Saturday, December 02, 2006

Get meta with me

Thanks to s0metim3s for posting a link to this great little essay by Etienne Balibar, cleverly titled "Sub specie universitatis." As the title suggests much of the article, the first part at least, deals with the institutional conditions of thinking within the university. Or, more to the point the tension between the specific site of the university, or rather specific universities with their institutional and political conditions, and philosophy's claim to be the universal grasped in thought.

The piece is interesting for two reasons: one, it is Balibar, and I find nearly everything he writes to be engaging and interesting (how is that for pathetic academic-fandom?) and, second, it deals with the question of the institution of philosophy, which is both philosophically interesting and completely practical at the same time.

On the speculative side it seems to me that one of the many philosophical tasks that Marx left in his wake, namely from the identification of philosophy and ideology in The German Ideology, is thinking philosophy in relation to its constitutive outside. As Pierre Macherey writes: "Hence this notion that Marxism was the first to explore: philosophy is not an independent speculative activity, as would be a pure speculation, but is tied to "real" conditions, which are its historical conditions; and this is why, let it be said in passing, there is a history of philosophy, which can be retraced and understood"

The academization of philosophy, a process by which outsiders to the institution of philosophy (Spinoza, Marx, Nietzsche, Benjamin, to name just a few) are made into respectable objects of study, around which careers can be made, also raises some real practical issues. For example, I always try to incorporate some contemporary philosophers in my intro to philosophy class. This inevitably leads to some objections from students who find the whole practice of citing and referencing to be at odds with their idea of philosophy (the search for the meaning of life, or whatever). Now these objections could be dismissed as naive, but I do not think that they are. I think that we have to offer our students something more than a future of commentary if philosophy is going to continue to exist.

1 comment:

Nate said...

where's that Macherey quote from?