Saturday, January 31, 2015

Cambridge Philosoph Tim Crane in the TLS 
This extraordinary book, a huge dictionary of philosophical terms from many languages, is a translation of Vocabulaire européen des philosophies: Dictionnaire des intraduisibles, originally published in 2004, the brainchild of the French philosopher Barbara Cassin. If the original project was paradoxical, then the present version is doubly so: not just a dictionary of untranslatable words, but a translation of that dictionary. Rather than despair at the self-undermining self-referentiality of the whole idea, the editors rejoice in it. Indeed, moving the word “untranslatable” to the beginning of the English title proudly asserts the paradox even more forcefully than the original French title does, and forms what the English-language editor Emily Apter calls “an organising principle of the entire project”. 
...Certainly, English-language philosophy (not the same as “English thought”!) is conspicuously absent. The so-called “ordinary language” philosophers are here (J. L. Austin, Stanley Cavell, Gilbert Ryle, Wittgenstein) but very little else. Brague’s long entry on “Europe” devotes only three sentences to English. But like it or not, “Anglo-analytic” philosophy dominates university departments in the United States, the United Kingdom, Australasia and many parts of Continental Europe; and like it or not, the French approach embodied in Cassin’s book is on the decline worldwide. One way to see the Dictionary, then, is as an extended lament for the decline of French as a “preeminent language of philosophy”, in an intellectual context where English has become what Apter calls “the singular language of universal knowledge”.
"...and like it or not, the French approach embodied in Cassin’s book is on the decline worldwide."

English is the language best suited to technocracy. But technocracy is in crisis.

Derrida was a fop. Badiou is a putz. [He's giving another reading at the same gallery next week: "Contemporary Art Confronting the 21st Century".]

repeats and repeats and many more.
When forced to face real engagement Judith Butler became an articulate and plain spoken defender of Palestinians’ claims to basic civil equality. She defended liberalism when liberals who’ve attacked her refused to. That’s the important fact, not the theoretical gobbledygook that came before. Could it be that gobbledygook was emotionally necessary as a way to defend humanism in an anti-humanist age? Maybe “theory” as poetry kept humanism alive: the poetry of technocracy, fighting against itself.

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