I’m posting four papers here so they don’t get lost in email oblivion or get buried somewhere in my computer. Plus, some readers may find the topics of interest:
As someone who avoided holiday travel by air, I have to say that this whole TSA thing is really another example of bureaucratic mental lockdown which will only result in more and more ridiculous rules which we will all learn to love and cherish eventually. Trust me, I was born and raised in the Soviet Union.
And now to something completely different. I asked the students to write a small reflection paper on a rather banal but, if attended to, potentially thought-provoking theme (for any smart undergraduate): is our sense of right and wrong innate or acquired? Not surprisingly, they mostly wrote that it is acquired and went on to argue how family, culture, education and environment are all essential elements and so on. However, on almost every paper that made a big deal of education and family I found myself writing something like “Good point, but who educates the educators?” I’m looking forward to asking this question in class tomorrow, but I’m fairly sure it’ll be one of those “Hmmm, I don’t know – their educators?” conversations in which I am trying to explain the paradoxical nature of the claim and the students give me looks like I’m insane, because I make this pretty commonsensical view (“we learn our values from our family/society”) into a problematic one (“this is the whole problem with you, philosophy-types – you take our established beliefs and you attempt to destroy them”).
All of this lead me this week to Marx’s Third Thesis on Feuerbach:
The materialist doctrine that men are products of circumstances and upbringing, and that, therefore, changed men are products of changed circumstances and changed upbringing, forgets that it is men who change circumstances and that the educator must himself be educated. Hence this doctrine is bound to divide society into two parts, one of which is superior to society. The coincidence of the changing of circumstances and of human activity or self-change [Selbstveränderung] can be conceived and rationally understood only as revolutionary practice.
It is a rather cryptic note and I’m sure some scholar dedicated a good book to it already, and I’d like to read it.
How does one approach this problem – educators need to be educated – without avoiding a kind of infinite regress? Does it mean that this “revolutionary practice” in a sense destroy the very traditional notion of education?
I want to call attention to a rather interesting article by Gail Weiss, “Intertwined Identities: Challenges to Bodily Autonomy,” in the latest (well, 2009) issue of Perspectives: International Postgraduate Journal of Philosophy. Here’s the abstract:
Over the last decade, the international media has devoted increasing attention to operations that separate conjoined twins. Despite the fairly low odds that a child or adult will survive the operation with all of their vital organs intact, most people fail to question the urgency of being physically separated from one’s identical twin. The drive to surgically tear asunder that which was originally joined, I suggest, is motivated in part by a refusal to acknowledge intercorporeality as a basic condition of human existence that doesn’t undermine identity but makes it possible in the first place.
Read the whole thing here (pdf).
Man, reading student papers over the next week (always leaving this fun activity until the last minute) – please, can someone kill me now?
Apparently, Socrates committed a cowardly suicide while recovering from the emotional trauma of being convicted of a crime – what a loser! And what is going on with the grammatical errors? At least I have an excuse, I speaka no English, I only do the math, but the native speakers? Oi, oi, oi Continue reading
I’m going to go with probably not. In a post entitled “Slavoj Zizek wants to See a Bloodbath,” Justin E.H. Smith suggests:
Žižek’s shtick works for a number of reasons among readers who are not ordinarily receptive to calls to the barricades. One is that he is a clown, that he cuts his Leninism with enough sweet stuff about Jennifer Lopez and whatever other trash passes across his hotel TV screens that readers can easily assume to be a put-on every bit that they are not inclined to accept. Another reason, obviously, is the way he plays on his foreignness. He’s been through it, Western readers will tell themselves, and has surely earned the right to hold forth on these matters. But anyone who would joke that the only position he would accept in the Slovenian government is that of chief of secret police evidently has not been through it quite enough. Slovenia was the freest republic of the freest federal state in the socialist bloc: the Switzerland of Yugoslavia, as Slobodan Milošević once scoffed. This does not mean it was always easy to be a Lacanian intellectual in Ljubljana during the Tito era, but the sort of inconvenience Žižek faced is categorically different than, say, the Stalinist show trials in the Soviet Union of the 1930s (made possible, of course, by the secret police).
Žižek, I mean, is not speaking from any particular position of experience when he suggests that there is something to be salvaged from the legacy of the Bolshevik revolution. When he suggests that what is to be salvaged is the very most brutal part of that legacy, moreover, he is just being flippant, and Western readers should not let him get away with it simply on the grounds that he has funny accent marks in his last name.
In A Natural History of the Senses, Diane Ackerman comments on Alphonso Lingis:
Alphonso Lingis—whose unusual books, Excesses and Libido, consider the realms of human sensuality and kinkiness—travels the world sampling its exotic erotica. Often he primes the pump by writing letters to friends. I possess some extraordinary letters, half poetry, half anthropology, he sent me from a Thai jail (where he took time out from picking vermin to write), a convent in Ecuador, Africa (where he was scuba-diving along the coast with filmmaker Leni Riefenstahl), and Bali (where he was taking part in fertility rituals).
Although I find Lingis’ writing a bit over the top at times, it’s certainly never boring or uninteresting.
In the Critique of Pure Reason, Kant explains that properly philosophical work concludes with defi nition, produces it as its end, rather than beginning from defi nition in the manner of mathematics. The reason: “philosophical defi nitions are brought about only as expositions of given concepts, but mathematical definitions as constructions of concepts made originally. . . . mathematical definitions themselves make the concept, whereas philosophical defi nitions only explicate it.” I want, contrarily, a defi nition of
sorrow from which philosophy can properly and poetically begin, a defi nition of sorrow that makes its concept and produces philosophy by means of its explication. Not a definition of sorrow for the sake of an ultimate understanding or study of sorrow’s nature, but a sorrow for the sake of the ultimate defi nition of our own. A mathematical definition of sorrow that is philosophically poetic, as it were.
“The Sorrow of Being” (here)