front cover of The Abyss of Representation
The Abyss of Representation
Marxism and the Postmodern Sublime
George Hartley
Duke University Press, 2003
From the Copernican revolution of Immanuel Kant to the cognitive mapping of Fredric Jameson to the postcolonial politics of Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, representation has been posed as both indispensable and impossible. In his pathbreaking work, The Abyss of Representation, George Hartley traces the development of this impossible necessity from its German Idealist roots through Marxist theories of postmodernism, arguing that in this period of skepticism and globalization we are still grappling with issues brought forth during the age of romanticism and revolution. Hartley shows how the modern problem of representation—the inability of a figure to do justice to its object—still haunts today's postmodern philosophy and politics. He reveals the ways the sublime abyss that opened up in Idealist epistemology and aesthetics resurfaces in recent theories of ideology and subjectivity.

Hartley describes how modern theory from Kant through Lacan attempts to come to terms with the sublime limits of representation and how ideas developed with the Marxist tradition—such as Marx’s theory of value, Althusser’s theory of structural causality, or Zizek’s theory of ideological enjoyment—can be seen as variants of the sublime object. Representation, he argues, is ultimately a political problem. Whether that problem be a Marxist representation of global capitalism, a deconstructive representation of subaltern women, or a Chicano self-representation opposing Anglo-American images of Mexican Americans, it is only through this grappling with the negative, Hartley explains, that a Marxist theory of postmodernism can begin to address the challenges of global capitalism and resurgent imperialism.


front cover of All or Nothing
All or Nothing
Systematicity, Transcendental Arguments, and Skepticism in German Idealism
Paul W. Franks
Harvard University Press, 2005

Interest in German Idealism--not just Kant, but Fichte and Hegel as well--has recently developed within analytic philosophy, which traditionally defined itself in opposition to the Idealist tradition. Yet one obstacle remains especially intractable: the Idealists' longstanding claim that philosophy must be systematic. In this work, the first overview of the German Idealism that is both conceptual and methodological, Paul W. Franks offers a philosophical reconstruction that is true to the movement's own times and resources and, at the same time, deeply relevant to contemporary thought.

At the center of the book are some neglected but critical questions about German Idealism: Why do Fichte, Schelling, and Hegel think that philosophy's main task is the construction of a system? Why do they think that every part of this system must derive from a single, immanent and absolute principle? Why, in short, must it be all or nothing? Through close examination of the major Idealists as well as the overlooked figures who influenced their reading of Kant, Franks explores the common ground and divergences between the philosophical problems that motivated Kant and those that, in turn, motivated the Idealists. The result is a characterization of German Idealism that reveals its sources as well as its pertinence--and its challenge--to contemporary philosophical naturalism.


front cover of Animals, Mind, and Matter
Animals, Mind, and Matter
The Inside Story
Josephine Donovan
Michigan State University Press, 2022
It’s no secret that animals are considered objects in the fields of law, commerce, and science, characterized as property and commodities. Animals, Mind, and Matter: The Inside Story challenges this ascription and establishes that animals are living subjects, who have minds and opinions of their own and care about what happens to them. Donovan contends that animals’ voices or standpoints should be part of any human decisions concerning their ethical treatment. Elaborating on feminist care theory and critical animal standpoint theory, the author provides compelling evidence for animal subjectivity, exploring in the process the nature of subjectivity and consciousness while drawing from recent developments in quantum and emergence theories that point away from the dominant ontology of Cartesian objectivism. Through these explorations, Donovan proposes that a new narrative is emerging in the arts and sciences—an inside story that re-subjectifies natural life and leaves behind the deadening Midas touch of Cartesian objectivism.

front cover of Archaeologies of Vision
Archaeologies of Vision
Foucault and Nietzsche on Seeing and Saying
Gary Shapiro
University of Chicago Press, 2003
While many acknowledge that Friedrich Nietzsche and Michel Foucault have redefined our notions of time and history, few recognize the crucial role that "the infinite relation" between seeing and saying (as Foucault put it) plays in their work. Gary Shapiro reveals, for the first time, the full extent of Nietzsche and Foucault's concern with the visual.

Shapiro explores the whole range of Foucault's writings on visual art, including the theory of visual resistance, the concept of the phantasm or simulacrum, and his interrogation of the relation of painting, language, and power in artists from Bosch to Warhol. Shapiro also shows through an excavation of little-known writings that the visual is a major theme in Nietzsche's thought. In addition to explaining the significance of Nietzsche's analysis of Raphael, Dürer, and Claude Lorrain, he examines the philosopher's understanding of the visual dimension of Greek theater and Wagnerian opera and offers a powerful new reading of Thus Spoke Zarathustra.

Archaeologies of Vision will be a landmark work for all scholars of visual culture as well as for those engaged with continental philosophy.

front cover of The Architectonics of Meaning
The Architectonics of Meaning
Foundations of the New Pluralism
Walter Watson
University of Chicago Press, 1993
The Architectonics of Meaning is a lucid demonstration of the purposes, methods, and implications of philosophical semantics that both supports and builds on Richard McKeon's and other noted pluralists' convictions that multiple philosophical approaches are viable. Watson ingeniously explores ways to systematize these approaches, and the result is a well-structured instrument for understanding texts. This book exemplifies both general and particular aspects of systematic pluralism, reorienting our understanding of the realms of knowing, doing, and making.

front cover of Argumentation and the Social Grounds of Knowledge
Argumentation and the Social Grounds of Knowledge
Charles Arthur Willard
University of Alabama Press, 2009
Charles Willard's provocative Argumentation and the Social Grounds of Knowledge is not a celebration of controversy but a sophisticated study that explores the social basis of human knowledge. Drawing upon phenomenologists such as Alfred Schultz, psychologists such as George Kelley, and argumentation philosophers such as Stephen Toulmin, Willard makes a genuine contribution to intellectual inquiry by extending essential consideration about human knowledge. He insightfully demonstrates how "secular sources" provide a fundamental resource in developing religious understanding from argumentative interactions.

front cover of The Art of Conjecture
The Art of Conjecture
Nicholas of Cusa on Knowledge
Clyde Lee Miller
Catholic University of America Press, 2021
“Learned ignorance,” the recognition that God is beyond us and our knowing capacities is the theological concept for which Nicholas of Cusa is most famous. Despite God’s apparent absence Nicholas offers original ways to think about God that would unite his presence with his absence. He called these proposals “conjectures” (coniecturae). Conjecture and conjecturing are central to the methodology of Nicholas’s philosophical theology and to his thinking about human knowledge. By using concrete examples from the everyday life of his times as symbolic imagery Nicholas makes what we say about God imaginatively available and theoretically plausible. He called such conjectural symbols “aenigmata” (= “symbolic or ‘enigmatic’ conjectures”) because they partially clarify and likewise point to an exact truth that is beyond us. Novel and imaginative, Nicholas’s conjectural examples break with the traditional medieval Aristotelian examples and provide further evidence of his role as a figure bridging medieval and Renaissance thought. Following his earlier book, Reading Cusanus (The Catholic University of America Press, 2003), Clyde Lee Miller here examines and comments on the meaning of “conjecture” in Nicholas of Cusa. The Art of Conjecture: Nicholas of Cusa on Knowledge explores what Nicholas meant by conjecture and its import as demonstrated in his treatises and sermons. Beginning with Nicholas’ On Conjectures, Miller analyzes a series of conjectural symbols and proposals across Nicholas’s less frequently discussed texts and recently published sermons. This early Renaissance thinker offers an original and ground-breaking way of framing speculation in philosophical theology and more generally in philosophy itself.

front cover of Articulating the World
Articulating the World
Conceptual Understanding and the Scientific Image
Joseph Rouse
University of Chicago Press, 2015
Naturalism as a guiding philosophy for modern science both disavows any appeal to the supernatural or anything else transcendent to nature, and repudiates any philosophical or religious authority over the workings and conclusions of the sciences. A longstanding paradox within naturalism, however, has been the status of scientific knowledge itself, which seems, at first glance, to be something that transcends and is therefore impossible to conceptualize within scientific naturalism itself.
In Articulating the World, Joseph Rouse argues that the most pressing challenge for advocates of naturalism today is precisely this: to understand how to make sense of a scientific conception of nature as itself part of nature, scientifically understood. Drawing upon recent developments in evolutionary biology and the philosophy of science, Rouse defends naturalism in response to this challenge by revising both how we understand our scientific conception of the world and how we situate ourselves within it.

front cover of The Ashtray
The Ashtray
(Or the Man Who Denied Reality)
Errol Morris
University of Chicago Press, 2018
Filmmaker Errol Morris offers his perspective on the world and his powerful belief in the necessity of truth. 

In 1972, philosopher of science Thomas Kuhn threw an ashtray at Errol Morris. This book is the result.
At the time, Morris was a graduate student. Now we know him as one of the most celebrated and restlessly probing filmmakers of our time, the creator of such classics of documentary investigation as The Thin Blue Line and The Fog of War. Kuhn, meanwhile, was—and, posthumously, remains—a star in his field, the author of The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, a landmark book that has sold well over a million copies and introduced the concept of “paradigm shifts” to the larger culture. And Morris thought the idea was bunk.
The Ashtray tells why—and in doing so, it makes a powerful case for Morris’s way of viewing the world, and the centrality to that view of a fundamental conception of the necessity of truth. “For me,” Morris writes, “truth is about the relationship between language and the world: a correspondence idea of truth.” He has no patience for philosophical systems that aim for internal coherence and disdain the world itself. Morris is after bigger game: he wants to establish as clearly as possible what we know and can say about the world, reality, history, our actions and interactions. It’s the fundamental desire that animates his filmmaking, whether he’s probing Robert McNamara about Vietnam or the oddball owner of a pet cemetery. Truth may be slippery, but that doesn’t mean we have to grease its path of escape through philosophical evasions. Rather, Morris argues powerfully, it is our duty to do everything we can to establish and support it.
In a time when truth feels ever more embattled, under siege from political lies and virtual lives alike, The Ashtray is a bracing reminder of its value, delivered by a figure who has, over decades, uniquely earned our trust through his commitment to truth. No Morris fan should miss it.

front cover of Aspects of Psychologism
Aspects of Psychologism
Tim Crane
Harvard University Press, 2014

Aspects of Psychologism is a penetrating look into fundamental philosophical questions of consciousness, perception, and the experience we have of our mental lives. Psychologism, in Tim Crane's formulation, presents the mind as a single subject-matter to be investigated not only empirically and conceptually but also phenomenologically: through the systematic examination of consciousness and thought from the subject's point of view.

How should we think about the mind? Analytical philosophy tends to address this question by examining the language we use to talk about our minds, and thus translates our knowledge of mind and consciousness into knowledge of the concepts which this language embodies. Psychologism rejects this approach. The philosophy of mind, Crane believes, has become too narrow in its purely conceptual focus on the logical and linguistic formulas that structure thought. We cannot assume that the categories needed to understand the mind correspond absolutely with such semantic categories. A central claim of Crane's psychologism is that intentionality--the "aboutness" or "directedness" of the mind--is essential to all mental phenomena. In addition, Crane responds to proponents of materialist doctrines about consciousness and defends the claim that perception can represent the world in a non-conceptual, non-propositional way.

Philosophers must take more seriously the findings of psychology and phenomenology, Crane contends. An investigation of mental phenomena from this broader viewpoint opens up philosophy to a more realistic and plausible account of the mind's nature.


front cover of Axiomatics
Mathematical Thought and High Modernism
Alma Steingart
University of Chicago Press, 2023
The first history of postwar mathematics, offering a new interpretation of the rise of abstraction and axiomatics in the twentieth century.

Why did abstraction dominate American art, social science, and natural science in the mid-twentieth century? Why, despite opposition, did abstraction and theoretical knowledge flourish across a diverse set of intellectual pursuits during the Cold War? In recovering the centrality of abstraction across a range of modernist projects in the United States, Alma Steingart brings mathematics back into the conversation about midcentury American intellectual thought. The expansion of mathematics in the aftermath of World War II, she demonstrates, was characterized by two opposing tendencies: research in pure mathematics became increasingly abstract and rarified, while research in applied mathematics and mathematical applications grew in prominence as new fields like operations research and game theory brought mathematical knowledge to bear on more domains of knowledge. Both were predicated on the same abstractionist conception of mathematics and were rooted in the same approach: modern axiomatics. 

For American mathematicians, the humanities and the sciences did not compete with one another, but instead were two complementary sides of the same epistemological commitment. Steingart further reveals how this mathematical epistemology influenced the sciences and humanities, particularly the postwar social sciences. As mathematics changed, so did the meaning of mathematization. 

Axiomatics focuses on American mathematicians during a transformative time, following a series of controversies among mathematicians about the nature of mathematics as a field of study and as a body of knowledge. The ensuing debates offer a window onto the postwar development of mathematics band Cold War epistemology writ large. As Steingart’s history ably demonstrates, mathematics is the social activity in which styles of truth—here, abstraction—become synonymous with ways of knowing. 

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