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Buzzwords » Top Reads of 2016: Richard Marshall (published 23/12/2016)

12 of what I’ve read this year: The Genesis of Neo-Kantianism, 1796-1880. Frederick Beiser. Beiser is an essential read and this is a great and readable book about an important sub-field of continental philosophy. It includes, for the Beckett fans amongst us, a chapter on Windelband, one of whose books Beckett read and from which […]

Interviews » Restless Hauntings: Richard Marshall Interviews Marina Warner (published 06/04/2009)

mw2By the time photography got into its stride it was accepted pretty much as a documentary index of reality. This was why it became very popular in spirit circles because it proved that spirits existed. Well now of course we know so much more about this very peculiar state of being which has been called ‘image flesh’ – a term of Maurice Merleau-Ponty that I like very much. It’s an expression I like because it implies flesh that is not flesh. He applied it to other forms of iconography, which are also image flesh. They might be more material than a photograph – a sculpture, a painting – but they share the relationship to the mind’s eye that photography does.

Richard Marshall talks Catholicism, zombies and Beckton Alps with Marina Warner.

Interviews » The End Times » Curriculum and the Child Redux (published 14/12/2018)

Cutting across the political and other beliefs that divide us within this framework are values which nearly all of us share or at least say we share. We want ourselves and others to have a flourishing personal life based on autonomously chosen activities and relationships. We want us all to possess the necessary conditions of such a life – good physical and mental health, adequate income, housing, education, time to ourselves, safety, the rule of law, internal and external peace etc. We want interesting work with all positions, including élite positions, open to all of us. We want to live in a democratic society, one that involves all of us in different ways in decision-making affecting the well-being of ourselves and the various communities, local and national, in which we live.

Continuing the End Times series, Richard Marshall interviews John White.

Essays » When Negativity Don’t Pull You Through: Asides 2 (published )

Schopenhauer’s pessimism stands as a challenge to attempts to justify the value of life. As indicated above, the pessimist case was articulated by Schopenhauer in the nineteenth century and it was for a couple of decades as controversial an issue as Darwinism. A few quotes give the detonating flavour of his thesis:
‘We will not have to seek hell below the earth because we already are living it here and now.’ ‘The world is hell, and we humans are its tormented souls and its devils.’ ‘The essential meaning of the world famous monologue in Hamlet is this: that our life is so miserable that complete non-existence would be preferable to it.’   ‘The purpose of our existence is indeed to declare nothing more than the knowledge that it is better we never existed.’

Richard Marshall on Schopenhauer’s Pessimism and the Controversy that Followed.

Interviews » The End Times » Hegel and the Ethical Life (published 08/12/2018)

Costello presents a challenge to the account of critical reflection that I go on to offer, because she suggests that such atrocities could become so seamlessly integrated into everyday life that no one suspects (except lone critics like her) that there is something deeply wrong here.  It presents a challenge to Hegel’s optimism that, if there is something deeply wrong here, it will break through the surface in the form of practical contradictions, which will in turn make continued participation in the practice in question increasingly untenable. 

Continuing the End Times series, Richard Marshall interviews Andreja Novakovic.

Essays » When Negativity Don’t Pull You Through: Asides on The Pessimismus Controversy 1 (published 05/12/2018)

In Bostridge’s obsession we’re drawn to a frozen non-identity creeping about, a Byronic lover going beyond whatever is now absent, beyond anything existing, finding the weight, beauty and indissoluble actuality of negation. Dylan’s ‘Clothesline Saga’ from the official Basemeant Tapes works the same inconsequential ramble, freighted with the refusal of deep memories and the certainty that nothing can happen. When nothing happens we remember the date and the name of the bridge from where its mystery is thrown off. We remember the weather which is just another sinister shaggy dog story. Another nothing.

Richard Marshall`s aside on negation’s creative hand.

Interviews » The End Times » Kant’s Sublime (published 30/11/2018)

Kantian moral psychology borrows quite a lot from the Stoics, including the basic conception of the good as the object of practical reason. In the second Critique (5:57ff.), Kant points out that German has ready resources to distinguish good from well-being (Güte from Wohl), and bad from ill-being (Böse from Übel). This is exactly the distinction that the Stoics drew, when they argued that the only truly good thing is virtue; anything else might have a kind of positive (or negative) value for planning things out so that things go well (or ill) for one. The Stoics, like Kant, think that human beings typically suffer from chronic misvaluing, where we confuse what is preferable in this latter way for what is genuinely good, and what is dispreferable in this latter way for what is genuinely bad. The only genuinely good thing is virtue, say the Stoics.

Continuing the End Times series, Richard Marshall interviews Melissa Merritt.

Interviews » The End Times » German Idealism and Modernism (published 23/11/2018)

On trial in The Trial is not only the confused and despairing Josef K., who finds himself being accused of a crime he seems to have no recollection of having committed and whose nature is never revealed to him, but our very capacity for making ourselves intelligible through the use of language. Of course, The Trial displays a surface clarity unsurpassed by most so-called modernist writings. Kafka was a brilliant story-teller and never conducted “experiments” with language. My claim, though, is that the surface clarity of his prose only barely disguises a deeper and more fundamental sense of uncertainty with regard to speech as a means for creating mutual understanding.

Continuing the End Times series, Richard Marshall interviews Espen Hammer.

Interviews » The End Times » How History Gets Things Wrong (published 22/11/2018)

Our whole culture and every civilization that we have any record of is constructed on the rickety foundations of the theory of mind. It has given us free will, moral responsibly, praise and blame, moral norms and political institutions, things we can’t dispense with in the normal course of life.  My book is a plea that when we try to mitigate the worst features of human interaction, to design better institutions, control an uncertain future, we try to use theories that have a chance of being on the right track instead of the theory of mind.

Continuing the End Times series, Richard Marshall interviews Alex Rosenberg.

Interviews » The End Times » Dilthey, Simmel, Nietzsche, Benjamin: Life and Relativism (published 17/11/2018)

In the view of some, we are living in a “culture of life”. The practical impact of scientific discourses on life also points towards an important feature of the concept in general: when life becomes an epistemological object, established oppositions such as theory and practice or nature and culture are often transcended. Naturalistic concepts of life seek to explain also social, cultural, and even ethical phenomena. This holistic dimension of the concept of life makes possible, on the other, so many interventions on the part of the humanities against the reductionism of naturalistic explanations.

Continuing the End Times series, Richard Marshall interviews Johannes Steizinger.