Although the dynamic field model predicts infants' perseverative behavior in the context of the A-not-B manual search task, it does not account for infant perseveration in other contexts. An alternative cognitive capacity explanation for perseveration is more parsimonious. It accounts for the graded nature of perseverative responses and perseveration in different contexts.
Thoughtprints Anne E. Berger andMarta Segarra I admit to it in the name of autobiography and in order to confide in you the following: [...] I have a particularly animalist perception and interpretation of what I do, think, write, live, ...
Some properties are discussed of regular polygons that may result from angular homeostatic processes in stable orbit. To characterize these homeostatic polygons we need to discuss the winding number, the sidedness (integer, fractional and irrational), multiplicity, envelopes, and density. A regular (i.e., equilateral, equiangular) polygon may be closed in one revolution about its unique center, in multiple revolutions, or not at all. A homeostatic polygon can be generated only if all vertices are included in a single polygon, which occurs if (...) and only if the number of vertices and the number of revolutions required to complete the polygon are relatively prime. For the homeostatic polygon to have a finite number of sides (without repeating itself) the angle subtended by any two successive vertices at the center must be a rational multiple of 2. Biological implications of these properties are illustrated. (shrink)
A critical examination of Susan Blackmoreâ€™s psi experiment database was undertaken to assess the claims of consistent â€œno ESPâ€ across these studies. Many inconsistencies in the experimental reports were found, and their serious consequences are discussed. Discrepancies were found between the unpublished experimental reports and their published counterparts. â€œFlawsâ€ were invoked to dismiss significant results while other flaws were ignored when studies produced nonsignificant results. Experiments that were admittedly flawed in the unpublished reports were mixed with supposedly unflawed studies and (...) published without segregation, creating the impression of methodological soundness. Two instances in which study chronology was reordered were found. Overall, it is concluded that Blackmoreâ€™s claims that her database shows no evidence of psi are unfounded, because the vast majority of her studies were carelessly designed, executed, and reported, and, in Blackmoreâ€™s own assessment, individually flawed. As such, no conclusions should be drawn from this database. (shrink)
Recombinant DNA technology will soon allow physicians an opportunity to carry out both somatic cell- and Germ-Line gene therapy. While somatic cell gene therapy raises no new ethical problems, gene therapy of gametes, fertilized eggs or early embryos does raise several novel concerns. The first issue discussed here relates to making a distinction between negative and positive eugenics; the second issue deals with the evolutionary consequences of lost genetic diversity. In distinguishing between positive and negative eugenics, the concept of malady (...) is applied as a definitional criterion for identifying genetic disorders that could qualify for Germ-Line therapy. Because gene replacement techniques are currently unavailable for humans, and because even if they were possible the number of people involved would be quite small, the loss of diversity concern seems moot. Finally, we dissuss the issue of iatrogenic disorders associated with gene therapy and discuss several ‘real world considerations.’. (shrink)
The problem of the origin of life understandably counts as one of the most exciting questions in the natural sciences, but in spite of almost endless speculation on this subject, it is still far from its final solution. The complexity of the functional correlation between recent nucleic acids and proteins can e.g. give rise to the assumption that the genetic code (and life) could not originate on the Earth. It was Portelli (1975) who published the hypothesis that the genetic code (...) could not originate during the history of the Earth. In his opinion the recent genetic code represents the informational message transmitted by living systems of the previous cycle of the Universe. Here however, we defend the existence of a certain strategy in the syntheses of the genetic code during the history of the Earth. The strategy of correlation between amino acid and nucleotide polymers made an increasing velocity of the chemical evolution possible, that is, it increased the velocity of formation of the genetic code. Thus, life with the recent genetic code could originate on the Earth within the present cycle of the Universe. (shrink)
Open peer commentary on the article “Communication Emerging? On Simulating Structural Coupling in Multiple Contingency” by Manfred Füllsack. Upshot: Our criticism aims at the premises of Füllsack’s simulation model, i.e., we claim that his interpretation of the Luhmannian concept of double contingency contradicts the systems theoretical approach in fundamental ways. Neither the view of communication as an emergent system, nor the theory of double contingency is addressed in an adequate manner. Thus Füllsack in fact does not simulate a systems theoretical (...) approach to double contingency but simulates a mere reduction of the social to the individual psyches. (shrink)
The article argues, "contra" berger, that quine's advocacy alleged of classical logic is not based on any alleged "fit" between classical logic and some empirical account of language learning. roth begins by examining berger's claim that quine has changed his position on the acceptability of alternative logics. in berger's account, quine now accepts alternative logics because he could not defend his commitment to classical logic alone based on empirical evidence (e.g., verdict tables). roth argues that berger (...) is mistaken both in thinking that quine has changed his position and in berger's belief that evidence regarding language learning is the basis of quine's view on logic. the actual basis, roth argues, is pragmatic. (shrink)
This article critically discusses of Ben Berger’s , making two main claims. First, I argue that his conceptual distinctions ought to be further developed in order to be able to distinguish between, on the one hand, politically legitimate moral ends (i.e., ones that are suitable objects of political engagement) and, on the other hand, other moral ends that ought to be pursued only through social engagement. To help with this task I consider the significance of the difference between what (...) I refer to as ethical reasoning and justice reasoning, and I sketch a fourfold distinction between types of justice. Second, I argue that Berger does not give adequate emphasis to the government side of the task of making political engagement more efficacious. In addition to his worthwhile recommendations for increasing the social capital of the many, we should also be concerned to determine how best to limit, or, better, remove, the now massive political influence of the financial capital of America’s wealthiest. (shrink)
Randomized Controlled Trials (RCTs) are currently the gold standard within evidence-based medicine. Usually, they are conducted as sequential trials allowing for monitoring for early signs of effectiveness or harm. However, evidence from early stopped trials is often charged with being biased towards implausibly large effects (e.g., Bassler et al. 2010). To our mind, this skeptical attitude is unfounded and caused by the failure to perform appropriate conditioning in the statistical analysis of the evidence. We contend that a shift from unconditional (...) hypothesis tests in the style of Neyman and Pearson to conditional hypothesis tests (Berger, Brown and Wolpert 1994) gives a superior appreciation of the obtained evidence and significantly improves the practice of sequential medical trials, while staying firmly rooted in frequentist methodology. (shrink)
In early modern philosophy the motive of logical creation emerged in reaction to the Greek-Medieval legacy of a realistic metaphysics. The dominant nominalistic trends of thought since Thomas Hobbes and Immanuel Kant explored its rationalistic implications. The latter drew the radical (humanistic) conclusion that the laws of nature are present in human thought a priori (i.e. before all experience). The irrationalistic side of nominalism emphasized the uniqueness and individuality of events – thus leading to the historicism of the 19th century (...) and the subsequent linguistic turn. Kant influenced Husserl who, in turn, provided the point of departure for the ideas of Schutz, Berger and Luckmann – compare the joint work of Berger and Luckmann: Social construction of reality (1967). The contemporary “postmodern” idea that we create the world in which we live (either through thought, through language or through social practices) merely continues core elements of (early) modern philosophy. The underlying idea of autonomy highlights the difference between modern Humanism and a Christian view of reality, for in the latter human subjectivity is appreciated as being correlated with universal and constant principles that can only assume a positive shape through human activities of positivization (form-giving). The autonomy ideal of modern Humanism reifies the typical human freedom to positivize underlying principles. At the same time this reification on the one hand collapses the distinction between conditions and being conditioned and on the other it does not provide a basis for supra-individual standards of behaviour. (shrink)
BERGER, P. L.; LUCKMANN, T. Modernidade, pluralismo e crise de sentido ; a orientação do homem moderno Aurino José Góis RIBEIRO, Renato Janine. A república . RIBEIRO, Renato Janine. A democracia . João Carlos Lino Gomes SUNG, Jung Mo. Sementes de esperança. A fé em um mundo em crise. Flávio Senra.
While the twentieth century was dominated by advances in controlling electrical currents through the charge of the electron, aka electronics, the rapid developments since 1988 have lead to a control of currents through the spin of the electron, i.e., spintronics. The groundwork for this field comes from studies on metallic alloys and multilayers started in the early 1960s. Due to parallel developments in the growth of semiconductor heterostructures, e.g., molecular beam epitaxy, work on metallic layers rapidly advanced in the late (...) 1970s and early 1980s. By 1988 groups lead by Fert and Grünberg were able to grow metallic multilayers which displayed the sought after effect; a small magnetic field was able to dramatically change the electric resistance of the structures. This led to an immediate explosion in activity in this area; so much so that the materials which display this effect were incorporated in the read-heads of hard disk drives of computers by 1997. I will focus on developments in three distinct time periods. The first was from 1988 to 1995 which was dominated by metallic multilayers which displayed giant magnetoresistance (GMR), the second from 1995 to 2000 when reproducible magnetic tunnel junctions (MTJs) were studied for their tunnelling magnetoresistance (TMR), and the third period from 2000 to 2005 in which the ideas of Berger and Slonczewski were realized on the back action of currents on the magnetic background of the materials doing the conducting, i.e., current induced magnetization switching (CIMS). The contributions of Peter Weinberger to these developments illustrate the broad range of his activities in spintronics, this field which is barely twenty years old. (shrink)
continent. 1.3 (2011): 158-170. The Fragment as a Unit of Prose Composition: An Introduction —Ben Segal The fragment, the note, the idea, the aphorism even: there are many names and as many uses for such small shards of free-floating text. Typically fragments are less works than gestures, arrows pointing in the direction a person might research, meditate on or develop. Unlike paragraphs or sentences, they do not flow directly from and into their bordering text. Instead they are independent, defined by (...) their singularity, by the white space that encases them on a page – even when they are cobbled together and marshaled into service as the contents of a book. Still, though not exceedingly common, books of fragments (or notes or what-have-yous) do exist. However they are labeled, the very aloofness of disconnected micro-texts allows them certain privileges and possibilities that a writer can employ and exploit. In such instances, the book of fragments may, almost paradoxically, gain a coherence as a singular work, all the more satisfying for its fractures. Two such books are Maggie Nelson's Bluets and Evan Lavender-Smith's From Old Notebooks . In this mini-feature, continent. is pleased to present a series of excerpts from each of these books, a selection of 'outtakes' – fragments that did not make it into the final manuscripts – from each, and short interviews with both Nelson and Lavender-Smith about the fragment as a literary device. Notes on the interviews: 1) Since this feature includes excerpts and outtakes from both Bluets and From Old Notebooks , I chose to ask both Nelson and Lavender-Smith similar questions about working with the fragment as the building-block of a larger work. This means that the questions are, for the most part, more concerned with things like form than about specific passages from the books. 2) In both interviews, I ask a question that cites The Literary Absolute . It should be noted that TLA is concerned with the fragment as developed and understood in the context of the Jena Romantics (the Schlegel brothers, Novalis, etc.), not necessarily the fragment in general. Maggie Nelson Interview: 1. "Bluet" conjures a constellation of similar words. These include Blue, Bullet, and the flower to which the word actually refers. I'm wondering if this range is intentional and if there's anything I'm leaving out. Or, more simply, can you talk a little about the title? I first got interested in the word BLUETS via the painter Joan Mitchell, about whom I’d written earlier in my book on women and the New York School. LES BLUETS is the name of one of my very favorites of all her paintings; she painted it the year I was born. Later the poet Jimmy Schuyler wrote a lovely prose poem about this painting, which I also adored, and which I’ve also written about. So the word had been in my mind for some time, as had her amazing painting (which is in several panels, so also in parts—i.e. in dialogue with questions of parts/wholes). While it was in progress, I always called BLUETS “The Blue Book.” But I knew I always wanted an eventual title that referred, however obliquely, to the book’s form. In this case, the form is notably PLURAL, as is BLUETS, which seemed right. Also, I have always pronounced BLUETS “bluettes,” which is kind of a personal joke about feminization. Like, “majorettes,” etc. It’s a joke because I think the book has a lot to do with the robustness of being a female human, so I found irony in the diminutive nature of the suffix. I also liked the fact that the word means a kind of flower, as it allowed each proposition, or whatever you might call each numbered section, to be thought of as a single flower in a bouquet. This sounds cheesy here, but I think I talk about this idea in a less cheesy way in the book itself, near the end, when I’m ruminating on its composition, and its surprising (to me) slimness, or “anemia.” 2. I know you've thought (and taught) about the fragment as a mode of writing. I'm wondering how your study of the form influences the way you use it. While writing a book, I’m influenced by things the same way I would imagine most writers are: I look for what I want to steal, then I steal it, and make my own weird stew of the goods. Often while writing I’d re-read the books by Barthes written in fragments— A Lover’s Discourse , Roland Barthes by Roland Barthes —and see what he gained from an alphabetical, somewhat random organization, and what he couldn’t do that way. I mostly read Wittgenstein, and watched how he used numbered sections to think sequentially, and to jump, in turn. I read Shonagon’s The Pillow Book , and tried to keep a pillow book about blue for some time. (It didn’t last long, as an exercise, but some of the entries made it into BLUETS.) I re-read Haneke’s Sorrow Beyond Dreams , which finally dissolves into fragments, after a fairly strong chronological narrative has taken him so far. In the course I taught on the fragment, which was somewhat after the fact of writing BLUETS, but conceived in relation to it, we studied a kind of taxonomy of fragments: the decayed fragment (Sappho); the contemporary fragment (text messages, twitter, blog posts, etc.); the modernist fragment (T.S. Eliot; fragment as mark of psychological disintegration); Freud’s fragment (dreams, slips, etc. as thruways to the unconscious; the sampled or plagiarized fragment; fragment as waste, excess, or garbage; the footnote; fragment as frame (Degas, Manet); life narrative as fragment: we can’t see the whole until we’re dead, and then we can’t see it (pathos); fragment as psychological terror (castration, King’s head); fragment as fetish, or as “organ-logic,” as pornography; fragment as metonym & synecdoche; fragment as that which is preserved, or that which remains; fragment as the unfinished or the abandoned; and so on and so forth. I think, in the back of my mind, I was aware of all these categories while writing BLUETS, and put them each into play as needed while writing. The book seems to me hyper-aware of the fragment as fetish, as catastrophe, as leftover, as sample or citation, as memory, and so on. Many of the anecdotes in the book (such as about the decay of blue objects I’ve collected, or my memory of a particularly acute shade of blue, or the recountings of dreams) perform these concepts quite directly. 3. In The Literary Absolute , Philippe Lacoue-Labarthe and Jean-Luc Nancy write that "each fragment stands for itself and for that from which it has been detached."(44) They go on to explain that the fragment is both "sub-work" (in the obvious sense of being only a small piece of the Work), but also "super-work", as it stands, complete in itself, outside the work and calls up the plural potentiality of the work. What do you make of this idea and how do you understand the relation of the fragment to the Work as a whole? I like the idea of the “super-work,” the fragment that indicates the whole it has been excised from. However, on a concrete level, I don’t think that’s really true of BLUETS. Some of the propositions are very much in dialogue with the ones that have come before it, acting as rebuffs, or conclusions, or swerves. To detect their motion, one has to already be in the car. Often they are as short as: “ Disavowal , says the silence,” or “As if we could scrape the color off the iris and still see,” or “In any case, I am no longer counting the days.” These don’t make much sense outside of their context. Although, now that I’ve isolated just these few, I can see that they might gesture to the whole—but I think you’d have to know what the whole was, for the exercise to feel full. I am interested, however, in the notion of collecting, of a collection—and how to know when to stop, when you’ve amassed enough. While writing BLUETS, I thought of Joseph Cornell as the ultimate teacher in this respect: he collected enormous amounts of junk, he “hunted” for treasures all over the city, but each box or collage or even film has a certain minimalism, each feels as if it’s been distilled to become exactly as specific as it should be. In other words, the composition emanates from the piles of junk left in its wake, but it in itself becomes perfect. It may be unfashionable, but I’m interested in this sense of perfection. 3b. Fragments collected together become a whole that gestures to dozens of other, potential wholes. How, if at all, do you think about your book in relation to the preservation of potentiality? I have to admit, I don’t entirely understand this question. Preservation of potentiality—that’s what I don’t quite understand. I will say this, though: writing a book, especially a book of this kind (i.e. I’d wanted to write a book on the color blue for my whole life), has a certain pain in it—the pain of manifestation. Every word that gets set down, every decision made—form, content, sentence structure, image—begins to define a work that previously was a kind of infinitely indeterminate mental cloud, or beautifully diffuse physical sensation. As the book comes into being, I’m often thinking, “this is it? this is all it’s going to be?” For me, I think it’s this feeling, rather than that of not having anything to say, or a terror of the blank page, that can bring a sort of writer’s block. Think of Lily Briscoe at the end of Woolf’s To the Lighthouse —after her long reverie, she eventually must make the mark on the canvas. She brings the brush down, then sighs: “There, I have had my vision.” To have made the mark, to have manifested the vision, brings with it a certain satisfaction, a certain euphoria and relief—but also a brand of pathos. Of all the possible books, you wrote this book. Of all the possible brush strokes, you made this one. How very strange! The good news is, you’re usually so tired when you finish a book that you don’t care anymore—you’re just happy it’s finished, and that you can move on. And if you’re lucky, you may eventually marvel at the specificity of the result, feel the magic and largesse in its specificity, in its singularity. I feel this way about BLUETS. 4. Can you talk a little about the way traditional prose standbys like character and narrative develop out of distinct and disconnected fragments? I feel like this definitely happens in Bluets as well as other texts that use a similar approach. BLUETS always had a specific set of dramatic personae, and also a sort of narrative arc. It begins by saying, “Suppose I were to begin,” which places the whole book, at least for me, in the realm of the novelistic, or at least the speculative. That freedom was important to me while writing. I have a lot of issues, for lack of a better word, with narrative, but I also have no problem with trying to structure a work so that it acts as a page-turner. I wanted there to be a lot of momentum in this book, as well as plenty of opportunities for eddying out into cul-de-sacs. That was the tension—how to make some chains of propositions that pull you forward, and then allow for some to bring you so far afield that you might find yourself wondering, “why are we talking about this here?” before remembering how you got there, and why it might matter. While some of the fragments may seem disconnected or distinct, the truth is that they each had to fall into one the book’s major categories, which included love, language, sex, divinity, alcohol, pain, death, and problems of veracity/perception. If I truly couldn’t tether an anecdote or factoid to the thread, it eventually had to go. I also spaced out the distinct threads fairly methodically, and had the characters reappear at a fairly regular rate. There’s even a kind of “where are they now?” section at the end, announced by my injured friend’s letter to her friends, in which she tells them how her spinal cord injury has affected her life, and how she feels today. I’m sure one could write a book of very disconnected fragments that didn’t so overtly weave into a whole—I’ve read many of them—but it’s also true that the mind will always work overtime to put disparate things together; the Surrealists mined that tendency for all it was worth. I think that’s a cool approach, to let the reader make the connections, but it’s important to me as a writer to make sure that the connections, when made, actually point toward what I want to be pointing at, rather than just reflecting the human brain’s capacity to make a bridge. 5. To what extent does how you label your texts matter? What is the difference between notes, fragments, bluets, and aphorisms? Basically, is taxonomy important? Taxonomy, hmm. At some point I was very compelled by issues of taxonomy, but over the years I’ve grown less interested in the question, as the notion of the “hybrid” or the “cross-genre” seems to have become its own kind of jargon or pitch. I got very excited some time ago when I was trying to subtitle my book JANE, and I came across Brian Evenson’s book DARK PROPERTY: AN AFFLICTION. I thought—of course! A book can be a CONDITION rather than a GENRE. So I subtitled JANE “A Murder,” with this concept in mind. My most recent book, THE ART OF CRUELTY, I subtitled “a reckoning,” using the same logic. This has been one means of skirting the whole genre issue. On the other hand, I don’t really like it when people called BLUETS “notes” or “aphorisms,” or “fragments,” because it’s not really any of those things. Aphoristic philosophy—which was one of this book’s inspirations—is not made up of just aphorisms per se. There may be great aphorisms to be found in Nietzsche or Wittgenstein, for example, but neither is writing a series of one-liners. Their projects are bigger than that. They are in dialogue with argumentation as much as with impression. Likewise, I don’t really see BLUETS as poetry. I mean, I don’t care if someone wants to call it that—if they do, it happily expands the notion of poetry—but I’ve written enough poetry to have a lot of respect for its particular tools, which include the line break, and forms of logic unavailable to prose. BLUETS thinks in prose; it is written in prose. It sometimes thinks in images, and sometimes in sound, but essentially it is about sentences, and about trains of prose logic and their limits. But if someone wants to call it poetry, I wouldn’t go to the mat about it. 6. Are there other texts (of or about fragments) that you'd like to recommend? Texts about fragments to recommend: Here are the ones that come immediately to mind: The Notebooks of Joseph Joubert , Anne Carson’s If Not, Winter , Stevie Smith, “The Person from Porlock,” the poetry of Lorine Niedecker, Lucille Clifton, and Paul Celan, Tom Phillips’s A Humument , Ann Lauterbach’s essay on “the whole fragment,” Linda Nochlin, The Body in Pieces , Mary Ann Caws, The Surrealist Look , Heather McHugh, Poetry and Partiality . And the drawings of David Shrigley 7. And finally, is there anything you wish I would have asked? Please ask/answer if so. No, I’m happy with these questions!! The Beginning of Bluets (An Excerpt) 1. Suppose I were to begin by saying that I had fallen in love with a color. Suppose I were to speak this as though it were a confession; suppose I shredded my napkins as we spoke. It began slowly. An appreciation, an affinity. Then, one day, it became more serious. Then (looking into an empty teacup, its bottom stained with thin brown excrement coiled into the shape of a sea horse) it became somehow personal. 2. And so I fell in love with a color – in this case, the color blue – as if falling under a spell, a spell I fought to stay under and get out from under, in turns. 3. Well, and what of it? A voluntary delusion, you might say. That each blue object could be a kind of burning bush, a secret code meant for a single agent, an X on a map too diffuse ever to be unfolded in entirety but that contains the knowable universe. How could all the shreds of blue garbage bags stuck in brambles, or the bright blue tarps flapping over ever shanty and fish stand in the world, be, in essence, the fingerprints of God? I will try to explain this. 4. I admit that I may have been lonely. I know that loneliness can produce bolts of hot pain, a pain which, if it stays hot enough for long enough, can begin to stimulate, or to provoke – take your pick – an apprehension of the divine. ( This ought to arouse our suspicions. ) 5. But first, let us consider a sort of case in reverse. In 1867, after a long bout of solitude, the French poet Stéphane Mallarmé wrote to his friend Henri Cazalis: “These last months have been terrifying. My Thought has thought itself through and reached a Pure Idea. What the rest of me has suffered during that long agony, is indescribable.” Mallarmé described this agony as a battle that took place on God's “boney wing.” “I struggled with that creature of ancient and evil plumage – God – whom I fortunately defeated and threw to earth,” he told Cazalis with exhausted satisfaction. Eventually Mallarmé began replacing “le ciel” with “l'Azur” in his poems, in an effort to rinse references to the sky of religious connotations. “Fortunately,” he wrote Cazalis, “I am quite dead now.” 6. The half-circle of blinding turquoise ocean is this love's primal scene. That this blue exists makes my life a remarkable one, just to have seen it. To have seen such beautiful things. To find oneself placed in their midst. Choiceless. I returned there yesterday and stood again upon the mountain. 7. But what kind of love is it, really? Don't fool yourself and call it sublimity. Admit that you have stood in front of a little pile of ultramarine pigment in a glass cup at a museum and felt stinging desire. But to do what? Liberate it? Purchase it? Ingest it? There is so little blue food in nature – in fact blue in the wild tends to mark food to avoid (mold, poisonous berries) – that culinary advisers generally recommend against blue light, blue paint, and blue plates when and where serving food. But while the color may sap appetite in the most literal sense, it feeds it in others. You might want to reach out and disturb the pile of pigment, for example, first staining your fingers with it, then staining the world. You might want to dilute it and swim in it, you might want to rouge your nipples with it, you might want to paint a virgins robe with it. But you still wouldn't be accessing the blue of it. Not exactly. 8. Do not, however, make the mistake of thinking that all desire is yearning. “We love to contemplate blue, not because it advances to us, but because it draws us after it,” wrote Goethe, and perhaps he is right. But I am not interested in longing to live in a world in which I already live. I don't want to yearn for blue things, and God forbid, for any “blueness.” Above all, I want to stop missing you. 9. So please do not write to tell me about any more beautiful blue things. To be fair, this book will not tell you about any, either. It will not say, Isn't X beautiful? Such demands are murderous to beauty. 10. The most I want to do is show you the end of my index finger. Its muteness. Bluets that did not make the final version of Bluets We think of a glowing chunk of sapphire, for instance, or a pane of Chartres stained glass, as luminous, and God knows they are. But such luminosity doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with clarity . To call something a false idol is to elevate it to the company of deities, even if one eventually casts it down (cf. Milton giving Lucifer the best speeches). For the truth is that I have never really understood what love and will have to do with each other. Following the blue, as if tracking a trail of decomposing crumbs left in the woods by a benevolent or absentminded stranger, is, at times, the best I can do. Joan Mitchell: so beautiful and athletic when young; so craggy and indomitable as she aged—in both cases, without vanity —like my Swedish grandparents, whom I barely knew, but whom I remember as being tan and fair at the same time, prematurely decimated by morning vodka with OJ and an endless boil of cigarettes. Do not think, however, that this is a scrapbook in which blue is the star and I its delirious fan. For it is a mistake to think of blue as separate from us. It is the bulge of the carotid against the bracket of your skin. It is the matrix of veins that enlaces your heart. At one point during this period, Klein—no stranger to grandiosity—“signed the sky.” He also arranged performances at which he dipped naked women from head to toe in IKB blue, rolled an enormous canvas out on the floor, and instructed the women to drag each other around on top of it while a string quartet played nearby. He called the women “human paintbrushes.” In both cases, I have arguably been nothing more than a child of illusion. Beethoven felt differently. “Can you lend me the Theory of Colours for a few weeks?” he wrote to a friend in 1820. “It is an important work. His last things are insipid.” There would seem to be a lesson here, but I am not prepared to describe it. “They feel as though if you fell into them you would be trapped and unable to breathe, choked and suffocated by the powdery pigment,” wrote Berger of Klein’s IKB monochromes. At times I look forward to this ravaging, if only because it represents all that I am supposed to fear, and because, if one manages to live long enough, it seems something of an inevitability, and looking forward to an inevitability seems at least an approximation of spiritual wisdom. In the far-off blue places, one finds oneself face to face with one’s stupidity. The cradle of it. It is a tremendous relief. Instead of sputtering forth a gargle, a howl, or an assertoric proposition, one can remain silent, stupefied. It is as if one’s tongue had been sewn, at long last, into its den. For one does not just seek oblivion. One can also find it. Sometimes one can even purchase it. Of the oblivion seekers themselves, Eberhardt says simply: “They are people who like their pleasure.” Caravaggio is a serious painter. He does not use blue. Neither does Goya, nor Velasquez. They are tenebrists , not denizens of the carnival. The blues of Picasso and Matisse, even in their most melancholy applications, do not strike me as altogether serious. The blues of Joseph Cornell, Hiroshige, Fra Angelico, and Cézanne, on the other hand, strike me as quite serious. The blue of Vermeer is simply too painful to discuss here. Let us leave the woman in blue alone with her letter. Let us leave her transfixed, standing on the bright edge of the earth, about to fall. In the Middle Ages, it was commonly thought that the most powerful mordant was a drunk man’s piss: yet another instance in which alcohol fastens the blue. But one can, I think, feel similarly bound, without the spirit. And when Cornell made Rose Hobart , he had to snip away 57½ minutes of the original film in order to showcase the object of his desire. Love, too, can sometimes be a condensery . On the other hand, speaking through the voice of the Egyptian god Thamus, Socrates comes down fairly forcefully for poison : “This discovery of yours [i.e. writing] will create forgetfulness in the learners’ souls, because they will not use their memories; they will trust to the external written characters and not remember of themselves. The specific which you have discovered is an aid not to memory, but to reminiscence, and you give your disciples not truth, but only the semblance of truth.” But what has a soul to do with memory? I admit that here I run out of ideas; I must again consult the Encyclopedia. “Much of our moral life depends on the peculiar ways in which we are embedded in time.” This has the aura of truth, but really it takes us no further. For what has morality to do with memory, or with a soul? Instead of a roving dialogue unfolding under the shade of a plane tree, this is more like a coarse talk show taking place in a hall of mirrors: no guests, one host. To do: make a list of people who seem to have found some dignity in their loneliness, and consult it when I feel constitutionally incapable of abiding my own. “Frequent tears have run the colours from my life” (Elizabeth Barrett Browning). Does it follow, in spiritual matters, that one’s doubt is surrounded by a plateau of certainty? “Whosoever unceasingly strives upward, him can we save,” wrote Goethe. But who is to say that faith isn’t the abyss, and doubt the surrounding peaks? For while we may have learned the names for these things, articulation is still a form of accommodation. We stutter to each other in a sort of shorthand, at times carving out shapely analogies. But we cannot be sure that we are talking about the same things, or that we are employing the same code. —But now you are talking as if you were drowning, your lungs swollen with expired air. Why not just give up the dive? In which case you could start swimming along the surface: a cold spot here, a warm patch there. Same pond. Remember: the knights pure enough to enter the presence of the Holy Grail never return. It is only those who have been “incompletely transformed” who come back to tell the tale. And some seekers don’t come back from the wilderness as shamans, but rather as brain-damaged vegetables whose musculature now resembles gelatin. Remember this if someone appears in a field of chollas, hands you a loincloth and a tab of pure blotter acid with one hand, and keeps the other out of sight. We might here note that Andy Warhol was also, for a time, riveted by blue pussy. His blue pussy was a beatific cat, gazing upward from the last page of his 1954 book of watercolors, 25 Cats Name Sam and One Blue Pussy , looking as if he were happily anticipating “pussy heaven,” as Warhol elsewhere termed the feline afterlife. Perhaps, then, the mistake is to look for a vividness, or a sweetness, apart from illusion. In which case we waste much precious time warding off the specter of the mirage . In such moments, death itself may appear a light-hearted occurrence. Evan Lavender-Smith Interview: 1) Do you consider From Old Notebooks (FON) to be a kind of constraint writing? I guess it would have been more of a constraint if you'd only culled things from your notes instead of writing pieces specifically for/relating to FON. I certainly think that the book shares something important with constraint writing, as I think it does with conceptual writing, although I don't know that it fits neatly into either of these categories. Perhaps it's a kind of faux-constraint or -conceptual writing. The book's primary constraint—only things written in notebooks are allowed —sort of collapses under the weight of its own self-reflexivity; as you say, the entries become about the book itself, which I think ends up undermining or subjugating the austerity we associate with a more typical constraint-based writing. I suppose there's also a secondary constraint associated with the structure of the book and the ordering of the entries, this zany process whereby I classified entries according to a number (1 through 12, I think) referencing subject/theme, then deleted all of the entries leaving only their reference numbers, then arranged the numbers in something resembling sonata form, then plugged all the entries back into their placeholders. But that's a very secret, Roussel-type constraint, one that perhaps does not do much to create a noticeable intensity of constraint. And also I ended up making many revisions to the order of the entries that broke with the output of my secret formula. So yes, I think something like "sham constraint" writing is probably a more appropriate designation. 2) FON is very often self-reflective, often feels as if it is struggling to pin itself down. I'm wondering if the form (disjointed notes) allows for that kind of reflection to creep in repeatedly without weighing down the whole book. Does the ability to ask a question and then immediately head off in a totally different direction free you to be self-doubting without wallowing? Does this question make sense? Maybe I should ask more generally what kinds of content does this form afford that more traditionally structured work might not? I am hopeful that the self-reflexivity is less cloying in this book than I find it to be in other highly self-reflexive texts on account of what you mention, the ability of the book to veer off in another direction nearly every time an instance of explicit self-reflexivity occurs. I would say this is also the case with respect to the book's many instances of pathos and sentiment or even bathos and sentimentality: whenever the book broaches sentimentality in an entry, it is followed by another entry about something totally different, which can serve to undercut the sentiment of the previous entry. And this is probably also the case with the book's movement toward and immediately away from entries/fragments dealing with specific literary or philosophical texts/authors with which some readers may be unfamiliar, insofar as one entry might concern Kant's transcendental idealism and the next entry the color of my infant son's poo. The book is quite contrapuntal, in this respect, which is one of the things that original structuring scheme was meant to effect. As to alternative or unusual kinds of content afforded by the book's form, I'd like to think they are many, but I have always been most excited by what I perceive to be the book's presentation of a kind of form-becoming-content, this process by which the reader is engaged with form as he might otherwise be with character, or with setting, or with plot—part of what's driving the reading experience may be the reader's sense of an evolving form, a form that begins somewhat expositionally, that becomes somewhat conflicted and tense, and that finally achieves a kind of resolution. But, from another perspective, the book's form remains exactly the same from the first to the last page. My reading of the book would posit or project a kind of talk-to/talk-back relationship between form and content; each is strongly influencing our vision of the other, and perhaps, over the course of the book, they become difficult to distinguish. 3) In The Literary Absolute , Philippe Lacoue-Labarthe and Jean-Luc Nancy write that "each fragment stands for itself and for that from which it has been detached."(44) They go on to explain that the fragment is both "sub-work" (in the obvious sense of being only a small piece of the Work), but also "super-work", as it stands, complete in itself, outside the work and calls up the plural potentiality of the work. What do you make of this idea and how do you understand the relation of the fragment to the Work as a whole? I like this idea, but I may have some reservations about generalizing it too far beyond Nancy and Lacoue-Labarthe's intended historical context. In my book, there are perhaps some entries/fragments that possess a sort of immanent intensity—entries seemingly able to "speak for themselves," so to speak—but there are also very many that do not. I think that the book itself would argue—in fact, I believe it explicitly does so—against this notion that any one of its constituent parts could be removed from the whole and still remain "meaningful" or "true." I imagine the parts of the whole, in this book, not as cogs in relation to some whole mechanics or machine, say, but instead as mechanical movement itself; perhaps the most important thing about any given entry is not what it says so much as the fact that it begins and ends. The book seems to me to be always moving forward in time and space; once a fragment has happened, the book is done with it; there's no turning back, no looking over the shoulder. There's an entry somewhere that goes something like "This book is nothing more than the trash can of my imagination," a potential interpretative model that has become something of a guiding light in my understanding of the book's form: the entries/fragments do certainly accrue, as trash accrues, but we don't necessarily feel compelled to go picking through this heap of trash. 3b) Fragments collected together become a whole that gestures to dozens of other, potential wholes. How, if at all, do you think about your book in relation to the preservation of potentiality? Of course I think about this mostly in relation to the fragments/entries concerning specific potential works, the entries that begin "Story about" or "Novel about," etc. As I continue to work to see many of the ideas in the book realized, even today—and as I will likely continue to do for a long time—I remain in a sort of dialogue with the book. So I find myself still writing the book, in some sense, even though the book is already written. One of my favorite things about From Old Notebooks is how it opens its own amorphous and evolving prefatory engagement with my future writing. I believe the book references the claim of some critics that Ulysses was written in such a way to make it appear as if it were presaged by passages in the New Testament, just as some have claimed that passages in the New Testament were written to create the appearance of having been forecasted by passages in the Old Testament (I believe there is a specific poetic figure denoting this kind of retroactive foreshadowing that I'm now failing to recall). I've always really loved that idea and perhaps still hold out hope that my future writing will serve to indirectly modify From Old Notebooks in these types of sly and tricky ways. Also, in relation to the above-mentioned trash-can model as one of many such potential models for the book's form, there's a way in which the book regularly returns to a reading of itself, always trying to understand how it is working and always coming up with new strategies for its own analysis. So it seems to me, with respect to the preservation of potentiality, that the book is also intent on preserving its own "infinite hermeneutics" (or at least an illusion thereof). 4) Can you talk a little about the way traditional prose standbys like character and narrative develop out of distinct and disconnected fragments? I feel like this definitely happens in FON as well as other texts that use a similar approach. I think it's important to address the burden placed on the reader vis-à-vis development when considering narratological staples like character and plot in relation to highly fragmented narratives. In my own reading experience of books in which neat narrative progression is supplanted by a fragmentary or elliptical progression, the reader oftentimes must begin committing to processes of projection and transference in order to eke out that amount of development she would require of narrative. I especially like this possibility for two reasons. The first is that in the absence of stable or "full" development, we may feel inclined, as readers, to fill in the blanks with manifestations of our own, consciousness-specific desire for coherence, which can create a sort of personalized Möbius strip out of reading and writing, artistic creation and reception becoming tangled, distinctions and distances between these categories becoming blurred. The second, which may follow from the first for the more theoretically inclined reader, is that this process may serve to expose our own prejudices about what narrative is supposed to do or achieve, thereby leading us to an anxious readerly condition in which we are forced to confront the poverty of our own understanding regarding the first principles of narrative art. These two effects—1) tangling the reading/writing experience, and 2) forcing the reader's reconsideration of artistic rule—are, to my thinking, among the most powerful effects available to writing. 5) To what extent does how you label your texts matter? What is the difference between notes , fragments , thoughts , and aphorisms ? Basically, is taxonomy important? Supplementary question: In FON , there is a passage: "Why am I so averse to classifying FON as poetry-because poetry doesn't sell." If you want, this might be a good place to talk about genre classifications as well. This answer will surely seem coy or naïve to some people, but the fact is that my own tedious and protracted grappling with the strictures and arbitrariness of generic classification has finally given way to a vision of an imaginative writing largely unfettered by those academic or commercial or cultural pressures which have served to delimit the typological boundaries of art and language. That seems to be a goal for me, anyway, to work to maintain a position of restless and relentless searching in relation to form, and to resist, as best I can, pressures associated with the commodification or canonization of language and form. Of course that position is itself probably overdetermined by pressures both within and beyond my comprehension—e.g. it is very reactionary; very Modernist, in a sense—and it also strikes me to be of a piece with a rather antiquated and distasteful image of artistic creation and the "author-function," but nonetheless it's what I seem to prefer. 6) Are there other texts (of or about fragments) that you'd like to recommend? Here are some things I've recently read and enjoyed in which I felt the fragment was the text's dominant or near-dominant mode of engagement with narrative/poetic/philosophical development and progression. Mean Free Path , Ben Lerner Bluets , Maggie Nelson Varieties of Disturbance , Lydia Davis Notes from a Bottle Found on the Beach at Carmel , Evan S. Connell AVA , Carole Maso Reader's Block , David Markson Deepstep Come Shining , C.D. Wright The Passion According to G.H . by Clarice Lispector The Crab Nebula , Éric Chevillard The Book of Questions , Edmond Jabès Monsieur Teste , Paul Valéry Mourning Diary , Roland Barthes The Arcades Project , Walter Benjamin Philosophical Investigations , Ludwig Wittgenstein "Diapsalmata," from Either/Or , Søren Kierkegaard Unfortunately, I haven't read much theory discussing the fragment as a narratological device, although I did enjoy the Nancy and Lacoue-Labarthe book you mention above. 7) And finally, is there anything you wish I would have asked? Please ask/answer if so. I should say that From Old Notebooks is currently out of print, as I, perhaps bullheadedly, insisted that the publisher remove the book from their catalog when I discovered that they'd been implementing a pay-to-publish scheme, which, given the revelation of its specific details, I felt to be manipulative and unethical. There are many used copies floating around, though, and I am hopeful that the book will be reprinted someday. From Old Notebooks Excerpts NB: The first excerpt covers the first few pages of the book. The second covers pages 16 and 17. These excerpts show how FON develops from a series of ideas for texts to a more varied series of notes that further reveal the character, preoccupations, and desires of the writer. Excerpt 1: Short story about a church on the ocean floor. Congregation in scuba gear. Memoir in which narrator struggles to describe her childhood – offering two or more contrary accounts of the same event – having been raised by divorced parents with unresolved anger toward each other such that discrepancies between parents' accounts of each other's involvement in her childhood have damaged narrator's memory beyond repair. Academic essay entitled “ Cute Title: Serious Subtitle : On the Preponderance of Precious Subtitling in Academic Essays.” Novel in chapters, each chapter spanning one year, 1977 – 2006. In lieu of chapter number, photograph of Tom Cruise's face from that year. Story about a garbage man who cannot fathom how anyone might be content living a life not wholly dedicated to being a garbage man. Excerpt 2 Something entitled “From Old Notebooks,” simply a transcription of entries from these notebooks. Story involving a couple whose divorce proceedings center upon the allocation of the books contained in the family library. Living off-campus on the outskirts of a city where I knew no one, in a studio apartment the size of a large walk-in closet, I would occupy myself in the evenings with and obsessive study of the shadows of my hands against the wall as I faux-conducted piano concertos; and later, after having taken three Ambien, intimate conversations with bits of magma crawling across the carpet that had detached from the glowing wires on my electric space heater. That same year, in a fit of manic loneliness, I invited a raccoon into my apartment with a trail of cracker crumbs. Do not let Jackson and Sofia live off-campus as undergraduates. Cached auto-complete entry options that appear when I type the letter e into the search field in the toolbar of my internet browser: evan lavender-smith “evan lavender-smith” “evan lavender smith” evan + “lavender-smith” evan + “lavender smith” evan + lavender + smith The letter f: fear of death Contemporary authors who construct a thick barrier between themselves and their readers such that authorial vulnerability is revealed negatively, i.e., via the construction of the barrier. If Team USA had a mascot, it would be God. Character who refers to Wellbutrin as his muse. “I hope to one day storm out on Terry Gross during an interview because I am that kind of eccentric famous author.” ----------------- Notes that were cut from From Old Notebooks Short story about literary executors sifting through the Gmail account of a recently deceased author. It would better suit me to drive a hybrid hearse. First line of a story: "The M.F.A. in creative writing was the degree Shontiqua had her sights set on . " Story/mock-essay: conflation of the obnoxious languages of U.S.A. patriotism and M.F.A. workshops. The flag at half-mast because the market’s way down today. Awakened from dream . . . saw figure in arrangement of stars . . . closed eyes . . . dream changed. . . . The smile is perhaps the human equivalent to the dog's wagging tail, with an important caveat: the human can fake a smile. Can a man fake an erection? To do philosophy, Back then I was doing some philosophy —what a ridiculoususage. It is thanks to the proud philosopher who, attempting to justify his existence, humbles himself to a position of activity. The greatest act of fraud on the part of philosophy is that it attempts to exist outside of time , the word of the philosopher presented to us as the Word. This is what Derrida means to criticize when he praises Nietzsche's pluralism, or Levi-Strauss's mythopoetics: Philosophy cannot pretend to be above or beyond the form of the book. The question of being flashes through us , mind and body. The corporealization of the question of being. Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must—write? The proliferation of M.F.A. programs in creative writing has given rise to the whirlpool of conservatism which is contemporary American literature. Surely it's no coincidence that I began From Old Notebooks shortly after I stopped seeing my therapist. Somewhere I read Edmund Wilson refer to Beckett's late style as terminal . I understand why he would say so, but I would prefer to reserve that term for David Markson's late style. Random House settles out of court to pay $2.35 million in genre-damages made by James Frey against his readers. What if the publisher of F.O.N. markets the book as a novel , and it later comes to light that the book was in fact a memoir . . . ? That the problem of death has been outmoded is the grand illusion of philosophy after Heidegger. The modern philosopher says, "Death is not my problem. Being is my problem." The modern philosopher might call death an adolescent problem , and being an adult problem . But what he fails to recognize is that the concept of being is merely an abstraction of the concept of death. (He forgets that being is incidental to non-being, and that the latter is only conceivable by way of analogy to death .) The modern philosopher wants to pretend that death is irrelevant to his project, but it is the impetus for his project. Surely the reason I lash out against it is that I am jealous of poetry. Surely contemporary poetry does not deserve my wrath . Someone could read the book with an almanac in hand and point to certain entries which suggest the concurrence of public events (e.g., terror, war, football), thereby assigning dates to those entries. As if. Do people auction their personal diaries on eBay? I might consider auctioning these notebooks if the book is ever published, in keeping with the spirit of the book, that is, the spirit of facile self-disclosure. The poem is dead. Long live the poem! The ending of F.O.N. might contain the beginning of the next book—a sequel entitled Work-In-Progress . F.O.N. might blurinto W.I.P. The point of physical distinction between the two books would be arbitrary. Work-In-Progress would be written in the same form as F.O.N., but it would be also written in an entirely different form, as the (conception of the) form of the book "F.O.N. + W.I.P." is an evolving (conception of) form, a (conception of) form that is always becominganother (conception of) form. No matter how much I want to force From Old Notebooks to become something called Work-In-Progress , I won't be able to: any contrived becoming of that sort would represent a violence on the form of the book. I'm going to have to take a leap at some point, though, a leap out of the book, like a leap from a burning building. “The Voidhood of the Void; or, An Archaeology of Nothing.” Rather than enact the high drama of self-reflexivity, the new writing will accept self-reflexivity as status quo —metafiction's birthday is passed, no need to keep celebrating—in the tradition of the documentary film, the reality TV show, and the internet blog. Such a writing must, by definition, be genreless, or make the question of genre irrelevant: hence, the post-generic . Perhaps my next novel will be a one-page poem. (shrink)
By now this essay has accumulated over twenty alleged meanings, senses, or aspects of reification; there seems not much point in listing them. Well, maybe, in a footnote: 1) Misapprehending a human relationship as a thing (Lukács); 2) Recognizing what had been taken for a human relationship as a thing (implicit in O.E.D.); 3) The coming into being of a world of commodities and their movements on the market (Lukács); 4) Realizing a “mental image” in an artifact (Arendt); 5) Forming (...) a mind in such a way that it tends to take human relationships for things (Lukács); 6) Misapprehending a person as a thing, in the sense of denying capacity for agency (O.E.D., Lukács, Berger and Luckmann); 7) Misapprehending a person as a thing, in the sense of denying moral status (O.E.D., Lukács, Berger and Luckmann); 8) Recognizing as a thing what had been mistaken for a person (O.E.D.); 9) and 10) (Mis)apprehending an abstraction as a person (Lukács, possibly Berger and Luckmann); 11) Misapprehending an abstraction (abstract concept?) as a thing (O.E.D., Woodard, Quine); 12) Recognizing as a thing what had been mistaken for an abstraction (abstract concept?) (implicit in O.E.D., Quine); 13) Misapprehending an abstraction as real (Woodard); 14) Deciding what is real (Quine); 15) and 16) (Mis)apprehending something humanly made as natural (Berger and Luckmann, probably Lukács); 17) and 18) (Mis)apprehending temporary or contingent regularities as eternal, universal laws (Marx on fetishism, possibly Lukács, possibly Berger and Luckmann); 19) and 20) (Mis)apprehending human conventions as sacred (Lukács, Berger and Luckmann); 21) and 22) (Mis)apprehending what is humanly changeable as humanly unchangeable (Lukács, Berger and Luckmann). If one further divides each of these categories between the reification of inhabituation and that of naiveté, their number will double. But perhaps that distinction will not actually fit all of them; I have not pursued the matter. Some of them are mutually consistent, almost overlapping; others are incompatible. Some are in accord with the dictionary definition, others not. With some, the sense in which some entity is being converted into a res is evident; with others, try as I might, I cannot find such a sense. The dictionary entry itself is rather slipshod, and interpreters have expanded the term's meaning almost indefinitely beyond it. The main ways in which Lukács and Berger and Luckmann use the word do not fit into the dictionary definition at all. They make the meaning of reification dependent on concepts like “can” and “could” that are themselves heavily dependent on the particular context of their use. Lukács's and Berger and Luckmann's discussions are confusing and very probably confused. The whole thing is a swamp. Can this concept be saved? And should it?Within the limits of the dictionary definition, the concept does its work well enough. When Stephen Gould, say, criticizes psychologists for reifying intelligence by assuming that the I.Q. test must be testing something, he and the concept perform a clear and useful function. Stephen Gould, The Mismeasurement of Man (New York: W. W. Norton, 1981). But if the main concerns are those of Lukács and Berger and Luckmann, in my opinion the term mystifies more than it reveals. Their concerns could be accommodated within the dictionary definition as reification of persons, in the sense of denying people's capacity for agency. But although Lukács and Berger and Luckmann do occasionally use the word this way, for the most part they do not. So articulating their concerns within this sense of the word would require extensive rewriting of their arguments. Would political theorists who share those concerns not do better to abandon the concept? I would unhesitatingly advise it, except for one, crucial consideration. There really is something going on among us that we urgently need to think and talk about, and that Lukács's and Berger and Luckmann's conceptions of reification were meant to address. People do feel trapped, in a way that makes Kafka's little fable so perfectly emblematic for our experience. Despite the prevalence in modern society of all of Berger and Luckmann's “social circumstances that favor dereification”, very many people do feel helpless to influence the conditions that constrain their lives. Millions of Americans turn their backs on politics, judging that engagement in it would make no significant difference. Millions of members of the underclass feel worthless - though also filled with diffuse rage - because society seems to have no use for them. Almost all of us function in large organizational systems, whether as parts of the machinery or materials being processed, and have learned to take that condition for granted. We function within an economy that depends on a system of international banking and finance that everyone knows to be in constant danger of collapse. Almost all of us submit without question to the “technological imperative” that daily exhausts our resources, destroys our health, and poisons the earth. And we march like sleepwalkers down the road marked “deterrence” and “nonproliferation,” toward nuclear doom. A few of these “dangers” might actually be blessings for those now exploited and oppressed, but most would be clear and unmitigated disasters. Even Marxists must now take seriously the possibility that the owners of the earth might destroy it rather than give it up. Experts and critics offer various diagnoses of our condition, but whatever measures are actually taken to treat it seem only to make it worse. This familiar litany of troubles suggests a malaise far too extensive and too grave for the powers of political prudence. When a society, or an entire civilization, or even the whole human species seems bent on self-destruction, one suspects systematic, pervasive, fundamental derangement in people's patterns of both thought and conduct. Calling on political prudence here is almost bound to mean calling for “more of the same”. Here what is needed is a more basic realignment of assumptions, of the sort that has traditionally been associated with great political theory.Wading through the dismal swamp of reification theory, as this essay does, can leave one feeling that such concepts, and political theory itself, are hopelessly abstracted from reality and of no practical use in relation to our urgent political problems, so that political prudence is the only hope. But political reality itself, and the prudence by which gifted actors know how to move within it, always presuppose and depend on theoretical frameworks - if not self-conscious, deliberate theorizing, then unexamined, inherited theory or, more likely, fragments of theories that may well be outdated or mutually inconsistent. So if we seem today bereft of political prudence and judgment, close to our wits' end, that may be because our wits are operating out of such incoherent fragments of inherited assumptions.The message to be derived from the familiar litany of our troubles and our sleepwalking, then, is not the familiar exhortation to, “For God's sake, do something before it is too late!” For while we may feel inert, we are already doing something - a lot of things - and they are the source of our troubles. Like Kafka's mouse, we run and run. Berger and Luckmann's and Lukács's concept of reification was meant to address precisely those troubles that are the large-scale outcome of our myriad activities, sustained and enlarged by nothing more than what we do. The problem is how to stop, how to do something else, what else to do.That is a problem as much for thought as for action, a problem for action informed and empowered by new thought. Part of the value of Berger and Luckmann's - and even more of Lukács's - discussion of reification is that they tried to provide a general theory of the nature and roots of our condition, orienting us to likely avenues for action, feasible ways and means, probable allies and opponents. Their efforts, this essay has argued, were confused and deeply flawed. The concept of reification is probably not a good tool for the job, and bad tools mean sloppy work. But better sloppy work with a bad tool than no work at all. Those of us who persist in reaching for the word “reification” as a tool should probably employ greater care. We should require ourselves to specify in each case precisely what we mean, and attend to whether and how our various meanings in various contexts are interrelated. But whether we revise the concept of reification, or abandon it, or just let it continue to slop along in its present state of dishevelment doesn't much matter. What matters is that we continue to think - hard and critically, theoretically and politically - about the conditions that Lukács and Berger and Luckmann were trying to address.Our thinking here must be simultaneously theoretical and political: theoretical in the sense of radical, cutting through conventions and cliches to the real roots of our troubles, seeing social arrangements large-scale and long-range, as if from the outside, which may be what Lukács meant by “intending totality.” Lukács, “Verdinglichung,” 303, 297; “Reification,” 174, 169. Yet the thinking must also be political, in the sense of oriented to action, practical, speaking in a meaningful way to those capable of making the necessary changes, those Lukács called “the ‘we’ of genesis.”Lukács, “Verdinglichung,” 267; “Reification,” 149. For Lukács, of course, that meant the proletariat. But one need not be a Marxist to see the need for locating such a “we,” and the point of seeking it among those with an objective interest in the right sort of change and the potential power to bring it about. The aim is not some new doctrine to save us from ourselves, but a transformed way of seeing what we already tacitly know and do, which restores us to our real world - the “concrete here and now,” as Lukács puts it - and our real, living selves, including our capacities for action. That would mean not some access to mysterious, infinite powers, but the appropriation of our actual powers, recognizing the present moment as “the moment of decision, the moment of the birth of the new,” as Lukács says, out of which we jointly “make the future.”Lukács, “Verdinglichung,” 348; “Reification,” 203–204. That is no return to Hegelian idealism, but a recovery of the practical, political Marx. Thinking both theoretically and politically in this way is no easy task; indeed, it is almost a contradiction in terms. Yet it may well be our best hope, and the world is in a hurry. Despite all of the political and philosophical difficulties, unless we undertake this task we may well guarantee our own entrapment, assuring that we will end up like Kafka's mouse, rather than human and free. (shrink)
O objetivo deste artigo é apresentar algumas teorias de base sociológica que possam explicar o surgimento, em nossa época, de movimentos eclesiais católicos de cunho tradicional, que resgatam estilos de vida religiosa identificados com o passado, ou melhor, com características de uma igreja anterior ao Concílio Vaticano II. A tese central, ainda que como conclusão provisória, é que, num mundo fragmentado e secularizado, pessoas, especialmente jovens, buscam orientação de vida e fé em formas religiosas identificadas com o passado, pois estas (...) ofereceriam segurança e proteção diante de uma sociedade e igreja cada vez mais secularizadas e sem um dossel sagrado determiná-las. Assim, analisamos a tendência pósmoderna de se voltar a costumes, liturgias e doutrinas mais rígidas ou conservadoras, justa e paradoxalmente no intuito de resistir à pós-modernidade ou à racionalidade moderna. Nosso estudo tem como pano de fundo o movimento da Toca de Assis e, até certo ponto, as teorias sociológicas de Peter Berger. Assim, a metodologia deste estudo é a sociológica. Palavras-chave: Igreja Católica; Jovens; Movimentos eclesiais. ABSTRACT This article aims to present some sociological theories that can explain the present emergence of Catholic ecclesiastical movements of a “traditional” nature, which rescue religious life styles identified with the past, that is, with the Church before Vatican Council II. The central thesis, though inconclusive, is that, in a fragmented and secularized world, people, especially the young, would search for life guidance and faith in religious forms identified with the past, as they would offer security and protection in a society and in a church rendered more and more secular, and deprived of a sacred canopy to define them. Thus, it analyzes the post-modern trend to return to more rigid or conservative habits, liturgies and doctrines, precisely – and paradoxically – as a form of resistance to post-modernity or modern rationality. The article is based on the movement of Toca de Assis (St. Francis of Assisi’s Burrow Fraternity) and, up to certain point, on Peter Berger’s sociological theories. Thus, the study methodology is sociological. Key words: Catholic Church; The young; Ecclesiastical movements. (shrink)
L’édition des Papyrus de Tura nous a donné accès à un commentaire de Didyme sur les Psaumes, qui se présente comme des notes de cours plus ou moins réélaborées mais qui gardent encore la trace d’unstyle oral ; d’autres fragments didymiens sur les Psaumes nous sont parvenus par les Chaînes. Le locuteur du Psaume 22 est assimilé à l’âme et cela détermine d’emblée la cohérence d’une interprétation spirituelle : l’âme progresse à la voix de son berger, le Christ. Tout (...) en mettant en évidence la lignée alexandrine de ce commentaire, l’article nuance sur plusieurs points l’idée que Didyme dépendrait exclusivement d’Origène. (shrink)
Values and the scope of scientific inquiry, by M. Farber.--The phenomenology of epistemic claims: and its bearing on the essence of philosophy, by R. M. Zaner.--Problems of the Life-World, by A. Gurwitsch.--The Life-World and the particular sub-worlds, by W. Marx.--On the boundaries of the social world, by T. Luckmann.--Alfred Schutz on social reality and social science, by M. Natanson.--Homo oeconomicus and his class mates, by F. Machlup.--Toward a science of political economics, by A. Lowe.--Some notes on reality-orientation in contemporary societies, (...) by A. Brodersen.--The eclipse of reality, by E. Voegelin.--Alienation in Marx's Political economy and philosophy, by P. Merlan.--The problem of multiple realities: Alfred Schutz and Robert Musil, by P. L. Berger.--Phenomenology, history, myth, by F. Kersten.--The role of music in Leonardo's Paragone, by E. Winternitz.--Alfred Schutz bibliography (p. -306). (shrink)
This examination of what I have, with apologies to Régis Debray, chosen to call “the revolution in the revolution” may help us to place the process of peasant rebellion in a new and hopefully more realistic perspective. It implies, above all, that the historical evolution of peasant radicalism is more a process of addition than of substitution. That is, the growth of a radical revolutionary elite espousing modern creeds such as nationalism and communism does not so much displace the older (...) forms of rebellion or the values they embody, so much as it adds a new layer of leadership and doctrine at the revolutionary apex. The degree of interpenetration varies from place to place and over time, but we can expect to find, as we move toward the rank-and-file in the countryside, the expression of beliefs, values, and interests which distinguish the peasantry as an old and distinct, pre-capitalist class. Once again, the revolutionary amalgalm mimics the ritual amalgam which anthropologists have noted.While elements of the great tradition have become parts of local festivals, they do not appear to have entered village festival custom at the expense of much that is or was the little tradition. Instead, we see evidence of accretion and of transmutation of form without apparent replacement and without nationalization of the accumulated and transformed elements. Hilton makes much the same point about medieval peasant movements: that when they become regional rather than local they do not lose their local and particularist character but merely add on new layers of interest, op. cit., p. 64. What we confront, then, are at least two revolutions which occur simultaneously with a greater or lesser degree of integration. The nature of each would-be revolution is a product of the social location and therefore the concrete interests of its proponents - the revolutionary intelligentsia on the one hand and the peasantry on the other. Here I obviously oversimplify inasmuch as one might distinguish among sub-classes (e.g. small-holders, tenants, farm laborers, subsistence producers, market-oriented producers), each of which fosters a distinct vision of the revolutionary stakes. Thus the “Folk” variant of the French revolution will vary from region to region and from sub-class to sub-class. And ldthe revolution in the revolution,” considered as a whole, will vary depending on whether we are dealing with seventeenth century England, eighteenth century France, or twentieth century Mexico. Despite these critical variations, however, many of the themes I have developed seem remarkably durable, based, as they are, on salient features of the pre- and early capitalist peasantry. This is not to say that the relationship between the two revolutions is one of straightforward conflict. On the contrary, each is likely to share a series of aims on which their de facto coalition is based - eg. opposition to the existing elite, hatred of colonial rule, the redistribution of land and wealth. Beyond this common terrain, however, interests may diverge. This divergence may be a matter of merely separate interests. Thus the momentous issues for the revolutionary elite may be the nationalization of foreign firms and the creation of a strong state, while for the peasantry, the momentous issues may be land reform, subsistence and local justice. Here there is still scope for a coalition since the claims of each revolutionary sector are not necessarily at odds. At another level, however, there may be potential conflict, the revolutionary intelligentsia may envisage a collectivized agriculture while the peasantry may be fighting for its small-holdings; the party elite may want a centralized political order while the peasantry is wedded to local autonomy; the elite may wish to tax the countryside to industrialize while the peasantry is committed to a closed economy with no taxes. There is thus a level of shared interests, a level of divergent but not competing interests, and a level of conflicting interests. The last may not be sufficient to jeopardize the revolutionary coalition but it will find expression both in the revolutionary process and in post-revolutionary politics.To the extent that we accept these differences as the natural consequence of divergent, real interests, to the extent that we view them as an inevitable part of revolutionary praxis, it directs us away from an all too common definition of the revolutionary project. This definition implicitly or explicitly holds that the objective of the revolutionary party is to instruct or to socialize the peasantry (or the proletariat) away from its backward, petty-bourgeois, or adventurist (viz. Left-wing Communism: an Infantile Disorder) tendencies and toward a “true,” “advanced” understanding of the revolution. Thus Hobsbawm looks for the replacement of more primitive values and forms of rebellion with the modern secular creeds taught by the party. Thus Migdal elaborates a model of revolution in which peasants move from individual and local interests to an identity with party goals. See also, along these lines, Frank Parkin, Class Inequality and Political Order (New York: Praeger, 1971) and Georg Lukacs, History and Class Consciousness, translated by Rodney Livingstone (Cambridge: MIT Press, 1971). Gramsci is a more interesting and complex case and his work permits of several interpretations. While it is true that some revolutionary parties do create a cadre that does, to some extent, mediate or bridge this gap, they do not by virtue of this mediation eliminate it. The gap remains, in nearly every case, as a permanent structural feature of the revolution. Little tradition politics in the countryside will never live up to the cadre's expectations; it will often continue to be more spontaneous and reflexive than the party's desire for serried ranks implies; it will continue to reflect the durable local interests which arise from the peasantry's location in the social structure. In this context, we would do well to heed E.P. Thompson's analysis of the English naval mutinies of 1797: It is foolish to argue that because the majority of the sailors had few clear political notions, this was a parochial affair of ship's biscuits and arrears of pay, and not a revolutionary movement. This is to mistake the nature of popular revolutionary crises which arise from exactly this kind of conjunction between the grievances of the majority and the aspirations articulated by a conscious minority.E.P. Thompson, The Making of the English Working Class (New York: Vintage, 1966), p. 168.Barrington Moore has put the matter even more directly in his study of major revolutions: The intellectuals as such can do little politically unless they attach themselves to a massive form of discontent. The discontented intellectual with his soul searchings has attracted attention wholly out of proportion to his political importance, partly because these searchings leave behind them written records and also because those who write history are themselves intellectuals. It is a particularly misleading trick to deny that a revolution stems from peasant grievances because its leaders happen to be professional men or intellectuals. Barrington Moore, Jr., Social Origins of Dictatorship and Democracy (Boston: Beacon Press, 1967).What this perspective suggests is that an appropriate and more historically accurate description of most peasant revolutions would focus on this conjunction of peasant grievances and aspirations and the activities of a revolutionary party. Such a conjunction does not necessarily imply complete integration either of the overall revolutionary forces or of ideological values. In fact, it is quite in keeping with the invariably divergent and contradictory forces at work in any peasant revolution. Party propaganda and Leninist aspirations to the contrary notwithstanding, the revolutionary party may, in a limited sense, “make” the revolution, but not just as it pleases.Quite apart from the descriptive superiority of this view of revolutionary conjunctions, it has a great deal of merit in normative terms as well. There is more than a trace of unwarranted arrogance in the assumption that only the party embodies “true historical consciousness” and that the vision of justice and order found among the peasantry are examples of “partial” or “false” consciousness. The concept of a vanguard party which has a monopoly on reality not only obviates the need for democracy in the revolution but it overlooks the very real possibility that the consciousness of the rank-and-file may not be inferior but simply different. The word “conscious” here seems to me unfortunate inasmuch as it is a question of a different consciousness, not a question of its presence or absence. A recognition that the values of a revolutionary peasantry are distinguishable from those of the party can form the basis for collaboration and learning rather than a one-way exercise in “consciousness-raising.” Peter Berger, with whose book I otherwise profoundly disagree, develops this argument against false consciousness and the elite project of “consciousness-raising.” Pyramids of Sacrifice (New York: Basic Books, 1974) Chs 3 and 4. This appears to be what Mao tse-tung had in mind in his report on the Hunan uprising in 1927 which was not begun at party initiative and which was taking a course of its own. The choice, Mao wrote, was: To march at their head and lead them? Or to follow at their rear, gesticulating at them and criticising them. Or face them as opponents?Hinton, op. cit., p. 517. An effective collaboration, a working conjunction, requires the party as much to adapt itself to the demands implicit in peasant action as to socialize the peasantry to its values. For there is no peasant protest that does not implicitly embody a political program. Even the original “jacquerie” of 1538, led by Jacques Bonhomme, was not at all the directionless madness which the term “jacquerie” and other self-serving terms applied by elites to peasant rebellions (e.g. “tumultos”, “mobs”, “riots”) are intended to convey. It was based on concrete grievances related to taxation and the failure of the nobility to perform its obligations of protection.“Rodney Hilton, Bond Men Made Free (London: Temple Smith, 1973), p. 131. Similarly, the violent crowds who staged market riots in eighteenth century England were enacting an economic program; they saw themselves as “setting the price” and called themselves, in one instance, “The Regulators.”E.P. Thompson, “The Moral Economy of the English Crowd in the Eighteenth Century,” Past and Present, No. 50, 1971, pp. 108–110.I do not mean to ascribe a privileged truth status to the political consciousness of the peasantry. Peasant rebellions, after all, have their full complement of such human weaknesses as opportunism, personalism, and ethnic prejudice. Neither, however, does the “consciousness” of the party have any necessary claim to superior truth status at the level of values or even at the level of strategy. It is remarkable how often it has been the precipitate action of the peasants or workers, with their limited vision and limited goals, rather than party strategy, that has created a revolutionary situation. Without the rural and sans culottes uprisings, the seizure of power by a revolutionary elite in Paris would have been inconceivable. If the Bolsheviks, weak though they were, found power “lying in the street” it was largely because the spontaneous action of workers and peasants (i.e. factory and land seizures) had put it there. Despite, or perhaps because, the peasantry operates within a narrower purview, their action can have, and has had, revolutionary consequences. Only when there is a prolonged period of revolutionary warfare does the party's claim to superior strategic vision become plausible. And even then, it may well be that such warfare is better carried out by local units with great autonomy. The argument for the party as the progenitor of revolution is thus most persuasive at the level of the consolidation of the revolutionary state after power has been won. Although locally-based popular revolts have created revolutionary situations they have not, without the leadership and assistance of non-peasant elites, been able to consolidate a revolutionary state. This brings us to the question of how power and initiative are distributed after the revolution.In the interest of collaboration between the two sectors of a peasant revolution, there is something to be said for a revolutionary process in which the party is, initially at least, rather weak. If the Chinese and Vietnamese revolutionary elites have been particularly attentive to genuine peasant demands, it is in no small measure attributable to the fact that each party was, for an extended period, dependent for its very survival on the peasant enthusiasm it could elicit voluntarily. Learning, like much else, follows power, and both parties had to learn from their rural base or perish. Thus the way in which a revolution is made - whether by a Leninist putsch at the center or by a mass peasant mobilization at the periphery - will influence the character of the post-revolutionary order. An accommodation or partnership in the revolutionary process will favor a post-revolutionary regime that learns as much from its base as it teaches. Party domination or isolation in the revolutionary process will favor a post-revolutionary regime that attempts to impose its will. Just as one might prefer a cultural system in which the “little tradition” percolates up as much as the “great tradition” percolates down, so one may prefer a revolutionary process in which peasant values inform the elite vision rather than one in which the elite always has the last word. In terms of Marxist thought, this notion of revolutionary praxis implies that the position of Rosa Luxemburg and Trotsky is to be preferred over that of Lenin and applied to the peasantry as well as the proletariat: [Luxemburg and Trotsky] remained faithful to the hypothesis of the revolutionary proletariat, took as its point of departure the dialectical idea of the identity of subject and object and of the spontaneous tendency of the proletariat toward an authentic, non-integrated consciousness and called for a democratic party whose fundamental core must be the proletarian base - even if its revolutionary consciousness was less developed than that of the leading cadres. It was this base that should control the party machine, made up of professional revolutionaries who had more experience and more complete political education, but who were always in danger of becoming bureaucratic, furthering their own interests rather than those of the working class.... Lucien Goldmann, “Reflections on History and Class Consciousness,” in Istvan Meszaros, ed., Aspects of History and Class Consciousness (London: Routledge, Kegan Paul, 1971), pp. 69–70.It is well worth remembering that, whatever else they do, successful revolutions almost always issue in a vastly larger and more hegemonic state apparatus. In this context, the continued vitality of the peasant values of localism, egalitarianism and autonomy may well represent a humanizing force. So too may the ancient peasant weapons of scepticism, evasion, and deception prove the best defense in depth against a state which seeks to recast everything in its image. In the Third World, at least, peasants are the main consumers and, presumably, the main beneficiaries of the revolution. The new order thus succeeds or fails to the extent that the needs and values of this vast class are directly incorporated into the revolutionary process. Should it fail, we may well have reason to applaud the fact that peasant resistance and “primitive rebellion” can frustrate revolutionaries as well as reactionaries. (shrink)