Saturday, November 29, 2008

Nietzsche’s pessimism in contrast with Dostoevsky’s optimism

Part II: Alyosha and Zarathustra on Com-passion and a Genuine Embodied Life
[Click here for part I] from Per Caritatem by Cynthia R. Nielsen

We see the manifestations of Nietzsche’s pessimism in contrast with Dostoevsky’s optimism in their widely divergent views of love, compassion and pity. Operating out of a hermeneutic of suspicion, Zarathustra views the Christian teaching of love thy neighbor as inauthentic-a mere mask for self-aggrandizement due to a lack of self-love. In criticism of the teaching, Zarathustra proclaims:

You crowd around your neighbor and have fine words for it. But I say unto you: your love of the neighbor is your bad love of yourselves. You flee to your neighbor from yourselves and would like to make a virtue out of that: but I see through your “selflessness.”[1]

From one perspective, Zarathustra can be seen as challenging Christians to examine their motives and to question themselves as to why they serve, help and spend time with others...

Throughout Nietzsche’s narrative Zarathustra engages in a polemic against any worldview or system of thought that he deems dualistic, that is, one which sets an other-worldly world over against this world. In his critique, Zarathustra rails against both Platonism and Christianity, claiming that both exalt a realm completely separate from our present world, a realm in which all things embodied have no place. The Christian, of course, would want to stress the differences between Platonism traditionally understood and the historic Christian faith.

For example, in Orthodox Christianity, given the centrality of the Incarnation and its emphasis on sacramental life and reality, one could establish a strong argument to the contrary, viz., that embodied living is essential to the Christian in this life. Even so, the Christian ought to pay close attention to Zarathustra’s (and Nietzsche’s) critique of Platonic dualism, being alert to the ways in which such dualistic, dis-emobodied thinking has infected or has the potential to infect its own teachings.

Though we find common ground between Zarathustra and the Christian faith on the importance of valuing physical creation in all its manifestations, or as Zarathustra puts it, remaining “faithful to the earth,” each arrives at this conclusion from completely different motivations.[3] [1] Thus Spoke Zarathustra, p. 172. [2] The Brothers Karamazov, p. 36. [3] Thus Spoke Zarathustra, p. 125. [Cf. Comparing Nietzsche's call for the Overman with that announced by Sri Aurobindo and the Mother 1:16 PM ]

Derrida always privileges the derelict, subordinate while Nancy seems to be favoring the more "authentic"

“The Prehistory of Jean-Luc Nancy’s Deconstruction of Christianity”
from An und für sich by Adam Kotsko
At this point, though, there seems to be a divergence from Derrida, insofar as Derrida always privileges the derelict, subordinate item in a given pair (writing over speech, most famously), while Nancy seems to be favoring the more "authentic" item.

Writing in the Western world in 1983, however, Nancy is in an environment where authentic "community," in the form of international communism, has long since turned out to be a nightmare and "society," for all its faults, seems to be the only live option remaining: "all ventures adopting a communitarian opposition to ‘real communism’ have by now run their course or been abandoned, but everything continues along its way as though, beyond these ventures, it were no longer even a question of thinking about community."5

Nancy’s next step is to argue that liberal democracy and the totalitarian danger of communism are two sides of the same coin. First, both of them share in the same overarching "metaphysics of the absolute," which centers on some principle supposedly exempt from all relationality, making both dangerous and destructive. Second, the absolute principle of both, what makes them both so destructive, is, paradoxically, humanity. That is to say, the problem with communism was that it was too humanistic, meaning in this case too centered around the concept of species-being, which for Marx was a matter of "human beings defined as producers (one might even add: human beings defined at all), and fundamentally as the producers of their own essence in the form of their labor or their work."6

This emphasis on the human as the ultimate authority, no longer reliant on any form of transcendence for meaning, leads to the quest for an "absolute immanence of man to man—a humanism—and of community to community—a communism."7

Again, within the modern Western frame, this insistence on immanence seems to be a good thing, but Nancy complicates this valuation by claiming that in fact "what we have called ‘totalitarianism’ … might be better named ‘immanentism.’"

What distinguishes "immanentism" is its continual production of the human essence, setting humanity to work in order to produce humanity as a work. Where communism sought to produce this human essence on a collective level, liberal democracy turns to the individual—but both take the human essence to be "the absolutely detached for-itself, taken as origin and as certainty." Modern experience show us, however, that "the individual can be the origin and the certainty of nothing but its own death." The individual attempts to achieve immortality through its "works," but this "operative immortality remains its own alienation and renders its death still more strange than the irremediable strangeness that it already ‘is.’"8

The implication here—brought out perhaps more clearly in the liberal version—is that "immanentism" involves some kind of working, necessarily unsuccessful, in order to avoid death. At best, this produces alienation, but at its worst it can produce a furious working-out of death, as in fascism. What we need to think instead, therefore, is a community not centered on the absoluteness of some essence, human or otherwise. Acknowledging the necessary link between "essence" and "working" or "producing" within the immanent frame that he believes we cannot go back behind, Nancy proposes that we attempt to think a community that would be désœuvré, which literally means "unworked," or as the translator has it "inoperative."

Additionally, in everyday usage, désœuvré has reference to unemployment or idleness; a "lazy rascal" is a voyou désœuvré. (Whatever might happen to the value of work or humanism, then, it seems that this new form of community would share with communism at least its anticapitalism.)

Communism is the privileged example of what one might call the "bad" form of community, one focused on the working-out of the human essence, but Nancy seems to think that Christianity has a certain privileged status when it comes to the link between community and the avoidance of death. Fully teasing out Nancy’s largely implicit view of Christianity here is probably not necessary for the present purposes, but it is clear that Nancy sees the divinization of humanity in Christ as Christianity’s key strategy for avoiding death. And it is in fact this question of death that comes to preoccupy Nancy for most of the essay, as he attempts to work out another relationship between death and community, in critical dialogue with Georges Bataille. The alternative that emerges is the abandonment of any attempt to give "meaning" to death—making of death a kind of work—and instead acknowledging it as the limit to which the finite community is constitutively exposed.

5 Nancy, Inoperative Community, 2-3.
6 Nancy, Inoperative Community, 2. Nancy italicizes "defined"; I italicize "work."
7 Nancy, Inoperative Community, 2.
8 Nancy, Inoperative Community, 3.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Comparing Nietzsche's call for the Overman with that announced by Sri Aurobindo and the Mother

Living Laboratories of the Life Divine by Debashish Banerji
from Science, Culture and Integral Yoga™ by Debashish

  • What is the post-human destiny to which we are called as humans in contemporary times?

In this transcript of a talk given for the AUM conference in Los Angeles in 2003, Debashish Banerji compares Nietzsche's call for the Overman with that announced by Sri Aurobindo and the Mother to point to the similarities and differences.

  • How can we pick our way through the maze of choices held up at this end-time of human becoming?
  • Is it by remaining complacent or by using our wills or by surrender to a greater force than ours?
  • And if so, what force - the vitalism of an unconscious Nature-force, the deceptive "universality" of the world market or an unpredictable future which calls our arduous attention?

These and similar questions are posed and discussed in this article.


A Fractal-model for Change by Pravir Malik
from Mirror of Tomorrow by RY Deshpande

The power to change things lies within us. Presented here are parts of a theory on how shifts in oneself can have profound shifts in corporations, markets, systems, and the world. It has been said - "Become the change you wish to see in the World". But the elaboration of how this is true may remain a mystery.

The theory of organization introduced here indicates a fractal reality in which an idea, a person, a team, a corporation, a market, a system, progressively more complex constructs, are concretely connected by virtue of common and linked patterns that animates each of these separate levels. Hence the power to positively change progressively more complex and in many cases removed arenas of life, such even as Climate Change, by making corresponding changes in one’s personal space becomes more real...

Friday, November 14, 2008

Political ontology of Confucius and Aristotle merge into a vision where the family only takes precedence due to its capacity for fostering virtue

Fractal Ontology refracting theory: politics, cybernetics, philosophy
Family contra the State: Problematizing Aristotle and Confucius
“..for the relationship between people and government is the most pervasive ideal relationship upon which commerce between teacher and pupil, lord and servants, father and family, general and soldier, master and apprentice have unconsciously been modeled.”Friedrich Nietzsche.

For centuries, the history of philosophy has explored the general opposition set up between Occidental and Oriental philosophy, especially concerning their respective “origins.” Generally speaking, it has been assumed that Western and Eastern philosophies differ over the metaphysical question of the constitution of the (conditions of possibility of the) universe, ending with the antinomy of a decision concerning Being/Nothingness (Plato vs. Lao-Tzu, both of whom subordinate becoming either to the movement of the idea or the non-activity of the Dao). In the same sense, Aristotle’s political ontology has been argued to end up in another binary opposition with that of Confucius: it is asserted that the former makes the state primary to the family, whereas for the latter this formula must be inverted. Instead, these reflections will attempt to illustrate that the opposition of these philosophical decisions should be shown to be inadequately founded and that a more clarified reading can show that this opposition is both untenable and capable of exemplifying that the problem has not yet been sufficiently determined.

In order to construct a contextual problematic, i.e. one determined by other conditions already present in both philosophies, we should resituate the problem elsewhere before addressing the opposition between family and state. For example, one of the primary conditions for Aristotle in the Politics is that of equality. In book V especially, the problem of equality most especially addresses the ways in which the rich and the poor can be considered to be unequal or disproportionate. These distinctions gain their importance because they define the different ways in which democracies and oligarchies quantify the quality in equality. It could be easy to oppose Confucius to this characterization:

Zigong said: “What do you think of the saying:’ Poor but not inferior; rich but not superior’?” The Master replied: “Not bad, but not as good as: ‘Poor but enjoying the way; rich but loving ritual propriety.’”E2

What Zigong says to the master appears to be the solution to the Aristotelian riddle or problematic concerning the status of the rich and the poor: it is not that they should be considered equal, but that they should not be considered unequal. By inverting the perspective on the relation, Zigong seems to have resolved the oppositions in an almost Hegelian way. But the master answers something that actually resonates with a more fundamental requirement of Aristotle, one that is even more primary than the family (for both philosophers): namely, the question of the perpetuation of noble actions or ritual propriety (li).

Although it could be argued that the perspective of the state dominates the Politics, it is extremely symptomatic that Aristotle obsesses over characterizing the virtues and vices pertaining to individuals, even if it is only through generalized forms, especially in relation to virtuous persons (whom Confucius would call junzi, or “exemplary persons”). It is in this sense that Aristotle also founds his political ontology on the various types of individuals, differentiating them according to vice and virtue, and, more commonly according to the problematic of equality, according to wealth. When Confucius quotes: “Exemplary persons help out the needy; they do not make the rich richerE3,”

Aristotle tries to take this one step further (even if it demonstrates his own prejudices of supporting the middle way). In order to regulate inequality of wealth, Aristotle advocates self-moderation for the rich: “The beginning of reform is not so much to equalize property as to train the nobler sort of natures not to desire more, and to prevent the lower from getting more; that is to say, they must be kept down, but not ill-treated.”E4 Although the last part of this statement seems contrary to the Confucian path, it should be noted that both philosophers would subordinate this question of class and wealth to something more primary than the state, which is the perpetuation of noble actions or ritual propriety (ends) which are actualized through the ideal of the family (means).

While it could be argued that Aristotle makes the state primordial in the sense that he argues it precedes the individual like the whole precedes its parts, it can be demonstrated that Aristotle makes the family primary in order to perpetuate a higher goal, namely that of noble actions or precisely li.

Anthropology, Phenomenology, Design, and Culture

Toward a Science of Consciousness
Investigating Inner Experience
June 11-14, 2009
The Hong Kong Polytechnic University School of Design
Hong Kong, China

Researchers and scholars throughout the sciences, humanities and arts are invited to the 15th international interdisciplinary scientific conference on consciousness. The Toward a Science of Consciousness Conference will be held in Hong Kong from June 11th to 14th, 2009. Plan now to attend and join in the dialogue. Abstracts are due Feb 1, 2009. Abstracts presented at the conference will be published in a special issue of the Journal of Consciousness Studies.

The event is part of a larger Asia Consciousness Festival that will include workshops, cultural events, and other Conferences on topics such as cognitive informatics, and artificial general intelligence that are scheduled in June.

Areas Include: Philosophy, Neuroscience, Cognitive Science, Media and Psychology, Physical and Biological Sciences, Anthropology, Phenomenology, Design, and Culture. Main Themes Program Committee Submission Program Registration Hotels Social Sponsors Supporting Organizations Contact Copyright © 2008 The Hong Kong Polytechnic University School of Design

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

An alternative to Continental approaches dominated by correlationism or philosophies of access and various forms of social constructivism

New Book: French Interpretations of Heidegger from Continental Philosophy by Farhang Erfani
Edited by Francois Raffoul and David Pettigrew,
French Interpretations of Heidegger: An Exceptional Reception
From the publisher’s site:

French Interpretations of Heidegger undertakes a philosophical engagement with the work of the most significant and creative figures involved in the reception of Heidegger in France. The essays address those thinkers who have been influenced by Heidegger’s thought and have interpreted it in remarkable ways, including Levinas, Beaufret, Sartre, Merleau-Ponty, Foucault, Derrida, Deleuze, Nancy, Lacoue-Labarthe, Irigaray, Zarader, Greisch, and Dastur. The volume explores the extraordinary impact that Heidegger’s thought has had on contemporary French philosophy, including such movements as existentialism, deconstruction, feminist theory, post-structuralism, and hermeneutics, and illustrates its impact on the American continental scene as well. Click here for Table of Contents


Post-Identity Politics? Posted by larvalsubjects under Ideology, Politics, Potential, Religion, resentiment [11] Comments November 8, 2008

In particular, I have a paper coming out with the IJZS on Lacan’s discourse of the capitalist and the three discourses that follow from this discourse as it relates to contemporary Continental political theory that I’m particularly proud of and which I hope goes some of the way towards shifting certain features of political debates surrounding Lacanian inspired political thought. Currently I am putting together an edited collection with Nick Srnicek and Graham Harman that draws together works that are inspired by realist orientations in contemporary philosophy and that will feature contributions from Alain Badiou, Jane Bennett, Ray Brassier, Manuel DeLanda, Ian Hamilton Grant, Peter Hallward, Graham Harman, Adrian Johnston, Bruno Latour, Catherine Malabou, Quentin Meillassoux, Nicole Pepperell, John Protevi, Isabelle Stengers, Alberto Toscano, Slavoj Žižek and perhaps Martin Hagglund. Our desire is to draw together work that offers an alternative to Continental approaches dominated by correlationism or philosophies of access and various forms of social constructivism. Between teaching and working on these projects, I have been exceedingly busy...

In the interim I’ve being going over old and beloved ground, rereading Lucretius, Leibniz, and Spinoza, while also reading a good deal of history, Marx, and Marxist works. I find myself filled with horror at Leibniz’s universe, comforted only by Voltaire’s great work of ideology critique, Candide, while being filled with joy and a sense of empowerment by Lucretius and blessed Spinoza.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

After 201 years Hegel's Phenomenology is still ground-breaking

(title unknown) from Continental Philosophy by Farhang Erfani
review of Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit: A Critical Guide (Cambridge Critical Guides) by Dean Moyar (Editor), Michael Quante (Editor) Reviewed by Jeffrey Church, Duke University

Few texts in the history of thought are as difficult and yet as exciting as Hegel's Phenomenology of Spirit. In the 201 years since its publication, the Phenomenology has had a broad influence on diverse fields of thought, including philosophy, sociology, theology, political science, and literary theory...

The three authors -- Heidemann, Fulda, and Horstmann -- agree on the basic outline of Hegel's project. Hegel's project establishes what Horstmann calls a "new paradigm in epistemology" (49) by responding to the problem of skepticism besetting previous theories. For Hegel, skepticism has revealed the inadequacy of foundationalism, the attempt to find a self-evident or self-grounding principle that bridges the apparently impassable gulf between subject and object. Hegel's response to this problem is to reject the foundationalist project and adopt what Heidemann calls Hegel's "methodological anti-individualism" -- his "holism." What brings together subject and object, for Hegel, is a self-reflecting system of normative thought that transcends each individual or particular consciousness (8). Though these three authors broadly agree as to what Hegel's phenomenological project is, they offer different perspectives on how Hegel justifies this project.

Heidemann emphasizes the historical development of these "shapes of consciousness", and how each shape creates foundational norms that govern the relationship between subject and object. Hegel justifies the final position in the history of self-consciousness, "Absolute Knowledge," by showing how history necessarily leads to Absolute Knowledge, and Absolute Knowledge supplies an epistemic system that is not internally contradictory. However, Heidemann argues, Hegel's method of justification is circular -- for "the standpoint of philosophical truth is a constitutive element needed to make sense of" the history of self-consciousness, yet this history is supposed to itself justify the final standpoint (18). While Heidemann argues that Hegel cannot escape from this problem of circularity, Fulda and Horstmann argue that Hegel's position can be salvaged.

For Fulda, the Phenomenology is best seen as a "work in progress" (28), rather than as a completed edifice of knowledge. As such, though later moments in the history of self-consciousness may solve or answer problems plaguing previous moments, no moment provides an absolutely self-justified endpoint at which point Spirit can finally come to rest. Horstmann takes a different tack in offering a highly interesting and original account of what he calls Hegel's "transcendentalistic" form of argument. Hegel's form of argument is an advance over Kant's "transcendental" argument, which dogmatically takes a particular configuration of subject and object for granted (in what Kant calls "experience"). For Hegel, the very notions of subject and object and their relationship are open to question. His "negative transcendental argument" discerns what the conditions for the possibility of cognition as such are -- and after running through a series of failed attempts to render cognition possible, Hegel shows that only his own position makes sense of cognition (52). ***

Reading Hegel: The Introductions by
G.W.F. Hegel (edited and introduced by Aakash Singh and Rimina Mohapatra)
► 2008

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Deleuze in the light of Kant; Foucault against Habermas and Derrida; Berlin refused to build a system

Politics of the Virtual Author: Levi R Bryant 1 Source: Psychoanalysis, Culture & Society, Volume 9, Number 3, December 2004 , pp. 333-348(16) Publisher: Palgrave Macmillan Abstract:

This article examines the possibility of political change through the examination of ontological concepts pertaining to the social as drawn from the thought of Lacan and Deleuze. Distinguishing between the virtual and the actual, I argue that a politics of the actual, which is premised on conflicts between social groups, fails to produce real social change by leaving the virtual social structure organizing relationships between these groups intact. By contrast, a politics of the virtual makes these structures the direct object of its struggle, and seeks to determine the void underlying social relations as the place where real change is possible. Psychoanalysis, Culture & Society (2004) 9, 333–348. doi:10.1057/palgrave.pcs.2100024

Learn about Deleuze the right way, not the easy way, July 15, 2008
By Justin Evans (Chicago, USA) - See all my reviews Many, many silly things have been written by and about Gilles Deleuze; by comparison Bryant's book stands out as a beacon of sense, clarity, youth truth beauty and all the other great things there are. Just buy it.

If you need to be further convinced: he reads Deleuze in the light of Kant, rather than as a Nietzschean 'everything-is-power-and-we-must- fight-the-forces-of-ressentiment' type. He takes the philosophy of difference given in 'Difference and Repetition' and 'The Logic of Sense' to be an answer to the problem of the Kantian passivity of reception. For Deleuze, Kant gives up on the critical project by not asking what makes the given of receptivity possible. Although Kant shows the transcendental conditions for the possibility of experience (being the conceptual determination of intuitions) he doesn't show the transcendental conditions for *real* experience: to do so would be to give the conditions for intuitions, or receptivity. Deleuze's answer to this question, what allows the given to be given, is Difference, which is located in a constellation of terms: Idea, structure, problems and so on. Difference and Givenness: Deleuze's Transcendental Empiricism and the Ontology of Immanence (Topics in Historical Philosophy) 8:53 AM

Revising Foucault: The History and Critique of Modernity from Continental Philosophy by Farhang Erfani
Colin Koopman University of California, Santa Cruz
, Forthcoming Abstract:

I propose a major reassessment of Foucault’s philosophico-historical account of the basic problems of modernity. I revise our understanding of Foucault by countering the misinterpretations proffered by influential European critics such as Habermas and Derrida. Central to Foucault’s account of modern was his work on two crucial concept pairs: freedom/power and reason/madness. I argue against the view of Habermas and Derrida that Foucault understood modern power and reason as straightforwardly opposed to modern freedom and madness. I show that Foucault held a much more complex view of these pairs, a view encapsulated in his term “reciprocal incompatibility.” By revising our interpretation of Foucault’s work on modernity in this way, we open the way to much more effective deployments of his critical apparatus. Keywords: Foucault, Habermas, Derrida, Modernity, Discipline Link

Russian Thinkers from Thoughts, Books, and Philosophy by jhbowden

Berlin was a genius– many of his most insightful and penetrating writings are taken from unscripted lectures. Not only did Berlin refuse to build a system, he refused to be an unsystematic logic-chopper. Berlin did not believe in dissolving the eternal questions man must always confront. If anything, the eternal dilemmas of human condition constitute who we are; they have no resolution. Being educated means knowing the questions for all of the answers; only then can we act wisely with integrity. Berlin’s thought isn’t a stand-alone readymade of Marcel Duchamp; his philosophy reveals itself in his discussion of others.