The Italian philosopher Giorgio Agamben has always been an original reader of texts, understanding their many rich and multiple historical, aesthetic, and political meanings and effects. In Profanations, Agamben has assembled for the first time some of his most pivotal essays on photography, the novel, and film. A meditation on memory and oblivion, on what is lost and what remains, Profanations proves yet again that Agamben is one of the most provocative writers of our time.
The philosophical tradition in the West has always subjected life to conceptual divisions and questions about meaning. In Vital Nourishment, François Jullien contends that although this process has given rise to a rich history of inquiry, it proceeds too fast. In their anxiety about meaning, Western thinkers since Plato have forgotten simply to experience life. In this installment of his continuing project of plumbing the philosophical divide between Eastern and Western thought, Jullien slows down, and, using the third and fourth century B.C.E.
The Inner Touch presents the archaeology of a single sense: the sense of being sentient. Aristotle was perhaps the first to define this faculty when in his treatise On the Soul he identified a sensory power, irreducible to the five senses, by which animals perceive that they are perceiving: the simple "sense," as he wrote, "that we are seeing and hearing." After him, thinkers returned, time and again, to define and redefine this curious sensation.
In Praise of the Whip: A Cultural History of Arousal is a new history of voluntary flagellation in Europe, from its invention in medieval religious devotion to its use in the modern pornographic imagination. Working with a wide range of religious, literary, and medical texts and images, Niklaus Largier explores the emotional and sensual, religious and erotic excitement of the whip, a crucial instrument of stimulation in devotional and sexual practices.
To be involved in politics without aspiring to govern, without seeking to be governed by the best leaders, without desiring to abolish all forms of government: such is the condition common to practitioners of nongovernmental politics. Whether these activists concern themselves with providing humanitarian aid, monitoring human rights violations, protecting the environment, educating consumers, or improving the safety of workers, the legitimacy and efficacy of their initiatives demand that they forsake conventional political ambitions.
Who are you? And how can you prove it? How were individuals described and identified in the centuries before photography and fingerprinting, in a world without centralized administrations, where names and addresses were constantly changing? In Who are You?, Valentin Groebner traces the early modern European history of identification practices and identity papers. The documents, seals, stamps, and signatures were—and are—powerful tools that created the double of a person in writ and bore the indelible signs of bureaucratic authenticity.
This illuminating study by Christian Jambet explores the essential elements of the philosophical system of Mulla Sadra Shirazi, an Iranian Shi'ite of the seventeenth century. The writings of Mulla Sadra Shirazi (d. 1640) bear witness to the divine revelation in every act of being, from the most humble to the most celebrated. More generally, Islamic philosophy employs an ontology of the real that is important to the destiny of metaphysics, an ontology that belongs to our own universe of thought.
Toward the end of the Middle Ages, medical writers and philosophers began to devote increasing attention to what they called "women's secrets," by which they meant female sexuality and generation. At the same time, Italian physicians and surgeons began to open human bodies in order to study their functions and the illnesses that afflicted them, culminating in the great illustrated anatomical treatise of Andreas Vesalius in 1543.
When Jean-Pierre Vernant first published Myth and Thought among the Greeks in 1965, it transformed the field of ancient Greek scholarship, calling forth a new way to think about Greek myth and thought.
Are the attacks on academic freedom after 9/11 a passing storm, or do they represent a structural shift that undermines one of the pillars of democratic societies? This book brings together some of this nation's leading scholars to analyze the challenges to academic freedom posed by post-9/11 political interventions and the market-driven commercialization of knowledge, examining these issues in light of the major transformations in the system of higher education since the Second World War, including conflicting interpretations of what constitutes academic freedom.
How does the funeral oration relate to democracy in ancient Greece? How did the death of an individual citizen-soldier become the occasion to praise the city of Athens? In The Invention of Athens, Nicole Loraux traces the different rhetoric, politics, and ideology of funeral orations—epitaphioi—from Thucidydes, Gorgias, Lysias, and Demosthenes to Plato. Arguing that the ceremony of public burial began circa 508-460 BCE, Loraux demonstrates that the institution of the funeral oration developed under Athenian democracy.
In 1994, an interim government in Rwanda orchestrated one of the world's worst mass crimes: a 100-day extermination campaign that took half a million lives. At the time, Rwanda's genocide went largely unnoticed by the outside world. Today there is growing interest in the Rwandan experience as many discover the horror that took place and seek to understand how and why violence of this character and magnitude could have happened in our time.
Death and the Idea of Mexico is the first social, cultural, and political history of death in a nation that has made death its tutelary sign. Examining the history of death and of the death sign from sixteenth-century holocaust to contemporary Mexican-American identity politics, anthropologist Claudio Lomnitz's innovative study marks a turning point in understanding Mexico's rich and unique use of death imagery.
Most of the people around us belong to our world not directly, as kin or comrades, but as strangers. How do we recognize them as members of our world? We are related to them as transient participants in common publics. Indeed, most of us would find it nearly impossible to imagine a social world without publics. In the eight essays in this book, Michael Warner addresses the question: What is a public?
What remains of moral judgment when truth itself is mistrusted, when the validity of every belief system depends on its context, when power and knowledge are inextricably entangled? Is a viable moral theory still possible in the wake of the postmodern criticism of modern philosophy? The Order of Evils responds directly to these questions and dilemmas with one simple and brilliant change of focus. Rather than concentrating on the age-old themes of justice and freedom, Adi Ophir offers a moral theory that emphasizes the existential and political nature of evil.
The Cradle of Humanity: Prehistoric Art and Culture collects essays and lectures by Georges Bataille spanning 30 years of research in anthropology, comparative religion, aesthetics, and philosophy. These were neither idle nor idyllic years; the discovery of Lascaux in 1940 coincides with the bloodiest war in history—with new machines of death, Auschwitz, and Hiroshima. Bataille's reflections on the possible origins of humanity coincide with the intensified threat of its possible extinction.
Just as speech can be acquired, so can it be lost. Speakers can forget words, phrases, even entire languages they once knew; over the course of time peoples, too, let go of the tongues that were once theirs, as languages disappear and give way to the others that follow them. In Echolalias, Daniel Heller-Roazen reflects on the many forms of linguistic forgetfulness, offering a far-reaching philosophical investigation into the persistence and disappearance of speech.
The essays in this book present a complex theme at the heart of the philosophy of Gilles Deleuze, what in his last writing he called simply "a life." They capture a problem that runs throughout his work—his long search for a new and superior empiricism. Announced in his first book, on David Hume, then taking off with his early studies of Nietzsche and Bergson, the problem of an "empiricist conversion" became central to Deleuze's work, in particular to his aesthetics and his conception of the art of cinema.
The work of Alois Riegl (1858-1905) has been highly influential in art history of the modern age. Riegl, the most important member of the so-called Vienna School, developed a refined technique of visual or formal analysis that departed from the iconological method, which emphasized decoding motifs through recourse to texts.
In this first full-length study of a largely forgotten optical device from the eighteenth century, Arnaud Maillet reconfigures our historical understanding of visual experience and meaning in relation to notions of opacity, transparency, and imagination. Many are familiar with the Claude glass as a small black convex mirror used by artists and spectators of landscape to reflect a view and make tonal values and areas of light and shade visible.
At a time when almost any victimless sexual practice has its public advocates and almost every sexual act is fit for the front page, the easiest, least harmful, and most universal one is embarrassing, discomforting, and genuinely radical when openly acknowledged. Masturbation may be the last taboo. But this is not a holdover from a more benighted age. The ancient world cared little about the subject; it was a backwater of Jewish and Christian teaching about sexuality.
Imagine a world without things. There would be nothing to describe, nothing to explain, remark, interpret, or complain about. Without things, we would stop speaking; we would become as mute as things are alleged to be. In nine original essays, internationally renowned historians of art and of science seek to understand how objects become charged with significance without losing their gritty materiality.
Aby Warburg (1866-1929) is best known as the originator of the discipline of iconology and as the founder of the institute that bears his name. His followers included such celebrated art historians of the twentieth century as Erwin Panofsky, Edgar Wind, and Fritz Saxl. But his heirs developed, for the most part, a domesticated iconology based on the interpretation of symbolic material. As Phillippe-Alain Michaud shows in this important book, Warburg's own project was remote from any positivist or neo-Kantian ambitions.
Already translated into six languages, Francois Jullien's In Praise of Blandness has become a classic. Appearing for the first time in English, this groundbreaking work of philosophy, anthropology, aesthetics, and sinology is certain to stir readers to think and experience what may at first seem impossible: the richness of a bland sound, a bland meaning, a bland painting, a bland poem.
Destroyed faces, dissolved human shapes, invisible enemies: violence and anonymity go hand in hand. The visual representation of extreme physical violence makes real people nameless exemplars of horror—formless, hideous, defaced. In Defaced, Valentin Groebner explores the roots of the visual culture of violence in medieval and Renaissance Europe and shows how contemporary visual culture has been shaped by late medieval images and narratives of violence.