To:

Vice-Chancellor of the University, Michael Driscoll, m.driscoll@mdx.ac.uk;

Deputy Vice-Chancellor Research and Enterprise, Waqar Ahmad, w.ahmad@mdx.ac.uk;

Deputy Vice Chancellor Academic, Margaret House, m.house@mdx.ac.uk;

Dean of the School of Arts & Education, Ed Esche, e.esche@mdx.ac.uk.

Philosophy at Middlesex University

I write to you to today concerning the decision not to continue all programmes in Philosophy at Middlesex University. As a former student of the undergraduate programme and a current MA student I feel strongly that this decision is a mistake.

The department has performed consistently well in student satisfaction surveys and QAA assessments, as well as having an internationally renowned research department (rated highly by the RAE).

I wonder if you can explain to me the reason behind cutting the department? From what I’ve read, Philosophy is close to the target for contributing 55% of its income to the university, and with its growing international reputation could only be likely to grow in the coming years. Whether this economic contribution is considered significant, there is also the question of prestige (which may be difficult to measure, but is very real). It is important that academic disciplines such as Philosophy remain represented in universities, particularly new universities. A university that doesn’t care about academic excellence is no university at all.

Lastly, I should also let you know that I amongst others will be writing to the press to publicise the plight of Philosophy at Middlesex and to gather support from similarly affected and concerned parties should we not reach a satisfactory resolution to this problem.

Philosophy at Middlesex is too rich a resource to lose, and I hope you and the rest of the university management will reconsider your decision.

Yours sincerely,

Alice Moss

Stella Sandford – ‘Sex’

Sandford considers ‘sex’ to be somewhat of a wild card in the set of concepts, the founding instance of which is in Le Deuxieme Sexe.  Afterwards this concept crosses the channel, and at this point we have to ask if ‘sexe’ translates as ‘sex’, and what do we do with the English interloper ‘gender’.

Stoller proposed a theory of ‘gender’, which was adopted by feminists because of its immediate political advantage.  This also had echoes of Wollstonecraft and Mill – the falsity of the proposition that state of woman is determined by nature.

When the English language operates, sex operates in opposition to gender.  For the French, and the different linguistic background, ‘sexe’ is not ‘sex’.  ‘Sexe’ has the connotation of la vie sexuelle, difference sexuelle, la difference des sexes; none of which exactly equate with gender.

In the Dictionary of Untranslatables, Fraise puns that ‘sexe’ is a ‘cache-sexe’ (lit., hides sex, but also a colloquial term for a g-string!)

‘Sexualité’ is to do with drives, pulsionelle, phantasmatic; neither physiological nor psychological.  There is an inability to think sex.  This may lead the philosophical concept of sex to become cut off from everyday usage.

To return to The Second Sex, Beauvoir doesn’t theorise sex so much as define it as the site of a problem.  The book deals with man and woman, more than male and female – which is to say, it is an existential problem.  Not biologically, but existentially determined (which shows that a ‘sex’ assumption operated in French thought).

‘Sexe’ has no purely descriptive function, it is empircally inadequate.  The duality of it is in fact normative, prescriptive.

Sociological concepts of sex – Delphi, social relations in groups, material and ideological; Wittig, the political concept doesn’t overwrite the natural.

Any construction of a concept of sex must acknowledge social reality.  A single, transdisciplinary concept of sex would be anamorphic; containing the popular concept and its criticism.

The failure of Butler’s Gender Trouble was its dismissal of sex.  The source of this was a mistaken belief that the natural basis couldn’t be explained coupled with an inappropriate epistemological belief sex couldn’t be ‘known’ (in the sense of a Kantian thing-in-itself).

The discourse of sex has a transcendental subreption: substituting an illusion (which doesn’t refer to anything) for a real structure.  This can be understood in the sense of a ‘regulative idea’.

The possibility of a transdisciplinary concept of sex is already a homology – not a dispute to be settled, but part of the definition (a reflexive structure).

Guillaume Collett – ‘objet a’

Collett discusses objet a in two contexts – in the notion of the ‘gaze’ (from Lacan’s Seminar XI and XIII), and in Deleuze’s Logic of Sense.

The concept of objet a has an asymmetric transdisciplinarity, in that it imports its structure to the contexts it operates in.  It connects subject to structure.

In Lacan subject is constituted by structure, whereas for Deleuze it’s a self-causing univocity.

For Lacan, objet a comes to take the place of the phallus in his earlier work.  The phallus belongs to language, whereas objet a is a subjective object.  It inject subject into structure (and this structure is not opposed to physical reality).  In fact, it makes the real into reality; phallus was a point of lack, whereas objet a injects excess.  2 objects: 1. as cause and 2. as effect (phallus).  This cycle generates spatial reality, as you are lured and then rejected into space; it extends Cartesian space.  Its topological structure causes the non-extensive to become extensive through the Other’s gaze, as an included-exclusion.

The asymmetric transdisciplinarity operates in art history, in dialogue with Foucault, in Ruger’s ideas (space is immanently unified, then self-consciousness becomes excluded as a phallic stain and acts as a Kantian schematism).

Could structure generate space without a subject?  No, only humans have this understanding of space.  For most animals, space is composed by point-to-point parallel planes, organised by ‘bijection’.  Space is structure (Seminar XIII).

There is a semi-independent space on the part of the other (even though subject is constituted by space) – the figure-plane horizon depends on perspective, but it is the big Other’s gaze that structures it.  [There were diagrams from Seminars XI and XIII to guide this part of the talk]

For Foucault, structure is a structure of representation.  For Lacan, it’s ahistorical, an ahistorical subject of a drive.  Lacan uses various strategies throughout his work to distance subject from structure – linguistics, logic and topology, maths (knots).  As he progresses, abandons structure towards a theory of the subject.

In Deleuze’s Difference and Reptition and Logic of Sense the themes are genesis and structure, and laws of displacement (replacing univocity for the Cartesian subject).  In this schema 1. cause = nonsense and 2. effect = the event.

Nonsense is word = x to object = x (Kantian transcendental object).  Nonsense is only nonsensical when it becomes unified under the notion.

Libidinal entities are singularities – Deleuze’s theory never returns to the phenomenological subject.  Phantasms suture the acts of singularities on aeonic surfaces.  Sense = jouissance (as meaning travels in one direction).   Structure is naturally generated, the language of the stoics and physics.

Peter Osborne remark:  Psychoanalysis isn’t a discipline per se, it’s the science of a subject, not an object-domain.

police reading

February 16, 2010

I’m reading Deleuze and Guattari again; Anti-Oedipus. I’m really quite hostile to D&G, but in a way that makes me feel inadequate; I am the micro-fascist police reader, imposing all my captures on things. It’s not that they’re wrong, it’s that I take the place of the behaviours they oppose. Neurotic, controlling.

I’m not sure how much I understand… the disorganised style makes it unclear. I tried to pin down what I thought was an argument in seminar the other day, but Professor A mocked me, told me I wasn’t following and sent me away to read Difference and Repetition. “You haven’t read it? But what have you been doing, all these years? What on EARTH have you been doing?”

What indeed. Does everyone have more time to read and capacity to concentrate or are they just better at hiding their ignorances?

discipline (and punish)

January 19, 2010

What does it mean when people, at the start of giving a paper at a Philosophy conference, say “Excuse me, I am just a [sociologist/cultural theorist/geographer/social scientist/historian of ideas/blah blah]”? Are they trying to pre-excuse themselves from the questioning of philosophers? But that would assume everyone is insecure about their discipline in relation to philosophy, which I’m sure is untrue. I notice it particularly at Materialism-related conferences, and I wonder if that has something to do with it – are they making a point about the practical dignity of their paper, exempt from theoretical scrutiny? (Or do I just go to too many Materialism-related events?)