Friday, March 28, 2008

Their concerns are complimentary, and a dialog between these thinkers is urgently required

Although the particular thinkers (Heidegger, Derrida, Foucault) referenced in the preceding article I posted on Death and Reckoning may on the surface seem to be pursuing a different manner of inquiry than Sri Aurobindo, in that they are separated by cultures and styles of discourse, but in spite of this I believe that their concerns are complimentary, and a dialog between these thinkers is urgently required as a response to our contemporary aporia. After two thousand years of western philosophy in Foucault and Derrida one witnesses thought and language as it approaches its margins. Humanity has reached the limits of its representations, against the vast field of the “unthought” (unconsciousness), and the codependent arising of phenomena or “differance.” In our era the dictum “I think therefore I am” no longer applies. Humanism and the particular rational structure from which it emerged have only one destiny, and that is to vanish at the precipice of thought as it attempts to comprehend its “other”. To elucidate this in the Order of Things Foucault writes:
"As knowledge reaches towards its origins, its "accidentally" disrupts its foundations and shows that our limits of knowledge are caught up in their own dissolution. "[B]y rediscovering finitude in its interrogation of the origin, modern thought closes the great quadrilateral it began to outline when the Western episteme broke up at the end of the eighteenth century: the connection of the positivities with finitude, the reduplication of the empirical and the transcendental, the perpetual relation of the cogito with the unthought, the retreat and return of the origin, define for us man's mode of being." (335) By uncovering knowledge's own finitudes, one discovers that historical inquiry has constituted a subject called "humanity" on the limits of its own limits, that is, the finitudes themselves make humanity possible. The modern cogito addresses itself not in what it thinks, but what it does not think, what thought is unthought, and articulates itself in the elsewhere of thinking. Humanity finds the limits of its knowledge and the constitution of its being not in what is thought, but what is unthought."
And it is at the other side of the unthought where we would do well to introduce the work of Sri Aurobindo. Although we must make some distinctions in how we parse Sri Aurobindo's writing with respect to Western Scholarship and even recognize some of the limitations we may encounter when confronting its metaphysical assertions. Except for Heidegger , Derrida and Foucault sought to studiously avoid making metaphysical truth claims, -and this is why so much of their writing seems enigmatic and often reads like a riddle- because such truth claims reached their limits in the late 20th century. The reason for this is not only in their culpability as the organizing ideas for totalitarian regimes both Religious and Secular, but much more for the fact that the linguistic turn in philosophy demonstrated that all metaphysical assertions could ultimately be reduced to language.
To this extent one has to also recognize the limits of discourse in Sri Aurobindo as he to was influenced by the European modernist tradition. In fact since his main concerns are with evolution and the coming superman he can not avoid being in dialog with certain prominent Western scientist and philosophers, most notably Darwin, and Nietzsche,. Additionally because he conceives of progressive evolution he is also in an extended conversation with historical theorist such as Georg Hegel, social thinkers such as Herbert Spencer, and intuitive philosophers like Henri Bergson, all whose view of evolution was progressive. Although his relationship to these philosophers clearly indicate the influence of modernism on Sri Aurobindo, he is far too complex to simply be categorized as such. In his deconstruction of the Enlightenment value of rationality, his decentering of human personality, and open ended commitment to experience could all be see as adding a distinctly post-modern flair to his work.
However, to critically interrogate his writing on yoga as one would works of European scholarship would be inappropriate – since these are more properly rooted in the Darshanic tradition of India – and one would be measuring what is essentially a specific Indian worldview, a perspective rooted in experience, according to the analysis and language regimes of Western discourse.
Therefore one must distinguish his discourse on yoga from that on evolution and society, one must take a critical turn and parse the difference between what he sees (darshan) from what he theorizes (discourse). And it is Darshanic writings on the practice of yoga and yogic experience which I believe furnishes a proper response to the questions the postmodernist pose on the limits of thought and language. Because here one encounters the bridge of experience which delivers us from the ends of thought, the margins of philosophy, the absolute reduction to language
That said in order to build a bridge across the precipice of postmodernism, beyond the certainties of the Enlightenment and the limits of thought, to that luminosity of Being which Sri Aurobindo heralds, one must first establish a platform for the dialog to occur. My own feeling is that since the death or vanishing of man is a common theme in both Sri Aurobindo and Michel Foucault that any conversation which can be facilitated between them would be rewarding. Additionally I will list below why I believe that a dialog between the two would be quite complimentary:
For all their seeming incommeasurablity in uncanny ways Sri Aurobindo and Foucault have certain styles of thinking in a consonance. Both straddled the ruptures of the transitory thought movements referred to as modernism and post modernism*. Sri Aurobindo an early visionary of a coming episteme interrogated the objective certainty of the Enlightenment conceiving a phenomenological praxis to unlock the subjective depths whose portals reveal the limits of our species epistemology, in an evolution beyond man; Foucault who dissected the representations of the Enlightenment revealing those psychological mutations which became modernism, an epoch whose end he forecast by proclaiming the death of man.
Both explorers of uncharted cultural topographies, who plunged into the depths of the human psyche to excavate the various strata of historical consciousness locating their corresponding experiences by tracing their separate veins of epistemology and power along an integral axis. Both committed to a triune analysis of phenomena, Foucault collectively assessing, language, economics, and natural history, Sri Aurobindo uncovering the physical, vital , mental, structures which comprise our species past and present. Both visionaries of a future in which man becomes something else, an other standing on the far side of our next epochal rupture, which can only be known through a radical epistemology. Sri Aurobindo conceives man as a transitional being, Foucault as a phenomena to vanish in the sands of time. Both re-imagined or re-visioned man Sri Aurobindo accordingly to the practice of sadhana and Foucault through the method called archeology. Both comprehend man as a transitional phenomena and here both Foucault and Sri Aurobindo converge in developing methodologies that make transparent the heritage we conceive of as human nature. Both conceive man as having a dual nature Sri Aurobindo a surface personality with psychic depths and Foucault as an empirical/transcendental doublet.
This is not at all to say that both were alike or shared participation in a cultural milieu which defined similarities in their vision. Rather, there are significant divergences of approach which distinguish them as does their lives lived on two sides of early and late Modernism, East and West, teleology and randomness, metaphysics and post-structuralism as well as their personal commitments to ascetic or sexual practice. The primary referents in their discourses are separated at times by eras and cultures far away, yet they both return to a common principle of self-organization and that is Nietzsche. Although Foucault's archeology methods and Sri Aurobindonian praxis of sadhana differ in their reconstruction of the Superman (Ubermensch) as primarily epistemological or ontological, sociological or individual, both practices have important consequences for the future bodies of "man" the transitional being.
* (Foucault early work generally considered structuralist while his later work is post-structural)
rich 3/27/08 Posted to: Main Page PHILOSOPHY .. Critical Theory & Postmodernism (The Death of Man) Death Reckoning in Heidegger, Foucault, Derrida by Joshua Schuster Science, Culture and Integral Yoga

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Ontology cannot be separated or abstracted from the society from which it arises

Call for Papers: Recent work in political theory has often revolved around the question of the relation between ontology and politics. For all of their differences, Derrida, Nancy, Hardt and Negri, Deleuze, Laclau, Butler, Connolly, Zizek, Foucault, and Agamben (to name but a few) have sought to question the foundations of political thought, and also philosophy’s relation to the political conditions within which it originates. While politics can no longer lay claim to secure grounds, the gesture of rethinking ontology cannot be separated or abstracted from the society from which it arises. The relation between ontology and politics is consequently a crucial question for both philosophy and politics. This workshop aims to explore the intersections of politics and ontology and the resulting implications for thinking the political and the philosophical.
We invite papers addressing the following and any other related themes:
-How can we think the political in the absence of a secure or stable ontology?
-Questioning our relation to the tradition of political philosophy and the relation of the philosophical to the political.
-Is there a necessary transitivity between the ontological and the political?
-The political implications of thinking ontology as pure immanence, production, difference, becoming, or multiplicity.
-Thinking community or the self’s relation to others when secure ontological foundations for such relations are in question... CFP: Ontology and Politics from An und für sich by Adam

Supersizing the Mind: Embodiment, Action, and Cognitive Extension

March 16, 2008 fragments of consciousness a weblog by david chalmers
Supersizing the Mind

Andy Clark's book Supersizing the Mind: Embodiment, Action, and Cognitive Extension is being published by Oxford University Press later this year. Among other things, this book fleshes out and defends the ideas put forward in our joint 1998 article "The Extended Mind". It includes a comprehensive (and I think largely compelling) set of replies to the various objections to the extended mind thesis that have been raised over the last decade, and also has a lot on applications of the extended mind idea within cognitive science.

I've written a foreword to the book, which I've just put online. The foreword will also form the basis for my talk in the Barwise Prize session at the Pacific APA meeting later this week. Of course this short piece doesn't go into remotely the depth of Andy's book, but it gives some elements of my current take on the extended mind thesis, ten years after publication of the original article. March 16, 2008 in Books Comments (4) TrackBack (0)

This is the thesis of the extended mind: when parts of the environment are coupled to the brain in the right way, they become parts of the mind. The thesis has a long history: I am told that there are hints of it in Dewey, Heidegger, and Wittgenstein. But no-one has done as much to give life to the idea as Andy Clark. In a series of important books and articles—Being There, Natural-Born Cyborgs, "Magic words: How language augments human computation", and many others—he has explored the many ways in which the boundaries between mind and world are far more flexible than one might have thought. This book is his major statement of the philosophical picture that undergirds the view.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Panopticon and hypertext

"Towards the imaginary radical Home The text in the virtual hypertext" Wednesday, February 20, 2008 Disappearance of text

At the time of the panopticon the most comprehensive collection of the Hypertext, suddenly we see nothing of the imaginary meanings at work in the text, we are seeing any arbitrariness at the same time as the deep need.

All links that enrich the language hypertext now tend to recognize in the hypertextualité the ability to make the text too low, even absent, to create the text accordingly (hypertext to the power -1) in his absence, then ressouvenir to be in place and this lack of time, to finally accomplish its meaning until last in a strange and definitive disappearance of its form. Le texte hypertextualisé se métamorphose. The text hypertextualisé metamorphoses.

And this absentement will now come to haunt hypertext in each of the applications that it will install on the text. This is where it all happens. Because hypertext reaches its perfection in the total disappearance of the text that leads to the higher power. That, it seems, in the absolute absence of the text realized that the time panopticon of hypertext occurs. If, ultimately, in the presence of this perfect disappearance text just haunt the screen can be thrown the dice: Then the unexpected happened time panopticon, in a total contingency movements, and meanings that makes the Hypertext takes shape and ordered its deep need.

- Rediscover this post treated by eight different algorithms in the métabole --
Rejoignez le journal de l'H ypertexte en anglais ( posts du jour différents) Join the newspaper of the H ypertexte in English (the day different posts)
Connectez-vous sur l'Hypertexte Principal de la Solution Log on Hypertext the Principal of the Solution
mercredi 20 février 2008 dans
inattendu Wednesday, February 20, 2008 in unexpected Permalink
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Monday, March 24, 2008

I must come to clarity! Otherwise I cannot live

Modern Logic Volume 8, Number 1/2 (January 1998–April 2000), pp. 142–153.
Translated by Dallas Willard (Edmund Husserl Collected Works, Volume 5) Dordrecht, Boston: Kluwer Academic Publishers, 1994 xlviii+505 pp. ISBN 0-7923-2262-2

The particular nature of Husserl intellectual crisis becomes clearer when we remember that at the time Husserl was keeping company with Georg Cantor who during Husserl’s tenure in Halle was hard at work exploring, mapping and defending the uncharted, rich and strange world of transfinite sets. The new numbers and countless infinities Cantor was creating at the time were certainly counter-intuitive and paradoxical enough to shake most almost anyone’s logical assumptions, and Cantor’s work could have easily inspired in Husserl an acute awareness of the logical questions the introduction of such new numbers might raise. Remember that it was in the late 1880s that Cantor did some of his strangest work with numbers, creating what Joseph Dauben has called "dinosaurs of his mental creation, fantastic creatures whose design was interesting, overwhelming, but impractical to the demands of mathematics in general" ([3, p. 159]).

Husserl was also on hand as Cantor began discovering the antinomies of set theory ([3, pp. 240–270]). So in contemplating the intellectual evolution chronicled in this collection of Husserl’s early writings, it is also helpful to remember that Husserl was not the only one whose logical assumptions were shaken upon coming into contact with Cantor’s ideas. The ideas of the founder of set theory played a role in rocking the ground upon which Bertrand Russell, Gottlob Frege, Richard Dedekind and many others had hoped to derive arithmetic too. For it was in studying Cantor’s 1891 proof by diagonal argument that there is no greatest cardinal number that Russell came upon the famous contradiction of the set of all sets that are not members of themselves which made him too call for important reforms in logic ([8], [9], [15, p. 1]).

Husserl’s early first-hand experience of inconsistent sets and some of the more logic defying aspects of Cantor’s theory of sets might actually have permanently innoculated the future founder of the phenomenological movement against any recourse to sets or classes. For Husserl would express grave doubts about extensional logic, by which he meant a calculus of classes (p. 443, for example), for the rest of his career. He would say that extensional logic was na¨ýve, risky, doubtful and the source of many a contradiction requiring every kind of artful device to make it safe for use in reasoning ([19, pp. 74, 76, 83]; [18, p. 153]), a wariness already evident in "The Deductive Calculus and the Logic of Contents" and related articles (pp. 92–114, 115–120, 121–130, 135–138, 443-451) in which we find Husserl intent upon laying bare the "the follies of extensional logic" (p. 199) which he would replace by a calculus of conceptual objects. In these texts he seeks to show "that the total formal basis upon which the class calculus rests is valid for the relationships between conceptual objects," and that one could solve logical problems without "the detour through classes" (p. 109), which he considered to be "totally superficial" (p. 123). In the Philosophy of Arithmetic Husserl had attacked certain of Gottlob Frege’s ideas about extensionality ([17]), but in this volume of writings Husserl’s chief target is Ernst Schr¨oder, which brings us to another interesting matter...

Husserl ultimately concluded that "the profound diculties which are tied up with the opposition between the subjectivity of the act of knowledge and the objectivity of the content and object of knowledge" (p. 250) could only be resolved through what he began calling phenomenological analyses. According to his new theories, pure logic would not itself include anything mental, any reference to acts, subjects, or real people. He would not, however, develop a theory of logic independent of all intuition and experience in Frege’s sense. For it was Husserl’s abiding conviction that one can considerably advance logical understanding of the soundness of symbolic thought (and above all, of course, mathematical thought) without a more penetrating insight into the essence of those elementary processes of intuition and the Representation which everywhere make that thought possible. But without such insight one cannot obtain a full and truly satisfactory understanding of symbolic thought or of any logical process (pp. 168–169).

For modern logicians wary of talk of phenomenological analyses or of any preoccupation with what Husserl called "that peculiar kind of psychological foundation which truly is indispensable for the illumination of the sense of the pure concepts and the laws of logic" (p. 208), a look at the connections between Husserl’s ideas and those of David Hilbert can help set the issue into perspective and make Husserl’s ideas more comprehensible. Remember that Hilbert wrote on several occasions that "the eorts of Frege and Dedekind were bound to fail" because:

No more than any other science can mathematics be founded by logic alone; rather, as a condition for the use of logical inferences and the performance of logical operations, something must already be given to us in our faculty of representation (in der Vorstellung), certain extralogical concrete objects that are intuitively (anschaulich) present as immediate experience prior to all thought. If logical inference is to be reliable, it must be possible to survey these objects completely in all their parts, and the fact that they occur, that they dier from one another, and that they follow each other, or are concatenated, is immediately given intuitively, together with the objects, as something that neither can be reduced to anything else nor requires reduction. ([14, pp. 464–465]; also [13, pp. 376, 392]; [12, p. 162]).

This, Hilbert said, was the basic philosophical position that he regarded "as requisite for mathematics and, in general, for all scientific thinking, understanding and communication" (Ibid .). Now Husserl’s phenomenological analyses would perform precisely the task Hilbert described as being so necessary. Moreover, the philosophy of logic and mathematics which Husserl began developing in the early 1890s actually has a formalist flavor which was already making itself known in the reaction Husserl had in 1891 to Frege’s article "On Formalist Theories of Arithmetic". In the dispute between Hilbert and Frege over formalism, Husserl would side with Hilbert. Partial copies of letters Frege sent to Hilbert were even found among Husserl’s papers ([18]).

Further support for Husserl’s conviction that "logic must not be a mere formal (mathematical) theory . . . but requires phenomenological and epistemological elucidations in virtue of which we not merely are completely certain of the validity of its concepts and theories, but also truly understand them" (p. 215) has come from Kurt G¨odel, a secret admirer of Husserl’s phenomenology. In a posthumously published paper called "The modern development of the foundations of mathematics" ([7, pp. 374–387]), G¨odel argues that the certainty of mathematics is to be secured not by proving certain properties by a projection onto material systems—namely the manipulation of physical symbols—but rather by cultivating (deepening) knowledge of the abstract concepts themselves which lead to the setting up of these mechanical systems, and further by seeking, according to the same procedures, to gain insights into the solvability, and the actual methods for the solution, of all meaningful mathematical problems (p. 383).

G¨odel thought that the procedure by which it might be possible to extend knowledge of the abstract concepts in question was most nearly supplied by the systematic method for clarifying meaning prescribed by Husserl’s phenomenology where, as G¨odel writes,

"clarification of meaning consists in focusing more sharply on the concepts concerned by directing our attention in a certain way, namely, onto our own acts in the use of these concepts, onto our powers in carrying out our acts, etc." (p. 383).

G¨odel viewed phenomenology as "a procedure or technique that should produce in us a new state of consciousness in which we describe in detail the basic concepts we use in our thought, or grasp other basic concepts hitherto unknown to us" (p. 383). According to G¨odel, Husserl’s theories could "safeguard for mathematics the certainty of its knowledge" and "uphold the belief that for clear questions posed by reason, reason can also find clear answers" (p. 381).

Finally, a word about the translation. Dallas Willard’s choice of terms to translate some of the notoriously ambiguous terminology of the late nineteenth century is excellent (pp. xlv–xlvi). And his translation does justice to the clear, readable style of these texts which were written at a time in Husserl’s life when he could still say: "I unfortunately do not have the gift of first coming to clarity in the process of writing and rewriting. But once I have come to a clear understanding, everything moves along rapidly" (p. 13).

For those interested in the development of symbolic logic and twentieth century logic in general, however, it is useful to add the following remarks. The extremely ambiguous German word "Vorstellung" was translated by Russell as "presentation", but has very often been translated into English by "idea" or "imagination". Willard uses "representation", a good choice. He has translated the uneigentlich of uneigentliche Vorstellungen as "inauthentic". It is helpful here to note that Husserl’s distinction between eigentliche Vorstellungen (what is known directly through perception, intuition, memory, etc.) and uneigentliche Vorstellungen or symbolische Vorstellungen (what can only be known indirectly through signs, concepts, descriptions, etc.) is closely related to Russell’s distinction between knowledge by acquaintance and knowledge by description as both men were influenced by Franz Brentano’s distinction between authentic and symbolic presentations ([15, pp. 58–66, 125–135]).

Another extremely dicult term to translate is "Inhalt". Willard has chosen to use "content", which is correct. However, in certain logical contexts when the word is used to refer to the content of a concept, or when Inhalt is contrasted with Umfang, extension, the issues become clearer when "intension" is used in the place of "content". This is particularly the case in Husserl’s discussions of an extensional logic of classes as opposed to an intensional logic of conceptual objects.

"I do not strive for honor and fame. My aim is not to be admired . . . Only one thing will fulfill me: I must come to clarity! Otherwise I cannot live. I cannot endure life without believing that I
shall attain it . . . " (p. 494).

Sunday, March 23, 2008

No major theoretical school has emerged in the eighteen years since Judith Butler's Gender Trouble revolutionized gender studies

review posted March 11, 2008 (web only)
Professing Literature in 2008 William Deresiewicz

What's going on? Three things, to judge from their absence from Graff's history, that have never happened before. First, the number of students studying English literature appears to be in a steep, prolonged and apparently irreversible decline. In the past ten years, my department has gone from about 120 majors a year to about ninety a year. Fewer students mean fewer professors; during the same time, we've gone from about fifty-five full-time faculty positions to about forty-five. Student priorities are shifting to more "practical" majors like economics; university priorities are shifting to the sciences, which bring in a lot more money. In our new consumer-oriented model of higher education, schools compete for students, but so do departments within schools. The bleaker it looks for English departments, the more desperate they become to attract attention.

In other words, the profession's intellectual agenda is being set by teenagers. This is also unprecedented. However bitter the ideological battles Graff described, they were driven by the profession's internal dynamics, not by what our students wanted, or what they thought they wanted, or what we thought they thought they wanted. If grade schools behaved like this, every subject would be recess, and lunch would consist of chocolate cake.

Graff's critical movements were proud, militant insurgencies, out to transform the world. This year's Job List confirms the picture of a profession suffering from an epochal loss of confidence. It's not just the fear you can smell in the postings. It's the fact that no major theoretical school has emerged in the eighteen years since Judith Butler's Gender Trouble revolutionized gender studies. As Harvard professor Louis Menand said three years ago, our graduate students are writing the same dissertations, with the same tools, as they were in 1990. Nor has any major new star--a Butler, an Edward Said, a Harold Bloom--emerged since then to provide intellectual leadership, or even a sense of intellectual adventure. The job market's long-term depression has deepened the mood. Most professors I know discourage even their best students from going to graduate school; one actually refuses to talk to them about it. This is a profession that is losing its will to live.

Twenty years after Professing Literature, the "conflicts" still exist, but given the larger context in which they're taking place, they scarcely matter anymore. The real story of academic literary criticism today is that the profession is, however slowly, dying.


March 12, 2008 Literature's self-implosion
We need expert evaluative critics – but our professors keep denying the value of literature itself
John Mullan

Nowadays, there are more critical responses than ever, but critical authority has been devolved from the experts. McDonald surveys the rise of blogs and readers’ reviews, of television and newspaper polls and reading groups, under the heading “We Are All Critics Now”. He argues that the demise of critical expertise brings not a liberating democracy of taste, but conservatism and repetition. “The death of the critic” leads not to the sometimes vaunted “empowerment” of the reader, but to “a dearth of choice”. It is hardly a surprise to find him taking issue with John Carey’s anti-elitist What Good Are the Arts? (2005), with its argument that one person’s aesthetic judgement cannot be better or worse than another’s, making taste an entirely individual matter. McDonald proposes that cultural value judgements, while not objective, are shared, communal, consensual and therefore open to agreement as well as dispute. But the critics who could help us to reach shared evaluations have opted out. The distance between Ivory Tower and Grub Street has never been greater. While other academic disciplines have seen the rise of the professional popularizer of art, music and film, literary expertise has sealed itself off in the academy. McDonald believes that the main reason for the gulf between academic and non-academic criticism is “the turn from evaluative and aesthetic concerns in the university humanities’ departments”. He does not bemoan the influence of the Richard and Judy Book Club or the internet; he blames his fellow academics.

This has been long brewing. The Death of the Critic takes us on a rapid historical tour of attitudes to the value of literature, from Plato and Aristotle, through the leading critics in English of the past five centuries. (McDonald allows himself a digression into the Kantian theory of the “disinterestedness” of aesthetic judgement, with which he clearly has much sympathy.) His concluding survey of the academic literary criticism of the twentieth century is hardly novel; it is a story that has been told before, by Chris Baldick and Patrick Parrinder among others, but it gives McDonald the chance to show that there were good reasons for the status of its leading figures, such as T. S. Eliot, I. A. Richards, Lionel Trilling and the New Critics, and he invites us to find insights rather than delusions. “These critics are still paraded before each generation of university students as ideologically befuddled, or reactionary bogeymen.” To our loss, he believes.

McDonald himself does not exactly have heroes and villains. His estimates of the influence of particular critics certainly involve value judgements, but these are often surprising and engaging. He relishes Northrop Frye’s critical eloquence, though he charges him with helping to split academic criticism away from higher journalistic criticism. By contrast, F. R. Leavis, whose austere narrowness McDonald clearly finds unsympathetic, is praised for “spilling the energies of academic criticism out into a much wider arena”. McDonald has a case to make, but does not put all his evidence into making it. Even where he regrets the influence of Raymond Williams in stripping aesthetic value from the arts, he cannot help admiring his commitment as a public intellectual.

In his final chapter, McDonald gives his highly condensed account of the influence of structuralism and post-structuralism on the academic critic. Yet it is not the heady obscurity of literary theory that he blames for “killing off” the critic. The culprit, as he sees it, is Cultural Studies, which requires that any cultural artefact be evaluated politically rather than aesthetically (aesthetics being revealed to be covert politics). Cultural studies may have been anti-elitist, refusing distinctions between high and low, proper and popular, but it doomed the academic to irrelevance outside the academy. “If criticism forsakes evaluation, it also loses its connections with a wider public.” He is a tolerant enemy to anti-evaluative criticism. Reviewing the rise of Cultural Studies, he even concedes that it might for a while have been salutary to have “an amnesty on the idea of objective quality”. Neglected works and unheard voices have been recovered. Even though he dislikes Cultural Studies, McDonald relishes much that we would call “popular culture”, and clearly believes that cinema, television and pop music deserve good critics too.

The virtue of this book is that, while it is a strong protest against what has been a prevailing climate in English departments, it is neither blimpish nor complacent. The author’s reasonableness requires him to acknowledge, finally, that all is not woe. The last pages of the book contain a swirl of examples of a growing openness to “questions of value” in academic criticism. Here the force and wit of his polemic do falter a little. Looking to some better future, he places a strange faith in Creative Writing programmes in universities, because they treat literature “seriously as an end in itself . . . . Rapport between artist and critic can create energized contexts for artistic innovation and creativity”. Tellingly, he here lapses into the kind of critical prose he himself deplores. But if his concluding hopes are not quite convincing, his regrets have been expressed with irresistible clarity. John Mullan’s books include How Novels Work, 2006, and Anonymity: A secret history of English literature, 2008. He teaches English at University College London.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

The center for spirituality, ethics and global awareness

Monday, March 10, 2008 Indian Philosophy Conference: Call for Papers
INTERNATIONAL AND INTERDISCIPLINARY CONFERENCE KOLKATA, INDIA JANUARY 6-9, 2009 SPONSORED BY THE SOCIETY FOR INDIAN PHILOSOPHY & RELIGION, THE CENTER FOR SPIRITUALITY, ETHICS AND GLOBAL AWARENESS Bethany College, West Virginia Call for Papers Deadline: April 10, 2008 Topic: Self, Identity and Culture: East and West...Selected papers from the conference will be published (subject to editorial review) in a special volume of the Journal of Indian of Indian Philosophy & Religion.

The Advisory Board Comprises: Kisor K. Chakrabarti (USA), Kate Bemis (USA), Wayne Borody (Canada) Thomas Brooke (UK), Linda B. Elder (USA), Ashoke Kumar Ganguly (India), Gordon Haist (USA), Laurent Metzer(France) Isaac Nevo (Israel), David Rose (UK), G.T.Smith (USA), Andrew Ward (UK), Bill Wyllie (UK)...

JOURNAL OF INDIAN PHILOSOPHY AND RELIGION The Society for Indian Philosophy and Religion has commenced publishing the Journal on Indian Philosophy and Religion annually from Fall, 1996. The Journal covers the wide range of philosophies and religions which are indigenous to South Asia. It includes scholarly work of comparative and critical studies of Eastern and Western philosophies and religions. The journal also includes sections on discussion articles and book reviews.

The Chief Editor: Kisor K Chakrabarti (USA). The editorial Board includes: Karuna Bhattacharyya (India), Ashoke Ganguly (India), Jay Garfield (USA)), Steve Laylock (USA), J. N. Mohanty (USA), Steven Phillips (USA), Karl Potter (USA), Sukharanjan Saha (India), J. L. Shaw (New Zealand), and Mark Siderits (USA).

Scholars interested in submitting manuscripts may kindly contact: Dr. Chandana Chakrabarti, Society for Indian Philosophy & Religion, PO Box M, Bethany, USA. E-Mail or Phone: 304-829-4261. Individual Journal Subscription: $25.00. Institution: $55.00.Checks should be made payable to Society for Indian Philosophy and Religion. All inquiries, payments, and manuscripts should be mailed to the Associate Editor: Chandana Chakrabarti, Society for Indian Philosophy & Religion, Po Box M, Bethany, West Virginia 26032, USA. Posted by Adam Shear at 11:12 AM

Anselm’s text confirms Butler’s refusal of the idea of a magical “divine performative”

The Failed Divine Performative: Reading Judith Butler’s Critique of Theology with Anselm’s On the Fall of the Devil [April issue of The Journal of Religion]
Adam Kotsko, Chicago Theological Seminary
First, I will examine what Butler means by theology, focusing on her critique of Jacques Lacan in Gender Trouble.3 I will then elaborate Butler’s closely related theories of performativity and interpellation as laid out in Excitable Speech and The Psychic Life of Power, and in particular in her reading of Louis Althusser’s "Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses" in the latter work.4

Only after all this has been established will I attempt a Butlerian reading of Anselm, with an eye toward determining whether theological texts are always as "theological" as Butler seems to assume. Butler refers to theology in nearly all of her books. These references are almost uniformly negative, but not in the sense of indicating an explicit polemic against theology or religion. She does take a Nietzschean critique of religion largely for granted, but the primary targets of her critique of theology are avowedly secular thinkers who take up positions that seem to Butler to function theologically. What she means by this is perhaps best exemplified in her critiques of Lacan (which are echoed in her later critiques of Lacanians such as Slavoj Z¡ iz¡ek and Mladen Dolar). In one of her many discussions of Lacan in Gender Trouble, Butler makes a distinction between "the materialist and Lacanian (and post-Lacanian) positions" regarding sexual difference.5

The materialist position, exemplified by Jacqueline Rose and Jane Gallop, "un-derscore[s] . . . the constructed status of sexual difference, the inherent instability of that construction, and the dual consequentiality of a prohibition that at once institutes a sexual identity and provides for the exposure of that construction’s tenuous ground."6

In this view, "the prohibition that constructs identity is inefficacious," so that "the paternal law ought to be understood not as a deterministic divine will, but as a perpetual bumbler." By contrast, in the Lacanian view (including Luce Irigaray’s post-Lacanian view), the "paternal Law" as that which generates sexuation "bear[s] the mark of a monotheistic singularity."7

One is tempted, then, to say that for Butler, the Lacanian view does understand sexual difference as "a deterministic divine will," whereas a materialist view (i.e., Butler’s own) emphasizes the constructed and fluid character of sexual difference. However, her account of the monotheistic nature of the Lacanian view is much more complex. Further on in Gender Trouble, Butler criticizes Lacan’s conception of the Symbolic or paternal Law as constitutively unattainable, arguing against the plausibility of "an account of the Symbolic that requires a conformity to the Law that proves impossible to perform and that makes no room for the flexibility of the Law itself, its cultural reformulation in more plastic forms."8

Such a view of the Symbolic leads to "a romanticization or, indeed, a religious idealization of ‘failure,’ humility and limitation before the Law, which makes the Lacanian narrative ideologically suspect."9

Butler compares this concept of the law to "the tortured relationship between the God of the Old Testament and those humiliated servants who offer their obedience without reward," a comparison that for Butler is all the more telling in light of her perception that sexuality has taken the place of religion’s "demand for love."10

Thus, the monotheistic element of Lacan’s thought consists in the idea of a law that is unilaterally imposed and nonnegotiable, but at the same time impossible to fulfill, leading Butler to wonder if the law aims only at enforcing the subject’s feeling of "an enslavement to the God that it claims to be unable to overcome."11

For Butler, therefore, "Lacanian theory must be understood as a kind of ‘slave morality’" in the Nietzschean sense.12

The task of the reader of Lacan is to look "for the theological impulse that motivates" the account of the unchanging paternal Law "as well as for the critique of theology that points beyond it." Most importantly, one must avoid the key move of "slave morality," namely, the disavowal of "the very generative powers it uses to construct the ‘Law’ as a permanent impossibility."13

The problem with theology, then, isn’t simply that it’s an illusion—although it is clear that Butler’s materialism commits her to the view that no extratemporal absolute, in the form of either a personal God or an immutable law of all human culture, can actually exist. The problem is rather that the subject, by participating in and thereby maintaining this illusion, fails to recognize its own power. The Lacanian who resigns himself or herself to the inevitability of the Symbolic does not just decide not to waste energy on something impossible—in conceding the immutability of sexual difference, the Lacanian or theological subject lends his or her energy to the ongoing struggle against any reformulation of the Symbolic order. One is reminded of Carl Schmitt’s insight that the attempt to exempt oneself from the political can itself be a profoundly political gesture.14

Despite this decisive rejection of a theological stance, it is not the case that theology is the sole object of her critique. The third part of Gender Trouble is devoted to an analysis of the ways that attempting to ground gender in some kind of prelinguistic realm—including apparently quite "materialist" attempts—are always necessarily self-undermining insofar as they simply end up repeating the patterns of the hegemonic norms of sexual difference. With all this in mind, then, one can tentatively distinguish two types of error with regard to sexual difference in Butler’s theory.

  • On the one hand, there is what one could call the vulgar materialist error, which misrecognizes the appropriate field of battle, obfuscating the stakes of a political-cultural-linguistic struggle by misdirecting it toward a biological or otherwise prelinguistic ground.
  • On the other hand, there is the theological error, which is correct insofar as it locates sexual difference on the level of culture and language but goes astray in reifying a particular cultural construct (e.g., the paternal Law) and thereby attempting to put it above the fray—a move that necessarily generates, and is in turn reinforced by, feelings of failure and guilt.

With this concept of the "theological" in hand, we can now turn to Butler’s theory of performativity as it is developed in Excitable Speech. The argument of Excitable Speech is closely related to that of The Psychic Life of Power, in particular to the reading of Althusser in the latter. In the introduction to Excitable Speech, she provides a capsule summary of this reading, arguing that "Althusser inadvertently assimilates social interpellation to the divine performative," resulting in a figuration of the "‘voice’ of ideology" as "almost impossible to refuse."15

The divine performative and related notions, however, are developed in more detail in Excitable Speech, resulting in a kind of mutual coimplication—in order to fully understand either, one must start with the other. Given that this analysis is directed toward the reading of Anselm’s On the Fall of the Devil, in which the account of the devil’s interpellation presupposes the power of the divine performative to call the devil into being, I have chosen to begin with Excitable Speech, a choice that also has the benefit of clarifying the concrete political stakes of Butler’s more abstract philosophical argument in The Psychic Life of Power.

As the above quotation illustrates, Butler makes reference to theology in connection with performativity in Excitable Speech, but it is not the only or even the primary mode in which she critiques various opposing theories of the performative... Butler and Anselm from An und für sich by Adam

Philosophical reflections, ontological self-cultivation and epistemic labour of learning

Journal Dialectical Anthropology Publisher Springer Netherlands ISSN 0304-4092 (Print) 1573-0786 (Online) Issue Volume 30, Numbers 3-4 / December, 2006 DOI 10.1007/s10624-007-9007-8 Pages 227-271 Subject Collection Humanities, Social Sciences and Law SpringerLink Date Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Creative Social Research: Rethinking Theories and Methods and the Calling of an Ontological Epistemology of Participation
Ananta Kumar Giri
Madras Institute of Development Studies, 79 Second Main Road, Gandhi Nagar, Chennai, 600020, India Published online: 5 June 2007 Abstract

Modern social research, as we know it now, emerged as a part of rise of modern social sciences in the context of transition to modernity. As an enterprise of modernity social research reflected some of the foundational assumptions of modernity. For example, the project of sociology was closely tied to the project of nation-state, embodying in its epistemology methodological nationalism. Social research also proceeded within the bounded logic of disciplines. But all these assumptions of modernity as well as their social manifestations have been subjected to fundamental criticisms and interrogations in the last decades. Both anti-systematic socio-cultural movements and critical discursive movements and new movements of ideas have challenged the modernist paradigms of pathology and normality as well as distinction between ontology and epistemology.

In the background of critiques of modernity, social movements and processes of transformations the present essay submits some proposals for a creative and critical social research. It explores ways of moving beyond mere denunciations and critiques and embodying transformational theories and methods which would facilitate creative and critical research. The essay also calls for a new vocation of social research by pleading for a simultaneous engagement in activism and creative understanding, fieldwork and philosophical reflections, ontological self-cultivation and epistemic labour of learning.

Keywords creative social research - multivalued logic - ontological sociality - ontological epistemology of participation
Ananta Kumar Giri originally from Madras Institute of Development Studies, Chennai, India is currently a Alexander von Humboldt Fellow at Institute of Sociology, Albert Ludwig Univesitat, Freiburg, Germany. The present essay builds upon author’s introduction to

Friday, March 21, 2008

Purusharthas as “modes of being in the world,” or “the grounds of the possibility of our humanity”

Gandhi was not a philosopher in the normal sense of that term, much less a system builder. But a philosophy does underlie his thought and actions. He was aware of this, though not willing to expound systematically the underlying philosophy. He wisely left the task of exposition and interpretation to the philosophers themselves. That was the point of his letter to Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan cited at the beginning of this Introduction.
This letter is of great value to every serious interpreter of Gandhi. For it tells us that non-philosophers like Gandhi often work from certain basic philosophic principles. The fact that he was not a philosopher in the formal sense need not therefore inhibit his interpreters from looking for the underlying philosophy. By the same token, there is no excuse for not looking for the philosophic underpinnings of his thought. In the history of human thought there have been several non-philosophers who produced important bodies of philosophical ideas. Machiavelli is a well-known example from the West. The crucial issue is whether in interpreting such thinkers we can find the right interpretive key, the key that fits the available data. I believe that in Gandhi’s case such a key is available.

It is the Indian theory of the purusharthas (the aims of life). Apart from opening the vast storehouse of Gandhian ideas, it also enables us to enter a truly Indian intellectual edifice.
This theory is of course one of the foundational theories of the entire Indian civilization.3 It underpins the basic ethics of the Mahabharata and the Ramayana. Without an understanding of this theory one cannot grasp the ethical nuances of the Pancatantra, that celebrated fictional counterpart to the Arthasastra.4
The concept of purushartha has three related meanings. First, it means any human striving. Secondly, it refers to human striving directed towards overcoming fate and karma. And thirdly, it refers to any one of the four canonically recognized aims of life, viz., dharma (ethics and religion), artha, (wealth and power), kama (pleasure), and moksha (liberation from samsara, the cycle of birth, death and rebirth).5 The bulk of our argument will be taken up with the third meaning, even although the other two meanings also, as we shall see, will receive their due attention.
Etymologically the term purushartha, made up of purusha (spirit) and artha (for the sake of), carries the literal meaning of “that which is pursued for the sake of the spirit or the immortal soul.” In Indian philosophical anthropology humans are seen as composites of body and spirit. It is the purusha that provides the spiritual and moral “foundation” (adhistan) to the human personality. Accordingly, human values are seen, ultimately, as those that are pursued for the sake of the purusha. Put simply, the pursuit of purushartha is what gives human activities their basic meaning and purpose. Not that the body and its interests do not have their own internal structure and relatively autonomous goals, but that, in moral and philosophic terms, such goals acquire their full human significance only when they retain a reference to the immortal purusha. Any human pursuit that deliberately excludes a reference, however remote, to the purusha is considered pro tanto not beneficial to human well being.
It is no wonder that those who wish to understand the Indian civilization as a whole find in the theory of the purusharthas a very convenient tool for analysis and communication. For example, William Theodore de Bary’s Sources of Indian Tradition, a well-known college text, uses “the four ends of man” as its framework of analysis of Indian thought.6 Heinrich Zimmer’s Philosophies of India does something similar.7

He groups Indian philosophical thought under two headings: “philosophies of time” and “philosophies of eternity.” Under the first heading he deals with the three “temporal” purusharthas of artha, dharma and kama. The masterworks of these purusharthas are, respectively, the Arthasastra of Kautilya, the Dharmasastra of Manu, and the Kamasutra of Vatsyayana. And under the second heading he deals with moksha, the fourth purushartha. Historically it received canonical recognition later than did the other three. But it soon acquired preeminence over them. As many as six systems of philosophy – Nyaya, Vaisesika, Yoga, Samkya, Mimamsa and Vedanta – were invented to do justice to this one purushartha. And, as if to underline the contemporary relevance of the theory, the Centre d’études de l’Inde et de l’Asie du Sud, Paris, has entitled its annual publication Collectio Purushartha.
The mutual relationship of the four aims
The question of the mutual relationship between the four aims has been one of the major methodological questions associated with this theory. Do they interact positively with one another or do they counteract each other? The question was raised in Indian classical thought, and it continues to be raised even today. The Arthasastra, for example, advises the good ruler to devote himself or herself equally to dharma, artha and kama, because they are morally “bound up with one another” (anyonya-anubaddham). Any one of the three, when indulged in excess, does harm to itself as well as to the rest.8 If one’s duty (svadharma) is pursued within the context of the balance achieved by the three mundane goals of life, it would lead to the transcendent goal of svarga, i.e., “endless bliss.”9

The Dharmasastra of Manu, in its turn, takes note of the different views held by its contemporaries. Some held that the chief good consisted in dharma and artha, others in kama and artha, and still others in dharma alone or artha alone. But the correct answer, according to Manu, was that it consisted of the aggregate of the three.10 The aggregate of the three would lead to moksha.11 Vatsyayana’s Kamasutra also noted the existence of competing views on the subject. The prescribed procedure was that dharma should have precedence over artha, and artha over kama. However, there were exceptions, as in the case of kings, where artha should have precedence over the other two, just as in the case of courtesans, kama should have precedence over the rest. Vatsyayna’s own advice was in favor of a balanced approach: “Undertake any project that might achieve the three aims of life, or two, or even just one; but not one that achieves the one at the cost of the other two.”12
Adding moksha to the existing canon of three, the so-called triad – dharma, artha, and kama – created a problem of its own. It was that the triad was held by some to be unable to contribute directly to the attainment of moksha. The claims of the sramanic or the “renouncer” movements – Brahminical, Buddhist, and Jain – were largely responsible for this. We see the Buddha, the sramana (renouncer) par excellence, renouncing his princely status, and even family ties, for the sake of attaining nirvana. As a result, in Buddhism, as in ascetic Brahminism and Jainism, artha and kama came to be marginalized to the point of being treated as negative values. At best artha was conflated with dharma, as in the case of Asoka the Great, the Buddhist emperor. His famous edicts sought to establish the reign of dharma at the expense of artha.
The radical separation of moksha and nirvana from the other purusharthas had had disastrous consequences for Indian civilization taken as a whole. The achievements of Kautilya, for example, were rendered nugatory and, as a result, Indian political philosophy stagnated for nearly two millennia.13

The great thinkers of India, including Sankara and Ramanuja, supported the ascendancy of moksha over all the other purusharthas.
The trend continued even after the nineteenth century, despite Raja Ram Mohan Roy’s (1772–1833) effort to reverse it. Swaminarayan (1781–1830) and Ramakrishna Paramahansa (1836–86) lent their support to the world-renouncing and artha-devaluing approach to moksha.14
The ascendancy of moksha is so great that even today some of the major discussions on the relationship between the purusharthas often come down to a discussion of the relationship between dharma and moksha, as if the other purusharthas do not matter. For an example we need to look no farther than the debate between D. H. H. Ingalls and J. A. B. van Buitenen on the subject. Van Buitenen held dharma and moksha to be incompatible. Moksha was the release from the entire realm governed by dharma. The idea was that “the world and phenomena,” being transitory, could never be an ultimately valid goal, that there was lesser truth in creation than in the principle or person from which creation originated.15
Ingalls on the other hand found dharma and moksha “to have been usually harmonized within one single religious path.” The two arose in different milieus, and the majority of Hindus attempted “to harmonize” the two. To those who accepted the goal of moksha, it was a goal beyond dharma. The harmonizers regarded the two “as points along a single journey, a journey for which the viaticum was discipline and self-training.”16 The conflict was the exception rather than the rule. It was “the monastic disharmonizers,” as Ingalls called them, (among them Nagarjuna, Sankara and Vallabha), who insisted on “the contradiction” between the two.17
In the late twentieth century, however, the scope of the discourse broadened to include all four purusharthas. But disagreements still persist on the question of whether the four constitute a system of oppositions or one of relative harmony. Louis Dumont and A. K. Ramanujan, for example, defend a theory of opposition.
Dumont, in his Homo Hierarchicus, first of all radically separates moksha from the rest. Even within the rest, i.e., the triad, a hierarchical relationship exists. Dharma, artha, and kama represent a hierarchy of ends – moral universalism, calculating egoism, and immediate satisfaction, respectively. Each is accorded legitimacy. At the same time, each is opposed to the other, though not absolutely. A hierarchical opposition exists when an “inferior” goal is pursued only when a “superior” goal does not intervene. Thus, in case of conflict, kama should yield to artha, and artha to dharma. If this rule were followed, the triad would work as a system of hierarchical opposition. However, between the triad and moksha, no positive relationship is possible, as the latter requires the radical renunciation of the former. In the end, any attempt to bring together the four into a system will only mask the heterogeneity that exists between moksha and the rest.18
Dumont appears to be oblivious of Kautilya’s principle of mutuality (anyonya-anubaddham), which should relate the four to each other. That is why he is forced to posit opposition where mutuality should prevail. This faulty concept of the relationship between the purusharthas forces him to make a faulty analysis of Gandhi’s philosophy. He sees two Gandhis – the politician and the sannyasi (ascetic) – co-existing without any internal integration. It was as if the two Gandhis were unable to communicate with each other. To the British, Gandhi appeared to be a political representative of Indians, to the Indians he appeared to be a holy man.19

At the root of this falsification of Gandhi is Dumont’s inability to see what Gandhi was really attempting to do, namely to reconstitute the system of values of Indian civilization and to rehabilitate the principle of mutuality especially between artha and moksha.
A. K. Ramanujan, in his turn, favors what he calls a theory of “successive encompassment” to explain the internal relationship of the purusharthas. Dharma, artha and kama form “concentric nests” (kosas or sheaths) formed from the center – the individual. In so far as they are concentric nests they are relational in their values. The individual needs to follow them in succession. Moksha, however is not part of the system of nests, for it is “release from all relations.” Sannyasa (the final stage in life), writes Ramanujan, “cremates” all one’s past and present relations.20 Moksha for him is pure isolation, kaivalyam. Once more, disharmony between values is the end result of this particular interpretation of the theory of the purusharthas.
From opposition towards harmony
The need to go beyond the negative attitude fostered by these “disharmonizers” is recognized by many Indian thinkers today. For them it is not enough to restate what the last two millennia thought of what the relationship of the triad to nirvana or moksha had been. For them it is necessary to rethink the whole theory of the purusharthas. No one has expressed the need for this with greater conviction and intellectual authority than has Pandurang Vaman Kane, the author of the monumental History of Dharmasastra. One of the general conclusions that he has reached is that the radical separation of the spiritual from the political, the economic from the ethical had cost Indian civilization dearly. He lays much of the blame at the feet of the acharyas (Indian religious philosopher-saints) for placing “too much emphasis on other worldliness and Vedanta,” and for not placing “equal or greater emphasis” on the importance of the active life. He is saddened not to find an Indian Alberuni21 in the eleventh century who would inquire into the reasons why Indians did not form a permanent state for the whole of India, why they did not develop manufacturing and industries, and why they were unable to resist successfully external aggression. Indian intellectuals were mostly engaged in “mental gymnastics” about Logic, Vedanta, Poetics and similar subjects, giving little attention to the means of removing the weaknesses and the defects of the country’s political and economic systems.22 The starting point of such rethinking should include a new understanding of the meaning of the theory of the purusharthas.

Several students of Indian thought have contributed to this rethinking. The work of the philosopher R. Sundara Rajan has been quite innovative here. His knowledge of Western phenomenological thought enabled him to see the purusharthas as “modes of being in the world,” or “the grounds of the possibility of our humanity.” It is the purusharthas in their “simultaneity” that distinguish us as human. To sunder one from the other is to negate it as a purushartha. Kama, for instance, without the other three would be animal impulse, but with them, it would be a form of being human. What makes kama a human value is its mediation by the other three.23 And so on with the other three. © Cambridge University Press View Excerpt as PDF (633KB) Gandhi’s Philosophy and the Quest for Harmony. Cambridge University Press 0521867150 - Gandhi’s Philosophy and the Quest for Harmony - by Anthony J. Parel Excerpt Part 1 The four aims of life Introduction

Difference and Givenness by Levi R. Bryant

As Deleuze argues, all beings are ongoing processes of individuation, embedded in fields of individuation that far exceed the entity itself. This is no less true of a book. A book is itself the result of a process, engenders new processes by entering into foreign assemblages, and is a synthesis of the world and those that one has encountered in the world...

Sadly I was unable to integrate a number of outstanding works that appeared after the writing of my initial draft. Manuel Delanda’s Intensive Science & Virtual Philosophy appeared almost immediately when I completed the first draft of Difference & Givenness. Since then we have also been graced with Manuel de Beistegui’s Truth & Genesis: Philosophy as Differential Ontology, Alberto Toscano’s Theatre of Production: Philosophy and Individuation Between Kant and Deleuze, and Peter Hallward’s Out of this World: Deleuze and the Philosophy of Creation. Regardless of where one ultimately comes down on these appropriations, they show what Deleuze scholarship can be and that it can make a major contribution to contemporary philosophical debates. I hope this book comes somewhere close to the excellence of their scholarship and philosophical practice.

March 2008 Northwestern6 x 9, 352 pp.Paper Text ISBN 0-8101-2454-8 / $ 34.95 Difference and Givenness Deleuze's Transcendental Empiricism and the Ontology of Immanence Levi R. Bryant

From one end of his philosophical work to the other, Gilles Deleuze consistently described his position as a transcendental empiricism. But just what is transcendental about Deleuze's transcendental empiricism? And how does his position fit with the traditional empiricism articulated by Hume? In Difference and Givenness, Levi Bryant addresses these long-neglected questions so critical to an understanding of Deleuze's thinking. Through a close examination of Deleuze's independent work--focusing especially on Difference and Repetition--as well as his engagement with thinkers such as Kant, Maimon, Bergson, and Simondon, Bryant sets out to unearth Deleuze's transcendental empiricism and to show how it differs from transcendental idealism, absolute idealism, and traditional empiricism.

What emerges from these efforts is a metaphysics that strives to articulate the conditions for real existence, capable of accounting for the individual itself without falling into conceptual or essentialist abstraction. In Bryant's analysis, Deleuze's metaphysics articulates an account of being as process or creative individuation based on difference, as well as a challenging critique--and explanation--of essentialist substance ontologies. A clear and powerful discussion of how Deleuze's project relates to two of the most influential strains in the history of philosophy, this book will prove essential to anyone seeking to understand Deleuze's thought and its specific contribution to metaphysics and epistemology.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

With an eye towards the needs of practical people involved in the often confusing and distressing activities of life in the world

Rise above the myriad mis-interpretations of The Gita, August 24, 2005
By Siddhartha Azad "" (New York, NY, USA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Essays on the Gita, New U.S. Paperback Ed. (Paperback)

Hi, Essays on The Gita is categorically the most definitive explanation of The Gita. These essays, when carefully and patiently read, will not leave any speck of doubt in you. Everything written has been explained and nothing has been ignored. Everything is presented in a broad perspective, with relation to Sankhya, Vedanta, also giving an explanation of these. This is not a word to word translation of The Gita. This is The Gita as it was meant to be understood. Do not be afraid if you do not have much of a background in reading such scriptures. The language, so beautiful, clear and simple, addresses the advanced as well as the not-so-advanced readers. All in all, do not think twice, get this book. Permalink Comment

The best companion for serious study of the Gita, March 11, 2001 By "sadhaka" (Haydenville, MA United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Essays on the Gita (Paperback)

This is the best modern commentary on the Bhagavad Gita. The scripture itself is a synthesis of many of the most important Indian spiritual philosophies, and is, in my opinion, by far the most relevant to modern humanity and the most inspiring to westerners. It contains instruction in the highest forms of Yoga with an eye towards the needs of practical people involved in the often confusing and distressing activities of life in the world.
Sri Aurobindo clearly states his intentions towards this text in the introduction: to put the teachings of the Gita in a modern context, that is, to see how they can be made relevant to readers in the present day.
In addition, he asks for a more objective look at the text than certain other interpretations. While I found that he, in general, carried this out, it is not dry, nor is there any vacillation: the book is imbued with the author's ideas about evolution and the role of man in relation to the divine and the author is clear in his interpretive bent.
Most important, however, is that his explinations of the meaning of the scripture are truly magical. He clarifies confusing points with such ease and lucidity, I often found myself thinking "Ah, but that's so clear! How'd I ever have a problem with it?"

This is NOT, however, an easy text to read. Sri Aurobindo went to Cambridge during the 1890's and the language he uses is not what most people are used to. He is deliberately thorough and has no inhibitions about repeating himself with slight variation if there is an even slightly different context shedding light on the passage. He uses long sentences when expressing large, transcendent ideas (that is, most of the time) and it is easy to get lost in his paragraphs.

In addition, the scope of the Gita when expressed in this way is tremendous. Not all of the text can possibly be relevant to someone's life, and at times it can seem as if he's belaboring the point. Often, however, such troubling passages become the ones that are most inspiring when reread in a different context.
Therefore, I strongly recommend this book, but only to people who are interested in serious, deep study of the Gita and are willing to invest a lot of time and effort into it. The rewards can be truly fabulous.

Anti-Oedipus belongs at the heart of the psychoanalytic tradition

Deleuze and Guattari identify a psychoanalytic implementation that can only tolerate a “this and that” (mummy and daddy), a “this or that” (masculine or feminine), and a permanent “it’s me” ego. Deleuze and Guattari advance a schizoanalytic implementation where the connections and the disjunctions operate ad-infinitum and the subjectivities to which conjunctions give rise are partial and transitory.
The anti-Oedipal criticism can be reformulated in the following terms: psychoanalysis has erected unnecessary and institutionally self-serving limits; it has betrayed its own first principle of a dynamic unconscious. It has not gone as far as it can actually go. Guattari stated as much in his notes while preparing the text. In the recently published Ecrits pour l’Anti-Oedipe, he repeatedly admonished Freud and Lacan for reintroducing the subject into the very realm from which they had previously evicted it, for subordinating the unconscious to the logic of unity and coherence, if not in fact then in therapeutic ideal. For Guattari, psychoanalysis has proven itself incapable of tolerating its own discovery of the unconscious as a primary process; it has become little more than an ossified and ossifying secondary revision.
I want to suggest that, in adopting the notions of slip and dynamic primary process, Anti-Oedipus belongs at the heart of the psychoanalytic tradition. That it rejects the Oedipal schema in which Freud encapsulated his findings makes it less Freudian but not any the less psychoanalytic. Before and since Deleuze and Guattari, many in the Kleinian and relational camps have rejected the Oedipal drama as a major hermeneutic key. This did not make them any the less psychoanalytic; it confirmed their commitment to the study of the psyche and to the intervention in its workings. Deleuze and Guattari’s failure to separate the discipline from some of its practitioners may be due to the fact that, sadly, the discipline itself has been governed by doctrinaire allegiances to those prominent amongst the practitioners. One often hears certain Freudians, Kleinians, or Lacanians declaring only members of their schools as the “true” bearers of the psychoanalytic torch; outsiders are dismissed as lost souls or impostors.
PS: see also Anti. This entry was posted on 3 March 2008 at 10:38 am and is filed under Anti-Oedipus, Conjunctive Synthesis, Connective Synthesis, Disjunctive Synthesis, Freud, Machines, MetaTherapeutics, Productions, Speaking Desire, Subjects . leave a response, or trackback 2 Responses to “Anti- … … …”

mistersquid Says: 3 March 2008 at 12:47 pm
This post puts forward a few very provocative theses, especially the attempt to make Anti-Oedipus foundational to psychoanalytic thinking. (I think your position is absolutely correct.) I also think it puts forward, perhaps unintentionally, another idea which doesn’t sit so well with me.
In particular, the word “Trinitarian” communicates a strong religious bias which is not characteristic of the D & G I know. There are other words to describe tripartite structures, namely “tripartite.” Even “triumvirate” seems less biased but accurate.

Fadi Abou-Rihan Says: 3 March 2008 at 9:08 pm
Well, mistersquid, I have to disagree with you on this one. Of course, the most frequent association to “trinity” is christian but the word does not belong exclusively to the domain of religion. I could have used any of the terms you suggest; I could have even tried “triangular,” triadic,” and, hell, even “Oedipal!”
Terminological quibbles aside, I do think there is something quasi “religious” to the flow of the text. Take, for instance, the bifurcations either production or representation, either flow or stagnation, either schizoanalysis or psychoanalysis. There’s been a fair bit written and said about the unsettling ways in which D & G deploy these polarities; but, try as we might, the line in the sand is presumably drawn and with it we are confronted with an exclusionary choice: either with Anti-Oedipus or against it. That’s the logic that most readers have followed and that’s the (religious) trap I have been trying to avoid.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Vedic Psychology based on Sri Aurobindo's Interpretation

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Research Projects in Indian Psychology
The purpose of this web-page is to facilitate contactbetween students and guides with common research interests.
Below is a first sample of what we intend to post on this page.Info on research that is still to start is especially welcome.The more students and guides post such information,the more useful this webpage will become.
Information about Indian Psychology related research projectsin which you have been involved, or which you would like to undertakemay be emailed to --

Dept Level Title Researcher Supervisor Institute Year
Psy PhD Suffering and Well-being: Transformative Potentials of Eastern Psychological Systems (Buddhism, Vedanta, and Integral Yoga) Chinky Rajpal Dr. Suneet Varma, & Dr. Shanti Auluck
Delhi University …
Psy PhD Enhancing Subjective Well-Being of Patients Post-Heart Attack Using Psychological Intervention. (Bhagwad Gita as basis of intervention) Divya Verma Dr. Swasti. S. Vohra. Delhi University …
Psy PhD The Experience and Correlates of Authenticity. Shivantika Sharad Dr. Nandita Babu & Prof. Girishwar Misra Delhi University …
Psy PhD Towards Developing an Indigenous Model of Counseling: Quest for an Holistic Paradigm of Health Manasi Pahwa Dr. Suneet Varma Delhi University …
Skt PhD Vedic Psychology Based on Sri Aurobindo's Interpretation Anuradha Choudry Dr. K.E.Dharaneedharan Pondicherry University …
Psy - A study on preferences to different reading and writing motives of tribal children in primary education of Tripura and Manipur Dr. Debdulal Dutta Roy Indian Statistical Institute, Kolkata 2006
Skt PhD The Influence of Consciousness on The Science of Management Ramanakumar K.P.V SCSV, Kanchipuram. 2006
Phi PhD Sankaracarya’s conception of Moksa (A Critical analysis and it’s social philosophical implications) Bach Thanh Binh Prof VK Bharadwaja & Prof. Vibha Chaturvedi University of Delhi 2004
Phi PhD Happiness: A conceptual study Monica Prabhakar Prof Ashok Vohra University of Delhi 2004
Phi PhD Alambana ki samasya: Bodh, Nyaya aur Shankar Vedant ke sandharbh mein Satish Kumar Singh Prof. Hari Shankar Prasad University of Delhi 2003
Phi PhD Love: A conceptual analysis Rekha Navneet Prof. Ashok Vohra University of Delhi 2003
Psy PhD Role of Relaxation techniques and cognitive therapy in cancer Ruchi Varma University of Delhi 2002
Phi PhD Concept of devotion in the Prasthanatraya – bhasyas of Samkara in the light of his saundarya-lahari Rajesh Kumar Jha H.S. Prasad University of Delhi 2002
Phi PhD Bhakti aur dharma ki samajika chetna: Sankara Darshan ke sandharbha mein (Hindi) Ravindar Kumar Das Dr. Shashi Prabha Kumar University of Delhi 2002
Psy PhD Hypertension, Yoga practices and concomitant cognitive changes Joseph, N.C. Prof. Ashum Gupta University of Delhi 2001
Phi PhD Philosophy of Saddharma Pundrika Sutra Ven NX Kinh University of Delhi 2001
Phi PhD Rationality, motivation and Karma: A philosophical enquiry Bhanu Bhupendra Sharma H.S. Prasad University of Delhi 2001
Phi PhD Philosophy of the saddharmapundarika sutra: A conceptual and doctrinal analysis Ven Nguyen Xuan Kinh Prof. S.R. Bhatt & Dr. Shashi Prabha Kumar University of Delhi 2001
Phi PhD Concept of Purushartha in the Mahabharata Chandrashekhar Tiwari Prof. S. R. Bhatt University of Delhi 2001
Psy PhD Culture and psychological outcomes of meditation Ritu Chowdhary University of Delhi 2000
Phi PhD Sense experience and language in the Classical Buddhist, Nyaya and Grammarian philosophies Chien Hsing Ho Arindam Chaktaborty University of Delhi 1998