︎ Death, Movement, Change and Transformation: The Domain of Matter



SMR Summer Schools at the Campus in Greece

The Summer Institute of SMR in Olympiada Greece with John Ó Maoilearca, Thomas Nail and Joel White,
and Jonathan Fardy as invited lecturer

"Death, Movement, Change and Transformation: The Domain of Matter" Dates: 15-22 September 2024, Venue: SMR Campus Olympiada: Stagira/Akanthos, Greece

- Short Syllabi with a tentative Agenda; Practical information: application and selection process, organizational details and participation fees etc., right below the agenda, including a link to the application form  

Summary of the overall course:

Why has something as simple as movement posed such enormous difficulties for philosophers and scientists in the Western tradition when other traditions have not had the same trouble? Many of the greatest minds of Western history have dedicated their lives to the discovery of something genuinely immobile that could explain why things move," is the question from which the three master classes offered by Thomas Nail depart. Nail's series of classes is called Matter and Motion: An Introduction to the Philosophy of Movement. In the elaboration of his set of master classes offered as part of the summer school, titled "As Above, So Below: Correspondences, the Supernothing, and the Hyperbolic," John John Ó Maoilearca says "Here, the ‘non-‘ will be seen to operate in full plenitude, though at another level/scope/temporality (rather than ex nihilo – from the inert void below), The ideas of destruction and negation are consequently re-rendered as substitution, confusion, or destructive interference between levels." Achille Mbembe, who has initially confirmed his participation (we are expecting a reconfirmation of dates and topics) is invited to revisit his materialist radicalisation of the concept of necropolitics he explored as part of the SMR Intensive Study Courses in Fall 2021.

Syllabus 1: Thomas Nail
Matter and Motion: An Introduction to the Philosophy of Movement: 3 Master Classes

This set of classes will introduce students to the philosophy of movement. Movement is all around us, yet perpetually seems to evade our attempts to grasp it. It runs like smoke through our fingers changing and curling in response to how we try to grasp it. What is matter? What is movement? And why have they occupied, along with death and negativity, the lowest run on the great chain of being throughout Western thought?

Why has something as simple as movement posed such enormous difficulties for philosophers and scientists in the Western tradition when other traditions have not had the same trouble? Many of the greatest minds of Western history have dedicated their lives to the discovery of something genuinely immobile that could explain why things move. The Greek philosopher Aristotle imagined an “unmoved mover” who first propelled and gave order to the cosmos. The ancient scientist Archimedes imagined that if he had a fixed fulcrum and a lever long enough, he could move the earth. Later, the seventeenth-century French philosopher René Descartes reinterpreted Archimedes’s fulcrum as a point of “certain knowledge” from which the rest of moving reality could be objectively known. Most modern thinkers, such as Descartes and Isaac Newton, also shared a belief that God was like an unmoving clockmaker who set our mechanical universe into motion while he remained still. Even Albert Einstein’s incorrect theory that we live in a finite “block universe” was part of the centuries-long effort to explain motion by something immobile.

But what motivated these pursuits, and what are their consequences for us today? Alternately, what if we stayed with movement instead of trying to explain it by something else? Today, there are many books written on the philosophy of time, space, and even objects, but relatively little on movement. Why? These may sound like simple questions, but they have taken me a decade to answer. This class brings together all the key ideas of my research on the question of movement and materialism of the last ten years into a general introduction.

               Lecture 1: “The Ontology of Movement.”

We will try and rethink what ontology would mean if we thought of everything as in motion, without defining motion as the movement between one point and another in space and time. We will look at the historical emergence of the word “matter” in the West and try to think about it not as a substance. We will try to think about matter and motion as indeterminate and relational processes by looking some early ancient works including pre-Greek Minoan artifacts, Homer, Hesiod, and Lucretius. Instead of assuming space, time, or substance are ontologically primary, we will consider an alternative process-oriented definition of negative materialism.  Read: T. Nail, The Philosophy of Movement: An Introduction (University of Minnesota Press, 2024), introduction through chapter 5. 

               Lecture 2: “The History of Movement”

We will consider what this shift in definition means for how we think about the Western history of art, science, and politics. Much of Western knowledge production has been motivated by the metaphysical assumptions that movement is caused or formed by something else. But if there is no higher cause of motion, as we propose here, what is knowledge-making? In this class, we try to rethink the history of knowledge as a history of patterns of motion. Ultimately, in the bigger cosmic and terrestrial picture what is human knowledge doing? If there are no universal or static forms to found, what is knowledge’s relation to natural history? Read: T. Nail, Matter and Motion: A Brief History of Kinetic Materialism (Edinburgh University Press, 2023).  

               Lecture 3 “The Ethics of Movement”

We consider the ethical and political implications of placing matter and motion at the bottom of an ontological hierarchy of beings. We will think about how the present conditions of climate change, global migration, digital media, and quantum physics have spurred an increasingly fast-pasted world and yet a planet whose overall entropy and diversity is being reduced. What has the life-centric focus of Western humanity lost by denying death? And what tools does the philosophy movement offer us for living well in such a world? Read: T. Nail, The Philosophy of Movement: An Introduction, chapter 11, 12, and Conclusion.

Syllabus 2 : John Ó Maoilearca
“As Above, So Below: Correspondences, the Supernothing, and the Hyperbolic”

This is an all-encompassing description of the sequence of lectures, divided in 2 to 3 sessions by prof. O Maoilearca, in his own words:

"My recent work has developed concepts of the ‘hyperbolic’ and the ‘supernormal’ as extrapolations or generalisations of François Laruelle’s ‘philosophical decision’ (the gesture that attempts to make one thought form depart the rest as their master and overseer) and ‘non-standardisation’ (recognising the philosophies indigenous to putatively non-philosophical spheres). These generalisations also attempt to render Laruellean concepts beyond their apparently infra-philosophical, abstract-cognitive, and anthropocentric domains towards more (immanently) metaphysical, panpsychist, and cosmological levels. This is a form of naturalisation without scientism. For example, the concept of the ‘supernormal’ is used as a means to exit any substantive duality between nature and its supposed opposites (from non-being and the unnatural to the supernatural and spiritual, mystical) by thinking in terms of a temporalised mereology – levels of nested temporalities à la Bergson – rather than of hypostatised objects or dialectically opposed substances. Here, a part-whole approach to thinking about reality and representation is forwarded, though it is one where the mereology is temporalized through covariance (moving parts) and heterogeneous continuities.

These lectures will explore various cases of such naturalism, at both macro- and micro- level (‘above’ and ‘below’). Firstly, as regards the micro-, we begin with the negative in dialectic. Here, the ‘non-‘ will be seen to operate in full plenitude, though at another level/scope/temporality (rather than ex nihilo – from the inert void, below), The ideas of destruction and negation are consequently re-rendered as substitution, confusion, or destructive interference between levels. For instance, the mystical concept of ‘supernothing’ (Angelus Silesius) can be likened to Bergson’s concept of nothingness as movement in the making, a supernormal concept that lets us re-view hyperbolic nihilism (Gorgias’ nihilistic approach to thinking and communication par example) as a ‘destructive’ interference between levels or parts. Gorgias’s four-part embargo on nothing – it exists, it cannot be known, cannot be communicated, cannot be understood – mutates such that nothingness, lack, the void, or emptiness, are seen as forms of movement; in particular, as the transmission and reception of images by the brain. Indeed, this is precisely Bergson’s own theory of the brain – as a receiver and transmitter of images, a mere communication of micro-movements. This seemingly ‘nihilistic’ approach to the brain (it does not store images, it has no positive content) is not some sub-Badiouian/Sartrean valorisation of the ego as void à la Thomas Metzinger, but the real, processual rethinking of what nothingness and nihilism might mean, with a full, moving ‘supernothing’ at its core. This ‘mystical’ account does not lead to any hyperbolic excess (the brain as supernatural agent, for instance), but rather a very ‘ordinary’ account: ‘supernormalisation’ as the extraction of the supernatural nothing by natural means – micro-movements. To reach above, to the macro or cosmic through the supernormal, the lectures then turn to the alternative cosmology and metaphysics found in the films of Jacques Tati. In Tati’s five major films there exists an indigenous non-standard metaphysics concerning space, memory, movement, and matter. They tackle physical objects such as motorcars and bicycles, material processes (flows, fallings, arrivals, departures), and sensuous memories (of the beach, of posture, of sound). Here, what counts as ‘metaphysics’ does not match the hyperbolic abstractions associated with ‘Platonism’ but rather a ‘Tatiphysics’, a radically immanent film-philosophy. This is a non-standard model of matter-memory hetero-continuity between small-scale materials and macro-level ‘abstractions’. Indeed, Tati’s notion of ‘mime’ (whereby each thing becomes a hyperbolic excess or imitation of itself to create both comedy and horror) can be seen as a model of covariance or interference between ‘above’ and ‘below’, microworlds and macro-worlds. As such, they raise the prospect of massively integrative matter-memory correspondences. The wave-like destructive interferences (hyperbolic annihilation) and constructive interferences (supernormal naturalization) discussed earlier can then be seen as allied through likenesses, covariances or correspondences operating between temporal levels, mimes, and qualia (qualities) that are neither subjective nor anthropocentric, but panpsychist and cosmic."

Syllabus 3 : Joel White
“ On Transformative Finitude: From Helmholtz to Deleuze”


Herman von Helmholtz in his 1854 lecture “On the Interactions of Forces,” argues that the dogmatic question: “How can I make use of the known and unknown relations of natural forces so as to construct a perpetual motion?” was inverted by Sadi Carnot to the critical question: “If a perpetual motion be impossible, what are the relations which must subsist between natural forces?” Helmholtz argues that “Everything was gained by this inversion of the question.” 

This talk will follow the line of philosophical inquiry into the science of energy transformations that runs from Helmholtz to Deleuze via Nietzsche and Bergson, asking to what extent has this critical position been upheld? Who among these philosophers of energy fell back into the dogmatism of perpetual motion and what resources do we have to escape what Nietzsche called the “longing to believe that somewhere or other, in some way or other, the world is the same as the old, beloved, infinite and limitlessly creative God after all.” That is, how can we think the actuality of transformative finitude or finite transformations.

Jonathan Fardy, title of the Lecture:  The Matter of Theory: Althusser and Laruelle

SCHEDULE

Day 0: Arrivals, and an opening dinner

Day 1 

10.00-11.30 John Ó Maoilearca’s Master Class part 1, Lecture 1

11.30-12.00 Coffee and Snacks Break

12.00-13.00 Continuation of John Ó Maoilearca Lecture 1 combined with interactive input from the students.

13.00-16.30 Lunch break and beach time

16.30-18.00 Student work in plenary: exchange among the participants in breakout groups, moderated by John Ó Maoilearca

Day 2

10.00-11.30 John Ó Maoilearca’s Master Class part 2

11.30-12.00 Coffee and Snacks Break

12.00-13.00 Continuation of John Ó Maoilearca’s Lecture 2 combined with interactive input from the students: open discussion, Q&A and comments.

13.00-16.30 Lunch break and beach time

16.30-18.00 Student work in plenary: continuation of the breakout groups from the previous day, moderated by John Ó Maoilearca.

Day 3

10.00-11.30 John Ó Maoilearca’s Master Class part 3

11.30-12.00 Coffee and Snacks Break

12.00-13.00 Continuation of John Ó Maoilearca’s Lecture 2 combined with interactive input from the students: open discussion, Q&A and comments.

13.00-16.30 Lunch break and beach time

16.30-18.00 Student work in plenary: Presentations by the students/participants, moderated by John Ó Maoilearca and/or Katarina Kolozova

Day 4

10.00-11.30 Nail’s Lecture 1

11.30-12.00 Coffee and Snacks Break

12.00-13.00 Continuation of Nail’s Lecture 1 combined with interactive input from the students: open discussion, Q&A and comments.

13.00-16.30 Lunch break and beach time

16.30-18.00 Student work in groups on topics chosen during the morning lecture, breakout sessions supervised by Nail and Nocek/Kolozova

Day 5

10.00-11.30 Nail’s Lecture 2

11.30-12.00 Coffee and Snacks Break

12.00-13.00 Continuation of Nail’s Lecture 2 combined with interactive input from the students: open discussion, Q&A and comments.

13.00-16.30 Lunch break and beach time

16.30-18.00 Student work in plenary: exchange among the breakout groups from the previous day, moderated by Nail and Kolozova; ALTERNATIVE: Nail’s Lecture 3.

Day 6

10.00-11.30 Joel White:  On Transformative Finitude or Finite Transformations: From Helmholtz to Deleuze

11.30-12.00 Coffee and Snacks Break

12.00-13.00 Student presentations based on either their reaction to the content offered at the school or reports, papers, presentations in a different form of one’s choice that have been prepared prior to the school and announced to be presented. Facilitated by the instructor/s and a student (junior SMR staff)

13.00-16.30 Lunch break and beach time

16.30-18.00 Student presentations based on either their reaction to the content offered at the school or reports, papers, presentations in a different form of one’s choice that have been prepared prior to the school and announced to be presented. Facilitated by the instructor/s and a student (junior SMR staff)

Day 7

Free day with optional program SMR will organize for those interested; Among the offered options will be: A one day tour "In the Footsteps of Aristotle”, Visit to Mount Athos, Visit to the archaeological site of Stagira, the birthplace of Aristotle, and other options (like the Aristotle National Park). We will ask you to select options in your application forms and in that way we will know well ahead of time what to organize. Certainly, anyone can make arrangements of their own choice. Staying at the beach is also an option that anyone can use freely.

18.00-19.00 Jonathan Fardy (Optional program): The Matter of Theory: Althusser and Laruelle


Informal Program: Students/participants can propose and organize their own activities like movie screening and discussions in the shared space on the ground floor ending at 10.30 PM latest.

Practicalities:
We made sure that we follow the ancient Greek principle of philosophical study, including also arts and sciences, being scholē (leisure time, pleasure and play). The institute is placed in what was once Stagira after all, the birthplace of Aristotle. The program is structured in such a way that it allows for enjoying the sun and the beach of the Aegean Sea as well as socialising with the rest of the group, visiting local tavernas, taking trips to nearby archaeological sites and visits to Thessaloniki and other interesting nearby location. Olympiada is the contemporary name of ancient Stagira, the birthplace of Aristotle, located in the northern part of the region of Macedonia of Greece. The climate is mild, the area is surrounded by continental rather than Mediterranean flora and fauna. It is surrounded by green mountainous area. Mount Athos is only 70-80 miles away.

Hybrid format module: For those who cannot make it to the Campus, we have reserved the option for online participation; please, bear in mind that its possibilities are limited compared to the in-person participation (interaction with faculty and community, informal program, presentations, etc.). The fee for the online variant is also 300 euro.

For Global South there is automatic discount of 30%(on the overall price, excluding online participation). 


Fees and what they cover

- 1000 euro for 7 days:
- 600 of this amount covers: accommodation, use of the space for setting up participants’ own program (art, lectures, film screenings etc.), catered meals at the premises of SMR, self-arranged meals at the Summer Institute (equipped with fridges, utensils, oven (mini kitchen/coffee station) and a few organized by SMR, participation in the fee for the extracurricular program, free of charge access to the best part of the beach, discounts for shuttles, use of utilities such as laundry machines, mini kitchen, dishwasher, use of free areas for socializing, reading, use of library, etc. It covers maintenance too.

- 400-euro fee for the program which covers teachers’ fees and travel, as well as the administrative aspects of issuing an ECTS participation fee.

- Important: The amount can be paid in instalments; you just need to choose the option in the application form.

Also, you can opt out from the subsistence fee (the 600 euro mentioned above); or you can opt out from onsite participation.

How to Apply: Interested applicants can find the full application form here, as well as at the very bottom of this page. All application forms must be filled out in full and sent in by February 27th, 2024, in order to be considered valid. If you have any inquiries, please send them to all of the following email address: schoolofmaterialistresearch@gmail.com

Regarding accommodation and food:

SMR’s summer institute can offer accommodation for 15-17 students, and its cost is included in the participation fee. It also offers fridges and stove in the shared kitchen/coffee station area you can prepare your own food (however cooking elaborate meals is not allowed, more snacks, salads, etc.). Laundry area is provided as well. Showers and bathrooms are shared but at least three on each floor (all areas are renovated and clean).

Important: All those who cannot submit an early application to make sure they will be accommodated at the SMR building, can either find an accommodation in a walking distance with our help (for a discount price) or directly themselves via booking and other platforms, as well as the local tour operators whose contact details will be provided.

Regarding food, some of the meals will be prearranged by SMR in collaboration with the local tavernas, and that cost is also included in the price, at least one meal is served/catered at the Institute daily, and it is covered by the subsistence fee.

All the snacks and coffee plus water is provided by SMR.

Ground transportation from the airport: Olympada is only 50 minutes away by car from the Thessaloniki airport should you share a care or find a direct shuttle. Unfortunately, the shuttles from the airport are slower due to making stops. If you want us to arrange transportation for you, please indicated in the application but keep in mind that we will have to group you with others arriving at around a similar hour, so we will have to let you know if the arrangement can be made and also how much it will cost (should it turn our that a car is picking up one person). After we offer you options, you will make your own choice and let us know. This will not be included in the fee, but we will make sure the prices for our participants are highly favourable. Here are some useful links should you choose to arrange your own transportation: Hellas Chauffeur https://tinyurl.com/yxr4skf2 , or Welcome Pickups https://tinyurl.com/2s3zjxt9 , and many other links that can be found on the airport website.

What you earn after the School: An ECTS certificate of completion of 2 credits (1 ECTS = 28 hours of not only class but also you individual work or preparation and project/presentation writing/creating), cosigned by ISSHS (Holder of the Erasmus Charter for Higher Education 2021-2027, and endowed with the right to assign ECTS for informal study programs) and CPT-ASU (US), co-members of SMR.