acw blog

NEW SEMINAR: The Body and its Systems: Phenomenology, Technology and Modernity

The purpose of this seminar is to explore phenomenological accounts of technology as they pertain to the body. In doing so it will interrogate the way in which bodies are situated within, and extend throughout, systems of potential, meaning and intentionality. Participants will explore the ways in which the body is historically configured and mediated; in other words how the body is framed and understood according to the historically specific technologies and systems of meaning within which it is embedded.

Suggested readings include (but are not limited to):

M. Heidegger, ‘The Question Concerning Technology’
M. McCluhan, Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man
G. Harman, Tool Being
M. Hansen, New Philosophy for New Media
D. Ihde, Technology and the Lifeworld
A. Feenberg, Alternative Modernity: The Technical Turn in Philosophy and Social Theory
G. Deleuze, Cinema 1 and 2
Petitot, Varela et al, Naturalizing Phenomenology

1st session: 30th Sept. 2010 in the Gradcam Seminar room (time TBA). Sessions will be every three weeks.

For more details on the gradcam seminars see:

Details will be posted here during the duration of the seminar, including primary and secondary readings. This will also provide the opportunity for online discussions.

For further details or to join the discussion contact the seminar leader Francis Halsall:

Posted by: Francis Halsall on Sep 06, 10 | 11:47 am | Profile


Thanks for posting this paper Francis. So far I have only read about a third of it but was taken by your statement "Merleau-Ponty argues that the phenomenological reduction is never fully achievable, and clearly states that “the most important lesson which the reduction teaches us is the impossibility of a complete reduction,” he never gives up its importance as a means by which to realize the goal of phenomenology, namely, as in Husserl’s famous formulation, to go back to things themselves.

You quote Merleau Ponty as saying: “the search for a philosophy which shall be a ‘rigorous science’, but [which] also offers an account of space, time and the world as we ‘live’ them". Here "as we 'live' them" seems most important. Is this as we 'perceive' them and, having not read that much Merleau Ponty, is he suggesting that there is something about 'being' that escapes us, escapes a phenomenology of perception and that is why a complete reduction is not possible? That what we know is what we perceive as flesh, as stuff - that is what we can phenomenologically know? When Merleau Ponty claims "painting thrusts us once again into the presence of the world of lived experience ... we encounter objects ... that do not pass quickly before our eyes in the guise of objects we ‘know well’ but, on the contrary, hold our gaze, ask questions of it, convey to it in a bizarre fashion the very secret of their
substance, the very mode of their material existence and which, so to speak, stand ‘bleeding’ before us. This was how painting led us back to a vision of things themselves". In leading us back to "a vision of things themselves" do paintings reveal objects to us in their naked materiality, as it extracts things from how we know them well and attempts to reveal to us "the very secret of their substance"?

Apologies for my obsession, but I cannot help thinking about Levinas who critiques the phenomenological claim to the 'transparency' of objects revealed through the artwork. In Reality and Its Shadow Levinas writes on the phenomenological claim (of the image as a means by which the subject's intention in contemplation of the image) "is said to go directly through the image, as through a window, into a world it represents, and aims at an object". Levinas claims that 'the world it represents' is itself a mysterious term as "representation expresses just that function of an image that still remains to be determined". Further in Existence and Existents he writes that in painting, objects are revealed to us in their "nakedness, that real nakedness which is not an absence of clothing, but we might say the absence of forms, that is, the nontransmutation of our exteriority into inwardness, which forms realise. The forms and colours of a painting do not cover over but uncover the things in themselves, precisely because they preserve the exteriority of those things. Reality remains foreign to the world inasmuch as it is given. In this sense an artwork both imitates nature and diverges from it as far as possible". Are Levinas and Merleau Ponty so far apart here? It seems that Levinas is claiming that painting reveals the "nakedness" of objects, their materiality which, for him, exceeds our understanding of objects within our intentional horizon (or how we know them well?). Am I wrong to think that there may be more connectivity between this claim of Levinas and Merleau Ponty's assertion that art reveals more to us about objects as it removes objects from how we know them well and reveals something of the secret of their substance? Or am I just getting myself in a muddle? Maybe I need to get my head around what the phenomenological reduction actually is?

Posted by: Tina K on Sep 09, 10 | 12:01 pm

Thanks for the post Francis and Tina's reference to Levinas is apt.

For my part if I accept the logic of the Epoche and embodied cognition and at the same time deploy Luhmnann’s logic of distinction to the white cube; the site of reimagining is inviting. However, it doesn’t necessarily follow that the new formulation is either ‘ethical’ or 'just' instead it is quite likely to be the 'old'- 'new' formula – if you know what i mean. Or worse a variant of totalitarianism. Added to that access to the white cube remains a minority sport for those with time to meditate. And time is of the essence. Pun intended. More on that below.

As appealing as Merleau-Ponty's embodied meditation is - it is an abstraction of times past. Our experience of time has changed and with it space. The undecidability of both has implications for the epoche. Added to that Foucault's discourse of bio-power, the experience of slips, trips and accidents - and the mediative power of the phenomenological reduction appears to be in need of adaptation.

Posted by: Mark Keane on Sep 14, 10 | 1:50 pm

The 1st session will be at 5:30pm on Thurs 30th Sept in the Gradcam building, just off Thomas Street, near NCAD

Posted by: Francis Halsall on Sep 28, 10 | 8:45 am

Hi all,

just caught up with the discussion at last, and was interested to put here a couple of suggestions that came to mind for how to proceed from Francis's paper. One is the very different, and more discursive treatment of impairment as a model for thinking about art and/as perception in Derrida's 'Memoirs of the Blind' 1993, Louvre catalogue. the other is looking at the historical moment that phenomenology inhabit, and as Mark is also Keane (pun intended) to see how that has developed latterly, maybe another strand is the philosophical aesthetics around conceptual art that has recently emerged. Here is an excerpt from my musings last year on Diarmuid Costello's essay 'Kant after LeWitt' (in Goldie, Peter & Schellekens, Elizabeth (Eds.), 2007, Philosophy and Conceptual Art, (Oxford, OUP) where he is showing how Greenberg limited his own discussion of Kant to a purely visual sensory track.

- It is also relevant that Greenberg’s commitment to an empirical recourse to discrete sensory tracks for each art form, means that he conflates Kant’s account of judgments of taste, which originate in feelings occasioned by objects impacting on the senses, with aesthetic judgments, which require reflection on the object’s ‘subjective purposiveness’ for cognition in general. This latter is very different from the uninflected ‘sensation’ of works of art, on which Greenberg’s theory of purity of vision relied.
Costello further expands the relevance of Kant to breaking with the impasse that medium specificity and the allied discrete ‘sensory track’ of the visual, in Greenberg. He cites the first critique, where the ‘transcendental aesthetic’ would not permit the limitations of either medium or sense organs, for Kant’s account of space and time as a priori forms of intuition, are grounded in a unity of sensibility. This is where the idea of considering perception of the senses as an aggregate of all of them separately will not hold. ‘It is both alien to Kant’s epistemology, and phenomenologically unpersuasive’
He quotes Kant directly to show what the function of aesthetic ideas is for Kant’s theory ‘Aesthetic attributes(…) prompt the imagination to spread over a multitude of kindred presentations that arouse more thought than can be expressed in a concept determined by words. These aesthetic attributes yield an aesthetic idea(…) its proper function is to quicken (beleben) the mind by opening up for it a view into an immense realm of kindred presentations’ -
How this moment is played out in minimalism, post-m, and then conceptual practices seems to me to take up the philosophical challenge of a phenomenalist model and run with it. Like Mark, I think that there are many routes through post-structuralist texts that artistic practice might take us from here. The epoche is a great place to start.


Posted by: Lu on Sep 29, 10 | 12:28 pm

Some thing for the weekend? Heidegger un-earthed

From Lu

Posted by: Lu on Oct 01, 10 | 2:36 pm

When I place the aesthetic experience in parenthesis it makes sense cognitively? If we assume Luhmann’s logical manoeuvre of distinction and twin it with Merleau-Ponty’s phenomenological reduction, we have a method which marks out the white cube as the space of the good/better/best aesthetic engagement. Where the subject, in contemplation of the art object overcomes the subject/object binary and by extension directly experiences ‘Form’ and so ‘Being’ and so the ‘Ethical Ground’ of ‘Being’ is revealed?
While Luhmann avoids the trap of the endless ‘differing’ of the text and Merleau-Ponty avoids the trap of Greenberg’s shallow surfaces – they do so at a cost. The inherent reductionism by necessity forces me to ignore what lies beyond the frame – {the slips, trips and falls and the subsequent feelings of physical pain and emotional embarrassment; the injustice of the death penalty and smell of the infection in the untreated wound of a non combatant; or the contemporary aesthetic experience mediated by the constant drone of the white noise of technology -QED}?

Posted by: Mark Keane on Oct 03, 10 | 1:59 pm

Mark ,I think your point is pertinent there is a tendency to bracket aesthetic experience.. the question is why ? Perhaps the value of phenomenology as a means of experiencing the world may lie as much in what it cannot say as in what it can ?. ... it is a methodology that as Merleau Ponty acknowledges can only go so far... he would be likely to suggest that lived experience cannot be re-lived through reduction or within aesthetic experience ...certainly the white cube would be a limited space in which to attempt do so.
If pre–reflective cogito exists before cognition as an existential ground of being which includes the ethical face to face with human suffering, the process you describe could also be viewed the other way round and dialectically - being>ethical ground >aesthetic experience>ethical ground >being ? But where does that get us ? what lies beyond the frame, in my experience , is more likely to be cropped by the white cube system than by the artist.
Gini Tevendale.

Posted by: Gini Tevendale on Oct 04, 10 | 12:27 pm

I'll try to respond soon. In the meantime this might be relevant, its certainly interesting:

Posted by: Francis Halsall on Oct 05, 10 | 3:10 pm

The reading agreed for the next session is Heidegger, 'The Question Concerning Technology'. There are a few versions of this online which are quite easy to find.

Some people also suggested reading The Origin of the Work of Art, which appears in useful chapter in Preziosi (ed). The Art of Art History (Oxford University Press), in which you get essays by Preziosi, Melville, Shapiro and Derrida in addition to the Heidegger.

Posted by: Francis Halsall on Oct 05, 10 | 3:16 pm

Thanks for posting the unbuildingproject piece Francis. Levinas is relevant to this debate but as is pointed out in this piece of criticism, the opacity of his writing makes his texts quite inscrutable at times. I would suggest that this is deliberate on his behalf as his texts are self-consciously performative. That may be why Derrida (to go back to Lu) is so indebted to Levinas. In my opinion Levinas is always disturbing a presumed literality in the text. A project to which Derrida is the rightful heir.

I have been trying to think of a way to formulate a response, by way of Levinas, to Gini and Mark who both raise really interesting points.

In 'Existence and Existents'and 'Reality and its Shadow' Levinas posits a healthy scepticism towards the bracketing of aesthetic experience. My reading of these works leads me to infer that this is because he claims ethics as "the first philosophy". Why, because the ethical experience of the other is pre-ontological. It is traumatic/a persecution for precisely this reason. He suggests that the value of art is ambiguous because it "brings into the world the obscurity of fate, but it especially brings the irresponsibility that charms as a lightness and grace”. Art and the aesthetic experience can both provide a distraction from reality (reality as experience/ethical ground) and it can, potentially, distance us from reality by reduction to the frame (as Mark has alluded to). Alternatively, the aesthetic experience can "lead us beyond the given reality, but somehow to the hither side of it". By given he means beyond ontological categorisation to the gaps, fractures, breakages in "given reality".

Levinas's "given reality" does not seem so distanced from Merleau Ponty's objects that "we know well". However, Levinas critiques the phenomenological claims to the transparency of art. By claiming that the subject experiences this world as being in this world and yet as a stranger to it, Levinas is alluding to the inherent ambiguity within embodied experience. Simon Critchley writes that for Levinas ethics is that which puts into question “the ego, the knowing subject,
self-consciousness”. Hence, Levinas elevates ethics as the first philosophy but suggests that art can mediate between the ethical experience of the other and "given reality".

Posted by: Tina K on Oct 05, 10 | 3:59 pm

The Heidegger text for the next session is here:

I can let anyone have a copy of the Origin essay with the accompanying texts from the Preziosi book if they get in touch.

Posted by: Francis Halsall on Oct 11, 10 | 10:10 am

Thanks to you all for a great session last time. I think it would be good to keep a record of our discussions. Did anyone take notes? I’ll post soon regarding what I remember was said.

As agreed, in advance of reading Graham Harman, the next session will be on Heidegger’s famous analysis of tools. This is in Being in Time, sections 14 – 18. I have these if anyone wants them drop me a line. I will also try and post (belated, alas) reply to the previous discussions when I get the time.

Posted by: Francis Halsall on Oct 28, 10 | 5:28 pm

Firstly, it was good to meet everyone.
While I didn’t take notes my contention was that Heidegger’s philosophy is merely folk psychology dressed up in the phenomenological method. Instead I don’t grasp anything other than the performative construct that I then delude myself into believing is ‘Being’. The key working assumption for me is that there are limits to knowledge or more particularly social science knowledge. In that, it is contextually framed by history and contingency; constituted by a non-neutral, non disciplinary, relative frame and as such is always already theory laden. This same critique of knowledge limitations can be extended to the economy and the questions that follow include: is the production process of knowledge bounded by a strict production/consumption binary? By that I mean is knowledge in all its forms always already fabricated in a material economy as products to be consumed? Is it the case that the logic of production demands that the product is either consumed or externalised as waste? In other words, is the complex interconnected map of the production/consumption binary inescapable? Does this determine or indeed over determine life outcomes? Another key assumption for me is that in an examination of identity and representation we encounter an ocular logic in relation to the object and the subject that would appear to be asymmetric in structure. And as such this has implications for our understanding of identity. Following on from this then is it the case that our search for enlightenment in truth, justice, freedom and equity, is always already bounded by the limits of the very infrastructures of power that first imagined them possible? In other words borrowing from Ray Brassier, Francois Laruelle and Niklas Luhmann the first distinction sets the logic of subsequent steps in our logic and blinds us to the stupidity of existence. Bounded by the economy we function to problem solve using tacit knowledge and statistical patterning that is useful enough for us to navigate the world, until we happen on better stratagems that enable us to think our way out of problems that are largely create by our undying belief in folk psychology constructs such as Object, Feeling, God, Being, Text, Self. We fear our own stupidity because we fear our being toward death. Like a stopped clock Heidegger got it right once.

Posted by: Mark Keane on Nov 06, 10 | 9:44 am

The next session will be at 5pm, Thur 18th Nov. in the Gradcam seminar room.

Posted by: Francis Halsall on Nov 11, 10 | 11:11 am

Thanks to you all for another great session. And thanks to Mark in advance to agreeing to put up some notes on what was said. I'll also endeavour to put up some notes on the Technology discussion too soon.

Next Session will be THUR 2nd DEC. AT 5PM

We'll discuss the 1st chapter of Graham Harman's Tool Being:

I can help people out with this so should they need a copy they can email me directly.

Posted by: Francis Halsall on Nov 19, 10 | 11:16 am

And the Coombs and Harman's response in the Speculations journal here:

are really helpful, as are the interviews by Gratton, and Paul Ennis' editorial

Posted by: Francis Halsall on Nov 19, 10 | 11:25 am

Good to see you all again - I didn’t do the ‘mindmap’ as I promised because I was too busy talking.
As I noted a good summary of Heidegger’s thinking in the passages we focused on can be found in pages 122- 124 – namely:
1. Ready - TO - hand
2. Present - AT - hand
3. Dasein
The world of things is encountered as ready to hand. The ‘everyday’ interaction in the world is categorised as ‘Ready TO hand’. Attending to the ‘being’ of those things is overlooked or ‘passed over’ by virtue of usability. The ‘HAND’ reference and the prefix of ‘TO’- is interesting to me in that he uses ‘usability’ as a way to deconstruct ‘utility’. This positions Heidegger’s work contra Dewey and Pierce and the logical positivist and what he would see as the reductionist method of scientific determinism.
The second category ‘Present ‘AT’ Hand’ is the necessary condition for Ready – ‘AT’ – Hand. This manoeuvre enables Heidegger to introduce ‘Being’ as a fundamental category and by extension a necessary logical predicate in the structure of being. And sets up DASEIN as the dominant category in the hierarchy of ‘Being’. In other words DASEIN coincidently enables him to categorise – READY TO HAND & PRESNET AT HAND. So it’s obviously a very useful category. A rudimentary deconstruction of this reveals the age old ‘set theory’ problem and the ‘this statement is false’ problem in logic. Heidegger would no doubt argue that this is a red herring and is overcome with the hermeneutic circle. What DASEIN is not is consciousness or self or personhood or any other psychological construct. Nor is it logical because if it were logical we could reduce the entire book to a quadratic equation which might go something like - DASEIN / (Ready ‘to’ hand) + (Present ‘at’ hand) = BEING. He would argue that what is missing in my ‘reductio ad absurdum’ is the ‘KOAN’ of ‘Being’ - the non rational (A form of ‘stupidity’ that allows you to understand the sound of one hand clapping.) Heidegger goes on to point out that DASEIN is not the primitive magic of signs either. Like his contemporaries Heidegger could see the logical implications for his work in language. His stratagem then is to again subordinate signs and reference to DASEIN. This becomes the source of Derrida’s work and in place of BEING we have TEXT. ‘Being toward death’ and SORGE the care of being becomes the source material for Hannah Arendt’s work in Human Rights and Levinas’ ethics. The issue for me is if DASEIN is a construct in Heidegger’s work what does this mean for the study of Human Rights and by extension the study of ethics which rely on these constructs. Derrida exposed this weakness but he was unable to take it to its logical conclusion because the logic of presence/absence is dependent of Heidegger’s koan method of ‘revealing/concealing’ and enables Derrida to construct the logic of ‘always already’ and by extension undermine the logic of identity and the excluded middle: A= A; If A then not B; Either A or B. In my exegesis this is the ‘stupidity’ of deconstruction’s and it’s cul-de-sac of ‘Differance’. What is more it ignores that Godel had already performed this manoeuvre in the incompleteness theorem and Schrodinger, Heisenberg and Feyman would later produce theories of multiple histories which were testable models of being and reality which are intellectually superior to anything Heidegger or his disciples have produced. And Badiou is rehashing this very point.
Final note: I have changed the focus of my PhD – the new working title is ‘The history of Stupid’. I think art is a great example of ‘Stupid’ and along with comedy seems to be the only spaces where the cuckold is celebrated.
See you again soon

Posted by: Mark Keane on Nov 20, 10 | 11:00 am

Thanks very much Mark for posting your summary and comments. I have a few initial observations to make and will return to some of your other points later in the week.

I’m interested in your notion of ‘stupidity’ in relation to the non-rational element in Heidegger’s formulation of DASEIN i.e. that which cannot be reduced by (or included in) the quadratic equation. In other words, Heidegger’s evaluation of DASEIN would be akin to your quadratic equation with the caveat of a non-rational element. I suggested on Thursday that in describing DASEIN as “thrown on the world” and as having a “primordial” or “pre-ontological” element as part of its structure, that Heidegger is pointing towards a disposition within DASEIN. Having thought about this, and the concept of SORGE (care) that you mention, then would it be fair to suggest that this pre-disposition within DASEIN towards The World is what enables/forces/motivates (?) DASEIN to “disclose” the world? Thus the hermeneutic circle of disclosure is instituted, but before DASEIN discloses The World, it is structured in relation to The World as it has “an issue with being”. The obvious question here is: why does DASEIN have an issue with being? The answer being (is it?) that DASEIN is structured by SORGE, “care of being”, DASEIN is pre-disposed towards The World and the “primordial” and “pre-ontological” (non-rational) element of DASEIN is part of what structures us in relation to The World and the “things” in it.

This formulation is of course quite Levinasian, but is it so far from Heidegger? Despite what he ‘intends” to say about DASEIN, doesn’t his formulation of DASEIN ultimately fracture at the point of why DASEIN is a being who has an issue with being?

Posted by: Tina K on Nov 21, 10 | 11:47 am

And if DASEIN is a construct, what does this mean in relation to Heidegger and the notion of “disclosure”? DASEIN is in The World, in relation to “things” in The World, in relation to the instrumentality (i.e. the ‘usability’ of things in The World) of “things” in The World) and these “things” exist within a series of “enframings” or contexts. The hermeneutic circle discloses these “enframings” but are these “enframings” contingent (i.e. upon DASEIN’s situation - temporal, cultural, historical) and perhaps this is why full “disclosure” can never be completed and why “disclosure” can only ever be an ongoing “lighting up” which can never reach complete reduction but which continues to “light up” DASEIN?

Art and comedy as examples of the non-rational is an interesting idea (pertaining to my own Ph.D research). I can see how the cuckhold is celebrated in comedy. And this is very interesting when looking at ancient Greek theatre as in the panathenaic festival, three tragedies were performed, followed by a satyr play and interwoven with comedies (and nowhere is the cuckhold the butt of more ribald humour than in Aristophanes ‘Lysistrata’). However, how is the cuckhold celebrated in art? The non-rational - yes. Indeed, when we were speaking about Heidegger’s resort to poetry on Thursday, I would suggest that it is here that Heidegger comes close to illiminating the hiatus between the rationality of the hermeneutic circle of disclosure and that which cannot be disclosed by hermeneutics but is expressed in the poetic (the non-rational that poetry discloses whilst using language to do so). The non-rational that poetry and art evoke are, perhaps, the “primordial” or “pre-ontological” within DASEIN. Do poetry, art, comedy allow DASEIN a disclosure of being outside of hermeneutics and ontology?

Posted by: Tina K on Nov 21, 10 | 12:27 pm

good luck with your stupid project Mark !

Posted by: Gini Tevendale on Nov 22, 10 | 1:59 pm

I support Ginny on this. It makes for a very good case to take everything else Mark says with a pinch of something; not yet quite sure what. Pinning it down would only be asking for it. Anyway, just to say, now that Francis has gone off air, except on here re Systems seminar chat (hi Francis!) I have got hold of Harman which looks really exciting (ie totally stupid) and once I have re-read the Heidegger bit, I will be up for discussing which sections of Harman we will start with?

Posted by: Lu on Nov 23, 10 | 9:34 am

Whoops, just seen that FH suggests chapter one. Wilco.

Posted by: Lu on Nov 23, 10 | 9:35 am


Posted by: Francis Halsall on Dec 01, 10 | 6:34 pm

The systems seminar restarts on Thurs 20th January, with the reading of Chapter 1 from Graham Harman’s Tool Being. I can get people a copy of this should they need it, so email.

The sessions will be at 5.15pm in Gradcam. And will continue every three weeks from then.

Posted by: Francis Halsall on Jan 11, 11 | 11:41 am

Thanks again for another great discussion. As agreed we'll look at Latour for the next session, and I'll post details here soon. In the meantime, Edias suggested text of Harmans punchy discussion of the Ferris Wheel in the Zero Books 'Circus Philosophicus' can be read online via google books here and perhaps Edia might post here on her thinking on the text??:

Posted by: Francis Halsall on Jan 22, 11 | 12:20 pm

Hi all, there are a bunch of apologies due here. Sorry.
The next systems session will not be next week, there’s a clash with another event. I’m going to tentatively suggest Wed. 9th of Feb. but I’m open to suggestions. And I haven’t picked a Latour text as yet. Cliona had a suggestion, but I think it might be a bit long. I’m thinking a section from “We have never been Modern”. I’ll get back to you on this as soon as I can. And then there’s the perennial apology for not posting as I want to on the blog. I’ve been away and busy and blah, blah blah. Sorry.

Posted by: Francis Halsall on Feb 02, 11 | 6:13 pm

Hi all, I’m going to go for wed. 9th. I know this doesn’t suit all, so apologies for that. We’ll meet at 5.15 in Gradcam. We’ll discuss Latour’s “We have never been Modern”. I’m just reading this now and will suggest a more specific section to discuss in the next day or so. Or perhaps someone else knows the text and can suggest a specific bit?

Posted by: Francis Halsall on Feb 03, 11 | 11:22 am

Next reading is Agamben, 'what is an apparatus' and we'll use this to continue to continue the discussion we began on Latour. Dates and further details to follow.

Posted by: Francis Halsall on Feb 12, 11 | 12:21 pm

Latour's recent critique of social science is the best critique of Heidegger and Harman. However, Latour has to then concede to extreme relativism because there is nowhere else to go. The truth is that there are limits to the logic of language. Deconstruction cleverly highlighted the prejudices in linguistic logic and by extension the logic of power in culture, gender, race and class. For that we should be grateful but the question then begs: So what, now what? The truth is Alan Sokal's critique has never been adequately answered because we, as in, we post modern philosophers and artists have no answer because we fear admitting to our stupidity. Science, as in natural science, uses mathematical theories that can both penetrate and predict what we understand the metaphysical world to be or what we understadn as reality. Through testable theories natural science can build a testable epistemology. Critical theory or social science in general cannot do this intellectual work. Art has been hijacked by the critical theorists because they have nowhere else to go. Art would be better served exposing the ‘stupid’ for what it is – fantastic non sense. Embrace the stupid today and blow a raspberry at Ranciere :)

Posted by: Mark Keane on Feb 13, 11 | 10:51 am

Lovecraft's opening from Call of Cthulu seems to harness that occult dread in acknowledging stupidness, and the peril in grasping that whilst language may be the limit to OUR world, it is not the limit to the THE world. "The most merciful thing in the world, I think, is the inability of the human mind to correlate all its contents. We live on a placid island of ignorance in the midst of black seas of infinity, and it was not meant that we should voyage far. The sciences, each straining in its own direction, have hitherto harmed us little; but some day the piecing together of dissociated knowledge will open up such terrifying vistas of reality, and of our frightful position therein, that we shall either go mad from the revelation or flee from the light into the peace and safety of a new dark age."
I'm still puzzled and troubled by the implications of Harman and Latour. But am equally baffled and alienated by any claims that there could be, what Gillian Russell calls: "one true logic." In short I've not been able to work out where my sympathies toward a transcendental philosophy might lie.

Posted by: Francis Halsall on Feb 16, 11 | 4:22 pm

I do know that reason whether it be inductive or deductive logic has never enlightened us to what constitutes reality or consciousness but we cling to it in the vain hope that it might. While we have much to learn about reality and the mind I do know the speculative constructs of philosophy are simply that - fictions as to what it might be – and as such are no better or no worse than the stories we find in the old testament. What is interesting to me is that we gravitate to the performative as if on a path of intellectual evolution. Latour is right in one sense the fictions we create may well have utility. However, I fear this is the refuge of a thinker who has reached a cul de sac in his thought. The good news is that Art is a ‘performative’ exercise and as such the current celebration of relativist constructs enables the artist to be a political actor in ways that are very exciting. I would advocate that the artist need not fear the spell of the philosopher - it is simply another fiction among a host of fictions no better and no worse.

Posted by: Mark Keane on Feb 17, 11 | 12:12 pm

Just read some Gabriel Catren – I found the work impenetrable – which might mean one of two things – I’m stupid or it is – humility would suggest the former – see you soon :)

Posted by: Mark Keane on Feb 18, 11 | 3:17 pm

Here is a paper where I begin to discuss Transcendental Philosophy. The position of object orientated philosophy and speculative realism would seem to throw a spanner (or some other type of object) into the workings of such philosophical systems:

Posted by: Francis Halsall on Feb 21, 11 | 4:06 pm

It a great paper Francis. Thanks for sharing. The final footnote provides for the aesthetic bracketing and I would agree that Harman and speculative realism is problematic for your body postioned aesthetic. However yours is as good as theirs. The key for me is the method. The logical movement of getting to the fundamental ground. The reductionism of the epoche. These reductive logical movements can be found in Descartes, Hume and Kant and in all three we witness the fundamaental performance of modern philosphy. Each are the speculations of reason. What fascinates me is the logical consistency in the variations philosophy. What amazes me is the fantastic imagination of these thinkers. However, they are limited by their imaginations. The telescope and microscope would reveal more fantastic worlds than their reason could ever conjure up. 80% of the universe is made up of dark matter and dark energy and we don't know what either are. At the quantum level we know reality is made up mostly of empty space and the bits we do know would appear to be a function of us looking for them. Neuroscience suggests we are guided by pattern recognition. Gestalt suggests we like to complete things even if they are not complete themselves. All of this would suggest that in the absence of acientific knowledge we make things up; in otherwords we create fictions about the world, ourselves and the things we like to call objects. If this is the case then we have a series of choices - Do we create ethical fictions? Playful fictions? Fictions of equality? Fictions of hate? It seems to me that the first fiction ( there I go again doing that reductive move to first principles that philosophers love to do) is the fiction of desire. What is it I desire? I would suggest if we ask ourselves that question we may well know the ending of the story before we begin.

Posted by: Mark Keane on Feb 22, 11 | 9:05 am

Hi has anyone else not got the Eugene Thacker text Cliona dropped in the drop box? or am I being stoopid?


Posted by: Lu on Feb 28, 11 | 12:39 pm

Hi cant find Cliona's text in drop box. Am I being stoopid?


Posted by: Lu on Feb 28, 11 | 12:40 pm

Hi folks, being out of the loop am wondering if the next seminar is this week coming. In the case of an affirmative what, may I ask is the reading?


Posted by: Ciara McM on Mar 19, 11 | 5:09 pm

As per the last email exchanges, the last systems session of this academic year will be on thur 16th June at 5 in Gradcam.

We’ll discuss the seminar to date, suggestions for next year (including how to develop the seminar and what may be possible with events, the blog and publications??). And Don Ihde

I’m proposing PART 1 (chs 1-5) of his essay collection, Postphenomenology (Northwestern, 1993).

Hope to see you all there. And please pass this on to anyone else who might be interested.

Posted by: Francis Halsall on Jun 09, 11 | 12:40 pm


Posted by: Francis Halsall on Sep 15, 11 | 10:33 am

Notify me when someone replies to this post?

Art in the Contemporary World