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The Harmony of Illusions

Inventing Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

Allan Young

As far back as we know, there have been individuals incapacitated by memories that have filled them with sadness and remorse, fright and horror, or a sense of irreparable loss. Only recently, however, have people tormented with such recollections been diagnosed as suffering from "post-traumatic stress disorder." Here Allan Young traces this malady, particularly as it is suffered by Vietnam veterans, to its beginnings in the emergence of ideas about the unconscious mind and to earlier manifestations of traumatic memory like shell shock or traumatic hysteria. In Young's view, PTSD is not a timeless or universal phenomenon newly discovered. Rather, it is a "harmony of illusions," a cultural product gradually put together by the practices, technologies, and narratives with which it is diagnosed, studied, and treated and by the various interests, institutions, and moral arguments mobilizing these efforts.

This book is part history and part ethnography, and it includes a detailed account of everyday life in the treatment of Vietnam veterans with PTSD. To illustrate his points, Young presents a number of fascinating transcripts of the group therapy and diagnostic sessions that he observed firsthand over a period of two years. Through his comments and the transcripts themselves, the reader becomes familiar with the individual hospital personnel and clients and their struggle to make sense of life after a tragic war. One observes that everyone on the unit is heavily invested in the PTSD diagnosis: boundaries between therapist and patient are as unclear as were the distinctions between victim and victimizer in the jungles of Southeast Asia.

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The Helmholtz Curves

Tracing Lost Time

Henning Schmidgen, Translated by Nils F. Schott

This book reconstructs the emergence of the phenomenon of “lost time,” by engaging with two of the most significant time experts of the nineteenth century: the German physiologist Hermann von Helmholtz and the French writer Marcel Proust. _x000B__x000B_Its starting point is the archival discovery of curve images that Helmholtz produced in the context of pathbreaking experiments on the temporality of the nervous system in 1851. With a “frog drawing machine” Helmholtz established the temporal gap between stimulus and response that has remained a core issue in debates between neuroscientists and philosophers._x000B__x000B_When naming the recorded phenomena, Helmholtz introduced the term temps perdu, or lost time. Proust had excellent contacts with the biomedical world of late-nineteenth-century Paris, and he was familiar with this term and physiological tracing technologies behind it. Drawing on the machine philosophy of Deleuze, Schmidgen highlights the resemblance between the machinic assemblages and rhizomatic networks within which Helmholtz and Proust pursued their respective projects._x000B_

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Husserl and the Sciences

Selected Perspectives

Richard Feist

Edmund Husserl (1859-1938) is one of the previous century's most important thinkers. Often regarded as the "Father of phenomenology," this collection of essays reveals that he is indeed much more than that. The breadth of Husserl's thought is considerable and much remains unexplored. An underlying theme of this volume is that Husserl is constantly returning to origins, revising his thought in the light of new knowledge offered by the sciences.

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Imperfect Oracle

The Epistemic and Moral Authority of Science

Theodore L. Brown

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Improper Life

Technology and Biopolitics from Heidegger to Agamben

Timothy C. Campbell

Has biopolitics actually become thanatopolitics, a field of study obsessed with death? Is there something about the nature of biopolitical thought today that makes it impossible to deploy affirmatively? If this is true, what can life-minded thinkers put forward as the merits of biopolitical reflection? These questions drive Improper Life, Timothy C. Campbell’s dexterous inquiry-as-intervention.

Campbell argues that a “crypto-thanatopolitics” can be teased out of Heidegger’s critique of technology and that some of the leading scholars of biopolitics—including Michel Foucault, Giorgio Agamben, and Peter Sloterdijk—have been substantively influenced by Heidegger’s thought, particularly his reading of proper and improper writing. In fact, Campbell shows how all of these philosophers have pointed toward a tragic, thanatopolitical destination as somehow an inevitable result of technology. But in Improper Life he articulates a corrective biopolitics that can begin with rereadings of Foucault (especially his late work regarding the care and technologies of the self), Freud (notably his writings on the drives and negation), and Gilles Deleuze (particularly in the relation of attention to aesthetics).

Throughout Improper Life, Campbell insists that biopolitics can become more positive and productively asserts an affirmative technē not thought through thanatos but rather practiced through bíos.

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Inanimation

Theories of Inorganic Life

David Wills

Inanimation is the third book by author David Wills to analyze the technology of the human. In Prosthesis, Wills traced our human attachment to external objects back to a necessity within the body itself. In Dorsality, he explored how technology is understood to function behind or before the human. Inanimation proceeds by taking literally the idea of inanimate or inorganic forms of life. Starting from a seemingly naïve question about what it means to say texts “live on” or have a “life of their own,” Inanimation develops a new theory of the inanimate.

Inanimation offers a fresh account of what life is and the ethical and political consequences that follow from this conception. Inspired by Walter Benjamin’s observation that “the idea of life and afterlife in works of art should be regarded with an entirely unmetaphorical objectivity,” the book challenges the coherence and limitations of “what lives,” arguing that there is no clear opposition between a live animate and dead inanimate. Wills identifies three major forms of inorganic life: autobiography, translation, and resonance. Informed by Jacques Derrida and Gilles Deleuze, he explores these forms through wide-ranging case studies. He brings his panoptic vision to bear on thinkers (Descartes, Freud, Derrida, Benjamin, Carl Schmitt, Jean-Luc Nancy, Roland Barthes), writers and poets (Hélène Cixous, Paul Celan, William Carlos Williams, Ernst Jünger, James Joyce, Georges Bataille), and visual artists (Jean-François Millet, Jean-Luc Godard, Paul Klee). With panache and gusto, Wills discovers life-forms well beyond textual remainders and translations, in such disparate “places” as the act of thinking, the death drive, poetic blank space, recorded bird songs, the technology of warfare, and the heart stopped by love.


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Ingenious Genes

How Gene Regulation Networks Evolve to Control Development

Roger Sansom

A proposal for a new model of the evolution of gene regulation networks and development that draws on work from artificial intelligence and philosophy of mind.

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Intangible Materialism

The Body, Scientific Knowledge, and the Power of Language

Ronald Schleifer

Taking as his point of departure Norbert Weiner’s statement that information is basic to understanding materialism in our era, Ronald Schleifer shows how discoveries of modern physics have altered conceptions of matter and energy and the ways in which both information theory and the study of literature can enrich these conceptions. Expanding the reductive notion of “the material” as simply matter and energy, he formulates a new, more inclusive idea of materialism. Schleifer’s project attempts to bridge the divisions between the humanities and the sciences and to create a nonreductive materialism for the information age. He presents a materialistic account of human bodily experience by delving into language and literature that powerfully represents our faces, voices, hands, and pain. For example, he examines the material resources of poetic “literariness” as it is revealed in the condition of Tourette’s syndrome. Schleifer also investigates gestures of the hand in the formation of sociality, and he studies pain as both a physiological and phenomenological experience. This ambitious work explores physiological analyses, evolutionary explanations, and semiotic descriptions of materialism to reveal how aspects of physical existence discover meaning in experience.

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Interpretation

Ways of Thinking about the Sciences and the Arts

The act of interpretation occurs in nearly every area of the arts and sciences. That ubiquity serves as the inspiration for the fourteen essays of this volume, covering many of the domains in which interpretive practices are found. Individual topics include: the general nature of interpretation and its forms; comparing and contrasting interpretation and hermeneutics; culture as interpretation seen through Hegel's aesthetics; interpreting philosophical texts; methodologies for interpreting human action; interpretation in medical practice focusing on manifestations as indicators of disease; the brain and its interpretative, structured, learning and storage processes; interpreting hybrid wines and cognitive preconceptions of novel objects; and the importance of sensory perception as means of interpreting in the case of dry German Rieslings. In an interesting turn, Nicholas Rescher writes on the interpretation of philosophical texts. Then Catherine Wilson and Andreas Blank explicate and critique Rescher's theories through analysis of the mill passage from Leibniz's Monadology.

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Isaac Beeckman on Matter and Motion

Mechanical Philosophy in the Making

Klaas van Berkel

The contribution of the Dutch craftsman and scholar Isaac Beeckman to early modern scientific thought has never been properly acknowledged. Surprisingly free from the constraints of traditional natural philosophy, he developed a view of the world in which everything, from the motion of the heavens to musical harmonies, is explained by reducing it to matter in motion. His ideas deeply influenced Descartes and Gassendi. Klaas van Berkel has succeeded in unearthing and explicating Beeckman's scientific notebooks, allowing us to follow how he developed his new philosophy, almost day by day. Beeckman was almost forgotten until the discovery of his notebooks in the early twentieth century. Isaac Beeckman on Matter and Motion is the first full-length study of the ideas and motives of this remarkable figure. Van Berkel's important study first relates Beeckman's life, placing him in the religious, intellectual, educational, and social context of the Dutch Republic in its golden age. Van Berkel then analyzes the notebooks themselves and the nature and development of Beeckman's "mechanical philosophy." He demonstrates how Beeckman's artisanal background and religious convictions shaped his natural philosophy, even as the decisive influence stems from the educational philosophy of the sixteenth-century French philosopher Peter Ramus. Historians of science and the philosophy of science will find the substance of Beeckman's thought and the unraveling of its growth and development highly interesting. Van Berkel's account provides a new and comprehensive interpretation of the origins of the mechanical philosophy of nature, the philosophy that culminated in the work of Isaac Newton.

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