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Posts Tagged ‘philosophy’

Featured Essay: Happiness by John Zerzan

In anthropology, civilisation, Featured, nature, philosophy, society, theory on March 12, 2013 at 15:24

Featured Essay: Happiness by John Zerzan, http://www.johnzerzan.net

Reposted in full with permission from: John Zerzan

Is happiness really possible in a time of ruin? Can we somehow flourish, have complete lives? Is joy any longer compatible with the life of today?

A deep sense of well-being has become an endangered species. How often does one hear “It is good to be here”? (Matthew 17:4, Luke 9:5, Luke 9:33) or Wordsworth’s reference to “the pleasure which there is in life itself”[1] ? Much of the prevailing condition and the dilemma it poses is expressed by Adorno’s observation: “A wrong life cannot be lived rightly.”[2]

In this age happiness, if not obsolete, is a test, an opportunity. “To be happy is to be able to become aware of oneself without being frightened.”[3] We seem to be desperate for happiness, as bookshelves, counseling rooms, and talk shows promote endless recipes for contentment. But the well-worn, feel-good bromides from the likes of Oprah, Eckhart Tolle, and the Dalai Lama seem to work about as well as a Happy Meal, happy hour, or Coke’s invitation to “Pour Happiness!”

Gone is the shallow optimism of yesteryear, such as it was. The mandatory gospel of happiness is in tatters. As Hélène Cixous put it, we are “born to the difficulty in taking pleasure from absence.”[4] We sense only “a little light/in great darkness,” to quote Pound, who borrowed from Dante.[5]

How do we explore this? What is expected re: happiness? In light of all that stands in its way or erodes it, is happiness mainly a fortuitous accident?[6]

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Cormac McCarthy’s Paradox of Choice by Scott Esposito

In aesthetics, books, literature, North America, philosophy, society, writers on December 8, 2012 at 21:50

From: Cormac McCarthy’s Paradox of Choice: One Writer, Ten Novels, and a Career-Long Obsession by Scott Esposito, The Quarterly Conversation, http://quarterlyconversation.com

McCarthy has given new shades to the English language, and that should be enough. Were he a painter or a composer, or perhaps even a poet, it probably would be, but Cormac McCarthy is a fiction writer, and fiction is generally construed to carry burdens above and beyond anything so frivolous as mere style. Stories must mean something. They must appear to argue for or against moral systems—or at least interrogate them. They must be a little less inconstant than dreams.

It is strange to charge McCarthy with not caring about anything more than surfaces, as his single most famous public utterance indicates otherwise. This is the author who declared “I don’t understand [Proust and Henry James]. To me, that’s not literature” because real literature “deals with issues of life and death.”

Here McCarthy reveals his great interest in the choices his characters make. True, he may not realize that, to Proust and James, Swann’s choice to court Odette or Isabel Archer’s choice to marry Osmond are issues just as “life and death” as any murder or tryst found in McCarthy, but the quote still flatly contradicts the claim that McCarthy is a pure formalist. And does McCarthy’s work itself back up his claim? Yes. In fact, in each of his ten novels McCarthy has showed an obsession with the rare, crucial moments when people make the decisions that will define their lives forever.

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Reposted with permission from: The Quarterly Conversation

Philosophy And The Two-Sided Brain by Carol Nicholson

In books, humanities, philosophy, science on October 29, 2012 at 22:15

From: Philosophy And The Two-Sided Brain by Carol Nicholson, Philosophy Now, philosophynow.org

In two New York Times columns, ‘Does Philosophy Matter?’ (1 August 2011) and a week later ‘Does Philosophy Matter? (Part Two)’, Stanley Fish argued that philosophy does not matter to people’s everyday lives. He claimed that most people don’t have philosophical convictions, and for those who do have them, it is what he calls ‘the theory mistake’ to think that their philosophical views have any effect on the way they act outside of the classroom. He writes, “Philosophy is fun; it can be a good mental workout; its formulations sometimes display an aesthetically pleasing elegance. I’m just denying… that its conclusions dictate or generate non-philosophical behavior.” Hundreds of readers posted comments in disagreement with Fish, pointing out examples of ways in which philosophy has influenced the course of history and continues to make a difference to people’s ways of life.

It seems to me that there is truth on both sides of the argument. This is possible because Fish and his critics are operating with different definitions of philosophy. Fish is using a very narrow definition, according to which the function of philosophy is exclusively the analysis of abstract issues, such as whether there are absolute moral truths. In this thinking, the discipline of philosophy is not related to religion, ethics, politics, science, history, literature, art, or any other aspect of human experience. This severely limited view of the role of philosophy was dominant in English-speaking countries during the latter half of the twentieth century, but few philosophers today hold such an extreme position. The medieval view that philosophy is ‘the Queen of the Sciences’ is no longer widely held, but most philosophers think that studying their discipline can make a difference to one’s life outside the seminar room, although they may disagree about exactly what kind of difference. Many would argue against Fish that even if philosophy cannot give access to truths that are somehow more ultimate than scientific or historical facts, it can offer self-knowledge about the most basic assumptions and values that govern our thinking and action, and a clearer understanding of what we are doing that can help us to do it better. This links with a tradition going back to the ancient Greeks and which gives philosophy its name, meaning ‘the love of wisdom’. It’s Plato’s phrase, and he meant by it curiosity about all aspects of knowledge and experience. According to this more expansive definition, philosophy aims to understand ultimate truths about the universe and human nature (metaphysics), the extent and limits of knowledge (epistemology), and the principles that can give guidance in how to live a good life (ethics).

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Reposted with permission from: Philosophy Now

The Raw and the Cooked by Justin E. H. Smith and Cătălin Avramescu

In books, civilisation, Europe, government, humanities, interview, philosophy, science, sociology, theory on October 15, 2012 at 03:16

From: The Raw and the Cooked: An Interview with Cătălin Avramescu by Justin E. H. Smith and Cătălin Avramescu, CABINET Magazine, http://cabinetmagazine.org

The beginning of the modern age is heralded by the discovery of the New World, whose human inhabitants were principally noteworthy for their custom, real or imagined, of eating other humans. Scarcely had Columbus returned from his first encounter with the Arawaks of Hispaniola when this point of apparent cultural difference became for European moralists the centerpiece of their search for the ultimate grounds of morality and for the causes of the diversity of moral systems. The figure of the cannibal, in this sense, plays a leading role in the emergence of early modern moral and political philosophy.

The Romanian philosopher and political scientist Cătălin Avramescu is the first scholar to notice the importance of the cannibal in modern European thought, and to attempt to write a comprehensive intellectual history of anthropophagy. His book first appeared in Romanian in 2003 under the title Filozoful crud (“the cruel philosopher” or “the raw philosopher,” depending on context), and in 2009 was published by Princeton University Press as An Intellectual History of Cannibalism. In June 2010, Justin E. H. Smith spoke with Avramescu in Bucharest about, among other things, the difficulty of intellectualizing such a bloody topic as this. This interview was subsequently fleshed out in a series of e-mail exchanges.

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Reposted with permission from: CABINET Magazine

Žižek: silence and the real desert by Rob Weatherill

In Europe, humanities, philosophy, psychology, sociology, theory, writers on October 7, 2012 at 04:14

From: Žižek: silence and the real desert by Rob Weatherill, International Journal of Žižek Studies, http://zizekstudies.org

… For Žižek, opposing the Law via direct action, what he calls ‘the rumspringa of resistance’ only reinforces the System through our robust participation within it. Rumspringa refers to the “running around” of Amish youth, permitted experimentation and transgression for a brief time before they either, re-enter their strict community as evermore committed members, or leave altogether. Žižek is also against humanitarian aid, giving to charities to support orphans in Africa, opposing oil drilling in a wide-life area, presumably buying fair trade coffee, ethical products, or supporting feminists in Muslim countries, and so on. All the things that make well educated middle class people feel that they are doing “their bit” with their little rumspringa, before they revert to their normal lives. He is also against the by now standard response of dis-identifying with the system – I know it’s all a game – while participating fully within it. Or, more radically, going to California or Thailand to meditate, Zen-style, for a week or for a year – maybe the ultimate self-absorption in the guise of pan-spiritual withdrawal. What Žižek wants to explore is a “new space” outside the hegemonic position and its mirroring negation – the Heideggerian sense of a clearing, the opening up of a place, ‘through a gesture which is thoroughly violent in its impassive refusal…to quote Mallarmé – nothing will have taken place but the place itself’ (Ibid: 381). This gesture is no-thing. It is the ‘immanent difference, gap, between this [everyday] reality and its own void; that is to discern the void that separates material reality from itself , that makes it “non-all”’(Ibid: 383).

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Reposted with permission from: International Journal of Žižek Studies

 

Auguste Comte – High Priest of Positivism by Caspar Hewett

In Europe, history, humanities, research, science, society, sociology, writers on September 23, 2012 at 07:21

From: Auguste Comte – High Priest of Positivism by Caspar Hewett, The Great Debate, http://thegreatdebate.org.uk

Auguste Comte [1798 – 1857] was the father of Positivism and inventor of the term sociology. He played a key role in the development of the social sciences and was highly influential on thoughts about progress in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Comte believed that the progress of the human mind had followed an historical sequence which he described as the law of three stages; theological, metaphysical and positive. In the first two stages, attempts were made to understand the nature of things through supernatural and metaphysical explanations. In the positive stage, by contrast, observation and experiment became the principal means to search for truth. Applying the law of three stages first to the development of the sciences, Comte later claimed that it applied to human intellectual development in general and that it held the key to the future progress of humanity.

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Reposted with permission from: The Great Debate

Whitescapes by David Batchelor

In aesthetics, art, literature, philosophy, poetry, society, space on September 8, 2012 at 19:19

 

From: Whitescapes by David Batchelor, Cabinet Magazine, http://cabinetmagazine.org

To mistake the colorful for the colorless or white is nothing new. However, it is one thing not to have known that Greek statues were once brilliantly painted, it is another thing not to see the color when it is still there. This seems to speak of a different psychological state, of a different level of denial. Not perceiving what is visibly there: psychoanalysts call it negative hallucination. But we have to tread carefully here, and we should be especially careful not to get drawn into seeing color and white as opposites. White was sometimes used in Minimalism, but it was mostly used as a color and amongst many other colors. Sometimes it was used in combination with other colors and sometimes it was used alone, but even when used alone it remained a color; it did not result, except perhaps in LeWitt’s structures, in a generalized whiteness. In these works, white remained a material quality, a specific color on a specific surface, just as it always has done in the paintings of Robert Ryman. Ryman’s whites are always just that: whites. His whites are colors; his paintings do not involve or imply the suppression of color. His whites are empirical whites. Above all, his whites are plural. And, in being plural, they are, therefore, not “pure.” Here is the problem: not white; not whites; but generalized white, because generalized white, whiteness, is abstract, detached, and open to contamination by terms like “pure.”

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Reposted with permission from: Cabinet Magazine

Featured Essay: The Sea by John Zerzan

In civilisation, ecology, Featured, literature, nature, philosophy, poetry, society, writers on September 8, 2012 at 01:01

I have a special post for you today. Throughout the ongoing process of communicating with websites in the hope of receiving permission to repost their content, I had a few wonderful exchanges with writers and researchers. One of them was John Zerzan, author and philosopher, who sent me his latest essay for publication on this website. Enjoy the essay and feel free to comment.

HG

Featured Essay: The Sea by John Zerzan

Last remaining lair of unparalleled wildness. Too big to fail?

The whole world is being objectified, but Melville reminds us of all that remains. “There you stand, lost in the infinite series of the sea.”i What could be more tangible, more of a contrast with being lost in the digital world, where we feel we can never properly come to grips with anything.

Oceans are about time more than space, “as if there were a correlation between going deep and going back.”ii The Deep is solemn; linking, in some way, all that has come before. Last things and first things. “Heaven,” by comparison, is thin and faintly unserious.

“Over All the Face of Earth Main Ocean Flowed,” announced the poem by John Milton.iii Given its 71 percent predominance on this planet, why is our world called Earth instead of Sea? Much of the land, in fact, could be defined as littoral areas where land and sea meet.iv The sea is a textured place, infinite in its moods, forms, energies—and not so easily de-textured. But we see what happens when culture is privileged over place. The sea, where all life began just this side of four billion years ago, must still sustain us. Not only are its waters the original source of life, it also shapes the climate, weather, and temperature of the planet, and therefore the status of terrestrial species.

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Hegel and Islam by Muhammed Khair

In Asia, civilisation, culture, Europe, history, philosophy, politics, religion on September 3, 2012 at 21:40

 

From: Hegel and ISLAM  by Muhammed Khair, The Philosopher, http://www.the-philosopher.co.uk

So when it comes to Islam as seen by Hegel, Anglo-Saxons have a blind spot. Standard works on Hegel, like that of the Canadian Hegelian Charles Taylor (Fellow of All Souls, Oxford), ignored Hegel’s observations on Islam in his Philosophy of History, based on a series of lectures in 1822 and published posthumously by his son. (And compare this with his most famous work on the Phenomenology of the Spirit published in 1807!) But Hegel has an interesting and illuminating short chapter on Islam, somewhat incongruously located in the final section on the German world and not, as one might expect, in the earlier section on the Oriental world. This in itself begs the question as to Islam’s place in world history.

For a recent work which hints at the true locus of Islam one must turn to the Bosnian academic Muslim – and its first president – an intellectual who can be compared to Vaclav Havel of the Czech Republic. Aliya Ali Izetbegovic it is, who entitled his work Islam between East and West and located Islam in the spatial and temporal congruence between the sacred and the secular, a phenomenon that appears as it does in the 7th century of the Christian Era, seen now in the full light of history.

Scholars in the past have found Islam to be a product of late Classicism, like Christianity arising out of the Levant and heavily indebted to neo-Platonism, and only gradually Orientalised as its centre of gravity moved from Syria (in the 7th century CE) to Mesopotamia (Iraq), and as its rulers changed from Arabs (who had heavily invested in the translation project of the Greek philosophic corpus into Arabic) to neophyte newcomers from Turkish Central Asia (see the Tunisian writer Hichem Djait’s Hegelian Study of Europe and Islam, University of California of Press translation, 1985).

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Reposted with permission from: The Philosopher

Free Will and the Anders Breivik Trial by Sarah Lucas

In culture, ethics, Europe, government, philosophy, politics on September 1, 2012 at 17:31

 

From: Free Will and the Anders Breivik Trial by Sarah Lucas, The Humanist, http://thehumanist.org

Obtaining revenge for heinous crimes appeals to our moral intuitions; if someone intentionally harms others, he or she should suffer the consequences. Revenge has been an understandably present theme in Norway in the aftermath of Breivik’s killing spree. On the opening day of the trial, the daily newspaper Dagsavisen carried the headline, “The Hour of Reckoning,” surrounded by the name of every person killed on Utoya. VG, Norway’s most-read paper, quoted a survivor who said, “I’m looking forward to him receiving his punishment.”

Our conviction that punishment is just in the face of crimes like Breivik’s is so strong that it obscures a built-in assumption. We take for granted that humans possess free will, and that each individual is therefore at liberty to act as he or she chooses. Our assumption is rooted in the powerful feeling of free will we experience: if I want to raise my hand right now, I will. Free will does not, however, flow from a materialistic (non-supernatural) understanding of the world. Without resorting to the supernatural, it is difficult to make a case for the existence of free will, at least for the type that would imply moral responsibility.

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Reposted with permission from: The Humanist

Meeting Martha Nussbaum with Alan Saunders

In audio, humanities, interview, philosophy on August 31, 2012 at 03:52

 

From: Meeting Martha Nussbaum with Alan Saunders, The Philosopher’s Zone, ABC Radio National, http://www.abc.net.au

Alan Saunders: I’m interested that you talk about the relationship between ritual and the moral life. This is not an obvious connection, I think, that many people would make. They’d think that ritual is just doing one damn thing after the other every day and it is unconnected with morality which involves thought and consideration of what you’re doing.

Martha Nussbaum: Well, you know, I’ve always said and written that emotions are central to the moral life and that if we really reflect about what we are deeply attached to, that’s quite an important part of getting our moral life in order, because we all have deep and passionate attachments to people and things outside of ourselves that we don’t control. And so for me ritual is a time of stepping aside from the busy life with all its distractions. And that I think is a big part of it; it’s just getting into a space of contemplation. But then meditating on the deeper emotional attachments that human life contains: grief and loss and aspiration and joy. And I think ritual sticks around because like a great piece of music – and of course it includes music for me very prominently – it just has that capacity to touch us with the deeper connections and attachments that we have, and I think the shear repetition could, of course, be just rote, but it can also bring back memories. I mean, when you go to a Passover seder I think you think about freedom in a new way because you are remembering your childhood and you are remembering your connections to loved people you have lost. The very fact that you’re back there one year later in the same place with many but not all of the same people helps you think about what you care about.

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Reposted with permission from: ABC Radio National

A rear view of Alfred Hitchcock by Alan Saunders

In culture, film, interview, philosophy, visual arts on August 21, 2012 at 21:39

 

From: A rear view of Alfred Hitchcock by Alan Saunders, The Philosopher’s Zone, ABC Radio National, http://www.abc.net.au

Alan Saunders: Now the action of the movie occurs naturally, given the single-take effect; it occurs more or less in real time, which means that the murder is committed by daylight, and as the time goes on, is discovered at night after a party attended by the parents of the boy they’d murdered. What does this move from daylight to night, what does this have to tell us about the moral world of the movie?

William A. Drumin: The meaning that Hitchcock, as the director, seeks to ascribe to a film, philosophic or otherwise, is how he films it. Now my view is that see these two young killers want to cut themselves off from society, they regard themselves as above society, and that apartment, that closed-in compartment that’s kind of a separate world, as if it said they are the gods of this world you see, disposing of things by their superior intellects, and that kind of thing. So by filming continuously, I feel that Hitchcock is acting to break, to oppose the attempt of those killers. To say, No, you are wrong, society will re-assert its authority. You cannot arbitrarily cut yourself off from the social relationships you see.

You remember at the end of the film how Jimmy Stewart opens the window and fires the three gunshots out of the window? And then you hear the noises from the street filtering up, and the sound of the police siren and so on. That’s a liberating act, because this closed apartment has kind of been a vision of hell, where God and morality has been shut out, and now continuity has been re-established. So I think that in filming continuously, he establishes his stance towards the action of the film.

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Reposted with permission from: ABC Radio National

The ideal of community: belief without proof (Arendt, 1929) by Philippe Theophanidis

In community, philosophy, sociology on August 18, 2012 at 05:37

 

From: The ideal of community: belief without proof (Arendt, 1929) by Philippe Theophanidis, aphelis, http://aphelis.net

Though this equality is only implicit in the earthly city it permits us to understand interdependence, which essentially defines social life in the worldly community. This interdependence shows in the mutual give and take in which people live together.12 The attitude of individuals toward each other is characterized here by belief (crederer), as distinguished from all real or potential knowledge.13 We comprehend all history, that is, all human and temporal acts by believing―which means by trusting, but never by understanding (intelligere). This belief in the other is the belief that he will prove himself in our common future. Every earthly city depends upon this proof. Yet this belief that arises from our mutual interdependence precedes any possible proof.14 The continued existence of humankind does not rest on the proof. Rather, it rests on necessary belief, without which social life become impossible.15

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Reposted with permission from: Philippe Theophanidis

Gustavo Díaz: The Art of Questioning by Rose Mary Salum

In art, interview, philosophy, science on August 16, 2012 at 05:40

 

From: Gustavo Díaz: The Art of Questioning by Rose Mary Salum, Literal Magazine, http://www.literalmagazine.com

Rose Mary Salum: It strikes me how fascinated you seem to be with the concept of complexity. I’d like to know if this has to do with mental or artistic complexity, or if it relates to science?

Gustavo Díaz: Complexity is all that exists in the universe. On micro and macro scales, every process is complex, from breathing to walking. We assimilate the most basic, habitual processes as natural to us, but they actually come about as the result of macro or micro complexes. I am quite passionate on this subject at any scale. When you zoom in on your own gaze or concepts and see the small details of things, they possess formal, functional, and operative complexities. The same thing happens when we observe on a macro scale.

I feel this is an important matter. It’s a very timely subject, given that the world is gaining complexity on all levels. The growth of cit- ies and transportation systems, for example, display high entropy, transformation that leads to disorder. All these are ideas that can be considered in the context of physics, but also of sociology, philosophy, anthropology, etc. One can consider complexity from within different disciplines, because it is present in everyday life.

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Reposted with permission from: Literal Magazine

The Role of Authority by Scott Hershovitz

In philosophy, society, sociology on August 6, 2012 at 20:54

 

From: The Role of Authority by Scott Hershovitz, Philosophers’ Imprint, http://quod.lib.umich.edu/p/phimp

The most influential account of authority – Joseph Raz’s service conception – is an account of the role of authority. Most philosophers hold that authority (of the practical sort) consists in a right to rule, such that subjects are obligated to obey. But they disagree over what it takes for a person to qualify as an authority in that sense.

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Isaiah Berlin by Joshua Cherniss

In history, philosophy, politics, society on July 13, 2012 at 00:54

 

From: Isaiah Berlin by Joshua Cherniss, the Oxonian Review, http://www.oxonianreview.org

Berlin’s work also cautions against the self-righteousness of all who claim to have a monopoly on virtue, whether they be rulers or dissidents. It also condemns the craving for similarity, and intolerance of those who think differently from oneself. It thus suggests that even when we encounter policies that we feel confident in condemning—and that Berlin’s principles suggests we should condemn—we should do so moderately and humbly, while retaining doubts about our own program and resisting the lure of our own certitudes. Most people, at all points along the political spectrum (including the liberal centre), could profit by this advice.

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Water by John Protevi

In government, history, philosophy, society on July 10, 2012 at 01:15

 

From: Water by John Protevi, rhizomes.15 winter 2007, http://www.rhizomes.net

[3] For Deleuze and for Deleuze and Guattari, being is production. The production process (intensive difference driving material flows resulting in actual or extensive forms) is structured by virtual Ideas or multiplicities or “abstract machines.” Multiplicities are composed of mutually defined elements with linked rates of change [“differential relations”] peppered with singularities. In mathematical modeling of physical systems, singularities are points at which the graph of a function changes direction. Singularities in models represent thresholds in intensive processes, where a system undergoes a qualitative change of behavior.  Being as production is symbolized in Difference and Repetition by the slogan, “the world is an egg” (251). What this means is that “spatio-temporal dynamisms” or intensive processes are that which actualizes or “differenciates” Ideas. These processes, however, are hidden by the constituted qualities and extensities of actual products. The example of embryology shows this differenciation of differentiation, as the dynamic of egg’s morphogenesis implies a virtual Idea unfolding in such a way that there are things only an embryo can do or withstand. The world is thus a progressive determination going from virtual to actual. Thought, however, is vice-diction or counter-effectuation: it goes the other way from production. It is a matter of establishing the Idea / multiplicity of something—”constructing a concept”—by  moving from extensity through intensity to virtuality.

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What Is Normal? by Simon Critchley

In economics, philosophy, politics, society on July 2, 2012 at 18:32

 

From: What Is Normal? The surprising power of the political imagination by Simon Critchley, Adbusters Magazine, http://www.adbusters.org

We are living through a dramatic and ever-widening separation between normal state politics and power. Many citizens still believe that state politics has power. They believe that governments, elected through a parliamentary system, represent the interests of those who elect them and that governments have the power to create effective, progressive change. But they don’t and they can’t.

We do not live in democracies. We inhabit plutocracies: government by the rich. The corporate elites have overwhelming economic power with no political accountability. In the past decades, with the complicity and connivance of the political class, the Western world has become a kind of college of corporations linked together by money and serving only the interests of their business leaders and shareholders.

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The Objectification of Women. A Conversation with Martha Nussbaum by Patricia Gras & Rose Mary Salum

In civilisation, ethnicity, gender, interview, philosophy, psychology on July 1, 2012 at 02:24

 

From: The Objectification of Women. A Conversation with Martha Nussbaum by Patricia Gras & Rose Mary Salum, LITERAL, http://www.literalmagazine.com

… I have studied the emotion of disgust a lot. Research on disgust shows that all of us are uncomfortable with the signs that mirror animals, that show we are mortal. And so the bodily fluids, the corpse, all of those things that psychologists call “animal reminders,” are heavily avoided. They are viewed as contaminating and they are stigmatized. In a second step, people who somehow come to represent those stigmatized things, fluids, decay and so on, are subordinated as a result. Now, in many cultures it seems pretty arbitrary how those groups get constructed in that role, maybe it is because of fear or anxiety, sometimes it is Jews, sometimes it is lower castes in Indian society, sometimes Muslims in India today, but women, in more or less all cultures, come in for that kind of projected disgust, as I put it. That is to say they are associated with the things about the body that are feared and viewed as contaminating because they give birth but also because they are seen as sights of fluid, the menstrual period, they are also seen as the receptacles of male semen, which is something that males feel anxious about. For all these reasons, the researchers who work on disgust think that misogyny is connected ultimately with people’s own anxiety about their own bodies.

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Hegel on Marriage by Slavoj Žižek

In gender, humanities, philosophy, sexuality, sociology, writers on June 18, 2012 at 21:58

 

From: Hegel on Marriage by Slavoj Žižek, e-flux, http://www.e-flux.com/

The limitation of Hegel’s notion of sexuality is clearly discernible in his theory of marriage (from his Philosophy of Right), which nonetheless deserves a close reading: beneath the surface of the standard bourgeois notion of marriage lurk many unsettling implications. 1 While a subject enters marriage voluntarily, surrendering his/her autonomy by immersing him/herself into its immediate/substantial unity of family that functions with regard to its outside as one person, the function of family is the exact opposite of such a substantial unity: to educate those born in it to abandon (their parental) family and pursue their path alone. The first lesson of marriage is that that the ultimate goal of every substantial ethical unity is to dissolve itself by way of giving rise to individuals who will assert their full autonomy against the substantial unity that gave birth to them.

This surrender of autonomous individuality is the reason Hegel opposes those (Kant, among others) who insist on the contractual nature of marriage: “Though marriage begins in contract, it is precisely a contract to transcend the standpoint of contract, the standpoint from which persons are regarded in their individuality as self-subsistent units. The identification of personalities, whereby the family becomes one person and its members become its accidents (though substance is in essence the relation of accidents to itself), is the ethical mind.”

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The end of the belief in education (Peter Sloterdijk, 1983) by Philippe Theophanidis

In academia, philosophy, politics, society, universities on June 17, 2012 at 01:21

 

From: The end of the belief in education (Peter Sloterdijk, 1983) by Philippe Theophanidis, aphelis, http://aphelis.net

The message was simply that one has to learn something real so that life will be better later. A petit-bourgeois belief in schooling had dictated the slogan. This belief is disintegrating today. Only for our cynical young medicos is there still a clear link between study and standard of living. Almost everyone else lives with the risk of learning without prospects.

The somehow provocative remarks of Peter Sloterdijk about the actual state of our systems of education shouldn’t come as a surprise for at least two reasons. First, he’s a well trained provocateur and has the reputation of producing uneasy thoughts. The publication in 1999 of his conference Règles pour le parc humain (Rules for the Human Zoo1) provoked a significant controversy in France and Germany intellectual circles (it is known in French as “l’affaire Sloterdijk”).

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Land of My Dreams – Martha C. Nussbaum

In culture, philosophy, politics, sociology on June 4, 2012 at 10:34

 

Land of My Dreams: Islamic liberalism under fire in India – Martha C. Nussbaum – Boston Review

It was not the first time India’s Muslims have demonstrated a peaceful embrace of the country’s founding values. The personal experience of Mushirul Hasan exemplifies the same commitment. A leader of the community, Hasan has been at the center of controversy for his liberal, secular views and has weathered attempts to force him out of his job as Vice-Chancellor of Jamia Millia Islamia, a pluralistic university closely linked to Muslim contributions in India’s struggle for nationhood. His story illustrates three aspects of Indian and Muslim life that concerned Western observers regularly ignore.

First, the values we associate with classical liberalism—such as the defense of the freedom of speech, the freedom of conscience, and procedural due process—are not exclusively Western values. During the independence movement in India, they were reinvented by a colonized people who had seen just how little their Western masters honored such norms.

Second, these values are not tepid and centrist, as we sometimes hear, but rather, truly radical in a world of nations increasingly under pressure both from external violence and from internal quasi-fascist forces.

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Intellectuals and power: A conversation between Michel Foucault and Gilles Deleuze

In interview, philosophy, society on June 2, 2012 at 07:34

 

Intellectuals and power: A conversation between Michel Foucault and Gilles Deleuze – Joseph Kay – libcom.org

DELEUZE: Precisely. A theory is exactly like a box of tools. It has nothing to do with the signifier. It must be useful. It must function. And not for itself. If no one uses it, beginning with the theoretician himself (who then ceases to be a theoretician), then the theory is worthless or the moment is inappropriate. We don’t revise a theory, but construct new ones; we have no choice but to make others. It is strange that it was Proust, an author thought to be a pure intellectual, who said it so clearly: treat my book as a pair of glasses directed to the outside; if they don’t suit you, find another pair; I leave it to you to find your own instrument, which is necessarily an investment for combat.

FOUCAULT: Isn’t this difficulty of finding adequate forms of struggle a result of the fact that we continue to ignore the problem of power? After all, we had to wait until the nineteenth century before we began to understand the nature of exploitation, and to this day, we have yet to fully comprehend the nature of power. It may be that Marx and Freud cannot satisfy our desire for understanding this enigmatic thing which we call power, which is at once visible and invisible, present and hidden, ubiquitous. Theories of government and the traditional analyses of their mechanisms certainly don’t exhaust the field where power is exercised and where it functions. The question of power re- mains a total enigma. Who exercises power? And in what sphere? We now know with reasonable certainty who exploits others, who receives the profits, which people are involved, and we know how these funds are reinvested.

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“On Madness” by Leon Tolstoy, 1910

In philosophy, psychology, society on May 22, 2012 at 06:56

 

“On Madness” by Leon Tolstoy, 1910 – APHELIS

On one hand, communication is destruction: this has been the case from the first use of a biface stone all the way to Georges Bataille. On the other hand, communication is helpful. This aspect appears in Tolstoy’s quote: together, we’re working very hard to forget our “own madness”. This property of the communication process is very clearly identify in this quote from Vilém Flusser:

The purpose of human communication is to make us forget the meaningless context in which we are completely alone and incommunicado, that is, the world in which we are condemned to solitary confinement and death: the world of “nature.”

Human communication is an artistic technique whose intention it is to make us forget the brutal meaninglessness of a life condemned to death. By “nature,” man is a solitary animal, because he knows that he will die and that his community will not matter in the hour of his death: everyone must die alone. Moreover, every hour is potentially the hour of death. Certainly, no one can live with the knowledge of this fundamen- tal solitude and meaninglessness. Human communication spins a veil around us in the form of the codified world. This veil is made from sci- ence and art, philosophy and religion, and it is spun increasingly denser, so that we forget our solitude and death, including the deaths of others whom we love. In short, man communicates with others. He is a “politi- cal animal,” not because he is a social animal, but because he is a solitary animal who cannot live in solitude.

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Who owns your genes?

In ethics, medicine, philosophy, society on May 21, 2012 at 05:30

 

Who owns your genes? – Justin Oakley & Alan Saunders – The Philosopher’s Zone, Radio National

Alan Saunders: Now, when it comes to confidentiality, we have to ask, don’t we, whether genetic counsellors can breach patient confidentiality to disclose the results of genetic tests, say to, in the case of genetic disorder, to relatives who are likely to be affected by the same genetic disorder.

Justin Oakley: Well, that’s right, and this is interesting because I guess we often assume that genetic information is our own personal information, that we kind of own it and that we as individuals should be able to have control over who gets access to that information, but of course in a lot of these conditions, say in the case of an inherited predisposition for bowel cancer, it can also be an indication that perhaps a relative, like a parent, might also have a gene for that condition, and so in the kinds of cases where it’s particularly difficult for genetic counsellors to know what to do, they’re the cases where perhaps an adult, perhaps a young adult in their twenties, has obtained a test for perhaps bowel cancer and the test results have come back and indicated that they do have the gene that predisposes them for that, but that that adult’s relationship with, say, their father has broken down and so perhaps the patient is not keen for the information to be passed on. It’s in that kind of situation where the genetic counsellor faces an ethical dilemma about whether or not to pass on the information to the father perhaps early enough so that the father can obtain some kind of treatment for it.

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Deep Intellect: Inside the mind of the octopus

In biology, philosophy, science on May 12, 2012 at 20:45

 

Deep Intellect: Inside the mind of the octopus – Sy Montgomery – Orion Magazine

The moment the lid was off, we reached for each other. She had already oozed from the far corner of her lair, where she had been hiding, to the top of the tank to investigate her visitor. Her eight arms boiled up, twisting, slippery, to meet mine. I plunged both my arms elbow deep into the fifty-seven-degree water. Athena’s melon-sized head bobbed to the surface. Her left eye (octopuses have one dominant eye like humans have a dominant hand) swiveled in its socket to meet mine. “She’s looking at you,” Dowd said.

The American philosopher Thomas Nagel once wrote a famous paper titled “What Is It Like to Be a Bat?” Bats can see with sound. Like dolphins, they can locate their prey using echoes. Nagel concluded it was impossible to know what it’s like to be a bat. And a bat is a fellow mammal like us—not someone who tastes with its suckers, sees with its skin, and whose severed arms can wander about, each with a mind of its own. Nevertheless, there are researchers still working diligently to understand what it’s like to be an octopus.

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Transitional Humanity – Gilbert Meilaender

In philosophy, science, sociology on May 4, 2012 at 01:00

 

Transitional Humanity – Gilbert Meilaender – The New Atlantis

The idea is to survive long enough to be around when hoped-for technological advances will make possible indefinite extension of life. Bailey reports that Ray Kurzweil, one of the visionary thinkers committed to this goal, stated at the summit that within roughly fifteen years we may have advanced to a point where we can add “more than one year of longevity per year to remaining life expectancy” — thereby getting out in front of time’s relentless arrow.

We are the creature that hopes,” the political scientist Hugh Heclo writes. The importance — perhaps the necessity — of hope for human life has long been known. The Victorian painter G. F. Watts’s Hope depicts a blindfolded woman holding a broken lyre on which only one string remains; yet that one string is evidently intended to evoke hope in those who view the painting, hope that there is music still to be made. Watts is drawing on classical mythology’s depiction of Pandora’s jar, in which only hope remained after she had released into the world the evils inside it. Whatever precisely the myth means — and it may mean many things — hope can help us to flourish only if it is something other than mere expectation, optimism, or confidence. What we hope for tells us a good bit about who we are.

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Death and the Skeptic – Hiram Crespo

In philosophy, religion on May 2, 2012 at 03:28

 

Death and the Skeptic – Hiram Crespo – the Humanist

Epicurus also said:

So death, the most frightening of bad things, is nothing to us; since when we exist death is not yet present, and when death is present, we do not exist. Therefore it is relevant neither to the living nor the dead, since it does not affect the former, and the latter do not exist. Most people flee death as the greatest of bad things and sometimes choose it as a relief from the bad things of life. But the wise man neither rejects life nor fears death.

Some critics of Epicurus claim that he doesn’t factor in the complex reaction to the finality of human life, particularly when such strong bonds exist between us. But this, again, is not unique to humanity. Apes, whales, dolphins, and elephants form bonds and the death of loved ones is extremely painful and traumatic. Elephants are known to visit the graves of their family members and observe in what appears to be a solemn state when in the presence of the bones of their ancestors.

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Silence – John Zerzan

In philosophy, sociology on April 29, 2012 at 00:56

 

John Zerzan, Silence, http://www.johnzerzan.net/

Civilization is a conspiracy of noise, designed to cover up the uncomfortable silences. The silence-honoring Wittgenstein understood the loss of our relationship with it. The unsilent present is a time of evaporating attention spans, erosion of critical thinking, and a lessened capacity for deeply felt experiences. Silence, like darkness, is hard to come by; but mind and spirit need its sustenance.

Native Americans seem to have always placed great value on silence and direct experience, and in indigenous cultures in general, silence denotes respect and self-effacement. It is at the core of the Vision Quest, the solitary period of fasting and closeness to the earth to discover one’s life path and purpose. Inuit Norman Hallendy assigns more insight to the silent state of awareness called inuinaqtuk than to dreaming. Native healers very often stress silence as an aid to serenity and hope, while stillness is required for success in the hunt. These needs for attentiveness and quiet may well have been key sources of indigenous appreciation of silence.

The deepest passions are nurtured in silent ways and depths. How else is respect for the dead most signally expressed, intense love best transmitted, our profoundest thoughts and visions experienced, the unspoiled world most directly savored? In this grief-stricken world, according to Max Horkheimer, we “become more innocent” through grief. And perhaps more open to silence – as comfort, ally, and stronghold.

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Teachings of Diogenes

In philosophy on April 26, 2012 at 09:22

Teachings of Diogenes — Read more at David Quinn’s website

Diogenes was asked, “Tell me, to what do you attribute your great poverty?”

“Hard work,” he replied.

“And what advice can you offer the rich?”

“Avoid all the good things in life.”

“Why?”

“Because money costs too much. A rich man is far poorer than a poor man.”

“How can that be?”

“Because poverty is the only thing money can’t buy.”

Diogenes was asked, “What is the difference between life and death?

“No difference.”

“Well then, why do you remain in this life?”

“Because there is no difference.”

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