Posts Tagged ‘choice’

A Heart That Can Endure by Nadia Sels

In anthropology, philosophy, society on June 6, 2013 at 20:07

From: A Heart That Can Endure: Blumenberg’s Anthropology of Solace by Nadia Sels, Image & Narrative,

In his essay “Trostbedürfnis und Untröstlichkeit des Menschen”, Hans Blumenberg discusses the philosophical and anthropological importance of the concept of consolation. Man, he claims, is the only animal whose pain can be caused or taken away by what is ultimately a fiction. This article resumes and comments upon the main argument of this text and situates it in the context of Blumenberg’s broader view on man as an animal symbolicum, and more particularly his theory on the “absolutism of reality”. It concludes with an inquiry into the link between consolation and human creativity in both word and image.

Blumenberg starts out by referring to Boethius’ De Consolatione Philosophiae and draws attention to its peculiar premise: that philosophy should provide not so much truth but rather consolation – that what enables us to bear the unbearable. It is our relation to this enigmatic category, Blumenberg argues, that distinguishes us from other animals, even more so than our potential for rationality. He also immediately points out that there is a certain tension between these two human capacities. “Seeking or offering comfort is sometimes contemptible,” he immediately adds: “It appears as a mentality of faulty realism, since solace exactly consists in the fact that one believes that nothing can be changed about the way things are, and therefore abandons all attempts to do so” (“Trostbedürfnis” 623) Comfort indeed can be associated with escapism and fatalism, and this is probably particularly true for recent times, in which the prevailing neoliberal discourse propagates the idea that in all circumstances we are, and should be, in full control of our lives: problems ought to be seen as ‘challenges’ to be ‘met’, we have to ‘move on’, ‘look forward’, ‘be flexible’. Like a somewhat embarrassing physical problem, the need for consolation is not something we tend to discuss in public, and it is indeed difficult to even repeatedly use the word without sounding a bit corny.
Blumenberg however explicitly distances himself from this idea of the need for solace as a sign of personal weakness by approaching it as an anthropological constant, a category intrinsically bound up with the peculiarity of the human species. For this he quotes a diary fragment of Georg Simmel that puts the finger on the reason why consolation is distinctive to mankind, and at the same time points out its paradoxical nature:

The concept of consolation has a much broader, deeper meaning than we usually attribute to it. Man is a being who seeks to be consoled. Consolation is something other than help – even the animal seeks the latter; but consolation is the strange experience which lets suffering remain but, so to speak, abolishes the suffering from suffering. It does not concern the evil cause but its reflex in the deepest part of the soul. (625, cit. from Simmel 17)5

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Reposted with permission from: Image & Narrative


Are You Smarter Than a Freshman? by Harvey C. Mansfield

In books, government, law, philosophy, political science, politics on November 17, 2012 at 18:22

From: Are You Smarter Than a Freshman? What political philosophy has to say about elections. by Harvey C. Mansfield, Defining Ideas,

Aristotle’s Politics calls into question the assumption that elections are democratic. Democracy stands for living as you please, he says, which means as you choose. But choosing means taking better over worse, or a respectable life over doing menial tasks, the noble over the necessary. In choosing to have an election—the word for choice also means “election”—you give your support to someone or a party you admire or at any rate think better of. What is this preference but the choice of an aristocracy, literally, the rule of the best, or of the best in this situation?

Machiavelli believes that human beings are divided into the few who want to rule and the many who do not care to rule themselves but do not want to be ruled by others either. Then those who want to rule must conceal their rule from the many they rule if they wish to succeed. How can they do this? Machiavelli went about conceiving a “new mode of ruling,” a hidden government that puts the people “under a dominion they do not see.” Government is hidden when it appears not to be imposed on you from above but when it comes from you, when it is self-imposed.

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Reposted with permission from: Defining Ideas

Choose Your Choice by Claude S. Fischer

In culture, government, North America, politics, psychology, sociology on October 14, 2012 at 16:25

From: Choose Your Choice: The Great American Obsession by Claude S. Fischer Boston Review,

Choice has vastly expanded over American history, and not just in the material realm—the thousands of items in the supermarket, the world of travel destinations, and so on—but also in terms of social opportunities. Through changes in access, custom, and law, Americans have obtained freedom to choose their life paths and companions. Marrying across religious and racial lines, for example, has become increasingly common and acceptable. Gay marriage is coming, too, and already here in some places. Chacun à son goût, say the French, but it’s the Americans who really mean it.

Not only are there now more choices to make, but, over time, more kinds of Americans have gained the power to choose. The ideology of the eighteenth century held that only people who were truly independent—white men of property—were competent to choose wisely. The vote was, sensibly, then, restricted to such men. The next couple of centuries brought the working class, racial minorities, women, and young adults greater rights to choose and also more realistic choices. When women, for instance, could own their own property, earn their own income in respectable professions, and be heard in court, marriage became more equitable and more a matter of equal choice.

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Reposted with permission from: Boston Review

Kate Middleton: the female body in the post-Berlusconi media by Heather McRobie

In culture, ethics, Europe, gender, government, media, photography, politics, privacy, sexuality on October 3, 2012 at 06:51

From: Kate Middleton: the female body in the post-Berlusconi media by Heather McRobie, Open Democracy,

So, we have misogyny, power, and lurid gossip-media…feel like something’s missing in the picture? Oh don’t worry, he’s here.  Yes, Berlusconi – the man who made the last year better just because we didn’t have to say his name so often anymore when discussing European politics – in fact owned the media outlet that originally published the photographs of Kate Middleton (a fact which led to some conspiracy-theorising that this was Berlusconi’s revenge on perceived snubs by the British monarchy, according to the Daily Beast’s Barbie Latza Nadeau).  The publication of the photos by a Berlusconi-owned media outlet should thus be a good opportunity for all European media to reflect on how much damage the former Italian prime minister has had on media standards even outside of Italy, not least in respect to the treatment of women.  The 2009 Italian documentary Il Corpo delle Donne analysed how, under Berlusconi’s effective 95% ownership of Italian media, public depictions of women were infantilised, used (often literally) only as decorative props on Italian television, essentially making invisible from public life any woman who was not willing to pneumatically, breathlessly play along with the narrow, porn-ified role granted for them in the media space.  Journalists who tried to report on the dual dominance of corruption and misogyny while Berlusconi held the dual role of head of state and media mogul found themselves intimidated, critics invariably dismissed as prudes.

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Reposted according to CC copyright notice from Open Democracy website

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