11-21-2019 Daniel Selcer

To see Daniel Selcer's talk, click here

Title: "Cartesian Sound and Atomic Fury: On Matter and the Minimum"

Presenter: Daniel Selcer, Associate Professor and Interim Chair of the Duquesne Philosophy Department

Abstract: This talk will ask one of the most abstract and metaphysical questions possible, for which it will try to provide an extremely concrete and material answer: What does it mean for something to only slightly differ from nothing, that is, for something to barely be? Part of a larger project interrogating the category of ‘minimal being' in early modern metaphysics and natural philosophy, this talk focuses on René Descartes's extremely strange category of the essentially insensible ‘not-nothing'. Contrasting it with alternative accounts of the border between something and nothing such as that found in Pierre Gassendi's resurgent Epicureanism (where to be something is to be 'not utterly nothing'), it will argue that confrontations over nothingness frame the fundamental distinction between early modern materialism and Cartesianism as a difference with respect to the minimal condition for something to be. Another way of putting all this is that this talk will be an attempt to make the most potentially boring and frustrating bits of Descartes interesting again!

Bio: Daniel Selcer is an Associate Professor and Interim Chair of the Philosophy Department. He specializes in early modern metaphysics, history and philosophy of science, diagrammatic representation, and late 20th century French philosophy, all unified by an overriding interest in the contradictory histories of materialism. He is the author of Philosophy and the Book: Early Modern Figures of Material Inscription (Continuum) - which examines the philosophical mobilization of metaphors for print, reading, and technologies of knowledge organization and connects the explosion of early modern print technology to the philosophical history of materiality. He has articles in journals such as Intellectual History Review, Representations, Continental Philosophy Review, and others, as well as chapters in collections from Stanford, Ashgate, and several other presses.