This was my opening speech to this year’s Ereignis Conference, Beyond Dualism, that was held on-site, here in Gdynia, and online.
Hello everyone, and welcome to this third Ereignis conference.
The theme of this year’s conference, Beyond Dualism, resonates with debates that have a long and venerable history in thought. Many of the speakers here will relate their contribution to one of these debates: can we simply split the world between mind and body, nature and culture, national and foreigner, high and low, and so on? Jacques Derrida is known for his uncovering of Western philosophy’s reliance of such opposites: presence/absence, speech/writing, and so on, and then for his particular way of reestablishing thought, what is known as deconstruction. Judith Butler, later, asked whether it is possible for us to continue to rely on a binary or dualist perception of sex and gender, or whether gender, rather, is a constant flux, an event and a happening.
Thus, when we seek to move Beyond Dualism we can address a wide array of contemporary topics in philosophy and cultural theory. In our conference we will begin by connecting the notion of philosophical dualism – most prominently the mind/body split – to recent insights from quantum physics. Werner Heisenberg’s 1927 article on quantum mechanics introduced a new kind of relation between our instruments of measurement and communication and the world they are said to measure: what Heisenberg had found was that the more precisely we measure a particle’s momentum, the less precision we can give to it’s location and vice versa. In his keynote speech Prof. Jørgen Veisland will point out how insights such as Heisenberg’s make particles “disperse in[to] a cloud of probability.” What are the implications, Veisland will ask, of indeterminacy and interrelation on Søren Kierkegaard’s notion of Repetition, and, by implication, to our conception of time, space, and our place in the world?
Lucy Huskinson will tackle the topic of dualism from a different angle: in the history of psychoanalysis, she will show, while the founding texts have sought to go beyond the split of mind from body they have nevertheless tended to rely on their own dualisms, splitting the mind into two-worlds of ego-conscious and unconscious, each with their own ways of Being and rules of behavior. Certainly, she will argue, Sigmund Freud remained wedded to a specific form of Cartesian dualism, manifest, e.g., in a soul fatally isolated from its environment. In her keynote Huskinson will consider how the non-human environment differently figures in the psychoanalysis of Freud and his pupil, C.G. Jung, and then reconsider the significance of the built environment, our architecture, for their theories.
Our first keynote tomorrow will consider how the split between the original and the translated text can be mediated by an act of love. In fact, Jeremy Fernando will argue, there is no love without translation, since any attempt to connect to another being entails that we engage in an act of reading. He will go on to argue that translation should be properly regarded as the most sensitive of readings, as it is constituted as an act of opening oneself up to the possibility of the text, and the possibility of another. Translation and love, while not quite the same thing, are thus potentially inseparable from each other.
Vivek Narayanan, the poet whose recent translation, or “rewiring,” as he prefers, of the ancient Sanskrit epic Ramayana has been hailed by The Times Literary Supplement and Harvard Review, promises to ask questions that are “provocative to the themes of the conference.” His keynote will in part be a performance from After; his talk is entitled “Trapped Between History and the Transcendent.”
Interspersed between these talk will be many papers from delegates with topics ranging from realism and idealism to Benedetto Croce and Thomas Aquinas. We look forward to hearing all of your contributions, and encourage everyone in attendance to participate with questions and comments after each talk.
Now, before we begin the proceedings of this year’s conference allow us to briefly draw your attention to the organising body, Ereignis Center for Philosophy and the Arts. Founded five years ago we are an organisation for research, education, and outreach based in Norway and Poland. We have a global reach and international membership. This is the third edition of our conference. Our educational initiative, Ereignis Institute, offers online courses, live seminars, and mentoring programmes. Our multidisciplinary approach to teaching is founded on a basic trust in students. Our refusal to reduce students to metrics entails that our modules, while offering extensive feedback and discussion, are without exams. We seek those who have a genuine desire to learn.
One person who has been particularly supportive in this burgeoning endeavor has been Prof. Jørgen Veisland of the University of Gdańsk. We are very happy to have been able to publish several of his essays in our peer-reviewed journal Inscriptions, as well as a volume of poetry in translations on our English-language imprint utopos publishing. More recently, Professor Veisland has cooperated with us in building our teaching programme; this coming semester he will be offering what promises to be a highly interesting and novel seminar on Modernism and metaphysics with our learning platform.
Therefore, it is with great pleasure and deep appreciation that we would like to honour you, Professor Veisland, with the title of Honorary Professor at the Ereignis Institute.
Your remarkable leadership, expertise, and guidance have enriched our immensely. On the behalf of the us all, please accept our warmest congratulations and sincere gratitude for your invaluable contributions to our center.