The Nature that Comes, or the Return of Pan. Nature, Art, Philosophy (E-Einführungsvorlesung/E-Seminar)

Prof. Dr. Boyan Manchev
The Nature that Comes, or the Return of Pan. Nature, Art, Philosophy

Intensive E-Lecture & E-Seminar Series (can be counted both - as lecture OR seminar), English, 2 SWS, 2 ECTS
Seminar, 4 dates: Thursdays, 28.5., 4.6., 11.6., 18.6.2020, each 13 – 17 h
Lectures, 4 dates: Fridays, 29.5., 5.6., 12.6., 19.6.2020, each 18 – 19:30 h
In order to reduce screen times, the seminar session will be organised partially in the form of individual work on previously set tasks, according to the following schedule: The seminar sessions will include 2 academic hours individual preparation (13-15 h) + 2 academic hours online video session (15 - 17 h).

Addendum April 2020:
The “pre-pandemic” planning of my seminar included as its last topic the figurative analysis of an enigmatic Renaissance painting, a painting that only persists as a ghostly presence today: Luca Signorelli’s fascinating The School of Pan (c. 1490), which was lost in a fire in Berlin precisely 75 years ago, in May 1945.
Strangely, under the conditions that our lecture series will take place, this proposal acquires a highly symbolic value. Beyond the ancient folk-etymological equation of Pan’s name [Πάν] with the Greek word for ‘all’ [πᾶς, παντός] – a root we meet in many common words, such as pandemic, this work has a deeper connection to what we experience today. Pan, the Great God of Nature – nature itself, impels us to reflect on our present condition beyond its ordinary measure. We have to imagine new concepts of nature in order to face nature anew: not only as the universal object of thought, but also as subject of ‘our’ thought: not as what we think, not even as what makes us think, but also as what is thinking us.
We need to reopen the School of Pan.

Our starting questions: Is there freedom in nature? Is freedom the origin of nature? Or is it its future?
The experimental task of the lecture and seminar series is to test the hypothesis that the philosophy of nature, in order to catch up with the frenetic rhythm of science and nature itself, requires a turn towards the fantastic. In order to face up to the future of nature, philosophy must venture on a fantastic journey and become a philosophy of the fantastic, and even more: a philosophical fantastic. The oblivion of art is as much pernicious to the philosophy of nature, as the lack of sensibility to nature is fatal to the philosophy of art.

The four sections of the lecture and seminar series will correspond to its four conceptual phases.
In the first phase, I will make an overview of the concept of nature, from its origins in Greek philosophy until Modern times, laying special emphasis on the Aristotelean notion of poiesis (creation, material production, fabrication), through which I will establish the connection to the philosophy of art. I will focus on several Renaissance ideas of the poietic nature in Cusanus, Ficino, Bruno, but also in Alberti and Leonardo da Vinci, showing that Renaissance ideas of art are deeply rooted in this concept.
The second phase will be dealing with the emergence of the modern scientific notion of nature and the gradual marginalisation of the concept of poiesis, being replaced by the new ideas of universal natural laws from Bacon, Boyle and Newton to Descartes, Spinoza and Leibniz. I will tackle the internal ambiguity of the modern scientific paradigm, revealing within it the persistence of quasi-magic and poetic ideas (from the alchemical writings of Newton to the Helmontian or even Kabbalistic origin of the Leibnizian concept of the monad).    
In the third block, I will focus on David Hume’s and Immanuel Kant’s crucial contribution to the philosophical universalisation of the idea of nature, as well as on the antinomic instrumentalisation of their respective positions in the contemporary debate on nature. While major trends of contemporary philosophy and anthropology proudly assume an anti-Kantian turn, I embrace a ‘super-Kantian’ position. We need to move beyond the critical Kantian opposition between nature and freedom, and imagine freedom as immanence of nature itself. If we must persist alongside Kant beyond Kant, we must then persist alongside the fundamental question of critical philosophy, the question of philosophy itself: the question of freedom.
The planned fourth section, dealing with Luca Signorelli’s School of Pan (the painting’s title is uncertain), will provide common horizon and experimental frame for the lecture series, as well as focal point for their conclusion.

This lecture-seminar series will extend the topics and questions of the lecture courses from previous years, while proposing an autonomous perspective. In each of the sections we will confront alternative positions introduced by a selection of excerpts from philosophical texts and works of art. In order to face up to the challenge of the online teaching format, we will use the UdK moodle platform and a specially designed blog, providing possibility for both exchange of study materials and collective experimentation.
By 22.5.2020: study materials, full bibliography and individual tasks will be communicated to the students via Moodle platform. They will be introduced at the lecture-seminar session in the evening of 29th of May.
By 25.6.2020: Deadline for sending the short written tasks (synthesis, essay).

Requirements for the ungraded Studium Generale credit: regular and active participation: Individual reading on provided fragments and short written tasks: a) Synthesis of provided text (not more than 5 pages) or b) Essay on individually defined subject, related to the seminar topic (not more than 5 pages).

Ausrichtung der Veranstaltung: orientierend, vorwärtsgewandt
Kompetenz/Aktivität der Teilnehmenden: reflektieren/denken, transformieren

Boyan Manchev is philosopher, Professor at the New Bulgarian University and Guest Professor at the Hollins University. He is also former Director of Program and Vice-President of the International College of Philosophy in Paris and former Guest Professor at the HZT - UdK (2011-2017). His current research, which proposes the perspective of a radical materialism and dynamic ontology, is in the fields of ontology, philosophy of art and political philosophy.
Manchev is the author of twelve books and more than two hundred book chapters, catalogues and other publications in various languages. Among his books are “Freedom in spite of Everything. Critique and Modal Ontology” (Sofia: Metheor, 2020), “The New Athanor. Prolegomena to Philosophical Fantastic” (Sofia: Metheor, 2019), “Clouds. Philosophy of the Free Body” (Sofia: Metheor, 2017, in Bulgarian; English edition 2019), “Miracolo” (Milano: Lanfranchi, 2011), “L’altération du monde: Pour une esthétique radicale” (Paris: Lignes, 2009); “La Métamorphose et l'Instant – Désorganisation de la vie” (Paris: La Phocide, 2009), “Persister. La liberté sauvage et la nature à venir” (forthcoming, Paris: Editions Dehors, 2020).