Events Santa Barbara

A Cartography of Love 974 660 Tom Carlson

A Cartography of Love

February 8, 2019 at 10 a.m.

Robertson Gymnasium 1000A

It is a common grievance among readers of the work of Martin Heidegger that the existential analytic of Daseinhe develops is problematically skewed towards the somber and the macabre. Nowhere is this clearer, so runs the complaint, than in the fundamental moods he chooses to explicitly thematize as revealing what it means for us to be – those of anxiety and boredom. Heidegger may nowhere suggest that these are the only fundamental moods that pertain to our existence, or that it is only through them that the way we are rooted in our world can be made transparent – but, the objection goes, an understanding of ourselves that de factomarginalizes warmer tones of affect such as awe, gratitude, and joy is not only lacking in anthropological fullness, but intrinsically flawed in its capturing of how we relate to ourselves, to others, and to our world.

In this seminar discussion, where we will build on our earlier discussions on mood and world-disclosure, we will confront this complaint by risking the opposite thesis: if love goes unmentioned in much of Heidegger’s work, this is not because of its absence but because, in its silent place at the heart of his questioning, it dare not openly speak its name. Taking our cue from Giorgio Agamben’s “The Passion of Facticity”, we seek to capture love not as one fundamental mood among others, but as the primary passion (Leidenschaft) that marks our existence.

We will then examine the ways in which three contemporary philosophers, building on Heidegger’s thought yet sharply critical of it, seek to articulate this idea of love as primary passion. For it is in reflecting on love that Jean-Luc Marion, Alain Badiou, and Giorgio Agamben, each in their own way, deploy a multifaceted criticism of Heidegger situated at the metaphysical, ethical, and political levels. Yet these levels are not always carefully distinguished from one another, nor is it clear that they couldbe so distinguished. In our discussion we will seek to chart the ways in which the question of love is central to the contemporary philosophical discussion of the concepts of the disclosure of truth, of the other, of ethical life, and of the possibility of politics.

The purpose of the cartography of love in the philosophical domain which we hope to provide is furthermore to serve the furthering of the systematic question in which way love is seen to operate. Is it possible, we will ask, to understand love as the passion that gives my existence its assurance in tying me to the irreducibly individual other – or is such a concept inherently quietistic, in denying love its social and political dimensions? Should love rather be thought primarily on the plane of wider social interaction? Is the sphere of politics one in which one could meaningfully speak of love, or is it a category mistake to import this affective dimension into a realm where conflict rather than harmony is a basic given, and the attempt to pass beyond conflict can only result in tyranny? The question to be addressed here is whether love is to be thought of as the movement of the coming of a new universal subject, ever to be re-established, or rather as the relentless embrace of the destitution of the subject, its emptying out and final non-coincidence with itself.

Reading

Giorgio Agamben, “The Passion of Facticity,” Potentialities: Collected Essays in Philosophy (Stanford, 1999), 185-204.

Climate of Doubt 500 280 Tom Carlson

Climate of Doubt

January 25, 2019 at 10 a.m.

Robertson Gymnasium 1000A

The persistence of climate change denial in spite of popular and scientific consensus of the human impact on global warming seems to dispute that such denialism is rooted exclusively in the misinformation of a deceived public. More often than not, climate change denial, according to the report by the American Psychological Association (2009), partakes in a “fiction,” i.e., in the invention of “other worlds” and “other people” as the sole beneficiary of climate catastrophe, leading us to wonder if denialism is not rather productive and generative, realizing itself as the obverse of a desperate hope: climate change is what happens to other peoples, in other places, and at other times; or that we can create an elsewhere where climate change is not happening; or the climate change only matters when it happens to us, inconsequential when it occurs elsewhere etc.

In Bruno Latour’s recent book, Down To Earth: Politics in the New Climatic Regime, the fiction of an “elsewhere” is incorporated into a narrative about globalization that has left some of us in “exile” (“deprived of land”), while others (“the elites”) inhabit an abstract universality—a narrative about globalization in which the earth progressively disappears. In a poignant image of unworlding, Latour describes modern man as a subject without landscape, a subject who seems to have lost his footing in the world right under his feet (85). Indeed, all manner of denials (political, ecological, social), Latour argues, may be traced back to the fundamental denial of the originary entanglement of “human” and social history in geological history, in effect, denying that our actions have re-actions in the world, or put differently, that the world is capable of being affected. And yet, Latour reasons: “If the Terrestrial is no longer the framework for human action, it is because it participates in that action. Space is no longer that of the cartographers, with their latitudinal and longitudinal grids. Space has become agitated history in which we are participants among others, reacting to other reactions. It seems that we are landing in the thick of geohistory” (42).

This seminar invites explorations of the central concepts animating Latour’s writings such as (new) materialism; the Terrestrial (and the concept of nature that it is intended to “displace,” not to mention the assumptions behind the “displacement”); the “geosocial” and “object-oriented politics.” My own interest lies in formulating the specificity of climate change denial in relation to other philosophical modalities of negation, bad consciousness, skepticism, disavowal etc. My account seeks to resist the self-evident way denial appears even in Latour’s text as an error or a lack of truth that awaits correction. Instead, I am interested in the desires that generate or are generated by denial. In staying with the affective dimension of the problem, I also want to examine the role of the senses (of global “warming” or “cooling”; of the so-called sensible” effects of climate change; and not least, of the rhetoric of “common sense” which intimates the possibility both of consensus and/or a common sensibility) in climate change discourse.

Reading

Bruno Latour, Down to Earth: Politics in the New Climate Regime (Cambridge, UK: Polity, 2018).

Recommended

“Religious Affections” and the Birth of Publicity in Modern America 1024 662 Tom Carlson

“Religious Affections” and the Birth of Publicity in Modern America

January 18, 2019 at 10 a.m.

Robertson Gymnasium 1000A

The public expression of anger and even hate that we witness in our time—stirred up on social media and at campaign rallies, and provoked by growing inequality in income and opportunity—raises anew an old question about the role of emotion in political life (as opposed to, say, ideals or material interests).

Before turning to technology or populism to explain this abrupt intrusion of the passions into politics, we might do well to consider the historic role of emotion in constituting political life. The conceptual bases of government may have originated in the rationalism of the Enlightenment, but the robust character of public life in America was shaped by a sequence of religious revivals in the eighteenth and nineteenth-centuries.

The revival is derived from an element of Puritan political theology uniquely forged in seventeenth-century New England, and at the same time it marks, as the great historian Perry Miller observed many years ago, a break with that political theology by inaugurating a new kind of publicity. It names an arousal of the passions, often through the use of language, and targeted at the imagination, that creates the conditions for the ethical formation of a new moral order. Despite its origin in the theology of original sin, the revival was as much an aesthetic phenomenon as it was religious; and in the nineteenth century, it became allied to the unfurling horizon of technological progress and to the romantic emphasis on feeling over intellect.

In this seminar, we will examine the first revival, in Northampton in 1734, as it was described by Jonathan Edwards in an essay entitled, “A Faithful Narrative of the Surprising Work of God in the Conversion of Many Hundred Souls.” Our discussion of the text will be framed by Miller’s historiography, which sought to trace the intellectual legacy of Puritanism in the formation of the American character (the hermeneutics of the physical universe, a distinctive style of writing, and the voluntarism of private initiative); and which saw in the “hysterical agonies of the Great Awakening” the seeds of modern America.

Reading

Recommended

Jonathan Edwards, “A Divine and Supernatural Light” (1734).

Werner Herzog’s Post-Tragic Aesthetic: a Kierkegaardian Perspective 1024 943 Tom Carlson

Werner Herzog’s Post-Tragic Aesthetic: a Kierkegaardian Perspective

January 11, 2019 at 10 a.m.

Robertson Gymnasium 1000A

Many of Werner Herzog’s films portray protagonists who exhibit forms of subjectivity that dangerously overflow the conditions imposed by the substantial determinants of nature, family, and state. In this respect, as I will argue, Herzog presents an implicit philosophical claim in his films, namely, that today we inhabit a post-tragic mentality. This vision is one shared by the Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard, who proposed that ‘our age has lost the tragic,’ later adding that ‘when the age loses the tragic, it gains despair.’ In this presentation, I will examine how, in a Kierkegaardian fashion, Herzog’s distinctive aesthetic reveals the perils of a post-tragic mentality. More specifically, my claim is that archetypal Herzogian protagonists represent various attempts to eschew the tragic tension between suffering and action, often becoming either demonically charged or comically delusional in the process.

To categorize the demonic type, I will examine Don Lope de Aguirre, who mismanages his immediate relation to substantial determinants by refusing to acknowledge the recalcitrance of milieu, causation, and fate. This refusal leads Aguirre to increasingly demonic assertions of his will, manifest as rage against the world, ending in madness and the destruction of his entire expedition. To categorize the comic type, I will examine Timothy Treadwell, who mismanages his immediate relation to substantial determinants by attempting to ‘assert his subjectivity in pure form,’ ignoring his inherent status as a human being who must submit to the obvious forces of a purely brutish domain.

I will conclude by suggesting that the films of Werner Herzog provide a salutary lesson concerning the presence of tragic elements in all human understanding and action, despite the fervent wish of late-moderns to ignore the forces that impinge upon the individual. It is a wish that appears to culminate in demonic self-destruction or comic insignificance.

Reading

Kierkegaard, S., ‘The Tragic in Ancient Drama Reflected in the Tragic in Modern Drama,’ in Either/Or: Part 1, Eds. and Trans. Howard V. Hong and Edna H. Hong, Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press (1987), pp. 137-164.

Recommended Viewing

Aguirre, the Wrath of God (1972)

Grizzly Man (2005)*

*Will be screened on Thursday, January 10, 2019, at 5 p.m., Robertson Gymnasium 1000A

Public Lecture by Robert Pogue Harrison: Pondus Amoris 1024 1024 Tom Carlson

Public Lecture by Robert Pogue Harrison: Pondus Amoris

October 25, 2018 at 4 p.m.

Robertson Gymnasium 1000A 

Saint Augustine famously declared, “my weight is my love [pondus meum amor meus]. Wherever I am carried by it, it is this weight that carries me.” The prevailing Romanic conception of music sees it as seraphic and fire-like in nature, seeking to rise into the ether of pure spirit. In this talk, Robert Pogue Harrison argues for the primordiality of gravity over levitation, using music to make his case for the intrinsic heaviness of the human condition.

Robert Pogue Harrison is Rosina Pierotti Professor in Italian Literature at Stanford University. He is the author of Forests: The Shadow of Civilization (1992); The Dominion of the Dead (2005); Gardens: an Essay on the Human Condition (2008); and Juvenesecence: a Cultural History of Our Age (2014).

Seminar with Robert Pogue Harrison: Amor Mundi 150 150 Tom Carlson

Seminar with Robert Pogue Harrison: Amor Mundi

October 26, 2018 at 1-4 p.m.

Robertson Gymnasium 1000A 

Through a discussion of “Amor Mundi,” the final chapter of Harrison’s 2014 work Juvenescence: A Cultural History of Our Age, this seminar will consider the mission of education in the humanities today—focusing on the relation of such education to Harrison’s central claim that “it takes a great deal of love—what Hannah Arendt, borrowing a phrase from Saint Augustine, called amor mundi—to take the well-being of the world to heart and commit oneself to assuring it continuity through the generations. It is that love, and that love alone, that takes custody of the world’s future.

Robert Pogue Harrison is Rosina Pierotti Professor in Italian Literature at Stanford University. He is the author of Forests: The Shadow of Civilization (1992); The Dominion of the Dead (2005); Gardens: an Essay on the Human Condition (2008); and Juvenesecence: a Cultural History of Our Age (2014).

From Anxiety to Boredom: Kierkegaard, Heidegger, and the Secularization of Anxiety in Existentialist Thought 150 150 Tom Carlson

From Anxiety to Boredom: Kierkegaard, Heidegger, and the Secularization of Anxiety in Existentialist Thought

November 30, 2018 at 1 p.m.

Robertson Gymnasium 1000A 

While Kierkegaard conceives of anxiety as the psychological presupposition of the dogma of original sin, and while Heidegger himself draws heavily on Kierkegaard in that he places anxiety at the center of his magnum opus Being and Time (1927), Heidegger nonetheless purposefully disregards the concept of sin (along with his indebtedness to Kierkegaard) throughout this work, restricting instead his analysis to guilt, that is, to the experience of sinfulness. This accords with the widely received line of interpretation according to which Heidegger appropriates Kierkegaard’s teachings by way of secularization. It has been largely overlooked, however, that Heidegger further secularizes his own concept of anxiety when in a crucial moment in the development of his thought, namely in his lecture course from the winter semester of 1929/30, entitled, “The Fundamental Concepts of Metaphysics,” he chooses to philosophize about boredom instead of anxiety, now disregarding no only sin but also guilt and fear, and thereby demonstrating, albeit without making this insight explicit, the guiltless and fearless nature of boredom, while at the same time revealing important aspects of boredom’s formal resemblance to anxiety.

Avraham Rot is a junior fellow at the Maimonides Centre for Advanced Studies in Hamburg. He has a PhD in intellectual history from Johns Hopkins University, and has been a junior visiting fellow at the Institute for Human Sciences in Vienna and a postdoctoral fellow at Johns Hopkins University and at the Freie Universität Berlin. He currently teaches philosophy and intellectual history at Johns Hopkins University and George Washington University.

God and the Science of Emotion, or A Spinozist Answer to the Question: “Why Did the Affective Turn Take Place?” 150 150 Tom Carlson

God and the Science of Emotion, or A Spinozist Answer to the Question: “Why Did the Affective Turn Take Place?”

November 29, 2018 at 4 p.m.

Robertson Gymnasium 1000A 

Recent decades have witnessed an upsurge of interest in emotional phenomena. But while the emotions themselves have been extensively studied, the very fact that there has been such a tremendous increase of interest in them remains underexplored and the explanations that have nonetheless been given to account for it are, as a rule, partial, circumstantial, circular or other unsatisfactory. Here I propose an alternative explanation to this second-order phenomenon based on Spinoza’s metaphysics, in the framework of which finitude is regarded not as a monolithic term, as is customary, but as a matter of degree, and the emotions are conceived as secondary affections of God, i.e., particularly finite beings. The growing fascination with the emotions is accordingly explicable in terms of a growing fascination with the finite, a process that accounts for the historical emergence of the sciences as it leads from theology, through physics and chemistry, as well as the life, human, and social sciences, to, most recently, the science of emotion, the science of the infinitely small.

Avraham Rot is a junior fellow at the Maimonides Centre for Advanced Studies in Hamburg. He has a PhD in intellectual history from Johns Hopkins University, and has been a junior visiting fellow at the Institute for Human Sciences in Vienna and a postdoctoral fellow at Johns Hopkins University and at the Freie Universität Berlin. He currently teaches philosophy and intellectual history at Johns Hopkins University and George Washington University.

Seminar with Jonathan Lear: Gettysburg Mourning 1003 816 Nina Rismal

Seminar with Jonathan Lear: Gettysburg Mourning

December 6, 2018 at 3 p.m.

Robertson Gymnasium 1000A

John U. Nef Distinguished Service Professor at the Committee on Social Thought and in the Department of Philosophy; Roman Family Director of the Neubauer Collegium for Culture and society at the University of Chicago; and Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Lear works primarily on philosophical conceptions of the human psyche from Scorates to the present. His publications include Radical Hope: Ethics in the Face of Cultural Devastation (2006) and, most recently, The Idea of a Philosophical Anthropology (2017) and Wisdom Won from Illness: Essays in Philosophy and Psychoanalysis (2017).

Trajectories of Spirit 500 300 Nina Rismal

Trajectories of Spirit

Trajectories of Spirit

Three events with philosopher Hans Ruin
Professor at Södertörn University, Stockholm and author of Being with the Dead: Burial, Ancestral Politics, and the Roots of Historical Consciousness (Stanford U. Press, forthcoming)

Monday, April 30 2018, 4:00 PM

Public Lecture: “The Hearing Eye: Weber and Husserl on Science as Spiritual Calling”
This lecture discusses Max Weber’s 1917 lecture “Science as a Vocation” and compares it with Edmund Husserl’s 1911 essay “Philosophy as Rigorous Science,” attempting for the first time to develop the deeper underlying similarities between their approaches to theoria as also a listening to a call, and the parallel attempts to give science in the modern era a spiritual foundation.

 

Tuesday, May 1 2018, 3:30 PM

Seminar: “Pneumatology in St. Paul and Kierkegaard”
A seminar discussion of Professor Ruin’s essay “Anxious Spirits – Pneumatology in Heidegger, Paul, and Kierkegaard,” in Topos 1 (2014): 39-52. The text is an attempt to interpret the Pauline concept of pneuma as a category of historical life, and as a metaphor for the transmission of tradition.

 

Thursday, May 3 2018, 3:30 PM

Seminar:“Being with the Dead”
A seminar discussion surrounding the main ideas of Professor Ruin’s forthco- ming book with Stanford University Press, Being with the Dead. Suggested reading: “Speaking to the Dead – Historicity and the Ancestral,” Danish Yearbook of Philosophy 48-49: 115-137. By comparing literature and history as two ways of depicting a journey to the land of the dead, it gives a new perspective on the birth of historical writing.

 

Location for all three events: Room 4080, Humanities and Social Sciences Building, University of California, Santa Barbara

Copies of the readings may be requested at hsc@hfa.ucsb.edu.