Tag: truth

Ethics – Badiou (2001)

Ethics: An Essay on the Understanding of EvilEthics: An Essay on the Understanding of Evil by Alain Badiou

Alain Badiou, Ethics: An Essay on the Understanding of Evil. Trans. and intro. Peter Hallward. London: Verso.

I will say from the outset that I found this book opaque in its argumentation and fundamentally alien to my own philosophical stance. Thus I am happy to stand corrected on any of the points I make here. From my perspective at least, Alain Badiou comes across as an old-fashioned existentialist with a few postmodern trimmings around the edges. His other work enlisting esoteric mathematical and set theory in the discussion of philosophical problems does nothing to alter this impression.

I’ll begin by making a few points of comparison with another thinker with whom I’m more familiar, namely Foucault. Foucault is interested in how truth emerges in and through quite specific historical experiences and the historical complexities of the interaction of truth with power relations, whereas Badiou seems more interested in proposing a number of abstract and eternal ontological principles. Even if the latter are only able to manifest in history and in specific instances and through embodied subjectivities, they effectively transcend time and culture and are universal. As Badiou remarks: ‘I think there are truth-procedures everywhere and they are universal; that a Chinese novel, Arabic algebra, Iranian music … that all this is, in the end universal by right’ (pp.140-1).

Badiou mentions Foucault in his book to applaud his rejection of humanism in the 1960s. He notes that this didn’t mean that Foucault and other anti-humanists of the 1960s were amoral nihilists as they took an activist stance in favour of the oppressed. He doesn’t mention, however, the reasoning Foucault used to support his anti-humanist position. This was precisely that ‘humanism’ provided a very limited and abstract definition of what it was to be human, with the end result that large numbers of people were actually excluded from the ranks of the human. In short, humanism was not inclusive or ethical enough.

Badiou makes the assertion that if the human animal is certainly mortal, humans can transcend that limited animal condition and achieve a immortality through accessing the truth. This ‘immortality’ is guaranteed by the fact that the truths being accessed are eternal and exist across time – even if they still need to be historically embodied or brought into history in order to exist. So individual humans remain mortal, but the truth they bring into history transcends time and culture and makes them (metaphorically) immortal in general and in theory. Thus, we have immortality of some kind of abstract human spirit rather than the human individual.

Unfortunately, I can see no good reason to be convinced by these assertions or by the convoluted arguments around what constitutes an ‘event’, where truth somehow emerges in history and then persists through subjective practices of ‘fidelity’. Interesting ideas, but without any detailed historical or empirical grounding to provide some kind of real world purchase, I remain sceptical.

Badiou makes the interesting point that popular contemporary ethics makes the tacit assumption that Evil, rather than Good is primary. By this, he means that ethics doesn’t crank into gear unless it has an evil (oppression of minorities, discrimination etc) to rail against. This leads essentially to a loss of hope and a diminishment of truth. If we start from ideas of the Good or a Utopian stance against which to measure things then we have a more viable ethics. Fair enough, but again this is all terribly vague. Badiou firmly states that there is no God in his schema (p. 25), but he offers a range of abstract concepts which, it could be argued, do nothing but stand in as problematic substitutes requiring an equal amount of belief and whose power effects remain unclear, for all Badiou’s declared radical political stance.

For a more extensive and perhaps more sympathetic review see Andrew McGettigan on The Philosopher site (Interactive electronic incarnation of the Journal of the Philosophical Society of England)

Foucault: truth, language and philosophy

Posted on my site michel-foucault.com

Describing notions of ‘the general form of the Greek conception of language’ in the context of Socrates’ discussions of truth and philosophy, Foucault notes:

‘words and phrases in their very reality have an original relationship with truth …. Language which is without embellishment, apparatus, construction or reconstruction, language in the naked state, is the language closest to truth and the language in which truth is expressed. And I think this is one of the most fundamental features of philosophical language … as opposed to rhetorical [discourse]. Rhetorical language, is a language chosen, fashioned, and constructed in such a way as to produce its effect on the other person. The mode of being of philosophical language is to be etumos, that is to say, so bare and simple, so in keeping with the very movement of thought that, just as it is without embellishment, it will be appropriate to what it refers to.

Michel Foucault, (2010) [2008]. The Government of Self and Others. Lectures at the Collège de France, 1982- 1983. Tr. Graham Burchell. Houndmills and New York: Palgrave Macmillan, pp. 374-5

Random thoughts in response
Foucault notes Socrates’ position that plain everyday speech which directly reflects one’s thoughts and that speaking from the heart or faith are manifestations of ‘true philosophy’. Thus plain language is closer to the truth of things than clever rhetoric: the more artifice that language involves, the more removed one is from the original purity of truth. One can see this long philosophical tradition emerging in analytic philosophy – which struggles to create a pure language to the point of attempting to distil it into mathematical formulae.

Foucault’s book The Order of Things is one long refutation of this philosophical position in relation to language. Foucault radically challenges the notion that language can be ever be a transparent tool for representing things. Language has its own materiality and solidity and its own patterns of order right from its original inception. If there appears to be a connection between words and things it is not one of a true and transparent representation but one of an analogous structure of order. Words can only resemble the order of things through a process of analogy. Neither is thought a pure entity which can be expressed, translated and mirrored by words. Thought cannot be divided from language and the other ways humans represent the world. We are always faced with degrees of fiction: human culture, language and thought are fabrications from the very outset. Culture, history and civilisation can never be stripped away to reveal the pure, naked and authentic truth. Instead it is these very things that help us access the truth about ourselves and our environment. They are the tools that we need to work with and constantly engage with for good or for ill.

To put all this another way: it is a question of the familiar idea that language is a transparent window onto ‘reality’ and that language can truly represent things. This belief has led to the idea that if you make language ‘pure’, then it will give you a clear window onto reality. A language that is full of artifice obscures what is real and fogs up the window. But Foucault argues that language – or discourse – is actually an object amongst other objects and should be treated accordingly. Hence a pure language is not going to get us closer to the truth. We can’t remove ourselves from language and culture – instead of removing ourselves a far more productive approach is to actively engage with them and use them to help us to determine how we can we can live in the present in relation to ourselves and others.

There is more I should add to this discussion. In Foucault’s description rhetorical language is characterised by Greek philosophers as an exercise of power (it is ‘constructed in such a way as to produce its effect on the other person’), whereas the language of ‘true philosophy’ that Socrates is advocating is not a deliberate exercise of power. It is not about manipulating people, it is about revealing the truth and allowing others to decide how to respond to what emerges.

Foucault has, of course, elsewhere in his work, extensively criticised the Platonic forumulation that power and knowledge (truth) are mutually exclusive. In short, the rest of Foucault’s work takes issue with some aspects at least of the way Plato and Socrates construct the parrhesiastic enterprise.

Reposted due to extensive additions and alterations. With thanks to Steve Shann for his comments on the original post.

After Finitude (2008)

Quentin Meillassoux, After Finitude: An essay on the necessity of contingency. Trans. Ray Brassier. London: Continuum, 2008

After FinitudeAfter Finitude by Quentin Meillassoux

This book written by a young French philosopher has been taken up with great enthusiasm by a small group of English language philosophers -notably Graham Harman, Iain Hamilton Grant and Ray Brassier members of the London-based “Speculative Realism” and Atlanta-based “Object-Oriented Ontology” movements. (See also Larval Subjects for an interesting discussion). Alain Badiou in his preface praises the book in glowing terms claiming that the author ‘has opened up a new path in the history of philosophy’. (p.vii) I wasn’t able to track down the French original on interlibrary loan, so I have read the book in English (a rather good translation by philosopher Ray Brassier I am happy to say).

I just wanted to make a few brief observations at this stage. Let’s begin by saying that the book is clearly written and well argued. Meillassoux appears to be arguing that there is indeed a universe out there which is independent of our existence and that science, or more precisely mathematics, is capable of having an absolute knowledge of that existence which is independent of our subjective perceptions. He then claims to solve the problem of the dogmatism that usually goes hand in hand with the claim that absolutes exist by arguing that it is not a question of a necessary absolute and that the absolute could just as easily not exist. Metaphysical arguments about the absolute usually assume that the absolutes they posit (God, truth, beauty) must necessarily exist and mould the universe in a certain direction.

I quite like some aspects of Meillassoux’s arguments – namely that things have an existence independent of our perception and that they can just as easily not exist as exist, that science is a useful form of knowledge and that the absolute cannot be identified with an entity, but I am not convinced that any of this is earth shatteringly transformative in terms of the history of thought. It is certainly an argument which removes humans from the centre of the universe and valorises other objects which again I quite like. Saying that things could just as well not exist as exist is also an interesting position which introduces a welcome element of freedom into proceedings.

But ultimately this does not prevent this line of argumentation from being a form of neo-empiricism – that is it posits a form of knowledge (mathematics) which claims to offer an absolute description of the material universe. Claiming the absolute is not essential and has an equal possibility of not existing and that scientific knowledge is always subject to Popperian falsification does not solve the problem. And the problem is – at the risk of sounding like a clicheed follower of Foucault – the problem of power relations and their role in the production of knowlege and truth. I am not arguing here for the relativity of truth or knowledge, but I am arguing that they are always the object of human struggle.

Meillassoux argues that mathematics can be used to measure things as they are in themselves. He also makes a lot of the fact that we can talk about a world that existed before humans. I suppose because I have never had any difficulty with the idea that we are simply one entity amongst other entities in the universe I find this all a bit of a non problem. The real problem, for me at least, is how we formulate our relation to other elements – through knowledge or other forms of activity – and the relations of power which inevitably accompany these interactions.

The absence of this consideration of power relations in the production of knowledge is also probably one of the reasons I find the book very male (to the exclusion of a female point of view) like much other speculative philosophy. Female readers of this style of thought cannot help but notice that such forms of knowledge operate unproblematically in a speculative void and claim a comfortable and unquestioned relation to the truth which in the process somehow reduces other practitioners and more ambiguous forms of knowledge – unintentionally or not – to complete silence and non-existence.

Although perhaps more generally sympathetic to Meillassoux’s approach than I am myself, Stuart Elden has written an interesting article which, amongst other things, draws attention to the problem of the status of mathematics in Meillassoux’s argument, noting: ‘The return of mathematical ordering – not merely in terms of a way of understanding the world, but as a suggestion that this is actually how the world is-is one that should be contested.’ (p. 2649). He also offers the useful reminder that ‘We should not take the limits of our grasp of the world as the limits of the world.’ (p.2649) [1]

[1] Stuart Elden, ‘Dialectics and the measure of the world’ Environment and Planning A volume 40, 2008, pp 2641-2651.

Foucault: choosing a philosophical practice

Posted on my site michel-foucault.com

It seems to me that the philosophical choice confronting us today is the following. We have to opt either for a critical philosophy which appears as an analytical philosophy of truth in general, or for a critical thought which takes the form of an ontology of ourselves, of present reality. It is this latter form of philosophy which from Hegel to the Frankfurt School, passing through Nietzsche, Max Weber and so on, which has founded a form of reflection to which, of course, I link myself insofar as I can.

Michel Foucault, (2010) [2008]. The Government of Self and Others. Lectures at the Collège de France, 1982- 1983. Tr. Graham Burchell. Houndmills and New York: Palgrave Macmillan, p. 21

Random thoughts in response

This links in with my discussion of last month’s quote. Here Foucault is advocating a form of philosophy which has firm links with history and social existence. He is not interested in abstract sets of quasi mathematical problems or conceptual ordering in a vacuum as we see in analytic philosophy or systems of metaphysics. What is happening in time and human existence is what forms the primary fodder for the philosophical lineage in which Foucault situates himself.

It is less about establishing a rigid set of rules about how to conduct an ‘inquiry’, than about actively seeking to change our relation with ourselves and others in order to improve social existence as well as to have a particular ‘experience’ of the world.

I have just received The Government of Self and Others and have not as yet read it, but note there are extended discussions in it about various historical definitions (mainly from Classical Antiquity and the early Christian era) of philosophy. I will look forward to seeing what Foucault has to say on this question.

I would like to add some further – admittedly highly partisan – comments about ‘analytic philosophy’. A cursory look around the net for definitions of this movement offered the following findings. First of all a couple of American dictionary definitions:

A 20th-cent. philosophic movement characterized by its method of analyzing concepts and statements in the light of common experience and ordinary language so as to eliminate confusions of thought and resolve many traditional philosophical problems.
(Webster’s New World College Dictionary Cleveland, Ohio: Wiley, 2010 )

1. A cluster of philosophical traditions holding that argumentation and clarity are vital to productive philosophical inquiry.
2. A philosophical school of the 20th century whose central methodology is the analysis of concepts or language. Leading practitioners have included Bertrand Russell, George Edward Moore, Rudolf Carnap, and Ludwig Wittgenstein.
3. Philosophy as professionally practiced in the United States and Great Britain in the 20th century.
The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, 4th edition, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2010.

There are a number of interesting things about these definitions. First of all, there is the clear connection to the Cartesian notion of ‘clear and distinct ideas’, a notion which is one of the foundational principles of the scientific and rationalist movement. Arguably analytic philosophy is, and remains, essentially an application of these principles to the discipline of philosophy – seeking to render the ancient discipline of philosophy ‘scientific’. Similar makeovers were applied to other fields of knowledge and disciplines in the 19th and 20th centuries – such as history and of course there has been the creation of that whole area of disciplinary knowledge described as the social sciences which include, of course, sociology and psychology.

In the last twenty to thirty years, most of these disciplines at an institutional level have grudgingly had to accommodate the post war critiques emerging from Europe of the rational modernist model – but analytic philosophy in the English language world has somehow managed to maintain its power in terms of the practice of the discipline of philosophy within institutions. It would be interesting to speculate as to how this has happened meaning that divergent forms of philosophical practice have been forced to set up shop under other names in other disciplines.

Another interesting point is the overwhelmingly technical focus of analytic philosophy – the idea that a certain methodology (that ghastly term ‘philosophical inquiry’) can solve all problems – which again is an assumption which lies at the basis of scientific thought and practice and other modernist thought (including the social sciences). If one could just find the right method one can solve previously intractable problems.

Also of interest is the characterisation of this form of philosophy as a ‘method of analyzing concepts and statements in the light of common experience and ordinary language’. One is led to ask whose experience and whose ordinary language? Many of the writings in the field of analytical philosophy are highly technical to the point of being impenetrable to outsiders but the examples that are used are extraordinarily banal and often reflective of a ‘common experience’ and ‘ordinary language’ which are perhaps more familiar to particular sorts of middle class academic males of a particular ethnicity, rather than other sectors of the community.

I am reminded here of a comment Foucault made about the dominance of phenomenology as a philosophy in universities in France in the 1950s:

[It was] a style of analysis that claimed to analyze concrete things as one of its fundamental tasks. It is quite certain that from this point of view, one could have remained a bit dissatisfied in that the kind of concrete phenomenology referred to was a bit academic and university-oriented. You had privileged objects of phenomenological analysis, lived experiences or the perception of a tree through an office window. I am a little harsh but the object field that phenomenology explored was somewhat predetermined by an academic philosophical tradition…

Michel Foucault. (1996) [1988]. ‘What our present is’. In Sylvère Lotringer (ed.) Foucault Live (Interviews, 1961-1984). Tr. Lysa Hochroth and John Johnston. 2nd edition. New York: Semiotext(e), p.408.

Aaron Preston in an article on Analytic Philosophy on the (peer reviewed) Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy also makes the following telling remark:

Even in its earlier phases, analytic philosophy was difficult to define in terms of its intrinsic features or fundamental philosophical commitments. Consequently, it has always relied on contrasts with other approaches to philosophy—especially approaches to which it found itself fundamentally opposed—to help clarify its own nature. Initially, it was opposed to British Idealism, and then to “traditional philosophy” at large. Later, it found itself opposed both to classical Phenomenology (for example, Husserl) and its offspring, such as Existentialism (Sartre, Camus, and so forth) and also “Continental”’ or “Postmodern” philosophy (Heidegger, Foucault and Derrida).

This instructive statement would certainly bear further analysis and I will add to these notes as I come up with further ideas down the track. Analytic philosophy certainly has a very particular flavour, and as an outsider, my own perception is one of a highly gendered form of scientific modernism. Even the attempts to apply this stream of philosophy to popular culture and film fail to discard these elements and it offers a highly technical and dry reading experience no matter how exciting the original material to which this style of analysis is being applied (eg The Matrix, Buffy The Vampire Slayer).

Foucault and philosophy

Posted on my site michel-foucault.com

What is philosophy if not a way of reflecting, not so much on what is true and what is false, as on our relationship to truth? … The movement by which, not without effort and uncertainty, dreams and illusions, one detaches oneself from what is accepted as true and seeks other rules – that is philosophy.

Michel Foucault. (1997) [1980]. ‘The Masked Philosopher’. In J. Faubion (ed.). Tr. Robert Hurley and others. Ethics: Subjectivity and Truth. The Essential Works of Michel Foucault 1954-1984. Volume One. Harmondsworth, Middlesex: Penguin, Allen Lane, p. 327. Translation modified.

Random thoughts in response
‘What is philosophy?’ This is a question that Foucault raises on numerous occasions in various forms throughout his work. For all the variations in his response to this question, he always insisted that philosophy operated firmly within a historical context and could only manifest itself through quite specific historical practices and events and the way we engage historically with ourselves and others.

Philosophy, for Foucault, is not a question of stripping away historical accidents so that we can discover what is absolutely true for all time, rather it is a way of examining the ways in which people and systems of knowledge have made a division between the true and the false in very specific historical contexts. These divisions directly impact on the ways people conduct themselves in relation to themselves and others. Philosophy should also, in Foucault’s view, deal with the question of what is happening right now and with what our responsibilities are in relation to this very specific conjuncture.

And speaking of the current conjuncture specifically as it relates to the discipline of philosophy… Like other humanities disciplines, philosophy is under threat in that it is unable to produce the kind of ‘outcomes’ that are valued by neo-liberal systems of thought. Neo-liberalism (for those who came in late) is a form of thought which reduces all social relations to economic relations. As Foucault remarks: ‘It is a matter of making the market, competition, and so the enterprise, into what could be called the formative power of society’. [1]

Much ink has flowed on the pernicious and all pervasive effects of neo-liberalism with, it seems, only a limited success in stemming its diffusion through all areas of social and cultural existence. The crisis over the announcement of the closure of the Centre for Research in Modern European Philosophy and undergraduate programs in philosophy at Middlesex University in London on 26 April 2010 raises the problem of neo-liberal management culture yet again with particular acuteness. The suspension of staff and students and disciplinary hearings in reaction to their protests at the closure also have worrying implications for the continued existence of necessary social spaces for intellectual dissent and academic freedom. [2]

Academic culture and corporate culture are two very different entities and attempts to meld the two over the last twenty years in particular have had disastrous effects in terms of the maintenance of a healthy academic culture which can only make a worthwhile contribution to the social body precisely because it has different goals from the business, government and service sectors. A healthy society requires a balance between all four sectors. The university cannot be conveniently assimilated into the service sector, a currently popular strategy which seeks to reshape it primarily as an institution which ultimately focuses on providing ‘education services’.

The university is not simply about teaching and training people to engage in the work force and be compliant economic citizens or to serve the interests of industry and the maintenance of a healthy population with ‘useful’ forms of research. In addition to this, theoretical research aimed at pushing the boundaries of knowledge or questioning the structures of received knowledge serves the general community in other ways than the maintenance of economic relations. Criticism and analysis of social practices also keep repressive and questionable systems which seek to micromanage populations ‘for their own good’ in check. Philosophy sits (or ought to sit) squarely within this area of social critique and intellectual insight into the human experience.

But neo-liberalism is not the only problem that is faced by the discipline of philosophy in the current conjuncture. There are struggles over the definitions of what constitutes philosophy. Such definitional struggles as Pierre Bourdieu points out are struggles for power ‘over a vision of the natural and social world’[3] One of the most salient struggles in the English language world is the struggle between analytic philosophy and its ‘other’ which it describes as ‘continental’ philosophy.

To all appearances, analytic philosophy has over a long period of time and long before the current crisis, completely colonised the term ‘philosophy’ in university and other educational settings in the English language world. Philosophy departments in the UK, North America and Australia are almost unilaterally dedicated to this form of the discipline and any academics practising so-called ‘continental philosophy’ within those institutional settings are usually there as a grudging token concession to a style of thought that, it has to be recognised, has found immense popularity elsewhere. The very term ‘continental philosophy’ is constructed as the obverse of analytic philosophy. Even those using the term to describe their own practice do so by referring to analytic philosophy as the norm. (I will leave aside for the moment the question of non-analytic and non European practices of philosophy, which are usually relegated to departments of religion.)

Those who have disputed analytic definitions of philosophy have been forced to work in any other department except philosophy or have been forced to secede and create new departments. The scandalous split in philosophy at the University of Sydney into General Philosophy and Traditional Philosophy in the 1970s is a case in point, as is Eugene Kamenka’s secession from Philosophy at the Australian National University in the late 1960s to create the now sadly defunct History of Ideas unit. Middlesex was one of the very few departments labelled ‘philosophy’ which practised almost exclusively European style philosophy which makes its fragmentation and semi-demise even more of a loss.

‘Continental philosophy’ is something that clearly can only be treated with suspicion by ‘more rigorous’, ‘more scientific’ and less ‘politicised’ practices of analytic philosophy. In general, given this unfriendly reception, practitioners of post-War European styles of philosophy are more commonly found outside of philosophy departments in the English language world.

In a recent work, eminent analytic philosopher Michael Dummett while recognising this important and destructive fracture in the discipline of philosophy and calling for reconciliation, does nothing but add further fuel to the fire with the blurb on his book declaring that ‘Philosophy is a discipline that makes no observations, conducts no experiments, and needs no input from experience. It is an armchair subject, requiring only thought.’[3] It is a statement guaranteed to outrage the socially and historically oriented philosophers working in the wake of post War structuralist and poststructuralist philosophy.

This definition, if nothing else, draws attention to fundamental disagreements over what constitutes the proper subject matter and method of philosophy. In the analytic tradition, the categorisation of language practices and their rigorous logical deployment are paramount. Statements and concepts are rigidly sorted into a variety of categories – eg ethical statements, metaphysical statements, epistemological statements, mind versus body debates and so on and so forth. One then examines how chains of reasoning operate within these categories (often by reducing them to quasi-mathematical formulae). The ultimate goal is to arrive at an orderly system untainted by historical and political concerns which allows one to get to the ‘truth’. Only then after one has carefully ordered one’s categories can one make rigorous interventions from this elevated platform into matters of political and social concern. Analytic philosophy allows for difference in how truth might be interpreted in typical fashion by grouping activity in this area into different categories, for example: ‘the correspondence theory of truth’ or ‘the perspectivist notion of truth’. This fits in perfectly with the post Enlightenment model of science with its rigorous and rational methods (superior to all other methods) of uncovering a knowledge and truth independent of historical circumstance.

The methods of analytic philosophy also bear remarkable similarities to the eighteenth century project (as described by Foucault in The Order of Things) which sought to classify all knowledge into tables and to find a way to transparently match representations and things. If one could just get those tables right – then we could have true knowledge about and a true representation of things. These methods also resonate with the bureaucratic ideal of everything placed in an orderly manner in its right place, in the correct drawer of the filing cabinet.

Analytic philosophers criticise ‘Continental philosophy’ for its adulation of ‘great names’ and close textual studies of a variety of philosophers but it is unclear how far this differs from obligatory references to the ‘great names’ and the employment of ‘methods’ developed by thinkers in the analytical tradition. These great figures include the Greek philosophers of course, selected other European philosophers such as Descartes and Kant, Wittgenstein, Frege, Locke, Quine, Moore, Ryle, Whitehead, Bertrand Russell, Dennett as well as others.

Further, analytic philosophy arguably divorces the notion of philosophy from what is popularly and commonly understood by the term. Undergraduate students embarking hopefully on courses in philosophy departments are all too often disappointed by the rigidity and decontextualised nature of the offerings – with pre-prescribed and highly contrived set pieces for reflection operating somewhat like mathematical formulae. It is small wonder that students have turned en masse to psychology to provide them with the forms of reflection they crave, thereby regrettably further feeding into the power that psychology exerts in the direction of the pathologisation of all human experience and the reinforcement of mechanisms of social control. This is not to say, however, that there are not notable efforts by philosophers working within the analytic tradition, such as Alain de Botton, to try and make philosophy more publicly accessible. But I would argue that de Botton is the exception rather than the rule.

Students no doubt, also cannot help but notice a gender landscape that is overwhelmingly male in the delivery and practice of any kind of philosophy. Women are all too often relegated to the feminist ghetto away from the ‘serious’ work. One could further usefully embark on a discussion of the specific forms of masculinity that are represented in philosophy – and this applies to all forms of philosophy of whatever persuasion. Plato’s vision of the practice of philosophy as being the province of bearded males over 50 remains well and truly alive today.

I hasten to add, of course, that for all its pretensions to occupy the whole of the territory, analytic philosophy and the university departments which support its dissemination are under serious threat everywhere in the English language world. Departments have been merged with other humanities schools or have disappeared altogether. I welcome Dummett’s call for disciplinary reconciliation in order to make philosophy once again an institutional and intellectual force to be reckoned with. On the other hand, given the definitions he offers, it is more than clear that there remains much work to be done in persuading certain sectors (not all of them analytical) to adopt a far broader and more inclusive notion of the territory philosophy might cover. [5]

To be continued…

[1] Michel Foucault, (2008) The Birth of Biopolitics. Course at the Collège de France. 1978-1979. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, p. 148.

[2] For ongoing up-to-date information on this situation see the Save Middlesex philosophy site and Stuart Elden’s Progressive Geographies blog

[3] Pierre Bourdieu (1987) Choses Dites, Paris: Minuit, p.171.

[4] Michael Dummett (2010) The Nature and Future of Philosophy. New York: Columbia University Press.

[5] I refuse under any circumstances to use the ghastly and ubiquitous term ‘philosophical enquiry’ so fondly used by analytical philosophers.