One from the Archives: Negativity

Although I’m working on other things at the moment (though very slowly, due to this rotten cold), it occurred to me that I’ve got a bunch of material lying around in my email account from various conversations I’ve had with terribly interesting individuals. Some of this is fairly easy just to copy and paste onto the blog, so there’s no good reason not to do so. I’m going to post them pretty much as is, and any necessary corrections or revisions will appear in ‘[…]’.

To start with, here’s something I wrote in response to a really excellent question from Alex Williams on my understanding of the relation between politics and negativity. It doesn’t really talk about politics much, but rather tries to disambiguate various ways in which the concept of negativity can be deployed philosophically. Hope you enjoy.

I haven’t read Benjamin Noys book on the matter, which I suspect I should, but I’m generally very skeptical of the way ‘negativity’ and ‘positivity’ get used in much of mainstream continental philosophical discourse. It’s one of my pet peeves actually, because it often ends up running together logical and metaphysical issues with metaphorics of affectivity (‘we must be positive’ or ‘we must be negative’, etc.). That said, I’ll try and disentangle the bits I think something can be said about as best as I can.

There’s basically three different registers in which talk of negativity is relevant: philosophy of logic, philosophy of subjectivity, and metaphysics. These overlap insofar as subjects can be conceived as necessarily having the capacity for reasoning (which is made explicit using logical vocabulary) and insofar as there are questions about the subjects place within reality (and the relation between logical and metaphysical structure more broadly). To understand the relations between these different ways of talking about negativity I’d like to trace a few historical debates running through Spinoza, Hegel, Deleuze, Heidegger, Sartre and Brandom.

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A Poetic Interlude

This is the one and only

firmament; therefore

it is the absolute world.

There is no other world.

The circle is complete.

I am living in Eternity.

The ways of this world

are the ways of heaven.

Alan Ginsberg – ‘Metaphysics’

Back in Black

Hello again everyone. I’m back once more. It’s been a pretty turbulent year, but I have to apologise to my readers for dropping off the face of the earth for a few months. I owe deeper apologies to others who I’ve left hanging. If you know me and haven’t heard from me in a while, please do feel free to get in touch.

I have now submitted my thesis, albeit in a form I’m less than happy with. No doubt the viva will force me to revise some bits of it, and I will most likely revise even more of it when I’ve had a bit of break, but, for now, you can grab the full thing here.

The good thing about having finished (or at least submitted) is that I can now work on other projects without guilt. This means that I’m finally writing a couple of papers I’ve been intending to write for a long time. I’ve also just finished a joint paper (with my good friend Tim Franklin) for Jon Cogburn and Mark Silcox’s Dungeons and Dragons and Philosophy anthology with Open Court, trying to apply Kant’s aesthetics to the RPG experience. I don’t know whether this will ultimately mean more or less activity on the blog. I’m still trying to get the whole hang of paper writing, as it’s a different beast from blogging or thesis writing. We’ll see how it goes.

Catch you all next time I have a suitably coherent series of thoughts.