front cover of Essay on Negation
Essay on Negation
For a Linguistic Anthropology
Paolo Virno
Seagull Books, 2018
As speaking animals, we continuously make use of an unassuming grammatical particle, without suspecting that what is at work in its inconspicuousness is a powerful apparatus, which orchestrates language, signification, and the world at large. What particle might this be? The word not.

In Essay on Negation, Paolo Virno argues that the importance of the not is perhaps comparable only to that of money—that is, the universality of exchange. Negation is what separates verbal thought from silent cognitive operations, such as feelings and mental images. Speaking about what is not happening here and now, or about properties that are not referable to a given object, the human animal deactivates its original neuronal empathy, which is prelinguistic; it distances itself from the prescriptions of its own instinctual endowment and accesses a higher sociality, negotiated and unstable, which establishes the public sphere. In fact, the speaking animal soon learns that the negative statement does not amount to the linguistic double of unpleasant realities or destructive emotions: while it rejects them, negation also names them and thus includes them in social life. Virno sees negation as a crucial effect of civilization, one that is, however, also always exposed to further regressions. Taking his cue from a humble word, the author is capable of unfolding the unexpected phenomenology of the negating consciousness.

front cover of The Idea of World
The Idea of World
Public Intellect and Use of Life
Paolo Virno
Seagull Books, 2022
A philosophical exploration of what capitalistic societies truly mean for the individual.
A short vade mecum for unrepentant materialism, The Idea of World collects three essays by Italian philosopher Paulo Virno that are intricately wrapped around one another. The first essay, “Mundanity,” tries to clarify what the term “world,” as referred to as the perceptual and historical context of our existence, means—both with and against Kant and Wittgenstein. How should we understand expressions such as “worldly people,” “the course of the world,” or “getting by in this world”? The second, “Virtuosity and Revolution,” is a minor political treatise. Virno puts forward a set of concepts capable of confronting the magnetic storm that has knocked out the compasses that every reflection on the public sphere has relied on since the seventeenth century. The third, “The Use of Life”, is the shorthand delineation of a research program on the notion of use. What exactly are we doing when we use a hammer, a time span, or an ironic sentence? And, above all, what does the use of the self—of one’s own life, which lies at the basis of all uses—amount to in human existence?
Presenting his ideas in three distinct vignettes, Virno examines how the philosophy of language, anthropology, and political theory are inextricably linked.

front cover of The Still Arrow
The Still Arrow
Three Attempts to Annul Time
Elvio Fachinelli
Seagull Books, 2021
Elvio Fachinelli (1928–1989) was a leading Italian psychoanalyst whose clinical, theoretical, and activist work resonated well beyond his discipline. In The Still Arrow, Fachinelli launches an interdisciplinary investigation ranging from anthropology to politics, and from the history of religions to the critique of ideology. 

Originally published in 1979, this book displays Fachinelli’s eclectic methodology. The Still Arrow goes against Freud’s attempt in Totem and Taboo to equate individual psycho-libidinal predicaments with those of whole societies. Yet, it argues that the difference between the two always remains one of degree, not of principle. The vexing problem of their relation is approached through an interrogation of time. From a psychoanalytic standpoint, individual obsessional neurosis is firmly connected to a repudiation of death. But, Fachinelli argues, comparable temporal strategies are also present at the group level, in disparate social and historical contexts, for instance, in the archaic transformation of the dead into ancestors and in what he names 'the fascist phenomenon'.

From this perspective, history is not just the sum of all possible histories but also of impossible ones. Fachinelli delineates an innovative knowledge of time which brings together apparently distant events into a characteristic series. This first English translation of a book by Fachinelli, The Still Arrow introduces a major critical European voice to the larger readership.

front cover of The Virtual Point of Freedom
The Virtual Point of Freedom
Essays on Politics, Aesthetics, and Religion
Lorenzo Chiesa
Northwestern University Press, 2016
The principal motif that runs throughout The Virtual Point of Freedom is a confrontation with the discourse of freedom, or, more specifically, the falsely transgressive ideal of a total emancipation that would know no constraints. Far from delineating a supposed “subject of freedom” that would allegedly overcome alienation once and for all, the seven chapters in Chiesa’s book seek to unfold an innovative reading of the dialectical coincidence between dis-alienation and re-alienation in politics, aesthetics, and religion, using psychoanalysis as a privileged critical tool. Topics include Pier Paolo Pasolini’s attack on the visual and biological degeneration of bodies brought about by pleasure-seeking “liberal” consumerism, Giorgio Agamben’s and Slavoj Žižek’s conflicting negotiations with the Christian tradition of “poverty” and “inappropriateness” as potential redemption, and Alain Badiou’s inability to develop a philosophical anthropology that could sustain a coherent politics of emancipation. The book concludes by sketching out the figure of the partisan, a subject who makes it possible to conceive of an intersection between provisional morality and radical politics.

Send via email Share on Facebook Share on Twitter