You are currently browsing the monthly archive for November 2008.
This weekend’s art selection is a blog, wrd.wthn.wrd.wthn.wrd. Run by a Georgian known as “troylloyd”, the blog is highly influenced by the asemic writing movement; one beyond automatic writing (or my own tendencies towards agrammaticism), asemism gives the premises of semantics up and presents text and images as simple pieces of “furniture of the world”. It’s got “a good look” and should make you think about the functions of our projects on the Web a little more critically.
Or, Heidegger and the History of Analytical Philosophy
Last night’s reading: Heidegger, “On the Essence of Truth”. Ordinarily identified as the start of Heidegger’s Kehre, one could also read the essay as incipient fascism (Truth is defined in terms of freedom, which is defined in terms of a thoroughly illiberal relation to Being). In fact, I think nearly all of Heidegger’s work after 1929 can be read as a comment on massifying trends in society that, unbeknownst to him, took a particularly ugly and virulent form in fascism: “the other beginning” is a sort of Keynesianism-as-ontological rupture that we at the start of the twenty-first century might want to consider skeptically. However I want to mention one particular detail of the essay not particularly related to Heidegger’s theory of the times, Heidegger’s use of the concept of “open comportment”.
Heidegger defines truth-as-correspondence in terms of intentional comportment (Verhalten) and says this:
A statement is invested with its correctness by the openness of comportment; for only though the latter can what is opened up really become the standard for the presentative correspondence. Open comportment must let itself be assigned this standard. This means it must take over a pregiven standard for all presenting. [italics mine – JR] This belongs to the openness of comportment. But if the correctness (truth) of statements becomes possible only through this openness of comportment, then what first makes correctness possible must with more original legitimacy be taken as the essence of truth.
“On the Essence of Truth”, Pathmarks, p. 142
In other words, we can read this text (and many others collected in that volume) as elucidations of the concepts of Being and Time: what Heidegger is saying here is part of the function of the “clearing” (Lichtung) is to make possible ‘objective’ truth by making possible an existential relation to an ‘objective’ standard on the part of “human Dasein“. This fits in rather nicely with my reading of Being and Time as an essay on the fundamental determinants of “the realistic spirit” in human thought, one geared a little more closely to questions about the objectivity of science than personal self-fulfillment: however, it also suggests to me that Heidegger is in part responding to his positivist critics, weaving their conceptions of truth into his exploration of ontological themes.
If we are to have a meaningful history of ‘early’ philosophical analysis, rather than merely treating the Tractatus as a cargo-cult idol we are separated from by an “epistemic break”, such connections should be pursued — along with the reactions of ‘Anglo-American’ thinkers rather distant from Saxonism to the conditions of the 1930s, World War II, and the postwar era. It’s important that cultural features evident to the early readers of these works are not blanched by ‘standards of rigor’ assimilating them to the most obvious features of contemporary argument. (Rather Heideggerian of me, no?)
A special treat today: the entirety of Sun Ra’s 1974 “space blaxploitation” movie, Space Is the Place. In my opinion Sun Ra and his Arkestra made some of the best post-bop jazz of the ’50s and ’60s, but the focus here is on his esoteric (if heliocentric) philosophy of the relationship between the black man and the Space Age.
The Hegel scholar Terry Pinkard has made his long-awaited translation of Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit available online, in en face and English-only formats. Professor Pinkard’s page also includes pictures of Hegel and other turn-of-the-century notables (such as the smokin’ hot Susette Gontard). Also of note: the tsk-tsk-don’t-distribute online presence of Robert Brandom’s forthcoming book on the Phenomenology, A Spirit of Trust.
(Thanks to Continental Philosophy for the Pinkard link)
Although I’ve 100% turned over a new leaf with respect to Demon Rum, let me share another piece of “proletarian science” with the readership: the 375ml plastic flasks of cheap liquor they sell in Oregon liquor stores and presumably elsewhere are a smart way to tipple. A fellow well met at the bus station turned me onto them years ago, and if I were to take up drinking again I expect I’d buy a few more. If you’re concerned about the quality of the product, ask yourself this: does alcohol taste, y’know, good? If you’re concerned about not having enough, well, the plastic pint provides enough alcohol to get two people pleasantly drunk, yet not enough to give one person alcohol poisoning. (Word to the wise, though: even though Beam’s got eight stars once “American whiskey” is grain alcohol with whiskey flavoring, not actual whiskey.)
More experimental video this week, from the Korean Nam June Paik. Paik was famous for his installations featuring multiple televisions; a member of the Fluxus movement, his influence far outlasted their heyday like the medium his art celebrated and critiqued. Here are three selections:
Zen For Film: A Fluxus movie (1962-64)
Replica (with Ryuchi Sakamoto, keyboard, 1994)
Charlotte Moorman discusses meeting (and getting arrested with) Paik
Or, Thanksgiving Selbstbeschreibungen
Bei meiner Aufnahme in die 1969 gegründete Fakultät für Soziologie der Universität Bielefeld fand ich mich konfrontiert mit der Aufforderung, Forschungsprojekte zu benennen, an denen ich arbeitete. Mein Projekt lautete damals und seitdem: Theorie der Gesellschaft; Laufzeit: 30 Jahre; Kosten: keine.
Luhmann, “Vorwort”, Die Gesellschaft der Gesellschaft
Although generally speaking the commitment has been filled with excitement (that is, alternating periods of bureaucratic terror and mild if real self-amusement) today was just a bummer. I was to have lunch with my partner in psychical research Kit, but I ended up barely having money for lunch myself; the meal, a Czech version of spaetzle interspersed with sausage pieces, left me as cool as it was served and things didn’t improve much from there. In fact, the day was so depressing that my enthusiasm for achieving a long-awaited goal — finishing the 1150 pages of Luhmann’s Die Gesellschaft der Gesellschaft — was significantly dampened. However, finish it I did, bringing to completion ten years of a desire to read those pages; a desire that was thwarted in 2003 when I had Sam at Powell’s order it from Schoenhof’s (back when I had money to spend on such things and was relatively more welcome at Powell’s, but had neither the will nor the way to make it through).
This year began by finally wading through the Wissenschaft der Logik, and ending it with Luhmann’s survey of world society and mechanisms historical and materialistic for describing its systems seems rather fitting: Habermas’ attempt to upbraid Luhmann by calling his social theory “Hegelian” has outlived the enthusiasm for “postmetaphysical thought” (mythologemes rung on earlier, “modernist” work) and awareness of Hegelianism’s conservative tint, and so I sometimes I wonder whether I ought to translate the thing — this being one of the few tasks my “poor judgment” would qualify me for, although I can always hope the recursion and type theory I will turn to mañana will pay off in some relatively short term. Strange that what by all rights should have been considered the most important sociology book of the late ’90s has never made it through the Stanford University Press; I think that perhaps a samizdat translation of whole or part accomplished with the help of a dedicated blog (blogger, commenters) might help the sick man of academia out a little.
However, although one can always hope the future will be relatively brighter, I think that in all honesty I have strong reason to consider 2008 a “year of miracles”. Although perhaps it resembles another ‘episode’ in the so-called life of a schizophrenic from the outside, lots of good things happened this year: a serious melioration of my cognitive and writerly abilities, an increasing sense of safety, truth spoken between me and my real (i.e., distanced) friends, psychiatric help that took a suitably skeptical attitude towards events in contemporary society and provided me with medications that actually seem to help a little, a “romance of ideas” that ended peacefully but not too soon (and even a date or two with what I guess is called a “bobby dazzler”). Oh, and some black guy won the Presidency.
Based on my condition in the past few years I had no reason to expect any of this, but happen it did (!), for very good if slightly obscure reasons, and part of having a full life is realizing when things are happening that will probably never happen again. So, although in my position as “Early American crank” I find the concept of Thanksgiving questionable — a part of Lincoln’s dubiously sincere Christianization of the Republic’s functioning, it was — and in my position as latter-day saint I’m not going to have a very special holiday (hearkening back to Thanksgiving hotdogs eaten at 7-11, the only thing open in Pittsburgh on that day) I think I’m more or less in tune with the spirit of the event this year.
Since the founders of Facebook made a pile and Twitter at least made a splash, everyone wants in on the social-networking craze; Blip.fm is an effort to meld the concepts behind social networking with the other great obsession of the contemporary Internet, free music. How it works: sign up, then build up a “setlist” for other people to listen to — here’s my rather short and tame list — and then do the usual social-networking dances. Song availability is at least as good as last.fm; although the speed of the interface is rather poor as of right now, this is an Internet amusement which is fairly amusing.
I’m feeling pretty sharp today, so I’ll try my hand at formulating a thought which has been knocking around in my head for a few days: an interpretation of Hegel’s claim in the Philosophy of Right that freedom can only be realized within a Stand or “estate”. In his lectures on ethical philosophy, John Rawls dismisses the significance attached to this by Marxists and other radical democrats: he claims it is no more than the vaguely communitarian commitment undertaken by those of us who play particular roles in US society.
I disagree; I think, based on details of Hegel’s life which I think are insufficiently appreciated, that Hegel is much more Foucauldian than Rawlsian at this juncture in his thought. Hegel’s strained friendship with Hölderlin, who went mad after involving himself in a plot to assassinate the Elector of Württemburg, is famous: some circumstances of Hegel’s political life during his Berlin years are less well-known, though reported in Terry Pinkard’s fine biography. During his time in Berlin, when he acquired the reputation of a pro-Prussia “stuffed shirt” which would follow him beyond the grave, Hegel was actually secretly on good terms with some student revolutionaries (Pinkard does not give details as to their program, but one suspects these were the precursors of the nationalist revolutionaries of 1848). Of what significance is Hegel’s “fellow-traveling” for considering his political philosophy?
Well, Michel Foucault identified the early 19th century as the birth of a “disciplinary” social technology for controlling the lives of the masses: prisons, workhouses, and hospitals all assumed similar forms as places where people were “normalized” to regimented daily habits. Foucault does not go as far as analyzing the state itself in these terms, but I see little to prevent us from considering “reactionary” regimes like Prussia, the Second Empire, and modernizing Russia as implementing disciplinary regimes with respect to their citizens: most notably, in developing a modern apparatus of secret police and detention facilities to monitor and stow away enemies of the crown.
Viewed in this light, Hegel’s “conservatism” is something like practical advice to young Germans not to follow the example of Hölderlin, but rather to view the repressive state apparatus as something one gets equilibrated with independently of abstract freedom, the limited freedom of the particular individual and his subjective interest. Could there be a positive estimation of Hegel’s advice, a construal that makes such a state like the “productive” powers Foucault analyzed? Yes.
Perhaps what comes out in the radical’s struggle to avoid unjust punishment for sedition is the real relation between them and the state power, a translation of their utopian schemes into the real forces at work in contemporary society. Certainly those of us who have spent the Bush years on the outside looking in, or quite a long time inside corrective facilities of some type looking out, have reason to hope that it wasn’t “just some silly mistake” that kept us out of the “mainstream” — rather, that what is being forged in these trials is something like the Greek symbolon; a “perfect fit” between the individual’s hard-won political stance and the agency of government, or a somewhat less tangible but real connection between their faculties and the indefinite “realm of reason”.
On the other hand, they [the ethical substance and its laws] are not something alien to the subject. On the contrary, his spirit bears witness to them as to its own essence, the essence in which he has a feeling of his selfhood, and in which he lives as in his own element which is not distinguished from himself. The subject is thus directly linked to the ethical order by a relation which is more like an identity than even the relation of faith or trust.
Hegel, Philosophy of Right
One of the treats of the contemporary Internet is the wide range of video culture accessible to an individual. Among these we find the Warhol “movies”, purposely amateurish video productions made by Warhol and members of his “Factory” during the late ’60s. Although they are often extremely literal-minded, what they do not do is “document” the high-art culture of New York City during that period: rather, they served as another platform for Warhol’s skewed take on the commercial art culture he had served so well as a highly-paid illustrator for department stores and other New York businesses. Here are three selections from the wide range of material available on YouTube.
From “Eat” (1964):
From “Poor Little Rich Girl” (1965, with Edie Sedgwick):
From “Exploding Plastic Inevitable” (1966) — The Velvet Underground play “Venus in Furs”: