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

Theory & Object:
Philosophy of Science in the twentieth century, from Carnap to Grünbaum

Instructor: Reza Negarestani
Program: Critical Philosophy
Credit(s): 3
Date: March 4, 11, 18, 25, April 1, 8, 15, 22, 29, May 6, 13, 20
Time: TBA

Image: The Bride Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors Even, Marcel Duchamp, 1923

This course provides a survey of motivations, trends and directions in the philosophy of science in the twentieth century. During twelve sessions, we shall engage with both introductory materials and in-depth issues when necessary. In addition to underlining the pertinence of philosophy of science today, we shall focus on trajectories which specifically engage with the problems of modern philosophy from Hume and Kant to Wittgenstein and Russell and in doing so, they also point to new problems and conceptual territories hitherto hidden to or ignored by general philosophy. To this end, we will closely examine the works of such leading figures as Carnap, Hempel, Reichenbach, Stegmüller, Putnam and Grünbaum.

Image: The Bride Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors, Even; Marcel Duchamp, 1923

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.

Introduction to African Political & Aesthetic Philosophies

Instructor: Moses Serubiri
Program: Critical Philosophy
Credit(s): 2
Date: Saturday, June 16, 23, 30, July 7, 14, 21, 28, August 4
Time: TBA

Image: Public monument celebrating the fiftieth anniversary of Senegal’s independence from France 2010, copper and bronze, Dakar, Senegal.

The seminar considers debates on both aesthetic and political practices as they appear within the field of African philosophy, a highly interdisciplinary field which in addition to art and political theory also includes literature, history, and anthropology. The seminar engages the students from a range of disciplines in order to facilitate a critical engagement with contemporary and 20th century African epistemologies. The seminar is structured to provide a foundational understanding of past and recent debates in the field of African philosophy as they appear in Placide Tempel’s Bantu Philosophy (1945) and John S. Mbiti’s African Religions and Philosophy (1969), among others. The seminar will contextualize these writings with parallel debates in African socialism associated with figures such as Julius Nyerere, Leopold Senghor, Kwame Nkrumah in order to better observe how these ideas might have been received or instrumentalized in the African politics of 1950s and 1960s. It is imperative for the seminar to not only consider singular contributions to the field of African philosophy, but also view these contributions as part of larger social and political movements such as Pan Africanism, Negritude, and African Socialism. Finally, the seminar reviews the work of artists who consider African philosophical, aesthetic and political questions. We will achieve this by reviewing Jean Pierre Bekolo’s film on philosopher Valentin Mudimbe; Helen Sebidi’s painting ‘Tears for Africa’; and Issa Samb’s own writings in ‘Parole! Parole? Parole!’ The intellectual history covered in this workshop stretches across the African continent, into the Caribbean, African diaspora, and the European and North American continents.

Image: Public monument celebrating the fiftieth anniversary of Senegal’s independence from France 2010, copper and bronze, Dakar, Senegal.

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

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

Social Networks:
From Metaphor to Diagram to Machine

Instructors: Tiziana Terranova & Mohammad Salemy
Program: Media & Technology
Credit(s): 1
Date: February 27, March 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

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