Mediation and AntiMediation
This is a theory-intensive seminar that will examine the concept of mediation from the vantage point of philosophical and mystical traditions. In classical thought, medius is that which is in the middle or in between, either by nature or by degree. But being-in-the-middle is always tenuous, fragile, and never stable. That which is in the middle is also intermediate, and sometimes indeterminate. Being in the middle may imply a total connection between two entities (immediacy, immediation) as well as a total disconnection between them (antimediacy, antimediation). In this seminar, we will focus on those moments when metaphysical claims about self and world, subject and object, or natural and supernatural, are also claims about mediation. More specifically, we will examine the concept of mediation through the lens of different mystical philosophies, which pose a set of interesting problems to traditional theories of mediation. In philosophy, classical examples such as Plato’s cave, Cartesian dualism, and Kant’s division of phenomena and noumena, all rely on some normative notion of mediation. By contrast, there are also a range of counter-positions, in which mediation can tip to one side or the other, leading to a paradoxical antimediation, in which what is mediated is the impossibility of mediation itself. In addition to scholarship on mysticism, our readings will range from examples in Medieval mysticism (Denys the Areopagite, Eckhart, John of the Cross), the anti-philosophy of Kierkegaard and Nietzsche, to modern thinkers such as Georges Bataille, E.M. Cioran, Simone Weil, and Keiji Nishitani.