All Bad Poetry Is Sincere.

Oscar Wilde.

Something’s been bothering me lately about the “sincerity defense”: “yes, I’m misreading and misrepresenting your position, but I’m sincere in my efforts” or “my ideas might not make any sense, but I’m sincere in my affirmation that I am indeed correct” – not that I’m against sincerity, but there’s something fishy about this appeal to sincerity that is supposed to make me feel better about someone’s obvious dickish behavior.

On “bad poetry” and related matters, see here.

(Im)morality of Walking Away

An interesting piece in L.A.Times today:

Professor advises underwater homeowners to walk away from mortgages.

Brent T. White, a University of Arizona law school professor, says that it’s in the homeowners’ best financial interest to stiff their lenders and that it’s not immoral to do so.

Reporting from Washington – Go ahead. Break the chains. Stop paying on your mortgage if you owe more than the house is worth. And most important: Don’t feel guilty about it. Don’t think you’re doing something morally wrong.

That’s the incendiary core message of a new academic paper by Brent T. White, a University of Arizona law school professor, titled “Underwater and Not Walking Away: Shame, Fear and the Social Management of the Housing Crisis.” Continue reading

Holiday Music

I watched a great film – Thirty Two Short Films About Glenn Gould – the other day and since I’ve been listening to Gould non-stop (I think my brains twist into a weird knot after several hours of things like French and English Suites). In any case, I found these clips of him playing Goldberg Variations (mannerisms are of course the best part) and I must share some of them: Continue reading

Foucault and Lacan Walk Into A Bar…

Here’s an interesting piece from Global-e:

One day, way back in the 20th century, Michel Foucault, Jacques Lacan, Claude Lévi-Strauss, and Roland Barthes sat under an equatorial tree, living in their own imagined primitive past, discussing Global Studies. “What,” asked Barthes, “might the four of us contribute to a field that analyzes the world as a global system, stitched together—as Michael Curtin deftly puts it—by trade protocols, governance covenants, and communications networks?” Lévi-Strauss checked his notes, Lacan thought introspectively, and Foucault answered complicatedly. Each spoke of the cultural schemes that inform public policy and that structure debate about contemporary life. Let me summarize their conversation—translated from French.

Read the rest here.

More Zizek

Looks like it’s Zizek all the way these days: Apocalyptic Times.

There’s a variety of reactions to Zizek’s appearance on HardTalk. Some are interesting, some are silly. I was particularly disappointed by comments like this:

It is sometimes too easy for us to think that Zizek was misunderstood or stitched up but we are still presented with a very real problem: if Zizek cannot get across his views in an interview like this what chance do his views have in their potential to make change? Precisely who is Zizek for? And by feeding into increasingly obtuse readings do we not simply make ourselves obsolete from the political scene? This is where I see a kind of reverse disavowal: we too are opting out creating a ‘faux-communism’ whose definition has become, and I’m being honest here, pretty damn obscure.

Sorry, Paul, but this is very likely the most ridiculous comment in the history of commenting – one might not agree with Zizek, but to say that he is in any way obtuse or cannot get his views across in the form of sound bites is to reveal an amazing ignorance of all things Zizek. Plus, the idea that only simple and presentable views can “make change” is just odd – there go Hegel and Marx, apparently their utter inability to be presentable doomed them to obscurity…


I’ve been reading through the two volumes of Rosenzweig’s letters and diary entries here and there for good while, but  in a footnote in the first chapter of Benjamin Pollock’s so far quite interesting Franz Rosenzweig and the Systematic Task of Philosophy I came across an something I haven’t yet seen.   As Pollock notes, Rosenzweig was rather unimpressed with the majority of the Neo-Kantians (except for Hermann Cohen, really), who he thought were simply confused about the relationship between a “system” and the task of philosophy.  Hence the need to return to the  approaches of German Idealism to get clear on the systematic task of philosophy. In this letter his ire is directed towards Rickert

Spinoza refutes Descartes, Leibniz refutes Spinoza, Kant refutes Leibniz, Fichte refutes Kant, Schelling refutes Fichte, Hegel refutes Schelling, and Hegel, through the advance of history is more than refuted, he is judged. But Nietzsche does not refute Schopenhauer and I do not refute Nietzsche.  He who still busies himself today with refutations (e.g. Rickert with Nietzsche, for what is the philosophy of value other than a struggle against the transvaluation of values?), proves in so doing that he is not a philosopher.

Geez.  How awkward.  I mean Rickert purportedly helped Rosenzweig publish his article, “Oldest System-Program.” Moreover, as Pollock notes (I wouldn’t know since I’m not that familiar with Rickert): “Rickert’s own systematic work contains key themes and concepts too many of which pop up in Rosenzweig’s Star for such overlap to be coincidental” (64).  Yet…

Of People and Things.

Back to book reports then [at least we don’t pretend to do “real” philosophy this way, right?]

I’m reading Arthur Ripstein’s Force and Freedom, a book entirely dedicated to Kant’s Rechtslehre. So far I like it quite a bit, particularly the very simple and exegetical presentation, even if somewhat unexciting in terms of possible connections between Kant’s ideas and those of, say, Locke, Hobbes and Rousseau. The opening chapter sets the tone of the discussion with a very clear presentation of Kant’s views on the distinction between the issues of virtue and the issues of right/law. I have to say that despite the clear presentation, however, none of the Kantian postulates are really engaged, so I’m hoping that the rest of the book will do so in more detail. For example, the idea that Kant distinguishes between internal freedom and external freedom and therefore wants to keep the domain of ethics (and the categorical imperative) and the domain of right/law separate is pretty clear in Kant, but we might very easily challenge this distinction as based on a rather underdeveloped distinction between “inside” and “outside” with all sorts of interesting questions. Again, since I haven’t finished the book, I’m hoping that Ripstein does go there.

One interesting theme of the first chapter is the notion of independence vs autonomy and their relation to Kant’s understanding of freedom. My attention, however, was caught by Ripstein’s wording of the issues: it’s all about people and the social relations they choose to establish. If there was ever a good chapter that would summarize for an objectologist how it’s all subject-oriented, it would be that chapter. However, it got me thinking about a number of issues, but primarily about the sorts of issues that would get us to juxtapose “people” and “things”… Continue reading

Zizek on Hardtalk

It’s here for 7 days, but you have to be in a certain area to watch it online. I’m sure there’s a YouTube video somewhere out there. Whoever the guy interviewing Zizek is kind of annoyingly interruptive, but Zizek needs that sort of person, otherwise he will talk forever.

I mean the interviewer’s obvious bias is quite clear – “you call yourself a Communist, but Communism sucks!” – plus in the end he ends up talking too much (at least for a Zizek-type encounter), so it’s kind of stupid, but it’s a Zizek-sighting so I must post about it.