Monday, December 29, 2008

Refusing to accept as final the present limitations

AB Purani’s Summary of Book One of Savitri
Posted by RY Deshpande on Mon 29 Dec 2008 05:52 AM IST Permanent Link Cosmos

Man is not in reality what he appears to be,—a mere material phenomenon,—mentalised animal having a physical body. He has from the dawn of history a feeling of something imperishable within him. And there are hidden powers in man which can be awakened to make the realisation of that Self possible by following a certain path of inner discipline called sādhanā in India...

Man is subject to doubts and difficulties of his own nature which are the products of a process of slow evolution from original Nescience to some spiritual perfection. His movement towards that perfection can begin by his refusing to accept as final the present limitations of his nature. The first effort at realising the spirit releases man from the ego and enlarges him so that he is able to identify himself with the World-Being...

Doom is the present apparent determinism of Nature trying to perpetuate the rule of Ignorance in mankind. It denies and contradicts man's deepest aspirations and opposes any attempt at self-exceeding... Behind the external appearance of ignorance there is the Divine Presence that works in silence. Savitri: the Light of the Supreme Home Mirror of Tomorrow

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

These guys hate each other, really and truly hate each other, even as they smile at each other

Dec 7, 2008 (title unknown) from For The Turnstiles by DGA
Canada is facing a twofold political crisis. The first part involves unaligned incentives in different regions of the nation (a conflict expressed in cultural and linguistic terms, basically in terms of mutual resentment); the second, a total vacuum of competent leadership in any one national party, and therefore, anywhere in Parliament...

Where is that leader who can legitimately integrate the Left in English and in French Canada? If he or she exists, that leader is apparently not ready, or not readily apparent.

In passing, I have a cultural observation as well: Canadians often seem to be the most resentful, passive-aggressive, put-upon polity I have ever encountered. William Buckley would fight all day while on the clock, but at the end of the day, he would still drink a beer with you. But these guys hate each other, really and truly hate each other, even as they smile at each other. This is pathological. Rather than identifying common interests and working together to meet them, you have wealthy children (that's you, Alberta) whining about having to share with cousins they do not understand or respect, and culturally rich but economically declining adolescents (bonjour, Quebec) resentfully recalling a litany of legitimate slights. Canadians typically seem really proficient at being offended, feeling slighted and marginalized. One begins to suspect that many of them are only happy when they have an excuse to feel uptight and defensive.

Cut the cord, friends. You want a working government, a plan for a future without petroleum? Quit complaining and work together in good faith, for the sake of your children and the example you set to the world.

I know the American system and American leadership is pathological in its own delightful ways, but come on, Canada, you are supposed to be smarter and better prepared on the "good government" front than we are. Meanwhile, we have Obama and you have Halfwit McGoo in a happy blue sweater duking it out with two chumps and a former janitor.

For the psychological health of America, may a real leader arise on Canada's Left and glue the thing together. For the sake of your economy and your society, I hope that leader arises sooner rather than later.

Monday, December 22, 2008

People don't want to acknowledge how much nepotism plays a role in their own lives

In Praise of Nepotism
an interview with author Adam Bellow
Adam Bellow is the author of a remarkable new book, In Praise of Nepotism : A Natural History, which in our opinion is a must-read for anyone in a family business. Or maybe we should just say it is a must-read, family business or not. He's also editor-at-large for Doubleday and former director of the Free Press.

BELLOW: The old nepotism was discredited by the Crash of '29 and the Depression. People began to feel that the American business elite was too nepotistic, they had gotten rich and given out partnerships to sons and sons in law, they allowed family interests to outweigh business rationale. It was the subtext of the Depression, and it had a powerful and lasting effect on our view of nepotism and family management in general.

After WWII, American business went global. There was a boom in the economy, and a new era of corporate management and governance was introduced. Along with that came efficiency, meritocracy, etc. It was the era in which nepotism rules were instituted in big corporations and government. And that was a good thing. It's not my purpose to say that nepotism should be left alone, because what you get then is what you see in Nigeria, India and Brazil.

We still need nepotism. It still has a role. The story in my book is the war we've fought since the American Revolution, not to get rid of the family itself but to limit and curtail the influence of family interests in both the public and private sectors. We did that in the interest of greater efficiency and fairness. However, I argue that in our attempt to get rid of nepotism, we haven't stamped it out but transformed it. What makes it new is that it respects fairness and merit. It's a new nepotism regulated by a deep-seated commitment to those values...

There's nothing wrong with sibling rivalry. It may give people some comfort to see family dynamics as disruptive, and many think that they force the business to be counterproductive. But the opposite is true. History shows that these are powerful forces and they often supply the motivation and drive that gets people to strive for excellence and give that last ounce. In Praise of Nepotism: A Natural History: Adam Bellow 7:08 PM

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Foucault's genealogical investigations of medicine, madness, prisons, sexuality, etc.

Biopolitics from The Pinocchio Theory by Steven Shaviro

I’m not sure if the term “biopolitics” was invented by Foucault, but of course he did the most to make the concept thinkable. Foucault traces, in his genealogical investigations of medicine, madness, prisons, sexuality, etc., the ways that a regime of sovereignty, still prevalent in Europe in the Renaissance, was gradually displaced, or supplemented, by a regime of discipline, which was less concerned with the prohibition of certain behaviors than with the surveillance, manipulation, and management of all aspects of human life. Among other things, this involves a shift from being concerned with particular acts, and with clearly-defined hierarchies and chains of command, to being concerned with the bodies and souls of the entire populace. Foucault’s well-known account traces the links between attempts to contain disease by imposing quarantines, for instance, and attempts to regiment people in schools, factories, military barracks, and prisons.

Power moves from prohibiting certain actions to actively shaping and manipulating peoples’ actions overall, and from drawing lines of exclusion, lines that it is forbidden to transgress, to finding ways to include everybody and everything within a grid of carefully managed alternatives and possibilities. Foucault also describes this as a shift from the power of death (the power of the sovereign to impose death as a punishment) to a right over life (the power of the state to manage, for the sake of health, growth, productivity, etc., all aspects of peoples’ bodily habits and tendencies). It is through this shift that “life” becomes a coherent concept, and a matter or focus of concern. “Life” gets defined conceptually, by doctors and judges as well as by philosophers, insofar as it emerges pragmatically as a target and focus of power.

As always, Foucault is saying, not that “discourse” is the sole reality, but rather that both discourses and concrete, physical practices, varying historically, constitute so many ways in which we manage and control a “real” that always exceeds them. Contrary to some foolish interpretations, Foucault always remains a materialist, and a realist (in the ontological sense). “Life” refers to a particular way that we have conceived the multiplicity of lives, living beings, and life processes that surround and include us — but these always exist beyond our conceptualizations and manipulations of them.

So far so good. Esposito is an excellent close reader. He helpfully focuses on the ambiguity, in Foucault’s work: between claiming, on the one hand, that the regime of discipline and the management of life has replaced the earlier regime of sovereignty; and on the other hand, that such a disciplinary form of power is overlaid upon a sovereign power that continues to exist. Foucault proposes, precisely, that different modern regimes have been characterized by different mixtures between sovereign command over, and disciplinary positive investment of, the lives of individuals and populations. Esposito then moves backwards from Foucault to Nietzsche, in whom, he argues, “life” really emerges in its modern sense as an object and focus of both power and inquiry for the first time. 11:29 AM 12:04 PM

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Ethos, pathos, and logos correspond to the capitalist triptych of the advertiser, the consumer, and the accountant

Dec 14, 2008 At Least It’s An Ethos: Why Merging Rhetoric With Composition Is A Mistake
from The Kugelmass Episodes by Joseph Kugelmass (x-posted to The Valve)
Teaching Them What They Already Know: Composition and Literature

Anyone who is not mentally ill has, within certain familiar realms, a very sophisticated, intuitive understanding of rhetorical strategy. Teenagers understand very well how to shift from one vocabulary to another, depending on audience, and sound completely different in their essays than they do in casual conversation or on IM programs. They have different ways of speaking to parents and friends, and they work hard on crafting online and offline persona that others will find appealing. This is not because they’re teenagers; actually, everybody does these things. One of the gratifying things about teaching rhetoric is that, up to a point, students “get it” right away, and manage to rapidly produce useful observations. This is especially true when they are dealing with something comfortable, like a scene from a movie.

On a deeper level, though, students “get” rhetoric (and we find it easy to teach) because it follows a similar intersubjective logic as capital. Rhetoric goes hand-in-hand with advertising, the dominant language of contemporary desire. Students find themselves growing up in a world where demographics — audiences — are created out of thin air by advertising in its various forms, and where mass production aligns itself to the desires of a consumer audience. Furthermore, rhetorical analysis is dissociative: anyone who has tried to teach ethos, pathos, and logos as operations to be performed on a text knows how students arbitrarily divide the text up into “emotional” sections and “argumentative” sections, even though such divisions are rarely defensible.

This is not the students’ fault, as we send them gunning for whatever holism a text possesses. The lysis of the text feels oddly familiar, though, because contemporary culture is similarly dissociative. Logic is the calculated process of competition and oppression, emotion is the catharsis of sentimentality, and personality is likeability; to put the matter crudely, ethos, pathos, and logos correspond to the capitalist triptych of the advertiser (the “front man”), the consumer, and the accountant.

Friday, December 12, 2008

The weak, in their slave morality, resent the power of their masters, as well as their inability to retaliate

Part III: Alyosha and Zarathustra on Com-passion and a Genuine Embodied Life
from Per Caritatem by Cynthia R. Nielsen

Zarathustra holds compassion in low-esteem and views exhibitions of pity with great suspicion. According to Zarathustra, pitying another person causes resentment in the recipient and is simply a way for the person showing pity to think himself better than others. In the sections entitled, “On the Rabble” and “On Tarantulas,”[1] Zarathustra re-visits this idea of resentment (or ressentiment) with both recalling categories and themes discussed in Nietzsche’s On the Genealogy of Morals. For example, in the Genealogy, we are introduced to master and slave morality.

The weak, in their slave morality, resent the power of their masters, as well as their inability to retaliate against their masters. Because the weak see no justice in this life, they invent an other-worldly realm where God metes out ultimate justice. Slave morality is credited with having invented the concepts of evil and good-concepts which are defined in reference to the masters (those in power). The great flaw of slave morality is the way in which the weak define themselves in terms their masters rather than carving out their own definition of themselves.

According to Nietzsche, values are constantly in flux; consequently, notions of good and evil are always changing and cannot be fixed. Whatever the current conceptions of good and evil happen to be, these will remain the dominant way of thinking until a different group comes into power and re-creates new conceptions. Interestingly, in this genealogical account of morals, Nietzsche concedes that the slave morality ultimately involves a cleverness about it, because it was able to trans-value the then-dominant values of its day.

For instance, the slaves turned the qualities associated with the masters-powerful, wealthy, strong, cruel-into a description of evil characteristics. Likewise, they transformed their own characteristics-weak, poor, lacking in power, compassionate-into a description of good qualities. Even though he grants this cleverness to slave morality, ultimately both Zarathustra and Nietzsche despise the ressentiment that drives it, as ressentiment in seemingly deterministic fashion produces nay-sayers who have their eyes fixed on some other-worldly world, and consequently, degrade and devalue the body and this world.

Lastly, in his discussion of the “ugliest man,” who, according to Zarathustra, murdered God because he couldn’t bear God’s constant, ever-present, penetrating gaze, we are told that the one sentiment that the ugliest man could not endure is to be shown pity.[2]

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

What is the role of the category “woman” in this interplay between politics and history?

CFP: 16th Annual DePaul University Philosophy Graduate Student Conference
from Continental Philosophy by Farhang Erfani
FEMINISM AND THE POLITICS OF HISTORY April 3-4, 2009 Keynote Speaker: Falguni Sheth, Hampshire College

One of the central problematics of feminist philosophy is the narration of history. This conference will focus specifically on feminist interventions within this narration, emphasizing the role of the political therein. Whether focusing on the historical exclusion of “women” within philosophy or the influence of gender on philosophical concepts, feminist philosophy has questioned what counts as history and how specific histories are deployed in philosophical inquiries. Both within and separately from this work, questions have also been raised about how class, race, ability, sexuality, and other axes of difference shape the histories and counter-histories deployed within philosophy. This conference seeks to build upon and extend this work by posing various questions.

  • What are the politics produced by alternative historical archives?
  • Where do these politics play out in philosophical thought and how might they factor into analyses of past and present political situations?
  • What are the histories still unexplored by philosophy and how might turning to these histories offer different points of departure or complication?
  • Who has been recognized by or allowed into these interventions, who continues to be excluded, and why?
  • What is the role of the category “woman” in this interplay between politics and history?
  • How is this category deployed to cause disruptions?
  • What conversations might be staged between feminist philosophy and other critical perspectives on the politics of history?
  • How have feminist critiques of the history of philosophy both revealed and participated in the exclusionary and hegemonic gestures they ostensibly sought to resist?

The aim of this conference is to facilitate a dynamic, interdisciplinary conversation examining feminist approaches to these and related questions. To accomplish this, we invite contributions from a number of theoretical frameworks, including but not limited to aesthetics, critical race theory, critical theory, cultural studies, disability studies, epistemologies of ignorance, post-colonial studies, psychoanalysis, and queer theory. Submission Deadline: January 15, 2009