Through a radical new reading of the Theological Political Treatise, Dimitris Vardoulakis argues that the major source of Spinoza’s materialism is the Epicurean tradition that re-emerges in modernity when manuscripts by Epicurus and Lucretius are rediscovered. This reconsideration of Spinoza’s political project, set within a historical context, lays the ground for an alternative genealogy of materialism. Central to this new reading of Spinoza are the theory of practical judgment (understood as the calculation of utility) and its implications for a theory (...) of democracy that is resolutely positioned against authority. (shrink)
I argue that a distinction between three autoimmunities is implied in Derrida’s _Rogues_. These are the autoimmunities of democracy as a regime of power, of democracy to come and of sovereignty. I extrapolate the relations between three different autoimmunities using the figure of the internal enemy in order to argue for an agonistic conception of democracy.
This collection, the first broadly interdisciplinary volume dealing with Spinozan thought, asserts the importance of Spinoza’s philosophy of immanence for contemporary cultural and philosophical debates.
Spinoza and Rembrandt were contemporaries and in fact they were neighbours in Amsterdam. Even though there is no record that they ever met, it is hard to imagine that they never crossed paths. This article seeks to explore common ideas that we can find in the philosopher and the painter. This contributes both to a philosophical examination of Rembrandt and examines the possibility of an aesthetics in Spinoza.
How is political change possible when even the most radical revolutions only reproduce sovereign power? Via the analysis of the contradictory meanings of stasis, Vardoulakis argues that the opportunity for political change is located in the agonistic relation between sovereignty and democracy and thus demands a radical rethinking.
Vardoulakis examines the concept of political theology in terms of the ancient greek term "stasis." The term "stasis" means both mobility and immobility. Vardoulakis explores these seemingly contradictory meanings generate a notion of agonistic politics that challenges perceived ideas about political theology.
By looking at its history, this article emphasizes the importance of practical judgment for materialism. This sense of practical judgment is traced back to the function of phronesis in one of the ancient schools of materialism, namely, the Epicureans.
Vardoulakis explores what Balibar means by designating transindividuality as ‘quasi-transcendental.’ He does so by turning to Balibar’s readings of Part IV of Spinoza’s Ethics, the Part that is central to Balibar’s understanding of the transindividual in Spinoza. Vardoulakis shows that the quasi-transcendental in Spinoza can only be a form of agonistic relations if his political theory in the Theological Political Treatise is to account for political change.
Dimitris Vardoulakis asks how it is possible to think of a politics that is not commensurate with sovereignty. For such a politics, he argues, sovereignty is defined not in terms of the exception but as the different ways in which violence is justified. Vardoulakis shows how it is possible to deconstruct the various justifications of violence. Such dejustifications can take place only by presupposing an other to sovereignty, which Vardoulakis identifies with agonistic democracy. In doing so, Sovereignty and Its Other (...) puts forward both a novel critique of sovereignty and an original philosophical theory of democratic practice. (shrink)
The difficulty with democracy is always how to define the demos—the people. Can we think of democracy in a different way? My starting point is to ask what it would mean to take kratos (power) rather than demos as the starting point of the thinking of democracy. I will argue that this is consistent with Solon’s first democratic constitution and that it leads to a thinking of democracy in terms of agonism. Maybe such a conception of agonistic democracy will allow (...) us to conceptualize as well as actualize a political space not predetermined by the “fickle multitude” that can be manipulated and is pray to the forces of populism. (shrink)
Vardoulakis argues that the notion of law as developed in chapter 4 of Spinoza's Theological Political Treatise does not rely on a notion of legitimacy but rather on how authority justifies itself. To demonstrate this point, Vardoulakis analyzes closely the example of Adam and the Fall used by Spinoza in that chapter of the Treatise.
Vardoulakis argues that the concept of equality is determined by the distinction between three different types of equality in Aristotle. He then shows how Spinoza overcomes the Aristotelian conception by determining equality through a notion of differential power.
Oliver Marchart constructs an elaborate ontologization of the political that builds on theories developed by the Essex School while relying on Heideggerianism and Hegelianism. This original thought is a powerful and convincing attempt to think the ontology of the political without lapsing into a celebration of essentialist grounding or complete groundlessness, which are equally metaphysical and mutually supporting positions. Tensions arise within Marchart’s own thought when the notion of instrumentality appears to be inscribed solely on the side of politics or (...) the ontic. I suggest that a theory of practical judgment that is inchoate in Marchart’s own position can resolve the tensions toward constructing a genuinely materialist ontology. (shrink)
I argue that both Hobbes and Spinoza rely on a pivot epicurean idea to form their conceptions of the social contract, namely, the idea that the human acts by calculating their utility. However, Hobbes and Spinoza employ this starting principle in different ways. For Hobbes, this only makes sense if the calculation of utility is regulated by fear as the primary political emotion. For Spinoza, there is no primary emotion and the entire construction of the social contract relies on how (...) the calculation of utility is carried out. I argue that this conception of the social contract leads Spinoza to espouse a radical position about the political, which has been overlooked by those like Antonio Negri who read Spinoza as a radical democrat. (shrink)
It is often put forward that the entire political project of epicureanism consists in the overcoming of fear, whereby its scope is deemed to be very narrow. I argue that the overcoming of the fear of death should actually be linked to a conception of freedom in epicureanism. This idea is further developed by Spinoza, who defines the free man as one who thinks of death least of all in the Ethics, and who develops this idea more in the Theological (...) Political Treatise. (shrink)
Vardoulakis explores the connection between sovereignty and stasis in the work of Agamben. It considers some of Agamben's most famous formulations of sovereignty, such in Homo Sacer. But the focus is on some seemingly obscure references to Spinoza in Agamben's works. Vardoulakis argues that these references reveal the logic of Agamben's political philosophy -- including a politics of reading that influences his account of the philosophical tradition.
Jacques Rancière’s conception of equality as an axiomatic presupposition of the political is important, because it bypasses the tradition which defines equality in terms of Aristotle’s conception of geometric equality. In this paper, I show that Rancière’s theory both espouses a monism, according to which inequality implies equality, and relies on a concept of the free will, which is incompatible with monism. I highlight this tension by bringing Rancière’s theory into conversation with the great monist of the philosophical tradition, Baruch (...) Spinoza. (shrink)
The articles considers how the "death of the subject" influences ways in which we understand the aestheticization of the political." It explores how Walter Benjamin's "The Work of Art in the Age of Technological Reproducibility" can contribute to a conception of the political implications of thinking the subject. It also turns to Solon's conception of subjectivity as a way of mediating the current discussion on the subject.
Through an analysis of Kafka's "Before the Law," Vardoulakis considers both various philosophical responses to Kafka's story and philosophical conceptions of the law. In particular, Vardoulakis suggests an affinity between Kafka and Spinoza's conceptions of the law.
Behrouz Boochani’s No Friend but the Mountains, a literary sensation upon its publication in Australia in August 2018, deserves a place alongside classics of the prison writing genre. At the same time, it contains important lessons for everyone thinking about power in the contemporary world. In particular, it prompts to reconsider the kind of power that is exercised in camps, where it comes from and how it could be resisted.
The article shows that Donald Trump used three distinct but mutually supportive strategies to ascent to power in the 2016 elections. It argues that sovereignty in general uses these three strategies to justify its power. But it is only one of them, the one linked to a biopolitical conception of sovereignty, that allows for lack of authority. Trump used this strategy to great effect in 2016, but the article argues that it will be hard to pursue the same strategy from (...) the Oval Office. (shrink)
Vardoulakis examines the connection between the political and aesthetic commitments of the philosophies of Martin Heidegger and Walter Benjamin. He compares "The Origin of the Work of Art" to "The Work of Art in the Age of Technological Reproducibility.".
In Shame and Necessity, Bernard Williams recounts that colleagues often ask why he analyses literary texts – why can’t he use examples from “real life”? He responds that “it is a perfectly good question, and it has a short answer: what philosophers will lay before themselves and their readers as an alternative to literature will not be life, but bad literature.” This anecdote contains an argument that would be readily embraced by any proponent of “post-structuralism.” Namely, it suggests that no (...) theory can solely be based on reason. Any rational account needs an – acknowledged or repressed – fictional support. We do not rely on pure concepts but rather on conceptual fictions. (shrink)
This article examines the connection between lying and the concept of freedom, especially in the wake of the social contract tradition. I show that the liar poses a particular threat to the social contract. As a result, lying has been portrayed as a pernicious threat to the political. This culminates in Kant’s outright rejection of lying under any circumstance. From the Kantian perspective, one can be free only if one does not lie. Conversely, Spinoza’s co-implication of virtue and power entails (...) that lying is acceptable under certain circumstances, which enhance one’s freedom. The contrast between Kant’s and Spinoza’s response to lying reveals two fundamentally different ways of conceiving freedom. (shrink)
The Doppelgänger or Double presents literature as the “double” of philosophy. There are historical reasons for this. The genesis of the Doppelgänger is literature’s response to the philosophical focus on subjectivity. The Doppelgänger was coined by the German author Jean Paul in 1796 as a critique of Idealism’s assertion of subjective autonomy, individuality and human agency. This critique prefigures post-War extrapolations of the subject as decentred. From this perspective, the Doppelgänger has a “family resemblance” to current conceptualizations of subjectivity. It (...) becomes the emblematic subject of modernity. This is the first significant study on the Doppelgänger’s influence on philosophical thought. The Doppelgänger emerges as a hidden and unexplored element both in conceptions of subjectivity and in philosophy’s relation to literature. Vardoulakis demonstrates this by employing the Doppelgänger to read literature philosophically and to read philosophy as literature. The Doppelgänger then appears instrumental in the self-conception of both literature and philosophy. (shrink)
From the fall of the Berlin Wall to 9/11, agonistic democracy promised to navigate away from both liberalism and dialectical materialism. How can we renew that discourse to highlight its significance in the times of COVID-19? I answer this question by looking at three articulations of the apple metaphor.
This paper explores the way that Elizabeth Presa's artworks respond to Jacques Derrida's thought. By examining how the particularity (the beside) and its supplements (the besides) operate in Presa's works, it is shown how this movement between beside and besides is also central to Derrida's thought.
How baroque was Spinoza in his treatment of the prophets? I examine this question by comparing the pictorial treatments of Moses from the Netherlands to Spinoza’s treatment of Moses at the beginning of the Theological Political Treatise. I concentrate on two representations of Moses descending from mount Sinai, one by Ferdinand Bol and the other by Rembrandt. Of particular importance is the idea of hierarchy. I will argue that Spinoza takes an ambiguous position in relation to baroque, on the one (...) hand following the baroque’s drastic spatiotemporal condensation that questions hierarchies, but on the other refusing the baroque’s representation of unmediated or unjustified sovereign violence. (shrink)
In The Principles of Art, R. G. Collingwood pursues, on the one hand, a ‘definition’ of art, and, on the other, a ‘metaphysics’. The Principles is divided into three Books. Book I is devoted mostly to craft, while Book II pertains largely to metaphysics. The fact that Book II is twice the size of Book III, where the discussion of ‘art proper’ takes place, is proof enough that the metaphysical part of the Principles is not a mere excursus. Collingwood’s ontology (...) is indispensable for understanding his aesthetics, and vice versa. The crucial link is the imagination. What Collingwood calls ‘total imaginative experience’ is described in the Principles as the sine qua non of both thought and sensibility. The aim of this article is to examine the ontological import of Collingwood’s conception of the total imagination. (shrink)
Philosophy and Kafka is a collection of original essays interrogating the relationship of literature and philosophy. The essays either discuss specific philosophical commentaries on Kafka’s work, consider the possible relevance of certain philosophical outlooks for examining Kafka’s writings, or examine Kafka’s writings in terms of a specific philosophical theme, such as communication and subjectivity, language and meaning, knowledge and truth, the human/animal divide, justice, and freedom.
Collected essays consider points of affinity and friction between Walter Benjamin and Martin Heidegger. Despite being contemporaries, Walter Benjamin and Martin Heidegger never directly engaged with one another. Yet, Hannah Arendt, who knew both men, pointed out common ground between the two. Both were concerned with the destruction of metaphysics, the development of a new way of reading and understanding literature and art, and the formulation of radical theories about time and history. On the other hand, their life trajectories and (...) political commitments were radically different. In a 1930 letter, Benjamin told a friend that he had been reading Heidegger and that if the two were to engage with one another, “sparks will fly.” Acknowledging both their affinities and points of conflict, this volume stages that confrontation, focusing in particular on temporality, Romanticism, and politics in their work. (shrink)
This book questions what sovereignty looks like when it is de-ontologised; when the nothingness at the heart of claims to sovereignty is unmasked and laid bare. Drawing on critical thinkers in political theology, such as Schmitt, Agamben, Nancy, Blanchot, Paulhan, The Politics of Nothing asks what happens to the political when considered in the frame of the productive potential of the nothing? The answers are framed in terms of the deep intellectual histories at our disposal for considering these fundamental questions, (...) carving out trajectories inspired by, for example, Peter Lombard, Shakespeare and Spinoza. This book offers a series of sensitive and creative reflections that suggest the possibilities offered by thinking through sovereignty via the frame of nihilism. This book was originally published as a special issue of Culture, Theory and Critique. (shrink)