Friday, December 23, 2005

Rid yourself of the myths and ideologies

HAPPINESS, PLEASURE AND KNOWLEDGE: It’s possible to make numerous distinctions with regard to pleasure, but the main seem to me to be
  • a) the pleasures of the senses vs. the pleasures of the mind
  • b) the different kinds of happiness.

It may also be possible to relate the different kinds of pleasures, and observe that an excess in one kind of pleasure often results in the diminution of another kind, perhaps even pain of some kinds. I think the first thing to observe about pleasures is their variety. Apart from the two identified above, there is also a third kind which some regard as a life goal or wish: the pleasure that is brought about by the exercise of power or influence. I would extend that to include the pleasure associated with helping others, or exercising compassion or kindness towards others. This third kind I will (for the purpose of this discussion) call psychic pleasure. Not all psychic pleasures are benign, such as the pleasures of sadism or domination or “schadenfreude”.

The first point that I would like to make about the three kinds of pleasures is that they are so different that they cannot be measured by a common measure or metric. Bentham tried to do this with his concept of a util, but it’s an absurdity that lives on in shadowy form in economics. The second point is that they are sufficiently different that it is often difficult to see what is common to them. Try and compare the pleasure of sitting and trying to catch fish on a sunny day on the Bosphorus, and the pleasure of listening to say, Bach’s Unaccompanied Cello sonata. The only way of “comparing” them is to ask which of the two one would rather do if one is given a choice, or what sacrifice one is prepared to make in terms of a common numeraire or measure of value (such as money). Either way, one is expressing a subjective preference between two pleasures, but this outwardly shown preference is a substitute for choosing between the two literally incomparable kinds of subjective internal experience one undergoes with each action or source of pleasure.

If one examines this subjective internal experience (called qualia in the philosophical jargon) associated with various kinds of pleasure, one discovers that there is indeed something common to them all, and that is the fact that bodily sensations accompany them. (Of course the sensations themselves may differ from case to case.) This is clear in the case of sensual pleasures (eating, sex, music, etc.) but I suspect (and scientists claim that there is evidence to show that) there is also a certain set of physical bodily reactions or phenomena associated with the qualia of mental and psychic pleasures, of which we are only dimly aware, such as slightly raised heartbeats, the release of certain hormones or neurochemicals, or certain sorts of muscular reactions such as hair standing up. In other words, the act of feeling pleasure is accompanied by emotion and a physiological response from our bodies. Anyone who has developed a neat and “elegant” solution to a difficult mathematical problem, or written a really good poem or essay, or watched a deeply satisfying film, is likely to have become acquainted with such mental and bodily processes.

Possibly because of these physiological reactions, we tend to become attached to pleasures, and to seek their sources, but also to avoid pain. (The absence of pleasure need not be pain, nor the absence of pain, pleasure.) This tendency to develop attachments or addictions to pleasures is the source of desire, which in turn is the source of pain and suffering. Note that although the absence of pleasure need not be pain, the dependence and attachment caused by repeated experiences of pleasure cause desire. And because the sources of pleasures in the world that we experience are ephemeral and finite, they are ultimately causes of suffering. Yet it is impossible to avoid them altogether, for that would mean that one has to cease to live.

The central teachings of more than one major Indian philosophical tradition (but not all!) try to address this problem. Essentially, what these philosophies say (and I am simplifying horribly here) is that our highest goal is to liberate ourselves from those attachments I spoke about, and to treat both pleasure and pain the same. This consists in trying to “see through” the illusory nature of the phenomenal and sensual world known as samsara, and therefore attain the realization that our pleasures and pains, our love and anger and desire, are all subjectively real but objectively not so. We feel pleasure and pain, but we must try and stop mentally and psychically running after pleasure and from pain. Important parts of Indian philosophy, even when they are quite secular, are devoted to an examination of how the illusory nature of the phenomenal world is preserved by our psychological processes. This creates a trap into which all of us fall, but few of us learn to escape from them by “seeing through” the trap. We think the self is real, but in the noumenal world there is no self, only the world. In fact, the self and the world are objectively one, but subjectively separate, according to these schools. The Sanskrit word for the philosophy of knowledge is “darşana” which literally means “seeing” or vision - seeing through the traps of concepts and language and the Kantian categories.

So what about happiness? Happiness lies in the cultivation of the senses and the emotions and the psyche, at the right stage of one’s life, and in the right ways; but ultimately one needs to realize (and not just intellectually) as one gets older that the attachment to the senses and emotions and psyche is a trap through which one needs to liberate oneself. Indian philosophical literature is apparently full of analogical references to this entrapment (such as the caged bird), and the contrast between the real and the illusory, (such as the diamond hiding in the ashes, the rope being mistaken for a snake, the man looking desperately for a necklace he thinks he has lost, all the while wearing it around his neck).

The critical thrust in much of western philosophy has a similar message, but a different motivation: the search for truth. The true world is hidden from us through myths, ideology, and other sources of bias and deception that act like dirt on our cognitive and intellectual spectacles. If you want to encounter the real world, learn to “see” the world clearly: rid yourself of the myths and ideologies through rigorous examination of the concepts and categories and language and discourse which are part of the spectacles which we all must wear. GYANOPROBHA November 26, 2005 in Philosophical Musings


One tension that your post highlights between the science-centric (excuse my clumsy phrasing) and the Indian philosophical tradition is this:
Suppose that I were to attain the Indian enlightenment of the sort you are talking about. Suppose I were to "see through" and "attain the realization that our pleasures and pains, our love and anger and desire, are all subjectively real but objectively not so."
It is natural to assume that this would be an achievement for me. My nature dictates that I have some desires for things like food, companionship of others, warmth, sex and etc. If I am to "see through", I'd have to overcome or defeat these desires. In that sense, "seeing through" would be a mental achievement. However, previously you had argued that mental achievements are not purely mental but also have physical indicators:

"...there is also a certain set of physical bodily reactions or phenomena associated with the qualia of mental and psychic pleasures, of which we are only dimly aware, such as slightly raised heartbeats, the release of certain hormones or neurochemicals..."
So I am going to assume that if I manage to see through, since this is an achievement, this will effect pleasure on me, which in turn will have physical epiphenomena associated with it.
This indicates that although I try to overcome the physical world and "see through", I still am redirected to the physical world due to my own physical nature and limitations (i.e. via my own physical reactions at my achievement). Of course, the Indian tradition would just deny that psychic peace would have physical consequences. Posted by: Cihan Baran November 26, 2005 at 12:04 PM

The disciplines and practices that are aimed at the kind of emancipation that I have referred to do indeed seem to have physical epiphenomena accompanying them. There is at least one group of scientists who are investigating these epiphenomena in collaboration with practitioners of Buddhist meditation. See But I don't know whether this indicates that the physiological accompaniments to the achievement of liberation are identical to those accompanying the more earthly pleasures that I have referred to.

The basic message of these religious traditions seems to be well attested in life experience - do not become dependent on the pleasures of the senses, because this dependence is the cause of suffering. But even to take this message seriously, it would seem that one would need to be aware of the pleasurable sensations accompanying them, and say to oneself: "There lies a trap!" and stay away from overindulging them. Both the scientific findings and the acknowledgement of the suffering caused by in the trap of desire seem to affirm the physical reality of the trap itself. When one "sees through" a trap or an illusion, one is not denying it, but realizing that what looks like X (pleasure or happiness) can in fact turn out to be Y (suffering) if one becomes attached to it.

For me people fall into three categories (not necessarily mutually exclusive, because one can jump from on to another and back again): people who are trapped and don't know it, people who are trapped and know it, and people who see the trap for what it is and escape from it (but they have to fall into it first!). All those aspects of our psychology which we associate with our sense of who we are (especially our cultural/ideological filter) keep changing. Hence what we call the self is in fact a very elusive, changeable thing, difficult to define, although we all have a sense of self. According to some philosophies, the self is a constructed illusion, part of the "web of illusion" without which we can't live in this world, but which is the cause of much suffering and unhappiness. Spiritual enlightenment then lies in seeing "through" this illusion, allowing one to become "detached" from the world even while living fully in it. In fact, this detachment is a condition for engaging joyfully and compassionately with the world without allowing oneself to become swept up by its suffering.

Intellectual enlightenment too is a similar process of "seeing through" ideas, recognizing their weaknesses and strengths, moving towards objectivity through realizing the value of other perspectives. One can see connections between different kinds of knowledge and belief and world-views more clearly, and develop them further, if one frees oneself from "attachment" to any of them (i.e., stop clinging to them). To be able to perceive things in a new way, one has to overcome the perceptions to which one clung earlier.To retain an open mind (both intellectually and spiritually), and still be committed to some things without turning into a jellyfish - this kind of engaged detachment is difficult, as I am finding out all the time. (So is this talk of "treating both pleasure and pain the same", or denying the objective reality of our qualia part of the entrapment by concepts and language through their careless use?) Posted by: GYANOPROBHA November 27, 2005 at 05:39 AM

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Over-intellectuality of the mind of Europe

Letters on Yoga Volume 1 Section Four REASON, SCIENCE AND YOGA I - Reason and Yoga
EUROPEAN metaphysical thought — even in those thinkers who try to prove or explain the existence and nature of God or of the Absolute — does not in its method and result go beyond the intellect. But the intellect is incapable of knowing the supreme Truth; it can only range about seeking for Truth, and catching fragmentary representations of it, not the thing itself, and trying to piece them together.
Mind cannot arrive at Truth; it can only make some constructed figure that tries to represent it or a combination of figures. At the end of European thought, therefore, there must always be Agnosticism, declared or implicit. Intellect, if it goes sincerely to its own end, has to return and give this report: "I cannot know; there is, or at least it seems to me that there may be or even must be Something beyond, some ultimate Reality, but about its truth I can only speculate; it is either unknowable or cannot be known by me." Or, if it has received some light on the way from what is beyond it, it can say too: "There is perhaps a consciousness beyond Mind, for I seem to catch glimpses of it and even to get intimations from it. If that is in touch with the Beyond or if it is itself the consciousness of the Beyond and you can find some way to reach it, then this Something can be known but not otherwise."
Any seeking of the supreme Truth through intellect alone must end either in Agnosticism of this kind or else in some intellectual system or mind-constructed formula. There have been hundreds of these systems and formulas and there can be hundreds more, but none can be definitive. Each may have its value for the mind, and different systems with their contrary conclusions can have an equal appeal to intelligences of equal power and competence. All this labour of speculation has its utility in training the human mind and helping to keep before it the idea of Something beyond and Ultimate towards which it must turn. But the intellectual Reason can only point vaguely or feel gropingly towards it or try to indicate partial and even conflicting aspects of its manifestation here; it cannot enter into and know it.
As long as we remain in the domain of the intellect only, an impartial pondering over all that has been thought and sought after, a constant throwing up of ideas, of all the possible ideas, and the formation of this or that philosophical belief, opinion or conclusion is all that can be done. This kind of disinterested search after Truth would be the only possible attitude for any wide and plastic intelligence. But any conclusion so arrived at would be only speculative; it could have no spiritual value; it would not give the decisive experience or the spiritual certitude for which the soul is seeking. If the intellect is our highest possible instrument and there is no other means of arriving at supraphysical Truth, then a wise and large Agnosticism must be our ultimate attitude. Things in the manifestation may be known to some degree, but the Supreme and all that is beyond the Mind must remain forever unknowable.
It is only if there is a greater consciousness beyond Mind and that consciousness is accessible to us that we can know and enter into the ultimate Reality. Intellectual speculation, logical reasoning as to whether there is or is not such a greater consciousness cannot carry us very far. What we need is a way to get the experience of it, to reach it, enter into it, live in it. If we can get that, intellectual speculation and reasoning must fall necessarily into a very secondary place and even lose their reason for existence. Philosophy, intellectual expression of the Truth may remain, but mainly as a means of expressing this greater discovery and as much of its contents as can at all be expressed in mental terms to those who still live in the mental intelligence.
This, you will see, answers your point about the Western thinkers, Bradley and others, who have arrived through intellectual thinking at the idea of an "Other beyond Thought" or have even, like Bradley, tried to express their conclusions about it in terms that recall some of the expressions in the Arya. The idea in itself is not new; it is as old as the Vedas. It was repeated in other forms in Buddhism, Christian Gnosticism, Sufism. Originally, it was not discovered by intellectual speculation, but by the mystics following an inner spiritual discipline. When, somewhere between the seventh and fifth centuries B.C., men began both in the East and West to intellectualise knowledge, this Truth survived in the East; in the West where the intellect began to be accepted as the sole or highest instrument for the discovery of Truth, it began to fade. But still it has there too tried constantly to return; the Neo-Platonists brought it back, and now, it appears, the Neo-Hegelians and others (e.g., the Russian Ouspensky and one or two German thinkers, I believe) seem to be reaching after it. But still there is a difference.
In the East, especially in India, the metaphysical thinkers have tried, as in the West, to determine the nature of the highest Truth by the intellect. But, in the first place, they have not given mental thinking the supreme rank as an instrument in the discovery of Truth, but only a secondary status. The first rank has always been given to spiritual intuition and illumination and spiritual experience; an intellectual conclusion that contradicts this supreme authority is held invalid. Secondly, each philosophy has armed itself with a practical way of reaching to the supreme state of consciousness, so that even when one begins with Thought, the aim is to arrive at a consciousness beyond mental thinking. Each philosophical founder (as also those who continued his work or school) has been a metaphysical thinker doubled with a yogi. Those who were only philosophic intellectuals were respected for their learning but never took rank as truth-discoverers. And the philosophies that lacked a sufficiently powerful means of spiritual experience died out and became things of the past because they were not dynamic for spiritual discovery and realisation.
In the West it was just the opposite that came to pass. Thought, intellect, the logical reason came to be regarded more and more as the highest means and even the highest end; in philosophy, Thought is the be-all and the end-all. It is by intellectual thinking and speculation that the truth is to be discovered; even spiritual experience has been summoned to pass the tests of the intellect, if it is to be held valid — just the reverse of the Indian position. Even those who see that the mental Thought must be overpassed and admit a supramental "Other", do not seem to escape from the feeling that it must be through mental Thought, sublimating and transmuting itself, that this other Truth must be reached and made to take the place of the mental limitation and ignorance. And again Western thought has ceased to be dynamic; it has sought after a theory of things, not after realisation. It was still dynamic amongst the ancient Greeks, but for moral and aesthetic rather than spiritual ends.
Later on, it became yet more purely intellectual and academic; it became intellectual speculation only without any practical ways and means for the attainment of the Truth by spiritual experiment, spiritual discovery, a spiritual transformation. If there were not this difference, there would be no reason for seekers like yourself to turn to the East for guidance; for in the purely intellectual field, the Western thinkers are as competent as any Eastern sage. It is the spiritual way, the road that leads beyond the intellectual levels, the passage from the outer being to the inmost Self, which has been lost by the over-intellectuality of the mind of Europe.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

A philosopher’s journey

Dipankar Sinha The Statesman Mar 25, 2003
From a secure life in the sleepy village Nilakantapur and in Cuttack to hectic professional life in Kolkata, Bardhaman, Göttingen, Oklahoma, New York and Philadelphia. This is how JN Mohanty, a leading scholar of philosophy, found his physical trajectory and more important, intellectual mobility in life. This autobiography, which took 15 years to complete, bears testimony to this remarkable journey. The volume for obvious reasons is not about his philosophical investigations and discourses. It does not throw new light on Husserl or phenomenology or modalities of the self, all of which happen to be favourite themes in Mohanty’s intellectual quest. The volume is based on reminiscences of an extremely talented and hardworking individual — a “West-trained analytic thinker” conscious of his Oriya Indian upbringing and identity.
The very first impression that one gets about the author is that of his quiet scholarship. He is not a cult figure, nor someone who invites intense public attention and media hype associated with quite a few scholars (including Indian academics) nowadays. While his discipline, philosophy, might have something to do with such quiet intellectual pursuit, it might also be attributed to the fact that his academic height and career, so to say, were built up slowly but steadily — block by block. True, it gave rise to a wonderful combination of diversity of interests and intense rigour to his scholarship, but it was not exactly a smooth journey. East and West, which occupy the centrestage of his autobiography, enter Mohanty’s life not only materially but also metaphorically, to lead to a creative tension. In the beginning it was of course ‘the East’ that prevailed. It came in the form of the instruction of the Sanskrit pundit in school, who had initiated him to Tarkasamgraha and Raghuvamsham, to walk barefoot and make contact with the earth to energize the brain. It was also in the form of Pundit Yogendranatha Tarka Vedantatirtha, with whom Mohanty studied Samkara’s Bhasya on Brahmasutra, who in order to “discharge obligations to his students” would dictate from his death-bed Vidya Vamsa, the Pundit’s memory-based narrative of his students.
It was also evident in an insatiable urge to understand the philosophical underpinnings of Gandhi and Sri Aurobindo. In institutional terms, Mohanty’s academic encounter with the East would be within the walls of Presidency College and Calcutta University, the institutions that form a substantial part of his recollections. When it comes to encountering the West Mohanty as a doctoral student would meet and closely observe some of the best known names in German philosophy and pure mathematics. It seems that Mohanty’s intellectual interactions with his research supervisor, Hermann Wein, whom he at best describes as a “highly intelligent man,” would be limited, and he would be influenced more by other professors like Joseph Konig and Helmut Plessner. He also admits being overwhelmed by the majestic elegance of formal mathematical structures, which might have helped him immensely in later years. Mohanty also sensitively recounts the darker side of some of the finest German intellectuals of the fifties, a number of whom collaborated with the Nazis more out of craving for material benefits than ideological affinity. Then again, East and West would ‘meet’ in unforeseen and somewhat unthinkable ways.
Thus the logician Pandit Ananta Kumar Tarkatirtha, to whom Mohanty expresses his greatest intellectual debt, would ask his ‘Göttingen-educated’ student to introduce him to Aristotle’s Metaphysics and Kant’s first Critique. What’s more, the Pundit would raise “new questions” about them. The East-West interaction would be personified in “mahaguru” Ernst Waldschmidt who by his phenomenal scholarship of Vedic Sanskrit would demolish Mohanty’s stereotypical image of a pundit. Mohanty writes: “He would give me a final test in the traditional manner of Salakanyaya. He would put a needle through a palm-leaf manuscript, open the manuscript where the needle stopped, and ask me to explain just that page – first translate it, then point out grammatical problems, and then raise questions…”. What could be a better symbolic confluence of the intellectual East and its Western counterpart? When the East and the West engrave themselves in the cognitive map of such a thinker the manifestations at times become apparently paradoxical. Thus a self-proclaimed atheist like Mohanty would repeatedly repose faith in Hindu tradition and rituals.
The author who treats life as an “aesthetic project” has a philosophical explanation to offer. To him, performing rituals is “obligatory” because participation in common social practices facilitate the bond among the members of community. Thus, he seems to have a ‘secular’ logic to his enthusiastic participation in pujas. Mohanty’s elegant style and absorbing writing steer clear of unpleasant encounters, frictions and regrets which one finds in the autobiography of Western scholars, including philosophers. Thus it is not an autobiography which uncovers a life in full. However, this is not to be taken as a criticism. Because an individual has the ultimate prerogative in deciding the content an autobiography is meant to be read, not necessarily to be critiqued. Reading such a book is always a great experience not only because it depicts an important segment of life of an eminent scholar but also because it captures so well the past and present ambience in the East and in the West, in which scholars of such proportions are made.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

The triumph of anarchism

The Hindu Magazine Sunday, Dec 11, 2005
One of the repercussions of Chomsky's lifelong work is that human language and most behaviour are dependent on a huge, impulsive capacity for creativity, an "instinct for freedom" to use a term by Bakunin. This concept places Chomsky at the "frontier of psychology, philosophy and linguistics and square in the 18th-Century tradition of the Enlightenment — Rousseau, the Cartesians and other ferocious libertarians." Believing that the best way to maximise our genetically endowed freedom is through anarchism, Chomsky defines his worldview as "libertarian socialism." Such a brand of anarchism has both a historical force and stands for a deeply positive ideology that aims towards the absolute welfare of the public, though in the hands of the media and its controllers, this school of thought takes a rather destructive and a negative complexion.
As an activist with an anti-fascist ideology, Chomsky has always been sceptical of the patriotic fervour behind wars. For this reason he stands against the treatment of the German prisoners of war and is deeply disturbed by the atomic bombing of Hiroshima. The libertarian anarchist stance combined with a left-wing communism that he adopts under the influence of his linguistics teacher, Zellig S. Harris, lead to his attention to causes of social justice and the perceptible duplicity of the intellectuals. He sees his theory of Universal Grammar as a uniformity of human genetic inheritance, a uniting force that sees more similarities in the human race than conflicts arising out of ethnic affiliations or narrow provincialism. The essence of creativity is innate in all humans, which enables them to think and introspect. Language being inherently a creative entity, its original usage gives one a sense of freedom. Inequality and suffering in the world, therefore, have to be taken into consideration to finally eliminate division. A Marxist standpoint with class as the central tenet thus forms the essence of anarchist theory and practice. Chomsky adds to it the idea of the human linguistic abilities that have the power to resist any social oppression or straitjacketing. External authority cannot control the evolution of moral and intellectually rebellious culture. Wilhelm von Humboldt, the founder of the University of Berlin, and John Dewey, the philosopher, convinced Chomsky that political control is used by the State at the behest of the moneyed class. As argued by Adam Smith, it is all a self-promotion programme premeditated for the sole intention of profit at the cost of apathetic abuse of the masses. Chomsky remains equally impressed by other anarchist thinkers such as Emma Goldman, Pannekoek, Rudolph Rocker and Diego Abad de Santillan.
According to Chomsky, anarchism is a type of "voluntary socialism" and is synonymous with "libertarian socialism." This is not found in capitalist societies where labour is subjected to coercion when it is not allowed to own the means of production or have any effective control over the productive activity. Freedom and creativity are two privileges of human beings so essential to their need; any unjust exercise of power leads to victimisation as well as psychological depression. To fulfill human nature and to see to it that human life thrives, it becomes essential to counter any form of oppression or control. This is the reason that Chomsky supports anarchosyndicalism, which according to Mcgilvray "is defensible as an empirical claim about the nature of a society in which human beings cannot just survive but thrive, by fulfilling their natures."
Chomsky, argues McGilvray, "sees anarchosyndicalism as a modification of the basic Enlightenment conception of the person as a free and responsible agent, a modification required to meet the challenge of private power. Empowering individuals by putting control back into their hands is the best way to meet this challenge and provide a meaningful form of freedom." Chomsky suggests that the anarchist way of putting an end to the imposition of control from the top is one step towards implementing a worker's control over the means of production. Thus anarchosyndicalism used as a critical practice refuses to put all initiatives and solutions in the hands of the technocrats or bureaucrats. Each individual, according to Chomsky, has the responsibility and the creative acumen to take control of his/her society. Therefore, the idea is not to overthrow governments but to take over the corporates so that they begin to work more in favour of the people. Anarchism, in favour of the people, involves the recognition of plurality and diversity, and difference of interests, ideas and opinions. This is the Cartesian underpinning to Chomsky's thought, an impulse towards the non-systematic and highly relative and flexible character of everything in society from organisations to individuals. He takes governance inherently as a communal activity not to be left simply in the hands of the specialists who focus too narrowly on their respective areas of interest, ignoring the larger well being of society. For instance, undesirable jobs like cleaning the sewerage system, or repairing the electrical wires during a snowstorm should necessarily be mechanised, and if there still exist more undesirable jobs, the community should share them. Another solution that Chomsky suggests is that people who do unpleasant jobs should be paid the highest, not the lowest.
The examination of the history of social and political dissent demonstrates that there have been "a number of otherwise loyal, upright, law-abiding citizens who believed that they had been driven by their conscience to break the law over certain specific issues." In fact, we are all dissidents at one time or another. Protest has to be allowed in society, as we live in a world that is constantly changing, and it is by protest that the laws are changed for a better future. As Vaclav Havel writes, "You do not become a `dissident' just because you decide one day to take up this most unusual career. You are thrown into it by your personal sense of responsibility, combined with a complex set of external circumstances. You are cast out of the existing structures and placed in a position of conflict with them. It begins as an attempt to do your work well, and ends with being branded an enemy of society." Under the overwhelming force of capitalism, bureaucracy and religious difference there are always the smouldering undercurrents of anarchism that, in the words of Rudolf Rocker, underscores "a definite trend in the historic development of mankind, which ... strives for the free, unhindered unfolding of all the individual and social forces in life."

Monday, December 05, 2005

The other worlds

Sri Aurobindo passed away 55 years back, on December 5, 1950. He is perceived as a great soul but his writings have yet to earn the reception they deserve. The vast body of his work and the difficult diction he employs, may be the reason to deter the common reader; but even the scholar is not enamoured enough of them. The most plausible factor that seems to be responsible is Sri Aurobindo’s insistence on spirituality while discussing secular themes such as politics, poetry, the arts, or education.

The convenient demarcation between secular and the sacred suits the academic approach. But for Sri Aurobindo this is a faulty notion because the causal aspect is eclipsed. The linkage between the two is less of the manner of an umbilical chord and more in the nature of interpenetrating imbrications. If our sensory and scientific construct of the world fails to accommodate such a picture, it must be understood as a lack.

Astronomy as an ancient passion has helped us to know about the outer universe. Astrology, too, by talking of stars and planets attunes us to their subtle influences. The different abodes of gods as described by various mythologies, also, permit us certain familiarity of the other worlds. But we rarely take their effect on our lives any seriously. And the task of Sri Aurobindo is to hammer the modern mind so as to rid it from secular superstitions.

The inner and the other worlds are a consistent theme in his poem, Savitri. Composed through the years from Quantum mechanics to nuclear holocaust, this modern epic puts a stamp of authority on the unseen fecund worlds and their inhabitants who are inextricably linked to our motions and emotions. To recognize this reality seriously, is what Savitri demands from its readers.

The different parts of our being and consciousness, as delineated by Sri Aurobindo in his Integral Yoga system, are nothing but the other worlds. We can well imagine our plights as puppets when disparate worlds are very much in the play to pull the strings. Somewhat similar to the insight offered by Baudrillard that it is the object which uses and employs us and not the other way round that we ordinarily perceive. But then, how do we benefit by this concept in our practical life?

That there runs a perpetual consonance between the seen and the unseen, might seem, at times, hard to digest, but a poetic impression can be allowed to swim aloft. The process should further deepen in the realm of creative imagination leading to a faint intellectual recognition. Since the notion runs counter to our egoistic autonomy, it is bound to take a long time to percolate down to the distant and defiant impulses. And regular recitation of Savitri helps here; its mantric effect casting its reach down to our body cells.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Soul and Politics in Aristotle's Politics

by John Christodoulou
The Examined Life On-Line Philosophy Journal, Vol. 04 Issue 15
Aristotle believes that all living beings consist of body and soul. There is a natural law, according to which the soul governs the body. This natural law could be verified if we observe the natural behavior of some animals. However, there are corrupt animals, which do not follow the natural order. In their case, the body controls their soul. The best example of the ideal relationship between the soul and the body, is that of a man who manages to keep his body under the control of his soul. On the contrary, in the case of morally corrupt men, who live in conflict with nature (para physin), the body, many times, imposes its rash desires on the soul. In the case of such men, their body, instead of their soul, controls the whole of their being.(1)
Now, the human soul is divided into two parts. The first part is that of reason, which is the part of intellectual ability, which combines speaking and thinking. The other part is that of appetite, which is represented by the ability to desire.(2) As Aristotle says elsewhere in Politics, the first part of the soul has reason. Moreover, it is reason itself and everything we mean by reason. The other part has no reason, but it could obey reason. It communicates with reason and it is also capable of following reasoned decisions. Aristotle underlines that, “for those who make the division the way we do”, the real purpose is obvious. (3)
Inferior things exist for use by superior things. This can be proved if we observe nature itself. Without doubt, reasoning creatures are superior. This reasoning is divided into two parts. The first is the part of practical reason, which relates directly to things and actions. The second part is that of theoretical reason, which works with notions which have to be distinguished, as much as possible, from sensual perceptions. (4)
Nevertheless, Aristotle says that the body is constructed before our soul. Because of that, the non-reasoning part of the soul, the inferior one, which has no reason, has to be ‘looked after’ before the reasoning part, that which is reason itself. We can understand this as follows. As soon as a child is born, it has wishes, while thinking, by nature, develops in natural stages, together with physical growth. For this reason, first we have to look after our body and then after our soul; we have first to look after our wishes and then after our intellect. In fact, we look after our body for the sake of our soul. We first look after our wishes for the sake of our intellect. These are some principles that a lawmaker has to bear in mind, when he decides on the laws of education. (5)
Thus, the authority of the soul over the body is arbitrary, but when our intellect controls our wishes, it exercises its authority politically or autocratically.As we said at the beginning, the control of the soul over the body and the authority of the logical part of the soul (nous) over the passive part of the soul, which is the non-reasoning part, complies with the natural order of things. It is also advantageous. The common sharing of power between the logical and the non-logical part of the soul, or, even worse, the inversion of these roles, could mean the assuming of authority by the body and the wishes of the body could prove harmful.
Now, a slave is a human being who is different from other human beings, in the same way that our soul differs from our body, and in the same way that a human being differs from an animal. The best thing for a slave, is to be under the authority of others. (8) Someone is a slave by nature when he could belong and he really belongs to another man. His reason helps him to understand but, in fact, he possesses nearly no reason at all.
Nature constructs the bodies of free men and the bodies of slaves differently. Thus, the bodies of slaves are strongly constructed, because they need to work with their hands, while the bodies of free men are ably constructed, but incapable of heavy work and more useful for a political life. Many times, however, the opposite occurs: some persons may have the body and some others may have the soul of a free man. Concerning the construction of the body, if, indeed, the bodies of some men are so different from the bodies of others, that they may appear to be like gods, it is natural for the men who fall short of them to obey and bow to the superiority of others.
If, now, this stands true for the body, it stands even more true for the soul, even though we cannot see the beauty of the soul as we can see the beauty of the body. (9) For Aristotle, it is obvious that, by natural predetermination, some men are free and others are slaves. For the latter, it is in their interests to serve the former, but moreover, it is also right. (10)
Concerning the characteristics of slaves, Aristotle poses a critical question. The question is if the slaves possess, apart from their natural ability for manual work, more valuable virtues, like prudence, bravery, justice etc. because if they possess the last-mentioned, how do they differ from free men? On the other hand, if they do not possess these virtues, although they are human beings with reason, the argument is absurd. The same question is posed concerning women and children. Is it possible for a woman to be prudent, brave and just? Could a child be both dissolute and prudent, or not?
So, is there any difference between the virtue of a person whose natural destiny is to be a ruler, and the virtue of another, who is under the ruler’s authority? Because, if both of them could participate in goodness, if both of them could be qualified and have a strong character, what kind of necessity forces the one to be a ruler and the other to obey him? Obviously, if a ruler is not prudent and just, he cannot govern the way he should. On the other hand, if slaves are lazy and cowardly, they cannot fulfill their duties. Therefore, both of them have to demonstrate virtue. Moreover, this reminds us of all the things we have said about the soul because in our soul, by nature, the one part is the ruler, and the other part is subservient. Each of these conditions, of course, has its own special virtue. (11)
So, all people, whether free men or slaves, have to demonstrate moral virtues, but not in the same manner. It is prerequisite only to the extent that one requires virtue in order to be able to do one’s work. So, the moral virtue of a ruler has to be perfect, while the virtue of others should correspond with their nature. Everyone has elements of moral virtue, but, for example, the prudence of a woman and the prudence of a man are not the same. Bravery, also, and the sentiment of justice are not the same for all. There is a difference between the bravery of a ruler and the bravery of a slave.
Now, concerning virtue itself, according to Aristotle it is wrong to believe either that the good condition of the soul or that right actions constitute virtues. On the contrary, we have to make a distinction between several virtues, and, also, we have to distinguish the same virtue according to each particular case.
“For a woman”, for example, “silence is an ornament”, but, as Aristotle says, one could not maintain the same for a man. It is obvious, also, that the virtue of a child is not his own concern. It serves a purpose unknown to him and this purpose is determined by the man who takes care of the child. This applies, also, in the case of the relations between a slave and his master. A slave does not need so much virtue, because his work is manual. Thus, he needs to have a certain amount of virtue, in order to do his work, and avoid being overtaken by viciousness or cowardice. (12)
Everybody deserves happiness, as long as they possess virtue and prudence and try to act in accordance with them. The deep and sacred nature of happiness is accentuated by Aristotle’s reference to God. God is happy and in a state of bliss not because of the possession of material goods, but thanks to Himself and His nature. That is why happiness is different from joy. Joy refers to things that have nothing to do with our soul; material goods are a matter of fortune.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

VĀC, Bhartrihari, Abhinavagupta

Centre of Oriental Studies, Vilnius University
The article deals with the meaning of the Divine Word in the agamic Kashmiri Śaiva tradition. At first, making a brief overview of the history of the sacred word in Indian culture, attention is drawn to the fact, that the function of word and oral language as an agent of transformation from the human realm to the divine has been perennial concern of Indian theological speculation, since language in Hinduism is nearly always identified with both human consciousness and the divine cosmos. It has been pointed out, that an elaborate mysticism of the word found in the Śaiva Tantras has Vedic precendents and presupposes the philosophy of Bhartrihari. Tantra has the assumption that man and the universe correspond as microcosm and macrocosm and that both are subject to the mysterious power of words and letters. The Tantric Kashmiri tradition, while building upon the Śaiva-Āgamas and Grammarian tradition, formulates its own unique rational theology of triadic monism and of complex verbal cosmology, wherein sacred Verbum is fundamental to both the creation of the universe and to the reintegration of the soul into the cosmos. The climax of a hermeneutics of synthesis and the sacred word exegesis is represented in Abhinavagupta’s works. Abhinavagupta’s subtle speculation on the Word extends from its mystical dimension to the intricacies of Sanskrit alphabet and linguistic speculation, from psychological subtleties to philosophical reasoning.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005


When Whitehead tells that the whole of philosophy
Is but a footnote to Plato, it's a great tribute
Nietzsche likewise says that it’s Dostoevsky
From whom he really learnt some psychology.

Aristotle is The Philosopher for Dante
Merleau-Ponty has been pedestalled by Blanchot
Bakhtin too is beholden to Dostoevsky
And Heidegger to Holderlin’s poetry.

Kierkegaard adorns a special place for Lukacs
Just as Leibniz enchanted Bertrand Russell
And Spinoza was the noblest of them all
Merleau-Ponty, a true disciple of Husserl.

Virginia Woolf spoke so highly of Proust
All his life Lacan unfolded Freud’s dream
From Althusser to Habermas, Marxists galore
Marx himself was a known Hegelian juggler.

Saussure was inspiration to Levi-Strauss
Nietzsche was a Schopenhauer admirer
Derrida is a sly pursuer of Heidegger
Ricoeur pushes on the project of Gadamer.

Bergson redefined Darwinian evolution
Lukacs reiterated Marx’s reification
Kojeve’s lectures on Hegel inspired many
And the Kantian Critiques have never ceased reigning.

[Sat-131001] posted by Tusar N Mohapatra @ 4:26 AM

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Bodies of Thought : Embodiment, Identity and Modernity Editorial Reviews: Book Description
`The work develops and articulates a brilliant and original central thesis; namely that modern individuals are best understood as complex bodies of thought, as embodied symbolic and material beings. Future work on mind, self, body, society and culture will have to begin with Burkitt's text' - Norman K. Denzin, University of Illinois
`After his excellent Social Selves, Ian Burkitt has produced a new theory of embodiment which will become required reading for those working in the areas of social theory, sociology, cultural studies and social psychology. Steering between constructionist and realist theories of the social actor, Bodies of Thought provides an innovative assessment of Foucaultian, Eliasian, and feminist approaches to the body and a sustained critique of Cartesian notions of the subject' - Chris Shilling, Department of Social and Historical Studies, University of Portsmouth
In this incisive and truly impressive book, Ian Burkitt critically addresses the dualism between mind and body, thought and emotion, rationality and irrationality, and the mental and the material, which haunt the post-Cartesian world. Drawing on the work of contemporary social theorists and feminist writers, he argues that thought and the sense of being a person is inseparable from bodily practices within social relations, even though such active experience may be abstracted and expanded upon through the use of symbols. Overcoming classic dualisms in social thought, Burkitt argues that bodies are not purely the constructs of discourses of power: they are also productive, communicative, and invested with powerful capacities for changing the social and natural worlds. He goes on to consider how such powers can be developed in more ethical forms of relations and activities. Bodies of Thought will be essential reading for students and academics in social theory, social psychology, cultural studies, feminist theory and the sociology of the body.
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Think of the Body, October 22, 2005
Reviewer: savitriera - See all my reviews
Growing interest in the consciousness studies is forcing the skeptics to look at it afresh, for it no longer belongs to the New-Ager's domain, alone. This book is a commendable compendium of path-breaking ideas reconstituting our conception of subjectivity. While post-modern sentiments amply spice the text, what should not be missed is the emphasis on body-mind continuum, which runs as an undercurrent, throughout the work.

Justice Nature and the Geography of Differences

by David Harvey Customer Reviews:
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An Eye-opener, October 22, 2005
Reviewer: savitriera - See all my reviews

This book is a spectacular down-to-earth attempt to trasnscend positivism as well as Marxism. The very logic of the erudite author's argument alights in a blind alley, where the Heideggerian ambivalence remains the only saviour. This daring milestone in the history of thought would always be an inspiring read.

Thursday, October 20, 2005


The superman. This Essay of Sri Aurobindo appeared first in his Arya Journal 1920.
The ideal of the Superman has been brought recently into much notice. It is a call to man to do what no species has yet done or aspired to do in terrestrial history, evolve itself consciously into the next superior type. And when we so envisage it, this conception ranks surely as one of the most potent seeds that can be cast by thought into the soil of our human growth. Nietzsche first cast it, the mystic of Will-worship, the troubled, profound, half-luminous Hellenising Slav with his strange clarities, his violent half-ideas, his rare gleaming intuitions that came marked with the stamp of an absolute truth and sovereignty of light.
But Nietzsche was an apostle who never entirely understood his own message. His prophetic style was like that of the Delphic oracles which spoke constantly the word of the Truth but turned it into untruth in the mind of the hearer. Not always indeed; for sometimes he rose beyond his personal temperament and individual mind, his European inheritance and environment, his revolt against the Christ-idea, his war against current moral values and spoke out the Word as he had heard it, the Truth as he had seen it, bare, luminous, impersonal and therefore flawless and imperishable.
But for the most part, this message that had come to his inner hearing vibrating out of a distant infinite like a strain caught from the lyre of far-off Gods, did get, in his effort to appropriate and make it nearer to him, mixed up with a somewhat turbulent surge of collateral ideas that drowned much of the pure original note. Especially, in his concept of the Superman he never cleared his mind of a preliminary confusion. For if a sort of human godhead is the goal to which the race must advance, the first difficulty is that we have to decide to which of two very different types of divinity the idea in us should owe allegiance. For the deity within may confront us either with the clear, joyous and radiant countenance of the God or the stern convulsed visage of the Titan.
Nietzsche hymned the Olympian, but presented him with the aspect of the Asura. His hostile pre-occupation with the Christ-idea of the crucified God and its consequences was perhaps responsible for this distortion as much as his subjection to the imperfect ideas of the Greeks. He presents to us a superman who fiercely and arrogantly repels the burden of sorrow and service, not one who arises victorious over mortality and suffering, his ascension vibrant with the triumph-song of a liberated humanity. To lose the link of Nature's moral evolution is a capital fault in the apostle of supermanhood; for only out of the unavoidable line of the evolution can that emerge in the bosom of a humanity long tested, ripened and purified by the fire of egoistic and altruistic suffering. © Copyright Webside Literaturen

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Paul de Man (1919-83)

Cynthia Chase
Raised throughout de Man's work are questions of history, including the conditions of literary history and texts' impingement on historical events. One way the issue is engaged is through the theorization of narrative, as in essays on Georg Lukacs's Theory of the Novel, Friedrich Nietzsche's Birth of Tragedy, and autobiography. De Man's own chief contribution to literary history is the revaluation of early Romanticism as the decisive, not yet superseded moment of the modern period. Essays written between 1956 and 1983 gathered in The Rhetoric of Romanticism read Friedrich Hölderlin, Rousseau, William Wordsworth, Percy Bysshe Shelley, W. B. Yeats, Charles Baudelaire, and Heinrich von Kleist; complementary to them are rhetorical readings of texts of Immanuel Kant, Friedrich Schiller, and G. W. F. Hegel gathered in Aesthetic Ideology, focused on the concept of the sublime and on the function and status of the category of the aesthetic.
The concept of materiality that emerges through these readings is connected by de Man with the concept of history as irreversible occurrence. Close consideration of the category of the aesthetic in Kant and Hegel and of a literary text staging the Schillerian notions of "aesthetic education" and the "aesthetic state" (Kleist's "On the Marionette Theater") leads de Man to diagnose and indict, as a fundamental strategy of the aesthetic ideology he links with the totalitarian state, "aesthetic formalization": the aesthetification, as a satisfying, recognizable form, of the formal, mechanical, arbitrary, and contradictory processes of language. His counterproposal to the conception of the work as a fully formal system is that of a reading process in which the formal and referential aspects of language are continually in conflict and at stake. Questions of history thus merge with questions of the structure and role of institutions and specifically of the institution of teaching.

Paul Ricoeur (1913-2005)

There are two closely related questions that animate all of Ricoeur's work, and which he considers to be fundamental to philosophy: "Who am I?" and "How should I live?" The first question has been neglected by much of contemporary analytical and post-modern philosophy. Consequently, those philosophies lack the means to address the second question. Postmodernism self-consciously rejects traditional processes of identity formation, depicting them as familial and political power relations premised upon dubious metaphysical assumptions about gender, race and mind. At the same time, contemporary philosophy of mind reduces questions of "who?" to questions of "what?", and in doing so, closes down considerations of self while rendering the moral question one of mere instrumentality or utility.
In relation to the question "Who am I?", Ricoeur acknowledges a long-standing debt to Marcel and Heidegger, and to a lesser extent to Merleau-Ponty. To the moral question, the debt is to Aristotle and Kant. In addressing the question "who am I?" Ricoeur sets out first to understand the nature of selfhood – to understand the being whose nature it is to enquire into itself.In this endeavor, Ricoeur's philosophy is driven by the desire to provide an account that will do justice to the tensions and ambiguities which make us human, and which underpin our fallibility. In The Voluntary and The Involuntary, he explores the involuntary constraints to which we are necessarily subject in virtue of our being bodily mortal creatures, and the voluntariness necessary to the idea of ourselves as the agents of our actions. We have, as he later describes it, a "double allegiance", an allegiance to the material world of cause and effect, and to the phenomenal world of the freedom of the will by which we tear ourselves away from the laws of nature through action. This conception of the double nature of the self lies at the core of Ricoeur's philosophy.

Ricoeur shares Marcel's view that the answer to the question "Who am I?" can never be fully explicated. This is because, in asking "Who am I?", "I" who pose the question necessarily fall within the domain of enquiry; I am both seeker and what is sought. This peculiar circularity gives a "questing" and dialectical character to selfhood, which now requires a hermeneutic approach. This circularity has its origins in the nature of embodied subjectivity. Ricoeur's account is built upon Marcel's conception of embodied subjectivity as a "fundamental predicament"(Marcel, 1965). The predicament lies in the anti-dualist realization that "I" and my body are not metaphysically distinct entities. My body cannot be abstracted from its being mine. Whatever states I may attribute to my body as its states, I do so only insofar as they are attributes of mine. My body is both something that I am and something that I have: it is "my body" that imagines, perceives and experiences. The unity of "my body" is a unity sui generis.
The inherent ambiguity of the "carnate body" or "corps-sujet" can be directly experienced by clasping one's own hands (an example often employed by Marcel and Merleau-Ponty). In this experience the distinction between subject and object becomes blurred: it isn't clear which hand is being touched and which is touching; each hand oscillates between the role of agent and object, without ever being both simultaneously. One cannot feel oneself feeling. This example is supposed to demonstrate two points: first, that the ambiguity of my body prevents the complete objectification of myself, and second, that ambiguity extends to all perception. Perception is not simply passive, but rather, involves an active reception (a concept that Ricoeur takes up and develops in his account of the ontology of the self and one's own body in Oneself As Another, see 319–329). In other words, my body has an active role in structuring my perceptions, and so, the meaning of my perceptions needs to be interpreted in the context of my bodily situation.
On Ricoeur's view, the question "Who am I ?" is a question specific to a certain kind of being, namely, being a subject of a temporal, material, linguistic and social unity. The ability to grasp oneself as a concrete subject of such a world requires a complex mode of understanding capable of integrating discourses of quite heterogenous kinds, including, importantly, different orders of time. It is to the temporal dimension of selfhood that Ricoeur has most directly addressed his hermeneutic philosophy and narrative model of understanding. IEP: James Fieser, Ph.D., founder and general editor;Bradley Dowden, Ph.D., general editor

Post-modernism of Umberto Eco

By Niki Lambros
Philosopher Paul Ricoeur has called Marx, Nietzsche and Freud, "masters of suspicion;" yet he also notes that though they sought to undermine traditional ideas, they were able to "clear the horizon for a more authentic word, for a new reign of Truth, not only by means of a 'destructive' critique, but by the invention of an art of interpreting". In a similar way, Umberto Eco can be seen as both a post-modernist sceptic and a champion of truth and meaning. From a Christian point of view, one must be very suspicious of a post-modernist philosophy that will not allow the possibility that God, truth and meaning can exist: Rowan Williams and George Steiner noted that the "suspicion" or scepticisms of Derrida and Foucault are not suspicious enough for this reason: they do not allow themselves to suspect that truth may indeed exist. We must read Eco in the light of just such a suspicion; while Eco is sceptical of simply accepting traditional religion or modernist conclusions, he yet shows himself to be even more suspicious of philosophy which does not seek truth and meaning, but is content with nihilism and the void. The "art of interpreting" or, "deduction" in Eco, still leads a careful reader, if not to an absolute knowledge, at least to hope; and Eco sees a profound meaning in hope.
Eco is a post-modernist whose background in medieval theology, his study of semiotics and the philosophy of language, and general devotion to scholarship, do not permit him to reduce humanity and the cosmos to the meaninglessness espoused by much of dogmatic post-modernism. A close reading of both Eco's fictional and scientific works reveals this fundamental incompatibility with philosophers such as Richard Rorty, Jaques Derrida, Michel Foucault, and other post-modernists who have declared war on meaning. Eco's notion of irony is profoundly creative and liberating: in The Name of the Rose, it is God who has the last laugh. For who are they which survive the apocalypse?

Carnival, History and Popular Culture: Rabelais, Goethe and Dostoevskii as philosophers

The activities of the carnival square: collective ridicule of officialdom, inversion of hierarchy, violations of decorum and proportion, celebration of bodily excess and so on embody, for Bakhtin, an implicit popular conception of the world. This conception is not, however, able to become ideologically elaborated until the radical laughter of the square entered into the 'world of great literature' (Rabelais p.96). The novel of Rabelais is seen as the epitome of this process of breaking down the rigid, hierarchical world of the Middle Ages and the birth of the modern era. Rabelais is much more than a novelist for Bakhtin: his work embodies a whole new philosophy of history, in which the world is viewed in the process of becoming. The grotesque is the image of this becoming, the boundaries between person and person, person and thing, are erased as the individual merges with the people and the whole cosmos. As the individual body is transcended, the biological body is negated and the 'body of historical, progressing mankind' moves to the centre of the system of images. In the carnival focus on death and rebirth the individual body dies, but the body of the people lives and grows, biological life ends but historical life continues.

The carnivalesque becomes a set of image-borne strategies for destabilising the official worldview. Bakhtin defines the satirical attitude as the 'image-borne negation' of contemporary actuality as inadequacy, which contains within itself a positive moment in which an improved actuality is affirmed. This affirmed actuality is the historical necessity implicit in contemporary actuality and which is implied by the grotesque image. The grotesque, argues Bakhtin, 'discloses the potentiality of an entirely different world, of another order, another way of life. It leads man out of the confines of the apparent (false) unity, of the indisputable and stable' (Rabelais p.48). The grotesque image of the body, as an image which reveals incomplete metamorphosis no longer represents itself, it represents what Hegel called the 'universal dialectic of life'.

The Enlightenment, argues Bakhtin in a section which draws heavily on Cassirer (the corresponding passage is The Philosophy of the Enlightenment p.197), should no longer be considered an a-historical era, but 'an epoch of great awakening of a sense of time, above all ... in nature and human life' (p.26). But, argues Bakhtin 'this process of preparing for the disclosure of historical time took place more rapidly, completely, and profoundly in literary creativity than in the abstract philosophical, ideological views of Enlightenment thinkers' (p.26). Goethe's imagination was fundamentally chronotopic, he visualised time in space:

  • Time and space merge ... into an inseparable unity ... a definite and absolutely concrete locality serves at the starting point for the creative imagination... this is a piece of human history, historical time condensed into space. Therefore the plot (sum of depicted events) and the characters ... are like those creative forces that formulated and humanised this landscape, they made it a speaking vestige of the movement of history (historical time), and, to a certain degree, predetermined its subsequent course as well, or like those creative forces a given locality needs in order to organise and continue the historical process embodied in it. (p.49)

Goethe wanted to 'bring together and unite the present, past and future with the ring of necessity' (p.39), to make the present creative. Like Rabelais, Goethe was as much a philosopher as a writer.

The same pattern of analysis shapes the 1963 version of the Dostoevskii study. Here Dostoevskii is no longer treated, as in the 1929 version, as a totally original innovator, but as the heir to a tradition rooted in popular culture. The novelist stood poised at the threshold of a new era, as the rigidly hierarchical Russian Empire was poised to give way to the catastrophic arrival of capitalist anarchy and ultimately revolution. Dostoevskii thus intersected with the threshold poetics of carnival at a different stage in its development, he sought to present the voices of his era in a 'pure simultaneity' unrivalled since Dante. In contradistinction to that of Goethe this chronotope was one of visualising relations in terms of space not time and this leads to a philosophical bent that is distinctly messianic:

  • Only such things as can conceivably be linked at a single point in time are essential and are incorporated into Dostoevskii's world; such things can be carried over into eternity, for in eternity, according to Dostoevskii, all is simultaneous, everything coexists.... Thus there is no causality in Dostoevskii's novels, no genesis, no explanations based on the past, on the influences of the environment or of upbringing and so forth. Every act a character commits is in the present, and in this sense is not predetermined; it is conceived of and represented by the author as free. (p.29)

The roots of such a conception lie in carnival and, according to Bakhtin, in the carnivalised philosophical dialogues that constituted the Menippean Satire. This philosophico-literary genre reaches a new stage in Dostoevskii's work, where the roots of the novel as a genre stands out particularly clearly. One of those roots was the Socratic Dialogue, which was overwhelmed by the monologic Aristotelian treatise, but which continued to lead a subterranean life in the non-canonical minor satirical genres and then became a constitutive element of the novel form and, implicitly, literary modernism. This accounts for its philosophical importance. The Bakhtin Circle

Why to study Baudrillard?

The sexuality, during much time, consisted as something of the private sphere them individuals and occurred, among others reasons, face to the sexual repression. However, in last the 30 years, the society has become the sexuality as something of public sphere, bringing it it baila, over all in the medias of mass. The sexualização comes assuming the characterization of the man of the present time as a set free man, whose body is exemplary form of its identity. The body assumes role detached in the last times, where if it observes a narcísica dither and it becomes mark of the ideologies of the sexuality. Thus, in the medias of mass, we have the invasion of announcements of search of partners, feminine and masculine nakeds vendendo products and increasing the number of sections of periodic with sexual advice, columns gays and proliferation of ponographic magazines, etc. It is joined this a televising production that appeals the sex, the erótico and to the ponographic one as form of decoy of a public.
The problematização of these two categories - seduction and sexuality - passes for a baudrillardiana idiosyncrasy in that the negation of the Psychoanalysis says respect and, at the same time, contraditoriamente, is endorsed in this for its argumentativa task. Considering that we dislocate ourselves in the direction of an unconscious and libidinal economy where the existing space it is for the total naturalization of a desire directed toward the destinations of the pulsão, Baudrillard it underlines, "it has a sex and necessary to find the best use it, you have a body and is necessary to know to enjoy it, you have a libido and necessary to know to spend it."
The subversora seduction of the direction and the masked sexuality for the mercantile question ascend to one another category of sexual model marked by the express violence particularly in the advertising as in the medias of mass in general. To the measure that the sexuality is treated as something constituent subject it when this is only its mask, has a correspondence there to what the communication also chooses as predicativo of the identity of the citizen. This sexual model, this clothes, this skin, this appearance does not pass of simulation. Such correspondence is, of the baudrillardiano point of view, simulacro.
Baudrillard, in this way, does not occult its nietzschiana influence, what the apóia for the order of simulacro, the illusion, the emptiness, the sexuality and the questioning of the Real. Finally, it is necessary to elencar the antropológica philosophy in the thought of Battaille, also nietzschiano, will go to perpassar the thought of Baudrillard since the conception of the will of representation of the man - symbolic, to the erótico and its entailings to the body and this in its economic power.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Pierre Klossowski and Maurice Blanchot

Ed. Sarah Wilson. Introduction by Alyce Mahon. Black Dog
Review by Brett Bowles, Iowa State University, for H-France, September 2003.
As Mahon establishes in her lengthy introductory essay, Pierre Klossowski (1905-2001) played a significant role in French art, literature, and philosophy from the 1930s through the 1980s. His writings rehabilitating the Marquis de Sade as a figure of legitimate literary significance and exploring the philosophical dimensions of pornography, as well as his own substantial corpus of erotic novels and drawings, drew attention from influential critics such as Maurice Blanchot, Gilles Deleuze, Jean-François Lyotard, and Jean Baudrillard. Yet today Klossowski’s work remains relatively obscure, even among scholars conversant in contemporary art and theory. This compilation attempts to reestablish Klossowski by presenting three of the artist’s essays--Decadence of the Nude” (1967), “Description, Argumentation, Narrative” (1975), and “The Indiscernible” (1978)--with Blanchot’s “The Laughter of the Gods” (1965), a knotty meditation on the philosophical value of Klossowski’s literary and graphic creations.
Following Blanchot’s lead and Deleuze’s equally admiring characterization of Klossowski as a “theo-pornologer”[4], Mahon contends that “Klossowski’s fiction combines two sorts of theatricality: that of the Marquis and his ritualised ceremonies of decadence and that of Saint Augustine and his concept of theologis teatrica as a means of moral exegesis, exemplified in the thirteen books of his Confessions. St. Augustine praised God for his good and evil acts, depicting sin as a perverse love which frustrates man’s basic drive toward being and perfection. Like St. Augustine, Klossowski believed that man must find his identity outside himself and that he must choose either to rise above himself or to leave the love of God and sink. Man can turn his back to God, having sinned, and recognize that the full potential of his being lies with God. . . . Roberte’s physical exposure is intended to lead her and the viewer/reader to a spiritual catharsis, in recognition of a greater power” (p. 65).

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Sunday, October 16, 2005


Tuesday, October 04, 2005; In-der-Blog-sein: Savitri Era Learning Forum appears to be re-running Clark's post on Scotus, Heidegger, and Derrida:

  • One of Scotus' many significant contributions to philosophy was the recognition that different disciplines require different categories. Most importantly he broke with Aristotle in the belief that one could easily discern all the kinds of categories from a quick look at nature. Thus for Scotus the question of metaphysics, the study of being qua being, becomes the question of how an object gives itself to a subject. Put an other way, it becomes an analysis of how a subject comes to interpret objects.
Put that way, Heidegger's insight would be that an object must already be given--being's gift--before it can be interpreted. ¶ 8:57 AM 3 comments

Kosmic Bloggers

"Blogging egos into cyberspace and watching them grow to infinity..."
Wednesday, October 05, 2005
Integral Fitness Solutions - "Integral Fitness Solutions offers an integral approach to health and fitness." posted by coolmel at 6:05 AM
Tuesday, September 27, 2005
Integral Politics Website - Welcome to the Integral Politics Portal. posted by ebuddha at 6:21 PM
Integral Options Cafe - Integral Options Cafe offers news and views on all things related to an integral worldview. posted by ebuddha at 6:18 PM
Tuesday, September 20, 2005
Holons.Org - WAKE UP! from the sleep of everyday life. posted by ebuddha at 2:19 PM
Savitri Era Learning Forum - Even the smallest meanest work became a sweet or glad and Glorious Statement. posted by ebuddha at 2:16 PM
Gavin's Blog ....because I love the sound of my own voice. posted by ebuddha at 2:04 PM

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Kant-Friesian School

Identifying Schopenhauer and Fries as the proper successors to Kant is due to the judgment that Schopenhauer represents the best critique of Kant's metaphysics as Fries represents the best critique of his epistemology. That both viewed the "Subjective Deduction" in the first edition of the Critique of Pure Reason as the most revolutionary passage is significant, as is a similar use of it by a modern Kant scholar, Robert Paul Wolf, in his Kant's Theory of Mental Activity [Harvard, 1963].
Similarly, the identification of both Hume and Adam Smith in the Scottish background of the tradition represents a judgment, not just that Hume and Smith were well known and sympathetic to each other, but that Smith's theory of the free market in the Wealth of Nations is still the foundation of all productive political economy, mostly ill appreciated in the 20th century apart from Austrian economists like F.A. Hayek and Chicago economists like Milton Friedman. The personal and theoretical association of Hayek and Karl Popper ties Austrian economics firmly into the Friesian tradition.
On the religious and psychological side, Jung and Eliade may seem more peripheral, except to the extent that they rely on Otto, who is substantially and firmly Friesian, and (independently for Jung) on Kant and Schopenhauer. The use of all these figures, of course, implies a more substantial content for religion, both epistemologically and metaphysically, than Kant, Fries, or Nelson would have been willing to admit.
The inclusion of Freud and Nietzsche is only appropriate as background for Jung and Camille Paglia. The initial formative influence of Freud on Jung's mature thought, and the substantial influence of Schopenhauer through Nietzsche, motivates the reference for him. Paglia may seem to some as too much of an intellectual lightweight to be included on the same level as the other figures. However, Paglia is one of the few recent art historians who does not suffer from a facile, thoughtless political leftism. In fact she characterizes herself as a libertarian, which places her in almost unique agreement, for modern American academics, with the Classical Liberalism of Popper and Hayek. In positive terms, Palgia's theory is basically a Jungian one, of sexual archetypes, reflected in a Jungian title (i.e. Sexual Personae -- like Ingmar Bergman's 1966 movie Persona), even though she discusses Freud more than Jung.
Paglia herself certainly has no interest in or even awareness of the Friesian School, but her thought, independently and unintentionally, requires and promotes the Polynomic Theory of Value. Pagilia's theory of aestheticism, that the value of art is independent of any moral or political purpose (similar to the argument of art historian and critic Robert Hughes in his The Culture of Complaint [Oxford, 1993]), avoids being a theory of moral aestheticism, which would deny the significance of moral judgment, since Paglia clearly retains the full force of moral judgment with it. This is conformable to the distinctions found under "The Fallacies of Moralism and Moral Aestheticism", which are illustrated in "Logical Relationships of Moralism and Moral Aestheticism". Paglia's whole treatment thus stands as an important counterpoint to Nelson's own theory of moralism, one of the most important features of Friesian ethics.
The inclusion of Husserl, Heidegger, and Sartre, many of whose ideas, including nearly all epistemological, political, and ethical ones, are quite contrary to Friesian principles, is appropriate for the contributions of Phenomenological thought to metaphysics. Those contributions, concerning consciousness and transcendence, are considered in "A New Kant-Friesian System of Metaphysics" and The Origin of Value in a Transcendent Function.
A systematic and programmatic approach to the Friesian tradition is, of course, very much at odds with the tendencies of modern academic philosophy, especially Anglo-American academic philosophy, which expresses both scepticism and positive hostility towards systematic efforts and where the typical vehicle of philosophy is brief papers on dissociated, isolated issues. Such is the heritage, as Popper has noted, of Logical Positivism, which denied the status of knowledge to anything but science and gave to philosophy only the role of describing science or clarifying meaning. The next step, whether the later Wittgenstein, deconstruction, or "post-modernism," was to dismiss science as well and to deny that meaning can be clarified, which brings us to a final nihilism in which philosophy mirrors all the absurdity and meaninglessness of an Existentialist world.