I argue that Kierkegaard’s Journals and Notebooks deserve to be read as works of philosophy and not just used as supplements to bring order and respectability to Kierkegaard’s other writings. There are at least three specific philosophical values in Kierkegaard’s journals – three ways in which the journals create philosophy within their own pages and therefore deserve to be read as independent works of philosophy and not just as supplements to Kierkegaard’s other writing: The journals demonstrate what a true work (...) of existential philosophy looks like. The journals contribute to Kierkegaard’s theory of indirect communication. The journals create new philosophical concepts. All three of these are best understood as philosophical performances or a kind of philosophical theatre. The idea that philosophy can be a kind of theatre is inspired by the work of Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari, particularly their book What is Philosophy? I draw from Deleuze and Guattari especially in section to argue that Kierkegaard’s Journals create new philosophical concepts. (shrink)
In Thus Spoke Zarathustra Nietzsche explores the nature of teaching and learning and concludes that a teacher can do more harm than good in a student's life if she allows her students to become her ‘disciples’. A disciple assigns too much authority to a teacher and thus loses the ability to think independently; this is what Zarathustra means when he warns his students, ‘Beware that you are not killed by a statue!’ In this article I argue that Zarathustra's solution to (...) this problem is to undermine his own authority by performing several different variations of the Liar's Paradox in parts 2 and 3 of Thus Spoke Zarathustra. (shrink)
In this dissertation I outline a theory of non-cognitive ethics--a theory of how ethics is possible in response to feeling rather than to concepts--that is drawn from the ethical philosophy of Emmanuel Levinas and the aesthetic thought of Immanuel Kant. In general I argue that in the work of Levinas we can find a description of non-cognitive ethics in which community and subjectivity are still meaningful, and that Kant's third Critique can contribute to this project by providing some of the (...) transcendental conditions for such an ethics. ;I begin with a discussion of the general nature of Levinas's ethical project, and the three principal axes of that thought: the singular Other before whom we are obligated, the community of others to which we also belong, and the nature of the subject that must respond to both. Next, I focus on the contribution that Kant's third Critique can make to a Levinasian theory of non-cognitive ethics. After arguing that this contribution is rooted in a general affiliation between Kant's approach to aesthetics and Levinas's approach to ethics, I address three particular connections between Levinasian ethics and the third Critique. These connections involve the sublime and the fact of obligation, the beautiful and non-purposive communities, and finally orientation and ethical subjectivity. (shrink)
I argue for an approach to Philosophical Fragments that allows it to be philosophical and fragmentary, and that pays particular attention to the fragments, or crumbs, that seem least important. One such overlooked crumb is the theory of merely human education in the book—education that does not enlist God as the teacher, where humans simply try to teach and learn from each other. I argue that Philosophical Fragments defends this theory of education with several reductio ad absurdum proofs that are (...) especially useful because they clarify why merely human education so often fails. Finally I apply the theory of merely human education in Philosophical Fragments to Kierkegaard’s authorship as a whole and argue that it gives us a paradigm for understanding all of Kierkegaard’s texts that is more fundamental than the distinction between direct and indirect communication. (shrink)
This essay argues that, in the first Critique, the need for unity leads Kant to re-inscribe the subject in a situation of multiplicity and undecidability. The result, however, is not a relativization that negates the meaning of the subject’s existence, but rather a contextualization that makes meaning possible. This reading clarifies some of the connections between Kant and contemporary postmodernism, especially the work of Jacques Derrida.
This essay presents an argument for reconceptualizing subjectivity as orientational rather than foundational in nature. My focus is on the work of Emmanuel Levinas and Immanuel Kant. I begin by summarizing Levinas''s theory of ethical subjectivity as a theory of the self where the internal and the external are in constant play. Then I turn to two works of Kant for resources to understand better the meaning of Levinas''s theory of the self. In "What is Orientation in Thinking?" Kant presents (...) a model for orientation in thought that I make use of as a basic framework for a model of orientational subjectivity. Then I analyze two feelings described by Kant in the third Critique which I argue can be understood as orientational feelings within such a model of orientational subjectivity: the feeling of sensus communis and the feeling of vocation. (shrink)
In an interview with Philippe Nemo, Emmanuel Levinas makes a very revealing comment about what he was trying to accomplish in his ethical philosophy. In response to a question about the ‘starting-point’ of his ethics, Levinas protests: ‘My task does not consist in constructing ethics; I only try to find its meaning … One can without doubt construct an ethics in function of what I have just said [in describing his philosophy up to this point in the interview], but this (...) is not my own theme’. (shrink)
Descartes’s work as a philosopher was inspired by three dreams he had on November 10, 1619, and yet the philosophy that Descartes produced in response to this inspiration included an argument that all dreams are deceptive. This particular incongruity is indicative of a more general ambivalence and anxiety in Descartes’s thought concerning images, which creates a tension that is never fully resolved. In this essay I focus primarily on one side of that tension: the part of Descartes’s philosophy that is (...) distrustful of images. To do this I first reconstruct Descartes’s theory of images, drawing from several of his lesser-known writings on optics, and then I consider how that theory of images leads Descartes to conceptualize true vision as a matter of “insight” rather than “eyesight” and to argue that the blind actually see better than those with working eyes. In the final part of the essay I briefly consider some of the consequences of Descartes’s theory of vision and the suspicion of images that animates it. (shrink)