Understanding “what something is” is a project that has long occupied philosophers. Perhaps no thinker in the Western tradition has had more influence on how we approach this question than Aristotle, whose Metaphysics remains the locus classicus of rigorous examinations into the nature of being. Now, in an elegantly argued new study, Aryeh Kosman reinterprets Aristotle’s ontology and compels us to reexamine some of our most basic assumptions about the great philosopher’s thought.For Aristotle, to ask “what something is” is to inquire into a specific mode of its being, something ordinarily regarded as its “substance.” But to understand substance, we need the concept of energeia—a Greek term usually translated as “actuality.” In a move of far-reaching consequence, Kosman explains that the correct translation of energeia is not “actuality” but “activity.” We have subtly misunderstood the Metaphysics on this crucial point, says Kosman. Aristotle conceives of substance as a kind of dynamic activity, not some inert quality. Substance is something actively being what it is.Kosman demonstrates how this insight significantly alters our understanding of a number of important concepts in Aristotelian thought, from accounts of motion, consciousness, and essence to explanations of the nature of animal and divine being. Whether it is approached as an in-depth introduction to Aristotle’s metaphysics or as a highly original reassessment sure to spark debate, there can be no argument that The Activity of Being is a major contribution to our understanding of one of philosophy’s most important thinkers.
In After Life, Eugene Thacker clears the ground for a new philosophy of life by recovering the twists and turns in its philosophical history. Beginning with Aristotle’s originary formulation of a philosophy of life, Thacker examines the influence of Aristotle’s ideas in medieval and early modern thought, leading him to the work of Immanuel Kant, who notes the inherently contradictory nature of “life in itself.” Along the way, Thacker shows how early modern philosophy’s engagement with the problem of life affects thinkers such as Gilles Deleuze, Georges Bataille, and Alain Badiou, as well as contemporary developments in the “speculative turn” in philosophy.
At a time when life is categorized, measured, and exploited in a variety of ways, After Life invites us to delve deeper into the contours and contradictions of the age-old question, “what is life?”
Chen's book is the first to bring the concept of animacy together with queer of color scholarship, critical animal studies, and disability theory. Through analyses of dehumanizing insults, the meanings of queerness, animal protagonists in recent Asian/American art and film, the lead in toys panic in 2007, and the social lives of environmental illness, Animacies illuminates a hierarchical politics infused by race, sexuality, and ability. In this groundbreaking book, Chen rethinks the criteria governing agency and receptivity, health and toxicity, productivity and stillness—and demonstrates how attention to the affective charge of matter challenges commonsense orderings of the world.
Anselm of Canterbury (1033–1109 CE), in his work Proslogion, originated the “ontological argument” for God’s existence, famously arguing that “something than which nothing greater can be conceived,” which he identifies with God, must actually exist, for otherwise something greater could indeed be conceived. Some commentators have claimed that although Anselm may not have been conscious of the fact, the Proslogion as well as his Reply to Gaunilo contains passages that constitute a second independent proof: a “modal ontological argument” that concerns the supposed logical necessity of God’s existence. Other commentators disagree, countering that the alleged second argument does not stand on its own but presupposes the conclusion of the first.Anselm’s Other Argument stakes an original claim in this debate, and takes it further. There is a second a priori argument in Anselm (specifically in the Reply), A. D. Smith contends, but it is not the modal argument past scholars have identified. This second argument surfaces in a number of forms, though always turning on certain deep, interrelated metaphysical issues. It is this form of argument that in fact underlies several of the passages which have been misconstrued as statements of the modal argument. In a book that combines historical research with rigorous philosophical analysis, Smith discusses this argument in detail, finally defending a modification of it that is implicit in Anselm. This “other argument” bears a striking resemblance to one that Duns Scotus would later employ.
The Body Multiple juxtaposes two distinct texts. Alongside Mol’s analysis of her ethnographic material—interviews with doctors and patients and observations of medical examinations, consultations, and operations—runs a parallel text in which she reflects on the relevant literature. Mol draws on medical anthropology, sociology, feminist theory, philosophy, and science and technology studies to reframe such issues as the disease-illness distinction, subject-object relations, boundaries, difference, situatedness, and ontology. In dialogue with one another, Mol’s two texts meditate on the multiplicity of reality-in-practice.
Presenting philosophical reflections on the body and medical practice through vivid storytelling, The Body Multiple will be important to those in medical anthropology, philosophy, and the social study of science, technology, and medicine.
From one end of his philosophical work to the other, Gilles Deleuze consistently described his position as a transcendental empiricism. But just what is transcendental about Deleuze's transcendental empiricism? And how does his position fit with the traditional empiricism articulated by Hume? In Difference and Givenness, Levi Bryant addresses these long-neglected questions so critical to an understanding of Deleuze's thinking. Through a close examination of Deleuze's independent work--focusing especially on Difference and Repetition--as well as his engagement with thinkers such as Kant, Maimon, Bergson, and Simondon, Bryant sets out to unearth Deleuze's transcendental empiricism and to show how it differs from transcendental idealism, absolute idealism, and traditional empiricism. What emerges from these efforts is a metaphysics that strives to articulate the conditions for real existence, capable of accounting for the individual itself without falling into conceptual or essentialist abstraction. In Bryant's analysis, Deleuze's metaphysics articulates an account of being as process or creative individuation based on difference, as well as a challenging critique--and explanation--of essentialist substance ontologies. A clear and powerful discussion of how Deleuze's project relates to two of the most influential strains in the history of philosophy, this book will prove essential to anyone seeking to understand Deleuze's thought and its specific contribution to metaphysics and epistemology.
In this brief book one of the most distinguished living American philosophers takes up the question of whether ethical judgments can properly be considered objective—a question that has vexed philosophers over the past century. Looking at the efforts of philosophers from the Enlightenment through the twentieth century, Hilary Putnam traces the ways in which ethical problems arise in a historical context.Putnam’s central concern is ontology—indeed, the very idea of ontology as the division of philosophy concerned with what (ultimately) exists. Reviewing what he deems the disastrous consequences of ontology’s influence on analytic philosophy—in particular, the contortions it imposes upon debates about the objective of ethical judgments—Putnam proposes abandoning the very idea of ontology. He argues persuasively that the attempt to provide an ontological explanation of the objectivity of either mathematics or ethics is, in fact, an attempt to provide justifications that are extraneous to mathematics and ethics—and is thus deeply misguided.
Jean-Luc Marion is one of the world’s foremost philosophers of religion as well as one of the leading Catholic thinkers of modern times. In God Without Being, Marion challenges a fundamental premise of traditional philosophy, theology, and metaphysics: that God, before all else, must be. Taking a characteristically postmodern stance and engaging in passionate dialogue with Heidegger, he locates a “God without Being” in the realm of agape, or Christian charity and love. If God is love, Marion contends, then God loves before he actually is.
Institution and Passivity is based on course notes for classes taught at the Bibliothèque Nationale de Paris. Philosophically, this collection connects the issue of passive constitution of meaning with the dimension of history, furthering discussions and completing arguments started in The Visible and the Invisible and Signs (both published by Northwestern). Leonard Lawlor and Heath Massey’s translation makes available to an English-speaking readership a critical transitional text in the history of phenomenology.
Coole and Frost argue that contemporary economic, environmental, geopolitical, and technological developments demand new accounts of nature, agency, and social and political relationships; modes of inquiry that privilege consciousness and subjectivity are not adequate to the task. New materialist philosophies are needed to do justice to the complexities of twenty-first-century biopolitics and political economy, because they raise fundamental questions about the place of embodied humans in a material world and the ways that we produce, reproduce, and consume our material environment.
ContributorsSara AhmedJane BennettRosi BraidottiPheng CheahRey ChowWilliam E. ConnollyDiana CooleJason EdwardsSamantha FrostElizabeth GroszSonia KruksMelissa A. Orlie
M. C. Dillon (1938–2005) was widely regarded as a world-leading Merleau-Ponty scholar. His book Merleau-Ponty’s Ontology (1988) is recognized as a classic text that revolutionized the philosophical conversation about the great French phenomenologist. Dillon followed that book with two others: Semiological Reductionism, a critique of early-1990s linguistic reductionism, and Beyond Romance, a richly developed theory of love. At the time of his death, Dillon had nearly completed two further books to which he was passionately committed. The first one offers a highly original interpretation of Nietzsche’s ontology of becoming. The second offers a detailed ethical theory based on Merleau-Ponty’s account of carnal intersubjectivity. The Ontology of Becoming and the Ethics of Particularity collects these two manuscripts written by a distinguished philosopher at the peak of his powers—manuscripts that, taken together, offer a distinctive and powerful view of human life and ethical relations.
Agreeing with Marx that ontology is production and production is ontology, Nishida in these three essays—"Expressive Activity" (1925), "The Standpoint of Active Intuition" (1935), and "Human Being" (1938)—addresses sense and reason, language and thought, intuition and appropriation, ultimately arguing that in this concept of production, ideality and materiality are neither mutually exclusive nor oppositional but, rather, coimmanent. Nishida's forceful articulation of the radical nature of Marx's theory of production is, Haver contends, particularly timely in today's speculation-driven global economy. Nishida's reading of Marx, which points to the inseparability of immaterial intellectual labor and material manual labor, provokes a reconsideration of Marxism's utility for making sense of—and resisting—the logic of contemporary capitalism.
An insightful commentary on Plato’s Laws, his complex final work.
The Laws was Plato’s last work, his longest, and one of his most difficult. In contrast to the Republic, which presents an abstract ideal, the Laws appears to provide practical guidelines for the establishment and maintenance of political order in the real world. Classicist Seth Benardete offers a rich analysis of each of the twelve books of the Laws, which illuminates Plato’s major themes and arguments concerning theology, the soul, justice, and education.
Most importantly, Benardete shows how music in a broad sense, including drama, epic poetry, and even puppetry, mediates between reason and the city in Plato’s philosophy of law. Benardete also uncovers the work’s concealed ontological dimension, explaining why it is hidden and how it can be brought to light. In establishing the coherence and underlying organization of Plato’s last dialogue, Benardete makes a significant contribution to Platonic studies.
In this systematic historical analysis, Nino Langiulli focuses on a key philosophical issue, possibility, as it is refracted through the thought of the Italian philosopher Nicola Abbagnano. Langiulli examines Abbagnano's attempt to raise possibility to a level of prime importance and investigates his understanding of existence. In so doing, the author offers a sustained exposition of and argument with the account of possibility in the major thinkers of the Western tradition—Plato, Aristotle, Kant, and Kierkegaard. He also makes pertinent comments on such philosophers as Diodorus Cronus, William of Ockham, Spinoza, Hobbes, and Hegel, as well as such logicians as DeMorgan and Boole.
Nicola Abbagnano, who died in 1990, recently came to the attention of the general public as an influential teacher of author Umberto Eco. Creator of a dictionary of philosophy and author of a multiple-volume history of Western philosophy, Abbagnano was the only philosopher, according to Langiulli, to argue that "to be is to be possible."
Even though the concept of probability and the discipline of statistics are grounded in the concept of possibility, philosophers throughout history have grappled with the problem of defining it. Possibility has been viewed by some as an empty concept, devoid of reality, and by others as reducible to actuality or necessity—concepts which are opposite to it. Langiulli analyzes and debates Abbagnano's treatment of necessity as secondary to possibility, and he addresses the philosopher's conversation with his predecessors as well as his European and American contemporaries.
This is a major phenomenological work in which real learning works in graceful tandem with genuine and important insight. Yet this is not a work of scholarship; it is a work of philosophy, a work that succeeds both in the careful, descriptive massing of detail and in the power of its analysis of the conditions that underlie the possibility of such things as description, interpretation, perception, and meaning.
Principles of Interpretation formulates answers to these questions: How does the interpretative process proceed? What are its fundamentals? What assurance have we that our interpretations are in principal faithful to that which is to be interpreted? What conclusions are indicated concerning the past phases of our history and its present tendencies?
Responding to the ongoing “objectal turn” in contemporary humanities and social sciences, the essays in Subject Lessons present a sustained case for the continued importance— indeed, the indispensability—of the category of the subject for the future of materialist thought.
Approaching matters through the frame of Hegel and Lacan, the contributors to this volume, including the editors, as well as Andrew Cole, Mladen Dolar, Nathan Gorelick, Adrian Johnston, Todd McGowan, Borna Radnik, Molly Anne Rothenberg, Kathryn Van Wert, and Alenka Zupančič—many of whom stand at the forefront of contemporary Hegel and Lacan scholarship—agree with neovitalist thinkers that material reality is ontologically incomplete, in a state of perpetual becoming, yet they maintain that this is the case not in spite of but, rather, because of the subject.
Incorporating elements of philosophy, psychoanalysis, and literary and cultural studies, Subject Lessons contests the movement to dismiss the subject, arguing that there can be no truly robust materialism without accounting for the little piece of the Real that is the subject.
Opposing a long-standing orthodoxy of the Western philosophical tradition running from ancient Greek thought until the late nineteenth century, Frege argued that psychological laws of thought—those that explicate how we in fact think—must be distinguished from logical laws of thought—those that formulate and impose rational requirements on thinking. Logic does not describe how we actually think, but only how we should. Yet by thus sundering the logical from the psychological, Frege was unable to explain certain fundamental logical truths, most notably the psychological version of the law of non-contradiction—that one cannot think a thought and its negation simultaneously.Irad Kimhi’s Thinking and Being marks a radical break with Frege’s legacy in analytic philosophy, exposing the flaws of his approach and outlining a novel conception of judgment as a two-way capacity. In closing the gap that Frege opened, Kimhi shows that the two principles of non-contradiction—the ontological principle and the psychological principle—are in fact aspects of the very same capacity, differently manifested in thinking and being.As his argument progresses, Kimhi draws on the insights of historical figures such as Aristotle, Kant, and Wittgenstein to develop highly original accounts of topics that are of central importance to logic and philosophy more generally. Self-consciousness, language, and logic are revealed to be but different sides of the same reality. Ultimately, Kimhi’s work elucidates the essential sameness of thinking and being that has exercised Western philosophy since its inception.
An award-winning philosopher bridges the continental-analytic divide with an important contribution to the debate on the meaning of realism.Jocelyn Benoist argues for a philosophical point of view that prioritizes the concept of reality. The human mind’s attitudes toward reality, he posits, both depend on reality and must navigate within it.Refusing the path of metaphysical realism, which would make reality an object of speculation in itself, independent of any reflection on our ways of approaching it or thinking about it, Benoist defends the idea of an intentionality placed in reality—contextualized. Intentionality is an essential part of any realist philosophical position; Benoist’s innovation is to insist on looking to context to develop a renewed realism that draws conclusions from contemporary philosophy of language and applies them methodically to issues in the fields of metaphysics and the philosophy of the mind. “What there is”—the traditional subject of metaphysics—can be determined only in context.Benoist offers a sharp criticism of acontextual ontology and acontextual approaches to the mind and reality. At the same time, he opposes postmodern anti-realism and the semantic approach characteristic of classic analytic philosophy. Instead, Toward a Contextual Realism bridges the analytic-continental divide while providing the foundation for a radically contextualist philosophy of mind and metaphysics. “To be” is to be in a context.
The French philosopher Renaud Barbaras remarked that late in Maurice Merleau-Ponty’s career, “The phenomenology of perception fulfills itself as a philosophy of expression.” In Tracing Expression in Merleau-Ponty: Aesthetics, Philosophy of Biology, and Ontology, Véronique M. Fótiaddresses the guiding yet neglected theme of expression in Merleau-Ponty’s thought. She traces Merleau-Ponty’s ideas about how individuals express creative or artistic impulses through his three essays on aesthetics, his engagement with animality and the “new biology” in the second of his lecture courses on nature of 1957–58, and in his late ontology, articulated in 1964 in the fragmentary text of Le visible et l’invisible (The Visible and the Invisible). With the exception of a discussion of Merleau-Ponty’s 1945 essay “Cezanne’s Doubt,” Fóti engages with Merleau-Ponty’s late and final thought, with close attention to both his scientific and philosophical interlocutors, especially the continental rationalists. Expression shows itself, in Merleau-Ponty’s thought, to be primordial, and this innate and fundamental nature of expression has implications for his understanding of artistic creation, science, and philosophy.
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