Tzvetan Todorov on Bush and Torture

Tzvetan Todorov on “intellectual torturers”:

The newly published documents do not disclose the very facts of torture, which were already well known by whomever wanted to know them. But they do reveal a great deal of information about how the torture sessions unfolded and how the agents involved perceived them.

What is most striking is the discovery of niggling little rules, outlined in CIA manuals and co-opted by the government’s legal executives. One would have thought that torture was the result of blunders or unintentional excesses committed on the spur of the moment. On the contrary, these memos make clear that torture was a tactic formulated in minute detail. Continue reading

Internalize My Law!

I have been reading Terry Eagleton’s Holy Terror in the last couple of days, and I think I’m enjoying it, despite having a bit of an ambiguous initial encounter with Eagleton’s work earlier in life. It is full of great literary references and it makes for an enjoyable read when you recognize and understand the allusions, having been brought up on mostly Russian and Soviet literature, and Eagleton’s allusions coming primarily from Western tradition, it makes for a good self-esteem boosting exercise. The first couple of chapters deal with Dionysus, Greek tragedy, law, sublime, order, chaose and all kinds of other cool subjects, it’s quite a feast. However, when reading about law I kept remembering Zizek’s favorite example that, in some or other variation, sounds something like that: Imagine a father asking a young child to go see grandma, the child refuses (hates grandma) and father forces him to go anyway. Father is the law in this scenarios, the child is the constituents in a state of law, their refusal is overcome with enforcement yet they retain a sort of internal rebellious attitude toward the law because they realize that they are forced to obey. In Zizek’s scenario then a second variant has a different twist: a father, upon hearing of the child’s refusal to go, leaves the final decision up to the child- “Well, if you don’t want to go, it’s ok, it’s up to you.” Zizek’s comment is usually something like this: “Look at this permissive parent, he thinks he’s leaving the decision up to the child, but in fact he is pressing for an internalization of the law, now any decision of the child will be supposedly his/her decision, he will most likely agree to go, but the enforcement will come from within, and therefore with it will come the guilt.” Lately Zizek’s been adding another example from a movie where a girlfriend is yelling at the boyfriend: “I don’t want you to do the dishes, I want you to want to do the dishes.” Continue reading

(December of Kant) …And Then God Created Triangles.

Geometrical examples are abound in Kant, but the most peculiar is that of the triangle – peculiar both in its popularity and its philosophical history. Someone out there must be working on a book about it – A Brief History of the Philosophical Use of Geometry: The Case of Triangles. The issue is more interesting vis-a-vis Kant’s discussion of the moral law, or rather, the role of God in the discussion of moral law. A basic problem is, of course, well-known ever since Socrates decided to annoys the noble Euthyphro with a series of questions about piety: Is something pious because gods love it or do they love it because it is pious? Euthyphro ends with a sort of rude “I really have to get going now” from the young man, but the issue remained and puzzled theologians: Does God command that we do something because it is good, or is it good because God commands that we do it? While reading Kant’s lectures on ethics this afternoon, I came across this passage: Continue reading