Author: Devin Shaw

Brendan Moran and Carlo Salzani (eds.), Towards the Critique of Violence

Brendan Moran and Carlo Salzani (eds.), Towards the Critique of Violence: Walter Benjamin and Giorgio Agamben. New York: Bloomsbury. 2015; 251+xii pages. ISBN: 978-1-4725-2324-2. Reviewed by Michael P. A. Murphy, Queen’s University This collection of essays offers readers of Giorgio Agamben and Walter Benjamin new avenues into their relationship as critics of political violence.  The volume is at its strongest when tracing new connections both between Agamben and Benjamin and these thinkers and their contexts. In Part One, editors Brendan Moran, Carlo Salzani, and three other contributors place Benjamin’s essay within context of his broader work. The eight essays collected in Part Two analyze Agamben’s reading of Benjamin. The final essay of the collection is Agamben’s own “On the Limits of Violence.” Much of Part One of the collection focuses on the context of Benjamin’s “Critique of Violence” in relation to his essay on Goethe’s Elective Affinities, written around the same time as the critique. Alison Ross explains the necessity of reference to works like “Goethe’s Elective Affinities” because many of the terms key to understanding Benjamin’s violence-essay “are substantially meaningless without the possibility of clarifying references to other pieces from the same period.” (40) The engagement of contemporaneous works is crucial as it avoids “the form of commentary that brackets out other pieces from Benjamin’s early oeuvre and focuses obsessively on particular phrases from the violence-essay alone.” (40)...

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Arthur Kroker, Exits to the Posthuman Future

Arthur Kroker, Exits to the Posthuman Future. Cambridge: Polity, 2014; 224 pages; ISBN: 978-0-7456-7163-5. Reviewed by Aaron Landry, Humber College In Exits to the Posthuman Future, Arthur Kroker examines the future in the context of “accelerated technological innovation” (11). The book is neither utopian nor dystopian, but rather presents us with a set of possibilities and directions. Kroker, influenced by theorists such as Foucault, McLuhan, and Virilio, utilizes three key concepts to analyze the posthuman future: acceleration, drift, and crash. His writing style is comparable to McLuhan in its emphasis on the oracular exploration of possibilities rather than systematic linear argumentation, which makes sense given the subject matter—the frenzied multi-faceted implications of technological development—but it results, in many cases, in a lack of clarity regarding to what is actually being argued for. The central argument of the book is that in the posthuman context in which we find ourselves, “the power of technology turns back on itself,” undermining concepts like subjectivity and privacy. (7) For Kroker, the posthuman future is already with us. The rapid pace of technological innovation—and one can see concrete examples of this in genetic engineering and the ubiquity of social networking technologies—is greeted with utopian promise, Kroker claims that there is a growing uncertainty, not only about our final destination, but also about how to understand it. In every technological development, there is danger as...

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Karl Rosenkranz, Aesthetics of Ugliness

Karl Rosenkranz, Aesthetics of Ugliness. Translated by Andrei Pop and Mechtild Widrich. New York: Bloomsbury, 2015; 335 pages. ISBN: 978-1-47256-885-4. Reviewed by Wes Furlotte, Dominican University College/University of Ottawa Karl Rosenkranz’s Ästhetik des Hässlichen (1853), translated in 2015 by Andrei Pop and Mechtild Wildrich as Aesthetics of Ugliness, is now available for the first time in English. This should be an occasion for optimism because there has been almost no English commentary on it despite its unique historical and philosophical significance. The thesis at the core of Rosenkranz’s investigation is that ugliness functions as the dialectical negation of beauty. While a negative conception of the ugly is philosophically orthodox, Rosenkranz refuses the reductive gesture that often accompanies such convention. Ugliness, therefore, is not reducible to evil or material nature and so retains a distinct positivity that is entirely its own. Indeed, it is this protean positivity that the text explores at exhaustive length, ranging widely in the phenomena it considers from barren landscapes to body abjection, culminating in its original analysis of the bizarre form of caricature. Historically considered, Aesthetics of Ugliness functions as a transitional juncture in German aesthetic theories of the nineteenth century. Looking backward, it is indebted to the works of German Romanticism that preceded it, touching on the grotesque, the uncanny, and the irrational: those opaque regions of the world and experience explored by Hoffmann,...

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Elena del Río, The Grace of Destruction

Elena del Río, The Grace of Destruction: A Vital Ethology of Extreme Cinemas. London: Bloomsbury, 2016; 267 pages. ISBN 9781501303029. Reviewed by David H. Fleming, University of Nottingham Ningbo China. As the latest instalment in Bloomsbury’s “Thinking Cinema” series, The Grace of Destruction surfaces as a paradoxically timely and untimely book. Indeed, insofar as the ongoing “ethical-turn” in contemporary film-philosophy is concerned (see Nagib, 2011, 10; Choi and Frey, 2014, 1; Sinnerbrink, 2016, 5), and the wider “affective-turn” within millennial humanities, the book is very much of its moment. However, if we frame it alongside 2016’s populist nationalist movements (in the “West”), and the so-called “post-truth” events, it suddenly appears recast—in the Nietzschean sense—as an incredibly untimely work. For almost in anticipation of these events, Elena del Río celebrates “extreme” artworks that use their form and content to show how passive forces breed ressentiment and bad conscience, while active forces can help stimulate experimental creativity, and positively change the world. In such endeavours, del Río finds her untimely ally in Nietzsche, who (in)famously argued that the conjunction of art and philosophy is “useful for harming stupidity” and exposing all “forms of baseness of thought.” (183) Following in the footsteps materialist philosophers such as Brian Massumi, affect is here viewed as being “inherently political” (3), especially when used within various world cinemas that challenge viewers to “think with negative affects,...

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CFP: Heidegger: Dwelling, Thinking, and the Ethical Life

CALL FOR PAPERS The Centre for Advanced Research in European Philosophy, King’s University College at Western University, announces a call for papers for an upcoming international conference: Heidegger: Dwelling, Thinking, and the Ethical Life October 27–29, 2017 Plenary Speakers: Dr. Dennis Schmidt, Western Sydney University Dr. Julia Ireland, Whitman College Dr. Stephen Lofts, King’s University College at Western University Dr. Andrew Mitchell, Emory University A critique that often appears in relation to Heidegger’s philosophy is that it lacks any ethical import. This claim has been exacerbated with the recent publication of his Black Notebooks. This conference seeks to mine Heidegger’s philosophy for its ethical possibilities. To this end, we welcome abstracts for proposed papers that focus on the possibilities for ethics and ethical thinking that stem from Heidegger’s philosophy. Papers can focus on the themes of thinking, dwelling, and the ethical life. We also encourage papers that look at Heidegger’s analysis of texts within the philosophical tradition, for example, Schelling, Hegel, Aristotle, Plato, etc. Papers that place Heidegger into dialogue with other philosophers on the central theme of the conference are also welcome. Finally, papers that highlight applications and implications of Heidegger’s thought for ethics and ethical practice are encouraged. Abstracts of no more that 250 words should be sent to: Antonio Calcagno (*protected email*) and Stephen Lofts (*protected email*) by July 30, 2017. For further information or queries,...

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Le genre humain est très avide des récits.

— Lucrèce, De rerum natura