Sloterdijk: You Must Change Your Life

UPDATE: Not enough Sloterdijk for you, go here.

A new book from Sloterdijk just came out, it’s called Du musst dein Leben ändern, quite a title. Apparently the title comes from Rilke’s Archaic Torso of Apollo. Here’s a short review (with a rough translation) from Deutsche Welt: Continue reading

Doctor Shot At A Church (Updated)

UPDATE: Andrew Sullivan has a nice collection of link here

George Tiller, a doctor and abortion rights activist was shot at his church in Wichita Kansan  this morning

WICHITA – George Tiller, the Wichita doctor who became a national lightning rod in the debate over abortion, was shot to death this morning as he walked into church services.
Tiller, 67, was shot just after 10 a.m. at Reformation Lutheran Church at 7601 E. 13th, where he was a member of the congregation. Witnesses and a police source confirmed Tiller was the victim.
No information has been released about whether a suspect is in custody. Police said they are looking for white male who was driving a 1990s powder blue Ford Taurus with Kansas license plate 225 BAB.

I thought we were done with that sort of things in the 1990s. We should probably thanks hysterical right-wing radio/TV hosts for exciting the crazies and making them think it’s the end of the world or something. I’m sure they’ll do anything for the ratings, right? 

Still, shot in a church? Do they have any standards at all? Outrageous!

Not Being God: Gianni Vattimo’s Autobiography

Coming out this June, some excerpts are published here

Gianni Vattimo, a leading philosopher of the continental school, has always resisted autobiography. But in this intimate memoir, the voice of Vattimo as thinker, political activist, and human being finds its expression on the page. With Piergiorgio Paterlini, a noted Italian writer and journalist, Vattimo reflects on a lifetime of politics, sexual radicalism, and philosophical exuberance in postwar Italy. Turin, the city where he was born and one of the intellectual capitals of Europe (also the city in which Nietzsche went mad), forms the core of his reminiscences, enhanced by fascinating vignettes of studying under Hans Georg Gadamer, teaching in the United States, serving as a public intellectual and interlocutor of Habermas and Derrida, and working within the European Parliament to unite Europe.

Vattimo’s status as a left-wing faculty president paradoxically made him a target of the Red Brigades in the 1970s, causing him to flee Turin for his life. Left-wing terrorism did not deter the philosopher from his quest for social progress, however, and in the 1980s, he introduced a daring formulation called “weak thought,” which stripped metaphysics, science, religion, and all other absolute systems of their authority. Vattimo then became notorious both for his renewed commitment to the core values of Christianity (he was trained as a Catholic intellectual) and for the Vatican’s denunciation of his views. 

Paterlini weaves his interviews with Vattimo into an utterly candid first-person portrait, creating a riveting text that is destined to become one of the most compelling accounts of homosexuality, history, politics, and philosophical invention in the twentieth century.

Rousseau vs. Hume: Hilarity In Action.

UPDATE: The book mentioned below is now available as a torrent on The Pirate Bay.

I believe this is my very favorite philosophical beef of all time, if you haven’t had a chance to read wonderfully entertaining and accessible Rousseau’s Dog you must do it this summer or die.  This story has so many cool twists and turns and almost none of them are philosophical. There’s a new book on the subject – The Philosophers’ Quarrel: Rousseau, Hume, and the Limits of Human Understanding – and I am hoping to read it very soon: Continue reading


Jon Cogburn has a nice short post on Graham Priest here.

New realists have got to have an honest confrontation with the Kantian problems of totality, and Priest’s characterization of such problems in terms of varieties of Russell’s Paradox is an essential step forward. Russellian paradoxical proofs have two moments: one of Transcendence where a set A is provably not a member of some set B, and one of Closure where A is provably a member of B (with Russell’s paradox A and B are the same set; the problem concerns whether the set of all sets that are not members of themselves is itself a member of itself). This provides a rigorous model of precisely what always goes wrong with transcendental idealism, limiting what can be said or known (Closure) and having to surpass those limits (Transcendence) in order to state or think the initial limitation. Continue reading

Midrash, Quotation, Levinas: Some More Thoughts

Ok, dusting off my Levinas books!  In a comment to a post on some thoughts her talk about the Midrashic impulse triggered for me, Monica writes:

His [Levinas] writing–at least in my reading–imitates precisely the style used by Talmudists and the rabbis and sages who created classical Midrash. There is always that moment in the text that flips the text itself upside-down and forces a re-reading from that particular point in the text. Sometimes these moments are so subtle that we miss them, which I think in some way leads us back to the question of responsibility even on the part of the reader (?). This is, again, I think, what brings us to the ethical, at least in regard to the way I’m using it in my work to describe the midrashic impulse. The ethical is about that (diachronic?) moment of rupture in the text, and the way it compels us to respond to it.

This is an interesting (and accurate in my view) comment.  Talmudic study, according to Levinas, is an awakening of language to what perpetually exceeds its reach, drawing reading and writing into a mode of infinition, of constitutive incompletion. The translation of Talmudic study into practice starts with the assumption that there is nothing that cannot be expressed in a community defined by its willingness to communicate and disagree, except the name of God. Continue reading

L’Abécédaire de Gilles Deleuze (1996)

The eight-hour series of interviews between Gilles Deleuze and Claire Parnet, filmed by Pierre-André Boutang in 1988-1989. There’s a couple of videos. I like these for mannerisms, I can’t claim to be able to understand everything. For a transcript/translations go here.


Continue reading

Pessimism Is Back

During these bright times of financial crisis, Seneca is back

The Roman philosopher Seneca should be the author of the hour. Living in a time of continuous financial and political upheaval under the emperor Nero, Seneca interpreted philosophy as a discipline to keep us calm against a backdrop of continuous danger. His consolation was of the stiffest, darkest sort: “You say: ‘I did not think it would happen.’ Do you think there is anything that will not happen, when you know that it is possible to happen, when you see that it has already happened?” Seneca tried to calm the sense of injustice in his readers by reminding them, in AD 62, that natural and man-made disasters would always be part of their lives, however sophisticated and safe they thought they had become.

If we do not dwell on the risk of sudden calamity, in the markets and otherwise, and end up paying a price for our innocence, it is because reality comprises two cruelly confusing characteristics: on the one hand, continuity and reliability lasting across decades; on the other, unheralded cataclysms. We find ourselves divided between a plausible expectation that tomorrow will be much like today and the possibility that we will meet with an appalling event after which nothing will ever be the same. It is because we have such powerful incentives to neglect the second scenario that Seneca asked us to remember that our fate is forever in the hands of the Goddess of Fortune. This goddess can scatter gifts, and then, with terrifying speed, make a 50-year-old company disappear into a worthless asset, or let a balance sheet be destroyed by an evaporation of demand.

Scientology on Trial

So a woman in France is suing The Church of Scientology for fraud – apparently after a “free” psychological test she was pressured into paying large sums of money: 

The woman at the centre of the case says she was approached by church members in Paris 10 years ago, and offered a free personality test. But, she says, she ended up spending 21,000 euros ($29,400, £18,400) on lessons, books and medicines she was told would cure her poor mental state.

Her lawyers are arguing that the church systematically seeks to make money by means of mental pressure and the use of scientifically dubious “cures”.

Does that mean if she wins I can sue my old university for giving me a scholarship and then demanding I pay up when it ended in three years? Was there a mental pressure to graduate and make something of myself? Interesting.