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rereading the differend, rewriting the differend
1. Philosophy Today: Volume > 66 > Issue: 2
Daniel Hoffman-Schwartz Rereading The Differend, Rewriting The Differend: Introduction
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2. Philosophy Today: Volume > 66 > Issue: 2
Parisa Vaziri False Differends: Racial Slavery and the Genocidal Example
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The Holocaust serves as a foundational critical resource in postwar philosophy. Interventions into the logic of its exemplarity tend to treat exemplarity as a matter of archival selection that ignores earlier histories of genocide and slavery. A recent example is Alexander Weheliye’s critique of Giorgio Agamben (Habeaus Viscus), which seeks to restitute racial slavery as a theoretically significant moment of biological precarity. In a continuation of this logic, this essay introduces the history of Indian Ocean slavery, which precedes transatlantic slavery but is comparatively lesser known. In doing so, I suggest that complaints against archival selection do not go far enough, for they do not address the problem of a kind of event whose very nature is to destroy its own archive. Reading Jean-François Lyotard’s differend as a critique of the modern genre-supremacy of historiography, I argue that the very ground of historical examples (namely, the demand that there be proof) demonstrates the regressive nature of exemplarity itself.
3. Philosophy Today: Volume > 66 > Issue: 2
Daniel Hoffman-Schwartz Lyotard and the Trolls: The Differend, Sophistry, and the Right
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The present article examines the contemporary stakes and “application” of The Differend with particular attention to neo-fascist denialism, trolling, and alt-right “free speech” discourse. This entails investigating the text’s own rhetorical performance as well as the shifting attitudes towards the sophistic tradition in The Differend and its precursor text, “On the Force of the Weak.” The article thus also takes up in detail three examples of the characteristic sophistic form of the dilemma or double-bind, two of which are drawn from Lyotard: the Holocaust denialist Robert Faurisson’s infamous dilemma of “the witness to the gas-chambers”; the canonical ancient dilemma through which Protagoras wins his fee from his student Euathlus despite seemingly never having helped him win a dispute; and “if you can speak, you can breathe,” the contemporary denialist’s rejoinder to “I can’t breathe.” Lyotard’s arguments are briefly compared to those of other thinkers (Cassin, Rancière, Moten).
4. Philosophy Today: Volume > 66 > Issue: 2
Naomi Waltham-Smith The Silences of Feeling
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In Le différend Lyotard evocatively describes what remains to be heard as “the silence of feeling.” Setting Lyotard’s différend among a differentiated set of incommensurable family resemblances, including Rancière’s mésentente and Derrida’s différance, this paper argues that le différend même, far from coinciding with itself, points to the re-marks and differs from itself, silencing itself by putting itself under a conditional. This is what gives its particular affective quality that is bound up with address and listening. From this perspective, it also becomes possible to develop a new analysis of the silencing said to constitute “cancel culture,” demonstrating that the marketplace-of-ideas model falsely presupposes a fictional equality of audibility and originary purity of speech. What Lyotard teaches us is that free speech cannot but silence itself.
5. Philosophy Today: Volume > 66 > Issue: 2
Simon Wortham To Give the Differend Its Due: Damages/Distress
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For Lyotard, “Auschwitz” is named only as the terrible sign of a differend. However, this paper argues that the dissymmetrical address alluded to in a 1993 lecture given by Lyotard for Amnesty, “The Other’s Rights,” makes possible an alternative legacy found in the very formation of civil politics which might itself “rephrase” this differend otherwise, transforming what may be termed “distress” into “rights” without recourse to the type of (post-war) contractuality that would risk both repressing and compounding a “wrong” by seeking to litigate it.
6. Philosophy Today: Volume > 66 > Issue: 2
Jan Mieszkowski Phrasing, Steining
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The thesis of this essay is that Gertrude Stein plays an important role in The Differend, the brevity of her appearance in the book notwithstanding. Scarcely one and a half pages long, Lyotard’s discussion of a string of quotations from Stein is the most sustained consideration of a female author in his text. Lyotard is intrigued by Stein’s efforts to conceive of la phrase less as a form or building block than an event—or rupture—of language. Characterizing her work as écriture féminine, he cannot decide whether her “vagabond prose” is one genre among others or a uniquely disruptive verbal praxis that unsettles his most basic ideas about phrases and genres. In the final analysis, the precise status of Stein in Lyotard’s thought remains uncertain, as if her unruly presence might simply be a quirk of the signifier stein.
7. Philosophy Today: Volume > 66 > Issue: 2
Erin Graff Zivin Trans-genre Lyotard
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If Lyotard is correct to acknowledge the role of commentary in guarding the kernel of misunderstanding at the heart of the ethical phrase when he exclaims, “but isn’t this exactly what commentary does with ethics! It comments upon it as though it were a misunderstanding, and it thereby conserves in itself its own requirement that there be something ununderstood,” he does not account for that which a trans-generic or transmedial “commentary” might permit, what troubling, unanswerable questions it might raise, what ekphrastic or synesthetic call it might echo. This essay considers several artistic reworkings, interpretations, and distortions of the biblical scene of near sacrifice upon which Lyotard comments, arguing that the exposure of the ethical (phrase or genre) to the explicitly aesthetic (phrase or genre) would bring to the surface something that might be latent, that which is always already there, albeit spectrally.
8. Philosophy Today: Volume > 66 > Issue: 2
Anthony Curtis Adler The Catastrophe to Come: Lyotard’s Differend and the Tragedy of the Ecological
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Taking its departure from The Differend’s analysis of Auschwitz as a sign for the evental character of history, I argue that the looming ecological disaster we now face reveals both the continuing relevance and limits of Lyotard’s thought. While the form of political agency of the catastrophe to come involves a differend, this differend cannot be attached to a proper name, however problematic its mode of signification. This, however, suggests the even greater relevance of Lyotard’s treatment, in the conclusion of The Differend, of capitalism in terms of temporal contradiction, as well as his theorization of oikos and ecology in subsequent works, where he distinguishes between the economic and the ecological. This distinction, I conclude, is rendered problematic by the catastrophe to come, as indeed is any attempt to draw an absolute distinction between “philosophical politics” and mere technocratic management or even to exclude speculation from the heart of philosophy.
9. Philosophy Today: Volume > 66 > Issue: 2
Jacques Lezra The Schema of Institution
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Regress threatens throughout Lyotard’s Differend, especially where the argument appears to make normative ethical or political claims. How a term, a case or an example “links onto” a phrase serves as a way of examining how instituting can be non-regressively grounded, and with what consequences for abstract political subjectivity. The essay offers an alternative to liberal philosophical (Arendt, Nussbaum) and jurisprudential (Marbury v. Madison) schemata of political institution.
book reviews
10. Philosophy Today: Volume > 66 > Issue: 2
John W. M. Krummel Reiner Schürmann, Tomorrow the Manifold; Neo-Aristotelianism and the Medieval Renaissance; and The Philosophy of Nietzsche
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11. Philosophy Today: Volume > 66 > Issue: 2
Walter Brogan Nancy Tuana and Charles E. Scott, Beyond Philosophy: Nietzsche, Foucault, Anzaldúa
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thirty years in the pharmacy: the work of michael naas
12. Philosophy Today: Volume > 66 > Issue: 2
Nicole Anderson The Fox and the Hound: A Double Spiral in the Work of Michael Naas
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13. Philosophy Today: Volume > 66 > Issue: 2
Leonard Lawlor Persuasion and Automation: What Philosophy Might Have Been, in the Thought of Michael Nass
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14. Philosophy Today: Volume > 66 > Issue: 2
Michael Naas Thirty Years in the Pharmacy: Response to Len Lawlor and Nicole Anderson
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three essays by jean-luc nancy
15. Philosophy Today: Volume > 66 > Issue: 1
Jean-Luc Nancy, Marie-Eve Morin, Travis Holloway Freedom Comes from the Outside
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On the one hand, freedom is said to be the property of a subject. On the other, freedom only happens in the space of being-in-common. Freedom, then, is the place of a conflict between the “self” and the “with,” between independence or autonomy and dependence or sharing. Resolving this apparent antinomy requires showing how the with ontologically constitutes the self. This, in turn, allows for a rethinking of freedom beyond what liberal democracy and political economy have to offer, as the renewed opening of existence onto nothing, or onto an “outside” that the opening itself constitutes.
16. Philosophy Today: Volume > 66 > Issue: 1
Jean-Luc Nancy, Marie-Eve Morin, Travis Holloway At Any Rate
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What does the word “value” mean? On the one hand, absolute value is an excellence that is beyond measure. On the other hand, value can also be interpreted as price, as what can be measured and exchanged. In both cases, value lies in relation and is of the same order as sense. But what is the relation between these two senses of value? And why is it so difficult to hold the two apart?
17. Philosophy Today: Volume > 66 > Issue: 1
Jean-Luc Nancy, Marie-Eve Morin, Travis Holloway Nichts Jenseits des Nihilismus
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Nihilism, as the absence of sense and goal, is the most familiar climate of the world in which we live. While this absence is often denounced, such denunciations remain subject to the logic they seemingly oppose. More than exhibiting the collapse of truth, however, nihilism revives our confrontation with “nothing.” The task is henceforth not to denounce nihilism but to think it. Such thinking is guided by Nietzsche’s highest thought: How does nihilism harbor its own excess?
18. Philosophy Today: Volume > 66 > Issue: 1
Maduka Enyimba On “How” to Do African Philosophy in African Language: Some Objections and Extensions
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How should African philosophy be done in African Language? In response to this question, I engage Ngugi and Wiredu in their response to this language question in African philosophy. My aim is to appraise and extend their arguments by answering the question of “how” doing African philosophy in African language can be practically achieved. In this regard, I make a case for the creation of an indigenous cultural language that serves as a means of articulating, communicating and disseminating African philosophical ideas. I suggest the need for African scholars to develop a language culture under the auspices of African Language Network (A.L.N.) that will enable them to do philosophy and present it in an African language. I show that African philosophy done in a foreign or colonial language is like dressing Africa in a borrowed rope, and that as long as African scholars continue to overlook this, the lofty goal of restoring the lost glory of Africa, the gains and further progress in African philosophy, rather than being consolidated, may become greatly hampered. Recognizing the diversity of languages in African culture, I present Afrolingualism as the key to achieving this end. Afrolingualism is a conscientious effort by African scholars to contrive a unanimously accepted indigenous language of discourse in philosophy.
19. Philosophy Today: Volume > 66 > Issue: 1
Mukasa Mubirumusoke Prolegomena to any Future Cosmology
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This paper highlights the shortcomings of Georges Bataille’s writings in terms of his failure to address white supremacy and blackness by critically engaging and expanding his cosmological metaphor through the figure of the black hole. The sun is a timeless figure in the history of western thought as an epistemological and ontological metaphor. Bataille offers alternative cosmological interpretations whereby luxurious excess and waste aim to transfigure the traditions of metaphysics, ethics, and political economy. This paper confronts Bataille’s cosmologies and heliotropes through an afropessimistic lens whereby blackness proves to be an ontological positionality that is not simply marginal to whiteness, but antagonistic, thus allowing for an expanded critical cosmology that incorporates the figure of the black hole.
20. Philosophy Today: Volume > 66 > Issue: 1
Joshua M. Hall Dionyseus Lyseus Reborn: The Revolutionary Philosophy Chorus
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Having elsewhere connected Walter Otto’s interpretation of Dionysus as a politically progressive deity to Huey P. Newton’s vision for the Black Panthers, I here expand this inquiry to a line of Otto-inspired scholarship. First, Alain Daniélou identifies Dionysus and Shiva as the dancing god of a democratic/decolonizing cult oppressed by tyrannical patriarchies. Arthur Evans sharpens this critique of sexism and heteronormativity, concluding that, as Dionysus’s chorus is to Greek tragedy, so Socrates’s circle is to Western philosophy. I thus call for the creation of a hybrid Dionysian-Socratic revolutionary philosophical chorus, modeled on Dionysus Lyseus (from -lysis), wielding philosophical analysis to loosen injustice’s bonds, as a vanguard of social justice. I find a handbook for this chorus’s creation in Euripides’s Bacchae, whose Dionysus is an ally of immigrant women, overthrower of Theban patriarchy, and international revolutionary. Finally, I offer a contemporary example of such a chorus that is based in my hometown in Alabama, namely, the Birmingham Philosophy Guild.