In a nod to N+1’s excellent semi-regular N1BReading series, I’m going to attempt to detail quick, light, summaries and connections for my current readings.
I am re-reading Andrew Feenberg’s excellent Questioning Technology. Going through this book for a second time has caused me to upgrade my opinion of it from masterful to nearly-or-quite-possibly desert island material. Feenberg’s approach—empirically dependent historical and philosophical analyses of technology—doesn’t have the kind of gravitas that I would normally accord to a desert island book, and it is far too light-hearted and readable to be so “serious”, but it did cause me to rethink my political heuristics. Since a re-reading necessitates greater depth and engagement, I’ve decided to read it alongside his Between Reason and Experience: Essays in Technology and Modernity (Inside Technology), a collection of essays from the last decade or so. Likewise, Feenberg engages quite regularly with Heidegger, a figure that I’ve been circling around for years now, and never taking straight on, so I’ve finally started seriously reading through Heiddegger’s oeuvre (Basic Writings).
For a soon-to-start reading group we are going through Jean-Luc Nancy’s The Birth to Presence, a collection of Nancy’s essays. Bewildering in rhetorical style (in the somewhat cloying style of Deleuze, Serres, and so on), Nancy tackles metaphysics straight away, and positions himself as a staunch anti-representationalist. Running through his work for a first time evokes many connections and themes, but no solid conclusions. Although he does not mention it, his metaphysics appear to require engagement with Parmenides’ Fragments (especially VII onwards). Annoyingly, Nancy forces the reader in to the depths of not-being, and through sleep and non-consciousness (with evident knowledge on the matter, despite the obvious impossibility of making these claims). Then, Nancy exhumes Descartes’ substance dualism with respect to sleep and dreaming, but never mentions Foucault and Derrida’s spirited debate (History of Madness) on this portion of the Meditations. I’m not confident on my interpretation, however, so I can’t tell if Nancy thinks madness is on the soul or the body. Perhaps it’s neither, given what seems to be a serious rationalist streak in the book, at times echoing Leibniz’s Monadology so loudly that I’ve decided to re-read it as a point of comparison.
Finally, I’ve just completed Siegfried Zielinski’s Deep Time of the Media, a kind of Kittler-esque exploration of media history. The book excels at being obscure, with foray’s into weird and wild Modern, Renaissance, and Medieval examples of seeing and hearing apparatuses. The scope and breadth of the content makes for a fun but somewhat unforgettable read.