This paper is just a comment to the impressive work by A. C. Ehresmann and J.-P. Vanbremeersch on the theory of Memory Evolutive Systems (MES). MES are truly higher order systems. Hyperstructures represent a new concept which I introduced in order to capture the essence of what a higher order structure is—encompassing hierarchies and emergence. Hyperstructures are motivated by cobordism theory in topology and higher category theory. The morphism concept is replaced by the concept of a bond. In the paper (...) I briefly introduce hyperstructures motivated geometrically and suggest further developments of the MESs along these lines, which could widen up new areas of applications. (shrink)
This article addresses three main questions: What causes cognitive overload in the workplace? What analytical framework should be used to understand how agents interact with their work environments? How can environments be restructured to improve the cognitive workflow of agents? Four primary causes of overload are identified: too much tasking and interruption, and inadequate workplace infrastructure to help reduce the need for planning, monitoring, reminding, reclassifying information, etc… The first step in reducing the cognitive impact of these causes is to (...) enrich classical frameworks for understanding work environments, such as Newell and Simon’s notion of a task environment, by recognizing that our actual workplace is a superposition of many specific environments – activity spaces – which we slip between. Each has its own cost structure arising from the tools and resources available, including the cognitive strategies and interpretational frameworks of individual agents. These cognitive factors are significant, affecting how easy or difficult it is to perform an action, such as finding a specific paper in a “mess” desk. A few simple examples show how work environments can be redesigned and how restructuring can alter the cost structure of activity spaces. (shrink)
There is a great divide between two approaches to epistemology over the past thirty to forty years. Some label the divide that between internalists and externalists, and that characterization may be accurate on some account of the distinction. I will pursue the divide from a different direction, in part because the literature on the distinction between internalism and externalism has become a mess, and I don’t want to clean up the mess here.
Part of the appeal of the biological approach to personal identity is that it does not have to countenance spatially coincident entities. But if the termination thesis is correct and the organism ceases to exist at death, then it appears that the corpse is a dead body that earlier was a living body and distinct from but spatially coincident with the organism. If the organism is identified with the body, then the unwelcome spatial coincidence could perhaps be avoided. It is (...) argued that such an identification would be a mistake. A living organism has a different part/whole relationship and persistence conditions than the alleged body. A case will be made that the concept ‘human body’ is a conceptual mess, vague in an unprincipled manner, and that an eliminativist stance towards dead bodies is the appropriate response. CiteULike Connotea Del.icio.us What's this? (shrink)
This volume makes available one of the central texts in the development of utilitarian tradition, in the authoritative 1977 edition prepared by Professors Burns and Hart as part of Bentham's Collected Works. Certain that history was on his side, Bentham sought to rid the world of the hideous mess wrought by legal obfuscation and confusion, and to transform politics into a rational, scientific activity, premised on the fundamental axiom that "it is the greatest happiness of the greatest number that (...) is the measure of right and wrong.". (shrink)
Most of what I really need to know about how to live and what to do and how to be I learned in kindergarten. Wisdom was not at the top of the graduate school mountain, but there in the sandpile at Sunday School. These are the things I learned: Share everything. Play fair. Don't hit people. Put things back where you found them. Clean up your own mess. Don't take things that aren't yours. Say you're sorry when you hurt (...) somebody. Wash your hands before you eat. Flush. Warm cookies and cold milk are good for you. Live a balanced life. Take a nap every afternoon. When you go out into the world, watch out for traffic, hold hands, and stick together. From the Trade Paperback edition. (shrink)
Peter Goldie explores the ways in which we think about our lives--our past, present, and future--in narrative terms. The notion of narrative is highly topical, and highly contentious, in a wide range of fields including philosophy, psychology and psychoanalysis, historical studies, and literature. The Mess Inside engages with all of these areas of discourse, and steers a path between the sceptics who are dismissive of the idea of narrative as having any worthwhile use at all, and those who argue (...) that our very selfhood is somehow constituted by a narrative. After introducing the notion of narrative, Goldie discusses the way we engage with the past in narrative terms. This involves an exploration of the essentially perspectival nature of narrative thinking, which gains support from much recent empirical work on memory. Drawing on literary examples and on work in psychology, Goldie considers grief as a case study of this kind of narrative thinking, extending to a discussion of the crucial notion of 'closure'. Turning to narrative thinking about our future, Goldie discusses the many structural parallels between our imaginings of the future and our memories of the past, and the role of our emotions in response to what we imagine in thinking about our future in the light of our past. This is followed by a second case study--an exploration of self-forgiveness. In this ground-breaking book, Goldie supports scepticism about the idea that there is such a thing as a narrative self, but argues that having a narrative sense of self, quite distinct from any metaphysical notion of selfhood, is at the heart of what it is to think of ourselves, and others, as having a narratable past, present, and future. (shrink)
Piven and Cloward aimed to be provocative, but they did so by badly overstating their argument. They are too fair-minded to ignore completely the contribution and courage of organizers in these movements. In spite of their thesis, they pay occasional obeisance to movement organizers and exemplars. “There were nevertheless organizers in these [labor] struggles,” they acknowledge. “Some of these organizers were insurgents from the rank and file; others were radicals whose vision of an alternative future helped to account for their (...) exemplary courage. Wherever these organizers came from, their vision helped goad workers into protest, and their courage gave workers heart and determination” (148).Nor can they ignore the role of organizational activists in the civil-rights movement. They seek exemption from the implications of this activity by noting that these organizations were not much concerned with building formal membership and were “cadre organizations.” But the idea of cadre organizations doesn't appear in the index, is introduced in an ad hoc manner to preserve their argument, and is never developed. In their account of the National Welfare Rights Organization, Piven and Cloward advocate a cadre organization, modelled on the successes of the civil-rights movement and of SCLC in particular (Poor People's Movements, 282–85).When Poor People's Movements goes from general thesis to specific case analysis, the argument becomes less provocative but more reasonable. Apparently, it is not every organization that discourages insurgency, aspires to create a mass membership and hierarchical bureaucracy, and is willing to sell its birthright for a mess of elite pottage. Some movement organizations' stimulate anger and defiance, and escalate the momentum of the people's protests. Some use their communication networks to spread disruptive forms of collective action and their organizational planning to chart strategy and timing, and to increase the effectiveness of collective action. Some institutionalize their dependence on their own constituency rather than come to rely on elite resources for survival. If some militant organizations later become tame and abandon their oppositional politics, other formerly docile organizations sometimes become centers of militancy - as the black churches and colleges did in the Southern civil rights movement.The intellectual task becomes the more exacting one of figuring out what types of organization are likely to facilitate insurgency or abandon their oppositional politics under different historical conditions. Poor People's Movements might be interpreted as providing one kind of answer to this question, an argument against mass-membership organizations. This is certainly a much less dramatic and provocative thesis. But in the end, an analysis of the advantages and disadvantages of different forms of organization is a great deal more useful to students of social movements than the anti-organizational phillipic that the authors offer us. (shrink)
There are two different kinds of theories of the concept of epistemic defeat. One theory begins with propositional relationships, only by implication describing what happens in the context of a noetic system. Such a theory places inforrmation about defeat up front, not informing us of how the defeat relationships play out in the context of actual belief, at least not initially. The other theory takes a back door to the concept of defeat, assuming a context of (...) actual belief and an entire noetic system, and describing defeat in terms of what sort of doxastic and noetic responses would be appropriate to the addition of particular pieces of information. Where the house is the noetic structure itself, the front door approach characterizes the concept of defeat in terms of the propositional contents a belief might have, thus characterizing defeat at the front door. The backdoor approach characterizes defeat in terms of what leaves the house, in terms of beliefs that exit the noetic system in response to changes to it, in terms of what the staff of a well-run household kicks out the backdoor for making a mess of things. Alvin Plantinga’s theory of epistemic defeat is a back-door theory, and here I will argue that his theory and approaches like it will be unable to explicate accurately the concept of epistemic defeat. I will argue that a front door approach is needed rather than a back door approach. (shrink)
Obviously medicine should be evidence-based. The issues lie in the details: what exactly counts as evidence? Do certain kinds of evidence carry more weight than others? (And if so why?) And how exactly should medicine be based on evidence? When it comes to these details, the evidence-based medicine (EBM) movement has got itself into a mess – or so it will be argued. In order to start to resolve (...) this mess, we need to go 'back to basics'; and that means turning to the philosophy of science. The theory of evidence, or rather the logic of the interrelations between theory and evidence, has always been central to the philosophy of science – sometimes under the alias of the 'theory of confirmation'. When taken together with a little philosophical commonsense, this logic can help us move towards a position on evidence in medicine that is more sophisticated and defensible than anything that EBM has been able so far to supply. (shrink)
Effective objective (sachlich) verbal communication is dependent upon the use of linguistic locutions which are: a) suitable for some special purposes, b) clear ( i.e ., having a satsifactorily high degree of subsumability), and c) in accordance with some ordinary (i.e. , frequently occurring) language usages. Only in so far as point c is concerned is a study of actual language usage of (indirect) value to philosophers. And this holds true regardless of whether one's underlying assumption tends towards the view: (...) 1) that ordinary language is perfect (Oxford), or: 2) that ordinary language is a mess (Oslo). In any case, one needs to know about the most ordinary usages to prevent unnecessarily drastic deviations from them. Drastic deviations may mislead the sender, as well as the receiver, create communicational disturbances, misunderstandings, and confusion (vide: Strawson's use of “presupposition"). However, considerations of a) suitability for special purposes, and b) clarity (subsumability) will most often, if not always, prevent a communicator from flatly adopting any one of the existing language usages of a given important linguistic locution. He would feel the need for: “explications,”; “rational reconstructions”; or conceptual alterations of one kind or another. In fact, there are instances where the sender finds it most advantageous to disregard completely ordinary language (vide: Einstein's use of “simultaneity"): He “makes words mean what he wants them to mean.”; This is the Humpty Dumpty sender attitude towards language. The corresponding receiver attitude manifests itself as awareness of and tolerance for language ambiguities. (shrink)
In his analysis of “the essential tension between tradition and innovation” Thomas S. Kuhn focused on the apparent paradox that, on the one hand, normal research is a highly convergent activity based upon a settled consensus, but, on the other hand, the ultimate effect of this tradition-bound work has invariably been to change the tradition. Kuhn argued that, on the one hand, without the possibility of divergent thought, fundamental innovation would be precluded. On the other hand, without a strong emphasis (...) on convergent thought, science would become a mess created by continuous theory changes and scientific progress would again be precluded. On Kuhn’s view, both convergent and divergent thought are therefore equally necessary for the progress of science. In this paper, I shall argue that a similar fundamental tension exists between the demands we see for novel insights of an interdisciplinary nature and the need for established intellectual doctrines founded in the classical disciplines. First, I shall revisit Kuhn’s analysis of the essential tension between tradition and innovation. Next, I shall argue that the tension inherent in interdisciplinary research between, on the one hand, intellectual independence and critical scrutiny and, on the other hand, epistemic dependence and trust is a complement to Kuhn’s essential tension within mono-disciplinary science between convergent and divergent thought. (shrink)
Russell’s Human Society is a fun book to read, but meta-ethically it is a bit of a mess. There is much wit and some wisdom, though both the wit and the wisdom are more conspicuous when he is discussing human nature and human society than when he is discussing the finer points of ethical theory. (I particularly like his frequent complaints that human behavior seldom rises to the level of enlightened self-interest. If only we could manage to be intelligently (...) selfish, the world would be a much better place.) The drift of the argument is sometimes difficult to discern, partly because of has frequent digressions to make bon mots, and partly because of his dialectical method of presentation, which approaches what he takes to be the truth via a series of successive approximations. Human Society in Ethics and Politics was published in 1954, but the meta-ethical bits were originally written some years earlier and intended for inclusion in Human Knowledge: Its Scope and Limits, (1948). Russell held them back because he was not sure whether ethical propositions rose to the dignity of knowledge. He continued to be doubtful about this, but by the early 1950s his doubts had sufficiently dissipated for publication to become a possibility. Nevertheless, there are marked analogies between the two books. Human Knowledge attempts to establish the existence of a mindindependent world on the basis of private perceptions. Human Society attempts to establish an ethic that is in some degree independent of individual minds on the basis of subjective sentiments. (shrink)
In his discussion of ethics and abortion, Prof. Richard Dawkins makes the provocative claim that: ‘The Great Beethoven Fallacy is a typ ical example of the kind of logical mess we get into when our minds are befuddled by religiously inspired absolutism.’ (Dawkins, p. 339) This supposed fallacy is presented as if it exemplified not only a particular view of abortion held, for instance, by certain fundamentalist Christians but as if it revealed some flaw that is characteristic of the (...) thinking of theists. I shall examine his claim. (shrink)
What follows is the elaboration of a series of discussions held by the two authors at a seminar during which we tried to “read” Wim Wenders's Lisbon Story starting from Gregory Bateson's double bind theory. These discussions then developed into writings that were intertwined, hybridized, corrected, extended, and cut. We experimented directly with the game of relationships, the “mess that works” of the difficult distinction between map and territory, between epistemology and cinematography. Emerging from general considerations on cinema is (...) the double bind of the “crisis” of images, a prelude to a renewed faith in the creative and constructive possibilities of art: image not as a replica but as the experience of a relationship. (shrink)
Some evolutionary psychologists contend that the best way to discover the functions of our present psychological systems is by appealing to the notion of functional mesh, that is, the assumed tight fit between a trait's design and the adaptive problem it is supposed to solve. In this paper, I argue that there exist theoretical considerations and empirical evidence that undermine this assumption of optimal design. Instead, I suggest that cognitive systems are constrained by what I call bounded functionality. This proposal (...) makes use of Jacob's (1977) notion of evolution as a bricoleur and Simon's (1981) idea that problems can have ``satisficing'' solutions. Functional mesh will thus be shown to neglect constraints that are necessary to explain the evolution of psychological mechanisms. (shrink)
A standard view of probability and statistics centers on distributions and hypothesis testing. To solve a real problem, say in the spread of disease, one chooses a “model”, a distribution or process that is believed from tradition or intuition to be appropriate to the class of problems in question. One uses data to estimate the parameters of the model, and then delivers the resulting exactly specified model to the customer for use in prediction and classification. As a gateway to these (...) mysteries, the combinatorics of dice and coins are recommended; the energetic youth who invest heavily in the calculation of relative frequencies will be inclined to protect their investment through faith in the frequentist philosophy that probabilities are all really relative frequencies. Those with a taste for foundational questions are referred to measure theory, an excursion from which few return. That picture, standardised by Fisher and Neyman in the 1930s, has proved in many ways remarkably serviceable. It is especially reasonable where it is known that the data are generated by a physical process that conforms to the model. It is not so useful where the data is a large and little understood mess, as is typical in, for example, insurance data being investigated for fraud. Nor is it suitable where one has several speculations about possible models and wishes to compare them, or.. (shrink)
This book is a philosopher's examination of the dispute, which raged amongst cognitive psychologists in the 1970s, and has continued to sputter on since, about the nature of mental imagery. As Tye sees things (and, indeed, as the textbooks generally have it) on the one side of the issue we find Stephen Kosslyn and certain close associates, arguing that mental images are best understood on analogy with pictures; and on the other side we find Zenon Pylyshyn, ably seconded by Geoffrey (...) Hinton, arguing that the pictorial analogy is thoroughly misleading, and should be replaced by an analogy to descriptions. Tye's consideration of this debate, attempting to clarify and arbitrate a tangled mess of argument and to explore the implications of what he takes to be the proper outcome, is generally excellent. If you want to understand the strengths of the arguments of Kosslyn, Pylyshyn, and their allies, then this book is to be recommended very warmly. (shrink)
Narrative thinking -- Narrative thinking about one's past -- Grief : a case study -- Narrative thinking about one's future -- Self-forgiveness : a case study -- The narrative sense of self -- Narrative, truth, life, and fiction.
The website Rotten Tomatoes, located at www.rottentomatoes.com, is primarily an online repository of movie reviews. For each movie review document, the site provides a link to the full review, along with a brief description of its sentiment. The description consists of a rating (“fresh” or “rotten”) and a short quotation from the review. Other research (Pang, Lee, & Vaithyanathan 2002) has predicted a movie review’s rating from its text. In this paper, we focus on the quotation, which is a main (...) attraction to site users. A Rotten Tomatoes quotation is typically about one sentence in length and expresses concisely the reviewer’s opinion of the movie. To illustrate, Curtis Edmonds’s review of the documentary Spellbound is encapsulated, “Hitchcock couldn’t have asked for a more suspenseful situation.” A.O. Scott’s review of Once upon a Time in Mexico is encapsulated, “A noisy, unholy mess, with moments of wit and surprise that ultimately make its brutal tedium all the more disappointing.” A reader can infer from these statements whether or not the overall sentiment is favorable, and get an impression about why. Consequently, we refer to them as sentiment summaries. (shrink)
Spike Lee’s film 25 th Hour begins with an act of violence that it does not show: instead, the viewer hears the sounds of a dog being beaten. The dog’s menacing growl is then transformed into the growling image of Montgomery ‘Monty’ Brogan’s car speeding through New York. Monty spots the dog, and stops. It is only then that the viewer witnesses the results of the film’s ‘foundational’ act of violence: the bloody body of a dog beaten to pulp. When (...) Monty approaches the dog, it turns out the animal ‘still has some bite left in him’. Perhaps because the dog is a fighter, Monty decides to save him. Although the dog resists, he ultimately manages to get the dog in the trunk of his car. But Monty does not emerge from the rescue operation unscathed: blood is trickling from a cut in his neck. This scene can be read as a pre-figuration of a stomach-turning scene towards the end of the film, in which Monty’s friend Francis ‘Frank’ Slaughtery will beat up Monty’s face beyond recognition so that Monty will not be raped on his first night in jail. Monty’s face recalls the dog at the beginning of the film. It is through the bloody mess of their bodies that Monty and the dog begin to communicate, to enter into communion. This essay explores how this communion, this communication between Monty and the dog, comes about. I am interested, specifically, in what the significance of such an exploration might be for contemporary conceptions of community. The essay initially approaches this topic against the background of Emmanuel Levinas’ work on ethics, in which the notion of the face has played a crucial role. But its aim is really to situate the film, through the references to the work of Francis Bacon that it includes, in a more contemporary, post-Levinasian debate on an ethics of defacement. I am particularly interested in exploring the significance of such an ethics in the post-September 11 era, which is explicitly evoked at the beginning of Lee’s film. My argument is that Monty and the dog begin to communicate, to enter into a communion, and thus to form a community, through a process of defacement that simultaneously strips them from their ways of life and propels them into a shared ethical and political becoming. (shrink)
Much of the spirit of the Enlightenment was critical and sceptical, concerned with the limits of what can be known. But in taking a more positivist turn the Enlightenment inspired grand palaces of thought where human mess was forever being tidied away. The novel, by contrast, is supremely the place where human mess is celebrated.
It should be clear that Lyell's scientific contemporaries would hardly have agreed with Robert Munro's remark that Antiquity of Man created a full-fledged discipline. Only later historians have judged the work a synthesis; those closer to the discoveries and events saw it as a compilation — perhaps a “capital compilation,”95 but a compilation none the less. Its heterogeneity made it difficult to judge as a unity, and most reviewers, like Forbes, concentrated on the first part of Lyell's trilogy. The chapters (...) on glaciation were admired by Lyell's friends but had relatively little appeal to more general readers. His discussion of the species question hedged far too much to please those who accepted the cogency of Darwin's evidence and arguments. This last section of the book blatantly lacks originality or commitment and certainly has no claim to classical status in anthropology.We are left, then, with the first twelve chapters, for it was this portion that dictated the book's title and that amassed the available evidence favoring the antiquity of the human species. Did it do anything more than marshall the evidence that others had discovered? I think not. Lyell could write with style and verve. Principles of Geology is a remarkably readable book. But Antiquity is the work of a geologist, not of a systematic student of man. Despite its occasional touches of power, it never captures the freshness and immediacy of Lubbock's Pre-historic Times nor the theoretical brilliance of E. B. Tylor's Researches into the Early History of Mankind (1865).96 Antiquity utilizes little of the comparative method whereby Lyell's contemporaries used data from modern “savagery” to elaborate the possible social functions of the prehistoric remains being uncovered. It contains little social theory and has virtually no integrated framework. Even the first twelve chapters do not really hang together. As Hooker, commenting to Darwin on Lubbock's review, sadly wrote: “Lubbock in [the] N[atural] H[istory] Review, had in a note called attention to Lyell's ... ‘doing injustice’ to Prestwich & Falconer. I modified this expression ‘injustice’ in Lubbock's paper (which was friendly and apologetic). I am deeply sorry for it, but what can one do? I do think Lyell's first XII chapters a complete mess.”97 In another letter to Darwin, Hooker described this first portion of Antiquity as “confused and confusing.”98Part of the problem, of course, lay in the subject's novelty for Lyell and for most of his contemporaries. At a deeper level, however, I believe that the book accurately reflects Lyell's uncertainties about Darwin's work and its implications for man.99 Leonard Wilson's edition of Lyell's Scientific Journals provides a unique insight into Lyell's mind during the years just before he began to write Antiquity.100 Preoccupied with the human implications of evolutionary biology, Lyell was not clear how many of those implications were compatible with his deep convictions about the dignity of man's place in the cosmos. With a certain naiveté, Lyell complained in 1873 that many of his readers had failed to see the “natural connections” among the three portions of Antiquity.101 Connections could indeed be drawn between man's antiquity and his evolutionary origins; Lyell's private Scientific Journals movingly demonstrate that he was well aware of this fact. But he never fully made the connections in his published writings. Antiquity of Man is more appropriately seen as the last gasp of the heroic period in British geology than as the opening salvo in a new, post-Darwinian anthropological synthesis. Between the founding of the Geological Society of London in 1807 and the middle of the nineteenth century, geology was recognized as one of the most exciting and innovative scientific fields in Britain.102 Lyell himself had contributed much to that drama, and by the 1860's he was a public figure of venerable proportions. More then any other man he represented a geology that had extended the boundaries of process, time, and life. The fundamental achievements of Lyell and his colleagues had been assimilated into the wider Victorian consciousness, yet the earlier public debates about “genesis and geology” had left untouched in its essentials the concept of Man as a moral, responsible, created being.103Lyell never abandoned this view of his own species, and in 1863 it was a completely responsible creature which, under the weight of empirical evidence, Lyell admitted had lived on earth far longer than had previously been thought. Certainly this more generous allowance for human existence was constitutive to what Burrow calls the evolutionary social theory of midcentury Britain.104 Unlike Lyell, the younger representatives of this anthropology quietly accepted both man's antiquity and his aboriginal animality. Herbert Spencer's Principles of Psychology (1855), as well as the other volumes of his grand Synthetic Philosophy, presented as part of the cosmic process the development of human from prehuman beings.105 Tylor's discussion of what in his Researches (1865) he called the “gesture-language” presupposed the gradual and de novo origin of language in early human populations.106 Lubbock's young and polished mind was untroubled by the human implications of Darwin's work, and he cast his Prehistoric Times into such a perfect mold that it and its companionpiece (On the Origin of Civilization, 1870) went through seven editions each between 1865 and World War I, with their original theoretical structures intact. In a way that Lyell could not grasp, Lubbock was intrigued by questions concerning the origins of moral and religious beliefs and did not flinch at the thought of an amoral, atheistic creature as an ancestor.107 Indeed, as the German naturalist Carl Vogt pointed out in his Lectures on Man, translated into English the year after Antiquity, both Darwin's theories and the primitive flint knives of the Stone Age bore witness to a time beyond that imaginable from the condition of the lowest present-day “savage”:From such a low condition [little better than anthropomorphous apes], compared to which that of the so-called savages of the old and new world is a refined civilisation, has the human species gradually extricated itself, in a bitter struggle for existence, which it was well able to maintain, by being gifted with a larger amount of brain and intelligence than that possessed by the surrounding animal world.108The easy integration of biological and social themes was perhaps the distinguishing hallmark of Victorian anthropology of the 1850's and 1860's. After his fashion, Lyell got both themes into Antiquity, but he carefully separated them with a seven-chapter wall of glacial ice. Lyell's anthropology was not that of a thoroughgoing evolutionist like Lubbock, Tylor, or Spencer. For Lyell prehistoric man was not a product of biological evolution. Rude and superstitious he may have been, but he possessed ritual and a belief in a future state, and thus deserved “the epithet of ‘noble,’ which Dryden gave to what he seems to have pictured to himself as the primitive condition of our race: as Nature first made man/when wild in woods the noble savage ran.”109As a systematic argument, Lyell's book was at best a significant failure. As a popularization, it was a success — largely because of the personal stature of its author and the particular moment of its appearance. It helped establish the fact of man's antiquity with a wider Victorian audience, in itself no mean achievement. But Lyell was unable to exploit the fuller implications of his material in the service of a secular science of man. Ironically, he exploited only his colleagues' discoveries. Though the aging Lyell, with failing eyesight but unfailing mental powers, can still be seen as a man of considerable importance, his Antiquity belongs to the carefully circumscribed world of British geology rather than to the less disciplined world of Victorian anthropology. (shrink)
Most of what I really need to know about how to live and what to do and how to be I learned in kindergarten. Wisdom was not at the top of the graduate school mountain, but there in the sandpile at Sunday School. These are the things I learned: Share everything. Play fair. Don't hit people. Put things back where you found them. Clean up your own mess. Don't take things that aren't yours. Say you're sorry when you hurt (...) somebody. Wash your hands before you eat. Flush. Warm cookies and cold milk are good for you. Live a balanced life. Take a nap every afternoon. When you go out into the world, watch out for traffic, hold hands, and stick together. (shrink)
How we share the world, what conceptual framework might allow us to grasp the sharing, once the bleak world-in-itself is unavailable and all we have are our personalised worlds, remains a total mystery. Science can get along quite well without solving it, but cosmologists need to take it seriously. For philosophers, however, that the world we take for granted is a conceptual mess poses a problem.
Since 2008 I have been closely following the conceptual/performance/video work of Daniel Peltz. Gently rendered through media installation, ethnographic, and performance strategies, Peltz’s work reverently and warmly engages the inner workings of social systems, leaving elegant rips and tears in any given socio/cultural quilt. He engages readymades (of social and media constructions) and uses what are identified as interruptionist/interventionist strategies to disrupt parts of an existing social system, thus allowing for something other to emerge. Like the stereoscope that requires two (...) identical images to create an illusion of a three-dimensional image, Peltz sometimes visualizes two separate elements to create an object or moment that requires space and depth to focus on its varied layers. They say your brain has to process and make meaningful sense out of all that visual information before it can accept the illusion. I say your brain has to do a similar thing when looking and seeing the divine, magical, and faithful (social) art making of Daniel Peltz. Daniel Peltz is Associate Professor of Film/Animation/Video at RISD. He divides his time between Rhode Island and Sweden and is currently at work on an exhibition at Botkyrka Konsthall, Stockholm opening February 2013 and a new project to be included in the IASKA: Spaced Biennial (Australia) in 2014. This interview took place on Skype and is part one of a two-part interview. Feliz Lucia Molina: Are you in Providence, RI? Daniel Peltz: I’m at my house in Providence. I’ve been back for six days teaching winter session at RISD and doing this workshop series—these investors’ drum circles with a group of wealth managers. a client of the firm, 2013, photo Shirin Adhami FLM: The wealth managers were all drumming together? DP: They were all drumming in response to the performance of their retirement portfolios. FLM: Is this part of the “Unrealized Gain/Loss” piece? DP: Yes, it’s part of a show I’m working on in Sweden. I can show you because it was just today. I’ll show you some of this. Lets see—share screen [click, click, click]. This is the room. I’ve been using the camera system that’s already installed in the conference rooms to record them. So the video is being recorded directly by the wealth management office’s tech staff. These are the people I worked with in the last workshop. This conference table is less wondrous. They’ve been learning to drum in response to their retirement portfolios. I started by bringing in my little bit of wealth for them to propose a management strategy, I came to the follow-up meeting with a counter proposal, which was this workshop. So they agreed to do this series of workshops instead of managing my wealth. FLM: Does everybody in the room manage your wealth? That’s kind of a lot of people. DP: That woman in the back there and Craig —they handle new client business. So when you come there with your wealth, they sit down with you and suggest to you how they would manage it. They’re very nice, responsible people. FLM: And where is this? DP: This is in Providence and the one I was showing you is in Waltham, where I was today. Then I’m going to Newport for the last one on Friday. So I will have done four of them. This is the group in Waltham that I just played with today. I played directly with the two groups in Providence and I’m working with an ethnomusicologist at Brown, Asha Tamarisa, who is facilitating the last two. She’s helped develop the workshop in terms of figuring out how to train a group to do this and thinking about the compositional challenges of working in response to retirement portfolio data. FLM: Screensharing helps me to figure out tiny bits here and there about the project. DP: I might even be able to play you a little of the audio I’ve also been working with a group of professional percussionists on what will become a quarterly public investors’ drum circle event. Their stuff was really nice, but I want you to hear what we sounded like in the workshops. They’ve all been recorded by the a/v system in the offices. We use a simple structure where the drummer investors interpret the sensation of gain or loss as embellishments to a base heartbeat rhythm. The group holds the heartbeat and, as each person experiences gain or loss, they embellish that rhythm. "Screensharing helps me to figure out tiny bits here and there about the project" FLM: Is the process all very spontaneous? DP: Its actually quite structured. We produce a custom stock ticker that shows the performance of their collective portfolios. In advance of the workshop each participant submits assets in their retirement portfolio. Then we make a stock ticker that shows the real-time performance of their assets so that they can respond to almost live data. FLM: Are they reading the stock ticker projected up on the screen in the room? Do people drum in correspondence to the visual live data of the performance of their assets? DP: Exactly. They’re looking at the stock ticker as opposed to each other, so it’s a slightly shifted drum circle. They’re looking at the ticker but they’re listening to each other—that’s what we’re practicing. For example, NVO—the price is 172.08 but it’s down -1.16 and as that moves across the screen, the person who’s retirement is invested in that asset starts to embellish when that arrow first appears, based on their experience of loss. They stop when it exits the screen and return to the heartbeat. You could have one ticker for each retirement portfolio, but the way the workshop is constructed is that we just isolate one asset from each person’s portfolio so that everyone in the group is represented in a single ticker. So they’re drumming and looking at the ticker, but they’re hearing each other experience gain and loss. We’ve removed direct visual engagement from the social structure of a drum circle but the oral engagement is still there. FLM: So they had their own sound interpretation of gain and loss? DP: Yeah and that part is quite spontaneous as you were saying. In some of the preparatory exercises we’ve been working to give the participants more strategies for interpreting the sensations of gain and loss. We’re trying to develop their capacity to embellish a heartbeat or base rhythm but I’m not invested in having a melodious result. I’m quite curious about what this kind of structure will result in without any desire for a particular result. FLM: For context, can you talk about the project you did a couple years ago in Bali, “Unrealized Gain/Loss” in relation to this current wealth management project? DP: The workshops I’ve been doing use a similar strategy to the other components in this project. It started in Indonesia on my sabbatical and I was really trying to understand where I was physically and where I was being on sabbatical—this kind of strange jubilee structure where every seventh year you’re supposed to renew your self. And it was around the time of the global financial crisis. I was on sabbatical for the global financial crisis. I remember watching my father, in particular, respond to the financial crisis by monitoring his retirement portfolio and trying to make sense of it. I realized on a visit to their home that he checked his retirement portfolio every single day and I was really struck by that because in some way our parents are mysteries to us as children, especially their moods. We know how important their moods are but we don’t know what governs them. And somehow it was like I’d figured it out, it’s the performance of the DOW! So I think there was something in that. Then I was in Indonesia and I had been drawn there by an interest in their highly ritualized Hindu culture, where so much of life is driven by a ceremonial calendar. I was interested in Bali as this predominantly Hindu pocket within a predominantly Islamic country and life there being organized by this ritual calendar functioning as a kind of resistance to the dominant global religion of free-market capitalism. So I started to explore that correlation between the ways in which this culture that I was living in was sort of “living for the afterlife” and this idea within certain segments of American society of “living for the afterwork life”. The idea that your wellbeing in the “afterwork life” is tied to forces that are unseen and largely beyond your control has strong similarities to many religious understandings of the universe. So I started to explore that and the crafts and materials that were around me were primarily Batik and percussion. Percussion is a huge part of daily life in Bali. These gamelan troupes were everywhere. And I also happened to be there for Nyepi, the day of silence, which is preceded by a very elaborate procession and construction of demonic statues. These were the things that were around me and I started studying Batik with one of the Batik artists there and also started a conversation with two master Batik artists, one who is American and her Indonesian husband. I developed these patterns that were based on symbols from the performance of my retirement portfolio and worked with the batik artists to produce two sarongs. d. peltz - 2012 In producing the designs, I treated the performance of my retirement portfolio since my arrival at RISD [7 years] as a significant interval and then I looked at the ways in which decisions are made within retirement portfolios as having an extension outwards from the individual assets that underlie the retirement portfolio, which are kind of like the base elements of the retirement world. Then there’s the allocation of your assets, which is a global way of understanding an individual according to typologies, which are often referred to in terms of risk—this notion of a ‘risk profile’. What type of ‘person’ you are is determined by your attitude towards risk, or potentiality, and I found that to be a really fascinating way of understanding the universe. I remember looking at the tabs in my retirement portfolio and finding this one for viewing ‘Unrealized Gain/Loss’ and that’s often how I work—is just going through the Cambridge Parking Code, for example, and finding this section of the code that was called ‘Crossing Non-Signalized Locations’ and just feeling “I can’t do any better than that,” you know? That’s what I was talking about in terms of ready-mades that exist in the social sphere. So I found that tab, actually, a long time ago, and I pulled it out of a journal when I was there [in Bali] working on these pieces and I wound up making these two sarongs and later on a series of porcelain vessels for holding one’s unrealized gains and losses. At the time, I knew that I wanted a performance to come out of them, but I wasn’t sure what it was. I was inspired very much by this sort of thing: Pulls out a TIAA-CREF brochure with a man in a suit seated at a table. This guy is probably an actor, and [the brochure] says “TIAA-Cref announces “Individual counseling sessions at the Rhode Island School of Design. Individual counseling sessions at no additional cost to you. You can discuss your personal financial situation with an experienced TIAA consultant on a confidential basis. We are available to help you discuss how to achieve your financial goals by investing in financial solutions such as mutual funds, brokerage, life insurance, and annuities...etc....What retirement benefits best fits your situation?” Often I encounter this and I think O.K., this is one way to prepare for the after-work life and it seems inadequate to me. But, I also find it really inspiring. I really like the visual language of it. I kind of want to be that man. I’d like to see if I could maybe buy his clothes. FLM: What it is about the man on the brochure that interests you? DP: He’s offering personalized objective advice and a detailed evaluation of everything you need to know and do. Who wouldn’t want that? But he’s also something of a contemporary priest or priestess, mediating between the unseen all-powerful universe of global capitalism and the common worker. So I started off developing Unrealized Gain/Loss directly from the charts that represent the performance of my retirement portfolio. Then I came home and I wanted to use those. I had this word in my journal “unrealized gain/loss vessel.” I had this notion of vessels that would contain unrealized gains and losses. That felt really important to me that they would have somewhere to go. I had been thinking a lot about altars and making offerings—that somehow this really fickle, massive, difficult-to-comprehend-universe of the financial world—that somehow it might be nice if you could making an offering to it. [In Bali] they made such beautiful elaborate offerings. So I studied offering making as well with one of the women there and she taught me some of the standard forms created by folding leaves and the significance of the floral arrangements. I started working in clay and then moved to porcelain and I made these unrealized gain/loss vessels. I made a few of them, they have holes on either side that you can’t get your fingers in. But something can go in there and something can go out of there. It’s a nice size for putting on an altar. Then I got this commission from Artists in Context who was interested in my doing something for this project “Artists Perspectives for the Nation” project. I proposed initiating these investors’ drum circles as a new public performance form. I’m interested in bringing together those two symbols—the symbol of the djembe and the drum circle. unrealized gain/loss vessel - d.peltz - 2012 FLM: I can imagine the public digital stock ticker performing like a soft fleeting stream of information, a kind of (meaningless) illusory comfort blanket. DP: In some way you have to understand its relevance outside of the obvious, right? Because the obvious is illogical. Nobody is actually using that data to day trade, for example. People aren’t sitting there with their computers watching the market data in Times Square or setting up an outdoor office and being like “OK it’s up 3 points or it’s up 1.56, trade! Ok now buy, Ok now sell!” That would be a kind of a nice performance, actually. But actual day traders would want more up to date data than that. To understand what that data is doing is really important. And that’s something I’ve realized—that I’m interested in a particular kind of data visualization, which is not about what data can tell people, but what data can tell people who are visualizing it. For example, in the Cambridge Project “Crossing Non-Signalized Locations” I was interested in the 10,000 excuses archive of data recording five years worth of excuses for why people thought they shouldn’t have received their parking ticket. I was not interested in making that excuse wall so that the public could see and understand this data. Inevitably the data will be seen by others but I was really interested in what the action of visualizing the data told those who were visualizing it. The parking attendants themselves were writing those excuses on the wall—I was interested in what that kind action of writing the excuses on the wall told them about the data. Similarly, I’m interested in designing a way to allow people to pass this data from the unseen universe of the market, through their own bodies, which happens through the merging of the drum and the stock ticker. I’m interested in those two also as symbols; the drum as this symbol of the earth, the body and a pagan counterculture, and the stock ticker referring to the ethereal world of global markets—bringing those two together and making them dependent. I’m often drawn to conceptual propositions that I become invested in testing in a sincere way—at first they often they sound humorous to others, but I have to remember that there is humor in them. I don’t sit around and laugh about these things. I stop finding them funny at all. I’m interested in the proposition that we could know something about the after-work life by drumming in response to our retirement portfolio. So then I become really interested in how to craft that into a viable performance form for myself and others. FLM: The aspect of using sound in “Unrealized Gain/Loss” as a way of embodying the information to the asset holder is really intriguing—using sound as a means of embodying the asset data. Was sound a medium that made sense to use immediately or were you considering other means of attempting to embody it? DP: Well I do use other mediums within the project like textile, ceramic, and batik patterns. I was first drawn to the history of Batik patterns as a socio-economic stratification system and the vessels as a way of embodying or manifesting this data of unrealized gain and loss. My first approach was to work with meditation actually—a meditation workshop with my colleagues. I was going to offer this “Unrealized Gain/Loss” workshop where you would explore the sensations of gain and loss by adapting the way yogi-nidra brings you into contact with your physical surroundings and stretches your perception. FLM: At Naropa University there are/were business & compassion workshops—a sort of mash-up of business and compassion and how compassion could be incorporated into a business model. This process and engagement of “embodying data” also has to do with “Participatory Democracy and the Future of Karaoke” you created at the DNC in Denver in 2008. DP: That kind of appropriation and instrumentalization of spiritual practice could be disturbing and thus compelling as a strategy. For various reasons, I’ve come to be drawn to both the form of a quarterly public performance and the established performance form of a drum circle. Its something I’ve seen myself do before, that is to mess up a really good functional social system like a drum circle or karaoke. I remember I was developing language for the karaoke project and started calling it “Participatory Democracy and the Future of Karaoke” and one of my assistants on the project, who’s an incredible artist, said, “but don’t you think the future of karaoke is guitar hero?” and I realized that maybe he thought I was trying to improve the form. I’m just trying to get people to have this shifted embodied experience, I need to craft the performance context so that they can do that. In the case of the karaoke project, for example, what did I need in order to be able to do this [a person to stand up in front of a bar and deliver a karaoke speech]? I realized that the body is very vulnerable so I built a podium so that the speaker can feel secure enough to do this, otherwise you couldn’t get to this state achieved by passing these speeches through the body. Then I was, like, well you need to be able to practice the lyrics because you don’t know all the “songs” by heart, which became an insert to the massive track books carried by most karaoke VJs. And then sometimes the crowd in the bar isn’t there with me, so I needed to extract the voice of the crowd cheering from the original venue and I needed the local audience to cheer if they wanted to. I’m interested in both where the form succeeds and fails. In particular, one of the most interesting things is this auditory gap between the space where you are, the reduced scale of applause in your own little bar, and this grand scale of applause at the convention center where the speech was originally delivered. FLM: How did the concept of “Participatory Democracy Karaoke” come about and why did you use karaoke as a means of engaging what was happening at the DNC in 2008? DP: I was looking at a lot of different readymade media infrastructures within the city at the time. I was interested in the emergency broadcast systems and I developed a proposal to repurpose that system and karaoke became an important symbol because it was this populist form that was already engaged in exploring the sensation of celebrity but also visualizing the gap between ourselves and those with more power and influence. So it had this readymade capacity to play with power and celebrity and I felt like the Obama presidential campaign, the first one in particular, had some very curious overlaps with this culture of celebrity. Obama of course rose to power partly based on his oratory abilities and I was interested in how karaoke as a vehicle was so adept at offering people all that was left of authentic expression in a political speech. Managing a politician and constructing their identity is such a developed practice that it becomes, kind of automatically, a metaphor for the way that our own identities are constructed. Of course the Obama campaign was very hip and savvy and deploying this notion of grassroots. It was really pioneering in its use of social media and this deployment of notions of populism. I was interested at that time in the capacity of karaoke to track speech patterns, precise tempos of anyone’s delivery, and that to me was a way of thinking about what might be left of the authentic self. I was interested in karaoke’s capacity to extract that authentic component and offer it to others. So not just to stand up and be them, but to [literally] pass their speech patterns through your own body. A long time ago, it started to strike me as odd that one would make media at all. It struck me as a kind of un-contemporary way of going about making art in an age of media overflow. That logic extended into my thinking on delivery devices and installation as well. Why would one buy a screen or even set one up when there are so many out there? And the way in which these media displays function in karaoke bars and bars in general is very interesting to me. I’m drawn to this passive consumption of media where your primary social interaction is with the bartender or a few other individuals but these screens are around you and your attention is shifting back and forth between these spaces. So much political rhetoric is spoken to a half-listening audience. I was interested in what was happening in the slippage and that karaoke was a kind of slippage amplifier. So if you put people in a bar and they are delivering a Kucinich speech and Kucinich comes up on a screen then your getting a sound bite of Kucinich and an image of Kucinich and your friend is talking to you— FLM: A kind of magic takes place in that incongruency between sound and image and the karaoke participant who’s relaying the speech-text at the same time. DP: Exactly and there’s some kind of truth in that experience of reality. FLM: Yeah, there’s something uncanny about seeing the body close-up like that as though it can’t lie to you in that moment or context. It’s a weird moment of luminous clarity. The work you’ve done and all of what you’re saying about karaoke is so very interesting to me. Growing up, my dad and uncles sang karaoke a lot (and still do) and being first-generation Filipino American is a different cultural subtext entirely. I’m also seeing it from the position of witnessing family members who are carriers of these stories and songs. And seeing them cherish these Tony Bennett, Frank Sinatra, Elvis Presley songs so much, I also see how their bodies are literal vessels of popular music that signifies something greater—it signifies their cultural and socioeconomic place in the world. The way that they cherish these American 1950s and 1960s pop songs is similar to having a certain kind of reverence for their spiritual faith or Catholicism. It’s a similar kind of care, focus, and attention exerted in karaoke and Catholicism—that these two structures and systems give something to focus on. Setsuko, Seiji and Hitoshi in Obama, Japan as Obama in Indiana — d. peltz — 2008 DP: Sure there something about the relationship we have to our candidate or the way we go about choosing a candidate, which is very similar to a deity or idol. I learned a lot about karaoke culture through this project. I’d never done karaoke. I’d never been interested in it as a form and then I travelled to Japan as part of the project when I made “Setsuko, Seiji and Hitoshi in Obama, Japan as Barack Obama in Indiana” and it was quite fascinating because my image of karaoke had always been this very public forum in a karaoke bar and then I discovered there’s this whole other world of karaoke where people even go on their own, they go and rent a room or cubicle and sing, or they go on a date—just the two of them go and sit in a room and do karaoke together. FLM: I’m interested in issues that take place within or as a result of specific karaoke culture(s). In the Philippines within the last several years there’s been occurring the “My Way Killings” phenomenon. Apparently baklas or gay men are employed by karaoke establishments to help “smooth over conflicts over karaoke singing”—these social forms of conduct, or lack thereof that arise out of the infrastructures of this social sport. In this one rural part of the Philippines there’s a village karaoke machine that the whole village shares—the Aeta indigenous people have an appointed “keeper” of the karaoke machine. I also see karaoke as a proxy to the confessional box in Catholicism where one goes to pour out their sins (minus the penance and redemption). The karaoke machine enables one to literally sing out whatever’s going on internally, but through highly saturated popular song lyrics. While karaoke is a public and social sport, it can also be a private one. Karaoke is a means of communion with each other. DP: Right, this preference for this kind of mediated communication. In Japan I was trying to organize people to work on this project and I was talking about throwing a party and they were like, well, we have to rent a karaoke machine because what else are we going to do? And I think its kind of serving that function of surrogacy—emotional surrogacy. FLM: And karaoke tools can be read as ritual tools—the magic mic that holds everything. There’s got to be some overlap at some point—between religious ceremony and devotion to the karaoke machine. DP: The way I designed the piece was so that it could slip right on top of the ready-made karaoke infrastructure. There was a flat-packed podium and it was made of a single sheet of plywood with no fasteners that slotted into itself. Those were sent out to a network of karaoke bars that I invited to become “karaoke convention centers.” The local VJs downloaded our custom-made, speech-extracted tracks that were designed to play on their existing equipment. In this sense the piece is a permanent installation. If you go to Denver today, some of the VJs still have the tracks in their library of offerings, the Ramones and Romney. It was this notion of re-purposing readymade infrastructure to create a distributable populist form. Obama was coming and the convention was in the Pepsi Center and 30,000 people were coming including 10,000 journalists. The impetus behind the larger art project that commissioned international artists to make works in Denver, was that local people weren’t going to have much access to this convention. It was like an invasion, the city was being descended upon, but if you lived a block away from the site, you had the same access as people in Zimbabwe&mash;30 second media bits excerpted from the speeches. So it seemed to me that the fundamental gesture was how do I take that signal, which was travelling out of the convention center, and create a local interruption? FLM: Is that what you mean by ‘intervention’? The term is frequently used to help describe your work. DP: It depends on the day. Around that karaoke project I had a conversation with Krzysztof Wodiczko and he was proposing that maybe rather than intervention, we should consider the word interruption. Because intervention is kind of an overused term in the field of art and it has militaristic and therapeutic associations outside of the art context. Fundamentally, the idea of intervening speaks to the readymade social world as your primary material. So it’s basically suggesting a kind of subtractive process, which gets back to this question: what is the role of the contemporary media artist in a world that’s so saturated with media? You can’t work additively in a saturated field. If you want to make a visible mark you have to work subtractively. That’s what intervention is about to me, just another way of saying “to work subtractively.” FLM: So the interventions or interruptions aren’t necessarily adding or subtracting, but are they putting orange cones there? What are they doing exactly? DP: I think you’re right about that, they’re not really subtracting. They’re adding to the scope of possibility. I’ve been thinking (with this exhibition I’m mounting next month) about the work as explorations and expansions of social possibility. Maybe it’s more insertion. I started calling the pieces ‘insertions’ that I was making in Rejmyre—a small town in Sweden where I’ve been working for six years now. My favorite site to install there is the tourist bureau. I started calling the video pieces that I made for the tourist bureau, video insertions. This idea that you’re inserting something into the readymade media infrastructure of the world resonates with me. Insertion leverages a context, creating a possibility that the inserted object might be naturalized in the process — that someone can encounter my video in Rejmyre as tourist information. And then all of a sudden tourist information can include some American guy prostrating through town and it can include really bad relationship advice. Maybe insertion is a better word. tourist information – d. peltz 2009-present  . (shrink)
continent. 1.1 (2011): 3-13. / 0/ – Introduction I want to propose, as a trajectory into the philosophically weird, an absurd theoretical claim and pursue it, or perhaps more accurately, construct it as I point to it, collecting the ground work behind me like the Perpetual Train from China Mieville's Iron Council which puts down track as it moves reclaiming it along the way. The strange trajectory is the following: Kant's critical philosophy and much of continental philosophy which has followed, (...) has been a defense against horror and madness. Kant's prohibition on speculative metaphysics such as dogmatic metaphysics and transcendental realism, on thinking beyond the imposition of transcendental and moral constraints, has been challenged by numerous figures proceeding him. One of the more interesting critiques of Kant comes from the mad black Deleuzianism of Nick Land stating, “Kant’s critical philosophy is the most elaborate fit of panic in the history of the Earth.” And while Alain Badiou would certainly be opposed to the libidinal investments of Land's Deleuzo-Guattarian thought, he is likewise critical of Kant's normative thought-bureaucracies: Kant is the one author for whom I cannot feel any kinship. Everything in him exasperates me, above all his legalism—always asking Quid Juris ? Or ‘Haven’t you crossed the limit?’—combined, as in today’s United States, with a religiosity that is all the more dismal in that it is both omnipresent and vague. The critical machinery he set up has enduringly poisoned philosophy, while giving great succour to the academy, which loves nothing more than to rap the knuckles of the overambitious [….] That is how I understand the truth of Monique David-Menard’s reflections on the properly psychotic origins of Kantianism ( La Folie dans la raison pure ). I am persuaded that the whole of the critical enterprise is set up to to shield against the tempting symptom represented by the seer Swedenborg, or against ‘diseases of the head’, as Kant puts it (535-536). An entire nexus of the limits of reason and philosophy are set up here, namely that the critical philosophy not only defends thought from madness, philosophy from madness, and philosophy from itself, but that philosophy following the advent of the critical enterprise philosophy becomes auto-vampiric; feeding on itself to support the academy. Following Francois Laruelle's non-philosophical indictment of philosophy, we could go one step further and say that philosophy operates on the material of what is philosophizable and not the material of the external world.  Beyond this, the Kantian scheme of nestling human thinking between our limited empirical powers and transcendental guarantees of categorical coherence, forms of thinking which stretch beyond either appear illegitimate, thereby liquefying both pre-critical metaphysics and the ravings of the mad in the same critical acid. In rejecting the Kantian apparatus we are left with two entities – an unsure relation of thought to reality where thought is susceptible to internal and external breakdown and a reality with an uncertain sense of stability. These two strands will be pursued, against the sane-seal of post-Kantian philosophy by engaging the work of weird fiction authors H.P. Lovecraft and Thomas Ligotti. The absolute inhumanism of the formers universe will be used to describe a Shoggothic Materialism while the dream worlds of the latter will articulate the mad speculation of a Ventriloquil Idealism. But first we must address the relation of philosophy to madness as well as philosophy to weird fiction. /1/ – Philosophy and Madness There is nothing that the madness of men invents which is not either nature made manifest or nature restored. Michel Foucault. Madness and Civilization (283). The moment I doubt whether an event that I recall actually took place, I bring the suspicion of madness upon myself: unless I am uncertain as to whether it was not a mere dream. Arthur Schopenhauer. The World as Will and Idea, Vol. 3 (168). Madness is commonly thought of as moving through several well known cultural-historical shifts from madness as a demonic or otherwise theological force, to rationalization, to medicalization psychiatric and otherwise. Foucault's Madness and Civilization is well known for orientating madness as a form of exclusionary social control which operated by demarcating madness from reason. Yet Foucault points to the possibility of madness as the necessity of nature at least prior to the crushing weight of the church (23). Kant’s philosophy as a response to madness is grounded by his humanizing of madness itself. As Adrian Johnston points out in the early pages of Time Driven pre-Kantian madness meant humans were seized by demonic or angelic forces whereas Kantian madness became one of being too human. Madness becomes internalized, the external demonic forces become flaws of the individual mind. Foucault argues that, while madness is de-demonized it is also dehumanized during the Renaissance, as madmen become creatures neither diabolic nor totally human (70) reduced to the zero degree of humanity (74). It is immediately clear why for Kant, speculative metaphysics must be curbed – with the problem of internal madness and without the external safeguards of transcendental conditions, there is nothing to formally separate the speculative capacities for metaphysical diagnosis from the mad ramblings of the insane mind – both equally fall outside the realm of practicality and quotidian experience. David-Menard's work is particularly useful in diagnosing the relation of thought and madness in Kant's texts. David-Menard argues that in Kant's relatively unknown “An Essay on the Maladies of the Mind” as well as his later discussion of the Seer of Swedenborg, that Kant formulates madness primarily in terms of sensory upheaval or other hallucinatory theaters (85). She writes: “madness is an organization of thought. It is made possible by the ambiguity (and hence the possible sub- version) of the normal relation between the imaginary and the perceived, whether this pertains to the order of sensation or to the relations between our ideas” (86) Kant's fascination with the Seer forces Kant between the pincers of “aesthetic reconciliation” – namely melancholic withdrawal – and “a philosophical invention” – namely the critical project. Deleuze and Guattari's schizoanalysis is a combination and reversal of Kant's split, where an aesthetic over engagement with the world entails prolific conceptual invention. Their embrace of madness, however, is of course itself conceptual despite all their rhizomatic maneuvers. Though they move with the energy of madness, Deleuze and Guattari save the capacity of thought from the fangs of insanity by imbuing materiality itself with the capacity for thought. Or, as Ray Brassier puts it, “Deleuze insists, it is necessary to absolutize the immanence of this world in such a way as to dissolve the transcendent disjunction between things as we know them and as they are in themselves” (3). That is, whereas Kant relied on the faculty of judgment to divide representation from objectivity (2) Deleuze attempts to flatten the whole economy beneath the juggernaut of ontological univocity. Speculation, as a particularly useful form of madness, might fall close to Deleuze and Guattari’s shaping of philosophy into a concept producing machine but is different in that it is potentially self destructive – less reliant on the stability of its own concepts and more adherent to exposing a particular horrifying swath of reality. Speculative madness is always a potential disaster in that it acknowledges little more than its own speculative power with the hope that the gibbering of at least a handful of hysterical brains will be useful. Pre-critical metaphysics amounts to madness, though this may be because the world itself is mad while new attempts at speculative metaphysics, at post-Kantian pre-critical metaphysics, are well aware of our own madness. Without the sobriety of the principle of sufficient reason (following Meillassoux) we have a world of neon madness: “we would have to conceive what our life would be if all the movements of the earth, all the noises of the earth, all the smells, the tastes, all the light – of the earth and elsewhere, came to us in a moment, in an instant – like an atrocious screaming tumult of things” (104). Speculative thought may be participatory in the screaming tumult of the world or, worse yet, may produce its spectral double. Against theology or reason or simply commonsense, the speculative becomes heretical. Speculation, as the cognitive extension of the horrorific sublime should be met with melancholic detachment. Whereas Kant's theoretical invention, or productivity of thought, is self-sabotaging, since the advent of the critical project is a productivity of thought which then delimits the engine of thought at large either in dogmatic gestures or non-systematizable empirical wondrousness. The former is celebrated by the fiction of Thomas Ligotti whereas the latter is espoused by the tales of H.P. Lovecraft. /2/ – Weird Fiction and Philosophy . Supernatural horror, in all its eerie constructions, enables a reader to taste treats inconsistent with his personal welfare. Thomas Ligotti Songs of a Dead Dreamer (212). I choose weird stories because they suit my inclination best—one of my strongest and most persistent wishes being to achieve,momentarily, the illusion of some strange suspension or violation of the galling limitations of time, space, and natural law which forever imprison us and frustrate our curiosity about the infinite cosmic spaces beyond the radius of our sight and analysis H.P. Lovecraft. “Notes on Writing Weird Fiction” Lovecraft states that his creation of a story is to suspend natural law yet, at the same time, he indexes the tenuousness of such laws, suggesting the vast possibilities of the cosmic. The tension that Lovecraft sets up between his own fictions and the universe or nature (as we know it) is reproduced within his fictions in the common theme of the unreliable narrator; unreliable precisely because they are either mad or what they have witnessed questions the bounds of material reality. In “The Call of Cthulhu” Lovecraft writes: The most merciful thing in the world, I think, is the inability of the human mind to correlate all its contents. We live on a placid island of ignorance in the midst of black seas of infinity, and it was not meant that we should voyage far. The sciences, each straining in its own direction, have hitherto harmed us little; but some day the piecing together of dissociated knowledge will open up such terrifying vistas of reality, and of our frightful position therein, that we shall either go mad from the revelation or flee from the deadly light into the peace and safety of a new dark age (355). Despite Lovecraft's invocations of illusion, he is not claiming that his fantastic creations such as the Old Ones are supernatural but, following Joshi, are only ever supernormal (89). One can immediately see that instead of nullifying realism Lovecraft in fact opens up the real to an unbearable degree. In various letters and non-fictional statements Lovecraft espoused strictly materialist tenets, ones which he borrowed from Hugh Elliot namely the uniformity of law, the denial of teleology and the denial of non-material existence (7). Lovecraft seeks to explore the possibilities of such a universe by piling horror upon horror until the fragile brain which attempts to grasp it fractures. This may be why philosophy has largely ignored weird fiction – while Deleuze and Guattari mark the turn towards weird fiction and Lovecraft in particular, with the precursors to speculative realism (Nick Land) as well as contemporary related thinkers (especially Reza Negarestani, and Eugene Thacker) have begun to view Lovecraft as making philosophical contributions. Lovecraft's own relation to philosophy is largely critical (making critical remarks about Bergson and Freud for example) while celebrating Nietzsche and Schopenhauer (especially the latter in the guise of the former). This relationship of Lovecraft to philosophy and philosophy to Lovecraft is coupled with Lovecraft's habit of mercilessly destroying the philosopher and the figure of the academic more generally in his work, a destruction which is both an epistemological destruction (or sanity breakdown) and an ontological destruction (or unleashing of the corrosive forces of the cosmos). Thomas Ligotti's weird fiction which he has designated as a kind of “confrontational escapism” might be best described in the following quote from one of his shortstories, “The human phenomenon is but the sum of densely coiled layers of illusion each of which winds itself on the supreme insanity. That there are persons of any kind when all there can be is mindless mirrors laughing and screaming as they parade about in an endless dream” (I Have a Special Plan for this World). Whereas Lovecraft's weirdness draws predominantly from the abyssal depths of the uncharted universe, Ligotti's existential horror focuses on the awful proliferation of meaningless surfaces that is, the banal and every day function of representation. In an interview, Ligotti states: We don't even know what the world is like except through our sense organs, which are provably inadequate. It's no less the case with our brains. Our whole lives are motored along by forces we cannot know and perceptions that are faulty. We sometimes hear people say that they're not feeling themselves. Well, who or what do they feel like then?(Venger Satanis, 2008) This is not to say that Ligotti sees nothing beneath the surface but that there is only darkness or blackness behind it, whether that surface is on the cosmological level or the personal. By addressing the implicit and explicit philosophical issues in Ligotti's work we will see that his nightmarish take on reality is a form of malevolent idealism, an idealism which is grounded in a real, albeit dark and obscure materiality. If Ligotti's horrors ultimately circle around mad perceptions which degrade the subject, it takes aim at the vast majority of the focus of continental philosophy. While Lovecraft's acidic materialism clearly assaults any romantic concept of being from the outside, Ligotti attacks consciousness from the inside: Just a little doubt slipped into the mind, a little trickle of suspicion in the bloodstream, and all those eyes of ours, one by one, open up to the world and see its horror [...] Not even the solar brilliance of a summer day will harbor you from horror. For horror eats the light and digests it into darkness ( Songs of a Dead Dreamer , 208). Clearly, the weird fiction of Lovecraft and Ligotti amount to a anti-anthrocentric onslaught against the ramparts of correlationist continental philosophy. /3/ – Shoggothic Materialism or the Formless Formless protoplasm able to mock and reflect all forms and organs and processes—viscous agglutinations of bubbling cells—rubbery fifteen-foot spheroids infinitely plastic and ductile—slaves of suggestion, builders of cities—more and more sullen, more and more intelligent, more and more amphibious, more and more imitative—Great God! What madness made even those blasphemous Old Ones willing to use and to carve such things? H.P. Lovecraft. “At the Mountains of Madness” (797) On the other hand, affirming that the universe resembles nothing and is only formless amounts to saying that the universe is something like a spider or spit. Georges Bataille. “Formless” (31). The Shoggoths feature most prominently in H.P. Lovecraft's shortstory “At the Mountains of Madness” where they are described in the following manner: It was a terrible, indescribable thing vaster than any subway train – a shapeless congeries of protoplasmic bubbles, faintly self-luminous, and with myriads of temporary eyes forming and un-forming as pustules of greenish light all over the tunnel-filling front that bore down upon us, crushing the frantic penguins and slithering over the glistening floor that it and its kind had swept so evilly free of all litter (802). The term is a litmus test for materialism itself as the Shoggoth is an amorphous creature. The Shoggoths were living digging machines bio engineered by the Elder Things, and their protoplasmic bodies being formed into various tools by their hypnotic powers. The Shoggoths eventually became self aware and rose up against their masters in an ultimately failed rebellion. After the Elder Ones retreated into the oceans leaving the Shoggoths to roam the frozen wastes of the Antarctic. The onto-genesis of the Shoggoths and their gross materiality, index the horrifyingly deep time of the earth a concept near and dear to Lovecraft's formulation of horror as well as the fear of intelligences far beyond, and far before, the ascent of humankind on earth and elsewhere. The sickly amorphous nature of the Shoggoths invade materialism at large, where while materiality is unmistakably real ie not discursive, psychological, or otherwise overly subjectivist, it questions the relation of materialism to life. As Eugene Thacker writes: The Shoggoths or Elder Things do not even share the same reality with the human beings who encounter them—and yet this encounter takes place, though in a strange no-place that is neither quite that of the phenomenal world of the human subject or the noumenal world of an external reality (23). Amorphous yet definitively material beings are a constant in Lovecraft's tales. In his tale “The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadatth” Lovecraft describes Azathoth (an Outer god like Nyarlathotep) as, “that shocking final peril which gibbers unmentionably outside the ordered universe,” that, “last amorphous blight of nethermost confusion which blashphemes and bubbles at the centre of all infinity,” who, “gnaws hungrily in inconceivable, unlighted chambers beyond time” (410). Azathoth's name may have multiple origins but the most striking is the alchemy term azoth which is both a cohesive agent and a acidic creation pointing back to the generative and the decayed. The indistinction of generation and degradation materially mirrors the blur between the natural and the unnatural as well as life and non-life. Lovecraft speaks of the tension between the natural and the unnatural is his short story “The Unnameable.” He writes, “if the psychic emanations of human creatures be grotesque distortions, what coherent representation could express or portray so gibbous and infamous a nebulousity as the spectre of a malign, chaotic perversion, itself a morbid blasphemy against Nature?” (260). Lovecraft explores exactly the tension outlined at the beginning of this chapter, between life and thought. At the end of his short tale Lovecraft compounds the problem as the unnameable is described as “a gelatin—a slime—yet it had shapes, a thousand shapes of horror beyond all memory” (261). Deleuze suggests that becoming-animal is operative throughout Lovecraft's work, where narrators feel themselves reeling at their becoming non-human (240) or of being the anomalous (244-245) or of becoming atomized (248). Following Eugene Thacker however, it may be far more accurate to say that Lovecraft's tales exhibit not a becoming-animal but a becoming-creature. Where the monstrous breaks the purportedly fixed laws of nature (or nature as we know it), the creature is far more ontologically ambiguous. The nameless thing is an altogether different horizon for thought (Thacker, 23). The creature is either less than animal or more than animal (Thancker, 97) – its becoming is too strange for animal categories and indexes the slow march of thought towards the bizarre. This strangeness is, as aways, some indefinite swirling in the category of immanence and becoming. Bataille begins “The Labyrinth” with the assertion that being, to continue to be, is becoming. More becoming means more being hence the assertion that Bataille's barking dog is more than the sponge (171). This would mean that the Shoggotth is altogether too much being, too much material in the materialism. Bataille suggests that there is an immanence between the eater and the eaten, across the species and never within them ( Theory of Religion , 17). That is, despite the chaotic storm of immanence there must remain some capacity to distinguish the gradients of becoming without reliance upon, or at least total dependence upon, the powers of intellection to parse the universe into recognizable bits, properly digestible factoids. That is, if we undo Deleuze's aforementioned valorization of sense which, for his variation of materialism, performed the work of the transcendental, but refuse to reinstate Kant's transcendental disjunction between thing and appearance, then it must be a quality of becoming-as-being itself which can account for the discernible nature of things by sense. In an interview with Peter Gratton, Jane Bennett formulates the problem thusly: What is this strange systematicity proper to a world of Becoming? What, for example, initiates this congealing that will undo itself? Is it possible to identify phases within this formativity, plateaus of differentiation? If so, do the phases/plateaus follow a temporal sequence? Or, does the process of formation inside Becoming require us to theorize a non-chronological kind of time? I think that your student’s question: “How can we account for something like iterable structures in an assemblage theory?” is exactly the right question (“Vibrant Matters”). Philosophy has erred too far on the side of the subject in the subject-object relation and has furthermore, lost the very weirdness of the non-human. Beyond this, the madness of thought need not override. /4/ - Ventriloquial Idealism or the Externality of Thought My aim is the opposite of Lovecraft's. He had an appreciation for natural scenery on earth and wanted to reach beyond the visible in the universe. I have no appreciation for natural scenery and want the objective universe to be a reflection of a character. Thomas Ligotti. “Devotees of Decay and Desolation.” Unless life is a dream, nothing makes sense. For as a reality, it is a rank failure [….] Horror is more real than we are. Thomas Ligotti. “Professor Nobody's Little Lectures on Supernatural Horror” (211). Thomas Ligotti's tales are rife with mannequins, puppets, and other brainless entities which of replace the valorized subject of philosophy – that of the free thinking human being. His tales such as “The Dream of the Manikin” aim to destroy the rootedness of consciousness. James Trafford has connected the anti-egoism of Ligotti to Thomas Metzinger – where the self is at best an illusion and we plead desperately for someone else to acknowledge that we are real. Trafford has stated it thus, “Life is played out as an inescapable puppet show, an endless dream in which the puppets are generally unaware that they are trapped within a mesmeric dance of whose mechanisms they know nothing and over which they have no control” (202). An absolute materialism, for Ligotti, implies an alienation of the idea which leads to a ventriloquil idealism. As Ligotti notes in an interview, “the fiasco and nightmare of existence, the particular fiasco and nightmare of human existence, the sense that people are puppets of powers they cannot comprehend, etc.” (Cardin, 2006) And then further elaborates that,“[a]ssuming that anything has to exist, my perfect world would be one in which everyone has experienced the annulment of his or her ego. That is, our consciousness of ourselves as unique individuals would entirely disappear” (Ayad, 2004). The externality of the idea leads to the unfortunate consequence of consciousness eating at itself through horror which, for Ligotti, is more real than reality and goes beyond horror-as-affect. Beyond this, taking together with the unreality of life and the ventriloquizing of subjectivity, Ligotti's thought becomes an idealism in which thought itself is alien and ultimately horrifying. The role of human thought and the relation of non-relation of horror to thought is not completely clear in Ligotti's The Conspiracy Against the Human Race . Ligotti argues in his The Conspiracy Against the Human Race ,that the advent of thought is a mistake of nature (23) and that horror is being in the sense that horror results from knowing too much (109). Yet, at the same time, Ligotti seems to suggest that thought separates us from nature (221) whereas, for Lovecraft, thought is far less privileged – mind is just another manifestation of the vital principal, it is just another materialization of energy (“The Materialist Today,” 75). In his brilliant “Prospects for Post-Copernican Dogmatism” Iain Grant rallies against the negative definition of dogmatism and the transcendental, and suggests that negatively defining both over-focuses on conditions of access and subjectivism at the expense of the real or nature (413-414). With Schelling, who is Grant's champion against the subjectivist bastions of both Fichte and Kant, Ligotti's idealism could be taken as a transcendental realism following from an ontological realism (415). Yet the transcendental status of Ligotti's thought (and arguably Schelling's in the period of his positive philosophy) move towards a treatment of the transcendental which may threaten to leave beyond its realist ground. Ligotti states: Belief in the supernatural is only superstition. That said, a sense of the supernatural, as Conrad evidenced in Heart of Darkness, must be admitted if one's inclination is to go to the limits of horror. It is the sense of what should not be- the sense of being ravaged by the impossible. Phenomenally speaking, the super-natural may be regarded as the metaphysical counterpart of insanity, a transcendental correlative of a mind that has been driven mad ( The Conspiracy Against the Human Race , 211). Again, Ligotti equates madness with thought, qualifying both as supernatural while remaining less emphatic about the metaphysical dimensions of horror. The question becomes one of how exactly the hallucinatory realm of the ideal relates to the black churning matter of Lovecraft's chaos of elementary particles. In his tale “I Have a Special Plan for This World” Ligotti formulates thus: A: There is no grand scheme of things. B: If there were a grand scheme of things, the fact – the fact – that we are not equipped to perceive it, either by natural or supernatural means, is a nightmarish obscenity. C: The very notion of a grand scheme of things is a nightmarish obscenity (14). Here Ligotti is not discounting metaphysics but implying that if it does exist the fact that we are phenomenologically ill-equipped to perceive that it is nightmarish. For Ligotti, nightmare and horror occur within the circuit of consciousness whereas for Lovecraft the relation between reality and mind is less productive on the side of mind. It is (hopefully) easier to ascertain how the Kantian philosophy is a defense against the diseases of the head as Kant armors his critical enterprise from too much of the world and too much of the mind. The weird fiction of both Lovecraft and Ligotti demonstrates that there is too much of both feeding into one another in a way that corrodes the Kantian schema throughly, breaking it down into a dead but still ontologically potentiated nigredo. The haunting, terrifying fact of Ligotti's idealism is that the transcendental motion which brought thought to matter, while throughly material and naturalized, brings with it the horror that thought cannot be undone without ending the material that bears it either locally or completely. Thought comes from an elsewhere and an elsewhen being-in-thought. The unthinkable outside thought (the thing in itself) is as maddening as the unthought engine of thought itself within thought (the mind or the self) which doesn't exist except for the mind, the rotting décor of the brain. /5/ - Hyperstitional Transcendental Paranoia or Self-Expelled Thought Weird fiction has been given some direct treatment in philosophy in the mad black Deleuzianism of Nick Land. Nick Land along with others in the 1990s created the Cyber Culture Research Unit as well as the research group Hyperstition. The now defunct hyperstitional website, an outgrowth of the Cyber Culture Research Unit, defined hyperstition in the following fourfold: 1-Element of effective culture that makes itself real. 2-Fictional quantity functional as a time-traveling device. 3-Coincidence intensifier. 4-Call to the Old Ones. The distinctively Lovecraftian character of hyperstition is hard to miss as is its Deleuzo-Guattarian roots. In the opening pages of A Thousand Plateaus Deleuze and Guattari write, “We have been criticized for over-quoting literary authors. But when one writes, the only question is which other machine the literary machine can be plugged into” (4). The indisinction of literature and philosophy mirrors the mess of being and knowing as post-correlationist philosophy, where philosophy tries to make itself real where literature, especially the weird, aims itself at the brain-circuit of horror. The texts of both Lovecraft and Ligotti work through horror as epistemological plasticity (too much/not enough knowledge) meeting with proximity (too much space in Lovecraft and not enough in Ligotti) as well as the deep time of Lovecraft and the glacially slow time of paranoia in Ligotti. Against Deleuze, and following Brassier, we cannot allow the time of consciousness, the Bergsonian time of the duree, to override natural time, but instead acknowledge that it is an unfortunate fact of existence as a thinking being. Horror-time, the time of consciousness, with all its punctuated moments and drawn out terrors, cannot compare to the deep time of non-existence both in the unreachable past and the unknown future. The crystalline cogs of Kant's account of experience as the leading light for the possibility of metaphysics must be throughly obliterated. His gloss of experience in Prolegomena to any Future Metaphysics could not be more sterile: Experience consists of intuitions, which belong to the sensibility, and of judgments, which are entirely a work of the understanding. But the judgments which the understanding makes entirely out of sensuous intuitions are far from being judgments of experience. For in the one case the judgment connects only the perceptions as they are given in sensuous intuition [....] Experience consists in the synthetic connection of appearances (perceptions) in consciousness, so far as this connection is necessary (43-44). Here it is difficult to dismiss the queasiness that Kant's legalism induces upon sight for both Badiou and David-Menard. Kant's thought becomes, as Foucault says when reflecting on Sade's text in relation to nature, “the savage abolition of itself” ( Madness and Civilization , 285). For Badiou, Kant's philosophy simply closes off too much of the outside, freezing the world of thought in an all too limited formalism. Critical philosophy is simply the systematized quarantine on future thinking, on thinking which would threaten the formalism which artificially grants thought (and philosophy) its own coherency in the face of madness. Even the becoming-mad of Deleuze, while escaping the rumbling ground, makes grounds for itself, mad grounds but grounds which are thinkable in their affect ( The Logic of Sense , 7). The field of effects allows for Deleuze's aesthetic and radical empiricism, in which effects and/or occasions make up the material of the world to be thought as a chaosmosis of simulacra. Given a critique of an empiricism of aesthetics, of the image, it may be difficult to justify an attack on Kantian formalism with the madness of literature, which does not aim to make itself real but which we may attempt to make real (but such mental effort of course only reinscribes the unreality of fiction). That is, how do Lovecraft's and Ligotti's materials, as materials for philosophy to work on, differ from either the operative formalisms of Kant or the implicitly formalized images of Deleuzian empiricism? It is simply that such texts do not aim to make themselves real, and make claims to the real which are more alien to us than familiar, which is why their horror is immediately more trustworthy. This is the madness which Blanchot discusses in The Infinite Conversation through Cervantes and his knight – the madness of book-life, of the perverse unity of literature and life (388-389) a discussion which culminates in the discussion of one of the weird's masters, that of Kafka. The text is the knowing of madness, since madness, in its moment of becoming-more-mad, cannot be frozen in place but by the solidifications of externalizing production. This is why Foucault ends his famous study with works of art. Furthermore extilligence, the ability to export the products of our maligned brains, is the companion of the attempts to export, or discover the possibility of intelligences outside of our heads, in order for philosophy to survive the solar catastrophe (Lyotard, 122). To borrow again from Deleuze, writing is inseparable from becoming ( Essays Critical and Clinical , 1). The mistake is to believe that madness is reabsorbed by extilligence, by great works, or that it could be exorcised by the expelling of thought into the inorganic or differently organic. Going out of our heads does not guarantee we will no longer mean we cannot still go out of our minds. This is simply because of the outside, of matter, or force, or energy, or thing-in-itself, or Schopenhauerian Will. In Lovecraft’s “The Music of Erich Zahn” an “impoverished student of metaphysics” (174) becomes intrigued by strange viol music coming from above his room. After meeting the musician the student discovers that each night he plays frantic music at a window in order to keep some horridness at bay, some “impenetrable darkness with chaos and pandemonium” (179). The aesthetic defenses provided by the well trained brain can bear the hex of matter for so long, the specter of unalterability within it which too many minds obliterate, collapsing everything before the thought of thought as thinkable or at least noetically mutable on our own terms. Transcendental paranoia is the concurrent nightmare and promise of Paul Humphrey's work, of being literally out of our minds. It is the gothic counterpart of thinking non-conceptually but also of thinking never belonging to any instance of purportedly solid being. As Bataille stated, “At the boundary of that which escapes cohesion, he who reflects within cohesion realizes there is no longer any room for him” ( Theory of Religion , 10) Thought is immaterial only to the degree that it is inhuman, it is a power (a process rooted in an object itself the side effect of forces and processes) that tries, always with failure, to ascertain its own genesis. Philosophy, if it can truly return to the great outdoors, if it can leave behind the dead loop of the human skull, must recognize not only the non-priority of human thought, but that thought never belongs to the brain that thinks it, thought comes from somewhere else. To return to the train image from the beginning “a locomotive rolling on the surface of the earth is the image of continuous metamorphosis” ( Visions of Excess , 7) this is the problem of thought, and of thinking thought, of being no longer able to isolate thought, with only a thought-formed structure.  One of the central tenets of Francois Laruelle's non-philosophy is that philosophy has traditionally operated on material already presupposed as thinkable instead of trying to think the real in itself. Philosophy, according to Laruelle, remains fixated on transcendental synthesis which shatters immanence into an empirical datum and an a prori factum which are then fused by a third thing such as the ego. For a critical account of Laruelle's non-philosophy see Ray Brassier's Nihil Unbound. (shrink)
Reflecting on ‘human development’ theorists face conceptual confusion, borne out experientially by contemporary ecological, social, and economic crises. Since concepts create realities (i.e. justify and motivate practices), and philosophers create concepts, it is important to consider how philosophers might respond to conceptual difficulties caused by the modern era’s still influential ‘binary’ paradigm, exemplified by the law of the excluded middle, which entails a discursive split between modernism’s ultimately predictable cosmos and postmodernism’s insistence on fundamental chaos. Supposedly obliged to choose between (...) opposites, theorists are caught between the necessity and iniquity of both. This impasse sets up conditions for what Lyotard calls ‘differends,’ and constrains our power to create responsible concepts. To show that Morin’s ‘generalised complexity’ takes us beyond the modernist/postmodernist impasse, I take up his injunction to promote ‘an epistemological reversal,’ starting from the notion of ‘open system’ and moving through ‘emergence’ and ‘organization’ to ‘logical complexity.’ Our epistemological task accordingly is to establish strategies for interpreting multiple dimensions of phenomenal reality, given the irreducibly complex relation of co-implication between mutually negating opposites. I agree with Cilliers that deconstruction is exemplary in this respect, but aim to broaden the adventure by suggesting ideas for a ‘pragmatics of complexity’ involving vocabulary, concepts, strategies, metaphors, and heuristics derived also from other philosophers and psychoanalytic theorists. The difficulty of complex thought is that it must face messes ... interconnectedness among phenomena, fogginess, uncertainty, contradiction. However, we can elaborate some conceptual tools, some principles for this adventure, and we can begin to perceive the face of the new paradigm of complexity that should emerge. (Edgar Morin, On Complexity, 2008: 6). (shrink)
Many people are uncomfortable with the idea that pleasure from certain sources is genuinely beneficial. These sources can be sorted into two classes: ones that involve others’ pain; and ones that involve what seems to be damage rather than benefit to the person involved. Here’s an example of the latter: a woman who claims that she enjoys her work performing in hard-core pornographic films. Some find it hard to take such a claim at face value – they instinctively assume that (...) the woman is insincere or self-deceived.1 The reason seems a strongly paternalistic one: because the activity is assumed to be bad, it’s thought that only someone who was in some way damaged could genuinely like it. A statement from Brian Hill, the director of a documentary about such women, illustrates this: ‘I felt certain that she couldn’t enjoy what she does, that there must be some reason why she’s undergoing this kind of experience. But there was nothing: no messed-up childhood, no sense of pain or humiliation.’ (Smith, 2003, 17) Forced to conclude that the woman in question really does enjoy her work, Hill changes his view to imply that the pleasure gained cannot be truly beneficial: ‘When I hear a young woman talking about doing videos of fisting and asphyxiation, I have to wonder what it’s doing to her – even if she says that she’s having fun.’ (Smith, 2003, 17). (shrink)
Three general types of problems entail different strategies. Continuing to seek solutions to tame problems when we face messes, let alone wicked problems, is potentially catastrophic hence fundamentally irresponsible. In our turbulent times, it is therefore becoming a strategic necessity to learn how to solve the right problems. Successful problem solving requires finding the right solution to the right problem. We fail more often because we solve the wrong problem than because we get the wrong solution to the right problem. (...) Russell Ackoff (1974). But then, you may agree that it becomes morally objectionable for the planner to treat a wicked problem as though it were a tame one, or to tame a wicked problem prematurely, or to refuse to recognize the inherent wickedness of social problems. Rittel and Webber (1973). (shrink)
What do we do when a loved one is seriously messing up her life? While Kantianism describes the predicament nicely as a tension between love and respect, it is not well-suited to resolving it. Kantian respect prevents minding another’s business in cases where love demands it. Virtue ethics can readily explain the predicament as a tension between the virtues of sympathy and humility. Moreover, by changing the focus away from the other as a setter of ends and toward the would-be-benefactor’s (...) own degree of practical wisdom, virtue ethics permits a more nuanced set of loving responses to self-destructive people. (shrink)
This paper contributes towards a lay ethics of nanotechnology through an analysis of talk from focus groups designed to examine how laypeople grapple with the meaning of a technology ‘in-the-making’. We describe the content of lay ethical concerns before suggesting that this content can be understood as being structured by five archetypal narratives which underpin talk. These we term: ‘the rich get richer and the poor get poorer’; ‘kept in the dark’; ‘opening Pandora’s box’; ‘messing with nature’; and ‘be careful (...) what you wish for’. We further suggest that these narratives can be understood as sharing an emphasis on the ‘giftedness’ of life, and that together they are used to resist dominant technoscientific and Enlightenment narratives of control and mastery which are encapsulated by nanotechnology. (shrink)
This paper contributes towards a lay ethics of nanotechnology through an analysis of talk from focus groups designed to examine how laypeople grapple with the meaning of a technology ‘in-the-making’. We describe the content of lay ethical concerns before suggesting that this content can be understood as being structured by five archetypal narratives which underpin talk. These we term: ‘the rich get richer and the poor get poorer’; ‘kept in the dark’; ‘opening Pandora’s box’; ‘messing with nature’; and ‘be careful (...) what you wish for’. We further suggest that these narratives can be understood as sharing an emphasis on the ‘giftedness’ of life, and that together they are used to resist dominant technoscientific and Enlightenment narratives of control and mastery which are encapsulated by nanotechnology. (shrink)
Poor Eliza -- Pax Americana : the case of Show boat -- National brands, national body : Imitation of life -- Uncle Sam needs a wife : citizenship and denegation -- Remembering love, forgetting everything else : Now, voyager -- "It's not the tragedies that kill us, it's the messes" : femininity, formalism, and Dorothy Parker -- The compulsion to repeat femininity : Landscape for a good woman and The life and loves of a she-devil.
A Glitch -- What Mutant Eyes Could See -- Bloody Fingers and Black Rock -- Monkey Maggot -- Return to the Shadows -- A Swarm of Shiny Flies -- No Time to be Messing About -- The Goat Kid -- Dangerous Friends -- A Strange Task -- A New Sound -- Return to the Arcade -- Game Over -- A Wistful Oliver -- Mika Offers Gorman a Biscuit -- Helen's Hat Falls Off -- The Wrong Place -- A Sad Supper (...) -- Bolt Borgs -- Tank Meat Surprise -- Someone is Missing -- The Second Awakening -- Doing it for Real -- Regards from the Army of Children -- Shut Up and Do What You're Told -- The Eyes in the Trees -- Building the Bomb -- The Meeting of Murderers -- I'll Be Back in a Minute -- War -- Poison -- A Birthday Present for Grace -- We Are the Future. (shrink)
The Basics. Life is like whac-a-mole -- Ethics : the art of doing the right thing -- The five principles ; Bringing the principles to life. "BFF!" Part 1 : Trash talk, promises, and cookies that, um, don't taste so good -- Winning on and off the field -- Meetups, hookups, and breakups -- Self-defense : bullies, pushers, and critics -- Getting tangled in the World Wide Web -- "Gotcha!" : spoiling, cheating, and taking advantage of another's mistake -- "BFF!" (...) Part 2 : Messing up, fessing up, and forgiving your friends -- Minimum wage, minimum work? -- Good neighbors : being fair to classmates, business owners, and people you hardly know -- All about you : working too hard, dealing with grief, and listening to your conscience -- Is it cheating if I don't get caught? -- How to get a good night's sleep. (shrink)