Cody Jones: “What a Ghost is Owed: Towards a Hauntological Theory of Debt”

Cody Jones
PhD student, Religion, Literature, and Visual Culture
What a Ghost is Owed: Towards a Hauntological Theory of Debt
 
Wednesday, May 31, 4:30pm, Swift 201
What are ghosts, what do they have to do with debt, and should we be agitating for their liberation? Are virtual economics a form of haunted product? Why is terror the affective equivalent of a stock market crash? Have you actually been dead for forty years? Some of these questions will most likely be answered, or at the very least ignored, in this presentation. Works and interlocutors include: Lacan, Bataille, Marx, Reza Negarestani, China Miéville, Derrida, It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown, That Thing That Happened to You When You Were Home Alone, and the 👻 emoji.
                                        Refreshments will be served.

Dhruv Raj Nagar: “On the Various Branches of An Other Philosophy: Thinking Otherwise & thinking the Othered in Western Metaphysics”

Dhruv Raj Nagar

PhD Student, Philosophy of Religions

On the Various Branches of An Other Philosophy: Thinking Otherwise & thinking the Othered in Western Metaphysics

Wednesday, May 17, 4:30pm, Swift 201

The paper can be read here

A critique of Western metaphysics, whether directed at its ocularcentrism or logocentrism, ontotheology or metaphysics of presence, may be negotiated in two ways. Firstly, as has been done, by identifying and exposing precisely the elements that contribute to it and recommending remedial substitutes. Or secondly, by simply circumventing the very project of recuperative dialogue and instead initiating another way of doing philosophy that shares almost nothing with the language, premises and content of Western philosophy, while still addressing similar concerns. Only through such an other thinking, which is quite possibly an other of thinking, may it be possible to execute the critical project without in some way being already complicit with the ideology such a project seeks to critique.

An outline of such an other philosophy will be presented here (inspired by the system of Advaita Vedānta). Thus, instead of being constrained by traditional categories of metaphysics, epistemology, theology or ethics dealing with well-established themes of substance, being, presence, autonomy, knowledge, existence and essence, a new branching and thematization of philosophy will be introduced which speaks of magic (magistics), of light and darkness (photology), caves and caverns (speleology), of sleep (somnology), and finally of matters of the heart (cardiology), themes that have often stood neglected in the historical preoccupations of Western philosophy.

Refreshments will be served

Matthew Peterson: “Historicity and Absence: On the Return of Excess in the Study of Religion”

Matthew Peterson

PhD Student, Philosophy of Religions

Historicity and Absence: On the Return of Excess in the Study of Religion

Wednesday, April 26, 4:30pm, Swift 403

The concept of experiential excess, once a defining feature of the study of religion, has seen a revitalization in recent years. This retrieval has been championed by Robert Orsi, a scholar of lived religion who, situating himself within what he calls “the tradition of the more,” wants to turn away from what is socially, linguistically, and historically given in experience to instead leave room for the unpredictability of the intersubjective realm, which he ascribes to the “really real” presence of the gods or the holy. Against this view that the intersubjective and social-historical realms can be so easily distinguished, I draw on the continental philosophical tradition, especially Michel de Certeau, to argue for a sense of the excessive or holy as absent, understood as products of historicity. I then explore whether such a perspectival shift is enough to allow scholars to interrogate excessive experiences alongside or even in light of their theological, atheological, or agnostic commitments, without allowing those commitments to set the terms of the conversation.

The Workshop on the Philosophy of Religions is committed to maintaining itself as a fully accessible and inclusive workshop.  Please contact Workshop Coordinator Matthew Peterson (mjpeterson@uchicago.edu) in order to make any arrangements necessary to facilitate your participation in workshop events.

Noreen Khawaja (Yale University): “Philosophy, Theory, History”

Noreen Khawaja

Assistant Professor of Religious Studies, Yale University

Philosophy, Theory, History

Wednesday, April 5, 4:30, Swift Common Room

Noreen Khawaja specializes in 19th and 20th century European intellectual history, and particularly on the shifting status of religious ideas in late modern Western philosophy and culture. Her research examines the collapse of metaphysics both historically and philosophically. She looks at this issue in relation to secularity, the retrieval of theological traditions, and the rise of critical discourses on religion. Her book on existentialism, The Religion of Existence: Asceticism in Philosophy from Kierkegaard to Sartre was published with the University of Chicago Press in 2016. A newer project looks at the emergence of authenticity as a cultural and aesthetic ideal from the early Surrealists to the present day.

The Workshop on the Philosophy of Religions is committed to maintaining itself as a fully accessible and inclusive workshop.  Please contact Workshop Coordinator Matthew Peterson (mjpeterson@uchicago.edu) in order to make any arrangements necessary to facilitate your participation in workshop events.

Bettina Bergo (University of Montreal): “And God Created Woman”

Bettina Bergo

Professor of Philosophy, University of Montreal

And God Created Woman

Tuesday, February 28, 4:30pm, Swift 201

Emmanuel Levinas wrote his « And God Created Woman » (Tractate Berakhot, 61a) between 1972 and 1973 in the shadow of “mai soixante-huit”. It follows, even stands in the shadow of his “Judaism and Revolution” (a reading of Baba Metsia 83), which appeared in 1969. The two Talmudic readings arguably share a guiding thread, although their discussions are quite different: in 1969 it is social and metaphysical alienation; in 1972, it concerns an enigmatic domain of justice situated between the universal and the particular. Thus Levinas’ clin d’oeil to Godard’s film with Bardot focuses on “a difference that does not compromise equity,” before it so much as touches on sexual difference. Perhaps predictably, we find running through the debate about God’s ‘second’ creature (viz., is the rib from which Eve is created a face, or rather a tail?), the question of alterity itself. But is this not one of those abstractions—flowing out of phenomenological formalism—that belies its lived origin in our experiences of or with actual people? Alterity and its “modalizations” would be the question that opens to that of justice in this reading, as in Levinas’ Otherwise than Being. To understand this approach I compare his Talmudic reading with Daniel Sibony’s discussion of the discovery, après coup, of Eve, Isha, by Adam, Ish.

The Workshop on the Philosophy of Religions is committed to maintaining itself as a fully accessible and inclusive workshop.  Please contact Workshop Coordinator Matthew Peterson (mjpeterson@uchicago.edu) in order to make any arrangements necessary to facilitate your participation in workshop events.

Kirsten Collins: “Reconstitution and Rupture: ‘Religion After Religion’ and Maurice Blanchot”

Kirsten Collins

MA candidate, Divinity School

Reconstitution and Rupture: Religion After Religion and Maurice Blanchot

Tuesday, February 21, 4:00pm, Swift 201

In Religion After Religion, Steve Wasserstrom delves into the theories of religion developed by Gershom Scholem, Mircea Eliade, and Henri Corbin in order to show that at the core of religion lies not the coincidentia oppositorum, the mystical union of opposites, but the far more intractable domain of history. From this perspective, the atemporal insight claimed by the History of Religion constitutes a new tradition through the authoritative claim of revealing the old. This act is inherently destructive, as Wasserstrom points out: “The problem with a gnostic history of religions is that it imposes patterns on a past that were never (demonstrably) there in order to draw lessons for a present that is not (demonstrably) here,” (242). The three Historians of Religion failed “to stay within the limits of human knowledge, not to mention human dignity,” (238). Religion after religion, from this perspective, commits the indefensible act of pulling religion into the present by claiming to have discovered its eternal nature under the auspices and authority of history.

But is “religion after religion” necessarily destructive? Two world wars, anti-colonial mobilization, and the Holocaust precipitated a sudden desacralization of the Western Canon which might as well have been the death of God for Europe’s intellectuals. While Scholem, Eliade and Corbin reconstructed absolute authority through a mystical tradition unifying history, some contemporaries in Paris theorized religion after religion as a preservation of rupture, most prominently Maurice Blanchot. In this paper I propose to examine how Blanchot’s comments on Judaism in the poetry of Edmond Jabès, within the context of his general theory of literature, imply an idea of religion after religion that ruptures authority rather than reconstituting it. Through a reading of three Blanchot’s essays––“Literature and the Right to Death,” “The Indestructible” and “The Book of Questions”––I would like to posit the idea of “religion after religion” as central to his understanding of the connection between literature and history, and thus of a particularly human relation to truth.

Refreshments will be served.

The Workshop on the Philosophy of Religions is committed to maintaining itself as a fully accessible and inclusive workshop.  Please contact Workshop Coordinator Matthew Peterson (mjpeterson@uchicago.edu) in order to make any arrangements necessary to facilitate your participation in workshop events.

Tupac Cruz (Universidad de los Andes): “Walter Benjamin’s Theory of Fortune”

Tupac Cruz

Universidad de los Andes

Walter Benjamin’s Theory of Fortune

Friday, February 24, 12:00pm, Swift 403

This study of Benjamin’s ‘theory of fortune’ focuses on what I call an ’analytics of work’: an effort to divide the genus ‘productive activity’ in two species: activities that produce commensurate results (what we call ‘work’) and activities that ‘summon fortune’ (what Benjamin calls ‘practices’). Practices are ways for an agent’s will to “abdicate in favor of the body,” and they articulate a sphere of action that eludes the distinction between the voluntary and the involuntary. The study of practice allows Benjamin to determine the specific, anomalous vitality of our neglected or forgotten wantings, whose fulfillments populate the realm of fortune.

Light refreshments will be served.

The Workshop on the Philosophy of Religions is committed to maintaining itself as a fully accessible and inclusive workshop.  Please contact Workshop Coordinator Matthew Peterson (mjpeterson@uchicago.edu) in order to make any arrangements necessary to facilitate your participation in workshop events.

Russell Johnson: “Nonviolent Revolution: Gandhi and Kierkegaard on Means and Ends”

Russell Johnson

PhD candidate, Philosophy of Religions

Nonviolent Revolution: Gandhi and Kierkegaard on Means and Ends

Tuesday, January 24, 5:00pm, Swift 200

Gandhi famously asserted “as the means, so the end” and that the means and the end are inseparable. This idea, though taken up by Martin Luther King Jr., has been widely ignored by scholars, and few (including Gandhi) attempt to make arguments in its favor. This paper shows that Søren Kierkegaard’s theory of communication provides one way to show the connection between means and ends, and points toward a communicative approach to ethics.

The Workshop on the Philosophy of Religions is committed to maintaining itself as a fully accessible and inclusive workshop.  Please contact Workshop Coordinator Matthew Peterson (mjpeterson@uchicago.edu) in order to make any arrangements necessary to facilitate your participation in workshop events.

Mark Siderits (Illinois State University): “Non-self and ‘Religion’: Buddhism’s anti-essentialist challenge to the category”

Mark Siderits

Professor Emeritus of Philosophy, Illinois State University

Non-self and “Religion”: Buddhism’s anti-essentialist challenge to the category

Tuesday, October 18, 5:00pm, Swift 201

Buddhism has been viewed as something of an outlier in the category of major religions. Among reasons given for this judgment are its atheism, its denial of immortality, and its allegedly ‘scientific’ outlook; but these do not stand up to critical scrutiny. Perhaps more significant is the anti-essentialism to be found at the core of its solution to the problem of existential suffering. An investigation of the role of non-self in the Buddhist account of liberation from suffering suggests that what we find in the Buddhist  tradition is soteriology without teleology.

The Workshop on the Philosophy of Religions is committed to maintaining itself as a fully accessible and inclusive workshop.  Please contact Workshop Coordinator Matthew Peterson (mjpeterson@uchicago.edu) in order to make any arrangements necessary to facilitate your participation in workshop events.