Philosophers and the machine: French philosophy of slavery from Espinas to Kojève
Philosophers and the machine: French philosophy of slavery from Espinas to Kojèv
- Arthur Bradley (University of Lancaster)
In the final volume of his long-running Homo Sacer project, The Use of Bodies (2015), Giorgio Agamben offers a controversial defence of Aristotle’s notorious theory of natural slavery. To be sure, Agamben’s own archaeology of slavery in this text is typically eclectic (suturing together the early Church Fathers, Marquis de Sade, Karl Marx, and Martin Heidegger amongst many other sources) but I want to propose in the following paper that this idiosyncratic reading of the slave also emerges out of and responds to a—now largely obscure—set of late-19th and early 20th century.
French philosophical debates about the precise relationship between slave labour, technology and the human being itself. In the work of such diverse intellectual figures as Alfred Espinas, Paul Louis, Pierre-Maxim Schuhl, Alexandre Koyré and, most prominently, Alexandre Kojève on something that gradually comes to be thematized under the signifier of the “machine,” I want to argue that we enter a historical archive which is not only a precursor for Agamben’s philosophy of slavery but part of the conceptual pre-history of modern French philosophy more widely.
What is the story of the encounter between French philosophy and the machine?
- Thu, December 1: 6am to 7.30am (London)
- Thu, December 1: 6pm to 7.30pm (Sydney)
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