Skip navigation

General Interest

  •  
  • Page 1 of 12

The Italian philosopher Giorgio Agamben has always been an original reader of texts, understanding their many rich 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. In ten essays, Agamben ponders a series of literary and philosophical problems: the relation among genius, ego, and theories of subjectivity; the problem of messianic time as explicated in both images and lived experience; parody as a literary paradigm; and the potential of magic to provide an ethical canon.

The range of topics and themes addressed here attest to the creativity of Agamben’s singular mode of thought and his persistent concern with the act of witnessing, sometimes futile, sometimes earth-shattering. “In Praise of Profanity,” the central essay of this short but dense book, confronts the question of profanity as the crucial political task of the moment. An act of resistance to every form of separation, the concept of profanation reorients perceptions of how power, consumption, and use interweave to produce an urgent political modality and desire: to profane the unprofanable. Agamben not only provides a new and potent theoretical model but describes it with a writerly style that itself forges inescapable links among literature, politics, and philosophy.

Spheres Volume II: Macrospherology

All history is the history of struggles for spheric expansion.
—from Globes

In Globes—the second, and longest, volume in Peter Sloterdijk’s celebrated magnum opus Spheres trilogy—the author attempts nothing less than to uncover the philosophical foundations of the political history—the history of humanity—of the last two thousand years. The first, well-received volume of the author’s Spheres trilogy, Bubbles, dealt with microspheres: the fact that individuals, from the fetal stage to childhood, are never alone, because they always incorporate the Other into themselves and align themselves with it. With Globes, Sloterdijk opens up a history of the political world using the morphological models of the orb and the globe, and argues that all previous statements about globalization have suffered from shortsightedness. For him, globalization begins with the ancient Greeks, who represented the whole world through the shape of the orb. With the discovery of America and the first circumnavigations of the earth, the orb was replaced by the globe. This second globalization is currently giving way to the third, which we are living through today, as the general virtuality of all conditions leads to a growing spatial crisis.

Peter Sloterdijk tells here the true story of globalization: from the geometrization of the sky in Plato and Aristotle to the circumnavigation of the last orb—the earth—by ships, capital, and signals.

If Marx’s opus Capital provided the foundational account of the forces of production in all of their objective, machine formats, what happens when the concepts of political economy are applied not to dead labor, but to its living counterpart, the human subject? The result is Alexander Kluge and Oskar Negt’s History and Obstinacy, a groundbreaking archaeology of the labor power that has been cultivated in the human body over the last two thousand years. Supplementing classical political economy with the insights of fields ranging from psychoanalysis and phenomenology to evolutionary anthropology and systems theory, History and Obstinacy reaches down into the deepest strata of unconscious thought, genetic memory, and cellular life to examine the complex ecology of expropriation and resistance.

First published in German 1981, and never before translated into English, this epochal collaboration between Kluge and Negt has now been edited, expanded, and updated by the authors in response to global developments of the last decade to create an entirely new analysis of “the capitalism within us.”

Hamlet's Negativity

A specter is haunting philosophy—the specter of Hamlet. Why is this? Wherefore? What should we do?

Entering from stage left: the philosopher’s Hamlet. The philosopher’s Hamlet is a conceptual character, played by philosophers rather than actors. He performs not in the theater but within the space of philosophical positions. In All for Nothing, Andrew Cutrofello critically examines the performance history of this unique role.

The philosopher’s Hamlet personifies negativity. In Shakespeare’s play, Hamlet’s speech and action are characteristically negative; he is the melancholy Dane. Most would agree that he has nothing to be cheerful about. Philosophers have taken Hamlet to embody specific forms of negativity that first came into view in modernity. What the figure of the Sophist represented for Plato, Hamlet has represented for modern philosophers. Cutrofello analyzes five aspects of Hamlet’s negativity: his melancholy, negative faith, nihilism, tarrying (which Cutrofello distinguishes from “delaying”), and nonexistence. Along the way, we meet Hamlet in the texts of Kant, Coleridge, Hegel, Marx, Schopenhauer, Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, Freud, Russell, Wittgenstein, Heidegger, Benjamin, Arendt, Schmitt, Lacan, Deleuze, Foucault, Derrida, Badiou, Žižek, and other philosophers. Whirling across a kingdom of infinite space, the philosopher’s Hamlet is nothing if not thought-provoking.

A History of Modern Aurality

Hearing has traditionally been regarded as the second sense—as somehow less rational and less modern than the first sense, sight. Reason and Resonance explodes this myth by reconstructing the process through which the ear came to play a central role in modern culture and rationality.

For the past four hundred years, hearing has been understood as involving the sympathetic resonance between the vibrating air and various parts of the inner ear. But the emergence of resonance as the centerpiece of modern aurality also coincides with the triumph of a new type of epistemology in which the absence of resonance is the very condition of thought. Our mind’s relationship to the world is said to rest on distance or, as the very synonym for reason suggests, reflection.

Reason and Resonance traces the genealogy of this “intimate animosity” between reason and resonance through a series of interrelated case studies involving a varied cast of otologists, philosophers, physiologists, pamphleteers, and music theorists. Among them are the seventeenth-century architect-zoologist Claude Perrault, who refuted Cartesianism in a book on sound and hearing; the Sturm und Drang poet Wilhelm Heinse and his friend the anatomist Samuel S?mmerring, who believed the ventricular fluid to be the interface between the soul and the auditory nerve; the renowned physiologist Johannes Müller, who invented the concept of “sense energies”; and Müller’s most important student, Hermann von Helmholtz, author of the magisterial Sensations of Tone. Erlman also discusses key twentieth-century thinkers of aurality, including Ernst Mach; the communications engineer and proponent of the first nonresonant wave theory of hearing, Georg von Békésy; political activist and philosopher Günther Anders; and Martin Heidegger.

Our beliefs constitute a large part of our knowledge of the world. We have beliefs about objects, about culture, about the past, and about the future. We have beliefs about other people, and we believe that they have beliefs as well. We use beliefs to predict, to explain, to create, to console, to entertain. Some of our beliefs we call theories, and we are extraordinarily creative at constructing them. Theories of quantum mechanics, evolution, and relativity are examples. But so are theories about astrology, alien abduction, guardian angels, and reincarnation. All are products (with varying degrees of credibility) of fertile minds trying to find explanations for observed phenomena. In this book, Nils Nilsson examines beliefs: what they do for us, how we come to hold them, and how to evaluate them. We should evaluate our beliefs carefully, Nilsson points out, because they influence so many of our actions and decisions.

Some of our beliefs are more strongly held than others, but all should be considered tentative and changeable. Nilsson shows that beliefs can be quantified by probability, and he describes networks of beliefs in which the probabilities of some beliefs affect the probabilities of others. He argues that we can evaluate our beliefs by adapting some of the practices of the scientific method and by consulting expert opinion. And he warns us about “belief traps”—holding onto beliefs that wouldn’t survive critical evaluation. The best way to escape belief traps, he writes, is to expose our beliefs to the reasoned criticism of others.

Reason in Religion, Volume VII, Book Three

Santayana’s Life of Reason, published in five books from 1905 to 1906, ranks as one of the greatest works in modern philosophical naturalism. Acknowledging the natural material bases of human life, Santayana traces the development of the human capacity for appreciating and cultivating the ideal. It is a capacity he exhibits as he articulates a continuity running through animal impulse, practical intelligence, and ideal harmony in reason, society, art, religion, and science. The work is an exquisitely rendered vision of human life lived sanely.

In this third book, Santayana offers a naturalistic interpretation of religion. He believes that religion is ignoble if regarded as a truthful depiction of real beings and events; but regarded as poetry, it might be the greatest source of wisdom. Santayana analyzes four characteristic religious concerns: piety, spirituality, charity, and immortality. He is at his most profound in his discussion of immortality, arguing for an ideal immortality that does not eradicate the fear of death but offers a way for mortal man to share in immortal things and live in a manner that will bestow on his successors the imprint of his soul.

This critical edition, volume VII of The Works of George Santayana, includes notes, textual commentary, lists of variants and emendations, bibliography, and other tools useful to Santayana scholars. The other four books of the volume include Reason in Common Sense, Reason in Society, Reason in Art, and Reason in Science.

Mental Kinds and Natural Kinds

In this volume, leading philosophers of psychiatry examine psychiatric classification systems, including the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), asking whether current systems are sufficient for effective diagnosis, treatment, and research. Doing so, they take up the question of whether mental disorders are natural kinds, grounded in something in the outside world. Psychiatric categories based on natural kinds should group phenomena in such a way that they are subject to the same type of causal explanations and respond similarly to the same type of causal interventions. When these categories do not evince such groupings, there is reason to revise existing classifications.

The contributors all question current psychiatric classifications systems and the assumptions on which they are based. They differ, however, as to why and to what extent the categories are inadequate and how to address the problem. Topics discussed include taxometric methods for identifying natural kinds, the error and bias inherent in DSM categories, and the complexities involved in classifying such specific mental disorders as “oppositional defiance disorder” and pathological gambling.

Contributors
George Graham, Nick Haslam, Allan Horwitz, Harold Kincaid, Dominic Murphy, Jeffrey Poland, Nancy Nyquist Potter, Don Ross, Dan Stein, Jacqueline Sullivan, Serife Tekin, Peter Zachar

The Philosophy, Psychology, and Neuroscience of Temporality

Our awareness of time and temporal properties is a constant feature of conscious life. Subjective temporality structures and guides every aspect of behavior and cognition, distinguishing memory, perception, and anticipation. This milestone volume brings together research on temporality from leading scholars in philosophy, psychology, and neuroscience, defining a new field of interdisciplinary research.

The book’s thirty chapters include selections from classic texts by William James and Edmund Husserl and new essays setting them in historical context; contemporary philosophical accounts of lived time; and current empirical studies of psychological time. These last chapters, the larger part of the book, cover such topics as the basic psychophysics of psychological time, its neural foundations, its interaction with the body, and its distortion in illness and altered states of consciousness.

Contributors
Melissa J. Allman, Holly Andersen, Valtteri Arstila, Yan Bao, Dean V. Buonomano, Niko A. Busch, Barry Dainton, Sylvie Droit-Volet, Christine M. Falter, Thomas Fraps, Shaun Gallagher, Alex O. Holcombe, Edmund Husserl, William James, Piotr Jaśkowski, Jeremie Jozefowiez, Ryota Kanai, Allison N. Kurti, Dan Lloyd, Armando Machado, Matthew S. Matell, Warren H. Meck, James Mensch, Bruno Mölder, Catharine Montgomery, Konstantinos Moutoussis, Peter Naish, Valdas Noreika, Sukhvinder S. Obhi, Ruth Ogden, Alan o’Donoghue, Georgios Papadelis, Ian B. Phillips, Ernst Pöppel, John E. R. Staddon, Dale N. Swanton, Rufin VanRullen, Argiro Vatakis, Till M. Wagner, John Wearden, Marc Wittmann, Agnieszka Wykowska, Kielan Yarrow, Bin Yin, Dan Zahavi

In psychiatry, few question the legitimacy of asking whether a given psychiatric disorder is real; similarly, in psychology, scholars debate the reality of such theoretical entities as general intelligence, superegos, and personality traits. And yet in both disciplines, little thought is given to what is meant by the rather abstract philosophical concept of “real.” Indeed, certain psychiatric disorders have passed from real to imaginary (as in the case of multiple personality disorder) and from imaginary to real (as in the case of post-traumatic stress disorder). In this book, Peter Zachar considers such terms as “real” and “reality”—invoked in psychiatry but often obscure and remote from their instances—as abstract philosophical concepts. He then examines the implications of his approach for psychiatric classification and psychopathology.

Proposing what he calls a scientifically inspired pragmatism, Zachar considers such topics as the essentialist bias, diagnostic literalism, and the concepts of natural kind and social construct. Turning explicitly to psychiatric topics, he proposes a new model for the domain of psychiatric disorders, the imperfect community model, which avoids both relativism and essentialism. He uses this model to understand such recent controversies as the attempt to eliminate narcissistic personality disorder from the DSM-5. Returning to such concepts as real, true, and objective, Zachar argues that not only should we use these metaphysical concepts to think philosophically about other concepts, we should think philosophically about them.

  •  
  • Page 1 of 12