Monday, July 14, 2014

Process and Reality by A.N. Whitehead

This is one of the most important philosophical books written in the 20th century. Still we cannot ignore the fact - it is anything but easy read. Whitehead introduces new words for virtually every basic concept of metaphysics. This is both the philosophical genius of his approach and that which makes it demanding to penetrate.

The book attempts to create a new and time-based ontology that goes beyond Bergson's. Whitehead draws primarily on Locke, Hume, Descarts and Kant. He critizes them all (without loosing his respect for their individual philosophical contributions) and creates a philosophy that is both beautiful and deeply inspiring - especially if you are a creative person.

Whitehead's "prehensions," that replace what we in daily speech call perception and his "symbolic reference" together offer an amazing strategy that enables time, learning, creation into the universe of how we relate to the surrounding world and how we can affect it. Metaphysics is an elusive term and yet in Whitehead's writing it becomes both consistent and deeply interesting.

Whitehead formulates his problems with a razor-sharp clarity and comes to fantastic conclusions. Why not try a read???

-Per Huttner

Friday, October 11, 2013

Eduardo Viveiros de Castro: The Inconstancy of the Indian Soul - The Encounter of Catholics and Cannibals in 16-century Brazil

In the mid-sixteenth century, Jesuit missionaries working in what is now Brazil were struck by what they called the inconstancy of the people they met, the indigenous tribes of the Atlantic coast. Though the Indians appeared eager to receive the Western religion, they also had a tendency to forget the missionaries’ lessons and go back to their natural state of war, cannibalism, and polygamy. This peculiar mixture of acceptance and rejection, compulsion and forgetfulness is the starting point for Viveiros de Castro's brilliant research into how the priests took this as a sign of the natives’ incapacity to believe in anything durably.

Drawing from anthropologists as James Clifford and Claude Lévi-Strauss, Viveiros de Castro sees how the ongoing dialogues between cultures creates new knowledge and affect each other ceaslessly. In this short book Viveiros de Castro starts by looking at two sculptures: one made of marble and the other of myrtle. By doing so, he  situates the Jesuit missionaries’ accounts of the meeting the indigenous people in historical perspective, and in the process draws out some startling and insightful implications of their multiple perspectives, their specific ontology and how Western universalism stands in the way for understanding otherness.

To download the brilliant text "COSMOLOGICAL PERSPECTIVISM IN AMAZONIA AND ELSEWHERE" by Eduardo Viveiros de Castro click here. The work of Viveiros de Castro has been central in developing the concept for the OuUnPo session in Brazil.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Nietzsche's "On the Genealogy of Morals" (the second treatise especially)

To breed an animal that is permitted to promise-isn't this precisely the paradoxical task nature has set for itself with regard to man? isn't this the true problem of man?”

So begins the second treatise of Nietzsche's On the Genealogy of Morals, entitled "Guilt," "Bad Conscience" and related Matters. The text brings up a whole array of extremely interesting issues related to our culture and especially to the idealism that so defines our society and few writings offer so much hope for the future. Nietzsche looks at how the relationship between the promise that the individual who borrows makes to the person he or she lends from and how this forms the foundation for the structure of our lives. If there is one text that you should read (or re-read) this summer, I suggest you choose this one. You can download the second treatise here.

Sunday, March 10, 2013


FREDERIC NEYRAT is a French philosopher who is associated with the journals Multitudes, Rue Descartes and Ctheory. In French, he has published seven books ranging from philosophical study of Heidegger to a book on biopolitics and catastrophe. The author of numerous articles on issues in continental philosophy and contemporary culture, in he was recently a fellow of the Society for the Humanities at Cornell University. You will find fascinating material on his website.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Culture and Explosion is the English translation of the final book written by legendary semiotician Juri Lotman. The volume demonstrates, with copious examples, how culture influences the way that humans experience ""reality"". Lotman's renowned erudition is showcased in a host of well-chosen illustrations from history,
literature, art and right across the humanities. Now appearing in
English for the very first time, the volume is made accessible to
students and researchers in semiotics, cultural/literary studies and
Russian studies worldwide, as well as anyone with an interest in
understanding contemporary intellectual life.

Profit over people: neoliberalism and global order

Noam Chomsky

Seven Stories Press, 1999

In Profit Over People Noam Chomsky takes on neoliberalism, the pro-corporate system of economic and political policies presently waging a form of class war worldwide. By examining the contradictions between the democratic and market principles proclaimed by those in power and those actually practiced, Chomsky critiques the tyranny of the few that restricts the public arena and enacts policies that vastly increase private wealth, often with complete disregard for social and ecological consequences.

In clear, understandable language, Chomksy charts the dramatic shift away from a public-interest interpretation of democracy and toward a top-down model that serves the profit incentive of massive corporations. Profit Over People also presents Chomsky's thoughts on free market philosophy, corporate control of public opinion, and the unreported impact of nondemocratic forces and policies like the World Trade Organization, International Monetary Fund, the North American Free Trade Agreement, and the Multilateral Agreement on Investment--and the widespread resistance movements that often emerge to oppose them.

Combining detailed historical examples and uncompromising criticism, Chomsky offers a profound sense of hope that social activism can reclaim people's rights as citizens rather than as consumers, redefining democracy as a global movement, not a global market.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

The Enemy of All
, Piracy and the Law of Nations

 - Daniel Heller-Roazen

This beautifully written book outlines how the state originally created a monopoly for the execution of violence. It does so by looking at the genesis of western civilisation around the Mediterranean and how legislation played a key role in this process. This book is key in making sense of times when governments claim to wage war on terrorism.

'The pirate is the original enemy of humankind. As Cicero famously remarked, there are certain enemies with whom one may negotiate and with whom, circumstances permitting, one may establish a truce. But there is also an enemy with whom treaties are in vain and war remains incessant. This is the pirate, considered by ancient jurists to be "the enemy of all."

In this book, Daniel Heller-Roazen reconstructs the shifting place of the pirate in legal and political thought from the ancient to the medieval, modern, and contemporary periods, presenting the philosophical genealogy of a remarkable antagonist.

Today, Heller-Roazen argues, the pirate furnishes the key to the contemporary paradigm of the universal foe. This is a legal and political person of exception, neither criminal nor enemy, who inhabits an extra-territorial region. Against such a foe, states may wage extraordinary battles, policing politics and justifying military measures in the name of welfare and security.

Heller-Roazen defines piracy by the conjunction of four conditions: a region beyond territorial jurisdiction; agents who may not be identified with an established state; the collapse of the distinction between criminal and political categories; and the transformation of the concept of war. The paradigm of piracy remains in force today. Whenever we hear of regions outside the rule of law in which acts of "indiscriminate aggression" have been committed "against humanity," we must begin to recognize that these are acts of piracy. Often considered part of the distant past, the enemy of all is closer to us today than we may think. Indeed, he may never have been closer.'

From the Zone Books web-page.