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?
Man, I’m all about celebrating Tolstoy’s legacy (it’ll be 100 years since his death on 11/20), but this morning Die Zeit front page threw me off (a bit), partially with its graphics, partially because I didn’t know there was a competition for Germany’s favorite Russian (click to enlarge):
Although I’m not much for rallies and crowds, this one was enormous and really inspirational (if I can get serious for a moment or two). It’s now replaying on C-SPAN, but I can attest that the crowds were gigantic and very polite (click to enlarge):
According to the latest twist of OOO mind-bending doctrine, “objects or substances are withdrawn from themselves“ – I have no clue what this is supposed to mean, but I will take it on faith that this paradoxical formulation (which is a nicer way of saying “this nonsense”) is true, which means I myself withdrawn from myself (as an object). Right?
In any case, speaking of withdrawing – I know it’s affected and vain to announce things (and, yes, doing it knowingly is even more affected and vain, but nonetheless), but I think I will take a short break from blogging. Fall semester is here, books need to be read, deep thoughts need to be thought and snark needs to be polished. Hopefully, by the time I return OOO will still be producing beautiful nonsense for me to mock. Levi Bryant’s monumental volume will finally see the light of the day and I will stop being irritated by his references to his yet-not-published book as if it has already hit the shelves and everyone’s read it. Graham Harman will probably write 13 more books about everyone and everything (including one on South American butterflies and Amish goat cheese). Tim Morton will produce a dozen or so of YouTube videos in which he will address the non-existent audience and explain some intricate point of his profound thought. Ian Bogost will probably make more snarky remarks about adjuncts or not being a Marxist.
I think the best examples of egomania are not the obvious “illusions of grandeur” that are easy to spot, but subtle intonations that suggest something like this: “I am doing X, I find X to be interesting and I am excited to do X, therefore everyone must be doing X and if, in fact, they are not doing X or think X is lame, there’s something really wrong with them, because, since I find X to be interesting, I can’t comprehend why they don’t.”
In philosophy this annoying characteristic is most often seen in people who project their own personal likes and dislikes onto the general field of philosophy and claim that because they are really into something and their friends are really into it as well, it is the latest most important idea in philosophy while any sensible person knows that it cannot be the case, because every single graduate student group, either online or offline, thinks its ideas are the freshest and the most exciting. But to cite an obscure early Christian writer, “When I was a graduate student, I thought like a graduate student, every book I read was the best book ever, every conversation I had was the most insightful and promising. But when I grew up, I realize how huge the world really is and how insignificant and banal my little observations are. I realized that there are people out there who neither agree nor disagree with me, because they are doing their own things and are not easily moved by my project.”
To think that just because you find online interactions productive for philosophy, they are the future of philosophy is foolish, especially since the blogs were around for many years and nothing philosophically interesting really came out of it.
On a sad personal note, my old iPod died today and I was going to go and try to get it fixed at the Apple store or get a new one, but guess what? I cannot, because tomorrow is the day iPad is out and there are already lines outside of the store. Damn it!
By some strange twist of fate, we are sojourning in LA – took us 20 mins and 5 right turns to get a cup of coffee from a store across the street (walking is for losers, apparently). This place looks rather depressing. There are almost no identifiable features, everything looks all-American and bland. The hotel is rather spooky as well (click on it to enlarge the spookiness).
Clearly, this is no Budapest and there are no strawberries…
Just thought I’d inquire the reading public about this, as I have done in the past – what is the best (in your estimation) book that gives one a good overview of U.S. history? I like something that reads well, not just gives me facts. I realize that I’m lacking in the kind of overall history department even if I know a lot about some events here and there. Thanks!
Imagine an introductory conversation:
Hi, what’s your name? – Mikhail Emelianov.
Ah, where are you from? – I’m from New Jersey.
No, I mean where are you originally from? – Um… Eastern Europe, what about you?
I’m from Michigan – No, I mean where are you originally from?
?! [followed by awkwardness]
Not sure how this happened, but I realized over the last two weeks that nothing really calms me down (and allows me to regain a sort of equilibrium one generally takes for granted) like good old writing – writing anything, but especially catching up on old writing projects, reading drafts, looking at old notes, deciphering old papers – why is that? what is it about scribbling away on a piece of paper that makes for a calming exercise? It has to be handwriting though, am I too old school for computer? I’m sure someone already wrote something about that somewhere…
Apparently, I tweet. Don’t judge me.