Hopelessness; Or, the world is a prison for the believer

You can feel the anger in the voice. But the voice gives shape to the anger and you can see that this is anger of hatred. Not the anger of hope, not the anger that leaders can tap into to turn revolts or riots into revolutions, but the anger of disdain, of contempt. And what is more worthy of contempt than this world.

I often think in terms of biography. Biography can easily turn into sentimentality and avoiding that is certainly difficult. But I think in terms of biography because one cannot understand the world without that understanding being lived. Continue reading “Hopelessness; Or, the world is a prison for the believer”

CFP: A Postsecular Age? New Narratives of Religion, Science, and Society, 2016 IRC Conference, Oxford, 27-30 July

Donovan Schaefer has passed on this CFP that may be of interest to AUFS readers. Further details may be found on this flyer (PDF).

The past 20 years have seen the development of the interdisciplinary subfield of ‘secularism studies’ or ‘critical secularism studies.’ Previous theories of secularisation typically presupposed the steady march of human civilisations toward non-religion—in part under the influence of scientific advance. By contrast, these new approaches view secularism and narratives of secularisation as ideological artefacts corresponding to specific times and places and in need of critical framing. Are we then living in what some have called a ‘postsecular’ age? Why have atheism and secularism become so fascinating for scholars—and in popular culture—for the past two decades? Has the secularisation narrative gone away (or changed shape?), putting religion back on the agenda of scholarship, global politics, law-making, and commerce? Are developments in science contributing to these trends? What effect have the New Atheism and new deployments of scientific authority had on secularisation theory? Why do secularisms look different in different times and places? What is the role of globalisation in the emergence and transformation of secularisms?

Short papers are invited on topics relevant to the conference themes, to be delivered in parallel sessions of 30 minutes duration (20-minute paper, 10 minutes discussion). Those wishing to contribute a paper should submit a title, a 300-word abstract that situates the paper against its scholarly backdrop, and institutional affiliation by email to irc.admin@theology.ox.ac.uk with the subject line:

“A Postsecular Age Conference Abstract”

Closing date for abstract submissions: Friday, 15 April 2016

Notification of acceptance: Friday, 6 May 2016

For questions on paper submissions, please contact donovan.schaefer@theology.ox.ac.uk.

Request for Stats Related to Religion/Religious Studies/Theology Programs

As some of you may know my institution is going through a process of “program prioritization”. As part of that process we have been asked to provide information I have not been able to track down related to trends in the country related to student choice. I was hoping our readers might be able to point me to places they are aware of where such studies take place or, even more helpful, particular studies they know of.

The specific prompts is: Explain how local, regional or national demand and/or situational and/or external factors will impact your program’s future enrollment trends over the next 5 years? Cite the source for projections. 

Is there anything out there on changes in attitudes about the study of religion, or studies tracking changes in numbers of students declaring religion majors/minors?  Anything in relationship to particular demographics (race, gender, class, etc.)? 

My Critical Introduction and Guide to Principles of Non-Philosophy

My second monograph, François Laruelle’s Principles of Non-Philosophy: A Critical Introduction and Guide [UK link], was recently published by Edinburgh University Press. (As an aside, I have had really lovely experiences working with Carol Macdonald at Edinburgh and would highly recommend her if you’re looking for a publishing partner.) EUP recently asked me to write a short blog about the book and that’s now up on their website.

The book is organized so that each chapter addresses the same chapter in Principles. So, Chapter 1 examines the history of Laruelle’s non-philosophy with special attention to the relationship between science and philosophy alongside of glosses on the important concepts of “the One” and “radical immanence”. Chapter 2 looks at Laruelle’s conception of a “unified theory of philosophy and science” in dialogue with the phenomenology of Edmund Husserl and the metamathematics of Kurt Gödel. Chapter 3 provides the historical background for Laruelle’s conception of the “force-(of)-thought”. While Chapter 4 does the same for “determination-in-the-last-instance” but also sketches a schematism of his conception of the One in dialogue with Fichte’s Science of Knowing. Chapter 5 turns to the method of dualysis and explores the way it functions. This is carried out by surveying three instances of dualysis: 1) Being and Alterity or Otherness (with reference to the Greek and Jewish shape of contemporary European philosophy); 2) reason and mythology (with reference to the notion of universality in philosophy); and 3) life and death (with reference to the concept of the “lived” in non-philosophy). Finally Chapter 6 presents a reading of non-philosophy’s place on the contemporary philosophical landscape. While I accept that the distinction between analytic and Continental philosophy is largely artificial and intellectually untenable, the two terms are operative within academic philosophy and establish boundaries, however fuzzy, for certain concerns and concepts. Here we see how Laruelle takes up these concerns and concepts in a post-Continental form, before turning to look at some specific post-Kantian themes that are mutated and recast by non-philosophy.

This text was written alongside another introductory work on Laruelle to be published in June of this year by Polity entitled Laruelle: A Stranger Thought [UK link]. The two works are distinct from one another. The critical introduction and guide being more concerned with the philosophical register of his thought as given in Principles of Non-Philosophy and more focused upon the specific concepts Laruelle develops there and that endure throughout his work. While in A Stranger Thought I turn away from a particular text to examine what Laruelle’s non-philosophy has to say about the traditional domains of politics, science, ethics, religion, and aesthetics in dialogue with figures outside of the academic domain of philosophy. The two texts are written to work as stand alone books, but also to complement one another should a reader find that helpful in their own attempts to make use of Laruelle’s non-philosophy.

White guilt? No thanks! But please pass the white shame.

I appreciated the way George Yancy talked about guilt in his recent New York Times piece. I have been trying to think through what it means to attempt an ethics in a world where ideal ethical living is basically impossible. Without going all the way with someone like Dworkin, I know that the relationship those of us with partners have as a couple or even those in polyamorous relationships, however loving and supportive and equal we all try to make it, is still structured by patriarchal norms, capitalism, and heteronormativity. I use that example because it is something most of us live everyday and can reflect on easily. In our homes all the problems of nature and culture meet, all the problems of politics and ethics coalesce, and we navigate them the best we can, but we are bound to failure. The failure of our society and our culture. This is true of myself too but I don’t feel guilt about that. Feeling guilt would imply I was doing some individual action that sullied something that was working before. But I do feel uneasy, I do feel a certain sense of shame because of the subject position as male I am recognized as and inhabit in the social world. 

This is often how I talk to my students about issues of race as well. I tend to work with this distinction between guilt and shame as derived first from the anthropologist Victor Turner and then reworked by the environmental scientist and theorist William Jordan III (though I suspect there are others more attuned to race that I simply have not yet encountered, this being part of the shame of finitude). Continue reading “White guilt? No thanks! But please pass the white shame.”

“That was a nice touch”: The Hateful Eight and the Inescapable Violence of Being American

Back in 2009 I wrote a post after watching Tarantino’s Inglorious Basterds. In that post I reveled in the joy of that film. After all, we get to be party to the killing of Hitler, to the refusal of forgiveness. At the same time, at the end of the film, Tarantino does something that he often does in his consistent refusal to allow some viewers-arguably the majority of them-any comfort. For, though we get to enjoy the fact that, this time, the angel of history wasn’t so powerless, we find out at the end of the film that we are in fact the Nazi. For the film ends from the perspective of Hans Landa after he’s had a swastika carved into his forehead. From the perspective of the camera it is in fact we, the consumers of this violence, who are now marked with the shame of our own enjoyment. (This is, I am sure, not my original idea, but I cannot remember for the life of me who wrote something along these lines. If you do let me know in the comments.) Something similar happens in The Hateful Eight, except without really any of the enjoyment of a clear moral division as there was between the Jewish guerillas and the Nazis.

It should be assumed that from this point forward there are spoilersContinue reading ““That was a nice touch”: The Hateful Eight and the Inescapable Violence of Being American”

50% off François Laruelle's Principles of Non-Philosophy: A Critical Introduction and Guide

My new book, François Laruelle’s Principles of Non-Philosophy: A Critical Introduction and Guide, is coming out with EUP later this month in the UK and in January in the US. You can currently preorder it for 50% off through OUP’s website with the code HOLIDAYSALE15. Free shipping for orders over $150. But even without it, you’re basically getting the book for the same cost as I would with my author’s discount. cwn-rmwukaapvdo

CFP: Legacies of Colonialism and Philosophies of Resistance, Villanova University

21st Annual Philosophy Conference

Sponsored by the Philosophy Graduate Student Union

Legacies of Colonialism and Philosophies of Resistance”

Keynotes: Dr. Enrique Dussel (UNAM) & Dr. Nelson Maldonado-Torres (Rutgers)

April 14-15, 2016

Villanova University

Call For Papers Continue reading “CFP: Legacies of Colonialism and Philosophies of Resistance, Villanova University”

Review of Jacob Taubes’ Occidental Eschatology and From Cult to Culture

Below is a long review of two of Jacob Taubes’ recently (relatively) translated works. This was originally written for a journal, but I was not able to speak to the ideological commitments of the journal and so it has languished as they’ve waited for me to correct it. At some point I realized I would never really be able to meet their requests for a variety of reasons and so decided to pull it so they might find a more suitable reviewer. I’m not sure those who are familiar with Taubes or Continental philosophy of religion will find anything new, but since I had spent some time on this (though years ago now) I am posting it here for those who might be interested.

Review of Jacob Taubes, Occidental Eschatology, trans. David Ratmoko (Stanford UP, 2009) and From Cult to Culture: Fragments Toward a Critique of Historical Reason, eds. Charlotte Elisheva Fonrobert and Amir Engel (Stanford UP, 2010).

Anthony Paul Smith (Spring, 2012)

During the mid-point of the Bush-Blair years two intellectual inquiries rose to prominence: questions relating to sovereignty, focused around a renewal of interest in the work of German far-right jurist Carl Schmitt, and questions relating to the so-called “return of religion”, which resulted in a number of para-Marxist engagements with the thought of the Christian apostle Paul. What drove both of these trends from being simply passing academic fancy to something actually reflective of live questions operative within cultural consciousness was their connection to the practice of sovereignty undertaken by the Bush regime and the seeming return of religion into the public sphere, especially in the form of resurgent fundamentalisms vying for political power. These two lines of thought came together in 2004 with the publication of Jacob Taubes’ The Political Theology of Paul in English-translation, which was originally published posthumously in German in 1993 but originally delivered as lectures in 1987. The seminar from which the book comes was to be Taubes last and during its preparation and delivery he was suffering from the final stages of an advanced form of cancer. According to Aleida Assman, the editor of the lectures, Taubes could not stand “even for a moment” during the seminar and delivered his lectures lying down in great pain. This book joined other left-wing philosophical readings of Paul’s writings, like Giorgio Agamben’s The Time That Remains: A Commentary on the Letter to the Romans, Alain Badiou’s Saint Paul: The Foundations of Universalism, Slavoj Zizek’s own engagements in The Ticklish Subject and The Puppet and the Dwarf, and the less well-known engagement by Jean-François Lyotard in The Hyphen: Between Judaism and Christianity. While there are a number of important theoretical differences at work in these books, though perhaps more minimal with regard to Agamben’s text due in part to shared sources (primarily their working with Benjamin’s theory of time), the crucial difference is that Taubes understood his reading of Paul to be the culmination of his intellectual work. His commitment to give the lectures reveals that Taubes’ intellectual work was more than just an academic interest, but a real struggle with themes and concepts that Taubes believed were of ultimate concern for Occidental history. In the writings of Paul, specifically his “Letter to the Romans”, Taubes finds within Paul, essentially a thinker whose ideas had been completely absorbed into the World (that is, the State, the Church, and all other forms of authority and law), a radical example of the living out of the experience of apocalyptic temporality, an experience that Taubes claims is to be expressed in the philosophical and theological thinking of all true revolutionary moments in history. Continue reading “Review of Jacob Taubes’ Occidental Eschatology and From Cult to Culture