‘What’s Coming Next’: A Discussion between Slavoj Žižek, M.I.A., Srećko Horvat & Julian Assange

Weston Roof Pavilion of the Royal Festival Hall in the Southbank Centre in London, England on 11th June 2017

Back in 2017, the world-known hip-hop artist M.I.A. curated the Meltdown Festival and sat down with the Slovene philosopher Slavoj Žižek, the young Croatian philosopher Srećko Horvat, and her controversial friend Julian Assange, founder of WikiLeaks—who joined the conversation via live satellite link-up from his hideout at the Ecuadorian embassy in London (at the time, at least).

Ostensibly about art and activism, the conversation ranged broadly. M.I.A. spoke about how weird it is that tech leaders adopt the practices of yoga and zen buddhism to enhance their brand of modern capitalism (the ‘misuse’ didn’t surprise Žižek, who noted Japanese writer Daisetsu Teitaro Suzuki’s related feeling that, “buddhist meditation is the best way to train killing machine soldiers”). They also discussed the remarkable calm of Jeremy Corbyn during the recent election, before moving on to a discussion of Wikileaks founder and fellow panellist Julian Assange.

M.I.A. acknowledged the “pushback on social media” following the announcement that Assange would be on the panel, but asked the speakers and audience to consider, “Why do they want him so bad?”. ‘They‘ being the authorities—Assange was them still living in a political asylum at the Ecuadorian embassy in London, avoiding extradition to Sweden, where he was accused of rape in a legal case that has been since discontinued. His supporters predicted at the time that he would eventually be extradited from Sweden to America, where he is wanted for publishing secret war logs and other documents provided by whistleblower Chelsea Manning that presented evidence of US complicity in torture, and involvement in the killing of civilians.

“For me, it’s really important to have something like Wikileaks,” M.I.A. says. “Because you know that they’ve already proved that they don’t do stuff for money, and they can’t be bought,” she explains, concluding, “I think more figures like that in society are important”.

‘An Ugly Truth: Inside Facebook’s Battle for Domination’ by Sheera Frenkel & Cecilia Kang

Published by Harper in July 2021

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“The ultimate takedown.” – New York Times Book Review

Award-winning New York Times reporters Sheera Frenkel and Cecilia Kang unveil the tech story of our times in a riveting, behind-the-scenes exposé that offers the definitive account of Facebook’s fall from grace.

Frenkel and Kang take readers inside the complex court politics, alliances and rivalries within the company to shine a light on the fatal cracks in the architecture of the tech behemoth. Their explosive, exclusive reporting led them to a shocking conclusion: The missteps of the last five years were not an anomaly but an inevitability—this is how Facebook was built to perform.

Once one of Silicon Valley’s greatest success stories, Facebook has been under constant fire for the past five years, roiled by controversies and crises. It turns out that while the tech giant was connecting the world, they were also mishandling users’ data, spreading fake news, and amplifying dangerous, polarizing hate speech.

The company, many said, had simply lost its way. But the truth is far more complex. Leadership decisions enabled, and then attempted to deflect attention from, the crises. Time after time, Facebook’s engineers were instructed to create tools that encouraged people to spend as much time on the platform as possible, even as those same tools boosted inflammatory rhetoric, conspiracy theories, and partisan filter bubbles. And while consumers and lawmakers focused their outrage on privacy breaches and misinformation, Facebook solidified its role as the world’s most voracious data-mining machine, posting record profits, and shoring up its dominance via aggressive lobbying efforts.

Drawing on their unrivaled sources, Sheera Frenkel and Cecilia Kang take readers inside the complex court politics, alliances and rivalries within the company to shine a light on the fatal cracks in the architecture of the tech behemoth. Their explosive, exclusive reporting led them to a shocking conclusion: The missteps of the last five years were not an anomaly but an inevitability—this is how Facebook was built to perform. In a period of great upheaval, growth has remained the one constant under the leadership of Mark Zuckerberg and Sheryl Sandberg. Both have been held up as archetypes of uniquely 21st century executives—he the tech “boy genius” turned billionaire, she the ultimate woman in business, an inspiration to millions through her books and speeches. But sealed off in tight circles of advisers and hobbled by their own ambition and hubris, each has stood by as their technology is coopted by hate-mongers, criminals and corrupt political regimes across the globe, with devastating consequences. In An Ugly Truth, they are at last held accountable.


Table of Contents:

Authors’ Note
Prologue: At Any Cost
Chapter 1: Don’t Poke the Bear
Chapter 2: The Next Big Thing
Chapter 3: What Business Are We In?
Chapter 4: The Rat Catcher
Chapter 5: The Warrant Canary
Chapter 6: A Pretty Crazy Idea
Chapter 7: Company over Country
Chapter 8: Delete Facebook
Chapter 9: Think Before You Share
Chapter 10: The Wartime Leader
Chapter 11: Coalition of the Willing
Chapter 12: Existential Threat
Chapter 13: The Oval Interference
Chapter 14: Good for the World
Epilogue: The Long Game

‘Subjects in the Ancient and Modern World: On Hegel’s Theory of Subjectivity’ by Allegra de Laurentiis

Published by Palgrave Macmillan in 2005.

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Being a subject and being conscious of being one are different realities. According to Hegel, the difference is not only conceptual, but also influences people’s experience of the world and of one another. This book aims to explain some basic aspects of Hegel’s conception of subjectivity with particular regard to the difference he saw in ancient and modern ways of thinking about and acting as individuals, persons and moral subjects.


Allegra de Laurentiis is Assistant Professor of Philosophy at the State University of New York at Stony Brook. She has been teaching and writing on the history of Western philosophy for the past twenty years.

‘Hegel’s Anthropology: Life, Psyche, and Second Nature’ by Allegra de Laurentiis

Published by Northwestern University Press in 2021

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This book provides a critical analysis of Hegel’s Anthropology, a long-neglected treatise dedicated to the psyche, or “soul,” that bridges Hegel’s philosophy of organic nature with his philosophy of subjective spirit. Allegra de Laurentiis recuperates this overlooked text, guiding readers through its   essential arguments and ideas. She shows how Hegel conceives of the “sublation” of natural motion, first into animal sentience and then into the felt presentiment of selfhood, all the way to the threshold of self-reflexive thinking.

She discusses the Anthropology in the context of Hegel’s mature system of philosophy (the Encyclopaedia) while also exposing some of the scientific and philosophical sources of his conceptions of unconscious states, psychosomatism, mental pathologies, skill formation, memorization, bodily habituation, and the self-conditioning capacities of our species. This treatise on the becoming of anthropos, she argues, displays the power and limitations of Hegel’s idealistic “philosophy of the real” in connecting such phenomena as erect posture, a discriminating hand, and the forward gaze to the emergence of the human ego, or the structural disintegration of the social world to the derangement of the individual mind.

A groundbreaking contribution to scholarship on Hegel and nineteenth-century philosophy, this book shows that the Anthropology is essential to understanding Hegel’s concept of spirit, not only in its connection with nature but also in its more sophisticated realizations as objective and absolute spirit. Future scholarship on this subject will recount—and build upon—de Laurentiis’s innovative study.


Allegra de Laurentiis is a professor of philosophy at Stony Brook University. She is the author of Subjects in the Ancient and Modern World: On Hegel’s Theory of Subjectivity, the editor of Hegel and Metaphysics: On Logic and Ontology in the System, and the coeditor of The Bloomsbury Companion to Hegel.

‘Marxism and Modernism: An Historical Study of Lukács, Brecht, Benjamin, and Adorno’ by Eugene Lunn

Published by University of California Press in 1982.

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“At a time when modernism and Marxism are both under attack as outmoded, Eugene Lunn’s rich and detailed study of the years of their most creative interaction reminds us of the still potent energies unleashed by each. We could ask for no more reliable and judicious guide through the complicated debates generated by the struggle to define a viable Marxist aesthetics in the era of the avant-garde. Lukács, Brecht, Benjamin and Adorno, four masters of the tradition of Marxist cultural theory and practice, are themselves well-served by a contemporary master of intellectual history.”

—Martin Jay, University of California, Berkeley

“Lunn examines the relations between Marxism and modernism as they appear in the careers of four figures who were representative of diverse orientations and possibilities within each …. Their debates and confrontations, both actual and implied, reveal many facets of the modernist movement, and of Marxism as it has developed in the twentieth century. Lunn provides an excellent and valuable account of this important and compelling subject. His book is solidly informed, insightful, imaginative, and thought-provoking.”

—Jerrold Seigel, American Historical Review

“Lunn expertly constructs the major part of his book around two axes, the so-called Brecht-Lukacs debate and the Adorno-Benjamin debate. Even here, however, Lunn manages to compare each member of these two dyads with each of the others, so that a subtle, many sided discussion of contrasts and similarities results. . . All in all, this is an excellent work–to my mind the best condensed treatment of the confrontation between Marxism and modernism that exists in any language.”

—David Gross, Telos

“Unerringly intelligent and judicious, the book provides economical accounts of the careers and theories of its chosen critics, places them in historical context, and prefaces them with brief but cogent surveys of Marx’s own fragmentary aesthetics and of artistic modernism. . . . Marxism and Modernism offers a splendidly well researched and amenable study of the most fertile developments in Marxist aesthetics.”

—Terry Eagleton, Journal of Modern History


Eugene Lunn (1941-1990) was Professor of History at the University of California Davis.

‘The Philosophical Stage: Drama and Dialectic in Classical Athens’ by Joshua Billings

Published by Princeton University Press in 2021.

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The Philosophical Stage offers an innovative approach to ancient Greek literature and thought that places drama at the heart of intellectual history. Drawing on evidence from tragedy and comedy, Joshua Billings shines new light on the development of early Greek philosophy, arguing that drama is our best source for understanding the intellectual culture of classical Athens.

In this incisive book, Billings recasts classical Greek intellectual history as a conversation across discourses and demonstrates the significance of dramatic reflections on widely shared theoretical questions. He argues that neither “literature” nor “philosophy” was a defined category in the fifth century BCE, and develops a method of reading dramatic form as a structured investigation of issues at the heart of the emerging discipline of philosophy.

A breathtaking work of intellectual history by one of today’s most original classical scholars, The Philosophical Stage presents a novel approach to ancient drama and sets a path for a renewed understanding of early Greek thought.


Joshua Billings is professor of classics at Princeton University. He is the author of Genealogy of the Tragic: Greek Tragedy and German Philosophy (Princeton), which won the 2015 Society for Classical Studies Charles J. Goodwin Award of Merit.

‘The Shock of the Same: An Anti-Philosophy of Clichés’ by Tom Grimwood

Published by Rowman & Littlefield in 2021.

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Since the birth of modernity, Western thought has been at war with clichés. The association of philosophical and cultural integrity with originality, and the corresponding need for invention and novelty, has been a distinct concern of a whole spectrum of ideas and movements, from Nietzsche’s polemics against the ‘herd’, the ‘shock of the new’ of the artistic avant-garde, the Frankfurt School’s critique of mass culture, to Orwell’s defence of political dialogue from ‘dying metaphors’.

This book is the first examination of the cliché as a philosophical concept. Challenging the idea that clichés are lazy or spurious opposites to genuine thinking, it instead locates them as a dynamic and contestable boundary between ‘thought’ and ‘non-thought’. The book unpacks the constituent phenomena of clichés – repetition, circulation, the readymade, same-ness – through readings of ‘anti-philosophical’ thinkers such as Nietzsche, Kierkegaard, Paulhan, de Certeau, Derrida, Sloterdijk, Badiou and Groys. In doing so, the book critically articulates the techniques and technologies through which the boundary between ‘thought’ and ‘non-thought’ is formed in modern Western philosophy.

Rejecting the idea that clichés should be dismissed out of hand on normative frameworks of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ thinking, or ‘new’ and ‘old’ ideas, it instead interrogates the material, cultural and archival ground on which these frameworks are built.


Tom Grimwood is senior research fellow at the University of Cumbria. He has published on a broad range of topics within the field of cultural hermeneutics, from Nietzschean misogyny to medieval anorexia, and his research has a particular focus on representations of ambiguity within the act of interpretation. He is the author of two books: Irony, Misogyny and Interpretation, and Key Debates in Social Work and Philosophy.

‘Acts of Literature’ by Jacques Derrida

Published by Routledge in 1991.

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Jacques Derrida (1930—2004) was one of the most influential figures in literary theory in the English-speaking world, yet much of his writing on literary texts and on the question of literature is not easily available in translation.

Acts of Literature brings together for the first time a number of these works—on French, German, and English literary texts and figures—including Rousseau, Mallarme, Joyce, Shakespeare, and Kafka. Also included is a substantial interview with Derrida on questions of literature, deconstruction, politics, feminism, and history. For those unfamiliar with Derrida’s writing, editor Derek Attridge provides an introductory essay on deconstruction and the question of literature, as well as suggestions for further reading.

Acts of Literature will serve as an excellent introduction to Derrida’s remarkable contribution to literary studies, and will help refocus attention on the importance of literature, an on such topics as singularity, responsibility, and affirmation, in his work as a philosopher and critic of institutions.

‘Love and Its Place in Nature: A Philosophical Interpretation of Freudian Psychoanalysis’ by Jonathan Lear

Published by The Noonday Press in 1991.

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In this brilliant book, Jonathan Lear argues that Freud posits love as a basic force in nature, one that makes individuation―the condition for psychological health and development―possible. Love is active not just in the development of the individual but also in individual analysis and indeed in the development of psychoanalysis itself, says Lear. Expanding on philosophical conceptions of love, nature, and mind, Lear shows that love can cure because it is the force that makes us human.


Jonathan Lear is John U. Nef Distinguished Service Professor and a member of the Committee on Social Thought at the University of Chicago. He is a graduate of the Western New England Institute for Psychoanalysis and was trained in philosophy at the University of Cambridge and Rockefeller University. Before going to Chicago, he taught at Yale University and the University of Cambridge, where he was a fellow and director of Studies in Philosophy at Clare College. He is also the author of Open Minded: Working Out the Logic of the Soul, Aristotle: The Desire to Understand, and Aristotle and Logical Theory.

‘The Guillotine and the Terror’ by Daniel Arasse

Published by Penguin in 1989.

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The guillotine is the ultimate expression of Law, and its flame is vengeance; it is not neutral, nor does it allow us to remain neutral. He who sees it shudders with an inexplicable dismay. All social questions achieve their finality around that blade. The scaffold is an image. It is not merely a lifeless mechanism of wood, iron and rope. It is as though it were a being having its own dark purpose, as though the framework saw, the machine listened, the mechanism understood; as though that arrangement of wood and iron and rope expressed a will. In the hideous picture which its presence evokes it seems to be most terribly a part of what it does. It is a kind of monster created by the judge and the craftsman; a spectre seeming to live an awful life born of the death it deals.

—Victor Hugo


This book sets out to answer an apparently simple question: Why does the guillotine inspire such fear? What makes it so abhorrent?

This fascinating essay takes us directly into the historical moment when the guillotine asserted its theatrical hold on the revolutionary stage: the Jacobin Terror of the 1790s. In addition to the story of the guillotine’s progress – from Joseph Ignace Guillotin’s modest proposal for a medically efficient, humanitarian execution machine to its democratic consecration in January 1793 as the instrument for killing a king – The Guillotine and the Terror offers a tour de force of the issues that conspired to transform this most rational of machines into a production-line of peremptory justice.

A mirror of the Revolution and its contradictions the guillotine can be seen as the begetter of a new philosophy of the headless body politic, and its rich iconography as the source for a new kind of criminal portraiture. The final invention of the industrious Enlightenment, the guillotine was above all a spectacular perversion of the medical art, revealing its true nature as an art – and industry – of dying.

‘Take a Closer Look’ by Daniel Arasse

Published by Princeton University Press in 2013.

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What happens when we look at a painting? What do we think about? What do we imagine? How can we explain, even to ourselves, what we see or think we see? And how can art historians interpret with any seriousness what they observe? In six engaging, short narrative “fictions,” each richly illustrated in color, Daniel Arasse, one of the most brilliant art historians of our time, cleverly and gracefully guides readers through a variety of adventures in seeing, from Velázquez to Titian, Bruegel to Tintoretto.

By demonstrating that we don’t really see what these paintings are trying to show us, Arasse makes it clear that we need to take a closer look. In chapters that each have a different form, including a letter, an interview, and an animated conversation with a colleague, the book explores how these pictures teach us about ways of seeing across the centuries. In the process, Arasse freshly lays bare the dazzling power of painting. Fast-paced and full of humor as well as insight, this is a book for anyone who cares about really looking at, seeing, and understanding paintings.


Daniel Arasse (1944-2003) was professor of art history at the Sorbonne, director of the French Institute in Florence, and director of studies at l’École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales. His many books include VermeerBotticelli, and Anselm Kiefer.

‘The Return and Other Stories’ by Andrey Platonov

Published by Random House in 2016.

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“Reading Platonov, one gets a sense of the relentless, implacable absurdity built into the language and with each…utterance, that absurdity deepens” — Joseph Brodsky

People are on the move in all ten stories in this collection, coming home as in “The Return“, leaving home as in “Rubbish Wind“, travelling far away from their country as in “The Locks of Epiphan“, trying to improve their lives and those of others, running away, searching, fleeing. Their journeys are accompanied by two motives which characterize the writing of Andrey Platonov: optimism and faith in the goodness of humanity, and abject despair at the cruelty, randomness, and apparent senselessness of our existence. The protagonists are torn between these poles and sometimes a synthesis shines through the mists of the apparent naivety of faith and the blackness of despair: the hope against hope that a better life is still possible.

Though Russian readers and critics have come to look on Platonov as among their greatest prose writers of this century, he has yet to enjoy a parallel international reputation – mainly because much of his best writing was suppressed for more than 60 years. Combining a realism inspired by his work as an engineer with poetic vision and the deceptively simple language of folk tales, Platonov sets his stories alight by using language in a way that renders it unfamiliar, makes the ordinary seem unusual and the extraordinary logical. This translation is the first to present the full range of Platonov’s gift as a short story writer to an English-language readership, showing why it is that Joseph Brodsky regarded Platonov as the equal of Joyce, Kafka and Proust.


…strange, almost abrupt, a hallucinatory, nightmarish parable of hysterical laughter and terrifying silences.

—Eileen Battersby, Irish Times (reference to The Foundation Pit)

‘Soul and Other Stories’ by Andrey Platonov

Published by Vintage Classics in 2013.

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For the mind, everything is in the future’ Platonov once wrote; ‘for the heart, everything is in the past’. The protagonist of Soul is a young man torn between these opposing desires, sent as a kind of missionary to bring the values of modern Russia to his childhood home town in Central Asia. In this strange, haunting novella, as well as in the seven stories that accompany it, a rediscovered master of twentieth century Russian literature is shown at his wisest and most humane.

‘The Foundation Pit’ by Andrey Platonov

Download includes three different editions and translations from Russian into English.

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Platonov’s dystopian novel describes the lives of a group of Soviet workers who believe they are laying the foundations for a radiant future. As they work harder and dig deeper, their optimism turns to violence and it becomes clear that what is being dug is not a foundation pit but an immense grave.


Andrey Platonovich Platonov (1899–1951) was the son of a railway worker. The eldest of eleven children, he began work at the age of thirteen, eventually becoming an engine driver’s assistant. He began publishing poems and articles in 1918, while studying engineering. Throughout much of the Twenties Platonov worked as a land reclamation expert, draining swamps, digging wells, and also building three small power stations. Between 1927 and 1932 he wrote his most politically controversial works, some of them first published in the Soviet Union only in the late 1980s. Other stories were published but subjected to vicious criticism. Stalin is reputed to have written “scum” in the margin of the story For Future Use, and to have said to Alexander Fadeyev (later Secretary of the Writers’ Union), “Give him a good belting—for future use!” During the Thirties Platonov made several public confessions of error, but went on writing stories only marginally more acceptable to the authorities. His son was sent to the Gulag in 1938, aged fifteen; he was released three years later, only to die of the tuberculosis he had contracted there. From September 1942, after being recommended to the chief editor of Red Star by his friend Vasily Grossman, Platonov worked as a war correspondent and managed to publish several volumes of stories; after the war, however, he was again almost unable to publish. He died in 1951, of tuberculosis caught from his son. Happy Moscow, one of his finest short novels, was first published in 1991; a complete text of Soul was first published only in 1999; letters, notebook entries, and unfinished stories continue to appear.

‘Reason and Revolution: Hegel and the Rise of Social Theory’ by Herbert Marcuse

Published by Woolf Haus Publishing in 2020.

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Reason and Revolution: Hegel and the Rise of Social Theory is the philosopher Herbert Marcuse’s first major work in English – a masterful interpretation of Hegel’s philosophy and the influence it has had on European political thought from the French Revolution to the present day.

Reason & Revolution, written in 1941, was the first Hegelian Marxist text to appear in English, the first systematic study of Hegel by a Marxist, and the first work in English to discuss the young Marx seriously. It introduced introduced Hegelian and Marxist concepts such as alienation, subjectivity, negativity, and the Frankfurt School’s critique of positivism to a wide international audience.

Acclaimed for its profound and undistorted reading of Hegel’s social and political theory, the appreciation of Reason and Revolution has remained high, more relevant now than ever before. There is no better guide than Marcuse to where we have been and to what we might expect.


In my books, I have tried to make a critique of society — and not only of capitalist society — in terms that avoid all ideology, even the socialist ideology. I have tried to show that contemporary society is a repressive society in all its aspects, that even the comfort, the prosperity, the alleged political and moral freedom, are utilised for oppressive ends.

—Herbert Marcuse, The New York Times Magazine


Herbert Marcuse (1898-1979) was a philosopher, sociologist, and political theorist. He studied at the University of Berlin and the University of Freiburg, and became a crucial figure at the Frankfurt Institute for Social Research, and of the Frankfurt School of social theory. He was forced to leave Germany in 1933, eventually settling in the United States, where he would spend much of his life and taught at many of the country’s greatest schools and universities.

A Hegelian-Freudian-Marxist, Marcuse highlighted the cultural forms of repression and the role of technology and the expansion of the production of consumer goods in the maintenance of the stability of capitalism. His classic studies of capitalist society were important influences on the New Left of the 1960s and 1970s and his libertarian socialism remains an important intellectual resource.

Philosophical speculation seldom attracts headlines, let alone threats of death. Yet such was the fate that overtook Herbert Marcuse in the late 1960s, when he was catapulted into international controversy as a prophet of the revolutionary student movement. Among his major writings are Reason and RevolutionOne-Dimensional Man, and Eros and Civilization.

‘Studies in Critical Philosophy’ by Herbert Marcuse

Published by Beacon Press in 1973.

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This collection of essays first appeared as ‘Neue Quellen zur Grundlegung des Historischen Materialismus’ in Die Gesellschaft (Berlin) in 1932, as a review of Marx’s newly published Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts of 1844.


Table of Contents

Translator’s Note
1. The Foundation of Historical Materialism (1932)
2. A Study on Authority (1936)
Introduction
I. Luther and Calvin
II. Kant
III. Hegel
IV. Counter-Revolution and Restoration
V. Marx
VI. The Transformation of the Bourgeois Theory of Authority into the Theory of the Totalitarian State (Sorel and Pareto)
3. Sartre’s Existentialism (1948)
4. Karl Popper and the Problem of Historical Laws (1959)
5. Freedom and the Historical Imperative (1969)

‘Parallax: The Dialectics of Mind and World’ edited by Dominik Finkelde, Slavoj Žižek & Christoph Menke


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Parallax, or the change in the position of an object viewed along two different lines of sight and more precisely, the assumption that this adjustment is not only due to a change of focus, but a change in that object’s ontological status has been a key philosophical concept throughout history.

Building upon Slavoj Žižek’s The Parallax View, this volume shows how parallax is used as a figure of thought that proves how the incompatibility between the physical and the theoretical touches not only upon the ontological, but also politics and aesthetics. With articles written by internationally renowned philosophers such as Frank Ruda, Graham Harman, Paul Livingston and Žižek himself, this book shows how modes of parallax remain in numerous modern theoretical disciplines, such as the Marxian parallax in the critique of political economy and politics; and the Hegelian parallax in the concept of the work of art, while also being important to debates surrounding speculative realism and dialectical materialism. Spanning philosophy, parallax is then a rich and fruitful concept that can illuminate the studies of those working in epistemology, ontology, German Idealism, political philosophy and critical theory.

‘Interview with Slavoj Žižek’ at ‘On Contact: Pandemic! with Chris Hedges’, RT America

14th July 2021

Chris Hedges discuss the social, political, cultural economic ramifications of the pandemic with the philosopher Slavoj Žižek.

“Driven by the demand to persevere and not to fail, as well as by the ambition of efficiency, we become committers and sacrificers at the same time and enter a swirl of demarcation, self-exploitation and collapse. When production is immaterial, everyone already owns the means of production him- or herself. The neoliberal system is no longer a class system in the proper sense. It does not consist of classes that display mutual antagonism.” This is what accounts for the system’s stability, Byung-Chul Han, argues in The Burnout Society, that subjects become self-exploiters. “Today, everyone is an auto-exploiting labourer in his or her own enterprise. People are now master and slave in one. Even class struggle has transformed into an inner struggle against oneself.”

Excerpt from Slavoj Žižek’s new book Pandemic!: Covid 19 Shakes the World.

Jacques Lacan: Télévision | La Psychanalyse 1 & 2

English subtitles included and can be toggled on with the ‘CC’ button in the YouTube video player.

In “psychanalyse” (better known as “Television” in English speaking countries), a two part documentary, the psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan answers to questions submitted by his son-in-law Jacques-Alain Miller under the direction of Benoît Jacquot.

In 1973, the film maker Benoît Jacquot approached Jacques Lacan via Jacques-Alain Miller with the idea of making a film on Lacan and his teaching. Lacan soon agreed to the project, which ultimately took the form of Miller posing questions to which Lacan replied at some length in a semi-improvised manner. The final edited film, commissioned by the The Office de Radiodiffusion-Télévision Française (ORTF, the French public TV), was broadcast in two parts on prime-time television (8.30pm on two consecutive Saturday evenings) under the title “Psychanalyse”.

The text “Télévision” is a partially re-written transcription of the filmed dialogue between Miller and Lacan, with marginalia added by the former. It was published as a small book by Éditions du Seuil, and later included in the 2001 collection Autres écrits, confirming its status as one of Lacan’s “written” texts as opposed to a simple transcription of an oral delivery. Lacan added the epigraph “He who interrogates me / also knows how to read me”, in reference to Jacques-Alain Miller.

We Have to Talk About the Protests in Colombia

This clip is an excerpt from the DVD of Žižek! by Astra Taylor (2005).

After we’ve posted an online copy of the recent Open Letter to the Public About the Situation in Colombia here on theoryreader.org, a letter that was signed among many other international public intellectuals by Žižek himself, we (Simon Gros & Daniel Mesa) have decided to produce a cooperative longer political research paper on the topic of censorship today, both (1) in the more general abstract philosophical sense of the term, and (2) especially regarding the specific ongoing political situation in Colombia, both (a) how censorship is working inside the country in efforts to cover up the continuous unrests and protests, and (b) also the way reports on the protests there are themselves being censored in very refined ways across the entire Europe, making people who otherwise tend to report on such issues (media, leftist political parties, activists, etc.) completely unaware of the struggles there.

This post is just a brief announcement of the ongoing project of the forthcoming research paper, currently under the working title of ‘Silence as a Form of Censorship from Europe to Colombia’, which is planned to appear shortly and in trilingual form: English, Spanish and Slovene, although it’s not currently known where it will eventually be published, except of course on theoryreader.org itself.

If anyone would like to contribute to our project in any way, you can contact us at simon.gros.1990@gmail.com (Simon) or daniel.mesab@udea.edu.co (Daniel). If not, you can still help financially by donating to theoryreader.org itself.


Daniel Mesa is an undergraduate student of History at University of Antioquia, Colombia.

Simon Gros is an independent researcher in Maribor, Slovenia and sole editor of theoryreader.org

‘Event: A Philosophical Journey Through A Concept’ by Slavoj Žižek

Recorded 23 September, 2014 at the Free Library of Philadelphia and published online on 19 June, 2019.

Slavoj Žižek is the author of dozens of books and articles and the subject of a score of interviews and documentaries, considered to be a leading public intellectual of the 21st century, and a towering figure in Marxist ideology critique, Lacanian psychoanalytic theory, and Hegelian philosophy. Adopting a radical style in his newspaper op-eds and academic works has earned him an international following and relevancy.

In this talk he discusses various notions such as violence, fundamentalism, ideology, political correctness, freedom, etc. His book previously published under the same title as this paper presentation, Event: A Philosophical Journey Through A Concept asks fundamental questions about what is really happening when an event occurs, whether events are interconnected, and if we are really agents of our own fates.

‘Reality as Materialized Ideology’ by Slavoj Žižek

DigitalFUTURES series hosted by Tongji University, Shanghai | digitalfutures.world | 12. June 2021

A very recent paper delivered for the occasion of 10th anniversary edition of the DigitalFUTURES hosted by Tongji University, Shanghai. The presentation mostly includes various points developed by Žižek which should already be well known to the followers of his work done throughout the past decade, and mainly focuses on the specific Hegelian dialectical idea of how the notion of reality is a kind of an incomplete, imperfect material manifestation of the general predominant social ideology.


Slavoj Žižek is a Hegelian philosopher and psychoanalytic social theorist. He is Senior Researcher at the Department of Philosophy, University of Ljubljana; Professor at the School of Law, Birkbeck, University of London; Distinguished Scholar at the Kyung Hee University, Seoul; and Visiting Professor at the German Department, New York University. His field of work comprises psychoanalytic theory, dialectical-materialist interpretations of German Idealism and Marxist critique of ideology.

‘Contingency, Hegemony, Universality: Contemporary Dialogues on the Left’ by Judith Butler, Ernesto Laclau & Slavoj Žižek

Published by Verso in 2000. Download link updated on 8. July 2021.

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What is the contemporary legacy of Gramsci’s notion of Hegemony? How can universality be reformulated now that its spurious versions have been so thoroughly criticized?

In this unusual, but ground-breaking project, Judith Butler, Ernesto Laclau and Slavoj Žižek engaged in a dialogue on central questions of contemporary philosophy and politics. Their essays, organized as separate contributions that respond to one another, range over the Hegelian legacy in contemporary critical theory, the theoretical dilemmas of multiculturalism, the universalism-versus-particularism debate, the strategies of the Left in a globalized economy, and the relative merits of post-structuralism and Lacanian psychoanalysis for a critical social theory.

While the rigor and intelligence with which these writers approach their work is formidable, Contingency, Hegemony, Universality benefits additionally from their clear sense of energy and enjoyment in a revealing and often unpredictable exchange.


Judith Butler is an American theoretician and philosopher who has contributed to the fields of feminism, queer theory, political philosophy and ethics. She is currently a professor in the Rhetoric and Comparative Literature departments at the University of California, Berkeley.

Ernesto Laclau was an Argentine political theorist often described as post-Marxist. He was a professor at the University of Essex where he held a chair in Political Theory and was for many years director of the doctoral Programme in Ideology and Discourse Analysis. He has lectured extensively in many universities in North America, South America, Western Europe, Australia, and South Africa.

Slavoj Žižek is a Slovene sociologist, philosopher, and cultural critic.

‘New Reflections on the Revolution of Our Time’ by Ernesto Laclau

Published by Verso in 1990. Download link updated on 8. July 2021.

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New Reflections on the Revolution of Our Time continues the innovative exploration of major issues concerning democracy and socialism which was staked out in Hegemony and Socialist Strategy. Examining the meanings of social struggle in the context of late capitalism, Laclau situates the re-making of political identities within a framework of democratic revolution. The critical method is one which describes major structural changes in the contemporary world-system at the same time as it theorizes a coherent and radical interpretative form. This marriage of politics and theory allows the book to embrace topics ranging from the relationship between Marxism and psychoanalysis to the historical significance of May 1968 and forms of political struggle in the third world. In a final section of illuminating interviews the author expounds his most recent thought on politics and philosophy.

Open Letter to the Public About the Situation in Colombia


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COLOMBIA—June 21, 2021

Academics and intellectuals from several countries express our rejection and condemnation of the ongoing violations of human rights in Colombia in the context of the 2021 National Strike and its massive protests.

Since April 28th, different social sectors of the Colombian population took to the streets to demonstrate against a Tax Reform proposed by the National Government that severely affected the middle class and the most impoverished groups, and in turn favored large private companies and the ruling classes. Thousands of citizens flooded the streets and public squares of large cities and small villages throughout the country to peacefully express their discontent. The protagonists of these historical events are protesters, among whom the unemployed youths and those with few employment opportunities—people who do not see a good future for themselves in this country—stand out.

After one month of mobilizations, a social movement has emerged that gathers the voices of many Colombian citizens—whose motives and demands transcend the original ones— overcoming the opposition to the Tax Reform, and pointing to structural problems and social inequality exacerbated by the pandemic. These protests are the social outbreak of a generalized indignation, already evident since the previous National Strike of 2019. Such indignation—amplified by the historical debt of the government with those marginalized and impoverished social sectors—is the actual trigger of the current situation in the country. This is why—despite the withdrawal of the Tax Reform and other unpopular measures such as the Health Reform—the demonstrations continue. In response to the protests, the Government of President Iván Duque Márquez has deployed the Police forces, Mobile Anti-Riot Squadron (known in Spanish as ESMAD) and the Military Forces throughout the country, causing an alarming number of violent situations involving human rights violations. The government holds that the use of force aims at safeguarding citizens’ right to mobility and their private and public property from what it calls organized structures of “vandals” and “terrorists”, thus stigmatizing social protesters.

Videos and Images of these events have flooded social networks, allowing international media to report on the repression and violations of human rights happening in Colombia. These images, that come from all around the country, are the result of the desperation of thousands of Colombians who, faced with the misinformation and false statements of traditional mass media, find no other choice but to denounce themselves with their own means the police cruelty, censorship, electrical network shutdowns, and suspension of the internet service that are taking place. At the present time, some of the international media have been available in the country registering directly many of such human rights violations.

To this day, Colombian President Iván Duque and his cabinet insist that these events are isolated cases and do not constitute a systematic practice, despite the fact that several NGOs have documented more than a couple thousand cases of excess police force: thousands of reported arbitrary arrests and victims of physical violence, hundreds cases of fire arm use by the police and unknown civilians against protesters—collusion of the State with groups of private security to carry out actions that are exclusive to the public force—dozens of deaths, cases of sexual violence at the hands of armed forces, and eye injuries. In addition, other concrete forms of violence perpetrated by the State stand out, like displacement and persecution for racial reasons, harassment and attacks against the medical missions and journalists, illegal raids, and threats against social leaders.

Furthermore, some spokesmen of Iván Duque’s government—since the beginning of his mandate—have reiteratively stigmatized and criminalized human rights defenders, activists, environmentalists, young people, and former FARC-EP members who demobilized as part of the negotiations of the 2016 Peace Agreement. Thus, in a similar way, they have also accused current National Strike’s protesters of belonging to groups outside the law, such as drug trafficking mafias and leftist guerrillas, thus promoting and validating the use of excessive public force against them. It is striking how this stigmatization and criminalization, which also comes from prominent public figures, evolved into a call for civilians to take up arms against protesters giving them free license to make use of deadly paramilitary strategies with impunity.

The government’s militaristic approach reveals its alienation from, and disregard for those citizens who have legitimately taken the streets. Understanding the ongoing protests in Colombia requires recognizing that the current discontent is the result of decades of accumulation of profound and unresolved social problems—the result of current and past claims long contained through the emphasis in the historical armed conflict and State repression—which have finally exploded.

Although the national government has provided some spaces for dialogue with certain groups, they have been unsuccessful. On the one hand, the government’s staunch rejection of the blockades has hindered reaching consensus, for it neglects the brutal impacts of its repressive response—which it deems justifiable, proportionate and non-negotiable, as long as blockades exist—and also the centrality of the crucial economic, social and political problems that afflict a large sector of the country’s population. On the other hand, the so-called Coalition of Hope and the National Strike Committee have failed to articulate the various demands of the social majorities that call for a space to be heard.

The negative of the government to acknowledge its disproportionate use of repression, along with the representativeness crisis and the evident lack of real spaces for dialogue, are the main reasons that haven’t allowed the different interlocutors to find action paths to solve the main issues that fuel the protests. At the present moment, repression from police and other kinds of institutional violence intensify throughout the country, concretely due to president Ivan Duque’s non negotiable decree of “Military Assistance”1

Furthermore, the Colombian people have unsuccessfully raised to the Colombian government the legitimate demand to de-escalate State violence against protesters, cease the criminalization of the social protests and generate the public debates necessary to address the social, economic and political transformations that the country seeks.

We then urge the Colombian Government and President Iván Duque to comply with the demands for an end to the institutional violence against protesters and civilians in general. Additionally, we recommend promoting and guaranteeing spaces for public and concerted dialogue with all the sectors of society that are part of the current demonstrations, particularly those that are not represented in the few meetings that the Government has had with some organizations.

We also urge the Colombian Government and civil society to advance in the search for alternatives to this vicious circle of repression and structural violence. We encourage them to devise alternatives that help to transform daily life and to build new forms of peaceful coexistence, in the same way that many forms of solidarity have spontaneously taken place in these demonstrations.

Finally, efforts must be made to enable and guarantee the continuity of citizens’ political participation, in its call for demanding respect for fundamental human rights, both at local and national levels. Such efforts require transparent mechanisms that include citizen oversight, and the demand of an adequate and timely visibility of such participation by national and international mass media.

Sincerely,

Ada Acevedo Alonso, Northern Michigan University (USA) and National University of Colombia, Colombia

Adrian Johnston,  Distinguished Professor and Chair, Department of Philosophy, University of New Mexico, United States

Agon Hamza, Assistant Professor of Philosophy at ISSHS, Prishtina, Kosovo

Aldo Agunin, Licentiate, Argentina

Alenka Zupančič, Institute of Philosophy,  Scientific Research Center of the Slovenian Academy of Sciences and Arts, Ljubljana, Slovenia

Alex Taek-Gwang Lee, Kyung Hee University, South Korea

Aman Zutshi, Central University of Jammu, India

Andy Blunden, Writer and Philosopher, Australia

Anselm Jappe, Philosopher, Germany

Avital Ronell, New York University, Jacques Derrida Professor of Media & Philosophy, European Graduate School; United States

Camilo Pérez-Bustillo, Institute of Geography for Peace (Cd. Juárez, Chihuahua, Mexico); Witness at the Border/Testigos en la Frontera (USA/Mexico); International Tribunal of Conscience of Peoples in Movement (ITCPM) (Mexico City-Tenochtitlan), Mexico

Carlo Ginzburg, UCLA (USA) /Scuola Normale Superiore di Pisa (Italy), Professor Emeritus

Carlos Antonio Aguirre Rojas, Historian, Mexico

Carlos Eduardo Maldonado Castañeda, Full Professor, University of El Bosque, Colombia

Carlos Pérez Soto, ARCIS University, Chile 

Catherine Malabou, Professor of European Studies and Languages and of Comparative Literature, UC Irvine, USA

Cecil Winter, Writer and Activist, France

César Sánchez Avella, Professor, Department of Cultural Studies, Pontifical Xavierian University, Colombia

Chantal Jaquet, University of Paris 1 Pantheon-Sorbonne, France

Costas Douzinas, School of Law – Birkbeck, University of London, UK

Costas Lapavitsas, School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, UK

Daniel Mesa Betancur, University of Antioquia, Colombia

David Higuita Olaya, Latin American Autonomous University (UNAULA), M.A. Constitutional Law University of Sevilla (Spain), Colombia

David Parra, Academic, Chile

David Pavón Cuéllar, Michoacan University of Saint Nicholas of Hidalgo (UMSNH), Mexico 

Diego Andrés González Cardona, Research Professor, PhD. in Social Sciences, Autonomous University of Mexico State, Mexico

Dorothea von Hantelmann, Bard College Berlin, Germany

Drucilla Cornell, Emeritus Professor, Rutgers University, USA

Edgar Barrero, Executive Director of the Cátedra Libre Martín Baró, Colombia

Eduardo Mendieta, Penn State University, USA

Enrique Dussel, Professor Emeritus of the Universidad Autónoma Metropolitana-Iztapalapa, Mexico

Enzo Traverso, Historian, Cornell University, USA

Eric Fassin, Sociologist, Université Paris 8, France 

Erica Burman, Professor of Education, Manchester Institute of Education, School of Environment, Education and Development, The University of Manchester, UK

Étienne Balibar, Anniversary Chair of Modern European Philosophy, Kingston University London, UK

Etienne Turpin, Philosopher, Anexact office (Germany)

Francisco Cortés Rodas, University of Antioquia, Colombia

François Dosse, Professor Emeritus of the University Paris 12 (France)

Frank Ruda, University of Dundee (UK)

Fredric Jameson, Duke University (USA)

Gabriel Salazar Vergara, University of Chile

Gayatri Spivak, Columbia University (USA)

Geoff P. N. Bradley, Teikyo University, Japan

George Ciccariello-Maher, Vassar College (USA)

Gerardo Ávalos-Tenorio, Universidad Autónoma Metropolitana (UAM), Mexico

Gina Paola Barón González, Licentiate and M.A. in Philosophy, Colombia

Giovanni Levi, Professor Emeritus in Early Modern History, University Ca’ Foscari of Venice, Italy

Göran Therborn, Professor Emeritus, University of Cambridge, UK

Guillaume Sibertin-Blanc, University Paris 8 (France)

Harold A. Ortíz Calero, Universidad Libre de Colombia, Cali Sectional, Colombia

Heather Davis, Eugene Lang College, The New School (USA)

Henry Giroux, Scholar and Cultural Critic

Ian Parker, Emeritus Professor of Management, University of Leicester, UK 

Ivonne Suárez Pinzón, Universidad Industrial de Santander, Colombia

Jaime Torres Buelvas, Professor, Faculty of Law, Universidad Cooperativa de Colombia

Jairo Gallo Acosta, Psychoanalyst, Full-Time Professor, Universidad Cooperativa de Colombia

Jairo Rodríguez, Pontifical Xavierian University, Colombia

Jan De Vos, School of Social Sciences, Cardiff University, UK

Jason Read, University of Southern Maine, USA

Jason W. Moore, Binghamton University, USA

Jodi Dean, Hobart and William Smith Colleges (USA) 

John D. Hernández Rey, Licentiate in Humanities – CECAR, Educative Research and Innovation Specialist – CECAR, Colombia

Jorge Alemán, Writer and Psychoanalyst

José A. Gutiérrez, Saint Thomas University of Medellin, Associate Researcher of the Institute for International Conflict Resolution and Reconstruction del Dublin City University

José Fernando Patiño Torres, Research Professor of the Faculty of Psychology – Federal University of Tocantins, Brasil

José Miguel Pereira, Colombian Association of Communication Researchers (Asociación Colombiana de Investigadores en Comunicación) – ACICOM, Colombia

Juan Esteban Villegas Restrepo, Research Professor of Literature

Judith Butler, University of California, Berkeley (USA)

Julián Camilo Riaño Moreno, Physician – El Bosque University and Universidad Cooperativa de Colombia, Colombia

Julián Casanova, Department of History, University of Zaragoza (Spain)

Kojin Karatani, Philosopher, Japan

Laurent de Sutter, Vrije University Brussels (Belgium)

Lorenzo Chiesa, Philosopher

Luis Eslava, Kent Law School, University of Kent (UK)

Manuel Preciado, PhD (c) Philosophy, University of the Andes, Colombia

Marcello Musto, Professor of Sociology, York University, Canada

María del Rosario Acosta López, Professor, Department of Hispanic Studies, University of California, Riverside (USA)

Mark Coeckelbergh, University of Vienna (Austria)

Martin E. Jay, University of California Berkeley (USA)

Matthieu de Nanteuil, Professor of Sociology, Catholic University of Louvain (Belgium)

Michael Hardt, Philosopher, USA

Michael Löwy, Emerit Research Director, CNRS, Paris (France) 

Mike Davis, University of California Riverside (USA)

Miran Božovič, University of Ljubljana, Slovenia

Mladen Dolar, University of Ljubljana, Slovenia

Mónica Muñoz Gallego, Doctor of Social Sciences, National University of La Plata (UNLP) (Argentina)

Nancy Fraser, The New School for Social Research (USA) 

Nick Srnicek, King’s College London (UK)

Noam Chomsky, Institute Professor (Emeritus) MIT, Laureate Professor University of Arizona (USA)

Óscar Barroso Fernández, Titular Professor of Philosophy, University of Granada (Spain)

Óscar Carpintero, University of Valladolid (Spain)

Óscar Guardiola-Rivera, Professor of Political Philosophy and Human Rights, Birkbeck College, University of London, Fellow of the RSA (UK)

Oxana Timofeeva, Sc.D., Professor at the European University at St. Petersburg, Russia

Pablo “Manolo” Rodríguez, University of Buenos Aires, Argentina

Paola Gandolfi, University of Bergamo (Italy)

Peter Burke, Emmanuel College Cambridge (UK)

Peter Hallward, Professor of Philosophy, Kingston University (UK)

Peter McLaren, Chapman University (USA)

Pierre Dardot, Philosopher, France

Renán Vega Cantor, Professor, Universidad Pedagógica Nacional (Bogotá), Colombia

Ricardo Espinoza Lolas, Cathedratic of History of Contemporary Philosophy, Institute of Philosophy, Pontifical Catholic University of Valparaíso, Chile

Robert Pfaller, Philosopher

Rogelio Acevedo Oquendo, Philosopher, National University of Colombia, M.A. in Latin American Philosophy 

Roger Bartra Murià, Sociologist and Anthropologist, Mexico

Samo Tomšič, Philosopher, Slovenia

Sandino Nuñez, Philosopher, Uruguay

Santiago Patarroyo Rengifo, Philosopher and Universitary Professor, Colombia

Santiago Zabala, ICREA Research Professor, Pompeu Fabra University (Spain)

Sara Mazuera, Social Anthropology MA Candidate, FLACSO – Argentina, Colombia

Saskia Sassen, Columbia University, New York (USA)

Sebastián Hincapié Rojas, University of Antioquia, Colombia

Sergio Andrés Rueda, Translator, Colombia

Shlomo Sand, History Department, Tel Aviv University (Israel)

Silvia Federici, Philosopher (Italy/USA)

Slavoj Žižek, Philosopher, Slovenia

Soledad Platero Puig, Journalist and Literary Critic, Uruguay

Susan Buck-Morss, Professor of Political Science, CUNY Graduate Center (USA)

Tariq Ali, Writer (UK)

Tulio Elí Chinchilla Herera, Full Professor of Constitutional Law, Faculty of Law and Political Sciences, University of Antioquia, Colombia

Vanessa Donneys Valencia, Psychologist – University of Valle, M.A. in Intervention on Disability and Dependency – Universidade da Coruña (Spain), Colombia

Vladimir Safatle, University of São Paulo (Brazil)

Yannis Stavrakakis, Political Theorist (Greece/UK)

Yuli Angélica Pinzón Rico, National University of Colombia


Notes

[1] The Decree 575 of may 28th, 2021, whose objective was to restore public order through the use of the Public Force in Valle del Cauca and 7 other departments of Colombia. This decree has already been considered by numerous experts as unconstitutional. Additionally, the government carried out a modification to Decree 003/2021, which had arisen in response to ruling STC-7641-2020 of September 22, 2020, in which the Supreme Court of Justice ordered the Government to take measures to guarantee the right to social protest and also offer apologies for the abuses of the ESMAD (Anti-Riot Mobile Squadron of Police). In turn, this ruling of the Supreme Court of Justice arose in response to a tutela action (constitutional injunction) instituted by organizations and attorneys-in-fact for victims of police violence in the 2019 National Strike. The recent amendment of the Colombian government to Decree 003/2021 establishes that any type of deliberate road or infrastructure blockage, with a temporal or permanent character, does not constitute a legitimate form of peaceful demonstration by the protesters, thus limiting the right to social protest, criminalizing said forms, and endorsing the use of the Public Force to dissolve them. These recent modifications to Decree 003/2021 seem to legitimize, strengthen and justify Decree 575/2021, in such a way that the militarization of the entire country ends up being explicitly based on the alleged illegal and illegitimate nature of the forms of social protest that emerged already from the 2019 National Strike, and it becomes, ironically, the legitimation of the already habitual excesses of state violence, and a deepening of the limitation of the right to social protest.

‘Rage, Rebellion, New Power’ by Slavoj Žižek

Aufzeichnung vom 27.10.2016 in der Humboldt-Universität.

Das Verhältnis von Wut, Rebellion und neuer Macht bildet eine Art dialektische Triade des revolutionären Prozesses. Am Anfang stehen die mehr oder weniger chaotischen Ausbrüche von Wut, die Unzufriedenheit der Menschen, die sie mehr oder weniger gewaltsam demonstrieren, unorganisiert allerdings und ohne ein klares Ziel. Organisiert sich dieses Wutpotential so entsteht daraus, mit einem Minimum an Organisation, ein mehr oder weniger bewusstes Feindbild und eine Vorstellung davon, was sich zu ändern hätte.

Wenn am Ende die Rebellion erfolgreich war, so sind die neuen Machthaber mit der gewaltigen Aufgabe kon-frontiert, die neue Gesellschaft zu organisieren – man denke an die Anekdote, die vom Gedankenaustausch zwischen Lenin und Trotzki am Vorabend der Oktoberrevolution erzählt wird. Lenin sagt: »Was passiert mit uns, wenn wir scheitern?« Darauf Trotzki: »Und was passiert mit uns, wenn wir erfolgreich sind?«

Das Problem ist, dass wir die Triade von Wut, Rebellion und neuer Macht kaum jemals in die Ordnung eines logisch-schlüssigen Voranschreitens bringen können. Die chaotische Wut breitet sich beliebig und diffus aus oder sie schlägt um in den Populismus der Rechten; die erfolgreiche Rebellion verliert an Kraft und verliert sich in mancherlei Kompromissen. Wenn dies so ist, so müssen wir feststellen, dass die Wut nicht nur am Anfang, sondern auch am Ende so manchen emanzipatorischen Projekts steht, das am Ende scheitert.

Alain Badiou par Alain Badiou

Puf, 2021

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Né d’une rencontre avec une classe de lycéens belges, ce livre incarne l’accomplissement d’un défi : celui qui consiste, pour un philosophe célèbre pour l’ambition et la richesse de son travail, à en proposer une introduction qui n’en perde pourtant jamais la pointe.

C’est ce défi qu’a relevé Alain Badiou dans ce petit livre, mêlant entretiens et textes inédits, qui parcourt avec autant d’allégresse que de pédagogie plus de soixante années de publications, et traverse la totalité des domaines dans lesquels sa pensée s’est illustrée : ontologie fondamentale, mathématiques, politique, poésie ou amour – non sans multiplier les digressions en direction des grandes figures de l’histoire de la philosophie.

À l’heure où l’œuvre d’Alain Badiou est enseignée et commentée dans les universités et les grandes écoles du monde entier, il était temps qu’on dispose d’une boussole fiable afin de s’orienter dans son fantastique foisonnement. On la tient entre les mains.


Alain Badiou est l’un des philosophes français les plus reconnus sur le  plan international, l’un des plus traduits, avec une oeuvre considérable dans  plusieurs registres comme celui de l’ontologie des mathématiques, mais aussi  de la politique et du théâtre. Il croit encore à la possibilité de modifier notre  destin, même s’il a abandonné l’illusion des lendemains qui chantent. Parmi  ses derniers ouvrages parus : La République de Platon et Pornographie du temps  présent (Fayard) et Le fini et l’infini (Bayard, Petites conférences).

‘Hegel & Freud: Les intermittences du sens’ par Claire Pagès

CNRS Philosophie, 2015

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Quoi de commun entre une philosophie idéaliste qui fait de l’inconscience un moment de la conscience, qui est une philosophie de la liberté, un travail de synthèse, qui exhibe les déterminations universelles de l’action des hommes, d’une part, et, d’autre part, une théorie psychanalytique, matérialiste et assez déterministe, qui pose l’existence d’un inconscient en soi, dispositif d’analyse, œuvrant à dégager les mobiles psychologiques individuels profonds des actes ? Ces deux grandes pensées ne partageraient-elles pas une certaine entente de la négation comme négativité ?

Alors que leurs critiques respectives les plus sérieuses en font des instruments de pensées où tout fait sens, où le sens y serait toujours plein, un et mien, Claire Pagès, relisant et confrontant les textes, esquisse et déploie une autre approche. C’est en faisant droit et place à tout ce qui ne fonctionne pas (dyfonction), à ce qui diffère (dis-fonction) et à ce qui marche tout seul (automatisme) que se découvre une certaine communauté entre ces deux penseurs. Une relecture des textes hégéliens et freudiens qui invite à découvrir ce qui en eux donne à penser les « intermittences du sens ».


Claire Pagès est directrice de programme au Collège International de Philosophie et chercheuse rattachée au Sophiapol (Université Paris Ouest).

Slavoj Žižek: What Assange started is the greatest challenge to everything that is false with Western notions of freedom

The cities of New York and London have seen hundreds gathered to celebrate Julian Assange’s 50th birthday, as the WikiLeaks founder marks yet another one behind bars, spending the last three years in a UK maximum-security prison.

‘The Last Days of Sylvia Plath’ by Carl Rollyson

Published by University Press of Mississippi in 2020.

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In her last days, Sylvia Plath struggled to break out from the control of the towering figure of her husband Ted Hughes. In the antique mythology of his retinue, she had become the gorgon threatening to bring down the House of Hughes. Drawing on recently available court records, archives, and interviews, and reevaluating the memoirs of the formidable Hughes contingent who treated Plath as a female hysteric, Carl Rollyson rehabilitates the image of a woman too often viewed solely within the confines of what Hughes and his collaborators wanted to be written.

Rollyson is the first biographer to gain access to the papers of Ruth Tiffany Barnhouse at Smith College, a key figure in the poet’s final days. Barnhouse was a therapist who may have been the only person to whom Plath believed she could reveal her whole self. Barnhouse went beyond the protocols of her profession, serving more as Plath’s ally, seeking a way out of the imprisoning charisma of Ted Hughes and friends he counted on to support a regime of antipathy against her.

The Last Days of Sylvia Plath focuses on the train of events that plagued Plath’s last seven months when she tried to recover her own life in the midst of Hughes’s alternating threats and reassurances. In a siege-like atmosphere a tormented Plath continued to write, reach out to friends, and care for her two children. Why Barnhouse seemed, in Hughes’s malign view, his wife’s undoing, and how biographers, Hughes, and his cohort parsed the events that led to the poet’s death, form the charged and contentious story this book has to tell.

‘Das Problem des Absoluten in der Philosophie Hegels’ von Rafael Aragüés

Willhelm Fink, 2018

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Rafael Aragüés dringt mit diesem Buch in den Kern des Hegelschen Idealismus ein. Dabei eröffnet seine Auslegung frische Perspektiven. Denn nicht das All-Eine, sondern Vernunft und Freiheit sind das große Thema der Philosophie Hegels. Ein Buch, das den Hegel-Kenner nicht unberührt lassen wird.Die Mehrheit der aktuellen Hegel-Forschung versteht die Hegelsche Philosophie als eine Philosophie des Absoluten. Doch was ist dieses Absolute, dieses All-Eine, diese ursprüngliche Einheit von allem? Hegel entwickelt in seiner Wissenschaft der Logik diesen Gedanken wie kaum ein anderer Denker. Die vorliegende Untersuchung befasst sich hinsichtlich dieser Frage mit umfangreichen Passagen der Logik sowie mit früheren Werken aus Hegels Frankfurter und Jenaer Zeit.

‘Introducción a la Lógica de Hegel’ por Rafael Aragüés

Herder, 2021

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La Ciencia de la lógica es un auténtico hito de la historia del pensamiento occidental. Con esta obra, G.W.F Hegel funda una lógica que va más allá de la convencional, que se adentra en las entrañas del pensar. Así concebida, la Lógica se convierte en una novedosa metafísica: pone las bases de una filosofía idealista articulada sistemáticamente, que entiende que solo en la razón universal se encuentra lo sustancial y verdadero.

En este libro, Rafael Aragüés nos ofrece una introducción clara y accesible a la obra cumbre de Hegel, a la que presenta como una filosofía primera que fundamenta todo un sistema basado en la razón y la libertad. Porque la convicción última del idealismo hegeliano es que la verdad reside en el conocimiento de la razón sobre sí misma, de manera que lo racional y lo libre son, en el fondo, los dos únicos y grandes temas de la filosofía.

‘Francis Bacon: Revelations’ by Mark Stevens & Annalyn Swan

Published by HarperCollins Publishers in 2020.

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A book decade in the making, from the Pulitzer Prize-winning authors Mark Stevens and Annalyn Swan: the first comprehensive look at the life and art of Francis Bacon, one of the iconic painters of the twentieth century.

Bacon concealed many important aspects of his life. He described himself as an asthmatic child in Ireland with foxhunting parents and a tyrannical father, but he was also rescued by a series of formidable women – women who in this biography emerge in their own right. He was never just a dissolute young man but was also a passionate reader, largely self-taught. Early on, influenced by Eileen Gray, he became a hard-working and ambitious designer, a brief career explored here in detail for the first time. He dreamed of remaking the modern room.

Bacon worked no less hard or ambitiously as a painter, at first with little success. Throughout the 1930s and early ’40s he suffered ongoing failures, growing isolated and often ill. His health issues throughout his life were far more significant than he revealed. Then came his astonishing breakthrough in 1944, with Three Studies for Figures at the Base of a Crucifixion. In the following decades, he emerged as one of the great iconoclasts and bon vivants of his time, a Wildean figure whom one friend called ‘a terrific grandee.’ Bacon was typically celebrated as a sexual adventurer who liked rough trade, but he never stopped longing for a serious committed relationship, however painful. He continued to make disturbing images of the strangeness within, but developed into a more varied artist than has been recognised, creating in particular an extraordinary series of self-portraits. He was an artist who believed in chance and paradox: the iconoclast eventually became an icon.

This is a story, deeply researched and masterfully told, of a sickly boy who became one of the great figures of his time. The twentieth century does not know itself without Bacon.

‘Hegels Logik’ von Klaus Hartmann

De Gruyter, 1999

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Dieses Buch ist in kritischer Abgrenzung zu anderen Bemühungen um Hegels System der bislang entschiedenste Versuch, diese Philosophie als eine ontologische Option aus nicht-metaphysischer Sicht zu interpretieren. Hegels Wissenschaft der Logik wird gedeutet als dialektische Entwicklung jener Kategorien des Denkens, die zugleich Seinskategorien sind. Der Autor versteht die Hegelsche Logik als eine Theorie, die die Wahrheitsfähigkeit des Denkens nachweisen will, sofern dieses Anspruch auf Wirklichkeitserkenntnis erhebt.

Hartmann interpretiert Hegels Logik als eine Strukturdeutung des Denkens, das sich der Apriorizität seiner kategorialen Inhalte versichert und sich auf diesem Wege zur transparenten Erkenntnis seiner selbst als Rechtfertigungsinstanz für alle Wahrheitsansprüche erhebt. Hartmann darf die Erarbeitung dieses unmetaphysischen, kategorialen Hegelverständnisses als seinen unverwechselbaren Beitrag zur Hegelforschung reklamieren.

Hartmanns opus posthumum bietet darüber hinaus einen konstitutiv-kritischen Kommentar zu einem der schwierigsten und bis heute nicht vollständig erschlossenen Werk der Philosophie.

‘Kommentar zu Hegels ‘Logik’ in seiner ‘Enzyklopädie’ von 1830’ von Bernhard Lakebrink

Verlag Alber Karl, 1979

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Im Jahre 1929 schrieb Theodor Haering den Satz: „Es ist ein öffentliches Geheimnis, daß fast alle bisherigen Darstellungen Hegels oder Einführungen in ihn den Leser, der sich daraufhin an die Lektüre Hegels selbst machen will, gänzlich im Stiche lassen; ja, daß von diesen Darstellern Hegels wohl wenige im Stande wären, eine Seite der Hegelschen Werke selbst restlos in ihrem Wortlaut zu erklären.“ Inzwischen ist gewiß manches geschehen, um diesem Ubelstand abzuhelfen. Vor allem haben sich die neueren Herausgeber von Hegels Werken, wie Hermann Glöckner, sodann Friedhelm Nicolin und Otto Pöggeler, auch durch zahlreiche Einzeluntersuchungen bleibende Verdienste um eine gründlichere Kenntnis des Hegelschen Systems erworben…

‘Philosophy & Modernism’ by Bloomsbury Academic | 11 Volume Collection

The aim of each volume in Understanding Philosophy, Understanding Modernism is to understand a philosophical thinker more fully through literary and cultural modernism and consequently to understand literary modernism better through a key philosophical figure.

In this way, the series also rethinks the limits of modernism, calling attention to lacunae in modernist studies and sometimes in the philosophical work under examination. The unique structure of the volumes allows the term “understanding” to describe an introductory knowledge of a field and a figure for advanced students and scholars new to the subject, while at the same time describing the evolving “understanding” scholars in a field gain with the publication of a new body of work by leading experts.

This multi-level understanding emerges from a three-part division of each volume. The first part conceptualizes the volume’s key figure by offering close readings of their central philosophical texts. The second section on aesthetics resembles a more traditional edited collection by bringing together new research by diverse international scholars aimed at mapping relationships between the thought of a key philosophical figure and the literary work of a variety of modernist texts. The final section of each volume is an extended glossary of the philosopher’s key terms. In a departure from conventional glossaries, however, the entries are mini-essays in themselves, allowing a real engagement with the many, sometimes contradictory, ways the figure has applied the terms. Each definition has its own expert contributor.

Includes volumes on Jacques Rancière, Friedrich Nietzsche, Maurice Blanchot, Theodor Adorno, Jacques Derrida, Michel Foucault, William James, Karl Marx, Ludwig Wittgenstein, Henri Bergson & Gilles Deleuze. The volumes on Merleau-Ponty, Vilém Flusser & Stanley Cavell are not yet available.


Volume I: Jacques Rancière



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The contemporary philosopher Jacques Rancière has become over the last two decades one of the most influential voices in philosophy, political theory, and literary, art historical, and film criticism. His work reexamines the divisions that have defined our understanding of modernity, such as art and politics, representation and abstraction, and literature and philosophy. Working across these divisions, he engages the historical roots of modernism at the end of the eighteenth century, uncovering forgotten texts in the archive that trouble our notions of intellectual history.

The contributors to this volume engage with the multiplicity of Rancière’s thought through close readings of his texts, through comparative readings with other philosophers, and through an engagement with modernist works of art and literature. The final section of the volume includes an extended glossary of the most important terms used by Rancière, which will be a valuable resource for experts and students alike.


Volume II: Friedrich Nietzsche



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Friedrich Nietzsche believed his own work represented the dawning of a new historical era, and, despite the fact that he lived most of his sane life suffering in obscurity, it is not an exaggeration to say that his vision helped lay the foundations for modernism in style, substance and attitude. Nietzsche was himself devoted to the modern, for he reinterpreted every philosophy, every historical figure and event, every movement that came before him. This reconceptualization of the past through new, modern eyes opened up Nietzsche’s thinking to exploring daring possibilities for the future. This prophetic boldness, which is so unique to his style, seduced the modernist generation across the spectrum. He was read by early Zionists as well as by Nazi racial theorists; by Thomas Mann and as well as by Salvador Dali. His influence stretched from psychoanalysis to anarchist politics.

This volume traces the effect of Nietzsche’s thinking upon a diverse set of problems: from ontology, to politics, to musical and literary aesthetics. The first section of the volume is a series of essays, each exploring a major work of Nietzsche’s, explaining its significance while contributing new interpretations of the text. The middle portion connects Nietzsche’s thought to the various strands of modernism in which it reveals itself. The final section is a glossary of key terms that Nietzsche uses throughout his works. An excellent resource for any scholar attempting to conceptualize the foundations of modernism or the historical importance of Nietzsche, this volume seeks to outline the philosopher’s works and their reception amongst the generations that immediately followed his passing.


Volume III: Maurice Blanchot



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Maurice Blanchot occupies a central though still-overlooked position in the Anglo-American reception of 20th-century continental philosophy and literary criticism. On the one hand, his rigorous yet always-playful exchanges with the most challenging figures of the philosophical and literary canons of modernity have led thinkers such as Georges Bataille, Emmanuel Levinas, Jacques Derrida, and Michel Foucault to acknowledge Blanchot as a major influence on the development of literary and philosophical culture after World War II.

On the other hand, Blanchot’s reputation for frustrating readers with his difficult style of thought and writing has resulted in a missed opportunity for leveraging Blanchot in advancing the most essential discussions and debates going on today in the comparative study of literature, philosophy, politics, history, ethics, and art. Blanchot’s voice is simply too profound, too erudite, and too illuminating of what is at stake at the intersections of these disciplines not to be exercising more of an influence than it has in only a minority of intellectual circles.

This volume brings together an international cast of leading and emergent scholars in making the case for precisely what contemporary modernist studies stands to gain from close inspection of Blanchot’s provocative post-war writings.


Volume IV: Theodor Adorno



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Having studied philosophy at a time when its traditions were being seriously uprooted by the atrocities of World War II, Theodor Adorno had an enormous impact on thinking about aesthetics at a transitional historical moment when the philosophy of science and leftist politics were looking for new ground. Moreover, with his focus on the rise of commercial culture and its effects on identity-construction, Adorno can be said to have reinvigorated modernist concerns by introducing the prevailing terms in our contemporary versions of cultural politics and cultural studies.

This volume traces Adorno’s social and aesthetic ideas as they appear and reappear in his corpus. As per other volumes in the series, this book is divided into three parts. The first, “Adorno’s Keywords,” is organized by the aesthetic terms around which Adorno’s philosophy circulates. The second section is devoted to “Adorno and Aesthetics.” While Adorno’s philosophical viewpoints influenced modernism’s evolution into the 21st century, the history of modernist aesthetics also shaped his philosophical approaches. The third and final part, “Adorno’s Constellations,” discusses how aesthetic form in Adorno’s thinking underlies the terms of his social analysis.


Volume V: Jacques Derrida



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This volume makes a significant contribution to both the study of Derrida and of modernist studies. The contributors argue, first, that deconstruction is not “modern”; neither is it “postmodern” nor simply “modernist.” They also posit that deconstruction is intimately connected with literature, not because deconstruction would be a literary way of doing philosophy, but because literature stands out as a “modern” notion. The contributors investigate the nature and depth of Derrida’s affinities with writers such as Joyce, Kafka, Antonin Artaud, Georges Bataille, Paul Celan, Maurice Blanchot, Theodor Adorno, Samuel Beckett, and Walter Benjamin, among others.

With its strong connection between philosophy and literary modernism, this highly original volume advances modernist literary study and the relationship of literature and philosophy.


Volume VI: Michel Foucault



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Michel Foucault continues to be regarded as one of the most essential thinkers of the twentieth century. A brilliantly evocative writer and conceptual creator, his influence is clearly discernible today across nearly every discipline-philosophy and history, certainly, as well as literary and critical theory, religious and social studies, and the arts. This volume exploits Foucault’s insistent blurring of the self-imposed limits formed by the disciplines, with each author in this volume discovering in Foucault’s work a model useful for challenging not only these divisions but developing a more fundamental interrogation of modernism. Foucault himself saw the calling into question of modernism to be the permanent task of his life’s work, thereby opening a path for rethinking the social.

This volume shows, on the one hand, that literature and the arts play a fundamental structural role in Foucault’s works, while, on the other hand, it shifts to the foreground what it presumes to be motivating Foucault: the interrogation of the problem of modernism. To that end, even his most explicitly historical or strictly epistemological and methodological enquiries directly engage the problem of modernism through the works of writers and artists from de Sade, Mallarmé, Baudelaire to Artaud, Manet, Borges, Roussel, and Bataille. This volume, therefore, adopts a transdisciplinary approach, as a way to establish connections between Foucault’s thought and the aesthetic problems that emerge out of those specific literary and artistic works, methods, and styles designated “modern.”

The aim of this volume is to provide a resource for students and scholars not only in the fields of literature and philosophy, but as well those interested in the intersections of art and intellectual history, religious studies, and critical theory.


Volume VII: William James



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Psychologist, philosopher, teacher, writer-William James stood closer than any other thinker to the center of the confluence of intellectual and artistic forces that defined the culture of modernism. The outstanding feature of this volume lies in its intent to investigate James’s influence on both American and International Modernism. It provides, on the one hand, a multifaceted introduction to students of history, philosophy, and culture, and on the other, a compendium of some of the most up-to-date thinking on this central figure.

James’s first book, Principles of Psychology (1890) immediately established James as the leading psychologist of his time, at a moment in history when psychology seemed to offer the promise of finding some definitive answers to eternal philosophical conundra. James’s innovations would register a clear effect on much modernist art, most evidently in the stylistic prose experiments of James Joyce, Virginia Woolf, and their imitators. James’s tentative skepticism concerning the concept of consciousness as such, and the post-Cartesian ego that was its foundation, also anticipates the questioning of the subject that would be the theme of much modern, and indeed postmodern thought.

The contributors to this volume explore James’s most essential texts as well as his influence on contemporary writers, artists, and thinkers. The final section is a glossary of James’s key terms, with entries written by leading experts.


Volume VIII: Karl Marx



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A concentrated study of the relationships between modernism and transformative left utopianism, this volume provides an introduction to Marx and Marxism for modernists, and an introduction to modernism for Marxists. Its guiding hypothesis is that Marx’s writing absorbed the lessons of artistic and cultural modernity as much as his legacy concretely shaped modernism across multiple media.


Volume IX: Ludwig Wittgenstein



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In the last half-century Ludwig Wittgenstein’s relevance beyond analytic philosophy, to continental philosophy, to cultural studies, and to the arts has been widely acknowledged.

Wittgenstein’s Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus was published in 1922 – the annus mirabilis of modernism – alongside Joyce’s Ulysses, Eliot’s The Waste Land, Mansfield’s The Garden Party and Woolf’s Jacob’s Room. Bertolt Brecht’s first play to be produced, Drums in the Night, was first staged in 1922, as was Jean Cocteau’s Antigone, with settings by Pablo Picasso and music by Arthur Honegger. In different ways, all these modernist landmarks dealt with the crisis of representation and the demise of eternal metaphysical and ethical truths. Wittgenstein’s Tractatus can be read as defining, expressing and reacting to this crisis. In his later philosophy, Wittgenstein adopted a novel philosophical attitude, sensitive to the ordinary uses of language as well as to the unnoticed dogmas they may betray. If the gist of modernism is self-reflection and attention to the way form expresses content, then Wittgenstein’s later ideas – in their fragmented form as well as their “ear-opening” contents – deliver it most precisely.

This volume shows Wittgenstein’s work, both early and late, to be closely linked to the modernist Geist that prevailed during his lifetime. Yet it would be wrong to argue that Wittgenstein was a modernist tout court. For Wittgenstein, as well as for modernist art, understanding is not gained by such straightforward statements. It needs time, hesitation, a variety of articulations, the refusal of tempting solutions, and perhaps even a sense of defeat. It is such a vision of the linkage between Wittgenstein and modernism that guides the present volume.


Volume X: Henri Bergson



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Henri Bergson is frequently cited amongst the holy trinity of major influences on Modernism-literary and otherwise-alongside Sigmund Freud and William James. Gilles Deleuze’s Bergsonism has re-popularized Bergson for the 21st century, so much so that, perhaps, our Bergson is Deleuze’s Bergson.

Despite renewed interest in Bergson, his influence remains understudied and consequently undervalued. While books examining the impact of Freud and James on Modernism abound, Bergson’s impact, though widely acknowledged, has been closely examined much more rarely. This volume remedies this deficiency in three ways. First, it offers close readings and critiques of six pivotal texts. Second, it reassesses Bergson’s impact on Modernism while also tracing his continuing importance to literature, media, and philosophy throughout the twentieth and into the 21st century. In its final section it provides an extended glossary of Bergsonian terms, complete with extensive examples and citations of their use across his texts. The glossary also maps the influence of Bergson’s work by including entries on related writers, all of whom Bergson either corresponded with or critiqued.


Volume XI: Gilles Deleuze



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This volume explores the multi-faceted and formative impact of Gilles Deleuze on the development and our understanding of modernist thought in its philosophical, literary, and more broadly cultural manifestations.

Gilles Deleuze himself rethought philosophical history with a series of books and essays on individual philosophers such as Kant, Spinoza, Leibniz, Nietzsche, and Bergson and authors such as Proust, Kafka, Beckett and Woolf, on the one hand, and Bacon, Messiaen, and Pollock, among others, in other arts. This volume acknowledges Deleuze’s profound impact on a century of art and thought and the origin of that impact in his own understanding of modernism.

This book begins by “conceptualizing” Deleuze by offering close readings of some of his most important works. The contributors offer new readings that illuminate the context of Deleuze’s work, either by reading one of Deleuze’s texts against or in the context of his entire body of work or by challenging Deleuze’s readings of other philosophers. A central section on Deleuze and his aesthetics maps the relationships between Deleuze’s thought and modernist literature. The volume’s final section features an extended glossary of Deleuze’s key terms, with each definition having its own expert contributor.

Henri Bergson: Key Writings

Published by Continuum in 2002.

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The twentieth century – with its unprecedented advances in technology and scientific understanding – saw the birth of a distinctively new and ‘modern’ age. Henri Bergson stood as one of the most important philosophical voices of that tumultuous time.

An intellectual celebrity in his own life time, his work was widely discussed by such thinkers as William James, Alfred North Whitehead and Bertrand Russell, as well as having a profound influence on modernist writers such as Wallace Stevens, Willa Cather and Wyndham Lewis and later thinkers, most notably Gilles Deleuze.

Key Writings brings together Bergson’s most essential writings in a single volume, including crucial passages from such major work as Time and Free WillMatter and MemoryCreative EvolutionMind-EnergyThe Creative MindThe Two Sources of Morality and Religion and Laughter. The book also includes Bergson’s correspondences with William James and a chronology of his life and work.

Interpreting Bergson: Critical Essays

Published by Cambridge University Press in 2019.

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Bergson was a pre-eminent European philosopher of the early twentieth century and his work covers all major branches of philosophy. This volume of essays is the first collection in twenty years in English to address the whole of Bergson’s philosophy, including his metaphysics, epistemology, philosophy of science, philosophy of life, aesthetics, ethics, social and political thought, and religion.

The essays explore Bergson’s influence on a number of different fields, and also extend his thought to pressing issues of our time, including philosophy as a way of life, inclusion and exclusion in politics, ecology, the philosophy of race and discrimination, and religion and its enduring appeal. The volume will be valuable for all who are interested in this important thinker and his continuing relevance.

‘Bergson’ by Mark Sinclair

Published by Routledge in 2019.

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Henri Bergson (1859-1941) was one of the most celebrated and influential philosophers of the twentieth century. He was awarded in 1928 the Nobel prize for literature for his philosophical work, and his controversial ideas about time, memory and life shaped generations of thinkers, writers and artists.

In this clear and engaging introduction, Mark Sinclair examines the full range of Bergson’s work. The book sheds new light on familiar aspects of Bergson’s thought, but also examines often ignored aspects of his work, such as his philosophy of art, his philosophy of technology and the relation of his philosophical doctrines to his political commitments.

Bergson is an outstanding guide to one of the great philosophers. Including chapter summaries, annotated further reading and a glossary, it is essential reading for those interested in metaphysics, time, free will, aesthetics, the philosophy of biology, continental philosophy and the role of European intellectuals in World War I.

‘Faith and Reason in Continental and Japanese Philosophy’ by Takeshi Morisato

Published by Bloomsbury Academic in 2019.

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Faith and Reason provides a clear presentation of contemporary comparative philosophy solutions to the problems in philosophy of religion and brings into dialogue the Japanese philosopher Tanabe Hajime of the Kyoto School with his metanoetics, and the Irish philosopher William Desmond’s metaxology, both major figures within their respective traditions, yet rarely discussed in tandem.

While drawing their inspiration from different religious traditions of Christianity and Mahayana Buddhism, these thinkers reconfigure the relation of faith and reason. Significantly, it is also the first study of Tanabe Hajime’s philosophy of religion published in English that consults the original Japanese texts.


Takeshi Morisato is Post-Doctoral Research Fellow at the Research Centre for East Asian Studies (EASt) and at the Centre Interdisciplinaire d’Etude des Religions et de la Laïcité (CIERL), Université libre de Bruxelles, Belgium.

‘Perplexity and Ultimacy: Metaphysical Thoughts from the Middle’ by William Desmond

Published by State University of New York Press in 1995.

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Desmond explores perplexity regarding ultimacy—the metaphysical perplexity that precedes and exceeds scientific and commonsense curiosity. Desmond writes about the metaphysical perplexity that cannot be identified with scientific or commonsense curiosity. This perplexity is in another dimension of thought, asking questions about what precedes and exceeds the determinate intelligibilities of science and common sense. Desmond explores what this perplexity is, especially in so far as it is shadowed by the question of ultimacy.


William Desmond is Professor of Philosophy, and Director of the International Program in Philosophy, in the Higher Institute of Philosophy, Katholieke Universiteit Leuven (Louvain), Belgium. Author of Being and the Between: Metaphysics and Transendence; Art and the Absolute: A Study of Hegel’s Aesthetics; Philosophy and Its Others: Ways of Being and Mind; Beyond Hegel and Dialectic: Speculation, Cult, and Comedy; and Desire, Dialectic and Otherness and the editor of Hegel and His Critics. He is a past President of the Hegel Society of America and is currently President of the Metaphysical Society of America.

‘German Idealism and the Problem of Knowledge: Kant, Fichte, Schelling, and Hegel’ by Nectarios G. Limnatis

Springer, 2008.

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The problem of knowledge in German Idealism has drawn increasing attention in recent years. This is the first attempt at a systematic critique that covers all four major figures, Kant, Fichte, Schelling, and Hegel. In examining the evolution of the German idealist discussion with respect to a broad array of concepts (epistemology, metaphysics, logic, dialectic, contradiction, totality, and several others), the author draws from a wide variety of sources in several languages, employs lucid and engaging language, and offers a fresh, incisive and challenging critique.

Limnatis contrasts Kant’s epistemological assertiveness with his ontological scepticism as a critical issue in the development of the discourse in German Idealism, and argues that Fichte’s phenomenological demarche only amplifies the Kantian impasse, but allows him to launch a path-breaking critique of formal logic, and to press forward the dialectic. Schelling’s later restoration of metaphysics aims exactly at overcoming the Fichtean conflict between epistemological monism and ontological dualism. And it is Hegel who synthesizes the preceding discussion and unambiguously addresses the need for a new philosophical logic, the dialectical logic.

He scrutinizes Hegel’s deduction in the Phenomenology, invokes modern genetic epistemology, and advances a non-metaphysical reading of the Science of Logic as a genetic theory of systematic knowledge and as circular epistemology. Emphasizing the unity between the logical and the historical, the distinction between intellectual (verständlich) and rational (vernünftig) explanation, and the cognitive importance of contradiction, the author argues for the prospect of an evolving totality of reflective reason.


Nectarios G. Limnatis received a Ph.D. (2004) from the Department of Philosophy, Graduate Faculty of Political and Social Science, New School for Social Research, and another Ph.D. (1996) from the Faculty of Philosophy, Moscow State University. His research interests span the History of Philosophy (particularly, German Idealism from Kant to Hegel and Marx), 20th Century Continental Philosophy, Social and Political Philosophy, and Ethics. He has taught at various universities in Europe and the USA, and is currently teaching at Hofstra University in New York. Besides articles and book reviews in several languages, he has written Manipulation: Essence, Appearances, Ways of Sublation (Moscow: Ekonomycheskaya Demokratya 2000, in Russian), and co-edited Prospettive sul Postmoderno, vol. 1: Considerazioni epistemologiche, vol. 2: Ricerche etico-politiche (Milano: Edizioni Mimesis, 2006, in Italian). At present, he is working on the edition of a book called The Contours of Hegel’s Dialectic (forthcoming). Further projects include A Critical Theory of Globalization and Hegel and Analytic Philosophy.

Philosophy and Religion in German Idealism

Published by Kluwer Academic Publishers in 2004.

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This book contains the selected proceedings of a conference on Religion in German Idealism which took place in Nijmegen, Netherlands in January 2000. The conference was organized by the Centre of German Idealism, which co-ordinates the research on classical German philosophy in the Netherlands and in Belgium, with the support of the Dutch Organisation for Scientific Research.

The studies in this book testify to the intimate relation of philosophy and religion in German idealism, a relation not also devoid of tensions and conflicts. Idealism gave expression to a certain affirmation of the autonomy of philosophical reason, an autonomy that tried to take into account the importance of religion. The results of this claim to autonomy often moved towards criticism of religion, sometimes claimed to be more constructive in reforming the relation of philosophy and religion, or the outcome was a new questioning of philosophy itself and a different appreciation of religion. All of these possibilities are represented in the studies of this book.

‘Not Saved: Essays After Heidegger’ by Peter Sloterdijk

Published by Polity in 2016.

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In order to situate Heidegger’s thought in the history of ideas and problems, Peter Sloterdijk approaches Heidegger’s work with questions such as: If Western philosophy emerged from the spirit of the polis, what are we to make of the philosophical suitability of a man who never made a secret of his stubborn attachment to rural life? Is there a provincial truth of which the cosmopolitan city knows nothing? Is there a truth in country roads and cabins that would be able to undermine the universities with their standardized languages and globally influential discourses? From where does this odd professor speak, when from his professorial chair in Freiburg he claims to inquire into what lies beyond the history of Western metaphysics?

Sloterdijk also considers several other crucial twentieth-century thinkers who provide some needed contrast for the philosophical physiognomy of Martin Heidegger. A consideration of Niklas Luhmann as a kind of contemporary version of the Devil’s Advocate, a provocative critical interpretation of Theodor Adorno’s philosophy that focuses on its theological underpinnings and which also includes reflections on the philosophical significance of hyperbole, and a short sketch of the pessimistic thought of Emil Cioran all round out and deepen Sloterdijk’s attempts to think with, against, and beyond Heidegger.

Religion und Religionen im Deutschen Idealismus

Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2015

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Schleiermacher, Hegel und Schelling zahlen zu den Klassikern der modernen Religionsphilosophie – einer Disziplin, an deren Grundung sie massgeblich beteiligt waren. In ihren religionsphilosophischen Werken entwickeln sie nicht nur eine allgemeine Theorie der Religion uberhaupt und eine besondere Theorie der christlichen Religion, sondern widmen sich auch und gerade der historischen Vielfalt der Religionen.

Die drei Klassiker ziehen sich nicht auf Urteilsenthaltung zuruck, sondern nehmen die divergierenden Wahrheitsanspruche der Religionen ernst und unterziehen sie einer kritischen Wurdigung. Wie sie das tun, wird im vorliegenden Band von international renommierten Experten auf den Gebieten der Schleiermacher-, Hegel- und Schellingforschung rekonstruiert und diskutiert.

Mit Beitragen von: Thomas Buchheim, Richard Crouter, Stefan Gerlach, Wilhelm Grab, Jens Halfwassen, Friedrich Hermanni, Eilert Herms, Stephen Houlgate, Wilhelm G. Jacobs, Christian Konig, Amit Kravitz, Thomas A. Lewis, Burkhard Nonnenmacher, Jan Rohls, Friedrike Schick, Ulrich Schlosser, Christoph Schwobel, Henning Tegtmeyer, Roberto Vinco, Martin Wendte, Paul Ziche.


Friedrich Hermanni Geboren 1958; Promotion im Fach Philosophie; Habilitation im Fach Systematische Theologie; o. Professor für Systematische Theologie an der Evangelisch-theologischen Fakultät der Universität Tübingen; kooptiert an der dortigen Philosophischen Fakultät.

Burkhard Nonnenmacher Geboren 1976; Promotion im Fach Philosophie; Akademischer Rat an der Evangelisch-theologischen Fakultät der Universität Tübingen; wissenschaftlicher Assistent am Lehrstuhl für Systematische Theologie III.

Friedrike Schick Geboren 1960; Promotion und Habilitation im Fach Philosophie; apl. Professorin am Philosophischen Seminar der Universität Tübingen.

‘Hegel und die Religion’ von Nadine Mooren

Felix Meiner Verlag, 2017

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Vom Linkshegelianismus bis zur Kritischen Theorie ist auf eine Unstimmigkeit im Verhältnis zu Religion und Theologie hingewiesen worden, die der spekulativen Philosophie Hegels aufgrund ihres idealistischen Totalitätsanspruchs eigen sei. Hegels Philosophie stehe zwar für die Säkularisation theologischer Transzendenz, dennoch könne er sein philosophisches System nur unter Zuhilfenahme theologischer Kategorien formulieren, die doch eigentlich überwunden sein sollten.

Ausgehend von Hegels reifem Werk – der Enzyklopädie von 1830 und den Vorlesungsmanuskripten zur Religionsphilosophie von 1821 – fragt diese Arbeit nach den eigentümlichen Merkmalen der Konstellation von Religion, Theologie und spekulativer Philosophie. Fokusiren auf Hegels Verständnis dieser Konstellation wird einerseits das Verhältnis betrachtet, das zwischen der Religion als vorwissenschaftlicher Weise der Weltdeutung und Hegels enzyklopädischer Anstrengung besteht, die unterschiedlichsten Arten von Wissen in einem wissenschaftlichen System philosophisch begründet zu verorten. Andererseits wird das Verhältnis zwischig spekulativer Philosophie und christlicher Theologie, die beide die Leistung einer wissenschaftlichen Explikation religiöser Vorstellungen für sich beanspruchen, untersucht.

Seit man begonnen hat, Hegels Werk zu rezipieren, ist sein Verständnis von Religion und Theologie umkämpfter Diskussionsgegenstand gewesen. Insbesondere nach Hegels Tod im Jahre 1831 entbrannte ein heftiger Streit um die angemessene Deutung seiner programmatischen These, dass das Verhältnis von Religion und Philosophie in einer Identität des Inhalts bei einem Unterschied der Formen bestehe – ein Streit, der letztlich zum Zerfall der Hegelschule führte.

‘Reason in Religion: The Foundations of Hegel’s Philosophy of Religion’ by Walter Jaeschke

Published by University of California Press in 1990.

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Unique in both scope and critical perspective, Reason in Religion traces the evolution of a distinctive branch of Hegel’s philosophy. Walter Jaeschke takes account of a sweeping oeuvre, from the early theological writings to the Berlin Lectures on the Philosophy of Religion, the latter reconstructed as Hegel presented them, permitting a detailed study of the development and changes in his approach.

Hegel’s religious thought is scrupulously placed in relation to his predecessors, contemporaries, disciples, and critics. The work begins with an account of Hegel’s break with Kant’s moral conception of religion, and concludes with the controversy over Hegel’s philosophy of religion during the decade following his death. The author also makes a valuable contribution to present-day discussions of the task of philosophical theology in relation to philosophy of religion.


Walter Jaeschke is a German philosopher and university professor. A specialist in classical German philosophy, he heads the editions of the Academy edition by Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel and Friedrich Heinrich Jacobi and the Hegel archive at the Ruhr University in Bochum.

‘Hegel’s Philosophy of Religion’ by Bernard M. G. Reardon

Published by Palgrave Macmillan in 1977.

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A guide to Hegel’s philosophy of religion for the student who has minimal knowledge of Hegel’s system. The text begins with a clear summary of Hegel’s position in the early theological writings and provides a synopsis and context to his later Berlin lecture courses on the philosophy of religion.

‘Lectures on the Philosophy of Religion: One-Volume Edition of the Lectures of 1827’ by Georg W. F. Hegel

Published by University of California Press in 1988.

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From the beginning of his academic career at the University of Jena in 1801, Hegel lectured frequently on a broad range of topics—philosophical encyclopedia, logic and metaphysics, the philosophies of nature, art, and world history, anthropology and psychology, natural law and political science, philosophy of history and the history of philosophy. But it was only after some twenty years, in the summer semester of 1821 at the University of Berlin, that Hegel lectured for the first time on the philosophy of religion—lectures that he was to repeat on three occasions, in 1824, 1827, and 1831, but which he himself never published

From the complete three-volume critical edition of Hegel’s Lectures on the Philosophy of Religion, this edition extracts the full text and footnotes of the 1827 lectures, making the work available in a convenient form for study. Of the lectures that can be fully reconstructed, those of 1827 are the clearest, the maturest in form, and the most accessible to non-specialists. In them, readers will find Hegel engaged in lively debates and in important refinements of his treatment of the concept of religion, the Oriental religions and Judaism, Christology, the Trinity, the God-world relationship, and many other topics.

This edition contains a new editorial introduction as well as critical annotations on the text and tables, bibliography, and glossary from the complete edition. The result of an international collaborative effort on the part of Walter Jaeschke, Ricardo Ferrara, and Peter C. Hodgson, the new edition is appearing simultaneously in German, English, and Spanish. The English edition has been prepared by a team consisting of Robert F. Brown (University of Delaware), Peter C. Hodgson (Vanderbilt University), and J. Michael Stewart (Farnham, England), with the assistance of H. S. Harris (York University).

‘The Berlin Phenomenology’ by Georg W. F. Hegel

Published by Springer in 1981.

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Selected parts of the three volume edition of Hegel’s Philosophy of Subjective Spirit edited by M. J. Petry published here as a separate work. The ‘Berlin Phenomenology’ should be a reliable basic text and an accurate translation which has several important advantages. The introduction and notes prepared for the present edition should prove helpful to both teachers and students.

Unlike many of Hegel’s writings, must notably the ‘Jena Phenomeno­logy’ of 1807, it is concise and to the point, and concerned with issues already familiar to most students of philosophy. Since it consists for the most part of a searching and radical analysis of Kant’s epistemology, Fichte’s ethics and Schelling’s system-building, it provides first-rate insight into Hegel’s assessment of his immediate predecessors.

When considered in context, as part of the Encyclopaedia of the Philosophical Sciences, it enables the reader to distinguish between the systematic, the logical and the psychological aspects of Hegel’s thought.

‘Philosophy of Subjective Spirit’ by Georg W. F. Hegel | Volume Three: Phenomenology and Psychology

Published by Springer Netherlands in 1978.

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The third volume of the English-German bilingual parallel text edition of the Philosophy of Subjective Spirit / Philosophie des subjektiven Geistes by Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel. Phenomenology and Psychology are the second and third division within Philosophy of Subjective Spirit.

The Philosophy of Subjective Spirit is the first section of the third part of Hegel’s Encyclopedia of the Philosophical Sciences. First published in 1817, Hegel published two additional editions of the Encyclopedia in his lifetime, one in 1827 and the third in 1830, just a year before his untimely death. That devoted his efforts to revising, expanding, and republishing the Encyclopedia provides a clear indication of the importance Hegel attached to it. Notwithstanding, the Philosophy of Subjective Spirit has remained a rather unfamiliar and not well understood area in Hegel’s thought.

Hegel lectured on the philosophy of spirit to his undergraduates five times between 1820 and 1830. There are five transcripts based on three of the lecture courses available. Three of the transcripts—by Hotho from 1822 and Griesheim and Kehler from 1825—were reissued and translated into English, edited and annotated here by Michael John Petry.

In 1994 two transcripts lost during World War II were rediscovered in Polish libraries. The publication of these transcripts by Franz Hespe and Burhard Tuschling constituted a major addition to the resources for understanding Hegel’s Philosophy of Subjective Spirit, constituting the first publication of a complete transcript of one of Hegel’s lecture courses from 1827 through 1828. That transcript has been translated into English by Robert Williams, with a very useful introduction.

These supplementary materials enhance the intelligibility of the materials published by Hegel in the Encyclopedia, which was intended by him to serve as an outline for his lecture courses.

‘Philosophy of Subjective Spirit’ by Georg W. F. Hegel | Volume Two: Anthropology

Published by Springer Netherlands in 1978.

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The second volume of the English-German bilingual parallel text edition of the Philosophy of Subjective Spirit / Philosophie des subjektiven Geistes by Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel. Anthropology is the first division of the Philosophy of Subjective Spirit, it’s beginning and entry point.

The Philosophy of Subjective Spirit is the first section of the third part of Hegel’s Encyclopedia of the Philosophical Sciences. First published in 1817, Hegel published two additional editions of the Encyclopedia in his lifetime, one in 1827 and the third in 1830, just a year before his untimely death. That devoted his efforts to revising, expanding, and republishing the Encyclopedia provides a clear indication of the importance Hegel attached to it. Notwithstanding, the Philosophy of Subjective Spirit has remained a rather unfamiliar and not well understood area in Hegel’s thought.

Hegel lectured on the philosophy of spirit to his undergraduates five times between 1820 and 1830. There are five transcripts based on three of the lecture courses available. Three of the transcripts—by Hotho from 1822 and Griesheim and Kehler from 1825—were reissued and translated into English, edited and annotated here by Michael John Petry.

In 1994 two transcripts lost during World War II were rediscovered in Polish libraries. The publication of these transcripts by Franz Hespe and Burhard Tuschling constituted a major addition to the resources for understanding Hegel’s Philosophy of Subjective Spirit, constituting the first publication of a complete transcript of one of Hegel’s lecture courses from 1827 through 1828. That transcript has been translated into English by Robert Williams, with a very useful introduction.

These supplementary materials enhance the intelligibility of the materials published by Hegel in the Encyclopedia, which was intended by him to serve as an outline for his lecture courses.

‘Philosophy of Subjective Spirit’ by Georg W. F. Hegel | Volume One: Introductions

Published by Springer Netherlands in 1978.

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The first volume of the English-German bilingual parallel text edition of the Philosophy of Subjective Spirit / Philosophie des subjektiven Geistes by Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel.

The Philosophy of Subjective Spirit is the first section of the third part of Hegel’s Encyclopedia of the Philosophical Sciences. First published in 1817, Hegel published two additional editions of the Encyclopedia in his lifetime, one in 1827 and the third in 1830, just a year before his untimely death. That devoted his efforts to revising, expanding, and republishing the Encyclopedia provides a clear indication of the importance Hegel attached to it. Notwithstanding, the Philosophy of Subjective Spirit has remained a rather unfamiliar and not well understood area in Hegel’s thought.

Hegel lectured on the philosophy of spirit to his undergraduates five times between 1820 and 1830. There are five transcripts based on three of the lecture courses available. Three of the transcripts—by Hotho from 1822 and Griesheim and Kehler from 1825—were reissued and translated into English, edited and annotated here by Michael John Petry.

In 1994 two transcripts lost during World War II were rediscovered in Polish libraries. The publication of these transcripts by Franz Hespe and Burhard Tuschling constituted a major addition to the resources for understanding Hegel’s Philosophy of Subjective Spirit, constituting the first publication of a complete transcript of one of Hegel’s lecture courses from 1827 through 1828. That transcript has been translated into English by Robert Williams, with a very useful introduction.

These supplementary materials enhance the intelligibility of the materials published by Hegel in the Encyclopedia, which was intended by him to serve as an outline for his lecture courses.

‘Hegel’s Æsthetics: A Critical Exposition’ by John Steinfort Kedney

Published by S. C. Griggs and Company, Chicago in 1885.

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Hegel’s Æsthetics explains Hegel’s essential thought without going into minute detail or over ground that could be easily found elsewhere. It claims that one needs to understand Hegel’s philosophy of the Idea in order to fully understand his later philosophy of art.

The book is divided into three: I. the fundamental philosophy of Hegel’s aesthetic theory along with Kedney’s commentary, II. the logical and historical development of the “art impulse” in Hegel, and III. all of the various arts as treated by Hegel in his posthumous Lectures on the Philosophy of Art examined in detail—architecture, sculpture, painting, music, and poetry. This third section is by far the longest, as it was here that Kedney give his most important definitions and fundamental ideas on the application of aesthetic theory. 


John Steinfort Kedney (1819-1911) was an American church priest and theologian. His first book, The Beautiful and the Sublime: An Analysis of these Emotions and a Determination of the Objectivity of Beauty was published in 1880. Five years later, he published this close study of Hegel’s aesthetics.

Between Kant & Hegel: Texts in the Development of Post-Kantian Idealism

Published by Hackett Publishing in 2000.

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What kind of a inconsiderate schmuck must one be to give a book the exact same title as some other well-known work in the exact same area of study already bears? Anyway. . .

This volume fills a gap in philosophical literature by providing a collection of writings from the generation of thinkers between Kant and Hegel. It includes some of Hegel’s earliest critical writings, as well as Schelling’s justification of the new philosophy of nature against skeptical and religious attack.

‘Foundations of Natural Right’ by Johann Gottlieb Fichte

Published by Cambridge University Press in 2000.

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Fichte’s thought marks a crucial transitional stage between Kant and post-Kantian philosophy. Foundations of Natural Right, thought by many to be Fichte’s most important work of political philosophy, applies his ideas to fundamental issues in political and legal philosophy, covering such topics as civic freedom, right, private property, contracts, family relations, and the foundations of modern political organization. This volume offers the first complete translation of the work into English, by Michael Baur, together with an introduction by Frederick Neuhouser that sets it in its philosophical and historical context.

‘Fichte’s Theory of Subjectivity’ by Frederick Neuhouser

Published by Cambridge University Press in 2012.

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Fichte’s Theory of Subjectivity elucidates the central issues in the work of Johann Gottlieb Fichte (1762–1814), a figure crucial to the movement of philosophy from Kant to German idealism. It explains Fichte’s notion of subjectivity and how his particular view developed out of Kant’s accounts of theoretical and practical reason.

Fichte argued that the subject has a self-positing structure which distinguishes it from a thing or an object, thus the subject must be understood as an activity rather than a thing and is self-constituting in a way that an object is not. In the final chapter, Neuhouser considers how this doctrine of the self-positing subject enables us to understand the possibility of the self’s autonomy, or self-determination.

‘Foundations of Hegel’s Social Theory: Actualizing Freedom’ by Frederick Neuhouser

Published by Harvard University Press in 2003.

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This work tries to understand the philosophical foundations of Hegel’s social theory by articulating the normative standards at work in his claim that the three central social institutions of the modern era—the nuclear family, civil society, and the constitutional state—are rational or good.

The central question is: what, for Hegel, makes a social order rational? In answering the book aspires to be faithful to Hegel’s texts and to articulate a compelling theory of rational social institutions; the aim is not only to interpret Hegel correctly but also to demonstrate the richness and power that his vision of the rational social order possesses.


Frederick Neuhouser is the Viola Manderfeld Professor of German and a Professor of Philosophy at Barnard College, Columbia University. He is a specialist in European philosophy of the 18th and 19th centuries, especially Rousseau, Fichte, and Hegel.

‘Hegel’s Idea of a Phenomenology of Spirit’ by Michael N. Forster

Published by University of Chicago Press in 1998.

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In Hegel’s Idea, Forster advances a unique and compelling new reading of Phenomenology of Spirit, Hegel’s seminal work which has acquired a paradoxical reputation as one the most important and most impenetrable and inconsistent philosophical books of all time. His approach differs from that of previous scholars in two ways: he reads the work as a whole—not piecemeal, as it has usually been analyzed—and within the broader context of Hegel’s corpus and the works of other philosophers. Thus Phenomenology emerges as a coherent work with a rich array of important and original ideas.


Michael Neil Forster is an American philosopher and Alexander von Humboldt Professor, holder of the Chair in Theoretical Philosophy, and Co-director of the International Center for Philosophy at Bonn University.

‘Hegel and the Transformation of Philosophical Critique’ by William F. Bristow

Published by Oxford University Press in 2007.

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An original and illuminating study of Hegel’s hugely influential but notoriously difficult Phenomenology of Spirit. Hegel describes the method of this work as a “way of despair”, meaning thereby that the reader who undertakes its inquiry must be open to the experience of self-loss through it. Whereas the existential dimension of Hegel’s work has often been either ignored or regarded as romantic ornamentation, Bristow argues that it belongs centrally to Hegel’s attempt to fulfil a demanding epistemological ambition.

With his Critique of Pure Reason, Kant expressed a new epistemological demand with respect to rational knowledge and presented a new method for meeting this demand. Bristow reconstructs Hegel’s objection to Kant’s critical philosophy, according to which Kant’s way of meeting the epistemological demand of philosophical critique presupposes subjectivism, that is, presupposes the restriction of our knowledge to things as they are merely for us.

Whereas Hegel in his early Jena writings rejects Kant’s critical project altogether on this basis, he comes to see that the epistemological demand expressed in Kant’s project must be met. Bristow argues that Hegel’s method in the Phenomenology of Spirit takes shape as his attempt to meet the epistemological demand of Kantian critique without presupposing subjectivism.

The key to Hegel’s transformation of Kant’s critical procedure, by virtue of which subjectivism is to be avoided, is precisely the existential or self-transformational dimension of Hegel’s criticism, the openness of the criticizing subject to being transformed through the epistemological procedure.


William F. Bristow is Assistant Professor of Philosophy at the University of California, Irvine.

Hegel’s Phenomenology of Self-Consciousness

Published by State University of New York Press in 1999.

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“We will never be finished with the reading or rereading of Hegel.”
—Jacques Derrida


Offering a new translation of the famous chapter IV (“Self-Consciousness”) of Phenomenology of Spirit, this book reflects the far-reaching insights of contemporary Hegelian scholarship. Included is extensive commentary as well as a review of its reception by such important twentieth-century thinkers as Kojève, Heidegger, Sartre, Gadamer, Bataille, Deleuze, Lacan, and Habermas.

‘The Jena System, 1804-05: Logic & Metaphysics’ by Georg W. F. Hegel

Published by by McGill-Queen’s University Press in 1986.

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As he worked on the Jena system, Hegel’s understanding of the nature of logic and its connection with metaphysics underwent changes crucial to his later system. As a result, logic acquired a new and expanded significance for him. This text is thus the key to an understanding of the works of Hegel’s maturity, and to their relation to the major works of Schelling and Fichte that preceded them.

Scholars from the universities of Guelph, Lethbridge, McGill, McMaster, Toronto, Trent, and York have prepared this translation, a work of critical analysis in its own right. The introduction by H.S. Harris adds a concrete dimension to Hegel’s abstract categories, showing how, in developing these categories, Hegel was even at this early date thinking deeply about the structure and life of society.

‘Lectures on the Philosophy of Spirit 1827-8’ by Georg W. F. Hegel

Published by Oxford University Press in 2007.

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Hegel’s lectures of 1827-8 go far beyond the previously published Encyclopedia outline, and provide a new introduction to the Philosophy of Spirit. In many respects a relatively “new” Hegel text, first published in Germany in 1994, it is a transcription made by Johann Eduard Erdmann, a German philosopher who attended Hegel’s lectures as a student in 1827.

‘Lectures on Natural Right and Political Science: The First Philosophy of Right’ by Georg W. F. Hegel

This edition published by University of California Press in 1996.
Edited and translated by J. Michael Stewart, Peter C. Hodgson, Introduction by Otto Pöggeler.

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These lectures constitute the translation of earliest version of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right, namely the lectures on “Natural Right and Political Science” delivered in Heidelberg in 1817-18. This transcription of the lectures remained in obscurity until the manuscript containing law student Peter Wannenmann’s transcription of the lectures was discovered in 1982 and published a year later by the editorial staff of the Hegel Archives at the Ruhr University in Bochum. It presents the philosopher’s social thought with clarity and boldness and differs in some significant respects from Hegel’s own published version of 1821.

The Heidelberg lectures are an indispensable resource for understanding the Philosophy of Right edition of 1821 and is an invaluable supplement to one of the great classics of political philosophy.


J. Michael Stewart, until his death in 1994, was a professional translator and independent Hegel scholar in England.

Peter C. Hodgson is the author and editor of over twenty books, and is Charles G. Finney Professor of Theology Emeritus, at Divinity School, Vanderbilt University. He studied for his AB degree at Princeton University and his BD degree at Yale Divinity School, and completed his MA and PhD at Yale University.

Otto Pöggeler studied at the University of Bonn and the University of Heidelberg, and in 1961 became the editor of Hegel-Studien. His academic positions have included Professor of Philosophy and Director of the Hegel-Archiv at the Ruhr-University Bochum, and visiting professor at Pennsylvania State University, and then at the State University of New York at Stony Brook.

Critique of Hegel’s ’Philosophy Of Right’ by Karl Marx

Published by Cambridge University Press in 1977. Download link updated on 28. June 2021.

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This complete translation of Marx’s critical commentary on paragraphs 261–313 of Hegel’s Philosophy Of Right, a major work in political theory. Marx subjects Hegel’s doctrine on the internal constitution of the state to a lengthy analysis. It was Marx’s first attempt to criticize Hegel’s philosophy in general and his political philosophy in particular. It also represents his early efforts to criticize existing political institutions and to clarify the relations between the political and economic aspects of society.

This edition also includes a translation of the introduction Marx wrote for his proposed revised version of the Critique which he never completed. In a substantial introduction, Professor O’Malley provides valuable information on Marx’s intellectual development.

‘Philosophy of Right’ by Georg W. F. Hegel

Published by Dover Publications in 2005.

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Complete and unabridged, this edition of Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel’s 1821 classic offers a comprehensive view of the philosopher’s influential system. In the Philosophy of Right, Hegel applies his most important concept—the dialectics—to law, rights, morality, the family, economics, and the state. The last of Hegel’s works to be published in his lifetime, this volume combines moral and political philosophy to form a sociologic view dominated by the idea of the state.

‘Introduction to the Philosophy of History’ by Georg W. F. Hegel

Translation first published by Hackett Publishing Co. in 1988.

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Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel (1770-1831) lived in a time of startling changes. The American and French Revolutions, the Industrial Revolution, the Napoleonic Wars, the restructuring of European empires, and the rise of nationalism—all these, and more, inspired Hegel to look for a pattern, some order and meaning, in the diversity of historical events.

Born in Stuttgart in 1770, Hegel was a nineteen-year-old seminary student when the French Revolution sent its shock waves throughout Europe. Along with his two fellow students, Schelling and Hölderlin, Hegel was caught up in the heady enthusiasm of the revolutionary period. Autocracy was being swept away. But would the French people take hold of genuine freedom at last, and rule themselves as a free people? What ultimate rationality lay behind such apparently irrational events as the Terror? These were some of the problems which motivated Hegel’s reflections on history.

After graduating from the seminary, Hegel briefly took a post as a family tutor, but in 1800 he joined his friend Schelling on the faculty of the University of Jena. At the time, this university was the philosophic center of Germany, and it was here that Hegel wrote his first major book, the brilliant Phenomenology of Spirit. In the Phenomenology, he sought to show how certain cultural outlooks or characteristic world views (e.g., those of medieval Christianity, the Enlightenment, the Terror) followed one another with logical necessity, so that each one led inevitably to the next. Tradition has it that he completed the book while hearing the gunfire from the battle of Jena, in October of 1806. When Napoleon captured the city, the university closed down and Hegel was out of a job.

For two years he edited a newspaper in another city, and then accepted the post of headmaster and lecturer in philosophy at a high school in Nuremberg. He continued to be a keen observer of contemporary politics, reading avidly the English and French newspapers, and writing articles on current issues. He did not hold another university post until 1816, when he was appointed professor of philosophy at the University of Heidelberg. He left there in 1818 to become professor of philosophy at the University of Berlin. By then he had published his formidable Science of Logic (1813; 1816), his Encyclopedia of the Philosophical Sciences (1817), and was soon to publish his Philosophy of Right (1821). At the time of the Berlin appointment Hegel was universally acknowledged to be one of the intellectual giants of his time, and his wide-ranging lectures on the philosophy of art, the philosophy of religion, the history of philosophy, and the philosophy of history won him an appreciative audience.

He died unexpectedly in a cholera epidemic in 1831, in the midst of an active and fruitful life devoted to the pursuit of reason. His contemporaries were stunned at the sudden loss, for it was felt that Hegel had many valuable contributions still to make to philosophy—perhaps expressing an all-embracing vision which would combine the central insights of the works he had published in his lifetime. To forward his program, a number of his friends and colleagues convened soon after his death to produce an edition of his collected works. They went beyond the works Hegel himself had published, gathering up his hand-written lecture notes and combining them with transcriptions of his lectures made by his student listeners. This resulted in his posthumous Philosophy of Art, the Philosophy of Religion, the History of Philosophy, and the Philosophy of History.

Even though Hegel had not prepared these materials for publication, these posthumous volumes amply reveal Hegel’s characteristic keenness of insight, his penetrating awareness of life’s paradoxical nature, and his deep sensitivity to the tortuous struggle of the human spirit in its concrete history. In the Philosophy of History, Hegel likens this struggle to the way an individual comes to maturity: in becoming self-conscious, one achieves full freedom, along with a responsibility to oneself. History, for Hegel, is the story of the development of the consciousness of freedom in the world—the development of the human spirit in time through the growth of its own self-consciousness.

In the Philosophy of History Hegel speaks of three “worlds”—actually three distinct world-outlooks: what Hegel calls the Oriental, the Greco-Roman, and the Germanic. These are linked only tenuously to specific times and geographical areas. But precisely because these “worlds” are not moored in a specific time or place, we may the more easily see them as standing in a formal relation to one another. In the Oriental World [taken in the broadest sense—e.g., ancient Egypt, China, etc.], only one person is free: the supreme monarch. In the Greco-Roman World, only some persons are free: those who are not slaves, women, aliens, et al. Finally in the Germanic World [i.e., the world of Christian Europe], all are free: by virtue of the spiritual identity accorded to all human individuals, all persons have the capacity for self-determination. In the relative degrees of freedom they permit, the three worlds stand in a dynamic relation to one another. History, for Hegel, is therefore a process of emancipation and enlightenment, with the aim of enabling us to construct a system of society wherein everyone can be regarded as free and autonomous, simply by virtue of being a person—conscious and rational.

This goal is not necessarily seen by history’s participants. What Hegel calls the “Cunning of Reason” can make use even of irrational drives in history’s players in order to achieve history’s rational goal. The major actors on the stage of history, the “world-historical individuals” (e.g., Napoleon), are not in the least aware that the World-Spirit is using them for purposes of its own, not theirs. And when history has finished with them, it discards them.

Hegel’s doctrines may be difficult to accept. Can we agree that the insane ambition that has so often moved the world-historical figures always leads to the fulfillment of rational goals, to the promoting of free and self-conscious social existence? Hegel was by no means blind to history’s dark side, and indeed he spoke of history as a “slaughter-bench.” Can we presume to say that some higher human goal is now nearer our grasp as a result of the universal suffering we have seen in our time?

If we adopt a wide enough perspective—say, we contrast ourselves with the earliest Homo sapiens—then we must surely see signs of progress. But it is the narrower range of comparison that poses the haunting questions. Thus what troubles us is whether the death and misery suffered by countless millions in this century can be seen to have contributed to some positive outcome. Even to ask that question seems a piece of monstrous arrogance, as though all that pain and death could be justified by any cause.

For Hegel, the goal of history can be said to be achieved when our individual and societal lives are fully in our control, so that we are able to give a conscious and rational shape to our lives as self-determining members of human society—a goal which an ancient Egyptian could hardly have imagined, let alone have hoped to achieve. It is this ideal that Hegel expresses in the Preface to his 1821 Philosophy of Right, with the phrase: “What is rational is real, and what is real is rational.” The rational is real: Reason manifests itself in the world, and is “realized” in it in both senses of that word: reason is made real by fulfilling its own standard of rationality; and reason is grasped by reason itself—as in “I realize what I am saying”—in the self-consciousness that constitutes its freedom. The real is rational: The fulfilled reality is fully rational in the twofold sense of being fully transparent to reason, and also in being the product of rational forethought.

The highest fulfillment to human life on earth would be the harmonious synthesis of reason and society, so that the one principle shapes the other: “man is a rational animal” and “man is a social animal.” The synthesis of these principles is an ideal as old as Plato. Hegel saw history as the struggle toward that end.

Hegel himself never published his Philosophy of History, but left only his lecture notes on the subject when he died. Afterward, these were combined with transcriptions that had been taken down by his student listeners. The 1840 compilation, prepared by Eduard Gans and Hegel’s son Karl, is the version used (as reprinted in the 1928 Glockner edition of Hegel’s Sämtliche Werke). The complete volume comprises over 500 pages, the greater portion being devoted to what we might call cultural history. In the 150-page Introduction, however, Hegel presents his philosophy of history, and that is the text of this translation.

Three other English translations known are those of Sibree (1857), Hartman (1953), and Nisbet (1975). This translation has avoided many of the weaknesses and corrected many of the errors in all three, and that the present work is clearer, more readable, and truer to Hegel.

In addition, this translation includes material not present in Hartman: Chapter Five, “The Geographical Basis of History” (interesting for what it says about America); and Chapter Six, “The Division of History.” Finally, included as an Appendix are paragraphs 341–360 of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right. This is especially important because it is Hegel’s own summary of the main themes of his philosophy of history. In his lectures, Hegel designates these paragraphs as the only substitute for a “textbook” he can offer to students of this subject. A bibliography of some Hegel texts and recent commentaries is also supplied.

The division into chapters is translators own doing. (Hartman’s divisions are similar, although our headings differ.) In the German text, the first four chapters run undivided. The separation, however arbitrary, is justified by the increased readability.

‘Hegel and the Philosophy of Right’ by Dudley Knowles

Published by Routledge in 2002.

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Hegel’s philosophy is essential to the history of ideas and to the development of philosophy and thought ever since. His Philosophy of Right is one of the great works in political philosophy and its importance to contemporary philosophy has been ongoing. It offers very important contributions to topics of great interest in political philosophy from discussions of persons and rights, property, punishment, moral psychology, civil society, freedom and war. Most significant is the work’s relation to Marxist thought and its major critique of Kant. Dudley Knowles provides and accessible introduction to this monumental work. He reviews Hegel’s life and the background to the work and carefully explains and discusses the key concepts of Hegel’s thought.

‘System of Ethical Life and First Philosophy of Spirit’ by Georg W. F. Hegel

Published by State University of New York Press in 1979.

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The first English translation and detailed interpretation of Hegel’s System der Sittlichkeit (1802-3) and Philosophie des Geistes by Harris and Knox, papers which are the two earliest surviving versions of Hegel’s social theory.

Hegel’s central concept of the spirit evolved in these two works. An excellent contribution to greater and complete understanding of Hegel, this volume provides key texts for the historical reconstruction and early evolution of Hegelian thought and belongs in all college and university libraries where 19th-century European philosophy, especially German Idealism, is seriously studied.


H. S. Harris is Professor of Philosophy and Humanities at Glendon College, York University. Sir Malcolm Knox is principal of the University of St. Andrews in Scotland.

‘The Athenian Owl and the Gallic Rooster—Dusk or Dawn?’ by Klaus Vieweg

Paper from Problemi International, No. 4, 2020 (Edited by Mladen Dolar)

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In Hegel’s metaphor of the owl of Minerva, thought is represented using the images of a goddess, an animal, together with a time of day, dusk. World history must first reach a certain stage of development before sufficient knowledge is possible. The general, universalistic concept of freedom, the idea of the freedom of all, could not dominate in the ancient world. Hegel alludes to the idea that his time represents the actual beginning of the modern world. The key concept of freedom allows the owl of science to begin its flight. This substantiates Hegel’s interpretation of the French Revolution: For the first time, a constitution is based on law, and this Minerva-like “headbirth” is what the prelude to modernity is based on. The revolution is a glorious sunrise, the beautiful dawn of freedom. It is the beginning of the possible realization of individual freedom in a free community. The goal or end purpose of history was considered to be universal freedom, the freedom of all, the modern world as the “end of history,” the freedom of everybody. The end of history can be interpreted—and this is the main intention of Hegelian thinking—as the actual beginning of human existence.

‘The Unity of Reason: Essays on Kant’s Philosophy’ by Dieter Henrich

Published by Harvard University Press in 1994.

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Kant holds a key position in the history of modern philosophy as the last great figure to belong fully to both the Anglo-American analytic tradition and the Continental tradition. As one the world’s foremost scholars of Kant and German Idealism, Dieter Henrich combines an encyclopedic knowledge of Kant’s texts with an equally profound understanding of the philosophers of preceding and succeeding centuries. In this collection comprising four of his most influential essays, Henrich proves himself unique in the conjunction of philosophical acumen, insight, and originality that he brings to Kant interpretation.

Henrich’s distinctive contribution has been to break through the entrenched stereotypes of the ontological and neo-Kantian schools of Kant interpretation in order to place Kant’s major ideas in their historical and developmental context, demonstrating their enduring philosophical significance. Henrich has shown how Kant’s attempt to overcome the dichotomy between rationalism and moral-sense philosophy led to a lifelong struggle to establish the unity of theoretical and practical reason and the inseparability of the motivational force of the principle of ethics from its function as a principle for ethical judgment. But Henrich has also shown how Kant’s project of unification contained fundamental tensions that called forth the projects of such post-Kantians as Schiller, Fichte, and Hegel, which explored new approaches within the Kantian framework.

The heart of Henrich’s interpretation of Kant, the essays in this book present a persuasive picture of the development of Kant’s moral philosophy and give an account of the argumentative strategies determining all the aspects of Kant’s philosophy. They reflect Henrich’s general interest in the unity of reason as well as his special interest in self-consciousness as both a key concept of modern philosophy and the key to the highly disputed interpretation of Kant’s transcendental deduction of categories.


Dieter Henrich is Professor Emeritus at the University of Munich and the author of dozens of books and articles.

G. W. F. Hegel, Philosophie des Rechts: Die Vorlesung von 1819/1820, Herausgegeben von Dieter Henrich

Suhrkamp, 1983.

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Hegel hat seine Vorlesung über Rechtsphilosophie insgesamt sechsmal vollständig gehalten. Ein besonderes Interesse gilt der Vorlesung des Wintersemesters 1819/20, weil Hegel zu dieser Zeit die entscheidende Überarbeitung vornimmt, die dem Drucktext seiner Philosophie des Rechts zugrundeliegt und damit das Hegel-Bild nachhaltig bestimmt hat.

“The Real Meaning of Hegel’s Master—Slave Dialectic” by Andrew Cole

Paper from The Birth of Theory. Download link updated on 26. June 2021.

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This paper responds to recent misreading’s of Hegel’s famous dialectic of the master and slave found within the most memorable section of Phenomenology of Spirit and finds textual support in Hegel’s work. It can, above all, be shown to be a materialist critique of feudalism so rigorous and perceptive, so illustrative of the dynamics of identity/difference, as to be the signal instance of what makes theory “critical” in the first place.

Following the history of identity/difference, pivoting from assessing the place of this logical, dialectical form in medieval philosophy, to its exemplary operations within the Phenomenology of Spirit, where Hegel places this special dialectic within history, showing in detail how identity/difference, of all logical terms, is an adequate depiction of the struggle for recognition and possession out of which emerges a universal form of self-consciousness at a particular moment in time.

We move, therefore, from philosophy and theory to “history”, yet—in aspiring to be true to dialectical form—looking closely at Hegel’s insights into the connection between history and theory, between criticism and its material surroundings, discerning what exactly gives Hegel his proto-Marxist edge, what makes him theoretical.

‘Hegel im Kontext’ von Dieter Henrich

Erste Auflage 1971. © Suhrkamp Verlag

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In diesem bereits klassischen Band zeigt Dieter Henrich, was es heißt, das Ganze von Hegels Denken durch präzise Einzelstudien zu erschließen. Nicht der philosophiegeschichtliche Überblick, sondern die genaue Analyse historischer Konstellationen und die schrittweise Rekonstruktion zentraler Argumente erweisen sich hier als Königsweg zum Verständnis des Philosophen. Dabei führt Henrich auf folgenreiche Weise begriffliche Mittel der angloamerikanischen analytischen Philosophie in die Interpretation Hegels ein und antizipiert die Ansätze seiner eigenen späteren großen Projekte zur Konstellationsforschung.

Zwischen Hölderlin und Marx, zwischen Hegels Tübinger Anfängen und der Ausarbeitung des Systems eröffnen sie Zugänge zu Hegels Texten und ihren Kontexten, die wegweisend bleiben. Bei aller historischen Akribie verlieren sie doch niemals ihre eigentliche Absicht aus den Augen: deutlich werden zu lassen, »was eigentlich vorgeht in Hegels Denken«.


Geboren am 5. Januar 1927 in Marburg, studierte Dieter Henrich von 1946 bis 1950 in Marburg, Frankfurt und Heidelberg  (u.a. bei Hans-Georg Gadamer) Philosophie. 1950 Dissertation: Die Grundlagen der Wissenschaftslehre Max Webers. Nach der Habilitation 1955/56 Lehrtätigkeiten als ordentlicher Professor in Berlin (ab 1960) und Heidelberg (ab 1965),  Gastprofessuren  in den USA (Harvard, Columbia, University of Michigan, Yale);  1981  Berufung an die Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität in München, Ordinarius für Philosophie bis zur Emeritierung 1994. Seit 1997 Honorarprofessor an der Berliner Humboldt-Universität.

‘Dieter Henrich and Contemporary Philosophy: The Return to Subjectivity’ by Dieter Freundlieb

Published by Routledge in 2017.

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Dieter Henrich is one of the most respected and frequently cited philosophers in Germany today. His extensive and highly innovative studies of German Idealism and his systematic analyses of subjectivity have significantly impacted on advanced German philosophical and theological debates.

Dieter Henrich and Contemporary Philosophy presents a comprehensive analysis of Henrich’s work on subjectivity, evaluating it in the context of contemporary debates in both continental and analytic traditions. Familiarising the non-German reader with an important development in contemporary German philosophy, this book explains the significance of subjectivity for any philosophy that attempts to offer existential orientation and contrasts competing conceptions in analytic philosophy and in the social philosophy of Jürgen Habermas.

Presenting Henrich’s philosophy of subjectivity as a credible alternative to analytic philosophy of mind and a radical challenge to Heideggerian, Habermasian, neo-pragmatist, and postmodern positions, Freundlieb argues that a philosophy of the kind developed by Henrich can regain the cultural significance philosophical thinking once possessed.


Dieter Freundlieb is Senior Lecturer in the School of Humanities, Griffith University, Australia

‘The Idea of Hegel’s “Science of Logic”’ by Stanley Rosen

Published by University of Chicago Press in 2013.

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Although Hegel considered Science of Logic essential to his philosophy, it has received scant commentary compared with the other three books he published in his lifetime. Here philosopher Stanley Rosen rescues the Science of Logic from obscurity, arguing that its neglect is responsible for contemporary philosophy’s fracture into many different and opposed schools of thought. Through deep and careful analysis, Rosen sheds new light on the precise problems that animate Hegel’s overlooked book and their tremendous significance to philosophical conceptions of logic and reason.

Rosen’s overarching question is how, if at all, rationalism can overcome the split between monism and dualism. Monism—which claims a singular essence for all things—ultimately leads to nihilism, while dualism, which claims multiple, irreducible essences, leads to what Rosen calls “the endless chatter of the history of philosophy.” The Science of Logic, he argues, is the fundamental text to offer a new conception of rationalism that might overcome this philosophical split. Leading readers through Hegel’s book from beginning to end, Rosen’s argument culminates in a masterful chapter on the Idea in Hegel. By fully appreciating the Science of Logic and situating it properly within Hegel’s oeuvre, Rosen in turn provides new tools for wrangling with the conceptual puzzles that have brought so many other philosophers to disaster.


Stanley Rosen (1929–2014) was the Borden Parker Bowne Professor and University Professor Emeritus at Boston University. He is the author of many books, including Nihilism: A Philosophical EssayThe Limits of Analysis, and Plato’s Republic: A Study, among others.

‘Inventing the Market: Smith, Hegel, and Political Theory’ by Lisa Herzog

Published by Oxford University Press in 2013.

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Inventing the Market: Smith, Hegel, and Political Theory analyses the constructions of the market in the thought of Adam Smith and Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel and discusses their relevance for contemporary political philosophy. Combining the history of ideas with systematic analysis, it contrasts Smith’s view of the market as a benevolently designed ‘contrivance of nature’ with Hegel’s view of the market as a ‘relic of the state of nature.’ The differences in their views of the market are then connected to four central themes of political philosophy: identity, justice, freedom, and history. The conceptualization of the labour market as an exchange of human capital or as a locus for the development of a professional identity has an impact on how one conceptualizes the relation between individual and community. Comparing Smith’s and Hegel’s views of the market also helps to understand how social justice can be realized through or against markets, and under what conditions it makes sense to apply a notion of desert to labour market outcomes. For both authors, markets are not only spaces of negative liberty, but are connected to other aspects of liberty, such as individual autonomy and political self-government, in subtle and complex ways. Seeing Smith’s and Hegel’s account of the market as historical accounts, however, reminds us that markets are no a-historical phenomena, but depend on cultural and social preconditions and on the theories that are used to describe them. The book as a whole argues for becoming more conscious of the pictures of the market that have shaped our understanding, which can open up the possibility of alternative pictures and alternative realities.


Lisa Herzog, Professor for Political Philosophy and Theory at the Bavarian School of Public Policy

Lisa Herzog studied philosophy, political theory, history, and economics at the Universities of Munich and Oxford and completed her doctoral thesis in political theory as a Rhodes Scholar at New College, University of Oxford. Her areas of research include political philosophy, philosophy of the market, business ethics, and the history of political and economic thought. Her work has appeared in journals such as Philosophy, Politics and Economics, Philosophy and Rhetoric and Deutsche Zeitschrift fur Philosophie, and she occasionally writes for newspapers such as Die ZEIT. She has recently received the Sir Ernest Barker Prize for the Best Dissertation in Political Theory and the Ernst Bloch Forderpreis. She is a Postdoctoral researcher at Goethe University Frankfurt and Institut für Sozialforschung.

‘Hegel on Beauty’ by Julia Peters

Published by Routledge in 2017.

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While the current philosophical debate surrounding Hegel’s aesthetics focuses heavily on the philosopher’s controversial ‘end of art’ thesis, its participants rarely give attention to Hegel’s ideas on the nature of beauty and its relation to art. This study seeks to remedy this oversight by placing Hegel’s views on beauty front and center.

Peters asks us to rethink the common assumption that Hegelian beauty is exclusive to art and argues that for Hegel beauty, like art, is subject to historical development. Her careful analysis of Hegel’s notion of beauty not only has crucial implications for our understanding of the ‘end of art’ and Hegel’s aesthetics in general, but also sheds light on other fields of Hegel’s philosophy, in particular his anthropology and aspects of his ethical thought.


Julia Peters is Assistant Professor in Philosophy at the University of Tuebingen, Germany. She specializes in Kant and German Idealism and has published a number of articles on Hegel’s Aesthetics, Anthropology and Philosophy of Mind. In addition she works on contemporary virtue ethics.

‘Hegel’s Philosophy of Nature’ translated by Michael John Petry

Published by Routledge in 2002.

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If the Hegelian system is to be fully appreciated, it has to be grasped as a whole. Experience has shown that this is no easy matter, not only because the general principles involved in its structuralization have never been clearly presented and effectively criticized, but because, in the range of its subject matter, it is so bewilderingly comprehensive. Hegel’s own teaching experience had made him aware of the difficulties involved in communicating satisfactorily however, and it was mainly in order that his system might be conveniently considered in its entirety that he produced his Encyclopaedia.

This work, which is therefore central to any understanding of his manner of thinking, was designed as a general guide to the courses of lectures he delivered at Heidelberg and Berlin between 1816 and 1831. As it was primarily a teaching book, he was constantly revising it, and during his lifetime three editions of it were prepared for the press (1817, 1827, 1830). The lectures were designed mainly for undergraduates, and it is therefore a consideration of Hegel as an encyclopaedist and a teacher which provides one of the readiest introductions to his philosophical system.

Jugoslavija: Smrt Države

Kniga najprej objavljena s strani britanskega založnika Penguin leta 1995, povezava vsebuje prvo ter drugo izdajo.

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Smrt Jugoslavije, kasneje preimenovano v Jugoslavija: Smrt Države v novejši in posodobljeni različici, je z BAFTA* nagrajena dokumentarna serija v šestih delih posneta s strani britanskega BBC in najprej predvajana leta 1995, kot hkrati tudi ime knjige spisane s strani Allan Little in Laura Silber, ki spremlja dokumentarec.

Knjiga ter film prikazujeta propad bivše Jugoslavije izpred treh desetletij. Odlikuje se po kombinaciji ekskluzivnih arhivskih gradiv, ki jih spremljajo vstavljeni intervjuji z večino glavnih akterjov vojne, vključno s Slobodan Miloševićem, vodjo Srbskega nacionalizma ter takratnega predsednika Srbije, skozi osamosvojitev Slovenije in Hrvaške, pa tja do vojne v Bosni. Filmsko ter knjižno gradivo časovno ne sežeta do krize na področju Kosova in osamosvojitvi Črne gore.

Videoposnetki so nadglašeni v angleščini ter vsebujejo angleške podnapise, vsi intervjuji so pa v izvornem jeziku nastopajočih govorcev. Povezava za prenos vsebuje obe različici izdaje knjige v .pdf formatu ter vseh šest delov dokumentarca v .mkv formatu. Za odpiranje .mkv datotek na sistemih Linux, Windows, Mac in Android je priporočena uporaba zastonjskega odprtokodnega programa VLC, sicer bi pa načeloma datoteke morale bit berljive s strani vseh relativno novejših predvajalnikov ter televizorjev.

*BAFTA je Britanska Akademija Filmskih in Televizijskih Umetnosti, film je prejel nagrado za najboljšo faktično dokumentarno serijo.


Prvi del: Vzpon nacionalizma

Po smrti Josipa Broza Tita, vzpenjajoč nacionalizem zagrabi Jugoslavijo. Vzpon nacionalizma se pospeši čim Slobodan Milošević prevzame oblast v Srbiji in obrne hrbet Kosovskim Albancem.


Drug del: Pot k vojni

Aprila 1990 so na Hrvaškem prve demokratične parlamentarne volitve. Etnični srbi na Hrvaškem se počutijo ogrožene s strani nacionalističnega tona Hrvaškega na novo izvoljenega predsednika Franjo Tudđmana in začnejo tako imenovano Revolucijo hlodov meseca avgusta 1990. Devetnajstega maja 1991 se na Hrvaškem začne referendum za neodvisnost, ki ga podpre velika večina. Bitka na Vukovarju avgusta 1991 je prva velika vojna bitka v Hrvaški vojni za neodvisnost.


Tretji del: Vojne za samostojnost

Slovenija in Hrvaška kmalu razglasita samostojnost in zaprosita za mednarodno pripoznanje. Ampak Beograd (prestolnica tako Srbije kot Jugoslavije) se s tem ne strinja, saj to hkrati pomeni razpad Jugoslavije kot take.


Četrti del: Vrata pekla

Ko se vojna med Srbijo in Hrvaško konča s podpisom sporazuma, se Srbija vmeša v Bosno, kjer je veliko na kocki. Tukaj se začne najdaljši in najbolj tragični del konflikta.


Peti del: Varno območje

Medtem ko se situacija v Bosni poslabšuje pride do dodatnega konflikta med Srbskimi in Bosanskimi vojaškimi silami. Začenja se povišano vmešavanje Združenih Narodov, hkrati vstopi NATO. Bosanci in Hrvati dosežejo sporazum posredovan s strani Združenih Narodov, medtem ko drug sporazum Združenih Narodov propade, čeprav so ga podpisale vse strani. Izpostavljeno sta trpljenje in pregon bosanskih muslimanov.


Šesti del: Pax Amerikana

Hrvaška sproži Operacijo Nevihta in znova prevzame večino teritorije samo-razglašene Republike Srbske Krajine kar vodi v masovno selitev srbske populacije iz Hrvaške. Bosanski srbi povzročijo genocid v Srebrenici in Markala. V odziv NATO sproži Operacijo Namenska Sila ki prisili Bosanske srbe da se vrnejo k pogajanjem. Združene Države Amerike izpogaja Dajtonov sporazum, ki zaključi vojno v Bosni.

‘Hegel im verdrahteten Gehirn’ von Slavoj Žižek

S. Fischer Verlag GmbH, 2020

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Hegel ist veraltet. Aber gerade deshalb – so die Pointe von Meisterdenker Slavoj Žižek – können wir durch seine Linse die Gegenwart besser verstehen. Anstatt also zu ermitteln, was an Hegels Denken heute noch aktuell ist, dreht Žižek die Frage um: Wie sieht unsere Gegenwart aus, wenn wir sie mit Hegel betrachten? Und es stellt sich heraus: Wir verstehen sie viel besser, gerade weil Hegel sie sich in keiner Weise vorstellen konnte.

Žižeks Gegenstand ist das »verdrahtete Gehirn«: Was wird geschehen, wenn der menschliche Geist sich tatsächlich mit einer Maschine verdrahten kann? Welche Auswirkungen wird das auf unsere Subjektivität haben? Werden wir noch vom Unbewussten sprechen können? Wie lassen sich Geist und Materie dann denken? Und was wird aus der Freiheit? Unter Rückgriff auf Denker wie u.a. Johann Gottlieb Fichte, Jacques Lacan, Ray Kurzweil oder Yuval Noah Harari, und unter Zuhilfenahme zahlreicher Hollywood-Filme als Beispiel, diskutiert Žižek die Implikationen einer technischen Vision. Ein Thema, das für Hegel undenkbar war – und damit bestens geeignet, seine Aktualität zu erweisen. Folglich durchdenkt es Žižek in Hegelscher Manier und beweist damit: »Philosophie ist ihre Zeit in Gedanken erfasst«.

‘Žižek and the Rhetorical Unconscious: Global Politics, Philosophy, and Subjectivity’ by Robert Samuels

Published by Palgrave Macmillan in 2020.

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This book builds on a critique of Slavoj Žižek’s work to outline a new theory of psychoanalytic rhetoric. It turns to Žižek because not only is he one of the most popular intellectuals in the world, but, this book argues, his discourse is shaped by a set of unconscious rhetorical processes that also determine much of contemporary politics, culture, and subjectivity.

Just as Aristotle argued that the three main forms of persuasion are logos (reason), pathos (emotion), and ethos (authority), Samuels describes each one of these aspects of communication as related to a fundamental psychoanalytic concept. He also turns to Aristotle’s work on theater to introduce a fourth form of rhetoric, catharsis, which is the purging of feelings of fear and pity.

Adding a strong voice to current psychoanalytic debate, this book will be of value to all scholars and students interested in both the history and modern developments of psychoanalytic theory.


Table of Contents

1 Introduction
2 Catharsis: The Politics of Enjoyment
3 Pathos, Hysteria, and the Left
4 Ethos, Transference, and Liberal Cynicism
5 Logos, Global Justice, and the Reality Principle
6 Conclusion: Communism or Commonism?

Index


Robert Samuels has doctorates in Psychoanalysis and English. He teaches advanced writing and rhetoric at the University of California, Santa Barbara, USA. He is the author of fifteen books, including Freud for the Twenty-First Century.

‘Žižek Studies—The Greatest Hits (So Far)’ edited by David J. Gunkel & Paul A. Taylor

Published by Peter Lang Inc., International Academic Publishers in 2019.

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This compendium assembles and presents the best work published in the field of Žižek Studies over the last ten years, providing teachers, students, and researchers with a carefully curated volume of leading-edge scholarship addressing the unique and sometimes eclectic work of Slovenian philosopher and cultural critic Slavoj Žižek.

The chapters included in this collection have been rigorously tested in and culled from the (virtual) pages of the International Journal of Žižek Studies, a leading open access journal that began publication in 2007. The book is organized into three sections or subject areas where Žižek and his seemingly indefatigable efforts have had significant impact: philosophy, politics, and popular culture.

As a “greatest hits”, the book offers the long-time fan and uninitiated newcomer alike a comprehensive overview of the wide range of opportunity in the field of Žižek studies and a remarkable collection of truly interdisciplinary “hits” (or misses) from a diverse set of innovative and accomplished writers.


David J. Gunkel is Distinguished Teaching Professor in the Department of Communication at Northern Illinois University, USA. He is a founding editor of the International Journal of Žižek Studies.

Paul A. Taylor is Senior Lecturer in Communications Theory at the University of Leeds, UK. He is a founding editor of the International Journal of Žižek Studies.

‘Lacan: A Genealogy’ by Miguel de Beistegui

Published by Bloomsbury Academic in 2021.

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Lacan: A Genealogy provides a genealogical account of Lacan’s work as a whole, from his early writings on paranoid psychosis to his later work on the real and surplus enjoyment.

Beistegui argues that Lacan’s work requires an in-depth genealogy to chart and interpret the his key concept of desire. The genealogy is both a historical and critical approach, inspired by Foucault, which consists in asking how – that is, by what theoretical and practical transformations, by the emergence of which discourses of truth, which institutions, and which power relations – our current subjectivity was shaped. Desire is a crucial thread throughout because it lies at the heart not only of liberal political economy, psychiatry and psychopathology, and the various discourses of recognition (from philosophy to psychology and the law) that shape our current politics of identity, but also, and more importantly, of the manner in which we understand, experience and indeed govern ourselves, ethically and politically.

A novel reading of Lacan that foregrounds the radicality and urgency of his concepts and the relationship between desire, norm and the law.


Miguel de Beistegui offers us an extensive and intriguing genealogy of the central Lacanian concept of desire. On the one hand this genealogy is undertaken in Foucauldian spirit, extending the critical assessment of psychoanalytic focus on desire and Law, but on the other hand the book also convincingly shows how Lacan’s project exceeds this framework and offers powerful tools for critical thought and radical engagement with the liberal logic of desire. Insightful and absorbing.

– Mladen Dolar, Professor and Senior Research Fellow at the Department of Philosophy, University of Ljubljana, Slovenia

‘Posthuman Glossary’ edited by Rosi Braidotti & Maria Hlavajova

Published by Bloomsbury Academic in 2018.

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If art, science, and the humanities have shared one thing, it was their common engagement with constructions and representations of the human. Under the pressure of new contemporary concerns, however, we are experiencing a “posthuman condition”; the combination of new developments-such as the neoliberal economics of global capitalism, migration, technological advances, environmental destruction on a mass scale, the perpetual war on terror and extensive security systems- with a troublesome reiteration of old, unresolved problems that mean the concept of the human as we had previously known it has undergone dramatic transformations.

The Posthuman Glossary is a volume providing an outline of the critical terms of posthumanity in present-day artistic and intellectual work. It builds on the broad thematic topics of Anthropocene/Capitalocene, eco-sophies, digital activism, algorithmic cultures and security and the inhuman. It outlines potential artistic, intellectual, and activist itineraries of working through the complex reality of the ‘posthuman condition’, and creates an understanding of the altered meanings of art vis-à-vis critical present-day developments. It bridges missing links across disciplines, terminologies, constituencies and critical communities. This original work will unlock the terms of the posthuman for students and researchers alike.

‘Chevengur’ by Andrei Platonov

Published by Ardis in 1978.

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Platonov’s epic novel was written in 1927-28, but only small pieces have been published in the USSR, and even the emigre Russian edition is seriously flawed by omissions. The reasons for the censorship are not hard to find. Platonov argued that it was an ‘honest attempt to portray the beginning of Communist society,’ but Maxim Gorky, though one of the first to praise the novel, said it would never pass the censors: ‘I do not think it will be published. Your anarchic cast of mind will prevent this… For all your tenderness towards people, they are always described ironically, turn out to be ‘characters’ or ‘half-wits’.’

Indeed, Platonov describes a bizarre world where the peasants totally refuse to work (because the Revolution means the Golden Age has come), and the Party leaders’ humanistic ideals lead only to inhumanity. Chevengur is a massive series of satirical scenes from Soviet life during the New Economic Policy instituted by Lenin in the 1920s, the story of the efforts of provincial builders of Communism–but in their grotesque Utopia, Cheka murders are the only thing efficiently organized. Chevengur is Platonov’s longest work, his most sustained critique of the philosophical precepts and practical results of the Revolution. It is a novel of overwhelming power.


To preserve Beckett, Kafka and the Russian Andrei Platonov I would be ready to burn all other books!

— Slavoj Žižek

‘Collected Works’ by Andrey Platonov

Published by Ardis Publishers in 1978.

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Platonov produced a great body of work, including fiction, plays poetry, essays, and scenarios. The chasm between the ideals of the “new men” and the reality of provincial life is one of Platonov’s main themes. The Party boss who is blind to suffering and real problems is one of his favorite villains. His favorite heroes are working men – laborers, mechanics, craftsmen – who have intimate relations with both nature and machines. Usually because of supervisors who misuse both machines and men, the heroes come to unhappy ends.


Andrey Platonovich Platonov (1899–1951) was the son of a railway worker. The eldest of eleven children, he began work at the age of thirteen, eventually becoming an engine driver’s assistant. He began publishing poems and articles in 1918, while studying engineering. Throughout much of the Twenties Platonov worked as a land reclamation expert, draining swamps, digging wells, and also building three small power stations. Between 1927 and 1932 he wrote his most politically controversial works, some of them first published in the Soviet Union only in the late 1980s. Other stories were published but subjected to vicious criticism. Stalin is reputed to have written “scum” in the margin of the story For Future Use, and to have said to Alexander Fadeyev (later Secretary of the Writers’ Union), “Give him a good belting—for future use!” During the Thirties Platonov made several public confessions of error, but went on writing stories only marginally more acceptable to the authorities. His son was sent to the Gulag in 1938, aged fifteen; he was released three years later, only to die of the tuberculosis he had contracted there. From September 1942, after being recommended to the chief editor of Red Star by his friend Vasily Grossman, Platonov worked as a war correspondent and managed to publish several volumes of stories; after the war, however, he was again almost unable to publish. He died in 1951, of tuberculosis caught from his son. Happy Moscow, one of his finest short novels, was first published in 1991; a complete text of Soul was first published only in 1999; letters, notebook entries, and unfinished stories continue to appear.


Table of Contents

  • Preface to The Foundation Pit (Joseph Brodsky)
  • The Foundation Pit (Thomas P. Whitney)
  • The Barrel Organ. A Play in Three Acts (Cari R. Proffer)
  • The Epifan Locks (Marion Jordan)
  • The Potudan River (Alexey A. Kiselev)
  • Homecoming (Alexey A. Kiselev)
  • Light of Life (Alexey A. Kiselev)
  • The Cow (Alexey A. Kiselev)
  • The Takyr (Marion Jordan)
  • The Third Son (Alexey A. Kiselev)
  • Fro (Alexey A. Kiselev)
  • The City of Gradov (Friederike Snyder)
  • Makar the Doubtful (Alexey A. Kiselev)

‘The Anti-Sexus’ by Andrey Platonov


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In 1926, Russian Marxist author Andrey Platonov composed The Anti-Sexus, a remarkable text which remained, like so many of his other writings, unpublished during his lifetime.

The work is a fictional brochure, issued by the company Berkman, Châteloy, and Son, Ltd. and “translated” from French by Platonov, that advertised an electromagnetic instrument promising to relieve sexual urges in an efficient and hygienic manner.

The device, available in both male and female models, had a special regulator for the duration of pleasure and could be fitted for either personal or collective use. The purported occasion for the pamphlet was the company’s expansion into the Soviet market after its success in many other parts of the world.

The brochure includes a statement touting the virtues of the “Anti-Sexus” and the company’s mission to “abolish the sexual savagery of mankind,” and is followed by testimonials by a number of illustrious figures, from Henry Ford and Oswald Spengler to Gandhi and Mussolini.

The Anti-Sexus, we are told, has many benefits and applications: it is perfect for maintaining soldiers’ morale during wartime, for improving the efficiency of factory workers, for taming restless natives in the colonies. It also fosters true friendship and human understanding by taking sexual folly out of the social equation.

The “translator” has added a critical preface where he condemns the cynicism and vulgarity of the enterprise, even while praising the pamphlet’s writerly merits. He explains that the reason he decided to publish the text was to openly reveal the bourgeoisie’s moral bankruptcy. No Bolshevik can read this capitalist drivel without a hearty laugh. The Anti-Sexus thus advertises itself as the surest form of “contra-‘antisexual’ agitprop.”

Sex and Anti-Sex: Introduction to Andrei Platonov’s Anti-Sexus
by Aaron Schuster


This is the reprint from Cabinet of the first English translation, by Anne O. Fisher, of Andrei Platonov’s The Anti-Sexus, written in 1926. Originally signed “Andrei Platonov, translator from the French,” the text purported to be a promotional pamphlet translated into Russian by Platonov. The Anti-Sexus was not published in its original Russian until 1981, when it was included in a special issue of Russian Literature, with annotations provided by Thomas Langerak; the endnotes provided here rely heavily on his authoritative commentary.

‘Soul’ by Andrey Platonov

Published by New York Review of Books Classics in 2007.

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The Soviet writer Andrey Platonov saw much of his work suppressed or censored in his lifetime. In recent decades, however, these lost works have reemerged, and the eerie poetry and poignant humanity of Platonov’s vision have become ever more clear. For Nadezhda Mandelstam and Joseph Brodsky, Platonov was the writer who most profoundly registered the spiritual shock of revolution. For a new generation of innovative post-Soviet Russian writers he figures as a daring explorer of word and world, the master of what has been called “alternative realism.” Depicting a devastated world that is both terrifying and sublime, Platonov is, without doubt, a universal writer who is as solitary and haunting as Kafka.

This volume gathers eight works that show Platonov at his tenderest, warmest, and subtlest. Among them are The Return, about an officer’s difficult homecoming at the end of World War II, described by Penelope Fitzgerald as one of “three great works of Russian literature of the millennium”; The River Potudan, a moving account of a troubled marriage; and the title novella, the extraordinary tale of a young man unexpectedly transformed by his return to his Asian birthplace, where he finds his people deprived not only of food and dwelling, but of memory and speech.

This prizewinning English translation is the first to be based on the newly available uncensored texts of Platonov’s short fiction.

The Portable Platonov

Published by Glas: New Russian Writing in 1999. Glas edited by Natasha Perova and Arch Tait

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Platonov vividly presents the dreams of the builders of socialism in all their inarticulate confusion, with a sympathy not lessened by an unaparalleled awareness of their tragic consequences. Through incongruity of verbal choices and juxtapositions Platonov expanded the limits of meaning and lent words new and unexpected dimensions.

After a lifetime of persecution Andrey Platonov (1899-1951) has emerged as one of the greatest Russian writers of the century, an artist of profound genius, integrity, and clarity of vision. His distinctive writing style has long defied translation. Joseph Brodsky looked on him as the equal of Joyce, Kafka, and Proust. This collection includes representative facets of Platanov’s genius, his play Fourteen Red Huts, folktales, and his story Among Animals and Plants.


In this century the best Russian prose has been written by our poets and Platonov, but he is an exception . . . Platonov speaks of a nation which in a sense has become a victim of its own language; or, more precisely, he speaks of this language itself which turns out to be capable of generating a fictive world and then falling into grammatical dependence on it.

—Joseph Brodsky


No work of literature conveys this yawning gap between aspiration and reality, between truth and falsehood, as powerfully and succinctly as The Foundation Pit by Andrey Platonov.

—Geoffrey Hosking

‘PHILOSOPHY: Spinoza, Kant, Hegel and… Badiou!’ by Slavoj Žižek

Essay as published on lacan.com (with a few typographical errors corrected)

Section I: Introduction – Spinoza


INTRODUCTION

One of the unwritten rules of today’s academia from France to the US is the injunction to love Spinoza. Everyone loves him, from the Althusserian strict “scientific materialists” to Deleuzean schizo-anarchists, from rationalist critics of religion to the partisans of liberal freedoms and tolerances, not to mention feminists like Genevieve Lloyd who propose to decipher the mysterious third type of knowledge in Ethics as feminine intuitive knowledge surpassing the male analytic understanding… Is it, then, possible at all not to love Spinoza? Who can be against a lone Jew who, on the top of it, was excommunicated by the “official” Jewish community itself? One of the most touching expressions of this love is how one often attributes to him almost divine capacities – like Pierre Macherey who (in his otherwise admirable Hegel ou Spinoza), against the Hegelian critique of Spinoza, claims that one cannot avoid the impression that Spinoza had already read Hegel and in advance answered his reproaches… Perhaps, the most appropriate first step to render problematic this status of Spinoza is to draw attention to the fact that it is totally incompatible with what is arguably the hegemonic stance in today’s Cultural Studies, that of the ethico-theological “Judaic” turn of deconstruction best exemplified by the couple Derrida/Levinas – is there a philosopher more foreign to this orientation than Spinoza? Or, even, more foreign to the Jewish universe which, precisely, is the universe of God as radical Otherness, of the enigma of the divine, of the God of negative prohibitions instead of positive injunctions? Were, then, the Jewish priests in a way not RIGHT to excommunicate Spinoza?

Yet, instead of engaging in this rather boring academic exercise of opposing Spinoza and Levinas, what I want to accomplish is a consciously old-fashioned Hegelian reading of Spinoza – what both Spinozeans and Levinasians share is radical anti-Hegelianism. My starting hypothesis is that, in the history of modern thought, the triad of paganism-Judaism-Christianity repeats itself twice, first as Spinoza-Kant-Hegel, then as Deleuze-Derrida-Lacan. Deleuze deploys the One-Substance as the indifferent medium of multitude; Derrida inverts it into the radical Otherness which differs from itself; finally, in a kind of “negation of negation,” Lacan brings back the cut, the gap, into the One itself. The point is not so much to play Spinoza and Kant against each other, thus securing the triumph of Hegel; it is rather to present the three philosophical positions in all their unheard-of radicality – in a way, the triad Spinoza-Kant-Hegel DOES encompass the whole of philosophy…

(This simplified picture should, of course, be further elaborated. What about the interesting mediate role of Lyotard who passed from paganism to the celebration of Jewish Otherness? And do we not find in Derrida’s development a shift symmetrical to that of Lyotard, from Hegel back to Kant? That is to say, in his otherwise unreadable professorial What Is Neo-Structuralism?, Manfred Frank was right at one point: in his insistence on the link between Derrida’s differance and the Hegelian self-differentiating movement of the absolute Concept – in the early Derrida, there is no place for “deconstruction as justice” in the sense of justice-to-come, of justice as the the “indeconstructible condition of deconstruction,” of the Messianic promise of total redemption… One of the commonplaces about Lacan is that the same goes also for him: the Lacan of the early 1950s was Hegelian (under the influence of Kojeve and Hyppolite, of course), often directly designates the analyst as the figure of the Hegelian philosopher, the work of analysus as following the Hegelian “cunning of reason,” the end of analysis as “absolute knowledge,” the mediation of all particular content in the universal symbolic medium, etc.; in clear contrast, the “Lacan of the Real” asserts some traumatic core of the Real which forever resists being integrated into the Symbolic – and he does this by way of linking the Freudian das Ding with the Kantian Thing-in-itself. [1] We can clearly discern here the contours of the Lacan of symbolic castration: the Thing is prohibited, and this prohibition, far from thwarting desire, sustains it – in short, the symbolic order functions like Kant’s transcendental screen through which renders reality accessible and simultaneously prevents our direct access to it?

Seminar XI, Lacan struggled to overcome this Kantian horizon – the clearest indication of it is his reactualization of the concept of drive. Drive functions beyond symbolic castration, as an inherent detour, topological twist, of the Real itself – and Lacan’s path from desire to drive is the path from Kant to Hegel. This shift in late Lacan from the “transcendental” logic (symbolic castration as the ultimate horizon of our experience, emptying the place of the Thing and thus opening up the space for our desire) to the dimension “beyond castration,” i.e., to a position which claims that, “beyond castration,” there is not only the abyss of the Night of the Thing which swallows us, also has direct political consequences: the “transcendental” Lacan is obviously the “Lacan of democracy” (the empty place of Power for whose temporary occupancy multiple political subjects compete, against the “totalitarian” subject who claims to act directly for the Other’s jouissance), while Lacan “beyond castration” points towards a post-democratic politics. – There are thus three phases in the relationship of Lacan towards the tension between Kant and Hegel: from the universal-Hegelian self-mediation in the totality of the Symbolic, he passes to the Kantian notion of the transcendent Thing which resists this mediation, and then, in an additional twist, he transposes the gap that separates all signifying traces from the Otherness into the immanence itself, as its inherent cut.)

SPINOZA

So what is Spinoza? He is effectively the philosopher of Substance, and at a precise historical moment: AFTER Descartes. For that reason, he is able to draw all (unexpected, for most of us) consequences from it. Substance means, first of all, that there is no mediation between the attributes: each attribute (thoughts, bodies…) is infinite in itself, it has no outer limit where it would touch another attribute – “substance” is the very name for this absolutely neutral medium of the multitude of attributes. This lack of mediation is the same as the lack of subjectivity, because subject IS such a mediation: it ex-sists in/through what Deleuze, in The Logic of Sense, called the “dark precursor,” the mediator between the two different series, the point of suture between them. So what is missing in Spinoza is the elementary “twist” of dialectical inversion which characterizes negativity, the inversion by means of which the very renunciation to desire turns into desire of renunciation, etc. What is unthinkable for him is what Freud called “death drive”: the idea that conatus is based on a fundamental act of self-sabotaging. Spinoza, with his assertion of conatus, of every entity’s striving to persist and strengthen its being and, in this way, striving for happiness, remains within the Aristotelian frame of what a good life is – what is outside his scope is the what Kant calls “categorical imperative,” an unconditional thrust that parasitizes upon a human subject without any regard for its well-being, “beyond the pleasure-principle,” and that, for Lacan, is the name of desire at its purest.

The first philosophical consequence of this notion of Substance is the motif on which Deleuze insists so much: the univocity of being; among other things, this univocity means that the mechanisms of establishing ontological links which Spinoza describes are thoroughly NEUTRAL with regard to their “good” or “bad” effects. Spinoza thus avoids both traps of the standard approach: he neither dismisses the mechanism which constitutes a multitude as the source of irrational destructive mob, nor does he celebrate it as the source of altruistic self-overcoming and solidarity. Of course, he was deeply and painfully aware of the destructive potential of the “multitude” – recall THE big political trauma of his life, a wild mob lynching de Witt brothers, his political allies; however, he was aware that the noblest collective acts are generated by exactly the same mechanism – in short, democracy and a lynching mob have the same source. It is with regard to this neutrality that the gap which separates Negri and Hardt from Spinoza becomes palpable: in The Empire, we find a celebration of multitude as the force of resistance, while in Spinoza, the concept of multitude qua crowd is fundamentally ambiguous: multitude is resistance to the imposing One, but, at the same time, it designates what we call “mob,” a wild, “irrational” explosion of violence which, through imitatio afecti, feeds on itself and self-propels itself. This profound insight of Spinoza gets lost in today’s ideology of multitude: the thorough “undecidability” of the crowd – “crowd” designates a certain mechanism which engenders social link, and THIS VERY SAME mechanism which supports, say, the enthusiastic formation of social solidarity, also supports the explosive spread of racist violence. What the “imitation of affects” introduces is the notion of trans-individual circulation and communication: as Deleuze later developed in a Spinozean vein, affects are not something that belongs to a subject and is then passed over to another subject; affects function at the pre-individual level, as free-floating intensities which belong to no one and circulate at a level “beneath” intersubjectivity. This is what is so new about imitatio afecti: the idea that affects circulate DIRECTLY, as what psychoanalysis calls “partial objects.”

The next philosophical consequence is the thorough rejection of negativity: each entity strives towards its full actualization – every obstacle comes from outside. In short, since every entity endeavors to persist in its own being, nothing can be destroyed from within, for all change must come from without. What Spinoza excludes with his rejection of negativity is the very symbolic order, since, as we have learned already from Saussure, the minimal definition of the symbolic order is that every identity is reducible to a bundle (faisceau – the same root as in Fascism!) of differences: the identity of signifier resides solely in its difference(s) from other signifier(s). What this amounts to is that the absence can exert a positive causality – only within a symbolic universe is the fact that the dog did not bark an event… This is what Spinoza want to dispense with – all that he admits is a purely positive network of causes-effects in which by definition an absence cannot play any positive role. Or, to put it in yet another way: Spinoza is not ready to admit into the order of ontology what he himself, in his critique of the anthropomorphic notion of god, describes as a false notion which just fills in the lacunae in our knowledge – say, an object which, in its very positive existence, just gives body to a lack. For him, any negativity is “imaginary,” the result of our anthropomorphic limited false knowledge which fails to grasp the actual causal chain – what remains outside his scope is a notion of negativity which would be precisely obfuscated by our imaginary (mis)cognition. While the imaginary (mis)cognition is, of course, focused on lacks, these are always lacks with regard to some positive measure (from our imperfection with regard to god, to our incomplete knowledge of nature); what eludes it is a POSITIVE notion of lack, a “generative” absence.

It is this assertion of the positivity of Being which grounds Spinoza’s radical equation of power and right: justice means that every entity is allowed to freely deploy its inherent power-potentials, i.e., the amount of justice due to me equals my power. Spinoza’s ultimate thrust is here anti-legalistic: the model of political impotence is for him the reference to an abstract law which ignores the concrete differential network and relationship of forces. A “right” is for Spinoza always a right to “do,” to act upon things according to one’s nature, not the (judicial) right to “have,” to possess things. It is precisely this equation of power and right which, in the very last page of his Tractatus Politicus, Spinoza evokes as the key argument for the “natural” inferiority of women:

/…/ if by nature women were equal to men, and were equally distinguished by force of character and ability, in which human power and therefore human right chiefly consist; surely among nations so many and different some would be found, where both sexes rule alike, and others, where men are ruled by women, and so brought up, that they can make less use of their abilities. And since this is nowhere the case, one may assert with perfect propriety, that women have not by nature equal right with men. [2]

Rather than score easy points with such passages, one should oppose here Spinoza to the standard bourgeois liberal ideology, which would publicly guarantee to women the same legal status as to men, relegating their inferiority to a legally irrelevant “pathological” fact (and, in fact, all great bourgeois anti-feminists from Fichte up to Otto Weininger were always careful to emphasize that, “of course,” this does not mean that the inequality of sexes should be translated into inequality in the eyes of the law…). Furthermore, one should read this Spinozean equation of power and right against the background of Pascal’s famous pensee: “Equality of possessions is no doubt right, but, as men could not make might obey right, they have made right obey might. As they could not fortify justice they have justified force, so that right and might live together and peace reigns, the sovereign good.” [3] Crucial in this passage is the underlying FORMALIST logic: the FORM of justice matters more than its content – the form of justice should be maintained even if it is, as to its content, the form of its opposite, of injustice. And, one might add, this discrepancy between form and content is not just the result of particular unfortunate circumstances, but constitutive of the very notion of justice: justice is “in itself,” in its very notion, the form of injustice, i.e. a “justified force.” Usually, when we are dealing with a fake trial in which the outcome is fixed in advance by political and power interests, we speak of a ãtravesty of justice” – it pretends to be justice, while it is just a display of raw power or corruption posing as justice. What, however, is justice is “as such,” in its very notion, a travesty? Is this not what Pascal implies when he concludes, in a resigned way, that if power cannot come to justice, then justice should come to power?

Kant gets involved into a similar predicament when he distinguishes between the “ordinary” evil (the violation of morality on behalf of some “pathological” motivation, like greed, lust, ambition, etc.), the “radical” evil, and the “diabolical” evil. It may seem that we are dealing with a simple linear graduation: “normal” evil, more “radical” evil, and, finally, the unthinkable “diabolical” evil. However, upon a closer look, it becomes clear that the three species are not at the same level, i.e., that Kant confuses different principles of classification. [4] “Radical” evil does not designate a specific type of evil acts, but an a priori propensity of the human nature (to act egotistically, to give preference to pathological motivations over universal ethical duty) which opens up the very space for “normal” evil acts, i.e., which roots them in human nature. In contrast to it, “diabolical” evil does designate a specific type of evil acts: acts which are not motivated by any pathological motivation, but are done “just for the sake of it,” elevating evil itself into an apriori non-pathological motivation – something akin to Poe’s “imp of perversity.” While Kant claims that “diabolical evil” cannot actually occur (it is not possible for a human being to elevate evil itself into a universal ethical norm), he nonetheles asserts that one should posit it as an abstract possibility. Interestingly enough, the concrete case he mentions (in Part I of his Metaphysics of Mores) is that of the judicial regicide, the murder of a king executed as a punishment pronounced by a court: Kant’s claim is that, in contrast to a simple rebellion in which the mob kills only the person of a king, the judicial process which condemns to death the king (this embodiment of the rule of law) destroys from within the very form of the (rule of) law, turning it into a terrifying travesty – which is why, as Kant put it, such an act is an “indelible crime” which cannot ever be pardoned. However, in a second step, Kant desperately argues that in the two historical cases of such an act (under Cromwell and in the 1973 France), we were dealing just with a mob taking revenge… Why this oscillation and classificatory confusion in Kant? Because, if he were to assert the actual possibility of “diabolical evil,” he would found it impossible to distinguish it from the Good – since both acts would be non-pathologically motivated, the travesty of justice would become indistinguishable from justice itself. And the shift from Kant to Hegel is simply the shift from this Kantian inconsistency to Hegel’s reckless assuming of the identity of “diabolical” evil with the Good itself. Far from involving a clear classification, the distinction between “radical” and “diabolical” evil is thus the distinction between the general irreducible propensity of human nature and a series of particular acts (which, although impossible, are thinkable). Why, then, does Kant need this excess over the “normal” pathological evil? Because, without it, his theory would amount to no more than the traditional notion of the conflict between good and evil as the conflict of two tendencies in human nature: the tendency to act freely and autonomously, and the tendency to act out of pathological egotistic motivations [5] – from this perspective, the choice between good and evil is not itself a free choice, since we only act in a truly free way when we act autonomously, for the sake of duty (when we follow pathological motivations, we are enslaved to our nature). However, this goes against the fundamental thrust of the Kantian ethics, according to which the very choice of evil is an autonomous free decision.

Back to Pascal: is his version of the unity of right and might not homologous to Nietzsche’s amor fati and eternal return of the same? Since, in this unique life of mine, I am constrained by the burden of the past weighing on me, the assertion of my unconditional will to power is always thwarted by that which, in the finitude of being thrown into a particular situation, I was forced to assume as given. Consequently, the only way to effectively assert my will to power is to transpose myself into a state in which I am able to freely will, assert as the outcome of my will, what I otherwise experience as imposed on me by external fate; and the only way to accomplish this is to imagine that, in the FUTURE “returns of the same,” repetitions of my present predicament, I am fully ready to assume it freely. However, does this reasoning not also conceal the same formalism as that of Pascal? Is its hidden premise not “if I cannot freely chose my reality and thus overcome the necessity which determines me, I should formally elevate this necessity itself into something freely assumed by me”? Or, as Wagner, Nietzshe’s great nemesis, put it in The Twilight of Gods: “Fear of the gods’ downfall grieves me not, / since now I will it so! / What once I resolved in despair, / in the wild anguish of dissension, / now I will freely perform, gladly and gaily.” And does the Spinozean position not rely on the same resigned identification? Is therefore Spinoza not at the extreme opposite of the Jewish-Levinasian-Derridean-Adornian hope of the final Redemption, of the idea that this world of ours cannot be “all there is,” the last and ultimate Truth, that we should stick to the promise of some Messianic Otherness?

The final feature in which all the previous ones culminate is Spinoza’s radical suspension of any “deontological” dimension, i.e., of what we usually understand by the term “ethical” (norms which proscribe us how we should act when we have a choice) – in a book called Ethics, which is an achievement in itself. In his famous reading of the Fall, Spinoza claims God had to utter the prohibition “You should not eat the apple from the Tree of Knowledge!” because our capacity to know the true causal connection was limited: for those who know, one should say: “Eating from the Tree of Knowledge is dangerous for your health.” This complete translation of injunction into cognitive statements again desubjectivizes the universe, implying that true freedom is not the freedom of choice but the true insight into necessities which determine us – here is the key passage from his Theologico-Political Treatise:

/…/ the affirmations and the negations of God always involve necessity or truth; so that, for example, if God said to Adam that He did not wish him to eat of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, it would have involved a contradiction that Adam should have been able to eat of it, and would therefore have been impossible that he should have so eaten, for the Divine command would have involved an eternal necessity and truth. But since Scripture nevertheless narrates that God did give this command to Adam, and yet that none the less Adam ate of the tree, we must perforce say that God revealed to Adam the evil which would surely follow if he should eat of the tree, but did not disclose that such evil would of necessity come to pass. Thus it was that Adam took the revelation to be not an eternal and necessary truth, but a law – that is, an ordinance followed by gain or loss, not depending necessarily on the nature of the act performed, but solely on the will and absolute power of some potentate, so that the revelation in question was solely in relation to Adam, and solely through his lack of knowledge a law, and God was, as it were, a lawgiver and potentate. From the same cause, namely, from lack of knowledge, the Decalogue in relation to the Hebrews was a law. /…/ We conclude, therefore, that God is described as a lawgiver or prince, and styled just, merciful, etc., merely in concession to popular understanding, and the imperfection of popular knowledge; that in reality God acts and directs all things simply by the necessity of His nature and perfection, and that His decrees and volitions are eternal truths, and always involve necessity. [6]

Two levels are opposed here, that of imagination/opinions and that of true knowledge. The level of imagination is anthropomorphic: we are dealing with a narrative about agents giving orders that we are free to obey or disobey, etc.; god himself is here the highest prince who dispenses mercy. The true knowledge, on the contrary, delivers the totally non-anthropomorphic causal nexus of impersonal truths. One is tempted to say that Spinoza here out-Jews Jews themselves: he extends iconoclasm to man himself – not only “do not paint god in man’s image,” but “do not paint man himself in man’s image.” In other words, Spinoza moves here a step beyond the standard warning not to project onto nature human notions like goal, mercy, good an evil, etc. – we should not use them to conceive man itself. The key words in the quoted passage are: “solely through the lack of knowledge” – the whole “anthropomorphic” domain of law, injunction, moral command, etc., is based on our ignorance. What Spinoza thus rejects is the necessity of what Lacan calls “Master Signifier,” the reflexive signifier which fills in the very lack of the signifier. Spinoza’s own supreme example of “God” is here crucial: when conceived as a mighty person, god merely embodies our ignorance of the true causality. One should recall here notions like “flogiston” or Marx’s “Asiatic mode of production” or, as a matter of fact, today’s popular “postindustrial society” – notions which, while they appear to designate a positive content, merely signal our ignorance. Spinoza’s unheard-of endeavor is to think ethics itself outside the “anthropomorphic” morality categories of intentions, commandments, etc. – what he proposes is stricto sensu an ontological ethics, an ethics deprived of the deontological dimension, an ethics of “is” without “ought.” (What, then, is the price paid for this suspension of the ethical dimension of commandment, of the Master Signifier? The psychoanalytic answer is clear: superego. Superego is on the side of knowledge; like Kafka’s law, it wants nothing from you, it is just there if you come to it. This is the command operative in the warning we see everywhere today: “Smoking may be dangerous to your health.” Nothing is prohibited, you are just informed of a causal link. Along the same lines, the injunction “Only have sex if you really want to enjoy it!” is the best way to sabotage enjoyment…).


Notes:

1 It was Bernard Bass who articulated in detail such a Kantian reading of Lacan – see Bernard Baas, De la Chose a l’objet, Leuven: Pieters 1998.

2 Baruch Spinoza, A Theologico-Political Treatise and A Political Treatise, New York: Dover Publications 1951, p. 387.

3 Blaise Pascal, Pensées, Harmondsworth: Penguin Books 1965, p. 51.

4 I rely here on Alenka Zupančič, The Ethics of the Real, London: Verso 2001.

5 According to Kant, if one finds oneself alone in the sea with another survivor of the sinken ship, near a floating piece of wood which can keep afloat only one person, moral considerations are no longer valid – there is no moral law preventing me from fighting to death with the other survivor for the place on the raft, I can engage in it with moral impunity. It is here that, perhaps, one encounters the limit of the Kantian ethics: what about someone who would willingly sacrifice himself in order to give the other person a chance to survive – and, furthermore, is ready to do it for no pathological reasons? Since there is no moral law commanding me to do this, does this mean that such an act has no ethical status proper? Does this strange exception not demonstrate that the ruthless egotism, the care for personal survival and gain, is the silent “pathological” presupposition of the Kantian ethics – i.e., that the Kantean ethical edifice can only maintain itself if we silently presuppose the “pathological” image of man as a ruthless utilitarian egotist?

6 Spinoza, op.cit., p. 63-65.


Section II: Kant – Hegel


KANT

It is at this precise point that Kant, the Kantian break, sets in. What Spinoza and Kant share is the idea that virtue is its own reward, and needs no other: they both reject with contempt the popular idea that our good deeds will be renumerated and our bad deeds punished in the afterlife. However, Kant’s thesis is that the Spinozean position of knowledge without deontological dimension of an unconditional Ought is impossible to sustain: there is an irreducible crack in the edifice of Being, and it is at this crack that the “deontological” dimension of “Ought” intervenes – the “Ought” fills in the incompleteness of “Is,” of Being. When Kant says that he reduced the domain of knowledge in order to make space for religious faith, he is to be taken quite literally, in the radically anti-Spinozist way: from the Kantian view, Spinoza’s position appears as a nightmarish vision of subjects reduced to marionettes. What, exactly, does a marionette stand for – as a subjective stance? In Kant, we find the term “Marionette” in a mysterious subchapter of his Critique of Practical Reason entitled “Of the Wise Adaptation of Man’s Cognitive Faculties to His Practical Vocation”, in which he endeavours to answer the question of what would happen to us if we were to gain access to the noumenal domain, to the Ding an sich:

… instead of the conflict which now the moral disposition has to wage with inclinations and in which, after some defeats, moral strength of mind may be gradually won, God and eternity in their awful majesty would stand unceasingly before our eyes. /…/ Thus most actions conforming to the law would be done from fear, few would be done from hope, none from duty. The moral worth of actions, on which alone the worth of the person and even of the world depends in the eyes of supreme wisdom, would not exist at all. The conduct of man, so long as his nature remained as it is now, would be changed into mere mechanism, where, as in a puppet show, everything would gesticulate well but no life would be found in the figures. [1]

So, for Kant, the direct access to the noumenal domain would deprive us of the very “spontaneity” which forms the kernel of transcendental freedom: it would turn us into lifeless automata, or, to put it in today’s terms, into “thinking machines.” – The basic gesture of Kant’s transcendental turn is thus to invert the obstacle into a positive condition. In the standard Leibnizean ontology, we, finite subjects, can act freely IN SPITE OF our finitude, since freedom is the spark which unites us with the infinite God; in Kant, this finitude, our separation from the Absolute, is the POSITIVE condition of our freedom. In short, the condition of impossibility is the condition of possibility. In this sense, Susan Neiman is right to remark that “the worry that fueled debates about the difference between appearance and reality was not the fear that the world might not turn out to be the way it seems to us – but rather the fear that it would.” [2] This fear is ultimately ethical: the closure of the gap between appearance and reality would deprive us of our freedom and thus of our ethical dignity. What this means is that the gap between noumenal reality and appearance is redoubled: one has to distinguish between noumenal reality ãin itself” and the way noumenal reality APPEARS within the domain of appearance (say, in our experience of freedom and the moral Law). This tiny edge which distinguishes the two is the edge between sublime and horrible: God is sublime for us, from our finite perspective – experienced in itself, it would turn into a mortifying horror.

However, one should be very careful not to miss what Kant is aiming at. In a first approach, it may appear that he merely assumes a certain place prefigured by Spinoza: unable to sustain the non-anthropomorphic position of true knowledge, he proclaims the substantial order of Being inaccessible, out of bounds for our reason, and thus opens up the space for morality. (And, incidentally, is the same stance not clearly discernible in today’s neo-Kantian reactions to biogenetics? Basically, what Habermas is saying is: although we now know that our dispositions depend on meaningless genetic contingency, let us pretend and act as if this is not the case, so that we can maintain our sense of dignity and autonomy – the paradox is here that autonomy can only be maintained by prohibiting the access to the blind natural contingency which determines us, i.e., ultimately, by LIMITING our autonomy and freedom of scientific intervention.) However, things are more complex. In his Les mots et les choses, Foucault introduced the notion of “empirico-transcendental doublet”: in the modern philosophy of subjectivity, the subject is by definition split between an inner-worldly entity, empirical person, object of positive sciences and political administration, and the transcendental subject, the constitutive agent of the world itself – the problem is the umbilical cord that links the two in an irreducible way. (And it is against this background that one can measure Heidegger’s achievement: he grounded the “transcendental” dimension (Dasein as the site of the opening of the world) in the very finitude of man. Mortality is no longer a stain, an index of factual limitation, of the otherwise ideal-eternal Subject, it is the very source of its unique place. There is no longer any place here for the neo-Kantian (Cassirer) assertion of man as inhabiting two realms, the eternal realm of ideal values and the empirical realm of nature; there is no longer any place even for Husserl’s morbid imagine of the whole of humanity succumbing to a pest and the transcendental ego surviving it.) One should insist here on the split between this doublet and the pre-Kantian metaphysical problematic of particular/sensual/animal and universal/rational/divine aspect of man: the Kantian transcendental is irreducibly rooted in the empirical/temporal/finite, it is the trans-phenomenal AS IT APPEARS WITHIN THE FINITE HORIZON OF TEMPORALITY. And this dimension of the transcendental as opposed to noumenal is what is missing in Spinoza.

Consequently, do we not find the distinction between how things appear to me and how things EFFECTIVELY appear to me in the very heart of Kant’s transcendental turn? The phenomenal reality is not simply the way things appear to me, it designates the way things “really” appear to me, the way they constitute phenomenal reality, as opposed to a mere subjective illusory appearance. Consequently, when I misperceive some object in my phenomenal reality, when I mistake it for a different object, what is wrong is that I am not aware not of how things “really are in themselves,” but of how they ãreally appear” to me. One cannot overestimate the importance of this Kantian move – ultimately, philosophy as such is Kantian, it should be read from the vantage point of the Kantian revolution: not as a naive attempt at “absolute knowledge,” at a total description of the entire reality, but as the work of deploying the horizon of pre-understanding presupposed in every engagement with entities in the world. It is only with Kant (with his notion of the transcendental) that true philosophy begins: what we had before was a simple global ontology, the knowledge about All, not yet the notion of the transcendental-hermeneutic horizon of the World. Consequently, the basic task of the post-Kantian thought was “only” to think Kant to the end. This is what, among others, Heidegger’s intention was in Being and Time: to read the history of ontology (Descartes, Aristotle) backwards from Kant – say, to interpret Aristotle’s physics as the hermeneutic deployment of what being, life, etc. meant for the Greeks. (Later, unfortunately, Heidegger renounced this idea of pursuing to the end the Kantian breakthrough, dismissing Kant’s transcendental turn to a further step in the course of the subjectivist forgetting of Being.) And the ultimate irony is that Deleuze was in a way fully aware of this fact: in his 1978 lectures on Kant, he claims that, for Kant, “there is no longer an essence behind appearance, there is rather the sense or non-sense of what appears”; what this bears witness to is “a radically new atmosphere of thought, to the point where I can say that in this respect we are all Kantians.” [3]

HEGEL

So what does Hegel bring to this constellation? Let us approach this question through an unexpected detour: a profoundly Hegelian motif of Deleuze, his reversal of the standard relationship between a problem and its solution(s), his affirmation of an irreducible EXCCESS of the problem over its solution(s), which is the same as the excess of the virtual over its actualizations:

In Deleuze’s approach the relation between well-posed explanatory problems and their true or false solutions is the epistemological counterpart of the ontological relation between the virtual and the actual. Explanatory problems would be the counterpart of virtual multiplicities since, as he says, ‘the virtual possesses the reality of a task to be performed or a problem to be solved’. Individual solutions, on the other hand, would be the counterpart of actual individual beings: ‘An organism is nothing if not the solution to a problem, as are each of its differenciated organs, such as the eye which solves a light problem. [4]

The philosophical consequences of this “intimate relation between epistemology and ontology” are crucial: the traditional opposition between epistemology and ontology should be left behind. It is no longer that we, subjects of a scientific investigation, engaged in the difficult path of getting to know objective reality, gradually approaching it, formulate and solve problems, while reality just IS out there, fully constituted and given, unconcerned by our slow progress. In a properly Hegelian way, our painful progress of knowledge, our confusions, our search for solutions – that is to say: precisely that which seems to SEPARATE us from the way reality really is out there – is already the innermost constituent of reality itself. When we try to establish the function of some organ in an animal, we are thereby repeating the “objective” process itself through which the animal “invented” this organ as the solution of some problem. Our process of approaching constituted objective reality repeats the virtual process of Becoming of this reality itself. The fact that we cannot ever “fully know” reality is thus not a sign of the limitation of our knowledge, but the sign that reality itself is “incomplete,” open, an actualization of the underlying virtual process of Becoming. [5]

Such a reflective twist by means of which the subject assumes the inexistence of the big Other defines the subjective position of the analyst, what Lacan calls the “discourse of the analyst” – and he does give a clear hint that this, effectively, is Hegel’s position. In his Seminar XVII (L’envers de la psychanalyse), Lacan, in an apparently inconsistent way, first designates Hegel as the “most sublime of hysterics,” then, a couple of pages later, as an exemplary figure of the Master, and, finally, a dozen or so pages later, as the model of the discourse of university [6] – and it is easy to see how each of these designations is justifiedn in its own terms: Hegel’s system is the extreme case of the all-encompassing university Knowledge, allocating each particular topic to its own proper place; if there ever was a figure of the towering Master in the history of philosophy, it is Hegel; and Hegel’s dialectical procedure can best be determined as the permanent hystericization – hysterical questioning – of the hegemonic figure of the Master. So which of these three positions is the “real” Hegel? The answer is obvious: the fourth one, the discours of the analyst – as if to point in this direction, Lacan – in this seminar dedicated to the four discourses – applies on Hegel the first three positions (Master, Hysteric, University), leaving out the fourth position. Do we not get here a clear case of the logic of the borrowed kettle, mentioned by Freud in order to render the strange procedure of the dreams, namely the enumeration of mutually exclusive answers to a reproach (that I returned to a friend a broken kettle): (1) I never borrowed a kettle from you; (2) I returned it to you unbroken; (3) the kettle was already broken when I got it from you? For Freud, such an enumeration of inconsistent arguments of course confirms per negationem what it endeavors to deny: that I returned you a broken kettle – or, in Hegel’s case, the he occupies the position of the analyst. A further proof of this fact is Lacan’s claim that the discourse of the analyst is not simply one among the four – it is simultaneously a discourse which emerges when we pass from one to another discourse (say, from that of the Master to that of the University). If, then, the discourse of the analyst is located in the very passage, shift, from one to another discourse, is the true position of Hegel, who is a Master, a Hysteric, and the agent of the discourse of University, not that of an incessant passage between these three – that is to say, that of the analyst?

It is here that we can clearly pinpoint what is arguably Deleuze’s crucial misunderstanding of Hegel’s move against/beyond Kant: Deleuze continues to read Hegel in a traditional way, as the one who returned from Kant to absolute metaphysics which articulates the totally self-transparent and fully actualized logical structure of Being. Already in Difference and Repetition, Deleuze interpretes Kant’s transcendental Ideas from the perspective of his notion of “problematicity” as the excess of the question over answers to it: a transcendental Idea designates not an ideal, but a problem, a question, a task, which no answer, no actualization, can fully meet. So Deleuze can only read the excess of the problem over its solutions as an anti-Hegelian motif, insofar as he perceives Hegel as the one who as it were filled in the gaps of the Kantian system and passed from Kant’s openness and indeterminacy to the notion’s complete actualization/determination. [7] What, however, if Hegel does not ADD any positive content to Kant, does not fill in the gaps, what if he just accomplishes a shift of perspective from which the problem already appears at its own solution? What if, for Hegel, “absolute Knowing” is not the absurd position of “knowing everything,” but the insight into how the path towards Truth is already Truth itself, into how the Absolute is precisely – to put it in Deleuzean terms – the virtuality of the eternal process of actualization?

We are thereby in the very heart of the problem of freedom: the only way to save freedom is through this short-circuit between epistemology and ontology – the moment we reduce our process of knowledge to a process external to the thing itself, to an endless approximation to the thing, freedom is lost, because “reality” is conceived of as a completed, ontologically fully constituted, positive order of Being. The inconsistency of Kant apropos freedom is here crucial in its structural necessity. On the one hand, the subject is free in the noumenal sense – its freedom attests to the fact that it does not belong to the domain of phenomenal enchainment of causes and effects, that it is capable of absolute spontaneity; on the other hand, spontaneity is transcendental, not transcendent, it is the way the subject appears to itself – as we learn in the final paragraphs of the Part I of Critique of Practical Reason, it may well be that, in itself, at the noumenal level, we are just marionettes in the hands of the all-powerful God. The only solution is here the Hegelo-Deleuzian (sic!) one: to transpose the incompleteness, openness (the surplus of the virtual over the actual, of the problem over its solution(s)), into the thing itself.

It is in this precise sense that one should agree with Brecht who once wrote that there is no dialectics without humor: the dialectical reversals are deeply connected to comical twists and unexpected shifts of perspective. In his book on jokes, Freud refers to the well-known story of a middleman who tries to convince a young man to marry a woman he represents; his strategy is to reinterptrete every objection into a praise. When the man says “But the woman is ugly!”, he answers: “So you will not have to worry that she will deceive you with others!” “She is poor!” “So she will be used not to spend too much of your money!”, and so on, until, finally, when a man formulates a reproach impossible to reinterprete in this way, the middleman explodes: “But what do you want? Perfection? Nobody is totally without a fault!” [8] Would it not also be possible to discern in this joke the underlying structure of the legitmization of a Real Socialist regime? “There is not enough meat and rich food in the stores!” “So you don’t have to worry about getting fat and suffering a heart attack!” “There is not enough interesting theatrical and cinema performances or good books available!” “Does this not enable you to cultivate all the more the art of intense social life, visiting friends and neighbors?” “The secret police exerts total control over my life!” “So you can just relax and lead a life safe from worries!”, and so on, till… “But the air is so polluted from the nearby factory that all my children have life-threatening lung diseases!” “What do you want? No system is without a fault!”

So what, precisely, is the thin line which divides tragedy from comedy, the final tragic insight from the final twist of a joke? In many a good joke, the unexpected final twist occurs when the position of enunciation itself falls into the enunciated content – recall the well-known story about a Pole and a Jew sharing the same train compartment, with the Pole starting the conversation by asking the Jew: “Tell me, how do you Jews manage to squeeze the last bit of money from the people?” “OK,” replies the Jew, “but this will cost you 10 $!” Upon getting the money, the Jews goes on: “Well, at midnight, you go to the cemetery, you burn there a fire of special wood…” “What wood?” eagerly asks the Pole. “This will call you another 10$!” snaps back the Jew, and so on endlessly, till the Pole explodes: “But there is no final secret, no end to this story, you are just trying to squeeze all the money from me…” “Now you see how we Jews…” replies the Jew calmly. In short, what the poor Pole, eager to learn and focused to the secret to which he expected to be initiated, forgot to take into account was the very process into which he was involved while searching for the secret. The question is: what would make such a story (if not a tragedy proper, then at least) a non-joke, a story with a painful final twist which brings no release in laughter? Would it be enough for the Pole himself to come to the insight, so that, at a certain moment, HE exclaims: “My god, now I know how you Jews…”? Or would a simple more dramatic twist be sufficient – imagine the Pole deprived of his last penny, his family ruined, he himself lying ill and anouncing that he no longer has any money, when the Jew (caricaturized as the evil figure) tells him with a vicious smile: “There is no secret! I just wanted to taught you a lesson and really show you how we Jews…”? Or, to ask the same question the other way around, since the Oedipus story involves a homologous twist (in his search, the hero forgets to include himself), what change would suffice to make it a comedy? One can effectively imagine a similar story along the lines of The Marriage of Figaro, with the hero all of a sudden discovering that the older rich widow he married because of her money is effectively his own mother… Would it not be possible to retell in this way the elementary story of Christianity, namely as a joke with the final unexpected twist? A believer is complaining: “I was promised contact with god, divine grace, but I am now totally alone, abandoned by god, destitude, suffering, with only a miserable death awaiting me!” The divine voice then answers him: “You see, now you are effectively one with god, with Christ suffering on the cross!”

If we take into account the radical consequences of this elementary dialectical move, then the Hegelian “absolute knowing” itself appears in a new light: no longer as a madly megalomaniac claim by the individual called “Hegel” who, in 1820s, stated that he “knows and is able to deduce everything there is to know,” but as an attempt at delineating the radical closure/finitude of a knowledge grounded in its historical constellation. In “absolute knowing,” the limitations of our knowledge are correlated to the limitations of the known constellation itself, its “absolute” character thus emerging from the intersection of these two limitations.

Hegel’s stance is thus not any kind of “mediatior” between the two extremes, Spinoza and Kant; on the contrary, from a truly Hegelian perspective, the problem with Kant is that he remains all too Spinozean: the crack-less, seamless, positivity of Being is just transposed into the inaccessible In-Itself. In other words, from the Hegelian standpoint, this very fascination with the horrible Noumenon in itself is the ultimate lure: the thing to do here is not to rehabilitate the old Leibnizean metaphysics, even in the guise of heroically forcing one’s way into the noumenal “heart of darkness” and confronting its horror, but to transpose this absolute gap which separates us from the noumenal Absolute into the Absolute itself. So when Kant asserts the limitation of our knowledge, Hegel does not answer him by claiming that he can overcome the Kantian gap and gain access to Absolute Knowledge in the style of a pre-critical metaphysics; what he claims is that the Kantian gap already IS the solution: the Being itself is incomplete. THIS is what Hegel’s motto “one should conceive the Absolute not only as Substance, but also as Subject” means: “subject” is the name for a crack in the edifice of Being.

THE TORSION OF MEANING

The standard topos of the critique of idealism is that, at the point where the conceptual deployment/presentation (logos) fails, touches its limit, a narrative (mythos) has to intervene – this holds from Plato through Schelling (who, in his Weltalter, aimed at supplementing the Hegelian conceptual self-development with the narrative of the Absolute prior to logos) up to Marx (the narrative of the primordial accumulation of the capital) and Freud (the narrative of the primordial horde). In the face of the constant theological motive of the ineffable obscure mystery in the very heart of the divine, of what Chesterton called “a matter more dark and awful than it is easy to discuss /…/ a matter which the greatest saints and thinkers have justly feared to approach,” [9] one is tempted to propose the opposite path: far from pointing towards the dimension of the “irrational,” this mystery irrepresentable in the form of a narrative (except in the terms of a “heretic” notion (of God himself as the source of Evil, etc.) is simply the negative of the clarity of the Concept itself, i.e., the only way the self-division that characterizes the immanent self-movement of the Concept can be represented in the medium of a narrative. In other words, when (what Hegel called) the thought constrained to the domain of Representation and/or Understanding mentions the Ineffable, a Beyond which eludes its grasp, one can be sure that this Beyond is nothing but the oncept itself – it is the highest irony of the “mere Understanding” that it prerceives as “irrational” Reason itself. [10]

And here Hegel rejoins Spinoza: Spinoza’s opposition of imagination and true knowledge becomes the opposition of mere Vorstellung (representation) with its ‘stories’ and the self-development of a Notion. It is the irony of the history of philosophy that it is Schelling, the one who is considered a “Spinozean” among the German Idealists, who accomplishes the return to (philosophy as) narrative. In what does Schelling’s true philosophical revolution consist? According to the standard academic doxa, Schelling broke out of the idealist closure of the Notion’s self-mediation by way of asserting a more balance bi-polarity of the Ideal and the Real: the “negative philosophy” (the analysis of the notional essence) must be supplemented by the “positive philosophy” which deals with the positive order of existence. In nature as well as in human history, the ideal rational order can only thrive against the background of the impenetrable Ground of “irrational” drives and passions. The climax of philosophical development, the very standpoint of the Absolute, is thus not the “sublation /Aufhebung/” of all reality in its ideal Notion, but the neutral medium of the two dimensions – the Absolute is ideal-real… Such a reading, however, obfuscates Schelling’s true breakthrough, his distinction, first introduced in essay on human freedom from 1807, [11] between (logical) Existence and the impenetrable Ground of Existence, the Real of pre-logical drives: this proto-ontological domain of drives is not simply “nature,” but the spectral domain of the not-yet fully constituted reality. Schelling’s opposition of the proto-ontological Real of drives (the Ground of being) and the ontologically fully constituted Being itself (which, of course, is “sexed” as the opposition of the Feminine and the Masculine) thus radically displaces the standard philosophical couples of Nature and Spirit, the Real and the Idea, Existence and Essence, etc. The real Ground of Existence is impenetrable, dense, inert, yet at the same time spectral, “irreal,” ontologically not fully constituted, while Existence is ideal, yet at the same time, in contrast to the Ground, fully “real,” fully existing. [12] This opposition – between the fully existing reality and its proto-ontological spectral shadow – is thus irreducible to the standard metaphysical oppositions between the Real and the Ideal, Nature and Spirit, Existence and Essence, etc. (And one should recall here how the space for this spectral domain of the pre-ontological “Undead” was opened up by the Kantian transcendental revolution.) In his late “philosophy of revelation,” Schelling withdraws from the difficulty of thinking to the end this opposition, and “regresses” (retranslates it) into traditional ontological couples of essence and existence, ideal and real, etc. [13] The triangle of Spinoza-Hegel-Schelling is thus not as unambiguous as it may appear: although Spinoza and Hegel are solidary in their effort to formulate the truth of religion in conceptual form, there is nonetheless a level at which Spinoza is solidary with Schelling – more precisely, instead of Schelling, let us mention Richard Wagner, who, with regard to our topic, shares Schelling’s fundamental attitude. Recall the famous beginning of Wagner’s Religion and Art:

One could say that when religion becomes artificial it is for art to salvage the essence of religion by construing the mythical symbols which religion wants us to believe to be literal truth in terms of their figurative value, so as to let us see their profound hidden truth through idealized representation. Whereas the priest is concerned only that the religious allegories should be regarded as factual truths, this is of no concern to the artist, since he presents his work frankly and openly as his invention. [14]

Everything is false here, in this passage which is anti-Kierkegaard par excellence: its disgusting aestheticization of religion, its misleading anti-fetishism, i.e., its rejection of the belief in the factual/literal truth on behalf of the “inner” spiritual truth… what if the true fetishism is this very belief in the “profound hidden truth” beneath the literal truth? – Wagner is here the oppposite of Spinoza who, in his Theologico-Political Tractatus, was the first to propose a historico-critical reading of the Bible grounded in the Enlightenment notion of universal Reason: one should distinguish between the inner true meaning of the Bible (accessible to us today through philosophical analysis) and the mythical, imaginary, narrative, mode of its presentation which is conditioned by the immature state of humanity in the period when the Bible was written. As Spinoza puts it pointedly: if someone holds to the rational inner truth of the Bible, while ignoring its explicit narrative content, he should be counted as a perfect believer; and vice versa, if someone slavishly follows all ritualistic prescripts of the Bible, while ignoring the rational inner truth, he should be counted as unbeliever. It is against such a stance that one should reassert the Jewish obedience of rules. Even more pointedly, it is against such a stance that one should with all force assert the Kierkegaardian point of pure dogma: even if one follows all the ethical rules of Christianity, if one does not do it on account of one’s belief that they were revealed by the divine authority of Christ, one is lost.

Although opposed, these two readings are complementary in that they both search for a “deeper” truth beneath the figurative surface: in one case, this truth is the inner ineffable spiritual message, in the other case, it is the rational conceptual insight. What they both miss is, to put it with Marx, the level of form as such: the inner necessity of the content to assume such a form. The relationship between form and content is here dialectical in the strict Hegelian sense: the form articulates what is repressed in the content, its disavowed kernel – which is why, when we replace the religious form with the direct formulation of its “inner” content, we feel somehow cheated, deprived of the essential. [15] What is missing in both Spinoza and Wagner is thus the inner torsion by means of which the form itself is included (or, rather, inscribes itself) into content – and this, perhaps, is the minimal definition of an EVENT. This is why, neither in Spinoza nor in Wagner, is there any space for an Event proper, for a shattering intervention that would introduce a radical cut in the substantial content. As we shall see, it follows now the crucial reference to Alain Badiou – THE philosopher of the Event.

Notes:

1 Immanuel Kant, Critique of Practical Reason, New York: Macmillan 1956, p. 152-153.

2 Susan Neuman, Evil in Modern Thought, Princeton: Princeton University Press 2002, p. 11.

3 Gilles Deleuze, Seminar 1, available on the internet at http://www.deleuze.fr.st.

4 Manuel DeLanda, Intensive Science and Virtual Philosophy, New York: Continuum 2002, p. 135.

5 This is also how Deleuze determines the difference between philosophy and science: science aims at solutions, while philosophy tries to extract problems which orientate scientists in their search for solutions. There is, however, a fundamental ambiguity in how Deleuze characterizes philosophy as syntagmatic, in contrast to Kuhn’s notion of a scientific paradigm, i.e., of science as paradigmatic: science is a slow-motion, freeze-frame procedure, reduction to a fixed system of functional coordinates, in contrast to philosophical acceleration of motion; on the other hand, Deleuze claims that science operates in a serial time (linear development, rupture, reconnection), while philosophy operates according to a “stratigraphic” time in which what comes after is always superimposed on what comes before. But is serial time not precisely SYNTAGMATIC (linear succession in time), in contrast to the “stratigraphic” crystallization, i.e., PARADIGMATIC superimposition? The key resides in the exact implications of these two modalities of time: the “stratigraphic” paradigmatic superimposition is precisely the ultimate result of time catching up with itself in an inner fold, of a past crystal-image superimposing itself on a future image, while the time of science is that of linear temporal movement of the constituted reality IN time, which means, precisely, WITHIN a certain given paradigm of what reality is. The true opposition is thus not simply between movement and static structure, but between movement IN time, correlative to a paradigmatic order, and movement OF time itself in a short-circuit of past and present. The ultimate movement, the ultimate subversion of static order, is the very “stratigraphic” stasis in which past and future coincide in a superimposed crystallized image.

6 See Jacques Lacan, Le séminaire, livre XVII: L’envers de la psychanalyse, Paris: Editions du Seuil 1991.

7 For a succinct account of the complex, shifting, and often inconsistent way Deleuze relates to the triad of Spinoza, Kant, and Hegel, see Christian Kerslake, “The Vertigo of Philosophy: Deleuze and the Problem of Immanence,” in Radical Philosophy 38.

8 It is interesting to note that, when, in his Seminar V on Les formations de l’inconscient (Paris: Editions du Seuil 1998), Lacan retells this story, he omits the final inversion – the very feature which appears to us today as its properly “Lacanian” point, and just says that the game of critical remarks and answers goes on indefinitely. Is this slip not the best proof of how, in that period (mid-1950s), Lacan was still in the thrall of the signifying process of endless interpretation, unable to properly conceptualize the structural necessity of a cut which interrupts this unending signifying drift..

9 G.K.Chesterton, Orthodoxy, San Francisco: Ignatius Press 1995, p. 145.

10 What is a concept? It is not only that, often, we are dealing with pseudo-concepts, with mere representations (Vorstellungen) posing as concepts; sometimes, much more interestingly, a concept can reside in what appears to be a mere common expression, even a vulgar one. In 1922, Lenin dismissed “the intellectuals, the lackeys of capital, who think they’re the brains of the nation. In fact, they’re not its brains, they’re its shit.” (Quoted in Helene Carrere D’Encausse, Lenin, New York: Holmes & Meier 2001, p. 308.) As Badiou did apropos of Sartre’s (in)famous claim that “anti-communists are dogs,” one should, instead of shamefully ignoring this statement, take the risk and elaborate the underlying CONCEPT of shit.

11 See F.W.J. Schelling, “Philosophical Investigations into the Essence of Human Freedom and Related Matters,” in Philosophy of German Idealism, ed. Ernst Behler, New York: Continuum 1987.

12 The notion of pre-ontological Real is crucial not only with regard to the history of ideas, but even with regard to art and our daily experience of reality. Is the entire contemporary popular (but not only popular) culture not populated by entities located in this pre-ontological domain? Recall, from Stephen King horror tradition, the spectral figure of a young boy, not yet sexualized, who is “undead,” a living dead, utterly corrupted AND innocent, infinitely fragile AND all-powerful, the embodiment of Evil in his very purity. Do we not encounter the same figure in modern art a century ago, from the poems of Georg Trakl to the paintings of Edvard Munch, in the guise of the asexual spectral young boy, this “unborn” who stands simultaneously for vulnerable innocence and utter corruption?

13 And does, as we have already seen, the same not go also for Deleuze? In The Logic of Sense, he deploys the opposition of corporeal Being – the complex network of causes and effects – and the separate level of Becoming – its pure effect, the sterile impassive flow of immaterial Sense -, the opposition irreducible to the traditional ontological couples; later, however – with Anti-Oedipus -, in order to avoid the difficulty of sustaining this position, he reinscribes it into the traditional couple of Becoming versus Being, of the dynamic productive movement versus the “reified” order of its effects..

14 Quoted from Bryan Magee, The Tristan Chord, New York: Henry Holt and Company 2000, p. 281.

15 Which is why Wagner’s or Spinoza’s reading of the bible has nothing whatsoever to do with psychoanalysis, with psychoanalytic interpretation. If one wants to learn what a truly psychoanalytic reading is, one should look for it in, say, the dialogue between Joseph K. and the Priest which, in Kafka’s The Trial, follows the “parable” on the door of the law.


Section III: Badiou!


BADIOU 1: EVENT AND ACT

What, already in a first approach, Alain Badiou shares with Gilles Deleuze is that both their philosophies focus on the notion of Event which cannot be reduced to the positive order of Being. We already saw, apropos a series of examples, from Italian neo-Realism to political revolutions, how, for Deleuze, an Event (the emergence of the New) transcends its positive causes; along the same lines, for Badiou, Event introduces a radical break into the order of Being. The difference between them is that, while Deleuze remains a vitalist who asserts the absolute immanence of the Event to Being, the Event as the One-All, the encompassing medium of the thriving differences of Life, Badiou, in a “dualist” fashion, posits Event as radically heterogeneous with regard to Being. However, instead of this difference, they both perform the same paradoxical philosophical gesture of defending, AS MATERIALISTS, the autonomy of the “immaterial” order of the Event. As a materialist, in order to be thoroughly materialist, Badiou focuses on the IDEALIST topos par excellence: How can a human animal forsake its animality and put its life in the service of a transcendent Truth? How can the “transubstantiation” from the pleasure-oriented life of an individual to the life of a subject dedicated to a Cause occur? In other words, how is a free act possible? How can one break the network of the causal connections of positive reality and conceive of an act which begins by and in itself? In short, Badiou repeats within the materialist frame the elementary gesture of idealist anti-reductionism: human Reason cannot be reduced to the result of evolutionary adaptation; art is not just a heightened procedure of providing sensual pleasures, but a medium of Truth; etc. And, against the false appearance that this gesture is aimed at also psychoanalysis (is not the point of the notion of “sublimation” that the allegedly “higher” human activities are just a roundabout “sublimated” way to realize a “lower” goal?), therein resides already the big achievement of psychoanalysis: its claim is that sexuality itself, sexual drives which pertain to the human animal, cannot be accounted for in evolutionary terms. [1] This makes clear the true stakes of Badiou’s gesture: in order for materialism to truly win over idealism, it is not enough to succeed in the “reductionist” approach and demonstrate how mind, consciousness, etc., can nonetheless somehow be accounted for within the evolutionary-positivist materialist frame; on the contrary, the materialist claim should be much stronger: it is ONLY materialism which can accurately explain the very phenomena of mind, consciousness, etc.; and, conversely, it is idealism which is “vulgar,” which always-already “reifies” them.

Badiou identifies four possible domains in which a Truth-Event can occur, four domains in which subjects emerge as “operators” of a truth-procedure: science, art, politics, love. This theory of the four “conditions” of philosophy allows us to approach in a new way the old problem of the “role” of philosophy. Often, other disciplines take over (at least part of) the “normal” role of philosophy: in some of the 19th century nations like Hungary or Poland, it was literature which played the role of philosophy (that of articulating the ultimate horizon of meaning of the nation in the process of its full constitution); in US today – in the conditions of the predominance of cognitivism and brain studies in philosophy departments -, most of “Continental Philosophy” takes place in Comparative Literature, Cultural Studies, English, French and German departments (as they are saying, if you analyze a rat’s vertebra, you are doing philosophy; if you analyze Hegel, you belong to CompLit); in Slovenia of the 1970s, the “dissident” philosophy took place in sociology departments and institutes. There is also the other extreme of philosophy itself taking over the tasks of other academic (or even non-academic) practices and discipline: again, in the late Yugoslavia and some other Socialist countries, philosophy was one of the spaces of the first articulation of “dissident” political projects, it effectively was “politics pursued with other means” (as Althusser put it apropos Lenin). So where did philosophy play its “normal role”? One usually evokes Germany – however, is it not already a commonplace that the extraordinary role of philosophy in German history was grounded in the belatedness of the realization of the German national political project? As already Marx put it (taking the cue from Heine), Germans had their philosophical revolution (the German Idealism) because they missed the political revolution (which took place in France). Is, then, there a norm at all? The closest one can comes to it is if one looks upon the anemic established academic philosophy like the neo-Kantianism 100 years ago in Germany or the French Cartesian epistemology (Leon Brunschvicg, etc.) of the first half of the XXth century – which was precisely philosophy at its most stale, academic, “dead,” irrelevant. (No wonder that, in 2002, Luc Ferry, a neo-Kantian, was nominated the Minister of Education in the new Center-Right French government.) What if, then, there is no “normal role”? What if it is exceptions themselves which retroactively create the illusion of the “norm” they allegedly violate? What if not only, in philosophy, exception is the rule, but also philosophy – the need for the authentic philosophical thought – arises precisely in those moments when (other) parts-constituents of the social edifice cannot play their “proper role”? What if the “proper” space for philosophy ARE these very gaps and interstices opened up by the “pathological” displacements in the social edifice? Along these lines, the first great merit of Badiou is that, for the first time, he systematically deployed the four modes of this reference of philosophy (to science, art, politics, and love).

Here the first critical reflection imposes itself: one is tempted to risk the hypothesis that Badiou’s first three truth-procedures (science, art, politics) follow the classic logic of the triad of True-Beautiful-Good: the science of truth, the art of beauty, the politics of the good) – so what about the forth procedure, love? Is it not clear that it sticks out from the series, being somehow more fundamental and “universal,” always possible to break out. There are thus not simply four truth-procedures, but three plus one – a fact perhaps not emphasized enough by Badiou (although, apropos sexual difference, he does remark that women tend to color all other truth-procedures through love). What is encompassed by this fourth procedure is not just the miracle of love, but also psychoanalysis, theology, and philosophy itself (the LOVE of wisdom). Is, then, love not Badiou’s “Asiatic mode of production” – the category into which he throws all truth procedures which do not fit the other three modes? This fourth procedure also serves as a kind of underlying formal principle or matrix of all of them (which accounts for the fact that, although Badiou denies to religion the status of truth-procedure, he nonetheless claims that Paul was the first to deploy the very formal matrix of the Truth-Event). [2]

Insofar as, for Badiou, the science of love – this fourth, excessive, truth-procedure – is psychoanalysis, one should not be surprised to find that Badiou’s relationship with Lacan is the nodal point of his thought. How, exactly, does Badiou’s philosophy relate to Lacan’s theory? One should begin by unequivocally stating that Badiou is right in rejecting Lacan’s “anti-philosophy.” In fact, when Lacan endlessly varies the motif of how philosophy tries to “fill in the holes,” to present a totalizing view of the universe, to cover up all the gaps, ruptures and inconsistencies (say, in the total self-transparency of self-consciousness), and how, against philosophy, psychoanalysis asserts the constitutive gap/rupture/inconsistency, etc.etc., he simply misses the point of what the most fundamental philosophical gesture is: not to close the gap, but, on the contrary, to OPEN UP a radical gap in the very edifice of the universe, the “ontological difference,” the gap between the empirical and the transcendental, where none of the two levels can be reduced to the other (as we know from Kant, transcendental constitution is a mark of our – human – finitude and has nothing to do with “creating reality”; on the other hand, reality only appears to us within the transcendental horizon, so we cannot generate the emergence of the transcendental horizon from the ontic self-development of reality). [3]

This general statement does not allow us to dispense with the work of a more detailed confrontation. It was Bruno Bosteels who provided the hitherto most detailed account of the difference between Badiou’s and the Lacanian approach. [4] What the two approaches share is the focus on the shattering encounter of the Real: on the “symptomal torsion” at which the given symbolic situation breaks down. What, then, happens at this point of the intrusion of utmost negativity? According to Badiou, the opposition is here the one between impasse and passe. For Lacan, the ultimate authentic experience (the “traversing of fantasy”) is that of fully confronting the fundamental impasse of the symbolic order; this tragic encounter of the impossible Real is the limit-experience of a human being: one can only sustain it, one cannot force a passage through it. The political implications of this stance are easily discernible: while Lacan enables us to gain an insight into the falsity of the existing State, this insight is already “it,” there is no way to pass through it, every attempt to impose a new order is denounced as illusory: “From the point of the real as absent cause, indeed, any ordered consistency must necessarily appear to be imaginary insofar as it conceals this fundamental lack itself.” Is this not the arch-conservative vision according to which, the ultimate truth of being is the nullity of every Truth, the primordial vortex which threatens to draw us into its abyss? All we can do, after this shattering insight, is to return to the semblance, to the texture of illusions which allow us to temporarily avoid the view of the terrifying abyss, humbly aware of the fragility of this texture… While, for Lacan, Truth is this shattering experience of the Void – a sudden insight into the abyss of Being, “not a process so much as a brief traumatic encounter, or illuminating shock, in the midst of common reality” -, for Badiou, Truth is what comes afterward: the long arduous work of fidelity, of enforcing a new law onto the situation. [5] The choice is thus: “whether a vanishing apparition of the real as absent cause (for Lacan) or a forceful transformation of the real into a consistent truth (for Badiou)”:

the problem with this /Lacan’s/ doctrine is precisely that, while never ceasing to be dialectical in pinpointing the absent cause and its divisive effects on the whole, it nevertheless remains tied to this whole itself and is thus unable to account for the latter’s possible transformation. /…/ Surely anchored in the real as a lack of being, a truth procedure is that which gives being to this very lack. Pinpointing the absent cause or constitutive outside of a situation, in other words, remains a dialectical yet idealist tactic, unless this evanescent point of the real is forced, distorted, and extended, in order to give consistency to the real as a new generic truth.

Bosteels recalls here Badiou’s opposition between Sophocles and Aeschylus. Not only Lacan, psychoanalysis as such in its entire history was focused on the Sophoclean topic of the Oedipus’ family: from Oedipus confronting the unbearable Thing, the horror of his crime, the horror impossible to sustain – when one becomes aware what one did, one can only blind oneself -, to Antigone’s fateful step into the lethal zone between the two deaths, which provokes Creon’s superego rage destined to conceal the void of the Thing. To this Sophoclean couple of superego/anxiety, Badiou opposes the Aeschylean couple of courage and justice: the courage of Orestes who risks his act, the justice (re)established by the new Law of Athena. Convincing as this example is, one cannot avoid asking the obvious question: is not this new Law imposed by Athena the patriarchal Law based on the exclusion/repression of what then returns as the obscene superego fury? However, the more fundamental issue is: is Lacan really unable to think a procedure which gives being to the very lack? Is this not the work of sublimation? Does sublimation not precisely “give being to this very lack,” to the lack as/of the impossible Thing, insofar as sublimation is “an object elevated to the dignity of a Thing” (Lacan’s standard definition of sublimation from his Seminar VII: The Ethics of Psychoanalysis)? This is why Lacan links death drive and creative sublimation: death drive does the negative work of destruction, of suspending the existing order of Law, thereby as it were clearing the table, opening up the space for sublimation which can (re)starts the work of creation. Both Lacan and Badiou thus share the notion of a radical cut/rupture, “event,” encounter of the Real, which opens up the space for the work of sublimation, of creating the new order; the distance which separates them is to be sought elsewhere – where? Here is how Bosteels describes the modality of the truth-procedure:

Setting out from the void which prior to the event remains indiscernible in the language of established knowledge, a subjective intervention names the event which disappears no sooner than it appears; /it/ faithfully connects as many elements of the situation as possible to this name which is the only trace of the vanished event, and subsequently forces the extended situation from the bias of the new truth as if the latter were indeed already generally applicable.

The key words in this faithful rendering of Badiou’s positions are the seemingly innocent “AS IF”: in order to avoid the Stalinist desastre, which is grounded in the misreading of the new truth as directly applicable to the situation, as its ontological order, one should only proceed AS IF the new truth is applicable… can one imagine a more direct application of the Kantian distinction between constitutive principles (a priori categories which directly constitute reality) and regulative ideas, which should only be applied to reality in the AS IF mode (one should act AS IF reality is sustained by a teleological order, AS IF there is a God and immortal soul, etc.). When Badiou asserts the “unnameable” as the resisting point of the Real, the “indivisible remainder” which prevents the “forceful transformation” to conclude its work, this assertion is strictly correlative to the AS IF mode of the post-evental work of forcing the real: it is because of this remainder that the work of truth cannot ever leave behind this conditional mode.

So when Bosteels claims that “there is something more than just awkward in the criticism according to which Badiou’s Being and Event would later get trapped in a naive undialectical, or even pre-critical separation of these two spheres – being and event, knowledge and truth, the finite animal and the immortal subject,” one can only add: yes, and that “more” is that this criticism is up to the point. Already for Kant, there is no subjective impurity (such a position is accessible only to a saint, and, due to its finitude, no human being can attain this position): the Kantian subject is the name for an interminable ethical work, and purity is just the negative measure of our everlasting impurity (when we accomplish an ethical act, we cannot ever pretend or know that we were effectively not moved by some pathological motivation). And it is Badiou who is deeply Kantian in his gap between the “eternity” of, say, the idea of justice, and the interminable work of forcing it into a situation. And what about Badiou’s repeated insistence that “consequences in reality” do not matter, that – say, apropos of the passage from Leninism to Stalinism – one cannot conceive of Stalinism as the revealed truth of Leninism? What about his insistence that the process of truth is not in any way affected by what goes on at the level of being? For Badiou, a certain truth-procedure ceases for strictly inherent reasons, when its sequence is exhausted – what matters is sequence, not consequence. What this means is that the irreducible impurity has its measure in the eternity of the pure Truth as its inherent measure: although the Idea of egalitarian Justice is always realized in an impure way, through the arduous work of forcing it upon the multiplicity of the order of being, these vicissitudes do not affect the Idea itself which shines through them.

The key to Badiou’s opposition of Being and Event is the preceding split, within the order of Being itself, between the pure multitude of the presence of beings (accessible to mathematical ontology) and their re-presentation in some determinate State of Being: all of the multitude of Being cannot ever be adequately represented in a State of Being, and an Event always occurs at the site of this surplus/remainder which eludes the grasp of the State. The question is therefore that of the exact status of this gap between the pure multitude of presence and its representation in State(s). Again, the hidden Kantian reference is crucial here: the gap which separates the pure multiplicity of the Real from the appearing of a “world” whose coordinates are given in a set of categories which predetermine its horizon, is the very gap which, in Kant, separates the Thing-in-itself from our phenomenal reality, i.e., from the way things appear to us as objects of our experience. The basic problem remains unsolved by Kant as well as by Badiou: how does the gap between the pure multiplicity of being and its appearance in the multitude of worlds arise? How does being appear to itself? Or, to put it in “Leninist” terms: the problem is not if there is some reality beneath the phenomenal world of our experience; the true problem is exactly the opposite one – how does the gap open up within the absolute closure of the Real, within which elements of the Real can appear? Why the need for the pure multitude to be re-presented in a State? When Bosteels writes that the state of a situation is “an imposing defense mechanism set up to guard against the perils of the void,” one should therefore raise a naive, but nonetheless crucial, question: where does this need for defense come from? Why are we not able to simply dwell in the void? Is it not that there already has to be some tension/antagonism operative within the pure multitude of Being itself? In other words, is Badiou, in his overlooking of this topic, not close to Deleuze, his great opponent? Furthermore, in contrast to the pure indifferent multitude of Being, there is a conflicting multiplicity of States of Being; an Event emerges at the site of the interstices of States – the second key issue is thus the nature of the conflicting co-existence of States.

Badiou’s oscillation apropos of the Event is crucial here: while linking the Event to its nomination and opposing any mystical direct access to it, any Romantic rhetorics of immersion into the Nameless Absolute Thing, Badiou is nonetheless continuously gnawed by doubts about the appropriateness of nominations (say, apropos of Marxism, he claims that we still lack the proper name for what effectively occurred in the revolutionary turbulences of the last centuries, i.e. that “class struggle” is NOT an appropriate nomination). This deadlock appears at its purest when Badiou defines the “perverse” position of those who try to behave as if there was no Event: Badiou’s “official” position is that the Event is radically subjective (it exists only for those who engage themselves on its behalf); how, then, can the pervert ignore something which is not there at all for him? Is it not that the Event must then have a status which cannot be reduced to the circle of subjective recognition/nomination, so that also those who, WITHIN the situation our of which the Event emerged, ignore the Event, are affected by it? In short, what Badiou seems to miss here is the minimal structure of historicity (as opposed to mere historicism), which resides in what Adorno called die Verbindlichkeit des Neuen, “the power of the New to bind us/” [6] : when something truly New emerges, one cannot go on as if it did not happen, since the very fact of this New changes the entire coordinates. After Schoenberg, one cannot continue to write musical pieces in the old Romantic tonal mode; after Kandinsky and Picasso, one cannot paint in the old figurative way; after Kafka and Joyce, one cannot write in the old realist way. More precisely: of course, one can do it, but if one does it, these old forms are no longer the same, they have lost their innocence and now appear as a nostalgic fake. – From these remarks, we can return to Bosteels basic reproach, according to which, psychoanalysis

collapses into an instantaneous act what is in reality an ongoing and impure procedure, which from a singular event leads to a generic truth by way of a forced return upon the initial situation. Whereas for Žižek, the empty place of the real that is impossible to symbolize is somehow already the act of truth itself, for Badiou a truth comes about only by forcing the real and by displacing the empty place, so as to make the impossible possible. ‘Every truth is post-evental,’ Badiou writes.

The first misunderstanding to be dispelled here is that, for Lacan, the Event (or Act, or encounter of the Real) does not occur in the dimension of truth. For Lacan also, “truth is post-evental,” although in a different sense than for Badiou: truth comes afterwards, as the Event’s symbolization. Along the same lines, when Bosteels quotes the lines from my Sublime Object about “traversing the fantasy” as the “almost nothing” of the anamorphic shift of perspective, as the unique shattering moment of the thorough symbolic alteration in which, although nothing changed in reality, all of a sudden “nothing remains the same,” one should not forget that this instantaneous reversal is not the end, but the beginning, the shift which opens up the space for the “post-evental” work; to put it in Hegelese, it is the “positing of the presupposition” which opens the actual work of positing. [7]

BADIOU 2: THE FOUR DISCOURSES

Nowhere is the gap which separates Badiou from Lacan more clearly discernible as apropos four discourses; through a criticism of Lacan, Badiou recently (in his last seminars) proposed his own version of the four discourses. At the outset, there is the hysteric’s discourse: in the hysterical subject, the new truth explodes in an event, it is articulated in the guise of an inconsistent provocation, and the subject itself is blind for the true dimension of what it stumbled upon – recall the proverbial unexpected outburst to the beloved “I love you!” which surprises even its author. It is the master’s task to properly elaborate the truth into a consistent discourse, to work out its sequence. The pervert, on the contrary, works as if there was no truth-event, it categorizes the effects of this event as if they can be accounted for in the order of knowledge (say, a historian of the French Revolution like Francois Furet who explains it as the outcome of the complexity of the French situation in the late XVIII century, depriving it of its universal scope). To these three, one should add the mystical discourse, the position of clinging to the pure In-Itself of the truth beyond the grasp of any discourse.

There is a series of interconnected differences between this notion of four discourses and Lacan’s matrix of four discourses; [8] the main two concern the opposition of Master and Analyst. First, in Lacan, it is not the hysteric but the Master who performs the act of nomination: he pronounces the new Master-Signifier which restructures the entire field; the Master’s intervention is momentary, unique, singular, like the magic touch which shifts the perspective and all of a sudden transforms chaos into the New Order – in contrast to the discourse of University which elaborates the sequence from the new Master-Signifier (the new system of knowledge). [9] The second difference is that, in Badiou’s account, there is no place for the discourse of the analyst – its place is held by the mystical discourse fixated on the unnameable Event, resisting its discursive elaboration as unauthentic. For Lacan, there is no place for an additional mystical discourse, for the simple reason that such a mystical stance is not a discourse (a social link) – and the discourse of the analyst is precisely a discourse which takes as its “agent,” its structuring principle, the traumatic kernel of the real which serves as an irreducible obstacle to the discursive link, introducing in it an indelible antagonism, impossibility, destabilizing gap. Therein resides the true difference between Badiou and Lacan: what Badiou precludes is the possibility to devise a discourse which has as its structuring principle the unnameable “indivisible remainder” eluding a discursive grasp, i.e. for Badiou, when we are confronted with this remainder, we should either name it, transpose it into the master’s discourse, or stare at it in the mystifying awe. What this means is that one should turn Badiou’s reproach to Lacan back against Badiou himself: it is Badiou who is unable to expand the encounter of the Real into a discourse, i.e., for whom, this encounter, in order to start to function as a discourse, has to be transposed into a Master’s discourse.

The ultimate difference between Badiou and Lacan thus concerns the relationship between the shattering encounter of the Real and the ensuing arduous work of transforming this explosion of negativity into a new order: for Badiou, this new order “sublates” the exploding negativity into a new consistent truth, while for Lacan, every Truth displays the structure of a (symbolic) fiction, i.e., it is unable to touch the Real. Does this mean that Badiou is right – namely in his reproach that, in a paradigmatic gesture of what Badiou calls “anti-philosophy,” Lacan relativizes truth to just another narrative/symbolic fiction which forever fails to grasp the “irrational” hard kernel of the Real?

One should recall here that the Lacanian triad Real-Imaginary-Symbolic reflects itself within each of its three elements. There are three modalities of the Real: the “real Real” (the horrifying Thing, the primordial object, from Irma’s throat to the Alien), the “symbolic Real” (the real as consistency: the signifier reduced to a senseless formula, like the quantum physics formulas which can no longer be translated back into – or related to – the everyday experience of our life-world), and the “imaginary Real” (the mysterious je ne sais quoi, the unfathomable “something” on account of which the sublime dimension shines through an ordinary object). The Real is thus effectively all three dimensions at the same time: the abyssal vortex which ruins every consistent structure; the mathematized consistent structure of reality; the fragile pure appearance. And, in a strictly homologous way, there are three modalities of the Symbolic (the real – the signifier reduced to a senseless formula -, the imaginary – the Jungian “symbols” – and the symbolic – speech, meaningful language), and three modalities of the Imaginary (the real – fantasy, which is precisely an imaginary scenario occupying the place of the Real -, the imaginary – image as such in its fundamental function of a decoy -, and the symbolic – again, the Jungian “symbols” or New Age archetypes). Far from being reduced to the traumatic void of the Thing which resists symbolization, the Lacanian Real thus designates also the senseless symbolic consistency (of the “mathem”), as well as the pure appearance irreducible to its causes (“the real of an illusion”). Consequently, Lacan not only does supplement the Real as the void of the absent cause with the Real as consistency; he adds a third term, that of the Real as pure appearing, which is also operative in Badiou in the guise of what he calls the “minimal difference” which arises when we subtract all fake particular difference – from the minimal “pure” difference between figure and background in Malevitch’s “White square on black surface,” up to the unfathomable minimal difference between Christ and other men.

In Le siècle, [10] Badiou deploys two modes of what he calls the “passion of the real” as the defining passion of the XXth century, that of “purification” (of violently discarding the deceiving layers of false reality in order to arrive at the kernel of the real) and that of “subtraction” (of isolating the minimal difference which becomes palpable in the symptomal point of the existing order of reality) – is it not, then, that we should supplement Badiou’s two passions of the Real (the passion of purification and the passion of subtraction) with that of scientific-theoretical FORMALIZATION as the third approach to the Real? The Real can be isolated through violent purification, the shedding away of false layers of deceptive reality; it can be isolated as the singular universal which marks the minimal difference; and it can also be isolated in the guise of a formalization which renders the subjectless “knowledge in the Real.” It is easy to discern here again the triad of Real, Imaginary, Symbolic: the Real attained through violent purification, the Imaginary of the minimal difference, the Symbolic of the pure formal matrix.

The political consequences of this deadlock are crucial. In Le siecle, Badiou seems to oscillate between the plea for a direct fidelity to the XXth century “passion of the real,” and the prospect of passing from the politics of purification to the politics of subtraction – while he makes it fully clear that the horrors of the XXth century, from the holocaust to gulag, are a necessary outcome of the purification-mode of the “passion of the Real,” and while he admits that protests against it are fully legitimate (see his admiration for Varlam Shalamov’s Kolyma Tales), he nonetheless stops short of renouncing it – why? Because the consequent following of the logic of subtraction would have forced him to abandon the very frame of the opposition between Being and Event: within the logic of subtraction, the Event is not external to the order of Being, but located in the “minimal difference” inherent to the order of Being itself. The parallel is here strict between Badiou’s two versions of the “passion of the Real” and the two main versions of the Real in Lacan: the Real as the destructive vortex, the inaccessible/impossible hard kernel which we cannot approach too much (if we get too close to it, we get burned, as in Nikita Mikhalkov’s Burnt by the Sun, the movie about a Soviet hero-general caught in a Stalinist purge and “burnt by the sun” of the Revolution), and the Real as the pure Schein of a minimal difference, as another dimension which shines through in the gaps of the inconsistent reality.

If Badiou were to accomplish this step, he would, perhaps, choose to conceive of the XXIth century as the displaced repetition of the XXth century: after the (self)destructive climax of the logic of purification, the passion of the Real should be reinvented as the politics of subtraction. There is a necessity in this blunder: subtraction is possible only after the fiasco of purification, as its repetition, in which the “passion of the Real” is sublated, freed of its (self)destructive potential. In the absence of this step, Badiou is left with only two options: either to remain faithful to the destructive ethics of purification, or to take refuge in the Kantian distinction between a normative regulative Ideal and the constituted order of reality – say, to claim that the Stalinist desastre occurs, that the (self)destructive violence explodes, when the gap which forever separates the Event from the order of Being is closed, when the Truth-Event is posited as fully realized in the order of Being.

Along these lines, Badiou recently proposed as (one of) the definition(s) of Evil: the total forcing of the unnameable, the accomplished naming of it, the dream of total Nomination (“everything can be named within the field of the given generic truth procedure”)- the fiction (the Kantian regulative Idea?) of the accomplished truth-procedure is taken for reality (it starts to function as constitutive). According to Badiou, what such forcing obliterates is the inherent limitation of the generic truth-procedure (its undecidability, indiscernability…): the accomplished truth destroys itself, the accomplished political truth turns into totalitarianism. The ethics of Truth is thus the ethics of the respect for the unnameable Real which cannot be forced. [11] However, the problem here is: how to avoid the Kantian reading of this limitation? Although Badiou rejects the ontological-transcendental status of finitude as the ultimate horizon of our existence, is his limitation of truth-procedure ultimately not grounded in the fact that it is the finite Significantly, Badiou, the great critic of the notion of totalitarianism, resorts here to this notion in a way very similar to the Kantian liberal critics of the “Hegelian totalitarianism.” subject, the operator of the infinite truth-procedure, who, in an act of pure decision/choice, proclaims the Event as the starting point of reference of a truth-procedure (statements like “I love you,” “Christ has arisen from the dead”). So, although Badiou subordinates subject to the infinite truth-procedure, the place of this procedure is silently constrained by the subject’s finitude. And does Badiou, THE anti-Levinas, with this topic of the respect for the unnameable not come dangerously close precisely to the Levinasian topic of the respect for Otherness – the topic which is, against all appearances, politically totally inoperative? Recall the well-known fiasco of Levinas when, a week after the Sabra and Shatila massacres in Beirut, he participated in a radio broadcast with Shlomo Malka and Alain Finkelkraut. Malka asked him the obvious “Levinasian” question: “Emmanuel Levinas, you are the philosopher of the ‘other.’ Isn’t history, isn’t politics the very site of the encounter with the ‘other,’ and for the Israeli, isn’t the ‘other’ above all the Palestinian?” To this, Levinas answered:

My definition of the other is completely different. The other is the neighbor, who is not necessary kin, but who can be. And in that sense, if you’re for the other, you’re for the neighbor. But if your neighbor attacks another neighbor or treats him unjustly, what can you do? Then alterity takes on another character, in alterity we can find an enemy, or at least then we are faced with the problem of knowing who is right and who is wrong, who is just and who is unjust. There are people who are wrong. [12]

The problem with these lines is not their potential Zionist anti-Palestinian attitude, but, quite on the contrary, the unexpected shift from high theory to vulgar commonsensical reflections – what Levinas is basically saying is that, as a principle, respect for alterity is unconditional, the highest one, but, when faced with a concrete other, one should nonetheless see if he is a friend or an enemy… in short, in practical politics, the respect for alterity strictly means nothing. No wonder, then, that Levinas also perceived alterity also as radical strangeness which poses a threat and where hospitality is suspended, is clear from the following passage about the “yellow peril” from what is arguably his weirdest text, “The Russo-Chinese Debate and the Dialectic” (1960), a comment on the Soviet-Chinese conflict:

The yellow peril! It is not racial, it is spiritual. It does not involve inferior values; it involves a radical strangeness, a stranger to the weight of its past, from where there does not filter any familiar voice or inflection, a lunar or Martian past. [13]

Does this not recall Heidegger insistence, throughout the 1930s, that the main task of the Western thought today is to defend the Greek breakthrough, the founding gesture of the “West,” the overcoming of the pre-philosophical mythical “Asiatic” universe, against the renewed “Asiatic” threat – the greatest opposite of the West is “the mythical in general and the Asiatic in particular”? [14] Back to Badiou, what all this means is that there is a Kantian problem with Badiou which is grounded in his dualism of Being and Event, and which has to be surpassed. The only way out of this predicament is to assert that the unnameable Real is not an external limitation, but an ABSOLUTELY INHERENT limitation. Truth is a generic procedure which cannot comprise its own concept-name that would totalize it (as Lacan put it, “there is no meta-language,” or, as Heidegger put it, “the name for a name is always lacking,” and this lack, far from being a limitation of language, is its positive condition, i.e., it is only because-through this lack that we have language). So, like the Lacanian Real which is not external to the Symbolic, but makes it non-all from within (as Laclau put it: in an antagonism, the external limit coincides with the internal one), the unnameable is inherent to the domain of names. (This is why, for Badiou as for Heidegger, poetry is the experience/articulation of the limits of the potency of language, of the limits of what we can force through and with language.) THIS and only this is the proper passage from Kant to Hegel: not the passage from limited/incomplete to full/completed nomination (“absolute knowledge”), but the passage of the very limit of nomination from the exterior to the interior.

The materialist solution is thus that the Event is NOTHING BUT its own inscription into the order of Being, a cut/rupture in the order of Being on account of which Being cannot ever form a consistent All. There is no Beyond of Being which inscribes itself into the order of Being – there “is” nothing but the order of Being. One should recall here yet again the paradox of Einstein’s general theory of relativity, in which matters does not curve the space, but is an effect of the space’s curvature: an Event does not curve the space of Being through its inscription into it – on the contrary, an Event is NOTHING BUT this curvature of the space of Being. “All there is” is the interstice, the non-self-coincidence, of Being, i.e., the ontological non-closure of the order of Being.

Badiou’s counter-argument to Lacan (formulated, among others, by Boostels) is that what really matters is not the Event as such, the encounter with the Real, but its consequences, its inscription, the consistency of the new discourse which emerges from the Event… one is tempted to turn this counter-argument against Badiou himself, against his “oppositional” stance of advocating the impossible goal of pure presence without the state of representation: one should gather the strength to “take over” and assume power, no longer just to persist in the safety of the oppositional stance. If one is not ready to do this, then one continues to rely on state power as that against which one defines one’s own position. What this means at the ontological level is that, ultimately, one should reject Badiou’s notion of mathematics (the theory of pure multitude) as the only consistent ontology (science of Being): if mathematics is ontology, then, in order to account for the GAP between Being and Event, one should remain stuck in dualism OR dismiss the Event as an ultimately illusory local occurrence within the encompassing order of Being. Badiou is here anti-Deleuze, but he remains within the same field: while Deleuze asserts the substantial One as the background-medium of the multitude, Badiou opposes the multitude of Being to the One-ness of the singular Event. Against this notion of multitude, one should assert as the ultimate ontological given the gap which separates the One from within.


Notes:

1 This is how one should locate the shift from the biological instinct to drive: instinct is just part of the physics of animal LIFE, while drive (DEATH drive) introduces a meta-physical dimension. In Marx, we find the homologous implicit distinction between working class and proletariat: “working class” is the empirical social category, accessible to sociological knowledge, while “proletariat” is the subject-agent of revolutionary Truth. Along the same lines, Lacan claims that drive is an ETHICAL category.

2 Furthermore, is there not a key difference between love and other truth-procedures, in that, in contrast to others which try to force the unnameable, in “true love,” one endorses-accepts the loved Other ON BEHALF OF THE VERY UNNAMEABLE X IN HIM/HER. In other words, “love” designates the respect of the lover for what should remain unnameable in the beloved – “whereof one cannot talk about, thereof one should remain silent” is perhaps the fundamental proscription of love.

3 Perhaps, along these lines, one should even take the risk of proposing that psychoanalysis – the subject’s confrontation with its innermost fantasmatic kernel – is no longer to be accepted as the ultimate gesture of subjective authenticity

4 See Bruno Boostels, “Alain Badiou’s Theory of the Subject: The Recommencement of Dialectical Materialism?” (2001), in The Warwick Journal of Philosophy.

5 Badiou’s notion of subjectivization as the engagement on behalf of Truth, as the fidelity to Truth-Event, is clearly indebted to the Kierkegaardian existential commitment “experienced as gripping our whole being. Political and religious movements can grip us in this way, as can love relationships and, for certain people, such ‘vocations’ as science and art. When we respond to such a summons with what Kierkegaard calls infinite passion – that is, when we respond by accepting an unconditional commitment – this commitment determines what will be the significant issue for us for the rest of our life.”(Hubert Dreyfus, On the Internet, London: Routledge 2001, p. 86) What Dreyfus enumerates in this resume of Kierkegaard’s position are precisely Badiou’s four domains of Truth (politics, love, art, science), PLUS religion as their “repressed” model.

6 See Theodor W. Adorno, “Verbindlichkeit des Neuen,” Musikalische Schriften V, Frankfurt: Suhrkamp Verlag 1998, p. 832-833.

7 Not to mention the obvious fact that, in the psychoanalytic treatment, truth is not an instant insight, but the “impure” process of working-through which can last for years.

8 As to this matrix, see See Jacques Lacan, Le séminaire, livre XVII: L’envers de la psychanalyse.

9 In philosophical terms, Lacan introduces here a distinction, absent in Badiou, between symbolic truth and knowledge in the Real: Badiou clings to the difference between objective-neutral Knowledge which concerns the order of Being, and the subjectively-engaged Truth (one of the standard topoi of the modern thought from Kierkegaard onwards), while Lacan renders thematic another, unheard-of, level, that of the unbearable fantasmatic kernel. Although – or, rather, precisely because – this kernel forms the very heart of subjective identity, it cannot ever be subjectivized, subjectively assumed: it can only be retroactively reconstructed in a desubjectivized knowledge. As to this crucial distinction, see the first chapter in my The Plague of Fantasies, London: Verso Books 1997.

10 See Alain Badiou, Le siècle, Paris; Seuil, 2002.

11 It also seems problematic to conceive of “Stalinism” as a too radical “forcing” of the order of being (the existing society): the paradox of the 1928 “Stalinist revolution” was rather that, in all its brutal radicality, it was not radical enough in effectively transforming the social substance – its brutal destructiveness has to be read as an impottent passage a l’acte. Far from simply standing for a total forcing of the unnameable Real on behalf of the Truth, the Stalinist “totalitarianism” rather designates the attitude of absolutely ruthless “pragmatism,” of manipulating and sacrificing all “principles” on behalf of maintaining power.

12 The Levinas Reader, Oxford: Blackwell 1989, p. 294.

13 Emmanuel Levinas, Les imprevus de l’histoire, Fata Morgana 1994, p. 172.

14 Martin Heidegger, Schelling’s Treatise on Human Freedom, Athens: Ohio University Press 1985, p. 146.

Collected Clinical Papers of Sigmund Freud: Five Volume Set

Published by Basic Books in 1959.

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Collected Clinical Papers of Sigmund Freud were written and edited as the constituent basis for psychoanalysis, containing the only published record of his clinical investigations, all of his other work being essentially founded on and derived from them.

Offering the reader a comprehensive chronicle of Freud’s work and of the development of his ideas and of psychoanalysis in general, they contain fourteen different elaborations on various neurotic illnesses, such as anxiety, hysteria and lay bare the function and role of sexuality in the etiology and development of neuroses.

Volumes 1 to 4 were rearranged and published in cooperation with Freud himself, from the German Sammlung kleiner Schriften zur Neurosenlehre.

A monumental achievement spanning over two thousand pages, the present work of collected volumes should appeal to anyone with an interest in the work of Sigmund Freud or psychoanalysis in general.


Table of Contents:

  • Volume I: Early Papers, On the History of the Psycho-analytic Movement, 361 pages. Translation supervised by Joan Riviere, edited by Ernst Jones
  • Volume II: Clinical Papers, Papers on Technique, 402 pages. Translation supervised by Joan Riviere, edited by Ernst Jones
  • Volume III: Case Histories, 605 pages. Translated by Alix & James Strachey, edited by Ernst Jones
  • Volume IV: Papers on Metapsychology, Papers on Applied Psycho-analysis, 506 pages. Translation supervised by Joan Riviere, edited by Ernst Jones
  • Volume V: Miscellaneous Papers, 1888-1938, 395 pages. Edited by James Strachey

‘Delusion and Dream in Jensen’s Gradiva & Other Essays’ by Sigmund Freud

Published by Beacon Press in 1967.

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Delusion and Dream in Jensen’s Gradiva (German: Der Wahn und die Träume in W. Jensens “Gradiva”) is a long essay written in 1907, an analysis of the German novelist Wilhelm Jensen’s story Gradiva, is his first work to deal explicitly and systematically with literature and aesthetics, although he had commented at some length on Oedipus Rex by Sophocles and Hamlet by Shakespeare in Freud’s The Interpretation of Dreams published in 1900.

In asserting that dreams have meaning, psychoanalysts are aligned with the ancients, a ‘superstitious’ public and creative writers. Through the close analysis of a story that Jensen termed a “Pompeiian phantasy”, Freud considers “the class of dreams that have never been dreamt at all—dreams created by imaginative writers and ascribed to invented characters in the course of a story.

Collected Works of Sigmund Freud (Delphi Classics)

Published digitally by Delphi in 2017.

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The Austrian neurologist Sigmund Freud was the founder of psychoanalysis, a clinical method for treating psychopathology through dialogue between patient and psychoanalyst. Freud developed therapeutic techniques including the use of free association and transference, establishing its central role in the analytic process. Freud’s redefinition of sexuality led him to formulate the Oedipus complex as the central tenet of psychoanalytical theory. His analysis of dreams as wish-fulfilments also provided him with models for the clinical analysis of symptom formation and the underlying mechanisms of repression. This comprehensive collection within a single digital book presents Freud’s collected works, with numerous illustrations, rare texts, informative introductions and other material.

‘Power, Appearance and Obscenity in the Viral Desert’ by Slavoj Žižek

A view of Birkbeck, University of London. Video from the June 2020 Summer School of Critical Theory.

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The spread of the coronavirus epidemics has also triggered a vast epidemic of ideological viruses which were lying dormant in our societies: fake news, paranoiac conspiracy theories, explosions of racism, etc. Underlying these viruses is the rise of obscenity in public discourse which is linked to new Right populism. However, the ongoing epidemics at the same time clearly demonstrated the limit of populism.

Critical theoretical thought, at the most advanced level, includes a sense of the political urgency of the times, an urgency that has so dramatically increased in these past years with the advent of Brexit and Trump, the massive global inequality to which they both attest and exacerbate, the increasingly licensed ethno-nationalism, racism and misogyny which they sanction, the forms of historical forgetting which they appear to demand.

Theory is engaged theory, it pursues, elucidates and complicates its own genealogy and intellectual elaboration at the same time as attempting to show how theory, and the necessity of sustained reflection which it demands and enacts, can contribute to progressive, dissident thought and being in the modern world.