Friday, October 30, 2009

Follow-up to Nancy Post

My new sister-in-law and favorite faculty member at the University of Otago (the research institution in New Zealand and nicely located next to some delicious wine country), Meegan, wrote some questions about my previous post on Nancy. I also got some questions, via Facebook, from my friend, Matt so what follows, although it's in direct response to Meegan, I think also somewhat addresses one thing that Matt was asking after.

I really appreciate any feedback that comes this way, it's not as though reading this stuff is fun, let alone then coming up with any questions, so thanks, y'all!

I welcome any and all feedback.

So, let's see, the section in question is this one, right:

"Those that are against homosexual marriage seem to be making the claim that homosexuals cannot have a relationship as described in Figures 4 & 5.
Perhaps this is why their arguments seem so flat and are thus typically dependent upon religious claims. The irony, of course, is that religious claims are based on an Intimacy model of truth, so evangelical Christians are forever going on about their Personal Relationship with Christ, and how we must accept Christ into our hearts (a place decidedly not publicly verifiable)."

This is a pretty sloppy shorthand I put here, I apologize - I wrote this in a stream of consciousness manner primarily over the course of an hour so it's no wonder that the result is not easy to read.

This sentiment about marriage equality originally burbled into my mind after I read an Onion article wherein a fundamentalist protester in the "story" had a sign that said, "God Hates Modified Sexual Organs! The gist of the "story" was that Fundamentalist Christians were up in arms because homosexuals, in order to get around the problem of same-sex marriage, were having one partner switch genders so they could be legally married. I thought that this was brilliant commentary on the "problem."

2009 Annual Meeting of the Georgia Sociological Association

Today I am presenting at the 2009 Annual Meeting of the GSA, being held at Morehouse College here in Atlanta. This is a presentation from a longer article I am writing of the same title.
Boshears GSA Presentation Public

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Jean-Luc Nancy "Being Singular Plural"

I apologize to those of you that like to drop-in for a read as I've not written anything in about a week. I am preparing for the Annual Meeting of the Georgia Sociological Association being held this weekend. I am presenting on Friday around 3 and I'm having a tough time shifting gears.

This will be a brief post that's been inspired by a recent friend and administrator/editor/head-honcho of the blog Prōlogus, Nathan Everson in Australia. Nathan posted a quote from Nancy's book "Being Singular-Plural" on Facebook and there was a question of what all those words meant. Philosophy and "Theory" tend to be dismissed immediately for being too obtuse, too full of jargon, which is unfortunate since I think the most important thinkers of their times always tend to write as clearly as they can. Thinking is not just one thing, some may think in terms of music, or of colors, or of relations between objects - thinking as it is communicated in what has to this point been called Philosophy uses words as its currency. But already I am having a difficult talking in these terms because already we'd have to explain, then, symbolic logic, cinema, architecture, painting, etc. Let's stay simple for a moment and accept that words are problematic but they beat the alternative: no words.

Here are the confusing words that inspired this writing:
Compassion is not altruism, nor is it identification; it is the disturbance of violent relatedness -- Jean-Luc Nancy, Being Singular Plural (xiii)
Someone commented on Nathan's post that this was not very clear and so I feel compelled to write a lil' bit here. In part I'm writing about this because my background in thinking is inspired by the East Asian Traditions, particularly Classical Confucianism and Mahayana as well as Zen Buddhisms. Compassion has a very rich and radically different meaning between these traditions and the West. This is primarily due to how these two cultures understand agency, in other words, how we understand the self when we say (in English) "myself" or "I" is not universal; in East Asia there is a radically different notion of the self. The best introduction (and frankly a book I return to frequently) to understanding how these two forms of agency can transform a culture is found in Thomas P. Kasulis' Intimacy or Integrity: Philosophy & Cultural Difference (2002). As Kasulis states, culture is a recursive pattern, like a fractal; once we can get a purchase on what the general pattern being repeated is, we can begin to understand more deeply why these cultural differences exist. As an added bonus we can also begin to revisit assumptions within our own tradition and perhaps propose different ways of being, maybe find ways of changing institutions that seem to no longer be generating the results we'd like to see.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Jacques Rancière Day 3

NOTE TO FACEBOOK VIEWERS: to view any of the clips you'll need to visit the actual blog. Scroll to the bottom and click "View Original Post"

Jacques Rancière taught a class entitled: POLITICS OF AESTHETICS wherein we discuss the relationship between what is allowed to be seen and the dominant political regime.

NOTE: As with all my notes from the EGS, there will likely be mistakes because I did not record the lectures, I made notes as they spoke, so I am perhaps interpreting what they are saying as I am writing.

The question of the aesthetic effect - the result of the aesthetic framing; Kant and Schiller dismiss the efficient model of art which is instrumentalized to teach morality (see Rousseau's Letters on the Theatre).

At the heart of the aesthetic is this dismissal seen in Schiller's Twenty-Second Letter.
  • A radical separation of the artist's intention and the art object and its contents;
  • what is at work is a separation of the interior contents that would be seen as beautiful
  • it is free of concept and so it is free beauty.
  • Schiller says that it produces effect by the general feeling not by the transfer of energies.
The political effects of the aesthetic effect

An upheaval of hierarchies of what is sensible.
  • Both experiencing and communicating this effect are now equally available to all.
  • Based on this universality, embedded in individual sensory experience, is the basis of a new community.
  • An aesthetic education and revolution - the transformation of experience rather than the French Revolution which was just the same power structure replacing the former power structure.
An experience of doing nothing, a suspension is perhaps better, a revolution of the sensory experience. It is first a potential, but this may be at the very basis of the Communist revolution - it must be more than simply a political revolution. Marx proposed a human revolution.

The Oldest Systematic Program of German Idealism (Hegel, Holderlin, and Schelling) in this text is a call for community where ideas are everybody's, they were avid readers of Schiller and admirers of the French Revolution.

The invention of Abstract Forms, intimately related with Soviet policy, was developed as a new means of creating community. I'm not dealing with Humanism vs. Totalitarianism, but how the transformation of the aesthetic experience transformed the way in which politics is possible and, yes, young Marx was a part of this.

The idea of the sensory revolution is not a principle by which all are bound into a new community of aesthetes (and then to fascism as Benjamin suggests); rather the people can form a community of sharing a capacity to both experience and a capacity to communicate this experience.

There are two models:
  1. The artist says, "I want to produce this effect that makes my point," and this is the efficiency model
  2. Kant and Schiller are claiming that the relationship between the viewer and the art object produces this aesthetic effect, not the artists' intentions or execution; it is a paradox because artists want, always, to create art that would have this effect.
Hegel's Lessons on Aesthetics (1830s, published posthumously in 1860s)
Probably this was written in 1828. This text and the Barthes text both share the problem of aesthetic equality: how does any subject become an art subject, how can something enter the realm of art?

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Evening Lecture w/ Judith Balso & Phillipe Beck

Judith Balso introduced Philippe Beck for an evening lecture and poetry reading. While Beck read in French, he asked that A. Staley Groves read his work translated into English.

I took some notes from Beck's talk before he began his reading, so this will be a very short entry. It's a shame I didn't take better notes. In time there will be video from the evening through the EGS and I will be sure to link to it or embed it here.

Every poem is subordinated to the book: poetry must be a trajectory, a long trip. Poetry as geography and history of thought.

Hegel sees that poetry must lead us to new forms, it frees the mind from the worry of the idea.

Stevens says poetry comes from analogy, analogy exists so that the world might exist.

The importance of poetry: we must imagine, with poetry, l'interlocutor, the reader stretches the poem.

He stated during the Q&A that de Fontenelle may be the greatest poet of all time.

"if poetry is to be interesting for humankind it must be less humid, or else, or else..."

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Mike Shapiro Day 2

NOTE TO FACEBOOK VIEWERS: to view any of the clips you'll need to visit the actual blog. Scroll to the bottom and click "View Original Post"

Mike Shapiro taught a course entitled GEOPOLITICS IN CINEMA. This class attempts a rethinking of the planetary impact of media such as cinema as a challenge to political thought.

NOTE: As with all my notes from the EGS, there will likely be mistakes because I did not record the lectures, I made notes as they spoke, so I am perhaps interpreting what they are saying as I am writing.

I really recommend looking to webdeleuze and especially in the section called sommaire where you can see Deleuze's class notes on Kant. I think these notes on Kant are better than the book he wrote on Kant.

Kant tries to patch up this fragility by returning to the 2nd critique; Lyotard, Deleuze, and Ranciere do not back away from this.

When talking about method: Ranciere tries to disfigure the hierarchy, not test hypotheses, a relationality that deforms power structures, this is the purpose of the aesthetic approach. It's a way that detours away from the normal modes of figure formation. When the arts reform cliche relationships we have to see this as a challenge to power distributions.

Compare Italian crime novels to Putnam's survey-based study of politics:
  • We get a different sense of the politics of the country - we get a clearer sense of justice and normatives in Italy than what Putnam's methodology provides.
  • In The Day of the Owl we have a significant dynamic at work. We see that there is an ideational fault line within the cities, an understanding that those in the north of the country are imposing laws on those in the south. He reveals a politics of disparity.
  • Rather than aggregating attitudes, the novel shows metapolitical perspective.
Empiricist social science assumes we begin with a clean slate and from this we are able to interpret. Literature assumes that we are embedded in this world and must understand from this filter. Good literature disables our continuous overcoding onto the world.

Onto the Hegel chapter of my new book

Almost every thinker must come to terms with Hegel, to digest his notions of time and space relations.
(As an aside: we should consider what mode of thinking we will do professionally by deciding which types of meetings we want to attend, like it was AA or something)

Temporality is not fixed, we live in a plurality of temporalities.

Why should we have beliefs and not fears (as the Inuit shaman explained)?
Fears maintain groups at a distance. They control how we think.
  • In the shaman's society, everyone is responsible for their own safety because when they are hunting they may be also being hunted by a polar bear.
  • It's not that they are anxious all the time, but that they must be alert and sensitive to the world.
  • This what critical literature does as well.
...redeeming Hegel. Identity is a process of becoming.

The End of Violence (1997) Wim Wenders

There is an invisible world that makes Brian's life possible and he's not noticed it until now. His body is rather irrelevant - it's mostly a tool of apprehension through technology prostheses. Every now and again we hear Brian talking but it's likely Wender thinking aloud. Here we have the city as surveillance. They never noticed because these were ahistorical beings. In his Violence and Metaphysics Derrida says that the worst violence is the dream that we can rid ourselves of violence. I'm also thinking of Deleuze's discussion of faciality.

We all have different modes of arrival, the question is, how do these modes of arrival become countenanced, how do we face that? Sure, this film was difficult to watch and accept [NOTE: I REALLY COULDN'T GET INTO THIS MOVIE AT ALL], but we can see that this film does present something: Mike Max does change.

Are Eisenstein's films propagandistic? He says no, because Eisenstein's films are opened-out in such a way that we're not sure what we're seeing any more. [NOTE: THIS FILM BY WENDER IS CLICHE IN MANY WAYS, BUT THERE IS SOMETHING OFF AS WELL - THE FILM SEEMS COMPROMISED]

See the book Zeroville - what editing does is take the false film out of the true film.
or Radical Software Group (RSG)'s edited version of Black Hawk Down, now made with no white actors, Black One

For the next class we will watch Falling Down.


Saturday, October 10, 2009

Heavy Bored Cyborg: Attunement and Addiction (2/2)

What follows is the continuation of the paper I presented at the first annual conference of the Pacific Association for the Continental Tradition (PACT). Your feedback is greatly appreciated.

The beginning of the paper can be found here

of Berryman's heavy boredom, and what, if anything, can we glean from this about addiction today?

In reviewing the literature concerning addiction I came to wonder what Berryman would have though of being characterized as having a pathological loss of reason, which is how the earliest attempts at understanding habitual drunkenness characterized this state of affairs. This pathology was also understood as a collapse of moral reason.1 In many ways this sentiment remains in place and as a cornerstone of recovery treatment in Alcoholics Anonymous, where those seeking recovery must announce that their best thinking got them to this point.2 The medical model of addiction subsumes personal agency and suggests that there is a pathology but what the causal mechanism is has yet to be determined. Thus, if we accept that addiction is simply a chemical problem we necessarily must accept, then, that the addicted individual is no longer culpable for their behaviors. The mechanistic model, for all of its empirical merits, however, falls short in explaining addiction because addiction, as Davies points out, is a question of both one's physiology and volition, which are mutually exclusive:

Addiction, impossibly, seeks to make these accounts complementary; something they cannot be. The notion invites us to apply a rational/decision making frame-work to our fellow men/women, up to the point where they start to encounterproblems with their drug use, and then to switch to a view of man/woman as machine.3
Although the the term addiction ultimately has been abandoned – over the past twenty years – in favor of chemical dependence and substance use disorder – what has remained is the insistence that those using substances of abuse ultimately must subsume themselves to the authority of medical-style interventions.4 While those in neuroscience (particularly neurodegeneration) no longer use the term addiction, the top journal for substance abuse is still called Addiction. The National Institute on Drug Abuse features prominently on their website a section called Addiction Science where those curious can learn the story of why drugs are bad. At the intersection of the Public and the Private is the ongoing development of drug use literature. Like literature, as Avital Ronell points out, whether it's the criminal justice system, the local AA meeting place, those that come under the eyes of the Authorities-That-Be cannot be allowed to go into the public without covering over the wound of non-being, thus the subject becomes interpellated as a re-covering addict. This recovering over of the subject clearly is suggestive of Freud's “Mourning and Melancholia” as this recovering is a covering over of the ways of being that we develop as we apprentice in our drug using careers. We are, in recovery, learning to forget that life prior to the intervention. Clearly also in the formulation of the drug use career or trajectory (apprenticeship-disorder-recovery) is the question of thinking (erfahrung) which leads this paper to discussing Heidegger.

According to Heidegger, Being in the modern era is concealed by the growing purveyance three attitudes: In the recent calls for the “Responsible Use of Cognitive-Enhancing Drugs by the Healthy”5 society at large demonstrates once more its succumbing to the trap Heidegger foresaw has as its goal the concealing of Being itself in boredom.6 According to Heidegger, Being in the modern era is concealed by the growing purveyance three attitudes:

  1. Calculation – which he calls the basic law of comportment and is the prerogative of the principle of organization.7 Perhaps we can think here of the speaking machine. Sprachmaschine, as we are told, completes the metaphysics of technological Ge-stell (enframing). Self-deception, warns Heidegger, is the inexorable direction of the Sprachmaschine, “the superficial impression is still maintained that the human being is still the master of the language machine. But the truth might well be that the Sprachmaschine puts language into its service and in this way masters the essence of the human being.”8 Isn't, at the heart of addiction the earnest belief that we can control the dose such that, like the Sprachmaschine we maximize the efficiency of its employment without simultaneously destroying ourselves? Central to Heidegger's thinking on the matter is man's relationship to time.
  2. The second element concealing Being is acceleration – the phrase is “not-being-able-to-bear the stillness of hidden growth; it is necessary to forget quickly.9 Heidegger states it thus, “the geneuine restlessness of the struggle remains hidden. Its place is taken by the restlessness of the always inventive operation, which is driven by the anxiety of boredom.
  3. The third prevailing attitude is the outbreak of massiveness – not just “the masses” but the rapidly stacking up of the calculable towering over us and so rending us blind to the unique as it is not accessible to “the many.”
  4. The result of these three is thus the “divesting, publicizing, and vulgarizing of all attunement.”10
Because of Being and Time many believe that our anxiety in awareness of our finitude is the fundamental attunement that can be attributed to Dasein (the Being-there of humans being). It is from the disclosure of Dasein that we are able to apprehend the richest possibilities of our being. But anxiety is not the only nor solely privileged attunement which can be attributed to Dasein; Heidegger also finds that being in the state of profound boredom also discloses Dasein. Heidegger develops this discussion of boredom in the 1929-30 lecture course published as Fundamental Concepts of Metaphysics11 so as to illuminate what separates the human animal from all other animals (as Kuperus has written recently).12 Dasein is absorbed with all its responsibilities, tasks, appointments, and in completing these, we have become an indifferent one, as in “One would think to do this differently,” or, “One wishes it could be otherwise.” We are lost to ourselves in the things of our living. Our identity has been lost in the beings with which we occupy ourselves. We have become – as Heidegger himself expresses it – an “undetermined I.” The common link between technology and profound boredom is in how one relates to time.

Heidegger outlines three forms of boredom: 1) becoming bored by something – as in killing time while waiting for the train, 2) being bored with something and its associated time – a recognition, in his example after the fact, that the events of the evening were in the end boring, and 3) profound boredom – the phrase he uses is
es ist einem lanweilig, “It is boring for one.” We experience this profound boredom as indifference, the “It” of “It is boring for one,” is, “the title for whatever is indeterminate, unfamiliar.” This “It” should be familiar as it is who we are, this profound boredom has left us standing there acutely aware of the universe's complete anesthesia to our being as this coming and going. Similar to the first form of boredom, but unlike the second, we are fundamentally incapable of engaging other beings in this state of profound boredom, in fact being itself refuses to be engaged, this telling refusal is the mark of profound boredom. And, just as Berryman's mother (repeatingly) admonishes us all: to confess that we have such boredom is to admit an emptiness.

It is in this emptiness of profound boredom and the narcosis that is being-on-drugs that I am most intrigued. We revisit Berryman's poem in light of this question, how do we transform being heavy bored into an affirmation of being's possibilities? The profundity of profound boredom is in the revelation of the emptiness of the universe. It is in this manner of thinking that I am tempted to imagine the Heidegger that would reflect on shunyata (
ku,), emptiness. And in my intoxication with this imagining, I recall Fukushima Keido Roshi telling us one evening that LSD-zen is not the same zen that he has cultivated and that he can transmit. Fukushima does not deny that one might experience something profound under the influence of a technology such as LSD, but perhaps he has in (no)mind something similar to Heidegger. The essence of the development and use of technology in the last two centuries has been to achieve given ends in the most efficient manner while expending minimal resources – the principle resource to be spared being time itself. The result of the promotion of technological innovation, as Thiele has stated, “This victory over time bears a price: humanity comes to relate to time as an obstacle and antagonist, as a recalcitrant force that demands harnessing. The effect of technological innovation, in other words, is not so much the saving of time as its conquest.”13 This antagonistic relationship to time is problematic for both Fukushima and Heidegger as our being is a dwelling14 in time. There is no room in this essay to discuss in any appreciable depth, unfortunately, how Fukushima might discuss the problem, but we can further explore Heidegger's thinking.15

Time weighs most heavily on the bored. Thus Nietzsche asks in proposing the eternal recurrence, that heaviest burden, how will we be disposed to ourselves and our lives in this light?16 We
typically counteract boredom through busy work and preoccupations. In so doing we are passing the time in order to become masters over time. Our attempts to kill time, an attempt to drive boredom away, is actually a driving on of time.17 But any effort to kill time obscures the essence of our being, which is defined as a being-in-time. In profound boredom we cannot simply go about business as usual, as Heidegger states, profound boredom “brings the self in all its nakedness to itself as the self that is there and has taken over the being there of its Da-sein. For what purpose? To be that Dasein.”18 This telling refusal of beings as a whole is a calling: to consummation of this emptiness that is the foundation of being and its fundamental responsibility to being as a whole.19 Rather than the self care that anxiety provokes in Being and Time, with all the attendant problems of how to face the Other (as, say, Levinas points out); profound boredom, like Heidegger's later works on Gelassenheit, is a call to responsivity rather than responsibility.

Being-as-a-whole's telling refusal of our
Dasein in the state of profound boredom is not only the medium by which our Dasein returns to itself as responsible to itself, it is also an expression of Nature's being-there. Thus they are mutually implicated in a hyperbolic sense of freedom as my freedom can only be understood in a relationship to nature and its ultimate disinterestedness in my busy work. We cannot discuss Being-as-a-whole's disinterestedness in us as a production of our personal taste; while it may be a calling, it is not a calling to overcome nature's fundamental disinterestedness. Finding ourselves in this state of profound boredom, as Ross has stated recently, “reveals nature within its 'ownness.'”20 What's more, profound boredom calls upon us to poeisis, such that we poetically dwell in the world as the world reveals itself to us in its own terms, no longer mediated by our preoccupations and busy work. In this way, can we understand the problem of the social phenomenon that we call addiction not as a failure of an individual's decision making capabilities but of a mutual inability to understand the conditions and interwoven events that lead one to cover over the profundity of our interrelatedness?21

Heidegger's discussion and development of this profound boredom helps us to intimate an orientation towards ourselves in an expanded sense such that who we are is mutually implicated and consummated in our relationships to the world as itself. Chief among Heidegger's concerns was man's relatioships to technology, promoting a return not to a simpler time without technology, as a neo-Luddite, but a return to the world as the primary site of wonder. Thinking in this manner about addiction shifts our prescription from a focus on an individual that is responsible for its choices to an investigation of the conditions among us that facilitate or encourage narcosis. Sharing Heidegger's call to reminding us of the profundity of identification in the face of technology, D.W. Winnicott, in his essay “Struggling Through the Doldrums”, announced that in the long shadow being cast by the development of atomic warfare our society can no longer justify harnessing the energy of its youth toward military use as a given and thus we enter the Teen Age. He speaks of this in terms not unlike a recovering drug user, “we have lost something we have been in the habit of using, and so we are thrown back into this problem,”22 of being. Winnicott's contribution to developmental psychology was to expand our understanding of children and in doing this he pioneered the use of group therapy. Whatever is the psyche of the teen it is certainly also the psychology of the group: they form groups on the basis of the most inconsequential uniformities, theirs is the struggle for an identity, the struggle to feel real. The constant frustration of the adolescent is phrased in terms of drive:

One member of the group takes an overdose of a drug, another lies in bed in a depression, another is free with the flick of a knife. In each case there are grouped a band of adolescent isolates behind the ill individual whose extreme symptom has impinged on society. Yet in the majority of these individuals, whether or not they get involved, there was not enough drive behind the tendency to bring the symptom into inconvenient existence and to produce a social reaction. The ill one had to act for the others.23

Winnicott states that the problem of the adolescent is not only that is terrifying to be an adolescent and to do battle with the pervasive gnawing of being trapped in unreality, but the problem cannot be contained in one person: it hurts those of us that have yet to have successfully negotiated our own adolescence. Like Heidegger, Winnicott suggests to those that would hear that telling refusal of this uncanny world, that unreality where our tasks and ambitions are of no consequence, the way out of this labyrinth is not through slaying minotaurs, it's in our ability to heed his directions home. This paper is a call to a sense of hyperbolic responsibility in those that would listen: to promote the self-consummation that one is challenged by in the terror of profound boredom.

1Berringer, Virginia. “Morality and Medical Science: Concepts of Narcotic Addiction in Britain, 1820-1926.” Annals of Science 36, no. 1 (1979): 19.
2Hoffmann, Heath C. “Recovery Careers of People in Alcoholics Anonymous: Moral Careers Revisited.” Contemporary Drug Problems, no. 30 (2003): 37.
3Davies, J. B. (1998). “Pharmacology versus social process: Competing or complementary views on the nature of addiction?” Pharmacology and Therapeutics, 80, 268.
4May, Carl. “Pathology, Identity, and the Social Construction of Alcohol Dependence.” Sociology 35 (2001): 17.
5Henry Greely, Barbara Sahakian, John Harris, Ronald C. Kessler, Michael Gazzaniga, Philip Campbell, Martha J. Farah. “Towards Responsible Use of Cognitive-Enhancing Drugs by the Healthy.” Nature 456 (2008): 702-705.
6Heidegger, Martin. Contributions to Philosophy (From Enowning). Trans. Parvis Emad & Kenneth Maly. Bloomington: Indian University Press. 1999. §76.
7Ibid. §58.
8Heidegger, Martin. Aus der Erfahrung des Denkens. Ed. Hermann Heidegger. Frankfurt: Klostermann, 1983. Vol. 13 of Gesamtausgabe. 149. Reference from Charles Bambach. “Heidegger, Technology, and the Homeland.” Germanic Review, vol. 78, September, 2003.
9Heidegger, Martin. Contributions to Philosophy (From Enowning). Trans. Parvis Emad & Kenneth Maly. Bloomington: Indian University Press. 1999. §76.
11Heidegger, Martin. The Fundamental Concepts in Metaphysics: World, Finitude, Solitude. Trans. William McNeill and Nicholas Walker. Indianapolis: Indiana University Press. 1995.
12 Kuperus, Gerard. “Attunement, Deprivation and Drive: Heidegger and Animality.” In Phenomenology and the Non-Human Animal, edited by Corrine; Lotz Painter, Christian. New York: Springer, 2007.
13 Thiele, Leslie Paul. “Postmodernity and the Routinization of Novelty: Heidegger on Boredom and Technology.” Polity 29, no. 4 (1997): 505.
14According to personal communications between Joan Stambagh and Eugene Gendlin, Heidegger himself sees the phrase Befindlichkeit in his later work as wohnen (dwelling).
15We might start by talking about killing time instead of killing the Buddhas we meet on the road.
16Nietzsche, Friederich The Gay Science with a Prelude in German Rhymes and Appendix of Songs. Ed. Bernard Williams. Trans. Josefine Nauckhof and Adrian Del Caro. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 2003. §341.
17Heidegger, Martin. The Fundamental Concepts in Metaphysics: World, Finitude, Solitude. Trans. William McNeill and Nicholas Walker. Indianapolis: Indiana University Press. 1995. 95-6 §23.
18Heidegger, Martin. The Fundamental Concepts in Metaphysics: World, Finitude, Solitude. Trans. William McNeill and Nicholas Walker. Indianapolis: Indiana University Press. 1995. 143 §31.
19Hammer, Espen. “Being Bored: Heidegger on Patience and Melancholy.” British Journal for the History of Philosophy 12, no. 2 (2004): 286.
20Ross, Andrew Peter. "Rethinking Environmental Responsibility: Heidegger, Profound Boredom, and the Alterity of Nature." Dissertation, Queen's University, 2007. 46.
21Here I'm thinking of that most boring hunk of rock in Rilke's “Archaic Torso of Apollo.” It's just rock, but bursting forth from it is a star and so we are told that in witnessing this we must change our lives. Rilke consummates not just the ancient sculptor's vision of a complete body, but also the entire process of stellar evolution. He comes to know, in the profound boredom of the procession of history – which could careless about this sculpture – that our Being must always be revisited so as to be attuned to being-as-a-whole.
22Winnicott, D.W. “Struggling through the Duldrums.” Deprivation and Delinquency. New York: Rouledge 2000. 150.
23Ibid. 153.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Odds and Ends

The following is from a comment stream on Facebook. What follows is primarily based off of what Michael Hardt was teaching this summer.

My comment about Marx = at the end of the revolution the classes would disappear there would be humanity pursuing its ends without the exploitation inherent to capital. It's not to say that what works in capital (the ability to generate value even though no one knows what value is, for example) would cease to be. Rather, the kind of exploitation inherent under capitalism would disappear.

I suspect that it would be the exploitation of something else, but not the opposite of historical capitalism. I mean, c'mon, Marx was alive before the TV, for crying out loud. The big shift in economics back in his day was the move form renting property to creating property. But now we're approaching a time when renting is becoming a significant part of how value is generated (such as in the case of copyright) and how people work is radically different form the conditions of 150 years ago.

Capital's ability to be so liquid, that's going to stay. But maybe what's going to go is the distinction between bourgeoisie and proletariat and the reintroduction of forms of monarchy. Perhaps a shift in monarchy's relation so governing? Whereas in the 20th century the monarch was determined by marriage and blood relation and their role in governing was largely ceremonial; maybe what we'll see an inversion where the elected governments are ceremonial (let's get the vote out, y'all!) and actors, such as multinational corporations enjoy the forms of sovereignty that the Hapsburgs had during the 18th century?

Monday, October 5, 2009

Here is a sampling of my paper that I will be presenting at Seattle University for the Pacific Association for the Continental Tradition (PACT). I won't bore you to death with the whole thing, and I'm likely to revise it between now and then.

Please feel free to make any comments toward revision as the paper will greatly benefit from your input.

Profound boredom, according to Heidegger, is an attunement – one of several nuances of the term Befindlichkeit other translations could include mood or state of mind – from which we find ourselves in this world. It's perhaps more widely understood, from his Being and Time, that an attunement of anxiety is the fundamental state from which we understand our being-in-the-world (Dasein). This anxiety leads one to a state of self care so as to cultivate our being-in-the-world (Dasein), but this strategy of self-care has lead to some strong arguments against Heidegger as the care of the self is ultimately only caring for oneself. Unlike this anxious attunement, profound boredom reveals our thrownness in the world as an event of mutual determinacy. It is not that I am bored profoundly, but that in this state I come to be aware that the universe itself is profoundly uninterested in me. It's hard for me to read the phrase profound boredom and not think also of John Berryman's collection The Dream Songs, from which I've taken part of the title of this paper. Berryman was an epic drunk; and shortly after winning the Pulitzer Prize for The Dream Songs, he threw himself off the Washington Bridge into the Mississippi River. As Heidegger put it in his 1929-30 lecture course on the Fundamental Concepts of Metaphysics, our attunement to the world is how we find our selves in the world, and ultimately these attunements provoke us into a state of poetic dwelling in the world. Perhaps it is appropriate to then begin our thinking about addiction by invoking Berryman here.
Dream Song 141

Life, friends, is boring. We must not say so.
After all, the sky flashes, the great sea yearns,
we ourselves flash and yearn,
and moreover my mother told me as a boy
(repeatingly) ‘Ever to confess you’re bored means you have no

Inner Resources.’ I conclude now I have no
inner resources, because I am heavy bored.
Peoples bore me,
literature bores me, especially great literature,
Henry bores me, with his plights & gripes
as bad as achilles,

who loves people and valiant art, which bores me.
And the tranquil hills, & gin, look like a drag
and somehow a dog
has taken itself & its tail considerably away
into mountains or sea or sky, leaving
behind: me, wag.

In the pronouncement that, “I am heavy bored,” is the reader forgiven for wondering if perhaps Berryman's alcoholism and jumping to his death were not related to this kind of boredom as perhaps an attunement or a fundamental state of receptivity to the world? Could it be that addiction's recovering, the covering over of “addiction” practices seek to cover over the experience of profound boredom? Berryman's poems speak a language of irrecoverable loss; this language is simultaneously dependent upon loss as the origin of ontology, as Schwieler has pointed out, making both ontology and poetry possible.2 This pervasive mood is how one finds oneself in Berryman's poetry, as Heidegger has argued as well. The history of addiction discourse is also the history of the will; as Derrida asks, how can we not write about addiction? Both concepts in the modern era have developed primarily in a negative relation to each other. Heidegger gets hooked on Schelling's talk of the will3 and after a significant binge he decides that beyond talk of volition and cognition there is also running in the background moods or attunements.

From Schelling, perhaps, has come the modern pursuit of will with his announcement that, “Will is original being and to it alone all predicates of being apply,” and with will is its handmaiden, cognition. As Clark so nicely put it, “If modernity suffers from an 'epidemic of will' that is indissociable from an 'epidemic of addiction and addiction attribution' ... then Frederich Schelling is patient zero.”4 Heidegger's relationship to Schelling's thinking is of course indispensable to understanding more fully Heidegger's own thought, however it cannot be properly treated here and I refer you to Clark's excellent essay referenced in the notes. Suffice it to say that Heidegger's engagement with Schelling leads him to extend Schelling's philosophy of time and move beyond rationalist and voluntarist thinking into dispositions.
Central to Heidegger's thinking is the German word Befindlichkeit as in the common way of asking “How are you?” is, “Wie befinden Sie sich?” This literally says, “How do you find yourself?”5 Befindlichkeit, then, as a disposition or mood is how we find ourselves in the world. Heidegger states, in Being and Time, that our moods are not simply accompanying the “higher faculties” of will and cognition but rather disclose our “there-ness” in the world, our “Being-In As Such” as Chapter V of the first division is entitled. Our Being-In, according to this theory of moods, includes two moments: understanding (Verstehen) and our findedness (Befindlichkeit). Heidegger states that, “What we ontologically designate by the term “findedness” is ontically quite familiar and everyday: the mood, the Being-attunded.”6 Our attunements place us factically in an existential situation. So what is the facticity
1Berryman, John. The Dream Songs. New York: Farrar, Straus, Giroux. 1969.
2Schwieler, Elias. Mutual Implications: Otherness in Theory and John Berryman's Poetry of Loss. Umeå: Moderna språk, 2003. 31.
3Clark, David L. “Heidegger's Craving: Being-on-Schelling.” Diacritics, Vol. 27, No. 3, (1997), pp. 8-33.
4Clark, David L. “Heidegger's Craving: Being-on-Schelling.” Diacritics, Vol. 27, No. 3, (1997), 10.
5Gendlin, Eugene T. “Befindlichkeit: Heidegger and the Philosophy of Psychology.” Review of Existential Psychology & Psychiatry: Heidgger and Psychology. Vol. XVI, Nos. I, 2 & 3, 1978-79. Found at
6Heidegger, Martin. Being and Time. Trans. John Macquarrie and Edward Robinson. New York: Harper Collins. 1962. 172.

Jacques Rancière Day 2

NOTE TO FACEBOOK VIEWERS: to view any of the clips you'll need to visit the actual blog. Scroll to the bottom and click "View Original Post"

Jacques Rancière taught a class entitled: POLITICS OF AESTHETICS wherein we discuss the relationship between what is allowed to be seen and the dominant political regime.

NOTE: As with all my notes from the EGS, there will likely be mistakes because I did not record the lectures, I made notes as they spoke, so I am perhaps interpreting what they are saying as I am writing.

The possibility of choosing to be alone is impossible in the banlieus; these would have to be spaces where it would be possible to generate useless art and disinterested pleasure
  • Who is able to have this or that sensory experience?
  • How are matters of capacity and incapacity integrated into structures?
There is a rupture in sensory experience that can be discerned in the "women of the banlieus"

Free beauty is where we can appreciate the form directly and don't need to make any reference to signification or function or the perfection of the work itself; sublimity is not an experience of pleasure - it is the impossibility to apprehend the form.

Free beauty is an experience of the form; sublime is the impossibility of the form's apprehension, a passage through the aesthetic experience. The experience of the sublime is an experience of dispossession, a limit experience, the unrepresentable.

Schiller's Letters on the Aesthetic Education of Man
These are meditations on the conditions of experiences. How does this new aesthetic experience show us what are the possibilities of the future of humanity?

Fifteenth Letter §8
Reason, however, declares: The beautiful is to be neither mere life, nor mere form, but living form, i.e., Beauty; for it imposes upon man the double law of absolute formality and absolute reality. Consequently Reason also makes the pronouncement: With beauty man shall only play, and it is with beauty only that he shall play.

Fifteenth Letter §9
For, to mince matters no longer, man only plays when he is in the fullest sense of the word a human being, and he is only fully a human being when he plays. [...] But it is, after all, only in philosophy that the proposition is unexpected; it was long ago alive and operative in the art and in the feeling of the Greeks, the most distinguished exponents of both; only they transferred to Olympus what was meant to be realized on earth. Guided by the truth of that same proposition, they banished from the brow of the blessed gods of all the earnestness and effort which furrow the cheeks of mortals, no less than the empty pleasures which preserve the smoothness of a vacuous face; freed those ever-contented beings from the bonds inseparable from every purpose, every duty, every care, and made idleness and indifferency the enviable portion of divinity - merely a more human name for the freest, most sublime state of being. [...] It is not Grace, nor is it yet Dignity, which speaks to us from the superb countenance of a Juno Ludovisi; it is neither the one nor the other because it is both at once. While the woman-god demands our veneration, the god-like woman kindles our love; but even as we abandon ourselves in ecstacy to her heavenly grace, her celestial self-sufficiency makes us recoil in terror. The whole figure reposes and dwells in itself, a creation completely self-contained, and, as if existing beyond space, neither yielding nor resisting; here is no force to contend with force, no frailty where temporality might break in. Irresistibly moved and drawn by those former qualities, kept at a distance by these latter, we find ourselves drawn at one and the same time in a state of utter repose and supreme agitation, and there results that wondrous stirring of the heart for which mind has no concept nor speech any name.
Juno Ludovisi (leaving aside the imagery and language of the time) we must remember this is not a pronouncement on the work of art but a pronouncement on divinity and its shift to humanity's self-containment, humanity in a certain sense of wholeness.

Self-containment is not the purpose of art or divinity but the perfection of humanity to be regained.
  • The qualities of divinity and perfect humanity is freedom from any purpose; that the perfection of God is free from wanting or doing or being interested in anything.
  • This is a break from the traditional view of the efficiency of art - where I show this and you see what should be or should not be done. There is, of course, this old quarrel about mimesis from Plato and theatre; where there is this addiction to imagery. Aristotle said it's about action, not characters. Thus, dance became an art in the 18th century when it could prove that it wasn't just movement but advanced a plot.
  • From this Aristotellian discussion we arrive at the idea that art will inform us about living a moral life.
  • Rousseau asked, "how can we celebrate the entertainment of vice that is the nature of instructing morality through entertainment?"
  • Brecht doesn't talk about morality, but about ignorance; Barthes also, we see what the character does not see. Still, we have this representational model - the efficiency of art. An implicit inverse law: people will, after watching this, do the opposite of what they've seen.
What Schiller presents is against Rousseau, we must free from art any thought, or affect, or attitude, unlike Rousseau's call to get rid of representation so as to live together.

Rousseau: "Down with appearance!" A move from appearance to reality and Schiller says the opposite - we have to purify appearance from any pretension to moral instruction or action.

Letter 22 §5
In a truly successful work of art the contents should effect nothing, the form everything; for only through the form is the whole man affected, through the subject-matter, by contrast, only one or other of his functions. Subject-matter, then, however sublime and all-embracing it may be, always has a limiting effect upon the spirit, and it is only from form that true aesthetic freedom can be looked for. [...] The psyche of the listener or spectator must remain completely free and inviolate.... No less self-contradictory is the notion of a fine art which teaches (didactic) or improves (moral); for nothing is more at variance with the concept of beauty than the notion of giving the psyche any definite bias.
Here is the definition of the aesthetic effect and also politics. To the extent that the subject matter....
  • This is about form as an experience, the point is not to give an indication of its contents.
  • It is about the autonomy of the aesthetic experience not being moved by the content; without any mark of the artist's intention.
  • The effect is separation.
  • The work is supposed to be the means to an end in the Classical model, but here we see a call to banish representation, a radical call at the time of the French Revolution.
  • The affirmation of radical rupture from all affect so that the viewer is not denied of their ability, equally, to feel and express this capacity and thus form a community.
A new political potential is possible only if we dismiss any defined affect, it is not just refining the experience but illuminating the new capacity of everyone to feel, discarding the old model so to have a new humanity.

Letter 15 §9: the distance from any instrumentalization of the aesthetic experience; to sum, the word is play. A playing community as opposed to the Roman community, that community of laws as opposed to the free people united by the way they feel together, "the art of living."
  • a new way of art and a new politics of living
Guy De Bord's Society of the Spectacle is one where there is all play; Schiller takes form Kant's Critique and says there can be the free play of the faculties.
  • Understanding imposes unity on the mulitiplicity of the senses and imagination presents this multiplicity of senses to understanding.
  • As in aesthetic judgement there is ....
  • Free play of faculty means there is the riddance of the hierarchy of the senses.
  • It doesn't deal with the reality of the object, there is the dismissal between activity and passivity.
  • It's on this idea of free play is not only the basis of judgement but the essence of human kind.
Play is the faculty that is the basis of a new humanity which dismisses the social hierarchy as well as the distribution of the sensible. It's in opposition to the structuring of oppression. At the time of the Revolution there was still this distinction between active and passive citizens, the latter were denigrated by the former; a legacy of the traditional distribution of the sensible.

Those who can play are those who are not committed to the necessity of maintaining life. Play is an activity whose end is itself, thus those that could not play were those who must engage in ends-to-means. In opposition to play is earnestness, that is toward an end.
  • Full humanity is possible when there is no hierarchy of occupation.
  • Play comes to those who know no distinction between activity and passivity; thus a community that is not based on any kind of preoccupation.
  • The Revolution saw a shift in power but Schiller saw that there was no shift in the sensory experience of the individual.
  • The idea of a new way of communicating with this new sensory experience that would be the ground of a new community so as to overcome the problems that brought about "The Terror" of the Revolution.
A community united not by restraint, but shared sensory experiencing, the Aesthetic State related in sensory experience. This is a starting point of an idea that accompanies what we call Modernity, a revolution of all human relations. We should have a multiplicity of communities is the idea.

We see these tendencies in Soviet art, but, as Stalin grows more and more into "The Man of Steel", we also see that normative pressure is applied such that the imagery becomes more and more about representing the worker in the worker's paradise and of course more and more like the former modes of repression.

There is the idea of the Aesthetic State, a gathering of individuals enjoying a new form of common life and also it can be interpreted in a pedagogical manner - that people should have an aesthetic education so as to reduce the disparities in the distribution of the sensible. Holderlin, Schelling, and Hegel's letter describes both a new utopian community and is the first event in German Idealism. We have this idea that the common man will incorporate philosophy into everyday life.

There is the idea that we can have a community that shares its new form of experience, that dismisses the occupational distinctions, and is ultimately disinterested.

There is a tension between the new community and the image of people who are truly human when they are acting only for the sake of acting itself.

The Communist community is a prime example of this problem: we must have productivity so as to maintain the State, but the workers are to understand that the highest virtue is doing nothing - a leisurely pleasure and gathering in this leisure that marks the new sensory experience.

Friday, October 2, 2009

On Euthanizing Animals [UPDATE 2 October 2009]

UPDATED to include "cutesie" story about dog that survives car wreck and for nearly 2 weeks waits at the site of the wreck for family to return.

I apologize to any of you that look to this blog for first and foremost my notes from the European Graduate School: I am currently revising and drafting up three papers and preparing for two conferences this month and need to attend to these matters.

That said, I still am able to wiggle in a little thinking and writing with friends here and there. This morning I had a brief exchange with my friend, Matt Pettefer, about PETA's record of euthanization.

For background, read the two following statements.
This first statement comes from a group that represents the restaurant industry and others that balk at the idea that U.S.ers might, en masse, become vegetarians (who'll buy all these pepperoni pizzas!?) PETA Killed 95% of Adoptable Pets in its Care During 2008.

The next reading is from the PETA blog wherein they explain that they have a euthanization policy because many of the animals that they rescue might be "adoptable" but what's the point of allowing a pet to be adopted when it's jaw is rotting off its face?

So Matt replies to me:
Those pictures are awful, and assumably extreme cases. If the 20k+ euthanized animals could speak, would they agree with PETA that it's better to never be born than to meet a bad end?

Oddly enough, another case of people giving animals rights we don't have, like the right to die.
To which I reply the following:

This will probably sound incomplete and extreme, but I think that the idea that rights can be given, or even that there is something that we call rights, inexorably leads to these sorts of dehumanizations.

  • We establish a false distinction between human animals and all other animals, we pursue a bizarre line of thinking that there is autonomy and overlaid on this is sovereignty.
  • Then we return to the human animal vs. all other animal (false) dichotomy and argue that what makes humans different from animals is that we are aware of our finitude and thus uniquely positioned to be death dealers.
  • This, in turn, calls into question autonomy and sovereignty all over again because the dealing of death, especially one's own, flies in the face of the claim the State makes, as the State views itself as the legitimator of death dealing.
As to the first question: I think that it is probably better to not be born than to be born solely to exist as an expression of the legitimacy of either the people that neglect and torture these animals, or legitimate the politics of any other entity (PETA, of course, included).

Prior to being euthanized, these animals seem to lead lives of purposeful neglect and forced into a state of nonbeing (that is, the animals' desires or needs are simply not even thought of). I'd contend that to be considered a being, not simply maintained and so alive by that measure, one must be allowed to communicate, not simply linguistically but expansively defined as able to touch another being.

That's what is unfortunate: that these animals seem to only live in the moment when they are granted the chance to actually cease to be alive. Prior to this moment of death-dealing, these animals live in a state of nonbeing. In being euthanized these animals know a brief moment of having been something or somebody.

Thanks, Matt!

Cutesie Story here

What can I say? To talk about rights in this context is to miss the point. Does anyone have the "right" to be reunited with their family (or packs if we want to get Deleuzean)? We don't get to choose the families into which we are born and we don't get to choose with whom we must share the earth, as Arendt pointed out.

These are crucial relationships wherein to discuss choice - that lynch pin in establishing autonomy and the medium through which we express our rights - is to slip into a hopeless morass. This is what Arendt seems to be saying in Eichmann in Jerusalem, isn't it? That Eichmann's crime was not mass murder (there was little evidence of that) but his real crime was to support and execute a plan to eradicate the world of Jews as well as many other "out groups," as though he had the ability to choose such a thing.