Archive for December, 2014

Who Can Be a Great Philosopher

It is of the utmost importance to shout from the rooftops that someone could be, or could have been, an anti-communist, a Stalinist, a philo- or anti-semite, hostile to women, a feminist, a monarchist, a democrat, a militarist, a nationalist, a partisan, a Nazi or Mussolinite, gay, sexually conformist, internationalist, colonialist, egalitarian, aristocratic, an elitist or friend of the masses, and so on and so forth… and be a philosopher of the greatest importance. Examinations of morality, passing as a democrat, being of the right ideological breed, non-criminality, inscrutability – ideological purity, in sum, the characteristic that these inquisitorial apostles test in those whom they must purge, and of which they must be the most perfect incarnation – are intolerable, and must not be tolerated. Down with the little masters of the purification of philosophy!

—Alain Badiou, Letter to Jean-Clet Martin, here.

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A New Philosophy of Nature?

Give a listen to Roberto Mangabeira Unber’s ideas:

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Torturing Innocents? No Problem!

Would somebody please arrest this psychopath Dick Cheney?! (And, police, please — in this case — feel free to pretend Dick Cheney is an unarmed black male. Apparently, he won’t mind.)

 The problem I have is with all the folks we did release who ended up on the battlefield … I have no problem [with torturing innocent people] as long as we achieved our objective.

–Dick Cheney, nutter.

In case you are worried about the inserted addition in the quote above, I invite you to follow the link and to watch and listen for yourself to these enlightening — and thoroughly disturbing — two minutes with Dick Cheney.

 

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Capitalism and Democracy are Incompatible

So you think capitalism is the best system to ensure democracy? You think the defense of “freedom” by “libertarianism” supports democracy? You think you know what Adam Smith was talking about by the “invisible hand”? Better take 15 minutes and listen to this.

 All for ourselves and nothing for other people, seems, in every age of the world, to have been the vile maxim of the masters of mankind.

–Adam Smith, An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations, Book III, Chapter 4.

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Cornel West Reflects On The ‘Artistic Genius’ Of John Coltrane’s ‘A Love Supreme’

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Great discussion of a great record. Cornel West is joined by a number of jazz historians and musicians (Stanley Crouch, Archie Shep, and others) in a very interesting conversation. (video – Skype call-ins have some glitches)

Cornel West Reflects On The ‘Artistic Genius’ Of John Coltrane’s ‘A Love Supreme’.

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Time in a Nutshell

Get some perspective!

(hat-tip to student Ryan B.!)

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Why Academics Stink at Writing

Here’s Steven Pinker’s assessment and advice.  But should we take advice about good writing from an essay that begins with the most trite clichés?

Together with wearing earth tones, driving Priuses, and having a foreign policy, the most conspicuous trait of the American professoriate may be the prose style called academese.

Teddy West, my writing prof from college, would not approve!

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Multarchism

Why I am (not) an anarchist.

Here are some random thoughts on this claim:

  • Anarchism tends towards emphasis on negative liberty: “Nobody tells me what I can and cannot do.” Like difference philosophy and deconstruction, anarchism emphasizes one pole of the sphere of human existence. What about postive liberty, the freedom for becoming what you are (or will have been)?
  • Anarchism, as Emma Goldman puts it, resists the state, property, and religion. It is an open question whether these can be resisted. All can be seen as “artificial,” creatures of human artifice, and so we might be warned against, in Roberto Mangabeira Unger’s terminology, false necessity. But the question is whether underlying the particular manifestations of state, property, and religion there is not something fundamental, something fundamenting, as Xavier Zubiri would put it, that explains the inescapability of something like state, property, and religion.
  • Anarchism, as an ism, paradoxically functions as an archē, as an inviolable principle which serves to authorize, to generate authority (and heresy). A good example of this can be seen in all the trouble Shevek gets into with the “anarchists” of Anarres in Ursula LeGuin’s The Dispossessed. He is called a “traitor” for his “egoizing” desire to be in contact with the people of Urras (the “Propertarians”). The “anarchism” of Annares becomes the tyranny of the mass, as Goldman would put it.
  • I am interested in an anarchy that has no archē. Or at least no single archē.

Multarchism?

  • Anarchy means to be without a ruler. It means, thus, to be unruled, unmeasured, without a measure. But is it so that human beings are lacking all measure? Is self-transcendence (Augustine) the same as infinitude? Is not the confusion of these two what is meant by “original sin”?
  • Multarchism would mean that there are multiple measures, perhaps always one more measure. It would reject the idea that there is no measure (an-archy), but it would also reject the hegemony of any particular measure, principle, foundation.

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