Spring 2014 Meeting #1: Karl Marx, the German Ideology

The first meetingp1020135 of the CEPW for the Spring Quarter of 2014 will take place on Wednesday, April 2, from 4:30-6:30 pm. Our theme this quarter will be the concept of ideology, and we will begin with a reading from Marx’s “The German Ideology,” which can be found online here.

Please read the first 30 pages or so, up to, but not including, the section called “The Real Basis of Ideology.” Coffee and tea will be served, and we are looking forward to a great discussion and a great Spring quarter!

2.5.2014: Ted Gordon (Music) on Jankélévitch’s Music & the Ineffable

After a century of dominance by Germanic composers, scholars, and philosophers, Anglophone music studies has expanded its scope to other bodies of thought in order to work through fundamental questions of the discipline: what is music? How does it operate? How should one go about doing it? Recent American interest in the writings of Vladimir Jankélévitch have forced scholars to rethink the metaphysics of music itself; I read Jankélévitch’s metaphysics of music, described at length in Music and the Ineffable, as not only redefining the nature of music but also compelling composers to maintain a fidelity to that nature, a kind of rule-bound ethics that has surprising resonances in late Foucauldian thought (and, somewhat paradoxically, in Adorno’s concept of musique informelle). This paper is a preliminary exploration of these ideas, including a reading of Jankélévitch’s ethics in a book ostensibly about music, using Foucault’s reading of Cynicism as a potential model for thinking through the ethics of music.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014, SS401; paper available on the downloads pageslowshamrising_555fm


holy family copyThe CEPW is happy to welcome Matteo Vagelli (Scuola Alti Studi San Carlo, Université Paris 1 Panthéon-sorbonne, The Divinity School) for our next meeting.

In this presentation I will address two questions, and in trying to lay down a possible answer I will touch on different aspects of my research. The main question is: did a certain number of French authors instantiate a specific and recognizable kind of epistemological attitude towards the historiography of concepts? The secondary question is: is the notion of style in the history of science applicable to the history of epistemology? I will try first to describe the problematic context represented by historical epistemology (HEP). To do so, I will try to analyze the relations between Foucault and the philosophically-minded histories of the sciences produced by Bachelard and Canguilhem, by making their respective notions of historicity, objectivity and truth fruitfully interact. Then, I will try to show that the concept of style and its variations are central within contemporary HEP. Finally, I will try to account for HEP in terms of the “emergence” of a “new historiographical style”. In conclusion, I will highlight some of the limits of this peculiar recursive application of ‘style’ and will also draw more general conclusions on the reasons for such limitations.

The paper and a supplimentary reading by Jean-François Braumstein are linked below and may be downloaded here.


J. F. Braunstein – Bachelard, Canguilhem, Foucault (2002) copy



5/21 Davey Tomlinson presents on self-consciousness and objective forms in Buddhist philosophy

I’ll be speaking about the changing ways that Indian Buddhist idealists construed the relation between objects or appearances and self-consciousness. We’ll walk through (rather quickly) about 500 years of intellectual history: from the foundation of Buddhist epistemology in Dignāga’s writings, through the work of non-Buddhist critics, to what is a properly transcendental account of self-consciousness in reaction to those criticisms. Finally, we’ll dwell on the understudied writings of Ratnākaraśānti, wherein that account of self-consciousness is connected to the unorthodox idealist position that the essence of consciousness is not intentional (Nirākāravāda), a position I hope to show is not as untenable as it may seem. Finally, we’ll touch briefly on the soteriological implications of all this, tentatively answering the question: how can the ordinary mind transform into that of a buddha? My work in this regard is extremely speculative, so I’m looking forward to conversation. No previous knowledge of Buddhism or Indian philosophy more generally is necessary (or desired): my hope is to begin a conversation with the Workshop that I plan to continue over the coming years, one in which 1000 year old Sanskrit and Tibetan texts are appreciated and discussed in contemporary philosophical terms.

5/14 Christoph Menke presents on Hegel’s conception of freedom as liberation

Terry Pinkard and Robert Pippin have shown that Hegel’s critique of autonomy is formulated as the diagnosis of a paradox, the so-called “paradox of autonomy”. In this paper, I will first explain what this paradox consists in and demonstrate why it requires us to conceive of freedom as a process of liberation. In doing so, I grant a central role to Hegel’s claim that the law’s mode of existence is simply tobe: laws only exist as beings or entities, and in that respect and to that extent they are not free. I will then sketch the way Hegel consequently understands liberation as a dialectical process of social development, education, or enculturation (Bildung). To conceive freedom as liberation means thinking of it as the permanent transformation of society.





5/7 Ross Jacobs presents on the contemporary relevance of Kant’s political philosophy

The paper will re-articulate and defend Immanuel Kant’s international political thought against the criticism by Leo Strauss in his 1935  anti-Kantian work Philosophy and Law. More generally, I seek to bring the international political thought of Kant into conversation with research on under-explored philosophical and theological-political resources within the traditions of contemporary democratic theory, philosophy, and theology. I argue that Kant’s critique of Sino-Russian authoritarianism needs to be brought back into the conversation if we are to defend Kant from those, like Strauss, who seek to caricature his politics. Thus this paper aims to initiate the project of re-writing the philosophy of history contested by many leading Euro-American “scholar-prophets of social justice”  in order to re-cultivate receptivity to Immanuel Kant’s theory of international democratic peace as it finds expression in “Perpetual Peace” and the “Idea for a Universal History with a Cosmopolitan Aim. In the end, I will argue that Strauss ‘s anti-Kantianism is indicative of an overwhelming sympathy to what Charles Taylor critiques as the “radical enlightenment” and an over-exposure to the highly problematic claims of Friedrich Nietzsche and Martin Heidegger. These facts may render, I suggest,  Leo Strauss’ corpus un-worthy of serving what Michael Sandel has called America’s “public philosophy.”

4/23 Maxime Doyon presents on phenomenology of perception


Phenomenologists generally agree that the body’s mobility participates actively in the constitution of perceptual reality. The body is not only our point of view on the world, but it also constitutes our point of departure to explore it in its various aspects. By analysing the body’s skillful coping with its environment, Edmund Husserl and more recently Alva Noë have tried to provide an answer to the problem of perceptual presence. This problem refers to the fact that there is a gap between our perceptual experience of objects and what we actually perceive, or, say, between the sensed content (which is always limited) and our awareness of objects. That is, perception furnishes us with a full object-consciousness, even though only part of the perceived object is intuitively given. In this paper, I argue that whereas Noë is absolutely right to insist on the fundamental importance of understanding the varying patterns of sensorimotor dependence holding between the perceiver and the world, his account nevertheless falls too short, as the more passive features of our perceptual experience also need to be accounted for. I will make my point by drawing on Husserl’s phenomenology.


4/16 Laurent Perreau presents on phenomenology of common sense


In this paper, I will examine the possibility and the limits of a phenomenological account of common sense. As a starting point, I will consider the philosophy of common sense that originated in the works of Moore and Wittgenstein and was developed by Oxford philosophers as a challenge to phenomenology.

If phenomenology is devoted to the analysis of the structures in subjective experience, what role in it can be accorded to common sense that is understood to be taken-for-granted knowledge as well as a social and moral phenomenon? Is it possible to conceive a phenomenology that is open to a larger subjectivity, giving access to common sense without desocializing or demoralizing it? It is in the Husserlian life-world theory, I will show, that we can identify the first steps taken toward a phenomenology of common sense. Finally, I will examine the consequences of the shift to common sense as it was accomplished by the social phenomenology of Alfred Schütz.

4/2 Daniel Wyche presents on political resistance in Foucault


Despite the publication in the last decade or so of Michel Foucault’s Collège de France lectures, the question of the relationship between the work of the mid-1970s and the analytics of power and the later work on “ethics” and the care of the self remains somewhat vague. Numerous, and highly questionable, biographical accounts have been attempted (c.f. Nehamas in The Art of Living, etc.), but the work of understanding just how the care of the self is already implicated in the analytics of power is only just beginning. This paper attempts to sketch out that relationship by arguing that we cannot fully appreciate some of the more fundamental aspects of the notion of the care of the self without reading them against the backdrop of Foucault’s prior work on power relations in other cases and more generally. It further attempts to show through a reading of Stride Toward Freedom, Martin Luther King’s memoir of the Montgomery Bus Boycott, that even in a notion like the care of the self—often taken to be a kind of retreat from the explicitly political—has deep significance for understanding not simply relations of power, but relations of resistance as well.