Thinking the Present

Term: Spring 2010

Subject Code: GPHI

Course Number: 6103

How do we try to comprehend our time in thought? How do we think the present through which we are so precipitously passing? The aim of this lecture course is to show how theory can bring us closer to understanding ‘where we are’. But it is also to pose the question of how we need to think ‘on behalf of the present. Over the course of fifteen lectures, we propose to approach such an understanding by identifying seven key topics: (i) the state of the world since 1945; (ii) the problem of nihilism; (iii) political theologies; (iv) violence and non-violence; (v) ethics and responsibility; (vi) the nature of the human situation; (vii) the political possibilities of the present. A deliberate heuristic of the course is that these topics will be partially addressed through a contrast between philosophical and ‘designerly’ ways of thinking the present, this contrast being itself understood as part of ‘where we are’.

Each of these topics will be addressed with a lecture by both teachers, followed by discussion. Many thinkers will be discussed, both canonical thinkers like Rousseau, Nietzsche, Schmitt, Heidegger, Benjamin, Adorno and Levinas. But more importantly perhaps we will focus on the work of contemporary thinkers like Agamben, Butler, Badiou, Zizek, Vattimo, Gillian Rose, Zygmunt Bauman and John Gray.


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