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.

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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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