Continued from here.
The right to die after a life of laziness profiting from other people’s sweat:
You can have hundreds of measures to counteract all the immoral outcomes of capitalism. None will succeed if they don’t touch the heart of the matter: putting matter before mind. The three most important achievements in keeping morality as primary are threatened by the constant erosion from capitalism’s constant competition. Whether it is social security, access to education or human rights, there’s no Western election that can’t be won by people challenging it all as politically correct and endangering economic productivity.
Fragmenting human rights by expanding them into minute details is not the right way to go. It just makes for a pathetic left wing defensiveness that appeals only to the converted while alienating those bearing the brunt of capitalism. I propose three measures that – in my view – will guarantee that the issues are dealt with at the root. On this basis, it won’t be necessary to overly stipulate specific policies as they’ll evolve automatically as a matter of public discourse. I realize that it’s not possible to realize them as a big bang and that incremental development towards them will be required. I’ll come back to that later. For now the problem is not how to achieve this but whether, if achieved, it will suffice to capitalize on capitalism without bleeding out from its blindness.
Measure 1: universal and unqualified right to die
It is not odd to start with a basic personal right given what has been said above. I realize that this measure is the most contentious one, precisely because this ultimate individual self-determination is directly at odds with the delusion of original sin (and hence original responsibility). It shows that we don’t live to redeem ourselves or to repay some original debt. If we feel we don’t derive any value from our existence, it is our right to terminate it. Full stop. Sure, there are qualifications but these are of process, not of right. Continue reading
Continued from here (quotes taken from “The Claim of Reason”, Stanley Cavell, reprinted 1999, Oxford University Press)
“(..) while the presence of symptoms (concomitants) of X can make it almost certain that X is present, the presence of a criterion of X necessarily makes it almost certain that X is present. The sense that “certainty” must be hedged, that the knowledge of reality provided, contingently or necessarily, can only be “almost” certain, is forced under the pressure of the question: But isn’t it possible that, given all the symptoms and criteria you like, the man may not in fact, then and there, be feeling pain? To which the answer seems, irresistibly, to be: Yes.” (p.39)
The brute fact of uncertainty may well be the perennial elephant in the philosophy room. I think Cavell can be read as nibbling away simultaneously at the thinking that establishes certainties and its skeptical counterpart of the certainty of our humanity as an anomaly. His sympathy for the skeptical position clearly aligns with the feeling that philosophy that deals in certainties is profoundly false and profoundly dangerous (specifically because this certainty is like sugar – or nicotine, or worse – for us human beings who cope so well with uncertainty that no computer even comes close but who, at the same time, need hooks and handles and, sometimes, a little peace of mind). Somehow the right position is somewhere in the middle – neither duck nor rabbit – but that truth, in a word, simply scares us.
As natural as it comes to us to deal with uncertainty in everyday life, as widespread is our hatred for theoretically dealing with probability, uncertainty and indeterminacy – with the scare word ‘statistics’. It was just when Hume started the empirical tradition that Bayes as well as some French mathematicians started to explore probability in a theoretical way. No amount of mathematical sophistication should fool us into forgetting how very recent this exploration is. A couple of centuries really is nothing in digesting break-through ideas to a point where we, as a culture, can integrate them in our form of life (Weltanschauung). I’m going to read this part of Cavell as interpreting Wittgenstein as coping with the brute fact of uncertainty so alien to philosophy as a clean, dehumanized, deductive framework.
“One doesn’t always have to formalize: Nietzsche thought that if God existed, the I is impossible. That may be very convincing, if A commands B, B no longer is autonomous, doesn’t have subjectivity anymore, but when in the course of thinking, you don’t stay in the formal, when you think from the contents, a situation called heteronomy has a totally different meaning.” (own translation), E. Levinas, Entre Nous, Editions Grasset & Fasquelle, 1991, p.121.
I’ve been blogging on and off on this site called heteronomy. Truth be told I have never in that long time really though about the meaning of that word. Until recently that is, when I read Kant’s “Foundations of metaphysics of morals” and discovered the passage about autonomy and heteronomy. It made me think. There’s something appealing to autonomy; one would not want to do the good thing because there’s an external motivation to do it. Still, something is missing there. The misery of our own period of history has a lot do to with autonomy gone wild. It literally takes the Enlightenment to anti-humanist extremes. As a once avid reader of Kierkegaard I can but wonder whether the either/or isn’t in fact inescapable and whether I don’t have to switch over to the religious side after all. I seem to share all of the values although I’m fundamentally abhorred by the heteronomous part; obedience is not my thing, let alone the blind variant.
I am, like many, looking for a long time to avoid being caught on the horns of the either and the or. There has to be a way to derive a positive morality without relying on anything properly religious. It was no coincidence that I decided to read some more Levinas. It was a surprise though to find the above quote. It sums up the promise of another kind of heteronomy, one not based on higher powers but one based on everyday interaction with others. That surprise triggered this post.
I think Levinas has it more or less right. The problem is that I’m looking for something that is exactly right. I’m after all an analytical person close to analytic philosophy. Now – like in this excellent piece (by Martin Shuster) – there is a lot of activity trying to bridge the gaps between the two philosophical traditions, that’s still not exact enough for me. What I want is to derive Levinas’ anomalous heteronomy from the basic facts of language and – more specifically – from Davidson’s principle of charity.
This is what I have (and, pretty please, do help me along):
Since Josh brought it up in comments and Pat gestured at it in his “my computer is in too weak a state to write a post but is dandy for purposes of writing a New-Yorker-length comment” post, let’s have a post specifically about C‘s use of codes in the first week’s reading. (I’m sure none of us are so gauche as to require them, but I’ll suggest SPOILER ALERTS for any discussion ranging into the rest of the book.)
I don’t have anything quite so developed as an argument, but I’ll throw out some of the elements I’m tracking. First, a list of codes and cants:
- Sign language, which Carrefax deprecates in favor of speech (“Are you sure they’re not signing?… You have to make them speak. All the time!” (7)
- Ciphers in the Times’s personal notices
- The hand-motions that Widsun and Sophie exchange during the pageant
- Sophie’s wall
The first of these provides a backdrop for the story, but it’s not particularly germane. The second belongs primarily to Carrefax and Serge. The last four are implicated in Sophie’s fate.
Each of these codes is susceptible to corruption, accident, mis- or malignant use; none appears as simply a neutral field for the free play of meaning. There’s the spycraft that Widsun appears to be recruiting/seducing Sophie into, and the explosion yielded by Sophie and Serge’s experiment. You could also add Serge’s vibrant dyslexia to the pile, a corruption of the written word as its learned: “He keeps switching letters round… He see letters streaming through the air, whole blocks of them, borne on currents occupying a zone beneath the threshold of the comprehensible…” (38). (Mrs. K-sky reports experiencing a similar effect.) Does it seem that language and code as a field for power games and dreadful mistakes will be a running theme?
Some stray thoughts:
“—in the beginning, ladies and gentlemen, was the Word” (14). Carrefax goes onto pronounce that “speech is divine.” I’m not sure what role exactly Carrefax’s exalted logocentrism will play in the development of the above, but McCarty sure unfurls it boldly, and it seems as if he’s inviting us to get the reference and extrapolate from there. Maybe some of you professionals can better pick up what he’s putting down, here.
Josh, you mentioned Proust’s extended visual metaphors in McCarty’s approach to language — anything further to expand on that here? What about the rest of yinz? Pat, did I cover a tenth of what you were going to put in your Unwritten Blog Post?
If there’s an -ist that applies to me it’s pensivist. Maybe I should go cold turkey on thinking. I confess that the strategy of doing it moderately doesn’t feel like the winning strategy. And what is a strategy if it is not winning. Isn’t it all about winning? It is. It is. It is. Therefore I am. Whether I like it or not. Nobody asked me. Except myself. Precisely nobody, that is.
I’m reading Finnegans Wake. I confess to ambivalence about it. It’s great but makes me feel little. What is the point?, is that the point? It is a snake; it is; it is; it is. But I was bitten long before. Now I’m just rattled. Ha. The beauty of it is: it is self-contained. I read it without trying to understand.
But let me think about the eternal recurrence of the eternal recurrence. I hate it but confess to loving those who seem to love it, or, at least, who love those who love those who seem to love it. The thing is that those who seem to love it are those who break the cycle and, methinks, Finnegans Wake breaks the cycle.
I’m jealous. So jealous I’m too ashamed to write out all my a’s. Who needs a’s anyway when you’re feeling a straight b? Flat, no capitals. Jealous of Gass, jealous of not letting the bile get out. I self-labeled myself the eternal cultural optimist and one must live up to one’s label nowadays or find no place in society’s shelves; shelf or be shelved, although that sounds better than it means. Such is the story of my life that I have self-censored what probably is my only real aptitude in it: a mild inclination to sarcasm, well-founded in an all-out hatred for ‘the way things are’. I am a self-made man in being the bottle for my own bile – only releasing some of its steam at moments of social stress such as dinner parties or occasions where I’m forced to listen (to dumb people, I wanted to add but one only ever listens to dumb people because only dumb people have a tendency to speak on public occasions).
So, as a matter of self-preservation, I need to find a way to reconcile both bile and optimism, so as to avoid bliss-less eternity too. Here goes the argument. Its form is to neutralize -1 and +1 to leave just N.
I had visitors yesterday: an old friend who moved abroad and visited his home country with his kids. His eldest is a year younger than mine is. The discussion came to choosing the right path for their higher education. My son chose politics. His son is about to chose civil engineering. There is no discussion these choices are the right ones for the two respective adolescents. The interesting part of the conversation was my friends’ sons’ question to my son on his choice: “Qué es la salida?” (could have been ‘Cuál’, my Spanish is kind of rusty).
This sums up the modern view of education: you learn to be able to land the right job. But whilst the job may be the right one, is this the right conception? Continue reading
“Meaningful criteria are not simply those posited by society – or those of our ancestors – applied as law to a given case. Rather, every concrete determination by the individual contributes to socially meaningful norms. The problem is similar to that of correct speech. There too we find undisputed agreement on what is admissible, and we subject it to codification. The teaching of language in schools, for example, make it necessary that the schoolmaster apply these rules. But language continues to live, and it thrives not according to a strict adherence to rules, but by general innovations in spoken usage, and in the last instance from the contributions of every individual.” Hans-Georg Gadamer, in “On Education, Poetry, and History. Applied Hermeneutics, SUNY, 1992, p. 173.
It’s hard writing this and at the same time listening to a live report in Spanish of a Real Madrid game. All indications are I’d do better doing neither. But here I am, thinking about whether things that – like my life, this place – ultimately come to an end still come to an end. They do. Although not in the way most people like their ends – final, clean and clear cut -, they do. Every contribution contributes. To what? How? No clue. A certain amount of voluntarism is indispensable. Not a question of laissez faire the big things but one of laissez aller the small ones.
I started here with an overview of the objectives. I continued here with the second one dedicated to our prior art. It is now time to finish this with the third and final objective which, when reached, will ensure a common context (foundation) for the real work we’d like to do later on.
This is what we said before about this objective:
3. Acquire the ability to integrate the prior art with the goals
Now this was probably not the most fortunate way of putting it. Acquiring an ability is an activity. Unless we believe all of the nonsense of brain scientists, there is no way of monitoring whether such a process takes place let alone whether it takes place successfully. To put it more directly: we can all think we are acquiring all kinds of abilities whilst we are just acquiring the ability of procrastination combined with that of complacency. The flip side of this is that anybody can attest to anybody else of us ‘doing our best’ or ‘putting in a lot of work’ but whilst all of that may have ‘merit’, neither has a direct link with that ability we want acquired.
So the better formulation would have been ‘to demonstrate the acquisition of the ability to integrate the prior art with the goals’ (even if it sounds horrible, as a sentence). How to demonstrate this? Via language of course. In our case specifically by using language to demonstrate we can create original links between the 8 philosophers reviewed and the conjecture of progress being the nature of language.
Below the fold you will find the concrete steps to do this in this community. Your contribution could well demonstrate in concrete fact an example of progress by language. In fact, that is the third objective.
[Continues from here.]
Technically it’s a Monday but Jesus died in order for me to be able to call it Sunday. There is such a thing called serendipity (yes, it’s a thing, you can even kick it around although you don’t need a garden to do it in and it will not break windows – it could break hearts though, he added mellowly). I am reading Kripke and although that is not strictly a proof for what I just said, it does lend it – all in all and as per the below – more plausibility.
“She preferred me to begin at the base of her neck. I preferred to begin a bit higher up, on the shoreline of her hair. With my right forefinger slanted slightly to bring the nail into play, I would inscribe the course of a river – so gently, so slowly, it might have been a tear’s trail – running its convoluted way the length of Lou’s back, semicircling a buttock, and concluding in her crack, at a fulfillment one might call a delta.” (ibid., p. 554-555)
What joy is this which ends in mere tranquility? Continue reading