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Theory Center Reading Group

Jean-François Lyotard, The Differend: Phrases in Dispute

Friday, March 23, 2018, 2:00pm

College Arts & Humanities Institute

Selected readings for March 23: The Differend, 128-150

When Lyotard published Le Différend in 1983, he aimed to think through conflicts that fail to yield to mediation. Heterogeneous claims that do not find a common ground in a rule of judgment are the theme of Kant’s Critique of Judgment and hence have been seen to belong to the realm of the aesthetic. For Lyotard, however, they characterize the relationship between competing sentence types that are at stake in every moment when we need to respond, continue, and insert ourselves into discourse. Drawing on major works from the philosophical tradition from Gorgias to the Critique of Judgment, from Benveniste’s writings on linguistics to Wittgenstein’s Philosophical Investigations, the book is a milestone of modern philosophy whose potential has not been fully explored. By aiming to illuminate cases such as the complaint without possible language to articulate a wrong or the denial of the Holocaust on the basis of missing empirical evidence, Lyotard speaks to our present moment. At the same time, he engages in a profound conversation with the philosophical tradition.

The reading group will read and discuss The Differend together with passages from texts Lyotard comments on, among them Kant’s reflections on the sublime and sections of Plato’s dialogues. For more information, please visit indiana.edu/~ctheory.