Kant Without Kantianism

A new book out and a nice review article is accompanying it – looks very interesting:

20091027_kant2-ff309Recensé : Gérard Lebrun, Kant sans kantisme, préfaces de Paul Clavier et Francis Wolff. Paris, Fayard, 2009, 341 p., 22 euros.

Gérard Lebrun n’a jamais autant publié que depuis sa mort, survenue en 1999. Les deux seuls livres qu’il fit paraître en français, ouvrages de référence, ont été réédités en 2003. Ils furent ainsi rendus à ceux qui, désireux de saisir la radicalité de l’intervention kantienne dans l’histoire de la métaphysique (Kant et la fin de la métaphysique, Armand Colin, 1970, rééd. Le Livre de Poche), ou la singularité du régime de discours hégélien (La Patience du concept, Paris, Gallimard, 1972, rééd. 2003), ne pouvaient faire l’économie, non pas seulement d’une lecture, mais bien d’une authentique méditation de ces livres qui ne quittent jamais totalement ceux qui les ont rencontrés. La rareté francophone de Lebrun ne s’explique pas seulement par le souci de perfection de quelqu’un qui écrivait en esthète, ni par cette intégrité qui interdit de publier pour ne rien dire. Il faut ajouter qu’il vécut longtemps au Brésil, où il jouit encore d’une aura particulière. C’est grâce à deux de ses anciens élèves, Paul Clavier et Francis Wolff, que le lecteur non lusophone a pu découvrir L’envers de la dialectique (Paris, Seuil, 2004), d’abord paru en portugais. C’est grâce à eux encore qu’il dispose désormais d’un recueil d’articles parus en français, en portugais, ou encore inédits, jalonnant 25 ans de travail (le plus ancien date de 1974, le plus récent de 1999) : Kant sans kantisme.

Objectology: A Distorted View.

John comments on the issue of objectology and politics (I am going to combine both of his comments here):

Why should every philosophy be expected to address politics just because all philosophers are affected by politics? “Ontology is play-science for philosophers,” says the I.T. post in question, and I can’t help but agree. But I don’t see why “real” scientific work should be regarded with suspicion just because scientists don’t explicitly discuss in their scientific articles the political and economic factors that influence the trajectory of their work. To the contrary: I would be particularly suspicious of chemists or physicists who claimed that their scientific work and findings were influenced by their political position.

I think, though, that the objection is more direct than that: ontology is pointless, like alchemy; go make better use of your philosophical talents.

Although John is using the term “ontology” I think it’s clear that we are talking about a very peculiar kind of ontology, i.e. objectology. Here’s what I think, and it’s going to be fairly short: there’s a fundamental difference between understanding politics as what politicians do (elections, issues, platforms and so on) and politics as a simple structure of human coexistence (polis) – this is not a novel idea or a novel distinction. I think that John means politics as as an area of political activity done by or in some relation to politicians, I think most objections to objectology are not that its members are not politically active in this sense, but in a sense that the argument seems to suggest that a reconfiguring the relationship between humans and non-humans does not have any immediate political significance or is not in itself a political activity. Continue reading

Trauma and Philosophy [blog]

I just stumbled across a blog, Trauma and Philosophy, maintained by Frank Seeburger, a philosopher at the U of Denver. It’s quite excellent and includes close readings and brief reactions to a wide range of literature related to trama including Lifton’s book on Nazi doctors, Felman and Laub’s book on trauma, musings on Heidegger, Henry and Nancy, and this is not even close to being exhaustive. Do check it out. Here’s Seeburger’s rationale:

Recently, my thinking and research has come to focus on the intersection of a number of concepts or figures/tropes of diverse provenance but sometimes surprising convergence: (1) ‘trauma,’ in the sense at issue–to cite a definitive example–in Freud and psychoanalysis; (2) ‘event,’ as that term comes to be deployed in the works of such continental European thinkers as Heidegger, Derrida, Badiou, and Žižek; (3) ‘truth,’ as used (some might say abused) within that same European philosophical tradition; (4) ’sovereignty,’ primarily in the political sense at issue in contemporary discussions centering around the recovery of the thought of Carl Schmitt–for example, and especially, in the works of Giorgio Agamben; (5) ‘representation,’ in both the political and the philosophical-literary senses—the ‘image’ of my title; and (6) ‘the political,’ in the sense of that term in which such recent continental European thinkers as Jean-Luc Nancy and Phillipe Lacoue-Labarthe would distinguish between ‘politics’ and ‘the political’.”That nexus of concepts first began to come into focus in my thought in connection with a class I taught at the University of Denver in fall term of 2005. My work on those themes in conjunction with that class soon resulted in an article which has since been published online in The Electronic Book Review (“9/11 Never Happened, President Bush Wouldn’t Let It: Bob Dylan Replies to Henri Bergson”). Since that time, I have continued to work with the interconnections of the concepts involved. Then, in December of last year, I resumed, after a long gap, the practice of keeping a regular “philosophical journal,” more or less restricting my entries to recording my responses to what I was reading at the time in the relevant literature on trauma, a literature which I have been continuing to explore to the present. Continue reading

New Storm A-brewing?

Nina Power posts a short (and somewhat cryptic) note on what appears to be the same annoying tendencies in “contemporary philosophy” I’ve been complaining about – I’m expecting a series of irritating (and very very long) posts from objectologists on the topic of how no one really understands them and how what they’re doing is not what they are doing etc etc…

What happens, or what does not happen, should be what concerns us: philosophers sometimes pride themselves on their ignorance of world affairs, again like watered-down Heideggarians, no matter how hostile they think they are to him, pretending that all that history and politics stuff is so, like, ontic, we’re working on something much more important here.

I am waiting for Objectologist the Son to shoot out one of those “I feel betrayed and misunderstood” posts any second now.

Some reactions and comment on the post are here.

The Dunghill of Servility (J.F. Fries on Hegel)

Jakob  Friedrich Fries is only remembered these days as “personal and professional enemy of Hegel” (as Terry Pinkard puts it somewhere in his biography of Hegel) – the relationship was of course very interesting in terms of our understanding of Hegel’s character and does not really make Hegel into a very likable person at all. He said many mean-spirited things about Fries, but it seems that the only famous statement by Fries about Hegel is that about the “dunghill of servility” – some texts cite it and I decided to track it down the other day. Here it is for the curious: it is found in the private letter that Fries sent to Ludwig Rödiger on January 6th, 1821:

Ich habe im Augenblick wenig Lust [etwas gegen Hegel zu schreiben], und Hegels metaphysischer Pilz ist ja nicht in den Gärten der Wissenschaft, sondern auf dem Misthaufen der Kriecherei aufgewachsen. Bis 1813 hatte seine Metaphysik die Franzosen, dann wurde sie königlich württembergisch und jetzt küβt sie dem Herrn von Kamptz die Karbatsche. Wenn er Beifall findet, so ist dies nur ein Beweis der wissenschaftliche Ungebildetheit und der Geistlosigkeit des Publikums, von welchem er gehört wird. Wissenschaftlicher Ernst wird gegen diesen Propheten unter den Bütteln nicht die rechte Waffe sein. Überhaupt muβ es ja in dieser Zeit des politischen Katzenjammers, wo jede freie oder auch nur fröhliche Äuβerung verdächtig gemacht wird, einem jeden ekelhaft sein, öffentlich über politische Gegenstände zu sprechen.

[From Hegel in Berichten seiner Zeitgenossen, hrsg. Günther Nicolin (Hamburg: Felix Meiner Verlag, 1970), 221] Continue reading

Heidegger and Nazism, again.

Not to be dismissive about Heidegger’s Nazism or anything, but the dialogue has begun (yet) again.  I bookmarked an article entitled “Heil Heidegger,”  for myself (and others, of course) on Twitter last week.  The article discusses a recently translated book revolving around  Heidegger’s Nazism and I just had a chance to look closely at it.  It’s um…rather polemical.    Consider the first paragraph:

How many scholarly stakes in the heart will we need before Martin Heidegger (1889-1976), still regarded by some as Germany’s greatest 20th-century philosopher, reaches his final resting place as a prolific, provincial Nazi hack? Overrated in his prime, bizarrely venerated by acolytes even now, the pretentious old Black Forest babbler makes one wonder whether there’s a university-press equivalent of wolfsbane, guaranteed to keep philosophical frauds at a distance.

Whoa.  Nothing like a little ad hominem attack to get things going.  Sure, Heidegger’s rhetoric is a bit bloated much of the time, but in fact, this paragraph kind of de-legitimizes anything else the author, Carlin Romano, writes afterward.  The connection (identity, really) between Heidegger and Nazism has been picked over and I’m not so sure that Romano is correct to say that there’s been some sort of deliberate systematic disavowal of it on the part of academics.  Anyhow, Romano’s polemic is centered around the forthcoming translation of Emmanuel Faye’s Heidegger: The Introduction of Nazism into Philosophy in Light of the Unpublished Seminars of 1933-1935. Faye’s claim, as far as I can tell, is that Heidegger wasn’t “caught up” or “flirting” with Nazism, but instead, was a theorist or philosopher of Nazism.  Hmm.  Baby.  Bathwater.  I don’t think it’s particular helfpul (or accurate) to  reduce the whole corpus of Heidegger’s work to mere “hate speech.” Both Faye and Romano almost sound like those screaming health care protesters by insisting that publishers (er..Indiana UP and Continuum) stop publishing Heidegger and all of those librarian sympathizers need to cut it out with all this stocking up of Heidegger’s Gesamtausgabe in order to prevent Nazism from encroaching into the public realm and poisoning the minds of the unexpected.  I hardly think Heidegger’s Nazism or minimally, Heidgger’s connection with Nazism should escape serious and legitimate scrutiny, nor should it be defended, but if Faye’s book is half the hatchet job I’ve heard it to be, then it’s not very helpful.  That said, I will read the book with a good deal of interest.

Anyway, after picking on a couple of recent books by Heidegger scholars, Romano writes: Continue reading

Met In HD: Aida (A Quick Reaction)

Just a quick note on today’s broadcast of Aida from the Met: it was good but not great (wife nods in agreement). No, it was not due to the lack of elephants, though the three main characters were admittedly quite large. I am not against opera body types by any means, I’m all for voluptuousness and vastness, it’s just that this particular casting decision had often brought unnecessary attention to the singers’ physical proportions (and camera angles often did not help but only accentuate certain features). All throughout this long (even if very tuneful) opera I couldn’t help but think about how there must be a book about it somewhere, a book that looks at the size of operatic personnel and analyzes its ups and downs. (And then there’s Deborah Voigt’s dismissal from Royal Opera House in 2004 for being too fat – makes you think…)

The performance was quite solid, I think, and it’s almost impossible to screw up Aida, especially in such a traditional production with all that gold and Egyptian costumes stuff everywhere. I think everyone sang quite beautifully, but then again I’m no expert and as soon as I hear a familiar tune, I’m quite satisfied (unless the singer gets of rhythm or screws up a note here and there which often happened to the high priest fellow).

Robert Service’s New Biography of Trotsky

There’s a review of it in The Times.  I remember reading his 2002 biography of Lenin with great interest, and I haven’t had a chance to read his Stalin biography (never had much interest in Stalin actually). In any case, an anecdote: Trotsky liked to hang out in Cafe Central in Vienna (as I have learned recently) and apparently when the Austrian Ministry of Interior received a request from Russia to squash the revolutionary activities in Viennese cafes, the minister reacted with laughter asking: “Who do they think will make a revolution? Herr Trotsky from Cafe Central?” Herr Trotsky, of course, did go and make a revolution later on and The Times has a nice picture of him and Lenin:

Met in HD: Aida (10/24)

After the horrible reviews of what looked like a fiasco of Tosca (with Karita Mattila), I didn’t go to the opening broadcast of this season’s Met in HD series. The second opera in the program – Aida – looks like a good place to start this year. The broadcast is this Saturday, October 24th (check your local listings, as they say, over here). Tickets are here. Continue reading

Random Link: History of Canon Law.

Stumbled across these lectures (kind of boring if you start with the opening lecture, but it gets going) on the history of canon law. Having learned much from Harold J. Berman’s work (Law and Revolution), I got interested in canon law as a precursor of modern legal systems – it’s some fascinating stuff.