I’ve been reading through the two volumes of Rosenzweig’s letters and diary entries here and there for good while, but  in a footnote in the first chapter of Benjamin Pollock’s so far quite interesting Franz Rosenzweig and the Systematic Task of Philosophy I came across an something I haven’t yet seen.   As Pollock notes, Rosenzweig was rather unimpressed with the majority of the Neo-Kantians (except for Hermann Cohen, really), who he thought were simply confused about the relationship between a “system” and the task of philosophy.  Hence the need to return to the  approaches of German Idealism to get clear on the systematic task of philosophy. In this letter his ire is directed towards Rickert

Spinoza refutes Descartes, Leibniz refutes Spinoza, Kant refutes Leibniz, Fichte refutes Kant, Schelling refutes Fichte, Hegel refutes Schelling, and Hegel, through the advance of history is more than refuted, he is judged. But Nietzsche does not refute Schopenhauer and I do not refute Nietzsche.  He who still busies himself today with refutations (e.g. Rickert with Nietzsche, for what is the philosophy of value other than a struggle against the transvaluation of values?), proves in so doing that he is not a philosopher.

Geez.  How awkward.  I mean Rickert purportedly helped Rosenzweig publish his article, “Oldest System-Program.” Moreover, as Pollock notes (I wouldn’t know since I’m not that familiar with Rickert): “Rickert’s own systematic work contains key themes and concepts too many of which pop up in Rosenzweig’s Star for such overlap to be coincidental” (64).  Yet…

Of People and Things.

Back to book reports then [at least we don’t pretend to do “real” philosophy this way, right?]

I’m reading Arthur Ripstein’s Force and Freedom, a book entirely dedicated to Kant’s Rechtslehre. So far I like it quite a bit, particularly the very simple and exegetical presentation, even if somewhat unexciting in terms of possible connections between Kant’s ideas and those of, say, Locke, Hobbes and Rousseau. The opening chapter sets the tone of the discussion with a very clear presentation of Kant’s views on the distinction between the issues of virtue and the issues of right/law. I have to say that despite the clear presentation, however, none of the Kantian postulates are really engaged, so I’m hoping that the rest of the book will do so in more detail. For example, the idea that Kant distinguishes between internal freedom and external freedom and therefore wants to keep the domain of ethics (and the categorical imperative) and the domain of right/law separate is pretty clear in Kant, but we might very easily challenge this distinction as based on a rather underdeveloped distinction between “inside” and “outside” with all sorts of interesting questions. Again, since I haven’t finished the book, I’m hoping that Ripstein does go there.

One interesting theme of the first chapter is the notion of independence vs autonomy and their relation to Kant’s understanding of freedom. My attention, however, was caught by Ripstein’s wording of the issues: it’s all about people and the social relations they choose to establish. If there was ever a good chapter that would summarize for an objectologist how it’s all subject-oriented, it would be that chapter. However, it got me thinking about a number of issues, but primarily about the sorts of issues that would get us to juxtapose “people” and “things”… Continue reading

Zizek on Hardtalk

It’s here for 7 days, but you have to be in a certain area to watch it online. I’m sure there’s a YouTube video somewhere out there. Whoever the guy interviewing Zizek is kind of annoyingly interruptive, but Zizek needs that sort of person, otherwise he will talk forever.

I mean the interviewer’s obvious bias is quite clear – “you call yourself a Communist, but Communism sucks!” – plus in the end he ends up talking too much (at least for a Zizek-type encounter), so it’s kind of stupid, but it’s a Zizek-sighting so I must post about it.

CFP: “Beyond the Postmodern: Reading Late Lyotard”

Call for papers

‘Beyond the Postmodern: Reading the ‘late’ Lyotard’ edited by Heidi Bickis and Rob Shields

We invite submissions from philosophers, social and cultural theorists as well as artists and writers to be considered for an edited collection on Jean-François Lyotard’s later philosophy. Texts from this period include Lectures d’enfance (1991); The hyphen: Between Judaism and Christianity (1999 [Un trait d’union, 1993]); Soundproof Room: Malraux’s Anti-Aesthetics (2001 [Chambre Sourde: L’antiesthique de Malraux, 1993]); Signed, Malraux (1999 [Signé, Malraux, 1996]); The Confession of Augustine (2000 [La confession d’Augustin, 1998]) and La misère de la philosophie (2000).

This collection seeks to engage with Lyotard’s thought beyond the limited and misguided label of the postmodern, a label associated with the predominant influence of The postmodern condition (1984 [1979]). We wish to focus specifically on these later works that have received limited academic engagement and reflect on what Lyotard’s thought says to us ‘now’. Our goal is to develop an interdisciplinary dialogue to show the ongoing relevance of Lyotard’s thought for contemporary theoretical debates relating to (but not limited to): art and aesthetics; affect and the sensuous; time (especially around beginnings and the event); the sexual (sexual difference); infancy; ethical relations; and biography and the subject.

We invite papers that consider any of these themes in relation to the above texts or other topics that resonate with the collection’s general theme.

Confirmed contributors include: Keith Crome, Neal Curtis, Margret Grebowicz, Antony Hudek, Rachel Jones, Matthew McClennan, Matthew Pateman and James Williams.

Please send full papers with abstract and institutional affiliation and/or professional title by February 20, 2010. Please send submissions and direct inquiries to Heidi Bickis at

Heidi Bickis and Dr. Rob Shields
Department of Sociology
University of Alberta
Edmonton, AB
T6G 2H4

Deflationary Optimism

I came across this just now and thought I’d post it.  In a letter to his mother from 1918, Franz Rosenzweig—while reading through Hermann Cohen’s Logic of Pure Cognition—writes

Cohen is insanely hard. I would never have believed that a philosophical book would hold such difficulties for me.  Moreover-whether understanding him is accordingly worthy, is not yet certain for me; I almost believe it is not. But now I have begun it and am reading it through.

Rosenzweig, of course, ends up taking up Cohen’s infinitesimal method (of sorts) in the Star, but I find this passage somewhat comforting.

Photo of the Day

It’s always fun to see who searches your blog for what – that is to say, who enters something in that search space on the top right. Usually it’s boring stuff, but I cannot help but share this one with you. It’s funny, I think: look for format. I might want to take down that search option, then certain someone would have to read the posts and the comments in full to make sure no one’s saying anything mean – oh the cruelty!


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Affirmative Philosophical Interventions

I think it’s unreasonable to think that the whiny tone of the Humanities will ever change, and while Badiou’s attempt to reverse critique may be a bit of an overstatement, it is worth repeating.   Moses Boudourides, discussing the need to prevent ideas and people from being knotted together, quotes Alain Badiou from the “Philosophy in the Present: Badiou & Zizek” (Polity, 2009, pp. 80-84):

It seems to me that the problem with philosophical commitment is that it is often thought to be primarily critical. Very often, one equates philosophy with critique. So that philosophical commitment would ultimately amount to saying what is evil, what is suffering, of saying what’s not acceptable, or what is false. The task of philosophy would be primarily negative: to entertain doubt, the critical spirit , and so on and so forth. I THINK THIS THEME MUST BE ABSOLUTELY OVERTURNED. THE ESSENCE OF PHILOSOPHICAL INTERVENTION IS REALLY AFFIRMATION. … a point on which I agree with Deleuze. When Deleuze says that philosophy is in its essence the construction of concepts, he is right to put forward this creative and affirmative dimension, and to mistrust any critical or negative reduction of philosophy. … Glucksmann’s fundamental thesis … is that it is not possible to unify consciences around a positive vision of the Good. One can only unify consciences in the critique of Evil: this is the pivotal thesis of his entire intellectual itinerary. This negative position defines a philosophical intervention of an entirely specific sort: THE PHILOSOPHER IS A KIND OF A PHYSICIAN. He diagnoses evil, suffering, and, if need be, he suggests remedies in order to return to the normal state of affairs. … For my part, I think it is important to defend a wholly other conception of philosophical intervention. It is not for nothing that the first great philosophical idea was Plato’s idea of the Good. Plato had understood perfectly well that at a given moment it is the element of inhuman affirmation which is decisive, that it is this element which carries a radical choice. (The previous letter capitalization was mine, not in the book.)