Why Philosophize? is a series of lectures given by Jean-François Lyotard to students at the Sorbonne embarking on their university studies. The circumstances obliged him to be both clear and concise: at the same time, his lectures offer a profound and far-reaching meditation on how essential it is to philosophize in a world where philosophy often seems irrelevant, outdated, or inconclusive. Lyotard begins by drawing on Plato, Proust and Lacan to show that philosophy is a never-ending desire - for wisdom, for the ‘other’. In the second lecture he draws on Heraclitus and Hegel to explore the close relation between philosophy and history: the same restlessness, the same longing for a precarious unity, drives both. In his third lecture, Lyotard examines how philosophy is a form of utterance, both communicative and indirect. Finally, he turns to Marx, exploring the extent to which philosophy can be a transformative action within the world. These wonderfully accessible lectures by one of the most influential philosophers of the last 50 years will attract a wide readership, since, as Lyotard says, ‘How can one not philosophize?’ They are also an excellent introduction to Lyotard’s mature thought, with its emphasis on the need for philosophy to bear witness, however obliquely, to a recalcitrant reality.
Acknowledgements vi Editorial note vii Introduction 1 1 Why desire? 17 2 Philosophy and origin 44 3 On philosophical speech 70 4 On philosophy and action 100
"Lyotard suffered the fate of having his name attached to a once fashionable idea that is now decisively démodé: postmodernism. That Lyotard was a major voice in philosophy that we should read and reread is evidenced by this genuinely delightful, surprising and accessible series of introductory lectures." Simon Critchley, New School for Social Research "Desire has a reality. Its hold is inescapable. It is bound up with a move across a divide. Desire brings a sense of unity into play. That sense is positioned in a relation to the constituting and ineliminable sense of division and separation that continues to structure thought. Philosophy is not just held in place by this tension: it is constituted by it. Lyotard’s four lectures introduce philosophy as that which is at work within the interplay of desire and separation. Philosophy's point is there in its inseparability from the reality of life." Andrew Benjamin, Monash University
Jean-François Lyotard is formerly Professor Emeritus of Philosophy, University of Paris VIII and Professor, University of California at Irvine.
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