Today’s New APPS Interview is with Paul Livingston, Associate Professor of Philosophy at the University of New Mexico. His latest book is The Politics of Logic: Badiou, Wittgenstein, and the Consequences of Formalism (Routledge, 2011).
Hello, Paul, thanks very much for doing this interview with us. What’s your personal practice of philosophy?
I’d say that the practice of philosophy is, for me, actually quite impersonal. In certain ways I try to remove myself from what I write, to aspire to a kind of objectivity.
How so? Objectivity is quite a heavy term, isn’t it?
It isn’t the objectivity of natural science or the attempt to take a “view from nowhere” (which, as we all know, is problematic), but it’s related, maybe more like the impersonality of mathematics. That’s because, as Badiou would say, philosophy is somehow related to truth. And truth is, in some sense, impersonal. Or maybe better, it’s something like what Wittgenstein says in the foreword to the Philosophical Remarks, that he’s trying to grasp what is essential, and that this is opposed to the technological and constructive spirit of the dominant culture of his time.
Do you do any collaborative writing?
I think I’ve never been great at collaborating because most of what I follow up on involves trying to see connections between places and discourses that are often fairly disparate, and I tend to have a sense that what I’m getting there is quite specific and probably not something that I can expect others to arrive at independently, though hopefully something communicable as well.
What is your daily practice? Do you have a set routine?
As for daily practice, it’s really not too interesting…when I have time, I read, think, and write, roughly in that order. It takes a lot of time, so I think it’s important to me to be able to do these things in pretty much any circumstance, and without needing to wait for any special inspiration or anything. So I’ve worked to develop this kind of focus over the years. Caffeine helps.
How did you come to study philosophy? Can you tell us a little about your childhood?
I was born in Santa Fe, and grew up mostly in Albuquerque, NM, where I work now (having come back in 2009 after a 15-year absence). I was privileged to get a great elementary education and also attend an excellent private high school, one that really has an awareness of the relevance of the humanities. It’s kind of a liberal-arts-college ethos in high school form.
Studying philosophy in high school is rare in the States. But you were able to do that.
Yes, I was able to take a full semester course in philosophy my junior year and the “senior humanities” course – required all year for seniors – was definitely foundational for me. We read The Republic, Zarathustra, and “Existentialism is a Humanism.”
Where did you go to university?
I went to Harvard as an undergraduate and honestly found it, given the background I had, disappointing -- not that there weren’t great people there and some amazing lecturers, but there were a lot of factors that made it difficult for me to learn in a real way. For instance, I found professors intimidating – I don’t think I ever once visited a professor’s office hours during my whole time there.
That’s probably not uncommon at Harvard, but what do I know? I’ve never been closer than the Au Bon Pain in Harvard Square.
I realize now that there were a lot of resources there that I probably missed out on. But there was also a very “sink-or-swim” kind of attitude, both among faculty and undergraduates…seminar discussions were often sort of competitive, and didn’t do much to encourage creative thought (or confidence).
What was the undergraduate curriculum like?
This was the first time I heard about “analytic” philosophy, and a lot of it just seemed pretty unmotivated; for instance, I remember being given Quine’s “Two Dogmas of Empiricism” to read before I had read Kant or even really been introduced to the analytic/synthetic distinction. For social and political stuff, there was also, among the majors, a kind of Sandel-like “policy” orientation that I found quite uncongenial, even then – I think a majority of the majors probably went on to policy or law jobs rather than academic philosophy.
But you decided to major in philosophy anyway?
At first I didn’t know what I wanted to major in, partly because I liked math and science and the humanities equally and couldn’t decide between them. I was kind of drawn to philosophy by a class I took freshman year from Derek Parfit, basically on Reasons and Persons, which I enjoyed and was intrigued by, as well as by the thought that in philosophy I could avoid specializing for a while longer. I was actually a philosophy-math double major for a while. Even though I took classes from people who would come to be very important for me later, for instance Hilary Putnam, it was pretty hard for me to see then what was going on, and I had a lot of doubts.
What turned the tide for you?
I think I was kind of saved for philosophy by Cavell – I took one of his classes senior year and it gave me a whole new set of ways of thinking about what philosophy can do as something like (as he might put it) a way of inhabiting the ordinary. It was also then that I started reading Wittgenstein seriously and thinking that maybe the analytic philosophy I’d been taught actually might have some interesting background and motivation that I hadn’t heard about, and even potentially touch on larger issues.
What about graduate school?
I went to Cambridge for a year and did my M. Phil there. It was a very useful year for me, not only in terms of the program, but also for all the independent reading I did that year, both continental and analytic. That was really the first time I got helpful and detailed commentary on my writing, and I think I only really learned to write analytic philosophy then. There was no required coursework – just research papers and a thesis – and I actually did pretty poorly on the first couple of papers. But it was the kind of wake-up call I needed to get my writing to an adequate level, and I’ve been grateful for that since then.
How about your PhD?
I went to UC Irvine for my PhD. It was in some ways a strangely constituted program (and still is), but for my purposes it was great. I was drawn to the program, I think, first because it was supposed to be a good place for analytic/continental pluralism, and second because it’s close to the beach. During my first year there, though, the famous split occurred, where three professors left to form the LPS (logic and philosophy of science) department in the social sciences school. The division was, I think, frustrating for many in the department, but didn’t really affect me at all – in fact, it made it easier in some ways to benefit from people on both sides of the fence, since there was less infighting.
Who did you end up working with?
I worked with David Woodruff Smith, and with him I got a great background in phenomenology, and also started to work really seriously on the history of analytic philosophy. My first publication was actually a paper on Wittgenstein and Russell that I wrote for my first-year seminar there with Alan Nelson, a great course and really helpful in giving me a sense of the richness of this history and the issues still left open in it.
Did you hear Derrida when he was at Irvine?
Yes, he was there each spring for several weeks, and attending his lectures was another absolutely formative experience for me at UCI. Sadly, due to perennial scheduling conflicts I was never actually enrolled in the seminar. But it was amazing to hear him, just as I was beginning to read his earlier work and figure out deconstruction.
What about your dissertation?
I wrote my dissertation on, broadly, the history of philosophy of mind in the twentieth century, mostly analytic but with some connections to phenomenology as well. I was interested in some of the problems in contemporary analytic philosophy of mind – for instance the problem of intentionality and what David Chalmers calls the “hard problem” of consciousness – and it struck me that it might be helpful to see if these problems have any kind of historical background or motivation (which, of course, they do). So the dissertation wound up being a kind of history of the treatment of subjectivity in the analytic tradition, and though it was itself quite successful – it later was published by Cambridge – I realized at the time that it (along with my general blend of interests) made me hard to position on the job market.
But you did manage to get a position.
Yes, but it definitely took some luck. For instance, given my historical focus, I probably wasn’t well qualified for the “top” analytic philosophy of mind jobs, but there was also very little available for historians of the twentieth century, etc. So I was lucky that Villanova was looking for someone who could teach philosophy of mind and philosophy of science but would also be comfortable working in a “continental” department, pretty much just perfect given my mix of things.
I spent two years at Villanova in the early 90s and have some close friends there.
Villanova was, and is, an absolutely top-notch continental program with many people doing amazing work and with the best, brightest and most dedicated graduate students I’ve ever seen. In fact, I think the program is significantly stronger now than it was during most of the years I was there, with the outstanding new hires that have been made over the last few years.
On the other hand there were some institutional factors, having to do mainly with the university itself rather than the department, that tended to make things difficult there, or at least made things difficult for me. In some ways, Villanova as a whole is transitioning from being what it was twenty or thirty years ago, mainly a regional teaching school, to a real research university, and although the transition is progressing, there’s still a lot of emphasis on teaching in a particular way, largely a kind of “infotainment,” student-satisfaction model. The undergraduates are great but can also be very sheltered and coddled coming in, and don’t in general react well to criticism or challenges, especially anything involving ambiguity or open-endedness.
Hmm. That can make teaching philosophy – or at least some types of philosophy – pretty difficult.
Added to this, given the high tuition and a more widespread kind of “business” model of education, there’s (what I thought was) an overemphasis on student ratings in making faculty evaluation and tenure decisions. This is obviously an issue that’s been discussed and is being discussed more broadly, so I won’t go into it in depth here.
OK, then so Villanova, despite its delightful qualities, also had some problematic aspects, at least in your experience.
Suffice it to say that this and other issues, including importantly just being tired of living on the east coast, motivated me to try to make a move starting in about 2008. I was as surprised as anyone when the job came up at UNM – at first, in fact, I was quite resistant to the idea of coming back to my home town. But I’ve found it really quite refreshing, and a great place to be, actually.
Let’s shift gears a little and talk about one of the major foci for New APPS, the relation of continental and analytic philosophy. You are making a concerted effort in your own research – which we’ll get to in a bit – to cross the divide; what sort of overall reflections do you have about the “divide”?
As I’ve said in various places, I think that overcoming the analytic/continental division in some way is the absolutely necessary precondition for a worthwhile continuance of philosophy into the twenty-first century. I stress this because I think it’s certainly not a given that there will be any such continuance. Since Plato, we’ve known that philosophy is inherently threatened within commercial liberal-democratic regimes, at some times more than others, but in some ways it is especially endangered now.
Well, I’m not sure philosophers of every age haven’t felt they were especially endangered, but I certainly agree many aspects of our system are unfriendly to reflective thought!
And although I generally don’t like to invest too much in any determinate conception of what philosophy is, I think it’s fair to say there are pressures on two sides: both, internally, by professionalization and the narrowness and specialization that goes along with it, and, just as much, externally, by the threat of assimilation into popular culture and the culture industry. Part of the problem is that the analytic/continental split tends to protect the methodological prejudices and failures that facilitate these pressures and enhance them. And of course the reasons for the split itself are really very superficial, contingent, and non-philosophical.
Tell us how you see that history. This is a discussion we all need to have.
The history here is interesting in its own right; of course, before World War II there was no real recognizable “divide”, and the term “analytic philosophy” (or “analytical philosophy”) becomes widely used only in the 1950s and 60s, largely as a way of mainstreaming logical empiricism and its descendents in the US. This also creates “continental” philosophy as the marginalized other in the US context, and plays a role in creating the ongoing “continental” obsession with otherness and difference.
Maybe. But the primary sources come by their concern with otherness quite honestly, as it were. Without any hint of biographical reduction, we have to recognize the strong post-colonial aspect to 20th century French thought: Césaire, Senghor, Fanon are all in the background, and Derrida’s and Cixous’s Algerian background is well known. And of course there’s Levinas …
Yes, of course. I don’t mean to be denying this background or disputing the appropriateness of the kinds of concern that grow from these roots. In fact, I think it’s absolutely essential that philosophy position itself, at least in part, in an exterior place with respect to mainstream society and common sense. But speaking just about the institutional development of academic philosophy in the US since World War II, I do think it’s important to recognize that there’s a tendency on the continental side toward self-segregation and even a degree of self-marginalization, against what is seen as a monolithic tradition of analytic philosophy.
OK, I can see something of that, for sure.
The funny thing about this is also that, on the analytic side, the 1960s is just the moment at which people come to see the original problematics (for instance the project of the Vienna Circle, which was originally, among other things, a really profound socio-political project) as exhausted or pointless, so that what survives is just a kind of ostensibly indifferent style, which is actually in some ways quite dogmatic, in particular in the ways in which it puts certain options on the table while excluding others in advance. So what you get is, basically, a stylistic divide that backs up methodological prejudices on both sides that have no real rationale that even their partisans can articulate.
It’s tough to talk about such complex matters in the interview format, but what you say here is important.
Most of your readers probably know something about how damaging this split continues to be; at any rate, most everybody who isn’t in the grip of dumb methodological prejudices at least pays lip service to the idea of overcoming it. On the other hand, what’s much harder, and rarer in the current setting, is a real willingness to put in the time and hard work it takes to work effectively in both traditions.
Yes, it’s not for the faint of heart – or more seriously put, not for those under a lot of publication and job search pressure. That is, almost all of us. So what are we to do as a profession?
Your question asks about how we might overcome the division in the profession, and I’m really not sure I know how to do this, except to say we need people who are at home in both traditions simultaneously and willing to articulate new positive visions that draw seriously on both. It does involve a degree of risk, for sure. On the other hand, I do think there’s still quite a lot of problematic self-segregation, especially among students, where people who are drawn more to science and math gravitate to the analytic side and those who like art and politics (in a critical sense) go to the continental.
Yeah, but – at the risk of sounding like Laurence Olivier’s character in Spartacus – some of us like both science and politics. Both of which are in the title of the blog, after all.
Yes, I think blogs like this one are positive developments, as is the genuinely renewed interest of certain continental philosophers in science and mathematics (though I’m afraid I haven’t found any of the so-called “speculative realist” positions very convincing, so far). At the same time, although some of the historiographic and interpretive work is starting to be done, a lot of the attempts to address the divide wind up sharpening it by trying to find a principled basis for it, which I think is a mistake. For instance, people wind up saying that continental philosophy is committed to a historical conception of philosophy and analytic to a science-based conception, which I don’t think is actually true, or for instance that continental is inherently anti-realist (which, at any rate, I hope isn’t true!)
No, I certainly wouldn’t go for that. And I wonder how much of that anti-realism angle (saying this as someone with the highest regard for Lee Braver’s work) isn’t the result of leaving Deleuze out of the picture?
That’s probably a certain part of it, sure. In several twentieth-century philosophers – Heidegger and Derrida as much as Deleuze – I think there’s (as Cora Diamond puts it with respect to Wittgenstein) a kind of “realistic spirit” that tends to go missing if we just treat them as discussing “our practices” or “our language-games,” and that we need to acknowledge this even while reading them in terms of certain idealist elements and influences as well. So I’m certainly not recommending that we “overcome” the analytic/continental divide in the bland Rortyan way of flattening everything out into an indifferent pragmatism. What we really need are projects that draw in significant and synthetic ways on elements of both traditions to produce something new, but continuous with both.
That must be part of your interest in Badiou.
Yes, though of course I also have a lot of problems with his project. But it is nonetheless very provocative and relevant. We need projects like his, or like (on the other side), Graham Priest’s, that draw on formal/logical results as centrally as historical and political ones.
You’ve made both Jon Cogburn and Jeff Bell very happy saying that.
On the other hand, of course, it’ll still take a lot of time and work for these projects to really be receivable. Continental philosophers are going to have to be willing, for instance, to learn some logic and set theory. And analytics are going to have to learn to stop dismissing thinkers and texts that aren’t immediately transparent to them.
I have to say that there’s a hidden political economy of a demand for efficient information-processing under publication pressure that is bound up in the concern with “clarity.”
Well, I certainly agree that the ostensibly neutral value of “clarity” conceals a whole series of methodological decisions that actually aren’t neutral at all, and that we need to find ways of talking about them, including, as you say, the political economy that’s involved in making these decisions they way that they are made. I’m not sure I think of it as a question of information-processing so much; more as an issue of how one learns what options are communally recognized as open and which are off the table, which tends to happen, in analytic circles, in a very repressed (and also somewhat repressive) way. All I can really say is that we need to develop strong, positive, and fair-minded conceptions of what philosophy has done in the twentieth century in order to move ahead in addressing the problematics that we inherit today. I think this involves, in many cases, revisiting methodological and thematic strands of twentieth-century philosophy that are seen (sometimes wrongly) as having been superseded by current practitioners on both sides.
Well, for instance, I argued in Philosophy and the Vision of Language [Routledge, 2008] that we need to revisit the linguistic turn as it was taken on both sides of the divide, both to see what’s been really distinctive about twentieth-century philosophy and to see what problems it leaves us with today. I think in a certain way we still don’t understand at all what is involved in the turn to language as a source of philosophical insight, and that in the last thirty years or so we’ve been much too quick to rush away from the truly deep and transformative issues involved here. If, on the other hand, we tell the historical story in a way that foregrounds these issues, we get access to a different kind of picture of where we are today than the “received” history gives, and also gain access to different ways of going forward.
What are some of the possibilities you see here?
For instance, looking in detail at the sources and implications of the linguistic turn on both sides lets us see the analytic tradition as actually centrally concerned with the “problem of life” (since, to put it mildly, language has something to do with life!) and, on the other side, to see parts of the continental tradition (especially phenomenology and structuralism) as deeply concerned with the logic and formal structure of language and linguistic meaning. And then we can see that there are genuine and profound unresolved problems about the relationship of language to life that are common to both traditions insofar as they themselves articulate and respond to some of the most general and distinctive experiences of the twentieth century, and that remain very real problems (and not just for philosophers) today.
So, revisiting history can let us see unresolved problems. What about methodological issues?
Methodologically, as well, the split protects certain kinds of limitations that we’d probably do well to overcome. On the analytic side, even (perhaps especially) in “top” departments, there’s a somewhat uncritical and even dogmatic set of operative assumptions not only about where the problem space is, but also about what “moves” one is allowed to make in response. This goes along with (but possibly isn’t exhausted by) what’s sometimes called “naturalism” (by its friends) or “scientism” (by its enemies).
Well, you’re not mincing words here (“uncritical and dogmatic”!) I’m afraid to hear what you’re going to say about continentals!
On the continental side, there’s, as noted, a kind of self-marginalization and also, quite damagingly, a leftover hermeneutic piety that leads people to favor exegesis (or worse, apologetics) over argument. There’s also a kind of marginal aestheticism about philosophy that can make it quite difficult to make progress with the most important questions.
Well, there is still some exegesis that needs to go on; it took me quite a while to figure out what a “dark precursor” was. And I don’t really think someone working with a Deleuzean-derived notion of “problematics” is going to accept “progress” too willingly, nor are they going to accept that it has anything to do with “aestheticism.”
Sure; I’ve been reading Deleuze for ten years, and I still don’t understand this completely (or really, I think, what a “body without organs” is either)! I’m all for exegesis, when it’s helpful. But I think it’s ultimately more important that we see, and face up to, the problems that analytics and continentals both inherit from the twentieth century. And although it may involve certain aspects of innovation and novelty, I don’t think this can be treated simply a matter of what Deleuze and Guattari call the “creation of concepts.” I think continentals often need to learn how to argue, and analytics need to learn how to read critically, but both sides need to learn how to better inherit their largely common history and move forward with the problems that it actually bequeaths to us.
Alright, I realize you’re painting with a broad brush here.
I emphasize problems here (against, for instance, a Rortyan “end of philosophy” conception that says there are no distinctive problems of philosophy) because I think we have a need for “philosophical” problems, and that this need is not just a philosopher’s need. In particular, and here I can come back to some of the institutional issues arising from broadly economic pressures that you mentioned, we live in a time when it would be very easy to forget or ignore that there are serious philosophical problems, for instance about the ways that we organize our societies or the ways that we live our lives, and that these problems are in principle not solved by capitalist and technological forms of organization and control. What I think is essential is just to try to preserve a space somewhere where critical thought of some sort about these issues goes on, and this is ultimately much more important than the more narrowly economic questions of employment and institutional funding, although the former is of course deeply affected by the latter.
These are all very important things to think about. We all need to earn a living, but does earning a living as a philosophy professor in many universities really enable you to be a philosopher? Tell us how you negotiate these constraints at New Mexico.
Well, I’ve just been granted tenure at UNM, which I’m quite happy about. We’re a very pluralistic department, with not only analytics and continentals working happily together but also world-class representation of Asian and comparative philosophy. I like to say, following my colleague Brent Kalar, that we’re (not an “analytic” but) a truly “synthetic” department, a place where ideas and questions are routinely and as a matter of course discussed across the analytic/continental divide. (This makes it especially silly that we weren’t so much as mentioned in the “continental” section of the recently much-discussed “pluralist’s guide” published online, which actually seems to favor the self-identifying continental SPEP departments). In all, it’s a very strong department for the kind of vision of the future of philosophy I’ve articulated here, though I think our strengths are sometimes overlooked because of some of the larger institutional prejudices I’ve complained about.
What about your own projects?
In terms of the development of my own projects, I think my main concern has always been a certain question about structure and what resists it, or is thought of as outside it. In some contexts, for instance philosophy of mind, this is an epistemological problem about the limits of certain kinds of explanation, but it has dimensions that are much broader as well. For instance I think there’s a very deep sense in which the single most characteristic innovation of philosophical thought in the twentieth century, analytic and continental, is a certain thought of language, and that this is precisely, and in an unprecedented sense, a thought of language as structure.
Well, if this were a debate rather than an interview I think I’d go with structure as important, but not necessarily that language is the most important thing generated by structures (which I’d like to call “multiplicities” anyway). Actually I’d move away from the whole structure / genesis way of talking about multiplicities, but, as the old saying goes, enough about me, what about you?
The problem that interests me isn’t quite the same as the problem of “structure vs. genesis” that Derrida finds problematic in Husserl. It’s rather, I would say, something more like a problem of structure and its limits, and of what happens at or beyond these limits; as, for instance, the problem of what led the early Wittgenstein to identify the limit of language with the limit of the world, and to identify the “transcendental subject” with both. This kind of problem arises in a determinate way, as I argued in Philosophy and the Vision of Language, when language (or logic) is thought of as a total structure; and whatever we might say about this thought, it is one that is absolutely essential to both early analytic philosophy and French structuralism, and all that flows from both. This thought, as it occurs in the twentieth century, is a more or less unprecedented and new conception of language, and even more broadly, I’d say it witnesses to – because it is also directly related to – some of the most characteristic developments of technological and social/political forms (and problems) in the twentieth century as well. For instance, if we can say (with, say, Badiou in The Century) that the political, scientific, and even aesthetic configurations of the twentieth century are in a certain unique way obsessed with forms and formalization, then it is no accident that this obsession recurrently manifests itself as the attempt to structure life by means of abstract, instrumental, and formal systems. And these processes are themselves, of course, inconceivable without the development of twentieth-century technologies of computation, communication and information, which are intimately linked to the development of a “logical” conception of language as a structure of signs, and in fact to formal/symbolic logic itself. So the critical question is really a question of the possibility and bounds of structure, and of what resists it on the level of meaning, life, or truth. This is where Wittgenstein is deeply relevant, probably more so than classic critical theorists like Adorno or Habermas, because of the sense in which he thinks through the lived consequences of forms and formalism more deeply and internally, I would say, than anyone else in the twentieth century.
Badiou and Wittgenstein have come up several times. Tell us about your new book.
I’ve argued in The Politics of Logic that if we look at things this way, it becomes possible to envision a kind of continuance of classic critical theory that remains, in a very direct sense, grounded in the Kantian critique of reason, but on the other hand reckons with the fact that the only conceptions of reason that are effectively available to us today are ones that are instrumental, systematic, and structural. So from this perspective it becomes important to pursue the question of the effectiveness of forms and the consequences of formalization also internally, in part as itself being a formal question, one to which the results of metalogic, formal semantics, and computational theory are relevant. This is, broadly, a question of limits, so it’s a critical question, but not one that seeks to protect some kind of inherently non-formal or unstructured foundational ground. Rather, it’s trying to understand the dynamics of structural limits at the point of their possible rupture or transformation. This is where Badiou’s formally based thought of the event becomes relevant; on the other hand, as I argue in the book, there are other formal options here that understand the moment of rupture much more as one of paradox and structurally inherent contradiction.
Well, I’m exhausted just thinking of the scope of that book and the work it must have taken to produce it! But it’s in the bookstores now, so what else is in the works?
I’ve been working for several years now on a Heidegger book, largely about the sense of logos and its relation to language and the history of being. I take it there’s a sense in which something might need to be said to justify the appearance of another Heidegger book, given that there are already so many, and some of them pretty good.
Here’s your chance!
What I'm trying for in the book is really something I haven’t seen much, namely to engage critically with Heidegger in a way that is broadly sympathetic to the overall contours of his project but much at variance with respect to some of the major claims of it as well. For instance, I’ll argue that in order to really grasp what Heidegger has thought under the heading of the “being-historical” project, we actually have to sacrifice something else that is ostensibly just as central to the project as he presents it, namely the conception of truth as aletheia and the correlative prejudice against propositional and linguistic conceptions of logic. Doing things this way also has the nice effect, I think, of making key parts of the analytic inquiry into language into something like contributions to the Heideggerian project of thinking the history of being.
That’s an interpretation not lacking in a certain violence, but hey, if Heidegger could do that to other thinkers, why not do it to Heidegger?
At this stage, though Heidegger has in certain ways already been received, I think it’s important to look forward to a future reception that isn’t an instance of either, on one hand, a self-enclosed, hermeneutic piety, grounded in the texts but unintelligible in a broader sense, or, on the other, Dreyfus-style social pragmatism, which has little warrant in the texts or in its own right. Really it’s just a question of understanding the history of being project in a “realist” way, that is, a way that doesn’t at all fall into historicism, or history in the sense of Historie, which Heidegger scrupulously avoided but which his interpreters have generally not.
What do we see then in your approach that’s been overlooked by others?
A part of this, as well, is to insist on a set of problematics about forms and structures in Heidegger (as well as elsewhere in 20th century philosophy) that can properly be called “Platonic,” and not simply in the sense of underwriting a post-metaphysical “overcoming” of Plato or “overturning” of Platonism. In fact, agreeing with Heidegger that what is most thought-provoking for us today is that we are still not thinking, I’d venture to suggest that part of what is unthought that is today most thought-provoking is a kind of Platonism, one that will have structured or even covertly programmed much of twentieth-century philosophy, even (or especially) at the moments most ostensibly dedicated to overcoming it.
I can hear the howls of complaint already over “covertly programmed”!
Well, of course, I can’t begin to demonstrate any of this here. I’m just suggesting that we reread the history of the twentieth century in a way that takes seriously the problems that gripped Plato himself. And then it would become a task for, again, a twenty-first century critical inheritance, or deconstruction, of this history to discern the ongoing consequences of this Platonism in the places where one might, along the lines of the received history, suspect it least, not only in Heidegger and Deleuze but also, for instance, in Tarski, in Davidson, and in Wittgenstein.
Wow. That’s lined up as a real tour de force! As has been, in many ways, this wonderful, provocative, daring, interview. Thanks so much.