The last six months have been good, if defined by hard work. Teaching has been a joy, and it’s been great to work with such bright students. Fascinating essays and some inspired conversations. Not much is worthy of self-publicity (is anything?), but a couple of updates are due.
I’m back at Mary Ward Centre teaching three courses starting next week. It’s short notice, but all are welcome and course fees are fair.
- The Philosophy for Beginners class I’ve been running turns to the philosophy of religion and belief, from Christian and Islamic philosophy to existentialism. It runs on Wednesdays from 2pm-4pm.
- Intermediate Philosophy: Society, Language and Difference, which turns to post-war French philosophy. Expect Foucault, Fanon, Derrida, Deleuze, Lacan, Irigaray, Cixous, Kristeva and Butler (and some Situationists). It runs on Mondays, between 1pm-3pm and 6pm-8pm.
- Lastly, How to Think Straight in an Information Overload. Another new course for me, expect a mixture of critical thinking, rhetoric, critical theory and applied rationality. It runs on Tuesdays from 6pm-8pm.
My friend Rod Kitson painted these two familiar figures:
Two Brothers from Camberwell (2017)
I appeared on BBC Radio 4’s Open Country programme, talking about Coventry edgelands and common land, about 19 mins in.
I had plans of writing a series of essays as a sequel to Island Story, focusing on a small number of places to draw out a common story about the futures facing the island. Still at the planning stage. Teaching has wiped out all free time. But I’ll begin in August. Thanks to people who’ve got in touch to help with the project, and I’m sorry it hasn’t got further yet. I will arrange walks and talks in the late summer, and I’ve picked up funding from the Society of Authors for it.
Between teaching preparation and marking, I’ve written a manuscript based on my PhD. It’s called Collective Desire: Spinoza and the Politics of Freedom. It’s taken a lot of time and work, though I finished earlier this week. It combines a mixture of close readings of Spinoza’s own politics, his views of servitude, political domination and fear and its relation to freedom and collective power, with some more speculative tangents linking Spinoza to more recent political and philosophical thought. There’s a lot there about desire, hope, commonality, and its possibilities in more difficult times.
I don’t know what will happen yet with the manuscript, but wherever it is eventually published, it’s dedicated to Mark Fisher. As I was writing the MS I delved back into his work, re-reading Capitalist Realism and his blog, sifting out his account of Spinoza, which the book engages with throughout. I’m going to share some the dedication that appears there:
‘I had the great fortune of being taught philosophy by Mark at a further education college in South London. His enthusiasm for difficult thinking in difficult times was infectious, and he had that rare Socratic gift among teachers of giving his students the confidence to think and express their own ideas as if they had arrived at them independently. He made our thoughts ours. He encouraged me and others to go to university when we were unsure if we were good enough, or if difficult thinking was worth the uncertainty. His prolific output on the k-punk blog brought many more of us into contact with new cultural and philosophical worlds, including that of Spinoza, while his Capitalist Realism gave a blueprint for radical change that galvanised many like me into the British student protest movements that raged in the years after. Above all, Mark was a Spinozist avant la lettre. Not only his political thought, but his warm, self-effacing yet electrifying manner all bore the manner for whom philosophy was a ‘meditation on life’, and on the very best of human life, in the vistas and vicissitudes of human freedom. Yet as Mark also put in an early, perceptive writing on the ‘inhuman’, anegoic aspects of Spinozan reason, ‘being a Spinozist is both the easiest and hardest thing in the world’. Mark’s final, incomplete thought was turning to a politics of ‘postcapitalist desire’ and ‘collective joy’, and while the remainder is reliqua desiderantur, this work is a very modest tribute to the collective joys and desires his conversation brought to life.’