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Archive for March, 2014|Monthly archive page

How Do We Change The World? with Rob Riemen

In ethics, humanities, philosophy, society, sociology, world on March 25, 2014 at 03:47

From: How Do We Change The World? A Conversation with Rob Riemen by Rose Mary Salum, Literal Magazine, http://www.literalmagazine.com

RMS: At one point during the symposium, you posed the question to your panel: “What do you see as scandalous in contemporary society?” And I wondered, what is scandalous to you?

RR: There are many scandals, but the greatest scandal in rich Western society is the destruction of education and culture by the ruling class: the organized stupidity. And of course, that is in the interest of the ruling class, as which products would still be bought, which programs still watched on television, which politicians would still be elected if people were just a little bit more wise?

RMS: You once told me: “We have given up the notion that there are universal values. These are all complex things, and they have political consequences.” Was this round of conferences intended to recover those universal values?

RR: … I want to create a space where the tradition of European humanism is kept alive and transmitted to anybody who realizes that without universal spiritual values and the great cultural legacy that makes us aware of these values, there cannot be a civilized society in which everybody has the possibility to live his life in truth, to do justice, and to create beauty. And as long as I have the energy and the means to continue this work, I’ll do it as my modest contribution to “changing the world”.

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Reposted with permission from: Literal Magazine

Innovation is a Social Issue by Martin Eiermann and Christoper Steiner

In economy, education, industrial processes, infrastructure, politics, technology on March 25, 2014 at 03:34

From: Algorithms and the Future of Work: Innovation is a Social Issue by Martin Eiermann and Christoper Steiner, The European Magazine, http://www.theeuropean-magazine.com

The European: You’re talking about a momentous shift in the labor market: The vast majority of workers fall into the category of mid-level employees. Unemployment is already high in the wake of the crisis – and if you’re correct in your predictions, we are looking at a technological shift with tremendous social consequences.
Steiner: Economists go back and forth on this question. Some argue that unemployment will remain high because of these trends, but others point out that people had very similar worries during the industrial revolution. The steam engine revolutionized production, but you still needed as many workers as before. The biggest trend for me is about stratification: The people who can handle algorithms and market themselves will do very well. They will displace people with less expertise and experience.

The European: Does that worry you?
Steiner: I’m more curious than worried. If you look at the top 500 American companies, corporate profits are near an all-time high, yet unemployment levels are higher than average as well. Many companies have not hired back the workers they laid off but have instead managed to increase productivity through software and automation. This isn’t just a future trend, it’s already happening.

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Reposted with permission from: The European

The becoming-girl of the Virgin Mary by Em McAvan

In gender, philosophy, religion, society on March 25, 2014 at 03:22

From: The becoming-girl of the Virgin Mary by Em McAvan, Rhizomes: Issue 22, http://www.rhizomes.net

“How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?” (Luke 1:34)

“difference is monstrous” (Gilles Deleuze, Repetition and Difference, 37)

[1] To study religion with Gilles Deleuze is to already be involved in a contradiction of sorts. The dominant theological traditions of Christianity have been metaphysical enterprises grounded in a transcendent being (God), who guarantees all life and all meaning. This is the onto-theological argument, fairly succinctly formulated by Thomas Aquinas in Summa Theologica where he says that the name of God “signifies being itself.” God “is who he is” (as the Christian gloss on Exodus goes), he is pure being itself. Indeed, Aquinas goes so far as to state that “God is pure act without any potentiality whatsoever” (quoted in Kearney The God Who May Be, 83). In contrast to the hegemonic Christian tradition, Deleuze formulates a critique of “the order of God” (Logic of Sense, 332), preferring immanence to transcendence and the radical unpredictability of becoming. He writes approvingly of Nietzsche’s Antichrist, who is “characterized by the death of God, the destruction of the world, the dissolution of the person, the disintegration of bodies, and the shifting function of language which now expresses only intensities” (Logic of Sense, 334).

[2] It is difficult to recuperate Deleuze for a thoroughly orthodox project. However, Deleuze and Guattari’s idea of the rhizome – which gives this journal its name – already makes clear the necessity of connecting his work with disparate, unlikely disciplines, transforming each in the process. Daniel W. Smith points out that Deleuze can be best understood as post-religious, since he “harbors neither the antagonism of the ‘secular’ who find the concept of God outmoded, nor the angst or mourning of those for whom the loss of God was crisis-provoking, nor the faith of those who would like to retrieve the concept in a new form” (“The Doctrine of Univocity,” 167). Deleuze provides us neither with a master key for religion nor an outside from which to critique, instead he provides an occasion for transmutation, for becoming—the becoming-Deleuzian of religion and the becoming-religious of Deleuze. As we can see in work over the last decade in Mary Bryden’s collection Deleuze and Religion, in feminist process theologian Catherine Keller’s Face of the Deep: A Theology of Becoming, and in the work of deconstructionist John D. Caputo, the encounter between Deleuzian thought and religion can be a fruitful one. In this essay, I will connect Deleuze with religion in another way, connecting his work on becoming-girl and repetition with the archetypal figure of a girl, the Virgin Mary. I will argue that, paradoxically, Mary becomes a girl after the Event of the birth of Christ, and that this particular movement is repeated in the faithful/faithless folds of the Virgin’s image found in various situations.

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Reposted with permission from: Rhizomes

The Bachelor Century by Jon Rich

In civilisation, ethics, Europe, government, history, North America, politics, religion, society, war, world on March 2, 2014 at 21:07

From: The Bachelor Century: Single Sinners Seeking God’s Job by Jon Rich, e-flux, http://www.e-flux.com

Since the sixteenth century, writing has aspired towards permanence. That horrific century brought a succession of powers, churches, popes, writers, politicians, and artists who made attempts at immortality by making their marks on the rocks of time. The Catholic Church has remained tenaciously faithful, in a sense, to the fifteenth century. The Church’s guards, popes, teachings, sermons, and its Bible have been the center of attention since Michelangelo finished his marvelous works at the Sistine Chapel. As is the case with other holy books, the Bible is a hymnal. Its hymns are recited and sung in the same fashion as the hymns found in other holy books. The fact that the Bible is a hymnal means that there’s a strong tendency, which has remained strong for centuries, to convert it from the written to the oral realm. In the latter realm, it is no longer simply a book, a physical artifact that will fall victim to the deleterious effects of light and humidity, but an invocation that unites all, regardless of their faith. The recitation and the sound of bells are meant to be familiar even to heretics and infidels. This phenomenon finds a perfect match in other holy books like the Torah and the Quran. Religions have, since the beginning, sought to make the word of God familiar and approachable. People who treated divine texts as primarily written words became priests, irrespective of their vocational inclination: infidels, heretics, atheists, priests, or theologians. Voltaire is no less priestly than St. Augustine.

Let’s go back briefly to Nietzsche to remind ourselves that collective human memory—what makes us human—is activated by pain and suffering. To oversimplify Nietzsche, we could say that our collective memory has privileged reactive thinking as a tool of evolution. A man who likes a woman for purely physical reasons is ready to reproduce with her but calls this attraction love. This reactive thinking extends to food, sleep, comfort, sport, work, and achievement. In fact, this sense of urgency to react is directly connected to scarcity. When we read Joseph’s story in the Torah, or the Quran, or The Sorrows of Young Werther by Goethe, we are taken by the pain and joy of very specific people. For these people to invest so much effort into finding their better halves elevates love to a universal human value.

With the supremacy of television and the ubiquity of the internet, this elevation of love becomes nearly impossible. No woman is a man’s better half and no death is pure and final on TV. Television recycles better halves infinitely, giving them new names, new bodies, and new faces. It also portrays death and suffering in myriad ways, creating a variety that impels us to admire and be entertained by it. This bombardment by images of horror leaves little room in one’s heart for a tinge of discomfort, like the one Lionel Messi might feel upon missing a shot on goal.

All of this was impossible to predict before the events of the Arab Spring. It has become clear, with the abundance of images of death and bloodshed coming out of Syria in the past two years, that death itself has become incapable of pushing us, even for a tiny moment, to think about the death of an individual. More deaths will follow, and staying up to date with them will mean having no time for sorrow, and certainly no time to mourn.

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Reposted with permission from: e-flux

Heidegger and the case of domestic animals by Philippe Theophanidis

In animals, art, philosophy, psychology on March 2, 2014 at 20:52

From: Heidegger and the case of domestic animals by Philippe Theophanidis, Aphelis, http://aphelis.net

Although various interpretations are still subject to debate, it seems to be rather common to provide Goya’s dog with feelings or affective dispositions. But how to bear witness of the animal’s world without substituting our human experience to its own?

Here’s a short excerpt where Heidegger discusses the relationship we have with domestics animals: the fact that we are tempted to interpret their world even though, at the same time, it remains fundamentally foreign to our own.

However, if an original transposedness on man’s part in relation to the animal is possible, this surely implies that the animal also has its world. Or is this going too far? Is it precisely this ‘going too far’ that we constantly misunderstand? And why do we do so? Transposedness into the animal can belong to the essence of man without this necessarily meaning that we transpose ourselves into an animal’s world or that the animal in general has a world. And now our question becomes more incisive: In this transposedness into the animal, where is it that we are transposed to? What is it we are going along with, and what does this ‘with’ mean? What sort of going is involved here? Or, from the perspective of the animal, what is it about the animal which allows and invites human transposedness into it, even while refusing man the possibility of going along with the animal? From the side of the animal, what is it that grants the possibility of transposedness and necessarily refuses any going along with? What is this having and yet not having? (The Fundamental Concepts of Metaphysics World, Finitude, Solitude, [1983] 1995, p. 210 [307-309])

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Reposted with permission from: Philippe Theophanidis

A Feeling of Oneness With the World by by Volker M. Welter

In architecture, biography, design, North America, psychology, uncategorized on March 2, 2014 at 20:43

From:  A Feeling of Oneness With the World: On the House of Dr. Franz Alexander by Volker M. Welter, Berfrois, http://www.berfrois.com

Following a map for a driving tour along Palm Spring’s mid-twentieth century Modernist homes and buildings, I had just peeked at Richard Neutra’s Kaufmann House, the rebellious sibling from 1947 of Frank Lloyds Wright’s Fallingwater House in Pennsylvania, which was begun for the same client in 1935. Figuring out on the map where to drive to next, a house whose owner was identified as Dr. Franz Alexander caught my attention. I had come across that name some years earlier in connection with my research into Ernst L. Freud, the architect-son of Sigmund Freud. Rumour had it that Ernst Freud designed Alexander’s consulting room when both lived in Berlin in the 1920s, though I could never verify that. I decided to take a look at the house that carried the same name as the Austrian-Hungarian psychoanalyst.

The wood and steel roof of the Alexander House was a variation of an earlier experimental patented roof and wall construction or which a patent was pending. The curve of the roof on the Palm Springs house was a new experiment. White argued that it would help to passively heat and cool the interior; to soundly integrate his houses into the desert environment was a goal of his from early on. White’s characterisation of the Alexander house as a prototype of an environmentally sensitive desert home may have triggered the psychoanalyst’s scientific curiosity. Other elements of the house appear to be abstractions of the circumstances of the ‘oceanic feelings’ that Franz Alexander had experienced during his childhood, but the one that lingers is the view from the balcony: the equivalent of the gaze across the Baltic Sea, the azure dome of the sky recalling the large blue balloon, and the interior with its concave ceiling as a version of the finite universe with its curved space. In short, the desert house was the perfect setting for Alexander’s pursuit of both the scientific and the humanistic inquiries into humanity and its fate; a lifelong quest that had begun in Budapest and was far from over when Alexander settled in Palm Springs.

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Reposted with permission from: Berfrois

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