Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Theses On Feuerbach

1

The main defect of all hitherto-existing materialism — that of Feuerbach included — is that the Object [der Gegenstand], actuality, sensuousness, are conceived only in the form of the object [Objekts], or of contemplation [Anschauung], but not as human sensuous activity, practice [Praxis], not subjectively. Hence it happened that the active side, in opposition to materialism, was developed by idealism — but only abstractly, since, of course, idealism does not know real, sensuous activity as such. Feuerbach wants sensuous objects [Objekte], differentiated from thought-objects, but he does not conceive human activity itself as objective [gegenständliche] activity. In The Essence of Christianity [Das Wesen des Christenthums], he therefore regards the theoretical attitude as the only genuinely human attitude, while practice is conceived and defined only in its dirty-Jewish form of appearance [Erscheinungsform][1]. Hence he does not grasp the significance of ‘revolutionary’, of ‘practical-critical’, activity.

2

The question whether objective truth can be attributed to human thinking is not a question of theory but is a practical question. Man must prove the truth, i.e., the reality and power, the this-sidedness [Diesseitigkeit] of his thinking, in practice. The dispute over the reality or non-reality of thinking which is isolated from practice is a purely scholastic question.

3

The materialist doctrine that men are products of circumstances and upbringing, and that, therefore, changed men are products of changed circumstances and changed upbringing, forgets that it is men who change circumstances and that the educator must himself be educated. Hence this doctrine is bound to divide society into two parts, one of which is superior to society. The coincidence of the changing of circumstances and of human activity or self-change [Selbstveränderung] can be conceived and rationally understood only as revolutionary practice.

4

Feuerbach starts off from the fact of religious self-estrangement [Selbstentfremdung], of the duplication of the world into a religious, imaginary world, and a secular [weltliche] one. His work consists in resolving the religious world into its secular basis. He overlooks the fact that after completing this work, the chief thing still remains to be done. For the fact that the secular basis lifts off from itself and establishes itself in the clouds as an independent realm can only be explained by the inner strife and intrinsic contradictoriness of this secular basis. The latter must itself be understood in its contradiction and then, by the removal of the contradiction, revolutionised. Thus, for instance, once the earthly family is discovered to be the secret of the holy family, the former must itself be annihilated [vernichtet] theoretically and practically.

5

Feuerbach, not satisfied with abstract thinking, wants sensuous contemplation [Anschauung]; but he does not conceive sensuousness as practical, human-sensuous activity.

6

Feuerbach resolves the essence of religion into the essence of man [menschliche Wesen = ‘human nature’]. But the essence of man is no abstraction inherent in each single individual. In reality, it is the ensemble of the social relations. Feuerbach, who does not enter upon a criticism of this real essence is hence obliged:

1. To abstract from the historical process and to define the religious sentiment regarded by itself, and to presuppose an abstract — isolated - human individual.

2. The essence therefore can by him only be regarded as ‘species’, as an inner ‘dumb’ generality which unites many individuals only in a natural way.

7

Feuerbach consequently does not see that the ‘religious sentiment’ is itself a social product, and that the abstract individual that he analyses belongs in reality to a particular social form.

8

All social life is essentially practical. All mysteries which lead theory to mysticism find their rational solution in human practice and in the comprehension of this practice.

9

The highest point reached by contemplative [anschauende] materialism, that is, materialism which does not comprehend sensuousness as practical activity, is the contemplation of single individuals and of civil society [bürgerlichen Gesellschaft].

10

The standpoint of the old materialism is civil society; the standpoint of the new is human society or social humanity.

11

Philosophers have hitherto only interpreted the world in various ways; the point is to change it.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Our Syllabus, Summer 2010

Critical Theory A, Summer 2010

"The Point Is To Change It"

Instructor: Dale Carrico; dcarrico@sfai.edu; dalec@berkeley.edu

Course Site: http://thepointistochangeit.blogspot.com/

Grade Breakdown: Attendance/Participation 15%; Precis/Co-facilitation 20%; Essay 1 35%; Essay 2 40%

Provisional Schedule of Meetings:

June

Week One
Mon 14 Administrative Introduction | Personal Introductions.
Wed 16 Course Introduction | Oscar Wilde, "Soul of Man Under Socialism"

Week Two
Mon 21 Nietzsche: Ecce Homo

Preface


Why I Am So Wise

Why I Am So Clever
Why I Am a Destiny (or Fatality)
Wed 23 -- Marx on Idealism and Materialism
-- Marx on Commodity Fetishism, from Capital

Week Three
Mon 28 Sigmund Freud, Doctor Schreber (Handout)
Wed 30 Walter Benjamin, "Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproducibility" | Adorno and Horkheimer, "The Culture Industry"

July

Week Four
Mon 5 Independence Day Holiday
Wed 7 Roland Barthes, Mythologies, Purchase or Check Out Whole Book!

Week Five
Mon 12 Guy Debord, Society of the Spectacle | Naomi Klein, No Logo One and Two
Wed 14 Carpenter (dir.), They Live, In-Class Screening

Hand in Mid-Term Essay

Week Six
Mon 19 Michel Foucault, Discipline and Punish, History of Sexuality, College de France lecture excerpts (Handout)
Wed 21 William Burroughs, "Immortality" and "Coincidence" | Valerie Solanas, "SCUM Manifesto"

Week Seven
Mon 26 Hannah Arendt, "On Violence" | Must Eichmann Hang? and Human Condition Section 33 (Handout)
Wed 28 Franz Fanon, Black Skin, White Masks, Purchase or Check Out Whole Book! also excerpts from Judith Butler Undoing Gender, and "Precarious Life"

August

Week Eight
Mon 2 Hannah Arendt, Conquest of Space | CS Lewis Abolition of Man
Wed 4 Week Fifteen | December 8 -- Donna Haraway, “A Manifesto for Cyborgs” | Bruno Latour, A Plea for Earthly Science

Hand in Final Essay

Course Objectives:

Contextualizing Contemporary Critical Theory: The inaugural Platonic repudiation of rhetoric and poetry, Vita Activa/Vita Contemplativa, Marx's last Thesis on Feuerbach, Kantian Critique, the Frankfurt School, Exegetical and Hermeneutic Traditions, Literary and Cultural Theory from the Restoration period through New Criticism, from Philosophy to Post-Philosophy: Marx, Nietzsche, Freud.

Survey of Key Themes in Critical Theory: Scientificity, Figurality, Humanism, Post-Humanism, Judgment, Equity-in-Diversity.

Survey of Key Critical Methodologies: Critique of Ideology, Post-Marxism, Psychoanalysis, Foucauldian Discourse Analysis, Critical Race Theory, Gender Theory, Science and Technology Studies.

Connecting theoria and poiesis: thinking and acting, theory and practice, creative expressivity as aesthetic judgment and critical theory as poetic refiguration, etc.

Four Habits of Argumentative Writing

In this course you will be producing argumentative writing based on close textual readings. We will spend a good deal of time talking together about what it means to write persuasively and read closely, what sorts of things can usefully be considered texts in the first place, and under what circumstances, and so on, but as a first approximation of what I mean I am offering you four general habits of attention and writing practice, guidelines I will want you to apply to your writing this term. If you can incorporate these four writing practices into your future work you will have mastered the task of producing a competent argumentative paper for just about any discipline in the humanities that would ask you for one. Incidentally, I will also say that taking these habits truly to heart goes a long way in my view toward inculcating the critical temper indispensable for good citizenship in functioning democracies in a world of diverse and contentious stakeholders with urgent shared problems.

A First Habit

An argumentative paper will have a thesis. A thesis is a claim. It is a statement of the thing your paper is trying to show. Very often, the claim will be straightforward enough to express in a single sentence or so, and it will usually appear early on in the paper to give your readers a clear sense of the project of the paper. A thesis is a claim that is strong. A strong claim is a claim for which you can imagine an intelligent opposition. It is a claim that you feel a need to argue for. Remember, when you are producing a reading about a complex literary text like a novel, a poem, or a film the object of your argument will be to illuminate the text, to draw attention to some aspect of the wider work the text is accomplishing. Once you have determined the dimension or element in a text that you want to argue about, your opposition might consist of those who would focus elsewhere or who would draw different conclusions from your own focus. Your thesis is your paper's spine, your paper's task. As you write your papers, it is a good idea to ask yourself the question, from time to time, Does this quotation, does this argument, does this paragraph support my thesis in some way? If it doesn’t, delete it. If you are drawn repeatedly away from what you have chosen as your thesis, ask yourself whether or not this signals that you really want to argue for some different thesis.

A Second Habit

You should define your central terms, especially the ones you may be using in an idiosyncratic way. Your definitions can be casual ones, they don’t have to sound like dictionary definitions. But it is crucial that once you have defined a term you will stick to the meaning you have assigned it yourself. Never simply assume that your readers know what you mean or what you are talking about. Never hesitate to explain yourself for fear of belaboring the obvious. Clarity never appears unintelligent.

A Third Habit

You should support your claims about the text with actual quotations from the text itself. In this course you will always be analyzing texts (broadly defined) and whatever text you are working on should probably be a major presence on nearly every page of your papers. A page without quotations is often a page that has lost track of its point, or one that is stuck in abstract generalizations. This doesn't mean that your paper should consist of mostly huge block quotes. On the contrary, a block quote is usually a quote that needs to be broken up and read more closely and carefully. If you see fit to include a lengthy quotation filled with provocative details, I will expect you to contextualize and discuss all of those details. If you are unprepared to do this, or fear that doing so will introduce digressions from your argument, this signals that you should be more selective about the quotations to which you are calling attention.

A Fourth Habit

You should anticipate objections to your thesis. In some ways this is the most difficult habit to master. Remember that even the most solid case for a viewpoint is vulnerable to dismissal by the suggestion of an apparently powerful counterexample. That is why you should anticipate problems, criticisms, counterexamples, and deal with them before they arise, and deal with them on your own terms. If you cannot imagine a sensible and relevant objection to your line of argument it means either that you are not looking hard enough or that your claim is not strong enough.