The dominant focus of thinking about economic justice is overwhelmingly distributive, that is, concerned with what people get in terms of resources and opportunities. It views work mainly negatively, as a burden or cost, or else is neutral about it, rather than seeing it as a source of meaning and fulfilment—a good in its own right. However, what we do in life has at least as much, if not more, influence on whom we become, as does what we get . (...) Thus we have good reason also to be concerned with what Paul Gomberg has termed contributive justice , that is, justice as regards what people are expected and able to contribute in terms of work. Complex, interesting work allows workers not only to develop and exercise their capacities, and gain the satisfaction from achieving the internal goods of a practice, but to gain the external goods of recognition and esteem. As Gomberg’s analysis of the concept of contributive justice in relation to equality of opportunity shows, as long as the more satisfying kinds of work are concentrated into a subset of jobs, rather than shared out among all jobs, then many workers will be denied the chance to have meaningful work and the recognition that goes with it. In this paper I examine the contributive justice argument, suggest how it can be further strengthened, arguing, inter alia, that ignoring contributive injustice tends to support legitimations of distributive inequality. (shrink)
An exercise in humour noir, this essay explores relations between the Paris and Prague surrealist groups from André Breton and Paul Éluard's visit to “the magic capital of old Europe” in 1935 to the aborted “Prague Spring” of 1968. It focuses on the famous “starry castle” of Breton's Mad Love — which Czechs know better as Letohrádek Hvězda at Bílá hora, the White Mountain — as a signifier whose wanderings, over the period, encapsulate the mutual myths and misunderstandings that were (...) constitutive of this most poignant of surrealist love affairs. The essay ends by suggesting that what makes the Czech capital a fitting object of the surrealist imagination (and a rich source of surreal art and literature in its own right) is less the “historic charms” that so seduced Breton in 1935 than the “geographical, historical, and economic considerations” of the city's modernity that he blithely put to one side. (shrink)
Sayer argues that Popper defended a logicist philosophy of science. The problem with such logicism is that it creates what is termed here as a `truncated foundationalism', which restricts epistemic certainty to the logical form of scientific theories whilst having nothing to say about their substantive contents. Against this it is argued that critical realism, which Sayer advocates, produces a linguistic version of truncated foundationalism and that Popper's problem-solving philosophy, with its emphasis on developing knowledge through criticism, eschews (...) all forms of foundationalism and is better able to account for the development of substantive knowledge claims. Key Words: critical realism fallibilism logicism post-positivism truncated foundationalism. (shrink)
During the twentieth century, bibliographic classification theory underwent a structural revolution. The first modern bibliographic classifications were top-down systems that started at the universe of knowledge and subdivided that universe downward to minute subclasses. After the invention of faceted classification by S.R. Ranganathan, the ideal was to build bottom-up classifications that started with the universe of concepts and built upward to larger and larger faceted classes. This ideal has not been achieved, and the two kinds of classification systems are not (...) mutually exclusive. This paper examines the process by which this structural revolution was accomplished by looking at the spread of facet theory after 1924 when Ranganathan attended the School of Librarianship, London, through selected classification textbooks that were published after that date. To this end, the paper examines the role of W.C.B. Sayers as a teacher and author of three editions of The Manual of Classification for Librarians and Bibliographers. Sayers influenced both Ranganathan and the various members of the Classification Research Group (CRG) who were his students. Further, the paper contrasts the methods of evaluating classification systems that arose between Sayers’s Canons of Classification in 1915–1916 and J. Mills’s A Modern Outline of Library Classification in 1960 in order to demonstrate the speed with which one kind of classificatory structure was overtaken by another. (shrink)
Dorothy Sayers' Gaudy Night, published in 1936, explores still-topical questions about the relation of epistemological and ethical values, and about the place of women in the life of the mind. In her wry reflections on the radical differences between today's feminist philosophy and Sayers' no-nonsense observation that Susan Haack draws both on this detective story and on Sayers' wonderfully brisk essay.
Advance refusals of life-sustaining treatment involve three potentially conflicting interests: those of the patient; those of the doctor; and those of the law. The state's interest in protecting life can clash with the patient's right to self determination which, in turn, can conflict with the doctor's desire to act in the patient's best interests. Against this background, we present the case of a patient who was treated (arguably) contrary to his advance refusal but in accordance with English law.
Walter of Bibbesworth’s late thirteenth-century versified treatise on French vocabulary relevant to the management of estates in Britain has the first extensive list of animal vocalizations in a European vernacular. Many of the Anglo-Norman French names for animals and their sounds are glossed in Middle English, inviting both diachronic and synchronic views of the capacity of these languages for onomatopoetic formation and reflection on the interest of these social and linguistic communities in zoosemiotics.
Burning questions.--The humanistic view of life.--Must empiricism be limited?--Truth-seekers and sooth-sayers.--Must pragmatists disagree?--Humanisms and humanism.--Has philosophy any message for the world?--Must philosophy be dull?--Is idealism incurably ambiguous?--The ultra-Gothic Kant.--Goethe and the Faustian way of salvation.--Plato's Phaedo and the ancient hope of immortality.--Plato's Republic.--How far does science need determinism?--The relativity of metaphysics.--Ethics, casuistry, and life.--Prophecy and destiny.--The crumbling British empire.--Can democracy survive?--The possibility of a United States of Europe.--Ant-men or super-men?--Fascisms and dictatorships.--Humanist logic and theory of knowledge.--Multi-valued logics - and others.--Data, (...) datives, and ablatives.--Are all men mortal?--How is "exactness" possible? (shrink)
Staying for an answer : the untidy process of groping for truth -- The same, only different -- The unity of truth and the plurality of truths -- Coherence, consistency, cogency, congruity, cohesiveness, &c. : remain calm! don't go overboard! -- Not cynicism, but synechism : lessons from classical pragmatism -- Science, economics, "vision" -- The integrity of science : what it means, why it matters -- Scientific secrecy and "spin" : the sad, sleazy story of the trials of remune (...) -- Truth and justice, inquiry and advocacy, science and law -- Trial and error : the Supreme Court's philosophy of science -- An epistemologist among the epidemiologists -- Fallibilism and faith, naturalism and the supernatural, science and religion -- The ideal of intellectual integrity, in life and literature -- After my own heart : Dorothy Sayers's feminism -- Worthwhile lives -- Why I am not an oxymoron -- Formal philosophy? : a plea for pluralism. (shrink)
The management of “wisdom” has been mooted in knowledge management (KM) theory mostly in relation to what is known as the “knowledge hierarchy”. We argue that there are unquestioned assumptions inherent in KM leading to wisdom being included in KM theory because of rhetorical “urges” more than theoretical ones. These rhetorical urges impel a drive towards perfection that excludes more than is included. Our interrogation of the KM literature uncoverssome of the questionable implications in understanding knowledge as a resource and (...) an asset and of understanding wisdom as a pinnacle to a knowledge hierarchy. We urge caution regarding theorising of wisdom at the top of a hierarchy, as it should not be mooted as a perfect final solution to Knowledge Management. We suggest the theorising of wisdom be opened out to its fullest “poetic possibilities”, and that attempts to close off its meaning be resisted. (shrink)
continent. 1.1 (2011): 27-32. “My”—what does this word designate? Not what belongs to me, but what I belong to,what contains my whole being, which is mine insofar as I belong to it. Søren Kierkegaard. The Seducer’s Diary . I can’t sleep till I devour you / And I’ll love you, if you let me… Marilyn Manson “Devour” The role of poetry in the relationalities between people has a long history—from epic poetry recounting tales of yore; to emotive lyric poetry; to (...) rude, irreverent limericks; to Hallmark cards which have ditties that allow one to cringe, and somehow fall in love at the same moment. Without going into a notion of aesthetics, or attempting to choose which form of poetry is superior, we might want to consider why the form of poetry itself has long been a part of relationality. And whilst doing so, we might always keep in mind that poetry—especially poetry that moves, transports us—is the form that Plato has been warning us about, particularly if we want to become good citizens.As Avital Ronell teaches us in Stupidity : the poet, irremediably split between exaltation and vulgarity, between the autonomy that produces the concept within intuition and the foolish earthly being, functions as a contaminant for philosophy—a being who at least since Plato, has been trying to read and master an eviction notice served by philosophy. The poet as genius continues to threaten and fascinate, menacing the philosopher with the beyond of knowledge. Philosophy cringes (287). And considering that the philosopher is the lover of wisdom, we might begin to ask ourselves why one lover is warning against another—if the philosopher is in love with wisdom, then is the poet perhaps his rival, his challenger, for that very love? For, one must also remember that Plato—through Socrates—mentions constantly that Homer is his favourite. Moreover, by adopting both his own voice, whilst mixing it with Socrates’, Plato is adopting the form of poetry that he warns most about—the warning almost serves more as a homage to poetry than anything else. Here, we might open the register that one of the main reasons that he ejects a particular kind of poet is on the grounds of effecting effeminacy on the populace—good poetry moves you, affects you, transports you, shifts you beyond reason, puts you “out of your mind.” However, Plato also teaches us that rhetoric in its highest form requires divine inspiration by way of the daemon, or the muse. This moment of divine intervention is one that seizes—perhaps even ceases—you; putting you “beyond yourself.” In other words, a good rhetorician must always already be open to the possibility of otherness—the same otherness that possibly resides in the feminine. One could also trace this back to the poet that he both loved, and feared, most—Homer. Perhaps the effect of effeminacy that Homer's poetry opened is precisely the source of its power: through listening to Homer, one's body, one’s habitus is opened to the possibility of the feminine. And here, one must remember that the source of all learning—and all teaching—also lies in mimesis, in repetition, in habit. Once the habitus is opened to the possibility of invasion, of intervention, of otherness, there is quite possibly no possibility of distinguishing whether the mimesis is that of reproduction, or if there is always already a productive aspect to it. And by extension, if learning cannot be controlled, the very notion of teaching itself is shifted from a master-student relationality to one where the master is potentially changed as well—the relationality between the master and the student is not only inter-changing, but one cannot even know who is teaching, or learning, at any point. All that can be said is that they are in a relationality; which means that one is ultimately unable to locate the locus of knowledge, of wisdom—the site of which Plato is attempting to convince us is the sole domain of the philosopher. And it is this that philosophy is cringing from. To compound matters, philosophy is striving for wisdom; which can only come from the Gods. In other words, this is a gift that has to be bestowed on them—and more than that, wisdom is always already exterior to one’s control and knowledge. At best, it is the role of one to recognise the gift, to answer the call as it were. Here, if we listen carefully, we can hear the echo of Alexander Graham Bell, and the telephone. And as we are attempting to respond to the call of wisdom—the call that both poetry and philosophy are listening out for—it might be helpful to recall the agreement between Alexander Graham Bell and his brother Melville. In the biography, Alexander Graham Bell and the Conquest of Solitude , Robert V. Bruce notes that Aleck and Melly made a “solemn compact that whichever of us should die first would endeavour to communication with the other if it were possible to do so” (63). Since Melville was the one who passed on first, this pact put the onus on Aleck to receive the call of his brother. If you take into consideration the fact that until Melville’s death, both brothers had been working on an early prototype of the telephone, the instrument of distant sound can be read as an attempt by Aleck to maintain the possibility of keeping in touch with Melly, of hearing the voice from beyond. However, this was a connection that was not premised on any knowing, reason, or rationality; it was rather, one that was based on hope, and born out of love. And here, if we eves-drop on a cross-line with The Telephone Book , we can pick up the voice of Avital Ronell once again and hear, “the connection to the other is a reading—not an interpretation, assimilation, or even a hermeneutic understanding, but a reading” (380). In other words, the telephone can be read as the openness to the possibility of responding to the other; one that might always remain unknown. Even in this day of caller-identification, we can never know for sure who the other person on the line is until we pick up: hence, the only decision we can make—the effects of which we remain blind to until it affects us—is to either pick up or not, to either respond or not. And it is not as if the decision to pick up comes without risks: each time we answer a call, we run the risk of it ruining our day. Even when we don’t know who the caller is, perhaps especially when we don’t know who the person on the other end of the line is—and here one only has to think of prank calls—we are leaving ourselves completely open to being affected by another. Thus, philosophy finds itself in the position of Vladimir and Estragon. Since they have no idea who Godot is, they can never know if or when he shows up—thus, if he (and we are taking his gender on the word of the boy, some boy—we don’t even know if it is the same boy—who comes round in the evening) has already come, they would not be in the position to know it. And even if someone comes to them and announces that “I am Godot,” the wait would not be over—without referentiality to the name, they would have to take on faith that that person is indeed Godot. Hence, all they can know is that they are waiting for Godot; and Godot is the name of that waiting itself. All philosophy can know is that it is waiting; and wisdom is the name of that waiting itself. Which brings us to Tina Turner’s eternal question, “what’s love got to do, got to do with it?” In order to begin to consider that, we have to first attempt to examine the notion of love itself. Perhaps we might begin to consider what the difficulty of the statement “I love you.” For, if love is a relationality between two persons—both of whom remain singular, and are attempting to respond to each other—this suggests that neither of them subsume the other under themselves. In other words, the other remains wholly other. If this is so, then the “you” in the statement always remains shrouded in mystery. And even if the “you” was replaced with the name of the person, the veiling remains: for, names refer both to the singularity that is the person, and also every other person bearing that name, at exactly the same time. To compound matters, the only time one has to utter a persons name is in their absence—thus, the correspondence of a name to that particular person is at best an affect of memory. And if we consider the notion of memory, we have to also open the register of forgetting—bringing along with it the problem that there is no object to forgetting. For instance, when one utters “I forgot,” all one is uttering is the fact that one has forgotten, and nothing more—the moment there is an object to the statement, one has strictly speaking remembered what one has forgotten. Moreover, we have no control over when forgetting happens to us. And since it is always already exterior to us, affects us, and has no necessary object, there is no reason to believe that every moment of memory might not bring with it a moment of forgetting. Hence, whenever we utter a name—even if we accept the correspondence between the utterance and the person in front of us—all we are doing is uttering the fact that we are naming. Thus, it is not so much that ‘a rose by any other name would smell as sweet’ but more appropriately, ‘a rose is a rose is a rose’—the relationality between its name and the phenomenon of its sweet smell can only be established after that moment of naming, that instance of catachresis. So, whenever one utters “I love you,” not only is it a performative statement, it is the very naming of that love—all you are doing is establishing a relationality between you and the other. And since there is no necessary referent—one is naming that referentiality as one utters it—this suggests that it is always already a symbolic statement; without which the mystery of the other cannot me maintained. In other words, one cannot love the other without maintaining this symbolic distance—through a ritual; in this case the utterance “I love you.” This might be why Valentine’s Day seems to provoke such a massive reaction: the most common one from people (besides florists) being, Valentine’s Day is mere commercialism. Those among the nay-sayers who maintain a soft spot for Karl Marx would proceed to call it the commodification of relationships; those who prefer the Gods would claim that the sanctity of relationships has been profaned; the gender theorists would note how the fact that males buy the gifts only serves to highlight the unequal power-relation between the genders. Whichever side and variation of the arguments they choose boils down to this: the discomfort lies in the fact that they are confronted with the notion of relationships moving into a mediated sphere. The underlying logic is that love is between two persons only; it should not only remain between them, but more pertinently, be an unmediated experience between two persons. Which of course completely misses the point. For, if we reopen the register that relationships are the result of a negotiation between two persons, there must then be a space between them for this very negotiation to occur. Otherwise, all that is happening is, one person is subsuming the other within their own sphere of understanding; effectively effacing the other. If that were the case, there would no longer be any relationality; all negotiation is gone and the other person is a mere extension of the self—one is in a masturbatory relationality with one’s imaginary. Hence, any relationship must always already carry with it the unknown, and possibly always unknowable. The other person is an enigma, remains—must remain—enigmatic to you. This is the only way in which the proclamation “I love you” remains singular, remains a love that is about the person as a singular person—and not merely about the qualities of the person, what the person is. For, if the mystery of the other is unveiled, then the love for the other person is also a completely transparent love: one that you can know thoroughly, calculate; a check-list. And if they are knowable, this suggests that they can also be negated, and hence, the love can also go away. Only when the love for the other person is an enigmatic one, one that cannot be understood, can that love potentially be an event—and if it is an event, then strictly speaking, it cannot be known before it happens; at best, it can be glimpsed as it is happening, or perhaps even only realised retrospectively. At the point in which it happens, it is a love that comes from elsewhere: this strange phenomenon is best captured in the colloquial phrase, I was struck by love;” or even more so by, “I was blinded by love.” This is a blinding to not only the subject of the encounter—the self—but also of the very object of that encounter, the “you”—all that can be said is that there is an encounter. And it is for this reason Cupid is blind: not just because love is random (and can happen to anyone at any time), but more importantly because even after it happens, both the reason you are in love, and the person you are in love with, remain blind to you. Since there is an unknowable relationality with the other person, the only way you can approach it is through a ritual. This is the lesson that religions have taught us: since one is never able to phenomenally experience the God(s), one has no choice but to approach them symbolically. These rituals are strictly speaking meaningless—the actual content is interchangeable—as it is the form that is important. Rituals allow us momentary glimpses at secrets; and secrets are never about their content(s). Rather, secrets entail the recognition that they are secrets; the secret lies in their form as secret. This can be seen when we consider how group secrets work: since the entire group knows the secret, clearly the content of the secret is not as important as the fact that only members within the group are privy to this secret. Occasionally the actual content can be so trivial that even other people outside the group might know the information; they just do not realize its significance. For instance, if I used my date of birth as my bank-account password, merely knowing when I was born would not instantly give you the key to my life savings. In order for that to happen, you would have had to recognise the significance of the knowledge of my birthday. This means that you have to know that you know something. Since the God(s) are, strictly speaking, unknowable, this suggests that rituals put one in a position to potentially experience the God(s). The meaningless gestures on Valentine’s Day play precisely this ritualised role. It is not so much what you give the other person, but the fact that you give it to them. The gift in this sense is very much akin to an offering; the gift opens the possibility of an exchange. Gift-giving does not guarantee that you will like what is returned; there is always a reciprocation of the gift, but what is returned to you is never known in advance, until the moment it is received. This means that the worst thing that one can do is not give the gift: that would be akin to a cutting off of all possibilities, a complete closing of all communication with the other person. This at the same time also means that you cannot wait for the other person to give you something before you get them their gift: if that were the scenario, the reciprocal gift would be nothing more than a calculated return. The only manner in which both persons can give true gifts is to offer them independently of the other person, whilst keeping them in mind. In this way, the two gifts are always already both uncalculated (in the sense of not knowing what the return is) and also a reciprocation for the other (without knowing whether the other person actually has a gift in the first place). Naturally, this would seem like an irrational, even stupid, way of buying gifts. But it is precisely the stupidity involved that saves the relationship from being banal—more importantly, stupidity prevents it from entering the mere profane. This is not to say that an enigmatic love cannot end—of course it can. However, the difference lies in the fact that if the relationality is wholly transparent, it is subsumed under reason—completely predictable, within the self, and thus never open to the possibility of otherness, exteriority, musing. A love that is an event is one that is also open to the possibility of the divine, the sacred—always already closer to the possibility of wisdom. If we establish that both love and wisdom are exterior, to our knowledge, and the finitude to our selves, this suggests that both are names for the possibility of openness to otherness. In other words, and what choice do we have here but to use the words of the other, the philosopher—the lover of wisdom—is a name for one who is waiting, and nothing more. But that still leaves us with the question of this uncomfortable relationality between philosophy and poetry. But before we address that question, we have to take a momentary detour, and consider the whether it is possible to call one a poet. For, if we take the notion of a poet to be one who reaches the highest levels of rhetoric (beyond the lawyer, and the orator, who only aim to either please the crowds, or convince by way of sophistry), then we must also acknowledge that one can only become a poet at the moment of seizing, the point of inspiration, by the muses. Without this divine moment, all (s)he can do is practice her craft. As no one can control when the muses make their appearance, one could always be practising in vain—in some way, one is always already practising to be least in the way when the muse whispers into one’s ear; one is practising so as not to be vain. And since one cannot know when the muse will appear, there is no time frame to the practising—unlike the lawyer who speaks against a clock, poetry knows no time; the only time that matters is the time appropriate to poetry itself. Thus, all the poet (if one can use this term) is practising for the possibility of effacing her/him self—and waiting. Thus, in order for poetry to occur, in order to be seized, the poet—along with all her concerns—must cease. In other words, there is no poet; there is only the possibility of poetry. However, even as there is no time frame to this waiting, even as all we can say is that poetry is a name for waiting, the one who is practising is always already also in time. And since (s)he is in a symbolic relationality with the possibility of poetry, this suggests that the practising is her sacrifice, and time is precisely what she is sacrificing. Here, it might be helpful to turn to a strange source when it comes to poetry—Georges Bataille—and consider his teachings in the first volume of The Accursed Share where he reminds us that, the “essence [of sacrifice] is to consume profitlessly .” This is where each exchange is beyond rationality, beyond calculability, beyond reason itself, “unsubordinated to the ‘real’ order and occupied only with the present.” He continues: Sacrifice destroys that which it consecrates. It does not have to destroy as fire does; only the tie that connected the offering to the world of profitable activity is severed, but this separation has the sense of a definitive consumption; the consecrated offering cannot be restored to the real order.” (58) Since there is no need for a physical change in the object of sacrifice—“it does not have to destroy as fire does”—this suggests that the tie is severed symbolically. Hence, there is an aspect of trans-substantiation in this sacrifice: the form remains the same; in fact there is no perceivable change—this is the point at which all phenomenology fails—but there is always already a difference, an absolute separation from the “real order,” from logic, calculability, reason. The object of sacrifice, the victim [,] is a surplus taken from the mass of useful wealth…Once chosen, he is the accursed share , destined for violent consumption. But the curse tears him away from the order of things…” (59). And it is this tearing away from the order of things—the order of rationality—that “restores to the sacred world that which servile use has degraded, rendered profane” (55). For, only when it is no longer useful, when it is no longer abstracted—subjected, subsumed under—merely a use-value, can the object be an object as such, can a subject be a subject as such; be a singularity. Thus, it is never so much who or what is sacrificed, but the fact that there is a sacrifice. So even as (s)he is sacrificing her time to poetry, it is always already beyond her knowledge whether what (s)he is doing is actually preparing her for poetry or not—all (s)he can know is that she is sacrificing and nothing more. Hence, all (s)he can do is to open her self to the possibility of this relationality—all (s)he can do is be in love with poetry. At the moment the muse whispers into her ear, (s)he ceases to be, and becomes a medium for poetry—and since this possession is always already beyond our cognitive knowledge, this is also a moment of divine wisdom. In other words, there is no difference between poetry and wisdom—the moment of poetry is the moment of wisdom. And this might be the very reason for the philosopher’s aversion to poets. Not so much because they may corrupt the youth (this is after all the aim of all thinking, all philosophy), but precisely because in order to do so, the philosopher must wait for a moment of possession, for divine musing, for poetry. Hence, all thought, all thinking, all philosophy, is nothing but the waiting for the possibility of poetry itself. (shrink)
continent. 2.2 (2012): 66–75 ~*~ We’re Doomed. Pessimism is the night-side of thought, a melodrama of the futility of the brain, a poetry written in the graveyard of philosophy. Pessimism is a lyrical failure of philosophical thinking, each attempt at clear and coherent thought, sullen and submerged in the hidden joy of its own futility. The closest pessimism comes to philosophical argument is the droll and laconic “We’ll never make it,” or simply: “We’re doomed.” Every effort doomed to failure, every (...) project doomed to incompletion, every life doomed to be unlived, every thought doomed to be unthought. Pessimism is the lowest form of philosophy, frequently disparaged and dismissed, merely the symptom of a bad attitude. No one ever needs pessimism, in the way that one needs optimism to inspire one to great heights and to pick oneself up, in the way one needs constructive criticism, advice and feedback, inspirational books or a pat on the back. No one needs pessimism, though I like to imagine the idea of a pessimist activism. No one needs pessimism, and yet everyone—without exception—has, at some point in their lives, had to confront pessimism, if not as a philosophy then as a grievance—against one’s self or others, against one’s surroundings or one’s life, against the state of things or the world in general. There is little redemption for pessimism, and no consolation prize. Ultimately, pessimism is weary of everything and of itself. Pessimism is the philosophical form of disenchantment—disenchantment as chanting, a chant, a mantra, a solitary, monophonic voice rendered insignificant by the intimate immensity surrounding it. In pessimism, the first axiom is a long, low, funereal sigh. ~*~ We’re Still Doomed. No one has time for pessimism. After all, there are only so many hours in a day. Whatever our temperament, happy or sad, engaged or disengaged, we know pessimism when we hear it. The pessimist is usually understood as the complainer, forever pointing out what is wrong with the world without ever once offering a solution. But more often than not pessimists are the quietest of philosophers, submerging their own sighs within the lethargy of discontent. What little sound it makes is of interest to no one—“I’ve heard it all before,” “tell me something I don’t know,” sound and fury, signifying nothing. In raising problems without solutions, in posing questions without answers, in retreating to the hermetic, cavernous abode of complaint, pessimism is guilty of that most inexcusable of Occidental crimes—the crime of not pretending it’s for real. Pessimism fails to live up to the most basic tenet of philosophy—the “as if.” Think as if it will be helpful, act as if it will make a difference, speak as if there is something to say, live as if you are not, in fact, being lived by some murmuring non-entity both shadowy and muddied. Had it more self-assurance and better social skills, pessimism would turn its disenchantment into a religion, possibly calling itself The Great Refusal. But there is a negation in pessimism that refuses even such a Refusal, an awareness that, from the start, it has already failed, and that the culmination of all that is, is that all is for naught. Pessimism tries very hard to present itself in the low, sustained tones of a Requiem Mass, or the tectonic rumbling of Tibetan chant. But it frequently lets loose dissonant notes at once plaintive and pathetic. Often, its voice cracks, its weighty words abruptly reduced to mere shards of guttural sound. ~*~ Maybe It’s Not So Bad, After All. If we know pessimism when we hear it, this is because we’ve heard it all before—and we didn’t need to hear it in the first place. Life is hard enough. What you need is a change of attitude, a new outlook, a shift in perspective... a cup of coffee. If we have no ears for pessimism, this is because it is always reducible to something as reliably mutable as a voice. If pessimism is so frequently disparaged, it is because it brings everyone down, determined as it is to view each day as a bad day, if only by virtue of the fact that it is not yet a bad day. For pessimism the world is brimming with negative possibility, the collision of a bad mood with an impassive world. In fact, pessimism is the result of a confusion between the world and a statement about the world, a confusion that also prevents it from fully entering the hallowed halls of philosophy. If pessimism is so often dismissed, this is because it is often impossible to separate a “bad mood” from a philosophical proposition (and do not all philosophies stem from a bad mood?) The very term “pessimism” suggests a school of thought, a movement, even a community. But pessimism always has a membership of one—maybe two. Ideally, of course, it would have a membership of none, with only a scribbled, illegible note left behind by someone long forgotten. But this seems unrealistic, though one can always hope. ~*~ Anatomy of Pessimism. Though it may locate itself at the margins of philosophy, pessimism is as much subject to philosophical analysis as any other form of thought. Pessimism’s lyricism of failure gives it the structure of music. What time is to the music of sorrow, reason is to a philosophy of the worst. Pessimism’s two major keys are moral and metaphysical pessimism, its subjective and objective poles, an attitude towards the world and a claim about the world. For moral pessimism, it is better not to have been born at all; for metaphysical pessimism, this is the worst of all possible worlds. For moral pessimism the problem is the solipsism of human beings, the world made in our own image, a world-for-us. For metaphysical pessimism, the problem is the solipsism of the world, objected and projected as a world-in-itself. Both moral and metaphysical pessimism are compromised philosophically; moral pessimism by its failure to locate the human within a larger context, and metaphysical pessimism by its failure to recognize the complicity in the very claim of realism. This is how pessimism makes its music of the worst, a generalized misanthropy without the anthropos . Pessimism crystallizes around this futility—it is its amor fati , rendered as musical form. ~*~ Melancholy of Anatomy. There is a logic of pessimism that is fundamental to its suspicion of philosophical system. Pessimism involves a statement about a condition . In pessimism each statement boils down to an affirmation or a negation, just as any condition boils down to the best or the worst. With Schopenhauer, that arch-pessimist, the thinker for whom the philosopher and the curmudgeon perfectly overlap, we see a no-saying to the worst, a no-saying that secretly covets a yes-saying (through asceticism, mysticism, quietism), even if this hidden yes-saying is a horizon at the limits of comprehension. With Nietzsche comes the pronouncement of a Dionysian pessimism, a pessimism of strength or joy, a yes-saying to the worst, a yes-saying to this world as it is. And with Cioran yet another variation, futile yet lyrical, a no-saying to the worst, and a further no-saying to the possibility of any other world, in here or out there. With Cioran one approaches, but never reaches, an absolute no-saying, a studied abandonment of pessimism itself. The logic of pessimism moves through three refusals: a no-saying to the worst (refusal of the world-for-us, or Schopenhauer’s tears); a yes-saying to the worst (refusal of the world-in-itself, or Nietzsche’s laughter); and a no-saying to the for-us and the in-itself (a double refusal, or Cioran’s sleep). Crying, laughing, sleeping—what other responses are adequate to a life that is so indifferent? ~*~ Cosmic Pessimism. Both moral and metaphysical pessimism point to another kind, a pessimism that is neither subjective nor objective, neither for-us nor in-itself, and instead a pessimism of the world-without-us. We could call this a cosmic pessimism ... but this sounds too majestic, too full of wonder, too much the bitter aftertaste of the Great Beyond. Words falter. And so do ideas. And so we have a cosmic pessimism, a pessimism that is first and last a pessimism about cosmos , about the necessity and possibility of order. The contours of cosmic pessimism are a drastic scaling-up or scaling-down of the human point of view, the unhuman orientation of deep space and deep time, and all of this shadowed by an impasse, a primordial insignificance, the impossibility of ever adequately accounting for one’s relationship to thought—all that remains of pessimism is the desiderata of affects—agonistic, impassive, defiant, reclusive, filled with sorrow and flailing at that architectonic chess match called philosophy, a flailing that pessimism tries to raise to the level of an art form (though what usually results is slapstick). ~*~ Song of Futility. An ethics of futility pervades pessimism. Futility, however, is different from fatality, and different again from simple failure (though failure is never simple). Failure is a breakage within the heart of relations, a fissure between cause and effect, a fissure hastily covered over by trying and trying again. With failure, there is always plenty of blame to go around; it’s not my fault, it’s a technical difficulty, it’s a miscommunication. For the pessimist, failure is a question of “when,” not “if”—failure as a metaphysical principle. Everything withers and passes into an obscurity blacker than night, everything from the melodramatic decline of a person’s life to the banal flickering moments that constitute each day. Everything that is done undone, everything said or known destined for a kind of stellar oblivion. When scaled up in this way, failure becomes fatality. Fatality is the hermeticism of cause and effect. In fatality, everything you do, whatever you do, always leads to a certain end, and ultimately to the end—though that end, or the means to that end, remain shrouded in obscurity. Nothing you do makes a difference because everything you do makes a difference. Hence the effects of your actions are hidden from you, even as you deceive yourself into thinking that, at last, this time you will outwit the order of things. By having a goal, planning ahead, and thinking things through carefully, we attempt, in a daily Prometheanism, to turn fatality to our advantage, to gain a glimpse of an order that seems buried deeper and deeper in the fabric of the universe. But even fatality has its comforts. The chain of cause and effect may be hidden from us, but that’s just because disorder is the order we don’t yet see; it’s just complex, distributed, and requires advanced mathematics. Fatality still clings to the sufficiency of everything that exists... When fatality relinquishes even this idea, it becomes futility. Futility arises out of the grim suspicion that, behind the shroud of causality we drape over the world, there is only the indifference of what exists or doesn’t exist; whatever you do ultimately leads to no end, an irrevocable chasm between thought and world. Futility transforms the act of thinking into a zero-sum game. ~*~ Song of the Worst. At the center of pessimism lies the term pessimus , “the worst,” a term as relative as it is absolute. The worst is about as bad as it gets, “the worst” as “the best” in disguise, shrouded by the passage of time or the twists and turns of fortune. For the pessimist, “the worst” is the propensity for suffering that gradually occludes each living moment, until it eclipses it entirely, overlapping perfectly in death... which, for the pessimist, is no longer “the worst.” Pessimism is marked by an unwillingness to move beyond “the worst,” something only partially attributable to a lack in motivation. In pessimism “the worst” is the ground that gives way beneath every existent—things could be worse, and , things could be better. “The worst” invariably implies a value judgment, one made based on scant evidence and little experience; in this way, pessimism’s greatest nemesis is its moral orientation. Pessimism’s propositions have all the gravitas of a bad joke. Perhaps this is why the true optimists are the most severe pessimists—they are optimists that have run out of options. They are almost ecstatically inundated by the worst. Such an optimism is the only possible outcome of a prolonged period of suffering, physical or metaphysical, intellectual or spiritual. But does this not also describe all the trials and tribulations of each day—in short, of “life?” It seems that sooner or later we are all doomed to become optimists of this sort (the most depressing of thoughts...) ~*~ Song of Doom. Rather than serving as a cause for despair, gloom and doom are the forms of consolation for any pessimist philosophy. Neither quite affects nor quite concepts, gloom and doom transform pessimism into a mortification of philosophy. Doom is not just the sense that all things will turn out badly, but that all things inevitably come to an end, irrespective of whether or not they really do come to an end. What emerges from doom is a sense of the unhuman as an attractor, a horizon towards which the human is fatally drawn. Doom is humanity given over to unhumanity in an act of crystalline self-abnegation. Gloom is not simply the anxiety that precedes doom. Gloom is literally atmospheric, climate as much as impression, and if people are also gloomy, this is simply the by-product of an anodyne atmosphere that only incidentally involves human beings. Gloom is more climatological than psychological, the stuff of dim, hazy, overcast skies, of ruins and overgrown tombs, of a misty, lethargic fog that moves with the same languorousness as our own crouched and sullen listening to a disinterested world. In a sense, gloom is the counterpoint to doom—what futility is to the former, fatality is to the latter. Doom is marked by temporality—all things precariously drawn to their end—whereas gloom is the austerity of stillness, all things sad, static, and suspended, a meandering smoke hovering over cold lichen stones and damp fir trees. If doom is the terror of temporality and death, then gloom is the horror of a hovering stasis that is life. At times I like to imagine that this realization alone is the thread that connects the charnel ground Aghori and the graveyard poets. ~*~ Song of Spite. There is an intolerance in pessimism that knows no bounds. In pessimism spite begins by fixing on a particular object of spite—someone one hardly knows, or someone one knows too well; a spite for this person or a spite for all of humanity; a spectacular or a banal spite; a spite for a noisy neighbor, a yapping dog, a battalion of strollers, the meandering idiot walking in front of you on their smart phone, large loud celebrations, traumatic injustices anywhere in the world regurgitated as media blitz, spite for the self-absorbed and overly performative people talking way too loud at the table next to you, technical difficulties and troubleshooting, the reduction of everything to branding, spite of the refusal to admit one’s own errors, of self-help books, of people who know absolutely everything and make sure to tell you, of all people, all living beings, all things, the world, the spiteful planet, the inanity of existence... Spite is the motor of pessimism because it is so egalitarian, so expansive, it runs amok, stumbling across intuitions that can only half-heartedly be called philosophical. Spite lacks the confidence and the clarity of hatred, but it also lacks the almost cordial judgment of dislike. For the pessimist, the smallest detail can be an indication of a metaphysical futility so vast and funereal that it eclipses pessimism itself—a spite that pessimism carefully places beyond the horizon of intelligibility, like the experience of dusk, or like the phrase, “it is raining jewels and daggers.” ~*~ Song of Sleep. A paraphrase of Schopenhauer: what death is for the organism, sleep is for the individual. Pessimists sleep not because they are depressed, but because for them sleep is a form of ascetic practice. Sleep is the askesis of pessimism. If, while sleeping, we have a bad dream, we abruptly wake up, and suddenly the horrors of the night vanish. There is no reason to think that the same does not happen with the bad dream we call “life.” ~*~ Song of Sorrow. Nietzsche, commenting on pessimism, once castigated Schopenhauer for taking things too lightly. He writes: ...Schopenhauer, though a pessimist, really —played the flute. Every day, after dinner: one should read his biography on that. And incidentally: a pessimist, one who denies God and the world but comes to a stop before morality—who affirms morality and plays the flute... what? Is that really—a pessimist? We know that Schopenhauer did possess a collection of instruments, and we also know that Nietzsche himself composed music. There is no reason to think that either of them would ever banish music from the Republic of philosophy. But Nietzsche’s jibes at Schopenhauer are as much about music as they are about pessimism. For the pessimist who says no to everything and yet finds comfort in music, the no-saying of pessimism can only be a weak way of saying yes—the weightiest statement undercut by the flightiest of replies. The least that Schopenhauer could’ve done is to play the bass. I’m not a big fan of the flute, or, for that matter, wind instruments generally. But what Nietzsche forgets is the role that the flute has historically played in Greek tragedy. In tragedy, the flute ( aulos ) is not an instrument of levity and joy, but of solitude and sorrow. The Greek aulos not only expresses the grief of tragic loss, but it does so in a way that renders weeping and singing inseparable from each other. The classicist Nicole Loraux calls this the mourning voice . Set apart from the more official civic rituals of funerary mourning, the mourning voice of Greek tragedy constantly threatens to dissolve song into wailing, music into moaning, and the voice into a primordial, disarticulate anti-music. The mourning voice delineates all the forms of suffering—tears, weeping, sobbing, wailing, moaning, and the convulsions of thought reduced to an elemental unintelligibility. In the collapsed space between the voice that speaks and the voice that sings, pessimism discovers its mourning voice. Pessimism: the failure of sound and sense, the disarticulation of phone and logos . Have we rescued Schopenhauer from Nietzsche? Probably not. Perhaps Schopenhauer played the flute to remind himself of the real function of the mourning voice—sorrow, sighs, and moaning rendered indistinguishable from music, the crumbling of the human into the unhuman. Failure par excellence of pessimism. ~*~ Song of Nothing. In Buddhist thought, the First Noble Truth of existence is encapsulated in the Pali term dukkha , conventionally translated as “suffering,” “sorrow,” or “misery.” The Buddhist teachings are clear, however, that this is an objective claim, and not simply one point of view among others. Existence is suffering and sorrow—and yet this is not, the teachings tell us, a pessimistic attitude. It is likely that Schopenhauer, reading the Buddhist texts available to him, recognized some filiation with the concept of dukkha . But dukkha is a multi-faceted term. There is, certainly, dukkha in the usual sense of the suffering, strife, and loss associated with living a life. But this is, in turn, dependent on the finitude and temporality of dukkha , existence as determined by impermanence and imperfection. And this ultimately points to the way in which both suffering and finitude are grounded by the paradoxical groundlessness of dukkha as a metaphysical principle—the insubstantiality and the emptiness of all that is. Beyond what is worse to me, beyond a world ordered for the worst, there is the emptiness of dukkha as an impersonal suffering... the tears of the cosmos. In this context, it is easy to see how Schopenhauer’s pessimism attempts to compress all the aspects of dukkha into a nothingness at the core of existence, a Willlessness coursing through the Will. Though one thing for certain is that with Schopenhauer we do not find the “ever-smiling” countenance of Buddhism—or do we? The texts of the Pali Canon also contain lists of the different types of happiness—including the happiness of renunciation and the strange happiness of detachment. But Buddhism considers even the different types of happiness as part of dukkha , in this final sense of nothingness or emptiness. Perhaps Schopenhauer understood Buddhism better than he is usually given credit for. Thus the experiment of Schopenhauer’s philosophy—the point at which a Western pessimus and an Eastern dukkha overlap or exchange glances. Empty sorrow, a lyricism of indifference. The result is a strange, and ultimately untenable, nocturnal form of Buddhism. ~*~ Cioran once called music a “physics of tears.” If this is true, then perhaps metaphysics is its commentary. Or its apology. ~*~ Pessimism would be more mystical were it not for its defeatism. Mysticism is much too proactive for the pessimist, and pessimism too impassive even for the mystic. At the same time, there is something enviable about mysticism—despite its sufferings. There is a sense in which pessimists are really failed mystics. ~*~ You, the Night, and the Music. In a suggestive passage, Schopenhauer once noted that, “music is the melody to which the world is the text." Given Schopenhauer’s view on life—that life is suffering, that human life is absurd, that the nothingness before my birth is equal to the nothingness after my death—given all this, one wonders what kind of music Schopenhauer had in mind when he described music as the melody to which the world is text—was it opera, a Requiem Mass, a madrigal, or perhaps a drinking song? Or something like Eine kleine Nachtmusik , a little night music for the twilight of thought, a sullen nocturne for the night-side of logic, an era of sad wings sung by a solitary banshee. Perhaps the music Schopenhauer had in mind is music eliminated to non-music. A whisper would suffice. Perhaps a sigh of fatigue or resignation, perhaps a moan of despair or sorrow. Perhaps a sound just articulate enough that it could be heard to dissipate. ~*~ Teach me to laugh through tears. ~*~ Pessimism always falls short of being philosophical. My back aches, my knees hurt, I couldn’t sleep last night, I’m stressed-out, and I think I’m finally coming down with something. Pessimism abjures all pretenses towards system—towards the purity of analysis and the dignity of critique. We didn’t really think we could figure it out, did we? It was just passing time, taking a piss, something to do, a bold gesture put forth in all its fragility, according to rules that we have agreed to forget that we made up in the first place. Every thought marked by a shadowy incomprehension that precedes it, and a futility that undermines it. That pessimism speaks, in whatever voice, is the singing testimony to this futility and this incomprehension—take a chance and step outside, lose some sleep and say you tried... ~*~ Is there a music of pessimism? And would such a music be audible? ~*~ The impact of music on a person compels them to put their experience into words. When this fails, the result is a faltering of thought and language that is itself a kind of music. Cioran writes: “Music is everything. God himself is nothing more than an acoustic hallucination.” ~*~ If a thinker like Schopenhauer has any redeeming qualities, it is that he identified the great lie of Western culture—the preference for existence over non-existence. As he notes: “If we knocked on the graves and asked the dead whether they would like to rise again, they would shake their heads.” In Western cultures it is commonly accepted that one celebrates birth and mourns death. But there must be a mistake here. Wouldn’t it make more sense to mourn birth and celebrate death? Strange though, because the mourning of birth would, presumably, last the entirety of that person’s life, so that mourning and living would the be same thing. ~*~ To the musical idea of the harmony of the universe corresponds the philosophical principle of sufficient reason. Like the music of mourning, pessimism gives voice to the inevitable breakdown of word and song. In this way, music is the overtone of thought. ~*~ The Patron Saints of Pessimism. The patron saints of pessimism watch over suffering. Laconic and sullen, the patron saints of pessimism never seem to do a good job at protecting, interceding, or advocating for those who suffer. Perhaps they need us more than we need them. Lest we forget, there do exist patron saints of philosophy, but their stories are not happy ones. There is, for instance, the fourth century Saint Catherine of Alexandria, or Catherine of the Wheel, named after the torture device used on her. A precocious fourteen year old scholar, Catherine was subject to continual persecution. After all forms of torture failed—including the “breaking wheel”—the emperor finally settled for her decapitation, a violent yet appropriate reminder of the protector of philosophers. There are also patron saints of music and musicians, but theirs too are sad stories. In the second century, Saint Cecilia was also subject to persecution and torture. As she knelt to receive the blade that would separate her head from her body, she ardently sang a song to God. It took three attempts before she was fully decapitated, all the while she continued, perhaps miraculously, to sing. Does pessimism not deserve its own patron saints, even if they are unworthy of martyrdom? But in our search, even the most ardent nay-sayers frequently lapse into brief moments of enthusiasm—Pascal’s love of solitude, Leopardi’s love of poetry, Schopenhauer’s love of music, Nietzsche’s love of Schopenhauer, and so on. Should one then focus on individual works of pessimism? We could include Kierkegaard’s trilogy of horror— Sickness Unto Death , The Concept of Dread , and Fear and Trembling —but all these are undermined by their fabricated and unreliable authors. Besides, how can one separate the pessimist from the optimist in works like Unamuno’s The Tragic Sense of Life , Shestov’s Postetas Clavium , or Edgar Saltus’ under-read The Philosophy of Disenchantment ? Even in cases where the entire corpus of an author is pessimistic, the project always seems incomplete—witness Cioran’s trajectory, from his first book, On the Heights of Despair , to the last unpublished notebooks of acrid and taut aphorisms. And this is to say nothing of literary pessimism, from Goethe’s sorrowful Werther, to Dostoevsky’s underground man, to Pessoa’s disquiet scribbler; Baudelaire’s spleen and ennui, the mystical Satanism of Huysmans and Strindberg, the hauntologies of Mário de Sá-Carniero, Izumi Kyoka, H.P. Lovecraft, grumpy old Beckett... even the great pessimist comedians. All that remains are singular, perhaps anomalous statements of pessimism, a litany of quotes and citations crammed into fortune cookies. Patron saints are traditionally named after a locale, either a place of birth or of a mystical experience. Perhaps the better approach is to focus on the places where pessimists were forced to live out their pessimism—Schopenhauer facing an empty Berlin lecture hall, Nietzsche mute and convalescent at the home of his sister, Wittgenstein the relinquished professor and solitary gardener, Cioran grappling with Alzheimer’s in his tiny writing alcove in the Latin Quarter. ~*~ There’s a ghost that grows inside of me, damaged in the making, and there’s a hunt sprung from necessity, elliptical and drowned. Where the moving quiet of our insomnia offers up each thought, there’s a luminous field of grey inertia, and obsidian dreams burnt all the way down. ~*~ If pessimism has any pedagogical value, it is that the failure of pessimism as a philosophy is inextricably tied to the failure of pessimism as voice. I read the following, from Shestov’s The Apotheosis of Groundlessness : When a person is young he writes because it seems to him he has discovered a new almighty truth which he must make haste to impart to forlorn humankind. Later, becoming more modest, he begins to doubt his truths: and then he tries to convince himself. A few more years go by, and he knows he was mistaken all round, so there is no need to convince himself. Nevertheless he continues to write, because he is not fit for any other work, and to be accounted a superfluous person is so horrible. (shrink)
The concept of alienation is one of the most important and fruitful legacies of Hegel's social philosophy. It is strange therefore that Hegel's own account is widely rejected, not least by writers in those traditions which have taken up and developed the concept in the most influential ways: Marxism and existentialism.
For Marx, work is the fundamental and central activity in human life and, potentially at least, a ful lling and liberating activity. Although this view is implicit throughout Marx’s work, there is little explicit explanation or defence of it. The fullest treatment is in the account of ‘estranged labour’ [entfremdete Arbeit] in the Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts;1 but, even there, Marx does not set out his philosophical assumptions at length. For an understanding of these, one must turn to Hegel. Marx (...) is quite explicit about his debt to Hegel in this respect. (shrink)
Marx's concepts of individual and society have their roots in Hegel's philosophy. Like recent communitarian philosophers, both Marx and Hegel reject the idea that the individual is an atomic entity, an idea that runs through liberal social philosophy and classical economics. Human productive activity is essentially social. However, Marx shows that the liberal concepts of individuality and society are not simply philosophical errors; they are products and expressions of the social alienation of free market conditions. Marx's theory develops from Hegel's (...) account of "civil society," and uses a framework of historical development similar to Hegel's. However, Marx uses the concept of alienation to criticize the liberal, communitarian and Hegelian conceptions of modern society and to envisage a form of individuality and community that lies beyond them. (shrink)
The dialectical method, Marx Insisted, was at the basis of his account of society. In 1858, in a letter to Engels, he wrote: In the method of treatment the fact that by mere accident I again glanced through Hegel's Logic has been of great service to me... If there should ever be the time for such work again, I would greatly like to make accessible to the ordinary human intelligence, in two or three printer's sheets, what is rational in the (...) method which Hegel discovered.1 But he never did find the time for this work. As a result, Marx's dialectical method and the ways in which it draws on Hegel's philosophy remain among the most controversial and least well understood aspects of Marx's work. My purpose in this paper is to explain some of the basic presuppositions of this method and to bring out their significance for Marx's theories. I shall do so by focusing critically on G.A. Cohen's account of Marxism in Karl Marx's Theory of History: A Defence. In this important and influential work, Cohen contrives to give an account of 2 Marxism in entirely non-dialectical – indeed, in anti-dialectical – terms. By criticising Cohen's views I will seek to show that the dialectical method is the necessary basis for an adequate theory of history and an indispensable part of Marx's thought. The major purpose of Cohen's book is to develop and defend a particular interpretation of historical materialism, the Marxist theory of historical development. Cohen claims that his account is an `old-fashioned' and a `traditional' one (p.x); and, indeed, in certain respects it is. For, in contrast to the tendency of much recent Marxist writing, Cohen strongly emphasises the materialistic and deterministic character of Marx's theory of history. He insists that the development of the productive forces is the primary motive force for historical change, and portrays Marxism as a form of technological determinism. However, there are various different forms of materialism, not all of them Marx's.. (shrink)
Marx conceives of labor as form-giving activity. This is criticized for presupposing a "productivist" model of labor which regards work that creates a material product — craft or industrial work — as the paradigm for all work (Habermas, Benton, Arendt). Many traditional kinds of work do not seem to fit this picture, and new "immaterial" forms of labor (computer work, service work, etc.) have developed in postindus trial society which, it is argued, necessitate a fundamental revision of Marx's approach (Hardt (...) and Negri). Marx's theory, however, must be understood in the context of Hegel's philosophy. In that light, the view that Marx has a "productivist" model of labor is mistaken. The concept of "immaterial" labor is unsound, and Marx's ideas continue to provide an illuminating framework for understanding work in modern society. (shrink)
The fundamental principles of modern dialectical philosophy derive from Hegel. He sums them up as follows. ‘Everything is inherently contradictory ... Contradiction is the root of all movement and vitality, it is only in so far as something has a contradiction within it that it moves, has an urge and activity' (Hegel 1969, 439). In Hegel's philosophy these ideas form part of an all−embracing idealist system which portrays all phenomena ×− both natural and social ×− as subject to dialectic. Marx (...) inherits and transforms these ideas; but how precisely he does so has been a topic of much dispute within western Marxism. Marx himself describes his relation to Hegel with the aid of a couple of graphic but vague metaphors. He says that he turns Hegel's dialectic ‘right side up' in order to ‘discover the rational kernel within the mystical shell' (Marx 1961, 20). But how can this be done? Is there a ‘rational kernel' to Hegel's dialectic? If so, how can it be extracted? (shrink)
Something about my book, Marxism and Human Nature,1 seems to have provoked Eagleton's hostility and clouded his mind, but it is difficult to figure out what. All that is evident from his review is that he has not read the book carefully or taken the trouble to understand it properly.
Why work? Most people say that they work only as a means to earn a living. This is also implied by the hedonist account of human nature which underlies utilitarianism and classical economics. It is argued in this paper that Marx’s concept of alienation involves a more satisfactory theory of human nature which is rooted in Hegel’s philosophy. According to this, we are productive beings and work is potentially a fulfilling activity. The fact that it is not experienced as such (...) is shown to be at the basis of Marx’s critique of capitalist society. (shrink)
Hiding behind the anodyne title of this book is a work of large scope and considerable interest for the Hegelian reader. Its main purpose is to vindicate a dialectical interpretation of Marxism in the context of recent analytical Marxism. The book falls into two parts. The first contains a detailed account of the dialectical philosophy implicit in Marx's work, and of its background in the philosophies of Kant and Hegel. The second shows how this account of Marx's approach can (...) be used to resolve some of the major issues in Marxist philosophy and to illuminate some of the central topics in Marxist social, political and economic thought. (shrink)
A fascinating and disturbing exhibition was on show at the British Museum this summer (‘The Shadow of the Guillotine: Britain and the French Revolution’, until 10 September). The exhibition was one of the main British bicentenary events. As the title suggests, however, it was not the usual celebration. Certainly, it differed completely from the big bicentenary exhibition in Paris (‘The French Revolution and Europe: 1789-99’, Grand Palais, until 26 July). There, the focus was on the Revolution’s positive achievements. In London (...) the emphasis was almost entirely negative. The French are reported to be angry about this; but it is we who should be upset. For the exhibition forces us to face up to some of the uglier aspects of our attitudes to France and Europe. (shrink)
Scholarly interest in Marxist philosophy has fluctuated dramatically in the past fifty years. Before that, there was little scholarly work in Britain on Marxist philosophy or on Marxism more generally. In the nineteen fifties there were important contributions by economic theorists1 and social historians2 but academic discussion of Marx's philosophy or even of his political theory was minimal and mainly by critics.3 There were only a few philosophers who adhered to Marxism and these were mostly associated with the British Communist (...) Party. This was an orthodox party aligned with the Soviet Union in its political and theoretical standpoint.4 It was never a large political party, unlike those in some other European countries such as Italy or France, and had only a limited impact on British intellectual life. (shrink)
other approaches. The first of these is `material thinking' (das materielles Denken): `a contingent consciousness that is absorbed only in material stuff', a form of thought which is rooted in existing conditions and cannot see beyond them. At the `opposite extreme' is the transcendent critical method of `argumentation' (das Räsonieren), which involves `freedom from all content and a sense of vanity towards it'. The dialectical method, Hegel maintains, must `give up this freedom'. It refuses `to intrude into the immanent rhythm (...) of the Notion, either arbitrarily or with wisdom obtained from elsewhere'. Instead, it `sink[s] this freedom in the content, letting it move spontaneously of its own nature ... and then ... contemplate[s] this movement' (Hegel 1970 p. 56; Hegel 1977 pp. 35-6). (shrink)
Radical Philosophy was born in the aftermath of the student movement of the 1960s. At that time, philosophy in British universities was very conservative and traditional. Ordinary language philosophy, the analytical approach, and the empiricist tradition were absolutely dominant. However, the student movement of the 1960s had opened young people's minds to a whole new range of radical ideas and issues. These were dismissed as not worthy of study, and excluded from discussion in philosophy departments.
It seems evident that class differences and class struggle continue to exist in socialist societies; that is to say, in societies like the Soviet Union and China, which have undergone socialist revolutions and in which private property in the means of production has been largely abolished. I shall not attempt to prove this proposition here; rather it will form my starting point. For my purpose in this paper is to show how the phenomenon of class in socialist society can be (...) understood and interpreted in Marxist terms; and, in particular, to explain and expound Mao Zedong's attempt to do so. For one of Mao's most striking and important contributions to Marxism was his recognition that `contradictions among the people' continue to exist in socialist society, and his attempt to explain them within the theoretical framework of historical materialism. Marx outlines his account of historical development in the following well-known words: It is not the consciousness of men that determines their being, but on the contrary it is their social being that determines their consciousness. At a certain stage of their development, the material productive forces of society come into conflict with the existing relations of production or - what is merely a legal expression for the same thing - with the property relations within the framework of which they have hitherto operated. From forms of development of the productive forces these relations turn into their fetters. At that point an era of social revolution begins. With the change in the economic foundation the whole immense superstructure is more slowly or more rapidly transformed. (Marx, Preface to A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy) It has been common to interpret these words as expressing a simple form of economic or even technological determinism which would rule out the very possibility of class divisions continuing to be a fundamental feature of socialist society. For, according to this account, a socialist society, by abolishing the private ownership of the means of production, thereby abolishes the material and economic basis of class differences; and so classes are destined to die out in socialist society 2 as the forces of production are developed. According to this interpretation, which I shall call the `traditional' account, in Marx's account of historical development all the emphasis is placed upon the development of the productive forces.. (shrink)
Freud is often credited with having revealed the irrational content of psychology and thus undermined traditional ideas of human rationality. This is only part of the truth. Psychoanalysis also questions traditional ideas of irrationality. It shows that dreams, neurotic symptoms and other apparently irrational psychological phenomena have a meaning and a rationality. Phenomenological (Laing) and hermeneutic (Ricoeur) accounts are criticized. Freud argues that there is a continuity between rationality and irrationality. He associates rationality with control by consciousness and freedom. However, (...) there are contradictions in Freud's account which enable it to be interpreted either as a conservative or radical social philosophy. (shrink)
In the `Preface' to the Phenomenology of Spirit, Hegel outlines the dialectical method and contrasts it with two other approaches. On the one hand, there is `material thinking' (das materielles Denken): `a contingent consciousness that is absorbed only in material stuff', a form of thought which is rooted in existing conditions and cannot see beyond them. At the `opposite extreme' is the transcendent critical method of `argumentation' (das Räsonieren), which involves `freedom from all content and a sense of vanity towards (...) it'. The dialectical method must `give up this freedom'. It refuses `to intrude into the immanent rhythm of the Notion, either arbitrarily or with wisdom obtained from elsewhere'. Instead, it `sink[s] this freedom in the content, letting it move spontaneously of its own nature ... and then ... contemplate[s] this movement'. (shrink)
Plato Tom Angier -- Aristotle Timothy Chappell -- Stoics Jacob Klein -- Aquinas Vivian Boland O.P -- Hume Peter Millican -- Kant Ralph Walker -- Hegel Kenneth Westphal -- Marx Sean Sayers -- Mill Krister Bykvist -- Nietzsche Ken Gemes and Christoph Schuringa -- Macintyre David Solomon.
Illness narratives from patients with colorectal cancer commonly record patterns of change in social relationships that follow the diagnosis and treatment of the condition. We believe that these changes are best explained as a process of facework, which reflects losses of face on the part of the patient, and which assists in the creation of new faces that convey new senses of identity. Facework is familiar in the work by E. Goffman (1955) and has been extensively reworked since his time. (...) There is considerable agreement that face is a pervasive and universal constituent of all social interaction, and that it expresses the subject's view of the way he or she would like to be considered by others in interactions. Ho's concept of multiple faces negotiated dynamically according to social context is particularly useful in understanding the purpose and techniques of facework (D. Y.-F. Ho, 1994). We propose a model of face that uses dignity as the face-expression of personal attributes and acquisitions, and honor as the face-expression of systemic capabilities and attainments. This model can be used to examine individual variations in response and adaptation to colon cancer and its treatment, and it provides a useful means of teaching health care workers about the experience of illness. (shrink)
This paper discusses Marx’s concept of alienated (or estranged) labour, focusing mainly on his account in the Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts of 1844. This concept is frequently taken to be a moral notion based on a concept of universal human nature. This view is criticized and it is argued that the concept of alienation should rather be interpreted in the light of Hegelian historical ideas. In Hegel, alienation is not a purely negative phenomenon; it is a necessary stage of human (...) development. Marx’s account of alienated labour should be understood in similar terms. It is not a merely subjective discontent with work; it is an objective and historically specific condition, a stage in the process of historical development. Marx usually regards it as specific to capitalism. The criticism of capitalism implied in the concept of alienation, it is argued, does not appeal to universal moral standards; it is historical and relative. Overcoming alienation must also be understood in historical terms, not as the realization of a universal ideal, but as the dialectical supersession of capitalist conditions of labour. Marx’s account of communism as the overcoming of alienation is explained in these terms. (shrink)
Michel Foucault’s analysis of Magritte’s painting, Ceci N’est Pas Une Pipe, and the later work, Les Deux Mystéres, serves as a template, that is broadened to consider different representations of persons and patients. Kant’s noumenal person is contrasted with phenomenal persons, and the well individual is contrasted with the patient. Patients may be considered as the subject or object of illness, and both versions are “imprisoned” within a psychological and social context that curtails freedom, threatens continuity of existence, and may (...) question the nature of their personhood. (shrink)
Traditionally clinicians have determined their patients' resuscitation status without consultation. This has been condemned as morally indefensible in cases where not for resuscitation (NFR) orders are based on quality of life considerations and when the patient's true wishes are not known. Such instances would encompass most resuscitation decisions in elderly patients. Having previously involved patients in CPR decision-making, we chose formally to explore the reasons behind the choices made. Although the patients were not upset, and readily decided at the time (...) of initial consultation, on later analysing the decision-making we found poor understanding of the procedure, poor recall of information given and in some cases evidence of harm. This may be attributed to impaired decision-making capacity of elderly hospitalised patients as previously shown, or to the discomfort precipitated by having to contemplate the apparent immediacy of cardiac arrest by these patients. We propose that subscribing to autonomy as a general principle needs to be balanced against particular cases where distress may be caused by, or result in, diminished competence and limited autonomy. (shrink)
`Being sensitive' in nursing was explored using Schwartz-Barcott and Kim's hybrid model of concept development, producing a tentative definition of the concept. Three phases were employed: theoretical, empirical/fieldwork and analytical. An exploration of the literature identified where the common idea of `being sensitive' as a nurse was embedded and demonstrated that a theoretical development of this fundamental aspect of nursing was absent. The empirical phase was conducted using semistructured interviews with nine expert palliative care and cancer nurses. This method was (...) particularly useful for the exploration of this concept because of its firm grounding in practical example. A definition of what the concept `being sensitive' means in nursing, and subsequent clarification of `being insensitive', have been posed from the research process undertaken. The essential nature of this concept being integral to nursing practice is emphasized. Potential implications for the development of nursing practice through teaching of this concept were identified. (shrink)
The concept of alienation: Hegelian themes in modern social thought -- Creative activity and alienation in Hegel and Marx -- The concept of labour -- The individual and society -- Freedom and the "realm of necessity" -- Alienation as a critical concept -- Private property and communism -- The division of labour and its overcoming -- Marx's concept of communism.