Frantz Fanon offers a lucid account of his entrance into the white world where the weightiness of the ‘white gaze’ nearly crushed him. In chapter five of Black Skins, White Masks, he develops his historico-racial and epidermal racial schemata as correctives to Merleau-Ponty’s overly inclusive corporeal schema. Experientially aware of the reality of socially constructed (racialized) subjectivities, Fanon uses his schemata to explain the creation, maintenance, and eventual rigidification of white-scripted ‘blackness’. Through a re-telling of his own experiences of racism, (...) Fanon is able to show how a black person in a racialized context eventually internalizes the ‘white gaze’. In this essay I bring Fanon’s insights into conversation with Foucault’s discussion of panoptic surveillance. Although the internalization of the white narrative creates a situation in which external constraints are no longer needed, Fanon highlights both the historical contingency of ‘blackness’ and the ways in which the oppressed can re-narrate their subjectivities. Lastly, I discuss Fanon’s historically attuned ‘new humanism’, once again engaging Fanon and Foucault as dialogue partners. (shrink)
Several prominent contemporary philosophers, including Jürgen Habermas, John Caputo, and Robert Bernasconi, have at times painted a somewhat negative picture of Gadamer as not only an uncritical traditionalist, but also as one whose philosophical project fails to appreciate difference. Against such claims, I argue that Gadamer’s reflections on art exhibit a genuine appreciation for alterity not unrelated to his hermeneutical approach to the other. Thus, by bringing Gadamer’s reflections on our experience of art into conversation with key aspects of his (...) philosophical hermeneutics, we are able to better assess the viability of Gadamer’s contributions to contemporary discussions of difference and alterity. -/- Sections two through six focus on key concepts in Gadamer’s account of art’s dynamic ontology and our experience of art. Such concepts include the play structure of art, hermeneutic identity, tarrying with a work, and contemporaneity. The opening sections provide not only a discussion of these central themes, but they also (1) draw attention to the various ways in which difference and otherness are integral to Gadamer’s account, and (2) utilize relevant musical examples that prepare the reader for a more focused discussion of a Gadamerian approach to free jazz in section seven. By highlighting how Gadamer’s understanding of art possesses a dialogical play structure, is characterized by identity and difference, requires actively engaged spectators and auditors, and is amenable to what many criticize as an unintelligible musical expression, viz. free jazz, Gadamer’s project is shown as other-affirming and open to ambiguity and dynamism. That is, the essential structures and concepts characterizing Gadamer’s reflections on art are likewise central to his overall hermeneutical project, and hence are not rightly described as un-attuned to difference or other-negating. Rather, Gadamer’s philosophical project upholds difference, since it requires a dialogical interplay between self and other that creates the possibility for a transformative experience. (shrink)
This essay is concerned with Gadamer’s reflections on solidarity and practice as found in several of his later writings. While Gadamer offers a robust explanation of practice, practical reason, and how both are operative in solidarities, his investigations of solidarity are in no way systematic. He does, however, distinguish two aspects of solidarity, viz. what one might call “natural solidarity” and “avowed solidarity”. In contrast to natural solidarities, avowed solidarities require an intentional decision and commitment to act with others for (...) a common cause. Since Gadamer’s writings on solidarity are more sketches than detailed treatises, we will bring his work into dialogue with feminist and political philosopher Sally Scholz. Scholz has devoted significant research to the concept of political solidarity. Like Gadamer, Scholz too is concerned with how we engage natural others and how our present practices harm and exploit them. By bringing Scholz’s and Gadamer’s work into dialogue, we gain a better understanding of different facets and types of solidarity, how they interrelate and influence one other, and how their interrelations might help to effect positive social and political changes for all who inhabit this world. (shrink)
In this chapter, I argue that one can articulate a historically attuned and analytically rich model for understanding jazz in its various inflections. That is, on the one hand, such a model permits us to affirm jazz as a historically conditioned, dynamic hybridity. On the other hand, to acknowledge jazz’s open and multiple character in no way negates our ability to identify discernible features of various styles and aesthetic traditions. Additionally, my model affirms the sociopolitical, legal (Jim Crow and copyright (...) laws), and economic structures that shaped jazz. Consequently, my articulation of bebop as an inflection of Afromodernism highlights the sociopolitical, and highly racialized context in which this music was created. Without a recognition of the sociopolitical import of bebop, one’s understanding of the music is impoverished, as one fails to grasp the strategic uses to which the music and discourses about the music were put. (shrink)
Foucault’s later writings continue his analyses of subject-formation but now with a view to foregrounding an active subject capable of self-transformation via ascetical and other self-imposed disciplinary practices. In my essay, I engage Foucault’s studies of ancient Greco-Roman and Christian technologies of the self with a two-fold purpose in view. First, I bring to the fore additional continuities either downplayed or overlooked by Foucault’s analysis between Greco-Roman transformative practices including self-writing, correspondence, and the hupomnemata and Christian ascetical and epistolary practices. (...) Second, I add exegetical support to recent arguments denying Foucault’s advocacy for the death of the subject per se. In fact, my analyses show that Foucault’s ethico-aesthetic turn and its corresponding concern with self-transformation and self-(re)constitution via ascetical practices assumes a subject with rational and volitional capacities. Without these capacities, the art of living Foucault describes is not possible. (shrink)
Although Gadamer has been criticized, on the one hand, for being a “traditionalist” and on the other, for embracing relativism, I argue that his approach to knowing, being, and being-in-the world offers contemporary theorists a third way, which is both historically attuned and able to address significant social and ethical questions.
Frederick Douglass, in his first autobiography, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, describes how his sociopolitical identity was scripted by the white other and how his spatiotemporal existence was likewise constrained through constant surveillance and disciplinary dispositifs. Even so, Douglass was able to assert his humanity through creative acts of resistance. In this essay, I highlight the ways in which Douglass refused to accept the other-imposed narrative, demonstrating with his life the truth of his being—a human being unwilling to (...) be classified as thing or property. As I engage selected passages and key events from Douglass's narrative, I likewise explore the ways in which the resistance tactics. (shrink)
Although contemporary Western culture and criticism has usually valued composition over improvisation and placed the authority of a musical work with the written text rather than the performer, this essay posits these divisions as too facile to articulate the complex dynamics of making music in any genre or form. Rather it insists that music should be understood as pieces that are created with specific intentions by composers but which possess possibilities of interpretation that can only be brought out through performance.
One way of viewing the organizing structure of the Confessions is to see it as an engagement with various texts at different phases of St. Augustine’s life. In the early books of the Confessions, Augustine describes the disordered state that made him unable to read any text (sacred or profane) properly. Yet following his conversion his entire orientation— not only to texts but also to reality as a whole—changes. This essay attempts to trace the winding paths that lead up to (...) Augustine’s conversion through his various encounters with texts (and individuals) and to examine his struggles both intellectual and spiritual along the way. In the final section, I bring Augustine into conversation with Hans-Georg Gadamer in order to highlight a number of hermeneutical continuities shared by premoderns and postmoderns. After comparing premodern and modern hermeneutical orientations, I conclude that Augustine’s approach to Scripture contrasts sharply with a (strict) modern grammatico-historical biblical methodology, whereas premodern hermeneutics share a number of continuities with Gadamerian and postmodern emphases. Lastly, in light of Gadamer’s famous statement, ‘all of life is hermeneutics’, I suggest that perhaps we could read Augustine’s life as affirming this claim. By taking a close look at Augustine’s story, I will attempt to show how pre-judgments, interpretative traditions and a dynamic/analogical rather than a static/univocal understanding of text (and reality) decisively affected his spiritual and intellectual vision—observations Gadamer would no doubt heartily affirm. (shrink)
This is a translation of Hans-Georg Gadamer’s 1988 essay, “Musik und Zeit: Ein philosophisches Postscriptum.” The essay, although brief, is noteworthy in that it contains Gadamer’s philosophical reflections on music—reflections which are largely absent in his masterwork, Truth and Method. In the essay, one finds several important Gadamerian hermeneutical themes such as the notion of art as performance or enactment, the linguisticality of understanding, the importance of lingering with an artwork or text, and how our absorption in the work gives (...) rise to a particular experience of time. (shrink)
Translators’ Abstract: This is a translation of Hans-Georg Gadamer’s recently discovered 1952 Berlin speech. The speech includes several themes that reappear in Truth and Method, as well as in Gadamer’s later writings such as Reason in the Age of Science. For example, Gadamer criticizes positivism, modern philosophy’s orientation toward positivism, and Enlightenment narratives of progress, while presenting his view of philosophy’s tasks in an age of crisis. In addition, he discusses structural power, instrumental reason, the objectification of nature and human (...) beings, the reduction of both to mere means, and the colonization of scientific-technological ways of knowing and being—all of which continue to impact our social and political lives together and threaten the very existence of every living being. This speech is essential reading for Gadamer scholars interested in the social, political, and ethical dimensions of his thought and for those interested in bringing Gadamer into conversation with critical theory. (shrink)
In this essay, I analyze Romare Bearden’s art, methodology, and thinking about art, as well as his attempt to harmonize his personal aesthetic goals with his sociopolitical concerns. I then turn to Hans-Georg Gadamer’s reflections on art and our experience (Erfahrung) of art. I show how Bearden’s approach to art and the artworks themselves resonate with Gadamer’s critique of aesthetic consciousness and his contention that artworks address us, make claims upon us, and even reveal truth. Lastly, I discuss Gadamer’s emphasis (...) on the spectator’s active yet non-mastering role in the event of art’s address—an event that implicates the spectator and has the potential to transform him or her. This leads to a discussion of Gadamer’s notion of the type of self-(and world) understanding that occurs through aesthetic experience. I close by returning to Bearden in order to discuss how his art unearths a crucial feature of our being-in-the-world. I call this feature “world-unmasking” and show how it expands and enriches Gadamer’s account. (shrink)
Like human existence itself, our enduring legacies—whether poetic, ethical, political, or philosophical—continually unfold and require recurrent communal engagement and (re)enactment. In other words, an ongoing performance of significant works must occur, and this task requires the collective human activity of re-membering or gathering-together-again. In the Symposium, Diotima provides an account of human pursuits of immortality through the creation of artifacts, including laws, poems, and philosophical discourses that resonates with Gadamer’s account of our engagement with artworks and texts. This essay explores (...) common places among Gadamer and Plato; however, it does so through the complex character of Diotima the philosopher-priestess. Diotima’s teaching on the processive character of human existence and her understanding of knowledge as dynamic has been largely ignored. Given Gadamer’s historically oriented philosophical hermeneutics, not to mention his creative and critical engagement with Platonic themes such as beauty, recollection, and art, Diotima makes for an especially fruitful dialogue partner. (shrink)
This is a translation of Hans-Georg Gadamer’s recently discovered 1952 Berlin speech. The speech includes several themes that reappear in Truth and Method, as well as in Gadamer’s later writings such as Reason in the Age of Science. For example, Gadamer criticizes positivism, modern philosophy’s orientation toward positivism, and Enlightenment narratives of progress, while presenting his view of philosophy’s tasks in an age of crisis. In addition, he discusses structural power, instrumental reason, the objectification of nature and human beings, the (...) reduction of both to mere means, and the colonization of scientific-technological ways of knowing and being—all of which continue to impact our social and political lives together and threaten the very existence of every living being. This speech is essential reading for Gadamer scholars interested in the social, political, and ethical dimensions of his thought and for those interested in bringing Gadamer into conversation with critical theory. (shrink)
This article considers the limitations, but also the insights, of Gadamerian hermeneutics for understanding and responding to the crisis precipitated by the Covid-19 pandemic. Our point of departure is the experience of deep disagreements amid the pandemic, and our primary example is ongoing debates in the United States about wearing masks. We argue that, during this dire situation, interpersonal mutual understanding is insufficient for resolving such bitter disputes. Rather, following Gadamer’s account of our dialogical experience with an artwork, we suggest (...) that our encounter with the virus gives rise to new ways of seeing and experiencing ourselves and the world. Further, we draw on Gadamer’s account of the fusion of horizons to show how even competing perspectives on wearing masks arise within a shared space of meaning created by the virus. These insights provide hope for an improved model of political dialogue in the world of Covid-19. (shrink)
Fanon’s insistence that the oppressed retain their ability to resist and (re)configure their subjectivity has political, ethical, and philosophical import, as it highlights the fact that the subjugated are not mere things determined from the outside. To the contrary, just as several contingent factors coalesced to create the historical situation in which the colonized subject finds herself, other equally contingent factors can emerge and help to bring about socio-political transformations. Like Aimé Césaire, Fanon understood that the process of decolonization would (...) occur over time and in various stages. By studying Fanon’s complex relationship to the Négritude movement, his resistance tactics come into sharper focus. In short, I argue that Fanon’s employment of essentialized narratives can be interpreted as a variant of “strategic essentialism” (Spivak). Consequently, Fanon’s historically attuned strategy signals a movement beyond a mere reactionary response trapped within an abstract Manichaean binary. (shrink)
Mass incarceration has become a flashpoint in a number of recent political and public policy debates. Consensus about how to balance the just punishment of offenders with the humanitarian goal of providing inmates with genuine opportunities for reconciliation, rehabilitation, and reintegration into society is lacking. Unfortunately, a dualistic “us-versus-them” narrative surrounding these issues has become entrenched, occluding fruitful dialogue and obscuring our ability to see the detrimental effects that our nation’s punitive turn has created. In this essay, we affirm the (...) insights of Wacquant, Clear, and other sociologists and introduce a theological narrative of solidarity and vulnerability that undermines the “us-versus-them” dichotomy and opens up a path for cultivating a “we” community. (shrink)
Western philosophy’s relationship with prisons stretches from Plato’s own incarceration to the modern era of mass incarceration. Philosophy Imprisoned: The Love of Wisdom in the Age of Mass Incarceration draws together a broad range of philosophical thinkers, from both inside and outside prison walls, in the United States and beyond, who draw on a variety of critical perspectives (including phenomenology, deconstruction, and feminist theory) and historical and contemporary figures in philosophy (including Kant, Hegel, Foucault, and Angela Davis) to think about (...) prisons in this new historical era. All of these contributors have experiences within prison walls: some are or have been incarcerated, some have taught or are teaching in prisons, and all have been students of both philosophy and the carceral system. The powerful testimonials and theoretical arguments are appropriate reading not only for philosophers and prison theorists generally, but also for prison reformers and abolitionists. (shrink)
This volume features essays from fourteen scholars—both established and rising stars—each of which cover a portion of Truth and Method following the order of the text itself. The result is a robust, historically and thematically rich polyphonic reading of the text as a whole, valuable both for scholarship and teaching.
Through examining Douglass's and Fanon's concrete experiences of oppression, Cynthia R. Nielsen demonstrates the empirical validity of Foucault's theoretical analyses concerning power, resistance, and subject-formation. Going beyond merely confirming Foucault's insights, Douglass and Fanon expand, strengthen, and offer correctives to the emancipatory dimensions of Foucault's project. Unlike Foucault, Douglass and Fanon were not hesitant to make transhistorical judgments condemning slavery and colonization. Foucault's reticence here signals a weakness in his account of human being. This weakness sets him at cross-purposes not (...) only with Scotus, but also with Douglass and Fanon. Scotus's anthropology provides a basis for transhistorical moral critique; thus he is a valuable dialogue partner for those concerned about social justice and human flourishing. (shrink)
In Interstitial Soundings, Cynthia R. Nielsen brings music and philosophy into a fruitful and mutually illuminating dialogue. Topics discussed include the following: music's dynamic ontology, performers and improvisers as co-composers, the communal character of music, jazz as hybrid and socially constructed, the sociopolitical import of bebop, Afro-modernism and its strategic deployments, jazz and racialized practices, continuities between Michel Foucault's discussion of self-making and creating one's musical voice, Alasdair MacIntyre on practice, and how one might harmonize MacIntyre's notion of virtue development (...) with Foucauldian resistance strategies. (shrink)