Skip to main content


Showing posts from 2012

Agamben's Method Explained in 300 words

In 2008 Agamben published probably his most significant work: The Signature of All Things: On Method. Here he corrects his numerous critics the majority of whom mis-construe how he uses historical paradigms within a philosphical system. His remarkable synthesis of philosophy and philology, heavily inspired by Foucault and Benjamin, he calls philosophical archaeology. The system as it is presented in The Signature of All Things is summarised below:

Philosophical Archaeology: Agamben's Method

This method consists of tracing the origins of large scale concepts back to the moment when they first became operative as modes of organising and legitimising discourse through Foucauldian intelligibility.

That said, these moments of arising, as he calls them, are not historical data in the usual sense but, inspired by Benjaminian now-time, they actually say as much about us as contemporaries as they do about historical origins.

 Thus every contemporary moment, is founded on an origin o…

Badiou Explained in 1000 words

Badiou’s philosophy rescues ontology form being either a pseudo-problem (Wittgenstein) or a tragic story of finality and withdrawal (Heidegger).To do this Badiou solves the basic problem of the question what makes a thing the thing it is, which has been handed down to us from the Greeks.The totality of ontology is basically contained in Aristotle’s consideration of categories through the idea of divisibility and commonality or species and genus.To work out what a thing is you need to name its ontological specificity, this is a closed off thing, and its ontological generality, this is a single example of all such things.Thus the specificity of a thing is its species, and its generality is the genus.This should allow us to differentiate one thing from another in terms of what is unique to the thing (species) and what it shares in common with others (genus).

Problems always arise at the upper and lower limits of course.What, Aristotle asks, is the genus of the genus or the maximal upper …

Agamben's Potentiality Explained

Contrary to the assertions of many, Agamben's is not a philosophy of potential or impotential but a critique of the Aristotelian category of potential when applied to the signatures of thought and actions.

Summary of Aristotelian Potentiality in The Metaphysics:
Potential is the capacity to do something as the basis for the principle of change of state.

If A changes to B how can we be sure that B was once A, how can we trace causality?

Not just the capacity for child say to grow and learn to speak.

You must have acquired a potential through skill.

To prove you have this potential you must first actualise it.

Megarans argued you can only prove a potential when it is in operation. Thus all potentiality is actuality. Aristotle argues against this sophistry.

He accepts that actuality precedes potentiality. One cannot think potentiality without actuality but you can think actuality without potentiality.

But if potential only existed when actualised, there would be no po…

Agamben Explained in 500 Words

I have just finished my second major study of the philosophy of Giorgio Agamben, Agamben and Indifference.  As I think Agamben has been widely mis-read and my work benefits from the most recent books by Agamben which set the record straight, I though it would be worthwhile posting the basic definition of Agamben's work that makes up the first page and a half of that book.  Here it is, in miniature, all you need to know about Agamben.  I swear to it! Introduction to Agamben's Philosophical Archaelogy I will commence with an unambiguous statement summarising Agamben’s base position as I see it across the totality of all his published works.Agamben’s philosophical project is the making apparent and then rendering indifferent all structures of differential opposition that lie at the root, he believes, of every major Western concept-signature or discursive structure.In this manner his philosophy can be termed a form of metaphysical critique that argues all abstract concepts are only …

Aesthetics versus Literary Theory

In email conversation with Joe Hughes recently, check out his two books on Deleuze they are excellent by the way, I tried to explain a long-term project I am working on regarding a new aesthetics.

It has struck me many times that in the history of aesthetics, let's say it starts with Kant's Third Critique, there are few if any works on aesthetics that do not subordinate the aesthetic to a wider philosophical system.  This is why Nietzsche is so important to aesthetics and moden theory, in that he is possibly the first to convincingly suggest a philosophy that emanates from art.  And again why Heidegger's so-called kehre (his turn to poetry) retains such a grip on us for all its limitations and questionable motivations. 

If aesthetics as works are not the application of an already established system to the arts so as to use arts to bolster up a tottering critical philosophy or found an overly ambitious narrative (Kant and Hegel respectively), then the thinker gets mired i…

Apotropaicism: Aura and Trace

In the opening to Jean-Michel Rabate's recent book Given, he presents the history of aesthetics through considerations of aura, trace and neuter. I will leave to one side whether the neuter is a third aesthetic category or a development of the trace in face of the fading of the aura.

In presenting the aura and the trace in this manner, Rabate at one point he cites the perfect dialectic of aesthetics unearthed in Benjamin's Arcades project as located between the trace and the aura. It goes as follows:
'The trace is an appearance of nearness, however far removed the thing that is left behind may be. The aura is the appearance of a distance, however close the thing that it calls forth. In the trace, we gain possession of the thing; in the aura, it takes possession of us.' (Cited in Given 21).

The apotropaicism of this comment goes to the very heart of the aesthetic as such which is always in our culture presented as a dialectic and certainly since Hegel a dialectic p…

Language Ideas

If we are to take language and/or writing as the essence of truth whether this be language as such (Agamben), as writing (Derrida), house of being (Heidegger) or as logical form of propositions (analytical philosophy) then why not do so in full?
Rather than positing elements of language in contestation, is not truth-being the totality of language including those elements that we can easily observe in language that are not necessarily taken up by philosophy.
If this is the case the first work would be a taxonomy of the qualities of what we call language, the second a reconciliation of contradications and oppositions, the third a full presentation of what truth is: language in its entirety.
Language List:
Structural Linguistics
Continental Philosophy
Generative Grammar
Analytical Philosophy

Structural Language is a system of signs used by a community to approach a commonality of meaning. These signs are used, it is said, to encode information by pairing sound with concept,…

Logopoiesis: Tautology Example

What if one took say the categories of analytical philosophy and logic and returned them back to a more broad brush metaphysical style. Rather than, as some have done, try to make metaphysics analytical, continuing the project of Kant but in a modern register, one should aim to make analytical conceptions metaphysical.

Thus for example tautology. Here one would take the conceptualisation of tautology which is one half of the original logical empricists schema of truth as either tautology or verifiable, and develop from that a work on tautologies potential to generate meaning within culture or thought. This is the application of the the logopoiesis axiom: to think what is embedded potentially within a concept.

Thus potential thinking could consist of thinking a category rather than categorical thinking. The self-evident then would be related to issues such as potentiality in Agamben, the obvious in Heidegger, tautegory in Lyotard and Nancy and so on.


A traditional error when thinking about language is to reduce it to the mere act of naming, and all the paradoxes inherent therein.  However complex and thought through Badiou's theory of the event is, its being named opens it up first to these paradoxes, and second to an attenuated vision of language that remains supicious.  Preferable by far is the wider focus on language as composed of relational phrases to be found in Deleuze. 

Phrases or sentences if you prefer, raise their own set of problems.  The primary amongst these is how to contend with the subject-predicate coupling which is the basis of the very philosophical tradition Deleuze is trying to overturn.  Aside from this, possibly insurmountable, problem there is of course the nature of relation within the phrase unit, especially if the subject-predicate copula is retained.  And of course the relation between phrases which necessitates that one address simple ontological questions such as where does the phrase begin and…