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.