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Kant in the Land of Extraterrestrials

Cosmopolitical Philosofictions

Peter Szendy is Professor of Aesthetics in the Philosophy Department of the University of Nanterre. The most recent of his books are Hits: Philosophy in the Jukebox and Prophecies of Leviathan: Reading (Past) Melville (both Fordham).

Publication Year: 2013

“Yes, Kant did indeed speak of extraterrestrials.” This phrase could provide the opening for this brief treatise of philosofiction (as one speaks of science fiction). What is revealed in the aliens of which Kant speaks—and he no doubt took them more seriously than anyone else in the history of philosophy—are the limits of globalization, or what Kant called cosmopolitanism. Before engaging Kantian considerations of the inhabitants of other worlds, before comprehending his reasoned alienology, this book works its way through an analysis of the star wars raging above our heads in the guise of international treaties regulating the law of space, including the cosmopirates that Carl Schmitt sometimes mentions in his late writings. Turning to track the comings and goings of extraterrestrials in Kant’s work, Szendy reveals that they are the necessary condition for an unattainable definition of humanity. Impossible to represent, escaping any possible experience, they are nonetheless inscribed both at the heart of the sensible and as an Archimedean point from whose perspective the interweavings of the sensible can be viewed. Reading Kant in dialogue with science fiction films (films he seems already to have seen) involves making him speak of questions now pressing in upon us: our endangered planet, ecology, a war of the worlds. But it also means attempting to think, with or beyond Kant, what a point of view might be.

Published by: Fordham University Press


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p. 1-1

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. 2-7


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pp. 8-9

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A Little Bit of Tourism . . .

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pp. 1-8

...Can you imagine us taking a vacation on the moon? Can you see us going not to those ever so fond and familiar places, the ones we keep going to every year, or to one of those terrestrial lands we have long since promised ourselves we’d visit, but to an entirely different elsewhere marked by a weightlessness that, for a few memorable days or weeks, would turn us into veritable...

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CHAPTER 1 Star Wars

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pp. 9-44

...the television series that started in 1959 and was cut in 1964, was resuscitated in 1985 in color. And it’s in one of the episodes from the first new season that you will find the incredible story called “A Small Talent for War.” In French, this title was unfaithfully yet interestingly translated as “Risque de paix mondiale,” “the danger of world peace...

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CHAPTER 2 Kant in the Land of Extraterrestrials

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pp. 45-80

...For Kant this is, according to the word he uses, a “conjecture”; without affirming or denying it, the philosopher asks: Why would there not be forms of intelligent or reasonable life (life endowed with reason) elsewhere than on Earth...

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CHAPTER 3 Cosmetics and Cosmopolitics

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pp. 81-122

...Where are we with it all? Where do we come from and where are we going? We have covered quite a bit of ground, starting with the discovery of the new earthly world as described by Carl Schmitt, which has led us to Kantian cosmopolitics as seen from the extraterrestrial perspective of the inhabitants of those other new worlds in the still unexplored stars of the cosmos that surrounds...

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CHAPTER 4 Weightless: The Archimedean Pointof the Sensible

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pp. 123-136

...Or rather, as you suggested to me when you came to meet me one night: Our time and our orientation in space, here, on our Earth, is widely determined by what is weaving its way through the cosmos. You were waiting for the bus, you told me, and you were impatiently looking at the indication of how long you’d have to wait, which wavered, until a message...

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Postface: What’s Left of Cosmopolitanism?

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pp. 137-152

...These are the first words of a pamphlet whose original French title can be translated as “Cosmopolitans of All Lands, Yet Another Effort!” For this certainly is a pamphlet, yes, at least in the somewhat archaic sense the term currently has in French, in other words, quite simply a piece of writing...


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pp. 153-184

E-ISBN-13: 9780823255535
Print-ISBN-13: 9780823255498

Page Count: 208
Illustrations: 25 b/w
Publication Year: 2013

Edition: Cloth