Ever since Kant and Hegel, the notion of autonomy—the idea that we are beholden to no law except one we impose upon ourselves—has been considered the truest philosophical expression of human freedom. But could our commitment to autonomy, as Theodor Adorno asked, be related to the extreme evils that we have witnessed in modernity? In Autonomy after Auschwitz, Martin Shuster explores this difficult question with astonishing theoretical acumen, examining the precise ways autonomy can lead us down a path of evil (...) and how it might be prevented from doing so. Shuster uncovers dangers in the notion of autonomy as it was originally conceived by Kant. Putting Adorno into dialogue with a range of European philosophers, notably Kant, Hegel, Horkheimer, and Habermas—as well as with a variety of contemporary Anglo-American thinkers such as Richard Rorty, Stanley Cavell, John McDowell, and Robert Pippin—he illuminates Adorno’s important revisions to this fraught concept and how his different understanding of autonomous agency, fully articulated, might open up new and positive social and political possibilities. Altogether, Autonomy after Auschwitz is a meditation on modern evil and human agency, one that demonstrates the tremendous ethical stakes at the heart of philosophy. (shrink)
Even though it’s frequently asserted that we are living in a golden age of scripted television, television as a medium is still not taken seriously as an artistic art form, nor has the stigma of television as “chewing gum for the mind” really disappeared. -/- Philosopher Martin Shuster argues that television is the modern art form, full of promise and urgency, and in New Television, he offers a strong philosophical justification for its importance. Through careful analysis of shows including The (...) Wire, Justified, and Weeds, among others; and European and Anglophone philosophers, such as Stanley Cavell, Hannah Arendt, Martin Heidegger, and John Rawls; Shuster reveals how various contemporary television series engage deeply with aesthetic and philosophical issues in modernism and modernity. What unifies the aesthetic and philosophical ambitions of new television is a commitment to portraying and exploring the family as the last site of political possibility in a world otherwise bereft of any other sources of traditional authority; consequently, at the heart of new television are profound political stakes. (shrink)
Although the ethics of humor is a relatively new field, it already seems to have achieved a consensus about ethics in general. In this paper, I implicitly (1) question the view of ethics that stands behind many discussions in the ethics of humor; I do this by explicitly (2) focusing on what has been a chief preoccupation in the ethics of humor: the evaluation of humor. Does the immoral content of a joke make it more or less humorous? Specifically, I (...) analyze whether a sexist joke is more humorous because of its sexism. Contra recent trends in the ethics of humor, I answer this question affirmatively. To this end, the paper presents a detailed and novel reading of Bergson's philosophy of humor, which I argue connects most easily and significantly to the alternate view of ethics I have in mind. (shrink)
Those of us who are captivated by new television, often find ourselves rewatching episodes or whole series. Why? What is the philosophical significance of the phenomenon of rewatching? In what follows, I engage with the ontology of television series in order to think about these questions around rewatching. I conclude by reflecting on what the entire discussion might suggest about the medium of new television, about ourselves, and also about our world and the possibilities of art in it.
Many have been struck by Hannah Arendt’s remarks on loneliness in the concluding pages of The Origins of Totalitarianism, but very few have attempted to deal with the remarks in any systematic way. What is especially striking about this state of affairs is that the remarks are crucial to the account contained therein, as they betray a view of agency that undergirds the rest of the account. This article develops Arendt’s thinking on loneliness throughout her corpus, showing how loneliness is (...) connected to thoughtlessness. In so doing, the article also suggests a connection between Arendt’s notion of loneliness and Stanley Cavell’s notion of skepticism. This connection, it is argued, allows us not only fully to answer a question Arendt leaves unaddressed (the cause loneliness), but also allows us to see how we, as agents and users of language, are perpetually prone to loneliness. (shrink)
As the contemporary nation state order continues to produce genocide and destruction, and thereby refugees, and as the national and international landscape continues to see the existence of refugees as a political problem, Jean Améry’s 1966 essay “How Much Home Does a Person Need?” takes on a curious urgency. I say ‘curious’ because his own conclusions about the essay’s aims and accomplishments appear uncertain and oftentimes unclear. My aim in what follows, then, is twofold. First, I intend to make clear (...) the rich, suggestive, but perhaps underdeveloped phenomenological assumptions involved in this essay. Second, I want to show — but, unfortunately, only show —how these assumptions and Améry’s analysis points to a problem at the heart of contemporary conceptions of statehood, one which demands significantly more discussion. (shrink)
This chapter examines the traditional understanding of Horkheimer and Adorno's dialectic of enlightenment (exemplified by Jürgen Habermas and others), arguing that the traditional reading – with its stress on instrumental rationalization and a regressive or self‐destructive history – misses Horkheimer and Adorno's deepest aspirations, which are to offer an argument against a particular conceptualization of human agency (as apperceptive). Stressing instead, that Kant is the central interlocutor, the chapter shows how understanding this Kantian inheritance allows us to bring into focus (...) the radical nature of Horkheimer and Adorno's argument: that it is meant to bring into focus the problematic nature of conceiving human agency as dependent on apperception. In presenting this problem, the chapter shows how the ontogenetic origin of self‐consciousness becomes a crucial issue, and the thought of Sigmund Freud is marshaled both to make this clear and to show how Horkheimer and Adorno's account can benefit from making explicit its potential debt to Freud. (shrink)
This article presents Hannah Arendt's novel conception of evil, arguing that what animates and undergirds this conception is an understanding of human agency, of what it means to be a person at all. The banality of evil that Arendt theorizes is exactly the failure to become a person in the first place—it is, in short, the evil of being a nobody. For Arendt, this evil becomes extreme when a mass of such nobodies becomes organized by totalitarianism. This article focuses on (...) the connection between Arendt's understanding of personhood and her conception of evil, showing how Arendt falls into a Kantian tradition of prioritizing apperception— thinking—as central for human agency. In this way, the article shows that thinking—being a person—is central to Arendt's work, thereby prioritizing and making sense of her claim in _The Human Condition_ that one is never “more active” than when thinking. (shrink)
In this article, I examine Cavell's understanding and deployment of the catego-ries of 'evil' and the 'monstrous' in The Claim of Reason. Arguing that these notions can-not be understood apart from Cavell's reliance on the notion of an 'internal relation,' I trace this notion to its Wittgensteinian roots. Ultimately, I show that Cavell's view of evil allows us to navigate between two horns of a classic dilemma in thinking about evil: it al-lows us to see evil as neither a privation (...) nor as a positive force with supra-human po-tency. (shrink)
This article explores the psychoanalytic points of commonality between stand‐up comedy shows and fascist rallies, arguing that both are concerned with the creation of a “mass” audience. The article explores the political significance of this analogy by arguing that while stand‐up shows are not as regressive as fascist rallies, their “mass” character does run counter to any political aspirations they may have toward the end of critical consciousness raising.
I argue that Theodor W. Adorno is best understood as a moral perfectionist thinker in the stripe of Stanley Cavell. This is signiﬁcant because Adorno’s moral philosophy has not received serious interest from moral philosophers, and much of this has to do with difﬁculties in situating his thought. I argue that once Adorno is situated in this way, then, like Cavell, he offers an interesting moral perspective that will be of value to a variety of moral theorists. My argument proceeds (...) in two broad steps: ﬁrst, I show that Cavell and Adorno share a distinct epistemological orientation, one that centers around the impossibility of knowledge in certain situations, and trades on a Kantian and post-Kantian picture. Second, I show that their moral perfectionism fundamentally rests on such epistemology. (shrink)
Cet article examine le(s) lien(s) entre le racisme antinoir et l’antisémitisme en se référant à quatre traditions distinctes : les psychanalyses de Fanon et de Freud, l’École de Francfort, les travaux de Cedric Robinson et la tradition du contrat social dans la philosophie politique des débuts de l’époque moderne. Sa thèse principale est que le racisme antinoir et l’antisémitisme sont intimement liés par la logique et le fonctionnement – la phénoménologie – de l’État dans la tradition occidentale du contrat social. (...) En montrant comment cela se fait, nous pouvons répondre à des questions qui, sinon, restent en suspens dans les autres traditions mentionnées ci-dessus. En résumé, cet article montre comment le racisme antinoir émerge avec force de la logique de l’État dans la tradition du contrat social, tandis que l’antisémitisme se développe comme une négation déformée de cette logique. (shrink)
Cet essai se penche sur l’apparition récente des années 1980 comme cadre d’une grande partie des séries de la « nouvelle télévision ». Je soutiens que cette référence vise à exploiter et à présenter les années 1980 comme une sorte de milieu mythologique pour notre présente compréhension de soi. Comprendre ce point sur les années 1980 et la mythologie nous permet de situer certaines idées ontologiques et philosophiques concernant la nouvelle télévision. Dans ce qui suit, je développe cette approche sur (...) deux fronts : d’abord, avec une discussion plus générale des spécificités philosophiques du média que constitue la nouvelle télévision, et, ensuite avec un examen plus spécifique de la série Black Monday (Showtime, 2019-). (shrink)
This book presents critical engagements with the work of Hent de Vries, widely regarded as one of the most important living philosophers of religion. Contributions by a distinguished group of scholars discuss the role played by religion in philosophy; the emergence and possibilities of the category of religion; and the relation between religion and violence, secularism, and sovereignty. Together, they provide a synoptic view of how de Vries's work has prompted a reconceptualization of how religion should be studied, especially in (...) relation to theology, politics, and new media. The volume will be of particular interest to scholars of religious studies, theology, and philosophy. (shrink)
This book is concerned with the connection between the formal structure of agency and the formal structure of genocide. The contributors employ philosophical approaches to explore the idea of genocidal violence as a structural element in the world. Do mechanisms or structures in nation-states produce types of national citizens that are more susceptible to genocidal projects? There are powerful arguments within philosophy that in order to be the subjects of our own lives, we must constitute ourselves specifically as national subjects (...) and organize ourselves into nation states. Additionally, there are other genocidal structures of human society that spill beyond historically limited episodes. The chapters in this volume address the significance--moral, ethical, political--of the fact that our very form of agency suggests or requires these structures. The contributors touch on topics including birthright citizenship, contemporary mass incarceration, anti-black racism, and late capitalism. Logics of Genocide will be of interest to scholars and advanced students working in philosophy, critical theory, genocide studies, Holocaust and Jewish studies, history, and anthropology. (shrink)
What does it mean to wonder in awe or terror about the world? How do you philosophically understand Judaism? In How to Measure a World?: A Philosophy of Judaism, Martin Shuster provides answers to these questions and more. Emmanuel Levinas suggested that Judaism is best understood as an anachronism. Shuster attempts to make sense of this claim by alternatively considering questions of the inscrutability of ultimate reality, of the pain and commonness of human suffering, and of the ways in which (...) Judaism is entangled with the world. Drawing on phenomenology and Jewish thought, Shuster offers novel readings of some of the classic figures of Jewish philosophy while inserting other voices into the tradition, from Moses Maimonides to Theodor W. Adorno to Walter Benjamin to Stanley Cavell. How to Measure a World? examines elements of the Jewish philosophical record to get at the full intellectual scope and range of Levinas's proposal. Shuster's view of anachronism thereby provokes an assessment of the world and our place in it. A particular understanding of Jewish philosophy emerges, not only through the traditions it encompasses, but also through an understanding of the relationship between humans and their world. In the end, Levinas's suggestion is examined theoretically as much as practically, revealing what's at stake for Judaism as much as for the world. (shrink)
Although short, Espen Dahl has written a book that truly delivers on its title: it clearly, concisely, and powerfully shows Cavell’s frequent and deep links to and engagements with religion and religious themes and with Continental philosophy. While both of these strands have been explored piecemeal by scholars, Dahl’s innovation consists in the detail with which he can engage these themes and the position he is able to carve out. That position is one that sees Cavell’s thought “as essentially open (...) to theology or religion more generally” . Dahl is the first—as far I know—to extensively pursue all of Cavell’s major themes in this context. This is quite an accomplishment, and something for which he ought to be commended. Dahl has also written a highly accessible book on Cavell, and yet one which in no way “waters down” or dilutes Cavell’s thinking. There ought to be more books of this kind on .. (shrink)
This article elaborates Theodor W. Adorno’s understanding of ‘negation’ and ‘negative theology.’ It proceeds by introducing a typology of negation within modern philosophy roughly from Descartes onwards, showing how Adorno both fits and also stands out in this typology. Ultimately, it is argued that Adorno’s approach to negation and thereby to negative theology is throughout distinguished and infused by an ethical commitment.
Owen Hulatt has written an exceptional book. As truth takes a beating at the hands of late capitalism, Theodor W. Adorno's assessment of the modern world and of truth becomes intimately relevant. There is a lot to recommend in this book, and it is a bold contribution to understanding Adorno.Following Adorno, Hulatt suggests that there is a connection between epistemology and aesthetics, that the objects of both admit of being true. As he puts it, "art is itself a kind of (...) knowledge". Hulatt's strategy is to begin with epistemology and focus on the emergence of conceptuality. Following Adorno and Max Horkheimer's account in Dialectic of Enlightenment, Hulatt develops a novel reading of that... (shrink)
In this article, I have a modest goal: to sketch how Kant can avoid the charge of “subjective idealism” advanced against him by John McDowell and to do so with reference to Kant's last work, the so-called Opus Postumum. I am interested in defending Kant on this point because doing so not only shows how we need not—at least not because of this point about idealism—jump ship from Kant to Hegel , but also suggests that the Opus Postumum is a (...) text that ought to be explored more by Kantians and those interested in Kant. A subsidiary, implicit point is that we need not shy away from McDowell's reading of Kant in order to oppose McDowell's criticism of Kant. In order to defend against McDowell's charge, I focus on the argument of the Refutation of Idealism, showing how this argument evolves in Kant's later works, especially the Opus Postumum. (shrink)
This is a response to Seyla Benhabib’s Exile, Stateless, and Migration. I focus on Benhabib’s engagement with Arendt and her assessment of stateless persons in addition to what such a discussion suggests for the scope of our historical inquiry.