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Showing posts from January, 2013

Kant's Aesthetics of Communicability in 300 Words

Kant uses the idea of communicability in several texts, but its sustained development is the early sections of Critique of Pure Judgement where he develops his theory of what I will call here the indifferent universality of subjective taste, moment 2, and that aesthetic judgement is indifferently pleasurable, moment 4. 

In the third critique, the second and fourth moments put to the reader a complex theory of communicability. Placed together the moments present the concept that every subject is capable of judging something as beautiful or not, and that in so doing they are also capable of communicating this judgement to every other subject through the establishment of a sensus communis of pleasure attained from aesthetic judgement. 

Communicability then is the ability of every subject to make a singular judgement on an object as beautiful, and to confirm the validity of making such and such a judgement first because they gain pleasure from the judgement, pleasure gained from a realisat…

Agamben, Language, Communicabiity

Opening of the final chapter of my book Agamben and Indifference dealing with language in The Sacrament of Language.


One of the earliest pieces of important Agamben criticism, Düttman’s introduction to Idea of Prose, attempts to delineate the key element of language for Agamben’s thought: communicability. Düttman concentrates on the Benjamin source for the term, specifically the idea that communicability communicates nothing other than language’s capacity to communicate.It does this only through its praxis or act, its contingency, context, operativity and intelligibility.Yet, at no point can language communicate its communicability it can only demonstrate it through its being a communicable medium or process.This relates to Agamben’s interest in the Russell-Frege paradox of statement self-predication although as we shall see an important element of communicability is that it concerns compound linguistic series, not individual words.Perhaps at this stage we should progress through an a…

Thomas Gray Archive : Texts : Poems : "Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard"

Thomas Gray Archive : Texts : Poems : "Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard"

Just following a few Thomas Gray links on Twitter and thought is would be great to have a link to his finest work via the Thomas Gray Archive. 

Tags: 18th century poetry, thomas gray, elegy

Agamben's Homo Sacer completed by The Kingdom and the Glory

The recent publication of Agamben's The Kingdom and the Glory is a milestone in his work, completing as it does Homo Sacer, and in contemporary political theory.  Unfortunately the text is long, for Agamben, and mostly made up of archival and philological observations on theology from the 2nd century on.  Dotted through the text innumerable brilliant observations on our politics but I am not sure how many will get through the text to find those. 

Not to worry.  My forthcoming book, Agamben and Indifference, has a whole chapter that weeds out the theological detail and concentrates on its political significance.  Not through some hatred of theology, just because it is the politics that most of us are interested in.

This chapter should appear as a separate article in Madrid soon.  Will post link.  Until then here is a taster...

To say The Kingdom and the Glory is an advance on Homo Sacer suggests something about the earlier text lags behind the later work, which is not the case, ra…

Deleuze and Badiou

I have been of the opinion for some years now that the future of philosophy and theory in general lies in the decision between the philosophical system of Agamben and Badiou around the use of indifference in both their works.  More than this a second comment is relevant which is that it is Agamben's critique of Derrida and his modification of Foucault that needs to be taken into account in contrast to Badiou's more compact critique and modification of Deleuze.  This is not to ignore the centrality of Deleuze to Agamben's philosophical archaelogy and his comments on potentiality which are mappable onto Deleuze's virtual but with significant modifications. 

All in all what I mean is that we are now heading into an 'immanentist' century that moves away from the post-transcendental valorization of difference/alterity typical of Levinas, Derrida and all those philosophies of otherness and ethics that they spawned.

This being the case anything that gets us to think…

Gray's "Eton College"

Check out this excellent article on Gray's "Eton College...".  It is an amazing work in its own but with Lehman at the helm, all is clarity indeed.
http://www.slate.com/articles/arts/classic_poems/2013/01/david_lehman_on_why_thomas_gray_s_ode_on_a_distant_prospect_of_eton_college.html

The Thousand Club

Since I started keeping stats on this page, about five years ago, slowly some pages have achieved for me 'mythical' status in having achieved a 1000 page views.

Remember that this is a highly specialised blog.  Contemporary poetry and contemporary philosophy are perhaps two of the most recherche areas in our culture.  Add the two together and the result is positively occult.

So far only two pages have arrived there:
http://williamwatkin.blogspot.co.uk/2007/04/john-ashbery-tennis-court-oath.html
and
http://williamwatkin.blogspot.co.uk/2007/04/postmodern-poetry-5.html#!/2007/04/postmodern-poetry-5.html


Amazingly my highest rated page is about the most obscure collection by one of the most difficult poets of the modern era since Mallarme.  Perhaps only Prynne raises more eyebrows and questions.

The other is about postmodern poetry, probably the least read and commented form of postmodernism and poetry.  In fact that article, it is in 9 parts, has had over 2500 hits.  Amazing consi…

Agamben's State of Exception Explained in 200 words

Giorgio Agamben, State of Exception (2003)
The purpose of this complex text is found in the final pages in the consideration of the articulation or relation between two types of power: auctoritas and potestas.The assumption is that a state of exception suspends potestas of publically sanctioned governmental power, by applying auctoritas, sovereign power.What Agamben discovers is that this state of exception is not exceptional but omnipresent, and that rather than there being two types of power, power is nothing other than the fictional and machinelike constant interaction between government requiring a sovereign to legitimate its decisions and sovereignty needing government to makes its power actual in the world.
One can see here that Agamben is using Foucault’s governmentality, but suggests that this did not develop over time, but that sovereign and governing power are fundamentally inter-linked from the start.
His overall aim is to show the articulation between sovereign and government…

Agamben Explained in 800 Words

This is a combination of two articles on Agamben in general and then the system. This is because I feel strongly that Agamben's form of metaphysical critique only functions and makes a claim on originality and future significance because of the method. So if you have read the other two articles skip this. Or better re-read with a sense of their articulation.

 Part One: Agamben's Philosophy
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 quasi-transcendental, in that they are historically contingent not logically necessary. As such Agamben willingly participates in a tradition that includes Nietzsche, Heidegger, Deleuze and Derrida, thinkers he regularly engages with. Where he di…

Ten Years Old and 75+k Hits

To celebrate the blog's tenth birthday and an estimated hits total of 75k (in the old days stats counters were too complicated for me but I average 7k-ish a year) I am updating the blog to make it easier to use and in line with the new features available on blogger.

So you can search the blog, see which pages are popular at the moment, follow it much easier than before and perhaps most significantly you can translate it into other languages.  I have just translated the whole thing into Italian and it is not bad at all.

I have also been invited to become a part of paperblog which listed the blog for the first time yesterday increasing the average hits per day from 50-100 to about 180 in less than 24 hours.  If this were to be sustained at around the 150 a day level then the blog would be getting on average per year and a half the same number of hits it got in ten years!  This seems unlikely to be sustained but still the blog is getting more and more attention which is a good thing…

Agamben's Homo Sacer Explained in 300 Words.

With a full comprehension of the method firmly in place,(See Agamben's Method Explained here) it is now relatively easy to recast Homo Sacer as exemplary of the indifferential philosophical archaeological method, a method not fully worked through it must be said at the time of the text’s publication.

So first of all we can note how the different elements of that text—homo sacer, sovereign, musselman, camps, Karen Quinlan, the führer, maverick doctors and so on—map onto the indifferential method as named paradigms to be found in the text of the wider signatures of Power and Life.

 We can also identify the key suspension in the text, named in the subtitle of the work in fact, sovereign power and bare life, and how sovereignty operates as the condition or common, and bare life the conditioned or proper.

If we now turn attention to the more obscure issue of the signature, two elements can be noted. First that Life is the primary signatory term in play in the text moving from one dis…