The present essay reconsiders Georges Bataille’s politics of the impossible in light of Jean-Luc Nancy’s and Philippe Lacoue-Labarthe’s collaborative work conducted at the Centre for Philosophical Research on the Political. In particular, my submission critically assesses Nancy’s and Lacoue-Labarthe’s concerted effort to displace the problematic of the subject to make room for a new ground of the political derived from Bataillean conception of community. While Bataille’s philosophy proved to be decisive to Nancy’s and Lacoue-Labarthe’s exploratory research at the Centre, it also constituted a source of profound ambivalence insofar as Bataillean thinking of relation necessarily leads back to the question of the subject. The paper argues that Nancy’s admitted failure to develop the unprecedented Bataillean politics is rooted in persistence of the subject in Bataille’s philosophy. At the same time, it maintains that what Nancy perceived as a failure must be grasped as success since Bataillean determination of the political necessitates not so much an eradication of the problematic of the subject, as its re-elaboration. If, as Nancy and Lacoue-Labarthe suggest, construction of the subject throughout the development of Western metaphysics has determined philosophical thinking of political community, then Bataillean sovereignty (with its presupposition of the acephalic subject freed from subjection to symbolic authority) allows for a new and non-identitarian conception of community not bound to the destiny of the state.
Hans Jonas accuses Heidegger of “never bring[ing] his question about Being into correlation with the testimony of our physical and biological evolution.” Neither the early nor later Heidegger has a “philosophy of nature,” Jonas charges, because Naturphilosophie demands a new concept of matter, a monistic account of cosmogony and evolution, and the grounding of ethical responsibility for future generations in an ontological “first principle.” Jonas’s ontological rethinking of Darwinism allows him to overcome the nihilism that a mechanistic interpretation of evolution forces upon us: a nihilism allegedly shared by Heidegger. I imagine a Heideggerian response to Jonas, and ask whether the dream of recovering a synthesis between cosmogony and moral insight has been irrecoverably shattered by modern natural science.
Jacques Rancière’s work has become a major reference point for discussions of art and politics. However, while Rancière’s negative theses (about what “political art” is not) are becoming widespread and well understood, his positive thesis is still poorly understood, owing partly to Rancière’s own formulation of the issue. I first clarify Rancière’s account of the links between politics and art. I then explore a gap in this account; Rancière has stuck too closely to a politics of art’s reception. I argue for a politics of art production, which would expand the possible engagement between politics and art.
Quentin Meillassoux’s speculative materialism rests on the historical claim that European philosophy since Kant is “correlationist” in its denial that thought can know being as it is in itself rather than merely for us. But though the claim is central to Meillassoux, it has not been much explored in the literature on his work. This paper argues that Nietzsche does not fit so easily into Meillassoux’s story. Though there are certain superficially correlationist elements in Nietzsche’s thought, part of his core project is an ethically motivated rejection of the issues with respect to which realism and correlationism are alternatives. Thus, rather than denying that thought can access being in itself, Nietzsche aims to leave behind ways of thinking within which the question of thought’s access or lack of access matters. This means that Meillassoux loses some of the motivation for his positive position.
In the two volumes which make up Capitalism and Schizophrenia, Deleuze and Guattari propose new concepts of “machine” and “organism.” The problem of the relationship between machines and organisms has a long philosophical history, and this essay treats their work as a contribution to this debate. It is argued that their solution to this problem is found in their difficult concept of the “body without organs,” a concept that is given some much-needed clarification in the essay. The first section details Deleuze and Guattari’s concept of the machine, examining the ways in which it differs from the traditional concept as described by Canguilhem: (1) their machines do not have predictable movements, but instead produce events; (2) they do not have a purpose; (3) they are able to reproduce themselves. The second section details their conception of the organism through their account of Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire: (1) organisms are bodies which normalize and which create hierarchies; (2) they also do not have a purpose; (3) they have a “unity of composition.” The final section argues that their concept of the “body without organs” shows us how to understand the relation between the two transformed concepts, and defines the body without organs as the becoming-machine of the organism.
Several works published in the last decades defend the claim that the concept of creativity should be demystified. With the aim of showing that creativity is not an obscure power owned by only few individuals and free from constraints, authors working at the intersection field between philosophy and cognitive science have notably focused on the structure and evolution of cognitive mechanisms underlying our creative capacities. While taking up the suggestion that we should try not to mystify creativity, this article argues that what is required for such demystification is primarily a transcendental and phenomenological inquiry. Kant’s and Merleau-Ponty’s works are here discussed in order to develop such a transcendental inquiry into creativity. Both Kant and Merleau-Ponty bring to the fore the conditions of possibility for creative acts, and highlight fundamental role of creativity itself in the formation of meaningfulness. The keystone of both philosophers’ inquiries is the emphasis on the interdependence between creativity and rules. Yet, due to the different approaches to the transcendental, Kant’s and Merleau-Ponty’s accounts do not fully converge, but should rather be considered as complementary.
Whether or not Merleau-Ponty’s version of phenomenology should be considered a form of ‘transcendental’ philosophy is open to debate. Although the Phenomenology of Perception presents his position as a transcendental one, many of its features—such as its exploitation of empirical science—might lead to doubt that it can be. This paper considers whether Merleau-Ponty meets what I call the ‘transcendentalist challenge’ of defining and grounding claims of a distinctive transcendental kind. It begins by highlighting three features—the absolute ego, the pure phenomenal field, and the reduction—that Husserl had used to justify claims of a specifically transcendental kind within a phenomenological framework. It then examines how Merleau-Ponty modifies each of these features to focus on the lived body and a factically conditioned phenomenal field, while remaining ambivalent about the reduction. Finally, it assesses whether Merleau-Ponty’s modified position can still legitimately be considered transcendental. I argue that—despite his own rhetoric—this modified position shapes the modality of Merleau-Ponty’s claims in such a way that his phenomenology cannot meet the transcendentalist challenge and therefore should not be considered ‘transcendental.’
Why does Walter Benjamin claim "indirection" (Umweg) to be the proper method for philosophical contemplation and writing? Why is this method-embodied, according to Benjamin, in the convoluted form of scholastic treatises and in their use of citations-fundamental for understanding his Origin of German Trauerspiel as suggesting an alternative to most strands of modern philosophy? The explicit and well-studied function of this method is for the presentation of what cannot be represented in language, of what cannot be intended or approached in thinking. Namely, of what Benjamin understands as "truth." Indeed, as Adorno implied, providing a method for presenting an intentionless reality, rather than for re-presenting the world as corresponding to the mind, is revolutionary. However, I claim that beyond its presentational function, the method of indirection has a further, pedagogical function. Benjamin's concept of truth requires thinking in a manner that does not impose any exterior form, any conceptual or intuitive intention on truth and the materials in which it might be exhibited. The methodological adoption of digressive and intermittent writing is supposed to transform the way we think, or more accurately, the position (Haltung) from which thinking occurs. By examining Benjamin's use of pedagogical terms against the backdrop of scholastic history and the Urfigure of modern method, that of Descartes, I show that writing and reading in the form of the tractatus serves as exercise in receding from the subject-position-a position of a subject intending an object-and thus conditions the presentation of intentionless truth.
“Thinking Love: Heidegger and Arendt” explores the problematic nature of romantic love as it developed between Martin Heidegger and Hannah Arendt, whom Heidegger later called “the passion of his life.” I suggest that three different ways of understanding love can be found at work in Heidegger and Arendt’s relationship, namely, the perfectionist, the unconditional, and the ontological models of love. Explaining these different ways of thinking romantic love, this paper shows how the distinctive problems of the perfectionist and unconditional models played out in Heidegger and Arendt’s relationship and how that relationship eventually gave rise to the third, ontological understanding of love. This ontological vision of love combines some of the strengths of the perfectionist and unconditional views while avoiding their worst problems, and so emerges as perhaps the most important philosophical lesson about romantic love to be drawn from studying the lifelong love affair between two of the twentieth century’s greatest thinkers.
This study considers the origins and characteristics of Karl Jaspers’ biographical approach. Specifically, we analyse how this approach manifests itself in Jaspers’ work, namely, in his understanding of psychology, his psychology of worldviews, his views on the history of philosophy and his philosophical method. The biographical approach was a central strategy in Jaspers’ work as an appeal to life and was closely linked with how Jaspers understood both philosophy and his thought. For Jaspers, biography could restore mental unity and reveal the existence behind creativity.
The article proposes an analogue of conceptual change in the context of comprehensive or deep emotional change and growth, and explores some aspects of its logic in that context. This is not to reduce emotions to concepts, but to say that concepts express the sense that is already inherent in experience and reality. When emotional states change so thoroughly that their applicable concepts become completely different, they shift from one logical structure to another. At the moment or phase when one conceptual structure transforms into another, two logically incompatible descriptions both apply to the same state at the same time. As a result, the correct description of this moment and its development involves conceptual confusion, non sequitur, and logical contradiction. In these contexts, the sense itself of the emotional experience and process is partly characterized by what are otherwise violations of sense. Failure of sense is part of how these experiences make sense. The article explores some of the consequences of this paradox of sense for the nature and experience of deep emotional change and for the meaning of change itself in this context.
Why does Walter Benjamin claim “indirection” (Umweg) to be the proper method for philosophical contemplation and writing? Why is this method—embodied, according to Benjamin, in the convoluted form of scholastic treatises and in their use of citations—fundamental for understanding his Origin of German Trauerspiel as suggesting an alternative to most strands of modern philosophy? The explicit and well-studied function of this method is for the presentation of what cannot be represented in language, of what cannot be intended or approached in thinking. Namely, of what Benjamin understands as “truth.” Indeed, as Adorno implied, providing a method for presenting an intentionless reality, rather than for re-presenting the world as corresponding to the mind, is revolutionary. However, I claim that beyond its presentational function, the method of indirection has a further, pedagogical function. Benjamin’s concept of truth requires thinking in a manner that does not impose any exterior form, any conceptual or intuitive intention on truth and the materials in which it might be exhibited. The methodological adoption of digressive and intermittent writing is supposed to transform the way we think, or more accurately, the position (Haltung) from which thinking occurs. By examining Benjamin’s use of pedagogical terms against the backdrop of scholastic history and the Urfigure of modern method, that of Descartes, I show that writing and reading in the form of the tractatus serves as exercise in receding from the subject-position—a position of a subject intending an object—and thus conditions the presentation of intentionless truth.
Heidegger argues that for being x to count as 'alive' it must satisfy three metaphysical conditions. It must be (1) capable of engaging in active behaviour with (2) a form of intentional directedness that (3) offers to us a "sphere of transposition" into which we can intelligibly "transpose ourselves." Heidegger's discussion of these conditions, as they apply to the being of animals, is well-known. But, if his argument is sound, they ought also to apply to the being of plants (given that plants, too, belong within the domain of the living). Heidegger, unfortunately, does not supply this part of his ontology of life in any systematic detail. However, my thesis is that it is possible to interpret the nature and activities of plants, along the lines of (1)-(3), and thus to make good on Heidegger's omission. The key to this reconstruction is a reconceptualization of plant movements as constituted by a form of representationally blind, motor-intentionality.
Heidegger argues that for being x to count as ‘alive’ it must satisfy three metaphysical conditions. It must be (1) capable of engaging in active behaviour with (2) a form of intentional directedness that (3) offers to us a “sphere of transposition” into which we can intelligibly “transpose ourselves.” Heidegger’s discussion of these conditions, as they apply to the being of animals, is well-known. But, if his argument is sound, they ought also to apply to the being of plants (given that plants, too, belong within the domain of the living). Heidegger, unfortunately, does not supply this part of his ontology of life in any systematic detail. However, my thesis is that it is possible to interpret the nature and activities of plants, along the lines of (1)–(3), and thus to make good on Heidegger’s omission. The key to this reconstruction is a reconceptualization of plant movements as constituted by a form of representationally blind, motor-intentionality.
In spite of a history wherein queer theory has openly rejected phenomenology, phenomenology has gained increasing interest amongst queer theorists. However, Husserl’s phenomenology is often marginalized in attempts to integrate queer theory with phenomenology, and when Husserl is addressed specifically, his work is often treated superficially or even misrepresented. Given this, my first goal is to demonstrate how Husserl’s work is already open to positions considered fundamental to queer theory, and that Husserl is often explicitly arguing for these positions himself. In doing so, I wish to show that Husserl’s phenomenology is well fitted for complementary engagement with queer theory. My second goal is to work through some ways in which Husserl’s phenomenology and queer theory can work together in detail to accomplish shared theoretical goals. Although this will not be a full-blown analysis—which would exceed the parameters of this article—my hope is to provide a certain amount of in depth work that can then assist further analyses that combine these methods.
Jacques RanciSre's work has become a major reference point for discussions of art and politics. However, while RanciSre's negative theses (about what "political art" is not) are becoming widespread and well understood, his positive thesis is still poorly understood, owing partly to RanciSre's own formulation of the issue. I first clarify RanciSre's account of the links between politics and art. I then explore a gap in this account; RanciSre has stuck too closely to a politics of art's reception. I argue for a politics of art production, which would expand the possible engagement between politics and art.
Arendt claimed that violence is not part of the political because it is instrumental. Her position has generated a vast corpus of scholarship, most of which falls into the context of the realist-liberal divide. Taking these discussions as a starting point, this essay engages with violence in Arendt’s work from a different perspective. Its interest lies not in Arendt’s theory of violence in the world, but in the function that violence performed in her work, namely, in the constitutive role of violence in her thought. It argues that the concept of violence allowed Arendt to make important distinctions serving to catalyze the categories that constitute her political philosophy and, in particular, the categories of public and private. More specifically, it claims that the concept of violence in Arendt’s work is the a priori background against which both the public and private realms should be defined.
I distinguish three kinds of other minds problems—conceptual, epistemological and empirical. I argue that while Merleau-Ponty believes embodiment helps with tackling the conceptual and epistemological problems, he suggests that it is of no clear use in solving (an important variant of) the empirical problem. I sketch some considerations that could lend support to Merleau-Ponty’s claims about the conceptual and epistemological problems, without claiming that these are conclusive. I then proceed to argue that Merleau-Ponty’s take on the empirical problem is essentially correct.
In the paper at hand I introduce Goethe’s ontology and methodology for the study of life as an alternative to current theories. ‘Life,’ in its individual, social and/or pan-natural form, has been a recurring topic in the social sciences for the last two centuries and may currently experience a renaissance, if we are to believe Scott Lash. Goethe’s approach is of particular interest because he formulated it as one of the first critical responses to the nascent discipline of biology. It can be characterised broadly as phenomenology with a strong dose of life philosophy. For this reason, and to draw its contours more clearly, I compare his approach to the respective thoughts in Husserl’s and Simmel’s work. The comparison focuses on the two central concepts phenomenon and life but also discusses broader epistemological and methodological issues, such as the relationship between observer and observed, the relationship between culture (cultural sciences) and nature (natural sciences), the nature of causality as well as preferred methods of study.
Narrative identity theory in some of its influential variants (A. MacIntyre or P. Ricœur) makes three fundamental assumptions. First, it focuses on personal identity primarily in terms of selfhood. Second, it argues that personal identity is to be understood as the unity of one’s life as it develops over time. And finally, it states that the unity of a life is articulated, by the very person itself, in the form of a story, be it explicit or implicit. The article focuses on different contemporary phenomenological appraisals of the narrative account (in the works of David Carr, Dan Zahavi and László Tengelyi). The survey of this partly critical debate is followed by concluding observations concerning a possible phenomenological theory of personal identity.