Politicians and intellectuals who insist on universal truths are creating a condition where the absence of emergency is the greatest emergency. At the center of this condition is the belief that there are no alternatives to the framed global order. This order imposes realism politically upon other cultures and justifies its imposition intellectually by discrediting facts. Trump’s hostility toward the facts of climate change, for example, is meant to create a condition without emergencies—where truth is imposed by authority, and nothing, not observations of the external world nor actions that would counteract the power of those authorities, is permitted to emerge from the overwhelming order. Together with emergencies difference, change, and cultural others must be avoided as disruptions of the safe situation that order claims to represent. Zabala’s belief is that art often works better than scientific announcements and philosophical treatises as a way to reveal emergencies. This is not because of artists’ ability to create beauty but rather for the intensity and depth of their works. The goal of this talk is to venture into these disclosures through the greatest emergencies. These are those emergencies we overlook, ignore, and discard. If the “greatest emergency” today has become the “absence of emergencies” how can artist thrust us into these emergencies? And why must we be “rescued” into them in order to save us? What does salvation mean in this condition?
Santiago Zabala is ICREA Research Professor of Philosophy at the Pompeu Fabra University in Barcelona and author of many books, including Why Only Art Can Save Us: Aesthetics and the Absence of Emergency (Columbia University Press, 2017). He has written for the Guardian, the New York Times, and Al-Jazeera. His latest book is Being at Large: Freedom in the Age of Alternative Facts (McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2020).
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