We are delighted to host Taine Duncan and Douglas Lackey as this years UPC keynote speakers. Both scholars come from very diverse backgrounds and fields and will present to us their work over the course of the conference.
Taine Duncan“Remembrances: Cultural Memory as a Form of Resistance.”
Abstract:Integral to Walter Benjamin’s Arcades Project is the careful analysis of a bygone age. Rather than analyzing his personal experiences in Paris, the central location of Benjamin’s own exile, Benjamin offers an exposé of the culture and space of 19th century Paris. Why Paris of the 19th Century? Why not use his personal experiences as fodder for his magnum opus of aesthetic theory? Perhaps even more curiously, Benjamin creates a collage of poetry, art, and commentary as though they were his own memories and thoughts on the Parisian experience. In this paper, I provide a possible explanation for Benjamin’s curious treatment of history, culture and memory. Through an analysis of Benjamin’s article “A Berlin Chronicle” alongside his Arcades Project, I argue that Benjamin’s distancing from personal experience in the Arcades Project is not only deliberate, but the only option available to Benjamin in the critical technique of aesthetic remembrance. Then, I will offer evidence for a Benjaminian project in contemporary literature via Mary Gaitskill’s Veronica. Whereas Benjamin must account for a cultural memory that informs a personal response to capitalism, Mary Gaitskill turns this formulation on its head by providing a universal account of contemporary culture through the personal memory of her protagonist. Finally, I will offer a possible synthesis of both approaches using Frantz Fanon’s autobiographical approach to explaining the bodily effects of racism. The act of remembering, whether personal, historical, or both, provides a bridge between the personal and the universal, the individual and socio-cultural. This bridge offers the possibility for understanding philosophical cultural criticism in a new light.
Professor and Chair at Baruch College, NYC
“Mitosis and Abortion”
Abstract: Various thought experiments are proposed leading to the conclusion that it is possible for two separate persons, X and Y, to share a common past, that is, for the same events to make up their shared past history. On the same grounds, it is possible for two separate persons to share a common future, that is, for that the same events to make up their shared future. X and Y might even share a common past and a common future, sharing a past, fissioning into two, and then fusing together at some later moment in time to share a future.
Let us call entities that share pasts and/or futures “superentities,” because they have stretches of shared superimposed histories. If such entities are possible, then the entity that is a first a human zygote, then a blastocyst, and then an embryo, is a superentity, fissioning after the zygote stage and then fusing after the blastocyst stage. Every human being is thus a superentity, the history of which begins at conception.
But there are in fact no such superentities. The postulate of superentities violates the metaphysical postulate that each entity exists wholly at each point in its history. There cannot be entities X and Y that were both Z in the past: either X is wholly Z or Y is wholly Z. The metaphysical argument against superentities is stronger than the arguments given on their behalf.