Cartesian Studies Today

Posted: June 2, 2017 in Uncategorized

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  1. Kayla Kingsley says:

    This kind of reminded me of my uncle who’s a history professor at Pepperdine University and is often questioned about how he can keep and support his Christian beliefs as an intellectual. One time he had an exchange-student ask him to explain the virgin Mary and that it was one of the most difficult teaching lessons he’s every given. I thought it was funny, but also interesting how he balances both worlds.

    • Perperdine’s a great school. I’d be pleased to teach there.

      I’m always amazed that persons are amazed, even though I know why they are not. Most persons – as I have discovered from teaching ancient, medieval, and modern literature – have absolutely no idea what Catholics actually believe now, much let what they have believed in the past. The history of the Catholic Church and faith is far more rich and rewarding than most persons will ever know, because their judgments derive almost exclusively from hearsay and stereotypes. Would it occur to the same student to ask a philosophy or history professor how the could practice Hinduism, Buddhism, Judaism, or Islam? I should certainly hope not. We can only hope this student paid attention in class and learned something.

  2. Marko Miholjcic says:

    How does one become a world leading philosopher? Is there a criteria that must be fulfilled in order to be considered an elite philosopher?

    • Yes, there is a criterion. You get a PhD from the Sorbonne and the École Normale Supérieure, writing your dissertation under the direction of the world’s prior leading philosopher, who in his own turn, did the same.

      • Marko Miholjcic says:

        It is interesting to see how much philosophy has changed since Descartes. Descartes talks about the importance of removing oneself from a situation in order to make an objective claim, while phenomenology seems to be mostly focused on the experience itself.

        • It is interesting to see how much philosophy – even particular ‘schools’ and methods within it – change over the years. It’s interesting, but it’s also to be expected. We see similar evolution in fields such a science, art, literature, and virtually every other field. There’s no reason to expect that philosophy would be exempt. In this case of phenomenology – a word never used as Marion uses it until Husserl in the early twentieth century – I believe we see a significant evolution. Various problems raised by Descartes to to epistemology – his attempt to ‘reduce’ the world to only what he could know about it entirely of his own accord – lead his followers to push all the way through these problems until the came out the other end of the tunnel. What began as an attempt to understand the world from a privileged first-person position outside it (transcendence), ends up becoming an acknowledgement that all thinking must take from a limited first-person position within it (immanence). This is a simplified explanation however, as there have been and now are any number of philosophers practicing phenomenology in their own unique ways.

          As for the assertion that Marion is indeed the world’s most important philosopher, I took the Patheos at it’s word. Obviously, this title is highly contended and debated. It may interest you to know that for the last decade or two, one of the major contenders for the title has been a Slovenian thinker, Slavoj Zizek.

          • Anurag Tripathy says:

            I find Derrida’s philosophy quite interesting when comparing it to the works of Deluze & Guattri, the latter whom I have found to be the most challenging reads of my life. I have barely scratched their literature base and I am already very confused. As for Zizek, all jokes about cocaine aside, I think his viewpoints on political cooptation to be the most compelling and quite dramatically visible in many political spheres.

            • Deleuze and Guattari are very challenging. They are interesting to invoke here because their work, following up on Deleuze’s solo work, is an attempt to close down the Cartesian legacy definitively. As you might imagine, the ideas and figure of Descartes have loomed large in French philosophy for centuries. This was particularly the case in the 20th century, when Sartrean existentialism put such heavy emphasis on the transcendence of subject. This leads to Sartre’s focus on intense self-awareness, self-doubt, moral responsibility. What D&G hope to do is challenge the sovereignty of the autonomous individual. The way they will approach that task is by returning to key baroque philosophers – including some we have read or discussed, such as Spinoza and Leibniz – in order to provide radical alternatives to the commonsense of our day.
              This includes the way that casualty has been used in mainstream ego psychology and scientific causality. Deleuze’s Spinoza studies are particularly interesting. You will recall our discussion of absolute Being (God/Nature) versus modalities (incidentals, such as you and I, or waves in the ocean and dunes in the sand). Deleuze’s writing make it possible to discuss the nature of crowds, and the way their motion can be either arrested or liberated into rushing flows. This became a very important concept in France in the ’60s, when student movements were gaining great power, questioning the dominant anthropological paradigm (that of Levi-Strauss) that societies are rigidly ‘structured’, and beginning to flood into the streets. The legendary ‘events of May ’68, mark a crucial turning point in intellectual history, a point at which modernism tipped over into postmodernism, making Deleuze into an intellectual hero.

              I hope these notes make sense and are helpful. If they are not, it’s probably because I’m trying to think and type while listening to the Comey testimony. I trust we will have no TVs in class.

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