Among other things, the end of the year is an opportunity for me to look back at what I wrote on this site in the past 12 months. For the 2014 edition, I’m adding a few words of comment to the traditional selection of significants posts (see previously 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010). Those comments are meant to briefly indicate why a particular post matters to me, as well as to briefly explain how it came to be produced.

  • “O friends, there are no friends”: on a quote attributed to Aristotle (Jan. 25)

    I came across Aristotle’s alleged quote during the summer of 2013. I did a bit of research about it to try to understand more precisely how and why it was considered to be apocryphal. In the first days of January 2014, I stumble upon it once more and decided to do some further research about it. This time, I wanted to produce a short summary of my findings. Little did I know just how much work it would require. Three weeks and 8,000 words later, the extent of the issue was clearer, but certainly not solved. The experience however was tremendously enriching. Aside from learning how to do research with ancient manuscripts, I came out with a better understanding of the respective ways in which Giorgio Agamben and Jacques Derrida have dealt with the idea of friendship.

  • Poetry, philosophy and communication (Feb. 2)

    In the wake of the research I did in January on Aristotle’s apocryphal quote, I produced two more related posts. The first one allowed me to present the act of thinking as a process of creation, once again visiting the complementary relation of poetry and philosophy (see for example Peter Sloterdijk’s portrait of Nietzsche as a centauresque figure in his book Thinker On Stage: Nietzsche’s Materialism).

  • Posthumanism: Sloterdijk and the problem of political synthesis (Feb. 4)

    In the second part of this reflection, I explicitly came back to the idea of friendship in order to show how thinking, as a process of creation, could not be done alone: thinking is a coexistential event. Thus philosophy, far from being opposed to political activity, is another name for our shared modes of coexistence. Inversely, one can understand why Deleuze and Guattari suggest that friendship –being together, community– is the very “condition of possibility of thought itself”. From the perspective of my ongoing research, those ideas shed a very different light on the process of “communication”.

  • ‘Surveiller et punir’ by Michel Foucault: back cover text (Feb. 8)

    This was an exercise in translation I made, answering a call Jeremy Crampton made on his blog. It was the first time I tried my hand at translating a serious –and rather dense– philosophical text from the original French into English. I really enjoyed the experience of working my way from one langage to another, weighing the options between various words and expressions. I certainly hope to do more translation in the future.

  • Notes on “For a theory of destituent power” by Giorgio Agamben, 2013

    I wrote a 3,000-word review of the transcript of a lecture Giorgio Agamben did in Athens, back in November of 2013. The lecture is a slightly different version of the essay “What is a destituent power?” which was published four months later, in February of 2014. The importance of this text is such that it composes the last section of the very last book of Agamben’s Homo Sacer series: L’uso dei Corpi (forthcoming in a translation by Adam Kotsko). Aside from the topic of security, one of the central argument presented in this lecture is how a “destituent power” may offer an opportunity to neutralize –or “unwork”– the dialectical coupling of power and counter-power. This is an important matter as it allow the critical activity to be deployed without being co-opted by the object it claims to transform (as such it directly concerns the theme of “participation” as well).

  • François Laruelle on communication (mar. 27).

    The work of François Laruelle has the reputation of being difficult. When I encounter the very short essay he once wrote about the idea of communication –a subject I’m familiar with–, I saw the perfect opportunity to try my hand at it. I was not disappointed. The exercise was as demanding as it was rewarding. It allowed me to better situate the idea of communication I’ve been working on for the past years. Specifically, I was able to better understand how my approach differs from the usual dialectic of success and failure associated with a more traditional understanding of communication. In doing so, I also gained an invaluable insight into Laruelle’s work: his “non-philosophy” does not oppose traditional philosophy. Once that was understood, I found his whole project to be less obscure.

  • The Domestication of Being by Peter Sloterdijk (Apr. 16)

    I first came into contact with the work of Peter Sloterdijk back in the winter of 2000, when I read his controversial essay Die Domestikation des Seins, in its French translation (La domestication de l’être). Astonishingly given the importance of this text, it has yet to be translated into English. In an email exchange, the editors at Suhrkamp confirmed that the rights for such an English translation were still available. In this post, I quickly gathered what I know about the genealogy of the essay and the various existing translations.

  • Michel Foucault 1984-2014: meditation on death (Jun. 24)

    June 24, 2014 marked the 30th anniversary of Foucault’s death. I took the occasion to quote an excerpt from his lecture about The Hermeneutics of the subject where he talks about death. Alongside love, death would become one of my main topic of research and reflection in the second half of 2014. I would come back to it on various occasion, including for the 10th anniversary of Derrida’s (impossible) death (see below).

  • Giorgio Agamben on gesture (Aug. 3)

    Following a remark shared by Adam Kotsko on his blog, I proposed an explanation for the conceptual ambiguity one can find in Giorgio Agamben’s treatment of the “gesture”. Far from being an inconsistency in his work, I argue that this ambiguity is part of the method –or ethos– deployed by Agamben in his attempt at “unworking” the negation that powers Hegel’s dialectic. Agamben numerous references to a process of “indifferentiation” throughout his work should be read in the context of this task. Since then, I’ve also documented how this ambiguity actually finds its operational roots in Agamben’s reading of Heidegger’s Ereignis. To borrow an expression from Leonardo Amoroso, it is the “Nichtung of the Lichtung”. The results of this research will appear in a forthcoming post.

  • Gilbert Simondon and the Aristotelian sunolon (Aug. 16)

    This is another important step forward in my research. The post actually stems from a talk I gave in Ottawa, two months earlier, about the “medium as a coexistential problem”. It was a first public attempt on my part to think of media in a non-dialectical way. More precisely, I wanted to present a conception of media which was not subordinated to the traditional dialectic of form and matter, content and container, figure and ground. In doing so, I was reacting to Neil Postman’s use of the Petri dish as a metaphor to explain what “media ecology is about” (see “The Humanism of Media Ecology”, 2000). What would it entail to try and think form and matter in a way that is not reduciable to the synthesis of a dialectical opposition? In order to start answering this question, I needed to go back to Aristotle’s ontology. Simondon’s analysis of the hylomorphic scheme –at the core of this ontology– serves as a very useful guide. I learn many things in the process, but especially that ontology is a political problem.

  • When Paul Celan met with Martin Heidegger (Aug. 25).

    The problem of community is historically inseparable from the problem of fascism. This also applies to the idea of communication. For a while now, my research has been concerned with topics such as death –as I mentioned earlier–, but also the two World Wars, totalitarianism, nazism, and anti-semitism. In this regard, the involvement of Martin Heidegger with both Nazism and anti-semitism remains at the forefront of my concerns. This involvement gained a new momentum in 2014 with the publication of volumes 94-96 of the Gesamtausgabe: the infamous Schwarze Hefte. In this post, a remarked by Maurice Blanchot offered an opportunity to examine some new historical evidences surrounding the well-known meeting between the poet Paul Celan and the German philosopher.

  • Michael Haneke, love and finitude (Sept. 21)

    This short comment can be read as a further exploration of the ways to “unwork” Hegel’s negation (see above Agamben’s ambiguous treatment of the “gesture”). Here, Haneke’s gripping film brings to light the intimate relationship between love and death. Instead of opposing the two –indeed seeing one as the negation of the other–, I examine what it would mean to experience love as loss, or abandonment. In love is given the perilous opportunity to appropriate what can never be mine, to own what is always already fleeting. Again, Agamben provides a path to relate this aporetic operation with Heidegger’s Ereignis. What I learned from this rather brief comment significantly overflowed the strict frame of theoretical research (if such a frame can be said to exist).

  • Article published: “The Greek crisis and the problem of community” (Sept. 25)

    I was quite pleased to have this essay published in issue 17 of Chronos magazine. Chronos first published the transcript of Agamben’s lecture on destituent power. My essay started as a draft for a blog post, back in December 2011. At first, I merely wanted to document a quote attributed to Cavafy, and used by Agamben in his book Means Without End. In February 2012, an editor in Greece invited me to produce an essay on Jean-Luc Nancy, and I chose to extend my draft about Cavafy to meet his requirement. The essay was completed in May of 2012. The editor wanted to use a Greek translation of my essay, but allowed me to publish the original English version elsewhere. I made a proposal to Chronos magazine in the early summer of 2014, and it finally appeared online in September 2014. The Greek translation is still forthcoming.

  • Jacques Derrida 2004-2014: “Is my death possible?” (Oct. 9)

    This post marked the 10th anniversary of Derrida’s death. Death appears as a central topic of discussion in the powerful essay Aporias. Although it does not appear in the post in this form, the comment I formulated for the occasion was meant to link the impossibility of death with the impossibility of hospitality in order to muse upon the aporetic modalities of human coexistence.

  • “The Gaze of Interruption”: on ‘Goodbye to Language’ by Jean-Luc Godard (Nov. 23)

    This was my first collaboration with Berfrois magazine. I was particularly happy with the experience. I find it important to publish outside of the academic circle as well. This very site exists in part because of that concern. Here, I can publish quickly whatever I want, although the audience is understandably limited. Online magazines offer an interesting alternative. The editorial process is much faster than with peer-reviewed scholarly journals. I wrote the essay on Godard’s film in late October, and it appeared online in late November. Furthermore, when an essay is published online without restriction of access, it has the potential to reach a larger and more diversified audience (Berfrois claims over 40,000 followers on Facebook). The essay was truly a pleasure to write, as it allowed me to further extend my research into the realm of aesthetic experience.

That wraps up the review for 2014. Thanks for reading, and my best wishes for what is, and always will be à venir.

• • •

Original caption: “New York, NY: Employees of Bily Roses Diamond Horseshoe are shown trying to rouse a party of drowsy merry makers in order to proceed with their cleaning after a gay throng welcomed in the New Year” Corbis stock photo ID BE076357. © Bettmann/CORBIS.
Original caption: “New York, NY: Employees of Bily Roses Diamond Horseshoe are shown trying to rouse a party of drowsy merry makers in order to proceed with their cleaning after a gay throng welcomed in the New Year” Corbis stock photo ID BE076357. © Bettmann/CORBIS.
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