Marx & Philosophy I & II

Instructor: Ray Brassier
Program: Critical Philosophy
Credit(s): 2
Date: Saturdays, January 20, 27, February 3, 10, 17, 24, March 3, 10
Time: 10 AM EST

Ray Brassier: Marx & Philosophy
Marx’s analysis of capital continues to haunt contemporary theoretical discourse. As capitalist globalization enters its world-dissolving phase, Marx’s account of the logic of capital provides cognitive traction on this process. Understanding the theoretical and political stakes of his analysis remains an urgent contemporary task. This course will try to reconstruct the movement linking Marx’s critique of philosophy to his critique of political economy by elucidating the fundamental concepts of Marx’s critical theory: alienation, practice, labour, production, commodity, fetishism, value, contradiction. We will examine Marx’s relationship to Hegel and Feuerbach as well as the ongoing controversy between Hegelian and anti-Hegelian interpretations of his work. Lastly, we will consider the stakes of the distinctions between humanism, anti-humanism, and post-humanism in contemporary philosophy and critical theory.

Image: Karl Marx Monument by Ljubiša Milovanović, Saxony, Germany

Photography, Social Media & the Politics of Platform Homosexuality

Instructor: Mohammad Salemy
Program: Media & Technology
Credit(s): 1
Module: 1
Date: TBA
Time: TBA

DESCRIPTION:“Yes, we copy normal relations, we either occupy the place of the subject or that of the object, but we copy them in any case. Today's homosexual does not embody polymorphic desire: he moves univocally beneath an equivocal mask. His sexual objects have already been chosen by social or political machination, and they are always the same. If, to boot, consciousness gets involved in political struggle, then the heterosexual and exogamic tendencies of today's homosexuality will become a caricature, and we will see more and more cases where a dick can only make love to a head and a head to a dick.” – Guy Hocquenghem (1973)
What happens to male homosexuality in the age of cybernetics and social media? From the heydays of newsgroups of the early internet to the dating sites of the 1990s, gay men have been quick to utilize the spatial possibilities of the cyberworld to construct new forms of “being social in the world” which often both contradicts and compliments their physical existence. With an eye on this history, this seminar explores how digital photography, mobile computing and social media have together transformed the practice and performance of homosexuality on the global stage. Drawing from the fields of anthropology, philosophy, queer studies & art, the seminar speculates not only on the future of male homosexuality but also how, as always, transformations of the category of game ay will have consequences for all other forms of sexuality.

Image: Berghenk Experience, Installation, Rens Mors, 2016

Introduction to Forensic Audio

Instructor: Lawrence Abu Hamdan
Program: Art & Curatorial Practice
Credit(s): 1
Date: March 31, April 7, 14, 21
Time: 10:00 AM - 12:30 PM EST

View of Lawrence Abu Hamdan, Contra Diction (speech against itself) at Kunsthalle St Gallen, 2015. Mixed media.
The seminar focuses on my research & practice as an artist: the architectural aesthetics of sound and voice and its application to politics and law. The seminar will focus on new methodologies and novel forms that can potentially be developed to respond to the prevalence of surveillance technologies. Through the exploration of listening practices the participants will focuses on the forensic use of acoustics, language and phonetic dimensions of legal or political issues. The seminar will also explore the changing role of the image and its proximity to sound in the age of the Internet and mass distribution of signal.

Image: View of Lawrence Abu Hamdan, Contra Diction (speech against itself) at Kunsthalle St Gallen, 2015. Mixed media. Photo: Stefan Jaggi. Courtesy of the artist.

Simondon & Technology

Instructor: Yuk Hui
Program: Critical Philosophy
Credit(s): 1
Date: November 13, 20, 27, January 15
Time: 3:00–5:30pm EST

Yuk Hui: Simondon & Technology
Simondon’s discourse on technical objects lays down the foundation for a philosophy of technology which aims to give a new ontological status to technical objects in order to establish a technological culture or a technological humanism. This consists of the effort to save technical objects from misunderstanding and ignorance of them as functional objects or mere utilities and understand the genesis of technical objects according to its own rationality and at the same time a problem and possible solution to alienation described by Marx. What underlies in Simondon’s ambitious project is the construction of a new metaphysical ground (against hylomorphism and substantialism) as well as a new philosophical anthropology described as a genesis of technicity. In this seminar, we will examine the main philosophical propositions of Simondon in On the Mode of Existence of Technical Objects (as well as in other writings and courses) and its significances for understanding the contemporary technological condition.

Ontologies of the Fold:
Leibniz, Simondon & Deleuze

Instructor: Levi Bryant
Program: Critical Philosophy
Credit(s): 2
Date: Thursday, November 2, 9, 16, 30, December 7, 14, 21, 28
Time: 6:30 EST

Levi Bryant: Ontologies of the Fold: Leibniz, Simondon & Deleuze, Marble Statue of Eirene
This seminar explores Simondon's concept of individuation and Deleuze's account of the fold as models of how being is to be thought. Responding to Graham Harman's object-oriented philosophy and his thesis that beings are withdrawn and never relate, it is argued that the concept of the fold avoids the twin perils of undermining and overmining by preserving the singularity of beings, while also accounting for their relatedness and providing a rich account of subjectivity. It is argued that beings are pleats or folds within being that integrate other beings in their ongoing processes of individuation. For example, a sun tan is a sort of origami where sunlight is pleated into the body producing a quality in the form of the shade of the skin. What emerges is a profoundly ecological conception of being where entities can never be thought in isolation, but rather must always be thought in communication and relation to other beings.

Students participating in the seminar will be required to present the material for one course in the form of questions that arose from the assigned readings on that day and will be required to write a 15 – 20 page essay on a topic of their own choosing related to the material. Readings will include Leibniz's Monadology, selections from the Discourse on Metaphysics, selections form Muriel Combes Gilbert Simondon and the Philosophy of the Transindividual, Deleuze's The Fold: Leibniz and the Baroque, and Foucault.

Structuralism, Poststructuralism & the Pure Form of the Subject

Instructor: Katerina Kolozova
Program: Critical Philosophy
Credit(s): 1
Date: Saturday, November 25, December 2, 9, 16
Time: 1 PM EST

Katerina Kolozova: Structuralism, Poststructuralism & the Pure Form of the Subject
DESCRIPTION: The course will revisit some of the themes present in my publication from 2014, The Cut of the Real: Subjectivity in Poststructuralist Philosophy (New York: Columbia University Press). We will focus mostly on the question of subjectivation. It will be based on a close reading of Judith Butler and Michel Foucault, and in particular of what I see as the amalgamation of their theses, namely Psychic Life of Power (1997) by Butler. We will do so through the lenses of de Saussure’s structuralism, Marx’s objectivism and Irigaray’s critique of the speculative reason. The crisis of the poststructuralist theory of the subject is tackled in The Cut of the Real, and so it will be addressed once again, in the original terms of the book, but also enriched with some readings from de Sausure, Marx and Irigaray. The perspective of Francois Laruelle’s non-philosophy is the method that pervades the entire book and will be one of the main methodological backdrops in the course as well. In that way, the course will function as yet a careful pedagogically conceived intro in Laruelle’s method.

Required Readings: Structuralism, poststructuralism and the pure form

Butler, Judith (1997) Psychic Life of Power: Theories in Subjection. Redwood City CA: Stanford University Press.

de Saussure, F. (1959) Course in General Linguistics. Ed. by Charles Bally and Albert Reidlinger. Trans. from the French by Wade Baskin. New York: Philosophical Library.

Foucault, Michel (1991) Discipline and Punish. Translated by Alan Sheridan. London: Penguin.

___.  Nietzsche, Genealogy, History.” In Language, Counter-Memory, Practice:

Selected Essays and Interviews, edited by D. F. Bouchard. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1977

Irigaray, Luce (1985) This Sex Which is Not One. Cornell University Press, 170-197.

Kolozova, Katerina. Cut of the Real: Subjectivity in Poststructuralist Philosophy. (New York: Columbia University Press, 2014), the first chapter.

Lacan, Jacques (1998) The Seminar of Jacques Lacan, Book XI: The Four Fundamental Concepts of Psychoanalysis, ed. by Jacques-Alain Miller, trans. by Alan Sheridan, New York & London: W. W. Norton and Company

Laruelle, F. (2012) Théorie générale des victimes. Paris: Fayard.

___.  (2000) Introduction au non-marxisme. Paris: Presses Universitaires de France.

___. (1989) Philosophie et non-philosophie. Liège: Pierre Mardaga.

Levi Strauss, Claude (1966) Savage Mind.Chicago University Press.

Lukács, G. (1971) History and Class Consciousness. Rodney Livingstone (trans.). Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Marx, K. (1973) Grundrisse: Outlines of the Critique of Political Economy. Translated by Martin Nicolaus. New York: Penguin Books, 1973.

___. (1959) Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts 1844. Moscow: Progress Publishers (from the online version of the Marxist Internet Archive: 2000; 2007), URL (consulted April 2017): https://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/download/pdf/Economic-Philosophic-Manuscripts-1844.pdf

___. (1887) Capital: Volume I. Translated by Samuel Moore and Edward Aveling, edited by Frederick Engels. Moscow: Progress Publishing (from the online version of the Marxist Internet Archive: 1995; 1999), URL (consulted April 2015=7): https://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1867-c1/

Meillassoux, M. (2008) After Finitude: An Essay on the Necessity of Contingency. Trans. from the French by Ray Brassier.  London: Bloomsbury.

Petrovic, G. (1983) “Reification,” In Tom Bottomore et al (eds.) A Dictionary of Marxist Thought.Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Sohn-Rethel, A. (1978) Intellectual and Manual Labor: Critique of Epistemology. London: Macmillan.

Wittgenstein, L. (1922) Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus. London: Kegan Paul, Trench, Trubner & Co., Ltd, available at Gutenberg project.


Theory & method for a non-curatorial exhibition practice

Instructor: Stefan Heidenreich
Program: Art & Curatorial Practice
Credit(s): 1
Date: Monday, December 18 and January 8, 15, 22.
Time: 3:30 - 6:00 EST

Stephen Heidenreich: Uncurated: Theory & method for a non-curatorial exhibition practice
The goal of the seminar is to prepare an uncurated, collaboratively organized art exhibition, to be held in 2018. The discussions about my text "Against Curating" led to the decision to set up a platform infrastructure for a new type of art exhibition. It includes social media, public participation in the selection process, collaborative and open discussions, and a globally distributed geo-located form of display. The research for the show will take a look at historical examples of non-curated exhibitions, namely the salon des refusés, the salon des indépendants, and artists' societies and Künstlervereine of the 19 century. Results of the research will help to launch a crowdfunding campaign and inform the design of the infrastructure and the display.

Layers of Generativity:
Axial Age, Modernity, Technological Civilization, (Reconstructing Futures II)

Instructor: Davor Löffler
Program: Media & Technology
Credit(s): 1
Date: March 3, 10, 17, 24
Time: 2:00 - 4:30 PM EST

Davor Loffler: Layers of Generativity: Axial Age, Modernity, Technological Civilization, (Reconstructing Futures II)
When, where, and why did the mode of abstraction “philosophy”, esp. “the universal” as a relational point of collective commensurabilization appear? Why are there distinct epochal structures of mathematical renderings of the world? What causes time regimes such as the cyclical, oscillatory, absolute or linear to emerge and what are the differences in their ontogenerative potentialities? How does the cumulative increase of depths of abstraction relate to historical types of aesthetics, subjectivity, and cognition? How can the apparent coevolutionary relation between media, economy, metaphysics and world-relations be conceptualized? These questions can be answered through the formalization of the evolution of culture and mind. The examination of the “Early Expansion of Cultural Capacities” (Haidle et al.) surfaced a formal pattern of macroevolution: each historical stage of reality structure appears as the abstraction and operative recursion of the previous reality structure. The pattern of recursion continues beyond early evolution and unfolds as civilizational history. This course will examine history under the notion that stages in cultural complexity can be conceptualized as matrices of event-realization, wherein each stage forms a layer of generativity which is recursively integrated by the following one, unfolding a new continuum of events and relations. The Greek Axial Age is characterized as the “Zenon-Matrix” of event-realization, which is recursively integrated in Modernity, and which is defined as the “Laplace-Matrix” of event-realization. With the emergence of the technological civilization, we are witnessing another recursion in which the “Laplace-Matrix” of Modernity is abstracted and recursively integrated, rendering genetic spaces into objects within the “Conway-Wolfram-Matrix”. The extrapolation of the ontogenerative pattern of recursion not only allows for a “deep futurology” as the macroevolutionary informed derivation of future temporalities and world-relations, but also for asking the question whether the force that chiseled history through humankind into the world will at some point detach from its medium again, instantiating another major evolutionary transition.

Art & Meaning I:
Mood, Vibe, System, and Data Geometry

Instructor: Peli Grietzer
Program: Art & Curatorial Practice
Credit(s): 1
Date: January 24, 31, February 7, 14
Time: 4 PM EST

Peli Grietzer: Art & Meaning: Mood, Vibe, System, and Data Geometry
This seminar constructs a mathematically informed interpretation of a classically romantic literary-theoretic thesis: that a work of art can aesthetically communicate an ineffably complex holistic understanding of the real world, which we might call the work’s ‘aesthetic meaning.’ Drawing on a generalization of ‘deep learning’ (“artificial intuition”) systems and on elementary algorithmic information theory, we describe a kind or aspect of aesthetic meaning—‘ambient meaning’—that may have a special resonance with Modernist and avant-garde approaches to aesthetic meaning, as well as with the concepts of aesthetically sophisticated cultural-materialist thought of the kind that theorist like Sianne Ngai, Jacques Rancière, or Raymond Williams practice.

‘Ambient Meaning,’ as we’ll call it, is the sensible ('sensate') representation of a virtual, diffused, immanent structure -- the representation, by a work of art, of some systemic real-world structure akin to a mood (Heidegger), cultural logic (Jameson), sensorium (Rancière) or even ideology (Althusser/Ngai). In part I of this seminar, we will familiarize ourselves with the fundamentals of deep learning theory and information theory, and offer the hypothesis that the ‘ambient meaning’ of a work of art is, mathematically, the lower-dimensional manifold structure of the work's imaginative landscape in intersubjective input-space.

(The seminar requires no prior mathematics or computer science background, but patience for deductive reasoning is recommended.)'

Image: Endogen Depression 2013 (The Box, La) Installation View Photo: Fredrik Nilsen

The Reality of the Derivatives Market

Instructor: Elie Ayache
Program: Social & Political Thought
Credit(s): 1
Date: Sunday, March 11, 18, 25, April 1
Time: 11 AM EST

Elie Ayache: The Reality of the Derivatives Market
1. We present the Black-Scholes-Merton model of derivative pricing, the problem it has solved and the problem it has created (known as ‘the volatility smile problem’). This problem is very challenging, not only computationally but also theoretically and philosophically. It is the reason why critical thinkers of finance who are not familiar with it have a narrow view of the derivatives market and its meaning, especially in relation with the future.
2. We investigate the foundations of abstract probability theory. The concept or ‘random variable’, introduced by Kolmogorov in 1933, and its success in formally showing the strong law of large numbers, point to a conception of randomness that lies deeper than the intuitive view of randomness and random generators. It shows distinctions that thought has to make, when it thinks the world, between what we call the ‘concrete’ and the ‘real’. It is at this level of the archaeology of thinking that the category of money emerges. Money is an alternative way of wiring the logic of the concrete and the real, hence an alternative way of introducing the matter of contingency inside the formalism of possibility and probability.
3. We extend the argument from money to the material exchange of derivatives and their pricing technology. When the advent of the Black-Scholes-Merton model is interpreted as a technological revolution which involves actors (market-makers) and technological means (writing of derivatives), it is shown that the market, thus understood in its full writing capacity, recaptures the full concreteness of the world, and hence of the future, in ways that escape abstract probability theory. The consequence, however, is to give a new meaning to the word ‘reality’, which may be incompatible with the one issuing from possibility and probability.

Image: Luc Tuymans, Sniper, 2009, Oil on canvas

Collapse & Reconfiguration I & II:
Introduction to Alt-Woke Praxis

Instructor: Alexandra Hedako Mason
Program: Social & Political Thought
Credit(s): 2
Date: Saturdays, October 7 – November 25
Time: 1 PM EST

Alexandra Hedako Mason: Collapse & Reconfiguration I & II: Introduction to Alt-Woke Praxis
Social relations are determined by economic forces. Agrarian surplus sustained nation states, necessitated labor, and bore the development of innovative tools, which contributed to migration and collective learning across the planetary social sphere. Acceleration describes economic forces as a levelling process and this process as the primary driver for dynamic social transformation. Acceleration emphasizes the role that capitalism plays as a revolutionary-historical force, intensifies this process, and forces it to transcend the threshold of its monopolist barriers, to fulfill its imperative:the crisis of its self-destructive enclosure. As articulated most explicitly in Marx’s Capital Vol. III, acceleration is the process itself: capitalism- creates the conditions necessary for its collapse.

Acceleration-ism is a theoretical orientation, a political epistemology, and a post-vitalist topography of this unbound process of accelerated, self-destructive capital that flows through the nodes of economics, technology, culture/society, and politics in intersecting and intensifying feedback; the fractal-complex of these correlational and codependent domains propels history toward novel, alien plateaus: futurity. The fundamental tenet of accelerationism, the article of faith which underpins the discourse, is an understanding of history in which productive relations determine social and political relations.

Futurism is a misnomer as it implies an anticipation of futurity, when in reality the “future” has already arrived. Etymologists disagree over the exact origins of the polygenetic word “hip” within AAVE lexicon. Most chart its origins to the Wolof word “xipi”, which means: “to have your eyes open, to be aware.”

Cybernetics derives from the Greek κυβερνητική (kybernetikos) -- meaning “good at navigating” or “good at steering.” “Hip,” “hep,” and “woke” speak to a tendency to navigate the contours of this process through the lens of Blackness out of necessity -- to be aware so that one can survive. “Stay woke” implied that this tendency was an implicit, intuitive mode of existing.

“Woke” - a term we’ve always hated and have come to hate even more - represents an epistemology limited in scope as it only processes a time-space where there are no true futurities, due to the ways a capital-driven economy operates and all notions of a future are compressed into the present. “Woke” informs a reactivity and a nomadic entity connected to this modern mode of reactionary politics.

Within this seminar, we plan on exploring the concept of what it means to be "altwoke," through a series of readings and guest lecturers. Each invited speaker will help advance the coordinates that works together to construct a larger framework.

The first module will describe the nature of Collapse, the event horizon of this process, its origins, how we facilitate it further, and why anyone would advocate “accelerating the process” at all. Here we dispel the notion that the process is entirely blind as it can’t really function without the actors in its network who determine the interrelational causes which determine its direction over time. Instead our focus is more about aiding abetting the process via specific agents.

The second module will center around Reconstruction after the debris settles. Swapping out old frameworks for new ones, these are some potential new ways of thinking and being that we propose.

Kant’s Circle of Revenge:
A close encounter with Critique of Pure Reason

Instructor: Reza Negarestani
Program: Critical Philosophy
Credit(s): 3
Date: October 15, 22, 29, November 5, 12, 19, 26, December 3, 10, 17, 24, 31
Time: 1:00 – 3:30pm EST

Reza Negarestani Kant’s Circle of Revenge
Throughout this course, Jay Rosenberg's succinct yet fairly accurate observation that "Kant is hard to access" shall be our presupposition in engaging with the work of Immanuel Kant.

This seminar promises a close reading and engagement with one of the most significant works in the history of philosophy. Over the course of twelve sessions, we shall tackle the hydra of philosophy which is the Critique of Pure Reason. In our engagement with Kant's magnum opus, we will investigate the historical context within which it has been written. Using Marburg School's motto 'Back to Kant' as our guiding principle, this course offers a syncretic perspective on Critique of Pure Reason through commentaries of neo-Kantian figures such as Hermann Cohen and Paul Natorp as well as more contemporary exegeses by the likes of Wilfrid Sellars, John Niemeyer Findlay, Jay Rosenberg and Sebastian Rödl.

Image: Martin Isaac, 2016

Promethean Democracy:
Speculative Governance on a Planetary Scale

Instructor: Jason Adams
Program: Social & Political Thought
Credit(s): 1
Date: Tuesdays, December 5, 12, 19, 26
Time: 8:00-10:30 PM EST

Image: Maasai Warrior, Rodrigo Galdino, 2016
Left critics of “democracy” often argue that, while they might constitute noble political experiments, the more direct forms of it seen in the antiglobalization and occupation movements are ultimately impossible to scale any level higher than relatively small, local groups, and that even representative democratic forms are best suited to nation-states, such that they cannot be expected to function on either macro-regional or planetary levels. Further, for some, the concept of democracy as such is habitually reduced down to its specifically liberal, capitalist form, or reduced to a strictly Western or otherwise privileged instantiation that cannot be apply universally. Yet, various forms of “global democracy” have been evolving for quite a long time, from many demographic and regional quarters, and with considerable tension and divergence over what it is accurately constituted by. In this seminar, we will explore radically democratic “delegative” alternatives to both direct democracy and representative democracy that are scalable on the level of the planetary and that draw upon the most promising aspects of both of the more well-known forms. Following an introductory session, each of the remaining three weeks will focus upon the practical potentialities of a single concept - sortition, isonomia, and diagonality - and will engage artists, theorists, and collectives concerned with the question of how to actualize them into actual decision-making structures on the level of the world as a whole.

Image: Maasai Warrior, Rodrigo Galdino, 2016

Social Networks:
From Metaphor to Diagram to Machine

Instructors: Tiziana Terranova & Mohammad Salemy
Program: Media & Technology
Credit(s): 1
Date: January 30, February 6, 13, 20
Time: 1 PM EST

Tiziana Terranova: Social Networks: From Metaphor to Diagram to Machine
What difference does the 'social' make to the network and the network to the 'social'? Social Network Analysis is usually considered by critical media studies as a regressive ontology of the social, which it reduces to quantifiable relations between individuals and which can be then dismissed to a material enactment of the ideology of neoliberalism. The course proposes a different interpretation of SNS which combines a media archaeology of the stratifications of Internet protocols (from TCP/IP to HTTP to the Open Graph) with a genealogy of social network analysis as a model of society according to a genealogy of the descent (herkunkf) and emergence (entstheung) of the social network as model and medium. The course traces the genealogy of the social network from structural anthropology and sociometry to mathematical studies of the spread of 'contacts and influence' in populations towards the more recent turn towards big-data based network science and social physics.

It considers the ways in which this genealogy/archaeology can be seen to produce a shift from the deployment of the social network as metaphor to diagram and finally machine in contemporary hypersocial media assemblages. Is it possible to force an interpretation of the social network which does not reduce it to a manifestation of an underlying neoliberal ideology but also as diagram of relationality inducing a widespread experimental and speculative form of reasoning transversal to humans and machines? Can the networked social be seen as less a collection of individual and more like an entangled milieu entailing the proliferation of 'differences without separability' in Denise Ferreira de Silva terms?

Image: HANNE DARBOVEN Ein Jahrhundert-ABC, 1970-2004

Password Reset
Please enter your e-mail address. You will receive a new password via e-mail.