Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Ray Brassier's Doctoral Thesis 'Alien Theory'

I am a little behind the pace, but here is a link to Ray Brassier's Doctoral Thesis 'Alien Theory: The Decline of Materialism in the Name of Matter.' Hopefully, it can serve as helpful introduction in the 'new' school of speculative realism and the concept of nonphilosophy.

This is the synopsis for the dissertation:

The thesis tries to define and explain the rudiments of a ‘non-philosophical’
or ‘non-decisional’ theory of materialism on the basis of a theoretical
framework provided by the ‘non-philosophy’ of Fran├žois Laruelle. Neither
anti-philosophical nor anti-materialist in character, non-materialism tries to
construct a rigorously transcendental theory of matter by using certain instances
of philosophical materialism as its source material.
The materialist decision to identify the real with matter is seen to retain a
structural isomorphy with the phenomenological decision to identify the real
with the phenomenon. Both decisions are shown to operate on the basis of a
methodological idealism:- materialism on account of its confusion of matter and
concept; phenomenology by virtue of its confusion of phenomenon and logos.
By dissolving the respectively ‘materiological’ and ‘phenomenological’
amphibolies which are the result of the failure to effect a rigorously
transcendental separation between matter and concept on the one hand, and
between phenomenon and logos on the other, non-materialist theory proposes to
mobilise the non-hybrid or non-decisional concepts of a ‘matter-withoutconcept’
and of a ‘phenomenon-without-logos’ in order to effect a unified but
non-unitary theory of phenomenology and materialism. The result is a
materialisation of thinking that operates according to matter’s foreclosure to
decision. That is to say, a transcendental theory of the phenomenon, licensing
limitless phenomenological plasticity, unconstrained by the apparatus of eidetic
intuition or any horizon of apophantic disclosure;- but one which is
simultaneously a transcendental theory of matter, uncontaminated by the bounds
of empirical perception and free of all phenomenological circumscription.

Monday, July 21, 2008

transforming 'academic' resources?

*Apologies for the lack of philosophical content in this post. My present thoughts have been directed towards the production and dissemination of 'academic' knowledge

Correctly, or incorrectly, websites, or more accurately, online databases, such as Wikipedia are regarded as nonacademic resources. To reference Wikipedia in an essay, dissertation, or article is to commit a sin. It would be far wiser to stick to referencing peer reviewed articles. To a certain degree I find this view, or situation, problematic. Instead of academics wishing Wikipedia did not exist, could not a greater effort be made to raise the standard of entries and discussion? I would never suggest that Wikipedia should replace academic articles, but I would suggest that there should be a greater effort on the part of academics to embrace and transform Wikipedia. I put forward these reasons:

Students, while they might not reference it in their work, do use Wikipedia as a reference site. It serves a ‘first stop’ site of reference for many topics or philosophers. This is a crucial point of learning. It is therefore important that the introduction is informative and of a high and accessible standard.

Academic journals, while (usually) of a high standard, have a limited readership. They are rarely read outside academic circles and often have a subscription fee. In contrast, Wikipedia is free access, has a larger readership, and offers an opportunity for academics to communicate outside academia.

The non-peer review problem of Wikipedia can be overcome. For example, if some academic, or academics, are writing an entry for a philosopher they could communicate this with other academics. These academics could read, review, and ‘correct’ the entry. It would also offer an opportunity for non-academics to ‘peer-review’ the entry.

Wikipedia, unlike journal articles, is a hypertext and allows the opportunity for non-linear reading. Cross references to other topics can be added to the article, which can help to demonstrate the interconnections the topic brings to the forefront. For example, an entry discussing ‘developmental theory’ could establish a hyperlink to ‘dependency theory.’

These are only a few suggestions and arguments for adopting a stance towards ‘embracing’ Wikipedia. Ideally, the position that Wikipedia is a non-academic resource could become a non-argument. Electronic writing and the arrival of digital media have transformed the world and this means academic writing requires a certain degree of transformation. Books and Journals are never to be completely replaced, but these are products of print culture and the gutenberg press. Arguable, there requires the growth of more websites like the Standford Encycloepedia of Philosophy. Instead of writing an article why not composev a podcast to download? As new mediums emerge there requires more experimentation, the removal of ingrained, and historically constituted, prejudices towards the ‘correct’ method of producing knowledge. A pragmatic attitude that realises the historical contingencies of the present would be more beneficial.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Video of Rick Roderick

I found this video of Rick Roderick. In it he discusses how he got interested in philosophy and in particular Critical Theory.

The ‘Fashionable’ Thinker and Returning to the ‘Unfashionable’ Thinker (Part 1)...

Philosophy, like most other social things, is susceptible to trends and fads. A philosopher, or a philosophy, emerges onto the scene capturing the attention of various scholars, publishers, and academic disciplines. During this period we have the ‘fashionable’ thinker. Literature is produced on understanding, acclaiming, defending, dismissing, and critiquing the ‘fashionable’ thinker. Predictably, philosophy moves on and finds another ‘fashionable’ thinker and the last ‘fashionable’ thinker is less of an influence in the press machine and our thoughts. This discarding and removal of the popularity suggests, or at least implies, that we have learnt, critiqued, and understood the entire corpus the thinker had to offer (or the philosopher has been proved wrong). In other words, in order to move on to the next fashionable, the last ‘fashionable’ thinker s laid to rest (the gift of death?). Of course, the work and thoughts of the thinker is never truly dead and it would be more accurate to propose it has a zombie existence as the living dead.

When a fashionable thinker becomes unfashionable, does this provide an opportunity to return to their work, focusing on what they have offered away from the limelight and gaze of fashion? The problem of the limelight of fashion is people rush to accept, defend, dismiss, adore, hate, (mis)understand, love, and critique the fashionable thinker. In short, a pressure is forced upon members of the philosophy community to have a view, or stance, directed towards the fashionable thinker. It is almost not acceptable to not have a view on them. We cannot remain silent on them. (Maybe remaining silent on them could provide a form of resistance against the fashion markets of philosophy?). During this fashion fad (forced) views are produced and a lot of misunderstanding and ill-informed opinions are disseminated. Critiques and dismissals of the fashionable thinker come across as reactionary, failing to have engaged (in-depth) with the work. This stance is the stance where people know they do not like the thinker, but cannot really explain (in depth) why they do not like the thinker. Followers and defenders of the fashionable thinker are also too quick to adore and defend. Their work misses out on the warnings and carefully argued points made from the fashionable thinker. These followers tend to produce a dogmatic type of thought that is never present in the philosopher themselves (e.g. Marxists become worse than Marx).

Monday, July 7, 2008

Speculative Realism New Blog

News of a new blog in the blogosphere that focuses on the (newish) episteme of "Speculative Realism". This looks a welcome introduction and promises to provide invaluable material and discussion for the growing interest in this school of thought. Something i admit to being behind the pulse.

The blog is called "Speculative Heresy"

Friday, July 4, 2008

Intensive learning over Extensive learning

Throughout my time being taught at university the courses I have participated in privilege extensive teaching methods over intensive methods. The idea of extensive teaching is the approach of covering a lot of topics and material during a semester or two. This means there is courses like – Globalisation, Introduction to International Relations Theory, Terrorism, Global Politics and Culture, Political Theory…Without a doubt these courses are invaluable and help to ‘introduce’ a lot of topics about the subject. However, and this is a major problem, these type of courses lack the ability, and capability, for intensive teaching and studying. Issues and topics are merely ‘touched’ upon before the next topic has to be introduced. I cannot remember being offered a course like the ones run by David Harvey and Herbert Dreyfus. Both these lecturers take one book (Harvey = Marx's Capital & Dreyfus = Heidegger's Being and Time) and only address this book in the course. The advantage is the students get to experience an intensive method of learning that will enable to engage at the depth required for these classic and demanding texts. I often laugh when I look back at some of my course handouts and the reading lists they have attached to them. The list often contains books that would themselves require a course to fully appreciate their purpose and method. (I remember seeing Michel Foucault’s Archaeology of Knowledge listed as secondary reading for a first year course on Introducing Global Politics!) I tend to think that students could learn a lot more about the world if they fully read and understood one (master) text than having to skim into a multitude of articles and books that address, for example, the topic of ‘Globalisation.’ Of course, the problem would be the politics of selecting this text.