Category Archives for: Urban Philosophy

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.


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.


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

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

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

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

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


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.


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


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?)


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.


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.


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


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.

– warring, samurai, feudalism, middle ages, zen as reaction, kind of like roman times / stoicism?


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


  • 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


  • lolol, let’s not go that route!


  • 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.


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

Transportation Disrupts Sense of Space

30 April 2016

Transportation disrupts one’s sense of space. Just as cars do, especially in the suburbs, motorcycles do too, even in cities.

People go to destinations skipping the space between, not caring for it. In Taipei, for example, people might directly go to their favorite night market food stall via motorcycle, picking up the food in a plastic bag, nearly running pedestrians over. There is no thought about the space between, just as there is no thought between one’s location and destination in a car in the suburbs. This lack of sense of space is what ruins space. In other words, the lack of awareness of the space around one’s self, the material and the people, is what leads to the ruin of the material and the people within it.

To walk is to care for the space and people around. The space and the people within it aren’t skipped over. One can interact with both. One feels [as if one is] a part of both. The choice of walking through a slum or driving through it is a choice of care: does one care for the space of the slum or not?

Care, for me, is directly correlated with the distance between humans. If I am within the same space as humans, I care for them. It is that simple for me. Therefore, care depends on position in space, and the routines of everyday life that alter one’s position. I am aware this is an abnormal psychology, but I believe there is some truth in this.

Leave a comment | Categories: Design, Environmental Design, Humanities, Philosophy, Urban Philosophy

Noisy Transportation Destroys [Social] Atmosphere

30 April 2016

[to The Ideal Neighborhood?
– can grab a quote from this (not that) post later

[Written after biking to day markets for a day in Taipei, itself after bike commuting for several days.]

Noisy transportation ruins the [social] atmosphere around it. Wherever there is noisy transportation (petroleum-powered motorcycles and cars), the space around it, in which sound can permeate, is destroyed.

The body seeks comfortable spaces. A place where once can sit, talk, and drink some tea. [todo: needs more thinking?]

in Taipei

All of the streets are a terrible place to be. It is only there to pass by. One way to avoid some of the noise and get by is to take a bus. Another, the subway (but that’s another problem [todo: how subways ignore space]). Walking [todo: urban problems of walking], biking [todo: urban problems of biking], and motorcycling creates a thoughtless, uncomfortable experience that disrupts one’s sense of space.

When one is stuck on a noisy street, then an exclusive comfortable place is a likely, deterministic choice, such as a convenient store or cafe.

One way to ignore all of it is to wear earplugs or headphones. But to ignore space, similar to when one drives an enclosed vehicle, is a dangerous choice, as exemplified by how the suburbs have developed without care for the space between.

The most comfortable (public) outdoor areas are in dense neighborhoods, where buildings are built close to each other, split by narrow streets in which only a few vehicles can pass by at a time.

This is exemplified by some of the densest neighborhoods in Taipei [台北] (including New Taipei [新北]). The neighborhood around Tonghua street (通化街), the neighborhood west of Taida (太大), south / southeast Songshan (松山), perhaps Datong (大同), and perhaps Shuanghe (雙和).

The day and night markets provide further comfort by nearly blocking vehicular traffic.

The more people on the street, the more comfortable the space, and less likely that vehicles will try to break through.

So, it seems, the urban solution is to build narrow streets which attract people [to be on the street], resulting in filled narrow streets.

Neighborhoods in Taipei

Tonghua is the best neighborhood in Taipei because it has a by-foot-accessible day and night market that nearly blocks all vehicles. It seems the vehicles that do make it in are those that belong to the market workers. The rest of the neighborhood consists of the typical 3–5 story buildings, small neighborhood parks, small neighborhood temples, and so on. It’s streets seem to be quite irregular, making it even more difficult or undesirable to pass through. It effectively blocks vehicular traffic.

The southeastern part of Songshan District is also great. 3–5 story buildings in a simple grid for a larger area. A day market on the east. A night market further north. Traffic permeates better, especially on larger streets, at the cost of noise.

All good neighborhoods in Taipei have these characteristics[: 3–5 story buildings, narrow streets, filled narrow streets (markets), small neighborhood parks, small neighborhood temples, irregular streets].

Connecting the good neighborhoods

The problem is simply the transportation between the areas: the uncomfortableness of getting to each one. To get to Songshan, one must traverse through the commercial belt, similar to Midtown in Manhatten. It is a terrible experience, ruining the sense of home. Instead of feeling as if one is simply going to a friend’s dwelling in a neighborhood, it feels as if one has to traverse through some annoying alien world to reach it.

The goal then is to figure out how to provide comfortable routes between residential areas. How can one comfortably get to Songshan from Daan? Bike and pedestrian routes through smaller streets is one method.

Currently the best bike routes merely are aligned with the most commercial streets, the red and blue lines. They don’t appear to go anywhere useful in itself. They require [bike] tributaries. There must be signs at each tributary, as there are exit signs near ramps on a highway. The red and blue lines are bike highways without exits.

Without comfortable routes, one becomes isolated in one’s neighborhood, not wanting to leave it, which is good and bad: good to develop a home, bad being unable to traverse [between], diversify, and melt [with] others’ homes.

Design Patterns?

I’ve only got through the intro and first few chapters of A Pattern Language, but once I began adding emphasis to words, design patterns clearly began to emerge. Although it seems natural for it to occur, is it right to implement design patterns from my experience? These are not universal design patterns. Therefore, wouldn’t that destroy space, as it may conflict with another’s design patterns? Doesn’t environmental design always destroy the space by altering it?

When these patterns are taken together, the authors say, they begin to form a kind of language, each pattern forming a word or thought of a true language rather than being a prescriptive way to design or solve a problem. As the authors write on p xiii, “Each solution is stated in such a way that it gives the essential field of relationships needed to solve the problem, but in a very general and abstract way—so that you can solve the problem for yourself, in your own way, by adapting it to your preferences, and the local conditions at the place where you are making it.
Wikipedia, Christopher Alexander and colleagues, A Pattern Language

So it seems as long as the ideas are general, abstract, one can avoid specific design, and therefore avoid destruction of space from repetition. The set of ideas merely exist as a toolset to hypothetically solve problems that can be solved by altering urban material.

This thought digressed to My Blog Contains a Pattern Language.

Leave a comment | Categories: Design, Environmental Design, Humanities, Philosophy, Urban Philosophy

Railroad Space and Railroad Time

15 March 2016

Hmm, perhaps similar to my film reviews, in which I transcribe the thoughts I wrote on my phone to here, then reflect on those thoughts, I could do the same for literature, in which I transcribe the thoughts I wrote in the notes of highlights of readings on Voice Dream, and again, reflect on those thoughts.

After writing this, maybe not. It seems to cost too much time. It feels like a chore. It’s better to just keep on consuming an doing. Perhaps if I were able to automatically get my highlights and notes from the phone application into this blog post, I could continue to think [todo: ask Voice Dream app maker to do this]. Otherwise, the chore of transcribing exists, which is effing boring. I mean, reading is already boring enough! Besides, it’s far closer to consumption than creativity. I’m in a really bad downer now, that’s got the be the only reason I’ve transcribed all of this crap!

Related posts:
The Ideal Neighborhood

Notes and longer thoughts from Chapter 3 from The Railway Journey: The Industrialization of Time and Space in the Nineteenth Century by Wolfgang Schivelbusch:

First some longer thoughts:
Railroad diminishes space at the speed of affordable transport.

Therefore, any person with a connection to affordable transport cannot complain of development of life, can they? If people are able to move to a place with a better quality of life, they can simply just move.

But what then about the social (and urban?) ties with the places they call home is strong? Then social progress will be difficult for them. They must rely on media as their primary source of education, as opposed to what exists in the society they live in.


The spaces in between are also not thought of.

In Banqiao, I met a family with three kids. One kid travels 50 minutes to get to his workplace by bus, one kid travels 40 minutes by subway to get to college, and one kid travels perhaps more than an hour to get home for the weekend from college.

In the suburbs this is more obvious, as everyone drives cars on highways, during which nothing can be seen or experienced.


The spaces in between are also not thought of.

Now people explore things that are available by affordable transportation. What is publicly accessible becomes public knowledge. Outside of the affordable transportation system — isolated prisons, aboriginals, ancient culturess, swaths of rural, suburban, and natural areas, and other isolated places where old cultural problems exist– slavery, gangsters, prostitution, etc. — but the media will never get to simply because it is inconvenient, and therefore ignored. So, in order to experience the spaces between, one needs personal transportation to travel outside the affordable transportation system, or else what is experienced is what is designed to be experienced by the transportation designers.

What is publicly accessible becomes public knowledge.

What can be accessed or experienced publicly, or at least affordably, also becomes the tools or space with and in which people create. “I recently visited an arts university, after being disappointed by their new media department’s graduate student and public rooms, which were simply bland offices and computer labs. I then strolled over to the building next door: the crafts and design department. On the first floor they had a two wood workshops, on the second, a metal workshop, a jewelry workshop, and some other little workshops. My mind blazed with ideas which involved using them, and bringing friends and hanging out within the spaces.” (to thoughts.txt)

So then, to make tools and spaces public, inclusive, results in more uses of those tools and spaces, and therefore more diversity in the people who use them, and therefore more creativity.

from thoughts.txt:
“I had an important thought: bad weather annihilates space in one’s perception. When it is raining, only what within line of sight is experienced. Indoor areas become highlighted. Also, if one feels cold, then one feels the air less. When it is clear and sunny, everything has an equal opportunity of being experienced. Combined with view of a long distance, then the everything within that view becomes a playground for one’s mind. The perception of space is altered greatly by weather.”

Now some highlights and all of the notes:

(The scene behind the carriage window-panes
Goes flitting past in furious flight; whole plains
With streams and harvest-fields and trees and blue
Are swalled by the whirlpool, whereinto
The telegraph’s slim pillars topple o’er.
Whose wires look strangely like a music-score.)

Probably where Michel Gondry got that idea for one of his music videos.

“Economically, the railways’ operation…causes distances to diminish…Lille suddenly finds itself transported to Louvres.”…

“‘Annihilation of space and time.’ was the early-nineteenth century characterization of the effect of railroad travel.

“every man’s field would be found not only where it always was, but as large as ever it was.”

The mind thinks in possible, accessible space. Inaccessible, exclusive spaces are not thought of.

“Louvres, or Pontiose, Chartres, Arpajon, etc., it is obvious that they will just get lost in some street of Paris or its suburbs.”

The spaces in between are also not thought of.
– [triggered larger thoughts written above.]

“on the map of the imagination”

“Transport technology is the material base of potentiality, and equally the material base of the traveler’s space-time perception.”

potential is limited by transport.

“If an essential elemenet of a given sociocultural space-time continuum undergoes change, this will affect the entire structure; our perception of space-time will also lose its accustomed orientaiton”.

orientation is shifted by change in socio-cultural perception of space-time

“Space is killed by railways, and we are left with time alone…”

time is measured, not space (distance)

“I feel as if the mountains and forests of all countries were advancing on Paris.”


“We have clearly stated two contradictory sides of the same process: on tone hand, the railroad opened up new spaces that were not easily accessible before; on the other, it did so by destroying space between points.”

Summary thus far.

“The railroad knows only points of departure and destination”…”They are of no use whatsoever for intervening spaces, which they traverse with disdain and provide only with a useless spectacle.”

Limit of railway transport compared with scooter. Scooter is also limited compared to walking.

“They lost their old sense of local identity, formerly determined by the spaces between them.”

– This is indeed how towns develop into clones, as opposed to unique societies. The more isolated a society is, the more unique it becomes.

“…This was a common enough notion in the nineteenth century: it is to be found in every one of Baedeker’s travel guides that recommends a certain railroad station as the point of departure for each excursion.

The identification of the railroad station with the traveler’s destination, and the relative insignificance of the journey itself were expressed by Mallarme…”

– the problem of travel

“the bringing of the product to the market…could more precisely be regarded as the transformation of the product into a commodity” – Marx, Grundisse

Whether or not it’s in a shop or digitally.

“With the spatial distance that the product covered on its way from its place of production to the market, it also lost its local identity, its spatial presence. Its concretely sensual properties, which were experienced at the place of production as a result of the labor process (…), appeared quite different in the distance market-place.”

– fits better with upcoming Benjamin reference

“Cherries offered for sale in the Paris market were seen as products of that market, just as Normandy seemed to be a product of the railroad that takes you there.”

Mmmm, great analogy.

“…Benjamin’s concept of the aura. He defined ‘aura of natural objects’ as ‘the unique phenomenon of distance, however close it may be’.”

Whoa, beautiful. Place matters because that is where it was produced, by local material forces.

“The aura of a work of art is ‘its unique existence at the place where it happens to be.”

“It is tempting to apply this statement to the outlying regions that were made accessible by the railroad: while being opened up to tourism, they remained, initially at least, untouched by their physical actuality, but their easy, comfortable, and inexpensive accessibility robbed them of their previous value as remote and out-of-the-way places.

The devaluation of outlying regions by their exploitation for mass tourism.”

[highlighted an example of England opening railways to seaside towns in which middle class took over, and the richer, airline travelers went to even further remote regions]

“‘The desire of contemporary masses to bring things closer spatially and humanly…is just as ardent as their bent toward overcoming the uniqueness of every reality by accepting its reproduction.'”

– 5 stars for Benjamin, holy shit

“When spatial distance is no longer experienced, the differences between original and reproduction diminish.”

– ooooh shit. Hello repeating development.

“When, after the establishment of the Railway Clearing House, the companies decided to cooperate and form a national railroad network, Greenwich Time was introduced as the standard time, valid on all lines…In 1880, it became the standard time for England…In 1884 an international conference on time standards divided the world into time zones.”


Leave a comment | Categories: Area, Environmental Psychology, Humanities, Literature Reviews, Philosophy, Social Philosophy, Time Perception, Urban Philosophy

An Interview with Chris Marker

30 December 2015

interviewer: Does the democratization of the means of filmmaking (DV, digital editing, distribution via the Internet) seduce the socially engaged filmmaker that you are?

Chris Marker: Here’s a good opportunity to get rid of a label that’s been stuck on me. For many people, “engaged” means “political,” and politics, the art of compromise (which is as it should be—if there is no compromise there is only brute force, of which we’re seeing an example right now) bores me deeply. [1] What interests me is history, and politics interests me only to the degree that it represents the mark history makes on the present. [2] With an obsessive curiosity (if I identify with any of Kipling’s characters, it’s the Elephant Boy of the Just-So Stories, because of his “insatiable curiosity”) I keep asking: How do people manage to live in such a world? And that’s where my mania comes from, to see “how things are going” in this place or that. [3] For a long time, those who were best placed to see “how it’s going” didn’t have access to the tools to give form to their perceptions—and perception without form is tiring. And now, suddenly, these tools exist. It’s true that for people like me it’s a dream come true. I wrote about it, in a small text in the booklet of the DVD.

1. Marker is not interested in politics (seemingly not of political philosophy / theory), he’s only interested in how history shapes contemporary culture; Politics just happens to be a part of history [which often shapes contemporary culture]. [todo: may have to reread a few times more]

2. The nomadic manic.

3.1. There was something I wanted to talk about here, about perception into form, especially the urban film-essay style of Chris Marker. Of putting together one’s perception of reality into a film; That is, one’s awareness of reality, the history and culture behind each image [and sound?]. [todo: should continue elaborating on the process from perception to film and perception of film as knowledge]

Marker’s form of film, the essay film, enables the director to bring out awareness of reality, to decipher reality. Through a standard realistic film one’s mind accepts some unrealistic structures which form the film, despite the strong desire of the director to recreate social reality. When watching a direct cinema film (and to a great extent, cinema verite and documentaries), it is up to the viewer to extract knowledge from the film, to deconstruct it. Marker serves as the philosopher of his images, in addition to the selector of images. Anyone can deconstruct an image, but it requires a bit more skill to put philosophy-provoking images together in a beautiful manner.

When one creates a documentary, wherein the camera-holder is the subject and the view of the camera is the object, reacting to reality, especially apparent in cities, one creates content which is closest in form to human perception.

That kind of content could be quite useful to environmental psychology. If people simply had camcorders close to their eyes, one could gather a great amount of data useful for environmental design (urban design, etc.). Though, there may be a problem with treating humans like lab rats; Then again, aren’t cities just a rat race?

Still, even with the eye-level camcorder footage, it may not be as useful as Marker’s films, because it lacks a smart subject who has intent to be aware of certain things, and make aware of more things from those things, which brings some order out of the information, [which though not required for an education, saves time,] and creates some direction. Though, at times, not much.

3.2. Camcorder as a tool to give form to one’s perception. Perhaps the greatest artistic tool because it produces a form closest to reality.

3.3. Those who are best placed — place in society, health, education, good perception, and mean of transport — now have access to the camcorder.

an interview with Chris Marker, “Originally published in Libération, March 5, 2003. With thanks to Antoine de Baecque.”

Leave a comment | Categories: Art, Environmental Psychology, Filmmaking, Films, Humanities, Philosophy, Philosophy of Film, Urban 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


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.


“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

The Metropolis and Mental Life by Georg Simmel

25 December 2015

[todo: incomplete draft. Might as well complete the reading on my phone and copy the notes here later, although it doubles the work.]

This essay, particularly the second paragraph, pieces together so much of my early philosophy that I’m going to use it as a tool to link my philosophy together. For the moment, the entirety of the essay is posted here [without copyright, though Googling quickly resulted in three copies].

Georg Simmel
‘The Metropolis and Mental Life’

The deepest problems of modern life flow from the attempt of the individual to maintain the independence and individuality of his existence against the sovereign powers of society, against the weight of the historical heritage and the external culture and technique of life. This antagonism represents the most modern form of the conflict which primitive man must carry on with nature for his own bodily existence. The eighteenth century may have called for liberation from all the ties which grew up historically in politics, in religion, in morality and in economics in order to permit the original natural virtue of man, which is equal in everyone, to develop without inhibition; the nineteenth century may have sought to promote, in addition to man’s freedom, his individuality (which is connected with the division of labour) and his achievements which make him unique and indispensable but which at the same time make him so much the more dependent on the complementary activity of others; Nietzsche may have seen the relentless struggle of the individual as the prerequisite for his full development, while Socialism found the same thing in the suppression of all competition — but in each of these the same fundamental motive was at work, namely the resistance of the individual to being levelled, swallowed up in the social-technological mechanism. When one inquires about the products of the specifically modern aspects of contemporary life with reference to their inner meaning — when, so to speak, one examines the body of culture with reference to the soul, as I am to do concerning the metropolis today — the answer will require the investigation of the relationship which such a social structure promotes between the individual aspects of life and those which transcend the existence of single individuals. It will require the investigation of the adaptations made by the personality in its adjustment to the forces that lie outside of it.

The psychological foundation, upon which the metropolitan individuality is erected, is the intensification of emotional life due to the swift and continuous shift of external and internal stimuli [Creativity, External Stimuli, Cities, and Suburbs, Time, Social Life, and External Stimuli]. Man is a creature whose existence is dependent on differences, i.e., his mind is stimulated by the difference between present impressions and those which have preceded [Working Memory and Creativity]. Lasting impressions, the slightness in their differences, the habituated regularity of their course and contrasts between them, [Habit and Addiction] consume, so to speak, less mental energy than the rapid telescoping of changing images [Prose is Superfluous: Active Communication through Play and ArtThe Speed of IdeasInformation Organization, Mediums, Creativity, and ExperienceCity Experience and MediaForms of Consumption: Reality and Media], pronounced differences within what is grasped at a single glance, and the unexpectedness of violent stimuli [Lone Work and Depression, Hypomania, The Apex of Mania and Creativity in Taipei, Korea and the Apex of SPD, Hypomania and Creativity]. To the extent that the metropolis creates these psychological conditions — with every crossing of the street, with the tempo and multiplicity of economic, occupational and social life [Time, Social Life, and External Stimuli] — it creates in the sensory foundations of mental life, and in the degree of awareness [Awareness and Consciousness] necessitated by our organization as creatures dependent on differences, a deep contrast with the slower, more habitual, more smoothly flowing rhythm of the sensory-mental phase of small town and rural existence [Flexibility]. Thereby the essentially intellectualistic character of the mental life of the metropolis becomes intelligible as over against that of the small town which rests more on feelings and emotional relationships. These latter are rooted in the unconscious levels of the mind and develop most readily in the steady equilibrium of unbroken customs. The locus of reason, on the other hand, is in the lucid, conscious upper strata of the mind and it is the most adaptable of our inner forces [Flexibility and Learning]. In order to adjust itself to the shifts and contradictions in events, it does not require the disturbances and inner upheavals which are the only means whereby more conservative personalities are able to adapt themselves to the same rhythm of events. Thus the metropolitan type — which naturally takes on a thousand individual modifications — creates a protective organ for itself against the profound disruption with which the fluctuations and discontinuities of the external milieu threaten it [todo: I think I had a draft about creating rules in the mind, Chaos and Organization]. Instead of reacting emotionally, the metropolitan type reacts primarily in a rational manner, thus creating a mental predominance through the intensification of consciousness, which in turn is caused by it. Thus the reaction of the metropolitan person to those events is moved to a sphere of mental activity which is least sensitive and which is furthest removed from the depths of the personality.

This intellectualistic quality which is thus recognized as a protection of the inner life against the domination of the metropolis, becomes ramified into numerous specific phenomena. The metropolis has always been the seat of money economy because the many-sidedness and concentration of commercial activity have given the medium of exchange an importance which it could not have acquired in the commercial aspects of rural life [Free from Capitalism?]. But money economy and the domination of the intellect stand in the closest relationship to one another. They have in common a purely matter-of-fact attitude in the treatment of persons and things in which a formal justice is often combined with an unrelenting hardness. The purely intellectualistic person is indifferent to all things personal because, out of them, relationships and reactions develop which are not to be completely understood by purely rational methods — just as the unique element in events never enters into the principle of money. Money is concerned only with what is common to all, i.e., with the exchange value which reduces all quality and individuality to a purely quantitative level [Debt by David Graeber]. All emotional relationships between persons rest on their individuality, whereas intellectual relationships deal with persons as with numbers, that is, as with elements which, in themselves, are indifferent, but which are of interest only insofar as they offer something objectively perceivable. It is in this very manner that the inhabitant of the metropolis reckons with his merchant, his customer, and with his servant, and frequently with the persons with whom he is thrown into obligatory association. These relationships stand in distinct contrast with the nature of the smaller circle in which the inevitable knowledge of individual characteristics produces, with an equal inevitability, an emotional tone in conduct, a sphere which is beyond the mere objective weighting of tasks performed and payments made [tourism]. What is essential here as regards the economic-psychological aspect of the problem is that in less advanced cultures production was for the customer who ordered the product so that the producer and the purchaser knew one another [barter? gift economy?]. The modern city, however, is supplied almost exclusively by production for the market, that is, for entirely unknown purchasers who never appear in the actual field of vision of the producers themselves. Thereby, the interests of each party acquire a relentless matter-of- factness, and its rationally calculated economic egoism need not fear any divergence from its set path because of the imponderability of personal relationships. This is all the more the case in the money economy which dominates the metropolis in which the last remnants of domestic production and direct barter of goods have been eradicated and in which the amount of production on direct personal order is reduced daily [independent merchants vs manufactured products]. Furthermore, this psychological intellectualistic attitude and the money economy are in such close integration that no one is able to say whether it was the former that effected the latter or vice versa. What is certain is only that the form of life in the metropolis is the soil which nourishes this interaction most fruitfully, a point which I shall attempt to demonstrate only with the statement of the most outstanding English constitutional historian to the effect that through the entire course of English history London has never acted as the heart of England but often as its intellect and always as its money bag [ouch! London as past Silicon Valley and Capitalism].

In certain apparently insignificant characters or traits of the most external aspects of life are to be found a number of characteristic mental tendencies. The modern mind has become more and more a calculating one [todo: personal experience in the city, Marx-like economic eye]. The calculating exactness of practical life which has resulted from a money economy corresponds to the ideal of natural science, namely that of transforming the world into an arithmetical problem and of fixing every one of its parts in a mathematical formula [critique of old economic quantitative institutions]. It has been money economy which has thus filled the daily life of so many people with weighing, calculating, enumerating and the reduction of qualitative values to quantitative terms. Because of the character of calculability which money has there has come into the relationships of the elements of life a precision and a degree of certainty in the definition of the equalities and inequalities and an unambiguousness in agreements and arrangements, just as externally this precision has been brought about through the general diffusion of pocket watches [social time, in addition to money, is also quantitative: time is money]. It is, however, the conditions of the metropolis which are cause as well as effect for this essential characteristic. The relationships and concerns of the typical metropolitan resident are so manifold and complex that, especially as a result of the agglomeration of so many persons with such differentiated interests [diversity], their relationships and activities intertwine with one another into a many-membered organism [part of many communities]. In view of this fact, the lack of the most exact punctuality in promises and performances would cause the whole to break down into an inextricable chaos [hmmm]. If all the watches in Berlin suddenly went wrong in different ways even only as much as an hour, its entire economic and commercial life would be derailed for some time [true]. Even though this may seem more superficial in its significance, it transpires that the magnitude of distances results in making all waiting and the breaking of appointments an ill-afforded waste of time. For this reason the technique of metropolitan life in general is not conceivable without all of its activities and reciprocal relationships being organized and coordinated in the most punctual way into a firmly fixed framework of time which transcends all subjective elements. But here too there emerge those conclusions which are in general the whole task of this discussion, namely, that every event, however restricted to this superficial level it may appear, comes immediately into contact with the depths of the soul, and that the most banal externalities are, in the last analysis, bound up with the final decisions concerning the meaning and the style of life [quantitative city life affects the soul]. Punctuality, calculability, and exactness, which are required by the complications and extensiveness of metropolitan life are not only most intimately connected with its capitalistic and intellectualistic character but also colour the content of life and are conducive to the exclusion of those irrational, instinctive, sovereign human traits and impulses which originally seek to determine the form of life from within instead of receiving it from the outside in a general, schematically precise form [the city only allows overly quantitative, rational beings, no other ways in life — ascetic, aboriginal culture, anarchic societies, non-capitalist thoughts, philosophers, etc.]. Even though those lives which are autonomous and characterised by these vital impulses are not entirely impossible in the city, they are, none the less, opposed to it in abstracto [dominated by city social norm]. It is in the light of this that we can explain the passionate hatred of personalities like Ruskin and Nietzsche for the metropolis — personalities who found the value of life only in unschematized individual expressions which cannot be reduced to exact equivalents and in whom, on that account, there flowed from the same source as did that hatred, the hatred of the money economy and of the intellectualism of existence [New York and Taiwan].

The same factors which, in the exactness and the minute precision of the form of life, have coalesced into a structure of the highest impersonality [Okinawa is Inhospitable], have, on the other hand, an influence in a highly personal direction. There is perhaps no psychic phenomenon which is so unconditionally reserved to the city as the blasé outlook. It is at first the consequence of those rapidly shifting stimulations of the nerves which are thrown together in all their contrasts and from which it seems to us the intensification of metropolitan intellectuality seems to be derived. On that account it is not likely that stupid persons who have been hitherto intellectually dead will be blasé. Just as an immoderately sensuous life makes one blasé because it stimulates the nerves to their utmost reactivity until they finally can no longer produce any reaction at all, so, less harmful stimuli, through the rapidity and the contradictoriness of their shifts, force the nerves to make such violent responses, tear them about so brutally that they exhaust their last reserves of strength and, remaining in the same milieu, do not have time for new reserves to form. This incapacity to react to new stimulations with the required amount of energy [need time for thinking] constitutes in fact that blasé attitude which every child of a large city evinces when compared with the products of the more peaceful and more stable milieu.

Combined with this physiological source of the blasé metropolitan attitude there is another which derives from a money economy. The essence of the blasé attitude is an indifference toward the distinctions between things. Not in the sense that they are not perceived, as is the case of mental dullness, but rather that the meaning and the value of the distinctions between things, and therewith of the things themselves, are experienced as meaningless. They appear to the blasé person in a homogeneous, flat and gray colour with no one of them worthy of being preferred to another [hmm, I don’t think I’ve experienced this]. This psychic mood is the correct subjective reflection of a complete money economy to the extent that money takes the place of all the manifoldness of things and expresses all qualitative distinctions between them in the distinction of how much. To the extent that money, with its colourlessness and its indifferent quality, can become a common denominator of all values it becomes the frightful leveller — it hollows out the core of things, their peculiarities, their specific values and their uniqueness and incomparability in a way which is beyond repair. They all float with the same specific gravity in the constantly moving stream of money. They all rest on the same level and are distinguished only by their amounts. In individual cases this colouring, or rather this de-colouring of things, through their equation with money, may be imperceptibly small. In the relationship, however, which the wealthy person has to objects which can be bought for money, perhaps indeed in the total character which, for this reason, public opinion now recognizes in these objects, it takes on very considerable proportions [awareness directed toward extrinsic values?]. This is why the metropolis is the seat of commerce and it is in it that the purchasability of things appears in quite a different aspect than in simpler economies. It is also the peculiar seat of the blasé attitude. In it is brought to a peak, in a certain way, that achievement in the concentration of purchasable things which stimulates the individual to the highest degree of nervous energy. Through the mere quantitative intensification of the same conditions this achievement is transformed into its opposite, into this peculiar adaptive phenomenon — the blasé attitude — in which the nerves reveal their final possibility of adjusting themselves to the content and the form of metropolitan life by renouncing the response to them [definitely never felt this]. We see that the self-preservation of certain types of personalities is obtained at the cost of devaluing the entire objective world, ending inevitably in dragging the personality downward into a feeling of its own valuelessness.

Whereas the subject of this form of existence must come to terms with it for himself, his self-preservation in the face of the great city requires of him a no less negative type of social conduct. The mental attitude of the people of the metropolis to one another may be designated formally as one of reserve. If the unceasing external contact of numbers of persons in the city should be met by the same number of inner reactions as in the small town, in which one knows almost every person he meets and to each of whom he has a positive relationship, one would be completely atomized internally and would fall into an unthinkable mental condition [hence the need of small neighborhoods]. Partly this psychological circumstance and partly the privilege of suspicion which we have in the face of the elements of metropolitan life (which are constantly touching one another in fleeting contact) necessitates in us that reserve, in consequence of which we do not know by sight neighbours of years standing and which permits us to appear to small-town folk so often as cold and uncongenial. Indeed, if I am not mistaken, the inner side of this external reserve is not only indifference but more frequently than we believe, it is a slight aversion, a mutual strangeness and repulsion which, in a close contact which has arisen any way whatever, can break out into hatred and conflict [? maybe Georg is sympathizing with small towns, and hasn’t had a good experience in the city]. The entire inner organization of such a type of extended commercial life rests on an extremely varied structure of sympathies, indifferences and aversions of the briefest as well as of the most enduring sort. This sphere of indifference is, for this reason, not as great as it seems superficially. Our minds respond, with some definite feeling, to almost every impression emanating from another person. The unconsciousness, the transitoriness and the shift of these feelings seem to raise them only into indifference. Actually this latter would be as unnatural to us as immersion into a chaos of unwished-for suggestions would be unbearable. From these two typical dangers of metropolitan life we are saved by antipathy which is the latent adumbration of actual antagonism since it brings about the sort of distantiation and deflection without which this type of life could not be carried on at all. Its extent and its mixture, the rhythm of its emergence and disappearance, the forms in which it is adequate — these constitute, with the simplified motives (in the narrower sense) an inseparable totality of the form of metropolitan life. What appears here directly as dissociation is in reality only one of the elementary forms of socialization [The Tale of the Princess Kaguya, Only Yesterday].

This reserve with its overtone of concealed aversion appears once more, however, as the form or the wrappings of a much more general psychic trait of the metropolis. It assures the individual of a type and degree of personal freedom to which there is no analogy in other circumstances. It has its roots in one of the great developmental tendencies of social life as a whole; in one of the few for which an approximately exhaustive formula can be discovered. The most elementary stage of social organization which is to be found historically, as well as in the present, is this: a relatively small circle almost entirely closed against neighbouring foreign or otherwise antagonistic groups but which has however within itself such a narrow cohesion that the individual member has only a very slight area for the development of his own qualities and for free activity for which he himself is responsible. Political and familial groups began in this way as do political and religious communities; the self-preservation of very young associations requires a rigourous setting of boundaries and a centripetal unity and for that reason it cannot give room to freedom and the peculiarities of inner and external development of the individual [physical and social space defines boundaries of development]. From this stage social evolution proceeds simultaneously in two divergent but none the less corresponding directions. In the measure that the group grows numerically, spatially, and in the meaningful content of life, its immediate inner unity and the definiteness of its original demarcation against others are weakened and rendered mild by reciprocal interactions and interconnections [more density more tolerance for diversity]. And at the same time the individual gains a freedom of movement far beyond the first jealous delimitation, and gains also a peculiarity and individuality to which the division of labour in groups, which have become larger, gives both occasion and necessity. However much the particular conditions and forces of the individual situation might modify the general scheme, the state and Christianity, guilds and political parties and innumerable other groups have developed in accord with this formula. This tendency seems to me, however, to be quite clearly recognizable also in the development of individuality within the framework of city life. Small town life in antiquity as well as in the Middle Ages imposed such limits upon the movements of the individual in his relationships with the outside world and on his inner independence and differentiation that the modern person could not even breathe under such conditions. Even today the city dweller who is placed in a small town feels a type of narrowness which is very similar [city vs suburb culture]. The smaller the circle which forms our environment [environment contains limiting culture] and the more limited the relationships which have the possibility of transcending the boundaries [relationships as transcendence of culture], the more anxiously the narrow community watches over the deeds, the conduct of life and the attitudes of the individual and the more will a quantitative and qualitative individuality tend to pass beyond the boundaries of such a community.

The ancient polis seems in this regard to have had a character of a small town. The incessant threat against its existence by enemies from near and far brought about that stern cohesion in political and military matters, that supervision of the citizen by other citizens, and that jealousy of the whole toward the individual whose own private life was repressed to such an extent that he could compensate himself only by acting as a despot in his own household [nationalism]. The tremendous agitation and excitement, and the unique colourfulness of Athenian life is perhaps explained by the fact that a people of incomparably individualized personalities were in constant struggle against the incessant inner and external oppression of a de-individualizing small town [Constant Action Ethics] . This created an atmosphere of tension in which the weaker were held down and the stronger were impelled to the most passionate type of self-protection. And with this there blossomed in Athens, what, without being able to define it exactly, must be designated as ‘the general human character’ in the intellectual development of our species [first recorded time humans developed fully, independent? Heck no.]. For the correlation, the factual as well as the historical validity of which we are here maintaining, is that the broadest and the most general contents and forms of life are intimately bound up with the most individual ones. Both have a common prehistory and also common enemies in the narrow formations and groupings, whose striving for self-preservation set them in conflict with the broad and general on the outside, as well as the freely mobile and individual on the inside [priority for individualism, individuals will always exist within and out, resisting any kind of normative culture]. Just as in feudal times the ‘free’ man was he who stood under the law of the land, that is, under the law of the largest social unit, but he was unfree who derived his legal rights only from the narrow circle of a feudal community — so today in an intellectualized and refined sense the citizen of the metropolis is ‘free’ in contrast with the trivialities and prejudices which bind the small town person. The mutual reserve and indifference, and the intellectual conditions of life in large social units are never more sharply appreciated in their significance for the independence of the individual than in the dense crowds of the metropolis because the bodily closeness and lack of space make intellectual distance really perceivable for the first time. It is obviously only the obverse of this freedom that, under certain circumstances, one never feels as lonely and as deserted as in this metropolitan crush of persons [city community, Large and Small Communities]. For here, as elsewhere, it is by no means necessary that the freedom of man reflect itself in his emotional life only as a pleasant experience.

It is not only the immediate size of the area and population which, on the basis of world-historical correlation between the increase in the size of the social unit and the degree of personal inner and outer freedom, makes the metropolis the locus of this condition. It is rather in transcending this purely tangible extensiveness that the metropolis also becomes the seat of cosmopolitanism. Comparable with the form of the development of wealth — (beyond a certain point property increases in ever more rapid progression as out of its own inner being) — the individual’s horizon is enlarged. In the same way, economic, personal and intellectual relations in the city (which are its ideal reflection), grow in a geometrical progression as soon as, for the first time, a certain limit has been passed. Every dynamic extension becomes a preparation not only for a similar extension but rather for a larger one and from every thread which is spun out of it there continue, growing as out of themselves, an endless number of others. This may be illustrated by the fact that within the city the ‘unearned increment’ of ground rent, through a mere increase in traffic, brings to the owner profits which are self-generating. At this point the quantitative aspects of life are transformed qualitatively. The sphere of life of the small town is, in the main, enclosed within itself. For the metropolis it is decisive that its inner life is extended in a wave-like motion over a broader national or international area. Weimar was no exception because its significance was dependent upon individual personalities and died with them, whereas the metropolis is characterised by its essential independence even of the most significant individual personalities; this is rather its antithesis and it is the price of independence which the individual living in it enjoys. The most significant aspect of the metropolis lies in this functional magnitude beyond its actual physical boundaries and this effectiveness reacts upon the latter and gives to it life, weight, importance and responsibility. A person does not end with limits of his physical body or with the area to which his physical activity is immediately confined but embraces, rather, the totality of meaningful effects which emanates from him temporally and spatially. In the same way the city exists only in the totality of the effects which transcend their immediate sphere. These really are the actual extent in which their existence is expressed. This is already expressed in the fact that individual freedom, which is the logical historical complement of such extension, is not only to be understood in the negative sense as mere freedom of movement and emancipation from prejudices and philistinism. Its essential characteristic is rather to be found in the fact that the particularity and incomparability which ultimately every person possesses in some way is actually expressed, giving form to life. That we follow the laws of our inner nature — and this is what freedom is — becomes perceptible and convincing to us and to others only when the expressions of this nature distinguish themselves from others; it is our irreplaceability by others which shows that our mode of existence is not imposed upon us from the outside.
Cities are above all the seat of the most advanced economic division of labour. They produce such extreme phenomena as the lucrative vocation of the quatorzieme in Paris. These are persons who may be recognized by shields on their houses and who hold themselves ready at the dinner hour in appropriate costumes so they can he called upon on short notice in case thirteen persons find themselves at the table. Exactly in the measure of its extension the city offers to an increasing degree the determining conditions for the division of labour. It is a unit which, because of its large size, is receptive to a highly diversified plurality of achievements while at the same time the agglomeration of individuals and their struggle for the customer forces the individual to a type of specialized accomplishment in which he cannot be so easily exterminated by the other. The decisive fact here is that in the life of a city, struggle with nature for the means of life is transformed into a conflict with human beings and the gain which is fought for is granted, not by nature, but by man. For here we find not only the previously mentioned source of specialization but rather the deeper one in which the seller must seek to produce in the person to whom he wishes to sell ever new and unique needs. The necessity to specialize one’s product in order to find a source of income which is not yet exhausted and also to specialize a function which cannot be easily supplanted is conducive to differentiation, refinement and enrichment of the needs of the public which obviously must lead to increasing personal variation within this public.

All this leads to the narrower type of intellectual individuation of mental qualities to which the city gives rise in proportion to its size. There is a whole series of causes for this. First of all there is the difficulty of giving one’s own personality a certain status within the framework of metropolitan life. Where quantitative increase of value and energy has reached its limits, one seizes on qualitative distinctions, so that, through taking advantage of the existing sensitivity to differences, the attention of the social world can, in some way, he won for oneself. This leads ultimately to the strangest eccentricities, to specifically metropolitan extravagances of self-distantiation, of caprice, of fastidiousness, the meaning of which is no longer to be found in the content of such activity itself but rather in its being a form of ‘being different’ — of making oneself noticeable. For many types of persons these are still the only means of saving for oneself, through the attention gained from others, some sort of self-esteem and the sense of filling a position. In the same sense there operates an apparently insignificant factor which in its effects however is perceptibly cumulative, namely, the brevity and rarity of meetings which are allotted to each individual as compared with social intercourse in a small city. For here we find the attempt to appear to-the-point, clear-cut and individual with extraordinarily greater frequency than where frequent and long association assures to each person an unambiguous conception of the other’s personality [whoa].

This appears to me to be the most profound cause of the fact that the metropolis places emphasis on striving for the most individual forms of personal existence — regardless of whether it is always correct or always successful. The development of modern culture is characterised by the predominance of what one can call the objective spirit over the subjective; that is, in language as well as in law, in the technique of production as well as in art, in science as well as in the objects of domestic environment, there is embodied a sort of spirit [Geist], the daily growth of which is followed only imperfectly and with an even greater lag by the intellectual development of the individual. If we survey for instance the vast culture which during the last century has been embodied in things and in knowledge, in institutions and comforts, and if we compare them with the cultural progress of the individual during the same period — at least in the upper classes — we would see a frightful difference in rate of growth between the two which represents, in many points, rather a regression of the culture of the individual with reference to spirituality, delicacy and idealism. This discrepancy is in essence the result of the success of the growing division of labour. For it is this which requires from the individual an ever more one-sided type of achievement which, at its highest point, often permits his personality as a whole to fall into neglect. In any case this overgrowlh of objective culture has been less and less satisfactory for the individual. Perhaps less conscious than in practical activity and in the obscure complex of feelings which flow from him, he is reduced to a negligible quantity. He becomes a single cog as over against the vast overwhelming organization of things and forces which gradually take out of his hands everything connected with progress, spirituality and value. The operation of these forces results in the transformation of the latter from a subjective form into one of purely objective existence. It need only be pointed out that the metropolis is the proper arena for this type of culture which has outgrown every personal element. Here in buildings and in educational institutions, in the wonders and comforts of space-conquering technique, in the formations of social life and in the concrete institutions of the State is to be found such a tremendous richness of crystallizing, depersonalized cultural accomplishments that the personality can, so to speak, scarcely maintain itself in the face of it. From one angle life is made infinitely more easy in the sense that stimulations, interests, and the taking up of time and attention, present themselves from all sides and carry it in a stream which scarcely requires any individual efforts for its ongoing. But from another angle, life is composed more and more of these impersonal cultural elements and existing goods and values which seek to suppress peculiar personal interests and incomparabilities. As a result, in order that this most personal element be saved, extremities and peculiarities and individualizations must be produced and they must be over- exaggerated merely to be brought into the awareness even of the individual himself. The atrophy of individual culture through the hypertrophy of objective culture lies at the root of the bitter hatred which the preachers of the most extreme individualism, in the footsteps of Nietzsche, directed against the metropolis. But it is also the explanation of why indeed they are so passionately loved in the metropolis and indeed appear to its residents as the saviours of their unsatisfied yearnings.

When both of these forms of individualism which are nourished by the quantitative relationships of the metropolis, i.e., individual independence and the elaboration of personal peculiarities, are examined with reference to their historical position, the metropolis attains an entirely new value and meaning in the world history of the spirit. The eighteenth century found the individual in the grip of powerful bonds which had become meaningless — bonds of a political, agrarian, guild and religious nature — delimitations which imposed upon the human being at the same time an unnatural form and for a long time an unjust inequality. In this situation arose the cry for freedom and equality — the belief in the full freedom of movement of the individual in all his social and intellectual relationships which would then permit the same noble essence to emerge equally from all individuals as Nature had placed it in them and as it had been distorted by social life and historical development [anarchism or liberalism?]. Alongside of this liberalistic ideal there grew up in the nineteenth century from Goethe and the Romantics, on the one hand, and from the economic division of labour on the other, the further tendency, namely, that individuals who had been liberated from their historical bonds sought now to distinguish themselves from one another [romanticism]. No longer was it the ‘general human quality’ in every individual hut rather his qualitative uniqueness and irreplaceability that now became the criteria of his value [creative economy]. In the conflict and shifting interpretations of these two ways of defining the position of the individual within the totality is to be found the external as well as the internal history of our time. It is the function of the metropolis to make a place for the conflict and for the attempts at unification of both of these in the sense that its own peculiar conditions have been revealed to us as the occasion and the stimulus for the development of both [todo: need to reread this more]. Thereby they attain a quite unique place, fruitful with an inexhaustible richness of meaning in the development of the mental life. They reveal themselves as one of those great historical structures in which conflicting life- embracing currents find themselves with equal legitimacy. Because of this, however, regardless of whether we are sympathetic or antipathetic with their individual expressions, they transcend the sphere in which a judge-like attitude on our part is appropriate. To the extent that such forces have been integrated, with the fleeting existence of a single cell, into the root as well as the crown of the totality of historical life to which we belong — it is our task not to complain or to condone but only to understand [ :) ].

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Forms and Design

23 December 2015

[todo: published draft]

Reading the Wikipedia article on Plato’s theory of Forms reminded me of an old thought.

During more creative, physical times, I often ponder, how the material in the world came to be. Often, simultaneously, as an act of creativity and toward creating a better world, I think about how the material can be re-organized.

The contemporary world is just a possibility. Every man-made material conglomerate is a form, an idea from history.

During this time, I often disregard the intended use of man-made material conglomerates. Let’s call them them products. Instead, I use material in a more efficient manner. It leads to a seemingly primitive life, improvising with the current material world to my needs for survival, creativity, and whatever my intentions life are at the time. The re-organization of material is material creativity. Let’s call it design.

[todo: need to continue this thought]

Designers start with nothing. An empty place. When one needs something, a product, one either fetches an existing product, improvises with existing products, or creates a product from material. In the process of starting with nothing, one gains material, and with it, creates products of multiple uses[, leading toward minimalism]. The materials and products build upon each other, leading to more combinations and uses. It’s self-organization. [todo: need to continue]

“At the core… is the idea that people should design for themselves their own houses, streets and communities. This idea… comes simply from the observation that most of the wonderful places of the world were not made by architects but by the people”. — Christopher Alexander et al., A Pattern Language, front bookflap

[todo: another thought, about how wealthy people have a privileged choice: they can simply buy an existing product to meet their needs, simultaneously showing their lack of creativity, exercise of power in a capitalist society, and destruction of nature (creative destruction?). i.e. American cookie-cutter suburbia as opposed to poorer Asian cities]

[todo: What triggered the old thought was a particular example describing the problem of universals: using table-ness to describe a table. Almost anything flat can be used as a table, including the floor. And so, out of a desire in efficacy of time and cost, this is how my mind words. I use anything for the purposes that I want. I don’t think about existing products that have been manufactured or created in the past for specific purposes. The area that I am in is my sandbox (or lego bucket?): the material within the area can be used to my liking…]

[todo: It seems I was getting at some kind of natural order of material, as opposed to the dogmatic use of existing ideas through material products. This most familiarly applies to household and personal products. This also applies to the forms within a room, a city, and country.

Let’s creating examples to each of those scales of areas:

A person living in a room may partition it into rooms for various reasons (some of culture) such as a room with a shower, a room with a toilet, a private enclosed room, and so on. It fits the needs naturally.

A neighborhood…]

Leave a comment | Categories: Art, Design, Humanities, 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.


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
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

Criticism of Innovative Urban Areas

05 December 2015

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

[todo: almost complete?]

In the last post, I was trying to figure out “why consensual social action is more frequent in cities than outside of them”. Keeping that in mind, this third thought has a more skeptical view of cities. These two thoughts together hark much of yesterday’s thought, Free from Capitalism.

Let’s start with the project summary for Measuring Urban Innovation by MIT Media Lab’s Changing Places research group:

Cities are hubs for innovation, characterized by densely populated areas where people and firms cluster together, share resources, and collaborate. In turn, dense cities show higher rates of economic growth and viability. Yet, the specific places innovation occurs in urban areas, and what the socioeconomic conditions are that encourage it, are still elusive for both researches and policymakers. Understanding the social and spatial settings that enable innovation to accrue will equip policymakers and developers with the metrics to promote and sustain innovation in cities. This research will measure the attributes of innovation districts across the US in terms of their land-use configurations and population characteristics and behaviors. These measurements will be used to identify the factors that enable innovation, with the goal of developing a methodological approach for producing quantitative planning guidelines to support decision-making processes.
MIT Media Lab’s Changing Places research group, project summary for Measuring Urban Innovation

Could there be a better definition for instrumental rationality than this?

Instrumental rationality is a mode of thought and action that identifies problems and works directly towards their solution.

Instrumental rationality is often seen as a specific form of rationality focusing on the most efficient or cost-effective means to achieve a specific end, but not in itself reflecting on the value of that end.
Wikipedia, Instrumental Rationality

There is within me a desire to live in a vibrant neighborhood community, but is the “hub for innovation” utopia or is it the hub for rational instrumentality?

What is the value of that end? Something merely based on “rates of economic growth and viability”? Some quantitative fiction that overlooks the human condition?

It seems their utopia is Silicon Valley, as opposed to a country with a good culture.

Although in a “hub for innovation” there are more successful validations of a person’s rationality or social consensuses, and subsequently actions, there is a problem in the validation process: rationality is validated because the economic and social systems said it was okay. The validation didn’t involve an active argumentation.

This actually almost answers the question of the last post — “why consensual social action is more frequent in cities than outside of them”. Cities have a higher frequency of validated or consensual social actions because the economic system is more concentrated there. The drive of capitalism is stronger: competition creates a viscous work cycle, the privatization of basic human necessities forces one to at least work enough to pay for them, and, most notably, property rent is or will become the highest in the ‘innovation hub’. The property rent is so high that one almost must, as opposed to decide to, innovate in order to maintain basic human needs. All of these factors limit the social time required to make a social consensus through argumentation, instead, forced to make decisions based on the rational of the economic system: capitalism.

Which leads to another question. What is considered innovative?

[todo: to be continued? I was thinking how innovative is often limited to scientific application / instrumental rationality, as opposed to the infinitude of creative acts conducted by all societies.

Also, this entire post excludes problems of exclusion.]

Leave a comment | Categories: Action, Communication, Critical Theory, Ethics, Humanities, Philosophy, Philosophy of Social Science, Rationality, Urban Philosophy

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