PHIL 3280: 21ST CENTURY PHILOSOPHY: Transcendental Materialism, Speculative Realism, and the Return of Metaphysics in Contemporary Continental

Philosophy MEETING: TUESDAYS, THURSDAYS (1:00PM – 2:20PM) ROOM: MACK 224 INSTRUCTOR: Ryan Krahn EMAIL: WEBSITE: (Several of the course readings will be made available on the courselink site, in PDF form. Occasionally announcements will be made on this site as well, so log on frequently). COURSE DESCRIPTION: This course is an introduction to the most current philosophical texts and movements developed since the beginning of the 21st Century. Students will be taught to understand and work creatively with the most recent ideas in the discipline. Material covered will focus almost exclusively on the philosophical texts written in or after the year 2000. The topic of the readings and discussion will be structured around a central question: After the dominance of so-called ‘post-metaphysical’ philosophy in the 20th century, with its emphasis on finitude and the limitations of human rationality, and its critiques of speculative philosophy, onto-theology, and allexplaining systems, are we witnessing today a return to metaphysics? Students will read a number of essays and short books to understand the particular sense in which some of the most important contemporary philosophers have revived debate on the nature of the Real, the Universal, the Truth, the Infinite, the Absolute, and even the Thing-in-itself. Though the themes and developments of pre-21st Century thought will be revisited in lectures and classroom discussion, this course will assume some familiarity with the history of philosophy, including many of the main ideas of Kant, Hegel, and 20th Century Continental Philosophy (e.g. Heidegger, Sartre, Derrida, phenomenology, existentialism, deconstruction). Prerequisite(s): OVERVIEW OF THE COURSE: Instead of engaging with one or two major texts, this will be a survey of recent trends and philosophers in contemporary philosophy. It will be structured around how the questions of

1.50 credits in Philosophy

metaphysics (e.g. ‘what is?’, ‘what is the nature of being?’, ‘is there anything outside of what is available to our subjective standpoint?’) are being treated Continental philosophers today. In order to understand how each of the authors we will read responds to this question, we will need to briefly discuss the limitations that Immanuel Kant’s Critical Philosophy put on the project of pre-Modern metaphysics and what Martin Heidegger meant by his notion of “the end of metaphysics.” A short assessment of these arguments will be our only explicit engagement with pre-21st Century thought, but past figures and ideas throughout the history of philosophy will undoubtedly arise in lecture and discussion. That being said, our main focus will not be the limitations that the Critical tradition put on metaphysics or even the ‘post-metaphysical’ philosophy of the 20th Century that flourished under these limitations. Our focus will, instead, be on two of the most recent schools of thought that have, in their own different ways, endeavored to depart from mainstream Continental idealism and/or anti-realism and resuscitate grand-scale metaphysical philosophy. Speculative Realism, the first philosophical development we will look at, is explicitly concerned with Continental philosophers’ traditional assumption that answering the question what is (or what is real) is always attached to the person asking the question. The philosophers we will read here are Alain Badiou, Quentin Meillassoux (Badiou’s student), and Graham Harman (who has just finished a book on Meillassoux). We will then deal with a loose group that can be gathered under the banner of Transcendental Materialism, each of them joined together in their project of returning to a post-Kantian, specifically Hegelian, metaphysics. But this Hegel will look much different than the traditional and even most recent 20th Century depictions of him. In this group we will read the work of Slavoj Žižek, Catherine Malabou (Jacques Derrida’s student who shares Žižek’s project of resuscitating Hegelianism), and Adrian Johnston (Žižek’s student and co-author of a forthcoming book with Malabou). Following Malabou’s book on the intersection between neuroscience, politics, and ideology, we will conclude with a short and exciting book by Mark Fisher that engages the ideas of Žižek and Badiou to analyze the relation between capitalist ideology and political ontology today. To do justice to the topic, we will work through the texts slowly and carefully, discussing the necessary background of each of the texts in class. In order to get a general sense of the contemporary scene and understand the stakes of these new developments, where they depart from the mainstream phenomenological and structuralist/poststructuralist Continental traditions, and what it means for possible future directions for philosophy, we will limit our reading to a few short texts, a handful of articles, and a couple of videos. REQUIRED TEXTS: 1. Infinite Thought: Truth and the Return to Philosophy - Alain Badiou (Continuum, 2005) 2. After Finitude: An Essay on the Necessity of Contingency - Quentin Meillassoux (Continuum, 2008)

3. What Should We Do With Our Brain? - Catherine Malabou (Fordham, 2008) 4. Capitalist Realism: Is There No Alternative? - Mark Fisher (Zer0, 2009) 5. The Speculative Turn: Continental Realism and Materialism – Levi Bryant, Nick Srnicek, Graham Harman (eds.) (, 2011) RECOMMENDED TEXTS: 1. Philosophy in the Present - Alain Badiou & Slavoj Žižek (Polity, 2009). 2. Towards Speculative Realism – Graham Harman (Zer0, 2010) Criteria of Evaluation Test #1 Test #2 Short Research Paper 33% 33% 33%

TEST #1: The first test will be an in-class examination of material covered in the readings, films, lectures, and class discussions. This examination may take the form of any or all of the following: short answer, true or false, multiple choice, definition, and/or essay questions. The date of the first test is Tuesday, October 25 TEST #2: The second test will be an in-class examination of material covered in the readings, films, lectures, and class discussions. This examination may take the form of any or all of the following: short answer, true or false, multiple choice, definition, and/or essay questions. The date of the second test is Thursday, November 24 TERM PAPER: Your term paper will be 3000 words long (this is approximately 10 – 10.5 pages long). The paper should include a word count as well as a 75-100 word abstract highlighting the themes and thesis of the paper. The paper must be a combination of exegesis and original argument. The paper must deal with at least two of the course readings. Papers must be delivered via email attachment. Your term paper will be graded with the following criteria in mind: • Originality • Focus • Philosophical rigour (argumentative force, logical consistency, conceptual precision, descriptive accuracy, etc.) • Clarity and organization of ideas • Evidence of comprehension of readings Term papers are due Tuesday, December 6.

No term papers will be accepted after Tuesday, December 13 PENALTIES FOR LATENESS Tests will not be reissued to those who have missed the examination dates. Exceptions will be made for those with proper documentation of illness or serious emergency. 3% will be subtracted from the final grade per day late, including days that fall on holidays and the weekend (i.e., an assignment due on Friday, but handed in any time on Monday, is marked down by 9%). Term papers will not be accepted if they are more than ONE WEEK late. Exceptions will be made for those with proper documentation of illness or serious emergency.

READING SCHEDULE: Students will be expected to come to each seminar prepared to discuss the week's reading.

Week, Class I, 1 II, 2

Date Thurs Sept 8 Tues Sept 13

Readings NO READINGS “The Adventure of French Philosophy,” Alain Badiou – 10 pgs. [online]

Lecture themes/notes/links Course outline, introduction of themes Overview of themes of 20th Century Continental philosophy Introduction of the state and stakes of metaphysical philosophy


III, 4

Thurs “The Revival of Metaphysics in Sept Continental Philosophy,” Graham 15 Harman 16 pgs. [photocopy on Courselink] Tues “Towards a Speculative Sept Philosophy” in The Speculative 20 Turn, Levi Bryant, Nick Srnicek, Graham Harman – pp.1-19

Introduction to 21st Century philosophers and movements (Speculative Realism, NeoVitalism, Transcendental Materialism, NonPhilosophy, etc.) Text also available as PDF at



Thurs “Time without Becoming,” Sept Quentin Meillassoux – 22 12 pgs [online] Tues Sept 27 Thurs Sept 29 Tues Oct 4

Introduction to Quentin Meillassoux, themes of After Finitude 008/07/3729-time_without_becoming.pdf Correlationism, Ancestrality, Arche-fossils Correlationist rejoinders Types of correlationism, fideism, ‘metaphysics’ Factiality, Contingency

After Finitude, Quentin Meillassoux – VI – VIII, 1-18 (to ‘***’ on p. 18) 7 After Finitude, Quentin Meillassoux – pp. 18-27 V, 8 After Finitude, Quentin Meillassoux – pp. 28-49 9 Thurs After Finitude, Quentin Oct 6 Meillassoux – pp. 50-63 (to ‘***’ on p. 63) VI, 10 Tues After Finitude, Quentin Oct Meillassoux – 11 pp. 63-82 11 Thurs “An Introduction to Badiou’s Oct Philosophy,” Justin Clemens and 13 Oliver Feltham in Infinite Thought, Alain Badiou – pp. 1-29 VII, 12 Tues “Philosophy and desire” in Oct Infinite Thought, Alain Badiou – 18 pp. 29-43 13 Thurs “Metaphysics and the Critique of Oct Metaphysics,” Alain Badiou – 20 16 pgs [online] VIII, Tues TEST #1 14 Oct 25 15 Thurs Watch University at Buffalo Oct Žižek lecture “Is it Possible to be 27 a Hegelian Today” (eps. 1-7) – =184f7R1Tscg Tues “Slavoj Žižek’s Hegelian Nov 1 Reformation,” Adrian Johnston pp. 3-14, 16-19 [PDF on Courselink]

IV, 6

Factiality, Contingency, Hyper-chaos Introduction to Alain Badiou Set theory = Ontology (Reading is DIFFICULT) Three orientations of Continental philosophy vs. a new philosophy of Truth nal/pdfs/Vol_10/Pli_10_9_Badiou.pdf 33% of final grade Žižek! Astra Taylor, 70mins. [film shown in class]

IX, 16

Introduction to Slavoj Žižek Transcendental Materialist ontology    


Thurs “Is it still possible to be a Nov 3 Hegelian today?” Slavoj Žižek, in The Speculative Turn, Levi Bryant, Nick Srnicek, Graham Harman – pp. 202-217, 222-23 (stop at “Hegelian Circle of Circles on p. 217, continue at “The underlying true problem…” on p. 222 until the end) X, 18 Tues What Should We Do With Our Nov 8 Brains? Catherine Malabou – Intro, Ch. 1 19 Thurs What Should We Do With Our Nov Brains? Catherine Malabou – 10 Ch. 2 XI, 20 Tues What Should We Do With Our Nov Brains? Catherine Malabou – 15 Ch. 3 and Conclusion 21 Thurs Capitalist Realism, Mark Fisher – Nov Chs. 1-5 17 XII, 22 Tues Capitalist Realism, Mark Fisher – Nov Chs. 6-9 22 23 Thurs TEST #2 Nov 24 XIII, Tues NO READINGS 24 Nov 29 ____ Tues TERM PAPERS DUE Dec 6 OFFICE HOURS:


Hegel, Materialism, Contingency (Reading is DIFFICULT) Text also available as PDF at LAST DAY TO DROP CLASS Freedom and determination, neuroplasticity Power, flexibility, organization, politics, capitalism Neuronal vs. Mental Self Capitalism and the Real, mental illness Late capitalism, bureaucracy, nomadism, education 33% of final grade LAST CLASS Wrap-up Final paper questions 33% of final grade

I will be available to talk to students via SKYPE (skype name: krahntology) every Wednesday from 12:00pm to 1:00pm or by appointment (email to confirm). SEVEN STANDARD STATEMENTS E-mail Communication As per university regulations, all students are required to check their <> email account regularly: e-mail is the official route of communication between the university and its students.


When You Cannot Meet a Course Requirement... When you find yourself unable to meet an in-course requirement because of illness or compassionate reasons, please advise the course instructor (or designated person, such as a teaching assistant) in writing, with your name, id#, and e-mail contact. See the undergraduate calendar for information on regulations and procedures for Academic Consideration: Drop Date The last date to drop one-semester Fall 2010 courses, without academic penalty, is Thursday November 4. For regulations and procedures for Dropping Courses, see the Undergraduate Calendar: Copies of out-of-class assignments Keep paper and/or other reliable back-up copies of all out-of-class assignments: you may be asked to resubmit work at any time. Academic Misconduct The University of Guelph is committed to upholding the highest standards of academic integrity and enjoins all members of the University community – faculty, staff, and students – to be aware of what constitutes academic misconduct and to do as much as possible to prevent academic offences from occurring. The Academic Misconduct Policy is detailed in the Undergraduate Calendar: Recording of Materials Presentations which are made in relation to course work—including lectures—cannot be recorded in any electronic media without the permission of the presenter, whether the instructor, a classmate or guest lecturer. Resources The Undergraduate Calendar is the source of information about the University of Guelph’s procedures, policies and regulations which apply to undergraduate programs. It can be found at: The university welcomes feedback on accessibility issues. Feedback can be directed to Human Rights and Equity Office (HREO) at or


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