Conditions and Problems of Contemporary Philosophy II
Principal Investigator at ZRC SAZUAlenka Zupančič Žerdin, PhD
Co-ResearchersAleš Erjavec, PhD, Marina Gržinić Mauhler, PhD, Peter Klepec, PhD, Tomaž Mastnak, PhD, Rado Riha, PhD, Jelica Šumič Riha, PhD, Matjaž Vesel, PhD, Rok Benčin, PhD
Programme Duration1 January 2009–31 December 2014
The research programme “Conditions and Problems of Contemporary Philosophy” continues to pursue some of the fundamental theoretical positions, contents, and goals of the research programme conducted by the Institute of Philosophy during the years 2004-2008; at the same time it introduces new research contents and aspects.
The basic outline of the research is defined by the investigation of the destiny and the mutations undergone by the traditional philosophical categories on the ground of contemporary philosophical thought, as well as by the investigation of the new categories introduced by contemporary philosophy. The framework of this research consists of three fundamental questions that constitute and dictate the organizing principle of the research as a whole. These are the question of ontology and its criticism, the question of discontinuity (interruption, break, change), and the question of temporality in its different dimensions. These fundamental questions, which are also interrelated, constitute conceptual junctions and linking points between different individual research programmes, and provide the perspective from which the analysis of particular categories and thematic blocs of the research will be conducted.
The goal of the research programme is to produce insight – from different perspectives – into some of the most important challenges that contemporary philosophy is confronting both from within itself and in relation to other contemporary social and human sciences. In this respect, the focus will be particularly on the conceptual and methodological connections, as well as on the condition of the encounters, between contemporary philosophy and psychoanalysis (Freud, Lacan), linguistics, epistemology, and anthropology. Special attention will also be devoted to the question of religion and its relationship to philosophy and politics.
Among the general theoretical positions of the program, there is also a focus on the simultaneous research of particular themes from the perspective of ethics and of ethical discourses in philosophy and contemporary science; from the perspective of the political thought that results from the breakdown of the classical notions of universality and community; and from the perspective of the conceptual permutations taking place in the contemporary theory of art, and following the expansion of the “new technologies” and their colonialism.
An important idea has been emerging recently in the field of contemporary philosophy, suggesting that some of its most important “practical” themes – such as ethics or emancipatory politics – cannot be thought of thoroughly and rigorously without being related to their possible ontological background and its elaboration.
This is why the first and central conceptual junction of the proposed research programme is the question of ontology and its critical examination. Special attention is devoted to the so-called new ontologies, which are mostly (renewed) ontologies of the multiple: Badiou’s transitional ontology, Deleuze’s ontology of the virtual, and Agamben’s ontology of potentiality. Special attention will also be devoted to Lacan’s criticism of ontology, and to the implications of this criticism for psychoanalysis itself: does it simply put psychoanalysis outside all ontological considerations, or is psychoanalysis nevertheless in the position to put forward and defend certain ontological claims? Related to this is also the question of the possibility of a materialistic ontology today, the investigation of which will include, among other things, an analysis of the ontological implications of the psychoanalytical concept of the (death) drive. The relationship between the actual, the virtual, and the real will also be investigated through the prism of ontology. Special attention will further be devoted to investigating the ways in which the sphere of appearance and the logic of appearing are thought of on the ground of the new ontologies. In relation to this, the research will also aim at answering the question of how the contemporary ontological premises continue the Kantian and (later) the Hegelian criticism of the traditional philosophical couples of being and appearance, reality and semblance. This segment of the research programme will take its staring point in the Lacanian conceptualizations of the semblance, on the one hand, and on the other hand in the Badiouian notion of onto-logics, in which the mathematical ontology of the multiple, the doctrine of being as being, and the logics of appearing, the doctrine of the appearance of being as being-there, are inseparably intertwined.
The second fundamental conceptual junction of the research programme is provided by the question of discontinuity (interruption, break, change). One of the key tasks of philosophy in the contemporary global world is to find ways of thinking of the possibility of the emergence of the new that would constitute a break with the given and change the existing situation radically. Implied in this conceptual knot are the classical philosophical problems of cause, contingency, and necessity; in contemporary philosophy this relates to the Badiouian concept of the event and, in a slightly different sense, to the Althusserian notion of the epistemological cut; in psychoanalytic theory this concerns the concepts of the real and of the subject; in classical as well as contemporary ethical philosophy this involves the issue of the act in the strong sense of the term; in the history of science and epistemology it involves the interrogation of the concept of scientific revolution. In the context of epistemological research, the programme will focus on the following questions: What are the fundamental characteristics that distinguish modern science from pre-modern science? What role did philosophy play in the process of scientific revolution, and how did science influence philosophy (the notion of “astronomer – philosopher”)? Can we speak of a continuity between medieval science and early modern science? What exactly is the role of modern science in the constitution of the concept of the subject?
The goal of the research work regarding discontinuity will be to analyze the shift from the traditional philosophical paradigm that thinks of change in terms of bipolar oppositions: possible-impossible, contingent-necessary, potential-actualized, to contemporary renewals of the ontology of the multiple, which think of change in terms of the articulation of the contingent and the impossible. The research will also include the concept of repetition, elaborated – by psychoanalysis and some currents of contemporary philosophy – in the seemingly paradoxical perspective of carrying in itself the possibility of something new. The discontinuity research will also focus on radical forms of identity in the realm of art and culture, identities that subvert not only the relationship between subject and object, but also the forms of their activity and/or passivity. Another focus will be on the break between the understanding of art in terms of it constituting the truth of its time, society, and individuals, and its understanding in terms of the creation of meaning; special attention will be devoted to the intervention of philosophy in the field of modern art.
The third conceptual junction concerns the questions of time and of different temporal logics, diachrony, synchrony, logical time, retroaction, the specificity of “messianic time” as discussed by Benjamin and Agamben, the specific temporality of the event in Badiou’s theory, the tension between two times (Chronos and Aîon) in Deleuze, and the recent investigations of the acceleration of time in conjunction with the new technologies. Special attention will be devoted to the specific temporality of the change: to the past that does not pass, to the present that is never present, and to the future that “will have been”. The investigation will also focus on the question of subjective time, related to an analysis of different discussions of subject and of subjectivation in contemporary philosophy and psychoanalysis. Political dimensions of different conceptions of temporality will also be discussed, especially in relation to the topics of political theology and political mythology, which are also connected to the other conceptual junctions of the research program. The popularization of political theology and fascination with political mythology demands philosophical reflection. Intellectual engagement with this problems calls for a reconsideration of the fundamental coordinates and presumptions of modern and contemporary political philosophy. From the standpoint of the history of political thought, the research will thus focus on three crucial points: on Hobbes’ and Spinoza’s political philosophy, especially their biblical criticism and criticism of religion; on Schmitt’s and Strauss’ politico-theological criticism of Spinoza and Hobbes; on the contemporary reception and influence of Schmitt and Strauss, as well as of Spinoza and Hobbes.
The three presented conceptual junctions of the research programme are structurally strongly connected. Thus, the discussion of change and discontinuity is connected to the question of ontology, which allows (or not) the concept of radical discontinuity to develop. And the question of discontinuity cannot be separated from the question of its specific temporality. These and other structural connections between the principal conceptual knots of the research programme provide an important guarantee that the large diapason of different topics constituting this research will be integrated in a consistent and coherent organizing network.
The programme is devised from the perspective of arriving at some important answers to the questions that have so far remained unresolved in philosophical elaborations of the problems of ontology, discontinuity, and temporality.