The behavior of individuals currently living will generally have long-term consequences that affect the well-being of those who will come to live in the future. Intergenerational interdependencies of this nature raise difficult moral issues because only the current generation is in a position to decide on actions that will determine the nature of the world in which future generations will live. Although most are willing to attach some weight to the interests of future generations, many would argue that it is (...) not necessary to treat these interests as equivalent to those of the current generation. A common approach in this context is to use a system of discounting to evaluate future benefits and harms. This paper assesses the logic of discounting drawing on the writings of economists and philosophers. Much of the economic literature concerns the choice of an appropriate social discount rate. The social discount rate can be taken to reflect beliefs about the rights of future generations, a subject that has been extensively debated in the phioosophic literature. The writings of both economists and philosophers concerned with the weight to attach to the interests of future generations are reviewed and evaluated in this paper and the implications for environmental policy are discussed. (shrink)
A thorough examination of John Wesley’s writings will show that he was not a biblical literalist or infallibilist, despite his own occasional suggestions to the contrary. His most important principles for interpreting the Bible were: We should take its words literally only if doing so is not absurd, in which case we should “look for a looser meaning;” and “No Scripture can mean that God is not love, or that his mercy is not over all his works.” Eleven instances (...) of his not taking biblical texts literally are examined. His real view was something like this: Biblical language is infallibly and literally true if and only if it does not contradict more basic scriptures and is not absurd, that is, not construed literally when metaphorical, or not misleadingly metaphorical, or not oversimplified or exaggerated, or not culture bound, or not contrary to reason and experience, or not ethically unconscionable and unloving. (shrink)
John Wesley did not directly address the question, but he could have answered "Yes'" to "Was Jesus Ever Happy?" given his understanding of "happiness." His eudaimonistic understanding of happiness was that it consists in renewing and actualizing the image of God within us, especially the image of love. More particularly, it consists in actually living a life of moral virtue, love included, of spiritual fulfillment, of joy or pleasure taken in loving God, others, and self, and in minimizing unnecessary (...) pain and suffering, which we are morally obligated to do for others and even for ourselves. Jesus had it all most of the time, though not always, obviously not at the painful end of his life when he felt God-forsaken. -/- . (shrink)
From 2012 to 2015 I was the first Eugene H. Fram Chair in Applied Critical Thinking at Rochester Institute of Technology, in Rochester, NY. To the best of my knowledge it is the only such endowed position devoted solely to this at a major North American university. It was made possible by a generous 3 million dollar gift from an anonymous alumnus who wished to honor a retired faculty member who had taught for 51 years. The honoree was revered (...) for his devotion to Bloom’s taxonomy and his academic rigor, which infused case studies and the Socratic method. A primary motivation for the chair was a belief that an alarming number of college graduates lack the necessary critical thinking skills in order to advance successfully in their careers. My responsibilities included collaborative leadership, advocacy and oversight for critical thinking across the entire campus. It provided a unique opportunity to reflect on the current state of critical thinking instruction–very broadly construed, as well as to examine its specific role at RIT, an institution with its own unique history, mission, and character. (shrink)
Wesley Wildman is one of the foremost philosophers of religion calling for the evolution of the discipline from its present narrow focus on theistic beliefs to become a discipline concerned with religions in all their diversity. Towards this end, he proposes that philosophers of religion understand what they do as multidisciplinary comparative inquiry. This article assesses his proposal.
In 1994 the "Ramsey Colloquium," under the leadership of Richard John Neuhaus, posed a challenge to what it called the "homosexual movement" within the Christian Church. The challenge was to prove that it had reasons distinguishable from secular liberalism--reasons consistent with orthodox Christian theology--in favor of same-sex coupling. Eugene Rogers's book, "Sexuality and the Christian Body: Their Way into the Triune God, can be read as a response to this challenge. The book is important not only for the content (...) of its arguments, which are imaginative and theologically rigorous, but also for the exemplary way in which Rogers exhibits charity in his account of his conservative opponents. Rogers's recent anthology, "Theology and Sexuality", provides additional evidence that a new, more promising debate is arising within the Church, a debate that has some hope of transcending the rhetoric of the culture wars. (shrink)
Resumo Em 1747, John Wesley, spiritus rector do movimento metodista, publicou a primeira edição do seu guia medicinal Primitive Physic[k] . Qual era o seu propósito num mundo onde a academia real, herbalistas, curandeiros/as, exorcistas e charlatães competiam pela atenção da população? O artigo apresenta os diferentes grupos que atuaram, ou pretendiam atuar, em prol da saúde na Inglaterra do século 18, e compara o conteúdo do guia Primitive Physic[k] com suas propostas e estratégias terapêuticas. Conclua-se que uma parte (...) significativa do guia é composta por orientações da academia real de medicina, mas que sempre se favorecem remédios caseiros, com ingredientes acessíveis para as classes mais humildes. Quanto à chamada Spiritual Physick , menciona-se a oração como medida complementar, mas ignora-se plenamente a prática do exorcismo. Palavras-chave: John Wesley; saúde; Guia medicinal popular; Primitive Physic[k]; academia real de medicina; herbalismo; curandeirismo.In 1747, John Wesley, spiritus rector of the Methodist movement, published the first edition of his medical guide Primitive Physic[k] . What was its purpose in a world where the Royal Academy, herbalists, healers, exorcists and quacks competed for the attention of the population? The article introduces the different groups who promoted or pretended to promote health in 18th century England and compares the contents of the guide Primitive Physic[k] with their proposals and therapeutic strategies. The conclusion is that a significant portion of the guide consists of guidelines of the Royal Academy of Medicine, but that it always favors homemade remedies with ingredients available to humbler classes. In relation to the so called Spiritual Physick, prayer is mentioned as a complementary measure, but the practice of exorcism is totally ignored. Keywords: John Wesley; health; Popular Medicinal Guide; Primitive Physic[k]; Royal Academy of Medicine; herbalism; healers. (shrink)
This is a response to Wesley J. Wildman’s “Behind, Between, and Beyond Anthropomorphic Models of Ultimate Reality.” While I agree with much of what Wildman writes, I raise questions concerning standards for evaluating models of ultimate reality and the plausibility of ranking such models. This paper was delivered during the APA Pacific 2007 Mini-Conference on Models of God.
This paper examines the contemplative techniques that comprised wesley's method of spiritual transformation. By employing a psychoanalytic perspective that explains the pastoral effectiveness of the method, I claim that Wesley's view of spiritual growth was therapeutic and transformative as measured by contemporary clinical standards. Wesley's developmental model involved a series of spiritual phases each characterized by techniques and meditations that culminated in sanctification, a cognitive-emotional transformation marked by the eradication of sinful temptations and the perfection of altruism. (...) Couched in a theological idiom, the method helped individuals to work through conflicts created by the three main traumata of British middle class childhood: authoritarian parenting and unresolved bereavement grief. This paper argues that religious-cultural symbolism may promote transformations of archaic affect and neurotic conflict that progressively reshape these pre-reflective materials into complex existential insights and convictions. (shrink)
John Wesley was an incredible person both in what he did and what he thought. Viewed against the background of the Christian scholars of his day and those who went before him, his thinking was immensely creative, insightful, and at times downright radical. From this book readers will learn more about what he thought than about what he did, but both are explored. Most Methodists know a little bit about what he did, but almost nothing about what he thought. (...) When readers find out about them, they may be both astonished and very pleasantly surprised. (shrink)
GJ: We've talked a lot about critics who are hostile toward you. Do you ever feel the need to make a stand against those who are favourably inclined toward your plays but whose comments seem to you to be stupid? EI: Well, for better or worse, that's what I've always done: I wrote Notes and Counter-Notes, had discussions with Claude Bonnefoy, I've written articles; and in each case what I've said, in short, is that critics who gave me their approval, (...) did so because they misunderstood me and were mistaken about my intentions. GJ: Finally, are you at all bitter about the critics? EI: No. Many have become good friends of mine. But it is a bit disheartening; when I began, a critic who, shall we say, is on the Right, a conservative critic who is very well-known and has since become a friend of mine, called me an impostor, a fraud, and a dummy; and now, twenty-five years later, the Leftists still call me an impostor, a fraud, and a dummy. GJ: But less often? EI: Well, I suppose so. Eugene Ionesco, renowned by playwright , recently was awarded the International Writer's Prize by the Welsh Arts Council. While in Wales, he was interviewed by Gabriel Jacobs, lecturer in French at University College of Swansea; the interview represents Ionesco's most concerted attempt yet to deal with his critics. He is completing a book on the subject which Gabriel Jacobs will translate into English. (shrink)
This paper examines Wesley Salmon's "process" theory of causality, arguing in particular that there are four areas of inadequacy. These are that the theory is circular, that it is too vague at a crucial point, that statistical forks do not serve their intended purpose, and that Salmon has not adequately demonstrated that the theory avoids Hume's strictures about "hidden powers". A new theory is suggested, based on "conserved quantities", which fulfills Salmon's broad objectives, and which avoids the problems discussed.
In his later years, Wesley Salmon believed that the two dominant models of scientific explanation (his own causal-mechanical model and the unificationist model) were reconcilable. Salmon envisaged a 'new consensus' about explanation: he suggested that the two models represent two 'complementary' types of explanation, which may 'peacefully coexist' because they illuminate different aspects of scientific understanding. This paper traces the development of Salmon's ideas and presents a critical analysis of his complementarity thesis. Salmon's thesis is rejected on the basis (...) of two objections, and an alternative view of the relation between different types of explanation is proposed. (shrink)
Earlier in this volume, Wesley Salmon has given a characteristically clear and trenchant critique of the account of non-demonstrative reasoning known by the slogan `Inference to the Best Explanation'. As a long-time fan of the idea that explanatory considerations are a guide to inference, I was delighted by the suggestion that Wes and I might work together on a discussion of the issues. In the event, this project has exceeded my high expectations, for in addition to the intellectual gain (...) that comes from the careful study of his essay, I have benefited enormously from the stream of illuminating emails and faxes that Wes has sent me during our collaboration. Doing philosophy together has been an education and a pleasure. Salmon's essay would place Inference to the Best Explanation beyond the pale of acceptable philosophical accounts of inference. According to Salmon, Inference to the Best Explanation has serious internal difficulties and compares very unfavourably with Bayesian approaches to these matters. My aim in the following remarks is irenic. I hope to show that a number of the claimed difficulties either are not really difficulties or are avoidable. In some cases, the avoidance will require a mild reinterpretation of the account that lies behind the slogan `Inference to the Best Explanation'; in others, it will require admitting limits to the scope of the account. For I accept at the outset that Inference to the Best Explanation cannot possibly be the whole story about the assessment of scientific hypotheses. For me, the interesting idea is simply that we sometimes decide how likely a hypothesis is to be correct in part by considering how good an explanation it would provide, if it were correct. This is the idea of explanatory considerations providing a guide to inference, and this is the idea that I will here promote. (shrink)
In this response to essays by Barbara J. King, Gregory R. Peterson, Wesley J. Wildman, and Nancy R. Howell, I present arguments to counter some of the exciting and challenging questions from my colleagues. I take the opportunity to restate my argument for an interdisciplinary public theology, and by further developing the notion of transversality I argue for the specificity of the emerging theological dialogue with paleoanthropology and primatology. By arguing for a hermeneutics of the body, I respond to (...) criticism of my notion of human uniqueness and argue for strong evolutionary continuities, as well as significant discontinuities, between primates, humans, and other hominids. In addition, I answer critical questions about theological methodology and argue how the notion of human uniqueness, theologically restated as the image of God, is enriched by transversally appropriating scientific notions of species specificity and embodied personhood. (shrink)
The “embeddedness” of economic life in social relations has become a productive analytical principle and the basis of a penetrating critique of economic orthodoxy. But this critique raises another important, social and historical question, of how the economy became “disembedded” in the first place – how the multitude of transactions designated (somewhat arbitrarily) as economic were abstracted from the rest of social life and reconstituted as an object, the economy, which behaves according to its own logic. This article investigates the (...) social sources of some innovations in economic thought that contributed to the emergence of the economy, particularly statistical indicators and mechanical models. By examining the redefinitions of the object of economic research developed by Irving Fisher and Wesley Mitchell in the 1890s and the first decades of the twentieth century, I argue that the abstraction of the economy from the remainder of social life was a strategy linked to the position of these innovators within the field of economics, conceived as a social structure. Possessing a specialized scientific cultural capital, but lacking upper class background, contacts, and dispositions that characterized the founders of academic economics, Fisher and Mitchell elaborated new definitions of their discipline's object of study, and a new type of economic expertise. (shrink)
Wesley Salmon provided three classic criteria of adequacy for satisfactory interpretations of probability. A fourth criterion is suggested here. A distinction is drawn between frequency‐driven probability models and theory‐driven probability models and it is argued that single case accounts of chance are superior to frequency accounts at least for the latter. Finally it is suggested that theories of chance should be required only to be contingently true, a position which is a natural extension of Salmon's ontic account of probabilistic (...) causality and his own later views on propensities. (shrink)
This paper traces the origins of Eugene Wigner's pioneering application of group theory to quantum physics to his early work in chemistry and crystallography. In the early 1920s, crystallography was the only discipline in which symmetry groups were routinely used. Wigner's early training in chemistry, and his work in crystallography with Herman Mark and Karl Weissenberg at the Kaiser Wilhelm institute for fiber research in Berlin exposed him to conceptual tools which were absent from the pedagogy available to physicists (...) for many years to come. This both enabled and pushed him to apply the group theoretic approach to quantum physics. It took many years for the approach first introduced by Wigner in the 1920s – and whose reception by the physicists was initially problematical – to assume the pivotal place it now holds in physical theory and education. This is but one example that attests to the historic contribution made by the periphery in initiating new types of thought-perspectives and scientific careers. (shrink)
Moralists hold that art criticism can and should take stock of moral considerations. Though moralists disagree over the proper scope of ethical art criticism, they are unified in their acceptance of the consistency of valence thesis: when an artwork fares poorly from the moral point of view, and this fact is art critically relevant, then it is thereby worse qua artwork. In this paper, I argue that a commitment to moralism, however strong, is unattractive because it requires that we radically (...) revise our art critical practices in contexts where revision seems ill advised. I will consider two such cases, Pushkinâs Eugene Onegin and Balthusâ Alice. When we further reflect on our actual art critical practices in cases like these, we find that we do not have an unfailing commitment to the consistency of valence thesis. That is, some artworks are (artistically) good because they are (morally) bad. (shrink)
The neuroscientists Eugene d'Aquili and Andrew Newberg, in addition to defending an empirically fruitful model of mystical experiences, argue that such experiences constitute evidence for the existence of a transcendent reality, which they call "Absolute Unitary Being." D'Aquili and Newberg point out that mystical experiences carry with them a vivid sense of reality, and that they involve characteristic forms of brain activity, just like perceptions of objects in ordinary waking consciousness. Their argument for Absolute Unitary Being fails, however, since (...) the vivid sense of reality of an experience is not the sole criterion by which to judge its veridicality, since the object of mystical experiences cannot be confirmed by independent observers, and since there is no evidence for a mechanism by which mystics experience a transcendent reality. (shrink)
continent. 2.2 (2012): 76–81 Comments on Eugene Thacker’s “Cosmic Pessimism” Nicola Masciandaro Anything you look forward to will destroy you, as it already has. —Vernon Howard In pessimism, the first axiom is a long, low, funereal sigh. The cosmicity of the sigh resides in its profound negative singularity. Moving via endless auto-releasement, it achieves the remote. “ Oltre la spera che piú larga gira / passa ’l sospiro ch’esce del mio core ” [Beyond the sphere that circles widest / (...) penetrates the sigh that issues from my heart]. 1 The axiomatic sigh of the pessimist is in a way the pure word of philosophy, a thought that thinks without you, speaks where you are not. The live pneumatic form of the soul’s eventual exit from the dead body’s mouth, the sigh restores consciousness to the funeral of being, to the passing away that is existence. Pessimism speaks in piercing aphorisms because first it sighs. “Beyond the sphere passeth the arrow of our sigh. Hafiz! Silence.” 2 … pessimism is guilty of that most inexcusable of Occidental crimes—the crime of not pretending it’s for real. To the pessimist, the ‘real’ world—the world on whose behalf we are expected to wake up in the morning—is a ceaseless index of its own unreality. The pessimist’s day is not an illumined space for the advancement of experience and action, but a permanently and inescapably reflective zone, the vast interior of a mirror where each thing is only insofar as it is, at best, a false image of itself. Within this speculative situation, inside the doubleness of the mirror, pessimism splits into two paths, false and true, one that tries to fix pessimism (establish a relation with the mirror) and decides in favor of the apparent real, and another that totally falls for pessimism (enters the mirror) and communes with the greater reality of the unreal. These two paths are distinguished by their relation to pessimism’s guilt vis-à-vis the world’s reality-project. The first form, that which remains pessimism for the world and puts on a smiling face, stays guilty to itself (i.e. unconscious) and thus turns hypocritical, becoming at once the pessimism of the commoner who really just wants things to be better for himself and the pessimism of the elite who wants to critically refashion reality in his own image. The general form of this worldly, hypocritical pessimism is the impulse to ‘make the world a better place’, which is the global mask under which the world is diurnally made worse. The second form, that which follows pessimism away from the world and ceases to put on a smiling face, refuses guiltiness as itself theessential Occidental mode of pretense and turns honest, becoming at once the intelligent pessimism required of all ordinary action and the radical pessimism necessary for self-knowledge: seeing that no one is capable of doing good. The general form of this universal, honest pessimism is the impulse not to worry, to give up and embrace dereliction, which is the only real way the world is actually improved. Where worldly pessimism is the engine productive of interminably warring secular and sacred religions (good-projects), universal pessimism strives hopelessly for the paradise of a supremely instantiated pessimus: things are getting so bad that there is no longer any time for them to get worse; things are so constantly-instantly worst that this is BEST. Cosmic pessimism is the mode of universal pessimism which can yet discourse with the world, which has not chosen silence and can spread the inconceivably BAD NEWS in an orderly form ( kosmos ) that the world can understand (if it wanted to). … the result of a confusion between the world and a statement about the world. That is what the world is (the result of a confusion between the world and a statement about the world). … a generalized misanthropy without the anthropos. Pessimism crystallizes around this futility—it is its amor fati , rendered as musical form. Pessimism’s love of fate is a blind love, a love of the blindness of being human in a cosmos conceived around the human’s eclipse, a heavy levitation in the contradictory space between the inescapability of its having been and the impossibility of its will-be. Pessimism’s song of futility is a sensible way of loving fate, with a minimum of eros, by means of a kind of matrimonial love of the fatal. As music, pessimism stays open to the irreparable and the inexorable without the binding of affirmation, in the apparent absence of the radical, infinitely surplus will that absolute amor fati seems to require. Crying, laughing, sleeping—what other responses are adequate to a life that is so indifferent? “Unless a man aspires to the impossible, the possible that he achieves will scarcely be worth the trouble of his achieving it. We should aspire to the impossible, to absolute and infinite perfection [….] The apocatastasis is more than a mystical dream: it is a norm of action, it is a beacon for high deeds [….] For true charity is a species of invasion [….] It is not charity to rock and lull our fellow men to sleep in the inertia and heaviness of matter, but rather to arouse them to anguish and torment of spirit.” 3 … the impossibility of ever adequately accounting for one’s relationship to thought. “The paroxysm of interior experience leads you to regions where danger is absolute, because life which self-consciously actualizes its roots in experience can only negate itself [….] There are no arguments [….] On the heights of despair, the passion for the absurd is the only thing that can still throw a demonic light on chaos [….] I live because the mountains do not laugh and the worms do not sing .” 4 It took three attempts before she was fully decapitated, all the while she continued, perhaps miraculously, to sing. According to the earliest account of Cecilia’s martyrdom, the beheading turns out worse. After not severing her head in three strokes, “the cruel executioner left her half dead” (seminecem eam cruentus carnifex dereliquit). 5 Cecilia’s effortlessly powerful endurance of the three strokes—a fitting icon for pessimism as an art of dereliction—demonstrates the “passivity and absence of effort [….] in which divine transcendence is dissolved.” 6 There’s a ghost that grows inside of me, damaged in the making, and there’s a hunt sprung from necessity, elliptical and drowned. Where the moving quiet of our insomnia offers up each thought, there’s a luminous field of grey inertia, and obsidian dreams burnt all the way down. Like words from a pre-waking dream. There is no reason to think that they are not. NOTES 1. Dante Alighieri. Vita Nuova . ed. and trans. Dino S. Cervigni and Edward Vasta. Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press. 1995. 41:10. 2. Hafiz of Shiraz. The Divan . trans. H. Wilberforce Clarke. London: Octagon Press. 1974. 10.9. 3. Miguel de Unamuno. The Tragic Sense of Life in Men and Nations . trans. Anthony Kerrigan. Princeton: Princeton University Press. 1972. 305-6. 4. E.M. Cioran. On the Heights of Despair . trans. Ilinca Zarifopol-Johnston. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. 1992. 9-10. 5. Giacomo Laderchi. S. Caeciliae Virg[inis] et Mart[yris] Acta. . . Rome. 1723. 38. 6. Georges Bataille. On Nietzsche . trans. Bruce Boone. London: Continuum. 2004. 135. See Nicola Masciandaro. “ Half Dead: Parsing Cecilia .” A Commentary on Eugene Thacker’s "Cosmic Pessimism" Gary J. Shipley Pessimism is the refusal to seek distraction, the refusal to remodel failure into a platform for further (doomed) possibilities, the refusal of comfort, the acceptance of the sickness of healthy bodies, the cup of life overflowing with cold vomit. If, as Ligotti suggests when discussing Invasion of the Body Snatchers , 1 humans prefer the anxieties of their familiar human lives to the contentment of an alien one, then the pessimist, we could argue, represents some perverted combination of the two, preferring (presuming he has a choice) the defamiliarization of human life to the contentment of its unquestioned mundanity. The quasi-religious state of mind that Wittgenstein would mention on occasion, that of “feeling absolutely safe,” 2 is a state the pessimist could only imagine being approximated by death, or perhaps some annihilative opiate-induced stupor. This Wittgensteinian commingling of certainty and faith looks every bit the futile gesture, a mere rephrasing of collapse or partial collapse. The only certainty open to the pessimist is that of the toxic formula of life itself—a formula known and lacuna-free. Certainty, far from being the gateway to deliverance, becomes the definitive impediment; and the possibility of salvation, as long as it remains, becomes crucially reliant on postulations of ignorance, epistemic gaps, a perennial incompleteness: “the perfect safety of wooed death […] the warm bath of physical dissolution, the universal unknown engulfing the miniscule unknown.” 3 The height of Leibniz’s Panglossian insanity nurtured the idea that our knowing everything—via the universal calculus—could be accurately described a triumph, as opposed to a nightmare in which our every futility is laid bare. Stagnancy and boredom are perhaps two of the greatest ills of Western civilisation, and the most potent pessimism tells you that you’re stuck with both. The most we can hope for, by way of salvation, is to throw open our despair to the unknown. The fact that Schopenhauer’s pessimism stopped short of morality and allowed him to play the flute, as Nietzsche complained, highlights the predicament of a man who despite having adorned nothingness with a smiling face still found himself alive. The demand here is that it be felt: a cross-contamination of intellect and emotion. The safety net of numerous parentheses makes for a failed philosophy, rather than a philosophy of failure. Depressives make bad pessimists, because, unless they choose to die, living will always infect them with necessities of hope, forcing them to find something, anything (all the various “as ifs”) to make existence tolerable. For as Cioran observed, while “[d]epressions pay attention to life, they are the eyes of the devil, poisoned arrows which wound mortally any zest and love of life. Without them we know little, but with them, we cannot live.” 4 And even when cured of our depressions we’ll find ourselves consumed, eaten alive by the hyper-clinical (borderline autistic) mania that replaces them: a predicament captured all too clearly in the microscriptual fictions of Robert Walser, where spectral men and women stifle their depressive madness with protective comas of detail, their failed assimilations buried beneath thick crusts of remote data. Like Beckett’s Malone their stories may have ended, but cruelly their lives have not. Pessimism is an extraneous burden (a purposeless weight) that makes everything else harder to carry, while at the same time scooping it out and making it lighter. If pessimism had a sound it would be the harsh non-noise of tinnitus—the way that every person would hear themselves if they refused their distractions long enough to listen: a lungless scream from the extrasolar nothing of the self. The music of pessimism—if indeed we can imagine such a thing—is the reverberating echo of the world’s last sound, conjectured but never heard, audible only in its being listened for. The one consolation of this hollow paradox of audibility being, that “he will be least afraid of becoming nothing in death who has recognized that he is already nothing now.” 5 The pessimist suffers a derangement of the real, a labyrinthitis at the nucleus of his being: he’s the stumbling ghost relentlessly surprised that others can see him. If Cioran’s refusal is manifested in sleep (when even saying ‘no’ is too much of a commitment), then Pessoa’s resides in the dreams inside that sleep. Pessoa chooses to exploit the fact that he’s being “lived by some murmuring non-entity both shadowy and muddied” 6 by growing more voids to live him. His is a Gnostic breed of sleep, “sleeping as if the universe were a mistake,” 7 a sleep that dreams through Thacker’s cosmic pessimism (“a pessimism of the world-without-us.”, “the unhuman orientation of deep space and deep time” 8 ), through the critical error of there being anything at all when there could be nothing. The metaphysical pessimist is someone who, however well life treats them, still desires to wake from it, as from the poisonous air of a bad dream. Pessimism is a paradox of age, being simultaneously young and old; its youth residing in a refusal to accept the authority of existence (its rich history, its inherent beneficence), a refusal to “get over” the horror of what it sees with its perpetually fresh eyes, and its maturity in the unceremonious disposal of the philosophical playthings (those futile architectures) of adolescence. As Thacker remarks: “Pessimism abjures all pretenses towards system—towards the purity of analysis and the dignity of critique.” 9 A sentiment shared with Pessoa, who duly categorizes those that choose to enact this futile struggle: “The creators of metaphysical systems and of psychological explanations are still in the primary stage of suffering.” 10 If the pessimist has shared a womb with anyone, it’s with the mystic and not the philosopher. As Schopenhauer tells us: “The mystic is opposed to the philosopher by the fact that he begins from within, whereas the philosopher begins from without. […] But nothing of this is communicable except the assertions that we have to accept on his word; consequently he is unable to convince.” 11 The crucial difference between the mystic and the pessimist is not the latter’s impassivity and defeatism, but his unwillingness/inability to contain in any way the spread of his voracious analyticity, his denial of incompleteness, his exhaustive devotion to failure. The truth of our predicament, though heard, is destined to remain unprocessed. Like the revelations of B.S. Johnson’s Haakon (“We rot and there’s nothing that can stop it / Can’t you feel the shaking horror of that?” 12 ) the pessimist’s truths are somehow too obvious to listen to, as if something inside us were saying, “Of course, but haven’t we gotten over that?” Pessimism is simple and ugly, and has no desire to make itself more complex or more attractive. The true moral pessimist knows that the Utilitarian’s accounts will always be in the red. He can see that for all his computational containments, his only honest path is a negative one, and that such a path has but one logical destination: that of wholesale human oblivion. Thacker notes how at the core of pessimism lies the notion of “the worst,” through which death is demoted by the all-pervasive suffering of a life that easily eclipses its threat. And so with doom made preferable to gloom, death begins to glint with promise, “like beauty passing through a nightmare.” 13 But even among pessimists suicide is, for the most part, thought to be an error. Schopenhauer, for instance, regarded suicide a mistake grounded in some fundamentally naïve disappointment or other. Pessoa too thought suicide an onerous escape tactic: “To die is to become completely other. That’s why suicide is a cowardice: it’s to surrender ourselves completely to life.” 14 There is a call here to be accepting of and creative with the puppetry of your being, an insistence that it’s somehow a blunder to attempt to hide in death from the horrors you find inlife. 15 Tied up with this perseverance is the slippery notion of the good death, for maybe, as Blanchot warns, suicide is rarely something we can hope to get right, for the simple reason that “you cannot make of death an object of the will.” 16 “Even in cases where the entire corpus of an author is pessimistic, the project always seems incomplete,” 17 and this is not simply because the project itself belies something yet to be disclosed, but because the project itself is a thing waiting. It waits on a cure it knows will not come, but for which it cannot do anything (as long as it continues to do anything) but wait. NOTES 1. See Thomas Ligotti. The Conspiracy Against the Human Race . New York: Hippocampus Press. 2010. 91. 2. Ludwig Wittgenstein. “A Lecture on Ethics.” Philosophical Review . (74) 1. 1965. 8. 3. Vladimir Nabokov. Pale Fire . New York: Vintage. 1989. 221. 4. E. M. Cioran. The Book of Delusions . trans. Camelia Elias. Hyperion. 5.1. (2010): 75. 5. Arthur Schopenhauer. The World as Will and Representation. vol. 2 . trans. E .F J. Payne. New York: Dover. 1966. 609. 6. Eugene Thacker. “Cosmic Pessimism.” continent. . 2.2 (2012): 67. 7. Fernando Pessoa. The Book of Disquiet . trans. Richard Zenith. London: Penguin. 2002. 35. 8. Eugene Thacker. “Cosmic Pessimism.” continent. . 2.2 (2012): 68. 9. Ibid. 73. 10. Fernando Pessoa. The Book of Disquiet . trans. Richard Zenith. London: Penguin. 2002. 341. 11. Arthur Schopenhauer. The World as Will and Representation. vol. 2 . trans. E .F J. Payne. New York: Dover. 1966. 610-11. 12. B.S Johnson. “You’re Human Like the Rest of Them.” in Jonathan Coe. Like a Fiery Elephant: The Story of B.S. Johnson . London: Picador. 2004. 177. 13. Fernando Pessoa. The Book of Disquiet . trans. Richard Zenith. London: Penguin. 2002. 415. 14. Ibid. 199. 15. “Suicide is, after all, the opposite of the poem.” Anne Sexton. No Evil Star: Selected Essays, Interviews and Prose . ed. Steven Gould Axelrod. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press. 1985. 92. 16. Maurice Blanchot. The Space of Literature . trans. Ann Smock. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press. 1989. 105. 17. Eugene Thacker. “Cosmic Pessimism.” continent. . 2.2 (2012): 75. (shrink)
The well-known label of “theater of the absurd” is based on the Aristotelian logic of the nonincluded middle, the common interpretation being that of the chaotic and irrational character of the universe, human destiny, and language. However, we propose another view on the subject, relying on the discoveries of quantum physics, the main principles of transdisciplinarity, and the literary theory of the possible worlds. We applied these ideas to some of Eugene Ionesco’s fa-mousplays, concluding that absurd becomes an irrelevant (...) notion if analyzed in this perspective. (shrink)
The use of networks as an explanatory framework is widespread in the literature that surrounds technology and information society. The three books reviewed here — The Wealth of Networks by Yochai Benkler, Decoding Liberation: The Promise of Free and Open Source Software by Samir Chopra and Scott Dexter, and The Exploit: A Theory of Networks by Alexander Galloway and Eugene Thacker — all make a claim to the novelty that networks provide to their subject matter. By looking closely at (...) the way in which the network is utilized in each of the texts, this review attempts to question the extent to which a network analysis can ground a claim about a discontinuity in technology, society or economics. (shrink)
In our Politically Correct times, it is fashionable to discern homosexuality in the musical texture of some classic composers and thus redeem them - there are, for example, totally unconvincing and ridiculous readings of Schubert: he must have been gay, because his music is non-aggressive/penetrative/phallic, full of soft passages... In the case of Eugene Onegin, however, we stand on a much more firm ground. In the Fall of 1876 Tchaikovsky informed his closest family members of his intention to marry—a (...) typical hysterical passage à l’acte, an act of ethical betrayal, of compromising one’s desire, i.e., a desperate attempt to thwart his homosexuality. Half a year later, the eagerly awaited “answer of the Real” came—Antonina Milyukova, his piano student a couple of years before, wrote to him, declaring that she was in love with him ever since. Tchaikovsky tactfully but firmly rejected her, and, at this precise moment, he threw himself into composing Eugene Onegin. As he later admitted, from this moment onwards, fact and fiction became inextricably entangled: he identified with Tatyana’s love for Onegin and was outraged at Onegin’s moralistic rejection, perceiving it as equal to his own rejection of Antonina. Consequently, he contacted Antonina again, telling her bluntly that he doesn’t love her, but is ready to marry her; he then left Antonina to make all the wedding preparations, while he escaped Moscow to a friend’s country estate, where he composed two thirds of the opera in five weeks. What followed is well known: the honeymoon was a nightmare, the desperate Tchaikovsky tried suicide and then quickly left his wife for a long tour of Western Europe. (shrink)
Philosophy has long become a key term in the study of Buddhism, defining the moral and rational essence of the Buddha’s teaching, emblematic of its Indian origins. In this essay, I suggest that the relation of Buddhism and philosophy, which prior to the mid-nineteenth century was framed as the relation of the Religion of Fo to the cult of voidness, was reformulated in the self-styled language of science in the wake of the study of Buddhism from Sanskrit sources. Specifically, I (...) suggest that the philosophical dimension of Eugène Burnouf’s reading of the Divyāvadāna and his idea of “simple sūtra” played a crucial role in defining Buddhism as a philosophy for the late nineteenth and into the twentieth century. The idea of a “simple moral philosophy” emerged in Burnouf’s particular reading of the story of the Buddha’s last days in the Divyāvadāna and the Mahāparinibbāṇa Sutta, as the play of magic and death unfolds in the theme of the master’s denial of the will to live. Burnouf’s philosophical reading rests on the purification, in the theme of the Buddha’s parinirvāṇa, of the foundations of magical power that articulate knowledge of this world and beyond in the Buddha’s discourses. In the conclusion, I reformulate Burnouf’s question about the Buddha’s moral philosophy in his study of the simple sūtras vis-à-vis the historically self-conscious question about the Buddha’s ability to defer death by magic that traces back to the early debate of Buddhist exegetical traditions. (shrink)
Wesley Wildman: Religious philosophy as multidisciplinary comparative inquiry: envisioning a future for the philosophy of religion Content Type Journal Article Category Book Review Pages 1-4 DOI 10.1007/s11153-012-9339-4 Authors Jeppe Sinding Jensen, Department of Culture and Society, Faculty of Arts, Aarhus University, Tasingegade 3, 8000 Aarhus C, Denmark Journal International Journal for Philosophy of Religion Online ISSN 1572-8684 Print ISSN 0020-7047.
Aristotle’s Politics: Living Well and Living Together, Eugene Garver’s third book on key texts of the Aristotelian corpus, charts the relationship between politics and philosophy through careful detailing of Aristotle’s text. In other words, Garver reads the Politics for us. This is an achievement in itself given the gravity of both Garver’s and Aristotle’s thinking. Garver’s reading elaborates the arguments of the Politics in order to establish a claim for what he calls “political philosophy.” His reading offers a methodological (...) defense for a form of thinking that is itself not necessarily either “practical” or “political,” at least as scholars of rhetoric would tend to understand these terms. But Garver gives us .. (shrink)
The aim of this article is to analyze the main contributions of Wesley C. Salmon to the philosophy of science, that is, his concepts of causation, common cause, and theoretical explanation, and to provide a critique of them. This critique will be based on a comparison of Salmon’s concepts with categories developed by Hegel in his Science of Logic and which can be applied to issues treated by Salmon by means of the above given three concepts. It is the (...) author’s contention that by means of Hegelian categories it becomes possible to provide a critique of Salmon’s philosophy of science and at the same time to enlarge the concept framework of philosophy of science. (shrink)
This article uses a reading of John Wesley's Primitive Physic, or An Easy and Natural Method of Curing Most Diseases to resist the common rejection—often as "quackery"—of Wesley's treatments for common maladies. We engage Wesley not because he was right but because his approach offers useful moments of pause in light of contemporary medical epistemology. Wesley's recommendations were primarily oriented towards the categories of personal responsibility and capability, but he also sought to empower individuals—especially the poor—with (...) the knowledge to safely and affordably treat maladies of their own. We leverage Primitive Physic to rethink contemporary medical knowledge production, especially as sanctioned by randomized clinical trials and legitimate views of experience and contemporary institutions such as the AMA. Ultimately, we suggest that the medical humanities has a key role to play in mining the discarded and dismissed for what they can tell scholars about medical knowledge. (shrink)
Eugene Gendlins Philosophie bringt Fragen in die Sprachphilosophie ein, die bislang kaum ins Blickfeld geraten sind. Wie wirkt sich ein Ausdruck auf unsere Erfahrung aus, wieso verändert sich etwas, wenn wir es verbalisieren, welche Funktion spielen Gefühle für die symbolische Bedeutung und umgekehrt? Ausgehend von therapeutischer und kreativer Praxis, entwickelt Gendlin ein Prozess-Modell, um eine interaktive, „empfindliche Ordnung” zu denken, die unter anderem Alternativen zu gängige Kategorien und Modalitäten expliziert.