Saturday, 24 April 2004
Blake: After having been a Fool, a Student is to amass a Stock of Ideas, and, knowing himself to be a Fool, he is to assume the Right to put other Men's Ideas into his Foolery.
In a sense, dialectical logic is more positivistic than the positivism that outlaws it. As thinking, dialectical logic respects that which is to be thought -- the object -- even where the object does not heed the rules of thinking. The analysis of the object is tangential to the rules of thinking. Thought need not be content with its own legality; without abandoning it, we can think against our thought, and if it were possible to define dialectics, this would be a definition worth suggesting. The thinker's equipment need not remain ingrown in his thinking; it goes far enough to let him recognise the very totality of its logical claim as a delusion. The seemingly unbearable thesis that subjectivity presupposes facts while objectivity presupposes the subject -- this thesis is unbearable only to one so deluded, to one who hypostatizes the relation of cause and effect, the subjective principle to which the experience of the object fails to bow.
Friday, 23 April 2004
Today historians describe the part the Ford car played in the development of that era and in transforming American life. We see that now. But we didn’t see it then; we weren’t as smart as we have been credited with being. All that we were trying to do was to develop the Ford car.
Sunday, 18 April 2004
I agree with Habermas when he says, "What Rawls in fact prejudges with the concept of an 'overlapping consensus' is the distinction between modern and premodern forms of consciousness, between 'reasonable' and 'dogmatic' world interpretations." But I disagree with Habermas, as I think Walzer also would, when he goes on to say that Rawls "can defend the primacy of the right over the good with the concept of an overlapping consensus only if it is true that postmetaphysical worldviews that have become reflexive under modern conditions are epistemically superior to dogmatically fixed, fundamentalistic worldviews -- indeed, only if such a distinction can be made with absolute clarity."
Habermas' point is that Rawls needs an argument from transculturally valid premises for the superiority of the liberal West. Without such an argument, he says, "the disqualification of 'unreasonabl' doctrines that cannot be brought into harmony with the proposed 'political' concept of justice is inadmissible."
Such passages make clear why Habermas and Walzer are at opposite poles. Walzer is taking for granted that there can be no such thing as a non-question-begging demonstration of the epistemic superiority of the Western idea of reasonableness. There is, for Walzer, no tribunal of transcultural reason before which to try the question of superiority. Walzer is presupposing what Habermas calls "a strong contextualism for which there is no single 'rationality.'" On this conception, Habermas continues, "individual 'rationalities' are correlated with different cultures, worldviews, traditions, or forms of life. Each of them is viewed as internally interwoven with a particular understanding of the world."
I think that Rawls' constructivist approach to the law of peoples can work if he adopts what Habermas calls a "strong contextualism." Doing so would mean giving up the attempt to escape historicism, as well as the attempt to supply a universalistic argument for the West's most recent views about which differences between persons are arbitrary. The strength of Walzer's Thick and Thin seems to me to be its explicitness about the need to do this. The weakness of Rawls' account of what he is doing lies in an ambiguity between two senses of universalism. When Rawls says that "a constructivist liberal doctrine is universal in its reach, once it is extended to [...] a law of peoples," [...] he is not saying that it is universal, but universal validity is not. It is the latter that Habermas requires. That is why Habermas thinks that we need really heavy philosophical weaponry, modeled on Kant's - why he insists that only transcendental presuppositions of any possible communicative practive will do the job. [...] To be faithful to his own constructivism, I think, Rawls has to agree with Walzer that this job does not need to be done.
Saturday, 17 April 2004
Hobbes interpreted the relationship between law and security in functionalist terms: the citizens, subjected to law, obtained from the state the guarantee of protection in exchange for their unconditional obedience. By contrast, for Kant the pacifying function of law remains intertwined conceptually with the freedomgenerating function of a legal condition that the citizens recognize as legitimate. Kant no longer operates with Hobbes’ empiricist concept of law. For the validity of law is based not only externally on the threat of sanction by the state, but also intrinsically on the reasons for the claim that it deserves recognition by its addressees. However, with the idea of a transition from state-centered international law to a cosmopolitan law Kant also set his work off from Rousseau’s approach.
He bids farewell to the republican conception that popular sovereignty finds an expression in the external sovereignty of the state, in other words that the democratic self-determination of the people is conceptually linked to the collective self-assertion of a corresponding form of life, if necessary with military means.
Kant recognizes the fact that the democratic will is rooted in the ethos of a people. But that is not sufficient evidence for the conclusion that the capacity of a democratic constitution to bind and rationalize political force be constrained to a specific nation state. For the universalistic thrust of the constitutional principles of a nation state points beyond the limits of national traditions that shape, of course, the local features of particular constitutional orders.
Wednesday, 14 April 2004
We hear occasionally about "the death of meaning" within society, not just within certain schools of poetry. Meaning clearly didn't die. But it's possible that instead of remaining as a content that's relatively freely and easily appropriated, it's become the limits of method within a social order, that it's relocated itself within certain fixed modes, and that these need to be confronted with a more social or totalizing perspective: one that recognizes the point of those fixed modes, those fixed blocs, as something that is public.
From Wikipedia, 12/04/09.
Peter Klaven just got engaged to Zooey Rice. She’s ecstatic and calls her closest friends, but Peter does not seem to have anyone special he’d like to share the good news with. At Peter's parents’ house, it comes out that Peter is actually a “girlfriend guy” and his guy friends when he was growing up 'fell by the wayside.' After overhearing Zooey's friends tell her that they are concerned Peter does not have any friends, he realizes he needs to find some friends to have a best man for his wedding. Peter seeks the advice of his younger, gay brother Robbie on how to meet platonic guy friends and how to take them on a man-date.
Peter's first attempt is to hang out with Barry, Denise's husband, for poker night with the guys. It ends horribly when, after chugging too many beers, Peter projectile vomits all over Barry. Robbie tries to help Peter by sending him out with a guy from his gym for a soccer game. That does not last long, since the man is angering fans at the game and has a very high-pitched voice. Peter's mother tries next by sending him to dinner with a guy that just moved to L.A. Against Robbie's advice, Peter goes to dinner with Doug and afterwards it ends awkwardly with a deep tongue kiss. Peter tries for himself online and finds Mel, who is actually an old man.
With all these failed attempts, Peter decides to give up, but during an open house at Lou Ferrigno's, he meets Sydney Fife. They instantly hit it off when Sydney correctly gives a play-by-play of a potential buyer farting. Because of Sydney's honesty, they exchange business cards. When Peter calls Sydney he leaves a very embarrassing voice mail, but when Sydney calls him back they decide to go out for drinks.
After a nice night, they hang out again for lunch and afterwards Sydney shows Peter the man cave. They start playing musical instruments together and hanging out a lot more. Zooey finally meets Sydney at the engagement party where Sydney makes a very awkward speech hinting that Zooey needs to give Peter more oral sex.
Peter convinces Sydney to go golfing with the girls and it ends with Haily storming off the green. Right after that, when Peter is suppose to be watching HBO Sunday programming with Zooey, Sydney calls and talks Peter into going to see Rush instead. At the concert Zooey feels ignored while Peter and Sydney are really enjoying the concert. During tuxedo shopping, Sydney asks Peter why he is marrying Zooey and asks Peter for an eight-thousand dollar loan. Doug coincidently shows up and confronts Peter, calling him a whore because he thinks he is with Sydney. Peter finally comes clean to Sydney telling him that he was searching for friends before meeting him and that he will loan him the money.
Zooey is not psyched about Sydney being the best man and after Sydney gets in a fight with Lou Ferrigno and is probably losing exclusive rights to the property they have a talk. Peter tells her that he lent Sydney money and asks her if she knows why they are getting married. Zooey is angry and leaves to stay at Denise's house.
When Peter leaves for work that next morning he sees several bill boards that Sydney put up using the loan. When he confronts Syndey, he decides to end their relationship as friends because of the conflict. After he patches things up with Zooey explaining to her that he is nervous but ready to get married. Peter discovers that the ads worked; he starts receiving more clients and offers on the Ferrigno house.
While Peter feels bad about confronting Sydney now that the Ferrigno house is sold, he doesn't re-invite Sydney to the wedding. Before the wedding, Zooey sees Peter upset about the loss of Sydney, so she calls and invites Sydney (who is already on his way) to the wedding. Just before the vows are to be taken, Sydney makes a dramatic entrance, they explain their platonic love for each other, and Sydney assumes the role of best man.
Tuesday, 13 April 2004
First Kind of Doublespeak
There are at least four kinds of doublespeak. The first is the euphemism, an inoffensive or positive word or phrase used to avoid a harsh, unpleasant or distasteful reality. But a euphemism can also be a tactful word or phrase which avoids directly mentioning a painful reality, or it can be an expression used out of concern for the feelings of someone else, or to avoid directly discussing a topic subject to a social or cultural taboo.
When you use a euphemism because your sensitivity for someone's feelings or out of concern for a recognized social or cultural taboo, it is not doublespeak. For example, you express your condolences that someone has "passed away" because you do not want to say to a grieving person, "I'm sorry your father is dead." When you use the euphemism, "passed away," no one is misled. Moreover, the euphemism functions here not just to protect the feelings of another person, but to communicate also your concern for that person's feelings during a period of mourning. When you excuse yourself to go to the "rest room," or you mention that someone is "sleeping with" or "involved with" someone else, you do not mislead anyone about your meaning, but you do respect the social taboos about discussing bodily functions and sex in direct terms. You also indicate your sensitivity to the feelings of your audience, which is susually considered a mark of courtesy and good manners.
However, when a euphemism is used to mislead or deceive, it becomes doublespeak. For example, in 1984 the U.S. State Department announced that it would no longer use the word "killing" in its annual report on the status of human rights in countries around the world. Instead, it would use the phrase "unlawful or arbitrary deprivation of life," which the department claimed was more accurate. Its real purpose for using this phrase was simply to avoid discussing the embarrassing situation of government-sanctioned killings in countries that are supported by the United States and have been certified by the United States as respected the human rights of their citizens. This use of a euphemism constitutes doublespeak, since it is designed to mislead, to cover up the unpleasant. Its real intent is at variance with its apparent intent. It is a language designed to alter our perception of reality.
The Pentagon, too, avoids discussing unpleasant realities when it refers to bombs and artillery shells that fall on civilian targets as "incontinent ordnance." And in 1977 the Pentagon tried to slip funding for the neutron bomb unnoticed into an appropriations bill by calling it a "radiation enhancement device."
Second Kind of Doublespeak
A second kind of doublespeak is jargon, the specialized language of a trade, profession, or similar group, such as that used by doctors, lawyers, engineers, educators, or car mechanics. Jargon can serve an important and useful function. Within a group, jargon functions as a kind of verbal shorthand that allows member of the group to communicate with each other clearly, efficiently, and quickly. Indeed, it is a mark of membership in the group to be able to use and understand the group's jargon.
But jargon, like the euphemism, can also be doublespeak. It can be -- and often is -- pretentious, obscure, and esoteric terminology used to give an air of profundity, authority, and prestige to speakers and their subject matter. Jargon as doublespeak often makes the simple appear complex, the ordinary profound, the obvious insightful. In this sense it is used not to express but impress. With such doublespeak, the act of smelling something becomes "organoleptic analysis," glass becomes "fused silicate," a crack in a metal support beam becomes a "discontinuity," conservative economic policies become "distributionally conservative notions."
Lawyers, for example, speak of an "involuntary conversion" of a property when discussing the loss or destruction of property through theft, accident, or condemnation. If your house burns down or if your car is stolen, you have suffered an involuntary conversion of your property. When used by lawyers in a legal situation, such jargon is a legitimate use of langauge, since lawyers can be expected to understand the term.
However, when a member of a specialized group uses its jargon to communicate with a person outside the group, and uses it knowing that the nonmember does not understand such language, then there is doublespeak. For example, on May 9, 1978, a National Airlines 727 airplanes crashed while attempting to land at the Pensacola, Florida airport. Three of the fifty-two passengers aboard the airplane were killed. As a result of the crash, National made an after-tax insurance benefit of $1.7 million, or an extra 18c a share dividend for its stockholders. Now National Airlines had two problems: It did not want to talk about one of its airplanes crashing, and it had to account for the $1.7 million when it issued its annual report to its stockholders. National solved the problem by inserting a footnote in its annual report which explained that the $1.7 million income was due to "the involuntary conversion of a 727." National thus acknowledged the crash of its airplane and the subsequent profit it made from the crash, without once mentioning the accident or the deaths. However, because airline officials knew that most stockholders in the company were not familiar with legal jargon, the use of such jargon constituted doublespeak.
Third Kind of Doublespeak
A third kind of doublespeak is gobbledygook or bureaucratese. Basically, such doublespeak is ismply a matter of piling on words, of overwhelming the audience with words, the bigger the words and the longer the sentences the better. Alan Greenspan, then chair of President Nixon's Council of Economic Advisors, was quoted in The Philadelphia Inquirer in 1974 as having testified before a Senate committee that "It is a tricky problem to find tha prticular calibration in timing that would be appropriate to stem to acceleration in risk premiums created by falling incomes without prematurely aborting the decline in the inflation-generated risk premiums."
Nor has Mr. Greenspan's language changed since then. Speaking to the meeting of the Economic Club of New York in 1988, Mr. Greenspan, now Federal Reserve chair, said, "I guess I should warn you, if I turn out to be be particularly clear, you've probably misunderstood what I've said." Mr. Greenspan's doublespeak doesn't seem to have held back his career.
Sometimes gobbledygook may sound impressive, but when the quote is later examined in print it doesn't even make sense. During the 1988 presidential campaign, vice-presidential candidate Senator Dan Quayle explained the need for a strategic defense initiative by saying, "Why wouldn't an enhanced deterrent, a more stable peace, a better prospect to denying the ones who enter conflict in the first place to have a reduction of offensive systems and an introduction to defensive capability? I believe this is the route the country will eventually go."
The investigation into the Challenger disaster in 1986 revealed the doublespeak of gobbledygook and bureaucratese used by too many involved in the shuttle program. When Jesse Moore, NASA's associate administrator, was asked if the performance of the shuttle program had improved with each launch or if it had remained the same, he answered, "I think our performance in terms of the liftoff performance and in terms of the orbital performance, we knew more about the envelope we were operating under, and we have been pretty accurately staying in that. And so I would say the performance has not by design drastically improved. I think we have been able to characterize the performance more as a function of our launch experience as opposed to it improving as a function of time." While this language may appear to be jargon, a close look will reveal that it is really just gobbledygook laced with jargon. But you really have to wonder if Mr. Moore had any idea what he was saying.
Fourth Kind of Doublespeak
The fourth kind of doublespeak is inflated language that is designed to make the ordinary seem extraordinary; to make everyday things seem impressive; to give an air of importance to people, situations, or thins that would not normally be considered important; to make the simple seem complex. Often this kind of doublespeak isn't hard to spot, and it is usually pretty funny. While car mechanics may be called "automotive internists," elevator operators members of the "vertical transportation corps," used cars "pre-owned" or "experienced cars," and black-and-white television sets described as having "non-multicolor capability," you really aren't misled all that much by such language.
However, you may have trouble figuring out that, when Chrysler "initiates a career alternative enhancement program," it is really laying off five thousand workers; or that "negative patient care outcome" means the patient died; or that "rapid oxidation" means a fire in a nuclear power plant.
The doublespeak of inflated language can have serious consequences. In Pentagon doublespeak, "pre-emptive counterattack" means that American forces attacked first; "engaged the enemy on all sides" means American troops were ambushed; "backloading of augmentation personnel" means a retreat by American troops. In the doublespeak of the military, the 1983 invasion of Grenada was conducted not by the U.S. Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marines, but by the "Caribbean Peace Keeping Forces." But then, according to the Pentagon, it wasn't an invasion, it was a "predawn vertical insertion."
Monday, 12 April 2004
Thursday, 8 April 2004
Somewhere along the line, as a society, we confused
the notion of home with the possibility
of an investment opportunity.
What kind of creature wants to live in an investment opportunity? Only man.
The fox has his den,
the bee has his hive, the stoat has a, a stoat hole.
But only man, ladies and gentlemen,
the worst animal of all,
chooses to make his home in an investment opportunity.
Mmm, snuggle down in the lovely credit.
Oooh all warm.
In the mortgage payment.
But home is not the same as an investment opportunity.
Home is a basic requirement of life,
and when a hamster
hides hamster food in his hamster cheeks,
he doesn’t keep it there in the hope that it will rise in value;
and when a squirrel hides a nut
he’s not trying to play the acorn market;
and having eaten the nut,
he doesn’t keep the shell
in the hope of setting up a lucrative sideline making tiny hats for elves;
and when a dog
buries a bone, he doesn’t keep that bone buried until the point where it has reached
its maximum market value,
he digs it up when he’s hungry.
And if exchange agents were dogs burying bones
would they leave those bones buried until they reached their maximum market value,
but they would run around
starting rumours about imminent increases in the price of bones,
in the hope of driving up the market,
and they’d invite loads of boneless dogs to view the bone at the same time,
in the hope of giving the impression there’s a massive demand for bones,
and they’d photograph the bone in such a way as to give the impression that it’s much more juicy than it realy was,
airbrushing out the maggots, and cropping the rotten meat.
Some of the contingent elements that enter into your identity are susceptible to reconstitution, and others remain highly resistant to it, even if you desire to transform them and even if there is cultural support for doing so. Let us call the latter branded or entrenched contingencies, to emphasize how they are both contingent formations and resistant to modification once consolidated. A branded contingency is a formation that has become instinctive, even though it may not be reducible to instinct as a biological drive. Indeed, the term "contingency" as used here in no way implies that a contingency is always something that can be changed through will or decision. There are obdurate contingencies [...]
Tuesday, 6 April 2004
Auschwitz confirmed the philosopheme of pure identity as death. The most far out dictum from Beckett's End Game, that there really is not so much to be feared any more, reacts to a practice whose first sample was given in the concentration camps, and in whose concept -- venerable once upon a time -- the destruction of nonidentity is ideologically lurking. Absolute negativity is in plain sight and has ceased to surprise anyone. Fear used to be tied to the _principium individuationis_ of self-preservation, and that principle, by its own consistency, abolishes itself. Waht the sadists in the camps foretold their victims, "Tomorrow you'll be wiggling skyward as smoke from this chimney," bespeaks the indifference of each individual life that is the direction of history. Even in his formal freedom, the individual is as fungible and replaceable as he will be under the liquidators' boots.
To embrace publicly a nontheistic source of ethical inspiration without claiming universality for it is to support an active pluralization of ethical sources in public life. It is to propel another source into the public and political life without claiming that everyone must affirm it. It is thus to break both with a secularism that seeks to confine faith to the private realm and a theo-centered vision that seeks to unite people behind one true faith. It is to bind ethico-political life to negotiations and settlements between chastened partisans more than to common confession of a universal faith or a consensus forged by the putative power of the better argument.
Sunday, 4 April 2004
Rather than providing a critique of knowledge claims so as to ground knowledge in a secure foundation by revealing the transcendental condition of all possible knowledge, Hegel retraces the experience of thought as a self-critical and sceptical journey which is both historical and logical. Critique in Hegel's thought combines immanent critique with metacritical reflection. This combination is constitutive of dialectics, but it is central to Hegel's thought that dialectics is not a method or some external "standpoint" or detached perspective. The knower and the known cannot be separated formally.
Marx's critique of Hegel's dialectical "method" nevertheless accuses Hegel of developing a dialectic of pure thought which idealizes the power of logic and its abstraction from the material conditions of thought. For Marx, thoguht does not develop immanently out of its contradictions but reflects social antagonistms. In this sense, Marx's dialectical method involves a version of Hegelian metacritique, showing how thought and consciousness cannot legislate for their relation to the historical and material conditions of social being. In effect, Marx and Marxism develop a metacritical conception of the social and political unconscious. Marx's practice as critical reader of the texts of political economy nevertheless puts less emphasis on the metacritique of knowledge, than on the immanent critique of scientific attempts to describe political economy. This practice of immanent critique works less as a critique of fundamental grounds than as a way of testing particular knowledge claims, probing the inconsistencies, contradictions and aporia within both texts and reality. The key difference is in the way Marx's reading seeks to tease out contradictions which are ideological, rooted in the social and political distortions of thought rather than in the pure conditions of thought's abstractions.
The tension between Hegelian metacritique and Marx's immanent critique of political economy is fundamental to the development of the Critical Theroy of the Frankfurt School and the work of Adorno, Marcuse and Habermas. This tension can be seen in Max Horkheimer's essay "Traditional and Critical Theory", a key essay in the definition of the critical programme of the Frankfurt School. Horkheimer defines critical activity as "human activity which has society itself for its object@, citing the dialectical critique of political economy as a model [...] The task is to develop the Marxist model into a theory of society which is critical of dogmatic forms of Marxism, revisiting aspects of philosophy Marx wrongly thought he had transcended, though the exact terms of the implicit critique of Marx remain somewhat obscure. Frankfurt School critical theory seeks to develop the emancipatory dimension of the Marxist project without regressing to dogmatic conceptions of science or retreating into foundational philosophy. As Habermas later puts it: "through its reflection of the conditions of its own appearance, critique is to be distinguished both from science and from philosophy. The sciences ignore the constitution of their objects and understand their subject matter in an objectivistic way. Philosophy, conversely, is too ontologically sure of its origin as a first principle." [...] Critique seeks to transcend modern divisions of thought by developing critical theories of society with practical consequences [...]
In the Introduction to the Phenomenology of Spirit, Hegel shows that no attempt to point to a sensuous particular can wholly free itself from universal categories [...] For Hegel, dialectic is the repeated experience of this implicatedness or "mediatedness" of whatever is offered up as something pure, "immediate" or self-sufficient.
This indicates why one prevalent conception of Hegel's Phenomenology of Spirit -- that it presents a triumphal progress from sense-certainty to absolute knowing -- needs qualification. Dialectic, for Hegel, is not simply a progress, but at the same time a working-back, an uncovering of the ways in which what is apparently certain and immediate already contains presuppositions. Hegel took this kind of working-back to demonstrate, in particular, that apparently purely logical or perceptual identifications were already tied up with political, social and cultural patterns of recognition. This is why Hegel feels obliged to offer in the Phenomenology of Spirit what has often seemed to philosophers with a more strictly limited conception of philosophy's task a bewildering combination of philosophical, historical, aesthetic and scientific reflection. For Hegel, these questions are not arbitrarily added together in the Phenomenology; rather, a consideration of the most elementary judgement necessarily demands a consideration of its conditions of possibility, conditions which are not only transcendantal but also empirical-historical. In giving such an account the Phenomenology comes to question the finality of the very distinction between the transcendental and the empirical itself.
[...] Dialectical thinking lies not in an attempt to purge thinking of all misidentification, but in the recognition of the insufficiency of any given identification [...] This is the first sense in which dialectic is "negative" for Adorno. [...] Dialectic shows up the mutual implicatedness of concepts and objects, thought and being. As soon as it is wholly given up to thought (method) or to being (world-picture), it is no longer dialectic at all, but only a new kind of classifying schema, and a wholly arbitrary one at that. The title Negative Dialectics, then, does not promise a portable method which could then be taken away and applied at will to an inert "material"; nor does it offer a dogmatic world-picture; instead it intends to name what happens in Adorno's thought itself.
All Politeness is owing to Liberty. We polish one another, and rub off our Corners and rough Sides by a sort of amicable Collision. To restrain this, is inevitably to bring a Rust upon Mens Understandings.
Thursday, 1 April 2004
Audiences of cinematic and political routines have for a long time been herded into an ideological enclosure in which it's declared that speed is nothing but emergency reactions, the bluff or brawny refusal of the angst implicit in liberal speculation, coffined typically in the dictum "_____ first, ask questions later." This "speed" belongs to the man-of-action: seine Eigentum. The reward for his quick-unthinking is of course that the questions "asked later" are not really questions at all, but a set of superficially negative justifications for precipitous action.
[...] post-modern anti-foundationalist philosophy [...] the first to exclaim that there must be no "there" to get to, no "what to come [...] is still a matter of sequence and not velocity. In perfect and reassuring conformity with the falseness of our times, sequence-making is not eradicated but, on the contrary, extended: pseudo-apriorism now comes before apriorism [...]