The Centre for the Study of Theory and Criticism's 'Compostmodernism' Course (THC 9596) will be taking the first ever CSTC class trip next month: they have been invited to participate in the 'New French Thought' conference at Villanova University, where they will be discussing the work of Gilbert Simondon, Bernard Stiegler, Michel Serres, Gilles Deleuze, Alain Badiou, and other thinkers explored in THC 9596, with (amongst others) Stiegler himself! For more information, see the conference program web-page at http://www.villanova.edu/artsci/philosophy/conference/program.htm
9596 - Compostmodernism: An Archaeology of Contemporary Theory - It was Heidegger who reintroduced into philosophical discourse the question of ontology (what are beings?), this in the time and place -- the spacetime -- of modernism and its attempt to shore philosophical fragments (fragments of philo-sophos, of loving wisdom) against the ruins of a now-collapsed wor[l]dview. In the aftermath of modernism, postmodernity, even the border between the fixed and fluid (shore and sea) collapsed, and epistemology became a matter of standing upon (epi-histasthai) an ever-shifting substratum. This ever-shifting substratum, this muddy soil, has since the dawn-and-dusk of modernism remained the new ontos, the new chthonos, the new ‘ground’ of earthly existence; or rather the not-so-new ontos/chthonos, since it takes on the characteristics of ‘presocratic’ phusis: the ‘physics’ of the ‘presocratics’ to whom (like Nietzsche before him and like so many modernist thinkers) Heidegger turned for insight and inspiration -- insight and inspiration beyond the bounds of the western philosophical tradition (which Derrida described as logocentrism) from Plato to Hegel.
This chthonic/ontogenetic flux represents a fundamental shift in current thinking, described by Simondon as the shift from an ontology of individuality (individual things, individual entities) to an ontology of individuation (becoming this and becoming that). It represents a shift from modernism/postmodernism to what I call a ‘compostmodernism’, highlighting the remarkable potential of and in decayed, disintegrated matter (the al kemi -- the black and fertile earth -- of any garden, from that of Stetson in The Waste Land to that of Adam back in Eden). The seed must decompose within composted earth if it is to bear fruit (bear future forms), after all ...
Post-postmodern ‘compostmodernism’ is a return, in many senses, to the ontos of the presocratics and its presocratic logos (which, in relation to the logos of philosophy from Plato onward, might best be called a pre- or proto-logos, or -- following Pythagoras, Hippasus, and finally Heraclitus -- the logos alogos: the word unheard, the logic of the [ab]surd ). Pythagoras, who coined the word[s] ‘philosophy’ and ‘philosopher’, articulated the logos alogos as the Tetractys of 1+2+3+4 (10): the generative seed of mathematics -- and, as such, of every science (“pagan aenaou phuseôs rhizôma t’ekhousan”: fount and root of ever-flowing nature). The secrets of this generative seed were sacred to Pythagorean philosophers -- its word (its logos) was to remain unheard (alogos), thus the Greek Tetractys was as wordless (devoid of logos, or davar in Hebrew) as the first ten chapters of the Hebrew Genesis (Genesis 1-10). The Tetractys of the Greeks, their generative rhizôma, was thus akin to the Tetragrammaton of the Hebrews: the sacred, unspeakable name (unnamable name) of Genesis. These were unnamable, unspeakable, because they were not (strictly speaking) ‘identities’, ‘individualities’, individual/identifiable ‘entities’, but rather principles of individuation, of individual generation (i.e. generative/ontogenic principles).
This course will examine the ‘new’ and/or ‘not-so-new’ ontology of compostmodernism, always with an eye to its presocratic precursors (be it from Pythagoras, from the Pentateuch, from Hippasus, Heraclitus, what-have-you). This includes an examination of the ‘mathematical ontology’ recently introduced by Alain Badiou (our first Badiou reading: ‘Philosophy, Science, Mathematics’, published in 2006), the ‘rhizomatics’ of Gilles Deleuze (our first Deleuze reading being an early -- root -- publication of his from 1946: ‘Mathesis, Science, and Philosophy’), the ‘hermetics’ of Michel Serres (our first Serres reading taken from Hermes: Literature, Science, Philosophy, published in 1982), readings from Ilya Prigogine and Isabelle Stengers’s Order Out of Chaos: Man’s New Dialogue with Nature (published in 1984), Gilbert Simondon’s On the Mode of Existence (the E.N. Mellamphy translation, 1980), Martin Heidegger’s Gelassenheit (1959), etc.
Exemplification materials will be drawn from the work of John Wilkins, Charles de Brosses, Heinrich von Kleist, Ernst Chladni, Alexander Melville Bell, Gerard Manley Hopkins, Hans Jenny, Christian Bök, and others (with thanks to the McCaffery and Razula anthology, Imagining Language 2001). Reference will also be made to Victoria Nelson’s study, The Secret Life of Puppets (2001) and Bill Newman’s later study, Promethean Ambitions (2004), with an eye to the rather Promethean undertones of compostmodernism. By the end of the course, we shall all be rather Frankensteinian (speaking of the compostmodern Prometheus): that is, we shall be more ‘aware of’ and very much ‘awake to’ our status as ontogenetic automata/neurospasta and to the remarkable prescience (as well as presocratic resonance) of Heinrich Kleist’s little treatise ‘On the Marionette Theatre’ -- which I would call, following Alberto Toscano, ‘The Theatre of [our] Production’.
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