Rhetorical Theory – What is the World?
240G - 001 | CCN: 78106
Instructor: Pheng Cheah
Date / Time: CANCELLED
Fields of study in the social sciences and the humanities that have attracted recent widespread interest such as cosmopolitanism, world literature and human rights presuppose as their fundamental concept the idea of world. However, the term is often taken for granted in contemporary discourse and its meaning is generally unclear. More often then not, world is defined in opposition to nation and is taken to be a synonym for globe. Careful reflection on its philosophical meaning is almost never undertaken. As Heidegger observed, "elucidation of the world-concept [des Welt-begriffs] is one of the most central tasks of philosophy. The concept of world, or the phenomenon thus designated, is what has hitherto not yet been recognized in philosophy". In this seminar, we will examine different philosophical understandings of the world from late eighteenth/early nineteenth century European philosophy to contemporary Continental thought. The three parts of the seminar focus respectively on spiritualist and idealist conceptualizations of the world (Kant and Hegel), the materialist account of the world (Marx, world-systems theory and critical geography), and phenomenological and post-phenomenological theories of the world (Heidegger, Arendt and Derrida). The broad aim of the course is to examine the ethico-political implications of a fuller understanding of the world and how it may lead to the envisioning of alternatives to the world made by contemporary global capitalism. Themes and issues to be discussed include the following: the limits of understanding the world as a spatial category; the normative dimension of world and its connection to temporality in the idea of world history; the relation between the world and humanity; phenomenological critiques of the "vulgar" conception of the world and understanding the world in terms of intersubjective intercourse; the role of action, storytelling and narrative in the opening and making of worlds; and the unworlding of the world in modernity and capitalist globalization. Time permitting, we will also consider accounts of the world from non-European philosophical traditions such as the Chinese idea of tianxia (all under heaven).