Thinking and Feeling: An Introduction to Subjectivity and Affect Theory

New School for Social Research: Philosophy

Liberal Arts
Undergraduate Course
Graduate Course
Degree Students (with Restrictions)
Thinking and Feeling
Fall 2023
Taught By: Benjamin Lee
Section: A

CRN: 15681

Credits: 3

This course introduces two approaches to subjectivity that frame the debate about neoliberalism in the social sciences and humanities. The first approach is the belief-desire model in analytic philosophy and the other is affect theory in literary cultural studies. The former has developed from Von Neumann and Morgenstern’s Theory of Games and Economic Behavior and is dominant in economics, finance, and political science; its roots in expected utility and game theory has made it the hegemonic model for formal decision-making and finance. Its major proponent was Donald Davidson, perhaps the foremost analytic philosopher of action and of language but it also influenced the two major philosophers of neoliberalism, John Rawls and Robert Nozick. The philosophical forefathers of affect theory have been Henri Bergson and Gilles Deleuze; the classic critique of neoliberalism from affect theory is Lauren Berlant’s Cruel Optimism, which draws upon both Marx and the post-structuralist “linguistic turn.” This course will discuss the rise of the belief-desire and decision-making under uncertainty in the works of Davidson, Rawls, and Nozick. We will also focus on the rise of affect theory in the work of Bergson, Deleuze, and Berlant, especially the relevance of affect theory to recent criticisms of neoliberalism. The key factor in distinguishing these two approaches to subjectivity is time: the mathematical time of Newton-Einstein versus the “flow of time” or what Bergson called “duration”. We will trace this distinction between two types of time to Marx’s theory of value (abstract and concrete labor time), which will also bring us to the contemporary debates about neoliberalism raised by Michel Foucault, Wendy Brown, Michael Sandel, and David Harvey.

College: New School for Social Research (GF)

Department: Philosophy (PHI)

Campus: New York City (GV)

Course Format: Seminar (R)

Modality: In-Person

Max Enrollment: 20

Add/Drop Deadline: September 11, 2023 (Monday)

Online Withdrawal Deadline: November 19, 2023 (Sunday)

Seats Available: Yes

Status: Closed*

* Status information is updated every few minutes. The status of this course may have changed since the last update. Open seats may have restrictions that will prevent some students from registering. Updated: 6:54am EDT 9/29/2023

Meeting Info:
Days: Monday
Times: 4:00pm - 5:50pm
Building: 6 East 16th Street
Room: 1001
Date Range: 8/28/2023 - 12/11/2023