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What's Left of Philosophy

In What’s Left of Philosophy Gil Morejón (@gdmorejon), Lillian Cicerchia (@lilcicerch), Owen Glyn-Williams (@oglynwil), and William Paris (@williammparis) discuss philosophy’s radical histories and contemporary political theory. Philosophy isn't dead, but what's left? Support us at patreon.com/leftofphilosophy

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In What’s Left of Philosophy Gil Morejón (@gdmorejon), Lillian Cicerchia (@lilcicerch), Owen Glyn-Williams (@oglynwil), and William Paris (@williammparis) discuss philosophy’s radical histories and contemporary political theory. Philosophy isn't dead, but what's left? Support us at patreon.com/leftofphilosophy

48 | Gillian Rose: Speculative Thinking and Post-Kantian Sociology with James Callahan

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In this episode we are joined by James Callahan (aka Crane) to talk about Gillian Rose’s book Hegel Contra Sociology. We explore Rose’s critique of early twentieth-century sociology, which she argues was completely hampered by the limitations of its neo-Kantian framework. Looking to break out of this transcendental circle, Rose turns to Hegel and defends a highly original and sophisticated reading of his speculative political thinking, in order to develop a sociological analysis adequate for grasping and transforming our modern capitalist world. We also talk about why Hegel hated the starry skies above and thought slimes and rashes were way cooler.

leftofphilosophy.com | @leftofphil

Follow James on twitter: @gruidae_james
and check out his substack: https://jamescrane.substack.com/

References:

Gillian Rose, Hegel Contra Sociology (New York: Verso, 2009)

Music: Vintage Memories by Schematist | schematist.bandcamp.com

Sep 19 2022

1hr

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47 | Guy Debord and the Society of the Spectacle

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In today’s episode we talk about Guy Debord’s critique of life under modern capitalism by looking at his scathing and provocative The Society of the Spectacle. Is it true that all that was once lived is now mere representation? That the whole of society is mediated by an endless proliferation of passifying images? That the fullness of life has been replaced by its bloodless negation in survival? Because it sure feels like it! We discuss what exactly he means by spectacle, reflect on whether and how it’s possible to maintain his distinction between real needs and pseudo-needs, and consider what a politics without representation would, ahem, look like. And we talk some real trash on North American suburbia, whose surface-level image of homogeneous conflictless positivity is the true legitimation mechanism of capitalism here in the dying imperial core. It's a lot of fun, actually!

leftofphilosophy.com | @leftofphil

References:

Guy Debord, The Society of the Spectacle, trans. Donald Nicholson-Smith (New York: Zone Books, 1994).

Music: Vintage Memories by Schematist | schematist.bandcamp.com

Sep 06 2022

1hr 1min

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46 Teaser | What is Dialectics? Part V: Adorno's Negative Dialectics

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In this patron-exclusive episode, we continue our series on the concept of dialectics by talking about Adorno’s Negative Dialectics. We reflect on what a non-closed dialectical system would look like, why Adorno is definitely not the defeatist he’s often caricatured as being, and what it means for us to hold onto utopian promises for a better world from within the administered nightmare of modern capitalism. Along the way we try to hone in on what’s special about Adorno’s negative dialectics, especially in comparison with what we get out of Kant and Hegel. And we give Heidegger an appropriately hard time for being just the worst.

This is just a small clip from the full episode, which is available to patrons:

patreon.com/leftofphilosophy

References:

Theodor Adorno, Negative Dialectics, trans. E.B. Ashton (New York: Continuum, 2007).

Music: Vintage Memories by Schematist | schematist.bandcamp.com

Aug 22 2022

10mins

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45 | On Solidarity and Conflict with Nathan DuFord

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In this episode we are joined by Nathan DuFord to discuss their new book Solidarity in Conflict: A Democratic Theory. We unpack why they believe solidarity ought to be theorized as a political concept rather than moral injunction. For DuFord, we risk missing that solidarity is what the oppressed do with one another and that the oppressed will have disagreements within their solidary groups if we undertheorize the political dimensions of solidarity. We go on to discuss the relationships between trust and conflict, whether groups formed in solidarity can last forever, and contemporary questions concerning conflict in left organizations. If you believe in solidarity you won’t want to miss this episode!

leftofphilosophy.com | @leftofphil 

References:

Nathan DuFord [published under Rochelle DuFord], Solidarity in Conflict: A Democratic Theory (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2022).

Music:

Vintage Memories by Schematist | schematist.bandcamp.com

Aug 08 2022

1hr 8mins

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44 | Karl Kautsky's Cooperative Commonwealth

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In this episode we talk about the most important Marxist thinker during the time of the Second International, Karl Kautsky. We talk about his infamous claim that the breakdown of capitalism is historically inevitable, what he thinks socialist praxis should look like in a liberal democracy, and what the concentration of large-scale capital means for your small business. Plus at some point we realize that almost all anti-socialist arguments are actually just confused anti-capitalist ones, which we find irresistibly delightful. We’re in old-school classical Marxist territory for this one, folks! 

leftofphilosophy.com | @leftofphil 

References: 

Karl Kautsky, “The Commonwealth of the Future,” in The Class Struggle (Erfurt Program), translated by William E. Bohn (Chicago: Charles H. Kerr, 1910). 

Music: 

Vintage Memories by Schematist | schematist.bandcamp.com

Aug 01 2022

1hr 1min

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43 | Transindividuality and Marxism with Jason Read

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In this episode we talk with the wonderful Jason Read about his work on the concept of transindividuality and what it means for critical social theory, Marxist notions like alienation and reification, and traditional conceptions of freedom and equality. It’s bad news for anyone who thinks politics can be directly derived from ontology, but incredibly productive theoretically and practically if you're willing to think social relations as processes. Also Will admits he’s almost ready to confess his Spinozism, so that’s a clear win.

follow us @leftofphil

References:

Jason Read, The Production of Subjectivity: Marx and Philosophy (Leiden: Brill, 2022)

Jason's blog: http://www.unemployednegativity.com/

Music: Vintage Memories by Schematist | schematist.bandcamp.com

Jul 26 2022

1hr 1min

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42 | Going Beyond the Pleasure Principle with Freud

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In this episode we talk psychoanalytic theory and practice. With Freud’s Beyond the Pleasure Principle as our touchstone, we get speculative about human desire, the death drive, and the relationship between psychoanalysis and political struggle. We discuss the problem of scaling up from individual psychology to collective organizations, the opacity of the subject, and some of the psychosocial pathologies peculiar to the United States here in the twenty-first century. We could all use a bit more transference!

leftofphilosophy.com | @leftofphil

References:

Sigmund Freud, Beyond the Pleasure Principle, trans. and ed. James Strachey (New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1989).

Music: Vintage Memories by Schematist | schematist.bandcamp.com

Jul 12 2022

1hr 8mins

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41 | James Boggs and the Problem of Rights under Capitalism

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In this episode we discuss James Boggs’s 1963 The American Revolution: Pages from a Negro Worker’s Notebook. We talk about Boggs’s materialist conception of rights as “what you make and what you take.” In Boggs we find a novel conception of rights that are grounded in social power. We delve into the dangers automation and structural unemployment present to rights to life and happiness while wondering if a “workless” society would truly be a better one. In the end, we extend a figleaf to egalitarian liberals and offer to heal their psychic distress by showing them that they are already revolutionaries (comrades, join us: the water's fine!). 

patreon.com/leftofphilosophy | @leftofphil 

References: 

James Boggs, The American Revolution: Pages from a Negro Worker’s Notebook, with a New Introduction by Grace Lee Bogs and Additional Commentary (New York: Monthly Review Press, 2009). 

James Boggs, “Toward a New Concept of Citizenship,” in Pages from A Black Radical’s Notebook: A James Boggs Reader, ed. Stephen M. Ward, with an Afterword by Grace Lee Boggs (Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 2011). 

C.L.R. James, “The Revolutionary Answer to the Negro Problem in the United States,” at https://www.marxists.org/archive/james-clr/works/1948/07/meyer.htm

Music: Vintage Memories by Schematist | schematist.bandcamp.com

Jun 27 2022

59mins

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40 Teaser | What is Liberalism? Part I. John Locke's Second Treatise of Government

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In this episode we kick off our new series called “What is Liberalism?” with private property, conquest, and a discussion about John Locke’s apologia for both. We appreciate the efforts of the left to civilize liberalism in the wake of its own civilizing efforts across the globe, but we ask whether it’s really possible to separate economic and political liberalism to make liberalism work for the left. Our experiences in DEI workshops suggest not, although many who are smarter than Locke have tried.

The full episode is available on our patreon!

patreon.com/leftofphilosophy | @leftofphil

References:

John Locke, Second Treatise of Government, ed. C.B. Macpherson (Indianapolis: Hackett, 1980) 

Music: Vintage Memories by Schematist | schematist.bandcamp.com

Jun 13 2022

11mins

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39 | Lukács: Social Totality and the Commodity Form

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In this episode we discuss the work of György Lukács, focusing on the reification essay from his seminal 1923 book History and Class Consciousness. We talk about why it’s not great that the commodity form has penetrated every aspect of social life, why we need to retain the category of totality in spite of loud protests from postmodernists, and what’s special about the standpoint of the proletariat. Welcome to capitalism, folks: real contradictions and necessary illusions abound. But it’s not over yet!

patreon.com/leftofphilosophy | @leftofphil

References:

Georg Lukács, History and Class Consciousness, trans. Rodney Livingstone (Cambridge: The MIT Press, 1972) 

Music: Vintage Memories by Schematist | schematist.bandcamp.com

May 30 2022

1hr 5mins

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38 | Liberal Democracy in Crisis: Carl Schmitt and the Present

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In this episode, we discuss the infamous Nazi jurist and political philosopher Carl Schmitt, with particular focus on his 1923 book The Crisis of Parliamentary Democracy. We attempt to better understand the right-wing, Schmittian case against both liberal ‘parliamentarianism’ and ‘Marxist socialism’, while trying to discern his positive political vision. Doing so requires assessing his paradoxical claim that democracy and dictatorship are perfectly compatible, and that dictatorship is good, actually. We end by asking what the hell a ‘Left Schmittian’ is, asking what if anything he has to offer for leftist theory and practice today. 

patreon.com/leftofphilosophy | @leftofphil 

References: 

Carl Schmitt, The Crisis of Parliamentary Democracy, trans. Ellen Kennedy (Cambridge: The MIT Press, 2000) 

Carl Schmitt, The Nomos of the Earth, trans. G.L. Ulmen (New York: Telos Publishing, 2003) 

Carl Schmitt, The Concept of the Political, trans. George Schwab (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2007) 

Music: Vintage Memories by Schematist | schematist.bandcamp.com

May 16 2022

1hr

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37 Teaser | What’s the ‘Structural’ in ‘Structural Injustice’?: Iris Marion Young and Political Philosophy

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What do we mean when we call something a ‘structural injustice’? In this episode, we take up some of Iris Marion Young’s work and ask what makes the difference between interpersonal injustice and structural injustice. Along the way, we investigate concepts such as political responsibility, social connection, and the character of global injustice. As an extra special treat listeners will find out what is preventing Gil from being a revolutionary (the answer may surprise you)! 

The full episode is available on our patreon!

patreon.com/leftofphilosophy | @leftofphil 

References: 

Iris Marion Young, Responsibility for Justice (New York: Oxford University Press, 2011) 

Iris Marion Young, “Responsibility and Global Labor Justice”, The Journal of Political Philosophy 12:4 (2004): 365-388 

Music: Vintage Memories by Schematist | schematist.bandcamp.com

May 02 2022

10mins

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36 | What is Utopia? Part II. Plato's Republic (with Owen Alldritt)

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In this episode, we talk with Owen Alldritt about justice. We come to Plato’s defense against the Western philosophical canon, mostly in spite of ourselves, and insist on the True coinciding with the Good. What does this all have to do with utopia, you ask? As it turns out, Plato is a realist and he thinks we can know the Good in itself, organize our cities accordingly, and realize justice…or at least philosophers can. Good luck to everyone else! 

patreon to support | follow us @leftofphil

References: The Republic, by Plato 

Owen Alldritt: moonbear.substack.com  | @AlldrittOwen

Music: Vintage Memories by Schematist | schematist.bandcamp.com 

Apr 20 2022

1hr 7mins

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35 | Moral Luck and Pedagogy (with Aaron Rabinowitz)

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In this episode, we talk with Aaron Rabinowitz of Embrace the Void and Philosophers in Space about the paradoxes of moral luck, the problematic nature of our everyday notions of responsibility, and what good pedagogy looks like when you’ve agreed – as you must – that spontaneous, volitional free will is merely an illusion. We do some Kantian maneuvering, form provisional alliances, and all things considered have as good a time as is possible given our total lack of freedom.

References:

Thomas Nagel, “Moral Luck” <https://rintintin.colorado.edu/~vancecd/phil1100/Nagel1.pdf>

Music: Vintage Memories by Schematist | schematist.bandcamp.com

Apr 05 2022

1hr 8mins

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34 Teaser | What is Dialectics? Part IV: Dialectic of Enlightenment with Adorno and Horkheimer

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In this episode we talk about Adorno and Horkheimer's Dialectic of Enlightenment, focusing on their notion of reason as abstractive domination and their understanding of the culture industry as a means of producing mass complicity with the machinations of capital. The good news is that we've got a much better sense of humor than either of them, so it's not as miserable as all that might sound. The bad news is we're not sure if they're wrong to be so pessimistic. We also drag a fair bit of popular culture, admit we still love it, and call out the podcast form itself. But you don't need to worry: your media consumption habits are good. You're fine. You're one of the ones who gets it, definitely.

This is just a small clip from the full episode, which is available to patrons:

patreon.com/leftofphilosophy

References:

Theodor Adorno and Max Horkheimer, Dialectic of Enlightenment, trans. Edmund Jephcott (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2002).

Theodor Adorno, "Free Time", in Critical Models (New York: Columbia University Press, 2005).

Music: Vintage Memories by Schematist | schematist.bandcamp.com

Mar 22 2022

8mins

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33 | (Un)Learning How to Do Politics with Hannah Arendt

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In this episode we discuss what distinguishes politics from other aspects of human existence by looking at Hannah Arendt’s The Human Condition and “Reflections on Little Rock.” We question why Arendt is so concerned with defending the distinction between politics, the social, and the private realm and what useful insights can be drawn from these distinctions when analyzing real human history. In addition, we touch on Arendt’s controversial relationship to black politics around integration or as she thought of it black “social climbing.” This might be the one that gets us canceled! 

patreon.com/leftofphilosophy | @leftofphil 

References: 

Hannah Arendt, The Human Condition, second edition, with an Introduction by Margaret Canovan (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1998). 

Hannah Arendt, “Reflection on Little Rock” in The Portable Hannah Arendt, edited by Peter Baier, 231-247 (New York: Penguin Books, 2000). 

Music: Vintage Memories by Schematist | schematist.bandcamp.com

Mar 07 2022

1hr 8mins

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32 | What is Equality? Disagreeing with Jacques Rancière

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In this episode we discuss the meaning of equality by delving into French political philosopher Jacques Rancière’s 1995 book, Disagreement. In a contentious conversation we unpack the core concepts of the book, including its expansive notion of the police and its highly restrictive definition of politics as foundationally egalitarian. Above all, we press Rancière (and each other!) on both the meaning and the political utility of equality as a presupposition or ‘axiom’ rather than a social goal. It’s a banger! 

patreon.com/leftofphilosophy | @leftofphil 

References: 

Jacques Rancière, Disagreement: Politics and Philosophy, trans. Julie Rose (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1999). 

Music: Vintage Memories by Schematist | schematist.bandcamp.com

Feb 22 2022

1hr 5mins

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31 | Raymond Geuss: Realism in Political Theory

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In this episode we work through some of the ideas laid out in Part 1 of Raymond Geuss’ 2008 Philosophy and Real Politics. It’s a refreshingly clear-eyed argument for what he calls the realist approach in political philosophy, which tries to attend to the messiness of actually existing societies, the opaque and invested people who make them up, and the shifting, contradictory values they hold. We’re talking Hobbes meets Lenin meets Nietzsche here, folks. Leave your rational decision theory and normative idealism at the door. 

patreonn.com/leftofphilosophy | @leftofphil 

References: 

Raymond Geuss, Philosophy and Real Politics (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2008). 

Music: Vintage Memories by Schematist | schematist.bandcamp.com

Feb 07 2022

1hr 2mins

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30 | What is Utopia? Part I. Thomas More: Critical Realism in a Time of Enclosure

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In this episode, we kick off a new series on the concept of utopia by taking a look at the guy who invented the word, Thomas More. We discuss how his wonderfully satirical 1516 book Utopia was written in response to the enclosures happening in England, which forced masses of peasants into unemployment and misery and created the conditions for early capitalist agriculture. His fictional island nation of Utopia thrives without private property, but More’s real trick is how he reveals the wildly utopian and fantastical nature of our own capitalist world order. Plus Owen invents the phrase ‘professional social improvement class’, which is just great. 

patreon.com/leftofphilosophy | @leftofphil 

References: 

Thomas More, Utopia, trans. Robert M. Adams, ed. George M. Logan (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2014). 

Karl Kautsky, Thomas More and his Utopia, trans. Henry James Stenning, accessed at the Marxist Internet Archive: <https://www.marxists.org/archive/kautsky/1888/more/index.htm>. 

Quentin Skinner, “Sir Thomas More’s Utopia and the language of Renaissance humanism,” in The Languages of Political Theory in Early Modern Europe, ed. Anthony Padgen (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1987). 

Alexandre Matheron, “Spinozism and the Breakdown of Thomist Politics: Machiavellianism and Utopia,” in Politics, Ontology, and Knowledge in Spinoza, trans. and ed. Filippo Del Lucchese, David Maruzzella, and Gil Morejón (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2020). 

Music: Vintage Memories by Schematist | schematist.bandcamp.com

Jan 24 2022

1hr

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29 | Sartre and the Question of Philosophy

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In this episode, we read Jean-Paul Sartre's Search for a Method. We begin by working through Sartre’s puzzling claim that Marxism is this era’s one true philosophy and then branch out into broader questions concerning what it is we are trying to do when we philosophize and whether Sartre was right not to give up on capital-T “Truth.” Other topics include Sartre’s conception of freedom, the relationship of the individual to history, and the problems of dogmatic Marxism up to the present day. This one is sure to delight, and it's just the start for us with old J-P!

patreon.com/leftofphilosophy | @leftofphil

References:

Jean-Paul Sartre, Search for a Method, trans. Hazel E. Barnes (New York: Vintage Books, 1963)

Music: Vintage Memories by Schematist | schematist.bandcamp.com

Jan 10 2022

1hr 6mins

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