Adrian Johnston talk: “On Deep History and the Brain”

Adrian Johnston gave a talk at the University of Guelph last Friday and I thought the audio might be of interest to some here. The talk is entitled “On Deep History and the Brain” and in it Adrian draws upon Daniel Smail’s book “On Deep History and the Brain”  to critique a certain side of Lacan that denies any inquiry into that which lies beyond the epistemic limitations of our symbolic structures (e.g. Lacan’s ontology of ‘parle-être’, “In the beginning was the Word,” “The Word is the murder of the Thing,” etc.). Adrian links this impetus to bracket the pre-linguistic to a Judeo-Christian “short chronology/sacred history.” In its place, Adrian endorses a “deep history” as the necessary condition for a secularized materialism. I’ll let the audio explain what exactly this entails.

The Q&A might also be of interest to some, as Adrian talks a bit about his interest in revitalizing Hegel’s philosophy of nature, his preference for the Zizekian approach of adopting the form of Christianity in order to displace its basis rather than smuggling Judeo-Christian content into an atheistic outlook, and shares some objections he has to certain tenets of Speculative Realism.

The abstract is here (pdf), the talk here, and the Q&A here.

Audio from the Speculative Medievalisms Event

The audio from the Speculative Medievalisms event that I participated in last week are now online. My talk on The Speculative Angel marks the first time I’ve talked in public about some of the weirder theological material I’ve been working on in my ongoing non-theology project. This talk is mostly tied to the texts that I’ve been using, some Medieval and others contemporary, but I’m working to see if angelology can be reclaimed as a kind of speculation about speculation from within a decidedly political perspective. That is, speculation about speculation which aims to think differently than the current state, which accords with the source material. I’m open to any remarks from those who listen to the talk. Ben Woodard’s response to my paper is at the end of the audio file. I have to admit that, while I was glad to hear someone else using my grey ecology phrase, I wasn’t entirely sure what Ben was trying to say to me even though I guessed it would have something to do with demons. The chair, Eileen Joy, was quite taken with his talk though and it seemed well received by the audience, so I am probably missing something here.

All of the talks were very interesting, but Nick Srnick’s talk and the two responses that follow are really worth a listen, especially for those interested in political theology and economics. He’s posted online the powerpoint he used in the talk as well.

Midweek Holiday Link Post

The details of an edited volume based on Syracuse University’s second Postmodernism, Culture, and Religion have been released. The volume considers questions of sexuality and feminism in relation to Continental philosophy of religion and hopefully it will bring some much needed attention to this topic.

On Friday the 17th I attended and spoke at the “Religion & Liberation: Interdisciplinary Perspectives” conference hosted at Durham University and supported by their Centre for Catholic Studies and Faith and Globalization Programme. It was a great conference and included AUFS favorites Philip Goodchild and Roland Boer as keynotes. It was great to meet Roland in the flesh and he was every bit the legend I had heard. I was also nice to meet Andrew Brower Latz of Beyond Unknowing. At the conference I presented a paper entitled “The Poverty of the Earth: What does Nature have to do with Liberation?” and I’ve uploaded the audio for those may be interested. I make mention of another paper that was co-written with Daniel Colucciello Barber and that may be found at the JCRT website [warning PDF]

Urbanomic has released details about upcoming publications, including two Laruelle translations and a book on the philosophy of mathematics. They have also posted the transcript [warning PDF] of a conversation with Quentin Meillassoux that may be of interest to some readers.

Laruelle at the University of Nottingham: Reflections and Audio

The audio files have been re-uploaded as of February 2nd 2013 – APS.

Last week François Laruelle spoke at the University of Warwick, to their philosophy department, and at the University of Nottingham, ostensibly to the theology and religious studies department though I’d say the crowd was made up of maybe 7% theologians. For me it was an extremely exciting time and perhaps the most stressful five days thus far in my life. I was tasked with translating the two talks and, due to a number of other obligations, couldn’t turn to them any earlier than two weeks before the conferences. Though I finished the Warwick translation with plenty of time I came down with the flu which slowed progress on the Nottingham one, though it was finished just in time. All of this was coupled with the fact that I had to prepare introductory talks for both events and help Prof. Laruelle travel from Warwick to Nottingham via the famed British public transportation system (which chose this time to fail me).

Of course, the most important aspects of the days had to do with the ideas and I was very excited to see Laruelle take a number of new directions in his thought. He has always aimed to challenge philosophy with science but this has confrontation has become both more scientifically grounded and more philosophically interesting. He has engaged with quantum physics in a way that elucidates the philosophical conception of immanence, changing out the use of this “fuzzy” word with that of superposition from quantum physics. But he has also cast a new “generic” role for science in order to undercut the philosophy at work in the concepts used by physicists. In his presentation at Nottingham he expanded this to the ethical problem of the separation of mean/ends. This ended with a very interesting discussion of a messianity (as opposed to messianism) completely denuded of any appeal to a transcendent God. I found the discussion fascinating, though I’m still trying to deal with what it all means, especially in an ecological context.

The roundtable discussion went well, thanks to Marjorie Gracieuse of the University of Warwick and Dr. John Marks of Nottingham. It would have been nice if there had been more time to answer questions from the audience and if some of the questions had been phrased more succinctly by members of the panel, but nothing was out of the ordinary. All in all we had about 60 people attend, which is really very impressive for such difficult and unfamiliar material, and there is the possibility of some kind of publication arising out of the events. Prof. Laruelle was incredibly patient and kind to all of us and for me, as someone who has found a certain inspiration in the way he practices this thing called thinking, it was an honor to meet and work so closely with him.

It is little secret that my time at Nottingham has been in many ways disappointing, and some of that was on display here with members of staff talking about me to other students and the usual mafioso secret talks in the hall, but this event felt like something of a turning point for me intellectually. It felt, for a brief moment, like this was all worth it. Thanks to François Laruelle for that reminder of my inalienable humanity.

Audio Files [Coming soon]