Revolution of the Giving Hand


A friend reminded me of the Sloterdijk-centered controversy and I found a blog that collected all the related links. To recall, Sloterdijk published an editorial last year challenging the various aspects of the German “welfare state” titled “Die Revolution der gebenden Hand” and caused a number of German intellectuals to respond. Having just finished Sloterdijk’s Rage and Time (in English), I have to say that I find his provocateur style to be slightly annoying, but this is still a rather important issue – I wonder if there could be as serious of a discussion of these issues in the US, instead of stupefying coverage of the supposedly mass rage at the government and taxation exemplified by “Tea Party” folks?

49 thoughts on “Revolution of the Giving Hand

    • Probably not, it’s too long and convoluted for their simple brains. But it does raise some interesting issues, even if it ultimately fails to address them adequately. I wish that someone translated his Spheres instead, it would have been a much better (re)introduction to his later thought, but I’m sure that “Zizek phenomenon” makes publishers want to publish more or less “controversial” stuff instead to sell some books, although Sloterdijk’s not Zizek, of course, he’s more boring.

  1. How long does he meditate on the Achilles in the book. Is it just a passing introductory thought, or is it a well-developed theme?

    • It’s very much a passing remark – he spends more time recounting the history of the Chinese revolution and all the nasty things Mao did. There’s a good core issue that’s worth thinking about – rage accumulation, investment and return (a metaphor of rage-bank) – but there’s a lot of fluff…

      • Another Heideggerian off-shoot. Sigh.

        I was really, really looking forward to a well-plowed examination from Greek Achilles on. Dead set on reading it, once. Very disappointed to hear what I feared.

      • Get a library copy and skim through it, there’s some stuff in the beginning, but he never goes back to it and gives it a chance once he’s done with this rage metaphor, plus it only confuses the reader since Achilles’ rage is suppose to be “good” (as in “heroic” and so on) and by the end of the book rage=resentment/revenge and thymos is just old “political affect” and so on – lots of promise, but almost no delivery

  2. I was really put off by his repeated reference to the unemployed and alienated Parisian rioters of a few years ago as “adolescents” (I don’t have the book in front of me but I believe that’s the word he used. It seemed very demeaning and dismissive.

    In fact, I found the whole book to be reasonably problematic. I don’t read German, so I had been looking forward eagerly to the English version of Spheres. Now I’m not sure I care very much about it.

    • Spheres are different because they are more about “cultural history” and generally well-informed theories of Kulturwissenschaft-type of observations, that’s why I think it’s a better representation of Sloterdijk’s work as such. Yes, he does seem to think that the unemployed/immigrant community is full of youngsters with nothing to do and that’s the whole problem..

  3. Is there really going to be an English Spheres? (I hope so; reading a thinker w/ whom I strongly disagree is a good workout).

    “Today, a finance minister is a Robin Hood who has sworn a constitutional oath.” (so Sloterdijk, HERE).) Does he not realize that Ayn Rand already used this back in Atlas Shrugged? Of course he does; the tax strike idea is more or less the shrug suggestion with a little less apocalypticism. Still, one hopes for a little better. I don’t say one can’t put forward a logically (or even morally) coherent conservative position, but one hopes for a bit better than just Who Is John Galt.

    “Discreetly and ineluctably, we are heading toward a situation in which debtors will once again dispossess their creditors.” (Ibid). As if the entire edifice of credit and debt was not a rube goldberg device of magical thinking.

  4. Thanks for the link, Bryan – I think this is basically another version of his original essay. This business about “productive members of our society” is complete bullshit, of course, since no one is asking why and how they became this “productive class” (and there’s an image of a hard-working person somewhere in there, even if it’s false).

    Spheres are not really that disagreeable as you might expect in their majority (I’ve only read the first 2 volumes though), it’s mainly a great number of cultural data and some very interesting conclusions vis-a-vis human society, but nothing as concentrated as these recent articles.

    I don’t think Sloterdijk is completely off though, at least not in terms of him saying absolutely nonsensical stuff as some right-wing anti-taxation activists do in the US. There’s certainly a debate to be had about the extend of the welfare state and so on. I think my main annoyance is with his “provocateur” approach, but eve that, in the end, works, doesn’t it? People are talking about it, maybe that was the whole point?

  5. ME: “the reader since Achilles’ rage is suppose to be “good” (as in “heroic” and so on) and by the end of the book rage=resentment/revenge and thymos is just old “political affect” and so on – lots of promise, but almost no delivery”

    Kvond: that is terrible. I thought the whole book was about the harvesting of Thymos in the Greek “good” sense. Is it not?

    • It’s rather ambiguous – at the beginning it reads like a call to rediscover thymos and all that comes with it, or at the very least, as a call to rethink the important of things like honor, pride, rage, revenge and so on as to not discount it too hastily. But by the time second chapter comes around (on Catholic church) and then the third, largest, chapter on “The Thymotic Revolution” (Die thymotische Revolution rendered as “The Rage Revolution” in English), it’s no longer clear whether “thymos” is the source of good or bad vibrations, if you excuse my reference to surf rock. Ultimately, it’s rage as revenge and resentment that rules the book with many stories and nasty jabs at everything and everyone (excluding, strangely, National Socialism and other forms of twentieth century revenge-driven fascisms, but plenty of lists of communist crimes)…

      • I thought Fukuyama-cum-Kojeve-cum-Hegel already did the thymotic thing. Not that this means P.S. can’t have a go too; but is it any different? (Translating “thymotic revolution” as “rage revolution” seems pretty damn terrible, incidentally). In any case, the “vibrations” given off by “thymos” a la Hegel are neither inevitably good nor bad.

      • I think “thymotic revolution” is this case would have been just fine, considering it’s all about “revolution” and not really “rage” (“rage revolution” implies either “revolution of rage” or “rage of revolution” and it can work if you think of the chapter as attempting to maintain the ambiguity). Yes, Sloterdijk mentions Fukuyama (and Derrida’s critique of him in Specters of Marx), so he’s not attempting to reinvent the wheel. And if he meant to keep the moral judgement vis-a-vis “vibrations” suspended (a la Hegel), then he obviously failed since his examples of rage are almost all negative…

  6. Hi Mikhail,

    I’m really surprised you find anything interesting in the Sloterdijk op-ed – it seems to be just garden variety conservatism that could have come from any Friedmanite in the last 50 years. He sounds exactly like a Tea Partier. You think the state rips off the ‘productive’ and is too kind to the unemployed?

    • Mike, no, of course I don’t think the state rips off the “productive” – “productive” here is clearly a way of putting down those who are not (“unproductive”). I find it interesting in a way that it was meant to raise the issue of the welfare state and it did, i.e., I find that it was an effective (even if negative) way of raising the question we should raise, that is to say, what is the role of the state and how its role is to be negotiated and renegotiated – with recent cuts in the public sector in the UK and some battles over the unemployment benefits extension in the US, it’s important to have a public discussion of the matter and not simply assume that people understand why we pay taxes – otherwise various fear-mongers a la Glenn Beck will have the floor. I’m not always comfortable with conservative arguments (most are idiotic, especially in the US media), but I’m more disturbed by the lack of the real encounter between, say, Tea Party angries and more progressive forces that often simply dismiss TP as a nuisance when it’s clearly speaking to some concerns that are out there (even if those concerns are manipulated by the right-wing media). Posing the questions of fairness in this case must lead to a rethinking of the whole issue of why we think the welfare state is a good development and if people like Sloterdijk have arguments, not just run of the mill complaints, then those arguments will be countered (as happened in this particular case).

    • You think the state rips off the ‘productive’ and is too kind to the unemployed?

      That’s not quite Sloterdijks position. He asks though why those who are not too kind to the unemployed are treated like ordinary criminals?

      Otherwise he isn’t a social romantic with a fervour for the “people” ( more precisely the petite bourgeois who are obsessed with business ) or settles on the hilarious idea that the state can be replaced by capitalists. If there is an utopian sediment – and I believe there is – then it is the Nietzschean, pride-driven will and capacity to give, without the demand for a return. So we see here the aristocratic communism based on reciprocity, something which can still be found in e.g. the French upper class or in open source communities.

      Not sure what to make of it – these are just ideas.

      • I don’t really see that in the piece, Kay. Is it elsewhere in his writing?

        In any case, the idea that charity could replace state welfare is pure Friedman, and an absolutely commonplace bit of Reaganism. If people want a Nietzschean gloss for banal 19th century liberalism, they can get it from Ayn Rand. The only reason I can think of why this piece would get these serious responses is that it’s unusual for such a piece to come out of his milieu.

        At best Sloterdijk’s piece is sociologically naive and even sloppier than your average op-ed. “Today, in fact, a good half of the population of every modern nation is made up of people with little or no income, who are exempt from taxes and live, to a large extent, off the other half of the population, which pays taxes.” – I’d love to see his statistical source for that one!

  7. Skol: “In any case, the “vibrations” given off by “thymos” a la Hegel are neither inevitably good nor bad.”

    Kvond: Which is why the Achilles Thymos had so much potential. It is inherently, and rather classically good. The thymos fueled by filiation, tempered by loss, organized to overcome unjust or inept leadership.

  8. ME: “And if he meant to keep the moral judgement vis-a-vis “vibrations” suspended (a la Hegel), then he obviously failed since his examples of rage are almost all negative…”

    Kvond: Sad. Greek Menis is justified wrath, not in terms of equality due, but in terms of authenticity and dignity afforded.

  9. Kevin, you should give this book a read, I don’t want to present my own views as some kind of definitive interpretation – you might get something out of it.

    A tangential point: I didn’t really think the figure of Achilles worked in the very beginning, even if he took it all the way to the bank, primarily because his description of Achilles’ menis would have been immediately complicated by Homer’s presentation itself. It’s not as though Achilles’ is all positive and Agamemnon’s all negative – one takes honor that deservedly belongs to the other. I mean we’re talking about a raid on an innocent city and enslavement of its inhabitants (Briseis’ family is killed by Achilles and he then “takes” her as a prize). But even if all of that could be brushed aside as minor circumstances, Achilles is willing to let his fellow Greeks die in vain because his honor is offended (questioning the very notion of honor in the process etc etc). In fact, only after Partoclus is killed does he decide to rejoin the battle, but this time only to exact revenge on Hector. So if heroic rage (even if justified) is good and revenge/resentment is bad (according to a simplified version of Sloterdijk’s argument), then Achilles is the worst possible example and we need less of his kind of menis today.

  10. I read the Iliad quite differently really. It is the story of the synthesis of Thymos under proper Kingship, having recovered from the excesses of its tragedy in history. Agamemnon has been entirely eclipsed by the time of the Greek Games in the later half, supplanted entirelly by Achilles, and at the poem’s end Achilles achieves the greatest of syntheses, out of compassion hosting the King of his enemy, and giving the body of his son back, a kind of cross-cultural, transcendent filiation. The last thing we see Achilles doing is going to bed with his “prize” but no longer an abstract prize, but a “wife” in the Greek sense, the Eve or so before his historic death.

    • I’m sure that difference in reading Iliad is something to be expected. I read it for the first time without much context and it impressed me as a very human story, despite the very clear dimension of supra-human: it’s very surprising that in it there are no real villains, only heroes. Trojans worship the same gods and speak the same language, Hector is not a negative of Achilles, he has a wife and a baby, he has a loving family and, unlike Achilles, he is forced to fight to survive. From my early experience it was always a story that challenged a long list of accepted values: we get a bickering dispute between Agamemnon and Achilles as an opening and it only reminds of the sheer idiocy of the situation – someone seduced/abducted someone’s wife and there we are 9 years into a destructive war.

      Maybe we can move this discussion elsewhere since it’s a rather large and interesting topic, if you expand on your reading of it, I will surely be interested in a debate.

      • That is beautifully put. No real villains, only heroes. This is the thymotic way I suspect. And the super-human, the divine, (which can be quite terrible, as in the case of Achilles when he really starts to “shine” by the river Scamander but even in the smaller examples, are really just projections of the glimmer of what is possible when Thymos is honed.

        I’m not sure we have something to debate, but would be open to discussion of it. I take the entire Iliad to be a story and lesson of Thymos, the trascendence of Greek tragedy even before the Greek Tragic form had been created (Sophocles motions towards this strongly in his Philoctetes I believe, which deals with the heritage of Greek greatness in Achilles’s son and Achilles’ nemesis Odysseus)

  11. I’m going to go out on a bit of a limb here: “no real villians” is perhaps not only “the thymotic way”; it’s aristocrats giving props to other aristocrats. Class solidarity, regardles of which side of the war one happens to be on. I believe there’s only one “commoner” mentioned by name: Thersites – he’s described as ugly, and held in contempt. This doesn’t necessarily make him a villain to us, but …

    • Yes. There is only one commoner. But the centerpiece to the entire epic is the depiction of Achilles’s shield. And it is FILLED with the glory of the commoner. It is the fulcrum of the epic.

    • Further of course, the great moment of mercy (eleos) that Achilles achieves as a King, when faces his enemy King in Priam, is not achieved through a moment of aristocratic elevation, a rising up of a human into elite values. Instead Priam, disguised as a commoner, supplicates himself WHOLLY as a mere human, a father, something any man and all men could be (in the Greek mind). And Achilles’s thought, his moment of redemption, is not some superhuman achievement on the battle field, its is the identification with Priam as a simple father, his compassion and thoughts towards his own father. There are no aristocratic appeals at the core to this turning point. It is purely “common” in the most real sense.

      And any Greek, no matter his station, could recognize this as greatness.

    • This is not to say that the epic is not shot through with the Aristocratic, which it obviously is. This is a fairly common criticism of it. But it transcends this structure at a very deep level which is remarkable considering the society in which it was written and disseminated. It is a story of heroes and heroes, but they resolve their thymotically imbued destinies in extremely human ways, ways available to any human being.

      • It was a good thought JBR. An argument that many have made against the worth of the epic. (my statement above was written before your reply.)

  12. Somehow started at the bottom of this, read all the way to top. Stupendous discussion, I must say, although net result is I want to re-read The Iliad, which I only got to when oldish (5 years ago), and think once is definitely not enough. I can’t think of anything better than the Iliad.

  13. I was thinking about it again today and I’m still not really convinced that the “thymotic way” is anything we should really aspire to repeat. Surely, pretending that sociopolitical issues are all about rational agents making rational choices isn’t the answer either, but at the very least it could be a nice objective, a goal. The more I think about Iliad the more I’m convinced that it is a great epic about the messiness of human interactions (gods only fulfilling the role of “behind-the-scenes” explanations).

    As for Achilles and his character development at the end (surrendering the body of Hector), I’m not sure if it’s not just one of his multiple “mood swings”…

    • So, you see the “thymotic way” as a way of “mood swings”? I’m not sure I follow you here. The story of the Iliad is just a story of mood swings? It feels like you leaving out a few pieces of the thymotic, or Iliadic puzzle.

      Do you honestly feel that Achilles’s however tempered reconciliation at the end of the epic is merely contingent?

      Would this not be the near equivalent of saying the Oedipus puts his eyes out out of petulance?

      I have to admit that your subtle sense of humor doesn’t always come through in type, and I’m not sure if you are purely joking.

      In any case I think that the “thymotic way” would not be a way of simply feeling your way through things, but rather being aware of the “bank” of rage, and the role of just, righteous indignation in history and personal development. It is realizing that the “rational” always is kept in the context of a thymos, and that agreements sought rationally when thymoi are clashing cannot likely be achieved at that level. And lastly, the rational is thymotic, which is to say bodily imbued and inspired. Some thoughts.

      • I think in the case of Achilles the use of “mood swings” is not necessarily a bad description: as in the case of “mood swings” it is not an act of choice on the part of the subject. Achilles is certainly moved a lot, isn’t he? But clearly there’s nothing negative about such a description. “Mood swings” are only negative in the context in which rationality and self-control are the highest virtues. In the Iliad, it seems, no one is really in control, everything is a matter of “fate swings” if you will. Which is why it is such a moving tale.

        I suppose I’m mostly operating with a Platonic version of thymos where it is (with eros) necessarily controlled by logos. Logos decided what justice is, thymos does not know as such. But I’m not sure about Homer. I mean the notion of “righteous rage” or “just rage” is effectively tied to the concept of right/just. I can rage because someone took my parking spot, but it’s hardly worth writing an epic poem about. I don’t know if Achilles’ rage that opens the book is really that righteous and should be our model for thymotic way. I do agree with you (now that I think about it) that Achilles’ thymos in the end (compassion for Priam) is indeed an example, but it’s hardly connected to menis as all.

        I’ve read the reviews that you linked to and I found in one the seeming misreading of thymos=menis which isn’t the case, is it? Maybe I’ve read it somewhere else. Clearly thymos is larger than rage, so thymotic way is in some sense a way of “spiritedness” and not “logos” and therefore is not “rational”…

  14. ME: “But clearly there’s nothing negative about such a description. “Mood swings” are only negative in the context in which rationality and self-control are the highest virtues. In the Iliad, it seems, one is really in control, everything is a matter of “fate swings” if you will. Which is why it is such a moving tale.”

    Kvond: There is a moment before Priam where Priam says something that angers Achilles, and his eyes flash with the threat of violence. If the story was a story of mood swings (which I rather strongly disagree with), this flash in the eyes makes little sense. Was it merely that Achilles was swung to anger, and then back to reconciliation? What accounts for the restraint of his wrath? It is for this reason of course that the final exchange has everything to do with menis. It is about the resolution of menis, and how menis is a dangerous and divine state. Before this reconciliation the gods complain that Achilles is violating the natural order by refusing to have Hector buried. Apollo tells Zeus that Achilles is murdering “eleos” (mercy, compassion). When Achilles finally relents, having flown outside of the social order, and when Achilles finally reconciles with Priam, what has become of this “flash of Anger”. Has it be sublimated by rationality? Has it been curbed by custom? Has Achilles simply grow to its level, and it no longer controls him?

    To treat Homeric thymos as Platonic thymos is of course in my view a huge mistake because the whole point of returning to Homeric thymos is as a critique of Platonic, Logos, subject-driven conceptions of force. It is not only a question of simply mastering the inner-horse via the bit Logos, as Socrates suggests. Homeric thymos is much more than merely the passions. It is the fabric of bonds, including rational bonds.

    ME: I’ve read the reviews that you linked to and I found in one the seeming misreading of thymos=menis which isn’t the case, is it? Maybe I’ve read it somewhere else. Clearly thymos is larger than rage, so thymotic way is in some sense a way of “spiritedness” and not “logos” and therefore is not “rational”

    Kvond: In Homer indeed the thymos and menis are linked to each other. But only Achilles and the divine have menis. Menis is an elevated state, one might say, of thymos. And yes, you might have rage over a parking space taken, and this could be a personal problem. But there is Rosa Parks and the menis-ish rage/force/justice that came out of bus seat.

    If you look at the Homeric examples, rationality is not excluded from the thymotic way. Achilles is presented with all kinds of rational arguments and he reasonably appreciates them. But rationalization does not rule the day. It is part of the process. And it cannot stand in lieu of a deep thymotic deficit. Only when the thymos is incorporated, when that economy is address, does the rational take hold. As I pointed out in my response to Time and Rage a year ago, Achilles makes strong objection to Odysseus’s embassy. He knows Odysseus to be a man of many arguments, but that he holds thoughts in his heart. The rational operates in the idea realm of forth rightness and transparency, but in real life it almost always is operating on the behalf of thymotic investments that cannot be address solely on the rational level. Rationally discussing something can be of benefit, but the investments with them are really often what it is all about. It is a negotiation. “That is a good point, but we are thymotically entrenched” often becomes an endpoint of discussion.

    So was it rationality that got Achilles to stay his flash of anger at Priam who was supplicant? Was it mere custom? Mood swing? It was, I believe, all of these, but mostly compassion and identification, two very fundamental thymotic pathways, and a sense of limit.

    • I might add that at bottom beneath all of these discussions is a notion of economy and fairness that has great consequence. The equivalencies of rational, monetary justice are thymotically disjunctive relationships. There has been interesting anthropological work in the notion of “gift economies” that move towards a different sense of “fair”. You get this in how Achilles treats the awards in the Greek games. I don’t recall the exact event, but there is a competition (was it a footrace), and one of the participants who was older lost in some curious way. Achilles was faced with just the sort of question of equivalence that Agamemnon ruined at epic’s start. He has a thymotic sense of justice so I believe he awards the cup to the older fellow, BUT he also coordinately donates a prize out of his own wealth to appease the injustice this creates. He negotiates a justice out of judgment.

      Now there might be very good rational arguments why he should do this, but his process was not rational per se. It was aesthetic. But the strict economy of equivalencies, of numeric evenness is what is under review here.

      Equivalence and justice are not really numeric values, as much as our society is organized to read them that way. THAT is the meaning of the squabble over Briseis I believe, it is a squabble over abstraction and proportion.

      • I don’t know about Briseis being a squabble over abstraction and proportion, I read it as a squabble over timê (honor) – Archilles deserved his prize (Briseis) and so did Agamemnon and it’s not Achilles’ fault that Chryseis (Agamemnon’s prize) turns out to be a daughter a priest of Apollo etc etc. Achilles questions the very notion of deserved honor since it can be so easily taken away by someone like Agamemnon. The very idea of desert then is under fire and that’s why Achilles will not back down even when Agamemnon later offers him much more stuff and his own daughter in marriage.

      • ME: sorry, I meant to write “NO ONE is really in control” there…

        Kvond: Why is it important to find the center of control there?

        Is it history?
        Custom?
        Argument?
        Achilles himself?
        Logos?
        A moment of Compassion?

        All these questions are answered according to the richness of the answer they give. All these things are “in control”.

    • How/where would you locate “emotion” on the thymotic scale (especially, political emotion/affect)? I feel sometimes as though there is a tendency (not in you, but in Sloterdijk and his ilk) to replace familiar terms like “emotions” with unfamiliar terms like “thymos” and then assume that everyone’s on board. We don’t speak Greek, we speak English.

  15. ME: How/where would you locate “emotion” on the thymotic scale (especially, political emotion/affect)? I feel sometimes as though there is a tendency (not in you, but in Sloterdijk and his ilk) to replace familiar terms like “emotions” with unfamiliar terms like “thymos” and then assume that everyone’s on board. We don’t speak Greek, we speak English.

    Kvond: I haven’t read Sloterdijk himself so I can’t really comment directly, but I can JUST imagine that this is the case, and it would annoy me. For me thymos, when you get to know the word, isn’t appropriate for “emotion”. Emotions are thymotic relationships accompanied by or charaterized by thoughts, at least for me. Emotions have already been domesticated, so to speak, given meanings and relative causes. And as such there isn’t a lot you can do with it. The thymos is that feeling you get in your breast, a rising sensation that can be linked to excitement, fear, anger. It is the elevation of potential, from the core up. The emotions, and the rational treatment of the emotions, concentrates on then the objects of this thymos, where it is already reified, so to speak. Emotions are already dead in a lot of ways.

    Emotions are not very interesting.

    There a neuroscientist Damasio, who is a Spinozist, who makes a distinct physiological break between what he calls “feelings” (if I recall) and “emotions”. Very different parts of the body and brain are involved. “Feelings” though doesn’t quite even capture what thymos is. It is a potentiation that is even deeper.

    But you have to know that Sloterdijk was a follower, or a student of some kind of guru Osho (Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh) who was a somewhat questionable character running a cult-like retreat in Oregon. No doubt, even though I don’t know much about his relationship to the Bhagwan, Sloterdijk’s critique of Western psychoanalysis and thymos/emotions relations comes out of these spiritual (I don’t know what to call them)…extravagances. I would love to read more about this possible connection to Rage and Time thymotics. Its not something I personally would at all embrace, but it is an influence to be noted.

    • Funny you should mention Damasio, I’ve got a couple of his books. I should take a look once I get home.

      Thanks for your explanation, it makes sense to me. I wouldn’t necessarily kill emotions completely, but I do think that there needs to be a solid recovery of the social and political affects (I just got Protevi’s latest book on political affect, but I haven’t had a chance to read it yet).

    • But you have to know that Sloterdijk was a follower, or a student of some kind of guru Osho (Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh) who was a somewhat questionable character running a cult-like retreat in Oregon. No doubt, even though I don’t know much about his relationship to the Bhagwan, Sloterdijk’s critique of Western psychoanalysis and thymos/emotions relations comes out of these spiritual (I don’t know what to call them)…extravagances.

      That particular guru’s appeal was all about extravagances of a particularly dull variety, wasn’t it? Like collecting large NUMBERS of Rolls-Royces, which impresses only an obvious kind of stupid. Most Rolls-Royce owners impress more people than Rajneesh by owning just one. That was also the cult in which a lot of ‘hitting therapy’ and violence/anger ‘acting out’ was done. Like Arthur Janov writ large, or maybe ‘elevated toe the potential, from the core up’, but that could be off, as I’m lost in all this AWESOMENESS. Janov was impressive in some ways, if you’re VERY young, which would usually be the case with Rajneesh and these other cult types. I believe in ‘The Primal Scream’ that Janov tries to ‘prove’ that ass-fucking is necessarily ‘painful’. It was just ludicrous, but is something practitioners like to hang onto as long as they don’t know whether they ought to be doing such things (maybe don’t know how, etc.,)

      How interesting that intellectuals that are taken seriously on these matters (Sloterdijk, etc.) ever spent time with some of these characters.

      Interesting this talk of thymos, emotions, and ‘feelings’, although I am sure I don’t understand where one stops, the other begins, becomes ‘dead’ and ‘uninteresting’.

  16. ME: “I don’t know about Briseis being a squabble over abstraction and proportion, I read it as a squabble over timê (honor) – Archilles deserved his prize (Briseis) and so did Agamemnon and it’s not Achilles’ fault that Chryseis (Agamemnon’s prize) turns out to be a daughter a priest of Apollo etc etc. Achilles questions the very notion of deserved honor since it can be so easily taken away by someone like Agamemnon.”

    Kvond: I agree that it is over honor, and made in the context of custom, but it raises very deep questions of equivalence and economy. After the insult and its consequences (and I do find the notion of political protest in withdrawal a pregnant one), Achilles is offered an equivalence. He is offered many prizes quite in excess. He is being “bought off” so to speak. Now this is a very aristocratic, in fact maybe Ur Aristocratic stance, my honor cannot be bought! But studies of Achilles’ speech at the assemblage where he refuses to accept compensation show that he speaks in a way that shocks all attendants. He uses language that is not available to any other character in the Epic. Words and meter cannot hold what he has to say. He is speaking beyond the social, outside of exchange. Why is this?

    I believe it is not just pig-headedness or ego. It is that there is a rift in the social in the figure of Agamemnon himself, and in a sense there is no exchange possible until this is corrected. It is not a question of “how much”. This is the meaning of menis.

    You get the same refusal of abstract equivalence in the story by von Kleist, Michael Kohlhaus (sp?). A man’s horse is wrongfully taken by the Law and he refuses any equivalence until that horse is rightfully restored, razing the land until it is done. It is not merely personal “honor” but rather the understanding that unless the social order is just, there can be no equivalence functioning.

  17. ME: “Funny you should mention Damasio, I’ve got a couple of his books. I should take a look once I get home.”

    Kvond: He is definitely worth reading. But…it is all rather surface, no profound depth of ideas. What is nice is that he puts some philosophical questions into neurological contexts, which is nicely original. I like this sciency stuff as well, even in its pop versions. His stuff is a pretty fast read.

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