2019 Research Seminars

The Two Worlds in Nietzsche

When: Wednesday, August 28, 3:30 - 5:00
Where: Bankstown Campus, BA.3.G.54

Speaker: Gideon Baker (Griffith University)

Heidegger’s charge that Nietzsche is the culmination of the metaphysics he sought to overcome turns on the place of the true world in Nietzsche’s thought. In his lectures on Nietzsche from the 1930s, Heidegger argues that Nietzsche makes the mistake of thinking that the true world can be answered with a truer one named becoming, which merely reproduces the two worlds of metaphysics, only in reverse order. Now becoming is the truth of the world and being is mere appearance. According to Heidegger, Nietzsche remained unaware of this trap until 1888, at which point it may have been what drove him mad. I seek to complicate this picture. I show that Nietzsche was long aware that, with the death of the true world, nothing further can be said of world considered as an object of knowledge or, what is the same, as a totality. It is why Zarathustra emphasises the creation of new worlds, for example. Indeed, I contend that Heidegger’s own answer to the true world—namely that world is historical—is anticipated by Nietzsche because the world that ends up being affirmed in Nietzsche’s yes-saying is not a being (kosmos) but Being (a history).

Gideon Baker is Associate Professor in the School of Government and International Relations, Griffith University. He has published in political philosophy, cosmopolitan theory, political theology and ethics. He is currently working on the theme of nihilism. His 'Nihilism and Philosophy: Nothingness, Truth and World' is out now with Bloomsbury Academic.

Potentially, Relationality and the Problem of Actualisation

When: Wednesday, August 7, 3:30 - 5:00
Where: Bankstown Campus, BA.3.G.54

Speaker: Andrew Benjamin (UTS)

This lecture forms part of a project to rethink the concerns of political theology. The lecture seeks to integrate that thinking into the development of a philosophy of life in which life is defined in relation to the law.  A defining element of the position advanced is that there has always been a tradition within both the history of philosophy and theology that has maintained the centrality of the political by retaining the primacy of law whilst not differentiating law and life. The important question is: can there be a thinking of the political that is not a concomitant thinking of the law?

Andrew Benjamin is currently Distinguished Professor of Architectural Theory at the University of Technology, Sydney and Anniversary Professor of Philosophy and the Humanities at Kingston University London. His recent publications include: Towards a Relational Ontology. Philosophy’s Other Possibility. SUNY Press. (2015). Art’s Philosophical Work. Rowman and Littlefield. (2015) and Virtue in Being. SUNY Press. (2016). He has published over 35 authored and edited volumes and has written over 200 book chapters and academic articles. He is Fellow of the Australian Academy of the Humanities.

Seeing-As and the Ethics of Comparison: The Holocaust and Factory Farming

When: Wednesday, May 8, 3:30 - 5:00
Where: Bankstown Campus, BA.3.G.54

Speaker: Talia Morag (Deakin University)

Cora Diamond criticizes typical arguments of philosophical ethics for or against eating animals as a way of deflecting from the difficulty of the reality that gave rise to the discussion in the first place: How are we able to eat creatures that we can love and be attached to, that like us have the desire to live, feelings of pleasure and pain, of joy and fear? The limits of rational arguments to capture embodied experiences of affective turbulence such as this one lead Diamond to what seems to be a pessimism about the potential of philosophy to face and do justice to the difficulty of reality. At the center of her critique is the so-called “comparison” between the holocaust and factory farming, originally presented by J. M. Coetzee’s fictional character Elizabeth Costello, which was subsequently discussed by a number of philosophers, including Singer, Hacking, McDowell, Cavell.  In this paper, I examine Diamond’s critique and the discussion around Costello’s provocative “comparison.” I claim that Costello’s presentation should not be understood as a comparison, but rather as what I call an imagistic seeing-as relation, which is unlike the well-known conceptual seeing-as relation much discussed in Wittgenstein scholarship (e.g. where seeing the duck-rabbit drawing as a duck is understood as seeing the drawing in terms of the concept “duck”). Such imagistic seeing-as relations can nevertheless be described with words, providing philosophy with the task of description as an alternative to its traditional argumentative task of explanation.

Rehabilitating the Sacred: On Economic and Negative Theology

When: Wednesday, April 10, 3:30 - 5:00
Where: Bankstown Campus, BA.3.G.54

Speaker: David Newheiser (Australian Catholic University)

Giorgio Agamben argues that, whether it derives from religious worship or national identity, reverence for the sacred functions to neutralize resistance. In response, I claim that a concern for transcendence can intensify critique. By retrieving the tradition of negative theology, I show that it is possible to affirm the special significance of particular texts and traditions while maintaining an ethical discipline that loosens their authority. Where political movements sometimes find it difficult to move from critique to construction, a negative political theology affirms particular policies while maintaining a utopian negativity.

Designing for Epistemic Justice

When: Wednesday, March 13, 3:30 - 5:00
Where: Bankstown Campus, BA.3.G.54

Millicent Churcher (The University of Sydney)

This paper has two main aims: first, it seeks to offer a fuller picture of the workings of affect in our everyday epistemic practices; second, it seeks to elaborate on the role of institutions and institutional reforms in both perpetuating and meliorating patterns of ‘epistemic injustice’ (Fricker 2007) by strengthening or weakening affective dynamics that undermine virtuous epistemic agency. The growing literature on epistemic injustice has tended to overlook the cluster of affects that strongly influence our epistemic practices, and on the norms of emotional management that help to keep noxious epistemic practices in place. At the same time, the role of institutional arrangements and policies in reinforcing, modifying, and challenging affective dynamics that bear on patterns of collective epistemic agency has received marginal attention in favour of a purely individualistic or purely structural approach to achieving epistemic justice. This paper brings work in institutional theory, social imaginary studies, and newer research on affect and embodiment into conversation with epistemic (in)justice scholarship with the aim of developing a deeper understanding of the resources for, and barriers to, designing for epistemic justice.

Millicent Churcher is a postdoctoral research associate in philosophy at the University of Sydney. Her main areas of research comprise early modern sentimentalist philosophy and contemporary social and political philosophy. Millicent’s latest research project examines the relationship between imaginaries, affect, institutions and social justice, particularly in relation to sexual, racial, and settler colonial violence. Her book, Reimagining Sympathy, Recognizing Difference: Insights from Adam Smith, will be released with Rowman and Littlefield International in 2019.