Adding Epicycles


Habermas / Carr – A Few Notes

In his 1980 lecture, Modernity Versus Postmodernity, J. Habermas attempts to diagnose the ’emotional current of our times’ as manifest in the myriad social reactions to the breakdown of modernity.  He takes his cue from a signal proclamation of a German critic around that time: ‘Post-modernity definitely presents itself as anti-modernity’.  He does this by first examining the nature of the ‘modern’ and what that has traditionally stood to mean, and then tracing the ‘[loss of] fixed historical reference’ as a symptom of human civilization moving from a synthesis of lived order in the pre-enlightenment era to its enlightenment distillation into distinct spheres – epistemic, normative and aesthetic – which in-turn encourage the emergence of specializations along each respective track.  This movement – or drive toward specialization – sparked a sense of disconnection (alienation?) as a symptom of the modern era which in turn provoked rebellions channeled along three primary tracks, namely: (1) young conservatives, (2) old conservatives and (3) neo-conservative – which he then characterizes by their reactions and proposed solutions to these problems at hand.
In framing the question of modernity as traditionally understood as a fixed point in the the bi-polar ancient/modern divide, we can better understand the breakdown in the work that the modern does.  E. H. Carr seems to touch on this by placing the historian as a (modern) node in a feedback-loop between past and present.  He notes ‘two important truths: first that you cannot fully understand or appreciate the work of the historian unless you have first grasped the standpoint from which he himself approached it; second, that that standpoint is itself rooted in a social and historical background […] The historian, before he begins to write history, is the product of history.’ (What Is History?, 48)  Habermas’ critique and diagnosis of the postmodern can be situated in Carr’s suggestion (54): ‘Before you study the history, study the historian. […] Before you study the historian, study his historical and social environment.  The historian, being an individual, is also a product of history and of society; and it is in this twofold light that the student of history must learn to regard him.’  Diagnosing the postmodern condition amounts to diagnosing the various social reactions to the breakdown of the modern.

Stray Bullets, 2.7.2018

On the Phenomenology of Illness [IAI] • For as transformative an experience that illness can be, we seem to undervalue its philosophical importance • illness/disability may fundamentally re-orient one’s foundations and by extension one’s values; as such, it must be studied as a lived experience • def. phenomenology – the philosophical method for studying lived experience • illness as ‘philosophical tool’ • Case: breathlessness; Central claim: breathlessness cannot be studies solely as a ‘symptom’ • ‘invisible disability’ • breathlessness as a form of world-transformation…

Dignity: A History // Review [NDPR] • The evolution of the (cluster) concept of dignity from Christian Imago Dei → antiquity → medieval era → unwed from theology by way of renaissance → Kantian humanism → mid-20th century secular humanism • this collection surveys, chronologically through the 19th century. • Pope Leo XIII’s 1891 Encyclical Rerum Novarumculturally constructed dignity against human dignity (e.g. context of attitudes toward labor) • Marx’s analysis of the evolution of labor from slavery; reluctance to frame dignity in moral terms w. respect to his ‘scientific’ analysis of history • criticism: the too-literal conceptual history tends to short-change cultures whose family-resemblance-marks of dignity fall off-center (e.g. ‘justice’ in Islam, Lactantius, etc.) • Especially interesting: the ‘core’ vs. ‘protean periphery’ of conceptual dignity.  Aside: why would these ‘core’ marks be classified as such? e.g. to what extent is, say, sexuality a mark of post-Freudian culture as opposed to some essential value? • Bourgeois Dignity → aesthetics + self-portraiture as self-deification? • formal dignity v. substantive dignity • Three challenges (1) racism, (2) freedom and (3) conflicting norms • The elements of metaphysics of dignity: (1) rationality, (2) free will and (3) the [human] body • criticism: omission of Judaism • criticism: the collection is limited in the sense of how it fails to address contemporary questions of dignity (e.g. the dignity of sexual rights/LGBTQM stuff; Islamic State’s rejection of UDHR; etc.) although I’m not sure this criticism holds water in that collection is a ‘history’ rather than a contemporary analysis • the curiosity of our placing a premium on the dignity of the human being, despite our Nietzschean tendencies (might there be an evolutionary basis to some of this?) • Stephen Darwall‘s appraisal/recognition respect + the Kantian legacy in dignity hinging on the concept of ‘person’ • Criticism of Darwall: circularity of second-person point of view • ‘bipolar obligations’: holistic view/treatment of the other as projected from one’s self-understanding • the formal definition of dignity can ‘rest undisturbed’ with slavery (!) • signal move of Martin Luther King: renounce dominion w. respect to the logic of dignity over humans • Debes’ phenomenal-passion solution (Diderot/Rousseau; French Enlightenment) -or- by contrast a reduction of ‘negative’ passions (Hobbes)

How Schopenhauer’s Thought Can Illuminate a Midlife Crisis [Aeon] • The rough contours of this essay have me affirming a long-running suspicion: the older that I become the more I realize that Kierkegaard was probably full of shit.  Literary flourishes aside, his ‘sickness’ is a symptom of a pathology; not a symptom of life as such.  It might be convincing at 20, but if you still believe this shit after 30 you should probably talk to someone.  And so when Setiya dismisses Schopenhauer – equally pathological in his own right – with a wave of the hand and a rough distinction between terminal ends and non-terminal ends, I can’t help but laugh a little.  I find this article to be a great bit of advice to take to heart.

Foucault Lectures [Open Culture]

The Self Does Not Exist [Aeon] • She’s from Pitt, incidentally.  Against anti-realism, Hume → Dennett • Refreshing to read something pushing back against the current fashion of no-self • ‘The answer is that science does all this by rejecting antirealism.’  Her solution seems to simple as to possibly miss the point? • central claim of anti-realism: self-conscious activity is not inter-subjectively testable • ‘Multitudinous Self’: ‘a dynamic, complex, relational and multi-aspectual mechanism of capacities, processes, states and traits that support a degree of agency.’ • Five dimensions of the MS: (1) ecological, (2) intersubjective, (3) temporally extended, (4) private, and (5) conceptual • Connective to: body / social world / psychological world / environment • U. Neisser’s Five Kinds of Self-Knowledge [1988] [aside] • (Pair this with that masks book in sociology) • Aside: So where does the conflict even hinge and is it genuine? It seems that a lot of this is just semantic • The ecological and intersubjective aspects of MS help to refute the anti-realist position • ‘Recall the example of people with schizophrenia: their private experiences of themselves reveal a disintegration of the sense of self; they feel as though they are the objects, not the subjects of their actions. In contrast, a person with a standard phenomenology might have a more robust and integrated sense of agency.’ • against the anti-realists: there are regularities within the vulnerabilities of our self-conception – this might be the key of intersubjectivity • ‘The multitudinous-self model takes this pragmatism a step further: it is designed as a useful conceptual and empirical tool to expand scientific knowledge on mental disorders. Mental disorders do not influence or change exclusively one dimension of the individual – their interpersonal relationships, say – but multiple aspects of their lives simultaneously. Studying only one fractured aspect of their self (eg, autobiographical memory) will not yield the rich results that will come from engaging with the self in its complexity.’ [see above, ‘On the Phenomenology of Illness’] 

The Good/Bad Guy Myth [Aeon] • Great swipe at how we tend to present narratives too cleanly; in some cases ironically so, such as the Disney-fication of Brothers Grimm • We’re allergic to moral ambiguity and so our stories become rigid and unrealistic • ‘Three inventions collided to make concentration camps possible: barbed wire, automatic weapons, and the belief that whole categories of people should be locked up.’

I Was a Bank Robber Until I Read Kant [The Walrus] • Come to think of it, reading the Critique rather was like cracking a safe.

The Follower Factory [NYT] • There’s a lot to say about this, but I sense we could do something culturally hilarious if we all chipped in and purchased followers to a group Twitter account.  We could be a collective ‘brand ambassador’ guys!

Enjoy! [Aron] • ‘The hallmark feature of pleasure, in turn, is its feel-good quality.’  ← this is the sort of trite nonsense that gives this sort of thing a bad name. • Interesting survey of traditional approaches to the appeal of ‘pleasure’ as a life-orienting principle • Interesting diagnosis of the myopic pleasure-trappings of ‘late capitalism’ • Surveys like this also beg the question: how much of a given theory is more a reflection of the particular advocate’s pathos than an indicator of how things actually are as such – for example, Levinas •  To my estimation, trying to formulate a theory about pleasure as such is much like trying to formulate a theory of humor as such: the holistic agent/world interaction seems to be the hinge of both (e.g., Bergson). Just observing that the way a constant pleasure-stimulus will atrophy over time as a general rule alone suggest to me that more is at play than just agent-orientation to a given set of activities, practices or habits.  The world is such that humor, pleasure, excitement, etc. is out way of claiming a stake in it. • Here’s a question for consideration: why is it that one can adequately appreciate the same piece of music repeatedly while one cannot appreciate the same film repeatedly? I’ve heard this question many times and an answer might get to the heart of all of this.  

Medieval Sex [Aeon] • Huzzah!

A Gentle Introduction to Category Theory [Logic Matters] • When I finish up my Deep Learning concentration, I might turn my sights to this.  He picks at some Sellarsian ideas early on.  Anyone feeling limber?

The Disaster Tourist [Huffpost] • In a nut-shell: ‘You can lead a bro to sociopolitical flashpoints, the company philosophy goes, but you can’t make him stop drinking before he triggers an international incident.’ • A key takeaway: that the antics of a Hunter S. Thompson – romantic, curious and at a distance – seem to be boorish, misguided and ridiculous up close. • ‘I’d often thought that travel wasn’t travel until I encountered something I didn’t understand. That is to say: If I came across people or situations that were easy to read, I was probably reading my own character or experience or beliefs into those things.’  • ‘War is just time accelerated.’  • ‘[D]ark tourism is a lot older than the selfie stick. Mark Twain toured Pompeii and then wrote about it. Anton Chekhov was the world’s first ‘gulag tourist.’ The inaugural guided tour in England was a day trip, via locomotive, to witness the hanging of two murderers. The very idea of tourism in the West originated with pilgrims’ desire to poke around the empty tomb of a peasant executed by the state.’ • ‘Brushing up against death and coming away unscathed was one of the few ways left in a desacralized world to achieve something akin to ontological security: I am here now. I am alive.’ • And also: ‘The hitch is that with ever more people seeking these authentic experiences, authenticity becomes that much harder to experience.’  I think this is a cop out.  If one cannot find authenticity lurking even in a mundane transaction at Starbucks, if only nested in between the lines of alienation and boredom, that’s a failure of imagination and spirit; not a failure of the present age.  Or maybe I just set my sights too low.

Round Two

Brandon – ‘Well, if we do this long distance and write a lot of it out then at least my thoughts will be more coherent.’

R.J.- ‘We’ll see.’


Protected: Library

This content is password protected. To view it please enter your password below:

Library Enter your password to view comments.