Issue 120, February 2014

The time(s) of our lives

Guest editors: Miriam Bankovsky, Toula Nicolacopoulos and George Vassilacopoulos

 

Table of Contents

Introduction:

The time(s) of our lives: Contexts and critique

Miriam Bankovsky,Toula Nicolacopoulos,and George Vassilacopoulos

 

Articles:

Reason, power and history: Re-reading the Dialectic of Enlightenment

Amy Allen

This paper re-examines the relationship between power, reason and history in Horkheimer and Adorno’s Dialectic of Enlightenment. Contesting Habermas’ highly influential reading of the text, I argue that Dialectic of Enlightenment, far from being a dead-end for critical theory, opens up important lines of thought in the philosophy of history that contemporary critical theorists would do well to recover. My focus is on the relationship that Horkheimer and Adorno trace between enlightenment rationality and the domination of inner and outer nature.

The future of critical theory between reason and power: Reply to Amy Allen

Miriam Bankovsky

Amy Allen presents Adorno’s and Horkheimer’s Dialectic of Enlightenment as a productive movement between a commitment to the project of reason and a sensitivity to the effects on reason of power and domination. Agreeing with the thrust of her paper, my response considers two questions that Allen’s paper opens up. The first asks how individuals might seek emancipation through reason, knowing that their reason cannot transcend contexts of power. The second asks how best to practise critical theory, given that its analyses and categories cannot rid themselves of contexts of domination. To the first, I answer that Allen’s account of creative individual effort needs to be supplemented by the cultivation of an accommodating and welcoming culture, marked by the sorts of civic attitudes that Derrida and Habermas bring to their maturing relationship. Regarding the second, I extend Allen’s hopes for a post-Habermasian phase of critical theory, indicating four resources in contemporary French philosophy for its further development.

A just judgement? Considerations on Ronald Srigley’s Camus’ Critique of Modernity

Matthew Sharpe

This paper responds critically to Ronald Srigley’s groundbreaking 2011 study Albert Camus’ Critique of Modernity. Srigley’s book reasserts Camus’ credentials as a deeply serious thinker, whose literary and philosophical oeuvre was dedicated to rethinking modernity on the basis of critical reassessments of the West’s entire premodern heritage. Yet we challenge whether Camus was ever, even in his final writings, so uncompromisingly anti-modern as Srigley contends. Srigley’s attempt to present Camus as committed to a return to the Greeks, on the basis of a total critique of modernity as deleteriously post-Christian, forces him to occlude important distinctions in Camus’ thought: those between unity and totality, rebellion and revolution. By contrast, we compare Camus’ defence of modern rebellion with Blumenberg’s argument in The Legitimacy of the Modern Age: finding justification for this rebellion in the deep problem faced by Christian theology of resolving the ‘problem of evil’. Finally, we suggest that Srigley overplays the extent of Camus’ ‘Hellenic’ critique of the Christian heritage (notably its ethical commitment to protecting the weak), in contrast to Christian theodicy and eschatology, which serve to rationalize avoidable suffering.

The time of radical autonomous thinking and social-historical becoming in Castoriadis

Toula Nicolacopoulos and George Vassilacopoulos

This paper examines Castoriadis’ concept of time as ontological creation in relation to the activation of the project of autonomy. We argue that since Castoriadis presents as a practitioner of the creation of time as radical autonomous thinking, this is the standpoint from which to assess his claims. Through an examination of Castoriadis’ claim that the practice of autonomy depends upon it being activated by a willing singularity who accepts the Chaos of society and of the world, we argue that Castoriadis’ position presupposes an effective contrast between the autonomy of significance that he advocates and the heteronomy of insignificance that he laments. If, as we suggest, both these orientations accept the Groundlessness of the world, then Castoriadis’ appeal to the awareness of a willing singularity is not sufficient to distinguish the practice of radical autonomy. To this extent, his elucidation of the radical imaginary time of ontological creation remains incomplete.

Sexuate difference in a time of terror

Ellen Mortensen

Drawing on existential phenomenology, particularly Heidegger’s analytic of Dasein, and combining it with a developmental perspective, the paper focuses on those moments of crisis, in which a self faces the question of its own truth, and in the process posits the conditions for disclosing key aspects about the world and society. Late adolescence and early adulthood are the ‘ages of life’ in which such possibility of disclosure occurs most eminently, and this is relayed expressively and reflectively, the paper further argues, in the few examples of popular music that act as genuine outlets for young people’s desires and anxieties. The poetic work of Morrissey is a particularly eloquent case in point. However, a succinct analysis of Morrissey’s poetics reveals that underneath the explicit thread of sexuality, it is violence and cruelty that shape the young soul into becoming a channel for world and social disclosure.

The cruel poetics of Morrissey: Fragment for a phenomenology of the ages of life

Jean-Philippe Deranty

Drawing on existential phenomenology, particularly Heidegger’s analytic of Dasein, and combining it with a developmental perspective, the paper focuses on those moments of crisis, in which a self faces the question of its own truth, and in the process posits the conditions for disclosing key aspects about the world and society. Late adolescence and early adulthood are the ‘ages of life’ in which such possibility of disclosure occurs most eminently, and this is relayed expressively and reflectively, the paper further argues, in the few examples of popular music that act as genuine outlets for young people’s desires and anxieties. The poetic work of Morrissey is a particularly eloquent case in point. However, a succinct analysis of Morrissey’s poetics reveals that underneath the explicit thread of sexuality, it is violence and cruelty that shape the young soul into becoming a channel for world and social disclosure.

Against prophecy and utopia: Foucault and the future

Mark GE Kelly

In this essay, I take as a starting point Foucault’s rejection of two different ways of thinking about the future, prophecy and utopianism, and use this rejection as a basis for the elaboration of a more detailed rejection of them, invoking complexity-based epistemic limitations in relation to thinking about the future of political society. I follow Foucault in advocating immanent political struggle, which does not seek to build a determinate vision of the future but rather focuses on negating aspects of the current conjuncture. I extend this argument into an ethical register, arguing that the same arguments apply mutatis mutandis to our personal lives. I conclude by engaging with Jacques Lacan’s account of subjectivity, and the interpretation of its political import furnished by Yannis Stavrakakis, drawing from these additional supports for my position, in particular the rejection of utopianism as an attempt to avoid limitation by the real.

Review essay:

Conceptions of critique in modern and contemporary philosophy

Thomas Klikauer

 

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