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.