Critical Philosophy Program, The New Centre 2019

I am delighted to announce our critical philosophy program at the New Centre for the new semester. If you are interested to take these courses taught by some of the most stellar minds of our generation, please email organizers@thenewcentre.org

Anna Longo

Generative Structures : Reasons of Being and Reasons of Knowing

What are philosophical systems? Which conditions allows for their autonomous construction? How can different philosophical architectures conserve their inner validity while addressing a variety of conceptual structures? Are we rationally allowed to believe in the productive power of reason?
This seminar will try to answer these questions by dealing with different strategies for constructing philosophical systems since the beginning of modernity (Descartes, Leibniz) until present days (Meillassoux, Badiou) and passing through post and neo Kantianism. A particular attention will be dedicated to the articulation of the two series of the “reasons of being”, concerning the genesis of the real, and the “reasons of knowing” i.e. the conceptual formal structure of thought. A comparison is proposed between the philosophical and the mathematical creativity (Lautman, Cavaillès) and capacity of producing, in an autonomous and non-history dependent way, new domains and objects available for knowledge. The goal is to set the conditions to reflect upon the productive power of reason and on the real effects of the activity of a thinking.

 

Thomas Moynihan

RESPONSIBILITY and EXISTENTIAL RISK

Anti-anthropocentrism, broadly construed, is in vogue across contemporary theory and continental philosophy: the topic of ‘human extinction’ its natural bedfellow. And yet, despite proliferation (alongside parallel proliferation of ‘geological’ epochs, subtype pessimisms, and various schools of tenebrosity), theoretical engagements with our future extirpation emerging from ‘critical’ post-humanism are often, on closer inspection, surprisingly uncritical. The conversation, in other words, is conceptually premature concerning one of the topics it holds most dear. As shall be explored during this 4-part course, this is precisely due to the field’s deep-set—and ongoing—obsession with ‘proliferation’ itself: whether as voluptuous difference, the muscular mindlessness of becoming, or, the patchworks of swarming experimentation.
Elsewhere, in entirely different quarters, the topic enjoys similar visibility but for different reasons. This refers to the recent maturation of ‘future studies’—and its cousin, ‘macrostrategy’—and its focus on measuring and mitigating ‘existential risk’ in relation to humanity’s long-term trajectories. Pioneered by scholars from Bostrom to Ćirković, extinction threats have here become the target of an emerging field of quantitative, rigorous, and scientifically serious study.
In the course, we will address this latter, as a counter to some aspects of the former, through an exploration of how it is that investigating our existential precarity is inseparable from acknowledging some basic responsibility for the activity we call ‘thinking’. Engaging themes from modality to SETI, the course will be of suited to students interested in the philosophy of science and the history of philosophy.

 

J.-P. Caron

On the riddles of ontology at the intersections of art and experience

The problem of the ontology of artworks has been very much at the front of analytic aesthetics in the last decades. Ever since the publication of Nelson Goodman´s Languages of art, there´s a whole plethora of positions. From Goodman´s nominalism and Gregory Currie´s ‘eventural’ platonism to Wolterstorff´s “norm kinds” platonism, Roger Pouivet´s substantialism and David Davies performative theory, analytic philosophy has been trying to cope with the variability of the practice and its conditions of existence.
The course takes this variety not just as a disagreement regarding the ontological status of art, amongst which one can choose the winning position, but as a symptom of a difficulty stemming from the practice itself. In this sense, the first part of the course intends to be a presentation and a critique of most of the existing positions within analytical ontology of art. By taking ontology (and the variability exhibited therein) as a sympton rather than as a solution, we propose to expose the ontological approach as concealing rather than explicating the dynamics proper to the art practice itself.
Changing the mode of the course in its second part from the presentative and descriptive to the prospective, this hypothesis then is used to guide us through an elaboration of two different tendencies present in the field which tries to either supersede it or “hack” it from within: those that we thematize under the heading experience against art, represented in our course by the thought and practice of John Cage; and those we call art against experience- in which the autonomy of art practice is used as a leverage over which to criticize not just empirical reality, as Adorno would have it, but the normative infrastructure itself that is responsible for the emergence of artworks. This last hypothesis is equivalent to the taking of the normativity of action as material for so-called “aesthetic” practice , offering a critique of that which by being concealed behind experience is a condition of aesthetic experience itself.

 

Reza Negarestani

Future of Intelligence in the Age of Intellectual Scarcity

This course consists of polemical arguments against three apparently dominant scenarios concerning the rise of future intelligence, whether in the domain of artificial realization or in the realm of political thought. Each session of this seminar presents an elaborate criticism of a series of ideas put forward to unshackle intelligence—technological or social—from the yokes of humanism and rationality. To this end, we shall engage with the deep game theoretic account of intelligence (Land), speculative risk and uncertainty (Malik, Roden), technological singularity (Bostrom, Chalmers, Yudkowsky), so as to uncover the shared threads among them. Subsequently, it will be argued that despite the great sophistication and the weight of their critical insights these trends not only fail to untether themselves from the aforementioned shackles but regress into a form of conservative humanism—if not dogmatic and precritical thinking—that they initially set to overcome.

 

Adam Berg and Reza Negarestani

One Thousand and One Nights and a Handful of Plateaus

A series of topological analyses of philosophical issues in relation to science, politics and art and their permutations in terms of emergent fields, this twenty-session course promises to rekindle the project initiated by Deleuze and Gauttari in A Thousand Plateaus a new vein: A world consisting of multiple scales and multitude of elements and processes—scientific, philosophical, occult, technological and military—and from which a new craft—a vehicle of cosmological thought—can be forged.
Beyond Deleuze and Guattari: From machinic assemblages to systems collision, from desiring machines to AI agents and from the archive to neural networks, from a Nietzschean reading of Whitehead’s processes to a computational view of interacting processes. This is how fidelity to the philosophy of A Thousand Plateau actually look like in the future. Nomads armed with the latest paradigm of stability analysis, witches equipped with post-Boltzmann notion of statistics, outlanders who are now paragons of rogue complexity sciences. All in all, we, more or less, signed up for this vision of the world. It is now time to take it to its farthest conclusions.
In this seminar we will engage once again with rationality, imagination and sensation but this time we shall reinvestigate them through the context of complexity and computational sciences as a probing into past classics (e.g., Plato’s cave, Locke’s tabula rasa, Hobbes’s Leviathan, Hume’s bundles, Kant’s aliens, and other philosophical models in the ‘classical ages’ of reason and rationality.) This reconstruction of A Thousand Plateaus promises to replace the implicit geometric language of ATP with a an explicitly logico-geometric language, and replace its scientific metaphors with actual scientific theories.
As such this seminar is built around four constitutive investigations into philosophical, political and aesthetic perspectives: Foundational physics, Biological sciences, Mathematics and Computer science.
Targeted audience: those who are interested in the philosophy of Deleuze and Gauttari, but also those who dream of abolishing the so-called distinction between the Analytic and the Continental.

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