[Tue 27 Mar] Matthew Sharpe presents ‘Reading Hadot via Costa Lima: Philosophy as a Way of Life and “the Control of the Imaginary”‘

Deakin University seminar
Dr Matthew Sharpe (Deakin) presents ‘Reading Hadot via Costa Lima: Philosophy as a Way of Life and “the Control of the Imaginary”’
Tuesday 27 March from 3.30-5pm in C2.05 on Deakin University’s Burwood campus (Videolinked to ic1.108 on the Waurn Ponds campus)

In this paper, I use Brazilian thinker Costa Lima’s ideas concerning the “control of the imaginary” in literary theory to reexamine Pierre Hadot’s history of philosophy, as involving the progressive loss of the connection between theoretical discourse and existential practices, following the end of the classical-hellenistic period. In Control of the Imaginary, The Dark Side of Reason and elsewhere, Lima advances a sweeping claim that the Western heritage of literary theorising, from the Romans onwards, has been characterised by a series of, political and theoretical, operations of “controlling” the creative imagination operative in the creation and reception of literary fictions; subordinating this creativity, and its capacity to generate alternative “as if” worlds, to accepted notions of truth, verisimilitude, decorum, and morality. In Lima’s narrative, Aristotle’s Poetics with its notion of mimesis represents a resource to which literary theory should return to theorise what he terms the “criticity” (criticidade) of poetic and literary writings, as means to hold at a distance, and challenge, prevailing epistemic and other norms. In Hadot’s account of Western philosophy, ancient Greek philosophy’s pedagogic and existential concern with forming, as much as informing, students was correlated to the rich variety of distinctly literary forms that ancient texts take: up to the penning of tragedies by a philosopher like Seneca, but including Plato’s and Aristotle’s dialogues. Indeed, Hadot explicitly argues that in the ancient philosophical paradigm, the “imagination”, the literary and the rhetorical, found a place in philosophical discourses—particularly concerning the figure of the sage— which has since been largely lost. Does Hadot’s narrative, linking the atrophy of philosophy as a way of life with the diminution of the literary forms of philosophy, speak to or even echo Lima’s concerns in the literary field? This paper will address the question, not without noting significant qualifications that need to be appended to such a claim.

Matthew Sharpe is Senior Lecturer in Philosophy at Deakin University. His ongoing research interests include political philosophy, psychoanalysis and critical theory, epistemology, and conservative and reactionary political thought. He is the author of Slavoj Žižek: A Little Piece of the Real (Ashgate, 2005), the co-author with Geoff Boucher of Žižek and Politics (Edinburgh UP, 2010) and The Times Will Suit Them: Postmodern Conservatism in Australia (Allen & Unwin 2008), and the co-author with Jo Faulkner of Understanding Psychoanalysis (Acumen 2008).

The 2012 Deakin University seminar series is hosted by the Alfred Deakin Research Institute, the Centre for Citizenship and Globalisation and the School of Humanities and Social Sciences at Deakin University.

This Deakin University seminar series is free to attend and open to all. Please direct any inquiries to Dr Sean Bowden at s.bowden@deakin.edu.au.

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