Phobic Postcards

 

 

If the greatest philosopher in the world finds himself upon a plank wider than actually necessary, but hanging over a precipice, his imagination will prevail, though his reason convinces him of his safety. Many cannot bear the thought without a cold sweat. I will not state all its effects. (Pascal, Pensées)

This project explores phobia through twelve videos and many notes. Absurd fears, where there is nothing to fear really. Pascal’s philosopher standing on the plank above the abyss knows there is nothing to fear. He knows the plank is large enough. But it does not help. It is as if his vertigo were outside the reach of his philosophy.

When Descartes is attacked by thieves on a boat crossing the Elbe, he does not panic. He draws out his sword. It is a natural fear that the philosopher overcomes with his strong character. Then there is Heidegger in the Black Forest, of course, and the anguish of the Dasein: a great and noble fear, without any object.

I have never been able to experience the anguish of the Dasein. I am happy in the forest… until I hear a crack in a bush and start wondering what kind of beast is hiding there. The Existentialists are like the Rationalists. In the end, neither of them fear anything in particular. Our stupid vertigo standing on Pascal’s board remains outside of their philosophy. Which seems to imply both that philosophy doesn’t have anything to say about phobias and that it is powerless against phobias.

But how can we be serious when speaking about phobias? We can’t, because phobias are absurd, and they relate to definite objects, singular situations, so we must tell stories. Maybe it is better to break away from philosophy’s medium (since Descartes at least), the text, and try something different. Another way to approach our experience. Videos. Sounds and images.

 

See Phobic Poscards  at SubStance@Work.

 

A French version is currently under construction with the help of grant “Brouillon d’un rêve” from the Société Civile des Auteurs Multimédia.

Elemental Times

 In his novel Vendredi ou Les limbes du Pacifique, Michel Tournier opposes the time of the Earth which can be measured, numbered and which accumulates, and the time of the Sun, which does not pass in the same way. The time of the Earth, as Tournier describes it, is the kind of time, which, in Max Weber’s essay, The Spirit of Capitalism and Protestant Ethic, it is a sin to waste, a view that Weber considers as being at the origin of capitalism. But there would different ways to describe both the time of the Earth and the time of the Sun. After all, time was first measured with the help of a sundial.

In the same way, in La poétique de la rêverie, Gaston Bachelard refers to water, as an “element”, to describe the “dreamer’s cogito”, a state of being that, precisely, is not a cogito in Descartes’ sense and in which there is no time. But water, the river in which we only bath once, can also be the image of time. In his book L’eau et les rêves, Bachelard himself investigates this image and this view of water.

These examples raise several questions. Why do we refer to elements, water, earth, fire or, at least, the Sun, when we want to describe these unusual times, times that would not pass as the time of the clock? Why do these elements support such various views of time? To try and answer these questions, I will discuss Bachelard’s analysis of “elements”, and the role they may be given in an imaginary metaphysics.

Communication at the SLSA Conference, Atlanta, November 2016th

Une histoire de machines, de vampires et de fous

 

Une histoire de machines, de vampires et fous, Paris, Vrin, 2007

 

Deux façons de présenter cet essai.

Une parodie contemporaine des Méditations métaphysiques de Descartes dans laquelle le Malin Génie est devenu un vampire, le corps un robot et l’esprit, une image, un être de peinture qui passe par toutes sortes d’aventure et rencontre Russell aussi que Borges.

Ou bien une analyse de l’imaginaire intérieure à l’imaginaire. La thèse en est que l’imaginaire contemporain, qui parcourt la littérature comme les sciences, met en scène, parmi d’autres oppositions, un face-à-face particulier entre les deux figures de la machine et du vampire. Il s’agit de jouer sur les images, d’utiliser leurs ressorts propres, dans la fiction par conséquent, pour mettre en lumière leur structure.

 

 

 

 

Les limites imaginaires du monde de la raison

Quatre conférences au CUF Saint Petersbourg 9-18 février 2016

 

La plage du Moulleau                                     (Jean-Paul Alaux, 1909)

 

Conférences I et II. Introduction. Descartes, ou comment le rationalisme prend l’eau

Conférence III. Le bord de mer

Conférence IV. Le cas Gödel

Mon zombie et moi

Mon zombie et moi. La philosophie comme fiction, Paris, Seuil, 2010

Que et où suis-je ?

Après avoir revisité un certain nombre de positions classiques sur la nature et le statut du sujet (celle de Descartes notamment) et de réponses possibles à la question de savoir ce que je suis (une personne ? une machine ?), cette enquête développe une théorie originale fondée sur la notion de figures imaginaires.

On y trouvera une façon nouvelle de faire de la philosophie, s’appuyant sur et passant par la fiction. Cette méthode est mise en œuvre par l’analyse d’une série de figures tirées de la littérature, où sont convoqués des auteurs classiques comme Poe, Maupassant, Nerval, aussi bien que des écrivains de science-fiction comme Wells, Conan Doyle, Stapledon, Ph. K. Dick. S’y ajoutent d’originales fictions imaginées par l’auteur, qui deviennent autant de plans d’expérience philosophique : puis-je, au sens propre, perdre la tête ? être invisible ? intouchable ? habiter un tableau ? être fait de plusieurs morceaux ?

Voici, autour de la question du sujet, un parcours par la fiction d’un pan de la philosophie aussi bien qu’un voyage philosophique à travers la science-fiction.