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General Interest

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For Peter Sloterdijk, Friedrich Nietzsche represents nothing short of a “catastrophe in the history of language”—a new evangelist for a linguistics of narcissistic jubilation. Nietzsche offered a philosophical declaration of independence from humility, a meeting-point of sobriety and megalomania that for Sloterdijk has come to define the very project of philosophy.

Yet for all the significance of this language-event named Nietzsche, Nietzsche’s contributions have too often been elided and the contradictions at the root of his philosophy too often edited out. As Sloterdijk observes, “Never has an author so insisted on distinction and yet attracted such vulgarity.” Nietzsche Apostle, drawn from a speech Sloterdijk gave in 2000 on the hundredth anniversary of Nietzsche’s death, looks at the ways in which Nietzsche has been branded over the years through selective compilation, and at the ways in which Nietzsche turned himself into a brand—a brand announced by his proclaimed “fifth Gospel,” Thus Spoke Zarathustra. For Sloterdijk, the focus should not be on the figure of Zarathustra or on the “will to power” often used as a kind of philosophical shorthand to sum up Nietzsche’s work, but on Zarathustra’s act of “speaking” itself. Nietzsche Apostle offers a brief history of self-praise and self-affirmation, an examination of the evolution of boasting (both by God and by man), and a very original approach to Nietzsche, philosophy’s first designer brand of individualism.

Activist Philosophy and the Occurrent Arts

Events are always passing; to experience an event is to experience the passing. But how do we perceive an experience that encompasses the just-was and the is-about-to-be as much as what is actually present? In Semblance and Event, Brian Massumi, drawing on the work of William James, Alfred North Whitehead, Gilles Deleuze, and others, develops the concept of “semblance” as a way to approach this question.

It is, he argues, a question of abstraction, not as the opposite of the concrete but as a dimension of it: “lived abstraction.” A semblance is a lived abstraction. Massumi uses the category of the semblance to investigate practices of art that are relational and event-oriented—variously known as interactive art, ephemeral art, performance art, art intervention—which he refers to collectively as the “occurrent arts.” Each art practice invents its own kinds of relational events of lived abstraction, to produce a signature species of semblance. The artwork’s relational engagement, Massumi continues, gives it a political valence just as necessary and immediate as the aesthetic dimension.

Reason in Society, Volume VII, Book Two

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 second book, Santayana analyzes several distinctive forms of human association, from political and economic orders to forms of friendship, to determine what possibilities they provide for the life of reason. He considers, among other topics, love and the affinity for the ideal, the family, aristocracy and democracy, the constituents of genuinely free friendship (including that of husband and wife), patriotism, and the ideal society of kindred spirits.

This Critical Edition, volume VII of The Works of George Santayana, includes a chronology, notes, bibliography, textual commentary, lists of variants, and other tools useful to Santayana scholars. The other four books of the volume include Reason in Common Sense, Reason in Religion, Reason in Art, and Reason in Science.

Philosophical Perspectives

In this philosophical exploration of creativity, Irving Singer describes the many different types of creativity and their varied manifestations within and across all the arts and sciences. Singer’s approach is pluralistic rather than abstract or dogmatic. His reflections amplify recent discoveries in cognitive science and neurobiology by aligning them with the aesthetic, affective, and phenomenological framework of experience and behavior that characterizes the human quest for meaning.

Creativity has long fascinated Singer, and in Modes of Creativity he carries forward investigations begun in earlier works. Marshaling a wealth of examples and anecdotes ranging from antiquity to the present, about persons as diverse as Albert Einstein and Sherlock Holmes, Singer describes the interactions of the creative and the imaginative, the inventive, the novel, and the original. He maintains that our preoccupation with creativity devolves from biological, psychological, and social bases of our material being; that creativity is not limited to any single aspect of human existence but rather inheres not only in art and the aesthetic but also in science, technology, moral practice, as well as ordinary daily experience.

“The need to speak, even if one has nothing to say, becomes more pressing when one has nothing to say, just as the will to live becomes more urgent when life has lost its meaning.”
--from The Ecstasy of Communication

First published in France in 1987, The Ecstasy of Communication was Baudrillard’s summarization of his work for a postdoctoral degree at the Sorbonne: a dense, poetically crystalline essay that boiled down two decades of radical, provocative theory into an aphoristically eloquent swan song to twentieth-century alienation. Baudrillard’s quixotic effort to be recognized by the French intellectual establishment may have been doomed to failure, but this text immediately became a pinnacle to his work, a mid-career assessment that looked both forward and back. By carefully distilling the most radical elements of his previous books, Baudrillard constructed the skeleton key to all of the work that was to come in the second half of his career, and set the scene for what he termed the “obscene”: a world in which alienation has been succeeded by ceaseless communication and information. The Ecstasy of Communication is a decisive, compact description of what it means to be “wired” in our braver-than-brave new world, where sexuality has been superseded by pornography, knowledge by information, hysteria by schizophrenia, subject by object, and violence by terror.

The Ecstasy of Communication is an anti-manifesto that confronted and dispensed with such influences as Marshall McLuhan, Guy Debord, and Georges Bataille. It is an essential crib-book, lexicon, and companion piece to any and all of Baudrillard’s books. Twenty-five years after its original publication, it remains not only a prescient portrait of our contemporary condition, but also a dark mirror into which we have not yet dared to look.

Gilbert Simondon (1924–1989), one of the most influential contemporary French philosophers, published only three works: L’individu et sa genèse physico-biologique (The individual and its physico-biological genesis, 1964) and L’individuation psychique et collective (Psychic and collective individuation, 1989), both drawn from his doctoral thesis, and Du mode d’existence des objets techniques (On the mode of existence of technical objects, 1958). It is this last work that brought Simondon into the public eye; as a consequence, he has been considered a “thinker of technics” and cited often in pedagogical reports on teaching technology. Yet Simondon was a philosopher whose ambitions lay in an in-depth renewal of ontology as a process of individuation--that is, how individuals come into being, persist, and transform. In this accessible yet rigorous introduction to Simondon’s work, Muriel Combes helps to bridge the gap between Simondon’s account of technics and his philosophy of individuation.

Some thinkers have found inspiration in Simondon’s philosophy of individuation, notably Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari. Combes’s account, first published in French in 1999, is one of the only studies of Simondon to appear in English. Combes breaks new ground, exploring an ethics and politics adequate to Simondon’s hypothesis of preindividual being, considering through the lens of transindividual philosophy what form a nonservile relation to technology might take today. Her book is essential reading for anyone who wants to understand Simondon’s work.

Kant, Whitehead, Deleuze, and Aesthetics

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. 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.

To philosophize is to communicate philosophically. From its inception, philosophy has communicated forcefully. Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle talk a lot, and talk ardently. Because philosophy and communication have belonged together from the beginning--and because philosophy comes into its own and solidifies its stance through communication--it is logical that we subject communication to philosophical investigation. This collection of key works of classical, modern, and contemporary philosophers brings communication back into philosophy’s orbit. It is the first anthology to gather in a single volume foundational works that address the core questions, concepts, and problems of communication in philosophical terms.

The editors have chosen thirty-two selections from the work of Plato, Leibniz, Hegel, Husserl, Heidegger, Wittgenstein, Benjamin, Lacan, Derrida, Sloterdijk, and others. They have organized these texts thematically, rather than historically, in seven sections: consciousness; intersubjective understanding; language; writing and context; difference and subjectivity; gift and exchange; and communicability and community. Taken together, these texts not only lay the foundation for establishing communication as a distinct philosophical topic but also provide an outline of what philosophy of communication might look like. .

Contemporary Readings
Edited by John Greco and John Turri

Virtue epistemology is a diverse and flourishing field, one of the most exciting developments in epistemology to emerge over the last three decades. Virtue epistemology begins with the premise that epistemology is a normative discipline and, accordingly, a central task of epistemology is to explain the sort of normativity that knowledge, justified belief, and the like involve. A second premise is that a focus on the intellectual virtues (individual intellectual excellences) is essential to carrying out this central task. This collection offers some of the most influential and agenda-setting work at the heart of virtue epistemology’s research program. Taken together, they will equip the reader to enter the ongoing discussion and debate in the field.

The selections range from seminal contributions by Ernest Sosa, who introduced the notion of intellectual virtue into the contemporary literature, to a study of “epistemic justice” that draws on To Kill a Mockingbird and The Talented Mr. Ripley. The readings include overviews of the field that also serve to advance the discussion; investigations of the nature of knowledge; reflections on the value of knowledge; examinations of credit and luck; and explorations of future directions for research.

Philosophy, Science, and Ethics

Philosophical reflections on the environment began with early philosophers’ invocation of a cosmology that mixed natural and supernatural phenomena. Today, the central philosophical problem posed by the environment involves not what it can teach us about ourselves and our place in the cosmic order but rather how we can understand its workings in order to make better decisions about our own conduct regarding it. The resulting inquiry spans different areas of contemporary philosophy, many of which are represented by the fifteen original essays in this volume.

The contributors first consider conceptual problems generated by rapid advances in biology and ecology, examining such topics as ecological communities, adaptation, and scientific consensus. The contributors then turn to epistemic and axiological issues, first considering philosophical aspects of environmental decision making and then assessing particular environmental policies (largely relating to climate change), including reparations, remediation, and nuclear power, from a normative perspective.

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