continent. 2.1 (2012): 22–28. Jeroen Mettes burst onto the Dutch poetry scene twice. First, in 2005, when he became a strong presence on the nascent Dutch poetry blogosphere overnight as he embarked on his critical project Dichtersalfabet (Poet’s Alphabet). And again in 2011, when to great critical acclaim (and some bafflement) his complete writings were published – almost five years after his far too early death. 2005 was the year in which Dutch poetry blogging exploded. That year saw the (...) foundation of the influential, polemical, and populistically inclined weblog De Contrabas (The Double Bass), which became a strong force for internet poetry in Dutch in the years to follow. In the summer of that year, a lively debate raged in the aftermath of Bas Belleman’s article “ Doet poëzie er nu eindelijk toe ?” (“Does poetry finally matter now?”), on a blog specifically devoted to this question. Up to that point, the poetical debate in the Netherlands had largely been confined to literary reviews (which were often subsidized), having become mostly marginalized in more mainstream media, where poetry could be covered by only a small number of so-called authorities. As a result, literary debate had acquired a rather placid quality. Though a variety of camps with different aesthetics could be discerned, most poetical positions shared a general acceptance of poetry as a form of art somewhat apart from fundamental political concerns. Late modernists would pursue subtlety and density of reference. Others would insist poetry was best understood as a form of entertainment that should ideally be accessible and work well on the stage. Still others would insist that poetry is mostly a play with forms. Linguistically disruptive strategies were valued highly by some, but mostly for their aesthetic effect. Values of disinterested playfulness reigned supreme everywhere. Any idea that poetry could be a field in which one confronts politics and the world was decidedly marginal. This led to a climate in which most attempts at polemics were DOA, often based on far too superficial positioning and analysis. The greatest polemical debates were revolving around the question of whether poetry should be difficult or easy, with both camps defining their ideas of difficulty and accessibility in ways that were so utterly shallow as to make the entire point moot. Debates were performed, rather than engaged with. It was a postmodern hell of underarticulated poetics. Half-consciously, people were yearning for new forms of criticism that could put the oomph back into poetry. Weblogs provided for ways to explore debate directly outside of the clotted older channels of the reviews and the newspapers. Belleman’s essay and the resulting online activity had shown that there was a widespread eagerness to take poetry more seriously as a social art form. It was in this environment that Mettes started his remarkable project Dichtersalfabet . At that moment, Mettes was active mostly in academic circles, having become noted at Leiden University as a particularly gifted student of literary theory. Within the Netherlands, the field of literary theory has a very odd relationship to literature as it is practiced in the country. Academic theory tends to have a mostly international view and engage with international debates of cultural criticism, literary theory, and philosophy, with academics often publishing in English and attending conferences around the world. Literature itself however is much more concerned with domestic traditions. Consequently, in the Netherlands, there exists a language gap between academic theoretical practice (as it is studied in the literary theory departments) and literary practice (which, academically, gets studied in specialized departments of Dutch literature). The Dichtersalfabet can be seen as Mettes’s attempt to close this gap. It is also an attempt to bridge the divide between theory and practice, in which he could apply his theoretical knowledge in a very unorthodox and unacademic critical mode that moreover could reach far beyond the domain of conventional criticism. Mettes’s goal was to trace a diagonal through Dutch poetic culture, to “strangle” what he perceived to be its dominant oppressive traditions of agreeable irrelevance, in order to see whatever might be able to survive his critical assaults. But he could only do so by means of a very serious engagement with poetry itself. To this end, he would go systematically through the poetry bookshelf of the Verwijs bookshop (part of a mainstream chain of booksellers) in The Hague, buying one publication per blog item, starting from A and working his way through the alphabet, reading whatever he might encounter that way in the restaurant of the HEMA store (another big commercial chain in the country). He would subsequently write down his reading experiences, refraining however from trying to write a nuanced book review. Rather, he would write about anything that caught his attention and sparked his critical interest. This way of working would yield vast, at times somewhat rambling, dense, lively, and generally brilliant essays, in which he held no punches. He never hesitated to pull out his entire arsenal of concepts from the international theory traditions, while never degenerating into mere academic exercise and pointless intertextualities. The attempt was rather to live the poetry that he read, and to engage it with the full range of political, academic, cultural, and personal references that he had at his disposal—all that composed the individual named Jeroen Mettes as a reader. Often what he wrote would not be according to the standards of what we usually think of as a critical review of a book of poetry. Sometimes he would even be a little sloppy in his judgments of poets or representations of the books he read, for example by basing an entire essay on the blurb of a book rather than its poetry content. But what he did was always brilliant writing nonetheless—virtuoso riffs on poetic fragments randomly found within capitalist society, exposing an incisive and insistent poetical sensibility. Mettes read poetry for political reasons, to see whether poetry could offer him a way to deal with a political world he detested. The right-wing horrors of the Bush years, the Iraq war, and the turn of Dutch public opinion towards ever more conservative, narrow-minded, and xenophobic views alongside a complete failure of the political left to present any credible alternative, were weighing heavily on the times in which Mettes reported on his reading. Poetry was to measure this world, diagram it, to lay bare its inconsistencies and faults, to indicate where lines of flight might be found. Amid the ruins of a world wrecked by imperialist policies, corporate capitalism, and doctrinal neoliberalism it would have to show the possibility of a new community. And it was, through its rhythmical workings, to release the reading subject from his confinement to ideologically conditioned individuality and lead him into the immanent paradise of reading. The stakes were high. Much higher than anything Dutch poetry had seen for many years. Mettes’s blog was widely read from the start. His posts sparked lively debates. Some of these subsequently led to the publication of extensive essays on a few key poets in some literary journals, particularly Parmentier and the Flemish journal yang , for which Mettes would become a member of the editorial board, a few months after starting the Dichtersalfabet . This could have been the start of a brilliant career, but this was not to be. The initial manic energy that fueled the blog gradually subsided. The Alfabet was updated less and less regularly. Mettes sometimes just disappeared for many weeks, then suddenly returning with a brilliant essay. Until, on September 21, 2006, he posted his final blogpost, consisting of no text whatsoever. That night I learned from his mentor at Leiden University that he had committed suicide. Mettes and I had had some fruitful exchanges on poetry, rhythm, music, and form, mostly on the blogs, but also by email. Three weeks before his death was the last time I heard from him: a very sudden, uncharacteristically curt note saying “My old new sentence epic.” Attached to that message I found a DOC-file of a work so major that I felt intimidated. This was N30 , a text he had been working on for over five years. After his death, it took me a long time before I dared to read it in its entirety. In the meantime, the work of preparing the manuscript for publication was entrusted by his relatives to his colleagues at yang magazine. It took them a few years to brush up the text and to edit the Dichtersalfabet -blog (which, apart from the Alphabet project itself, incorporated many other fragments of political, polemical, and theoretical writing) into book form along with the essays. The result of this labor was finally published in 2011 as a two-book set, and Mettes burst onto the Dutch poetry scene for the second time. The work was widely reviewed, on blogs, in journals, magazines, and newspapers. Many critics who had not followed the blogs in 2005 showed themselves surprised, baffled even, by the intensity of Mettes’s critical writing. But for those who had read the blog, the main surprise was in the poetry. During Mettes’s lifetime, some of his poems had already been published in Parmentier . Although these were strong texts by themselves, in no way did they prepare readers for N30 . Nothing like it had been written in Dutch before. Instead, N30 explicitly follows the American tradition of Language Writing, directly referencing Ron Silliman and his concept of The New Sentence. However, it would seem that much of the poetical thinking around his use of this technique puts him closer to a writer such as Bruce Andrews. For Mettes, using non sequiturs as a unit of poetic construction was not only a way of reinventing formal textual construction, but it was another way of finding the fault lines in the social fabric. From the perspective of the Language tradition, one may put N30 somewhere between Silliman and Andrews. N30 shares an autobiographical element with Silliman’s New Sentence projects, and as in Andrews, there is a concern for mapping out social totality within text—what Mettes refers to as a “textual world civil war.” Again this shows a formal textual strategy for allowing the person “Jeroen Mettes” to be absorbed by the world, which here appears as a whirlwind of demotic and demonic chatter, full of violence, humor, intensity, beauty, disgust, sex, commerce, and strife. Influenced as it may by American precursors, Mettes’s tone and form end up quite different from his American counterparts, consistently referencing a world that is Dutch, all too Dutch, taking on the oppressive orderliness of Dutch society with its endemic penchant for consensus by introducing chaos into its daily life and laying bare its implicit aggressions. The work’s 31 chapters each have a different feel and rhythmical outline, but none of them follow a predetermined pattern. Rather, Mettes would consistently edit and reedit the text, randomly rewriting parts of it, as he explains in his poetical creed Politieke Poëzie (Political Poetry). N30 – referring to the 1999 antiglobalist protest in Seattle – was to be the first text of a trilogy. The work itself was written “in the mode of the present.” A second text was to be written in the mode of the future, and a third one, in the mode of the past, was going to be an epic poem about the Paris Commune, and to form an alternative poetic constitution for the European project. I still deeply regret that Jeroen Mettes never got to complete those projects, just as I would be very keen on knowing what he might have had to say about more recent political developments. Instead, in 2006, he remained stuck in the horrors of the present, that ended up consuming him completely. He left Dutch literature with some of its most piercing criticism and its most profoundly moving, exciting and powerful poetry. Excerpts from N30 Translated by Vincent W.J. van Gerven Oei from Jeroen Mettes. "N30." In N30+ . Amsterdam: De wereldbibliotheek, 2011. Published with permission of Uitgeverij Wereldbibliotheek, Amsterdam. Chapter 1 1999. A day is a space too. And another man, who had chained himself, had his ribs crushed, and a motor has driven over somebody’s legs. Dutch health care system spends ±145 million guilders per year on worriers. A spiderweb vibrates as I pass by. Randstad renovating. She slaps her bag against her ass: “Hurry up!” OPINION IS TRUE FRIENDSHIP Your skin. It doesn’t express anything. “But the use of the sword, that’s what I learned, and you’ll need nothing more for the moment.” Just try to interrogate a guy like that. Gullit in Sierra Leone. Codes silently lying all around. But that’s simply what belongs to “that it’s just allowed”: that sigh of “world” (a word expressing that the trees are now standing along the water like black men with white bags in their hair); that’s nothing else right? And you see how everything has to move, and first of all what cannot do so. Without Elysium and without savings, barbarians lashing out, horny for an enemy, staring across the water, staring into the air—staring to get out of it. “You’ve never showed me more than the mall,” she said. All those “dreams” in the end—and now? It was lying on the stairway, so I picked it up and took it upstairs. Chapter 3 “You know what?” Telecommunication. For love… I don’t really like that cheap cultural pessimism, but… The holy city is on pilgrimage in the earthly bodies of the faithful until the time of the heavenly kingdom has come. The end of an exhausting autumn day behind the computer, my eyes filled with tears of fatigue. KITCHEN / INSTALLATION / SPECIALIST. Network integration. In the sun, stretched out on a sheet. (…) I don’t believe what I’m reading, because I want to believe something else. An illusion? Suits me. There’s a variety of shapes and tastes… “So what?” you may think. 102 dalmatians can’t be wrong. But I want more, dear… A feel good movie. I’m smashing the burned body. So what? We continue to save the European civilization. What’s there to win? Plato with poets = Stalin without gulag? Ball against the crossbar. No wonder. She comes straight to her point. She’s standing in the kitchen eating an apple. (…) The godless Napoleon had used her as a stable and wanted to have her taken down. “Our” Rutger Hauer. Ready or not here I come. Psst… are you also wearing a string? Nobody understands our desire. Cliffs breaking the waves and shattering the sunset. I used to be a real romantic (as a poet). A typical fantasy used to be the one in which I brutally raped mother and daughter Seaver from the sitcom Growing Pains . Nevertheless you only contain bad words. Eyelashes. Automatic or manual? That your skin always in the afternoon. Integration. The air is empty. Too bad! Hand in hand on their lonely way. Alaska! Chapter 12 May 5, 2001 [10:00-10:30] A dust cloud on a hill. Globe. Indian (British) (tie) / pope. Damascus. Rape. We’re carrying the ayatollah’s portrait through the streets. At the moment the girl is mostly suede jacket with white ribbons on her sleeves. A small explosion flares up/impact. Camouflage. Close up. We’re analyzing the situation. He’s dead right? Dead dead. Dead. Everything without, these, and only with the body. Indices signal death. Dollar bills are printed in factories. Holes. Light patch. Globe in a box. Microphone. What’s the situation? Grey impact on a green hill (field?). The water is blue. He has no lips. Interns on the background with skirts that are too long. This is an example of a sonnet. An Islamic woman pushes against the door of an electronics shop. Arrows (percentages (prices)). Is this what awaits the American? Touch screen interface. The word, an island, can only be a sign in that situation. We pull up a chair, join in on the fun. On the shelves only books about computers. One glance in the distance is enough to lighten up a luna park in the distance. She’s really desperate, especially when she laughs. Click. Ah. Next. And now it’s raining, but that’s ok. Yellow stains sliding over the south. Shallow caves light: clothes, boots, electrical equipment. 45. 22:10. Nothing gives you the right to eat more than people starving to death. The Hague. Slam dunk. Traffic light. Two H’s, one L (standing for the L (little prick)). We’re happy to say something. Clouds, small suns, temperatures, cities. The truth is never an excuse. Yellow. Yellow. Green. Yellow. Yellow. Yellow. Yellow. Green. Green. Yellow. Will you email me? Skeleton: “No.” Ex-nerds in brand-new and brightly red sport cars. $$$. I love. Shihab. Hooves in the sand. Skinny senior with over-sized sunglasses; old jockey (cap, trophy) smiling in slow motion. And there I am again, flashback, crying with my head in between my hands. Sometimes I’ve got the feeling that cannibals. Eyes: blue. Cancer. Why would I wait until tomorrow? Golden beams protruding from the lifted/lit earth. May 5, 2001 [11:30-12:45] You’ll remember this for the rest of your life. Graphs, diagrams. Bu$ine$$. Blue shirt, white collar, no neck (porn star). A name lights up. I’m hysteric. Will you join us? Letters falling in their words. Fingers set up a tent and start to dance. Young entrepreneurs from poor neighborhoods (read: black) guided by Microsoft. Kinda makes me happy, that sort of kitsch. A sense of exhaustion/impotence to see anything but the present. (…) Wouldn’t you like to? Orange explosion in an industrial zone. YOU’RE DOING THIS FOR AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL. Would you. A familiar face. Clouds and blossom. Sunflowers. Supermodels. Mountainous area in a rectangle: shades of brown, from dark to beige, more green toward the south. Tents and next to them (it’s all a blur) people. Plane. Stadium. Geometrical block of people. No, I ain’t crying. I don’t speak no more. I just want. Quote + photo. (Positive:) screaming crowd. Three-piece suit, seen from the back, before entering the arena. On the back: “Daddy abused me.” Oh, bummer. State of emergency has been declared and everyone has to cooperate. She’s cut her wrists. What we do know (…) is that there’s never been a unique word, an imperative name, nor will there ever be. [Click here for work that suits you.] Barefooted children are watching it (coherent pieces revelation of what’s lying below). Who knows how she’s changed during those two years. “Everything used to be better” + sigh. And here we are. An empty field of parquet. A city lying behind it. Explosion. Blue. A rain drop falling in my coffee. May 5, 2001 [14:30-15:30] A young Arafat on video speaking with raised finger. “I’m calling from my convertible.” Names on walls, victims, numbers… Tourists. Yellow. Yellow. “Your own child! Really, what kind of human are you?” I don’t want to hear it no more. A woman jumping out of the water in a yellow bikini against a background of fireworks and the Cheops pyramid. Thy sorrow shall become good fortune, thy complaints laudation. All planets will float and wander. Wo die Welt zum Bild wird, kommt das System (…) zur Herrschaft. It is something, but is it? May 5, 2001 [18:30-19:00] Iris. Leaves. NASDAQ. Open / and white and. For the one who’s doing nothing, just waiting. (…) NO DEFEAT is made entirely up of defeat -- since / the world it opens is always a place / formerly / unsuspected. October 2002. “Jeroen, I’m leaving for the cemetery, byeeee.” The rise of the middle class. My entire oeuvre is an ode to the. My entire head is a fight against the. God always demands what you cannot sacrifice. You may take that the easy way, but… “The state hasn’t made us, but we make the state” (Hitler). A stork exits the elevator. Skeletons of. Moscow. Helsinki. Palermo. Paris. Chapter 30 Like your paradises: nothing. United Desire, as only remaining superpower. And even though the sea is now calmer and the wind is blowing pleasantly in my face… Heart! Who determines whether a tradition is “alive”? The yellow leaf or the white branch? Mars. This sentence is a typical example. Most Dutch people are happy. No consolation. When I see a girl sitting at a table with a book, a notepad, a pen, a bottle of mineral water, her hand writing in the light—then I consider that one thing. “Presents,” “poetry,” “classics.” We are what we cannot make from ourselves. “Left”: mendicant orders, missionaries. Saint-Just: “A republic is founded on the destruction of its enemies.” She crosses the street with a banana peel between her fingers. (…) We chose our own wardens, torturers, it was us who called all this insanity upon ourselves, we created this nightmare… But “no”? Girl (just like a beach ball) talking rapid Spanish (Portuguese?) in a mobile phone. Do I have a chance now that her boyfriend is getting bold? CLIO, horny bitch. What else do you want? An old woman, between the doors of the C1000, is suddenly unable to go on; her husband stretches out his hand, speaking a few encouraging words. Selection from. Der Führer schenkt den Jüden ein Stadt. How can it reach us if we haven’t been already reached somehow? It doesn’t “speak.” No problem. Each word she uses is a small miracle, as if she doesn’t belong to it, to language, but wanders around with a pocket light looking for the exit; she’s never desperate (maybe a little nervous), lighting up heavy words from the inside. But indeed, we’re free. But the predicate is not an attribute, but an event, and the subject is not a subject, but a shell. That’s why also samurai, knights, and warriors raised the blossom as emblem: they knew how to die. Locked up in a baby carriage with a McDonald’s balloon. Blue helicopter, the blue sky. Whether you want to refer? The point is. How / Motherfucker can I sing a sad song / When I remember Zion? You’ll feel so miserable and worthless that you think: “If only I were dead!,” or: “Just put an end to it!” “So you’re an economist?” Her card—two little birds building a nest, her handwriting shaking—is still on the mantelpiece. Guevara: “No, a communist.” A straw fire, such was our life: rapidly it flared up, rapidly it passed. I’m fleeing, coming from nowhere. (…) Eazy-E drinking coffee with the American president. If I’d scream, would that be an event? Drown it: the cleaner it will rise up from the depths. No! The night, so fast… As if there’s something opened up in that face. Come on, we may not curse life. He shows me his methadone: “If you drink that all at once, you’ll die instantly.” The last one dictates how we should behave to deserve happiness. One shine / above the earth. “I want to go to Bosnia,” I said bluntly. I don’t even know the name of the current mayor. Let’s despise our success! “There is no future; this is the future. Hope is a weakness that we've overcome. We have found happiness!” Sun. Sushi. Volvo. I feel like a bomb about to explode at any moment. Makes a difference for the reconstruction right? The decor moves forward. Daughter of Nereus, you nymphs of the sea, and you Thetis, you should have kept his tired head above the waves! Alas! This sentence has been written wearing a green cap. I receive my orders from the future. A frog jumps into it. Her husband has turned the Intifada, which he follows daily on CCN, into his hobby, “to forget that he doesn’t have his driver’s license yet." Suddenly the sun slides over the crosswalk. Her (his?) foot is playing with the slipper under the table. Is this how I’m writing this book now? I’m not a fellow man. I hate you and I want to hurt you. These are my people. Their screaming doesn’t rise above the constantly wailing sirens which we've learned to ignore. My whole body became warm and suddenly started to tremble. Unfortunate is he who is standing on the threshold of the most beautiful time, but awaits a better one. Arafat’s “removal” is contrary to American interests. Jeep drives into boy. What you can do alone, you should do alone. A food gift from the people of the United States of America. Two seagulls. [...]. (shrink)
Epistemology socialized Content Type Journal Article Pages 1-5 DOI 10.1007/s11016-011-9579-4 Authors Jeroen de Ridder, Faculty of Philosophy, VU University Amsterdam, De Boelelaan 1105, 1081 HV Amsterdam, The Netherlands Journal Metascience Online ISSN 1467-9981 Print ISSN 0815-0796.
continent. 2.1 (2012): 29–35. Translated by Vincent W.J. van Gerven Oei from Jeroen Mettes. "Politieke Poëzie: Enige aantekeningen, Poëtica bij N30 (versie 2006)." In Weerstandbeleid: Nieuwe kritiek . Amsterdam: De wereldbibliotheek, 2011. Published with permission of Uitgeverij Wereldbibliotheek, Amsterdam. L’égalité veut d’autres lois . —Eugène Pottier The modern poem does not have form but consistency (that is sensed), no content but a problem (that is developed). Consistency + problem = composition. The problem of modern poetry is capitalism. Capitalism—which has (...) no image: the unrepresentable Idea of “everything.” The problem is that a poem cannot be justified. There is no excuse for it. Political poetry— pure poetry—has to be problematic, though not in a mannerist way. Yes, its problem is first its own problem—poetry’s existence in the same world as the newspaper—but therefore also always everybody’s problem (the problem of any world at all). The cult of the sublime points at a suspect desire for transcendence, nostalgia for paradise lost (the womb?). Melancholia of the post-. But a problem neither sorrows nor mourns, it is alive, and the fact that it is alive is the problem—the problem for death (rigidity, the status quo). Our symbols and ideologies do not hide any god: symbolic = state; imaginary = human; real = money. Problem: the possibility of communal speech (poetry) in the absence of a “we.” Or: what is a “we” that is not a collective subject (or in any case is not a volonté générale )? What is a universal history that is not a History? This work was started in the shade of the anti-globalization protests at the end of November 1999. I considered N30 to be the closure of the nineties, of my adolescence, and of the a seemingly total extinction of social desire. From the beginning I was skeptical about the alterglobalization movement as the avant-garde of a new politics, but something was happening . Maybe this event did not show that, as the slogan would have it, “another world” is possible, but for me it indicated that such possibility was at least still possible. That naked possibility is carrying forward. And if the fundamental tone of this work sounds more desperate than utopian, this is not caused by the catastrophic sequence that since 1999 has plunged us ever deeper into the right-wing nightmare—a nightmare that this work also gives an account for—but because my hope as yet remains empty. Composition . Composition is no design, but the production of an autonomous block of affects (i.e. a POEM), rhythmically subtracted from the language of a community. A poem does something. Is something. New Sentence . Choosing the non sequitur as compositional unit has the advantage that an abstract composition is subjected to the stress of concrete, social references. Where there is a sentence, there is always a world. (This does not hold necessarily for words on their own.) And where sentences collide, something akin to a textual civil war takes place. It is not about “undermining” whatever, or de-scribing the raging global civil war, but about writing social (or even: ontological) antagonism -- including all its catastrophic and utopian possibilities. Minor resistance. Why would poetry be the no protest zone par excellence? It is nothing but protest, not simply qua “content,” but in its most fundamental essence: rhythm. Rhythm is resistance against language, time, and space, and the basis of (what we will continue to call) autonomy. Rhythm starts with the anti-rhythmic caesura as Hölderlin remarked about Sophocles, a disruption of the quotidian drone. The destruction of everything that is dead inside of us. The noise of the avant-garde has never been the representation of the noise of (post)modernity (from the television or shopping mall), but the sober noise of the systematic exchange of an unbearable worldview. The poet does not describe, but looks for a way out: There is a Grain of Sand in Lambeth that Satan cannot find Nor can his Watch Fiends find it, tis translucent & has many Angles But he who finds it will find Oothoons palace, for within Opening into Beulah every angle is a lovely heaven William Blake was not mad. And there has always been only one poetry: the poetry of paradise. The principle is that there is something in art (the essentially creative element) that is disgusted by that which, unlike art, does not aim for the supreme. Wonder is not supreme, tranquility is not supreme, beauty is not supreme. Even amusement is not supreme! The supreme is supremely open, “das Einfache,/ Das Schwer zu machen ist” 1 : paradise. That is abstract. Literally. For me it is not about a concrete imagination, an idyll or utopia. There is no doubt a need for that, but it is not so much the supposed lack of imagination or ideals (human rights are ideals), but a fundamental lack of desire (human rights are no desires) that we suffer from, and from which we do not need to remove Nietzsche’s label of “nihilism.” “We.” George Oppen: “ Of Being Numerous asks the question whether or not we can deal with humanity as something which actually exists.” What is less actual than humanity? Nowadays it appears as a lifeless ideology of cynical power politics. Or as what makes one think. It is a shame to be human. The event is the caesura that defines rhythm. Writing toward the event is not the description of the event, but marking an abstract and intense space in which the event may unfold and keep itself. It is a task. “Remember that thou blesseth the day on which I seized thee, because such is thy obligation.” The event is a contraction (or a series of contractions) with its own rhythm and unique qualities. It is more than an explosion or demonstration. But at the same time less. The endless repetition of images and stories in the media points to a fear for the indeterminate and indeterminable void of the event. In the end there is nothing to see. We do not live in disaster’s shade or miracle’s light, but rather in the rhythm, which is contracted time, having little to do with omnipresent representations. For this book I did not intend a rhythm of evental representations (a narrative rhythm), but a rhythm which would be an event itself , because it draws the border between artwork and history. My desire for a direct engagement with the “extra-textual reality” has nothing to do with the representation of “rumor in the streets.” (What has less street cred than representation?) Naturally, a poem is no historical event and does not change anything. But a poem is a part of history that wants to be repeated forever, constructed in such a way that it is worthy of repetition. It is a part of desire (composition) made consistent (durable). The “historical event” flares up and burns down, and has to burn down to be effective. The leftovers are images and stories (representations), History—no event. The artwork—that is the ambition— remains event (though monumental and inefficient/inoperable). (No wonder that a historical singularity, a revolution, reminds us of a work of art; the resurrection yearns for a judgment, an affirmation; everything depends on it.) Hence the title does not summarize the book, let alone contract its “content” into a quasi-transcendental signifier. The title is juxtaposed to the book, like everything else inside the book, and in that relation it precisely forms a part of it. The ideal work is an open whole, lacking nothing but to which everything may be added. I have been interested in this “everything,” the world, or as I said above: capitalism. “Everything” is not the space for “wonder”—a code word, a shibboleth for petty bourgeois imagination (I recognize myself in the strangest things, a speaking dog, a canal, a pond standing straight—oh my god). No. The world is a social world, not YOUR world, poet. Power is number one. I will call “Dutch,” or “shitty,” whatever denies this power. That hurts, but this pain is an expression of the desire in the world to write another world, or as Blanchot says, “the other of all worlds” 2 : the world. Not as what “is there,” but rather as that which urges for an escape from what “is.” This is a testament of how radical reality has become, for me—or rather, a writing body—in a having-been-written. I am not interested in the problem of “meaning” as misunderstood by literary scholarsi: “order” in “chaos,” “symbolization.” Bullshit. What is there, hop, hope, now: the meaning of the taste in my mouth. Bullshit. I am not interested in the frustration of interpretation; I am writing for readers who do not want to interpret. I do not know how many “professional readers” will hear the music of a paragraph like: Sun. Sushi. Volvo. I hope more than I would think. There is a suggestion (or rather, an actual production) of speed and infinitive owing to the absence of plosives, i.e. articulations such as /k/, /t/, or /p/. Can you hear the slick suaveness? Driving car dark, vocal chiaroscuro of the word “sushi.” The unstressed /i/ stands in the middle of dark vowels and thus acquires its own special out of focus , like a momentary flash or brilliance—an obscure light. It is not about recognizing a story, but about avoiding any story whatsoever: the car disappears in the glow, cars and raw fish have nothing in common except their articulation in a language that brings them together, blurring them. A world appears in its disappearance. For a moment, light is a metaphor for language, though it cannot be reduced to tenor. It is not necessary to be a linguist or philosopher to hear this—a “difficult” poem all too often becomes an allegory of its own impenetrable being-language. The only demand: leave your hermeneutical fetish at home. This was no interpretation. Most shit has been stolen etcetera. That is no longer interesting. You cannot shoot the body with information and let your lawyers reclaim the bullets. So every sentence has been stolen. Also the ones “out” “of” “my” “head.” Why would I be allowed to steal from myself and not from others? Man takes what he needs to move forward. Whatever he encounters, finds in front of him, “occurs” to him. The writer as text editor, or singing pirate. Nothing new here. Important difference with for example Sybren Polet’s 4 montage technique: anti-thematicism. Most of the time ferocious citation from whatever I was reading, listening to, ended up in, and so on. I wrote chapter 12 on my laptop while watching CNN. On the air instead of en plein air . I often employed search engines to generate material. Chapter 20 offers the purest example of this. Often I stop recognizing a particular citation after some time. It is not uncommon for a stolen sentence to conform itself to the paragraph in which it finds itself. Sometimes I nearly arbitrarily replace words. Arbitrariness as a guarantee for absolute democracy. It is a poetics of the non sequitur : a conclusion that does not follow from the premises, the strange element in the discourse. A discourse of strangers. No logical, narrative, thematic unity. There is unity in speed/flight. It has to be read linearly, but not necessarily (not preferably) from beginning to end. The shortest distance between two points is a straight line, but this line precedes every point. The middle, the acceleration, comes first. A point occurs where two lines cross. It has been written from up close, at the level of the tension between sentences. Nothing to be seen from a distance: no form except the exchange of form, no geometrical or mythical meaning. You have to get in, “groping toward a continuous present, a using everything a beginning again and again” (Stein). 5 In Dutch, experimental poetry has been mainly dense: a small rectangular form filled with a maximum amount of poetic possibility. But at the moment the poem starts to relax, the anecdotical content seems to increase. This is what is called “epic”: long, narrative. I believe that an epic is more than that, in fact something completely different. An epic is “a poem including history,” 6 a long poem tied up with the life of community, that as a whole does not need to be narrative. The American poets of the twentieth century (Pound, Williams, Zukofsky, Oppen, Olson, Silliman) have put the epic back on the map by interpreting the poem itself as a map, and writing it as navigation. They have invented the experimental epic, a genre that has generated little original following in “our” poetry. N30 is the middle part—“always start in the middle”—of a trilogy, the contours of which remain as of yet unclear, although each episode investigates one of the three “ecstasies of time”—past, present, future—concerning society X. N30 concerns itself with the PRESENT: not with the description of actual facts but of the rhythm and the intense depth in which facts appear to us. Where are we? We are camping in the desert. Sometimes we are looking at the stars. As opposed to maximum density and minimal tension (a characteristic of most (post-)experimental lyricism), I have sought a minimal density and maximum tension in this book, considered as a long non-narrative prose poem. On the one hand, the minimal density is obtained by the inherent formlessness of prose, on the other hand by the conscious refusal of any active (formal, non-rhythmic) synthesis: the poem tells nothing, shows nothing, has no theme. I did not seek maximum tension either by loading the quotidian with epiphanic radioactivity (“wonder,” confirmation from above), or by means of the intensity of the linguistic structure. I want an abstract tension, but social in its abstraction, in other words, not neutralized by and subjected to Form. Instead of form (transcendent): composition (immanent). The concept is series. Ideal: every unit is necessary for the efficacy of the others and the whole, their relation is purely linear, i.e. non-hierarchic, non-syllogistic, non-discursive, non-narrative. Sentence related to sentence like paragraph to paragraph and chapter to chapter; the whole means nothing and represents nothing. Inside the sentence: syntax (Chomsky’s tree, a type of parallel circuit), outside: parataxis (coordination, an asyntactic line through language and world). I consider duration—the energy of duration (rhythm)—to be the fundament of a poem, the temporal inclination to delimit a “space.” Being as consistency, its consistency. A spatial part of time is not merely a metaphor for an inevitable trajectory, an inescapable time, something like “our time.” Not merely—because rhythm comes from language and is not projected onto it; the poem derives from the world like a scent and a color and a life from a flower. A series, a sequence: nothing potential, but truly infinite—the movement of an infinitude. The infinite series = everything minus totality. That means that there is no container—no Form, no Self, no Image, no Structure, not even a Fragment—just “the prose of the world.” No representation, but also no staging of the impossibility of representation (the postmodern sublime). These are no fragments, no image of a fragmented world or personality, no cautious incantations around the Void. It does not exist. It is a movement. Buying bread, a flock of birds, a bomb falling—they do not depict or represent anything, not literally, not metaphorically. There is an Idea, which is however nothing more than a rhythm, in the same way that capitalism is nothing more than a pure function. Parataxis: the white space between two sentences stresses, which is nevertheless always there, also between words, even between letters: the out of focus of idle talk, the gutter, the irreducible Mallarméan mist which renders even the seemingly most transparent text legible. The white space suggests a neutral medium for free signification, a substance of language. A non sequitur is an element from a foreign discourse, which stresses the white space as space, and problematizes freedom for supra-sentential signification. I start by withdrawing material, leaving the initiative to the sentences. In general a word presupposes less often a discourse than a sentence. What discourse is presupposed by “dog”? We could think of several, but why would we? It is more probable that, when faced with the naked word, we think of its naked (dictionary) meaning, of its denotative signified. By means of two simple interventions we may also write the word as sentence: Dog. In no way this suggests the discourse from which this sentence originates, but in any case we’re presupposing one. This is shown by questions like: “Whose dog? Who’s a dog? What kind of dog?” Etc. (Sentences are question marks.) A sentence implies/is a microcosm—a subject, a verb, an object, and so on. Even an incomplete or ungrammatical sentence does so. My main fascination while writing this book is the worldly and social aspect of language, an aspect that often becomes invisible, or rather, transparent in narrativity—the stretching of sentences into stories. Narrativity organizes a new discourse and a new world, and places a sometimes all too dispersing relation of transparence in between. The conventional novel is the brothel of being. I do not intend to prohibit brothels, and I have certainly not intended to write an anti-novel (THIS IS A POEM), but I do consider narrativity (in general, in poetry, in the news, in daily life) to be ontologically secondary with regard to an immediate being in the world through sentences, also if the latter have been withdrawn from a narrative or otherwise externally structured discourse (which in that case would therefore be chronologically primary ). Naturally, two or more sentences are always in danger of telling stories or arguing, just like the world is always in danger of becoming an objective representation, facing us, strangers. That is why need to wage war—against representation and against the interface, against interaction. AGAINST THE “READER.” To the extent that a sentence is worldly, writing is a condensed global war, and in so far as there is ultimately only one world and one open continuum of languages, it is a global civil war. Nice subject for an epic. The elaboration of a singular problem—prose as the outside of poetry, the form of the novel as purely prosodic composition scheme—“expresses” the universal problem: capitalism as Idea of the world vs. poetry as language of an (im)possible community. The paragraphs are blocks of rhythmically contracted social material. By choosing the sentence as the basic compositional component, an abstract whole may contain social sounds, without telling a story or showing an image. Composition is subrepresentative —a rhythmic, passive synthesis, or rather: a synthesis of syntheses. I never write large blocks of prose in one sitting, because there is no obvious organizational vector —plot, theme, conscience—outside the inherent qualities of the material itself. Usually I write down one sentence, sometimes two, but rarely more than three. Those sentences are usually placed in the text which I am editing at the time. In fact, there is no original composition, new chapters split off from chapters which became too long during the editing process. (Revision mainly consists of adding and inserting, displacing and dividing; only during the last phase, when the text has gained enough consistency, there may be subtraction to tighten the composition; each chapter requires a season of daily revision). This constant revision, accompanied by a continuous influx of collective background noise (to speak with Van Bastelaere), 7 makes every chapter a block condensed (“historical” and “personal”) time. The block itself is a-personal and a-historic; it is ontologically autonomous. If there is such a thing as a spirit of the times, I do not try to offer an image of it, but rather to cancel something of it by erecting a monument of its own excrement within its own boundaries. Tuning and dis-tuning , “in de taal der neerslachtigen een eigen geluid doen klinken,” 8 in other words, desiring in an Elysian way. In this sense I have intended to be able to write a political poetry. The ultimate political poem is the epic, “the tale of the tribe.” I consider N30 to be a prolegomenon to a future epic (of which it in the end will form a part a structural moment, as introduction-in-the-middle), an extended pile on top of an epic as narrative, a question of the tribe and question of its history. I was burdened by too much satire, too much bullshit. But: satire willy-nilly = the only justifiable satire. Against the abstract universalism of the market (“globalism”): concrete disgust, a positive way of saying “No.” Moreover, disgust is a specifically total attitude, which ultimately concerns the world as a whole. I hate this or that, but I am disgusted by EVERYTHING (when I am disgusted), and so it appears that satire is in fact related to the epic, in so far as it concerns society, the cosmos, history. Maybe it is no coincidence that the Dutch literary canon knows no great poet of disgust; what could be more fearful to us than society, the cosmos, and history? The T-tendency (T from Tollens 9 ) clearly points into the direction of the small, friendly, ironic, melancholic, acquiescent, wondrous, and so on. The anti-political, anti-cosmic, anti-historical. (Why am I so philosophical? To scare away the Dutchies.) And most of all: the “poetical” (the pseudo-mysticism from the backyard). Yes, the N in N30 also stands for the Netherlands (just like 30 indicates the number of chapters). I was not in Seattle, I do not live in Iraq. But is not the whole world bleeding to death on Dutch paving stones? Let’s hope that we mowed away something with this total satire, also “in myself.” The arrogant stupidity that definitely thinks to know the essence of freedom (the free development of esthetic needs inside the void), that cannot take anything serious, only believes in the disciplined bestiality of the individual (“norms and values”) and the mere functioning of a social factory which finds no justification whatsoever outside its functioning (“get to work”)… Who knows. A certain aimed destruction leaves grooves and craters, mapping out a next adventure. Pound’s periplum : sailing while mapping the coasts. Immanent orientation. The terrain changes with the map, history changes with the poem. Maps never merely organize the chaos, transcendent schemes imposed on a formless Ding-an-sich . They organize from within, surfing. But they are most of all routes back into the chaos or forward to paradise (final identity of chaos and paradise; Schlegel: “ Nur diejenige Verworrenheit ist ein Chaos aus der eine Welt entspringen kann ”10). A poem is not only a piece of history, it is also a flight from history. Maps give chaos to the form of reality , open escape routes, break through representations, make us shivery and dazed. Paradise is immanent to a fleeting desire. History is the history of labor—this is Adam’s curse—and the poet works too: For to articulate sweet sounds together Is to work harder than all these, and yet Be thought an idler by the noisy set Of bankers, school masters, and clergymen The martyrs call the world 11 But: the poet works in paradise. The paradox of the artwork, the work that is no work, the piece of history that cannot be reduced to History—this is explained by The Space of Literature , a virtual space, an autonomous rhythm, not outside, but in the midst of the noise, a piece of paradise in hell, a postcard from the vale of tears addressed to paradise, to X. Political poetry means: a poetry that dares to think about itself, about its language and about its world and about the problematic relation between both, which is this relation as problem. A poetry that thinks at all, articulates its problem. It has nothing to do with journalism or morality or debate, let alone the law or the state. It has nothing to do with “criticism” if this means the replacement of incorrect representations by other, more correct representations. It has something to do with ethics in the sense of learning to live. It has something to do with the community and the language of the community (whichever that may be) and the role of the poet regarding the community. It concerns justice without judgement or measure. In the end the just word is just a word , to paraphrase Godard: it is from a future that is unimaginable. It Is no rational engagement, but an aversion against everything that obstructs life, and love for everything what is worthy of having been loved. The world is engaged with me, not the other way round. First Exodus, then Sinai. A desire does not start with an agenda. To answer the question whether I am really so naive as to want to change the world: “We only want the world.” Justice is the world appealing to us to liberate it from all possible chains, from each organization and inequality, to be it, smooth, equal, under a clear sky—a desert and a people in a desert. That moment between Egypt and the Law. It is not a revolution, but the sky above the revolution. Poetry = the science of escape. There is no art that we already know. The weakness of modernistic epic poetry seems to me to be the unwillingness to completely abandon narrative as a structural principle, in favor of a composition “around” or from an event. The China Cantos and Adams Cantos are the low point, and the Pisan Cantos the high point of Pound’s poetry. Two types of research: archival representation of the past vs. ontology of the present (which virtually presupposes the entire history). Presupposing an event means that it is impossible for the poet to stage his own absence, but in no way makes the work personal. An event is the unknown, the new invading into the business as usual, so also the personal. The question heading this research is not: “Who am I?” but “What is happening?” The book is as little illegible as Mondrian’s work is invisible. Form is of interest only to the extent that it empowers liberation. Ron Silliman So no formalism, but what it means to live in this world and to have a future in it. I want something that holds together that’s not smooth. Bruce Andrews The past above, the future below and the present pouring down: the roar, the roar of the present, a speech— William Carlos Williams If my confreres wanted to write a work with all history in its maw, I wished, from the beginning to start all over again, attempting to know nothing but a will to create, and matter at hand. Ronald Johnson NOTES 1) “The easy thing/ that is difficult to make.” Bertold Brecht, Lob des Kommunismus . (All footnotes are the translator’s) 2) Maurice Blanchot, The Space of Literature , trans. Ann Smock. Lincoln/London: University of Nebraska Press (1989), 75. 3) Mettes uses the word “Neerlandicus,” which refers to scholars of Dutch language and literature. 4) Dutch poet. 5) Gertrude Stein. “Composition as Explanation.” A Stein Reader . Ed. Ulla E. Dydo. Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press (1993), 495-503. 6) Ezra Pound. 7) Flemish poet. 8) “Resounding an original sound in the language of the despondent.” A. Roland Holst, De afspraak . 9) Dutch poet. 10) “Only such a confusion is a chaos which can give rise to a world.” 11) W.B. Yeats, “Adam’s Curse.&rdquo. (shrink)
This is the text of my comments on the project of dynamic semantics for the session on that topic at the Central Division APA meeting on April 21, 2007. The other speakers were Jeroen Groenendijk, Frank Veltman and Thony Gillies. I question the philosophical basis for dynamic semantics. My doubts have to do with the nature of information states and the norms of semantics. I also question the data that inspire the project. In particular, I question the data concerning (...) presupposition and the data concerning modal operators and conditionals. (shrink)
Like David Silver before them, Erik Baldwin and Michael Thune argue that the facts of religious pluralism present an insurmountable challenge to the rationality of basic exclusive religious belief as construed by Reformed Epistemology. I will show that their argument is unsuccessful. First, their claim that the facts of religious pluralism make it necessary for the religious exclusivist to support his exclusive beliefs with significant reasons is one that the reformed epistemologist has the resources to reject. Secondly, they fail to (...) demonstrate that it is impossible for basic exclusive religious beliefs to return to their properly basic state after defeaters against them have been defeated. Finally, I consider whether there is perhaps a similar but better argument in the neighbourhood and conclude in the negative. Reformed Epistemology’s defence of exclusivism thus remains undefeated. (shrink)
Presentation times of study words presented in the Deese/Roediger and McDermott (DRM) paradigm varied from 20 to 2000 ms per word in an attempt to replicate the false memory effect following extremely short presentations reported by . Both in a within-subjects design (Experiment 1) and in a between-subjects design (Experiment 2) subjects showed memory for studied words as well as a false memory effect for related critical lures in the 2000-ms condition. However, in the conditions with shorter presentation times (20 (...) ms in Experiment 1; 20 and 40 ms in Experiment 2) no memory for studied words, nor a false memory effect was found. We argue that there is at present no strong evidence supporting the claim for a nonconscious basis of the false memory effect. (shrink)
This paper is devoted to the formulation and investigation of a dynamic semantic interpretation of the language of ﬁrst-order predicate logic. The resulting system, which will be referred to as ‘dynamic predicate logic’, is intended as a ﬁrst step towards a compositional, non-representational theory of discourse semantics. In the last decade, various theories of discourse semantics have emerged within the paradigm of model-theoretic semantics. A common feature of these theories is a tendency to do away with the principle of compositionality, (...) a principle which, implicitly or explicitly, has dominated semantics since the days of Frege. Therefore the question naturally arises whether non-compositionality is in any way a necessary feature of discourse semantics. Since we subscribe to the interpretation of compositionality as constituting primarily a methodological principle, we consider this to be a methodological rather than an empirical question. As a consequence, the emphasis in the present paper lies on developing an alternative compositional semantics of discourse, which is empirically equivalent to its non-compositional brethren, but which diﬀers from them in a principled methodological way. Hence, no attempts are made to improve on existing theories empirically. Nevertheless, as we indicate in section 5, the development of a compositional alternative may in the end have empirical consequences, too. First of all, it can be argued that the dynamic view on interpretation developed in this paper suggests natural and relatively easy to formulate extensions which enable one to deal with a wider range of phenomena than can be dealt with in existing theories. Moreover, the various approaches to the model-theoretic semantics of discourse that have been developed during the last decade, have constituted a ‘fresh start’ in the sense that much of what had been accomplished before was ignored, at least for a start. Of course, this is a justiﬁed strategy if one feels one is trying to develop a radically diﬀerent approach to recalcitrant problems. However, there comes a time when such new approaches have to be compared with the older one, and when an assessment of the pros and cons of each has to be made. One of the main problems in semantics today, we feel, is that a semantic theory such as Montague grammar, and an approach like Kamp’s discourse representation theory, are hard to compare, let alone that it is possible to unify their insights and results.. (shrink)
Pluralism with respect to the structure of explanations of facts is not uncommon. Wesley Salmon, for instance, distinguished two types of explanation: causal explanations (which provide insight in the causes of the fact we want to explain) and unification explanations (which fit the explanandum into a unified world view). The pluralism which Salmon and others have defended is compatible with several positions about the exact relation between these two types of explanations. We distinguish four such positions, and argue in favour (...) of one of them. We also compare our results with the views of some authors who have recently written on this subject. (shrink)
Technical artifacts have the capacity to fulfill their function in virtue of their physicochemical make-up. An explanation that purports to explicate this relation between artifact function and structure can be called a technological explanation. It might be argued, and Peter Kroes has in fact done so, that there issomething peculiar about technological explanations in that they are intrinsically normative in some sense. Since the notion of artifact function is a normative one (if an artifact has a proper function, it ought (...) to behave in specific ways) an explanation of an artifact’s function must inherit this normativity.In this paper I will resist this conclusion by outlining and defending a ‘buck-passing account’ of the normativity of technological explanations. I will first argue that it is important to distinguish properly between (1) a theory of function ascriptions and (2) an explanation of how a function is realized. The task of the former is to spell out the conditions under which one is justified in ascribing a function to an artifact; the latter should show how the physicochemical make-up of an artifact enables it to fulfill its function. Second, I wish to maintain that a good theory of function ascriptions should account for the normativity of these ascriptions. Provided such a function theory can be formulated — as I think it can — a technological explanation may pass the normativity buck to it. Third, to flesh out these abstract claims, I show how a particular function theory — to wit, the ICE theory by Pieter Vermaas and Wybo Houkes — can be dovetailed smoothly with my own thoughts on technological explanation. (shrink)
John Turri has recently provided two problem cases for the knowledge account of assertion (KAA) to argue for the express knowledge account of assertion (EKAA). We defend KAA by explaining away the intuitions about the problem cases and by showing that our explanation is theoretically superior to EKAA.
In the literature on scientific explanation, there is a classical distinction between explanations of facts and explanations of laws. This paper is about explanations of facts. Our aim is to analyse the role of unification in explanations of this kind. We discuss five positions with respect to this role, argue for two of them and refute the three others.
Ethical issues of information and communication technologies (ICTs) are important because they can have significant effects on human liberty, happiness, their ability to lead a good life. They are also of functional interest because they can determine whether technologies are used and whether their positive potential can unfold. For these reasons policy makers are interested in finding out what these issues are and how they can be addressed. The best way of creating ICT policy that is sensitive to ethical issues (...) would be to be proactive and address such issues at early stages of the technology life cycle. The present paper uses this position as a starting point and discusses how knowledge of ethical aspects of emerging ICTs can be gained. It develops a methodology that goes beyond established futures methodologies to cater for the difficult nature of ethical issues. The paper goes on to outline some of the preliminary findings of a European research project that has applied this method. (shrink)
Thinking about Martin Stokhof as a philosopher and colleague, his formal analysis (together with Jeroen Groenendijk) of questions and question answering is the first thing that comes to mind. This work is part of a fruitful tradition that has recently spawned inquisitive semantics, and the focus on question answering in dynamic epistemic logic. The theme is still very much alive at ILLC today. Next, I am reminded of the dynamic turn in natural language semantics, of the way he and (...)Jeroen Groenendijk criticized Hans Kamp’s ideas about discourse representation, and how this led to the invention of dynamic predicate logic. Later it became clear that dynamic predicate logic can be viewed as the action part of quantified dynamic logic, invented much earlier by David Harel. This led to a connection, a semantic parallel, between the analysis of programming and the analysis of natural language. Thinking about Martin as a philosopher still longer, it is impossible to further postpone the thought of Ludwig Wittgenstein. This is the connection that I am least familiar with, so this is what I will write about, in the hope that developing my thought in writing will create a somewhat better understanding. (shrink)
In the literature on scientific explanation two types of pluralism are very common. The first concerns the distinction between explanations of singular facts and explanations of laws: there is a consensus that they have a different structure. The second concerns the distinction between causal explanations and uni.cation explanations: most people agree that both are useful and that their structure is different. In this article we argue for pluralism within the area of causal explanations: we claim that the structure of a (...) causal explanation depends on the causal structure of the relevant fragment of the world and on the interests of the explainer. (shrink)
The impact of the Internet on democracy is a widely discussed subject. Many writers view the Internet, potentially at least, as a boon to democracy and democratic practices. According to one popular theme, both e-mail and web pages give ordinary people powers of communication that have hitherto been the preserve of the relatively wealthy (Graham 1999, p. 79). So the Internet can be expected to close the influence gap between wealthy citizens and ordinary citizens, a weakness of many procedural democracies.
The meaning of sustainability is the subject of intense debate among environmental and resource economists. Perhaps no other issue separates more clearly the traditional economic view from the views of most natural scientists. The debate currently focuses on the substitutability between the economy and the environment or between “natural capital” and “manufactured capital”—a debate captured in terms of weak versus strong sustainability. In this article, we examine the various interpretations of these concepts. We conclude that natural science and economic perspectives (...) on sustainability are inconsistent. The market-based Hartwick-Solow “weak sustainability” approach is far removed from both the ecosystem-based “Holling sustainability” and the “strong sustainability” approach of Daly and others. Each of these sustainability criteria implies a specific valuation approach, and thus an ethical position, to support monetary indicators of sustainability such as a green or sustainable Gross Domestic Product (GDP). The conflict between “weak sustainability” and “strong sustainability” is more evident in the context of centralized than decentralized decision making. In particular, firms selling “services” instead of material goods and regarding the latter as “capital” leads to decisions more or less consistent with either type of sustainability. Finally, we discuss the implications of global sustainability for such open systems as regions and countries. Open systems have not been dealt with systematically for any of the sustainability criteria. (shrink)
This paper presents the first bibliometric mapping analysis of the field of computer and information ethics (C&IE). It provides a map of the relations between 400 key terms in the field. This term map can be used to get an overview of concepts and topics in the field and to identify relations between information and communication technology concepts on the one hand and ethical concepts on the other hand. To produce the term map, a data set of over thousand articles (...) published in leading journals and conference proceedings in the C&IE field was constructed. With the help of various computer algorithms, key terms were identified in the titles and abstracts of the articles and co-occurrence frequencies of these key terms were calculated. Based on the co-occurrence frequencies, the term map was constructed. This was done using a computer program called VOSviewer. The term map provides a visual representation of the C&IE field and, more specifically, of the organization of the field around three main concepts, namely privacy, ethics, and the Internet. (shrink)
One thing about technical artefacts that needs to be explained is how their physical make-up, or structure, enables them to fulfil the behaviour associated with their function, or, more colloquially, how they work. In this paper I develop an account of such explanations based on the familiar notion of mechanistic explanation. To accomplish this, I (1) outline two explanatory strategies that provide two different types of insight into an artefact’s functioning, and (2) show how human action inevi- tably plays a (...) role in artefact explanation. I then use my own account to criticize other recent work on mechanistic explanation and conclude with some general implications for the philosophy of explanation. (shrink)
Why did Einstein tirelessly study unified field theory for more than 30 years? In this book, the author argues that Einstein believed he could find a unified theory of all of nature's forces by repeating the methods he used when he formulated general relativity. The book discusses Einstein's route to the general theory of relativity, focusing on the philosophical lessons that he learnt. It then addresses his quest for a unified theory for electromagnetism and gravity, discussing in detail his efforts (...) with Kaluza-Klein and, surprisingly, the theory of spinors. From these perspectives, Einstein's critical stance towards the quantum theory comes to stand in a new light. This book will be of interest to physicists, historians and philosophers of science. (shrink)
Ethical issues of information and communication technologies (ICTs) are important because they can have significant effects on human liberty, happiness, and people’s ability to lead a good life. They are also of functional interest because they can determine whether technologies are used and whether their positive potential can unfold. For these reasons, policy makers are interested in finding out what these issues are and how they can be addressed. The best way of creating ICT policy that is sensitive to ethical (...) issues pertain to being proactive in addressing such issues at an early stage of the technology life cycle. The present paper uses this position as a starting point and discusses how knowledge of ethical aspects of emerging ICTs can be gained. It develops a methodology that goes beyond established futures methodologies to cater for the difficult nature of ethical issues. The authors outline how the description of emerging ICTs can be used for an ethical analysis. (shrink)
When scientist investigate why things happen, they aim at giving an explanation. But what does a scientific explanation look like? In the first chapter (Theories of Scientific Explanation) of this book, the milestones in the debate on how to characterize scientific explanations are exposed. The second chapter (How to Study Scientific Explanation?) scrutinizes the working-method of three important philosophers of explanation, Carl Hempel, Philip Kitcher and Wesley Salmon and shows what went wrong. Next, it is the responsibility of current philosophers (...) of explanation to go on where Hempel, Kitcher and Salmon failed. However, we should go on in a clever way. We call this clever way the pragmatic approach to scientific explanation and clarify briefly what this approach consists in. The third chapter (A Toolbox for Describing and Evaluating Explanatory Practices) elaborates the pragmatic approach by presenting a toolbox for analysing scientific explanation. In the last chapter (Examples of Descriptions and Evaluations of Explanatory Practices) the approach is illustrated with real-life examples of scientists aiming at explaining. (shrink)
Instances of explanatory reduction are often advocated on metaphysical grounds; given that the only real things in the world are subatomic particles and their interaction, we have to try to explain everything in terms of the laws of physics. In this paper, we show that explanatory reduction cannot be defended on metaphysical grounds. Nevertheless, indispensability arguments for reductive explanations can be developed, taking into account actual scientific practice and the role of epistemic interests. Reductive explanations might be indispensable to address (...) some epistemic interest answering a specific explanation-seeking question in the most accurate, adequate and efficient way. Just like explanatory pluralists often advocate the indispensability of higher levels of explanation pointing at the pragmatic value of the explanatory information obtained on these higher levels, we argue that explanatory reduction—traditionally understood as the contender of pluralism—can be defended in a similar way. The pragmatic value reductionist, lower level explanations might have in the biomedical sciences and the social sciences is illustrated by some case studies. (shrink)
In this article ethical issues are discussed which play a role in pharmacogenetics. Developments in pharmacogenetics have a large impact on many different practices such as clinical trials, the practice of medicine and society at large. In clinical trials, questions rise regarding the exclusion of genetic subgroups that may be non- or poor-responders to the experimental drug. Also, the question is asked how pharmaceutical companies should deal with their growing knowledge about the relations between genetic variation and adverse effects. Moreover, (...) pharmacogenetics may provide disease-specific predictive information which may have a significant impact on the relations between physicians, patients and their relatives in the practice of medicine. Here, issues also arise regarding responsibility of patients and physicians for health and disease. In the society at large, the high costs of new pharmacogenetic possibilities lead to questions concerning solidarity and fair distribution on a national as well as an international level. It is concluded that in the near future, ethical research should be focused on the themes responsibility, inclusion and exclusion and global justice. (shrink)
In a recent paper on realism and pragmatism published in this journal, Osmo Kivinen and Tero Piiroinen have been pleading for more methodological work in the philosophy of the social sciences—refining the conceptual tools of social scientists—and less philosophically ontological theories. Following this de-ontologizing approach, we scrutinize the debates on social explanation and contribute to the development of a pragmatic social science methodology. Analyzing four classic debates concerning explanation in the social sciences, we propose to shift the debate away from (...) (a) the ontologizing defenses of forms of social explanation, and (b) a winner-takes-all-approach. Instead, we advocate (c) a pragmatic approach towards social explanation, elaborating a rigorous framework for explanatory pluralism detached from the debates on social ontology. (shrink)
Explanatory pluralism is the view that the best form and level of explanation depends on the kind of question one seeks to answer by the explanation, and that in order to answer all questions in the best way possible, we need more than one form and level of explanation. In the first part of this article, we argue that explanatory pluralism holds for the medical sciences, at least in theory. However, in the second part of the article we show that (...) medical research and practice is actually not fully and truly explanatory pluralist yet. Although the literature demonstrates a slowly growing interest in non-reductive explanations in medicine, the dominant approach in medicine is still methodologically reductionist. This implies that non-reductive explanations often do not get the attention they deserve. We argue that the field of medicine could benefit greatly by reconsidering its reductive tendencies and becoming fully and truly explanatory pluralist. Nonetheless, trying to achieve the right balance in the search for and application of reductive and non-reductive explanations will in any case be a difficult exercise. (shrink)
We argue that nano-technology in the form of invisible tags, sensors, and Radio Frequency Identity Chips (RFIDs) will give rise to privacy issues that are in two ways different from the traditional privacy issues of the last decades. One, they will not exclusively revolve around the idea of centralization of surveillance and concentration of power, as the metaphor of the Panopticon suggests, but will be about constant observation at decentralized levels. Two, privacy concerns may not exclusively be about constraining information (...) flows but also about designing of materials and nano-artifacts such as chips and tags. We begin by presenting a framework for structuring the current debates on privacy, and then present our arguments. (shrink)
Some social scientists and philosophers (e.g., James Coleman and Jon Elster) claim that all social facts are best explained by means of a micro-explanation. They defend a micro-reductionism in the social sciences: to explain is to provide a mechanism on the individual level. The first aim of this paper is to challenge this view and defend the view that it has to be substituted for an explanatory pluralism with two components: (1) structural explanations of P-, O- and T-contrasts between social (...) facts are more efficient than the competing micro-explanations; and (2) whether a plain social fact (as opposed to a contrast) is best explained in a micro-explanation or a structural explanation depends on the explanatory interest. The second aim of the paper is to show how this explanatory pluralism is compatible with ontological individualism. This paper is motivated by our conviction that explanatory pluralism as defended by Frank Jackson and Philip Pettit is on the right track, but must be further elaborated. We want to supplement their contribution, by (1) introducing the difference between explanations of facts and explanations of contrasts; (2) giving examples from the social sciences, instead of mainly from the natural sciences or common sense knowledge; and (3) emphasizing the pragmatic relevance of explanations on different levels –social, psychological, biological, etc. – which is insufficiently done by Jackson and Pettit. (shrink)
What is the rational response to disagreement with an epistemic peer? Some say the steadfast response of holding on to your own belief can be rational; others argue that some degree of conciliation is always rationally required. I argue that only an epistemological externalist about rationality—someone who holds that the rationality of a belief is partly constituted by factors outside a subject’s cognitive perspective—can defend the steadfast view. Or at least that this is so in the kinds of idealized cases (...) of peer disagreement that take center stage in the current debate about disagreement. The argument has three steps. First, I show how rationality internalism motivates conciliationism: in view of the mutually recognized internal epistemic symmetry between peers, it would be arbitrary for either peer to hold on to her own belief. Second, I strengthen this line of thought by considering various proposed ‘symmetry breakers’ that appear to introduce a relevant asymmetry between peers, which could be used to defend the rationality of a steadfast response. I argue that none of these alleged symmetry breakers can help internalists. Third, I show how externalism does have the resources to defend steadfastness and expose how extant defenses of steadfastness implicitly rely on externalist intuitions. (shrink)