , Lydia Davis Notes from a Bottle Found on the Beach at Carmel , Evan S. Connell AVA , Carole Maso Reader's Block , David Markson Deepstep Come Shining , C.D. Wright The Passion According to G.H . by Clarice Lispector The Crab Nebula , Éric Chevillard The Book of Questions , Edmond Jabès Monsieur Teste , Paul Valéry Mourning Diary , Roland Barthes The Arcades Project , Walter Benjamin Philosophical Investigations , Ludwig Wittgenstein "Diapsalmata," from Either/Or , Søren Kierkegaard Unfortunately, I haven't read much theory discussing the fragment as a narratological device, although I did enjoy the Nancy and Lacoue-Labarthe book you mention above. 7) And finally, is there anything you wish I would have asked? Please ask/answer if so. I should say that From Old Notebooks is currently out of print, as I, perhaps bullheadedly, insisted that the publisher remove the book from their catalog when I discovered that they'd been implementing a pay-to-publish scheme, which, given the revelation of its specific details, I felt to be manipulative and unethical. There are many used copies floating around, though, and I am hopeful that the book will be reprinted someday. From Old Notebooks Excerpts NB: The first excerpt covers the first few pages of the book. The second covers pages 16 and 17. These excerpts show how FON develops from a series of ideas for texts to a more varied series of notes that further reveal the character, preoccupations, and desires of the writer. Excerpt 1: Short story about a church on the ocean floor. Congregation in scuba gear. Memoir in which narrator struggles to describe her childhood – offering two or more contrary accounts of the same event – having been raised by divorced parents with unresolved anger toward each other such that discrepancies between parents' accounts of each other's involvement in her childhood have damaged narrator's memory beyond repair. Academic essay entitled “ Cute Title: Serious Subtitle : On the Preponderance of Precious Subtitling in Academic Essays.” Novel in chapters, each chapter spanning one year, 1977 – 2006. In lieu of chapter number, photograph of Tom Cruise's face from that year. Story about a garbage man who cannot fathom how anyone might be content living a life not wholly dedicated to being a garbage man. Excerpt 2 Something entitled “From Old Notebooks,” simply a transcription of entries from these notebooks. Story involving a couple whose divorce proceedings center upon the allocation of the books contained in the family library. Living off-campus on the outskirts of a city where I knew no one, in a studio apartment the size of a large walk-in closet, I would occupy myself in the evenings with and obsessive study of the shadows of my hands against the wall as I faux-conducted piano concertos; and later, after having taken three Ambien, intimate conversations with bits of magma crawling across the carpet that had detached from the glowing wires on my electric space heater. That same year, in a fit of manic loneliness, I invited a raccoon into my apartment with a trail of cracker crumbs. Do not let Jackson and Sofia live off-campus as undergraduates. Cached auto-complete entry options that appear when I type the letter e into the search field in the toolbar of my internet browser: evan lavender-smith “evan lavender-smith” “evan lavender smith” evan + “lavender-smith” evan + “lavender smith” evan + lavender + smith The letter f: fear of death Contemporary authors who construct a thick barrier between themselves and their readers such that authorial vulnerability is revealed negatively, i.e., via the construction of the barrier. If Team USA had a mascot, it would be God. Character who refers to Wellbutrin as his muse. “I hope to one day storm out on Terry Gross during an interview because I am that kind of eccentric famous author.” ----------------- Notes that were cut from From Old Notebooks Short story about literary executors sifting through the Gmail account of a recently deceased author. It would better suit me to drive a hybrid hearse. First line of a story: "The M.F.A. in creative writing was the degree Shontiqua had her sights set on . " Story/mock-essay: conflation of the obnoxious languages of U.S.A. patriotism and M.F.A. workshops. The flag at half-mast because the market’s way down today. Awakened from dream . . . saw figure in arrangement of stars . . . closed eyes . . . dream changed. . . . The smile is perhaps the human equivalent to the dog's wagging tail, with an important caveat: the human can fake a smile. Can a man fake an erection? To do philosophy, Back then I was doing some philosophy —what a ridiculoususage. It is thanks to the proud philosopher who, attempting to justify his existence, humbles himself to a position of activity. The greatest act of fraud on the part of philosophy is that it attempts to exist outside of time , the word of the philosopher presented to us as the Word. This is what Derrida means to criticize when he praises Nietzsche's pluralism, or Levi-Strauss's mythopoetics: Philosophy cannot pretend to be above or beyond the form of the book. The question of being flashes through us , mind and body. The corporealization of the question of being. Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must—write? The proliferation of M.F.A. programs in creative writing has given rise to the whirlpool of conservatism which is contemporary American literature. Surely it's no coincidence that I began From Old Notebooks shortly after I stopped seeing my therapist. Somewhere I read Edmund Wilson refer to Beckett's late style as terminal . I understand why he would say so, but I would prefer to reserve that term for David Markson's late style. Random House settles out of court to pay $2.35 million in genre-damages made by James Frey against his readers. What if the publisher of F.O.N. markets the book as a novel , and it later comes to light that the book was in fact a memoir . . . ? That the problem of death has been outmoded is the grand illusion of philosophy after Heidegger. The modern philosopher says, "Death is not my problem. Being is my problem." The modern philosopher might call death an adolescent problem , and being an adult problem . But what he fails to recognize is that the concept of being is merely an abstraction of the concept of death. (He forgets that being is incidental to non-being, and that the latter is only conceivable by way of analogy to death .) The modern philosopher wants to pretend that death is irrelevant to his project, but it is the impetus for his project. Surely the reason I lash out against it is that I am jealous of poetry. Surely contemporary poetry does not deserve my wrath . Someone could read the book with an almanac in hand and point to certain entries which suggest the concurrence of public events (e.g., terror, war, football), thereby assigning dates to those entries. As if. Do people auction their personal diaries on eBay? I might consider auctioning these notebooks if the book is ever published, in keeping with the spirit of the book, that is, the spirit of facile self-disclosure. The poem is dead. Long live the poem! The ending of F.O.N. might contain the beginning of the next book—a sequel entitled Work-In-Progress . F.O.N. might blurinto W.I.P. The point of physical distinction between the two books would be arbitrary. Work-In-Progress would be written in the same form as F.O.N., but it would be also written in an entirely different form, as the (conception of the) form of the book "F.O.N. + W.I.P." is an evolving (conception of) form, a (conception of) form that is always becominganother (conception of) form. No matter how much I want to force From Old Notebooks to become something called Work-In-Progress , I won't be able to: any contrived becoming of that sort would represent a violence on the form of the book. I'm going to have to take a leap at some point, though, a leap out of the book, like a leap from a burning building. “The Voidhood of the Void; or, An Archaeology of Nothing.” Rather than enact the high drama of self-reflexivity, the new writing will accept self-reflexivity as status quo —metafiction's birthday is passed, no need to keep celebrating—in the tradition of the documentary film, the reality TV show, and the internet blog. Such a writing must, by definition, be genreless, or make the question of genre irrelevant: hence, the post-generic . Perhaps my next novel will be a one-page poem. (shrink)
continent. 1.2 (2011): 102-116. All experience open to the future is prepared or prepares itself to welcome the monstrous arrivant, to welcome it, that is, to accord hospitality to that which is absolutely foreign or strange [….] All of history has shown that each time an event has been produced, for example in philosophy or in poetry, it took the form of the unacceptable, or even of the intolerable, or the incomprehensible, that is, of a certain monstrosity. Jacques Derrida “Passages—from (...) Traumatism to Promise” (387). Post-Continental Queer Theory In an interview with Paul Ennis in Post-Continental Voices , Adrian Ivakhiv (2011) is asked about his opinion concerning the future of post-continental philosophy and he responds that: In an increasingly global context, I’m not sure if either ‘continental philosophy’ or “analytical philosophy” have much of a future except as carriers of certain legacies; they’re carry-overs from a time when philosophy seemed exclusive to the North Atlantic world. In a globally mediated, technologically shaped world of shifting and intersecting biocultural contexts, philosophy will have to be more hybrid, viral, and shapeshifting if it’s to remain efficacious as a motivating and inspirational force for cosmopolitical world-making—which, to my mind, is what lies ahead of us (97). Ivakhiv goes on to prescribe what such a post-continental philosophy would need to be: “post-analytical, post-feminist, post-Marxist, post-postcolonial, post-constructivist” (97) and so on. He does not explicitly mention queer theory here but we might ask, and this essay sets out to ask, what queer theory might look like if we were to consider it as a hybrid, viral, shapeshifting, post-continental philosophy with cosmopolitical world-making aspirations. Lauren Berlant and Michael Warner’s essay “What does Queer Theory Teach us about X?” a guest column written for the PMLA in 1995 was already talking about queer theory in ways which we might now recognize as resonating with the term “post-continental.” The first thing we might notice about their essay is a refusal to succumb to the need to pin things down, to say what exactly queer theory is and does and to be entirely clear about what precisely it is that queer theorists do. Berlant and Warner are equally reluctant to accord a specific time to queer. For them, queer is radically anticipatory; it holds out a promise, a utopian aspiration, and occupies a time out-of-joint. Perhaps the appeal and the lasting power of queer theory then (and now) is that it is non-delimitable as a field and non-locatable in terms of a chrononormative temporal schema. Part of, perhaps all of, the attraction of queer theory is its very undefinability, its provisionality, its openness, and its not-yet-here-ness. Queer occupies a strange temporality; it is always, like Derrida’s monstrous arrivant , to-come, whether from the past or from the future. And it has a ghostly formlessness too. Berlant and Warner write that, in their view, “it is not useful to consider queer theory a thing, especially one dignified by capital letters. We wonder whether queer commentary might not more accurately describe the things linked by the rubric, most of which are not theory” (343). It cannot, they insist, “be assimilated to a single discourse, let alone a propositional program” (343). I share their desire “not to define, purify, puncture, sanitize, or otherwise entail [pin a tail on to] the emerging queer commentary” or to fix a “seal of approval or disapproval” (344) on anyone’s claims to queerness as I begin to think about the many and various afterlives of queer theory, if there is such a thing. Furthermore, I agree with them that we ought to prevent the reduction of queer theory to a speciality or a metatheory and that we ought to fight vigorously to “frustrate the already audible assertions that queer theory has only academic—which is to say, dead—politics” (344). And, as we shall see shortly, there is a certain discourse which propagates the idea that queer theory (and not just its politics) is always already dead, buried, over, finished. For me, much of queer thinking’s allure is its openness, its promissory nature, and that much of what goes under its name has been “radically anticipatory, trying to bring a [queer] world into being” (344). Because of this very provisionality, and an attendant welcomeness to its own revision, any attempt to “summarize it now will be violently partial” (343). But we might see some value in the violently partial accounts, the short-lived promiscuous encounters, cruising impersonal intimacies, I will be trying to stage here in this article as I ruminate upon the post-continental afterlives of queer theory. If, for Berlant and Warner, “Queer Theory is not the theory of anything in particular, and has no precise bibliographic shape” (344) then I would like to suggest—with a willful disingenuousness since after all Queer Theory [dignified by capitals] does have a working bibliographical and anthologizable shape which one can easily constitute—that queer theory is not solely the theory of nothing in particular. We might, a little hyperbolically to be sure, say that queer theory is (and always has been) the theory of everything . However, if we turn queer theory into a capital-t Theory (as we are often wont to do [and I cannot exclude myself from this urge]) we risk forgetting the differences between the various figures associated with it and the variegated contexts in which they work (as we shall soon see). As Berlant and Warner caution, “Queer commentary takes on varied shapes, risks, ambitions, and ambivalences in various contexts” (344) and if we try to pin the tail on the donkey by imagining a context (theory) in which queer has “a stable referential content and pragmatic force” (344) then we are in danger of forgetting the “multiple localities” (345) of queer theory and practice. No one corpus of work (Judith Butler’s for example) or no one particular project should be made to stand in for the whole movement, or what we might more provisionally—and more openly, perhaps a possible alternative to Berlant and Warner’s queer commentary—call the “culture” of queer theory (small-q, small-t). If queer thinking were simply reduced to being the province of one particular thinker (say, Judith Butler or Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick) then its multiple localities would be worryingly narrowed and its localities would become merely parochial like “little ornaments appliquéd over real politics or real intellectual work. They [would] carry the odor of the luxuriant” (Berlant and Warner, 345). If the works of Butler or Sedgwick, were made into a metonym for queer theory or queer culture (or world-building) itself, and if they are held to be exemplary cases (either for good or for bad) then what we lose is the original edgy impetus behind queer theory in the first place. We lose, as Berlant and Warner state, that “wrenching sense of re-contextualization it gave” (345). And then we would really leave queer theory open to charges of political uselessness and glaciation, “the infection of general culture by narrow interest” (349). The Many Deaths of Queer Theory Were we to accept recent commentators, Queer Theory, is: over, passé, moribund, stagnant; or, at worst, dead, its time and its power to wrench frames having come and gone. Almost since it began we have been hearing about the death(s) of Queer Theory. Stephen Barber and David Clark wrote in 2002 that, “it is not especially surprising to hear that the survival of queer theory has been questioned or its possible ‘death’ bruited, however questioningly”(4). However questioning this may have been, a year later Judith Halberstam wrote, “some say that queer theory is no longer in vogue; others characterize it as fatigued or exhausted of energy and lacking in keen debates; still others wax nostalgic for an earlier moment.” One year later Heather Love reports that some suspect that “queer theory is going downhill.” Andrew Parker and Janet Halley, who edited a special issue of South Atlantic Quarterly in 2007 entitled “After Sex: On Writing Since Queer Theory,” invited their contributors to share some “after” thoughts on what it might mean to be “after queer theory” since they had, “been hearing from some quarters that queer theory, if not already passé, was rapidly approaching its expiration date.” Yet, despite the rumors of extinction, Queer Theory continues to tenaciously hold on to life, to affirm the promise of the future, even despite the dominant influence of Lee Edelman’s book No Future: Queer Theory and the Death Drive which encourages us to fuck the future and its coercive politics which are, he tells us, embodied in the fascist face of the Child. With each new book, conference, seminar series, each new masters program, we hear (yet again) that Queer Theory is over. Some argue that the unstoppable train of queer theory came to a halt in the late nineties having been swallowed up by its own fashionability. It had become, contrary to its own anti-assimilationist rhetoric, fashionable, very much included, rather than being the outlaw, it wanted to be. But the books and articles still continue to appear, the conferences continue to be held. And, if it were true that Queer Theory has been assimilated completely, become sedimented, completely domesticated (or at least capable of being domesticated) then it really would be over. Nobody would be reading any more for we would already know what was to come.3 In a fascinating conclusion to her article “Busy Dying” Valerie Rohy (2011) suggests that we need not necessarily, “resist the death of queer theory, or not in the way one might think.” She explains: While it is ironic that queer theory should also be enlivened by prophecies of its death [...] there is no reason why that conversation should not continue. If we choose to accept the humanizing trope that gives life to queer theory, it must therefore be dying, like all of us: after all, the condition of life is its ending. And if so, the question becomes how long and how richly queer theory can live that dying, busy with the work of its time (219). Of course, to speak of afterlives, as I do here, is to suggest that queer theory has already died and has come back as a ghost or ghosts. Certainly, this gestures some way towards the hauntological survival of queer theory and its weird temporalities. But, if it is already-dead (and queer theory does tend to get anthropomorphized in these accounts of its demise) then its ghost comes from the future as well as from the past. But, Queer Theory, stubbornly vital as specter, revenant, ghost, took a strange twist in the late nineties and early noughties (or whatever we might awkwardly name our present queer age). Suddenly, queer theorists were interested in ethico-politics, in world politics, in events outside of the texts they were so busy subverting. And it was this political turn which led David Ruffolo to call for a renaming of queer thinking as post-queer politics. In Ruffolo’s (2009) book we catch a glimpse of what queer as a post-continental theory might look like and it is useful to read Post-Queer Politics alongside John Mullarkey’s (2006) Post-Continental Philosophy: An Outline . At the beginning of his book Mullarkey admits that he is writing about something, the philosophical event of post-continental thought, which does not yet have a shape, has not yet come into existence: This book may have been written too early. It is not about something, or some idea, that has actually occurred as yet, an objective event. It is about something that is unfolding, an event in the making. The ‘Post-‘ in ‘Post-Continental’ is not an accurate description of what is, but a prescription for what could be” (1). Similarly, the “post-” in David Ruffolo’s (2009) book operates not as a description of something which has already happened in response to the “peaking” of queer theory (1), but rather describes (or prescribes) what could be, if queer theory were to undergo significant renewal. Ruffolo’s primary concern is to immanentize queer theory which, for him, remains rooted in subjectivity, language, representations, discourses, identities, and so on. Ruffolo rejects the queer theoretical insistence on transcendence which he finds primarily in the work of Foucault and Butler—where acute attention is placed on representations, significations, and identifications—and he aims to kindle a neomaterialist (in the spirit of Elizabeth Grosz’s work) post-queer thinking which is open rather than closed to the world. In my (2009) preface “TwO (Theory without Organs)” to Post-Queer Politics I gestured toward the idea that Ruffolo is reanimating queer theory, plateauing it in ways that can be diagrammed: he puts queer theory on the line and he maps the plane of consistency of queer theory as a kind of free-floating space that is formless, without subject, without development, without centre or structure, without beginning or end.4 Mullarkey’s wager is that post-continental thought (which he associates with the philosophies of Deleuze, Laruelle, Badiou and Henry) embraces “absolute immanence over transcendence” (1). Each of these philosophers insist, Mullarkey tells us, upon, “a return to the category of immanence if philosophy is to have any future at all” (2). In “rejecting both the phenomenological tradition of transcendence (of consciousness, the Ego, Being, or Alterity), as well as the post-structuralist valorization of language” (2) these four French philosophers take continental philosophy “in a new direction that engages with naturalism with a refreshingly critical and non-reductive approach to the sciences of life, set theory, embodiment and knowledge. Taken together, these strategies amount to a rekindled faith in the possibility of philosophy as a worldly and materialist thinking” (2). Although Deleuze is the central figure in both Mullarkey’s and Ruffolo’s texts, it is perhaps Derrida (and his notion of the à-venir , the to-come) which springs to mind when we try to think about the attempt to make immanence supervene on transcendence in queer studies. The queer theory to-come (which Ruffolo refers to as post-queer dialogical becomings) is impossible to discern, to outline, to give precise shape too. If queer theory has reached an abyss (the heteronormativity/queer dyad Ruffolo problematizes) then re-mapping the co-ordinates of the field depends on an aporetic impossibility, a crossing of the uncrossable, a passing through the impassable. For Mullarkey, Derrida’s later thinking was marked by an inability to stay still and a shift from the undermining of the “possibility of experience” to “the experience of impossibility” (9) in the later writings on the aporetics of ethical, religious and political experience. The queer theory to-come, we might wager, then, is an experience of aporetic impossibility and Mullarkey gives us a clue as to how Derrida’s writing on/about aporias might be useful for thinking about the regime of philosophical immanence: In his own work entitled Aporias, Derrida tells us that the term’s philosophical use comes to us from Aristotle’s Physics IV and concerns the problematics of time. But it also concerns the issue of regress, Aristotle taking the view in the Categories that any relation (like time) must have distinct relata lest there be infinite regress. The relata need to be distinct if their relation is to be defined. And here is where we can begin to see a way out of our entanglement in immanence (9) Mullarkey contends that, “the regress, aporia, or ‘vertigo’ of immanence” can never be undone, “indeed, it can never even be said, strictly speaking” (9). Rather, we show it by unwriting it. He turns to Deleuze for a theory of abstraction that, “would provide the key to how a discourse of immanence might be possible—namely the theory of the diagram or philosophical drawing” (9). He explains that the diagram operates metaphilosophically in that it is a moving outline which takes both, “a transcendent view (representing immanence) while also remaining immanent: it does this by diagrammatising itself—it reiterates itself as a drawing that is perpetually re-drawn, and so materializes its own aporia”(9). Ruffolo’s post-queer politics is perhaps only capturable spatially or rather diagrammatically and not chronologically (it does not mean after queer or leaving queer behind, the post-queer remains, after all, forever tethered to the queer) or genealogically. Post-queer does not mean after queer or leaving queer behind, the post-queer remains, after all, forever tethered to the queer genealogically. Mullarkey sums up his project in ways which are strikingly similar to Ruffolo’s central concerns about the stagnation or death of queer theory, “the news this nascent event brings is effectively the following: not only was the report of Continental philosophy’s death at the hand of self-inflicted aporia, obscurantism and anti-scientism an exaggeration, but a recent change has taken place that will allow it to regenerate and renew itself with unexpected consequences” (11). The Many Afterlives of Queer Theory The news of queer theory’s death (or many deaths) at the hands of “self-inflicted aporia” also came too soon, was a gross exaggeration. And, echoing Mullarkey, I would argue that recent changes to the shape of the field promise its regeneration and renewal with many unexpected (and indeed unforeseeable consequences). So, in the remainder of this article I would like to speculate about some of Queer Theory’s afterlives by taking a look at some recent texts (all from the past two years and each committed to re-imagined queer futurities) which take the field in new directions and open up new spaces of enquiry, new worlds: José Esteban Muñoz’s Cruising Utopia: The Then and There of Queer Futurity (2009) on critical idealism, aesthetics and a Blochian educated hope, Sara Ahmed’s The Promise of Happiness (2010) on affect, Tim Dean’s Unlimited Intimacy: Reflections on the Subculture of Barebacking (2010) on barebacking, HIV and intimacies, Kathryn Bond Stockton’s The Queer Child; Or Growing Sideways in the Twentieth Century (2009) on queer childhood, and finally, Lynne Huffer’s Mad for Foucault: Rethinking the Foundations of Queer Theory (2010) which is a landmark text for queer studies because it shifts the emphasis away from Foucault’s three-volume History of Sexuality to his Madness and Civilization . My “violently partial” readings of these five important texts and the immemorial currents sweeping Queer Theory towards new headings, new futures, suggests not only that there is life after death for Queer Theory, a future for queer thinking, but that, Queer Theory is the future, a theory of the future, one which still has much to teach us about the urgent cultural and political questions of today. Queer theory and/as the Future From its very “beginnings” Queer Theory has, like its pervert twin, deconstruction, been turned toward the future, a theory permanently open to its own recitation, re-signification and revision. It has always been a hopeful and hope-full theory. We see this in its earliest incarnations as the AIDS activism of ACT UP and Queer Nation, both of which are privileged by utopian political thought that promises an unmasterable future, and the “foundational” theorizations of Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick and Judith Butler (among many others), queer theory has always already been of, for, and promised, given over to, the future, to futurality as such. It has curved, “endlessly toward the realization that its realization remains impossible,” as Lee Edelman wrote in 1995 (346), the same year as Berlant and Warner’s guest column in PMLA . So, in the early to mid 1990s Edelman himself was able to celebrate the utopic negativity, and asymptotic, incalculable futurity of queer thinking as a site of permanent becoming. But what his No Future has almost single-handedly instantiated is a turn away from the future, or what he more recently has called the “Futurch” (2006, 821) as it is embodied in the saccharine-laden figure of the Child. In the wake of Edelman’s book there has been an almost universal rejection of, a resounding “fuck you,” to the future and what has come to be called the ‘anti-social thesis’ now dominates the post-political, post-futural, anti-or post-relational landscape of queer studies. On the one side, the side of anti-utopianism and hopelessness you have figures like Edelman, Jonathan Goldberg and Madhavi Menon, and (much more problematically and equivocally) Judith Halberstam, for whom hope is imbued with and unable to be dislodged from a heteronormative logic. Theirs is a project calculated to give up on hope and by extension to refuse both the political and the futural. In a sense then the anti-social theorists are on the side of death, or of a logic which loudly proclaims and embraces the traumatized death drivenness of both queer theory and politics, raising a specter which has haunted it from the very start. On the other side, on the side of affirmation, utopianism and socio-political hope, very much on the side of life, we have figures such as Tim Dean, Michael Snediker, Sara Ahmed, and José Esteban Muñoz (a thinker such as Heather Love falls somewhere in the middle but I don’t think an optimistic queer theory can afford to dwell for very long on loss, melancholia, trauma at the expense of feeling forward as her work does). These theorists, a little bit in love with queer theory as lure, return us to the affirmative, revolutionary potential of queer studies, and seek to re-imagine a hopeful, forward-reaching, world-making queer theory that matters as the future, as the telepoietic queer event, as the always already not-yet of the democracy to-come and the justice to-come. We might even say, affirming the far-from-dead politics of queer theory, that queer theory is radical democracy, that queer theory is justice, is all about futurity and hope. And it is worth remembering here that for Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, whose death in April 2009 occasioned a new round of assertions that the work of queer theory which she inspired was over and done with, queerness is “inextinguishable” (1993, xii). And, to quote Beth Freeman (2010), “as much as sexual dissidents have suffered, lived as objects of contempt or oblivion, endured physical and emotional punishment, we have also risked experimentation with our bodies and those of others, with affiliation, and with new practices of hoping, demanding, and otherwise making claims on the future”(xxi). Revolt We Said Those who take up the anti-social argument (a position usually incorrectly attributed to Leo Bersani’s Homos ) refuse to make claims on the future and so refuse queer theory as future dawning promise. To do so is to betray a certain spirit of Derridean deconstruction which has always animated queer thought. To take this anti-social argument is to give up on a Derridean understanding of the event as prospective and to remain in thrall to an onto-chrono-temporality. I would quite seriously suggest that we need to avoid this wrong turn by mobilizing a Derridean understanding of historicity, temporality (and by extension spatiality), relationality and the event. The latter being understood as that which ruptures onto-chrono-phenomenological temporality and is faithful to, or welcomes, that which arrives but which cannot be known or grasped in advance. This theoretical gesture, a reparative one, is in the service of what I have called elsewhere (2011, 53-69) queer theory as a weak force, queer theory as revolt. Julia Kristeva in Revolt, She Said understands the event as revolutionary, emphasizing there the etymological roots—which overlap with queer’s own etymological ones—of the word revolt, meaning “return, renewing, returning, discovering, uncovering, and renovating”( 2002, 85). This renovation is possible because at the moment of revolution, according to Kristeva, “I revolt, therefore we are still to come’ (42, my emphasis). Kristeva considers thinking as, “a revelation, an exploration, an opening, a place of freedom” (114). Similarly, José Esteban Muñoz, in his Cruising Utopia , sees queerness as, “a structuring and educated mode of desiring that allows us to see and feel beyond the quagmire of the present” (2009, 1). For Muñoz, “Queerness is also a performative because it is not simply a being but a doing for and toward the future” (1). Following Muñoz, queerness occupies the space of the not-yet, is always promissory, horizonal. He begins Cruising Utopia by stating: Queerness is not yet here. Queerness is an ideality. Put another way, we are not yet queer. We may never touch queerness, but we can feel it as the warm illumination of a horizon imbued with potentiality. We have never been queer, yet queerness exists for us as an ideality that can be distilled from the past and used to imagine a future. The future is queerness’s domain (1). I am not suggesting that it is easy to unmoor ourselves from linear temporalities, from what Elizabeth Freeman in her important recent book on erotohistoriographies calls “chrononormativities,” but I would like to draw attention to the way in which this capitulation in the end refuses and forecloses the promise of the future. In the remainder of this paper I would like to take a glimpse at some forward-glancing texts (or particular moments in those texts which we might encounter closely, even over-closely)12 which can be shored up against the so-called ruin(s) or death(s) or queer theory. Child’s Delay Firstly, let us take a sideways look at the child, from a parallax angle which Edelman’s No Future (2004), with its rejection of the child and of the possibility for queer children or queer childhood to even exist, explicitly disallows. Kathryn Bond Stockton’s The Queer Child; or Growing Sideways in the Twentieth Century (2009) asserts that, “if you scratch a child, you will find a queer” (1). In her readings of fiction and films from the twentieth century she returns the shadowy, ghostly, penumbral figure of the queer child to a central place. She will, she boldly claims, show throughout, “how every child is queer” (3). What this might suggest to us is that queer children stubbornly refuse to grow up, to follow arborescent, vertical, even Oedipalized models of development.13 Rather they make lateral, rhizomatic, sideways moves. The child is post-queer, then, in Ruffolo’s sense. It is important to note that these sweeping lateral shifts are also as such a rejection of the coercive politics of “reproductive futurism” (Edelman, 2004). But, having said that, the temporality Stockton’s queer children occupy is the time of Derrida’s différance, a time of delay. Their, “supposed gradual growth, their suggested slow unfolding, which, unhelpfully, has been relentlessly figured as vertical movement upward (hence ‘growing up’) toward full stature, marriage, work, reproduction and the loss of childishness” (Stockton, 4). The temporality of delay is, Stockton admits, a tricky one. Like the speeds of Derridean différance, the child’s delay “spreads [...] sideways and backwards,” rather than simply accelerating and thrusting “toward height and forward time” (4). As a queer strategy, maneuvering sideways has the virtue of mobilizing the frame-wrenching unruliness of Berlant and Warner’s queer thinking, but also the power to bend the hetero-chrono-normative frames of temporality and History we are used to working with. These complicated asynchronicities, these luminescent moments of queer refusals to grow up, carve open new futures for queer childhood. If queer childhood—and here queer childhood becomes synecdochal for the childlike wonder of queer theory itself—is only ever recognizable after its death, retroactively, then this delaying or stalling of the forward-propulsion of growing up, allows the queer child, or simply queerness tout court, to live on, inextinguishably. Utopia’s Propulsions In his manifesto-like Cruising Utopia: The Then and There of Queer Futurity , José Esteban Muñoz enacts another sideways re-temporalizing move and makes a compelling argument for the anti-anti-relational thesis. We must, he states, “vacate the here and now for a then and there,” (185) leaving behind the contested present and its quagmire, for a re-imagined futurity. If Edelman emphasizes the lonely figure of the sinthomosexual who refuses relationality, then Muñoz wishes for, wants a, “collective temporal distortion.” This is a Kristevan revolt, “Individual transports are insufficient. We need to engage in a collective temporal distortion. We need to step out of the rigid conceptualization that is a straight present” (185). In a way Stockton’s queer child occupies Muñoz’s space (although the future is both a spatial and a temporal destination) of the “not yet here.” Rather than refusing the future’s pull in the way that Edelman rejects the tow of the à-venir (the to-come), Muñoz reminds us that, “what we need to know is that queerness is not yet here but it approaches like a crashing wave of potentiality. And we must give in to its propulsion, its status as a destination” (185), or we might say its status as a horizonless-horizon. In a rather compelling conclusion to his book Muñoz imagines this capitulation to the inexorable propulsive tug of the future-as-promise in terms of the ecstatic: “we must take ecstasy.” This has a whole range of possible registers from the pharmaceutical to the carnal but I want to place it alongside (or sideways with) Lynne Huffer’s more ecstatic moments in Mad for Foucault (2010), in which she is mad about her Foucault. She engages in moments of rapturous cross-temporal vibration with him in terms redolent of Muñoz’s own ekstasis (a Heideggerian standing outside of oneself which ruptures, tears up the linearities of straight time). Muñoz’s injunction, or request, for us to take ecstasy with him, to encounter a queer temporality thus, becomes a request to stand out of time together, to resist the stultifying temporality and time that is not ours, that is saturated with violence both visceral and emotional, a time that is not queerness. Queerness’s time is the time of ecstasy. Ecstasy is queerness’s way (187). It is in these ecstatic moments that we arrive (or move inexorably toward) “collective potentiality” (189). These ecstatic moments often take place in encounters with certain objects, objects like Warhol’s coke bottle which harbor potentiality and are illuminated by “the affective contours of hope itself” (7). Queer Ekstasis Those objects, which are illuminated by future- or forward-dawning-promise, can also be texts themselves. These are texts which take on qualities of the sentient as they vibrate with us across time and space. Lynne Huffer’s Mad for Foucault: Rethinking the Foundations of Queer Theory dramatizes a feverish moment which she shares in the archive with Foucault, where she takes ecstasy with him. Her argument throughout this field redefining book is that we cannot properly understand Foucault’s work on sexuality until we learn to (re)read The History of Madness . This project of “re-queering Foucault” (24) actually turns on a rejection of the now-sanctified versions of his ideas which dominate queer theory.14 Huffer bravely suggests that our understanding of Foucault occupies the time of ecstatic queerness: if we have yet to read (or understood) his work properly, then another Foucault, a futural Foucault is always potentially dawning. She glimpses this wave of potentiality for unsettling the object-event that Foucault has become in the Normandy archive where Foucault’s unpublished texts are held. While perusing a 400-page interview between Roger Pol Droit and Foucault, Huffer chances upon a moment of suppressed self-disclosure. Foucault had refused to publish this long interview text, embarrassed by how it forced him to resort to biographical answers, to a moi that his work—and the queer theory it has inspired— so assiduously moved to decenter. Foucault tells Droit that madness has always interested him, that “for twenty years now I’ve been worrying about my little mad ones, my little excluded ones, my little abnormals” (Huffer, 23). At this point, Droit presses him to explain the motivation for writing The History of Madness in the first place and he responds, in my personal life, from the moment of my sexual awakening, I felt excluded, not so much rejected, but belonging to society’s shadow. It’s all the more a problem when you discover it for yourself. All of this was very quickly transformed into a kind of psychiatric threat: if you’re not like everyone else, it’s because you’re abnormal, if you’re abnormal, it’s because you’re sick (Huffer, 23). Huffer admits that she is, “immediately thrilled,” to have, “discovered such a ‘confession,’” from Foucault (23). This is a moment where, for Foucault, “individual transports are not enough” (Muñoz, 185). Rather he engages in a “collective temporal distortion” (Muñoz, 185) in which he declares his solidarity with his “little mad ones, my little abnormals.” Huffer calls this moment a “ coup de foudre ” which sparks a “fever” in her and engenders, “a loyal kind of disloyalty to Foucault,” (24) who after all wanted to suppress this “confessional” text that she erotically vibrates toward, or even with. Perhaps, she says, “it can be received as an event of discovery that engenders what Deleuze called a resistant thinking, ‘a thought of resistance’ to the despotic readings that refuse to see Foucault’s queer madness” (24). Huffer’s queer theory takes it chances with that which has been repressed but in so doing goes where Muñoz tells us queer theory needs to go: into the queer time of ecstasy and archive fever. Huffer’s encounter with Foucault, her queer “touch” which crosses temporal lines, reveals the inherent strangeness which inhabits the chrono-normative rhythms of time. And her seeming “disloyalty,” her overcloseness discloses what Freeman says is the, “messiest thing about being queer,” that is, “the actual meeting of bodies with other bodies and with objects” (Freeman, xxi, my emphasis). The Promise of Affect Huffer’s ecstatic moment, her stepping outside of herself in a moment of happy stance, a chancy happenstance, should remind us that we know, as Muñoz, puts it, “time through the field of the affective, and affect is tightly bound to temporality” (Muñoz,187). Sara Ahmed’s The Promise of Happiness (2010) turns its attention to an affect which has been downplayed in queer studies which has up until recently preferred to wallow in bad feelings such as shame (by far the most dominant affect in queer cultural studies), hate, fear, anger, disgust and so on. Negative affect, melancholy and trauma, as Michael Snediker points out in his gorgeous dance of a book Queer Optimism , have preoccupied queer theorizing at the expense of or to the detriment of positive affect, happiness, optimism, hope, utopianism. In his review of Ahmed’s book Snediker avers that, “arguments for or against happiness arise most provocatively in the field of queer theory,” which suggests to him that, “queer persons bear an acutely salient relation to happiness as that from which they’ve been excluded, but furthermore, that they bear an exemplary relation to a happiness always requiring sacrifice and compromise, a shady bittersweetness from which no persons are exempt” (2009, np). Most queer theory has found itself cleaving to pernicious versions of happiness over and against its capacity for fungibility (there are many forms of happiness) and its constitutive (or at the very least etymological) potentiality for surprise. Happiness, then, occupies the strange temporality of Stockton’s child and his or her delay (and of Muñoz’s then-and-there, a not-yet-here). Snediker reminds us that Ahmed imagines an affective relation (which can be both happy or unhappy; there is, after all, no pure form of either happiness or unhappiness which tend, as Snediker puts it, rather to “equivocate around each other’s edges”) to an “experienced past as structurally analogous to a futural affect which we can speculate about but haven’t yet encountered”: “nostalgic and promissory forms of happiness belong under the same horizon, insofar as they imagine happiness as being somewhere other than where we are in the present” (Ahmed, 160-161). The anti-social theorists argue that, if one is to be queer, happiness is ontologically risky and therefore should be refused, given up. However, Ahmed much more promisingly (and promissorily) mines those times and spaces where we can in fact find forms of happiness beyond those we presently “trust and mistrust” (Snediker, 2009). In this brighter, more expansive world, Ahmed promises a differently-theorized happiness, which we might allow to migrate across other affects—both positive and negative. As Snediker concludes, Ahmed gratifyingly allows that, by swerving away from happiness’s compulsions and coercions and being drawn into near-proximity, “we might wish to be happy, without feeling theoretically unhappy in the wishing.” Unlimited Promiscuity Muñoz’s Cruising Utopia: The Then and There of Queer Futurity imagines what we “can possibly see, let alone know, here, and now, of future social relations, how we can dream and enact new and better pleasures, other ways of being in the world, and ultimately new worlds” (Muñoz ,1). The then and there of his subtitle insists on the now-cental question of how to bring about utopian futures from within a negating and seemingly hopeless present. How to introduce or bring exuberant futures (what Michael Warner would call “queer planets” maybe) into being. It may seem perverse to look for and to find ballast for what we can know of future social relations that would induce ebullient queer futurities in Tim Dean’s Unlimited Intimacy: Reflections on the Subculture of Barebacking (2010), the opening chapter of which bears the confessional epigraph, “I like to bareback—to fuck without condoms.” But for Dean barebacking “concerns an experience of unfettered intimacy, of overcoming the boundaries between persons, that is far from exclusive to this subculture or, indeed, to queer sexuality” (2). What this might mean, of course, is that barebacking occupies the queer time and space of the not-yet-here. It also promises a shattering of the identitarian structures which presently underpin our theories of sexuality and potentializes the thinking of new relational modes or forms-of-life (an important point to make about a book which has the virtue of bringing HIV, AIDS, and death back into focus without falling under the sway of the death driven queer post-politics).15 If Foucault needs to be re-queered, unleashing his queer unreason or madness, then Dean suggests that queer theory itself needs to be re-queered. Barebacking (which he refuses to endorse or condemn) allows him “to defer judgement about it in order to open a space in which real thinking can occur” (Dean, 3). If for Stockton growing sideways is a queer strategy in practice, and for Muñoz taking ecstasy is a queer strategy in motion, then for Dean promiscuity occupies that re-opened space where real thinking and patient forms of attention can take place. In lieu of the politics of identification he argues for an impersonal ethics in which one cares about others (strangers in the Levinasian sense), “even when one cannot see anything of oneself in them.” So, in “contradistinction to the politics of identification, we have the ethics of alterity” (Dean, 25). This post-continental approach which moves beyond the subject in favour of what Elizabeth Grosz (2007) calls a, “process of opening oneself up to the otherness that is the world itself […] that makes us unrecognisable,” might also be diagrammed using Lacan’s graphs of sexuation as does Levi Bryant in his work on the democracy of objects and what he has termed Object Oriented Ontology (OOO). Lacan plays a crucial role in both Dean’s Beyond Sexuality and Unlimited Intimacy as well as in Bryant’s onticology, his “flat ontology.” Bryant's theory of withdrawal is one which—in conversation with Timothy Morton (2011)—asserts an opposition to any “phallocentric totalization. This is what Bryant (2011) has recently called “phallosophy.” Instead of interpreting Lacan’s graphs in terms of sexuation, he understands them in terms of ontology. He explains that, “on both the masculine and the feminine side of the graph of sexuation, what we get are two different ways of handling the withdrawal at the heart of being. The left side of the graph refers to masculine sexuation, while the right side of the graph refers to feminine sexuation” (2010, np). And in Bryant’s post-phallosophical onticology, queer theory is to be found on the feminine (“not-all”) side of the graph. If David Ruffolo is determined to theorize queer desiring machines to counter an unproductive focus on lack then Bryant is equally attuned to the ways in which we ought to swerve away from Lacan’s phallic function (which of course refers to castration or lack). Bryant explains: rather than referring to a masculine and feminine side of the graph, we can instead refer to a side of the graph that refers to object-oriented ontologies (the feminine [and subsequently he has placed the queer here too]). Moreover, rather than treating phi as the phallic function, we should instead treat phi as withdrawal. [...W]hat we get in this schema are two fundamentally different ways of discoursing about being (2010). Bryant reformulates the schemas for masculinity and femininity in terms of philosophies of presence where, “all are submitted to withdrawal with one exception,” and object-oriented ontologies where, “not all are submitted to withdrawal. But there is no exception. There is none which is not submitted to withdrawal.” What Bryant is getting at here is that there is no master signifier outside the set of all objects and there is no top or bottom object anywhere to be found. He goes on to say that: if the graphs of sexuation are rewritten in terms of ontology and withdrawal we can see how we get radically different ontologies depending on whether or not we’re dealing with a metaphysics of presence or an object-oriented ontology. What the metaphysics of presence seeks and is always dependent upon is an exception or an entity that is not subject to withdrawal. In other words it seeks an entity that is fully present without any withdrawal whatsoever (2010). However, Object-Oriented Ontologies give us a completely different schematization because, as Bryant argues, there is “no exception to withdrawal.” He explains that, “it belongs to the being of all beings to withdraw without exception. Not only do beings withdraw from one another, but they also necessarily withdraw from themselves.” In his democratization of objects Bryant develops the thesis that objects have a dual nature, that they simultaneously withdraw and are, “self-othering in and through their manifestations.” If we look at Lacan’s graphs of sexuation we see a series of arrows traversing the two sides of the graph. As Bryant explains, on the masculine side we see an arrow pointing from the barred subject ($) to object a (a) and the “logic of metaphysics of presence” generates a situation in which “withdrawal is seen as a loss rather than as a constitutive dimension of being.” However, on the feminine side of the graph, which is on the side of object-oriented ontologies, there is a very different logic at work (something like Ruffolo’s creative lines of flight, a multiplicity of flows). The feminine article (~La~) is represented as a constitutively split subject. “On the one hand,” Bryant tells us, “we see an arrow pointing to the symbol for withdrawal ( phi ) indicating an orientation not to the presence or actuality of entities, but the manner in which an entity is always in excess of its manifestations. Likewise, we see yet another arrow directed at S(~A~) [...] the signifier for the barred Other.” Bryant rethinks that barred other in terms of what Timothy Morton has called in various places the strange stranger, a figure akin to Derrida’s monstrous arrivant, and also in terms of Graham Harman’s distinction between the real and sensuous properties of objects: “the arrow pointing to the barred object would thus indicate a desire oriented to welcoming the stranger or that which disrupts the familiar world of local manifestations. Where the logic of desire underlying metaphysics of presence is predicated on overcoming a loss and thereby attaining presence, the logic of desire [we might call it post-queer desire with Ruffolo] underlying object-oriented ontology would emphasize the excess of all substances over their local manifestations (there’s always more) and would welcome difference or those eruptions within stable regimes of local manifestation where the strange stranger surprises and indicates this excess” (“Phallosophy”). This is perhaps how we might diagram the virtuality of queer theory’s being constitutively open (to the world itself, and to go further, constitutively open to its future) and undomesticatable. If for Bryant, every “entity is a becoming that promises to become otherwise” then this is why entities are not only strange strangers to other entities but are also strange strangers to themselves” (2011). Morton has in his essay “Queer Ecology” extended his idea of the strange stranger to queer objects, guaranteeing a theory of withdrawn objects which recognizes the strange strangeness to everything.18 Any state an entity, say queer theory, happens to be in is merely provisional and there is always an excess or remainder beyond phallic identification and totalization. Bryant asks if his non-phallosophical thought deserves the title of a queer ontology, “in addition to a feminist ontology?” and the answer he provides is yes. His theory of withdrawal shares a great deal with Derrida’s abyssal aporetics, moving as it does beyond any epistemological limitation and “inscribing itself in the very being of the object itself.” If the object is withdrawn because, “it is never present either for-itself or for-another,” then we might begin to redraw queer theory as an entity which also deserves the name, “strange stranger” (2011). And we might now see Dean’s unlimited intimacy as a withdrawal from and reaching out towards strangers. In the concluding chapter, “Cruising as a Way of Life” (a clear nod to the later Foucault and the invention of new alliances, modes of life and unforeseen lines of force) to Unlimited Intimacy Dean writes that, “cruising entails a remarkably hospitable disposition towards strangers. Insofar as that is the case, the subculture of bareback promiscuity, far from being ethically irresponsible, may be ethically exemplary” (176). Barebacking, as he makes very clear throughout, is a practice which anyone can perform and may not have any particular attachment to or origin in gay sexualities. Cruising, which also is not a gay-specific practice, “exemplifies a distinctive ethic of openness to alterity and that—irrespective of our view of the morality of barebacking—we all, gay and non-gay, have something to learn from this relational ethic” (176). Barebacking disintricates us, then, from the identitarian (or in Dean’s terms “identificatory”) focus of lesbian and gay studies and opens up a space for queer sexualities and relationalities. Barebacking, we might say, is a queer strategy in practice. Methodologically—not that queer theory is a methodology, it is just what happens—this relates to a certain promiscuity, to “thinking promiscuously about promiscuity itself,” extending promiscuity beyond the sexual realm to the philosophico-theoretical (queer not as a sexual orientation but as a theoretical one). If for Lauren Berlant and Michael Warner in 1995 queer commentary was attuned to the opening up of a world then for Dean fifteen years later pleasurable yet risky openness to contact with others, with strangers and “cruising [...] involves not just hunting for sex but opening oneself to the world” (Dean, 210) and we might add, to a recalibrated futurity and erotico-relational ethic(s). Erotic impersonality, experimenting with viruses, for Dean, is an exploration of the ways in which we may, “relate to others and even become intimately engaged with them without needing to know or identify with them” (211). And this, I think, is what Bryant means by his own onticology of withdrawal which discloses the relation that is a non-relation to the strange stranger. Such is the (non)relational ethics, the posthuman ethics of difference, that onticology and [Morton’s] dark ecology strive to think, an ethics where the “non” must be placed in parentheses precisely because it is oddly both a relation and an absence of relation, precisely because it is proximity and the impossibility of any proximity (2011). Queer Theory, in moving outline (capable of being endlessly redrawn), we might say, could be diagrammed as a post-continental theory of precisely everything, a madly erotically impersonal mode of opening up to and meshing with the strangeness of others, of opening up to the incalculable strangeness of the future to-come, of opening up to aesthetic and political practices that do not yet exist but need to be envisioned as necessarily ec-static modes of stepping out of this enmired place and time to something cosmopolitically “fuller, vaster, more sensual and brighter” (Muñoz, 189). NOTES 1. The term “chrononormative” is one of the many brilliant formulations in Elizabeth Freeman’s Time Binds: Queer Temporalities, Queer Histories . Durham: Duke University Press. 2010. 2. Although I would argue that both have been read less and less well and indeed less and less as queer theory. 3. And I would argue that this is actually what has really been happening: does anyone actually read Judith Butler’s work now as queer theory or even of relevance to queer theory? 4. And this for me is exemplified by Masoud Ghaffarian-Shiraz’s cover image, “The Droplet.” 5. Patricia MacCormack’s resonant phrase “becomings to-come” seems to me to be a very useful one in this context, see her book, Cinesexuality . Farnham: Ashgate. 2008. 6. Elizabeth Freeman (2010) embraces the queerness of close reading encounters. She writes that the narratives she assembles in Time Binds (Durham: Duke University Press) are, “practices of knowing, physical as well as mental, erotic as well as loving 'grasps' of detail that do not accede to existing theories and lexicons but come into unpredictable contact with them: close readings that are, for most academic disciplines, simply too close for comfort” (xx-xxi). 7. We might note that the death of Theory itself has been repeatedly announced. A recent collection edited by Derek Attridge and Jane Elliott, entitled Theory After ‘Theory’ (New York: Routledge. 2011. Print.) argues that far from being dead that theory has adapted itself to the most pressing political and cultural problems of our time. 8. It is interesting that the subtitle of Huffer’s Mad for Foucault is Rethinking the Foundations of Queer Theory as if were not suspicious of all origins. 9. See Hardt, Michael and Antonio Negri, Multitude: War and Democracy in the Age of Empire. New York: Penguin. 2004. Print. 10. Editor's Note: We thus understand the BABEL Working Group's calling of all hands for their panel sessions at the 2012 Annual International Congress on Medieval Studies entitled "Fuck This: On Finally Letting Go" and "Fuck Me: On Never Letting Go" as esprit d'amour . 11. Incorrectly because Bersani’s work has everywhere been committed, like Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick’s, to recreating the world and letting it be. For Bersani everyone relates to everyone and everything else through formal correspondences and there is a marked shift from the anti-relational to ever-proliferating new relational modes and forms of being in his later work. Compare Homos (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1995) and Forms of Being: Cinema, Aesthetics, Subjectivity (co-authored with Ulysse Dutoit, London: BFI, 2004). 12. For Freeman a commitment to “overcloseness” informs her sense of “queer” which, for her, “cannot signal a purely deconstructive move or position of pure negativity” (2010, xxi). 13. And childhood, as Eve Sedgwick so acutely taught us, need not necessarily adhere only to children. 14. No figure more than Foucault—except perhaps Freud—has exerted such a deep influence on queer thinking since its “inception.” 15. I mean post-politics here in terms of Edelman’s position of pure oppositionality to politics. 16. See in particular, “Queer Ecology” PMLA 125.2 (March 2010): 273-282 and The Ecological Thought (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2010). 17. See also Morton’s “Here Comes Everything: The Promise of Object-Oriented Ontology.” Qui Parle . 19.2:163-90.  . (shrink)
continent. 2.2 (2012): 76–81 Comments on Eugene Thacker’s “Cosmic Pessimism” Nicola Masciandaro Anything you look forward to will destroy you, as it already has. —Vernon Howard In pessimism, the first axiom is a long, low, funereal sigh. The cosmicity of the sigh resides in its profound negative singularity. Moving via endless auto-releasement, it achieves the remote. “ Oltre la spera che piú larga gira / passa ’l sospiro ch’esce del mio core ” [Beyond the sphere that circles widest / penetrates (...) the sigh that issues from my heart]. 1 The axiomatic sigh of the pessimist is in a way the pure word of philosophy, a thought that thinks without you, speaks where you are not. The live pneumatic form of the soul’s eventual exit from the dead body’s mouth, the sigh restores consciousness to the funeral of being, to the passing away that is existence. Pessimism speaks in piercing aphorisms because first it sighs. “Beyond the sphere passeth the arrow of our sigh. Hafiz! Silence.” 2 … pessimism is guilty of that most inexcusable of Occidental crimes—the crime of not pretending it’s for real. To the pessimist, the ‘real’ world—the world on whose behalf we are expected to wake up in the morning—is a ceaseless index of its own unreality. The pessimist’s day is not an illumined space for the advancement of experience and action, but a permanently and inescapably reflective zone, the vast interior of a mirror where each thing is only insofar as it is, at best, a false image of itself. Within this speculative situation, inside the doubleness of the mirror, pessimism splits into two paths, false and true, one that tries to fix pessimism (establish a relation with the mirror) and decides in favor of the apparent real, and another that totally falls for pessimism (enters the mirror) and communes with the greater reality of the unreal. These two paths are distinguished by their relation to pessimism’s guilt vis-à-vis the world’s reality-project. The first form, that which remains pessimism for the world and puts on a smiling face, stays guilty to itself (i.e. unconscious) and thus turns hypocritical, becoming at once the pessimism of the commoner who really just wants things to be better for himself and the pessimism of the elite who wants to critically refashion reality in his own image. The general form of this worldly, hypocritical pessimism is the impulse to ‘make the world a better place’, which is the global mask under which the world is diurnally made worse. The second form, that which follows pessimism away from the world and ceases to put on a smiling face, refuses guiltiness as itself theessential Occidental mode of pretense and turns honest, becoming at once the intelligent pessimism required of all ordinary action and the radical pessimism necessary for self-knowledge: seeing that no one is capable of doing good. The general form of this universal, honest pessimism is the impulse not to worry, to give up and embrace dereliction, which is the only real way the world is actually improved. Where worldly pessimism is the engine productive of interminably warring secular and sacred religions (good-projects), universal pessimism strives hopelessly for the paradise of a supremely instantiated pessimus: things are getting so bad that there is no longer any time for them to get worse; things are so constantly-instantly worst that this is BEST. Cosmic pessimism is the mode of universal pessimism which can yet discourse with the world, which has not chosen silence and can spread the inconceivably BAD NEWS in an orderly form ( kosmos ) that the world can understand (if it wanted to). … the result of a confusion between the world and a statement about the world. That is what the world is (the result of a confusion between the world and a statement about the world). … a generalized misanthropy without the anthropos. Pessimism crystallizes around this futility—it is its amor fati , rendered as musical form. Pessimism’s love of fate is a blind love, a love of the blindness of being human in a cosmos conceived around the human’s eclipse, a heavy levitation in the contradictory space between the inescapability of its having been and the impossibility of its will-be. Pessimism’s song of futility is a sensible way of loving fate, with a minimum of eros, by means of a kind of matrimonial love of the fatal. As music, pessimism stays open to the irreparable and the inexorable without the binding of affirmation, in the apparent absence of the radical, infinitely surplus will that absolute amor fati seems to require. Crying, laughing, sleeping—what other responses are adequate to a life that is so indifferent? “Unless a man aspires to the impossible, the possible that he achieves will scarcely be worth the trouble of his achieving it. We should aspire to the impossible, to absolute and infinite perfection [….] The apocatastasis is more than a mystical dream: it is a norm of action, it is a beacon for high deeds [….] For true charity is a species of invasion [….] It is not charity to rock and lull our fellow men to sleep in the inertia and heaviness of matter, but rather to arouse them to anguish and torment of spirit.” 3 … the impossibility of ever adequately accounting for one’s relationship to thought. “The paroxysm of interior experience leads you to regions where danger is absolute, because life which self-consciously actualizes its roots in experience can only negate itself [….] There are no arguments [….] On the heights of despair, the passion for the absurd is the only thing that can still throw a demonic light on chaos [….] I live because the mountains do not laugh and the worms do not sing .” 4 It took three attempts before she was fully decapitated, all the while she continued, perhaps miraculously, to sing. According to the earliest account of Cecilia’s martyrdom, the beheading turns out worse. After not severing her head in three strokes, “the cruel executioner left her half dead” (seminecem eam cruentus carnifex dereliquit). 5 Cecilia’s effortlessly powerful endurance of the three strokes—a fitting icon for pessimism as an art of dereliction—demonstrates the “passivity and absence of effort [….] in which divine transcendence is dissolved.” 6 There’s a ghost that grows inside of me, damaged in the making, and there’s a hunt sprung from necessity, elliptical and drowned. Where the moving quiet of our insomnia offers up each thought, there’s a luminous field of grey inertia, and obsidian dreams burnt all the way down. Like words from a pre-waking dream. There is no reason to think that they are not. NOTES 1. Dante Alighieri. Vita Nuova . ed. and trans. Dino S. Cervigni and Edward Vasta. Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press. 1995. 41:10. 2. Hafiz of Shiraz. The Divan . trans. H. Wilberforce Clarke. London: Octagon Press. 1974. 10.9. 3. Miguel de Unamuno. The Tragic Sense of Life in Men and Nations . trans. Anthony Kerrigan. Princeton: Princeton University Press. 1972. 305-6. 4. E.M. Cioran. On the Heights of Despair . trans. Ilinca Zarifopol-Johnston. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. 1992. 9-10. 5. Giacomo Laderchi. S. Caeciliae Virg[inis] et Mart[yris] Acta. . . Rome. 1723. 38. 6. Georges Bataille. On Nietzsche . trans. Bruce Boone. London: Continuum. 2004. 135. See Nicola Masciandaro. “ Half Dead: Parsing Cecilia .” A Commentary on Eugene Thacker’s "Cosmic Pessimism" Gary J. Shipley Pessimism is the refusal to seek distraction, the refusal to remodel failure into a platform for further (doomed) possibilities, the refusal of comfort, the acceptance of the sickness of healthy bodies, the cup of life overflowing with cold vomit. If, as Ligotti suggests when discussing Invasion of the Body Snatchers , 1 humans prefer the anxieties of their familiar human lives to the contentment of an alien one, then the pessimist, we could argue, represents some perverted combination of the two, preferring (presuming he has a choice) the defamiliarization of human life to the contentment of its unquestioned mundanity. The quasi-religious state of mind that Wittgenstein would mention on occasion, that of “feeling absolutely safe,” 2 is a state the pessimist could only imagine being approximated by death, or perhaps some annihilative opiate-induced stupor. This Wittgensteinian commingling of certainty and faith looks every bit the futile gesture, a mere rephrasing of collapse or partial collapse. The only certainty open to the pessimist is that of the toxic formula of life itself—a formula known and lacuna-free. Certainty, far from being the gateway to deliverance, becomes the definitive impediment; and the possibility of salvation, as long as it remains, becomes crucially reliant on postulations of ignorance, epistemic gaps, a perennial incompleteness: “the perfect safety of wooed death […] the warm bath of physical dissolution, the universal unknown engulfing the miniscule unknown.” 3 The height of Leibniz’s Panglossian insanity nurtured the idea that our knowing everything—via the universal calculus—could be accurately described a triumph, as opposed to a nightmare in which our every futility is laid bare. Stagnancy and boredom are perhaps two of the greatest ills of Western civilisation, and the most potent pessimism tells you that you’re stuck with both. The most we can hope for, by way of salvation, is to throw open our despair to the unknown. The fact that Schopenhauer’s pessimism stopped short of morality and allowed him to play the flute, as Nietzsche complained, highlights the predicament of a man who despite having adorned nothingness with a smiling face still found himself alive. The demand here is that it be felt: a cross-contamination of intellect and emotion. The safety net of numerous parentheses makes for a failed philosophy, rather than a philosophy of failure. Depressives make bad pessimists, because, unless they choose to die, living will always infect them with necessities of hope, forcing them to find something, anything (all the various “as ifs”) to make existence tolerable. For as Cioran observed, while “[d]epressions pay attention to life, they are the eyes of the devil, poisoned arrows which wound mortally any zest and love of life. Without them we know little, but with them, we cannot live.” 4 And even when cured of our depressions we’ll find ourselves consumed, eaten alive by the hyper-clinical (borderline autistic) mania that replaces them: a predicament captured all too clearly in the microscriptual fictions of Robert Walser, where spectral men and women stifle their depressive madness with protective comas of detail, their failed assimilations buried beneath thick crusts of remote data. Like Beckett’s Malone their stories may have ended, but cruelly their lives have not. Pessimism is an extraneous burden (a purposeless weight) that makes everything else harder to carry, while at the same time scooping it out and making it lighter. If pessimism had a sound it would be the harsh non-noise of tinnitus—the way that every person would hear themselves if they refused their distractions long enough to listen: a lungless scream from the extrasolar nothing of the self. The music of pessimism—if indeed we can imagine such a thing—is the reverberating echo of the world’s last sound, conjectured but never heard, audible only in its being listened for. The one consolation of this hollow paradox of audibility being, that “he will be least afraid of becoming nothing in death who has recognized that he is already nothing now.” 5 The pessimist suffers a derangement of the real, a labyrinthitis at the nucleus of his being: he’s the stumbling ghost relentlessly surprised that others can see him. If Cioran’s refusal is manifested in sleep (when even saying ‘no’ is too much of a commitment), then Pessoa’s resides in the dreams inside that sleep. Pessoa chooses to exploit the fact that he’s being “lived by some murmuring non-entity both shadowy and muddied” 6 by growing more voids to live him. His is a Gnostic breed of sleep, “sleeping as if the universe were a mistake,” 7 a sleep that dreams through Thacker’s cosmic pessimism (“a pessimism of the world-without-us.”, “the unhuman orientation of deep space and deep time” 8 ), through the critical error of there being anything at all when there could be nothing. The metaphysical pessimist is someone who, however well life treats them, still desires to wake from it, as from the poisonous air of a bad dream. Pessimism is a paradox of age, being simultaneously young and old; its youth residing in a refusal to accept the authority of existence (its rich history, its inherent beneficence), a refusal to “get over” the horror of what it sees with its perpetually fresh eyes, and its maturity in the unceremonious disposal of the philosophical playthings (those futile architectures) of adolescence. As Thacker remarks: “Pessimism abjures all pretenses towards system—towards the purity of analysis and the dignity of critique.” 9 A sentiment shared with Pessoa, who duly categorizes those that choose to enact this futile struggle: “The creators of metaphysical systems and of psychological explanations are still in the primary stage of suffering.” 10 If the pessimist has shared a womb with anyone, it’s with the mystic and not the philosopher. As Schopenhauer tells us: “The mystic is opposed to the philosopher by the fact that he begins from within, whereas the philosopher begins from without. […] But nothing of this is communicable except the assertions that we have to accept on his word; consequently he is unable to convince.” 11 The crucial difference between the mystic and the pessimist is not the latter’s impassivity and defeatism, but his unwillingness/inability to contain in any way the spread of his voracious analyticity, his denial of incompleteness, his exhaustive devotion to failure. The truth of our predicament, though heard, is destined to remain unprocessed. Like the revelations of B.S. Johnson’s Haakon (“We rot and there’s nothing that can stop it / Can’t you feel the shaking horror of that?” 12 ) the pessimist’s truths are somehow too obvious to listen to, as if something inside us were saying, “Of course, but haven’t we gotten over that?” Pessimism is simple and ugly, and has no desire to make itself more complex or more attractive. The true moral pessimist knows that the Utilitarian’s accounts will always be in the red. He can see that for all his computational containments, his only honest path is a negative one, and that such a path has but one logical destination: that of wholesale human oblivion. Thacker notes how at the core of pessimism lies the notion of “the worst,” through which death is demoted by the all-pervasive suffering of a life that easily eclipses its threat. And so with doom made preferable to gloom, death begins to glint with promise, “like beauty passing through a nightmare.” 13 But even among pessimists suicide is, for the most part, thought to be an error. Schopenhauer, for instance, regarded suicide a mistake grounded in some fundamentally naïve disappointment or other. Pessoa too thought suicide an onerous escape tactic: “To die is to become completely other. That’s why suicide is a cowardice: it’s to surrender ourselves completely to life.” 14 There is a call here to be accepting of and creative with the puppetry of your being, an insistence that it’s somehow a blunder to attempt to hide in death from the horrors you find inlife. 15 Tied up with this perseverance is the slippery notion of the good death, for maybe, as Blanchot warns, suicide is rarely something we can hope to get right, for the simple reason that “you cannot make of death an object of the will.” 16 “Even in cases where the entire corpus of an author is pessimistic, the project always seems incomplete,” 17 and this is not simply because the project itself belies something yet to be disclosed, but because the project itself is a thing waiting. It waits on a cure it knows will not come, but for which it cannot do anything (as long as it continues to do anything) but wait. NOTES 1. See Thomas Ligotti. The Conspiracy Against the Human Race . New York: Hippocampus Press. 2010. 91. 2. Ludwig Wittgenstein. “A Lecture on Ethics.” Philosophical Review . (74) 1. 1965. 8. 3. Vladimir Nabokov. Pale Fire . New York: Vintage. 1989. 221. 4. E. M. Cioran. The Book of Delusions . trans. Camelia Elias. Hyperion. 5.1. (2010): 75. 5. Arthur Schopenhauer. The World as Will and Representation. vol. 2 . trans. E .F J. Payne. New York: Dover. 1966. 609. 6. Eugene Thacker. “Cosmic Pessimism.” continent. . 2.2 (2012): 67. 7. Fernando Pessoa. The Book of Disquiet . trans. Richard Zenith. London: Penguin. 2002. 35. 8. Eugene Thacker. “Cosmic Pessimism.” continent. . 2.2 (2012): 68. 9. Ibid. 73. 10. Fernando Pessoa. The Book of Disquiet . trans. Richard Zenith. London: Penguin. 2002. 341. 11. Arthur Schopenhauer. The World as Will and Representation. vol. 2 . trans. E .F J. Payne. New York: Dover. 1966. 610-11. 12. B.S Johnson. “You’re Human Like the Rest of Them.” in Jonathan Coe. Like a Fiery Elephant: The Story of B.S. Johnson . London: Picador. 2004. 177. 13. Fernando Pessoa. The Book of Disquiet . trans. Richard Zenith. London: Penguin. 2002. 415. 14. Ibid. 199. 15. “Suicide is, after all, the opposite of the poem.” Anne Sexton. No Evil Star: Selected Essays, Interviews and Prose . ed. Steven Gould Axelrod. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press. 1985. 92. 16. Maurice Blanchot. The Space of Literature . trans. Ann Smock. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press. 1989. 105. 17. Eugene Thacker. “Cosmic Pessimism.” continent. . 2.2 (2012): 75. (shrink)
"Godard is the most contemporary of directors, one who has never set a film in the past. Yet since the 1990s he has produced a whole cycle of works whose tones are retrospective, memorial, elegaic. These include JLG/JLG:Auto-portrait du Décembre (1995), the much-discussed Histoire(s) du Cinèma (begun in 1988, completed in 1998) 2 x 50 Years of French Cinema (commissioned by the BFI for the centennial of cinema in 1995), The Old Place (commissioned by the Museum of Modern Art in (...) 1999), On the Origin of the Twenty-First Century (commissioned by the Cannes Film Festival for the year 2000), Dans Le Noir du Temps (a contribution to the 2002 compilation film Ten Minutes Older ), and the 2006 Centre Pompidou exhibition “Travels in Utopia.” This last was a retrospective in the conventional sense (screenings of four decades worth of film and video by Godard, Godard/Gorin, Godard/Mièville, etc), but was also retrospective as an installation, divided into three spaces identified as hier, l’avant-hier, and aujourd’hui (yesterday, the day before yesterday, and today), with tomorrow notable for its absence...". (shrink)
What is a concept? Philosophers have given many different answers to this question, reflecting a wide variety of approaches to the study of mind and language. Nonetheless, at the most general level, there are two dominant frameworks in contemporary philosophy. One proposes that concepts are mental representations, while the other proposes that they are abstract objects. This paper looks at the differences between these two approaches, the prospects for combining them, and the issues that are involved in the dispute. We (...) argue that powerful motivations have been offered in support of both frameworks. This suggests the possibility of combining the two. Unlike Frege, we hold that the resulting position is perfectly coherent and well worth considering. Nonetheless, we argue that it should be rejected along with the view that concepts are abstract objects. (shrink)
It is argued that the intuitively sanctioned distinction between beliefs and non-belief states that play a role in the proximate causal history of beliefs is a distinction worth preserving in cognitive psychology. The intuitive distinction is argued to rest on a pair of features exhibited by beliefs but not by subdoxastic states. These are access to consciousness and inferential integration. Harman's view, which denies the distinction between beliefs and subdoxastic states, is discussed and criticized.
Abstract. We argue that all human beings have a special type of dignity which is the basis for (1) the obligation all of us have not to kill them, (2) the obligation to take their well-being into account when we act, and (3) even the obligation to treat them as we would have them treat us, and indeed, that all human beings are equal in fundamental dignity. We give reasons to oppose the position that only some human beings, because of (...) their possession of certain characteristics in addition to their humanity (for example, an immediately exercisable capacity for self-consciousness, or for rational deliberation), have full moral worth. What distinguishes human beings from other animals, what makes human beings persons rather than things, is their rational nature, and human beings are rational creatures by virtue of possessing natural capacities for conceptual thought, deliberation, and free choice, that is, the natural capacity to shape their own lives. (shrink)
Kant claims that the concept of the highest good, the idea of happiness in proportion to virtue, is grounded in the moral law. But this claim has often been challenged. How can Kant justify including happiness in the highest good? Why should only the virtuous be worth of happiness? This paper argues that when the moral law is interpreted as the criterion for valid application of the concept of the good, the concept of the highest good does indeed follow (...) from the moral law. It also argues that the duty to promote the highest good harmonizes with other duties. (shrink)
John Bickle's new book on philosophy and neuroscience is aptly subtitled 'a ruthlessly reductive account'. His 'new wave metascience' is a massive attack on the relative autonomy that psychology enjoyed until recently, and goes even beyond his previous (Bickle, J. (1998). Psychoneural reduction: The new wave. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.) new wave reductionsism. Reduction of functional psychology to (cognitive) neuroscience is no longer ruthless enough; we should now look rather to cellular or molecular neuroscience at the lowest possible level for (...) explanations of memory, consciousness and attention. Bickle presents a fascinating set of experimental cases of such molecule-to-mind explanations. This book qualifies as a showcase of naturalism in the philosophy of mind. Naturally, many of the traditional conceptual approaches in the philosophy of mind are given short shrift, but - in Bickle's metascientific scheme - the role of philosophy of science also seems reduced to explicating laboratory findings. The present reviewers think that this reductionism suffers from overstretching; in particular, the idea of 'explanation in a single bound' from molecule to mind is a bit too ruthless. Still, Bickle's arguments are worth serious attention. (shrink)
Universities are expected to be places where knowledge is shared freely among academicians. However, the reality shows that knowledge sharing is barely present within universities these days. As Malaysia shifts towards building a knowledge-based society, academic institutions, particularly the public universities, now face ever-growing faculty demands for sharing quality resources and expertise. As a result, knowledge sharing in academia has become a rising concern. The purpose of this study, then, is to uncover the factors that propel knowledge sharing among academicians (...) in higher learning institutions of Malaysia. Using the Theory of Reasoned Action as the basis for this study’s research framework, data was gathered from 447 academicians in 10 public universities scattered throughout the country. Findings from the Partial Least Squares analysis revealed that extrinsic motivation, reciprocal relationships, sense of self-worth and subjective norm are vital determinants of an academician’s attitude towards knowledge sharing. In turn, this attitude that is formed will largely determine whether the academician engages in knowledge sharing behaviors or not. Besides having a positive effect on attitude, sense of self-worth also exhibited a positive impact on the subjective norm to share knowledge. Consequently, this subjective norm will have an impact upon knowledge sharing behavior. In addition, perceived behavioral control and organizational climate were discovered to have a direct influence on knowledge sharing behaviors. Implications, limitations as well as suggestions for future research are accordingly discussed in this paper. (shrink)
Our contemporary nihilism -- Homer's polytheism -- From Aeschylus to Augustine : monotheism on the rise -- From Dante to Kant : the attractions and dangers of autonomy -- Fanaticism, polytheism, and Melville's "evil art" -- David Foster Wallace's nihilism -- Conclusion : lives worth living in a secular age.