Lecture 24 – December 2014: Theory

Come celebrate the end of 2014 with the last Garage Blackboard Lecture of the year! Garage veterans Jo Sinanan and Gerhard Wiesenfeldt are lecturing on theory. As always, there will be soup and delicious beer.

Badiou at Bunnings – Shopping for theory

by Jolynna Sinanan

Engagement with certain theories is popularised with different cultural movements. Why are some theories used more than others at any given time? It is not surprising for example that fields in the social sciences that concentrate on the reproduction of images such as literature, film studies and internet studies feel an affinity with post structuralism and how it deals with authenticity. This lecture questions the criteria for choosing certain theories over others to engage with when looking at social phenomena. I will draw on Alain Badiou’s truth procedure to illustrate that theories often gain popularity for their resonance with contemporary conditions and the normative anxieties that are their byproducts.

Martin’s Silver Hammer: Theory as a tool

by Gerhard Wiesenfeldt

The idea of theory is at the heart of modern scholarship. Yet, when we look what academics (at all stages of their career) do with theories these days, we find that the aim often is not to understand the theories or to develop them further, but to apply theories to a specific use, without much regard of the implications this might have for the theory, its other uses or for the user themselves. This lecture will ask whether there is something wrong with such an instrumental use of theories. To this end, I will first look closer at what it means to use theories as tools and how such a use has become possible. In a fairly instrumental use I will then apply Martin Heidegger’s philosophy of technology to the problem and see whether that provides some insight, rephrasing the question to whether we are being commanded by our theories and whether we can get out of that predicament.

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