As bibliographical classification of published journal items affects the denominator in this equation, we investigated how the numerator and denominator of the impact factor (IF) equation were generated for representative journals in two categories of the Journal Citation Reports (JCR). We performed a full text search of the 1st-ranked journal in 2004 JCR category “Medicine, General and Internal” (New England Journal of Medicine, NEJM, IF = 38.570) and 61st-ranked journal (Croatian Medical Journal, CMJ, IF = 0.690), 1st-ranked journal in (...) category “Multidisciplinary Sciences” (Nature, IF = 32.182) and journal with a relative rank of CMJ (Anais da Academia Brasileira de Ciencias, AABC, IF = 0.435). Large journals published more items categorized by Web of Science (WoS) as non-research items (editorial material, letters, news, book reviews, bibliographical items, or corrections): 63% out of total 5,193 items in Nature and 81% out of 3,540 items in NEJM, compared with 31% out of 283 items in CMJ and only 2 (2%) out of 126 items in AABC. Some items classified by WoS as non-original contained original research data (9.5% in Nature, 7.2% in NEJM, 13.7% in CMJ and none in AABC). These items received a significant number of citations: 6.9% of total citations in Nature, 14.7% in NEJM and 18.5% in CMJ. IF decreased for all journals when only items presenting original research and citations to them were used for IF calculation. Regardless of the journal’s size or discipline, publication of non-original research and its classification by the bibliographical database have an effect on both numerator and denominator of the IF equation. (shrink)
As bibliographical classification of published journal items affects the denominator in this equation, we investigated how the numerator and denominator of the impact factor (IF) equation were generated for representative journals in two categories of the Journal Citation Reports (JCR). We performed a full text search of the 1st-ranked journal in 2004 JCR category “Medicine, General and Internal” ( New England Journal of Medicine , NEJM , IF = 38.570) and 61st-ranked journal ( Croatian Medical Journal , CMJ , (...) IF = 0.690), 1st-ranked journal in category “Multidisciplinary Sciences” ( Nature , IF = 32.182) and journal with a relative rank of CMJ ( Anais da Academia Brasileira de Ciencias , AABC , IF = 0.435). Large journals published more items categorized by Web of Science (WoS) as non-research items (editorial material, letters, news, book reviews, bibliographical items, or corrections): 63% out of total 5,193 items in Nature and 81% out of 3,540 items in NEJM , compared with 31% out of 283 items in CMJ and only 2 (2%) out of 126 items in AABC . Some items classified by WoS as non-original contained original research data (9.5% in Nature , 7.2% in NEJM , 13.7% in CMJ and none in AABC ). These items received a significant number of citations: 6.9% of total citations in Nature , 14.7% in NEJM and 18.5% in CMJ . IF decreased for all journals when only items presenting original research and citations to them were used for IF calculation. Regardless of the journal’s size or discipline, publication of non-original research and its classification by the bibliographical database have an effect on both numerator and denominator of the IF equation. (shrink)
In addition to thin concepts like the good, the bad and the ugly, our evaluative thought and talk appeals to thick concepts like the lewd and the rude, the selfish and the cruel, the courageous and the kind -- concepts that somehow combine evaluation and non-evaluative description. Thick concepts are almost universally assumed to be inherently evaluative in content, and many philosophers claimed them to have deep and distinctive significance in ethics and metaethics. In this first book-length treatment of thick (...) concepts, Pekka Väyrynen argues that all this is mistaken. Through detailed attention to the language of thick concepts, he defends a novel theory on which the relationship between thick words and evaluation is best explained by general conversational and pragmatic norms. Drawing on general principles in philosophy of language, he argues that many prominent features of thick words and concepts can be explained by general factors that have nothing in particular to do with being evaluative. If evaluation is not essential to the sort of thinking we do with thick concepts, claims for the deep and distinctive significance of the thick are undermined. The Lewd, the Rude and the Nasty is a fresh and innovative treatment of an important topic in moral philosophy and sets a new agenda for future work. It will be essential reading to anyone interested in the analysis and the broader philosophical significance of evaluative and normative language. (shrink)
Rudeness is normally viewed as a moral failing, but there are times when it is excusable or even justified. In this article I propose a definition of the concept that helps us ascertain whether, why, and to what extent a rude action is blameworthy or excusable. I consider the most common sorts of circumstance in which rudeness is morally acceptable, and I argue that the perceived increase in rudeness is, in large part, a consequence of our living in a dynamic (...) society where egalitarian attitudes challenge established hierarchies. (shrink)
Consider the following exchanges: 1. Gerda: So you believe that all belief is the product of custom and circumstance (or: childhood buffets, class struggle...). Isn't that position self-limiting? Mustn't you see yourself as reflecting only a single complex of circumstances? Grobian: Your objection is inapplicable, for it is merely the product of blind forces. Moreover, your childhood buffets were pernicious and regrettable, for they have set you against this truth.
In this paper I present and discuss the main objections of France Veber (1890- 1975) against mathematical logic in general and the work of Mihael Marki (1864-1939), the first modern logician in Slovenia, in particular. Marki tried to develop an algebra of logic in the spirit of Boole and Schröder, and thereby to provide an axiomatic system of syllogistics with the least number of axioms. Veber's general objection to this project was that it tries to represent the essential qualitative (...) properties of judgements and inferences in quantitative (extensional) terms. Veber also criticized the subject-predicate analysis of judgements and eventually rejected the whole idea of logic as being a calculus, with judgements being treated like equations and inferences like operations in a calculus. Although much in this criticism - which is in certain respects similar to Husserl's reservations about a complete "mathematisation" of logic - is unfounded and misguided, the attack on the idea of logic being essentially a calculus is still interesting and relevant today. This idea is a symptom of a philosophical "desease" resulting from a one-sided "diet", as Wittgenstein put it. Thus one can agree with Veber to the extent that logic has to take into account the meaning of sentences, not just their symbolic form, and that it is therefore an "art" which can never be fully formalized, requiring much more "understanding" than usually thought. (shrink)
Many theorists hold that there is, among value concepts, a fundamental distinction between thin ones and thick ones. Among thin ones are concepts like good and right. Among concepts that have been regarded as thick are discretion, caution, enterprise, industry, assiduity, frugality, economy, good sense, prudence, discernment, treachery, promise, brutality, courage, coward, lie, gratitude, lewd, perverted, rude, glorious, graceful, exploited, and, of course, many others. Roughly speaking, thick concepts are value concepts with significant descriptive content. I will discuss a number (...) of problems having to do with how best to understand the notion of a thick concept. Thick concepts have been widely discussed in the .. (shrink)
This paper argues that an emotion is a state of affectively perceiving its intentional object as falling under a "thick affective concept" A, a concept that combines cognitive and affective aspects in a way that cannot be pulled apart. For example, in a state of pity an object is seen as pitiful, where to see something as pitiful is to be in a state that is both cognitive and affective. One way of expressing an emotion is to assert that the (...) intentional object of the emotion falls under the thick affective concept distinctive of the emotion. I argue that the most basic kind of moral judgment is is this category. It has the form "That is A" (pitiful, contemptible, rude, etc.). Such judgments combine the features of cognitivism and motivational judgment internalism, an advantage that explains why we find moral weakness problematic in spite of its ubiquity. I then outline a process I call "thinning" the judgment, which explains how moral strength, weakness, and apathy arise. I argue that this process is necessary for moral reasoning and communication, in spite of its disadvantage in disengaging the agent's motivating emotion from the judgment. (shrink)
Logic begins but does not end with the study of truth and falsity. Within truth there are the modes of truth, ways of being true: necessary truth and contingent truth. When a proposition is true, we may ask whether it could have been false. If so, then it is contingently true. If not, then it is necessarily true; it must be true; it could not have been false. Falsity has modes as well: a false proposition that could not have been (...) true is impossible or necessarily false; one that could have been true is merely contingently false. The proposition that some humans are over seven feet tall is contingently true; the proposition that all humans over seven feet tall are over six feet tall is necessarily true; the proposition that some humans are over seven feet tall and under six feet tall is impossible, and the proposition that some humans are over nine feet tall is contingently false. Of these four modes of truth, let us focus on necessity, plus a fifth: possibility. A proposition is possible if it is or could have been true; hence propositions that are either necessarily true, contingently true, or contingently false are possible. Notions that are similar to the modes of truth in being concerned with what might have been are called modal. Dispositions are modal notions, for example the disposition of fragility. Relatedly, there are counterfactual conditionals, for example “if this glass were dropped, it would break.” And the notion of supervenience is modal.1 But let us focus here on necessity and possibility. Modal words are notoriously ambiguous (or at least context-sensitive2). I may reply to an invitation to give a talk in England by saying “I can’t come; I have to give a talk in California the day before”. This use of “can’t” is perfectly appropriate. But it would be equally appropriate for me to say that I could cancel my talk in California (although that would be rude) and give the talk in England instead. What I cannot do is give both talks.. (shrink)
continent. 1.2 (2011): 78-91. This article consists of three parts. First, I will review the major themes of Quentin Meillassoux’s After Finitude . Since some of my readers will have read this book and others not, I will try to strike a balance between clear summary and fresh critique. Second, I discuss an unpublished book by Meillassoux unfamiliar to all readers of this article, except those scant few that may have gone digging in the microfilm archives of the École normale (...) supérieure. The book in question is Meillassoux’s revised doctoral dissertation L’Inexistence divine (or The Divine Inexistence ), with its seemingly bizarre vision of a God who does not yet exist but might exist in the future. Without literally accepting this view, I will claim that it is philosophically interesting in ways that even a hardened sceptic might be able to appreciate. Third and finally, I will speculate on the possible future of Meillassoux’s speculative materialism itself. And here I mean its future development not by Meillassoux, but by those readers who might be inspired by his book. Plato could never have predicted the emergence of Aristotle’s philosophy, despite the obvious debt of the latter to the former. Nor could Descartes have predicted Spinoza and Leibniz, nor Kant the German Idealists, and neither could Husserl in 1901 have foreseen the later emergence of Heidegger. How are the works of interesting philosophers transformed by later thinkers of comparable importance? While it may seem that there are countless ways to do this, I think there are only two basic ways in which this happens: you can radicalize your predecessors, or you can reverse them. I will close this article with a few words about these two methods, and try to imagine how Meillassoux might be radicalized or reversed by some future admirer. My view is that the more important thinkers are, the easier they are to radicalize or reverse. This helps explain why the great philosophers of the West have so often appeared in clusters, succeeding one another at relatively brief intervals during periods of especial ferment. 1. After Finitude After Finitude is unusually short for such an influential book of philosophy: running to just 178 pages in the original French, and an even more compact 128 pages in the English version, despite the introduction of roughly eight pages of new material for the English edition. Rather than summarizing Meillassoux’s book in the order he intended, I will focus on six points that strike me as the pillars of his debut book. Along the way, I will offer a few criticisms as well. The first pillar of the book is Meillassoux’s own term “correlationism.”1 Although he introduces this term as the name for an enemy, it is striking that Meillassoux remains impressed by correlationism much more than his fellow speculative realists are. This continued appreciation for his great enemy influences the shape of his own ontology. Is there a world outside our thinking of it, or does the world consist entirely in being thought? Traditionally, this dispute between realism and idealism has been dismissed in continental philosophy as a “pseudo-problem,” in a strategy pioneered by Husserl and extended by Heidegger. We cannot be realists, since following Kant we have no direct access to things-in-themselves. But neither are we idealists, since the human being is always already outside itself, aiming at objects in intentional experience, deeply engaged with practical implements, or stationed in some particular world-disclosing mood. The centuries-old dispute between realism and idealism is dissolved by saying that we cannot think either real or ideal in isolation from the other. There is neither human without world nor world without human, but only a primordial correlation or rapport between the two. This is what “correlationism” means: philosophy trapped in a permanent meditation on the human-world correlate, trying to find the best model of the correlate: is it language, intentionality, embodiment, or some other form of correlation between human and world? Among other problems, this generates some friction between philosophy and the literal meaning of science. When cosmologists say that the universe originated 13.5 billion years ago, they do not mean “13.5 billion years ago for us ,” but literally 13.5 billion years ago, well before conscious life existed, and thus at a time when there was no such thing as a correlate. Meillassoux also coins the term “ancestrality” (10) for the reality that predated the correlate, and later expands this term to “dia-chronicity,” (112) to refer to events occurring after the extinction of human beings no less than to those occurring before we existed. Up to this point, Meillassoux’s focus on ancestral entities existing prior to consciousness might seem like a straightforward realist who wants to unmask correlationism as just another form of idealism. Yet Meillassoux also admires the correlationist maneuver, which can obviously be traced back to Kant. Unlike a thinker such as Whitehead, Meillassoux feels no nostalgia for the pre-critical realism that came before Kant: “we cannot but be heirs of Kantianism,” he says (29). What impresses Meillassoux about correlationism is something both simple and familiar. If we attempt to think a tree outside thought, this is itself a thought . Any form of realism which thinks it can simply and directly address the world the way it is fails to escape the correlational circle, since the attempt to think something outside of thought is itself nothing other than a thought, and thereby collapses back into the very human-world correlate that it pretends to escape. For Meillassoux this step, suggested by Kant but first refined by the ensuing figures of German Idealism, marks decisive forward progress in the history of philosophy that must not be abolished. Any attempt to break free from the correlate must first acknowledge its mighty intellectual power. Realist though he may seem, Meillassoux’s works are filled with praise of such figures as Fichte and Hegel, not of so-called “naïve realists.” It is also the case that for Meillassoux, not all correlationisms are the same. The second pillar of his book is a distinction between various positions that I have termed “Meillassoux’s Spectrum,” though of course he is never so immodest as to name it after himself. He distinguishes between at least six different possible positions, and perhaps we could add even subtler variations if we wished. But in its simplest form, Meillassoux’s Spectrum allows for just four basic outlooks on the question of realism vs. anti-realism. Three of these are easy to understand, since we have already been discussing them. At one extreme is so-called “naïve realism,” which holds that a world exists outside the mind, and that we can know this world. Meillassoux rejects this naïve realism as having been overthrown by Kant’s critical philosophy. At the other extreme is subjective idealism, in which nothing exists outside the mind. For to think a dog outside thought immediately turns it into a thought, and therefore there cannot be anything outside; the very notion is meaningless. In between these two is what we have called correlationism. And here comes a crucial moment for Meillassoux, since he distinguishes between the two forms of “weak” and “strong” correlationism, and chooses the strong form as the launching pad for his own philosophy. Weak correlationism is easy to explain, since we all know it from the philosophy of Kant. The things-in-themselves can be thought but not known. They certainly must exist, since there cannot be appearances without something that appears. And we can think about them, which idealism holds to be impossible. They are simply unknowable due to the finitude of human thought. Strong correlationism is the new position introduced by Meillassoux (though he sees it at work in numerous twentieth century thinkers), midway between weak correlationism and subjective idealism. The major difference between the three positions is as follows. Weak correlationism says: “The things-in-themselves exist, but we cannot know them.” The subjective idealist says: “This is a contradiction in terms, since when we think the things-in-themselves, we already turn them into thoughts.” But the strong correlationist says: “Just because ‘things-in-themselves’ is a meaningless notion does not mean that they cannot exist. No one has ever traveled to the world-in-itself and come back to make a report on it. Thus, the fact that we cannot think things-in-themselves without contradiction does not prove that they do not exist anyway. There may be things-in-themselves, we simply are not capable of thinking them without contradiction form within the correlational circle.” This step is crucial for Meillassoux, since strong correlationism is the position he attempts to radicalize into his own new standpoint: speculative materialism. As I see it, this step of the argument fails. Strong correlationism cannot avoid collapsing into subjective idealism, since the statements of the strong correlationist are rendered meaningless from within. All three of the other positions in the Spectrum make perfectly good sense even for those who disagree with them. The naïve realist says that things-in-themselves exist and we can know them; the meaning of this statement is clear. The weak correlationist can say that things-in-themselves exist but lie forever beyond our grasp; this too makes perfect sense, even though the German Idealists try to show a contradiction at work here. We can also understand the claim of the subjective idealist that to think anything outside thought turns it into a thought, and that for this reason we cannot think the unthought. The strong correlationist, alone among the four, speaks nonsense . This person says “I cannot think the unthought without turning it into a thought, and yet the unthought might exist anyway.” But notice that the final phrase “the unthought might exist anyway” is fruitless for this purpose. For we have already heard that to think any unthought turns it into a thought. But now the strong correlationist wants to do two incompatible things simultaneously with this unthought. On the one hand, he neutralizes the unthought by showing that it instantly changes into just another thought. But on the other hand, he wants to appeal to the unthought as a haunting residue that might exist outside thought, thereby undercutting the absolute status of the human-world correlate found in idealism. But this is impossible. If you accept the argument that thinking the unthought turns it into a thought, you cannot also add “but maybe there is something outside that prevents this conversion from being absolutely true,” because this “something outside” is immediately converted into nothing but a thought for us. In short, Meillassoux here seems to be offering a kind of Zen koan: his “strong correlationism” is reminiscent of the gateless gate, or the sound of one hand clapping, or the command to punch Hegel in the jaw when meeting him on the road. We cannot at the same time both destroy the realist challenge of the things-in-themselves in order to undercut realism and reintroduce that very realist sense in order to undercut idealism. In a world where everything is instantly converted into thought, we cannot claim that there might be something extra-mental anyway, because this “might be something” is itself converted into a thought by the same rules that condemned dogs, trees, and houses to the idealist prison. This brings us to the third pillar of Meillassoux’s argument, which is the key to all the rest: the necessity of contingency. His strategy is to transform our supposed ignorance of things-in-themselves into an absolute knowledge that they exist without reason, and that the laws of nature can change at any time for no reason at all. In this way the cautious agnosticism of Kantian philosophies is avoided, but so is the collapse of reality into thought as found in German Idealism. Meillassoux does try to prove the existence of things-in-themselves existing outside thought; he simply holds that they must be proven after passing through the rigors of the correlationist challenge, not just arbitrarily decreed to exist in the manner of naïve realism. As he puts it, “Everything could actually collapse: from trees to stars, from stars to laws, from physical laws to logical laws; and this not by virtue of some superior law whereby everything is destined to perish, but by virtue of the absence of any superior law capable of preserving anything, no matter what, from perishing” (53). If idealism thinks that the human-world correlate is absolute, for Meillassoux it is the facticity of the correlate that is absolute. He tries to show this with a nice brief dialogue between five separate characters (55-59) which is covered in detail in my forthcoming book,2 but which I will simplify here for reasons of time. In this simplified version, we first imagine a dogmatic realist arguing with a dogmatic idealist. The realist says that we can know the truth about the things-in-themselves; the idealist counters that we can only the truth about thought, since all statements about reality must be turned into statements concerning our thoughts about reality. Here the correlationist enters and proclaims that both of these positions are equally dogmatic. For although we have access to nothing but thoughts, we cannot be sure that these thoughts are all that exist; there could be a reality outside thought, there is simply no way to know for sure. And this latter position is the one that Meillassoux attempts to transform from an agnostic, skeptical point into an ontological claim about the contingency of everything. Consider it this way. How does the correlationist defeat the idealist? The idealist holds that the existence of anything outside thought is impossible. The correlationist, by contrast, holds that something might exist outside the human-world correlate. But this “something might” has to be an absolute possibility. It cannot mean that “something outside thought might exist for thought ,” because that is what the idealist already says. No, the correlationist must mean that something might exist outside thought quite independently of thought. In other words, the correlationist says that idealism might be wrong, and this means it is absolutely true that idealism might be wrong. Thus, correlationism is no longer just a skeptical position. It holds that all the possibilities of the world are absolute possibilities. We have absolute knowledge that any of the possibilities about the existence or non-existence of things-in-themselves might be true, and this means that correlationism flips into Meillassoux’s own position: speculative materialism. As Meillassoux sees it, there are only two options here. Option A is to absolutize the human-world correlate, which is what the idealist does: there absolutely cannot be anything outside thought. Option B, by contrast, is to absolutize the facticity of the correlate: its character of simply being given to us, without any inherent necessity. The correlationist cannot have it both ways by saying: “there absolutely might be something outside thought, yet maybe this is absolutely impossible.” In other words, once we escape dogmatism we can only be idealists or speculative materialists, not correlationists. The human-world correlate is merely a fact, not an absolute necessity. But this facticity itself cannot be merely factical: it must be absolute. Here Meillassoux coins the French neologism factualité , which has been suitably translated into the English neologism “factiality.” (7, 122-3) Factialty means that for everything that exists, it is absolutely possible that it might be otherwise, not just that we cannot know whether or not it might be otherwise. Just as Kant transformed philosophy into a meditation on the categories governing human finitude, Meillassoux wishes to turn philosophy into a meditation on the necessary conditions of factiality, which he calls “figures”—a new technical term for him. (80) One such figure is that the law of non-contradiction must be true, and for an unusual reason. Since everything is proven to be contingent, nothing that exists can be contradictory, for whatever is contradictory has no opposite into which it might be transformed, and thus contingency would be impossible.3 Another such figure is that there must be something rather than nothing: for since contingency exists, something must exist in order to be contingent. It is a daring high-wire act, one that sacrifices realism to the correlational circle in order to rebuild it from out of its own ashes. Some might conclude that the lack of reason in things is a byproduct of the ignorance of finite humans, Meillassoux is making precisely the opposite point. For in fact, the doctrine of finitude usually leads directly to belief in a hidden reason. The fact that it lies beyond human comprehension merely increases our belief in this arbitrarily chosen concealed ground. By defending anew the concept of absolute knowledge Meillassoux evacuates the world of everything hidden. The reason for things having no reason is not that the reason is hidden, but that no reason exists. Thus, even while insisting on the necessity of non-contradiction, he rejects the other Leibnizian principle: sufficient reason. Everything simply is what it is, in purely immanent form, without deeply hidden causes. Or as Meillassoux puts it: “There is nothing beneath or beyond the manifest gratuitousness of the given—nothing but the limitless and lawless power of its destruction, emergence, or persistence” (63).The world is a “hyper-chaos”(64). But this is not the same thing as flux. For the chaos of the world is such that stability might occur just as easily as constant, turbulent change. Let’s now digress a bit, and return to the question of ancestrality, which Meillassoux transforms later in the book into “dia-chronicity.” Correlationism holds that all talk of a world outside the correlate is immediately recuperated by the correlate. The phrase “13.5 billion years ago” becomes “13.5 billion years ago for us ,” and the phrase “the universe following the extinction of humans” becomes “the universe following the extinction of humans for humans .” But notice that whether we talk about the world before or after humans, in both cases it is time that is used to challenge the correlate. Meillassoux has no interest in challenges that might be posed by space. For example, what about a vase in a lonely country house that topples to the floor and smashes when no one is there to watch it? Isn’t this also a challenge to correlationism, no less than the Big Bang or the heat death of the universe long after humans have vanished? In an eight-page supplement to the English translation of After Finitude ,4 possibly in response to my own 2007 review of the French original,5 Meillassoux bluntly denies that space is of any relevance to the question. Spatial distance is a merely harmless challenge to the human-world correlate. After all, even though no one is there in the lonely country house to witness the shattering of the vase, we can say that had there been an observer , that observer would have witnessed the toppling and destruction of the vase. For this event still occurs in a world in which the human-world correlate already exists, whereas the diachronicity of events both before and after the existence of humans makes it impossible to say that had there been an observer they would have witnessed the Big Bang occurring in such and such a fashion. However, it seems to me that Meillassoux merely asserts that the temporal simultaneity of our existence with that of the vase in the lonely country house is enough to render it harmless. It is true that the house does not exist prior to the correlate, but nonetheless it exists outside the correlate, and that is enough to make the same challenge. It is difficult to see why the “had there been an observer” maneuver succeeds in the case of a vase in the countryside in April 2011 but fails in the case of the Big Bang. This is not just a matter of nitpicking Meillassoux’s argumentative style: the fact that he bases his argument on time has at least two important consequences for his position. For in the first place, even though Meillassoux insists that the laws of nature are absolutely contingent, this turns out to be true only in a temporal sense. That is to say, it is a paradoxical feature of Meillassoux’s philosophy that he does allow for the existence of laws of nature, and simply believes that they can change at any moment without reason. Within any given moment, laws of nature do exist. He never suggests that different parts of the universe can have different laws at the same time, nor does he have any interest in the laws of part/whole composition that take place within any given instant. Could it be the case that rather than being made of gold atoms, a small chunk of gold could be made of silver atoms, cotton, horses, or that this same small piece of gold could be made of gigantic vaults filled with even more gold? These are not topics that draw Meillassoux’s attention, since he is focused solely on how the laws of nature might change or endure from one moment to the next . Another implication for Meillassoux’s system is that his concept of things-in-themselves turns out to be to be inadequate. For when he proves that things-in-themselves can exist without humans, this turns out to be true only in a temporal sense as well. Namely, things-in-themselves existed ten billion years ago, and they will continue to exist after all humans have succeeded in exterminating themselves. However, being able to exist before our births and after our deaths is just one small part of what it means to be a thing-in-itself. The more important part is that even if a thing is sitting on a table right now, in front of me, even if I stroke it lovingly or press my face up against it directly, I am still dealing only with a phenomenal version of the thing; the thing-in-itself continues to withdraw from all access. Yet no such thing is acknowledged by Meillassoux. For him finitude is a disaster, and absolute knowledge is in fact possible. Meillassoux’s thing-in-itself exists in independence only of the human lifespan , not of human knowledge. The fifth pillar of Meillassoux’s argument is his use of Cantor’s transfinite mathematics to show that even if the laws of nature are contingent, they need not be unstable, and thus we cannot use the apparent stability of nature to disprove his metaphysics of absolute contingency. What Cantor showed is that there are different sizes of infinity, and that all these infinities cannot be totalized in a single infinite number of infinities. Meillassoux sees this as crucial, since it allows him to discredit any “probabilistic” argument against his theory. The probabilistic argument (as defended quite clearly by Jean-René Vernes)6 would say this: given that the laws of nature seem so stable, it it is extremely improbable that there is no hidden reason for their remaining so stable. As Meillassoux sees it, probability is of value only when we can index an accessible total of cases. These can even be infinite: for example, there are an infinite number of points where a rope can break when stretched tight, but this does not stop us from calculating probabilities for various sections of the rope to break. By contrast, there is no way to sum up the number of possible laws of nature. For here there is no way to totalize; we cannot stand outside of nature and calculate the possible number of laws so as to determine the probabilities that any one of them might change. Therefore, although we can speak of probability when dealing with intraworldly events such as elections, horse races, and coin-flips, we cannot use the words “probable” or “improbable” when describing alterations at the level of nature as a whole. Rather than commenting on the validity of this argument and its use of Cantor, let me simply note that it once again creates a dualistic ontology. We already saw that Meillassoux treats time differently from space. In analogous fashion, he now treats the level of world differently from that of intraworldly events. The emergence of worlds is purely contingent and virtual and governed by no probability at all, while events within the world necessarily follow laws (even if these laws can change at any moment without reason), and thus their probabilities can be calculated. It is a strategy deeply reminiscent of Badiou’s (2005) own dualism between the normal “state of the situation” and the rare and intermittent “event.” The sixth and final pillar of Meillassoux’s book can be dealt with briefly, since we have already touched on it elsewhere. It comes at the very beginning of the book, when Meillassoux says that we must revive the distinction between primary and secondary qualities, and that the primary qualities are the ones that can be mathematized. He admits that he has not yet published a proof of this idea, though in fact it is already known as one of his primary doctrines. And here we encounter the familiar problem with Meillassoux’s inadequate conception of things-in-themselves. “Primary qualities” refers to those qualities that a thing has independently of its relations with us or anything else. But if the primary qualities can be mathematized, this means that they are not entirely independent of us, since our knowledge can get right to the bottom of them. The mathematized qualities of things are independent of us only in Meillassoux’s sense that they will still have those qualities even when all humans are dead. But to repeat, autonomy from the human lifespan is not the same as autonomy from human access. Here once more Meillassoux is concerned only with independence from the human-world correlate across time, not in any given instant. 2. L’Inexistence divine In 1997, the same year in which he turned thirty years old, Meillassoux earned his doctorate at the École normale supériuere with a brazen dissertation entitled L’Inexistence divine ( The Divine Inexistence ). The work was substantially revised in 2003. But even then, with typical fastidiousness, Meillassoux decided that the work was not yet ready for press. It has now been scrapped in favor of some future, multi-volume work bearing the same title. While writing my book on Meillassoux for Edinburgh University Press, I was permitted to translate excerpts from this unpublished work for use as an appendix in my own book; in total, the appendix contains approximately twenty percent of Meillassoux’s 2003 manuscript, the first time any of it will be published in any language. Nonetheless, a portion of the argument was already tested in the article “Spectral Dilemma,” published in English in the journal Collapse (2008: 261-75). There the philosophical motives for the virtual God are already made clear. What troubles us most are early deaths, brutal deaths, deaths of especial injustice– the sorts of deaths in which the brutal twentieth century was so abundant. And here, neither the atheist nor the believer can help us. The atheist can offer nothing but a sad and cynical resignation when reflecting on the victims of these terrible crimes. The believer does little better, being unable to explain how God could have allowed such things to happen, due to the famous intractability of the problem of evil. The solution offered to this dilemma by Meillassoux is bold, and all the more so given that he emerges from such a deeply Leftist, materialist, and unreligious background. His solution is that God does not yet exist, and therefore is not blameworthy for these catastrophes. Given that everything is contingent in Meillassoux’s philosophy, this God and divine justice might never exist, but they can at least exist as an object of hope. Let’s begin by jumping to the end of L’Inexistence divine , where the alternatives are laid out so nicely. There are four basic attitudes that humans can have towards God, Meillassoux says. First, we can believe in God because he exists. This is the classical theist attitude, rejected for the simple reason that it would be amoral and blasphemous to believe in a God who allows children to be eaten by dogs, to use Dostoevsky’s example. Second, we can disbelieve in God because he does not exist: the classical atheist attitude. But this leads to sadness, cynicism, and a sneering contempt for the greatness of human capacity. The third option, rather more complex, is to disbelieve in God because he does exist: in other words, to exist in rebellion against God as the one who must be blamed for the evils of the earth. The examples here might range from Lucifer himself, to the more human figure of Captain Ahab in Melville’s Moby-Dick , to Werner Herzog’s even more recent catchphrase, “Every man for himself, and God against all.” That leaves only the fourth option: believing in God because he does not exist. Meillassoux closes his book by saying that the fourth option has now been tried (namely, in the course of his own book), and that now that all four have been specified, we must choose. The first reaction to this theory of the inexistent God will be laughter. Few readers will ever be literally convinced by it, and probably none will immediately be convinced by it. But if we ask ourselves why we laugh, the answer is because it sounds so improbable that an inexistent God might suddenly emerge and resurrect the dead. It obviously sounds more like a gullible theology than a rigorous piece of philosophical work. Yet two things need to be kept in mind. First, Meillassoux’s theories are hardly more unlikely than those of great philosophers of the past such as Plato, Plotinus, Avicenna, Malebranche, Spinoza, Leibniz, Nietzsche, or Whitehead. We read the great philosophers not because their systems are plausible in commonsense terms that can be measured by the laws of probability. Instead, we read them precisely because they shatter the existing framework of common sense and open up new window on the universe. Second, and even more importantly, Meillassoux has already rejected probability as a valid measuring stick in philosophy. Or rather, he accepts probability in the intra-worldly realm (where it is linked with potentiality), and rejects it at the level of the world itself (where potentiality is replaced with what he calls virtuality). The virtual God can appear at any moment for no reason at all, just as any other new configuration of laws of nature can appear: in a manner that the laws of probability cannot calculate. Responding to those who might ridicule the idea of a sudden emergence of God and a resurrection of the dead, Meillassoux cites Pascal, who asserts that the resurrection of the dead would be far less incredible than the fact that we were born in the first place. This shifts philosophy onto new ground. Rather than concerning ourselves with what is likely to happen in the world as we know it, we focus instead on the most important things that could happen. For this reason, the expected objection that a virtual God is no more likely to appear than a virtual unicorn or a virtual flying spaghetti monster misses the point. Unicorns and spaghetti monsters could also appear, just like any other non-contradictory thing. But these would just be novel bizarre entities among others, not the heralds of completely new worlds. For Meillassoux, the emergence of matter, life, and thought have been the three truly amazing advents of the world so far, each of them dependent on the advent(s) preceding them. As he sees it, there can be no greater intraworldly entity than the human beings who already exist, since nothing in the world is better than the absolute knowledge of which humans alone are capable. This means that the next great advent must be something that perfects human beings rather than superseding them. And this can only be the world of justice, in which the dead are resurrected and their horrible deaths partially cancelled (Meillassoux never considers the possibility of a God who would literally erase the pre-divine past so that it never happened at all). The only immortality worth having is an immortality of this life, not an existence in some ill-defined afterworld. Human existence, he holds, must always be governed by a “symbol” that gives us the “immanent and comprehensible inscription of values in a world.” And just as cosmic history made the three great contingent leaps of matter, life, and thought, with a leap to justice as the only one still to come, a similar structure occurs within human culture and its symbols, which consist so far of the cosmological, naturalistic, and historical symbols, with a “factial” symbol still to come. We can review each of these symbols briefly. The cosmological symbol refers to the ancient dualism between the terrestrial and celestial spheres. Here below everything is conflict, corruption, and decay; but in the heavens nothing is perishable, all movement is circular, and everything is arranged in mutual harmony. This symbol is ended by modern physics when Galileo discovers such blemishes as sunspots and craters on the moon, and when Newton integrates both celestial and terrestrial movement into a single gravitational law. Next comes the naturalistic or romantic symbol, in which perfection comes not from the sky but from nature itself. The world is filled with pretty flowers (Meillassoux claims that the ancients never discussed the beauty of flowers until Plotinus in the third century) and with living creatures naturally moved by pity, at least until society corrupts them. This symbol collapses in the face of reality as we know it, since pity is no more common than war, corruption, and violence. This brings us to the historical symbol, which only now is passing away. Bad things may happen, but history has an inner logic of its own, such that everything works out in the end. The ultimate form of the historical symbol is the economic symbol, whether in a Marxist or neo-liberal form. Just as the Marxist holds that the inner economic logic of the capitalists will inexorably lead them to self-destruction, the neo-liberal assumes that the sum total of individual selfish actions will lead, in the long run, to the greatest possible good. We worship the economy and let it guide history for us, just as the ancients worshipped celestial bodies and held them to be free from blemish. The final remaining symbol is the factial symbol, which Meillassoux hopes will now emerge. Factiality, we recall, is his term for the absolute contingency of everything that exists. Once we have grasped this absolute contingency, we are free to expect the dramatic advent of the coming fourth World: the world of justice, inaugurated by a virtual God and even mediated by a messianic human figure. There is the added feature, however, that this messiah must abandon all claims to special status once the messianic realm of justice is achieved. The messianic figure will then be no more special than any person on the street, since a reign of human equality will have arisen. Although this focus on human being might seem like a return to standard humanism, Meillassoux holds that human pre-eminence has never truly been maintained. Previously, humans have been treated as special only because they contemplate the Good, because they resemble their omnipotent creator, or because they happen to be the temporary victors in a cruel Darwinian death-match between millions of living species. For Meillassoux, by contrast, humans have value because they know the eternal. But it is not the eternal that is important, since this merely represents the blind, anonymous contingency of each thing. What is important is not knowledge of the eternal , but knowledge of the eternal. We should not admire Prometheus for stealing fire from the gods; Prometheus is simply as bad as all the gods, no matter how much he increased our power. Feuerbach and Marx were wrong to say that God is a projection of the human essence, since for Meillassoux the usual concept of God represents the degradation of the human essence. If the traditional God was allowed to inflict plagues and tsunamis on the human race, the Promethean human of the twentieth century simply assumes the right to inflict death camps and atomic fireballs instead. In this respect, we have simply begun to imitate the degradation of humanity that was formerly invested in an omnipotent and arbitrary God. In response to charges that absolute contingency might lead to political quietism, Meillassoux counters that the World of justice would mean nothing unless we had already hoped for it beforehand. A World of justice that came along at random would merely be an improved third World of thought: indeed, a perfect one. But it would have satisfied no craving, and would therefore have no redemptive power. For this reason, we must actively hope for the fourth World of justice for such a fourth World ever to arise. Not only justice, but beauty is dependent on such hope: for Meillassoux, who is here somewhat dependent on Kant, beauty means an accord between our human symbolization and the actual world, which could never be present in a World of the blessed any more than justice could. And just as a messianic figure is needed to incarnate our hope and then abandon power once the World of justice is realized, it is the figure of the child whose fragile contingency shows us a dignity and a demand for justice beyond all power. 3. Meillassoux Radicalized or Reversed Given the promising reception of Meillassoux’s first book, it would not be groundless to engage in early speculation about what it might take to earn him a place in the history of philosophy. Maybe this will never happen—who knows?—but quite possibly it will: his lucid argumentative methods and sheer philosophical imagination at least make him a good candidate to be read well into the future, especially following further elaboration in print of his mature system. Philosophy is often practiced as thought it were nothing more than the amassing of “knockdown arguments.” But this is no more insightful than saying that good architecture is the amassing of steal beams. It is true that poorly constructed building cannot stand for long, but sound construction is merely the first, indispensable step in building. In fact, I am inclined to say that what really makes a philosopher important is not being right, but being wrong . I mean this in a very specific sense. I once heard the interesting remark about twentieth century culture that “you have to remember that the sixties really happened in the seventies.” That is to say, it was in the 1970’s rather than the more honored 1960’s that civil rights, free love, long hair, and the rock and roll drug culture really took root. With respect to the history of philosophy, we might just as easily say: “you have to remember that Plato really happened in Aristotle,” that “Kant really happened in Hegel” or “Hume really happened in Kant,” or that “Husserl’s phenomenology first achieved its truth in Heidegger.” One becomes an important philosopher not by being right, but by attracting rebellious admirers who tell you that you are wrong , even as their own careers silently orbit around your own. To recruit faithful disciples may be comforting and flattering, but the greatest thinkers have generally had to experience refutation at the hands of their most talented heirs. For this reason, I would propose that we size up the magnitude of living thinkers not by deciding how many times they are right and wrong, but by asking instead: who would take the trouble to refute this author? For this reason I do not ask: “Is Meillassoux right?”, since I do not believe in the virtual God myself, nor am I convinced by any important aspect of Meillassoux’s philosophy. Instead, I ask if there are interesting ways to overturn him. Only by being overturned, by no longer remaining a contemporary, does one become a classic. Let’s begin with a simple model of refutation, which can be refined further at a later date once the basic point is established. One kind of refutation simply consists in saying: “This author is a complete idiot.” The refuter now walks away in celebration, and no link between the present and the future is built; all is reduced to rubble. But this sort of mediocre triumphalism is generally practiced by those who achieve little of their own, and is not especially interesting. Much more interesting is the sort of refutation that does not take its target to be a complete idiot. I would like to suggest that there are just two basic ways in which this can be done: radicalization and reversal . It has not escaped my notice that this is a fairly good match for the Deleuzian distinction between irony and humor. Whereas irony critiques and adopts the opposite principle of what it attacks, humor accepts what it confronts but pushes it into highly exaggerated form. The ironist is like the worker who sows chaos by rebeling and contradicting the boss, while the humorist is like the worker who follows orders to an absurdly literal degree, with equally chaotic results. Let’s start with a few examples. In Aristotle’s treatment of Plato, and Heidegger’s of Husserl, we find reversal. Plato’s eidei are transformed by Aristotle into mere secondary substances, and the individual worldly things despised by Plato become what is primary. For Husserl what is primary is whatever is present to consciousness, while for Heidegger this is precisely what is secondary, since the primary stuff of the world withdraws from any form of presence at all. As for radicalization, it is most easily found in the transformation of Kant by German Idealism: “Kant was right to wall off the things-in-themselves from human access, and simply should have realized that the thought of the Ding an sich is also a thought, and thereby the noumena are just special cases of the phenomena,” with much following from this discovery. It would also be easy to read Spinoza as a radicalizer of Descartes, and Berkeley and Hume as radicalized versions of Locke. Perhaps the distinction is now sufficiently clear. Admiring refutations are not those that say “Professor X is an idiot,” which is merely the flip side of the eager disciple’s fruitless “Professor X got everything right.” Instead, it will be some variant of one of the following two options: “Professor X is important, but got it backwards,” or “Professor X is important, but didn’t push things far enough.” In the history of philosophy these two latter cases have often been painful in purely human terms: Aristotle expresses sadness at refuting Plato, Kant is openly annoyed at Fichte, and Husserl feels betrayed and used by Heidegger. Rude handling from later figures almost seems to be the sine qua non of being a great philosopher. Now, it has already been claimed that Meillassoux is an emerging philosopher of the first importance, and by no less a figure than Alain Badiou: “It would be no exaggeration to say that Quentin Meillassoux has opened up a new path in the history of philosophy…” (Preface, vii). But rather than taking Badiou’s word for it, or rejecting his word, we might experiment by asking how Meillassoux could be radicalized or reversed. Are there interesting ways of doing this that might launch whole new schools of philosophy, unexpected or even condemned by Meillassoux himself? While no one can see the future, the present is poor when it is not riddled with virtual futures. The relation between philosophers and their predecessors and successors is always somewhat complicated, of course. But generally there is one central divergence at stake, which might be taken as the key to all the others. On this basis we could say that new thinkers primarily radicalize or primarily reverse the main ideas of their chief philosophical forerunner. There may be specific historical conditions and perhaps even personality traits connected with these two types, but this question can be left aside for now. More important for us is that radicalizers will generally be followed by reversers, and vice versa. Consider the textbook example of a reversal in the history of philosophy: Kant’s Copernican Revolution, which inverts the so-called dogmatic tradition that addresses the world itself, and makes the world revolve instead around the conditions by which it is known. While it is not completely impossible that Kant’s successors might have re-reversed this principle back into a new and stronger dogmatic realism, conditions were premature for such a move. Anyone doing this too early would likely have been an angry anti-Kantian reactionary rather than an original thinker in command of a genuinely new realist principle. The far more likely outcome is the one that actually happened: Kant’s reversal of his predecessors was viewed as incomplete, or as retaining lamentable bits of the traditional view, which despite his admirable breakthrough he was unable to shake off. This was the view of German Idealism, anyway. In similar fashion, Spinoza could also be viewed as a radicalizer of Descartes, who is equally accused of preserving various Scholastic dogmas in an otherwise radical project of philosophical reversal. The point is this: reversals in the history of thought tend to be followed soon thereafter by radicalizations of those reversals. The same may hold true in reverse: radicalizations might generally be followed by reversals, given that it is not always possible to be more radical than the radicals have already been. Consider the case of Husserl, who radicalizes Brentano’s early vagueness about what lies beyond immanent objectivity, and Twardowski’s assertion that there must be an external object lying outside the intentional content, by collapsing everything into the intentional sphere: there is no difference between the Berlin in my consciousness and the actual Berlin that is home to millions of people. It is difficult to see how one could be even more radical than Husserl’s idealist turn here. And thus the road is paved to Heidegger’s reversal of classical phenomenology, in which the key point is what lies deeper than any presence to consciousness: the Sein whose power and obscurity cannot be made exhaustively present, but only sends itself in historical epochs. In similar fashion we might also read Leibniz as a reverser of Spinoza’s radicalization, retrieving a strong sense of individual substance and a certain validity of what the Scholastics had said. Returning to Meillassoux, we might ask which kind of philosopher he is: a radicalizer or a reverser? At present, Meillassoux looks to me like a radicalizer (though for now his future remains shrouded in mist). He takes the correlationist tradition, which allows us to speak only of the relation between human and world, and tries to raise it into an even more extreme claim about the absolute contingency of everything. But whereas German Idealism did this by trying to collapse the distinction between thought and world entirely into the “thought” side, Meillassoux does it by trying to shift the non-absolute contingency of the thought-world correlate from epistemology to ontology. It is no longer a question of the inability of human knowledge to know what lies outside the correlate, but the inability of reality itself to be rooted in any definite laws. Furthermore, if we look at the various features of Meillassoux’s philosophy identified earlier tonight, all but one are already so radical that there is no obvious way to push them further. The one exception would be his claim that the world as a whole can change for no reason at any moment, coupled with the inconsistent claim that within a given world there are laws of nature that everything must follow. If gravitational attraction between all masses is a current law in our world, then for Meillassoux there can be no exceptions to this law for as long as it remains in force. A toppled vase will fall to the floor every time for sure,unless there is a cosmic change by which the laws of nature as a whole have altered. (This is reminiscent of the late medieval distinction between the absolute and ordained power of God, according to which God has the power to set or change the laws of nature, but not to contravene those laws locally once they are set.) On this point, to radicalize Meillassoux would simply be to say: there are no laws of nature even in the local sense. Everything that happens, even in the world here and now, is purely contingent and not governed by even a trace of law. And while this would be a more consistent development of Meillassoux’s thoughts on contingency, it is difficult to see how it could lead to a new philosophy. Instead, the admiring successors of Meillassoux are more likely to reverse one of his already sufficiently radical points. At least four candidates come to mind: *First, we have seen that Meillassoux thinks correlationism is challenged by a time before or after consciousness, but not by a space lying outside it. Perhaps this could be reversed into saying that spatial exteriority is the really crucial point. The arguments on this point are perhaps the least convincing in After Finitude (and do not even occur in the original French edition), and therefore it might be a candidate for the “blind spot” of which no philosopher is ever free. *Second, Meillassoux uses Cantor to claim that the contingency of laws of nature would not entail that they are unstable. A successor of Meillassoux might claim that it does make them unstable, and celebrate this fact. This person would then have to explain why common sense seems to encounter a relatively stable world despite its truly rampant instability. Whereas Meillassoux’s problem is to show how stability might exist despite contingency, this successor’s problem would be slightly different: to show why actual, full-blown instability might have the appearance of stability. *Third, Meillassoux claims that the primary qualities of things are those that can be mathematized. He might be reversed by a successor who says the opposite: the mathematizable qualities are the secondary ones, and the primary ones are those that elude symbolic formulation. While this is a perfectly valid possible objection to Meillassoux, it is one that is made in advance by some of his predecessors and is still made by some of his peers, making it less interesting for futurology than some of his other points. *Fourth and finally, whereas Meillassoux claims that God does not exist but might exist in the future, a successor might argue even more bizarrely that God has always existed but might vanish in the future. Let’s arbitrarily select the first of these possibilities, and imagine briefly where it might lead, if pursued in the future by admiring detractors. Meillassoux comes from the circle of Badiou, and some of Badiou’s most ardent admirers are found in Latin America. So, let’s imagine that towards mid-century some ingenious reversers of Meillassoux emerge in that portion of the Spanish-speaking world. Just for fun, let’s call them Castro and Chávez. And in order to avoid any confusion with the present-day politicians of those names, we will stipulate that Meillassoux’s great successors are both women. The philosopher Castro (we will suppose she comes from Peru) reverses Meillassoux’s argument that the ancestral or diachronic are what most threaten the human-world correlate. Instead, she claims that the diachronic does not threaten the correlate at all, and that we must instead look at space as what ruins the correlate and demands a strange new realism. What would such a philosophy look like? In order to determine this, we might ask what price Meillassoux pays for doing it the opposite way. As I see it, he pays in two separate ways. One is that laws of nature for him are contingent over time . The laws of nature apply to the universe as a whole at any given moment, and would be changed globally if they are ever changed at all. The second price he pays is that Meillassoux has no mereology , or theory of parts and wholes. Everything for him is on the level of the given, or immanent in experience, with the sole proviso that the laws governing this immanence might change without notice at any given moment. In reversing Meillassoux, Castro makes the following claims in the preface to her stunning debut book of 2045, The Cosmos and its Neighborhoods , rapidly translated from Spanish into all the languages of the world: Despite his brilliant analysis of the contingency of laws of nature over time, Meillassoux gets two important assumptions wrong. First, he allows for only one set of contingent laws to govern nature as a whole. Second, he allows laws to govern only the world that is immanent in experience, and thereby fails to explore the contingency among part-whole relations. In this book I will argue, first, that the laws of nature vary in any given instant between one region of the universe and the next; and second, that the world is made up of layers of parts and wholes that are also contingent with respect to one another. Those are the words of Castro. This may sound like a hopeless free-for-all of chaos, yet the book somehow succeeds in drawing some compelling deductions about how laws must vary from one place or level in the world to the next. Trapped in the limited horizon of 2011, and not yet inspired by the heavily balkanized political and technological situation of 2050 that somehow lends additional credence to Castro’s vision, we can only vaguely grasp what such a philosophy might look like. After this reversal of Meillassoux by Castro, the usual pattern leads us to expect a radicalization by Chávez, a young Argentine student of Castro. How could the already strange theories of Castro be radicalized? Perhaps as follows, in a disturbing new book entitled The Implosion of the Neighborhoods , which argues as follows: Castro was right to shift the Meillassouxian framework of contingency from time to space. However, in this respect she retained a surprisingly traditional opposition between the two. In this book I will show that time and space collapse into one another. This may sound too much like the discredited four-dimensional block universe of twentieth century physics and philosophy. However, the four-dimensional universe is a model biased in favor of space, merely adding an extra dimension to the commonsense spatial continuum while stipulating that the serial passage of time is an illusion. In this book I will argue instead for a one-dimensional space-time modeled after our experience of time, in which there is no simultaneous co-existence at all between different parts of the universe, or ‘neighborhoods’ as my esteemed teacher Castro has called them. Instead, the various portions of the universe link to one another by succession rather than by coexistence. Buenos Aires, New York, and Amsterdam do not exist simultaneously in the same landscape, but one after the other in the mind of some observer, and this observer can only be an observer much larger than any human. Against Meillassoux’s notion of a virtual God that does not exist now but might exist in the future, I will argue for an actual God that surveys the universe in sequence, thereby generating the illusion of spatial diversity and even the illusion of individual minds located within that diversity. Once this divine observer dies, the universe as a whole must perish. Again, these ideas are so bizarre that we of 2011 can barely comprehend them, just as Aristotle would have had a difficult time grasping the theories of Descartes. We could then perhaps imagine a further reversal of this theory, emanating from the intellectually resurgent Philippines of the twenty-second century. The Filipino School might argue that the universe is already dead, given the collapse of its spatial richness into the serial observations of a flimsy and mortal God. The virtual universe does not yet exist, but might exist in fully spatial form in the future, and this would require the death of God and the resulting liberation of God’s succession of images as independent, spatially situated realities. With a bit of sharpening, we might be able to make all of these imaginary thinkers more intuitively clear. Along with the history of philosophy, there might arise a new discipline generating imaginary futures for philosophy. The richness of Meillassoux’s system comes not from the fact that he is plausibly right about so many things, but because his philosophy offers such a treasury of bold statements ripe for being radicalized or reversed. He is a rich target for many still-unborn intellectual heirs, and this is what gives him the chance to be an important figure. NOTES 1. Quentin Meillassoux, After Finitude . Trans. R Brassier. (London: Continuum, 2008.) Page 5. The word “correlationism” does not appear in his doctoral thesis. As Meillassoux informed me in an email of February 8, 2011, he first coined this term in 2003 or 2004, while editing for publication a lecture he had given at the École normale supérieure on a day devoted to the theme of “Philosophy and Mathematics,” an event including Alain Badiou as one of the participants. 2. Graham Harman, Quentin Meillassoux: Philosophy in the Making . (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, forthcoming 2011). 3. In an email of December 6, 2010, Meillassoux clarifies that in After Finitude he only deduces the impossibility of a “universal contradiction,” not of a determinate contradiction. In the same email he suggests that he can also prove the latter, though the proof is somewhat lengthier than the one found in After Finitude . 4. After Finitude (18-26), in the passage falling between the two sets of triple asterisks. These pages were sent by Meillassoux to translator Ray Brassier (in French) during the translation process, and do not appear in the original French version of the book. 5. Graham Harman, “Quentin Meillassoux: A New French Philosopher.” Philosophy Today 51.1 (2007): Pages 104-117. The passage where I raise the question of space can be found in the first column of page 107. 6. Vernes is first cited on p. 95 of After Finitude . See Jean-René Vernes, Critique de la raison aléatoire, ou Descartes contra Kant . (Paris: Aubier, 1982).  . (shrink)
Sometimes individuals act together, and sometimes each acts on his or her own. It's a distinction that often matters to us. Undertaking a difficult task collectively can be comforting, even if only for the solidarity it may engender. Or, to take a very different case, the realization (or delusion) that the many bits of rudeness one has been suffering of late are part of a concerted effort can be of significance in identifying what one is up against: the accumulation of (...) grievances (no doubt well catalogued) is seen, not as an unfortunate coincidence of affronts stemming from various quarters, but as itself a product of a unified exercise of agency. A paranoid conspiracy theorist is not usually to be taken seriously. But he does get right that it certainly would be awful, for example, if everyone were out to get him and were working together to do so. After all, the stability and impact of agency that's shared can be expected to be more serious than the effects of a mere collection of individual acts.[1.. (shrink)
Introduction -- Spinoza : a user's guide -- The curious incident of the rude driver in the SUV -- What's love got to do with it? -- On not being oneself or the shmoopy effect -- The big picture -- What is mind? : no matter : what is matter? : never mind -- True freedom -- Bodies in motion -- The body politic -- Religion -- The environment -- Conclusion: How to be a Spinozist in three easy steps.
The “dragon” that graces the cover of this volume has a story that goes with it. In the summer of 1980, I was on the teaching staff of the Summer Institute on Medieval Philosophy held at Cornell University under the direction of Norman Kretzmann and the auspices of the Council for Philosophical Studies and the National Endowment for the Humanities. While I was giving a series of lectures there (lectures that contribute to this volume, as it turns out), I went (...) to my office one morning, and there under the door some anonymous wag from the Institute had slid the pen and ink drawing you see in the picture. It represents “Supposition” as a dragon, making a rude face at the viewer. The tail of the dragon is divided — not entirely accurately, as it turns out — into the various branches and subbranches of supposition. If the details are not altogether correct, the spirit is certainly understandable. (shrink)
Many news organizations invite readers to post online comments to news stories. Comments may get posted automatically and most are signed with pseudonyms. Many are insensitive, even rude, and use speculation and language that would be rejected if written by a staff member or in a letter to the editor. Are news organizations holding true to their ethical guidelines when they publish anonymous reader comments on their Web sites while rejecting them for their hard-copy editions?
Lying is a common phenomenon amongst human beings. It seems to play a role in making social interactions run more smoothly. Too much honesty can be regarded as impolite or downright rude. Remarkably, lying is not a common phenomenon amongst normally intelligent human beings who are on the autism spectrum. They appear to be ‘attractively morally innocent’ and seem to have an above average moral conscientious objection against deception. In this paper, the behavior of persons with autism with regard to (...) deception and truthfulness will be discussed in the light of two different ethical theories, illustrated by fragments from autobiographies of persons with autism. A systemizing ‘Kantian’ and an empathizing ‘ethics of care’ perspective reveal insights on high-functioning autism, truthfulness and moral behavior. Both perspectives are problematic from the point of view of a moral agent with autism. High-functioning persons with autism are, generally speaking, strong systemizes and weak empathizers. Particularly, they lack ‘cognitive empathy’ which would allow them to understand the position of the other person. Instead, some tend to invent a set of rules that makes their behavior compatible with the expectations of others. From a Kantian point of view, the autistic tendency to always tell the truth appears praiseworthy and should not be changed, though it creates problems in the social life of persons with autism. From a care ethics perspective, on the other hand, a way should be found to allow the high-functioning persons with autism to respect the feelings and needs of other persons as sometimes overruling the duty of truthfulness. We suggest this may even entail ‘morally educating’ children and adolescents with autism to become socially skilled empathic ‘liars’. (shrink)
Initroduction : From the man of reason to the cynical insider -- Diogenes of Sinope and philosophy as a way of life -- Diogenes the cynic as "counsellor" and malcontent in early modern England -- From rude cynics to "cynical revilers" -- The cynic unveiled : innocence, disenchantment, and rationalization in Rousseau -- Edmund Burke and the counter-enlightenment attack on the "philosopher of vanity" -- Cynicism and dandyism -- Epilogue : How not to talk about cynicism : a conclusion, and (...) request for further discussion. (shrink)
I have been taken aback by the inexplicable hostility of Mary MidgleyÂ’s assault. Some colleagues have advised me that such transparent spite is best ignored, but others warn that the venomous tone of her article may conceal the errors in its content. Indeed, we are in danger of assuming that nobody would dare to be so rude without taking the elementary precaution of being right in what she said. We may even bend over backwards to concede some of her points, (...) simply in order to appear fair-minded when we deplore the way she made them. I deplore bad manners as strongly as anyone, but more importantly I shall show that Midgley has no good point to make. She seems not to understand biology or the way biologists use language. No doubt my ignorance would be just as obvious if I rushed headlong into her field of expertise, but I would then adopt a more diffident tone. As it is we are both in my corner, and it is hard for me not to regard the gloves as off. I will try to make my reply constructive, in the hope that it may interest those who have not read MidgleyÂ’s article, as well as those who have. Unattributed quotations with page numbers will all be taken from her article. Since it was my book, The Selfish Gene (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1976), which stimulated her attack, it will also be necessary for me to quote from it. I shall divide my reply into eight sections. (shrink)
In the summer of 1980, I was privileged to be on the teaching staff of the Summer Institute on Medieval Philosophy held at Cornell University under the direction of Norman Kretzmann and the auspices of the Council for Philosophical Studies and the National Endowment for the Humanities. While I was giving a series of lectures on supposition theory, I went to my office one morning, and there under the door some anonymous wag from the Institute had slid the pen and (...) ink drawing you see in the graphic. It represents "Supposition" as a dragon, making a rude face at the viewer. The tail of the dragon is divided — not entirely accurately, as it turns out — into the various branches and subbranches of supposition. If the details are not altogether correct, the spirit is certainly understandable. I have absolutely no idea who the inspired artist was, but I have the original framed on the wall in my office. (shrink)
For sensible men I prepare only three kraters: one for health (which they drink first), the second for love and pleasure, and the third for sleep. After the third one is drained, wise men go home. The fourth krater is not mine any more—it belongs to bad behaviour; the fifth is for shouting; the sixth is for rudeness and insults; the seventh is for fights; the eighth is for breaking the furniture; the ninth is for depression; the tenth is for (...) madness and unconsciousness. The collection Questions of Taste: The Philosophy of Wine, edited by Barry Smith, originated at a conference at London University in 2004.1 Smith writes that “it was the first ever conference on the philosophy of wine” (i). As Smith claims .. (shrink)
The abstract notion of “the feminine”, (womanliness, feminine nature)—in French, le f minin, and in German, das Weibliche —as substantivum neutrum, remains together with its opposite, the masculine, connotative of an inherent disparity. It is meant neither as the biological affiliation of sex, nor as gender, the social response, or echo, of this biological affiliation. Rather, it is the spiritual attitude (psychic, spiritual being, mind) which is the norm for psychic manifestations in general, and is its subtle psychosomatic background. (...) It is not necessarily connected with the rude biological differentiation of sex, but rather appears as a quality in one or the other form; either as the individual, the social group or forms of activities, etc., without respect to the biological manifestations of the participants. What this paper attempts to demonstrate, is the way in which the above described notion of the feminine, functions in classical Asian cultures and philosophies. In the famous Yijing, for instance, this is seen as the hexagram correlated to the male Qian; in the philosophy of Yin and Yang, as Yin the Earth, in correlation with Yang, the Heaven; which are united in the famous Taiji diagram, a sophisticated development of Chinese Neo-Confucianism. The paper focuses on the Dao de jing, in which Lao Zi gives, as a counterbalance to the existing praxis, priority to the female principle (the feminine). He remains, however, faithful to the Asian tradition, maintaining that the masculine and the feminine should remain equal, correlative, neither one nor the other vying for dominance. The correlative embrace, “When you know the male yet hold on to. the female” (Dao de jing, chapter 28) subsists in the mythical past where both principles are joined in androgynous unity. (shrink)
While lies have attracted philosophical attention since antiquity, phenomena in the near area have generated considerably less interest. Lately, however, Max Black and Harry Frankfurt have visited a close relative: humbug or bullshit, as it's either more politely or more rudely called. In this article their views on humbug and bullshit are exposed, explained, critiqued, and, ultimately, rejected. An alternative view is then proposed and defended.
There has been a great deal of talk about the upcoming Queer Festival in Sarajevo. However, the discussion has taken on a bitter tone because some have made much of the fact that the organizers plan to hold the festival during the month of Ramadan. To hold the festival during that time, according to some pious Muslims, is a blasphemous act, one that is rude and disrespectful towards those of the faith. Of course, we must not forget that this festival (...) is following on the heels of another festival, the Sarajevo Film Festival. A few films touched on the subject of homosexuality (LA LEON, 2007), but I do not remember hearing much, if any, disapproval of screening films of the gay and lesbian genre. Perhaps the festival's international acclaim, it not being held during Ramadan, and the genre's thin representation had something to do with the lack of criticism. What I find remarkable about the upcoming festival is not when it will be held, but that it will be held; that members of various sexual communities, including the gay and lesbian community of Sarajevo (and, no doubt, many from the "straight" community), have united to put on a.. (shrink)
One of the great virtues of Oxford is that most of its members are not academics, nor ever supposed that they sould be. They come to Oxford for three or four years and then go on their way to other occupations in "the service of God in Church and State". It is not that they were not good enough to become dons: it is simply that they had other fish to fry, and would rather be a barrister, a Member of (...) Parliament, a schoolmaster or a clergyman, and would not be tempted from their chosen vocation by any offer of a Fellowship or a life of ease and scholarship. The benefits of this are great. To have left Oxford of one's own accord and not on account of having failed to get an award or a post is to part from a friend with no sense of having been rejected. The Civil Servant who goes down with a first in Greats has no sense that he did not make it at Oxford, no need to shake its dust off his shoes because Oxford did not offer him a job, and in consequence he can easily look back on four golden years of widening horizons, untarnished by some final disappointment. And in general our alumni can feel warmly to their alma mater, because their going was of their choosing, and not because they were rudely pushed out of the nest. (shrink)
Mundane and often subtle forms of bias generate harms that can be fruitfully understood as akin to the harms evident in rudeness. Although subclinical expressions of bias are not mere rudeness, like rudeness they often manifest through the breach of mannerly norms for social cooperation and collaboration. At a basic level, the perceived harm of mundane forms of bias often has much to do with feeling oneself unjustly or arbitrarily cut out of a group, a group that cooperates and collaborates (...) but does not do so with me. Appealing to the subtle but familiar choreography of mannered social interaction, I argue, makes it easier to recognize how exclusion can be accomplished through slight but symbolically significant gestures and styles of interaction, where bias manifests not in announced hostility but in an absence of the cooperation and collaboration upon which we rely socially. (shrink)
there is something else to which we are witness, and which we might describe as an insurrection of subjugated knowledges. (Foucault, 2L, 81)a whole set of knowledges that have been disqualified as inadequate to their task or insufficiently elaborated: naive knowledges, . . . . (82)What emerges out of this is something one might call a genealogy, or rather a multiplicity of genealogical researches, a painstaking rediscovery of struggles together with the rude memory of their conflicts. (83)Let us give the (...) term genealogy to the union of erudite knowledge and local memories which allows us to establish a historical knowledge of struggles and to make use of this knowledge tactically today. (83)If we were to characterise it in two terms, then “archaeology” would be the appropriate methodology of this analysis of local discursivities, and “genealogy” would be the tactics whereby, on the basis of the descriptions of these local discursivities, the subjected knowledges which were thus released would be brought into play. (85). (shrink)
The term etonism is from «Etona» that means flag, marks, evidence, and reason in Kikôngo. The variants in Umbûndu: etonolo or etonuilo means, allegations, reasons, indulgence (tolerance). The Nyaneka form is etŏnya: 1) reasons, 2) allegations, 3) indulgence and 5) the justice and the tolerance. Etona is Angolan artist (sculptor/painter). In his sculpture they are morphologically evidenced three treatments in the surface of the matter, namely 1) flat treatment; 2) rude treatment and finally 3) accidental treatment. Each one is a (...) code: #1. The flat treatment indicates well-knowledge; a man of superior class; race or tribe or religion of majority; thought well-organized and structured. In painting, the hot intensity indicates dominance, prosperity, energy, intense desires; #2. The rude treatment reveals an acquired knowledge without academism, self-taught; medium class men; speech out of the scientific perimeters but with certain admissibility; race, tribe or religion of lot of people, but not of majority. In his painting, the neutral intensity marks the balance and inspires recomfort nurtured from two opposed poles (hot and cold); #3. The accidental part of the sculpture indicates some knowledge’s lack (pure empiricism); inferior class; race, tribe, religion of minority. In the painting, the cold intensity is naturally contrary of #1. Etonism is the tolerant reason between #1=I, #2=YOU and #3=HE. All of them form the coherent society that we call WE: the Etonian jusphilosophy that African peoples need for stability of their democracies and finishing their War. (shrink)
It should be clear that Lyell's scientific contemporaries would hardly have agreed with Robert Munro's remark that Antiquity of Man created a full-fledged discipline. Only later historians have judged the work a synthesis; those closer to the discoveries and events saw it as a compilation — perhaps a “capital compilation,”95 but a compilation none the less. Its heterogeneity made it difficult to judge as a unity, and most reviewers, like Forbes, concentrated on the first part of Lyell's trilogy. The chapters (...) on glaciation were admired by Lyell's friends but had relatively little appeal to more general readers. His discussion of the species question hedged far too much to please those who accepted the cogency of Darwin's evidence and arguments. This last section of the book blatantly lacks originality or commitment and certainly has no claim to classical status in anthropology.We are left, then, with the first twelve chapters, for it was this portion that dictated the book's title and that amassed the available evidence favoring the antiquity of the human species. Did it do anything more than marshall the evidence that others had discovered? I think not. Lyell could write with style and verve. Principles of Geology is a remarkably readable book. But Antiquity is the work of a geologist, not of a systematic student of man. Despite its occasional touches of power, it never captures the freshness and immediacy of Lubbock's Pre-historic Times nor the theoretical brilliance of E. B. Tylor's Researches into the Early History of Mankind (1865).96 Antiquity utilizes little of the comparative method whereby Lyell's contemporaries used data from modern “savagery” to elaborate the possible social functions of the prehistoric remains being uncovered. It contains little social theory and has virtually no integrated framework. Even the first twelve chapters do not really hang together. As Hooker, commenting to Darwin on Lubbock's review, sadly wrote: “Lubbock in [the] N[atural] H[istory] Review, had in a note called attention to Lyell's ... ‘doing injustice’ to Prestwich & Falconer. I modified this expression ‘injustice’ in Lubbock's paper (which was friendly and apologetic). I am deeply sorry for it, but what can one do? I do think Lyell's first XII chapters a complete mess.”97 In another letter to Darwin, Hooker described this first portion of Antiquity as “confused and confusing.”98Part of the problem, of course, lay in the subject's novelty for Lyell and for most of his contemporaries. At a deeper level, however, I believe that the book accurately reflects Lyell's uncertainties about Darwin's work and its implications for man.99 Leonard Wilson's edition of Lyell's Scientific Journals provides a unique insight into Lyell's mind during the years just before he began to write Antiquity.100 Preoccupied with the human implications of evolutionary biology, Lyell was not clear how many of those implications were compatible with his deep convictions about the dignity of man's place in the cosmos. With a certain naiveté, Lyell complained in 1873 that many of his readers had failed to see the “natural connections” among the three portions of Antiquity.101 Connections could indeed be drawn between man's antiquity and his evolutionary origins; Lyell's private Scientific Journals movingly demonstrate that he was well aware of this fact. But he never fully made the connections in his published writings. Antiquity of Man is more appropriately seen as the last gasp of the heroic period in British geology than as the opening salvo in a new, post-Darwinian anthropological synthesis. Between the founding of the Geological Society of London in 1807 and the middle of the nineteenth century, geology was recognized as one of the most exciting and innovative scientific fields in Britain.102 Lyell himself had contributed much to that drama, and by the 1860's he was a public figure of venerable proportions. More then any other man he represented a geology that had extended the boundaries of process, time, and life. The fundamental achievements of Lyell and his colleagues had been assimilated into the wider Victorian consciousness, yet the earlier public debates about “genesis and geology” had left untouched in its essentials the concept of Man as a moral, responsible, created being.103Lyell never abandoned this view of his own species, and in 1863 it was a completely responsible creature which, under the weight of empirical evidence, Lyell admitted had lived on earth far longer than had previously been thought. Certainly this more generous allowance for human existence was constitutive to what Burrow calls the evolutionary social theory of midcentury Britain.104 Unlike Lyell, the younger representatives of this anthropology quietly accepted both man's antiquity and his aboriginal animality. Herbert Spencer's Principles of Psychology (1855), as well as the other volumes of his grand Synthetic Philosophy, presented as part of the cosmic process the development of human from prehuman beings.105 Tylor's discussion of what in his Researches (1865) he called the “gesture-language” presupposed the gradual and de novo origin of language in early human populations.106 Lubbock's young and polished mind was untroubled by the human implications of Darwin's work, and he cast his Prehistoric Times into such a perfect mold that it and its companionpiece (On the Origin of Civilization, 1870) went through seven editions each between 1865 and World War I, with their original theoretical structures intact. In a way that Lyell could not grasp, Lubbock was intrigued by questions concerning the origins of moral and religious beliefs and did not flinch at the thought of an amoral, atheistic creature as an ancestor.107 Indeed, as the German naturalist Carl Vogt pointed out in his Lectures on Man, translated into English the year after Antiquity, both Darwin's theories and the primitive flint knives of the Stone Age bore witness to a time beyond that imaginable from the condition of the lowest present-day “savage”:From such a low condition [little better than anthropomorphous apes], compared to which that of the so-called savages of the old and new world is a refined civilisation, has the human species gradually extricated itself, in a bitter struggle for existence, which it was well able to maintain, by being gifted with a larger amount of brain and intelligence than that possessed by the surrounding animal world.108The easy integration of biological and social themes was perhaps the distinguishing hallmark of Victorian anthropology of the 1850's and 1860's. After his fashion, Lyell got both themes into Antiquity, but he carefully separated them with a seven-chapter wall of glacial ice. Lyell's anthropology was not that of a thoroughgoing evolutionist like Lubbock, Tylor, or Spencer. For Lyell prehistoric man was not a product of biological evolution. Rude and superstitious he may have been, but he possessed ritual and a belief in a future state, and thus deserved “the epithet of ‘noble,’ which Dryden gave to what he seems to have pictured to himself as the primitive condition of our race: as Nature first made man/when wild in woods the noble savage ran.”109As a systematic argument, Lyell's book was at best a significant failure. As a popularization, it was a success — largely because of the personal stature of its author and the particular moment of its appearance. It helped establish the fact of man's antiquity with a wider Victorian audience, in itself no mean achievement. But Lyell was unable to exploit the fuller implications of his material in the service of a secular science of man. Ironically, he exploited only his colleagues' discoveries. Though the aging Lyell, with failing eyesight but unfailing mental powers, can still be seen as a man of considerable importance, his Antiquity belongs to the carefully circumscribed world of British geology rather than to the less disciplined world of Victorian anthropology. (shrink)
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)
Electron diffraction has been used to study the structure of Zr1?x S over a range of non-stoichiometric compositions. Two different superlattices of the NaCl type structure have been observed resulting from the long-range ordering of zirconium vacancies. At certain compositions a diffuse intensity distribution has been recorded in the diffraction patterns which has been attributed to short-range vacancy ordering. The measured superconducting transition temperatures are related to the degrees of ordering present.
Some original forms of state emerge from the clan structures in central Africa in the 16th and 17th centuries, beyond the reach of any European influence. The oral epic traditions which echo these events draw from the founts of Bantu mythic thought. The Luba national epic recounts the dramatic origin of its sacred royalty and describes the passage from a primitive culture to a refined civilization, from an uneventful history to one full of movement; but above all it abandons itself (...) to a singular meditation on the ritual usage of fire, on family and death, on time and space, on the rainbow and lightning. If we take the fantastic seriously, symbolic patterns appear which filter the historical tradition and transform it into metaphysics. The reeling King Woot seems to play in reverse the Luba role, on the royal scene of Kuba mythology, where almost Biblical figures could be recognized: the tower of Babel throws its shadow on the adventures of an African Noah who first abandons himself to drunkenness, then to incest, delivering society to the diversity of languages and plunging the universe into primordial chaos. A transition between the myth and the tale, the founding epic of the Lunda state is bathed three times in blood: the blood of the warriors, of the women, and of the beasts who fall prey to a marvelously seductive hunter. Looking closely, we see that this Prince-stranger, initiator of a line of anointed royalty, carries on his shoulders, as does his Luba counterpart, a part of the universe. The cosmogony is veiled in the myth but transparent in the ritual, in the actions and mysterious words of the initiates into mungonge religious society: men with eyes of light are the counterpart of animals with eyes of darkness, as the star of day is opposed to the sinister hyena-moon. The founding epic of the Bemba state tells, like the Kuba myth, of the fascination of the principle of pleasure among a migrating aristocracy, somewhat decadent in comparison with the rude warrior or hunter heroes in the Luba and Lunda epics. But all these narratives, in the final analysis, form one sole myth, which develops its autonomous structures under the turbulence of an historical adventure each time different. More than unfolding the particular story of each kingdom, these legendary chronicles of Zaïre, Zambia and Angola reveal that the powerful political organisations set up by the Bantu to the south of the great forest are not isolated from eacb other: they administrate in common an intellectual patrimony which breaks loose from the ideological role that the kings, whether drunk on palm wine or on military ambition, try to make them play for their own glory: myths and rites obey their own codes, recognize no master but one, which they give themselves in their own kingdom: the Imaginary. The text which follows here is concerned in particular with the epic of the Bemba people, whose dominating aristocracy imposed an anointed royalty on some 100,000 people formerly grouped in matrilinear clans. (shrink)
"Charming, interesting, thought-provoking and a great read." Rosalind Hursthouse The daughter of a pacifist rector who answered "No!" when his congregation asked him "Is everything in the bible true?", perhaps Mary Midgley was destined to become a philosopher. Yet few would have thought this inquisitive, untidy, nature-loving child would become "one of the sharpest critical pens in the west." This is her remarkable story. Probably the only philosopher to have been in Vienna on the eve of its invasion by Nazi (...) Germany in 1938 and dance in Trafalgar Square on VE day seven year later, she studied philosophy at Oxford in the same year as Iris Murdoch, Elizabeth Anscombe and Philippa Foot, all of whom became close friends. Midgley tells us in vivid and humorous fashion how they cut a swathe through the arid landscape of 1950s British philosophy, writing and arguing - often with each other - about the grand themes of character, beauty and the meaning of rudeness while the spectral figure of Ludwig Wittgenstein hovered in the background. She also charts the highs and lows of philosophy and academia in Britain. On joining the Reading philosophy department on £400 a year in 1949, she doubled its staff complement. But her many years at Newcastle University - where Mike Brearley, who later captained England at cricket, also used to teach - were rewarded with the closure of the philosophy department in the 1980s. The mother of three children, her journey is also one of a woman who in the 1950s and 1960s was fighting to combine a professional career with raising a family. In startling contrast to many of the academic stars of her generation, we learn that Midgley nearly became a novelist and started writing philosophy only when in her fifties, suggesting that Minerva's owl really does fly at dusk. Plainly told like her philosophy, this is an elegiac and moving account of friendships found and lost, bitter philosophical battles and of a profound love of teaching all too rarely acknowledged today. (shrink)
Unlike majority of classical and contemporary Indian philosophers, Gandhi was a practical philosopher, an experimentalist and a laboratiorian who developed practical instruments and carried out experiments for the existing life problems without bothering to build a consistent structure of philosophy. For this very reason there seems an ambiguity to call Gandhi as a philosopher. However, it seems to me that Gandhi was a practical philosopher who laid a pragmatic approach and method to his new insights for social and political action (...) of national movement and the reconstruction of modern India without disturbing the social equilibrium.Gandhi exercised such tremendous skill in cooperative participation of our national movement and is rudely regarded as the “Father of pridely Nation”. As he is too skillfully organized his ideals in building a nation he rightfully ascertained as philosopher in the light of Homer’s (the Greek poet) definition to a philosopher. The same practical method is extended to the aspect of religion by Gandhi. (shrink)
The aim of this study was to investigate patients' experiences of not being treated well in medical health care in Stockholm County, Sweden. The study was conducted by implementing qualitative content analysis using categorization of empirical material for 2006 and 2007 provided by the Patients' Advisory Committee (Patientnämnden) in Stockholm. Complaints about not being treated well accounted for 13% of all complaints to the Patients' Advisory Committee. A sample of those who complained about their medical treatment shows that about 30% (...) of these complaints also involved experiences of being badly received. Categorization of the complaints about being badly treated resulted in the following 11 categories: (1) rude, aggressive or arrogant behaviour; (2) being ignored; (3) being denied examinations or treatments; (4) lack of empathy among personnel; (5) lack of respect for personal integrity; (6) lack of time/waiting time; (7) personnel not separating private issues from their professional role; (8) injustice and discrimination; (9) sexual harassment; (10) coercion and violence and (11) unspecified bad treatment. In relation to the total number of patients, women were over-represented in all categories. In conclusion, what patients react most strongly against is when health-care personnel treat them disrespectfully by not abiding by established social norms. The results indicate that the combination of failure in medical treatment and not receiving an apology often leads patients to complain to the Patients' Advisory Committee. (shrink)