Tag Archives: Deleuze

Notes on Structuralism

Anxiety

– Structuralism is no longer limited to a linguistic theory or even a general theory of language, as is often supposed. Rather, it has become a general metaphysical system.

– Structuralist linguistics, which is based on the idea of fundamental dichotomies or oppositions, was combined with Kantianism and Neo-Kantianism for form a metaphysics based on two central principles: 1. anthropocentrism, and 2. the centrality of trauma.

– Recent thinkers to consider: Saussure, Natorp, Cassirer, Rickert, Jakobson, Lévi-Strauss, Lacan, Badiou, Žižek.

– Historical thinkers adopted by this tradition: Descartes, Rousseau, Kant, Hegel.

– At its most basic, structuralism is a system which says that reality is inherently antagonistic, and that the human being must shield itself from the trauma of the Real. This is done through the construction of meaning.

– See for instance Cassirer on the construction of symbolic meaning, Lévi-Strauss on culture and Lacan on the Symbolic.

– Structuralism is a philosophy obsessed with order. To psychoanalyze structuralism is to stumble upon theoretical OCD; the structuralist fears any sign or semblance of chaos, of disorder, of the Real. Yet while they consciously desire to keep out the creeping chaos outside of the Symbolic Order, they unconsciously rely on its creativity, productivity and energy. More than this however, such thinkers rely on the opposition of order and chaos, presupposing that the latter has existence-for-itself, while the latter is but a network dependent on the mutual opposition of its myriad members.

– Meaning is only seen then as a human function, serving essentially therapeutic purposes. Both Cassirer and Rickert assert that meaning and value are distanced from things like life and are purely rational. This is in opposition to Dilthey, Nietzsche, Bergson and Uexküll who insist that meaning is deeper than humanity and extends to all life. We should follow Peirce, Deleuze and Serres who go even further than this and insist that meaning is a constitutive part of existence, that all things structure reality in meaningful ways.

10 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

The Schelling Effect?: Philosophy in the Shadows

Schelling

I gave a guest-lecture for one of the graduate seminars here at MUN last week. The course is a historical reading of Schelling’s Freiheitsschrift, providing the context necessary for a thorough reading of Schelling’s essay from Spinoza, to Kant, to Fichte, to Boehme. My lecture took the opposite strategy, making a case for taking Schelling as a significant figure by tracing his ideas and concepts through post-Schellingian thought. I’ve decided to post the handout from this otherwise unscripted lecture since I know there are people who frequent this blog who are very much interested in Schelling and his effect on philosophy. I hope this will help those interested further their study of some of Schelling’s key concepts.

I have posted the handout here on my Academia.edu page.

3 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

Announcement: Hollywood’s Undead and the Philosophy of Fear

Hollywood's Undead

I wanted to announce that I’m giving a public lecture a week from today. I was asked to give a talk on psychoanalysis and I’ve decided to talk about psychoanalysis and film, specifically vampire and zombie movies. The paper I’m presenting can be understood in three ways: First, I want to discuss the trajectory that these creatures have undergone throughout the history of cinema. Second, I will discuss what this trajectory means in terms of what we fear, assuming of course that Zizek is right and that films express our own beliefs and fears better than we can ourselves. Third, I want to present my own critique of apocalyptic films of this nature.

This is a topic that’s been on my mind for some time now and I look forward to being able to talk about it as part of this great series. Here’s a blurb about the lecture series from the MUN Philosophy site:

St. John’s Public Lectures in Philosophy
Presented By Memorial University’s Philosophy Department

The reasons for this series of lectures are to support the intrinsic value of public, philosophical discussion, to provide a free public forum for such discussion, and to stimulate a culture and love of learning in St. John’s. The lectures last approximately 30 to 40 minutes and are followed by an hour of discussion. The lectures deal with a wide variety of philosophical topics and all citizens are invited to participate. The lectures occur on the last Tuesday of each month.

3 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

Lacan and some philosophers

I’ve been sitting in on the seminar on hermeneutics that Sean is doing this semester. Besides Gadamer’s Truth and Method, we’re reading several essays by Ricoeur, and some pieces by Derrida. Our last class was on the topic of ideological critique, reading a piece on Habermas’ critique of hermeneutics as being unable to adequately critique ideology or politics at all because of its inherent relativism.

The next day I was exchanging emails with Sean and this ended up with a discussion of Freudo-Marxism and Lacanian-Marxism, and Sean leading me to look at a few pages of a book by Charles E. Reagan called Paul Ricoeur: his life and his work. Pages 25-31 (available as a free preview on Google Books) detail Ricoeur’s relationship with Lacan, which was unusual to say the least. I find the relationships that Lacan had (or tried to have) with philosophers very interesting. I of course knew about his attempt to seek approval from Heidegger and the encounters with Deleuze, but I was unaware that he had sought out both Merleau-Ponty and Ricoeur as potential allies. The whole thing has this very bizarre feel to it. Of course now there are many philosophers who pledge allegiance of some sort to Lacan. Does anyone know of any other relationships between Lacan and philosophers, and if so, were they as strange as these?

7 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

The Horror of Humanism

A few days ago Paul Ennis posted a blogpost on humanism. In this post he asks why people associate speculative realism with anti-humanism, saying:

What I cannot understand is why people think speculative realism is out to debase the subject. Or why it is an anti-humanism.

I responded at the time with this:

I can only answer for myself here, but I am an anti-humanist (and I have argued before that [neo-]vitalism is as well).

I am an anti-humanist in two important ways. First, the human being is absolutely not the centre of the universe, not all things happen for humans. Second, the human being is not “the top” of philosophy either. Let me explain, in certain forms of vitalism (Schelling and Bergson for example), while there can and does exist phenomena outside of human thought, there is a generally teleology to nature whereby it is shown to have always progressed to the human, and now that there are human beings, nature has in some way achieved its goal. I reject this. While I agree that all of nature is an infinite striving and does indeed have a goal (infinite presence and/or absence), it is an impossible one to achieve and yet all of nature is this perpetual drive towards being. The point being that the human being is not the be-all, end-all of existence and so shouldn’t be considered as such for philosophy. The human being is different from other things, but it is not any more special. In this way, anti-humanism is not “against humans,” but “against humanism.”

What I wanted to do was expand on this comment, and give perhaps a clearer explanation of my anti-humanism.

Continue reading

4 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

The Desire of the Other (Null and Void)

I’ve decided to share another text. This one isn’t as relevant as the last piece I shared, but someone might still find something of value in it. This is a lecture I gave last January on Levinas. Here’s the scenario: I was in a course based on the annual faculty colloquium, where each week a faculty member would present a paper, with all of the papers being variations of a common theme. The theme this past year was “responsibility.” So each Tuesday, a professor would give a public lecture, and two days later, a student would give a response to it. I was responsible for the first response of the year, responding to a paper which basically outlined Levinas’ ethics of the Other, infinite responsibility, etc, etc.

The lecture I gave is titled “The Desire of the Other (Null and Void)” and was written largely immediately following the Tuesday afternoon Levinas lecture, cleaned up a bit the next day, and presented essentially as you see it the day after that. Minor changes have been made since then, a couple of references had to be tracked down, and some of the wording was different, but this is basically the lecture as I delivered it.

As for the substance of the piece, I critique Levinasian ethics from three different perspectives, beginning from my anti-humanist (vitalist) perspective, moving on to a metaphysical critique, followed by an ethical critique. The last of these comes from my background as someone who was at one time much closer to Levinas, having been swallowed up by the whole “theological turn” in phenomenology and hermeneutics for a time, while the other two are perhaps closer to my current views (the first critique, the critique from vitalism, being the one I am most confident in). Feel free to respond to this piece. It is pretty short, as I had to allow for not only the response to my response from the professor of the initial paper, but also for a shared Q&A session on both of our lectures. It is also probably the only piece on Levinas to contain references to Barrack Obama, The Simpsons and The Fly!

2 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

Some Notes On Relationality- What I Know So Far

– What does it mean for a human being to be connected? When is one wired and where does this wiring go? Is the wiring visible like a marionette, or are we all wireless now? Am I connected? Of course I am, but to what? Is it to you or to…

– On my relation to my relations. As object, I remains distinct from those other objects around me. But I am not entirely distinct, as I am not simply an isolated atom, but am defined by the complex relations I build, maintain, and destroy. The family members I don’t speak to or foods I avoid are a part of me, just as my significant other or favourite songs are. There is no “at bottom” when describing myself, because I am more than myself, I am outside of myself.

– What then, if anything, am I? I am animal, of this I am fairly certain. I am mobile, desiring, creative flesh and bone. I have been told I am rational (of this I am always doubtful). I am a thing which thinks (though often doesn’t). I am real, this I accept. I am, but am not reducible to my relations. The same goes for my character. For I am also a history, and a trajectory.

– I am not my static presence, but a past and a future as well.

– My past is perhaps unknowable, as my past selves are themselves defined not in terms of isolated character traits or unchanging substance, but by their relations, both to other things, as well as to the relations of those things, and those things, and and and.

– I am a history in matter, a formation in the rock. I am a tender history in rust. I am an outgrowth in reality; a smudge on the windshield. I am a violent outburst of sight and sound. I am tired.

– How is history even possible?

– It gets crowded in here with all these memories (lies). For the amount that I write and think about memory, about haunting and the residue of relations, you’d think I had more of them. All my writing about memory is really about forgetting. (This is perhaps the thinker at his most candid, take note.) I forget everything. The vast majority of life forgotten: days, months, years, feelings, thoughts, homes. I would not survive without pockets of lists. My archive is continually destroyed by the washing machine. What would Freud say? (Don’t even get me started.)

– I am a force, a drive, a movement. I surge forward, in search of food, drink, this, that. I am empty, please fill me. Please, fill me.

– I am always to come, that is to say, I am not yet ready, but always in preparation. I am not yet, and yet…

2 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized