Sunday, April 27, 2014

Two essays on violence, from 1969

repeat, from last year.

Robert Paul Wolff, On Violence, from The Journal of Philosophy
...On the basis of a lengthy reflection upon the concept of de jure legitimate authority, I have come to the conclusion that philosophical anarchism is true. That is to say, I believe that there is not, and there could not be, a state that has a right to command and whose subjects have a binding obligation to obey. I have defended this view in detail elsewhere, and I can only indicate here the grounds of my conviction Briefly, I think it can be shown that every man has a fundamental duty to be autonomous, in Kant's sense of the term. Each of us must make himself the author of his actions and take responsibility for them by refusing to act save on the basis of reasons he can see for himself to be good. Autonomy, thus under- stood, is in direct opposition to obedience, which is submission to the will of another, irrespective of reasons. Following Kant's usage, political obedience is heteronymy [sic] of the will.

Now, political theory offers us one great argument designed to make the autonomy of the individual compatible with submission to the putative authority of the state. In a democracy, it is claimed, the citizen is both law-giver and law-obeyer. Since he shares in the authorship of the laws, he submits to his own will in obeying them, and hence is autonomous, not heteronymous [sic].

If this argument were valid, it would provide a genuine ground for a distinction between violent and nonviolent political actions. Violence would be a use of force proscribed by the laws or executive authority of a genuinely democratic state. The only possible justification of illegal or extralegal political acts would be a demonstration of the illegitimacy of the state, and this in turn would involve showing that the commands of the state were not expressions of the will of the people.

But the classic defense of democracy is not valid. For a variety of reasons, neither majority rule nor any other method of making decisions in the absence of unanimity can be shown to preserve the autonomy of the individual citizens. In a democracy, as in any state, obedience is heteronymy. The autonomous man is of necessity an anarchist. Consequently, there is no valid political criterion for the justified use of force. Legality is, by itself, no justification. Now, of course, there are all manner of utilitarian arguments for submitting to the state and its agents, even if the state's claim to legitimacy is unfounded. The laws may command actions that are in fact morally obligatory or whose effects promise to be beneficial. Widespread submission to law may bring about a high level of order, regularity, and predictability in social relationships which is valuable independently of the particular character of the acts commanded. But in and of themselves, the acts of police and the commands of legislatures have no peculiar legitimacy or sanction. Men everywhere and always impute authority to established governments, and they are always wrong to do so.
The text is from  The Journal of Philosophy,  but both Wolff and his editors seem to have confused heteronymous (of two words that are spelled identically but have different pronunciations and meanings) with heteronomous (subject to external law). I'm not an expert on Kant; I had to look up the words. You'd think in 45 years someone would have caught it.

"On the basis of a lengthy reflection upon the concept of de jure legitimate authority, I have come to the conclusion that philosophical anarchism is true." A vapid sentence from a useless argument. "Assume a can opener": trying to make the world fit a formal truth; prescription before description, fundamentally authoritarian, even if it's the authoritarianism of an anarchist ideal.  Again:
"If her interests have the same value as his, then my interests must have the same value as yours." 
An objective viewpoint, imagined as outside social relations and with the goal of seeing the equivalence/equality of all, by definition is a view from above.  This "scientific" process,  focused on the making of generalizations (the analysis of equivalence),  is also by definition amoral; questions of morality are allowed only after science has had its say. Popular, "common sense" morality says values should come first, teaching an ideal of service or self-sacrifice. The link is to an ad from a billionaire's foundation; my interest is in the persistence of the message not the messenger.  The message itself is the opposite of Robert Paul Wolff's academic anarchism. The Golden Rule itself is less banal than Wolff's assumptions, which are predicated on a very American interest less in science than in individual autonomy and self-interest.  His arguments cannot respond to the demands of the Golden Rule, demands of "selflessness" accepted by doctors and by priests [same link one paragraph up] or the arguments of cosmopolitan intellectuals.  It's clear from his blog, linked repeatedly by Leiter, and from his faculty page, that he's dedicated his life not to his own autonomy but to service.  He's not G.A. Cohen, and yet he's unable intellectually to engage the Golden Rule any more than he can The Story of O, or Gravity's Rainbow: to engage the dualities of obligation in human society, to self and other, to self-interest and selflessness, nobility not of ideas but behavior.  He wants to resolve conflicts; he's unwilling to face them. Corey Robin mocks "agonistic desire" and "agonistic romance", seeing them as elitist.  He forgets they're the foundation of democracy. Wolff, like Robin, is less an intellectual than simply a college professor.  Hannah Arendt is something else entirely.

Hannah Arendt, Reflections on Violence, from the NYRB
In the same vein, Marx regarded the state as an instrument of violence at the command of the ruling class; but the actual power of the ruling class did not consist of nor rely on violence. It was defined by the role the ruling class played in society, or more exactly, by its role in the process of production. It has often been noticed, and sometimes deplored, that the revolutionary Left, under the influence of Marx’s teachings, ruled out the use of violent means; the “dictatorship of the proletariat”—openly repressive in Marx’s writings—came after the revolution and was meant, like the Roman dictatorship, as a strictly limited period. Political assassination, with the exception of a few acts of individual terror perpetuated by small groups of anarchists, was mostly the prerogative of the Right, while organized armed uprisings remained the specialty of the military. 
On the level of theory, there were a few exceptions. Georges Sorel, who at the beginning of the century tried a combination of Marxism with Bergson’s philosophy of life—which on a much lower level of sophistication shows an odd similarity with Sartre’s current amalgamation of existentialism and Marxism—thought of class struggle in military terms; but he ended by proposing nothing more violent than the famous myth of the general strike, a form of action which we today would rather think of as belonging to the arsenal of nonviolent politics. 
Fifty years ago, even this modest proposal earned him the reputation of being a fascist, his enthusiastic approval of Lenin and the Russian Revolution notwithstanding. Sartre, who in his Preface to Fanon’s The Wretched of the Earth goes much further in his glorification of violence than Sorel in his famous Reflections on Violence—further than Fanon himself whose argument he wishes to bring to its conclusion—still mentions “Sorel’s fascist utterances.” This shows to what extent Sartre is unaware of his basic disagreement with Marx on the question of violence, especially when he states that “irrepressible violence…is man recreating himself,” that it is “mad fury” through which “the wretched of the earth” can “become men.” 
These notions are all the more remarkable since the idea of man creating himself is in the tradition of Hegelian and Marxian thinking; it is the very basis of all leftist humanism. But according to Hegel, man “produces” himself through thought, whereas for Marx, who turned Hegel’s “idealism” upside down, it was labor, the human form of metabolism with nature, that fulfilled this function. One may argue that all notions of man-creating-himself have in common a rebellion against the human condition itself—nothing is more obvious than that man, be it as a member of the species or as an individual, does not owe his existence to himself—and that therefore what Sartre, Marx, and Hegel have in common is more relevant than the specific activities through which this non-fact should have come about. Still, it is hardly deniable that a gulf separates the essentially peaceful activities of thinking or laboring and deeds of violence. “To shoot down a European is to kill two birds with one stone…there remains a dead man and a free man,” writes Sartre in his Preface. This is a sentence Marx could never have written. 
I quote Sartre in order to show that this new shift toward violence in the thinking of revolutionaries can remain unnoticed even by one of their most representative and articulate spokesmen. If one turns the “idealistic” concept of thought upside down one might arrive at the “materialistic” concept of labor; one will never arrive at the notion of violence. No doubt, this development has a logic of its own, but it is logic that springs from experience and not from a development of ideas; and this experience was utterly unknown to any generation before. 
The pathos and the élan of the New Left, their credibility as it were, are closely connected with the weird suicidal development of modern weapons; this is the first generation that grew up under the shadow of the atom bomb, and it inherited from the generation of its fathers the experience of a massive intrusion of criminal violence into politics—they learned in high school and in college about concentration and extermination camps, about genocide and torture, about the wholesale slaughter of civilians in war, without which modern military operations are no longer possible even if they remain restricted to “conventional” weapons. 
The first reaction was a revulsion against violence in all its forms, an almost matter-of-course espousal of a politics of nonviolence. The successes of this movement, especially with respect to civil rights, were very great, and they were followed by the resistance movement against the war in Vietnam which again determined to a considerable degree the climate of opinion in this country. But it is no secret that things have changed since then, and it would be futile to say that only “extremists” are yielding to a glorification of violence, and believe, with Fanon, that “only violence pays.”
"The successes of this movement, especially with respect to civil rights, were very great, and they were followed by the resistance movement against the war in Vietnam which again determined to a considerable degree the climate of opinion in this country."  I wish that last statement were true.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Dahlia Lithwick
But underlying the larger discussion of who gets to decide about matters of race—state citizens or federal judges—lurks a murky, and far more fascinating dialogue (if you can call it a dialogue at all) about how to talk about matters of race.
One more time:
[I]n 1867 Congress passed a law providing relief for “freedmen or destitute colored people in the District of Columbia,” to be distributed under the auspices of the Freedmen’s Bureau. Of particular importance in the late 1860s was the Bureau’s operation of schools for blacks, to the point that black children in the South were often better educated than their white counterparts. Opponents, including Johnson, raised the same arguments that would be marshaled against affirmative action programs a century later, but well more than the necessary two-thirds of Congress concluded that the 13th and 14th Amendments authorized race-conscious legislation to ameliorate the social condition of blacks.
"to the point that black children in the South were often better educated than their white counterparts."  Divide the poor, and conquer.

and again
While honoring the efforts and sacrifices of the people whose struggles culminated in Brown v. Board of Education, the Supreme Court case that ended school segregation in this country, New York University Professor Derrick Bell provocatively suggested last week that generations of black children might have been better off if the case had failed. 

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Leiter: Reading papers vs "talking" papers

The second comment:
In 2008 I was invited to give a talk at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig. On my first day I met a PhD student in the Department of Psychology and was introduced as the philosopher giving the talk later that week. He looked me in the eye and said something like "I f***ing hate philosophers. Are you going to sit there and read off the f***ing paper? I f***ing hate those talks. If you do that, I won't go.".
I posted a comment referring to the one above, and to the movement in philosophy towards empirical practice. I was polite and didn't call it 'poaching', which is really all it is. The bulk of my comment was the quote below [it wasn't accepted] a repeat. Lewontin.  [PDF].
Bill Wimsatt's "Lewontin's Evidence (that There Isn't Any)" made me think about a lot of questions in my paper. I would like to point out that the rhetoric of this conference has undergone a sudden change. Up until Bill's presentation and mine, everyone read his or her paper. In the tradition to which I belong that would be considered very bad form. That rhetorical difference is a mirror of the differences that I want to talk about. The words that all of the rest of you use are conceived of as being the matter, and so you must choose them carefully, and, therefore, you have to compose your papers and read them. I, on the other hand and perhaps Bill as well, but especialy I, as a natural scientist, am nothing but the oracle of Delphi, sitting here on my stool with eyeballs rolled upwards, and through me Nature speaks. That explains, in my view, the difference in rhetorical tradition between a meeting like this and the ones at which I spend my time. No one in my tradition believes that the words are very important. After all, if I misspeak someone else will say the right thing because we are both talking about the same things and ultimately the gods will speak through us. So words are not the matter. It is extremely important to understand the origin of that difference in rhetorical tradition because it represents a very great difference in what scientists believe to be the nature of evidence in natural science. A conference on the questions of evidence is really a conference on the questions of theory and metatheory. We cannot begin to talk about the evidence until we talk about what it is we are trying to produce evidence of. And the very method which we use is itself a form of evidence.
Published in Questions of Evidence: Proof, Practice, and Persuasion across the Disciplines

timing: DSquared, on Twitter
all this Pikettymania, and so far nobody's seen fit to interview @artgoldhammer ? The translation of key words is really important here.
My snap response was to say that translation isn't an issue for science, so that wherever it's an issue there's no science. 'Technical' knowledge by definition is in a universal language. Any other use of the term is allegorical.

previously. Goldhammer

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Since Henry Farrell is quoting Weber again.

repeats of repeats...

Crooked Timber in 2004
The Islamic world has ample reasons for legitimate criticism. Anti-Semitism, sexism, lack of democracy, lack of opportunity, nurturing of terrorism… these are sad realities, not the hallucinations of right-wingers. Anger and criticism are appropriate, but our approach has to start with the assumption that Muslims are not going away. Short of deliberate genocide, there’s no way forward in the long run except for “hearts and minds.”
2008  "Veil of Ignorance" Farrell's post isn't as offensive as the title, but the comments are.

Savage Minds, 2009, "Pretty" is the protest?


Monday, April 21, 2014

Two more from Holbo, one a repeat, to add to the previous posts
I’m most gobsmacked by his Walter Sobchak-worthy justification for the Confederate flag. “They discriminated but they were honest about it.” Say what you will, it’s an ethos!
As if the person quoted, Clarence Thomas, should prefer hypocrisy.
A quote from someone I knew years ago.
In the south we let niggers live next door as long as they don't get uppity. In the north you let them get uppity as long as they don't move in next door.
"I just watched Pan’s Labyrinth. I liked it. Belle and I debated whether it had a happy or a sad ending. I think it had a happy ending."
The inability or unwillingness to intuit another's imagination, to read duality or irony unless it's telegraphed, or see simultaneously both failure and hope.

I just began to read One Dimensional Man.  Like The Power Elite, the language of modernism and bureaucracy against itself. The Frankfurt School and Weimar decadence. All its weaknesses. so obvious.

from puritanism to decadence.

continuing from here, I guess; also the previous post.

Katha Pollitt: Why Do So Many Leftists Want Sex Work to Be the New Normal?
A response at Jacobin (I won't bother with Hamas jokes this time)

"Melissa Gira Grant is a writer and freelance journalist whose work has appeared in Glamour, the Guardian, the Nation, Wired, and the Atlantic. She is also a contributing editor to Jacobin."

American leftists [sic] now confuse anti-bourgeois with anti-capitalist. Europeans aren't so naive.  The puritanical left of the 70s and puritanical feminism failed. As Susie Bright said: "Andrea Dworkin was a great pornographer."

The contemporary programmatic left now descends from programmatic liberalism in it's sense of individualism, forgetting as I said that libertines are libertarian.  It's all bourgeois self-indulgence of one sort or another; the switch is from a focus on autonomous independent and non-contradictory ideas, hence moralism, to autonomous independent non-contradictory people; from ideologized politics to the ideologized, mythologized, self. In both cases any sense of divided consciousness is off limits.

You can acknowledge yourself for what you are, what the world made you and what you've chosen or chosen to accept, without defending yourself as a saint, or true, or right. Most sexworkers wouldn't want their kids to grow up to be sexworkers. If we're damaged, we find a way to incorporate the damage into our sense of self, and integrity is a 'good'. Camp is tragedy played as comedy because it's the only way to make it bearable. You can't understand it, or value it, if you don't understand the duality.

Programmatic politics denies ambiguity just as Weberian pseudoscience denies the enchantment of the world. How That's why liberals have no choice but to be hypocrites. Art is honesty not morality.  I'd never ask Gursky to forgo his nihilism, but angry self-pity is dishonest.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Add this to the long list of failures at Crooked Timber on questions of race. You see why Holbo married his wife.

Commenter CP Norris, comment 7, links to Jamelle Bouie
It’s a story, in other words, that treats race as an intellectual exercise—a low-stakes cocktail party argument between white liberals and white conservatives over their respective racial innocence.
Similar comments from others on past threads, both repeated here (and archived here).

QS responds to Bertram
You’ve turned sexual harassment into an intellectual game, that is where the “creepiness” originates. How do you moderate that? You don’t. You realize that your ability to treat the issue so dispassionately, playing the game of Find the Universal, probably has something to do with your maleness and position outside this particular terrain.

Sexual harassment was banned not because we found the Universal Principle Against Harassment but because women and men who believed it to be wrong fought successfully for prohibition. These people were likely motivated by a variety of ideas and experiences. The way we keep the libertarians marginalized is not by abstract philosophical games but by appealing to this concrete history.

Chris Bertram 06.03.12 at 10:06 am
QS: your latest tells me that you see political philosophy as it is usually practised as involving a profound mistake. You are entitled to that opinion. It is not one that I share.
"Marfrks" responds to Henry Farrell
I have been a lawyer for many years, and then got a chance to teach at a non-lawyerly academic institution. I loved it; I loved playing in the garden of the mind. Eventually, however, it became clear to me that academics and non-academics have very different approaches to ideas. Academics, though it sounds odd to say it, don’t take ideas seriously. For academics, ideas are games.
You could switch out a couple of words in the Jamelle Bouie quote and make it refer to Jews, whites and Palestinians, but no one above would think of that.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

repeat and update. obvious.

The woman in the top image is Bettie Page.

"War photographers are voyeurs of trauma, paparazzi of death, the intimacy in their images the illusory intimacy of porn." I wrote that and then realized what I'd missed before, so I added the third photograph above.

In 2001 at a show of Letizia Battaglia photographs at Aperture, an eye fundamentally perverse.  In the last room there was one photograph taken by a colleague of her dancing at a street festival, her head spinning, her hair away from her face like cables of a carnival ride, her expression a mixture of panic and ecstasy, in love with death.

Weegee wasn't a photojournalist, he was a photographer.  Photojournalists like the members of "camera clubs" want to be "artists", so in there own imaginations somehow doing something moral. The dishonesty means their work is passive, and passivity is the death of art. If art were moral in itself then killers wouldn't know how the dance or play the violin. Art is moral because honesty is moral.

Friday, April 11, 2014

"beautiful, good and true"

Bosch, The Garden of Earthly Delights (detail) circa 1500 
Harald Falckenberg in the FT
Unlike the traditional art of representation, which sought to manifest the power and influence of the Church, the aristocracy and the haute bourgeoisie as beautiful, good and true, today’s art world stands for the complex referential system of contemporary art that is only explicable in its economic, sociopolitical, academic and philosophical contexts. Art’s transgressive orientation found its programmatic expression in Joseph Beuys’ notion of an “expanded concept of art”.
The FT describes Falckenberg as
...a Doctor in Law and Professor of Art Theory at the Hamburg Academy of Art. His collection of contemporary art, which comprises more than 2,000 works, is shown in co-operation with Deichtorhallen/Hamburg
WSJ:  "Harald Falckenberg's Radical Art Gesture. The German Manufacturer, Known for His Artistic Acumen, Opens Up His Eccentric Private Collection"
Most people probably haven't thought much about the nozzles on gasoline pumps, but if you happen to be interested in nozzles, then you know all about Elaflex, a Hamburg-based world leader in nozzle production. And most people probably don't have the eye, or the stomach, for radical works of contemporary art, which do their best to shock, repel or otherwise displease.

As it turns out, there is one man in the world who has a passion for both—Harald Falckenberg, Elaflex's co-owner and managing director, and one of the world's most admired, and most critical, contemporary-art collectors.
Sammlung Falckenberg


Goya, Fight with Cudgels, 1820-23
Duncan Black almost literally has no imagination.

I usually don't pay much attention to Sully, but this came across the desk. Neither "Heartland America" nor "Limbaugh" have any reason to care if someone is a practicing Catholic. The supposed Heartland isn't exactly the center of Catholicism in this country, and Limbaugh is a professed, if hardly (by accounts) practicing, Methodist.

If the point is any US conservative should be thrilled simply because somebody is a professed Christian...well, ok, but, uh….
“CBS has just declared war on the heartland of America. No longer is comedy going to be a covert assault on traditional American values [and] conservatives. Now, it’s just wide out in the open. What this hire means is a redefinition of what is funny and a redefinition of what is comedy,” – Rush Limbaugh, losing his shit over a practicing Catholic and Sunday school teacher taking over from David Letterman.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Stephen Colbert and Judicial Review

In the 30s the court lagged behind the popular will; in the 50s and 60s it was ahead of it.

The elite doesn't lead any more than the first drops of rain lead a rainstorm.

Catholics: Alito, Kennedy, Roberts, Scalia, Thomas, Sotomayor, Colbert.
Jews: Ginsburg, Breyer, Stewart [Leibowitz].

Tuesday, April 08, 2014

Is all which is just, pious, or is that which is pious all just? etc.

repeat, update and new tag: Dead Finks Don't Talk

(and updated again)

An outraged Davis, who has fought for justice in his sister's murder for years, had trouble calming himself and had to step out of the courtroom. He later told the Boston Globe he owed Judge Casper an apology for his behavior, yet was livid at the suggestion he was an informant: "I’d take a bullet before I’d ever incriminate anyone.”

Apparently, accusations of being a tattle-tale are worse than accusations of murder.

Sunday, April 06, 2014

Hersh, again
The joint chiefs also knew that the Obama administration’s public claims that only the Syrian army had access to sarin were wrong. The American and British intelligence communities had been aware since the spring of 2013 that some rebel units in Syria were developing chemical weapons. On 20 June analysts for the US Defense Intelligence Agency issued a highly classified five-page ‘talking points’ briefing for the DIA’s deputy director, David Shedd, which stated that al-Nusra maintained a sarin production cell: its programme, the paper said, was ‘the most advanced sarin plot since al-Qaida’s pre-9/11 effort’. (According to a Defense Department consultant, US intelligence has long known that al-Qaida experimented with chemical weapons, and has a video of one of its gas experiments with dogs.) The DIA paper went on: ‘Previous IC [intelligence community] focus had been almost entirely on Syrian CW [chemical weapons] stockpiles; now we see ANF attempting to make its own CW … Al-Nusrah Front’s relative freedom of operation within Syria leads us to assess the group’s CW aspirations will be difficult to disrupt in the future.’ The paper drew on classified intelligence from numerous agencies: ‘Turkey and Saudi-based chemical facilitators,’ it said, ‘were attempting to obtain sarin precursors in bulk, tens of kilograms, likely for the anticipated large scale production effort in Syria.’ (Asked about the DIA paper, a spokesperson for the director of national intelligence said: ‘No such paper was ever requested or produced by intelligence community analysts.’)

Thursday, April 03, 2014

"Evidence Based Practice" Dumb and Dumber

The Journal of Strategic Studies
The 1983 Nuclear Crisis – Lessons for Deterrence Theory and Practice
ABSTRACT This article distills insights for the scholarship of deterrence by examining the 1983 nuclear crisis – the moment of maximum danger of the late Cold War. Important contributions notwithstanding, our understanding of this episode still has caveats, and a significant pool of theoretical lessons for strategic studies remain to be learned. Utilizing newly available sources, this article suggests an alternative interpretation of Soviet and US conduct. It argues that the then US deterrence strategy almost produced Soviet nuclear overreaction by nearly turning a NATO exercise into a prelude to a preventive Soviet attack. Building on historical findings, this article offers insights about a mechanism for deterrence effectiveness evaluation, recommends establishing a structure responsible for this endeavor, and introduces a new theoretical term to the strategic studies lexicon – a ‘culminating point of deterrence’.
A new set of rules that eliminate the risk of human error.

The academic terminology, the passive voice, the "new theoretical term", a new label for the filing system, the ethics and aesthetics of bureaucracy.

Where Jerome Groopman meets Evgeny Morosov.