Umberto Eco once deﬁned a sign as ʻanything we can use to lie withʼ, though exactly what lying consists in he failed to make clear. To lie is not of course just to state an untruth, since I may believe my statement to be true; but nor is it just to state an untruth knowing it to be an untruth, as I may know that you know the same. That Heineken reaches parts of the body which other beers donʼt is not true, but it is not a lie either. Determining whether an untruth is a lie involves an appeal not only to the speakerʼs awareness of its untruth but to her intention to deceive. But lying is not just a question of deceptive intentions either, since I can also deceive someone by speaking the truth, or part of it, in a certain style. I may imply by my tone that I am being ironic, when in fact I am not. So lying does indeed involve stating what is not the case, as well as more subjective factors; and this is an interplay of objective and subjective which for the hermeneutics of Schleiermacher is present in all understanding.
Deﬁning a sign as anything we can use to lie with is deﬁning a thing in terms of its abuses, and something like this goes for Schleiermacherʼs theory of interpretation. Hermeneutics, he writes, ʻrests on the fact of the non-understanding of discourseʼ. Truth, in short, is born of error: it is non-understanding which ﬁrst breeds in us the need to understand our understanding. Here as elsewhere, ʻtheoryʼ arises when our routine practices come unstuck, and so become freshly estranged. Postmodernists will be intrigued to learn from Andrew Bowieʼs excellent Introduction to this collection of Schleiermacherʼs hermeneutical texts that the problem of understanding from which he took off was a question of cultural otherness. In translating an account of the English colony in New South Wales, he began to worry about how to understand the alien religious notions of aboriginals. For Schleiermacher the theologian, however, there is a rather more pressing need for the art of interpretation, which is the fact that God has spoken to us, but in Aramaic. Hermeneutics has its root in the theological task of deciphering the scriptures – a paradoxical affair, to be sure, since the scriptures are sacred documents whereas interpretation is a chancy, indeterminate, thoroughly secular business of which the angels presumably have no need. On the other hand, the imperfectness of our understanding has itself a theological root, and so is itself a part of revealed truth, rather than at odds with it.
Jesus is himself a text, version or discourse, the Word which incarnates the Fatherʼs own interpretation of himself, but one articulable only through our own postlapsarian languages, and so alarmingly ambiguous. Theologians today set notably rigorous conditions for identifying Jesusʼs ipsissima verba: such as whether a statement attributed to him would be a grave embarrassment for the early church, and so possibly included in the New Testament only on the grounds of its undeniable authenticity. Jesus almost certainly did not say ʻI am the Way, the Truth, and the Lifeʼ, any more than Oscar Wildeʼs dying words were ʻEither I or that wallpaper will have to goʼ, but he almost certainly addressed God as ʻAbba Fatherʼ, meaning something like ʻFather dearʼ, since we ﬁnd almost no other instance of this usage in the Aramaic of his time. Anyway, including it in their writing, unlike sticking in the odd piece of anti-Semitism, is of no particular political or theological advantage to the Evangelists.
If theology and hermeneutics share a common root, it is perhaps also because there is something mildly miraculous about meaning. What bemuses linguisticians is how we come to understand each other at all, given the formidable obstacles to such an encounter. Schleiermacher, as Andrew Bowie argues here, does not propose ʻempathyʼ as a solution to the problem – an egregious lapse of hermeneutical attention to his hermeneutics by, among others, Hans-Georg Gadamer. In any case, understanding by empathy dubiously assumes that the one to be understood is self-transparent. Schleiermacher, by contrast, is famously intent on understanding the author better than he understands himself, since hermeneutics can disclose the explanatory contexts of an utterance which were necessarily concealed from the speaker. Instead of empathy, he insists on the way that in any act of understanding,
The miracle of meaningFriedrich Schleiermacher, Hermeneutics and Criticism and Other Writings, edited by Andrew Bowie, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1998. xl + 284 pp., £35.00 hb., £12.95 pb., 0 521 59149 X hb., 0 521 59848 6 pb.ʻspontaneityʼ (meaning the mindʼs activity in rendering the world intelligible) and ʻreceptivityʼ (meaning the way the world is given to the subject) are only analytically distinguishable.
A child who comes to apply linguistic rules must already, at the cost of inﬁnite regress, have grasped something of the relation between word and world in a ruleless way; and here we are brought up against Schleiermacherʼs doctrine of ʻfeelingʼ or intuition, which Bowie wishes to salvage from some Romantic mystiﬁcation. On the contrary, this unschematizable intuition is in the ﬁrst place one of our radical dependence on the world, a dependence (Bowie might have added) with distinctly Protestant connotations, and to this extent runs counter to Idealism. Our making sense of the world presupposes our prior bound-upness with it, a theme which will be inherited by Heidegger. Hegel, the great merchant of mediation, was predictably hostile to the immediacy of this feeling, which for Schleiermacher himself has theological overtones of a ground to the relationship between mind and world which cannot itself be mediated. The Absolute in which concept and object achieve identity is for him the ground of our knowledge, but thereby inaccessible to it.
For Schleiermacher, then, the particular and the universal converge only asymptotically, in an Absolute which transcends them both. But if we take the act of interpreting discourse as a paradigm of our knowledge of the world – a move which Bowie might perhaps have questioned more than he does – their capillary interaction is everywhere observable. Grasping the particularity of anotherʼs discourse presupposes universal rationality as a regulative idea, and the impulse behind this view is an ethical one. Hermeneutics is both a grasping of the facts and a will to acknowledge the reality of the other. Part of that understanding is to understand the impossibility of any absolute version of it, for the dialectic between universal and particular will never be ﬁnally sealed. But if what one might call language as event and language as structure are never ﬁnally reconcilable, this is not to suggest, as it is, say, for Paul de Man, that the relationship between them is purely aporetic. Language is a structure that generates events which have the power to transform that structure itself, the most prototypical of which events are known as poems. And, in a broader context, this unﬁnished dialectic is known as human history.
Andrew Bowieʼs reclamation of Schleiermacher is thus much more than a scholarly salvaging of a philosopher more referred to than read. It is a key intervention into the increasingly sterile altercations between semanticists and intentionalists, humanists and post-structuralists. As such, this is a volume whose signiﬁcance lies far beyond its apparently academic purposes, and the editor is to be commended on his painstaking labours of translation and annotation. He is also to be mildly upbraided for being too uncritical of his subject – a familiar psychological tendency when one is presenting a much-travestied thinker for positive revaluation. Bowieʼs Introduction, which illuminatingly embeds Schleiermacherʼs hermeneutics in the context of German Idealism, breathes hardly a word of the fact that his thought may display the occasional deﬁciency. Schleiermacher, as Bowie deftly shows, is no unconstructed intentionalist, a kind of dry run for E.D. Hirsch; on the contrary, he is subtly aware of how our intentions, like our desires, are in some sense bestowed upon us by a language we never got to choose. Even so, he tends at times to view language in pre-Wittgensteinian fashion as being a kind of translation of thought, so that the task of the hermeneuticist is to reconstruct or dredge to consciousness the thoughts underlying the utterance. But the spatial metaphor of thought as lying ʻbehindʼ utterance has always been obfuscatory, just as the equally spatial images of signs ʻbuttoning downʼ on things, or ʻﬂoating offʼ from them, have been. It is not helpful to think of the words ʻSmother it with goulashʼ as concealing the thought ʻSmother it with goulashʼ, as Bowie would be the ﬁrst to agree. Nor is it especially helpful to conceive of all texts or discourses as complex unities, another dogma to which Schleiermacher is occasionally prone. But the editorʼs rather too unreserved promotion of his author is a minor lapse when compared to the service which this volume renders to the history of ideas.
Absolute forgivenessH.S. Harris, Hegelʼs Ladder, I: The Pilgrimage of Reason, Hackett, Indianapolis and Cambridge, 1997. xvii + 658 pp., £99.00 (2-vol. set) hb., 0 87220 278 X. H.S. Harris, Hegelʼs Ladder, II: The Odyssey of Spirit, Hackett, Indianapolis and Cambridge, 1997. xiii + 909 pp., £99.00 (2-vol. set) hb., 0 87220 279 8.
The Phenomenology of Spirit (1807) is one of the most important, difﬁcult and endlessly fascinating works of philosophy ever written. It has been the subject of several inﬂuential commentaries, most notably the monumental ʻgenetic-structuralʼ account by Jean Hyppolite (1946) and the equally extensive ʻexistentialanthropologicalʼ account by Alexandre Kojève (1947), both of which have governed the interpretation of Hegelʼs text in France and the USA since the Second World War. Of the commentaries written originally in English, Quentin Lauerʼs meticulous textual study is probably the best regarded. No commentary currently available to the English-speaking reader of Hegel, however, can match Henry Harrisʼs new two-volume study, Hegelʼs Ladder, for detail, scope and sheer erudition.
This study is unfortunately not always as lucid or readable as one would like, and certainly does not make Hegelʼs dense arguments as immediately transparent for the beginner as does Lauer (or Findlay or Kaufmann). But Harris provides what is without doubt the most thorough, well-researched and thoughtful study of the Phenomenology in English to date. He identiﬁes more of Hegelʼs oblique references than anyone else; he draws more parallels between the various sections of Hegelʼs text than anyone else; he relates Hegelʼs text to its intellectual background better than anyone else; and in many cases (though not all) he understands the logic of Hegelʼs argument better than anyone else. In short, in spite of its ﬂaws, Harrisʼs commentary is a splendid and quite aweinspiring achievement – the magniﬁcent fruit of over thirty years of study that will be savoured by future generations of scholars and students for many years to come.
Harris proceeds by providing a short ʻanalysisʼ (sometimes only four or ﬁve lines long) of each of the 808 paragraphs of Hegelʼs text, and by following each analysis with a detailed ʻcommentaryʼ (sometimes running to several pages) on the relevant paragraph. He is thus concerned to explore and clarify the structure not only of Hegelʼs phenomenological argument, but also of Hegelʼs text as a whole. Indeed, one of the most original and useful features of Harrisʼs approach is that it is just as sensitive to the literary character of Hegelʼs book (to its style, organization, use of metaphor, and wide – if often hidden – references to other literary sources) as it is to its philosophical merits.
Beyond the voluminous paragraph-by-paragraph analysis and commentary, which make up the bulk of the two volumes, Hegelʼs Ladder also includes a short but helpful Introduction outlining the genesis of Hegelʼs text and its relation to the work of Reinhold and Fichte, a ʻConcluding Intermezzoʼ at the close of volume one, a concluding ʻRitornelloʼ at the close of volume two, almost 250 pages of scholarly, polemical, entertaining and always fascinating notes, and an invaluable 84-page bibliography listing virtually everything of any merit that has been written on the Phenomenology since 1960 and several works published before then. There is an excellent analytical index and a separate index for all the secondary works referred to in the notes. These two volumes are hardly cheap (at £99 for the set), but what the reader will get for her money is a complete study pack for the Phenomenology.
Harrisʼs approach to the Phenomenology is twofold.
On the one hand, he seeks to bring out the ʻmethodic continuityʼ of Hegelʼs text, and, on the other hand, he endeavours to ʻput the pictures backʼ into the Phenomenology by supplying philosophical, historical and literary examples that will enable the reader to form a concrete mental image of the modes of consciousness under discussion. On the whole, despite not always achieving the clarity of exposition one would prefer, Harris succeeds in making the logical continuity of Hegelʼs argument eminently intelligible. He explains many of the transitions between different forms of consciousness well, and offers particularly ﬁne accounts of the transitions between ʻreasonʼ and ʻspiritʼ and the ʻbeautiful soulʼ and ʻreligionʼ. He points to numerous important, but easily overlooked, parallels between various sections of the text, and is especially illuminating on the ways in which the dialectic of ʻperceptionʼ reappears in ʻobserving reasonʼ, in the relation between Antigone and Creon, and in the ʻmoral willʼ. He also offers persuasive arguments to explain why Hegel included some of his more idiosyncratic analyses, such as those of physiognomy and phrenology.
The problem is that some parts of Harrisʼs own text are bristling with examples and cross-references to such a degree that there is simply too much for the reader to absorb. Furthermore, the judgments Harris makes on the ﬁgures to whom he refers are at times so elliptical, and the connections he draws between them at such a high level of generality, that it is often very hard to evaluate his claims properly. For those of us who lack Harrisʼs extraordinary erudition, parts of his leavened prose actually prove to be no more easily digestible than Hegelʼs unleavened original.
At the heart of the Phenomenology, according to Harris, is the insight that a ʻrational individual can exist only within the life-sphere of a substantial community of essentially similar individualsʼ. Harrisʼs Hegel is thus an unequivocal communitarian. ʻSpiritʼ, for him, is not a transcendent entity governing the lives of people from on high, but is simply the ʻidentical self-structureʼ, or ʻsense of common ʻsubstanceʼ, that all the members of a community share. The distinctive feature of Hegelʼs communitarianism in the Phenomenology, however, is that it is not presupposed from the outset, but is a position at which he arrives, having started from its polar opposite. Hegel actually begins by considering the character of individual consciousness, self-consciousness and reason by itself, and by demonstrating (over scores of dense pages) that individual consciousness has to be embedded in a public, communal life, if it is to be capable of genuine objectivity, rationality and truth. Existing in a community is thus, for Harrisʼs Hegel (as for Habermas), a transcendental condition of understanding oneʼs ideas to be objective and true. If one could not understand that oneʼs ideas demand recognition from others, as well as oneself, one could not conceive of those ideas as objective rather than merely subjective.
The turning point in Hegelʼs Phenomenology – when consciousness ﬁrst begins to recognize that objectivity can only be found in that which demands public recognition within a community or ʻspiritʼ – is the point at which consciousness tries and fails to ﬁnd objectivity in the immediate, sensuous presence of physical things. This occurs, famously, in phrenology, in which consciousness endeavours abortively to ﬁnd its own objective character embodied in the shape of the skull. In a brilliant echo of Hegelʼs reference to Golgotha at the end of the Phenomenology, Harris thus concludes that ʻit is from this “skull-place” [of phrenology] that the inﬁnitude of the Spirit foams forthʼ. The ﬁrst volume of Harrisʼs study ends, consequently, with Hegelʼs account of phrenology. (This volume is entitled ʻThe Pilgrimage of Reasonʼ, by the way, because its theme is the way in which conscious, ﬁnite Reason ends up ʻpursu[ing] its search logically to its own tombʼ.) The second volume moves on to consider Hegelʼs discussion of the simplest form of self-consciously communal or ʻspiritualʼ reason, in which conﬂicting aspects of its identity are understood to be immediately embodied in different individuals (such as Antigone and Creon); and, following this, the realm of culture, in which communal reason is understood to be selfcreating. In religion, Harris explains, consciousness understands that it is not just part of a local, national community, or even of a developing historical culture, but that it is actually part of the inﬁnite community of humanity as a whole. That is to say, religious consciousness recognizes that ʻthe humanity of the spirit is founded in, and begins from, the clear consciousness of being identically (or “substantially”) an ingredient in the great community of the living and the dead who make up the total fabric of Reasonʼ. This inﬁnite community constitutes the ʻsubstanceʼ or sustaining ground of individual identity and is, in Hegelʼs view, that which is truly divine. Indeed, Harris argues, there is no other God than this for Hegel. Religious believers may assume that they are worshipping one or more transcendent entities; but, according to Hegel, what they are actually doing is giving expression, in their respective conceptions of God or the gods, to the ways in which they understand the ʻdivineʼ character of humanity as a whole. ʻWhat “God” representsʼ, Harris writes, ʻis ourselves as a universal community in our environment as a totality.ʼ
Christianity is the ʻabsolute religionʼ, according to Hegel, because in it human beings give explicit pictorial expression to the truth that spirit, or the ʻinﬁnite community of Reasonʼ, is the only deity there is. Christianity also recognizes that this inﬁnite human community comes to be more and more conscious of itself as a uniﬁed community, as human beings renounce the desire to pass moral judgement on one another and accept one another, in a spirit of ʻforgivenessʼ, as fellow human beings. The fully self-conscious inﬁnite community of humanity can only come into being, therefore, as the ʻcommunity of reconciliation or the ʻcommunity of universal forgivenessʼ. According to Harris, however, Hegel thinks that Christianity continues, in spite of its ofﬁcial universalism, to exclude non-believers from this community. Harris thus argues, controversially (and in my view mistakenly), that Hegelʼs ʻmanifest religionʼ is not historical Christianity itself, but a more all-forgiving variant of Christianity that only began to emerge after the French Revolution in ʻa few intellectual romanticsʼ, such as Novalis and Hölderlin.
The great merit of Harrisʼs study of the Phenomenology is that it clearly acknowledges the enormous importance that Hegel attributes to religion in human experience. In this respect, it provides an important corrective to the more ʻexistential-anthropologicalʼ interpretations of Hegelʼs text afforded by Kojève and Kaufmann, which tend to downplay the religious dimension to Hegelʼs thought. But it also shows clearly just how mistaken Charles Taylor is to claim that Hegel pointed to a distinct ʻself-positing Spiritʼ behind the historical activity of human beings. Harris insists that ʻin some sense … Hegel was promising that the end of the journey would be the coincidence of human conscious experience with the self-knowledge of Godʼ; but this is because ʻGodʼ proves to be simply ʻthe community of rational self-consciousnessʼ itself – the community which is the ultimate creative and sustaining ground of our existence. This community is located in nature, but beyond it, for Hegel, there is no further transcendent divinity. In fact, Harris claims, the Phenomenology shows clearly that ʻall transcendence is to be done away withʼ. The journey begins as a pilgrimage; but it turns into an odyssey, once consciousness recognizes, in its passage through the Golgotha of phrenology, that its nature is not to be merely immediate, sensuous presence, but rather selfcreating, spiritual life. Volume two of Harrisʼs study, consequently, is entitled ʻThe Odyssey of the Spiritʼ.
Consciousness comes to understand rationally that the inﬁnite human community is its home, when it follows the lead provided by Christianity, renounces the desire to pass moral judgement on what belongs to a different time or place from itself, and learns to reconcile itself with everything human. Absolute knowing, like Christian religious consciousness, thus rests on the acceptance that all modes of human consciousness are ʻforgivenʼ and deserve to be understood for what they each uniquely are. Such knowing does not, therefore, seek to praise or condemn other forms of consciousness, or to subordinate them violently to a presupposed master-plan, but endeavours to render intelligible the distinctive character of those other forms in a ʻspirit of charity and reconciliationʼ. Some anti-Hegelians will be surprised to ﬁnd absolute knowing associated with ʻloving comprehensionʼ – rather than ʻtotalizing subsumptionʼ – of the other; but, to my mind, Harris makes his case persuasively.
On reﬂection, Harris might perhaps be criticized for overly humanizing ʻspiritʼ. He recognizes that Hegelian ʻspiritʼ is indeed constituted by human social and historical activity, and that such human activity emerges in nature. But he seems to downplay the extent to which humanity brings being itself – absolute reason or the ʻIdeaʼ – to self-consciousness. In rejecting the idea of a realm beyond this world, therefore, Harris appears to deprive the (human) spirit of any absolute, ontological ground whatsoever. Be that as it may, Harris is surely right to emphasize the radically thisworldly character of Hegelʼs thought and the intimate connection between absolute knowing and the religious spirit of forgiveness and love. Indeed, reading Harrisʼs magniﬁcent study carefully reveals just how lovingly immersed in the riches of this world Hegelʼs thought actually is. For this, and for a lifetime devoted to illuminating the most demanding of all philosophers, Harris deserves considerable gratitude from all of us.
Thesis three: femaleChristine Battersby, The Phenomenal Woman: Feminist Metaphysics and the Patterns of Identity, Polity Press, Cambridge, 1998. 236 pp., £49.50 hb., £14.99 pb., 0 7456 1554 6 hb., 0 7456 1555 4 pb.
Addressing feminists of both genders who are drawn to the seductions of Deleuzean ʻlines of ﬂightʼ, but who want the speciﬁcity of female identity, The Phenomenal Woman proposes a feminist metaphysics that, counter-intuitively, ʻtakes the embodied female as normʼ. It is Battersbyʼs aim to redirect feminist theoretical discussion away from epistemology and back to ontology, to female selves and their phenomenal existence. As she ʻturn[s] away from the epistemology of the subject, toward a metaphysics of the objectʼ, Battersby seeks an ʻotherʼ approach to being, time, space and identity to inform ʻwomanʼ in philosophy and women in the world.
To parry the huge bias in contemporary theory against any consideration of ontology, Battersby sweeps out the metaphysical attic, banishing both Aristotleʼs notion of nonrelational, unchangeable being and the noumenon of Kantian speculative metaphysics. Yet Kant is crucial to Battersbyʼs feminist metaphysics; indeed the ﬁrst piece of her ontological model, embedded in Kantʼs descriptive (as opposed to speculative) metaphysics, is what she terms his ʻimplicitly relationalʼ framework of existence – the crosshatching of reason, understanding, senses and imagination as structuring elements of ʻself and not-selfʼ. Of course, Kantʼs metaphysics requires serious refunctioning. Not only does Battersby add sexual difference to the Kantian frame, she rejects any notion of a ʻpermanent, underlying substrateʼ to female existence. With this modiﬁed Kant, Battersby uncovers a ʻrelational model of identity that can deal with the speciﬁcities and paradoxes of the female subject-position … in western modernityʼ.
This move is typical of the strategy deployed in The Phenomenal Woman. Reading with and against Kant, Irigaray, Adorno, Butler, Locke, Hegel, Lacan, Bergson, Nietzsche, Deleuze,
Wittgenstein, Haraway, and ﬁnally Kierkegaard, Battersby, by her own admission, ʻraids the philosophical pastʼ, reading opportunistically through various systems and anti-systems, taking what she needs to construct her feminist metaphysics. From Locke, she takes nominal essences; from Wittgenstein, singularity; from Bergson, ﬂuidity underlying reality; from Kierkegaard, becoming over being – a crude and incomplete list. With each philosophical encounter, Battersby explains the ontological model, or parts of the model, she is about to ʻraidʼ. For the uninitiated reader, such glosses and explanations are invaluable. Yet the clarity of these parsings contrasts with the odd opacity of Battersbyʼs own notion of female being.
In her introductory chapter, ʻFleshy Metaphysicsʼ,
Battersby outlines ﬁve ʻfeaturesʼ of female being, beginning with ʻnatalityʼ, ʻthe conceptual link between “woman” and the body that birthsʼ, which ʻdoes not imply that all women either can or should give birthʼ. Also characteristic of the female subject-position, according to Battersby, is a certain inequality of power relations, contrary to the Enlightenment idealization of autonomous selves. Connected to this is a self ʻscored by relationalityʼ which attains distinctness only by patterning (repetitions) through time; in contrast to both the Kantian ʻcutʼ between self and other and the ʻsubjectʼ of much postmodern theory, formed by forcibly abjecting an other. Fourth is the ﬂeshy continuity of the female subject position, in opposition to the disembodiedness of most Western philosophy, and also as a challenge to body-thinkers like Foucault and Deleuze who continue to take masculinity as normative. Finally, there is monstrosity, or the links between the ʻfemale human in our cultureʼ and ʻthe anomalous, the monstrous, the inconsistent and the paradoxicalʼ.
In subsequent chapters all of these are taken up, but inconsistently – hence the opacity mentioned above. Fleshy continuity and the dependent body-that-canbirth are not explored fully in themselves, but function mostly as exit strategies from gender-blind philosophers on whom she otherwise depends – primarily Kant and Deleuze. However, her self–other adumbrations lead to important engagements with the concept of ʻdissipative systemsʼ from contemporary physics and with Adornoʼs notion of historically ﬂuctuating matter. Similarly, ʻmonstrosityʼ inspires a rather devotional consideration of Kierkegaard, whose female ﬁgures are consistently ambiguous and relational. Overall the strength of The Phenomenal Woman lies in its helpful discussions of other metaphysical modellings in relation to Battersbyʼs own project. The best chapter, ʻAntigones of Genderʼ, works the comparatist method brilliantly, opening up that overburdened daughter/ martyr to original and inspired contemplation.
Battersbyʼs most important feminist interlocutor in The Phenomenal Woman is Luce Irigaray. Irigarayʼs path-breaking Speculum of the Other Woman put the question of female ontology on the philosophical Christo, Wedding Dressmap, challenging the unspeakable otherness of the female in Freud, Lacan, Plato, Hegel and Plotinus. Important critical tropes for Battersby, such as ﬂuidity over substance, and relationality, were pioneered by Irigaray. In a wonderfully insightful reading Battersby demonstrates the distortions of epistemological readings of Irigaray (as in Judith Butlerʼs otherwise ﬁne chapter in Bodies That Matter), which ignore Irigarayʼs ontological innovations. One better appreciates Irigarayʼs distinctiveness in poststructuralist theory, Battersby argues, when it is viewed ʻfrom the angle of metaphysicsʼ. Indeed, Battersby seems content to make Irigarayʼs work the placeholder for the ʻembodied female subjectʼ. Yet she fundamentally differs with Irigarayʼs tendency, across her canon, to treat Western philosophy as monolithically invested in the exclusion of female being. Seeing patriarchy as a ʻclosed systemʼ, Irigaray ʻsentimentalizesʼ women in an unhelpful way.
In contrast, Battersbyʼs answer to oppositionality and the patriarchal symbolic is an eager embrace of the new science. In a move increasingly common among cultural critics lured by the metaphorical richness of chaos theory, she ʻappropriatesʼ current topographical models of reality. Contrary to the mechanical models which echo through the male imaginary, in which bodies are imaged as impervious containers ʻfree from contaminationʼ, the dissipative system allows us to imagine a body boundary as an ʻevent horizon, in which one form (myself) meets its potentiality for transforming itself into another form (the not-self)ʼ. Well, ﬁne. But just as Battersby asserts that Deleuze and Guattariʼs ʻbody without organsʼ fails to register material differences, one wonders if the appeal of ʻdissipative systemsʼ will also fade, under the scrutiny of, say, someone in feminist science studies who may show that, by the discourse of its modelling, topographical models assert conceptual identity through strategic exclusions of an ʻotherʼ.
Far more persuasive are Battersbyʼs readings, not of a dissipative system, but of dissipative history, via the work of Adorno, who allows the author not only to retain a subject–object relation (against the prevailing subject-ness of epistemology), but also to specify (against psychoanalysis) different and changing subjects, objects and realities. Adornoʼs (and Horkheimerʼs) elaboration of instrumental and ʻpseudo-individualsʼ under bourgeois high capitalism, and Adornoʼs notion of cognitionʼs ʻblind spotsʼ as historically based, all give Battersbyʼs ontology more inner dynamism than the nomadology of Deleuze and Guattari. As with Kant, she can justiﬁably accuse Adorno of ʻforgettingʼ – indeed, excluding – female phenomenology from negative dialectics, and more profoundly, she can separate her subject–object relationality and dependency from the antagonistic subject–object dualism Adorno retains from Kant, even as it changes historically. In this, Battersbyʼs position resembles Rosi Braidottiʼs claims for current feminismʼs ʻnon-dialectical view of alterity, [which afﬁrms] positive differences so as to posit new parameters for the deﬁnition of female subjectivityʼ (Patterns of Dissonance, 1991). Battersby, however, reaches this point in dialogue with an Adornian position she both needs and successfully sublates.
Battersbyʼs dialogue with Kierkegaard is even more fruitful, and in Chapter 6, which treats elegantly of the different perspectives on Antigone in Irigaray, Hegel, Lacan and (implicitly) Butler, it is Kierkegaard who places Antigone alongside his daughter or woman ﬁgurations that stand for, variously, ʻthe transitional state between individualized self and lack of selfʼ; ʻsingularity, both inside and outside norms of full personhoodʼ; ʻthe embryonicʼ; and, most fecundly for Battersby, ʻa workshop of possibilitiesʼ. The appeal of Kiekegaardian selves for Battersby is clear: in his texts woman is ʻa ﬁction but also realʼ, one who escapes ʻpredicatesʼ yet who represents not mere otherness, but rather ʻan ideal of identity without closure that is ontologically bound up with otherness, inheritance and an (ambiguous) pastʼ.
Through these ﬁgurations, Battersby returns us to natality, her ﬁrst condition of the feminist metaphysics. What is birthed, however, is another ﬁgure: the ʻself … within a multiple play of possibilitiesʼ. This accords nicely with new neurobiological ﬁndings of how women and men develop ʻbrain-mapsʼ of the body ʻas ways of ordering ﬂuidity and diversity of sensationsʼ (i.e. a multiple play of possibilities). That Kierkegaard turns out to offer the most supple model of female metaphysics and to anticipate current scientiﬁc ﬁndings may strike readers either as deeply opportunistic narrativizing or as powerful justiﬁcation for Battersbyʼs consistent claim, restated pithily in her closing sentence: ʻThe way on from postmodernism needs to be looped back through the philosophical past.ʼ Certainly, any future argument for a feminist metaphysics will need to be looped back through Battersbyʼs impressive The Phenomenal Woman.
‘With that, then, it is over’Theodor W. Adorno, Metaphysik: Begriffe und Probleme. Nachgelassene Schriften. Abteilung IV: Vorlesung, Band 14, edited by Rolf Tiedemann, Suhrkamp,
Frankfurt am Main, 1998. 319 pp., 68 DM hb., 3 518 58265 8.
In the essays and books Adorno intended for publication a density and openness of thought are moulded into one. But in the lectures that have been published posthumously, the open and the dense diverge, giving an impression of liveliness. Each new sentence can contain an unexpected turn, even for their author, announcing a surprising thought that is not always developed. Thus, what is striking about the lectures on metaphysics held in the summer term of 1965 and now carefully edited by Rolf Tiedemann, is the emphasis with which Adorno introduces the concept of the open. It is true that in the ʻMeditations on Metaphysicsʼ, which conclude Negative Dialectics, meaning is said to be ʻwith the open, not the closed-in-itselfʼ. Yet the deﬁnition of metaphysics is linked far more explicitly and diversely to the concept of the open in the lectures than in the ʻMeditationsʼ, on whose manuscript the lectures are based.
The course begins with an attempt to determine metaphysics conceptually. The long ﬁrst part analyses Aristotleʼs Metaphysics in an exemplary fashion in order to deal with various problems of traditional metaphysical thinking. Stringently and precisely, Adorno leads the listener/reader into what is intrinsically problematic about the concept that is being determined. From the start he stresses that critique, as the indispensable preparation for a possible metaphysics, threatens to step into metaphysicsʼ place. One can understand this curious ʻpostponement and hesitating delayʼ as a consequence of the concept of metaphysics brought about by its essential disunity:
Metaphysics is, on the one hand … always rationalistic as a critique of some view about what is initself, truth and the essential, in so far as this view does not justify itself in the face of reason; but on the other hand, it is also always an attempt to rescue that which the ingenuity of philosophers feels to be fading and disappearing.
Thus Adorno recognizes a critical and rescuing intention in the concept of metaphysics. The rescue does not follow upon critique like a sigh of relief. Rather, the conceptual unity of metaphysics opens in the taut simultaneity of the diverging intentions. Because Adornoʼs thinking moves in an unsublatable tension, it opposes the two mortal enemies of philosophy: the false piety of restoration and a revisionistic concern for balance. If metaphysics must be regarded as the paradoxical effort of conceptual thinking ʻto save what it at the same time dissolvesʼ, then Adornoʼs own conception of philosophy moves in the immediate vicinity of the paradox of metaphysics. In fact, just as with critique and rescue, the ʻreﬂection on metaphysicsʼ that is pursued here – indeed negative dialectic as a whole – is concerned with a conceptual movement beyond the concept, and consequently with that fundamental openness which, as Adorno says in the ninth lecture, constantly reopens, despite all legitimate and necessary critique, despite all critical inquiry into the truth and untruth of thinking: ʻPrecisely this thinking which moves beyond itself, into the open, is metaphysics.ʼ
The disunity of metaphysics, which is critique and rescue, can be understood such that metaphysical thinking ʻ[takes] the world of experience seriouslyʼ and does not simply oppose it to a ʻsupersensible worldʼ. What Adorno repeatedly underlines in his presentation of the Aristotelian doctrine is the importance that this doctrine attaches to the relation between the pure form and the merely material, between the purely conceptual – which should be distinguished by a ʻhigher degree of essentialityʼ – and the nonconceptual and undetermined. However, Adorno is keen to distinguish himself from Aristotle, because he does not understand the relation between the extremes of metaphysics as an external one, but rather as one of immanent mediation; not as ahistorical and static, but rather as itself exposed to change. Only from such a perspective can one recognize why the event, to which Adorno gives the name Auschwitz, cannot be dismissed as just historical, in order to keep it separate from philosophical discourse and its metaphysical ideas. For Adorno the question of metaphysics is the question of the ʻinﬁnite relevance of the intraworldly and historical to transcendence.ʼ In this sense it is the question of ʻmetaphysical experience.ʼ
One can only do justice to the ʻinﬁnite relevance of the intraworldly and historical to transcendenceʼ, if one starts out from the historical shapes which the metaphysical extremes have assumed – the extremes of universal and particular, idea and entity, form and material. To the extent that ʻcatastrophes always have the power to drag in the past and the remoteʼ, that which is remote must also be tracked down within the metaphysical idea or concept. Metaphysics is struck to the core by the ʻoutermostʼ that Auschwitz names, because this name stands for the destruction of the ʻpossibility of coherenceʼ, the coherence of a uniﬁed life-context which extends to death and justiﬁes it. Adorno attacks both strategies of justiﬁcation which would play down that ʻoutermostʼ: both the soothing relativization which minimizes it as a historically and geographically limited experience, and the consoling relativization which supposes it to be compatible with something ʻwholly otherʼ.
To start out from extremes, as Adorno dedicates himself to doing, means, on the one hand, that rescue cannot be defence, but is rather a gesture of abandonment, an abandonment which may or may not succeed. On the other hand, it means that philosophy is concerned with the reporting of ʻtendenciesʼ, not with the establishment of facts. The allusion to childhood, in whose vicinity metaphysical experience is taken to stand, and thus to happiness – to the awareness of the ʻinside of objects as something which at the same time is removed from themʼ – should not be mistaken for a belatedly transﬁgured biographical fact. Rather, one is meant to discern in this allusion the record of a tendency. As thought which records tendencies, philosophical thought is an open, adventurous, and experimental thought – a claim Adorno makes in a passage from one of the later lectures, which Tiedemann quotes.
Thus, possibility turns out to be a decisive category in Adornoʼs reﬂections on metaphysics, one that does not remain subordinated to the category of reality. Nowhere is this clearer than at the end of the lectures, which stand out stylistically from the more regular and homogeneous, less open and exposed analysis of Aristotle. Possibility and openness belong together, because there is no ʻmetaphysical experienceʼ, indeed no experience or thinking at all, that is not determined by its fallibility: ʻthe possibility that it misses the point entirelyʼ. In the last lecture one reads: ʻOnly that which can also be disappointed …, only that which can also be false, [is] the openness which matters.ʼ Consequently, what Adorno calls the open is not the opposite of the tendency to close off which characterizes mistakes, failures, deceptions and disappointment; rather it ﬁghts against the closure of the system at which traditional metaphysics aims. But then the open is neither true nor untrue, neither correct nor false, neither here nor beyond; it can be concealed or made to disappear at any time.
The open is like that ʻno-manʼs land between the border posts of being and nothingnessʼ, of which Adorno says in the ﬁfth metaphysical meditation of Negative Dialectics: ʻThe smallest difference between nothingness and coming to rest would be the haven of hope.ʼ It is perhaps this ʻsmallest differenceʼ that separates and relates two lines in Ingeborg Bachmannʼs poem ʻEnigmaʼ, whose gesture recalls that of Adornoʼs lectures: ʻNothing will come anymore/ …There is nothing anymore to come.ʼ A German version of this review appeared in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, 25 May 1998. Translated here by Adam Beck.
Alexander garcía düttmann
Dreaming citiesSimon Sadler, The Situationist City, MIT Press, Cambridge MA and London, 1998. 233 pp., £24.95 hb., 0262 19392 2.
There has always been something spectral about situationism. The Situationist International existed in one form or other from 1957 to 1972, and exerted a ghostly inﬂuence out of all proportion to its size or organizational capacity. The famous slogans of May ʼ68 – ʻBeauty is in the streetʼ; ʻBeneath the paving stones, the beachʼ – have a situationist ring to them. Debordʼs society of the spectacle, in which the proliferation of image is more important than the accumulation of commodities and capital, anticipates Baudrillardʼs world of simulacra, but has considerably more political bite. The situationist drift through the city has become part of a powerful urban mythology, exempliﬁed by Iain Sinclairʼs extraordinary Lights out for the Territory – surely the best book on London to have appeared in recent years. The spectre is still there.
Although it deﬁned itself as a revolutionary movement, the SI looks in retrospect like one of the many avant-gardes that have stalked the streets of the modern city, and especially Paris, since Baudelaireʼs ﬂâneur set off down the boulevards. The surrealists roamed the city in pursuit of the objective chance that would bring them into contact with the object of their desires and grant them the experience of the marvellous. Walter Benjamin followed in the footsteps of both as he explored the arcades of the capital of the nineteenth century. The city has long been the setting for the avant-garde artistic practices in which changing the words was a prelude to, or a substitute for, changing both life and the world. Situationism followed the ﬂâneur and the surrealists into the streets on a psychogeographic quest for places conducive to the creation of the situation that would explode the society of the spectacle. Most of the members of the SI were not poets but had a background in the visual arts; their goal was not to change the words, but to change the image of the city both by seeing it in a new way and by designing a city for the future. Sadlerʼs beautifully illustrated book is probably the most detailed study yet of situationismʼs utopian urbanism, and the ideal companion volume to Sadie Plantʼs The Most Radical Gesture (1992), still the best general introduction to situationism.
Sadler reads situationist texts in two contexts: that of the rebuilding and transformation of so much of Paris from the mid-1950s onwards, and that of the development of modernist architecture in general. For Debord and his comrades, the ʻdriftʼ (dérive) was the ideal way of exploring Parisʼs psychogeography, or the changes of ambiance that divided the city into zones with different psychic atmospheres which had unconscious effects on the wandererʼs emotions and perceptions. Drifting was not quite as aimless as the surrealistsʼ nocturnal wanderings: these drifters had maps. The most famous, and most exquisite, was made by Debord and Asger Jorn in 1957 and is entitled The Naked City; the title was ʻborrowedʼ, in a typical act of ʻnecessary plagiarismʼ, from Jules Dassinʼs 1948 ﬁlm about New York. Looking rather like a constructivist painting, it is a collage of fragments from a published map of Paris, separated by white space and linked by arrows; it purports to provide a psychogeographic guide to the city. It is in fact impossible to walk across Paris using this map as a guide. It is discontinuous, does not have a north–south axis, and modiﬁes the geography of the city to reveal a logic that lies beneath or behind the visible spectacle.
The context for the theory of the drift is that of the gentriﬁcation of much of central Paris and the deportation of its working-class population (and especially its immigrants, who actually built the new Paris and its transport network) to the distant and dismal suburbs that have become battle zones. In the 1970s, the Pompidou Centre rose from what had been the warren of streets and multiple-occupied slums of the Beaubourg area. Almost twenty years before it opened, the situationists had sensed what was coming: the preservation of a few old urban spots as a touristic spectacle, and the transformation of neighbourhoods into museums administered by what we would now call the heritage industry. As they drifted, the situationists were attempting to record a Paris that was fast disappearing. Ironically, it was the Pompidou Centre that hosted the 1989 exhibition which recorded how they traced their records. Situationism became part of the spectacle.
Whilst the drift can be seen as a form of urban nostalgia, situationist urbanism is, as Sadler demonstrates, ﬁrmly within the utopian tradition of Fourier and Owen. More tellingly, he also shows that it has a complex relationship with architectural modernism. For the SI, the modernism of Le Corbusierʼs ʻmachines for living inʼ (houses, to most of us) was as repellent as the clean grids of Mondrianʼs paintings. The grid crushed the life of the city; it is scarcely possible to drift along, or in, a straight line. Yet when Nieuwenhuys Constant came to design his New Babylon of the future in the late 1950s, it bore a striking resemblance to Le Corbusierʼs urban utopias (or nightmares). His detailed plans and drawings show unitary buildings made of movable modules, supported by pillars, to leave the ground free for transport and preserved bits of ʻnatureʼ. In some of the drawings, transport takes the form of the helicopters or small planes that are part of so many of the utopias and dystopias (Langʼs Metropolis comes to mind) of the twentieth century. Nostalgia for a vanishing city coexists with a utopian and optimistic faith in the power of architects to create a city in which life will be a permanent festival. Signiﬁcantly, it is quite unclear whether the building of the utopia of New Babylon is a prelude to revolution, or its sequel.
Perhaps predictably, the chapters dealing with the drift are more interesting than those on the utopias. Sadler is right to see situationism as a utopianism, and to place its urbanism in a very old tradition; but it is so difﬁcult, after so many disasters in town planning, to have much faith in playground cities, plug-in cities and streets in the sky. Better, perhaps, to drift in a Paris of the mind where Walter Benjamin can still meet André Breton, and where it might still be possible to meet the late Guy Debord for a drink (but beware, his appetite for alcohol was legendary). Sadler has written a wonderful guidebook for that walk.
Technology and decree cretinismDavid Dyzenhaus, Legality and Legitimacy: Carl Schmitt, Hans Kelsen and Herman Heller in Weimar, Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1997. xiv + 283 pp., £40.00 hb., 0 19 826062
8. ^ John P. McCormick, Carl Schmittʼs Critique of Liberalism: Against Politics as Technology, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1997. xii + 352 pp., £30.00 hb., 0521 59167 8.
Books on Schmitt are coming thick and fast. Besides the two under review here, Renato Cristiʼs Carl Schmitt and Authoritarian Liberalism (1998) has also recently been published, and Bill Scheuermanʼs Carl Schmitt: The Rule of Law is forthcoming. The English-language literature on him is now quite vast. As John McCormick notes, much of the work on Schmitt either denounces him or uncritically appropriates him. Neither of these books does that, though they both make clear the fascist implications of Schmittʼs work. McCormickʼs argument is that Schmittʼs critique of liberalism is based on a broader critique of modern thought, which he regards as having been inﬁltrated by the technological. Dyzenhausʼs focus, in contrast, is on the relationship between Schmittʼs politics and his arguments concerning law and the constitution.
In Part One of his book McCormick entertains the notion that Schmitt be considered a critical theorist of sorts. Though the conclusion is unsurprising – by lapsing into the irrational and lacking any emancipatory potential, Schmitt forecloses the viability of being characterized as a genuinely critical theorist – McCormickʼs opening discussion involves a fascinating three-way dialogue between Weber, Schmitt and Lukács. McCormick traces Schmittʼs development to his increasing distance from Weber, and compares this with Lukácsʼs similar development in the opposite political direction. In the following chapter McCormick explores the inﬂuence of Nietzsche on Schmittʼs friend–enemy distinction, giving Schmittʼs irrationalism and vitalism a greater philosophical depth in the process.
For Dyzenhaus, Schmittʼs chief protagonists are Hans Kelsen and Herman Heller, and the background is the legal and constitutional crisis of Weimar. Schmitt treated Kelsenʼs attempt to purify legal theory of all political ideology as the epitome of self-destructive legal positivism, a liberal avoidance of politics masked by a veneer of science. Schmitt found it highly signiﬁcant that Kelsen had once said that ʻthe concept of sovereignty must be radically repressedʼ, arguing that this was consistent with the relentless Enlightenment opposition to theology, metaphysics and the moment of exception. Dyzenhaus argues that Heller challenged Schmitt most successfully, for Heller understood Schmittʼs philosophy of politics as the one most likely to exploit the problems encountered by Kelsenʼs apolitical Pure Theory of Law. Whereas Kelsenʼs legal theory could not take into account the fact that power is constitutive of law and thus makes law prey to power, Schmittʼs complete relativization of law to power and to the contingencies of the particular situation of power led to the irrational deiﬁcation of power and decision.
Following Karl Renner, Heller described Schmittʼs belief in dictatorial decisionism as ʻDecretinismusʼ – decree cretinism. Hellerʼs point was that while Schmittʼs true aim was a fascist state, his theory of decision in a moral vacuum could not justify even that. All it could justify was the proposition that whatever force was capable of doing so should ﬁll the vacuum. Both Dyzenhaus and McCormick make clear the extent to which Schmittʼs decree cretinism left him without any philosophical or political resources to deal with Hitler other than welcome him, and how little effort it required for Schmitt to turn his arguments of the 1920s into fully ﬂedged fascist and anti-Semitic works.
Both books also point to the dangers of the revival of uncritical Schmittianism. McCormick points out that Schmitt is a major inﬂuence on recent and current gurus on the Right: he has inﬂuenced cultural con-servatism via the work of Strauss, techno-economic conservatism via Hayek, and foreign-policy conservatism via Morgenthau. Given that these trends on the Right set their sights on ʻliberalismʼ as an enemy, and given the way Schmittʼs critique of liberalismʼs failure to engage with the problems posed by emergency powers, representation, law and the state (all dealt with at length in the core chapters of McCormickʼs book) allowed him to glide effortlessly from conservatism to fascism, the implications are clear.
The subtle contours of both books will repay careful and sustained reading. Those interested in European philosophy will learn much from McCormickʼs book, while those more concerned with the legal dimensions of political theory should ﬁnd Dyzenhausʼs equally rewarding. Not only are both scholarly and wellwritten texts; they are also a powerful antidote to the sad apologetics still being pandered by those who have sought to promote the work of one of fascismʼs most intelligent theorists.
Watching worlds emergeJane Duran, Philosophies of Science/Feminist Theories, Westview Press, Boulder CO and Oxford, 1998. xiv + 206 pp., £46.50 hb., £13.95 pb., 0 8133 3299 0 hb., 0 8133 3325 3 pb.
Ongoing debates on gender issues and the contextdependence of truth have not left philosophy of science unaffected. The bibliography on such topics betrays an increasing interest in the coupling of knowledge and power. Duranʼs work is both cognizant of scholarship in epistemology, social theory and feminism and sensitive to the political role of science. In this book, she brieﬂy traces the historical development of philosophy of science from the Vienna Circle to the latest relativist thinkers in order to promote a long overdue reformulation of some basic ideas.
Gleanings from a leftist ʻradical critiqueʼ, a postmodernist detraction of science, and a feminist epistemology provide the material for an updated approach to the problems of scientiﬁc inquiry, discovery and justiﬁcation. Duranʼs project threads its way through a perusal of positivism and rebuttal of misinterpretations; an overview of successive moves towards a Weltanschauungen conception of science; and a nuanced account of contemporary radical and feminist theories of knowledge. It concludes by grounding theoretical validity and epistemic support in the discursive process of testing and veriﬁcation by scientiﬁc communities. The aim is to avoid a drastic choice between a dogmatism consolidating established hierarchies and a scepticism leading to political abdication.
Duran focuses on a crucial axis of past philosophical-scientiﬁc research, the relation between theoretical and observational vocabulary, and examines the tension between empiricism and instrumentalism. Either way, positivist variations result in aspirations to airtight epistemic foundationalism, compatible with reductionism and the unity-of-science thesis. From a feminist viewpoint, this reveals an androcentric desire to master all things by subjecting them to a single explanation.
Reactions to positivism (Hempelʼs deductive-nomological model of science is one of Duranʼs central examples) do not fall short of quests for solid and value-neutral groundings of knowledge. Science remains a ʻgodʼs-eye viewʼ antiseptically devoid of context-dependence or commitment to external interests. However, by combating the preponderance of the Vienna Circleʼs legacy, such reactions paved the way for theories acknowledging scienceʼs embeddedness in society. The turn toward Weltanschauungen – the term employed by Duran to signify world-views framing research – shifts the interest from justiﬁcation and foundation of science to the emergence and construction of scientiﬁc theory. Kuhn, Feyerabend, Hesse, Lakatos and Toulmin are thoroughly discussed. However, without diminishing the signiﬁcance of these developments to Duran, the rationality employed is perhaps no less gendered than that of previous ideas.
Feminist issues might be missing in thinkers like Bloor, Winch and Latour but their projects can be used for purposes of radical critique of science. Latour, in a more pronounced way than other theorists, purports that science lacks any veridical warrant. That repetition, whim, gossip and ambition are as crucial to science as vision, disinterestedness and seeking for truth is a claim that brings him close to feminists like Haraway and, to some extent, Harding.
It is evident that a lurking relativism – explicit in some of the theories discussed in this book – causes uneasiness to feminist defenders of agency. Duran is aware of it this and presents concisely – and equidistantly – the current debate between ʻempiricistʼ and ʻpoststructuralistʼ feminists. The former, despite their attack on science as androcentric, wish to retain some of its epistemic base, whereas the latter direct a blanket critique of reason and dismiss ideas of truth and validity wholesale. Duran, avoiding extremes that ʻthrow out the baby with the bathwaterʼ, opts for a mediatory approach, which entails a qualiﬁed welcome of new ideas that reject an absolute value-neutrality of research and do justice to political concerns without jettisoning scientiﬁc rigour. (On this she shares a lot with Roy Bhaskarʼs scientiﬁc realism and Christopher Norrisʼs discussions of relativism, neither of which is mentioned in the book.) Via an excellent use of Goffmanʼs acknowledgement of the empirical nature of social processes of instantiation and Nelson-Hankinsonʼs idea of a community of researchers functioning as a weak justiﬁcation of knowledge-claims, Duran emphasizes a procedural, empirical and discursive possibility for resuscitating some sense of scientiﬁc conﬁrmation. This well-argued case proves that the symphony of traditional epistemology, feminism, science studies and social theory has been fruitful for philosophy of science.
Money Michael Neary and Graham Taylor, Money and the Human Condition, Macmillan, London 1998. 145 pp., £35.00 hb. 0 333 65959 7.
This book is a contribution to the neglected ﬁeld of the sociology of money, written from the standpoint of an ʻopen Marxismʼ that takes money to be ʻthe supreme social powerʼ (especially money-as-capital) and sees it ʻinstitutionalised as individuated biographyʼ. Apart from topping and tailing chapters, it contains four substantial freestanding papers exemplifying the general standpoint. These are uneven in quality.
ʻMarx, Magic and the Secret of Moneyʼ exhibits perfectly faults characteristic of much of the book. There is no argument, just a freewheeling run through half-analogies and buzzwords, claiming, among other things, that ʻMarx was a magicianʼ. ʻRisky Business! The Law of Insurance and the Law of the Lotteryʼ is better. It contrasts the attempt by the Keynesian welfare state to manage risk with todayʼs ʻrisk societyʼ concretely symbolized in the National Lottery. However, it does not go much beyond a rapid survey of the history and the literature concerned. ʻProbation, Criminology and Anti-oppressionʼ is a haphazard survey of literature from Moll Flanders to Anti-Oedipus, to which is added an autobiographical account of the authorʼs work in the probation service.
ʻLETS Abolish Money? Is there a Community Outside the Community of Money?ʼ is the only chapter that can be recommended. There is an argument that effectively takes apart the overblown claims made for local exchange and trading schemes (LETS). LETS do not abolish money, of course; they simply change its name (and in most cases even tie its value at par with sterling!). It follows that no new utopian community is created; for all the members remain subordinated to the inhuman community of money. However, there is an inconsistency here in that in some earlier places the circuit C–M–C (C = commodities, M = money) is spoken of favourably compared with that of M–C–M – in Aristotelian fashion money is to be ʻrehabilitatedʼ as ʻmeans of exchangeʼ – but LETS, which are precisely schemes to have C–M–C without M–C–M, are attacked as inadequate attempts to escape the baleful effects of money.
In the book as a whole the main enemy is identiﬁed as capital, but there is no convincing account of the mediations whereby it implants itself in all spheres of human existence.
From behind John Rajchman, Constructions, with a Foreword by Paul Virilio, MIT Press, Cambridge MA and London, 1998. ix + 143 pp., £12.50 pb., 0 262 68096 3.
This is a book about philosophy and architecture, both, according to its author, ʻin a state of crisis or transmutationʼ. More particularly, it is about the productivity of the philosophy of Gilles Deleuze for the ﬁeld of contemporary architecture. It thus takes its place amongst the rapidly expanding body of work dedicated to Deleuze in all ﬁelds of cultural criticism and inquiry. It stands out as one of the most focused and readable introductions to a number of his arguments, ideas and concepts. If the key philosopher in these essays is Deleuze, the key architect is Peter Eisenman, whose work is the occasion for at least two of them. Unfortunately, from this point of view, the book contains no illustrations or photographs – of, for example, the Rebstock project – to act as visual counterpoints to the philosophical ideas. But this just underscores the philosophical intentionality of Rajchmanʼs text: to engage in critical readings of the philosophical tradition from the point of view of contemporary ʻgeometr[ies] of livingʼ as they intersect with the ʻspace of a city or a buildingʼ. Architecture, in this book, supports philosophy, posing and dramatizing problems for thought and politics.Constructions contains six tightly argued essays on key ideas where the concerns of philosophy and architecture (and art more generally) intersect: building, folding, ground, lightness, geometry and, perhaps most centrally, abstraction. It concludes with two short more obviously political pieces, one of which is no more than a note, on the politics of future cities and an as-yet-to-be-designed ʻvirtualʼ – rather than ʻutopianʼ – house: ʻthe house that in its plan, space, construction and intelligence gives the greatest number of “new connections”ʼ. The idea of virtuality developed here connects with the Deleuzian ones of ʻmultiplicityʼ and ʻsingularityʼ, key words in Deleuzeʼs critical engagement with the subordination of experience to either transcendental a prioris or dialectical narrativizations, which Rajchman mobilizes against the idea of ʻgroundʼ in the history of architecture and art: ʻOr can we put ungrounding ﬁrst, analysing the relations between grounds and forms, grounds and identities, in terms of the potential for free ungrounded movement that is always virtual in them?ʼ From this point of view, an important dimension of Deleuzian philosophical critique and revision – and this is its value to Rajchmanʼs own cultural critique – is the recuperation for the present of potentialities lost to systematic thought: signposts of alternative histories and pathways. Hence the importance – and paradoxical futurity – of the word ʻﬁrstʼ in Constructions, and of a thinking that takes place, so to speak, before systematic conceptualization: before ʻgroundingʼ, or before modernismʼs own theories of abstraction. This is literally apparent in the rhetoric of Rajchmanʼs essays, in the – at times unfortunately overabundant – use of the phrase ʻprior toʼ, or its cognates.
Apart from the potentially richer history and politics of architecture Rajchmanʼs intervention evokes, his essays also reveal just how revisionist a philosopher Deleuze was – that is, how insistently, in Deleuzeʼs own words, he took philosophy ʻfrom behindʼ.
John Kraniauskas http://www.ukc.ac.uk/secl/philosophy/rp/ [archive]
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