Monthly Archives: October 2010

Metaphysics and Things: New Forms of Speculative Thought


It looks like I’ll now be delivering a paper at the Metaphysics and Things conference as part of the graduate student panel, titled “The Inner Life of Objects: Speculative Metaphysics for the 21st Century”. I’m really looking forward to meeting some of these folks in meatspace after talking to them and reading them for so long here in cyberspace (and in book form). Here’s the list of confirmed presenters:

    Isabelle Stengers (Université Libre de Bruxelles)
    Donna Haraway (University of California at Santa Cruz)
    Ian Bogost (The Georgia Institute of Technology)
    James J. Bono (University at Buffalo)
    James Bradley (Memorial University of Newfoundland)
    Nathan Brown (UC Davis)
    Levi Bryant (Collin College)
    Didier Debaise (Max Planck Institute, Berlin)
    Roland Faber (Claremont Graduate University)
    Andrew Goffey (Middlesex University)
    Michael Halewood (University of Essex)
    Graham Harman (American University in Cairo)
    Judith Jones (Fordham University)
    Steven Shaviro (Wayne State University)


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Platonic Zodiac

So am I a “hipster vitalist” or “colourful antiquarian”?

Actually until recently I would have probably said my favourite dialogue was the Phaedo. I would say now that it is between the Phaedo and the Timaeus. What does that make me?

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Let X equal the cold.


I’m going over both Being & Event and Logics of Worlds for a paper on Lacanian metaphysics. Every once in a while I get this odd feeling reading Badiou though, like a repetition of that scene from the movie Proof where Catherine reads aloud her father’s writings, thinking his mind is allowing him to once again do complex maths, but instead ends up with:

Let X equal the quantity of all quantities of X. Let X equal the cold. It is cold in December. The months of cold equal November through February. There are four months of cold, and four of heat, leaving four months of indeterminate temperature. In February it snows. In March the Lake is a lake of ice. In September the students come back and the bookstores are full. Let X equal the month of full bookstores. The number of books approaches infinity as the number of months of cold approaches four. I will never be as cold now as I will in the future. The future of cold is infinite. The future of heat is the future of cold. The bookstores are infinite and so are never full except in September…

That is to say, I think Badiou is bogged down tremendously by his reliance on math and logic and that his points could be made much better if he didn’t attempt to couch his arguments in such language. I’ll probably talk about this in the paper, but my impression is that Badiou is simply attempting to maintain the Lacanian Real-Symbolic relation without wanting the Symbolic qua Order to simply be a repetition of Heideggerian Language. I take Logics of Worlds to be an attempt to distance himself even further from the linguistic turn in his move to transcendental logic.


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CFP: animal.machine.sovereign

This looks like a really interesting grad conference.

Call For Papers, 2011 Comparative Literature Grad Conference

April 15 – 16, 2011, the department of Comparative Literature at the State University of New York at Buffalo will be hosting a graduate student conference to coincide with the release of the fifteenth volume of its annually published journal, theory@buffalo. The conference will share the journal’s title: “animal.machine.sovereign.” Contributors to the conference must be currently enrolled graduate students and are encouraged to engage in presentations that probe the political constitution of the human-animal divide as a condition for thinking sovereignty, law, nation, the State, and politics in general.

Politics begins with the sovereign hospitality toward those included and the decision against those excluded from the law. From the very beginning, as early as Aristotle, politics has been described as a uniquely human activity distinct from the apolitical realm of animals. The human sits inside the political sphere while the animal finds itself always commanded outside. Politics begins with inclusion/exclusion and, thus, with definition. The human, that uniquely political being, therefore requires a definition that distinguishes it from the animal. Agamben refers to the production of this caesura between the human and the animal as an “anthropological machine.” The caesura, however, is never absolute. Whether one considers Arendt’s argument that the “barbarian” was excluded from the polis because he lacked a fundamental trait of the human condition or Agamben’s analysis of Nazi propaganda’s animalization of the Jews in order to legitimize the “Final Solution,” one recognizes that the exclusion of human beings from politics occurs when humanity is reduced to an animalistic appellation. Those excluded from politics are denied the very political condition that has classically distinguished humans from animals.

While modern sovereignty excludes animals by producing a certain definition of the human being, the sovereign retains animalistic traits insofar as “he” is excluded from covenants and, therefore, the law. At the same time, however, Schmitt argues that, by concealing the traces of its supra-lawful position, modern sovereignty becomes a kind of machine: an impersonal and lifeless body of laws unfolding and ruling outside of a requisite human will. As either animal or machine (or as both), sovereignty appears situated at the limit between the human, the mechanical, and the animal. It is precisely this limit that the proceedings of this conference seek to interrogate.

Possible topics to address include the following: individuality and community; autonomy and heteronomy; bios and zoe; power and domination; democracy and authority; legitimacy and violence; legality and exception; hospitality and the arrival; enmity and friendship; life and world; natality and mortality; the sacred and the secular; production and reproduction; ideology and state machineries.

With the exception of the keynote address, participants in this conference will be limited to current graduate students only. Presentations will be strictly limited to twenty minutes per speaker. Please send 250-350 word paper abstracts, as well as brief biographical introduction (no longer than 200 words) to the conference organizers at:

All submissions are to be submitted in an electronic e-mail attachment (preferably MS Word) and are due no later than Monday, January 3, 2011.

From here.

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A Companion to Heidegger’s Phenomenology of Religious Life now available

I spent a lot of time working on this (as an editorial assistant) and so am advertising it here (plus I know of at least a couple of people who read this blog showed an interest in this collection).


A Companion to Heidegger’s Phenomenology of Religious Life
McGrath, S.J. and Andrzej Wiercinski (Eds.)

In the academic year 1920-1921 at the University of Freiburg, Martin Heidegger gave a series of extraordinary lectures on the phenomenological significance of the religious thought of St. Paul and St. Augustine. The publication of these lectures in 1995 settled a long disputed question, the decisive role played by Christian theology in the development of Heidegger’s philosophy. The lectures present a special challenge to readers of Heidegger and theology alike. Experimenting with language and drawing upon a wide range of now obscure authors, Heidegger is finding his way to Being and Time through the labyrinth of his Catholic past and his increasing fascination with Protestant theology. A Companion to Heidegger’s Phenomenology of Religious Life is written by an international team of Heidegger specialists.

Links: Rodopi, Amazon (US), Amazon (UK).


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