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Without Criteria: Kant, Whitehead, Deleuze, and Aesthetics [Hardcover]

Steven Shaviro
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Book Description

April 3 2009 Technologies of Lived Abstraction

In Without Criteria, Steven Shaviro proposes and explores a philosophical fantasy: imagine a world in which Alfred North Whitehead takes the place of Martin Heidegger. What if Whitehead, instead of Heidegger, had set the agenda for postmodern thought? Heidegger asks, "Why is there something, rather than nothing?" Whitehead asks, "How is it that there is always something new?" In a world where everything from popular music to DNA is being sampled and recombined, argues Shaviro, Whitehead's question is the truly urgent one. Without Criteria is Shaviro's experiment in rethinking postmodern theory, especially the theory of aesthetics, from a point of view that hearkens back to Whitehead rather than Heidegger. In working through the ideas of Whitehead and Deleuze, Shaviro also appeals to Kant, arguing that certain aspects of Kant's thought pave the way for the philosophical "constructivism" embraced by both Whitehead and Deleuze. Kant, Whitehead, and Deleuze are not commonly grouped together, but the juxtaposition of them in Without Criteria helps to shed light on a variety of issues that are of concern to contemporary art and media practices.

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"In this work of great poise and deep insight Steven Shaviro draws a new and important diagram of the relations between the philosophies of Kant, Whitehead, and Deleuze. In so doing, he opens up novel and productive lines of enquiry for each thinker, most notably in the field of aesthetics. This is a book of mature and yet quick-witted philosophical critique with ramifications through many contemporary problems and debates (in philosophy, critical theory, theology and aesthetics -- to name but some). Very few readers will fail to be touched and excited by the ideas he develops with free-ranging boldness tempered by an appropriate aesthetic feel and tact. Shaviro achieves the extraordinarily difficult task of combining thoughtful rigour, intellectual generosity free of resentments and compartments, and carefully argued textual interpretation." --James Williams, University of Dundee

About the Author

Steven Shaviro is DeRoy Professor of English at Wayne State University. He is the author of Passion and Excess: Blanchot, Bataille, and Literary Theory and The Cinematic Body.

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3.0 out of 5 stars Half right Jan. 27 2012
Gilles Deleuze has a growing readership in English philosophy, where for long he was eclipsed by brilliant contemporaries like Derrida and Foucault. It is good that we are coming to appreciate his highly original and fascinatingly intricate philosophy. He worked with integrity and genius to do something different in philosophy from everything he was hearing in contemporaries. None of the familiar labels--structuralism, poststructuralism, deconstruction, phenomenology, existentialism, hermeneutics--apply to him. One thing he shares with all of these movements, however, is a conviction of Nietzsche's importance, and his Nietzsche and Philosophy is second only to Heidegger in influencing how we understand Nietzsche's accomplishment.

The passion for Nietzsche sets Deleuze apart from another quasi-outsider whom he somewhat resembles--Alfred North Whitehead. Whitehead is another original, who wanted to do something new and different in philosophy, and not become mired in a polemic about "metaphysics" and whether it is finished. Shaviro thinks philosophy would be a lot different if Whitehead had enjoyed the attention the last century lavished on Heidegger and continues to lavish on Nietzsche. He epitomizes their difference in terms of their guiding question. Heidegger asks, What is the meaning of being? Whitehead asks, How is it that there is always something new? For Heidegger, metaphysics has always said the same, a monotonous litany of the names of Being. Whitehead is interested not in what metaphysics has always said, but what it has never yet said, even denied and rejected: the body, emotion, inconstancy, change, contingency, perspective.

Deleuze writes appreciatively of Whitehead, but learns more from Bergson (whose current renaissance is largely his doing).
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