Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Judith Butler Evening Lecture

Judith Butler gave an evening lecture that I think was entitled HOW TO KEEP COMPANY WITH ONESELF.

NOTE: As with all my notes from the EGS, there will likely be mistakes because I did not record the lectures, I made notes as they spoke, so I am perhaps interpreting what they are saying as I am writing.

Thinking itself depends on politics and ethics in Arendt's philosophy, thus we understand her charge against Eichmann.
  • Is this a naive claim or that she has a highly normative way of thinking?
  • She thought the trial failed to try the man or the crime, that it was a pretense for the founding of the nation of Israel
  • His was a failure to critique positive law and that his not-thinking when he thought he was thinking was a failure because he failed to recognize that thinking necessarily implicates us in a plurality and in sociality.
She was doubly upset that Eichmann stated he lived by the Kantian categorical imperative and thus he had to obey the laws that were in place (even if it meant obeying laws and orders to commit genocide).
  • Were Eichmann to have reformulated the categorical imperative such that it required everyone to serve the Führer, Arendt's rejoineder to Eichmann would still be: every man is a legislator upon acting
  • She thought that the trial failed to recognize that a new kind of person had come to be: what kind of person can this be in a world where we no longer think?
  • Eichmann was not a sadist, not a murderer, but only following the rules.
Does thinking imply cohabitation? Is it the plurality that judges, not an individual in isolation?
  • His crime was against the plurality and so the plurality judges him.
  • The meaning of plurality is unclear here but acts as an antidote to nationalism. The plurality, by definition, cannot know or fit within the nation.
  • It is the use of "we" in the final judgement of Eichmann (in the Epilogue), that pronoun ("we") does the work of realizing the aspirations of those that would seek an alternative to the dangers of nationalism.
Arendt invokes a "we" that judges Eichmann, the "we" serves as slippery ground on which we find no firm ground, but also a pronomial expression of hope.
  • She obeys no law in sentencing Eichmann to death, she calls for law that is not seeking precedent as we must oppose bad laws when bad laws are the laws of the land
  • When she speaks she is not speaking for those the Nazis tried to destroy and also not as a judge but as a call for differentiation
  • She references to forms of plurality: the self and the broader sociality
Responsibility is the act of thinking and thinking is an activity that we do in our germinal form of plurality - by splitting into 2 from 1.
  • The self that thinks is folded over and dyadic and maintains the last trace of company
  • I find myself populated precisely when I am isolated: conscience and consciousness are the relationship to itself
  • This split is the precondition for thinking to occur.
We can commit crimes that lead us to want to break-up with ourselves - this solitary dialogue is contained within ourselves; but is there a connection between the self?
  • What Arendt seems to be providing is a philosophical anthropology which features a nonvisible dialogue between the self and then to the plurality of mankind
  • This dialogue has a performative dimension, action is never a single action but a concerted action
  • What follows if one fails to follow this thinking (plurality)? The result is that they cannot speak.
Again we ask, what kind of speech act is this in sentencing Eichmann to death?

Thinking is keeping company with oneself and it reconstitutes the self over and again.
Acting is keeping company with others and this reconstitutes the plurality over and again.
  • The "I" is constituted or brought forth by language, itself a social action.
  • It seems that solitary thinking presupposes the relating to others and action requires responding with others
  • Thinking itself seems to presuppose that we will be acting with others
Can you have sovereignty when there is a plurality?

Freedom is not the exercise of the individual, but acting in concert and belonging. Rights do not belong to an individual but humans as social animals.

Thinking is an individual's acting, how do we resolve this tension?

A crime against humanity is not a crime against an individual and an individual is also not solely responsible for crimes against humanity.

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