Dimitris Vardoulakis on On Kafka’s Laughter

Freedom from the Free Will: On Kafka's Laughter

Dimitris Vardoulakis

Abstract: I place humor at the center of Kafka's technique, which relies on plots in which the protagonists are seemingly totally deprived of their freedom. I argue that if there is a political thinking in Kafka, this is only possible because of his humor. The reason is that Kafka's laughter is the tool he uses to deconstruct power. And one of the most significant ways in which our political being is conceived is by how we understand our freedom. Kafka laughs at our illusion that we have a free will. And he also laughs at the correlate of the free will, namely, the separation between a world of ideal freedom and a fallen world of confinement. As such, and pace interpreters such as Brod and Weltsch, Kafka performs also a critique of transcendence as the linchpin of both Western metaphysics and theology. At the same time, this laughter is not only critical, but also has a constructive aspect. Kafka's laughter suggests a different sense of freedom. This is a situated freedom which does not rely on ideals separated from the here and now. It is a freedom from the free will.

Bio: Dimitris Vardoulakis is chair of the Philosophy Research Initiative at the University of Western Sydney and director of Thinking Out Loud: The Sydney Lectures in Philosophy and Society, which are published as a book series by Fordham University Press. His books include The Doppelgänger: Literature's Philosophy (Fordham University Press, 2010); Sovereignty and Its Other: Toward the Dejustification of Violence (Fordham University Press, 2013); and Stasis: On Agonistic Democracy (Fordham University Press, forthcoming). He is also the editor of Spinoza Now (University of Minnesota Press, 2011); and, with Andrew Benjamin, of Sparks Will Fly: Walter Benjamin and Martin Heidegger (SUNY, 2015).

Audio: Listen to Dimitris' paper (right click and "save link as" to download).

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