Davide Panagia


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Philosophy | Political Theory | Theory, Knowledge and Science


Sentimental Empiricism reconsiders the legacy of eighteenth and nineteenth century empiricism and moral sentimentalism for the intellectual formation of the generation of postwar French thinkers whose work came to dominate Anglophone conversations across the humanities under the guise of “French theory.” Panagia’s book first shows what was missed in the reception of this literature in the Anglophone academy by attending to how France’s pedagogical milieu plays out church and state relations in the form of educational debates around reading practices, the aesthetics of mimesis, French imperialism, and republican universalism. Panagia then shows how such thinkers as Jean Wahl, Simone de Beauvoir, Gilbert Simondon, Gilles Deleuze, and Michel Foucault develop a sentimental empiricist critical philosophy that distances itself from dialectical critique and challenges the metaphysical premise of inherent relations, especially as it had been articulated in the tradition of Aristotelian scholasticism.

Panagia develops the long disputed political legacy of French theory through an exploration of how these thinkers came to understand an aesthetic of mimesis as a credentialing standard for selection to political participation. Since, in France, the ability to imitate well is a state qualification necessary to access offices of elite power, the political, aesthetic, and philosophical critique of mimesis became one of the defining features of sentimental empiricist thought. By exploring the historical, intellectual, cultural, and philosophical complexities of this political aesthetic, Panagia shows how and why postwar French thinkers turned to a tradition of sentimental empiricism in order to develop a new form of criticism attentive to the dispositional powers of domination.

This book is available from the publisher on an open access basis.