The Aesthetic Mind: Philosophy and Psychology

The Aesthetic Mind breaks new ground in bringing together empirical sciences and philosophy to enhance our understanding of aesthetics and the experience of art. An eminent international team of experts presents new research in philosophy, psychology, neuroscience, and social anthropology: they explore the roles of emotion, imagination, empathy, and beauty in this realm of human experience, ranging over visual and literary art, music, and dance. Among the questions discussed are: Why do we engage with things aesthetically and why do we create art? Does art or aesthetic experience have a function or functions? Which characteristics distinguish aesthetic mental states? Which skills or abilities do we put to use when we engage aesthetically with an object and how does that compare with non-aesthetic experiences? What does our ability to create art and engage aesthetically with things tell us about what it is to be a human being? This ambitious and far-reaching volume is essential reading for anyone investigating the aesthetic and the artistic.


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Dark Deleuze

French philosopher Gilles Deleuze is known as a thinker of creation, joyous affirmation, and rhizomatic assemblages. In this short book, Andrew Culp polemically argues that this once-radical canon of joy has lost its resistance to the present. Concepts created to defeat capitalism have been recycled into business mantras that joyously affirm “Power is vertical; the potential is horizontal!”

Culp recovers the Deleuze’s forgotten negativity. He unsettles the prevailing interpretation through an underground network of references to conspiracy, cruelty, the terror of the outside, and the shame of being human. Ultimately, he rekindles opposition to what is intolerable about this world.

Forerunners is a thought-in-process series of breakthrough digital works. Written between fresh ideas and finished books, Forerunners draws on scholarly work initiated in notable blogs, social media, conference plenaries, journal articles, and the synergy of academic exchange. This is gray literature publishing: where intense thinking, change, and speculation takes place in scholarship.

Read – epub

Read also: A Deleuze for intolerable times

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Étienne Balibar – Critique in the 21st century

We gather once again to examine the question of ‘critique’.1 We do so not just after Kant, Marx, Nietzsche and their respective descendants, but also after the innovations of the Frankfurt School (which only came to receive serious attention in  France after some delay) and the critique of the foundations of psychology, to evoke George Politzer’s title, which, albeit with a number of adjustments and reversals, runs through the whole French epistemological tradition,  both during and after the ‘structuralist moment’.2 Needless to say, we don’t embark on this examination from an abstract or timeless perspective, but caught up in the middle of a conjuncture that we are all trying to understand. What are its tendencies and conflictual stakes? What alternatives does it present? From the place where we find ourselves, we try to assess the characteristic features of this conjuncture – the signs of the times – in order to reformulate the meaning and fields of critique and perhaps also to refound it. As unrepentant ‘moderns’, we believe that critique has not ceased to designate philosophy’s most characteristic gesture, and we seek more than ever to understand how the current situation must change critique itself, conceived as an analysis of ‘what we are’, as Foucault used to say – which in reality means an analysis of what we are becoming, or turning into, one that cannot prescribe its culmination in advance. Through an essential circularity, we need to recast critique in order to provide a diagnosis of the present, but we can only orient this recasting by following certain paths derived from the way we already presuppose, if not prejudge, a diagnosis of the present.


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Turning the turn: New materialism, historical materialism and critical theory

In many fields within the social sciences and the humanities, the ‘material turn’ has inspired fresh debates about human-nature relationships, ecology and the meaning of the social. However, the new materialism also poses some theoretical-political problems. These problems relate to the questions of ontology, epistemology, and anthropology, as I argue in the first part of this article. In the second part, I argue that some theoretical-political problems that characterize the ‘new’ materialism have also been debated within the tradition of historical materialism. By recapitulating different versions of historical materialism, I argue that an important distinction can be drawn between ontological and praxeological forms of materialism. I argue in the conclusion that from the perspective of critical social theory, the distinction between ‘old’ and ‘new’ materialism does not hold, and that for political as well as epistemological reasons critical materialism should renounce any ontological turn to matter itself.


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New Materialisms: Foucault and the ‘Government of Things

The article explores the perspectives of Foucault’s notion of government by linking it to the debate on the ‘new materialism’. Discussing Karen Barad’s critical reading of Foucault’s work on the body and power, it points to the idea of a ‘government of things’, which Foucault only briefly outlines in his lectures on governmentality. By stressing the ‘intrication of men and things’ (Foucault), this theoretical project makes it possible to arrive at a relational account of agency and ontology, going beyond the anthropocentric limitations of Foucault’s work. This perspective also suggests an altered understanding of biopolitics. While Foucault’s earlier concept of biopolitics was limited to a physical and biological existence, the idea of a ‘government of things’ takes into account the interrelatedness and entanglements of men and things, the natural and the artificial, the physical and the moral. Finally, the conceptual proposal of a ‘government of things’ helps to clarify theoretical ambiguities and unresolved tensions in new materialist scholarship and allows for a more materialist account of politics.


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Philosophy with Children, the Poverty Line, and Socio-philosophic Sensitivity

A philosophy with children’s community of inquiry encourages children to develop a philosophical sensitivity that entails awareness of abstract questions related to human existence. When it operates, it can allow insight into significant philosophical aspects of various situations and their analysis. This article seeks to contribute to the discussion of philosophical sensitivity by adducing an additional dimension—namely, the development of a socio-philosophical sensitivity by means of a philosophical community of inquiry focused on texts linked to these themes and an analysis of them with the help of narrative tools that explain the children’s philosophical moves. The ability to ask questions regarding complex social issues in the field of economics and to ask oneself personal questions about oneself is thus also exemplified in the deconstruction of the “great narratives” and their transformation into more accessible, human dimensions.


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How we understand others : philosophy and social cognition

In our everyday social interactions, we try to make sense of what people are thinking, why they act as they do, and what they are likely to do next. This process is called mindreading. Mindreading, Shannon Spaulding argues in this book, is central to our ability to understand and interact with others. Philosophers and cognitive scientists have converged on the idea that mindreading involves theorizing about and simulating others’ mental states. She argues that this view of mindreading is limiting and outdated. Most contemporary views of mindreading vastly underrepresent the diversity and complexity of mindreading. She articulates a new theory of mindreading that takes into account cutting edge philosophical and empirical research on in-group/out-group dynamics, social biases, and how our goals and the situational context influence how we interpret others’ behavior.

Spaulding’s resulting theory of mindreading provides a more accurate, comprehensive, and perhaps pessimistic view of our abilities to understand others, with important epistemological and ethical implications. Deciding who is trustworthy, knowledgeable, and competent are epistemically and ethically fraught judgments: her new theory of mindreading sheds light on how these judgments are made and the conditions under which they are unreliable.

This book will be of great interest to students of philosophy of psychology, philosophy of mind, applied epistemology, cognitive science, and moral psychology, as well as those interested in conceptual issues in psychology.


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Power, labour power and productive force in Foucault’s reading of Capital

This article uses Foucault’s lecture courses to illuminate his reading of Marx’s Capital in Discipline and Punish. Foucault finds in Marx’s account of cooperation a precedent for his own approach to power. In turn, Foucault helps us rethink the concepts of productive force and labor-power in Marx. Foucault is shown to be particularly interested in one of Marx’s major themes in Capital, parts III-IV: the subsumption of labor under capital. In Discipline and Punish and The Punitive Society, Foucault offers a genealogy of the forms of labor-power (Arbeitskraft) and productive force (Produktivkraft). One of his central problems is to understand how labor power is converted into productive force and how, prior to that, productive subjects who can properly bear and dispose of their labor power are formed. Foucault’s reading of Capital resonates with those currents of Marx’s interpretation today that seek to repoliticize the concept of productive force and to offer a materialist account of subject formation.


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How birth shapes human existence

Many classic existentialists— Albert Camus, Simone de Beauvoir, Martin Heidegger—thought that we should confront our mortality and that human existence is fundamentally shaped by the fact that we will die. But human beings do not only die. We are also born. Once we acknowledge that birth, as well as death, shapes human existence, existentialism starts to look different. The outlines of natal existentialism appear.

Let’s look at this first in relation to Beauvoir, who writes in The Ethics of Ambiguity that “every living moment is sliding towards death.” It is not simply that we are all aging and so getting closer to death. We are constantly pursuing projects and creating values—for instance, I’m writing this blog piece, thereby giving value to the activity of writing philosophy. But, Beauvoir thinks, my projects risk being brought to nothing when I die. When I die, either my projects will be left unfinished or, if I had completed them—say, by finishing writing a book—I will no longer be there to invest this achievement with value and meaning. The book I labored over will end up a mere dusty tome languishing on a shelf. For Beauvoir, then, death threatens the meaningfulness of one’s existence. But we can combat this threat by sharing our projects and values with others, who can then take up and continue these projects even after we die.


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Albert Camus and the problem of absurdity

Albert Camus (1913-1960) was a French philosopher and novelist whose works examine the alienation inherent in modern life and who is best known for his philosophical concept of the absurd. He explored these ideas in his famous novels, The Stranger (1942), The Plague (1947), and The Fall (1956), as well as his philosophical essays, The Myth of Sisyphus (1942) and The Rebel (1951). He was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1957.

Camus was born to a poor family in war-torn French Algeria. His father, a farmer, was killed in the First World War, leaving his deaf and illiterate wife to raise Camus and his elder brother. Despite the deprivation of his childhood, he won a scholarship to a prestigious lycée in Algiers and went on to study philosophy at the University of Algiers. He began his writing career as a journalist for the Alger Républicain newspaper. After moving to Paris, he became involved in the Resistance movement, editing its clandestine paper, Combat, and was sought by the Gestapo. His memories of wars and experiences under the Nazi occupation permeated his philosophy and novels. His debut novel, The Stranger, and the essay, The Myth of Sisyphus, catapulted him to fame and brought him to the attention of Jean-Paul Sartre. After the liberation of France, he was a major figure in post-war French intellectual life.


Read also: Camus, absurdity, and revolt

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