Through a radical new reading of the Theological Political Treatise, Dimitris Vardoulakis argues that the major source of Spinoza’s materialism is the Epicurean tradition that re-emerges in modernity when manuscripts by Epicurus and Lucretius are rediscovered. This reconsideration of Spinoza’s political project, set within a historical context, lays the ground for an alternative genealogy of materialism. Central to this new reading of Spinoza are the theory of practical judgment (understood as the calculation of utility) and its implications for a theory (...) of democracy that is resolutely positioned against authority. (shrink)
This collection, the first broadly interdisciplinary volume dealing with Spinozan thought, asserts the importance of Spinoza’s philosophy of immanence for contemporary cultural and philosophical debates.
Spinoza and Rembrandt were contemporaries and in fact they were neighbours in Amsterdam. Even though there is no record that they ever met, it is hard to imagine that they never crossed paths. This article seeks to explore common ideas that we can find in the philosopher and the painter. This contributes both to a philosophical examination of Rembrandt and examines the possibility of an aesthetics in Spinoza.
How is political change possible when even the most radical revolutions only reproduce sovereign power? Via the analysis of the contradictory meanings of stasis, Vardoulakis argues that the opportunity for political change is located in the agonistic relation between sovereignty and democracy and thus demands a radical rethinking.
By looking at its history, this article emphasizes the importance of practical judgment for materialism. This sense of practical judgment is traced back to the function of phronesis in one of the ancient schools of materialism, namely, the Epicureans.
I argue that a distinction between three autoimmunities is implied in Derrida’s _Rogues_. These are the autoimmunities of democracy as a regime of power, of democracy to come and of sovereignty. I extrapolate the relations between three different autoimmunities using the figure of the internal enemy in order to argue for an agonistic conception of democracy.
Vardoulakis explores what Balibar means by designating transindividuality as ‘quasi-transcendental.’ He does so by turning to Balibar’s readings of Part IV of Spinoza’s Ethics, the Part that is central to Balibar’s understanding of the transindividual in Spinoza. Vardoulakis shows that the quasi-transcendental in Spinoza can only be a form of agonistic relations if his political theory in the Theological Political Treatise is to account for political change.
Dimitris Vardoulakis asks how it is possible to think of a politics that is not commensurate with sovereignty. For such a politics, he argues, sovereignty is defined not in terms of the exception but as the different ways in which violence is justified. Vardoulakis shows how it is possible to deconstruct the various justifications of violence. Such dejustifications can take place only by presupposing an other to sovereignty, which Vardoulakis identifies with agonistic democracy. In doing so, Sovereignty and Its Other (...) puts forward both a novel critique of sovereignty and an original philosophical theory of democratic practice. (shrink)
The difficulty with democracy is always how to define the demos—the people. Can we think of democracy in a different way? My starting point is to ask what it would mean to take kratos (power) rather than demos as the starting point of the thinking of democracy. I will argue that this is consistent with Solon’s first democratic constitution and that it leads to a thinking of democracy in terms of agonism. Maybe such a conception of agonistic democracy will allow (...) us to conceptualize as well as actualize a political space not predetermined by the “fickle multitude” that can be manipulated and is pray to the forces of populism. (shrink)
Vardoulakis examines the concept of political theology in terms of the ancient greek term "stasis." The term "stasis" means both mobility and immobility. Vardoulakis explores these seemingly contradictory meanings generate a notion of agonistic politics that challenges perceived ideas about political theology.
This article examines the connection between lying and the concept of freedom, especially in the wake of the social contract tradition. I show that the liar poses a particular threat to the social contract. As a result, lying has been portrayed as a pernicious threat to the political. This culminates in Kant’s outright rejection of lying under any circumstance. From the Kantian perspective, one can be free only if one does not lie. Conversely, Spinoza’s co-implication of virtue and power entails (...) that lying is acceptable under certain circumstances, which enhance one’s freedom. The contrast between Kant’s and Spinoza’s response to lying reveals two fundamentally different ways of conceiving freedom. (shrink)
Philosophy and Kafka is a collection of original essays interrogating the relationship of literature and philosophy. The essays either discuss specific philosophical commentaries on Kafka’s work, consider the possible relevance of certain philosophical outlooks for examining Kafka’s writings, or examine Kafka’s writings in terms of a specific philosophical theme, such as communication and subjectivity, language and meaning, knowledge and truth, the human/animal divide, justice, and freedom.
Collected essays consider points of affinity and friction between Walter Benjamin and Martin Heidegger. Despite being contemporaries, Walter Benjamin and Martin Heidegger never directly engaged with one another. Yet, Hannah Arendt, who knew both men, pointed out common ground between the two. Both were concerned with the destruction of metaphysics, the development of a new way of reading and understanding literature and art, and the formulation of radical theories about time and history. On the other hand, their life trajectories and (...) political commitments were radically different. In a 1930 letter, Benjamin told a friend that he had been reading Heidegger and that if the two were to engage with one another, “sparks will fly.” Acknowledging both their affinities and points of conflict, this volume stages that confrontation, focusing in particular on temporality, Romanticism, and politics in their work. (shrink)
This book questions what sovereignty looks like when it is de-ontologised; when the nothingness at the heart of claims to sovereignty is unmasked and laid bare. Drawing on critical thinkers in political theology, such as Schmitt, Agamben, Nancy, Blanchot, Paulhan, The Politics of Nothing asks what happens to the political when considered in the frame of the productive potential of the nothing? The answers are framed in terms of the deep intellectual histories at our disposal for considering these fundamental questions, (...) carving out trajectories inspired by, for example, Peter Lombard, Shakespeare and Spinoza. This book offers a series of sensitive and creative reflections that suggest the possibilities offered by thinking through sovereignty via the frame of nihilism. This book was originally published as a special issue of Culture, Theory and Critique. (shrink)
Vardoulakis argues that the notion of law as developed in chapter 4 of Spinoza's Theological Political Treatise does not rely on a notion of legitimacy but rather on how authority justifies itself. To demonstrate this point, Vardoulakis analyzes closely the example of Adam and the Fall used by Spinoza in that chapter of the Treatise.
Jacques Rancière’s conception of equality as an axiomatic presupposition of the political is important, because it bypasses the tradition which defines equality in terms of Aristotle’s conception of geometric equality. In this paper, I show that Rancière’s theory both espouses a monism, according to which inequality implies equality, and relies on a concept of the free will, which is incompatible with monism. I highlight this tension by bringing Rancière’s theory into conversation with the great monist of the philosophical tradition, Baruch (...) Spinoza. (shrink)
Vardoulakis examines the connection between the political and aesthetic commitments of the philosophies of Martin Heidegger and Walter Benjamin. He compares "The Origin of the Work of Art" to "The Work of Art in the Age of Technological Reproducibility.".
Behrouz Boochani’s No Friend but the Mountains, a literary sensation upon its publication in Australia in August 2018, deserves a place alongside classics of the prison writing genre. At the same time, it contains important lessons for everyone thinking about power in the contemporary world. In particular, it prompts to reconsider the kind of power that is exercised in camps, where it comes from and how it could be resisted.
This paper explores the way that Elizabeth Presa's artworks respond to Jacques Derrida's thought. By examining how the particularity (the beside) and its supplements (the besides) operate in Presa's works, it is shown how this movement between beside and besides is also central to Derrida's thought.
Those of Collingwood's interpreters who insist that the science of being was abandoned in the later writings, tend to display also a marked dissatisfaction with the logic of question and answer, at least as it is presented in the Essay on Metaphysics. The most influential statement of this interpretation is undoubtedly Rex Martin's. It was initially published as an article in 1989 and was later institutionalized through its incorporation in his 'Editor's Introduction' to the Oxford University Press revised edition of (...) the Essay. I start from the assumption that Collingwood should be read as a hermeneutic philosopher. Having shown elsewhere what this means for Collingwood's conception of being and ontology, I will concentrate here to show that Collingwood's hermeneutics cannot be reconciled with an interpretation that finds no place for question and answer in his philosophy. The logic of question and answer is indispensable to the hermeneutics of Collingwood. I will argue that Martin's expunction of question and answer from Collingwood's philosophy rests on an a sense of meaning that is foreign both to hermeneutics and to Collingwood. (shrink)
Vardoulakis argues that the concept of equality is determined by the distinction between three different types of equality in Aristotle. He then shows how Spinoza overcomes the Aristotelian conception by determining equality through a notion of differential power.
Kafka's literary universe is organized around constellations of imprisonment. Freedom and Confinement in Modernity proposes that imprisonment does not signify a tortured state of the individual in modernity. Rather, it provides a new reading of imprisonment suggesting it allows Kafka to perform a critique of a modernity instead.
It is often put forward that the entire political project of epicureanism consists in the overcoming of fear, whereby its scope is deemed to be very narrow. I argue that the overcoming of the fear of death should actually be linked to a conception of freedom in epicureanism. This idea is further developed by Spinoza, who defines the free man as one who thinks of death least of all in the Ethics, and who develops this idea more in the Theological (...) Political Treatise. (shrink)
Vardoulakis examines the history of the free will, arguing that there is no necessary connection with the concept of freedom. To illustrate this point, Vardoulakis turns to the stories of Franz Kafka, an author obsessed with narratives that show characters in confinement. However, these situations of confinement are only produced by the comical attempts of the characters to assert their free will.
Mystery is not merely a theological or literary category for G. K. Chesterton. It is also instrumental in understanding his conception of the political. The essay demonstrates the political significance of mystery through a close reading of Chesterton's short story ‘The Noticeable Conduct of Professor Chadd’. A comparison with Heidegger's construal of the political will highlight Chesterton's originality.
I argue that both Hobbes and Spinoza rely on a pivot epicurean idea to form their conceptions of the social contract, namely, the idea that the human acts by calculating their utility. However, Hobbes and Spinoza employ this starting principle in different ways. For Hobbes, this only makes sense if the calculation of utility is regulated by fear as the primary political emotion. For Spinoza, there is no primary emotion and the entire construction of the social contract relies on how (...) the calculation of utility is carried out. I argue that this conception of the social contract leads Spinoza to espouse a radical position about the political, which has been overlooked by those like Antonio Negri who read Spinoza as a radical democrat. (shrink)
Sophocles seems to have already reached in Antigone the same insight about the body politic which will again be expressed in the seventeenth century by Spinoza: namely, the political has as its condition of possibility the potential for being challenged from within. Sophocles’ play starts immediately after Thebes has successfully stoved off a challenge from an external enemy – from Argos, another city state. However, during the battle, Eteocles, the king, and his own brother, Polynices, who in fact was heading (...) the Argeans, both died. Thus afterwards Creon is elected ruler of Thebes. Creon’s first act of government is to decree that Polynices’ body is to remain unburied. If the new king thought that the worse was past him after the end of the battle, he was sorely mistaken. A challenge to his degree from one of the citizens and his own niece, Antigone, will not only lead to the decimation of his own family, but also to the new king being stranded alone at the end of the play, in charge of a self-incurred desert. Antigone, a stubborn teenage girl, is the cause of challenging the sovereign of Thebes and hence the city’s body politic. (shrink)
Through an analysis of Kafka's "Before the Law," Vardoulakis considers both various philosophical responses to Kafka's story and philosophical conceptions of the law. In particular, Vardoulakis suggests an affinity between Kafka and Spinoza's conceptions of the law.
J’ai découvert l’oeuvre de Jacques Derrida quand j’étais étudiant dans un département de philosophie analytique. L’un de mes professeurs – un spécialiste du positivisme – parlait d’un philosophe français comme du « plus grand logicien du vingtième siècle ». Ce philosophe français, c’était Derrida. -/- J’aimerais prendre au sérieux cette assertion, en la mettant à l’épreuve d’une rencontre entre la conception philosophique occidentale de la liberté et la logique derridienne. Rencontre que je propose de mettre en scène sous la forme (...) de deux instantanés. (shrink)
In Shame and Necessity, Bernard Williams recounts that colleagues often ask why he analyses literary texts – why can’t he use examples from “real life”? He responds that “it is a perfectly good question, and it has a short answer: what philosophers will lay before themselves and their readers as an alternative to literature will not be life, but bad literature.” This anecdote contains an argument that would be readily embraced by any proponent of “post-structuralism.” Namely, it suggests that no (...) theory can solely be based on reason. Any rational account needs an – acknowledged or repressed – fictional support. We do not rely on pure concepts but rather on conceptual fictions. (shrink)
Oliver Marchart constructs an elaborate ontologization of the political that builds on theories developed by the Essex School while relying on Heideggerianism and Hegelianism. This original thought is a powerful and convincing attempt to think the ontology of the political without lapsing into a celebration of essentialist grounding or complete groundlessness, which are equally metaphysical and mutually supporting positions. Tensions arise within Marchart’s own thought when the notion of instrumentality appears to be inscribed solely on the side of politics or (...) the ontic. I suggest that a theory of practical judgment that is inchoate in Marchart’s own position can resolve the tensions toward constructing a genuinely materialist ontology. (shrink)
Spinoza's political thought has been subject to a significant revival of interest in recent years. As a response to difficult times, students and scholars have returned to this founding figure of modern philosophy as a means to help reinterpret and rethink the political present. Spinoza's Authority Volume I: Resistance and Power in Ethics makes a significant contribution to this ongoing reception and utilization of Spinoza's political thought by focusing on his Ethics. By taking the concept of authority as an original (...) framework, this books asks: How is authority related to ethics, ontology, and epistemology? What are the social, historical and representational processes that produce authority and resistance? And what are the conditions of effective resistance? -/- Spinoza's Authority features a roster of internationally established theorists of Spinoza's work, and covers key elements of Spinoza's political philosophy, including: questions of authority, the resistance to authority, sovereign power, democratic control, and the role of Spinoza's "multitudes". (shrink)