Philosophical Studies

Staff Profile

Dr Michael Lewis

Teaching Fellow

Background

**For recordings of the workshop on Philosophical Anthropology and Contemporary Continental Philosophy, please visit: https://blogs.ncl.ac.uk/philosophy/2017/09/26/philosophical-anthropology-and-contemporary-continental-philosophy-recordings/**

For information on the Journal of Italian Philosophy, please visit: http://research.ncl.ac.uk/italianphilosophy/


Biography and description of research

My work addresses the question of the relation between the human and the animal.  

To this end, my current book project is taking place under the heading of 'The Reinvention of Man: Philosophy and Anthropology' and precisely attempts to reinvent, or to investigate the motivations behind and the problems which haunt the project of a 'philosophical anthropology' (as devised by Gehlen, Plessner, and Scheler in the 1920's and 30's): in other words, it addresses the ontological or metaphysical questions of the essence of man, animal and nature.

This work is the culmination of a trilogy of previous books, beginning with my doctoral work on Martin Heidegger and the relation between ethics and politics in his work, (Heidegger and the Place of Ethics, 2005), which I developed in a later text (Heidegger beyond Deconstruction: On Nature, 2007), in the direction of the question of nature and animality, including the animality of man, and thus in the direction of the ontological and ethico-political status of nature, and man's ecological responsibilities.  

This work on the animality of man, which also concerned the question of the relation between transcendental philosophy and empirical science (the question of the place of empirical data, particularly from anthropology, zoology and psychology, in a philosophical determination of the essence of man [and the animal]) led to a comparative study of two importantly different ways of collapsing the transcendental-empirical (philosophical-scientific) divide, in Derridean deconstruction and psychoanalytic theory (Derrida and Lacan: Another Writing, 2008).

This has led in the last few years to two shorter books which are currently being completed, on Giorgio Agamben, and his theory of human - essentially linguistic and political - life, and a small book on the notion of the animal in Kant and Hegel, which is broadly speaking a companion piece, dealing with the philosophy of art and culture and the philosophy of nature.     

All of these are preliminaries to the work described above under the heading of philosophical anthropology. 

I have taught philosophy, film, psychoanalysis, and philosophical anthropology, at the University of Sussex (2007-9, 2011), University of Warwick (2010), the University of the West of England (2011-15). Now, I teach philosophy at the University of Newcastle.

I am the co-founder and general editor of the Journal of Italian Philosophy.

Research

My long-term research project concerns the question of the relation between animals and humans, and in particular addresses the resurgence of philosophical anthropology in contemporary continental philosophy.

My investigations into philosophical anthropology all explore the idea, characteristic of philosophical anthropology from at least Herder onwards, and developed with particular rigour by the philosophical anthropologists issuing from Germany in the first half of the twentieth century, that man is a lacking being.       

The question associated with this is whether and how the notion of a negativity or lack can be assigned to man, and what meaning this lack has. For instance, can it be empirically specified in a prospective way from the point of view of the animal man once was, or is it something that can be attributed only retrospectively or transcendentally, from the point of view of human being already fully emerged.         

This project is still ongoing and will be brought closer to completion with three forthcoming books on human and animal life: one on Italian philosopher Giorgio Agamben, broadly speaking concerned with the notion of human life, and entitled, Logic, Ontology, Politics: A Philosophical Reading of Agamben; one on the nature of the animal in Kant and Hegel (but also with reference to Derrida, Lacan, Agamben, Benjamin, Bataille, Meillassoux, and several others), entitled, The Beautiful Animal: Sincerity, Charm, and the Fossilised Dialectic (London: Rowman and Littlefield, 2018); and one much more ambitious text on philosophical anthropology from Kant and Hegel to the present day, The Reinvention of Man: Philosophy and Anthropology (planned for completion in 2018).

The published outcomes of my research in the recent past and immediate future include at least five distinct, shorter works: ‘Of a Mythical Philosophical Anthropology’ (in the volume, Stiegler and Technics, Edinburgh University Press, 2013), ‘Of (Auto-)Immune Life: Derrida, Esposito, Agamben’ (in Medicine and Society, Springer, 2015), ‘On Thinking at the End of the World: Derrida, Lyotard, Bataille’ (in Georges Bataille and Contemporary Thought, Bloomsbury, 2017), ‘Heidegger and Žižek: On Political and Non-Political Action at the End of History’ (in Heidegger and the Global Age, Rowman and Littlefield, 2017), and finally, ‘The Relation between Transcendental Philosophy and Empirical Science in Heidegger’s Fundamental Concepts of Metaphysics’.

More generally, this work around humans, animals, and anthropology is part of, and indeed the hinge of a much larger project, which runs along two parallel lines: a philosophy of nature, and a history of the notion of the transcendental.

In the context of the first stream I am particularly interested in the question of life, habit, the nature of repetition, automatism, and the machine. More generally, this feeds into my concern with ecological, environmental questions, to which my current work on the relation between animal(s) and man is related. And it has recently led me to an examination of various theories of sensation and touch, and particularly Derrida’s later work on animality, life and touching, which I am keen to develop, particularly in the context of the notion of auto-immunity, which has become more and more prominent a notion within contemporary philosophy since Derrida broached it. This is all intended as a preliminary to my contribution to the current debates on biopolitics and bioethics.

In addition, I have an abiding interest in the critique of Ideology, particularly in the work of Ernesto Laclau and Slavoj Žižek. I am also interested in the work of several other contemporary and recent continental philosophers, including Roberto Esposito, Jean-Luc Nancy, Philippe Lacoue-Labarthe, Jean-Luc Marion, Catherine Malabou, and Quentin Meillassoux.

Some examples of my writing may be found on my Academia.edu website.

Teaching

In 2017-18 I shall be teaching

  • Philosophy and Religion (with Lisa Foran)
  • Knowledge and Human Interests
  • Meaning, Truth, and Language (with Lisa Foran)
  • Projects
  • A session on Postmodernism and Poststructuralism on the Postgraduate Research Methods module, for all doctoral students in the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences
  • A session on the MLitt Philosophy course, PHI9001 Research Assignments, on Biopolitics and Italian Thought


In 2016-17, I taught:

  • Philosophy and Religion, 2016–17.
  • European Philosophical Traditions II: Moral Philosophy and Human Nature, 2016–17.
  • Meaning, Truth, and Language, 2016–17. 
  • Cultural Contradictions of Scientific Rationality, 2016–17. 
  • Knowledge and Human Interests, 2016–17 (Seminars in Term 1).
  • Philosophy Project, 2016–17.

Publications