Philosophy as Biography?

It’s fairly well-known (I think??) that when asked about the life of Aristotle, Heidegger retorted that all we need to know is that Aristotle was born, he thought, he died.  That is to say, who cares about the life of Aristotle, it’s irrelevant to understanding what he wrote down on paper.  Derrida suggested (somewhere) that the “official” biography of anyone is problematic because it serves to freeze that person’s image, and in turn, produces a truth that give rise to a predominant perception of that particular person for, well, who knows how long.  Derrida counters such a view of biography (however successful) with a more fragmentary and “novel/radical/interesting” (whatever that means) reading of a philosopher’s writings that may actually contain and “reveal” a more more accurate biography than the “official-minded” biographies.  Yet, there may be a better way.  Osip Mandelstam wrote something to the effect that, “It is enough for us to tell of the books one has read, and his biography is done.” Emmanuel Levinas provides us with some sparse details–an “inventory” as he calls it– of his biography in “Signature,” and pauses to note that his biography was “dominated by the presentiment and the memory of the Nazi horror.” This business about philosophy and biography isn’t really new, Diogenes wrote a biography of a bunch of philosophers, and that was a while ago after all.  I recall some biography of Nietzsche suggesting he was a closeted homosexual and that’s why he was so filled with vitriol against Christianity and the conventional morality that goes along with it.  I don’t know, how much should we pay attention to philosophers lives as a way to illuminate their writing?  Here’s a rather odd answer in the form of a biographical reflection by Alain Badiou,”Philosophy as Biography,” which appears in the latest issue of The Symptom:

Nietzsche wrote that a philosophy is always the biography of the philosopher. Maybe a biography of the philosopher by the philosopher himself is a piece of philosophy. So I shall tell you nine stories taken of my private life, with their philosophical morality… Continue reading

CFP: “Back to the Things Themselves! Edges and the In-Between.”

A Call for Papers:

PhaenEx 3, no. 2 [Fall/Winter 2008] Special Topics Issue:
“Back to the Things Themselves! Edges and the In-Between.”

This special topics issue of PhaenEx invites papers that explore the phenomena of the in-between and edges in relation to one another, or as phenomena in their own right.

The editors are explicitly interested in the application of phenomenology’s insights, not only in standard (@ 20-30 pp) papers but also briefer sketches, musings or reflections so long as they further phenomenological consideration of the themes of this special issue.

Please note that our “general criteria” for publishing work for this special issue are as follows:

1) The argument itself is generated from a phenomenological description of whatever in-between/edges you are using. While bringing in theory is great (as a bouncing off point, as a foil, as background, to set up the intellectual debate, etc), we really want people to try to NOT rely on it to discern the meaning of the phenomenon. Rather, whatever thesis/arguments are reached should stem from a description of the things themselves. (In other words, if you took away all the textual refs, would there still be an argument of sorts? This is a sort of litmus test).

2) The paper draws some sort of conclusion about the in-between/edges themselves as phenomena, rather than only describing an example of the in-between/edges. (For example, some papers have discovered that the inbetween is a fecund space for the development of certain ethical relations, or a space of creativity, desedimentation, or works as an ontological operator of relations, pushes phenomenology to its own methodological limits, etc.) We are looking for at least something that will teach something about the so-called “nature” of the in-between and/or edges, that was disclosed through a description of
whatever “thing itself” you are describing.