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book reviews
81. Philosophy Today: Volume > 66 > Issue: 4
Rafael Vizcaíno Fanny Söderbäck, Revolutionary Time
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82. Philosophy Today: Volume > 66 > Issue: 4
Yuhui Li Don Beith, The Birth of Sense: Generative Passivity in Merleau-Ponty’s Philosophy
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83. Philosophy Today: Volume > 66 > Issue: 3
Florence Burgat, Elisabeth Lyman, Holly James Will Symbolic Sacrifice Triumph Over Real Sacrifice?: A Structuralist Hypothesis on the Role of Meat and Milk Substitutes
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Can humanity abandon its meat-based diet, and is it willing to? This diet is unique in that it institutes an endlessly bloody relationship to animals. Highlighted time and again in analyses of the sacrificial system, the possibility of substituting a plant-based offering (or an object) for one that requires killing, replacing the latter with the former and eventually achieving equivalence between the two, could prove unexpectedly fruitful in contemporary discussions of substitutes for meat (both plant-based meats, which imitate animal meat but do not contain it, and cultured animal muscle tissue, commonly referred to as in-vitro meat). This is the guiding question and the answer, in the form of a structuralist hypothesis, that this article proposes to clarify and develop.
84. Philosophy Today: Volume > 66 > Issue: 3
Matteo J. Stettler, Matthew Sharpe Of Cartesianism and Spiritual Exercises: Reading Descartes through Hadot, and Hadot through Descartes
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This article challenges the recurrent critique that Pierre Hadot’s identification of ancient philosophy with the practice of spiritual exercises introduces a non- or irrational dimension into metaphilosophy. The occasion to do this is provided by Kerem Eksen’s recent reading of Descartes’s Meditations as consisting of solely intellectual, rather than spiritual, exercises—since the latter, Eksen claims, involve extrarational means and ends. Part 2 presents an alternative account of the role of cognition in the ancient meditatio at issue in understanding Descartes’s antecedents. This account is indebted to Michel Foucault’s characterization of ancient meditation as involving two cognitive mechanisms: an appropriation of thought, and an experiment in identification. Part 3 argues that attempts such as Eksen’s to depict spiritual exercises as wholly noncognitive themselves are the product of an “unexamined Cartesianism” that is fundamentally at odds with the monistic psychology of ancient Stoics like Marcus Aurelius as discussed in Hadot’s studies.
85. Philosophy Today: Volume > 66 > Issue: 3
James Hill Does the World Exist?: Markus Gabriel and Absolute Generality
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Markus Gabriel’s metaphysical nihilism—elaborated and defended most completely in his book Fields of Sense—contends that there is no legitimate ontological sense or reference attached to the words “the world.” In this paper, I present a detailed case for concluding that this project, at least in its current form, is unsuccessful. I argue, in particular, that Gabriel has at best shown that an absolutely unrestricted extensional domain cannot exist, but that his attempt to parlay this into a general rejection of metaphysics is unsuccessful and indeed incoherent. Finally, I offer a speculative diagnosis of how Gabriel ended up in this predicament.
86. Philosophy Today: Volume > 66 > Issue: 3
Eliran Bar-El The (Voided) Origin of Social Relations
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This article positions relational social theories against theories of non-relation. Relational social theories consider relations to be primary as opposed to objects. In contrast, two theoretical positions—psychoanalysis and Marxism—hold non-relation (or void) as the origin of any social relations. Not coincidentally, psychoanalysis and Marxism also hold the position of the subject, which relational social theories abolish as yet another object. What makes the link between non-relation and subject possible for psychoanalysis and Marxism, is the affirmation of a constitutive negativity embodied in-and-through social antagonisms of sexuality and class-struggle. The article shows, therefore, that by precluding this constitutive negativity, relational social theories lose sight of these two critical sites.
87. Philosophy Today: Volume > 66 > Issue: 3
Natan Elgabsi Reading the Inscriptions of Our Lifeworld: Transgenerational Existence and the Metaphysics of the Grave
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This existential phenomenological exploration concerns how writing is not the mere tool for communication and commemoration, or the supplementary image of a memory, but is closely connected to the phenomenon of the grave. The exploration aims to show a transgenerational mode of human existence and moral life, by considering how the becoming of a historical, which is to say a transgenerational subject through the features that writing and the grave together lets us capture, is also importantly bound to the becoming of a moral subject, or an “I,” in relation to the passed away other.
88. Philosophy Today: Volume > 66 > Issue: 3
Timothy Stock Poetry and Survival: Lévinas, Valéry, Heidegger, Doty
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I propose a critique of Heidegger’s poetics, and show that poetic critique of Heidegger is also philosophical critique on Lévinasian lines. I identify an obsessional erasure of absence in Heidegger’s poetics, a neglect of the immemorial other. Lévinas frames this critique through Valéry’s Eupalinos, a dialogue of an immemorial Socrates, in Limbo after his own death, praising architecture over his own, lost, philosophy. Separating poetics from ontology, Lévinas’s immemorial acknowledges irrecuperable traces, murmurs, or echoes of alterity; poetry, as commemoration, marks the distance between loss and absence. This contrasts with Heidegger’s eulogy of Max Scheler and its echo in the Gedachtes, metaphysical (“metontological”) and poetic monuments that seek an incompletable divorce from sensation and persons. I present Mark Doty’s elegy Atlantis as an illustration of Lévinas’s central philosophical critique of Heidegger’s thinking of death and persons. Atlantis embodies the immemorial; architecture alive with sound, an impossible city populated by absence.
89. Philosophy Today: Volume > 66 > Issue: 3
Ian Maley Nietzsche’s Photophilosophy
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In reply to Hagi Kenaan’s recent book Photography and Its Shadow, this essay argues for a theory of photography informed by Nietzsche’s perspectivism. It argues that Nietzsche’s perspectivism offers tools for a theory of photography as a way of life and for a positive conception of the inherent nothingness and artificiality of the photographic image. The first part examines Kenaan’s criticism of photography as an agent of post-modern malaise and nihilism in line with Nietzsche’s theory of the death of God. In response, the second part explores perspectivism as a visual and literary mode of thought for creating new horizons for understanding self and world, new relationships between desire and images, and a new conception of truth and falsity. The third part examines the writings of American artist Andy Warhol, who I argue exemplifies a perspectivist approach to photography and cinema in dialogue with the groundlessness and artificiality of images.
90. Philosophy Today: Volume > 66 > Issue: 3
Peter Milne Praescriptum: Kafka’s Two Bodies
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This takes a little-known reading of Kafka’s “In the Penal Colony” by Lyotard as the starting point for an examination of the relation between body and law. Lyotard’s late notion of the intractable serves as a frame for this examination: explicitly claimed to be an absolute condition of morals, I argue it also has political implications, which are here drawn out through the link between the intractable and the body. In Lyotard’s later writings, the body is usually associated with an originary affectivity, which is sometimes equated with sexual difference but sometimes appears to come “before” and exceed this law of bodily differences. It is the latter case, I argue, that allows for a path to be opened beyond the bodily violence of the law to be found in Kafka, especially if this is framed in terms of a certain “politics of incommensurability.”
91. Philosophy Today: Volume > 66 > Issue: 3
Mark Losoncz Cessation and Contingency in Meillassoux’s Speculative Materialism
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This article analyzes Quentin Meillassoux’s concept of cessation. First, the article argues that this concept plays a decisive role in Meillassouxian philosophy. Second, by taking into consideration medieval and early modern debates on annihilation, it critically examines the conclusions elaborated in After Finitude. After that, it conceptualizes the relation between absolute time and absolute contingency, keeping in mind the critical reception of Meillassoux’s philosophy. Finally, the article turns to his insights into death and resurrection, and it confronts them with phenomenological theories of mortality. The conclusion is that Meillassoux faces several essential difficulties with regard to the concept of cessation that seem to be unsalvageable.
92. Philosophy Today: Volume > 66 > Issue: 3
Jeffrey Bernstein The Political Capacity of the Philosopher in the Work of Ernst Cassirer
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Ernst Cassirer’s The Myth of the State is often read as being insufficiently attentive to the possibility of fascism. In this paper, I examine, and partially contest, this reading. In his usage of the figures of Spinoza and prophetic Judaism, Cassirer develops a conception of the political capacity of the philosopher as pedagogically attempting to replace mythical thought with rational thought. In the end, Cassirer was aware of the onset and dangers of fascism.
93. Philosophy Today: Volume > 66 > Issue: 3
Pablo P. Castelló The Erasures of Peter Singer’s Theory, and the Ethical Need to Consider Animals as Irreducible Others
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This article examines Peter Singer’s animal ethic’s theory and argues that the utilitarian calculus’ inherent process of abstraction and homogenisation is epistemically violent because it erases animals’ singularities. I also argue that considering the sentience we can know of as the only characteristic that marks animals as worthy of moral considerability, as Singer does, can lead to violent actions towards animals because this logic erases all the violence that escapes sentientist logics. I show that key to this critique is Singer’s misunderstanding of human sovereignty, and the relationship between human sovereignty and subjectivity. Further, I examine Singer’s conception of the “I”, and find that it is a lifeless and static one that leads his theory to foreclose ethical judgements. This article shows that animals’ irreducibility, vulnerabilities and otherness are sufficient to regard animals as worthy of moral considerability. Finally, I examine some practical implications of the arguments I advance.
book reviews
94. Philosophy Today: Volume > 66 > Issue: 3
Reinhold Clausjürgens Review of Mathematics and Information in the Philosophy of Michel Serres, by Vera Bühlmann
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95. Philosophy Today: Volume > 66 > Issue: 3
Rajiv Kaushik Mauro Carbone, Philosophy-Screens: From Cinema to the Digital Revolution
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rereading the differend, rewriting the differend
96. Philosophy Today: Volume > 66 > Issue: 2
Daniel Hoffman-Schwartz Rereading The Differend, Rewriting The Differend: Introduction
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97. 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.
98. 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).
99. 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.
100. 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.