Zero Squared #82: Reading the Way of Things

Daniel Coffeen is a rhetor and a philosopher — if by philosopher you mean somebody who plays with concepts and ideas. He formally taught at UC Berkeley and the SF Art Institute but now spends his time writing and consulting. Coffeen is a frequent guest to the Zero Squared podcast and his book Reading the Way of Things is out now from Zero Books.

A review of his book on Amazon sums his book up nicely:

Coffeen throws the act of reading into such a dizzying light that I can’t rightly say when I even began reading the book. Was it when it slid from the envelope, announcing itself in its bold, lime-green cover? In one sense yes, as that marked the beginning of the physical reading-event. But in another sense, a different reading started when I first heard Coffeen on the Partially Examined Life podcast, six months prior. And a different sense of reading began when I picked up Anti-Oedipus on a lark in Morningside Heights, New York, 17 months ago. Reading is an event, an interplay between text and reader, where both are always already in motion, hooking up to one another and creating new relations.

Starting next week we’ll be launching the Zero Books membership site which will include a member’s only weekly podcast tentatively titled Inside Zero Books, monthly workshops on critical theory and politics often set up around Zero Books titles, quarterly audiobooks, and, for a slightly higher monthly rate, an invitation only writing workshop.

In this episode you’ll hear the voice of Rick Roderick, the theme from the 70s television show Taxi, a clip from John Berger’s Ways of Seeing, and an excerpt from a speech from Maneul DeLanda.

Zero Squared: A New Year’s Special

This special January 2nd, 2016 episode of Zero Squared explores why Critical Theorists deploy the word “problematic” and what they are REALLY saying when they talk about your fave.

Clips in this episode/collage include KMO from the C-Realm, John Berger, The Wireless Philosopher on the Problem of Perception, Michel Foucault Beyond Good and Evil (1993), music from the Truman Show, Laci Green, Tori the Queer, Evan Edinger, Noam Chomsky, Robin Williams, and clips the film A Day in the Afterlive of Philip K Dick.

Here’s an excerpt from the collage:

What’s problematic in today’s Critical Theory? That is, what is it that motivates the critical theorist to call something “problematic?”
According to the Philosophy dictionary online (that’s www.philosophy-dictionary dot org) something is a “problematic judgement” when it involves “the consciousness of the mere possibility” or, when it does not contain the consciousness of actuality or necessity.

To clarify, something is a problematic judgement, when it is subjective. In Hegel’s Science of Logic he labels the problematic as “assertoric.” This just means that it is an assertion given by a particular subject. Hegel’s logic is quite complicated, but the claim here is that when one asserts something, like “twerking is bad” one is asserting more than a particular fact about one’s own subjective experience. One is also making a claim about a universal notion.
To make this clearer still, something is problematic or problematized when it can seen to be self-generated and thereby self-interested rather than objective or necessary.
Again, the problem in the term “problematic” is the subjectivity of experience. A claim is problematic when its relationship to a universal notion or an objective fact has not been determined.
We might wonder then why it is that so many people use the term “problematic” a bit differently.