21 December 2012

Seneca on becoming mere appendages

Idem evenit magnorum dominis patrimoniorum: accessiones illorum et appendices sunt. Epistulae ad Lucilium LXXXVII

"The same happens to the owners of great estates: they are their accessories and appendages."

In the Modern Age this would be called inversion of subject and object. Cf. Marx on the fetishism of reified value through which we supposed human subjects become mere appendages of its movement as capital.

Are we today becoming the appendages and accessories to the bit-string torrents incessantly coursing through the ever more pervasive and invasive cyberworld?

16 November 2012

Seneca on dying powerfully

...vita, si moriendi virtus abest, servitus est. ... nulla tibi nova est, nulla non iam odiosa ipsa satietate. Quis sit vini, quis mulsi sapor scis: nihil interest centum per vesicam tuam an mille amphorae transeant: saccus es. ... Vivere vis: scis enim? Mori times: quid porro? ista vita non mors est? ... Quomodo fabula, sic vita: non quam diu, sed quam bene acta sit, refert. Nihil ad rem pertinet quo loco desinas. Quocumque voles desine: tantum bonam clausulam inpone. Seneca Epistulae ad Lucilium LXXVII

"...life, if the power of dying is absent, is servitude. ...   Nothing is new to you; there's nothing that isn't already hateful through satiety. What the taste of wines and cordials is, you know; it makes no difference whether your bladder passes a hundred or a thousand bottles -- you're just a sack. ...You want to live -- do you know how? You fear death -- what else? Is this life not death? ...  Like a fable, it isn't important how long life is, but how well it is acted. Nothing matters where you stop. Wherever you want, stop. Only impose a good ending."

The idea of dying powerfully with a good ending is alien to us today, isn't it?

05 November 2012

Seneca on philosophizing

Non cum vacaueris philosophandum est, sed ut philosopheris vacandum est; omnia alia neglegenda ut huic assideamus, cui nullum tempus satis magnum est, etiam si a pueritia usque ad longissimos humani aevi terminos vita producitur. Non multum refert utrum omittas philosophiam an intermittas; non enim ubi interrupta est manet, sed eorum more quae intenta dissiliunt usque ad initia sua recurrit, quod a continuatione discessit. (Seneca Ep. ad Lucilium LXXII)

"Not when you are free is the time to philosophize, but you have to free your time to philosophize; everything else is to be neglected so that we devote ourselves assiduously to that for which there is never enough time, even if life is extended from childhood to the longest extremes of human age. It doesn't matter much whether you omit philosophizing or it is intermittent, for it doesn't remain where it was when interrupted, but, in the same way as something compressed springs back, whatever lets up from continuity recurs to its initial state."

Does this message from Seneca make any sense today? Who's listening? Philosophy's not for everybody, yet everybody, unwittingly or not, lives its consequences.

18 October 2012

Seneca on spending one's life-time

"nec cum illis moror, quibus me tempus aliquod congregavit aut causa ex officio nata civili, sed cum optimo quoque sum : ad illos, in quocumque loco, in quocumque saeculo fuerunt, animum meum mitto." (Seneca Ep. ad Lucilium LXII)

"Nor do I linger with those whom some time or other has brought me together nor because of something born of civil office, but rather I am with the best -- to those in whatever place, in whatever time they were, I send my mind and soul."

The mind is precisely this three-dimensional time-space through which we human beings can mindfully move freely, back and forth, to the "best" this time-space has to offer. Such time-space is open, whereas today's scientific, efficiently causal, linear time is one-dimensional, calculating, constricted, unfree.

03 October 2012

Seneca Ep. LV on absent friends

Huc usque cogtationes tuas mitte. Conversari cum amicis absentibus licet, et quidem quotiens velis, quamdiu velis : magis hac voluptate, quae maxima est, fruimur, dum absumus.... Et ideo aequo animo ferre debemus absentiam, quia nemo non multum etiam praesentibus abest. 
Seneca Epistulae ad Lucilium LV

"Send your thoughts here. You may consort with absent friends, indeed, as often as you wish, for as long as you 
wish; this pleasure, which is the greatest, is enjoyed while we are absent. ... And therefore we must bear absence with equanimity, because everyone is very much absent even for those present."

08 August 2012

Fission impossible. Fusion accomplished

The subject-object split that has dogged modern thinking since the 17th century at the latest was overcome already in 1927. In a treatise linking being and time, human being was shown to have been in the world all along! What is startling is that this finding has remained unnoticed by scientists for 85 years to date. The consequences are immense. Both relativity theory and quantum mechanics turn out to be misconceptions. A corollary of this is that the Big Bang theory, too, loses its foundations and collapses. The enormous, multi-billion dollar shooting gallery recently completed in Geneva turns out to have been built on a misapprehension. Politicians, the media and the public remain quiet, as if dumbfounded by these revelations.

31 July 2012

Seneca on leisurely getting old and wise talking to yourself

 'Et quando' inquis 'tibi proderit istud quod in exitu discis, aut in quam rem?' In hanc, ut exeam melior. ... Hoc est huius boni tempus: quisquis senex ad sapientiam pervenit, annis pervenit. Epistulae ad Lucilium Liber VII Ep. LXVIII.xiv.
"'And when, you say, will what you learn on leaving be useful to you, or for what?' In this: that I will leave [a] better [man]. ... That is the time of this good: whoever comes to wisdom in old age, comes to it through years." 68th Letter to Lucilius xiv.
And these years are years of "many experiences" (multis experimentis xiv) in which you "hide yourself in leisure; but also hide this leisure itself" (absconde te in otio; sed et ipsum otium absconde i) and "speak with yourself" (ipse tecum loquaris vi).

10 July 2012

Higgs' boson or subject-object split?

Everyone's excited about the apparent experimental confirmation of the Higgs' boson's 'existence' at that big, multi-billion shooting gallery in Geneva called the Large Hadron Collider.  Why are there no headlines worldwide about the subject-object split having been overcome? Easy -- because it hasn't, and no one's interested anyway. On the other hand, it has long since been overcome in philosophical phenomenology -- but no one wants to know, and philosophers themselves fight against the insight. 

Why do 'people' believe in the Higgs' boson, although they are clueless about it and its mind-boggling mathematics, whereas 'people' live in the subject-object split every day, but are totally disinterested in it and also clueless about it? Why is access to the world through fantastically complex mathematical theories believed in, but a simple look at the phenomena before our eyes overlooked? Learning to see simply can reveal to us who we are. Today's mathematical physics can never even approach this question. It fudges and throws sand in our eyes. Our gullibility for science and its method is endless, it seems. 

Long ago Euripides wrote _haplous ho mythos taes alaetheias ephu_ ("The saying of truth is of itself simple." Phoenissae 469). Seneca renders this line as "Veritatis simplex oratio est." ("Truth's saying is simple." 49th Epistula ad Lucilium). How long will we stay lost in complexity? 

28 June 2012

Totalizing, megalomanic modern science

Response to an inquirer: 

In a word, what's wrong with modern science is its totalizing character. Blinded by its own success in establishing power over movement and change of all kinds, and convinced of its scientific method as the sole path to truth, it becomes dangerous. The very essence of truth itself becomes effectiveness, which is another way of saying that it totalizes efficient causality in linear time. Hence unresolved problems in science must be pronounced to be 'merely' a matter of our 'not yet' being able to deal with the high complexity of efficient causal interactions. This scientific attitude reveals also its megalomania -- ultimately, we'll nail it -- control Alzheimer's, beat cancer, for instance.

I agree that experience of the world is the basis of physics, of science -- and also of philosophy. But there is never any innocent, naive access to 'naked' experience, not even 'naked' sense data, because all experience wears the garb of how it shows itself AS such-and-such. For instance, something shows itself AS something. Where does this category of something come from? Or you assume without further ado that it is a subject who experiences the world within its consciousness. Where does this preconception come from?

Solipsism is another word for the encapsulated subject of consciousness. Hence the problem for all subjectivist metaphysics from Descartes to Kant to modern science is How to get out there in the world?´or, what is the same thing, How does the world out there get inside consciousness? For Descartes there is representatio, for Kant there is Vorstellung, for Einstein's relativity (who skips the problem constituting the object AS object and hence indulges in a naive empiricism), there are the electromagnetic signals sensuously received by the observer-subject (including by means of its experimental equipment set up to capture physical data that are then sensualized in some way for human use -- thus numbers, graphs, oscilloscopes, brain scan images, etc. etc.). 

All these versions of subjectivist metaphysics overlook that we are always already out there in the world and, if we were not -- we would never get out there. Hence Descartes resorts to the guarantee of a God to dispense with the problem of an evil genius (or man-in-the-middle) deceiving the subject in its sensuous communication with the objects out there, or Leibniz resorts to a God-given pre-established harmony to guarantee that the monad, who has no windows, is nonetheless fed with true representations in consciousness. And modern science doesn't bother itself with the problem, but takes the objects out there for granted, pointing to sense-data in the present as specious 'proof' of the world existing outside encapsulated consciousness. It does not ask about the objects' objectivity nor about the meaning of 'to exist'.

So the question arises as to whether there is a more adequate way to receive the phenomena AS they show themselves of themselves. Modern science is great for being effective in the world, but its totalizing nature is megalomanic. If we stepped outside the will to power, how could the world disclose itself AS a world?.

In any case, if modern science relinquishes its totalizing claim to be THE true mode of access to the world (through its scientific method, which itself is ungrounded), then something is gained, With the "step back" (Heidegger), the presupposition of modern science, which is metaphysically subjectivist through and through, can be seen, namely, the 3D temporal clearing, that must be given first of all and thus eventuate groundlessly. Hence Heidegger speaks of the Ereignis which simply eventuates abyssally, i.e, grants, gives: Es gibt. This eventuation enpropriates the presencing/absencing of presents/absents and human being (Da-presence) to each other. This alternative way of thinking doesn't aim at getting rid of science, but of putting it in its place.

22 June 2012

Potentiality and Actuality

Responses to an inquirer:

1) Already with two entities there is the question as to interaction or interplay, the former between things, the latter between human players who are the origins of their own free movements. Therefore I distinguish between interaction and interplay to allow for the spontaneous nothingness of Dasein.

2) Very interesting that you distance yourself from predictability and calculability, a hallmark of all modern science, for this would be a major point of agreement between us. All modern physics is at core a mathematical calculus for the linear causality of movement/change (including many-body interactions). Hence Newtonian, Lagrangian, Hamiltonian classical mechanics, Schrödinger quantum mechanics and also quantum electrodynamics. Physicists absolutely strive for equations of time evolution for the dynamic system. All operate with linear, real time t, basically with partial differential equations. Otherwise they would not be modern physiciists and hence fall out of this historical epoch, i.e. lose their identity in this world, this time..

3) In Aristotle's ontology of movement, the actualitas (_entelecheia_) of a potential (_dynamis_) is movement (_energia_) itself, since the _dynamis_ is then 'at work' (_en ergoi_). The pro-ductive (forward-leading) movement, however, only comes to its end in the perfected presence of the finished product -- hence _en-tel-ech_eia_ = literally 'having-(itself)-in-its-end-ness'. Insofar I agree that there's a certain one-sidedness in Aristotle's ontology of movement, which accounts only for pro-ductive movement from an origin (_archae_). This ontology captures quite a few phenomena, however, e.g. chemical reactions. What is worked upon in a productive movement is the material, which suffers itself (and has the passive power to suffer) to be transformed by the active power/potential/potency at work on it.

4) Of course, even with Aristotelean ontology of movement, you can have chains of productive movements in which the outcome of one movement is the starting-point for the next. Insofar, the finished presence of the product is AS starting-point the absence of a further product. Is this what you mean? In the case of a conversation, however, even between two interlocutors, there is an interplay between them, since each is a starting-point for a movement, namely, to say something. If I am out to persuade you of something, and I manage to achieve this, then this is, in Aristotelean terms, a rhetorical movement that 'produces' your change of viewpoint. In fact, this is how Aristotle attempted to conceive rhetoric itself, namely, productively which, in my view, doesn't hold water. Rather, a dialogue is open-ended, never achieving a final, perfected presence, even when points of agreement along the way may be reached. All dialogue is subject to re-vision, i.e. the matter at hand can be re-seen in another way, from another angle.

So, in that sense, there is always something lacking in movements of all kinds, which Aristotle captures with the term _steraesis_ -- a full presence is lacking because something or other is lacking, wanting. As Aristotle saw, anything physical at rest is also a kind of movement because anything physical is, by definition, capable of movement/change, and hence is potentially something else which is still absent. Hence everything physical, including ourselves, is marked by both presence and absence, and the absence itself is present as a lack! Absence comprises both what was and what could be. Hence it is impossible to conceive the phenomenon of movement/change properly without a well-worked-out conception of three-dimensional time. This is still missing in Aristotle who, fatefully, takes time to be a counting number (_arithmos_) lifted off movement. Thus the 3-D temporal clearing remains hidden in metaphysics, and time is confused with clock-time, which is merely derivative.

Further reading: Commutative and distributive justice.

19 May 2012

Humanism's roots in modern subjectivist metaphysics

One can say at least that for humanism as a way of thinking and acting in the world that the human stands front and centre. These days, this is criticized by calling it anthropocentrism, which is not what I want to do. Instead, I first point out that there is a question concerning who the human is. This question is already different from traditional metaphysics in that it seeks a who-answer. The first metaphysics we have, Aristotle's, is an investigation of _to on haei on_, i.e. of beings AS beings, which is then given a what-answer, _ousia_ (beingness or substance) or _to ti aen einai_ (the what-it-was-ness, essence or quiddity). The AS is the hermeneutic AS that casts the mould for how beings as a whole can and must show themselves, i.e. be interpreted, in any given historical epoch.
The modern age, in which, starting with Renaissance humanism, humanism has emerged, coincides with the historical casting of human being itself AS subjectivity (a kind of whatness or quiddity). The human becomes the subjectum, i.e. 'that which underlies', which is an historical, epoch-opening eventuation. In antiquity, the subject was literally the _hypokeimenon_, which in our modern age is precisely the 'object'. So the tables have turned 180 degrees. (How come? Nobody asks these days.) In the Middle Ages, the human being was a creature, created by God, and hence also not a subject, but the ob-ject 'thrown toward' its creator, God.
From the start, the modern age is to be an epoch in which the world is to be set up in accordance with what serves humanity, i.e. the 'underlying' human subject. The world becomes that which is represented in the consciousness of a human subject, and everything in the world, including in part even other human beings themselves, becomes the object for the subject. Object and subject can never be separated. Despite this, thoughtless ways of talking do (futiley) separate object and subject, especially in the sense that there could something like objective truth over against mere 'subjective' opinion. Hence scientific method becomes crucial to purportedly guarantee some kind of objective truth by eliminating the subjective element. The sciences strive for such objective truth that, according to Popper, is open to falsification, again in line with scientific method, whose 'truth' is purportedly beyond question -- and beyond metaphysics. This is denial and self-delusion.
In such a humanistic world of subject and object (and also long before), the human has become a 'what'. Who the human is receives a what-answer such as res cogito, i.e. a cogitating thing. Relations among humans are thought AS inter-subjectivity, again without putting subjectivity itself into question.
Within the hard, 'objective' sciences, in which efficient causality reigns supreme, human freedom finds a last, cliff-hanging refuge in quantum indeterminacy, as if human freedom were somehow derivable from the indeterminacy of quantum particles such as photons, electrons, positrons, etc. etc.
If one doesn't go along with this hard, scientific objectivity, one finds refuge for the humane across the road in human ethics and values, as if these were something higher, untainted. On closer inspection, however, these 'higher values' are themselves a what, which they must be, because human being itself is conceived entirely in the third person. Especially in the general everyday exchange among human beings in the endeavour to earn a living, reified value in the shape of money, capital, wages, ground-rent, interest, profit, etc. does its job, without this veil of reification of value ever being seen through. The human subject (and economics) accepts this as the factical objectivity of the world of value-things, or rebels with an appeal to 'values' such as freedom and justice, or perhaps even compassion and friendship.
Kant, in a certain sense, presents us with the pinnacle of subjectivist metaphysics with which many a humanist and almost any enlightened politician, and many others besides, can readily identify. Kant neatly separates his Critique of Pure Reason from his Critique of Practical Reason, which amounts to separating objectivity from values in the sense of that which ought to be. Human values are to be stuck onto objectivity to make it morally humane, whereas sociology strives for so-called 'value-free objectivity' to conform with scientific method. In Kantian thinking, the world is to become more humane through an historical movement of gradual approximation to what ought to be. Kant's moral subject, however, remains a subject in the third person and hence a kind of what.
Without posing the question as to who the human is, as opposed to what the human is (e.g a needy being), freedom and justice remain empty shells, readily institutionalized. Society itself, i.e. the association of humans with one another, is thought, for instance, AS the satisfaction of needs, AS the efficient allocation of resources, AS a sustainable economy demanding a set-up that delivers for everyone. Especially in post-war Europe, where Social Democracy has been hegemonic in politics and also as an unquestioned, 'humanistic' way of thinking, justice has been degraded to the redistribution of reified value (e.g. taxes redistributed as welfare benefits) for the sake of those less well-off, thus making them clients of the welfare state. In such a way of thinking, so-called 'social justice' amounts to compulsory, state-administered charity.
However, who is the human being in all of this elaborate, partly wished-for, set-up? One imagines that all human beings on the planet exist and hence have certain inalienable rights enshrined in certain charters, etc. Political institutions have been set up to accommodate and strive for the realization of such ideals. What does it mean, however, for a human to exist? For modern science, if you're not brain-dead, then you still exist. Does today's human exist? Where is it seriously asked today, what it means to exist? It is taken for granted as a given empirical fact which is at most correct, but never true. Since we inevitably and always share a world with one another, who we are depends upon the interplay that we play out with each other, appreciating, esteeming, estimating, valuing each other (or not) -- not AS subjects of consciousness and also not AS merely factually occurring human beings.
As far as I know, no variant of humanism (and certainly no modern science, including the social sciences) poses the question as to who the human is, nor distinguishes the third-person, thingly character of human being from the first-and-second 'insubstantial' interplay between you-and-me, nor delves into the phenomenon of how a human being becomes a self through ex-sisting, i.e. standing-out, in the world, thus gaining an identity, An identity AS who you are is gained only by seizing your very own potential for existing from those identities offered by the world, especially the world of others, in the finite time-space in which you have been cast, striving, or failing to strive, to find and cast your ownmost self.
The modern age with its modern sciences, including sociology, psychology, economics, must eliminate the individual, first-person subject and also the interplay between you-and-me because they cannot be brought within scientific, controlling grasp. Empirical social science studies always require people en masse to achieve scientifically reliable and 'telling' results. These people do not exist, however.
As far as I can see, the question concerning whoness is barely on the agenda. Blindness, especially that induced by the gamut of modern sciences, rules the day. One resorts to all sorts of what answers, one makes, say, moral appeals to responsibility, one points to an urgency to address 'obvious' problems without ever coming back to simpler questions. We need first of all to learn to see, and that will take time, historical time, which is the temporal clearing we inevitably, knowingly or unknowingly, inhabit so long as we are human beings.

23 April 2012

Heideggerian cud-chewing

Oh, these complacent, tweedy Heideggerians, grazing contentedly a life long within their enclosure, chewing endlessly on Gesamtausgabe-cud, quoting and promoting each other's narrative scholarly work and careers!

The question: Is there life after death? must become: Is there thinking after Heidegger? Certainly not from within this circle. Heidegger's famous question, "What calls for thinking?" here becomes a call to mime the master with a straight face.

Abolition of freedom through thinking

These days neuroscience is telling us that free will is an illusion.
Well, it has to say that, doesn't it?
And we willingly go along with that?
Believing nonetheless we live in 'free' democracies.

Science is going to make us live to 103.
Is that what we wanted?
Is this what it's come to?

We're well underway to abolishing our free selves
through the very (scientific, physicalist) way we think.
Who notices?

19 April 2012

12 April 2012

"Language thinks much more than we do"

"Language thinks and opens up much more than we do. In the next few centuries, however, this will probably be forgotten. No one knows whether anyone will ever come back to this [insight]." (Martin Heidegger in a seminar on Heraclitus with Eugen Fink WS 1966/67)

(German: Die Sprache ist viel denkender und eröffnender als wir. Doch das wird man vermutlich in den nächsten Jahrhunderten vergessen. Niemand weiß, ob man einmal wieder darauf zurückkommen wird. Seminare GA15:205)

The scientific will to power strives constantly and unconditionally to enhance its effective control over movement and change of all kinds -- including the movement of human life toward death. In view of this headlong rush of unquestioned progress, who is brave enough to step back and take a look?

02 April 2012

Happiness in a brave new world

"The world's stable now. People are happy: they get what they want, and they never want what they can't get. They're well off; they're safe; they're never ill; they're not afraid of death: they're blissfully ignorant of passion and old age; they're plagued with no mothers or fathers; they've got no wives, or children, or lovers to feel strongly about; they're so conditioned that they practically can't help behaving as they ought to behave." (A. Huxley Brave New World 1932 Folio Society ed. 1971 p.151)

Sounds like a neuroscientist's ideal for the future, doesn't it? Totalized efficient causality in linear time.

24 March 2012

Brave new world, That has such people in't!

'Don't you wish you were free, Lenina?'
'I don't know what you mean, I am free. Free to have the most wonderful time. Everybody's happy nowadays'
He laughed. 'Yes. "Everybody's happy nowadays." We begin giving the children that at five. But wouldn't you like to be free to be happy in some other way, Lenina? In your own way, for example; not in everybody else's way.'
'I don't know what you mean,' she repeated.
(Aldous Huxley Brave New World Folio Society ed., London 1971 p.70)

Do you know what it means to be free?

19 March 2012

Pooh Bear quizzes quissity and quiddity

"On Wednesday, when the sky is blue,
And I have nothing else to do,
I sometimes wonder if it’s true
That who is what and what is who."
A. A. Milne Winnie-the-Pooh 

How come Pooh gets it, but super-smart scientists and perfectly logical philosophers don't?

07 March 2012

Death-wish in Shakespeare and Virginia Woolf

"For who would bear the whips and scorns of time,
The oppressor's wrong, the proud man's contumely,
The pangs of deprized love, the law's delay,
The insolence of office, and the spurns
That patient merit of th'unworthy takes,
When he himself might his quietus make
With a bare bodkin?" (Hamlet 3, i)

And after that?

"'Where do I wander?' she mused. 'Down what draughty tunnels? Where the eyeless wind blows? And there grows nothing for the eye. No rose. To issue where? In some harvestless dim field where no evening lets fall her mantle; nor sun rises. All's equal there. Unblowing, ungrowing are the roses  there. Change is not; nor the mutable and lovable; nor greetings nor partings; nor furtive findings and feelings, where hand seeks hand and eye seeks shelter from the eye.'" (Between the Acts Folio Society ed. 1974 p.117)

Shakespeare gives six good reasons to do yourself in, and Woolf outlines a modern (or Greek?) idea of where that may lead. Life is change, and many changes are painful, namely those tribulations issuing from life's interminable power plays with others. Sadly, on the barren, changeless field the hesitant movement of seeking and, perhaps, tentatively finding another also ceases.

28 February 2012

George Sand on individuality

“Toutes les existences sont solidaires les unes des autres, et tout être humain qui présenterait la sienne isolément, sans la rattacher à celle de ses semblables, n'offrirait qu'une énigme à débrouiller. Cette individualité n'a par elle seule ni signification ni importance aucune. Elle ne prend un sens quelconque qu'en devenant une parcelle de la vie générale, en se fondant avec l'individualité de chacun de mes semblables, et c'est par là qu'elle devient de l'histoire.” Histoire de ma Vie George Sand pp. 240f.
English: “All lives are supportive of each other, and every human being who would present his own isolation, without connecting to that of his fellows, would offer a riddle to unravel. This individuality has in itself no meaning or no importance. It takes some direction by becoming a piece of the general life, based in itself with the individuality of each of my peers, and this is where it becomes history.”
So, although it seems that in the modern world we are dissociated from each other, each locked in an isolated individuality, in truth we are always already associated with each other, and our individual freedom is only given rein by how we associate within customs and practices of social interplay.

24 February 2012

Private freedom and its perversion through publicity

"Private judgement is still free in private and that freedom is the essence of freedom. ... We must extinguish the coarse glare of advertisement and publicity, not merely because the limelight is apt to be held in incompetent hands, but because of the psychological effect of such illumination upon those who receive it. ... [We] guess that ease and freedom, the power to change and the power to grow, can only be preserved by obscurity; and that if we wish to help the human mind to create, and to prevent it from scoring the same rut repeatedly, we must do what we can to shroud it in darkness." (Virginia Woolf Three Guineas pp. 842, 865f)

I have every reason to be mistrusting of the flattery of public attention. That way lies the danger of losing my self. And in this age when modernity has reached its pinnacle and consummation. the pressure to conform to the hegemonic worldview is overwhelming. Anyone putting it into question is 'obviously' not at the forefront of progress, is incomprehensible, is obscure...

17 February 2012

Oppressive atmosphere in Virginia Woolf

Further on in Virginia Woolf's 1938 essay, Three Guineas, we read, "Odour then - or shall we call it 'atmosphere' - is a very important element in professional life... It is true that women civil servants deserve to be paid as much as men; but it is also true that they are not paid as much as men. The discrepancy is due to atmosphere. Atmosphere plainly is a very mighty power. Atmosphere not only changes the sizes and shapes of things; it affects solid bodies, like salaries, which might have been thought impervious to atmosphere. ... there is [also] something in the atmosphere of the private house which deflects the wife's spiritual [equal] share of the common income impalpably but irresistibly towards those causes which her husband approves and those pleasures which he enjoys." (SW 2007 pp. 821, 824)

"Atmosphere plainly is a very mighty power." seems to be the core insight here, and it pertains not just to the historical struggle of women for equality. Atmosphere is that mood cultivated in a society's culture in a given time which exudes its own intangible, but nonetheless - or rather: and therefore - all the more effective, social power. A culture's ethos hangs in the air.

10 February 2012

Freedom to earn a living as the core of emancipation?

In her 1938 essay, Three Guineas, Virginia Woolf writes, "... the right to vote, in itself by no means negligible, was mysteriously connected with another right of such immense value to the daughters of educated men that almost every word in the dictionary has been changed by it, ... You will not think these words exaggerated if we explain that they refer to the right to earn one's living. That, sir, was the right that was conferred upon us less than twenty years ago, in the year 1919, by an Act which unbarred the professions. ... Whatever the reason, whether pride, or love of freedom, or hatred of hypocrisy, you will understand the excitement with which in 1919 your sisters began to earn not a guinea but a sixpenny bit, and will not scorn that pride, or deny that it was justly based..." (Selected Works 2007 p.794)
Woolf zeros in on precisely this freedom to strive for an income as core to her conception of the emancipation of women. One could say that this is a bourgeois-liberal, indeed, capitalist right that unleashes individualism in yet one more sector of human living by infecting also the so-called female sex. Or one could point out that the right to earn an income is merely a reified kind of freedom because, after all, income is nothing other than reified value, and such is the element of nihilistic consumerism. Or one could object that the right to strive to earn a living guarantees no specific outcome, that is, that a woman will actually earn enough to live off for herself and her dependants, so that the freedom is hollow. All these objections could be and have been made from the Left. So wherein lies freedom? In the potential to risk a free life-movement? Or in material security, i.e. in the so-called 'freedom from want'? The word 'freedom' seems to be very adaptable (words can be twisted this way and that) to saying entirely opposed and contrary conceptions of what freedom is supposed to consist in. Woolf's thought on the bourgeois-liberal emancipation of women gives us something to chew on.

04 February 2012

Change of web-site host for www.arte-fact.org

Had to change web-site host for www.arte-fact.org A Site of Philosophy at the end of January because of lousy support. Some of the links out there on the Web and in the search engines won't work any longer, because they land on the IP address of the old server: and the old host, Verio, refused to co-operate with redirecting. Let's hope things quickly get back to cybernetic normality. Unfortunately, all the links in the Google search engine that start with no longer work and should start instead with http://arte-fact.org

03 February 2012

NEW e-book: Out of your mind? Parmenides' message

NEW e-book: Out of your mind? Parmenides' message is now available 
Everyday understanding and traditional philosophy take it as self-evident that there is an inside and an outside to the human mind. Indeed, the mind is usually located physically somewhere in the body, usually in the head, and even identified with the brain. The naively uncritical enthusiasm about neuroscience in recent years feeds on such self-evidence about the human mind, and modern science depends crucially on distinguishing, both physically and metaphysically, inside the mind from the outside world. The first section thus poses the question as to whether you can be out of your mind. What it means to be out there, temporally ex-posed, is sketched in the second section. That consummate representative of subjectivist metaphysics, Kant, will be investigated briefly in the third section to shed light on the subject-object split. The fourth section is dedicated to retrieving and rereading, with Heidegger's help, the message about the sameness of thinking and being that Parmenides left for us long ago. Finally, the fifth section points out how the reading offered radically simplifies Heidegger's.