Rahil

Category Archives for: Critical Theory

In Search of a Past Time

23 May 2016

[self-note: this was published using markdown, and is a good for testing it. The original text is in a text file in Dropbox. Can either copy the HTML from the text file using an application (Writebox) or use the WordPress markdown plugin. It seems I may have been playing with the formatting of highlights and notes, using unordered lists (via markdown), which led to some cosmetic updates to the CSS. I don’t know how to write a non-html-list in markdown using “\n- text”. I really sure hope all this messing with digital bullshit will make expressing thoughts easier during more active times in life… This thought has been proceeded to My Workflow for Written Expression.]

[todo: this is a super drafty mess of wanderings exported straight from my phone. It shouldn’t have been published. I’m probably not going to touch this again though. But at least it was fun, and therefore maybe fun for others to wander along too. History is so, uh, unreal. Man, I’m done with history!]

Romantic Periods continued:
Let’s call them ideal [time] periods. Ideal being, an ideal in my mind at least.

Continuing the search for a certain period of time where people created the greatest ethical and political philosophies. A time where people focused on these things. A time where people cared for one another.

contents

As societies urbanized, they needed to figure out as social/political solution, so it came out of necessity of the sudden growing dense areas. That’s the most common sense reason. For politics, and ethics?

Then, it seems, one ethical system bested the others, unifying the cities with benevolence and harmony, resulting in a “peaceful” (no war, but still highly unequal society) golden age, until it became an empire (the most unequal).

But this doesn’t say anything about what’s most important: capital and capitalism in the cities: the motivation of work. The slaves that powered the classical ages and empires.

He argues that credit systems originally developed as means of account long before the advent of coinage, which appeared around 600 BC. Credit can still be seen operating in non-monetary economies. Barter, on the other hand, seems primarily to have been used for limited exchanges between different societies that had infrequent contact and often were in a context of ritualized warfare.

Graeber suggests that economic life originally related to social currencies. These were closely related to routine non-market interactions within a community. This created an “everyday communism” based on mutual expectations and responsibilities among individuals. This type of economy is contrasted with exchange based on formal equality and reciprocity (but not necessarily leading to market relations) and hierarchy. The hierarchies in turn tended to institutionalize inequalities in customs and castes.

  • in line with first to second stage Marxist social development

…The great Axial Age civilizations (800–200 BC) began to use coins to quantify the economic values of portions of what Graeber calls “human economies”. Graeber says these civilizations held a radically different conception of debt and social relations. These were based on the radical incalculability of human life and the constant creation and recreation of social bonds through gifts, marriages, and general sociability. The author postulates the growth of a “military–coinage–slave complex” around this time. These were enforced by mercenary armies that looted cities and cut human beings from their social context to work as slaves in Greece, Rome, and elsewhere. The extreme violence of the period marked by the rise of great empires in China, India, and the Mediterranean was, in this way, connected with the advent of large-scale slavery and the use of coins to pay soldiers. This was combined with obligations to pay taxes in currency: The obligation to pay taxes with money required people to engage in monetary transactions, often with very disadvantageous terms of trade. This typically increased debt and slavery.
Wikipedia, Debt: The First 5000 Years

  • and so capitalism was introduced in the classical age, institutionalized, and at its apex during the empire age. Sounds like Dubai.

Surely after that one must desire some purer ethical treatises to get out of that extreme form of capitalism and violence.

Argh, even in 600BC, one can’t escape capitalism! I’ve spent so much time getting away from it, and even traveling through time, I must go back at least 2600 years. How can one ever escape capitalism? It’s spatially and temporally impossible!

So, anyway, it’s pretty difficult to tell how much capital affected people’s action as opposed to ethics of their philosophies. I’m guessing Confucius China was far less motivated by capital (“profit”) than the Europeans. Bhuddist India too. The influence of philosophies still show in both countries’ contemporary cultures. So, after all, it was the Europeans that were most ruthless, most extreme, the Roman Empire being the apex of ruthlessness, killing for coins, just to make a living.

Anyway, what was I looking for? A certain flourishing period of time? Im not sure. Maybe China’s Han Dynasty is best? They don’t seem to have had a caste system, and likely were more peaceful than Romans, and I read that they were prolific inventors.

Or was I looking for a prolific time where people thought about ways a society can live? I guess there aren’t any other times: around 600BC most of the civilizations created coins. Thus, one must look to other civilizations, precisely at the time when a society begins to urbanize, and better before the invention of coinage

Hmm, I wonder about the geographic view. If urbanization caused people to think of ways to socially organize, was coinage the real solution? (As opposed to ethical precepts.) Then, did other civilizations simply copy that idea (maybe for trade?)? Then, the newly founded social system, capitalism, caused some kind of psychological madness to the point of slave-driving an empire and conquering others (Hi America!)? Then, as a reaction to that madness, people reverted to a morally better religion/ethical precepts?

This shit is crazy. I’m done with history!

Actually, I think was just looking for a period of time where people thought about others, focused on politics and ethics as opposed to [instituinalized, capitalistic] work, not only in the sense of creatively thinking about ways a society can live and govern itself, rather, more simply, just more focused on each other, being aware of one another. [Perhaps I was seeking] The most socially aware period of time [in the development of a society]. An empire, by the definition, is a stage of society that is least socially aware. Perhaps it was indeed before coins were introduced, that people focused on other people, and not coins, or useless wage labour.

Well, I first began to read Meditations by Marcus Aurelius because I wanted to become less aware of social problems. I was hyper-aware, and it was damaging my life. By reading Stoic philosophy, I thought I could be less aware, and it worked a bit. It’s not too bad. What’s bad is knowing that a Roman Emporer did not care for social problems. He wasn’t just unaware, he was decidedly unaware. Like Epictetus, he didn’t let external things bother him, and suggests others shouldn’t. To use one’s mind, free will, to do what they want, but not to grind against society, instead, flow with it naturally. What makes it difficult to digest is that it’s the Roman Empire. He spent much time on the field, battling. Was war simply determinism, fate for him? Stoicism makes sense for the time, to be calm and not be afraid of dying, just as Zen Buddhism made sense, but in contemporary society, it’s a terrible set of ethics.

Then I thought the Second Sophistic was great. Sophists, the artist-educator-senator-public-orating-philosophers, were free, independent [of institutions], debating in the public, talking to Emporers without beauracracy, creating their own schools; a huge part of society. Yet, again, thinking of the history of the Roman Empire, it’s difficult to admire them too. Did they try to socially organize against problems? I guess I’ll know when I read some of Cicero’s speeches.

notes

general time periods:
[Prehistory, ]Archaic periods (Bronze Age), Classical periods (Iron Age), Age of Empires (Iron Age)[, Middle Ages]

Greco-Roman:
Archaic Greece, Classical Greece, Hellenistic Greece, Roman Empire, Holy Roman Empire
|
Seven Sages and Pre-Socratics, atheism/ethical treatises/complex epistemology, early Stoicism and Epicureanism, Stoicism wins, then Christianity wins

India:
Vedic Period, Mahajanapadas, Maurya Empire
|
Brahmin sages, many religions?, [Indian] Buddhism/Jainism wins?

China:
Zhou Dynasty, Warring States (end of Zhou), Imperial China (Qin, Han, etc. Dynasties?)
|
Mandate of Heaven?, every Chinese religion/philosophy, Confucius wins

Japan:
Yayoi, {Kofun, Asuka (most societal changes), Nara}, Heian (golden age and empire)
|
Shinto {Shinto, Bhuddism introduced, both?}, all religions from China, a mix wins?

in general:
archaic, classical, empire
non-sense cosmology, creation of ethical treatises, choice of one ethical treatise (the most humane one, exception: Roman, until it becomes Holy Roman)

geographical (reality) progression:
feudalism/agriculture, urbanization (state/city governor/tyrant), empire (Emporer and their many generals/governors, building of huge trade routes)

highlights and notes from Wikipedia

en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_the_world:

Beginning in the 8th century BCE, the so-called “Axial Age” saw a set of transformative religious and philosophical ideas develop, mostly independently, in many different locations. During the 6th century BCE, Chinese Confucianism,[53][54] Indian Buddhism and Jainism, and Jewish Monotheism all developed. (Karl Jaspers’ Axial Age theory also includes Persian Zoroastrianism on this list, but other scholars dispute Jaspers’ timeline for Zoroastrianism.) In the 5th century BCE Socrates and Plato made significant advances in the development of Ancient Greek philosophy.

In the east, three schools of thought were to dominate Chinese thinking until the modern day. These were Taoism,[55] Legalism[56] and Confucianism.[57] The Confucian tradition, which would attain dominance, looked for political morality not to the force of law but to the power and example of tradition. Confucianism would later spread into the Korean peninsula and toward Japan.

From around 550 BCE, many independent kingdoms and republics known as the Mahajanapadas were established across the subcontinent.

Regional Empires (Age of Empires):
The millennium from 500 BCE to 500 CE saw a series of empires of unprecedented size develop. Well-trained professional armies, unifying ideologies, and advanced bureaucracies created the possibility for emperors to rule over large domains, whose populations could attain numbers upwards of tens of millions of subjects. The great empires depended on military annexation of territory and on the formation of defended settlements to become agricultural centres.[65] The relative peace that the empires brought encouraged international trade, most notably the massive trade routes in the Mediterranean, the maritime trade web in the Indian Ocean, and the Silk Road. In southern Europe, the Greeks (and later the Romans), in an era known as “Classical Antiquity,” established cultures whose practices, laws, and customs are considered the foundation of contemporary western civilization.

  • perhaps ones must look at these empires for some real philosophy (link to second sophists, real philosophy). In the axial age people scrambled and created social structures, such as ethical treatises, to maintain stability (or in the negative: hagemony). In the empires age, people maintained society by the forcing capitalism culture upon others. Hmmm.

en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maurya_Empire:

Under Chandragupta and his successors, internal and external trade, agriculture and economic activities, all thrived and expanded across India thanks to the creation of a single and efficient system of finance, administration, and security.

  • empire-wide social systems!

After the Kalinga War, the Empire experienced nearly half a century of peace and security under Ashoka. Mauryan India also enjoyed an era of social harmony, religious transformation, and expansion of the sciences and of knowledge. Chandragupta Maurya’s embrace of Jainism increased social and religious renewal and reform across his society, while Ashoka’s embrace of Buddhism has been said to have been the foundation of the reign of social and political peace and non-violence across all of India. Ashoka sponsored the spreading of Buddhist ideals into Sri Lanka, Southeast Asia, West Asia[9] and Mediterranean Europe.[3]

  • Jainism is to India as Confucius is to China, a good ethical system promoting harmony

en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edicts_of_Ashoka:

These inscriptions proclaim Ashoka’s adherence to the Buddhist philosophy which, as in Hinduism is called dharma, “Law”. The inscriptions show his efforts to develop the Buddhist dharma throughout his kingdom. Although Buddhism and the Gautama Buddha are mentioned, the edicts focus on social and moral precepts rather than specific religious practices or the philosophical dimension of Buddhism.

“Ten years (of reign) having been completed, King Piodasses (one of the titles of Ashoka: Piyadassi or Priyadarsi, “He who is the beloved of the Gods and who regards everyone amiably”) made known (the doctrine of)
Piety (Greek:εὐσέβεια, Eusebeia) to men; and from this moment he has made men more pious, and everything thrives throughout the whole world. And the king abstains from (killing) living beings, and other men and those who (are) huntsmen and fishermen of the king have desisted
from hunting. And if some (were) intemperate, they
have ceased from their intemperance as was in their power; and obedient to their father and mother and to the elders, in opposition to the past also in the future, by so acting on every occasion, they will live betterand more happily.” (Trans. by G. P. Carratelli[4])

  • animal ethics in 200b.c.

Ashoka showed great concern for fairness in the exercise of justice, caution and tolerance in the application of sentences, and regularly pardoned prisoners.

When Ashoka embraced Buddhism in the latter part of his reign, he brought about significant changes in his style of governance, which included providing protection to fauna, and even relinquished the royal hunt. He was perhaps the first ruler in history to advocate conservation measures for wildlife.

However, the edicts of Ashoka reflect more the desire of rulers than actual events; the mention of a 100 ‘panas’ (coins) fine for poaching deer in royal hunting preserves shows that rule-breakers did exist. The legal restrictions conflicted with the practices then freely exercised by the common people in hunting, felling, fishing and setting fires in forests.

  • yeah, but it’s the creation of culture that mattered, not the enforcement of law

Roadside facilities
Along roads I have had banyan trees planted so that they can give shade to animals and men, and I have had mango groves planted. At intervals of eight krosas, I have had wells dug, rest-houses built, and in various places, I have had watering-places made for the use of animals and men. But these are but minor achievements. Such things to make the people happy have been done by former kings. I have done these things for this purpose, that the people might practice the Dhamma. Pilar Edict Nb7 (S. Dhammika)}}

  • urban planning! Making life comfortable.

— (another sitting?)

en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_Japan:

Between the third century and the eighth century, Japan’s many kingdoms and tribes gradually came to be unified under a centralized government, nominally controlled by the Emperor. The imperial dynasty established at this time continues to reign over Japan to this day.

  • there’s the period, but holy shit, imperial up to this day!?

In 794, a new imperial capital was established at Heian-kyō (modern Kyoto), marking the beginning of the Heian period, which lasted until 1185. The Heian period is considered a golden age of classical Japanese culture. Japanese religious life from this time and onwards was a mix of Buddhism, and native religious practices known as Shinto.

  • and there’s the romantic period of urbanization, religion, ethics of normative society, ethics of recluses, etc.

en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heian_period

The Heian period (平安時代 Heian jidai?) is the last division of classical Japanese history, running from 794 to 1185.[1] The period is named after the capital city of Heian-kyō, or modern Kyōto. It is the period in Japanese history when Buddhism, Taoism and other Chinese influences were at their height. The Heian period is also considered the peak of the Japanese imperial court and noted for its art, especially poetry and literature.

en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heian_literature,
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Recluse_literature:

The origins of the literary style known as Recluse Literature has roots in the Taoist movement in China, said to date back to the 3rd or 4th century BCE. Like the recluses of Japan, Taoist philosophers such as Zhuangzi and Laozi advocated a casting off of the bonds of society and government, and instead living a life free of obligations and the pressures of urban life. The first Japanese recluse is considered to be Saigyō Hōshi, who worked as a guard to retired Emperor Toba until the age of 22, at which time for reasons unknown he took the vows of a monk and proceeded to live alone for long periods of time. Following the relocation of the capital from Heian (present day Kyoto) to Kamakura, located 50 km south-south-west of Tokyo, many court aristocrats, due mainly to the influence of Jōdo shū or Pure Land Buddhism, became disillusioned with the standards and practices of government and every day life, and instead chose to live on the outskirts of civilization in isolation. The practice of taking the tonsure (becoming a monk) after life in the Imperial court was not entirely new to Japan, but the concept of doing so and completely retreating from secular life into nature, as opposed to the many Buddhist monasteries around the capital, was considered a novel alternative to these newly disillusioned intellectuals. From this isolation, it was common practice for the recluse to focus his efforts on self-reflection, expressed through the arts such as poetry or the writing of zuihitsu-styled essays.

  • transcendentalism/Daoism in Japan

en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zuihitsu:

Zuihitsu (随筆?) is a genre of Japanese literature consisting of loosely connected personal essays and fragmented ideas that typically respond to the author’s surroundings.

  • personal essays of reality!

The genre next gained momentum as a respectable form of writing several centuries later in the Kamakura Period. With the depotentiation of the Heian Court and the relocation of the capital to Kamakura, near modern-day Tokyo, many intellectuals, amidst social chaos, grew disillusioned and chose to live in asceticism – a trend that also reflected the growing importance of Pure Land Buddhism. Writing from isolation, these authors reflected on the degeneracy of their contemporaries, whom they considered philistines, in comparison to themselves, as well as general consideration of the impermanence of the material world. Major works from this period include Kamo no Chōmei’s Hōjōki and Yoshida Kenkō’s Tsurezuregusa.

en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kamakura_period:
– warring, samurai, feudalism, middle ages, zen as reaction, kind of like roman times / stoicism?

en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edo_period:

The Edo period (江戸時代 Edo jidai?) or Tokugawa period (徳川時代 Tokugawa jidai?) is the period between 1603 and 1868 in the history of Japan, when Japanese society was under the rule of the Tokugawa shogunate and the country’s 300 regional daimyo. The period was characterized by economic growth, strict social order, isolationist foreign policies, a stable population, popular enjoyment of arts and culture, recycling of materials, and sustainable forest management. It was a sustainable and self-sufficient society which was based on the principles of complete utilization of finite resources.

  • holy moly, why wasn’t this in my travel guide

en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ancient_literature

  • ah, I forget how great Wikipedia is
  • boom, 5th and 4th centuries BC, all of the religions
  • also lol at Aesop’s Fables beating most religions
  • also holy shit at the Classical Greeks writing things way beyond contemporary intelligence while the rest of the world was writing cosmological tales and ethics, except the Chinese, they kept it real, real boring

en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A_Study_of_History

  • lolol, let’s not go that route!

www.goodreads.com/book/show/16057286-the-ellen-meiksins-wood-reader

  • this lady seems to be investigating the period capitalism rises in society for the West, in English farms, apparently, probably after simply noticing when several political theorists came about. There’s a section on precapitalist societies. Maybe should read Debt by Graeber first?

The problem is that all of the books go over how capitalism rises solely for the west. What about every other society? I want to see how capitalism rises in every society. Did it just come by imitation? Also, if coinage came in 600BC, how is that different from capitalism in 1700? To me capitalism is simply the use of currency, not the industrial revolution, or whenever a few control the mean of production.

en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Capitalism

Capital has existed incipiently on a small scale for centuries,[35] in the form of merchant, renting and lending activities, and occasionally as small-scale industry with some wage labour. Simple commodity exchange, and consequently simple commodity production, which are the initial basis for the growth of capital from trade, have a very long history. The “capitalistic era” according to Karl Marx dates from 16th century merchants and small urban workshops.[36] Marx knew that wage labour existed on a modest scale for centuries before capitalist industry. Early Islam promulgated capitalist economic policies, which migrated to Europe through trade partners from cities such as Venice.[37] Capitalism in its modern form can be traced to the emergence of agrarian capitalism and mercantilism in the Renaissance.[38]

Thus for much of history, capital and commercial trade existed, but it did not lead to industrialisation or dominate the production process of society. That required a set of conditions, including specific technologies of mass production, the ability to independently and privately own and trade in means of production, a class of workers willing to sell their labour power for a living, a legal framework promoting commerce, a physical infrastructure allowing the circulation of goods on a large scale, and security for private accumulation. Many of these conditions do not currently exist in many Third World countries, although there is plenty of capital and labour. Thus, the obstacles for the development of capitalist markets are less technical and more social, cultural and political.

  • makes sense for why Asians can live off of a food stands / booths: the culture allows it — dense settlement and not much law/beauracracy makes it viable. Try setting one up in the suburbs only to lose to a fast food joint.

Capitalism is an economic system based on private ownership of the means of production and their operation for profit.[1][2][3] Characteristics central to capitalism include private property, capital accumulation, wage labor, voluntary exchange, a price system, and competitive markets.[4][5] In a capitalist market economy, decision-making and investment is determined by the owners of the factors of production in financial and capital markets, and prices and the distribution of goods are mainly determined by competition in the market.[6][7]

Economists, political economists, and historians have adopted different perspectives in their analyses of capitalism and have recognized various forms of it in practice. These include laissez-faire or free market capitalism, welfare capitalism, and state capitalism. Different forms of capitalism feature varying degrees of free markets, public ownership,[8] obstacles to free competition, and state-sanctioned social policies. The degree of competition in markets, the role of intervention and regulation, and the scope of state ownership vary across different models of capitalism;[9] the extent to which different markets are free, as well as the rules defining private property, are matters of politics and of policy. Most existing capitalist economies are mixed economies, which combine elements of free markets with state intervention, and in some cases, with economic planning.[10]

Capitalism has existed under many forms of government, in many different times, places, and cultures. Following the decline of mercantilism, mixed capitalist systems became dominant in the Western world and continue to spread.

“History of capitalism”

Capital has existed incipiently on a small scale for centuries,[35] in the form of merchant, renting and lending activities, and occasionally as small-scale industry with some wage labour. Simple commodity exchange, and consequently simple commodity production, which are the initial basis for the growth of capital from trade, have a very long history. The “capitalistic era” according to Karl Marx dates from 16th century merchants and small urban workshops.[36] Marx knew that wage labour existed on a modest scale for centuries before capitalist industry. Early Islam promulgated capitalist economic policies, which migrated to Europe through trade partners from cities such as Venice.[37] Capitalism in its modern form can be traced to the emergence of agrarian capitalism and mercantilism in the Renaissance.[38]

Thus for much of history, capital and commercial trade existed, but it did not lead to industrialisation or dominate the production process of society. That required a set of conditions, including specific technologies of mass production, the ability to independently and privately own and trade in means of production, a class of workers willing to sell their labour power for a living, a legal framework promoting commerce, a physical infrastructure allowing the circulation of goods on a large scale, and security for private accumulation. Many of these conditions do not currently exist in many Third World countries, although there is plenty of capital and labour. Thus, the obstacles for the development of capitalist markets are less technical and more social, cultural and political.

“Agrarian capitalism”

The economic foundations of the feudal agricultural system began to shift substantially in 16th-century England; the manorial system had broken down, and land began to become concentrated in the hands of fewer landlords with increasingly large estates. Instead of a serf-based system of labor, workers were increasingly employed as part of a broader and expanding money-based economy. The system put pressure on both landlords and tenants to increase the productivity of agriculture to make profit; the weakened coercive power of the aristocracy to extract peasant surpluses encouraged them to try better methods, and the tenants also had incentive to improve their methods, in order to flourish in an competitive labor market. Terms of rent for land were becoming subject to economic market forces rather than to the previous stagnant system of custom and feudal obligation.[39][40]

  • hmmm that’s one way a society can lead to capitalism. Ouch property rent already?

en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mahajanapada, “Vamsa/Vatsa”:

Kausambi was a very prosperous city where a large number of millionaire merchants resided. It was the most important entreport of goods and passengers from the north-west and south. Udayana was the ruler of Vatsa in the 6th century BCE, the time of Buddha. He was very powerful, warlike and fond of hunting. Initially king Udayana was opposed to Buddhism but later became a follower of Buddha and made Buddhism the state religion.

  • millionaire merchants? In assets in today’s standard? Surely they didn’t have caves of gold coins, did they? Who’s playing with Wikipedia? But doesn’t that count as capitalism, if they received the money by owning a bunch of slaves as their private means of production?

Leave a comment | Categories: Art, Civics, Critical Theory, Ethics, Experience, History, Humanities, Literature, Metaphysics, Personal, Philosophical Movements, Philosophy, Political Philosophy, Public Sphere, Social Philosophy, Travel, Urban 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

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

The Way of Including

29 March 2016

To experience another’s life, in addition to the economic and social influences, the latter impossible to experience, the former, difficult, there is the difference of space and time. To simple be with another person in their everyday life, is to be effected by the same urban and social influences of everyday life. This is something that can be experienced. Live through the shift of a subway repairman, a farmer, an office worker, an at-home technical support worker, a housewife, a maid, a baker, and one will, in addition to appreciate people more, understand the social and material forces at work. This is all we can understand.

Then, to gain an understanding of several people, one must alternate between living the lives of others – their work and their social relations. The greater the amount and diversity of lives experienced, the better on’s perception of social reality is. This is a method of understanding, but it is temporary, because memory is.

Then, retaining the memory of the experiences with people, one must create something that would be beneficial to the greatest amount and diversity of people,.

Then, one should repeat the process [of experiencing and creating]. This is the way of building a more inclusive society and environment.

Whoa! I need to pull out blank sheets of paper more often.

4/7
Found these related bits during a random reading today of Russell’s History of Western Philosophy:

“Until philosophers are kings, or the kings and princes of this world have the spirit and power of philosophy, and political greatness and wisdom meet in one, and those commoner natures who pursue either to the exclusion of the other are compelled to stand aside, cities will never have rest from their evils, nor the human race, as I believe, and then only will this our State have a possibility of life and behold the light of day.” – Plato, Republic

Famous quote, but one usually focuses on the preposition, overlooking the exclusion bit.

“democracy, in the proper sense of the word, is of necessity despotism, because it establishes an executive power, since all decree regarding – and, if need be, against – any individual who dissents from them.”

“the “whole people”, so-called, who carry their measure are really not all, but only a majority: so that here the universal will is in contradiction with itself and with the principle of freedom.”
– Kant, Perpetual Peace

Hmmm, exclusion must be on my mind because that’s all I currently see and seek.

Leave a comment | Categories: Art, Critical Theory, Essays, Humanities, Literature, Philosophy, Social Philosophy

The Practice of Life

27 December 2015

The theorization of humans and their environments* comes from the desire to understand how environments limit human development.

The practice of altering human environments** comes from the desire to increase [potential?] human development.

Altering the environment is the [normative / natural] practice [a mode?] of life.***

The practice occurs at all scales, from small areas to large areas [the world?]****.

[todo: stopped here, though, perhaps the last statement is unnecessary. Also, this is just a part of everyday life, as it’s missing survival / routine and communication. Communication also increases human development, though, because so much communication is in media, it still requires an environment that provides access to the media, and even without media, communication also requires an environment of high human density to provide more people to directly communicate with. The oppositional practice of life could be play — playing with the environment; Playing in the environment and altering the environment, the ultimate parent-child relationship.

Three practices?: Communication, altering environment (the material), and playing in the environment (includes communication with people and material? Does it include creativity?)]

* environmental psychology, human geography (especially critical strands), etc. / people, space, and place

** environmental design (“These fields include architecture, geography, urban planning, landscape architecture, and interior design”) / urban interventionism, social interventionism / production of space? / conversion of space into place / politics [of space] / space design

*** self-organization, spontaneous order

**** from dwelling to country? No, that implies people live in static places and under sovereignty. Should environment be delimited by space or social relations — could it be reworded to “from family to country”? No. It’s the physical environment, which contains people, that is being altered. / What about media and electronic communication? Still requires the body (healthcare, mail) and commodities (computer, media, etc.). –/ Technological communication decreases communication [physical] distance. / Physical interaction with the environment provides the high potential of experience, engaging all senses with reality.


a thought from a note written in Yilan:

Back to the original goals — public space, city planning with tech, decision-making (Taizhong was quite interest because the problems were so clear), create tech from local materials (create art from local material combos), medicine, games for education?, progressive classes to teach (game, film, outside, media, family), politics, political media — film, cognitive science, social science.

Perhaps will just have to observe east coast societies, determine what should be developed, ask government for money (to live and pay off debt), propose solutions (with tech), expose problems — in planning, culture, etc., join local organizations.

Play with materials, craft, tech, space, play.

possible quotes for statement 3:

There is one timeless way of building. It is a thousand years old, and the same today as it has ever been. The great traditional buildings of the past, the villages and tents and temples in which man feels at home, have always been made by people who were very close to the center of this way. It is not possible to make great buildings, or great towns, beautiful places, places where you feel yourself, places where you feel alive, except by following this way. And, as you will see, this way will lead anyone who looks for it to buildings which are themselves as ancient in their form, as the trees and hills, and as our faces are. – Christopher Alexander

“THE TIMELESS WAY

A building or a town will only be alive to the extent that it is governed by the timeless way,

/. // is a -process which brings order out of nothing but ourselves; it cannot be attained, but it will happen of its own accord, if we will only let it.

THE QUALITY

“2. There is a central quality which is the root criterion of life and spirit in a man, a town, a building, or a wilderness. This quality is objective and precise, but it cannot be named,

“To reach the quality without a name we must then build a living pattern language as a gate.

9. This quality in buildings and in towns cannot be made, but only generated, indirectly, by the ordinary actions of the people, just as a flower cannot be made, but only generated from the seed.
– Christopher Alexander. “The Timeless Way Of Building.”

trash 1:
The theorization of people, space, and place* is the desire to understand people within (time and) space and place.

The practice, the work that affects people (within space and place), is the conversion of space into place**: place design***.

Environmental design is the primary practice of life.

trash 2:
The theorization of people and their environments* comes from the desire to understand people’s behavior within their environments.

The practice of altering the environment** comes from the desire to alter people’s behavior.

Leave a comment | Categories: Autonomy, Critical Theory, Human Geography, Humanities, Philosophy, Social Philosophy, Urban Philosophy

I Can Almost See the Sun

11 December 2015

This is part of a series of thoughts that are thematically bounded by a criticism of capitalism, communication, and rationality.

This post contains three parts:

The Sun

Recommended listenings: “Sun in Your Eyes” and “Sun it Rises”.

I thought of the the sun, dreamed of hopping farms in New Zealand and Australia, checked the weather in southwest Taiwan. It is considerably warmer. Then I realized it.

All of this time I’ve been communicating through written language because the weather in Yilan, Taiwan is rainy, and recently, cold. Over time, reading and writing in an isolated dwelling, I lost weight, became habituated to communicating through this medium, prioritizing it over finding and talking to people with similar values. I was unable to fight it, media was easier, my physical condition made it a grudge to commute to the city. It’s the same experience I had at home. It stops me from acting, instead writing it down through ideals and directions.

At first, in addition to my physical condition and habituation, I thought it was the lack of money and a lack of desire to follow what capitalism wants. Perhaps they may be factors too, but recently it dawned that an alternate reason, a simple anti-cure exists: a lack of sun. The sun is what powers me to wake up, go out, and socialize.

The experience is very close now. I can almost see the sun. And the city.

The Experience

Excerpts from John Dewey, Art as Experience, end of chapter 1:

For only when an organism shares in the ordered relations of its environment does it secure the stability essential to living

The artist has his problems and thinks as he works. But his thought is more immediately embodied in the object. Because of the comparative remoteness of his end, the scientific worker operates with symbols, words and mathematical signs.

The artist does his thinking in the very qualitative media he works in, and the terms lie so close to the object that he is producing that they merge directly into it

This sounds like the distance between communication and rationality. Here it’s not just spatial distance, it’s temporal. The artist “thinks as he works“.

Dewey separates the two, artist and scientist. I feel the separation now too, I am definitely not a scientist.

Direct experience comes from nature and man interacting with each other. In this interaction, human energy gathers, is released, dammed up, frustrated and victorious. There are rhythmic beats of want and fulfillment, pulses of doing and being withheld from doing.

To overpass the limits that are set is destruction and death, out of which, however, new rhythms are built up.

The proportionate interception of changes establishes an order that is spatially, not merely temporally patterned.

Inner harmony is attained only when, by some means, terms are made with the environment.

The time of consummation is also one of beginning anew. Any attempt to perpetuate beyond its term the enjoyment attending the time of fulfillment and harmony constitutes withdrawal from the world.

Instead of trying to live upon whatever may have been achieved in the past, it uses past successes to inform the present.

Only when the past ceases to trouble and anticipations of the future are not perturbing is a being wholly united with his environment and therefore fully alive.

Sounds like Seneca here, with regard to past, present and future.

The live animal is fully present, all there, in all of its actions: in its wary glances, its sharp sniffings, its abrupt cocking of ears. All senses are equally on the qui vive. As you watch, you see motion merging into sense and sense into motion — constituting that animal grace so hard for man to rival.

His senses are sentinels of immediate thought and outposts of action, and not, as they so often are with us, mere pathways along which material is gathered to be stored away for a delayed and remote possibility.

Experience in the degree in which it is experience is heightened vitality. Instead of signifying being shut up within one’s own private feelings and sensations, it signifies active and alert commerce with the world; at its height it signifies complete interpenetration of self and the world of objects and events

Yes! The feeling of acting upon sense, the savage instincts, it is quite the experience. Does that make it irrational? It depends. Isn’t all one can do is to do one’s best within social time and space? Why is goal-oriented behavior better [beyond economic productivity]?

Because experience is the fulfillment of an organism in its struggles and achievements in a world of things, it is art in germ. Even in its rudimentary forms, it contains the promise of that delightful perception which is esthetic experience.

Boom.

Well, it’s worth including in the series of posts. There’s surely things about communication I’ve missed here; Furthermore, it seems Dewey understands the way “artists”, or the artistic side of humans, communicate with the world. It’s something I feel Habermas glances over. What that something is I haven’t been able to explicate.

The City

Excerpts by Jane Jacobs, The Death and Life of Great American Cities, last chapter:

City processes in real life are too complex to be routine, too particularized for application as abstractions. They are always made up of interactions among unique combinations of particulars, and there is no substitute for knowing the particulars.

At first reading it sounded like hopelessness here, but upon rereading it seems to emphasize bottom-up thinking and relationships.

In the life sciences, organized complexity is handled by identifying a specific factor or quantity—say an enzyme—and then painstakingly learning its intricate relationships and interconnections with other factors or quantities. All this is observed in terms of the behavior (not mere presence) of other specific (not generalized) factors or quantities. To be sure, the techniques of two-variable and disorganized-complexity analysis are used too, but only as subsidiary tactics.

In principle, these are much the same tactics as those that have
to be used to understand and to help cities. In the case of under-
standing cities, I think the most important habits of thought are
these:
1. To think about processes;
2. To work inductively, reasoning from particulars to the gen-
eral, rather than the reverse;
3. To seek for “unaverage” clues involving very small quan-
tities? which reveal the way larger and more “average” quantities are operating.

This sums up Jane’s method of inquiry: process otology, inductive reasoning, and street knowledge (gladly, no word for this). The process ontology is the method of observing behaviors (processes) and its relations to specific factors.

I’ve always been skeptical of anything beyond the third habit: street knowledge. Its not that I’m just skeptical of Jane’s method of inquiry, rather, in my mind, it all fell under street knowledge; I didn’t distinguish it.

Of districts, main streets, individual shops, public placss, public spaces, neighborhoods, people, gentrification, de-gentrification, ethnic enclaves — all of which have their own unique culture, the people individually, public transport, pedestrian and biking accessibility, and so on, is all magically inputed in the mind, and decisions come out. I don’t think of the method of inquiry. I only think of the particulars and creating a particular application. Never further.

Jane might be on to something, beyond spending half a book attacking quantitative thinkers, she’s able to talk to those thinkers, “scientists” in Dewey’s terms, she’s able to communicate. Every city dweller has the intuition of her book, but she seems to be the first to explicate it, and in doing so, she created an important urban planning book.

Instead of trying to create social movements, create technology to to enable people to make more political decisions, create anarchist spaces, create art which could convey the same messages in a much higher speed, she decided to talk to the scientists.

It’s strange that scientists can even talk. Perhaps the pertinent question is: why scientists are unable to learn from experience as opposed to the symbols of communication from others? Why did they fail to see this when they live in New York? Why did they fail to see it communicated through art? Does a strong artist-scientist dichotomy really exist?

I think the problem, perhaps missing from the book, is of culture and economy, in this case, American culture and American capitalism. Why the developers (private and public) have surplus wealth in the first place, spend it hastily on urbanization — likely pressured by capitalism, and the greater the city the greater the pressure, and what do they hope people will act like?; Why their culture brought them up to think scientifically, even on non-science topics. [todo: could continue this thought]

The surplus wealth, the productivity, the close-grained juxtaposition of talents that permit society to support advances such as these [the example was disease control] are themselves products of our organization into cities, and especially into big and dense cities.

I agree with the close position of talents communicating and acting, and the density factor of cites, though less so in a an exclusive capitalistic culture. I disagree on the fact they have to be big, and I don’t think it’s ideal either.

It may be romantic to search for the salves of society’s ills in slow-moving rustic surroundings, or among innocent, unspoiled provincials, if such exist, but it is a waste of time. Does anyone suppose that, in real life, answers to any of the great questions that worry us today are going to come out of homogeneous settlements?

Hah, this is quite persuasive. I agree that nothing comes out of homogenous settlements, but I disagree that things cannot be learned from other kinds of human settlements and societies. Human settlements and societies are the real experiments, and what works in one place could work in another. I disagree again: All cities depend on it’s rustic surroundings, and caring for them is a responsibility of the city, simply because they provide the sustenance. These areas do require more thinking, and one must be there to think about it. I disagree yet again: One can escape society’s ill’s by getting out of the society. When a city culture is so dominating and progress is too slow, outside of the city becomes a place with alternate possibilities (though, it’s sometimes possible to create alternative space within the city or make social progress for the entire city): where artists go to create villages, anarchists go to create their own districts, and generally where people go to form new communities, which themselves are vital, just on a smaller scale.

That leads to another point against big cities that Jacobs is missing: things don’t come out of big cities, they come out of particular people in it, as mentioned before, “the close-grained juxtaposition of talents”. A big city is just has more groups of organized talents, a university is supposed to have a higher ratio of these, a small town could have just as many equal to a vibrant neighborhood, down to a single group, which is probably around 2-15 people. It’s not the size, or even density in the case of China, it’s about throwing diverse people together and giving them space to allow them to self-organize.

Dull, inert cities, it is true, do contain the seeds of their own destruction and little else. But lively, diverse, intense cities contain the seeds of their own regeneration, with energy enough to carry over for problems and needs outside themselves.

New York is constantly devouring capital by constantly gentrifying itself. It regenerates at the cost of the world’s labor. In the act of caring for her city, a city I love too, Jane ensues blind optimism for it.

Leave a comment | Categories: Aesthetics, Area, Art, Communication, Community, Critical Theory, Experience, Experience, Humanities, Personal, Philosophy, Philosophy of Social Science, Social Philosophy, Urban Philosophy

Why I Did What I Did

10 December 2015

This is part of a series of thoughts that are thematically bounded by a criticism of capitalism, communication, and rationality.

This was taken from a thought from The Distance between Communication and Reality, and is a direct of continuation of Why Did I read?

I may have began reading because I wanted to talk, but in the act of talking, it seems much of the content has digressed. Instead of talking about my experiences of the difference of how people act within a capitalistic city and outside of it, the ideologies of countries, property, the effects that the distance between humans have, communities, ideal neighborhoods, and so on, the one-way communication of books, and even the seemingly interactive communication of Wikipedia, has led me astray. Perhaps philosophy was not the way to go. Philosophy is just one set of possible classifications. Thinking back upon my time of reading, I feel only essayists were able to grasp experience, simply by talking about it, in the similar way that documentarians grasp experiences, simply by documenting it. Everyone else was attempting the impossible: to organize reality.

It is inevitable that life will be not just very short but very miserable for those who acquire by great toil what they must keep by greater toil. They achieve what they want laboriously; they possess what they have achieved anxiously; and meanwhile they take no account of time that will never more return. New preoccupations take the place of the old, hope excites more hope and ambition more ambition. They do not look for an end to their misery, but simply change the reason for it.
– Seneca, On The Shortness Of Life

Instead of simply documenting my travels, I attempted to understand my experiences with the world through philosophical theories. What was I supposed to do? Write a holistic travel-science tome like Humboldt? Perhaps that would have been faster. But even my huge repository of thoughts were about communication, culture, experience, decision-making, politics, all of which still are still categorized under philosophy, not science. Perhaps because I focused on those things even during more active times, it was okay to attempt to organize them later during low times. A note to my future: I must live more.

Whether I live romantically, traveling the world with my legs, creating tools to live more romantically, or instrumentally, creating tools to increase self-education, self-organization, and self-maintenance, there must be more life in it. I am not sure how such disparate lifestyles can be balanced. Perhaps it is because one lifestyle tends to go in one direction, romanticism toward experience, instrumental toward organization, that it is so difficult to balance. If I were able to choose based on happiness, or which results in a consistent social life, it would be instrumental, but the urge for romantic exploration will inevitably come, and making those explorations social becomes the key.

During some of my most active times, I lived romantically and tried to record communication using the quickest means possible; It was through the lifestyles of Vincent Moon, Brandon Stanton, Chris Marker, and local artists in New York that I could foresee a possible combination of romanticism and communication, and a possible way to live: They were the keys. They discovered methods to communicate while experiencing. They found a way to talk about what they wanted, not what philosophers or society wanted. They are contemporary essayists. The kind of people that talk about everything through almost anything, and in doing so, have fulfilling lives.

But it’s not every time that I feel like talking about anything. During most of my time philosophizing, I had desired social changes. This brings up another lifestyle: critically, to maximize social impact in the time and space I live in. The reason I read wasn’t just about talking, it was about learning the problems of society and figuring out methods to make society better: finding directions, finding ideas, finding examples in other societies. There were practical ends. Creating socially realistic essays through mass communication was just one method to that practical end; They subverted mass media and offered something closer to contemporary reality that one could learn from. And in doing so, it made me happy, for the moment.

It was a good method until I became disillusioned by the effects media have in contemporary society and therefore became dissatisfied with those projects. I thought it could change people’s perception, and then their behavior. Maybe it could if I had continued as Brandon did, but I desired more direct methods to change people’s behavior. My mind went to more Bansky style art in a public places, directly experienced and directly affecting people. Then my mind went toward creating community hall-like social centers using technology as an aid. I still desire to do both, perhaps all three methods, but I’m out of money, and I’ve been out of reality for too long, so I must experience life all over again, to recreate those political desires, and continue this endless cycle that is my life.

Leave a comment | Categories: Art, Communication, Critical Theory, Humanities, Life, Personal, Philosophy, Rationality

The Distance between Communication and Reality

10 December 2015

This is part of a series of thoughts that are thematically bounded by a criticism of capitalism, communication, and rationality.

Some thoughts from this morning, which seem to be a continuation of Why did I read?, probably because I’m physically leaving this abode I’ve been dwelling in far too long.

The thoughts:
1. The amount of sense data gathered from real experiences is infinitely larger than those gathered from communication.
2. Therefore, it is impossible to communicate at the level that reality communicates.
3. I may have began reading because I wanted to talk, but in the act of talking, it seems much of the content was lost.
[todo: maybe missing some thoughts]

Thought 1:
1. The amount of sense data gathered from real experiences is infinitely larger than those gathered from communication.
2. Because of that I have always prioritized experience above communication.
[todo: could continue this thought]

Thought 2:
1. It is impossible to communicate at the level that reality communicates.
2. Because of that, it is not a good idea to communicate isolated from reality, especially for a long period of time, in which memory can fade and awareness may likely focus on communication (often distorted) in the form of media as opposed to reality (direct cinema, observational cinema, and cinema verite may be exceptions).
2.1. The distance between communication and reality is a reoccurring problem in decision-making: academia vs city, quantitative vs qualitative, instrumental rationality vs substantial rationality.
3. Because of that (2), one must learn to balance real experiences (reality) and communication, though submitting to the fact that their communication will always be distorted.
3.1 But is communication (perhaps an emphasis on media rather than everyday conversation) even needed (this was perhaps what I going to argue against in Communication and Rationality)? Beyond hard sciences, should one believe anything that is communicated (may have some post about skepticism)?
4. As the distance between communication and reality increases, the amount of distortion in communication increases.
5. In order to maintain a less distorted reality, one must maximize the amount of social time of having an experience.
5.1. In order to achieve a clearer communication, one must limit the communication to recent experiences.
5.2 These also work in the other direction. In order to picture reality while receiving communication, one must have more experience with reality.
[todo: could continue this thought]

Thought 3:
This thought has been moved to Why I Did What I Did.

Leave a comment | Categories: Communication, Critical Theory, Epistemology, Human Geography, Humanities, Personal, Philosophy, Philosophy of Social Science, Rationality, Self-assessment, Thoughts

Rick Roderick’s lecture on Habermas

08 December 2015

[todo: just posting the full notes, asterisks are worth thinking about
]

Habermas – The Fragile Dignity of Humanity
defends rationality at a time where humans did and thought of irrational things
instrumental, productive, labor, monological vs communication, dialogic
science, technology vs humanities, ethics
form ourselves in both dimensions, but cannot be subjective selves without communication
– this idea rejects empiricism such as Hume and Skinner
– correlates with Mead
– to Roderick this is obvious, and comments that “you’d be surprised that it isn’t obvious in philosophy”.
– [this I agree with, and why much of philosophy is indeed useless]
third interest – critical interest, human emancipation, human liberation from unnecessary constraints from freedom and full development
– free ourselves from productive and communicative reason [?]
the way philosophers in the humanities is free themselves is through hermeneutics — the interpretation of text, or simply, read books
systematically distorted communication [a term within lifeworld concept] or in Marxism, ideology [more specifically, cultural hegemony] — in every age the ruling ideas are of the ruling classes, and furthermore, spread by controlling the means of communication [manufacturing consent]
should always suspect beliefs because of cultural hegemony
interpretation for Habermas is not practical, it’s interpretive*
Habermas feels we have an interest in removing the distortions in communication***
in the negation: what would undistorted communication look like? Roderick answers with what I thought when asked the question: things other than just labor, but race, sex, class, colonialism, and so on*
communicative rationality
wants to disentangle enlightened action and barbaric actions including capitalism*
– he mentions of a thought of a previous class, where the enlightenment thinking of science did not lead to enlightened actions, it lead to fascism. He says Adorno said that there’s no history where slavery lead to freedom, but there is history where the slingshot lead to the megaton bomb.
– The sentences we utter, even at an early age, have in them the desire for consensus, mutual understanding**
– it has already has an critical impulse in it, the desire to have undistorted clear communication
quality provision**
undistorted communication would have a symmetry condition like this: everyone would have an equal opportunity to talk and listen*
– it has a political part to it: everyone has an equal right to command or obey, answer or question. It’s egalitarian; or, it’s distorted by the distribution of unequal power. He mentions teacher-student, parent-children, male-female
– based on the Socrates ideal, interlocuting, and which is why Socrates is charming — he has no power
– Habermas says the only force is only that everyone recognizes, which is a peculiar, strange, unforced force***
– Habermas believes that much in rationality. That we can change our minds if we hear a better argument. And a free person can do that without feeling ashamed. So, at the end of the argument one could change their beliefs, not through distortion, but that strange force when one person becomes convinced.
– conditions: try to be truthful, try to be relevant, try to be sincere, try to advance the cause of right — a moral condition, try to communicate ideally thought knowing it is impossible
– for Habermas, these represent different practical areas, spheres — science, morality, art, religion. In different spheres, each condition will have more importance. In science, truth. In morality, rightness and good behavior. In art, sincerity? Rick isn’t sure about the art part. Rick says reminds us that this is a German theory and everything needs to fit.
So by removing Marx, we remove economy. Which is difficult to tell coal miners in Virginia. Removing it kind of removes ourselves.*** And traded class struggle for Frued’s talking cure. Rick refutes this because worker’s bosses are different from analysts, they’re likely to use distorted communication. Even psychoanalysts may say, “if you don’t get paid, you won’t get better”.
The problems with Habermas’s theory, which critics mention, is that it is elitist. That it replaces the factory with the seminar. All of the conditions in which undistorted communication takes place is in a seminar, a university, which is where Habermas spent his entire life.****
– Habermas responds movingly, because communicative rationality applies to everyone, including workers, so the critics missed it’s universality. He says that in a process of enlightenment, there can only be participants. No analyst-patient model. It’s participatory.*** In this way, Rick comments happily, that it now looks like a linguistic theory of anarchism, and he likes it.**
– Hermeneutic people also critiqued Habermas because it limits it to a single interest [didn’t quite understand]; They argue anything can be interpreted, including science.
Interpretation is perhaps the way to achieve selfhood. Everyone is an interpreter. For example a red stop sign. Red is communist for Rick, but also stop. It goes on all around us all of the time, in all conversations and in our experience with the world.*** Especially in human relations. It just shows the ubiquity of interpretation in human life. We’re interpretive beings. It’s a part of being a self [the title of the lecture series]. And now, in the late 20th century, we are now in a situation where interpretation has never been more difficult,**** he references his Human Values lecture.

One artifact that is completely closed to interpretation is television [one-way communication]. Rick says Orwell’s 1984 is optimist, which is an image of a boot on a human face. It’s optimist because he assumes there will be resistance and humans faces, both of which may turn out to be false.

The tribute Rick wanted to pay to Habermas, and what interested him, was to try to defend reason, against cynical reason. It says to us, we can have reason, enlightenment, learn to say what is true. Although in his early work he doesn’t mention that this is endangered[,being wholly optimistic], he does mention it in his later work. In Theory of Communicative Reason, he comes back to defend it, adding more problems to it. Habermas addresses problems, some of what Rick mentioned already, but Habermas, in typical German fashion, waits to write a 4000 page book, lolol. In Rick’s book he does it in 31 pages. Habermas realizes that money and power as abstract systems distorts communication, and everyday talk. And those systems have to be harmonized to be within a system in which it will really be possible to speak to one another face-to-face. And hating to be quasi-theological: perhaps if we can do that, then we wouldn’t see through a glass darkly, and maybe have a way to find our way out of this dilemma, of the terrible entwinement of enlightenment and barbarism. Habermas is one voice that tells us that such a possibility exists, and for that Rick feels he deserves a lot of credit. That’s Habermas in a nutshell.

Leave a comment | Categories: Civics, Communication, Critical Theory, Humanities, Media, Philosophy, Political Philosophy, Rationality, Social Philosophy

An interview with Rick Roderick about critical theory

08 December 2015

[todo: just posting the full notes, asterisks are worth thinking about]

www.partiallyexaminedlife.com/2013/02/04/rick-roderick-and-the-self-under-siege/

Texas is neither Left or Right, but has a bit of solidarity.

read Notes from the Underground by Dostkevsky at age 15, he thinks because he just wanted to talk, perhaps understand why the culture he lived in was so

parents were quite outsiders, father a conman, a mother a beautician, neither a Christian
born in a poor rural white area

went to philosophy because of the time he lived in, the 60’s, getting friends in body bags from the Vietnam War, political assassinations, and so oh. He just wanted to understand, and philosophy is just one of the ways. It was driven by passion and horror around him. Through it he began to see the structures around him falling apart, the hidden past of the Americas, when he listened to Woody Gutherie, which came after Bob Dylan, a past full of promise which basically been taken over by technowar and beauracrats, and certainly systematically hidden at the university.

he said he loves americas, and that’s the odd part, to love America but feel alienated from many things

John Stockwell reminds us that America has fought 200 wars in 200 years, it’s committed genocide against [Native] Indians, Africans, and killed mass millions of people

It’s highly ambiguous

Started study with communications, because he was involved with anti-war activities, and there he could simply watch films and write papers on it [in other words, it was practical].** He wanted it to take as little time as possible.** And on the side he took philosophy courses. It was later that he took philosophy systematically, in the late 60s, and more serious in the mid-70s after the counter-revolution, to study what happened. And also, he needed to find a way to eat, which is an imperative of capitalism that has placed upon us.** As Hunter S. Thompson says, “When the coming gets weird, the weird becomes the pro”. So he decided to become a progressional philosopher. He says he tried not to get schooling in the way of his education, as said by Mark Twain.** He then says he learned a lot by meeting people outside the university. Many kinds of people, avant-garde artist types, Bergman film festivals, anti-war activists. All of it seeking an alternative future.

Why critical theory? The first thing was attending a lecture by Herbert Marcuse. He felt Marcuse brought together Marx and Freud with appreciation with American culture. It should be more well known that Bob Dylan was Marcuse’s favorite artist. Marcuse combined many things in Roderick’s life. It was only after that, that Roderick began to systematically study critical theory, as a way of coming over the isolation of disciplines** within universities and a point of struggle within the system, as well as making up links to social movements, which came through Lukacs and Korsch, which was of a course subsequent to a long study of Marx.

What do you think is essential to critical theory? To Rick, it’s represents what Horkheimer calls systematic unfolding of a single existential value judgement concerning the crisis within the capitalist system.***** Beginning with that judgement, it represents an unfolding of it, as we trace domination, reification, sexism, racism, dehumanization, as it spreads through the society, without restricting any boundaries, using all media seriously, and consider the fragmentation of college society as a remnant of bourgeoisie society. This eliminates a canon of works, which is listless, sexist, and racist itself. So it’s clear that the sum of wisdom couldn’t be known by eleven fat old white guys. Critical theory helps us make connections to see why that’s the case,*** and understand philosophy in that border sense, and use it to come together,** for people interested in real alternatives.

This is an idealist interpretation. Certainly, it’s an idealist interpretation that breaks decisively with Adorno’s pessimism. Rick says he finds Adorno’s pessimism terribly attractive and so he must react to it violently, and is willing to see the contradiction in himself. Says that the Adorno dialectical enlightenment is the most seductive brilliant intellectual figures of the 20th century. And Rick’s only response to Adorno’s thought that if we take this seriously, then there is no hope, is simply Bloch’s response, that reason and humanity cannot flourish without hope. This is a practical postulate of action, not a theory, so this response comes from that level [?]. The duality occurs in many people’s works, but Rick’s response is to never give up, because that becomes a self-fulfilling form of behavior. The job of a social critic is to paralyze us, as it does in Fuccoult’s prison, Thompson’s exterminism, and Adorno in a highly sophisticated form to the extent he succeeds in doing that, because that’s the critics job, but Adorno contradictorily loses, by paralyzing us for action. This response isn’t theoretical, it’s activist [?].

This may have taken us to the edge of critical theory, but this is what lead to me Habermas. Because Habermas was looking for response to the dialectic of enlightenment, to the world of nuclear weapons, instrumental reason, and the disappearance of the bourgeoisie subject, what we used to call people [hmm, bourgeoisie in a good sense here? Public sphere?].

You wrote your dissertation on Habermas, didn’t you? One reason was because many Leftists were going to Habermas as a source for sustenance and academic careers, an academic cottage industry. So his book was a dialectical critique of Habermas, where he gives an attempt to give a positive notion of returning to critical theory of the 30’s to try to recover moments of for him [Habermas] reason for me [Rick] revolt. He wanted to critique him so that we wouldn’t take Habermas’s analysis for America, which is quite different from West Germany at the time Habermas wrote things. He also wanted to warn people against reading Habermas as an obvious theoretical outcome which is better represented by Marcuse, Bloch, and Benjamin.**** For an American audience, without question. Habermas is defending reason where German historians are saying, forget Auschwitz, we fought the French, we’re with NATO, and he has to respond to people who think in this way.** So naturally he starts with moderate concepts such as consensus. Liberalism in the Julian sense. Rick feels but that’s just the beginning.

How a globalizing approach to things, such as Habermas and the Frankfurt school could be digestible, in a philosophic environment such as pragmatism such as America? In one sense Rick doesn’t want it to be understandable, believing in Hegel’s sense of totality, of literally understanding everything about everything is an illusion, which is dangerous politically. Trying to get a sense of everything, the world, is something the Right was good at. Mentions Oliver North’s narrow world view. So there’s a level to understand the large picture, without trying to make a grand theory that’s trying to shut out in an elitist way the moments of difference, of non-convergence.** So wants defends totality, without falling into older traps, which was beautifully criticized by Adorno and others. The only meaning that theory can have is the practical struggle of humans against it.*** Where that is absent, my theory is absent; Where that is present, my theory is present.*** Rick wants to know strategy that ultimately appeals to the finite struggle of humans to achieve real freedom, like free time and creativity, as opposed to “leisure time”, and in other parts basic things, like food, shelter. Before we can have what no human beings have ever had, which is real freedom, we need to have at least what ever human being should have, which is food, shelter, free baseball games.*****

This is all fine if we accept a materialist meaning of freedom. Suppose I [interviewer] say the biggest need is for contemplation, reflection. Would your critical theory have a space for me? This is where Marxism become implicated with it’s enemy, in a way capitalism disguises the world and says that all needs are economic, and that we as it’s enemies go agree. That’s just false. So to listen to non-inquisitive things like India, women, etc. If critical theory doesn’t have a place for this, Rick would rather throw the theory, than these other things. Whether if this can be done theoretically consistently, is not of importance. Rick takes the deductive consistency both politically and sexually unconscious.

The early emancipatory parts in Frankfurt School, Marxism, and different parts of humans that have been silenced. Which leads to the final question: The interviewer learned that she shares the malaise, critique of structuralism of social action, which Marx and the Frankfurt school has always stood for. She thinks that Rick agrees to view the movements of France. Rick says he kind of has a love-hate relationship with France.** They do wonderful things like May ’68 (largest general strike in history of France, created re-election in three days, in which surprisingly, the ruling party gained even more seats). The first industrialized country brought to a revolution where nobody is killed, where they [opposition] is defeated by the totality of society, in the factory, in the streets, and in everyday life, for two months. The failure of it brings the response, absolute nihilism, well we tried it. [recollecting the Dialectic of Enlightenment] Rick says that as a history it shouldn’t be looked as a whole, complete, final; Things appear, disappear, then they come back in a fuller form, and so on*****. So I think that the fact that the expectations were so great then disappointed meant a lot of French theory take this local situation, as a universal negativity. That attitude is part of the conservative revolution of France, West German, and America. At the same time, there are peace movements, working-class movements, women’s movements. He feels the fact that labor unions losing members is a positive thing, because Americans don’t see themselves as purely represented on economic terms by purely beauracrats. We don’t just take one beautiful expression of revolutionary history and say well, that’s it. Rick doesn’t want to draw the positive or negative universalist thesis from a local experience [going back to comparing the Frankfurt’s School of thought at their time in France to America, it’s a failure in anthropology].

What advice would you give us to help us mold our practice for such human emancipation? We should be more critical. Why does the humanities de-humanize us? Why when I get a degree in the humanities I feel less human than I started? Why are all of my humanities teacher’s actually nihilists? Start with basic critical questions: Students should ask, why in the hell are we reading these? What good are these books? My advice, not that I’m telling them what to do, they can do whatever they want to, find their own forms of struggle. The beginning is to realize the poverty of student life. That you are unpaid worker, actually you are paying to work, and are working in an atmosphere of a university that is poverty-stricken experience. Simple by being more critical of the system.

And teachers? This is more difficult because teachers are placed in authority, power, in a disciplinary structure.**** Part of the job is to normalize students. You’re the soft guy in this situation. The only way Rick has found a way to solve this paradox is by telling the students strike out all authority based on the authority Rick Roderick, that this is paradoxical, but there no reason to deny it. That you have a place for reasons. One reason that there has been a resurgence is because the bourgeoisie see a poverty of their own education, and it’s quite important for modern capital. Prove authenticity to students.

You [from interviewer to Rick] are an exception of the theory to the university as prison. Rick responds by summarizing the last paragraph, end then agrees that there are few that share the idea of finding alternatives. There are many levels of struggle, because once capitalism takes the whole life, from marketing desires to consciousness, it’s latest stage, then struggle also involves the whole of life, from everyday life to politics. So Rick doesn’t want to limit these struggles, he wants them to flourish. He hopes the attitude spreads, because Raegan’s hegemony is de-legitimizing everything around us.

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