Professor of Philosophy
He is the author of Sonic Flux: Sound, Art, and Metaphysics (University of Chicago Press, forthcoming) and Nietzsche: Naturalism and Interpretation (University of California Press, 1999), and co-editor of Realism Materialism Art (Sternberg, 2015) and Audio Culture: Readings in Modern Music (Continuum, 2004/2017). The recipient of an Arts Writers Grant from Creative Capital/Warhol Foundation, Cox is editor-at-large at Cabinet magazine. His writing has appeared in October, Artforum, Journal of the History of Philosophy, The Wire, Journal of Visual Culture, Organised Sound, The Review of Metaphysics, and elsewhere.
He has curated exhibitions at the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston, The Kitchen, CONTEXT Art Miami, New Langton Arts, G Fine Art Gallery, and other venues and has written essays exhibitions at the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Museum of Modern Art, Mass MoCA, the South London Gallery, Berlin's Akademie der Künste, the Museum of Contemporary Photography, the Oslo Kunstforening, and other venues.
What is ultimately or fundamentally real? What is the nature of being? Is reality ultimately physical or nonphysical? Is it one or many, visible or invisible, discrete or diffuse, eternal or temporal? Philosophers have offered the wildest and most varied answers to these questions. Today, metaphysical debates continue to rage within philosophy, cultural theory, and social theory. In this course, we will survey a range of metaphysical theories - from the ancient to the contemporary, and from Europe, Asia, Africa, and North America. The texts will be difficult but deeply rewarding.
This course will explore a range of vanguard musical practices and various approaches to thinking theoretically and critically about them. We will traverse musical areas such as minimalism, indeterminacy, musique concrete, free improvisation, turntablism, and electronica, and examine these via historical and philosophical texts by theorists, composers and producers. Investigating different modes of listening to and talking about contemporary music, we will ask such questions as: What is the nature of music in relationship to silence and noise? What are the effects of recording and sampling on contemporary musical life? Can music have a political or critical function? Are the distinctions between "classical" and "popular," "high art" and "mass art" still appropriate in the contemporary setting?
Philosophy today is generally conceived and practiced as a purely theoretical discipline dedicated to answering conceptual questions and solving intellectual problems. Yet philosophy began as a practical discipline dedicated to helping human beings live their lives in the fullest and best way possible. In this course, we will read and discuss the work of various philosophers-ancient, modern, and postmodern-for whom philosophy is a practical tool for living. Readings from Plato, Aristotle, Epicurus, Epictetus, Marcus Aurelius, the Buddha, Lao Tzu, Chuang Tzu, Shankara, Schopenhauer, Nietzsche, Sartre, the Situationists, Singer, Nussbaum, and West.
Can we grasp the way the world really is, or are our concepts and ideas always mediated by conceptual schemes, linguistic categories, and social positioning? While the latter view has dominated philosophy and cultural theory for the past half century, the former view has become increasingly prominent. This course will examine the work of a variety of philosophers who argue that our thought can grasp "the absolute": the neo-materialism of Manuel DeLanda, Jane Bennett, Catherine Malabou, and Karen Barad; the neo-rationalism of Alain Badiou, Quentin Meillassoux, and Ray Brassier; and the object-oriented ontology of Graham Harman and Timothy Morton. The course will also consider important influences on new realist thought such as Wilfrid Sellars and Paul and Patricia Churchland.
Is there such a thing as "objective" or "absolute" truth? Or is everything "relative" - to a particular individual, culture, language, or conceptual scheme? What is truth, anyway? In this course, we will examine the nature of truth, knowledge, and value and consider a range of challenges to the idea of "objective" or "absolute" truth. We will begin by considering solipsism, skepticism, and subjective relativism and then spend most of the semester discussing various forms of relativism (conceptual, epistemic, ethical, cultural, aesthetic, etc.). Drawing upon texts from early Greek philosophy through contemporary Anglo-American and European philosophy, we will try to sort out strong from weak arguments for various versions of objectivism and relativism.
Are we becoming "posthuman"? Can we be certain that the versions of humanity that have existed until now will continue to exist in the future, given our ability to control our own evolution and to create intelligent machines? Can we still uphold a boundary between biological organism and cybernetic mechanism? How have posthuman conceptions provided inspiration for black liberation, feminist politics, and gender hacking? We will begin by discussing philosophical and biological conceptions of the human and the boundaries between humans, animals, machines, and other entities. We will go on to explore the ontological and ethical issues presented by versions of the posthuman in theory, film, music, art, and literature. Theoretical readings by Haraway, Preciado, Braidotti, Eshun, Parisi, Weheliye, Darwin, Nietzsche, DeLanda, Thacker, Hayles, and others.
This course will take sound and the sonic arts as both an object of inquiry and a provocation for thought. Reading texts by philosophers and cultural theorists, and examining work by composers, sound artists, writers, and filmmakers, we will investigate the ontology of sound and music, the nature of listening, technologies of audio recording and dissemination, time and space in the sonic arts, synaesthesia, and other issues. Each class will involve both discussions of theoretical texts and analysis of sonic art works.
It is often said that the aim of education is the acquisition of knowledge, and that "knowledge is power." Yet Socrates affirmed ignorance; other philosophers and theologians condemned curiosity; and religious mystics have celebrated "unknowing." What is "knowledge" and why might it be considered good or bad? Is "knowledge" the same as "information"? What are the differences between ignorance, stupidity, idiocy, and foolishness? Through the analysis and discussion of philosophical and religious texts, novels, films, and works of visual art, we will consider these and many more questions and, in the process, perhaps learn (and un-learn) something.