Friday, February 29, 2008

Sri Aurobindo was systematically perfecting the body’s ability to sustain a more and more intense and continuous physical Ananda

The Yoga of Self-Perfection and the Triple Transformation, by Richard Hartz posted by Debashish on Mon 13 Aug 2007 04:06 PM PDT Permanent Link Undreamed Ecstasy

Bhukti is literally “enjoyment”. In the Yoga of self-perfection it refers, of course, to a more exalted type of enjoyment than what is usually meant by that word. Sri Aurobindo explains:

A really perfect enjoyment of existence can only come when what we enjoy is not the world in itself or for itself, but God in the world, when it is not things, but the Ananda of the spirit in things that forms the real, essential object of our enjoying and things only as form and symbol of the spirit, waves of the ocean of Ananda.[53]

It may be objected that this kind of rarefied enjoyment would not satisfy the demand of the vital being for tangible pleasures. Sri Aurobindo maintained, on the contrary, that what we call pleasure is no more than a faint and evanescent shadow of the real thing. Our half-conscious nature cannot fulfil its own seeking for enjoyment unless it undergoes a spiritual transformation:

Life... seeks for pleasure, happiness, bliss; but the infrarational forms of these things are stricken with imperfection, fragmentariness, impermanence and the impact of their opposites. Moreover infrarational life still bears some stamp of the Inconscient in an underlying insensitiveness, a dullness of fibre, a weakness of vibratory response,—it cannot attain to true happiness or bliss and what it can obtain of pleasure it cannot support for long or bear or keep any extreme intensity of these things. Only the spirit has the secret of an unmixed and abiding happiness or ecstasy, is capable of a firm tenseness of vibrant response to it, can achieve and justify a spiritual pleasure or joy of life as one form of the infinite and universal delight of being.[54]

Sri Aurobindo added this passage to the chapter entitled “The Suprarational Ultimate of Life” when he revised The Human Cycle around 1937. Almost two decades earlier he had dealt with the same question in expounding the Yoga of self-perfection. In The Synthesis of Yoga, he clarified what he meant by the “capacity for enjoyment”, bhoga-sāmarthya, that is to be developed by the Prana or vital force:

The enjoyment it will have will be in the essence a spiritual bliss, but one which takes up into itself and transforms the mental, emotional, dynamic, vital and physical joy; it must have therefore an integral capacity for these things and must not by incapacity or fatigue or inability to bear great intensities fail the spirit, mind, heart, will and body.[55]

The vital being’s capacity for enjoyment depends on a power that has to be developed in the body “to hold whatever force is brought into it by the spirit and to contain its action without spilling and wasting it or itself getting cracked”. This general “faculty of holding”, termed dhārana-śakti or dhārana-sāmarthya, is considered “the most important siddhi or perfection of the body”,[56] since it is required for a higher working of all the other parts of the being. It is especially necessary if the bhoga-sāmarthya of the life-force is to be imparted to the physical consciousness, creating there a “capacity for bliss” such as is attributed in Savitri to Aswapati at a certain stage in his ascension:

His earth, dowered with celestial competence, Harboured a power that needed now no more To cross the closed customs-line of mind and flesh And smuggle godhead into humanity. It shrank no more from the supreme demandOf an untired capacity for bliss....[57]

Many entries in the Record of Yoga show that Sri Aurobindo was systematically perfecting the body’s ability to sustain a more and more intense and continuous physical Ananda. What he ascribed to Aswapati was evidently his own experience. In cultivating such experiences, his Yoga of self-perfection seems to part company with almost all spiritual disciplines in the Indian tradition except Tantra. But in its methods it also differs widely from Tantra of either the right-hand or the left-hand path. Sri Aurobindo made his relation to Tantra clear when he affirmed that this Yoga “starts from the method of Vedanta to arrive at the aim of the Tantra.”[58] It attempts to achieve “a spiritualising and illumination of the whole physical consciousness and a divinising of the law of the body.” But “the reliance is on the power of the higher being to change the lower existence” and “a working is chosen mainly from above downward and not the opposite way”.[59]

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Hegel argues that Kant has inappropriately exceptionalised his four cosmological antinomies as such antinomies can be multiplied

Science of Logic Reading Group: Not Adding Up from by N Pepperell

Hegel starts by recognising Kant’s importance for dissolving an older metaphysics, and thus opening the path to a new philosophy. This recognition is promptly tempered by Hegel’s observation that Kant’s approach is “imperfect” in both its methods and its results. Hegel treats Kant’s antinomies as possessing a rational core that needs to be extracted from its form of presentation. His concern, as always with Kant, is that the approach is intrinsically dogmatic - that it presupposes that cognition possesses characteristics that have not been established (and, specifically, that it presupposes what it claims to prove) - and that the approach restricts reason, predeciding that it “should not soar beyond sensuous perception and should take the world of appearance, the phenomenal world, as it is” (407, 428). In the process of demonstrating these arguments, this remark also casts some light on Hegel understands his own method.
Hegel begins by suggesting that Kant has inappropriately exceptionalised his four cosmological antinomies, not recognising that such antinomies can be found at the heart of any Notion. Hegel argues “as many antinomies could be constructed as there are Notions” (408). Kant compounds this mistake by not locating the antinomies he does identify in the Notions themselves, but rather in a concrete, “applied” form in which such antinomies cannot be explored in their purity, but rather become intrinsically caught up in other determinations extrinsic to the Notion (409). Further, although Kant on one level recognises that these antinomies are not simply illusions, but contradictions that reason necessarily confronts, his attempt to resolve these contradictions contravenes this insight by treating the contradiction as fundamentally something subjective, something residing in the “transcendental ideality of the world of perception” (410).
These problems can only be overcome, Hegel argues, by grasping the antinomies as “two opposed determinations which belong necessarily to one and the same Notion” (410). Such an approach recognises the validity of each determination - but only as sublated within their Notion. By contrast, Kant’s approach is one-sided - it attempts to take up each determination in isolation from the other - to assert the validity of each dogmatically. Hegel’s description of Kant’s method here is not kind:

…this simple categorical, or strictly speaking assertoric statement is wrapped up in a false, twisted scaffolding of reasoning which is intended to produce a semblance of proof and to conceal and disguise the merely assertoric character of the statement… (411)

Hegel proceeds to illustrate his point by examining how the antinomy of continuity and discreteness arises in Kant’s argument relating to the infinite divisibility of matter. Much of the subsequent discussion consists of an argument that the way in which Kant frames his discussion of this problem, already assumes what it sets out to prove, and is therefore a tautological statement, rather than the proof it purports to be. Hegel wields an interesting and somewhat expansive concept of tautology here.
Hegel begins with Kant’s statement that every composite substance in the world is comprised of the simple (the atom) (412). Hegel notes that, by substance in the world, Kant intends substances as sensuously perceived, and that this substance is taken to be indifferent to the existence of the antinomy itself. Hegel argues that the very definition of a composite is that of something externally put together from things other than itself. The “other” of the composite, however, is the simple. Therefore it is tautological to say the composite consists of the simple - we know nothing more by this statement, than we already knew by simply examining the term “composite” (413). In Hegel’s (sarcastic) words:

To ask of what something consists is to ask for an indication of something else, the compounding of which constitutes the said something. If ink is said to consist simply of ink, the meaning of the inquiry after the something else of which it consists has been missed and the question is not answered but only repeated. (413)

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Do Muslims and Christians worship the same God?

No God But God from Vox Nova by blackadderiv Do Muslims and Christians worship the same God? The answer to the question is controversial. Most Muslims answer yes, following a passage in the Koran that appears to say that both groups do worship the same God. Many Christians, on the other hand, vigorously dispute this claim...

What’s in a Name?
As philosophers ranging from Saul Kripke to Linda Richman have noted, there is a great deal of difference between names and descriptions. Names are what Kripke calls “rigid designators.” They pick out a particular person or thing or kind of thing, and refer always to that thing, regardless of what other attributes the person, thing, or kind of thing may have. Descriptions, by contrast, refer to particular attributes and may apply to a person, thing, or kind of thing at one time but not another. “George W. Bush”, for example, is a name; “President of the United States”, by contrast, is a description. “Holy Roman Empire” is a name; “a holy, Roman empire” is a description.

Most people, I take it, tend to assume without reflection that “God” is a name like “John” or “Steve” or “Sally.” For the scholastics, however, “God” was not a name, but a description, meaning something along the lines of “supreme being,” or, to use St. Anselm’s more precise terminology, “that than which no greater can be conceived.”Whether the claim “Muslims and Christians worship the same God” is true will depend on whether “God” is understood as being a name (e.g. the being who appeared to Moses in the burning bush, etc., or the being who revealed himself to Muhammad in the dessert, etc.) or as a description (e.g. “the supreme being”).

If God is taken to be a name, then the claim will be true de dicto when made by Muslims (who believe that the same being revealed himself to Moses and to Muhammad), false de dicto when made by most non-Muslims (who don’t believe the same being revealed himself to Moses and Muhammad), and false de re (on the supposition that Islam is not the true religion). On the other hand, if “God” is taken to be a description, then the claim would be true de re (since Muslims and Christians both believe in a supreme being, and there is in fact only one such being), and while whether the claim was true de dicto would vary from person to person, the claim would seem to only be false de dicto for someone who was confused or mistaken about the issue.

Personally I am inclined to think that St. Anselm is right, and that the word “God” is not a name like Jesus or Shiva. To use an admittedly very weird example, if it turned out that Jesus was actually a time traveler who used his advanced technology to perform the miracles depicted in the Gospels, we would not say that there was no Jesus but that Jesus was actually a time traveler. But if it turned out that all of the actions and words attributed to God in the Scriptures were actually the words and actions of this time traveler, we would not say that God was actually a time traveler. We would say that there was no God (or, at least, that it wasn’t really God who did all of these things).

As such, I have no problem with saying that Muslims worship the same God as Christians, or that Hindus worship this same God, or that any group that worships a supreme being worship the same God as do Christians. But I recognize that someone might take a different view on this, and so I cannot say that the “same God” question is as open and shut as I had previously supposed. Thoughts? This entry was posted on February 20, 2008 at 11:33 pm and is filed under Blackadder, Islam, Philosophy, Theology. Home About the Contributors About Vox Nova No God But God 11:23 AM

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Marx, who condemned exploitation, was himself, the great exploiter of people

Deadly Architects: An Interview with Donald De Marco and Benjamin Wiker, authors of Architects of the Culture of Death Part 2 Part 1 [5:44 PM] Schopenhauer sought to escape Nature, Nietzsche believed that the Christian God is evil, and Ayn Rand believed that only a select few will be able to be individuals. Would it be accurate to say that all of these are variations on ancient gnostic themes? Do modern atheistic systems reflect a sort of secular gnosticism?

Donald De Marco: I think they do. In the absence of any belief in God, a passionate person will create a caricature of God. We must give credit to Schopenhauer, Nietzsche, and Rand for being both passionate and creative. Unfortunately, what they worshipped, very much like the gnostics of old, did not transcend themselves. And this explains a great deal about why these three were so bitterly unhappy. They were pursuing an illusion, but with great passion and force. I cannot begin to understand the intensity of their frustrations, because an illusion offers us not nourishment and leaves our passionate quest unsatisfied. They were continually disappointed by their own convictions. It was as if they tried to quench their thirst by consuming more salt. This is not a formula for peace. Darwin and Darwinian evolution have been, of course, very controversial for many decades. What do you think are the biggest misconceptions and incorrect notions about Darwin and his beliefs that exist today? How seriously is Darwinian evolution taken today in the scientific community?

Benjamin Wiker: I think there are two very serious misconceptions about Darwinism today. First, that Darwinism is a well-established theory, with no considerable intellectual difficulties. The second, one more directly related to Architects, concerns the essential moral implications of Darwinism. Generally, historians and scientists alike have tried to distance Darwin’s biology from the eugenics movement—an understandable move, given the ugliness of the eugenic programs of Nazi Germany. If we read Darwin, however, we find that he himself understood eugenics to be the obvious inference from his biological theory of evolution through natural selection. Natural weeds out the unfit; so should we, or at least keep the unfit from breeding. Further, he also understood quite clearly that his evolutionary account of morality, which destroyed the permanency of human nature, provided the most radical moral relativism possible. As for the scientific community, it generally accepts Darwinism without question, which means that it generally hasn’t studied the theoretical and evidential problems facing Darwinism. Happily, more and more scientists have found the courage to look at Darwinism with a clearer, more critical eye. How did Marx exploit the religious impulses of his followers and how did he distort Christian doctrine for his own anti-Christian ends?

De Marco: Marxism is a kind of religion and as such, appeals to our religious instincts. Marx speaks of paradise (but on earth), total justice for all (but in the distant future), and doing away with sin (though the sinners are the capitalists). In this regard, Marx is drawing on people's religious instincts. But he does not offer a way of love, and therefore, omits that which is most important to religion. Rather, he appeals to our weaknesses: our pride, envy, anger, and hope. Marx, who condemned exploitation, was himself, the great exploiter of people. He appealed to our pride in telling us that we are not sinners, to our envy for the riches that others possessed, to our anger against the ruling class, and to our hope for a Utopia on earth. Marx is a False Messiah who offers a religion that draws upon our religious impulse, but is poisoned by the addition of deadly sins. How is it that people such Margaret Mead, Margaret Sanger, and Alfred Kinsey, all of whom were sexual deviants and inveterate liars, continue to enjoy a high level of respect, at least in popular culture? Is this simply due to lack of knowledge, an unwillingness to assess the data truthfully, or a purposeful distortion for ideological ends?

Wiker: All of the above! We do find that, for example, Planned Parenthood "fails" to present the facts about Margaret Sanger’s private life, and her truly strange and pernicious views about sexuality and eugenics. The same goes for Kinsey. His work is always presented by the sex education establishment as the very epitome of disinterested scientific research. But on the other end, sad to say, I think a large number of people have come to accept the same goals that Mead, Sanger, and Kinsey sought to establish, so that their "ideology" appears inviting rather than distorted. You note that John Paul II describes Marx, Nietzsche, and Freud as the "Masters of Suspicion." What does he mean by that and why did he pinpoint those particular men?

De Marco: John Paul borrows the phrase "Masters of Suspicion" from Paul Ricoeur, a prominent philosopher at the University of Paris. We begin to understand the meaning of this simple yet telling phrase when we realize that Marx, NIetzsche, and Freud depict man in such a way that that by following their lead, our lives would become self-contradictory. Freud wanted to free the sexual instinct from the constraints of the super-ego; Marx urged a revolution against the ruling class so that people could satisfy their desired for material poassessions; Nietzsche advocated the emergence of the "superman," too proud to be held back by moral conventions. Freud appealed to "lust," Marx to "envy," Nietzsche to "pride." By following the path of vice, we put our heart at odds with itself. Therefore, we should be most suspicious of advice that so utterly untrustworhy in the practical order, since it leads the heart of man to implode upon itself. There is a striking correlation between these Masters of Suspicion and the First Letter of St. John (15-16) which warns against the "lust of the flesh" (Freud), "lust of the eyes" (Marx), and the "pride of life" (Nietzsche). Many of the architects of the Culture of Death were raised in homes where Unitarianism, Episcopalianism, or some form of Congregationalism was practiced. What influence, if any, did this religious background have on people such as Darwin, Kinsey, Mead, and others?

Wiker: For Darwin, his family’s Unitarianism certainly helped to lead him to take more seriously the claims of materialism in general and evolution in particular. (We note here, that contrary to the popular account, theories of evolution arose long before Darwin—in fact, we find them in ancient Greek and Roman Epicurean thought. In the first half of the 19th century, decades before Darwin released his version of evolution, evolutionary theory was associated with the radical left.) Interestingly enough, Darwin’s wife was a more conservative Unitarian, and feared for her husband’s soul all their married life.

Donald De Marco, Ph.D., is a Professor of Philosophy at St. Jerome's College in Ontario. He is also the author of several books, including The Heart of Virtue. Benjamin Wiker, Ph.D., is a Lecturer in Science and Theology at Franciscan University and a Senior Fellow with Discovery Institute, focusing on Intelligent Design. He has contrbuted to various Catholic publications and writes regularly for Crisis magazine, and is the author of Moral Darwinism (InterVarsity). Visit him online at

Architects of the Culture of Deathby Donald De Marco and Benjamin Wiker The “Culture of Death” has become a popular phrase, and is much bandied about in academic circles. Yet, for most people, its meaning remains vague and remote. DeMarco and Wiker have given the Culture of Death high definition and frightening immediacy. They have exposed its roots by introducing its “architects.” In a scholarly, yet reader-friendly delineation of the mindsets of twenty-three influential thinkers, such as Ayn Rand, Charles Darwin, Karl Marx, Jean-Paul Sartre, Alfred Kinsey, Margaret Sanger, Jack Kevorkian, and Peter Singer, they make clear the aberrant thought and malevolent intentions that have shaped the Culture of Death.Still, this is not a book without hope. If the Culture of Death rests on a fragmented view of the person and an eclipse of God, hope for the “Culture of Life” rests on an understanding and restoration of the human being as a person, and the rediscovery of a benevolent God. The “Personalism” of John Paul II is an illuminating thread that runs through Architects, serving as a hopeful antidote. “An action-packed, riveting and educational exposé that reveals little-known facts that are shocking and incredible. You will not want to put this book down...” — Judie Brown, President, American Life League

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Marion boldly climbed beyond the irrational nonsense of Phenomenology and Existentialism

A second return to metaphysics
Fred Hutchison February 15, 2008 (Letter to the editor of First Things magazine) The book review God Returns to French Philosophy describes the French philosopher Jean-Luc Marion trying to do the hard way what the scholastics and neoscholastics did the easy way.

The scholastics established metaphysics in the West as a basis for rationality and morality. Descartes, Kant, Husserl and Heidegger progressively deconstructed metaphysics. During the Victorian era, there was a return to metaphysics through neoscholastic philosophy. Marion tried to start with our present nihilism and painfully climb back up the mountain from which the West had fallen — as a second return to metaphysics.

The scholastics from Saint Anselm (11th century) to Saint Thomas Aquinas (13th century), started with the Trinity as a given. God is one being with three particular persons — which indicates that universals need not contradict particulars. This realization enabled the Trinitarian scholastic philosophers to solve the problem of universals and particulars — a problem which stumped the Greek philosophers and the philosophers of every other civilization.

Peter Abelard debated with Anselm's disciples and rejected the independent reality of universals while his debating opponents upheld universals. Anselm's disciples embraced the Trinity while Abelard rejected the Trinity of the three persons. Although Abelard was the most brilliant debater of his day, his lack of a Trinitarian foundation caused him to founder on the same issue which stumped the Greeks.

The solution of Aquinas was that: 1) universals independently exist, 2) universals subsist in particulars — giving particulars their essence and meaning, and 3) each particular has eccentric "accidents" so that particulars are something more than the emanation or precipitation of universals, as the Neoplatonists thought.

This solution explains why Western men were able to believe that the body and blood of Christ mysteriously indwells the eccentric particulars of sacramental bread and wine. It also explains why Western men prior to 1750 were uniquely rational, uniquely moral in intention, and uniquely able to express transcendent aspirations in the particulars of art, music, literature and craftsmanship.

The fall from Mount Metaphysics

As touched upon by the book review, Descartes started with the consciousness of his mind instead of starting with the Trinity. He focused upon rational abstractions which were cut off from the particulars of the world around us. Descartes, as a premier mathematician, gloried in dry, abstract conceptions.

Kant came along and effectively said: "Things are really out there but we cannot get at them because reality is hidden within the particular things. Our senses can only inform us of superficial appearances but can tell us nothing of the underlying realities. Therefore, we are limited to what our inner mental abstractions can do with the superficial messages of our senses. We are cut off from reality. Therefore metaphysical speculations are futile."

Husserl said, "If we are cut off from reality, never mind Kant's abstractions. Let us sit all day staring at superficial particular material things which are available to our senses." Then Heidegger said, "Away with Kant's abstractions and Husserl's mindless gazing at material objects. Let us deal with the exterior world with the "intentionality" of our wills. Heidegger brought us Existentialism which is indifferent to universals and rationality and is nihilistic in its implications.

Climbing the icy slopes

Beginning in the valley of nihilism, Dr. Marion boldly climbed beyond the irrational nonsense of Phenomenology and Existentialism. Then he had trouble with the icy slopes of Kant — as we all do. The core his the problem was the question: "Do I have access to the reality of things? Can I look past the surface appearance of particular things and see the essence — what Kant called the numina? Can I do what Kant tells me that I can't do? Can I do what was never contemplated by Descartes' introverted abstract rationalism?

Dr. Marion got more than he expected. He was overwhelmed by the external presence of things — the "saturated phenomena" of his personal experience. These phenomena were overwhelmingly radiant with glory. The experiences were a "shock" and were "destabilizing" and "bedazzling" to the unsuspecting philosopher. Dr. Marian, you wouldn't be talking about a spiritual revelation, or would you?

The phenomena was saturated with what, Dr. Marion? Saturated with Kant's numina? Saturated with Aquinas' essences? Saturated with universals? Saturated with the glory of God? You would not be sneaking back to metaphysics — or would you Dr. Marion? I thought metaphysics and revelation was taboo for a respectable French philosopher.

Sneaking back to metaphysics

As we watch Dr. Marion approach the summit of Mount Metaphysics the air gets thick with entertaining irony. One must smile as one observes Dr. Marion wrestling with deeply ambiguous feelings as he makes his first halting and timorous steps towards St. Thomas Aquinas who sits on the summit. Dr. Marion flinched, fled in horror and published a critique of Aquinas — which he later retracted.

Finally we see the humbled Frenchman, battered and bruised by his long climb out of the valley of nihilism and bedazzled and disoriented by the light of revelation of high altitudes — as he turns once more to the summit. We see him slip sheepishly into the lap of Saint Thomas where he embraces the metaphysics of scholasticism. Our eyes mist over with relief and joy.

Marion had to do it the hard way because he is a tidy-minded Frenchman who was carefully educated by the French academy to scoff at revelation and metaphysics. But against all odds he made it to the summit.

Previous articles by Fred Hutchison: Is conservatism in crisis?
Modernism's war against the past: Freud, James, Dewey, and the conservative reaction in the early twentieth century
A gathering of angels
Abstinence only plus condoms is a contradiction
Looking for a man of principle
The one world cult, Darwin, and Einstein
The babe in the womb is a personClick here for more articles

The supreme difficulty is to de-suture philosophy from its poetic condition

The Swerve around P: Literary Theory after Interpretation Jeffrey T. Nealon Pennsylvania State University

While Badiou's work is becoming well-known in North America--the Chronicle of Higher Education recently tagged him as a potential "next big thing" in the theory world, surely the kiss of death (see Byrne)--a brief discussion of some of his thought is relevant in this context. Against the thematics of the twilight of philosophy, and against all messianisms, Badiou calls for thinking's revitalization, primarily through an emphasis on what he calls a "positive," non-sacramental relation to infinity--a relation that, for Badiou, is on display most forcefully in the axiomatic thrust of mathematics. In returning to what he sees as the Greek origins of philosophy--he goes so far as to call his thinking a "Platonism of the multiple" (Manifesto 103)--Badiou locates four "conditions of philosophy": "the matheme, the poem, political invention, and love" (35). Western philosophy is said to have begun in Greece with these four topics (science, literature, politics, desire), and for Badiou "the lack of a single one gives rise to [philosophy's] dissipation" (35), which isn't to say its end. Philosophical thinking is in danger whenever it becomes tied too closely and exclusively to one of its four-fold conditions.

The danger, for Badiou, is "handing over the whole of thought to one generic procedure . . . . I call this type of situation a suture. Philosophy is placed in suspension every time it presents itself as being sutured to one of its conditions" (61). So, for example, Marxism has often been too sutured to the political condition--here Badiou even implicates his own earlier Maoism (76)--while analytic philosophy has on the whole sutured itself too closely to the scientism of the matheme. "Philosophy," in its simplest definition, is for Badiou "de-suturation" (67), the interruption of an exclusive thought-suture to either politics, science, love, or the literary. Hence, Badiou calls his a "subtractive" thinking, one that subtracts itself from constrictive sutures, to reconnect with the multiple.

The most totalizing suture of recent philosophical times, Badiou writes polemically, is not the political or the scientific-mathematical, or even privatized "love," but the poetic, the literary suture. As he insists, today "it so happens that the main stake, the supreme difficulty, is to de-suture philosophy from its poetic condition" (67). Badiou rather cannily chooses Heidegger as his main foil in this argument. Even Heidegger's staunchest proponents would agree that the literary is in fact the ground of his thinking; he has relatively little compelling to say about politics, mathematics, or love for that matter--or, more precisely, anything compelling that he might have to say about those topics would have to run through the poetic, as this suture is the ontological ground of the space of possibility in Heidegger's thinking. Anything that emerges does so in Heidegger through the structure of the literary opening, that privileged path to the meaning of Being.

Of course, my two exemplary accounts of the literary's demise (Tompkins's and Badiou's) do not map seamlessly onto one another, for a whole host of disciplinary, historical, and geographical reasons. Most obviously, one might point out that the lion's share of American literary theory (or most continental philosophy, for that matter) isn't or never was so Heideggerian as Badiou's account would seem to suggest. However, much of the "big theory" era in literature departments did, I think, share the bond that both Badiou and Tompkins point out: the questions of "meaning" or interpretation as the ultimate horizon of inquiry. This hermeneutic thrust was prominently on display in virtually all big theory in literature departments, even in the polemically new historicist work of people like the boundary 2 New Americanists, as well as in much of the early new historicist work in English literature (think here of a great book like Jonathan Dollimore's Radical Tragedy, which deploys its historical materialist mix of religion, ideology, and power primarily to produce startling new readings of Renaissance tragedies).

Likewise, however anti-Heideggerian much Tel Quel thinking may have been, it did nonetheless protect the horizon of hermeneutics (the literary suture) as the royal road to larger philosophical and cultural questions. Like Tompkins's call for literary criticism to reconnect to a non-hermeneutic tradition, then, Badiou's critique of the poetic suture in philosophy is less a spring-green avant gardism (calling for a radical new direction in thought), than it is an attempt to return critique to a series of other questions, ones not treated well within the poetic idiom. As Badiou writes, "Descartes, Leibnitz, Kant or Hegel might have been mathematicians, historians, or physicists; if there is one thing they were not, it was poets" (70)... Removing the stitches from philosophy.The most totalizingfrom enowning by enowning Removing the stitches from philosophy.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Never was such a reckoning of matter made

The Physical Transformation—a Marvellous Attempt
by RY Deshpande on Fri 15 Feb 2008 06:47 AM PST Permanent Link

Never was in the spiritual history such a reckoning of matter made, such a significant place given to the likelihood of a superconscient manifestation based on the physical. It appears that the “secret aim of evolution” had remained altogether unrecognized in the scheme of past things.

But the process is not a single-stranded process, of conventional or linear growth, running from lower stadia to higher stadia, from one unseen end to the other far-off invisible end. There is in fact a problem, a problem that has arisen in a most unexpected way, a peculiar problem that had no roots in life proper. It has arisen because of the higher entering into the formidable lower, life making matter its field of expression. Life accepts this material circumstance but pays price for it...

On the soul of man is laid the gloom of discomforting humiliation and sadness and despair, of incapacity and transience, of helpless mortality. Such is the legacy handed over to the physical body, perishable, full of darkness, that darkness getting renewed only by gloomier and denser darkness, the body bound to the chain of Fate and Time. Does not this leaden norm then mean that there has to be a more responsive spiritual solution, that there has to be a greater action?

When the yogi probes deep into these aspects, he discovers that the solution lies only in seeing the basic rationale buried in the cavernous Inconscience. Meaningful and blissful glorious life in matter could become possible only if the cause of decay, disintegration and death can be eliminated. Sri Aurobindo in his epic Savitri describes how the divine Shakti took birth here in the mortal world, condescended to pass through its portals to vanquish the destroyer of the soul of the suffering creature. She accomplished the task, paved the path to make earthly life charged with the splendour of consciousness that is always in the awareness of the Truth. Her own divine birth was in response to the “world’s desire” which was lifted to the bright pinnacle of this creation and from where, like the answering grace, she consented to come into this mortality.

Sri Aurobindo’s own determined yoga-tapasya was to invoke that perfect, that surefire power by which the physical nature could be handled victoriously. This was one mission of the Avatarhood which he by first establishing the supramental light and force in his own person splendidly and successfully carried through. At the time of his passing away he gave to the Mother, as a parting gift, what he called the Mind of Light, the physical’s mind receiving the Supramental, something that had never happened in the long and zigzagging spiritual history of the world. From this point onward, with the Mind of Light operating in the evolutionary process, a new beginning was made. It marked the beginning of the Shakti Yoga and it is that which the Mother carried forward...

The difficulties of the physical are not only disquieting and daunting; they are insurmountable when the clue is absent. In ancient times Rishi Agastya suffered the horror of Inconscience and abandoned the attempt to spiritualise the body-consciousness proper. The right clue was not available. A slow preparatory evolution taking care of every aspect and every detail was needed. But now, on the rapid wings, the spirit can majestically go ahead to give a divine dimension, a divine amplitude to the attempt.

That is not to say that the process is facile, that the flight is effortless and unconstrained, without obstacles. Actually, the fight against the ancient Adversary is grim and strenuous of which we have the least idea. Sri Aurobindo mentions of the silent desperate brink on which the Mother would have to stand without help, stand alone while dealing with Death and Night, with the Spirit of Negation opposing God’s entry into this world... Keywords: Transformation, SriAurobindo, Spirituality, Mother, Mantra, IntegralYoga Science, Culture and Integral Yoga

Friday, February 15, 2008

Speech perception system and vocal production in humans have been specially adapted for language

Shared Symbolic Storage Embodied Evolutionary-Developmental Computational Cognitive Neuroscience and other Stuff Thursday, February 14, 2008 Four Stone Hearth
By the way, the
34th Editition of the Four Stone Hearth Anthropology Carnnival is out over at Our Cultural World. Go check it out!P.S. Carnivàle also happens to be a really cool TV-Series. You should check it out, too. Posted by Michael at 15:18 0 comments Labels:

Language Evolution IV: HCF + PJ + FHC + JP =/= ♥
As could be expected, the framework established by HCF led to much criticism from proponents of what HCF called hypothesis 2. Thus, in 2005, Pinker and Jackendoff (PJ) responded to HCF by asking: “The faculty of language: what’s special about it?”

The controversy led to further discussion in the same year when Fitch, Hauser and Chomsky (FHC) defended their viewpoint in “The evolution of the language faculty: Clarifications and implications” and Jackendoff and Pinker renewed their disagreement debating “The nature of the language faculty and its implications for the evolution of language“.

PJ’s first critique mainly focuses on the “recursion-only claim” of HCF, because they feel that there is more that is special to language. Furthermore, they question that recursion evolved as an exaptation (Pinker/Jackendoff 2005: 205). They especially defend the “Speech is Special” (SiS) hypothesis posed by Alvin Liberman and others, which was rejected by HFC (Pinker/Jackendoff 2005: 206), because it seems that the speech perception system and vocal production in humans have been specially adapted for language (Pinker/Jackendoff 2005: 206-209), and not for vocal imitation or size exaggeration as HCF suggested (Pinker/Jackendoff 2005: 209f.)...

Thus, Pinker and Jackendoff’s framing of questions about language evolution would be of little scientific value (Fitch/Hauser/Chomsky 2005: 185f.) JP contradict this statement. In their view, current adaptation, "what the trait was selected for in the species being considered”, poses one of the biologically most interesting questions about a trait and can be addressed empirically by reverse-engineering or functional analysis, which is able to “shed light on its likely evolutionary history.” (Jackendoff/Pinker 2005: 212-214).

The debate regarding recursion heated up once again when Gentner et al. (2006) claimed to have found recursion-abilities in starlings, and Perruchet & Rey criticized Fitch and Hauser’s original experiment that established the inability of monekys to master “phrase structure grammars” (Fitch & Hauser 2004). Regarding the ability of recursion in starlings, these two posts are especially interesting. First this one by Mark Liberman, and the other, where David Beaver regards the recursion-abilities of starlings which in the respect of center-embedded grammars actually seem to be better than ours, and comes to the ironical conclusion that “we have firm and amazing evidence for a biologically unique language module. The trouble is, starlings have it, and we don't.” Other excellent post from the Language Log about HCF's claims can be found here, here, here, here, and here.

References: Hauser, Marc D., Noam Chomsky and W. Tecumseh Fitch 2002. “The Faculty of Language: What Is It, Who Has It, and How Did It Evolve?” In: Science 298, 1569-1579. Fitch, W. Tecumseh and Marc. D Hauser. 2004. “Computational Constraints on Syntactic Processing in a Nonhuman Primate” In: Science 303: 377-380 Fitch, W. Tecumseh, Marc D. Hauser and Noam Chomsky 2005. “The Evolution of the Language Faculty: Clarifications and Implications.” In: Cognition 97, 179-210. Jackendoff, Ray & Steven Pinker 2005. “The Nature of the Language Faculty and its Implications for Evolution of Language (Reply to Fitch, Hauser, and Chomsky).” In: Cognition 97, 211-225. Pinker, Steven & Ray Jackendoff 2005. “The Faculty of Language: What’s Special about it?” In: Cognition 95, 201-236. Posted by Michael at 11:44 0 comments Labels: ,

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Sri Aurobindo and the New Millennium

The compulsion of accepting the within-dimension becomes more and more imperative as we rise to a higher and higher degree of organisational complexity.
But then can at all the within be made a subject of scientific investigation? No, this cannot be so, for the simple reason that it would make that within itself an object of the without; the within cannot be its own object. While this might be so, there is still a question: can it at least come in the purview of what de Chardin calls as “true physics”? Can it belong to its domain? Even this may be a doubtful proposition if we are to retain the otherwise most fruitful methodology of physics. The tools of observation and perception in the two worlds are, in their strictest sense, entirely different from each other.
Whatever be the shortcomings of physics, it must be admitted that it has given a certain kind of solidity to our understanding of the physical world, made that understanding secure on an unprecedented scale in the history of knowledge. It has even made an entry into the occult depths of matter as is clear when we see it beginning to tap that matter itself for the undiminished supply of energy. No physicist would like to abdicate its gains, nor should it be allowed to fritter away the gift that has come to us. The hard-core physics may be too rigid, too dogmatic so to say, but it is also a gainful way of doing things in the material world.

While delineating the evolutionary phenomenon of man Teilhard de Chardin has a compulsion to make the stuff of the universe as its starting point. Pre-life emerging from the atom is the foundation for the future appearance of thought or consciousness as it is generally understood. Awareness cannot arrive unless there is an organised material structure. In fact, “To think, we must eat.” But then this may give the impression that the awareness which we have acquired is after all a property of, to extend Teilhard’s coinage, complexificated matter which is in the process of “convergent integration”. Strictly speaking, however, this is not so.
For example, thought is not a property of the brain which is a material apparatus, though it cannot manifest here without such an apparatus, without a cerebral gadget or outfit. To our proximate or superficial view there may seem to be some content present in the statement that a certain functioning of the biologically organised matter is itself thought and thinking the other way round may even be dubbed non-scientific, that it simply is no thought. The hiatus between the true physics which hopefully will one day include man in its description and the professional physics as is practised today is therefore pretty bewildering and there is no immediate scope or chance of its being filled. In that respect Teilhard de Chardin appears to be standing quite far from science. In the very reckoning of science itself the Teilhardean cerebration is therefore far from scientific.

In the strides of the current professional physics there is no doubt that we have moved quite a distance from the uncompromising stiffness of the classical physics. The Laplacian determinism, and with it all the materialist’s arrogance, has certainly weakened today. But then there is nowhere the desperate sense of abandonment of such a fruitful methodology that has been the shining logo of its gainful achievements. As a matter of fact, there is a much strengthened belief in it, a conviction that that will govern our destiny itself, open for us post-human prospects.
Thus there is nothing uncertain, for instance, about the Uncertainty Principle which is one of the strong pillars of its structural edifice. That also means that the probabilistic interpretation of quantum mechanics does not provide any scope in it for the play of freewill. It will be far-fetched to say that it does allow the electron to behave either like a wave or like a particle depending upon its choice and that that choice is an attentive choice. The ‘observed’ duality exists not so much because of that character of its, but essentially because of the limitations of mathematical formulations; its roots are in them.
We should rather maintain that duality is really not material but conceptual. What is therefore necessary to do at this stage is to attend to the issue concerned and remove the limitations, remove the conceptual formulations into which are trapped, remove the difficulty arising from them, arising from our differential notion of things, from artifacts of the differentials. Instead, what we have started seeing because of them are the strange mystagogical aspects in the material universe. The results are weird and we hail them as the entry of physics in the mystical realms. Anthropic extrapolations leading to the eerie notions of multiple universes is in a way a kind of haste towards some strange and mystifying happiness... Keywords: SriAurobindo, Spirituality, QuantumTheory, QuantumConsciousness, Quantum, Physics, Mysticism, Evolution Science, Culture and Integral Yoga

True thought is global, universal, transformative, shredding ideologies and opinions like the statues of old dictators

In a global environment marked by timidity and laxness in thought, publishes outstanding work in contemporary philosophy. A dedicated philosophy press—one of the very few active in the Anglophone world today— is committed to publishing rigorous philosophy that doesn’t give way on its desire. At once exclusive and egalitarian, seeks to support and disseminate such thought worldwide. cover-art aims to publish the best philosophical works available, whether these emerge from well-established or from previously unknown thinkers, whether they are from the North or the South, the East or the West, whether they are Platonists or Hegelians, materialists or idealists.
True thought is global, universal, transformative, shredding ideologies and opinions like the statues of old dictators. But true thought also begins locally, in images and signs that may as yet have no recognisable reference or import.' head offices are located in the city of Melbourne, Australia. And Melbourne is, as the art-critic Norbert Loeffler has remarked, one of the great art-cities of the world - without anybody knowing it. Lacking the established power, media and reputation of traditional centres of world art, Melbourne forces its artists to sustain themselves otherwise. Aware of contemporary work from all over the world, local artists transmute it for their own, often-obscure purposes, into unprecedented forms. seeks, like an insatiable kleptoparasite, to draw off some of this aesthetic power for its own ends, by using their images for its cover-art. is currently publishing under three series: Anamnesis, Transmission and Anomaly. The directors of are Paul Ashton, Adam Bartlett and Justin Clemens. © 2008 home about us

Relation of philosophy to the four truth procedures (art, love, science, politics)

Alain Badiou - The Concept of Model
Edited and translated by Zachary Fraser and Tzuchien Tho
The Concept of Model is the first of Alain Badiou’s early books to be translated fully into English. With this publication English readers finally have access to a crucial work by one of the world’s greatest living philosophers. Written on the eve of the events of May 1968, The Concept of Model provides a solid mathematical basis for a rationalist materialism. Badiou’s concept of model distinguishes itself from both logical positivism and empiricism by introducing a new form of break into the hitherto implicated realms of science and ideology, and establishing a new way to understand their disjunctive relation. Readers coming to Badiou for the first time will be struck by the clarity and force of his presentation, and the key place that The Concept of Model enjoys in the overall development of Badiou’s thought will enable readers already familiar with his work to discern the lineaments of his later radical developments. This translation is accompanied by a stunning new interview with Badiou in which he elaborates on the connections between his early and most recent thought. find out more home
forthcoming home
Hegel's Jena Philosophy of Nature - 'The Organics'
by G.W.F Hegel (translated by Erich D. Freiberger)
This never before translated part of Hegel’s work represents a significant contribution to both Hegelian scholarship and modern philosophy as a whole. The translation consists of ‘the Organics’ from 1803/4 and 1805/6 of Hegel’s early Jena Philosophy of Nature. With Erich Freiberger’s new excellent translation of Hegel’s Jena Organics we have moved closer to filling the serious gap that exists in the translation of Hegel’s early works.This work not only allows us to better understand Hegel’s development in general but also gives us deeper insight into how the important concept of organic life functions throughout Hegel’s system. The appearance of this work will also allow philosopher’s to better understand and more clearly distinguish Hegel’s mature Philosophy of Nature from his earlier system. Read more...
The Radical Critique of Liberalism: In Memory of a Vision (part 1)
by Toula Nicolacopoulos
Despite political theorists' repeated attempts to demonstrate their incoherence liberal values appear to have withstood the test of time. Indeed, engagement with them has become the meeting point of the different political philosophical traditions. But should radical critique justifiably become a thing of the past? Should political philosophy now be conducted in the light of the triumph of liberalism? These are the wider questions that the book takes up in an attempt to demonstrate the intellectual power of systemic critique in the tradition of Hegel. The author argues that the most ambitious of the communitarian critiques of liberal thought failed due to a fundamental weakness of their philosophical methodology. Moreover, the re-workings of these critiques by feminists, discourse ethicists, postmodern and postcolonial theorists have been equally unsuccessful because they have not traced the individualist commitment of liberal theory back to its source in liberal inquiring practices. Working through the theories of prominent liberal theorists, including John Rawls, Jeremy Waldron, Charles Larmore and Will Kymlicka, the book demonstrates that an adequate appreciation of the deep structural flaws of liberal theory presupposes the application of a critical philosophical methodology that has the power to reveal the systemic interconnections within and between the varieties of liberal inquiring practices. Read more...
The Mathematics of Novelty: Badiou’s Minimalist Metaphysics
by Sam Gillespie
The Mathematics of Novelty: Badiou’s Minimalist Metaphysics tackles the issue of philosophical materialism in Gilles Deleuze and Alain Badiou, enquiring after the source and nature of the ‘novelty’ that both philosophers of multiplicity claim to discover in the objective world. In this characteristically erudite analysis, Sam Gillespie maintains that where novelty in Deleuze is ultimately located in a Leibnizian affirmation of the world, for Badiou, the new, which is the coming-to-be of a truth, must be located exterior to the ‘situation’, i.e. in the void.
Following a lucid presentation of the central concepts of Badiou’s philosophy as they relate to the problem of novelty (mathematics as ontology, truth, the subject and the event), Gillespie identifies a significant problem in Badiou’s conception of the subject which he suggests can be answered by way of a supplementary framework derived from Lacan’s concept of anxiety. Gillespie’s intent to illuminate the relation of philosophy to the four truth procedures (art, love, science, politics) leads him to the polemical conclusion that, as a transformative rather than descriptive or reflective project, Badiou’s philosophy ultimately reclaims the power of the negative from the positivity and pure productiveness of Deleuze’s system, thereby freeing thought from the limits set by experience. © 2008

Sunday, February 10, 2008

The origin of Art as a social and conceptual category

The Social Construction of Aesthetics 1, 2 and 3:
To download click here To download click here
This Component comprises introductory photo essay in two parts, with commentaries into the social distinctions between High Art and Common Culture, suggesting how the distinctions are socially constructed to establish and police regimes of taste that are class, race and gender based. The journey takes us from icons of the art world, into the world of common culture, developing on the way linkages that blur the original distinctions, before returning to the critically question of how these distinctions are created and who creates them. The analysis is extended and continued to connect with the politics of identity,demonstratting how at and the aesthetic are intimately and irrevocably tied to issues of Voice.
This introductiion leads naturally into the second PDF, Critical Aesthetics 2 which develops a more analytical and in-depth analysis of the philosophy and ideology of the Aesthetic, moving towards a conception of Art as a search for cultural identity and Voice.

A 30 Page PDF which follows on from Critical Aesthetics 1, analysing the field of aesthetics from a Critical Postmodern viewpoint. This PDF charts the lineage of Critical Aesthetics back to its origins in Critical Theory and (more recently) Contemporary Cultural Studies. It interrogates the origin of Art as a social and conceptual category and its role in the development of Capitalism and colonisation. It reviews the role of the Church in both the development of Art and in the parallel processes of colonialism.
It then moves on to critically interrogate the Western philosophic of the Aesthetic promoted by Kant which still animates current conceptions and theories. In the process we look at the role of Gender in Art, specifically the role of the nude. This leads to a critique of the role of rationality in Art and in the Aesthetic, together with an analysis of the role and process or Aesthetic legitimation, which allows us to engage with some postmodern theories of Art as Resistance. This leads naturally to the final part of this critique, Critical Aesthetics 3.
This is the final part of a 3 part Critical analysis of the field of Aesthetics, comprising a 28 page PDF which picks up where Critical Aesthetics 2 ended. We start by recalling the Art of Resistance, and, via an analysis of the morality of the Aesthetic we interrogate its role as an instrument of oppression and repression in its capacity to demonise and stereotype. In particular we note its historical role in the domain of sexual repression and colonisation. We take up again the notion of rationality, this time noting different forms of rationality - most significantly transformational rationality - that is, the form of rationality that does not shrink from confronting issues of injustice and cultural exclusion. We link this to the politics of identity and the role of the critical artist in the modern world.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Sri Aurobindo orients us toward care of the world

[Sri Aurobindo and Evolution: A Critical Perspective : 2008 (occult slippages and cultural considerations) by Rich on Fri 08 Feb 2008 12:04 PM PST Permanent Link
Sri Aurobindo and Evolution (occult slippages and cultural considerations) by Richard Carlson
Notes: 1) Sri Aurobindo...seems to largely accept the genetic theory (hereditary) as a solution to the question of physical evolution. In doing so he does not seem to envisage this as necessarily reductive and refers instead to a cryptic psychical potentiality in matter, which we would now probably call genetic mutation. Moreover, he is astute enough to also comment on the demise of Lamarckian theory of acquired traits which contrasts genetic inheritance...
Sri Aurobindo’s view of evolution also does not suffer from the misunderstanding of the positivist gradualism of his day in which Darwinian evolution is ordered according to a symmetrical progression of species. More remarkably he seems already aware of a view of species evolution which only first began to be articulated in the scientific literature by Ernest Mayr in his theory of peropatric speciation and only gained widely acceptance in the 1970s as conceived in the theory of punctuated equilibrium as stated forcefully in the pioneering work of Stephen J Gould, Niles Eldridge in 1971...
Additionally he also speaks of the misuse of the Hobbesean notion of survival of the fittest as the result of natural selection, but rather speaks of symbiosis or co-operation and the co-evolution of phenomena which only emerged in a mature theory in Biology in the 1980s through the writing of Lynn Margulis and Dorian Sagan on endosymbiosis...
Sri Aurobindo also proves himself to be critically adept in his analysis of the misapplication of the scientific theory of evolution when applied to cultural phenomena. At the time he was writing survival of the fittest was often invoked an explanation of poverty or servitude...
It is certainly striking the manner which in 1915 Sri Aurobindo both intuits developments of evolutionary biology and proves himself an astute cultural critic by interrogating the claims of those who would forge a theory of culture based on the metaphor of survival of the fittest and advance arguments in support of eugenics. Sri Aurobindo was very suspicious about the field of eugenics...
3) Sri Aurobindo of course does not naively conceive of progress of evolution without acknowledging the reversals of history and the practice of power for domination...The notion of “progress” in progressive evolution concerns valorising certain social processes of development. Progress is a construction of cultural values whose success in manufacturing instruments or conditions of power ensures survival and the pursuit of happiness. But such pursuits of individual happiness do not often square with Adam Smith's ideas of enlightened self-interest benefiting everyone. In pursuing our enlightened self-interest and breaking out from the imprisonment of space/time we have exponentially improved technologies of motion. For example, the development of the airplane has been in all our enlightened self-interest. That is all our self-interest except for those of the Environment which sustains us. Of all transportation technologies the airplane is by far the leading contributor of green house gases that threaten to tip the planet into catastrophic warming. Additionally, most of the aviation technology we use to empower our mobility and conquest of distances were developed as the airplane was being concieved as ominous weapon; hailing down mass death and destruction from the sky we have conquered...
8) Indeed Heidegger suggest that caring is our ontology. Our being in the world is preceded by a view or intentionality toward caring for its things. What is unique in Sri Aurobindo yoga is a simultaneous turning toward the world even while plummeting into meditative practice... Rather than charting an ascetic path through a forest of renunciation Sri Aurobindo orients us toward care of the world. To make comparisons between Sri Aurobindo and Heidegger is also something one must take care with, because there are certainly ruptures and discontinuities in their philosophical presentment, even as there are certain similarities. In their view of caring for the world however, I believe that one can make certain correspondences between them both.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

The notion of sedimentation might itself naturalise something quite pivotal

A very nice cross-blog discussion on conceptualising agency has been underway for some days now, spiralling out from Sinthome’s original post on Scene and Act (readers from here might be amused at the thesis precis I seem to have decided to write in the comments over there - I appreciate Sinthome’s patience with the rather extended off-the-cuff reflections I’ve posted on my project in the comments at his site). The related post over here led to a nice conversation in the comments - which raises, amongst other topics, the loose coupling of agents with contexts, due both to the porousness of context and the selectivity of agents. Sinthome has now picked up on some of themes in a new post over at Larval Subjects, which has in turn drawn an extended response from Wildly Parenthetical. What I wanted to try to to here was to pick up on some elements of both of these most recent responses - with the caveat that it’s been an exhausting day, and so this may end up being more of a pointer to interesting discussions elsewhere, than a substantive contribution.
Both of the new posts in the discussion express a level of uncertainty over how to think the possibility for agency - understood in this discussion, in terms of the possibility for the introduction of something new and unanticipated into a situation - with the tools provided by the theorists who provide major reference points for each interlocutor - Deleuze, for Sinthome, and Merleau-Ponty, for Wildly...
A solution, Sinthome suggests, may require thinking through what he calls the “circumference” of the “scene” - the boundaries of the context through which the agent is individuated. Sinthome draws particular attention here to the temporal boundaries of the field of individuation - to the ways in which our “context” is not a perpetually synchronic, bounded instant, but instead riddled through with strands linking us to other times, due to potentials sedimented in memory, language, and archives that offer avenues for individuation not easily located in a single “context” as conventionally understood. While our receptivity to these potentials is of course also mediated through our individuation in some particular present, the particular cross-connections that our present develops with some specific past are not solely and purely determined by the present...
Wildly, though uncomfortable with the vocabulary of “agency”, pursues a parallel set of concerns with reference to the possibility for the development of a subject, and the concept of “sedimentation” in Merleau-Ponty. Focussing on developing terms that grasp an embodied subjectivity, Wildly discusses the ways in which our experiences carve grooves or paths of least resistance into which our future experiences then also tend to be channelled by default. The question for Wildly then becomes how the perception or experience of otherness becomes possible, once “sedimentation” is posited to operate in terms of the metaphor of ever-deepening channels into which new experience falls - if “what I can see is shaped by what I have already seen”. Wildly both notes, and criticises, Butler’s suggestion that the subject can never reproduce perfectly, arguing that Butler’s approach reinforces an individualistic concept of agency that itself requires contestation. Wildly’s real concern, however, is the tacit universalism of the notion of sedimentation itself: the underlying model of uniform modes of embodiment that seems to figure as an abstract negation - as something not itself a positive or contestable form of embodiment, but simply a sort of “shell” or empty form into which positive contents fall. “Sedimentation” functions here as natural - as a fate - and what then varies is only what particular content comes to be sedimented. Is there some way, Wildly asks, to think of this form - of sedimentation itself - as something contestable? ...
Wildly suggests that the notion of sedimentation, in spite of its best intentions and its political mobilisation in the service of certain kinds of denaturalisation, might itself naturalise something quite pivotal, covering over the possibility of a more shattering and disruptive experience of otherness - something that might alter the default sedimentary “frame” that otherwise shapes and normalises new experiences in the mould of the old. Wildly holds out the possibility for a more anarchic type of encounter, one that “offers me an elsewise, another way to be… a way of being in the world unlike what has been, and unlike any other…” Something in light of which the tacit positivity of the sedimentary body can be revealed, not as a neutral form into which specific contents are deposited in time, but as itself a contentful structure - not a neutral or natural fate that must befall us, but only something experienced as natural until disrupted by the possibility for another way of being in the world.

When play is genuine, time is suspended and we are lifted into an eternal Now

Sometimes we come closest to the gods in moments of play. When play is genuine, time is suspended and we are lifted into an eternal Now, where passing away seems to pass away. The value of play, like fine art, is intrinsic. We might say of play what Heidegger says of a rose, that it is “without why.” Always purposeless, the beauty of play is that it is not utilitarian; it is valuable because it is impractical. As Nietzsche teaches in his “Gay Science,” play, which is beyond good and evil, reveals the wisdom of unworldly folly and the folly of worldly wisdom.

Precisely because we are at bottom grave and serious human beings – really, more weights than human beings – nothing does us as much good as a fool’s cap: we need it in relation to ourselves – we need all exuberant, floating, dancing, mocking, childish, and blissful art lest we loose the freedom above things that our ideal demands of us…. We should be able to stand above morality – and not only to stand with the anxious stiffness of a man who is afraid of slipping and falling at any moment, but also to float above it and play. How then could we possibly dispense with art – and with the fool?

In our sports-obsessed world, true play is rare...
Throughout his demanding writings, Kierkegaard identifies three stages through which each person must pass as he or she progresses from immaturity to maturity: aesthetic, ethical and religious. At the aesthetic stage, life is controlled by desire and people are immersed in sensuous immediacy. In a manner reminiscent of the Garden of Eden, the life of pleasure lies in the present. Without awareness of, or concern about the future, there is no worry about tomorrow – the now is all that matters. The most obvious example of this stage on life’s way is the infant, who is a creature of immediate desire and has not yet developed a broader sense of self and self-restraint. Aesthetic life, however, is not limited to infancy but can also be found among people who seem to be mature individuals. Adults remain infantile when their lives are governed by nothing more than the pleasure principle.
At the ethical stage, people realize that life is about more than the pursuit of pleasure. They become aware of their freedom and their responsibility for their own lives. No longer completely controlled by desire, they learn to follow moral principles handed down by parents, priests and professors. For the ethical person, life is a serious business and the stakes are very high. It is our responsibility to make the world a better place by following the principles and rules established by a moral god.
While never leaving behind the pleasures of the senses or rejecting the dictates of morality, religion is, according to Kierkegaard, beyond good and evil. In a manner reminiscent of aesthetic existence, religion involves an experience of eternity within time. At the decisive moment, the eternal God enters history to redeem the believing individual by releasing him from the travails of time. This instant is the eternal Now in which time is suspended, death is overcome and, thus, passing away passes away.
As Dean Smith and I discussed these tangled issues at considerable length, we gradually began to realize that for him, religion and basketball are ethical, while for me they are aesthetic. Though a fierce competitor who never wants to lose, Dean believes that the value of the game is not intrinsic but lies in the lessons it holds for life after basketball. Always practicing what he preaches, Dean has devoted his life to defending the civil rights of others and promoting social justice for all. The game is never simply about itself but is always about life’s larger lessons.
Dean was the first to integrate the Atlantic Coast Conference and, when local restaurants would not serve his players, he accompanied them and refused to leave until they did. Several years ago my daughter Kirsten broke family ranks and went to Duke Law School (there’s that will again!). When she was writing an article about the death penalty, she called Dean and he gave her an interview about his opposition to it. What greater coup than publishing an interview with Dean Smith in the Duke newspaper!
While the final score is important, for Dean Smith, the game is really won off the court.
I do not, of course, deny the pedagogical value of sports. Throughout my youth I played baseball (first base), football (offensive guard and defensive tackle – times were different then!) and basketball (center). I have no doubt that I never would have written so many books without the discipline I learned on the field and court. But what makes a game a game is not simply the way it prepares us for the future but the way it locates us in the present. We play games for those rare moments when time stands still: the perfect contact of ball and bat, perfect angle for a clean tackle, perfect touch on a last-minute jump shot. In that instant, players do not resolutely move toward the future by following the rules of the game; to the contrary, floating freely as if released from gravity, they live as fully as possible in the present. In this moment, I no longer play but something else, something other plays through me.
I know only three other experiences that come close to this moment: losing oneself in sexual bliss, immersing oneself in a work of art or standing outside of oneself in a moment of religious ecstasy. I suspect an experience like this is what Saint Paul had in mind when he wrote, “I live; yet not I, but Christ lives in me” (Galatians 2:20). As the very sense of self melts away, time and eternity actually become one. Though this instant inevitably passes, the memory of it creates the hope it might return once again.
I always recall the lessons I learned from my conversations with Dean whenever I watch Carolina play. My friend John and I get together to watch the game: my house, when the Tarheels are at home, his house, when the Blue Devils are at home. Former President of Williams College and past Chairman of the Duke Board of Trustees, at 83 John has lost none of his zest either for the game or for life, if, indeed, the two can be distinguished. When the Heels have a bad night, I know my first email in the morning will be from John rubbing it in. When Duke falters, I always return the favor.
As professors of religion, we both know that any living religion needs its rituals so we have devised our own. We don our fools’ caps and costumes - he wears his Duke hat and sweatshirt and I wear my Carolina hat and t-shirt. While eating popcorn and drinking beer, we leave behind the gravity of the moral problems facing our world and abandon ourselves to the “exuberant, floating, dancing, mocking, childless and blissful art” of basketball. What I know, but John has yet to learn, is that the color of heaven is not Duke blue, but it’s Carolina blue. This entry was posted on Wednesday, February 6th, 2008 at 6:00 am and is filed under Games people play. SSRC Home SSRC Blogs Blog Home


Rigpa: On Nowness from ~C4Chaos by ~C4Chaos (via Glimpse @ Rigpa) February 6

The cells of our body are dying, the neurons in our brain are decaying, even the expressions on our face are always changing, depending on our mood. What we call our basic character is only a “mindstream,” nothing more. Today we feel good because things are going well; tomorrow we feel the opposite. Where did that good feeling go?

What could be more unpredictable than our thoughts and emotions: Do you have any idea what you are going to think or feel next? The mind, in fact, is as empty, as impermanent, and as transient as a dream. Look at a thought: It comes, it stays, and it goes. The past is past, the future not yet risen, and even the present thought, as we experience it, becomes the past.

The only thing we really have is nowness, is now.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Brands are no more truths than they are myths, mystifications, fictions, representations, languages

The assertion that there is a ‘true essential reality’ out there which is the source of things, which can be discovered by an all-empowering gaze, a non-perspectival seeing, is the foundation of our mental model of the world. There is nothing wrong with this model except that it’s too neat, too stable and too inert. And somehow not right when one is dealing with something as alive as language. Of all the signifying systems that surround us there is none to rival the human language. Language is the resource we use for making meaning. The word as signs charging meaning, menacing meaning, etc. The interplay between the signifier and the signified never more vivid than in the brand FCUK, which is a pure construction of the very language it so obviously subverts, which by willingly playing along ensures that it loses none of its power and potency.
The Sapir-Whorf hypothesis argues that we are completely at the mercy of the language we use and that we grasp and dissect the phenomenological ‘real’ world along lines laid down in our language. The world presents itself in a Kaleidoscopic flux of impressions which are organised by the linguistic systems in our minds. The phrase ‘what language do you think in?’ immediately come to mind, unconsciously giving away the fact that our thoughts are ‘moulded’ by language and that language is not a mere ‘cloak’ for our thoughts.
To me the brand is neither pure object nor pure representation. And is thus necessarily conceived as an observer relative reality, born out of the very language used to describe it. Take Thums Up, for instance. The line it used was ‘Toofani Thanda’ in Hindi and ‘Taste the Thunder’ in English. Toofani Thanda evokes powerful masculine associations, metaphorically suggesting the fizz and the burn and bite in the dark cola, the violence that’s raging inside the bottle which could any minute uncontrollably spill over, and drinking Thums Up as an act of mastering and subsuming a rampant and violent force.
Taste the Thunder in contrast looks like a polite imploration to try, thunder suggests the kind of distant violence which threatens but actually has little effect, not unlike a scolding or a barking dog, and seems like a weak metaphor for all the agitation that’s bottled up. Lacan argues that language is the unconscious mirror that makes us stable and gives us identity. We as subjects are like actors in search of an identity destabilising the notion of a primary real self and secondary role play. We are if you like constructed in and through language. When we start looking at brands as discourses we need to replace the metaphysics of presence with a dialectics of absences (meaning is never fully present, its dependent on interpretation, deconstruction helps us dismantle the meaning in texts) and we can’t help but be reminded of Derrida’s assertion that the letter will never find its address.
Brand as discourse is a living breathing text, in a constant state of flux, exchanging matter and energy with their environment, with fluid permeable boundaries which allows for the backing and forthing of new meanings, as a sign system which is constantly refracting its own meanings. Branding as a way of altering these very ‘semiotic’ boundaries through ‘semantic’ exchanges. Thanda Matlab Coca Cola can be viewed as an attempt to alter the semiotic boundaries of the brand through semantic exchange. The task essentially being how do you naturalise a plastic liquid and get it to cross the boundaries that mark it out as foreign, artificial, outer world, not real.
  • How do we make the real thing (which is actually plastic) accepted as real (which is seen for what it really is i.e. plastic).
  • What kind of meanings do we allow into the brand discourse to transform it from plastic to organic?

Attempt at direct injection of meanings (The real thing) was outright rejected as a sign without a referent and seen for what it is, import from a foreign discourse which has no way of exchanging meanings with the local context. Thanda Matlab Coca Cola on the other hand makes semantic exchange possible, for unlike “The real thing” it doesn’t seek to impose any meanings, acknowledges upfront that Coca-Cola and Thanda don’t mean the same thing (yet), and gets to work at being accepted literally through oral seduction (its almost like if you were to repeat the line a sufficient number of times you would internalise it and accept it). Thanda is a reality that consumer will find very difficult to deny Coca-Cola for the innocent meanings it carries (cold-drink) even while its not so innocent intentions (to play itself in) are being carried out in full public view.

Brands are no more truths than they are myths, mystifications, fictions, representations, languages. Powerful brands are not ideas (which like style draw too much attention) but ideologies––they make their truth appear to be the most ‘natural’ truth, they make you accept their version of reality as given, as real. Brands are created like everything else out of the ‘matrix’ of language and it’s only when things break down that you hear Morpheus ‘welcoming you to the desert of the real’. Writer is a Chief Strategy Officer, Rediffusion DY&R