Tag Archives: European Graduate School

Simon Critchley and Recognitions…

I listened today to a lecture by Simon Critchley, not by any means a dharma talk (and in fact he mocks—in his ignorance—European or American Buddhism as being overly nihilistic and withdrawn into the self) but he was talking about the beginning of ethics, of compassion as it is recognized in the “other”.

Critchley said that ethics was born, and I think he was quoting the Hebrew bible (perhaps someone can correct me on this) in the “face of the widow, the orphan and the cripple” and what he meant is that in the face of the other, in the face of the person ‘not-me’, the one who is less fortunate, or even wholly unfortunate, I recognize my face, I see myself.  And when I see myself I can no longer act as I would towards “not-myself” but instead must act in the way of the good, however situationally or relationally or temporally that good might play out.  Of course there is in this a form of the do-unto-your-neighbor, but removing it from theology, making it in essence “atheologistic” is what makes it interesting. It universalizes the singularities of experience into multiples; rather than creating a single credo, a single law it allows me to always recognize myself in the other, that the other makes me as I make it, allowing for a purely subjective universal which is in the end, endlessly liberating.

As Arizona busies themselves criminalizing the “other”, recognizing in the face of the “other” not themselves, but something juridically mandated and categorized as “other” (a form of Agamben’s Homo Sacer) it is all the more important that we see no man, no “other”, as illegal.  The other is us.  It is in that mere glimmer of recognition that compassion is born, that a window onto the ethical good is opened. Like satori, that recognition, that demand towards the good might be brief, might even always be, after Levinas, unfulfillable, but it is in this philosophical exercising, in always investigating further, with an almost religious fervor, that a liberating freedom is also born.


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Chris Fynsk on Ferran Adrià

Chris Fynsk. Ferran Adrià, elBulli & l’Image en Cuisine. 2009

Chris Fynsk speaking to the European Graduate School (EGS) about the chef Ferran Adrià of the restaurant El Bulli in Catalonia, Spain and about how the cuisine relates to the thought of Jean Luc Nancy, Heidegger and the question of taste. Fynsk spoke about the Nancy’s idea of gastronomic affirmation as well as the concept of the image of art revealing itself through the distended time of the meal. Referencing Mallarme, Roland Barthes and others, Fynsk attempted to draw a sketch of the “coming forth” of food into a play of revelation and withdrawal. Public open lecture for the students and faculty of the European Graduate School (EGS).

Chris Fynsk has been the Director of the Centre for Modern Thought as well as the head of the School of Language and Literature at the University of Aberdeen since 2005. He also currently holds the Maurice Blanchot Chair for Continental Philosophy at the European Graduate School in Saas-Fee, Switzerland. Previously he taught at SUNY Binghamton where he was co-director and founder of the Philosophy, Literature and Theory of Criticism department.

Internationally recognized as a Heidegger scholar and literary theorist, Chris Fynsk has worked extensively with Philipe Lacou-labarthe and Jean Luc Nancy as well as others over the course of his career. In his book Heidegger; Thought and Historicity (1986), Fynsk examined Heidegger’s notions of human finitude and difference, especially through an examination of the role of mitsein in Being and Time. In later works, Fynsk has taken up the idea of language (that there is language) and its relation to being. His book Infant Figures: The Death of the Infans and Other Scenes of Origin (2000) continues this engagement with language. A meditation on death and language using the texts of Jacques Lacan and Maurice Blanchot, as well as the images of Francis Bacon, Infant Figures describes “ an emergent figuration that attends a human subject’s birth to language.”

Amongst Chris Fynsk’s published works are Typography: Mimesis, Philosophy (1989), Heidegger: Thought and Historicity (1986), Politics Language and Relation: …that there is language (1996), Infant Figures: The Death of the Infans and Other Scenes of Origin (2000), The Claim of Language: A Case for the Humanities (2004).

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Bruce Sterling Speaking at The European Graduate School

Bruce Sterling. Atemporality & The Passage of Time. 2009.

Critic, science fiction writer and noted Net theorist Bruce Sterling speaking on atemporality and the passage of time as reflected in images at the EGS in Saas-Fee, Switzerland in May 2009. Sterling spoke about computer security, post modernity, time, the digital frontier, the nature of the archive. Sterling attempts in his lecture to “get away from words” in order to focus on an atemporal sensibility in order to get the audience to see images in the way he sees them.  Using a different approach to a human standpoint of time, Sterling attempts to examine futurity, history and the present from the standpoint of “contemporary temporalism.” Looking at the archive and our relationship to objects from Leonardo Da Vinci to contemporary fetishes, Sterling examines each subject from the standpoint of atemporality. Public open lecture for the students and faculty of the European Graduate School EGS Media and Communication Studies department program Saas-Fee Switzerland.

As well as being a leading science fiction writer, Bruce Sterling has been involved with numerous projects and written several books of futurist theory. He was the founder of the Dead Media Project, an on-line reliquary, or archive, to forgotten, or dead, media technologies.  In this way, he looked to the past through the future, anticipating, almost, in the shininess of new media, its utter destruction.  He also founded the Viridian Design Movement, an environmental aesthetic movement founded on the ideas of global citizenship, environmental design and techno-progressiveness. His numerous book length essays both question and promote how the future is shaping our concepts of self, time and space. In “Shaping Things” (2005) offer a history of shaped objects, moving from the most rudimentary hand-made artifacts through to the complex machinery which defines our current existence. In “Tomorrow Now; Envisioning the Next Fifty Years” (2002), Sterling examines how today’s technologies will affect our future lives.  Written in a wry, intelligent style, Sterling’s book makes bold claims on the future, examining scientists use of medicine to extend our lives while examining at the same time our seemingless bottomless thirst for oil. Sterling’s most acclaimed book, “The Hacker Crackdown; Law and Order on the Electronic Frontier” (1993) is a deep history of the birth of cyberspace, following the periphery of the development of technology from the first telephone hackers to the government’s attack on several prominent hackers in 1990.

Bruce Sterling’s novels incluce Intuition Ocean (1977), The Artifical Kid (1980), Heavy Weather (1994), Zeitgiest (2000), and most recently The Caryatids (2009). His essay collection and non-fiction books include The Hacker Crackdown; Law and Order on the Electronic Frontier (1993), Tomorrow Now; Envisioning the Next Fifty Years (2002), and Shaping Things (2005). He currently blogs at Beyond the Beyond for Wired Magazine.


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Girogio Agamben speaking at EGS

Giorgio Agamben. Liturgia and the Modern State. 2009

Giorgio Agamben at the European Graduate School in 2009 speaking about  the modern juridical state, its ties to the High Church and the Ufficium, as well as Michel Foucault, Heidegger and contemporary ethics.

Giorgio Agamben speaking to the European Graduate School (EGS) in Saas-Fee, Switzerland in August of 2009. Agamben spoke extensively about the role of the liturgy as well as the etymology and role of the Uficium in the Catholic Church and how those two concepts have carried forth into the contemporary juridical state, most notably in modern ethics and politics.

Giorgio Agamben is perhaps Italy’s most famous contemporary philosopher; as a leading figure in both philosophy and radical political thought, he has been intimately connected, along with Antonio Neri and Paolo Virno to Italy’s post-1968 leftist politics. During his tenure as professor at the Universita di Venizia, he has written widely on philosophy, politics, theology as well as radical critical theory—indeed, there is little in the world of critical theory that he has not at some point touched upon. Working in the wake of such thinkers as Michel Foucault and Jacques Derrida, Agamben has become one the most influential thinkers of his generation, concerned primarily with the proper ethical and political task of thought.

With over sixteen titles translated into english so far, Agamben’s work covers fields as diverse as Biblical studies, cinema, classical and medieval literature, juridic philosophy, as well as commentary on world politics, theories of language, friendship, art, aesthetics, poetics and more.  Agamben, continuing the work of both Foucault and Derrida, through history and philosophy, seeks to confront and unwind the aporias and gaps which bind us in our mundane existence.

In his most well known book, Homo Sacer, Agamben uses Roman law as a departure point to investigate how, in contemporary politics, the “state of exception”—in which the law is suspended by the sovereign (or the republic)—has become not extraordinary, but in fact commonplace. Tracing the history of the state of exception from Aristotle through to contemporary times, he argues that the sovereign has constantly placed the idea of a state of exception—a state that remains outside (or above) both holy and mundane law—as a foundation for its actions. Turning from the idea of the state to the idea of community, Agamben traces, in his 1990 book The Coming Community,  a delicate re-designation of community.  Jean Luc Nancy describes it as “a community beyond any conception under this name; not a community of essence…but …a being-together of essences.” In his most recent book, What Is An Apparatus, Giorgio Agamben seeks to expand Foucault’s use of the term apparatus, or dispositif, to include, and implicate, all networks that bind us and and result not in the production of a subject, but a de-subjected subject.

Giorgio Agamben’s translated books include The Coming Community (U Minnesota, 1993); Homo Sacer: Sovereign Power and Bare Life (Stanford, 1998); The Open: Man and Animal (Stanford, 2002); State of Exception (U Chicago, 2003). Giorgio Agamben’s most recent book, What Is An Apparatus was published in 2009 by Stanford University Press. He is currently, continuing the work of Michel Foucault, focusing on issues of the liturgy and the church.

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