Undoubtedly, all three of the books selected will be indicative more of my interests rather than suggestions about what are objectively the 'best' books. There's already a large and increasingly growing collection of SR-related work, and to name all the great books would take some time. With that caveat, the first work one needs to read if one's interested in SR is Meillassoux's After Finitude. It simply is the best diagnosis of the problems with contemporary philosophy, and it's argued with a clarity that proves logic, surprise and wonder don't need to be mutually exclusive. Nearly everyone I've seen write about it, says that it was a shock to their system after years of training had led them to focus on subjective and linguistic structures. The arguments may be debatable (and there's already a small cottage industry in discussing the book), but the sheer force with which they hit you when you first read it makes it the best introduction to SR.
The second book I'd suggest is Brassier's Nihil Unbound. His work is a strikingly original and provocatively argued work that aims to shatter all the comforts of a human-centric worldview. It is an unflinching look at nihilism and the Enlightenment project, and I think as neuroscience continues to progress and exteriorize the interiority of the mind, Brassier's work will be the foundation for the rethinking of ourselves that neuroscience triggers. As such, it's a crucial work that may still be ahead of its time.
The third and final work I'd suggest is Harman's Prince of Networks, which I think is the clearest and most developed exposition of his philosophy yet. Not only is the second half devoted to a highly illuminating defence and explanation of his work, but the first half provides the best philosophical reading of Bruno Latour available. It is my belief that Latour provides the key insights into rescusitating continental philosophy's politics from its indecisive and abstract doldrums, and as such, Harman lays down the path for a debate between them. And with Harman's powerful critiques of Latour in the second half, it's like getting two books for the price of one. Definitely recommended.
Science, Culture and Integral Yoga Saturday, August 22
On Universalism: In Debate with Alain Badiou by Etienne Balibar
by Debashish on August 22, 2009 12:21 AM (PDT)
Etienne Balibar (1942- ) is a French philosopher and political theorist who was among the principal students of Louis Althusser. In this thought dialog with Alain Badiou (a worthy counterpart of the interview on Universalism carried on sciy earlier), Balibar conducts a sophisticated investigation on universalism - its dichotomies, its establishment as truth and the responsibility implicit in its pursuit.
Why is universalism always ridden with contradiction? Can it be spoken of in a singular fashion or can it be reduced to the proper side of a single dichotomy? In tracing a speculative history of universality, Balibar moves through the variety of dichotomous displacements through history to bring to focus the intrinsically dialectic essence of universalism.
Which leads to the political question of the establishment of universalism. Balibar extends the philosophical discourse of dialectics to the perpetuallly revolutionary essence of the politics of universalism - that is, it is in ceaseless reviolution that the single-dual ideal of what Balibar calls "equaliberty" becomes the quasi-transcendental horizon of realization. One may say that social consciousness expands in this process in unpredictable dimensions.
Finally, on the question of the responsibility intrinsic to the pursuit of universalism, Balibar points out how the question of violence is also intrinsic to it. This question is not merely an external or extensive one, a fact of revolution as mentioned before, but an internal and intensive responsibility - that of the violence of internal exclusivism. This is the specter of the terror of totalism or absolutism which we are so familiar with today. Balibar points to the always present specter of this danger and something the responsibility of the pursuit of universalism needs to be constantly vigilant about. - db more » Leave Comment Permanent Link
Science, Culture and Integral Yoga Thursday, August 20
An Interview with Alain Badiou: “Universal Truths & the Question of Religion” by Adam S. Miller, Journal of Philosophy and Scripture
by Debashish on August 20, 2009 01:11 AM (PDT)
Is universalism an ideology in the self-proclaimed name of the Human which is meant to spread its normative hegemony over all forms of particularism, with a discursive disciplinary and regulative mechanism so ubiquitous that it disappears into unnoticeability? And in doing so, does it indeed wipe out all particularisms, or being itself a particularism pretending to be undeniably universal, does it instead enable a numberless plethora of fundamentalistic particularims to be equal claimants to the right of universalism in innumerable contested definitions of the Human?What then happens to universalism? Must we discsard this utopian ideal of the Enlightenment in the rubbish heap of History? Or is it an alternate locus that we must seek for it, a locus in which difference can inhere at the horizon of identity ?
Alain Badiou (1937- ), prominent French philosopher and former chair of Philosophy at the Ecole Normale Superieure, addrersses these questions in a book on St. Paul, where he develops his notion of universalism as a revolutionary aspect of becoming rooted in the idea of the Event. Such an Event cannot be predicted outside the appearance of dialectical contradictions, but in its appearance, such contradications lose their contradictory significance, either in an indifference or in a coexistence where new properties subsume their significance beyond contradiction.
Perhaps it may not be too far to apply Sri Aurobindo's phrase to this event-ual nature of the becoming: "Trasncendence transfigures," though to Badiou such transcendence does not bear any inevitability or predictability to it. In the present interview with Adam S. Miller of the Journal of Philosophy and Scripture, Badiou expands on his views on universalism and also inflects his positions vis-a-vis that of Giorgio Agamben and Slavoj Zizek. - db more » Leave Comment Permanent Link