“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 Professor of Philosophy at Université de Paris Ouest Nanterre and musicological adviser for concert programs at the Cité de la musique. His books in English are Phantom Limbs: On Musical Bodies; Apocalypse-Cinema: 2012 and Other Ends of the World; Kant in the Land of Extraterrestrials: Cosmopolitical Philosofictions; Hits: Philosophy in the Jukebox; Prophecies of Leviathan: Reading Past Melville; and Listen: A History of Our Ears (all Fordham).
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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