Stephen Barber
(University of Rhode Island)
April, 7, 2011


Those of us who attended Professor Mauro Carbone’s lecture yesterday will know that we have every reason to expect that we are, today, to be graced as we engage further in the thought of this distinguished philosopher.  If in his lecture of yesterday, “Silence, Philosophy, and Life,” Professor Carbone addressed, on the one hand, silence and language, and on the other, mutism and idle talk, the subject of his talks of this afternoon and tonight is, only apparently oppositely to the philosopheme of silence, that of expression.  For Professor Carbone would abjure any such opposition between silence and expression.  Key among the rigorously and intricately thought-through philosophemes that organized his lecture of yesterday was this: silence expresses, and it is a cause for anxiety that, in our time, the expression of that silence, though never to be muted, is nevertheless also pressingly held hostage to forces of muting.  The very repercussions of that muting, though existentially deeply worrisome, are nevertheless challengeable by the sheer fact that silence expresses, and, therefore, also always allows, or opens up to, a thought that can, or does, as in Professor Mauro’s work, censor that mutism.


Today, Professor Carbone presents two talks.  The first of his lectures is that in which we are about to participate: “The Philosopher and the Movie-Maker: Cinema According to Merleau-Ponty”; the second of his lectures addresses Proust and sensory ideas.  What interests me about these two talks is another philosopheme that traverses Professor Carbone’s thought, namely that of “difference and repetition” as unfolded by another important philosopher with and against whom Professor Carbone thinks, namely, Gilles Deleuze.  Why difference and repetition? Well, biographically, today’s talks take up themes about which Professor Carbone, in terms of biography, has placed at the center of this thought since writing his dissertation, defended in 1990, at the Institut Superieur de Philosophie of the Universite Catholique de Louvain, Belgique: A partir de Cezanne et de Proust.   La philosophie de l’expression de Maurice Merleau-Ponty, that is to say, by way of translation, Moving from Cezanne and Proust: Maurice Merleau-Ponty’s Philosophy of Expression.  As it happens, today Professor Carbone takes up interests that have called to him over the course of twenty years: expression as theorized, enacted, and inscribed by Merleau-Ponty and Proust, and, I have no doubt, also by Cezanne, though the latter, at least this evening, may only haunt, rather than explicitly appear in his talks.  One of the questions I am myself already eager to pose to Professor Carbone is this: given the themes of the work of this evening, and their allegiance to work of twenty years ago, how do you, Professor Carbone, think, within your own work, repetition and difference—the re-taking up of thought already thought (by you), but with difference, and this difference in particular: that of today as distinguished from that of 1990, and that of an ongoing and endless labor to work with these thinkers of sensory ideas that might well trouble any neat distinction between evolution or apprenticeship in time and ontology of time?  On the one hand, then, I am, to speak for myself, fascinated by Professor Carbone’s biographical bildgungsroman; on the other, I am eager to hear, throughout the course of the next hours, his at-hand conclusions, after his many years of apprenticeship in thought, on the questions of sensory ideas, ontology, temporality, and subjectivity.  I am just as keen to learn from his work about the differences and/or affinities between thinking in philosophy and in cinematic as well as in literary logic.


Please indulge me a few more moments to introduce Professor Carbone.  An acclaimed and prodigious philosopher, he has written many books, articles, and reviews.  His books range from the shared event of death during the event of 9/11 to his sustained considerations, not unrelatedly, on the boundaries of the expressible.  Recently two of his books have been published in English, with more, no doubt, soon to come: the former are The Thinking of the Sensible: Merleau-Ponty’s A-Philosophy (2004) and An Unprecedented Deformation: Marcel Proust and the Sensible Ideas (2010).  His work, written in Italian and French (to name but two of his languages), is published in many languages, including Spanish, German, and Japanese.  His professional career is no less worldly than are his publications.  He has been a visiting professor, for example, in Mexico, Trieste, Montpellier, Bourgogne, Hong Kong, and New York (both at the New School and, as a fellow, at Columbia).  He is or has been, furthermore, affiliated with such universities as those based in Verona, Milano, and Warwick, at the last of which he is an Associate Fellow in the Department of Philosophy.  Following his professorship at the State University of Milan, Professor Carbone became Professor of Aesthetics at the Universite Lyon 3 in France where he teaches seminars on modern continental philosophy, contemporary aesthetics, and the history of aesthetics.  Additionally, he is profoundly engaged with the question of the intersection of—better, perhaps, the imbrication of—aesthetics and ethics—a question I hope today to pursue in, at the very least, his seminar on Proust.


I am, of necessity due to time, omitting many of the extraordinary distinctions that mark Professor Carbone’s career to date; such as, precisely, the countless awards his work has garnered and the awe-inspiring bibliography of his scholarship.  All I can say with respect to the economy of the time of the introduction is this: Professor Carbone’s thought has substantially impacted phenomenological studies, Proust scholarship, and, more broadly speaking, continental philosophical thought as such—and not only in his various home countries, but, as we have heard, internationally as well.  It is a great honor to have before us, momentarily, this true cosmopolitan of thought.


A word of thanks is due before that moment.  A great many persons and departments at the University of Rhode Island have made this occasion possible.  These include:

Our Dean of the College of Arts & Sciences, Winnie Brownell;

Our Provost and Vice Provost, respectively Don DeHayes and Laura Beauvais;

Our Dean of the Graduate School, Nasser Zawia;

The Director of the Honors Program, Ric McIntyre;

Cheryl Foster, Chair of Philosophy;

Sherri Wills, Chair of Film;

Ryan Trimm, Chair of English;

Jack Skekapanski, President of the Graduate Student Association;

The Chairs of the many departments across the University who endorsed this series of events;

And great thanks to the planning committee of those events, namely, Dean Brownell, Sheri Wills, Lars Erickson, and Peter Covino.


Naturally, Professor Carbone is also to be thanked, and not only for making time in his extraordinarily called upon schedule to be with us but also for his rich and caring engagement with us (out of which is to come, among other important consequences, a partnership between URI and the Universite de Lyon 3).  We are honored to host you, Professor Carbone, and to be your interlocutors.


I wish to offer thanks to one more person, our friend, Professor of Philosophy and head of the Center for Humanities, Professor Galen Johnson.  Himself a distinguished philosopher and scholar of Merleau-Ponty, Professor Johnson is also an exemplary colleague and cultural architect of this university.  To him we owe great thanks for his leadership, along with Dean Brownell, in the Humanities at URI, and for his performative, that is to say, effective, imagination, to which in large part we owe the presence of Professor Carbone here, today.