Thursday, 26 November 2009

Neal Curtis’s guest lecture on the Pen, Being and the Posthuman

Neal Curtis from University of Nottingham came along to Nottingham Trent yesterday to deliver an Everyday Life module guest lecture to a mixed audience of students and colleagues, broadly on the ways that everyday life informs philosophy and vice versa.

In a session which managed to be simultaneously informative and highly entertaining, Neal’s discussion ranged from Heidegger’s notion of Being and his ideas about technology through to superheroes and the post-human cyborg.

In doing so, Neal made the relationship between philosophy and everyday life explicit, deploying, for example, the everyday object of the pen as Heideggerian tool to illustrate the distinction between the ready-to hand, and the present-at-hand and the significance this has for Being as lived in the world.

Similarly, Neal drew on his own experience of the everyday, namely his emotional trajectory whilst writing the lecture, to illustrate Heidegger’s concept of emotion as a way of being-in-the-world, that our perceptions of the world are inseparable from the emotions generated by it.

While Heidegger might not be most people’s idea of an accessible philosopher, Neal managed to make him so through accessible examples and careful explanation of sometimes obscure philosophical terminology. At the same time, he highlighted the concrete significance that philosophy has for everyday life by taking philosophy out of the ivory tower of abstract concepts and daunting jargon into an everyday reality where people have to grapple with the pressing questions of everyday lived experience (as well as sometimes recalcitrant technology).

The session concluded with a lively and wide-ranging debate, in part generated by Neal’s sometimes provocative approach as well as the thought-provoking nature of Heidegger’s ideas. The deployment of a Youtube music video, for instance, might have raised a few eyebrows in the more hallowed portals of the philosophical community, though its purpose was explicitly philosophical—to demonstrate how we busy ourselves, throw ourselves into the world, in order to escape from the anxiety generated by the abyss of nothingness.

That the discussion ended on the superhero might be surprising given the ostensible topic at hand, but perhaps less so for those who were in attendance at a lecture which offered something for everyone in the audience.

Ruth Griffin