The Internet has become a field of dragon teeth for a person’s identity. It has made it possible for your identity to be mistaken by a credit agency, spied on by the government, foolishly exposed by yourself, pilloried by an enemy, pounded by a bully, or stolen by a criminal. These harms to one’s integrity could be inflicted in the past, but information technology has multiplied and aggravated such injuries. They have not gone unnoticed and are widely bemoaned and discussed. (...) The government and private watchdogs are working to protect the identity of citizens though at least in the United States both the government and individuals all too often side with prosperity when it conflicts with privacy. Still, these information-technological threats to identity have been recognized and can be reasonably met through legislation, regulation, and discretion. There is another kind of danger to our identity that is more difficult to define and to meet, for it has no familiar predecessors, has no criminal aspects, and exhibits no sharp moral or cultural contours. Still that threat to our identity haunts us constantly and surfaces occasionally in conversations and the media. It makes us feel displaced, distracted, and fragmented at the very times when to all appearances we seem to be connected, busy, and energetic. At the same time, the culture of technology, and of information technology particularly, has opened up fields of diversity and contingency that invite us to comprehend our identities in newly responsible, intricate, and open-minded ways. (shrink)
Friesen has presented an articulate and detailed account of the injuries of virtualized education and a convincing brief for the value of education that is face-to-face and engaged with tangible reality.
Central figures of American mainstream philosophy have at crucial points in their work been concerned with the concreteness of actual reality, but have in various ways been deflected to primarily technical issues of philosophical analysis. It is possible, however, to see in these concerns a line of inquiry that leads to an examination of what is characteristic of actual reality today and of what is troubling and what is hopeful in it. Technology is a helpful term for the character of (...) contemporary reality, commodification for what is questionable and moments of completeness for what is promising in it. (shrink)
The sacred has survived where religion has not. The sacred is acknowledged by prominent atheists and agnostics. They emphatically agree that the person is sacred and less clearly that nature is as well. Closer examination of their remarks shows that today the sacred comes in two versions, the rightful sacred, best known under the heading of human rights, and the graceful sacred of concrete reality?things and practices of nature and art particularly. The division of the sacred into its rightful and (...) graceful versions (a division that is mirrored in the distinction philosophers make between the right and the good) is the crucial cultural event of the modern era. The two are distinct at least and sometimes thought to be incompatible. Yet they can and must be reconciled and seen as complementary?a general requirement of human well-being. And for a Christian like me they find their perfect union in the truly sacred person?God. (shrink)
At its centennial in 2001, the American Philosophical Association bravely proclaimed: “Philosophy Matters.” But does it? It won’t unless it reaches the concreteness of everyday life. To do so was Martin Heidegger’s ambition, and one can read Saul Kripke’s books as an attempt to get mainstream American philosophy beyond its abstractions. At length, Kripke’s efforts, on one reading, failed while Heidegger’s remained incomplete. A theory of commodification can get us closer to the things that matter to us in everyday life.
Martin Heidegger and Vincent Scully, writing from very different positions, agree that the enclosure of human life and the disclosure of a moral universe are the chief functions of architecture, and they agree further that the traditional house best exemplifies the first function and the Greek temple the second. The culture of technology has emptied the home of many substantial engagements, and it has reduced the monumental structures, the high-rises and expressways, to instrumental status. Architects need to understand the (...) cultural force of technology, the ways buildings shape the conduct of our lives, and the responsibilities that follow from the comprehension of contemporary culture. (shrink)
America is a wonderful and magnificent country that affords its citizens the broadest freedoms and the greatest prosperity in the world. But it also has its share of warts. It is embroiled in a war that many of its citizens consider unjust and even illegal. It continues to ravage the natural environment and ignore poverty both at home and abroad, and its culture is increasingly driven by materialism and consumerism. But America, for better or for worse, is still a nation (...) that we have built. So why then, asks Albert Borgmann in this most timely and urgent work, are we failing to take responsibility for it? In Real American Ethics , Borgmann asks us to reevaluate our role in the making of American values. Taking his cue from Winston Churchill—who once observed that we shape our buildings, and then our buildings shape us—Borgmann considers the power of our most enduring institutions and the condition of our present moral makeup to propose inspired new ways in which we, as ordinary citizens, can act to improve our country. This, he shows, includes everything from where we choose to live and what we spend our money on to daunting tasks like the reshaping of our cities—habits and actions that can guide us to more accomplished and virtuous lives. Using prose that is easy and direct throughout, Borgmann’s position is grounded neither by conservative nor liberal ideology, but in his understanding that he is a devoted citizen among many. In an age in which the blame game is the only game in town, this patriotic book is an eloquent reminder of the political strength we all wield when we work together. (shrink)
Contemporary discussions of gender and nature are likely to suffer from two vexations, the conflict of constructivism and naturalism and the conflict ofnativism and rationalism. As a solution to the first I propose postmodern realism and as a remedy for the second a notion of careful scholarship. With the solutions laid out, I will illustrate and test them by discussing friendship and fidelity within the scope of gender and nature.
?Disclosing New Worlds? represents an extraordinarily fruitful response to the radically changed social and intellectual conditions of the late twentieth century. Its focus on skillful practice yields a social theory thicker than most. Yet in remaining aloof of material reality it retains an ambiguity that contemporary culture prevailingly resolves into a style of life largely devoid of skill and excellence. Consideration of material reality, however, discloses hopeful if inconspicuous practices as well, practices that are at the center of the good (...) life and constitute the wellspring of solidarity. University teaching can be a vigorous introduction to that sort of life. (shrink)
Ethics as a philosophical discipline has always been preoccupied with theory to the detriment of practice and the exclusion of material culture. Lately, practice has been rehabilitated, but material culture continues to be ignored. Cultural critics and sociologists have attended to it but have also refrained from a moral assessment of it. The findings of Csikszentmihalyi and Rochberg?Halton, however, reflect two kinds of cultural realities that sponsor two kinds of conduct. The first kind, represented by musical instruments, I call commanding (...) reality. It invites social and physical engagement and provides orientation within the world. The second kind, exemplified by stereos, consists of consumable commodities and conduces to a life of distraction and disorientation. I conclude that ethics is not just a matter of conduct within whatever reality but of deciding which kind of reality we favor over the other. My plea is on behalf of commanding reality. Modern philosophy has been at two removes from the real world. First, in aspiring to theory, it has been distanced from practice. Theory can inform practice, but practice is richer than theory and, above all, self?sustaining. Practice can survive without theory while theory arises from a practice and perishes without the nourishment of a practice. Practice, as philosophers have always seen it, is in turn removed from its tangible setting. Yet material culture constrains and details practice decisively. Practice, abstracted from its tangible circumstances, is reduced to gesturing and sometimes to posturing. (shrink)