Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Matt McLennan Reviews "Molecular Revolution in Brazil"

Matt McLennan, for many years a regular contributor to The Notes Taken, has published a review of Félix Guattari and Suely Rolnik's Molecular Revolution in Brazil in Symposium. He writes:
Guattari and Rolnik’s 1986 collection of texts, interviews, and transcripts, recently available for the first time in English translation from Semiotext(e), presents a comprehensive look into the comparatively rare phenomenon of a philosopher in the field, gathering information and commenting in real time on unprecedented social upheavals. Far from being a quaint, exoticizing travelogue, and quite unlike Michel Foucault’s more controversial and politically problematic flirtation with the Iranian Revolution, Molecular Revolution in Brazil finds Guattari testing and retesting his concepts in more or less fertile, receptive ground, via situations of collective political discussion and engagement.
Go read it!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Symposium Reviews

The most recent review to be published on the CSCP website is Nikolay Karkov's review of Maurizio Lazzarato's The Making of Indebted Man. Karkov writes:
Central to the text, which reads more like a manifesto than a footnote-heavy monograph, is an examination of the problematic of debt, or, more generally, of what Lazzarato would call the “creditor-debtor relationship.” Lazzarato reads that relationship as both an anthropological invariant (where, following Nietzsche, he suggests that the paradigm of the social lies in credit, rather than exchange or even production), and as a historically specific phenomenon (which, in his reading, defines the neoliberal condition). Still, the book’s focus is on the latter, the historical specificity of the debt and the “debt economy,” which Lazzarato examines in much detail and with impressive insight. In his view, the debt economy has recently absorbed the “new economy,” the knowledge and information economy, or what some on the left have also called “cognitive capitalism.” It is also inseparable from the production of a new subjective figure, that of the “indebted man.” Blurring the divide between workers and the unemployed, consumers and producers, and retirees and welfare recipients, the indebted man cuts a transversal subjective figure that has come to occupy “the entirety of public space.” (7–8)
Now, I've alway realized that I've been remiss in posting links to a few other reviews, and so that they don't get lost in the mix, I've also added links to these previous reviews.

Symposium 16.2 includes a review essay by Maxwell Kennell, who examines Gianni Vattimo and Santiago Zabala's Hermeneutic Communism, Alain Badiou's Communist Hypothesis, and Boris Groy's Communist Postscript. Kennel writes:
For the authors of Hermeneutic Communism it is only the weakness of both communism and hermeneutics that can lead to their joint emancipation from both the violence of capitalism in the political sphere, and from the violence of metaphysics in the philosophical sphere. Rather than communising hermeneutics or hermeneuticising communism the authors of Hermeneutic Communism seek to bring light to the present “lack of emergency” and “the increasing homologizing of the political, economic, and social structures of power.” (HC, 2) Against the all too modern theories and social practices representing the status quo, Vattimo and Zabala proclaim that “politics cannot be founded on scientific and rational grounds but only on interpretation, history, and event.” (HC, 2) The weakness of hermeneutics, found in the plurality of interpretive truths that it affirms, stands opposed to the rationalistic violence of the aforementioned politics of truth. Following from the weakness of hermeneutics, the weakness of communism can also be located in its failure, a failure which (as it is said) fails again and fails better (Beckett).
Symposium 16.2 also contains Bryan Smyth's review of Georg Lukács Reconsidered: Critical Essays in Politics, Philosophy and Aesthetics and Georg Lukács: The Fundamental Dissonance of Existence. Aesthetics, Politics, Literature. Smyth writes:
The two volumes share a general basic aim, which is to re-examine Lukács’ work in the light of more recent political and theoretical developments in order to show that it is still productively relevant to many contemporary issues. Related to this general aim, both volumes tend to reject as unhelpful and obsolete the standard periodisation of Lukács’ work in terms of (a) his early Romantic neo-Kantianism (e.g., Soul and Form, Theory of the Novel), the tragic utopianism of which was supposed to be resolved by (b) his euphoric revolutionary Hegelian-Marxism (i.e., History and Class Consciousness), which is by and large his principal claim to fame, but which itself however ultimately collapsed into (c) his inglorious decades as, seemingly at any rate, a Stalinist philosophical hack (e.g., The Destruction of Reason, The Meaning of Contemporary Realism). Although significant breaks and turns do exist within Lukács’ development, in the post-1989 context it becomes clear that this threefold scheme is overly simplistic. For in retrospectively viewing it as pivoting around a failed revolutionary engagement, it effectively reduces Lukács’ long career to a blind alley of dialectical errors in a way that occludes the innovative insights that belong to the deeper core of his work. The idea, then, is to salvage the latter from the historical vicissitudes with which Lukács’ intellectual life was interwoven. In this sense, the common goal of the volumes—and this is what sets them apart from those earlier collections—is to push Lukács beyond himself, or, as expressed in the blurb to the Bewes and Hall volume, to “liberate [his] thought from its formal and historical limitations.”
Finally, in 16.2, Yves Laberge reviews A Companion to the Works of Walter Benjamin. Laberge writes: 
Il faut ici féliciter le professeur Rolf J. Goebel du choix des auteurs ayant participé à ce livre; bien qu’ils soient inconnus, tous sont des spécialistes de la pensée de Walter Benjamin et ils parviennent à illuminer ses idées principales ou à en donner des prolongements souvent rigoureux. J’ai rarement lu un ouvrage aussi précis quant aux citations et aux sources convoquées : les ouvrages de Benjamin mentionnés par les différents auteurs sont d’une grande diversité et les extraits sont toujours appropriés et très pertinents pour alimenter l’argumentation. Fidèles à la méthode même de Walter Benjamin, la plupart des chapitres adoptent des perspectives résolument transdisciplinaires, ce qui mérite d’être souligné.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Better To Be A Contrarian than Vapid

Nothing like the recent election in the United States to give me a reason to discuss Slavoj Zizek and Bernard-Henri Levy in the same post. 

The contrarian weighs in, arguing that Obama is more than Bush with a human face:
 So should we write Obama off? Is he nothing more than Bush with a human face? There are signs which point beyond this pessimistic vision. Although his healthcare reforms were mired in so many compromises they amounted to almost nothing, the debate triggered was of huge importance. A great art of politics is to insist on a particular demand that, while thoroughly realist, feasible and legitimate, disturbs the core of the hegemonic ideology. The healthcare reforms were a step in this direction – how else to explain the panic and fury they triggered in the Republican camp? They touched a nerve at the core of America's ideological edifice: freedom of choice.
So today, it's ideology critique. Maybe tomorrow it will be the hyperbolic Leninism, and he'll remind us that nobody is quite as revolutionary as himself.

Sure, that's a cynical reading of Zizek, which I think is a product of reading far too much of his work. But Zizek is also far more engaging than our vapid French "intellectual". BHL declares the election--the outcome of which he so foresightedly "predicted"--a great day for America. Why?
It is a victory for a moderate man, whose charisma remains intact.
That's the first reason: a man's got to have him his charisma. That's so important that it overshadows whatever else makes the election great.

Perhaps we can get more specific:
It is a victory for his strategy of government intervention that has allowed the United States to weather the storm for four years.
The the second aspect of this victory strikes me as ambiguous. It seems to be commending Obama's mild commitment to using government to blunt the effects of the economic downturn. But when I hear "intervention" from BHL, I think Libya, meaning that he could also be commending Obama's continued commitment to the "war on terror" or whatever it's called now.

This is followed with a bit of non-self-reflexive pundit scolding, so that BHL can reinforce  his view of what makes the election such an event. I know you're waiting for it:
It is a historic victory.
It is a great day for America and for the world.
Sometimes great nations have a rendezvous with greatness, and such is the case today.
So bold! So declarative! So historic that it can be encapsulated, if we leave out the blathering about pundits, in the most profound 262 words you'll ever read.

Or, perhaps, BHL dashed it off while nursing a wicked hangover.

Monday, November 5, 2012

The Post-Kantian Poe: Introduction and TOC

Forthcoming in late Fall 2012:

From the Guest Editors 

“Theory Mad Beyond Redemption”: The Post-Kantian Poe 

Sean Moreland, Jonathan Murphy and Devin Zane Shaw

Early in “The Poetic Principle” (1850), Poe warns his readers that, despite his attempt to articulate the principle of poetry, he has no “design to be either thorough or profound.”  He mocks both those who overestimate the power of epic poetry (that “epic mania” cherished by German Romanticism) and those Bostonian didacts who would confuse “Poetic dignity and force” with the severity of Truth, writing that one “must be theory-mad beyond redemption who […] shall still persist in attempting to reconcile the obstinate oils and waters of Poetry and Truth.”  Yet, as the essays in this collection attest, Poe himself was, in his various engagements with Kantian and post-Kantian philosophy, as “theory-mad ” as those writers he sought to distance himself from.

This special issue of the Edgar Allan Poe Review is primarily intended to address these multifaceted engagements. A secondary impetus behind this collection has been to reconcile two competing tendencies in Poe scholarship:  the antagonism between materially- and theoretically-oriented approaches to the author and his work.  While the pitfalls of historically disengaged theoretical criticism are widely acknowledged, the dangers of totally abandoning a philosophically informed approach are as great, especially in the case of a writer as metaphysically invested as Edgar Allan Poe.

As guest editors, we have sought to gather together a collection of essays that bridge the disciplinary divide between historiography and philosophy with the underlying belief that informed Poe criticism needs to address the author and his works in their entirety.  Our aim in this volume is, therefore, not so much to pit “The Purloined Poe” against his “American Face” as it is to emphasize the transatlantic influences that indelibly shaped Poe’s writing and to do so in a manner that responds to the rich body of historicist scholarship that has dominated the field as of late.    The organization of the essays in this issue roughly reflects the chronology of the texts they treat, providing for the reader a historical cross-section of Poe’s adoptions and perversions of Kantian and post-Kantian thought throughout his career.  

In “The American Dream Elucidated by Edgar Allan Poe,” Jonathan Murphy addresses the author’s contentious relations with the nationalist politics of his day.  By offering an overview of the evolution of Poe’s career and by drawing a historical link between the political thought of Kant, Coleridge, Lacan, Derrida, and Žižek, Murphy demonstrates that Poe’s metaphysics amount to a romantic profession of faith in America grounded in a universalist poetics of desire.  

Stephanie Sommerfeld’s contribution, “Post-Kantian Sublimity and Mediacy in Poe’s Blackwood Tales,” explores the ways in which Poe’s investment in the discourse of the sublime, particularly in its Kantian conception, is played out in his parodic Blackwood tales of the 1830s.  She argues that Poe’s narratives undermine the Emersonian appropriation of Kant, which remained largely silent on the negative moments of the Kantian sublime.  

In “‘As Urged by Schelling’: Coleridge, Poe, and the Schellingian Refrain,” Sean Moreland and Devin Zane Shaw consider Poe’s adaptation of Schelling’s philosophy of art and his interpretation of mythology, which Poe assimilated primarily by way of Coleridge.  Shaw and Moreland show that Poe, in his critical and literary practice, adapted Schelling’s and Coleridge’s critiques of allegory while deflating what he considered to be their metaphysical pretensions. They conclude with a brief consideration of the role these critiques play in both Poe’s critical writings and his composition of “The Raven” (1845).  

Sean Kelly, in “Penning Perversion in Poe’s ‘The Black Cat’,” offers a Kantian analysis of Poe’s theory of perversion as it is evidenced in his late fiction and especially in “The Black Cat” (1843).  He contends that the narrator of this story is representative of the onanistic madman that was the subject of much medical controversy in mid-nineteenth century discourses on the etiological linkage between masculinity, masturbation, and madness.  

Courtney Fugate brings our special issue to a close with his contribution of “From the German Cosmological Tradition to Poe’s Eureka.”  He argues for the importance of Poe’s Eureka (1848) not merely as a literary hoax or aesthetic manifesto but as a vital contribution to the genre of cosmological speculation.  Fugate provides a useful introduction to this fascinating intellectual tradition, in which Kant and Schelling were also deeply invested.

We owe Barbara Cantalupo a debt of gratitude for inviting us to guest-edit this special issue of her journal and for continuing to make The Edgar Allan Poe Review a welcome home for historically-grounded and theoretically-engaged scholarship.  We would also like to thank our contributors for their hard work and cooperation in meeting our pressing deadlines.  To all of those scholars who submitted abstracts for our consideration, please know that the plenitude and interest of your submissions made our editorial decisions difficult.  Finally, we are very grateful to the editorial board of this journal for their insightful comments and selection suggestions. 

Table of Contents 

Jonathan Murphy, “The American Dream Elucidated by Edgar Allan Poe” 

Stephanie Sommerfeld, “Post-Kantian Sublimity and Mediacy in Poe’s Blackwood Tales”

Sean Moreland and Devin Zane Shaw, “‘As Urged by Schelling’: Coleridge, Poe, and the Schellingian Refrain” 

Sean Kelly, “Penning Perversion in Poe’s ‘The Black Cat’”  

Courtney Fugate, From the German Cosmological Tradition to Poe’s Eureka

The original call for papers is available here.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

The Paperbacks Arrive

The paperbacks arrived yesterday. We're very close to the official publication date of September 27th (some book sites already have them, like Amazon and Abebooks), which means that potential readers will no longer be priced out by the hardcover. A few lucky people will get one of these:

Thursday, August 16, 2012

John Gerassi, "Unrepentant Rebel," 1931-2012

John Gerassi, an "unrepentant rebel," as Michel Contat calls him, has died at age 81. He was author of numerous books, including the first volume of an unfinished multi-volume biography entitled Jean-Paul Sartre: Hated Conscience of His Century and an edited volume of interviews, Talking with Sartre

His death is met, so far, with relative silence in the English-speaking press, while in France, Michel Contat has published an obituary in Le Monde.

I reviewed Gerassi's Talking with Sartre in March of 2010. Here's the first paragraph:
It's not often that somebody will recommend a philosophy book because it is "a lot of fun," but that's exactly how Bill Martin piqued my interest in John Gerassi's Talking with Sartre. And I must say that I agree with his verdict.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Diane Enns, The Violence of Victimhood

Forthcoming in Symposium: Michelle Ciurria reviews Diane Enns' The Violence of Victimhood. The tenor of the review is captured in this passage discussing the final chapter of the book:
It is here that Enns’ underlying purpose for the book shines through in its most appealing light, whereas elsewhere her arguments sometimes have the appearance of insensitivity, or, at least, of placing undue pressure on individuals who seemingly could not have done otherwise in their circumstances. Here, however, we see that Enns is ultimately concerned with generating the conditions for a post-violence world, one characterized by peace, love, compassion, friendship, and solidarity. Thus, even if we differ with her on the particulars of her arguments, we can identify with her ambition of fostering peace and reconciliation on a global scale.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Freedom and Nature in Schelling's Philosophy of Art in Paperback

Never mind the dates on the Continuum website, a quick search on either AbeBooks  or  Amazon reveals that it's quite easy to find a paperback copy of Freedom and Nature in Schelling's Philosophy of Art.

No more excuses. Go get your copy. Now.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Thales Would Beg to Differ

Thales would beg to differ with the following passage from Joyce's Ulysses:
What impeded Bloom from giving Stephen counsels of hygiene and prophylactic to which should be added suggestions concerning a preliminary wetting of the head and contraction of the muscles with rapid splashing of the face and neck and thoracic and epigastric region in case of sea or river bathing, the parts of the human anatomy most sensitive to cold being the nape, stomach, and thenar or sole of foot?
The incompatibility of aquacity with the erratic originality of genius.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Christopher Watkin, Difficult Atheism

Forthcoming in Symposium: Jason Harman reviews Christopher Watkin's Difficult Atheism: Post-Theological Thinking in Alain Badiou, Jean-Luc Nancy, and Quentin Meillassoux. Harman writes:
Watkin’s text seeks to chart contemporary French thought’s attempt to attain “a thinking that is truly without God” (1), through an analysis and critique of Alain Badiou, Jean-Luc Nancy, and Quentin Meillassoux. It should be noted upfront that for sheer breadth and depth Watkin’s work is astounding. Watkin, I am led to suspect, feels perfectly at ease inhabiting the minds of Badiou, Nancy and Meillassoux. Further, where contemporary French philosophy often dallies in the obscure, Watkin’s rendering—with ample citations from a wide selection of primary texts—both clarifies and sharpens. Throughout this text, Watkin ushers the reader into the intimate circle of philosophy’s leading minds—certainly no small feat.
Despite these merits, Harman notes several shortcomings with Watkin's approach, that you can assess by clicking here and reading the review.

This is the second review that I have read of Watkin's book, and it (that is, the book) looks to be quite thought provoking (perhaps it also pairs well with Martin Hägglund's Radical Atheism: Derrida and the Time of Life?).

Note that I'm no post-secular! philosopher. I think that the works of Spinoza (obviously the Tractatus Theologico-Politicus) and Marx are still the best approaches for dealing with the relations between religion, philosophy, and politics--and from what I gather, they both avoid the pincers of Watkin's critique (go read it!). I do think, on the other hand, that many contemporary attempts to go, as it were, post-theological, don't take enough from these approaches.

Monday, July 16, 2012

The Nothingness of Equality

I noticed that I hadn't yet posted a link to the "The Nothingness of Equality: The 'Sartrean Existentialism' of Jacques Rancière," which was recently published in Sartre Studies International (it's behind a subscription wall). In case you are interested, here's the abstract:
In this essay, I propose a mutually constructive reading of the work of Jacques Rancière and Jean-Paul Sartre. On the one hand, I argue that Rancière's egalitarian political thought owes several important conceptual debts to Sartre's Being and Nothingness, especially in his use of the concepts of freedom, contingency and facticity. These concepts play a dual role in Rancière's thought. First, he appropriates them to show how the formation of subjectivity through freedom is a dynamic that introduces new ways of speaking, being and doing, instead of being a mode of assuming an established identity. Second, Rancière uses these concepts to demonstrate the contingency of any situation or social order, a contingency that is the possibility of egalitarian praxis. On the other hand, I also argue that reading Sartre with Rancière makes possible the reconstruction of Sartre's project within the horizon of freedom and equality rather than that of authenticity. 
This essay is part of what is shaping up to be Part I of my eventual book on Rancière. At the moment, I have it planned that the themes in this paper will follow those addressed in my paper on Cartesian egalitarianism (here), and will be followed by a discussion and critique of Sartre's Critique of Dialectical Reason.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Eduardo González Di Pierro, De la persona a la historia

Forthcoming in Symposium: Antonio Calcagno reviews Eduardo González Di Pierro's De la persona a la historia. Antropología fenomenológica y filosofia de la historia en Edith Stein. Calcagno writes:
Di Pierro’s text is the first scholarly study I know that systematically traces the use and development of Stein’s views on history. One of the classic critiques levelled against early phenomenologists concerns their seeming lack of historical awareness. However, this is a misreading of the early phenomenological tradition. There is great sensitivity to the role of history in shaping our sense of things, as is evidenced by Stein’s work on values and politics, which Di Pierro nicely signals.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

A Short Note on Rancière and Class

I've argued previously that class is an important category in the work of Jacques Rancière. Rarely, however, do we find such a direct reference to class as in this short piece in the Guardian, discussing the revival of Marxism:
[The author is talking about class with Owen Jones, author of Chavs: The Demonisation of the Working Class...] "If I had written it four years earlier it would have been dismissed as a 1960s concept of class," says Jones. "But class is back in our reality because the economic crisis affects people in different ways and because the Coalition mantra that 'We're all in this together' is offensive and ludicrous." [...]
This chimes with something Rancière told me. The professor argued that "one thing about Marxist thought that remains solid is class struggle. The disappearance of our factories, that's to say de-industrialisation of our countries and the outsourcing of industrial work to the countries where labour is less expensive and more docile, what else is this other than an act in the class struggle by the ruling bourgeoisie?"
Things even get a bit stranger when he discusses the "gravediggers" of capitalism, a figure that Rancière often criticizes (he treats it as a synecdoche for "historical necessity," which he dismisses below):
After all, I suggest to Rancière, the bourgeoisie has failed to produce its own gravediggers. Rancière refuses to be downbeat: "The bourgeoisie has learned to make the exploited pay for its crisis and to use them to disarm its adversaries. But we must not reverse the idea of historical necessity and conclude that the current situation is eternal. The gravediggers are still here, in the form of workers in precarious conditions like the over-exploited workers of factories in the far east. And today's popular movements – Greece or elsewhere – also indicate that there's a new will not to let our governments and our bankers inflict their crisis on the people."

Tuesday, July 3, 2012


Looking back at June, I see that posting here has dropped dramatically. I'm going to pin that on the various projects that I've taken on over the past year, several of which have (or were supposed to have deadlines) in June and July.

Nevertheless, I didn't write this post to provide excuses or reassurances (if you needed them...). Instead, I'd like to announce that I've take over as the book review editor for Symposium, the journal for the Canadian Society for Continental Philosophy. 

For the readers of The Notes Taken, this means that I will periodically be posting links to the book reviews that will be published in Symposium. The journal's policy is to publish their book reviews online in advance of publication. I think this should be the default position of any academic journal. In a sense, a review offers the reader both a preliminary discussion of the book in question and, perhaps, some motivation for reading it. If it's tucked away in a journal that either isn't online, or barricaded by a pay wall, it could be overlooked for a more accessible review. And for the author, let's face it: hardly any academic prestige accrues for book reviews, so you may as well have a readership.

That being said, the first review here fulfills some of the functions I just described. Rachel Loewen Walker's review of Paola Marrati's Gilles Deleuze: Cinema and Philosophy makes the case that
it is within the Cinema books that we find the most developed politics of Deleuze’s work, a politics which refuses modernity’s obsession with agency as the freedom and action of the subject, and instead foregrounds movement and perception as contributors to the agency of thought. Hence cinema, as discussed through the movement-image and the time-image, becomes a primary frame of reference for the development of such a politics. 
While I'm not a Deleuze-and-politics kind of person, Walker's review left me with the impression that I ought to reconsider my view. If she talked me into reconsidering Deleuze's work on cinema, I'd say Walker makes a strong case for considering Marrati's book.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Schelling Society Conference Schedule

AUGUST 30 – SEPTEMBER 1, 2012 


Except where otherwise noted, the conference takes place in Piggott 100

6:00 PM Address and words of welcome: Jason Wirth and Sean McGrath

6:15 PM – 7:45 PM SESSION 1 Moderator: Sean McGrath (Memorial University)
1. Lore Hühn (Freiburg University), “Schelling’s Metaphysics of the Will: Schelling’s Freedom Essay and 19th Century Philosophy”
2. Markus Gabriel (University of Bonn), “Mythology and Modality: On the Very Idea of a Positive Philosophy”

7:45 PM Reception Piggott 106

FRIDAY, AUGUST 31, 2012 

PANEL ONE-A Moderator: James Kilcup (Loyola Marymount)
1. Benjamin Berger (Warwick, UK), “Schelling’s Speculative Astrophysics”
2. James Depew (Western Ontario), “Schelling’s “Ethnogony”: Indigeneity as Lived Mythology”

PANEL ONE-B Moderator: Anthony Bruno (University of Toronto) ROOM TBA
1. Jared McGeough (University of Western Ontario), “An Indigestible Remainder: ‘Spinoza’ in Schelling and Hegel”
2. Christopher Yates (Grove City College), “Offspring of Chaos: Artistry and Imagination in Schelling’s Freiheitsschrift”

10:30 AM-10:45 AM coffee

10:45 AM-12:15 PM SESSION 2 Moderator: Jason Wirth (Seattle University)
1. Rainer Zimmermann (University of Munich), “Deriving Kalokagathía from Schelling’s Grounding of Nature”
2. Iain Hamilton Grant (UWE Bristol, UK), “The Depth of the Unfathomable: Epistemology and Potency in Schelling’s Dynamics”

12:15 PM-1:45 PM lunch (on your own)

1:45 PM-3:15 PM SESSION 3 Moderator: Benjamin Graham Woodard (Western Ontario)
1. Michael Vater (Marquette University), “Bringing Nature to Light: Schelling's Naturphilosophie in the Early System of Identity”
2. Devin Zane Shaw (University of Ottawa),“‘From the Original Night of Particularity’: Nature and System in Schelling’s Aphorisms on the Philosophy of Nature”

3:15 PM-3:30 PM coffee

3:30 PM-5:00 PM SESSION 4 Moderator: Tilottama Rajan (Western Ontario)
1. Bruce Matthews (Bard College), “Plato's “Sublime Idea” and Schelling's Inversion of the Kantian Architectonic”
2. Edward Beach (University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire), “Schelling versus Hegel on the Problem of Circular Logic”

5:00 PM -5:15 PM break

5:15 PM-6:45 PM SESSION 5 Moderator: Kyriaki Goudelli (University of Patras)
1. Joe Lawrence, “The Harrowing of Hell: On the Birth and Death of God”
2. Philipp Schwab (Freiburg University), “Schelling’s ‘Failure’ and the Non-ground: Heidegger’s Readings of the Freedom Essay”

6:45 PM Reception Piggott 106


9:00 AM-10:30 AM SESSION 1 Moderator: James Kilcup (Loyola Marymount)
1. Kamalini Martin (Dharmaram Vidya Kshetram, Bangalore, India), “Schelling’s Idea”
2. Marcela Garcia (University of Munich), “Emphatical Being and the Late Schelling’s Interpretation of the Copula”

10:30 AM-10:45 AM coffee

10:45 AM -12:15 PM SESSION 2 Moderator: Moderator: Bernie Freydberg (Duquesne)
1. Sean McGrath (Memorial University of Newfoundland), “Post-Ecclesial Christianity: Schelling's Philosophy of Revelation”
2. Jason Wirth (Seattle University), “Plasticity: Art and Nature”

12:15 PM-1:45 PM lunch (on your own)

1:45 PM-3:15 PM SESSION 3 Moderator: Elizabeth Sikes (Seattle University)
1. Scott Scribner (University of Hartford), “Idealism's Corpse and the Prosthetics of Suicide”
2. Christopher Lauer (University of Hawaii-Hilo), “Be Still, Our Beating Heart: Schelling on the Organics of Intimacy”

3:15-3:30 PM coffee

3:30 PM-5:00 PM SESSION 4 Moderator: Benjamin Graham Woodard (Western Ontario)
1. Bernard Freydberg (Duquesne University), “’…More Aristophanic than Tragic…’?: Schelling’s Provocative Urfaust Interpretation”
2. Kyriaki Goudelli (University of Patras, Greece), “The Eternal Beginnings of the Divine and the Present Future”

5:00 PM-5:15 PM break

5:15 PM-6:45 PM SESSION 5 Moderator: Bruce Matthews (Bard College)
1. Tilottama Rajan (Western Ontario), “’Idea’: The History of the Term in German Idealism from Kant to Schelling”
2. Andrzej Wiercinski (Freiburg University), “The Restoration of the Unity between Nature and Spirit: Schelling’s Eschatology in the Stuttgart Private Lectures”

6:45 PM Reception Piggott 106



Monday, June 18, 2012

CFP: The Monster Child

The Monster Child: New Essays on Children, Horror and Monstrosity in Film

A call for papers for a proposed collection co-edited by Markus Bohlmann and Sean Moreland

As an area of research which has to date gone largely unexplored, the many variations on the image of the child-as-monster in global popular cinema invite critical consideration through a variety of theoretical approaches.

We are soliciting abstract submissions for a collection of original essays which explore various critical themes and theoretical angles related to "monstrous" children in film, a topic which has to date been paid too little attention, not only within the field of childhood studies, but also those of film and horror studies.

We welcome approaches including, but not limited to, the following:

- childhood and youth studies
- horror/gothic studies
- queer studies
- gender studies
- postcolonial studies
- narrative studies
- psychological/psychoanalytic studies
- film studies
- family structures
- camp studies
- sexuality studies
- closet-structures
- Approaches inspired by Deleuze/Guattari, Lacan, Sedgwick, Foucault, Zizek, 
  Powell, Kincaid, Stockton, Edelman.

We invite considerations of films that situate themselves in terms of the horror genre (for example, The Exorcist, The Unborn, The Bad Seed, Village of the Damned, The Brood, It's Alive, Grace, Children of the Corn, Interview with the Vampire, Let the Right One In, The Pit, The Orphan, Phenomenon (aka Creepers), Twitch of the Death Nerve (aka Bay of Blood), but also films that court other genres and styles which feature some variation on the theme of the child-as-monster.

Even in films where the monster-child may appear in a minute role, its presence can radically change the effects of a cinematic text, lending itself to a unique opportunity for exploration and investigation into a wide array of interconnecting domains.

Contributors are invited to submit an abstract (250-500 words), current contact info and brief bio (or CV) as attachments (doc, docx, or rtf files) by no later than October 31, 2012 to: Please include “abstract submission” and the title of your abstract in the subject line.

Sean Moreland earned his PhD at the University of Ottawa, where he teaches sessionally.  His research interests include 19th and 20th century American literature, Gothic and horror fiction and film, and psychological theory and criticism. He has written a number of recent articles on contemporary American, Canadian and Indian horror films. He is co-editor of the volume Fear and Learning: Essays on the Pedagogy of Horror (McFarland, 2012) and is also in the early stages of co-editing a volume on horror and diaspora.

Markus Bohlmann is a PhD candidate at the University of Ottawa, where he also teaches. His doctoral thesis examines the Deleuzian contours of "the child" in 21st century American literature and film. His research interests include Deleuze studies, childhood studies, queer studies, and sexuality studies.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Cartesian Egalitarianism Essay Published

As a reader of this blog, you've probably heard that I am working on a book about Jacques Rancière. In the first two chapters, I seek to trace the egalitarian precedents to his work. In doing so, I place Rancière in the Cartesian and existentialist lineages in French philosophy. 

In "Cartesian Egalitarianism: From Poullain de la Barre to Rancière," which is now available in Phaenex 7.1:
I present an overview of what I call “Cartesian egalitarianism,” a current of political thought that runs from François Poullain de la Barre, through Simone de Beauvoir, to Jacques Rancière. The impetus for this egalitarianism, I argue, is derived from Descartes’s supposition that “good sense” or “reason” is equally distributed among all people. Although Descartes himself limits the egalitarian import of this supposition [restricting the import to the evaluation of epistemological and metaphysical claims], I claim that we can nevertheless identify three features of this subsequent tradition. First, Cartesian egalitarians think political agency as a practice of subjectivity. Second, they share the supposition that there is an equality of intelligences and abilities shared by all human beings. Third, these thinkers conceptualize politics as a processing of a wrong, meaning that politics initiates new practices through which those who were previously oppressed assert themselves as self-determining political subjects.
For previous discussions on this blog, see here and here.

Monday, May 28, 2012

A Brief Entry on Schelling

I've spent the last month or so writing entries on Hölderlin, Hegel, and Schelling for The Jean-Luc Nancy Dictionary. This task has forced me to summarize the life and work of Schelling, for instance, in something like 500-600 words. That's no easy task. Here is my work in progress.

Friedrich Wilhelm Joseph Schelling (1775–1854) is a German philosopher who made important—though now often-neglected—contributions to the metaphysics of German idealism, philosophy of nature, philosophy of art, and theology. His work is typically divided into various periods (cf. Dunham et al). During the first, which culminates in his System of Transcendental Idealism (1800), Schelling undertakes a critique of post-Kantian transcendental idealism, in which he develops a nature-philosophy and a philosophy of art. Nature-philosophy aims to demonstrate: first, the natural basis of the subject’s activity, and second, an organic concept of nature that emphasizes the centrality of nature’s productivity (the Spinozist natura naturans) and the processes of chemistry, electricity, and magnetism, rather than reducing natural processes to a merely mechanistic physics. The philosophy of art, which Schelling called the “keystone” of this system, has three characteristics. Artistic production, or what he calls “aesthetic intuition,” demonstrates the unity of unconscious (natural) and conscious production; it realizes concretely (in the real) what philosophy demonstrates ideally (in contrast to practical reason, which can only approximate its object, the categorical imperative); and it opens the possibility of producing a new mythology which can unite a people in an organic community.

In 1801, Schelling announces “his” system of philosophy, a bold return to metaphysics in the aftermath of the Kantian critical project, that he calls identity-philosophy or absolute idealism.  While nature-philosophy and the philosophy of art play prominent roles in this period, Schelling advances (in collaboration with Hegel) a critique of the subjective idealism of Kant and Fichte. Rather than positing the practical subject or absolute I as the foundation of the system, he argues that philosophy must proceed from the identity of subject and object. This identity is necessary, he claims, to explain the correspondence of the knower and what is known—subject and object—rather than presupposing it.

The third period includes Schelling’s Philosophical Investigations into the Essence of Human Freedom (1809) and the various drafts of the Weltalter (Ages of the World). During this period, Schelling turns against, and critiques, the presuppositions of identity-philosophy—in short, the idea that logical necessity qua reason is the basis of all intelligibility. His philosophy of freedom explores the natural and historical-theological conditions necessary for human freedom, which is conceptualized as an existential decision rather than modeled on the categorical imperative.

The final period of Schelling’s work, which is characterized as the philosophy of revelation, takes shape around 1830 and remains a central preoccupation until his death. Though this work was only published posthumously, he delivered parts of it at the University of Berlin when he assumed in 1841 what was once Hegel’s chair in philosophy. Schelling aims to integrate critical or negative philosophy with what he called positive philosophy. Negative philosophy (which is associated, in modern terms, with post-Kantian philosophy) serves to eliminate what is contingent from the “first concepts of being”—it is confined to the essence or whatness of beings (2007: 144). Positive philosophy thinks the thatness or the fact of existence of God using the historical-theological resources of Greek mythology and Christian revelation.

On the basis of the differences between these periods, many commentators have concluded that Schelling was a protean thinker who never brought a system to conclusion. This conclusion overlooks his continued attention to the relationship—despite the changing significances of the terms—between “freedom” and “system.” For Schelling, free activity precludes and prevents the possibility of a completed system. In his Letters on Dogmatism and Criticism (1795-1796), for instance, he argues that a complete system cannot be lived by a philosopher: at that “moment [its creator] would cease to be creator and would be degraded to an instrument” of his or her system (1980: 172).

Works Cited

Dunham, Jeremy, Iain Hamilton Grant and Sean Watson. Idealism: The History of a Philosophy (Durham: Acumen, 2011).
Schelling, F.W.J. (1980). “Philosophical Letters on Dogmatism and Criticism,” in The Unconditional in Human Knowledge. Trans. Fritz Marti (Lewisburg: Bucknell University Press, 1980), 156–218.
–––– (2007). The Grounding of Positive Philosophy. Trans. Bruce Matthews (Albany: SUNY Press).

Monday, May 21, 2012

Dave Zirin's "A People's History of Sports in the United States"

I know that things have been quiet here at The Notes Taken. The easiest way to summarize this state of affairs is to say: I have several pieces with deadlines that converge around June 1st, and I've been spending most of the time I dedicate to writing getting them in order. 

Not that I've been entirely absent from the blog-world. If you click on the link to the right, under "Friends, Comrades, Allies" for The Left Field Line, you'll discover there that I've been scribbling various thoughts about the San Francisco Giants and baseball. If I had to choose one worthwhile piece of writing from that blog, it would have to be "On the Van Halens and Spinal Taps of Baseball" (here)--probably because there's some snarky music-snobbery going on too.

Though many who would count themselves on the left in the humanities have acclimated to using all sorts of subversive and not-so-subversive-enjoy-your-symptom type cultural resources in academic settings, sports are still a marginal point of reference. I loved baseball as a kid, but by the time I started reading beat poetry and smoking cigarettes in my teenage years, I had largely come to associate sports--especially football--with conformism, patriotism, sexism, and homophobia. And those who live, breathe, and/or bloviate about sports still spew this garbage in some of the most ridiculous circumstances (since I'll be discussing Dave Zirin below, here's a link to an article he wrote on Tony Bruno's racist slur aimed at then SF Giants pitcher Ramon Ramirez).

But as I've come to appreciate in the last few years, sports have also been a vehicle for anti-war (think Vietnam), anti-racist (various types of integration, and anti-sexist (think Title IX) politics that stem from athletes themselves, especially those from marginalized and dis-empowered groups in society. Dave Zirin's A People's History of Sports in the United States (New Press, 2008) is a testament to the many athletes who have spoken out against injustices in the world of sports and the world at large (It might be less surprising that such a book is included in the "People's History" series if I mention that Howard Zinn was a long-time fan of the Boston Red Sox).

Zirin is to be commended for taking on such a broad project that is ultimately aimed at a general audience. Sport includes all kinds of activities, from professional baseball, basketball, or football, to college athletics to recreational games. To narrow the scope, Zirin orients A People's History around two themes. First, he discusses key episodes in the ways that athletes intervene in political culture. He includes, for instance, how Muhammad Ali's stance against the Vietnam war contributed to anti-war sentiment in general. Or, how the Gay Olympics (beginning in 1982) challenged stereotypes and prejudices about homophobia, competition, athleticism, and machismo. Zirin's own expertise is the converging history of race and its relation to sports (although he does not extensively discuss, after the first chapter, the place or exclusion of indigenous Americans, although I'm sure he does elsewhere...), he makes sure to highlight, in most chapters, the struggles of women and often African-American women. This diversity is reflective of the variety of activities, for many people, included under the term sports (I might also note that he does not spend much time on sports and ableism; the list of omissions could probably be extended--such are the pitfalls of such a wide-ranging and evolving topic). 

Zirin has published numerous books on such episodes. In A People's History, Zirin organizes the material around a second theme, which we could say is the professionalization and commodification of sports, the ways in which sports activities have become a multi-billion dollar industry. Even if one does not associate sports with cultural backlash, the big three--baseball, basketball, and football--often present a spectacle of overpaid and spoiled athletes with little concern for the ways that the owners fleece the fans. In other works, Zirin advances a convincing case that this viewpoint implicitly accepts the standpoint of sports' management, as an ideological leverage against players, and more importantly, players' unions (see here, and this piece doesn't even touch the way that the owners so often fleece the public by demanding publicly funded sports complexes). 

In A People's History, Zirin seeks to explain how we got here by showing that sports are imbricated in society at large; hence when society enters into a phase of intensifying social struggle, athletes will also (although it is interesting to note how often the sports-writing establishment consistently sides with the backlash). To summarize, from Zirin:
Driven by twenty-four-hour cable television and an expanding global audience, the 1980s saw a deluge of dollars flow into sports. But it's hard not to see sports in the 1980s following a pattern we have already seen in the 1920s and 1950s. In those decades, the sports explosion occurred against a backdrop of a nation weary from war, well heeled from economic recovery, and enjoying the spread of new leisure technologies: radio in the twenties and television in the fifties. The eighties held similar dynamics, with cable television being the techno-bauble of the decade. But while all three eras share similar terrains, the stronger thread is an environment feeding on political backlash (211).
In many ways, sports has not yet recovered from this political backlash, what I would say is the backlash of neoliberalism. New media technologies have made sports even more attractive for capital. Today, for instance, the same thing that makes, for instance, watching baseball fun--the suspense concerning the outcome, the wild and remarkable plays (good and bad)--makes it attractive for television advertising, since a game is best watched as it unfolds, unlike so much television which can be downloaded later. In the recent sale of the Los Angeles Dodgers, for $2.15 billion (more than twice the price of the previous sale, that of the Chicago Cubs), the price is still dwarfed by the estimated value of television rights alone (this article puts the rights at $4 billion).

Nevertheless, beyond A People's History, Zirin has continued to chronicle the intersections of sports and politics; that athletes have drawn connections between their labor struggles (the NBA lockout, for instance, turned on the treatment and remuneration of role players) and the Occupy movement, or taken on issues of race and violence (here and here), may yet prove that sports could again be, as Zirin writes, a "motor for inclusion" and resistance.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Peter Gratton Reviews "Spinoza and the Politics of Renaturalization"

Peter Gratton reviews Hasana Sharp's Spinoza and the Politics of Renaturalization (University of Chicago Press, 2011) for Society and Space (here). If I've understood Peter correctly, this review will be of interest if: 1) you've dabbled in post-Althusserian or Deleuzian interpretations of Spinoza; 2) you think that politics is mischaracterized when it is conceptualized around the transcendence of the Other; and/or 3) you have an interest in contemporary debates over materialism/realism and discussions of immanence. It's more than likely that a large majority of visitors to The Notes Taken fall into one or more of these categories.

I've been meaning to read Sharp's book for my not-so-urgent research into a paper I'd like to write, echoing a title of Pierre Macherey's, entitled "Schelling or Spinoza."

In Peter's words:
I have my own quibbles about the states of immanentism today, but nevertheless Sharp is convincing that one must first traverse Spinoza’s immanentist and naturalistic philosophy in a way that to my mind has never been done widely, whether we think ourselves post-Nietzschean or not. The element of the transcendent, if not the transcendental, conceived in terms of rights, the Other, the duties of practical reason, etc., still marks how we think the space of the political, and Sharp’s task is to have us think wholly otherwise, if not of the wholly Other.
What Sharp argues for is a “politics of renaturalization”. This surely is her most controversial claim, given the ways in which, throughout the era of the regimes of the biopolitical, nature has been used as the nom de guerre of the pernicious splits in society along racial, nationalistic, and patriarchal lines. But in true Spinozistic fashion, Sharp makes her points in ways that do less to anger her discursive partners than to build alliances by showing how the “denaturalizing” claims of feminists and critical race theorists are anything but anathema to her own project, though they need to be attenuated in terms of their “social constructivism.”

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Happy International Workers' Day!

From Wikipedia
Richard Seymour, writing in the Guardian, traces a brief history of May Day and its continued importance for militants and the working classes:
May Day is international workers day. As such, it is – in the words of Eric Hobsbawm – "the only unquestionable dent made by a secular movement in the Christian or any other official calendar". 
And while we're celebrating May Day, by taking the day off (whether we're on the clock or not), the ruling elite in the United States seems to think they're celebrating, as John Protevi points out, "Loyalty Day" or "Law Day." As he writes in a comment to that piece:
This discrepancy is not coincidental.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

"Dancing in the Glory of Monsters: The Collapse of the Congo and the Great War of Africa" by Jason K. Stearns

(PublicAffairs, 2011)

The "Great War of Africa" has raged at varying levels of intensity in Zaire / the Democratic Republic of Congo since the Rwandan Genocide of 1994 spilled over into the Great Lakes Refugee Crisis. Despite massive loss of life, the fall of one of the century's most colourful dictators and a continent-wide scramble for the resources of one of the world's richest regions, Westerners/Northerners remain surprisingly under-informed regarding the conflict. The Congo war serves as an African analogue to the Great Imperialist Wars of Europe in the 20th Century, but most people barely bother to untie the admittedly daunting knots that comprise it. At best, they pay attention to the snatches of horrific, almost surreal violence that tend to get picked up whenever Western media trains its eyes on the region. The fact that we're too lazy to understand the conflict, but piqued by its horror stories, is a test case in racism and the out and out failure of our analytical capacities. In the Western/Northern imaginary, the Congo war is continuous with the fantasy of the "Dark Continent"; hence the phenomenon of human interest stories about systematic rape and torture with almost zero attempt to put such violence in geopolitical context and examine our own political and economic complicity.

The virtue of Dancing in the Glory of Monsters by Jason K. Stearns is to shatter this myth of innate African savagery while giving the at times numbing complexity of the conflict its due. His angle is simpe but brilliant: reconstruct the conflict historically while applying to its micropolitics Hannah Arendt's thesis on the "banality of evil". Through painstaking collection of first-person reports and reconstruction, some of the conflict's greatest monsters are shown to be petty careerists; ordinary people are seen to have commited gross human rights violations through a kind of poltical inertia. The picture of the war which emerges dispels the idea that it was an inevitable product of the African soul. Rather, it becomes via Stearns a product of the human soul in particularly central-African conditions. Stearns humanizes an inhumane conflict, thereby making it harder to brush off and absolve ourselves of moral responsibility. There is something universal about the Congo war, and this should be sufficiently troubling to give it the attention it deserves.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

The Corrupt Left and Austerity: Thus Spake Michael Hudson

(By Joshua)

I recently discovered economist Michael Hudson. I've been exposed to him in the past, but I never really paid attention to him. Currently he is hitting banks and government austerity measures with a vengeance. Browsing through many of his lectures one in particular caught my attention. I was riveted by his attack on the so-called Left. He lashes out at European Socialists for being the true implementers of recent reinvigorated pillage-capitalism. (In my opinion it is reminiscent of Social-Democrats' betrayal of international solidarity, in favor of nationalist-war during World War I.) This video I'm posting is from the Modern Monetary Theory summit in Italy last month. I'm also adding a short interview with him on RT about the summit. As I fished around the web I also found some great transcripts from other parts of his presentation. The one I have here I think is especially herculean.  
Whenever you have a misunderstanding of reality year after year, decade after decade, and now for a century, when a false picture of the economy is painted you can be sure that there is a special interest benefiting.  A false picture of reality does not happen by nature; it is subsidised.  And the banking sector has subsidised a junk economics that is taught in the universities, broadcast from your newspapers, mouthed by the politicians, whose election they sponsor, to try to make you believe, that you’re living on Mars in a different kind of a world—instead of the actual country that you’re living in—and to pretend that there is no financial class that is trying to grab what belongs to the public at large.  This is what ends up with a difference between central bank creation by the government with the government aims of economic growth and full employment, as compared with commercial bank credit that aims at economic shrinkage, at austerity, at lower wages, at lower output, so that it can do to you what the commercial banks are doing to Greece, to say give us your ports and your land and your tourist areas and your water and sewer systems, so we can charge you for water and sewer.  And we can take the money that you had expected to get in pensions and we can scale it down, so that we can pay ourselves...This is what it took an army in times past.  And today it’s done without an army, as long as you will be passive and believe the science-fiction of the world that banks are painting.  Thank you.

MMT Summit Italy 2012 (9/12) - Michael Hudson - Corrupt Left

Michael Hudson, MMT: World's First Major Conference, Rimini

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Day 2: German Idealism: How Soon is Now?

Today is Day Two of the German Idealism: Legacies and Controversies conference here at the University of Ottawa. For more information, the full schedule is here, a synopsis of my plenary address is here, and a short post about Day One is here.

The remaining portion of today's schedule, concluding with a keynote address by Iain Macdonald (Université de Montréal), entitled "How Soon is Now? Hegel’s Futures", is copied below:

Location: Arts Building (70 Laurier Av. Est.) Room 509 (5th Floor)

Afternoon Session/Après-midi
14:00-15:00    Matthias Peter Lorenz (Université de Montréal—on exchange from
                       Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität of Munich)—Hegelian Marxism and
                       Negative Dialectics: A Comparison of Lukács' and Adorno's Dialectical
                       Approaches in Relation to their Hegelian Heritage

15:00-16:00    Claire Pagès (ATER, Université Nancy 2—Archives Poincaré)—
                       Le principe d’historicité : de Hegel à Herder

16:00-16:30    Coffee Break/Pause café

16:30-18:00    Keynote Speaker: Iain Macdonald (Université de Montréal)—
                       How Soon is Now? Hegel’s Futures

And, finally, The Smiths:

While I doubt Hegel is "the son and the heir of a shyness that is criminally vulgar," he might give a new twist to being "the son and heir of nothing in particular."

Friday, April 6, 2012

Day 1: German Idealism: Into the Void

I will be giving a plenary address on tonight on Schelling's absolute idealism and the recently translated Philosophy and Religion. The talk is entitled "Into the Void: Schelling on Religion and Absolute Idealism." Here is the conference schedule, here is a brief synopsis of the talk, and below is Black Sabbath's "Into the Void":

Thursday, April 5, 2012

On Schelling's "Philosophy and Religion"

At the end of this week, the graduate students in philosophy at the University of Ottawa will be hosting a conference on German Idealism: Legacies and Controversies. I will be giving a plenary address on Friday night on Schelling's absolute idealism and the recently translated Philosophy and Religion. What follows is a short synopsis of my talk.

If we are going to talk about the legacy of the work of F.W.J. Schelling, especially if we are going to talk about his work prior to the Philosophical Investigations into the Essence of Human Freedom, we must confront two difficulties: first, we need to demonstrate the falsity of the caricature of Schelling as a protean thinker; and second, we need to bring some clarity to the relative obscurity of his thought during the period of absolute idealism or identity-philosophy. Both of these difficulties can be overcome if we can identify the threads in Schelling's thought that repeatedly emerge through his transition from his early attempts to mediate between Fichte and Spinoza, through his absolute idealism, to his philosophy of freedom or revelation.

I have discussed Schelling's persistent interest in the philosophy of art elsewhere. In my talk tomorrow, I will look at how he thinks, and rethinks, the problem of the transition from the infinite to the finite from the Letters on Dogmatism and Criticism (1795-1796), the Presentation of My System of Philosophy (1801), to Philosophy and Religion (1804)

I will argue that once he rejects the subjective idealism of his work through 1800, Schelling finds it necessary to reconceptualize the ‘transition from the infinite to the finite’ that had been crux of his distinction between criticism and dogmatism. In the Letters on Dogmatism and Criticism, Schelling (like Jacobi before him) argues that philosophy cannot speculate on the transition from the infinite to the finite; however, unlike Jacobi, he argues that critical idealism’s emphasis on practical reason provides an account of how the infinite can be intuited in the finite as a categorical imperative, which for Schelling is the realization of freedom (I: 314-316). This, he argues in 1795-1796, avoids the so-called dogmatism of Spinoza, but in 1801, how can Schelling avoid reconsidering the relation of the infinite and finite when he announces a system of absolute idealism (or identity-philosophy) that takes Spinoza as its explicit forerunner “in terms of content or material and in form” (IV: 113)?

I will argue that in Philosophy of Religion Schelling develops several important aspects of the solution to this contradiction that anticipate those in Of Human Freedom. In Philosophy and Religion, Schelling argues that the only a “leap” can accomplish the transition from the infinite to the finite. This leap is conceptualized as a series of falls: “there is no continuous transition from the absolute to the actual; the origin (Ursprung) of the phenomenal world is conceivable only as a complete falling-away from absoluteness by means of a leap (Sprung)” (VI: 38). First, nature—the phenomenal world—falls away from the absolute and the ideas, and second, the fall of man occurs so that human freedom emerges, which opens the possibility of finitude's reconciliation with the Absolute (VI: 43). The concept of the fall, especially as the fall of humanity, plays an important role in Of Human Freedom. We will see that, far from being a protean thinker who repeatedly takes up questions only to quickly abandon them, or who develops them without a logical aspect, that Schelling rigorously pursues the consequences of thinking the relationship between freedom, ground, and system.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Coming Soon: The Paperback

You've read this blog, clicked the links, and read the reviews. You've seen the previews online. And you've looked at the price tag, and figured that you'll need to spend that $120 dollars on something other than the hardcover edition of Freedom and Nature in Schelling's Philosophy of Art. Maybe we're friends and you haven't invited me over to visit--for almost two years--because you're afraid I'll be checking your shelves for my debut effort.* Well, if I've described you, Continuum Bloomsbury has announced a publication date and price for the paperback edition HERE: July 26th, 2012, with a list price of $29.95.**

* And maybe I would, but I wouldn't judge you.
**For the Americas, Bloomsbury says September 27th, but won't wait; it also lists July 26th.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

German Idealism: Legacies and Controversies

If you're in the Ottawa region, this promises to be a good conference...and I believe that you will recognize Friday's plenary speaker. 

German Idealism: Legacies and Controversies
L’idéalisme allemand : héritages et enjeux

April 6-7/6-7 avril

University of Ottawa/Université d’Ottawa

Conference Program/ Programme de la conférence

April 6/6 avril

Location: Arts Building (70 Laurier Av. Est.) Room 509 (5th Floor)

12:00-12:30     Welcome, Opening Remarks and Refreshments
                        Accueil, introduction et rafraîchissements

12:30-13:30    Vedran Grahovac (University of Guelph)—The Necessity of Mutual
                       Conditioning in Kant and Husserl: Circularity in the Judgment of Taste
                       and the Whole-Part Relationship

13:30-14:30   Blandine Parchemal (Université de Montréal)—Fichte : un
                      achèvement de l’idéalisme transcendantal kantien ou une initiation à
                      l’idéalisme absolu hégélien ?

14:30-14:45    Coffee Break/Pause café

14:45-15:45    Patti Nyman (York University)—The Necessity and Necessary
                       Overcoming of Revealed Religion in Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit

15:45-16:45    G. Anthony Bruno (University of Toronto)—Schelling and the Unsung
                       Role of Death in German Idealism

16:45-17:00    Coffee Break/Pause café

17:00-18:00    Plenary Speaker: Devin Zane Shaw (University of Ottawa)—Into the
                       Void: Schelling on Religion and Absolute Idealism 

April 7/7 avril

Location: Arts Building (70 Laurier Av. Est.) Room 509 (5th Floor)

Morning Session/ Matin

9:00-9:15     Opening Remarks/Introduction

9:15-10:15    Olivier Huot-Beaulieu (Université de Montréal)—Heidegger, lecteur de
                     Hegel : la négativité en litige

10:15-11:15    Ryan Krahn (University of Guelph)—Derrida, Bataille, and the Victory of
                       the Slave in Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit 

11:15-11:30    Coffee Break/Pause café

11:30-12:30    Ardevan Yaghoubi (University of Chicago)—Contemporary Theories of
                       Normativity and the Revitalization of German Idealism

12:30-14:00    Lunch Break/Dîner

Afternoon Session/Après-midi

14:00-15:00    Matthias Peter Lorenz (Université de Montréal—on exchange from
                       Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität of Munich)—Hegelian Marxism and
                       Negative Dialectics: A Comparison of Lukács' and Adorno's Dialectical
                       Approaches in Relation to their Hegelian Heritage

15:00-16:00    Claire Pagès (ATER, Université Nancy 2—Archives Poincaré)—
                       Le principe d’historicité : de Hegel à Herder

16:00-16:30    Coffee Break/Pause café

16:30-18:00    Keynote Speaker: Iain Macdonald (Université de Montréal)—
                       How Soon is Now? Hegel’s Futures

18:00-18:15    Closing Remarks/Fermeture

Monday, March 19, 2012

Portrait of the philosopher as an old man

I've always been drawn to the concept of a late work, and have acquired an arguably counter-productive tendency to start from the end - that is, to approach a thinker via his or her final words and then work my way backwards. I don't know why I do this, but I've found it to be highly rewarding, at least in certain cases.

Aside from a brief and fairly underwhelming flirtation with his novels and plays as an undergraduate, my reading of Sartre has been almost entirely informed by the essays surrounding May 68 and the role of the engaged intellectual (collected by Verso as Between Existentialism and Marxism). There being a lot to read (!), I have to admit to an ongoing deficit as regards some of the classic texts of existentialism. I've always been more interested in Sartre's project in the Critique than with what I've admittedly pre-judged as his petit-bourgeois disengagement in Being and Nothingness.

In this respect, Sartre's final 1980 interviews with his longtime secretary and former Maoist turned orthodox Jew Benny Levy - published as Hope Now - have proved enlightening. At least, that is, to the extent that the final Sartre, totally dependent and not always lucid, can be said to provide a plausible retrospective. Arguably bullied and harangued by Levy (I'll admit, whose bookends to the interviews are nigh incomprehensible to me), Sartre dispassionately assesses the demise of the organized Left and sketches notes for a future ethical grounding of the Left more broadly construed. In context, this makes perfect sense, since by 1980 French intellectual life had undergone a massive shift "from revolution to ethics" (Bourg). Like other French thinkers seeking a way out of the revolutionary impasse, Sartre opens his (still secular, Left-wing) thought to the resources of Jewish messianism. The interviews created a scandal, and many among Sartre's inner circle dismissed them as Levy's manipulation of a helpless old man. Sartre, tellingly, describes his old age as something lived by him, but only felt by others - a variation of "hell is other people", to be sure.

Let's give the older Sartre the benefit of the doubt, as does Ronald Aronson in his excellent introduction to Columbia's edition of the text. What Sartre reads back into his early existentialism is jarring; he claims to never have felt anguish or despair (devoting considerable attention to these because Kierkegaard and Heidegger were the order of the day), and locates the main philosophical shortcomings of Being and Nothingness in his having missed the inescapable ethical dimension of obligation constitutive of subjectivity. In a word, reading Being and Nothingness in light of the failure of the Critique of Dialectical Reason. Does starting here render a proper understanding of Sartre impossible? Or does a proper understanding of Sartre require facing up to the fundamental incompleteness of his work? Meditating on the fact that Sartre, at death's door and totally dependent on others to do intellectual work, sketched notes for the future, has at least this virtue: it unsettles received ideas of author and corpus and reminds us of what I take to be one of Marx's most important lessons: that thought worthy of the name is never completed.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Middle Eastern Christians in Politics: They've Loved Jesus, the French, Saddam Hussein, Bush and Anti-Imperialist Revolution

The title of my blog may sound like I'm insulting Middle Eastern Christians. I know that every Middle Eastern Christian has not been deeply religious, pro-Saddam Hussein, or supportive of the US invasion of Iraq. General statements about any group are false. My desire is to show that indigenous Christians have been active in Middle East politics. I will admit that I hope the title grabs readers' attention. I would make the title "Middle Eastern Christians in Middle East Politics," but I think many would not care to take a look. The Middle East is associated with Muslims and then Jews even though the very term "Christian" originated in Syria. The New Testament (Acts 11:26, NIV) reads, "The disciples were called Christians first at Antioch." It is true that currently Christians are a minority in the Middle East, yet they have played an active role in shaping the region. This blog will highlight brief notes on what may be considered unexpected roles of Middle Eastern Christians. (I plan on doing more blogs covering unexpected roles of Middle Eastern pagans, Jews, and heterodox Muslims in the future.)

Under Islamic Law (Shariah), Christians and Jews are considered "people of the Book" (Ahl al-kitab). This means Muslims view Jews and Christians as theologically linked to Islam (even if in a misguided way). When Muslims say "the Book" they mean the Torah, the Psalms and the Gospel. Due to this, both groups have been "protected peoples"(dhimmis). As any minority experiences, being a minority often results in marginalization, discrimination and outright oppression. Although, this is not always the case.

In the eighth-century the Christian Theophilus of Edessa was astrologer of the Muslim Abbasid court located in Baghdad . In the ninth-century Ḥunayn ibn Isḥaq, a Nestorian/Church of the East Christian, became one of the greatest translators of Greek texts into Syriac and Arabic. He was even appointed head of Abbasid Caliph Al-Mamun's famous "House of Wisdom". This was an institution that focused on translating Greek texts to be made accessible to scholars.

In more recent centuries Middle Eastern Christians have taken on new positions of power as the Ottoman Empire fell and European governments reshaped the political landscape. In 1989 the New York Times published an article by Youssef M. Ibrahim. He wrote about the role of France in relation to Christians in Lebanon and Syria. His history follows:
France first went into Lebanon to protect Maronite Catholics from attacks by the Druse in the latter half of the 19th century. After the First World War, France occupied the Levant, split it into Syria and Lebanon and created a republic in Lebanon with a power-sharing arrangement in which the Maronites had an edge.
Lebanese Christians hold much of the political and economic power in Lebanon. Syrian Christians (unlike the Sunni Muslims) have fared much better in Syria as well. Why?

Alexandra Zavis from the Los Angeles Times recently published an interesting article in the Ottawa Citizen entitled "Syrian Christians worry about life after Bashar Assad." She explains how, despite the horrors the international community sees taking place in Syria enacted by the Syrian government, Syrian Christians fear Sunni Muslim reprisals. She states:
Assad has portrayed himself as the defender of the nation's religious minorities, including Christians and his Alawite Muslim sect, against foreign-backed Islamic extremists. Opposition activists scoff at that notion, saying he has deliberately exploited sectarian fear to stay in power.
But warnings of a bloodbath if Assad leaves office resonate with Christians, who have seen their brethren driven away by sectarian violence since the overthrow of longtime strongmen in Iraq and in Egypt, and before that by a 15-year civil war in neighboring Lebanon.
The Syrian regime is dominated by the Ba'ath Party. The Ba'ath Party was also the party of Saddam Hussein's Iraq prior to the US invasion and occupation. Michel Aflaq (1910-1989), founder the Ba'ath Party, was not only a Syrian philosopher but he was also a Greek Antiochian Orthodox Christian. Ba'ath Party ideology is secular and has focused on "Arabism" as opposed to religious centered policies. Tariq Aziz, Deputy Prime Minister of Iraq from 1979 to 2003 (currently imprisoned) is Chaldean Catholic. His birth name is Mikhail Yuhanna. He was also a close adviser to Saddam Hussein. At the same time many Assyrian Christians suffered under Saddam's rule and consider Tariq Aziz a traitor not to his religion but his ethnicity. Despite this, in US media Bush's build up to war against Iraq and now Obama's threatening Syria appears as a US government response to the Islamic World. As pointed out in this blog, Iraq and Syria have long been an Islamic-Christian World.

It is true that Christians in the Middle East live precariously. There are western groups that point out the plight of Christians in the Middle East as justification for western intervention. Some Muslim groups point out characters such as Tariq Aziz and Christan friendly Bashar Assad to show Christians as enemies of Islam. Sometimes Muslims also consider Christians as a "fifth column" in the face of US-European intervention. In other cases Muslims and Christians have tremendous solidarity. Many Palestinians actually see their plight as a Palestinian cause not a religious one (The West Bank has a significant Palestinian Christan population). In regards to my agenda, I simply want to show that the Middle East is more complex and nuanced than an oversimplification of Islam vs. "Us over here in the Christian West."

Here is a youtube video of the famous Lebanese Christian Fairuz singing her celebrated Arab nationalist song about Jerusalem (al-Quds). In this song she unifies the interests of Muslims and Christians in the battle for Arab sovereignty.

Very significant is the recent death of the Egyptian Coptic Pope Shenouda