Thursday, January 28, 2010

Kandinsky, Schoenberg, Woolf; Bergson, James, Sri Aurobindo

from Posthuman Destinies by rcarlson

"In or about December, 1910," claims Virginia Woolf, "human character changed." Specifically Virginia Woolf was referring to an exhibition on Manet and Post-Impressionists Art put together by art critic Roger Fry in which the subjective turn in modernist art made is sensational debut. An estranged public called the exhibition: “horror,” “madness,” “infection,” “sickness of the soul,” “putrescence,” “pornography,” “anarchy” and “evil. No doubt madness was in the air, and that many of the artist of the day held some sense of a coming dark historical rupture that would soon incarnate in world war however, the intention of artist like Kandinsky, Schoenberg, or Woolf often mirrored the concerns of the philosophers and visionaries of the day such as Henri Bergson, William James, Sri Aurobindo who glimpse vague utopian potentialities of a spiritual self-awakening evolving within the Zeit Geist, that Sri Aurobindo calls a coming Subjective Age.

The historical discontinuities and continuities of the infamous era one hundred years ago are explored in Thomas Harrison's book The Emancipation of Dissonance whose introductory chapter is provided in this article. What follows is an exploration of post-impressionist art. As we turn the corner into 2010 we begin with a juxtaposition of cultures at the beginning of this century between the 10's. Perhaps it is also at this time that we have one of our first encounters with post humanism as we arrive at the limits of humanism, here is Harrison on the Expressionist Movement of the Day:

"As I see it, expressionism is a paradoxical undertaking: It manifests both absolute faith and absolute disbelief in the most venerable preconceptions fueling the very project of artistic expression, including beauty, order, understanding, and truth. In intellectual history it signals the end of a Western, humanistic tradition, the termination, as it were, of its guiding objective. Indeed, in one reading, this simultaneous culmination and negation of a project to give form to universally comprehensible knowledge is precisely what enables so many of the theoretical and artistic changes that succeed this radical juncture: the formal license of avant-garde art, no longer held to common standards; the new objectivist literature of the twenties, returning from the world of potential to that of things; abstract expressionism; the historicizing ontology of Martin Heidegger; the turn of intellectuals in the postwar years toward political and social engagement."

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Donna Haraway drew upon Latour

from Pagan Metaphysics by Paul Reid-Bowen
Specifically, it was sometime in the mid/late 1990s when I encountered the writings of Donna Haraway and was particularly interested in the manner in which her ecofeminist and cyborg manifesto commitments converged. It was definitely one of those rare eureka moments when you discover someone who is saying something that you have been struggling to articulate for some time yourself.
Looking back on her work now - that is, following my recent encounters with OOO and SR - it is quite amazing how many parallels and resources there are that need revisiting (as Levi notes, ‘these people were ... object-oriented ontologists before anyone thought to name themselves “object-oriented ontologists”). […] One of my recent thoughts was, ‘Did Haraway read or draw upon Latour?’ A quick check of the bibliography of Simians, Cyborgs and Women reveals a couple of Latour endnotes.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Latour does get beyond Whitehead with his all local causal mediators

(title unknown) from enowning by enowning
In-der-Blog-sein - dis|closure on enjoying your objects.
Levinas refutes the Heideggerian notion that the existents in our lives, whether they be bread, hammers, pens, etc. are simply tools, or “means of life.” Levinas claims that, though we might need such tools, they are actually enjoyed. This is the beginning of the concept he calls “living from…” Levinas claims, in opposition to the Heideggerian school of thought, that “existence is not exhausted by utilitarian schematism that delineates (existents) as having the existence of hammers, needles, or machines. They are always in a certain measure– and even the hammers, needles, and machines are objects of enjoyment…”

a disagreement with Gratton from Object-Oriented Philosophy by doctorzamalek (Graham Harman)
In my opinion Latour spends too much time on science, not enough (or even any) on philosophical cosmology in the Whiteheadian manner. This does give Latour’s work a lot of nice empirical bulk, but it prevents him from getting entirely clear of correlationism. The way that Latour does get beyond Whitehead philosophically is that his causal mediators are all local, rather than through God as in Whitehead. It’s a big philosophical advance, and in fact it is quite unprecedented. Everyone else who saw the problem with direct relations either solved it by theological pistol shot (occasionalism) or empiricist pistol shot (Hume and, yes, even Kant). Latour tries to get us to focus on local/secular mediators.
And on the whole, Latour has the same sort of realist feel that one finds in Whitehead. And I don’t just mean realism in the very weak sense of “sure, there might be something beyond human access, but we can’t talk about it.” I mean realism in the sense that the relation between human and world is not smuggled back into all other kinds of relations as their necessary base.
The only way you could claim that correlationism doesn’t paint us into a corner is if you take an approach like Zizek’s, and claim that his position isn’t anti-realism, because there’s nothing real outside our access to it anyway. The real then becomes a traumatic kernel within our consciousness rather than something existing outside it. 

Jeff Meyerhoff has left a new comment on the post "Zizek and Rorty on the Real": Simon, Thanks for the informed comment.

My entry says that Rorty’s “reality” and Zizek’s “Real” are similar and then describes what they share and what they don’t share.

Yes, you’re right about the difference between Rorty’s “reality” and Zizek’s “Real. Rorty thinks it’s a useful concept for practical purposes: We say: “That makes sense but is that the reality of the situation?” But it isn’t useful to do metaphysics to nail down the nature of reality. For Zizek the Real cannot be nailed down, but it is a useful concept for constructing a social-psychanalytical understanding of our way of being human.

For both, “reality” is illusory, but Zizek (interpreting Lacan) adds something extra, which is “The Real”. But it’s not there in the way we like to think of reality as being there, i.e. as the bedrock to our knowledge or what we run up against whether we want to or not.

The concept “reality” for Zizek is the illusory world we construct in order to seek and avoid the Real. The scientist thinks reality is the material world. The idealist philosopher thinks reality is immaterial. The ordinary person thinks reality is what’s right there in front of you. The Communist thinks reality is History. The mystic thinks reality is Consciousness.

I never thought about it but isn’t it the case (I’m not just being rhetorical here but asking) that “the Real” in Zizek’s version of Lacan is a master-signifier? In Zizek’s The Sublime Object of Ideology (which I’m reading with a study group right now) a master signifier is a meaningless signifier that organizes other concepts into a coherent understanding. Examples of master-signifiers that Zizek gives are Communism, God, the Law. He says a master signifier is an empty signifier (i.e. no signified or meaning) yet in its transcendent place in an ideology it organizes all the other signifiers. For example, Communism has been a master signifier which, through its presence, creates a certain kind of sense for the concepts: class struggle, commodity, ideology, alienation, etc. Posted by Jeff Meyerhoff to philosophy autobiography at
January 16, 2010

We mentioned Nandy in the previous post to which we felt Leela Gandhi had responded to his criticism of Mira Alfassa (the Mother) It was this work a now classic of post-colonial literature that she instances. This is the first part of the book in which Nandy theorizes resistance to colonialism in India. He does this in part through studies in the biographies and works of a number of interesting historical figures among these Kipling, Gandhi and Sri Aurobindo. We begin with the preface and first five chapters. Political, economic, and cultural domination under colonialism has repeatedly been studied during the last hundred years. Breaking with the tradition, Ashis Nandy explores the ways in which colonialism damaged the colonizing societies themselves, and how the likes of Gandhi resisted their rulers in British India by building on the lifestyle, values, and psychology of ordinary Indians and by heeding dissenting voices from the West. "Political, economic, and cultural domination under colonialism has repeatedly been studied during the last hundred years. Breaking with the tradition, Ashis Nandy explores the ways in which colonialism damaged the colonizing societies themselves, and how the likes of Gandhi resisted their rulers in British India by building on the lifestyle, values, and psychology of ordinary Indians and by heeding dissenting voices from the West. "

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Justice, virtue, freedom.

Justice: What's the Right Thing to Do? Michael J. Sandel - Sandel contrasts ancient theories of justice, concerned with virtue, with modern theories concerned with freedom. Yet we share beliefs about virtue. We just don't apply them to economics and politics as he advises. Our society has deep currents of moral convictions. Comments (4) Permalink 

Friday, January 15, 2010

Ranciere resisted the denigration of aesthetics in our political philosophies

Influential Books: AUFS for the Uninitiated 4 from An und für sich by Brad Johnson

The most obvious influence in this regard is Herman Melville’s final novel, The Confidence-Man: His Masquerade. This was the first work of non-biblical literature I’d ever invested considerable energy in studying. I poured myself into not merely the book, but also the reception that met the book when it was first published and the evolution its various readings have undertaken since. (This doesn’t count as a book, per se, but if we were to include essays, I’d have to point to my long-standing devotion to Walter Benjamin’s essay “The Task of the Translator.” Since encountering this I’ve been committed to the notion that texts and ideas in general have a kind of organic life-cycle — deformations, repressions, internal squabbles, decay, death, afterlife, etc. — and cannot imagine approaching them in a de-contextualized, non-materialistic way, even if this means, as it must, that all such thinking is radically incomplete. If I were to continue this passing comment into a full-fledged paragraph I’d go on at length about how W. G. Sebald’s The Rings of Saturn illustrates all this perfectly, but I’ll just leave it as a parenthetical aside.) Reading The Confidence-Man provided me with the means, in fits and starts and via a warren of wayward paths, to cast about for a sense of theological subjectivity immersed in the complexity of its own self-creativity. I’ve come a long way since this, and none of the Melville stuff has seen the light of day in any official capacity, but perhaps one day.
I ran into a number of philosophical impasses in the course of this project. I was growing increasingly dissatisfied with the tools deconstruction was offering, as I was no longer convinced by the status of the ‘freedom’ it described. It was fortunate, then, that I discovered Friedrich Schelling’s Investigations Into the Essence of Human Freedom. Where Adam and Anthony found themselves changed by Nietzsche, Schelling was it for me. Though not as immediately “sexy” as Nietzsche, the middle-period of Schelling’s work is no less intense. I read this book at the perfect time: it harmonized in a shocking way with how I’d been reading Melville in particular; it was engaged in a profound philosophical dialogue that was not so much contradictory as excessive to the assumptions about Being that inform deconstruction; and, even more, it was written in a typically Teutonic non-clever tone whose mesmerizingly poetic cadence summoned a disturbing image of a God-who-is-created that emboldened me to keep advancing in my reflections on aesthetics in the thinking of ontology and theology.
I’ve actually not thought of this book in years, but another philosophical text that was absolutely crucial for me in this period was Michel Serres’ The Parasite. Nothing else embodied the “network” (which I would now probably call “ecology”) of creativity I sought to theorize like that work — certainly not in that voice, which always seemed to simultaneously say more and less than it seemed. I felt as though Serres was beckoning his readers not merely to consume his work and ideas, but insisting instead that we had an ethical, indeed even a biological, responsibility both to consume and then shit out his ideas, for in that shitting we were fertilizing the field for something else. Whether we owned the field or laid claim to the crop, or whether we were trespassing, it mattered not, since the ideas weren’t really possessions — momentary sustenance, if anything. I can’t say that Serres’ philosophy has carried into my recent work, but this spirit, or at least the one I took from it, certainly has.
Most recently, nothing has influenced me quite like Jacques Ranciere’s Disagreement. Here my overarching concern with aesthetics was re-articulated for me in a political register. Ranciere resisted the denigration of aesthetics in our political philosophies, and instead presented a way for me to move forward with my work on the theological value of duplicity and creativity. His work has inspired me to direct attention to the concrete extension (dare I say ‘praxis’?) of my understanding of aesthetics — toward the fully-embodied, present struggles and practicalities of life faced by those who are denied a self-creative sensibility.
And lastly, let me reiterate a book that both Anthony & Dan have already mentioned. Philip Goodchild’s Capitalism & Religion. Just a stunning piece of work. In my opinion, if you only pick up one of the books any of us have  mentioned, get it, and you’ll be well on the way to full-fledged AUFS initiation.

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Bring the work and insights of Sri Aurobindo into the 21st century

photo of Michel Bauwens
Michel Bauwens
6th January 2010 we focus on inner technologies of self knowledge and self-governance and their co-evolution with ethical stances appropriate to the ubiquitous technological environments we increasingly populate.
For me an integral approach is an approach that refuses reductionism in any form and that combines an understanding of both (inter)subjective and (inter)objective aspects of any reality (always combining inner and outer realities!!). Peer to peer on the other hand, adds the ethical requirement that we should treat each other as equipotential beings who all have something to contribute to the world, and that we need social systems that allow the full expression of those possibilities for every human being.
While both the integral and p2p approaches are growing separately, it is still rare to find them combined. The better known integral approaches, such as those of Ken Wilber, take a strong pro-hierarchy stance and align themselves with neoconservative values.
There is one exception that I’d like to bring to our readers attention and that is the site maintained by Rich Carlson and friends, called “Science, Culture, Integral Yoga“, and which attempts to bring the work and insights of Aurobindo into the 21st century. It’s a site that consistently brings high quality thinking and it has started focusing on posthuman destinies lately.
A recent example of a blog item to give you a flavour of the site:
But especially look at this four part series:
Techno-Capitalism and Post-human Destinies – by Debashish Banerji
I asked SCIY editor Rich Carlson to explain the motivation of the site and their focus on the posthuman theme.
It is undoubtedly heady stuff but for those willing to do their theoretical homework, this site really rocks. Really one of the few places where the history of the future is being written, and that has got its emancipatory heart in the right place.
Rich Carlson:
“Much like P2P, Posthuman Destinies contemplates emerging global networks, technology and culture. Additionally, perennial matters of identity and difference, being and becoming etc.. are foregrounded through articles and discussions that concern posthumanism.[...] References

* Hayles, K. My Mother was a Computer, Chicago University of Chicago Press, 2005
* Virilio, P. Polar Inertia. London: Sage Publications, 2000.
* Foucault, M. Order of Things, New York Random House Press, 1970
* Aurobindo Sri, The Life Divine Pondicherry, Sri Aurobindo Ashram Press, 1949

Monday, January 04, 2010

Husserl ranked with Socrates as the main representative of the greatness of Western thinking

from Object-Oriented Philosophy by doctorzamalek (Graham Harman

One of the consequences of this way of looking at things is the much higher status I give to Levinas than most people do. His attitude from the start seems to me the right one: “we cannot go back to pre-Heideggerian philosophy, but there is something out of order about the climate of that philosophy.” [...] And I think readers of this blog know that I’ll be the first to give Whitehead as much credit as possible: he’s a genuinely great philosopher, and any given century doesn’t have too many of those. [...]

There are no hidden objects in Husserl. A mailbox is not hiding behind its successively visible profiles. For Heidegger, the mailbox does obviously hide behind those profiles. The two thinkers give us complementary models of objects. As I have argued, Heidegger senses this, and constructs a fourfold model out of it: explicitly so from 1949 onward, but really as far back as his early struggles with Husserl in 1919.

What has happened since? The tension required to maintain these ambivalent models of objects dissipated somewhat. Either the object was overmined by a return to the German Idealist downgrading of reality-an-sich, or it was undermined by appeal to a more indeterminate continuum, with actual individuals stripped of autonomy.

For this reason, I hold that what we need is not more philosophy of the subject (overmining), and not more natural science (undermining). What we need instead is the object-oriented spirit of phenomenology mixed with the more cosmic object-oriented spirit of Whitehead.

In my college days I was a great admirer of Hegel, whom I regarded as the greatest philosopher that had ever lived. Curiously enough, Kant left cold. In fact, I looked uponKant as an incomplete Hegel and Hegel as the completed kant. The influence of Hegel, however, did not last long. Heraclitus was undoubtedly earlier than Parmenides. But Hegelian logic required that Parmenides should come first and then Heraclitus. "Emerging Theory of Values"  11:34 PM Friday, October 21, 2005

I emphasized Whitehead's Platonism rather than his process-philosophy (66). My interest still centres around Husserl and Kant. To think of Husserl is to think also of Heidegger. Heidegger has been Husserl's other, not from the outside but from within Husserl's thinking. The same is true of Kant --to think with Kant is to think of Hegel, who critiqued and opposed Kant from within. For me Husserl ranked with Socrates as the main representative of the greatness of Western thinking (114). [Between Two Worlds: East and West: An Autobiography 5:07 PM Sunday, October 16, 2005

The philosopher is still a concrete human being: however far-flung and cosmic his thinking may be; the thinker is still an embodied, historically situated, biologically constituted, socially rooted, linguistically localized and culturally conditioned creature. It is a miracle that he can use these constraints to open out, in his thoughts, to the world at large (116).

There are layers of rootedness, to all of which I cling with utmost tenacity. Yet in my thinking, I wish to be free. A tradition nourishes your life, makes possible a meaningful world but leaves openings through which other traditions may be contacted. I realize, I am the mid-point of a series of concentric circles. To actualize those circles within my consciousness is what it takes to be a world philosopher. Dialogue with other traditions is also a dialogue within oneself (117). [Between Two Worlds: East and West: An Autobiography 5:16 PM Monday, October 17, 2005 : India: An account of a visit to the police state of Chhattisgarh For anthropologists, our professional life is difficult to separate from our personal – our research depends on developing deep friendships with the people we `study'. In the twenty years that I have been visiting Bastar off and on, I have acquired a range of friends, acquaintances and people who are like family members, whose concerns are my concerns. This does not in any way diminish one's commitment to independence and objectivity. As Kathleen Gough said in 1968, when the American Anthropological Association was debating whether to pass a resolution against the war in Vietnam, `genocide is not in the professional interests of anthropology.' Nandini SundarPolice states, anthropology and human rights”, 3rd January 2010 From nabesh date 4 January 2010 12:53

Saturday, January 02, 2010

Merleau-Ponty, a testimony to limits of intellectual autonomy

I think it’s a terrible mistake to lump Whitehead and Latour together with Bergson and Deleuze, as if they all belonged to some grand vitalist alliance of contemporary philosophy. They don’t. For there is a major philosophical difference between those who solve the deadlock in favor of the continuum, and those who solve it in favor of the discrete, and Whitehead and Latour (both heirs of occasionalism) resolve it in favor of the discrete. part 1 of 2 to Deontologistics from Object-Oriented Philosophy by doctorzamalek (Graham Harman)

Maurice Merleau-Ponty [1907-1961], the French phenomenologist, is known for formulating a fresh notion of perception anchored on our embodied existence. In a clear departure from Brentano, Husserl and Heidegger, Merleau-Ponty brings in the idea of gestalt and dares to interrogate the lived-body. Far from offering a conclusive philosophy, his explorations into the seamless mind-body whole remains a testimony to limits of intellectual autonomy, even as his books remain incomplete.
The question of man, the world and the Being engages him to the point of despair. In the manner of a physical scientist, he searches for the ultimate building-block and calls our constitutional element, the flesh. The earth, as a similar abstraction, is for him a holistic endeavour for harmonious living, the function of philosophy being tilted in favour of feeling and practice. It has been aptly commented that the questions emanating from this deep analysis have spiritual overtones. It can, therefore, be safely asserted that Merleau-Ponty takes the tradition of western philosophy to its limits beyond which it is the realm of intuition and mysticism.
It is interesting to recall that Heidegger, too, arrives in analogous environs, albeit through a separate route. At this point, it is important to bear in mind that it is not proper to club Merleau-Ponty along with the dominant tradition of biology, vitalism, feeling, will-to-live, Eros or libido. His scrutiny of the body-mind-continuum, in contrast, is an honest endeavour to undo the damages wrought by earlier one-sided over-emphasis.
It would be too far-fetched to find links in the work of this fellow French contemporary with the elaborate investigations on the body that The Mother was busy with. Nevertheless, there are commonalities of much significance and interesting possibilities. Posted by Tusar N Mohapatra at 10:52 PM , Friday, October 14, 2005 9:25 PM