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.


Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Lecture #23 – Australian Indigenous Studies – 31 August 2014

Lilly Brown and Kate Rendell

Encountering the histories and impacts of colonisation in Australia ‘for the first time’, Settler students in Australian Indigenous Studies often experience moments of shock and despair: ‘Why weren’t we told?’ and ‘I knew nothing’ are familiar catch-cries. Yet ‘not-knowing’ this nation’s colonial history, within a space in which all Settler presences are beneficiaries of colonisation, can be seen as both a real and imagined phenomenon. Australia’s colonial past/ present is not so much ‘unknown’ as unconsciously and consciously denied in order to justify a narrative of legal settlement to which the legitimacy and sovereignty of the Australian nation is bound.

Acknowledging their distinct positionalities and diverse histories/ approaches, Lilly Brown and Kate Rendell will introduce and interrogate key concepts within Australian Indigenous studies, including: Place, Denial, ‘Race’, Reconciliation, Responsibility and Dialogue. This lecture will enact a collaborative methodology, which seeks to model dialogue and critical engagement as a means by which to approach and counter colonial histories and present realities.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Lecture #22 – 29 July 2014

Buddhist Ethics: a Perspective

by Graham Priest

The talk explains and defends a version of Buddhist ethics, which is acceptable to (at least) one contemporary  Western philosopher (me).


Particularism and Holism in Ethics

by Sean Goedecke

The three big theories in ethical philosophy – utilitarianism, virtue ethics and deontology – take for granted the existence of general principles in ethics. But why should we take this for granted? Following the work of Jonathan Dancy and H.A. Prichard, this lecture will argue for particularism in ethics and holism in the theory of reasons. The post-Enlightenment tendency to treat ethics like a science is not the only way of doing philosophical ethics, and certainly not the way the majority of us lean towards in practice. The real work of ethics consists of intuitively coming to terms with the particular facts of the case – and since those facts combine organically to form a holistic moral picture, reliable general principles can never be formed in advance.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Lecture 21 – 29 June 2014

Adam Smith, Mythmaker

by Roland Boer

Adam Smith is responsible for one of the greatest stories ever told – the myth of the origins capitalism. He may have inherited its basic features from those who went before him, but Smith produced its definitive form. Smith’s assertion of the “natural” human propensity to “truck, barter and exchange one thing for another” is backed up not with solid argument, but with a story, a myth. It tells of an original tribe or village, in which people peacefully specialize in different tasks. Eventually, they build up stockpiles, which they then must trade. The problem is that his mythical village has never been found, nor will it be found, for it is pure fantasy.

This lecture explores Adam Smith as a storyteller, a man who also loved vignettes, fables, sayings, moral tales, and parables. He did so to peddle his ideas concerning human nature, self-interest and the “free market.” Above all, he develops two major myths, one that may be called a foundation myth and the other a grand narrative. Both of these appear again and again in his rambling work, The Wealth of Nations. Yet they do so in some tension, for Smith shifts between narratives of difference and those of identity, between those that need to narrate a passage from a different state in the past to those that assert that the past was largely the same as the present. Ultimately, Smith was engaged – like others at the time – in deep arguments concerning human nature. In his search for a new theory of human nature, he signals that human nature was itself changing with the development of capitalism.

Christianity’s Requirement of Potential: Revolution

by Josh Lourensz

Using Max Weber’s famous essay ‘The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism’ as a starting point, this lecture will argue, with a little help from early Marx and Lukács’ work on reification, that Christianity in the Modern world necessitates revolution; and not just any old revolution, but most assuredly a communist one. Bouncing off the work around Frederic Hasting Smyth’s Society of the Catholic Commonwealth, and skirting round the edges of Peter Maurin’s communitarianism, this argument will incorporate aspects of critical theory and theology to argue that the creation of a Christian’s potential for ‘good works’ is inherently bound in the advent of a radical politics.


Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Abstracts for Lecture #20

People + Place: A New Urban Ecology

Jon Shinkfield

What does open space need to deliver in an increasingly urbanised place? The new backyard.

Three Little Pigs

Matthew Dwyer

Three small pigs each adopted a sedentary lifestyle for the advantages and luxuries it might offer. As is well understood, they chose different building materials. Criticism abounded.
We’re familiar with the consequent accusations of myopia and security (Wolves of Massive Digestion?) – less commonly discussed are the subsequent implications of masonry construction.

This lecture will take a quick look at some of the broader characteristics of each sty; considering  their merits, their identity and the disruption each causes their parent environment, as I attempt to examine how one might inform the other, moving toward our next generation of farm house.

Pork is off the menu – replaced by Aboriginal, Japanese and Western architectural traditions. Also, Louis Kahn’s relationship advice for inanimate materials.


Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Abstracts for Lecture #19

Cosmopolitanism and territoriality: reflections on strangers and citizens

John Rundell

The aim of this paper is to explore the issue of cosmopolitanism through the assumed inter-changeability of the stranger and the outsider. The classical (Greco-Roman) history of cosmopolitanism is the history of the ideal of being a ‘citizen of the world’ or ‘citizen of the cosmos’ as against merely being a citizen of a city state or an empire, notwithstanding how cosmopolitan some city states and empires in the classical period were. It is also the history of hospitality towards strangers tied to the plight of excommunication and exile. It still carries these two meanings in modernity. Yet, the meaning of ‘world citizen’ changes to a more overtly political category concerned with trans-state institutional arrangements, buttressed by a continuing Enlightenment inspired ideal or horizon of humankind. It is this ideal that informs the notion of hospitality towards outsiders, if it exists at all.

What also changes is the notion and experience of the stranger, especially when it is placed in the context of the modern configuration of citizenship, rather than ‘citizen of the world’. There have been at least four predominant approaches and perspectives for addressing, thinking and ordering the contingency of modern mobility and contingent strangerhood. These approaches and perspectives are indicative of cleavages and tensions within the modern notion of citizenship and the ways that it is constituted in order to solve the issue of the location and identity of contingent strangers. These types are national-juridical citizenship, political-public citizenshipeconomic-social citizenship, and cosmopolitan citizenship.

Love’s Habitation: A Search

Mitch Taylor

Does romantic love have a home in the modern world? Recent accounts of contemporary intimacy suggest that the macro-social currents of modernization place love into a condition of cultural decline. The old tropes of l’amour passion are said to be beset by the quantitative logic of the market place, transformed by the requirements of democratic sobriety, undercut by new forms of atomistic individualism, or drained of meaning by a society whose experience of romantic life oscillates between disenchanted cynicism and vacuous sentimentality. In challenging these narratives, this lecture seeks to weld new insights within sociological systems theory to the wealth of empirical research which complicates the speculative pessimism of critical thought. Attuned to love’s historical complexity, contemporary diversity, and fundamental importance for a theory of modern society, it attempts to uncover the ways in which our search for love, whether theoretical and personal, turns up surprises which demand a more nuanced account of both intimate life and the society in which it is staged.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Lecture #19: This Modern Love

Coming up on 30th March, social theory guru John Rundell and Garage veteran Mitch Taylor will talk about Modern love and loving Modernity. Watch this space for abstracts and titles. There will be soups, as always, and for the first time, THREE types of beer lovingly home-brewed by our in-house beer craftsman, SJ Landvogt.

Show up at 4pm for a 4:30pm start. Email us at garageblackboardlectures[at]gmail[dot]com for exact address.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized