The Universe of Things: On Speculative Realism

Steven Shaviro - 2014
    Now Steven Shaviro maps this quickly emerging speculative realism, which is already dramatically influencing how we interpret reality and our place in a universe in which humans are not the measure of all things.The Universe of Things explores the common insistence of speculative realism on a noncorrelationist thought: that things or objects exist apart from how our own human minds relate to and comprehend them. Shaviro focuses on how Whitehead both anticipates and offers challenges to prevailing speculative realist thought, moving between Whitehead’s own panpsychism, Harman’s object-oriented ontology, and the reductionist eliminativism of Quentin Meillassoux and Ray Brassier.The stakes of this recent speculative realist thought—of the effort to develop new ways of grasping the world—are enormous as it becomes clear that our inherited assumptions are no longer adequate to describe, much less understand, the reality we experience around us. As Shaviro acknowledges, speculative realist thought has its dangers, but it also, like the best speculative fiction, holds the potential to liberate us from confining views of what is outside ourselves and, he believes, to reclaim aesthetics and beauty as a principle of life itself.Bringing together a wide array of contemporary thought, and evenhandedly assessing its current debates, The Universe of Things is an invaluable guide to the evolution of speculative realism and the provocation of Alfred North Whitehead’s pathbreaking work.

Monadology and Other Philosophical Essays

Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz - 1714
    Written toward the end of his life in order to support a metaphysics of simple substances, it's thus about formal atoms which aren't physical but metaphysical. The Monadology is written in 90 logical paragraphs, each generally following from the previous. Its name is due to the fact that Leibniz, imitating Marsilio Ficino, Giordano Bruno & Viscountess Anne Conway, wanted to keep together the meanings of monas (Greek, unity) & logos (treatise/science/word/reason). Therefore, the Monadology came to be the science of the unity. The text is dialectically reasoned, facing questions & problems helping readers to advance. For instance, it can be accepted that composed bodies are something derived, extended, phenomenal or repeated according to simple substances (later expressed by Kant's phenomena-noumena dichotomy). Is the soul a monad? If affirmative, then the soul is a simple substance. If it's an aggregate of matter, then it cannot be a monad. Leibniz, 1st using the term in 1696, ties almost all ancient & early modern meanings of "monad" together in his metaphysical hypothesis of infinitely many simple substances. Monads are everywhere in matter & are either noticeably active (awake), when they form the central or governing monad, which is the center of activity & of perception within an organism, or they are only weakly active (asleep), when they belong to the countless subordinate monads w/in or outside of an organic body. Monads are the sources of any spontaneous action unexplainable in mechanical terms. They constitute the unity of any individual. All monads are living mirrors representing the whole universe, because of the lack of any vacuum they have an irrecognizably obscure recognition of every body in the world; & they appetite, which means they strive from one perception to the next. Nevertheless all monads differ in the degree of clarity & distinction with which they perceive the surrounding world according to the organic body in which they're incorporated. The most fundamental level in the hierarchy of monads are the entelechies, which are genuine centers of a non-physical force, namely a spontaneous activity in organisms. If these centers are capable of sentiment & memory, as in animals, they're called souls. The highest level of monads are souls endowed with reason, or spirits, reflectively self-conscious. Leibniz characterizes monads as metaphysical points, animate points or metaphysical atoms. In contrast to those physical atoms postulated by classic atomism they aren't extended & thus aren't bodies. As he explains in letters to Burchard de Volder & Bartholomew des Bosses, this doesn't imply that monads are immaterial. They rather consist of two inseparable principles constituting together a complete substance or monad: the innermost center of a monad, i.e. the mathematical point, where the entelechy, soul or spirit is located, is the monad's inner form. This form has no existence in itself, but is incarnated in a physical point or an infinitesimally small sphere, the "vehicle of the soul". This hull consists of a special matter, called primary matter (materia prima-matière primitive). The problem that monads are supposed to have some kind of matter on the one hand, but to have neither any parts nor extension on the other, may be explained by the dynamic nature of primary matter. Leibniz conceives primary matter in contrast to the 2nd matter (materia secunda), i.e. extended & purely phenomenal bodies. Primary matter is a very fine, fluid & elastic matter, which he identifies in his early "Hypothesis physica nova" (1671) with aether, spiritus or matter of light, flowing anywhere thru every body. Strictly taken, this primary matter or matter of light doesn't consist in "extension, but in the desire to extension": "The nature of light strives to extend itself". The animate centre of a monad cannot exist w/out the encasing coating fluid of light, because 1stly monads w/out this passive principle couldn't perceive any impressions from the exterior world, & because 2ndly they'd have no limitation of power. "It follows that God can never strip any created substance bare of its primary matter, even tho by his absolute power he can take off her 2ndary matter; otherwise he would make it become pure activity, which can only be himself." Only God is free from any matter, he's the creating 1st monad, out of which all created monads derive by continuous effulgurations. The punch-line of the monad or metaphysical point is its dynamical unity of the mathematical centre & the encasing physical point: The fluid ethereal sphere of the monad is extended, has parts & can be destroyed, but in every deformation or division of the sphere the mathematical point in which the soul is incarnated shall outlive within the smallest remaining fluid. Indestructible therefore isn't the whole sphere consisting in matter of light, but only the dynamic point within the monad. Leibniz understands monads as the intellectual answer to the mind-body problem, radically exposed by Descartes. Because he conceives soul (not the monad) as an immaterial centre, he denies any direct interaction or physical influence (influxus physicus) between body & soul. He allocates the causal connection between both w/in the monad, because its fluid ethereal matter is the substantial bond (vinculum substantiale) between body & mind. The circulation of the aether or matter of light thru visible worldly bodies is the preestablished divine artifice, which constitutes the exact correspondence & harmony between the perceptions of the soul & the bodies' movements. Preestablished harmony doesn't only govern the relation between body & soul, but also between monads. According to Leibniz’ slogan, monads have "no windows" or portals, thru which something could enter from the outside or could escape from the inside since the monad's center in which the soul is incarnated is always encased by its own primary matter. Despite that, the monad represents in a spontaneous act the surrounding world with an individual perspective, constituted by its punctual structure of centre, radius & circumference. The Monadology tried to put an end from a monist point of view to the main question of what is reality & particularly to the problem of communication of substances, both studied by Descartes. Leibniz offered a new solution to mind/matter interaction by means of a preestablished harmony expressed as the Best of all possible worlds form of optimism; in other words, he drew the relationship between “the kingdom of final causes”, or teleological ones, & “the kingdom of efficient causes”, or mechanical ones, which wasn't causal, but synchronous. Monads & matter are only apparently linked. There isn't even any communication between different monads, as far as they act according to their degree of distinction only, as they were influenced by bodies & vice versa. Leibniz fought against Cartesian dualism in his Monadology & tried to surpass it thru a metaphysical system considered at the same time monist (since only the unextended is substantial) & pluralist (as substances are disseminated in the world in infinite number). For that reason the monad is an irreducible force, which makes it possible for the bodies to have the characteristics of inertia & impenetrability, & which contains in itself the source of all its actions. Monads are the 1st elements of every composed thing.

Mind and World

John Henry McDowell - 1994
    In Mind and World, based on the 1991 John Locke Lectures, one of the most distinguished philosophers writing today offers his diagnosis of this difficulty and points to a cure. In doing so, he delivers the most complete and ambitious statement to date of his own views, a statement that no one concerned with the future of philosophy can afford to ignore.John McDowell amply illustrates a major problem of modern philosophy--the insidious persistence of dualism--in his discussion of empirical thought. Much as we would like to conceive empirical thought as rationally grounded in experience, pitfalls await anyone who tries to articulate this position, and McDowell exposes these traps by exploiting the work of contemporary philosophers from Wilfrid Sellars to Donald Davidson. These difficulties, he contends, reflect an understandable--but surmountable--failure to see how we might integrate what Sellars calls the logical space of reasons" into the natural world. What underlies this impasse is a conception of nature that has certain attractions for the modern age, a conception that McDowell proposes to put aside, thus circumventing these philosophical difficulties. By returning to a pre-modern conception of nature but retaining the intellectual advance of modernity that has mistakenly been viewed as dislodging it, he makes room for a fully satisfying conception of experience as a rational openness to independent reality. This approach also overcomes other obstacles that impede a generally satisfying understanding of how we are placed in the world.

Ethics Without Ontology

Hilary Putnam - 2004
    Looking at the efforts of philosophers from the Enlightenment through the twentieth century, Putnam traces the ways in which ethical problems arise in a historical context. Hilary Putnam's central concern is ontology--indeed, the very idea of ontology as the division of philosophy concerned with what (ultimately) exists. Reviewing what he deems the disastrous consequences of ontology's influence on analytic philosophy--in particular, the contortions it imposes upon debates about the objective of ethical judgments--Putnam proposes abandoning the very idea of ontology. He argues persuasively that the attempt to provide an ontological explanation of the objectivity of either mathematics or ethics is, in fact, an attempt to provide justifications that are extraneous to mathematics and ethics--and is thus deeply misguided.

Four Views on Free Will (Great Debates in Philosophy)

John Martin Fischer - 2007
     Four serious and well-known philosophers explore the opposing viewpoints of libertarianism, compatibilism, hard incompatibilism, and revisionism The first half of the book contains each philosopher's explanation of his particular view; the second half allows them to directly respond to each other's arguments, in a lively and engaging conversation Offers the reader a one of a kind, interactive discussion Forms part of the acclaimed Great Debates in Philosophy series


Gilles Deleuze - 1966
    In Bergsonism, Deleuze demonstrates both the development and the range of three fundamental Bergsonian concepts: duration, memory, and the élan vital.A perfect companion book to Bergson’s Matter and Memory, Bergsonism is also of particular interest to students of Deleuze’s own work, influenced as it is by Bergson. Given his texts on Nietzsche, Kafka, and cinema, this book by Deleuze is essential to his English-reading audience. The paperback contains a new afterword prepared by the author especially for this English-language edition.

Kant and the Critique of Pure Reason

Sebastian Gardner - 1998
    The book introduces and assesses:* Kant's life and background of the Critique of Pure Reason* the ideas and text of the Critique of Pure Reason* the continuing relevance of Kant's work to contemporary philosophy.Ideal for anyone coming to Kant's thought for the first time. This guide will be vital reading for all students of Kant in philosophy.

The Indivisible Remainder: On Schelling and Related Matters

Slavoj Žižek - 1996
    Schelling’s Weltalter drafts belong to this same series, with their repeated attempt at the formulation of the ‘beginning of the world,’ of the passage from the pre-symbolic pulsation of the Real to the universe of logos.F.W.J. Schelling, the German idealist who for too long dwelled in the shadow of Kant and Hegel, was the first to formulate the post-idealist motifs of finitude, contingency and temporality. His unique work announces Marx’s critique of speculative idealism, as well as the properly Freudian notion of drive, of a blind compulsion to repeat which can never be sublated in the ideal medium of language.The Indivisible Remainder begins with a detailed examination of the two works in which Schelling’s speculative audacity reached its peak: his essay on human freedom and his drafts on the “Ages of the World.” After reconstituting their line of argumentation, Slavoj Žižek confronts Schelling with Hegel, and concludes by throwing a Schellingian light on some “related matters”: the consequences of the computerization of daily life for sexual experience; cynicism as today’s predominant form of ideology; the epistemological deadlocks of quantum physics.Although the book is packed with examples from politics and popular culture — the unmistakable token of Žižek’s style — from Speed and Groundhog Day to Forrest Gump, it signals a major shift towards a systematic concern with the basic questions of philosophy and the roots of the crisis of our late-capitalist universe, centred around the enigma of modern subjectivity.

Kant's Transcendental Idealism: An Interpretation and Defense

Henry E. Allison - 1983
    It includes a new discussion of the Third Analogy, a greatly expanded discussion of Kant’s Paralogisms, and entirely new chapters dealing with Kant’s theory of reason, his treatment of theology, and the important Appendix to the Dialectic.Praise for the earlier edition:“Probably the most comprehensive and substantial study of the Critique of Pure Reason written by any American philosopher.... This is a splendid book.” —Lewis White Beck“This masterful study ... will most certainly join the canon of required reading for future interpreters of Kant’s theoretical philosophy. Superbly organized and lucidly written.” —Garrett Green, Journal of Religion

History of the Concept of Time: Prolegomena

Martin Heidegger - 1925
    an excellent translation of an extremely important book." — The Modern SchoolmanThis early version of Being and Time (1927) offers a unique glimpse into the motivations that prompted the writing of this great philosopher's master work and the presuppositions that gave shape to it. Theodore Kisiel's outstanding translation permits English readers to appreciate the central importance of this text for the development of Heidegger's thought.

The Speculative Turn: Continental Materialism and Realism

Levi BryantQuentin Meillassoux - 2010
    The long deconstructionist era was followed with a period dominated by Deleuze, which has in turn evolved into a new situation still difficult to define. However, one common thread running through the new brand of continental positions is a renewed attention to materialist and realist options in philosophy. Among the leaders of the established generation, this new focus takes numerous forms. It might be hard to find many shared positions in the writings of Badiou, DeLanda, Laruelle, Latour, Stengers, and i ek, but what is missing from their positions is an obsession with the critique of written texts. All of them elaborate a positive ontology, despite the incompatibility of their results. Meanwhile, the new generation of continental thinkers is pushing these trends still further, as seen in currents ranging from transcendental materialism to the London-based speculative realism movement to new revivals of Derrida. As indicated by the title The Speculative Turn, the new currents of continental philosophy depart from the text-centered hermeneutic models of the past and engage in daring speculations about the nature of reality itself. This anthology assembles authors, of several generations and numerous nationalities, who will be at the centre of debate in continental philosophy for decades to come.

Contemporary Philosophy of Social Science

Brian Fay - 1991
    Distinct, engaging and timely 'multicultural' approach Clear, non-technical overview of the nature of social inquiry First volume of outstanding new Contemporary Philosophy series

Towards Speculative Realism: Essays and Lectures

Graham Harman - 2010
    In 1997, Graham Harman was an obscure graduate student covering Chicago sporting events for a California website. Unpublished in philosophy at the time, he was already a popular conference speaker on Heidegger and related themes. Little more than a decade later, as the author of stimulating and highly visible books on continental philosophy, he was Associate Vice Provost for Research at the American University in Cairo, and a key member of the Speculative Realist movement along with Ray Brassier, Iain Hamilton Grant, and Quentin Meillassoux. This fascinating collection of eleven essays and lectures from 1997-2009, anchored by Harman's rebellious transformation of Heideggerian philosophy, show the evolution of his object-oriented metaphysics from its early days into an increasingly developed philosophical position. Each chapter is preceded by Harman's delightful and witty scene-setting commentary.

Truth: A Guide

Simon Blackburn - 1999
    Now Blackburn offers a tour de force exploration of what he calls "the most exciting and engaging issue in the whole of philosophy"--the age-old war over truth. The front lines of this war are well defined. On one side are those who believe in plain, unvarnished facts, rock-solid truths that can be found through reason and objectivity--that science leads to truth, for instance. Their opponents mock this idea. They see the dark forces of language, culture, power, gender, class, ideology and desire--all subverting our perceptions of the world, and clouding our judgement with false notions of absolute truth. Beginning with an early skirmish in the war--when Socrates confronted the sophists in ancient Athens--Blackburn offers a penetrating look at the longstanding battle these two groups have waged, examining the philosophical battles fought by Plato, Protagoras, William James, David Hume, Hans-Georg Gadamer, Jacques Derrida, Michel Foucault, Richard Rorty, and many others, with a particularly fascinating look at Nietzsche. Among the questions Blackburn considers are: is science mere opinion, can historians understand another historical period, and indeed can one culture ever truly understand another. Blackburn concludes that both sides have merit, and that neither has exclusive ownership of truth. What is important is that, whichever side we embrace, we should know where we stand and what is to be said for our opponents.

The Art of Life

Zygmunt Bauman - 2008
    In this society we are all expected, rightly or wrongly, to give our lives purpose and form by using our own skills and resources, even if we lack the tools and materials with which artists' studios need to be equipped for the artist's work to be conceived and executed. And we are praised or censured for the results - for what we have managed or failed to accomplish and for what we have achieved and lost. In our liquid modern society we are also taught to believe that the purpose of the art of life should be and can be happiness - though it's not clear what happiness is, the images of a happy state keep changing and the state of happiness remains most of the time something yet-to-be-reached. This new book by Zygmunt Bauman - one of the most original and influential social thinkers writing today - is not a book of designs for the art of life nor a 'how to' book: the construction of a design for life and the way it is pursued is and cannot but be an individual responsibility and individual accomplishment. It is instead a brilliant account of conditions under which our designs-for-life are chosen, of the constraints that might be imposed on their choice and of the interplay of design, accident and character that shape their implementation. Last but not least, it is a study of the ways in which our society - the liquid modern, individualized society of consumers - influences (but does not determine) the way we construct and narrate our life trajectories.