For most of the twentieth century, the writings of aestheticians of the French Enlightenment were neglected by philosophers and students of the fine arts. Coleman has applied philosophical analysis to the writings of Diderot, Montesquieu, Dubos, Batteux, André, and Crousaz, among others, to reflect on the fine arts of the first two-thirds of the eighteenth century.
All Thoughts Are Equal is both an introduction to the work of French philosopher François Laruelle and an exercise in nonhuman thinking. For Laruelle, standard forms of philosophy continue to dominate our models of what counts as exemplary thought and knowledge. By contrast, what Laruelle calls his “non-standard” approach attempts to bring democracy into thought, because all forms of thinking—including the nonhuman—are equal.
John Ó Maoilearca examines how philosophy might appear when viewed with non-philosophical and nonhuman eyes. He does so by refusing to explain Laruelle through orthodox philosophy, opting instead to follow the structure of a film (Lars von Trier’s documentary The Five Obstructions) as an example of the non-standard method. Von Trier’s film is a meditation on the creative limits set by film, both technologically and aesthetically, and how these limits can push our experience of film—and of ourselves—beyond what is normally deemed “the perfect human.”
All Thoughts Are Equal adopts film’s constraints in its own experiment by showing how Laruelle’s radically new style of philosophy is best presented through our most nonhuman form of thought—that found in cinema.
A careful analysis of the rhetorical thought of René Descartes and of a distinguished group of post-Cartesians. Covering a unique range of authors, including Bernard Lamy and Nicolas Malebranche, Carr attacks the idea, which has become commonplace in contemporary criticism, that the Cartesian system is incompatible with rhetoric.
Carr analyzes the writings of Balzac, the Port-Royalists Arnauld and Nicole, Malebranche, and Lamy, exploring the evolution of Descartes’ thought into their different theories of rhetoric. He constructs his arguments, probing each author’s writings on rhetoric, persuasion, and attention, to demonstrate the basis for rhetorical thought present in Descartes’ theory of persuasion when it is combined with his psychophysiology of attention.
The rootless Jew, wandering disconnected from history, homeland, and nature, was often the target of early twentieth-century nationalist rhetoric aimed against modern culture. But following World War II, a number of prominent French philosophers recast this maligned figure in positive terms, and in so doing transformed postwar conceptions of politics and identity.
Sarah Hammerschlag explores this figure of the Jew from its prewar usage to its resuscitation by Jean-Paul Sartre, Emmanuel Levinas, Maurice Blanchot, and Jacques Derrida. Sartre and Levinas idealized the Jew’s rootlessness in order to rethink the foundations of political identity. Blanchot and Derrida, in turn, used the figure of the Jew to call into question the very nature of group identification. By chronicling this evolution in thinking, Hammerschlag ultimately reveals how the figural Jew can function as a critical mechanism that exposes the political dangers of mythic allegiance, whether couched in universalizing or particularizing terms.
Both an intellectual history and a philosophical argument, The Figural Jew will set the agenda for all further consideration of Jewish identity, modern Jewish thought, and continental philosophy.
In his explorations of the relations between the sacred and violence, René Girard has hit upon the origin of culture—the way culture began, the way it continues to organize itself. The way communities of human beings structure themselves in a manner that is different from that of other species on the planet.
Like Albert Einstein, Sigmund Freud, Émile Durkheim, Martin Buber, or others who have changed the way we think in the humanities or in the human sciences, Girard has put forth a set of ideas that have altered our perceptions of the world in which we function. We will never be able to think the same way again about mimetic desire, about the scapegoat mechanism, and about the role of Jewish and Christian scripture in explaining sacrifice, violence, and the crises from which our culture has been born.
The contributions fall into roughly four areas of interpretive work: religion and religious study; literary study; the philosophy of social science; and psychological studies.
The essays presented here are offered as "essays" in the older French sense of attempts (essayer) or trials of ideas, as indeed Girard has tried out ideas with us. With a conscious echo of Montaigne, then, this hommage volume is titled Essays in Friendship and in Truth.
The classical period in France presents a particularly lively battleground for the transition between oral-visual culture, on the one hand, and print culture on the other. The former depended on learning from sources of knowledge directly, in their presence, in a manner analogous to theatrical experience. The latter became characterized by the distance and abstraction of reading. How Do I Know Thee? explores the ways in which literature, philosophy, and psychology approach social cognition, or how we come to know others. Richard E. Goodkin describes a central opposition between what he calls “theatrical cognition” and “narrative cognition,” drawing both on scholarship on literary genre and mode, and also on the work of a number of philosophers and psychologists, in particular Descartes’s theory of cognition, Freudian psychoanalysis, mid‑twentieth‑century behaviorism, and the field of cognitive science. The result is a study that will be of interest not only to students of the classical period but also to those in the corresponding disciplines.
A radical rethinking of the theory and the experience of mental images
Here, in English translation for the first time, is Gilbert Simondon’s fundamental reconception of the mental image and the theory of imagination and invention. Drawing on a vast range of mid-twentieth-century theoretical resources—from experimental psychology, cybernetics, and ethology to the phenomenological reflections of Sartre and Merleau-Ponty—Imagination and Invention provides a comprehensive account of the mental image and adds a vital new dimension to the theory of psychical individuation in Simondon’s earlier, highly influential work.
Simondon traces the development of the mental image through four phases: first a bundle of motor anticipations, the image becomes a cognitive system that mediates the organism’s relation to its milieu, then a symbolic and abstract integration of motor and affective experience to, finally, invention, a solution to a problem of life that requires the externalization of the mental image and the creation of a technical object. An image cannot be understood from the perspective of one phase alone, he argues, but only within the trajectory of its progressive metamorphosis.
The connection between mind and brain has been one of the most persistent problems in modern Western thought; even recent advances in neuroscience haven’t been able to explain it satisfactorily. Historian Larry Sommer McGrath’s Making Spirit Matter studies how a particularly productive and influential group of nineteenth- and early twentieth-century French thinkers attempted to solve this puzzle by showing the mutual dependence of spirit and matter. The scientific revolution taking place at this point in history across disciplines, from biology to psychology and neurology, located our mental powers in the brain and offered a radical reformulation of the meaning of society, spirit, and the self. Tracing connections among thinkers such as Henri Bergson, Alfred Fouillée, Jean-Marie Guyau, and others, McGrath plots alternative intellectual movements that revived themes of creativity, time, and experience by applying the very sciences that seemed to undermine metaphysics and religion. Making Spirit Matter lays out the long legacy of this moment in the history of ideas and how it might renew our understanding of the relationship between mind and brain today.
Adrian Johnston’s Prolegomena to Any Future Materialism, planned for three volumes, will lay the foundations for a new materialist theoretical apparatus, his “transcendental materialism.” In this first volume, Johnston clears an opening within contemporary philosophy and theory for his unique position. He engages closely with Lacan, Badiou, and Meillassoux, demonstrating how each of these philosophers can be seen as failing to forge an authentically atheistic materialism. Johnston builds a new materialism both profoundly influenced by these brilliant comrades of a shared cause as well as making up for the shortcomings of their own creative attempts to bring to realization the Lacanian vision of an Other-less, One-less ontology. The Outcome of Contemporary French Philosophy yields intellectual weapons suitable for deployment on multiple fronts simultaneously, effective against the mutually entangled spiritualist and scientistic foes of our post-Enlightenment, biopolitical era of nothing more than commodities and currencies.
The Structural Allegory was first published in 1984. Minnesota Archive Editions uses digital technology to make long-unavailable books once again accessible, and are published unaltered from the original University of Minnesota Press editions.
The radical questions raised by Saussure, Barthes, Foucault, Levi-Strauss, and others have had an enormous impact on Anglo-American literary and cultural studies over the past twenty years. John Fekete argues that we can see this strategic development of French thought in terms of what he calls "the structural allegory." Structuralism proper has given way to the currently dominant model of post-structuralism, yet we remain uncertain of the practical orientations favored by thinkers associated with both phases of the movement.
With the aim of uncovering the legacy of the structural tradition, the essays in this volume survey key French thinkers, including some not well known in the Anglo-American context — Baudrillard and Castoriadis. The essays are reconstructive, not deconstructive, in character, scholarly in method, and ecumenical in spirit. While the structural allegory emerges from this critical analysis as an inescapable intellectual paradigm (analogous to the transformations in quantum physics and modern biology), the authors argue that it merits admiration and reservation in equal measure.
Interrogating the work of four contemporary French philosophers to rethink philosophy’s relationship to science and science’s relationship to reality
The Technique of Thought explores the relationship between philosophy and science as articulated in the work of four contemporary French thinkers—Jean-Luc Nancy, François Laruelle, Catherine Malabou, and Bernard Stiegler. Situating their writings within both contemporary scientific debates and the philosophy of science, Ian James elaborates a philosophical naturalism that is notably distinct from the Anglo-American tradition. The naturalism James proposes also diverges decisively from the ways in which continental philosophy has previously engaged with the sciences. He explores the technical procedures and discursive methods used by each of the four thinkers as distinct “techniques of thought” that approach scientific understanding and knowledge experimentally.
Moving beyond debates about the constructed nature of scientific knowledge, The Technique of Thought argues for a strong, variably configured, and entirely novel scientific realism. By bringing together post-phenomenological perspectives concerning individual or collective consciousness and first-person qualitative experience with science’s focus on objective and third-person quantitative knowledge, James tracks the emergence of a new image of the sciences and of scientific practice.
Stripped of aspirations toward total mastery of the universe or a “grand theory of everything,” this renewed scientific worldview, along with the simultaneous reconfiguration of philosophy’s relationship to science, opens up new ways of interrogating immanent reality.
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