Friday, March 27, 2015

Plotinus and the Moving Image

Call for Contributions Plotinus and the Moving Image: Neoplatonism and Film Theory Edited by Thorsten Botz-Bornstein and Giannis Stamatellos To be published by Brill/Rodopi in the “Philosophy of Film” Series Can Neoplatonic philosophy be used for film studies? Given the often-stated parallels between Plotinus’ and Bergson’s philosophies, it is surprising that Neoplatonism has provided relatively little input on philosophy of film. Curtis Hancock writes that the effects of Bergsonism are evident in pragmatism, psychology, and theology and that the decedents of Bergson have created a vestige of Neoplatonism that perdures into the late twentieth century. This vestige must also exist in film studies. Today, with the newly emerging observative “Cinema of Contemplation,” this Neoplatonic vestige is worth exploring. The following points (as well as others) can be developed: · Contemplation. Plotinus’ search for the “intelligible” that can be grasped neither by mere sense perception nor by abstraction or analysis, leads to “simple” contemplation: “Such vision is for those only who see with the soul’s sight—and at the vision, they will rejoice, and awe will fall upon them and a trouble deeper than all the rest could ever stir, for now they are moving in the realm of Truth” (“On Beauty,” Enn. I, 6, 4). Can a theory of “contemplative cinema” be built upon those ideas? Who contemplates? The viewer? The film? · Closely linked to contemplation is the question of the cinematic image and grace. For Plotinus, grace is not an object; as a consequence, it does not require objective contemplation. Instead, it is immediately linked to a simple presence that bestows beauty on all material things (I, 6, 2). For Hadot it is a “je ne sais quoi.” Grace is perceived by those “who see with the Soul’s sight” (I, 6, 4). It is like looking at matter without searching for it because it is simply present. For any theory of perception, exploring the contemplative way of seeing this must be of interest. · Against materialism. Does Plotinus’ skepticism towards the material world lead to an art whose images “express themselves all alone”? Plotinus portrays matter as a mirror reflecting the movements of the soul as bodies (Enn. II, 4 and III, 6). Bodies are intermediate reflections of the soul. Does this have any significance for film theory? · Plotinus’ conception of the One as power-of-all-things beyond any kind of intelligence (Nous) leads to the seeing of the world without adapting those things to any definite perspective; neither to that of subjectivism nor to that of epistemological objectivism. This is what interested Deleuze. In a Bergsonian way, Deleuze puts forward cinematic experience as a means to perceive time and movement as a whole. In cinema, our mind does not need to put together the successive percepts or sensations it perceives, but receives them as a whole. · This is linked to the idea of the overcoming perspectival seeing. Plotinus’ expression of the first effluence of the One (which is intelligible matter) as an “indefinite sight” before becoming “definitive” in Nous, might announce a way of seeing that overcomes perspective. Also the fluent spatial experience avoiding geometrical divisions that we can observe in the contemplative cinema of, for example, Tarkovsky and Béla Tarr can be described as a negation of perspective. · Bergson’s “time-image” (Matière et mémoire) is supposed to be superior to “concepts” because the image is able to evoke thought content in a more fluent and less abstract fashion. For Deleuze, the pre-signifying “signaletic material” that films are made of cannot be assimilated to models of semiotics. Is this idea of “time-image” compatible with Plotinus’ theory of time as a transitory intelligible movement of the soul (Enn. III, 7)? In other words, does the conception of the soul as an intermediate and restless entity between the intelligible and the perceptible world reflect the “time-image?” And how does this relate to Plato’s definition of time as the “moving image of eternity?” · Realism. The “time-image” is based on pure thinking. It emerged in cinema after WWII mainly with Italian Neo-Realism and French New Wave cinema. It does not follow the scheme of action-reaction, but it can evoke a time that is prior to movement (Deleuze). It is useful to revisit, in this context, Kracauer’s “Kamerarealität.” Does this concept express the quasi-Plotinian fusion of eye and object, a vision where reality and camera fuse? · The virtual in Deleuze and Plotinus as well as its significance for film offers many points of comparison. For Plotinus “the soul creates living beings not by merging into body but by giving forth, without any change in itself, images or likenesses of itself like one face caught by many mirrors” (Enn. I, 1.8. See also III, 6 and IV, 2). · Organicism. For Plotinus, expressions are not constructed: “If nature creates these organisms, this will be an immediate art. Nature is like a painter who contents himself with looking at his model, while the image draws itself on the canvas all alone” (Hadot). Does this suggest the conception of an image manifesting an organic link between matter and form, a link that is potentially important for contemplative cinema? The distinction between matter and form which, according to Heidegger, has served as the conceptual schema par excellence for any theory of art since Plato and Aristotle was previously undermined by Tarkovsky. The conception of the image as an organic link between matter and form is indeed reminiscent of the image as a constructed body in terms of the Plotinian hylomophism. We will also be interested in proposals on video art. Send abstracts (ca. 800 words) to and Chapter length: 5500-6500 words including endnotes and bibliography. Deadline for abstracts: Sept. 30 2015. Deadline for final papers: June 30 2016. All full-length texts will be peer reviewed. Proposals will not be accepted on the basis of abstracts. Link to the Brill “Philosophy of Film” Series

Friday, May 23, 2014

CFP - Material Culture of Magic

Call for Chapters - The Material Culture of Magic
Book project, ed. by Dr Antje Bosselmann-Ruickbie and Dr Leo Ruickbie
Magic is a wide field of research comprising what we might call the occult, paranormal events, anomalous experience, spirituality and other phenomena throughout human history. However, research has often been focused more narrowly on the historical analysis of written sources, or the anthropology and occasionally sociology of practitioners and their communities, for example. What is often overlooked are the physical artefacts of magic themselves.
In all areas of research, ‘material culture’ is becoming increasingly important – the ‘material turn’ as it has been labelled. This is particularly the case for disciplines that traditionally have not focused on object studies but on theory such as historical or social sciences. However, it is self-evident that the objects emerging from a culture provide valuable information on societies and their history. This is also and particularly the case for magic and related phenomena. Magic, especially, became divorced from its concrete expressions as academic study focused on problems of rationality and functionalist explanation.
When studying magic it is crucial to look at the objects that have been produced and what purpose they had, who made them and in what period, whether they represent only a certain historical period or are a long-lasting phenomenon, etc. This volume hence aims to ‘re-materialise’ magic, to re-anchor it in the physical things that constitute ‘magic’ and recover the social lives, even biographies, of these things.
The envisaged academic book aims to cover a wide range of subjects, periods, geographical areas, as well as methods: firstly, because an interdisciplinary approach is essential to adequately encompass the subject; secondly, to investigate whether similar objects were used in different cultures in parallel or over a long period; and thirdly, to serve as a starting point for future research. This will be the first book on the material culture of magic and consequently has the potential to become a foundational text.
Therefore, we invite contributors from different disciplines such as anthropology, archaeology, art history, ethnology, folklore, parapsychology, religious studies, sociology and others. Subjects could be, for example, case studies focusing on particular objects, museum collections, or mass market items labelled as magical; analysis of classes of embodied magical functions, such as charms, amulets, talismans, magical jewellery, icons, relics, poppets (Voodoo dolls), etc.; consideration of classes of materials, such as bone, wood, metal, precious and semi-precious stones, etc. In addition, it is important to understand people-object relations, spatial-temporal aspects of magical objects, the dialectics of transference (projection and introjection), the role of narratives and social performance, cultural trajectories, and the processes of commodification and fetishisation (reification). These can be addressed in a variety of contexts from traditional religion to popular culture, and historically situated anywhere from prehistory to the present day.
Any physical representation of magical ideation or anything imbued with supernatural meanings by its creator, such as found objects, animal/human parts, and man-made artefacts, can be considered in this context. What matters is a central focus on the physicality of the magical object; its material existence.
The volume will present an overview of current research in this field. It will comprise approximately 20 of the best and most relevant contributions on this subject. Contributors will be asked to submit a finished chapter of around 6,000 words (inc. references) with publication planned for 2015.
In the first instance, an abstract of no more than 300 words should be sent, together with a brief biography, to the editors before 1 August 2014 at We are also happy to answer any questions.
In order to get the best possible response, we would appreciate your help in re-distributing this call for chapters. Email it to colleagues, other relevant mailing lists, or print it out and stick it up on the department noticeboard!
Dr Antje Bosselmann-Ruickbie is a lecturer in the Department for Christian Archaeology and Byzantine Art History, Institute for Art History and Musicology, Johannes Gutenberg University, Mainz, Germany.
Dr Leo Ruickbie is the published author of several books, as well as the editor of the Paranormal Review, the magazine of the Society for Psychical Research, and a Committee Member of the Gesellschaft für Anomalistik (Society for Anomalistics).

Monday, March 31, 2014

Hegel on Plotinus

It is very difficult to give a systematic account of his philosophy. For it is not the aim of Plotinus, as it was of Aristotle, to comprehend objects in their special determinations, but rather to emphasize the truth of the substantial in them as against the phenomenal. The point of greatest importance and the leading characteristic in Plotinus is his high, pure enthusiasm for the elevation of mind to what is good and true, to the absolute. He lays hold of knowledge, the simply ideal, and of intellectual thought, which implicitly life, but not silent nor sealed. His whole philosophy is on the one hand metaphysics, but the tendency which is therein dominant is not so much an anxiety to explain and interpret and comprehend what forces itself on our attention as reality, or to demonstrate the position and the origin of these individual objects, and perhaps, for instance, to offer a deduction of matter, of evil; but rather to separate the mind from these externals, and give it its central place in the simple, clear Idea. The whole tenor of his philosophy thus leads up to virtue and to the intellectual contemplation of the eternal, as source of the same; so that the soul is brought to happiness of life therein. Plotinus then enters to some extent on special considerations of virtue, with the view of cleansing the soul from passions, from false and impure conceptions of evil and destiny, and also from incredulity and superstition, from astrology and magic and all their train. This gives some idea of the general drift of his teaching.

Friday, November 22, 2013

from a review of Klaassen's new book Transformations of Magic

"His attentiveness to the volumes ultimately sheds light on the
intellectual frames of reference that result in the transformations he
documents. Regarding image magic the framing question was whether an
image worked because of occult natural powers or demonic intervention.
In the former case, use of the image would be lawful; in the latter,
unlawful. The urge to make image magic lawful then situated it
alongside or even in the field of natural philosophy. The alignment
shaped the debate and can be seen in the placement of the texts of
image magic, which in collected volumes and on library shelves were
found among the <i>naturalia</i>. Prof. Klaassen determines that this
trend was shaped by certain authoritative works, most famously the
</i>Speculum astronomiae</i>, that became increasingly used as a guide
for scribes in their immediate discernment of the philosophical and
moral lawfulness of particular magical texts. Their use had a
constraining effect, and the number of texts of image magic
correspondingly decreased."

Klaassen, Frank F. <i>Transformations of Magic: Illicit Learned Magic
in the Later Middle Ages and Renaissance</i>. Series: Magic in History.
 University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 2013. Pp. x,
280. $69.95. ISBN-13: 9780271056265.

  Reviewed by David J. Collins, S.J.
       Georgetown University

The Medieval Review

Renaissance Magic as the root of 19th century Magic

At first glance, it might seem that Renaissance magicians such as Ficino and Agrippa had embraced the image magic tradition through their own astrological magic systems and shunned the ritual magic. What Renaissance magic represented, however, was the subsuming of image magic into a broader system that shared the goals of ritual magic. This new breed of magus seems to have accepted the basic tenets and procedures of the ritual magic genre while dissociating themselves from the particular texts that came before. It was this particular mixture that powered the ceremonial magic traditions that came to prominence in the nineteenth century, and that are perpetuated even today.
From a review of Frank Klaassen's dissertation

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Kiekhefer on the rationality of magic

"We cannot begin with the assumption that magic is irrational; we must ask ourselves why it was that for people whose rationality was otherwise unimpeachable it seemed to fit into a rational view of the universe, and the first step toward answering this question is listening carefully to their formulations, their definitions."
from Magic in the Middle Ages