54 episodes

Why Theory brings continental philosophy and psychoanalytic theory together to examine cultural phenomena.

Why Theory Todd McGowan & Ryan Engley

    • TV & Film

Why Theory brings continental philosophy and psychoanalytic theory together to examine cultural phenomena.

    Coronavirus and Its Discontents

    Coronavirus and Its Discontents

    In this episode, Ryan and Todd discuss the political implications of the coronavirus pandemic. They lay out the differences between a natural disaster and an emergency that has a clear enemy. They explore the implications that the response to virus has for the concept of biopower and the idea that we have been reduced to bare life today.



    From listener and clinician Conor McCormack:
    Structures are key to Lacanian practice and the parameters of differential diagnoses and can currently be nicely discerned in reactions to Coronavirus.

    Melancholia: It doesn't matter, I'm already dead

    Schizophrenia: I hadn't noticed

    Paranoia: I knew this was going to happen

    Obsessional Neurosis: We'll all be ok if we follow the rules

    Hysteria: Who's in charge here anyway?

    • 1 hr 17 min
    Unconscious (Aphorism 5)

    Unconscious (Aphorism 5)

    In this episode, Ryan and Todd explore Lacan's aphorism, "the unconscious is structured like a language." They discuss the misunderstandings that this aphorism has produced and debate whether or not it represents a good point of entry into Lacan's thought. They also consider various examples the illustrate the idea expressed in the aphorism.

    • 1 hr 14 min
    Kant and Freedom

    Kant and Freedom

    In this episode, Ryan and Todd explore the radicality of Immanuel Kant's notion of freedom, which he ties to our ability to give the moral law to ourselves. This paradox that the law is the source of our freedom serves as the basis for a discussion that touches both Kant's place in the history of philosophy and his relationship to psychoanalysis.

    • 1 hr 20 min
    Mirror Stage

    Mirror Stage

    In this episode, Ryan and Todd explore Lacan's famous concept of the mirror stage. They discuss the role that this concept has in the popular understanding of Lacan's thought in contrast with the part that it plays in the theory itself, while also working through a detailed reading of Lacan's essay on this topic.

    • 1 hr 25 min
    New Materialisms

    New Materialisms

    In this episode, Ryan and Todd discuss new materialisms, exploring their rejection of epistemology and their embrace of a flat ontology. After laying out the basic position of new materialism and its rejection of the priority of the subject, they attempt to prove that this is ultimately an untenable theoretical position to champion.

    They make reference to Todd's essay that critiques this position in light of Hegel: https://www.academia.edu/9832109/On_the_Necessity_of_Contradiction_Hegel_with_the_Speculative_Realists

    And to Joan Copjec's excellent essay on sexual difference for a similar line of thought: https://www.politicalconcepts.org/sexual-difference-joan-copjec/

    • 1 hr 14 min
    Psychoanalysis and Aesthetics

    Psychoanalysis and Aesthetics

    In this episode, Ryan and Todd work through the possibilities for a psychoanalytic theory of aesthetics. Starting with the concept of sublimation, they discuss how psychoanalytic ideas might give us the tools for understanding and judging aesthetic value.

    • 1 hr 19 min

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