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The Art of Questioning 2019-2020

The Art of Questioning is a PhD seminar on methodologies and contemporary thinking organized and run by Dr Daniel Rubinstein

Seminars run on Wednesdays on alternate weeks to Test Lab. They will begin at 4:30PM Room Kings Cross F304.

Daniel Rubinstein is a Reader in Philosophy and the Image at Central Saint Martins. You can contact me with any questions:


In this series of seminars for PhD students, we will attend to the question of method. What does it mean to have a method? How can the methodology of your project be developed and brought to light? We will approach this question by looking at a number of radical, critical and provocative writers who have different and often contradictory approaches to method. From the highly methodological to knowingly avoiding the entrapments of a system. In each case we will be asking how the limits of one’s own language contort and determine the tasks of thinking. This condition of questioning the basic assumptions of one’s discipline or technique can be called ‘art’. This also forms the research questions of one’s thesis.

The series of seminars is divided in two parts.

The first part (seminars 1–7) Dialectic of Enlightenment provides a detailed engagement with one of the primary analytic methods inherent in all modern and contemporary critical analysis of ‘how’ one begins to grasp the ‘basis’ of what we know (and what we can/ought/might become). This primary analytic method is named ‘dialectics’ – be it materialist, historical, speculative or real – and it forms one of the most powerful (and addictive, maddeningly gripping) tools of interpretation, representation, creativity, identity, political/aesthetic/ethical directives around truth, certainty, objectivity and subjectivity in the modern world.

Key figures for this part of the seminar will be: Kant (Dialectic of Enlightenment), Hegel (Phenomenology of Spirit), Adorno (Negative Dialectics), Nietzsche (Ecce Homo), Foucault (Enlightenment as exit), Kierkegaard (Fear and Trembling), Freud (Dreams and the unconscious), Derrida (Of Grammatology), Benjamin (The Task of the Translator) and Marx (The Theses on Feuerbach, Preface to the Critique of Political Economy, the 18th Brumaire of L. Bonaparte)

The second part (seminars 8–15) Posthuman Entanglements will focus on the shift away from dialectical reasoning (representation, semiotics) to networks, computation, nonrepresentational art, rhizomatic method, the PostHuman and digital aesthetics. In so doing it will investigate radical moves, initiated by Nietzsche, and expanded upon by Heidegger (via the logic of the ‘techno’), Einstein (via special relativity and curved time), Deleuze (via logic of the senses), Deleuze and Guattari (via rhizomatic method, the logic of becoming), Lyotard (libidinal economy, event), Agamben (via ‘the apparatus’), Foucault (via Parhesia and care of the self), Golding (via fractal philosophy), Haraway (cyborg) and Colebrook (PostHuman). Reference will be made to mobile media art(s), contemporary painting, identity, memory, voice, senses, augmented reality, synthetic life, bio-arts, electronic / media arts and language/image games.


For all of you new to doing ‘proper’ philosophy or theory: no previous knowledge of philosophy is required. This is a seminar that will help you learn how to think (as distinct from ‘what’ to think). Eventually it will make some kind of sense in relation to the project you are working on (whatever it is).

Seminars Programme

Part 1: What is “a” or “the” ground (and why it matters)

Materiality, Ontology, Enlightenment

  1. Wednesday 9th October – Introduction

No reading. Introduction to PhD seminars. How to surf. Basic principles of thinking.

  • Wednesday 23d October – Sapere Aude (Dare to Know)
    • Kant: What is Enlightenment in What is Enlightenment
    • Foucault ‘What is Enlightenment?’ in Foucault, M., 1991, The Foucault reader, Rabinow, P. ed. Penguin London, 32-50.
    • Hannah Arendt, The Rise of Cartesian Doubt, in her The Human Condition, intro by Margaret Canova (University of Chicago Press: 1998 [1958], pp. 273-80;
  • Wednesday 6 November – Dialectic via Hegel: sublation, the ‘this’, where is ‘here’, what is the (or ‘a’) Negative.
    • GWF Hegel. The Phenomenology of Spirit: Please concentrate on the following fragments. From the “Preface,” pp. 1–45: sections: 2, 3, 16–25; 26–7; 30–42; 46–54; 61; (Note: read ONLY Miller’s translation: Hegel, G.W.F., 1998, Phenomenology of Spirit, Findlay, J. ed. Translated by Miller. Oxford University Press).
  • Wednesday 20 November – Dialectic via Marx:
    • Marx, Theses on Feuerbach (esp no. 3 and 11);
    • Marx, The Communist Manifesto; The 18th Brumaire
    • Robert Paul Wolff ‘Moneybags must be so lucky’ Wolff, R.P., 1988, Moneybags must be so lucky: on the literary structure of Capital, Univ of Massachusetts Press, Amherst.
  • Wednesday 4 December – Dialectic Via Adorno ‘The Indissoluble Something’,
    • Adorno, T.W., 1983, Negative Dialectics, Translated by Ashton. Continuum International Publishing Group, New York. Read: ‘Preface’ and ‘introduction’ pp. xix-xxi and 3-57
    • Rose, G., 1978, The melancholy science,  Macmillan,

Part 2: Consciousness, Experience, Secrets, Sex & Sexualities.

  • Wednesday 8 January – Kierkegaard ‘Fear and Trembling’
    • Kierkegaard, Søren, 1985, Fear and trembling, Penguin Books; New York, N.Y., U.S.A.,  Middlesex, England. ‘Attunement’, ‘problemata 1: is there a teleological suspension of the ethical?’ and ‘is there and absolute duty to God?’ pp. 44-48, 83-95, 96-108
    • 2. Jacques Derrida, “Whom to Give To [knowing not to know),” in his The Gift of Death, pp. 53- 81.
  • Wednesday 22 January – Sucking on cigarettes and other libidinal pleasures. Freud ‘Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar’ (but most of the time it isn’t)
    • Watch: The Wicker Man (Robin Hardy 1973)
    • Read: Sigmund Freud, “Introductory Lectures in Psycho-Analysis”
    • Optional: Freud ‘A child is being beaten; a contribution to the study of sexual perversions’ (available online)

Part 3: Posthuman entanglements

  • Wednesday 5 February – What is this thing called ‘thing’

The Thing, in: Heidegger, M., 2012, Bremen and Freiburg lectures : insight into that which is and basic principles of thinking, Translated by A.J. Mitchell. Indiana University Press, Bloomington.

  • Wednesday 19 Feb – Why technology is nothing technological

‘The Question Concerning Technology ‘ in Heidegger, M., 1977, The question concerning technology, and other essays, Translated by Lovitt. Harper and Row, New York .

  • Wednesday 4 March – What is Entanglement? (via Einstein and Schrödinger’s cat)

Barad, Karen Michelle. 2007. Meeting the Universe Halfway : Quantum Physics and the Entanglement of Matter and Meaning. Durham: Duke University Press. 39-94

Optional: Rubinstein Daniel. Photography between Representation and Difference, or the Grin of Schrödinger’s Cat in: Burbridge, Benedict, and Annebella Pollen, eds. Photography Reframed: New Visions in Contemporary Photographic Culture. London New York: I.B. Tauris, 2018.

Part 4: The digital condition, cyber queers and tentacular practices

  • Wednesday 22 April –  Difference and the art of making a difference

Deleuze and Guattari ‘Introduction; The Rhizome’,  and Preface by Brian Masumi, G. & Guattari, F., 2003, A Thousand Plateaus, Translated by B. Massumi. Continuum, London

Golding, J. 2010, Fractal Philosophy, Trembling a Plane of Immanence and the small matter of Learning How to Listen: Attunement as the Task of Art, in S Zepke & S O’Sullivan (eds), Deleuze and contemporary art, Edinburgh University Press, Edinburgh,.

  • Wednesday 6 May – Difference and the art of making a difference – continued

Deleuze and Guattari ‘Introduction; Becoming woman… becoming animal… ,  , A Thousand Plateaus, Translated by B. Massumi. Continuum, London

  • Wednesday 20 May – Intensity, Pattern, incompleteness, Event and other libidinal economies

Lyotard, ‘Glossary’, ‘The Great Ephemeral Skin’ and ‘The Tensor Band’ in Lyotard, J.F., 2004, Libidinal economy, Translated by Hamilton Grant. Continuum , London.

Deleuze, ‘Third series of the proposition’, ‘twelfth series of the Paradox’ ‘Thirty secon series on the different kinds of series’ in Deleuze, G., 1990, The logic of sense, Boundas ed. Translated by Lester & Stivale. Continuum , London.

Watch: Chaos Fractals and Dynamics (BBC series parts 1&2)

  • Wednesday 3 June – There is nothing outside the text

Derrida,  ‘The end of the book and the beginning of Writing’ and ‘Linguistics and Grammatology’ Derrida, J., 1998, Of grammatology, Translated by G. Chakravorty Spivak. Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore.

Derrida ‘Structure, Sign and Play in the Discourse of the Human Sciences’ in Derrida, J. 2001, Writing and difference, Routledge, London, New York, pp. 351-70

  • Wednesday 17 June – The posthuman

Colebrook, ‘Introduction’, ‘Extinct Theory’ & ‘The Sustainability of Concepts’ Colebrook, C., 2014, Death of the PostHuman, Open Humanities Press, University of Michigan Library, Ann Arbor.

Haraway ‘Cyborg Manifesto’ in Haraway, D.J., 1991, Simians, cyborgs and women: the reinvention of nature, Free Association, London.