“Yes, Kant did indeed speak of extraterrestrials.” This phrase could provide the opening for this brief treatise of philosofiction (as one speaks of science fiction). What is revealed in the aliens of which Kant speaks—and he no doubt took them more seriously than anyone else in the history of philosophy—are the limits of globalization, or what Kant called cosmopolitanism.
Before engaging Kantian considerations of the inhabitants of other worlds, before comprehending his reasoned alienology, this book works its way through an analysis of the star wars raging above our heads in the guise of international treaties regulating the law of space, including the cosmopirates that Carl Schmitt sometimes mentions in his late writings.
Turning to track the comings and goings of extraterrestrials in Kant’s work, Szendy reveals that they are the necessary condition for an unattainable definition of humanity. Impossible to represent, escaping any possible experience, they are nonetheless inscribed both at the heart of the sensible and as an Archimedean point from whose perspective the interweavings of the sensible can be viewed.
Reading Kant in dialogue with science fiction films (films he seems already to have seen) involves making him speak of questions now pressing in upon us: our endangered planet, ecology, a war of the worlds. But it also means attempting to think, with or beyond Kant, what a point of view might be.
Peter Szendy is a philosopher and musicologist affiliated with the University of Nanterres and—as maître de conférences—with the Universite Paris Ouest. In 2012 he was Visiting Fellow at Princeton University. In English he has recently published Listen: A History of Our Ears, Hits: Philosophy in theJukebox, and Kant in the Land of Extraterrestrials: Cosmopolitical Philosofictions (all with Fordham University Press). He is also adviser for the Cite de laMusique in Paris.
Will Bishop holds a doctorate in French Literature from the University of California, Berkeley. He lives in Paris, where he teaches and translates.
"Among the vast body of scholarship that explores the Kantian theory of space, none does so with greater urgency, concision, and wit than Kant in the Land of Extraterrestrials. It is especially innovative not only in its examination of the theme of extraterritoriality but also in its staging of the confrontation between Kant and Schmitt over the origin and fate of so-called outer space."—Peter Fenves, Northwestern University
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