ICI Projects
VERSUS @ van Eyck


Philosophy Under Condition

Saturday, July 10th 2010

Ray Brassier (Beirut),
Patrice Maniglier (Essex),
Felix Ensslin (Stuttgart),
Frieder-Otto Wolf (Berlin)

Medvedkin, Medvedkin, Medvedkin!!!
Political contrasts and contradictions in cinema and their effects in philosophy

Monday, March 2nd 2009

Emiliano Battista (Jan van Eyck Academie, Maastricht)
Pietro Bianchi (Jan van Eyck Academie, Maastricht, Università di Udine)
Maria Muhle (Bauhaus-Universität, Weimar)



Workshop Saturday, July 10th, 14-19h

Ray Brassier (Beirut),
Patrice Maniglier (Essex),
Felix Ensslin (Stuttgart),
Frieder-Otto Wolf (Berlin)

Organized by: Ozren Pupovac and Bruno Besana (ICI-Kulturlabor), Frank Ruda (Freie Universität), Jan Völker (Freie Universität)

Hegel remarked somewhere that ‘philosophy is its own time captured in thought’. This means that philosophy relates to the objectivity of the world by taking it as the condition for its own operation, whose aim is to develop the rationality of the real. The theme of conditions emerging in recent philosophy maintains Hegel’s idea, but reverses its direction. Philosophy stands under the injunction of its temporal horizon, but not anymore to seize the rationality of its whole, but to capture singular excesses emerging in it. Philosophy relates to the present not in order to confirm its maturity, but in order to capture nascent novelties, which emerge as radical exceptions to the given state of affairs.

There are at least three particular theoretical consequences of the theme of conditions:

First, being under condition, the status of philosophy is intimately intertwined with the world: philosophy is no longer a free-floating intellectual or pure self-sufficient contemplative activity; rather it is a practice that is determined by other practices taking place outside of itself, practices that are irreducible to the ways in which philosophy organizes its own domain.

Secondly, the conditions of philosophy are never reducible to simple historical states of fact or to extant opinions. Philosophy is not under the condition of the givenness of the actual: rather it is under the condition of what acts in the present against the present. It is under the condition of emerging objects that cannot be integrated in a given system of facts and the immediate evidence of the situation. Such objects can only be grasped by following their effects: the effects that show for instance that a new political sequence takes place, or that a movement of rearticulation of art commences.

Thirdly, the conditions of philosophy reshape the latter as a terrain and a relation of contention. They do not pacify thought, but are rather sources of tensions, irritations or irruptions that bring about new objects, unknown forms of actions and new thoughts inside philosophy forcing it to reshape itself.

Within the framework of a one-day workshop, we have invited our guests to explore the contemporary problem of conditions, by examining ways in which philosophy encounters revolutionary political actions, psychoanalytic practice and inventions in the fields of the sciences, as irreducible fields which reorient its own activity.


RAY BRASSIER The Dialectic of Conditions

There is a rational kernel of Hegelianism, a crucial insight about the relationship between reason, nature and history that needs to be retrieved and given a properly contemporary reformulation. Philosophy should be dialectical, so long as the latter is understood to comprise a complex, stratified structure articulating two basic levels: the discursive-conceptual and the contextual-material. The properly philosophical conception of the dialectic is one that involves acknowledging the relative autonomy of the conceptual domain, concurrently with its mediated dependence upon the socio-historical realm, as well as the mediated interdependency of the socio-historical and the natural-physical. Thus there are four strata woven together, rather than superimposed, and it is their complexly articulated structure that needs to be grasped: internal structure of the conceptual; contextual understanding of socio-historical conditioning of the concept; socio-historical mediation of the conceptual form of objectivity; natural determination of socio-historically mediated conceptual form; conceptual form of socio-historical mediation and natural determination.

PATRICE MANIGLIER Metaphysics in passing: speculation and positivity

Modern philosophy can be seen as having been divided within two camps, who attempted in two different ways to rescue philosophy from the crisis of the metaphysical knowledge. By the latter expression, I only mean the recognition that the attempt at defining what there is, or what there should be, using purely a priori conceptual reason has failed to deliver not only any trustworthy access to anything else than our prejudices but also to creative insights into that which may be: contemporary physics or linguistics presents more surprising and challenging metaphysical pictures than anything which can be found in the philosophical tradition. This crisis gave rise to two attempts at reconstituting the legitimacy of philosophical discourse on the ruins of metaphysics. One is the transcendental project which attributes to philosophy the secure domain of the a priori conditions of any sort of positivity (Kant and his followers); the other one is the hermeneutic project which gives to philosophy the task of disclosing the meaning of everything after the event (Hegel, and his followers). I would like to argue that the emphasis on the notion of ‘conditions’ which is widespread in contemporary French philosophy (Badiou only taking up on a topos which appears also in Merleau-Ponty’s ‘dehors’, Althusser’s practice, Foucault’s historical a priori, Deleuze’s violence of the sign, etc., and which can also be traced back to Bachelard’s Philosophy of the No as well as Bergson’s “positive metaphysics”) indicates a third way. This third way, I will argue, is not only about historicizing transcendental philosophy; it is also about redefining metaphysics itself, not as a general discourse about what there is, but as an effort to conceptualize the different modes of being. However, I will also argue that this effort does not necessarily, and probably must not, come after the fact; it is rather part of the very creative process which necessitates it. The metaphysical elucidation of the very nature of what is being eliciting by a singular creative act is necessary for this creative act to be completed. In other words, philosophy is the effort to create (and unceasingly recreate) the very conditions of our creations. We should never start with metaphysics (we have no a priori reason to do philosophy), nor end with it (unlike Hegel’s owl), but we cannot help passing by it. I will illustrate this all discussion by reference to the history of structuralism read as being worked through by the metaphysical challenge resulting from the construction of the concept of ‘sign’ by Saussure to account for the results of comparative sciences.

FELIX ENSSLIN ‘Gesinnung’ as condition, condition(s) of ‘Gesinnung’

Alenka Zupančič has shown how the subjective act of ‘choosing’ necessity allows for the moral law of Kant to be a Triebfeder (incentive) of comportment, action, even thought in the phenomenal world. This is the place of Gesinnung (disposition) of the nature of the maxims which alone can make an event in the world of nature into an action, presupposing a subject (and constituting it). I want to look again more closely at the condition of this condition, namely that what appears here as ‘double’ – the Gesinnung or its maxims and this Gesinnung or maxims being a Triebfeder – is constituted as symbolic and as real at the same time. Maybe this can help us elucidate the nature of what condition is in general: to be something that is not given, but is at the same time constitutive of a break in the phenomenal world, a break that can only be one (or be sustained as one) if at the same time it still transcends – exceeds – that world. Some have called this structure a ‘truth-event’ and attempted to show its real mathematical nature. Yet, with Kant – and psychoanalysis – we are forced to keep reflecting on its irreducibly symbolic component: that to be related to the world this ‘truth’ needs to be inscribed on a level of Gesinnung or ‘maxims’ in order to be thought as an act – an act which keeps the traditional condition of an act, namely, that it exceeds its conditions. That excess, however, is nevertheless already in the condition, even the condition: as the possibility to experience it in the form of a complete subjection under the given conditions of reality, or the world, as the experience of total ‘pathology’ in Kantian terms. If this is true, than the ‘truth’ of the truth-event which follows a break with the given situation or world, must in some sense already be present – not avant la lettre – but before it unfolds its constitutive power.

FRIEDER OTTO WOLF Radical Philosophy today

Radical philosophy operates a subversion of philosophical tradition, including that of the 20th century, as well as a new beginning of political thought by ‘unthinking the social sciences’. It takes up the impulses and experiences of Marxism, Anarchism, feminism, and subaltern thinking without attempting to fuse them into one ‘theory’. Instead of attempting to foreclose all possible futures in a new grand synthesis, it is bent upon ‘exploding’ (aufsprengen) blockades in philosophical, scientific and political practice which function as impediments to radical thinking and practice. Instead of either giving in to the paradoxical plurality of the given or attempting to impose an artificial unity upon it, it struggles to discover real essences in the existing ex-centric realities. Instead of trying to dissolve all quest for truth and essence in unstructured relativism and ‘existentialism’, it affirms the need to look for the discovery and construction of common ground in practices to be found and developed by human beings. Instead of resigning in the dark dialectics of progress and emancipation, it finds ways of reconstructing a positive dialectics of enlightenment and liberation. Radical philosophy, in this understanding, is an intellectual practice of the new age ushered in by the repressed double crisis of ‘fordist capitalism’ and ‘state socialism’ in the 1960s. It is not to be created as such, but already taking place, in a variegated and multifaceted way and in various historical experiences (recent French post-Althusserian philosophy, post-critical theory philosophy in Germany, radical philosophy in the Anglo-Saxon world) acquiring an articulated awareness of itself. As a distinctly philosophical project, it is leaving space for scientific advances and political initiatives in the fields addressing processes and structures of domination, and, therefore, always open towards and bent upon improving itself, by learning from its own ruminations as well as from others, embedded in the on-going ‘palaaver’ of humanity, in which the multitude of humankind is presently struggling to constitute itself as a liberating subjectivity capable of exercising power.

F. O. Wolf, Radikale Philosophie. Aufklärung und Befreiung in der neuen Zeit, Münster 2002, ²2009