A provocative book that proposes a new and surprising inspiration for philosophy today—the canine thinker from Kafka's story “Investigations of a Dog.”
Written toward the end of Kafka's life, “Investigations of a Dog” (Forschungen eines Hundes, 1922) is one of the lesser-known and most enigmatic works in the author's oeuvre. Walter Benjamin remarked that it was the one story he never managed to figure out. Kafka's tale of philosophical adventure is that of a lone, maladjusted dog who challenges the dogmatism of established science and pioneers an original research program in pursuit of the mysteries of his self and his world. Schuster revisits this text, using the canine as a guide dog through which to rediscover Kafka's fictional universe, while taking up the cause of this ingenious, possessed, melancholy, comical, and revolutionary thinker.
Neither an exercise in literary criticism nor a traditional philosophical commentary, this charming and idiosyncratic book aligns itself with and develops the research program of Kafka's dog. It constructs an “impossible” system based on the fourfold division of nourishment, music, incantation, and freedom—or, stated a bit differently: enjoyment, art, institutions, and freedom. Schuster puts the dog in dialogue with psychoanalytic theory (Freud and Lacan), the history of philosophy (Plato, Diogenes, Descartes, Kierkegaard, German Idealism, Marx, phenomenology), and literature (Gogol, Melville, Flaubert, Cervantes, Lispector). Imagining the “Unknown University” that Kafka's new science calls for, the book enlists new comrades in the dog's struggle.
Aaron Schuster is a philosopher and writer who lives in Amsterdam. His first book The Trouble with Pleasure: Deleuze and Psychoanalysis is also a title in the Short Circuits series.