Sunday, June 3, 2007

The Psychic Life of Power and Precarious Life

An und für sich “Integrity through hypocrisy.”
If one is pressed for time and can only read two books, it is my opinion that one can feel entitled to speak with a certain degree of authority about Judith Butler if one has read only The Psychic Life of Power and Precarious Life. No other combination of two books seem to me to deliver what this combination does — including any possible combinations of which Gender Trouble would be a member, since one would have to “waste” the second book offsetting one’s erroneous impressions of Gender Trouble.
This declaration gives me an idea for a potentially fun passtime that will help generate volume of comments I need to help me get through the remainder of this Butler paper (approx. 10 more pages). For any given author, what two books can one read to grasp the “whole” of the author’s thought in as elegant and economical a manner as possible? Bonus points for combinations that leave out the most obvious choices.
Here’s a stab at Kierkegaard: Repetition and Practice in Christianity. (A possible drawback of this type of elegant combination: only after reading nearly all of an author’s work can one understand precisely why the elegant combination gives one the “whole.”) Posted by Adam Filed in Butler, academia, boredom 6 Responses to “Butlerianism: On Elegant Couples”
Floyd Says: June 2nd, 2007 at 3:59 pm I’ll try Derrida, although I haven’t read even nearly all of his works: Introduction to The Origin of Geometry and Politics of Friendship.
Although it’s hard not to include the obvious choice–Of Grammatology–since Derrida himself has said several times (I believe) that that book was a turning point in his thought. This is also highly interpretative, since I’m ignoring books which by rights I should include in the name of capturing the “whole”, but which I think fail to properly describe his genius–but that’s why I like this game.
Joseph Kugelmass Says: June 2nd, 2007 at 4:13 pm What a strange duo for Kierkegaard! I most likely would have picked Fear and Trembling and Stages on Life’s Way.
Zizek?! Sublime Object of Ideology and Tarrying With The Negative.
Plato is a harder one, because you can’t boil him down very easily, but my reluctant picks would be the Apology and the Republic.
Late Derrida is interesting, but Of Grammatology and Writing and Difference are the two capstones.
Adam Says: June 2nd, 2007 at 4:59 pm Kugelmass is clearly opting not to go for the bonus points. Zizek: Tarrying and The Indivisible Remainder.
will Says: June 2nd, 2007 at 6:54 pm I think I could do Kant in three…
Anyone wanna try Heidegger? It’d really help me structure my summer reading.
Brad Johnson Says: June 2nd, 2007 at 7:19 pm For Heidegger, I’d say Poetry, Language, Thought and The Fundamental Concepts of Metaphysics. For Derrida, Positions and On the Name.
Adam is spot-on w/ Zizek. What about Agamben? His earlier work on language has been unjustifiably been lost in the shuffle of his most recent work.
Adam Says: June 2nd, 2007 at 8:00 pm I withold final judgment until I’ve read the recently-reprinted books, but for Agamben I would tentatively choose The Coming Community and The Time That Remains.
My attempt with Kant: Critique of Judgment and “The Supposed Right to Lie….”
Adam Says: June 2nd, 2007 at 9:36 pm Derrida: One of them has to be Adieu to Emmanuel Levinas. Not sure on the other one.
Daniel Says: June 2nd, 2007 at 11:48 pm Hegel’s Encyclopedia Logic and Encyclopedia Philosophy of Mind. Pretty sure the obvious picks would be PhdG and Philosophy of Right, so I am going to claim bonus points.
I’d swap the Religion book for “On A Supposed Right To Life…” for Kant, but the third Critique is obviously the way to answer this and still get bonus points. (This entire exercise is no fun if you don’t try for bonus points. At least for guys like Hegel and Kant who only have a half-dozen works that are ever looked at.)
Dominic Fox Says: June 3rd, 2007 at 12:45 am Derrida: Limited Inc, The Gift of Death.
Brad Johnson Says: June 3rd, 2007 at 1:47 am Okay. Let’s really test the breadth of this blog’s scholarship. Any takers on John Ruskin?
tusarnmohapatra Says: June 3rd, 2007 at 4:21 am If I say Sri Aurobindo is the most important philosopher of the 20th century, it’s an understatement. The Life Divine is his magnum opus to which one can add The Human cycle.
Adam Says: June 3rd, 2007 at 9:36 am By the way, the chapter on Althusser in The Psychic Life of Power is an absolute mess.
Joseph Kugelmass Says: June 3rd, 2007 at 2:40 pm Adam, I know, I know; I’ve been picking the obvious ones. Of course the idea of a slightly less known, gnomic work that contains the whole of the larger books appeals to me. It’s just that I tend to think of those “finds” in terms of lesser-known authors, rather than lesser-known works. In my experience, books like Of Grammatology become metonymies of their authors for a reason. (E.g. I’d be tempted to do Pynchon, and suggest Crying of Lot 49 together with something else, but everybody knows that you should read that and save yourself a couple lost years reading the others.)
Brad, I was just writing on Ruskin, as it happens; I’d suggest “The Mystery of Life and Its Arts” in addition to Modern Painters.
I respectfully disagree with Tusar; I think Integral Yoga is a more necessary complement to The Life Divine.
Alex Says: June 3rd, 2007 at 8:43 pm John Milbank - The Word Made Strange and his short essay Midwinter Sacrifice. This is because the first is an excellent overview of everything important to him and the second is beautifully written. Deleuze anyone?
I would go for Derrida: Limited, Inc, Given Time
Alex Says: June 3rd, 2007 at 8:47 pm George Bataille: this is a tough one as most of his texts are fairly short and he wrote a good range of stuff. Theory of Religion might be a worthy choice, but it is really not that great a theory of religion.

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