Monday, September 29, 2014

Rewritten, expanded, and more links. This is getting interesting.

Repeats: What's the proper relation, if any, of the search for wisdom to the desire for status? What's prestige? What's the purpose of academic bed-hopping?

The odds of the events/arguments described below taking place in physics and biology departments or in history and literature departments are equally slim. Philosophy is betwixt and between, a literary form engaged in the search for "truth"; truth commands authority and Leiter speaks from the chair. The "Philosophical Gourmet Report" is model of scholastic decadence.
Since Gourman was close to Gourmand, and since I wasn't catering to Gourmands, but Gourmets, I settled on....
Leiter is the sort of prelate who defends the faith less than he defends the institution -he'll stand up for "philosophers" of any stripe who shade their absurd arguments in the appropriate academic form- and what no one below recognizes it that it's the institution itself that's falling apart. The power claimed of philosophy is the power of prescription. As description it's just another form of literature, and no philosopher will accept what by their own definition would be a drop in status. In the name both of idealism and relativism, authority and equality, Leiter's opponents defend philosophy as others defend religion, [repeats] as Sheilaism.

As I wrote in a comment elsewhere that I doubt will be published, Leiter’s authoritarianism is founded in insecurity, and their defense of civility is founded in fluff.

Leiter's troubles, by Leiter (and again), in the CHE, both with links, including one to this:
A serious issue has arisen that impacts Professor Carrie Ichikawa Jenkins.

Professor Jenkins has been targeted by Professor Brian Leiter (University of Chicago) with derogatory and intimidating remarks privately by email in July, and recently with further derogatory remarks publicly on Twitter.

Professor Jenkins wrote the following blog post in July:
in response to which Professor Leiter sent her an email saying that she comes across as a “sanctimonious asshole” (and indicating that he is not sure whether "in real life" she is a sanctimonious asshole or a "civilized person"). The email also intimates that Professor Leiter is contemplating litigation against Professor Jenkins, states that he is wondering "what she is 'thinking' if anything", and asks if she plans to spit at him at the APA or chase him with a bat.

He has now followed this up by saying publicly on Twitter that he has called Carrie a “sanctimonious arse”. He sent her another email in an attempt to apologise for 'upsetting her', which only succeeded in causing further harm.

The effects of this on Professor Jenkins since July have been very serious, impacting her health, her capacity to work, and her ability to contribute to public discourse as a member of the profession. In the light of this recent incident on Professor Leiter's public Twitter feed, we feel compelled to act. We are now standing with Carrie publicly, as colleagues and friends.

Professor Leiter has the power to have this kind of impact on Professor Jenkins in part because of his control over the Philosophical Gourmet Report. We don't find what has happened to our colleague acceptable, and don't wish voluntarily to help provide Professor Leiter the power that makes it possible.

It is up to each of us individually to decide what we will volunteer to do. The undersigned members of the philosophical community have decided to decline to volunteer our services to Leiter's PGR. While we recognise that there are other ways to condemn Professor Leiter's behaviour and to support our colleague, we think the best choice for us involves publicly declining to assist with the PGR. We cannot continue to volunteer services in support of the PGR in good conscience as long as Brian Leiter continues to behave in this way. We therefore decline to take the PGR survey, we decline to serve on the PGR advisory board, and we decline to send Professor Leiter information to help him compile the survey (e.g. updated faculty lists and corrections). We are only declining to volunteer our services to the PGR while it is under the control of Brian Leiter. With a different leadership structure, the benefits of the guide might be achieved without detriment to our colleague.

We feel that we need to consider very carefully what kind of example we are setting for graduate students, and for philosophers across the whole discipline, when something like this happens. Tolerating this kind of behaviour signals to them that they can expect the same in their own professional lives. We wish to set a clear example of how to respond appropriately but firmly.
The list of signatories as of now is 452.

From Jenkins' post linked above:
In my professional capacity, I will treat other philosophers with respect.
In particular, I will treat other philosophers more junior and/or professionally vulnerable than myself with respect.
I will not make negative personal comments about individual philosophers in professional contexts.
If I disagree with someone’s work or ideas, I will find ways to express that disagreement without suggesting the person is unintelligent, lacking in credibility, unfit to be a philosopher, or otherwise undeserving of respect.
I will not treat other philosophers or their work in ways that are belittling, trivialising, and/or exclusionary.
I will not react to behaviour that does not meet the basic standards described in 1 as if it were normal or acceptable within my discipline.
I will make clear, in public, that in my opinion behaviour which does not meet the basic standards described in 1 is both unprofessional and unethical.**
I will not accept or treat those whose behaviour regularly fails to meet these standards as normal or representative members of my profession.
I will not lend my professional authority or support to such behaviour or to the people who regularly engage in it.
Leiter's a very smart man and most of the people he argues with are idiots, but he's also a powerful man in a field with claims both grand and groundless. Yet Jenkins' arguments render all serious debate as friendly conversation, and the point of academic freedom and tenure is that it's not. John Yoo is an idiot and an asshole, but he has tenure. Jenkins' call for civility mirrors Phyllis Wise on Salaita. (repeats)
Wise argues, “What we cannot and will not tolerate at the University of Illinois are personal and disrespectful words or actions that demean and abuse either viewpoints themselves or those who express them.” Of course, this standard is ridiculous: individuals should be free to say personal and “disrespectful” things about others (for example, everyone should be free to say that Wise’s argument here is both stupid and evil, without facing punishment from the respect police). Respect is not a fundamental value of any university, and being “disrespectful” is not an academic crime.
Leiter's authoritarianism, Jenkins' neutered civility, or none of the above.

And I always add, academic "freedom" is a misnomer. Academic independence means once past the post, however you got there, it's hard to get you out. Everything is political; the only break on politics -and it's limited- is formalism. That's why we have the rule of law and not the rule of reason. The first is merely corrupt; the second devolves to barbarism.

Jason Stanley on Facebook
Over the past day or so, 24 members of the advisory board of the Philosophical Gourmet Report have signed a letter saying that they value the extraordinary service that Leiter has provided with the PGR, and that they now urge him to turn over the PGR to new management. The letter (drafted by David Chalmers, Jonathan Schaffer, Susanna Siegel, and Jason Stanley) has been delivered to Brian Leiter, who received it with good grace. We are in the process of collecting more signatures, and will soon make the letter public.

Friday, September 26, 2014

File under "feminism"
The publisher and editors.
The editors used to write for The Hairpin, a page with the subheading "ladies first", and part of the same group that publishes The Awl.
see previous and on and on and on. Alessandra Stanley is not nearly as bad as most of her critics.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Absurdism seems appropriate.
Ynet: Iran is Much More Dangerous than ISIS.

repeats and repeats.

Israel prefers Al Qaeda to Hamas and Hezbollah, Saudi to Iran. To AQ, now add ISIS.

Fox: Saudi anti-Christian sweep prompts calls for US involvement
Some 28 people were rounded up Friday by hard-line Islamists from the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice in the home of an Indian national in the eastern Saudi city of Khafji, and their current situation is unknown, according to human rights advocates.
The Daily Beast: A Gay Jewish Zionist American Doctor in Gaza and What He Saw

Joe Catron in comments:
"The reason IMC [International Medical Corps] was less than thrilled about sending Kawalek into Gaza was his middle name, Zvi. Hebrew for 'deer,' it couldn't be more Jewish if it were served on a toasted bagel with a side of lox. There was no way he was getting into Gaza with a name like that in his passport. He'd have a better chance getting hit by lightning twice on a sunny day." 
This is S-T-U-P-I-D, and IMC's leadership should be ashamed of themselves if their organization is actually spreading this trash. Foreign Jews face no more challenges in Gaza than anyone else. For crying out loud, I recently said hello to the Daily Beast's own Jesse Rosenfeld as he sat at a restaurant table here with Max Blumenthal and Dan Cohen! Even if your journalists never talk to each other, don't your editors pay some kind of attention to what's going on around them?

Sunday, September 21, 2014

doomed to repeat it.

One of the things I’ve learned in my research is that it’s much easier to pay attention to people than to places. If there’s someone you care about who’s from Haiti, if you’ve had the chance to travel there and meet people from Haiti, you’ll watch the news differently. You’ll have a connection to that place, a context for a story you hear. The events will be more real to you because Haiti is more real to you through the people you know there.
Quoted approvingly by Eszther Hargittai at CT.  Never mind that he refers first to the difference between people and places before going on to describe the difference between ideas and experience, of people, places, things.

Ethan Zuckerman's wife, Rachel Barenblat, aka "The Velveteen Rabbi" is the creator of "bespoke lifecycle rituals."

The argument for orthodox religious practice is that form matters. Words matter: you argue over meanings; the forms are constant. The modern equivalent is argument over secular law. You don't change the words of the constitution, you argue how to apply them. It's serious business; you're debating the future of a community. Everything Jack Balkin's ever written is based on that understanding of what it means to be a lawyer and scholar of law.

Now, from MIT, Geeks, Hippies, and Sheilaism, we have new claims to the discovery -through "research"- of humanism. To Ethan Zuckerman, history begins with him. But hippies and geeks by definition are not humanists. Maybe their children will be.

Corey Robin is touting his profile in the CHE which includes this gem
The Jewish professor, who attends a Conservative synagogue in Brooklyn, long ago came to consider himself an anti-Zionist. But he was always quiet about it. It was painful to talk about, particularly among Jews.

Then, in early 2011, Mr. Robin went through an episode not unlike the Salaita affair. Brooklyn College rescinded the appointment of a graduate student, Kristofer Peter­sen-Overton, who had been hired by the political-science department to teach a course on Middle East politics. The student accused the college of succumbing to opposition from critics of his work.
How could such an arch moralist allow himself to be silenced?

For his own (confused) description of his relation to Judaism see "Shielaism" above.
For his relation to questions of politics and Palestine, click on the tag with his name at the bottom of the post. Hamas and Hezbollah and Burke. It's all there.

The screenshot is from Jan 2012. Both the links on the page are to comments written by me. Sheri Berman's review of "The Reactionary Mind: Conservatism from Edmund Burke to Sarah Palin"

More Burkeanism, from Roberto Minervini, his neighbors and friends.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

 The Guardian
Qatar-Gulf deal forces expulsion of Muslim Brotherhood leaders
Move comes under heavy pressure from Saudi Arabia, UAE and other neighbours, with threat posed by Isis used as lever....

Turkish media reported that the country's president, Recep Tayep Erdoğan, had extended a welcome to the exiled leaders.
Netanyahu: Sunni Arab states "understand that Israel is not their enemy but their ally."
Netanyahu: Don't strengthen Iran to weaken Islamic State
The logical strategy would be to use the divide between Turkey and the Gulf states by offering qualified support to the Brothers, then to pressure Erdogan to staunch the flow of fighters going to Syria. But instead of siding with Sunni and Shiite conservatives -the MB, Turkey, Iran, Hezbollah and Hamas, all of whom have some relation to democratic politics- against sectarian extremists, we're backing extremists, and monarchists, against their own and hoping our allies are as serious as we are. And of course they're not. People I follow on twitter are banging their heads against the nearest wall, in awe without shock. US policy is nothing if not predictable.

For a long time, Western and Arab states supported the Free Syrian Army not only with training but also with weapons and other materiel. The Islamic State commander, Abu Yusaf, added that members of the Free Syrian Army who had received training — from the United States, Turkey and Arab military officers at an American base in Southern Turkey — have now joined the Islamic State. “Now many of the FSA people who the West has trained are actually joining us,” he said, smiling.
...The prosecution is asking that al-Nimr be executed and crucified. In Saudi Arabia, most death sentences are carried out by beheading. Crucifixion in this context would mean that the body and head would then be put on display.

Such a punishment is rare in the kingdom and reserved for only the most serious crimes. It is meant as a warning to others.

The 54-year-old cleric is a longtime critic of Saudi Arabia's treatment of its Shiite minority and is revered among many young Shiites. He led Shiite protests in 2011 in Saudi Arabia's Eastern Province and openly criticized the Sunni government of Bahrain's handling of Shiite protests there.
The Saudis have executed 19 people since August 4th, at least 34 this year and at least 78 last year.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Leiter and Rosenberg again, on Krugman. See previous, and here.
Unacknowledged, but it's the same article as before, expanded.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

After the Ceasefire

Omar Robert Hamilton in the LRB. Reposted in its entirety, below.
On 26 August a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas was agreed, bringing a fragile end to a war that killed 2150 Palestinians (mostly civilians) and 73 Israelis (mostly soldiers). Since then Hamas has not fired a single rocket, attacked an Israeli target, or done anything to break the terms of the ceasefire. Israel has done the following:
1. Annexed another 1500 acres of West Bank land
2. Seized $56 million of PA tax revenue
3. Not lifted the illegal blockade (as required by the ceasefire)
4. Broken the ceasefire by firing at fishermen on four separate occasions
6. Killed a 22-year-old, Issa al Qatari, a week before his wedding
7. Killed 16-year-old Mohammed Sinokrot with a rubber bullet to the head
8. Tortured a prisoner to the point of hospitalisation
9. Refused 13 members of the European Parliament entry into Gaza
10. Detained at least 127 people across the West Bank, including a seven-year-old boy in Hebron and two children, aged seven and eight, taken from the courtyard of their house in Silwad – and tear-gassed their mother
11. Continued to hold 33 members of the Palestinian Legislative Council in prison
12. Continued to hold 500 prisoners in administrative detention without charge or trial
13. Destroyed Bedouin homes in Khan al Ahmar, near Jerusalem, leaving 14 people homeless, and unveiled a plan to forcibly move thousands of Bedouin away from Jerusalem into two purpose-built townships [link fixed from mangled code in original at LRB]
14. Destroyed a dairy factory in Hebron whose profits supported an orphanage
15. Destroyed a family home in Silwan, making five children homeless
16. Destroyed a house in Jerusalem where aid supplies en route to Gaza were being stored
17. Destroyed a well near Hebron
18. Set fire to an olive grove near Hebron
19. Raided a health centre and a nursery school in Nablus, causing extensive damage
20. Destroyed a swathe of farmland in Rafah by driving tanks over it
21. Ordered the dismantling of a small monument in Jerusalem to Mohamed Abu Khdeir, murdered in July by an Israeli lynch mob
22. Continued building a vast tunnel network under Jerusalem
23. Stormed the al Aqsa mosque compound with a group of far right settlers
24. Assisted hundreds of settlers in storming Joseph’s Tomb in Nablus
25. Prevented students from entering al Quds University, firing stun grenades and rubber bullets at those who tried to go in
26. Earned unknown millions on reconstruction materials for Gaza, where 100,000 people need their destroyed homes rebuilt. The total bill is estimated at $7.8 billion

Thursday, September 11, 2014

More from Joseph Raz (etc), from the introduction to Value, Respect, and Attachment 
Diversity, I will suggest in these pages, arises out of partiality.
As a Zionist and co-author of a paper titled "National Determination" he has no choice but to imagine every culture as an "intentional community", by which logic France started out as the equivalent of a Kibbutz. He has the origins of culture literally reversed. Esperanto is not the model for linguistic development and intentional communities originate in or devolve to kitsch. The model intentional community is fascist. More:
Most forms of legitimate partiality are more or less optional. We may be required to favour our children or friends, but it is up to us whether to have children or friends.
Most of us are required to have parents. see Brighouse. That and the Trolley Problem (start here).

Below is a repeat, since someone else found it today, and it fits. Beginning with a quote from Ernst Cassirer
Perception does not know the concept of infinity; from the very outset it is confined within certain spatial limits imposed by our faculty of perception. And in connection with perceptual space we can no more speak of homogeneity than of infinity. The ultimate basis of the homogeneity of geometric space is that aIl its elements, the "points" which are joined in it, are mere determinations of position, possessing no independent content of their own outside of this relation: it is purely functional and not a substantial reality. Because fundamentally these points are devoid of all content, because they have become mere expressions of ideal relations, they can raise no questions of diversity of context. Their homogeneity signifies nothing other than this similarity of structure, grounded in their common logical function, their common ideal purpose and meaning. Hence homogeneous space is never given space, but space produced by construction; and indeed the geometrical concept of homogeneity can be expressed by the postulate that from every point in space it must bc possible to draw similar figures in aIl directions and magnitudes. Nowhere in the space of immediate perception can this postulate be fulfilled. Here there is no strict homogeneity and direction each space has its own mode and its own value. Visual space and tactical space [Tastraum] are both anisotropic and unhomogenious in contrast to the metric space of Euclidian geometry: "the main directions of organization- before-behind,above-below, right-left - are dissimilar in both physiological spaces." [Ernst Mach] 
Ernst Cassirer, The Philosophy of Symbolic Forms. Quoted in Panofsky, Perspective as Symbolic Form.
"Seminar on The Priority of Democracy" Technocrats are philosophical elitists of ideas: mediocre people in search of the best of all possible rules, which in the end are "devoid of all content, because they have become mere expressions of ideal relations, they can raise no questions of diversity of context".
Adrian Vermeule [history here, then here ] is a participant.

...see also M. Foucault, Liberal Fascism.

William Heckscher on Panofsky. From his memorial essay at the end of Panofsky's Three Essays on Style.
Everything in humanistic scholarship, even the (to him somewhat comical) New Criticism, which he characterized with Pierrot's words, "Je sais bien écrire, mais je ne sais pas lire," he considered acceptable, so long as it was not "institutionalized."
In America,  it's always institutionalized, or the author is, if only under sedation.

It's absurd how much is lost when the goal of disinterest devolves into a fiction of objectivity.
But if “using rare words and tropes in place of common words and phrases” is a strategy of “deliberate transgression” of the norms of clear prose characteristic of the dominant classes and is opposed to “the hyper-correction strategies of pretentious outsiders,” then Bourdieu is a master strategist. Words such as lexis, allodoxia, chiastic, askesis, espace hodologique, hysteresis, and of course habitus (and, indeed, hysteresis of habitus) are scattered throughout the text.6 That a work of social science should—”unlike the sometimes illuminating intuitions of the essay”—require an effort on the part of the reader is fair enough. Here, however, reality disappears into the hypertrophied rhetoric of the Ecole Normale.

It's a footnote, and it's glorious.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

NewApps drives out another old-timer but, in the process, continues to be a source...
...of unintentional amusement. (You have to wade into the comments--and read the "response" by Ed Kazarian of Rowan University--to get the full flavor of this bizarre display.) (It is a testament to the abysmally low level of the discourse at NewApps that Jon Cogburn (not exactly my favorite blogger there) comes off looking like the paragon of rational virtue--he even got a shout-out from the wild Meta blog, Apparently, this latest incident has led Cogburn to quit NewApps too!)
A couple of posts down the page: "Another scalp for the Israel thought police".  And a few before that, "The Case Against Free Speech".  Earlier agreement with Tushnet on the need for hate speech laws. So absurdly conflicted.

Cogburn's post is a discussion of "ableism". It's not very interesting.  There are a few posts on his own blog. The first ends with this
We want our kids to be as able as possible, but also love them infinitely just the way they are. This is a difficult normative space to be in, and I can't pretend to have anything philosophically helpful to say with respect to it.
When formal logic fails Cogburn he falls back on formal faith. He's a Presbyterian. "I pray to God that she grants me the grace to start being an agent of her grace." When formal logic fails Leiter he contradicts himself.

I'll do this again because it's the simplest way
There’s a difference between caring for someone, in the sense of emotional attachment, and being attentive to them, to their wishes or their pain. Pain itself is lonely and expressions of sympathy are often theater used to hide incomprehension and fear.
I’m watching the old watch their friend die. They have become professionals at this. They are honest actors: the most aware both of the distances between people, and the similarity of their experience.
"Moral responsibility is hard to describe because it’s hard."

New tag: Freedom of Speech and Academic Freedom

Monday, September 08, 2014

repeats of repeats of repeats, from March 14. Trudeau still makes me laugh. The only political figure I've ever met -including those wanted by the police at the time- that I've ever truly liked.

repeat from 2003. I'd forgotten the Posner quote.

From a related post from the same time.
What is 'The Law?' Is it the concept or only the concept in action? Is it a set of rules, or is it the process of arguing about those rules - in a room, in summer, without air conditioning, and with a bad hangover? 
Is it the relation between the two?
The above, in relation to Corey Robin, here, and to what he describes as "a sharp take on the left".
My comment was to repost relevant bits of this. It's not simply the number of people, academics, opposed to freedom of speech, but that they're opposed to it without understanding how their arguments originate in their idealist sense of their own authority. Trudeau by comparison was principled but pragmatic. And society survived.

Again. Shouting down Michael Oren is one thing; claiming that its justified as an example of free speech is another. Along with discussions of "triggers", the first is asking the state's permission to disrupt the state's activity, the second is asking the state or some authority to protect you from knowledge, even knowledge only of someone's beliefs. In both cases the relation of the individual to the state is of child to authority. And technocrats are always willing parents.

The ACLU defense of the Nazis in the Skokie case was not about the right to march but the right to march in a town full of Holocaust survivors.

repeats: the lousy politics of willed innocence

Trudeau was always hoping people would grow up.

the comedy continues here

Sunday, September 07, 2014

Mark Graber does not understand freedom of speech.
I do not think I have a First Amendment right to post on a public website either “I fantasize about beating the world chess champion” or “I fantasize about murdering the world chess champion.” Doing so may be highly therapeutic, but with apologies to a significant percentage of my family, the Constitution provides no special protection to therapy. The First Amendment protects discourse about public affairs, defined broadly but not capaciously. A very high percentage of what takes place on the internet is not discourse and has little or nothing to do with public affairs.
Abstract painting is speech. Music is speech. Dance is speech.

Repeats, again and again. The top image is an image of religious activity; the bottom image is of secular activity.

Technocratic reason divides language into "serious" and "unserious",  by which definition the works of Plato are serious and the works of Aristophanes are not.

"Democracies have freedom of speech not because governments grant it but because the government is not granted the power to take it away."


Thursday, September 04, 2014

First they came for the obscene, and I did not speak out because I was not obscene. Then they came for the non-mundane and I did not speak out because I was mundane.

You can't make this shit up. One more for the list

Leiter: The Case Against Free Speech
I'd posted the abstract before I began reading the thing, but the opening of the paper itself is even better
One major accomplishment of the post-Enlightenment revolutions in moral and political thought that began in the 18th -and 19th- centuries is that the “value of free speech” is now widely taken for granted on all ends of the political spectrum in the capitalist democracies. This consensus, I will argue, has now gone badly awry, even by Enlightenment standards. Much, perhaps most, speech, in fact, has little or no positive value all things considered, so the idea that its free expression is prima facie a good thing should be rejected.And since the only good reasons in favor of a legal regime of generally free expression pertain to the epistemic reliability of regulators of speech, we should focus on how to increase their reliabilty, rather than assume, as so much of popular and even some philosophical discourse does, that unfettered speech has inherent value. If much of what I will henceforth call “non-mundane” speech were never expressed, little of actual value would be lost to the world—or so I will try to persuade you.
see earlier w Raz etc. Salaita and the context, which reminds me of the obvious:

Leiter 8/22: It's official: the Chancellor of the University of Illinois does not understand either the First Amendment or academic freedom.
A lawsuit is now inevitable, and it will presumably have a defamation claim added to the constitutional and contractual claims. The Chancellor should resign: she's a disgrace. I again urge other philosophers to join the boycott. It gives me no pleasure to say that, since now the boycott has no end in sight. But the conduct by the Chancellor and the Board is such an egregious violation of the basic norms and integrity of academic institutions, that firm and public action is now imperative. 
ADDENDUM: The Board of Trustees is also a disgrace--even in Texas, the Board has not done anything this egregious in a long time:
August 22, 2014
Earlier today, you received a thoughtful statement from Chancellor Phyllis Wise regarding the university’s decision not to recommend Prof. Steven Salaita for a tenured faculty position on the Urbana-Champaign campus. 
In her statement, Chancellor Wise reaffirmed her commitment to academic freedom and to fostering an environment that encourages diverging opinions, robust debate and challenging conventional norms. Those principles have been at the heart of the university’s mission for nearly 150 years, and have fueled its rise as a world leader in education and innovation. 
But, as she noted, our excellence is also rooted in another guiding principle that is just as fundamental. Our campuses must be safe harbors where students and faculty from all backgrounds and cultures feel valued, respected and comfortable expressing their views. ...
Disrespectful and demeaning speech that promotes malice is not an acceptable form of civil argument if we wish to ensure that students, faculty and staff are comfortable in a place of scholarship and education. If we educate a generation of students to believe otherwise, we will have jeopardized the very system that so many have made such great sacrifices to defend. There can be no place for that in our democracy, and therefore, there will be no place for it in our university. ...
My ellipsis.  His post is filed under "authoritarian and fascism alerts".

Tuesday, September 02, 2014

Continuing from previous.
Compare the first minutes of each.

-A planet in our solar system, white mountain ranges, clouds, a land shrouded in mist. The first creature we encountered tried to communicate something to us. 

-The first image he told me about was of three children on a road in Iceland in 1965. He said that for him it was the image of happiness, and also that he had tried several times to link it to other images, but it never worked. He wrote me, "One day I'll have to put it all alone at the beginning of a film, with a long piece of black leader. If they don't see happiness in the picture, at least they'll see the black."

Ironic distance, intelligent intellectualized sentimentalism, playing with cheapness.

The music is annoying. This is silent

Below from last year The music in the MB film doesn't bother me so much. It's manipulative, art is by definition, but the film is full of details, and camera motion that plays against the generalizing tone of the music. The difference between "manipulative" and "cheap"- a fine line. See also the following post. [link fixed]

War as "cinema", a film by the victims of a crime: the final destruction of a MB protest camp by the military.  Graphic.

Without music or post-production (color)

Monday, September 01, 2014

another repeat. continuing

Cindy Sherman is the most openly, explicitly, misogynist female artist since Alice Neel.

Untitled #229, 1994/ Nancy and Olivia, 1967

I'd forgotten about Lisa Yuskavage.
Neel also was contemptuous of women, but not of herself. There's a tragic element to Sherman's work, which at its worst, recently, reaches down to Yuskavage's level of merely pathetic.

The above is less unfair than unclear. And it was written in response to Sherman's MoMA retrospective but before the show at Metro. I was also probably in a bad mood at the time.

Sherman's newest work is both cinematic and static, less aping filmic imagery -the film stills always annoyed me- than returning as it were for the first time to late narrative painting, the cinematic Goya of the Black Paintings, and from there to Howard Hawks, John Ford, and Lars von Trier, or maybe the reverse, from von Trier to Goya. The questions haven't changed since Goya's time: how or whether to make a "high" art in a democratic or even nascent democratic culture, and how it can be any more than high design and refined pleasure, an art that leaves complex moral questions to film (now) and literature. I've written elsewhere that the best and much of the worst of Modernism was representational, the street-grid neo-Platonism of Mondrian's last paintings and Barnett Newman's mannerism being less included than exemplary.

von Trier begins Melancholia with an operatic fashion video -crap a la Ellen von Unwerth- like a filmmaker who tells everyone anytime he can that he always wanted to be a painter; in the context of the rest of the movie it's a brilliant bad joke. Sherman and other artists over the past 30 years have faced the same problem from the other side. If serious filmmakers have to negotiate the desires of a sizable segment of the majority, fine artists have to negotiate the fads and foibles of the oligarchy. Both Sherman and von Trier could be said to have done a good job of managing their various contradictions and allegiances.

a repeat from January. I'm going to post a few in a row, continuing from the previous post.

see previous.  Gursky and Kubrick

I posted the video before. I'd forgotten it was in reference to Koons.

Varieties of mannerism and anti-humanism; a dark parodic and therefore "critical" but in the end reactionary reversal of the fantasies of the Enlightenment, fantasies which using historians' definition of humanism, were not themselves "humanist". Descartes was not the author of In Praise of Folly. etc., etc. The works themselves brilliant but brittle.

Two versions: iconic/hieratic and narrative/demotic, with very different implications even if I'm using them to tell the same story. In the first, Christ remains above, fitting the logic of the earliest image. In the second the notion of Christ above becomes narrativized/historicized, fitting the logic of the most recent. The second becomes also a predella to the first, the predella itself a form that faded away, or grew to supplant static iconography. The whole thing's very tricky; all that's left is to do it as an animation.

Christ Pantocrator, the dome of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, Jerusalem (photo: Andrew Shiva)
Christ Blessing, Surrounded by a Donor Family, by an unknown German painter, 1560s-1580s. Metropolitan Museum, NY. Claude Lorraine, Landscape with Christ appearing to St. Mary Magdalene (Noli me Tangere) 1681, Städel Museum, Frankfurt.

Three images of Christ: Byzantine, 16th century Lutheran, 17th century Catholic; three images of the changing relations of Christ to god and Christ and god to man, and man to language, order and the world. Only the third could be said to represent a humanist sensibility. A basic lecture in art history and the history of culture. I could have gone on to Friedrich and then Turner, or after that to Rothko, by which point it all devolves to kitsch.

Philosophers discussing "difference" are like priests discussing democracy. They always want to drive the car, or they pretend that from their self-described superiority, they are already.
Christian Kerslake, Deleuze and the Meanings of Immanence [PDF]
In the chapter on ‘Immanence and the Historical Components of Expression’ in his 1968 book on Spinoza, Deleuze fashions a history of the philosophy of immanence, from the Neoplatonists through to Duns Scotus, that culminates in Spinoza. He presents the philosophical concept of immanence as a kind of ‘destination’ inherent in Christian theology. A secret tendency, says Deleuze, courses through the ruminations of theologians, a tendency that runs in the opposite direction to the negative theology of Meister Eckhart, which stresses the radical, unknowable transcendence of God, both in his nature and in his reasons for existence. It appears to originate in the Christian-inflected Neo-Platonism of third -and fourth- century Alexandria (Proclus and Dionysius the Areopagite). The Neo-Platonists did not see Platonism as a dualistic, ‘two worlds’ doctrine, but rather followed the lead of the Timaeus, where the pure forms or ‘Ideas’ are manifested or expressed hierarchically in material reality, with each being ‘participating’ more or less in the idea. Deleuze acknowledges the roots of the philosophical concept of immanence in neo-Platonism: “Everything may, it seems, be traced back to the Platonic problem of participation”. The “difficulties” that emerged were always the same: “The principle of participation was always sought by Plato on the side of what participates..., [but] if participation consists in being a part, it is difficult to see how what is participated in suffers no division or separation” (EPS 169; trans. modified). The primary task of the Neoplatonists was to “invert the problem”: “a principle that would make participation possible was sought, but one that would make it possible from the side of the participated itself. Neoplatonists no longer start from the characteristics of what participates (as multiple, sensible, and so on), asking by what violence participation becomes possible. They try rather to discover the internal principle and movement that grounds participation in the participated as such, from the side of the participated as such. Plotinus reproaches Plato for having seen participation from its lesser side” (EPS 170). According to Deleuze, Plotinus is already a kind of foreshadowing of the post-Kantian attempt to ground philosophy; he “subordinates ... imitation to a genesis or production” (ibid). His way of doing this, however, is through a theory of emanation. “True activity comes from what is participated in; what participates is only an effect, receiving what is given by its cause” (ibid). The problem is that the theory of emanation, once again as soon as it undergoes philosophical development, brings back the original problem of participation: how to conceive the principle of the self-differentiation of the One, the expression of the One in the material world.
Leiter quoting Raz in 2005
[C]ontemporary life, including philosophical life, is marked by its short span of attention. Within months of a new book by a respected author being published conferences about it are held, and special issues of journals dedicated to it are published, only to be superseded the following year by the new stars of that year. We think that we live in a dynamic and innovative age, whereas we live in a culture devoted to the ephemeral. In this intellectual climate much of our work is to try to stop people from forgetting today what everyone knew yesterday, and to reduce the intoxication with the latest word. A necessary task, but not one conducive to the longevity of the work. Perhaps in our hyperactive world the mode of progress in philosophy has changed. Perhaps it now lies less with the singular achievements of exceptional thinkers like the classics of modern philosophy: Descartes, Locke, Hume, Kant, and others, and more in the cumulative products of hundreds of worker ants. This would suggest that the history of philosophy may assume the relation to philosophy that the history of physics has to physics. It would even make the ephemerality and forgetfulness of the age less regrettable. I doubt, however, that that can be the whole story. It is probably yet another manifestation of the lack of clear horizons in contemporary philosophical thought.
Leiter, and Raz, now.
3:AM: Have you changed your mind about anything fundamental to your philosophical position during your time as a philosopher or has it been more a process of deepening and further discovery within a rather settled framework of thought? 
JR: For various reasons this is for me a difficult question. One is that I am not terribly interested in the question, and perhaps partly as a result, am often surprised when people point out, with actual quotations, what I wrote on some points in years past. One way in which I am sometimes surprised when confronted with previous writings is that I clearly remember that I felt tentative about this issue or that, and meant to express a partial or a tentative view only, and lo and behold: that is not how I wrote. I sound very definite. Have I changed my mind, or am I one of those people who tend to sound confident when they are not? But there are other difficulties with the question. 
Sometimes a deepening of a view may go so deep as to change its character without actually changing its letter. Ever since my student days I was interested in the social character of the law. More recently I have written on the social character of value in general, and on the ways in which the characterization of these two forms of social dependence differ, and the ways in which they are nevertheless interdependent. The result is that once embedded in the wider context my old views on the social character of the law while unchanged may have acquired, in my mind, a different meaning. There is more to say, but it is probably of no interest to anyone but myself. Similar changes probably affected other of my views.
To the pure all things are pure. History is bunk. What an idiot.

Post-humanism, anti-humanism, pre-modern, anti-democratic, authoritarian... I can like or love the art - See Pollock and Kubrick and Gursky- but I can't stand its righteous defenders.

repeats from the NDPR
Overall, Seaford’s book is interesting, insightful, and combines expertise in ancient sources with careful reasoning. It certainly offers an invaluable discussion of the origins and cultural contexts of early Greek philosophy. But Seaford’s concern with the historical explanations of Greek philosophy suggests that his book may not appeal to scholars interested exclusively in the philosophical content and argumentation of Presocratic texts. The author often explicitly minimizes intellectual explanations of a philosopher’s views in favor of socio-political, religious, and psychological factors (219; 253–4; 273). In fact, he insists that comprehending the relevant cultural factors is necessary for understanding Presocratic metaphysics. We must, he maintains, avoid treating ancient philosophy as if it were created in a “historical vacuum” (10), even if this threatens most Presocratic scholars’ “control of their subject and the autonomy of ’doing philosophy’“
"The author often explicitly minimizes intellectual explanations of a philosopher’s views in favor of socio-political, religious, and psychological factors."

Like a theologian the last thing a philosopher wants to imagine is that his beliefs are manifestations of changes in language and culture: results and not causes. The last thing an avant-garde wants to imagine is that its works are what artworks have always been, not discoveries of possible futures but descriptions of the present. Historians understand how philosophers' dreams become dated.

His students called him, "the last humanist":
And finally: besides constituting a natural event in space and time, naturally indicating moods or feelings, besides conveying a conventional greeting the action of my acquaintance can reveal to an experienced observer all that goes to make up his "personality." This personality is conditioned by his being a man of the twentieth century, by his national. social and educational background by the previous history of his life and by his present surroundings but it is also distinguished by an individual manner of viewing things and reacting to the world which, if rationalized, would have to be called a philosophy. In the isolated action of a polite greeting all these factors do not manifest themselves comprehensively, but nevertheless symptomatically. We could not construct a mental portrait of the man on the basis of this single action. but only by coordinating a large number of similar observations and by interpreting them in connection with our general information as to his period. nationality, class. intellectual traditions and so forth. Yet all the qualities which this mental portrait would show explicitly are implicitly inherent in every single action; so that. conversely every single action can be interpreted in the light of those qualities. 
Deleuze's interest in folding, the fold and the baroque makes perfect sense. As a philosopher he has no option other than to be a conservative.
The decadence of mannerism presents as the self-narrativizing of a concrete idealism, attempting to inoculate itself against increasingly dominant narrative (relativist) culture. Mannerism is the model of aristocratic art in an age of incipient democracy. The baroque is the same model of conservatism in the age of a fully ascendant democracy: the age of theater.
update- and now this: Brian Leiter, SSRN, The Case Against Free Speech. Amazing.
3AM-Have you changed your mind about anything fundamental to your philosophical position during your time as a philosopher?
Raz -For various reasons this is for me a difficult question. One is that I am not terribly interested in the question.
more here for now