In Without Criteria, Steven Shaviro proposes and explores a philosophical fantasy: imagine a world in which Alfred North Whitehead takes the place of Martin Heidegger. What if Whitehead, instead of Heidegger, had set the agenda for postmodern thought? Heidegger asks, "Why is there something, rather than nothing?" Whitehead asks, "How is it that there is always something new?" In a world where everything from popular music to DNA is being sampled and recombined, argues Shaviro, Whitehead's question is the truly urgent one. Without Criteria is Shaviro's experiment in rethinking postmodern theory, especially the theory of aesthetics, from a point of view that hearkens back to Whitehead rather than Heidegger.
Shaviro does this largely by reading Whitehead in conjunction with Gilles Deleuze, finding important resonances and affinities between them, suggesting both a Deleuzian reading of Whitehead and a Whiteheadian reading of Deleuze. In working through the ideas of Whitehead and Deleuze, Shaviro also appeals to Kant, arguing that certain aspects of Kant's thought pave the way for the philosophical "constructivism" embraced by both Whitehead and Deleuze.
Kant, Whitehead, and Deleuze are not commonly grouped together, but the juxtaposition of them in Without Criteria helps to shed light on a variety of issues that are of concern to contemporary art and media practices (especially developments in digital film and video), and to controversies in cultural theory (including questions about commodity fetishism and about immanence and transcendence). Moreover, in his rereading of Whitehead (and in deliberate contrast to the "ethical turn" in much recent theoretical discourse), Shaviro opens the possibility of a critical aesthetics of contemporary culture.
Technologies of Lived Abstraction series
About the Author
Steven Shaviro is DeRoy Professor of English at Wayne State University. He is the author of Passion and Excess: Blanchot, Bataille, and Literary Theory and The Cinematic Body.
"In this work of great poise and deep insight Steven Shaviro draws a new and important diagram of the relations between the philosophies of Kant, Whitehead, and Deleuze. In so doing, he opens up novel and productive lines of enquiry for each thinker, most notably in the field of aesthetics. This is a book of mature and yet quick-witted philosophical critique with ramifications through many contemporary problems and debates (in philosophy, critical theory, theology and aestheticsto name but some). Very few readers will fail to be touched and excited by the ideas he develops with free-ranging boldness tempered by an appropriate aesthetic feel and tact. Shaviro achieves the extraordinarily difficult task of combining thoughtful rigour, intellectual generosity free of resentments and compartments, and carefully argued textual interpretation."
James Williams, University of Dundee
"Shaviro brings Whitehead to center stage and gives us a fascinating new vision for contemporary philosophy. By demonstrating the richness and timeliness of his concepts, Shaviro's book will inspire other scholars and, I hope, inaugurate a return to Whitehead."
Michael Hardt, Duke University and co-author of Empire and Multitude