To Have Done With Life: vitalism and antivitalism in contemporary philosophy _ zagreb, june 17-19, 2011

Two weeks from now, this will be happening.  It will be excellent.


“Life” is the site of a formidable lacuna. There is no firmly established scientific account
of its constitutive properties or the process of its genesis. There is no broad
philosophical consensus concerning the determination or extension of its concept. At
once the soul of self-evidence and the default of reason, the apparently immeasurable
disjunction between the life we live and the life we do not know continues to pose
intractable problems for experiment and reflection alike.

While one result of these difficulties has been a number of recent efforts to locate and
delineate their scientific and theoretical consequences, another has been a tendency to
take the conceptual underdetermination of “life” as an opportunity for its conceptual
overextension. Varieties of “vital materialism” prone to describing physical forces in
terms of an inherent “life of things” have done little to clarify the problematic nature of
the concept, and insofar as “life” functions as an empty signifier concealing an absence
of theoretical coherence we might be better to have done with it.

The effort of this three-day symposium will be to think through the problem of “life” and
the engagement with relations between science and philosophy such thinking demands.
What resources, if any, does the tradition of philosophical vitalism still have to offer in
addressing this problem? If “life” is in fact a non-concept, what theoretical
determinations might displace it? What are the stakes of the role this signifier has
played within the critique of political economy, and how can its conceptual determination
within the latter be sharpened? In what sense is “life” an aesthetic problem, and how
might art or literature condition our understanding of its parameters?

Between science, philosophy, art, and politics, what remains of the life we do not know
what it means to live?


June 17 [Friday]
Morning Session
10:00-12:00  Stephanie Wakefield & Jason Smith
Afternoon Session
14:00 – 16:00 Nathan Brown & Alexi Kukuljevic
Evening Session
18:00 – 20:00  Evan Calder Williams & Benjamin Noys
June 18 [Saturday]
Afternoon Session
13:00 – 14:30  Martin Hägglund
15:00 – 16:30  Ray Brassier
Evening Session
19:00 – 21:00  Roundtable
June 19 [Sunday]
Afternoon Session
13:00 – 14:30  Adrian Johnston
15:00 – 16:30  Catherine Malabou
Evening Session
19:00 – 21:00  Roundtable

[I'll be speaking about meat on the hoof and meat off of it, what the "living" in "living labor" means, automation, rot, René Clair and the factory film, and more than a few other things.]

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