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Event: Hypochondria and its Discontents Or, the Geriatric Sublime

Please join us, on behalf of the ‘Mourning Sickness’ reading group that convened in Toronto in January-February 2016, for a public lecture on late Kant and the sublime by Professor Rebecca Comay (

Thursday, March 31st, 4:00pm – 6:00pm
Victoria College, Old Building, Chapel (2nd Floor)
University of Toronto

This space is wheelchair accessible. Light refreshments will be provided. A description of the talk is provided below. We hope to see you there!

Ricky Varghese & Fan Wu

Hypochondria and its Discontents Or, the Geriatric Sublime

In the third Conflict of the Faculties, virtually the last text published within his own lifetime, Kant runs through a ridiculous catalogue of (his own) hypochondriac afflictions and offers a panoply of philosophical prescriptions for alleviating these — the “power of the mind to master its sickly feelings by sheer resolution.” Some readers seize on this scenario as an unwitting parody of Kant’s own transcendental project: the comedy seems to stage an empirical dress rehearsal of the systematic opposition between the empirical and the transcendental and suggests the structural contamination of the very ideal of purity by the pathology it wants to master. A well-trodden dialectical approach, from Hegel and Nietzsche through Freud and Adorno, discerns in this tizzy of stage-management the perfect case history of the dialectic of enlightenment, ascetic ideology, or the return of the repressed. The very success of the will would be the measure of its failure, the obsession with pathology the ultimate pathology — the return of mythic nature in the most strenuous efforts to control it. This dialectical approach is compelling, I guess, but it underplays both the perversity of the scenario and its strange theatricality. It also overlooks the startling practical implications – at once biopolitical, ideological, economic, institutional, and aesthetic — of Kant’s peculiar experiment. A strange note on which to end a treatise dedicated to the pedagogical imperatives of the Prussian state.

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