“Post Scriptum”: Permanent Seminar

June, 30, 17 CEST/18 EEST

Speaker: Anda Pleniceanu

Anda Pleniceanu holds a PhD from The Centre for the Study of Theory and Criticism at Western University, Canada. She conducts interdisciplinary research at the intersection of continental philosophy, aesthetics, and literary theory. Working with the concepts of subjectivity and negativity, she is broadly concerned with the construction of circular systems of thought and aesthetic representation. Her research interests include speculative theory, avant-garde and post-avant-garde aesthetics, French poststructuralism, negative dialectics, and violence. Her dissertation, published under the title You Unseen Cathedrals: A Study of the Conceptual Conditions of Negativity, focuses on the modern and post-modern articulation of the concept of negativity, particularly in relation to the post-Kantian notion of subjectivity."

Title of the talk: Violence: Necessity versus Contingency

Abstract: This seminar presentation is premised on a continuing dialogue with Professor Sergii Shevtsov’s research on the concept of violence. I begin by surveying several points made in his article “On the Ontology of Violence,” such as the inclusion of violence into a dialectical and deterministic framework. As the transference of violence from a socio-historical contexts to philosophy proves to be challenging, I focus on the equation of violence with labor and transformation. I consider this conceptual chain of associations in different contexts, such as Heraclitean thought, Hegelian dialectics, and Marxist critique, and offer a critical perspective on these theories regarding their relationship with violence. I argue that these approaches are not helpful in understanding the particularity of violence in the context of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine because they diminish the excessiveness of violence with a chain of causation that diffuses the gravity of the acts and, consequently, the responsibility of the perpetrators. In addition, following Professor Shevtsov’s example of René Girard’s concept of violence as based on the mimetic nature of desire, I discuss the issues with this approach, which connects modern-day violence with ancestral and mythological violence. I argue that Girard’s approach is similar to Sigmund Freud’s in the latter’s theory of civilisation, which is premised on inherited and embedded violence.

As an alternative to these models of thinking violence, I offer a different configuration based on contemporary and 20th-century French thought. In general, I propose the concept of contingent violence: violence whose only ontological necessity is its very contingency. Although violence can be contextualised, explained, and incorporated at the level of history, ontologically, the eruption of violence does not follow the principle of sufficient reason. My proposition is informed by Quentin Meillassoux’s distinction between contingency and facticity in After Finitude, Time Without Becoming, and The Number and the Siren. By establishing a distinction between existence and ontology, and by offering a different treatment of violence at both levels, my overarching aim is to develop a framework in which violent acts could not be theorised as part of a “natural,” “mythological,” or even “ontological” necessity.

Along with the concept of contingent violence informed by Meillassoux, I will consider Jean-François Lyotard’s idea of the differend (différend in French) with a focus on the posture of the victim of violence and Gilles Deleuze’s concept of cruelty from the Logic of Sense and “To Have Done with Judgement,” which offers a radically different conceptualization of violence, breaking away from the guilt-based dialectical system that ultimately incorporates violence as always-already the responsibility of the victim.

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