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Archive for April, 2010

Some bad news today about Middlesex University, who announced that they will be shutting down the philosophy department. The department is widely known to most everyone working in Continental philosophy, and is an exemplary place of scholarship–easily one of the top schools in the UK for Continental thought.

Since the handful of people who read this blog are Americans, I’m not sure there is much we can do. Nina Power has a lot more info on the whole thing.

Here is a link to join the Facebook group. Help spread the word as philosophers and friends-of-philosophers stand against this disaster that is creeping to becoming the norm in our Universities.

Update: Due props to Brian Leiter, who has posted about this on his blog, which is of course among the most popular philosophy blogs on the web (it may be the most popular, I’m not sure).

Also, if you are looking to send a letter of protest, you can direct it to Professor Edward Esche, who is the dean of the school of arts and education. His email is e.esche@mdx.ac.uk. For the benefit of those actively working to fight this decision, please copy the following email address when you send a letter to Prof. Esche: savemdxphil@gmail.com.

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Here is very good post by Tim Wise.

This, my friends, is what white privilege is all about. The ability to threaten others, to engage in violent and incendiary rhetoric without consequence, to be viewed as patriotic and normal no matter what you do, and never to be feared and despised as people of color would be, if they tried to get away with half the shit we do, on a daily basis.

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Although I’ve already communicated this to several friends of the blog, the lack of substance to post about amidst my final few weeks as an undergrad compels me to make a public announcement on the blog: I have accepted an offer to work towards an MA in philosophy at Duquesne University this fall. This still feels rather surreal, after the whirlwind process, and I’m not quite sure how to adjust to being finished with the search/waiting. I’m excited to get started at Duquesne, and also excited that I will have the opportunity to do coursework on Kierkegaard immediately.

In the end, I had offers from 5 MA programs to choose from, and eliminating any one of them wasn’t an easy choice. As I began to look at probable seminars, I came to realize that Duquesne was an even better fit than I imagined for myself when I started the search about 8 months ago. In conjunction with living costs and the fact that I love Pittsburgh and have always wanted to live in the city (I grew up in the suburbs), Duquesne became an obvious choice near the end. There are many other exciting opportunities at Duquesne, but more of that in due time. I am contemplating doing a series of posts on grad school in philosophy this summer, similar to some of the theology resources in the blogosphere.

Also, I’ve said this on the blog before, but now I have some official idea: this summer I will be studying at the Hong Kierkegaard Library in Northfield, Minnesota. I will first have the pleasure of attending the Sixth International Kierkegaard Conference from June 27th-July 1st. After this, I’ll spend the rest of July in Minnesota with a group of grad students and professors studying Kierkegaard. I will be working on questions about Kierkegaard and the political. I may possibly have some blog posts on that as I prepare early in the summer by reading The Point of View and Two Ages.

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Adam Smith probably wouldn’t have looked like this if they had youtube in the eighteenth century, but who knows. Blankenship has certainly embodied the ethos very well.

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In preparation for a paper on Mikhail Bulgakov’s The Master and Margarita, I’ve been doing a good bit of reading in philosophy/animal studies over the past month. One of the most pervasive themes in contemporary continental discussions of the question of the animal is the human-animal distinction. Most philosophers, from Levinas to Lacan, or Derrida or Agamben, who have addressed this issue recently would not consider themselves to be metaphysical humanists. In the case of Agamben, one of his main tasks in The Open is to “jam the anthropological machine.”

One book that I’ve been reading which is particularly helpful in sorting out what various philosophers have written about animals, and more specifically how they have used animal metaphors in their philosophies, is Kelly Oliver’s Animal Lessons: How They Teach Us to Be Human. Oliver summarizes several writers, such as Lacan, Merleau-Ponty, Heidegger, Freud, Kristeva, and Agamben–to name a few–in her attempt to show how animals are perpetually used to reveal something about what it means to be human. I haven’t reached her concluding constructive chapter just yet, but I’m reading on Agamben now, and she seems to be critical of Agamben for using religious analogies in his work. She is critical of Judeo-Christian religion insofar as it affirms an abyss between (hu)man and animal. Here is a relevant passage:

Judeo-Christian religion could be said to represent the view that man and animals are separated by an abyss, that the divine providence of man is guaranteed only by his metaphysical separation from animals. This is the older version of the anthropological machine as producing the human by extracting the animal. Western science, however, insists on biological continuity between humans and animals, which Agamben identifies as the modern version of the anthropological machine that reduces humans to animals (or bare life) and thereby leaves them open to dissection and disposal. As we have seen, however, metaphysical separation and biological continuism are two sides of the same coin or, in Agamben’s parlance, two versions of the anthropological machine. Given the influence of religion on philosophy and science, we might discover that the opposition between science and religion has been behind the opposition between animal and man all along. Kelly Oliver, Animal Lessons (New York: Columbia UP, 2009). p. 240.

I’m wondering what readers think of this passage, and specifically whether Judeo-Christian religion requires a metaphysical separation between (hu)man and animal. Are there theologians or philosophers who have argued otherwise?

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I wanted to do a short recap post of our book event on Eric Santner’s On The Psychotheology of Everyday Life, so that the links to various posts could all be in one place. Although we weren’t able to draw in any discussion from non-event posters, I view the completion of our event on time as a success, and have personally found the book to be rewarding. Special thanks to guest commentators AJ Smith, Jeremy Ridenour, and Robert Minto, who now have authorial privileges at Dommer selv! and should feel free to abuse them.

Introduction – Jeremy Ridenour

Chapter 1 – Robert Minto

Chapter 2 – Robert Minto

Chapter 3, Part 1 – AJ Smith

Chapter 3, Part 2 – AJ Smith

Chapter 4, Part 1 – Dave Mesing

Chapter 4, Part 2 – Dave Mesing

Epilogue – Jeremy Ridenour

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Epilogue

The epilogue was difficult to summarize as so much of the section is dedicated to quoting different poems to validate Santner’s argument. Therefore, I’m sorry for its abbreviated nature.

This final section covers Rosenzweig’s understanding of redemption as “the movement outward into the world on behalf of revelatory love – in the context of aesthetic artifacts” (130). Hegel’s manifesto for German Idealism included this statement about the “structural tension between paganism and revelation: Monotheism of reason and the heart, polytheism of imagination and art, this what we require! First I will speak of an idea which, as far as I know, has never occurred to anyone – we must have a new mythology, but this mythology must stand in the service of ideas, it must become a mythology of reason” (131). This desire for aesthetic philosophy will create a mythology of reason that came to be understood as instituting the advent of a new Johnannine Age of the Sprit, in which a new sense of freedom would be established for the universality of man.

Rosenzweig associated the life of the work of an art with the theological categories of creation, revelation, and redemption. Redemption parallels the reception of the work of art by a community. In the work of art the, “the act of reception, this completion of the work of art, represents a rupture in the life of the work – a “strong misreading” we might say – performed by one who feels singled out, addressed by it” (133). The multiplicity of interpretations of the work of art makes it inexhaustible because every reading is something of a creation ex nihilo. These creative, violent readings are performative interventions that open up new horizons of re-thinking art, and in Rosenzweig’s case his reading of Holderlin can the disrupt normal homogenizing interpretations. The debates surrounding Holderlin involve whether we should read him as being “dedicated primarily to “horizontal” relations, to a vision of social pace and harmony beyond tructures [sic] of domination and belligerence, or one involved primarily with the “vertical” axis of human-divine encounter” (134).

Beauty must be rethought as a form of harmony or symmetry but rather as “a self interrupting whole – one animated, as it were, but a “too much” of pressure from within the midst” (136). Beautiful objects disarm us and release us back into the midst of life, as opposed to keeping our defenses in tact. This is the framework through which Santner wants to read Holderlin’s poetry qua Rosenzweig. As opposed to the typical teleological, forward-moving view of history, Santner believes that Holderlin was a poet inhabiting the middle of life with courage. Santner believes that we should have “an appreciation for the dimension of the remnant immanent in the beautiful, for an aesthetics of what I have referred to as the interrupted or self-interrupting whole. What is beautiful, in this view I am proposing, moves because its own formal composition and procedures produce more reality than it can contain” (139).

Santner wants us to rethink the remnant, which is “the part that is not a part of a whole but rather the opening beyond the “police order” of parts and holes. What poets establish is not some sort of vision or consciousness of the All; rather they introduce into the relational totality of social existence – into the social body divided into parts – the perspective of the “non-all”

Discussion/Question

Religious rituals are often highly routinized and monotonous. Many times believers go through the motions and fulfill their duties in a robotic, disengaged manner. In what ways could sacraments and rituals be used to help open up one to the very alienness at the heart of life itself?

Back to the unconscious, I think something that can disrupt the functioning of everyday life is a close attention to the unconscious. I’ve found that when one listen to not only one’s unconscious but to the Other’s unconscious, one is often surprised by what one hears. One is not merely scandalized, but also humored by the eccentricities of the unconscious. In what way can humor be implemented in everyday life to shake one’s self out of slumber? How can humor be a theological tool? It seems Kierkegaard above all was aware of the utter absurdity of Christianity. How else can humor and the unconscious come to affect the way we not only think but live theology.

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