Rahil

Category Archives for: Communication

A Thought about Brain Pickings

08 October 2016

I stumbled upon Brain Pickings recently, and before. The page I read was okay. It had lengthy direct quotes from good writings. The creator of the site successfully linked ideas from several writings, usually philosophy-oriented. And it seems all well, using the hypertext system as it was meant to be, like a personal Wikipedia, much like my own philosophical blog, but with more highlights and bookmarks, yet, I never read another page of the website.

Why? The ideas the creator finds are other people’s ideas. She doesn’t originate the ideas from her own personal experiences. She doesn’t write about her own experiences, or how her readings relate to her life, or why she’s reading at all. She only reads and connects ideas through hyperlinks. Though her taste in readings are good, meaning she has much wisdom (and therefore experience), unfortunately, it isn’t enough. It’s merely an amalgam of readings, like a bookshop with a good selection, or a reader book (a kind of anthology), and, like a bookstore owner, she’s not creating content, she’s just selecting it. The resulting feeling of it’s entirety is equivalent to a well-selected bookshop or Goodreads account: an entirely non-personal experience.

Furthermore, her content is limited to books. There are no pictures that she’s taken, of reality, of her experiences, not even of taking a screenshot from Google Maps. In it’s stead, there are only related pictures she found on the Internet, which again, is merely selecting information, and worse, make the content feel like a SEO-whore. There are no video clips. There are no other forms of art objects. It is entirely limited to the medium of writing, which is a very distorted form of communication. And that’s okay, as I don’t put in the extra effort for other forms of communication on my blog either, but, unlike her, I’m not trying to share others’ wisdom and ideas, I’m constantly making them.

Leave a comment | Categories: Art, Communication, Humanities, Media, New Media, New Media Design, Philosophy

Book-shops and Learning

26 June 2016

[aka Re-visiting the Eslite Book-store]

Back to the place I began reading, for a day, before I leave Taipei, and leave reading again.

I now see why this book-store was so conducive before: the selection is amazing. A normal, rather large library in itself is of almost no organizational use. It’s good for the purpose of research, as it can provide written source sources, but that’s it. It doesn’t offer a general education in any way. It’s a mess of information, like the Internet, except more out-dated and disorganized (physical organization hits it’s limit compared to searchable digital organization). The book-store, though sufficiently large for any human, just provides a a few shelves for world history or Western philosophy. The selection top notch: top publishers, highly regarded, highly readable, organizations of knowledge: A Little History of the World, Sapiens, What is Cultural History?, Social Class in the 21st Century (Pelican) – that’s what I’ve got next to me at the moment.

This kind of organization, a well-selected library is quite a different experience from Wikipedia too. Wikipedia doesn’t organize information in the way that people can. People can organize the same information into infinite ways and mediums. For Wikipedia, though not restricted, the format is quite standard. If I look at the history of the world article, it’s likely chronologically and spatially ordered somewhat, leading to separate histories of each country. The small topics chosen by Harari in Sapiens to describe the history of the world through ideas like science and empire of the industrial-research-technology complex just doesn’t fit Wikipedia’s format. The mapping of knowledge, the gaining of wisdom, seems entirely dependent on the way information is organized. That is, after all, what artists do: manipulate information (via material [non-digital and digital]).

This better explains my first experience with books here. I found the Western Philosophy section and the readings must have organized my mind because the selection was so damn good. I [can only] imagine few people [in the world] that [may have] began reading with Bacon, Montaigne, Wittgenstein, Russell, in that order. Perhaps western philosophy initially lead me in the wrong directions; it being merely an intellectual history, but it was a start.

Now, I feel I can peruse the entire library, though I still choose to stick to culture (cultural theory and maybe cultural history) and those finer gems: highly readable, uniquely organized writings. But I don’t feel there’s much use. [Written] Organization is for the weak. Its detail will always be lossy and of low-quality. It’s best to stay skeptic: all written history is false and all philosophy is bullshit. Now, with only a map, go out and consume and alter the world!

Leave a comment | Categories: Applied Philosophy, Art, Communication, Epistemology, Experience, Humanities, Literature, Media, Philosophy, Philosophy of Education, Philosophy of Language, Philosophy of Literature, Uncategorized

Philosophy of Music

09 June 2016

[this is a drafty mess transcribed from paper. Really need some kind of bluetooth flexible keyboard to use with a smartphone…]

page 0

[todo: Taiwan culture and streets, clingy relationships, social world of locality]

page 1

I finally got some cheap, yet amazingly good, headphones. Listening to them reminds me of a past time of my life — programming for capital in VA [Virginia, USA], commuting to college, doing chore-like work at home (repetitive organizing on the computer); Now I’m able to see that the way I survived the suburbs is because I abused music.

Using technology is not normal. It is much slower to communicate through technology than it is to simply talk — within one’s head, out loud, or through writing. Technology distracts thinking and communicating.
.
Music interrupts, blocks thinking and communicating. To blog, for instance, I may need to connect to the internet, charge my digital device. Looking at my blog may distract further, directing thought toward design — trying to make it more readable, increasing interaction. It [technology] distracts from the content, from the act of writing, the act of thought expression.
.
Music blocks thinking. It’s the only way to act, it seems. To take an action that is not communication nor survival, one must drug onelsef with more ot push one’s body to act.

With more, people organize, over-organize, over-work, over-accumulate capital. They forget to talk. Asia talks; America works. In Taiwan, reading is common (though likely passively), a common way to communicate. In America, new arts are created to communicate which all require more work (game-making!) to communicate the message compared to human language. Why not just communicate via human language? (Maybe music blocks people from expressing through human language.)
.
It also may block thought of the environment. It helps people focus on something — media, art, material, “work”, but rarely does it lead to talking to people nearby, to thinking about how the environemnt came to be, history, others, social problems, etc. It is a mind-altering drug, one that inhibits verbal expression.

page 2?

I believe I was at a point of only acting to communicate. I didn’t do anything else. I’d talk to the people around me, then, to books, then run out of energy and collapse, partly because my body had become fail, partly because capitalism doesn’t allow that kind of life of mind. It prefers a life of bodily action, of movement of commodity. The movement of commodity is the opposite of the movement of meanings (communication). It is detestable, a chore, it provokes humans to abuse music; whereas communication is enjoyable, not requiring music.

If joy comes from the creation of communication, then the creation of commoidity requires a kind of drug to make-up for the lack of enjoyment. It is ideal to creat ecommodity whilst creating communicationl but that isn’t always possible (though, technology helps immensely here, with eBook listening, audio-recording, telephones, etc.). Eventually, either from habit of work, habit of listening to music, one nearly forgets to communicate. That’s frightening, because that’s the difference between a person who expresses and one that doesn’t, the difference between a free mind and a restricted mind. [A free person and restricted person {slave}?] America is full of restricted minds. Asia is full of free minds.

The West prioritizes media, the communication through mediums. The East prioritizes [direct] communication, even in it’s simply a conversation with a friend. There is much widsom in the people as opposed to media. It doesn’t distribute well, but it’s a healthy lifestyle. The West begins with (Plato and) Aristotle. The East relies on the oral world which retains the culture. Culture is not distributed through media; It is through human interaction, direct communication. That is opposite of the culture industry of America. [todo: should continue*****].

[todo: epistemology of music]

[todo: action and music]

Without music I only act toward survival and communication — the socio-political expressions. Music allows me to live unsocially. It gives energy without people. I needed people during my time in Asia. I was dependent on people. I strived to do everything with people [todo: need anchor to Taiwan section]. I tried to socio-politically cooperate to strive toward ideals (civic, social, design). I didn’t work, I just communicated.

page 3?

America has been running on music at least since slaves worked to their own creative folk tunes; Now, white brokers on Wall street work while listening to hip-hop. Maybe the creation of music is skewed toward the working class because they need it to get by, influenced and inspired by it, mimic the creation of it, listening to raps about wage-labor whilst laboring for wage. I sure did — through game, film, and fine arts / new media. That expression, anti-capitalism in America is perhaps the strongest emotion in American culture, perhaps even more-so than love (all forms of it). And it [the creation capitalism-influenced art] probably has not been broken since capitalism has existed.

last page?

That is why the East lacks art through mediums — most is expression through oral communication, then to written communication, then lastly to other mediums. The history of the complex part of Eastern art is perhaps solely literature. It is because America listens to music that they [tend to] communicate through mediums.

digression: How is communication prioritized? I guess that’s left to attention. Communication is just information.

empty page with title

[todo: American culture and music -> media]

an older page

Music is awful. It blocks thinking. Gives energy, for physical exercise, but actions are not thought of, just taken. It blocks thinking before taking an action. The decision-making phase is skipped. Is this action? Is this life? How can such mindlessness be? How wild the affects of music are.

Leave a comment | Categories: Action, Applied Philosophy, Communication, Drafts, Experience, Filmmaking, Health, Humanities, Media, Metaphysics, Music, Personal, Philosophy, Philosophy of Language, Philosophy of Music, Philosophy of Technology, Semiotics, Social Philosophy, temp, Thoughts

Reading Political History

28 May 2016

[aka Criticism of the Experience of Reading Political Histories]

Thoughts after [listening to] 25 minutes of A History of Rome by Hadas Moses:

The format is wonderful: chronologically ordered narrative with huge quotes from ancient sources{, starting with Livy}. It reads like one huge story!

But, is it worth reading such text? It’s so unreal, granted, it does start with the more legendary ancient stuff. Can anything be learned? I highlighted and noted so few bits, especially when compared to, say, Georg Simmel, or any biography: In a biography I can try to see why a person takes the actions that they did; In philosophy, I can match many of my own ideas to the philosopher’s, picking up some words, mapping some ideas together, or with better reading actually learn something or provoke thoughts. But reading a narrative (political) history seems as dull to the mind as reading a narrative fictional book: It feels as if there is no social reality to to try to understand actions; There are no ideas to better understand the world and people’s minds. The society is simply too distant. Perhaps reading about Romans war is similar to reading about New Guinean tribes war. The difference in the experiences of reading and watching a documentary is phenomenal. My mind works during the experience of watching. Things click, neurons are linked.

I will continue, but I think, watching any sort of socially real film is a far better use of time.

Perhaps reading social history is a better experience.

Leave a comment | Categories: Applied Philosophy, Art, Communication, Experience, Humanities, Literature, Media, Philosophy, Philosophy of History, Philosophy of Literature

The Kinds of Literature and the Extraction of Ideas

22 May 2016

[related writings: What is Worth Reading?, Notes on Translations of Ancient Literature, Lessons in Research of a Past Time, The Kinds of Literature and the Extraction of Ideas]

Why Read? To map words with ideas? To get ideas? To talk about a certain subject? To help me express myself? To argue against how reality works? To compare the theories of reality of others with mine? To understand others’ minds? To gain factual historical knowledge?

Whatever the reason, one enters the world of written word. It’s worse than the world of gossip, because it’s far less fun. But surely there must be an efficient way to get the texts one wants? Find ideas about the things one is interested in?

To begin, one must know the kinds of literature.

kinds of literature

(from basic to large)
dictionary

encyclopedia
– including Wikipedia!

dictionary/encyclopedia of selected words/concepts/ideas
– ex. Dino, Franco Felluga – Critical Theory_ The Key Concepts (Routledge, Key Guides, 2015)

a dictionary/encyclopedia of a history of selected words/concepts/ideas
to communicate in a human language, it sometimes helps to use the terms other people created, for mutual understanding. Though, of course, one can just make up words for ideas one desires to express. That’s way more creative.
– also quite cool to see how words have changed meaning over time
– ex. Williams, Raymond – Keywords_ A Vocabulary of Culture and Society (1985)
– ex. Nealon, Jeffrey T._ Giroux, Susan Searlsb – The theory toolbox _ critical concepts for the humanities, arts, and social sciences (Rowman & Littlefield, 2012)

selected text/reading
– a piece of writing/work
Penguin Great Ideas series

writing/work/”book”
– usually has an annoying intro and preface and quote and thanks, can almost always skip them

selected works
– selected (multiple pieces of complete) writings of a single category, usually a single author
– ex. Benjamin, Walter, Peter Demetz – Reflections_ Essays, Aphorisms, Autobiographical Writings (Schocken, 1986)

reader
– selected writings of a single category, the category could be a single author, literature from a period of time, or a category of knowledge. Of them, [selected writings of] a category (could be vague) of knowledge is the most important kind [of reader].
– ideally a reader contains all of the source texts needed for a class. Otherwise, it’s usually up to the teacher to grab a pieces of text from all sorts of places and give out copies. This may be the most efficient way to read, as one doesn’t waste time to fetch and gather several source materials, neither physically nor digitally
– ex. Leach, Neil – Rethinking Architecture_ A Reader in Cultural Theory (Routledge, 1997)
– (the Viking Readers, such as The Portable Beat Reader, mentioned under anthology fit here too)

anthology/sourcebook/source book

– selected writings of a single period of time?
this may be the most efficient way to understand a period of time, or the social development of minds of the time
there seems to be two kinds: fiction (poetry, [fiction] prose, drama, etc.) and non-fiction (history, biography, philosophy, essay, jouurnal/diary, travelogue, speeches, dialogues, letters, communicative action: verbal utterances that matter). Of the two, the second kind is superior, because it tells of real communicative actions. To simply understand: People in the past may have read Homer, Epic of Gilgamesh, and Journey to the West, but that clearly doesn’t represent the social reality of the world, and often, doesn’t affect the social reality at all, just as media (entertainment) in contemporary society doesn’t. The main use of literature to a historian is for the information, and it’s up to the historian to decipher what is fictional and what isn’t. Even then, it is better to read a history or biography [than fiction] written in or around that time to obtain more information [about that time].

fiction

– ex. the Viking Portable Library series, the ones that have “Reader” in the title
— I have a bunch of these at home. Although an experience to read, it was probably a one-time experience: to see how language change over time, how minds change over time, what people write, what people were thinking about, history of literature aesthetic, etc. Although the format of the books are wonderfully basic, they are best left in in random locations in one’s dwelling. I don’t desire to read any fiction, just as I didn’t desire to when I first began to read.
– ex. Mair, Victor H. – The Columbia History of Chinese Literature (Columbia, 2001)
– ex. many editors – The Norton Anthology of World Literature (W. W. Norton & Company, 2012)
this seems like quite the feat, check out the contents
— alternative: Longman Anthology of World Literature
a Goodreads list of anthologies
— see the eurocentrism yet?

sourcebook

– the terms sourcebook and the less commonly “source book” seem to be used for anthologies that mainly have translated writings (fiction and non-fiction), usually of ancient writings (as in probably written on stone or bamboo). “Source book” seems to be more commonly used for odd things like mysticism, table-top role-playing games, and science writings (because they are rarely read, except for a history of science).
– ex. Radhakrishnan, Sarvepalli, Charles A. Moore – A Source Book in Indian Philosophy (Princeton, 1957)
– ex. Chan, Wing-Tsit (Chen, Rongjie) – A Source Book in Chinese Philosophy (Princeton, 1969)
ex. Internet History Sourcebooks Project
— this is a wildly ambitious project covering ancient, medieval, modern, and even, though comprehensively covered, African, East Asian, Global, Indian, Islamic, Jewish, and some special things, like history of science, women’s history, LGBT history

non-fiction

– As I mention in Lessons in Research of a Past Time, there are many kinds of history books, mainly, political (traditional), social (modern), and specific social (modern). Similarly, there are many kinds of sourcebooks, thankfully, they can be divided into the same categories: social (modern) and social topic (modern, specific). A source political history book is the political (traditional) sourcebook.

social sourcebook

these kinds of anthologies of sources of social/everday/daily life may be one of the best ways to understand the society/culture of the past time. This is documentation of reality. This is the equivalent of watching a documentary film. There’s real knowledge to be had here. This is more important than philosophy. This was reality.
– ex. Bagnall, Roger S., Peter Derow – The Hellenistic Period_ Historical Sources in Translation (Blackwell, Sourcebooks in Ancient History, 2003)
— “This book presents in translation 175 of the most revealing documents that have survived on stone and papyrus from the Hellenistic period.”, ex. chapter: Social Relations and Private Life
– ex. Parkin, Tim and Arthur Pomeroy – Roman Social History_ A Sourcebook (Routledge, Sourcebooks for the Ancient World, 2007)
— “this excellent resource covers original translations from sources such as inscriptions, papyri, and legal texts. Topics include: social inequality and class; games, gladiators and attitudes to violence; the role of slaves in Roman society; economy and taxation; the Roman legal system; the Roman family and gender roles.”
– ex. Shelton, Jo-Ann – As the Romans Did: A Sourcebook in Roman Social History (Oxford, 1998)
– ex. Dillon, Matthew, Lynda Garland – Ancient Greece: Social and Historical Documents… (Routledge, Sourcebooks for the Ancient World, 2010)
– ex. Dillon, Matthew, Lynda Garland – Ancient Rome (Routledge, Sourcebooks for the Ancient World, 2010)
— an observed trend: it seems critical theory publishers such as Routledge and Blackwell are on to publishing social sourcebooks, social topic sourcebooks, social histories, and social topic histories

social topic sourcebook

– Again, just as there are histories of social topics, there are sourcebooks of social topics. But as one can see, as the information becomes more and more organized, it becomes more and more insular, showing the ugly insular choice of elite schools’ publications of solely Western civilizations. As one proceeds toward the particular in the order of the organization of sources (primary, sourcebook, social topic sourcebook), the world becomes smaller. There are many primary sources that haven’t been translated. There are even more primary sources that haven’t been compiled into a handy sourcebook. And there can be an infinite amount of social topic sourcebooks.
– ex. Yardley J.C., Iain Mcdougall, Mark Joyal – Greek and Roman Education: A Sourcebook (Routledge Sourcebooks for the Ancient World)
– ex. Wiedemann, Thomas – Greek and Roman Slavery (Routledge, Sourcebooks for the Ancient World, 1980)
– ex. Asmonti, Luca – Athenian Democracy: A Sourcebook (Bloomsbury Sources in Ancient History)
– let’s just use one social topic: women’s history:
by using one example, women in history, one can already the amount that has been and can be written, and one can see what people choosing to focus on / be socially aware about. People still read eurocentric sources, then write social histories about them! What a crazy insular world the world of physically printed material is. And most are published very recently! It seems, historians, stuck in the printed world, have perpetuated insulation as opposed to doing their sole job: to write new histories.
– ex. MacLachlan, Bonnie – Women in Ancient Greece: A Sourcebook (Bloomsbury Sources in Ancient History, 2012)
– ex. MacLachlan, Bonnie – Women in Ancient Rome: A Sourcebook (Bloomsbury Sources in Ancient History, 2013)
– ex. Rowlandson, Jane – Women and Society in Greek and Roman Egypt: A Sourcebook (Cambridge, 1998)
– ex. Johnson, Marguerite, Terry Ryan – Sexuality in Greek and Roman Literature and Society: A Sourcebook (Routledge, Sourcebooks for the Ancient World, 2005)
and so the social problem of media [todo: link] continues. All other societies in any other space or time are ignored [excluded].

history of literature (or a kind of literature)
– selected writings of a period of time with writings to introduce the works
– in case one doesn’t feel like using Wikipedia while reading an anthology, this can be more or less efficient as reading an anthology, depending on the supplemental writing and formatting of the book
– ex. Lin, Yutang, many others – The Wisdom of China and India (arhive.org, 030122mbp)
– ex. Russell, Bertrand – History of Western Philosophy (Routledge, 1945)

other weird things:
history
history books written during the time one is investigating is a source, usually, the best source

school textbook, or simply, textbook
– some strange attempt at throwing a history of ideas within a category? Intellectual history?

academic/scientific paper
– forced writings?

academic journal

extraction of ideas

Now, that we have the kinds of literature, how to get the ideas? If one simply wants words, then a quick Google of an ideas with “Wikipedia” in the search will likely lead to it. That’s how I got most of my vocabulary/ideas. I’ll try Keywords: A Vocabulary of Culture and Society and The Theory Toolbox book soon. Otherwise, ideas can come from any experience. After Wikipedia, my first book was a History of Philosophy (by Bertrand Russell, then Anthony Kenny to fill in gaps). That probably wasn’t necessary, as it consists of the Western canon, but neither was it the worst place to begin in the written world. At my home I have a bunch of books from the Viking Portable Library series; Just finding that series in a bookstore could be heaven, as it consists solely of primary source texts from periods of time; Flipping through several Viking Readers was an experience. From my experience, essays or selected text (usually selected from an essay) seem to be the most concise formulation of the extracting and understanding of an idea via written communication. Essays or selected texts are usually given to students to read, as part of the syllabus. Without a syllabus, essays or selected works that contain ideas can be found in the excellent Penguin Great Ideas series; but it has no direction. Similarly, a reader, such as The Place, People, and Space Reader (by the CUNY environmental psychology department), is also excellent at transmitting ideas, and it has direction. The problem with readers, and all books, is that is it is not a real experience.

That may be as far as I’ve got in my experience of reading, and trying to extract ideas. Those are the best sources I know of: They are the best because the editors select the text [from a primary source] which best forms an idea in the mind. No extra garbage text is added. Furthermore, Secondary texts are usually unnecessary, and generally do not provide nearly as much thought as the primary, because when reading primary sources the mind tries to grasp the author’s mind. It’s comparable to watching a Hollywood film as opposed to a documentary.

Perhaps just reading a few Penguin Great Ideas books and a few readings (selected text) from a reader is enough. It’s 2016. It’s time to play some games, watch films, take the train, meetup, live it up. The ideas come tacitly, there’s not need to explicate them. Perhaps Wikipedia was enough after all. No need to read.

Leave a comment | Categories: Art, Communication, Essays, History, Humanities, Literature, Organization, Personal, Philosophy, Philosophy of Education, Philosophy of Literature

The Public Sphere during the Second Sophistic

20 May 2016

[todo: Headers are mixed up. Complete todos / reorganize.]

Note: This post currently has a lot of thoughts digressing in many directions. My bad.

writing transcribed from a paper, then continued writing here:

Sophism, during/under Emperial [Imperial] Rome, does not seem bad. It focused on human affairs: everyday life, the management of it, during the largest expansion of the empire.

There was less theory, natural science. Sophists may have prioritized superficial rhetoric [style over content], but it also prioritized politics, economics, and social life — isn’t that what matters most?

sophist competition

What’s interesting [to me] is how sophists competed, individually. The educational institutions of Ancient Greece had already declined to their demise. Without institutions, sophists taught privately (in their own home, in their student’s home, or in another private place perhaps [reminds me of Taiwan]) and publicly (via lectures in public venues — bookshops, outside, temples, larger public venues [reminds me of New York]). It seems that sophists were basically artist-teachers, public-philosophers.

Unbound by institutions, they had to compete in the public of competitive cities, and to do so rhetoric (especially oration) skills were crucial. Spoken language was the medium of politics. Written, perhaps less so, except in the form of conversational letters or short treatises. It was a time of actuality, action; It opposed the sedentary writing of knowledge of the recent past (Classical Greek philosophy). What mattered most were contemporary events, not science, — How to maintain the empire.

real philosophy

It seems not much of the Second Sophists’ works have been read (not sure if lost or deemed unimportant; only one modern English translation of the primary source exists), but I imagine their writings are about action, process philosophy, being, Stoic ethics, whatever needed to get shit done. And because of this, I think this period of time is worth idealizing, looking into, of the intellectual life, everyday life, the mass and the mess of decisions and actions taken to handle the doubling of territory size, tripling the population, and all the cultural conflicts within.

This is real philosophy: The recording of communicative action. It opposes the categorizing, analytic kind synonymous to the Western canon, likely created by people under ideal societal conditions and/or in isolation, which in turn, was likely extended by engaging in dialectic with people in the past who wrote under similar conditions. The communicative actions, decided by the discourse between Emperors, orators (including sophists), and senators, decided the course, the political course, of the empire. “The philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways. Sophers, however, changed it.”

[todo: compare this kind of narrow political communicative action philosophy to modern cumulative social philosophy which takes into consideration the cultural, economic, environmental spheres, in addition to the political.

Well, surely the Roman intellectuals tried to take as much into consideration, as much as they were aware of at the time, within the time constraint. Because they weren’t aware of too much socio-cultural problems, I mean they were killing “barbarians”, they simply continued taking action determined by political communication, which seemed to be to continue expanding the empire. That’s not good.

Anyway, I’m more interested in how the individual intellectuals near-directly influenced the politics of the empire, internationally and locally., not so much of the specific decisions they made; they were terrible.]

sophize, now!

So. How does one begin, uh, sophizing? Hold discussions in public venues for free. Topics can be chose by me, then later decided with whoever participates. The topics should be socio-political, and they should be related to the area the discussion takes place in. Duh. The dialectics should lead to action. If they do not, then I have failed sophizing.

[todo: how does this differ from normal community consensus decision-making?]

media vs oration, and toward the ideal stage in the normative development of societies

Forget artistic mediums of communication. Communicate [directly] to the public. This is a better method of beginning socio-political change. No institution is required. Neither is technology. Just simple language. The complexities of experience, epistemology, social philosophy (critical theory, cultural geography, environmental psychology, etc.), must be reduced to a simple communicable language.

[todo: But, the institutions are in power, nearly everywhere, in all forms: educational, research (science, technology), governmental, medical, urban, enforcement (police), punishment, etc. Can one simply ignore them?

Yeah, and that’s what’s appealing about the [period of] time: it’s simple, straightforward, non-beauratic. “Atticus, at one point in time, received up to three letters a day from Emperor Marcus Aurelius. (Wikipedia).” That’s an ideal to strive for: the frankness and transparency of the Romans. And that can only happen in a society with Stoic-like ethics (todo: link to Stoicism in Taiwan).

In the social structure contemporary society, to change any institution, either the institution internally decides to change, or the public sphere pressures it to change (assuming the public sphere has a voice and power). That change is far too slow, even if seemingly progressive. All contemporary institutions would collapse if it experienced a single year that Emperial Rome did.

In contrast, the minimal social structure of Emperial Rome was dynamic, flexible; its intitutions could handle huge changes. There were no educational institutions to collapse, just a bunch sophists (individuals and groups); and the political institution, probably just a bunch of sophists posing as senators, whom also dealt with outsider sophists. Because there weren’t many institutions, people had to make decisions for themselves, take their own directions.

This seems like an ideal point in the normative development of societies. Any more order, and the institutions will become too fragile. Any less order, and ? [todo; not sure: the society collapses?].

side notes

In contrast, Plutarch was more of a hermit, not competitive, at least not by the end of his life, where he only orated to close friends and family in his small hometown, and spent most time writing.

thoughts on the introduction chapter of Eshleman’s book:

There’s so much appeal in the Second Sophistic to me: it reminds me of my experience in New York; Most intellectuals were not part of an institution, because there there weren’t many; Therefore, there were no professional qualifications to control expertise (qualifications didn’t matter much). The intellectuals had to maintain their rhetoric abilities in order to prove they were currently legit (no guaranteed professor or government positions). To be recognized as legit, skilled peers must judge their skills positively: “game recognize game”. Likewise, ability to judge was a required skill, as it determined recognized skill levels. (Eshleman, introduction)

Eshleman tells of how reputation depends on [1] skill, [2] reputation of peers, [3] academic record, [todo: finish thought]

They simply gathered in public places to discuss. [todo: finish thought]

Does this not sound like any other competitive structure? Freestyle (rapping), fighting video games, breakdancing: a healthy competition amongst artists in the city.

Romantic Periods

Hmmm, you know, I think I have a kind of romantic view of these kinds of periods elsewhere: the Warring States period of China, the Edo period of Japan (maybe? It seems factions warred until they united somehow), Archaic Ancient Greece [todo: find modern social history books focused on these time periods]. These are periods where there were no institutions, no [social] structure, and people panicked and scrambled around a huge amount of territory, eventually thinking of the most original ways society could live: they created philosophical treatises — ethical treatises: writings to calm the mind during the wars (Zen Buddhism, Spartan ethics (?), Stoic philosophy), writings to allow society to try to live a good life (Confucianism, Virtue ethics [too early?]), the most original epistomology (Pre-Socratic Philosophy, Daoism). There was a ton of energy during these times, and it was the wise individuals’ (philosopher, [Japanese] monk (?), [second] sophist) views that was of importance; and the rulers needed and turned to those individuals for answers. [It was] Only after they created more structural things to control society, like legal doctrines (Chinese Legalists, Athenien Democracy) or social structures (Spartan Constitution), and then institutionalizing them, did people stop thinking so deeply. The [political and later, educational] institutions lulled the minds to a peaceful rest, narrowing all future thought (ideologies of institutions), of politics and of ethics.

In short, when societies develop a social structure and institutionalize them, thought is narrowed by the structure, including thoughts about how one lives.

[todo: possible quote: “Like a good many other Greek philosophers he took a prominent part in the affairs of his native state, and was appointed to draw up a code of laws for it. It is perhaps worth remarking that the professional and professorial philosopher, detached from the normal life of the state and society and entirely absorbed in the work of teaching or research within his philosophical college or community, does not appear in Greece before Alexander the Great…” — A. H. Armstrong, An Introduction To Ancient Philosophy, Pre-Socratics chapter (I think)

another possible quote: “The sedentary life–as I have said once before–is the real sin against the holy spirit” – Nietzsche, Ecce Homo]

Inclusion/Exclusion and the Transition from Oral to Written

“…the need to demarcate the boundaries of a group in which membership was highly desirable (at least in some quarters), but poorly defined and institutionally fluid. (Eshleman, introduction)” The need to demarcate [group boundaries] is a problem of the human need to organize, in this case, socially organize. Having no boundary is an ideal of social organization: all participation should be open to the public and voluntary.

“…the other end, Christopher Jones has shown that a decisive shift in taste was underway already when Philostratus wrote, away from the improvised declamations that he cherished as the hallmark of the Second Sophistic, and toward the more literary style exemplified by Aelius Aristides (Eshleman, introduction).” Perhaps that shift is most apparent between Cicero and Seneca. Cicero were very oral, known for his speeches, letters, dialogues, and short treatises, written by his shorthand-innovating stenographer Tiro. Seneca more literary, with long letters, essays, and dialogues. After societies develop their primary institutions, perhaps the primary medium [of communication] shifts from oral to written, from an active, often nomadic, way of communicating to a sedentary one. With less action (war) or more sedentarism, time becomes of less importance, and so communicative action in the form of oration decreases, as does the amount of decisions and actions taken, perhaps because the medium of writing is less persuasive than oration (todo: link to media and action).

Eshleman’s Thesis and My Conclusion

“For Christianity, meanwhile, this period was an age of ferment and experiment, in which the core institutions of later Christianity took shape, at least in rough outline. By the middle of the third century an extensive machinery of “orthodoxy” was being forged: a powerful clerical hierarchy, largely fixed scriptural canon, credal norms of interpretation, and increasingly well-theorized mechanisms of certification, for both lay believers and clergy (Eshleman, introduction).” In parallel, the thesis of Eshleman’s book now, the formation of the Christian identity and institutions went through a process strikingly comparable to the formation of the sophist identity and institutions: experiment, compete, define, structure, authorize, institutionalize. Social organization, whether philosopher, sophist, or Christian, all go through the same social processes.

[todo: But, must it? Must societies organize into a single culture and then institutionalize it? Economically, perhaps, to survive together. But culturally, no: culture is a separate sphere. And that’s the point: having multiple cultures, diversity in cultures, diverse individuals, and nurturing them results in more explorative energy. This is common sense in a small scale, like a progressive school, an art organization, but not-so-common sense on a large scale. That is, how does one stop the social process or societal development before self-definition; or, how does one reform to go back to that thriving experimental, competing stage of society?

This experimental stage [of society] seems to usually occur in the history of civilizations during much civil dispute (competition, which in ancient times often meant war) until one culture (including philosophy) wins and unifies the societies. [todo: incomplete thought]

Does society even want that? Harking Kahneman’s answer of robust vs anti-fragile: no. Society wants to be secure.

Then, within a culture, or better, a multi-cultural place, there is only one choice: to individually, or with group of people, compete, experiment, define, structure, live life, but never authorize or institutionalize it upon others. [todo: kind of repeated, what’s different? First is general, next is contemporary?]

Thus, for those of us that do live in an institutionalized culture (everyone), all we can do is create our own little spaces of our own cultures, then experiment, compete (not war), define, structure, and rinse and repeat. Live a different way. You have the will. Try a different set of ethics. Try it even for just an hour, or a day. Try to live like an ancient Roman “with a tent and sword.” Create a new sets of ethics, and live by them. Be a saint. Be an asshole. Ignore the environment. Will your life.

A Few Lessons in Research of a Past Time

sources

en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Second_Sophistic
www.livius.org/articles/concept/second-sophistic/
– tells of sophists as showsman, professional public debaters, even on funny topics such as “In Praise of Baldness”

1. Eshleman, Kendra – The Social World of Intellectuals in the Roman Empire_ Sophists, Philosophers, and Christians (Cambridge, Greek Culture in the Roman World, 2012)
– this book was the cause of this thought. It’s an amazing topic.

possible future sources:

primary:

3. Philostratus, The Lives of the Sophists. Trans. Wright, W.C. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1961.
– main extant source. Perhaps the only source! If that’s the case, scrap the secondary sources.

secondary:

It seems most of these are already referenced by Eshleman. There’s probably not much point in probing these texts, except Whitmarsh’s or Bowersock’s short books or Anderson’s lengthier book.
2. Whitmarsh, Timothy – The Second Sophistic (Oxford, 2005)
– intro
?. Whitmarsh, Timothy – Beyond the Second Sophistic: Adventures in Greek Postclassicism (University of California)
4. Anderson, Graham – The Second Sophistic_ A Cultural Phenomenon in the Roman Empire (1993)
2. Bowersock, G. W. – Greek Sophists in the Roman Empire (Oxford, 1969)
5. Gleasonm, Maud W. – Making Men_ Sophists and Self-Presentation in Ancient Rome (Princeton, 1995)
5. Simon Swain – Hellenism and Empire. Language, Classicism and Power in the Greek World, AD 50-250 (1996 Oxford)
6. Goldhill, Simon – Being Greek under Rome_ Cultural Identity, the Second Sophistic and the Development of Empire (Cambridge, 2001)
6. Borg, Barbara E. – Paideia_ The World Of The Second Sophistic (Millennium Studies, 2004)

further reading:

en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Axial_Age
– just stumbled upon this. It seems Jaspers beat me to it. But it also seems he tries to set a specific time period, whereas I’m just interested in the period of time societies shift from competing schools of thought, or even competing societies, to an institution.
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Orality
– not to be confused with a bunch of other seemingly similar terms in the English language

Leave a comment | Categories: Action, Civics, Communication, Determinism and Free Will, Ethics, History, History of Philosophy, Humanities, Personal, Philosophical Movements, Philosophy, Philosophy of History, Political Philosophy, Public Sphere, Social Anarchism, Social Change, Social Philosophy, Thoughts

Translations of Laozi and Zhuangzi: A Translation Hell / 老子,莊子:翻譯的地獄

12 May 2016

I’ve recently had a stomach-based fever, which gave me some more down-time to continue reading light meditative material, and even watch a Ghibli film!

But before I could read, I had to get through translation decision hell for Laozi’s (老子) Dao De Jing (道德經) and Zhuangzi (莊子). For now, here are my notes:

Laozi

Modern Chinese:
?. There are two versions on Project Gutenberg. One seems to be similar to the one on ctext; The other has more punctuation.
x. 陳鼓應,《老子今註今譯》
– The format makes this unreadable (digitally and physically!): original text in Classical Chinese -> massive amount of notes (500 pages) -> translation in Modern Chinese; No parallel text.

English:
Literal:
0. Yutang Lin
– best first verse, poetic yet literal, entirely comprehendable, no random words left as other translators do with Chinese, better choice of words: “absolute” over “eternal”, “from mystery to deep mystery” over merely “deep and profound” or “deep and deep” or “deep again”
– I initially got only the main text from terebess, which is what I based my decision on, but it seems his book, Wisdom of Laotse (maybe included in his Wisdom of China and Wisdom of China and India), is 300 pages with notes, probably having the best introduction, an imaginary discussion with Zhuangzi, then fits bits of Zhuangzi where it makes sense. He gets it. It must be a gem, a jade perhaps.
0. Tim Chilcott
– this fantastic find is a parallel text which includes simplified Chinese, hanyu pinyin, and his own translation, which itself seems quite good, probably borrowing a lot from past translations. It’s fantastic because the pdf file is modern, with links to notes on words and phrases. I’m starting to think this text is best translated by non-academics. Also, he created a cool text which compiles quotes from people about translating spanning two thousand years .
1. Wing-Tsit Chan
1. John Wu (Shambhala)
– Chan and Wu seem quite similar, both supposedly highly reputed translations. I started with Chan then changed to Yutang Lin.
1.2?. Waley
– also highly reputed
?. Ling-Feng Yen (both versions: Mawangdui Boshu Laozi)
?. Ivanhoe
?. Henricks (combines both versions [Wangbi and Mawangdui], also has other slip translations)
x. D.C. Lau (two versions)
– converts text to fit English grammar; Terrible.

Poetic:
1. Jane English (Vintage)
2. Ursula Guin (Shambhala)
– both look great, maybe English more attentive, with better intuition. Guin’s has nice informal contemporary dialog after every few verses.

Zhuangzi

Modern Chinese:
*. see Modern Chinese translation of Laozi, as the same applies here.

English:
Post-scholarly:
1. Hamill and Seaton (Shambhala)
– seems to combine the best traits of all translations, includes book names, certain Chinese words in brackets, and feels most logically flowing making it the most comparehendable, but less poetic and more wordy because it uses more accurate English words
– use this if one doesn’t understand something.
1. Brook Ziporyn (Hackett)
– flows almost as well as Yutang Lin, but more complete like Hamill and Seaton, without being as wordy

Scholarly:
0. Yutang Lin
– little older, but my favorite translation [of all] (again!), poetic, detailed yet simple like Jane English’s Laozi, seems to have the best grasp of Chinese
– only translated the selected Inner (excludes one) and Outer chapters, eleven out of thirty-three, with reason in the intro
1. Victor A. Mair (normally Columbia, but Watson beat him)
– perhaps more accurate and still flows well, more wordy than Yutang, but on par with Watson, and even interprets into things less than Watson, original scholarly translation
– probably has a great intro, includes great concise history of China
– one of two complete translations
1. Burton Watson (Columbia)
– interprets a bit more than Mair and perhaps loses some of the Chinese poetics, but flows better than Mair with plain English, original scholarly translation
– probably has the a great intro
– one of two complete translations
?. Martin Palmer and Elizabeth Breuilly (Penguin), A. C. Graham, Jane English (Vintage, bilingual, inner chapters only), Feng Youlan (bilingual, parallel?), others
– I think Jane English’s version is probably the most valuable, and worth finding, it being poetic and bilingual [todo: find it!]. And of course anything Penguin is worth trying to get too.

Sources

terebess.hu/english/tao/_index.html
– contains the text (with simple html table of contents!) of like a hundred Laozi translations (including the greats), and two great Zhuangzi translations (Lin and Watson)

www.bu.edu/religion/files/pdf/Tao_Teh_Ching_Translations.pdf
– 8 side by side translation comparison (including Chan, Wu, Waley, Lin), the person recommends Chan, and Henricks for using a recently found source

www.hermetica.info/LaoziD.htm
– another list, unsure of credibility of judgement

Leave a comment | Categories: Art, Communication, Eastern Philosophy, Humanities, Linguistics, Literature, Literature Reviews, Philosophy

My Blog Contains a Pattern Language

01 May 2016

My blog contains a pattern language, and many posts titles are design patterns (take care of locality, hourly ethics), and many emphasized words within the posts are design patterns (todo: get a few).

This is what naturally happens when one communicates through a known human language: ideas are created, represented as words, and when writing about philosophy or design, patterns could be created, patterns to another language: a pattern language.

Writings on design, such as this one, seem to tend to easily generate [design] patterns.

Philosophy patterns appear more often in continental philosophy and critical theory, both of which are more dialectical, perhaps requiring the creation of words to describe social phenomenon. Marx’s terms come to mind: accumulation of capital, surplus value, Zizek’s surplus enjoyment, and core critical theory terms such as ideology and hagemony.

This was one of the reasons I enjoyed reading these kinds of philosophy, and believe it’s worth getting a dictionary of critical theory terms. I wanted to describe reality, but didn’t have a language to describe it. Then I read some philosophy (substantially from Wikipedia) and found the terms they used useful; They helped me write and more accurately transform my thoughts into a human language.

But, reading is not necessary, as I mentioned before, words can always be created. People know the idea behind ideology and hagemony, but just don’t know the word. Connecting ideas to existing words is not necessary. Perhaps even, it results in negative consequences, because the language’s vocabulary (and grammar?) narrows and limits what thoughts can be represented or expressed. It is always better (including efficient) to create words [as opposed to finding and using existing ones]; It is creative and more fun. Perhaps it is even better to not create words, instead prioritizing visual, audio, and reality.

Leave a comment | Categories: Applied Philosophy, Communication, Critical Theory, Design, Humanities, Linguistics, Philosophy, Philosophy of Language, Social Philosophy

Language and Decision-making

18 April 2016

And it seems again that I’ve hit the limits of [human language] communication. Previously it was with the society I lived in, but now it’s with media: books, the most abundunt resource of communication. Language is too narrow in scope, leading the mind to more narrower things. The entirety of the philosophy bookshelf of the library seemed quite useless, probably because its Western philosophy: the categorization of reality. Instead of offering reality, cities, societies, nature, it only contained words describing bits of it. Political questions are great to ponder about, but the words lack the reality of thr environment. There is simply no way for words to offer a real experience. It is only in the mind of an active nomad that thr words provoke recent experiences, entire towns, countries. And for that, then fewer words are needed: poetry and Calvino are enough. [Wittgenstein comes close to creating a poetic dialectic, within the written language medium.] But that’s directionless, anti-dialectic. Well, then, don’t read. Just consume reality and film, then create from it, because there will never be anyone communicating the things I think about.

The content of communication (or any creative action) is unique. [todo: remove or add more to this thought]

I’ve spent so much time [and energy] in my life trying to find, through contemporary people and mediums, people to talk certain ideas about, to share, to socialize, but alas, there was no point [of searching] to begin with. One should not have to go to a human geography department to talk about how capitalism reproduces exclusive spaces. Yet, one cannot simply expect one’s neighbors or friends to have thought of these things. One can only hope the neighbor or friend is willing to spend some time to talk. That is the [socially] normal scenario; Desiring more [energy from others], as I always do, is ideal, and leads to failure.

Why seek to communicate? Why not simply do as I feel? [1.] It’s not social, therefore, it does not feel good. [2.] Communication [sometimes] leads to more knowledge [through dialectic]. [3.] Making decisions for actions via a mutual consensus provides a sense of social verification.

These might be alleviated: [1.] I can make what I do social, simply by having a social network, or even more simply, people around. [2.] Communication can be received through media. Although not ideal, it’s more efficient. [3.] Can’t be fixed; People with knowledge are needed to provide input in the decision-making process.

But when the entirety of society is ignorant, then there are simply two [positive] paths: do things myself and/or [forcefully?] bring others to do these things with me. Skip the consensus.

[todo: compare Confucius / Socrates / Bacon and Zhuangzi / Heraclitus / Montaigne lives, which is better? Living in the city, constantly fighting [arguing] to push society toward ideal vs living as a hermit, thinking and creating freely [whether or not society listens or argues]? Compare the outcomes of my personal experience when living in those two modes. What was most effective? Individual communication, group communication through social organizations in the city, or mediated communication through various mediums (essays)? Or a combination of all? Which mode was healthier, happier? Read my old post about ideal lifestyles]

The verification, justification of social behavior comes with experience. I don’t know what I was doing when I first created anything: games, photo essays, written philosophy, work, travel, event organizing, social organizing. It was all nerve-wrecking. First, because, all of these things went against capitalistic behavior. They were feelings, impulses acted upon. Second, because there are infinite things one can always do, and being conscious of this, constantly thinking and choosing what to do results in a roller-coaster of decisions and emotions.

[possible quotes:

After “It’s not social, therefore, it does not feel good”:

First of all: what is work? Work is of two kinds: first, altering the position of matter at or near the earth’s surface relatively to other such matter; second, telling other people to do so. The first kind is unpleasant and ill paid; the second is pleasant and highly paid.
Bertrand Russell, “In Praise of Idleness”

Democritus and Heraclitus were two philosophers, of whom the first, finding the condition of man vain and ridiculous, never went out in public but with a mocking and laughing face; whereas Heraclitus, having pity and compassion on this same condition of ours, wore a face perpetually sad, and eyes filled with tears. I prefer the first humor; not because it is pleasanter to laugh than to weep, but because it is more disdainful, and condemns us more than the other; and it seems to me that we can never be despised as much as we deserve. Pity and commiseration are mingled with some esteem for the thing we pity; the things we laugh at we consider worthless. I do not think there is as much unhappiness in us as vanity, nor as much malice as stupidity. We are not so full of evil as of inanity; we are not as wretched as we are worthless.
Michel de Montaigne, “On Democritus and Heraclitus”

]

[cut:
Individual communication was best during travel, meeting and talking to people wherever I went.

Only in New York was I able to even achieve a good level of group communication and come to multiple mutual consensuses. Oh so much to do, as opposed to deciding what to do.

My apex of mediated communication was during my time living abroad, especially in Taipei during Humans of Taipei and in solitude (in Taipei, home, Yilan) after travels reading and writing philosophy. The second form is detached from society, perhaps because it involved reading. One should never read, just create (writing is okay, but the worst form).

The ideal, it seems, was the second, group communication. To be part of multiple social organizations which directly affect society, because media has its limits in affecting society [link].

The most creative is mediated communication. One can freely explore and drift wherever one desires, talking about anything via essays.


]

Leave a comment | Categories: Communication, Ethics, Experience, Humanities, Philosophy

Media and Action

15 April 2016

From a thought today:

“…The second essay is about whether ‘personal essays’ ever cause action: has anyone acted upon an Essai by Montaigne[?], as people acted when Blow made Braid, or when Vertov made Man with a Movie Camera? Did the games and films made in response [to them] merely create more communication, as opposed to action? No [and Yes?]. It’s the accessibility of the medium that increases the chance of acting in response. ‘I read the news today’ is a different experience from watching Night and Fog, and that itself different from what I imagine and hope the experience of playing This War of Mine. The closer the experience of a medium is to real experience, the greater the chance of acting in response.”

Leave a comment | Categories: Action, Art, Communication, Critical Theory, Films, Games, Humanities, Linguistics, Media, Metaphysics, Philosophy, Philosophy of Film, Philosophy of Game, Social Philosophy

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