Deakin Philosophy Seminar – August 29

Christopher Watkin (Monash University), “Not More of the Same: Michel Serres and the Question of Alterity in Recent French Thought
 
Abstract:
The themes of difference and alterity are commonly thought to characterise French thought in the second half of the twentieth century, with canonical thinkers such as Lévinas, Derrida and, latterly, Nancy elaborating diverse ethical positions that nevertheless each accord a privileged and positive place to otherness. In recent years, however, a new philosophy of sameness has emerged, most prominently in the thought of Alain Badiou, claiming that the ethics of alterity is bankrupt, disingenuous and dangerous, and that it is identity and sameness, not difference and alterity, that are of positive ethical value. In this talk I introduce into this debate the thought of Michel Serres, in the light of which we can see that Badiou shares more in common with his supposed opponents than either he or they are ready to admit. For all that distinguishes Badiou’s position from that of his antagonists, they share the fundamental assumption that either identity or difference should be coded positively, but not both equally. In a move more radical than Badiou’s own intervention, Serres offers a different account, one in which neither sameness nor difference is ethically privileged over the other. Couched in the language of asymmetry, parasitism, inclination and enantiomorphy, Serres’s approach shows us how we can move on from the conflict between identity and alterity to a more scientifically informed and, I argue, more ethically compelling account of the relation between identity and alterity.
 
Bio:
Christopher Watkin lectures in French Studies at Monash University. His recent publications include French Philosophy Today: New Figures of the Human in Badiou, Meillassoux, Malabou, Serres and Latour (Edinburgh, 2015) and Difficult Atheism: Post-Theological Thinking in Alain Badiou, Jean-Luc Nancy and Quentin Meillassoux (Edinburgh, 2011). He is currently preparing a book-length critical introduction to the thought of Michel Serres. He blogs at christopherwatkin.com and you can find him on Twitter @DrChrisWatkin.
 
Where and when:
Tuesday, 29 August, 4.00pm to 5.30pm, Deakin Burwood Campus, 221 Burwood Hwy, Room C2.05
 
Virtual Meeting Point: ARTSED VMP SHSS. Direct dial number: (+613) 5223 9354 
On joining a VMP, see here.
 
A live video of the presentation will be tweeted. Please see
http://www.twitter.com/DrChrisWatkin
 
The seminar is free to attend and all are welcome.
 
For any inquiries, please email Daniela Voss: d.voss@deakin.edu.au
 
Hosted by the PHI research group and the School of Humanities and Social Science.

 

Deakin Philosophy Seminar – August 1

 

Lisa Guenther (Vanderbilt University): “An Abolitionism Worthy of the Name: From Death Penalty Reform to Prison Abolition”

In Derrida’s lectures on the death penalty, the United States figures as “both exemplary and exceptional.”  Derrida acknowledges the racist structure of state violence in the United States, and he cites data and specific cases to support this point, but he does not develop a critical analysis of race or racism in the lecture series.  Drawing on the work of incarcerated intellectual Mumia Abu-Jamal, critical race theorists Cheryl Harris and Angela Davis, and contemporary prison abolitionists, I argue that racism is an issue, not only in the particular context of the United States, but also for the logic of the death penalty that Derrida proposes to deconstruct.  Derrida’s own account of indemnity, interest, and condemnation in the Tenth Session is incomplete without a supplementary analysis of black civil death and the construction of whiteness as property.  In conclusion, I argue that an abolitionism worthy of the name would have to move beyond the death penalty, towards the (im)possible project of prison abolition and the abolition of white supremacy.

Bio

Lisa Guenther is Queen’s National Scholar in critical prison studies at Queen’s University, Canada.  Her most recent book, Solitary Confinement: Social Death and its Afterlives, develops a phenomenological critique of solitary confinement by drawing on the work of Husserl, Merleau-Ponty and Levinas, as well as legal and historical documents in the history of the U.S. penitentiary system. Currently she is working on a book that is tentatively entitled, Life Against Social Death: From Reproductive Injustice to Natal Resistance. The book explores the structural and historical connections between reproductive politics and the politics of mass incarceration and capital punishment in the United States. Guenther facilitates a discussion group with men on Tennessee’s death row called REACH Coalition.

Where and when:

Tuesday, 1 August, 4.00pm to 5.30pm, Deakin Burwood Campus, 221 Burwood Hwy, Room C2.05

Virtual Meeting Point: ARTSED VMP SHSS. Direct dial number: (+613) 5223 9354. On joining a VMP, see here.

The seminar is free to attend and all are welcome.

For any inquiries, please email Daniela Voss: d.voss@deakin.edu.au

Hosted by the PHI research group and the School of Humanities and Social Science.


Deakin Philosophy Seminar – July 25

David Macarthur (University of Sydney), “Naturalism and Other Minds: On the Invisibility of Everyday Psychology
 
Abstract:
The standard functionalist account of the mind treats the mind as a set of functional states. In the context of what is popularly called “naturalism” this becomes the thesis that the mind is a set of states that are objects of scientific study. Our everyday psychological vocabulary is seen as part of a “folk theory” of the mind – a proto-scientific theory that can be revised or replaced by scientific theories that are seen as more empirically adequate. In this talk I oppose this orthodoxy and argue instead that everyday psychology becomes invisible when looked at from a scientific point of view. Within a different liberal naturalism, I take up the question “Do we (directly) observe other minds” and suggest that the reason we are inclined to answer in the negative is not because other minds are hidden but, rather, like artworks, they can be hard to read.
 
Bio:
David Macarthur is an Associate Professor in the Philosophy Department at the University of Sydney. He works at the interfaces of contemporary pragmatism, Wittgenstein’s philosophy of language and psychology and the philosophy of art. In addition to these topics, he has published articles in leading philosophy journals and books on liberal naturalism, metaphysical quietism, skepticism, common sense, perception, ordinary language, philosophy of architecture, and philosophy of photography and film. He has co-edited three collections of papers with Mario De Caro (Roma Tré): Naturalism in Question (Harvard, 2004); Naturalism and Normativity (Columbia, 2010); and Philosophy in an Age of Science: Physics, Mathematics and Skepticism (Harvard, 2012); and recently edited Hilary & Ruth-Anna Putnam, Pragmatism as a Way of Life: The Lasting Legacy of William James and John Dewey (Harvard, 2017).

Where and when:
Tuesday, 25 July, 4.00pm to 5.30pm, Deakin Burwood Campus, 221 Burwood Hwy, Room C2.05
 
Virtual Meeting Point: ARTSED VMP SHSS. Direct dial number: (+613) 5223 9354 
On joining a VMP, see here.
 
The seminar is free to attend and all are welcome.
 
For any inquiries, please email Daniela Voss: d.voss@deakin.edu.au
 
Hosted by the PHI research group and the School of Humanities and Social Science.

 

Deakin Philosophy Seminar – July 18

Prof Joseph S. O’Leary (Sophia University Tokyo), “Dialectical Negation in Nagarjuna and Hegel: An East-West Encounter on the Terrain of a Wider Rationality”

Abstract:

In their quest to overcome dualistic fixations (those of Abhidarma scholasticism in one case, those of Kant and his followers in the other) both Nagarjuna and Kant use a dialectical method whereby the fixated standpoint runs aground on its own inner contradictions. In both cases the mind itself heals the mind’s self-inflicted wounds.

In Hegel, sacrifice of rigid self-understanding is a constant motor of the spirit’s advance to freedom, so the logical dialectic is both powered by and empowers a spiritual journey. Nagarjuna’s negative dialectic, analogously, is an instrument of freedom as it dismantles one substantialist delusion after another, especially the illusions of self-identity.

While the cumulative, spiral-shaped movement of Hegel’s dialectic generates a systematic vision that has no equivalent in Nagarjuna, it leaves in its wake a graveyard of delusions just as Nagarjuna does, and it forges a seamless unitary style of thinking as Nagarjuna also does. In Hegel the discredited positions live on as dissolved and transformed within higher and freer forms of thinking, and in Nagarjuna they are retained as conventional truths that can usefully be deployed in appropriate contexts.

For Nagarjuna the final destiny of thought is a nirvanic “quiescence of fabrications.” For Hegel it is the ‘Idea,’ defined as the total integration of the Concept with the concrete realities that are its content. Even at this level, the two thinkers are not totally foreign to one another, but can generate reciprocal illumination, or reciprocal critique or deconstruction.

The encounter of these two cardinal thinkers of East and West respectively places Hegel’s achievement in a more universal perspective while it vindicates the philosophical coherence of Mahayana Buddhist insights. 

Texts: Nāgārjuna, Mūlamadhyamakakārikā, ch. 25: ‘Examination of Nirvana.’ Hegel: some paragraphs from the last chapter of the Phenomenology of Mind, ‘Absolute Knowing.’ 

Bio:

Joseph S. O’Leary, an Irish Roman Catholic theologian, has lived in Japan since 1983 and worked at Sophia University, Tokyo, and Nanzan University, Nagoya. Publications include Philosophie occidentale et concepts bouddhistes (Presses Universitaires de France, 2011) and Conventional and Ultimate Truth (University of Notre Dame Press, 2017).

Where and when:

Tuesday, 18 July, 4.00pm to 5.30pm, Deakin Burwood Campus, 221 Burwood Hwy, Room C2.05

Virtual Meeting Point: ARTSED VMP SHSS. Direct dial number: (+613) 5223 9354. On joining a VMP, see here.

The seminar is free to attend and all are welcome.

For any inquiries, please email Daniela Voss: d.voss@deakin.edu.au

Hosted by the PHI research group and the School of Humanities and Social Science.

Deakin Philosophy Seminar – June 13

Dr Nikolai Alksnis (La Trobe University), “Hegel, Kepler, and the Science of Affordances
 
Abstract:
In Chemero’s (2009) attempt to propose an anti-computationalist theory of mind, he invokes the idea of Hegelian explanation: the drawing on irrelevant, a priori, information to justify an empirical claim. Just as Hegel used Plato’s ideas of perfection to conclude the number of planets in the solar system, for Chemero, the computationalists, and similar, are in danger of doing the same: bringing in the irrelevant abstract ideas to justify empirical facts about the mind and intelligence. A similar appeal to historical figures can be found by Chemero in partnership with Raja and Biener (2017). Here the idea is that the mechanists moves of Descartes, Kepler, and Newton better fit with the ecological approach of J.J. Gibson, then to the comptuationlism of Turing (1953) and later Fodor (1975, 2008). The issue is, such an analysis seems to leave little room for the abstract cognitive object favoured by Chemero, that of the affordance (Gibson 1977, 1979). By adapting Fodor’s explicitness principle (Fodor 1987) I will show the difficulties the theory of affordances has to be an explanatory part of the cognitive story. Furthermore, it will show how we can combine Chemero and Fodor’s critiques but in doing so, there seems to be little room for either the concept of mental representations, as supported by Fodor, or affordances, as favoured by Chemero.

Bio:
Dr. Nikolai Alksnis specialises in alternative theories of mind, making several contributions to the enactivist research project. This talk is a product of a recent trip to the Centre for Philosophical Psychology at the University of Antwerp, where he also explored new ways to understand the nature of computation.


Where and when:
Tuesday, 13 June, 4.00pm to 5.30pm, Deakin Burwood Campus, 221 Burwood Hwy, Room C2.05

Virtual Meeting Point: ARTSED VMP SHSS. Direct dial number: (+613) 5223 9354 
On joining a VMP, see here.
 
The seminar is free to attend and all are welcome.
 
For any inquiries, please email Daniela Voss: d.voss@deakin.edu.au
 

Hosted by the European Philosophy and History of Ideas Research Group (EPHI) and the School of Humanities and Social Sciences.

Deakin Philosophy Seminar – June 6

Dr Talia Morag (Deakin University), “On Alief and the Interpretation of the Implicit Association Test
 
Abstract:
In this paper I examine Tamar Gendler’s influential notion of alief, a mental state that is posited to explain behaviours, such as racist biased behaviours, that persist despite a person’s explicit contrary judgment. Taking into account Eric Mandelbaum’s critique of alief, we are left with a notion that corresponds precisely to what the Implicit Association Test is widely interpreted to test. I claim that what remains of aliefs is nothing other than quasijudgmentalism in the philosophy of emotion. If this is right then this account of implicitly biased behaviours is non-explanatory and should be rejected. We must conclude, then, that whatever the Implicit Association Test is testing for, it is not an alief. Finally I briefly outline a proposal for an alternative interpretation of what the test it testing for.
 
Bio:
Dr Talia Morag is Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the Alfred Deakin Institute for Citizenship and Globalisation, Deakin University. She works on philosophical psychology, especially the philosophy of emotions and the philosophical foundations of psychoanalysis. Recently her book Emotion, Imagination, and the Limits of Reason was published by Routledge (2016). She is the founding director of Psyche + Society, which organises public conversations about social issues from a philosophical perspective enriched by psychoanalytic insights.
 
Where and when:

Tuesday, 6 June, 4.00pm to 5.30pm, Deakin Burwood Campus, 221 Burwood Hwy, Room C2.05

 Virtual Meeting Point: ARTSED VMP SHSS. Direct dial number: (+613) 5223 9354. On joining a VMP, see here.

The seminar is free to attend and all are welcome.
 
For any inquiries, please email Daniela Voss: d.voss@deakin.edu.au
 

Hosted by the European Philosophy and History of Ideas Research Group (EPHI) and the School of Humanities and Social Sciences.

Deakin Philosophy Seminar – May 23

Catherine Legg (Deakin University), “Idealism Operationalized: Charles Peirce’s Theory of Perception

Abstract:

Neopragmatism has been accused of having ‘an experience problem’. This paper begins by outlining Hume’s understanding of perception according to which ideas are copies of impressions thought to constitute a direct confrontation with reality. This understanding is contrasted with Peirce’s theory of perception according to which percepts give rise to perceptual judgments which do not copy but index the percept (just as a weather-cock indicates the direction of the wind). Percept and perceptual judgment thereby mutually inform and correct one another, as the perceiver develops mental habits of interpreting their surroundings, so that, in this theory of perception, as Peirce puts it: “[n]othing at all…is absolutely confrontational”. Paul Redding has argued that Hegel’s “idealist understanding of logical form” ran deeper than Kant’s in recognising that Mind is essentially embodied and located, and therefore perspectival. Peirce’s understanding arguably dives deeper still in distributing across the space of reasons (and thus Being) not just Mind’s characteristic features of embodiedness and locatedness, but also its infinite corrigibility.

Bio:

Catherine Legg has recently joined the Deakin University Philosophy Program as a Senior Lecturer. Her current research bridges ontology, philosophy of language, semiotics, logic, and AI. Peirce’s notion of iconicity has been a particular focus, with key papers: “The Problem of the Essential Icon” (American Philosophical Quarterly, 2008) and “The Hardness of the Iconic Must” (Philosophia Mathematica, 2012).

Where and when:

Tuesday, 23 May, 4.00pm to 5.30pm, Deakin Burwood Campus, 221 Burwood Hwy, Room C2.05

Virtual Meeting Point: ARTSED VMP SHSS. Direct dial number: (+613) 5223 9354 

On joining a VMP, see here.

The seminar is free to attend and all are welcome.

For any inquiries, please email Daniela Voss: d.voss@deakin.edu.au

Hosted by the European Philosophy and History of Ideas Research Group (EPHI) and the School of Humanities and Social Sciences.

Deakin Philosophy Seminar – May 9

Dr Alex Ling (Western Sydney University), “Trash or Treasure? Alain Badiou and the Problem of Cinema”
 
Abstract:
Cinema appears to present a significant problem for Alain Badiou. While recognising that philosophy is obliged to engage with cinema in so far as it presents a unique ‘philosophical situation’, he nonetheless notes that even great films can be compared – ‘with only slight exaggeration’ – to the treatment of waste. In making sense of this strange situation, the paper first provides a broad overview of Badiou’s understanding of cinema itself – taken in the generic sense, as an art almost entirely defined by its relation to other arts – before drawing out some of the artistic and philosophical consequences of his position. In particular, the paper isolates two central problems cinema poses to his ‘inaesthetic’ program (specifically surrounding the crucial concepts of ‘singularity’ and ‘immanence’), as well as a number of challenges it presents his philosophical system as a whole.
 
Bio:
Alex Ling is Research Lecturer in Communication and Media Studies at Western Sydney University. He is the author of Badiou Reframed (I.B. Tauris, 2016) and Badiou and Cinema (Edinburgh University Press, 2011), and co-editor and translator of Mathematics of the Transcendental (Bloomsbury, 2014).
 
Where and when:
Tuesday, 9 May, 4.00pm to 5.30pm, Deakin Burwood Campus, 221 Burwood Hwy, Room C2.05
 
Virtual Meeting Point: ARTSED VMP SHSS. Direct dial number: (+613) 5223 9354 
On joining a VMP, see here.
 
The seminar is free to attend and all are welcome.
 
For any inquiries, please email Daniela Voss: d.voss@deakin.edu.au
 
Hosted by the European Philosophy and History of Ideas Research Group (EPHI) and the School of Humanities and Social Sciences.

 

Deakin Philosophy Seminar – April 4

Dr Helen Palmer (Kingston University, London):
Queer Defamiliarisation in New Materialist Times
 
Abstract:
This paper will introduce some terms from new materialism in order to consider the question: what might relational, entangled, enfleshed defamiliarisation look like? I draw together Shklovsky’s original provocations on defamiliarisation as a methodology for perception and Braidotti’s recent positing of defamiliarisation as a ‘critical distance’ (2013, 88) to propose ways that we might reinvigorate, politicise and queer this term in contemporary thought. I use here the supposed ‘paradox’ of feminist thought, namely that feminism creates the sexual difference it seeks to eliminate, and then present the ways that this paradox is in fact affirmed within new materialist philosophies. I present defamiliarisation reinvigorated here with the added political dimensions of agency, orientation and power; as an embodied and multivalent process which is critical at the same time as it is creative.
 
Bio:
Helen Palmer is a writer, performer and lecturer at Kingston University. She is the author of Deleuze and Futurism: A Manifesto for Nonsense. She has recently published articles on new materialism and gender, and is currently writing a book called Queer Defamiliarisation and a novel called Pleasure Beach. 

 

Where and when:

Tuesday, 4 April, 4.00pm to 5.30pm, Deakin Burwood Campus, 221 Burwood Hwy, Room C2.05 

Virtual Meeting Point: ARTSED VMP SHSS. Direct dial number: (+613) 5223 9354 
On joining a VMP, see here.
 
The seminar is free to attend and all are welcome.
 
For any inquiries, please email Daniela Voss: d.voss@deakin.edu.au
 
Hosted by the European Philosophy and History of Ideas Research Group (EPHI)  and the School of Humanities and Social Sciences.

Philosophy Seminar – March 21

Dr Robert Boncardo (University of Sydney), “Sartre, Lacan, the Ego”
 
Abstract:
In the years following the Second World War, Jacques Lacan made a number of brief but decisive remarks about existentialism, which was then at the high point of its mediatic popularity. While existentialism had emerged from a critical engagement with the German phenomenological tradition, for Lacan it was essentially no different to Anglo-American ego psychology — the other target of his post-War polemic — insofar as it also allegedly mistook the subject for the ego. Specifically, Lacan argued that Jean-Paul Sartre had built the entirety of his philosophy on the basis of the constitutive misrecognitions of the ego. Most egregiously, Lacan claimed, Sartre had unthinkingly accepted its illusory claims to autonomy.
             
However, what is most striking about these arguments is that they can only seem incongruous to any serious reader of Sartre. While they frame him as the victim of the ego, these criticisms spectacularly miss the fact that Sartre dedicated much of his early phenomenological writings to demonstrating how the psychology of his time had been trapped in the ego’s snare.
 
How can Lacan have made Sartre his enemy when there was every reason to think they were engaged in a similar struggle? In the scholarship to date, commentators have often remarked upon the striking similarity between the claims the two make about the ego, particularly with respect to the ego’s status as an object. None, however, have explored these claims in adequate detail. Similarly, whether endorsing it or dismissing it, scholars have frequently commented on the devastating critical exposition Lacan provides of existentialism in his famous essay on the mirror stage. Yet none have ever wondered why Lacan comments so critically on Sartre in the very same essay where their similarities are most evident. In this paper, I will address these questions and aim to take the debate forward through a close conceptual analysis of these two difficult bodies of thought.
 
Bio:
Robert Boncardo has completed a doctorate in French Studies at the University of Sydney and Aix-Marseille Université.
 
Where and when:
Tuesday, 21 March, 4.00pm to 5.30pm, Deakin Burwood Campus, 221 Burwood Hwy, Room C2.05
 

Virtual Meeting Point: ARTSED VMP SHSS. Direct dial number: (+613) 5223 9354 On joining a VMP, see here.

The seminar is free to attend and all are welcome.
 
For any inquiries, please email Daniela Voss: d.voss@deakin.edu.au
 
Hosted by the European Philosophy and History of Ideas Research Group (EPHI) and the School of Humanities and Social Sciences.