The Inner Touch presents the archaeology of a single sense: the sense of being sentient. Aristotle was perhaps the first to define this faculty when in his treatise On the Soul he identified a sensory power, irreducible to the five senses, by which animals perceive that they are perceiving: the simple "sense," as he wrote, "that we are seeing and hearing." After him, thinkers returned, time and again, to define and redefine this curious sensation. The classical Greek and Roman philosophers (...) as well as the medieval Arabic, Hebrew, and Latin thinkers who followed them all investigated a power they called "the common sense," which one ancient author likened to "a kind of inner touch, by which we are able to grasp ourselves." Their many findings were not lost with the waning of the Middle Ages. From Montaigne and Francis Bacon to Locke, Leibniz, and Rousseau, from nineteenth-century psychiatry and neurology to Proust and Walter Benjamin, the writers and thinkers of the modern period have turned knowingly and unknowing to the terms of older traditions in exploring the perception that every sensitive being possesses of its life.The Inner Touch reconstructs and reconsiders the history of this perception. In twenty-five concise chapters that move freely among ancient, medieval, and modern cultures, Daniel Heller-Roazen investigates a set of exemplary phenomena that have played central roles in philosophical, literary, psychological, and medical accounts of the nature of animal existence. Here sensation and self-sensation, sleeping and waking, aesthetics and anesthetics, perception and apperception, animal nature and human nature, consciousness and unconsciousness, all acquire a new meaning.The Inner Touch proposes an original, elegant, and far-reaching philosophical inquiry into a problem that has never been more pressing: what it means to feel that one is alive.Winner of the Aldo and Jeanne Scaglione Prize for Comparative Literary Studies. (shrink)
This volume constitutes the largest collection of writings by the Italian philosopher Giorgio Agamben hitherto published in any language. With one exception, the fifteen essays, which reflect the wide range of the author’s interests, appear in English for the first time. The essays consider figures in the history of philosophy and twentieth-century thought. They also examine several general topics that have always been of central concern to Agamben: the relation of linguistic and metaphysical categories; messianism in Islamic, Jewish, and Christian (...) theology; and the state and future of contemporary politics. Despite the diversity of the texts collected here, they show a consistent concern for a set of overriding philosophical themes concerning language, history, and potentiality. In the first part of the book, Agamben brings philosophical texts of Plato and Benjamin, the literary criticism of Max Kommerell, and the linguistic studies of J.-C. Milner to bear upon a question that exposes each discipline to a limit at which the possibility of language itself is at stake. The essays in the second part concern a body of texts that deal with the structure of history and historical reflection, including the idea of the end of history in Jewish and Christian messianism, as well as in Hegel, Benjamin, and Aby Warburg. In the third part, the issues confronted in the first and second parts are shown to be best grasped as issues of potentiality. Agamben argues that language and history are structures of potentiality and can be most fully understood on the basis of the Aristotelian theory of _dynamis_ and its medieval elaborations. The fourth part is an extensive essay on Herman Melville’s short story “Bartleby, the Scrivener.”. (shrink)
Just as speech can be acquired, so can it be lost. Speakers can forget words, phrases, even entire languages they once knew; over the course of time peoples, too, let go of the tongues that were once theirs, as languages disappear and give way to the others that follow them. In Echolalias, Daniel Heller-Roazen reflects on the many forms of linguistic forgetfulness, offering a far-reaching philosophical investigation into the persistence and disappearance of speech. In twenty-one brief chapters, he moves among (...) classical, medieval, and modern culture, exploring the interrelations of speech, writing, memory, and oblivion.Drawing his examples from literature, philosophy, linguistics, theology, and psychoanalysis, Heller-Roazen examines the points at which the transience of speech has become a question in the arts, disciplines, and sciences in which language plays a prominent role. Whether the subject is Ovid, Dante, or modern fiction, classical Arabic literature or the birth of the French language, structuralist linguistics or Freud's writings on aphasia, Heller-Roazen considers with clarity, precision, and insight the forms, the effects, and the ultimate consequences of the forgetting of language. In speech, he argues, destruction and construction often prove inseparable. Among peoples, the disappearance of one language can mark the emergence of another; among individuals, the experience of the passing of speech can lie at the origin of literary, philosophical, and artistic creation.From the infant's prattle to the legacy of Babel, from the holy tongues of Judaism and Islam to the concept of the dead language and the political significance of exiled and endangered languages today, Echolalias traces an elegant, erudite, and original philosophical itinerary, inviting us to reflect in a new way on the nature of the speaking animal who forgets. (shrink)
The pirate is the original enemy of humankind. As Cicero famously remarked, there are certain enemies with whom one may negotiate and with whom, circumstances permitting, one may establish a truce. But there is also an enemy with whom treaties are in vain and war remains incessant. This is the pirate, considered by ancient jurists considered to be "the enemy of all."In this book, Daniel Heller-Roazen reconstructs the shifting place of the pirate in legal and political thought from the ancient (...) to the medieval, modern, and contemporary periods presenting the philosophical genealogy of a remarkable antagonist. Today, Heller-Roazen argues, the pirate furnishes the key to the contemporary paradigm of the universal foe. This is a legal and political person of exception, neither criminal nor enemy, who inhabits an extra-territorial region. Against such a foe, states may wage extraordinary battles, policing politics and justifying military measures in the name of welfare and security. Heller-Roazen defines the piracy in the conjunction of four conditions: a region beyond territorial jurisdiction; agents who may not be identified with an established state; the collapse of the distinction between criminal and political categories; and the transformation of the concept of war. The paradigm of piracy remains in force today. Whenever we hear of regions outside the rule of law in which acts of "indiscriminate aggression" have been committed "against humanity," we must begin to recognize that these are acts of piracy. Often considered part of the distant past, the enemy of all is closer to us today than we may think. Indeed, he may never have been closer. (shrink)
In this book the Italian philosopher Giorgio Agamben looks closely at the literature of the survivors of Auschwitz, probing the philosophical and ethical questions raised by their testimony."In its form, this book is a kind of perpetual commentary on testimony. It did not seem possible to proceed otherwise. At a certain point, it became clear that testimony contained at its core an essential lacuna; in other words, the survivors bore witness to something it is impossible to bear witness to. As (...) a consequence, commenting on survivors' testimony necessarily meant interrogating this lacuna or, more precisely, attempting to listen to it. Listening to something absent did not prove fruitless work for this author. Above all, it made it necessary to clear away almost all the doctrines that, since Auschwitz, have been advanced in the name of ethics."--Giorgio Agamben. (shrink)
_Dark Tongues _constitutes a sustained exploration of a perplexing fact that has never received the attention it deserves. Wherever human beings share a language, they also strive to make from it something new: a cryptic idiom, built from the grammar that they know, which will allow them to communicate in secrecy. Such hidden languages come in many shapes. They may be playful or serious, children's games or adults' work. They may be as impenetrable as foreign tongues, or slightly different from (...) the idioms from which they spring, or barely perceptible, their existence being the subject of uncertain, even unlikely, suppositions. The first recorded jargons date to the time of the Renaissance, when writers across Europe noted that obscure languages had suddenly come into use. A varied cast of characters -- lawyers, grammarians, and theologians -- denounced these new forms of speech, arguing that they were tools of crime, plotted in tongues that honest people could not understand. Before the emergence of these modern jargons, however, the artificial twisting of languages served a different purpose. In epochs and regions as diverse as archaic Greece and Rome and medieval Provence and Scandinavia, singers and scribes also invented opaque varieties of speech. They did so not to defraud, but to reveal and record a divine thing: the language of the gods, which poets and priests alone were said to master. _Dark Tongues _moves among these various artificial and hermetic tongues. From criminal jargons to sacred idioms, from Saussure's work on anagrams to Jakobson's theory of subliminal patterns in poetry, from the arcane arts of the Druids and Biblical copyists to the secret procedure that Tristan Tzara, founder of Dada, believed he had uncovered in Villon's songs and ballads, Dark Tongues explores the common crafts of rogues and riddlers, which play sound and sense against each other. (shrink)
The work of Giorgio Agamben, one of Italy's most important and original philosophers, has been based on an uncommon erudition in classical traditions of philosophy and rhetoric, the grammarians of late antiquity, Christian theology, and modern philosophy. Recently, Agamben has begun to direct his thinking to the constitution of the social and to some concrete, ethico-political conclusions concerning the state of society today, and the place of the individual within it. In _Homo Sacer,_ Agamben aims to connect the problem of (...) pure possibility, potentiality, and power with the problem of political and social ethics in a context where the latter has lost its previous religious, metaphysical, and cultural grounding. Taking his cue from Foucault's fragmentary analysis of biopolitics, Agamben probes with great breadth, intensity, and acuteness the covert or implicit presence of an idea of biopolitics in the history of traditional political theory. He argues that from the earliest treatises of political theory, notably in Aristotle's notion of man as a political animal, and throughout the history of Western thinking about sovereignty, a notion of sovereignty as power over "life" is implicit. The reason it remains merely implicit has to do, according to Agamben, with the way the sacred, or the idea of sacrality, becomes indissociable from the idea of sovereignty. Drawing upon Carl Schmitt's idea of the sovereign's status as the exception to the rules he safeguards, and on anthropological research that reveals the close interlinking of the sacred and the taboo, Agamben defines the sacred person as one who can be killed and yet not sacrificed—a paradox he sees as operative in the status of the modern individual living in a system that exerts control over the collective "naked life" of all individuals. (shrink)
A guest's gift -- In the voice -- Square necessities -- Varieties of indefiniteness -- An imported irregularity -- Ways of indeterminacy -- From empty words -- Toward the object in general -- The infinite judgment -- Zero logic -- Non-I and I -- Collapsing sentences -- The springboard principle -- After the judgment -- A persistent particle -- Callings.