Spike Island

Discussion: Art and Its MaterialsLed by John Ó Maoilearca, Professor of Film and TV at Kingston University

Thursday 14 September 2017, 6–7.30pm

£5, £3 concessions
Free for Spike Associates

The third of four events exploring the relationship between art, aesthetics and contemporary materialism. Organised in partnership with the Philosophy Programme and Social Sciences in the City, University of the West of England.

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On the MetaSpiritual: Where Non-Reductive Matter Meets Non-Platonist Spirit by John Ó Maoilearca

The rise of ‘new materialism’ in Continental philosophy is built on two premises, one of which is avowed, and another which is not. What is overtly conceded is that what counts as ‘new’ in this new materialism is its non-reductive nature. Loosely following Gestalt principles, matter is deemed to form complex, non-linear, dynamic wholes that are not the sum of their parts. Yet, whether it be Meillassoux’s mathemic valorisation of contingency, the idea of ‘plasticity’ in Malabou's neurophilosophy, entanglement in Barad’s philosophy of physics, or ‘vibrant matter’ in Bennett’s neo-vitalism, we can also see the second but unavowed premise of the new materialists at work: namely that whatever extra, non-reducible property is allowed to matter in this new approach, the idea of spirit should not be added to the list. A non-reductive matter alone prevails, while an idealised, Platonist notion of spirit remains the conceptual outsider (and straw man) par excellence.

In this talk I’ll ask why this should be so, and also hope to show how alternative non-platonist and non-religious models of spirit might be sustained as well (ones that do not entail such incompatible categories as the immaterial, the ideal, the disembodied, or the imperceptible). Such alternative and radical concepts of spirit might then be seen as complements to any new materialism, operating within the concept of ecstatic matter, as well as, at a more abstract or ‘metaspiritual’ level, conceptions of inter-theoretical reduction (versus holism), the mind–brain problem, contingency, and the ontology of art objects.


This event is organised in partnership with the Philosophy Programme and Social Sciences in the City, University of the West of England (UWE) and the Working Group on Contemporary Materialism. 

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Spike Island