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Epoché: A Journal for the History of Philosophy

The Potency of Negativity in the Age of the Sovereign Exception

Volume 16
Giorgio Agamben

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Displaying: 1-20 of 27 documents


1. Epoché: A Journal for the History of Philosophy: Volume > 16 > Issue: 2
Walter Brogan Letter from the Editor
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2. Epoché: A Journal for the History of Philosophy: Volume > 16 > Issue: 2
Marisa Diaz-Waian, J. Angelo Corlett Kraut and Annas on Plato: Why Mouthpiece Interpreters are Stuck in the Cave
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Mouthpiece interpreters of Plato such as Richard Kraut and Julia Annas believe that Plato had philosophical beliefs, doctrines, and theories that he intended to convey in his dialogues. We argue that some of their primary arguments for this approach to Plato are problematic and that there is a more promising approach to Plato’s dialogues than the mouthpiece interpretation, all things considered.
3. Epoché: A Journal for the History of Philosophy: Volume > 16 > Issue: 2
Eric C. Sanday Challenging the Established Order: Socrates’ Perversion of Callicles’ Position in Plato’s Gorgias
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In this article I argue that Socrates sees one important truth in the position Callicles represents in the Gorgias: it is necessary in the case of extreme philosophical provocation to be able to overthrow completely the received order and to maintain oneself in the face of unimagined possibility. Without this faith in the power of wisdom to overturn and destroy received wisdom, philosophy would not be able to shepherd the good into the world in Socratic fashion. Interpreters are generally correct to view Callicles as a threat to the Socratic ehtical position, but they generally fail to see that Socratic wisdom cannot operate without drawing substantially on the destruction of received order that Callicles promotes to a position of unique value in his competing ethical stance. Thus I read the conversation between Socrates and Callicles as an opportunity for Socrates to stand face to face with that aspect of his own philosophical wisdom that seems at first glance hostile to his own position.
4. Epoché: A Journal for the History of Philosophy: Volume > 16 > Issue: 2
Bradley Jay Strawser Those Frightening Men: A New Interpretation of Plato’s Battle of Gods and Giants
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In Plato’s Sophist (245e–247e) an argument against metaphysical materialism in the “battle of gods and giants” is presented which is oft the cause of consternation, primarily because it appears the characters are unfair to the materialist position. Attempts to explain it usually resort to restructuring the argument while others rearrange the Sophist entirely to rebuild the argument in a more satisfying form. I propose a different account of the argument that does not rely on a disservice to the materialist nor restructuring Plato’s argument. I contend, instead, that the argument is enthymematic in nature, allowing the definitions employed to flow out of the reasoning as originally presented. Moreover, it suggests that Plato’s idealism was so deeply ingrained that modern defenses of materialism were not even live options.
5. Epoché: A Journal for the History of Philosophy: Volume > 16 > Issue: 2
D. Rita Alfonso On Necessity: A Primer For Interpreting Chora in Plato’s Timaeus
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Since Stalbaum’s 1838 translation revived interest in Plato’s Timaeus, commentators have tended to bracket the discourse on Necessity, reading it as either mythical or mystical. This essay offers an interpretation of Necessity that is also an assertion of its importance for understanding the philosophically important conception of chora-space found therein. Beginning with throwing ourselves back into the Presocratic milieu, I examine what remains of Presocratic notions of kreon and ananke (necessity) in order to move forward a more robust interpretation of the discourse on Necessity and chora-space.
6. Epoché: A Journal for the History of Philosophy: Volume > 16 > Issue: 2
Emma R. Jones The Nature of Place and the Place of Nature in Plato’s Timaeus and Aristotle’s Physics
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I offer a comparison between Plato’s discussion of χώρα in the Timaeus at 48A–53C and Aristotle’s discussion of τόπος in Physics Book IV, arguing that the two accounts have more in common than has been suggested by Continental scholars. Τόπος and χώρα both signal what I call the impasse of place as the question of that which cannot be reduced to either the sensible or the intelligible, and which (un)grounds such categories. Identifying this impasse reveals Plato’s and Aristotle’s accounts of “place” as strikingly dissimilar from the Newtonian category of Absolute Space; and it also suggests new ways of thinking the relationships between bodies, motion, place and nature.
7. Epoché: A Journal for the History of Philosophy: Volume > 16 > Issue: 2
Adriel Trott The Human Animal: The Natural and the Rational in Aristotle’s Anthropology
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I argue that the human being fits squarely within the natural world in Aristotle’s anthropology. Like other natural beings, we strive to fulfill our end from the potential within us to achieve that end. Logos does not make human beings unnatural but makes us responsible for our actualization. As rational, the human can never be reduced to mere living animal but is always already concerned with living well; yet, as natural, she is not separated from the animal world, a dangerous distinction which inevitably leaves some persons reduced to mere animality.
8. Epoché: A Journal for the History of Philosophy: Volume > 16 > Issue: 2
Brian Earl Johnson Ethical Roles in Epictetus
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Epictetus holds that agents can determine what is appropriate relative to their roles in life. There has been only piecemeal work on this subject. Moreover, current scholarship on Epictetus’s role theory often employs Cicero’s narrow and highly schematic role theory as a template for reconstructing Epictetus’s theory. I argue against that approach and show that Epictetus’s theory is more open-ended and is best presented as a set of criteria that agents must reflect upon in order to discover their many roles: their capacities, their social relations, their wishes, and even divine signs.
9. Epoché: A Journal for the History of Philosophy: Volume > 16 > Issue: 2
Annie Hounsokou “Exposing the Rogue in Us”: An Exploration of Laughter in the Critique of Judgment
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Kant’s treatment of laughter in section 54 of the Critique of Judgment is intriguing: he places laughter among the arts, but does not deem it serious enough to be a fine art. According to Kant, laughter is an agreeable art, and ministers only to the senses. But when he describes to us what laughter actually does, it turns out that this bodily phenomenon is actually a moral phenomenon akin to the sublime in that it elevates and humbles us at the same time. This paper revisits Kant’s aesthetic themes, shows the distinctive role of laughter in the third Critique, and explores the possibilities of a true reunification of law and freedom through laughter.
10. Epoché: A Journal for the History of Philosophy: Volume > 16 > Issue: 2
Robert E. Wood Hegel: From Misunderstanding to the Beginning of Understanding
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Misunderstandings of Hegel have several roots: one is the intrinsic difficulty of his highly technical and interrelated conceptual sets, another is ideological opponents who consequently take statements out of context, and a third is following those of high stature who pass on the misunderstandings. Typical misunderstandings concern freedom and necessity, slavery, that status of the individual, God and the State, facts measuring up to concepts, the relation of rationality and actuality, the status of passion, and, above all, the nature of absolute knowing. Resituating these notions within the whole of the System shows the one-sidedness of typical misunderstandings and opens the way toward appropriation.
11. Epoché: A Journal for the History of Philosophy: Volume > 16 > Issue: 2
Matthew J. Smetona Marx’s Inferential Commitment to Hegel’s Idealism in the Grundrisse
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Recent studies have made the familiar observation that the economic categories in Marx’s works are presented in the dialectical form of the logical categories in Hegel’s works. The purpose of this article is to move beyond this observation by demonstrating that Marx’s appropriation of Hegel’s dialectical method articulated in the Science of Logic implicates, in opposition to his own explicit statements, the philosophical argument of his Grundrisse in an inferential commitment to Hegel’s idealism. Marx, it is argued, cannot appropriate Hegel’s conception of rational cognition as a dialectical movement from universality to particularity to individuality while at the same time dispensing with the absolute idealism from which that conception derives its coherence.
12. Epoché: A Journal for the History of Philosophy: Volume > 16 > Issue: 2
S. Montgomery Ewegen A Unity of Opposites: Heidegger’s Journey through Plato
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In his 1942 lectures on Hölderlin’s der Ister, Heidegger discerns within Hölderlin’s poetry a movement beyond the strictures of metaphysics and its representational language. This movement finds its most explicit articulation in the figure of the appropriative journey of the poet from the home into the land of the foreign fire. I argue that Heidegger’s reading of Hölderlin is rendered problematic by Heidegger’s own treatment of Plato’s ‘Myth of Er’ as it appears in his 1942–1943 Parmenides lectures, and that Heidegger’s reading of der Ister is itself a creative re-inscription of Plato’s ‘myth of Er.’
13. Epoché: A Journal for the History of Philosophy: Volume > 16 > Issue: 2
Marjolein Oele Heidegger’s Reading of Aristotle’s Concept of Pathos
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This paper takes as its point of departure the recent publication of Heidegger’s lecture course Basic Concepts of Aristotelian Philosophy and focuses upon Heidegger’s reading of Aristotle’s concept of pathos. Through a comparative analysis of Aristotle’s concept of pathos and Heidegger’s inventive reading of this concept, I aim to show the strengths and weaknesses of Heidegger’s reading. It is my thesis that Heidegger’s account is extremely rich and innovative as he frees up pathos from the narrow confines of psychology and incidental change and places it squarely into the center of the fundamental changes affecting a living being’s existence; simultaneously, however, Heidegger sometimes overstates the ties that pathos has with other concepts such as ousia and logos and highlights exceptional rather than common meanings of pathos, thereby risking the charge of being unfaithful to Aristotle’s text.
14. Epoché: A Journal for the History of Philosophy: Volume > 16 > Issue: 2
Katharine Loevy Levinas and the Binding of Isaac
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The biblical story of the binding of Isaac may have originally been written without the figure of the angel. As such, it reads strongly as an account of Abraham disobeying God’s direct command for the sake of Isaac. Interestingly, then, many interpreters since the time of the text’s final redaction read the binding of Isaac as an account of ethical disobedience despite the presence of the angel. In what follows, I consider Levinas’s account of religion, revelation and ethics for the way in which this can impact our reading of the biblical text. In this way, I hope to develop an account of the binding of Isaac which becomes an allegory for the need to mediate all modes of religious and/or political allegiance with concern for the well-being of other people.
15. Epoché: A Journal for the History of Philosophy: Volume > 16 > Issue: 2
Bryan Lueck Alterity in Merleau-Ponty’s Prose of the World
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I argue in this paper that Maurice Merleau-Ponty provides a compelling account of alterity in The Prose of the World. I begin by tracing this account of alterity back to its roots in Phenomenology of Perception. I then show how the dynamic of expression articulated in The Prose of the World overcomes the limitations of the account given in the earlier work. After addressing an objection to the effect that the account given in The Prose of the World fails for the same reason as the one given in Phenomenology of Perception, I argue that the key to Merleau-Ponty’s more successful account of alterity is provided by the phenomenon of orientation.
16. Epoché: A Journal for the History of Philosophy: Volume > 16 > Issue: 2
Idit Dobbs-Weinstein A Praxis Oriented by the Debt to the Past: Benjamin’s and Adorno’s Critique of Teleology
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This paper explores Benjamin’s and Adorno’s materialist critique of the philosophy of history as a metaphysical fiction which harbors and shields the barbarism at the heart of culture. Each undertakes a radical critique of ontological, future-oriented notions of temporality and history, proposing instead a political understanding oriented to the past for the sake of the present or, more precisely, for the sake of actively resisting the persistent barbarism. The more culture insists on its progress beyond barbarism, the more it claims to have overcome the past, the more insidious and invidious are its forms of oppression. I follow the consequences of Benjamin’s emphasis on the nihilism constitutive of philosophy of history by analyzing his claim that even the dead are not safe from the threat of annihilation. Second, I argue that Adorno’s radical critique of a culture and politics oriented toward the future, or rather to overcoming the past, constitutes an active resistance to the insidious barbarism at the heart of democracy.
17. Epoché: A Journal for the History of Philosophy: Volume > 16 > Issue: 1
Alejandro A. Vallega Letter from the Guest Editor
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18. Epoché: A Journal for the History of Philosophy: Volume > 16 > Issue: 1
Alejandro A. Vallega Soglia: Negativity as a Philosophical Threshold
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Giorgio Agamben’s thought arises out of thinking through the concrete negativity or ungroundedness figured by “life” as understood under the sovereign exception. His work is sustained by the continuous exposure of philosophical concepts to what remains excluded, silenced, and to an extent unsayable for philosophy: Thus, disfiguring, decentering, and violating the temporality of Western history and philosophy as well as the concepts that order it. This means that Agamben thinks out of the ungrounded occurrences of language and history, and that the transformative potency of his thought arises from sheer negativity and yet, in his engagement of thought’s concrete situation.
19. Epoché: A Journal for the History of Philosophy: Volume > 16 > Issue: 1
Kalliopi Nikolopoulou Between Art and the Polis: Between Agamben and Plato
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In The Man Without Content, Giorgio Agamben makes a few but poignant references to Plato’s understanding of art. Because art’s impact was powerful, Plato deemed art dangerous and subordinated it to politics. In contrast, Agamben argues, modern art enjoys the privilege of formal autonomy at the cost of losing political significance. This essay develops the Platonic dimension in Agamben’s thought: whereas Platonic censorship recognizes art’s power by way of prohibition, the modern culturalist tolerance of art is symptomatic of art’s reduction into commodity and of the public indifference toward it.
20. Epoché: A Journal for the History of Philosophy: Volume > 16 > Issue: 1
Theodore D. George Passive Resistance: Giorgio Agamben and the Bequest of Early German Romanticism and Hegel
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The purpose of this essay is to examine Giorgio Agamben’s important but underappreciated debts to the early German Romantics and to Hegel. While maintaining critical distance from these figures, Agamben develops crucial aspects of his approach to radical passivity with reference to them. The focus of this essay is on Agamben’s consideration of the early German Romantics’ notions of criticism and irony, Hegel’s notion of language, and the implications of this view of language for his notion of community.