Interrogating the Philosophical Canon: A Conversation with Chiara Bottici
Chiara Bottici Associate Professor of Philosophy 44
[00:00:00] Interviewer: What are your intellectual interests? And what led you to be interested in those particular topics? Where do you see your work going in the future? [00:00:20] Chiara Bottici: I would characterize my work as being at the crossroads of critical theory and history of philosophy. And I think that to a large extent this defines our profile as a department. I always say that it’s an irony of our world that in order to do European philosophy, I had to come to The New School, which is on the other side of the Atlantic. But that’s largely true in the sense that it’s really one of the best departments—if not the best—in this country to do European philosophy. Despite its location in the United States, NSSR tries to merge European and American traditions in a truly unique way. Now within this general profile, my work is specifically devoted to the questions of imagination, myth, and memory and the way in which they influence our politics. Behind this lies a more fundamental interest in the problem of political emancipation. To put it bluntly: In a time that is so dominated by images, can we think of a use of images and imagination that actually paves the way for some form of emancipatory politics, as opposed to a repressive one? All my work—whether it’s about myth or about memory or about imagination or images in general—revolves around the questions: Where is the new coming from? What are
our possibilities to get out of a mechanism of domination? What I think is specific to my area of scholarship (and I would say of our department in particular) is the fact that the history of philosophy, which we take pretty seriously, is always done from the perspective of a critical theory of society. So we look at the past, but not with a contemplative attitude toward what has been. We look at the past from the point of view of our being situated in the present and looking at the future. In this sense, a critical theory of society and history of philosophy are two sides of the same coin. We are the result of where we’ve come from, but at the same time, the way in which we look at our past is always situated in the present. When I teach, I always say to students, this is what I am, this is where I stand, and this is why I’m interested in these particular philosophers. Having said that, I’ve also had strong training in the historical method for doing European philosophy, and I do believe that it’s not my task to tell students what they should think. What I always try to provide in classes is the tools for reading texts independently. I’m also very well aware that the choice of a certain author also reflects a certain identity or position in the present. But I always make this awareness explicitly clear. And I would say it’s quite extraordinary how many different readings can come out of the classes. I’m always impressed by how students manage to cultivate views that are so different from what I think, which is a good sign. [00:07:37] IN: What particular philosophers do you study or teach? [00:07:43] CB: I usually teach central figures in the so-called philosophical canon. I think that our students should have the professional tools needed to read philosophical classics. Unfortunately, the canon is largely geared towards white male philosophers. So I try to compensate by also teaching more marginal figures, that is, people who are not usually included in the canon and who can throw a different light
Published on Oct 3, 2017
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