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Joshua Foa Dienstag in dialogue
Series: Critical Powers

This book engages in a critical encounter with the work of Stanley Cavell on cinema, focusing skeptical attention on the claims made for the contribution of cinema to the ethical character of democratic life. In much of Cavell's writing on film he seeks to show us that the protagonists of the films he terms "remarriage comedies" live a form of perfectionism that he upholds as desirable for contemporary democratic society: moral perfectionism. Films are often viewed on television, and television shows can have "filmlike" qualities. The book addresses the nature of viewing cinematic film as a mode of experience, arguing against Cavell that it is akin to dreaming rather than lived consciousness and, crucially, cannot be shared. It mirrors the celebrated dialogue between Jean-Jacques Rousseau and Jean D'Alembert on theatre. The book articulates the implications of philosophical pessimism for addressing contemporary culture in its relationship to political life. It clarifies how The Americans resembles the remarriage films and can illuminate the issues they raise. The tragedy of remarriage, would be a better instructor of a democratic community, if such a community were prepared to listen. The book suggests that dreaming, both with and without films, is not merely a pleasurable distraction but a valuable pastime for democratic citizens. Finally, it concludes with a robust response from Dienstag to his critics.

A cinematic response to pessimism
Davide Panagia

. Let us recall, briefly, the era in which Cavell’s studies on film were written. Though published in 1981, Pursuits of Happiness was composed throughout the 1970s and followed The World Viewed as the only other book that took film seriously as a philosophical topic, written by an American author tenured in a philosophy department at a prominent American university

in Cinema, democracy and perfectionism
Open Access (free)
Laura Chrisman

towards the liberatory properties of the public sphere and rationality. These are frequently associated with the Enlightenment, taken to be both an historical period and a philosophical disposition. The Enlightenment is then construed as the instrument or origin of racial and colonial domination. I am interested to present other ways, here, of thinking about the relations of racism, colonialism, and the public sphere. A persuasive alternative is suggested in Madhu Dubey’s account of contemporary black representation in the USA: even in the most difference

in Postcolonial contraventions
Open Access (free)
Thomas Dumm

, for me, for all of us really. Are you actually suggesting that it would be better not to watch movies than to watch them? Is the argument you make an attempt to show that Cavell does not understand the dangerous relationships of culture and politics, or that his politics are somehow Whiggish, unduly hopeful in a world where pessimism is the only legitimate response? The former

in Cinema, democracy and perfectionism
Andrew Bowie

to sustain a universalist conception of rationality; Rorty and Derrida, in contrast, think that such a conception is a residue of a philosophical past which it is time to leave behind. Significantly, the former do not give a decisive role to the aesthetic, whereas the latter do, and it is not fortuitous that what is at stake in both positions can be elucidated in terms of the interpretation of Nietzsche. Whereas, for Habermas, Nietzsche is part of a questionable tradition of critiques of modern rationality, Rorty thinks he offers the possibility of escaping from many

in Aesthetics and subjectivity
The paradoxes of sustainability and Michel Houellebecq’s The Possibility of an Island
Hannes Bergthaller

world, on what we may hope and should fear, on the possible scope of our knowledge and our actions; it has an anthropological dimension, in the philosophical sense of that term. While my little larval epiphany may have reflected anxieties typical of a youth spent in suburban West Germany (in a household of lapsed Catholics, for that matter), I think that it also encapsulates, with the luridness of a dream image, some of the most unsettling anthropological implications of neo-Malthusian thought. It suggests that humanity’s destructive impact on the natural environment

in Literature and sustainability
Open Access (free)
Christopher Morgan

lines of the poem that such withdrawals, in keeping with the via negativa as a technique of approach, are embraced solely in pursuit of spiritual ‘riches’, a kind of mystical union with the divine. It needs to be emphasised, however, that the actual experience of the divine is not always one of such presence but frequently, rather, of absence. This experience of divinity as absence is rooted in a philosophical logic which asserts that since divinity, by its very nature, must necessarily overflow the created world of the senses, its presence therefore, at least in the

in R. S. Thomas
Graeme Kirkpatrick

within technology and technology studies. Like other critical theorists, Feenberg presents a philosophical argument whose viability rests crucially on philosophy’s inclusion in its own discourse of insights from other scholarly disciplines, especially the study of politics and society. At the same time, the argument is intended to open a route for philosophy to ‘speak’ to other disciplines as well – in particular, to cast a critical light on contingent features of social reality that those disciplines study ‘up close’, so to speak. 1 In the case of critical theory

in Technical politics
Open Access (free)
From critical theory to technical politics
Graeme Kirkpatrick

philosophy, with attendant limitations on what counts as real for social science , Feenberg retains from earlier critical theorists the notion of a wider reality that exceeds contemporary science and even plays an important role in social and historical change. In all these ways, Feenberg is a traditional critical theorist who refuses the Habermasian update. At the same time, he introduces innovations of his own to Marcusean critical theory, also based on subsequent philosophical developments. In particular, Feenberg does not accept the consignment of technology to a

in Technical politics
Fatigue and the fin de siècle
Steffan Blayney

mechanical energy’: the universe was gradually tending towards an equilibrium at which point human life, let alone useful work, would, ‘within a finite amount of time’, be impossible. 19 In the fin-de-siècle imagination, the image of a universe slowly, but inexorably, running out of energy both reinforced and further fuelled contemporary notions of decline and cultural pessimism. If the principle of the conservation of energy opened a space for utopian dreams of a society engineered so as to best exploit the infinite

in Progress and pathology