Gracie Fields

Inspired by Ben (who was apparently himself somewhat inspired by me), I'm shutting down this admittedly derelict warehouse of ideas and moving to tumblr pastures.

My new blog will be devoted to one thing and one thing only: bringing an end to that insidious form of lightheartedness so prevalent today (especially among bloggers and twitterererers) which is really a mask for fear, a manifestation of panicky self-preservation.

Or not.

Your Humble Servant,

Bct Zoiwp!!!!

mscp autumn workshop

I will be speaking at this on Friday:

The MSCP is pleased to announce two new regular free events to the MSCP calendar, the Autumn and Spring workshops. The inaugural Autumn workshop on Friday, 8th of May, will be a forum regarding the importance, legitimation and relevance of philosophy today. Is philosophy outmoded? Does it still resemble its traditional forms? What is the relation between genuine thinking and the research output of the university system? Together we shall address such questions and we invite you to participate with your own questions and answers.

The Gryphon Gallery, 1888 Building,
The University of Melbourne.

Friday, 8 May 2009


on never having been

In an article in the New York Times on genius, David Brooks writes:

[t]he latest research suggests a more prosaic, democratic, even puritanical view of the world. The key factor separating geniuses from the merely accomplished is not a divine spark. It’s not I.Q., a generally bad predictor of success, even in realms like chess. Instead, it’s deliberate practice.
Fair enough. But what Brooks doesn't consider is that success -- and genius for that matter -- are not simply positive, static, categories. Whether you have to be puritanical in order to be successful surely depends on the kind of society in which you live. As any good dialectician knows, “there is no category, no valid concept that might not be rendered invalid at the moment when it is cut off from the concrete context to which it really belongs.”

As an aside, next time you're feeling indescribably shitty at something you've just read in the paper or seen on the tv, ask yourself whether the author or journalist has been sufficiently dialectical...

They never have been.

subject and object

It is a rude practice to rip a dialectician's work out of context, but nevertheless:

In the face of nature at rest, a nature from which all traces of anything resembling the human have been eradicated, the subject becomes aware of its own insignificance.

Adorno, 'On Lyric Poetry and Society'


Libidinal Philosophy Research Day:

A special event hosted by the Melbourne School of Continental Philosophy

9am - 5pm
Friday, 6 February 2009
The Gryphon Gallery, 1888 Building
The University of Melbourne

Participants and Paper Titles

James Williams (University of Dundee): "Lyotard's critique of 'the natural': on the simulacrum and the phantasm in Libidinal Economy"

Justin Clemens (University of Melbourne): "Desire in Lacan"

Graham Jones (Independent Scholar): "Dis/figuring Lacan, Re-configuring Lyotard: Discourse, figure, and the libidinal"

Jon Roffe (MSCP; University of Tasmania; LaTrobe University): "Desire in Deleuze and Guattari's Anti-Oedipus"

Ashley Woodward (MSCP): "Klossowski's Nietzsche and Lyotard's Freud"

***This is a FREE event and all are welcome.

mscp summer school 2009

The MSCP is pleased to announce its programme for the 2009 Summer School

Week 1: January 26-30
Foucault and Hadot: Philosophy as a Way of Life (Dr. Ashley Woodward)
History of Philosophy IV: Medieval Philosophy, Part 2 (Prof. Ian Weeks)

Week 2: February 2-6
Environmental Political Theory from Spinoza to Negri (Kate Noble)
History of Philosophy V: Rationalism (Jon Roffe)

Week 3: February 9-13
Deleuze's Logic of Sense: A Critical Introduction (Prof. James Williams)
Heidegger's Being and Time (James Garrett)

Week 4: February 16-20
On Slavoj Zizek's Political Theory (Dr. Matthew Sharpe)
Dialectics of Enlightenment (Brian Cook)


On the west side of Sydney Road, just north of Blyth Street, there’s an old barber’s shop. In it, a chair faces a mirror. Behind the chair, a couple of old vinyl covered seats. No magazines, no newspapers. Oddly, in the window, one or two cans of shaving cream and a pack of disposable razors. Whether there’s a counter, or cash-register it’s difficult to tell. The lights are never on and the place quite possibly deserted.

There are shops like this throughout Melbourne’s inner suburbs, though next to the newer ones they are almost impossible to see. First things become impossible to the eye, then they disappear. In the up-to-the-minute hairdresser across the road, we are blind to the old shop. But whilst it still stands, it speaks. And not of the past, but of the future; of the fact that what is visible now need not be visible for all time; that the always-already-the-same is a spell to be broken; that one day things might, and seemingly against all odds, be otherwise.

Frozen in time, the old shop explodes it.


Thought must push its object to the point where that object destroys its own illusion.

no subtitles

Several months ago I had occasion to watch a film in German with no subtitles. Despite having only an average proficiency in that language, I was able to follow the plot and most of the dialogue. I wasn't bored, nor was I fatigued from having to translate. However, I didn't much enjoy the film. I thought the performances superficial and the whole look of the film bland and uninteresting.

Just recently I happened to catch the film again, this time with subtitles. While I was pleased to see I had understood the plot, I could not help but be struck by something peculiar: far from looking bland, it was this time visually superb and full of colour. The performances, too, came alive. As a whole, the film had acquired a depth previously lacking. The missing element here, of course, was language and, more importantly, my (fuller) understanding thereof. Or rather, what was lacking the first time was the more-than-understanding (colour itself) that one 'has' or 'is' in one's own language. I had understood the first time. But I had more than understood the second.

Clawing at the door of this little argument, however, is the fact that in speaking of language this way I risk hypostasising and dehistoricising it, treating it as a 'thing'--in this particular instance almost like a pair of glasses one puts on in order to see correctly. But language is not a thing. At least not in any simple sense. It is dynamic not static, dialectical not ontological. My concern here is that the notion and the experience of language as more-than-understanding, as colour, as depth, as the third dimension is growing fainter. My fear is that language has already passed from history altogether and that what we have in its stead is not language at all, but its memory, a shadow on the cave of meaning.


Fuck research grant applications! Fuck journal rankings! Fuck boring articles, boring reviews, and boring monographs! Fuck the accuracy of irrelevancies!

Only a critical pedagogy can save us now...

the accuracy of irrelevancies

In Negative Dialectics (1966), Adorno writes:
The stubborn urge to check the accuracy of irrelevancies rather than to reflect on relevancy at the risk of error is one of the most widespread symptoms of a regressive consciousness.
For all the awkwardness of the translation, part of what Adorno is criticising here, I think, is the less than progressive practices of contemporary academic philosophy; the way it all too easily loses sight of the point of it its own existence; the way it often fails to adopt a broad enough perspective on its own activity; the way it very quickly gets tangled in minor squabbles: "the accuracy of irrelevancies".

For Adorno, what we need is to "reflect on relevancy" itself. In other words: to think about why we're thinking in the first place. This is a simple-sounding thought, to be sure. One that is easily passed over. But let's not be so hasty, shall we?