A seminar sponsored by the Left Academy with Michael Pelias, co-founder of the Institute for the Radical Imagination, Philosopher, teacher of Philosophy and Union activist
Dedication of this seminar:
For Marianne Trudel, a remarkable French pianist, composer, arranger, and teacher, and for whom my affection, respect and love know no limit. She has inspired this work and has made me a better and closer listener to the sounds of silence, the voices of the other, and the communion we sorely lack with the natural world. For all this, I am eternally grateful and hope this opening into the rigors and joys of philosophical investigation and speculation gifts the next generation with the strength of intellect and feeling to move the planet to a sustainable and meaningful future. May Marx’s dream of the full and new person be realized!
The 1st Week:
This seminar will attempt to situate Marx as a humanist philosopher in his youth through reference to his dissertation on “The Difference between the Democritean and Epicurean Theories of Nature”, written in 1841 and a close reading of the Paris Manuscripts of 1844 (the Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts, discovered and made public in 1932 in the Soviet Union). Marx’s early relationship to Hegel will be emphasized as well as the thematic of Alienation (Entfremung) and what relationship does this vocabulary play in contemporary labor struggles?
The first full reading will be Antonio Gramsci’s “The Study of Philosophy “from the Prison Notebooks (begun in 1929 by Gramsci while in the Turi prison in Italy). The first engagement will be with the notion of spontaneous philosophy and its elements of Language as a totality of determined notions and concepts, common sense as a site of struggle (both ideological and material) and folklore, of which religion as fractured common sense is the most prominent. The transition from spontaneous philosophy and its spatio-temporal complex to that of the Philosophy of Praxis will be emphasized and alongside the organic intellectual and the war of position will demonstrate some of the timeliness of Gramsci’s thought.
The trajectory of the seminar:
Following Gramsci’s intervention on the necessity of teaching philosophy, we will begin a close reading of the “humanist “Marx through the Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts (1844). The theses on Feuerbach will be considered as both an advance into sensuous materialism and a continuation of the early Marx’s labor anthropology and emphasis. From there the humanist tradition will be reflected in the classic essay, “Reification” in the 1923 History and Class Consciousness authored by Georg Lukacs.We will try to trace the Hegelian Marxism operative in this essay and make some parallels to Karl Korsch’s Marxism and Philosophy, particularly the notion of historical specificity. These engagements should take us through the first four weeks of the seminar. In a nutshell, engaging the left Hegelianism operative in these works of Marxist Philosophy and in Marx himself.
After engaging the early attempts to make a Marxist philosophy in the 1920’s and ’30’s, we will look at the post WW II horizon in Italy. The two best known “Marxist “philosophers were Galvano Della Volpe and Lucio Colletti. With a Kantian-Marxism in the background, Della Volpe ‘s engagement with Italian Hegelianism will be encountered through a critique of right Hegelianism (Gentile) and liberal Hegelianism (Croce). Colletti will offer us a critique of the entire Western Marxist Hegelianism. What role does a return to Kant play in Marxist philosophy and this is something very prevalent in post-modern thought, especially in Lyotard.
Simultaneously in the post WW II horizon, Sartre’s Existential Marxism and Lefebvre’s Meta philosophy play a significant role in the framing of the subjectivity so lacking in Marxist philosophy and for some, in Marx himself. We will engage the theory of subjectivity and look at existential psychoanalysis as a potential presupposition for a materialist psychology and what Meta philosophy does to the end of philosophy and the task of thinking.
Althusserian structural Marxism and Negri’s notion of the multitude will hopefully round out the readings in the sense of the tasks for Marxist philosophy today and its relationship to the labor question and the increasing precarity of everyday existence.