(Human-Non-Human) Night of Philosophy (April 24)

night phil

What’s going on in philosophy? Check out the program, which you can find here, for this all-night philosophical symposium cum art-music-performance spectacle, geared to an educated popular audience. Very serious, it looks like a lot of fun. But I guess it will depend upon who shows up and in what numbers. Will it only work for a small mob, or multitude?

There are so many things to say about this event which looks spectacular. Here’s what caught my eye going through the website:

—I’ll start with the astonishing mix of philosophy, video, music, and art. The whole thing (seems to have) (has) been organized by Mériam Korichi , who is, herself,  a philosopher and a theater stage director, whose own research is “philosophy and art.” For her full bio, check out the website’s “about us” page. The event is described as a “happening,” the term used by performance artists in the 1960 and 1970s. Might it be the case that  philosophy has always had to depend upon theater, art, and music for its vigor and vitality?

— I stumbled upon this description for the musical arrangement “Spinoza in Kiev.” The text is “by Mériam Korichi based on Bernard Malamud’s novel The Fixer, with Karol Beffa and Trisha Bauman and Mimi Cohen. Duration: 45’ A melodrama for two actresses with piano improvisations. Kiev 1911. Yakov Bok decides to leave the Shtetl (a small, exclusively Jewish town), to learn more about the world. After he manages to find a real job in Kiev, he is un­justly accused of the ritual murder of a 12 year old boy. When Bok is imprisoned, a book by Spinoza is found in his possession. B. A. Bibikov, the Investigating Magistrate for Cases of Extraordinary Importance, is intrigued by this…”

–Note the high caliber of philosophical content, which seems largely focused on the conceptual relation between the human and non-human. A common thread seems to bring together non-anthropomorphism, alien intelligence, liberalism, religion, and metaphysics, and animality. The thought of “suicide” crops up here and there. Perhaps of signal interest to the project here at Jewish Philosophy Place is the lecture by Tim Maudlin (New York University), who will, “present a simple version of John Bell’s proof that certain experimental results can only be explained if there are physical connections between systems that are arbitrarily far apart. The proof of this physical non-locality is arguably the greatest shock to our understanding of the physical world produced in the history of physics.”

–There’s no rigid binary separating more analytic versus continental approaches to philosophy. The organizers have done something really right.

–Sponsored as it is by Cultural Services of the French Embassy and the neighboring Ukrainian Institute of America on 5th Avenue, the event says something deep about the non-separation of philosophy and state, in this case, philosophy as a form of European political culture.

–Free coffee and croissants all night.

–I’m always struck by how out of joint the discipline of Jewish philosophy is to broader currents in philosophy. I guess that’s why we have Levinas, to get us in the door. If it were not for him, where would we be, and even he might not be enough? At any rate, it’s a moot consideration since Levinas isn’t on the program. It could be that the more general absence of Jewish philosophy is part of a larger set of cultural exclusions? There’s just a little bit of Islamic and Buddhist philosophy, which makes this question an open one, not so easy to answer. Perhaps it’s the case, suggested by the performance “Spinoza in Kiev” that Jews and Judaism make their way into philosophy via literature, as was the case in first wave postmodernism in the 1970s and 1980s. While my own work has been immersed in Talmud, it could be that Kabbalah will prove to be the better key to enter into these philosophical exploration of the human-non-human.

–Heidegger and Hegel aren’t on the program either.

–In the immortal words of Mitt Romney, there are “binders of women [philosophers].”

About zjb

Zachary Braiterman is Professor of Religion in the Department of Religion at Syracuse University. His specialization is modern Jewish thought and philosophical aesthetics. http://religion.syr.edu
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2 Responses to (Human-Non-Human) Night of Philosophy (April 24)

  1. jonathansilverman says:

    It’s like a secular version of the Tikkun of Shavous!

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