Realism’s Many Returns

Here’s a question regarding the return of (mostly metaphysical) realisms in a variety of fields and how they hang together. It seems that, for a while now, everyone has been a realist again after an early to mid-20th century heyday of antirealism.

The histories of analytic and continental philosophy run somewhat parallel here, I believe. Both start as reactions against the Neo-Kantianism dominant around the turn of the century.

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On Zombie Formalism

Always been looking for a term for that kind of art that merely serves as an investment opportunity for oligarchs. Zombie formalism. Not bad.

The central contention of the article is we can’t simply say ‘art is what people let you get away with’ ( = pragmatism / institutionalism) because people, specifically in the art world, have been fundamentally corrupted by capitalism.

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The Anthropocene and Negative Anthropology

This is an excellent piece on the concept of the Anthropocene by Hannes Bajohr, who generally seems to have a lot of interesting work out there, particularly on Blumenberg. Deftly summarizing some intricate debates, clear, excellently paced. Part of his final contention is that we should turn to some 20th-century German philosophy in these debates; I’m sympathetic.

Not sure though if negative anthropology is the way to go (the negation of a metaphysical statement remains a metaphysical statement). Why not talk more about ‘men in the plural’? If The Subject refuses to die, let’s pluralize and think rather about different kinds of subjectivity. Certain strands in both Latour and Rorty could lead that way.

Anthropologists Doing Philosophy

HAU Journal must be the only academic journal which I find myself reading papers from regularly and out of sheer curiosity about the content, simply when I find them through social media or browsing online, without needing them for any immediatly pressing academic work. Coming from philosophy myself, it’s refreshing and helpful to see how these anthropologists take up philosophical concerns — and philosophical texts! — in novel ways.

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Irad Kimhi and the Tower of Babel

A prefatory anecdote. Karl Löwith tells the story that the German-Jewish philosopher Hermann Cohen was introduced to Leopold Zunz, a founding father of Jewish Studies, as “a former theologian and now philosopher,” to which Zunz replied “a former theologian is always a philosopher”—upon which Löwith comments, also in reference to Cohen, that the inverse is also true.

UChicago hosted a wonderful conference this weekend — kudos to organizer Mathis Koschel! — on Irad Kimhi’s recently published and quite notorious Thinking and Being. A few quick impressions and thoughts.

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No Account of Heidegger’s Death?

I was reminded a while ago of Hannah Arendt’s report on/fictional account of Eichmann’s execution and how he exemplified to her a life that is all cliché, right up to his death. The paradigmatic thinker whom she sometimes opposes to thoughtless Eichmann is, of course, Socrates, whose death has been immortalized by Plato.

But a more uncanny counterpart (and probably equally present to her mind, on her pages) would be Heidegger — a thinker like Socrates and, like Eichmann, a Nazi). It seems, we do not have any accounts of how the man who thought so much about our finitude, in the end, faced his own. (Safrankski’s biography does not; Alfred Denker tells me there is an account of his death but not one to be published on social media.)

Perhaps the very absence of a (fictional) account could be meaningful in the light of the Eichmann-Socrates-Heidegger constellation but silences are easy to misread.


Giuseppe de Cesaris tells me that two of the Hölderlin’s verses he had chosen to be read at his funeral were: “Nicht ist es aber die Zeit. Noch sind sie Unangebunden” and, about thirthy years before, he had written: “Auf einen Stern zugehen, nur dieses.”


On Viveiros de Castro’s Amerindian Perspectivism

Cosmological Deixis and Amerindian Perspectivism” by Eduardo Viveiros de Castro is one of the most exciting things I’ve read in a while.

It analyzes how Amerindian ontologies unsettle Western Nature/Culture dichotomies. (I’ll pay a beer to anyone who knows of sustained dialogues anywhere between ontological turn anthropology and Pittsburgh-style analytic German Idealism!) The result here is more of a Latourian/Deleuzian picture — it would be interesting, especially with Latour, to see which way the influence runs —, and one which seems to lend itself to raising the concept of translation to the rank of an ontological centerpiece.

Here’s a series of choice quotes from Viveiros de Castro’s article with some attempts at summarizing commentary.


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To Read Proust Or Not to Read Proust

Having finished the first volume of À la Recherche, I’m in doubt whether I should continue. The prose is first-rate, the descriptions rich as could be, the psychological portraits extremely fine. On the other hand, to state the rather obvious, the narrator is an aestheticist dandy, a wanna-be aristocrat, self-indulgent beyond measure, whiny, and an often, if unwittingly, cruel egomaniac.

Nature has ontological depth, this seems an obvious fact to him; other humans, less so. They are first of all surface, of aesthetic interest. That they might also have psychic depth and ontological independence is something he seems incapable of understanding — until he’s performed lethal psychological vivisection on them. The whole enterprise seems carried by a desire for holding everyone and anyone in a comprehensive, exhaustive vision, a totalizing, piercing gaze that burns through all layers of privacy. He does not let the Other be.

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On William H. F. Altman’s Plato and Strauss

Note: This text assembles a facebook posts and some of my own comments on it from Dec 2018.

Here is an interesting paper on the post-war reception of Plato by William H. F. Altman, on “The Heideggerian Origins of a Post-Platonist Plato.” It builds towards a case for the thesis that the main strands of both analytic and continental post-war Plato reception converge in the picture of a post-Platonist, one-world Plato of immanence vs. the more traditional two-world idealist Plato.

This paper focuses on the continental post-war reception and Heidegger’s role in that. What continental Plato readers of three kinds — deconstructionists (Derrida, Irigary), hermeneuticists (Gadamer), and esotericists (of the Straussian or Tübingen variety) — learned from the master, even as they allegedly turned against his Platonist Plato, was to approach Plato through Aristotle. (Indeed, the real culprit of detranscendentalizing Plato is Aristotle.)

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Notes Towards a Philosophy of Bees

Note: This entry was originally a facebook post composed in May 2018.

In his 1929-30 lectures, Heidegger devotes a section to the then latest research on bees. Yesterday, I was looking again at some sections of Kant’s Third Critique, and in §43 he says that the products of bees are products of nature, properly speaking, but products of art if we think of the bees as created by God. I looked into this a bit and it turns out that, actually, a lot of philosophers had a lot of different things to say about bees.

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