Giorgio Agamben, contemporary philosopher, begins his 2011 summer seminar. Agamben discusses the difference between commandment and obedience, the Greek word arche (both origin and commandment), Martin Heidegger, Jacques Derrida, Michel Foucault, and Franz Kafka. Public open lecture for the students and faculty of the European Graduate School EGS Media and Communication Studies department program Saas-Fee Switzerland.
Giorgio Agamben is perhaps Italy’s most famous contemporary philosopher; as a leading figure in both philosophy and radical political thought, he has been intimately connected, along with Antonio Negri and Paolo Virno to Italy’s post-1968 leftist politics. During his tenure as professor at the Universita di Venizia, he has written widely on philosophy, politics, theology as well as radical critical theory—indeed, there is little in the world of critical theory that he has not at some point touched upon. Working in the wake of such thinkers as Michel Foucault and Jacques Derrida, as well as Martin Heidegger (with whom he studied with as a post-doctoral student) Agamben has become one the most influential thinkers of his generation, concerned primarily with the proper ethical and political task of thought.
With over sixteen titles translated into English so far, Agamben’s work covers fields as diverse as Biblical studies, cinema, classical and medieval literature, linguistics, juridic philosophy, as well as commentary on world politics, theories of language, friendship, art, aesthetics, poetics and more. Agamben, continuing the work of both Foucault and Derrida through incisive studies of history and philosophy, as well as philology, seeks to confront and unwind the aporias and gaps which bind us in our mundane existence. Agamben’s key question, to which which he draws attention in his introduction to the English language translation of Infancy and History, is what it means for language to exist. Through Infancy and History, Language and Death, and most recently, The Open, Agamben critically reconsiders what it takes for metaphysical presuppositions to exist, and indeed claims that the defining essence of mankind is that of having a language. In Infancy, Agamben is seeking to define the moment of experience which precedes the acquisition of language, not in a temporal or behavioral sense, but rather as a moment which continues to reside in any appropriation of language.
Giorgio Agamben’s translated books include The Coming Community (U Minnesota, 1993); Homo Sacer: Sovereign Power and Bare Life (Stanford, 1998); The Open: Man and Animal (Stanford, 2002); State of Exception (U Chicago, 2003).