Giorgio Agamben

Italian philosopher
File:Giorgio Agamben, wall portrait.

Giorgio Agamben (born 1942) is an Italian philosopher, and Professor at the Università IUAV di Venezia. He became famous for his investigations on the concepts of a "state of exception" and homo sacer. He is particularly critical of the United States' response to the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, and the use of terrorism as a permanent condition that legitimizes a "state of exception" as the dominant paradigm for governing in contemporary politics.


  • Antoine Meillet also noted that imperatives in European languages are typically the morphological root of the verb, and hypothesised that the imperative was the primitive form of a verb: “walk!” precedes “to walk” or “he walks”. This opens up the possibility of an alternative ontology, or pre-ontology, based on commandment rather than assertion, on “be!” rather than “is”. While philosophical or scientific statements would fall under the ordinary “is”-based ontology, fields like law, religion or magic would operate in the imperative mode: “let there be…”
  • Kuhn acknowledges having used the term "paradigm" in two different meanings. In the first one, "paradigm" designates what the members of a certain scientific community have in common, that is to say, the whole of techniques, patents and values shared by the members of the community. In the second sense, the paradigm is a single element of a whole, say for instance Newton’s Principia, which, acting as a common model or an example... stands for the explicit rules and thus defines a coherent tradition of investigation. Thus the question is for Kuhn to investigate by means of the paradigm what makes possible the constitution of what he calls "normal science". That is to say, the science which can decide if a certain problem will be considered scientific or not. Normal science does not mean at all a science guided by a coherent system of rules, on the contrary, the rules can be derived from the paradigms, but the paradigms can guide the investigation also in the absence of rules. This is precisely the second meaning of the term "paradigm", which Kuhn considered the most new and profound, though it is in truth the oldest.

The Coming Community (1993)Edit

Giorgio Agamben, The Coming Community (1993)

  • If human beings were or had to be this or that substance, this or that destiny, no ethical experience would be possible... This does not mean, however, that humans are not, and do not have to be, something, that they are simply consigned to nothingness and therefore can freely decide whether to be or not to be, to adopt or not to adopt this or that destiny (nihilism and decisionism coincide at this point). There is in effect something that humans are and have to be, but this is not an essence nor properly a thing: It is the simple fact of one's own existence as possibility or potentiality.
    • Ch. 11 : Ethics
  • Today, in the era of the complete triumph of the spectacle, what can be reaped from the heritage of Debord? It is clear that the spectacle is language, the very communicativity or linguistic being of humans. This means that a fuller Marxian analysis should deal with the fact that capitalism (or any other name one wants to give the process that today dominated world history) was directed not only toward the expropriation of productive activity, but also and principally toward the alienation of language itself, of the very linguistic and communicative nature of humans, of that logos which one of Heraclitus' fragments identified as the Common. The extreme form of this expropriation of the Common is the spectacle, that is, the politics we live in. But this also means that in the spectacle of our own linguistic nature comes back to us inverted. This is why (precisely because what is being expropriated is the very possibility of common good) the violence of the spectacle is so destructive; but for the same reason the spectacle remains something like a positive possibility that can be used against it.
    • Ch. 18 : Shekinah

External linksEdit

Wikipedia has an article about: